don't own Naruto, please read and review.
This is the revised Chapter 01 with much better grammar and some scene changes. Also, please visit my anime blog and drop a comment at acinonyx(dot)wordpress(dot)com, the link is also on my main page, please spread the word to your friends as hopefully this fic and the blog will generate traffic for each other somehow.
The sun shown brightly high in the cloudless sky, affording the landscape below all of the sun's warmth. On the ground below a gentle breeze swept through a village situated in the middle of a large forest and a wedge of mountain. With so many trees the sound of leaves rustling in the blowing wind rung clearly for miles, and provided a constant background noise to the daily life in the village.
Konohagakure, the capitol ninja village of fire country was one of the most populated cities on the entire continent. Even as densely populated as the village was the outskirts of the walled in congregation held almost no population. About the only things that really existed in the outlying areas were many numerous training grounds of different sizes and purpose. One member of the village spent an inordinate amount of time in these area training himself to exhaustion. At the moment however he wasn't training at all, rather he simply lay in the grass on the fringe of one of the grounds. The boy, only age thirteen, was near passed out from exhaustion. His normally disheveled head of bright blond hair now lay damp with sweat over his cerulean eyes. The most notable feature of his face was not the striking color of his eyes, but the six identical whisker shaped birthmarks that marred his cheeks. The fact that they were obviously not normal human characteristics led to the draw they had on people's eyes. His predominately orange jacket lay open, exposing his black fishnet shirt to the sun. His matching orange pants were slightly marred with various grass stains he had received from training almost all through the day, his blue sandals suffered a similar fate.
Naruto's right hand sported countless small puncture marks that looked like they were made by teeth, the result of trying out the limits of his Kichiyose Jutsu. The day had been spent trying out the depths of the summoning technique taught to him by his most recent teacher. He was now finding out the art of summoning ninja toads was a lot more complicated than he had originally thought. His perverted teacher had summoned various toads during the short time he had known him for many different tasks, so it stood to reason that he should have been able to do the same. After many failed attempts Naruto had decided that it was in character for Jiraiya to have left out the finer points.
He attempted it regardless, using chakra differently each time to see what results he could get. Thanks to this trial and error Naruto now had a new nightmare. Just yesterday he had pumped a lot of chakra into the summoning, but his mind hand started to wander when he should have been thinking about his chakra control. What he unwittingly summoned was not a veteran toad ninja as he had hoped, but over a thousand smoke bomb sized toad eggs. They quickly lost their cohesion and fell over him in a squiggly mass. It had been more than an hour before they ate up the chakra he had used to summon them. He shuddered as he lay there remembering the squishy horror. It was very frustrating, but he usually would have had a brilliant idea strike him by this point. Something that would bring everything into focus and grant him insight into his training. The lack of such a thing now was frustrating .
Without warning the light filtering through his bangs was denied to him. "Hey…Naruto," a voice came from somewhere in front of him. He opened his eyes and mustered the energy to brush away his bangs only to see Shikamaru standing before him.
The newest Konoha Chuunin was one of many people as of late he could call friend. Shikamaru always had a look on his face that could contain apathy, boredom, or even sleepiness. Sometimes he pulled off a look that mixed all three. Like his expressions, Shikamaru's appearance hadn't changed much at all since leaving the Gennin ranks. His jet black hair was still tied up into a tight topknot that arrayed all his hair into a thick column. He still wore the same grey t-shirt and long black shorts. The only change to his wardrobe was the addition of the standard issue flak jacket. This extra addition to his wardrobe was essentially a badge of rank as a Chuunin, but also offered a good deal of protection.
Beside the proffesionaly bored boy stood another one of his new friends. 'Stood' was not a term which usually applied to the energetic 'fuzzy brows' as Naruto was often wont to call him. Rock Lee was a Gennin a year older than either of them and belonged to the strongest rookie cell. Naruto wouldn't hesitate to say that Lee was pretty much one of the weirdest guys he had ever met. Upon meeting him for the first time a person's gaze was always drawn to the outrageous full-body green spandex outfit he wore before they noticed anything else. Part of it's oddity was that it gave the illusion of looking simpler than it actually was. Other than the standard sandals, kunai pouch, and forehead protector he, for some reason, wore on his waist it was a pretty simple outfit as far as ninja equipment went. His outfit was finished off by some bandages wrapped around his wrists and forearms, and a pair of large orange shin socks. If anything about him could compete with his outrageous outfit it would have to be his face. His hairstyle made it look like someone had just stuck a bowl on top of his head and cut around the rim. Two completely black orbs stared out of abnormally large round eyes, completing the effect. All in all Lee struck an odd figure.
