Today would be the day that Naruto's childhood inattentiveness came back to bite her in the ass. Iruka always told her that it would eventually, but so far she had cleverly avoided the chūnin's inevitably smug "I told you so." Currently, Naruto was standing outside of the Hokage's office, white-knuckled grip tightening on the unassuming scroll in her hand. Her expression hovered somewhere between horror and nausea, something she'd only exhibited once before in her life, when told that Ichiraku would be closed two weeks for renovations.
What had her academy teachers told her about this type of mission again?
Absolutely nothing, so when this mess blew up she could completely blame them, right?
Somehow, her thoughts weren't as comforting as they should have been. Naruto fought off the edge of hysteria threatening to overcome her as she desperately tried to recall anything that she had been taught that might help her with her current situation.
Naruto Uzumaki couldn't tell you a lot about her Academy experience. If asked, she would reply that it was long, and boring, and that she didn't remember most of it. This would be about the time that she realized Iruka was standing behind her and would receive a slap to the back of her head. Iruka would explain that Naruto's memory lapse was most likely due to the fact that as a child, Naruto skipped lessons as much as possible and often had to be deposited kicking and screaming into her chair hours after class had started by whatever unfortunate ANBU drew the short straw for Naruto-catching duty.
Naruto could say with confidence that the Academy had taught her to be a ninja, but words failed her if she attempted to describe her village's teaching process in detail. In actuality, Konoha's Academy had been fine-tuning a training curriculum that spun children into ninja for decades. Other hidden villages might describe Konohagakure as taking a "sensitive" approach to teaching (if they were feeling polite). The Village Hidden in the Leaves was often ridiculed by other nations for being "soft" and "hesitant" when it came to the ninja arts. Most hidden villages took the position that, no matter how one looked at it, a ninja village survived and thrived by teaching young boys and girls how to become effective killers. Therefore, the majority approach regarding teaching strategies was to desensitize children to killing as quickly as possible through brutal training methods.
Konoha had developed its own ways to desensitize children to the idea of killing, but they took a longer time to do so. This was, of course, unless the village was at war, then they followed the advanced curriculum (which Iruka could tell you about, but it is entirely irrelevant at this point since Naruto had never experienced it). But what made Konoha's training methods so different is that the village didn't believe that the primary purpose of a ninja was to kill, but rather, to protect. Konoha ninjas existed to protect their country, their village, their comrades, their precious people, and the future. To protect effectively required a broader and more complex skill set than that of someone who merely needed to know how to kill.
Thus, the Konohagakure Academy curriculum focused on introducing its charges to a wide variety of subjects. Konoha was unique in encouraging its ninja to exchange knowledge and skills. In a profession where lives were won or lost depending on the secrecy of one's techniques, this was not an easy thing that the village asked of its shinobi. While Konoha ninjas didn't lay all their cards down on the Academy classroom tables, they emphasized on the importance of giving Academy children as much information and training as possible. Teachers actively tried to ferret out their students' particular interests and talents, nurture curiosity, and encourage success in areas outside of the classic defensive and offensive techniques: ninjutsu, taijutsu, and genjutsu. Iruka was invested in each and every child that walked through his classroom doors. He would be embarrassed to admit that it took longer than it should have to become invested in Naruto's life, but she loved him despite this and he was a sucker who increased his weekly ramen budget whenever she brought up the issue, and as such, they'd made their peace.
One of the ways the Academy taught such a broad curriculum was through its famous lecture series. The lecture series consisted of 87 lectures on set topics. One lecture was given every Thursday each week that the Academy was in session. Once the 87th lecture was given, the Academy began the series again with Lecture 1. This way, every child who entered the Academy around the age of five would have an opportunity to hear every lecture by the time they chose to take the graduation exam. Iruka was responsible for Lecture 75, Advanced Trapping, which taught the children how to increase the effectiveness of traps by making minor adjustments to suit the variables in weather and terrain. Naruto skipped the lecture the first time that it was offered, in her third year of schooling. However, when it was time for Iruka to repeat the lecture, Naruto was present and participating as a demonstrative aid, one of Iruka's more creative punishments for putting mud in the teacher's lounge coffee maker earlier that week.
The lectures covered in-depth discussions about concepts that could only be touched upon in the regular classwork. They discussed fūinjutsu, juinjutsu, and senjutsu. Several lectures were devoted to medical ninjutsu, hammering in advanced first aid techniques that might one day save a classmate's life. Some lectures were devoted to specific types of weaponry. Tokubetsu jōnin would lead the students through practice exercises and see if they could find anyone with natural talent for their preferred area of expertise. Naruto remembered the kenjutsu lecture fondly. No one that day had been singled out by showing exceptional promise, but the day had been long and it had been a great stress reliever to knock Kiba senseless with a wooden stick without reprimand.
