Sasuke looked at his two teammates as they gathered the ninja gear they'd brought with them into the forest.
"I'll be waiting downstairs," Kakashi said from the door of their shared room before he left.
"We'll be right out," Sakura said as she lifted up her futon and grabbed a hairbrush from under it. Sasuke gave the girl a strained look when she put it in the pouch that contained her ninja gear.
"You keep a hairbrush with you at all times?" He demanded. She stopped what she was doing and turned to look at him.
"Isn't that a waste of space?"
"No?" Sasuke didn't respond to that and she went back to looking around the room for more of her personal belongings.
"Whatever," He finally said, turning and exiting the room. He walked down the hall, but stopped just outside one of the other room's doors when he heard someone speaking.
"You were supposed to drop out." Sasuke recognized the voice as belonging to the red haired Gaara. "Instead, you were matched up with Temari and now she is disqualified from the finals."
"Things have changed a little, that's all," Kabuto's voice responded. Sasuke blinked.
'This is the room the suna-ninja were staying in. What's he doing here? How does he know them?'
"The overall plan only calls for you three to be present in Konoha when it begins. You don't all need to be active contestants for this. Temari can just say she's there to cheer her brothers on." There was a pause before Gaara answered.
"...I see. That is acceptable." the Suna shinobi said.
"If that's all, then I'll be leaving," Kabuto said. "Since I am to be staying in Konoha, please give Kazekage-dono my regards." Sasuke blinked at the mention of the sand village's leader. The Konoha genin walked out of the room, but abruptly stopped upon seeing Sasuke to the side of the door. "Hello," He said with a smile and a nod. Sasuke gave him a look of disdain in response. Kabuto merely kept smiling and turned to walk the other way.
'Plan..?' Sasuke turned around and started walking. 'Why would he be talking to those three..?'
Team seven walked along a road that lead from the Forest of Death back to more civilized parts of Konoha.
"All right! We won! We won!" Sasuke and Sakura looked at their blonde teammate in exasperation.
"You can stop cheering now," the pink haired girl said. "You've been yelling and screaming ever since we left the tower."
"Yeah, dobe. I'm sure the whole world knows by now. Give it a rest."
"Hmph! You two just need to get into it more!" Naruto pumped a fist into the air. "We're the best! We're number one! Come on guys!"
"Hm," Sasuke sighed and shook his head. 'Well, it's true that we're the only rookie team to have every member make it to the finals. The only other whole team to make it to the finals was Rock Lee's. Speaking of which…' Sasuke turned his head and looked up at his sensei. "Kakashi. Is there any chance I could see how Lee's team trains? They're the only other team to have made it all through the finals."
"That might not be a bad idea… It would certainly help to inspire you guys for sure."
"Hey! We're all hard workers here! Unlike you!" Naruto frowned at the silver haired Jounin. "Speaking of which, you still haven't taught me any jutsu! But Sakura-chan and Sasuke-bastard have learned something already!"
"Hmm," Kakashi sighed. "I guess I can teach you something…"
"Heh, finally! You better make it a good one too!"
"Sure, sure," Kakashi waved it off. "I'll figure something out for all of you." He looked at the three of them and smirked. "But one thing's for certain. You guys can't train together until the month is over, since you're going to be fighting each other." The three genin stopped walking and looked at each other with that sudden realization. Sasuke and Naruto locked gazes and smirked.
"You'd better be ready, dobe."
"You're the one who's gonna get blown away, idiot," Naruto said, turning away. "By my new super jutsu!"
"Hmph. One technique won't be enough to win a fight for you."
"Oh yeah? All it'll take is one hit for you to go down!" Sakura frowned as the two started their banter again and ran to catch up with Kakashi, who hadn't stopped walking.
"Kakashi-sensei, is there anything that I can learn too?" Kakashi looked at her.
"Sure there is… But first, there's the matter of genjutsu training. You were judged to be a genjutsu type from the beginning, so you will probably want to learn more than just Ninjutsu and Taijutsu for this tournament…"
"That's right, we haven't started working with Genjutsu yet. Why not?"
"A friend said she'd help with that, and she's only just finished working out what would help you three,"
"Really? Does that mean we'll be training as a team for genjutsu?" She asked with a frown.
"No, not until the tournament is over," Kakashi said. "Since the three of you are going to be fighting each other, you'll all need to start keeping secrets at this point. Of course, that doesn't mean that you guys can't hang out together,"
"I know that, but most of the time should be spent training anyway, right?"
"Of course," Kakashi nodded. "But you shouldn't push yourself too hard. I noticed that during your stay in the tower, you overworked yourself." They stopped walking and he looked down at her. "It's admirable that you want to improve so much, but your body can't take the big, sudden jump in time spent training, especially with your eating habits." The girl looked a bit worried at that, and she looked up at him. "You should know that with your increased training, you can eat more than you do now. You'll be working it off anyway. Try eating more like the other two on your team."
"I have been feeling a bit hungrier recently," She admitted, looking at the ground. "But I didn't know if it was safe…"
"Sakura." She looked at him again. "You won't be a match for Sasuke if you keep trying to adhere to that popular image. You're a bit thin as it is."
"Sasuke-kun likes bigger girls?" She asked with a worried expression.
"Um… no. I meant the fight," Kakashi said. She froze up at that and he blinked. "What, you did see that you were going to be fighting him in the very beginning, didn't you?" The girl was silent. "…Didn't you?"
"Yes… But… I…" Kakashi sighed.
"Listen, Sakura. This is your chance to get Sasuke to notice you." The girl blinked. "You know how Sasuke respects powerful individuals, don't you?" When she nodded, he continued. "If you can beat Sasuke, he'll definitely recognize you as a person. I hate to say it, but right now, he sees you as a flunky…"
Sakura was at a loss.
"Heyyy! What's the big idea leaving us behind!" Kakashi and Sakura both turned around and noticed Naruto running towards them with Sasuke walking behind her. The blonde stopped when she reached them.
"Hmm? I didn't notice," Kakashi said. "If you want, I can slow down for you old ladies."
"What did you call me!" Naruto tried to tackle her sensei, but he held her away with one hand.
