Chapter 1

Whump. Iruka glanced over at his right hand, which was holding a piece of chalk and poised to add more details to the notes already written neatly on the blackboard. A suspicious-looking kunai was lodged into to the firm surface. His face gradually began to fill with blood, turning bright red as snickers were heard from the vicinity of the desks. Suddenly, with a slight pop and a puff of white smoke, the odd kunai transformed into a small frog, landing on his still-raised hand and hopping carelessly onto his head in search of safer ground. At this point, the class was in an uproar. The plump green amphibian, startled by the noise, leapt off of the soft nest he had found and skittered out the window, in hopes of finding a nice little pond, and maybe a much less threatening froggy friend.

The chuunin sensei turned around very slowly, eyes narrowed, and his gaze swept over the class of pre-genin. At seeing the demonic expression their teacher was wearing, face crimson and scar standing out like a stripe of white war paint, the children stifled any traces of laughter and donned innocently large eyes, full of curiosity and just so eager to learn. It failed to elicit the desired reaction from the tan chuunin.

"I will give the perpetrator one chance to confess," he said, deceptively calm and crossing his arms in front of his chest. Of course, judging from the angle and depth at which the weapon had entered the chalkboard, and knowing the seating arrangement and skill levels of his students, Iruka had a fairly solid idea of which brat was indeed guilty. However, like any one who has worked with children, he knew there were better ways to punish students than direct admonishment and lecturing.

No one reacted.

So this is how it's going to be, ne? Well, fine with me, he thought, a sadistic grin making its way onto his normally gentle face.

"Since it is painfully obvious to me that you would all rather act like idiots than copy notes for the last half-hour of class, you are free to go home early." The students looked at each other, then their sensei, clearly confused. Iruka continued, smile growing wider.

"You will need that time to start your essays." Collective groan. "Yes, I think eight pages would be acceptable." Various indignant outcries. "If any of you paid attention today and took notes, you're in luck. The topic is tracking enemy ninja by means of chakra. I expect you to know what you are talking about, so I recommend practicing on one another. Oh, and Sono, don't think I am blind to that trick. Because of your gigantic handwriting, your essay will be twelve pages. You are dismissed."

The young ninjas grumbled to each other while gathering their school things, complaining about their strict teacher and vowing to take revenge on their peer for causing all this trouble. The threats reached Iruka's ears. He sighed to himself.

I know it's cruel, but it is the only way to get through to some students. After being shunned by his friends, I am sure Seiji will behave better in class.

After the last of the students milled out of the room, Iruka returned to his desk and sat down, sighing again and resting his head in his arms on top of the cold, wooden surface.

Damn, I am not looking forward to grading all those essays...

Banging his forehead in silent reprimand gently on the oak, he was interrupted by a sharp pecking to the back of his neck. Surprised, he sat up quickly to find Tsunade-sama's bird of prey staring at him with yellow, beady eyes. He was being summoned.

After a quickly tidying up the classroom, Iruka gathered the abandoned notes into a stack, rolled them into a hefty cylinder, and crammed them ever-so-gently into a scroll-holding pocket built into the front of his vest. This was apparently taking too long, however, as the falcon began squawking, in hopes of rushing Iruka. The teacher, though not fluent in raucous screeches, got the hint and headed towards the door before the bird decided to become physically involved. He had heard horror stories in the mission room, and seen the scars that flying demon had inflicted upon some of the best ninja in the village.

The macabre images floating past his mind's eye encouraged the teacher to take the least time-consuming route; leaping over the roofs of the houses on the way to the tower. Evidently he made the right choice. The falcon disappeared after it was convinced Iruka was indeed on his way to see it's master, clucking in satisfaction.

Iruka arrived at his destination within minutes; a new record for him. Slightly out of breath, and thinking that he needed to get some more cardio into his workouts, Iruka walked through the large double-doors, nodding at the guards. He approached the Hokage's office, looking to the Anbu flanking the entrance for approval, receiving an affirmative gesture he advanced, opening the door slowly. Hearing a voice inside, Iruka paused with one foot in the room.

