I could hear Naruto’s shout of disapproval before I even walked into the building. The blond was raving to Lord Third and Iruka about the selection of missions our team had been given. They weren’t anything exciting, certainly nothing like the work I’d had to do at his age, but that was just a product of the times. Konoha being a state of relative peace meant the work was less strenuous. ‘Boring’ I suppose, but these three needed the experience. Even after three months of simple D-rank missions, the team was still a dysfunctional mess. This was even more apparent as Naruto turned around at the sound of my footsteps, his face scrunched into an expression of frustration.
“You’re late again, Sensei! How irresponsible!”
“Well, I was busy escorting an old man and his traveling companion around the village. I must’ve lost track of the time…” I respond, feeling slightly guilty for telling a half-truth. Naruto just continues pouting, turning his attention once again to the Lord Third.
“Old man, how come this guy is our teacher again? He’s a Jounin, but he seems unreliable. He always shows up late, making us wait for hours!” He shouts, making me feel hurt and embarrassed. I’m composed enough to not let a small insult like that show on my face, at least. It does ting a little on the inside. I still have some feelings, even though I try to suppress them. It’s not like I don’t have a good reason for being late all the time…
“Naruto! Kakashi-sensei may be a bit…unorthodox in his teaching methods, but he is still your superior in rank, skill and age! You should show him more respect!” Lord Third rumbles, his grizzly voice holding an air of authority. I offer a bow to the elder man, thankful for his support. The blond frowns, both Sasuke and Sakura staring at him disdainfully.
“Alright, I went overboard. I was just tired of waiting, and these D-rank missions are booooriiiing! Sorry, Kakashi-sensei,” Naruto comments.
“It’s fine…I was wondering when you’d have one of your outbursts again. You always get worked up over something, it seems,” I joke, trying to ease some of the tension. It was another half-truth; Naruto’s outburst still stung a little. This kid…He has no manners. It should be expected, considering how he was raised…Another thing I screwed up… I think, briefly remembering the time between the Nine-Tails attack and Naruto’s birth. It was a complicated situation, with the death of Lord Fourth and many of our ninja, along with the suspicion cast upon the Uchiha for their ‘sudden’ absence during the attack. Losing both Obito and Minato-sensei, along with Rin soon after, in such a short time span…It wasn’t a pleasant time. I don’t remember too much of those years, though I do remember burying myself in missions for the Anbu. I had to make up somehow for my failure, and helping the village was the only way I could think of. I don’t even remember seeing Naruto at all. By the time I knew it, he was able to take care of himself. Besides, I was an emotional wreck then and could barely take care of myself let alone a growing child. A shout from Naruto brings me back to the present, alert.
“Wow! A real C-rank mission. Do you mean it, old man?” The blond shouts, making me shake my head. What did we just tell you about respect? A C-rank…It might be a good change of pace; for both them and me.
“It’s quite a simple job, really. All you have to do is protect a bridge builder from thugs on his way home to the Wave Country. He also needs protection while finishing up the bridge, but I doubt anything will happen,” Lord Third summarizes for us. Doesn’t sound too bad for a C-rank. If it keeps this knucklehead quiet I’m all for it. I walk up to Lord Third and take the scroll from his hand, wanting to check it over myself. Just a simple escort mission. Then again, looking back at our previous D-ranks, nothing with these three is ever simple.
“Fine. We’ll take it,” I respond, Naruto letting out a cheerful yell a few feet away. He must be more excited than I thought. Now all we have to do is wait for the client to show up.
“Yeah, this is gonna be great! When do we get going?” Naruto shouts, his voice loud with excitement. Sakura only sighs, Sasuke folding his arms across his body.
“We have to wait for them, idiot. We can’t go anywhere without the client, after all.”
“I know that, jerk! I was only thinking about if we need to pack stuff.” Naruto responds, Sasuke’s taunt inciting him even more. These two just won’t stop, will they? Naruto usually starts the arguments. They do bring up a valid point; we will be gone from Konoha for quite a while. At least a few days to get there, then however long the client takes to complete his bridge. Maybe a month at best for the whole trip, I suppose. A creaking noise from the east breaks me out of my contemplation, and all six of us turn to see who has opened the door.
An old man half-staggers into the room, his cheeks flushed red and pupils dilated--clear signs of intoxication. Not to mention he’s clearly holding a half-empty bottle of alcohol. Another smaller figure enters behind him, a distinct thumping noise accompanying their footsteps. A gloved hand quickly grabs the older man by the shoulder, the latter almost falling over from his intoxication. I notice that they are wearing gauntlets, though the armor seems dinged up from use and age. Another thing is one of the fingers of the glove is loose, flapping about while the others are tightly gripped onto the man’s shoulder.
