(Training ground 3, 8 AM, One month later.)

One month can be a long time. It's pretty easy for a month to be long when you spend almost all your mornings training to exhaustion. Longer still when your afternoons are filled with the insufferable monotony of D-rank missions. Even longer still when you had to put up with a slightly sadistic cat that you knew full well could hand you your own ass on a platter in two seconds flat. Taking all that into consideration, for the Genin of Team 7 it had been a LONG month. The good news in all this, was that then Team 7 was now a cohesive and rather skilled unit, and that the monotony was soon to be broken.

"Team 7! At attention!" Yoruichi barked at the Genin.

The team scrambled to their feet and stood straight.

"We have a mission. You three have done well enough in your training so far that I have cleared you for a C-rank."

Team seven did not break posture, but they did look ecstatic.

"As such, we will not be training this morning. Go home. Pack everything you will need outside of the village. Meet me at the gate in one hour."

The three didn't need an hour, they already had travel packs ready as per Yoruichi's instruction, but they still found worthwhile ways to use the time.

As soon as he entered his apartment Naruto stripped his outer bright orange layer and armored himself with a mesh body suit over the reinforced bandages many shinobi were fond of. He also made a point of checking his newish training weights and making sure they were secure. He put the orange abomination back on, double checked all his gear, then left to tell the few people who cared about him (IE, the Ichirakus and the Urahara shop,).

Shikamaru similarly armored himself, checked his pack and scrolls, did not check his weights, then left to watch some clouds before the meeting time.

Tenten checked her pack, decided it needed more weapons, stripped, armored herself, increased her weights, checked their security, strapped on and equipment pouch, thought for a moment, strapped on two shuriken holsters, thought a bit more, strapped a two more shuriken holsters two her wrists, covered them with a long sleeved shirt of a style she liked that was light violet in color, strapped a tanto and two scrolls to the small of her back. Her preparations finished, the aspiring weapon mistress picked up a Chokuto, and ran through several kata that Kisuke had taught her.

Though their preparations may have been different, each member of Team 7 was ready to go.

(The village gate, 9 AM.)

Naruto, Shikamaru, and Tenten talked about what the mission might entail as they waited for Yoruichi to arrive with the client. Well, more like Naruto chattered away, Tenten kept him talking with the occasional question, and Shikamaru wanted to strangle both of his teammates for making him think before noon. Naruto stopped voicing his latest idea; which involved a princess, an evil dictator, a new country, and ramen; when he saw Yoruichi leading a very disgruntled and very drunk man to the gate.

"I still can't believe I'm getting three brats and a cat. 'S ridiculous." The man took a swig from a bottle.

Well that explains the drunkenness, Naruto thought to himself. "Yoruichi-sensei, this is our client?" Naruto spoke in a semi polite and professional manner.

Yoruichi was pleased to see that the Genin had heeded their instruction on how to properly act in front of a client.

"Yes. Tazuna-san, this is my team. Team 7 this is Tazuna. He is a bridge builder from the Land of Waves. We will be escorting him back to his home. Any questions?"

Tenten raised her hand, "How far is the trip?"

"Roughly a week each way on foot." Yoruichi meant 'at civilian speed', "That's part of why it's a C-rank." Yoruichi started out of the gate before pausing and looking back, "Anything else? No? Well let's get going then."

(On the road, sometime around Noon.)

Tenten and Shikamaru walked to the left and right, respectively, of Tazuna. Yoruichi took point. Naruto brought up the rear, but tended to wander a bit to watch everything on the road.

Despite his freedom to wander, Naruto couldn't take it anymore, "We've been walking for HOURS!" He threw his hands up in exasperation, "I am so BORED!"

Ignoring her teammate's outbursts, Tenten spoke up from her side of their client, "So Tazuna-san, what is it you do in Wave?" Tenten didn't particularly like Tazuna so far, his muttering certainly did nothing to improve her view of him, but she was curious about his home.

