Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or the color green, but they all seem like good things to have possession of to me.

Chapter 6: Step Up

It had been a little over seven weeks since Team 10 had been formed and they had started finding their rhythm as a group. They had all been working hard… even Shikamaru, and had been getting accustomed to one another and how they all operated, especially after all of Asuma's training exercises, including the one he had them do today.

Asuma looked at his team of genin as they were all sprawled out on the grass, scuffed up and exhausted, "Well that was good work you guys. I thought you had me for a second there. Nice try with the decoys Naruto, but you pulled the trigger on the trap too quickly. Ino, you let loose the Shintenshin no Jutsu (Mind Body Switch Jutsu) too soon, I wasn't caught yet. Shikamaru, you need better communication with your teammates. A good plan won't work if you can't readily adjust if there are hiccups."

Naruto was the first to pick himself up off of the ground, "What are we getting out of you kicking our asses twice every week Asuma-sensei?"

Asuma grinned at the disheveled genin, "Well first of all, it's fun." He felt three glares of death on him, "Second of all, you need the battle experience and hopefully I'll end up beating you guys up worse than any opponent you'll actually wind up facing. And third, this was a test."

Ino sat up, still somewhat disoriented, even after recovering from her missed jutsu, "What test? We're supposed to be done with all of the tests aren't we?"

Asuma stroked his beard, "It was to see if you were ready for the next level of missions."

Shikamaru stayed on his back looking up at the sky, "And what would that be? Walking dogs, finding cats, and picking up dog crap at the same time? Or how about we mix the babysitting missions and the gardening missions? That would make a real high-profile one." He said sarcastically.

Asuma turned away from them all and began to walk away, "Fine. And here I was about to give you all a C-ranked mission for all of your trouble. I guess we can keep doing D-ranks then. Or maybe I can pitch Shikamaru's idea of combining them, that would probably be a boon for the village economy." He stopped talking when he found himself unable to move, "What, does that not sound good to you all either?" He said jokingly.

Naruto spoke in a low voice, "C-rank mission or the same threat from the day we met stands." Naruto's head gestured towards Ino who had her hands ready to use her mind-switching jutsu. As a passing thought from before ran through his head he sent out a pulse to see if they had the real one. They did, "I can probably find Kurenai-sensei right now if I had to. It wouldn't be that hard I'm sure. I have Kage Bunshin."

Asuma sweatdropped nervously. With his back turned he couldn't even see the looks on their faces to tell if they were serious or not, and this time they really did have him caught. Damn teamwork. Why'd they catch on to it so fast? Oh, because two of their fathers are on a squad famous for teamwork, "Now don't be so hasty you guys. I was just messing with you. You're getting the mission so just let me go."

He couldn't see anything but silence went throughout the field until Ino spoke, "I say we should still do it, he beat the crap out of us all month long. And look at my clothes, I'll have to get a new set!" She pouted.

"You look fine Ino, it's alright." Naruto said absently, "And if we do it won't he get us back for it? He is a jounin. I don't think I could duck him forever if I really had to."

Asuma let himself smirk when he heard Naruto's first comment. He knew what was coming next and wasn't let down when Ino spoke again, "I really look fine Naruto? You're so sweet! I think you've earned something special from your Ino-chan!" He could just feel Ino batting her eyes at Naruto as well as Naruto's gaping fish expression without ever turning to see and had to keep from laughing, lest Naruto retaliate, he was still at their mercy.

Ino had taken to teasing Naruto like this regularly since it had worked so well out of the blue the first time, and Asuma had to say, it made his days more entertaining to say nothing else. It may have been embarrassing the boy, but they were all a team, and it was getting him used to girls, something that judging his earlier reactions he hadn't had much experience with. Ino seemed to enjoy his reactions too, apparently all her time spent on Sasuke ended up getting no positive reactions out of him, at least with Naruto he would react in a way that didn't destroy her self-esteem, dare he say they actually made her feel pretty.

"Could you guys do this another time?" Shikamaru cut in, still holding his hand-seal with a look of focus on his face, "I don't know how much longer I can keep him like this."

Naruto waved Shikamaru off, "Whatever, you probably need the work out anyway." Ino laughed at Shikamaru who dropped the rat seal, clearly the moment had passed where they were serious about getting Asuma.

Shikamaru sighed and stretched his back, "Troublesome… you're a real bastard Naruto."

Naruto grinned at Shikamaru, "I dabble from time to time."

Ino raised an amused eyebrow at Naruto, "Oh, 'dabble' you say? I didn't know you 'dabbled' in anything Naruto. What else do you 'dabble' in?"

Naruto gave her a deadpan look, "I've been sending clones to work with Shiho-chan for the entire month. I see that word all the time. If you see a word all the time you kind of learn what it means sooner or later Ino."

"You still do that?" Asuma said, "I thought I told you not to keep doing that every day?"

"No." Naruto said with a grin, "You advised me not to do that every day, and I listened, I just didn't do it."

Asuma gave him a deadpan look, "Stop being a smart-ass and stop using big words on purpose just for kicks no matter how entertaining it is."

