I had intended for this to be up on new years, but my internet went out and I haven't had time until today since then to upload it. So finally here is the newest chapter and I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
The sun beat down on the Genin squad hard at work moving debris.
Shikamaru, Kiba and Naruto all grunted as they moved large slabs of broken concrete at one of the breach points on the wall surrounding Konoha.
Normally, Shikamaru would be thinking how troublesome it would be to do this with the two loudest Genin of the rookie nine. However, both Kiba and Naruto had been working tirelessly on another cleaning project near the Hokage monument and had been called over to the wall when they were done. Needless to say, the two of them were too tired to talk.
So for once, Shikamaru somewhat enjoyed the mission at hand, until Kiba finally decided to speak up at that very moment.
"Naruto… why can't you use your shadow clones to help out?" Kiba asked as he wiped his sweaty forehead. Both he and Naruto had not worn their jackets due to the heat.
Naruto didn't answer right away as he moved a large slab out of the way.
"…Too tired… I did that yesterday and wore myself out half way through a clean up, nearly dropped a pile of bricks on a civilian." Naruto sighed as he remembered the sling of verbal insults thrown his way by a few other civilians that had seen what had happened.
Kiba muttered a few well placed curses about the invasion causing the current situation.
Shikamaru groaned. 'Man… just when I thought I'd get through the day without them talking…' He was surprised again though when Naruto didn't continue talking and just kept on working. 'Is he really that tired out?'
Shikamaru stopped for a moment and watched as Naruto slowly trudged back and forth, moving all of the destroyed materials from the wall out of the way when he noticed Asuma walking towards them.
Getting up Shikamaru approached his Jonin sensei. "I thought you were out on a mission?" Shikamaru inquired.
Asuma smiled at him. "Hello to you as well Shikamaru." Asuma took a drag of his cigarette. "In a sense I am on a mission… I need you and Naruto to come with me."
Hearing his name Naruto dropped what he was carrying and quickly joined the two.
"Why do you need us?" Naruto asked, adjusting his head band.
"Just here to escort the two of you to the Hokage's office, other than that I have no idea" Asuma lied through his teeth. Of course he knew what was going on, but he wasn't going to let them know. Seeing the look on Shikamaru's face told Asuma that he already assumed what it was.
Naruto was confused though. He was sure it wasn't mission related, and he hadn't done any pranks. Of course there was the fact that both he and Shikamaru were asked to report to the Hokage, not just him. Naruto scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Well I guess let's go then.
"OYE! What about me!?" Kiba called out at them. "I can't do all this on my own!"
Naruto could only blink as the news rolled around in his mind.
He was a Chunin and had just been handed his Chunin flak vest.
Looking down he turned it over and saw the spiral on the back of it.
"Is it required to wear this?" Naruto asked the Hokage who stood beside Asuma. Normally Kakashi would be here for this, but he was out of the village on a mission, therefore Asuma was standing in for Kakashi, not to mention his own student had also been promoted.
The Sandaime was surprised at Naruto's question. "It is customary for a new Chunin to wear, however it is not required of you."
Naruto nodded. He didn't think it was really his style, although the spiral did make him think of a new addition to his current jacket.
"I guess I'll wear it for now" Naruto finally said. Once he got to his current home he would store the vest in a scroll for safe keeping.
Slowly he pulled it on over his black shirt and looked down at how it fit him.
"It suits you well kid" Asuma smiled at him. Naruto grinned back at him before looking over at the other new Chunin.
Shikamaru didn't look too thrilled at the promotion.
"Let me guess… You don't want the responsibility…" Naruto dead panned.
"Ugh… It's so troublesome Naruto… Being required to lead missions… Too much responsibility I say." Shikamaru groaned.
Asuma merely shook his head in embarrassment. Any other Genin would be ecstatic to become a Chunin. Speaking of being ecstatic, Asuma noticed that Naruto Uzumaki wasn't jumping up and down at the prospect of a promotion.
Sure he looked happy, but normally he'd have been much more exuberant about moving closer to the position of Hokage.
The Hokage was thinking along the same lines but there was no time to dwell on the subject as there were things that needed to be done.
"Now that the two of you have officially been promoted, it's time for you to step into your roles as Chunin fully" the Hokage said as he approached the two.
Shikamaru suppressed a groan, knowing that it wasn't going to be something easy.
Naruto on the other hand had perked up a bit, guessing what it could possibly be. Perhaps an important mission!
"I will be assigning the two of you two different missions that require our attention. Both of you will lead a squad while being observed by a Jonin superior. The squad will not be one of your own however. We have already selected who shall be in your squads and they will be informed later today and given the details as well."
Naruto grinned. Finally, here was a chance to prove that he was no longer just a Genin. He would show them that his promotion was the right decision and that he would be a Jonin sooner than later.
The Hokage pulled from his robes two scrolls and handed one to Naruto then the other to Shikamaru.
"Shikamaru, you are to deliver this message to the Waterfall village and from there obtain the target and take it to the location detailed in the scroll."
Shikamaru said nothing but glanced at Asuma, as if to say he blamed him for this new found responsibility.
"Naruto, your mission is to provide bodyguard detail to the heiress of the Sohma Corporation and escort her home from Tanzaku town. The full details for both of your missions are written in the scrolls as well as who will be on your teams. You will have full authority over those on your team, this is your first step away from being Genin."
Naruto nodded, his grin growing wider. It had been quite some time since he had left the village and even though he loved his hometown, he felt the itch for adventure.
Without saying a word, Shikamaru turned and left the room as he opened his scroll.
Asuma bowed to the Hokage somewhat stiffly before following his student.
As Naruto turned to leave the Hokage spoke after him.
"Naruto… Do you mind if we speak for a moment?"
"Uh… sure" Naruto said uncertainly. He had not talked to the Hokage one on one for some time now.
The Hokage sat at his desk and gestured for Naruto to sit as well. Complying, Naruto sat in the chair opposite the old man.
"Your first Chunin exam and you've already been promoted. Your parents would be extremely proud of you" the aged Kage said with a soft smile.
Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "I hope they would be if they could see me, especially since I used my father's technique!"
