Disclaimer: I don't own Assassin's Creed or Naruto.

Author's Notes: There was actually a gap of about a year and a half between the time of writing for the last two chapters and this one. But...the trailer vids for AC2 were just so awesome. Had to start it up again. Problem is I lost all my notes in the intervening period, so instead of what I think

Path of the Broken Creed: Chapter Two

Kakashi paused for a few minutes, but Naruto was just sitting there, the elation on his face obvious.

"Oooookay," Kakashi said. 'Why do I always get stuck with the Special Ed. Shinobi?' He coughed. "Moving on. We'll have a formal training exercise tomorrow. The training theme will be…survival." His eyes closed and his voice began to drip with false happiness. "Against me."

The reactions were disappointing. Oh, sure, Sakura seemed a little cowed, but the Uchiha's brooding gaze only intensified slightly, and Naruto was still off in his own world.

Clearly he needed to up the ante.

"This test will determine whether or not you become shinobi." Sakura gasped, and the boys could have been deaf. Kakashi pressed on, "The graduation exam at the Academy is a farce. This will be a true test of your abilities…or more accurately, your lack of them. You see, everyone who graduated is taking a test like this, and two out of every three will fail and be sent back to the Academy."

Naruto's head snapped up; apparently he'd returned to his senses. "Huh?"

Sakura looked ill.

And Sasuke…smirked. Clearly, he'd figured out that of the three members of his team, he was the strongest. Kakashi could practically read the boy's mind: two out of three. Naruto and Sakura were the weak links, and Sasuke would pass.

Kakashi almost laughed at him. 'Doesn't work that way, kid.'

"I expect you all to be at Training Ground Seven by 6:00 AM. Have a nice day!" He smiled and waved before disappearing in a poof of smoke.

-/-/=\-\-

He didn't show up to the training session until 10 o'clock, but by the looks the kids were giving him, they'd all been on time. Ah, so good to see that the little munchkins were sticklers for the rules. Made it even more likely that he wouldn't have to deal with them for more than one morning.

"Good morning, students!" he called. The assorted glares and yells they responded with gave him a warm fuzzy feeling inside. "I've brought two bells and an alarm clock." He held up both items, then placed the alarm clock on a nearby tree stump and tied the bells to a belt loop on his pants.

"The training is very, very simple." He gave the kids an understanding, sympathetic look. "I'll even use small words. You have until noon to get these two bells from me. If you don't have a bell by noon, you get tied to that tree stump in ignominious defeat and shame."

Naruto frowned and crossed his arms. "What happened to 'no big words'?" he muttered.

Kakashi smiled at him. "I'm an adult, so I don't have to tell the truth." He paused. "There was something else…oh, yeah. If you don't have a bell, you'll fail as a ninja and be sent back to the Academy. That too."

"But…there are only two bells," Sakura noted weakly.

His smile widened, and his eyes crinkled in amusement. "Yep! So one of you will suffer shame and laughter as you repeat classes you should have already mastered no matter what happens!"

This time, their reactions were anything but disappointing. Sasuke hid his nervousness well, but the insecurity at the prospect of failure was still obvious. Sakura had all but collapsed, and Naruto…damn. Still that same expression of frustration and determination. Ah well. Can't win em all.

"You may use whatever weapons you want. Shuriken, kunai, exploding tags, logs, marmosets, dirty looks, bad breath, etc. Come at me as if you intended to kill me, or you'll never stand a chance." He winked his one visible eye at them. "Now…begin!"

They still stood there, nervously. He frowned, and made a shooing gesture. "Go on! Hide, ambush me, run away, attack, wet yourself, or whatever it is kids do these days. Clock's running."

He wasn't sure which one of them dropped a smoke bomb, but when it cleared, nobody was there. Lovely.

Ambushing a jounin who was ready for you was one of the many definitions of futility. Especially since he was in a wide open clearing that provided no cover for an approaching attacker. Chuckling, Kakashi pulled his worn, well used copy of Icha Icha Paradise out of his kunai pouch and flipped it to page 126. He felt like reading about that busty redhead. Shame he didn't know any, but the book would suffice. Ooooh, he'd forgotten about that. Yes, this would definitely do. He turned the page, giggling more at the anger he could feel rolling off the kids than the perverted prose.

If they didn't want him to read porn, they shouldn't have hidden in the bushes. Oooh, bushes. Page 77 had a scene in the bushes. He flipped to that one, but quickly moved to another passage. Blondes…eh. Not in the mood.

He caught the kunai that someone (Sasuke?) had thrown at him and discarded it carelessly, then licked his fingers and turned the page. Hrm. There was that one scene in the onsen, but the viewpoint shifted too much for his liking. Maybe the "climactic" ending? 'Nah…I'll just start from the beginning again.'

