"Naruto?" Ino looked on with worry as the other blonde slowly sat up. "Are you all right?"
"I think so," he grunted, cautiously gathering his feet under him. "What, exactly, happened to me?"
"That was an acute case of mental overload," a new voice explained. "You tried to absorb too much information from your kage bunshin and your mind shut down to deal with the flow. You've been out for about half an hour."
"Thank you, Miss-"
"Dr. Uzuki Shion." The brunette smiled as she reached up to touch the strip of metal running across the bridge of her nose. Running a spark of chakra through the metal, she transformed it into a pair of glasses. "The Hokage called me here after you collapsed."
Naruto arched an eyebrow, studying the woman more closely. "Uzuki huh? You don't have a forehead protector, so I'm assuming you're part of the medical corps, rather than a combat field medic. Do you have any siblings in the shinobi program?"
Shion nodded with a slight smile. "My sister Yugao is a shinobi. Do you know her?"
"I've heard that name in passing, so maybe." Naruto gave her his usual sunny grin, then turned to Sarutobi. "So, what exactly happened, old man?"
"The kage bunshin is an incredibly powerful technique with two major flaws," The Hokage explained, lighting his pipe and opening a window. "First is the fact that the user distributes all of their chakra evenly between the original and all of their clones. Creating one clone divides your chakra in half, two splits it three ways, and so on. Now, how many clones did you leave at the library last night?"
"I don't know," Naruto said, casually scratching the back of his head. "A couple hundred, maybe."
Jaws dropped and eyebrows rose. Shion summed up everyone's thoughts nicely. "You split your chakra over two hundred ways, and you're still alive? Are you sure you're a genin?"
"I've got large reserves for my age, I guess," Naruto shrugged. "I mean, I felt a little dip in my reserves after I made all those clones, but I was still okay to make it back here from the library."
"We're going to have to find a way to burn off all your chakra one of these days and find out your limit." Ino said, idly rubbing the thin white scar of her recently healed oath wound.
"Naruto-kun, you said that your kage bunshin retain their knowledge when they're dispelled, correct?" Hinata asked.
"Yeah. That was the whole point of filling the library."
"And that is the second flaw in the kage bunshin," the hokage interrupted. "If you take in too much information in that manner…."
"If you're extremely lucky," Naruto supplied, "you only end up with a nasty headache. But then why didn't I have this problem when I fought Mizuki?"
"Mizuki, the academy instructor?" Ino looked surprised. "What's that all about?"
"It's all right for you to tell them later," Sarutobi interjected. "A team must be able to trust each other, after all. As for your question, Naruto, I believe that because all your clones were focused on a single act, the focus mitigated the damaging mental effects."
Naruto nodded, turning to Shion. "So, Doc, am I cleared?"
Shion blinked herself out of her daze. "Y-yes," she stammered, catching a bit of drool before it could become too noticeable. "Just um, try not to overexert yourself for the rest of the day and you should be okay. And if you need anything medical, any of you, ask for me by name."
"That's great!" Naruto exclaimed, smacking his fist into his open palm. "Kurenai-sensei, just so we're clear, where are we meeting?"
"Huh?" The elder kunoichi shook herself out of her stupor. "Training ground 12 at ten o'clock."
"You sure?" The blonde frowned. "I thought you said training ground ten at twelve o'clock yesterday."
The genjutsu mistress blinked. "Yes. That's what I said. Twelve at ten."
"But you just… never mind. See you at noon, training ground ten, same as our team?"
"Um yeah. That works," Kurenai mumbled, staring at Naruto in a slight daze as the Sandime gently pulled the oblivious doctor and jonin out into the hallway, using a minor wind jutsu to close the door behind him.
"Well that was weird," Naruto muttered turning to face his two starry eyed teammates. "Oh, for kami's sake!" He snapped, rolling his eyes as he brought a hand down hard on each of their shapely backsides. "Snap out of it!"
"What the hell was that for?" Ino barked, rubbing her abused posterior.
"You were staring at me like I'm some kind of bishonen model," Naruto called over his shoulder."I mean, if you're gonna gawk, wait 'til I'm naked."
Hinata's hands started through handseals for her byakugan before Ino grabbed her hands and shook her head. Hinata responded with a puppy-dog pout before both headed off to change, meeting back at the door as Naruto pulled his shoes on. "Are we ready to go?"
"Sure, but where are we going? You said yourself people don't exactly like having you around." Ino asked, forcing herself to remain focused.
