The Mad Job
Five Weeks Later…
The Land of Hot Water…
Nighttime, outside of the Hot Spring Village…
"Hope you enjoyed your meal, sir. Come again soon," the chef of a roadside stall exclaimed, biding farewell to his parting customer.
The patron gladly paid for his meal, depositing two gold coins on the serving table beside his empty bowl of ramen and left with his hands in his pockets, a sated stomach and a satisfied smile on his face. It had been a pretty cold night, so a stop off at the stall had been more than just a welcome relief.
A nice hot bowl with a side of tea was a great way to warm up, particularly on a cold night such as this one.
The man was a Yugakure shinobi, as indicated by the black headband he wore with the silver plate that had three diagonal lines drawn down it. He had silver hair tied back into a ponytail, brown eyes with a scar on his lower right cheek, and purple eyes. His outfit consisted of black slacks, sandals, gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and a grey vest with six pouches close to the waistline. He also had duel short-blade scythes with a chain linking them at the handles at his side, signifying that he was probably quite proficient with the weapons in question.
After all, he had to be if he was wandering on his own, many miles away from his village on a mission.
Sighing as he started down the wide open, empty dirt road for the second time that night, with a river running directly adjacent to him, the man reached into his pouch and pulled out a scroll. Unfurling it, he reread the mission statements that were inscribed on it, with reference pictures and biographies next to each of the names.
The main target on his list, which was at the very top, was the most wanted rogue shinobi from his village, an individual going by the name Hidan. From what he had been told and had heard, the man was incredibly dangerous, aggressive and psychotic, and if encountered needed to be approached with caution. Details on his real abilities were skeptical, so the bio didn't list much other then his height, weight, appearance, serial number and a picture they had provided.
A note was also inscribed at the bottom warning the shinobi to look out for people walking around with black cloaks with red cloud patterns.
There was also a secondary target directly below Hidan. This individual was his current objective and the main reason he was all the way out here; a ruthless street killer, with no known face or name. Nobody has seen or heard of him, but corpses have been turning up all around the Hot Spring Village where he was currently patrolling, all of them shinobi, samurai and warriors from different regions.
If there was a connection between the street killer and Hidan, then he was going to find it.
The Chunin frowned.
"The problem is… finding out the identity of the murderer. I won't know who it is unless they show themselves," the shinobi thought and looked up, a little bit more concerned about his predicament. "This is going to be one long night."
He heard a rustling from the brush nearby and abruptly stopped in his tracks. Glancing to his right, he unexpectedly saw a cat pop out from the reeds and stroll out into the middle of the road. Getting a good look at it when it stopped right in his path, the shinobi saw that it was an Egyptian Mau with a beautiful spotted coat and bright green eyes that shone like the moon. A gentle breeze rustled the reeds and long grass around the nearby stream, with the eyes of both entities meeting.
Seeing that it had a collar of some sorts around its neck, the shinobi blinked and looked around for the owner. When he couldn't find anybody in sight, except for the stall he had just left several hundred meters back down the road, he turned towards the cat again. The creature was staring up at him intently, trying to determine whether the man was friend or foe.
"Hey there little guy… are you lost?" The shinobi smiled and knelt down, holding his hand out to it.
The cat meowed at him before quickly scampering off, running down the road.
The Yugakure shinobi followed it with his eyes up towards a willow standing beside the track, its reed like branches hanging close to the ground and waving on the wind. When he saw the cat stop beside it, he also noticed somebody standing behind the wall of leaves.
His sense of danger was immediately set off and in response, he frowned deeply and rose to his feet to stand at full height, as he noticed that the stranger was staring at him rather unpleasantly.
The person wore varying orange robes and sashes of a monk, with white gauze wrapped firmly around the legs and feet, with tied, flat padded sandals. He couldn't exactly make out the individual's face, but the height and build of the person suggested that it was a teenage girl around fifteen years of age. Through the shadows of his dimly lit surroundings though, he could see that she had a shaved head with odd markings on it, and whatever hair she did have at the back of her head, tied into a long flowing ponytail.
A flash of metal at the person's side further clued him onto the fact that she was armed. It was a strange sword with a thick, curved blade and a handle built for only a single-handed grip.
The cat he had encountered circled the stranger once, before sitting itself down beside the willow, and stared patiently at the shinobi now glaring down the newcomer.
"Can I help you, ms?" the man asked, a bead of sweat running down the side of his face.
The young lady didn't respond.
She instead lowered herself into a wide stance, the sword in her hand clicking as she held it back and extended her free hand forward.
The shinobi quickly detected hostilities and made a grab for his scythes.
"If it's a fight you're looking for, you picked the wrong shinobi to mess with," the Chunin replied, unclasping his weapons and drawing them. He spun them in his grip, stretching the chain out and taking a stance of his own. "My name is Ryu Hashimoto from Yugakure, and I don't have time to be playing around with children."
The young teenager frowned, her lips twitching.
"Trivial names and titles mean nothing in the face of my skills," she stated, her voice soft yet carrying a wisp of venom in them. "You wear the headband of your village and carry a weapon of a killer; that's all I need to know to identify you as my next opponent."
Ryu scoffed and raised his scythe blade above his head. "You're crazy. Don't go picking fights you can't win."
The woman smiled slyly. "I'll win…"
The shinobi smirked back at her. "Don't count on it."
The Chunin sprung into action, charging without question and grabbing the chain in the middle of his weapon. He spun the dominant scythe at the end, creating a flashing, buzz saw like effect at the speed the melee weapon was rotating at. He gritted his teeth angrily and with a roar he lunged at the girl, his weapon spinning around him in a series of flashy strikes.
However, the young teenager remained calm. With just a simple, brisk step forward the sword she wielded came lashing out in a single, fluent motion. A gust of wind shot out from it and over the entire area, rustling the leaves on the willow and the long grass beside the river. The stream's natural flow literally stopped for the briefest of moments, before continuing its path once the blast of wind subsided.
The Chunin staggered past his target, his weapon going slack when he glared back over his shoulder, to see his opponent standing behind him with her sword extended in front of her.
Furrowing his brow, he spun around to reengage her again. But just as he was raising his weapon to strike, his entire body unexpectedly froze up. Ryu's expression widened in horror when excruciating pain overcame him and blood began spilling out of every orifice on his face and body. Even his flesh began to spill sweat and blood out heavily.
The weapon he carried dropped to the ground and a split second later, he keeled over, falling flat into the shallows of the river beside the road.
Sprawled out with his blood joining the flow of the stream, the fight he was challenged to was over before he even knew what hit him.
He was dead.
The cat sitting beside the tree meowed pleasantly and began licking her paw, while its owner sheathed her sword back onto her back and smirked. She licked her lips in approval.
"That's yet one more villain, intent on committing harm, removed from the face of the earth," she exclaimed happily, with a hint of deep pleasure in her voice. Her tone carried no remorse whatsoever following the gruesome act she had just committed.
The very next day…
It had been close to a couple of months since Team 7 was formed and already the members of the squad were beginning to feel the strain of being an active shinobi of their village.
Well, not Rin of course.
The Jonin had first thought that being a leader of a team of snot nosed, academy graduates would have been the ultimate chore for her and not to mention a real disappointment had they not passed her test with flying colors. It was the prospects of actually having to nurture them that had put her off from taking a team in the first place, since she figured she wouldn't have been able to handle the responsibilities or the stress. However, now that she had a team to coach and to look out for, and after overseeing many of their missions thus far, the whole deal was unexpectedly having the exact opposite effect she had previously thought she would be having.
Adding up all of the month's past events, she shockingly discovered that she had been having the time of her life, tormenting the hell out of her three little Genin with the odd jobs that came through to them in the form of D-Rank missions.
She particularly enjoyed handing out the most meaningless of assignments to them.
In her universe, life was superb.
Already over the past several weeks she had been running the team they had already completed a gob load of missions that were done and dusted on the very day the assignments were handed out, on schedule, right down to the last minute, and then some. Their first mission had their whole concepts of adventures outside of the village's walls thrown right back into their stunned faces when Hiruzen Sarutobi personally presented them with a list of chores that even academy students could do, if you could motivate them to do them. The thing was, the teen members of the so called Team 7 had been expecting to hit the big stuff right off the bat; fighting mercenaries, battling enemy shinobi and rescuing hostages.