"Huh, Shikamaru whad'ja want?" Having suddenly had activity forced back on him Naruto could gradually feel more and more of his strength returning.
"Greetings Naruto-kun, we bring orders from Hokage-sama for you to return with us to her office." Lee put forth a hand to help out the prone Naruto.
Naruto managed to prop himself up on his elbows before proceeding to negotiate himself into a kneeling position. "What does Obaa-chan want with me now?" he had already used up all but a fraction of his personal chakra and his body ached from the lack of it. He clasped the preferred arm gratefully with his own.
"The Hokage asked for me to bring you and Rock Lee to her for a meeting that's for your ears only. I'm just a courier." Shikamaru paused as Lee steadied Naruto, the latter grinning with that usual stupid grin of his. "Troublesome," he added as an afterthought.
Naruto looked questioningly at the Gennin and Chuunin before him. "Why both Rock Lee and me?" He paused for a moment, than "Is it a mission? I'm supposed to be leaving soon with Ero-Sennin for a whole bunch of training soon. If it's a quick one I guess I could squeeze it in," That big dumb grin of his was readily available once again. He acted like she would have to beg to get him to do a mission.
Shikamaru winced at Naruto's sloppy way of speaking. "You'll find out when we get there. Try not to let your ego get the best of you." With that the shadow-user turned and began making his way past the tree line towards Konoha. Rock Lee and Naruto quickly moved to follow him, the blond almost tripping over himself in the process.
While the three continued to make their way to the Hokage tower Tsunade was already entertaining another guest. She was glad at least someone had the propriety to be on time when she asked for them.
It was a rather nice day and the windows to her office were thrown open, letting the soothing scent of the spring air waft in on the day's cool breeze. The sunlight streamed through theses open windows and illuminated all of the Hokage's office in an affable light.
The girl that sat in one of the large chairs set before her seemed to always be nervous or unsure about something as far as Tsunade could tell. Everything about the girl seemed to suggest she was just barely resisting the urge to hide. It always surprised her how much like the rest of her clan the girl was not. Her blue-black hair framed her face perfectly on all sides. The sides of her bangs came down to her neck and the hair at the nape of her neck came up to meet the hair from the top of her head in a point in back. Her eyes were the biggest curiosity about her, the two milky white orbs seemed to suggest she was blind, but it was readily obvious she could see quite well. Unlike her classically pretty face her outfit was decidedly unfeminine and overly concealing. She wore a creamy tan colored jacket a little too large for her with curious symbols on the shoulders and a fuzzy hem at the bottom. In yet another oddity her forehead protector rested around her neck after the fashion of a loose choker. The last piece of her ensemble was filled out by standard blue shin-length pants and the standard issue sandals. Tsunade also noted that if her fingers weren't twiddling together nervously she was looking around the office with a slight look of apprehension.
The Hokage could only imagine how much harder it would have been to get Hyuuga Hinata for the mission she had planned if the girl was still a member of the Hyuuga's main house. As it stood she could only guess why Hiashi, Hinata's father and head of the Hyuuga clan, was allowing this considering how protective they were of their bloodline. She didn't give it too much thought however, 'what happens in the clan stays in the clan' was an old adage for most of Konoha's clans.
Tsunade and Hinata were the only two in the room at the moment. Her trusted friend and aide Shizune, niece to a man she loved long ago, was not here. She was currently on a mission in Amegakure acting as one of the liaisons for the upcoming Chuunin exam to be held there. Not wanting to unduly stress Hinata out Tsunade let the silence continue as they waited for the last arrivals.
The arrivals in question made quick progress through the village towards the Hokage tower. Usually the rooftops gave access to speedy travel for Ninjas. Construction on various buildings still being conducted after the recent battles made that a hazard now, however. That only left more normal means of transportation. Many different ninja and citizens clogged the streets they now walked on with their various comings and goings. The many colored buildings that made up the heart of the village had never been arranged in any specific order making navigation difficult for all but those who had grown up there. They had grown up there so they easily made their way through the throng of foot traffic with a practiced knowledge of the village's layout.
