Old Men's Conspiracies

Kakashi stood up slowly as he looked at the silent family of Tazuna sitting at the table with looks of worry and anxiety painted clearly on their faces. He needed to find Naruto and at least talk to him about the plan needed for the future but he just couldn't leave the house and the family alone, they were far too vulnerable without his immediate presence in the vicinity...at least for now.

"Sakura, I want you to keep an eye on everyone in the house, including Inari. Sasuke, come with me," he ordered as he walked out, still with a visible limp, the front door followed by his silent student.

"Hai," he heard Sakura's voice before she hurried out the house from another exit in search of the youngest member of Tazuna's family.

"I want to you to keep a perimeter-wise patrol of the house until I return, I will leave a clone behind in case there is immediate need of me. Can you do that?" the Jounin asked as he gave a very severe look to the raven haired boy. He knew that asking a Genin for a patrol duty in hostile territory was not the best idea but he was lacking in resources right now and Sasuke's skill was undeniably above an average Genin's, so for now it would have to do.

"Yes, I can keep a patrol," replied the Uchiha with a nod before he took to the trees without hesitation.

"Hmm, maybe I will instate him to the ANBU program after he becomes a Chuunin. It won't be too difficult for him considering his personality," mused the Jounin before making a shadow-clone of himself. "Now where is that blonde student of mine?" he thought before taking to the forest trail. It was clear that his student had taken the precautions to omit as much of his tracks as possible, but to his expert eye it wasn't that hard to discern. "Now that I think about it, Naruto has come quite far in the black ops field. If only I could do something about Sakura then Team Seven could become a special operations squad, and with my experience and a bit more training on their part, I could take Naruto's, Sasuke's, and Sakura's careers very far." The ex-ANBU operative's thoughts cut short as he heard loud thumping noises coming from a little ahead. The Jounin sighed, this was one of Naruto's oldest habits. Whenever he gets frustrated, he takes it out through tai-jutsu, mainly against his sparring partners, but occasionally, when he found no one, he also did it in his old training area located at the Forest of Death or using dummies on abandoned training fields. It was his way to take out the anger or anguish before going about resolving the issue with a level headed and methodical manner.

Kakashi's eyes widened when he heard a loud crack and quickened his pace. He landed just as Naruto seemed to have uprooted the tree he was venting against, and it's descent was directly headed towards where the Jounin had landed. The cycloptic Jounin sighed again as he lifted his hand, almost lazily, and caught the tree halting it fall completely as he turned his head to look at his student with a critical eye.

"Ha Kakashi-sensei, it doesn't work when the person you are trying to show off to knows about chakra and how it can enhance your strength," said Naruto in an amused voice making his squad leader shrug and drop the tree to the side.

"Can't hurt to try," he muttered making his student chuckle, which made the silver haired man to raise an eye-brow. Since when did Naruto start acting like an old man rather than the exuberant and spirited boy that he knew? "What are you thinking?" he asked, being as blunt as he could, he always was this blunt when it came to the blonde, because they both knew there was very little either could hide from the other effectively, especially since Naruto started training under Kakashi, he could almost read his teacher like a book...almost.

"I was just thinking about some of the things that...he said and it seems that no matter how much I did not want to believe it, his words are all turning out to be true. It just makes me feel that somehow no matter how much I try, there is nothing I can do to change how the world of Shinobi functions," replied the blonde in an imploring manner, almost hoping that his teacher would have an answer to his dilemma even though he knew that the Jounin did not.

"Naruto, did you truly believe that the man known as 'The Professor', the person who has been an active Shinobi of Konohagakure for the last six decades, and been a Kage of a major military village for more than three decades, would be wrong about the principles on which the Shinobi system is based on?" asked Kakashi in a calm tone as he tried to make Naruto understand that the sooner he accepted this harsh truth, the better he would be able to cope with his feelings. His student lowered his head as he stared at the ground while contemplating about what he had just been told before taking a deep sigh and looking towards the Jounin.

"I guess you are right Kakashi Sensei," he replied. "But is it at all possible that this can change?"

