Sorry to give those a heart attack who thought this was That Special Someone. I'm just re-uploading all of the chapters I have for my other stories. I do have about one-fourth of Letters of Love done (2,500 words) but I'm still trying to figure out how I want the chapter to be structured. I'm also putting in scene breaks for all previous chapters of my stories.
For those of you who remember that I can't use 0's as scene breaks anymore, I also can't put a exclamation and question mark next to each other to express that emotion anymore. I think it's a problem with this site's document manager. I'll be sending them a question about that.
Disclaimer: You think I own Naruto? You must be crazy then.
Naruto's eyes sparkled in what had to be the first appraising look he'd ever given Jiraiya.
"You mean you'll teach me any jutsu that I want to learn Ero-sennin?"
Jiraiya placed his hand atop the boy's head to stop his excited bouncing. Inwardly sighing in relief, the toad sannin stared down at the boy, happy he'd surfaced from his sorrowful mood. Though it had been many years since Orochimaru deserted the village in order to gain power and he'd immediately followed, he couldn't help feeling as if on a few weeks had passed. Maybe the strange sense of déjà vu that washed over him like a small wave could be at fault for that. He couldn't help but feel as if Naruto's determination exceeded his own in that aspect even if he did receive help from others. Nevertheless, Jiraiya found he couldn't force back the grin that overtook his face at the blonde's exuberance. He was so much like his father and himself that the older male began to wonder if Minato had been his long lost son.
"Not any jutsu." Jiraiya's comment effectively ceased Naruto's excitement. "You'd be far too destructive with most of the things I know."
Naruto gave the older man an angry pout. "Aww come on Ero-sennin! I've become a lot stronger in the last few months! I even learned to use rasengan!"
The white haired male nodded. "That's true. I'll admit that you've done more than I probably would have been able to at your age. Though there's still one problem with you Naruto."
Naruto gave his sensei a questioning look. "What's that?"
Jiraiya scratched his cheek with his index finger. "Well, actually, there's quite a few problems." The blond glared at him. "The most important of them being your chakra control."
Disbelief flooded Naruto's face. "Chakra control? Ero-sennin you taught me chakra control when I had to learn to walk on water! You said it was one of the hardest types of chakra control exercises!" Suspicion replaced the blonde's previous expression. "You're just trying to get out of training me again aren't you?"
Jiraiya bopped the younger male halfheartedly. "If I was I wouldn't have brought you out here in the first place you ungrateful gaki!" He sighed. "If you don't believe me, I'll show you. What's one jutsu that you'd like to learn?" Naruto's eyes sparkled again. "Something that's not out of your league." The older male warned.
Naruto adopted a thinking expression for all of five seconds. He smiled at the his sensei. Jiraiya allowed his eyebrows to rise in anticipation. "I've seen Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke-teme use Gokakyu no jutsu. I'll surprise them with their own attack!"
The toad sannin rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Given your reserves, you should be more than capable of doing it. Without the proper chakra control though..." Jiraiya turned ninety degrees so that he face the empty space to the side of them. He went through the hands signs at an average pace so that his pupil could see it before making a circle with his index finger and thumb.
"Gokakyu no jutsu!"
Naruto watched in amazement as a fireball spewed from Jiraiya's hand and soared into the sky. It's size was larger than whatever he'd seen Kakashi or Sasuke release but he assured himself that Jiraiya had just been showing off. He turned toward the other male when the flaming ball could no longer be seen. Jiraiya smirked at his awestruck expression. He made a point to palm the blonde's head one more time in a gloating gesture.
"Maybe now you'll start calling me 'The Great Jiraiya'?" Jiraiya questioned. Naruto crossed his arms but didn't reply, causing his sensei to chuckle.
"Do you remember all the signs?" Naruto nodded dutifully. He raised his hands to begin but the white haired male quickly stopped him. Quickly running about thirty feet behind Naruto, he gave his pupil the signal to start. The blond scowled at him before turning back face the blue sky above them.
'Horse, Snake, Ram, Monkey, Boar, Horse, Tiger.'
"Gokakyu no jutsu!"
'Stamp, sign, pass. Stamp, sign, pass. Stamp, sign, pass...'
Tsunade moved through each paper Shizune sent to her without even reading what they contained. Oddly enough, Shizune chose to ignore this or simply didn't seem to notice. Taking a quick glance at her apprentice, the buxom blond realized she was lost in thought and was merely moving through the motions. Tsunade hid her gleeful smirk in favor of continuing to move through her paperwork at a speed that she'd thought unattainable when Shizune sat near. When the brunette reached for another slip and grasped empty air, she gazed at her hand in confusion.
Tsunade smirked. "Lost in thought?"
Caught off guard, Shizune spluttered something incoherent. She hung her head in defeat. "Hai."
The Godaime rested her chin atop her intertwined fingers. Shizune didn't have a habit of daydreaming.
Her apprentice cast a wary gaze to the door before turning back to her sensei. "I-It's just all of the things that are happening to Naruto-kun. He's still only a child. If Jiraiya-sama is right about the ninja coming after him all being S-rank nin...it's frightening to think of. Naruto-kun's also taking Sasuke-kun's...situation...pretty hard. He may do something drastic if things don't go his way. "
Tsunade sighed. When she'd told the younger woman about Naruto coming trip with Jiraiya Shizune had simply nodded and told her to start on her paperwork. Evidently, her worry for the boy who had become something of a younger brother to her had bubbled up over her resolve to stay quiet. The brunette silently waited for the Godaime to answer but all she received from the woman was another deep sigh.
Shizune's voice became even more laden with worry. "Doesn't this affect you at all Tsunade-sama?"
The blond sent her apprentice a piercing stare. Shizune fought the urge to hang her head like a scorned child. "Of course it does." Tsunade clenched her stamp tighter. "Jiraiya is training him. If there's anyone I trust to prepare Naruto for what he's going to come up against it's him."