The Sandaime nodded. "That was extremely surprising Naruto, I did not think you would be able to pull off such a high ranking Ninjutsu so early in your career. Then again, you do have some amazing teachers."
"Don't forget that they're perverts as well!" Naruto added laughing. Hiruzen chuckled at the boy.
"Now then Naruto, for the reason I asked you to stay behind. As I suggested when I first told you about your heritage, the Chunin exams have come and gone and it may do the village some good to know that the reason we are here today is that Minato's son stopped the sand's Jinchuriki and also saved the life of the Hokage."
Naruto had completely forgotten that the Sandaime had wanted to release the information to the village after the Chunin exams.
"So… You want to tell everyone who my dad is?" he asked.
The Hokage nodded to the boy. "It was a request you gave me and as I had promised I would consider it once the exams were over. So here we are Naruto, do you still want me to reveal this information to the village?"
Naruto was silent for a moment and remembered the looks he'd still receive. The back handed comments that no one thought he'd hear. Granted it wasn't as bad as it had been, especially since the fight against Gaara had aired.
"Sure… When do we do it?" Naruto asked.
The Sandaime nodded. "After you return from your mission, and then we shall announce it to the village that you are a Namikaze."
The news of Naruto and Shikamaru's promotions spread throughout the village fairly fast. Of course the citizens of Konohagakure were impressed by Naruto's fights, however many of them felt that he should not have been promoted due to the demon he had sealed within him.
Other reactions weren't as bigoted as the civilians though.
Asuma had informed the remainder of his team who had not been there about the promotions.
"Well he did kick Gaara's ass after all" Ino remarked some what miffed that she wasn't the first to know. "If they hadn't promoted him after that then it wouldn't be right."
Choji declared that they should all go get barbeque in celebration of Shikamaru and Naruto's promotions and they should drag Naruto with them. Of course Asuma had to break the news to Choji that his favorite place to eat had actually been damaged during the invasion by a giant magenta toad leaving the plump boy to sulk about the news, forgetting completely about the promotions.
From there Ino had made her way to the Haruno residence to tell Naruto's teammate about the promotions. Sakura's reaction wasn't what Ino had imagined however. Instead of asking about Sasuke or any reaction that would be construed as surprised, Sakura had just shrugged
"Well we all saw his fight; there'd be no reason to keep him as a Genin at this point. It was obvious to anyone watching that Naruto was going to be promoted."
"I didn't think it was obvious" Ino said to the pink haired girl.
"Maybe I just had faith in Naruto is all."
Kiba found out from his sister who had heard from her mother who had heard from one of the dogs who had heard Shikamaru complaining being promoted at some ramen stand with a plump boy.
Kiba of course had ranted and raved that he could have become a Chunin if he had been given the chance to show his moves to the stadium and that Shikamaru hadn't even done anything to be promoted.
From there Kiba had gone to find his team mates to complain when his sister kicked him out of the house for irritating her for going on about the subject for too long.
Hinata expressed her happiness that two of the rookie nine had been able to promote already, although she was thinking of how she wanted to prove to Naruto next time that she could become a Chunin as well. Perhaps even after they could spar and see how far she had progressed.
Shino had simply told Kiba that if he wanted to become a Chunin that perhaps he should go to Naruto for advice. Hinata was surprised by Shino's attempt at annoying Kiba, however even she had to admit that Kiba was making a bigger deal out of it than was necessary.
That had Kiba in an uproar by the time Kurenai had shown up to meet with her team.
Sasuke hadn't been told yet as he was out on a clean up mission out of the village where the frog that Naruto had summoned and a snake summon had wound up fighting.
Gai-sensei had proudly informed his team when he found out from the Hokage about Naruto's promotion, forgetting completely who Shikamaru was at the time.
Lee had declared that in honor of Naruto's promotion he would defeat Neji right then and there. The Hyuga had called him an idiot and walked away from the green clad Genin, not saying a word beyond that.
Tenten was happy for Naruto, but her concern was with Neji who had been in a foul mood ever since he had lost to Sasuke.
Naruto walked through the forest, far beyond the training grounds until he came upon the spot where he trained with Jiraiya. Near a few trees was a crudely constructed tent made from concrete and other bits of rubble from the village.
Naruto sat beside the small construct and took off his newly acquired Chunin vest before setting it beside him.
"Well… at least I have one more piece of clothing…" Naruto muttered to himself. Most stores in the village were closed for a while due to the clean up effort which was bad for Naruto who had one shirt and one pair of pants. He had plenty of leather jackets though courtesy of Jiraiya.
He looked up at the sky which was quickly darkening as the sun set.
"So my first mission as a Chunin, hope I do alright." Naruto said to himself. He glanced around and got back up off the ground, picking up his vest and tossing it into the hut.
'Gotta wash my clothes in the river then go to the bathhouse to clean myself' Naruto thought to himself as he found himself really wishing he had a shower of his own. Since the missions they had been going on were to repair the village, the pay for everyone was significantly lower to cut costs so Naruto was back to eating only ramen for now.
Then of course the bathhouse wasn't the cheapest thing around, but he needed to be presentable for the next day. Especially since Kurenai was the Jonin that would be supervising him and probably wasn't ok with Naruto being a complete mess. Also there was the matter of his pride which would not allow for others to know of his current situation.
With that decided he left his camp and went to the bathhouse which had been unharmed during the invasion. Once he had paid the entry fee he went to the men's side and undressed while wrapping a towel around his waist.
Opening the sliding door he was greeted to the sight of an empty hot spring. This was something Naruto had been looking forward to all day, a relaxing soak.
Slowly, he dipped himself into the high temperature water, sighing as a wave of relief hit him.
"That's nice" Naruto moaned as he found a comfy spot to sit in the spring and stare up at the sky just as the first few stars were becoming visible.
Naruto sat there contently, watching as star after star popped into existence as the sky became darker and darker.
This was something he didn't get to enjoy too often when he did have his own apartment because he didn't feel it necessary, but now that he was here he was sure that this would become routine for him.
The noise of the door to the spring sliding open drew Naruto from his hazy relaxed state.
"Hey Naruto" Choji greeted. Naruto waved lazily from the spring. Behind the plump boy was Shikamaru who looked rather happy to be there.