"Change the ways of the Shinobi? Do you even realize what you are thinking about? Naruto this system has existed from the time even before the Hidden Villages formed, and you know it from all the History that you have been reading. Before the villages, clans showed their strength through their powers in combat and the top tier was made up of the Senju and the Uchiha. Why do you think that Konohagakure is still regarded as the strongest among the Hidden Villages even after nearly a century after it was founded? And you are thinking about changing the system that has been ingrained in the minds and roots of the people of the elemental nations for generations? I don't know if it is possible, but to make this change happen, something truly miraculous is needed, that much we both know," responded silver haired man as he tried to comprehend what his student was thinking about. The scale at which the Genin's thoughts ran was much wider than he had ever hoped to imagine or think about but his student's words made the Jounin see that if change was to happen, Naruto would definitely be in the thick of it all.

"I see," was all the response that he got as the duo settled in another long silence before Kakashi decided to ask Naruto the question he was here for.

"So what is the next step for us in this?" asked the silver haired Shinobi with a sigh as he looked at his student expectantly.

"Well, logically, this situation calls for a back up team but I don't know if that is what we should do in our current situation," responded Naruto as he thought about what Gatou might do, what extent the businessman would go to ensure that the Konoha ninja fail? The man had no shortage of money, but if he were to hire a few more Shinobi of Zabuza's caliber, then they would need a platoon of ANBU to handle the mess here. Something that he was sure Konoha would not dispatch unless Wave decided to pay for an A to S-ranking mission.

"What makes you think that another team would not be beneficial to us?" asked Kakashi curiously, he of course had come to the same conclusion as Naruto had, but he wanted to confirm how the blonde thought. That assessment alone could show Team Seven's captain whether or not his student had the capacity to deduce a situation correctly and take the measures to not only ensure the success of the mission but to see if they could get out of the situation with as little casualty as possible.

"Well another team will obviously be beneficial to us, but not to the overall situation," replied the blonde. "If more of us show up, it will only show this Gatou that we Konoha Shinobi are determined to finish this mission. That will only instigate him to hire more ninjas, and let's say he bring three to four more like Zabuza, how do you think two Genin Teams will hold up against that?"

"Hmm," said the ex-ANBU commander with a thoughtful pose. Naruto had come to the conclusion that he had, and while he was not surprised at the boy's ability to deduce the situation he was still surprised with the foresight. "Let's assume that we do get another team in and we are only still facing just Zabuza?" questioned the Jounin, now just seeing how much Naruto could calculate a circumstance and take the appropriate action.

"Considering we are still only fight Zabuza and his partner that was posing as the Hunter-nin, Team Eight," Naruto answered quickly, too quickly.

"Why not Team Ten, or Team Gai?"

"Well Team Gai would be overkill, seriously you and Gai sensei is way too much for even Zabuza to handle alone, and Lee or Neji alone could handle that Hunter-nin. Along with Tenten's support it is a sure win. As for Team Ten...well I don't believe they are ready for a mission like this. Not yet anyway."

"And Team Eight is? Naruto I know you well enough to know that you have already deduced that, as far as team dynamics go, Team Gai is in the lead followed by Team Eight and Team Ten, and then finally Team Seven. So what is the real reason?" Kakashi, to put it mildly, was quite surprised with his student's answer. Never before had he seen the blonde take a decision on things like this where he had turned out anything but wrong. These kinds of tactical calculations came to Naruto like hunting came to a lion. It was one of the things that made Sandaime Hokage one of the best strategist in all the Elemental Nations, and what made the Sannin some of the most feared Shinobi in the world. A trait that Naruto had also gained because of his tutelage under 'the Professor' himself!

"I don't know what's wrong with me but something is," Naruto said in a low and thoughtful voice as he turned to look at his sensei for guidance. "I don't know what is going on but every time I picture...Ino-chan coming here and possibly ending up in this Gatou's hands something happens. I feel fear like I haven't felt before, what is going on?" Kakashi got one good look at the blonde's face before finding himself feeling hard to decide whether to laugh at this or cry over it. His student had fallen, or at least have started to, fall in love. And with a clan heir no less! He couldn't help but chuckle at Naruto's distressed look, and he couldn't wait to tell it to all the people that he knew his student considered precious. But then another thought struck him, he was sure he had seen Naruto look at Sakura much the way that he remembered his old teammate, Obito, looked at his other teammate, Rin.

"Naruto tell me something, what do you feel when you think of Sakura in the same situation. Don't think ju-" his words died in his throat as the killer intent from Naruto just spiked, he had never felt the blonde give off such an enormous amount of killer intent before...ever. The air was literally thrumming with power and the blonde was glaring at the ground like he was about to rip the earth to shreds.

