I'll keep this short and simple; I'm sorry for the unacceptable delay in the release of this chapter. Thanks for all of your patience and enjoy the chapter!
I apologize in advance for not having enough action, Naruto, and too many long-winded conversations in this chapter. This will be the last chapter in this "arc" and Naruto will begin to become a major character once again.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Chapter 4: One-of-a-Kind
Between demon and men there is a great difference.
But when push comes to shove there is a demon in every man
and a man in every demon.
Naruto jealously watched the other students leave the room as he slumped back in his seat, a grimace set on his face. It was something that Naruto had gotten used to over the past year and a half, but by no means did it make detention any less painful. For some reason, Iruka was always able to find some way to keep him after school; his reasons ranging from punishment for falling asleep or skipping, to extra help, and even for the young boy to be lectured on 'expressing himself.' And Naruto hated him for it. In fact, Iruka was one of the people that Naruto hated the most, along with several people from the orphanage and the Konoha Military Police.
Soon, Iruka and Naruto were the only two people left in the large classroom. Iruka sat at his desk starting working on one of many large stacks of paperwork while Naruto listened wistfully to the voices of his classmates that drifted into the room, wishing that he could be able to revel in the juvenile ecstasy of darting out of the room and then losing himself in a maelstrom of activity.
'Why did I have to miss?' Naruto moaned to himself as he sighed deeply. 'I mean, I wouldn't be nearly as sorry if I had actually hit Sasuke-teme or Iruka-sensei with the balloon; but Anko-chan? If I had known that she'd be here, I probably would've waited and put the stupid thing on his seat or something.'
"Naruto?" Iruka asked as he broke the silence between the two of them.
"What is it?" Naruto asked, his head cradled in between his arms as he stared out of the large window in the classroom as his eyes closed against the bright sunlight. 'Oh great,' Naruto thought with dread, 'Here comes the 'I know what's best for you lecture.''
"This is the third time this week I found you fighting with Sasuke," Iruka stated blandly. Naruto quietly groaned as Iruka proved his prediction right. Naruto had heard them all before, and frankly, he was sick of how Iruka was always so worried over him. After all, Iruka had a class of at least thirty kids, yet he only seemed to worry about Naruto.
"Is everything all right at home Naruto?" Iruka asked his student in a serious tone after several seconds of strained silence.
"Everything's fine Iruka-sensei," Naruto answered happily as he lifted his head and exchanged looks with his teacher. "You're just worrying too much about me; you should worry about Sasuke-teme. He's a little mixed-up in the head, if you know what I mean," Naruto then gave Iruka a broad grin.
Iruka gave a large sigh as he gazed upon the young boy with sorrow, not convinced by the boy's strainede smile. He knew that everything was, indeed, not all right with his young student. In fact, Iruka knew that Naruto's life was a horrible one, especially for someone his age.
'He really needs some friends; it's not healthy for him to have no one at all to spend time with without being punished or reprimanded,' Iruka thought. 'And then maybe he would be able to excel in school and he wouldn't be seen as socially inept.'
"Hey Iruka-sensei, if you're just going to sit there and do nothing, then can I just leave?" Naruto asked as he subtly changed his position, ready to leap out of his chair at a moment's notice. Iruka then gave Naruto a reproving look, causing the student to squirm in his seat to try to lessen the gravity of Iruka's look.
"You need to learn that your actions have consequences Naruto," Iruka sternly lectured, his gaze boring into Naruto. "And until you do, you'll never be able to graduate. And so now, you'll sit there quietly until I tell you that you can go," Iruka ordered as he returned to systematically grading tests for his classes. Naruto grimaced as he slouched back in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest, angry with Iruka for not letting him get his way.
'Couldn't he at least make me do something while I'm here?' Naruto asked himself irritably as he stuck his tongue out at his sensei while he sat hunched over some piece of paperwork. However, Naruto quickly retracted it and glared coldly at Iruka as the older ninja glanced up at his pupil. After several minutes of trying to sit still, Naruto was fed up with Iruka's 'harsh' punishment.
"Iruka-sensei," Naruto whined obnoxiously, "How long do I have to sit here like this for? It's been forever since I've been here and I really really want to go home!"
"Too bad, you'll stay here as long as I want you to," Iruka answered evenly, not even bothering Naruto. "And I don't want to hear your complaining," added Iruka wearily. Even though he tried to be exceptionally patient with his students, especially the younger ones, he wasn't a saint. And at that moment, all Iruka wanted to do was lay his head down on his desk and close his eyes for a second, a minute, an hour, maybe even a lifetime.
"Well I'm not going to stop whining until you let me go," retorted Naruto smugly, thinking that he had forced his sensei into a stalemate. He knew that if he didn't find some kind of loophole that would release him from the hell of detention, Iruka would easily keep him there for an hour.
"Then I guess we'll have to stay here until tomorrow, right Naruto?" Iruka asked off-handedly as he still focused on his paperwork, depriving Naruto of the attention he so desperately desired. And at hearing this, Naruto's eyes bugged out and he drew a sharp breath, mortified at the idea of having to spend the entire night in the classroom.
