Okay, take 6.
Together This Time
The members on new team 7 stood across the training area from their sensei. Kakashi had the three small bells tied securely to his belt and looked at his students appraisingly. 'Naruto and Hinata have Kyuubi, and Naruto has summoning and the Rasengan. Hinata has gentle fist. Looks like Sakura is the weak link this time around, but she and Hinata are also unknowns. I have no way of knowing what they might have learned since I last saw them fight.'
"Hey Kakashi-sensei." Naruto called grabbing his teacher's attention. "No special eye today, okay? Me and Hinata wouldn't want anyone going and talking about what we've learned since we got out of the hospital." Kakashi raised his eyebrow at the phrasing, was Naruto trying to tell him something? Naruto nodded just barely and Kakashi watched him show two fingers on his hand still at his side.
Kakashi nodded, "Alright then. There will be no special eyes watching."
Naruto grinned, "Good!"
"Ready…Go!" At Kakashi's signal all four of them vanished into the surrounding forest.
After a short sprint into the woods Naruto stopped. Without even trying he could feel that Hinata was following him, a split second latter she entered the tiny clearing where he stood, a few seconds later Sakura brought up the rear.
"So what's the plan?" Sakura questioned of her teammates.
"First we wait," Naruto answered. "Hey Hinata-chan, think you could find Kakashi-sensei?"
Hinata didn't reply as she was already moving through the familiar seals for her Byakugan.
"Why wait if Hinata can find Kakashi-sensei with her Byakugan?" Sakura asked Naruto while Hinata scanned the forest.
"Kakashi-sensei has something he has to take care of first." Naruto replied.
"Found him, and our other guests." Hinata piped up. "They're not paying attention, Kakashi-sensei will reach them any second now."
"Who's not paying attention?" Sakura's asked, annoyed at being kept out of the loop.
"We'll explain everything after the test, Sakura-san." Hinata offered. Sakura looked a little hurt at still being out of the loop, but nodded slowly anyway.
For a short while Hinata and Naruto watched the unfolding scene between the Hyugas and Kakashi. They were so intent upon their prey that they only noticed him a split second before he was on them. They tried to scatter but it was too late, Kakashi grabbed them both by the back of their jackets and leapt gracefully to the forest floor. Neither Naruto nor Hinata were any good at lip reading so they couldn't tell what was being said but they could tell that the Hyuga Nin were getting very flustered. The exchange went on for a few moments more until Kakashi leaned close to one of the ninja and whispered something. The Hyuga's eyes got very wide and nodded quickly before motioning to his partner and running into the forest. Kakashi watched them for a second before summoning Pankun to make sure they stayed away.
Naruto smiled as he turned to his teammates. "Alright then now that that's taken care of lets focus on those bells. So what do we have in our corner? I've got Rasengan, some summoning, Kage Bunshin and the basics."
"Gentle Fist and my Byakugan." Hinata listed off her reliable skills.
Both of them turned to Sakura, silently indicating for her to list her skills. Sakura paled at the thought, after all what did she have to compare with the Rasengan and the Byakugan eyes? "Umm, I guess I've got Bunshin, Kawarimi and Henge." Sakura grimaced at her pathetic arsenal.
Naruto nodded, "So, any ideas?"
Silence answered him. After a brief moment the young shinobi realized his companions were waiting on him. Naruto took a long moment to ponder this. In the beginning of Team 7, Sasuke had always been the unofficial leader. This was because of the fact that nobody really listened to Naruto, he hadn't been all that bright back then, and that Sasuke's personality demanded nothing less than control. Now with Sakura visibly at a loss for what to do and Hinata unwilling if not unable, the mantle of team leader fell firmly on his shoulders.
Returning their gazes Naruto nodded, "Alright here's what we'll do…"
A minute later the three genin broke ranks and spread out around the clearing and waited for their target. Another five minutes passed before Kakashi wandered slowly into the clearing, his forbidden little book in his hand, his face buried inside. Upon reaching the center of the clearing Kakashi paused and marked his page. Closing the volume with a snap, he placed it in his pocket and spoke aloud to the clearing. "Alright Naruto, no special eyes watching except for the one on your side. So you three can stop hiding and come at me with everything you've got. Remember if you expect to win your going to have to fight to kill."
The Jounin waited, ten seconds passed without so much as a whisper. Twenty seconds, thirty seconds, a minute…then at some unseen signal a barrage of kunai shot into the clearing and peppered the Jounin like a pincushion before he disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving a log riddled with weapons behind.
