Chapter 2: Teams and Coffee
Naruto's face went from amazement, to surprise, to pure joy, with a smile that nearly broke his face in half. "YATTA! I FINALLY PASSED!" With that, he left the academy to celebrate his passage.
"Hey, boss, here to celebrate?"
Naruto was still grinning ear to ear, even with his headphones playing overtime from the trip through the market district. "Yeah, I finally passed! It took me three years, but I'm finally a Genin!"
Hanekoma simply smirked, taking his customer's exuberance in stride. "Well, the first one's on the house, then." He turned to mix Naruto's coffee. "Want the donuts to go with?"
"Better believe it!" was Naruto's response.
While Hanekoma worked at filling his order, Naruto looked back at how he had joined the Academy. Even though he took three years to graduate (most students graduate in about two), he had joined the Academy four years early, a birthday gift from Sandaime. Even if his first two years had been rough, not necessarily his own fault, this year he had finally pulled through.
As he was making a mental note to thank the Old Man for that particular gift later on, Hanekoma sat his coffee and donuts down. "So, who's your partners?" The proprietor asked.
Naruto looked at Hanekoma oddly. "Partners?" he inquired.
Hanekoma smirked. "Yeah, your partners, you know, your team."
Naruto's eyes widened a little in understanding. "Oh! Well, we haven't exactly been split into teams yet." Naruto replied, picking up his first donut.
Hanekoma nodded in understanding. "Well, once you meet 'em, I'd like to meet 'em."
Naruto stopped mid-sip. "Why's that?"
The coffee man smirked again, an odd spark behind his eyes. "What, I can't meet the new friends of my new best customer?"
Naruto nodded, the explanation making sense. "Well, thanks for the coffee, but I probably should head home now. I got to get ready for tomorrow."
Naruto stood up to leave. As Hanekoma picked up Naruto's cup and money, he gave his patron a serious look. "Phones, before you go, I have something to tell you."
Naruto stopped and gave his attention to the coffee man.
Hanekoma continued. "It's a little piece of advice that an old friend told me, and I think you could use it more than I can. Always trust your partner."
Naruto paused. "What do you mean?"
Hanekoma smiled. "It's just a piece of advice, but I think tomorrow will clear it up a little for you."
With that, the coffee shop owner led Naruto to the door.
--Konoha Academy, Next Morning—
Wonder who I'll get teamed up with, I hope it's Sasuke-kun!
Hope these stupid instructor's have teamed me up with someone who won't slow me down, I've got to get strong fast.
Such a drag, who's brilliant idea was it to have team assignments so early in the morning?
Naruto entered the expected noise of the classroom, this time a little more prepared than the last time. While he was expecting it, the mind noise was still grinding on him, not to mention his much-abused headphones. Got to remember to get some more batteries for these.
As he took his seat, Naruto noticed that Iruka-sensei was already in the room, looking slightly disheveled but not necessarily from the fight the previous night. All Naruto was able to glean from his attempts to scan him was that the Old Man had decided on a last minute change to something, causing trouble with some to the other teachers.
As the last former student filed in the door, Iruka stood up to gain their attention. "Welcome back, everyone. This is the last time I will ever speak to you as students, because from now on we will be comrades-in-arms, fellow ninja of Konoha. At this last meeting, I will be issuing to each of you your team assignments. Each team is also assigned a Jonin instructor, who will continue to instruct you in the more advanced ninja arts."
At this speech, several thoughts and murmurs rang round the room.
There's still more to learn? But I thought we were already fully-trained ninja!
Finally, I'll get someone who can actually teach me something useful!
So, we're going from some training to more training? I knew Dad was laughing for a reason when I told him I graduated.
As Naruto listened in on the thoughts around the room, Iruka had already started listing teams. It wasn't until Iruka reached Team 7 that Naruto's attention came back to the normally audible world.
"Team 7 will be headed by Hatake Kakashi and will consist of these genin: Uchiha Sasuke, Haruno Sakura, and Inuzuka Kiba."
Immediately after this announcement, Naruto caught two thoughts, almost simultaneously.
YES! I'M ON SASUKE-KUN'S TEAM! TRUE LOVE REALLY DOES CONQUER ALL! AND NO MORE ANNOYING NARUTO!
You've got to be kidding, I'm stuck on a team with a mutt and a bitch, I really don't know whether I should laugh or cry.
Blissfully ignorant of the thoughts in the room, Iruka continued his listing. "Team 8 will be headed by Yuuhi Kurenai and will consist of these genin: Hyuuga Hinata, Aburame Shino, and Akamichi Choji."
Again, Naruto caught several thoughts from the room.
I-I'm with Shino-kun and Choji-kun? I-I hope I won't let them down.
So I'm with Hinata? To bad, I was hoping to get onto Shika and Ino's team like Dad's always talkin' about.