Naruto shrugged, "I'll try, and why should I? The only reason anyone uses big words is because they want people to think they're smart. Every single big word I've ever heard has a smaller word that means the exact same thing for it." He blinked, "Wait, what were we talking about before this?"

Finally, Asuma was able to get the team back on track, "I was saying we're finally going to take a C-ranked mission tomorrow. You all make sure you have everything you think you'll need for a decent length of time away from Konoha." He knew they were ready for this, A C-rank wasn't out of their league. "Tell the people you need to tell that you'll be gone for a while starting tomorrow. See you in front of the tower at our usual time." He then left his team in the training field.

Ino waved to Asuma's back and called after him, "Tell Kurenai-sensei I said hi Asuma-sensei!"

Asuma almost tripped and whipped his head around at the speed of sound, "How did you know I was-?" He saw Ino grinning at him as well as Naruto. Shikamaru even had a smirk on his face, "I hate you kids sometimes…" He stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked away grumbling about brats, "Should have never come outside that day…" He was of course referring to the day his team met Kurenai for the first time.

(Flashback – Two Weeks Prior)

Shikamaru was crouched down and having prolonged staring contest with a cat that had a red ribbon in its ear, "Ino, you can't release the jutsu until we get the cat back to Madam Shijimi." The cat hissed at him, but the lazy genin only blinked at it, "You can hiss at me all you want to, but the last time someone tried picking it up it turned Naruto's whisker marks into a tick-tac-toe grid. He's got your body safe and sound, so don't worry about it." He gestured behind him where Naruto had Ino's unresponsive body held piggy-back and had bandages on his cheeks.

Asuma walked into the area and looked at the scene, "You know, using ninjutsu during missions like this is against protocol right?"

Shikamaru's gaze turned to him, "This troublesome thing had us running all over for it. Why would we keep trying to grab it when we could just do this?" Ino, in the cat's body, let out a meow and jumped onto Shikamaru's shoulders where she draped herself comfortably, "Seriously?" Another hiss was his reply, "Fine, whatever. I'll carry you, you troublesome woman… cat… ugh. I don't even care anymore."

Asuma watched as Ino rested on Shikamaru's shoulders in the cat's body, "Alright then… Mission to locate lost pet Tora complete I guess."


Shikamaru smirked at Ino as the team walked out of the Hokage Tower after completing the mission, "You should have released the jutsu a little bit sooner Ino."

Ino glared at him as she rubbed her ribs, "Well you said to keep in on until we gave the cat back, and how did I know that lady was going to crush the cat once she got it back. Poor kitty, having to take bear hugs like that, we should let it go if we ever get this mission again."

Shikamaru let out a laugh, "Poor kitty? Poor me and Naruto. You call me lazy, but me and Naruto had to carry you in both forms all across town. I feel sorry for Naruto actually."

Ino took a swing at Shikamaru who ducked it and moved away, "What are you trying to say Shikamaru? Are you trying to call me fat or something?" The female member of the squad said threateningly.

Naruto sweatdropped, "I don't think he meant that Ino, you weren't heavy anyway." Naruto was pretty sure he was referring to all of the weird looks that he had gotten from the villagers as they walked back through town, directed solely at him. From the way they looked at him you'd think that the villagers didn't know his teammate was a Yamanaka, and thought he had been attempting something indecent but he was sure they knew, they were very famous in this village. It was more likely they were looking at him. People were always looking at him like he stole something… it pissed him off honestly. Becoming a genin didn't help much at all.

Naruto reached into his pocket to fish around for something while Ino reacted the way she started to whenever Naruto gave her anything that could be construed as a compliment, "Naruto you're so thoughtful! And you did take such good care of my body. It's good to have at least one teammate I can trust to know how to treat a lady. Maybe you should be in charge of my body more often huh?" Shikamaru scoffed, but she ignored him for Naruto who then pulled something out of his pocket to give him an excuse to lower his head and cover his blush, "Naruto how did you get those?"

Naruto had in his hand a pack of cigarettes and had freed one from its confines to place into his mouth, "What? Asuma-sensei has like one pack of these in each pouch of his vest/jacket thingy. He can let me get one."

Ino raised an eyebrow, "How did you even get a pack off of him? He's a jounin and we're genin."

Naruto started digging around in his pockets for something else, "I have sticky fingers Ino. That and he was busy staring at the rack of dirty magazines in the book store when we had to collect the merchant's guild taxes." He grunted in disappointment, "I need to buy a lighter."

Ino watched Naruto place the pack back into his pocket, "Are you really going to smoke that? Those things will kill you Naruto." She said displeased at watching her fellow blonde trying to light up.

Shikamaru shrugged, "Asuma does it. Naruto can do what he wants."

Naruto looked at his two teammates, cigarette still in his mouth, "He's not the only one I see doing this all the time. I just want to know what the big deal about them is. I can buy them myself anyway, I just didn't want to in case I didn't like them." That reason, and because maybe the stores would jack up the prices for him and call it a 'minor tax'. Before he graduated they called it a 'civilian tax'. Shiho told him there were no damn taxes like that. What the hell was wrong with people?

