I Think I'm A Clone Now

Chapter 23: The First C Mission

It was another day in Konoha as Yamato lead his team to the Hokage's office. In the last couple of weeks things had been slowly improving among them. Their training was going well, their teamwork was starting to improve and the new training with Sakurai and Minato about learning to control their Biju chakra seemed to be going well. Also their individual training he had seen some improvements. Minato seemed to really be getting into seals, after he managed to get a better understanding of the basics the boy kept trying out new ideas and experimenting.

Although his experiments usually ended in failure that did stop the boy, in fact he just said it only gave him an idea of what not to try next time. Sakurai's work with Kurenai was starting to show its own fruit. Her genjutsu was starting to show great improvement as the girl seemed a natural with it. Yuki's own growth was more of a personal thing, the more time she spent with her teammates it seemed it helped to slowly ease the quiet girl out of her shell.

All in all, Yamato was proud of how his team was doing.

"Hey, Yamato-sensei?" Minato asked their jonin teacher.

"Yes?"

"I was wondering, when can we do something more than just a D rank mission?" Minato asked him lately he felt like they could do more if they wanted to. Plus he was eager to show what he could do, they have been training a lot lately and he felt stronger and better than ever. He was way better than when he remembered that mission to Wave. Hell they were a lot stronger team since then and that mission had gone straight up several levels.

Although he was well aware it hadn't been 'him' in those memories but he still remembered those events as if he had gone through him. To him those events had only happened half a year ago even if they did happen more like nearly four years ago. Still the odds of them going on a mission where the client lied and ended up facing a rogue ninja that was one of the world's deadliest swordsman and his ice using assassin partner was rare.

Yamato looked to the others, "What do you all say about that?"

Sakurai thought about it, she would like to do more than just D rank missions. She was stronger now than ever and she had been learning a lot under Kurenai as well. Plus if she ever wanted to get out from under Sakura's shadow and make her own way in life she needed to get out there and show everyone she was more than just "Sakura's Clone" or the nicer "Sakura's little sister", which she preferred as being called a clone made her feel uneasy.

Thankfully her family or anyone used that to her face but sometimes she heard it whispered by others on the street now and again. She hated that term, even though it was what she was she didn't feel like a clone, a copy. She wanted to prove that and she felt it was time to do just that.

"I think we should try for something else, a C rank should be okay with our skills." Sakurai told him.

Yamato nodded and looked to Yuki.

Yuki stared back at him blankly, to her a mission was a mission. She was told and trained from her earliest memories that the mission was everything. To complete the mission was the only goal to have no matter what the cost, even if it was her own life. So for her if her team wanted to do a more difficult mission she would just complete that as well.

"I will complete any mission I'm given." She told him.

"See even she agrees," Minato pointed out although everyone else knew that Yuki didn't actually 'agree' per say she just said she would accept any mission.

Still Yamato looked them all over, they had made strives lately and maybe it was time to trust them on something bigger. He couldn't keep them in the village forever and eventually they would have to go on missions of higher risk. It also wouldn't be like they would go alone as he would go with them.

"Alright tell you all what, when we get to see the Hokage I'll ask if there are any C rank missions that we can do."

"Alright!" Minato pumped his fist up nearly jumping for joy, Sakurai seemed pleased as well and as for Yuki...well she was Yuki.

They went into the Hokage's office as Tsunade was there behind her desk working as usual. Papers and scrolls where there and so was her assistant Shizune standing behind the lady. Yamato had made his request of her as she looked at him and his team thinking on it.

"So you all want a C Rank mission then?" Tsunade asked the group.

"Yeah," Minato nodded.

"We would like that Tsunade-sama," Sakurai said a bit more respectfully as Yuki remained as she usually did.

Yamato stood up straight in front of the leader of the village. "I believe my team is ready for something a bit more if you have it Tsunade-sama. They have trained hard and they are ready for more duties for the village."

