Big Fish, Tiny Pond
Author's Note: I've had this snippet on my hard drive for two years. Time to share the wealth.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, but imagine if i did. Yeah.
These are the symptoms
Of letting go of all our hope
Since we can't compete with martyred saints
We'll douse ourselves in gasoline
And hang our bodies from the lampposts
So that our shadows turn into bright lights
-Thursday, "Asleep in the Chapel"
"...like celestial ejaculate, right onto the bosom of heaven."
-Brad Neely, "Jesus Fucking Christ"
Karui pinched the bridge of her nose again.
With Killer Bee under strict house arrest for his unauthorized "vacation," Samui, herself and Omoi were given separate duties to occupy their time. Omoi occupied himself by freelancing as an advanced kenjutsu instructor, Samui attempted to organize the backlogged paperwork dating back to before the somewhat disastrous Kage Summit, and Karui had been saddled with mentoring a genin team for the upcoming chuunin exams to be hosted by the Hidden Mist. This task would not normally be such a pain save for one of her charges being the Raikage's nephew and an insufferably arrogant little shit.
"Oy Keiga, stop picking on Rintaro just because of his specialization," growled Karui slamming her knuckles down on the skull of the Raikage's nephew. She held back none of her strength and the aforementioned Keiga's head snapped downward as he released the headlock he had cinched his teammate into.
"Ouch dammit! I actually felt that," remarked the bulky 14-year old rubbing the top of his skull.
"Good," thought Karui.
Keiga was one of those insufferable my jutsu- is-better-than-your-jutsu bastards. After graduating near the top of his class, he had shown definite aptitude with the Lightning Chakra-based body enhancement techniques his uncles so heavily favored. Of course he made sure everyone around him knew that.
With starkly white hair spiked upwards, bronzed skin, and a naturally muscular frame like the other members of his clan, Keiga looked a few years older than he actually was. He was fond of wearing a sleeveless vest to show off his arms, fingerless gloves with thick forearm protectors, loose fitting pants with shin guards, and his Kumo forehead protector tied firmly around his waist.
The white-haired genin was an upcoming ninjutsu/taijutsu prodigy capable of a respectable fraction of the inhuman speed, power, and durability the Raikage was and the worst part was that he knew it.
Karui sighed and ran her fingers through her dark red hair.
The only thing holding Keiga back was that he head was not in the right place for squad commander. Specifically, it was wedged firmly up his ass.
The other female member of Karui's cell, Tsune, gave her an apologetically knowing glance and shrugged her shoulders. Apparently, she had been dealing with this shit much longer than Karui herself had.
Karui had to suppress a smirk at Tsune's sympathetic gesture. Sympathetic or not, the female genin was fiendishly clever and exceedingly vengeful when angered, and would pretty much be a surefire bet for making chuunin. That is if Karui were a betting woman.
The pale-skinned genin had her curly green hair tied up in four bows. What made her appearance even more curious especially by Kumogakure standards was the weapon she had slung over her shoulder and strapped across her chest. Most Kumo weapon users were, by and large, sword users. Tsune carried her odd specialty-a custom longbow like a badge of pride. The crafty little witch wore it, in part, to color other peoples' first impressions of her. Many people saw the bow and thought her a one trick pony with a largely obsolete trick, much to their consternation later on.
Mostly she wore it because of pride
Tsune was not merely hardheaded, but patently obsessed with taking the Kaioh clan's ancient archery techniques and making them formidable for modern day usage. Somewhere along the way while replacing her traditional bowstring with the finest ninja wire, Tsune developed a fiendish knack for wire techniques, and also disconcertingly strong-capabilities with chakra string usage from guiding her arrows mid-flight. This coupled with the basics of seal-making Tsune studied to store many bundles of arrows, spare bows of differing types, and for the storage and creation of custom explosive tags, the young kunoichi was a walking arsenal.
Trying to close in on an expert bow-user who could place and remotely detonate traps while controlling guided arrows (some of which were also explosively tagged) who also dodged nimbly using wire and chakra strings was a pain that no mere genin should have been able to manage.