"True, but the commerce laws say they can't turn me away so long as I have sufficient money to pay for my purchases," Naruto grinned, tapping his chin. "I usually get my best deals in the northern part of town, so we'll start there. If worst comes to worst I can throw up a henge."
"It might be better if you don't," Ino murmured thoughtfully. "I mean, the clothes might all fit the same, but what looks good on your henge might not work so well with you."
"If you say so, I'll trust your judgment." Naruto replied, locking the door as they trooped out.
Naruto winced sympathetically as a teenage girl and her mother stared at him almost longingly, then drifted face first into a streetlamp and a wall, respectively.
"Why is everyone staring at me today?" the blonde groused aloud, not expecting an answer from his equally enchanted teammates. Since leaving the apartment, the fox-faced shinobi had left a trail of stunned women and puzzled-looking men in his wake, and Ino and Hinata were flanking him at such an angle that they both had a clear view of his face at all times.
Naruto, being the considerate person he was, crossed the road and helped his latest unfortunate victims back to their feet. After they assured him that they were all right, and the younger girl slipped him her phone number, Naruto turned to the brightly colored flyer hung on the pole of the slightly dented street lamp.
"Well, well. It seems there's a new shinobi shop opening a few blocks from here," he mused aloud, setting off at a slightly increased pace. "This should do nicely, unless the other shop owners have started up the rumor mill already."
In short order, the Kyuubi container found himself entering a modest establishment. A few of the customers threw glares at the boy, but Naruto just smiled back at them. I keep you safe from what you fear, just by being alive. So if you want to hate me, hate me if it helps you sleep at night, he thought grimly. Me, I'll just keep smiling. "Welcome to Daidoji's grand opening extravaganza!" a dark-haired teenage girl chirped, interrupting Naruto's thoughts. "What can I help you with today?"
"I'm looking for a new wardrobe, something…ninja-ish." Naruto replied, groaning inwardly as the young girl's eyes grew unfocused. "And I think I'll start with a mask."
"Would you be interested in a full or half mask?" An older woman spoke up from behind as she reached out and squeezed the younger girl's nose until she started to squirm away. "For kami's sake, Tomoyo, just because he's kind of cute is no reason to gawk at the boy. Now lad, full or half?"
"Um, what's the difference?" Naruto asked.
The older lady beckoned the group over to a wall, sneaking furtive looks at the boy the whole while. "A full mask is commonly what the ANBU wear, so named for the obvious fact that it conceals the entire face. A bit clunky for a first-timer though, and likely to attract unwanted attention. A half mask comes up from your collar to about the bridge of your nose."
"Okay, what do you recommend?"
"Nothing at all." Tomoyo sighed happily, earning herself another nose tweak. "Why would you want to hide any of that gorgeous face?"
"So he doesn't have ladies young and old drowning in their drool. Shame though." She ran her roughened hand over the boy's whiskered cheek. "You are quite handsome. If I were twenty years younger…"
"The half mask!" Naruto yelped in a panic. "In, um…black, maybe."
With some reluctance, the older woman produced the desired article and helped Naruto fit it on.
"I don't think that quite works." Ino murmured, slowly coming out of her stupor. "I mean the, mask looks good, but the color doesn't quite work." Naruto said something, but it was slightly muffled by his mask. "You're going to have to speak up a bit to be understood through the mask, but it provides a tactical advantage, since your enemies won't know just what you're doing."
"I said, maybe in blue then," Naruto repeated.
"It would go with your eyes, but we have to pick the right shade for your skin tone." Ino turned and rummaged among the masks before surfacing with a handful in various shades of blue, from nearly white to a navy indistinguishable from the black mask he wore now. "Gomen, Naruto. This may take more time than we have."
"At least the mask will be the basis for the color scheme, right?" Naruto asked as the four women began narrowing down the possibilities.
"I didn't think you knew anything about color schemes." Ino said, throwing the lighter-hued masks back in the pile.
"I may not know a lot, but I do know some. Why do you think it's orange and blue and not orange and green?"
Ino paled. "Thank you for sparing us that, Naruto. The visualization has made me physically ill."
"You favor orange and blue, eh?" The older woman mused thoughtfully. "That's not exactly stealthy."
"Hence my need for a new wardrobe , Daidoji-san."
