Author: Carcinya (Isolde1 at Fanfiction(dot)net)
Author E-mail: carcinya(at)aol(dot)com
Keywords: Iruka Hunter Hime Karasu-sensei
Spoilers: For TSB6 maybe.
Summary: Hunter apprentice Iruka can't get his summoning jutsu to work. His teacher smells a rat -- or rather, a cat. (Pre-TSB cookie)
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto, various publishers including but not limited to TV Tokyo. The song and the plot are mine. No money is being made and no copyright infringement intended.
Now, now, people. If Naruto was mine, do you really think I'd be sitting at my computer, sipping bad coffee, and writing bad fanfiction? Honestly.
Author's notes: I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar mistake there might be in this story. I am French, and still only learning the beautiful language that is English. Any comments are welcome, but obviously flames will be used to roast marshmallows. Or flamers.
Just a little cookie I wrote during my French Lit final. If you haven't read "The Silent Blade", I'm afraid it won't make much sense. Anyway, what you need to know in order to read this: Karasu is the current Hunter leader. Iruka is seventeen and training to become a Hunter under Karasu's, erm, watchful eye. Poor Iruka. :)
Enjoy, I hope?
Ninpo Kuchiyose: Summoning technique.
Shunsoku No Jutsu: Fleetpaw Skill. (Literally, Shunsoku: Fast runner)
"Cats will be cats" (A TSB cookie)
"For the last time, Iruka -- not so fast!"
Karasu sighed. It had been a long afternoon, and an even longer day. The sun was almost set now, its warm rays thinning and disappearing with each passing moment -- much like his considerable patience, the man reflected. His nose was itching maddeningly under the damn Hunter mask and he had not had coffee in ages. Maybe even hours.
"Try it again, slower this time," he said, careful not to let his growing irritation show into his voice. It was not like the boy was doing it on purpose, after all.
Iruka was probably the strangest apprentice he had ever had -- not that he had had that many -- and by far his favorite, though he would die before he admitted it. He had been told the boy was trouble, or at least used to be, and in truth Karasu had noted in Iruka a distinct tendency to discuss orders he deemed unfair, ill-considered or simply stupid. Sandaime's well-known fondness for the young orphan accounted partly for his independent spirit -- he had always encouraged Iruka to make his own choices and stand up for himself, however subtly.
A strong-willed and clever young man, Iruka was quick to think on his feet and eager to please. It was common knowledge Iruka was not afraid to speak his mind even against the Hokage, though up till now he had always been wise enough not to abuse the privilege.
Were Iruka to become a simple Jounin or join an ANBU Squad, such traits would have needed immediate attention and stern bridling. As it was, the seventeen-year old was walking another path entirely, one that would lead him to the top of Konoha's hierarchy, and though it made teaching Iruka a distinctly perilous business, Karasu had no intention of keeping a rein on Iruka's spirit.
Karasu did not know why Iruka had accepted to join the Hunters, and though he was certainly not going to ask, he could not help but wonder. He had been surprised when the Hokage had nominated him for the preliminary trial, though he had not questioned the old man's judgment. Even now, nearly a year into Iruka's apprenticeship, the Hunter still had trouble pinpointing what exactly bothered him.
Iruka was young, certainly, but not overly so -- younger shinobi had joined their ranks before, albeit rarely. Determination and courage the boy had in spades, that much Karasu could tell, and while nobody would call Iruka a genius, there was no denying he was talented -- though whether or not that would be enough for him to earn his Hunter's mask remained to be seen.
But there was a glint in the boy's dark eyes, so faint you would miss it if you did not know what you were looking for -- a glint that told Karasu something essential: Iruka did not know who he was.
If you actually asked him, of course, Iruka would answer, with seemingly perfect confidence and startling politeness,
"My name is Umino Iruka; I'm a seventeen-years-old Chuunin from the Hidden Village of the Leaf." And if you were lucky, he would add, with a kind smile and a neat bow, "Pleased to meet you!"