"Kakashi," Sasuke said as he finally caught up to them, "What are we going to be doing from now on to the end of the month? You must have a plan."
"Ah, well…" Kakashi looked over his three students. "You're right, I had a plan made out for the three of you already, since I knew you'd succeed," He said with a smirk. "As I just told Sakura, the three of you are going to be incorporating Genjutsu basics in your individual training. Each of you will also be sparring with me in your Taijutsu, and as I told Naruto, I will teach you all some new Ninjutsu as well."
"Really?! It's a promise!?"
"Well, I can't guarantee, with your various learning speeds and preferences, that you'll all learn everything I have planned for you, but that shouldn't matter anyway."
"I'll learn everything you can teach me in one day!" Naruto declared. "Watch me!"
"Hmph," Sasuke shook his head and looked up at his sensei. "Well, what do you have planned for today?"
"Nothing, actually. It was supposed to start the day after tomorrow, in case you were all injured in the fights today, but the only one who's had an exhausting fight today is Sakura."
"Yeah! I didn't even get to fight at all!" Naruto said with a frown. "Let's start the training today! Today!"
"Well…" Kakashi looked over the three students. "But I had plans…"
"What kind of plans?" Sasuke demanded. "Something more important than training us?"
"Well you see… There was… a date…"
"Liar," Naruto crossed her arms and scowled at him. "You just want to get out of teaching! Who would wanna go out on a date with you?"
"Hey now," Kakashi said with a frown. "I'm fairly impressive, you know. Can't keep the girls away."
"Your hands do not count," Sasuke said with a sneer. Naruto and Sakura sniggered at that.
"Oh, all of you ganging up on your poor teacher…" The silver haired jounin made a big showing of looking at the ground pathetically. "And to think that I was considering treating you guys to lunch and then dinner later on…" He turned away from them.
"Hey wait a minute! Now that you say that, you're actually a pretty cool guy!"
"Yeah," Sasuke agreed. "Forget what we said."
"It's too late," Kakashi said in as pitiful a tone he could manage. "I'll never forget those hurtful words. Goodbye… forever!"
"Hey wait!" Naruto started towards the silver haired jounin, but he vanished in a puff of smoke. "Damn!" Sakura giggled at the two and shook her head.
"Great going, dobe," Sasuke snorted.
"Hey! You're the one who said something about hands not counting!"
"Oh, you two," They both looked at Sakura, who was still laughing. "We can do something fun on our own, can't we? We don't need Kakashi-sensei,"
"That's right! We have money too!" Naruto announced.
"You'll treat us then?" Sasuke asked, looking at the blonde.
"No way! Pay for yourself!"
"What about me, Naruto-kun?" Sakura asked in an innocent voice. "You wouldn't leave me to starve all on my own, would you?"
"Heh…" Sasuke shook his head and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Let's just go. We'll figure something out."
"Yeah! We're almost chuunin! We're adults!" Naruto thumped her chest. Sakura blinked at the blatant evasion, but shrugged it off.
"I guess." The three resumed their trek along the road.
"So who wants ramen!"
"Pft, no one wants ramen," Sasuke snorted.
"I do! Come on guys, its ramen!"
"Ramen is too unhealthy though." Sakura frowned.
"But it's the best! Come on, just try it out atleast!"
"Fine, but just this once," the pink haired girl sighed.
"Sakura's right though, dobe," Sasuke started. "You need to eat something other than Ramen, and not just once in a while."
"They put chopped vegetables in cup ramen though!"
"A handful of carrots and peas are not going to promote healthy growth. And I've seen you take them out, too!" Sakura crossed her arms. "You seriously need to learn better eating habits. You might even be as strong and smart as Sasuke-kun if you bothered eating right!"
"Sasuke's not that great!"
In a nearby tree, Kakashi smirked as they walked away.
'They'll be fine.' The silver haired jounin vanished in another puff of smoke.
Sasuke slurped the last of his second ramen bowl with a neutral look on his face, trying his best to ignore the obnoxiously loud slurping beside him.
"Ahh! That's the best!"
The Uchiha sighed and pushed the bowl away, then looked over at the blonde, who was sitting back with a full stomach and twenty empty bowls off to the side.
'That will always amaze me,' He shook his head. 'Where the hell does she put it all?' The girl patted her distended belly and belched, then sighed in contentment. 'And so disgusting, too… how can that be a woman?' He looked over at Sakura, who had had three bowls herself. The fourth bowl was halfway empty, but the pink haired girl had set her head on the counter and was groaning. "Sakura? Are you okay?"
"Try to eat more like the others, he says…" Sakura mumbled something else under her breath. "Ah… it hurts so much…"
"Maybe you should try eating a little less next time." Sasuke said. Sakura glared at him when he said that and he shrugged. 'Whatever.' He looked over at Naruto again, who looked ready to snooze the day away. "Naruto. What else do you want to do?"
"Hmm, I dunno…" The girl looked up at the ceiling. "Let's go see if Konohamaru is free!"
"Konohamaru… The Hokage's descendant, right?" Sasuke asked. 'I'd rather train, but it wouldn't hurt to rest for a day.' He looked over at Sakura. "What do you think?"
"I guess…" She groaned.
"Well then, let's go!" Naruto stood up and got out her wallet, then pulled out some money. "Thanks, occhan!" She handed it to the old man who accepted it with a smile as the other two got up.
"You three take care now," He said.
"Hnn," Sasuke rolled his eyes and stood up. "So where would those kids be right now anyway?"
"They should be just getting out of the academy, right?" Sakura suggested. Sasuke turned around and looked at the clock inside the ramen stand.
Naruto looked over the sea of kids who were getting out of school with a hand over her eyes. Spotting the one she wanted, she grinned.
"Hey, Konohamaru!" The Hokage's descendant blinked upon hearing his name called and turned to look at the source. The boy grinned the moment he saw team seven and started running to them.
"Naruto-nii-chan! You're back!" The academy student skid to a stop and looked up at her in awe. "You really stayed in the forest of death for five days and nights!"
"Yeah, that's right!" Naruto grinned. "I got into a fight with a snake the size of Hokage Mountain!"
"That's right! I kicked his ass too!" Konohamaru looked a little suspicious at that.