The lectures weren't mandatory. Oftentimes, clan children already knew the information offered in the special sessions or had parents who prohibited them from practicing certain areas of techniques. Additionally, some of the lectures were tailored for gender. Naruto had no idea what the boys discussed in their private lectures, she just wasn't that curious once Chouji had confirmed that they hadn't been taught any "super-awesome" ninja techniques or better ways to explode things.
Personally, Naruto found the female lectures excruciatingly boring as they often covered subjects such as flower arranging, which, Naruto was distressed to learn, apparently included an entire language in which she was expected to be proficient. Other common topics included how to wear formal kimonos (like she would ever need to do that as a ninja, please), or how to use face-paints to enhance facial features (she lost interest in that as soon as the teacher confiscated the orange paints). They were also taught proper ways to serve tea, practiced traditional dances, tested for musical ability, and instructed in the language of fans. (Come on, thought Naruto, exactly how many languages were girls supposed to know? No wonder men complained they couldn't understand them…it was a wonder girls understood themselves).
But, amidst the kunoichi only lectures, Lecture 39 held a place of prominence. Lecture 39 could only be attended by those ten or older and was offered every year. It was the seduction lecture. Naruto sat in the back and rolled her eyes at her classmates, who maintained a constant stream of giggling throughout the period. It was taught by an elderly woman-thin, petite, and stern with silver hair that she kept tidily piled atop of her head in a simple bun. Kiyomi-sama had a no-nonsense attitude that Naruto usually detested in her teachers, but she had an air of confidence and grace that made Naruto hesitant to test the boundaries of acceptable classroom behavior, which she normally did with the subtlety of a battering ram. It helped that Kiyomi-sama neither singled Naruto out for bullying nor completely ignored her, but instead treated her the same as every other young girl with whose education she'd been entrusted. The woman wasn't compassionate by any means, but as she knelt at the front of the room in her conservative, jewel-tone yukata, she addressed everyone in a detached, composed manner which implied that she had done this more times than they had taken breaths of this world's air and would continue to do so long after most of them stopped. After all, she was retired and they would be active ninja soon, their life expectancies were understandably shorter even compared to her considerable age.
Perhaps part of Naruto admired Kiyomi-sama, even if it was somewhat grudgingly. There had to be some reason that this woman was one of the few instructors who Naruto honored by remembering her name. However, this didn't mean that Naruto remembered or paid attention to all of the woman's instructions in any of the several kunoichi lectures that she taught Neither did it mean that Naruto was particularly interested in the infamous Lecture 39, which kept her female classmates blushing and giggling at random intervals for weeks before and after it was held, much to Iruka's consternation.
Naruto recalled the telling signs of hard won age in Kiyomi-sama's features as she gently addressed the horde of small girls gathered to listen to her words of wisdom. "Remember," the serene woman had said with a face that neither smiled nor frowned, but looked like the reflection of the sky in the lake on a soft, summer day. "You can't control the intelligence that you're given on a target, if it's bad. Other than what can be adjusted by transformation techniques, or soothed away by genjutsu, you can't control, and are not responsible for, the target's tastes. Seduction missions have the potential to affect you more here," and at this the old woman had raised a soft fist to her heart, "and here," the fist moved to gently knock against her temple, "than any other mission if it goes badly and spirals out your control." Kiyomi had paused for a minute to take a sip of tea, as she always did before emphasizing an important point to her students. "If you forget all I've said, remember this: No matter the technical outcome of a seduction mission, it will be a personal success for you as long you refrain from becoming emotionally attached to the target. Don't give the target's words, opinions, or actions any weight. The target does not get to determine whether you are beautiful, or valuable, successful or important. The target doesn't have that power unless you give it to them. Without an emotional commitment, the target is powerless and you will emerge from your mission successful in the ways that count the most."
Kiyomi-sama said a lot more in the lecture, but those words were the ones that Naruto clung to now, eight years later. Naruto wished she could track down the old woman and force her to answer all the questions that Naruto hadn't been interested in or aware enough to ask as an obnoxious ten year-old. After all, Kiyomi never told the class what to do in a seduction mission where one was invested emotionally in the target before the mission actually began.
Naruto was so screwed.
"In more than one way," chortled an unwelcome mental presence.
"Shut up, Kurama."