But what they got instead; was fighting the pains of hard work, battling the stubbornness of pesky dogs and rescuing cats from trees.
That very first so-called mission had them all chopping wood and gathering coal for a local blacksmith's furnaces. With Rin standing on the sidelines overseeing their progress, she watched as her three kids chopped away with axes, mumbling and groaning their complaints with almost every log they split. The ones who did the most complaining were Naruto and Ino, whereas Shino quietly and consistently questioned the true purpose behind the chore they were subjected to. It was especially funny to the woman to see Ino fussing over a log that just would not cut and she nearly wound up knocking Naruto out when she tried slicing through the stubborn stump with wide swings.
Eventually, they piled up such a load for the business owner that their very first mission as a team was considered a smashing success. Rin felt so invigorated that went up to each of her team members for a high five, but all she got were scowls of disapproval.
Moving on through the next missions over the next several days, Team 7 found themselves mowing God awfully big ass lawns, pulling weeds, trimming hedges, restocking the storage areas at various convenient stores, cleaning public toilets (much to the chagrin of all members of the team), sharpening weapons at the blacksmiths, repainting fences, pulling carts and babysitting.
Rin found the methods used by each of her students in helping old folks cross the streets rather interesting, when one of the missions given to them requested that they take the elders from the Konoha Retirement Home out for some fresh air. Ino performed her job gracefully and was incredibly polite to her client, Shino was just as labored as the old person he was escorting, and Naruto went about his task like he had a wasp's sting up his backside. The jinchuriki literally decided to carry his fare around the entire day, making quite a public display in the shopping districts.
At least he was enthusiastic about that one.
To sum it all up, Rin could accurately account for each of her students' reactions for each of the missions. Overall, Ino was frazzled at the end of each day, Shino quietly brooded in the corner with his hands in his pockets, not saying a word and with a proverbial raincloud hovering over his head, and Naruto would attempt to show his boundless enthusiasm and energy during the missions, but would eventually end up mortified at the conclusion of the less anticipated jobs.
It was at the end of the latest one that Rin was able to see the full results of over four weeks worth of backbreaking labor.
Leaning against the wall reading one of the hot spring brochures she had taken from the local news agency, the Jonin leader of Team 7 looked up when she heard a metallic clank, followed by a series of loud yelling and mutterings coming from one of the cubicles.
The squad was once again assigned toilet cleaning duties, with each of the team members given one of the twelve blocks alongside a fence next to a warehouse site, and would work their way up from there. After close to a couple of hours they were on their last ones, and Naruto and Ino couldn't have been more mortified at the states some of them were in. Shino didn't express his disappointment and bewilderment through anything other then the thoroughness of his job. You could tell he was upset by his more labored pace.
However, Naruto and Ino made their remarks clear and concise.
Rin watched as the wooden door to the second to last cubicle burst open and Naruto came out gasping for air, covered in loo residue, while at the same time removing the white cloth covering his face. Clutching the mop he held onto tightly, he stepped out into the fresh open air and pointed into the small room he had been confined to.
"THEY WERE EXPECTING US!" Naruto shouted, horrified and dumbstruck at the same time, with his body trembling in frustration. "It has 'Hello Naruto, have a nice day' written above the toilet paper roller in… in… GOD! I don't even want to know in what!"
Seconds later, Ino also came barreling out of her cubicle at the end of the line, dancing on her toes feverishly and looking as though she had just seen a ghost. Ripping her mask off, she pointed through the door she had jumped through. "There's a family of raccoons living in there! There's no way I'm clearing them out!"
Rin blinked and lowered the articles she was reading, watching as Naruto approached Ino's assigned block to assess the situation for himself. The moment he peeked in, he was hissed at by an aggravated animal and he immediately leapt away from the entrance. Half-laughing and half-shocked, he pointed back at the latrine while Ino stood several feet away for safety.
"Shit she's right. There are raccoons in there," the boy laughed. Reaching under his arm warmer's sleeve, he yanked out a kunai with an explosive tag wrapped around it. Turning around, he took aim. "Take this you stupid cats!"
Just as he was in the process of throwing, he felt his arm stop completely from a powerful force holding him back. Fighting against it for a few seconds, the boy then looked up to see Rin smiling down at him, clearly amused by his antics.
"Hold it, Naruto," she exclaimed, disarming him and taking the knife into her own hand. She released him a moment later. "That's not how we handle things in Konoha." Reaching behind her, she then pulled out a net and a catching bag, handing both items to the jinchuriki and the Yamanaka standing side-by-side. The two of them looked at the flimsy items they were carrying for several seconds and back up at their sensei. "This is how we handle things in Konoha."
"You're kidding, right?" the spiky haired Genin asked in disbelief.
"Sensei, the mother is the size of a greyhound! I don't think this will be enough," Ino held up the bag which could be compared to the size of the shirt she wore.
"Oh, come on, guys. Lighten up a little," Rin chuckled, placing her hands on her hips and looking between them intently. "Believe me, it could be a whole lot worse…"
At that moment, the door to the third to last public cubicle opened, with the three members of Team 7 standing outside turning around to see their other companion step into view. When they did, Naruto and Ino's jaws dropped when they saw the condition Shino was in.
Before he stepped into his last block for the day, he had been relatively fine; fresh as a daisy, clean, hair combed and glasses flashy as ever. He had been all good. But what they saw was nothing like the pre-packaged condition he started the day with. He was covered in brown crap, green slime and toilet paper, on top of several other new additions to his uniform. With the mask from his face removed, he held up his soiled mop, and had a bunch of cockroaches making his hair his home.
Needless to say, he couldn't have looked more dishonored.
Naruto and Ino were blue in the face the instant they saw Shino glance at them through his wet and filth covered state. After a few seconds of reflection, the heads of the teenagers then all turned to glare up at their sensei, who giggled and rubbed the back of her head sheepishly.
"It just got worse… didn't it…"
"No shit,"Naruto, Ino and Shino replied in unison.
"Point made," Rin replied, placing her hands on her hips and smiling down at them assertively. "Anyway, once you're done here, we can move on to our next assignment."
"Sure… with a due sense of exhaustion and dread," Ino muttered, while Naruto hunched over in conceded defeat.
Reaching into her pouch, the woman pulled out the scroll she had been given by the Hokage and unfurled it, checking the list of things-to-do. Running it over, she skipped the first three jobs they performed and moved on to the fourth one. She was unable to hold back the look of joy and the grin that forced its way onto her face.
"Oh goody, it's an oldie!" Rin lowered the list and directed her gaze at her exasperated students. "Once we've finished here, we'll head round to Mia's place to feed Fluffy…"
Upon hearing this, Naruto, Shino and Ino's eyes all widened at once and they looked up at their teacher with horror-struck expressions.
"No… NO…" Ino cried out, tears quickly brimming at her eyes as she fell to her knees.
"Not Fluffy!" Naruto shouted, unable to comprehend why anyone in this sane world would want to have a pet as evil, manipulative and dangerous as…
"Sweet little Fluffy," Rin exclaimed in delight, standing before the garden gate leading into the backyard of the estate where their next assignment was living comfortably. After looking over the bamboo divider, she then turned back to her three Genin to assign them their tasks, only to see all of them standing some ways away from her.
While she was on the front lawn of the property, the three teenagers were on the other side of the street, huddled together for protection.
Unfortunately, in face of their teacher and their assignments, there was absolutely no safety in numbers.
"Come on over guys, don't be a bunch of chickens," Rin breathed out, holding up a bag of cat food and a glass of milk, shaking the two items in emphasis. "Look, just in and out, no biggy. You can worry about scuffs and scratches afterwards."
"She tried to eat us!" Ino shouted.
"She tore up my new black jumpsuits," Naruto yelled, pointing at the blue spandex he was now wearing with the same orange scarf, arm and leg warmers. "I ran out of black!"
"She ate my insects when I tried to defend myself," Shino muttered, his face turning pale when he remembered how his old friends that had once inhabited his body were ruthlessly massacred. "Poor Konoka, Kohako, Koneko… Koko… Komoharu…" His head fell somewhat, joining tears of anguish. "Komura… Konahoka… (sniff)… KUROKO!" The boy then bellowed out, startling some of the villagers passing them by.