"No way! You're lying!"
"Nope! I fought a big snake, didn't I, you guys?" Naruto turned and looked at her teammates.
"I guess," Sasuke said with a shrug. Naruto looked down at Konohamaru and grinned again.
"He's just saying that! There's no way you fought a snake that big!"
"I did too!"
"I don't believe you!"
Sasuke and Sakura looked at each other as Naruto and Konohamaru kept arguing about whether or not the blonde had actually beaten a snake the size of Hokage Mountain, and sighed. Sasuke looked around the thinning crowd in boredom, searching for any familiar faces. Some of the academy instructors were outside watching the younger students, while others were greeted by their parents and siblings before being escorted home.
"Big brother! They taught us some new shuriken exercises today!" A young academy student ran over to his brother. The older boy laughed and turned away.
"Okay. You can show me when we get home." They both started walking, hand in hand, with the younger boy chattering away.
Sasuke frowned at the scene and there was a sudden heavy sensation in his chest.
'Things will never be like that for me again.'
"Sasuke?" Sasuke jolted at Sakura's voice and looked over at the girl. "Are you okay?"
"…got so scared that he forfeited right away!" The sounds and chattering around Sasuke started up again and Sasuke looked over at Sakura before nodding. Sakura looked at him for a few seconds before turning to look at something else.
"Yeah right! You're not that scary!" Konohamaru.
"You've got to remember that this guy had just learned that I fought off a snake the size of Hokage Mountain," Naruto. "There was no way he could beat me!"
"Hey, is that…" Sasuke blinked and looked over at Sakura. "Hinata! Over here!" Sasuke turned his gaze over to the direction that Sakura was looking in. Sure enough, the white eyed genin was standing there – along with a younger girl who had the same eyes. The girl noticed them and smiled weakly as she started walking over to them.
"Hey! It is Hinata-chan!" Naruto had noticed the other girl as soon as Sakura called out her name.
"Heh! So how's Kiba?" Naruto asked with a grin.
"Oh, he's fine… He woke up when we were leaving the tower, it wasn't anything serious. Akamaru's doing just fine too," She said with a smile.
"Heh, cool! So, you think he'll be free for sparring later?" Naruto asked. Hinata blinked at that.
"S-sparring? I-I'm not sure…"
"What do you mean, Naruto?" Sakura asked, looking at the blonde.
"Well, I figured it'd be good to have a new temporary workout partner since onii-chan can't play with me anymore," Naruto said with a grin. Sasuke scowled while Hinata and Sakura both giggled at it.
"Stop calling me that."
"Sister, who are these people?" Everyone looked down at the younger girl who was standing beside Hinata.
"Oh, Hanabi-chan from my class!" Konohamaru blinked, then looked up at Hinata, who nodded.
"Th-this is Hanabi, my younger sister," The girl said. Everyone looked at the younger girl.
"You know the Hokage's descendant?" Hanabi asked, looking at team seven.
"Hey! It's Konohamaru, not 'The Hokage's Descendant'!"
"Yeah, I know 'im," Naruto said with a grin. "So you're in his class huh? What kind of stuff you guys working on right now?"
"Iruka-sensei has us working on chakra control exercises!" Konohamaru shouted out before Hanabi could respond. "It's stuff I already know, so it's really boring. I was able to do that tree climbing thing you showed me already!"
"Oh really? Show me then!" Naruto demanded. Konohamaru looked around before spotting a tree and ran over to it.
"Okay! Watch me!" He kept running until he was running up the tree, but stopped and fell down after the fourth step. Naruto started laughing and Konohamaru stood up and gave the tree an angry look.
"They're really active," Hinata said with a smile. Sasuke and Sakura looked over at her.
"Well, Naruto always has too much energy," Sakura sighed. She looked down at the younger girl beside Hinata, who was watching Naruto and Konohamaru. "So, you're both from the Hyuuga clan… That means you both have the Byakugan," Sakura said. Sasuke and the two sisters looked at her. "Sometimes I wish I was born from some famous clan with a kekkei genkai…"
"Oh…" Hinata's smile faded. "It's… It's not that great."
"I can attest to that." Sasuke frowned.
"Well," Sakura glanced over at Sasuke and then looked at Hinata. "Well…I know why Sasuke-kun would say it's not great, but I can't imagine it's been that bad for you, Hinata." Sasuke noticed that Hinata looked troubled and decided to answer for her.
"The Byakugan is a very well known, very valuable bloodline," Sasuke said. "I remember reading that enemy villages have tried to kidnap Hyuuga family members, dead or alive, to try and reproduce or copy it. It's dangerous."
"Y-yes," Hinata nodded.
"The Sharingan too, right?" Sakura asked, looking over at Sasuke, who nodded.
'My Sharingan is especially valuable now…'
"Even still," Sakura said with a sigh. "If I had something like that, maybe I wouldn't be so…" Sasuke raised a brow when she trailed off.
"There are perfectly good Ninja without bloodlines," Sasuke said. "Naruto…" He paused. 'Well, Naruto has something unique too, but,' "…Is an okay ninja, even though he doesn't have any bloodlines or clan jutsu."
"I guess," Sakura agreed. She blinked suddenly, realizing something. "Say, what kind of family does Naruto come from, anyway? I know he's an orphan from the Kyuubi's attack all those years ago, but does he not know anything about his family? Where does his last name come from?"
"I'd ask him that," Sasuke said with a shrug.
"We c-could ask someone else, someone older." Hinata suggested. Sasuke turned and looked at her.
"I don't think that's-"
"That's a great idea!" Sasuke frowned and looked at Sakura. "If Naruto really doesn't know anything, then he'll be happy to learn about his family!" Hinata's smile returned at that. "What do you think, Sasuke?" The three girls all looked at him, and he looked at each of them.
"Tch. Whatever." The other two girls started talking again; or to be accurate, Sakura was talking while Hinata smiled and nodded, but the younger sister stared at him. Sasuke regarded her for a moment before looking over at Naruto.
"You're Uchiha?" He turned back to face the young girl. She was standing beside him, looking up at him with that neutral face of hers. Sakura and Hinata stopped talking and looked at them.
