"D-Rank?" Naruto looked on questioningly at the Hokage as the older man handed the red-haired Jounin three mission folders. He briefly glanced through their contents only for his confusion to grow; painting fences? Manual Labour at a farm? Catching a runaway cat? These weren't missions; these were chores you would get a neighbourhood kid to do for a few Ryo.
"Ah yes, I suppose you never would have come across these types of mission before Naruto; I believe they were instigated a bit after your team became Chuunin." Naruto just nodded absently; the first mission Ensui had ever taken them on was a C-rank, and it was a real mission, not one of these odd jobs. However he wasn't one to so overtly question the Hokage's orders and if he said these mission were appropriate for newly instated Genin then… oh who was he kidding.
"Seriously Hokage-sama? These aren't missions; how could anybody ever rationalise using Ninja, no matter how green, for such menial tasks? These kids should be getting experience, or at least exercises to hone their skills, not learning how to paint a fence." The Hokage remained quiet for a few moments, puffing on the pipe that now seemed to eternally rest in his mouth.
"Could I talk with you for a few minutes Naruto?" The Chuunin to the Hokage's right, a man with a spiky pony-tail and a horizontal scar across his nose, nearly spat out his coffee as he looked around at the village leader incredulously.
"Hokage-sama!? We still have-" He was silenced though as the aged Kage raised a wrinkled hand, cutting the Chuunin off.
"It's okay Iruka, It will only take a moment." With that he slowly got to his feet before walking to the other side of the mission office, Naruto quickly on his heels. For a few moments he simply looked out the window, steadily blowing out puffs of grey smoke as his eyes followed various people going about their day.
"Hokage-sama?" Naruto gazed at the older man curiously as he seemingly ignored him, almost as if he was lost in a memory.
"Naruto." The silence was broken so suddenly it nearly startled the newly-instated Jounin. "Do you know what I feel every time I look out this window, down onto a peaceful and, dare I say it, happy village?" The redhead was slightly caught off guard by the question but his own expression became thoughtful all the same, taking a moment to glance out at the same streets where the Hokage could obviously see something he was missing.
"Pride?" A short, rattling, bark of a laugh was his answer as the aged Hokage's eyes crinkled into an amused smile.
"Yes Naruto, I do feel pride as I look out on the legacy of my mentors that I like to believe I have helped maintain. But more than that, I feel unease." Naruto blinked but didn't say anything to interrupt the man. "I feel unease because I know better; I know that this peace can only ever be temporary; unfortunately I lack the optimism my own pupil displays for a better world." He turned around and for a moment Naruto caught a hunt of true age in that man's dark, but still compassionate eyes.
"I've seen too much, lived too long as a Shinobi in the service of the village I love, to ever believe that this cycle of war and peace can be broken; I left that kind of idealism to my successor." He puffed out another smoke ring, watching as it floated toward the Genin on the other side of the room. "We are different to them Naruto; we are Shinobi moulded by hotter temperatures and higher pressures and, while those conditions may have created better blades, they also create ones much easier to break." Naruto stayed silent through all of this, not sure what to feel as the Hokage seemingly unloaded this onto him.
"The conflict of a Hokage is an odd one to picture; on one hand I wish more than anything that this village remain safe, and the people within remain happy, for that we need strong Shinobi to protect us. On the other hand I do not wish away the childhood of those very same Shinobi; I would rather them stay weak and blissfully innocent." The Hokage had a far-away look in his eye as he turned up to the Hokage monument, but after a moment of staring clarity returned and he tilted his head back towards Naruto with an easy-going smile.
"What I am saying Naruto, is that in these times of peace, allow the young ones to hold onto what innocence they have for what little time they can. We relics of war are still around to watch over them until it is their turn to accept that mantle from us and one day, surpass us." With that the man began to slowly move back across the room, but not before one last comment. "You know; my own Sensei, the Nidaime, once told me that the only way to truly learn about ourselves is to teach others. It was why he made it a condition that all Hokage's take on a student or a Genin team before they can be considered as a candidate." Naruto's eyes widened at the subtle message the Hokage was trying to convey but before he could say anything they were back and the older Shinobi was settling back down into his chair, a small smile tweaking his features.