The red roofed building, with the kanji for fire emblazoned at the top was one of the largest structures in the village; As well it should be since it was the cornerstone for Konoha's ninja force. The three walked through the open doors and were immediately greeted by someone they recognized as an examiner from the Chuunin exam.
Hagane Kotetsu was indeed involved in the Chuunin exam. He along with his partner Kamizuki Izumo had administered a pre-exam test to all applicants. Kotetsu wore an administrator's uniform, looking somehow out of place on him. His hair was even wilder and unkempt than Naruto's own, and for some reason he had a bandage that stretched over the middle of his face.
He motioned for the new arrivals to follow him. "Allow me to take you to the Hokage's office. Heh, you shouldn't have been late." Naruto at least didn't need an elaboration on why they should have been punctual. Most likely he'd get blamed for it anyway.
They fell in behind the administrator and followed him to their destination. Naruto had memorized the way a long time ago, but he could see that the new Hokage had done some redecorating. The walls were now periodically covered with various potted plants and paintings of various scenes from around the land of fire. He guessed it was better than the previous Hokage's tastes.
The small group of ninja eventually made it to the office door after many curving corridors and flights of stairs. Kotetsu opened the simple door for the three younger ninja, motioning them inside once the door was open.
As usual the large desk at the far wall was covered in a myriad of books and scrolls. The only decorations on the walls were portraits of previous Hokages and two people Naruto could only assume were Nawaki and Dan. Tsunade had told him about those two, her brother and her only love; killed in defense of the village believing in the dream of being Hokage.
The odd looking administrator shut the door behind them and for a moment all was silent. The sunlight streaming through the window was bright on his face yet Naruto could still make out Tsunade at her desk. He couldn't tell who but another person sat in one of the comfy chairs facing the Hokage.
Tsunade cut an odd figure for a Hokage. Despite being around fifty years old she kept up the appearance of someone in their twenties. Her blond hair had a very youthful sheen to it, and the style of two ponytails seemed to also detract from her age. She wore a simple green coat with the kanji for gambler on the back over a gray sashed top that seemed barely able to contain her sizable bust. She finished off her outfit with dark blue pants and matching heels.
"I'm glad you three finally made it. Here I was hoping I'd get to send someone to go find you three." Tsunade glared at Shikamaru with a scary grin.
"Hey hey I had to find him first. It was troublesome just trying to find him you know." Shikamaru didn't look the least bit apologetic, just annoyed.
Tsunade's look turned to one of understanding. "That's alright. You can go join your new cell now if you want."
He gave a smart salute and turned to walk out the door. As he exited the room he gave simple parting words to his friends "See you guys later I guess."
As the door shut closed again something occurred to Naruto. "New cell? What's that about Obaa-Chan?" he could only think that it had something to do with being promoted to Chuunin.
At the sound of his voice the person in the chair before him jumped slightly.
Tsunade's eye twitched involuntarily at that name he still called her. She had grudgingly learned to just accept that as his way by this point. "Actually that has something to do with what I've called you three in here for. It concerns the future of our village so I want you all to listen closely to what I have to say."
Her focus centered on the Hokage hopeful first. "Fist off Naruto I have to tell you that Jiraiya will not be able to take you on your training journey he had planned. I've given a mission that takes precedence over that." She left it at that and prepared herself to receive a very loud response.
As if her subconscious prayers had been answered Naruto was too dumbfounded by that simple statement to yell a response. "Uh… what now?" He was hoping he had heard her wrong. She couldn't mean he was being denied the training he had been promised did she?
Tsunade held up a hand to forestall any more questions. "Hold your questions until I'm done for once please. Now, Uzumaki Naruto, Rock Lee, and Hyuuga Hinata I am giving you an A-class mission of the utmost importance. Before I tell you the mission let me first explain the circumstances behind the mission-."
"-What, Hinata, Where?" Tsunade had to resist the urge to yell at Naruto for interrupting her yet again.
The introverted girl in question shot out of her seat and spun to face the Naruto and Lee. She quickly entered a succession of small bows before she even met their eyes. "He-hello Naruto-kun, Lee-san. It's nice to see you well." She exited her bows doing her best to smile warmly despite herself.
