Chapter 3

Naruto glared at his teammates as they approached the Hokage Tower to get their next mission. They had been arguing for the last hour and a half over when they needed to make a scene to make the Hokage give them a C-rank mission. Naruto was convinced it was today. Sasuke and Sakura were equally sure it wasn't until tomorrow. Team Seven barely noticed as Team Ten sulked past on their way out of the Tower with a mission scroll clasped in Asuma's hand. "It's today, I'm telling you!" Naruto said loudly. Asuma gave Kakashi a questioning look. The masked man just shrugged.

If Kakashi were held down and forced to explain his team's actions of the day, he would have just said they were arguing about something, but he hadn't the foggiest idea what it was. He almost felt like they were speaking in code. Asuma had requested a C-rank mission for his team today because he felt like his team could use a challenge. Throughout the week since team assignments, Asuma had gotten increasingly sick of seeing his entire team moping around. None of them would – or could, Asuma wasn't sure which – explain why they were being like that, but after a week of it, Asuma had had enough.

"Escort Tazuna back to his home in the Land of Waves," Asuma read quietly from the mission scroll they had been given. "Protect him while he finishes his bridge…" He trailed off and read silently for a few moments. Then, turning his attention to his team, he said, "Pack for at least a week. We meet first thing in the morning at the Village gate to begin this mission." Team Ten nodded and separated to get ready. They might be a mopey bunch, but Asuma couldn't deny they had been obedient and efficient in their missions, from preparing for them to carrying them out.


It was early. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon. Shikamaru was grumbling, Ino was moping, and Choji was grumping. The three were waiting for their sensei and their client in front of the Village's main gate. Asuma was, in fact, watching the three of them from nearby, not knowing that all three of them were entirely aware of him. He was hidden well, he just didn't know just how much he was underestimating his team.

When Team Ten had been waiting at the gate for about ten minutes that felt like forever, Tazuna arrived. He was an older man, already drinking from a jug of sake. When he spoke, his voice was full of annoyance. "This is what I get when I come to this village for help? A bunch of snot-nosed brats?" he asked.

Team Ten was more than a little bit irked, but they knew the man couldn't help seeing them that way. Asuma arrived before his Genin could respond. "Well, they may be Genin, but they're hardly brats. And even if they were, I'm a Jonin. You'll be safe with us," he said simply. Tazuna made a grumpy sound, but he didn't respond, and the five people were soon on their way down the road.


The small group had been walking for an hour or so when Asuma saw the puddle. He sensed chakra in it, and it hadn't rained in days, so he knew immediately something was up. His team did as well, although none of them reacted visibly. Suddenly, Asuma was wrapped up in chains! Team Ten snickered when they saw their sensei substitute himself with a log nearby. When the chains ripped "him" to shreds, they simply waited a moment, saw the two attackers who had sprung from that oh-so-innocent puddle were going for Tazuna, then Shikamaru grabbed both of them with a shadow. Wrapping the shadow around the two young men and a nearby tree, he tied it off in a bow and the four ninja – Asuma had returned shortly after the two attackers had made their target obvious – turned to Tazuna.

"We're going to keep helping you because it's the right thing to do," Asuma said. "But just so you know, by all rights, we could, and should, leave you to fend for yourself right here and now."

Tazuna gasped. "What on earth do you mean?" he asked.

Asuma snorted. "Those two were after you, not us. You asked for protection from us from such things as robbers, highwaymen, that kind of thing, not ninja. If we had known we would be dealing with enemy ninja, we would have charged more. I assume you knew this. Lying to us like this is simply not acceptable. That said, we committed to the mission, and we will see it through."

Tazuna breathed a sigh of relief at the last comment, decided it was a bad idea to push his protectors any further, and the small group returned to the road.


Asuma had continued the mission out of sheer morbid curiosity. He had seen his team react much faster than he expected when the two attackers came, and now he wanted to see just how strong they actually were. He knew full well, after that first attack failed, their enemies would send more ninja, Jonin this time. What he didn't know was how his team would work under conditions like that.

Soon enough, he got his answer. Upon approaching a body of water, namely the small bit of sea between the Land of Fire and the Land of Waves, Asuma sensed two presences nearby. One was large and had more physical presence than he cared to consider. The other was significantly smaller, but it had a presence, not physical, but nonetheless real, that put the first to shame.

When a huge sword came flying out of nowhere, no one was really surprised, except for Tazuna. Everyone managed to hit the ground and dodge the sword. It stuck in a tree for only a moment before it was ripped from the trunk and placed onto the back of a large man wearing a mask of bandages. Not far away, another person was hiding just inside the trees. Shikamaru considered this, but he couldn't make sense of it just yet.

Asuma looked at the large man. "Zabuza Momochi, isn't it?" he said, his voice full of something that sounded like disdain.

"Ah, Asuma Sarutobi, formerly of the Guardian Shinobi Twelve. I'm honored one such as you would know of me," the large man responded.