"Now where were we? Ah yes; so what will it be, painting fences, farmwork or catching Tora?"
"Sensei, this is boring." Sakura blew her hair out from where it had fallen over her face; she was sweaty, damp and dirty, not to mention covered in scratches from when they had to catch that demon of a cat. Right now she was wrist deep in the earth, pulling out various unidentifiable vegetables that may or may not have been trying to pull her back in.
"Yes Sakura, I heard you the first time… and the second… and the fifth." The pink haired girl looked up to where her Sensei sat in a nearby tree, seemingly doodling on a scroll and only keeping an occasional eye on his students.
"Why aren't you helping anyway? Aren't we supposed to be a team?" Sasuke had previously stayed silent through the other so called 'missions' but it was only so long before his sarcastic, sullen tone drifted over to the others. Naruto just smiled though, still not taking his eye off whatever it was he was writing or drawing.
"Ahh, but the mission brief clearly asked for a team of Genin for these tasks; I'm a Jounin you see. It's always important to stick to the mission parameters where possible Sasu-chan." The dark-haired Uchiha merely narrowed his eyes at the irritating nickname his sensei had decided to give him. It reminded him far too much of his cousin Shisui… Sasuke recently decided he didn't like his cousin Shisui all that much anymore.
"But it is pretty dull Sensei; even training is more exciting than this." Finally the last member of their quartet spoke up, having just emerged from a large shed, definitely not smelling as fresh as when she woke up that morning. However once again Naruto was quick on the return as he flicked his brush into the air flamboyantly before sliding off the tree branch. Much to the Genin's chagrin though when his feet touched the sodden, muddy ground they didn't so much as sink a centimetre in.
"But without them how would I teach you all these important lessons?" With that he managed to get all three of his Genin to glare at him as one; if that wasn't some team coordination he didn't know what was.
"What lessons? All we've been doing is stupid chores!" Naruto tilted his head at the pinkette as if he was genuinely confused by her words.
"What are you talking about Sakura; didn't you learn a lot about your teammates as you tried to hunt down Tora?" The girl looked about to retort when she blinked, her fist falling to her side as she stared at a random spot on the ground incredulously. "And that brings me onto one of the most important things I can teach you as a young Shinobi…" He paused, making sure he had the attention of all his students before grinning. "… Everything is training." There was silence for a few moment save for what sounded like a crow cawing some distance away.
"That's it? That's your big revelation; that everything is training?" Naruto just grinned, nodding his head sagely.
"I can never teach you something more important than that." While Sakura continued to look like she was in a confused daze Ami spoke up in her stead.
"But what do you mean Sensei? How is picking vegetables or painting a fence training?" She purposefully left out catching Tora; anybody could see that was training of the most hellish kind.
"Simple, even now I'm training my Chakra control by keeping my feet above the mud with the surface-clinging exercise. You'd all be a lot less muddy if you just thought outside the box a little; even painting the fence should have shown you how economic planning can save you both time and effort if you coordinate with your teammates." At that Sasuke looked down, his brow furrowing as if he had just realised something so obviously fundamental.
"This applies to everything?" Naruto grinned again, glad his students were so easily accepting his first real lesson.
"Everything." Sasuke nodded slowly before looking down at the ground; he suddenly flashed through hand seals before exhaling a small, thin stream of fire along the ground in front of him, instantly hardening the mud at his feet. Immediately he took off along the ground, jabbing his hand into the earth every so often to snatch out a vegetable. Naruto grinned as he watched the young Uchiha go, glad the boy understood even if he was confused by the inefficient way he was doing it.
"Ah Sensei?" The redhead blinked as he turned to see Ami standing rather close to him, alternating between looking over at Sasuke and down at his feet. "What's the surface clinging exercise?"
Anko didn't even look up from her book when Naruto walked through the door at nearly midnight; curled up on the couch she looked like a cat that had finally found a comfortable spot. She listened to him shuck his various trappings like the Jounin vest and his arm-guards befoe finally speaking up; nearly causing him to jump in fright considering he hadn't even noticed her there. There was a reason Anko was one of the top infiltration specialists among the Jounin.