Tsunade nodded as she thought about it, the world wasn't as dangerous these days after the war. There were still some things out there, some of the ninjas that survived the war didn't like the peace and ended up leaving to strike out on their own. With the losses all the villages had the military might of the five great nations had suffered. Some of the smaller nations with smaller ninja villages thought to try and test the waters to expand their influence, territory or power.

Plus with less military power came a surge in crime, sure there were the local samurai to keep order but the larger criminal groups tended to try and grab for more power as well. Normally when a criminal group got too big the lord of that land sought out ninjas to help find and cull the group.

In this 'era of peace' as it was being called, bandits and other criminals were pushing the boundaries to see how far they could get before the hammer came down. Tsunade pulled out a sheet of a request from the lord's office.

"One of the main trade routes is being attacked by a group of bandits. Form all reports it's the same group."

"Casualties?" Yamato asked as bandits came in two forms. The more professional ones just robbed you, the more chaotic ones tended to kill everyone either so no one could identify them later or just because they wanted to.

"Light so far," Tsunade read the papers. "When someone tries to fight back or refuse to hand something over they tend to make an example out of that person and then the rest do as they are told."

Yamato put that away for later, to him that told him they were dealing with hardened professionals. They didn't mind killing if it was needed but weren't ruled by any bloodlust.

"Strength?" Yamato asked her.

"Unconfirmed but no ninjas were ever reported, no sign of any kind of ninjutsu used by them and no more than eight men were seen at a time."

Yamato nodded if they were just a bandit gang of less than a dozen men it might be alright for his team. They could take on a rugged band of criminals with the training they had. If anything unexpected happened he could always step in as well. It seemed like your straight forward mission and they were eager.

"If you'll permit it, I would like to put my team forward for this mission," Yamato told her.

Tsunade nodded, "Very well then. I'll start on the paper work, come back later this afternoon for the official mission and get your team ready to leave for tomorrow."

Yamato nodded his head, "Thank you Lady Tsunade."

With that Team Yamato left the office as both Minato and Sakurai were eager to get started. After Yamato gave them their instructions they all scattered to get started.

Minato rushed home quickly to pack, when he got into the apartment he noticed he was the only one around. So he went straight to his room and searched for his new backpack. He wasn't sure exactly what to take but he just started getting things he might need and placed them on the ground. He found his extra weapons and some of the seals he had been working on. A few were simple things like for storage but he had been working on paper bombs. He had always wondered how they worked, you had to use ink that was charged with chakra with a special paper. Of course he made these in a training area just in case he screwed up.

The front door opened as Naruto's voice called out.

"Hey I'm home."

"In here," Minato called back as Naruto walked into the room seeing everything spread out.

"What's up?"

"We got our first C Class mission!" Minato grinned at him before looking around what he needed.

"Cool!" Naruto crouched next to him looking at everything. "Congratulations, you need any advice on what to take?"

"Sure, I'm not sure how long this will take," Minato explained what he remembered about the mission. He hoped that since Naruto was more experienced than himself, then he could get some good advice on what to take. It was really nice having someone he could get advice from at any time, like a real big brother. He listened in as Naruto told him what he thought about and the reasons for it.

While they were dealing with this in the Haruno home Sakurai was finishing up her packing. She had arrived home to tell her mother about the mission and she would be gone for a few days at the most before going to her room and getting everything ready. Her room had slowly been filled over the months as she slowly made the place her own.

What stood out was the new photo on her desk where her scrolls and text on genjutsu were located. In it was the new family photo that they had all made a few weeks back. In it were the Haruno parents in the back with their hands on the shoulders of their two daughters. Sakurai had to admit that the photo to her was one of her most previous items as it made her feel like she was really part of the family.

She placed her backpack on the bed as she was giving it a second look to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything.

A slight knock on her door frame got her attention as she looked to see Sakura standing there.

"Hey mom told me the news, first C Rank mission huh?" Sakura smiled at her.