"Ah, Asuma's team." Team 10 all looked in the direction of the voice they heard to see the pretty black-haired lady with the red eyes that had been there during team placements. Her team in tow. Kiba, Shino, and Hinata, "Have you just finished a mission?" She got nods from all of the kids, bringing a small smile to her face, "Good. We're all here to get a mission ourselves."

The two teams of genin looked at each other. They hadn't seen each other since they had graduated and had a few things to catch up on, but first-, "Dude." Kiba said, looking at Naruto, "Since when do you smoke?" Akamaru yapped on his head after his question.

Hinata had a look of horror on her face, 'Naruto-kun smokes? Why would Naruto-kun smoke?'

Naruto shrugged, "I don't know. Since-." He was going to say since five seconds ago, but the killing intent from Kurenai drowned out his response, "Since… since… since…" He couldn't rightly respond when he looked into her red eyes that seemed to be looking right through him. He felt like he was going to die if he said one more word.

Saved by Asuma, is what he felt like when the man came out, "Hey you guys forgot your paychecks. Eager to get rid of that cat huh?" He said as he had money in one hand, and the other sticking a cigarette on his mouth. He grabbed a lighter and lit it as his eyes panned around, "Hey Kurenai."

"-Since Asuma-sensei started making it look so cool!" Naruto exclaimed loudly, his excuse and his scapegoat found. Let no one ever say that Naruto did not know how to think on his feet. Too bad it had to be at Asuma's expense, but as the saying went; better you than me.

Asuma looked at Naruto strangely, not knowing what he was talking about until he saw the cigarette in Naruto's mouth. His eyes widened and he pointed at Naruto accusingly, "Oh Naruto you're so full of-!" He was stopped by killing intent from… two different sources.

What the hell? He knew one was from Kurenai, but where was the other one from? No way, the timid Hyuuga girl was trying to shake him up? He would have thought that was so cute if Kurenai wasn't scaring the hell out of him at the moment. How precious, the little Hyuuga girl was upset at him for Naruto smoking. Man, even a cute little Hyuuga like her could glare a hole through granite. It had to be the eyes.

Taking advantage of Asuma's stunned state, Naruto snatched the lighter from Asuma's hands and after a few experimental flicks he lit his cigarette and sighed deeply, exhaling smoke, "Ahh, you were right Asuma-sensei. Bold flavor, and relaxing after a hard day's work." Honestly, it tasted like hell to him, but he was supposed to be selling this thing for his immediate health right now, so he took another toke like it was the best thing in the world, and exhaled again, with more strain this time, "Smooth." He said in a choked voice.

"Asuma." Kurenai said firmly, "I know you remember the speech Hokage-sama gave us all when we accepted our teams. We're supposed to be role models and set good examples for them. What kind of example does smoking two packs of cigarettes a day set to your genin?"

Asuma was sweating bullets, "Um… to patronize friendly, local tobacco retailers?" He yelped in pain when Kurenai grabbed him by his ear and pulled him away.

Naruto took the cigarette from his mouth and exhaled as he watched Kurenai drag off and scold Asuma with her team trailing behind her, "And there you go, that's what you call taking command of the situation. And now, I've got a free lighter." He gave himself a mental pat on the back at his masterful performance until he felt the collar of his windbreaker and undershirt get tugged, pulling him back. He looked to see that Kurenai had doubled back and come back for him, "Um… Hi?"

She gave him a rather cold look of disappointment, him in one hand, Asuma in the other, one being dragged walking on his feet, the other being dragged from behind, heels sliding through the dirt, "I'm going to give your sensei a little lecture on responsibility and then I'm going to break you of that nasty habit before you can get started like him."

Naruto and Asuma looked at each other with Naruto mouthing, "I'm sorry" to his sensei who just sighed in defeat and accepted his fate.

Shikamaru looked down the road that his sensei and his male teammate were disappearing at the end of, "So… does that mean we're done for today?"

Ino blinked at the same sight when something hit her, "Wait, Asuma-sensei still has our money!" She took off after them to see if she could catch up.

She never did. The money was used to buy Naruto three entire cartons of cigarettes which were then used to make him smoke them all in one sitting by Kurenai who spent the entire time telling Asuma about the responsibilities he now had. Kurenai's genin squad watched on in horror as Naruto smoked 48 packs of cigarettes at once and then proceeded to puke his guts out and fade into unconsciousness immediately after finishing.

Kurenai let both Asuma and Naruto go, seeing as her job was done. Naruto learned his lesson as did Asuma, and after watching Naruto get physically ill off of the cigarettes her team got the message that she wanted to convey; do not start smoking. However, her plan backfired miserably. Naruto, instead of being one and done to protect his own ass as he originally intended, ended up getting a taste and a feel for the cancer sticks off of Kurenai's little punishment. Asuma still continued to smoke regularly, and seemed to encourage Naruto's growing habit as it gave him something to bond with the blonde over… as long as he wasn't stupid enough to do it in front of Kurenai again… and to date he had not been.