"That's weird" Naruto stated, a grin on his face.
Choji gave him a questioning look.
"I'm not used to seeing Shikamaru looking happy about something" Naruto answered.
Shikamaru very quickly slid into the water and sighed. "I enjoy the hot springs Naruto… It's almost as fun as watching the clouds."
Choji got in after his friend, causing Naruto to almost comment on how the water level seemed to rise, but remembered that Choji was rather sensitive about his weight.
"So who's going to be on your squad tomorrow?" Naruto asked his fellow Chunin.
"Shino and that Tenten girl were assigned to be on the mission. Also my Jonin baby sitter is going to be Maito Gai."
Naruto tried to suppress his laughter but couldn't hold it back.
"You have Gai-sensei!? You and Shino are in for a treat!" Naruto said.
"What's so funny about it?" Choji asked. Shikamaru also looked somewhat confused.
"You haven't dealt with Gai-sensei, but it's funny because Shikamaru is the laziest guy I know and just as quiet as Shino at times. Gai-sensei is all about the power of youth and always working hard, not to mention he's just as loud as me!"
Shikamaru smacked his forehead. "I can't believe they'd pair me up with someone like that…"
Naruto shrugged still chuckling. "Well I've got Kurenai, that lady in charge of Kiba and his team as my Jonin superior."
"I'd rather have her, she seems to be a quiet person from what I've seen of her" Shikamaru said enviously.
"Yeah, and I'm sure Asuma-sensei wouldn't be dating her if she wasn't a great shinobi" Choji said as he moved to eat a chip only to realize that food was not allowed in the area.
"Wait, your sensei has the hots for Kurenai?" Naruto laughed lightly.
Shikamaru groaned. "It's so troublesome because whenever she's around he totally forgets about us and just chats her up most of the time, which is just annoying when he's supposed to be helping us catch that damn cat…"
"Ino thinks it's adorable of course and is always giving Asuma-sensei dating advice" Choji said with a chuckle. "It is her specialty after all!"
Naruto laughed at this. "Of course she'd think it is, even though I'm sure she's never been on a date before."
"What about the date between the two of you?" Choji asked at which Shikamaru suppressed a snicker.
Naruto got flustered at this point. "God first Jiraiya-sensei then Teuchi and now you guys! It wasn't a date!" At this point he had stood up and was shouting.
Choji was laughing at the boy and Shikamaru had even begun chuckling. "Ino had the exact same reaction."
Naruto huffed at the two of them and sat back down in the water.
Shikamaru decided to spare the boy and changed the subject.
"So who's your squad comprised of?"
"Hm? Just Ino, myself and Rock Lee" Naruto mumbled. "Just a bodyguard mission for some rich lady."
Shikamaru nodded. "Sounds like an interesting team."
Naruto shrugged. "It'll be easy to deal with Rock Lee, we haven't done missions but we've trained together a lot so I know his abilities pretty well."
Shikamaru nodded, "What about that Tenten girl? Is she only a weapons specialist?"
Naruto nodded. "She's got above average Taijutsu though since she's been training with Lee and Neji, but she's deadliest with her tools. Never seen her use other jutsu though."
Shikamaru nodded as he began to think of different strategies he could incorporate her style into. "So I've got a bit of an unbalanced team, but that shouldn't be a huge problem for me."
Naruto laughed. "Tell me about it, Lee and I are short range fighters and then there's Ino who has nothing great when it comes to long range fighting."
"True, but between your shadow clones and Ino's ability to take over others, if you need to do any reconnaissance work it'll be perfect."
"It'll be difficult with combat though" Naruto mumbled.
"If it comes to fighting, it's possible you might not need to" Choji stated.
"That would be a dream mission for me" Shikamaru said as he closed his eyes and visualized it.
"Sounds boring" Naruto murmured.
The three of them sat in the hot spring chatting here and there, not about much just the state of the village and Shikamaru's and Naruto's promotions.
Finally Naruto was the first to call it a night and left Choji and Shikamaru to their own devices.
The two friends were quiet as the Uzumaki boy left and waited until they were sure he was gone before talking again.
"I thought you wanted to ask him Choji" Shikamaru wondered.
Choji scratched at his cheek. "It just didn't feel right to ask him that kind of question, I mean if he is like Gaara wouldn't he want to keep that a secret?"
Shikamaru nodded. "Probably… I mean look at how he's been treated by a lot of the adults around the village. It's too much hatred to be for some stupid pranks he's pulled. It's got to be that he's a Jinchuriki."
Choji stared at the reflection of the moon in the water. "That's why I think we shouldn't let him know that we suspect anything… I mean he has it hard enough without thinking we're judging him for it."
"Well, eventually we can try talking to him about it, but for now we keep it between us."
"…I wonder how Sasuke's going to react to you and Naruto being promoted."
"I don't care because I won't be here for the meltdown."
As Naruto lay down under his make shift hut, he felt a pull in the back of his mind.
Shutting his eyes he suddenly was back before the cage that held the Kyubi.
"What was that?" Naruto asked as he stared past the bars into the darkness.
Nothing happened at first, but slowly a ruby eye opened and stared back at him.
"Naruto Uzumaki… Or should I start saying Namikaze?"
"I don't care, but while we're on the subject of names, I assume yours is Kurama?"
The nine tails stared back at the young boy with his one open eye for a moment before slamming against the bars, causing the Uzumaki boy to bolt backwards in fear.
"What makes you think that's my name boy!?"
Naruto grinned as he felt his courage quickly return to him.
"Because that's what Shukaku was saying. He was yelling about someone called Kurama, I can only assume that was you. After all, it's not like the Ichibi made friends with someone in Konohagakure recently."
The Kyubi stared at Naruto, analyzing him before taking a step back from the cage.
"Why would you care if that is my name?"
Naruto was confused by the question and struggled to find an answer as the Kyubi's stare bore into his eyes.
"I uh… I guess it's just common courtesy to call someone by name?" Naruto said slowly.
The Kyubi tilted his head, slightly reminding Naruto of when a dog would be confused about a situation.
