New chapter out, sorry it took a little while. A few irl things complicated my writing time, but I managed to finish writing this out. Right now, I'm gonna try and stick to faster updates and a little bit shorter chapters, so here's hoping I can.

This was released on my Discord server a week ago, so feel free to join it if you want to read the chapters earlier.

This is the link, just remove the space: discord /2XN2rzuFpM

/

Kakashi staggered from the heavy punch that slipped through and struck his face, a grunt coming from him as he narrowly avoided the kick to his side from Gai as he leaped back.

"Maintain your guard, Kakashi!" Gai shouted, offering no reprieve as he rushed forward and sent a blur of punches at the silver haired Jonin's face and ribs.

Kakashi ducked under one, checked the strike of the second, and predicted the third with his Sharingan and slid his head to the side, Gai's fist gliding across his temple. A few additional dodges and him gripping Gai's wrist in a momentary grabble gave him a slight opening, which he exploited.

His own leg lashed out at Gai's knee, but the taijutsu master pivoted and threw his arms up to shield his face as he flipped backwards, flinging his legs up to kick at Kakashi's face while forcing some distance.

Kakashi didn't get his arms out of the way in time and he felt Gai's left foot strike the outside of his wrist, a flare of pain shooting up his arm.

A faint hiss escaped him, but he recovered quickly and stared at Gai, who was bouncing on his heels and looked overall unperturbed.

I'm still not at the level I need to be. Kakashi thought to himself, annoyed by how long it was taking him. Months of near torture training with Gai, and he only felt moderately better in attritional sparring with his rival. Sure, Ninjutsu would definitely help in closing the gap, but the entire goal was to hone his body to endure fights when his comparatively lower reserves wouldn't carry him through S-rank threats.

"Your stamina is still lacking, Kakashi! Come, let us continue!" Gai adopted his usual taijutsu stance and gestured for him to charge, which the copycat nin did.

His fist shot forward at Gai's face, but was ducked easily. Kakashi then sharply upped his speed and rained down blow after blow that would have been a blur to most Shinobi, but Gai bobbed and weaved through the onslaught like a dancer going through an intricate routine.

The exchange lasted for over 5 minutes, the two remaining almost rooted to the same spot as they traded blows in a constant stream of fists and kicks, the stalemate breaking only when Kakashi's fatigue caused him to mistime a counter that left him open to a side kick driven into his gut that sent him careening backwards across the ground.

He recovered in an impressively quick manner and stood up, coughing slightly as he nearly panted from trying to catch his breath.

Not wasting a moment, a one seal Shunshin had Kakashi blurring towards Gai, a kunai being pulled from the inside of his sleeve and he stabbed forward, abruptly sliding under Gai's arms and swinging his left leg at the man's shins while stabbing upward.

Gai twisted his entire body as he jumped over the kick, slapping aside the kunai strike and landing a kick to the left side of Kakashi's ribcage and sending him skidding across the grassy terrain of their training grounds.

A faint cough left him, before he jerked his legs up to propel himself upwards, staring at his opponent while breathing even more heavily.

Gai was only paying partial attention to him, too busy frowning at the bleeding cut on his wrist that was quickly staining his sleeve a dark red.

Gai clicked his tongue in annoyance. "I should have intercepted that without issue, but no matter." He then perked up like nothing happened. "Are you ready for more youthful sparring, Kakashi?!"

Kakashi shook his head, the hits that had landed being more than enough, coupled with the lengthy training session, to have him about ready to crash.

"Too much." He sighed shortly, his right leg trembling slightly as he came down from the rush of combat. "I need a break."

Gai nodded his understanding, dropping his stance and walking towards him.

"You are doing better than last month, my eternal rival." Gai smiled brightly, wrapping his arm around Kakashi's shoulder. "Why must you be so quiet when your fire has been stoked?"

Kakashi, when thinking about this exact moment later in the day, probably shouldn't have said anything. But, like a dog with a bone, he could never let go of the very simple sentence he always used to irritate the very loud and energetic Jonin.

"Huh, did you say something?"

Gai let him go like he'd been scalded and covered his face with his uninjured hand, groaning loudly.

"Your hip attitude will be the death of me, Kakashi! Nothing can match the Youth dampening effects of your attitude, it's a void upon which my flames are tested!"