With Ino quickly coming to comfort the bawling teenager, Naruto carefully looked them over, and after several moments of contemplation, saw that neither one of his friends were fit or in the right states of mind for this next task. He actually sympathized with Shino for a moment, seeing him completely distraught over his insects, and after receiving a reassuring smile from his kunoichi teammate, he turned towards the property. Putting up a brave face, the blonde jinchuriki then quickly marched across the road towards their teacher, who was still waiting for any one of them to come and take the items out of her hands.
When Naruto stopped in front of her and held out his hands expectantly, Rin nodded to him and dropped the big bag and the bottle of milk into his waiting palms. The whisker marked teen stepped passed her and faced the gate with sweat dripping down his face.
"I guess it's up to me to carry on the burden." Taking in a deep breath, the boy exhaled a long drag and turned towards his teacher, extending his hand to hers. "Wish me lu-" Realizing he was talking to air, he then looked across the road to the other side about sixty meters out, where he saw all of his teammates watching him, including his teacher, with Ino waving to him.
"Good luck Naru-kun," Ino exclaimed, her arm still draped over a miserable looking Shino. Rin smiled pleasantly across towards the boy and gave him a nod of encouragement, attempting to convey that nothing could possibly go wrong.
However, with the immediate distance set out between his teammates and his team leader, Naruto was certain that there was everything wrong with this picture.
Gulping, Naruto muttered about how useless his companions were before turning back towards the gate. Letting out a sigh, he took in another deep breath and gently unhooked the latch, and strolled on in. When the gate closed behind him, utter silence fell.
Visitors, at their own peril, have been told to completely disregard the warning sign pasted just next to the gate…
"Warning: This house is guarded by a cat."
The entirety of Team 7 waited with eager anticipation as their teammate bravely set foot on what could only be described as no-man's-land beyond that wooden door. At first, things seemed to be going fine. The villagers were carrying on with their duties no problem and the birds were singing cheerfully. Rin established the fact with her other students that things would be okay, with a bright smile and a comforting pat on her two Genins' shoulders. She was so proud of them.
Even Ino and Shino were beginning to see a lighter side to the day.
This mission was going to be a sure winner…
Right up to the point when they heard Naruto's cry of terror and what could only be compared to a Puma's roar following shortly afterwards. Passers stopped in their tracks to look towards the property in utter surprise and bewilderment, where everybody saw the trees protruding from the backyard rustle and lash about violently, and items of all sorts being flung randomly into the air as the person caught inside of the killing zone made for the exit. Team 7 watched with owlish expressions as the cat food bag was thrown over, followed by the empty glass of milk. A split second later, Naruto came scampering up the side.
He was halfway over the fence when something grabbed his leg and with a split second look of pure horror, was pulled back down. He screamed bloody murder as a beast of unknown size and origins, gnawed and lashed at him on the other side of the fence, completely out of sight.
On the other hand, the audio was loud and clear.
"OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!" the boy's scream echoed around the entire neighborhood. "SOMEBODY CALL ANBU! AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! GOD! HELP ME!"
Ino and Shino paled significantly, before looking up at their sensei who was also looking a bit pale herself.
"Should we help him?"
The woman in charge of them responded by reaching back into her pouch and pulling out a carton of milk. Opening it, she began drinking it by the mouthful until it was halfway down. Sighing when she stopped, she lowered it and rubbed the back of her head.
"Naruto-kun's smart… he can find a way out just fine…" Rin replied rather unconvincingly. The sounds of his continued screams rang out, forcing the rest of the color out of the three ninjas' faces. The villagers standing around quickly resumed their daily lives, whistling tunes to cover up the yelling and screaming coming from the back of the home.
The Jonin kunoichi took another swig of milk.
"Just fine," Rin repeated nervously.
Shino and Ino seriously doubted that…
The Hokage's Office…
"Did I mention that I hate cats," Naruto frowned, eye twitching as he glared at a bewildered Hokage and a stunned Iruka sitting beside the elder.
Had they known a Genin would have come back to them so fucked up after a simple D-Rank mission of feeding a common house pet, the pair sitting behind the mission table would have seriously considered moving that particular task up to C and tap on a new price tag to boot. Hell, maybe even a B for the more seasoned shinobi of the village, seeing as how the rest of Team 7 was so utterly traumatized.
For the time being, the staff members of the mission room were subjected to staring at a very pissed off and battle scarred Naruto, who looked as though he had just been through a walk-in-blender. His teammates stood on either side of him with their sensei on the far right, all of them also looking dreadful and nervous in the face of their comrade's emotional and physical condition.
Naruto had scars running all along his back and front, with his face transformed into a tic-tack-toe playing board of red lines crisscrossing all over the place. You could also throw out his blue spandex uniform now, because that was utterly ruined. Any hope or suggestions of patching up his newly purchased clothing would have been immediately rejected, since the material wouldn't have lasted long and he needed a change anyway.
The first thing he needed was treatment and he had already forwarded that request when Doctor Emi Hyuuga, the same one to diagnose him for his arm problem, came in to patch him up.
The stunningly gorgeous woman wearing the flowery kimono pulled him over to the side to apply the 'anti-venom' and disinfectant to his wounds, while he stood with his arms folded and his eyes tightly shut in a deep scowl. There was no way he was going to let this day go that easily and he was going to make sure the Hokage paid up for it.
His teammates were the lucky ones. Rin looked as though she didn't do anything all day, and all Shino and Ino had afflicted upon them was the unmistakable smell of crap.
Naruto was double that and then some.
"When I'm tons better and trained up some more, I'm kicking your ass, oji-san," Naruto muttered, earning a bop on the head from the Hyuuga treating his scratches.
"That's enough out of you young man," Emi exclaimed, her expression remaining stoic as per all other Hyuuga. She shook her head at the amount of damage the boy had taken from what was quite literally a kitten. "If you misbehave, I won't give you a wowwy pop." She attempted to sound childish at the end for good humor, but all that ended up achieving was a deeper frown from her patient.
But that didn't mean the others couldn't laugh, even though Ino's was more sarcastic since she had been in the same boat Naruto had been the last time this job came round. He ended up drawing short straw today, unfortunately.
"It was a Silver Persian and prize winner for most well behaved house pet three years running, how could a little fence sitter hurt you like that?" Iruka asked incredulously upon examining the D-Rank report from all of Team 7's missions for the day, with the last panel filled out with a hazard warning and various obscene comments from the participants of the job.
Rin giggled and rubbed the back of her head. "Well… you see…"
She wasn't given much time to respond.
"It had canines as long as my fingers with talons for claws, how on earth can that monster be considered a prize winner?" Ino yelled out in outrage, allowing her emotions to get the better of her.
"It's cunning, manipulative and ungodly powerful… it lures you into its den like… like a… like a dingo leading along a chicken into a clearing from its hiding spot in the shadows… and then… BAM!" Naruto slammed his hands together, causing a loud clap that had the three Chunin standing by jump at his assessment. "IT FUCKS IT UP THE ASS! OWWW!" He got a Jūken strike to his side from the Hyuuga beside him nursing his arm.
"Language, Naruto," Rin scowled, finding his words extremely filthy for her taste. Shaking her head as the boy whimpered, she rubbed the back of her head again at the troublesome situation and looked down at her other two students, with Ino silently glaring out the window with her arms folded and Shino still staring ahead of him with a passive look in play.
"It is pure evil…" the Aburame murmured, still recalling their last individual encounters with the devil cat.
Seeing that this was going nowhere, the Jonin looked back up at the Hokage to see him and his staff still silently staring at them with varying expressions, while every so often glancing down at the current mission scroll for the D-Rank assignments the squad had gone through.
Admittedly, this assignment was one of many the team had already pulled off, since Rin had been dragging them in day-in and day-out, not just for practice at her own benefit, but also to get her team up the scratch as much as possible.
Believe it or not, but the D-Rank missions did provide them with a moderate form of exercise, what with their constant running around, performing errands, excessive cleaning and such. It also gave them an excellent insight into the concept of work ethics and business dealing skills with the trade-ins and associations with clients. It was perhaps the smallest jobs and errands that gave them the most experience in life, even if most of them were inside the village walls.
However, the entire main body of Team 7, all evidence to the contrary, was pissed and didn't look like they would be satisfied with another D-Rank set of assignments. They had been doing them for five weeks straight and were on the verge of popping. Something needed to be done.