Naruto nodded. "I mean… it's kinda rude to not know your name, I mean you did help me out with the Ichibi…"
There was silence for a moment when suddenly the Kyubi roared at Naruto, the water around them being pushed back by the force of it.
Naruto felt his entire body rattle from the roar as it began to die down.
Then suddenly, Naruto was back in the real world.
"Wow… What's up his ass?" Naruto wondered.
With the sun just beginning to peak over the horizon signaling a new day, Naruto waited at the gates for his team. He was dressed in the same outfit he had worn during the Chunin exams, as it was the only outfit that he had left.
He had expected to wait for a while before anyone showed up, but was surprised to see that Kurenai arrived just a minute after he had.
"You are early Uzumaki" Kurenai observed some what coldly.
Naruto groaned. He had a headache and was not feeling like putting up with another person that hated him for Kurama, or Kyubi or whatever he was calling him now.
Looking around very quickly, he made sure that no one that wouldn't know about the fox was around before speaking.
"No disrespect Kurenai…sensei…If you're just going to treat me like most civilians do then fine, I'll go meet with Sarutobi-jiji and ask for someone else to accompany me that isn't going to be bigoted and short sighted."
Naruto's fist tightened, half expecting Kurenai to attack him for being so forward and even though he had said no disrespect, he had been pretty damn disrespectful to her.
The red eyed woman blinked at the blonde boy in surprise.
"Um… sorry. It wasn't my intention to come across that way… I'm just not a morning person."
Naruto nearly fell over. He didn't think someone would be cold towards him for anything other than the Kyubi, but now he understood perfectly. It was 6:30 in the morning after all.
"I am so sorry Kurenai-sensei I didn't realize that would be why you seemed so unhappy with being here, it's just I'm so used to it being because of my Jinchuriki status that I didn't think" Naruto babbled as he bowed profusely to the woman. He continued to apologize over and over again when a finger on his lips made him stop.
Kurenai gave him a soft smile. "I understand, and frankly I'm glad that you're starting to stand up for yourself… However… Never talk to a Jonin like that unless you're prepared to have to fight them."
Naruto nodded fervently. "Good" Kurenai said as she went and leaned up against the wall of a building and rubbed her eyes.
"Now as I was going to say, you are very early Uzumaki, which is a great thing as I was worried that you may have picked up someone's habits."
Naruto nodded completely understanding. "Sasuke and I made a pact to never be like Kakashi-sensei…"
"A good pact to make… Now then, I wanted to go over some things about the mission with you before the others got here so this works out very well. First off, you are in charge of the mission nearly in full… However if I feel you have made a dangerous call I will step in and take charge for the remainder of the mission. Now both you and I will make separate mission reports when this is all over and give them to the Hokage at the same time for him to review. My report will merely go over your performance as a leader in the field while yours will be a standard mission report. I assume you know how to do this?"
Naruto did not answer right away as he felt his mind halt.
'This was something they taught in the academy… Shit.'
Kurenai sighed when Naruto didn't say a word after twenty seconds of silence.
"When we make camp tonight I will go over it with you…"
"Sorry" Naruto apologized.
"Now remember that you will be my leader as well during this mission just as much as you are Ino Yamanaka's and Rock Lee's leader. I will follow your orders and battle plans without fail." Naruto nodded, knowing that he would need to find out what Kurenai's strengths and weaknesses were sooner rather than later.
"That's why they have me with people I haven't been on missions with before…" Naruto mumbled to himself.
"Exactly" Kurenai answered Naruto.
Naruto felt a bit of irritation for the unwarranted answer to his musing.
"Now then, the mission is to retrieve the target, and get her home unharmed. From there we shall protect her during the event the Sohma Corporation has scheduled."
Naruto understood. Last night he had gone over the mission scroll at least a dozen times. The woman they were to protect was an heiress by the name of Tohru Honda while her father Shigure Sohma held some type of festivity. It seemed that Tohru was adopted into the Sohma household at a young age when her parents passed away and was chosen to be Shigure's successor. This was to be a celebration where she would be given control of the Sohma Corporation, a publishing company that was worth millions. So obviously she could be a target for many. There had been no threats of any kind and no inclination to believe that there was a plot against her which is why this was only a 'C' ranked mission.
"I read the mission report so I know what we will be doing."
Kurenai smiled. "Good, you'd be surprised at how many new Chunin simply skim the mission reports at first."
Naruto shook his head. "Details are important in missions, even if they can change at the drop of a pin."
"Very wise… I understand that you had a 'C' ranked mission that turned out to be an 'A' ranked mission?"
"That would be our team, also we had another 'C' ranked mission that got upgraded to a 'B' ranked."
Kurenai snapped her fingers. "That was Team seven, I knew it. Guess Asuma lost that wager."
Naruto gave her an odd look. "…Uh huh… Anyways… Anything else I should know?"
"If you encounter any insubordination, it is up to you to resolve it unless it threatens our lives in any way. I will not interfere if someone is not following your orders unless it puts our objective in danger or any of us, do you understand?"
Naruto nodded. 'I guess when someone gets promoted over others, issues can come up…' Naruto thought to himself.
At that exact moment a green blur shot down the street and skidded to a halt.
"Naruto-kun!" Lee's voice echoed through the street.
Naruto winced as the boy was only five feet from him.
"It is an honor to be on your first mission as a Chunin Naruto-kun!"
"It's good to see you too Lee" Naruto smiled.
Lee saluted him and then turned his attention to Kurenai.
"I apologize but we have not been introduced, I am Rock Lee!" He extended his hand to shake hers. She raised an eyebrow but shook his hand anyways. 'Such an odd boy, just like Gai…'
"I guess you didn't notice me at the exams. I'm the Jonin captain of…" she couldn't finish though as Lee interrupted her.
"I apologize Kurenai-sensei for not recognizing you from the exams! For this transgression I shall run to the Hokage monument and back two hundred times and if I cannot do that then I shall…"
"Aaaaaand we've lost him…" Naruto said to the Jonin as Lee listed what he would do if he failed his own challenges.
Kurenai wasn't sure about this team. Sure she had seen Rock Lee fight, but this was just odd. She was so used to Shino and Hinata's quiet demeanors. Sure she had Kiba, but he wasn't as exuberant as Rock Lee was.
