Chapter 11: On The Job Training

After the battle against Zabuza, Tazuna and Team Seven (with Naruto's clones carrying the still unconscious Kakashi) had wasted no time proceeding to the shipbuilder's house. Here, they were introduced to Tazuna's daughter Tsunami as well as his grandchild and Tsunami's son Inari.

The dark haired daughter of the old shipbuilder was kind enough and had helped the genins move their jounin sensei up to a room and a bed to rest.

Tsunami's son Inari was another matter altogether. Inari was sullen, withdrawn and looked angry at the Konoha nin's intrusion. He had outright glared at them when he was introduced before storming off and locking himself inside his room, prompting Tsunami to apologize for her son which the Konoha genins accept. But his foul behavior as well as the village's sorry state still weighed heavily on their minds even after hours of quiet contemplation while they waited for Kakashi to wake up.

"Man. I know that the old geezer told us that Wave Country is in bad shape. But I never expected things to be THIS bad." Naruto said as he looks out from the window. The village was desolate and bleak and the townspeople themselves looked as badly off as the village itself. The very atmosphere seemed permeated with hopelessness and despair.

"Can't say I blame 'em for feeling that way." Sasuke stated from his spot at the couch as he sharpened one of his kunais. "You'd feel that way too if some greedy, fat prick took everything you owned too."

"Actually, he hasn't taken everything just yet otherwise he'd just leave and relocate somewhere else." Sakura commented as she took inventory of her first aid kit. "He's getting damned close though. Even basic medical services are nonexistent."

"We do what we can to help each other out here in the village." Tsunami said as she sets down a tray of tea for the genins. "But there's only so much we can accomplish with what little resources Gato left us with."

Naruto looks at Tsunami and asks the question that's been nagging at him for a while now. "So why didn't you guys fight back if Gato's such a scumbag?"

"Because there's no way you can beat Gato you idiots!!" Inari shouts from the stairway.

"Inari!" Tsunami admonishes.

"It's true!" Inari insisted. "If you try to fight Gato, you will just die!! Just go home and leave us alone!!" Inari then runs back up the stairs into his room and slams the door.

Tsunami looked downcast. "I apologize for my son's behavior but he has a point. We tried resisting and it cost us dearly. It was actually my husband who led the effort but he was killed as an example by Gato."

Naruto response was a low growl and clenched his fist hard enough to draw blood. Sasuke's expression visibly darkens and one could only imagine the thoughts running through his head. Sakura looked horrified at the story yet the outrage is evident in her pretty face.

"Dammit. Then what are we sitting around here for? We should be taking down that bastard right now." Naruto stated.

"Stand down Naruto. That's not really our job right now." A voice cuts into the conversation. All eyes looks towards the source of the voice and Kakashi can be seen gingerly hobbling down the stairs. The one-eyed jounin still looked relatively weakened but the fact that he could get up and move on his own was a good sign.

"Kakashi Sensei! You should be in bed and resting up right now." Sakura exclaimed, getting up from her seat.

"I'll be fine Sakura." Kakashi said, waving her off then looks at Tsunami. "I don't believe I've formally introduced myself ma'am. My name is Hatake Kakashi and I'm the team leader. Thank you very much for taking care of me while I was incapacitated but I feel kinda' embarrased for it because we were supposed to be protecting Tazuna."

"Nice to meet you. My name is Tsunami, Tazuna's daughter." Tsunami said with a bow. "I'm happy to have been of some help. After all, if it weren't for you and your team, my father wouldn't even be alive here today."

"We didn't really do much except chase Zabuza away. It'll take some time for him to recover but he'll be back to finish the job." Kakashi stated, earning him confused looks from his students.

"What do you mean he'll be back Kakashi Sensei? Didn't we see him get killed by the hunter nin?" Sasuke asks.

"You're right. We DID see him get 'killed' by the hunter nin. But then again, the hunter nin also took his body away, right?" Kakashi said.

"Yeah. He said something about disposing it. Why?" Naruto asks.

"You guys still don't get it, do you? Well then, here's a pop quiz. What's a hunter nin's primary objective?" Kakashi said.

It was Sakura who answered immediately. "A hunter nin is responsible for hunting down and killing traitors of their own village. After which, they are to dispose of the corpse on the spot to prevent any village secrets from falling into enemy hands."