"Oh boy," thought Kakashi as he looked at his student with new respect and a little fear. It was never to be doubted that if anybody were to even think of harming the people that Naruto cared for would be met with a vicious fight from the blonde, a fight they would never forget in their lives. But this...this was something he had never foreseen and frankly it was also something that he was not sure that the young Jinchuuriki was even capable of. The killer-intent he was feeling was surprisingly close to what he sometimes felt when he was in the presence of a positively enraged Hiruzen Sarutobi. To see his student exude an amount of intent capable of cowing a Jounin of Kakashi's own caliber? The Jounin really needed to recalculate his estimation of the boy's abilities, and he would also need to let the Hokage know as soon as possible that Naruto be given the status of Chuunin, there was no need for an exam after witnessing something like this. "You feel better?" he asked as he sensed the killer intent slowly recede after what felt like several minutes. The blonde nodded. "Naruto, Tazuna will be needing protection tomorrow while he continues working on the bridge," at this Naruto's head snapped towards the Jounin.

"Kakashi sensei, tomorrow is absolutely the worst day for Tazuna-san to be working on the bridge," the blonde said as if it was the most normal thing in the world for Kakashi to deduce.

"What makes you say that?" asked the Jounin in a curious voice, the faster Tazuna got done with the bridge, the sooner their mission would be over.

"Do you not think that Gatou would have realized by now that you have defeated Zabuza, if he knows that then he would also know that we are at our weakest after our fight with the Mist-Nin just yesterday. As a result he will either plan an assassination for Tazuna-san or will have some sort of plan to completely destroy the bridge. In both cases we will be risking our client's life by sending him to the area where he will be expected the most. I think it will be the safest for Tazuna-san to not start working on the bridge until the day after tomorrow. In the mean time, you can start on training my teammates on something advanced. Maybe give them a few new techniques to match that guy posing as the Hunter-Nin. He was strong but not that much stronger than us."

"You have a point but what about you?"

"I will return tomorrow, sometime in the afternoon. For now I will just train and try to work out my thoughts. I hope tonight will be enough." At this the Jounin nodded before taking to the tree-tops once more.

KONOHAGAKURE

Danzo Shimura, currently the Administrator of the Defense of Konoha, was getting more and more agitated with the Hokage dodging his questions expertly by bombarding the man with the need of reports of various issues and situations that he was already aware of. But this time the War-Hawk was determined to get some answers from his old comrade and all time rival. "Hiruzen, stop trying to change the subject and come to the point," he interrupted in his perpetual monotonous voice stopping the other occupant in the room mid-sentence.

"Hmm, what do you mean Danzo?" he asked feigning innocence, as if he knew not a thing about what Danzo wanted to know. Hiruzen had at one time been a friend that Danzo had never hoped to gain, but as the years passed, the distance between them grew, and it grew to the point where they couldn't stand each other and being in the presence of the other seemed to grate on their nerves. When did that happen, neither knew but they both knew it started when their sensei, the Nidaime Hokage at the time, chose Hiruzen to be his successor instead of the more rebellious Danzo.

"I meant about the reason of putting the Jinchuuriki with the last Uchiha. We both know from their psyche evaluations that their personalities are nearly polar opposite of each other. So why have you put the Uzumaki with the Uchiha? It is bound to cause clashes between the two," the old war hawk nearly growled as he repeated his earlier asked question once more.

"Danzo, tell me something, do you know either of the boys personally?" asked Sarutobi as he found no other way to go around Danzo's bluntness other than completely disregarding him.

"No, but that hardly applies to the given situation," replied the cane wielding man a little stiffly.

"Danzo, we both know that applies in this situation," said Sarutobi pointedly before he continued. "And I know Naruto quite well, after all I have been constantly around the boy since he was five till the day he started attending the academy, and if there is one thing I can say about him without a doubt is that he is compassionate. A kind of person who can win over even the cruelest of hearts, and Sasuke is but a cocoon of loneliness. All Naruto has to do is draw his teammate out of the shell and as our sensei, Hashirama-sama, put it 'Compassion and kindness is the only way to win over the enemy's heart'."

"And look where that landed him," thought Danzo darkly before speaking once again. "Yes, I understand that you have the utmost faith in your apprentice but that Uchiha is a wild card, and compromising his status just because of your beliefs would be foolish," Danzo's retort held some merit but he also knew that he was talking about the 'God of Shinobi', and being anything but civil would only land him somewhere he did not want to go.

