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Stuck Together

Chapter Text

"No, I refuse," Kakashi spoke the second he realized what the third Hokage was holding out to him before the older ninja could get a word in, "if you give me another team, I'll fail them. Just let someone else deal with it."

"The council is quite invested in this team and are hoping for their success under you." the Hokage said. There were clear undertones despite not saying anything directly about the expectations, "They believe there's nobody more qualified, especially considering the special circumstances." the Hokage spoke without any visible change in his expression despite Kakashi's vehement disapproval.

Kakashi didn't know who was on the team, but it was one of two things. Either the council was giving him a group of kids, that they needed pushed through the ranks for political purposes or something much worse and Kakashi had a sinking suspicion that it was the latter.

"Read through and I'm sure you'll see why," The Sandaime slightly shook the folder in his hands as if reminding Kakashi that it was still there. Kakashi took the dossier with exaggerated annoyance, but he knew this wasn't a fight he'd be winning easily.

The Hokage dismissed him and like the loyal ninja he was he began preparations for his new genin team. He considered failing them out of spite, but he decided to do away with the test entirely. If the expectation was that Kakashi would let them pass, then why bother with a test? His new plan of action was to throw all pretenses out the window, he had zero commitment to the team and was planning on giving them the bare minimum. As long as he did the council this favor he would use it as leverage for them not to saddle him with another team. 

He wasn't going to let them die because incompetence, he wasn't a horrible person, but he was offering enough direction and attention to succeed and eventually throw them to the Chunin exams. Once they were trained and passed he would try to move away as much as possible, he would probably be a bad influence anyway and he didn't want an emotional connection.

The plan was thrown out the window when he actually looked at who was on his team.

An eraser in the doorway, they clearly thought this was all a big joke, but he wasn't going to play their game. He stepped through the door and moved out of the way of the falling eraser. He did make a point of flicking it out of the air and directly into Naruto's face, he was entirely sure it his idea. "Tomorrow come to training field seven at 0600 hours. Don't be late, I'll be testing you to see if you're actually ninja material."

He didn't wait for a response he simply turned around and left the room though he stayed by the door hidden out of sight to listen in on their conversation.

"I told you it was a stupid idea, Dobe," Sasuke said. Kakashi needed to knock that superior tone right out of him, he didn't want another version of himself on the team. Kakashi was a bit of a jerk as a child, but he had the skills to back it up. This kid might be the top of his class, but compared to his brother or Kakashi at that age, he needed a lot of improvement before he could act so arrogantly. However, Kakashi knew the potential was there, he just needed to draw it out.

"Shut up Teme," Naruto yelled back to Sasuke.

"Sasuke-kun is right, you need to be more mature," Sakura jumped right on Sasuke's train. Her crush was probably going to be detrimental to the team, young romances tended to be. Looking back at his old team the crushes they had worked against them, eventually they managed to get things together, but it did cause tension. Still among his regrets and wishes of what he could change, emotional issues that came with puberty weren't at the top of the list.

Once he heard the clattering that accompanied Naruto launching himself at Sasuke, Kakashi took his leave. He was going to force those kids into the best team possible whether they wanted to or not. He had multiple reasons for this desire and only a few were rational. Part of it was what he felt he owed his own sensei, his experiences with Naruto as a child while he observed the boy, and a likely misplaced sense of guilt involving Itachi. He was Itachi's superior in Anbu for a time, he always wished he managed to connect more to him.

Possibly most of all was that just by looking at them he could see his own team and he couldn't let history repeat itself.

He was going to make them exceptional because maybe that would finally silence the voices that haunted his dreams and ease the pain he constantly felt.

Plus he'd get a certain amount of satisfaction at shoving the council's face in the success of the team he was expected to babysit. He absolutely knew they had no faith in Naruto and simply needed someone capable to make sure he didn't become a danger, nobody could care less about Sakura, and Sasuke was a bloodline not a person.

As much as it went against his nature he made sure to be on time, give or take a few minutes and arrived in time to see his team gathered on the cusp of another argument. That was another thing he'd need to stomp out, a bit of rivalry never hurt anyone, but if they couldn't cooperate they'd be compromised.

"When I told you we'd be doing a test, I lied. Every time I was assigned a group they took a test and I failed them, but this time it doesn't matter because I have to accept you. For or better or worse we're stuck together which means I'm going to put my best effort into this and I expect the same in return. I'll push you until you achieve greatness, and I won't accept laziness or complaints. From today on your my team, my first team and I won't have you disgracing yourselves or more importantly me. Are we clear?" He knew he was laying it on a bit thick, but if the expressions on their faces were anything to go by the message was getting through.

With a quick sign two shadow clones appeared by his side, "Now I'm going to split you up and talk about what you need for training. We're going to do one week of personal work just to get you in shape and help you understand what I expect, then you'll start training as a group, following that will be basic missions, and we'll proceed from there."

He and his clones split up the genin and took them to separate parts of the training grounds, the clones would disperse and let Kakashi know how the discussions went with the two he didn't personally talk to.

Sakura was going to need the most work even if he ignored the advantages the other two had. She was trained by books which was all well and good, but he knew she didn't have the skills to back up her knowledge. 

"Let me be perfectly clear, those two were chosen for exceptional reasons, whatever ninja they chose to be third on the squad was just to round out the numbers. In this case you were deemed the right choice. Compared to those two your analytical skills, genjutsu potential, chakra control, and intelligence are superior. However in actual battle you cannot currently keep up and you won't have the same advantages they have going forward," Kakashi was brutally honest with the girl, because they were very quickly going to pull out in front of her unless she made a serious effort.

"So you're saying I'm useless in battle?" She asked some bite in her tone, but she couldn't entirely reign in the hurt. Kakashi didn't entirely blame her for that, being told by your new mentor that you were a weak link and were tacked onto the team just because you were convenient couldn't feel good.

"I'm saying you're going to need to work twice as hard just to keep up with them, so you can't spend your time mooning over Sasuke," he explained in a slightly more patient tone and before she could get offended he added in a friendlier tone, "As a former child ninja genius heartthrob I can tell you, being committed to the mission is more attractive than anything else."

She took a deep breath and steeled herself answering, "I don't need dating advice from an old man, but I promise I'll work hard. I won't be a burden." She spoke with a resolution that Kakashi expected her to hold to. She looked him in the eye and said, "Tell me what I need to do."

Kakashi knew he needed to let her know exactly where she stood, "Sasuke will eventually unlock the sharingan and Naruto has an overwhelming amount of chakra as well as his own special circumstances, those are natural advantages. Even taking that away, they still are both more capable than you in combat. You're all still children with very limited training so your lack of strength and speed aren't entirely your fault, part of it is biology and part of it is you coming from a civilian background where I'm sure your parents didn't stress the need for working out or training."

Sakura nodded which Kakashi took as agreement and continued, "For the time being you'll be using your chakra to augment your physical abilities while I train you in taijutsu and weapon skills, I understand that you know the theory and basics, but you need to practice the application. I expect you to do general fitness exercises everyday whether or not I'm actively training you, I'll lay out what I expect you to do. What I've mentioned so far is primarily improving physical combat capability by improving your taijutsu, stamina, strength, speed, and it'll help you get used to using your chakra in combat situations. This won't come quickly, but you'll begin to notice the effects over time, once I'm satisfied you'll start focusing on ninjutsu and or genjutsu whichever I deem the best choice. I don't want to overload you with information so we'll discuss things as we get to them."

"Right," she said nodding sharply before asking, "What do I do first?"

"I need to know exactly where you stand in terms of skill, beyond my observations and secondhand knowledge."

"How should I show you?"

"Simple, attack me and don't stop until I tell you that you can."

Naruto was an enigma a boy who could create dozens if not hundreds of shadow clones from his nearly endless chakra supply, but lacked basic skills. He wasn't overly concerned about improving the boy's stamina or chakra reserves, he could thank his Uzumaki heritage for that. Kakashi wasn't going to teach him anything if he couldn't get the basics down first, he couldn't imagine Naruto enjoying that much so just ordering him to run through Academy exercises wouldn't work.

"So what's your dream?" Kakashi asked despite knowing the answer. The boy wanted to be the Hokage and if Kakashi could, he'd help the boy realize his dream, but first he needed to learn to throw a punch. 

"I want to be the Hogake and be recognized by everyone," Naruto responded projecting confidence, but Kakashi could see hints of pain of desperation to have others look at him without disdain. 

Kakashi nodded, "Alright, if that's you dream then it's my job to help you achieve it." It probably wasn't, he was tasked with helping them begin their journeys to becoming ninjas. Normally he condemned teachers letting their emotions affect students, Gai and his clone Lee was an example, but inevitably all teachers became invested in their students. 

Naruto interrupted him jumping in the air and pumping his fist before he could launch into a tirade about his dreams Kakashi continued, "But for this to happen I expect you to follow my orders."

"You got it," Naruto flashed him a grin and a thumbs up.

Kakashi gave him an eye smile, "Perfect, now the first step is for you to master the basics."

"I already know the basics, I graduated," Naruto quickly protested as Kakashi had expected. 

"No, you squeaked by, I saw your grades and the reports on your progress. I think you have the talent and potential, but I think you've been holding yourself back with your antics. Naruto I believe in you all I need is for you to believe in me," Kakashi was gentle in a way he knew he was rarely going to be with them, but it was important for them to trust him. 

The emotional abuse Naruto faced over the years was clearly worse than Kakashi had predicted because just the knowledge that someone believed in his dream seemed like a revelation to the boy who was staring at Kakashi as if he'd said something foreign. Naruto's voice was much lower when he nodded head and asked, "What's first?"

"Make a shadow clone and have it spar with me, I'll only defend, I want you to watch until you can tell me the weaknesses in your fighting style and what you need to improve. I'll teach you how to follow through on the improvements you think you need, after that you'll repeat the process, but this time you'll be fighting your clone. With each fight you'll slowly improve your style, when I'm happy with your progress your opponent will become me and you'll continue to figure out what you need to change. Each time you adapt to my fighting style, I'll start using a different one and you'll continue to identify your problems," Kakashi gave him a basic walk-through. Kakashi figured he would using fighting styles that would force Naruto to learn what he should already know. 

Kakashi didn't plan on directly revealing to Naruto that using clones could speed up the training progress, mainly because he didn't want him getting lazy thinking he could have his clones practice for him. However if Naruto and his clone were doing the same activity at the same time, it could speed things up in the initial stages and hopefully Naruto wouldn't realize exactly what was happening. "Now form a clone and watch closely, this is your very first step towards becoming Hokage."

"Right," Naruto and his newly formed clone answered at the same time.


Kakashi walked next to Sasuke his new little problem child and rather than give orders he waited for Sasuke to talk first. He wanted to know where the young Uchiha's head was, what he was thinking and how Kakashi was going to mold him into a team player. Although all three would have trouble with teamwork due to their personalities and relationships, Sasuke had issues with people in general along with his fierce independence and closed off personality things were going to be troublesome. That wasn't even mentioning his childhood trauma and hatred for his brother, both of which Kakashi felt he wasn't equipped to deal with, but knew would come up.

"So we're training separately?" Sasuke asked seeking clarification. 

"For the time being, yes," Kakashi answered keeping his eye on Sasuke.

"Good," Sasuke said simply a bit of satisfaction present, but with no other real tone to his voice.

"Why do you think it's good?" Kakashi 

"I'm different from those two, I don't need them holding me back." Kakashi nearly rolled his eye, but Sasuke wasn't entirely wrong.

The reason for the week of personal preparation wasn't really to focus on skills it was to make sure the genin had a basic level of ability that would allow them to work together. Naruto and Sakura weren't going to jump to Sasuke's level over night, but he needed them to be capable enough for him to assign them basic positions within the team and to work cooperatively. If Sasuke was entirely out of their league it was difficult to relegate positions because Sasuke would be expected to take lead in almost all situations, Naruto would be running behind him spamming clones, and Sakura would stare at them unable to do anything.

"I'll admit you're different, but not that different. Honestly a new genin with your level of skill acting so high and mighty, it's a bit embarrassing," Kakashi was choosing to prod at him because breaking down this idea of him being someone on a different level from his teammates was necessary.

"Really and how great were you when you graduated?" Sasuke carried traces of anger, it was nice to see him showing some sort of emotion. 

"Fair enough, you're probably stronger than I was when I first graduated," Kakashi shrugged and Sasuke looked remarkably smug until Kakashi added, "but I also graduated in one year, so I'm not too hurt."

Sasuke shook his head like he didn't believe it, "No, that's impossible."

"Not really, we were in a time of war. Once a student mastered everything the school offered you could graduate, twelve was almost more of a cut-off age than anything else. I was a genius considered the greatest in my generation, that sort of thing. Many students graduated a bit early between the ages of nine and twelve, but not in one year like myself. If I feel like telling you my whole history I'll do it as a group so I don't need to repeat myself, but this conversation gave me a fun idea for training," Kakashi gave him a smile that couldn't be seen.

Sasuke was far more deferential when he asked, "What's your plan?"

"I've decided I'll fight you with the body I had when I was your age, every day I'll fight as if I was a year younger and we'll see where you stand compared to me. My chakra will be at one third of it's normal capacity because I need to keep a shadow clone with each of your teammates and I'll only use the strength, speed, and skills I had at each age. Since I'll start at twelve by the end of the week I'll be five again, you'll probably be able to match me by the time I'm seven. Once I lose you'll keep fighting me at around that strength, sounds fun right?" Kakashi asked, knowing the younger ninja would take it as a challenge. He had no chance at any age ten or beyond, but if he got lucky he might win at age eight just because he was more physically developed than Kakashi.

A quick henge and twelve year old Kakashi stood facing Sasuke who launched himself forward the moment Kakashi said, "Go."


The day ended with three exhausted genin heaving on the ground bruised and beaten. "I'll see you tomorrow morning at the same time, don't be late and bring food, it'll be a long day." Three groans were the only response he received and to him it sounded like progress. At this rate they were really going to grow on him, if he didn't break them first. 

Chapter Text

"Alright it's week two of training, how are you feeling my adorable little genin?" Kakashi asked strolling onto the training ground half an hour late. He left them enough time to stretch and get themselves in gear for the day, hopefully it gave them the slight rest they were probably begging for. He forgot how children work, does thirty minutes of rest fix a week of rough training?

"Sore," Sakura answered for the group, Naruto and even Sasuke just nodding their agreement. They were flopped on the ground and Kakashi wanted to laugh because they were finally in unity for once, which was the perfect start for their week of team building.

"What are we doing?" Naruto asked not looking up from his position lying on the ground. 

Kakashi walked over to the group announcing, "You'll be training together, we'll start with sparring-" He was interrupted by a slight snort from Sasuke's direction. "Do you have a comment, Sasuke?" Kakashi asked deliberately keeping his tone light because if he didn't he was probably going to scare them. He was willing to give his all to take care of these kids, and he knew they couldn't understand where he was coming from, but looking at them he saw ghosts of his past and having them spit in his face was a quick route to fury.

"You actually expect me to spar with these two?" Sasuke asked. He sat up and looked at the two who Kakashi spent his time working with. Kakashi still hadn't managed to beat the arrogance out of him, some of that fell on the teachers and villagers who constantly praised him. The boy was above average, but his inflated ego was unwarranted which Kakashi already tried to tell him. 

"What's that supposed to mean?" Naruto demanded. Jumping to his feet and glaring at Sasuke with all the righteous indignation a twelve year old could dredge up. Kakashi didn't entirely blame him, but it was his job to discipline Sasuke, if Naruto kept picking fights things wouldn't get better. 

"It means there's a reason you were dead last in all our classes," Sasuke got to his own feet matching Naruto's gaze. Of course he had to escalate the argument, rude comments weren't enough.

All of the confidence and work he'd put into Sakura was apparently useless when she timidly agreed with Sasuke, "Maybe he's right Naruto."

Kakashi could feel his temper growing and before he allowed this childish argument to keep going he decided to step in. "Shut up you little brats! Do you honestly think I care about what you want or what you think is best? Sasuke you're stuck-up and have let the village's hype get into your big head. Naruto if you can't keep yourself together for two minutes to hold a civil conversation, why would anyone in the village listen to you? Sakura, clearly your content being as useless as everything thinks, I spent a week training you and your confidence falls apart the moment Sasuke says a word. You're my students, whether any of us like it or not, and you'll listen to what I tell you. Unlike you, I have your best interests in mind. If you want to quit being a ninja go ahead, I promised to pass you and I did. If you feel like leaving nothing is stopping you," he said his voice rising as he spoke, but it dropped to just above a whisper when he finished, "but if you stay you'll follow my rules, now make a choice."

The three ninja stared at him wide eyed before eventually nodding their heads and staying in place. He didn't want to yell at them, but he honestly could have said much worse. He knew enough about them to really push them, but he never wanted to have to resort to that. 


After the tension had begun to fade Kakashi spoke again, "You'll be having one-on-one sparring matches, the member who isn't fighting will be studying both fighters, at the end of the spar will give them notes, and then take their turn facing the victor if the match. This will allow you to familiarize each other with your skills and get used to giving and receiving advice from your teammates without feeling put-off. No ninjutsu or genjutsu."

He watched to make sure none of them made any unnecessary comments and aside from Naruto making some exclamation about showing his skills they stayed blissfully quiet.

