Chapter Eight: Spontaneous Action and Careful Plans

Hinata healed Sasuke and then everyone retreated back to Tazuna's house to regroup. Once they were secluded in the back room Kakashi spoke. "Alright, um, so it's gonna take me at least another five days to recover from my chakra exhaustion, so for the intervening time, Anko will take temporary control of Team Seven."

The genin members of Team Seven took this pretty well, only moderate scowls exchanged. "Well, then why don't we get to training. No sense in wasting any more time than necessary. It's gonna take some serious work to get you three anywhere near the level you should be." Anko ignored the glare that the cyclopean jounin sent her way. "Follow me."

After looking for approval from Kakashi, Sasuke, Kiba and Sakura followed. Anko led them to the clearing that they were at just a few minute prior. Anko leaned against a tree facing Team Seven. "Alright, it is clear that Kakashi has been neglecting your training if your spars were any indication of your skill levels. I want to know everything you know, ninjutsu, genjutsu, and taijutsu as well as anything else. "You go first," Anko stated pointing to Sasuke.

"Well, I know the Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique, Fire Release: Phoenix Fire Immortal Technique, Shadow Shuriken Technique, as well as Clone Technique, Replacement Technique, Escape Rope Technique, and Transformation Technique. Also I have some skill in my family's taijutsu, the Intercepting Fist."

"Well, you seem to have a decent number of fire techniques there. I might want to see exactly how much you know of your family's taijutsu later though. Anyways, you next Sakura."

Sakura blushed slightly and ducked her head. "Um, well, I know the Academy basics like Sasuke-kun and the Academy taijutsu. And that's about it."

Anko raised an eyebrow at Sakura. "Are you joking? Do you mean to tell me that you have been a genin for over two months, and Kakashi hasn't taught you a single ninjutsu?"

"Well, we have been working on team building exercises mostly."

Anko facepalmed. "Well, it's only a little worse than I had expected. Please tell me you got more than Sakura does Kiba."

"Yeah, I got plenty of stuff. I got the Piercing Fang, Dual Piercing Fang, Beast Human Clone, and the Four Legs Technique, the Clawed Fist, my clan's taijutsu, as well as the Academy stuff."

"Good. Though all your stuff is clan techniques, which means that Kakashi hasn't taught you anything either. Great." Anko rested her face in her palm a minute, battling the urge to rip Kakashi a new one. Honestly, what the hell was the man thinking? Sasuke and Kiba weren't too bad off, at least they had clan techniques to draw on, but as important as the Academy basics were, the fact that that was all Sakura knew was almost certainly going to get her killed.

"Well, lets see how your chakra-"

"Hold on, what about your students? They know all our abilities, but we know nothing of theirs." Sasuke had crossed his arms across his chest. He did not appreciate his skills being so grossly undervalued. Anko sent him a piercing glare.

"Watch it runt. For now I am your jounin-sensei and you will accord me the respect that I deserve. However, I do see your point. Naruto, you first."

"Sure thing Mom. Well, lets see. I know the Shadow Clone Technique as well as the Mass Shadow Clone Technique, Sexy Technique, Harem Technique, Wind Release: Great Breakthrough, and Wind Release: Pressure Bullet Technique and of course the Academy stuff. Finally I got my custom kenjutsu with Kitsune, my katana."

"Um, I know the Jyuuken. Also, I have two ninjutsu, Lightning Release: Lightning Grip and Lightning Release: Lightning Blast. Finally, I have basic proficiency with my sword and mastered Minazuki's shikai."

At this, the members of Team Seven exchanged a confused look. Minazuki was the name she had given her sword obviously, so was that transformation what she was talking about? Before anyone could ask, Tenten spoke.

"So I am proficient with all ranged weapons and most melee weapons. I know four jutsu, Earth Release: Earth Style Wall and Earth Release: Double Suicide Decapitation Technique, Summoning Technique and Twin Rising Dragons. Finally, I have also mastered Shrieking Fang's shikai."

Again Team Seven assumed she was talking about the second form her sword had taken. "Well, lets see how your chakra control is. I want each of you to scale one of these trees thirty times each."

Team Seven looked at Anko in surprise before Kiba jumped up and swung onto the lowest branch of a nearby tree. "Stop, what are you doing?"

"Uh, climbing the tree, Anko-sensei."

"Please tell me that Kakashi-idiot at least showed you the tree climbing and water walking exercises."

"Uh, what do you mean Anko-sensei?" Sakura looked totally bewildered.

"Alright. Kill Kakashi later. Train his students now," Anko muttered. "Okay, what you are going to do is climbing a tree without using your hands. And before you complain let me explain." Sakura closed her mouth. "What you gotta do is channel chakra to the soles of your feet, which, incidentally, is the hardest place to do so. This will refine your control and eventually expand your chakra coils. Don't forget to use a kunai to mark how high you have climbed up."

Kiba, Sasuke and Sakura each drew a kunai from their holsters. Sasuke made it three steps before he was blasted backwards, managing to catch himself in a handspring. "Oh yeah, you gotta get it just right, or else you wont stick. That could hurt of you're fifty feet up." Sakura went next, making it all the way to the crown of the tree the first try.

"Well, that is about what I expected from you. I heard that you have near perfect control, but that is probably because you have the smallest chakra pools of anyone here. It is easy to control your chakra when you got almost none. Keep climbing. It'll get your reserves up."

Finally it was Kiba's turn. He made it about twenty paces before he slipped and scored the tree. "Not bad Kiba-kun. You seem to have about average control. Your only problem is maintaining it over an extended period of time. Well, you know what you need to do. I'll be back at about lunch to check up on you. Keep climbing until then."

As Anko turned to gather her own students up, Sasuke addressed her. "Where are you going?"

"Are you stupid? I am going to go train my own students now. They mastered this exercise a week after graduation. There would be no point in making them practice it."

"Well, I'm coming with you then. This isn't getting me any closer to achieving my goal. I need to learn all the jutsus that I can learn."

Anko rounded on the black haired boy, getting annoyed. "Alright, listen up maggot. I am going to say this once. You are not my student. I am merely subbing for Kakashi-idiot. So there is nothing I have to teach you, and certainly not anything that my team is learning. My team has been working their asses off ever since graduation, and they have earned a bit of my respect and trust. Because of that they get to learn jutsu from me. You on the other hand, I don't know at all, and therefor have not earned the right to learn from me. Plus I just don't like Uchihas. You are all thieves, one and all. Just because you got a special eye that automatically entitles you to benefiting from everyone else's hard work while offering none of your own." With that, she turned away from the stunned Uchiha Heir and left the clearing.

