The Littlest Tree Snake

Chapter 4

A/N: I have to apologise for delays on this story. Lot's of S**t happening in my world and not all of it good. I'll survive, and when I get some money together I'll be able to repair my home based computer with all my work on it. As it is I'm currently using my laptop and trying to recreate work from memory, it's not going so well.

/ Next morning \

As the sun skimmed above the horizon the next day a small bundle of bedclothes in the middle of a wide mattress began to wriggle furiously. Moments later a head of blonde hair squeezed out of it followed by a hand which rose to rub at a pair of bleary blue eyes. A massive jaw cracking yawn later and the struggle for release from the evil bed linen began anew as he rolled across the expanse of white sheet. With a startled yelp the young boy found out that he'd run out of mattress and plunged to the floor with a muffled thump.

"Ooof!"

It had one bonus, and that was the corner of the sheet that'd been tucked under his body was finally released and had given up its octopus like grip on him allowing him to sit up. Muffling a second yawn Naruto looked around the strange room he found himself in trying to figure out where he was and why. Finding the bags that contained the purchases Anko had made for him the previous day had him brightening up considerably as the events of that day washed over him. He'd been afraid that it was all a dream and he'd wake up in his cold corner of the boiler room in the orphanage wondering how the evil caretaker was going to 'wake' him today.

Slowly pushing himself to his feet he stretched his black pyjama clad arms over his head while arching his back with a little grunt of exertion. The rapidly brightening light in the room finally impinged on his consciousness enough for him to understand what it meant. It was 'tomorrow', meaning that Anko would begin his training. It was another of those longed for things, some children would wish for frivolous things like toys or sweets but Naruto was different. He'd seen the way he was treated and compared it with the way other people were treated. He'd seen the way children were treated but decided that he didn't want that for himself. While he hated the way he was treated he couldn't see himself being happy with having his freedom to move around as he liked taken away from him. A surprisingly adult way of looking at things, but then most children who feared for their lives on a regular basis tended to grow up real quick, or not grow up at all.

Wanting to be treated like an adult was also a little out of his reach, literally as he was too short and well, they were mostly boring. Human watching was one of his vices, it was informative and didn't cost anything other than the occasional beating if he allowed himself to be caught. So if not a child, and not an adult, that left only one classification as far as he was concerned. Ninja.

He noted the way people treated ninja, it was really hard to miss since he lived in a Hidden village. The people, no matter their station would often defer to the ninja around them. Not kow-tow, but rather respect their abilities and willingness to sacrifice themselves for the continued safety of the village. Not that Naruto put it in such terms, he only knew that the ninja tended to be respected and had come to a childish conclusion. That being, that if he were a ninja he'd be respected just like they were. Decision made he'd gone about searching for someone to train him and had hit a stonewall of rejection. So the thought that the strange woman who'd rescued him yesterday was offering to train him was like Christmas and his birthday rolled into one. Not that he knew what all the fuss was about, Christmas was something that happened to other children, and as for his birthday, well the whole village celebrated that. He knew that that particular day was a good day to make himself scarce as a lot of them wanted to hurt him and only the fact that the Hokage had set guards to watch over him had kept him from becoming an unfortunate statistic on occasion.

All of these nebulous thoughts flashed through the childs mind in mere seconds before being replaced by thoughts that be summed up in one word…'Training', and as is often the case with children as young as Naruto thought and action go hand in hand. Heading for the door he was unsurprised to find it partially open, enough that he could squeeze through the space without moving it.

Walking out into another room he looked around with wide eyes, this was so much nicer than anything he'd ever seen before. Not that it was furnished ostentatiously, it was rather spartan in most peoples terms, it was more that Naruto wasn't used to anything other than the orphanage since he'd never been allowed into a 'normal' house before. He'd been to visit the Hokage in his tower but he'd only ever been in the office so he'd never seen a normal living room before. He took in the nice carpet and stuffed chairs shortly after checking all visible doors and windows, he didn't like being in an unknown confined space. In his limited experience it tended to hurt if he allowed himself to be herded into such places. In this case knowledge was survival and Naruto was very good at it, after all, he'd survived five years now. Tip-toeing further into the room and skirting one of the armchairs he came into view of the sofa and spotted something that improved his mood immensely.