"Sasuke you'll be facing Sakura first. Naruto has been doing training very similar to this that required him to improve his analytical skills and get used to studying technique in battle so he'll show you how it's done. Sasuke I want you to remain largely on the defensive for the time being, although both your teammates have shown marked improvements a week isn't a long time and you had quite a head start on them." Sasuke thankfully didn't argue or try to make a point. He simply walked to the center of the training ground with Sakura following him, they put space between them and got into position. 

"Go," Kakashi said and Sakura launched herself forward fueled by chakra at a speed that clearly Sasuke wasn't expecting, but he still blocked her punch which also seemed much heavier than he was expecting. Kakashi could see a small frown on his face, likely because he wasn't Sakura to be able to do much, but Kakashi drilled the importance of fighting seriously despite how an opponent looked. For example a child version of Kakashi still packed a punch and so did the pink haired girl attacking Sasuke with the ferocity of someone who was tired of being looked down on.

Their spar continued, but despite Sakura showing her newly improved skills he could see she was slowing down and couldn't match Sasuke's fluidity. At the same moment he thought that, she leapt backwards and lobbed some kunai at Sasuke who easily deflecting them. Kakashi saw what she was doing, she stopped the flow of chakra to her hands and feet and was buying time to catch her breath by pinning Sasuke with weapons. She was taking advantage of the fact that he was supposed to fight defensively, he couldn't chase her down. She knew if she pulled back for a breather mid-fight he'd call it her loss. So she was prolonging the battle without wasting as much energy, this was one of the few situations where something like this would actually be viable. It didn't give her a long respite, but the idea was clever.

Once she ran out of weapons he called out, "Sasuke you can start attacking." He charged at her and though she infused herself with chakra again she couldn't keep up, though she made a valiant effort and held him off for a time before he overwhelmed her. He called the match when she was on the ground with a kunai to her throat, "Sasuke is the winner, I'm very impressed with both of you," he turned to Naruto and asked, "Can you give us your assessment, Naruto?"

"Sakura was awesome, but what was she doing?" Naruto asked looking at her curiously when nobody answered he elaborated "She was moving weird?" His statement came out as something closer to a question. Sasuke might have grasped what Sakura was doing partway through the battle, but Naruto didn't pay much attention in school so the finer aspects of chakra control were probably not known to him. Kakashi was however impressed that from a distance he was still able to see the distinction between the possibility that Sakura was able to naturally faster than he expected vs a specific force aiding her. 

"Sakura would you like to explain?" Kakashi asked though it wasn't really a request. 

"Naruto what I was doing was channeling chakra to my hands and feet to make up for the fact that I'm slower and weaker than Sasuke-kun," Sakura told him and seeing his lack of comprehension she explained further, "You know what chakra is correct? Rather than gathering it to use a jutsu I focused it on my hands and feet to make them stronger." Naruto seemed to get it to an extent so she asked, "How did you realize it?"

Naruto paused to gather his thoughts, "Your body was moving slowly compared to how you ran, like you didn't move your legs as fast as you were running because your steps were super long, like hopping or something, and you don't have enough muscle to push Sasuke back so easily. Plus when he attacked you were slow at blocking compared to when you tried to put distance to dodge."

"Very astute, Naruto," Kakshi praised him and at seeing Naruto's slight incomprehension he clarified, "you were very clever. Do you have any suggestions for Sakura?"

"A lot of her fighting was charging right at him, she didn't try anything that wasn't like direct," Naruto shrugged and added, "she should vary her attacks."

"Sakura, your response?" Kakashi asked hoping they could start this off on a positive note and not have her rebel against having Naruto correct her. He'd drilled into her head the importance of improvement and relying on teammates, this would be her first test. 

"Since I'm moving faster than my body reacts I need to reorient myself each time I stop, which means either I charge without stopping limiting my finer movement or I end up taking pauses to switch to a more controlled style. The other issue is that since I'm constantly expending chakra I need to go on the offensive as quickly as possible to end the fight. Ideally I'll have enough control over my chakra to summon it only on contact, rather than have to keep it active at all times from all my limbs and eventually my conditioning will improve to the point where it isn't necessary. But yes you pretty much nailed what I should change," Sakura was calm when she explained and Naruto nodded. Sasuke watched the exchange with forced indifference and Kakashi had to resist calling him out on it. 

Hopefully they'd pick up on how to begin working together as they learned about fighting each other. 


After three days Kakashi figured that was enough time for them to get familiar with each other's fighting styles, he knew they were getting restless because they wanted change things up and finally start learning more jutsu. Aside from the academy basics Sasuke knew a few fire jutsu and Naruto could utilize shadow clones. They were finishing their stretching and doing the mandatory weapons check he'd gotten them in the habit of doing, when he announced his presence.  

"Alright kiddos, I'm sure you've all been looking forward to learning ninjutsu right?" He asked. Naruto violently shot up and though the other two were more reserved they both were clearly interested in moving on to something new. Kakashi was aware that learning ninjutsu tended to be one of the more exciting things for young ninja, he'd been one a long time ago. He frowned as if something just came to mind, "Oh wait, I suppose it's about time we start doing missions."

"Are we ready to do missions?" Sakura asked. Clearly she expected the missions would require far more skill than they actually did, considering they'd only be doing D-rank missions. 

"Of course, this training wasn't for nothing," Sasuke answered confidently, though knowing him he'd likely considered himself ready from day one. 

"Great, so you can weed gardens instead of learning jutsu," Kakashi announced cheerfully, "I was looking through the D-ranks and that was one of the ones that stood out for me."

"No, way," Naruto practically yelled and apparently his teammates agree with him voicing their own protests which he waved off. 

He cocked his head, "If you're that averse to doing missions, can you think of someway to complete the missions while leaving yourself enough time to train?" 

After only a few moments of silence Sakura seemed to come to a conclusion, "Naruto can use his shadow clones, right?"

"Well I suppose, but Naruto can't go by himself can he? What happens if someone notices?" Kakashi asked raising his eyebrow. 

"You can have two transform into me and Sakura, you can handle that right?" Sasuke asked glancing towards Naruto. Kakashi was pleased for two reasons, the first was that they were quickly coming up with a plan and the second was that they were relying on each other

"I'm Naruto Uzumaki, future Hokage, do you really think that would be a challenge for me?" Naruto asked puffing up.

"I don't think you want me to answer," Sasuke replied in a flat tone.

Kakashi knew it was too good to last, but he was pleasantly surprised when Sakura spoke up. "Sasuke-kun, be quiet," Sakura admonished him lightly, "Naruto, we're counting on you."

"Totally, I've got this Sakura-chan." Naruto seemed just as surprised as Kakashi and overjoyed that Sakura was taking his side for once. Sakura's slightly guilty look revealed that she was just realizing how poorly she treated Naruto for him to be so pleased by her small show of support. Hopefully that would encourage her to be more accepting of him; Sasuke looked slightly surprised that Sakura told him off, however gently, but he didn't seem particularly upset by it. 

"Alright guys that's a good plan, but I can't fully accept it," Kakashi spoke just before Naruto could summon any clones. 

"Why?" Naruto sounded slightly petulant realizing how he sounded he corrected himself in a more neutral tone asking, "What's the problem?"

"You'll need to write mission reports and I don't want your experience with mission reports to come from second hand knowledge from shadow clones, this'll be important when you face serious missions and you need to write reports. So I propose an alternate plan, you three will serve as team leaders for three separate teams, transformed shadow clones will work as the members not currently with you. This means while Sasuke is team leader and does a mission with the shadow clones, you two will train with me and he will write the mission report. Each time a mission is complete the team leader switches and the other two train with me."

"Then what's the point?" Sakura asked, "In the end we'll all be doing one mission each and If we all just do a mission together we could probably get it done quicker which would leave us enough time for training."

"You're absolute correct Sakura, but most teams do one or two missions per week, I plan to do one everyday and this is the best way to cut down on time lost between missions. You'll each have two days as leader and the final day of the week, you have a break from training to do a mission as a complete team," Kakashi explained, "I can drill the idea of teamwork into you as much as I want, but you do need to have some actual experience working together."

"Still why should we do extra work if the other teams are doing fewer missions?" Sasuke asked.

Kakashi considered trying to appeal to the desire to be seen in  a positive light that all three had at their core. Naruto was desperate to be accepted, Sakura had a major inferiority complex, and Sasuke felt the need to live up to the Uchiha name which manifested in his pride. However he opted to be a bit more direct and honest in his reasoning because they deserved that much after all the hard work they'd been doing. "The first day we met I told you that I was essentially forced to allow you to be genin, which was true. However, once I met you and accepted you I bargained with the Hokage that as long as you yield results he and the council will stay out of our business. Which means they'll leave us alone if we do well by completing missions and showing results, to be honest I want them to have as little involvement as possible because they don't actually care about any of you," Kakashi revealed his little demand from the Hokage and they all read the subtext that he cared about them even if the people supposed to be in charge didn't. 


"Now that we have that out of the way, we can finish missions without having to pause our training. Obviously this will only work for D rank missions which are essentially just chores anything higher than that will require full attention, but we won't be doing those until I deem you ready and you aren't," Kakashi explained. Ff the shadow clones played this right, the team would essentially complete missions without any worry.

Once the genin nodded he spoke again, "Before I teach you new jutsu we're going to practice chakra control which Sakura mentioned the other day. Thanks to her training and natural ability she's far more equipt for this than either of you so I expect Sakura to fly through this exercise. All you need to do is get to the top of one of these trees without using your hands, I'll demonstrate." He walked up the nearest tree with ease which shocked the young genin, he wasn't sure if he was ever so easily excited as a child, but seeing them impressed with him was always rewarding. "If you complete this, I have another test for you. After that we'll begin learning new jutsu and trust me I have plenty to teach you." He tossed each genin a kunai to mark their progress and indicated a tree for them to scale. 

"How many jutsu do you know?" Naruto asked squaring himself up for a run at the tree Kakashi dictated as his. 

"I've mastered over 1,000 jutsu, I'm known as the Copy Ninja Kakashi," Kakashi wasn't lying, it was the truth his moniker was fairly widespread. 

"Really?" Sasuke asked pausing before his dash allowing his surprise to show rather than trying his usual routine of masking it, which never really worked around ninja trained to read minor details about their surroundings. 

"Sensei are you really well known? You make it sound like a famous title, The Copy Ninja Kakashi," Sakura asked while Naruto was busy declaring he'd learn all 1,000 jutsu and become Hokage, it was as endearing as it was distracting.

"I'm known in all five countries and am one of the most recognizable ninjas in Konoha, I'm not saying this to act cool or show off, but you can trust that I know enough to help you figure out what works for you," Kakashi replied, he wouldn't admit it, but he actually was bragging a little bit in front of his genin. "If you want to learn any of those jutsu, you need to get to the top of the tree. Send chakra to your feet, keep it at a stable level with the right amount of power and you should walk up without too much trouble. Just try once, I want to see your attempt and I'll offer guidance if you fail."


Sakura was up the tree in one shot looking down at the two boys sprawled on the ground and Kakashi was hoping this would give her a bit of confidence and the boys would take her more seriously when they were forced to stare up at her from their place on the ground.

"Congratulations Sakura, of course I was expecting this. In fact you were so good I've decided that you'll be in charge of teaching the boys and I'll have absolutely no arguments. You'll fail or succeed as a group on this one. Stay here until everyone can get up that tree or someone faints from exhaustion."

"Yes sensei," the genin responded and yes he could really get used to them just agreeing with him. 

"Sakura, I'm sure sitting here ordering the boys around will eventually get boring so I'm giving you a little something to do with your time," he brought out a scroll and from it burst a small book. "This is a book on basic genjutsu, it wouldn't have been available to academy students so I'm fairly sure you haven't read it. The book includes theory and a few basic genjutsu, although for the time being I plan to start each of your training with ninjutsu,  I think with your abilities learning about the basics of genjutsu is appropriate. However, I must stress that I don't want you trying anything without me to supervise, this is just for studying."

"I expect you to behave because if you don't I have plenty of punishments saved up," he spoke as if he wasn't threatening them, "Good luck and have fun," Kakashi threw over his shoulder as he left. He left a shadow clone in a nearby tree to watch over them while he planned out their lessons in the near future. 

Chapter Text

Sakura was happy, but more importantly she was proud. It was just one small aspect, but she proved she could be better than the other two who were sprawled on the ground looking up at her. From her seat in the tree she listened as Kakashi-sensei put her in charge. Even better when she made it back to the ground he gave her a book, though she didn't know if she'd actually be waiting around long enough that she'd  get to spend much time reading. She already knew how talented Sasuke was and she chose to have faith in Naruto who even in the short time they'd been together showed he was far more competent than anyone had been giving him credit for. 

Apparently she overestimated the two because after a few more attempts neither had made much progress. She figured she might as well offer her help now, whether they listened or not would be the real issue. "Alright, Sasuke you're pushing too much chakra into your feet and Naruto you aren't adding enough. Plus neither of you are keeping a consistent flow, which means even if you get the right amount eventually you'll still fall because it's fluctuating," she spoke to the two boys who were both watching her with different expressions. She could tell Sasuke seemed annoyed, she was hoping it was at his failure not her pointing it out and Naruto seemed more than eager to listen. She knew she really needed to cut the blonde haired ninja some more slack, he was a good person even if he was a bit loud for her tastes. 

"Alright what should we do Sakura-sensei?" Naruto asked a smile accompanying his question, she felt herself laugh slightly at the term. 

Sasuke for his part didn't smile, but did turn his attention to her showing he was at least willing to hear her out. 

She walked to the tree Naruto was trying to climb and lifted one leg, she pushed it against the tree and held it there. She then focused chakra on that foot and slowly increased the amount until the bark broke from too much pressure, which Sasuke had managed to do several times on accident. "What I want is for each of you to push your leg against a tree and let chakra flow to the soles of your feet, start small and see if your foot sticks if not keep increasing until you reach a point where it stays solid against the bark, if you go too far it'll break and you'll be able to tell the limit. If you do that for a little while you'll eventually be able to feel when your chakra is at the right level. Try walking around on the ground while keeping the flow steady. Once you have it under control try climbing the tree again and see how you do," Sakura laid out her plan. She knew Kakashi-sensei probably would have given them less information so they could learn it themselves, but Sakura wanted to see results. 

"You know Sakura-chan, you're really good at this," Naruto sent her a grin over his shoulder as he lined his foot up with a tree and began following her directions. 

"I thought she was Sakura-sensei now," Sasuke interjected with some sarcasm in his tone, but it was accompanied by the slightest hint of a smile and Sakura wished she didn't relish it as much as she did. Love wasn't a weakness she chose to believe that, but even she realized she couldn't be an asset to the team if she was, "Mooning over Sasuke" as Kakashi-sensei rudely put it. She wasn't going to wait letting this fester, tonight after her teammates completed their task she needed to have a talk with Sasuke and just get everything out in the open. She knew he didn't like her back, but she needed to hear it from him if she was going to try moving past it. Pushing that into the back of her mind for the time being she cracked open the book Kakashi-sensei gave her and started reading about the basics of genjutsu keeping her ears open in case Naruto or Sasuke needed further help. 

Aside from a few questions they worked relatively quietly, the only noises were footsteps, falls, breathing, and the occasional crack of bark. It made for a weird, but oddly calming background noise as she studied. She couldn't place the exact passing of time, but almost out of nowhere both boys declared that they'd done it. Of course that meant they had to descend into an argument over who was first, it was so petty that it was almost funny especially considering how much longer it took them than her which she was more than happy to point, "Well, I did it before either of you so you shouldn't be so quick to argue about who was faster."

"Yeah, Sakura-chan was great," Naruto was once again throwing her compliments, Sasuke didn't say anything in agreement, but he stopped arguing.

"Thanks Naruto."

Rather than continue talking about the subject Sasuke asked, "Is training over? There's still another hour or two of light, but Kakashi-sensei already left." Sakura wouldn't have been surprised if Kakashi was standing behind them somehow, but surprisingly nothing happened. After a few moments of silence they agreed as a group that for once they could take a break and leave early, but Sakura still needed to talk to Sasuke despite how much she was dreading the conversation. 

"Sasuke can I talk to you?" She asked in a tone of voice that she wished was just a bit more confident. 

"Is it important?" Sasuke appeared as nonplussed as ever, but Sakura was resolute. 

She steeled herself and in a much more controlled voice she answered, "Yes. Naruto, I'm sorry, but this is private can you go on ahead?"

Apparently Naruto could read the mood because he agreed much more easily than she expected, "Sure, Sakura-chan I'll see you tomorrow for training."

She waited until he was out of sight and finally looked at Sasuke who still seemed unaffected. "Sasuke you know I like you it's not like I've done a good job making a secret of it and I know you don't feel the same, but I want to talk about it because I want us to be able to work together without my crush being a problem," Sakura laid it out and waited to see what Sasuke was going to say. Whatever the answer was she was going to take it and even if it hurt, it was for the best. This was something she was doing the team, but more importantly she was doing this for herself. She wasn't a little girl who would constantly live in some sad limbo desperately pining over him.

Sasuke seemed to be taking a few moments to gather his thoughts, but finally turned to look at her and answered, "Sakura, it's not that I dislike you in particular, I'm not interested in dating anyone. As long as you treat me like you treat everyone else, we can get along as teammates. Clearly you can be useful, you managed to help Naruto up the tree so that's something." Apparently that was all he had to say on the subject because he turned around and walked away without another word. It could have gone much much worse, at least being useful was better than him actually flat out hating her like she thought half the time. She had a long walk home, she just needed to take some time to fix that little part of her heart that was broken and be ready to work hard tomorrow. 


