"Mr. Mazuki, you are making this far more difficult than it needs to be. Just stay beside us and we will not have any issues." Neji dressed down the man they were escorting, a weaselly sort of fellow named Eita Mazuki. He seemed underfed, overdressed, and troublesome. None of them liked the man almost instantly, when he tried to ass-kiss Minato while demeaning his students in an subtle yet obvious manner.
"Well Neji," He addressed the Hyuga back, "since I am paying you guys it would make sense if you just stayed around me! And I don't want any of you following me if I need to take a leak." He brutishly told the group.
Minato pinched the bridge of his nose. A terrible client, a fishy situation, this would only get worse, wouldn't it? He walked up to beside the gap between the two.
"Well Mr. Mazuki, you will have all the privacy you want if nature calls, but you already agreed to listen to us by requesting this mission. It gets complicated, but essentially if we feel you are threatening this mission, we can call it completed before it is and still receive payment while you are left wherever this may occur. And you are still a fair bit away from your home so I advise you cooperate with us." Minato firmly told their client.
He didn't like the sound of that, but he complied with a 'harumph'. He settled into the long walk into the northern half of the Land of Fire. Considering everything, this mission would be about a week to get to his port and 3 days back. He wanted to create a mood that would stop his students from killing their client in the meantime.
"So Mr. Mazuki, what exactly was your company trying to do in the Land of Water? Even their neighbors can't seem to get much business with the country under its current Daimyo and Kage." Minato asked to give them a new focus.
Mazuki eyes went wide, as the question was surprised him. He licked his lips before he answered. "Well, Namikaze sir, we handle in shipments as you are aware. We were trying to work out a contract to exclusively sell goods from the Lands of Lightning and Frost that we ship into the Land of Water. Our reports have shown that the shipping industry has been severely damaged during their internal dispute and that in order to have a fast recovery when it ends they will need immediate assistance."
"When? I remember the Academy teaching us that the civil war on Kiri has been going on for years, so what makes you think it will end soon?" Tenten chimed in, gaining the attention of the two men.
Mazuki licked his lips again. "Well girly," He ignored the sneer that came across Tenten's face from that comment, "wars can't last forever. And when it does end, we at Elite Lightning Shipping intend to be ready to start shipping goods to Land of Water and cornering the market against our competitors."
Minato looked at the man, the fishy feeling coming in force again. Something was just off about what he said, his company seemed to be expecting resolution far sooner than Konoha brass did on the nation's conflict. In fact, they expected a new plateau in violence not seen since the Kaguya Clan's stand.
His concentration when he noticed Lee looking suspiciously in the distance, when he saw it as well. Three bandits were stalking them on the side of the road. He finished up his conversation with Mazuki with a "I see" and walked over to his student. Neji and Tenten were still more focused on their client, so he decided to put some trust in his student. He tapped him on his shoulder, catching Lee's attention. He gave him a quick nod, which got a grin from Rock Lee. He motioned him towards the bandits with a quick head gesture. He moved to cover the client as Lee made a sudden dash.
The trio of criminals scattered in surprise as Lee crashed their location. He took out the first with a jumping kick that sent him into the nearby tree with a loud crash. The second swung and missed wildly as Lee changed direction. He saw the third pulling out a weapon so he quickly smacked his arm away, before giving a double palm thrust to the man's chest. He dodged the second bandit's second punch and tried to deliver a knockout punch of his own. By sheer luck he missed and had to dodge a third punch. He hit back with a glancing blow and turned his attention to the third bandit. He was now brandishing the dagger, winded from Lee's blow. Lee rushed in, dodged the blow that was aimed at his head and hit a roundhouse kick that reached the man's neck. The man stumbled, but didn't drop his dagger. Lee quickly reached for the man's wrist and began to pull him in a different direction. Like a whip, Lee sent the man into the other bandit who was charging Lee. They crashed into each other, the dagger dropped. As they stumbled, Lee rushed in and delivered a knockout punch to one bandit's head while following it with a hard second punch to only standing bandit. Lee jumped into the air and delivered a kick to the side of the head of the man, finally knocking him out. He turned to the first man who was trying to stand up, but the man quickly sat back down. The fight was over.
It was less than thirty seconds.
"Report Lee." Minato asked his student as the group reached up to where the fight had been.