(End Flashback)


(Ino's House – Later that Evening)

Ino was in her father's small storage area loading up her pack for the mission tomorrow.

"And where are you going that you need all of that?" Ino's father Inoichi asked, standing by the door to the room, "You have a mission to prepare for?"

Ino turned to him and nodded, "Yes daddy. Me, Shikamaru, and Naruto are supposed to be going on our first C-ranked mission with Asuma-sensei tomorrow. Anything you want to tell me about what to be ready for?" She switched to a mild glare, "Since you didn't tell me about the second part of the genin exam and everything?"

Inoich laughed, "No one could say anything about that. It was a test Ino, but yes actually. You're good enough for the mission, just make sure you trust your teammates and you'll all do fine." He then stopped for a moment as he thought, "You know I know Shikamaru pretty well. I've never met your other one before."

In return, Ino shrugged and looked up at him, "Naruto's a nice guy. And he's a way better ninja then everyone else thought he would be coming out of the Academy which is great actually." She smiled a bit, "It's hard to believe no one thought he had a chance coming out of graduation. He's actually good. Kind of goofy from time to time, but he's more fun than Shikamaru is, that stick in the mud."

Inoichi's face was momentarily stern, "Uzumaki Naruto…" His face then lit up, "He's not really a bad kid at all. You should invite him over sometime. I already know Shikamaru, I might as well meet him too."

"Will do daddy." Ino said, straining visibly with her overfilled pack, "Now could you help me close this thing up?"


(Shikamaru's House)

Shikamaru walked into his house and heard his father's voice call out, "Shikamaru, come in here." Shikamaru sighed and made his way to the living room where he had been summoned to, "What do you want dad?"

Shikamaru's dad Shikaku was sitting in a reclining chair with his eyes closed, "So how was your day?"

"Troublesome…" His son replied, "We did a mission, and then Asuma spent the second part of the day kicking our asses. If I knew being a ninja would have had me doing so much stuff I don't think I would have let you talk me into it when I was little."

Shikaku didn't physically respond. He grunted in understanding before speaking again, "I said you could quit whenever you wanted didn't I"

Shikamaru yawned and leaned against the door frame in the room, "Yeah, but mom on the other hand said she wasn't going to have a dropout for a son, and here I am now."

"Troublesome." Shikaku said, yawning much like his son had a moment earlier.

Shikamaru shook his head, "You're telling me, I'm living it. Anyway, I have a C-rank to go on tomorrow. Asuma finally said me, Ino, and Naruto could take one to see how we do."

Shikaku chuckled, eyes still closed, "Ha, that's right, you have Ino on your team. Poor bastard." Shikamaru grumbled something about troublesome old men, "And Naruto? Heh, good luck with that. Has he pranked you yet?"

Shikamaru scowled slightly, "No thank Kami. I would like to stay on the opposite end of that spectrum for as long as I can. That bastard is sneaky, he's already gotten Asuma, he won't touch Ino with any, and that means I'm a potential target, it's best to not give him a reason." He stood there in thought for a moment, "Hey dad, why do people seem to have a problem with Naruto. He isn't that bad of a guy, I've met way worse people, and his pranks aren't that bad. Everything he does can be fixed in an hour."

At that, Shikaku cracked an eyelid and gazed at his son for a moment before shutting it again, "Too troublesome to explain. You're a smart kid. Figure it out on your own."

Shikamaru got off the wall and walked away, "Whatever dad. Troublesome old man."

Shikaku muttered when Shikamaru left, "Troublesome brat…" He said with a smirk.


(Konoha Archive Library)

Naruto frowned as Atsuto shrugged, "Shiho didn't come in today Naruto. I don't know what to tell you."

"Well has she ever missed before?" Naruto asked, getting a shake of the head as his response, "Well let me go check on her, she might be sick or hurt, or something really bad."

Atsuto nodded, he couldn't leave to go check on her the way he wanted to. She may have been his apprentice, but he had to keep watch over the library as well. He wrote out her address on a sticky note, "Here. This is where she lives since you still probably don't know." At that Naruto grinned sheepishly, "Make sure she's alright and if she isn't, come get me." Naruto nodded and ran off on his way.


After a few minutes of searching, Naruto found the right address. Shiho appeared to live in a nice sized two floor home across town from him. No wonder she didn't want him to walk her home, it was so far away. But she shouldn't have known that, he never said anything about where he lived.

He knocked on the door, "Shiho-chan, it's Naruto. Are you okay? You didn't come in today." No response. He knocked and waited three more times before getting nervous and picking the lock, a skill he was proud to say he had learned all on his own from when he would leave his key inside his house and lock himself out. It was kind of awkward explaining to passing ANBU about why you were trying to break into your own house and he could swear behind those masks those guys were laughing… bastards.

