After a week of seeing about twenty members of the ANBU black ops every day in Konoha, Naruto had become curious. Why were there so many of them lurking around the leaf village these days? Or was it just his selective perception? Well, the ANBU members did stand out of the rest of the inhabitants of Konoha quite a bit, with their dark uniforms and those trademark animal masks. They certainly weren't hard to detect walking around in broad daylight like that, and yet everyone knew they were the sneakiest shinobi, if anything. After all, they were assigned all the undercover missions which required enormous skill and of course trust between the Hokage and them.

Naruto's brow creased in thought. Would old lady Tsunade ever trust him like that? Tell him all the nasty details of Konoha, its alliances or other nations, about which everyone else was kept in the dark? Perhaps he should go see the blonde woman today and ask her some things about the ANBU. Of course he knew roughly what they did, but still there were many secrets about them, and he was quite eager to find out more about those sneaky masked ninja.

The seventeen-year old genin was torn out of his thoughts when he suddenly bumped into someone.

"Hey, watch out where you're going, will you?"

He almost couldn't believe it. Another ANBU member!

"Oh, ah, sorry, Mister!" he apologized sheepishly, scratching the back of his head as he quickly walked away. What was up with that guy, snapping at him like that?! How rude!

When he reached the other corner of the street, he risked a longer stare at the tall man with the bird-mask and scanned his appearance. He was well-built, his defined biceps clearly visible since most ANBU didn't wear long-sleeved shirts like regular shinobi did. But there were some other things about those ANBU guys which fascinated him far more than the different uniform: those masks. They gave them this aura of mystery, like the one Kakashi-sensei had – although his aura was more annoying than mysterious, or annoying because it was so mysterious. After knowing him for, what, five years, he still had never seen the man's damn face! And he couldn't help but feel upset about that. Why could his sensei trust him with his life but not let him see his face?! Nevertheless, he was convinced that one day he would definitely see what his sensei hid underneath that piece, or rather pieces of cloth. And Uzumaki Naruto never went back on his word.

Realizing that the ANBU member he had run into was gone, Naruto made his way to the Hokage tower. Hehe, which grandmother didn't just love visits from her favorite grandchild? Naruto snickered inwardly at the thought of Tsunade having a snit fit once he burst through the door of her office. But nah, he wasn't that much of a kid anymore to do that, and besides, he would have to try to get on her good side if he wanted top secret information about the ANBU.

When he reached the Hokage tower he hastily walked in through the main entrance and almost ran up the stairs leading to Tsunade's office. Reaching the door he slowed down his pace, took a deep breath to calm himself from the quick walk, and finally knocked on the door like a polite little genin. He gripped the doorknob and smoothly pushed open the door with a confident grin. But what he saw then immediately made him gape. Standing in front of Tsunade's desk was yet another member of the black ops! What the hell?!

"That'll be all, Isamu. You are dismissed. Brat, what brings you here? I have no mission for you if that's what you came here for!"

The ANBU member poofed away, leaving a cloud of smoke and an angrily glaring blond ninja behind. Naruto stepped forward and, deciding to come straight to the point, said, "I don't have a mission request this time, baa-chan! I came here because I wanna know more about the ANBU black ops."

Tsunade shifted in her chair, crossed her legs and raised her brows, her expression changing into a frown. The ANBU black ops?

"And why is that?"

"Well, I only know that they do all kinds of assassinations, tracking, surveillance and sneaky stuff like that on a really high level and that they are under your direct control, but that's about it. I've been walking around the village a lot these days and I don't think I've ever seen so many black ops out there in my life, so I got curious! And just now there was that ANBU in your office! I keep bumping into these guys lately, so you really can't blame me for asking."

True, Tsunade couldn't blame him, and it didn't sound like Naruto was really up to something, but she would prolong their conversation just to make sure she was right.

"Well, all I can tell you is this – the ANBU do top-secret missions, which is why I cannot enlighten you more on that subject. Top-secret means top-secret, and only ANBU and council members are allowed to know the specific details."

"But baa-chan! I won't tell anyone anything, I promise! I really just wanna know what they're doing, working in the background like that!"