Shizune shifted Tonton in her arms. "I know he'll become strong Tsunade-sama but even Jiraiya-sama couldn't take on half of them by himself. What chance does Naruto have if they all come after him? Or if-"
"Shizune!" Tsunade barked. The brunette jumped and fell back a step. Tonton began shivering in her arms. "Naruto may still be a child but he is a strong and determined ninja. Jiraiya will help the boy to become stronger." She paused to take a deep breath. "I'll admit that you're correct. However, if you're that worried about Naruto and you don't seem to understand that my worry for him likely exceeds yours by far, then we'll have to do something about it."
By this time Tonton's fearful shivers were matched by the brunette holding it. The bottom of the stamp thumped as it hit the desk. All that remained of the handle was a thin splinter where a few indentations Tsunade's fingers could be seen.
"D-D-Do s-something a-about it?" Shizune stammered.
Tsunade stood and nodded. She strode toward the double doors and eventually outside the Hokage tower at a brisk pace, nearly leaving behind her apprentice. When Shizune finally caught up to her master her questioning look was ignored by the older woman. She knew Tsunade used her worry for Naruto as a cover up for her own and would likely blame whatever she was planning on the brunette's nagging tendencies but Shizune could care less as long as it helped Naruto. She still wanted to know what her master had planned though.
Shizune's head snapped backwards toward the Hokage tower where the explosion seemed to come from. It was about a quarter mile from the tower where the nearest training ground was located. The brunette turned back to the Godaime to see a smirk on her features. She thought it better to keep quiet and wait for Tsunade to speak, even when another resounding 'boom' echoed around the area five minutes later. Those people that they did walk past instantly calmed when they noticed Tsunade's unworried expression and went about their business. Shizune released a breath when they stopped in front of a familiar home.
The girl sleepily rubbed her eyes when the door opened. Apparently Tsunade had already knocked. The pinkette surprised expression arose when she realized who sat on her doorstep. "Tsunade-sama? Shizune-senpai?"
The Godaime frowned. "Sleeping in the middle of the day Sakura?"
Sakura instantly awoke and righted her posture. "It was just a nap! I was a bit tired after-"
"It's fine," Tsunade interrupted. "I assume you didn't have anything planned for the rest of the day?" Sakura shook her head quickly. "Good. We're going to the fourteenth training ground for some training."
"Hai!" Sakura saluted.
Tsunade's business-like facade didn't fade. Sakura did a one-eighty to head back inside and get dressed. The pinkette became alarmed and confused when her feet left the floor and she watched her home grow farther and farther away. She threw a surprised glance over her shoulder to see Tsunade had effortlessly picked her up by the back of her striped pink and white pajamas like she would a piece of luggage. The villagers that were out caused her face to flame in embarrassment when they laughed quietly at her predicament. Shizune threw an apologetic look behind the Godaime to the pinkette.
It felt like an eternity before they stopped at yet another house. Tsunade knocked politely on the door and waited. The new voice that filled the air caused Sakura to scowl.
"Why does everyone act as if this is the hour to sleep at?" Tsunade sighed out. She looked down at Tenten's green clad frame.
The blond Hokage shifted Sakura. "Do you have anything planned for the rest of the day?"
Tenten brushed a stray hair behind her ear. "I-I was going to make dinner for Naruto when he finishes training. I like to be comfortable when I cook," She defended.
Tsunade waved her hand in dismissal. "Forget about that. We have something important to do."
Tenten stammered a bit before doing an identical salute to Sakura's earlier one. Shizune had to fight a giggle when Tsunade used her unoccupied arm to throw the brunette over her shoulder, invoking a cry of surprise from the female genin. It was only then that Tenten could see pink hair near the Godaime's upper arm. She scowled in perfect time to see Sakura's own scowl leveled on her. The older women were oblivious to this exchange. Tsunade moved her stare to her apprentice.
The Godaime's calm unnerved her apprentice a bit. "H-Hai?"
Tsunade motioned toward the Hokage tower. "Take us to the fourteenth training ground." Shizune opened her mouth to protest but the older woman continued. "Now. My hands are full."
Sighing in defeat, Shizune put a hand on her mistress' shoulder and made the appropriate hand sign. Neither Tenten nor Sakura could protest or ask a question as they were whisked away at a speed they'd never felt before. None of the other kunoichi caught sight of the Godaime's serious expression momentarily disappearing to be replaced by a confident smirk.
Jiraiya ducked in perfect time for the blond to fly over his head for the third time. The crack that signified that the tree's bark had been substantially damaged echoed around the area. The Toad sannin let out a low whistle in wonder at the distance before walking over to the blond. Naruto sat against the wood, his hands clutching the back of his head and silently cursing to himself. Jiraiya took his time getting over to the boy more out of caution that he'd attempt the jutsu again than anything else. Upon getting closer and inspecting the condition of his pupil he could clearly see the burns along his hand already healing.
Jiraiya chuckled. "Done trying to outdo your sensei?"
The blond stood up slowly, growling audibly as he did so. "I wasn't trying to-"
"You put everything you could into the jutsu and didn't even bother to direct the chakra in the right direction." He scorned. Naruto made an uncaring sound as he lifted his hands again to begin making the signs. Instead of bopping his student on the head because this obviously hadn't been working, Jiraiya chose a different course of action.
"Gokakyu no Jutsu!"
It took the blond genin half a second to realize that he had still been making the signs and thus couldn't have made the call. The next half of the full second he spent jumping out of the way of the fireball that almost burned the hair from the back of his skull. Unfortunately Naruto hadn't been able to make enough distance between himself and the jutsu given the short distance between he and his sensei, resulting in the angry red hole that now sat in the middle of his jacket. He threw the older male a dirty look but Jiraiya only grinned at him.