"'Daidoji-san' makes me feel older than I am. Just call me Sonomi-san. And you've met my daughter Tomoyo-chan." The newly identified Sonomi waved off his protests as she pulled out a number of masks from the darker end of the spectrum. "That's just what you need." She said approvingly. "So, pants next?"
In short order, Naruto was outfitted in simple black cargo pants and a tight fitting navy blue t-shirt with a dark orange spiral, this being the sole concession to his unique fashion tastes. The outfit was accessorized with a modest white jacket, a utility vest similar to those worn by upper level nins and a pair of black fingerless gloves with the leaf symbol etched into a metal plate on the back. After collecting some basic shinobi tools, the group went to pay for their purchases. Naruto paused as something caught his eye.
"Sonomi-san, what are these?" He asked, picking up the elongated wrist bracers.
"Partial body armor. The bracers attach like so. And the shin guards go like that." Sonomi and Tomoyo expertly fitted the new garments. "Beneath the outer cloth of the bracers and guards is a layer of leather, with three layers of tight woven chain mesh beneath. If necessary they can be used to stop shiruken, kunai, and most small swords."
"Can you add some training weights?" Naruto asked, turning his arm over thoughtfully.
"Sure. Lots of shinobi wear weighted clothes. If you want I could add something to your jacket as well, and they'd be ready by the end of the week. How much did you have in mind?"
"Can I try ten pounds in the limbs and twenty in the jacket?" The young shinobi asked. Sonomi nodded and produced two ten pound bars which she balanced expertly on his outstretched arms. "Yes, this will do for a start."
"Sonomi-san?" Hinata spoke up hesitantly. "May I try five pounds, please?"
"No need to be shy, miss," Sonomi replied cheerfully. "I'm here to help you. Now let's see how these feel."
"What about you, Ino-chan?" her fellow blonde asked.
"I don't see why not. Five pounds as well. Although…."
"What is it, Ino-chan?" Hinata posed the question from where she stood with the smaller weights balanced on each arm, her jacket discarded over the back of a chair.
"It's just, I'm used to leading, kind of, and now it seems like I'm the last on the team to take action." She raised her hand, showing the jagged white scar on the back of her hand. "I kinda feel like a lemming."
"Ouch!" Naruto exclaimed in mock agony. "So I'm a cliff now?"
"Well, technically, you'd be the steep drop off of the cliff, Naruto-kun." Hinata interjected with a giggle that threatened to dislodge her weights.
"You're not helping, Hina-chan," Naruto growled. "Anyway Ino-chan, we all have our specialties, and that's where we lead. Hina's a scout, I'm a brute, and you… you're intelligence."
"I used to be a shinobi myself, though I'm retired now," Sonomi slipped fluidly into the conversation. "and Naruto's right. You'll all have your chance to shine, or be shined on. Now then, Miss Ino, was it? Let's see to your weights."
It was 11 o'clock by the time Team Ten took their leave and made their way to their training ground, with a brief stop to deposit Naruto's new clothes. "We have an hour to kill before Kurenai-sensei gets here." Naruto yawned. "Any ideas?"
"We could go for a jog," Ino suggested. Naruto perked up as she waved them over and drew a rough diamond shape in the dirt. "Now if memory serves, we are at training ground ten, here." She pointed to the top of the dust diamond. "Training grounds seven, eight, and nine should also be in this block, going counter clockwise from here." She paused to point to the left hand corner. "And most rookie teams practice on a training ground that's the same as their team number."
"How do you know all this?" Naruto gestured to the diamond.
"There're maps of the various training grounds all over the village. Don't tell me you've never looked at them?"
"Actually, I haven't. I just went to where I knew a training ground was, and if it was occupied, I wandered around until I found one that wasn't."
"That tears it," Ino stood up hastily. "We're going to have to make sure you know where to find allies if you need them. We'll start with training ground seven." Leaving no further room for argument, the taller blonde picked a direction and started to jog with her teammates catching up in an easy burst of speed.
They made good time and soon stood at training ground seven where they immediately noticed something wrong. "Where's their sensei?" Naruto murmured aloud.
"Dunno, but they should," Ino replied before raising her voice to a shout, "Hey forehead! Aren't you a little young to be wandering around by yourself?"
"Shut it, Ino pig!" Sakura fired back. "Our sensei told us to be here at seven."
"Do you seriously mean your teacher is four hours late?" Hinata stared in disbelief. She'd been raised with the mindset that time is a valuable commodity, and like any such commodity, wasting it was frowned on heavily.