Kakashi felt a rush of memories as his clone finally dissipated and he felt almost guilty for watching what was clearly meant to be a private moment. However, it did give him reason to actually let his genin off early rather than popping in. Sasuke and especially Sakura needed some time to themselves after that little discussion. He had to admit he was proud of Sakura for facing what she feared would be a harsh rejection and he was happy that Sasuke was able to let her down easy in his own way. Calling a girl useful probably wasn't the greatest compliment, certainly not one Kakashi would use, but considering Sasuke's nature which Sakura somewhat understood it was enough to shield her from some of the pain that came with rejection. 

He should probably think of some way to reward her tomorrow. What did young girls enjoy anyway? Maybe he really was becoming an old man, he felt out of touch. Pakkun always used his paws as a reward, but Kakashi wasn't sure how well that'd work. Well, he'd figure something out. 

When morning rolled around Kakashi found his genin at their usual location, even before announcing his presence he could tell the air was a bit awkward. Usually Sakura would be trying to engage Sasuke in some conversation, but now she could barely look at him. Sasuke for his part was trying to look as impassive as possible staring off into space, though he was far too stiff for it to appear natural. A contributing factor to the awkwardness was Naruto looking back and forth between them, he could obviously tell something was wrong, but none of the three said anything. 

"Alright today's going to be out first mission and as team leader I'm going to select Sakura, this is largely because I believe she'll pick up this next training exercise much quicker than either of you so I'm not worried about her needing extra time. Since it's her first mission I'll take her to get the mission and if she needs help I'll send her back for some clones," Kakashi said cutting through the stagnant air surrounding his genin, "You'll be working on water walking, I'll leave a clone to help you out, this is much harder than walking up a tree so if you don't get it one day don't be disappointed."

He needed to split up Sakura and Sasuke for a little while and he needed to have a talk with Sakura. He felt remarkably uncomfortable discussing her romantic feelings, but this was important for her growth as a person. 

"Sakura, yesterday while you were training I had a clone watching over you three and I admit that I overheard your conversation with Sasuke," Kakashi spoke quietly as he led her away from the training grounds towards the village. Her eyes shot to him and she looked as if she was going to yell and maybe she had that right because it was a breach of privacy, but Kakashi cut her off continuing, "I only wanted you to know I'm very proud of how mature you were and I'll pretend I never heard anything if that's what you want."

"I-," she paused, "I know it was just a crush I've only actually started speaking to him last week and we aren't friends yet, so I know there's no reason to be upset, but it still hurts." 

Kakashi couldn't fully empathize with the situation, but he understood pain so he tried comforting her, "Sakura, there's no shame in being upset, pain makes you human. You're young and love isn't something that comes easily, one day you'll figure out who you're meant to be with and if it isn't Sasuke then that's perfectly fine."

She looked up at him with slightly wet eyes and he was convinced he screwed something up, so he was surprised when she hugged him. He pretended it didn't make him slightly uncomfortable and gently hugged her back, but when she pulled away and wiped her eyes he couldn't help, but be relieved. "Alright, I'm better. I just needed to get out those last few tears. Thank you Kakashi-sensei, let's go do that mission."

"Let's skip the mission," he quickly made another shadow clone who turned into a copy of Sakura and sent the copy back with the mission that he'd actually already had on hand, to get two clones from Naruto as support. "We're going to go buy some ninja supplies, girls like shopping right?"

"Yeah, Kakashi-sensei every girl loves going to buy ninja tools," she was obviously being sarcastic, but it pulled a small laugh out of her. 

"So it's no good?" Kakashi asked any other thing he imagined young girls liking he wanted no part of. 

She shook her head, "Let's go, but you have to buy me some more books." She ran ahead of him slightly and Kakashi could tell some of her energy was forced, but it was a good start and if some books could fix everything than he'd buy her plenty. All his A and S-rank missions left him plenty of money, especially considering how frugally tended to live. His apartment was nice, but small and his main hobbies were just training and reading. He had friends, but he didn't socialize too often and he didn't get into relationships serious enough that it'd warrant buying expensive presents. 

"As long as they're educational," Kakashi followed along wondering if his second project was working, getting the boys to get along without Sakura being there to work as a buffer to attempt to stop fights. He'd find out once his clone disappeared

Naruto wasn't stupid, he didn't study hard so he wasn't the most informed, but he wasn't stupid and anyone with any intelligence could see something was wrong with Sakura and Sasuke. Sakura and Sasuke were both acting weird from the moment the three arrived at the training grounds and when Sakura came back briefly to ask him to make two clones she barely spoke to them, completely ignoring Sasuke. He figured his clones would question her, but since he was stuck with Sasuke he might as well see what he knew. Kakashi's clone was explaining water walking, but the idea was pretty much the same as with the trees it just needed even more precision and constant adaptation to the flowing water. Without himself or Sasuke being able to completely focus they weren't going to achieve anything. 

Apparently Kakashi's clone was able to see that as well because just as Naruto was reaching the point where he couldn't keep quiet Kakahsi's voice rang out over the splashing water, "Take a small break, you both need to focus. Figure out what's wrong." Naruto wasn't sure if he was referring to what they were doing wrong in training or what was wrong today with Sasuke and by extension Naruto. 

Naruto went straight to the other male and finally asked the question he'd by dying to ask, "What's wrong with you?"

He really should have expected Sasuke's lack of answer, but it still angered him when the other boy only gave him what Naruto mentally thought of the "Sasuke face", it was a stupid mixture of annoyance and superiority that was way too deliberate to be natural. "You know what's wrong with Sakura-chan don't you?" Naruto accused and he finally saw a reaction, he pounced on it, "What'd you do to her yesterday? I know you guys talked about something."

"Why is that any of your business," Sasuke bit back.

"Like Kakashi-sensei always says, we're a team like it or not which means if something is wrong with you two then it's my business too," Naruto was resolute, if there was one thing Kakashi had tried to teach them it was that being teammates meant there was supposed to be some bond between them. They might not be close yet, but Naruto couldn't ignore a blatant sign that both of his teammates were affected by something. 

If he hadn't mentioned Kakashi-sensei he was pretty sure that Sasuke would have argued more, but eventually he gave in, "Sakura told me she liked me last night."

Naruto pushed his anger down, he hated that Sakura liked Sasuke, but she'd been better about it lately so why she would bring it up suddenly confused him. Still it wasn't anything crazy, pretty much everyone knew she liked Sasuke and Naruto said as much, "That's it? You knew she liked you, I knew she liked you, pretty much everyone does. You're not dating now or anything are you?" Naruto was almost positive that wasn't the case, it might explain some of the awkwardness, but not the weird mood. Sasuke's look informed him that no they were not dating. 

Sasuke sighed before finally getting to the root of his problem, "I know the girls in school only liked me because they thought I was cool so I didn't feel bad about just ignoring them, but Sakura is my teammate and she confronted me directly. I don't want to date Sakura, but I know she's upset and now I don't know how to act around her. It's difficult to ignore when she can barely look at me and I know that it's my fault. You might think I'm a jerk, but I don't particularly like hurting people."

Naruto wasn't entirely sure what to say, "Sasuke-

"No, enough I'm done talking about this. You asked what was wrong I told you now let's keep training," Sasuke walked back towards the water and Naruto followed him at a slightly slower pace. With both genin mulling their thoughts over neither made much progress. 


Kakashi arrived with a body flicker appearing behind the two soaking wet boys it didn't seem that either did particularly well, when his shadow clone dispersed and the memories flowed back to him he quickly saw why. Although it wasn't the most conductive conversation Kakashi was glad that Naruto took the initiative to figure out what was wrong with his teammates and Sasuke was able to open up at least a bit. Sakura would arrive soon, she was dropping her books and scrolls back at her home and she'd be arriving soon after, "completing her mission." 

"Alright can I have a progress report?" Kakashi asked the soaked genin.

They just gave each other loaded looks and answered together, "This sucks."

He didn't hide his laughter which Naruto joined, Sasuke just glared. While they discussed the more nitty gritty details of what they'd been trying Sakura finally arrived. There wasn't much training time left, so he didn't think she'd be able to finish and the boys could probably use a break to dry off. He decided on a plan of action, but he waited because it looked like the kids wanted to talk. 

"Ah, Sakura-chan are you okay?" Naruto asked clearly nervous, but thankfully Sakura was in a much better mood, which Kakashi was proud to say he could take some credit for, not that he'd say so aloud. 

"I'm doing much better, thank you," she looked over to Sasuke and gave him a small smile, "really I'm okay, now." Sasuke gave the slightest dip of his head which approximated to a normal person nodding. 

For the time being things were looking up and with that in mind Kakashi said, "alright next up is team bonding," when he received three slightly looks that all screamed they were done, he finished with, "we're going to get some dinner, on me."

"Let's get Ramen!"

Chapter Text

Feeling pleasantly full he sent his three genin home to get some rest, not that today had been their most intensive day, but the last two days had been a bit emotional for the team. Tomorrow he expected Sakura would pick up water walking by the end of the day, he'd send Sasuke on a mission and Naruto could work with Sakura during their training. A large part of the reason he wanted Sakura to help them was simply because he wanted his team to get used to relying on each other even if it meant taking a backseat occasionally, plus the girl did seem to have a knack for teaching. Maybe one day she'd have her own team, they all could, but for now he was watching over them and growing fond of them far too quickly. 

Naruto he knew he'd want to be close to him from the moment he was born, but a somewhat unstable fourteen year old wasn't considered a prime candidate for taking in a child and soon after a gag rule was thrown into effect. Kakashi wasn't allowed to talk about his parents and apparently approaching him would give away his identity because Kakashi was Minato's student. Hell the only way he could interact or take care of him was get assigned to the Anbu squad expected to watch over him when he could. Once he was out on Anbu he couldn't even do that, all he could really do was check through Iruka how the poor kid was doing. So being faced with the bright haired boy that could have been like a little brother to him in another life was an opportunity he would have hated himself for wasting. To be completely honest despite dark his past Naruto was probably the best adjusted of the three, Sasuke was drowning in his pain, Sakura slowly becoming someone better suited to the life she signed up for, but Naruto with his good-nature and warm disposition would be easy to guide. As long as Naruto was treated with kindness and respect he'd flourish. So he hadn't been able to focus on him as much, largely because he hadn't needed to. Of course eventually Naruto would need him and Kakashi would be ready, it would be a disservice to those who were gone and to the boy himself, who even without their connection, he knew he'd be fond of. 

In Sasuke he saw himself in many ways, he could see who he used to be and despite the boy's beliefs Kakashi could understand his pain. Kakashi knew loss he'd experienced it and he'd managed to overcome it in some ways, but wounds like that never fully heal. He needed someone to help him understand that it was okay to be angry and even hate people, but he needed to keep that from ruining him before he could become his own person. Sasuke he could already tell would face troubles in the future and someone would have to drag him away from the darkness he seemed so intent on falling into, maybe that'd be Kakashi or the other genin, but he needed people close to him. His desire to kill his brother was understandable, the whole betrayal still seemed odd to Kakashi, but it was indisputable that it happened and maybe Sasuke deserved revenge, it might not be Kakashi's place to dissuade him from that notion. With Kakashi's standing in the village requesting a mission to hunt down the missing-nin wouldn't be impossible, but his genin had a long way to go before they could face Itatchi. Kakashi himself was very wary about engaging the older of the Uchiha brothers, he could do with training himself.

The biggest surprise to Kakashi was Sakura who despite being civilian born, had the makings of a fine ninja. Naturally gifted not like the boys, but she had advantages that would easily speed up her ability to learn: quick comprehension, ability to retain knowledge, a somewhat rare inclination towards genjutsu, great chakra control, and she had drive which was something nobody in his team lacked. It would depend on her chakra affinity, but he'd prefer to focus on techniques that would allow her to get the most with the least, so to speak, with some genjutsu training as well, she would be an asset to the team. 

 Sasuke was sent off with two clones and a mission Kakashi had picked up before arriving at the training grounds telling the other two, "Naruto tell Sakura what we've been doing and let's see how you two do together."

He watched the two and hid his smile beneath his mask, Naruto's description of how to water walk was interesting to say the least. "So you kinda want to think of the water like jelly because it moves around and you want to like freeze the jelly so you don't sink."

"Naruto I think-

"No, you're right it's more like walking on a mini wet earthquake, right?"

"Naruto, actually-

"I got it this time-

Sakura raised her voice, "Naruto could I talk for a moment."

"Oh sure Sakura-chan," Naruto replied easily as if he hadn't been droning her out with talking about gelatin or whatever else he'd come up with. 

"You're not wrong about focusing on the shifting of the water because when you send chakra to your feet it disturbs the water. Which means we need to make it even lighter and more precise than walking on trees and be able to account for the shifting. I think it'll be hard to start, but once we get the hang of it'll become second nature and we won't have to think about it," Sakura was much more eloquent, but it was true that Naruto was getting the gist of it. He'd should give him some assigned readings, he had the capacity to learn, just not the means. He bought Sakura books and scrolls he could certainly do the same for Naruto, unfortunately it wouldn't be a fun outing for Naruto. 

He watched as the two continued to debate about water walking, but they made steady progress, Naruto was doing much better with an encouraging Sakura rather than a sullen Sasuke and Sakura was picking it up as quickly as he expected. After a few hours he had two very wet genin, but Sakura was standing on the water without shaking much and Naruto was making steady progress, he might get it before the day was through.

"Alright Sakura, I'm calling that a success for now, obviously you'll review it through the week, but next I want you to try something else," Kakashi called out distracting her which sent her back into the water, which Naruto laughed at earning him a splash from Sakura. She pulled herself out of the river and walked to Kakashi looking energized enough that he was comfortable starting what this had all been building up to. He handed her a slip of paper only telling her to focus chakra into it and it immediately soaked through. 

"Kakashi-sensei, you might want to give me paper when I'm not thoroughly drenched," she shook the soggy paper in what he could only refer to as, a sassy manner.

"I was actually expecting something like that to happen, what you touched wasn't normal paper it was paper that reveals your affinity for chakra nature transformation. It became damp meaning your chakra nature is water," Kakashi explained, "Now that we know, we can start training your mastery over that nature transformation. Eventually you'll be able to use water type jutsu which we can apply in battle, but it does usually take time to develop."

"How should I start?" Sakura asked clearly excited at the prospect of learning new jutsu.

"How to begin training a nature element varies greatly on the nature, for water like you Sakura you'll be using chakra to control water flow. I don't mean forcing a ton of chakra into the water to disrupt it, I mean actively being able to move it according to your will. Since it's your affinity you should feel a natural inclination as to what you need to do, but I'll guide you when you need help."

He watched the girl hurry to the waters edge and place her hands in the river, he could see the slight light that signaled her chakra was flowing through her hands, but the water was simply moving around her hands as it naturally would. He'd offer some advice in a little while if it still wasn't clicking, but he wanted to let her try it out first. 

Naruto was continuing to improve, he was still complaining about jello, but there was little point in correcting him. He could smell Sasuke approaching from nearby so he must have finished his mission, he'd provide some good competition for Naruto. As much as they argued, they were a good match. 

"Sasuke is your mission complete?" Kakashi asked and he received a nod, "Alright, tonight your homework is writing a mission report and I'll check it over while you train tomorrow. For most missions you don't put off the report unless you were injured, but because there's no rush for D-ranks bringing it in the next day isn't problematic."

"Right," he nodded swiftly then promptly asked, "Can Naruto walk on water yet?" and his competitiveness was kind of adorable.  

"No, but he's made a lot of progress so you'll have to be quick to keep up and Sakura is already finished. 

"Nice job Sakura," Naruto said before promptly sinking into the water.  

"Yeah, good job," Sasuke looking less awkward than he sounded, compliments were clearly still new to him. 

"Thanks," she said to them both offering a small smile before placing her hands back in the water. 

Naruto who had just been floating while they conversed asked, "Why are you washing your hands?" Kakashi hadn't talked loudly enough for him to hear his explanation to Sakura about chakra natures, he initially didn't want to distract him, which seemed like his biggest problem. 

"I'm learning to control my chakra nature, it's water," she replied not making it sound like a big deal, but Naruto fell into the water again when he yelled an exclamation about how cool that was, then demanded more information.  

With all three of them gathered he might as well explain the next stage of training and about chakra natures. 

He switched from Kakashi-trainer to Kakashi-sensei mode for his little teaching period. "There are five chakra natures water, fire, wind, earth, and lightning. They are the basis for all elemental ninjutsu, these natures are actually where the names of each of the five great nations came from, as you probably could have guessed. They each have strengths and weaknesses, but no element is fundamentally stronger than the others. Which nature or natures you learn is generally based on your affinity, which is just a word for which nature your chakra most easily is molded into. For example my affinity is lightning, but I've also mastered earth, water, and fire. Wind has been difficult for me and I don't really have the free time to train that nature because even considering my ability, learning a nature that doesn't come easily to me is time consuming."

"Can most people use multiple chakra natures? Four out of five seems difficult, " Sakura asked. 