He was the Last Uchiha. No one spoke to him like that. Scowling he tightened his grip on the kunai in his fist and launched himself at the tree. He was an Uchiha, the best. He deserved nothing less. He would master this and then force Anko to teach him all she knew.

Anko led her son and his teammates to another clearing nearby. "Naruto, establish a perimeter a hundred yards beyond the edge of the clearing with your Shadow Clone Technique. I don't trust that damn Uchiha. He will probably try to sneak over here to copy what I am going to teach you with that eye of his. God I hate Uchihas. Or anyone with a bloodline that feels like it entitles them to the world for that matter."

Tenten sat down on the ground and waited for Anko to finish ranting. When the crowd of Naruto clones ran off Naruto joined her and Hinata on the ground before Anko. "Alright, before I show you today's jutsu, we need to talk about the fight on the way to Kirigakure. I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed in you three. You three were facing completely unknown opponents and didn't even take it seriously. For all you know, they could have killed you in the first five minutes. Screwing around like that is the kind of shit that gets you and your teammates killed. Hinata and Tenten, you two did alright, breaking out the Jyuuken and your scrolls fairly quickly. Naruto, from what I saw, you were mostly throwing punches like a damn Academy student. That is okay for a friendly spar at home, but out here, every attack you make has to be a killing blow. I honestly thought I had trained you better than this. I hope that this will be a lesson to you three." Anko stopped to let her genin absorb what she had said before continuing.

"Okay, the technique that I am about to teach you is called the Camouflage Technique. Basically what it does is turn you invisible. It is an A-rank jutsu because it had to be maintained with a constant flow of chakra. There is a couple of weaknesses to it, namely you can still be smelled out and the chakra itself is not disguised so the Sharingan and Byakugan can pierce it, but other than that, most of the weaknesses can be mitigated or even nullified with enough skill. At first you will not be able to move at all, and only very slowly later, as the illusion cloaking you will shimmer and ripple to adjust to the altered background. On the other hand, you can mask the Camouflage Technique itself, to a degree, when you are good enough with it."

"How come Tenten and I have to learn this Mom. I mean, I can just use Kitsune to trick anyone into thinking I am not there, and Tenten can already turn herself invisible."

"Well, one, you have trouble maintaining the illusion on more than one person at a time, and it doesn't work on anyone. As for Tenten, her invisibility bubble forces her to stay in place. The Camouflage Technique doesn't."

Anko then showed them the three hand seals that were used in it and set them to practicing, pointing out flaws by throwing kunai at them, harder and closer to vital areas the worse it was. Of course, Naruto could only turn himself into a blue and black blur at first, earning a kunai to the forehead, ring first. Tenten was able to get it down to a heat wave shimmer while still and a very indistinct humanoid shape while moving. Hinata was the best off, able to completely turn herself invisible while stationary and a very bad shimmer with a grey tinge while moving.

Three hours later a very battered and weary Team Nine entered the clearing occupied by Team Seven. The three genin that were practicing their tree climbing immediately halted when they saw the condition their compatriots were in. Sakura levered herself from where she had collapsed from fatigue an hour ago. She grimaced as sore muscles protested the unwanted movement.

"What happened to you guys?" Sakura asked.

"Mom happened," Naruto grunted. "Trust me, you really don't want her personal attention. Just be glad she doesn't insist on overseeing your work personally."

"She do all that to you?" Kiba had heard rumors of the kind of training she put her genin squad through, but had never believed it, attributing it to hyperbole. Now, he wasn't so sure. Sasuke on the other hand was practically drooling. He couldn't imagine what kind of training that would inflict that many injuries. Whatever it was, it was sure to increase his power exponentially.

"Yeah, she did all this. Anko is a total sadi-OW!"

"You shouldn't talk about people behind their backs you know. It's rude." Anko licked the blood from the kunai that had cut Tenten's cheek.

"And what would you know of manners Mom?"

Anko responded by wrapping a hand around Naruto's head and giving him a noogie. "Noogie of a Thousand Years of Pain!" Anko cried. Naruto flailed around yelling at her to let him go before he reported her to Child Services. As the two female genin members of Team Nine totally ignored the mother and son pair, Team Seven decided to follow their example. If things got too serious they figured that either Tenten or Hinata would step in. Well maybe not Hinata, but Tenten probably would.

Lunch was a subdued affair with Kakashi napping in the back room, Team Nine too tired to talk and none of Team Seven in a talkative mood. After lunch Anko took Team Seven back to the clearing to continue working on tree climbing. The second day followed much in the mold of the first, Team Seven working on chakra control and Team Nine working on the Camouflage Technique. However on the third day Anko pronounced Team Seven ready to move onto the next stage of training.

"Okay, so the next part of your training is learning to walk on water. This is much the same as tree walking, except since the surface of the water constantly changes, you gotta adjust your chakra output accordingly. Trust me, it's harder than it sounds." Team Seven looked at her blankly. "Well what are you waiting for? Get to it!" Anko shouted, causing the three genin to jump. Kiba grinned confidently and charged out onto the lake, quickly followed by his familiar, Akamaru. He made it a dozen steps before he fell into the water with a great splash. He surfaced a moment later. "Holy crap! The water is COLD!"

Anko grinned mercilessly. "Well, now you have a reason not to fall in, dontcha?" With that, Anko took her leave. Sakura sat down at the bank and hesitantly lowered a foot to the surface, testing how much chakra was required to keep it afloat. Sasuke took the middle ground, walking out onto the lake, but staying in the shallows, so that when he fell in, it was only shin deep. Kiba paddled back to shore a moment later and took a minute to shiver. He took off his now waterlogged coat before trying to walk on water again.

Meanwhile, in a nearby clearing, Anko was lecturing to her team again. "The next thing I am going to teach you maggots is how to escape from genjutsu. Genjutsu kai isn't a jutsu, as such, but it is an important technique to know. The genjutsu kai enables you to escape the effects of a genjutsu, should you ever he caught in one. There are a number of ways to do it, the easiest is to cause yourself enough pain that your mind is able to break free. Now, obviously this is not necessarily the best way to do it, but if nothing else works, stabbing yourself in the leg should do the trick."

As one, Tenten, Naruto and Hinata sweat dropped. Only Anko would think that stabbing yourself to escape from a genjutsu would be a viable technique.

"The most common way is to momentarily stop your chakra circulatory system. A genjutsu works by using your own chakra against you, so if it has no chakra to work with, then it fails. Now try to suppress your own chakra completely." After giving a single demonstration, Tenten and Hinata grasped the concept extremely quickly. Naruto however, was still struggling.