"Yep, I think I got everything. You know I'm kind of nervous but I'm looking forward to it too." Sakurai checked to make sure her pack had all the pockets secured.

"I know that feeling," Sakura nodded her head as she gave the pack a quick look. It looked pretty standard to her but knowing the young girl she would have thought of all the things needed for a mission. Sakura dug into her pocket and showed her the item she had.

"Remember to bring any of these?" Sakura asked.

Sakurai blinked, "Ear plugs?"

"If Minato is like Naruto, he likes to talk in his sleep sometimes," Sakura informed him. Being on a few missions with Naruto she learned firsthand about this. He also liked to move around sometimes but that was manageable. Over time she had gotten used to it and didn't need them anymore but Sakurai might.

"Oh, yeah I might need those thanks," Sakurai generously took them and placed them somewhere she could get to them at night.

"Nervous?" Sakura asked the younger girl.

"A little," Sakurai told her honestly as she sat on her bed. "I mean I know I have your memories of the first mission and some of the chunin exam so it's not like I'm not mentally prepared. It's just that this is my first real mission."

"I'm sure things will go fine, Yamato is a great captain and you're in good hands with him."

"I know he's been great, I just really want this to go well because this is the first real step as a ninja to me. All the training and everything has been leading up to this, I just hope that I can pull my weight." Sakurai still had a lot of the insecurities that Sakura had at that age.

Sakura sat down next to the girl knowing what she was feeling. "To tell the truth I know how you feel. Even today I still wish I was stronger."

"You?" Sakurai had seen what Sakura could do the older girl could literally dent the earth with her own fists.

"Yeah I know," Sakura smiled. "In the war I learned what I'm good and what I'm lacking in. It always seemed like I was seeing the backs of Naruto and Sasuke-kun, and even now I know that I couldn't beat Naruto in a fight. He's gotten a lot stronger and it just seems no matter how hard I try I can't catch up to him."

"But you know he's never made me feel inferior," Sakura smiled as unlike Sasuke, Naruto had always encouraged her. "I know that my main strength is to support him and I'm fine with that. If he falls I'll be there to help him up and when he's hurt I'll be there to fix him up. If he's being an idiot I'll also be there to knock some sense into him." She winced at the girl who giggled.

"Naruto is a lot of things but even he can't do everything. So I decided that as a team I would be the one to help him with the things he can't do. Sometimes I still feel like I wish I could do more but being part of a team is knowing that everyone has a unique role. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and it's up to everyone to work together to cover each other's weaknesses with their combined strengths."

Sakurai thought about her words and they did seem to resonate within her. Minato had gotten stronger and Yuki had a lot of skills for someone so young but she hadn't slacked off either. Her skills had increased with all the new training and with her genjutsu skills also growing she could throw out illusions in battle to help the team out.

Maybe this mission will help teach them what role they would have together like Sakura had said.

"Thanks," Sakurai told her feeling a bit less nervous about the mission.

"Hey aren't big sisters supposed to be the kind of person to help out with advice?" Sakura told her.

Sakurai had a small smile on her face about that it really did feel like a moment between sisters they were having. It felt nice as neither of them knew what it was like to have sisters until recently.

"So I take it that with both me and Minato gone you'll have more time to be along with Naruto then?" Sakurai teased her slightly.

Sakura blushed a bit caught off guard by that, "I don't see what that has to do with anything."

"Uh huh, I know how you think and I know what I would have liked with a boyfriend with a place all his own too you know, especially since you don't have to worry about mom or dad coming into your room." Sakurai told her.

"Oh shut up," Sakura said bumping her slightly with her shoulder. "Don't be a brat when we were getting along."

"Aren't siblings also supposed to tease the other as well?"

Both sisters smiled as they were slowly getting used to being a family and everything that entitled. So Sakura decided to try her own hand at this.

"Well then at least you're used to those whisker marks on your cheeks," She told her.