But that little speech was simply what he was expected to say, and nothing more. For now, it was enough. Iruka was still nursing wounds so deep he could hardly handle them, and he had woven around himself a thick web of deception and illusion in order to protect what was left of his heart. After a while, he had started believing in the image he was projecting to the world, perhaps because it was less painful this way.
Karasu knew this was leading the boy nowhere, and at times he tried to show him the way subtly. But the Hunter felt, confusedly, that this was not his part to play. To get Iruka out of his shell, he would have to break down all his walls and then help him rebuild himself. It would take time and patience to do that, for Iruka was both extremely stubborn and profoundly scarred -- and somehow Karasu had a feeling he was not going to be around long enough for that.
No, it would not be fair for either of them, he mused, calmly. The prospect of his own demise brought him neither pain nor dread, and it had not for years. But these days, a vague, diffuse sense of regret would fill him whenever his eyes fell upon Iruka, and more than once he caught himself thinking it was a shame he would never see what a fine leader Iruka would make.
Anyway, he hoped that one day someone would see past Iruka's smile. That someone better be exceptional! he thought gruffly, watching his pupil not without a little pride.
As the jutsu failed for the forty-ninth time, Iruka let out a scream of frustrated rage and stomped like a child. Then he turned to his teacher, fuming.
"Sensei! I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd say the stupid thing is just trying to get under my skin!" he yelled hotly.
"And succeeding," Karasu remarked, raising an eyebrow. "Temper, Iruka, temper."
Iruka huffed and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Anger clouds your judgment and makes you act rashly, which is rarely a good thing. Remember that bet with Arumajiro-kun?" The Hunter smiled sardonically as his apprentice winced and turned beet red. "I had to use my clout to get rid of all the photo evidence..."
"Senseiiii..." the young man whined. "You promised..."
"Though I have to say you make a surprisingly accurate impression of a pouting three-year-old brat."
Iruka opened his mouth to say something appropriately witty and offended, but Karasu held up a placating hand.
"Kidding, kidding. Now, hand me that scroll, will you?"
The young man paled an impossible shade of white and clutched the parchment against his chest protectively.
"Sensei! Please don't! I'll work harder! I can do it, I swear!" he said urgently.
"I trust you, Iruka," the teacher cut in. The boy blushed with pride. "But her," he went on, pointing at the jutsu scroll, "I don't."
Iruka glanced down at the small item he was cradling in his palms. "Eh?"
"Call it a hunch," Karasu murmured, "But I have a feeling I know what's going on."
He stretched out his hand and Iruka handed him the scroll mutely, still perplexed. The Hunter watched it critically.
"What? What?" Iruka asked, dark eyes alight with curiosity.
"I knew it. As expected of Hime-san," Karasu said, clearly amused. "Poor boy. Of all the nin-cats to be stuck with..."
Iruka looked thoroughly confused.
"I'm not sure I understand, sensei," he said, feeling suddenly shy. He scratched his nose thoughtfully.
"Apparently," Karasu began, snorting, "Hime-san chose you as her master. Sort of."
"Sort of?" Iruka repeated incredulously. "But I thought the jutsu wasn't working?"
"Oh, it's working just fine," the Hunter assured him.
"Then why ..."
Karasu shook his head. "Why, why, why. You're too curious. A shinobi must learn patience, but a Hunter must embody patience," he said, in the low, serious tone he reserved for lectures. Then, more lightly, "I'll tell you tomorrow."
The young man looked downright outraged. Then a positively evil glint came into his dark eye. He stepped close to the Hunter and said, conspirationally,
"If you don't explain, I'll tell Nezumi-sensei that you ... " and he whispered something into his teacher's ear. Karasu's blue eyes widened to unbelievable proportions under the mask, and he took a hasty step back, insanely grateful Iruka couldn't see him blushing.
"You wouldn't?" he asked, even though something in Iruka's smirk told him he certainly would.
"Why not? I'm certain she would be thrilled."
"I have taught you well," Karasu murmured, amused in spite of himself, "Brat."
