They'd traveled most of the day to get to this village in the Land of Waterfalls. As they crested the hill, the village finally became visible, nestled in a hamlet and surrounded by trees. It was virtually a hidden village, but then, all villages in the Land of Waterfalls were like that.
Naruto lit up at the sight of the village. "Yes! Ramen!"
Jiraiya grabbed the back of his collar and stopped him. "You can't eat ramen all the time. It doesn't have enough calories for the kind of training we're doing."
Naruto twisted around, batting at Jiraiya's hand. "Then I'll eat more of it."
"Ramen is too many noodles and not enough meat," Jiraiya said. He didn't let go. "I know it goes against the way we've been taught to eat, but the way we've been taught to eat is wrong. We need more meat in our diets and less noodles if we want to be strong shinobi."
"Let go," Naruto complained.
"Listen to me, first." Jiraiya hoisted him up to eye level. "I'm your teacher. I know I might not look like much sometimes, but I know my stuff. They don't call me a sage for nothing. Listen to me when I tell you we're not going to eat ramen today."
Naruto pouted at him. "Ji-ji…"
Jiraiya's eyebrow twitched. Being called 'Uncle Ji' was better than being called 'Ero Sennin', so he'd take it. But he didn't have to like it. It sounded too much like 'jiji', which meant 'Old Man'. And he suspected Naruto was purposefully rubbing his face in his age, the same way he insisted on calling Tsunade 'Baa-chan'. "Naruto. No. I am not going to give in. We are going to feed you properly. What kind of a boy doesn't want more meat? Don't you like beef, or chicken, or pork? Fish counts. What about fish?"
"What I really want is…" Naruto trailed off, a longing look in his eyes.
Naruto sighed. "Ramen."
Jiraiya clenched his teeth and tried not to throw Naruto to the ground. He succeeded. For the moment. "We can even have sushi if you like. Lots and lots of sushi. Anything to break you of this ramen habit. It's gonna kill you later if you don't get away from the stuff. In the form of chakra exhaustion. You can't fight Akatsuki on ramen."
"Isn't there anything I can do to convince you?" Naruto pleaded.
Jiraiya scowled. "No."
Naruto disappeared in a puff of smoke. Jiraiya suddenly found himself holding onto nothing. "H-Hey!"
A girl appeared through the dissipating smoke. A naked girl. With foxy marks on her cheeks. And long blonde hair. Smoke clung suggestively to her naughty bits. "What about now?" she asked dulcetly. She looked at him with wide blue eyes and touched her finger to her lips. "Is this more convincing?"
Jiraiya blushed hotly, partly from being surprised with a naked teenage girl, and partly from anger. "What is your deal?" His voice came out rough. "You know by now what I said about staying like that was a joke, and you know that no matter how clever that jutsu is, it's fake, and I know that, too. You're using a Henge. You are still a twelve year old boy, still a whiny little brat that I have to train proper food habits into before he gets himself killed, and you're still losing this argument!" By the end, his voice had risen to a yell.
The girl looked at him as though she were about to cry, her lower lip wobbling. "Jiraiya-sensei…don't you wuv me?"
"Cut it out!" Jiraiya grabbed her – him – by the shoulders. "Why is Sexy no Jutsu always your answer? Do you really think sex can buy your way out of any situation?"
"C-Course it can." Naruto sounded shaken. He looked it too. After a moment, the jutsu popped, leaving Jiraiya grasping the shoulders of his familiar male student. Naruto's face was pale.
Jiraiya stared at him.
Naruto flushed at the look Jiraiya gave him and scowled. "Everyone knows that. Sex buys you everything. Or the suggestion of it. If you can make something sexy enough, if you can turn someone on, then they're helpless. Isn't that what kunoichi do? I mean, they dress like whores. Lots of 'em do. And even Baa-chan – using that special genjutsu to look really pretty and stuff, and showing her boobs off, just so that she can control people more. She has the biggest boobs of anyone I know because she's the Hokage. The biggest boobs give you the biggest control. Only some people like you more innocent, so that's what I do. That's my strategy."
Jiraiya was struck speechless.
Naruto pulled away and crossed his arms. "Worked on you the first few times. You're just getting ornery, now. What's your type, then? Pretty and pert and innocent not doing it for you? Maybe you want someone a little bigger – like in the hips and stuff. Curvier. Or older? I can look like a seductive older lady."
Jiraiya slowly shook his head. He didn't know what to say. "You…You don't have to be my 'type'. I'm not going to…Don't you trust me?"
Naruto narrowed his eyes, staring. Minutes went by. "No."
"No?" Jiraiya checked the dusty road for his jaw. He couldn't help his mouth hanging open. "But we're…you're my student. I took you under my wing. Isn't that how…you feel?"
