Do I even need the spoiler warning anymore?
No matter where Team 7 looked, Gai was not there. They found almost everyone, ranging from Ino to TenTen, but they did not find Gai. Nor did they find any members of his team. And it was only after an hour of fruitless searching that they found Hinata, who told them that Neji and the rest of them were out on a sort of half-mission, half-training session and wouldn't be back until the next day.
"Oy, great," Naruto groaned, flopping down on the ground. They'd just seen Hinata a few minutes before, and then they'd gone off to rest in the forests. He looked up at the sky, watching the clouds swirl by slowly and scowling. "Well, now what?"
"Well…on the bright side…we at least got some exercise?" Sakura sighed, sitting down as well.
Sasuke chose to remain standing. "That was useless," he muttered.
"Why don't we just go ask Kakashi-sensei himself? I mean, now we have proof that the ghost exists! We even know his name and when he died. But, then, if Kakashi-sensei did kill Obito…"
"That's stupid, Naruto! Kakashi-sensei wouldn't kill someone from Konoha, and if he did I doubt he'd be alive, least of all still be living in the village!" Sakura snapped, crossing her arms. She'd heard Naruto's theory that Kakashi had killed Obito, and had immediately put it off as impossible because one; what she just stated and two; he'd obviously died fighting for Konoha, not from fighting with Konoha. She just hadn't said anything up till now.
"What if Obito turned missing-nin?" Naruto asked.
"Idiot…if he was a missing-nin, they wouldn't have put his name on the cenotaph…" Sasuke said. "Listen, Kakashi-sensei didn't kill Obito. I agree with Sakura on what she said, and, also, he died fighting for Konoha. Wasn't murdered by someone from Konoha, unless they were missing-nin. Which Kakashi-sensei isn't."
"Feh…" Naruto said, glaring at Sasuke, but fell silent in defeat.
Sakura, on the other hand, blushed with pleasure that Sasuke agreed with her. Score for Sakura. "Right, so we've got that out of our hands," she said. "If there's any connectoin between Obito and Kakashi-sensei, they were friends, or teammates, or rivals."
"Naw, I don't think they were rivals, Gai already got that position," Naruto said dismissively.
"Well, you can have more than one rival! Or maybe Gai came after Obito!"
"This is useless," Sasuke stated once more. "I'm sure Iruka-sensei or anyone else around Kakashi's age knew who was on his team. Since he's a prodigy and all, most people would know him. All we have to do is find someone else. We don't need Gai."
"That's right, Sasuke-chan!" Sakura exclaimed, getting up. Naruto followed soon afterwards.
"Hn. Fine, then," he mumbled as he walked past his teammates. Sakura shrugged at Sasuke, who ignored her and followed Naruto out of the forest.
Konoha wasn't particularly busy that day. It was far too hot for people to be very active. Even through his sandals, Naruto could still feel the heat of the ground radiating upwards, while the sun beat down on the trio, and the fact that they were walking with the sun in front of them didn't help much.
Also, the cardboard lamp post following them around didn't improve matters any.
"Konohamaru!" Naruto shouted after ten minutes had passed. He spun around angrily and pointed at the poorly made 'disguise'. "I can still see you behind that stupid thing!"
The cardboard lamp post was thrown away and Konohamaru appeared in his full glory, long scarf trailing behind him as he ran towards Naruto. "Ha! Only you could see through my great disguise, Naruto nii-chan!"
"Bah!" was all Naruto said in reply. "So, what is it now?"
"Moegi and Udon both won't play today," Konohamaru said, pouting. "They say it's too hot."
"It is," Naruto agreed, completely ignoring his two teammates as they stood to the side, patiently waiting. Well, not so patiently in Sakura's case, but she kept her impatience down. Surely this wouldn't take long.
"So will you play with me today, nii-chan? We haven't played ninja in a long time!"
"Aw, I'm busy, Konohamaru!"
"Really? Really?" Leaning forward in interest, Konohamaru whispered, "What are you doing? Is it a dangerous mission?"
"Uh-huh!" Naruto leaned downwards as well and whispered, "We're tracking down a ghost!"
"A ghost? What ghost?"
"Well, actually, we're trying to figure out this ghost's relation to a certain someone, but it's a ghost of…" For dramatic effect, Naruto paused, leaving Konohamaru anxiously waiting. "…it's the ghost of a Uchiha!"