'You can't do that!" Naruto shouted angrily at Iruka as he jumped out of his seat and pointed accusingly at the teacher, his chair clattering against the hardwood floor. "I have stuff I need to do!"
"I'm sure you do," Iruka nonchalantly answered, "I have errands to run and chores to do too. So the sooner you quiet down, the sooner the both of us can get out of here. You need to learn that every action you make has a consequence, and if you keep acting irresponsibly you'll get into trouble that no one will be able to get you out of."
So Naruto remained silent, as much as it killed him. However, the entire time he was kept prisoner by the older man he glared spitefully at Iruka, radiating a fierce aura of hatred. Iruka, however, did not seem to be fazed by Naruto's malice as he moved on to planning the next day's lesson plan, stifling a large yawn.
When Iruka first started teaching Naruto's class, he had taken special care to remember what each student was like, their likes and dislikes, the other students they were friends with, and what provoked them. And throughout the time Iruka knew the blond-haired troublemaker Iruka learned that Naruto lusted for attention and would do anything to get it, including vandalism and getting into fights with anyone that happened to be near him at the time. So when he did these things, Iruka just began to ignore Naruto whenever he had to stay after school, hoping that eventually the boy would learn that he wouldn't get the attention he wanted by acting like a criminal.
By the time Iruka finished all of his planning and paperwork and had decided Naruto had stayed long enough; the sun had just began to disappear over the horizon, tinting the sky a mix of lavender and blue. He then looked up towards his young charge, who had remained uncharacteristically quiet for the past hour, and Iruka couldn't help but bx at the sight in front of him. The usually boisterous child lay sprawled over his desk as his head lay in a nest of orange cloth as spittle dribbled out from the side of his mouth. Even though he had seen Naruto sleep numerous times in his class, he had always seemed restless and tensed, as if expecting to be attacked at any time. But now, he seemed to be at peace, his muscles almost completely relaxed as he snored lightly. For Iruka, this was another sign of hope that Naruto was in fact human and not some blood lusting demon.
Iruka then walked over to Naruto's desk and carefully gathered the young boy's sleeping form into his arms as the boy's large orange jacket hung over Iruka's shoulder. As Iruka began to carry the young boy toward his apartment, he was surprised by how light Naruto was. He had known that Naruto probably didn't eat often due to the monthly stipend the village council sent to the young boy (Iruka himself had received these same stipends and could still remember how pitiful the stipends were), but he had thought that Naruto was at least moderately healthy. But the young boy Iruka held in his hands looked like a ghost of the Naruto that Iruka had known.
'It was that orange jumpsuit,' Iruka thought as he walked thru the clamoring streets of the village, 'that ugly thing made him look heavier than he actually is. And even with that ugly thing on he looked pretty thin; without it, he's only skin, bones, and muscle.' Soon enough, Iruka had reached his destination, Naruto's apartment building. Iruka looked with disgust at the shoddy, rundown looking building as a large rat scurried across the entrance.
'At least when I was a kid I could afford a place that wasn't a total dump,' Iruka thought, revolted at the sight of the shattered windows and chipped paint of the complex. And as he entered the door, his disgust only greatened as the cheap faded wallpaper was peeling off of the walls and a sickening stench, a pleasant mix of alcohol, piss, and cigarette smoke, permeated the air.
As Iruka walked thru the all but abandoned hallways of the building, trying not to gag on the disgusting odor, he searched for the young boy's apartment. Usually, Iruka wouldn't bother with memorizing the address of a student; but with Naruto's unique situation, it was required. If anything were to happen to Naruto while under his watch, it was Iruka's responsibility as Naruto's teacher to bring the boy to his apartment, where another chūnin would be waiting to protect Naruto until the threat had passed.
And as Iruka finally found and entered Naruto's apartment, he lay the young boy down on a small ratty futon that was set in a small room in the back, where there was only the small bed and a closet. To say that Iruka was surprised at the condition of Naruto's apartment would be a gross understatement. There was hardly any garbage lying around and the miniature kitchen was almost spotless, with the exception a dirty plate or two. Even the walls looked as if they had been redone in the past several years. He could only marvel at how the young boy found the time and energy to keep such a rundown apartment in such good condition, along with pranking various persons of the village and attend school.
'Just being an orphan is hard,' Iruka thought as he took one final glance towards the sleeping boy, who had curled into a ball once he had been placed on to the futon, 'But then to have that sealed inside of him too, it's no wonder he turned out to be who he is. I don't think anyone would be able to handle the amount of stress he's under.' He then left the small apartment, leaving Naruto to himself in his own dream world, where anything was possible and he was safe from the spiteful grasps of the paranoid.
And as he walked the bustling streets of Konoha, the question that had been nagging at him for the past few hours resurfaced in his mind. It had been truly miraculous that Anko had been asking for information on a certain student, only to have the student she was interested in be the one that he had been fretting about for the past year and a half. Another thing Iruka found queer about the situation was that Anko hadn't dealt Naruto any kind of punishment for pelting her with a balloon full of ramen broth. Iruka still had the scars from the last time he had angered the kunoichi.