Now you're just being dramatic. Kakashi rolled his eyes, keeping his left shut for right now.

"I'm sure Naruto can help restore your flames when he goes on that mission with you." He drawled, seeing Gai finally stop pacing like he was dying.

"It is a miracle and a testament to young Naruto's temperament that he possesses such ferociously bright dedication, unlike you, my eternal rival." The last part had a barely disguised veneer of disappointment, but not a serious kind.

Kakashi just shook his head at the admittedly modest scolding Gai was trying to convey, accepting it as an environmental hazard for the purpose of improved fitness and endurance that Gai's tort- training gave him.

"Same time next week?" The most reluctant S-rank nin in all of Konoha's history asked, wanting to get something to eat other than the foul tasting concoction Gai had him chug straight from a blender that morning; the only ingredients he could make out by taste were eggs, milk, and honey… all three of which were raw.

Gai nodded slightly. "If none of my team receive injuries, then I will definitely be here to help you achieve your potential, Kakashi."

Kakashi didn't say anything, feeling a bit awkward now at the total lack of subterfuge in Gai's mannerisms or voice. He 100% meant that.

"I'll see you later, Gai." Kakashi then made a hand seal and Shunshined away, leaving nothing but a slight kickup of leaves.

/ (SCENE BREAK)

"Onward, minion!" I shouted from the tree branch I was perched on, drawing a glare from Konohamaru as he tried to complete the first step to making the Rasengan. "Do not fail me and bring shame to your clan, it is unbecoming of you."

We were both currently sequestered away in a training ground, the weather just as frigid as usual. For once, Konohamaru's scarf was being put to good use.

"Quit it." The dark haired kid demanded, letting out a growl of anger as he failed at it again and chucked the balloon at a tree.

Konohamaru had been insistent on me teaching him the Rasengan, even when I told him it would take a long time. I was hoping he'd get the message that there was a reason I was wanting him to learn basic Katon Jutsu and non elemental related techniques before this.

"I'm sure Hanabi-chan could figure this out first." I hummed thoughtfully, tapping my chin.

"Grrrr." Konohamaru stomped his foot, his scarf almost flying up from how quick he jerked his head up to glare at me. "Stop bringing her up!"

Konohamaru insisted that he absolutely hated Hanabi. Now, I didn't know if it was the typical 'I hate her because I like her' stuff, or if Hanabi's, well, Hanabiness, drove him up the wall. I know Konohamaru was quick to act and took very little BS from people, much like me, and Hanabi would have been fairly off-putting to me if she were Hinata's age instead of Konohamaru's.

But it wasn't like I was actually going to ask Konohamaru dead seriously if he actually liked her. I was the type of person to mess with others, but not to be meanspirited like that.

And besides, Konohamaru in particular was long overdue for my playful teasing. Best way to deflate that not completely unwarranted ego of his was to make sure he knew there was a bigger fish in the form of me.

My own ego need not be mentioned.

"You could just, you know, take my advice and wait a year before doing this." I pointed out, adjusting my stance and jumping off the branch, tucking into a roll as I landed because I couldn't be bothered to use my chakra.

Straightening up, I shook my head to get the bits of snow caught in my hair to fall away, before looking back down at my unofficial apprentice.

"Trust me, there's nothing you can do to speed this along. I decided to let you figure it out that you're not supposed to succeed at it. You're doing exactly what I did when I was younger, demanding more than what you're ready for."

Now that I was doing it, I understood why Hiruzen had used that particular tactic with me. Konohamaru was near the top of his class, in no small part thanks to me, and felt he could do anything if he tried at it. But the Rasengan was a technique that took Jiraiya time to figure out, along with Rin and me.

Konohamaru's dark eyes burned with defiance as he seemingly rejected what I said, his face flushed from the cold.

"I am ready!" He declared, clenching his gloved fist.

"No, you're not." I shook my head, making three hand seals and forming a Raikiri in my right hand, the blade of lightning crackling with a high pitched whine. "This is an S-rank Jutsu that can cut through a lightning bolt."

What I didn't mention was that it took me months to do with Kakashi practically spoon-feeding tips to me on how not to blow up my arm after I had made it clear that I was going to try and figure out how to do it, regardless of what he said. I probably would have just barely figured out how to do it on my own at this point had he not helped me, and that was me being charitable to myself.