"Danzo, Naruto's compassion might be his strength, but that does not mean the boy does not know when to apply pressure and when to end a threat should the need arise. Do not forget, he has received training from me and that means he has learned from me ways that we were taught," he noticed when the uncovered eye of his old comrade grew wide in surprise and comprehension. "Yes," said the Sandaime as he nodded at the person sitting across from him. "I have taught him the old ways, and the led him to understand and follow the principles of an honorable Shinobi. Do you remember the three step process that we used in any mission? First, always consider the mission, then your companions, and finally yourselves. I have ingrained this process of thinking into Naruto just as it was drilled into me and you when we were young. I know these methods are not used in this day and age, in fact they are almost considered barbaric but these principles still guide the actions of the Shinobi of today, whether they process it as we do or not. For Naruto, Sasuke is definitely a teammate but he is also a mission, albeit the fact that my apprentice still wants to be the young Uchiha's friend."

"And what do you mean by the fact that Sasuke is a mission for the Jinchuuriki?" asked Danzo, he was not completely sure what his old friend was implying, but looking at the way Hiruzen has trained his student, it seemed quite unlikely that he would get his way with the young Uzumaki around. The Sandaime had nearly created a younger version of himself in his student, and that meant whatever Danzo wanted would be clearly opposed by the Jinchuuriki just as it was opposed by the Sandaime himself. The Hokage smiled as he described the mission that he had handed Naruto considering Sasuke...

FLASHBACK (Before the Academy)
The Sandaime waited for his student to arrive from the Sarutobi Mansion as his daughter-in-law had asked for Naruto to come over and have breakfast with his family so that she could give the news about him joining the Ninja Academy from the day after. She apparently also had a present for Naruto which she had pitched in with Konohamaru and Asuma, but as always he was left out of the loop until it was too late and it would seem almost like prying if he tried to figure out what the present was. Plus, there was no way he was going to know because the whole Sarutobi family knew that as the Hokage of the entire village, their present could easily be outdone, so the gift was so shrewdly hidden, that even him, for all his skills as a spy and espionage expert, could not find!

Currently the Hokage of the village was meditating on the small river that was created by his late teacher, Hashirama Senju, in the training grounds that he now used to train his only and current apprentice. A small smile graced his weathered features as he sensed Naruto's chakra signature coming towards their designated meeting spot, and it seemed that he was in high spirits indeed, if the constant flickering in his chakra was any indication. Soon, his student jumped into the clearing, and seeing his sensei meditating, waited patiently at the edge of the river after doing his rounds around the clearing, now doing approximately thirty laps around the clearing making a total of running ten miles every day as a physical warm up before training. After waiting for several minutes patiently, the Hokage mentioned Naruto to come forward.

"Naruto I believe your Aunty already told you about what tomorrow will bring?" he asked, his eyes still closed, and he was still in the meditative stance.

"Actually Aunty didn't tell me anything other than saying that tomorrow will be a very important day and that you will tell me about it at training today. Though Asuma-Uncle seemed to know as he kept giving me grins all throughout breakfast," replied the blonde as he took a seat opposite his sensei and got into the meditative stance as well.

"Hmm, I see," said the Sandaime in a contemplative voice before he resumed speaking to his apprentice once more. "Well Naruto, from tomorrow I will have to temporarily release you from my apprenticeship because-" before he could finish his sentence he was interrupted by a very giddy sounding blonde.

"Say it!" the Jinchuuriki almost yelled, before calming down slightly. "I will be joining the Academy won't I? Finally I will be able to serve Leaf as a Shinobi inducted under its express service as a Ninja of the Hidden Leaf." Naruto said the least sentence in a much softer voice as he could see his dream coming a little bit closer to being fulfilled.

"Yes, Naruto, you will be inducted into Konoha's Shinobi Program as soon as you pass the genin exam, though I might say that it will prove to be quite easy for you, since you already passed it about five years ago," said Sarutobi with a small mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

"Wait a second, that is what the academy graduation test consists of?" asked Naruto in an incredulous voice as he realized that the skills required to graduate the academy were skills even below the preliminary ninja skills needed to survive!

"So that is why we have to do months and months of D-rank missions as our Sensei train us to be adequate in the field," responded Naruto as he comprehended why the genin were given the worst of the worst jobs after their graduation.

