Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Claimer: I do own Kyomi and the story plot.


Even After All These Years

Chapter 16
The Team


Naruto stared intensely at the board before him. His eyes scanned over it, searching for something. A frown marred his face until-- There!

Quite suddenly Naruto lifted up his hand and set down a black stone on the board with a loud clink. He grinned triumphantly and looked up at this opponent.

Naruto was currently upstairs in Kenmaru's training room, playing Go with the elder man as they'd taken to doing often. Despite this seemingly brilliant move, however, the blonde found that Kenmaru was grinning wickedly at him.

Scowling, Naruto dropped his gaze back to the board. His eyes scanned over the patterns of stone there. Was there something that he'd missed? But he'd planned ahead for what Kenmaru would do and he was sure that that last move had narrowed down most of Kenmaru's stones' options. He was closing in on him now. So no, Kenmaru must just be trying to make him doubt himself into making a mistake. The retired shinobi seemed to love to play head games, after all.

The game continued on for several minute when Naruto suddenly let out a gasp, his eyes glued to the board. Kenmaru had surrounded nearly half his stones in just a few moves!

"What the hell?!"

Kenmaru began cackling loudly. "Still not good enough yet, Hige-kun! You're not looking far enough ahead!"

Naruto scowled at his teacher. He wanted to protest that he had been looking really far ahead, but he knew from past experience that it'd only fall on deaf ears.

"Well, at least you two seem to be getting along better," an amused voice said from off to the side.

Squawking in surprise, Naruto instantly leapt up from his seat. Kenmaru however didn't even bat an eyelash. Instead he turned to look at the other side of the room, where Kyomi was leaning up against the doorframe that led to the stairs. A wide smirk rested on her face, further showing her amusement.

"What brings you here, Hatake-san?" the older man asked. Both he and Kyomi ignored how Naruto was still spluttering in the background.

Kyomi's smirk widened into a grin. "I'm afraid I need to steal Hige-kun away from you for a bit," she replied,

Kenmaru waved a dismissive hand at Naruto. "Well, go on then," he told the blonde.

"But what about our game?"

"Oh, we're done with this one," Kenmaru said with a shark-like grin. "Trust me."

Battling the childish urge to stick his tongue out at Kenmaru, Naruto strode over to Kyomi. The ANBU gestured for him to continue down the stairs.

"Wait outside," the kunoichi instructed. Her eyes were glued to Kenmaru. "I'll be down in just a minute."

Naruto frowned curiously, but did as he was told. Meanwhile, Kyomi noiselessly walked over to Kenmaru. As she approached her eyes fell on the board in front of him.

"Go?" Kyomi questioned with a tinge of awe in her voice. "Why didn't I think of that?! It's perfect for teaching Naruto-kun strategy!"

Kenmaru let off another one of his mad cackles. "Indeed it is! The boy needs a healthy dose of it if he wants to survive in the shinobi world. Though...I'll admit that he already had quite a bit of creativity. That will serve him well..."

Kenmaru stared contemplatively down at the go board before him for a minute, his fingertips ghosting over the stones. When he looked back up at the silent Kyomi his face had grown very serious.

"What is it that you need to speak to me about?" the retired shinobi asked. His tone was heavy and exhausted. "You wouldn't interrupt one of Naruto's training sessions for no reason, after all."

Kyomi chuckled softly. "Indeed, Kenmaru-san," she said warmly. "I'm afraid that Naruto-kun won't be able to come here for training until after the Chuunin exams. On the Hokage's orders I'll be helping his team with intensive training for the next two weeks. They won't even be allowed to go on missions."

Kenmaru nodded. "Alright," he said with a vicious grin. "I'll just be sure to push him three times as hard when I seen him again." He clapped Kyomi on the shoulder. "Anyway, good luck. This Chuunin Exam shall be ominous. I only hope that we'll all make it out alright."

A shiver ran down Kyomi's spine at Kenmaru's words. Somehow it seemed to be more of a premonition than an old man's warning.


After leaving Kenmaru's shop Kyomi found Naruto waiting in the street. As she began to walk away Naruto easily fell in step with her.

For several minutes Naruto waited for Kyomi to speak but she never did. She looked rather...distracted, as if there was something important on her mind. Finally however, Naruto decided to break the oppressive silence.

"So...what's so important that you needed to pull me from Kenmaru's? We don't have training for another hour yet."

Kyomi blinked in surprise, as if she'd forgotten that the blonde had been there. Quickly her solemn disposition disappeared, replaced by a smirk.

"Well, Hige-kun, there've been some change of plans," she told him. "For the next two weeks until the Chuunin Exams you're going to be pulled off the mission list and your training with Kenmaru-san will be put on hold."

A confused expression flashed over Naruto's face. "So...I'm just going to be training with you during that time?


"Then what?"

"You'll be doing intensive 24-hour training with your team. And I'll be Kakashi-kun's co-instructor!"