Konohamaru had almost immediately flipped from defiance to shock when I used Kakashi's Jutsu, his eyes fixed on my hand.

"And now I'm going to form a Rasengan in the other." I said, doing just that and keeping both Jutsu stable in my hands.

After holding it for several seconds so he understood, I cut the chakra feed to the Raikiri and I destabilized the Rasengan, ending both techniques.

"Trust me when I say you won't be able to use the Rasengan until you're at least eleven or twelve." I sighed, flexing my fingers to stop the static from dancing up my sleeve. It used to be much more painful when using both at the same time. "And you're what, going to be ten in a few days?"

I remembered that his birthday was on either the 30th or 31st, I'd need to ask Hiruzen later when I met him for training today.

"Yeah." Konohamaru replied stiffly, still looking annoyed at me flat out showing by example that I knew he couldn't safely use the Rasengan until later. "If I can't learn the Rasengan, then show me something else! I won't let Hanabi be better than me."

That last little outburst had me laughing, the chilly wind still blowing through my hair as I kept my face uncovered.

"Can't have the prim and proper Hyuga outdoing the honoured grandson." I kept snickering, winking at him when he huffed at me calling him what Ebisu often did.

"But let's get out of the cold," I said, turning on my heel and gesturing for him to follow me, "I can feel your chakra is a little low, so a hot bowl of food is your prescription before we get back to it."

Konohamaru eyed me suspiciously, but a sharp increase in the wind speed made him shiver. After that, he relented and walked towards me, before following right beside me as we went to the ramen stand.

It was an awkward walk as the only sound made was the wind and the crunching of snow beneath our boots. I could feel his chakra simmering like it did when he was upset, so I decided to break the silence myself.

"You know I'm only saying to be careful because I don't want you getting hurt, right?" I asked him, adjusting my sleeve some to keep the cold air from slipping between my glove and coat sleeve.

Konohamaru sighed audibly, but he nodded reluctantly.

I know that he'd be able to do it by the time he was 12, but I secretly harbored a bit of concern that I wasn't training him the way he should be, or at least how Canon Naruto did. I knew it was unreasonable to think that, but it didn't stop me from thinking about it.

"It took my dad years to create that Jutsu, and he was smarter than the two of us put together." I added, still walking. "Kakashi's a better teacher, and it still took me months to do it safely without cutting up my hand."

Konohamaru seemed to understand, actually understand, and the low simmer of his chakra faded away and his posture uncoiled.

"I understand, nii-chan." He nodded his head, giving me a slight toothy grin. "Just find me something else to master."

I laughed at the mood suddenly changing to a much brighter one, glad that I got through.

"Will do. But first, I want to have some fun with a tradition of mine that I do in winter. You wanna help?" I asked him, grinning widely when his eyes brightened.

"Hell yeah!"

"Language."

"Sorry."

/ ( SCENE BREAK)

"Hinata," Ino said gently, trying hard to not smile at what was going on in front of her, "I don't think massaging the bruises will help."

The two girls were relaxing at the dango shop with Anko currently ordering for them, and Hinata had just finished sparring with Neji at full pace.

"I'm massaging my own chakra through my tenketsu to open them fully." Hinata muttered, a rare look of annoyance on her face as she was focusing on her current task. "Neji wasn't pulling his strikes."

Oh, that's right. Ino thought, remembering that Hinata had mentioned that she didn't want to be babied by Neji when they did their taijutsu training.

Ino had seen how disturbingly skilled Neji was with taijutsu when they had clashed with those Oto nin during the invasion, and it seemed like he had only gotten better over the past several months.

And right now, Hinata was trying to attempt to fix the damage done by her cousin, which was clearly visible from the purple bruising contrasting with her skin even more so than the lavender and white of her coat.

"I don't think I ever want to experience that," Ino said, eying the deep purple bruise on Hinata's forearm that was visible from where she had pulled up her sleeve, "That looks painful."

"Even more when your tenketsu are shut and your chakra isn't flowing properly." Hinata hissed and bit her lip as she finished that tenketsu point where the bruise was and then made three hand seals to use a basic healing Jutsu to heal the injury.

It also probably didn't help Hinata's mood that they went to get dango after training instead of cinnamon rolls, but Anko wanted this and so did Ino.