"Just bandits, sensei. One had a dagger, but I disarmed him quickly." Lee saluted, keeping an eye on the last bandit.
Mazuki let out a loud sigh of relief, which caught Minato's and Neji's eye. He didn't notice their looks. "It looks like one of you kids are actually good for something. Thank you Rock Lee." He became much nicer to Lee.
Minato looked at the three bandits and sighed. While it would be better for the area if they got them to the local jail, it was out of their way by a fair bit and more hassle than it was worth. "Lee, Tenten take their weapons and gear. Fellows, I would you move out and get out of the bandit business. Because next time, it is jail or knowing some ninja, death."
His students were quick to follow his actions and in ten minutes they were on their way and left three humiliated bandits. Minato was pleased to notice that Mazuki was much more quiet as they continued on.
This peace continued through the next couple nights, when they were staying in a hospitable hotel in the Land of Hot Springs. The team had split into three rooms, with Lee sharing one with their client Mazuki, Tenten getting her own and Neji and Minato sharing one. Neji refused to sleep with Lee due to a few mishaps and he was not stupid enough to but Neji and the client in the same room. They had split up for the time being, with Minato keeping a close eye on Mr. Eita Mazuki while the three genin relaxed and ate dinner. The two adults were in the hot springs that seemed to exist at every hotel in this country, relaxing as they enjoyed the warm water.
Minato was keeping an eye on the man and noticed something surprising. While it really wasn't seen under his clothes, Mazuki was in great shape for a man his size. He also noticed scarring that was more typical of shinobi than salesman. He decided to toss him a softball. "So, how did you get that scar on your shoulder? It looks fairly nasty." He pointed to the shoulder closest to him.
Mazuki looked down to see what he was talking about before licking his lips. "Oh, I got this in a fight with an old ex. Bitch was crazy, went at me with a knife. Dumb too, she thought my heart was on this side of my chest." He told him with a dumb sounding tone
"Mr. Mazuki, your heart is on that side of the chest." Minato bluntly informed him.
His eyes went comedically wide. "Really? I swear I heard otherwise."
Minato shook his head. "You can trust me on this one. I've killed enough men with stabs to the heart to know where it is."
Mazuki froze. "R-really now?" He looked shaken.
"Indeed, I don't like to talk about it. But when I had to stop Iwa's last charge in the third war, I ended up dispatching a fair number of them with a kunai into the heart." Minato recalled that unpleasant memory.
Mazuki casually rubbed over the spot where his heart was. "Oh... I see." Minato heard the more robotic tone in that voice.
"Yeah, if you do it right they die quick. But if you are just a little off, it can take hours before a person dies. I have seen it in action, and I could only wish that on my worst enemies, and only just." Minato played with the classic phrase to great effect.
Mazuki was shook, and politely excused himself out of the hot springs. Minato let the waters sink into his bones a few minutes more as his thoughts centered around Eita Mazuki, if that was his real name. While he appeared to be a good actor, a scrawny salesman who mouthed off to people he thought inferior but kissed the asses of his superiors, he wasn't great. He hammed it up with the scar bit too much for one. And watching the body language the last two days, Minato had gotten a few suspicions. But seeing the bare body had confirmed his suspicions. They were transporting a spy back from Kiri to Kumo. The only question that was left to answer was why. He didn't like what he came up with
"You let her con you into a date?" Kiba looked shocked at Naruto during their lunch break.
Naruto scratched his head, embarrassed. "I know, but maybe it will stop if it doesn't work. And I win if it does work. I mean, it can't get much worse, right?" He looked to Sasuke who was eating with them that day.
Sasuke looked away from Naruto. "You sound like a total idiot. Of course it could get worse. If she thinks it goes well and it didn't, she is more motivated and won't get the hint. And now other girls will expect a date with you as well. Dumb move, Uzubaka."
Naruto narrowed his eyes. "Shut up, teme." He didn't want to point out the fact that he was actually right. It could make it worse. "Then what would you do if you were in my shoes?" Naruto asked, in a way he thought was clever.
Sasuke rolled his eyes, but actually gave it serious thought. Probably because it could happen to him. "Sabotage the date?"
"Sabotage? You mean screw it up on purpose? Wouldn't it be obvious?" Kiba asked.
Sasuke shrugged. "Well, then it should be obvious to them I'm not interested." He had a flash of realization. "Which they ignore already, so they could probably think of something to excuse it." Sasuke countered his own argument.