"Since there's no other way to pound it into that thick skull of yours," He started, still grinning. "I thought that we could turn this into a game. You have until sunset to pull off your first successful katon jutsu. And if you manage to hit me with it..." Jiraiya bent down until his eyes were level with those of his charge in order to add his extra incentive. "...I'll cover your ramen expenses for an entire year."
Naruto's expression immediately gave way to the challenging and determined smirk that Jiraiya had come to recognize as the exact same as his own. His put his hand out for the older make to shake it but then hurriedly withdrew it. The blond murmured something to himself.
Jiraiya knocked on the boy's head in a playful manner. "Naruto? Was the shock too much?"
Naruto pushed his hand away. Then, without warning, he turned and started running back in the direction of his apartment. Jiraiya raised a hand to the blond but he continued running, calling something over his shoulder that the white haired male strained to hear. The only thing Jiraiya could make out was the word 'witness'. Without anything else to do for the moment, he sat and started reading over the latest edition of Icha Icha. When the blond returned he held a blushing brunette in his arms. Jiraiya couldn't help the perverse grin that surfaced on his face or the urge to clap Naruto's back proudly.
The toad sannin smiled widely. "Who's your friend gaki?"
Naruto put the girl down. "This is Kyuuka-nee-chan. She has an unnatural affinity for katon jutsu and I thought since we're already working on chakra control and jutsu..."
"...That you'd bring someone else along," Jiraiya finished lamely. "How foolish of me to think that you'd finally acquired a girlfriend," he deadpanned.
Naruto glared at him while Kyuuka only looked on in confusion, a faint hue of red staining her face. "That's not important right now. Kyuuka-nee-chan, show us that katon jutsu that you know." The blond grinned. "I want to see how cool it is."
The older male didn't miss the brunette's eyes falling at the honorific that Naruto bestowed upon her before lifting. He fought oncoming sigh and turned to the girl.
"Katon: Houkayubi no Jutsu," She answered.
Jiraiya nodded. He motioned for the brunette to perform the jutsu but she took several cautious steps back before stopping. After taking a rough measurement of the distance with her eyes, she began making signs. The toad sannin kept a straight face throughout all of this, though a large part of him doubted that the jutsu would actually have the reach of the twelve feet she put between them. All the while Naruto watched quietly. His curiosity of her potential with katon jutsu waited to be sated.
"Houkayubi no jutsu."
Naruto wouldn't have been able to hear the jutsu she'd performed if he hadn't know what to expect. Her whispered proclamation had to be paid acute attention to. However, despite the fact that she didn't shout the jutsu like most ninja chose to, he and his sensei still stood, mouths agape, at the large flame that burst from her index finger that easily towered over the two males. Jiraiya estimated it to be at least five feet in the air. A shocking height given that the flame was intended to be a few inches at best. Kyuuka did her best to hold her right hand as far away from her body as possible to prevent turning herself into the wax that kept her flame burning. The volcano village girl released the jutsu, letting out a ragged breath and struggling to stay on her feet as she did. The blond flashed to her side a second later, brightened smile and all, to help support her.
Jiraiya fanned himself. He wiped the sweat from his brow and turned to the girl, a wary look on his face. "What village do you come from?"
Kyuuka steadied herself against the blond. "The Volcano village. It's-"
The toad sannin raised his hand. "I know where it is." Jiraiya let his weight fall against the tree beside him. "You're a very special girl. It's not too often that someone is gifted with an ability like yours. The only problem is that it completely drained most of the chakra you had. That's why you can hardly stand right now."
Kyuuka nodded wearily. Jiraiya continued.
"Chakra control will help you remove a good amount of the chakra going into the jutsu, but the majority of it will still be there. The only solution to this problem that I can think of is for you to gain more chakra. Unfortunately, that's a process that can take months, maybe even a few years." Jiraiya leveled his serious gaze on the girl. "That's only if this is something you want to do."
The brunette regulated her breathing and stood upright. " I do. If it's possible for me to perform katon jutsu like the rest of the people in my village, I'd do anything."
Jiraiya smirked. "In order to gain more chakra, you have to nearly all the chakra you possess and wait for it to come back. Your coils will get exercise this way by drawing all the chakra it can back to your system, each time drawing more. It's an extremely exhaustive process and a lengthy one, so I suggest you do it with someone else supervising. For now, the only jutsu you know should be sufficient in depleting all but a small bit of your chakra, but as they grow you'll have to use jutsu that take a bit more chakra."
Naruto watched the girl beside him give a nod of affirmation. She fell against him soon after, breathing heavily once again. Jiraiya motioned for him to lay the girl against the tree trunk, noting that she'd passed out before the blond could. Smirking to himself, the toad sannin cleared his voice. Naruto faced his outstretched hand when he moved his gaze to his sensei. The blond appeared to hesitate for a moment, during which Jiraiya's brows twitched in annoyance, before reaching for his hand.
Both males turned to see Shizune waving to them from across the clearing. Naruto's eyes lit up as she came closer, particularly because of the person alongside her who strode purposefully toward the older male. Before they could make it over Naruto sprinted to them and began dragging Tsunade back toward his sensei. The Godaime frowned at the sight of the healing skin the burns Naruto received had caused upon arriving.
"Okay Ero-sennin, tell me the bet again."
Jiraiya palmed his face, completely missing the questioning look given to him by his old teammate. "You forgot? Sometimes I wonder why-"
The older male cleared his throat. "If you manage to hit me with a katon jutsu by sunset I'll cover your ramen expenses for a year."
"Deal!" Naruto shouted as he grasped the older male's hand and shook it vigorously. "Did you hear that Baa-chan? An entire year!"