Even the stereotypical weakness of a kunoichi, that of a smaller reservoir of chakra to draw from compared to the average male shinobi did not apply to Tsune with her increasingly proficient control. Never one to settle, she also trained hellishly to improve her stamina. The only traces of self-consciousness Tsune appeared to possess was that outside of training and missions, she tended to wear gloves that covered up her slim fingers calloused from countless hours of archery practice.
Rintaro was the runt of the lot.
Kumogakure traditionally prided itself on its taijutsu, weapons, and ninjutsu proficiency, mostly due to a long-ingrained culture of machismo. This was why the Byakugan was so coveted in The Village Hidden in the Clouds. The fact that the ultimate eye ability geared for taijutsu belonged to Konohagakure had long been a sore spot for Kumogakure. Karui herself had been subjected to that same macho mindset as a young kunoichi and was constantly urged to fight like a man, eventually becoming a kenjutsu/taijutsu specialist with a decent repertoire of ninjutsu.
A real man does not run.
A real man does not hide.
A real man overpowers and mows down any enemy placed before him.
By those traditional Kumo standards of masculinity, Rintaro was nowhere close to being a "real man." He was as thin and whispy as he looked, and was blandly unremarkable compared to his teammates, being nowhere near as good as Keiga with taijutsu, and lacking the unorthodox skill sets that made Tsune so formidable. On top of it all, he had chosen to specialize in genjutsu, given his lack of direct combat skills. With that, Rintaro could not have picked a speedier way to place himself on the fringes of Kumo shinobi society.
In spite of all, Karui found herself favoring the black-haired genin for his ironclad loyalty to his village and for his sheer hardheadedness in pursuing his path as a shinobi. He had the appeal of a eager puppy, and appeared to be nursing a bit of a schoolboy's crush towards her. It was a bit of a foreign experience for Karui, but also a bit of an ego booster, truth be told.
She ruffled his hair.
"Just keep perfecting those genjutsu you're so fond of Rintaro, and you'll go far."
Rintaro beamed as if trying to project his smile into space.
"I got pretty far with your mom last night," interjected Keiga, not being able to resist.
"My mother's dead, you dick. You know that!"
Karui was grateful for the awkward silence that followed.
Kirigakure's climate delivered what it promised. It was misty, dreadfully damp, and rainy.
Only recently had the Hidden Mist held chuunin exams opened to allied nations thanks to the reforms spearheaded by the Godaime Mizukage Terumi Mei.
Team Karui huddled together with 4 other teams from Kumogakure and watched genin cells from other villages as they completed their registrations.
"What's the count now?" asked Keiga, idly polishing his shin and forearm armor with an oiled cloth.
"8 Mizu teams, 5 Iwa, 3 Suna, 2 from Kusa, and...hell...looks like only one team from Konoha this year," replied Tsune, "Some minor village teams"
"24 teams overall including us, right?" added Rintaro.
"Only one leaf team in this exam?! Ha! Those poor bastards are gonna get butchered." remarked the muscular genin crudely, grinning.
"It's probably all they could spare since their village was attacked fairly recently," stated the dark-red haired jounin, "It pretty much got devastated. Still, that seems a little odd to send a single team."
Karui went to glance at the genin team in question and almost gasped when she saw a familiar face, one not swollen and beat up this time.
Something churned in her guts at the sight.
"You'll have to excuse me," spoke Karui to her team as she flickered away.
Her yellow eyes glanced at his bright blue ones, not knowing what she would find. Before she could accurately gauge his reactions, a voice interrupted her thought processes.
"Oy, Karui, right? I heard you guys found Killer Bee, congrats!" greeted Naruto.
Naruto's good cheer was somewhat unexpected. It was odd. To Karui, it seemed like he meant it.
"I...I'm sorry about before," blurted out Karui, looking away ashamedly, "You know about the..."
She gestured vaguely about her face, and avoided making eye contact.
"If I had 10 ryo for every time a woman kicked my ass, I'd be hiring ninjas instead of aiming to lead them. S'no problem. We may have gotten off on the wrong foot, but there's no reason we can't be friends now."
Naruto smiled, and extended a hand.
A little stunned, Karui grasped it firmly and shook it, cracking a smile.