"Maybe you can just be yourself, Naruto. You are an idiot, don't have good manners, too brightly colored, think of pranks, not really smart, and obsess over ramen. If a girl sees that, there is no way they will still be interested in you." Kiba joked.
Naruto narrowed his eyes. "That sounds a lot like you, except you obsess over your dog instead of ramen and smell terrible." He commented back.
"I can kick your ass, though, so any girl would see I'm better." Kiba puffed his chest.
"Yeah right, I would totally kick your ass. And my toads would beat your dogs everyday of the week."
Kiba looked liked he was going to respond back, but the memory of the giant toad Naruto had summoned during his spar with Chiyoko Akimichi. Before he said something, Sasuke intervened. "Your pissing contest can go somewhere where I'm not eating. In fact, why don't you just go somewhere else." Sasuke told the two exasperated.
Kiba glared at him. "Why are you even here anyway, Uchiha? If anyone is a fanboy, it is you! You didn't give anybody in class a minute before, but ever since Naruto's dad came back you have been hanging out with him a lot!" He suddenly had a sinister grin. "Maybe the reason you don't like your fangirls is because you want fanboys! Naruto run, Sasuke is a fanboy!"
Naruto knew that was kinda ridiculous, but it was too good to ignore. "OH CRAP! Sas-Uke, you are pretty cool, but I don't like you that way."
Kiba began to snicker. "Sas-Uke? Dude, your family totally knew!"
That was probably the wrong thing to say. Sasuke was already getting mad, but the comment about his family took him over the edge. "Dog Boy, Idiot, I am going to hurt you. Badly." He got up, and the duo knew it was their cue to run. They immediately left the confines of the Academy grounds as Sasuke was chasing them. Iruka was quickly on their tails when he saw what was happening.
In a different place, five girls were chatting. Two were not really distinguishable from other girls, but the purple outfit blonde hair combo, the White Eyes, and bright pink hair made clear who the other 3 were.
"The date is going to be perfect! I already know where it is going to be. You know that cafe near Kobato's? That place has some really good dishes that will be perfect." Ino was bragging about her date to the other four. Three of them looked jealous, but the pink haired girl was just annoyed.
"Hey, that was where I wanted Sasuke to take me! Pick some other place, it is way too good for that idiot Naruto and a piggy like you."
Three girls took offense to Sakura calling Naruto an idiot, and Ino rolled her eyes. "Like Sasuke would ever be dumb enough to let himself be seen in public with a walking billboard."
The final girl who hadn't reacted looked down. "I don't think that is a g-good choice. Naruto loves ramen, and that place doesn't have it. It would be smarter to take him to his favorite restaurant." Hinata began to poke her fingers together as the attention was turned to her.
"Ichikaru's? It isn't bad or anything, but he should also be made clear that he will need to take me to other places. A date is supposed to be special."
"Your date is what it special, not what you do on it." Hinata was quick to reply, surprised at her own quip.
One of the nameless girls cut in. "But a date should be fun! And shoveling your face with ramen isn't fun!" Her fangirlness showed.
Ino, however listened to Hinata's fair point. "Yeah, but you are supposed to build memories on dates and that is easier when you do something interesting. And I want to have an interesting date with Naruto so he knows I'm right for him."
Sakura let out a long sigh. "Whatever, I might not like him but he deserves something better than a pig like you, Ino. Hey, why don't you date him Hinata? You seem to get along with him, and you kinda work. That opposites attract thing. You quiet, he loud. You smart, he dumb, it is perfect!"
Hinata shriveled under the attention but blushed at Sakura's claim. Ino rolled her eyes.
"Well, it doesn't matter what you think Billboard Brow because I am going to have Naruto Uzumaki fall in love with me tomorrow!"
Just some business I am clearing up. It may take some time, but I am going to go back and uniformly change this story into a no suffix story save a few specific instances. I flip-flop too often in my stories, so I am going to fix that.
Secondly, this chapter is shorter than what I was expecting, but I know it will take me a few more weeks to complete the second part so I have decided to save it for the next chapter.
What's Coming Up: Naruto's date with Ino, Team Minatwo in the Land of Lightning, Naruto meets with Danzo yet again during Doton Clone training and Team Minatwo back in Konoha
Drop a review on what you think, and see you next time!