"Mom, I just can't get it down all the way. When I get it down to a certain point, it feels like its trying to push through a floor." Anko mused on this for a moment, guessing it probably had something to do with the Yondaime's seal, and his prisoner.

"Well, there is a third way to do it, but it requires a lot of concentration. Additionally, it can be used on another person who either does not recognize that they are under a genjutsu, or for one reason or another, cannot escape. What you have to do is focus your chakra into a ball, pack it as tightly as you can, and then release it. The chakra pulse will momentarily disrupt any chakra construction that it comes in contact with, thereby destroying the genjutsu. Tenten used this method during the fight last week. The main reason that the chakra pulse will get rid of a genjutsu is because it is a stationary construct and it is really difficult to create a pulse that will travel far enough to retain enough energy to disrupt a ninjutsu. Its like destroying the foundation of a house to bring it down. You gotta be standing right next to it with a hammer to destroy it. But to get back on course, try to do the chakra pulse."

Tenten was able to extend the pulse only a few inches beyond her skin. After concentrating for a second or two, Hinata nearly collapsed after generating a two foot wave.

Anko almost never thought of the demon sealed within her adopted son, but as Naruto's faced scrunched up more and more as he tried to make a pulse. But as a visible haze of blue chakra built up around him, she thought she might had made a miscalculation. Anko opened her mouth to tell Naruto to stop concentrating when he released it. Anko threw up a hand to shield her face as a visible wall of chakra passed through her, making the fine hairs on her neck and arms stand up, but otherwise leaving her completely unharmed. The surrounding forest erupted as Naruto's chakra pulse upset the local wildlife, setting the birds in the trees to flight.

"Err... well..." It wasn't often that Anko was struck speechless, but this took the cake. "I suppose if you suck at chakra suppression, you would be good at chakra expression.

Tenten was looking at Naruto with a bemused expression on her face. "I suppose if one way doesn't work for you, another would work better."

Hinata nodded her furious assent. "I had my Byakugan on, and I was nearly blinded by it. That pulse was almost physically tangible Naruto-kun."

"Naruto you could probably disrupt every single genjutsu in a battle at once with that technique."

"Ours as well as theirs too Anko." Tenten was still looking slightly shell shocked. She had pushed every iota of power into her pulse, and Naruto made a freaking wall of chakra, and didn't look the least bit fazed. She knew that he had nearly inhuman amounts of chakra, but she hadn't quite realized how great the difference was until just this moment. "We would have to come up with some sort of signal, but that could be an incredibly useful ability."

The next day Anko nearly broke a rib laughing when she discovered that the whole village felt Naruto's pulse, almost half a mile away, mostly with people who had never had any training in sensing chakra at all.

That night at dinner, Naruto got up to look at the sole picture hanging on the wall.

"Hey, why does it look like someone ripped part of this picture away?"

"That was a picture of my dead husband, kill a couple of years ago by Gato to serve as an example to the village as what happens when people oppose him." Tsunami had paused in collecting the dirty dishes, looking to her son, who had run from the room with sad eyes.

"Kaiza was a foreigner who had come to the village following his dreams. It started out when some kids were bullying Inari by throwing his dog in the water, and pushed him off the dock also. Kaiza rescued Inari and taught him how to smile and laugh again, which he had forgotten after his biological father's death. One time he fixed a dam during a flood by swimming against the current and tying the dam back together with some rope."

"When Gato came to the village, Kaiza resisted and was caught. He was strung up and had his arms cut off and eventually killed. Ever since then, Inari has been like you saw him. Hell, Tsunami and the entire village changed after his murder. That is why this bridge is so important. The bridge represents everything Kaiza stood for, everything that has been missing since Gato came."

Over the course of the story, Naruto started out with stars in his eyes, and then spouted waterfalls as he heard about Kaiza's death.

"That's it," Naruto announced suddenly. "I'm going to prove that in this world, heroes do exist to that little brat.

OoOoO

Unknown location, Wave Country

"So it looks like the big, bad Demon of the Mist got beaten like a dog and has come back to lick his wounds." This time Gato brought two of his ronin samurai with him, to try to intimidate Zabuza. "You can't even avenge your own men and you call yourself a demon."

Haku tensed as Gato's ronin loosened their sword in their scabbards, but Gato stepped forward again, reaching out to unmask Zabuza. Haku's hand flickered forward and stopped Gato's had a few inches from Zabuza's face. "Don't you touch Zabuza-san with your filthy hands."

Gato lurched back cursing as the two samurai started to draw their swords. However, Haku was faster, and disarmed them, pressing the edges of the swords against their throats. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. I'm in a bad mood."

Gato tried to show some bravado by shouting at the two nuke-nin "I'll give you one more chance. Fail again, and you are no longer welcome here. Remember that." Having said his piece, Gato and his thugs beat a hasty retreat.

"You know, you didn't have to do that."

"I know, but it is too early to kill Gato. We haven't been paid yet, after all.

OoOoO

Next day, middle of the woods

Naruto awoke suddenly when someone touched his shoulder. Shaking off his exhaustion, Naruto sat up and addressed the person who had awoken him. "Who're you?"

Haku introduced himself, and then got Naruto to help him collect the herbs he was looking for. "Hey, are you a ninja by any chance?"

"Oh yeah! You noticed. I was out here all night training." He gestured to the trees that had been dented and stripped of their leaves and holes in the ground.

"Why are you training?" Haku asked. "You look plenty strong already."

"Yeah I am, but not strong enough. I want to become the Hokage, the strongest ninja in my village, and to do that I gotta keep training. I also gotta prove something to someone."

"I see. So you have a precious person?"

"Yeah, lady, I got plenty. I gotta get strong for all of them."

"I am sure that you will become strong and achieve your dream. Maybe we will meet up again." Haku got up and walked away, looking over his shoulder. "Oh, and by the way, I'm a boy."

Naruto sat there stunned for a few minutes, until his stomach growled at him. He stumbled into the house half an hour later, looking like the living dead. Hinata immediately leaped up and helped Naruto to the table, piling food on his plate as fast as he consumed it. Anko and Tenten hid their smiles behind their hands as they watched as Hinata scolded Naruto for staying out all night long.

"Honestly Naruto-kun, you could catch your death from a cold by sleeping outside without any blankets at all."

"Aw, it's okay Hinata-chan. If I did get sick, I have you to make me good as new!" Hinata immediately flushed a bright red, and started swooning a moment later. Naruto recognized the signs of an impending faint, and leaped up to catch her as she collapsed into unconsciousness.