'Gai did a number on this kid…'
Naruto was able to quickly quiet Lee down and soon they were waiting for the final member of their team…
And waiting… and waiting…
"Are the Yamanaka's related to Kakashi at all?" Naruto asked.
Ino scrambled through her bag once again for the twelfth time that morning, and the fiftieth time since the night prior.
"I've never been on a mission away from the village for more than a few days…" Ino complained to herself. "There's no way I can fit enough outfits in here for a week let alone two…" Of course the scroll had warned that it may be just a week, but that didn't stop Ino from thinking about two weeks of clothes.
She grumbled to herself as she wished she had learned some basic fuinjutsu for packing.
Suddenly there was a knock on her bedroom door.
"Not now mom, I'm packing."
Suddenly the door was kicked in and slammed against the wall.
"What the hell?!" Ino yelled when she suddenly shrank back. Standing in the door was her father looking out of his mind.
"So I just ran into your team… Do you know how long they have been waiting for you Ino?" Inoichi nearly growled out.
Before Ino could answer Inoichi answered.
"Five hours Ino… I find it surprising that you came to me before the exams, wanting to become a better shinobi, then this happens."
He tossed a scroll to her. "I have packed essential items for a C ranked mission in there. You have five minutes to finish packing and leave for your mission."
Ino opened her mouth to say something but Inoichi had already closed the door.
'Shit…' Ino thought to herself.
She hadn't realized how late it was having been so busy packing.
Ino quickly threw the scroll she had been given into her bag and threw a few clothes in haphazardly before shutting the bag.
Quickly she left and headed for the gate where she was supposed to meet her team earlier. This was the first time she had been this late. Sure with her team there had been a few instances where she had shown up an hour or two late due to her making sure she looked good, but never this late. Even then, Asuma hadn't really said much about it and neither had her team mates.
With each step she took, she wished that she could just not go on the mission and have someone else go in her stead, but it was too late for that. They'd have to find someone that would be willing and able to go on a mission, and the chances of that were slim this late in the day.
Her heart began to beat quickly and her palms felt numb with fear. Her team must have been livid with her. She didn't do well when someone was angry with her. Then she remembered that there would be a Jonin on the team as well, Kurenai. From what she remembered, Kurenai seemed like a strict teacher.
Gulping, Ino quickened her pace until she was sprinting down the road to get to the gate as fast as possible.
She arrived at the gate to find only one person there.
"Hello Ino-san!" Rock Lee greeted her happily. Ino was panting at this point as she had not been used to running that fast at that distance. Tree hopping took less out of her than sprinting.
"Where are the others?" Ino gasped as she breathed raggedly.
"Naruto-kun and Kurenai-sensei are past the village walls in a training area out there sparring at the moment. I was asked to wait here for your arrival."
"I can't believe how late I am" Ino panted.
"Now that you are here, let us go meet up with them and begin our mission!"
Lee turned and jogged out the gates, Ino following behind, thankful that they were not sprinting.
It only took a few minutes before they reached where Naruto and Kurenai stood.
"Well that gives me a few good ideas" Naruto said as he wiped his forehead before tying his head band on.
He glanced over and saw that Ino was here but didn't greet her despite Ino giving him a small wave.
"Well let's get going then" Naruto said as he turned around and began walking. Kurenai looked at the blonde girl and nodded a small smile on her face. Ino could tell that it was somewhat forced however. As a Yamanaka, she was trained to read someone's body language as well as their mind.
Clearly, Kurenai was not that impressed with the girl.
'Great… I really messed this up.'
For a majority of the day, the group stayed very silent, switching from the road to the trees as they traveled towards their first destination. As per Naruto's orders, he was at the head of the group with Rock Lee behind him and trailing behind were Ino and Kurenai.
Ino felt it was some what pompous of Naruto to assume he should be in the lead, even if he was the squad leader. Kurenai was obviously a better choice in her eyes.
She didn't voice her opinions though as she knew she lost the right to question any of Naruto's actions when she showed up nearly six hours late.
What really irked her most of all though, was the fact that Naruto had said that they would not be stopping until well into the night. Kurenai had not argued this at all and Rock Lee only seemed excited.
Ino was beginning to feel fatigue wash over her when Kurenai called her name out.
"What's going on Kurenai-sensei?" she asked as they continued forward.
"Take this; it'll help you push on" Kurenai tossed a soldier pill to her which Ino caught and glanced at.
"Um… are you sure? I mean, is it safe?" she asked.
"Asuma hasn't had you take a soldier pill before?"
Ino shook her head. "What do they do?"
"Take it and you'll find out" the Jonin simply said.
Ino hesitated a bit longer but eventually threw the round pill and chewed. The pill tasted terrible but as soon as she swallowed the round object energy flooded through her body.
"You didn't need to chew it" Kurenai said.
Ino swallowed, "Sorry, I didn't know…"
"You're fine, it's just the taste is atrocious is all."
They continued forward without another word.
As the sun began to set Ino saw Naruto stop ahead and signaled for them to do the same.
"What's wrong Naruto-kun?" Lee asked quietly.
"Two chakra signatures ahead… I'd have to say they've stopped to camp."
"Are they Shinobi?" Kurenai asked.
Naruto closed his eyes for a few seconds before shaking his head. "I can't tell honestly… But to be safe let's deviate from our path and walk from here on out until we're far enough that we won't be noticed."
Naruto jumped from the branch to the ground as silent as possible. The others all followed suit and began to walk from there.
Naruto made sure that they gave the two signatures enough distance just to make sure they wouldn't be detected.
By the time they took back to the trees the sky was full of twinkling stars.
Two cloaked figures sat before a campfire.
"You sure you don't want to visit home Itachi?" The larger of the two asked.
"There is no reason to" the smaller answered.
The larger one stood up and grinned, the fire light dancing off of his sharp white teeth.
"It seems that those four chakra signatures made sure to avoid us, they probably have a sensor with them. Should we go after them?"
Itachi said nothing as he stared at the flickering flames.
"I guess I could just go after them myself" the large one muttered.
"No Kisame… It would just delay us. Let the Shinobi be, they aren't a threat to us."
