Why Experienced Shinobi Don't Normally Use Alarm Clocks
Kakashi limped into the Hokage's office and pulled himself up straight in front of the old man.
"Kakashi, report," Sarutobi said, sounding anxious. "What in hell happened to you?"
Kakashi looked rather bedraggled, his hair was even more messy than normal and was that blood on his shoulder?
"Next time," Kakashi said, his glare fixed on the Hokage, making him look positively dangerous. "You assign an S-ranked ninja to my team, warn me beforehand."
Though Kakashi had barely raised his voice, he still sounded murderous.
The Hokage had not been expecting this response and gave his articulate reply: "What?"
Kakashi pulled out a copy of one of the bingo books and threw it to the Hokage, open on a specific page.
"Something one of my students said piqued my cuiousity and I thought I'd check out his claim. This is the latest edition of the bingo book."
Sarutobi stared down at the page before him.
Age: unknown – estimated as 16
Warnings: Highly dangerous. Upon sighting immediate retreat is advised.
Sarutobi found himself widening his eyes as the list of aliases continued for nearly the rest of the page. There had to be close to fifty different aliases there, but only one caught his attention: Kazama Arashi.
That was the false name he'd fed Naruto about his father when the boy had been four.
"Is this—" Sarutobi began.
"Turn the page," Kakashi said grimly.
The Hokage did so and his eyes immediately fell on the image of Naruto, a sword held in his hand, mid-strike. He was dressed in clothes native to somewhere in Water Country, the sugegasa that Sarutobi had seen him wearing just days before to cover his face hanging behind his head. But that wasn't what really scared Sarutobi. Naruto's eyes were red in the image.
"Kyuubi," the Hokage muttered.
Kakashi frowned at the elderly man as he turned to his ANBU guard.
"Hawk, fetch Uzumaki Naruto," the Hokage instructed as the masked man moved out of the shadows. "We have a few things to discuss."
Naruto opened his eyes.
Huh? Why were his hands covered in red paint?
Naruto looked himself up and down. He was soaked in red paint. What was going on? And what was that smell? It smelled … like blood.
Naruto caught sight of the corpse in front of him and everything came crashing down. He'd done this. He'd killed them. He was a monster…
Why had nobody told him? Then he could have done something…
Now, he was merely a heartless monster, wasn't he? He was just the kyuubi's vessel. Just a monster.
Naruto's knees gave way underneath him. Had he enjoyed that?
Was he simply a monster?
'NO!' he screamed to himself. He wouldn't let himself become a monster! He would train. He would stop himself.
And to train, he needed a teacher…
Naruto's long trained senses were what roused him from his sleep, causing him to draw a kunai from beneath his pillow, whirling around to face his would-be attacker. Naruto's hand was already reaching for his sword when he noticed the stylised mask.
"Wolf-san," he said with a nod, pushing his kunai back under his pillow.
"The Hokage requests your presence," the ANBU said in his monotone voice.
Naruto sighed, pushing off the covers and reaching for some form of clothes to throw on. It didn't escape the ANBU's notice that he hadn't let go of his sword.
"At three am?" Naruto asked blearily, catching sight of the alarm clock.
If it was possible to tell through the mask, Naruto guessed that the ANBU was giving him a pointed look.
In a half dazed state from sleep, Naruto threw on whatever clothes he could find in the darkness before tying his mother's Uzu hitae-ate around his forehead in an effort to keep his bangs out of his eyes.
"Let's go," Naruto said.
The ANBU grabbed his wrist and, with a lazy one-handed seal, they disappeared in a swirl of empty air.
Kakashi had watched the interaction between Naruto and the Hokage with avid attention. Not that he'd shown it, making sure to keep his nose buried in his book.
When his sensei's son had disappeared from the village nearly ten years ago, Kakashi had been distraught. Then, after that, Rin had gone MIA and Kakashi had fallen even deeper into depression. It had only been by throwing himself into work that Kakashi had avoided self-destructing.
