Jiraiya was an unexpected confidante, but a good one. Though, most of his responses were absentminded nods as he idly watched out the window for any sign of a female, or grunts as he wrote drafts of his book, he understood what it was like to be betrayed by someone you considered a sibling, and so the legendary toad sage became Sasuke’s personal venting forum and sounding board.
Today, Jiraiya was leaning back in his chair, watching as Sasuke paced across his small office. “How could she?” Sasuke growled, his sharingan flaring. “She was supposed to be my teammate, one of my best friends. And she goes off and does this! How did you get through this?”
Jiraiya opened his mouth to answer but Sasuke’s ramblings continued.
“I’ve put my life in her hands, and her for me. And she just throws it all the way! It’s like nothing we’ve done together meant anything to her! It’s revenge for something I did, I know it is!”
Jiraiya sighed and scratched his chin. “I think you might be better off asking Naruto what he thinks about this. He may be able to help you more than I can.”
Sasuke stopped pacing. “Are you sure Naruto’s the best person to ask? He always takes her side in these situations and I’ve taken his advice in a few situations, and I have to say what it’s done for our profit margin has not been good and-“
“Of course,” Jiraiya said quickly. “My suggestions to you would be to either drag her back no matter what- which isn’t applicable in this case- or to kill her which-“
“Is perfect,” Sasuke finished, a gleam in his eye. “That woman. She will pay.”
“No Sasuke. I was going to say that that would be a bad idea,” Jiraiya said while shaking her head. “Just…go talk to Naruto, okay? She’ll listen to him. And clean up the training ground. We don’t need any genin falling into whatever cavern Sakura created this time.”
As if fate had heard him, there was a knock on the door and an irate women marched in. Madam Shijimi, wife of the daimyo, herself stood in their office tightly clutching her cat, which appeared to have a limp paw.
Jiraiya quickly sat up. “Ah, Madam Shijimi, what can we do for you today?”
“Look at this!” she screeched, pointing Tora’s paw. “My poor, sweet, Tora was getting some exercise when he fell into some giant hole in one of your training grounds! What is the meaning of this? I demand a meeting with the Hokage and Village Elders at once! How you could allow such unsafe conditions is beyond me.”
Jiraiya held up his hands. “Believe me, we just became aware of the situation moments ago. The chasm was formed by some…unanticipated and very localized seismic event. We were just about to dispatch a top-notch team to fix it.”
She glared. “I. Want. It. Gone. By the evening.” And with that she stormed out of the office.
Jiraiya sighed and reached under his desk, taking out a bottle of sake and two glasses. “This is already become a much bigger problem than it needs to be.”
Sasuke took the offered cup and downed it. “I’m going to kill Sakura. You know she did this on purpose, right? She ruined Training Ground 87 and then waltzed out of the village for a mission not five minutes later. She knows I hate doing earth jutsu, too. That’s why she does it.”
“Right,” Jiraiya said. “Why don’t you go fix it? Before Tora tries to make a run for it again but this time end it all. I wouldn’t it blame it, to be honest.”
“I have Hanabi on it,” Sasuke said promptly. “She needs the practice. Anyway I’m sending an order for air pressure seals to Uzu, do you need to add anything to it?”
Jiraiya had gone back to absentmindedly writing. “No, I’m good.”
“Good,” Sasuke said. “Do you think the Hokage would mind if I threw in a request for that one of their seals that bind someone’s soul to trees? Sakura couldn’t ruin all of my training grounds if she was a tree.”
“I don’t care, get out of here, kid.”
When Sasuke arrived at Training Ground 87, both Naruto and Hanabi were there, but instead of fixing the hole they were both standing at its edge staring into it. “I think this is Sakura’s best work yet,” Naruto said. He gave a low whistle
The hole seemed to go down at least fifty meters, and the ground around it was misshapen as well. Sharp jagged rocks were thrown across the ground, and several trees had been uprooted by the force.
“It’s not impressive, it’s dangerous. The Damiyo’s cat already fell down into it and broke a paw.”
“Really?” Hanabi asked with a grin. “That’s awesome.”
“Really awesome,” Naruto agreed. “That’s it, we’re keeping this just the way it is, as a monument to the day the cat got what it deserves!”