Jiraiya paled when he looked the current Hokage. Though it was probably her responsibility to make sure that all legal matters and deals were to be seen to correctly, he knew that Tsunade would make sure that he'd follow through on his promise should Naruto succeed regardless of that. Her closeness to Naruto wouldn't let her do otherwise. This was all putting aside the fact that she liked to see him suffer, or so he assumed. Jiraiya grinned once more, waggling his eyebrows at Tsunade as he did, and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
"Sunset's coming gaki. Better hurry," Jiraiya's voice resounded around the clearing.
Naruto made to take off after the older male but two heavy 'thump' noises caused him to stare back at his surrogate sister/mother to find Sakura and Tenten both rubbing their bottoms tenderly. The blond threw a curios look to the oldest woman. She waved it off, then turned a heated gaze to the two on the ground. Shizune gently pushed Naruto the opposite way, reminding him that he only had a few hours at best if he wanted catch the toad sannin. Reluctantly, the blond sprinted into the trees, raising up a bit of dust in the process. With that done, she put a hand on her mistress' shoulder to stop her from scaring the two kunoichi beneath her out of their skin.
"You two," Tsunade started. "Are not at the level that you need to be."
Sakura wilted a bit. "We just started training Tsunade-sama," she explained.
Tsunade knit her brows. "I know that. Shizune , however, doesn't believe that you will be adequate teammates for Naruto in the future. With Jiraiya's training, he'll grow strong, but even with it Naruto won't be able to handle everything." Tsunade chose her words carefully. It was a bit difficult to sidestep the issue of the Akatsuki being the ones hunting Naruto. Shizune's frown was ignored by the buxom blond.
"In that case he'll need skilled teammates and seeing as Sasuke is currently unable to do so, I'm putting you three in a secondary three man cell."
"A secondary cell?" The two girls echoed. They glared at each other.
"Hai. Starting today, I'll be training the both of you in whatever way I see fit. To start, we'll have a spar to check where you two are in taijutsu. Sakura, unlike our usual training sessions you'll be required to fight back, not just evade. Who wants to go first?"
A nervous air quickly fell around the two kunoichi. They toyed with their toes and blades of grass in the few precious seconds they had to make a decision. Hesitantly, Sakura made to stand up but Tenten leaped to her feet before the pinkette could. Tsunade led the brunette over to an area a good distance away from Shizune and Sakura, saying nothing as she did. Tenten dropped into her fighting stance and donned a wary expression when Tsunade slipped into one she had yet to see. Sakura jumped when Shizune yelled the command to start.
The brunette rushed at her opponent. Tenten jumped toward Tsunade, who still hadn't moved, and reached behind her to grab something she wasn't expecting. Air. Her face grew fearful when Tsunade sprouted a smirk.
Sakura winced at the knee that sent Tenten crashing to the ground. The brunette rolled several yards before gaining enough awareness to switch the momentum to her feet. It hurt more than she'd predicted. This was likely due to the fact that she didn't have any shoes on. Tsunade landed long ago and stood tapping the toe of her shoes against the ground. As if making a decision, she began taking them off leisurely, sock and all. The Godaime ducked the kick aimed at head, took off her sock, caught the follow up kick from the brunette, and threw her back to her starting point. Tenten flipped expertly and landed on her toes to start another rush at Tsunade.
The blond tossed her first shoe behind her carelessly, then started on her second. This time, seeing as the Godaime only stood on one foot; the brunette went for a sweep kick. Tsunade peeled the second shoe off. She glanced at the brunette and started working on the sock again. Tenten grinned when she realized that the older woman couldn't possibly avoid her in time. The kick connected, but the blond remained standing. Tsunade didn't so much as buckle under the force the younger girl applied to it. She glared down at Tenten who felt fear strike her heart in that moment.
"I'm not your team. When I say spar, I mean you'd better go all out if you don't want to be crushed."
Regaining rein over her speeding heart, the brunette rolled backwards into a back-spring to get on her feet. Her eyes caught the shadow above her and identified it as her opponent, her leg positioned perfectly for the coming axe kick. Tenten immediately brought her forearms up to block, but the Godaime's smirk only widened at this. It was then the brunette remembered who she was sparring with.
Naruto ran after the head of white hair not too far ahead of him. He briefly wondered why his sensei was growing closer because he knew Jiraiya speed was greater than his. Convincing himself that whatever the older male had planned would be no good for him if he kept running forward, he made a kage bunshin to take his place and took a detour. The blond didn't miss the fact that he was faster now as he rushed through the trees, taking time to weave in and out in a childish challenge of his current speed level. When he caught sight of Jiraiya again he was already on the toad sannin's side. He grinned.
Jiraiya turned to look over his shoulder at his pupil. His eyes briefly darted to his peripheral but the imperceptible movement could hardly be noticed. The blond in front of him stopped and waited but the white haired male didn't make a move. His eyebrows rose when four additional blonds joined the first. Jiraiya's ears twitched at the sound of greenery rustling all around him. The sound of sandals upon wood also signified that he'd been completely surrounded. Jiraiya tapped his foot in mock impatience at the bunshin's lack of making a move. All the blonde's grinned at the same time before raising their hands and making signs. Jiraiya's eyes widened.
"Gokakyu no Jutsu!"
The following explosions shook the landscape and blew several pieces of wood in numerous directions. Needless to say, Jiraiya assumed Naruto had hoped to at least succeed in the jutsu once with all of his kage bunshin but they all failed miserably. A few hints of fire could be seen but nothing to put the forest in danger given the cool temperature outside. The toad sannin gazed around cautiously, vision obscured by the smoke remains of the bunshin. He barely made out the bright blue glow coming from his north and south directions. The white haired male jumped upward, likely into another trap, to avoid the two rasengan.
Jiraiya expertly caught the punch outside the smoke and kicked off his pupil to head in another direction. The bunshin disappeared as he made his departure again but he didn't get far before Naruto flew at him with another rasengan. Jiraiya barely caught the boy's forearm and stopped the attack from connecting with his face.