"So, you competing this year?" queried the genin with the sunny disposition.
Karui shook her head.
"Ha. Nope, I made special-jounin last year. I've got a team I'm mentoring," said the redhead, pointing her thumb behind her at the crowd of kumo-nin.
"Dammit, is no one my age a genin still?" whined Naruto.
"Wait, you're seriously still a genin?" asked Karui in disbelief, remembering how the blond had impeccably used clones to briefly stand toe-to-toe with Omoi and herself.
The black and orange clad leaf-nin sighed heavily.
"It's a long story, but this is my second try. I was on an extended training trip for a loooooooong while and wasn't able to test normally. So here I am playing catch up. Same shit, different year, I swear."
Karui still looked at him, somewhat doubtful.
"Fine, I'll introduce you to my team if you don't believe me. Hey guys, I gotta someone you should meet!" called Naruto to the two youths lounging behind him.
"Who is it, Naruto-senpai?" wondered a wiry brown-haired young man, accompanied by a sizable cream-colored hound who was nearly . He was watching the crowds of foreign shinobi eyeing his team nervously and wasn't concealing it that well.
"Karui, this here is Eiga, and his awesome partner is Eiko."
Eiga waved, and Eiko let out a friendly, "Woof!" trotting up to Naruto and nudging his leg, clearly wanting the blonde teen to pet her. He patted her side affectionately and she licked at his fingers.
"This cute girl in the long coat is Shizuka."
Shizuka wore a dark pair of sunglasses, and a jacket that obscured most of her features, except for a length of dark and silky hair that had been bound into a tight bun. Despite the layers of clothing impeding her judgment, Karui has the oddest impression that the quiet girl was blushing badly. There was a faint sort of excited humming coming from her coat.
"It is a pleasure meeting you, Karui-san," greeted the girl softly, as soon as the odd sounds ceased.
"Guys, this is Karui. She's a strong jounin, and really handy with that sword of hers. Wait a second, where Anko-sensei?"
"I believe she is out the surveying the local gambling establishments, Naruto-sama. Something about 'investing for her retirement,'" replied Shizuka.
"Should've known," sighed Naruto.
A commotion emerged from the contingent of Kumo-nin.
"Take that back, asshole!" exclaimed a younger person's voice.
"All I said was 'Maybe she wants some cream in her coffee!' You should try crying more, I heard that helps." replied a gruff one.
Karui looked back to see Keiga putting Rintaro into a headlock again, muffled a foul, quite unladylike, curse under her breath.
"Pardon me, but I have to straighten out my little jackasses," addressed Karui to the genin team from Konoha before vanishing.
Naruto turned toward the curious eyes of his teammates.
"Old girlfriend, eh Naruto-sempai?" inquired Eiga not so innocently, nudging Naruto with his elbow.
"Come on, man. Don't even start with all that wink-wink-nudge-nudge business. I traveled with the author the Icha Icha series for years," Naruto rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "Seriously, you've got decades to go before you'd even compare."
Karui parked herself in an empty seat at a restaurant booth and ordered a big bowl of noodle soup. The special-jounin wasn't particularly a huge fan of noodle soup, but it felt perfect for miserably overcast and damp weather such as this. When her order arrived, the golden-eyed young woman picked at it and reflected on the dressing down she had to deliver to two members of her temporary cell.
She dragged both boys by their ears like the misbehaving children they were to a fairly isolated spot and scolded them harshly for their behavior.
"Everything that you do from here on out is not only a reflection of yourselves, but also our home, you idiots! So act like some goddamn professionals and watch your words, actions, and reactions."
Scowling severely, the red-haired young woman smacked them both upside the head.
"If you make it to the end, the Raikage himself will be tracking your progress in the finals."
At that, Rintaro seemed sufficiently cowed. Honestly, Karui doubted if Keiga felt the same, but least he was quiet.
With her chopsticks, she grabbed the swirled white and pink fishcake floating in her broth and took a bite.
One of these days, Keiga was going to wind up mouthing off to the wrong person and...
It would be ugly, very very ugly.
Karui shook her head at the thought and finished the rest of her fishcake.
Mmm...The soup here was pretty good.