"That means your older brother is the one who killed everyone in your clan, right?" The younger girl asked. Hinata had a worried expression.
"Yes." Sasuke said, raising a brow. "What of it?"
"Nothing," The girl sent a wary glance in Hinata's direction before turning to watch Naruto and Konohamaru. Naruto was standing upside down on a branch, holding Konohamaru by his legs. The two were screaming about something or other. "Ane-sama, this is taking really long…" The young girl turned to look at her older sister.
"A-Aa… Then let's go home," She looked at Sasuke apologetically, but he only shrugged. "Sasuke-san, Sakura-san, see you later…" The shy girl looked over at Naruto, who was still up in the tree and laughing at Konohamaru. She looked away and took her sister's hand and the two started walking away. "Hanabi-chan, tell me more about your day…" Sasuke watched the two as they got further and further.
"She and Naruto are fighting in the third round," He noted without looking away.
"Yeah…" Sakura looked over at Sasuke. 'It'll be after our fight.' "Do you think she'll be able to handle it?"
"I don't really care," Sasuke said, sticking his hands in his pockets. "But I guess. Though she seems ill-fit to be a ninja, she's a Hyuuga. She'll do well. I don't think she really has a choice anyway." He turned around and looked over at Naruto.
"She does lack a bit of confidence." Sakura agreed. "What do you mean, though, she doesn't have a choice?"
"She's a Hyuuga." Sasuke said as if it explained everything.
"I don't understand."
An image of Fugaku's face flashed through Sasuke's mind.
"You wouldn't," He said simply. Sakura flinched at his words. "I don't feel like hanging out anymore. See you later." He started walking away, leaving a confused Sakura behind.
"Sasuke-kun?" The girl asked. "Wait, what's wrong?"
"It's…" Sasuke stopped walking and frowned. "…none of your business." He said before he started walking again. Sakura watched him for a moment before turning to look at Naruto and Konohamaru, who still hadn't noticed how much the crowd had shrunk, then walked over to join them. Sasuke glanced back at them long enough to see Naruto and Sakura looking at him, then kept walking.
"What's wrong with that guy?" Naruto asked with a frown. Konohamaru looked up at her.
"I don't know," Sakura said with a sigh. "He just said he didn't feel like hanging out and left."
"Is that right?" Naruto crossed her arms and looked away. "Well, that's just fine. We don't need him to bring us down!" She smiled down at Konohamaru. "So, you still think you got this tree thing down, huh?"
"I did it before!" The kid snapped. "You watch! I'll show you!" Naruto laughed as the boy turned and tried to run up the tree again, only to end up doing a flip and landing on his head. Both genin blinked and quickly ran over to him.
"Hey kid, you all right?" Naruto demanded.
"Ehh, he'll be fine," Naruto said, waving it off and standing up. "So, Sakura-chan, you still feel like hanging out with me?"
"Huh?" Sakura blinked.
"I know you only stayed for Sasuke," Naruto said with a shrug. "You don't have to stay with me if you don't want to."
"H-huh?" Sakura blinked again. "No, that's not true."
"What? It's not?" Naruto blinked, then smirked. "Does that mean… you finally want to go on a date with me?"
"What? No way!" Sakura scowled. "I'm just trying to be friendly with you."
"Friendly huh?" Naruto rubbed her chin and Konohamaru stood up shakily. "I see, I see…" The girl smirked.
"W, what is it?" Sakura asked nervously.
"Oh, nothing…" Naruto grinned and patted the other girl on her shoulder. "Hmm…"
"Naruto?" Sakura went from nervous to suspicious. "What are you planning?"
"So, if you're being friendly, that means we're friends right?" Naruto said.
"I guess?" Sakura raised an eyebrow, then narrowed her eyes at the blonde. "If you're plotting one of those stupid jokes…"
"Oh no, don't worry!" Naruto held up her hands in innocence, then looked down at Konohamaru. "Say, Konohamaru. Where are those other two friends of yours? Udon and Moegi?"
"H-huh?" The boy blinked. "Oh, those two? They went home already…"
"Eh? Then why were you still here?" Naruto asked.
"Eh, I was supposed to go see Jiji today since mom and dad are going out tonight and Ebisu-sensei is running another errand for him."
"Oh," Naruto blinked. "If he's expecting you, you should go or he'll get worried."
"Oh no! You're right!" The academy student looked up at Naruto. "I'll see you later, Naruto-nii-san!" The two genin waved as the boy took off running. Sakura noticed that the schoolyard was almost empty.
'More time passed than I thought,'
"Ne, Sakura-chan." The pink haired girl looked over at Naruto. "Do you know where Sasuke lives?"
"I think he lives in his house by himself. There's a whole district just for his family." the pink haired girl said. "Why?"
"Oh nothing…" The blonde blinked and looked over at Sakura. "Ne, Sakura-chan, where do you live?"
"What?" The pink haired girl blinked. "Why do you want to know all of a sudden?"
"Err, I just thought it'd help to know, heh heh." Naruto said, rubbing her head.
"Well, okay." Sakura and Naruto were silent for a moment. "So what do you usually do in your free time?" Naruto blinked, then shrugged.
"Not much… just eat Ramen, practice some jutsu... I used to figure out jokes and stuff, but I stopped doing that after the academy…"
"That's all you do?" Sakura asked with a frown. "You don't have any other friends or anything?"
"Naw, not really…" Naruto scratched her head. "Well, I used to hang out with Shikamaru and Kiba and Chouji sometimes… but that was a long time ago. And sometimes, Iruka-sensei will treat me to dinner, but otherwise, I don't got much to do aside from training… daydreams are fun too." The girl said with a shrug. "Why?" Naruto looked at Sakura and noticed the pink haired girl was staring at her.
"Oh, Naruto…" Sakura sighed. 'If you were a girl, this would be so much easier...' Naruto blinked at her. 'I've got to figure out some way to do this…' The blonde suddenly started grinning at her.
"Hey Sakura-chan. You sure you haven't fallen for me?" Sakura sighed again.
"For the last time, I will not go on a date with you. Now stop asking."