Sakurai placed a hand to one of her cheeks, sometimes she forgot they were there but she was starting to get used to them. "Well better this then a big diamond on my big forehead."

"This is the Byakugo no In, the Strength of a Hundred Seal." Sakura said in defence of the diamond mark on her forehead she had gotten in the war. "It took me three years to make this seal and the only other person who has it is Tsunade-sama."

"Wait that took three years?" Sakurai hadn't known that part. She had asked about that not long after she started living here as at first she had thought it was some kind of mark or tattoo even. Sakura had explained it as a special charka reserve.

"Yes it takes a long time to build up the chakra for it, plus Naruto said it looked cute on me," She blushed a bit as she remembered him telling her not long after they had gotten together when he kissed her forehead. He always made her feel better about her large forehead, something she had always had issues with but with Naruto he turned those issues into something she didn't have to worry or think about.

Sakurai smiled seeing the look on Sakura's face. "He's really good to you huh?"

Sakura nodded, "Yeah in fact he's always kind of been. Sometimes I wish I had given him a chance sooner, all that time I wasted." She sighed looking up.

Sakurai was silent for a moment as she saw the look on Sakura's face, the older girl really did wish things could have been different and it made her question a few things of her own she had been thinking about. "Well you two are together now right? You got all that time ahead of you."

Sakura's smile slowly returned, "Yeah we do huh? I keep thinking that I wish I would change things but I keep forgetting that I have a lot of time with him now. Maybe I'm just greedy and want more."

"Well I think I have everything," Sakurai said looking at her pack.

"So what now?"

"I think I'll kill some time," Sakurai pushed herself off the bed. "Then I'll meet up with my team for the mission details."

"Sounds like a plan," Sakura said as she was making plans herself on what to do next and she had a good idea of who to spend some time with.

-Later that Day-

At Naruto's apartment both Naruto and Sakura were on his couch, tea was in front of them as Sakura was sitting back with Naruto's arm around her shoulders. Even though she was alone with her boyfriend she couldn't get her mind off the fact that Sakurai and the others were on their first mission. She felt glad that Sakurai was on her way to becoming her own person and ninja but she couldn't help but worry.

She wondered if this was how her parents felt on the first time she went on a major mission or any mission now that she thought about it. She hated to think that her parents got this worried all the time with her over the years.

"Hey what's wrong?" Naruto asked noticing that she had gotten pretty quiet and that her face had fallen a bit.

"I'm just worried about them is all, it's their first mission outside of the village." She told him honestly.

"Oh don't worry about it, I bet they'll do great just like we did." Naruto told her hoping that reminding her about how they all had made it back from their own first major mission.

Sakura's eyes widened at that comment as she quickly turned to face him. "Okay? Naruto that mission was a disaster!"

"It wasn't that bad," Naruto muttered.

"Not that bad?" Sakura shifted around to face him on the couch. "Naruto first we were lied to about what the mission was, then we get attacked by those two ninja that made me think Kakashi-sensei had been torn apart before you got stabbed in the hand." She couldn't remember the names of those ninja, in fact she hadn't thought about them in years and wondered whatever happened to them.

She shook her head and got back on track. "You got poisoned and then you had to stab your hand to get it out, which by the way you will never, ever do again." She poked him in the chest.

"God do you have any idea how damaging that is? Not only could you get an infection but you can damage so many delicate bones and tendons in your hand alone than on anywhere else on your body."

"But you know Kurama will heal something like that, in fact he did heal up my hand see?" He showed her the hand he had stabbed all those years ago. "See not even a scar."

"That's not the point," Sakura puffed out her cheeks she just didn't want him to do something like that without her around. "I'm a medic now and injuries should be dealt with properly."

Naruto grinned knowing that she was just the type that worried about him but didn't like to say it. She preferred to keep him healthy herself.

"Then let's not forget that we ran into one of the deadliest missing ninjas from the Mist village. Then we get into the actual town and the whole thing with you and Inari."