"-can wear the tutu and the curls today, okay? Oh, that is so cute!"

Confused and wondering who she was talking to, (and hoping he wouldn't be seeing the Hokage in such attire,) Iruka peeked into the large room. What he saw was a great deal more shocking and, quite honestly, disturbing than experiencing a Tsunade in ballerina wear.

This is not something I wanted to witness...

Sitting on the sturdy desk in the aforementioned costume wasTsunade's pig. At first, Iruka thought it must be a doll, but then he heard a small snort and saw the pink snout sticking out from beneath golden ringlets.The poor, uneasy sensei didn't know what to do. He considered waiting outside the room for a bit to let the Hokage finish up, and decided it was the best choice at the moment.

By this time, however, nearly a minute had passed and the guards seemed to be a little suspicious of the shinobi hovering in the doorway. Seeing their sidelong glances, Iruka pushed the door open completely and made himself known by clearing his throat gently. The fifth Hokage was so engrossed in her strange, obviously one-sided conversation that she didn't even notice someone had intruded until she heard the uncomfortable noise. With a slight blush, she cleared away the mess of costumes and wigs. She carefully picked up the animal, confused at the sudden lack of attention, and set it on the floor. Looking at the pig, Iruka saw no aggravation at being made to dress up and deduced that this was not the first time the event had occurred. Furthermore, the chuunin could have sworn the small animal walked away with a swagger, as though it knew it looked damn sexy and wasn't the least bit shy about showing it off.

"Ah, Iruka," the Hokage began seriously, clearly set on pretending the last few minutes never happened, "I have a mission for you." Iruka decided that he could work at blocking out that memory later tonight. He stood straight, listening intently to Tsunade.

"You and a small team will be trekking to the village of Hidden Grass. There you will be trading a Konoha scroll for information on Hidden Sound, as this village is a mutual enemy of Leaf and Grass. Because Grass is a very secretive community and hesitant to give information, you and your teammates will have to venture well within the borders, which may take two to three weeks. The ninja will not feel secure meeting on common ground and are most comfortable where they have defenses ready. They may be wary of Konoha, but I trust them to be true to their word and this information could aid us greatly. Moreover, two new chuunin will accompany you and a jounin leader to get the feel of how missions work. I expect little danger with this mission, but a jounin can be spared at this time, and it's better to be safe than sorry, I believe. You will meet your team in an hour and a half at the gates of Konoha. You are dismissed."

Iruka bowed to the Hokage before heading back to the academy. He wanted to prepare some tentative lesson plans for his substitute. He arrived at the school and sat at his desk to scribble hurriedly. Watching the clock out of the corner of his eye, he worked steadily until he had only twenty minutes to prepare for the mission. Laying eight days worth of schedules on the table, the chuunin hid his favorite pens in the bottom drawer on the left; the one that won't open unless you know exactly where to hit it. Then he set out for his apartment.

Arriving with just thirteen minutes to spare, Iruka raced to his bathroom, pulling down the old duffel bag that was presently being used as a makeshift curtain for the window and crammed it half-full of weapons from various drawers and cupboards in his bedroom and the kitchen. Next he added a plentiful supply of non-perishable foods and headed to his closet to throw in a few extra chuunin uniforms. Satisfied with his rushed packing, Iruka left his house, setting a couple traps and locking the door securely.

Practically flying over the roofs, the sensei made it to the gates in a record four minutes, leaving him two minutes early. One chuunin was already there, a small kunoichi, no more than eighteen or nineteen years of age, who Iruka had never seen before. He had just drawn a breath to greet the delicate-looking nin when the other chuunin appeared, a muscular young man just slightly taller than Iruka. The shinobi looked familiar to the sensei; the new chuunin had most likely been taught by one of the other teachers in the academy in recent semesters. He appeared to be a few years older than the girl. The ninja nodded to his teammates in acknowledgment, then introduced himself.

