It was a calm day in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. The sun was shining, the breeze was gentle and...

"KAKASHI SENSEI!"

Ok...maybe it wasn't that calm.

"You're late again, sensei!" The short blonde boy named Naruto exclaimed.

"He's right," Sakura, his teammate added, "The Fifth expected us over two hours ago."

"Sorry about that," their teacher said, scratching the back of his head.

"So what's your excuse this time?" The third and final member of group 7, Sasuke asked.

"Well...This morning when I woke up I had the oddest craving for strawberries. So I went into the woods to pick some."

"But, sensei," Sakura interrupted, "Strawberries don't grow in Konoha."

Kakashi nodded then added, "And it took me two hours to figure that out."

Since they were use to their sensei's reputation of being late, Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura shrugged it off and only hoped that the Hokage would forgive them.

"There's nothing to forgive," The Fifth said when they arrived, "You're right on time."

"What!" All four of them exclaimed.

"Well, you see, I told Kakashi that you all had to be here by ten when really I wanted you here by twelve. I had to factor in his constant lateness." Glowing with pride of accomplishing the impossible, getting Kakashi to arrive on time, Tsunade looked at everyone in her office. Before her stood the original nine rookies, Gai's team and Kakashi.

Looking around also Kakashi asked, "So, where's Gai, Asuma and Kurenai?"

"Gai is giving a motivational speech to all of the students in Iruka's classes..."

"I feel sorry for Konohamaru and his friends," Naruto whispered, jokingly, but stopped once he saw the angry look on Lee's face.

"Then Asuma and Kurenai are both on a mission to the Land of Waves. But it does not matter. It is a simple mission...in fact, it is not really a mission as much as it is training for you all."

"Training, why would you bring us all here for training?" Kiba asked and his dog, Akamaru, barked as if to emphasize a point.

"Well, this is special training which involves all of you to travel together. In an area way west of here there have been rumors of special ninjas who can transform into animals. You all have to go there and see if you can learn from them."

"If we are going to travel that far wouldn't we still need more Jounin to take us there?" Asked Ino as she brushed her hair out of her eyes.

"No, it is not a dangerous course to get there, it is just a long one. Kakashi should be the only needed Jounin and now that Shikamaru is a Chuunin, you should be fine." Ino was a bit scared to have Shikamaru as her leader, the laziest person she knew, but she dropped the topic. "Anymore questions?"

"I have one," interjected Neji, "Who exactly do we contact about this when we get there?"

"Good question." Tsunade shuffled through all of the papers on her desk until she came across a photograph. "I had sent out one of my other Jounins before in order to gather some information. From what he told me he said that the man in this picture is in charge."

She held up the picture so everyone could see. He was young, about Kakashi's age, and had short black hair. Ino, Sakura, Hinata and Tenten all blushed. But it was understandable, the man in the picture was pretty.

"He is a very strong ninja though, "Tsunade continued, "He is very intelligent, cunning and can be dangerous if you don't watch your backs. For all we know he could be an evil genius."

"Tohru, how do you work the rice cooker?" Shigure began to cry over his uncooked rice.

"You call yourself an adult when you always act like a baby!" Kyo yelled as he nibbled on a tuna sandwich, "All you have to do is push the damn button!"

"If the stupid cat can figure out how to work it you should be able to also." A feminine boy with grey hair added.

"What did you say about me being stupid."

"I simply said you were stupid."

"Take that back!"

"But I don't believe in lying."

"Oh there you are, Tohru. I can't figure out how to work this and they began to yell at me."

"It's ok," the pretty brunette said, "I'll make it for you."

"Thank you, you are my hero." Shigure walked over to the table and sat down, singing at the idea of his long awaited cooked rice. "Cooked rice, cooked rice, everything goes with cooked rice."

"You really shouldn't cater him like that," Kyo said, ignoring Shigure's hums of joy.

"Oh, I don't mind." Tohru responded with a smile and causing Kyo to blush a bit beneath his orange hair.

Tohru didn't seemed to see Kyo blush, so she obliviously set down the bowl of rice in front of Shigure, who clapped his hands out of joy. "Yay! Rice!" He grinned happily and began to down his meal.

Yuki and Kyo just shook their heads. "It's amazing that he's the one running this house." Yuki mumbled.

He looks like a moron." Naruto commented, squinting at the picture in Tsunade's hands.

"Yes well, don't let his appearance fool you. I'm sure he's very a very talented ninja, who shouldn't be taken lightly."