'It has been a while since I last visited her,' mused Iruka as he shoved his hands in his pockets as he walked slowly on the dirt packed roads. 'Maybe it's time we shared a bottle of sake, like in the old days.' And so, with that in mind, Iruka fingered his wallet as he imagined a nice jug, imported all the way from Ta no Kuni.
And as he found just the right kind of saké he was looking for, and at a cheap price at that, he had a good feeling about the events that would come to pass later that night.
Papers were scattered all around Anko's feet as she manically scribbled notes in her once forgotten notebook as she meticulously read thru each document several times over, making sure she didn't overlook even the tiniest of details that might be able to help her save Naruto from being institutionalized.
'But what if this isn't him and it really is that Uchiha brat, or someone else completely that could actually be helped by going to a shrink for a few years and getting psychotherapy?' Anko thought as she squinted at the hastily written out account in front of her, this time from Naruto's landlord, as only a dim light entered thru her kitchen window. 'And what if Naruto really does need to go to a mental hospital? I'd just be hurting him more than I'd be helping him.' She then released a feral cry of frustration as she dropped her pen and the landlord's account on the floor as she stood up from her chair and walked to the bathroom, thinking that a nice hot bath would help calm her mind.
As she immersed herself up to her neck in steamy bath water, she tilted her head back and closed her eyes as she tried not to think of evaluations, mental hospitals, or dirty little orphan boys. In this state she let her mind wander to a memory she had all but forgotten until then; the day that she had met her first genin team, the only team that she ever felt that she belonged in. And as she began to delve deeper and deeper into the past, her grip on the present began to slip, until half an hour had passed and the water had grown cold.
'So, back to work then,' Anko thought aversely as she stepped out of the bathtub and grabbed a towel to dry off. But soon after, the sound of her doorbell resonated throughout her house. 'I'll just tell who ever it is to bug off so I can finish this darn evaluation,' Anko thought as she walked to the front of her house, slipping on a bathrobe and loosely tying it as she walked. But as she opened the door and was about to tell the visitor to scram when she saw who was standing at her door, and she cut herself off immediately.
"It's been a while since you've dropped by Iru-baka," Anko greeted playfully as she fixed her bathrobe, which had begun to slip off of one shoulder. 'Thank god I didn't just wear a towel,' Anko thought with relief. Iruka blushed a bit as he saw Anko's robe begin to slip a bit, and at this Anko grinned like a Cheshire cat. "I always knew you were a closet pervert Iru-baka, but to use your friend as a way to get your kicks; I'm ashamed of you," Anko sadly admonished as she shook her head in mock shame. 'Tell him to go away…you have work to do,' Anko's conscience whispered to her. However, it was promptly ignored as Anko continued toying with Iruka.
"I am not a closet pervert!" refuted Iruka as his blush deepened tremendously, causing Anko's grin to widen. "I just figured that it's been too long since we've been in touch and thought it would be nice to catch up over some saké. But I guess you wouldn't want a pervert in your house, now would you?" Iruka asked angrily. At this Anko only chuckled slightly as she opened the door wider.
"Cool your jets Iruka," Anko said, "I was just pushing your buttons. You should know that I'd never mock a man for his taste in…pleasures. So get your ass and that jug of saké in here." Anko then led Iruka into the biggest room in her house, which, when her parents were still alive and her brother still lived with her, served as a lounge room; a place that one could lie down after a rough day and sleep, watch tv, or read a book. But in the past few years, Anko began using it as a room for storing various weapons and scrolls and also as a place to plan out missions with her squad.
"Just ignore all of the crap on the floor," Anko suggested as she moved a box of scrolls off of one of the couches and on to the matted floors. "I'll be back in a minute," Anko stated as she walked into her room and slipped out of her bathrobe and took out a loose fitting shirt and a pair of flannel pants.
'You have a mission to complete Anko-chan,' the voice whispered from the dark recesses of her mind, sending chills up her spine as she began dressing herself. 'You aren't going to let something as superficial as friends get in your way, are you?'
"You have no idea what friends even are you bastard!" she hissed at the voice. She then began to breathe deeply as she tried to regain her composure, her entire body shaking in pure rage at the mere thought of her first sensei, who still haunted her thoughts after his desertion. After calming down and completely dressing, she returned to the lounge room, where Iruka had already poured out two saucers of the sake and was waiting patiently for her to return.
"So, Iru-baka, are you and that prissy little bitch still going out?" Anko casually asked as she began to drink out of her saucer.
"That 'prissy little bitch' has a name you know," Iruka answered sharply, "And no, Kurenai and I broke up a while ago."
"Good," Anko remarked smugly, "She was definitely not your type Iru-kun. She was a snobby perfectionist. And I don't even want to imagine what your children would've been like." At this Iruka showed Anko a very distinctive hand sign, making Anko flash a huge grin towards her friend. "Oh get a sense of humor Iru-kun, I was just kidding around with you. So is anything in specific on your mind?"