Naruto felt the lock click open and made his way inside, "Holy crap!" He exclaimed once he got a look at Shiho's ground floor. The entire ground level was a maze of bookshelves filled with books of all kinds, "How does someone live in all of this?" He started making his way through, calling out her name, but getting no response.

Something finally hit him, "Duh." He crossed his arms and shut his eyes to let off a pulse of his location jutsu. He had gotten better with it now. He still had trouble with walls and things, but he could catch a person's presence in the woods pretty well if his training with his team was anything to go by and he didn't need the hand-seals anymore. He got a signal and began to make his way over to where he sensed her only to find a massive pile of books, "Shiho-chan? I sensed you over here, where are you?"

He heard a muffled cry from underneath all of the books, "Wah!" He made a mass of Kage Bunshin who all helped him pick up the books where he found Shiho at the bottom, crying tears of joy, "Are you alright?"

She nodded, "Thank you so much Uzumaki-kun." She said, getting helped to her feet by the clones who then started looking around, "I was trying to get something down to study from this morning when all of a sudden that whole pile fell down on top of me. And I live alone you see, so I didn't have anyone to call." She let out a sigh of relief only to see Naruto looking at her strangely.

"You live alone?" He asked, "But all the time when you had to leave before I could offer to take you home you always said you had to leave right then or you'd get into trouble."

Shiho looked down, "Well I didn't want you to see my house Uzumaki-kun. I was afraid that you would think I was even weirder than before if you saw that I lived… well… here." She said, gesturing to the books that made up her bottom floor.

Naruto shook his head, "Well that's stupid. I don't care that you have books Shiho-chan… I mean, there are a lot, but so what? I like all kinds of ramen, you like all kinds of books. We're both weird I guess." He said, getting a smile out of her, "What happened to you family?"

Shiho smiled apologetically, "Well my father was killed in the attack by the Kyuubi, and my mother suffered serious injuries from it that never really healed you see. She died when I was five."

Naruto frowned deeply, "Wow, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring anything bad up Shiho-chan."

Shiho momentarily placed Naruto's face with the Kyuubi, but quickly wiped that thought aside. The real Kyuubi wouldn't have cared anything at all about her parents. The real Kyuubi wouldn't even have helped her out or even tried befriending her. As a matter of fact, Naruto was tormenting the Kyuubi with his very existence. Keeping it trapped, unable to do a single thing, and that brought a smile to her face, "It's okay. It was a long time ago. At least I got to know her. You never knew either one of yours so I can't really complain."

Naruto grinned at her, "Aw, I got used to it when I was little. There's nothing crying over it will solve so why waste time with it?"

"Exactly." Shiho said cheerfully, "But none of these books are really mine. They all belonged to my mother. She worked at the Konoha Archive Library as a part of the Cryptanalysis Squad until her death and she filled the house with all of these. She's the reason I do what I do now. She encouraged me when she realized I might be really good at it so when Atsuto-sensei offered me the chance I jumped at it." She cleared her throat, "But anyway, what did you need to see me for?"

Naruto remembered why he came looking for her, "Oh, well I'm leaving on a C-ranked mission tomorrow and Asuma-sensei said I would probably be gone for a while so I'm just telling you that I won't be around for a bit."

Shiho gave him a stern glance for a moment, "Amount of exits in the house at first glance Uzumaki-kun? Know your surroundings."

Naruto rolled his eyes, "The amount of windows on the front of your house would make me believe between 5 and 7. Two are doors, front and back. The others would be windows but that's just for down here. I wouldn't know about upstairs, I didn't think about it."

"Very good, it's seven by the way. You see, making you read that section of tactics on knowing your location did help. Now give me the number of choke points you can find in this floor." She said.

Naruto looked around blankly before turning back to her with his eyes squinted, "Um, really? Because with the bookcases and everything that would take a while to put together. Shiho-chan I could trap an entire platoon in here if I had to. Ask Shikamaru about that, Asuma-sensei said his IQ is like over 200."

Shiho blushed at the implementation of Naruto's teammate's name and laughed sheepishly, but he chalked that up to him embarrassing her about the state of her home, "Well nevermind then. Anyway, good luck on your mission. I know you'll do great." She said to him.

Naruto grinned at her, "You know it! Alright, now I have to go pack." He turned to quickly and abruptly leave by running but wound up smashing his face into a bookcase. He steadied it and proceeded to watch his step all the way out the door, "Bye Shiho-chan!"


(The Next Day)

Naruto, Shikamaru, and Ino were all standing out in front of the Hokage Tower in front of Asuma, "So today's the day. Are you all ready?" He got three nods before pulling out a scroll, "I already picked your mission for you so we could get started. Anything to say?" He asked.

Naruto shook his head excitedly, "No more useless chores."

Ino frowned, "Why didn't we get to pick?"

Shikamaru rubbed his shoulder, "How far away is it? I don't want to have to carry this pack too far for too long."

Asuma sweatdropped, "While he said it in the most ass way possible, Shikamaru was the only one that asked the right question. We're to be heading to the village of Toui, three days away from here to deliver a letter meant to be received by Kusagakure. We'll meet up with a squad of Kusa ninja once we arrive. Questions?"