"If you're having an affair she better be damn sexy to warrant missing movie night." Naruto froze in place, halfway through pulling a metal-plated glove off as he looked back and forth between the couch where Anko's voice was coming from and the opened video box on the table in front of her.
"Crap." Anko snorted as she finally popped her head over the back of the couch, an amused yet slightly dangerous gleam in her eye as she took in Naruto's now rather nervous form.
"Crap is right; what's up? You're not usually this forgetful." Naruto groaned lightly as he slunk over to the couch, flopping down over the back of it so his legs were hanging over it limply and he was laying his head on Anko's lap. The Kunoichi immediately took the opportunity to start running her fingers through his crimson locks like she had done as a kid, grinning as the spiky locks refused to be split for very long.
"This Jounin sensei thing just keeps getting better you know? Did you know they don't even teach the tree-walking exercise at the academy now?" Anko paused for a moment with her fingers wrapped around his hair before continuing on, her momentary surprise passing.
"Really? Weird." Naruto shrugged rather awkwardly in his odd position before sighing.
"Actually they might never have taught it; I learned it from Tou-san and you learned it from me; I always assumes Shisui learned it from Itachi and well Itachi was…" Anko nodded, a grim expression on her face at the mention of their rogue 'friend'.
"…He's Itachi." Naruto nodded lamely; it was never easy to broker the subject of the wayward Uchiha in the Namikazre household; the name alone was filled with such conflicting opinions.
"Well in any case, now I have to go through and find everything that the academy didn't teach these kids and fill in their blanks. Who knows what other kind of basic knowledge has been left out of their education? Tonight alone I had them running up and down trees until they got the exercise down to a decent enough degree and tomorrow I'm going to be having them move straight on to water walking." Anko just nodded absently, having lost herself in the spikes of Naruto's hair while he was talking. However hearing that, a mischievous grin alighted on her lips.
"Ahh, ditching me for two little Genin girls? Why Naruto Namikaze I had no idea you were a Lolicon!" Naruto looked up to see Anko with a hand on her heart and what seemed to be a genuinely hurt expression on her expertly schooled features; there was even a tear percolating in her eye which was just unfair. "I suppose you must consider me hideous with these bulbous, unsightly curves." She made sure to make an extra show of running her hands along her body, paying extra attention to her chest that was currently only concealed by an all-too thin T-shirt. Of course Naruto wasn't one to be defeated so easily; he had lived with Anko too long for that.
"Of course, after all, what am I supposed to do with them right? They aren't any good as hand holds." Anko couldn't suppress the moan as Naruto suddenly flipped in place, straddling her waist and grabbing her breasts through her tight shirt, grinning as he kneaded them slowly. "They just seem so heavy and useless." He lifted them up only to let them bounce back down onto Anko's chest and causing a shudder to run down the woman's spine. "They don't even taste all that good." The last straw for Anko was when Naruto leant down and with the touch of a pianist gently latched on to her nipple.
She immediately grabbed his head, pulling him off her chest and up to her mouth where she quickly slammed her lips against his. Naruto noticed she was a lot more forceful that night so he let himself take the back burner, allowing his girlfriend to lead as she swirled her tongue around his mouth, greedy noises emerging from her own as she guided his hands back down to her chest. For just a moment she allowed them to separate, dry pants emerging from her moistened lips as a sadistic spark alighted in her eye.
"You missed movie night." Naruto simply grinned in response as his hands began to trail a lot lower than her chest.
"Well then I guess I have some making up to do." His grin was met in kind as Anko suddenly turned the tables, flipping both of them off the couch so that she was the one on top, straddling his waist with her hands either side of his head.
"Damn right you do."
"Keep your guard up; just because you think you might have your opponent off-balance doesn't mean that they are; there are whole styles of Taijutsu based around countering." Naruto lectured from his position above a mildly battered Ami; he had been training her and the other Genin in their various styles; or in the case of the two girls, actually trying to mould their styles into something usable. It was fairly slow going at the moment but he believed that once they got a grounding and some fundamentals knocked into them they would progress a lot faster.