"Oops," was all Naruto had to saw with a slightly sheepish grin.

Anko rolled her eyes and gestured to Tenten. "Take her up to her room and keep an eye on her. I hate to think what would happen if she were to wake up and Naruto was leaning over her. She might get a brain aneurysm or something."

Tenten was sitting at the dinner table on the fourth day of Kakashi's recuperation, thinking. Naruto was sitting across from her, on the other side of the table, polishing his sword with a cloth. He had somehow become inextricably tangled into her thoughts over the past week. She had to admit that Naruto was becoming an extremely good looking boy, his yellow hair spiderwebbed with white and whisker marks adding to his exotic appearance. And there was also the fact that he was now a weapons, well if not master, then at least specialist along with herself and Hinata. Of course she would never date a guy just because he used a sword, but the fact that he did use one now, and an almost magical one like hers and Hinata's, held a certain allure in the young woman's mind.

Continuing to prod her food, she gazed at Hinata out of the corner of her eye. She had a pan and apron on, cooking this night's dinner. Hinata posed a problem to Tenten. She was her good friend, maybe her only one, and obviously had fallen head over heels for Naruto. But she had never made a move on the blond. But how much did she owe to Hinata? Should she try to play match maker and get the two together? Or should she go for Naruto herself? Whatever she owed the Hyuuga Heiress, didn't she owe herself to try to make herself happy?

Tenten shook herself out of her reverie by violently shaking her head. It wouldn't do to think about such things now. She smiled at Hinata as she grabbed a plate and helped herself to dinner. It was as usual, delicious. Oddly enough, that didn't improve her spirits at all. Hinata was the perfect girl, womanly figure, good at housekeeping, and a wonderful cook. How could she compete with that? Virtually everything she made came out of a box. She knew that she did not look like a man, but she was very much a tomboy, giving relatively little attention to her appearance beyond tying her hair up in her trademark twin buns. Beside Hinata she was merely ordinary as a woman. Tenten realized where her thoughts were leading her, and tried to break that chain of thought. Hadn't she said that she wasn't going to think about that? Wolfing her meal down, barely tasting anything, she excused herself early and went to bed.

Hinata may not have been the smartest kunoichi in her class, but she was the most observant, at least when it came to her Naruto-kun. She had been watching Tenten the whole evening, and had caught the surreptitious glances thrown Naruto's way. She frowned and considered Tenten's actions over the past few days. First, was her fawning over Naruto's sword, despite having her own. Second, she now referred to him with the -kun suffix. Third, she had been alternating staring at her food and Naruto-kun all night long. She had no thoughts that she was the only one allowed to call him Naruto-kun, but added with the other things, there was only one inescapable conclusion. She had a love rival.

Hinata was extremely conflicted that night. Tenten was one of her best friends, yet she had seemingly fallen for Naruto-kun. She thought back to the Academy and recalled the relationship between Haruno Sakura and Yamanaka Ino. The two had been nigh inseparable for years, but had destroyed their friendship for the sake of pursuing Sasuke. She didn't want something similar to happen to her and Tenten, but she couldn't just stand on the sidelines as she poached her man. That thought struck her oddly for some reason. Naruto-kun wasn't dating her yet, and she still referred to him as belonging to her. She had practically worshiped him from the first time she saw him, always from afar, never able to muster the courage to express her true self to him.

Was that all she was, some creepy stalker girl that hid in the shadows? She couldn't even call herself a fan girl, like those who pursued her cousin Neji and Uchiha Sasuke, because they at least had the courage to tell the boy how they thought of him.

Hinata awoke the next morning in sweaty and tangled sheets, been tossing and turning all night. She had gotten very little rest.

She lay there for a few minutes, considering the dreams that had plagued her all night long. Naruto was always prominent in them, always facing away from her, walking away, ignoring her pleas for him to stop and turn around. Disentangling herself from her blankets, she showered and got dressed. No one was up yet, so she lit the stove from the cupboard of stove firewood found nearby. Preparing breakfast was a calming ritual for the girl; it allowed her to focus on the simple motions of the food, letting her forget her troubles, if only for a little bit.

Soon enough, her compatriots arose and joined her in the dining room, quickly followed by Team Seven and Tazuna's family. Naruto gave her a smile and greeted her with a wave.

Anko had been observing her two kunoichi the entire trip, and had divined their thoughts, more or less, on her oblivious son. She smirked evilly to herself. The poor boy wouldn't have a clue as to what hit him, when they got back home. Who knows, maybe she could set up a betting pool as to which one he would end up choosing? She was sure that Kurenai at the very least would be interested, and maybe Ibiki also. This future was looking to quite entertaining, to say the very least.

Despite her resolution to not think about Naruto, Tenten had spent most of the night dreaming about him. They weren't anything of an erotic nature (she was only twelve after all,) but Naruto was always a central factor in all of them, doing the most improbable of things, such as scaling the Hokage Rock while dragging a ten foot salmon to get to her and other Gai-slash-Lee feats of improbable strength and endurance. She woke up that morning to conclude that her subconscious was probably trying to tell her something. She lay there for a minute, slowing her heart to a pace that wouldn't make it explode if she tried to sit up. Accomplishing that task, she showered, dressed, and went down to breakfast, where she could smell the scent of breakfast.

She sat down at the table, on the same side as Naruto but with enough space for two or three people in between. She didn't want to sit right next to him after last night, but at the same time didn't want to be too far away. After everyone else had eaten Anko made an announcement.

"I talked to Kakashi last night, and he said that he will be fully recuperated tomorrow, so the six of you are at liberty for the day. Do whatever you want today because tomorrow is when the real work begins."

Tenten paused with her a fork laden with food halfway to her mouth. This was a sign. It had to be. Having those dreams and then having Anko tell them that they had the day for themselves. As sudden as that she had made her decision. When Naruto finished his meal and cleaned his plate off in the sink Tenten followed him out the door. What she did not notice was Hinata follow her out the door also.

"Naruto-kun, hold on a minute."

Naruto stopped and turned to face Tenten. "Hey Tenten-chan, what's up?"

Tenten stopped two or three feet away from him and held her hands behind her back. "Where are you going?"

"Oh, well, I'm gonna go train. I need to practice the Camouflage Technique. It's nowhere near where it has to be for me to actually use it. Mom says that you can still see my outline."

"Could you close your eyes for me please Naruto-kun?"

