Danzo and the Sandaime Hokage sat in the completely sealed Hokage office, looking over the results the investigation by the ROOT agents had had.
"This is more troubling than I thought. I was aware that you had overlooked quite a few decrees that weren't to the best of the village, but even I didn't know it were this many." Danzo said.
"Me too. And I suspect I didn't overlook all of them, but that somebody that had access to the stamp of the Hokage did get some passed secretly. As I didn't check all the decrees that went over my desk in detail because I simply didn't have the time, I'll allow to think that some were passed by me, but many of these here I would have stopped for sure. And if there had been an overly large amount of decrees that were placed on my desk I would definitely have got suspicious earlier. The stamp is kept in the Hokage's office all the time and the tower is guarded by the ANBU. So somebody inside the tower has got access or somebody copied the stamp and slipped the stamped decrees into the outgoing paperwork." The Hokage mused.
Danzo nodded. He had thought that Sarutobi had got senile in his old age, but even he would immediately say that those many decrees that were passed in the last twelve years that he hadn't been aware of were impossible. There was more wrong in the village than he had thought and had wanted to change by becoming Hokage himself.
"My ROOT have also found quite a number of listening devices all over the village and detected four probable spies. They are well-hidden, but we are keeping them under constant watch now. We hope to follow the small fishes we identified to the bigger ones. We also noticed a strange sealing array in the old Uchiha district. As far as I know Jiraiya is coming here next week. He should look at the seal and tell us what it is." Danzo said.
"Yes, that will be best." The Hokage agreed.
"How do you want to proceed with the problem with the shopkeepers that are overcharging on the taxes?" Danzo asked.
The ROOT agents had found out that over sixty per cent of the shop keepers demanded two per cent more taxes on the goods than the Hokage had allowed. With that great number nobody had ever detected anything when they just bought their normal groceries. They had just assumed it were the costs for delivery and the like that made them more expensive.
"Well, they'll get messages that massive additional payment on taxes plus a fee for tax evasion is to be paid to the village coffers. They can decide if they want to keep their prices like they are or lower them to the appropriate level. No matter what they do, they'll be exposed for their trickery publicly. I'll publish a list with all tax dodgers to make clear that I won't tolerate them. I'll also publish a list with the decrees that are voided as of now. That will take away a good part of power that the civilian council and the wealthy merchants that bribe them have in the village. And I'll make sure Naruto is out of the village when I do this. I'm relatively sure they will try to vent their anger on him and there is no possibility to say what he will do in retaliation." The Hokage said.
"You don't talk about pranks, do you, Hiruzen?" Danzo asked.
"No, I talk about at least broken bones and at worst massive damage from wind elemental jutsus. Naruto won't take the abuse anymore. He is too close to exploding. And he has the skill to back his threats up." The Hokage said.
"Shouldn't you keep him under close watch then?" Danzo asked, wanting to know the reason why the Hokage didn't do it.
"What do you think Kakashi is doing all day? I'm no idiot, Danzo. Kakashi is doing damage control before things get out of control. There is a reason I put him as the sensei of team seven and it's not Sasuke's potential sharingan." The Hokage said.
"Hm, an interesting deception you came up with. Everybody in the village and outside will assume his main job is getting Sasuke Uchiha ready and training him in using his sharingan once it awakens. But with him being one of the ninja in the village that always kept Uzumaki safe and who doesn't hate the boy, you bind Uzumaki closer to the village. The training matches with teams eight and ten have the same intention, getting more ties to the village so in case something happens to you, his main tie at the moment. If he feels accepted by his peers, he won't be as tempted to desert the village as he might otherwise be. The effect is increased as all members of teams eight and ten are the children of the current heads of their clans. So he will be on good terms with the future shinobi council. And it would be fatal for the village to lose the power of the Kyubi and Uzumaki's own impressive skills to another village like Kumo." Danzo said.
"I see you haven't got stupider in your old age, Danzo. The only way Naruto can manage to have an easier life in the village is to be accepted by those he will be working with in the future. I'm absolutely sure that he will be promoted to chunin after the exams in Konoha. Therefore he will be leading teams of genins on missions soon. From what I have heard from the senseis for the new teams there are some really talented ones this year. Some won't be ready by the time the exams come to Konoha. But the teams will be able to get through the first two phases and show the world the power of Konoha's new generation. And these genin represent the most well-known clans we have. Nearly all of them are the clan heirs." The Hokage said.