Naruto almost twiddled his fingers in boredom waiting for the first part of the exam to start. Every prospective chuunin had been herded into a sizable room that had been outfitted with a large number of chairs and tables, all neatly arranged.
"They're probably not going to test our chair and table arrangement abilities, so it'll probably be a written exam. No worries. It'll be a breeze," stated Naruto reassuringly to his tense teammates.
"You sound pretty fucking arrogant for someone who only has two teammates as backup, Leaf-nin," interrupted a stranger harshly.
Naruto's swiveled his gaze from his concerned comrades to the rude newcomer.
A massive white-haired genin with a Kumo hitai-ite tied around his waist stood smugly, backed by more genin from other teams from The Village Hidden in the Clouds. It was the same dumb asshole who caused an unsightly commotion during registration
"It ain't all bark if you've got the bite to back it up, Meathead. Is making a jackass out of yourself in public one of your natural talents or do you gotta work hard at it?" questioned Naruto, oh-so-innocently.
"It's a god-given talent," muttered a scrawny Kumo-genin to the side of the white-haired nin, "C'mon, Keiga. Let's just get seated and get this first part of this exam over and done with."
"Shut the fuck up, Rintaro. This bitch here ain't gonna do a goddamn thing," scowled the tall taijutsu specialist, thumbing towards Naruto. "That's pretty tough talk there, Blondie, for someone whose home village folded like a house of cards recently. I thought Konoha was supposed to be a pretty big deal and all, but it sounds like you guys got bent over and taken to the hilt."
The nearby chatter stopped and pretty much everyone stared at the members of the Konoha team. Even Rintaro felt a little taken aback by Keiga's comments.
Had Naruto been a little bit younger, a vicious fight would have likely have broken out right then and there with Naruto throwing the first punch, the first punch more likely being a Rasengan. Being older and wiser, the blond's eyes merely narrowed to dangerous slits and while his fists and jaw clenched.
Naruto thrust out an arm to his side to hold a somewhat impulsive Eiga back. Shizuka looked composed, but almost thrummed in irritation. Thankfully, Naruto had enough self-control to clamp down on any killing intent, but a feeling like psychic static weighed down upon the shoulders of his nearby teammates.
Seeing the signs a mile away, Aburame Shizuka and Inuzuka Eiga wisely started to inch away from their de-facto cell leader, while other teams of ninja immediately trained their eyes on the arguing genin from opposing nations.
Naruto took a deep breath and unclenched his hands, grinning widely. Anger could be focused and directed towards something other than physical violence. Doing so required focus and saint-like patience, but words could devastate as well as fists. Pein had shown him that.
"Oy, you got a medical condition?" inquired Naruto to the rude Kumo-nin.
"Nope, why?" smirked Keiga.
"'Cuz I can't figure out why shit keeps pouring out your mouth instead of your ass."
A smattering of observers laughed out loud.
Naruto squinted at the rude cloud-nin.
"Maybe you're doing a handstand, I can't tell. Either way, I guess I should give you and your little buddy some private time to...ya' know...plug that leak."
Naruto shrugged, refreshingly jovial.
More people cracked up, including a portion of the Cloud-nin's entourage. The huge teen flustered in anger and the scrawny one in embarrassment.
Someone at the back of the group of Kumo-nin shouted, "Keiga and Rintaro leaning 'gainst a tree F-U-C-K-I-N-!"
"Shut your hole, Kensuke!" shouted the aformentioned Keiga, towards another Kumo-nin with a sword, white hair and dark skin as well, "Don't you got any fucking loyalty, you traitor?"
"Yo, man. A good line's a good line," responded the swordsman.
Naruto felt a little guilty for outright poaching one of Jiraiya's drunken taunts delivered years ago to a particularly rude bar patron, but like Ero-Sennin always said, "If you're going to steal, Kid, steal from the best."
While lecturing about other regions, the world-famous author also once said, "If you really want to piss off someone from Kumogakure, insult his manhood. They tend to get overly defensive about things like that," also those girls from Kusa are *hick* hooottt, but the early bird gets the...oh damn I'm gonna puke, continue fondling this hot lady's magnificent rack while I find the john*hick*
"I-uh-that's okay" responded Naruto putting up his hands in protest...