"Okay, okay," Naruto said, waving her arms out, but kept grinning. 'There's probably something else she could be doing right now, I bet.' Naruto suddenly had a look of shock on her face. "Oh crap!"
"Huh? What is it, Naruto?" The girl ask.
"I totally forgot! Iruka-sensei said he wanted to see me when I got out of the chuunin exam!" The girl immediately bolted off. "Sorry, Sakura-chan! I'll see you later, okay! Bye!" Sakura blinked as the girl waved at her before turning around a corner.
"Well, I guess that's it for today," Sakura sighed. 'Team bonding is supposed to be easier than this, damn it!'
Naruto watched Sakura walk away from behind the corner.
'She'll be fine I guess,' the girl turned and looked away. 'Now to find out where that stupid bastard lives!' Naruto took up a thoughtful looking pose, with her hand cupping her chin. 'Hmm, hmm… Sakura-chan said he has a whole district to himself, right? So then, maybe I can just ask someone…' The blonde turned and looked around the street. Because it was late afternoon, it was fairly empty already, save for a few peddlers standing outside of shops and what not. The blonde walked over to one of the carts and looked up at the man who owned it.
"Hey hey, old man. Where's Uchiha district?" She demanded. The man took one look at her and snorted.
"If you ain't gonna buy anything, then beat it, kid." Naruto crossed her arms at that and scowled.
"Fine! I'll ask someone else!" She stormed away and the man snorted again. Naruto stopped a little ways away and looked around. 'These idiots always treat me the same! Always telling me to get lost or something!' She scowled at that. 'Maybe if I henge into someone else… but who?' The girl looked up at the sky. 'Hmm… Maybe not someone else, but…' Naruto suddenly nodded to herself and looked around. She spotted an alley and quickly walked into it, then made a handseal. "Henge!" There was an eruption of smoke and when it cleared, an older looking Naruto was standing in her place. The young woman had the same orange jumpsuit on, only it was a larger size so as to fit her bigger, shapelier form. She walked out of the alley with a grin on her face.
'This is great! With the forehead protector and an adult body, no one's gonna disrespect me now!'
"Hey kid," Naruto blinked and looked over to the side. There was a big tree on the side of the road with a guy sitting on a bench in its shade. The guy had a leaf forehead protector and wore a jounin vest and the traditional navy blue clothes of Konoha's Ninja. "That's real cute. But you look pretty lame." Naruto frowned at him.
"Oh yeah? Well you look even lamer." The ninja snorted at that.
"Sure, whatever kid." Naruto turned to leave but the ninja kept talking. "Say, why are you looking for the Uchiha District? No one ever goes there,"
"What, you know where it is?" She demanded, looking over at him.
"Sure I do." He said with a shrug. Naruto walked over to him and noticed that he had a senbon in his mouth. "But, do you know too many Ninja who get to be that age and aren't at least chuunin?" Naruto blinked; she had been going for Kakashi-sensei's age with the henge.
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"The vest. Chuunin and Jounin usually wear a special vest," He thumbed his own.
"Not all the time." She said, crossing her arms. "And what does that have to do with anything?"
"Just sayin'," the man said with a shrug. "No one'd be fooled by that disguise."
"Oh yeah?" She glared at him.
"The clothes are the same, those unique facial marks are the same, your hair is the same... only difference is that you're a woman. What made you decide to be a woman anyway? I'll admit it was creative but just changing your gender and age won't fool anyone if you look exactly the same afterwards." Naruto fumed as he kept talking.
"N-no one asked you!" Naruto looked away in defiance.
"Heh, well okay," He said. "It's not my fault you can't take a few pointers."
"Are you gonna tell me where the Uchiha district is or what?!"
"Ehh..." The man frowned. "Why do you wanna go there anyway?"
"My friend lives there," She uncrossed her arms. "So where is it?"
"Your friend, huh..." The man pointed down the road. "s' in that general direction."
"Huh? That's it?! 'In that general direction'!?" Naruto scowled at him. "Oh great, thanks a lot!" She turned and leapt up onto a nearby roof and started hopping away.
Genma smirked, stood up from the bench and stretched. 'That was one of Kakashi's kids, the ones who've been doing really well in the chuunin exam so far.' He shook his head. 'He sure wants to get rid of them quick, doesn't he?'
"So, you made it," Kakashi was standing on a rooftop with an older looking man.
"Sensei sent word that Naruto had used the Kyuubi's Chakra by accident," Jiraiya said. "I came as quickly as I could, barring necessary stops for valuable research, of course."
"Of course, that's of utmost importance," Kakashi said with a nod. "Anyway, I've been training her a bit more seriously than I originally intended to, and she's managed to get through the first two parts of the Chuunin exams with her teammates. However, to be honest, she's not a level where she can really compete with chuunin level ninja, or even other chuunin hopefuls."
"Her getting this far has been a fluke then."
"Yeah, mostly." Kakashi said, rubbing his head in embarrassment. "I didn't really think they'd make it this far, see…" Jiraiya snorted.
"You thought they could use the experience?"
"Yeah. The Chuunin exam is great for real combat simulations, but unfortunately, we had a disaster, and some rather unforeseen results." Kakashi tapered off in a more sober tone. Jiraiya narrowed his eyes at the younger ninja.
"Yeah." Kakashi sighed. "Fortunately, he didn't get the cursed seal on Sasuke. The other teammate took his place at the last second."
"And she survived," Jiraiya nodded. "I know that much. I gotta say it's a surprise that she did, from what I know of her, but oh well."
"Yeah, and that's something else I wanted to talk to you about. But about Naruto…" Jiraiya snorted.
"You want me to train the brat to near chuunin level in a month," the older man said. "I get that much. You're lucky it's his daughter, or I wouldn't do this even for you."
"You wouldn't? Even for your favorite student's favorite student?"
"Hmph. You weren't his favorite, and you definitely aren't mine." Kakashi slumped over.
"Good. You should be, asking your elders to cover for your incompetence. I'm not just any Ninja, you know…" The man muttered.
"But this is a favor, right? I'll pay you back somehow." Kakashi's eye lit up. "Ah yes, I know just how…"
"What? What is it?"
"Naruto-kun knows a Jutsu that will make everything worth your time," Kakashi said with a grin. "I'll set everything up for you."
