Holy shit guys. Holy shit holy shit holy shit.
Let's do a brief monologue. A little less than two years ago, a story was posted with a single chapter. Days later, this chapter had accumulated one review...
Fast-forwarding rapidly, we have over one thousand. There is no cap lock, no texting lingo, no amount of emotes or exclamation points that can express my utmost shock and awe at this sheer amount of support.
IT DOESN'T MEAN I'M NOT GOING TO TRY THOUGH! HOLY SHIT R U GUYS AWESOME OR WUT? 8DDD
Oh, quick note about that brief thing that recently happened- please forget it happened. I would love to say something like I'd been hacked, bribed, or even threatened into posting something like that and making you guys all jump around, but no. It was a brain splurt. A very bad one and I beg of you to not bring it up again. Sooorrryyy! TT_TT
Whoo, I love this story. Anyway, sorry about the first part, if it seems off or something- I wanted to try a quick scene in Gai's point of view, if you can believe it. :P He really is another favorite of mine, second only to Kakashi. I like to think of him as... Well, as a word that can only be defined as 'Gai'.
God, spastic characterization is too much fun. Anyway! This chapter isn't really that funny or fun otherwise. It's still a little short, too, but I'm trying to kick my updates back into gear! Here's where things start getting... serious.
"W-Wha... M-My, eternal rival...!" For a long, tense moment Maito Gai stared directly at Hatake Kakashi, something numb and terrified overwhelming his being. Kakashi exhaled very softly, lazy eye locking onto his.
"Please help train Naruto," he repeated blandly. "He's good, but his taijutsu is still reliant on Rae-san's civilian style and I-" Kakashi cut himself off when a punch was aimed for his head, dodging with a wide eye. "Oi-!"
"You despicable being!" Gai roared, rage bursting from his heart. "I had thought to call you my rival was an honor!" He accented his metaphorical punch with a very real one, crashing into the tree the Hatake had been standing in front of. "But here you are, daring to show your face before me like this!" Kakashi dodged again as he slammed another punch into midair, whirling and landing a hard kick on his chest. Kakashi oomphed as he was blown back into a cliffside, only to suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke.
Gai whirled on instinct, catching the real Kakashi with one hand and pausing at the metal at his throat. He continued with his rant, unwilling to let his justified fury become doused with this hollow threat. "You would dare give up on your students?" he cried, the power of his voice throwing the man's silver hair back. "They are but young seeds, Kakashi! Youthful spirits that soak in everything that we blossomed young men must nourish with purity! That-"
"Maito Gai, will you stop that." Kakashi sighed heavily, still acting nonchalant even in the face of his heartfelt words! "I am not giving up on anyone, I'm asking you, as a taijutsu expert, to give him some tips." … Hm? This was... Gai felt his eyes water, both shame and great joy overcoming him. He released the man with a sob, clutching his heart.
"Ah-! This Youth! This forgiving heart, this glorious maturity! Surely, surely this is the day... I have seen my eternal rival sprout with the wings of glory, soaring higher than even I!" The world sparkled around him as he thought he could envision it, his glorious rival- so caring, unselfish, and humble!- sprouting great white wings and rising into the heavens.
Somewhere past his veil of tears, Kakashi's eye ticked violently. Gai certainly didn't notice.
"U-Um, Gai-sensei...?" Oh! Gai whirled instantly to see Tenten staring at him, looking worried as ever. He feared for her Youth. "Can we go home now...?"
"Ah, yes!" Gai clapped his hands together, taking his teacher pose- he'd perfected it quite nicely this past year. "Dismissed! I will see you all at five in the morning, ready to take in the glorious day as ever!"
"You can count on our Young minds!" Lee assured him, eyes sparkling in adoration. "We will always be ready to soak in the great knowledge!" Gai burst into tears, turning his face away into his arm.
"S-Such glorious Youth...!" Neji left without a word, save for those he muttered under his breath. Gai wondered if he would ever be like Kakashi's young students, so eager for knowledge their own teacher would expand his reach to fulfill their ever-growing needs!
It was times like these he greatly admired Hatake Kakashi.
"Look, Gai," Kakashi suddenly said, sighing out. "Rae's taijutsu is good, but it's very defensive. Naruto's been working past that, but my own style is just as defensive and isn't suited for him at all. He can't spar with the others because he has too many breaking habits, can't keep learning everything from Rae because she's not a shinobi, and needs someone to polish what he's teaching himself. Will you help or not?"