"Yeah Sensei." Ami simply seemed resigned to being thrown about the training ground by her teacher and, looking over at Sasuke and Sakura, her teammates seemed to be getting the same treatment. Naruto could have had his Genin sparring each other but the problem with that was they were too far apart, skill-wise. Sasuke didn't know how to hold back so putting him up against Ami and Sakura would have only lowered their confidence while frustrating him. While Ami and Sakura were of similar skill when it came to Taijutsu they were too similar; neither would have improved at the same rate as if they had an opponent that would really push them.
And so Naruto was filling in that role for each of them, using Shadow clones that held back a great deal to push them but not to the point they were truly straining to keep up. In Sasuke's case he consistently made sure to highlight the gap between their skill levels; the boy seriously needed a dose of humility that Naruto was slowly but surely hammering into him. In the girls' case he just pushed them as any slightly superior opponent would; he could tell after the first few days under his tutelage that they lacked confidence in their skill, something that could get not only them, but their squad mates killed out in the field.
"Now come on, draw your sword like I taught you; a smooth sword draw is half the fight between Kenjutsu users; catching it on the sheath is just inviting your opponent to take advantage." Ami nodded tiredly again, bringing the long Katana up to her side and positioning her hands and feet as she had been taught. While it was exciting for her to learn the art her sister spoke about with such passion, and looked forward to surprising her with it, it was a difficult and time-consuming style to learn. However every moment she spent with her hands around the hilt of that sword she felt fulfilled, excited, even confident. Normally it was something that only a few weeks ago she had no trouble with, but after seeing the gap between her and Sasuke and truly understanding what that meant now she was out of the academy her pride had taken a significant blow.
"Do you understand?" Red flushed through her cheeks as she realised Naruto had been talking while she was lost in her thoughts and quickly imitated the stance he was showing her to the best of her ability. The redheaded Jounin looked over her with a critical eye, only inviting more pink into her blush as it looked like he was seeing right through her, analysing every minute detail. Slowly he picked across her form, subtly adjusting various aspects like the bend of her elbow and the tightness with which she held the grip, until the stance felt comfortable and natural.
"Better, but you'll need to learn to recognise the slight flaws in your form before they become ingrained. When you practise make sure to make sure what you are doing is comfortable and doesn't seem forced; as long as the movements flow then you should be fine." He smiled lightly at that, the signal Ami could drop her stance which was met with a thankful sigh; while the katana felt light at first, it quickly became heavy after holding it up like that. "You know, your sister once likened Kenjutsu to a dance; it's all about reading the flow of your opponent and matching it so-" Naruto winced slightly as a loud voice suddenly called across the clearing.
"Yo, what's up team seven? Long-time no see, eh?" The redhead looked over along with his Genin as another Genin team walked into the training ground; the one who spoke was a rather excited looking boy with spiky brown hair and a small puppy riding in the nape of his jacket; an Inuzuka then.
"What are you doing here Kiba-baka?" The Inuzuka, identified by the red triangular marks resembling fangs on his cheeks, gained a small tick over his eye as he looked over to where Sakura had shouted at him from. However it was his teammate, a quiet boy wearing high-collared grey jacket and similarly spiky brown hair that spoke up for him, likely an Aburame given the dark sunglasses he wore.
"Why? Because we came to train of course; it is only logical considering we are in a training ground, yes?" Oh yeah, definitely an Aburame, the style of speech was unmistakable; appropriately enough the little group of clan children seemed to be rounded out by a young Hyuuga girl; the pale white eyes couldn't have been anything else. There was also the rather emotionless exterior she exuded which matched the airy clan to a tee; other than that she rather reminded Naruto of the woman his mother had been quite friendly with; Hiashi's wife.
"Ah sorry, I didn't realise that another team would be using… oh, it's you Namikaze-san." Finally the redhead's gaze drifted over to the Jounin Sensei of the team, that same woman he had met when he had first been assigned his team.