"Yes, indeed an important generation." Danzo agreed.
They continued to plan how to get the embezzled money back into the village coffers.
It was Friday and the three jonin senseis had called their teams for the first team task of their bet.
"Okay, today you are going to show your skill in teamwork. We have set up an obstacle course you will have to complete as a team. Each team will go through the course timed and watched by us. There are certain criteria we will be looking for, but we won't tell you what they are until the course is absolved by all teams. We will decide which team will do the course first by drawing matches. The longest match will go first, then the second longest and the shortest last." Asuma explained.
He held out his hand with three matches for Kakashi and Kurenai. They both drew one match and then compared the length.
"Okay, team ten goes first, then team eight and last team seven." Kurenai said.
Teams seven and eight sat down while team ten walked to the starting line.
"The course is marked with these markers." Asuma said showing a round paper about the size of a tennis ball. "They are in three colours. One for each team. You have the yellow marker, team eight has the blue marker and team seven has the red marker. You are to collect all markers during the course. The obstacles you'll have to deal with will become obvious when you are on the course. We have placed some chunin in the course that will observe you and take notes on your performances. As we are not objective, they'll give the points for this exercise. They have the lists what to look for. So if you spot Iruka Umino, Kotetsu Hagane or Izumo Kamizuri you'll know that they are part of the test."
The genins nodded and team ten got ready to go. When Kakashi gave the signal, they sped off.
"So how is your new taijutsu style coming along, Hinata?" Naruto asked.
"It's taking time, but I have a better feeling than before. And Kiba and Shino are great. They help me training all the adapted moves and give me pointers how they think I can improve." Hinata answered shyly.
"That's great. I'm sure you'll get it down and then be a force to be reckoned with." Naruto replied.
"You really think so, Naruto?" Hinata asked timidly.
"Sure. You are a good kunoichi; you just need to realize it and train hard to get your taijutsu style to fit you better. And when you get a few surprises in your repertoire that nobody expects you to have, you'll show them all." Naruto said.
"What kind of surprises do you think of, Naruto?" Shino asked.
"Well, every ninja, especially those from a clan that is well-known, should have at least one or two surprise moves that can take an opponent off guard. I mean, take you for example, Shino. You are an Aburame and as soon as an opponent finds that out and has some information on your clan in general they will know that you work with your symbiotic bugs. So they will use attacks that can keep your bugs away from them or are generally effective against them like wide spread elemental attacks. Or they could, if they have the time and the materials come up with bug repellent or bug spray. Now if you could also use for example kenjutsu, you would have an advantage they didn't expect. I know that Aburames thanks to housing the bugs have very little chakra that can be used for jutsus outside your clan techniques. So perfecting using a weapon would give you an ace." Naruto explained.
"That sounds logical. I'll have to think about it. What would you think Hinata could learn?" Shino asked nodding his consensus to the suggestion.
"Hm, at least some ninjutsu to give her distance attacks. The gentle fist style is a close range style. But I think with her great chakra control she would gain the biggest advantage with genjutsu. She could trap her opponents in a genjutsu and then strike quickly." Naruto said.
"And what about me?" Kiba asked interested.
"Hm, you specialize in a feral taijutsu style in cooperation with Akamaru. That gives you short and middle range. What is your element, Kiba?" Naruto asked.
"Lightning." Kiba answered.
"Then your first step once you have mastered the basic chakra control exercises, meaning doing them instinctively without thinking about it in every situation, could be to incorporate lightning in your style. If you covered your hands in lightning before you hit an opponent, the attack would be more devastating. Depending on how good you learned to control it, you could activate and deactivate it with a simple thought which meant it would be harder to figure out just what you did. I don't think normal weapons would work for you, as it would be hard to include in your normal style. I don't know if that is a crazy idea, but can Akamaru use jutsus?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, he can. You mean he should learn some jutsus as nobody would expect a dog to use them?" Kiba asked.
"Yes. And branch out from what your clan normally does. I'm not that knowledgeable about how you train your dogs, only that your combination attacks can be devastating." Naruto answered.
"Team eight, your turn." Kakashi called and they saw that team ten had returned.
Team ten got some instructions and then sat down.
"How was it?" Sakura asked.
"Sorry, we got orders to not tell you anything." Shikamaru said.
"We should have expected that much." Sasuke said.