"Yeah, but what can you do?" Kiba tossed back from his spot under the tree. "What about you guys?"
"Kurenai-sensei is meeting us at our training ground at noon," Naruto replied. "We're doing laps around the training grounds to kill time until we go for a mission."
"Hey forehead, you wanna join us? It's a good way to get in shape," Ino prompted.
"And get all sweaty?" The green-eyed girl wrinkled her nose in disgust. "No, thanks."
"Are you sure, Sakura-san? You never know when a little extra muscle will make all the difference," Hinata asked.
"Pfft!" Sakura waved the trio of genin off. "If I get into any trouble, Sasuke-kun will save me."
Ino's eyes narrowed into slits as she clenched her fists angrily. "Let's go," she growled coldly, glaring at her friend. "A real kunoichi doesn't wait to be saved." With that last, scathing remark, Team Ten turned and resumed their jog, leaving a puzzled cherry blossom in their wake.
"So, next up is team eight." Naruto called to the seething kunoichi. "What do we know about them?"
"Shikamaru and Choji are a couple of unrepentant slackers, but when the shit hits the fan, they're the ones you want at your back." Ino's displeasure shone clearly in her voice, and Naruto suspected it would for some time. "I don't know anything about Shino. He was always quiet in class, and now that I think on it, I can't actually remember him answering any questions."
"Shino's clan is a bit unusual," Hinata explained.
"Says the girl with the x-ray eyes to the mindwalker and the stamina freak." Naruto quips.
"True enough," the Hyuuga heiress mused. "The Aburame clan has a symbiotic relationship with the kikai insects that dwell in their bodies."
"I think I remember reading a bit about them last night," the blue-eyed shinobi mused. "If I remember correctly, their insects feed on chakra."
"Right," Hinata confirmed. "As such, those insects are an Aburame's primary means of attack."
Naruto slowed as the trio approached team eight's training ground, arriving in time to see the three fresh genin rush an older bearded man, presumably their jonin sensei, each holding a pair of kunai as the younger men tried to get inside their sensei's guard. Naruto and the girls watched breathlessly as Choji and Shino forced the man's arms wide while Shikamaru charged in and pressed the point of a kunai into either side of Asuma's Adam's apple.
"This is so troublesome," the pineapple-haired youth complained. "Do you yield?"
"I do," the jonin said, relaxing his stance. "Congratulations, boys. You're true genin ninja's now."
"You rock!" Ino cheered, giving a little jump that made her bounce pleasantly. Naruto smiled as Choji and Shikamaru jerked towards her voice. Shino raised an eyebrow as Asuma chuckled.
"We'll have to work on situational awareness, I see," the bearded jonin smirked. "Anything I can do for you kids?"
"Not really. We're just making the rounds and getting reacquainted with our future coworkers." Ino said, making hasty introductions. "So was that your exam?"
Asuma nodded. "Normally, a jonin will give the exam the same day the team meets for the first time, but I had to think up a good test for them. Normally I fight with a pair of trench knives, so the boys had to force me to submit with just a pair of kunai."
"Hey, Ino, did you read my note?" Shikamaru drawled lazily.
"Oh gosh, with everything that happened I completely forgot about it," the blonde said apologetically.
"It's too troublesome to worry about." The brunette replied. "I just said to be careful out there, and not to give Naruto too much of a hard time."
"I'm still waiting to see him in action, but he's got potential," Ino shrugged. "At least he looks like a shinobi, now."
"He does at that," Shika agreed. "You guys should get going, though. We might see ya around for missions."
"We might, at that," Ino giggled, bowing respectfully before jogging away.
"Next stop, training ground nine." Naruto said. "This is the team Iruka said was in circulation from last year."
"Neji-niisan." Hinata murmured worriedly.
"You know something, Hinata?" Ino looked over at her teammate.
"I think team nine is my cousin Neji's team," Hinata explained. "He… doesn't like me much."
"That's too bad," Naruto said cracking his knuckles. "I didn't want to have to smack down a fellow Konoha shinobi before lunch, but those are the breaks."
"Naruto-kun!" Hinata seemed aghast at the concept of her long time crush fighting her cousin. "You don't understand -"
"No, Hina-chan, you don't understand. You're mine, the both of you." Ino's head whipped around in surprise at that declaration. "And just as much, I am yours. I don't care if he's your cousin, or your father, or the fourth Hokage fresh out his grave. Nobody makes my girls sad," Naruto said with a firm nod of his head. "Not even me, okay? If I do something boneheaded, don't be afraid to tell me."