"Must have wasted a lot of chakra huh gaki? All those katon jutsu had to be hard on you," Jiraiya goaded.
Naruto growled. "I'm not done yet!"
Jiraiya chuckled, then gasped as he felt something tear into the back of his top. Naruto grinned at the surprised look on his sensei's face but quickly frowned when his opponent was replaced by a log a second later. His eyes scanned the clearing but it was obvious Jiraiya had already made his retreat. The thought that the legendary a sannin had run away from him made Naruto's chest swell with pride...until he felt a hard blow to his back that sent him into a nearby tree. The blond applied chakra to his feet to avoid a rather painful landing. Jiraiya stood above him with nothing but his chain mail on. His top floated to the ground slowly, ripped a good amount from the rasengan that connected with it. Naruto did likewise, removing his burnt jacket in favor of his black undershirt. The two smirked at each other.
"You're a little faster,' Jiraiya commented. "I almost didn't avoid that. Maybe I should stop playing around with you gaki."
Naruto scoffed. "Maybe you should. Unless you want Baa-chan to make you buy me ramen for an entire year!" The blond pumped his fist in the air in excitement.
Instead of replying Jiraiya sprinted off into the trees at a pace that Naruto easily matched. The toad sannin slowly increased his speed little by little until he could see his pupil starting to fall behind a bit. Hands still behind him, Jiraiya slipped four explosive kunai from his sleeves and ran ahead of his pupil, dropping them as he did. Naruto, being as keen as ever, kept running toward the kunai as if they bore no threat to him at all. The older male shook his head in exasperation and watched the four explosions consume the blond. He'd assumed the boy would have at least jumped or showed some indication that he knew the kunai were tagged. The sound of footsteps quickly put Jiraiya back on guard.
Naruto ran out of the black cloud with a little more than a few burns and scrapes, rasengan in hand. Jiraiya's made a few signs with a confident smirk on while the blond continued to sprint at him.
"Doryu Taga no jutsu!"
The surprise on Naruto's face as well as the mud he slipped on, earning him a rough landing on his ass, made the toad sannin guffaw uncontrollably for a few seconds. The coolness that stemmed from the sun being blocked snapped him back to his senses. The Naruto in the mud had long since disappeared. Jiraiya expertly moved away from the flying kick coming from midair. Naruto threw a flurry of mixed punches at the sannin but they all proved futile until Jiraiya had enough and kicked the boy back. The older male watched his pupil float upside down in the air facing away from him until the blond flipped completely, his index and thumb fingers in a perfect circle.
"Control the chakra...Control the chakra..."
"Gokakyu no Jutsu!"
The assumed explosion was the cue for the toad sannin to close his eyes and palm his head. The following feeling that his body continually was approaching an uncomfortable source of heat prompted his instincts to kick in. He dodged the oncoming average sized fireball by inches. It sailed through the trees until colliding with a one, nearly toppling the poor thing. Jiraiya performed a suiton jutsu to put out the flaming tree before turning back to his student. Naruto chuckled to himself while rising slowly, his challenging smirk back in place.
"Almost got you that time Ero-sennin...I can smell my free ramen!" The blond declared.
Jiraiya chuckled to himself. "You still put too much into the jutsu but had enough control for it to not completely backfire. It won't be useful on a mission if you don't master it."
Naruto made several kage bunshin to answer his sensei's comment. Jiraiya rubbed his chin thoughtfully before giving Naruto a peace sign and disappearing in a swirl of leaves. The blond cursed under his breath and looked at the sky. Sunset would be approaching in the next half hour at best.
The earth beneath the Godaime's foot had crumbled under the mighty attack she unleashed upon it. Their surroundings now resembled a crater that one might think a meteor or jounin level jutsu caused. Sakura felt a chill run up her spin at having to go against her sensei all out. In their training sessions the woman rarely ever used her impressive strength; most times only to demonstrate what the damage the perfectly timed release of chakra was capable of. When she could see clearly again she gasped. Tenten had avoided the fatal axe kick that Tsunade attempted to deliver but the brunette's leg and a few rocks were currently involved in a struggle Sakura didn't think she'd be breaking anytime soon. Tsunade advanced on her opponent at a leisurely pace until she directly over the younger girl.
Tsunade knew that there was no use in continuing the sparring match if Tenten couldn't move. She wasn't one to beat an opponent senseless when they couldn't defend themselves and it'd hardly solve anything at this point. Just as she opened her mouth Tenten's leg lifted itself from its stone entrapment as if it hadn't ever been immobilized there. Tsunade's only choice was to lean back as fast as possible to absorb the blow from the brunette's knee to her chin. The blond backed up several feet but was back on Tenten in a matter of a few seconds. The brunette dodged the overhead punch and her blond opponent blocked the shot to her ribs easily. Tenten pushed her fear down in favor of smirking up at the Godaime.
Tsunade remained stoic as she pushed Tenten's fist through it normal range of motion so that the girl's back was to her. Tenten winced when she jumped backward over the Godaime to avoid her legs being knocked out from under her, kicking off of Tsunade's upper back to gain some distance between herself and her opponent. Tsunade speed allowed her to grab the brunette's right leg as soon as she kicked off. Tenten seemed to expect this. She brought her foot back to kick the blond, something not possible at that distance. Though at that moment Tsunade caught sight of the seals one the inside of the girl's pajama pants. She dropped the brunette and jumped away just in time to avoid the shuriken and kunai that were where she had been standing.
The blond Hokage analyzed the younger girl. She didn't appear to be too tired but her ankle had clearly been hurt. At the least she had to have twisted it but she didn't seem to care about it. Her weight lay mostly on the right side of her body. The pants leg the kunai and shuriken were released from were ripped because of the metal weapons. Tsunade put one hand up to signal the end of the spar and beckoned Sakura to come over. Tenten gingerly sat down on the soft grass to avoid further harm to her injured appendage. The other three women were soon sitting down in a square pattern near her. Shizune pat her shoulder gently.