"So, how is training with the resistance seals? You got them placed last week, didn't you?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, we did. They are so troublesome. I feel so slow. While I don't like haste, that's being ridiculous." Shikamaru answered.
"Ah, I'm sure I know a good way to get you used to them faster." Naruto said.
"What is that way, Naruto?" Ino wanted to know.
"Don't tell her, she'll be even more troublesome." Shikamaru pleaded.
"Shut up, Shikamaru. I won't be held back by your constant laziness." Ino shot back.
"Okay, the way you get used faster to the seals is by sending chakra to your muscles. Once you are used to the seals with chakra and can move like before, you reduce the amount of chakra until you don't feel the seals without chakra anymore. And if you want to motivate your team-mates into more training, well, let me tell you that hunting others with senbons and the like lets them run faster." Naruto said grinning evilly.
"Sadist." Sakura mumbled.
"Be glad that Kakashi sensei only allows my clones to pepper you with rubber balls during the dodging exercises." Naruto gave back.
"What kind of dodging exercises does your team do?" Choji asked.
"Insane ones." Sakura answered.
"Funny ones." Naruto said. "I get to surround all members of our team with shadow clones and pelt them with rubber balls or in Kakashi sensei's case with senbons. Though I'm not allowed to use the poisoned ones sadly."
"Like I said, insane." Sakura said.
"Your sensei participates in your training?" Choji asked surprised.
"He doesn't only participate; he does more physical training than even Naruto. But that could have been expected by a former ANBU. We are really getting stronger under him." Sasuke said.
"Did you learn any new jutsus, Sasuke?" Ino swooned.
"No, not yet, but we learn tricks to better use the ones we already know. Kakashi sensei told us we would learn some jutsus once he finishes our basic training; should happen at the end of the month." Sasuke answered contently.
He had first been disgruntled that Kakashi wouldn't teach them any new jutsus before their basic training was done, but once he had experienced just what Kakashi considered basic training, he wasn't as angry anymore. He knew he was building up his body strength and his speed; he was bettering his chakra control and his reserves and learned many important skills for missions. He had found out about practical methods to ease transport, how to think like a ninja and improve his overall awareness. Kakashi was strict, fair but also had a sense of humour. And he knew how to train really hard. It was perfect to get closer to Itachi.
"Team seven, your turn." Kakashi called while team eight just ran over the finish line.
Sasuke, Sakura and Naruto went to the start line. Kurenai gave the signal and they were off. Naruto took point, Sakura the middle and Sasuke the rear.
"Okay, keep your eyes open for the red markers." Naruto said in a business-like voice.
Both his team-mates knew he had changed to mission mode and would treat this with utmost professionalism. Sasuke was the first to spot a marker. Naruto had them stop and look if there were hidden traps. This time there were not and Sakura got the job to collect the marker and store it in her bag. Naruto suspected that this would be graded for teamwork, so they needed to involve Sakura somehow. They took off again and reached the river. In the middle was the next marker.
"So do we need to swim over there next?" Sakura asked.
"Not necessarily. None of the members of teams eight and ten was wet. And I doubt they know water-walking yet. So there has to be another way to do this. Look around if there is a clue somewhere." Naruto commanded.
"Naruto, there is a kunai lying here with a red point on the end of the handle." Sasuke said from the direct shore of the river.
"I guess this is a target practice task then. Perhaps we get the marker if we hit the red marker bull's-eye." Naruto mused.
"Okay. I'll do the throw, you cover me. I don't want to be surprised by any nasty ideas Kakashi sensei could have come up with." Sasuke said and Naruto nodded, taking out his kunai, covering for Sasuke.
Sasuke aimed and hit perfectly. In the place where the kunai had been another kunai with a marker tied to it was thrown at. Naruto looked at the source of the kunai and saw Kotetsu waving from a tree. Sakura collected the kunai and the marker and they continued their quest. The next marker was hidden in a trap field, which they needed to disable before getting the marker, nothing difficult for Naruto. They had to climb a tree to get the next marker from a bird's nest. They let Sakura get it while Naruto and Sasuke fended off the projectiles that Izumo was throwing at them to keep them from getting their marker.
The next part was crossing a slim log over the river, nothing difficult with the tree-walking exercise. The next marker was harder to get. It was down in a pitfall full of hungry foxes. Naruto solved the problem by having Sasuke secure his ankles, hanging down from the log over the pitfall and distracting the foxes with a dead rabbit he had in a storage scroll. When the foxes were done with the rabbit, Naruto was already up long ago.