Naruto stared at Kyomi with a look of pure horror. "You and Kakashi?!" he gasped. "Dear Kami you're trying to kill us aren't you?!"

Kyomi began snickering while Naruto moaned on in the background.

After that little scene Kyomi led the blonde to Team 7's training ground. Naruto trailed sulkily along behind her, but came nonetheless. When they finally came into view they found Kakashi, Sasuke, and Sakura were already there, waiting for them. Kyomi couldn't hold back a small grin at the sight; it brought back memories of when Naruto had first dragged her here several months ago.

Sasuke and Sakura were both surprised to see Kyomi with Naruto. Regardless, the pink haired kunoichi executed a small, polite bow as soon as she had gathered himself.

"Good afternoon, Hatake-san," she greeted while glancing between Kyomi and Naruto. "What brings you here?"

"And for that matter," Sasuke added with a growl and a glare in Kakashi's direction, "Why are we here? We already met as a team earlier."

Kakashi smiled mysteriously from beneath his mask. "We're going to be doing some special training for the Chuunin Exam," he said. The Genin waited for him to explain further, but he only continued to smile. Finally, Kyomi rolled her eyes and stepped up next to Kakashi.

"What this idiot is trying to say," she said while jerking her thumb at her older brother, "Is that you're going to be doing some intensive team training for the next two weeks. This means no missions, no extended breaks, and no to even leaving the training grounds. I've been assigned to help Kakashi-kun during this time, so for the next two weeks we'll be co-instructors."

Sakura's brow furrowed in confusion. "But what about my training sessions with Tsunade-sama?"

"They've been put on hold. The same is with Hige-kun and Sasuke-kun's special training. We'll be working solely on teamwork."

"Alright, but what about our clothing, equipment, and weapons? Can we go pick up some stuff from home?"

"No," Kyomi answered the kunoichi shortly. "There'll be times on missions when you'll just have to make due with what you have. And besides, by now you should know enough to always have some extra equipment with you."

Both Kyomi and Kakashi could tell by the struck expressions on the Genin's faces--even Naruto's--that none of them were prepared. Kyomi simply smirked; this would also be a bit of a lesson in that area as well then.

"I still don't see why we need to do this," Sasuke growled after a moment. "We're already powerful enough."

Kyomi rolled her eyes and then cross her arms before her, more than content to let Kakashi answer this one. After seeing that she was indeed going to keep quiet, Kakashi began scratching the back of his head awkwardly.

"Well," the eldest Hatake began, "While it's true that all of you are strong, none of you have worked together at all--be it training or missions-in quite a while. You need to work on your teamwork because it's essential for many different missions. Not to mention that since you haven't worked together much you probably have next to no idea as to each other's skills.

Simultaneously the Genin blinked in surprise. Not only had the explanation actually made sense--a rarity when it came to Kakashi--but it had also been just about the most that they'd ever heard him speak at one time.

"Right!" Kakashi then said while smiling brightly. "Let's get moving then. We'll be using a different training ground for this; one with more...suitable...terrain."

The training ground, as it turned out, was a Jounin-only one that not even Naruto had ever been to. The high fence that marked its boundaries held in thick leafy trees and rocky ground. It almost reminded the Genin of the Forest of Death, though on a much smaller and less dangerous level.

Kakashi stopped them in front of the chain link fence. Kyomi was no where to be seen, having split of from the group not long after they'd left Training Ground #7.

Sakura took a moment to stare curiously at the fence. "Why is it enclosed?" she asked. "None of the other training ground I've been to have been."

Kakashi gave her another one of his smiles while pulling out his Icha Icha Paradise book. "That's just it," he said as he turned a page. "None of the ones you've been to have had fences because they're open to everyone--civilians and shinobi alike. Other training grounds, however, are fenced in because they're reserved for Chuunin or for Jounin. It's illegal to enter one if you're not of proper rank."

"Then why are we here?" Sasuke asked while raising an eyebrow. "We're Genin after all."

"That's because you're with us," a voice said from seemingly nowhere. "Jounin are allowed to reserve the training grounds for their students."

The Genin looked off to the side and saw Kyomi striding towards them. In one hand she was carrying a rather large scroll. The silver haired kunoichi stopped next to Kakashi and then tossed the scroll to the Genin.

"That," Kyomi continued as Naruto caught the scroll, "Is all of the supplies that you'll be allowed to have during the next few weeks. If you run out...Well, that's your problem. You'll have the rest of this evening to explore some of the training ground, find a place to set up camp, and divide the supplies among you. We'll be starting the training bright and early tomorrow morning."

"What about food?" Sakura inquired. "There can't be enough food for all of us for two weeks in a sealing scroll."

"There's no food in here," Kyomi replied shortly. "There's wildlife in the training ground though; you'll have to catch and cook your own food." The Genin all gaped but Kyomi only smirked widely in response.