Letting out a sigh, Rin smiled up towards the Hokage, her resolve set. The elder, at that moment, was finishing up signing the mission scroll. The moment he rolled it up and slipped it into the sorted pile, the leader of Team 7 spoke up. "Hokage-sama, I think it's about time I step it up for them."
The elder's hand froze over the next stack of D-Ranked missions and he looked up in surprise, as did the Chunin helping to organize his material and the youngsters of Team 7. When the teens glanced up at Rin's face they saw a fire in her eyes that they had rarely seen in them before, and she grinned when all eyes in the room turned to her.
"Give us a C-Rank mission, something easy and simple for them to cool off on… and then maybe we can do some harder ones later, after I've put them through some drills."
It was this prospect that had an immediate effect on all team members present. Shino's glasses flashed in approval, a grin spread out over Ino's wide-eyed face and Naruto's own expression brightened, his wounds healing at an accelerated rate with life quickly returning to his body. Emi Hyuuga however, saw that it was a lot more than renewed vigor helping him overcome his wounds, but decided to keep the boy's benefactor to herself.
Hiruzen Sarutobi raised an eyebrow at Rin's words and removed his pipe. Exhaling fumes, he tapped the tip against his chin while he examined the Jonin, seeing that she was absolutely serious about what she was saying. Iruka was also looking between them anxiously, having not anticipated the woman to open up the deep end to her students so soon, at the same time trying to deduce what was going to happen next.
"This is a big call, Rin," the Hokage breathed out. "It goes against every single shinobi regulation and ranking assessments in the book… and I should know. I wrote most of them."
"Let the Shinobi Council dabble on the minor details," Rin exclaimed, waving a hand. "I'll accept the repercussions. This is my team and I will decide how far they can overstep their boundaries. You cannot expect any less from me since I promised to take good care of them." A more sinister look then crossed her face, her eyes becoming overshadowed by her hair as they closed, and a sweet smile quickly replaced her smirk. At that moment, every able bodied shinobi in the room saw the distinct form of the ANBU demon mask manifest itself directly beside her, this time at a size that took up a whole lot of breathing space in the chamber, and emitted enormous waves of killing intent. "Otherwise… (giggle)… something might happen to a certain somebody's lunch, let's say… a heavy dosage of poison or laxatives maybe. I don't know when, I don't know who, and I don't know where… but it's going to happen to somebody, somewhere, pretty soon, I'm sure."
Her entire team trembled at the sight of her inner demon, including the Chunin and shockingly, the Hokage.
Hiruzen wasn't called 'The Professor' for being stupid, oh no. He didn't take this job all those years ago without learning one or two things along the way about women, with most of these lessons occurring while accompanying his student Jiraiya on many of his bathhouse excursions. There was no way he was going to be on the receiving end of another woman's wrath, particularly one who wasn't scared of anyone, including him.
Unlike Anko, Rin feared no man or woman of any shape or form. It had to be something she picked up from Minato.
Seeing the ANBU demon mask's eyes flash, Hiruzen then hurriedly dug into the C-Rank mission pile and fished out a scroll. Checking its validity and expiry date he then unfurled it, signed it, and tossed it over to the glaring kunoichi. The moment Rin caught it the demon accompanying her vanished in a puff of smoke.
"Here you are, the easiest one I can afford for you at the moment," the Hokage exclaimed hastily while Rin unrolled it to check for herself, the elder leaning back down on the desk in front of him. "A businessman from Konoha is requesting assistance in the Hot Spring Village in the Land of Hot Water. He wants a team of strong, able shinobi to help in the construction of his new bathhouse business over the next couple of weeks." A smile of relief spread across his lips when he noticed the now very happy and eager looking troop of Genin. "In addition to being paid for your services, you are also granted special passes by the owner to test out the new facilities upon its open day. I think that this mission is perfect for you guys, especially after your five weeks of non-stop, manual labor."
"YOSH!" Ino exclaimed, fist pumping. "We finally have a mission that is outside of this village!" 'Not to mention a welcome relief of a hot spa waiting for us at the end of it! HOOSHA!' She swore she could feel Sakura's excitement coursing through her.
"This is perfect," Rin smiled in delight, also looking forward to the prospect of a good, long soak at the end of the job. She immediately pocketed the scroll and saluted the Third, conveying her gratitude with a warm smile. Shino also acknowledged the village leaders' good graces with a nod, his sunglasses flashing in the sun peaking through the windows.
"Thanks so much, oji-san!" Naruto jumped about excitedly, but was held down by Emi who was now in the process of bandaging up his most serious of injuries, since the smaller ones were now fading. The boy however couldn't help but continue to hop about, energy renewed. "We won't let you down! We'll come out on top of this one, dattebayo!"
"Glad to see all of you are happy with this," Hiruzen smiled and then waved them out the door. "Now get out of my sight, you lot. You will head out tomorrow early in the morning, as it is at least a day's journey to your destination between stops, so try not to be late and look presentable. It's not everyday the Land of Hot Water receives mission calls from foreign shinobi."
With that said and done, Team 7 began making their way out. Emi held Naruto back for a few more seconds to adjust his bandages before shooing him out, with the jinchuriki thanking her for fixing him up.
"I've never seen sensei woman-handle the Hokage like that, it was brilliant!" Ino giggled, nudging Shino in the arm. "This is gonna be great!"
"I'm very eager about this mission as well," the Aburame nodded back, with Naruto catching up to them at the exit.
On their way out, the squad passed by Team 10 being led into the office by Kakashi Hatake. Ino took her time and abruptly held up her teammates for a few moments to ogle over Sasuke, but was quickly pushed out of the room by Shino strolling closely behind her. The three other Genin waved in their characteristic manners to Team 7 as they departed, and during the crisscrossing procedure over the threshold, Kiba suddenly stopped in his tracks when he noticed Naruto walk by in all his bandaged and bloody glory.
"Holy hell, Naruto," the Inuzuka teen exclaimed incredulously. "Did you get attacked by a bear or something?"
"Not bear… cat," the boy replied with a huff. "A very pissed off, very scary and very vicious cat." The jinchuriki then followed after his team members without another word.
Kiba stood perplexed for several moments, but then shrugged off the inconvenience and walked the rest of the way into the room.
Kakashi and Rin stood on the sidelines and watched the brief interactions come and go, before turning towards each other with vacant expressions in play. When they faced each other, the silver haired Jonin nodded to the woman who also tipped a salute to him in kind.
"We can hang out at Ichiraku's when we get back, alright," Rin exclaimed brightly and turned heel to vacate the premises, hands in her pockets in a similar manner to her old teammate.
"Sure…" the other Jonin replied with an eye smile, before proceeding on with the business waiting for him…
The next morning…
The members of Team 7 arrived at the gate, on time and ready as ever. Yesterday afternoon had been somewhat of a relief for the entire team, with each and every member having packed themselves for a long trip ahead of them. Their sensei had briefed them on the exact location and the number of days they would be gone for beforehand, so the children had a good idea of what to bring with them. Rin specified their needs and whatever right down to the number of kunai and clothes they should be carrying, showing genuine interest in her team's first real mission outside of Konohagakure.
Constructing a hot spring after all was no joke compared to the daily dish-cleaning D-Rank assignments they were given. It required significant architectural knowledge and a good concept of feng shui, something she was eager to teach her students, since a certain few of them needed to have their hand in some real sense of balance and style.
Speaking of which…
Everyone was looking at Naruto oddly as they stood within the shadow of Konohagakure's North Gate, the entire team utterly perplexed by his choice of uniform for the day.
They had been like that ever since he arrived about a minute ago.
Naruto's eyebrow twitched when he saw that everyone in the area had their attention plastered on him, including the two boarder guards inside the checkpoint beside the gate. He made a mental note not to arrive late ever again, as well as to change out his wardrobe for a third time for something other than the spandex.
At his admission, unless they started offering him a more adequate function other than attracting attention, he was going to go back to his orange jumpsuits.
Instead of blue or black, it was red tights today.
"What?" Naruto shouted above the silence. "It wasn't my first choice, okay! That cat ruined my last blue one!" He named the cause of his current predicament loudly and clearly, and with a drop of spite laced in with his voice. It was at his hot-headed exclamation that all heads turned away from him and everybody quickly resumed their activities prior to the boy's arrival.