"Oh ho?" Jiraiya grinned. "Is it that good?"
"Even better," Kakashi chuckled. "Now, about teaching Naruto…"
"I'll figure that out, don't you worry your little head over that. You concentrate on working with that Uchiha boy, and the other teammate."
"Actually, while I'm fine with Sasuke, the other one will need your help too." Jiraiya frowned. "Like I was saying earlier, about her cursed seal. I sealed it myself, but…" He shook his head. "All traces of the cursed seal disappeared sometime during her prelim fight." Jiraiya scrunched his brow when he processed that.
"Yep. I don't know exactly what happened but I don't want to just accept it at face value."
"That would be foolish…" Jiraiya muttered in agreement. "Which one did you say it was? Heaven seal?" Kakashi nodded. "I'll have to check her out. She might have to pull out of final exam if I can't figure out what's wrong by then."
"That might be bad." Kakashi sighed. Jiraiya nodded.
"I can't imagine she'd be too pleased to hear that." The older white haired man looked at the younger one. "Well, is that it?"
"Pretty much, yeah… Though, I have to ask. Do you plan to teach her Sensei's original jutsu?"
"Of course, all of the ones I know myself. He has some scrolls worked out for her too." Jiraiya snorted.
"Then you don't mind if I teach Sasuke mine, do you?"
"Knock yourself out," Jiraiya snorted with a wave. "Minato's Jutsu will always be superior to that one."
"Oh… you always say such mean things."
"I'm your sensei's sensei, I'm allowed to say mean things." Jiraiya turned away and put a foot up on the edge. "If that's all, I'm going to go do some research." He stopped, suddenly remembering who he was talking to, then turned around and grinned. "Would you like to join me?"
"Why, certainly," Kakashi said, walking over to join him. "I would be honored!"
Naruto grinned when she finally stopped in front of the sign marked "Uchiha District".
'So this is where that guy's family lives... or lived, anyway.' She looked up at the two Uchiwa that decorated the entrance. 'Don't feel like hanging out anymore, huh? Well that's too bad!' The young woman walked into the abandoned district and started looking around. There was a small empty shop marked 'Uchiha Senbei' close to the entrance, along with a number of other buildings. 'Heh, wonder how he'll react to my new look!'
She walked around for what felt like forever, looking in and around abandoned buildings and empty roads. Homes, shops, everything she could look into or around, all of it was totally empty and void of any human presence.
'If I had a whole district to myself, I'd sure do a lot more with it than this,' She thought with a frown. 'But man this place sure is creepy,' Naruto looked around and had to fight the chills that crept up her spine. All of the empty buildings and streets had a lonely, desolate feel to them even though they looked well kept. Because of this, the Uchiha district had a uniquely haunting appearance; it was like the district itself was waiting for everyone to come back.
'That idiot lives here all by himself?' She shook her head and kept walking around. 'Place is too big and empty for one guy. Wonder why his brother went crazy and killed everyone anyway?' She was at the edge of the Uchiha district, and some of the buildings were a bit more familiar now. 'Hey, I've seen these buildings before... Walking home from the park. There's a lake down that road...'
The blonde ran down the street and around the corner, then looked around. There was a small lake with a pier opposite the shore she was on. Sitting on the pier was Sasuke. The other teen was looking down at the water, but she couldn't see him in detail from her distance.
'Heh! Found you!'
Sasuke looked down at his reflection in the water.
He picked one of the rocks sitting next to him on the pier and skipped it across the water. It bounced six times before it sank.
"Ooh, that was pretty cool." Sasuke immediately turned his head and looked up in the direction
of the unfamiliar voice. Standing there was... Naruto. An older, more... womanly looking version of her, but definitely her. The same clothes, markings, hairstyle and color were all dead giveaways.
"Naruto?" Sasuke squinted at the girl. "What is that ridiculous disguise?"
"Hey hey, whaddya mean, 'ridiculous disguise'?" She demanded, looking at herself in the water. "I look cool!"
"You look the same as always," The Uchiha snorted.
"Oh really?" Naruto looked at him and smirked. She reached up to her jacket and unzipped it so that her bountiful assets were more visible.
"Put those away!" Sasuke snapped as his face started to heat up. Naruto chuckled and took up an innocent pose with both of her arms framing her chest so that her breasts stood out even more.
"But I did this just for you," She said in an innocent voice. "Sasuke-kuuun."
"Oh god." Sasuke turned away as quickly as he could and looked down at the water. 'My face...'
"Don't look away from me, Sasuke-kun. I'm not that ugly, am I?" He ignored the girl's prodding.
"Naruto... stop that."
"Stop what?" The innocent voice continued and she leaned over, then put an arm around him. Sasuke froze when he felt her press her breasts into his back.
'Should a Henge even be able to do all this!?'
"...Sasuke?" The girl paused for a moment and looked down at his reflection in the water, then giggled. "Your face is all red... I knew it!"
"W-what?" Sasuke noticed her smirk in the water and she suddenly released her henge. When the smoke cleared, the girl was still leaning on him with a smirk.
"I knew it! You're as pervy as every other guy!"
"The hell are you talking about?!"
"I saw your face! I bet you were thinking gross thoughts about me! Sicko! Perv!"
"I was not," He snapped back. "I couldn't ever think about you like that, you moron!"
"Uh huh! Sure you couldn't!" She sneered at their reflections in the water. "Well, I guess that answers the question about whether or not you're gay."
"What?!" Sasuke growled and looked at her. "Who was ever asking that question?!"
"The whole village," Naruto snorted. "You've got at least ten girls chasing after you and you never even bother to take any of them out or anything. You don't even spend time with them!" Sasuke suddenly stood up, knocking the girl off of her feet. The blond landed on her butt with a loud thump and she looked up at him angrily. "Hey! What was that for!?"
"I don't like any of those girls," Sasuke snorted, ignoring the girl and turning to leave. "Too shallow and weak."
"Why would that matter? I thought most guys liked that."
'Hmph. You really don't know much about what guys like, then.' He looked down at her. "What the hell do you want, dobe? Can't you go annoy someone else?"