"Uh sure, I guess." Naruto was slightly wary of Tenten at just this moment. He had learned through harsh experience that when someone asked him to closed his eyes, it almost never meant something good, although he couldn't imagine Tenten trying to cut his ear off while he was unaware. He waited tensely for half a handful of seconds for Tenten's surprise. He was caught completely off guard when he felt Tenten's arms wrap around his neck and a soft pressure on his pursed lips a second later.

His eyes sprang open immediately to see Tenten's closed eyes less than an inch away from his own. Extrapolating from the proximity of her face he concluded that it was probably Tenten's lips on his own, therefore, Tenten was kissing him.

Now, Naruto's experience with the female gender was understandably limited. Other than his mother, Anko and Ayame, the ramen waitress, and Hinata, every other female in the village treated him with varying degrees of distaste, ranging from the adults outright hatred of him to his peers intense dislike. And it appeared that Tenten was now on the very short list of people who liked him.

Tenten held her position for another two or three seconds that lasted a lifetime before releasing him. She took a small step back and looked down the three or four inches that she had on him. "I like you Naruto-kun. I like you a lot. So, um, I was kinda wondering if you would like to go into the village with me today since Anko has given us the day off?"

Naruto didn't respond immediately. He remembered his mother's lessons on girls that she had forced him to endure. He still wasn't any good at telling what girls sometimes meant when they talked to him, but in this case, he was sure about it. "Do you mean like on a date?"

"Uh, if you want it to be."

Naruto put a finger to his chin, thinking. "Yeah, that would be nice Tenten-chan. Do you have any place in particular you wanted to go to?"

"No, not really Naruto-kun." In truth, she had not really planned for anything beyond this moment. The decision to ask him out was a spur of the moment decision, and now she had nowhere to go planned.

"Hold on a second Tenten-chan. I'll be right back." If there was one thing that Anko had pounded into his head, it was that the boy never let a girl pay for anything on a date. And seeing as how he was about to go on a date, he had to get his money.

Hinata barely managed to dive behind a bush as Naruto ran back to the house. She had situated herself a hundred yards behind the pair, far enough away that neither would sense her, but close enough that she could read their lips with her Byakugan.

She slumped down, leaning against a nearby tree trunk. She had missed her chance with Naruto. She had waited too long to try to gain his attention and now her teammate had asked him out and he accepted. She would never be able to get him now, unless they broke up.

Naruto returned to where Tenten was two minutes later, having passed his mother who was reading a scroll in the main room. She had studiously ignored what Naruto was doing back so soon, and why he needed his wallet and his and Tenten's katanas. Her knowing smirk told him that any answer he gave her would only be trouble, so he feigned deafness.

Both teenagers stood there slightly awkwardly for a few seconds before Naruto looked up with a blinding smile. Naruto had his blade strapped to his back already so he offered Tenten's sword to her, the scabbard wrapped up in the belt."So you ready to go Tenten-chan?"

"Yeah Naruto-kun," she replied, strapping the belt on and hooking Shrieking Fang on next. The pair turned and walked to the town that Tazuna's house was on the outskirts of. The town was rather crowded, many people milling about in the street, a good percentage wearing "Work for Food" signs. The teenage ninja garnered much attention, many people staring at the larger-than-life weapon on Naruto's back and everyone peeing curiously at their hitai-aite. The entire village knew that Tazuna had hired some ninja to protect him while he was working on the bridge, but no one had been in town much yet. Wave probably did not see many ninja around, so everyone was taking the chance to gawk.

Tenten walked together, shoulder occasionally bumping into the other one, looking for something to do. Unfortunately, Wave was not a prosperous nation, and as such, there were not many places to just hang out. The silence between them was getting slightly awkward and that was something that Naruto just could not abide. Taking a breath he seized Tenten's hand and pointed to a sweets shop just down the street. Turning back a bit to smile at her, he tightened the grip he hand on her hand and pulled her along until they were just outside the shop.

"Um, I know we just had breakfast, but do you want to get some dango or ice cream or something?"

Tenten really wasn't that hungry but nodded anyways. This was better than just wandering around town aimlessly. She really should have formulated some sort of plan before kissing him. It was an unexpectedly Naruto thing for her to do. He pulled her in by her hand again and found a couples booth by one of the windows. Naruto unslung Kitsune and leaned it against the outside edge of the table. Tenten followed Naruto's example and unhooked Shrieking Fang and rested it next to Kitsune. They were only sitting there in silence for a minute or two, ignoring the dozen pairs of eyes then and the not-so-hushed whispers about their apparent age and swords before a waitress came by.

"Hello, welcome to Shizuku-san's Sweets Shop Shinobi-sama, Shinobi-sama. My name is Otoha. How may I help you today?" She laid down an over sized piece of laminated paper in front of Tenten and Naruto, trying to discreetly look at the hitai-aite on their foreheads. If they were civilian it might have gone unnoticed, but they were well-trained shinobi. It was a menu.

"Um, well, we're new around here, and were just wandering around and saw this place. What would you recommend Otoha-san?" Naruto concealed a wince at how expensive all the food was. It seemed that Gama-chan was going on an enforced diet soon.

"Well, the mochi ice cream is very good, as is the anmitsu and melonpan."

Naruto nodded and perused the menu before passing it to Tenten. Tenten looked up and said "I think I am going to go with the sata andagi, please."

"Mochi ice cream for me then," Naruto said next. Otoha smiled and took the menu, saying that she would be back shortly. The silence started to stretch again, neither one could think of something to say. Tenten was just nervous, plus this was not exactly her dream date. Naruto was feeling out of his depth. He had very little experience dealing with girls, and he knew it. Naruto was racking his brain, trying to think of something to say to break the silence, so he said the first thing that came into his head.

"So, uh, what do you think of Team Seven?" Naruto winced immediately. He was on a date with Tenten and here he went talking about work.

"I kinda feel sorry for them."

That piqued Naruto's curiosity. "Really? Why is that?"

"Well, they seem to have gotten a really lazy teacher. Hatake-san is supposed to be one of the strongest jounin in the village, but he doesn't seem to be a very good teacher."

"I guess so. Although I think it's Sasuke-bastard getting his just desserts."

"Yeah, it was pretty amusing to see you take him down a couple pegs. Honestly, I could never figure out what all the other girls saw in him."

"I know, really. I mean, he has hair that looks like a duck's ass glued to his head, and he's so broody and mad all the time."

"I think that a lot of the other girls see him as a wounded soul, or something."

"What? A wounded soul?"

"Err... never mind. It's a girl thing."

"I guess. But he thinks he is so great just because he is an Uchiha."