"Oh, Kurenai-san; Naruto is fine." He looked back across at the assembled Genin and smiled. "So you team came to train did they? How about a few sparring matches? It'd be nice to know where my team is in the grand scheme of their year." Kurenai seemed thoughtful at the suggestion before finally acquiescing. A few minutes later and everybody other than Sasuke and Shino was lined up on the edge of the clearing with the two aforementioned Genin facing one another at the centre. Both Genin were quiet all the way up until the point Naruto blew through his fingers, sounding off a loud whistle that marked the start of their match.
Immediately both flew into action, Shino releasing a loud cloud of insects around his form while Sasuke pivoted his foot, vanishing before the Genins' eyes in a burst of speed that even surprised Kurenai.
"Woh, Sasuke got a lot faster." What they didn't know was that Sasuke was simply using the surface clinging technique to provide extra grip and his newly found Chakra control to marginally enhance his muscles. He had been honing it over the past few weeks of D-ranked missions, using Naruto's advice of taking everything as training to use almost everything thrown at him as a challenge. However not knowing this, the others in Kurenai's squad could only nod at Kiba's exclamation. A few minutes later and it was over; Shino subverted Sasuke a few times with his Insect clones but Uchiha proved too fast and quickly bested Shino where he was worst, in Taijutsu. The fight was painfully one sided and Kurenai seemed a little down that one of her more powerful Genin was so easily beaten.
Naruto on the other hand was rather proud of Sasuke; in a truly Naruto-style he had used speed as an overwhelming force without going so far as to humiliate his opponent. The boy was getting better at using the appropriate amount of force for the situation he was in; maybe those D-ranks had some worth after all. He quickly turned his attention back to the field though as Kiba and Ami walked out together only to feel a tug on his sleeve from Kurenai.
"Are you sure about this match-up Nami…Naruto? Kiba was one of the more powerful graduates this year and Ami was, well…" Naruto raised an amused eyebrow as he turned back to the field where the two Genin were squaring up to one another.
"The Dead-last?" Kurenai just nodded lamely while Naruto chuckled. "Don't worry about it too much Kurenai-san; Ami has progressed a lot since then." He was about to turn his full focus to the match when he caught Kurenai mumble something to his side. "Sorry what?" The woman's eyes widened as she realised she had been heard.
"Ah; Kurenai… you should call me Kurenai if you're letting me call you Naruto." The redhead tilted his head slightly before grinning, causing the vaguest hints of pink to creep up on Kurenai's features.
"Sure Kurenai." With that he turned back to the match that was just about to start, not noticing Kurenai turn her head away to hide the faintest of blushes. Out on the field he could easily hear Kiba complaining about the match up.
"Come on, why'd I have to get the dead-last?" Ami's eye twitched at that as she slowly drew the katana by her side, holding it up as she had been taught.
"I'm a different person that the one you graduated with Kiba-baka." The Inuzuka simply snorted though, settling into a lazy stance that just showed he wasn't taking her seriously.
"Ah please, so you got a sword? Big whoop; I won't even need Akamaru to beat you." With that said the little white dog in his jacket bounced out of his clothes and scampered off to the side-lines where Kurenai picked him up. From the side-lines Naruto looked across at Kurenai amusedly only to see the woman with her face in her hands. However he turned back as Ami suddenly shot forward, hoping to catch Kiba off guard with a sudden burst of speed. She managed it, but only for a moment before Kiba used his superior reflexes to narrowly move to the side, his eyes widened in surprise.
"Damn, first Sasuke and now you; what's that guy giving you to make you guys so fast?" Ami grinned from where she had back off too, weary of counter-attacks from the Genin.
"You shouldn't be so surprised; Naruto-sensei is the fastest man alive after all!" This time it was Naruto's turn to look sheepish as both Kurenai's and his team turned to look at him, making him wave awkwardly; he never remembered telling his team anything of the sort. Kiba was quick to recover though as he suddenly dashed forward, easily matching Ami as they engaged in a flurry of Taijutsu and Kenjutsu. It was quite clear Kiba was the superior fighter, but with the reach offered by her sword Ami was at least able to stave him off as she back-peddled. However even that began to work against her as the young Inuzuka began to use his clawed nails to divert the sword, throwing the girl off balance.