"I think I manipulated you into taking me," Naruto retorted. "Just like I manipulate everyone else to care about me. You don't care about me. You're just training me for your own reasons. Like Kaka-sensei. He's doing it – you're both doing it because you loved my dad. In the end, that's why. And Sasuke only cared when he thought I could help him get stronger. And Sakura-chan cares when I vow to protect Sasuke. That's who she cares about. And Iruka-sensei…I don't know. I guess I make him feel sorry. It's probably he can't stand to look like a bad teacher, so he makes it look like he's still trying to help me be less of a failure."
Naruto took a step forward, clenching his fists. "At least Iruka-sensei buys me ramen, which you're not even willing to do. I like ramen. It's my favorite food. Ramen's not going to kill me."
"The MSG increases blood pressure," Jiraiya said absently. "If you don't die of chakra exhaustion you might give yourself a heart attack overworking yourself when you've already got high blood pressure. It takes a lot of ramen, but you eat a lot of ramen."
"MSG?" Naruto made a face. "What's that? You just made that up!"
Jiraiya was totally dissociated at this point. I can't believe we've all failed him. "When did you start believing that nobody cares about you?"
"I don't," Naruto retorted. "I know you care. Cause I made you care. But you're not caring for good reasons, so don't pretend. And don't act like you're too good for my Sexy Jutsu, because it's not true. I caught you once and I'll catch you again."
Jiraiya blinked. "How did you learn to manipulate people this way?"
Naruto crossed his arms and smirked, apparently taking that for an admission of defeat. "Kunoichi. That's easy. I snuck into their classes when mine were boring." He laughed. "And they learn all the good stuff! Like about how to turn men on without ever revealing themselves or getting in reach, and how to use that arousal to manipulate men to do whatever they want. They've got a pretty badass job. Heh. I wish I were a kunoichi, sometimes. They got it easy. All the pretty parts are already built in. I have to make mine from scratch each time."
Jiraiya was silent for a few moments, formulating a question. "Have you needed to use Sexy no Jutsu often?"
"I made it up earlier this year," Naruto said. "I've used it a lot since then, though. It would really have come in handy earlier. And since everyone's always punishing me for using it, I can't find a lot of time to practice." He grinned. "Still, it's pretty good, isn't it?" He formed seals with his hands. "My first version never failed on anyone before – except Sasuke, and that was because he's a prick – so I haven't had a chance to show off what I can do."
Jiraiya held out a hand, too late. "No, Naruto, don't –"
In a puff of smoke, Naruto transformed into a curvaceous woman in her late twenties, with long, brown hair. "Is this better?" She – he – winked and blew Jiraiya a kiss.
Jiraiya felt like someone was stabbing him in the chest. "No. No, it's not. Naruto, listen to me. Kunoichi skills are not the same as interacting with people. Those skills are meant to be used on the enemy, not your allies."
Naruto looked frustrated. Her pout was still somehow attractive. She made hand seals again and transformed into a younger girl with long black hair in two slender ponytails. "Maybe blondes just aren't your type."
"No, they are," Jiraiya said quietly.
Naruto grinned, looking like an impish schoolgirl in his current Henge. "Long or short?"
"Short," Jiraiya said.
"Younger or older?"
Naruto looked incredulous, but he transformed into a short-haired version of his original Sexy no Jutsu, with shorter legs and smaller breasts. "You're kind of kinky…"
"I like it with clothes on," Jiraiya said.
Naruto added a white summer dress with a puff of smoke. "Alright, so you've got a Lolita Complex. No big deal." He frowned, studying Jiraiya's face. "You don't look turned on."
Jiraiya sighed and pulled 'her' into his arms, hugging Naruto gently against his chest. "I want to protect you. Is that so gross?"
"Protection is a weird fetish," Naruto said. "Does this mean I have to make up a monster, too? I don't know if I can play two parts at once."
"No, the monsters are real," Jiraiya murmured. "They're called Akatsuki."
Naruto stared at him.
"I want you to be yourself," Jiraiya said, spelling it out. "Knock off the genjutsu crap."
Naruto pulled away from him. The genjutsu dissolved in a puff of smoke. "Yuck. You really are a pervert. You're into banging twelve year old boys?"
"No!" Jiraiya fisted a hand in his fluffy white hair and manfully resisted yanking it out by the roots. "I care about you. In a non-sexual way."
"Is that why you're always robbing me and leaving me alone to train for hours at a time?" Naruto asked.
Jiraiya narrowed his eyes. "If you need anything, I'll buy it for you. And you don't concentrate unless you're by yourself. You use other people around you as distractions, excuses to not get your work done."
Naruto crossed his arms over his chest. "You're still a pervert."
"Fine. But you're not eating ramen tonight." Jiraiya grabbed him by the collar of his zip-up sweater and turned around, dragging Naruto into the village.
"I'm coming." Naruto shrugged him off and walked under his own power.
Over dinner, Jiraiya would have to figure out how to straighten out Minato's son. He owed it to his student, and he owed it to Kakashi.