Lord, I've been late with this chapter… so sorry. But I'm alive, and I'm writing this mainly for XxXLexxibabeXxX, who added me to her favorite authors and requested that I finish this thing, and I was so happy I got off my butt and wrote it. Reviews do make a difference, I suppose. Thanks, Lexxi, you made my day. ~nonowriting

Chapter 15: Missions

When something like a soul becomes initialized and folded up like paper dolls and little notes, you can't expect a bit of hope ~ Through The Glass by Stone Sour

Two months.

That's how long these useless missions continued on, and they seemed to continue forever. Buy the Akimichi's groceries, walk the Inuzuka's dogs, babysit the Hyuuga's kids, bring in a shipment of bugs for the Aburame, every family that could afford genin help seemed to need odd jobs done, and even civilian families requested small chores done. The worst of all the missions was catching Tora; or "demon cat from hell," to hear his teammates describe it. The only one Tora seemed to like was Naruto, it seems demons tend to bond. It generally made catching Tora a little easier for team 7, so they tended to get this mission more often; as all that was required to finish it was to corral the fluffy cat to Naruto who could pick it up as easily as any other domesticated feline. This was exactly what mission the team was doing today, and with the cat purring away in Naruto's arms, the four walked back to Hokage tower.

Naruto's team was silent, so he lost himself in his thoughts of the last two months. His time outside of missions consisted of mostly of training. The first thing he learned was an ANBU technique: masking chakra. It took him a week to learn it, figuring it out from books he had found in the public library (after henging into a nondescript ninja). After he had master the technique with his own chakra, he started learning how to use Kyuubi's. Kyuubi himself was very helpful with this, detailing the properties of his chakra, such as its heat and violent nature. To conceal it required Naruto to use his own chakra as a cover for the energy radiating from Kyuubi's, and then conceal that by sending out small, barely existent strands of his chakra to cover the chakra by masking it. It was hard work, but worth it once he could guarantee his training was secret from all but the animals living around his training field inside the forest of death. He had picked a good spot, a small clearing between the trees with a river running beside it, full of vibrant fish that hopped out of the water and made good targets for his kunai and provided a small meal. In the middle was the tree with a genjutsu on it, the hidden scroll remaining hidden in its roots. Here Naruto trained not only with the Kyuubi's chakra, but also with his own. He learned the techniques the hidden scroll had to offer him, and grew in power each day. He couldn't say the same about his teammates, however. Shikamaru, he knew, trained his mind daily; challenging it with games of shougi and puzzles. Although his mind grew ever faster and he made a great strategist, his taijutsu needed work and his arsenal of jutsus outside of his families was small. Sasuke worked everyday to improve himself, but it was slow going with him. His pride too large to admit he needed help, he struggled through his family scrolls of jutsus they had invented or improved upon. He knew mainly fire jutsus and failed to learn many more. He was strong, Naruto would admit, but he wasn't strong enough. Kakashi was a worthless teacher, preferring to ignore Naruto and Shikamaru and focus only on training Sasuke. Naruto was fine with this, often training his mind by playing shougi with Shikamaru or learning theory for techniques from scrolls or Kyuubi. He had learned much within the two months of his career as a shinobi, despite the useless and boring jobs.

Naruto was shaken from his thoughts by their arrival at the Hokage tower. Turning the poor cat over to the daimyo's wife, he turned and looked at the unctuous man called the Hokage. The elderly man was still continuing his grandfatherly act, despite the fact that Naruto saw through the illusion. He greeted the team with a smile showing of tobacco stained teeth and a list of more chores.

"… Weeding the Nara's yard, painting the fence for the Ichiraku's, babysitting for-"

"Enough chores!" interrupted Sasuke as he slammed his hands down on the table. His pride had finally given in and he exploded at the Hokage. Iruka, at the same table, looked insulted.

"These are not chores! They are an important part of any ninja village, stimulating the economy and-"

"I don't care, they are far below my level!" Interrupted Sasuke once again. "I am an Uchiha and as such am far above babysitting some brats! I deserve better missions!"

Iruka made to speak again but a hand from the Hokage, who had yet to lose his grandfatherly smile, stopped him.

"I have just the thing, a c-rank mission." Sasuke smirked, his pride appeased. "That is, if Kakashi thinks you are ready for it…" He trailed off with a look towards team seven's sensei.

"I have the utmost confidence in my team." Kakashi said with a nod. The Hokage chuckled.

"Then it's settled. Bring in Tazuna, please." He said to a guard. As they waited the Hokage explained. "This mission is an escort mission to Wave. You will be escorting Tazuna, a bridge builder, and protecting him throughout the construction of his bridge. The only enemies you should encounter would be bandits or robbers."

The team nodded their understanding as Tazuna entered, bringing with him the smell of alcohol. The obviously drunk man looked at the team of genin then brushed them off with a wave of his hand.

"These are the brats who're gonna be protecting me? All I see's a emo, a lazy brat and a girly fag!" This brass and slurred statement annoyed only Sasuke, Shikamaru being too lazy to get worked up and Naruto to apathetic to care. Kakashi laughed it off and tried to appease the man.

"I am a jounin ninja and will be more than enough to handle whatever they cannot."

Tazuna looked at him and gave a gruff scoff, but said nothing else.

"We will be at the gate at seven ready to leave, Tazuna-san." Kakashi said, and upon Tazuna and the team's nod, kawarami'd out of the building. The genin also left and dispersed back to their homes, to met again in the morning.