Top Secret S-Rank Mission
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Note: Contains spoilers for manga chapter 514.
Konoha Tokubetsu Jounin, Aoba Yamashiro, was really starting to hate this giant turtle island. Beating utterly crushed by Pein had been pretty bad but at least everyone else up to and including their Hokage had been similarly helpless. Naruto had actually not only been able to hold his own but had taken Pein down time and time again and had eventually managed to kill him but that was Naruto and that was the kind of thing that they were starting to expect from him. Being here, though? It was really starting to make him feel inadequate.
He wasn't technically qualified to be a regular Jounin but was perfectly content to just be a Tokubetsu Jounin who specialized in the mind arts. Since arriving at this island, however, he'd failed first to get much from Kisame before he had woken up and killed himself and then Kabuto of all people had evaded his technique and captured Yamato to boot. While Aoba did fully realize that Kabuto was perhaps a little too close to Orochimaru and thus an extremely competent and dangerous opponent, a part of him couldn't help but remember the 'career genin' that he and Genma had frequently mocked before the Sandaime's death.
Yamato wouldn't break so easily but the Tsuchikage had pointed out that with Madara, he wouldn't need to. And, of course, who knew what they were planning as far as Yamato's wood techniques went. And now the Tsuchikage and his entourage had left, leaving him to go back to Naruto and attempt to explain what had happened without letting him know that there was any sort of danger. It was actually a miracle that Naruto had been fooled so far if a rather disheartening miracle. Naruto wanted to be the Rokudaime so much but Aoba was really starting to doubt that someone this…oblivious should really be allowed anywhere near the position. Or maybe Naruto was just messing with them. It was certainly a very ninja-like thing to do and almost kind of him to play along with their masquerade.
"Hey!" Naruto greeted him the moment he stepped into sight. "I'm making some really great progress here and Gai has stopped spasming. As long as we don't touch him again it should be okay. Where's Yamato?"
"He…um…is getting some fresh air," Aoba said, wishing desperately that he were better at making things up on the spot.
"I see," Naruto said, accepting that easily enough. "But why can't he just do it over here? We're outside, right?" Or maybe not.
Aoba shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you. He insisted that there would be fresher air over on another side of the island."
"Yamato sure is odd, sometimes," Naruto remarked. "I guess I can ask him about it when he gets back."
"Yes…you can definitely do that," Aoba lied.
"So, I've been thinking about something," Naruto said slowly. "When I first started out as a genin I had to do a lot of really boring D-rank missions like demon cat-catching, fence painting, grocery shopping…just chores, really. My first C-rank mission was supposed to be just an escort mission but we got attacked by a really tough missing-nin so it ended up being an A-rank mission."
"Yes?" Aoba asked, wondering what the point of this was and trying not to panic at the thought of Yamato in Madara's clutches right now.
"My job here is to study the ecology of this island, right?" Naruto asked rhetorically.
"Yep, that's most definitely it," Aoba declared. "And it is most certainly not all part of an elaborative cover-up to keep you out of the way and completely ignorant of the fact that we need you off on the side-lines."
Naruto looked at him oddly. "…Good to know. I'm going to go right ahead and assume that I'm not being secretly kidnapped and held for ransom or secretly going on a tour of the world, either. But like I was saying…Why is this an S-ranked mission?"
"What do you mean?" Aoba asked carefully.
"You can leave the village on even a C-rank mission so coming to this island can't be why it's an S-ranked mission," Naruto reasoned. "And I've left the village accompanied by far less than a Jounin, a member of ANBU, and a Tokubetsu Jounin. Not to mention that there are people from a completely different village. Since when do Kumo and Konoha get along well enough to go on joint-missions? Particularly joint ecology missions?"
"Well, what better way to build up trust between our two nations – which has been shaken by Sasuke's actions against Kirabi – than by going on a nice non-competitive mission like this?" Aoba asked rhetorically.
"I guess," Naruto said, looking thoroughly unconvinced. "But back to why is it an S-ranked mission. There has been no danger here. Seriously, none. I mean, Kisame attacked, of course, which might have made it an S-rank mission but that was hardly part of the mission details and so that can't be it. Besides him, the biggest problems I've faced are trying to control the Kyuubi – and my unexpected dealing with my inner problems would not make this an S-ranked mission – and trying to figure out that shy armadillo's gender. S-ranked missions are supposed to be a bit more fraught with danger than this."
"Well we didn't know much about the ecology here so as far as we knew, there were creatures so dangerous that assigning this as an S-ranked mission was the only way to stop the team that arrived from getting themselves horribly killed," Aoba suggested. "In fact, since you haven't finished chronicling all the creatures here, there might still be dangerous creatures to deal with."
"What about the fact that Konoha was just attacked and a meeting with all the Kages was called to deal with Sasuke and Madara?" Naruto challenged. "Shouldn't dealing with that or at the very least rebuilding take precedence over exploring the ecology of some random island?"
"You said it yourself," Aoba said, thinking fast. "Konoha need to rebuild. How can it rebuild? By taking missions and making money. Some nature-lover with an interest in this island is paying quite a bit for us to undertake it."
"Still, shouldn't they come personally then? Or at least send someone who knows more about ecology than we do and we could just be their protectors?" Naruto inquired. "I mean, I'm doing my best but I don't even recognize most of these species and it's occurred to me that knowing the gender of a single armadillo – though it took forever to find out – is probably not the kind of information they're looking for. They'd want numbers and locations and names and all sorts of other things that I can't really give them."
"If they had wanted an ecologist then they really should have sent one or specified that they would like one sent instead of just a team of ninja," Aoba said with a shrug. "We can't help it if clients come up with stupid missions for us."
"And that's another thing!" Naruto cried out. "Why, oh why, are they willing to let me save everyone in the entire village and send me out on S-ranked missions if they won't promote me past genin? Seriously, at this rate I'll be that genin-turned-Hokage that I told Ibiki I was willing to be…"
Aoba gave a huge sigh of relief as Naruto found something else to worry about. He was really far too prone to panic to be able to try and answer so many questions falsely on the spot. There was a reason he had never gone into espionage, after all. He had been warned that Naruto was 'difficult' at times but he had honestly thought that they had been talking about his apparent inability to stay away from battle and the Kyuubi inside of him.
One of Motoi's summon owls appeared just then. "Motoi said to tell you that he thinks he has some idea about where Kabuto took Yamato."
Naruto's head shot up at this. "Wait…what?"
Yes, Aoba really hate this island.