"Indeed, Naruto and that is why I don't want you to badger your sensei into taking higher ranking missions as soon as you graduate, he will still need to train your teammates and make them capable of handling themselves in the field before I can give your team permission to take on missions with hostile forces being unavoidable, is that clear?" The Sandaime's stern voice made it clear enough to the young blonde that any argument on this issue will not move his sensei's decision, so he nodded, the Jinchuuriki didn't want to put his teammates in unnecessary danger anyway. Once the Sarutobi was sure that he got his point across to his student he continued. "Now Naruto I have two things to ask of you before I send you off to the academy, first being the assistant teacher of your class. We have suspicions that the teacher, who is working as an aid for Iruka Umino, is planning to flee the village and turn into a rogue. Your mission, and remember this is a very covert affair, is to inspect him. His behavior, his tendencies, and report anything that can confirm or deny our suspicions, but this will have to happen without his knowledge. Do you think you can do that?"

"Oh c'mon sensei, you know I will not turn this mission down, but is this official or unofficial?" asked the blonde, eager to get a mission after quite some time.

"As always this will be unofficial Naruto, I can't give you an official mission until you are of genin rank and you know it," replied the older of the two.

"Hmph, and what is the second thing?" asked the blonde as he made an annoyed face after hearing his sensei's previous statement.

"Well this one is a little different in nature and there is a possibility that you might not even have the chance to do it," the Hokage said as he saw a brief flash of confusion cross his apprentice's face. "You will have a classmate, a very prominent figure of this village, his name is Sasuke Uchiha. Yes, the very last surviving and loyal Uchiha of the Hidden Leaf. Yet, his recent psyche evaluations and introvert nature has caused me to have severe concerns of him and where his loyalties may truly lie. From a very young age, he has shown tendencies of going to extreme lengths to learn more and more knowledge in the Shinobi arts, and had a drive that is quite commendable of the young and upcoming generation of the Shinobi. Yet, his reasons for being so driven to gain as much knowledge and skills as possible is what concerns me. You see, his ultimate goal for his life is to avenge the murderer of his clan, and that is his own elder brother, Itachi Uchiha. For Sasuke, that is all that matters, and he has made it quite clear that no amount of convincing will make him change his goals. Naruto, you and I, we both know that the curse of hatred is quite a large burden that one carries, and when not careful that hatred can even consume the individual and turn him into something that good can never come off. This young man's idealistic view of life and his objective notion of revenge has given me enough reasons to remove him from the Shinobi program altogether but the council will not allow me because of his, now rare, bloodline which, to say the least, is truly a remarkable weapon in the hands of the right bearer."

"So what exactly do you want me to do sensei?" asked Naruto, still not completely sure of what to make of the Sandaime's explanation.

"I was actually getting to that," responded the Sarutobi. "Your mission, Naruto, is to keep a keen eye on Sasuke's actions and behavior as he progresses through his career as a Ninja of Hidden Leaf, after graduating from the academy," he raised his hand forestalling the questions that he knew his student was going to ask. "I know I am making the assumption that you will have to be in his genin squad to be able to carry out this mission, but I am the Hokage. I think I can pull a few strings." Naruto knew by the way Hiruzen was grinning that he was going to end up in the last Uchiha's squad one way or another.

"Fine Jiji, I will do it," replied the Jinchuuriki with a sigh. Sometimes he hated the way Shinobi had to work, but he had learned a long time ago that when there was a mission at hand, three principles had to be followed. First, the mission, then your comrades, and lastly, if possible, yourselves.

FLASHBACK END

Danzo stared at his former teammate as the man finished telling the war-hawk what had transpired between the himself and his apprentice, and why Hiruzen was so adamant about assembling Team Seven with the members that it now possessed. It was hard to believe that this was the same man that now preached about the absurdity known as the Will of Fire, and of love and camaraderie among the Shinobi. This man, whom he had thought has gone soft and senile in his current days, would never do something like sending a twelve year old boy to spy and report on his own teammate, no matter how many risks the act involved. No, this was the act of the man whom he remembered from decades ago. A man whose shrewd acuity of how the Shinobi system worked had not only made the tide of the Second Shinobi World War turn in the favor of the Hidden Leaf, but made a name as 'The God of Shinobi' for himself.