"I can do that while you make sure all your tenketsu are open properly." Ino offered, before the two turned their heads when they heard Anko yell.

"What do you mean you're out of that flavour! Whatever, just make all of them the same!"

Ino grimaced at a potentially aggravated Anko not getting her preferred dango. Regular Anko was a nightmare to train with, but she was downright terrifying when in a bad mood. And it wasn't like her dad would listen to her and have somebody else help her with poisons and Genjutsu, because there wasn't a chance she could find anybody in Konoha that knew poisons as well as her. Treating poisons? Tsunade-sama and Shizune were excellent, but Anko actually knew how to craft them.

And it wasn't like Anko was horrible and mean, just abrasive. But cold weather and Anko didn't mix well for Ino's mood.

"Is it too late to decline Anko's invitation for dango?" Ino asked worriedly, drawing a faint giggle from Hinata.

"I don't think she would appreciate her favorite toy trying to run away." Hinata kept on giggling, but she at least was polite and covered her mouth to muffle the sound.

Ino just gave a deadpan look. "I can revoke the offer of helping you with the bruising."

That put an end to Hinata's mirth.

"Eh, I can't lie like that." Ino huffed lightly, getting up from her seat to sit next to Hinata and help her out. "Just tell me what you need me to do." She popped her knuckles on her index and middle fingers before looking at the other girl's arms intently.

Slowly and painstakingly, Ino helped heal the bruises on Hinata's off-arm at her direction while the Hyuga went about fixing her tenketsu the rest of the way.

Anko eventually came back a minute or so later, holding five helpings of dango.

The two girls stopped what they were doing and looked up at their teacher for the day, specifically what she was holding in her hands.

"One for you." Anko set one down in front of Ino. "One for you." She repeated the action with Hinata, before sitting down heavily in her own seat. "And three for me." She grinned brightly, taking a bite.

Between the two youngest at the table, Ino was the most impulsive and inclined to smart off about something. Hinata wasn't immune to acting in such a way, but it took a great deal to get her to.

Being sore and upset about being outvoted on where to stop to eat was evidently enough.

"Are you sure you won't get fat from eating that?"

Anko paused mid bite, instinctively looking at Ino first.

I didn't say it! Ino thought irritably, scowling at the glare shot her way. It didn't matter that she commented that on more than one occasion before, looking at her was still rude.

The purple haired Jonin seemed to mentally course correct though and looked at Hinata with a hint of surprise in her eyes.

"I'm going to ignore that comment because your dad probably won't take kindly to me testing a few paralytics on you." Anko said flatly, taking an intentionally slow bite of dango.

Hinata just gave a trademark Hyuga stare at Anko, looking just as emotionless and frosty as her relatives.

"I know you actually care about your reputation, so you won't hurt a student." Hinata said coolly, going back to trying to fix another bruise on her arm like nothing happened.

She evidently didn't get the memo with me.

"Hey!" Anko leaned forward and smacked her hand, making the Hyuga heiress flinch in her seat. "I paid a premium price for that dango. Eat it before it gets cold."

Hinata scrunched her nose and took a very undignified bite from it, muttering something under her breath.

"Cute, but Naruto plays up the insolence a lot better." Anko bobbed her head to a silent tune, snickering as she went. "You're too much of a delicate flower to make it look authentic."

Hinata furrowed her brow, clearly getting annoyed.

"You won't get a rise out of me."

"Don't need to." Anko smiled, taking another bite of dango. "I'm just wanting to see you pout while I do it."

That drew a snort from Ino, who caught a quick glare from Hinata. Anko just kept looking at Hinata and snickering to herself.

"This is a rare event," Anko pointed at the girl, taking another bite to finish off the one dango stick, "The little chibi's all upset and pouting!"

Hinata just shook her head, her face reddening in embarrassment and frustration both. Ino could actually feel it radiating from her and it made it a task to not burst out laughing.

"I am not pouting." Hinata pouted, pointing an accusing finger at Anko in turn. "You just want to make fun of m-... what is Naruto doing?" She trailed off, looking behind Anko at the snow covered street.

Ino shifted in her seat so she could turn and look at what Hinata was looking at, and it would have floored her if she didn't know what Naruto would get up to at times.

He was bundled up like they were, and walking very deliberately in the snow, pressing all his weight into each step. Konohamaru was also walking directly behind him, delicately stepping into Naruto's footprints.