Kakashi appeared in a nearby tree, his visible eye shone with a fierce delight. 'Those kunai came from three different angles, so their not bunched up, and their working together. They've got a plan.' Kakashi couldn't help but feel proud of Sakura and Naruto. They'd grown so much.
Even as he gloated a little to himself Kakashi was searching the forest around him with a keen eye. Suddenly he dropped into a crouch as three kunai whipped through the place his head had occupied just seconds before. Looking up his eye widened again when he saw the exploding tags attached to the handles.
Throwing himself off the branch he heard the explosion behind and felt a few pieces of shrapnel bounce off his vest. As he flew through the air Kakashi saw a glimpse of pink and a flash of metal, twisting his body he drew a kunai and deflected the two shuriken that Sakura had thrown. Completing the turn he faced the other side of the clearing and saw a most disconcerting sight, Hinata was leaping straight at him.
Knowing that melee was the last place he wanted to be with the Hyuga since even a tiny blow, hell even a blocked attack, could prove 'fatal', he launched his kunai at the approaching hazard. Kakashi was surprised when Hinata held up one hand to the weapon and it ricocheted off with a dull thud. Undeterred, Kakashi grabbed one of girl's sleeves and with a deft feat of acrobatics spun in mid air and hurled her out of the clearing.
Landing gracefully in the center of the clearing Kakashi waited for the next attack. He didn't have to wait long. His feet were barely on the ground when a group of shuriken appeared in his peripheral vision. Leaping backwards a short distance he watched the projectiles continue into a tree on the other side of the clearing. Only his instincts saved him from the next attack that came in from his blind side. Going into a side roll Kakashi came up in time to see no less than a dozen assorted shuriken and kunai whiz past.
Even as they did he heard a dull thud from behind him, he started to turn when he heard a faint hiss of something burning. 'Another bomb!' Leaping forward and into a roll Kakashi regained his feet just as he heard the explosion, but felt no indication that a powerful explosive tag had gone off. Suddenly suspicious he spun around and faced a wall of billowing smoke. 'A smoke bomb? Of course, the smoke wouldn't hinder the Byakugan.' Just as this thought crossed his mind Hinata charged out of the smoke.
Kakashi felt another smile grace his hidden lips. This was how a team should act, but one thing bothered Kakashi. Where was Naruto? After all, with everything he knew and all the combat experience he'd had, he would probably prove the biggest threat. Ending his musings Kakashi turned back to the matter at hand.
Once more seeking a quick ending to a melee exchange he launched a series of quick kicks at Hinata as soon as she was in range. Keeping her on the edge of his superior reach Kakashi kept the contact from the attacks to a minimum pulling them back just before Hinata could send a pulse of deadly chakra through the contact point. Once her attack was stalled Kakashi darted in and used the same tactic as before to dispose of his opponent. Grabbing the front of her jacket he hurled the girl back into the slowly dispersing smoke screen.
Hearing another set of footsteps behind Kakashi spun and faced down his orange clad pupil. 'Speak of the devil.' Naruto was already air born with a fist in route forcing Kakashi to raise one arm in defense. Naruto's other arm followed the first in and Kakashi blocked by trying to grab his student's fist but even as the attack met the block it was on its way out as Naruto launched a spinning kick. Kakashi met this attack with an upraised arm, but Naruto wasn't done quite yet, using Kakashi's arm as a spring board he quickly reversed his spin coiling himself for a thrust kick that Kakashi met with a cross block. Naruto used this block as another platform to launch himself out of combat and into a low crouch.
Naruto rose from the crouch and let fly a half dozen shuriken, Kakashi sidestepped the assault easily. Once more instincts honed over years of training screamed at him and he leapt backwards. Another half dozen shuriken passed in front of him. Tensing he waited, this wasn't over yet, not by a long shot. Then he heard the other shoe fall, literally. Hearing the sounds of someone running behind him Kakashi spun and saw Hinata charging out of the smoke just feet away. Another set of feet began to run behind him, sparring a glance back Kakashi blanched. Naruto was charging from behind with a Rasengan held in one hand. Choosing the lesser of two evils Kakashi charged Hinata.