/ Anko \

She had no idea what time it was, other than the fact it was morning, it was too bright for any other explanation. Why she was awake at this Kami forsaken time was beyond her, other than a vague feeling that something in her environment had changed in the last minute or so. It was only a minute twinge at this point, enough to make her start to pay attention to things going on around her.

A sudden spike of chakra and sense of motion had her moving instinctively before her higher brain functions started screaming out 'Abort, abort'. Halfway to an upright defensive position her intent changed from killing to amused as she recognized the incoming blur that would have slammed knee first into her prone forms stomach. Snagging a passing limb Anko redirected the force of his motion and swung the small body upwards so that Naruto was dangling upside down and eye to eye with the kunoichi. They were going to have a talk about this, but for the moment she would deal with the giggling bundle of energy that her charge had turned into this morning

"Anko-chaan," he squealed protesting as he dangled from her fist.

"Hey brat," Anko yawned and released the light grip she had on a kunai as she reached up to flick the little boys nose. Naruto rubbed at the offended site before letting loose another string of giggles. Damn, he had to be a morning person, it was the only explanation. She personally had nothing against them as long as they were being inflicted on someone else. Well there was nothing for it, she'd just have to deal with it since she'd asked for this.

"So what do ya want to do today?" she asked. She was prepared to do almost anything for their first couple of days together, they'd have to get to know each other since neither of them had much inclination to trust someone blindly. She'd done that once and the pain of the memories prohibited her from ever wanting something like that to happen to her again. Anko had a feeling the boy wasn't much better than her, maybe the fact that he'd never had anyone to trust in the first place would lessen any sense of betrayal, that didn't mean that he didn't know about it though. With her limited knowledge of children she was expecting demands to visit the local park and then…well she wasn't sure what because she hadn't had a chance to read the scrolls the Hokage had given her.

"Train me!" Naruto yelled before he settled into giving her a wide toothy grin.

"You want me to train you?" she asked with a blank expression on her face. Truthfully she had every intention of doing just that, she'd gone to a lot of effort to get the gear to begin his training but she'd expected to do things subtly to begin with. Give him the gravity pendant as a gift and then play with him, run him around a little, get him to play on the jungle gym or something. The increased weight given him via the gravity seal would have begun to condition his body for the real training while she began coaxing him to train for real. Yet here he was, first day together and he was demanding to be trained. "You sure about that gaki?"

"Yep!" he affirmed turning his grin up another notch.

Anko slumped back into the couch she'd been asleep on just a short while ago with an audible thunk.

"Well bugger me," that throws a wrench in the works don't it? Let's see, active training for someone as young as Naruto, "Lemme think for a minute kiddo," she said as she launched the boy across the room in a gentle arc. Watching how he acted while in flight was a revelation, she'd half expected him to flail around in fear, but for some reason he stayed absolutely still as the spin she'd put on him righted him to land butt first in the seat she'd aimed him at. He looked up at her with his eyes alight and looked like he was planning to come back to have another go if she could read his expression correctly. Well chalk another one up for the brat, it implied that while they had little history that the kid trusted her on some level not to hurt him. He'd learn better later, but for now the trust was something that was necessary, though she didn't know how far she could push that trust. The knowledge she held was that no matter how much he trusted her at this moment she'd have to build up that feeling since if she ever betrayed it she'd never get another chance. Trust is such a fragile thing as she very well knew.

"Ah-aaah! Anko needs to think so you just sit there for a while and then we'll go get some breakfast.

Anko watched as he slumped back into the chair with a pout on his face that caused his 'whiskers' to twitch like an annoyed kitten. It was almost unbearably cute and anyone else might have given in, but her need to think things through was over-bearing. Running through the training she'd been put through she instantly discarded more than ninety percent of it as too dangerous for a human let alone a child of five. Besides teaching him techniques or weapons would be a total waste of time since he had none of the foundation of a ninja. His chakra hadn't been 'awakened' yet, his strength was an unknown. In fact the only thing he had going for him so far was that he was pretty fast, he'd almost been a yellow blur as he'd headed for her a short time ago. It wasn't all that fast in terms of most ninja but still pretty good for a kid. The academy was out as far as she was concerned, he was still too young to enter, children typically needed to be seven or eight before they were allowed to enter and Naruto was a mere five, and only just that. It really didn't leave any choice, she'd need to take a break from missions for a while.