...and that's how Uzumaki Naruto ended up with his first handful of titty, along with a couple other firsts. It was a pretty wild fucking night.
"Hey man, love is a beautiful multi-tentacled thing. No need to suppress your feelings for Rintaro. Just get a room first, and clean up after yourselves," added Naruto.
Oddly enough, that line actually did echo Naruto's beliefs somewhat concerning romance.
Not really interested in hearing Naruto's glib advice, the snow-haired Kumo-nin looked more like he was about to end up shitting a brick sideways.
Ha! God rest Ero-sennin's sleazy, skirt-chasing soul. That man may not have been able to sustain a consistently believable narrative throughout the course of an entire multi-volume porn saga, but he could sure as hell toss off a competently slurred, pointedly direct insult when a situation demanded it of him.
As it often did, boldness rather than wisdom got the better of the youngest Toad Sage. Naruto continued.
"But really, you don't know a thing, do you? How many S-ranked nin with bloodline limits right out of shinobi mythology has your village dealt with recently?"
"Well, what the fuck have you done? You're a goddamn genin like the rest of us." spat Keiga, "You were probably too busy dry-humping trees to protect your home. I bet you never even-"
Naruto cackled evilly at that interrupting the Kumo-nin.
The poor, poor ignorant bastard.
"I've fought more dangerous enemies than you've had days without taking steroids, No-Neck. Taking that shit is just reckless, man. Odds are that veiny body of yours don't look too proportional right now with those dangerously shrunken balls. Right, ladies?"
With those last lines, Naruto held his index fingers a certain distance apart, about the length of a standard kunai, and diminished that distance ruthlessly. While his insults may have not been the most original or eloquent ever, Naruto's timing and delivery were rock-solid, and, for some blessed reason, the insults ended up flowing liberally like cheap sake from a bottle, or like vomit from the mouth of a perpetual lush.
"But who knows? Maybe years down the line, having a tiny penis will be the hottest trend, and fashionable young women all over the continent will flock to pet your withered manhood like they would a toy dog. Man, I'd look pretty foolish then."
Naruto surveyed the entire room full of foreign kunoichi listening in with a beatific expression. Some giggled, others cracked smirks, and the rest carefully guarded their expressions. The bold leaf-nin even winked saucily at the green-haired kunoichi behind his verbal punching post. She appeared to watch her muscular comrade's reaction warily.
"If you need time to figure out a comeback, Short Stack, you can confer with all those nin behind you...but only until I grow tired of you being stupid, boring, and useless."
The white haired nin started to quake with rage.
If there was one thing Uzumaki Naruto mastered as a child, it was the various methods of how to annoy even the most stoic of individuals. As it were, Keiga was not the most patient or thickest-skinned individual out there. The blond genin curled his fingers in a come-hither motion and bobbed his head in a repeated side-to-side fashion, awaiting a response for what seemed an entire eternity consisting of excruciatingly slow seconds.
Complete strangers throughout the exam room awaited the outcome with bated breath. The moment of truth had arrived at least.
"Sooooooooorry. Time's over. Thanks for playing. You can fuck off and die now. I'm done with you." Naruto waved daintily. "The money's on your mom's dresser."
"Alright," said the young Toad Sage clapping his hands together, turning toward his frankly stunned teammates. Eiga's jaw was still dropped and Shizuka was redder than any Aburame than Naruto had ever seen. "Come on guys, it's not like those seats are going to warm themselves."
A massive and nasty spike of chakra and killing intent emerged from the genin Naruto thoroughly, repeatedly, and excessively insulted in public.
Hands, all around the room, inched towards overt and concealed weapons pouches and tensed to form seals.
"A delayed reaction. Interesting," thought Uzumaki Naruto of the cloud-nin's reaction, who was frothing incoherently. At the prospect of the impending unsanctioned fight, Naruto mentally groaned "Aaaaaw shiiiiiit. The mission!"