His demeanor changed completely when his thoughts turned to his work, nay, his passion! "Well young lady! I," he puffed out his chest, "Am the SUPER bridge builder Tazuna! I build SUPER bridges that are SUPER awesome!"

Naruto was curious, though more out of boredom than anything, "So are you building a bridge in Wave then?"

"A SUPER bridge," Tazuna corrected.

"So you're building a super bridge in Wave?" Naruto asked again.

"WRONG!" Tazuna shouted excitedly, "I, the great Tazuna, am building a SUPER, SUPER bridge!"

Tenten missed the significance of the second 'super'. Naruto did not, for he was quite fluent in the language of hyperbole, "So, then, the super super bridge is like four times more super right?"

Tazuna looked at the young blonde with surprise, "Smart kid. You know brat? I think I might not hate you!"

Though this may seem a backhanded compliment, it was still better than what Naruto got from most people. He took the compliment with a grin.

Shikamaru did not much care what Naruto and Tenten chattered about, so long as they did their jobs. That way, he could be free to do his, and his job was to watch for anything strange or potentially dangerous. It just so happened that he saw such a thing. Two things actually. Specifically two puddles on the sides of a quite dry road where it had not rained for days. Upon seeing the puddles, Shikamaru used an agreed upon Team 7 signal to say 'Something isn't right here. Be on high alert.' The key phrase was: "You know, I really wish the sky were perfectly clear. I could walk in the sun all day." That signal was chosen because anyone who knew Shikamaru moderately well also knew that he would never say such a thing.

On hearing the signal, the two other Genin put themselves on high alert and started scanning the trees for threats.

To make it clearer for his teamamtes, Shikamaru continued speaking out of character, "It is better to not have clouds, since rain on the road could just ruin this journey. Am I right?"

At their teammates prompting, the loudmouths of the team noticed the puddles, though they pretended to keep searching. The had not stopped walking, but they did slow down slightly to keep themselves between Tazuna and the puddles.

Suddenly, in a burst of movement, two ninja wearing oddly shaped Kirigakure hitai-ite leaped from the puddles and brandished their gauntleted arms.

A whistling noise brought the chain connecting the gauntlets into Tenten's sphere of awareness. Instead of ducking the chain as the mist ninja expected she would, she quickly drew her tanto and jabbed it upwards in a deflecting motion that sent the chain sailing over Tazuna's head. Unfortunately, the chain took the tanto with it.

The two Mist ninja laughed at this turn of events, "Hah! We are the demon brothers Gouzu and Meizu. Do you really think you can stop us from killing that geezer?"

"Yes," came the reply from where the chain had fallen. Shikamaru was crouched next to the chain with his hands held firmly in the rat seal. "Shadow Possession successful. Naruto, Tenten, knock them out." Naruto and Tenten Happliy obliged.

Tazuna stood a shocked silence. He had not expected trouble so soon. He had also not expected the team of brats to be able to protect him. However, he probably should have expected an accusatory glare from Yoruichi.

"Tazuna-san, would you care to explain why two enemy shinobi want you dead?" Yoruichi's words were polite, yet cold.

Tazuna was too shaken by the attack to try his hand at fooling a Jonin, "They want to stop me from building my bridge."

"Yes Tazuna-san, that much is obvious. Why do they want to destroy the bridge?" The cat brandished its claws, "I should remind you that since you lied to us about the danger of this mission, your life is now an acceptable loss."

Tazuna started tearing up in his panic, "It's becaauce of Gato!"

"The shipping tycoon?" Ten-ten asked.

"Yeah he's the one," Tazuna nodded emphatically.

"Why would he have anything to do with your bridge?"

"Because he already owns all the other trade routes in and out of wave. He doesn't like that we're trying to break his stranglehold." Tazuna sat down rather heavily in on the side of the road. "And now you're going to abandon us, since we barely even have the money to pay for a C-rank," he spat, "Then you may as well kill me now. Gato's mercenaries will finish the job soon enough."

"Relax Tazuna-san." Yoruichi produced a scroll, a brush, and ink in a puff of smoke, "We will continue to protect you, if you sign this."