"You're in a merciful mood today Itachi."
Itachi said nothing. This was the first time in quite some time that he was this close to his village. The closest he had been to his brother.
Sasuke stared at the moon hanging in the sky. He had felt a chill run up his spine for some reason.
"Hey Sasuke!" The Uchiha glanced over at the voice to find Iruka walking towards him.
"Iruka-sensei." Sasuke greeted
Iruka chuckled. "I haven't seen you in a while Sasuke. How are the missions going?"
Sasuke shrugged. "Slow, I'm sure you know that as well though. Didn't they shut the academy down since the exams?"
Iruka nodded. "The village needs every able ninja to help with repairs, but we start again next week. Maybe you can come down and talk to the kids?"
Sasuke made an odd noise at this request. "Not really something I'd be interested in… Maybe ask Naruto?"
"Naruto isn't here though, off on his first Chunin mission after all."
Sasuke didn't respond to this right away. "So they did promote him…" He seemed some what irked by that, but he understood why he was promoted. Naruto had basically saved the village from what he understood.
"Soon enough you'll be right there with him" Iruka said as he ruffled the Uchiha's hair much to Sasuke's annoyance.
"Come by sometime next week when you're free so my class can meet you" Iruka said as he left.
When Iruka was gone Sasuke began forward down the road, heading home after the long day that was ending. Tomorrow was going to be just as long with all the 'D' ranked missions.
Inoichi entered the dim lit room where a large man was chained to the wall, seals having been drawn all over him by Jiraiya earlier that week.
The Yamanaka approached the man who had just woken up.
"More Konoha weaklings…" the man wheezed.
"Not doing to well I take it?" Inoichi asked him.
The man ignored Inoichi's words but glared into his eyes.
"Well, I'm just here to see if we need to send you to Ibiki or if we can save you some pain… Jirobu was it?"
Jirobu ignored him which didn't bother Inoichi at all. He preferred to have them be quiet rather than ranting and raving during the process.
"Very well then, let's begin." Inoichi rolled up his right sleeve and ran through a few hand seals before laying his palm against the large man's forehead.
Suddenly Inoichi was seeing flashes of Jirobu's memories before him. It was all very disjointed and the Yamanaka could barely make sense of it all.
'Orochimaru clearly has placed some seals on him to ensure that if he was captured we couldn't glean any information out of him this way. But just in case…'
Inoichi began to press on, looking for some kind of weakness in the man's mind.
Then he was submerged into a recent memory, something unprotected.
Inoichi was now looking through Jirobu's perspective of the event.
"Orochimaru-sama, you called for me?" Jirobu asked.
The pale face man was sitting in a dim room, not unlike the one Inoichi was actually in.
"Yes my dear Jirobu I have. I would like for you to send someone of your choosing to meet with an informant from Iwagakure in a few weeks."
Jirobu bowed to the Sannin. "Will it be safe? I understand that he has been watched very closely by one of your old… associates."
Orochimaru chuckled lightly when Jirobu said this. "He will be able to deliver the information to us in Tanzaku town, however I'm sure that he will not survive long afterwards. If he truly is watching him, the our informant is not long for this world."
At this point Orochimaru jotted down some information and handed it to Jirobu. "Here is
a dossier on our dear Shi sutoroku."
Jirobu looked down at the note and Inoichi began to memorize the information when suddenly it ended and he was thrust out of Jirobu's mind.
Inoichi cursed as he fell backwards onto the ground. Behind him the door swung open and a pair of medics rushed past Inoichi to Jirobu who was suddenly convulsing violently.
'Dammit, a seal to destroy his mind if certain information was accessed by a Yamanaka. Orochimaru is crafty…'
Quickly picking himself off the ground, he heard the gruff voice of Ibiki Morino behind him.
"Well looks like that was a dead end."
Inoichi turned and grinned at the man. "Maybe not… Get a squad of ANBU ready for an undercover mission to Tanzaku town, I'm sure the Hokage will want to send them once he hears what I found."
Naruto finally called for them to stop for the night and by Ino's rough estimation it was at least midnight.
When they stopped, Ino set down her pack and began gathering wood when Naruto quietly told her not to.
"No fires… We're in an area that has known bandit activity; we don't want to attract attention."
"Well then why did we stop here if you knew this?" Ino hissed.
Naruto shot her a look. "Because I was hoping to pass through here about 3 hours ago but for obvious reasons that didn't happen. We need to rest otherwise we're going to wear ourselves out."
Ino was about suggest pushing on a bit more when Naruto made a seal and five clones popped into existence.
"Establish a perimeter and set a few traps to ensure nobody gets close, then create three more clones and begin a patrol within the perimeter. Notify me if you sense anything."
The clones all nodded before jumping off in different directions.
Kurenai watched as Naruto did all this and nodded to herself. 'The boy is making great use of his Kage Bunshin technique to ensure the safety of his team. We can rest a bit easier.'
Naruto signaled for the three others in his squad to gather near him.
"I figure we should go over this now before we get to our target. Two teams of two is what I'm thinking here. First line of defense will be Kurenai and Lee. Lee you're great with your Taijutsu and with your speed you can slip past someone's defenses before they try using any sort of Jutsu. Now if it turns out that they're giving you some trouble, Kurenai-sensei is a Genjutsu user, so she can provide support by casting Genjutsu on anything you can't handle. If anything it can help slow someone down for you to get the drop on them."
Rock Lee nodded, understanding what his role would be if something were to happen.
"Don't forget that many of my Genjutsu can be lethal Naruto" Kurenai added.
"True, but I figure that you can keep those to yourself until we get into something Lee can't handle at all. Can't just use your trump card right at the beginning and let the enemy know just how powerful you are, especially if someone attacks and is just testing to see how strong we are."
Kurenai nodded at Naruto's answer, glad that he had some common sense contrary to popular belief back in the leaf village.
"Now Ino and I will be close to the target, that way if anything slips through we can take care of them. I can handle most close range fights and any jutsu that's thrown my way. Plus we need to make sure that Ino isn't injured in a fight if it does turn out that someone is after our client."
Ino puffed up at this. She wasn't just a cute face and how dare Naruto make her out to be just some silly girl.