Naruto raised his hand, "Are we going to have to fight anything?"

Asuma shrugged, "Maybe. There's always a chance of combat when you leave the village, but if you're asking if we're going to directly be forced to fight then no. Missions like this don't normally anticipate conflict. There's little chance of danger on these."

Shikamaru sighed, "Walking all the way to a far-off village… That's just what I wanted to do for a week." He said sarcastically.

Asuma raised an eyebrow, "Okay, I can just take this mission back and exchange it for a day's worth of nice, easy-going D-ranks. I hear the Academy commissioned some help in moving the new equipment into all of the classrooms and taking old equipment out. All of the classrooms."

Ino and Naruto grabbed Shikamaru's arms and dragged him away from the tower, "There's no need for that sensei!" Ino said cheerfully, "Come on, let's go before we lose the daylight!"

"It's morning Ino, we have all day." Shikamaru commented, letting himself be dragged because hey, that was just ground he didn't have to cover himself by walking.


(A Few Hours Later)

Naruto looked around himself as Team 10 continued on their way to Toui. On the road like this, Naruto's team position was as human sonar. Having so much chakra meant that every two minutes or so Naruto could let out a pulse to scout the area around them. Iruka said he would never be able to use the jutsu the way Naruto could and stay battle ready, but Naruto chalked it up to his massive chakra reserves and took it as a blessing, "We're pretty far away from Konoha by now aren't we?" He asked, getting a nod from everyone else, "Good." He said, taking a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and lighting it up in his mouth.

Ino looked at him, shaking her head, "That will kill your lungs Naruto. You should really stop. I'm surprised you don't smell like an ashtray by now. Asuma-sensei too."

Naruto looked over at her, "I can't help it. They're not that bad. And I smoked an entire carton's worth-."

"Three cartons worth." Asuma interjected, smoking his own cigarette carelessly.

"Right." Naruto said, "-Three cartons worth of cigarettes at once and I didn't feel it once until after I was done. And that was in my stomach. And Asuma kicks our asses and runs circles around you guys and he smokes two packs a day at least."

Asuma nodded, 'Well my reasons for not being affected too badly by it are different than yours. I channel chakra to my lungs to tone down the damage, you have a demon in you kid. Not that you know that.'

Sighing in defeat, Ino threw her hands into the air, "Fine, I give up. Two of the people on my team are now addicted to smoking. If Shikamaru starts too I'm going to lose it."

Shikamaru rose to her remark, "Yeah as if. I'd never pick up that habit. It's too much work. First you've got to pull the cigarette from the pack, then you've got to put it in your mouth and light it, then you've got to breathe it in and out without killing yourself in the process, and then no matter what, 30 or 40 years later you die anyway. It's too troublesome."

"You being lazy is a good thing for once." Ino said, "Who would have figured?"

Asuma signaled them to a stop, "Okay, let's see your packs." The group looked at each other in confusion until he elaborated, "I need to make sure you all brought what you needed for this mission so packs off, this is for a grade." He joked.

He looked through Shikamaru's first, "Good. You've got a good amount of equipment and rations for a mission of this length. Clothes to change into… and it's all placed in here neatly." He gave Shikamaru a dry look, "Your mother packed this for you didn't she?"

Shikamaru didn't have a hint of shame towards admitting it, "She said I needed to redo it and I said it was too much trouble."

"Of course she did." Asuma passed it back to Shikamaru, "I'll tell her to make you do it yourself next time and see how lenient she'll be if you don't." Shikamaru paled as Asuma moved on to Naruto, "Okay Naruto, you're up." Naruto handed his bag over, letting Asuma look through it, "You have a good amount of clothes to change into, you have good rations, but a lot are instant ramen cups."

Naruto shrugged, "What? They're fast, easy to make, and they have energy… at least to me. And they're cheap."

"Fair enough." Asuma said as he kept checking, "You went kind of spartan on the weapons and tools though. Only kunai and shuriken, and not many of those."

"Those aren't so cheap and easy to get for me Asuma-sensei. I don't pay sticker price for most stuff. 'Taxes' they say." Naruto said. He could tell that Naruto was confused about why, but apparently from the way he dismissed it he was used to it.

Asuma kept the growl out of his voice lest Naruto think he was angry with him. He'd be paying a few stores a visit once they got back home. Most stores that sold weapons were run part-time by shinobi, shinobi that weren't afraid of retaliation from a fresh genin for hiking up prices, "It's alright Naruto, we'll get you rightly outfitted when you get back."

Ino put a hand on Naruto's shoulder, "If you need to I'm sure you can stock up on some things from my house. We have tons of stuff that we keep too much of anyway. It's got to be hard keeping your own place and buying everything for yourself." Ino didn't rightly get it but the only tax she was aware of was sales tax and that wasn't much. He also said it plural so that meant more than one tax, 'What taxes?'

"Thanks Ino." Naruto said with a grateful smile through his cigarette as he placed his pack back onto his form and they continued on the road towards their distant destination, "Is this village even in Hi no Kuni Asuma-sensei?"