Sasuke rolled his eyes. “Hanabi, start filling this back up.”
She quickly looked from him to Naruto, who gave a slight nod. Seeming to understand, she turned back to Sasuke. “No,” she said. “It’s cool and I don’t want to change it.”
Sasuke stared her down, though he knew from previous attempts that it would have no effect on her. Hanabi’s position was something of a mystery to Sasuke. Originally placed under him as a form of punishment from her father, she seemed to stick around. Balking at the idea of leaving while refusing to do anything.
“Whatever,” he sighed. He didn’t love earth jutsu, and he probably never would. But they were the name of the game in this business, so he began to form hand signs when suddenly he found his hand unable to move.
“You cannot fix the training ground,” a voice said. “Why? Because one of my clan’s Kochu has laid a nest inside of the chasm and it cannot be disturbed.” Shibi Aburame was standing at the edge of the training ground, staring at the large crater Sakura had left. “I am sorry for this inconvenience. Why? Because I understand that the quality of training grounds is essential to the village.”
Technically, any of the Aburame insects were a protected species in Konoha. They were, after all, vital to the success of a decent portion of the military force of the village, and killing one of the insects was a very grave crime. “Can the next be transported?”
“No. It is vital that the nest remain as undisturbed as possible. My clan I will place seals to ensure that it is not disturbed further from any shinobi who wish to utilize the ground. This training area is very close to our clan grounds, we will make sure no harm befalls the insect.”
“How long will it take them to hatch?” Sasuke asked.
“Approximately two and a half months,” he replied. “But it depends. Why? Because the Kochu eggs are heavily reliant on the weather.”
“Fine,” Sasuke said. “I’ll write up an agreement and send it do you either this evening or tomorrow.”
Shibi nodded, and then became a blur of bugs.
“Ugh, I hate it when they do that,” Naruto said. “You think you were talking to a person but it was just a group of bugs the whole time. I’ve talked to my dad about it, we really have no way of proving any of them are actually human. They could all just be bugs and we would have no clue.”
“That’s awesome” Hanabi said. “I hope they take over the village.”
“Yeah,” Naruto sighed. “Me too, that’d be really cool.”
With the Aburame Clan’s wishes and the Damiyo’s wife’s wishes acting in almost direct opposition to each other, there was only one viable solution. Sasuke rubbed his temples. The Hokage wouldn’t be thrilled about it, but the faster this meeting went the faster he could fix this mess.
“You want to temporarily seal of Training Ground 87?” Minato asked. He sighed and sunk into his chair, slamming Sasuke’s proposal down on the desk. “That’s one of our more popular grounds, correct?”
Sasuke flipped open a notebook. “Over 22 percent of active shinobi report using it in the last six months- our second highest by far. It isn’t our largest, in the second quartile. The chasm created the exact type of dark underground space the Kochu lay their eggs in, and when we dedicated the site as a training ground twenty years ago, there was an agreement made with the current clan head for this situation. Madame Shimiji has threatened Konoha’s funding if the situation is not fixed- I have been unable to ascertain exactly how high of a threat that is. Therefore, total isolation will be our best course of action to solve both these problems. I propose we place barrier seals, which will fulfill our role in our contract with the Aburame, so long as they are at least Class III.”
The Hokage turned to the woman standing next to Sasuke. “Do you agree with these assessments, Rin.”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes, Minato-Sensei.” She nudged Sasuke in the shoulder. “He did well!”
Minato nodded sternly. “I agree. Do you two have proper barrier seals or should I send out a specialist?”
“Our supply is adequate,” Sasuke said. “The only problem now is we need to open a temporary training ground while this one is unable to work. Our other ones are running at near-full capacity. I’ll do some scouting reports tomorrow and report back.”
“Good,” Minato said. “I ninja village relies on its ninja, after all. And a ninja is only as good as the ground he uses to train.”
“Why did I go into politics? Well my brother works at the academy, which of course falls under the jurisdiction Office of Shinobi Development in Konoha government, and the Training Ground division had an opening. It was Assistant to the Deputy Director. It comes with some good benefits.”
Sasuke stares at the camera and smirks.
“I outrank my brother, now.”