So, I'm with Hinata-chan and Akamichi-san? I can only hope that there will not be interference from Hinata-chan's family.
At that last thought, Naruto had to pause. Why would Hinata's family cause a problem with her team? Wouldn't they be happy that she's a genin?
While Naruto was listening in on the thoughts in the room, Iruka had listed Team 9, so Naruto only came back to the verbal world when he started listing the next team.
"Team 10 will be headed by Sarutobi Asuma and will consist of these genin: Nara Shikamaru, Yananaka Ino, and Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto was again caught in thoughts, this time those of his new teammates.
I'm with Shika and Naruto? Could be worse, after all Shika and I can get along, and Naruto isn't that bad when he's not doing something crazy.
So, I've got the two loudest blondes to ever graduate from the Academy on my team? You don't know just how much you lucked out, Choji. Then again, I could have been on the prick's team, and Naruto's started to calm down after whatever it was that happened just before the exams, so it shouldn't be too bad.
Naruto didn't really know what to think of his new teammates, Shikamaru had never been overtly mean to him without cause, and Ino was part of the 'Sasuke Fan Club' and was well-known in class to be bossy, but she had gone out of her way to be nice to him before, so they both came out even on his personal score-card. Well, I should at least try to get to know them before I make any judgments.
Iruka continued. "Now that all of you have your team assignments, we can break for lunch. Your new squad leaders should all arrive in roughly an hour, so take the time to get to know your teammates." Good luck to all of you, and may Kami watch over you.
With that parting thought, Iruka dismissed his class for the last time as students.
--A Classroom, During Lunch—
Naruto found Shikamaru and Ino with little difficulty, as Ino had left the door to the room open and the pair were talking (at least he thought they were talking) about their new assignment.
As he walked in the door, he made a knocking motion against the doorframe. "Am I late to the party?"
Ino turned from the conversation. "There you are. We were just talking about the team, you know, our new sensei."
Naruto nodded his understanding. "Sarutobi Asuma. I can't say that I know him."
Shikamaru turned toward the window. Not surprised, that guy likes to keep a low profile.
Naruto turned to Shikamaru. "So, you already know him?"
Shikamaru turned to face the headphones-wearer. "Pardon?"
"Asuma-sensei, you said something about him keeping a low profile."
As Shikamaru started, he noticed something, the subtle hiss of heavy metal pumping out from under Naruto's headphones. He can't hear a thing under those! How could he even hold a conversation with those… No, that's it!
Shikamaru paused. Can you hear me, Naruto?
Naruto gave Shikamaru an odd look. "Of course I can hear you, I'm talking to you."
It was Ino's turn to give Naruto an odd look. "Um, Naruto, Shikamaru didn't say anything."
Before Naruto could respond, Shikamaru spoke up. "Yes, I did, just not verbally."
Ino looked confused. "What do you mean, Shika?"
In response, Shikamaru turned back to Naruto. "You can't hear a damn thing under those headphones, can you?"
Naruto still looked confused. "What do you mean? I can hear you just fine."
Shikamaru shook his head. "No, what you think your hearing is our thoughts. Like I said, you can't really hear a thing with those things turned up that loud."
Ino looked mortified. "Are you saying that Naruto can read our minds?!"
Naruto suddenly found the floor very interesting. "Sort of. I can hear whatever someone is actively thinking."
Ino relaxed. "So, you can't just break into someone's head and rip their memories or anything?"
Naruto shook his head. "Not that I'm aware of, unless your actively thinking about a memory, I can't hear or see it."
Shikamaru looked at Naruto for a moment. "About two nights ago, that's when you got this power, right?"
Both Ino and Naruto looked at Shikamaru. "What makes you say that?" Naruto asked.
"Because that's when you first showed up to class with those things on. I wasn't paying very much attention to it at the time, but you also had this really odd pained expression on your face the whole time, like there was too much noise in the room, even when nobody was talking."
Ino just shook her head. "Okay, now that we've established that Naruto is a freak, what do you know about sensei."
Shikamaru shrugged. "Can't say that I know a whole lot. Guy's a good shoji player, an evil poker player, and is smoking his way into an early grave."
Ino simply stared, while Naruto shook his head. "So, you've met him before. Where at?"
Again Shikamaru shrugged. "Monthly shoji tournament at my parent's game store."
"Well, now that you guy's have come to an understanding, why don't you meet me up on the roof."
All three newly minted genin nearly jumped out of their skin. Asuma smirked. No matter how many years pass, that just never gets old.
A/N: Thank you everyone who noticed the italics switch in the last chapter. I can't say what caused it, but I will be on the lookout for it in the future. As always, reviews will be appreciated, flames will be piled on to my nest, and this is S.P., signing off for the night.