Shrugging, Rin then turned to the road ahead of them again with a small smile. "Okay, we have a long march ahead of us today to get to the Hot Spring Village. I'd say it'd take us about eleven hours to get there in between breaks, so that's plenty of time to talk and reflect." She shared a small smile with her Genin. "Well… everybody ready?"
"You bet!" Ino and Naruto shouted together, fist pumping, whereas Shino just nodded with his hands in his pockets.
"Alright then. Let's get going," Rin pointed ahead, with Naruto and Ino quickly setting off, and Rin and Shino taking up the rear. The border guards watched them leave with smiles on their faces, mentally wishing the new team the best of luck on their first big adventure out in the wilderness.
It didn't take the young squad too long to be out of firing range of the huge walls surrounding Konoha, by which time nothing eventful occurred. However, the spirits within the group were high and boundless.
Naruto and Ino were thrilled at being outside and were taking all the time they had to drink in their surroundings. New forests, an unknown footpath, new terrain, untouched valleys, it was absolutely splendid. They were breathing in air that hasn't been breathed in by anyone they knew back in the village. Oxygen was all freshly grown out here.
Ino literally had to plant herself to the ground to keep her from dancing. These new environments were nothing like she had ever imagined and they were still in sight of the village.
"Oh! I can't wait to get to the Hot Spring Village!" Ino exclaimed, hopping to the side and thumping Naruto in the arm with a good natured elbow. "Our first real mission! It's so exciting! Are you excited, Naru-kun?"
"Of course I am," Naruto replied back with his trademark grin and a thumbs-up, in a similar hyperactive manner to his friend. "Believe it! This will be our first successful C-Rank mission. I definitely want to remember this one!"
"In that case," Rin exclaimed, stopping herself and pulling out a camera from her pouch. Prepping it, she held it up and took a picture of her three students still walking ahead of her, all of them looking excited. Well, Naruto and Ino were jumping around in the frame yes, but Shino could have looked less excited and still be the same in every single picture. The Jonin made sure to take a few snaps before continuing on, the knowledge of her taking pictures quickly falling onto the three Genin, who turned to her curiously.
"It's for the Team 7 scrapbook and for the mission portfolio. It's not only good but important to have as many pictures from C-Rank missions and up for the teams sent out on assignments, since it allows the heads of the village to gain a better understanding of the comings and goings of their shinobi. It's also the team captain's responsibility to have a camera with them at all times to capture evidence of each mission's completion."
"That's understandable," Ino smiled. "Still… it's good to have memories to hang on to." The girl twirled around and continued walking, with Naruto having his hands behind his head in the new formation of their group and Shino tagging along behind them. Their sensei followed in their shadows shortly afterward pocketing the camera.
"I just can't wait to get to the springs," Ino sung, giggling at the thoughts of bathing at the end of the week.
Naruto then blinked, recalling an important note regarding the specs on their mission. He glanced back towards their team leader with an inquisitive expression in play. "Sensei, are we going to be encountering enemy ninja along the way?"
"Enemy ninja?" Rin parroted, earning a nod from the boy.
"You know, are we going to get into a fight or something?"
The teacher smiled and cocked her head to the side a bit. "Perhaps. There is always a small chance that a wandering group of foreign or rogue shinobi might try to pick a fight with a traveling entourage of shinobi from another village. However, in the case of a mission such as this one I doubt we will encounter anything more than a group of thugs or highway robbers. Rogue shinobi don't normally engage other shinobi unless there is something valuable in it for them, and a band of thugs against a small Genin force such as ours should be no problem." The woman then giggled and poked herself in the middle of her chest. "Besides, you have a Jonin on your side. So you don't have to worry about being attacked by somebody 'strong'."
"Oh!" Naruto blinked and then turned around completely to face his teacher, so that he was walking backwards alongside Shino. "What if the enemy ninja was like…REE-EALLY powerful?" the blonde asked, throwing his arms out to illustrate his point. Rin only laughed lightly at that question and waved a hand.
"Don't worry. I'm sure there aren't that many powerful shinobi wondering around," she exclaimed.
Of course, that was more of a hope then what she figured personally.
Though Rin was one of the most formidable shinobi Konohagakure had to offer, standing in line just behind Kakashi's ninjutsu talent and Gai's taijutsu, but still just as terrifying in combat as either of them were, there were many countries, small and big ones out there, sporting their own wings of elite ninja. There were bloodline users and those gifted with raw talent beyond anything she could comprehend. Then there were those who worked incredibly hard to get where they are or stole consistently and greedily from other shinobi to greatly increase their strengths. Then there were the unaccounted rogue elements that were quite powerful in their own bragging opinions and were running around causing havoc.
Still, regardless of these notions, Rin did express quite a deal of confidence in her own abilities and she certainly had the muscle to back it up.
"I'm one of the strongest shinobi you will ever meet in this country or the next one, so don't fret. I'll protect you guys," the woman said confidently. At first, Naruto saw the image she was conveying to be incredibly serious and powerful, with an aura of pure chakra radiating off of her under UV light.
However, all of that was ruined when she unexpectedly pulled out another carton of milk and started drinking it.
This had Naruto face-fault over backwards. He flipped back to his feet and kept walking with an exaggerated, bulbous lump on his head from his impact with the ground.
"How am I supposed to take that seriously?" Naruto grumbled in his head as he watched the woman slurp on her straw. Shaking his head, he spun back around and continued on marching.
For the time being, the entirety of the team chose to bask in the silence and the glory of finally being outside of Konoha, away from the familiar sights and smells.
A few hours later…
"Dammit, sensei! Give us our lunches back!" Ino shouted, lunging at the woman to make a grab for her rations box only to be side kicked and sent sprawling to the ground beside her two other teammates, both of whom were already looking pretty beaten up and ragged.
Probably from the ass kicking their teacher was dishing out.
Having been on the road for some time, Rin decided to pull her convoy over to the side for a rest and to eat. However, instead of taking the standard plot of having her team simply sit around and eat at their leisure, she decided to make the day a little more interesting by having them work for their meals. True they had been walking for quite some time and by the start of tomorrow they would all be hard at work building the walls and fences for the new hot springs, but the journey there was a completely different story. From her point of view, they had all the time in the world.
It was why the Jonin was standing out in the middle of a clearing at the side of the highway, holding all of their ration packs in a single stack in her hand, and smiling at them cheerfully. How she was able to get a hold of them was one thing.
Whether this method of training was to taunt them or not they had no idea, but either way the woman's methods could be considered cruel, even by ANBU standards.
This was from the Genins' point of view.
"You can't do this to us twice, sensei!" Naruto shouted, his stomach supporting his objections with a dignified growl. "Not twice! Not on our first C-Rank mission!"
"I just want to see if you guys have learnt anything over the past few weeks. That's all," Rin giggled and held the three packs out in front of her. "Now, if you want to have something to eat before we restart our journey, you have to get these off of me first… or at least try your best. Oh, and to make this more exciting, I'll go easy on you. Hey…" The woman waved at them with a grin. "It's the real me this time."
The woman cocked her head as three shuriken flew by and Naruto leapt at her, swinging in with his trench knife from above. Rin also caught through her peripherals his teammates rushing in from both sides also carrying kunai, which made her smile at how fast they were able to coordinate themselves.
However, she responded by head-butting Naruto and sending him tumbling, while side kicking Ino and Shino to the ground in what looked like the same move. Her body literally blurred in their vision when she swept the same foot around and struck both of them down. In only took a moment, but all three of them were belly-up on the grass for the twentieth time.
"Getting better," Rin nodded. "You're finally getting the idea into your head that you have to fight to kill in order to overcome a much more powerful opponent."
Naruto leapt back to his feet and wiped his bruised forehead. "Thank Kami she restrained herself." Upon cleaning off his brow, he threw his hand to the side and a kunai flew into his grip, before tossing the weapon at her. However, the lone knife, despite its surprise draw and the strong arm behind it didn't even come close to causing any damage to its target, who simply caught it by the ring with her index finger and twirled it effortlessly.
At that moment, Ino got up and threw a cluster of shuriken at the kunoichi, who then proceeded to catch all three of them with the same kunai. She slipped the blade of the throwing knife through the rings of each of the shuriken and as soon as the air was clear, held the still spinning ninja stars out in front of her so that they could twirl to a stop.
