Author Note: Thank you for tuning in to this new story! It's extremely crazy of me to be adding yet another story to the small stack of Fanfics that I have going at the moment, but this was requested to me from a reader.
For those who take interest, I'm glad to have you along for the ride!
Thank you NYCDMan for the request.
And to TenchiSolutionsForAll for beta-ing!
Sarutobi sighed deeply, giving the Jonin before him a nod in dismissal. When the shinobi was gone, he looked down at the paper sitting right in the middle of his desk; a mission report. Though he'd heard the details from Kakashi himself, he still looked over the report for any information that might have been left out. He couldn't be sure if he should be thrilled or frustrated when there wasn't.
What should have been a simple escort mission—a simple C rank of all things—to the Land of Waves turned out to be something that could have, no, would have ended in disaster had the wrong team been sent. Of course, it wasn't the team's fault. The client, Tazuna, had withheld important information and neglected to mention that he was being hunted, putting lives at unnecessary risk.
For a new team fresh out of the academy, Team 7 faired very well…considering the circumstances that they had been put under. It had been the genins' choice to continue the mission, knowing the potential danger that it contained. Sarutobi was sure that they knew how lucky they were that Kakashi just happened to be familiar with the Seven Legendary Swordsmen of the Mist, that Sasuke had finally activated his Sharingan and the seal that held Kyuubi had loosened slightly and leaked some of its chakra into Naruto. But even with all of that, Sarutobi knew that if Kakashi had not been the team leader, the outcome would have been very different.
He pinched the top of his nose between his fingers and frowned slightly in thought. He knew meddling with the teams would be, essentially, messing with the growing balance of the bonds they had already created. The teams were specifically formed to complement certain aspects of each member and their teachers, after observing the individual members and how they learned, decided the pace at which the team prorgessed.
The blame for the slow progress of the teams wasn't anyone's fault but he was hoping to avoid deaths that could have been prevented if these young shinobi could be better prepared. He wanted to decrease the odds of a worst case outcome if a mission went wrong, like this one. Something needed to be done.
And the great Sandaime had just the idea.
Most travelers would agree that the village of Konoha was a beautiful place. The people that lived there were friendly and the streets were always alive with children running and playing. It was the picture of peace and happiness, they would assume.
On a certain street, a young blonde clad in an orange jumpsuit sat in his favorite restaurant, finishing his sixth bowl of ramen when he heard his name being called.
The blonde, Naruto, turned around slightly and gave a wide grin at the man rushing towards him.
"Iruka-Sensei!" he greeted cheerfully, oblivious to the worried look on the man's face as he gave Naruto a hug and proceeded to check him over.
Iruka sighed in relief when he didn't see anything that would warrant any anxiety. Giving a warm smile to the younger boy, Iruka sat in the seat next to him.
"How was your mission, Naruto?"
Naruto brightened even more, placing the bowl down completely in favor for giving his attention to his academy teacher.
"It was great! I thought it was going to be boring with that old man Tazuna, but it turned out to be more than an escort mission. Ever heard of Zabuza Momochi? We fought him and his companion that I swore was a girl at first…of course Sasuke got hurt and I had to save his sorry as—"
"Naruto!" Iruka interrupted, giving him a stern look.
"Geez, you don't have to be so uptight Iruka-sensei." When Iruka didn't falter in his look, Naruto grumbled. "Fine. I have to save his butt, though I don't really remember much of it. Anyway, both of them died killing off some stupid boss that was trying to take over the village or something and did you know that Kakashi-sensei has this lightening attack thingy that he shoves through people's chests? It's amazing and I want to learn it, do you think he could teach me?"
Iruka smiled as he kept listening to Naruto ramble about his first life or death mission, glad that he found it enjoyable…well, as enjoyable as a mission like that could be.
"—but on the bright side we got paid a little more than we would have if it was actually a simple escort mission, so I can buy twice the amount of ramen as usual! Did I mention they named their bridge after me? The Great Naruto Bridge! Do you want some Iruka-sensei?"
"Hm?" Iruka blinked.
"Do. You. Want. Any?" Naruto repeated, as if he didn't understand him, lifting up his current bowl in his hand.