"Mastering four chakra natures is extremely rare and the amount of people who can naturally use all five that I'm aware of living and dead can be counted on just my fingers. A lot of it depends on ability, but nothing is technically impossible. Generally by the time you become chunin you can use one nature, jonin can usually use two more advanced jonin might use three. Of course there are people who don't focus on ninjutsu or who generally focus on clan skills, who despite being great ninja don't know many nature transformations. However, I can't teach you any new jutsu if you can't walk on water, now can I?"

 He did feel it was a bit of encouragement to get the boys going, the idea that if they finished they'd learn more jutsu, which was true. However he did have one other thing to show them and he personally felt it'd be a nice way to introduce his pack.  

"Gather round," he called to his genin and like little puppies they ran over. "Summoning Jutsu," he bit his finger and slammed his hand on the ground. After only a puff of smoke he had his entire pack of dogs standing in front of him looking critically over his genin. He'd mentioned that he was going to be getting a team. 

Surprisingly it was Bull his least talkative dog that spoke first, asking, "New puppies?"

"Whoa," Naruto yelled and darted towards them, "you can talk? Who are you guys?" Kakashi heard what sounded like Sakura whispering about how cute they were and his ninken clearly noticed because Urushi sent her a grin. 

"This is my pack, my personal summons. I raised them since they were puppies," Kakashi gestured to the group who were walking around observing the genin from different directions, he could see the kids trying not to fidget under their gaze. "I'm often deployed on tracking missions, I'm one of the best in the village and a lot of that is thanks to these guys: Pakkun, Bull, Urushi, Shiba, Bisuke, Akino, Uhei, Guruko," he explained gesturing to each as he introduced them. 

"Isn't it usually the Inuzuka Clan that raised dogs and took tracking jobs?" Sakura asked and she was right aside from Kakashi there was no other ninja in the village, outside the Inuzuka, who employed dogs to work as tracking hounds and battle partners, Kakashi told her as much. 

"So why do you do it, are you actually related to that clan?" Sasuke asked finally speaking up. 

"Technically the Hatake and Inuzuka are very distantly related, but the Hatake clan generally tamed wild canines like wolves or coyotes while the Inuzuka raised and bred dogs,"Kakashi explained. 

"But you have multiple dogs and they aren't anything like wolves," Sasuke pointed to Pakkun in particular who spared him only a brief glance.

"It's a long story, but I met these guys when they were babies and decided to raise them, being a Hatake and having been written into my father's species summoning contract it was easy to make them my personal summons."

"What's the difference between a species summoning contract and a personal summon?" Sakura asked reaching down to pet Shiba.

"A summoning contract is often formed between a species and a ninja, allowing the ninja to call on members of that particular species. A personal summons is a summon that either resides within a species, who is specifically loyal to you or a summon that you form a unique bond with and exclusively summon," Kakashi explained, but went on to add, "The Hatake clan is unique in it that all members shared a single contract and that it wasn't limited to a single species, part of our culture was taming wild animals and once we reached a certain relationship with an animal we'd ask that they join the clan and become a member of our contract. Sometimes the animals would reject the offer or accept being added to the contract, but only be willing to serve the person who tamed them. However most of the time even the summons that were only loyal to one ninja would be willing to aid their child, because they were considered family." Kakashi gestured to the dogs who seemed to be descending on Naruto, "These guys are my personal summons, they will only answer my calls and I almost never summon anyone else, but the reason why I was able to form a contract with them easily was that from birth I was already included in a contract, once I'd raised them long enough they simply joined it."

"Why don't you summon the wolves then?" Sasuke asked, "They'd probably be useful," he didn't say anything, but Kakashi could guess he was underestimating his dogs because admittedly some of them weren't exactly threatening looking, but Kakashi wouldn't change them. They'd helped him through some dark times and served as support in and out of battle.

"Personal reasons, but I also never need to, despite how they look, these guys can actually tear ninjas apart and we can use jutsu together," Kakashi shrugged off answering anything else, because trying to discuss anything further would lead him to talking about something he wasn't comfortable with. He belatedly realized that Naruto was asking less questions that he would have expected and quickly attributed that to the fact that he was currently rolling around with the dogs, covered in Bull's slobber. Laughing at the fact that Akino had sunglasses.

"Hey guys, the new puppies are having trouble walking on water why don't you show them how?" Kakashi asked and all three genin's eyes shot to the dogs who trotted onto the water and walked around on the river leaning down to easily drink as they stood. 

"How are dogs beating me?" Naruto complained, "I'm going to walk on water, just wait." He ran to the river after the dogs yelling.

"We aren't puppies," Sasuke said and chased after Naruto apparently he wasn't a fan of being shown up by dogs either. 

"Please don't tell me they already know water style," Sakura looked at him pleadinly, but he merely shrugged. 

"You should learn it quickly just to make sure they can't show you up, because I can tell you they know more about elemental ninjutsu than you do," Kakashi patted her head like a puppy and she ran off and jammed her hands into the water. 

It was like a little makeshift family was having a day by the river, and it was scary that he'd be happy if it was true.

Chapter Text

Forcing them to run through training while walking on water led to interesting results, but after a few days of wet genin and damp dogs he decided to move onto something else, much to the kids pleasure. All three were competent enough with water walking that unless they got distracted, they would be fine in most situations.

Sakura had made a bit of progress with her elemental training, but a few days wasn’t enough to get far. He guessed it’d take a few weeks before she really started using elemental jutsu reliably. However, it was something she could do on her own time and dedicating their training sessions entirely to that would be a waste.

He’d drilled the basics into them and set up schedules for their physical conditioning, as long as they stuck to the daily training plans he’d put together for them they could start working on more specific and admittedly interesting things. He said as much to them before laying out their new goals, all three snapped to attention ready to learn something new.

“Sasuke, you have the advantage of already being able to use utilize the element of fire, however there is plenty of room to improve and many jutsu you’ve yet to learn. I’m going to help you expand your range of jutsu and skill,” Kakashi explained looking at the young Uchiha who nodded. "You've mostly learned techniques from the Uchiha clan, which explains why your techniques have similar results. I want you to learn jutsu that expand beyond attacking with blasts of fire, not that breathing fire doesn't have its time or place."

He turned to Sakura next, “Sakura we’re going to focus on genjutsu, however I expect you to continue working on mastering water style in your private practice time. We’re going to work on some basic jutsu and once we reach the results, I’m looking for you’ll help me teach the boys about breaking genjutsu by practicing on them,” Kakashi explained. He noticed Sakura's smile at the thought of casting genjutsu on them, and wondered if the boys were going to try and get on her good side before the activity.

He was giving Sakura the most varied teachings, mainly because until she developed a specific style, she needed a large variety of skills to adapt to anything she faced. Unlike her teammates, especially Naruto, she couldn’t just power through any situation. Plus, she would be best utilized for covering the weaknesses of the team. As far as genjutsu went until Sasuke awakened and trained with his sharingan she was really the only one with any talent for it.

Lastly he looked to Naruto and began, "Naruto what I think we should do is-“

"Kakashi-sensei," Naruto interrupted him, "Sorry for interrupting, but I really want to work on learning an element. I'll do whatever you think is best, but I really want to learn some elemental jutsu. Sasuke can already use fire style and Sakura has been practicing to use water style, so why can't I?"

Normally Kakashi would be annoyed at being interrupted, but if Naruto was dead set on doing something, there was no reason he couldn't compromise. Initially he didn't want the boy distracted, but it was probably better to keep him interested in learning rather than forcing him to do something they hated. There was no argument against basic training, but further teaching allowed for wiggle room. "Alright, how about this? We'll test what your nature affinity is, and I'll show you how to train it, but you'll have to do that in your free time. During group training you'll do exactly what I ask, okay?" He asked though it wasn't really a question. 

All he was really doing was giving him homework, and though it wasn't what Kakashi was planning there was no harm in switching things up.

Naruto seemed happy, jumping up and celebrating, Sakura looked slightly amused at his little happy dance and Sasuke just rolled his eyes.

Kakashi pulled out a paper much like the one he earlier had Sakura feed her chakra into and brought it to Naruto with quick instructions on what to do, he allowed Naruto to pour a bit of his chakra in. The paper tore which meant that Naruto's affinity was wind, which was good. He felt it would be best if his students had different affinities, obviously he didn't have control over their affinities, but he hoped it would limit competition and encourage collaboration in battle if they filled different roles.

"So how do I train?" Naruto asked looking up from the paper he was still holding onto after Kakashi explained what it meant.

Kakashi had done just enough training with the element to feel comfortable showing Naruto the basics of getting started. He ended the demonstration by encouraging Naruto to take some leaves home after training and go wild.  

"Now what I'm going to have you practice is sealing techniques," Kakashi’s tone allowed for no argument. He was happy to let them offer their thoughts, but in the end, he was still the sensei.

Naruto made a bit of a face but reeled it in quickly obviously remembering his very recently made promise to follow Kakashi's orders. Kakashi ignored the look and continued, "Funjutsu or sealing jutsu rely on very precise chakra control, in a normal case Sakura would probably be the first one I'd look to for this. However, in this case Naruto I think it’s fitting you try your hand at it. I think you’ll be surprised at your aptitude.” Just being an Uzumaki didn't mean Naruto would be good a sealing, but it gave him a chance to talk with him, work on chakra control, and it could be useful going forward. 

“Can I even use sealing in battle? I mean I’ll learn it,” Naruto quickly assured him, “but why?”

“Let’s spread out and I’ll explain things to each of you, and I’ll answer any questions that you have. Okay?” He had two clones appear and approach Sasuke and Sakura. 

Naruto nodded and followed Kakashi, Sasuke and Sakura each followed a clone and began their own respective training.

“I’m assuming you’ve been studying the texts I gave you, so I don’t think I need to explain much about genjutsu, but if you have any questions ask now,” Kakashi spoke looking at Sakura who shook her head indicating she was ready.

Practice with Sakura went as smoothly as he was hoping, after practice on recognizing and breaking genjutsu he started teaching her to replicate the basic tenants of genjutsu. Largely focusing on distorting the senses, but he didn’t teach her any specific jutsu to start. Better to have the manipulation of yin chakra become comfortable before he had her focus on anything. It was like any skill, beginning with the basics always was the best way to mastery.

From the start he could see her aptitude for it and she quickly understood its usefulness and application. Many people learned some genjutsu, but weren't really able to work it into their skill set, not knowing how to apply it in battle or when it was needed outside of fights. 

She was able to help the boys in walking up trees so hopefully her teaching skills would be as solid here. 

As expected, the promise of learning new jutsu finally had Sasuke excited though he still tried to hide it, but Kakashi already knew how to read his constantly grumpy student, his adorable little genin were all open books most of the time despite their beliefs. "You already know a few jutsu that focus on simply breathing fire, I want to explore other options for fire style. First, I'll teach you a technique that will serve as a parent technique for others, black smoke jutsu.”

“Smoke? I already have smoke bombs, what’s the point?” Sasuke asked clearly not impressed despite knowing very little about what Kakashi had planned or even the technique. 

“The point is that you won’t always have smoke bombs or a way to escape a situation on hand, and I told you it was a starting point for more difficult jutsu. Don’t run before you walk, if you learn this, I’ll be able to teach you how to release highly explosive gunpowder, which I’m sure sounds much more fun. Besides I have some plans on using smoke jutsus with the genjutsu Sakura is learning. Stop assuming you know better than me, I’m trying to help you.” Kakashi was pretty sure there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Sasuke's poor attitude. Eventually they'd reach a breakthrough, but now wasn't the time. 

Sasuke managed to force himself to apologize, “Alright sorry.” There it was a little bit of that light. 

“No problem,” Kakashi replied amiably, not in the mood to get into an argument, “now let’s get started.”

Naruto's training finally gave Kakashi a chance to talk to the boy about his family. Kakashi was still bound by certain rules about what he was allowed to say, not that he'd be bothered by breaking them eventually, but nobody could complain about Kakashi talking about the Uzumaki in general. If the village was worried about him learning his heritage they should have changed his name.

He wasn’t sure how to broach the topic so he just went straight for it,"Naruto I know you don't know much about your family or where you come from, but I think you deserve to know about your clan, which is part of why I chose this training.”

"My clan?” Naruto whipped his head to stare at Kakashi with intense focus, that wasn’t usually present.

"The Uzumaki were a clan known for their mastery of sealing, large pools of chakra, longevity, and often distinct red hair. So, your enormous amount of chakra stems partially from your family. I've brought you some books so you can learn about them, he nodded his head towards his bag. They were allies of our village and distantly related to our founders the Senju, so their history is pretty well recorded due to our close ties,” Kakashi explained.

"Then why don't we have a compound and why don't I have a family?” Naruto asked and it was a good question, unfortunately it wasn’t one Kakashi was looking forward to answering.

"The clan had their own village, Uzushiogake, and never formally joined our village. Regardless we've had Uzumaki live here and marry into families in the past, the first Hokage's wife was an Uzumaki, so you're in good company. Their village was attacked out of fear of their abilities and we know very little of what happened to the survivors.”

“They’re all dead?” Naruto asked with a look Kakashi wasn’t capable of deciphering, though grief was certainly visible. To be told of your heritage and promptly told they were gone certainly wasn't something Naruto would want to hear, but he needed to know.

“We don’t know, the only Uzumaki I was personally familiar with was your mother who came here as a child shortly before the destruction of the village. She served as a ninja here and eventually married a Konoha ninja. You take after your father in terms of looks, but you have a lot of your mother's personality. 

"Did you know them well?” Naruto asked and Kakashi could tell he was hungry for the information that nobody had ever sought to give him.

"I can't explain everything; the village elders forbid anyone from talking about certain things. All I can tell you is that I knew your parents very well and that they were incredible people who loved you dearly. Just from the small time we’ve had together I can tell you’ve managed to take some of the best of both of them and they’d be extremely proud if they could see you now,” Kakashi knew what he was saying was the truth. If Minato and Kushina could treat him so kindly, how could they not love Naruto?

Naruto looked on the verge of tears so Kakashi brought him in for one of his patented awkward hugs and ignored the fact that both Sakura and Sasuke were staring. He gave them a look daring them to say anything and they both turned to their respective clones and continued training. There was a part of him that wished he could tell Naruto more and a small part of him that was relieved he didn’t have to relive the pain of losing them by discussing it.

“I think we should get started. Sit down take some deep breaths, focus, and we’ll start discussing what needs to be done,” Kakashi ordered and Naruto nodded wordlessly before getting into position. Kakashi pulled out a scroll and get ready to lecture.

He wasn’t about to teach Naruto about drawing seals, to start he was just concerned about activating previously formed seals, the basics of which were likely covered in the academy. Hopefully he could take his mind off things until Naruto was fully ready to process what he was told.

Apparently training couldn't hold their interest forever and eventually they came to him as a team and requested a more serious mission. He'd admit that they were advancing at a faster rate than probably any of the other rookie teams, but they weren't ready for a serious mission so he chose something that wouldn't be new and interesting with theoretically little danger. 

He waved his hand to cut off any more pleading, "You've convinced me, I've already chosen  a mission. In two days we'll be escorting someone, I want you to pack tonight so I can see what you imagine wouldn't be necessary. Tomorrow we'll go over what you should pack, the mission details, and our formation."


He watched the three go off and let his clones disperse receiving all the information on their training for the day. Having students was pretty tiring, not just from the chakra he was using to teach them, but because he was spending the evenings doing his own training to improve himself in the areas he was teaching them. They were dealing with lower level things now, but he needed to make sure they didn't surpass him anytime soon. 

Genjutsu and sealing were two areas he didn't focus on too much on in training anymore. Mainly because he considered himself decent at both, which for most ninja was excellent, and his skill with his sharingan allowed him to use genjutsu though he preferred not to overly tax his sharingan unless necessary. He tended to focus on ninjutsu, where he constantly wanted to expand his skill set and taijutsu thanks to Gai constantly harassing him. He also worked to improve his physical stamina and chakra reserves both of which did rely partially on biology, but training did allow for  improvements. 

He briefly wondered what the genin would pack, his greatest fear was that Naruto would just bring ramen, though the boy had more sense than most people gave him credit for.

The next day he had his team meet him by the gate bright and early rather than the training field for the sake of running through what they would be expected to do. He showed up on time, barely, and was pleased to see all three waiting for him looking displeased.

"Why tell us to be early if you were going to show up at the last minute?" Sasuke asked what each of them were likely thinking.

"Because you're newly minted genin and I'm an experienced Jonin so I don't need to make a good impression. Someone hiring me for a C or B rank mission really shouldn't be complaining if I'm not early, when I could easily be doing an A or S rank mission,” Kakashi shrugged because it was true even if it sounded rude. 

"Alright, it's kind of annoying, but it makes sense," Naruto agreed still looking slightly put out.

Kakashi sighed and further explained, "Right now I'm choosing to make you three my priority, but there will be times where that isn't possible. There is the distinct possibility that I need to do something that takes higher precedence for the village so sometimes I might be late. I will however find a way to let you know if I won't be here at all, if I'm called out on a mission in the middle of the night, I'll leave word. This early on in your careers you should always endeavor to do your best, it might serve you well later."

"Do you mean the people we work for might request us again?" Sakura asked clearly catching on easily.

“Yes, occasionally people offer missions contingent on a certain ninja doing it, though those are usually higher-ranked missions because they want someone they can trust,” Kakashi gestured to himself slightly joking.

He received a few eyerolls, but nobody commented.