“Geez…Tazuna-san, why are you inebriated so early in the day? This isn’t making a good first impression to our…eh…contractors.” A rough voice complains, Tazuna sneering and turning his head their way.
“Don’t lecture me, kid! I can drink if I want. Besides, after all the shit we’ve been through, I believe I deserve a break!” The man called Tazuna rumbles, his words slightly slurred. The figure in back just sighs, letting go of the old man and slowly walking forward. The reason for their slow gait was easily apparent as they entered into the room. Their right hand was limp at their side, a small stick used as a makeshift crutch thumping against the wooden floor with every step. A flicker of recognition shot across their helmeted face, their eye shadowy yet visible under the samurai helm they wore. This was the odd pair I had helped earlier. I don’t always make excuses; sometimes I do have reasons for being late. This as one of them. The helmet wobbled every few steps, as if it was not adjusted properly, and almost slid off their head as they shifted into a deep bow. Even while bowing, their bent head was not too close to the ground, a telling sign this person was short. Probably a young woman, guessing by the sound of their voice, muffled though it was in that helm.
“Erm…I apologize for this…disruption. Tazuna-san seems to get rowdy after a few drinks, and I was not with him the whole time. I had personal matters to attend to, and figured it would be best if we met up later…” She said, straightening their posture so that they were fully upright once more. Clearing her throat, she started to speak again,
“Right. Tazuna-san had previously sent a request in to your village asking for assistance. We are here to…ah…discuss that request, if possible.”
“Oh, oh! Are you the bridge builder we were hired to protect? This old guy seems a little mean. I hope it’s not him…” Naruto comments, the last of his words whispered so that our clients could not hear them. I just sighed.
“Yes…So the four of you are to be our escorts? Well…em…” The young woman muttered, Tazuna glaring at them, then turning his glazed stare over at our team.
“What? You mean kids are going to guard me? I guess they let anyone become ninja these days…” The old man grumbled, his partner only letting out a deep sigh and shaking their head.
“Whaddya mean ‘kids’? Screw this guy!” Naruto shouts, clenching his fist as if he meant to strike the man. I noticed his muscles tense as the brat tried to lunge at the old man. Naruto has a bad temper, just like his mother. I shudder when I remember the few times I saw Kushina take her anger out on Sensei. That was quite something. I see a flash of black as I reach out to grab Naruto by the collar, the blond already throwing out a punch in our client’s direction. I didn’t bother reacting to the strike, as I could see its arc easily and knew it wasn’t anywhere near fatal or even harmful. It was just for show, though it did impress me that she could move that fast while injured.
The upside-down tip of a black scabbard was only a few inches from Naruto’s forehead protector. I see… Naruto reacted as I figured, his face turning pale as his eyes widened at the empty sheath pointed at his head. Even if it had hit him, it would have done nothing to the metal on his forehead protector, as it honestly wasn’t being swung that fast. For someone like Naruto, with little battle experience and training in speed, the sheath probably looked like it was attempting to skewer him in two. He had no clue it was empty. Of course, Naruto accused the woman of doing just that as I let go of his white collar.
“Hey, watch it! You coulda killed me!”
The woman only responds by putting the sheath back into its strapped holster on her hip, the creases of a smirk forming on her bandaged face. She walks up to Naruto with a calm confidence.
“Don’t worry. If I wanted to kill you, you’d be dead. That parlor trick was just to shake you up a bit. I do apologize for it, though fear is sometimes the best teacher…”
“…Damn! You freaked me out there. I can’t believe we have to protect people like you…” Naruto mutters, the woman shaking her head.
“Then next time, how about you stop acting so impulsively? I saw you going to attack my charge and I did as expected. You did bring that on yourself, you know.”
Naruto only responded by grunting, his face starting to turn from pale to red with embarrassment. The woman only responds by offering another deep bow in apology. This is going to be an interesting few weeks indeed…
“Well…We should probably set a time and place to meet. You seem to have things left to do, and we also need to get ready for this trip.” I start, ignoring the heated glare Naruto was giving the woman, who didn’t even turn to look in his direction. Sasuke and Sakura look at me expectantly, and also with a hint of boredom. They must want to leave as much as I do.
“This mission is going to be at least a month, if not longer due to delays. I’d suggest you pack as much clothing and supplies as you see fit. We’re going to meet at the entrance to the village around seven tomorrow morning, so get some rest.”
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