This obstacle was followed by a crawling course where the genin had to get a marker from under a series of nets. Getting the marker from above wouldn't have worked as the net was made from metal and at the ends lightning seals had been installed that would be triggered if they tried to cheat on this task. Definitely Kakashi sensei's idea. Naruto being the one to be fastest got the marker while Sasuke and Sakura kept watch. Naruto simply transformed into a squirrel to run under the net and get the marker.
The next obstacle was sneaking through a part of the woods where seven bee hives had been placed around the marker. And as they needed to cross the part to get to the finish line, they all needed to get through and couldn't let one member of the team try it alone. Sakura had to contain her fear of insects for this part. She repeatedly told herself that it would be over soon. Sadly she didn't look out for her way, tripped and alerted the bee hive next to her.
"Shit!" Naruto commented and sprang into action. If one bee hive was woken, the others would soon follow.
"Sasuke, we need smoke." He commanded.
Sasuke nodded and shot a modified version of his fire jutsu at the dry grass under the bee hive. It was enough to distract them and slow them down for Naruto making two clones, one taking Sakura, one covering for the team, himself ripping the marker from its position and them all running as fast as they could towards the finish line. The bees close behind them. Thankfully there seemed to be a barrier of some kind that kept the bees contained in a certain area. Once they crossed the finish line the bees stopped and returned to their hives.
Asuma had taken their time and noted it on a clipboard.
"Okay, you're done. Rest and meanwhile Kakashi, Kurenai and I will take the points the three proctors in the obstacle course have given you and add them to the time points." He said.
The three genin of team seven joined their comrades from the other two teams.
"Got the bees mad at you?" Shikamaru asked lazily.
"Yeah, Sakura tripped directly next to a hive and woke them up. We managed to buy some time by Sasuke smoking them out a bit, but we needed to get out of there fast." Naruto said.
"How did you get by that damn obstacle?" Sakura asked.
"Choji's food rations are good for something. He had honey covered biscuits with him. So Shikamaru decided we would place those biscuits around the hives to distract the bees with something better than us and sneaked through, getting the marker." Ino said proudly.
"And we have an expert on insects on our team. Shino just calmed them down with one of his clan jutsus and we got the marker easily." Kiba proudly stated.
"What did you think was the most difficult obstacle?" Ino asked the others.
"The pitfall with the foxes. The damn beasts were especially wild when Akamaru and I passed their pitfall. Hinata got a few bad scratches from them." Kiba answered.
"For us it was the net. It took so damn long to get the marker from under there." Choji said.
"That was no problem for us. I had Akamaru get it. He is small enough to not have any problems with such an obstacle." Kiba answered. "How did you solve that obstacle?" He asked team seven.
"Naruto transformed into a squirrel and got the marker easily that way." Sasuke answered.
Shino and Shikamaru wondered about that. Wasn't the transformation jutsu only an illusion? Perhaps there was an advanced version Naruto knew. With him everything was possible.
Finally their senseis and the three chunin came towards them.
"Okay, we have got the marks Iruka, Kotetsu and Izumo gave you. Totally team seven got sixteen points. Team eight comes to nineteen points and team ten to twenty points. The reasons for the results will be discussed with your jonin senseis tomorrow." Kakashi said.
He was a bit disappointed about the marks of his team, but he had expected them to do even worse with this type of exercise. There had been a huge focus on teamwork and that was definitely a weakness of his team.
"Hah, we won!" Ino cried jubilantly.
She hadn't expected to win, but obviously there had been other criteria than just being fast and getting the tasks done.
Sasuke didn't look happy that his team had come out last. He hated losing. He would need to see what the report from Kakashi would entail tomorrow. Perhaps that last obstacle with the bees had been to their disadvantage.
In the briefing about the test, team seven found out that the reason the other two teams had been marked better than them was that teams eight and ten had showed better teamwork and more consideration how to solve the tasks. It had been a team decision. In team seven Naruto had mainly given the commands and the others had followed. While they had shown some teamwork in certain tasks like the fox-pit or the bird's nest, in others they hadn't. The bees also didn't look good in their stats. It had been a stealth exercise and with them being forced to forego stealth that had been marked down. Their time had been the best of all teams, but that hadn't been the main focus, but brought their points up a bit.
So here is the next chapter. Hope you liked it.