"Yeah, actually; it's about you," Iruka answered, still angry at Anko for her bad attempt at humor.
"I take it you want to know how Naruto and I know each other," Anko stated, the mirth in her features replaced by mild concern. Iruka responded with a 'spill it' look; the kind he would give one of his students when they had a secret.
"I met him about two years ago," Anko began as she lifted her saucer off of the table. "Back then I could barely see his face thru the grime and he was even scrawnier than he is now. Anyways, I found him hiding in my house from some of the other orphan kids during a thunderstorm. And, feeling sorry for the poor kid, gave him refuge for the night. I can honestly say I had never seen anyone else be more excited than he was when I told him that he could stay.
"And before he left I taught him some rudimentary kata and gave him some taijutsu tips. Until today, I just kind of forgot about him," she recounted before taking a sip of the saké, purposely leaving out the exact terms under which the two of them met, thinking that Iruka didn't have to know that tiny little detail.
"So it was you then!" Iruka exclaimed loudly, causing Anko to give her friend a queer look. "You're the one that taught him how to fight!"
"Not really," Anko contradicted, taken aback by Iruka's sudden exclamation, "He was already pretty strong when I found him and his form was on par with that of a first or second year academy student's. All I did was fine tune his skills."
"Well, whatever you did, it caused Naruto's taijutsu skills to incredibly improve," Iruka stated firmly, "Because about two years ago Iwanabe-san reported that Naruto had assaulted three other children at her orphanage. She said that he had knocked one of them unconscious and scribbled on his face with a marker, tied and gagged another to a tree, and hung the third one to a tree branch upside-down, after stripping her down to her undergarments."
At this Anko cracked a grin as she poured herself more saké.
"I knew that he had the balls to actually and try to do it, but I never thought that he'd actually be able to," Anko thought out loud proudly, noticing Iruka's confused look out of the corner of her eye. "And I've got to admit that not even I would've been brave, or stupid, enough to prank them afterwards."
"You knew?" He asked incredulously.
"Of course I knew," Anko smugly responded, "In fact, one of the last things Naruto told me before leaving was that he was going to kick some ass."
"You know, you and him are a lot alike," Iruka stated after several seconds of silence.
"And how's that Iruka?" Anko asked, her interest piqued for the moment by her friend's observation. Of course, she wasn't oblivious to the fact that she and Naruto had some things in common, but she wanted to know what Iruka's thoughts on the subject were. Because, despite being soft-hearted and painfully naïve at times, he was an excellent judge of character and could compare and contrast even the smallest details between people with little effort.
"Well, you both have this thingabout you," Iruka began to explain vaguely, "Whenever people are around you, any kind of false impressions they give off seem to disappear. Like the time you knew that something was wrong with Sora after…" Iruka didn't finish his sentence as he saw the pained expression on Anko's face. "Oh, sorry Anko, I wasn't thinking clearly."
"It's fine; just keep talking," Anko replied quickly with a dismissing wave of her hand.
"Alright," Iruka stuttered as he tried to resume his train of thought, "Well, whenever I try to act like the responsible figure of authority I'm supposed to be when I'm having a real shitty day he catches on immediately, no matter how hard I try to hide it. Of course, instead of just avoiding confrontation like any normal person would try to do, he seems to antagonize me even more than he usually does.
"And he's like you in that way too, Anko. He defies every authoritative figure in ways I would never have dreamed of. I mean, just the other week he had somehow gotten a hold of an ANBU member's mask and scribbled on it with permanent marker. Not only would I never have thought of doing something that asinine, but even I had, I never would have been able to actually go through with it."
"That's because you don't have any balls Iru-kun," Anko interjected in a sickeningly sweet tone. To this Iruka answered by angrily glaring at his old friend, who merely smiled at him.
"The more I think about it, the more I feel you would've been a great tutor for him," Iruka pondered out loud. "Especially after what I've seen between you two and what you've told me. You're the only adult other than the Hokage he respects. And if he cloud glean so much knowledge after just a single day of taijutsu, just imagine how much he could improve over a few months, or even a year," Iruka stated with wonder.
"Why did you say that I 'would've been' a good tutor?" Anko asked incredulously. "It's not like he's been kicked out of the academy or anything, right?" 'After all,' Anko thought, 'His evaluation's coming up pretty soon. It'd be idiotic to have kicked him out of the academy beforehand.'
"The village won't allow him to remain my student for much longer. There are too many people who would love to see him locked up, or worse," Iruka answered truthfully, "And who would care if a single orphan with no political connections, family, or friends just happened to disappear one day?"
"That's unlike you Iruka," Anko remarked distastefully, "You're not someone who acts like a defeatist, so why are you starting to act like one now?"
"Am I a defeatist for speaking the truth?" Iruka asked Anko.
"No, you're a defeatist for acting like a defeatist! Jesus, I thought that was self-explanatory!" Anko yelled at Iruka. "You know just as well as I do that no one who 'just up and disappears' is missed! Even if this village is screwed up in so many ways that I can't even begin to count them, we're all joined in alliance in this village. We all have a duty to protect this village, and that means the people within them also.