However all the retreating turned out to be a ploy as Ami suddenly grinned, closing her eyes as she revealed a tag underneath her foot back where she had started the match. Instantly Kiba was blinded as the tag lit up and released a flash of bright white light, making the poor boy yelp in pain and clutch his sensitive eyes. Immediately Ami took advantage, skirting around the boy and striking at him with the blunt of her sword. In his disorientated state Kiba could only wildly swing out where he smelled the girl, his eyes still screwed shut.
It was quickly over though when Kiba suddenly ducked low, sweeping out with a low kick that took away Ami's grounding and left her staring up at the sky with the wind knocked out of her. Kiba pounced like a predator, quickly getting Ami into a position where she was forced to sumbit or have her arm dislocated, ending the match. However as the purple-haired girl walked off the field the disappointment she was expecting from her sensei was absent. Instead the older teen grinned at her, ruffling her hair affectionately.
"That was great Ami, good use of your surroundings." Despite the irritating ruffling of hair that she was now going to have to fix Ami felt herself flush with pride as she turned around to watch the final match, Sakura vs Hinata. Unfortunately it was almost over by the time she turned; despite her increased speed thanks to Naruto's training Sakura was unprepared for the brutal assault from Hinata's Jyuuken. In mere seconds the girl had half her body disabled and Hinata was already striding off the field, her face a mask of impassivity. To side both Naruto and Kurenai were frowning; it had been an obscene overuse of force against an inferior opponent. Naruto had hoped to show Sakura how powerful a serious Kunoichi should be at her age by pairing her with the Hyuuga but this might very well shatter her already shaky confidence in her skills.
"Well, ah, I suppose I should get Sakura over to the hospital then." The redhead picked the now immobilised girl up gently in his arms, wincing as she groaned at the contact; it had just been unnecessarily brutal.
"Ah wait Naruto." He turned back to see Kurenai still standing there as her team walked off, Kiba arrogantly consoling Shino on his loss as Hinata walked a few steps behind. "I was thinking, as we're all new Jounin Sensei, that you, me and Asuma could get together, talk about the teams, see if we're missing anything." Naruto raised an eyebrow at the suggestion before nodding with a shrug.
"Sure, how about at the Dangoya tonight? I need to get Sakura to the hospital…" He jiggled the girl in his arms only to get a groan in response "…so if you get Asuma I'll see you there." Kurenai smiled brightly at that, nodding before she blinked as she replayed his words.
"The Dangoya? You like Dango?" Naruto just grinned as he began to walk off, making sure not to jostle the Genin in his arms.
"Let's just say I've had to acquire a taste for the stuff." He paused though, a frown on his face as he turned back to the female Jounin, the previous mirth gone from his features. "If I might ask though, what's up with that girl? The way she acted in that match…" He left it there but Kurenai understood all the same, her expression saddening as she looked off in the direction her team had left by.
"Please don't hold it against Hinata; she used to be such a sweet and caring girl." Suddenly that sad expression turned into one of quiet rage as her delicate lips twisted into a scowl. "Of course the Hyuuga quickly saw to that." However the rage quickly fled, leaving her looking a little helpless and tired. "I think the final straw for her was having to fight her own sister just so she wouldn't have the caged bird seal." The raven-haired woman began to walk off to follow after her team with only a final remark.
"Her dream was once to unite the branch and main houses of the Hyuuga; that was the kind of person she was. Hiashi just made her realise that she couldn't do that with that damn seal on her head; she's never been the same." With that she disappeared into the treeline, leaving a contemplative Naruto behind.
"That's horrible." The redhead quirked an eyebrow, turning to find Ami and Sasuke standing behind him; it was the violette that had spoken up but even Sasuke seemed a little disgusted. Naruto just sighed on the other hand; he knew all too well the mess that was clan politics.
"That's what it is to belong to a clan I'm afraid." And with those tired words he led his team off to the hospital; Sasuke walked behind them, a frown of his own adorning his usually sullen features.