"What the hell Uzumaki? I can fight!"
Naruto shook his head. "I know you're capable of fighting but you're jutsu would be best used for interrogation. I mean you can get into peoples heads to find information right?"
Ino was surprised that Naruto was thinking this through and had taken that into consideration.
"W…well kinda. I mean daddy was teaching me the jutsu before the exams and I feel pretty comfortable with it, but I can't go to deep with it. I can take over peoples bodies if someone protects my body."
Naruto shrugged. "We can make do with that, just the threat of having a Yamanaka will make any sort of interrogation go smoother. Plus if I need support you have that water jutsu, it's long ranged right?"
Ino nodded. "Yeah, I can use it to distract someone if need be."
"Good, then we have that settled. Now for tonight I have my clones patrolling and looking out for anything, but I still say better to not just rely on clones, so we'll take shifts on keeping an eye out. I'm thinking two hours each. Any volunteers?"
Lee was the first to volunteer. "I shall take the first shift Naruto-kun, I'm not very tired at the moment."
Naruto smiled at his friend. He was glad he was on a mission with him, it made Naruto appreciate his friend a bit more.
"Ok, I'll take the second shift if that's okay" Naruto said as he looked amongst them for any complaints. There weren't any.
"Now for the last shift, Ino would you mind doing it?" Naruto asked.
"Why me?" she asked.
"Because you're a Genin and Kurenai is a Jonin… Seniority…" Naruto said.
Ino and Kurenai both stared at Naruto incredulously.
"I'm kidding… Some what… Kurenai has done this a dozen times I'm sure and you haven't so I figure it's experience for us."
Ino pouted. "Fine… I'll do it…"
Naruto nodded. "Great… Eat what you need to because tomorrow we won't be stopping too often."
Lee jumped up into the nearest tree and perched on a sturdy branch to look out.
Naruto sat down in the spot he was standing just a moment ago before laying down and staring up at the stars.
Kurenai pulled out a scroll and unsealed a sleeping bag which she laid down beside Naruto.
"Uh Kurenai-sensei….?" Naruto began.
"It's always best in my experience to keep the squad close together when sleeping" she said simply.
"Oh… ok" Naruto said as heat flooded his cheeks. He had never slept in such close proximity to a woman before so this was new to him.
Ino felt somewhat uncomfortable with sleeping too close to Lee or Naruto, so she decided she'd lay her bag on the other side of Kurenai and hope that Lee didn't decide to lay next to her when it came to time for him to sleep.
Quickly the three of them had lay down and were staring at the star filled sky above them.
Kurenai fell asleep first, most comfortable of the three of them by far leaving Naruto and Ino trying to fall asleep next.
Naruto was thinking of how the rest of the mission could possibly progress in the coming days, but he was feeling confident in his abilities and doubted that anything crazy would happen this time around.
Ino on the other hand was feeling awkward about Naruto. She had jeopardized the mission with her tardiness and had questioned his motives a few times but so far he was proving to be an adequate Chunin.
A lot had changed in the few days since the exams. The invasion had definitely put her on edge now that she thought about it. She had been high strung after seeing all the casualties in the village before and after it had ended. Hell now and then they'd find remains of some poor soul during the clean up but they had been so busy that no one had the time to even think about it.
Just a week ago she would have been more excited about being on a team with Naruto to learn more about him.
'Things change quickly when you're a Shinobi…' Ino thought to herself as she stared at the twinkling lights in the sky.
"Hey Naruto…" Ino whispered out.
"Hm? What's up?" Naruto asked.
"…I'm sorry about earlier." Ino was only met with silence for a bit but she waited.
"Just don't let it happen again Ino, then we'll be fine."
"Ok…" Ino said. With her apology having been put out there, she turned to her side and closed her eyes.
In the trees Rock Lee smiled at the interaction. 'Naruto-kun is a good guy, just like Gai-sensei.'
Kabuto adjusted his glasses as he traveled down the dark hall way that led to Orochimaru's lab.
He had just finished assessing the newest addition to Orochimaru's forces and was pleased to find that Gaara was progressing quiet well.
He had been more docile now that the boy was able to sleep courtesy of the new sealing formula that caged the Ichibi.
'That Naruto is an interesting Genin' Kabuto thought as he had been testing the seal extensively. Not that he was any expert when it came to seals; however he had plenty of experience.
Plus it was one of few times where he had worked with Orochimaru on fuinjutsu and he always found it fascinating to watch the Sannin work.
He remembered when they first began to test the ins and outs of the seal and was surprised at Orochimaru's humility.
"This seal is definitely beyond something I can create." The Sanin had admitted with glee.
"It is definitely a by product of ancient Uzumaki fuinjutsu with Jiraiya's own research."
Kabuto had heard of the Uzumaki clans expertise with seals, but since the Uzumaki clan was nearly extinct, he had never run across anything of their design.
Orochimaru was hard at work studying how to reverse engineer it and find new ways to improve the curse seal with their findings. However it was proving difficult.
Kabuto stopped in front of a large ornate door and slowly opened it.
Inside was Orochimaru at a table littered with scrolls.
Without looking up Orochimaru greeted his subordinate.
"Ah Kabuto, how is our young Jinchuriki?"
Kabuto walked in and closed the door behind him.
"Docile for the moment Orochimaru-sama" he answered.
Orochimaru picked up a scroll and inspected it closer.
"That is good news. How is progress on the seal?"
Kabuto felt his heart quicken. It always surprised him at how his master could elicit fear from him when nothing else could.
"Not as well, but the reason I am here is that I have a theory."
Orochimaru glanced at Kabuto. "A theory you say?" He set the scroll down on the table. "This had better be good then, otherwise you will pay for disrupting me" he said with an ice cold glare.
Kabuto swallowed the lump in throat.
"I believe that there is one factor we have over looked with the sealing formula. When I was inspecting Gaara, I noticed an abnormality with his chakra patterns centralized around the seal."
Orochimaru stood a bit straighter at this.
"The seal is siphoning miniscule amounts of chakra through the old seal from the Ichibi. I believe it is using the Ichibi's chakra to maintain the seal."