"Yes, there are people that will hate others just for being different, but there are just as many people who will give someone different a chance. Even though I may have hated the crockpot council members for practically isolating me from the rest of the village, people stood up for me, like Hokage-sama and Mikoto-sensei. And just the fact that they existed proves that you're nothing but a goddamn defeatist Iruka!"
"I guess you're right," Iruka seemingly relented, before rebutting, "But does the fact that this village is an entire family sate the paranoid needs of the people who want Konoha to be rid of him? Or does it keep you from hating the people who wanted to strip you of your ranks and put you under permanent house arrest?" He then waited for several seconds, waiting for Anko's response. After getting none, he continued his rebuttal.
"There is no place in this world for demons Anko. By doing what he did, the Yondaime condemned an innocent boy to a fate worse than hell itself; a life of isolation, ignorance, and hatred. And no matter what you, or I, or anything does about it we can't change the fact that he'll never be accepted by society! And because of that, he'll grow up to be cold and bitter all because of some event that happened seven years ago that he had nothing to do with!!"
"Shut up!" barked Anko as rage began to boil within her, "You don't have any idea what you're even saying; do you? How can you put such little faith in your own student? You yourself have said how different this kid is from everyone else, how he seems to see what's beneath the underneath. What could possibly make you think he'd react to this like any normal person would? Just remember that neither of us were exactly the 'golden children' of our generation. But still we thrived and grew up to shove it up the asses of anyone who had doubted us in the past. And even if he's removed from the academy's program, he'll find another way to succeed and other people to piss off.
He may be a demon and grow up to be a psychotic mass-murderer. Or maybe the Sandaime's right and he just houses the kyūbi and will grow up like any other kid and serve our village faithfully. Who the hell knows? But what you're saying now gives no justice to him, the Yondaime, or to yourself."
"You have no idea how frustrating it is being his teacher," Iruka stated, "You don't have a clue how much effort I've put into keeping him above the passing line in his classes, or how much he hates me because of all of the times he's had to stay after school for a detention or so that I can help him learns something he either slept through or doesn't understand. It hurts to know that he hates me, but I can live with it because he's improving. Over the past year he's been passing his classes with a less difficulty, and he's actually starting to excel in some class.
"But now, everything Naruto and I have done to help him succeed is going to be in vain," Iruka stated, his chest heaving heavily. During Iruka's rant, Anko began to calm down as she began to understand why Iruka was acting so strangely. And, even though she was still angry at Iruka for acting so pessimistic, her need to comfort her friend in his disheveled state took top priority as she moved closer to Iruka.
"And how do you figure that?" Anko asked, a tinge of derision barely noticeable in her voice. If Iruka noticed it, though, he didn't show it as he began to answer Anko's question.
"A messenger from the Hokage's office came during the students' lunch time to inform me that a psychological evaluation for Naruto has been scheduled in three days' time, and that he may no longer be permitted to attend classes at the academy," informed Iruka shakily. "You know what that means Anko; less than fifty percent of examinees are deemed mentally stable and are forced to either retire and live with family or take up residence in an asylum. And Naruto's status won't exactly help him, either."
"Don't worry," Anko comforted, feigning ignorance about the specifics of the issue, as she slung an arm around Iruka's shoulders, "Us examiners are trained to be unbiased when dealing with crap like that. I'm sure that whatever happens, it'll be for the best." After several seconds of just sitting with Iruka, Anko began speaking again. This time, though, her voice was much gentler and lacked the characteristic edginess that Anko usually spoke with.
"You know, Iru-kun, he's really lucky to have someone that cares so much for him as a teacher," Anko praised as she leaned into Iruka, resting her head against his. "I don't think anyone else would dedicate so much of their time just to get a single student to succeed and feel accepted. You're a one-of-a-kind guy, you know that? But the next time something like this happens, you really need to just come out and say what's on your mind without beating around the bush. It'd really just make my life and your life easier."
"I'll do that," Iruka answered quietly as he grinned at Anko. The two remained seated on Anko's couch for about an hour, before Iruka announced that he had to leave.
"See you soon Anko," Iruka said as he walked out of the door.
"Good luck to you and Naruto!" Anko called to his retreating form before closing the door. And then, with renewed vigor and all doubts abandoned, she returned to her mission.
"After all," Anko muttered to herself. "Those paranoid old farts aren't going to prove themselves wrong."
Anko impatiently waited in the reception room to the Hokage's tower, pacing back and forth nervously as she awaited the Hokage's final decision regarding Naruto's future. She had hoped it wouldn't take so soon after handing in her report for the old man to come to a decision. However, she had been called back to meet with the Hokage and several others in a meeting regarding Naruto's future only two days after handing in her evaluation.
'What is taking them so long in there?' Anko wondered anxiously as she glanced at the door leading further into the tower. 'My meeting was scheduled to take place ten minutes ago and I haven't even been acknowledged yet. I hope nothing urgent's come up, or who knows how long I'll be here for.'