The energetic blond hadn't seen Hinata in awhile, since the Chuunin exam if his memory served. She looked just how he remembered, yet there seemed to be something different about her. After studying her for a few moments he figured out what it was. She stood straighter than she used to and as she stood her feet now pointed outward. She looked like she was doing her best to look straight at him now instead of looking as if something was forcing her to look elsewhere. Her hands still fiddled with each other, but at least it wasn't to the degree they had before. He had to admit she actually looked somewhat cute without the dark and weird personality he had always seen with before the Chuunin exam.
"Hey Hinata, what's up? Heh you're looking good today." His casual words elicited a deep blush from Hinata; One which he was promptly oblivious to.
"I'm doing well Naruto-Kun, um… thank you," she had instantly realized her blush and was doing everything she could to suppress it. She quickly turned around to face Tsunade so Naruto wouldn't see her embarrassment.
"It's good to see you are well Hinata-san," Lee gave her a thumbs-up simply out of reflex.
Tsunade decided to continue with what she had been saying before the interruption, and ignored the small exchange. She steepled her fingers on the desk, confident she could give her speech without any further interruptions.
"The future of our village isn't as certain as it once was. We still haven't completely recovered from the combined attack of the Sand and Sound villages. There just aren't enough Chuunin and Jounin left in the village to take on enough missions to monetarily support Konoha. My hand's been forced to strengthen the ranks of our usable ninja from any available source. It was hard to come to this decision, but here it is." The Hokage considered each of the three ninja before her with a criticizing eye.
If she was going to be honest with herself she would have to admit that this plan didn't sound as plausible as it should have to her. If there had been a safer and more efficient way to fortify their ranks she would have taken almost anything over this.
With a sigh Tsunade continued. "After consulting the village committee I've decided to break up all current Gennin cells. All Gennins will than be reformed into new cells with new members. These cells will be led by ninja of my choice from outside the pool of Konoha's available Jounin. Half the teams I'm forming will stay here in Konoha and continue to take on missions and train. The other half will be going to various locations and receive training there."
Tsunade was very pleased to see Naruto was keeping his comments to himself so far, a miracle under any circumstance. "Thus we come to the specifics of your mission. One of these new cells, cell fifteen, will be made up of you three. This arrangement has been chosen because in the future many missions will require ninja who have never worked together before to perform as they would with their own teammates. All of your abilities and personalities clash with the others in some way. This is of course an attempt to get you used to working with diverse people."
The three newly appointed teammates looked at each other. It looked like they had no choice but to get used to the idea of being teammates. This certainly wasn't what any of them had been expecting. Naruto, for one, really wasn't liking the idea of his training being canceled, but his disappointment was lessened by the promises of some kind of training. As long as I can get strong enough to bring Sasuke back than I don't care.
The Hokage let this shock settle in before continuing. "Your cell's specific mission is to travel to Sunagakure and not only train there but to do missions alongside the other Gennins there. It goes without saying that the main goal of this mission is to get all of our Gennins to the Chuunin level as quickly as possible. The next Chuunin exam will be held in Grass Country, and the one after that will be held in Rain Country. I expect you three will be able to elevate yourselves to Chuunin status by that time. The Grass Country exam will be too soon for most cells so I suggest you anticipate taking the Rain Country exam."
Naruto liked the sound of that. Anything that got him closer to being a Chuunin was okay with him. He still didn't know how he felt of suddenly being denied the pervert's training. At this point all he could hope for is that their Jounin instructor would be able to teach him just as many useful things as Jiraiya could have.
Hinata's thoughts were completely different from Naruto's. If what Tsunade said was true than they would be gone from the village for a year at the very least. That would mean being away from the feelings of exile she felt from her former family. That would mean being around Naruto constantly the whole time. This was something she hadn't dared hope was possible before she had woken up this morning.
Rock Lee viewed this similarly to Naruto, a chance for diverse training and another shot at the Chuunin exam. It would mean not being able to train with Gai-Sensei for a long awhile, but that in itself was a form of training in his eyes.
"For reasons I can't reveal right now the maximum time limit for this mission is set to three years. It is required that the moment all three of you reach Chuunin you are to report back to Konoha immediately, that is all. I guess I'll take your questions now." Tsunade sighed deeply as she finished.