Upon hearing this, Naruto looks up with his eyes widening in realization. "Dispose of the body on the spot? But the hunter nin took Zabuza's body away didn't he? So that must mean that...."

"Zabuza is still alive." Sasuke finishes with a growl. "We've been had guys. And that hunter nin who supposedly killed him...."

"....Is most likely his cohort." Kakashi confirmed grimly. "All that time we were fighting, he must've watching the fight to make sure that if anything went wrong, he'd be there to bail his partner out."

"The hunter nin used needles too." Sakura said thoughtfully. "The only way you can kill someone with one of those is if you hit a vital area like the eye. It would be easy for someone skilled in accupuncture to put someone in a death-like state by hitting the correct point."

"That's right Sakura." Kakashi said, impressed by his female student's knowledge. "But on the bright side, Zabuza needs to recover from his injuries so we've got time to prepare for him and his partner. So tomorow, I'm gonna start a new training regiment for the three of you which would hopefully give you the edge that you need when we meet them again in battle." Kakashi said then adds with one of his eye smiles. "So you guys better rest up tonight coz tomorow, I won't be easy on you."

(In Gato's hideout)

Zabuza's eyes opens and he finds himself looking up the ceiling of his quarters within Gato's hideout.

"How are you feeling Zabuza Sama?"

Zabuza turns his head towards the source of the voice and finds his partner for the past five years Haku sitting on a chair by his bedside sans the hunter-nin mask and revealing feminine features.

"How do you think I feel after getting thrown around like a freakin' ragdoll?" Zabuza answered gruffly as he stared at the ceiling again before asking. "So how bad is it?"

"You've got a few fractured ribs, a nearly punctured lung and a mild concussion." Haku answered. "Luckily you weren't as seriously hurt as I first thought so I had little difficulty healing your injuries. But you'll need to stay in bed for a few days to rest. You'll fully recover in about a week and a half provided you don't push yourself too hard."

"Tsk.... I guess I have no choice." Zabuza mutters. "Kakashi DID manage to do a number on me."

"That he did Zabuza. Frankly I'm disappointed at you." A sneering voice stated.

Zabuza didn't need need to look to know whom the voice belonged to. Gato always had that unpleasant and foul quality about him which gave him away every time.

"A temporary setback and lack of preparation on my part. It will not happen again." Zabuza stated.

"I should hope so. I'd hate to think that I'm wasting my money on a has-been." Gato said, walking towards the missing nin with his cane thumping softly on the wooden floor. "But seeing how badly you were beaten, maybe I should've hired that Konoha nin instead." He adds, prodding Zabuza's prone form with his cane.

A hand with a vice-like grip suddenly grabs his wrist and squeezes until one could hear it snap, causing the corrupt little businessman to squal out in pain. Gato looks up and sees that the hand belonged to Haku who was regarding him coldly.

"I will NOT allow you to treat Zabuza Sama this way while he is injured." Haku said, continuing to excert pressure on Gato's broken wrist.

"Let him go Haku. We still work for him after all." Zabuza said. Haku nods and lets go of Gato's wrist who scuttles back glaring at the two. Zabuza then looks at Gato and said. "But the next time you try that crap on me again Gato, employer or not, you're losing that walking stick along with the arm that's holding it."

Zabuza then looks up at the ceiling. "A week and a half is plenty of time for me to recover. We'll finish the job you gave us Gato and I'll pay back Kakashi and his brats for doing this to me."

(Outside Tazuna's place: The next day)

Kakashi looks at each of his team in front of him. After Tsunami's explanation and the revelation that Zabuza was still alive, their demeanor seemed a lot more serious then usual.

That in itself was a good sign. They probably realize how serious their predicament is right now and it would make them more receptive to his training.

"Alright guys. For the past six months, all we did were D rank missions and training exercises in between which included physical training to build up your strength, stamina and reserves as well as tree climbing to improve your chakra control and mock mission exercises for teamwork. But judging by your expressions, you realize how dangerous our situation is." Kakashi said before his expression hardens. "But to be honest, six months of training as a team means absolutely squat out here in the field where the stakes are life and death and you three are nowhere ready to face opposition like Zabuza and his partner. The mere fact that you survived your encounter with them with me being out of action for the majority of the fight is nothing short of a miracle."

The three genins look down in shame. They knew Kakashi was right. Had Zabuza been serious with them from the get go, they wouldn't be here.