This was the act of the man who had not only surprised the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokage, but Danzo himself by telling with ruthless confidence that manipulating a situation with a few well placed tricks of deceit and lies could turn their enemies against themselves and make the resistance fall asunder under the shadow of their own doubts over their allies. Not many knew, and even less thought possible, but Hiruzen used to be a master of trickery, the man had a knack for it and had honed it to such perfection that even the most celebrated of interrogators could not tell the difference between his lies and truths. He had gone through multiple interrogations and had come out without giving a single detail away about themselves from their enemies, in fact, he had led the opposing forces to believe something so entirely different that when he did get out, he would know exactly where and how the enemy would react giving his side the advantage and time to prepare an attack that would catch the other side with complete surprise and wipe them off with perfect efficiency. When did Danzo forget what his ex-teammate, Hiruzen Sarutobi, was truly capable of?

Yet the cane wielding war-hawk knew, almost instinctively, that the Sandaime could never hope to achieve what the bandaged administrator envisioned with weapons of unbound potential such as Sasuke and Naruto at his side. He knew that as long as there were Shinobi in the world, an organization such as a Hidden Village would never be truly free of danger, from allies and enemies alike. But to achieve the closest thing to it would be to have so much strength that no village would dare to attack, knowing by reputation that by going against a force so deadly, one could only face defeat and death, nothing more. But, for reasons that Danzo could not fathom, all the Kages of the Hidden Leaf had this unshakable belief in love and friendship. Even the nearly successful attempt at a coup d'├ętat from within the village was not enough to rouse Konoha's leader and show that only the strength in an unshakable government and unmatched military prowess were the only ways to ensure the safety of a Shinobi Village and its people. The bandaged and supposedly retired Shinobi was by no means hard-headed, and he knew well that his proposition sounded heartless, and even a little cynical, but the results of such terms had proved itself over and over with time itself as testament and witness. For the old war-hawk, Konoha's survival and existence was supreme, whether it be through straight forward and the 'nice' way or whether it be by crook and hook, he will ensure that this village, his village, was not threatened, no matter what he would have to do to achieve his goal.

"So exactly what are your plans with this boy?" asked Danzo, he had not expected his teammate to raise the Jinchuuriki in a manner where he would have the mentality of a true Shinobi by the age of twelve, but if he could get the boy to ally with himself, then he could ensure that Konoha would have a weapon that would not only be feared, which was what made him want his ROOT to be, but also respected like the times when Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha ran the village, and their reputation as Shinobi alone made the other villages think twice before even willing the Hidden Leaf ill-will, much less think of attacking it and coming out alive to tell the tale. Sure, Naruto Uzumaki will probably not have the caliber to match Shinobi such as Hashirama Senju, or even his younger brother, but that was not what made them the most feared warriors of their time, no it was what they did and how they worked that made them the mightiest that walked the lands of the Elemental Nations, and Danzo had been a first-hand witness to them in all their glory.

"Plans for the boy? Why Danzo, it seems as if you are implying that I am only using the boy for some personal gain and nothing more," responded Hiruzen with an easy smile on his face, yet the jab was more than audible in the ears of the ROOT leader.

"You know what I meant," Danzo shot back tersely as the Sandaime's chuckling subsided and he became serious once more.

"Listen well Shimura Danzo for I will say this only once. When I took on Naruto as my apprentice, I had vowed to make him a Shinobi that he showed he had the potential to be. Now call me senile or mad, but he showed me something that I had not seen in years, that is the power of tolerance. The ability to take any amount of hatred and still accept people with an open heart and a wide smile, not many have the strength to be that selfless, for everyone, in some level, always thinks of themselves before thinking of the person to the side. But Naruto, knowing nothing of love and being hated since the day he could remember, had realized something that not most people can in a lifetime, and that is understanding that acceptance and sacrifice are the truest forms of affection, given or received. Now tell me, when a person, who never received a single ounce of understanding from anyone can have such a deep realization of what it means to live for someone else, what can that person do when he has the power to alter and change the lives of many?" As the Hokage got up to receive an important message from his secretary about a meeting with some delegates from another country, he left a very confused and tremulous administrator behind, with a bad taste in his mouth, and his need for answers forgotten.

TAZUNA'S BACKYARD THE FOLLOWING DAY

Kakashi limped into the clearing between the trees followed slowly by a stoic Sasuke and a slightly sleepy Sakura as she rubbed her eyes furiously to get the remaining sleepiness out of her eyes. Her sensei stopped and turned towards them as he came up in front of the small river that passed by the he backyard and was also the source of water for chores and cleaning purposes of the bridge-builder's household. The silver haired Jounin nodded to his students once he was sure he had their attention.