Leaping lightly Kakashi prepared to use Hinata's back as a springboard to get more distance and disable her until he could deal with Naruto. Pushing down he was surprised to meet no resistance. "A Bunshin!" His foot passed through the formless illusion and he stumbled. Throwing himself to the side Kakashi came out of his roll facing Naruto. Digging into his pouch he tossed a handful of kunai at his student, hopping to force Naruto to abandon his attack or at least to buy some time. 'Defiantly better this time around.' To his immense surprise though Naruto simply disappeared into a puff of smoke. 'Kage Bunshin?' Kakashi puzzled for a split second before a quartet of thuds issued from inside the smoke, followed by Hinata's emergence from the cloud. "Kawarimi!" Leaping into the air Kakashi's suspicions were confirmed when he heard Naruto's Rasengan tear up the ground where he had just occupied.
Looking down Kakashi watched his pupils follow him into the air. Taking a leaf from their book he quickly primed an explosive tag and let it drop. Both shinobi saw the bomb drifting down towards them even as they sailed up to meet it. Grabbing each other they each braced against the other and pushed off out of the path of the projectile. As the tag went off Naruto summoned a Kage Bunshin and literally threw himself back at the Jounin. Kakashi met the assault by dodging, smiling he prepared to strike back. Only to receive a viscous ax kick delivered to his shoulder from behind.
As he fell Kakashi silently congratulated Hinata on the attack and wondered how she had changed direction. It was however a problem for another day as both of his air born students launched a mishmash of projectiles at their falling teacher. Unable to move his arm yet after Hinata's apparently chakra charged kick Kakashi settled for dodging. A moment of hectic acrobatics latter Kakashi landed on the ground praising whatever it was that had saved him from any injuries; be it his own skill, his student's lack of skill or lack of desire to harm him, he didn't know or care.
Kakashi began to rub his numb arm and try to get some feeling back into the limp appendage. As mobility began to return Kakashi heard three voices boldly announce their next assault.
"KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU!"
"BUNSHIN NO JUSTU!"
At a glance Kakashi numbered his new opponents in the dozens. Perhaps two-dozen Naruto's, a dozen Hinata's and a half dozen Sakura's filled the clearing and surrounding forest. For a moment there was silence, then three and a half dozen Genin charged.
A little less than a minute latter Kakashi dispatched the last of his opponents. Looking around the clearing Kakashi saw no more threats. In fact he saw no trace of any of his students at all. Then across the clearing from him he spied a hastily scrawled note pinned to a tree.
"Out to lunch."
Instantly his hand was at his side. Kakashi grinned again as he realized he was three bells short.
Team 7 sat together relishing their lunches, Naruto in particular. After all last time he hadn't ended up with anything to eat, even if it was his fault. All in all the three of them were quite pleased with themselves after managing to foil the older ninja, even if he hadn't used any jutsu or his Sharingan. Each one had a shiny little bell clasped protectively in their hand, not willing to trust luck that far. Sakura was engaging her new teammate in a conversation about Hinata's old team. Naruto and Hinata were silently listening to Kyuubi's evaluation of their performance.
"And that maneuver with Kawarimi, remember that. We're going to practice that later. Hinata, excellent execution of the air platform and your shields, those turned out perfect. Maybe your success with them will inspire some other student of mine to start working on his own stuff."
'I will, eventually.' Naruto said vaguely more preoccupied with Hinata's unfolding drama.
"Then Kiba-kun charged the thugs with Gatsuga, but he hadn't told us he was sick. He sneezed in the middle of the attack, and he ended up in a heap halfway to the thugs. Kurenai-sensei had to carry him back home." Hinata finished, blushing a little at the embarrassing memory. She'd edited out a few minor details that she would much rather have forgotten. Such as Kiba's less than appropriate remarks about their sensei's rear on the journey home. Naruto laughed out loud as a few of these stray memories crossed over unbidden and Hinata was vividly reminded of another task she was training for.
Sakura laughed lightly at the stories of former team 8's plight. "Sometimes I wonder how Naruto managed to beat Kiba, then I hear something like this and I'm reminded that there are people out there with bigger egos than even Naruto." It was so much easier to forget Sasuke with Naruto there. He was like a little brother, or maybe happiness incarnate.
"Is it so bad to be proud of my awesome, amazing ninja skills?" Naruto said through a mouthful of food. Sakura laughed again but stopped when to all their surprises he received an answer.
"Usually yes, but I guess we can give you a break this once." All three of them turned towards the sound of their sensei's voice. Kakashi ambled out of the woods carrying his book in one hand and their sign in the other.
"So you finally decided to join us?" Naruto joked.
"Yah," Sakura added, catching on to the flow easily. "You're going to be late to your own funeral Kakashi-sensei. So, what took you? Surely it didn't take five minutes to deal with our clones?"