3 weeks ago in Konohagakure
Donning his normal jounin vest with pornographic literature nowhere in sight, Hatake Kakashi sat at the Hokage's desk with Lady Tsunade still bedridden. The only remaining sannin was still very weak, but had recovered enough to the temporarily appoint the silver-haired jounin as the acting-Hokage in her absence. With the combined fiasco of Danzo's treacherous performance at the Five Kage Summit, and Uchiha Sasuke's abso-fucking-lutely bugnuts betrayal of his former village with his assassination of the officially unofficial 6th Hokage and the attempted murder of various Leaf shinobi, the village council and the Daimyo of Fire Country had no other course of action but to support it.
Kakashi's only visible eye wrinkled into a gesture recognizable as a frown as he waited for Uzumaki Naruto to appear in the office.
Both Naruto and Kakashi in the previous week had faced an insane Uchiha Sasuke, with Naruto saving his teacher's life with a senjutsu powered blow that connected with multiple audibly nasty sounds indicating multiple broken bones and severely ruptured organs. Kakashi was quick to silently and swiftly run a simple kunai across the youngest Uchiha's unconscious face, forever mangling his wayward student's deactivated Sharingan eyes, causing Uchiha Madara emit inarticulate shouts of likely decades old frustration and rage. Naruto found it fitting to flip the ancient and elusive orange-masked man the middle finger before the Akatsuki Leader teleported away.
Konoha's reputation had been damaged badly with Pein's assault on the village, Danzo's treacherous actions at the summit and his subsequent assassination, and with the missing-nin Uchiha Sasuke's foolish attack on the Kage Summit. Even considering Uchiha Sasuke's capture, it was too little too late.
Someone rapped on the office door sharply.
"Come in," replied the masked and bandaged acting-hokage, now feeling like a little kid who was now impossibly in over his head.
"Kakashi-sensei, you wanted to speak with me?"
Naruto stepped into the room, looking every bit the shinobi his parents would have ever hoped for him to become.
"Take a seat, please."
The son of the White Fang motioned to an empty seat in front of him. Naruto sat, leaning forward, with elbows resting on knees, curious at the sudden summons.
"Naruto, by all means we should have awarded you a battlefield promotion to chuunin, possibly even jounin (or special jounin more likely) for your recent combat performance, but Konoha needs your help now more than ever...as a genin."
"Wha...Is there a mission you've got for me?"
The silver haired jounin nodded.
"Because of the recent Akatsuki activity, confidence in Konoha's superiority is shaken, that means less missions, and less revenue to rebuild. We've had our village demolished, and two Hokages taken out of commission. We're weak right now, and nearly every hidden village out there knows it. All the major villages we are allied with now know this. If anyone wants to take us out, it will be soon."
Naruto's head hung low at the news. War looming on the horizon was what had Pein warned him of with his dying breath, and it was coming much sooner than he had anticipated. He closed his eyes.
"What can I do to help?" asked Naruto quietly.
"I want you to represent the strength and resolve of Konoha at the upcoming chuunin exams in Kiri and to put fear of God back into anyone and anything that dare have the inclination to harm us. Show them what you can do and what Konoha is capable of in a relatively secure, public manner.
"Infiltrate the exams and get to the final matches without drawing much attention to yourself. But when the finals arrive, befriend who you can and crush who you must. I want you to put on quite the show. Use mass clones, Toad Summoning, Rasengan and its variants, Senjutsu, basically whatever anything that the other villages will not be able to copy, save for the Kyuubi's chakra. Understand?"
Kakashi smiled with his uncovered eye.
Smirking, Naruto nodded. How often did one get essentially a blank cheque mission to, essentially, show off?
The acting Hokage turned deadly serious for a moment.
"It's important that you not blow your cover beforehand and to watch your back after the final matches, hostiles might seek to assassinate you and your team. And since we currently have a shortage of manpower in the village right now, we are only capable of sending one genin team to Kirigakure-your team."
"Wait a second. Who's on my team?"
"I've taken the liberty of picking out a Jounin and two genin. All three are specialists in tracking, escape, and evasion," answered Kakashi, handing a small stack of files to his genin student.
With that Kakashi, through the urging of Tsunade-sama, placed the reputation and safety of Konohagakure in Uzumaki Naruto's hands.
End Part 1