"Alright, now let's check what you each brought. Show me your gear and supplies, I'll let you know what you're missing and what you don't need," Kakashi gestured to them. 

They showed him their supplies and he quickly corrected them on what they were missing, thankfully none of them brought anything completely useless, but they each were missing things. If he took things from each of them, he could fill what he would consider standard supplies. Apparently, the academy didn't do a great job covering gear and supplies. He’d have to speak to Iruka about that, he wasn’t familiar with the other teachers.

“I don’t plan on spending the day nitpicking too much, most high rank ninja have tools and supplies that relate to their skillset. Obviously, you still haven’t developed to the point where your needs diverge far from the standard so aside from the extra weapons Sasuke uses and the scrolls Naruto brought you should largely have the same things,” Kakashi explained once he essentially gave them a grocery list on what they should have for tomorrow.

“What are we doing for the rest of the day?” Sakura asked clearly knowing Kakashi wasn’t just going to end the day so soon after it started.

“Two things we’ll be working on team tactics for escorts and the boys will get a bit of exposure to what you’ve learned in genjutsu,” Kakashi started off to the training grounds knowing they’d follow behind.

Before they began Kakashi spoke to Sakura briefly, “I only need you to help them get used to experiencing and breaking genjutsu so keep it simple. Also don’t use the hell viewing technique on Sasuke. I can’t tell you his past, but I believe he likely suffers from some form of trauma and showing him his fears could be very detrimental.Confusing not scary, got it?”

Sakura agreed though she looked confused, until Sasuke shared more about his past it wasn’t Kakashi’s place to reveal anything. He was sure the other two knew about his lack of family, but in all likely hood they didn’t know about the massacre. Sasuke almost certainly experienced PTSD and Kakashi didn’t want to hurt him for the sake of training.

Although Sasuke didn’t know much about casting genjutsu he already knew how to break out of them, with some training Naruto has less trouble than Kakashi would have expected. His only concern was whether or not Naruto would be able to recognize genjutsu, when they were more complex and he wasn’t expecting them.

They ended the day by placing themselves in formations and memorizing the hand signals one uses to communicate silently. He helped Naruto cheat a bit by having Sasuke train with Sakura, since they already knew the basics, and Naruto train with his own clone while Kakashi watched over them.

Kakashi didn’t like Tazuna, he realized it very quickly and it looked like his genin agreed though only Naruto saw fit to say anything. Kakashi was pleased with his genin they were early and had packed perfectly, for all intents and purposes they were the picture of a well put together team. The first thing Tazuna saw fit to do was insult them specifically Naruto for being, “short and having idiotic look on his face.” Kakashi had no idea why he felt personally offended when Tazuna insulted Naruto, but Naruto took it even worse. He’d gotten better at controlling himself, but not enough to let an insult roll off him.

Kakashi also didn’t particularly trust Tazuna, it was too soon to accuse him of something, but Kakashi felt something was off the moment they met and discussed the mission. For the time being the mission would proceed as planned, but Kakashi kept an eye out.

They’d only been walking for a short time when Sakura made some hand movements, Kakashi waited to see what his genin would do. Sasuke purposely bumped into Sakura allowing her to fall down and take Tazuna with her, before they stood up Sakura cast a quick genjutsu, her hands hidden by the dust. Now to any onlooker Sakura appeared to be Tazuna and Tazuna appeared to be Sakura.

Neither Sasuke or Naruto reacted at all other than Sasuke apologizing in their general direction. Immediately after a few things happened Kakashi was attacked and easily faked his own death with the replacement jutsu to watch what would happen. The fact that the chunin failed to recognize the replacement was testament to the fact that they cared very little about him or were slightly incompetent. 

Sasuke reacted almost immediately, pinning their weapons. Sakura, currently in the form of Tazuna ran off separately from the group and the two chunin chased after her, clearly showing they failed to notice the genjutsu and that they were after Tazuna. Before they reached her a group of Naruto’s shadow clones were in front of her with kunai drawn, his actual body was protecting the real Tazuna. Kakashi saw Sasuke coming up behind the enemy ninja and beginning to form hand signs. He knew it was time to step in, he had the information he needed, and nobody was hurt yet.

In a split second he had both chunin unconscious and in his arms much to the relief of everyone. Sasuke tried to look a bit put out at how showy he was being, but Kakashi could tell he was glad. 

The first thing he said was, “Tazuna, we need to chat.”

Chapter Text

Tazuna told a sad story and Kakashi could barely be brought to care, he felt empathy, but it was overridden by anger. Someone who put his team in danger for their own desires, even if it was for a good cause, was not going to receive his good will.

So, he decided to leave it up to his genin, if they wanted to do this then the mission would continue and Kakashi would work out payment later. The other option was they would return and Tazuna would need to file his request properly, likely as an A rank mission. He looked at his genin who were waiting for him to say something, "Personally for putting you in danger, I'd be more than happy to send Tazuna away to deal with his own issues, but I'm going to leave this up to you guys. This mission is far more dangerous than we expected and we're dealing with someone who lied to you," he shot a look at Tazuna who had the decency to look ashamed, "but if you still want to continue, we'll do so until or unless we reach a point where I don't believe I can protect you."

Naruto with his sense of justice that came straight from his parentage was the first to speak, "We have to Kakashi-sensei, even if he's a big jerk." Kakashi could tell Naruto had to resist the urge to stick his tongue out at Tazuna.

Sasuke for his part didn't want to directly agree so he simply said, "I can handle an A rank mission." Kakashi resisted rolling his eyes. He could just say that he wanted to help, nobody was judging him.

"As long as you think we'll be able to do it then I think it's the right thing to do," Sakura added trying to look confident though Kakashi could see the slight worry under the surface.

"I promise I'll keep you safe," Kakashi spoke as seriously as he could and could see all three let go of some of the nervousness he knew was there. "Plus, with all the training we've done, who knows if you'll even need help."

"So much training," Naruto groaned earning a laugh from Sakura as everyone fell back into position and started to walk almost as if nothing happened. Of course, it was far from true, but if they were serious about doing the mission they needed to keep moving. If they needed to discuss more about what happened it could be done later. None of them seemed overly traumatized so it could probably wait until their next training session.

Before he fully put it on the back burner Kakashi did lean down to let Tazuna know how lucky he was and how thankful he should be that his team was so forgiving.

Things progressed fairly normally for some time, but Kakashi knew that was bound to change. Nothing had happened yet, but he could feel something coming. It was only a matter of when.

The, "when" came once they were finally getting close to their destination, a slight sound and vague scent were all the warning he needed to yell for everyone to get down. His genin had quick reflexes and dropped immediately, Kakashi roughly shoved Tazuna to the ground, for his own safety of course.

Everyone's eyes were drawn to the large blade embedded in a tree at the edge of the clearing they stood in, and moments after at the man standing on the blade. Kakashi recognized him without having to think, it was Zabuza. He should have his genin study the bingo book because none of them knew who he was, but they were able to sense the danger he posed.

Zabuza spoke first, "Kakashi, it's great luck that I get to meet you." Kakashi wasn't a fan of the pleasure in the man's voice. Kakashi didn't respond so Zabuza continued, "Back in the hidden mist there was a standing order to kill you on sight. I might have left that village, but it's still an honor to kill you. I always appreciate a good fight."

Kakashi did his best to look unaffected and honestly, he wasn't worried for himself, he knew he could win though Zabuza was by no means a pushover. He was concerned for his team who he commanded to fall back and guard Tazuna. "There was a reason for that order, let me show you why," Kakashi said lunging forward.

He had to make the first move simply based on what knowledge he had of Zabuza's reputation and the general hidden mist assassin's skill set. If given time Zabuza would likely use the hiding in the mist jutsu and possibly target his team and Tazuna. He needed to keep him fully occupied until he defeated him. He exposed his sharingan much to Zabuza's pleasure. He wanted a serious fight and Kakashi was willing to give it to him.

The fight was back and forth a mixture of taijutsu, kenjutsu, and quick use of water clones and neither seemed to have the upper hand. If it was simply hand to hand combat Kakashi could probably win, but Zabuza's blade made things more difficult. He ducked another swing and tried to make a strike, but Zabuza moved of his range.

He sent two water clones into the trees hidden from view and continued the game of tag it had descended into. Both clones threw volley's of shuriken and kunai from their hiding places forcing Zabuza to dodge. Kakashi correctly predicted his reaction and struck. He managed a glancing blow, but aside from a scratch above his eye little other damage was done. Kakashi dispelled the clones and faced Zabuza again preparing for a switch in pace.

Kakashi was going to have to rely on ninjutsu, he had the advantage in variety, but a disadvantage in terrain. With a body of water only a leap away Zabuza could easily employ all of his most powerful techniques. Zabuza must have had a similar thought because he jumped back onto the surface of the water.

Kakashi followed because if he was going to match him in water jutsu he didn't want any delay time in calling the water to himself. The moment he touched down he felt something was wrong. The water was already laced with chakra, Zabuza had prepared before their arrival. Before he could escape the water latched onto him and gave Zabuza time to use the water prison jutsu.

The water pressed down on him from all sides restricting his movement greatly, escape wasn't impossible though it was difficult. Obviously, he couldn't use standard fire jutsu and he had no access to any solid earth, wind would have been useful if he had mastered it, which left water or lighting. Breaking the water prison with water required the one inside to be far more powerful with the water element than the sealer to work. Someone like the second Hokage could smash straight through this, Kakashi on the other hand could match Zabuza, but not overpower him. From the outside disrupting it with water style was much simpler because the power was focused on pushing inward so the chakra was least potent on the surface.

He knew one way to escape, but it'd do more damage to himself than Zabuza making the fight more difficult. If he released a strong current of electricity it would either disrupt the prison enough to break, throw off Zabuza's chakra control briefly, or injure his hand enough to release it, whichever came first. The big drawback was that at the same time the electricity would be lancing through Kakashi doing far more damage to him. If it came down to it, he would do what had to be done, but it looked like his team was planning something.

As much as he wanted to protect them, he knew it was time to give them a chance, if things looked bad or he was close to drowning he'd escape on his own.

"Kakashi sensei, is trapped," Naruto stated the obvious his voice and expression shifted between concern and anger.

"That's the water prison jutsu," Sakura informed them recognizing it from her own studies about water style. It wasn't something she could use yet, but knowledge was useful especially in a situation like this.

"What do you know about it, can Kakashi-sensei get out?" Sasuke asked her, his own apprehension much better concealed than Naruto's. Though the two had worked with him enough to notice the rough edge he always used to disguise his emotions.

"Not easily, we should just operate assuming he can't get out," Sakura began explaining the technique, "Zabuza needs to keep direct contact with the prison to keep it from breaking, so one possibility is separating him from it," Sakura offered though it didn't seem like an easy job considering the water clone that Zabuza had just formed.

"And the other?" Sasuke asked. He glanced away from the clone to Sakura for a moment.

She steeled herself and answered, "I should be able to break it if I can get in contact, if you two can cover me and I can get close I'll get him out." At both of their looks she continued, "Disrupting it from the outside is easier, with my own water style training I think I can give Kakashi a way out, even if I can't stop the jutsu. Obviously, I'm going to need both of your help.

"Are you sure about this?" Sasuke asked seriously, this wasn't the time to pretend they could do things they couldn't. Not that Sakura was the type to boast randomly.

Sakura only answered with one word, but her confidence was strong, "Yes."

"Alright, whatever you need, we'll handle it," Naruto answered without thought of questioning her.

After a moment of consideration Sasuke nodded, "Alright," and Sakura laid out her basic plan.

A decent amount of their plan relied on luck, but there were two possibilities of success. Either get Sakura to the prison to break it or have one of the boys reach Zabuza and force him to release the jutsu.

Sasuke put his recent work with Kakashi to work using the black smoke jutsu to flood the area in front of them in thick black smoke, Sakura layered a genjutsu over the jutsu creating a loud whistling sound which would hopefully keep Zabuza from hearing what came next.

With a few quick jutsu, a horde of Naruto clones went running directly at Zabuza and his clone with both Sasuke, Sakura, and the real Naruto hidden among them. Three clones hung back with two shadow clones transformed into Sasuke and Sakura.

Zabuza broke the genjutsu with little trouble and a flare of chakra dispelled the smoke, but it took just long enough for him not to see the swap. Realistically it made no sense for him to concern himself with that possibility. As far as he could see it was a group of clones charging at his water clone. Right before they reached the clone three broke off from the group and headed for the real Zabuza.

Kakashi watched in fascination at his team's risky move, three clones were headed towards him, though based on how they moved he was sure two of them were Sasuke and Sakura. They were only a few steps away when the water clone finished the last of Naruto's shadow clones and moved to block their way.

The two he believed were Naruto and Sasuke drew their weapons and went after the clone, Sakura in a completely unexpected move stopped walking on the water and dove under the surface of the water to keep the water clone from attacking her. It was reckless in a way he would never suggest and didn't attribute to Sakura, but it did work. It was crazy to go underwater when facing a foe whose affinity was water, but thankfully she was very close when she did so and the real Zabuza was forced to maintain his prison so his ability to use techniques was severely impaired, which she likely took into consideration.

He watched as she managed to place a hand on the bottom of the prison and fed her own chakra in trying to make a weak point for him. He focused his chakra on the place where her own was coming from and between the two they shattered jutsu. Zabuza had already been gearing up to respond, but Kakahsi sent a sharp kick to his gut knocking him back.

He grabbed her brought her to the surface and sent her off as he moved to finish the clone that was still bearing down on the boys who were looking a bit worse for the wear, but not out of commission. Rather than distract his focus from Zabuza he sent his own water clone to fight Zabuza's.

"I'll finish this get back," he ordered them not having time for thanks. Zabuza seemed furious and was already moving to cast his next jutsu which Kakashi managed to block now that he could move freely again. The three genin followed his orders without question falling back to the clearing with Tazuna, thankfully off the water.

The rest of the battle went far more smoothly, countering Zabuza's techniques and managing to get inside his head with genjutsu left him wide open. With a powerful water vortex jutsu he sent him flying through the forest. When he finally struck a tree and stopped moving Kakashi pinned him with kunai.

A hunter nin appearing out of nowhere and "killing" Zabuza with senbon was unexpected and unwelcome not that he voiced it. Zaubza would have been a good bounty, if he was being honest, and he wanted to make sure he was truly dead.

The appearance of the hunter ninja really rubbed him the wrong way, something was off about it. The issue was that nobody on the team was at one hundred percent and he didn't know if the possibly fake hunter had backup. If he were alone, he might take the gamble and follow at least for surveillance because he trusted himself to escape, but he couldn't guarantee the genin's safety if they pursued.

He tried to shove his worries to the back of his mind and let Tazuna take them to his home. They needed to work out payment anyway. Zabuza's corpse would have worked nicely, but it was probably morbid to be thinking of a dead man as a paycheck. Then again his compass for disturbing thoughts had been thrown off long ago.

Naruto was soaked, tired, and beat up, but he felt like they finally did something and he was happy. They helped someone, even if he was an old man who wasn't particularly kind. Sakura seemed relieved and Sasuke was his usual cold self, but he could tell Kakashi wasn't completely satisfied. He didn't look too hurt so it was probably something else.

"Is everything alright Kakashi-sensei?" He asked and was assured that things were fine, he was just deep in thought. Naruto didn't know if he completely believed that, but he was willing to fall into silence as the group walked to their destination which thankfully wasn't far.

It was odd, Naruto knew he had plenty of chakra left and it hadn't been too long since they last slept so he wasn't sure why he felt so tired. Without having to ask Kakashi answered his question.

"That was your first serious battle," he addressed all three of them, "I'm sure it took a toll on you physically, but more importantly mentally, there's almost a high or sense of enhanced focus when you fight. Afterwards it's like your body is coming off of it and forcing you to calm down, so you probably all feel exhausted. The transition in and out of danger becomes easier to deal with when you get more experience. Don't fight it, let yourself reset, we're out of danger for now."

Naruto wondered if Kakashi could read minds sometimes, it seemed that way when he fought Zabuza and he always seemed to be able to tell how the group was feeling. He noticed the, "for now", but he figured that was only because they hadn't dealt with Gato. He was pretty sure there weren't any more ninja like Zabuza hanging around.

Then again, he wasn't expecting Zabuza or their previous attackers so maybe his guesses weren't the most trustworthy.

Sasuke spoke up and asked something about something Naruto had been thinking about, "You were using a sharingan." It wasn't a question.

"I promise I'll tell you the full story tomorrow, but I didn't steal it if that's what you're worried about," Kakashi answered. 

"I didn't say that," Sasuke replied.

"A close friend left me with it when he passed and I use it to protect the village and those I care about," Kakashi gave an abbreviated version though based on the considering look on Sasuke's face Naruto doubted it would be the last they spoke of it. 

Personally he wanted to know more about Kakashi's past as well, but it wasn't the time.

It wasn't until they were settled in Tazuna's house that Kakashi saw fit to inform them that Zabuza could very well be alive and he had at least one ninja working with him. This all was based on the assumption that the hunter was fake, but as time passed Kakashi became surer.

"They were right there we should have gone after them," Naruto asserted the moment he heard the truth. He was indignant about the fact that Kakashi let Zabuza get away.