"You did well Tenten-chan. I didn't expect you to land a blow on Tsunade-sama," The darker haired woman commented.
Tsunade cleared her throat. "I let my guard down. More importantly, explain what happened at the beginning. Sakura, start healing her leg."
The pinkette jumped to attention. Shizune hid her surprise well. She supposed Tsunade could fix any additional damage the pinkette accidentally caused but it would be an uncomfortable experience for Tenten. Said brunette blushed lightly in embarrassment before answering.
"I've sewn seals into my clothing to keep some sort of weapon on me at all times. It took a lot of time to learn to direct my chakra to them intentionally so I wouldn't accidentally skew myself. I...kinda forgot that the windmill shuriken attached is attached to the back of my other pajamas..." Her face heated up again.
"Very good strategy," Tsunade began. "I'd say high genin to low chuunin level in terms of taijutsu. In your file it says you don't use ninjutsu or genjutsu. I'd like to know why," she finished.
Tenten toyed with the grass beneath her. "I've never really-Ite! Is it supposed to burn?" Sakura scowled. Her eyes focused more intently on the brunette's ankle until the soothing warmth returned. "As I was saying, I've never really liked them. Ninjutsu have to be prepared with hand signs and genjutsu seems like a cheap trick to me. You never really have to do anything with it other than hypnotize your opponent and move on. I prefer the direct approach," The brunette explained.
Tsunade passed her own green aura over Tenten's appendage once Sakura finished. She gave an approving nod to her apprentice who sighed in relief. Inner Sakura pumped her fist in the air to celebrate. "I'll expect you to make up for the two areas you're lacking in by advancing in both taijutsu and kenjutsu. I'll look into getting someone for your weapon training. Gai can teach you all you need to know for taijutsu."
Tenten hung her head. "There's nothing you can teach me?"
Tsunade appeared to hesitate. She affirmed the brunette's statement with a shake in the negative. "Not yet. I'll have to check into some things first."
All four females moved their gazes to the cloud of white smoke that Jiraiya slowly exited out of. The older male searched the area before joining their circle, still only in his chain mail. Tsunade's annoyed expression clearly didn't bother the other sannin in the least when he decided to take a seat next to her.
"Where...is...Naruto?" Tsunade ground out through clenched teeth.
Jiraiya shrugged. "Probably everywhere." The sound of multiple explosions certified this. "I'd move out of the way if I were you. Get that other girl too." He pointed down at Kyuuka.
Shizune gathered the volcano village girl in her arms. The two younger kunoichi had no time to ponder what was going to occur. Tsunade grabbed them by their collars and sprinted as far away from the toad sannin as she could, Shizune on her heels. The two sidestepped a few fireballs before they made it to safety Tsunade looked back in time to see Naruto flip off of Jiraiya's forearm. The old male must have blocked the kick that would have likely jarred his brain.
Naruto watched the older male's movement but there were none. Jiraiya merely stood straight and stared at his pupil without getting into a fighting stance. Without warning he crossed his arms, took a seat on the grass, and watched the boy in amusement. The blonde watched in confusion. He suddenly breathed in sharply and quickly started the hand signs for the jutsu he'd been using so frequently as of late. Tsunade groaned when the Jiraiya in front of the blond disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The real toad sannin now sat on the prone blond with his hand on his head, watching the coming sunset. The other hand held Naruto's hands still so that he couldn't light them both if he tried. Jiraiya thought he'd be impulsive enough to. Especially when the reward was free ramen.
"Looks like you lose Gaki," Jiraiya gloated. "You've made some real progress in that jutsu. Although that's not where the problem lies..."
He heard Naruto grunt something unintelligible from under him. The blond went quiet soon afterward.
The toad sannin watched the other women make their way over to them. He sat atop Naruto in a manner that declared he'd just caught some wild beast and decided to show it off to the general population. Jiraiya's grin widened when they all sputtered and burst into laughter at his antics. He flexed a bit, releasing the hand from Naruto's skull so that the boy could gaze up at the women. The blonde's grin confused the older male, as well as the increase in laughter when the four women locked eyes with the blue eyed genin. Turning to his sensei, Naruto flashed a victory sign and burst into giggles as well. Jiraiya stood up swiftly, the smell of something burning reaching his nose. He looked back down at Naruto, who's big toe had a miniature flame emitting from it, and over his shoulder at the long tail of hair he had that was quickly disappearing upward.
Kyuuka, who'd awakened when she'd been picked up, released her own giggle when the toad sannin began running around the clearing in a frenzy to put his hair out. All the while Naruto sat on the ground, still laughing. He smiled and gave thumbs up to the volcano village girl, not noticing the blush that adorned her face as he did. It was his last action before he fell to the ground to succumb to the blissful darkness that exhaustion granted him.
"You can't be serious! I've already put enough down!" A voice raised behind the Hokage door.
"One more. It's not going to kill you and it's your own damn fault anyway."
The deeper voice grunted. "Each zero adds another hole in my pocket."
The lighter voice laughed mockingly. "I thought you'd have learned when I lost my bet to him the first time. The gaki's lucky."
A scoff from male's voice."That's because you're just unlucky." An audible gulp echoed. "Fine! I didn't think he'd be smart enough to pull a stunt like that. One more and that's it."
Jiraiya exited the Hokage's office along with his old teammate to see Naruto talking animatedly with the three girls also in the waiting room. He cleared his throat, ready to present both Naruto's reward and his own evidence but Tsunade took the former from his hand. Mouthing the words 'just wait' to the older sannin, she presented Naruto with a piece of paper that nearly caused his eyes to double in size. Tsunade smiled warmly when the blond impulsively hugged her for no reason other than she presented him with the slip. The Godaime told him it would always be with her when he needed it and sent him on his way. Jiraiya took his evidence and left the tower, leaving Sakura and her sensei to their own devices.