Kakashi knew enough about the search for Naruto to know that the fact he'd been able to avoid all of the recon squads sent after him for years meant that his sensei's son was good. Very good.
But, seeing the blonde haired genin before him, Kakashi was forced to admit that Naruto was a lot more like his father than he had originally given him credit for. Not only was the likeness in terms of appearance disturbing, but Naruto had inherited his father's sharp mind too.
The one thing that had never ceased to impress Kakashi about his sensei was how he always knew exactly the right thing to say. With infiltration, he could turn someone into an asset without them even realising it, with a stressed comrade he could always reassure him and with interrogation, he could dance around with his speech so skilfully that you never realised it was happening until it was too late.
As Kakashi watched Naruto dodge question after question with ease, he couldn't help but smile that the blond had inherited that part of his father's personality.
It was almost amusing, actually, the way that Naruto was playing the Hokage like a game of dice, but rather worrying at the same time. Since it was the Hokage and all.
Kakashi chuckled at the absurdity of it all, lifting his book up as an excuse when both Naruto and Sarutobi turned to glare at him.
Sakura stared impassively at her incapacitated teammates, her mind whirring.
She had a small arsenal of medical techniques, none of which were mastered to a degree that they could be used safely, and knew very few other ninjutsu bar the academy three. Her taijutsu was weak at best and her genjutsu, whilst advanced for her age, was still barely non-existent.
She'd always been the medic in her team, applying first aid when her teammates were injured, but she'd barely even started her medical apprenticeship. Sakura didn't feel confident that she wouldn't permanently injure her teammates in a misguided attempt to heal them.
Suddenly, Sakura's green eyes turned frosty.
If she couldn't safely use medical techniques, she would just have to use them hazardously.
She would carve herself a bloody path through this exam and get her teammates out alive…
Sakura stirred in her sleep, blinking herself awake.
That dream … bad memories...
It seemed that the test yesterday had dredged up some old memories of her first genin team. Sakura sighed and looked at her clock. It was barely 7:30.
Kakashi had told them to meet him at eight, which gave her approximately three and a half hours before she needed to be at the designated meeting place.
Well, she supposed, she could use this time productively.
Sakura threw on some clothes before walking down the battered path to Konoha's hospital.
Sasuke was frozen in fear.
Strewn on the ground before him were the dead bodies of sensei and teammates, helpless and lifeless. He'd been left until last because … because he was 'more fun to play with'.
Sasuke told his limbs to move, but he remained motionless, overcome by the suffocating Killer Intent. Sasuke couldn't help but stare at the man in front of him in fear, his knuckles becoming white as he refused to drop his kunai.
Sasuke hadn't seen this much blood since the massacre. Blood on the walls, crimson flecks on the ceiling, pools of red on the floor…
Suddenly, the memories were pouring back into Sasuke, his eyes widening in horror as he watched his br—That Man slaughter everyone he ever loved and cared about. Sasuke dropped the kunai, bringing his hand up to clutch his head, the strangling KI forgotten in the pure horror of the memories.
Again and again, Sasuke watched That Man kill everyone. Unbidden, words came to Sasuke's lips.
He had been so helpless, hadn't he? Damnit! Why wasn't he stronger? Why couldn't he have protected everyone?
"Sasuke, pull yourself together!"
Sasuke looked up, his traumatized black eyes meeting a concerned green.
Haruno Sakura sat in front of Sasuke, a first-aid kit in her hands. Sasuke half expected the pinkette to fuss, but instead she just took his arm and started dressing his wounds.
Even though he should have been wincing in pain as Sakura applied disinfectant, Sasuke found himself giving a weak smile. Help had arrived. Now, he could finally … stop … stop fighting…
Sasuke jolted awake.
It had been that same nightmare again.
Why? Sasuke asked himself. Why did all his best memories have to be intertwined with pain?