"This is why I didn't say anything, we had no idea of what we'd be walking into and you three weren't in shape to deal with what we might have come across. Naruto you can't just think about what you might be capable of, this is a team you need to consider everyone's safety," Kakashi wanted to get through to the boy and mentioning the safety of his teammates would likely do it. Naruto went everything with a good heart, but randomly chasing down "bad guys" wasn't always the right move.

Naruto went quiet after Kakashi spoke to him, taking a moment to consider things. Sasuke did the opposite and jumped on the point he was most offended by, "Are you saying we held you back?"

"You played a major role in defeating Zabuza and for that I'm grateful and proud of all three of you, but the fact is that if I wasn't concerned about your safety, I would have approached that entire situation differently. In any given mission together if we are put in a position where we fight ninja out of your league it's my job to protect you. Sometimes that means endangering myself where I wouldn't always need to," Kakashi explained, "This mission was to protect the bridge builder and we did, it wasn't to defeat Zabuza, and for a mission where we aren't being paid I'm not dragging you into unknown danger."

"So basically, you were worried for us, but we did a good job," Sakura condensed everything and softened the message.

"Isn't that what I said?" Kakashi asked raising an eyebrow asking for any of them to refute him.

"Maybe try to word it a bit differently," she responded with a sigh and a bit of the tension in the room faded. Sasuke's glare relaxed a bit, but Naruto could tell he was still slightly put off by being considered, too weak to go after Zabuza.

"You know what we can do to make sure someday we can hunt down people like Zabuza without me having to worry?" Kakashi asked the three with a trace of humor.

"Train?" All three genin responded with sounding less than pleased. The response was accompanied by some eye rolling and head shaking.

"Yes, training," Kakahsi paused for a moment, "but that can wait until tomorrow. You three relax, chat, have some of the food our hosts were kind enough to provide. I still have a few conversations to handle. Try discussing different ways you could have approached the situation your choice was seriously risky, but successful."

Before he stepped out of the room he added, "Just try to remember everything I try to do is in your best interest, if you believe anything believe that."

He didn't look to see their expressions. He didn't think he needed to.


Kakashi had enough pull in Konoha to feel confident making his requests on how to pay the difference on the mission. Kakashi knew most people saw him as a likely candidate for being Hokage, the elders and the Hokage included, not that he fully agreed with them. However, that possibility led him to having access to information most others didn't, outside the elders, and he had essentially been given training to help lead the village should the time come. He wasn't given standard classes, but the Hokage often requested his help and opinions with village issues that a standard jonin shouldn't directly be involved with.

Obviously the Hokage would have to sign off on his offer, Kakashi couldn't officially speak for the village unless given permission. For now, his own approval and signature would be enough to get things rolling.

He ducked back into the room they were sleeping in to see all his genin already resting. They really were adorable, he decided to spend a little time meditating and planning lessons before settling into his own inevitably nightmare ridden sleep. Now his dreams featured his genin's faces on his dead friend's bodies, but he'd long since gotten used to nightmares.

He rose from his light sleep with the sun and took stock of his body, he was a bit sore, had a few wounds that weren't fully healed, and his chakra felt a bit lower than he liked. So overall it wasn't bad at all compared to some missions. He expected his genin would feel similar aside from Naruto so today would be a day focused on learning rather than conditioning. A calm day and a night of rest should be enough for all of them to recover aside from a few smaller wounds that needed either healing jutsu or time to heal fully.

Now that he had kids to take care of maybe he should look into it, especially since he always considered it a possibility for Sakura. He didn't want to admit that he was holding off because sometimes he felt like he was recreating his old team and he didn't want to superimpose his past on the present. He wanted to make them everything his original team couldn't be. He owed it to Obito, to Rin, to Minato, to his genin, and in some ways himself.

He was getting too introspective, he blamed it on it the last vestiges of sleep still clinging to him and the thoughts of his past that often accompanied it. Forcing himself to perk up he called out for his team to wake up.

Their reactions were enough to bring a smile to his face, not that anyone could see it. Naruto just rolled and bumped into a wall, Sakura jumped to her feet and nearly slipped, and Sasuke declared he was awake despite the fact that his eyes were still closed and he was barely sitting up.

He'd need to teach them to be able to get up and react at a moment's notice, but for now it was cute to watch them fumble around, though he was tactful enough not to say so aloud.

"I'll let you three get up and ready, I'll be outside stretching meet me there as soon as you can and we can talk about what we'll be doing for the time being,"

He went outside with the sounds of his struggling genin in the background and wondered if anyone could have imagined him here, he certainly never did.


Chapter Text

Kakashi had finished a stretching by the time his genin managed to make their way outside, though he did admit it didn't take them too long. 

"If Zabuza is indeed alive I imagine we have a few days until he is recovered enough to make a second attempt on Tazuna and in turn us, this time with backup. I'll deal with Zabuza so you need to be prepared to face whoever joins him. I believe the ninja we saw was the only person working with him, if there were more, they likely would have ambushed us and from what I know Zabuza generally doesn't work in large groups," Kakashi offered his analysis. 

"So, it'll be the three of us vs whoever Zabuza's partner is?" Sakura asked. 

"Yes, but I think Zabuza's partner is likely less dangerous, only because if they were of the same strength, they could have attacked us while we were weakened. Even in our state we were a threat to them," Kakashi responded wondering who exactly would have joined Zabuza, knowing his temperament.

"Then how should we prepare?" Sakura asked.

"I don't want to make guesses on their fighting style only because, I don't want to go into the fight and be surprised. We'll do some training and then prepare a plan of action, I have some things I want each of you to focus on. 

"First I want to know about your sharingan, you promised to tell me about it," Sasuke halted the conversation and Kakashi wasn't annoyed only because he was expecting this. He was honestly surprised Sasuke didn't bombard him with questions the moment they returned from the battle with Zabuza. 

"That's fair," Kakashi acquiesced, "I'll try to condense the story. It was back when I was twelve and first elevated to the rank of jonin," he noted the surprised looks on their faces, "I was put in charge of a mission with my two teammates. I consider it one of my greatest failures as a ninja and a person. During the mission I lost an eye protecting my teammate Obito, an Uchiha, later in the fight a cave collapsed on the three of us and Obito had to save me in a collapsing cave due to my blind spot. Before he passed, he gave me he offered his eye to replace the one I lost, our third teammate Rin was a healer and was able to perform the transplant." There was more to the story so much more and most of it revealed an awful side of himself, but Kakashi wasn't in a place where he wanted to rehash it instead he finished with, "Now, every time I open my eye, his eye, I'm reminded of the person he was and the person I want to be. His sacrifice inspires me to protect those close to me, to protect my team, to protect you."

"How were you allowed to have it, stealing sharingan is considered a major crime, no offence," Sasuke asked and it was a fair question, usually taking a sharingan and transplanting it was grounds for execution, though the circumstances were quite different. 

"Actually there was a discussion on whether I should be allowed to keep the eye, eventually the clan head decided to honor Obito's last wishes, though the Uchiha did make it known that they expected me to use my sharingan for the good of the village and that I had a responsibility to Obito," Kakashi remembered those discussions, though he hardly felt coherent at the time still reeling with everything that had happened. 

"You said the clan head then that means," Sasuke trailed off looking slightly conflicted about speaking.

"Yes, your father spoke on my behalf," Kakashi finished for him adding, "he was a good man." He remembered Fugaku clearly, he was stern, but fair and Kakashi never felt the man placed any blame on him for what happened. Though Kakashi blamed himself enough for it not to matter. 

Sasuke didn't seem to have a response to that so Kakashi decided to let the matter rest. Down the line he did want to give them more insight to who he used to be, but he felt shame for some of the things he did and the way he acted. For now, he could keep that part of himself hidden.

"Now on to what we'll be practicing, Naruto we're going to spend some time learning how to apply seals in battle, namely with taijutsu. Generally, seals are used before battle or with other ninja covering you, but basic seals can be applied while fighting to disrupt your opponent," he explained to Naruto and although he knew it was a somewhat odd style of fighting it worked well against ninja who relied heavily on ninjutsu. He could almost liken it to the Hyuga who blocked chakra points, in some ways it relied on a similar principle. Though the Hyuga had fine-tuned a technique, this was much more varied and much less exact.

Naruto nodded, he'd become much more receptive to learning sealing after he found out about his heritage which Kakashi appreciated. 

"Sakura, we're going to take the next step into your water style training and depending on how you do we can decide where to go from there," he looked to Sakura as he spoke and he could see the excitement, clearly she wanted to be sending water dragons to soak the boys as soon as possible. 

"Sasuke, we're going to focus on using fire style on outside sources," Kakashi turned to Sasuke and seeing that he didn't' know exactly what he meant Kakashi continued, "What I mean is creating fire from something other than your chakra and controlling it. For the purpose that I'm talking about we'll be utilizing the fire release with exploding tags. Thankfully I had a large amount sealed in a scroll I brought along with me, I intended to teach this eventually."

"Let's spread out and get a bit more into it," Kakashi created his two shadow clones and separated the genin, Sasuke was moved quite a distance away as he could easily hurt one of them if he was careless. Sakura and Naruto wouldn't be able to do damage to each other aside from Sakura maybe getting Naruto wet. 

"Sakura we've generally been focusing on manipulating water that you already have access to, now we're going to look into gathering water," he made a movement with his hands and some dew rose to his fingertips, "Water style has a distinct advantage that you don't have to create it yourself, it come from around you, and its easy manipulate in a multitude of ways. However, it comes with the disadvantage that how much chakra techniques cost or if they’re even possible is dependent on the water around you."

"There's no way that's the only way to use water style otherwise they'd all be carrying gourds around," Sakura argued and Kakashi conceded to her point, because of course she was correct. Though it wasn't too rare for water style fighters to keep water on hand in some form.  

"True, as you become more skilled, you'll be able to gather water from sources other than containers or bodies of water. Of course, it is possible to create water from chakra, but generally only masters choose to do this because the cost of creating large amounts of water is high unless you have large reserves or great skill. One notable example of a ninja who employed that skill was the Second Hokage who is to this day known as the foremost expert of water style, among his other accolades," Kakashi explained, knowing it was unlikely she'd be summoning sources of water purely from chakra, for the majority of techniques, when there was usually an easier option. 

"If I'm not going to be creating water or using a water source where am I drawing it from?" She asked and Kakashi could already see her mind running. 

"I said you wouldn't have a body of water, but that certainly isn't the only source of water. The way I often do it is by drawing water from underground, I can utilize earth style as well, so it doesn’t feel too difficult. However even that depends on the landscape, the water must be there, for the time being we'll focus on the water all around you. The water in the air as well as condensation and dew. Further along the line you'll be able to draw water from plants if needed, considering they have large amounts of water and offer little resistance," Kakashi explained his general method and outlined what he had planned for her.

"Alright that all makes sense," she nodded along clearly trying to see herself doing it. 

"Now I'm going to help out by giving you a very easy source, this water will be thick in the air and already imbued with chakra so it will be easier to sense and latch onto, first come over here, I'll let you get used to the feel of my chakra," he summoned water to his own hands and held them out. 

She reached her hands out and moved the water as she had been learning, he gave her time to adapt to the feel of his chakra as he fed it into the water. Then he pulled back and slowly went through the signs to turn the water to mist, he was sure she'd recognize the jutsu from Zabuza. "Now I want you to feel the water in the air focus on my chakra, I haven't put any strength behind it and the technique on its own is fairly harmless so just focus. 

He watched her close her eyes and began watching her development.

Kakashi began Naruto's training as he often did by opening a scroll receptive to seals and showing him how it would be placed. Although Naruto did take to sealing very well, his chakra control hadn't reached the point where he could form complex seals, and realistically that wasn't what Kakashi was looking for anyway. What he wanted was seals that offered the most bang for their buck, simple, fast, and effective. 

Most genin, especially young genin wouldn't know how to deal with seals unless they had specifically been trained or came from a clan specializing in some form of sealing. Kakashi didn't plan on going too far beyond basic sealing at this point for a few reasons. If Naruto wanted seals to be a major part of his skill set down the line then Kakashi would support and help him, but he needed to train in other subjects to improve his chakra control to deal with complex seals. For now, they would be a secret weapon and he felt he owed it to Naruto to at least give him an insight into his heritage, Kushina was willing to teach him some skills it was his duty to pass those along.

Of course, that would require Kakashi to train more in sealing, considering relatively few people still focused on sealing he was quite advanced, but compared to Kushina he had some serious work to do.

The one flaw that many people didn't seem to remember with the sharingan was that just because the sharingan could theoretically memorize any technique it didn't mean the viewer could use them. If it were that simple every Uchiha would have been using all five elements. Kakashi was the copy ninja not just because he could memorize techniques by seeing them, but because he could replicate the majority of them thanks to his natural abilities and training. 

So, he knew more than he could actively use in a few fields, but he didn't feel comfortable teaching something if he couldn't do it himself. That meant anything, he wanted to teach his students he had to have a firm grasp on. He was lucky he had long since adapted to life with little sleep, working throughout the night and being haunted by nightmares apparently had some uses. A lot of his current free time was spent getting a head-start on whatever he wanted to teach the genin. Before his team he had no free time because he was constantly on missions, now he was usually only sent when missions were too advanced or delicate to be trusted to anyone else.

"Alright Naruto I've taught you about a few seals, but the majority of those can't be fully utilized in combat, this time I'll teach you one you can place on an opponent to disrupt their chakra in the middle of a fight," Kakashi walked him through the steps and once he had it down it would be time to practice on Sasuke and Sakura.

Sasuke had become more and more accepting of Kakashi and really the team as a whole. As time had passed and stopped questioning Kakashi, “I briefly mentioned we’d be focusing on using fire that isn’t produced by you, it’s actually somewhat similar to what Sakura is doing. However, I know you prefer to see results than hear me drone on so watch carefully,” Kakashi patted his shoulder as he took a few steps away.

He pulled out a few kunai with exploding tags and threw them in the same general direction, away from all his genin. He let them explode near the edge of the clearing but based on their location they weren’t going to hit anything. He flooded chakra into a shuriken and threw it in the center of the explosions with a few hand signs the explosions chased after the shuriken converging on a tree that would have been perfectly safe.

He turned to Sasuke, “That is the fire chasing jutsu, you use your chakra as a center point and it draws all flames in the vicinity towards it, obviously this includes the explosions from tags. A slightly more complex version can be placed as a seal so eventually we’ll work with Naruto on that. It’s offensive in guiding flames towards an opponent or defensive in drawing flames away from yourself or teammates. However, if you were using it on flames made from an opponent’s chakra, like my own fireball, it takes far more chakra because you must overpower their existing chakra. In cases like that the technique might work better to weaken the attack or make it easier to avoid.”

Sasuke made the little grunting hum, but Kakashi could tell in Sasuke’s vernacular that meant he was interested.  

“Don’t worry, I packed plenty of tags for practice just be careful where you’re aiming,” Kakashi drew out a scroll where he’d sealed a number of explosive tags and weapons. Sasuke’s desire to hide his interest was continuing to lower, compared to the beginning of their relationship as teacher and student. Kakashi chose to take that as a positive.

Tazuna's family was very accommodating for the most part through the week though Inari was quite sullen not without reason. Loss has a way of changing people, it was something Kakashi could understand and couldn't fault a child for his feelings. 

Although he didn't assign blame, the tension between Inari and his genin, specifically Naruto, was reaching a point where it was starting to affect him. He had to stop Naruto from running off into the night to train and since they were escorting Tazuna to the bridge the next day it was better to rest up. 

He simply told Naruto, "Inari is hurt and words might not reach him so let's show him with actions by fulfilling this mission." Naruto looked determined and thankfully went off to rest without complaints. 

He stepped back into the main room to drink some tea before heading to sleep on his own and came across Inari alone. He wasn't planning on hanging around, but he felt the need to say something, so he bluntly told him, "Naruto grew up without parents and Sasuke lost his entire family when he was a child. Both are working to help others and be strong for the sake of those they lost, you should get in that mindset."

That was probably rude, and Inari was probably too young to be told to basically be told to man up, but Kakashi wasn’t known for being the most tactful. He left the boy and went to go find his tea and catch up on some reading. 

It was a work day and they guided Tazuna to the bridge, but Kakashi had a bad feeling, he wanted to quash it down, but he’d learned to trust his gut.

They had only just stepped onto the bridge when Kakashi saw the fallen bridge workers and ordered Naruto to send clones to clear them off the bridge and bring them safety. His genin fell into position on his orders and moments later two figures appeared. Zabuza who was clearly fully healed and the nameless false assassin. "I'll take Zabuza, hold off the other ninja if you can. If not take Tazuna and run, I'll deal with them both if necessary."

"We'll beat this guy," Naruto announced for the three and Kakashi nodded deciding to trust his genin for now. 

"Are you done chatting?" Zabuza asked sarcastically, "Haku deal with the brats, it's time to teach Kakashi here a lesson."

"Did you forget you lost last time?" Kakashi asked before charging at Zabuza who had just enough time to summon his mist and slip into it. Kakashi couldn't stop to disperse it or he'd leave himself open, however Sakura didn't have that concern. "Sakura, the mist," he called out.

"On it," she yelled back and Kakashi both felt and saw the mist around him creeping away, clearly towards Sakura though he didn't turn to look. 

"They've learned some new tricks, have they?" Zabuza asked drawing a kunai now that he was no longer hidden. 

"Let's let your companion figure that out, no more stalling and no playing around," Kakashi went on the offensive once again. 