"Well, for a long time the Uchihas were the greatest clan in the village."

"Yeah, only because they have that freaky eye-thing."

"The Sharingan."

"Yeah, whatever. But he does seem to know some really cool Fire Release jutsu. I swear, they are so totally wasted on him. I would use them better than he ever could I bet."

"What for? Pranking the village?"

"Hell yeah! Just imagine being able to set the teachers butt on fire when he isn't looking."

Tenten giggled slightly at that, visualizing Mizuki-sensei hopping about while Iruka-sensei tried to put him out. "That would be pretty funny."

"Hell yeah. Or if I were to put gas all over the hair of the Hokage's carved into the Hokage Rock and set it on fire." A smile split his face at the mental image of a flaming Yondaime head. Naruto quickly shoveled several spoonfuls of his ice cream in his mouth that had arrived sometime during their conversation. He dropped the spoon a moment later to clutch at his head, face scrunched up into an expression of agony.

"Brain-freeze?" Tenten asked, taking another bite of sata andagi. Naruto gave a pained nod. "Well, that is what you get for eating ice cream too fast."

"Ow," was all Naruto said, rapidly massaging his temples. He recovered a minute later and proceeded to consume the frozen delicacy at a much slower pace.

The rest of the "meal" was spent mocking the other three members of Team Seven, ranging from Kakashi's extremely improbable hairstyle to Kiba's Beast Human Clone and Four Legs Technique. An hour and a half later Naruto and Tenten were leaving Shizuku-san's Sweet Shop. Naruto tentatively took Tenten's hand in his own, ready to release it in an instant should she tell him to. To his relief though he just wrapped her fingers around the back of his palm through the web between his thumb and forefinger and tightened slightly. Naruto and Tenten walked back slowly, taking time to take in the town that they had not seen yet. Most the time in Wave country had been spent at Tazuna's house or in the surrounding forest. They spent most of the trip back in silence, but this time it was a comfortable silence, not strained at all.

All too soon they arrived back at Tazuna's house. Anko was sitting on a tree branch swinging her legs. "Hey you two, have a nice date?"

Naruto turned to respond to that in the manner that it deserved but recoiled immediately when he saw her, one leg lifting up and his arms shielding his face, body turned partially away. "Fuck, Mom, you're wearing a goddamn skirt. Get the hell down before you scar me any more than you already have."

Anko grinned and swung her legs a few more times, flashing her panties on each upswing before leaping to the ground. "Heh, messing with you is always fun."

"Only you would think that flashing your son is fun, you psycho." Immediately, Anko jumped him, wrestling him into a headlock. "Noogie of Mother's Revenge!"

"What the hell Mom? You just changed the name!"

Tenten allowed Anko to drill her knuckle into Naruto's crown for a few moments before clearing her throat. "Um, well I think I am going to go inside now." Anko grunted her acknowledgment and Tenten edged away from the black haired woman and left Naruto to his mother's mercies. She felt bad about abandoning him after coming back from a date with him, but she had no desire to let Anko play Twenty Questions with her and Naruto. The house was quiet as she opened the door and stepped through. "Hello, anyone here?"

A clatter sounded from the kitchen and a few seconds later Tsunami rounded the corner, drying her hands on a ragged dish towel.

"Oh, hey Tenten-san. What do you need?"

"Nothing really. Just wondering where everyone is."

"Well, Hatake-san is in his room sleeping. Uchiha-san, Haruno-san and Inuzuka-san all left several hours ago. I think they mentioned training. Hyuuga-san is in the back yard working in the garden. I think Mitarashi-san is out front."

"Yeah, Anko greeted Naruto and me on the way in. Might want to prepare a compress." Tsunami suppressed a wince and a sigh. She swore that the trenchcoat-and-fishnet clad woman was the most violent person (Gato aside) that she had met, especially with her own son. She could never imagine treating Inari like that. "So, do you need help with anything Tsunami-san? We have the day off, but I really don't have anything to do."

"Well, I was just tidying up in the kitchen, but you can help if you want."

"Sure, just tell me what I need to do." It turned out that "just tidying up" involved scouring the oven on her hands and knees, emptying the refrigerator and freezer to de-ice the freezer and clean up the frozen-on sticky melange of all the sauces, milk and bits of food that had some way or another been spilled.

"So, I noticed that Naruto-kun calls Mitarashi-san "Mom" but they don't share a surname."

"Uh, yeah, I think that Anko adopted Naruto when he was a baby. He was born after a huge disaster struck Konoha and there were a lot of orphans around, Naruto included."

"That is terrible. At least he seems to have found someone to care for him."

Tenten twisted her mouth into a grimace. "I suppose that she does. Even if she has a unique way of showing it." The conversation was put on hold for a few minutes as Tenten took a breath, and armed with a bottle of cleaner and a scrunge pad dove into the oven. She only reemerged when she heard the front door open and Naruto running from Anko. She sat back on her haunches, a small smile curving her lips as Naruto looked around for a second before opening the door one of the cupboards under the counter and dove inside. Anko strode in not a half second after he closed the door.

"You two see Naruto go by?" Wrestling with the almost overpowering urge to keel over with laughter she fought to maintain a straight face as she pointed to the back of the house. Anko grunted and stalked off. Five seconds later a whisper was heard.

"It safe to come out?"

"Yeah Naruto-kun, it's safe." Cautiously, Naruto cracked the door to the cupboard and peeked out. When he saw that the coast was clear he opened it the rest of the way and tumbled out. "What did you do this time?"

Naruto frowned and put his fists on his hips. "Why does everyone always assume it's something I did?"

"Well, generally speaking, you usually are at the center of any trouble if there is trouble to be had."

He considered this statement for a pair of seconds before grinning and nodding in acknowledgment. "She was trying to pry." That meant that Anko had probably questioned him about their date and he refused to answer her questions. And of course, she never took well to be denied something, especially from her own son. His foxy grin melted into an expression of horror as he heard Anko come storming back through the house. Thinking quickly, Naruto grabbed Tenten's hand and dragged her towards the door. Tenten waved goodbye helplessly, more than slightly amused as Naruto shouted that he had to go train with Tenten, retreating before the advancing Anko. Once they were outside Naruto immediately took to the treetops, Tenten following.

When Naruto judged that they had put enough distance between himself and his irate mother he dropped to the ground. "Sorry bout that Tenten-chan."

Still smothering her giggles she managed to get enough breath to speak. "No, it's okay. But you do know that she will just come down twice as hard on you later."