"Whoa!" Konohamaru exclaimed. "Can I come with you?"
"Nope, sorry!" Naruto stood up. "It's too dangerous for you!"
"Awww! Please? I'll help! Really!" At this point, Konohamaru was jumping up and down in his eagerness.
"Well, there's one way you can help." Looking around again, Naruto still couldn't find any ninja of Kakashi's generation. Civilians, there were a lot of, but ninjas, nope. Somehow, to all three of Team 7, it didn't seem right to bother a common person about such things. They'd probably get suspicious and report it to Kakashi. However, many ninja, on the other hand, didn't care about what genins of other teams were doing.
"Find us someone who's…um…twenty, or so? Twenty-seven, maybe?"
"Sure thing, Naruto nii-chan!" Konohamaru started to run. "Just follow me!"
"Come on, Sakura-chan, Sasuke! Konohamaru's going to find us someone we can ask about…well, you know what!" Naruto called out as he broke out in a run after his 'little brother'.
"Do you really think that kid'll help?" Sakura asked skeptically, more to Sasuke than Naruto, as Naruto was already running.
She actually received an answer this time, although admittedly, it was only a shrug. Sasuke didn't run, but he did pick up the pace of his walk, causing Sakura to adjust her pace to match his.
Further ahead, Konohamaru swerved and Naruto followed, only to find himself in the huge garden of a not-so-huge house. Well, the house wasn't tiny but it wasn't a mansion either. The garden, on the other hand, was enormous and very healthy. He stopped a moment, to compare the size of the house to the garden and shook his head in bewilderment. Who the hell would want to use most of their property for gardening than for a larger house?
Konohamaru, apparently, did. "This is my house!" he boasted.
"Your house?" came a voice from somewhere close by. Even so, Naruto nearly jumped in surprise as his head swiveled towards a large tree near the wall. A moment later, a spiky-haired head appeared from behind its huge trunk, laughing.
"We're the ones who take care of it!" Another face popped out from the other side of the tree, just as Naruto's teammates caught up with them.
Izumo and Kotetsu's faces did not register in Sakura and Sasuke's mind as familiar, but with a gulp Naruto remembered them both to be examiners in the Chuunin Exam. Kotetsu, he remembered because the kunai thrown by the man had scared the shit out of him during the first test, and Izumo because Naruto was sure that he was being watched by the examiner. However, the two chuunins, if they recognized Naruto, did not show it.
"Excuse us!" Sakura called out to them, assuming that they were the people that Konohamaru had promised to lead them to. Even if they weren't, it was obvious that they were both ninjas from their hitai-ate and they looked to be around Kakashi's age.
"What?" Kotetsu asked as he stepped away from the tree, dragging his friend with him. Their hands were dusted with dirt, and they had obviously been gardening. Naruto gave them a curious look – he had no clue that they were related to Konohamaru in any way. They couldn't just be gardeners, because there was no such thing as a gardener/ninja. It seemed, actually, that they were the kid's caretakers. So what had happened to Konohamaru's parents…?
Confronted with two complete strangers, Sakura seemed to be at a loss as to what to say. She looked over at her teammates for help, but looked away quickly. Naruto was too brash and blunt with words – more likely than not, he'd get the chuunins annoyed. Sasuke, on the other hand, was aloof and did not seem ready to talk at all. Besides, she knew best that the Uchiha wasn't much of a people-person.
"They're tracking down a ghost!" Konohamaru exclaimed to the two chuunins.
Naruto opened his mouth to support that claim, but Sakura quickly interjected, all hesitation gone. "Well, we actually just wanted to know who Hatake Kakashi's teammates were…"
"A ghost?" Izumo echoed, mind still back on Konohamaru's exclaimation, looking blank. "Ghosts don't–"
"Oh, yeah, we knew Kakashi's teammates," Kotetsu said, cutting his friend off. He was apparently more used to Konohamaru's strange claims, and didn't believe them. "Rin, and Obito. They're both dead."
Sakura spun around, grinning, and Naruto punched the air, shrieking in triumph. Sasuke only slouched and scowled, trying to look as if he didn't know the people around him.
Eh heh. Shorter chapter than usual. But I finally updated! D; Soo sorry for the long wait! X.x See, I'm not quitting this story just yet!
…and I love Izumo and Kotetsu.