A flurry of shuriken came his way, and he batted them aside with the metal plate on the back of his fingerless glove. The Hokage was such an irritating man, making him play with these kids during his porn time. Technically it was always porn time, but that was beside the point. He'd have to give up a few hours of sleep to make up for the time these kids were stealing from him.

Maybe if he moved around as he read, they'd feel more like jumping him and ending this. Couldn't hurt.

He'd reached page three by the time he entered the trees at the edge of the clearing. As he was turning to page nine and the conclusion of the first sex scene, somebody sprung a trap, sending a hail of sharp, pointy objects at him. A simple replacement later, he was standing on a nearby tree branch.

Meh. The first scene had been okay. He kept reading, but kept a part of his attention on the flicker of orange in the next tree.

He skimmed the next few pages, his heart not really in it. The really good stuff was two scenes away, but it did need the setup for the full impact. The bit of orange hadn't moved, and he spared it a closer look.

Ah. Just the jacket then. Which meant the owner would be somewhere nearby…there, behind that tree. The heel of a blue zori sandal was poking out from behind the tree slightly, twitching every few moments. It looked like it was about the right size for Naruto's foot.

The next few pages of the book were boring. Everybody still had their clothes on. He glanced up at the sandal. The movements were slower now, edging closer to the tree trunk. Naruto was probably preparing something.

In a moment of pique, Kakashi closed his book and shifted it to his left hand. If the brats wouldn't attack, he would. There was no reason he had to spend two hours of his day babysitting.

A silent leap later, he stood before the tree on the side opposite Naruto. He drew his fast back and punched the trunk as hard as he could. Kakashi was no Gai, but the blow still split the trunk in half, and it fell to the right with a booming crack of timber. By the squawk from that direction, he'd almost squished Sakura.

He looked down at where a blonde mop of hair should have been, framing eyes staring up in wonder at Kakashi's fearful jounin might. Instead, there was only a squirrel stuck to a shoe, which had been stuck to the ground. Each effect had been achieved with liberal use of duct tape.

'Huh. Interesting.'

He leaped forward over the stump, dodging a roundhouse kick from Naruto's one still-shod foot. The boy followed, fist leading.

Kakashi flipped open his book and lazily deflected the blow. It took a true master to hold the book in one hand and simultaneously turn the pages with it, but he did. Here we go, page 16. The second scene was just beginning.

Naruto kept attacking. Most of his blows were directed more with furious energy than any actual skill, and Kakashi fell into an easy rhythm of block-dodge-block-parry-taunt-dodge-repeat. Naruto wasn't compensating well for the way his one shoe off-balanced him; he really should have taken both shoes off.

Something in the air changed, a breath of...heat. Kakashi's nose twitched.

"Naruto, move!"

Naruto looked up in confusion, realization dawning too late. Kakashi lashed out at Naruto with the heel of his hand, knocking the boy out of the radius of Sasuke's fire attack. As the flames rushed down, Kakashi disappeared into the ground, letting the attack cover his retreat.

Once underground and assured that his hair and book remained unsinged, he narrowed his eyes. For the first time since the test had started, he put his book away. What was that child thinking? He slowly dug his way back up, surfacing a few dozen yards away from the burnt circle of earth left from Sasuke's attack and out of the boys' line of sight.

"What the hell, bastard! You could have hit me!"

"I told you to move. Now be quiet; he's got to be around here somewhere. And this time, stay out of my way." The venom in his voice was audible.

Kakashi crouched down, sitting on his heels as he listened.

Naruto muttered something, and Kakashi wished he could hear it. By the sound of it, it had been vicious.

"Don't call me that again, idiot."

Naruto repeated the mutter, but yelped halfway through, and Kakashi heard the sound of foliage rustling as someone bounded through the trees, avoiding something, a shuriken by the whistling noise. Kakashi's frown deepened, and he focused all of his attention on the pair, whose fighting had drawn them even further away. He could follow, but there was always the chance that doing so would draw their attention to him.

"I told you, don't call me - " Sasuke's answer was cut off with what sounded like the impact of a fist. Kakashi heard several more in rapid succession.

It took an effort to restrain his disgust. Fighting each other during an exercise that was a test of teamwork. Worthless.

The slight noise of earth shifting alerted him to a presence behind him. He'd almost forgotten about Sakura. Hm. Sacrificing her teammates as a distraction to get the job done. Almost as contemptible as the boys, but the effort should be rewarded nonetheless.

She reached out for the bells at his waist slowly, very slowly, trying not to make any noise. Kakashi pretended to not hear her, but by the time her fingers closed on the bells he'd been sorely tempted to end the charade. She moved so slow.. He whirled as if he'd just noticed her, and made a pathetically weak lunge for her. She barely managed to duck underneath his arm. Before he could bother faking another grab, she darted off towards the boys.