"But of course, my rival!" Gai declared instantly, inwardly beaming- well, outwardly too. "I look forward to the chance to be a part of Naruto-kun's blossoming process, to nourish his spirit as it eagerly takes in the knowledge of yesterday, making room for the glorious future of tomorrow in his-" He paused, suddenly feeling... like he was alone. "... Kakashi?" Before him was nothing but a blank scarecrow, a humorous face painted on along with a little note.
Great. I'll send him your way tomorrow.
Kakashi came to the field the next day at nine, humming cheerfully as he brought along his scrolls. Sakura instantly jolted upright as Sasuke yawned, rubbing his neck.
"You're late," he muttered irritably. "The dobe's missing. What did you do?"
"I sent him on a little training spree with a friend of mine," the jounin chirped, dropping the pile in his arms and letting it scatter across the grass. "I think you'll all take turns with different jounins- your taijutsu is too uniform, Sasuke. As for your genjutsu use, you just rely too much on the Sharingan. I'll send you to Kurenai. Sakura... Actually, I'm taking you on myself." Sasuke frowned deeply as Sakura tilted her head.
"But sensei... Kurenai is the genjutsu expert, and you said my control-"
"Overrides something like genjutsu. That's too basic for your potential." Kakashi waved a hand, kicking around the scrolls as he searched for the one he wanted.
"But what about me?" Sasuke demanded. "I'm a Sharingan user, and you are the only other one in Konoha with the Sharingan. Why aren't I training under you? We should switch!" Kakashi paused in his kicking to pat a spiky head of hair, crinkling his eye.
"No way~" Sasuke twitched. But he didn't say anything more as Kakashi made a noise of discovery, picking up a scroll. "Found it! Sasuke, please take this to Kurenai-sensei- you're going to be late!" The Uchiha eyed him carefully, but walked away wordlessly. Kakashi clapped his hands together. "Alright! Sakura, your training begins now! Find the genjutsu!"
"... Genjutsu?" Sakura wrinkled her nose. "But... you just said-"
"Basics still need to be mastered. Now hurry along- we don't have all day!" The kunoichi twitched.
"Um, yes we do."
"... Oh. Right." Kakashi sat on the grass without a care. "In that case, I'll just take a nap. Good night." Sakura stared rather dumbly as he closed his eye and appeared to fall asleep almost immediately- she'd asked him for serious training! Not so he could just lay in a pile of scrolls and sleep with such vague instructions!
Genjutsu my ass! I'll show him- bringing along such useless papers he doesn't plan on using- Sakura paused. Considered. In all the weeks she'd known her teacher, he seemed to have a reason (no matter how ridiculous, and usually in hindsight only) for everything. Useless baggage was something he usually complained about, not brought along to make a mess that he would have to clean up.
She found the genjutsu, didn't she? She formed the seal and whispered the release command, flinching when the scrolls seemed to explode around her. Instead Kakashi was laying on a massive black bulldog, which sleepily considered her as she skipped back with a squeak.
"Oi, girly! Watch where you're stepping!" She whirled. A little pug with a lazy gaze glared back irritably, leaning away from her feet. "Took you long enough! No wonder he fell asleep!" The bulldog seemed to woof in agreement.
"Oh, Pakkun! There you are~" The pug's expression seemed to flatten even more when Kakashi suddenly appeared, scooping him up with an eye crinkle. "Sakura, this is my cute little nin-dog, Pakkun! And this is my cute nin-dog, Bull!" Bull woofed. "Thank you for finding them. They get lost so easily."
"Will you cut that out-"
"So you take this little guy," Sakura yipped when the teacher pressed the little pug into her arms, nearly dropping him, "and I'll take this one!" Bull tilted his head. "And we're going to play fetch!" … Oh boy. Inner Sakura had a bad feeling about this.
"F-Fetch what?" Kakashi grinned. She swore it. His eye glinted in sadistic pleasure as his finger lifted, pointing at the damned.
"Oh Bull~! Fetch!"
"So Kakashi... sent you here?" Kurenai stared down at the scroll in her hands, looking shocked. Sasuke didn't blame her. Ask a teacher for training, a man that shares his bloodline and mastered it years ago, and what does he do? Sends him to the one woman- a genjutsu expert- that he was naturally gifted to handle!
Maybe the guy was just starting to lose his marbles. Wasn't that what grey hair usually meant?
"Well... Alright. It's a little unusual, but I can't deny he may be on to something." The kunoichi pocketed the scroll with a sigh. "Shino, restrain him. Hinata, come here for a moment."