The three new members of cell fifteen looked at each other questioningly. Ironically the first one to speak up wasn't the outgoing Naruto, but the quite Hinata. "Hokage-sama... who exactly is our new instructor?" To each of them it seemed like an important piece of information to leave out.
Tsunade thought about it quickly than figured she actually had left that out. "Ah yes, about that." At this she smirked "one amongst you has already met your new instruct-."
Tsunade was interrupted by a sudden explosion of smoke that filled the space between cell fifteen and Tsunade's desk. The room was filled instantly with Shamisen, Otsuzumi, and Hyoshigi music.
A loud and annoying voice broke through the music "Hiiiiiiiiiyoooooo here I am, Mt. Myobokugama's outstanding holy master-."
"AAAHH SHUT UP you stupid Ero-Sennin… wait, what?" Naruto suddenly realized what had happened. "Ero-Sennin?"
The Legendary Sennin Jiraiya looked back at the group from the toad he was standing on, perched in a traditional Kabuki pose. "AAAAHHH NARUTO!" he yelled with fake surprise. He took his time forming the seal for canceling a summon, intoning "cancel," as he did. Another burst of smoke filled the room as the toad disappeared. Jiraiya fell into a neat slouch at the absence of his perch. "How's it going kid?"
To the untrained eye it looked as if the toad hermit had pieced together his outfit from various costume shops during his travels. The center piece for his ensemble was an old style olive ninja gi complete with underlying fishnet. He wore over that a red vest, and had a large scroll hanging off his back. His forehead protector, with the kanji for oil stamped in the middle, invoked the image of ogre's horns. Twin red 'tear streaks' on his face drew a lot of attention from any wrinkle line you might find there. To top off his weird ensemble his gray hair, held in a spiky ponytail almost touched the ground.
"Don't tell me you're our new instructor. Isn't that a little anti… anti uhhh-," Naruto trailed off, not really being able to think of the word.
As dumbfounded as the other two members were by the strange man's entrance Rock Lee managed a suggestion, "anti-climatic?"
"Uh, yeah," Naruto hadn't really paid attention to what Lee had said, but responded out of habit. He was still trying to figure out why Ero-Sennin was here.
Tsunade wasted no time. Choosing rather to keep the young ninja off balance. "Introduce yourself to your new cell Jiraiya-Sensei," there was a mocking lilt to the title she gave him.
Jiraiya sighed in response. This really wasn't something he wanted to do, but Tsunade had made it a choice-less matter for him. He eyed his three new charges, quickly sizing them up. He had led a cell once before, it made sense he could do it again.
"Alright than, my name is Jiraiya and I've been asked by the Hokage to be the cell leader for the new Cell… fifteen. Our first mission I guess is to first go to Sunagakure where we will do some co-ed training. I've been informed in detail about your abilities and such stuff," It just wasn't in him to remain serious for any long period of time.
Hinata was a little overwhelmed by all these things happening at once. She thought about all her old classmates going through a similar situation including Shino and Kiba. At first she feared her father would try and bar her from the mission, but she quickly realized that her father had given up on her. She wouldn't have to worry about what her father would think on her performance for this mission. She only had her own standards to measure up to now. "I'm uh, I mean, my name is Hyuuga Hinata, it's a pleasure," she managed to stammer out. She did her best to inject some confidence in herself and not fidget during her introduction.
Rock Lee stepped forward to introduce himself next. "It is an honor to meet you sir. My name is Rock Lee and I'm glad to be put on this Cell. I will be saddened to Leave Gai-Sensei's side but I am positive that we all can complete this mission with great success," he finished with the very heavily used 'good guy pose'.
Jiraiya's face fell, this kid acted just like Gai did at that age. Feeling a headache coming on he looked at Naruto briefly. "You don't have to bother kid, I already know you," he said in mock disinterest. Naruto stuck out his tongue at Jiraiya in response.
"Hinata, you have the Hyuuga chakra control and have taken a slight interest in healing from what I've heard." He did his best to give her a friendly smile.
Naruto heard that and immediately thought back to the time during the Chuunin exam. There had been a balm that she had given him, and it had been pretty good at aiding his already monstrous healing ability.
"There is a retired Medic-Nin by the name of Chiyo at Sunagakure that could teach you a lot of medical Jutsus, at least that's what Tsunade hopes. I however have doubts about her willingness to help us," he gave a sidelong look at Tsunade.