"Hey we worked things out," Naruto protested.

"Naruto you looked like you wanted to throttle him at least twice," Sakura said back.

Naruto scratched the back of his head, "Well I didn't say it was easy."

"Then the whole battle on the bridge which I was totally worthless, Sasuke-kun nearly died from all those senbon needles."

"Haku made sure they weren't lethal you know."

"I know but that scared both of use when we thought he was dead, hell he looked dead! Then that guy showed up...what was his name again? Something with a G in his name..." Sakura tried to remember but that was years ago.

"Gator?" Naruto thought.

"It wasn't an animal- Gato! That's it," Sakura snapped her fingers when she remembered. She sighed leaning back into the couch. "It was a total disaster and looking back on it, that seemed to be normal for our missions. We always ended up facing tougher enemies then we planned for or things don't go the way we expected them."

Naruto thought about it, he remembered the bridge where Kabuto and Orochimaru showed up and how that went south extremely quickly. He had let Kurama loose and he had run wild, even hurting Sakura. Thankfully he and Kurama had a much better relationship these days. Then when they tried to get Gaara back and the surprises they faced and what it cost to get Gaara back as well.

"I guess our missions do kind of get a bit exciting." He shrugged.

"That's one way of putting it," She rolled her eyes at the 'exciting' part. Only he would consider the kinds of things they faced that, well him and Lee as well now that she thought about it. "I just hope that they don't have the same luck we had in the past."

Naruto could see that she really was worried about them so he hugged her to him, "Hey we turned out fine and they've had some great training. Plus Yamato is with them as well and you know how tough he is. They'll be fine, I have faith in them and so should you."

She smiled at little feeling a little better, "I hope so. You always see the bright side of things don't you?"

"Hey someone has to," He smiled at her. "Besides we should believe in them."

She nodded as she rested up against him, "I know and I know that they're capable for this kind of mission and Yamato is with them but I can't help worry. She's really become like a little sister to me and I just want her to be safe, you know?"

He hugged her gently, "Yeah I do know, all my life I've wanted to be part of a family and now that I finally got part of it I don't want to lose that either."

Sakura knew that living alone had to have been hard on him growing up, looking back she could understand why he acted out as a child so that anyone would notice him. She wished she had known more back then, been his friend so he would have been less lonely. So she wanted to give him something else, give him memories that he could cherish and look back on fondly.

Plus they did have the whole place to themselves as she moved herself to straddled his waist her arms around his neck.

"I ever tell you that you're the best boyfriend?"

"Don't think so," he said feeling his heart starting to pick up. He wasn't sure if of where to place his hands just yet as he looked at the girl who had taken his heart years ago looking at him with a heated pair of lovely green eyes.

"Well you are," She smiled as she leaned down to capture his lips.

Naruto responded as his hands went to her hips holding her steady as they slowly kissed. Naruto loved how soft her lips were against his, he loved everything about this girl. Soon the two kept on going, not stopping with just one kiss as they explored their passion by steps. This was all still very new to the both of them as they just were enjoying each other.

Soon Naruto wanted to try something else, her neck was exposed as he leaned down to kiss the side of her neck. Sakura's reaction was immediate as she gasped at the unfamiliar and yet pleasured feeling. Her hand lightly gripped the golden spiky hair as she found she really liked what he was doing. She decided to try something else as she slowly nibbled on his ear.

She felt him jolt but he groaned at it as she mentally grinned finding a weak point of his own.

"Didn't know you were sensitive there," She whispered into his ear.

"M-me neither," Naruto gulped as when he felt her warm mouth on his ear lobe a jolt went through his spine. He surprisingly really liked it, he pulled her in close capturing her lips again, one of his hands ran through her pink hair as he took in the smell of her. She always smelt so nice to him, like the cheery blossoms she was named after. The two continued this for some time, never pushing too far but still enjoying the sensations they found.