"Wait, wha-" Suddenly there were bugs all over him. With a yelp he flashed his Sharingan, hoping to disperse this nightmarish genjutsu. But what he saw then was worse- they were eating at his chakra! They were real! Instantly he felt himself weakened as Hinata stood in front of him, lavender eyes worried.
"S-Sorry, Sasuke-kun..." Then she lightly poked the side of his head. Instantly pain exploded behind his eyes, making him cringe. Kakashi had done this... Why? But suddenly the bugs were retreating, his vision slowly clearing to see Kurenai standing over him, arms folded.
"Not bad, Hinata. Come on, Uchiha- get up. Trainings only started." She tossed him a red pill he instantly crunched in his teeth, feeling his strength return. He wobbled on his feet, clutching his head.
"W-What did you..."
"You're going to be sparring with Kiba and Akamaru. I'm going to be slipping in genjutsu all the while- it's a light spar, but if you're caught, you're dead. Ready?"
"Wait-" Suddenly a small white form tackled him to the ground. Sasuke rolled and kicked it off, watching Akamaru go sailing away with a yip. He had to dodge a slam from the Inuzuka, skidding back to survey the situation. He tried to flare his Sharingan and cringed at a burst of light in his vision, searing into his skull. The next moment there was a fist across his face, sending him crashing back into a tree.
"By the way, you can't use the Sharingan." Kurenai smiled a devious little smile as he nursed his throbbing jaw. "Just to make sure you aren't cheating." Then she vanished completely.
Sasuke clenched his jaw and raced forward with a yell, only to instantly be struck from his side by an invisible being. As he crashed to the ground he blearily realized that this wasn't going to be an easy fight.
By the time the three were together again, they didn't look as though they'd only been training for a single day. Sakura was covered in mud and fur, scratched and bruised from trees and being tackled by a massive bulldog. Sasuke was littered in bruises and rubbing away a headache rather irritably, as well as scratching the bandages over dog bites. Naruto was simply exhausted, flopped over the grass.
Kakashi looked none the worse for wear, cheerfully clapping for attention. "Welcome back, everyone~" he chirped. "Did we all have fun?" Three moans answered his question. Naruto groaned once more, rolling his head to better see the jounin.
"S-Sensei... Bushy Brows has a scary team!"
"Why in the hell was I being chased by dogs all day?" Sakura exploded, fire blazing in her eyes as Inner Sakura clawed her way out. "You're crazy, damn it!"
"That was a dirty trick," Sasuke snapped, rubbing at his eyes again. "And a little counter-productive, don't you think? I need to learn to use the Sharingan!" Kakashi considered the three. He then chuckled, waving away their complaints without a care.
"Well, you all got pretty beat up," he noted out loud. "Put in situations you've never encountered, you would have died a few thousand times over, wouldn't you say?" He looked to Naruto first. "You've never tried your martial arts on someone stronger than you, have you? It didn't even make them flinch half the time, did it?" The blond looked stunned. "And Sakura, you're good at genjutsu and chakra, but when there's a real dogfight, if you don't mind me saying-" Sakura twitched. "-you don't seem to stand a chance. And Sasuke, the Hyuuga are not the only ones capable of working around your bloodline. You were vulnerable to the top genjutsu master because she had a specialist in her team." Sasuke simmered, but didn't respond.
Naruto raised a hand. Kakashi nodded for him to speak. "... You're crazy, sensei," the boy said. "Couldn't you just tell us that kind of stuff?" The jounin considered this.
"... Nope." He turned away. "We'll be doing this once every week. If you can't handle it, you won't be able to pull together as a team to compensate for weaknesses." He glanced back to see their expressions, gaze serious. "I've been pretty relaxed with you kids, really. Letting you think of this kind of thing as a game and all. But if you can't grow stronger, you won't survive the next year." He pulled out a familiar book as they exchanged quiet gazes. "See you tomorrow, then. Make sure to get some sleep- we have a guest of our own tomorrow~" He vanished.
Naruto gazed at the sky in deep thought as Sakura brushed back her long hair, looking exhausted. Sasuke kicked the grass and muttered something incomprehensible. Naruto blinked from his daze suddenly, looking to where the jounin had disappeared.
Night fell on Konoha with the same ease as ever, though for three jounins it came with an unnatural sense of darkness. They stood together at an old, weather-beaten stone, gazing at the names carved.
"Why did you call us here?" the man finally asked, stirring the group from their stillness. A fourth figure stood some feet from the stone itself, shadowed by the trees. "What's going on?"