"Heh heh, no way! I'm here to find out what it is that's bothering you, anyway! Telling Sakura that you don't feel like hanging out with us and then just leaving? What's up with that! I thought we were supposed to be friends!"
"Hmph…" Sasuke frowned at that. "I don't want to tell you. Go home."
"Hey hey, now wait a minute! Weren't you the one crying about keeping secrets before?" The blonde demanded. When he didn't respond right away, Naruto grinned. "Now you're being a hypocrite!"
"Go home," Sasuke snorted. "You wouldn't understand it."
"Oh come on, at least give me a chance you moron," She said. "Come on, why don't you just tell me what it is? You know my secrets already. Tell me yours!"
"Oh please, I had to learn everything I know about you by myself."
"Well, uh… shit." Naruto blinked. "Uhm… hmm… Well, you know it anyway. I'm not going to leave you alone until you tell me what it is!"
"Yes you will," Sasuke narrowed his eyes.
"Oh ho, so now you want to play huh?" She grinned up at him. "I can play with you all day and night long, but I'm not leaving until you tell me what's up."
"Hmph…" Sasuke frowned. "Why do you call it 'playing' when we fight?"
"Because?" She shrugged. "I dunno. So are you going to tell me what it is, or am I gonna have to follow you around forever?" Sasuke glared at her. "Oh come on, I'm not asking for your life story or anything," She said. "Just tell me what's up today. You were fine until we ran into Hinata."
"…" Sasuke turned to look at the setting sun. "I…" Naruto waited for a moment.
"It's getting late. Shouldn't you be going home for the night?"
"I'll be fine, I'm a big girl," Naruto snorted. "Come on, tell me what's wrong already."
Sasuke looked up at the sun for a little while longer and finally sat down beside her.
"When you see the other kids going home with their parents or siblings, how does that make you feel?" Sasuke asked suddenly. Naruto blinked.
"W-well, sometimes, when I was younger, I used to wonder what it would be like to have an older sibling or parent walk me home," Naruto admitted. "But after a while, I started putting myself on the other side, thinking what it would be like if I was the older one." There was silence for a moment before Sasuke spoke up.
"Having a family…" The boy looked down at the water. "It's different from anything you can imagine because you've always been alone." Naruto looked at him. "But I used to have one. My brother wasn't the most attentive one, my father wasn't very easy to get along with, and my mother was strict sometimes, but…I miss them."
The two sat in silence as the sun sank further over the horizon.
"I guess I wouldn't understand," Naruto started after a number of minutes had passed, "Since like you said, I never had a family. But…" Sasuke looked at her. "When I'm with Iruka-sensei, I wonder, if maybe this is what having a father is like? When I'm with Sakura… I wonder if it's like having a sister." Sasuke didn't bother asking what she thought of him.
'So that's why she was calling me 'nii-chan' and asking those questions in the tower…' He shook his head at that, then stood up. "It really is getting late. You should go home."
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Naruto said, joining him. "I wanna see your house!"
"Ne ne, it's gotta be pretty cool if you're willing to stay in this big lonely place all by yourself just to live there, right? Lemme see it!"
"No. I don't need you knowing where I live, I'd live in constant fear of something strange happening."
"You mean you don't already?"
"Hmph. Just go home, Naruto."
"Hmm…" The girl grinned. "If you won't show me, then I'll tell everyone about what happened earlier…"
"What?" Sasuke growled and looked over at Naruto. The girl grinned and pointed at her chest in a vulgar way, and Sasuke blushed. "No one will believe you."
"Even if they don't it won't be hard to have a repeat performance in the near future," She said with a wink. "And next time, I'll make sure there's an audience!"
"…You would," Sasuke sighed, and shook his head. "If I show you my house, then you have to promise never to even bring it up again."
"Don't blatantly cross your fingers when you say it," Sasuke snapped. She put her hands behind her back and snickered. The boy sighed. 'That lazy idiot was right. You are a troublesome woman.'
Sakura sighed. She was sitting with Ino on a bench outside of Ino's flower shop. The two had been talking ever since she had shown up, asking if Ino was free. It had been the first time in a while that the two had a long conversation.
"So what do you guys do when you're team bonding?" The pink haired girl asked. "Sasuke-kun and Naruto always manage to ditch me."
"Hmm… well, they're both stubborn guys, I'm sure they have their own things they want to do that don't even involve your team," Ino said. "Sasuke-kun especially. He doesn't like hanging around people."
"I know that." Sakura snorted. Ino laughed.
"Anyway… What we do with Asuma sensei, I guess that could be called team bonding. But it's all we ever do. We never train and we only do the bare minimum of missions," She growled out. "That's why you were able to win, I'm sure of it. Asuma sensei hasn't taught us anything at all since we left, and the only time I train is with dad when I get home."
"Oh…" Sakura blinked. 'That's right, Inoichi-san is a ninja too… But neither of my parents can help me with that.'
"All we ever do is play board games and eat. Chouji does most of the eating," Ino sighed. "They're all so lazy…"
"Um, well, have you tried talking to Sarutobi-san about that?"
"I have a few times, but the only time he ever said anything that sounded even remotely like 'Okay' was today, when I lost to you!" The blonde seethed. "He's just as lazy as Shikamaru, but it's worse because he's supposed to be a responsible adult! He's nowhere near as cool as your sensei."
"Eh, heh heh…" Sakura laughed. "Kakashi-sensei is kind of lazy too… And he's a bit of a pervert…"
"He can't be that bad," Ino said. "He taught you Suiton Jutsus and improved your Taijutsu. You were like a real ninja back there, for once." Ino said, winking.
"Hey, I am a real ninja! I'll be a chuunin by the end of next month, too."
"Oh?" Ino grinned. "Can you beat Sasuke-kun?" Sakura only hesitated for a second.
"Of course I will. I can't… I can't let him hold me back." Ino sat back and looked at her friend, then smiled.
"You've thought about this, then?"
"A bit," Sakura admitted.
"Well then. I've decided!" Sakura blinked and looked over at her.
"Decided what?" Ino smiled.
"Who I'm going to cheer for in your fight."
"Oh?" Sakura blinked. "You won't cheer for Sasuke-kun?"