"Nope." The bearded jounin responded, "You're all getting to see the world for the first time. Isn't that half the reason why you joined in the first place? The shinobi forces of Konohagakure no Sato; join up, meet interesting people, kill them." He noticed the owlish looks he was getting from his genin, "Um… That used to be the old slogan back when I was a chunin."


(Three Days Later)

"Damn it Naruto you can't take this from me!" Asuma said almost hysterically as they entered the town they were intended to be in, "One of the things I was looking forward to as a jounin sensei was watching you all fall off the side of a tree on your heads for a week! You were going to be the most entertaining one!"

Naruto looked at Asuma strangely, "Sorry Asuma-sensei, but it was an exercise in the Neibaiken scroll. Sticking to surfaces with chakra. And a week? I just now got it, how the hell did you figure it would take a week?"

Asuma calmed down, "Well it's a chakra control exercise. Since you have the reserves of at least five regular chunin, exercises like that are always going to be rough on you. I'm surprised you didn't come to me about this."

Naruto turned away, "Well I'm not going to walk up to you and say I can't get two steps up a tree. It was my own training. I'm sure when Ino and Shikamaru can't get their own clan stuff down they can't just come to you about it."

Asuma scratched his head, "Well they have family members that are shinobi Naruto. You don't. I'm the one that's supposed to be responsible for you, and if you can't get something you shouldn't hesitate to come to me."

Ino looked at him inquiringly, "So you can walk up stuff now? Like that wall. If you walked up to it you could stick to it?"

Naruto nodded, "Yep. I can do it for my hands too." He kept his hand wide and stuck his palm to Ino's arm, "Now if I get a hold of you, good luck getting me off. Try." Ino jerked her arm around but found herself unable to even budge Naruto.

She stopped struggling, "You're sticking to the ground too aren't you?"

Naruto let go of her arm and they all kept walking, "You've got it. "

"Alright Naruto stop showing off." Shikamaru said, "We're not in Konoha and I really don't want anyone we could end up fighting knowing how you're going to fight them." Naruto nodded and continued down the street alongside his team.

Naruto repeatedly poked at Ino sides who poked him back, only he was able to get his fingers to stick to her when he did it, which felt weirder to her, giving him an advantage. He rather liked having the shoe on the other foot, and felt he could afford to mess with his fellow blonde because he could sense anything around them. No one was going to get the drop on him. Thus, Naruto continued messing with Ino, only this time when he stuck a finger to her side he used the rest of them on his hand to tickle her to get her to stop poking him and concede defeat.

The villagers of Toui were treated to the sight of a blonde boy with a Konoha headband, whisker marks, and orange clothes grinning madly while tickling one of Konoha's famous Yamanaka Clan in the middle of their street while she was trying to take a swing at him. In order to stop his students from acting up any further, Asuma lifted them up and separated them between him, "Asuma-semsei you're no fun, I almost had her." Naruto said once it was over.

"As if Naruto." Ino said, regaining her composure, and trying to glower, the occasional chuckle and small blush on her face blowing her poise.

Asuma smirked, "Sorry Naruto, it's work time. You can find Ino to play with after we're home and safe." He said suggestively, however it went over both of their heads.

Naruto rolled his eyes and placed his hands behind his head as they kept walking, "Whatever. Ino's got better things to do than hang out with me when she's free. She does that enough already."

"No I don't. Not really." She disputed his statement, "It's kind of hard to meet up with the people I used to know in the Academy now that we're genin. I see you guys more than anyone else these days. *sigh* I can't even find Sasuke-kun around. If they're anywhere near as busy as us then Forehead is hogging all the prime Uchiha time and I'll never get to see him."

Naruto and Shikamaru shared a look of distaste before returning their faces to normal, lest Ino see them and chew them out. Naruto had gotten his ear talked off several times in the past for shooting down anything Sasuke related.

Asuma's face suddenly hardened over as his eyes caught something down the road, "Look alive you guys." Down the road was a group with Kusa headbands. All three including the one perceived as the jounin were also looking at their Konoha counterparts with completely business-like looks on their faces. The two groups met in the middle of the street, all civilians clearing out in case of a full-out shinobi dogfight in the middle of the village.

Asuma walked forward, as did the leader of the Kusa team. Asuma simply handed over the scroll from earlier to the man, got a bow in return, and went back to his team as did the other man. Asuma prompted his team to walk away, and they did, all the way out of the village. "Well." Asuma said, placing a cigarette in his mouth, "Mission complete!" He said, getting all of his genin to face-fault.

Naruto jumped to his feet, "What the hell was that? That was it?"

"Yep!" Asuma replied brightly, "What? Were you expecting fireworks or something?"

Naruto blinked at him blankly at how he was just playing it off. To hell with that, this was his first real mission, he was pissed, "Yeah, actually I was!" Naruto barked at him, "What was with the old-school showdowny faceoff in the middle of town if we weren't going to fight? That was just a waste of good tension, my eye was almost twitching! Ino held her breath so long I thought she was going to pass out!" He pointed at Ino who was taking huge gulps of air while Shikamaru rubbed her back and muttering obscenities under his breath.