And it looked like Naruto was singing from the heart, his arms gesticulating and the brightest smile on his face as his mouth moved.

What is he singi- Her thoughts trailed off when the wind died down enough for her to hear his voice.

"In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dented! Heat was in the very sod, which the saint had printed!" The last two syllables of whatever he was saying turned into an outright shout, joy and merriment creating what felt like a blazing inferno to her empathic sensing.

She couldn't quite hear what else he said in the made-up language of his because she shivered from how potently his emotions were staining his chakra, losing focus and blinking repeatedly.

Naruto kept on stomping, having a grand old time as Konohamaru kept following him.

"Encore, you say?!" Naruto then yelled to no one in particular, before switching to another song in his personal language. "The snows comin down!"

Ino just marveled at him not caring at all. There weren't that many people out right now since it was cold and the New Year celebration was still about a week away, but there were still some people that wanted to prepare a little bit earlier for the celebration and they were just watching as the resident Uzumaki was having what looked to be the time of his life.

"Don't pay any mind to him, he does that every year." Anko's voice cut through her thoughts, drawing some of her attention back to the woman. "He's a weird gaki, but he's my weird gaki."

Ino scowled at the description. Naruto wasn't weird… actually, yeah he was. But what he was being described as right now should be anything but weird. He was joyful! She didn't think she'd ever felt him be this elated before, ever since her father and Naruto had taught her to sense chakra.

Naruto then abruptly turned and looked at the three of them from across the street.

"Hi, guys!" He shouted, smiling brightly before completely ignoring them and continuing his march through the snow.

Ino was a bit surprised by that. Normally, he'd swing by and say hello for a little bit before going back to whatever he had been doing previously. Heck, he'd even done that when he was heading to train with Jiraiya-sama. So, she just kept on staring at him for several minutes, before noticing both Hinata and Anko were as well.

"I didn't recognize what he was singing at first." The definitely not crazy woman said, finishing off another dango stick while her eyes were squinted in deep thought. "He's got multiple ones, but I didn't recognize that."

I think I'll ask him what they are. Ino would be a liar if she said she wasn't curious about that. Even if she wasn't a Yamanaka, the idea of Yin exposure prenatally inducing a developed consciousness and helping the mind craft even a rudimentary language was astounding. Her clansmen had well adjusted minds and excellent memory recall, but not anything like that.

"But anyway," Anko straightened up, flicking the empty stick like a senbon at the trashcan, banking it off the rim and down into it, "How's everything not related to training going with you girls? I've been too busy to ask."

(SCENE BREAK)

"Adding three curls in a triangular pattern with a clockwise twirl to the exterior will help with the quicker expulsion of your weapons, Tenten." I mentioned absentmindedly, watching the brunette fiddle with a scroll while we were on the move.

The mission I'd been asked on for additional firepower with Gai's team was thankfully going fairly well, unlike that abysmal ANBU mission with the zombified bonehead giving me a rough time. Just a quick courier mission that hopefully wouldn't be much of a hassle.

Had it been a type of chip being carried to a particular location, I would have legitimately considered deserting the Shinobi corps and becoming a missing nin.

Although infiltrating a casino and killing cannibals would be funny, I don't want to risk some dude digging lead out of my head and my amnesic ass becoming Lord Death of Murder Mountain.

"Uh, would you mind repeating that again, Naruto?" Tenten asked, having not been paying attention to me in particular.

Tenten's request pulled me away from the internal musings of what a brain damaged me could unleash on the world and I repeated what I'd said a little slower this time so she could follow along. The brunette nodded along as I went on to give more detail in not just what worked, but also why it did.

There wasn't really much of anything else to do when there'd be an interlude between us using chakra to move at rapid speeds across the landscape, and taking a short break so nobody would get fatigued. Granted there was a Sub-Zero chance of me getting fatigued by going at the speeds that Gai was accustomed to. It was for the sake of mostly Tenten and Neji, with Lee being in much better physical condition than his two teammates simply because it was necessary for his fighting style, that we took constant breaks.

"Is Fuinjutsu the only shared interest you two have?" Neji asked, having been silent for the last couple of hours. "That seems to be the only thing you've talked about all day."