Tsunade rolled her eyes. Why was Naruto always so extremely persistent?

"Look, I really can't tell you any more than what you already know. I know this answer won't satisfy you but just deal with it. Now get out and enjoy your day off like any other normal shinobi and let me get back to doing this paperwork!"

Whoa, the old lady sure sounded angry! But still, Naruto would never be the person who would just 'deal' with things, if he did, he simply wouldn't be Naruto. And the busty Hokage had better know that!

"Come on, baa-chan! So the ANBU do the more dangerous missions no one else knows about, I get it. But why won't you tell me more? Don't you trust me?!"

"Naruto, this conversation won't lead you anywhere except out of the door or out of the window if you aggravate me any further. Of course I trust you, but I also trust my other shinobi and I wouldn't tell them anything about the missions the ANBU are assigned to either."

Suddenly, an idea hit Naruto. If Tsunade only told members of the ANBU about ANBU missions

"What if I wanted to join the ANBU black ops?"

The blonde woman's left eye twitched. Naruto? Part of the ANBU black ops? Surprisingly enough, she didn't yell back, she just snorted.

"You? Look kid, we all know you're strong and that you've come a long way. But you're still too unpredictable and for Kami-sama's sake, you are anything but subtle and sneaky! You're loud and you love the spotlight, that's great but let me tell you this: those aren't the traits an ANBU member should have. I'll even buy you some ramen if you're able to figure out why."

Naruto must not have been listening to the second half of her speech because before he knew it, Tsunade was waving her hand in front of his face and he was lost to her attempt to call him back to reality.

"Gaki! I'm talking to you!"

"Huh? Oh. Right. Hehe, sorry about that…what did you say?"

"I was saying that being an ANBU isn't exactly a walk around the block," Tsunade growled. "In fact, it's all the dirty work other ninja would never really want to do. That ANBU member who was in here just before you came in had actually asked to be released from ANBU duty because he couldn't stand it anymore. It's really hard work."

Naruto rolled his eyes and flailed his arms in annoyance.

"Yeah yeah, okay, but regular ninja also have lotsa hard work to do. And they should be subtle and sneaky. And you're right, I'm loud. So wouldn't it be best if you let me work with the ANBU for a while so they can teach me the good stuff? I haven't had a mission in ages and before I just sit around wasting my time I could do some training, right? So why don't you just let me tag along with some of those ANBU guys and maybe I'll learn something useful for a change!"

Tsunade sighed and shook her head. This was Naruto speaking. And in order to keep him from doing anything stupid, she had to think about something which could satisfy the teen. Mhh.. letting him stay among the black ops certainly wouldn't be an option. So perhaps...

Yes!

"All right, all right, I know what you're trying to get at. Look. If you're really that eager to do something, I will assign you a mission, one I'd normally have an ANBU team accomplish. Not because it's so terribly difficult, in fact, it's merely a B-rank, but because most regular shinobi would start complaining about the harsh weather. You would be going to Yukigakure in the Land of Snow*, and you would be staying at this"- she pointed at the mission description sheet – "little cottage. It's just one room, but it'll offer you protection from snow storms and the sort. Your job would be to find out whether anyone tries to intrude because some criminals supposedly seek this cottage after committing crimes. Do you accept the mission?"

Naruto smiled triumphantly and gave a determined nod as he took the mission description sheet out of Tsunade's hand.

"Sure! I'll pack my stuff right away!"

"Well, isn't that good to hear. Oh, and Naruto?"

He turned around and let his eyes meet Tsunade's stern stare.

"Be alert, be subtle and be careful. And don't forget to pack some warm clothes; it's very cold there."

Naruto grinned in sheer confidence and gave a thumbs up.

"I will, baa-chan, no worries! You'll see! This whole thing will be a piece of cake!"

He excitedly left the mission room and bolted to Ichiraku to chow down on some ramen before heading to his apartment to pack his things.


* Yukigakure/Land of Snow: don't think about what happened in the first Naruto movie Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow. I just needed a village in the winter, so I just took Yukigakure. The plot of the movie is absolutely irrelevant to this fanfiction.


Timeline: a few months after the 4th shinobi war.

Attention: a lot of things will deviate from the canon!