Desperate, Naruto and Ino ran in, with Shino clambering quickly to his feet to reengage in the spar and back them up. The jinchuriki was the first to reach the woman and followed up with a right hook. However, the moment he went in for an attack he formed one hand seal with his left hand and two clones exploded on both his left and right, doubling his attack force. Rin watched the triad come in at once, but she easily dispatched them by grabbing the first one in front of her and with barely an effort spun him around and slammed him into Ino, the clones puffing away when their user was knocked senseless and down.
After knocking Ino back over she then threw Naruto into an approaching Shino, sending them both tumbling to the ground. When they eventually stopped, they quickly got back to their feet and glared at the woman tossing them about like they were ragdolls.
"She's very sparse on the 'taking it easy' aspect of this task…" Shino murmured, earning a nod and a huff of agreement from his fellow Genin.
Ino was also back on her feet and once she was, she quickly rushed over to where Naruto and Shino stood. She joined in their formation, ready for another round.
In spite of the odds stacked against them, they had to keep on trying. It wasn't just for the sake of their honor as shinobi, but for a fact that they were incredibly hungry. A chorus of angry growls echoing from their stomachs asserted that fact.
The teens blushed simultaneously when their sensei laughed.
Naruto looked between his friends knowingly and after an exchange of stares nodded to the two of them. He had a plan, and they were willing to work with him.
Instinct was the key in this.
Shino quickly leapt in front of him and Ino slid behind her jinchuriki teammate, ducking low so that she was out of sight, meaning Rin could only see Shino and not the other two behind him, which got her to quirk an eyebrow in surprise.
"Oh… what have we here?"
Shino rushed forward, and when he was only a few yards away, dropped low and formed a hand seal. As soon as he was down on his knee Naruto, who was close behind him, jumped off of his back, one after the other. The blonde shadow clones that were created with their formation flew through the air and came barreling down towards their sensei, trench knives drawn and all five of them glaring angrily at her in their descent.
With them airborne, Shino slammed his hands into the ground and swarms of insects began pouring out. En masse, the parasitic beetle hordes began making their way at a high speed towards the woman standing in the middle of the clearing, spreading out and preparing to surround her. Combined with Naruto's descending clones, the beetles were easily able to match the jinchuriki's speed.
The attack was perfectly in sync.
Rin prepared to combat them single-handedly, but just as she was readying herself the ground behind her exploded into the air and Ino came flying out at her, kunai flashing through the air. The platinum blonde had managed to tunnel directly underneath Naruto and Shino during the line-up, easily making her way behind the Jonin to attack her. This got Rin by surprise when she looked over her shoulder at her other attacker, before focusing on the two in front of her.
Fighting on their level, she saw no way out. To take on a swath this coordinated and this fierce would have meant big trouble for her, so she then felt it was time to play the only card she thought was reasonable for both parties.
She held a casual hand up.
"Okay. I give up."
All three Genin face-faulted at once; the Naruto clones dispelling and the original falling flat to the ground in front of the kunoichi, Ino tripping over her own feet in her advance and keeling over right behind their sensei, and Shino just tipping onto his back, his insects stopping in their tracks and returning to their owner in a hurry.
In that instance, the Genin withheld their advances and slowly staggered to their feet, albeit ragged clothing and disenchanted faces.
"W-What…?" Ino muttered, throwing her arms out to the side in dismay. "That's it?"
Rin giggled and strolled forward, dropping the food right on top of a slumped over Naruto. The startled jinchuriki threw himself forward and caught the cascading packets one after the other, while their sensei strolled right by him with her hands in her pockets and a happy smile on her face.
There had to be something said about her attitude towards training, though it was pretty tough and the kids definitely got a good workout and a smack down at the same time, she was taking things waaa-y too in stride.
"You composited a good team built strategy to overwhelm your opponent a lot quicker this time," Rin said and stopped at the pile of bags that had been unceremoniously dumped on the grass at the start of the bout. She bent over and picked up her bag and, after rummaging through it for a bit, pulled out her own meal. "But… and I can't stress this enough, try to keep the concept of teamwork on you at all times. Sure, individual strength matters for shinobi, but what matters even more is teamwork. Don't try to do everything on your own unless you can't help it. Even when you are alone, it is best for each of you to think about how a whole team would operate in a similar situation, instead of just blindly traipsing into battle."
"How so?" Shino asked, sliding his own hands into his pockets and staring across at their teacher as she approached them again. She was already working on her rations box, a mouthful of rice cakes and a pair of chopsticks in her hand. "We had you cornered. We could have killed you. How could you have countered us in time, sensei?"
"I would have," Rin swallowed, watching as Naruto and Ino sat down on a fallen log and began opening their meals. However, her reply had them all look up at her in confusion, seeing her still smiling gently. "If it were another shinobi of lower stature, the attack would have worked. But in my case, as your teacher, I gave you guys a sporting chance. The problem with your attack was that you made your moves a little too flashy and noticeable. Try not to make your attempts to corner your opponent so clearly; it gives away your positions and your moves a few seconds ahead of the time the plan is actually executed. Sure, it's flattering to see the kind of show you put on, but it has no value in combat or on a mission."
"Then… what should we do about it, sensei?" Ino asked, raising a hand meekly.
"Blend into the ground and think on our feet with only a few seconds to spare?" Naruto murmured, eyes squinting. "I'm quick on my feet, but I can't think at the same time. Not that I've ever tried… I mean… man… it's so hard to think and fight! I follow my instincts!"
"Blending into the ground and thinking on your feet… something like that, yes," Rin exclaimed, pointing at all three of them as they gathered on the one, fallen long. Shino accompanied his teammates in lunch, box on his lap and all three of them listening attentively to their teacher as she stood before them in lecture. "I'm not saying you guys have it down wrong. You're on the right track. However, it's often necessary for a shinobi to think up a strategy in the midst of battle. When engaged in combat, you focus on your opponent; nothing else. However, when you have a breather in between the bouts or your opponent starts nagging, take in everything you have learnt and everything around you, and think up a plan of action."
"Everything?" Naruto and Ino parroted.
"Everything about your opponent; their fighting style, their attacks, their defenses, their preferred weapon of choice, background information… anything that can be useful to you for the moment and in the long run. Also, you must also consider your surroundings and see what you can use to your advantage; the ground, rocks, trees, stumps, logs, fallen weapons," Rin pointed around her, emphasizing certain aspects of the clearing. "If you find yourself outmatched in a straight out fight, cover your retreat and hide behind a boulder, in the trees or in the brush. If you have the ideal conditions to lay a trap, lure your opponent in and wait for the opportune moment. Everything about fighting involves careful planning and structure." A grin spread across her lips. "If you make a living off of the art of fighting, then the way of the shinobi for us can be considered as natural as breathing."
"What's so artistic about shinobi wailing on each other?" Ino asked with a scoff, looking at an equally puzzled and bemused Naruto. Shino however, made no comment as he was too busy chewing and taking in everything their instructor was telling them.
Seeing the skeptical looks she was earning from her two eccentric team members, the woman smiled and stepped back a bit. Taking one of her spare chopsticks, she held it up in front of her to get their attention. Once all eyes were locked onto it, she chucked it into the air so high it disappeared from sight. The Genin tried to follow her movements, as she effortlessly brought a shuriken from behind her and, twirling it between her thumb and index finger, slashed it in a perfect, vertical strike; the weapon easily cleaving through the chopstick as it came diving back towards the ground.
The eating utensil split in two seconds before the two halves impaled the ground, perfectly shoulder width apart. Naruto, Ino and Shino awed and looked up at the woman as she held her weapon out in front of her, which was still spinning between her fingers.
She willed it to stop moments later with the glow of the sun flickering off of its four corners.
"An art form," Rin stated. "We live and breathe the ways of the ninja. True power lies in technique, and the strength and understanding of that technique. Do not take it for granted."
"That was SO cool!" Naruto exclaimed through puffy cheeks and a mouthful of rice. Ino scolded and thumped him in the side, making him wince. "Ow! Sorry… got it… swallow first…"
While the jinchuriki wiped his mouth on the back of his arm warmer, his kunoichi teammate was able to readdress their teacher as she resumed picking out food from her box.