"Hey, there," the large shinobi drawled casually. "I'm Kuma." This was a fitting name for a man with such a powerful appearance, Iruka thought; he certainly gave off the aura of a bear on a hunt. His short, sandy brown hair had the fluffy texture of fur and his onyx eyes were piercing, calculating and possibly a bit savage.

Iruka glanced to his right, giving the quiet kunoichi a gentle smile, inviting her silently to introduce herself next. She straightened her posture, tossing shoulder length lavender hair out of her face, and let her warm, amber-colored gaze pass over each man as she stated her identity in a soft but confident and musical voice.

"My name is Murasaki. Pleased to meet you both." With a small bow, she stepped backwards to allow attention to divert to Iruka.

"Congratulations on passing your chuunin tests. I'm Iruka and I am looking forward to working with you on this mission." He smiled warmly at his teammates, receiving in turn a shy smile and a bit of a blush from Murasaki and a hearty grin from Kuma.

After the short, formal introductions were finished, the trio lapsed into a somewhat awkward silence, waiting patiently for the final member of their team, the jounin leader, to arrive. After about ten minutes, Kuma, who had been restless during the delay, sat down under a nearby tree, pulled out a kunai and began to sharpen it with a stone that he always kept in another pocket for just this kind of situation.

Another five minutes passed before Iruka grew impatient as well. He turned to the orchid-haired waif to strike up a friendly conversation, but she seemed to blush and look to the ground as a form of communication. Iruka asked whether she was nervous to be out on her first mission. Her response was unexpected and a little odd.

"I'm not frightened of the danger of the mission, per se, though I am... apprehensive about working with Jounin-sama. I never dreamed that I would be teamed up with such a powerful shinobi. I have seen him around the village on occasion, and when I was still a student at the academy I had a terrible fear of him." She laughed softly at herself here. "I know it's silly, and it's an honor to be working with Jounin-sama, but still, I have butterflies in my stomach."

Iruka was also feeling a peculiar sensation in his stomach, though his was more of a heavy sinking feeling, as everything began to add up in his mind. Powerful jounin who frightened young children, over twenty minutes late at this point- No, it's not possible. Tsunade wouldn't have withheld such an important detail from the chuunin. Unless she was afraid he would deny the mission if he had all the facts... This was becoming too suspicious. He had to know.

"Murasaki-san, tell me, what is the name of the jounin who is to be our team leader?" Iruka questioned the kunoichi, who had been studying Iruka's face in order to distinguish his reaction. She seemed to have realized just how long and personal her speech really was, face growing pink as she opened her mouth in response. She was interrupted, however, by a large puff of white smoke that appeared in front of the three.

The smoke cleared, and Iruka's suspicions were confirmed. Hatake Kakashi stood before him, one hand raised in greeting, grinning sheepishly. The caramel-skinned teacher groaned inwardly as Kakashi's deep voice lazily washed over the three chuunin who had been waiting for him for over half an hour by now.

"Maa, I apologize for my late arrival, for you see, as I was walking down the road of life, I chanced upon a lone, blue marsupial, no bigger than my palm..."

And so it began.


Loli-Wow. This was such a pain in my ass because my laptop seemed to think, for some inexplicable reason, that I wanted every freakin word in italics. I was pushing that stupid button constanly. Jeez... Anyway, I swear that this story will out last my others! It will become at least... 4 pages!

Me-gasp! Are you sure you want to set that kind of goal for yourself, Loli-chan? Can you do it without making the chapters 3 paragraphs long and utter nonsense?

Loli-Yes! I can do it! I believe! And then I will shout these words from the rooftops..."People at the psychiatric hospital are allergic to shrimp!!" (No, I'm not a patient; I work there...What? You don't believe me? tsk, tsk. Electronic devices are contraband. Ah, I could be broadcasting with tin foil, you say, very clever...)