Orochimaru just about growled at Kabuto. "That is something I have already found Kabuto" he took a step towards the boy.
"Orochimaru-sama, I understand that you know that, but it isn't the only abnormality I found. There are trace amounts of another Biju's chakra laced throughout the seal. It's drawing the Ichibi's chakra and converting it to match this chakra."
Orochimaru smirked. The boy had found something that he had not.
"I believe that Naruto Uzumaki used the Kyubi to override the first seal and amplify the seal he applied to Gaara. It would explain how he was able to suppress the Ichibi so easily."
Orochimaru's mind began to race at the implications of this. "Interesting… So Gaara could have more use to us than just a replacement for Jirobu and Kidomaru… We can use his Biju to possibly amplify the curse seal."
Kabuto nodded. "Yes, but finding the right balance will be difficult to do between the variations in both Biju chakra and natural energy."
"Well then, let's start finding a balance. I want you to go retrieve something for me then Kabuto… Take Gaara with you in a weeks time and retrieve Jugo. I believe we should start experimenting with the two of them together."
Kabuto nodded. 'Gaara and Jugo in the same place… This should make for an interesting journey.'
Ino watched as the sun rose over the horizon. It had been an uneventful night, nothing happening whatsoever.
Lee was the first one awake and had quietly said hello to Ino. Soon after Kurenai and Naruto had awoken at the same time, ready for the day.
They all ate a small breakfast consisting of ration bars before packing up and taking off into the trees once again.
It didn't take long for the forest to disappear and from there they had to run across vast plains.
None of them really talked as they traveled all of them too tired to really waste their energy on talking.
Around mid afternoon though, they spotted a town in the distance.
"There it is. And we actually got here early!" Naruto shouted.
It was the home stretch at this point and already Ino was imagining sleeping in a hotel bed instead of on a small patch of grass.
As they got closer to the town they slowed to a walk.
"There's a lot of casinos…" Naruto said as they passed a few at the edge of town.
"It's a popular town for gambling" Kurenai said. She knew this all too well as she was was obsessed with games of chance.
Rock Lee seemed somewhat fascinated by the buildings as people bustled in and out of the buildings.
"It seems that gambling is a fun hobby" Rock Lee said in mild amazment.
"Why not? The opportunity to get rich in a game of chance, even I'd be excited" Ino commented as she glanced at a man that somewhat resemble an older Sasuke.
She blushed as the man gave her a handsome smile.
"Well maybe we can try it out later" Naruto commented as he thought of his own money troubles.
Kurenai shot Naruto an odd look at this comment but Naruto figured it was because they were young and she disapproved of gambling.
"So we're to meet our client at a certain casino?" Ino asked Kurenai.
"That one to be specific" Naruto said he stopped walking.
Before them was a large building, neon signs adorning the entrance.
"It's so fancy" Rock Lee gawked.
Naruto had to admit that it was pretty ritzy by his standards.
"You know this town isn't a shinobi town, so they don't have the same laws. You're all underage." Kurenai said.
"The only problem will be Lee… Ino and I can use a henge to fake our age" Naruto said. "What we'll do is two of us stay out here and wait while the other two go in and meet the client, or we can cast a Genjutsu on any attendant at the entrance so the Lee can get in with us."
Kurenai didn't much like the idea of using a jutsu on an innocent, but it was a valid option.
"I'd prefer your first suggestion" Lee said. "I will stay out here with Ino-chan while you and Kurenai go in and meet the client."
Naruto nodded. "That sounds like a good idea Lee."
Making a quick hand seal, Naruto transformed into an image of himself, but aged.
He was at least as tall as Asuma now, with his hair a bit longer. His whisker marks and eyes remained the same but gone was the youth that showed on his face. His clothes also remained the same.
Ino had to admit, if he actually grew up into what he imagined, he'd be quiet a catch.
'Almost looks like the pictures of the Yondaime…' Ino realized. 'Maybe he's related to him, like a distant family member…' Ino wondered.
Kurenai was surprised at how alike Naruto looked to his father. She had known the Yondaime somewhat, having gone on missions with Kakashi's team once in a while back in the day.
'If people don't realize who he is now, they will soon.' She thought to herself.
Naruto glanced at Kurenai.
"So let's go I guess" as he walked forward, Kurenai right behind him.
Ino and Lee watched as Naruto and Kurenai entered the casino.
A man cried out in pain as a blade found its way through his hand.
"I will ask one more time" a deep voice asked.
The man looked up at the owner of the sword. A mask concealed his assailants face but he knew full well who this was.
"Please… I don't know where Orochimaru is…" the man gasped. The assailants one visible eye narrowed.
The man whimpered as the blade was withdrawn from his hand, letting blood gush from the wound.
"Let's go over this again, you were sent here by Orochimaru and yet you don't know where he is because you weren't actually in direct contact with the man?" The assailant had an odd accent for the region.
"Y… yes." The man whimpered as he cradled his hand, his eyes staring up at the mask of orange and black.
"Then you aren't of any use to me alive, correct?"
The man cringed. If he leaked any information on Orochimaru he'd be hunted down, however if he kept his mouth shut he would clearly die now.
"Slade, I beg of you, we fought together, and we were partners…"
"Until you gave me up to that damn snake for his experiments" Slade said coolly.
The man stared at the mask, the right side which was completely orange while the other side was black.
"He'll kill me if I say anything" he cried out.
"No… He won't kill you. But trust me when I say that death is a better option."
Before the man could reply Slade sank his blade through the man's neck.
"I'm tired of this interrogation old friend."
With a sickening squelch, he removed the sword and watch as the body hit the ground.
"Better scout out the casino for any other informants" Slade murmured to himself as he quickly cleaned the blood from his blade before sheathing it.
And there is the latest chapter. In case anyone asks, yes, Slade is Deathstroke (Shi Sutoroku is translated to Death Stroke) from the DC universe… Technically. I always liked his character and figured ah what the hell let's make a version of him in this fanfic. I have fun plans for him.
No this doesn't make this into a crossover with DC though, I just really like Slade in Arrow and other stuff he's shown up in and thought of a way to incorporate him into the story in a fun way.
As always leave a review with what you thought about it or suggestion or questions or what have you.