Just then, however, the door to the inner corridors opened, revealing the same messenger that had awoken her five days ago. He then glanced around the room, before his eyes landed on Anko.
"Good morning Mitarashi-san," the messenger chirped, "Hokage-sama requests your presence now." He then waited for Anko to walk past him before following her to the Hokage's office, closing the door quietly behind him.
"Just to warn you, Mitarashi-san, there's been a lot of arguing in there, so you best prepare yourself," warned the young man as they neared the Hokage's office.
"Thanks," Anko said carelessly as she began to open the door to the Hokage's office. However, she then stopped and turned back to the messenger. "What's your name kid?" Anko asked.
"Oh," exclaimed the man, surprised by the suddenness of the woman's question. "I'm…uhm…Nawabi Akira," he said.
"Thanks, Akira-kun," Anko replied, noticing for the first time just how boyish he looked. "Wish me luck," she added as she walked into the office.
Anko was not surprised by the lack of people waiting for her in the Hokage's office. As usual, there was the Hokage, a representative sent by the Council of Elders, and the legal guardian of the person in question.
"It seems that Mitarashi-san has arrived," Sarutobi stated regally. "I assume you have been acquainted with Narita Fuugo-san and Uzuki Yūgao-san?"
"Yes, I have," Anko answered dryly before turning to the two. "Good morning to you: Fuugo-san, Yūgao-san." With this, Anko added a slight bow towards the two and a larger one towards the Hokage. She then walked towards the only vacant seat in the room and took a seat before looking at the Hokage inquisitively. "Is there anything I should know before we should proceed?" Anko asked, noting how Yūgao glared at the middle-aged man seated next to her.
"No, you're completely up to date," Sarutobi answered. "So, unless there's any further objection, I will announce my decision." Silence was the only response from the three others in the room, and so he proceeded.
Anko drew in a deep breath as she prepared herself for whatever decision Sarutobi decided. She had worked endlessly on devising a solution that wouldn't be the cause of any controversy, and she hoped that, whatever happened, Naruto would not be slighted in the end.
"After reading the evaluation of Mitarashi Anko and listening to the accounts of Uzuki Yūgao, Narita Fuugo, Umino Iruka, Honda Ayame, and Yamada Tarō, I have come to the conclusion that, in his current state, Uzumaki Naruto is not psychologically stable to live in this village of Konohagakure no Sato," Sarutobi announced solemnly. At hearing this, Yūgao's gaze fell to the ground as she gripped her knees in frustration as Fuugo pursed his lips in contemplation, his face otherwise stoic. Anko, however, waited hopefully for the statement that she hoped would follow that opening statement. A suffocating silence fell upon the room as Anko, Yūgao, and Fuugo waited for the Hokage to finish his conclusion.
"However, in this case, there are alternative methods that can be used that would effect Naruto-kun more than institutionalization," the Hokage added afterwards. At this Fuugo's eyebrow shot up in curiosity as Yuugao smiled broadly and Anko cracked a small grin.
'So far, so good,' Anko thought, relieved that Naruto would not have to endure being locked up in an asylum for the remainder of his life.
"As proven by both Mitarashi-san and Umino-san, Uzumaki-kun learns much better in a one-to-one learning environment than in a group environment provided by the academy. And because he cannot afford a tutor, one will be provided for him and be paid the rate of a D-rank mission every day he provides his services.
"In addition, it has been brought to my attention that Uzumaki-kun is lacking in the area of social interaction and does not express his emotins well, and when he does they are in inappropriate forms. This information has been verified by both Umino-san and Honda-san and reinforced by Yamada-san, who has stated that Uzumaki-kun is the only person living in his apartment.
"And so to help develop appropriate social behaviors and the proper expression of his emotions, he is going to be relocated from the Yamada Apartment Complex and into a foster home. The foster parents will be strictly volunteers, will be cleared by Uzuki-san and myself, and will be paid the rate of an A-ranked mission every month as well as receive the stipends that would usually be sent to Uzumaki-kun's home.
"In exactly one year from this day of March 18, Narita-san and Mitarashi-san will monitor Uzumaki-kun's progress. If they do not find that this change of lifestyle has benefited him, the four of us will meet again to discuss possible alternatives that can be implemented," the Hokage stated from memory, never faltering once in his narrative.
As much as Anko tried to hide the enjoyment she felt at her suggestions being followed, she couldn't help but hide a smile as she saw Yūgao smile gratefully at her. In fact, the appearance of Yūgao surprised her more than anything that day. In all of the documents she had read, Yūgao's name had not appeared once.
'So she's Naruto's social worker,' Anko thought with a smirk. 'At least he didn't get it that bad.'
"Hokage-sama, I have a favor to ask, if it is alright," stated Fuugo, his face remaining as stoic as when the Hokage was announcing his conclusion. Sarutobi nodded his head sagely; ready to entertain whatever notion the man had. "I wish to have your permission to make a monthly visit to wherever he is staying." At this, Yūgao glared at him venomously, not even attempting to hide her distaste for the man.