Shikamaru whispered to Ino and Choji, "Having eyebrows like Guy and Lee would be a pain, but having none is just weird." Ino and Choji looked at the man, saw that, as Shikamaru implied, the man seemingly had no eyebrows at all, and snickered.

Zabuza was annoyed. "Are your brats laughing at me?" he snarled.

Asuma shrugged. "I haven't the foggiest idea what goes on in their heads," he said back. "If you want to know, ask them yourself. I wouldn't bother the one with the topknot, though, he's...temperamental."

Zabuza raised his nonexistent eyebrow at the Jonin's last comment, then just shrugged. "You guys are all going to die here. Unless, that is, you just leave the bridge-builder here and make yourselves scarce." He pushed out some Killing Intent.

Shikamaru snorted. "Is that supposed to scare us?" he asked. "Are you guys scared of this brow-less freak?"

Ino and Choji both shook their heads. Zabuza wasn't sure what to make of this, so instead of saying anything, he just moved. Within an instant, he was beside the bridge-builder, and his sword was slicing the air with a sharp whooshing sound. To his shock, the sword, and his hand, and his body, stopped when the sword was mere centimeters from the man's neck. Zabuza strained, trying his hardest to kill his target, but he couldn't move. "What?!" he said eloquently.

At this point, Haku was supposed to step in, and he tried. He really tried. When he tried to throw his senbon needles to put Zabuza into a death-like state, however, he also found himself paralyzed. Shikamaru stood and walked; the two found themselves walking with him into the corner of the clearing. As they were forced there, the four other people left. "I'll meet you at his house later!" Shikamaru called after them.

Shikamaru forced his prisoners to sit down in the corner of the clearing next to the sea. They were all sitting there, cross-legged, and Shikamaru said simply, "You two have been naughty ninja! Now sit here and think about what you've done!"

Two hours later, Shikamaru released the two and made his way across the sea to the bridge-builder's house. Zabuza and Haku sat completely still, shocked into silence, for a solid hour after the boy left. Then they slowly rose and turned their eyes toward their long-abandoned home, thoroughly chastised.


Team Ten had been in the Land of Waves for a week. Tazuna's bridge was almost complete. They had been waiting this entire time for the other shoe to drop after the encounter with Zabuza and Haku. Nothing had happened, though.

Today, Team Ten was guarding Tazuna directly. They had been on duty for an hour when suddenly, a large group of mercenaries appeared on the far end of the bridge. At the front of the group was a small man with a cane and sunglasses. "This bridge is stopping today!" the man said. "My men are going to kill you all and burn this stupid thing down."

Choji snorted. "I don't think so," he said simply. His arm expanded faster than the eye could see and he simply backhanded the man across the face. The small man went flying and landed in the water. He didn't come back up. Apparently he couldn't swim.

The first mercenary in the group said, "We're still going to get paid, one way or another!"

Shikamaru laughed. "You idiots really think we're going to let you do that?" He threw a smoke ball at the group.

Ino rested her hand on Shikamaru's back. Using her sensory awareness, Shikamaru reached a shadow out to Choji, who had expanded his entire body and wrapped himself in his spiky hair. Shikamaru used his shadow to wind up and throw Choji's spiky body like a yo-yo. The huge gang of mercenaries was quickly reduced to a bloody pulp for those who weren't able to dodge in time; the rest were in the water. "Good ol' Shadow Possession, Human Yo-Yo. Works every time," Shikamaru said, standing up and brushing himself off.

Turning to Tazuna, Asuma said, "I guess that takes care of that. Let's get this bridge finished."

Tazuna chuckled. "I agree. And after that display, I think we should call it the Great Shikamaru Bridge!"


A week later, Team Ten returned to the Hidden Leaf Village, having no idea they had crushed a mission that had once shaped the future of Team Seven. "Well, for a first C-rank, I guess that one was at least interesting," Shikamaru said upon arriving back at the village.

"Yeah, I guess," Ino said. "Would have been better if Sai was there."

"Karui, too," Choji said back.

Shikamaru sighed. "Yeah...I miss Temari."

Asuma shook his head. "These three are impossible," he thought to himself. Aloud, he said, "Let's go celebrate a job well done with some barbecue!"

Team Ten tried for the sake of their beloved sensei to muster some enthusiasm for the meal, but the three couldn't quite do it. They enjoyed the food, of course, but in between bites, yet another Team Ten Pity Party was taking place. It was everything Asuma could do to not scream in frustration. These three were driving him insane. He puffed on his cigarette, grateful no one was bothering him about that. Asuma didn't think he could handle these three without his daily nicotine.

A/N: And there we go. I know this one is on the shorter side, but I just wanted to get Wave over with, so there it is. Hope you enjoyed this small dose of nonsense, and next time will be a longer chapter as the Chunin Exams Begin!