"Whatever."

Sakura looked from the picture back to Tsunade, "So when do we leave?"

Tsunade walked back behind her desk and placed the picture back into the folder. She plopped down into her seat. "As soon as possible."

Shikamaru gave an unenthusiastic sigh and shrugged, "Well I guess if we have to."

"Let's say we meet up outside the villiage in an hour?" Kakashi suggested, already making his way to the door. If they were going on a long trip, he'd have to make sure he had enough time to get home and pack all of his favorite novels. The others all agreed with a nod and were dismissed.

(One hour later)

The original rookie nine and Gai's team all waited outside the gates of Kohona patiently, Chouji munching on some chips while he waited. Neji turned to Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke with a vein popping out of his head. "Where is that stupid sensei of yours? We can't afford to wait here all day."

Sakura let out a small sigh, "You know him. Always late."

"Over here!" Kakashi called from the gates. Slung over his shoulder was a pretty large knapsack filled to the brim with books.

Naruto grimaced. How many books does he have?

Sasuke smacked his forehead. He's the one who claims that ninja is the art of deception. While he's hauling those things around, we'll be spotted from ten feet away.

"Ready to go?" The happy sensei asked.

"We've been ready." A few of the mumbled in unison.

When they set off they had no idea how long the journey would be. The trip itself would take several days and they would have to travel to a country none of them knew of prior to the mission. Luckily for them they had plenty of questions to keep them occupied for at least 20 minutes.

"So why do we need to know how to transform into animals?" Sasuke asked about two hours after they left the village.

Kakashi thought about it for a minute then said, "Well, it would be a good way to sneak past ninja without them thinking anything is suspicious."

"But when I fought Kiba...and won," Naruto gave Kiba a glance to show him he would never let Kiba live it down, "I was able to transform into Akamaru and no one could tell I was me."

"True but um...I'm sure this is different. Maybe these special jutsus give you special animal abilities."

"Even so," Kiba said, still giving Naruto an 'I'm gonna kill you' death-glare, "I have many abilities and characteristics of a dog. Right, Akamaru." Akamaru barked in response.

"You even smell like a dog," added Naruto.

"Why you!" Kiba lunged at Naruto but was caught by Kakashi.

Naruto stuck his tongue out at Kiba then continued by saying, "And I can even summon the Frog Boss. I don't need to turn into a pathetic animal."

"Well, Naruto I bet..." Kakashi started.

"Wait, I don't even use ninjutsus like you guys," Lee interrupted, "Why did I have to come on this mission?"

"Would you all just listen!" Kakashi interjected. Everyone stopped and stared at him, a little bit shocked. "I've wondered these questions also, but if the fifth gave us this mission then we should follow orders and just do it. There must be a reason for the mission and who know how helpful it could end up being."

They continued on their way until Ino stopped and faced Kakashi-sensei. "What type of animals can these people turn into anyway?"

He stopped, rubbed his chin then responded, "I was told there is one for every member of the zodiac, and the cat."

"You should take the boar, Ino-pig," Sakura whispered.

Ino's face went red. "Shame there are no billboard-brows in the zodiac. You would probably have a lot in common."

As Ino and Sakura crossed their arms and did their best to ignore each other Shikamaru thought to himself This is going to be a troublesome mission.

And it was. The trip there lasted 4 days and there was not a lot to talk about. The girls swooned over Sasuke, Choji ate, Shino was creepy, and Hinata blushed whenever Naruto came a meter close to her. Oh, and there was this horrible incident involving a coconut and a squirrel which resulted in Naruto losing a chunk of his hair and bruising his kidney but going into details would be, in Shikamaru's words) too troublesome.

It was on the fifth day of the trip, that the group arrived in a small city.

"Are we there yet?" Naruto groaned. A vein popped out of Sakura's forehead. "What part of long trip did you not understand?"

"Um..."

"Oh nevermind."

Kakashi scratched his head and looked around. "We should be close...I think. This is around where the fifth told us he would be." He reached back into his knapsack and fished around for the photo of the man that they were supposed to find it. He pulled it out, after sifting through all of his books for a moment.

"Should we ask around and see if anyone knows where he could be?" TenTen asked, glancing into a shop window. The others agreed that would be the best way to find him.

"Alright let's get sta-" Naruto's screaming was interrupted by even louder cries coming from down the street.

"WHY! WHY CAN'T HE EVER FINISH ANYTHING ON TIME!" A woman was screaming and crying hysterically on her knees in the middle of the sidewalk.