"I was giving you a chance to talk, to celebrate. Maybe get some things off your chest." Kakashi replied, looking pointedly at Naruto and Hinata.
"We… thought we'd wait for you. Just in case." Naruto responded slowly.
Kakashi closed his naughty little book and tucked it away. "Ok, I'm here now." Sakura watched the short exchange in puzzlement.
"Sakura, there are some things Hinata and I have to tell you." Naruto began cautiously.
"Well I've got some questions of my own." Sakura said fiercely.
"Alright, but let us say what we need to say first, ok?" Naruto said quickly, cutting her off with a grave look.
Naruto took a deep breath, telling this story never got easer. It hadn't been easy to hear it himself, it hadn't been easy to tell Hinata, and it most certainly wasn't going to be any easier to tell Sakura; but it had to be done. "Alright, this all begins about thirteen years ago, shortly before I was born. You remember Orochimaru don't you?" Sakura nodded, her eyes narrowed. Orochimaru was the reason for all this. "Orochimaru still wore his leaf headband then. Anyway, Orochimaru made a grave mistake and insulted a great demon."
Sakura's eyes widened sharply, there was only one demon she knew about. What could the Kyuubi have to do with Naruto, furthermore where was he getting this story? He wouldn't lie to her, would he?
"After insulting the demon Orochimaru fled, as he fled he slew some of the demon's clan. The demon was furious and sought retribution against those he believed to be Orochimaru's allies; his former village." Sakura's eyes widened still further at this, even Kakashi's normally stoic visage showed shock. This was information that could potentially change the whole villages outlook.
"You know the next part of the story. Kyuubi attacked Konoha in a rage, hundreds died. Then the Yondaime Hokage arrived and saved the day, but there's more." Naruto paused for a moment. "Things that our generation was never told, about how the Yondaime defeated Kyuubi. You see, he couldn't kill Kyuubi, that kind of power hasn't been seen in thousands of years. Since he couldn't kill the demon outright, the Hokage was forced to seal him in a vessel… a baby actually, that would eventually die and in the process take Kyuubi with them." Naruto could tell that Sakura's mind was reeling. Understandable, since Naruto was rewriting history for her; changing things she'd always accepted as true. Not to mention the implications about himself.
Sakura quickly and quietly pushed everything else aside and tried to make it all go away. "That isn't funny Naruto, saying that the Yondaime died for nothing. If no one in our generation has been told then how do you know!" She wanted it all to be a joke, just stupid Naruto making a fool out of himself. She looked to Kakashi for confirmation. He stared straight back into her eyes and nodded grimly. She looked around frantically hoping that someone was going to jump out and tell her it was all a joke, a horrible cruel joke, but a joke nonetheless.
Finally when nothing happened to refute the story Sakura tied to focus, facts…she needed facts. "Who then? Who was…?" The truth hit her like a ton of bricks. It couldn't be anyone else; it had to be him. In wave country, at the chunin exam, at the valley, it couldn't have been anything else.
"Y-you! It-it has to be you." Now it was Naruto's turn to nod. Sakura felt like she was falling, it was all so surreal. Sasuke, the boy she had chased for so long, had betrayed the village. Had tried to go to Orochimaru, the legendary Sanin who had betrayed Konoha, but had been brought back by Naruto. Naruto, the dead last, whom another of the Sanin had trained and who was apparently some sort of demon thing. Sakura found herself shrinking away from Naruto. Looking to her sensei, her only lifeline, she managed to find her voice and force a question into the air that hung thick with tension.
Kakashi seemed to consider the question before answering. "I can't tell you that. Every one who knows has to make that decision for themselves. Most can't see past what is sealed inside him, but I guess it's their right to be bigots."
Sakura nodded numbly and closed her eyes against the world; she tried to remember everything she knew about Naruto. Every little gesture, his smile that couldn't be anything but fake sometimes, everything that made him who he was. When she was sure she had Naruto pegged, including the fights where he must have been channeling Kyuubi, Sakura tried to attach that label to him. She tried to label him Kyuubi, placing the name and all that came with it on to her loud blond teammate. She couldn't do it. Naruto was, well, Naruto, and whatever that may be it certainly wasn't Kyuubi. As a matter of fact, Sakura couldn't even be sure that Kyuubi was Kyuubi anymore, if what Naruto had said was true.
Finally she opened her eyes and took a long look at him. After a moment she nodded. Naruto was still Naruto. This revelation had changed some things but it couldn't change Naruto. Satisfied that she now had some certainty to cling to Sakura focused again on what she didn't understand. "What does this all have to do with Hinata, Naruto? You said that the two of you had something to tell me."