"But of course, you guys DID save me from him so I owe you my thanks. And the way you guys successfully engaged him in combat tells me that I made the right choice when I picked you three as my team." Kakashi said with an eye smile. "So now, we'll be doing a new regiment to prepare for them next time they attack."

Kakashi takes out three blank cards from his vest and distributes it. "First things first though. I want you guys to channel chakra into those cards."

"What are these?" Sasuke asks, examining the blank card.

"Those are chakra cards." Kakashi answers. "Special cards which help determine what elemental affinity a shinobi has."

"Elemental affinity?" Naruto asks with interest.

"Yup. As you guys may or may not know, there are five basic elements in the shinobi world which are Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Lightning and every shinobi has a particular element which he is compatible with. For example...." Kakashi takes out another chakra and channels his chakra into it. The paper crumples. "....I have an affinity with lightning which basically means I'll have an easier time with raiton jutsus then anyone else. If your card crumples, then it means you've got the lightning affinity as well."

"Fire makes the card catch fire."

"Water makes the card wet."

"Wind splits the card right down the middle."

"And last but not the least is Earth which turns the paper to dust."

"I think I'm starting to get it Kakashi sensei. But is it possible for a shinobi to get two or more compatible elements?" Sakura asks.

"Ahh.... Good question Sakura." Kakashi said with an eye smile. "Many jounin class or higher shinobis actually have two or more compatible elements but the secondary element usually manifest themselves later in their lives and career. And those who have multiple elemental affinities can usually combine the two to create a new elemental affinity. For example, combine Wind and Water and you get Ice. Combine Water and Earth and you get Wood. Combine Fire and Earth and you get Metal. Bloodline abilities are usually just two or more elements combined together."

"Hey, that's awesome! Maybe I have two elemental affinities too!" Naruto said enthusiastically.

"Dobe." Sasuke snorts derisively. "Didn't you hear Kakashi Sensei? The second element is usually manifested later in your life when and if you become a jonin."

"Well there's always the first time, right?" Naruto shot back, unwilling to let Sasuke have the last word.

"Alright you two, break it up. Let's just get this thing over with." Kakashi said then looks at Sakura. "Ladies first Sakura."

The pink haired kunoichi nods and channels chakra into her card and watches it crumble to dust.

"You've got the Earth affinity Sakura." Kakashi said with an eye smile. "Not very many of those in Konoha too. But I've got a few Doton tricks I can teach you."

The one eyed jounin then looks at Sasuke who takes this as his cue and channels chakra into his card. The card promptly crumples then after a few moments, catches fire much to everyone's surprise.

Kakashi whistles appreciatively at the display. "Now this is extremely rare. Two elemental affinities from the get go. But thinking about it, I shouldn't be too surprised. Apart from your own elemental affnity, the Uchiha clan also specialized in fire jutsus. I guess your clan has been doing it for so long that it's been hardwired into your genes. Lightning and fire are also my specialty so there's quite a bit I can teach you."

Sasuke gives the fuming Naruto a smirk before turning away. For his part, the blonde jinchuuriki glares at his own chakra card as if willing it to do the same and channels his chakra into it.

In front of everyone's amazed eyes, Naruto's card splits into two then also catches fire.

"Yatta!! I did it!!" Naruto yelled jumping up and down then give Sasuke a triumphant grin. "Take that teme!!"

"Impressive Naruto." Kakashi said walking up to the blonde with a serious expression. "It seems like you've also got 2 elemental affinities. But the reason could probably be because of your 'tenant'." This comment causes Sakura to gasp involuntarily and Sasuke to narrow his eyes whom Kakashi was aware knew of the Kyubi.

Naruto looks at his own hands and wonders morosely if what Kakashi Sensei said was true. The jounin's next comment cheers him up however. "But of course, that's only speculation for my part. It could also be all you. Now I'm not very familiar with Fuuton jutsus but I CAN direct you to someone who IS when we get back to Konoha and I can help you with Katon jutsus."

"In any case, we've got a lot of ground to cover." Kakashi said, clapping his hands once. "I don't forsee Zabuza attacking us for the next few days or so. We've got time to prepare for whatever he may have in store for us." Kakashi's expression turns serious. "And I can assure you that the next time we face each other, everything will be on the line and one side won't walk away standing."

Author's Notes: Ahhh…. I know it's a little short and the ending kinda suck but I can assure you guys that business will pick up next chapter. But till then, R&R pls.