Asuma laughed loudly at how his genin had interpreted the whole scene, "That? All of that was just formality kid. We might be allied with Kusa, but ninja will be ninja, and we don't trust each other as a bylaw. That was just all theatrics. Although I'm glad none of you blew it by sneezing or something. Then that guy and his genin would have been laughing their heads off all the way back to their village. They already knew you were a bunch of babyfaced newbies, no need to give them a reason to try and pick with you."

Shikamaru raised his eyebrow, "Those other guys were genin? That was a genin team? Those guys looked like they were all 18 or something." He then had another thought, "Are we going to be genin that long too? That would suck… picking up dog crap and shopping for old people on a daily basis…" The entire team shivered at the thought of running D-ranks at that age, "I'd rather do C-ranks like this. This was actually pretty low-key, I like it."

Asuma shrugged, "Well, get good enough to pass the chunin exams and escape this horrible existence as a genin and you can run C-ranks on a regular basis. Or you can underachieve and you can stay like those guys, doing odd jobs and getting to leave the village once every blue moon. It's up to how good you want to be really. That and whether or not we're at war, but that's a whole different set of circumstances." Asuma took the cigarette from his mouth and exhaled, "Yep. Back to Konoha and good old D-ranks for you guys. Good job back there."

Ino crossed her arms and grumbled, "Yeah we did great." She said sarcastically, "We sure scared the other team with our mad dog faces. Oh well… at least the pay should be good."

(The Next Morning)

Naruto had been looking up for about five minutes. They had all taken shifts on keeping watch, and he had the last shift, thus leaving him with the morning run. About right around the time just after the sun came up, a hawk was circling above the camp… and Naruto hadn't the faintest idea on what to do.

"Hey squirt, how you doing?" Asuma said as he alerted Naruto that he was up and about, "You feel dead on your feet yet? Want to crash out in your own bed once we get home yet?" Naruto shook his head, "Damn. You fucking ball of energy."

"Energy and win." Naruto corrected, "The win's the most important part. I'd hate to be a ball of energy and fail." He then pointed up, "What is that thing doing up there?"

Asuma squinted and saw the hawk before signaling it down to him. He took a scroll from the animal and sent it back from where it came. Once he read it he let out a sigh and rolled it back up, "Naruto, go get Ino and Shikamaru and you guys break up camp. We're moving out in a hurry."

Naruto was confused, "What was that Asuma-sensei?"

Asuma looked down at his diminutive genin, "That Naruto, was one of Konoha's messenger hawks, and the message was for us to back up another squad already dispatched on a mission to Nami no Kuni. Sending a whole squad of chunin would be a waste of resources since there's already a whole genin squad and a jounin there so we're going to help out." He pulled out his first cigarette of the day irritably.

Naruto looked at how angrily he lit it up and had to comment, "Is this going to be one of those days you keep telling us about?" Asuma's only response was to stick a cigarette into Naruto's mouth and light it.

Asuma placed his lighter back into his pocket and looked at the freshly risen sun, "All I'm going to say is you better enjoy that."

How To Train Your Genin: Tip 3

Find your genin squad's group dynamic

Just as there are many different types of shinobi there are different types of squads. While most squads are going to want to be well balanced to be prepared for any possible situation they'll face, a lot of the time that goal is extremely unrealistic. No matter what you do, your team will probably specialize in one field or another, and there's nothing wrong with that. Getting an area of expertise is important for your genin to have a comfort level in the field. They need to know what they're good at, and while being predictable in combat can at times be fatal they need to have some kind of default gameplan that they can revert to at any time.

However do not try to force a niche for your squad. Let it find them. As mentioned earlier, train them to accentuate their strengths and hide their weaknesses. If this is done right, it will become obvious soon enough what your team will be good at. If they seem to have chakra reserves that don't quit, and are swift and well prepared there goes a Quick Response Squad. If they specialize at keeping powerful enemies at bay long enough for something to be done about them with little to no damage to themselves then there goes your Delay and Diversion Squad. And I could go on and on but you get the point. It will build itself if given time.

Also finding a pecking order in your squad can help to improve your squad's solidarity. Having a clear cut go-to-guy/girl in the case of your absence gives them a sense of comfort in a situation and helps to put a feeling of control back on them in stressful situations, allowing them to keep their heads and work out a solution. Establishing roles also breaks up the obvious responsibilities of the squad and improves teamwork and team relations.

A team is only as good as its individual parts, but a well-trained squad of genin can bring down a jounin under the right conditions. Thus, teamwork is obviously a great way to ensure your genin stay alive long enough to improve themselves.


I'm done yo. Alright. It's Friday night and not midnight yet, times to get my smoke o- I mean time to do legal things in a family setting, with no intent whatsoever to partake in the delicious mind-numbing awesome of the ganja.

Mind your own business, Kenchi out.