Naruto nodded and took another deep breath. He was honestly relieved that Sakura had taken it so well. "You remember at the Valley of the End? When you and Hinata showed up? I was fighting Sasuke with Kyuubi's power; it's something I can do because of the way he was sealed. You remember how Hinata saved me then, taking Sasuke's attack. After you left I asked Kyuubi for help, because I couldn't do anything."
Sakura cut off his thought, "You can talk to it!"
"So I'm an it now."
Naruto and Hinata both smiled a little at the comments, "Yes I can speak with him. When he's not being an ass. Kyuubi agreed to help,"
"Why, what was in it for him?" Sakura asked, no longer afraid but curious.
"It would be faster if I just came out and explained myself."
'And seeing Sakura scream has nothing to do with it.'
"Nothing at all. Well, not much anyway."
"He got, well..."
'What did you get other than the ability to gripe to us face to face?'
"Oh for the love of...I'm coming out there." Thoroughly annoyed Kyuubi manifested swiftly behind Sakura and tapping her lightly on the shoulder.
"This. Among a number of other things you probably wouldn't understand." Kyuubi watched in grim amusement, as Sakura did not scream. Instead she stiffened for a moment before fainting dead away.
"Well that's certainly one way to end a conversation." Kakashi observed cheerfully.
Ten minutes later Sakura came to and found Kakashi standing over her.
"How are you feeling?" Kakashi asked.
Sakura didn't respond but instead focused on getting up. Rising groggily to a sitting position she looked around for her teammates. Naruto and Hinata were sitting underneath a tree talking in hushed voices. Naruto looked amused though a little worried. Hinata just kept shaking her head in a slightly troubled, slightly exasperated way in between talking. Sakura noticed this only briefly as a spot of orange against tan caught her eye. Curled contentedly in Hinata's lap was a tiny fox. Sakura remembered what Naruto had said before she passed out, she remembered the stranger (she refused to call it Kyuubi until she had proof) that had snuck up on her and startled her. He'd said something about not understanding then she'd fainted when she'd seen him.
'No, it couldn't be. Hinata said she had a pet fox, and no one would call that thing a pet but…' Sakura couldn't help but stare at the little thing. After a few short moments the fox looked up at her. Sakura was stunned in the moment that their eyes met. 'Those eyes…it couldn't be, could it?' But it could.
Kyuubi all but smirked as he stirred under Sakura's scrutiny. Leaping down form his perch on Hinata's lap he stretched and proudly displayed all nine of his tails. Sakura glared at Kyuubi for a moment before saying "So it's all true…who'd have thought."
Naruto and Hinata looked guilty and nodded. "Every word, Sakura." Naruto added brightly.
Sakura looked at Kyuubi with deep scrutiny, for an eons old demon the fox wasn't all that intimidating in his chosen form. Kyuubi starred back from the ground. "What's in it for you, saving Hinata?" Sakura asked again, she didn't like having her questions left unanswered.
Kyuubi tilted his head to the side before shifting to his human form and smiling disarmingly. "Freedom, and a chance to make things right. You probably don't understand but that's the way of it."
Sakura nodded at the demon's answer, it was probably the best she was going to get and all things considered, it was accurate. She didn't really understand. She was still recovering from the initial shock, running more on adrenaline and pent up emotion then anything else. It all still resembled a dream…and not a good one.
Kakashi picked up on the once more growing apprehension in Sakura and decided it was best if he ended the meeting so she could get some rest and finish coming to terms with the implications of what she'd just learned. "Alright everyone. Good work, much better this time around. Meet at the Hokage tower tomorrow at 7. Dismissed."
Naruto and Hinata nodded before leaving, Kyuubi vanishing as they left the clearing. Sakura stood around a moment longer before starting away. Kakashi almost let her go but remembered at the last minute that she needed to know about the Third's law still. "Sakura." She turned to look at him. "No one else can know about this. Naruto and Hinata told you because you need to know if your going to be working with them but it's still a secret that they're trusting you to keep." He purposely didn't mention the law; it would be better for now if she just thought it was a personal secret they'd trusted her with. Absolutely worst case was she went and told everyone, but Kakashi liked to think he knew his team better than that. At least he hoped he knew his team that well, considering how well it turned out he knew one member of his old team.
Okie dokie, there it is. Next up we have Neo-Team 7's first mission.