"No thank you Naruto."
Naruto shrugged and worked on finishing his meal. Iruka laughed slightly. "Remind me to get something healthy for you to eat, all that ramen isn't good for you."
"Your idea of something healthy is a plate full of vegetables," Naruto said, his face scrunched up in distaste.
"Those are good for you," Iruka stated, knowing what was going to happen next. They had had this conversation many times before.
"They're disgusting! Ramen is the most amazing food ever and I'd be happy eating just this for the rest of my life!"
"There are vegetables in the ramen you're eating," Iruka pointed out. It never ceased to amaze him how unobservant Naruto was at times, especially since it was something that he himself had pointed out countless times when they would have this discussion.
As he predicted, Naruto stopped talking and looked at his bowl in concentration before making a sound of indignation. "These are special vegetables, so they don't count as regular vegetables."
Iruka laughed. Naruto could be such a child at times.
Both Iruka and Naruto looked towards the direction of the entrance and saw the rest of Naruto's team, minus Kakashi, walking towards them. Sakura, being the one to call the blonde, stood right in front of him, her hands on her hips. Sasuke stayed outside, hands in his pockets and a look of displeasure on his face…as usual.
"Naruto! What are doing here? The Hokage wants us!"
Both Iruka and Naruto blinked. Iruka went to ask why but Naruto was already up, finishing off the last of his ramen and leaving some money on the table. Giving a wave goodbye to Iruka, Naruto left with his teammates.
"See ya later, Iruka-Sensei!"
Iruka waved back, wondering to himself what the Hokage wanted to speak to them about but shrugged it off. It wasn't any of his business, he supposed, but that didn't mean he wouldn't ask about it later.
The three of them walked towards the Hokage building, and Naruto was bombarding Sakura with questions, mostly along the lines of "Will you go out with me?"
"For the love of all that is good, shut up Naruto!" She screamed, finally frustrated with his yapping.
"But Sakura-chan!" he whined. "What's so great about Sasgay anyway—ow! Why'd you hit me?"
Sakura scowled. "Don't insult Sasuke-kun! You're so annoying! Isn't that right Sasuke?" She turned towards Sasuke, her eyes wide and hopeful that he would back her up. Sasuke just ignored her and kept walking.
"See? I don't know what you see in him anyway."
"Naruto!" Sakura screeched, getting ready to hit him on the head again.
"Dead last," Sasuke finally spoke, looking directly at the blonde.
"What'd you say bastard? I dare you to say it again!"
"You heard me the first time, loser," Sasuke sneered at him.
"You think you're better than me, don't you?"
"I know I'm better than you."
"If you're so great, why'd you almost get killed, huh?"
"I was trying to save your sorry butt from being killed!"
"Well, I didn't ask for your help!" Naruto snapped back, glaring daggers at his teammate.
"And we don't need to have such a weak link on this team! You should be happy to take my advice when I give it to you!"
"You can take your stinking advice and shove it where the sun don't shine, but it probably wouldn't fit around that huge tree up your ass!"
"Guys…" Sakura began, hesitantly looking between her two teammates. They had stopped right in front of the Hokage's office, but she doubted they were even paying attention to their surroundings.
She knew that some unresolved tension had built up during their time completing their first C rank mission and during the trip home, but she knew that this was particularly unhealthy.
"You got a problem loser?"
"Yeah, you! You think just because you're a stinkin' Uchiha that you're better than the rest of us when you're nothing but a stuck up bastard."
"And you're just a wannabe shinobi who thinks he can achieve the impossible when he has and will always have no one!" Sasuke said, his voice raised, almost in a yell.
The silence that washed over them was almost deafening. Naruto stared at the Uchiha with wide eyes. Sasuke's eyes were equally, and uncharacteristically wide as well as he processed what he said.
Neither said anything after that or even looked at each other, both ignoring the stares that they could feel from the people around them.
Sakura stared anxiously at both of her teammates, wanting to resolve some of the tension that was surrounding them but having no clue what to do that would actually help.