Iruka's predatory grin broadened.
"Fine, I'll show you," the Hunter said, adding wryly, "In Hime-san's case I'm afraid a demonstration is worth a thousand words."
The apprentice looked far from comforted. He started biting a nail.
"Stop that," Karasu said automatically, slapping Iruka's hand away from his mouth. "Are you listening? Good. Now, Hime-san is simply being her stubborn self -- we just have to force her out."
He concentrated, finding his focus and squeezing his eyes shut. Then, more quickly than Iruka could follow, he went through the jutsu's complex motions. At the moment, Iruka's blood on a Summoning scroll was the only requirement to conjure the nin-cat. But later, when the blood contract was sealed, none but Hime's "master" would be able to summon her.
"Ninpo Kuchiyose," Karasu murmured, "Futon, Shunsoku No Jutsu!"
He felt the planar struggle for a short moment, before she gave up and let herself be dragged into their world. She materialized amidst chakra smoke -- little of it, for the Hunter was nothing if not a perfectionist.
Hime stretched herself delicately and looked up directly into Iruka's eyes. The young man swallowed. She was huge, in comparisons to other felines Iruka had seen before, but sleek and well-proportioned Her golden eyes were mesmerizing in their intensity. Iruka had the feeling he was being sized up, but whether he was judged adequate he could not tell.
They stared at each other for a long while. She did not blink once. Iruka refused to look away.
"Why, hello there, Hime-san," Karasu said pleasantly, clearly intending to interrupt their staring contest. There was a hint of steel in his voice.
She turned to him, her scowling face softening a little when she recognized him.
"Karasu-kun," she acknowledged with a nod. "Long time no see."
"Indeed," the Hunter replied smoothly. "But I see you have not changed a bit."
The cougar looked pleased. "Well, I try."
Iruka's eyes went from his teacher to the planar in growing annoyance. He decided to step in.
"You knew I was calling you, didn't you?"
She shot him a bored glance.
"Then why the hell wouldn't you come out?" Iruka said, spluttering with rage.
The cougar seemed to consider her answer, before she said, with perfect poise, "I don't do mornings."
"Mornings?" Iruka repeated incredulously. "Mornings? It's nearly six in the evening!"
"I know that," she huffed, before adding as an afterthought, "Brat."
Iruka's dark eyes narrowed, glinting dangerously. He reminded briefly Karasu of a panther on the prowl.
Iruka glared. Hime glared right back.
He glared some more. She growled.
Growing increasingly annoyed, Karasu whacked them both on the head with the back of his hand.
"What was that for, old man?" the young man hollered, rubbing his skull.
The Hunter wagged a threatening finger under his nose. Iruka took a hasty step back.
"For being rude to a lady," Karasu said, clearly disapproving. "And besides," he added emphatically, "I am not old. I'm youth-challenged. Get that in your head, brat."
Hime did not bother to hide her satisfaction, mentally sticking out her tongue at Iruka.
"As for you, Hime-san," he went on, shaking his head, "Your behavior is most disappointing."
It was Iruka's turn to look triumphant.
Hime seemed vaguely put out. "Ah," she said, "You shinobi have no sense of humor."
"You know what they say," Karasu rejoined, smiling, "It's all fun and games until someone loses patience."
"And I suppose this was your idea of a joke?" Iruka said slowly, squeezing his eyes shut to try and control his temper.
"No," she replied, blinking innocently. "There were more important matters requiring my attention."
"I was taking a nap."
Iruka's eyes flew open in outrage, the fragile control he held over his irritation evaporating.
Karasu sat down on a stump, cross-legged. Resting his chin on his hands, he watched in delight his apprentice chase the planar around the clearing. Iruka was being particularly creative in his invectives and Hime looked far too amused for her own good.
Yes, he thought, almost fondly, Hime will do.
Wouldn't want the brat to get bored, after all.
Around them, night started to fall.
¤ end ¤
Hum. I guess that's all. Review if you please. Feedback very much appreciated :)