"Yeah, whatever. As long as it ain't right now." Naruto looked around suddenly. They were in a smallish clearing, maybe twenty paces across bordered by thick underbrush. "Um, well, I said we needed to do training, but we don't have any of our stuff with us." It was true. Both their swords were back at the house, along with their kunai holsters and shuriken pouches.

Naruto was looking around nervously, looking anywhere but at her. In his distracted state he didn't notice Tenten close the distance between him before she slid her hand down his arm and threaded her fingers between his. He whipped his head around immediately, cerulean blue meeting chocolate brown. She bent her head down and captured his lips between hers. This time he was starting to get the idea and pulled her bottom lip between his, sucking gently. Her hand, the one that wasn't entangled with Naruto's rose to his shoulder as she was pulled close against him.

Tenten pulled away a minute later, heat rising in her cheeks. But no matter what she tried, she could not tear her eyes from his. Not that she particularly wanted to. She swore she could spend all day staring into his depthless eyes. How virtually the entire population of Konoha could hate and despise him, she could not fathom. No demon could have eyes as pretty as his were. Tenten was only vaguely aware Naruto turning away and pulling her to sit at the base of one of the trees marking the border of the clearing.

Naruto crossed his legs, tugging Tenten down next to him. Tenten let his hand go and knelt in from of him instead. She pulled his legs apart and then sat between them, leaning back against his chest taking both of his hands and resting them on her stomach. "Now this is much better than sitting next to you, don't you agree?"

Tenten giggled as she could feel the heat rising from his cheeks. She leaned to one side slightly and looked at him. When they were on their feet she was about four inches taller than him, but apparently either she had longer legs than he did, or his torso was longer than hers because they were equal height. He gave a rumble of pleasure as she nuzzled his neck. "You know, it's okay to touch me now that we are dating."

"Er... No, that isn't it."

"Then what is it."

"Well, You know how the entire village hates me?" Tenten nodded. "Well, because of that I haven't had many friends in my life. The only families that don't seem to hate me are the Naras and Aburames, so I don't really have much experience with girls. Mom doesn't count. She is too... unrestrained."

"I see." Tenten had intellectual knowledge of Anko and Naruto's isolation, but it brought a new understanding of her new boyfriend to hear the only other two families to suffer from Konoha's views. "Well, just do whatever you think you should do. I will let you know if you do something wrong." She caught his chin as he tried to avert his gaze. "But I don't think I will have to tell you very much." She punctuated that remark with another kiss. It wasn't anything needy or passionate, just a warm pressure against his lips.

Tenten broke the kiss after a few seconds, turning her head to face forward, leaning into his embrace. She closed her eyes and enjoyed his warmth on her back and large (for a twelve-year-old's) hands resting on her stomach.

The pair relaxed like that for a few minutes before Naruto spoke. "What is it like to have a family, Tenten-chan?"

"What do you mean Naruto-kun?" Tenten asked softly, not opening her eyes.

"Well, I have never really had a family before, most of the time it is just Mom and me, and I was wondering what it's like to have a whole family."

Tenten pondered that question for a minute. Naruto was getting nervous and opened his mouth to retract the question as she replied. "It's having people who care about you no matter what you do I guess. They will yell and shout at you and will not always agree to what you say," she told him, recalling the brawl she had with her mother a couple of years ago over her attending the Shinobi Academy, "but support and love you regardless."

Neither of her parents were ninja, so when she entered the Academy they both thought it was a phase and would drop out eventually. But as her tenth birthday passed and her graduation loomed ever nearer her mother had wanted her to quit the Academy to become a civilian, eventually taking over management of the weapons shop that they ran. Tenten like being a ninja. There was nothing else she would rather be. Unfortunately, her mother was not of a similar mind. If Tenten recalled correctly, her father ended up having to replace nearly all of the plates when Tenten started chucking them at her mother. Luckily Chichi was a fairly agile women, even without any training. But her mother had eventually come around to her point of view and allowed her to graduate the Academy and become an active genin with minimal coddling and complaining.

"But in the end," she continued her answer, "they forgive you and move on."

Naruto was silent for a few more minutes before he whispered so quietly that she almost missed it "will you be my family?"

"Of course," she responded instantly. She admitted that she did not know him as well as she might like, but she did recognize the weight such a question carried with him. A heretofore unnoticed tension was released in his chest when she answered his question. It just drove home how lonely he was to ask a question like that and how nervous he was about her answer.

They spent the next two hours talking, each teaching the other about themselves. Everyone knew of Naruto's nigh-legendary love of ramen, but she also learned that he liked to garden, the small plot of land that was cultivated at his house that Team Nine had visited to learn about poisons was mostly the result of his ministrations.

Naruto in turn learned that neither of her parents were ninja, although her grandfather hand been. The main reason that she specialized in ranged weapons was because her family ran the shop that they had visited before they left Konoha. She helped out around the store in her spare time, working the cash register and cleaning out the forge when her father was done with it. She had a passing familiarity with virtually every weapon that could be found in Konoha, but obviously preferred to strike from a distance. Her dream was to prove that kunoichi could perform on an equal level as shinobi, idolizing Senju Tsunade of the Sannin.

Her favorite food was sesame dumplings, preferred black tea to green, and absolutely could not stand coffee. She dressed in the button up sleeveless shirts because they couldn't possibly bind or somehow catch to restrict her movement in the middle of a fight. She wore her hair up in buns because she liked having it long, despite the effort it took to keep it clean and tangle-free, but recognized that having hair halfway to her butt was a bad idea.

Naruto stared at Tenten's face, eyes closed, in total repose. She breathed deeply and evenly, having dozed off. His gaze lingered a moment on her hitai-aite, dark brown bangs falling over the metal plate, parted in the middle to show her village affiliation. Slowly he disentangled one of his hands and brought it up to her face, lightly stroking one of her eyebrows, causing her smooth forehead to wrinkle momentarily. His fingers drifted lower, passing over her thick eyelashes to trace the line of her cheekbone, stroking her cheek and eventually resting on the underside of her jawbone.

Tenten was a very pretty girl. He would be an idiot not to see it. Vaguely he wondered if she was some kind of recompense the universe was giving him for his otherwise pretty shitty life. He was just starting to come out of the shell shock of discovering that a girl, let alone a very pretty girl wanted to date him. That brought up a whole slew of angst right then and there. He wasn't really sure what he felt for Tenten, one of only three females he interacted with on a regular basis, the others being Hinata and his mother, and she was not a good baseline. He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who expressed love for him, and all of them were a good deal older than he was, so he had nothing to compare what he felt now with.