"Who the-?" Kiba began, squinting at the woman down the street, "What the hell is her problem?"

Shikamaru shook his head, "Who cares. It's not our problem."... Well, it was more along the lines that it was too troublesome to care.

Lee took a valiant step away from the group, and struck a dramatic pose, "It is so our problem! A woman in need is any gentleman's problem! I shall tend to her, and help heal her broken spirit!"

"Not again..." TenTen and Neji sighed. It was always headache inducing when Lee started monolougeing.

"Lee's right," Sakura agreed, strangley, "We can't just leave her in the middle of the street like that."

Lee grabbed a hold of Sakura's hands, "My dearest Sakura, you have finally accepted me! I knew that you would help me! Come, let's help the poor woman!" He started dragging her down the street.

"All I did was agree with you!" She screamed and Sasuke glowered in Lee's direction.

Idiot.

The rest of the young ninja slowly followed the two of them, Kakashi in the rear.

Sakura tapped the short haired woman on the shoulder, "Um, excuse me?"

The woman realed around, he face stained with tears, "What! What do you want!"

Sakura faltered and took a step back when she saw the look on the woman's face.

Scary. She looks like she's ready to hang herself.

Lee stepped foward, pounding on his chest heroically, "We are here to lift you're broken soul-" He was cut off by Neji and TenTen, who grabbed him by the arms and dragged him to the back of the group.

"You're going to scare her, Lee." Neji said and TenTen nodded in agreement.

"So, what's wrong?" Sakura finally asked. The woman whiped her tears away, "Well...this stupid writer I worked for missed his deadline again today."

"Again?" Naruto asked, putting his hands behind his head. The woman buried her face into her hands and started crying again, "Yes! He always does this! He told me he was going to finish the manuscript today, but when I went over to pick it up, he'd written something completly different!"

"Like what?" Naruto asked.

"Oh I don't even know...It looked like something like 'Icha Icha Paradise'."

Kakashi came barriling through the crowd of younger students, and grabbed the woman by the collar, "Take us to him."

The woman was taken aback, "W-what?"

"You heard me!"

The woman noticed a piece of paper slip out of Kakashi's pocket.

"You dropped something."

"TAKE ME TO HIM!" He ordered again. If he could find the writer of his favorite book, he would be the happiest man on earth. Ino sighed and went to pick up the paper from the ground, since nobody else was going to. The woman noticed who was on the paper.

"Why do you have a picture of my stupid writer?"

"You know him?" Ino asked, holding out the picture for her to see.

"Yeah, unfortunatly. He's the one I was talking about before, who never finishes anything on time."

"So take us to him already!" Kakashi whined and stamped his foot. He would not wait around any longer to meet this guy. After all, he may have a book that Kakashi didn't own.

"Alright, I'll take you to see Shigure. By the way, I'm Mii." The editor replied, finally whipeing all of her tears away and letting a smile shine through.

Mii brought guided them to his house all while going on about how he is late with is work and does not respect her. Every once and awhile she would begin to burst out into tears but Lee would just place a hand on her shoulder and tell her how maybe he wasn't worth the trouble of crying over. Mii disagreed, Lee did not know what hell Shigure put her though.

"Here we are," She sobbed, pointing to a fairly good sized house hidden in a patch of woods.

"Thank you very much, Mii-san," Kakashi said then instructed everyone to thank her. Most did, others just mumbled that is was not worth it.

"There you are, Mii-san," a girl's voice came from behind them. A short girl with long brown hair and two blue bows came running towards them. "Shigure wanted me to give this to you. It's his real manuscript." She bowed as she handed the editor a tanish envelope then faced the ninjas. "Oh, hello. I'm Tohru Honda. Are you all friends of Mii-san?"

Mii, holding the envelope tightly, said through sobs, "Accually...sniff...they are...sniff sniff.. Here to see Shigure...SHIII-GURRRE! Why do you always do this to me?" She collapsed and became hysterical.

Just as Lee leaned over to comfort her again another voice rang out, "It's no use," said the cool voice, "once she's like this there's no getting to her. Shigure does this to all of us."

"Yuki, these people are here to see Shigure. Are they family members?" the young girl asked.

"Not that I know of," he said staring at each ninja. "We might as well bring them to the house. Shigure may know them."

They headed to the house as Mii sluggishly got up and left. "He always does this, he hates me, he really hates me."