"Tell me, what we have learned in the last few group exercises that we had as a team?" the Jounin was not surprised when Sakura's hand shot up and an eager expression crossed her face, instead he looked pointedly at Sasuke to see if he was going to participate at all. Once the boy showed no sign, he sighed softly and nodded for Sakura to continue.

"Well since we have been concentrating on advancing out chakra control, we learned to walk on vertical surfaces by concentrating chakra to our feet, and keep a steady flow going at the soles of our feet. But the most important part of the control is to discern the amount of chakra needed so that we can stay on the required surface and not slide off due to applying too little chakra, or get blasted off for applying too much," the pink haired kunoichi took a long breath after saying all that in one go.

"Yes, nicely put together Sakura," commented Kakashi to his student before looking once more at Sasuke who nodded, indicating he got all that was said. "So today we are going to learn an even more advanced form of chakra control," the silver haired Jounin stopped as he saw the disappointed looks appearing on the faces of his students before continuing. "And, if all goes well, I will also teach each of you a new technique," he was not surprised when he noticed the smile on Sakura's face or the gleam that appeared on Sasuke's eyes.

"So what is this new exercise Sensei?" asked Sakura in an excited voice as his other student's face contorted in displeasure.

"Today we will be learning how to walk on moving water," replied the Jounin as he indicated to the river behind him. "Since you know the basics, I will explain what the difference is between this exercise and the one we did before. In this advanced form of chakra control we will be consistently applying chakra to our feet but we have to constantly change the amount we apply to match the constant movements and fluctuations of the water," Kakashi slowly turned around before limping on to stand on the river, his face showing no effort whatsoever. "Or you will sink in this cold water." Sakura was the first to volunteer as it was well known that she had the better chakra control out of the two of them. She carefully applied chakra to her feet before laying one foot on the water, seeing it sink a little, she applied some more and her leg steadied. Taking a deep breath she applied the same amount of chakra to her other feet before moving to stand fully on the water and was able to stand firmly. A smile formed on her lips as she took a step, but the smile was soon erased as she yelped before sinking like a bag of stones. Swimming furiously she waded out as fast as she could, and looked at her sensei in confusion.

"What did I do wrong Sensei?" wondered the kunoichi through clenched teeth to keep them from chattering.

"Sakura, you have to constantly change the flow of chakra to your feet to match that of the movement and changes on the body of water itself," replied Kakashi as he moved closer and started to give her tips about understanding how the water moved and change the flow of chakra to her feet accordingly. On the other hand, Sasuke's face paled considerably at seeing that even with the superior control of chakra, Sakura was having trouble to perform the exercise, it would be much harder for him to get this one down, but then he another thought entered his mind and he voiced it.

"What about Naruto? Won't he be needing to train as well?"

"He is out scouting and keeping watch Sasuke, plus he knows this already so you have nothing to worry about," replied Kakashi nonchalantly before indicating for him to start the exercise.

"How does Naruto know everything that we have yet to learn?" wondered the Uchiha suspiciously before grudgingly walking towards the water and promptly sinking on his first try.

Hiya guys, now I know you probably feel like killing for not updating in so many months but at least hear my side of the story. My laptop was completely busted, and for a good amount of time I was too busy trying to fix it and getting it to work again. It was only when my semester was getting to an end and I was falling behind on all my work that I decided to get a new one, but look at my luck. Instead of being able to work on y stories, I had to work really hard on catching up with all the work that I had missed, and then winter break came, and with it came the invitation for my internship. Yeah, tell me about being busy! Lastly, my beta reader never got back to me and I did wait for quite a few days for that too, I hope he reads this chapter and gets back to me about what happened :( So here is the new chapter, I know it is shorter compared to my other chapters but I can promise that next chapter will hold quite a bit of interesting Naruto action and maybe we will see the new things that Sakura and Sasuke has learned. Anyways, I hope you like this extremely late chapter and as always ideas and opinions from readers are always welcome and if you would like to discuss the story in farther detail, just send me a quick P.M. Loved the reviews I got, so please keep them coming. Poll about Zabuza's sword has been concluded, so stay tuned to see what happens next. And please, please, please don't forget to review. Special thanks to people who started to follow and favorited this story after the last chapter was posted and if you are one of them please send me a P.M. or a review to let me know what you think.

Thanks,

Tanneal