"But sensei, how can fighting mean something like that to you? I mean… we fight, we kill, and we carry out dirty missions in the shadows… sure fighting all looks cool and stuff, but doesn't it sort of… I don't know… dump the whole concept of art down the toilet?" Ino asked in a rather brutally honest way. Rin giggled at that and waved it off.
"Yes, we do all of that stuff, but that's all trivial. The way of the shinobi appeals differently to each individual warrior," Rin stated, thumbing herself in the chest. "To me, it means something more than just defeating an opponent or completing a mission. I wasn't simply trained as a frontline ninja. I was also trained as a field medic and, thanks to these two elements put together, I've taught myself to always consider who I was fighting and whether or not I could avoid fatality, for the benefit of the team and the mission. I always take into account the lives weighed on me so that the battle can be resolved quickly without cost. However, if I have to kill… then I do what needs to be done…"
Ino and Naruto shivered at the tone she used to convey this last note. They were fully aware of what the woman was capable of and neither of them wanted to be on the receiving end of whatever weapon of choice she used to slay her opponents in those situations. Of course, most of the time she had a carton of milk in her hand, so they had no idea what her preferred weapon was. Maybe, if they were lucky, she could demonstrate her abilities to them one day.
But not on them…
It was always fun and terrifying learning new things from a fully trained and capable ninja.
"Just because I avoid killing an opponent, doesn't mean I haven't killed before," Rin smiled. "I've got a pretty good track record (giggle)."
"How many are accounted for in your record, sensei?" Naruto asked curiously, making the woman tilt her head in brief contemplation.
It only took her a few moments to deliberate on the young jinchuriki's question in order to satisfy the interested gazes from her students with a simple, but reasonable reply. "I'm thinking of a number between zero and five thousand." She saw all three of her students' jaws drop, making her laugh a bit. "Guess the number of enemy ninja I have actually killed accurately and I'll give you something really special." The wink at the end solidified this challenge.
"I don't think I want to know this 'special' something," Ino thought in her head, with her other two teammates paling at her side. The platinum blonde decided to cover up her ashamed expression by eating, burying her face into her ration box. "It might be more hard labor…"
"Anyway… once you've finished your food, we can start moving again," Rin explained, holding up her box and digging through some of the articles she had pushed over to the side of her dish. Finding nothing that was appealing to her at the moment she then closed it up again, deciding to save the rest for later. "But before we return to the road, I'm going to give you three some homework to do on the way to the village."
Naruto and Ino lowered their lunch, groaning in dismay whereas Shino continued on eating. While most of the team conveyed extreme disappointment at yet another boring task supposedly being handed out by their teacher, the less enthusiastic member of the group didn't do anything other than change the pace of his chewing.
"Homework?" Naruto moaned, crestfallen.
"I thought we were done with all of that stupid, academy stuff," Ino frowned deeply.
Their teacher shrugged and turned away, arms folded. "Alright then. If that's how you all feel then I guess I won't be teaching you these new and awesome techniques I've lined up for you that will make you guys stronger. Oh well. Your loss…" The woman waved and began walking back to their bags with an expectant, sly grin on her face…
But they didn't see it.
"WAIT!" Naruto shouted and leapt to his feet, causing the woman to stop and fist pump while her back was turned. "Why didn't you say that in the first place? You can count me in, teach!"
"We're all down for the new stuff, sensei!" Ino was also up and about, grinning wildly while jabbing a fist in the air. "No matter how hard it is… we'll do it!" The two blondes then looked down at their other teammate, who was still eating at his own leisure.
Feeling the eyes of his friends lock onto him, Shino stopped in mid-bite and glanced up.
Upon seeing the patient glares from both of them, the shades wearing teenager sighed and lowered his chopsticks.
"I'll do it if they want me to…"
"Damn it, Shino!" Ino stomped on the ground and pointed at him. "You're totally killing our group's coolness! Well…" She then looked back over at Naruto and looked him from head to toe, and then waved a hand at him dismissively, "Most of our coolness anyway. I make up fifty percent of it; Naruto brings down the other fifty."
"I SAW THAT COMING!" the jinchuriki shouted back with tears in his eyes.
At that, Rin spun around and smiled brightly at her team, seeing them quickly cease their opening scuffle to face her again. Her presence silenced all forms of rebellion amongst the group.
She was terrific in that department.
"Alright then. Once you guys are done, I'll give you your assignments for the rest of the day," the brown haired woman nodded and then proceeded walking towards their bags.
In the time she took to get all her materials in order, the three Genin continued on eating till they were satisfied. Filled up and ready for more hours of both marching and learning, the boys and girls returned to their backpacks and collected them. They then formed an arc around their teacher, gathering under her shadow as she stood before them good-naturedly with her hands behind her backs and that carefree smile still in play.
"Okay, now that we're ready to hit the road… let's start the lesson!" Rin exclaimed. She then held out three pads of paper and three pens, with one type of item in either hand. "I want you guys to compile a list of all of the supplies you have packed and what I recommended for you for this mission. No peaking, no cheating, by memory; right down to the number of each article."
All three of them blinked simultaneously and looked at each other. When the writing materials were generously shoved into their grips by their teacher, they immediately flipped the pads to the first available page and sort of analyzed its blankness.
"Oh, come on," Naruto looked up at the kunoichi with a raised eyebrow. "Is this a joke?" This earned a giggle from the elderly woman, who then faced the road behind her and began walking.
"No joke. I make it a point to actually teach something of value to my students. Consider this the first step," Rin hummed to herself, and marched on with her hands in her pockets.
It took a few seconds of recovery before the three Genin eventually started following after her.
Using the pads' hard backs to compensate for a lack of a desk, all three teens began listing the items they were carrying in their backpacks as best as they could. This took them a good fifteen minutes of in and out dot points, while at the same time they had to negotiate the winding roads. They became so engrossed in their assignments that they completely missed some of the more interesting aspects of countryside passing them.
Eventually, when they finished their individual tasks they then each lined up to hand in their pads to their teacher, taking up a flanking position beside her. They didn't stop moving, even during the evaluation period.
Shino was the first to hand his list in and the woman read through it thoroughly.
She nodded with every article she skimmed over.
"Good… you seem to have an excellent grasp of the required materials; a reasonable amount of weapons and appropriate clothing to change into over the next week. There's definitely a pattern in your style. You've also got good handwriting while on the move," she handed it back to the boy, who continued to look at her intently, expecting more. "Don't worry, we'll get to the next bit later. Ino…?"
The teen in question hurried up to walk alongside her sensei while Shino fell back into formation beside Naruto. The Jonin took her time looking over the rather detailed list her female student had given her, and immediately made note of an important aspect about her inventory.
"Interesting penmanship," Rin sweat dropped a moment later. "The hearts around the 'Sasuke and Ino forever' weren't necessary. I'm not grading contents based on creativity. However, I can see you've got really good memory. No wonder you scored well on theory." The kunoichi handed the pad back to the Genin who smiled up at her.
"Would it help if I packed more milk?" Ino asked timidly.
This earned an amused smile from the taller woman. "No, but I'm sure if I wrote my list of supplies and gave it to you kids for evaluation, you can see how much I suck at essentials." She then watched Ino and Naruto switch over and dove into his list.
Rin unexpectedly stopped in the middle of the road when she saw what the boy had written and glanced down at him with a dry look.
"What is it?" the jinchuriki asked curiously, his teammates taking a stand on the other side of their sensei in an effort to crane their heads towards the problem.
"You have really bad handwriting, Naruto-kun," Rin explained wryly and then looked back. "Your supply list is spot on… granted there are a lot more instant ramen cups on here then most, but your penmanship, to be honest with you… stinks." Ino snickered, whereas Shino's shoulders shrugged away at hearing this piece of 'news'.
The jinchuriki however, developed an annoyed tick mark on his forehead and he folded his arms, looking away with a huff.
"Look, I suck at writing. Big deal," Naruto murmured with an irritated scowl in play. "Besides, you don't need to know how to write properly in order to beat enemy shinobi into a bloody pulp."
The next thing he became aware of immediately after saying those words, was having the blood squeezed out of his eyes and ears in a thousand pound arm lock being administered by his teacher. The woman gripped and held him firmly in place, his face quickly turning purple from suffocation of both air and blood. Ino and Shino stood by in bewilderment.