When his alarm clock started beeping, Sasuke crushed it with his fist in anger.
Why? Why couldn't the past just stay buried?
He was a different person now. He had friends… Nakama… (AN1)
He'd jump in front of a kunai for any one of his precious people without hesitation, but…
He hadn't been prepared to do it back then.
Sasuke sighed before getting dressed and heading out.
It was with a rueful smile that he decided what he was going to do. He would see how his old teammates were doing.
"Hey, Watanabe-kun," Sakura said softly. "It's been a long time right?"
The person in front of her made no attempt to answer.
"So much has happened since we last spoke," she continued. "I got a new genin team and no longer have a bodyguard tailing me. That's great isn't it?"
Again, no answer.
"My teammates are a bit weird, but I suppose we work well together, in a dysfunctional sort of way."
Sakura reached out and took the limp hand of her teammate, her eyes travelling over the various life support systems.
"Of course," Sakura finished, a sad smile in place. "They could never compare to you and Retsushi-kun."
Then, Sakura sat in silence, her only company being the steady beeps of Watanabe's heart monitor.
Naruto looked at the memorial stone, a sort of detached distress in his eyes.
"The bodies of your parents were found arm in arm, Naruto," the Hokage had said.
Naruto reached out with a hand and traced the kanji of his parents' names.
"Sorry, mum, dad," Naruto said softly as he placed a bouquet of flowers down in front of the stone. "This is the first time I've ever visited your grave. I didn't even know this was here until recently."
Naruto allowed his hand to drift down the stone, trying not to cry.
Naruto whirled around, turning to see the face of his teammate.
"Sasuke?" Naruto asked, furrowing his brow. "What are you doing here?"
The last Uchiha held up three bouquets of flowers.
"Paying my respects to the dead," he answered curtly. "You?"
"Visiting my parents' grave," Naruto replied, emptiness lingering in his tone.
Whatever answer Sasuke had been expecting, this was not it. He walked past Naruto, laying the bouquets down next to Naruto's, before turning to face his blond teammate.
"Your parents were Konoha Shinobi?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at Naruto's hitae-ate.
Naruto nodded, pushing himself up off the ground, where he'd been kneeling.
"My mother came to Konoha after the fall of Uzu," he answered easily. Naruto pointed to her name on the stone. "Her name was Kushina. Uzumaki Kushina."
Sasuke felt his body go limp in shock.
"D-did," Sasuke asked, mentally noting how improper it was for an Uchiha to stutter, "did she have r-red hair?"
Naruto shot him a funny look.
"Most Uzumaki had red hair," he remarked. "But yes, she did. Why do you ask?"
Sasuke reached into his jacket, withdrawing the three photos he had folded there. The only three photos he really had.
The first was his mother and father's marriage photo. The second was his old team photo. The last, was a picture of his mother in her younger days, sat at an earlier version of the Ichiraku Ramen Stand.
Uchiha Mikoto was laughing in the photo, pointing to her red-headed friend with visible mirth as she downed an entire bowl of ramen in one. In the background was a blond-haired teen, whose eyes were bugging at the redhead's ability to eat so quickly. The blond was an early version of the Yondaime. The redhead, he'd later found out, was Uzumaki Kushina.
Sasuke handed Naruto the photo.
"She knew my mother," he said. "They were best friends."
Kakashi stood on the bridge where he had told his team to meet him at eight o'clock sharp, growing increasingly irritated as he waited.
He'd turned up on time, for once, with the hope of making a good first impression after the debacle that was the Bell Test.
So where the hell was everybody?
Alright folks, that's a wrap. I can't be asked to write another bit for this chapter so we'll cut it off there.
AN1: nakama. All those who watch One Piece will know what this word means, it's the cast's favourite thing to say (we're nakama!) It basically means friends, but something deeper, more like comrades or family.
Well, now that I've breached 5,000 words, I'll take a break from writing and posting this. Adios! Until next time.
PS: Review please!