The mist faded as it collected in Sakura’s hands giving her perfect view of Kakashi launching into battle and their other opponent who she believed Zabuza called Haku. She already had the water on hand it was time to do something with it. “Naruto, Sasuke hold back for a minute,” she told them already going through the hand signs to launch her opening attack. It was more to try to gauge what type of fighter their opponent was than anything else. “Water needle jutsu,” she called sending out a barrage of thin blasts of pressurized water.

Haku danced around them spinning on his heels, he was clearly quick, but even after dodging he held back Sakura could only guess he wanted them to move in closer. If he was faster than her attacks there was no point in wasting chakra launching water attacks from long range, especially since it seemed he was likely a water user as well. Nobody would stand in a pool of water when facing a group of ninja where at least one utilized water style, unless they were confident in their own use of the element.

“He’s probably a water style user and we know he uses needles from when he faked an attack on Zabuza. To create a false death state takes precision,” Sakura said to the two boys who both looked ready to go.

They whispered to each other for a moment before nodding and allowing Naruto to create a group of clones. Apparently Haku was tired of waiting because he launched a group of needles towards them with Naruto and Sasuke getting whatever their plan was ready she jumped to the front to stop them. With the distance separating them it wasn’t hard to block; however, they were quickly followed by Haku who charged in.

Sakura made sure Tazuna was behind them before crouching in position to intercept the approaching ninja. It ended up being unnecessary because the clones rushed past her to confront Haku. “Sakura fall back,” Sasuke said jumping next to her. She didn’t protest because the boys seemed to have an idea, and someone needed to stick close to Tazuna.

The clones took the lead heading straight for Haku who, with a spin, launched needles into each of the clones however Naruto’s true body activated the explosive tags that were attached to the clones. Haku leapt back to avoid the blasts, but Sasuke who had been following up ran towards him with the fire chasing after him. When he got close Sasuke threw the kunai that the fire was tracking and leapt past Haku before blasting a grand fireball from the opposite side of Haku.

With fire quickly closing in from both sides Haku was trapped, but Sakura was able to get a glimpse of a hand movement from Haku before the fire connected. The three genin stood waiting for the result of the inferno, they heard nothing and from her position in front of Tazuna Sakura couldn’t see anything.

Sasuke watched the fire swallow up Haku, but the lack of sound from within irked him. There should be some reaction even if Haku used a water style technique like Sakura seemed to think he could there should have been some sign of connection.

Before the mist had entirely cleared needles launched out. Sasuke was able to dodge them, but he noticed something, the needles appeared to be made of ice. The last of the fire and resulting mist cleared and Sasuke was shocked to see a mirror made of ice and the image of Haku on it. Haku peeled off the mirror and appeared in front of Sasuke. Sasuke was barely able to dodge the blast of water that launched from either side of the bridge.

“Nice dodge, you truly are quick. Unfortunately, now I’ve collected enough water to move onto my true goal,” Haku stated and without much inflection he added, “I don’t want to kill you, but if you try to get in Zabuza-Sama’s way I will do what I must.”

He was cut off from Sakura and Naruto by Haku and his mirror, Sasuke knew his best bet was to attack first and not let Haku have the chance to use whatever he was planning now that they were surrounded by water. He briefly considered calling to Sakura and getting her to summon the water towards herself, but quickly realized the flaw. Haku would just use the technique over there or draw more water from the surrounding area and his job meant he couldn’t put Tazuna in danger. Plus, he trusted himself to deal with whatever this was more than his teammates.

Of course, that decision meant nothing when a horde of Naruto came barreling towards them. More ice mirrors began forming around him, creating a dome trapping him and the group of clones inside. He had no way of knowing if the real Naruto was there or not.

Naruto’s master plan just seemed to be continually creating clones which would quickly get struck by needles. At first, he thought it was idiotic, creating clones over and over didn’t do anything if they kept getting destroyed.

However, he quickly realized it gave him the ability to study Haku and his movements and he became sure the real Naruto was still with Tazuna and Sakura. The clones always made more before they were all destroyed, but he didn’t think there was any one that had been struck without disappearing afterwards. Haku leapt from mirror at an extremely high speed, but Sasuke knew he could do it, he could see it if he focused.

He was still taking injuries, but Naruto was doing some distracting and after a while Sasuke felt like he got a feel for Haku’s movements. He was riddled with needles, but something clicked he’d been firing blasts of fire and one clipped Haku leaving a small burn as he leapt between mirrors. He opened his eyes and was able to view the world in a new way, instinctively he knew this was the sharingan. “Naruto, enough with the clones I can handle this,” he said as the newest batch of clones was dispersed.

Out of nowhere Sakura ran towards them loudly announcing her presence and sending a kunai in between the openings of the mirrors. Sakura was arguably one the most intelligent girls he knew, but randomly throwing a kunai without even bothering to hide her presence was beyond weird. He immediately knew something was up, Haku on the other hand didn’t know anything about Sakura and seemed to think this was something he could use.

He leapt out of a mirror grabbing the kunai and flying right towards Sasuke who was finally feeling the effects of chakra exhaustion. Before they clashed the kunai transformed into Naruto who grabbed Haku’s throat and was promptly kicked away. However, the ice mirrors all came crashing down, with his Sharingan Sasuke was able to see what happened there was a seal around Haku’s throat.

It was the chakra disruption seal Naruto had been learning, clearly, he and Sakura were waiting for an opening and relying on Haku’s desperation. With Sasuke able to see Haku’s movements he had to attack directly rather than continue attacking at a distance, and they essentially covered for him offering Haku a weapon to attack with.

There was one important fact with their plan, the seal was a disruption it quickly faded and both he and Naruto were low on chakra. “I wonder if your friend is as quick as you are?” Haku asked running towards Sakura. Although Sasuke had managed to see through Haku’s technique it was at the expense of his body and he still hadn’t inflicted major damage on the other male.

Sasuke’s movements were limited due to the needles throughout his body, in close quarters it didn’t matter as much, but for full on running he was slowed down, and Naruto was slower than both himself and Haku naturally. Which meant Haku would be able to reach Tazuna and Sakura before them.

Ignoring the pain, he pressed on after Haku with Naruto on his heels.

Naruto was chasing after Haku right behind Sasuke and knew they were too slow to catch him which meant Sakura needed to counter. Sakura had a basic knowledge of what Haku could do thanks to Naruto’s clones essentially passing information to him, which he revealed to Sakura. It’s how they developed the strategy to catch Haku when he was getting desperate with the transformation jutsu and a seal.

With that Sakura knew how Haku’s technique worked to a degree. It was why she cast a jutsu sending the water on the bridge back into the river to keep Haku from summoning mirrors right away.

Thankfully Naruto left a few clones behind, so she used them to cover Tazuna as she sprinted to confront Haku. The clones would be destroyed in one strike and would be useless in holding Haku off. Haku threw a group of needles towards Sakura at fairly close-range Sakura wouldn’t be able to block them, but she could still jump out of the way. However, she chose to raise her arms and take the needles, Naruto could see that if she moved, they were aimed towards Tazuna and would have struck him or one of the clones if they were able to get in the way.

Sakura drew her kunai and clashed with Haku and the two were locked for a moment Naruto saw Sakura do something that should have been considered insane. With her free hand she drew an explosive tag, at such a close range it would clearly hit her and Haku.

“Are you insane? You’ll blow us both up,” Haku said and although none of them had seen his face Naruto could imagine the incredulous look on it. Sakura dropped her Kunai and the force of Haku pressing against her made him step forward closer into range.

Sakura simply grabbed his wrist and said, “Let’s see.”  She set off the tag and at the same time Sasuke used the fire chasing jutsu. The force of the blast sent Sakura flying backwards, but the majority of the explosion itself was pulled towards Haku. Sasuke released the technique after it struck Haku and the masked male was thrown towards them.

When he landed his mask had been broken apart and he was on the ground by their feet as was Sakura in front of Tazuna. Haku looked up at them and gave a defeated sigh, “I’ve failed Zabuza-Sama, kill me now.”

There were so many things to say to that, but Naruto was stopped by Sasuke’s voice, “Naruto let’s end this.” Right, he was here for a reason. He was doing this for his mission, for his village, and for his team. This sad person who wanted to die because they weren’t able to serve a monster shouldn’t be his concern, but Naruto couldn’t help feeling like there was something wrong about this.

Before Sasuke could strike, because Naruto knew he wouldn’t be able to do it himself, Haku leapt off. Naruto turned thinking he was going to attack Kakashi now and his sadness was an act, but he was shocked to see Haku in front of Zabuza with Kakashi’s hand through his chest coated with blood and lightning.

It was a horrible scene watching the lifeless boy in front of Zabuza who used the opening to attack. However, the damage he sustained earlier must have been enough for Kakashi to put an end to him. Once Naruto was confident Kakashi had the rest in hand he ran towards Sakura with Sasuke beside him. They crouched in front of Sakura who was standing with the support of one of Naruto’s last clones.

Sasuke actually spoke before him, “What were you thinking? Setting off an exploding tag in your hands, it’s one thing to attach a tag to a clone, but what you were doing was borderline suicide.”

“I trusted that you’d help me Sasuke-kun,” Sakura gave him a look that Naruto wished she gave him. She made a pained sound before adding, “One tag wouldn’t really kill either of us. What happened afterwards? I couldn’t tell from here.”

“You probably blacked out and missed it,” Sasuke growled at her clearly not appreciating her nonchalance, though Naruto couldn’t place the exact expression on his face. “Kakashi used a technique to kill Zabuza and Haku managed to intercept it, but Kakashi finished Zabuza soon after.”

While the genin were busy he sealed Zabuza’s body in a scroll, he was going to have to turn him in. He was in multiple nations Bingo Books, which meant he was required to bring in proof of his death, namely his corpse. The whole scene was too sad for Kakashi to even particularly want to money that came with turning in the bounty, he knew Zabuza lost the minute Haku died.

Sacrifice could give one strength, when Obito passed Kakashi fought with the need to make his friends sacrifice worthwhile. Zabuza didn’t understand this, he lost his way with Haku’s death. Despite his attempts to hide it Kakashi could tell he was affected, and it made him weak. The monster had a heart, he just didn’t know how to use it. Discovering Zabuza’s humanity made his death worse, but Kakashi had long since adapted to the way of the Shinobi.

“Well, well,” a heavy small man who Kakashi knew was Gato stepped forward with a large group of thugs behind him, “Zabuza might have failed, but at least he managed to weaken you.” Realistically none of them appeared to be ninja and Kakashi could tell even with his strength and chakra running low killing them wouldn’t be too difficult. His job was to protect the bridge builder and if that meant taking down this group as well, he would.

Still Kakashi was never one to seek out bloodshed, a show of force should be enough to scare most of the thugs off especially because they were only loyal to money. They were lowlifes, but Kakashi didn’t think he had the right to decide whether they truly deserved to die, Gato on the other hand he had no issues with killing.

He picked up Zabuza’s blade and threw it directly at Gato, it cut through two thugs before beheading him and crashing to the ground. Kakashi opened his sharingan and glared at the rest saying only, “Run and don’t return.”

Thankfully they did rather than force him to exhaust himself further. He collected the executioner’s blade swinging it to clear the blood off and returned to his genin. Sasuke and Sakura were both injured, though the injuries looked quite different, he’d have to check them out later and hear their full accounts of what happened to make sure there wasn’t any lasting damage. Naruto was the least injured, he’d likely relied on clones which did offer a degree of protection.

Regardless of what exactly happened he was happy to see all three were alright. He wondered how many other ninja dealt with something like this on their first C rank mission, Kakashi wondered if he just attracted trouble.

Chapter Text

Kakashi did some very quick first aid, which mainly consisted of removing needles and bandaging their obvious wounds. He just wanted to stop further damage on their trip back to the house and prevent more blood loss. Once there he'd make sure to administer proper care, to the best of his ability.

However, on their arrival the first thing he noticed was that both Inari and his mother were not home plus he could smell two unfamiliar scents. Thankfully his genin were too tired to argue when he told them to go rest and didn't seem to question the lack of people in the home. Once out of the house he summoned Pakkun and had him to track Inari.

They didn't have to travel far, the building that served as the group's hideout was just outside the bounds of the village, and Pakkun immediately informed him that the other people he'd smelled in the house were there as well. Kakashi knew that two of Gato's thugs probably kidnapped them for leverage, but they weren't going to present challenge. Now that Gato was dead the thugs had no need for hostages, of course they didn't know that.

In less than a minute he was in and they were down, he left without bothering to question them. It had been a long day and he didn't need to listen to their babble. He led Inari and his mother back to the house listening to the tale. He complimented Inari on how brave he was but didn't get too far into anything. He asked them not to say anything to his genin, he planned to leave the next day and didn't want them getting worked up or distracted.

Thankfully the rest of their short stay was calm and quiet by the next morning the team left the land of waves and the Great Konoha bridge behind. It was almost named after him in gratitude and that would have been horrifying.

Kakashi liked to keep a low profile whenever possible.

The walk back was a bit slower than the walk there mostly to prevent opening any wounds, but his genin were in fairly good shape considering everything they'd been through.

He'd give them the rest of the day of relax before it was time to start training again, the Hokage would likely give the team some time without missions after hearing about what they went through. Kakashi doubted he'd be given the same privilege, but he was used to separating his duties to the team and his duties to the village.

"I'm going to go turn in the mission report, in celebration and for a team building exercise I'm sending you three to get something to eat as a team," Kakashi informed them of their next mission, lunch. "I'll cover the costs," he handed Sakura more than enough money to get a meal for the three of them, "you must eat together and have a good time as a group. In the future you might need to go undercover and have a meal together so think of it as training if you have to."

He'd make sure to collect their pay while he was there and give it to them the next day, plus with the money he'd end up getting from Zabuza's bounty he'd give them all a bit extra, they certainly earned it.

He left in a puff of smoke happy to leave them to their own devices, it was half a day alone he doubted they'd get into trouble.

They'd just finished their meal, ramen at Naruto's request, when Sakura noticed they were being followed. It wasn't difficult seeing at how obvious it was she knew Sasuke and Naruto could tell as well, but they were just ignoring it. "What do you want?" She turned and asked trying to keep her tone light because it was clearly a child tracking them.

"You managed to see me, you're quite skilled," the boy complimented her, but it was a bit of an empty compliment considering just how awful a job he was doing, but it was what he said next that made her pause, "as expected of boss's girlfriend."

"Who are you and who is your boss?" Sakura asked thoroughly confused.

"I'm Konohamaru and I'm the number one student of my boss Naruto," he declared proudly.

Sakura knew almost everyone herself included treated Naruto poorly, far worse than he deserved for a long time and in the past the idea of being called Naruto's friend would have annoyed her. She'd moved past that and seen sides of Naruto she didn't know existed and now considered him a friend, even if he still got on her nerves at times. However, she absolutely was not dating him and if Naruto was spreading that around she was going to be very annoyed. "Are you telling people we're dating?" she turned to Naruto warning heavy in her voice.

"No way Sakura-chan," Naruto sounded nervous, "he was probably just making a guess."

"Look kid, get lost," Sasuke finally spoke up, Sakura assumed being forced to spend the day with his teammates had worn away his patience.

Sakura sighed as Konohamaru ended up in an argument with Sasuke that Naruto managed to get sucked into which somehow ended in Konohamaru challenging Sasuke to a battle. Rather than let the little kid get hurt she cast a quick genjutsu that had him following fake visions of them down the street.

"Sorry, things were getting out of hand, so I used genjutsu on him. It's harmless," she assured Naruto.

"Sakura that was so cool," Naruto praised her not showing much worry for Konohamaru, but it wasn't really a dangerous situation the genjutsu would fade in a minute. It was just meant to get him out of sight and hopefully out of mind.

Even Sasuke managed to look impressed. "Can you do that to Naruto?" He asked, but before Sakura could respond or Naruto could get angry, they heard a crash and voices from just around the corner of where Konohamaru sprinted off to.

Naruto ran towards the sound with Sakura following, Sasuke fell behind moving at a more sedate pace. Sakura was mainly concerned because an issue might have been caused by her genjutsu and she didn't intend to hurt Konohamaru or anyone else. They came across him getting held up, gripped in the arm of a ninja clearly from another village.

"I really hate brats like you," he said smiling as he choked the younger boy. The girl alongside him just seemed vaguely annoyed at the inconvenience of having to stand around watching her companion harass a child.

"Look this was my fault, why don't we all just calm down?" Sakura asked trying to diffuse the situation which clearly didn't work when the teen just lifted Konohamaru higher and turned his gaze on her.

"Alright, so you can be next," he said with a smile that promised something very unpleasant. Diplomacy wasn't going to work here and that seemed fine with Naruto who was already getting fired up.

In some ways Sakura respected Naruto's attitude and right now his desire to help Konohamaru, but his outbursts rarely spelled anything good for anyone involved. Even if he'd matured since they became teammates Naruto still had a temper, which would probably take time for him to completely grow out of.

He went charging in his hands moving to mold chakra, but his legs were pulled out from under him and he went sprawling. Sakura only saw the slightest movement of the others boy fingers, before Naruto fell. Sakura couldn't identify exactly what he did and although she wasn't going to ask him to attack Naruto again, but she did want to try observing what he was doing more closely.