The jinchuriki wheezed and coughed out whatever oxygen he could, and at the same time tried with all his might to pull away when he found his face pressed up against the side of his teacher's well-endowed bosom.
Believe it; being sandwiched into a D-Cup was not all it was cracked up to be in the manga.
It was downright unpleasant.
Rin gave him a sickeningly sweet smile as she tightened her playful hold over the boy. "Naruto-kun, if your aim is to be Hokage some day, you will need to learn how to write well if you're going to be signing mission slips, filling out reports, checks, notifications and all of that other important stuff one day. Perfect handwriting is one of those things you must aspire towards."
Naruto kicked at the ground, trying to give an indication to his prolonged lack of air if his face turning a dark purple wasn't a dead giveaway.
Unfortunately, the woman wasn't done yet.
"You can keep neglecting a lot of the other areas of your ninja career, but the world will keep on turning," the Jonin exclaimed and looked up towards the sky proudly. "The jobs shinobi take up spill into all aspects of civilian life. You must be more than adequate in all professions in order to fulfill the assignments you are expected to complete. Being a ninja isn't just about fighting…"
"Uhh… sensei…" Ino attempted to interject, but her teacher just kept on talking.
"It's about developing one's skill in all aspects of life," the Jonin held up her fist and smirked. "Like I said, 'true power lies in technique, and the strength and understanding of that technique.' Do you hear what I'm saying, Naruto-kun?" The woman looked down at the boy she was holding, only to see that he was on the verge of passing out with drool hanging from his mouth.
Barely struggling, the boy was swiftly released just as he was taken, and he fell to the ground coughing and choking in sweet relief. Rin sighed and rubbed the back of her head upon seeing the boy quickly recover, and looked back at his list.
"I-I see…" Naruto groaned, glancing up at his teacher and massaging his sore neck and head. "T-Then what should I do?"
"You mean what you should all do?" Rin gave the jinchuriki his pad back before stepping out some and facing all of them. "After watching you guys for the past few weeks, I've learned a lot about your current skills and strengths as Genin. Now it's only a matter of improving them and strengthening yourselves around your weak points."
"Well… what are they?" Ino asked, curious to know what the next stage in this lesson was.
"Each of you has a unique brand of abilities and techniques already existing within your arsenal. So, compiling the information I have gathered, I've come up with a few things you three can work on independently before we move on to a group exercise," Rin smiled and looked down at the girl giving her the stubborn glare. "Ino; from what I gathered on you, I could see that you strictly stick to your clan's style of ninjutsu and combat. You are very graceful and show a lot of tact on the field, but we're going to need to work on stretching your knowledge of jutsu outside of its comfort zone, as well as your taijutsu."
"Really?" the kunoichi blinked, seeing her teacher nod and begin fumbling around in her back pouch.
"I picked this up a while ago, something I was able to learn from," Rin exclaimed, pulling out a book and handing it over to the platinum blonde, who took the article and opened it up. Though the cover was blank, the step-by-step illustrations and descriptions inside spoke more. "I believe that reading the material first hand will appeal to you more than learning practically. Get the motions into your head down before trying it out for yourself. You must touch up on your taijutsu before moving onto the next stages of ninjutsu and genjutsu, as taijutsu is the most essential of skills for a shinobi."
Ino looked from page to page, blinking peculiarly before looking back up at the Jonin. "But what style is it, sensei?"
"When I learned it, the fighting style was called the Spring Chant, a foreign martial arts form that utilizes both striking and grappling. If push comes to shove and your opponent gets too close for comfort, this is the style for you. Heh. It works well for me against you guys." She hummed on the last bit, earning an undignified glare from Naruto. "It doesn't require excessive, noticeable movement or overbearing strength, but your attacks are fast. The form encourages you to work on entry techniques, getting past your opponent's attacks so you can engage in your own repertoire of punches and kicks."
Fascinated by the concept, Ino quickly became engrossed in the article of knowledge. She dispersed attendance to the lecture and stuck her nose into the very first pages, carefully examining the method, execution and illustrations for a more hands on experience later.
She still felt as though she was a fresh out of the oven Genin, despite it already being a couple of months, which was years for a shinobi, only versed in the basic academy style and her clan's style of close combat. To her, this almanac was somewhat of a welcome relief. It was good to delve into something exotic, particularly since she had never heard of this fighting style before. The young kunoichi made a note to explore the more practical side of this further down the line.
In the meantime her teammates would also be given their own material to work on. Rin rounded on Shino and gave him a very thorough look over.
"You were a little bit tricky when it came to working out something for you," the Jonin exclaimed, pointing at the Aburame observantly, before blindly but surely reaching into her bag. "However, I was able to narrow the taijutsu for you down to this one, Hakkyokuken. It should be an effective style to coincide with the long-reaching abilities of your insects." Pulling out another book she gave it to the boy to study while they traveled. "Short-range and power… it might take a little bit of getting used to, but being a part of the Aburame clan your bodies are naturally strong and resilient enough to administer enough stopping power and unexpected, explosive movements, given the right amount of effort exerted."
Shino took the book and stared at the cover for a good minute of silence. He didn't do much beyond that aside from raising an eyebrow out of inquisitiveness, before opening it up to begin reading the information provided.
"This seems like a very unorthodox form of fighting," Shino murmured, flipping the pages one after the other and looking at the illustrations. "There is much more movement in here then what I am accustomed to."
"Exactly," Rin smiled and placed her hands on her hips. "Your clan is famed for a more stationary style of fighting and doesn't exert wasted movement at all. However, if you find yourself unexpectedly hard pressed into fighting a person up close and personal, it's good to have a fighting style in your arsenal that can surprise them. After all, there might come a time when your insects will be of no use against an opponent whom doesn't use chakra and has immense strength to back them up. Therefore, focus on direct attack and a firm, closer to home defense is a really logical choice in your case."
"I accept this task with great enthusiasm. Thank you, sensei," Shino exclaimed heartedly, though his voice betrayed others to this notion.
After the boy also tucked himself into his reading, Rin then turned to an ever waiting Naruto, who was smiling up at her patiently and eagerly. The boy perked up some when he saw his teacher's eyes fall on him.
"Well? Well? Whatcha got for me, sensei?" Naruto asked excitedly.
Rin smiled sweetly. "Well Naruto, you've got a remarkably strong body, perfect for focusing on heavy weight lifting. You're also much more suited to close combat then your comrades, what with your choice and preferred type of jutsu, definitely a lot of potential in that area. An opponent can get mighty uncomfortable with the distance you put between yourself and them. By all accounts you have all the physical strength you need for this next step. All you need to do is just point that power in the right direction, by means of applying it to your attacks more effectively."
When she pulled out the next article and gave it to Naruto, it wasn't quite what he had been expecting.
She gave him a paint brush with ink, items which could be attached to a writing pad while on the move. These material goods quickly pointed to one thing for the boy..
As soon as he identified the two items, the jinchuriki looked up at the Jonin with a distained expression. "What am I supposed to do with these things?"
The woman smiled and gestured to the pad he was still holding. "This is a special sealing paper that erases itself once you've completed all one hundred pages; so you can start again from page one. On each page, I want you to carefully paint every single character in alphabetical order from both Kanji and Kana scripts until you've managed to get them down perfectly. In addition to this exercise, you will use both hands to write the same character twice, one normal and one mirrored on the same page, per page."
Naruto took on the appearance of a guppy fish. "M-Mirror? T-That's crazy! What the hell's the point of this?" He held up the items he was holding. "I thought I was going to learn something cool!"
"For you, this process has a few extra steps," Rin replied assertively. "In order to complete the next stage of your taijutsu training, you must first develop a good sense of control, attentiveness and precision. You may already have a substantial amount of muscle control, but directional control and balance in the hands, arms and upper body is what you must achieve next. You may have had brawling strength before, but when you took up a different form of exercise to increase your jumping distance and height, your strength and power was unconsciously applied in a different direction. This exercise will help you reconnect your strength to your attacks with control."
With that said, the woman turned heel and began leading her team onwards.
Seeing that that was all their teacher had to say, Ino and Shino quickly followed after her, with Naruto left standing in their dust with tears in his eyes.
He sniffed and looked down at the miniscule yet familiar stuff in his hands.
"Man… this bites!"
TO BE CONTINUED…