A cough drew their attention to the open door of the Hokage's office, a thoughtful looking Sandaime in front of it. Before any of them could attempt to explain why exactly they were yelling insults at each other, Sarutobi raised his hand and motioned for them to enter the office.
Being more familiar with the older man and still upset from earlier, Naruto stormed past the Hokage without a show of acknowledgement, ignoring the indignant shout from Sakura. Stepping into the room, he was a little surprised to see 9 other people present in the room. Feeling the presence of his teammates behind him, he guessed they were just as surprised.
He recognized three of the people in the office from the academy, Team 8 if he recalled correctly. Kiba looked just as surprised as he was to see them; his dog was nestled in the hood of his jacket. Hinata was looking down at her feet, fingers twirling around each other like they normally were whenever he saw her. Shino…well, he could never see what Shino looked like due to his ever present glasses and high collared jacket. He was really creepy if you asked Naruto. A dark haired woman stood just to the side of them, Naruto guessed she was their sensei.
On the other side of the room, three other people stood. He didn't recognize any of them but he had seen them around a couple times. A teen with long brown hair and eyes that resembled Hinata's stood stiffly in the center of the group, his face stern and serious. Next to him, a teen clad in green was eagerly bouncing on his toes. His hair was short and black and his eyebrows seemed to run together. He was a little….creepy. Standing next to the creepy guy was a girl dressed in a pink shirt and green looking pants. She had brown hair that was pinned up in buns on either side of her head. A man who looked very similar to the boy clad in green stood next to Kakashi by the Hokage's desk.
"I see that everyone is finally here," Sarutobi said, sitting down in his chair. When all attention was on him, Sarutobi leaned forward. "There has always been a concern of mine, when it comes to genin starting out with their team. This is a risk that they," He looked pointedly at each genin present in the room, "acknowledge when they attend the academy, but it would be beneficial if they had a little more…ah, experience taught to them by their older peers." He paused for a moment. "Which is why I am going to be using your teams for an experimental trial."
"Experimental trial?" Kakashi asked.
Sarutobi nodded, gauging their reactions, especially the younger ones'. "Yes. I have spoken to the council and they have also given their approval. I am going to reassign your teams."
"A reassignment of teams? Is that wise Sandaime, considering the experience and bonds that have already formed between the existing teams now," the black haired woman asked, worry for her students evident in her voice.
"It would be if I had planned on letting you start back on your current level. The reassignment will consist of two new genin teams, Team 7 and Team 8, and one more experienced genin team…Team 9. Team 7 and 8 will each get a genin from Team 9 and vice versa. I am hoping that this trial will be a viable solution towards reducing the number of genin deaths in the field due to inexperience. Your new teams will be able to form new bonds. This will also help in the future when they are promoted and may possibly be placed on a team with unfamiliar faces. From the looks of it, some of you need a break from each other anyway," he gave a meaningful look at the genins of Team 7.
Team 7 had no response to that besides a snort from Naruto that caused Sakura to nudge him harshly in his back for his disrespect. Sasuke only glared at the wall behind Sarutobi, like he had been doing since the old man mentioned the reassignments.
"If I may be so bold Sandaime," the black haired woman asked cautiously. "You have given us your reasons for this decision but what caused this? Something like this could have been implemented when the teams were first put together."
Sarutobi gave a tired smile. "You are correct Kurenai. I could have saved you the trouble and began this trial early on." He paused for a moment. "A few days ago Team 7, led by Hatake Kakashi was assigned a C-ranked escort mission. Complications occurred when information was withheld concerning the mission; the mission was then reclassified as A-ranked. In normal circumstances the mission would have been aborted or reassigned to a different team but for other reasons the mission continued and was a success.
Naruto couldn't help but grin at the mention of their success. Sakura was more reserved in her pride. You really couldn't tell what Kakashi and Sasuke were feeling by the impassive looks on their faces…at least in Sasuke's case. Kakashi's mask hid most of his facial expressions.
Kiba gasped in disbelief, but a stern look from Kurenai made him close his mouth. His nostrils flared in anger. It wasn't fair that they got to go on an A-ranked mission! Sure, it wasn't planned but that was beside the point! Kiba knew that he would have done a better job than anyone on Team 7, especially Uchiha Sasuke. He sent a glare at Sasuke, who returned it with a smug smirk. A small lick from Akumaru was the only thing that prevented Kiba from jumping across the room and beating that smug look off of Sasuke's face.