"We'll finish the spar tomorrow morning during normal training hours. He just woke up, so there's no need to guilt him into it right now," Tsunade explained.
Sakura nodded in understanding. "I'll go check on Sasuke-kun. Do you have to-"
Tsunade stared down at the girl. "I've somewhere else to be. The ANBU down there will let you pass without any problems."
Sakura nodded and left for the stairs. Tsunade, a bit tired though she was, exited the tower.
Outside, Naruto waved to Tenten over his shoulder while he and Kyuuka left in the direction of his home. The blond hadn't stopped glancing back at the piece of paper the entire time. The volcano village girl latched on his arm as they walked until he reached her home. Naruto had insisted on walking her home given the danger that sometimes lie in wait for the people he'd come to know and converse regularly with. He shook Kyuuka gently to rouse her from her light slumber.
Naruto locked eyes with the girl. "Arigatou. Without you I probably would have lost the bet."
Kyuuka stammered for a moment. "I-I...It was all you Naruto-s...Naruto. I...didn't do much."
"So tomorrow right?" Naruto spoke as if he didn't hear dismissal.
The girl nodded shyly. "Jiraiya-sama said you'd have to teach me it. I'll be waiting at the same place."
Naruto grinned. "Alright." He turned in the direction of Tenten's apartment, the night beginning to envelop him as he walked farther away. "I'll see you tomorrow then!" He yelled.
The blond kept on moving, though the numerous squeals of delight and happiness did slow him down enough to look back at the girls' apartment with a lopsided smile on. The streets were dark because of the late night hours. Only a few lamps were on around buildings and those were likely taverns and other unseemly places. He caught a glimpse of Ayame and Teuchi heading in the direction of their home or so he assumed. That meant no Ichiraku tonight. Sighing deeply, he hurried to the brunette's apartment for dinner. He'd always liked to celebrate his accomplishments with the best ramen in Konoha but it didn't seem to be a possibility tonight.
Tenten answered the door in a clean pair of the same pajamas as earlier. She beckoned the blond to come inside and sit down. The table had two large bags placed upon it which were both marked with the family crest of the Ichiraku family. Naruto gave her a curious look. The brunette shrugged.
"I didn't feel like cooking tonight and they were closing on the way home. Just don't tell Tsunade-sama," She warned.
Naruto sent an extremely grateful smile the brunette's way and started on the first bowl he came to. Tenten wasn't too far behind him. In a matter of minutes the six servings of ramen disappeared between the two genin. Tenten gestured to the sleeping bag near her own bed and the blond happily complied. A tap at the back window caught the brunette's attention. She walked over but could hardly make out the tall figure beneath it. The shower water turning on was the cue for Tenten to move the glass aside and send stare of confusion at the ninja beneath her window. Her bewilderment only increased when Tsunade appeared and attempted to drag the man off. The brunette ran outside and around the back. The two sannin stopped their arguing when she walked between them. This night air caused her to shiver.
Jiraiya passed her the papers in his hand. "He needs to see this."
Tenten's face saddened the minute she recognized them. "Does it have to be tonight? He's already-"
"No, it doesn't," Tsunade interrupted. "We'll tell him tomorrow. He doesn't need to be lectured right now."
Jiraiya grunted. "As long as he's awake we should. The kid's tough and it's not too big of a deal. I just need to make my point."
It took the brunette a moment to find her voice. "Jiraiya-sama...Naruto's been through a lot in the last few days. Can he just have one day of rest? I'll tell him tomorrow alright?"
Tsunade smirked at the brunette and nodded in assent. Jiraiya crumbled. He released a heavy sigh, running a hand through his much shorter hair as he did. "Tomorrow then."
The two sannin appeared to be leaving. Tenten shifted nervously. "Wait."
Tsunade and Jiraiya turned stoic gazes to her. The brunette shifted again. "I-I...I want to know what's going on. I already know Naruto has the Kyuubi inside him." Jiraiya opened his mouth but Tsunade stopped him from speaking. She motioned for Tenten to continue. "B-But something doesn't seem right. Why would we train today of all days and then only to be good teammates to Naruto? I don't mind and I'm very grateful but it doesn't make sense." Tenten stood firm, staring down the other two ninja. "If you two are worried that means it's something really bad. I want to know what's going on. Is there someone after Naruto?"
Jiraiya suddenly moved forward, brushing off Tsunade as he did. He pierced the brunette with a stare. Tenten suddenly felt like a child under his gaze. "You know about the Kyuubi and yet you still stay around Naruto. Why is that?"
The question unexpectedly re-lit the fire that slowly had begun to extinguish at Jiraiya's approach in the brunette's gaze. She fixed it upon the two sannin.
"It's because I care about him!"
The silence that followed only placed discomfort on the brunette. Tenten was unnerved but the curious glances from the older ninja. Then, without warning, they each put on their own versions of a smile. Jiraiya's lopsided and Tsunade's half hidden. Tsunade placed a hand upon her left shoulder while Jiraiya took the right.
"You're a good kid," Jiraiya commented. "And a little smarter than I took you for," he added.
Tsunade sighed. "If we're gone, someone's going to have to watch over that knucklehead. Just make sure he stays in line alright?"
Tenten's eyes widened. She felt that something had been entrusted to her that she didn't earn. "Gone? What do you-"
"In two and a half months Naruto and I are leaving Konoha," Jiraiya started. "There's a dangerous group after what's inside of him."
"We doubt they want the Kyuubi for any good purpose. Jiraiya and Naruto will be away for three years on a training trip to strengthen Naruto for the coming battle," Tsunade explained.