He paused, wondering for a moment. Had he been played? Was that fight really just a distraction?

The sound of jingling reached his ears, and the boys' fight ceased. "I, um, got one for you too Sasuke-kun…"

He sighed in disgust, raising his hand to his forehead and squeezing his temples, already feeling a massive headache. No, he hadn't been played. And the three brats he'd been set to watch were an absurd tangle of factions and petty selfishness.

"Hey, what about me?" Naruto called.

Kakashi gave up on ignoring the conflict and rose to his feet. A quick jump took him to the trees, and he stealthily hopped his way to where he could see the brats.

They'd fallen into an awkward sort of silence after Naruto's question. Sakura was still holding the bell out in Sasuke's direction, who was looking at it like a poisonous snake. Naruto himself was staring at Sasuke, jealousy and rage written across his face. His right hand was also spasming in an unusual fashion, his middle and ring fingers spreading away from each other, holding, and then squeezing back together.

Sasuke slowly walked up to Sakura, his hand outstretched. By his posture, Kakashi expected him to slap it away. From what he knew of the boy's pride, it would seem likely.

Except Naruto tackled him from behind before Sasuke could touch the bell, screaming all the while. Sasuke whirled, bringing his knee up into Naruto's gut. Sakura gasped and pulled her hand back, clearly wanting to help Sasuke but not sure how.

Naruto took the blow with a grimace and brought his right hand, the one that had been convulsing, down onto Sasuke's kidney. The blow was light, but by Naruto's somewhat confused expression, he'd expected more of a reaction. Sasuke twisted, throwing Naruto to the side, then rolling on top of him and bringing his fist crashing down onto Naruto's face. The next blow caught only dirt, and while Sasuke was focused on pummeling his foe, Naruto's hand was inching towards his kunai pouch.

Sakura intervened, stomping on his hand. Sasuke snarled at her for interfering, giving Naruto the opportunity to throw Sasuke off of himself. He followed the movement with a sweeping kick that took Sakura's legs out from beneath her. She fell with a startled "Meep!" dropping the bells as she went.

It went on for several more minutes, Kakashi hating them all more each and every second of it. He'd been about to leave them to fight it out when Sasuke began to make the handseals to form a massive fireball.

Kakashi's lip curled up in disgust. 'Enough.' He disappeared in a burst of speed.

Before Sasuke could bring his hands together to make the Tiger seal, Kakashi had reappeared behind him. He turned as he chopped at the back of the boy's neck, giving the blow an extra bit of force that sent Sasuke spinning through the air, landing a good ten feet away. Before he hit the ground, Kakashi had dealt with the other two in a similar fashion.

He looked down at their prone, unconscious forms, his anger nowhere near satisfied. He paused, standing there, letting his hands clench and unclench until he knew he wouldn't choke the life out of the next brat he touched.

That done, he picked them up and began dragging them out of the forest and back to the clearing, where the test had begun a mere 45 minutes ago.

-/-/=\-\-

Naruto woke up first. He took in the ropes binding him to the pole, and opened his mouth to ask Kakashi a question. The glare he received shut him up before the first syllable was out of his mouth. Good boy.

Sakura woke up next, tied to the log on Naruto's right.

Sasuke was the last one to regain consciousness. Kakashi had put him on the log to the left of Naruto.

"Good, we're all here." Kakashi's voice could have frozen steel. "I think you all need a little history lesson on this exam. I trust you won't be going anywhere for the next few minutes?"

They wisely remained silent at the rhetorical question.

"This test has been used for four generations of shinobi, and was passed down from sensei to student over the years. The Shodai and Nidaime to their student the Sandaime, to the Sandaime's pupil Jiraiya of the Legendary Sannin, to his student the Yondaime Hokage, to his student, me. It's been used to weed out anything but the best of the best. And do you know what the point of this exercise is?"

Sakura opened her mouth as if to guess, then shut it, the sound of her teeth clicking together eerily loud in the sudden silence. "No," she whispered.

Kakashi nodded at her. "No. You don't. The point is something that I value above all else: teamwork." He paused to let that sink in. "The two bells are a trick, designed to keep you from figuring it out. It's a test to see who will sacrifice their own ambitions for the good of the group. But never, never have I had a group – group, because you aren't worthy of the title "team" – attack each other to try and get the bells. Never!"

His yell faded into the forest, and he glared at them each in turn. "You are all a disgrace to the shinobi tradition, to the ideals I hold dear, and to each other. You are not worthy of being ninja, and when you leave, you will not go back to the Academy for more schooling. It would be a waste of the instructors' time. You are all hopeless failures. You will never be ninja, and I never want to see any of you again. Ever."

With that, he turned and stalked away, leaving the three little bastards tied to the logs. Normally, he'd give them a second chance.

But today, he didn't feel any pity for the brats. Only contempt.