Later on it was Naruto on his back as Sakura was on top of him the two resting against each other as she had her head on his chest his hand gently running through her hair. She sighed in contentment, all her worries were gone replaced by a very warm and fulfilled feeling. She could hear his heat steadily beating as it was almost lulling her to sleep.

For a long time Naruto had hoped to have a moment like this with Sakura, just a moment with the two of them alone and enjoying the moment and it was even better than he had imagined. She seemed to mold right into his body and he just wanted this moment to last forever. For years he had fantasized about having a relationship with the pink haired girl on him and finally he had it. It always felt like he was dreaming in these moments and was always afraid he might wake up.

Sakura just wanted to close her eyes and just fall asleep like this in fact she was tempted to just sleep until tomorrow like this and wake up with him in the morning. But she knew that her parents would be waiting for her to come home as they were having a dinner together before Sakurai left on her mission. Plus Minato could be coming back at any moment as well so with great reluctance she got off her comfortable spot.

"I should go soon mom is cooking a big dinner to wish Sakurai off tonight." Sakura sighed sitting up and straighten out her clothing as best she could. She scowled slightly at a few wrinkles but they weren't too noticeable.

"Aww, I liked you being here," Naruto pouted slightly which Sakura found kind of adorable in a kid kind of way.

Then Sakura had remembered something her mother once asked her about. At first she was kind of reluctant at the time but maybe this would be a good time to ask him. She was a bit more confident in their relationship and it might be good.

"Actually if you want, do you...want to come over for dinner sometime with my family?" She asked a little nervous.

"Really?" Naruto perked up at that, he had never been invited to someone's home for dinner before and this was Sakura of all people asking him. He always wondered what a real family dinner would be like. Of course this was also dinner with his girlfriend's family something he hadn't thought about before. He knew that the Haruno family was nice to him and treated him warmly. He found himself actually kind of looking forward to it.

Then he thought about Minato and he didn't want him to feel left out. Naruto knew the pain of what it was to be felt left out with a lot of kids back in the day didn't let him join them for games or to hang out after school.

"Uh...is it okay if Minato comes too?" Naruto asked her.

Sakura smiled knowing he was looking out for him, "Sure in fact I think my mom might insist on it."

It was true that her mother had told her that if she invited Naruto over for dinner one day he could invite Minato along as well. Although lately it seemed her mother kept asking Sakura when she was bringing over Naruto for a family meal a lot more. It was starting to get a little irritating but she knew it was because her parents wanted to get to know Naruto more since it was now out that they were dating.

"Well set something up after their mission then," Sakura told him as she got up and straightened out her skirt.

Naruto got up to walk her out as he opened the door for her. "Cool, I look forward to it. So...in the mean time I was thinking if you're not doing anything tomorrow afternoon..."

Sakura giggled as he seemed to struggle a bit with just asking her out still it felt nice being asked out by Naruto openly. She leaned in and gave him one last kiss on the lips. "Of course, just pick me up after my shift as I don't have anything major to do tomorrow."

Naruto's grin was huge, "Great I can't wait."

He watched her leave as Naruto felt like he missed her already but he was eager to see her again. He closed his door when she was out of sight and went back to the living room to clear away the tea cups. The tea had long since gotten cold as he threw it out and placed the cups into the sink. He'd get to them later although he could still smell Sakura's fragrance as he looked down at the black shirt her was wearing. He pulled it up and sniffed as he could smell her on his shirt which brought a smile to his face.

He was tempted not to wash this shirt until the smell went away but it wasn't like he wouldn't see her tomorrow or the even the day after that. Still he liked the way she smelled so maybe he'd keep the shirt as is, at least until tomorrow. Tomorrow was a big day for Minato as well, maybe taking him out to Ichiraku for tonight to celebrate, hell he would even pay for it all.

Naruto just hoped his poor wallet could handle it.

Next up Chapter 24: Murphy's Law