Tenten's felt something sting her eyes. "Three years?"
They nodded. "We haven't told Naruto about this yet. It'll likely be tomorrow when we do," Jiraiya stated.
The brunette sagged a little. "So...two and a half months...and then you'll be gone for three years," Tenten laughed sadly. "I doubt he'll be happy about this."
Jiraiya and Tsunade laughed along with her. A melancholic gloom fell over the three. Jiraiya turned abruptly, along with Tsunade, and walked in a different direction. Tenten was left to stare at their retreating back with a strange sense of foreboding. The brunette shook it off and ran back around the front to go inside. Naruto already lay in the sleeping bag. He sat up, eyes focused on the window that the three had been conversing under. Tenten's footsteps snatched him from his thoughts. He grinned at her while she turned out the lights.
"Where'd you go?"
There were a few seconds of quiet before she answered. "To get some air. The moon is full tonight."
Naruto didn't miss the gloom in her voice. He didn't call it to attention, choosing to turn over instead. "Alright. Goodnight Tenten."
No answer came. Tenten's footfalls came to rest beside his head instead. She gazed nervously, yet determinedly, down at him.
The blond forced down the rising gasp. He swallowed. "Huh?"
Tenten bit her bottom lip. "Naruto just...scoot over. Please."
Naruto found the anxiety in her voice and decided that the subject wasn't up for discussion. He wouldn't ask why when it was clearly evident she needed him. The blond made enough room to for her to slip in which she did, facing him. He raised a slow hand to run through her hair, going around the small buns as he did. Her sigh meant that, hopefully, she was put at ease and wouldn't stress herself over what currently pained her.
In all honesty he couldn't deny that he'd miss her too.
Naruto's gasp brought the brunette back to the current situation. She tried to make him resume his stroking but Naruto's hand didn't budge. "What's wrong?"
The blond chuckled a bit. "Your feet are really cold."
Tenten knit her eyebrows. "I was just outside. It takes a while for them to warm up."
Naruto stared at her for a moment. He slowly brought his arm around the brunette's waist to bring her closer. His eyes never left her expression. Tenten's front lightly pressed up against his own. Her right arm drifted under his left to pull him closer.
He smiled. "Think they'll get warmer like this?"
The brunette sighed deeply. Her right hand clenched his left shoulder softly. "I...I really like being like this. With you. I'll..."
She stopped. A hand softly sifted through the brunette's hair. A satisfied breath escaped her.
"'I care about you too Ten-chan."
The blond felt her stiffen in his arms. He waited for something to happen. Anything that would signify that she'd not been put off by him bringing up her earlier declaration to the two sannin. Eventually, the brunette relaxed a bit and both of their raging hearts slowed to a steady beat. Her grip tightened around him but Naruto paid no heed to it. He held her close and enjoyed the warmth that they shared. Naruto maneuvered his hands through her tresses perfectly until both bands were thrown somewhere in the room and her hair fell around her eyes.
Naruto's breathing remained constant. Tenten felt no change present but knew her own hitched when he spoke.
She clung to him tighter. "Because they're better for us."
"Because we made a deal," Naruto added.
All went quiet. Naruto continued his rhythmic stroking through the brunette's hair until she shifted so they were face to face again. Ever so slowly, and so gently, she brought one hand up to caress his cheek in a manner not unlike earlier the day. Tenten enjoyed the soft gasps that he released every now and then until she pulled back unexpectedly, causing a small current of cold air to come between them.
The brunette stopped him with a delicate finger on his lips.
"I thought about it...just now. Even though we can't and we're not supposed to be...I want you to be my first," A pretty blush came upon her face. Naruto's breathing stopped. He tried and failed several times to make a coherent sentence but the words 'my first' rung clearly throughout his head. Her smile came back but this time it was full of a different type of anxiety. The type that means one is anticipating something that they'll know is enjoyable but fear facing it because of that exact reason. His throat went dry as a desert and he desperately wished to find some sort of oasis so that he could utter a word.
"I-I've just never really kissed a guy before," Tenten continued. "And I know...with you I won't regret it."
Naruto deflated, thanking Kami as he did. He slowly faced the brunette again. "I-I don't think I'll regret it either. But I want you to be sure..."
Tenten ran a smooth hand over his cheek again. "I am. You'll miss your first kiss with Sakura if-"
"It's okay." Naruto found it surprising at how easily those words left him. He smiled softly. "I know I won't regret this. If we care about each other...we shouldn't regret it right?"
Tenten smiled back. "Right. So...kiss me."
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't we both do it?"
Tenten shifted a bit. "I don't want to mess up..."
"You won't...because we'll do it together. On three?" The brunette nodded. Her hands grasped his face gently.
"One," Naruto breathed out softly. Hands settled themselves comfortably around her waist.
"T-Two," She pulled him closer, gazing into his eyes.
Neither one decided to make the final count to three. Naruto and Tenten merely lay in each others arms, faces close enough to touch but both a bit unwilling to do so because of the nervous air around them. Both seemed to be thinking the along the same lines. It wasn't until they assumed that the other thought they were going to win, which was certainly a silly thought at this time, that their competitive nature kicked in and they moved at the same time to meet in a less than gentle kiss. Despite the small twinge of pain this brought on, both genin slowly closed their eyes and moved closer within the others arms. Several seconds later they separated but didn't exchange words. Naruto brought her closer and Tenten imitated his action. It was only then: after the buildup, the countdown, and the inevitable shared, inexperienced kiss, that they two knew regret would be the last thing to cross their minds that night.
The full moon's light shone brightly on them through Tenten's small window. Before its luminescence disappeared from her apartment it highlighted the features of the two genin sleeping in each others arms, their common lip bruises a memento to what they shared together.
For those of you that are searching for a time when Letters of Love will be updated, I'm thinking minimum a week. Still planning things out.