I do not own Naruto, and receive no profits from it.

A Teacher's Glory

By Larry Huss

The pink-haired genin cried as the mist slowly covered everything with a film of wetness. The stone with a seemingly endless list of names of ninjas who had died in the line of duty was slick and shiny. She couldn't stop feeling guilty about her part in putting the latest name on the memorial. But being Haruna Sakura, how could she have avoided it?

"Alright, my cute little students, you each have to get one of these bells tied at my waist. Otherwise going back to the Academy is the best thing that will happen to you. Now, I want you to do your best, so no holding back! If you don't come at me with complete dedication, with the willingness to kill even, you will certainly fail. Do this before the alarm clock rings, or you all fail. And the test starts… Now!"

Kakashi Hatake smiled under his mask. They really were so cute, and so doomed. There was no way he'd have to teach a genin team this year, no matter how talented the Uchiha was or how much smarts the girl was able to show. He'd make sure to fail them; he wanted to avoid any more personal connections to people who would just die on him. Especially Naruto. Every time he looked at the kid it was like seeing a junior version of the Fourth Hokage, seeing Minato again. A person could only take so much pain; best to pass this problem on to some Jonin Sensei next year.

The students (well, two of them) scattered into the surrounding woods. Naruto just backed up a little, and looked right and left to see himself deserted. He shrugged; nothing new about that, was there? He yelled as he jumped in to try to kick the tall Jonin. It was much of a surprise to him when he spent the next few seconds being tossed into the air, and landing hard. The addition of a few Shadow Clones didn't help a lot in getting Kakashi's respect; in fact the grey haired Jonin took out one of his notorious books and began to read it as he fended off each increasingly ineffectual attack.

Finally, the blond boy limped his way out of the clearing. Kakashi sauntered to an isolated tree and sat down under its shade, reading. The quarter of his attention he devoted to checking for his soon to be ex-students was more than enough to detect the Uchiha's stealthy approach. Not bad, even very good for a genin level, but not enough for Kakashi to want to break out of his comfortable pattern of isolation and melancholy. Kakashi played with the boy for a little while, finally leaving him stuck neck-deep in the ground. Then the Copy Nin took a stroll to locate the girl. It wouldn't be fair not to show her how she wasn't nearly half ready for the dangerous life of ninja. Besides, it wouldn't do to break up the set he was going to recommend be sent back for another year's seasoning in school. He wondered, briefly, if his currently mobile students were observing him (if so, at least their concealment skills were up to snuff) with increasing fear. Now, what to do to break the little girl's confidence?

In fact, his other (intended to be) temporary students were nowhere close to the edge of the clearing, but several hundred meters deeper into the woods, having an awkward council of war.

When Sakura had seen Sasuke charge out, the best of his year, using his superlative skills and jutsus that she'd never seen before, she had been certain (for a moment) that his ferocity and dedication would allow him to grab the two bells from the Jonin. Then he would certainly give her one, and they would start their careers together. Together… Oh, and Naruto would be sent back to the Academy until he finally gave up on not only dating her, but being a ninja also. Seeing Sasuke put into the ground like a potted plant had shocked her enough that she hadn't even had the energy to protest when Naruto had grabbed her, pulled her back into the woods, and start asking her rapid-fire questions.

Instead of being the irritating idiot he was usually, or insulting the magnificent Sasuke, he was actually being purposeful. She realized that she was finally seeing Naruto in his prank planning mode, not his jackass prank appreciating period. When he promised to go right out dig Sasuke up she agreed to his scheme, or at least the first part of it. That was why she was currently walking, escorted by a mob of his embarrassingly solid and useful Shadow Clones, to the edge of their current training area, to where it matched up against the fence that surrounded the Forest of Death.

She went through her textbook memories of Flora and Fauna. She noticed the condition of the leaves and soil as she got closer to the boggy section the Forest was located in. She could do this; she wasn't a weak kunoichi. Just because she wasn't the best hand-to-hand fighter in the village, or lacked some family bloodline or hidden jutsu training because of her civilian origins didn't mean she couldn't be great! Being smart was a form of strength also. If she could hold onto her nerve she could help Sasuke pass this test, and he would be sure to appreciate it!

At the tall fence some of the clones began to strip bark off of the trees, and twisting it into crude ropes. Not something worth carrying around, but the stuff would be good enough for limited time they would be using it. Others started gathering dried wood and leaves. When enough of everything was gotten together stones were tied to the ends of the ropes. These were tossed over the top of the fence, keeping the sharp wires up there from catching on anyone trying to cross over. Which, climbing on a living pyramid of Narutos, Sakura did.

Once there, half the Clones also came over and guarded her, and helped on her gathering. There was a regular stream of orange-suited blonds bringing her insects and frogs and other slimy things. Most she rejected, and the others she put in a ragged bag she made by sacrificing part of her outfit. Other Narutos came with offerings of berries, roots, and mushrooms. She selected from these also. If the number of Clones started to shrink over the next hour, she really didn't notice as she began to put her part of the Plan together in her mind. Finally, she had to admit that more stuff wasn't likely to help than what they already had, and walked back with her diminished bodyguard to the fence, and was hauled over with her booty. She never thought about the fate of the Clones that had disappeared earlier, or questioned why the ones that had gone over the fence with her and survived ran back into the forest. There were enough to carry everything that would be needed, and that was all that mattered to her.