"Yes Jiraiya, your feelings are clear on that matter, do continue," Tsunade interjected.
"Right, right…anyways even I can understand the need for more Medic-Nin, it's something our village has been decidedly lacking." He knew it was a jibe at Tsunade, but she deserved it for roping him into this whole thing. "She believes you have the potential to become a Medic-Nin," he added matter-of-factly. He didn't miss the shocked expression on her face, he also didn't miss Naruto noticing Hinata's shocked expression.
"That's so cool Hinata! You'd make a great Medic-Nin, that'd certainly show those stuffy Hyuugas that your just as good as any other Ninja!" Naruto grinned widely and slapped Hinata on the back approvingly. The thick-headed boy didn't even notice her embarrassed blush at his confidence in her.
"Th-thank you Naruto-kun," she wish she had more confidence to talk to the boy who always had the words to encourage her.
The hermit Ninja didn't miss the way Hinata and Naruto acted toward each other. Deciding he'd better worry about the situation between those two later Jiraiya continued on to the next member of his new cell. "Rock Lee, off the top of my head I don't know any Taijutsu experts that could teach you anything you don't already know. When it comes to self training you're the most efficient member of the Cell from what I've heard so that should help. Tsunade has however told me that Gaara of the sand has requested to train with both you and Naruto. While I'm training Naruto you two can do whatever I guess."
Jiraiya then finally turned his attention to his apprentice. "Naruto, the original idea was for me to train you one-on-one. While those two are busy training with the Sand Ninja I will mostly be training you, that hasn't changed. I admit that will be pretty difficult seeing as not only do I not have any intimate knowledge of the Hyuuga Blood Limit or much beyond the simplest healing Jutsus, I'm not exactly what you'd consider a Taijutsu expert either…but I'm sure someone as cool as me will think of something," he laughed at that last part.
Tsunade reclined in her chair, propping her feet up on the desk. It was time for this meeting to end. "Cell fifteen you are now dismissed for the day. You have four days to do whatever you want. On the fifth day report to the main gate, there you will leave with Jiraiya to Sunagakure, bye-bye." She waved at them with a smile on her face. The new cell slowly filtered out of the Hokage's office. Hinata was the last to leave and bowed respectfully to the Hokage before exiting. She noticed that their new Sensei remained in the room.
A man with bandanna wrapped over his head, and a senbon needle between his teeth ran past them into the Hokage's office. Genma immediately began making his report to the Hokage. Kotetsu quickly shut the doors and moved to stand guard. The new teammates glanced at the door before continuing out of the tower. Each member now filled with thoughts of what was to come.
Naruto and Rock Lee both felt this was a great opportunity, Naruto was glad to have some of his friends along on his training journey now and Lee was thinking about how he could learn and experience many things. For them it would be a great beginning.
Hinata felt much apprehension and worry, she didn't want to fail in some way on this important mission. She remembered her Nindo, the one she gained from Naruto. she had promised her father she would succeed in this training mission, she resolved herself not to go back on her word or run away from her responsibilities. She hadn't realize it yet but she had walked into the tower with a sense of self-doubt, but had come out with something different. Now, as she walked out of the tower she walked straighter than when she went in. This was a beginning of something great for her.
All Jiraiya could think of was how much he was going to pay back Tsunade. The second he got out of the tower he was going to find some aspirin and do some 'research' to take his mind off of the recent events. He felt the beginning of a great headache come over him.
Later, in a sparsely lit room three figures stood bathed in the working lights of many computers and other machines. The one closest to the only door in the room spoke first.
"Orochimaru-Sama it has been reported that Uzumaki Naruto and your old teammate have exited the Hokage tower with two others."
The snake Sanin looked at his platinum haired subordinate with eyes like the dead "Ku ku ku is Jiraiya really stupid enough to take on a new cell at his age? I gave him far to much credit."
Kabuto didn't think that anyone else would ever be able to match his Lord's mastery over the sneer. "This does also mean that he will not be able to act upon us in any way if he is encumbered by that cell Orochimaru-Sama."
A third voice rang out in the darkness "nothing they can do will be able to stop us, people like them have no idea what they're doing and they'll be killed off eventually." The speakers eyes spun madly as he spoke. In darkness like this Kabuto had a hard time telling who was who sometimes.