Tazuna picked up the document. As he read it his eyes widened. "But if I sign this it means..."

"Indeed," Yoruichi cut him off, "Harsh they may be, those are the terms. I would remind you that we are fully within our rights to kill you for lying to us and not let the bridge be finished."

Naruto didn't know what the scroll said, but his stomach turned at the sight of his teacher extorting their client. Despite his inner distaste, Naruto managed to keep a neutral expression on his face.

Tazuna sighed, "I suppose I don't have a choice then."

Yoruichi chuckled, "Not much of one, no."

Tazuna signed again, this time in resignation, then he signed the scroll and put it ont he ground in front of Yoruichi, where it disappeared in another puff of smoke.

"Perfect," Yoruichi glanced at the still unconscious Demon Brothers, "Now we need to figure out what to do with these two."

(On the road, sometime after the Demon Brothers' attack.)

Having cleanly dealt with the comatose Demon Brothers, Team 7 and Tazuna were free to continue their journey. They did so a bit more quietly than before.

"So what did you make Tazuna sign Yoruichi-sensei?" Tenten asked.

"Not now Tenten. I'll explain later," Yoruichi noticed Naruto about to speak, "And don't ask how I dealt with the Demon Brothers. You don't want to know."

Naruto shuddered ever so slightly at that.

Curiously, Yoruichi froze stock still. The others tensed and scanned the surroundings some potential threat. Then Yoruichi pounced into the bushes to the side of the road and came back with a rabbit. The others relaxed.

"Yoruichi-sensei," Tenten still had her hand on a weapon, "What is that?"

"It's a rabbit."

"I noticed, I mean why is it in your mouth."

"Because I'm a cat." Before Tenten could express her annoyance Yoruichi quickly added, "It's also someone's pet. See the white fur? Usually rabbits have a white coat only in the winter. Also it is far to slow and fat to have survived in the wild."

Shikamaru somehow managed to make a simple yawn sound like the word 'troublesome,' "Why does this matter? Why do we care?"

"Apathy at its finest," Yoruichi mused, "Shikamaru, it matters because..." Yoruichi's eyes widened, "DOWN!"

Shikamaru dropped like a brick while his teammates tackled Tazuna to the ground just in time to dodge the gigantic seversword as it flew through the air and stuck into a nearby tree with a loud thunk.

A masked man wearing a Hidden Mist headband appeared on top of the blade. "Well well, what have we here?"

Yoruichi's eyes narrowed, "Zabuza Momochi."

A/N: Sorry this is so late guys, calculus was kicking my ass. I juggled my schedule a bit to fix it and now you get a chapter. I would like to let all of you know that I am very lazy, and that while I do put myself on a schedule I do still procrastinate my own deadlines. I am sorry for that. Rest assured that I will not abandon this story if I have anything to say about it. Also, check my profile for status updates if a chapter is especially late. I'll try to let you know what's going on, but I am still terribly lazy. Anywho, were any of you wondering what Sasuke has been up to?

Omake:

The public opinion of Kurenai Yuhi, at least within Konoha, was rather polarized. Many believed that she was kind, friendly, and a generally upstanding member of the community. The others were the ones that had given her some cause for anger. They believed her to be a terrifying she-devil that fully deserved the Jonin rank. Naturally, the truth about Kurenai lies somewhere in between two extremes. One does not become a Genjutsu mistress without some touch of sadism in their heart. As such, the terror caused by Kurenai's wrath was not only justified, but also wise. This was a fact that one Sasuke Uchiha was learning quite painfully.

"Sasuke, I thought you were going to beat me with that Taijutsu of yours," Kurenai turned a page in her book, "Well? Aren't you going to attack again?"

"Dammit, when my Sharingan awakens these illusions will be USELESS!" He charged at his sensei while Hinata watched quietly and Chouji munched.

Kurenai dodged the attack quite easily, "I wouldn't bet on that Sasuke. Besides, until that happens, you're vulnerable. Hell Viewing."

Sasuke collapsed in mid-step as he sunk into the depths of another illusion.