Hinata glanced worriedly at Naruto, a feeling of relief overcoming her at Naruto's apparent safety. Feeling eyes on him, Naruto turned to look curiously in Hinata's direction, making her face flush a deep shade of red before she turned to look in the opposite direction.
Shino didn't care much.
"Now for the reassignments." Sarutobi took a moment to look down at the paper lying in the center of his desk. "Team 7 will be led by Yūhi Kurenai will consist of the genins Hyūga Hinata, Lee Rock and Uzumaki Naruto."
At the mention of their names, the ones called stood up straight, their attention on Sarutobi. The black haired boy in green jumped slightly in the air. The bun haired girl slapped him lightly on the arm, a whispered "Lee!" under her breath. Hinata's face flushed a darker shade of red at the mention of Naruto's name. Naruto himself looked dumbfounded at the Sandaime, somewhat glad that he was no longer on the same team as Sasuke, but sad that he wasn't on Sakura's team either.
"Team 8 will be led by Hatake Kakashi and will consist of the genins Inuzuka Kiba, Tenten and Uchiha Sasuke."
"Oh, come on!" Kiba groaned under his breath, shooting glares at Sasuke—which Sasuke made a point of ignoring—until a stern look from Kurenai made Kiba turn the other way with a huff. Akumaru gave a small yip in agreement with his partner's thoughts. Tenten merely stood where she was and looked curiously at her new teammates.
Sarutobi continued on. "Team 9—still led by Guy Might—will consist of Aburame Shino, Haruno Sakura and Hyūga Neji."
Neji and Shino showed no outward emotion at the idea of the three of them being put together but the slumping of Sakura's shoulders showed that she wasn't too happy with it herself.
"Your new teams will start tomorrow. I hope to see great things during this trial, but do not put undue pressure on yourselves. You're all dismissed."
One by one, they left the Hokage's office, the genin not speaking to one another. Once they made it out of the tower it was a different matter, however.
"It's not fair! Why do they get to go on an A-ranked assignment?" Kiba complained.
"I-I don't think it was intentional, Kiba-kun," Hinata replied meekly, looking at the ground beneath her feet with interest.
"Tch. Whatever. I bet I could do better, especially better than Sasuke," Kiba said, loudly enough for Sasuke to hear.
Sasuke scoffed. "I could own you before you even took a swing dog boy."
Kiba spun on his heel and threw a glare at Sasuke. "Lets get something straight Uchiha, you don't own me! And you sure as hell ain't as special as you think you are!"
"I don't have to be special to be better than someone that's beneath me. Like you."
"You wanna prove it?" Kiba challenged, taking a step forward.
Sasuke stared at him with slight amusement. "I just told you. You are beneath me, there is nothing to prove."
Kiba gave an enraged yell and reached out to grab hold of Sasuke, but Tenten was quick to hold him back. Sasuke just continued to look smug, never moving from his current position.
Tenten could almost mirror Kiba's jealousy. Even her team had not been unlucky—or lucky, depending on the person—enough to get a mission like that. But she would never stoop so low as to argue with her teammates.
"Yosh! Such dishonorable display is not joyous my friends!" The boy clad in green, Lee, shouted at the top of his lungs, making Naruto jump back slightly at the unexpected volume of his statement.
"For goodness sake, shut up Lee! Now isn't the time!" Tenten yelled, yanking Kiba back from another attempt at jumping Sasuke.
Naruto moved a couple of steps away from Lee, his fingers in his ears in an attempt to block out some of the nose his new teammate was making.
"What a weirdo," he mumbled under his breath. Having heard the comment, Lee spun around, a strange glint in his eyes.
"Dearest teammate! It is rude to say such a thing!" Lee shouted and stuck out his hand.
Naruto stared at the offered hand as if he was afraid to touch it but slowly reached out and shook the proffered hand.
Rock Lee!" Lee greeted eagerly.