"While you may not like me Uzuki-san," Fuugo spoke, his green eyes gazing calmly into her angry ones, "I'm going to be a huge factor in Uzumaki-kun's life from this day forward. I will be the one reporting to the Council of Elders about his progress, not you. And if I am to assess the boy's progress in a year, how do you expect me to get a clear assessment of his abilities without actually meeting him and monitoring his progress?" To this Yūgao had no answer to Fuugo except to grimace at him before turning away from him angrily.
"Permission granted," the Hokage stated authoritatively, frowning at Yūgao's unsightly behavior. "Unless there are any more concerns, you are dismissed." Immediately, Yūgao and Fuugo bowed crisply to the Hokage before leaving through the door, leaving Anko alone with Sarutobi.
"You really didn't expect me to just work on such an interesting evaluation without doing some researching, did you?" incredulously asked Anko in a tone that bordered insubordination. The Hokage, however, shook his head slowly.
"No," he answered simply, "But I thought you'd be more motivated if you found out on your own terms."
"Well it worked," Anko answered with a grin. However, the mirth in her face was soon replaced by a look of apprehension. "Hokage-sama. I wish to request something of you," she stated carefully, trying to hold back the nervousness in her voice.
"What is it, Anko?" the Hokage asked as he began filling out the terms of the evaluation. Anko then drew a deep breath as she began to make her request.
"I wish to volunteer my services as tutor and foster parent of Naruto-kun," Anko stated, rushing her sentence. At this the Hokage looked at her oddly for a second before nodded his head sagely.
"I see," he answered thoughtfuly, the evaluation terms abandoned for the moment as he turned to look at Anko, who had risen when she made her request. "You do realize that by doing this, you are taking on two long-standing missions along with your daily training routines and regularly assigned missions?" he asked concernedly
"I do," Anko answered after several seconds of thought. "If you allow me to do this, I wholeheartedly swear to you that Naruto will be changed for the better by the end of the year. I will do anything I can to insure that Naruto will be able to unlock his potential as a ninja and that he doesn't live a life of isolation and complete independence."
At this Sarutobi smiled like a father would to his own daughter, making Anko swell with pride. He knew that such an undertaking would overwhelm most, if not all, ninja and that most likely Anko would not be able to accomplish both missions in addition to her regular duties, especially due to her lack of spouse or family to assist her in looking after Naruto. However, he felt that there was no reason not to let her try, especially with Fuugo checking in on their status every month. If worse came to worse, he could always relocate Naruto to a different home and have Anko still carry out her role as a tutor.
"You've grown up so much from that lonely little girl I met so long ago," the Hokage stated warmly, before drawing in a large breath. "Mitarashi Anko, as of today, you are the legal guardian and private tutor of one Uzumaki Naruto. I will send a messenger to inform Yūgao, and she will have Naruto packed up and ready to move into your apartment by tomorrow morning. You will have to come back tomorrow with Naruto and sign the papers associated with such a responsibility."
The Hokage's speech almost caused Anko to shed tears of happiness, something she had only done twice after the death of her parents. But, instead of doing so, she bowed as deeply as she could as she breathed deeply to hold in the tears.
"I thank you for this great honor with my entirety, Hokage-sama," Anko thanked regally. "I swear to you that I will not fail you or Uzumaki-kun."
"Just make sure that you don't get overwhelmed, Anko," the Hokge advised. "Now go home, prepare your home, and prepare yourself. You are dismissed." And with that statement, Sarutobi returned to his paperwork, forming his letters meticulously with the ink brush.
Anko then snapped a salute before using the shunshin technique, disappearing in a puff of smoke.
Like every day after classes were dismissed, the courtyard of the school was full of obnoxiously loud kids running amuck and gossipy parents informing their friends of the latest news from their side of the village. However, in one corner of the yard, there was no sound at all as the wind gently rocked a single swing back and forth, the thick oak branch it hung from remaining undisturbed. It was here that Anko had spent most of her time after school ended, where she first met and befriended Umino Iruka, and where she spent hours constructing and setting up the battered swing that now hung from the old tree. But in addition to this, the oak tree also served as the meeting place for the old genin team of Uchiha Mikoto.
And now it served the latter purpose, as Umino Iruka sat on one of the branches of the oak tree, anxiously waiting for his teammate to return with the results of Naruto's evaluation.
"Sorry Iruka, have you been waiting for long?" Yūgao asked as she appeared in a whirlwind beneath him. "I had to go see what Naruto-kun was up to. After all, you don't just give a kid like him a day off without expecting something to happen."
"I've only been waiting a few minutes," Iruka blatantly lied. In actuality, he had been waiting about twenty minutes for Yūgao to bring him the final verdict. "So what's going to happen; will he be allowed to stay where he is or is he going to be institutionalized?" he asked worriedly as he jumped down from the bough of the tree and faced Yūgao.
"Neither," responded Yūgao as she leaned against the tree and crossed her arms over her chest. "He's going to be moved into a foster home and a private tutor will be hired for him."
