Naruto was disappointed.
"Are we there yet?" He complained.
"Almost," Kakashi said in a friendly voice.
"That's what you always say when I ask you!"
"And yet you keep asking."
"Naruto baka! Would you quit asking him that every five minutes?" Sakura yelled. She was every bit as frustrated and annoyed as her blond teammate, but his pointless whining was wearing on her last nerve. "You already know what he's going to say!"
Sasuke did his best not to let his own irritation show as his two annoying teammates began the same argument yet again.
"But Sakura-chan don't you want to know what our first mission is about?" Naruto whined.
They had passed the Bell Test a few days ago and become real Genin. Sensei had then given them instructions for their first mission and Team Seven had set out from Konoha. Kakashi-sensei though had refused to tell them where they were going or what they were going to do. Naruto had no doubt that he would complete the mission with flying colors no matter what it was. However not knowing just what was going on had started to wear on him.
"Of course I want to know," Sakura said with that superior tone she always had when an instructor called on her in class. "However as ninja all that matters is that we follow our orders. I am sure sensei will explain everything when the time comes."
"But how come I can't even wear my hitai-ite or my regular clothes? We're even stuck wearing these cheap sandals on our feet! We look like peasants!" It was true, all of them were dressed in faded raggedy grey work clothes. Even their sensei was going without a mask and wore an eye patch rather than his hitai-ite over his left eye.
"That's the whole point." Sakura said in her lecturing tone. "The mission requires that no one know we are ninja."
"That's not fair though!" Naruto complained loudly. "I worked so hard just so people could see I was a ninja! Now I have to pretend I'm not one!"
"Baka! A big part of being ninja is secrecy! Naturally there are going to be times when we have to disguise who we really are!" Sakura was also on edge and getting ready to take her frustrations out on her teammate.
As the two of them bickered neither bothered to notice the moss covered stone marker by the side of the road.
Sasuke glanced at it and the kanji carved into it. "We've just entered a foreign country." He gave his teammates a frosty gaze. "Could the two of you at least pretend to act like ninja?"
Naruto glared while Sakura looked about embarrassed and saw the same marker.
"Oh! We've just entered the Land of Lilies! Naturally you would notice that Sasuke-kun! You're so brilliant!"
"It doesn't take brilliance to notice a marker Sakura, you just need to pay attention." Sasuke replied coolly and turned back to the front.
Sakura's head dropped in response.
Naruto was upset. "Hey you don't need to be so rude about it you bastard! I'm sure Sakura-chan would have noticed too!"
"Don't talk to Sasuke-kun like that!" Sakura emphasized her words with one of her classic hammer blows to Naruto's jaw.
Kakashi sighed but didn't bother to lift his only visible eye from out of the little orange book he had. "As Sasuke has pointed out we've already crossed the border into the Land of Lilies. We'll be at our destination shortly."
A bruised Naruto turned disbelieving eyes his sensei's way. "Is that true or are you just saying that?"
Naruto stared open mouthed at Kakashi not knowing how to respond. Sakura and Sasuke just tried to not show their mounting frustration.
"Well here we are," Kakashi announced. "This is the village of Yuri."
They had arrived at the outskirts of a small peaceful looking community. It was not even a tenth of the size of Konoha and unlike their home had no wall or gate. It was a sprawl of buildings and dirt roads. The locals, at least from a distance, were going about peacefully and without any apparent care.
All three of his students looked relived to have finally arrived. Naruto appeared to be the most excited among them.
"All right! So what's the mission sensei?"
Kakashi closed his little orange book and carefully put it away. The members of Team Seven immediately took note of that. They'd gotten to know their sensei well enough to understand that was a sign that he was actually going to be serious for a change.
"There is no mission." Kakashi told them. His voice held none of its usual playfulness; one more indication things were no longer inconsequential.
"What?" Naruto all but exploded. "But you said…"
"I know what I said Naruto." Kakashi stated patiently. "I lied; ninja do that from time to time."
"You mean like Mizuki?" Naruto asked a bit nervously. He tried to casually put a hand on one of the kunai hidden beneath his shirt. To Kakashi the motion was ridiculously obvious.
"Relax Naruto, I promise you I am not some deep cover enemy agent."
"It's not like you would tell us if you were." Naruto grumbled.
Kakashi actually nodded in approval, for ninja being suspicious was not a bad thing.
"Excuse me sensei," Sakura spoke up. "While I don't usually agree with Naruto about things this time I think he has a point. A sensei shouldn't lie to his students."
Kakashi gave her one of his wide smiles that turned his one eye into a little upside down 'U'. "I'm afraid you are completely wrong about that Sakura. Mission leaders are often required to give their subordinates false information and false orders."
"That's not true." Sakura replied automatically.
"Oh?" Kakashi said nothing more and waited for her to elaborate.
Sakura had often seen teachers turn a foolish statement or question by a student into a lesson. Usually they did this by deliberately embarrassing the student. This had happened with Naruto with depressing regularity. She though was not used to being made an example of and didn't see where she was wrong.
"Ninja practice deception on civilians and on the enemy." Sakura began with the exact same lecturing tone she used with Naruto. "However they do not give false or inaccurate information to fellow shinobi of the Leaf. In order to function effectively all Leaf ninja should strive to only share verified information while avoiding the spread of false reports or unverified rumor."
"Sakura," Kakashi said patiently. "Has it ever once occurred to you that not everything you were taught at the Academy was true?"
She didn't reply, but by the way her mouth hung open the answer was obvious.
"So what are you saying exactly?" Sasuke asked. "That we shouldn't trust you?"
"No, you should definitely trust me. Just be aware that not every word I speak will be the truth, and also understand that I may only reveal to you as much as you need to know to complete a mission. A ninja village thrives on secrets, never forget that."
Sasuke grunted a, "Hn."
"So if it's not for a mission what are we doing here?" Naruto asked.
"I've brought you here to administer the third and final test before you can begin your careers as ninja."
"Say what?" Naruto cried in outrage. "We have to take another test?"
"That's right," Kakashi answered politely. "The Academy Test was just to confirm you'd at least gained the absolute minimal physical abilities required to be a functioning ninja. The Genin Test was to check your skill level and determine whether or not you were emotionally prepared. The Shinobi Test is to determine whether or not you have the psychological strength needed to be a ninja. The career of a ninja is brutally hard on body, mind, and soul. Before the village commits the time and resources needed to give you serious training we need to be certain you have the necessary strength to endure it."
"Fine," Sasuke said dismissively. "I'll pass whatever test you have planned."
Sakura nodded eagerly. Whatever she needed to do to stay with Sasuke-kun she'd do.
"As the future Hokage there is no way I can let any dumb test stop me." Naruto declared. "Why'd we have to come all the way here though? Why couldn't we have just taken this test back in the village?"
"Because," Kakashi informed them pleasantly. "As a general rule Konoha tries to avoid murdering its own citizens for the sake of a test."
That got the desired reaction as all three of them stared at him wide eyed.
"What did you say?" Naruto asked.
Kakashi looked each of his students in the eye and spoke slowly and clearly. "I want each of you to go into that village and murder someone."