Naruto grinned back. "Uzumaki Naruto!"
Once they were done with their introduction, Lee turned towards Hinata and took both her hands in a greeting.
"You must be Hinata! I'm honored to have Neji-san's beloved cousin on my team!"
Hinata blushed at the comment, and even more so when Naruto let out a surprised shout at her relationship with Neji.
She gave a shy smile. "T-thank you L-Lee-kun."
Naruto threw his arm around Hinata's shoulders and grinned. "Welcome to the greatest team ever—Hinata?"
Hinata had gone the strangest and darkest red either of them had ever seen before she swayed on her feet and went limp in a faint at Naruto's touch.
"Eh? Hinata? Hinata!" Naruto yelled frantically as he caught her. When she didn't rouse, he and Lee resorted to shaking her in hopes of her waking up. That didn't work either.
While Tenten had Kiba in a tight grip, Sakura was screaming obscenities at the brown haired boy for attempting to attack Sasuke. Tenten wanted to yell at her to either shut up or help her but Kiba attempted to lurch forward again when Sasuke insulted his abilities as a shinobi. She was barely able to hold him back that time.
Shino stood back and watched silently, never interacting or helping. He occasionally glanced towards where the new Team 7 was but never moved.
Neji simply scowled at the scene in front of him. "Pathetic." He turned to look at Shino, studying him closely before setting his sights on Sakura. Feeling eyes on her, Sakura took her own off Kiba and saw Neji looking at her disapprovingly. "You better not slow me down."
He stared mostly at Sakura as he said this and watched as she seemed to shrink back a little at his stare. He could deal with Shino, who was from the well-known Aburame clan, but Sakura was starting to be an annoyance that he would not tolerate. He would not stand for being held back by a wannabe shinobi who was more interested in the Uchiha than she was in her duties.
Neji looked over where his cousin, his previous teammate and the Uzumaki boy were standing. Well, Lee and Uzumaki were kneeled over Hinata, desperately trying to get her to awaken. He gave them credit for at least having the decency to behave in public, unlike the new Team 8, but there was something that was more important than that. They were a group of failures. Lee was great in taijutsu and a good shinobi, but paired up with his weakling of a cousin and the dead-last from the academy, he would never reach his potential. That made every last one of them a failure.
Kurenai, Guy, and Kakashi watched their new students warily. It was already evident that they were off to a rough start and so far it looked like Kurenai had her work cut cut out for her. The others would take some time to get used to each other.
"What do you think of this Kakashi?" Kurenai asked lightly, her eyes focused on Hinata's prone form.
Kakashi looked at their students and sighed. "I can understand the Sandaime's concerns, but for him to choose us out of all teams for this is crazy."
Kurenai gave a curt nod of agreement. Guy burst out in laughter, slapping his hand on Kakashi's back. Kakashi didn't move but he shot an annoyed glare at the man.
"Kakashi! You think too much! This is a happy chance to teach something new! Have some excitement in your life!" Guy yelled in a similar fashion to Lee.
"I would appreciate it if you stopped touching me," was Kakashi's only reply.
"Whatever the case, we will be the determining factor as to any new decisions made concerning how genin are to be trained," Kurenai said. Her eyes softened with relief when Lee and Naruto finally woke Hinata. "Let's just hope this will work out in the end."
They watched the scene for a few moments more before calling attention to their new teams.
"Starting tomorrow we will begin with our new teams. Team 7, report to training ground one at 6 a.m. sharp….and Naruto," said blonde perked up at his name. "Do be quiet about my training methods, hmmm?"
Naruto snickered and mumbled a "Sure, Kakashi-sensei."
"Team 8 is to report at training ground 6 at noon tomorrow," Kurenai said sharply. "We have a lot of catching up to do so don't be late."
Gut laughed loudly and gave a smile full of teeth. "We shall meet at the entrance of the Western gate at 4 a.m."
"You are all dismissed!" Kurenai said.
With mumbles and yells, the group dispersed. Kurenai, Kakashi and Guy watched them go, taking note of who stuck with who before going their separate ways as well.
One thing was for certain, the coming months were going to be a challenge. Definitely.
Author Note: Review!