"... Something's come up, you see." The darkened man carefully ran a hand through silver hair, single eye blank as ever. "What we're doing now... We can't anymore."
"The wars are over, Kakashi." A red-eyed woman folded her arms, frowning quietly. "All of the nations are doing this. We can push our kids, but we don't bend them backwards to make them too strong. You know that." There was a long moment of silence before the last man that had yet to speak lifted his gaze.
"The wars are over... aren't they?" Asuma and Kurenai looked to Gai with a start, but Kakashi's gaze never flickered. Instead the Hatake stepped forward, inclining his chin a fraction.
"Something's come up," he repeated softly, "and if there aren't four teams to rely on each other, none of us will live through it." Now all three stared at him, but didn't interrupt as he closed his eye with a sigh. "The Chunin exams are coming up, aren't they?"
"Yeah." Asuma uneasily thumbed the collar of his vest. "You're not thinking something will happen then, are you?"
"The nations are at peace," Kurenai reiterated. "Not even Suna would dare attack us. Not in the midst of our own village."
"That's just the problem." Kakashi gazed back darkly, drawing their attention again. "It's a move so bold we haven't even considered it. What will we do if there is an attack? Do any of the genin know about the bunkhouses for civilians? Can they kill a man or woman or child that attacks them?" It was his dark tone that kept them from arguing, but mostly his questions that kept them from responding. "This isn't about one bold move from an unseen enemy. We're relying on peace to protect them from the wars we grew up with, and that peace isn't going to last much longer."
"It would help if we knew what to prepare them for," Asuma retorted. "If you've found something, the Sandaime needs to know."
"The Sandaime's well aware of this." The silver-haired jounin tilted his gaze. "As for what to prepare for... I suppose in a worst-case scenario... something like the end of the world." It was a light wording, but no one called against the claim. Hatake Kakashi didn't call meetings like this to tell jokes- though younger than all of them, he'd always surpassed them when it came to being a pure kind of shinobi.
"... Why us?" Gai asked quietly. "There are other second-year genin teams, Kakashi. Other squads with more experience." Kakashi gave a nonchalant shrug.
"A little birdie had an idea." He turned away, raising a hand in a wave. "Good luck with the exams. The Sandaime's looking forward to them, after all." He walked back to the village uninterrupted, leaving the three to exchange quiet glances. Asuma pulled out a cigarette at length, striking a match.
"So the old man's still keeping secrets. Big ones." He shook out the match and inhaled deeply, looking rather stressed. "I've never seen that guy look so upset."
"What, Kakashi?" Kurenai tilted her gaze to the man. "He always looks like that, doesn't he?"
"Nah. He's been pretty relaxed since he quit ANBU. He used to be a real hard-ass teacher- I heard he was the one that trained the kid from Orochimaru's old experiments." The woman looked stunned at that.
"But to go so hard on the kids," she muttered, looking around uneasily. "I mean, I know their age is... But they're so young. Hinata still faints at the sight of Naruto, Kiba still picks fights over such silly things..." Gai shifted uneasily at that.
"Naruto was training with my team earlier... He's very skilled for his age." The green-clad jounin considered the stone. "He's been trained for some time in a curious kind of taijutsu, and is very adept at breaking... And some of his moves..." Asuma frowned back.
"What are you saying?" he asked carefully. Gai shook his head quietly.
"I just wonder if someone's been preparing him all this time for something like this."
Rae sighed to herself as she flipped through the pages of her book, flopped over her bed and using the moonlight to read. She found herself unable to concentrate on really enjoying the story, but it was more of an escape than a pleasure these days.
Still... It was nice to have a vacation. She closed her book and tossed it to the ground, rolling onto her back. It was nice to not always fuss over a little notebook and think about the things that could still go horribly wrong.
It was really just too bad that she couldn't stop knowing what would.
OOPS NO FUNNY. If you want funny, try imagining a cute little Sakura being chased by dogs or a grumpy little Sasuke flailing madly at an invisible opponent. You gotta know that team was laughing their asses off.
I did once mention that the pre-Chunin exams were going to get kind of nitty-gritty, didn't I? I did once say that as much fun as I have with this story, I still try to incorporate things like the butterfly effect, right? (Actually, I probably didn't- you guys can check for me.)
… Somehow I just don't see Kakashi as the kind of guy to not take action, though. Let's face it, Rae can't do much- but Kakashi? I idolize him. Of course he can do anything! -bitchplz-
… I'll try for something funny next chapter. Please don't hurt me for this one, though~