"Please, Naruto-kun, if he says anything let it slide," Hinata begged. "Just for today."
Naruto turned to answer when he backed into a brunette kunoichi, taking the pair down in a messy tangle of limbs and cloth. "I'm sorry about that," the blonde hastily untangled himself and helped the other girl back to her feet. "I wasn't paying attention. Are you all right?"
"Why don't you watch where you're going, you jerk?" The bun haired girl said snidely.
"Excuse me?" Naruto said, starting to burn his admittedly short fuse.
"I remember you from class." The girl smirked. "Always goofing around and pulling stupid tricks. It's a wonder you actually managed to graduate."
"So you remember me, huh?" Naruto huffed, looking casually down at the ground. "I wish I could say I have the same honor, but I don't like to lie to a lady." Naruto raised his head, his trademark vulpine grin spreading across his face.
"You cocky little bastard!" The kunoichi took a wide swing which Naruto casually blocked before stepping inside her guard and getting in her face.
"Listen sister, I don't know what crawled up your cute little ass this morning, but I didn't do anything wrong!"
"My name is Tenten, not 'sister,' and you ran me over!" The brunette kunoichi yelled back.
"You're in the middle of a dirt path!" Naruto countered, jabbing her sharply in the chest "I helped you up! I apologized for knocking you down! I asked if you were okay!" Each accusation was punctuated by another heavy poke to Tenten's chest, the last of which sent her staggering backwards. "I don't know why you're such a bitch, but you owe me an apology for your behavior."
"Don't hold your breath, Uzumaki!" Tenten snapped back. "It'll be a cold day in hell before I ever apologize to you."
"Shall we take our leave, ladies?" Naruto glared darkly at the bun-haired girl as her teammates came jogging toward the group. "I really can't see any reason to stick around here."
"Wait, youthful stranger!" Naruto took an instinctive step back as a green…something bounded into his field of view. "What is your problem with our dear Tenten?"
"Well, mister…" The blonde trailed off hoping for something to identify the crazy green genin in front of him.
"Ah! You wish to know my name? Is it not good manners to first offer your own?"
"Never had much need for manners myself," Naruto shrugged. "The name's Uzumaki Naruto."
"I am Konoha's beautiful green beast, Rock Lee!" The boy exclaimed, causing the others to recoil away from the sheer volume. "Now my youthful friend, I ask you again, what is the nature of your fight with our kunoichi teammate?"
"Your girl has an attitude problem," Naruto said coolly, "and a distinct lack of appreciation for common courtesy. My apology, Tenten?"
"Don't hold your breath, Uzumaki." the older kunoichi smirked with sickening sweetness. "Or better yet, do."
"You're just a regular barrel of sunshine, aren't you?" Naruto growled, spinning on his heel and beckoning to the girls. Tenten threw a last angry glare before stalking back to the training grounds, her teammates following quickly behind.
Ino gave the retreating trio a brutal glare. Hinata, on the other hand seemed transfixed by the other girl's swaying ass. "I would hit that like the fist of an angry kami," She murmured softly.
Ino and Naruto stopped and stared as Hinata's ever-present blush reached nuclear status and she hurried away, back to their own training ground. After they arrived, the trio was silent for a long while before Naruto spoke. "So, Hina-chan, care to explain?"
"It's nothing really. All my life, my clansmen have drummed into me that I'm expected to produce an heir, and I clearly like boys, if my attraction to Naruto-kun is anything to go by. Still, I can't help but wonder about… you know."
"Sounds like you're bi-curious," Ino clarified. "Interesting."
"I don't know about all that, but I know what I like," Hinata replied, gazing back in the direction of her cousin's training ground. "And I think I like that very much."
"Indeed…" Naruto murmured in agreement, picturing Tenten's swaying backside in his mind. "I'm not too crazy about her attitude, though."
"Glad to see you've been getting to know the other teams." Kurenai said as she appeared in a swirl of leaves. "Naruto, nice clothes. You look like a shinobi should. Ready for your first D-rank mission?"
The young shinobi nodded and set off for the Hokage Tower.
AN: Okay I suck at creating OC's so I tend to borrow them from other places. Dr. Uzuki is taken from Xenosaga, and Sonomi and Tomoyo are from Card Captor Sakura. I don't own them either.
Still taking summon suggestions.