Before things could escalate further the older teen dropped Konohamaru and hissed in pain, a mark was left on his hand after something struck him. Looking to the source Sasuke was up in a nearby tree and had thrown a rock. Sakura was glad to see him helping, but she wasn't impressed by the fact that he waited around to do something. He was close enough to get involved or try to help calm everyone down right off the bat, he didn't need to watch Konohamaru suffer or Naruto get hurt before stepping in.

Although it did help Konohamaru, Sasuke's involvement did nothing to remedy the situation the only difference was that now the focus was on him. Whatever was on the teen's back was about to be released, it was likely a weapon of some sort, but everyone froze when a voice spoke from the tree, "Kankuro, that's enough."

A red-haired boy appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the same tree as Sasuke. Sakura could tell everyone was shocked even the two who seemed to know him and Sasuke who was only a few steps from him. What also surprised her was how scared the two, who she assumed were his allies, seemed to be. He did give off a creepy vibe especially with that dark tone in his voice despite seemingly being the most polite of the bunch.

Apparently, they were in the village for the Chunin exams which were coming up, Kakashi had failed to mention it so Sakura assumed they wouldn't be involved.

"So, the Chunin exams are coming up and I'm planning to put you forward to take part in them. Any questions or complaints?" Kakashi asked looking at his three genin who seemed unsurprised about the exams not bothering to ask what it was.

"Wait we're taking part in them?" Sakura asked which just confirmed that she and likely the other two had at least heard about the exams.

"Well I won't force you but make no mistake even though I'm putting you forward I don't think any of you should be promoted to chunin. Before you get upset, I feel the same way about all the other rookies entering the exams. Still, I think you'd all be furious if everyone else in the rookie class entered the exams except you and if we're using them as a standard then yes you can enter without being outclassed." He could just imagine how they'd react if everyone else was in the exam and they alone had to sit it out.

"I want you to understand that I'm incredibly proud of the growth each of you has had since I became your teacher and you all impressed me on our recent mission to the Land of Waves," Kakashi wasn't going to lie, his genin had impressed him. "However, what is expected of a chunin is different from what you are capable of and simply from a maturity and experience standpoint I don't think you're ready. Regardless, there are plenty of people taking the exam who aren't ready, that's why they fail repeatedly."

"So why are all these teams competing if they aren't actually ready to be promoted?" Sakura asked.

"I said I believe they aren't ready that doesn't mean, they or their teachers agree with my assessment. However, if anyone believes that everyone from your graduating class is ready to be chunin they're delusional." Kakashi replied further explaining, "Although the exams technically measure on a person by person basis, I'm not interested in promoting one of you until I believe the entire team has reached a certain level. Realistically even once you've been promoted, you'll generally stick with the same team until you're older anyway aside from occasionally getting pulled for missions."

He held a hand up before they could start with a rebuttal, he wasn't trying to hurt them, but it was the hard truth there were certain things he just wouldn't trust them with. "However, it is still my job to prepare you for the exam like you're meant to succeed. If you do your best maybe you can prove me wrong and make me look like a fool for doubting you."

Sasuke smirked and Naruto pumped his arm, "I'm going to show you, believe it."

"There isn't long until the exams so we have to focus on what's important. It's going to boil down to two major points your ability to work together in tasks or missions and your ability to operate alone in battle. We aren't supposed to provide much information, but there is a tournament at the end for the ninja that make it through the previous stages. I'll have time in between to train you for the finals if you make it there, meaning we need to focus on you working as a team, no arguments," Kakashi slipped into his teaching mode. If these kids were going to take part, he'd make sure they were able to work together and if they succeeded it would be together. At least until the finals where he'd have to train them separately if they made it.

He received three nods in response and thankfully not a peep from any of them. "You've practiced taijutsu against and with each other so that isn't my first concern, my feelings on weapon use are the same. Your overall repertoire of ninjutsu and genjutsu is rather limited given that we're entering the chunin exams so early. I'm going to teach each of you a minimum of one jutsu that I know will work with your teammates based on your current skills. You will likely face more experienced ninja so relying on each other is paramount."

He looked to Sakura first, "Sakura we spoke about how when water is available forming water is a waste of chakra, correct." She nodded and he continued, "However there are a large range of liquids you can produce with your chakra that have a variety of effects. I have two in mind, but I don't know if you'll be able to learn both, so we'll start with an oil based jutsu."

He saw that slight look of disgust on her face at the thought of spitting oil on people and he understood that to an extent, but he wasn't here to cater to her delicate sensibilities, "Beyond the initial effects of dousing an opponent or area with oil It will allow Sasuke to increase the power of his fire jutsu to levels he couldn't achieve no matter how much chakra he used." He saw the spark of interest in Sasuke's eyes and hoped his interest in improving would encourage him to be willing to work more closely with her.

"Sasuke, with Sakura being able to cover for increasing your firepower, so to speak, we don't need to focus on more flame techniques centered on burning opponents as she can cover you in that aspect. Obviously, you're wondering what type of fire techniques I plan to teach you if they aren't meant to burn opponents." Sasuke just made a slight noise of agreement or perhaps he wanted Kakashi to get to the point, he was choosing to believe the first. In either case he continued, "I know a few techniques that will allow you to use your fire in more concussive or explosive blasts, so we'll start there."

Finally, he looked to Naruto, "We're approaching the end of what I want to teach you about sealing before moving on to exploring elemental ninjutsu, but one thing I must make sure you're adept at is sealing things into scrolls. That probably seems simple, think of the ninja who carry around scrolls for weaponry in battle. The difference is that they're simply unsealing objects, which all of you can do it generally only takes a flash of chakra to release the seal. When we're finished, you'll be able to seal everything from large sources of water for Sakura to actual jutsu for battle. It can be a remarkable asset and trust me when I say it will be useful. If you complete that quickly enough, I have an area of effect seal that I think only someone like you can use."

It was time to kick things into high gear and hopefully get themselves prepped for the exams. Even if they were certainly growing at an advanced rate, they didn't have the maturity to take on the tasks they'd be expected to complete as a chunin. Still they'd surprised him before maybe they'd do it again.

Sakura approached the building where the initial phase of the exam was being held and saw she was last to arrive with Sasuke and Naruto clearly waiting for her. "Sorry," she apologized, "I just had a few things to do before leaving." She had spent a bit of extra time getting into the right mindset, she was confident in herself and her teammates, but she couldn't help worrying. However, she wasn't the type of person who'd let that stop her or keep her from giving it her all, not anymore.

"It's fine we weren't waiting long, right Sasuke?" Naruto asked glancing at Sasuke who only gave Sakura a nod in greeting before turning to walk towards the building.

"Let's just get inside I want to get started," Sasuke said instead of answering thankfully Naruto was too excited for the exams to get annoyed at Sasuke or he was just learning to ignore his attitude.

The walk through the first floor was fine it was when they reached the second floor that they happened across a bit of a scene. Two genin were apparently bullying the rest of the participants and one had just flat out punched a boy with a very unique look, if she was being very kind.

She hurried over with Sasuke and Naruto in time to hear one of the boys start talking about how dangerous and scary the exams are and how everyone should just quit. It annoyed her because they were preying on people who had worries similar to hers which she didn't want to make known. Before she could stop herself, she spoke up, "Who are you to decide whose good enough to be here? The fact that you're standing around trying to scare people means you're the ones who failed in the past or you're lying about your experience. In the end you're just afraid of some competition."

Sasuke added on easily, "And setting up a subpar genjutsu is hardly going to stop us, I'm sure even Naruto saw through it. Now get out of our way, I don't care if you feel like holding everyone else up or if they all quit, but you will move for me."

"What does 'even Naruto' mean," Naruto complained though he did add, "but yeah this isn't the third floor, so those door numbers are wrong." Naruto gestured to the numbers on the doors, which incorrectly indicated this was the third floor rather than the second, before sending a glare at Sasuke.

The male with tape on his face narrowed his eyes, "Just because you saw through the genjutsu doesn't mean I'm letting you go anywhere." He moved to strike Sasuke who quickly went to intercept, but neither struck because the boy in the green suit who had previously taken down grabbed them both before they could clash. Despite his odd looks Sakura would absolutely admit that was an impressive feat though she couldn't base all his abilities off just that.

She was even more shocked when he confessed his love to her seemingly out of nowhere and asked her to be his girlfriend. She might not be following Sasuke around like a lovesick puppy anymore, but she still was not interested in dating someone so intense and she told him that.

Sasuke for his part managed to find a Hyuga boy that was as rude as him, who started demanding his personal information. Before anyone could get too riled up Sakura grabbed both Sasuke and Naruto's wrists and began leading them away up to the next floor. She wasn't going to let anything happen, not today.

"Seriously, what is with everyone here?" Sakura shook her head not getting any real answer from either of the boys who were both deep in thought. The issues refused to end there soon after they had gotten away the boy with the weird haircut reappeared. She hoped it wasn't to bother her again she didn't think she was remarkably vain, but he honestly creeped her out a bit.

"I am Rock Lee and I'm challenging you to a fight right here, Sasuke Uchiha," he declared. Asking for a fight wasn't much better than being here directly for her, plus he was taking the opportunity to blow some kisses her way which she valiantly dodged.

If he kept it up, he'd end up having to fight her just because he was really starting to get on her nerves. She took a deep breath and schooled herself, the moment she calmed down Naruto started to let his own anger out apparently sick of being ignored. Glancing at Sasuke she could see he was already considering fighting so Sakura did the first thing that came to mind, "I refuse to date anyone who starts fighting before the exam." She regretted what she said the second it came out of her mouth, but she couldn't go back and tell them to start fighting.

She didn't plan on dating anyone in the immediate future, but it would hopefully stop at least one of them possibly two if Naruto was still interested in her. Rock Lee seemed to consider his options for a moment before leaping back, "Very well my love," he responded sending shivers down her spine, directing his gaze towards Sasuke he added, "we will finish this during the exams." He left presumably to return to his team.

"Sakura, why did you stop him?" Naruto asked looking slightly put out.

"Is it so strange that I don't want you two getting hurt? We don't know anything about him or even if fighting before the exams could get us in trouble," she responded truthfully. She had no doubt the two boys could handle themselves, but they didn't know anything about Rock Lee, and it was entirely possible that he'd hurt one of them and stop them from doing there best during the exam or they'd get punished for fighting.

"Oh," Naruto just said blushing slightly, Sasuke just huffed having been quiet since Sakura diffused the situation. Sakura just grabbed their arms and began leading them away again hopefully to finally deal with the exam. At this point any nervousness had faded behind pure annoyance at the situation.

With a smirk on his face Sasuke asked, "So when's your date with Rock Lee?" It was a rare moment of joking from him, but of course it was at her expense.

"Wait your not really going on a date with Bushy Brows, right?" Naruto asked taking it a bit too seriously.

Sakura just gave both of them a light smack on the back of their heads and responded, "Not a chance. Can we just focus now?"

Sasuke would've liked a chance to knock some sense into Rock Lee, he was interested in his skills, but perhaps Sakura was right. They should go into the exam at 100% not that he was particularly concerned about getting injured. He couldn't say the same about Naruto who was a few seconds away from getting involved. Finally arriving at the room for the first part of the exam it was a standard classroom, nothing particularly impressive, however the sheer number of applicants did catch his eye. He knew he'd be one of the rookies, but he wasn't expecting the other participants to be of such varying ages.

Before he could start picking out people that he thought seemed strong he felt a weight fall on his back and a familiar very annoying voice screech in his ear, "Sasuke-kun it's been so long I've missed you, I waited here just to see you."

He shrugged her off and shot her a glare, he wasn't interested in dealing with this. On his team he was away from the majority of his fangirls and since Sakura toned herself down, he hadn't had to deal with anything like this in a while. It was a very unpleasant shock to his system, and he was quick to shrug her off and take a few steps away. Somehow that opened the gate for the rest of the rookies to start approaching.

He tuned them out for the most part it wasn't until they were approached by an older teen with grey hair that he checked back into the conversation. "You're disturbing the rest of the participants, considering this is your first year you might not want to make too many enemies right off the bat," he said lightly.

Sasuke took a moment to glance around the room and saw most of the people were indeed glaring at the rookies making a spectacle of themselves. He introduced himself as Kabuto and explained that he'd been attempting the exams for four years and that he excelled in information gathering giving an example with his knowledge of the villages entering the exam. "So, you have information on the participants here?" Sasuke asked hoping to learn a bit more about some of the people currently on his mind.

"Depending on their record as a shinobi I may have varying amounts, but yes I should have information on everyone here, including you guys. I'm happy to help out my cute juniors do you have anything or anyone you're particularly interested in?" Kabuto asked holding his deck of cards.

"Gaara of Sunagakure and Rock Lee of Konoha," Sasuke answered simply. Gaara gave him a very bad feeling and seemed powerful, he was someone to be wary of not that Sasuke doubted his own abilities. As far as Lee went, they never got to fight so Sasuke wanted some information to fill in the gaps all he knew was that he was quick and physically strong.

"Gaara of the Desert, he completed eleven C rank missions and one B rank mission, but what's truly interesting is that he was never injured on any of them," Kabuto read off his data. Sasuke didn't know what to make of that, but it reaffirmed that he was someone to watch out for. Kabuto continued, "Rock Lee was a member of the class directly before yours, so he's a year older, but this is his first time competing in the exams. His taijutsu is notable and has improved rapidly since graduation, but the rest of his skills are below average aside from general weapon skills." That wasn't outside the realm of what Sasuke expected.

Just as things seemed to be settling down the sound ninja attacked Kabuto apparently feeling that calling the sound nation small in his explanation of the competing villages was a slight. Whatever attack was used seemed to affect Kabuto despite not directly landing before things could progress any further the proctors arrived.

Ibiki looked like the definition of what an intimidating ninja should be, covered in scars and growling angrily at the sound ninja for fighting. Sasuke wasn't fazed, but he knew it wasn't the time or place to act confrontational, so he calmly followed orders and made his way to his seat after grabbing a number.

The test rules were laid out, which were odd to start with and from the moment he looked at his test he knew he couldn't answer any of them and if he couldn't there was no chance Naruto could. He always got high scores in classes and understood the curriculum, but none of this was taught. Even with what they were taught he could barely understand the process of how to solve the majority of them. Glancing around he could tell he wasn't the only one. From who he could see the only people who started answering questions without pausing were two random genin he'd never met and Sakura.

It took a few minutes, but after mulling it over it hit him this test wasn't made for people to solve the answers on their own, no genin should be able to solve these, Sakura was a special case. The test had to be built to focus on information gathering that's why only lost two points were lost by being caught cheating rather than just failing and why there were so many proctors watching. The participants were supposed to cheat, but more importantly they were expected to do it well.

He glanced at Sakura again and trusted her to get the answers right, so he activated his Sharingan and started answering questions by following her hand movements. He might not be able to answer the questions on his own, but he could at the very least understand which answers went where when they were presented, and she went one by one in order which helped.

It was Naruto he was concerned about he glanced away to check on Naruto who was near the front of the room which wasn't an advantageous position to start with and he didn't look like he was answering anything. Once Sakura and in turn he had answered all the questions he saw Sakura silently make a few hand signs and immediately after Naruto flinched. A minute passed and Naruto started writing, Sakura likely did something to help him though he couldn't be sure exactly what. He'd make a point of asking after the test.

"The next answer is eight," Naruto heard Sakura whisper in his ear as he finished question five. Naruto was going to have to thank Sakura later, this genjutsu was saving him. Initially he'd been concerned it was from someone else trying to trick him, but she'd been able to prove she was herself. Now he was filling in the answers thanks to her help.

He realized the purpose of the test partway through, but it was too late, and his skillset wasn't built for this. If he'd known earlier the team could have taken out a genin and had a clone replace them. The clone could cheat for him and send him the information when he cancelled it. He'd been toying with the idea of just sending a clone out to check someone's answers and hoping it would only count for one instance of cheating. Thankfully Sakura's voice started whispering in his ears reassuring him by telling him his favorite ramen order. The only ninja who'd know that were her, Iruka, Sasuke, Kakashi, and the third Hokage.

By the time it reached the forty-five-minute mark he'd answered all the questions and he trusted that Sakura's answers were all correct whether she answered on her own or cheated from someone else.

Ibiki stepped forward and spoke just as the clock clicked, "It's time for the tenth question, now this one has some extra rules. First you can choose not to answer and immediately fail if you'd like," he was interrupted by grumbling which he cut off, "let me finish. Second if you get the tenth question wrong your entire team fails and you'll never be allowed to take the chunin exams again. However, if you choose to quit you can return for the exams next time. I'll give you a chance to think it over."

Naruto watched and listened as teams started walking out, he trusted himself and he trusted his team more than enough not to consider walking out. Although he knew Sasuke wouldn't quit he knew sometimes Sakura cared too much about them and might drop out to protect him and Sasuke. He couldn't let that happen, he needed to show that he was ready. He stood up and slammed his hand down on the desk, "I'm not giving up, I'm going to become Hokage someday and if you think you can scare me off with something like this you've got another thing coming. I don't go back on my word and I'm saying right here and right now that I'm taking this and I'm going to make it all the way, believe it."

There seemed to be a moment of silence and teams stopped dropping out after a bit of time passed Ibiki informed them they all passed, which Naruto was not expecting, not that he'd admit it out loud. Another thing he wasn't expecting was a crazy woman to come flying through the window.

The time for the second phase was coming.