"Of course I will," the blonde snorted. "Who did you think I was going to cheer for? You?"
"No way," Sakura rolled her eyes. "I didn't think that at all."
"Anyway. You figured out what to do about Sasuke-kun and Naruto?"
"Hey, that's what we were supposed to be talking about!" Sakura said. "You said you'd help me figure something out about that!"
"Oh, did I really?" Ino looked up in mock confusion. "Hey, why do you want to try and be friends with them all of a sudden anyway?"
"Kakashi-sensei said it'd be easier for us to work as a team if we weren't strangers." Sakura said.
"That's true. I've known Chouji and Shikamaru for a long time because our parents were friends." the blonde nodded. "We know each other very well. We do work well as a team, when we finally get working… still don't get much done."
"Those two are both too lazy."
"Yeah, that's true. But anyway, I'm thinking that this is probably something you would be better suited to doing after just spending more time with the two. If they want to ditch you at every corner, follow them around, stubbornly refusing to leave them alone! Just by doing that you should be able to figure out what to do to connect with them."
"Are you sure?" Sakura asked. "That's never worked for Sasuke-kun and you know it."
"Hmm… well, maybe not." Sakura almost facefaulted. "I guess you can just try something. Maybe a different approach?"
"I guess…" Sakura sighed. "It's getting dark, huh?"
"Yeah! There's a few stars out already! What are you still doing here? Go on! Go home! You don't want to wait out too late, that's when the molesters come out!"
"Uh-huh," Sakura grinned. "If I see any molesters, I'll just kick them in the balls and run away." The two girls snickered as they stood up and Sakura started walking away. "See you later, Ino-pig."
"You too, forehead! Later!" The blonde girl waved and Sakura rolled her eyes. "Oh, that's right. I went by your place earlier and your parents said they had something important to tell you!"
"Man, this place is cool! Your house is pretty big!" Sasuke merely stood in the yard while Naruto looked around in awe.
"Everything in this district is mine." Sasuke said. "But this is the house I've lived in as far as I can remember."
"Everything?" Naruto asked.
"Wow… You're really rich, then, aren't you?" Naruto frowned and crossed her arms. "But if that's true, why don't you try running some stores or something, get some attractions going and have people come in? You'd make even more money!" Sasuke raised an eyebrow and looked at the girl.
"You want me to turn this district into some sort of amusement park or something?"
"Not really an amusement park, but… Yeah? I mean, if you just hire some people to run things that you can't…"
"That's a stupid idea," Sasuke shook his head. "Forget it."
"Oh, well, okay… your loss." Naruto ran over to the door and opened it, then walked into the house. "Man, I'm starved! What do you have to eat around here?"
"Eat?" Sasuke glared at the blonde as soon as he followed her in. "You said you just wanted to see it. And leave your shoes at the door, dobe." He kicked off his own sandals and left them in the genkan.
"I want to see the inside of it too!"
"That doesn't involve eating," Sasuke snapped.
"Sure it does! I want to get the whole experience of 'Living with Sasuke'! Maybe then I'll figure out why you're such a stiff!"
"Stiff?" Sasuke had an exasperated look on his face. "I am not a stiff."
"Sure you are!" Naruto called from some room. The noise echoed through the hallway. "You're stiffer than stiff!"
"Hmph. That's just what you think…"
"That's what everyone thinks!" Naruto said as she walked into the room. "But really, this place ain't bad. A bit big, but it's got nothin' on my place, though…"
"Oh really?" Sasuke rolled his eyes. "If that's true, then maybe we'll go to your house tomorrow."
"Eh-heh… err, don't you want to start training tomorrow?" She asked.
"Oh no," Sasuke grinned at her reaction. "I'd much rather see your place, if it's so much better than this."
"O-oh, well you better be prepared to be blown away," Naruto snorted. Sasuke chuckled.
"Oh, I'm sure I will be."
"Heh, now, about dinner…"
"Why do you want to eat here? Didn't you promise that old man that you were going to be there tonight, anyway? Won't he be disappointed if you don't show up?"
"That's okay, it's not like they're waiting for me or anything. He'll understand," She looked around the room with a wild grin. "So, weren't you going to cook me dinner? Where's the kitchen?" She asked as she walked down the hallway again. "If you don't come on, I'll show them how pervy you are!"
'She's going to lord that over me forever, isn't she…' Sasuke sighed as he reluctantly started after her.
When Sakura walked into her house, she was immediately greeted by a hug from her mother.
"Sakura-chan! You're back! You're okay!"
"Uh, hi mom, I'm home," Sakura said. "Sorry for not coming earlier. I was out with friends for most of the day."
"That's okay, dear, your parents understand that they're too boring and unimportant for you to want to see right away," Her mom said, standing back.
"Mooom..." Her mother winked at her and her father walked into the room with a smirk on his face.
"Heh heh... We heard how well you did, honey. You make us so proud," The girl blushed.
"Daaad..." Sakura looked up at her parents. "Oh yeah! Ino-chan said you had something to tell me?"
"Oh, right… So uh, how are your two teammates getting along?" Her father asked. "Uchiha and Nam... Uzumaki?"
"Oh, they're just fine," The girl said, taking a mental note of the slip up. "It turns out that they just needed to blow off some steam before. They're all friendly now, for some reason..."
"A-ah... is that right," Her father asked. "Okay then..."
"Is that it?" Sakura asked.
"Yeah, it is," Her father said.
"Now that that's out the way..." Her mother said, clapping her hands. "I have a surprise waiting for you in the kitchen, Sakura-chan..." The pink haired girl's eyes widened.
"You didn't..." she said, before suddenly bolting off across the room and through a door to the kitchen. "Oh! You did!" The girl's cries of delight were muffled when she started stuffing her face.
"See? I told you we didn't need to tell her anything. If she remembers her 'dream', she'll be able to figure it out whenever she wants, anyway."
"Eh, fine... But, she always goes crazy over those cookies." Sakura's father looked at his wife in suspicion. "What the hell do you put in them?" She only winked and stuck out her tongue in response before going to join her daughter. 'Well, at least she looks better today than she has for the past month or so... Maybe it has to do with Ino coming over for the first time in so long..?'