Kakashi Hatake finally had to pursue his errant students into the woods. Letting them fail the test just because the clock ran out was simply not amusing enough. Only rubbing their faces in their abject inadequacy had a hope of changing their minds about the romance of a career as a ninja. He could tell he just wasn't getting through to them; except for the Uchiha's first series of attacks there hadn't been any real trace of Killing Intent noticeable all day. They all, including Minato's kid, were just too lacking in real passion to ever be very worthwhile as ninjas. Well, except for the Uchiha, and he was an obvious psycho. Ending up as "eccentric" was a fate for almost every ninja, but when someone started out as messed up as Uchiha Sasuke you had a case of Missing Nin, Class S criminal, staring you in the face, best to avoid the whole thing. Fail him out of ninja program, and let him become a rich playboy with many paternity suits on his record, promising the Sharingan would be plentiful in the next generation.

When the Jonin finally caught up to his students they were waiting for him, dispelled Shadow Clones had been keeping track of his advance and passing on messages. Kakashi couldn't, for the life of him, understand what they had been doing wasting their time preparing to meet him deep in the woods were it would be difficult for Naruto to use his clones en masse and Sasuke to use his most powerful fire jutsus. True, the ability to keep dodging behind things as they threw poorly aimed kuni and senbon at him was smart, but he hardly had to dodge in any case. He vaguely noticed the little piles of disgusting trash lying about on the forest floor; perhaps the foolish girl had tried to use witchcraft on him? What were they teaching kids these days?

When the Uchiha suddenly started to throw little bursts of flame at him, Kakashi only felt embarrassment. They were weak, small, and were landing well short of his feet. He stopped for a moment to consider things as the forest floor smoldered. It almost seemed to him like they were acting like they were winning. Umm, it was true that they were finally acting like a team, but their plan and its execution were both completely incompetent. As soon as he felt like it he would dash up to them and do pleasant brutality to their childish behinds. Would the girl's be nicer? Probably, but nothing could ever match how Jiraiya Sensei had described Ayumi-chan's in volume seven of the series. Ah, there was also a picture of her on page 124, wasn't there? Beautiful, and no emotional involvement in any of the characters in Make-Out Paradise, the girls in it were safe… These pesky students were so inept, even when they finally hit him with a senbon needle it hardly felt like anything at all. It had been a long day, he decided, he'd just sit down here, read a chapter or two, and let them come to him. Yes, sit down, and stretch out, and dream of Ayumi-chan's perfect…

The genin waited a moment longer before dousing the fires between them and their Jonin instructor. They carefully used earth to do the job, keeping upwind of the fumes coming from the mixed piles of fungi, toxic leaves and berries, and the skins of several types of poisonous toads and frogs. When it was safe they approached the still twitching body on the forest floor, a dozen poisoned senbons protruding from his face and arms like quills from a hedgehog. A Clone gingerly lifted the bells from his belt, and after they left the immediate area they washed them thoroughly with water from their canteens.

Eventually, Uchiha Sasuke brought up what was on all their minds. "Two bells, three people. Who gets sent back to the Academy?"

Though not wanting to lose any of the romantic ground she was sure she had gained with him, Sakura hesitantly semi-disagreed with his point. "Do we have to tell the 'one each' part? Couldn't it be that he said if the team got the bells, it passed?"

"Are you trying to say that ninjas are supposed to be sneaky and lie and stuff?" Naruto asked.

A slow smile crossed each of their faces. Sasuke admitted to himself that he might have been put on a worse genin team than this one. Even if a fangirl, Haruna had some uses. And, surprisingly, Uzumaki had come up with a decent plan. If he used them properly he might be able to make up for some of the advantages his brother Itachi had gotten by being born first.

Sakura was sad about how this had ended, but she had always been an obedient pupil, and Sensei had told them to hold nothing back. And at seventh and last, she could tell she had impressed Sasuke, putting her way ahead of Ino in the romance game.

Naruto decided not ask Sakura out for a date as they were walking back, it was so nice and pleasant them all being together like this, he didn't want to risk her not understanding how much he really liked her. They should probably report back to the Hokage Tower now, he decided. They would need a new Sensei, and that was where the decision would come from anyway.

There had been a little notoriety, of course. Not many genin teams managed to kill their Jonin Sensei on their first day, and that on purpose. It had taken several weeks before a new one had been appointed. The other genin teams had seemed a little leery of them; so Team Seven had gotten into the habit of meeting each day to train with each other. Sasuke had become their Taijutsu master, and had already helped both Naruto and Sakura improve their respective technique and stamina. Sakura had gotten Iruka-sensei to give them Chakra control and other (non-combat) jutsu information, she had the best control of them all and was their Master in that field. Naruto had been teaching them the reasons behind his success as a prankster: intense powers of observation, endlessly practiced stealth, and to always have at least two alternative routes of retreat from an engagement.

Today they were at the monument to Konoha's fallen heroes, standing with the Hokage in the mist. Only them and an attractive but trashily dressed kunoichi. What business was it of hers to be there while they honored, each in their own way, the Sensei that had made them a true team? And why was she smiling that strange, strange smile?

It has been said that a teacher's true glory is in his student's achievements.