If she was going to date him, she deserved to know of his burden and the hate and rudeness she was likely to encounter by being associated with him so closely. There were two reasons for this. The first was that she was his teammate and deserved to know his secret as a potential weapon to be used. The second was that couples were not supposed to keep secrets from each other, that much he knew. He was terrified that she dump him once she found out though. She was the first person of his generation, other than the Nara and Aburame heirs to want to be his friend, and he was loath to lose her as soon as he gained her. One way or another, he had to tell her before they returned to Konoha, so if she didn't want to associate with him anymore than as teammates she could do so before she became linked with him.

Resigned to his decision he decided that he would enjoy her company while he could. He rested his chin on her shoulder, closing his eyes and returning the hand cupping her face to its original spot under her hand on her stomach. Tenten suppressed a sigh. She had been dozing but had awoken as Naruto moved his hand. She had studied his face as he had held some sort of internal debate. She only hoped that he could trust her enough to let her know what was troubling him. Closing her eyes again she fell into a light doze again.

They spent the rest of the afternoon like that. Naruto stirred as the amber rays of the retiring sun fell across his eyes. The thin flaps of skin retreated to exposed his bright blue eyes to the setting sun. He started immediately, panicking slightly. They had not meant to spend so long out, and now they were probably going to be late for dinner. Naruto's shifting woke Tenten. Opening her eyes, she realized how late it was. Stretching languidly she gripped Naruto's chin and turned his face so that she could kiss him. That stilled Naruto for the thirty seconds that she pressed her lips against his.

"We should probably get back to the house. Everyone will be wondering where we have been."

"Ugh, do we have to? I'm comfortable here." Two seconds after that her stomach rumbled in a very noticeable fashion, reminding her that she had eaten anything since the sweets shop they had visited that morning. "On second thought, dinner is sounding real nice."

Naruto grinned at her. "That was supposed to be my line." He pulled himself out from behind Tenten and then pulled her to her feet with one hand. Looking around, a slightly scared expression spread over his features. "Um, say, do you know which way the house is." He had not been paying much attention to where he ran in his haste to escape his mother. Tenten thought about it for a minute before pointing to their left.

"Pretty sure it is that way." She had been paying slightly more attention to their path than Naruto. Twisting her hand so that it shifted from the handshake grip he had used to pull her up to her feet (and incidentally pulling him closer) to intertwine her fingers with his, both genin dashed the way she had pointed.

Twenty minutes later Tenten spied a thread of smoke rising in the sky to their left. Pointing it out to Naruto they turned to face it. Five minutes after that they approached the house-on-stilts that belonged to the client. "Hello, we're home!" Naruto shouted from the foyer as they entered the house. Three seconds later Anko stood in the doorway.

"Where the hell have you been?" she asked, noting their hands.

"Uh, training." Naruto replied unconvincingly.

"When you left all your equipment here?"

"We were working on taijutsu."

"Right. Well, whatever you were doing, you arrived just in time to gets some dinner." She led the newly minted couple into the dining room. Tazuna, Inari, Kakashi, Sasuke, Kiba and Sakura were already there. Everyone gave a questioning look to Naruto and Tenten but the pair ignored them seating themselves at the table next to each other. Everyone's attention was soon diverted to the newly arrived food. Everything was delicious, something Naruto made sure that Tsunami knew, much to her embarrassment.

After the meal was concluded the ninja retreated to Kakashi's room. "Well, as you all know, I will be completely recovered tomorrow. As such, I will be assuming command again. Tomorrow will be the first day that construction on the bridge will resume since our arrival here in Wave. So I expect Gato to make a move in the next couple of days." Pulling a map of the island of Wave into the middle of the group. The map was surprisingly detailed, showing the all of the towns on the island. There were three dots, inked by hand, one by one of the three largest towns. "Gato has a small mercenary army on his payroll, separated into three camps. Each one is reported to have about a hundred men in them. What I want your team to do Anko, is neutralize this camp right here," he said pointing to the dot closest to Tazuna's town, using a kunai in lieu of a pointing device. Apparently it didn't occur to him to just use his finger.

"This is also where the mercenary commander is supposed to be headquartered." Looking each member of Team Nine in the eye he continued. "I know this is a lot I am asking of you, but right now, I believe that your team is better suited to this mission. My team will accompany Tazuna to the bridge tomorrow. I want you to be packed and ready tonight. Let me know if your are short any supplies; I know you were diverted here from returning from another mission, so if you are short on something, we can split what we have with you."

"I don't think that will be necessary, but I'll double check everything later and let you know," Anko responded. "Do you know anything of how the camp is set up?"

"Just what the villagers could tell me. Canvas walls, twenty foot towers on the corners, and the command tent presumably in the center of it all. Other than that, nothing."

Anko sighed. "Well, I guess we will have to make do with what we got." After that, everyone split up to go to their rooms to prepare for tomorrow. Kakashi had his own room but everyone else had to share. Anko, Tenten, Hinata and Sakura were in one room and Naruto, Sasuke and Kiba shared another. Naruto was unusually solemn as he entered his room to pack. Sasuke and Kiba exchanged a surprised glance when they entered. Naruto was seated on his futon, shuriken and kunai piled before him, wiping everything down with a rag and machine oil. They had expected him to pacing the room nervously or bouncing around and shouting about how he was going to beat everyone up singlehandedly. Instead what they found was what appeared to be a very calm and professional shinobi double checking to make sure that all his tools were in good condition before having to use them.

"I told you before Sasuke that the moron that you and the village knew never existed." That stopped Sasuke in his tracks to exchange a surprised look with Kiba.

"I didn't say anything," he protested.

"Yeah but you sure as hell were thinking it."

"Well, good luck tomorrow Naruto."

Naruto looked up from oiling his weapons. "Thanks Sasuke."

"Hn," was his only reply, turning away from the blond.

Meanwhile in the girls room, Anko was starting to get annoyed with the pink haired kunoichi of Team Seven. "But Anko-sensei, your students are all genin, how can they be expected to handle that many mercenaries right now?"

"I will tell you Haruno-san," Tenten interrupted. "It is because, unlike your sensei, Anko has prepared us to fight, and when necessary kill. So I would not be worrying about us much. I would worry much more about yourself."

"What she says is true Sakura-chan. Naruto, Tenten and Hinata have been training since practically the day Team Nine was formed to fight and eventually kill. I have the utmost confidence that they will succeed in carrying out their duties, and know how to handle themselves if things get sticky. Now, we are going to have to be up before the sun tomorrow, so we need to get to sleep." With that the women of Team Nine smoothed out their blankets and went to sleep.