Kakashi was watching the rather one-sided conversation with amusement when the little orange book in his hands suddenly disappeared. The Jounin immediately began to look around in a panic, only to freeze when he saw that it was in Kyomi's hands. The kunoichi grinned dangerously while slipping the book into one of her pockets. Kakashi began to whisper prayers that the book would survive. Maybe she'd be in a good mood and wouldn't burn it...

Still sweating a bit, Kakashi turned to the fence behind him and unlocked the gate. The two Hatakes ushered the children in before closing the gate behind them. It clicked shut ominously.


Naruto let out a sigh as he stared the scroll before him. Next to him Sasuke and Sakura were staring as well. They were all eager to see what it contained, but at the same time were hesitant. Thus the staring.

Team 7 had spent the past few hours exploring the training ground. Though by no means massive, it was fairly large and was filled with thick forests. There were, however, several large clearings, a river, and a couple of small caves as well.

The Genin were currently sitting inside of one of these caves. It was a great place to stay as it provided both adequate protection and a safe place to build a fire.

Abruptly Sasuke reached out and picked up the scroll. "No use waiting," he grunted. Despite his words he hesitated for just another moment before finally opening the scroll.

The dark haired boy bit his thumb and squeezed the blood onto the opened scroll to activate it. Instantly there was a poof of smoke as the contents appeared. It took a moment fro the smoke to disappear, but when it had the three Genin found themselves staring at a pile of shuriken, kunai, bandages, medical kits, and a few other miscellaneous items. They continued to stare for another minute before Sakura finally took charge.

"Right, let's split them up then," the kunoichi said. "Everyone pull their equipment out as well and then we can equally divide everything up. Keep in mind when we're training that this is all we have; don't loose any shuriken or anything."

Naruto stared at Sakura in surprise. Since when had she become so...mature? Usually she just left everything up to Sasuke. It seemed that being Tsunade's apprentice was doing her good in more ways than one.

Upon seeing Naruto's--and Sasuke's--stare, Sakura flushed slightly. She didn't back down however and instead transformed her expression into a glare.

"Well?" she barked.

Quickly Naruto began to pull out all of his weapons, including Metaru no Ryuujin; he knew first hand just how hard she could hit, especially when she got angry. Sasuke and Sakura followed his actions. Once they were all done and had gotten and equal number of weapons, all three of the Genin were surprised to find the number of blades that they now had.

"Why...don't we hide a few of these away?" Naruto suddenly asked. Sasuke and Sakura turned to stare at him, incomprehension written over their faces. "So that if anything does happen, we'll have a stash!" the blonde defended.

Sasuke and Sakura shared an odd look, but in the end agreed with Naruto's logic.


The next morning dawned bright and early for the shinobi of Team 7. Or at least it did for the two Hatakes, who were up and watching the Genin from the treetops as the children slept on, blissfully unaware.

"Shall we wake them up then?" Kyomi asked with a mischievous grin. Kakashi replied with a smirk of his own.

"We did warn them that they'd have to get up early," he said.

Grin widening, Kyomi leapt from where she'd been standing on a wide tree limb to land silently in a crouch on the ground. She quickly went through a series of hand seals before whispering, "Magen: Narakumi no Jutsu (Demonic Illusion: Hell Viewing Technique)."

For a few seconds after Kyomi finished nothing happened. Then, quite suddenly, three very loud screams ripped through the air, originating from within the cave. Moments later Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura shot out from the cave entrance, screaming at the top of their lungs as if the Shinigami himself was on their heels.

As soon as the three saw the ANBU they skidded to an abrupt halt. Cautiously they looked behind them and, when finding nothing there, back to Kyomi. Her lips were twitching, they noticed, as if trying to hold back laughter.

As he knew Kyomi the best, Naruto was the first to figure out what'd happened. "Kyomi-sensei! That wasn't funny!" He cried indignantly. There was a slightly whiny note in his voice.

Kyomi coughed lightly in a further attempt to hide her amusement. "Of course not," She said completely straight-faced. "It wasn't funny at all. Ah, well, now that you're all up, let's get started with your first day of death-- Er, I mean training. Yes, training." Kyomi smiled innocently as if it had actually been a mistake.

Naruto groaned quietly. "We're so doomed," he whimpered.

Kyomi had to cover her mouth in order smother the laughter that was threatening to spill out.


A/N: All author notes will be at the end of the chapters now. Why? Because it makes it easier for me to comment on the chapter. And, of course, because I feel like it.

Thanks to all those who reviewed! It was actually the same amount as last time--despite the fact that the last chapter had even more hits--but I've given up on you people. It's your choice whether or not you want to review, so whatever. On a lighter note, it's Itachi's birthday today! I made a point to upload this chapter today just because of that. Granted, Itachi isn't actually in this chapter, but it should only be a couple more before he's back and his and Kyomi's relationship begin to develop. Please review! Ja ne!