"That's great!" Iruka exclaimed euphorically as he grabbed Yūgao and tightly hugged her. "It's better than I ever could've imagined! And here I was thinking that nothing good could come out of this."
"Hold on Iruka," Yūgao stated flatly as she removed herself from her old teammate. "There's more, and this time it's not good news. Every month Naruto will be visited by Narita Fuugo and then, in a year's time, him and Anko will evaluate his progress. If he's not improving, 'alternative measures' need to be discussed." At the mention of Narita Fuugo the vivacity that Iruka had recently possessed all but drained away, replaced
"You mean Narita Fuugo as in the council member?" Iruka asked. "The Narita Fuugo who proposed to execute Naruto a day after the incident occurred and then forcibly removed him from the orphanage system of Konoha?" Yūgao nodded gravely in response.
"If he had his way, Naruto would be locked up in a prison cell for the rest of his life," Yūgao snidely stated. "But at least Anko has the good sense to apply what's best for Naruto instead of what would sate the paranoia of some of the other citizens."
"So wait, what does Anko have to do with this?" Iruka asked, confused by Yūgao's statement. "Wouldn't it be the examiner in charge of the evaluation who would…" at this Iruka trailed off as a realization dawned on him.
'After all, she is an examiner. And I thought that it was strange that she would come asking about one of my students for a mission. Why didn't I figure this out earlier? It seems so simple now,' Iruka figured out. Yūgao smirked at him as she figured out what caused Iruka's confusion.
"Just figured it out?" Yūgao asked Iruka, who nodded in the affirmative. "Trust me; you're not the only one who was surprised. I couldn't believe it myself when she first came in."
"When who first came in?" interjected the third member of the previous genin team one as she sauntered up to Yūgao and Iruka, a wide grin plastered on her face.
"It's nothing Anko," Yūgao dismissed. Anko merely answered with an accepting shrug and then turned to Iruka.
"Did Yū-chan tell you the good news?" Anko asked him, her grin growing bigger as she sat down on the swing in between Yūgao and Iruka.
"I couldn't believe that you did it Anko," Iruka stated in awe. "I never thought that anyone could do keep Naruto out of asylum, and especially while getting him a better deal in the process."
"See, you've gotta trust people some more Iru-baka," Anko answered with a grin. "And I've still got that prick coming every month to 'check up on Naruto's progress.' I just hope that he's not too much of a pain in the ass."
"I pity whoever has to deal with that man on a monthly basis," Yūgao stated as she shook her head. "I've had to deal with him for ANBU missions and he's a hard-headed brute. It's a wonder that he was chosen to be the representative for this case."
"And on to other, happier news," Anko stated authoritatively, forcibly changing the subject much to Iruka's happiness. "Where is the little squirt anyway?"
"Naruto?" Iruka asked, to which Anko rolled her eyes. "I was instructed by the principal of the school to give him a day off to pack up his stuff in case Hokage-sama chose to relocate him."
"So what kind of trouble does that mean for the village?" Anko asked, waiting eagerly for whatever news her companions had to share.
"None so far," Yūgao answered, "He just waited in his room all day doing nothing." However, a rather loud explosion sounded in the near vicinity, accompanied by a rank smell and various people shouting at the person who set the bomb off. "I spoke to soon, didn't I?"
"Yup," Anko answered as she saw a flash of blond and orange appear for a second thru the thick smog that accompanied the explosion. "But what did you expect from the number one prankster of Konoha?" At this both Yūgao and Iruka couldn't help but crack a grin.
"Sorry to cut this meeting short, guys, but I've got to go. I have an entire house to clean by tomorrow. Oh, and we'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the near future," Anko stated.
"What do you mean?" Iruka asked suspiciously. "I hope this doesn't mean more surprise meetings before my classes come." Anko shook her head at Iruka's interpretation.
"I forgot to tell you guys one tiny thing," Anko added, causing both Iruka and Yūgao to give her inquisitive looks. "I've been chosen as the foster parent and private tutor for Naruto-kun, isn't that great? Now we get to have all of those reunions we've been blowing off for the past couple of years!" Anko happily informed, causing both Iruka and Yūgao to stare at her blankly in shock.
"See you guys!" And with that departing statement along with a grin and a wave goodbye, Anko disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
"If we're hardly able to survive Naruto now, how are we going to keep him under control after Anko finishes training him?" Yūgao asked her stunned friend.
"We'll find a way," Iruka answered after several seconds. "After all, we've dealt with a lot worse back when we were genin team one and chūnin squadron four."
"I hope you're right Iruka," Yūgao stated as the smog from the modified stink bombs began creeping towards the school yard. "But now, I think we've got a mess to clean up, don't you think?"
"Oh yeah," Iruka answered with a grin as he observed the spreading smog. "Person who clears the most smog out treats the other to dinner?" he casually suggested.
"You're on Umino," answered Yūgao excitedly, a wicked grin on her face.
'It looks like I have no choice,' thought Iruka as he preformed shunshin simultaneously with Yūgao, 'But to trust in you, Anko.'