Having come to a decision she rummaged around in her pocket for a second and retrieved the amulet she'd appropriated the day before and looked at it. It didn't look all that special up close like this, more like a bronze ball about an inch across. Closer inspection showed that seals covered the surface, not that she could read them. They were much too advanced, though she did understand one of them. It was in a small blank space, just one kanji, the number one sitting all alone. She'd read bits of the pamphlet she'd retrieved with the amulet the day before so knew that it was a reflection of the fact that the seal was inactive, or rather neutral. When either she, or Naruto put it on the number would change to one point two, or a twenty percent increase in gravity affecting the body of the wearer. Shortly after the amulet would assess the results of altering gravity and would change the number to reflect the persons bodies ability to deal with said changes. Well she'd give him the amulet and that would take care of his physical conditioning. He'd get stronger and faster at the same time, well he would be once the amulet was deactivated. It wouldn't do much for agility but she'd get to that with other training. Then there was bringing his chakra to the surface so that he could use it and learn to control it, an essential necessity in a ninja's training, something certain people seemed to have forgotten.

Regardless of her negative thoughts about the academy she'd have to admit that the last few classes had turned out some pretty good ninja, and with a few years of seasoning they'd be excellent additions to the villages battle line. Not that Konoha get into too many battles these days, Sarutobi, the current Hokage was more wont to create treaties that benefitted both parties than rely on all out war to get what he wanted. Other villages might call it cowardice, but she had to admire the old mans cunning. While Iwa and Kumo fought to get what they want, and often won their conflicts they lost man-power every time they battled someone. Konoha on the other hand had nearly doubled it's complement of ninja over the last five years and could very well double it again in the next five. It was a comforting thought in this uncertain world. Shaking her head slightly Anko came back to the matter at hand.

Alright, physical conditioning, chakra control and… Well sparring was definitely out, unless she could…hmm, that bore definite possibilities. For the moment though it would have to be kata, at least until he had the first three of them down to an instinctual level, then they'd see.

Looking up she found that Naruto was a finely wound bundle of energy that was almost vibrating as he sat there waiting for her to do her 'thinking' and he looked very much like he might explode at any moment. She couldn't help grinning at him in response.

"What say we get some breakfast? Anything in particular you'd like?" She was very surprised when the boy went very still and wide eyed as he regarded her.

Now Naruto was the one that was shocked, it was a simple concept for most children to grasp, 'Anything in particular you'd like?', in his limited experience he'd feel privileged to get anything for breakfast. The thought that he'd get a choice in what he got was nearly mind blowing, besides he didn't have any real idea what choices there were, the only thing he'd ever gotten for breakfast before would be a thin gruel that he was told was porridge. It'd looked more like dirty water in his opinion, and tasted nearly as bad.

"Well never mind that for the moment, let's just get you something to eat. We can find out what you like latter," Anko stood up and headed for the kitchen satisfied that the child was following her.

Naruto slid out of the chair with a grunt of exertion before following Anko, he was too busy thinking about how lucky he was. The thought of training to be a ninja dancing in his head, and he got breakfast too? Naruto was a little suspicious by nature and was beginning to look for the hidden cost of all this. Somehow he got the feeling that there'd be a price to pay for all of this, he just didn't know how right he was…

/ Hokage's Tower \

The Hokage was currently sitting at his desk enjoying his favourite pastime, spying on his village, or rather two particular members of his village. Certainly he'd given Anko permission to take the boy in but that didn't mean he trusted her ability to look after the child fully. So he'd decided to act as her safety net while she became accustomed to her new life.

He definitely hoped that the serious discussion the woman seemed to be having with the child while he devoured three bowls of cereal was about his actions of the morning. Children who lived in clan households were raised differently from other village children. They knew that certain actions were not allowed, other children would wake their mummy or daddy by leaping onto them while they were sleeping. Ninja children learned early that it wasn't such a good idea as mummy or daddy could very well hurt them before they were fully awake, especially if they were in a place that they thought they could relax, they felt they could let their guard down. Very few children in such family's had ever been hurt, in Konoha. Other villages acted differently but Konoha believed that children shouldn't be raised with the constant fear of injury. Not that children were never injured, just that it wasn't a way of life and wasn't considered something to be blasé over.

Looking back at the crystal sphere in time to see Anko Mitarashi place a small necklace over the boys shoulders reminded him that he still had to have that talk with the seal master.

/ To be continued \

Authors notes:- Hi everybody. Long time no see. Just a little interim chapter to let you know that the story is still alive, and I am working on it, just slower than I'd like to.