"No, just that I'm not in the mood to talk about swords or armour." I replied, "You should try some armour, actually, it makes you sturdier. I can etch in some seals for extra versatility if you want."

I'd finally made a minor breakthrough on the seals that could be etched in a karuta style armour set, but still eluded me for the solid steel plate I personally fancied. So, all any of my friends would have to do is ask, and I'll spend the three or four days needed to carve the seals into the metal and they'd be protected from direct Ninjutsu attacks.

Neji just gave me a deadpan look. Anytime I could peddle my adoration for armour, I'd do it relentlessly.

"Hyuga don't use armour because it would inhibit our use of the kaiten." He stated flatly, his Byakugan still active to continue monitoring the area around us. "Did Hinata not explain that to you?"

No, she in fact hadn't. I never actually thought of that being a thing; steel impeding the expulsion of chakra from the shielded parts of the body. Now that I thought about it, Neji did in fact have some trouble landing a Juken hit that would pierce down into where my tenketsu were on the parts of my chest that were covered by my armour.

"She did not." I said, wondering why it had never come up. "So I guess that makes sense why I've only ever seen Hyuga rocking a flak jacket at most."

"I'm certain there were members of my clan that weren't as adept at the necessary chakra control to perform the kaiten, or Branch members that were forbidden from the use of such techniques," He added the last part with undisguised vexation, "That used sturdier sets of armour in close range engagements since there is no inhibitors on the arms or legs."

"I never thought of that." Tenten cut in for a moment, sounding genuinely curious. "But it makes sense now why I hardly ever saw Hyuga in my dad's shop."

"Now I feel like a nuisance, kind of." I said, sighing to myself as I glanced around where we're at now, which was a flat plain that still had a generous amount of snow from when there'd been some from a few days ago. "Here I thought your clan did their typical shenanigans related to tradition."

Neji frowned at how I said that, but didn't say anything else.

Lee wasn't really doing much in the conversation sphere of things. He was content as could be with just listening.

Out of everybody I expected to speak next, I didn't expect it to be Gai.

"I can tell you mean the best for your comrades, Naruto." He said, peering at the sky to look at the sun before glancing at a watch on his wrist. "And offering assistance is good for all, but trusting them to know what's best for themselves is also good."

Fair. I thought to myself, but not saying anything.

"Now, let us resume our youthful pace towards our destination!" He exclaimed energetically, his chakra sharpening all across his body.

The four of us prepared ourselves, and we promptly followed once Gai disappeared in a blur of green towards the Northeast.

/( SCENE BREAK)

"You're wanting to take him to where, Jiraiya-sama?" Kakashi asked incredulously, making sure he heard correctly.

Kakashi had just been made privy to something relating to Naruto ahead of when it would be public knowledge. His Sensei's son was going to be heading out with Jiraiya on a short training trip…

To the Land of Iron.

Kakashi wished either Tsunade-sama or the Sandaime were present. Perhaps they may have been able to convince him that it was just him being far too negative, but the Sandaime was spending time with his grandson and the Godaime was presumably training her gaggle of students with Shizune.

So it was just the two men in the Hokage's office.

"We'll be gone for a couple months at most." Jiraiya clarified, the white haired Sannin noticing Kakashi's surprised expression that his mask only partially succeeded in obscuring. "And the trip to the Samurai will just be a detour to repair his sword, while the main reason for the trip is so he can become well acquainted with my spy network."

Kakashi was tempted to ask an obvious question about why Naruto needed to know about it, but he knew exactly why.

As of now, there was nobody who could fill Jiraiya's role and salvage his network should he be killed. The only three of the latest crop of Shinobi that he could think of that would have the mindset to be molded and mentored by Jiraiya was Naruto obviously, Shikaku's kid, and maybe Neji.

"Do you really think it is advisable that Naruto, out of all people, goes to a nation where Shinobi are already looked at with heavy scrutiny?" Kakashi asked, already feeling a headache start to build just from the thought of the calamity that could occur if the absolutely chaotic nature of his most… special students decided to have its pound of flesh and cause a political incident.

"It'll be fine." Jiraiya rolled his eyes, crossing his arms and striking a pose. "I turned Minato into a perfectly sculpted masterpiece, and I've already succeeded in beating some sense into Naruto. The kid will be able to fight S-ranks in… hmmm, six months maybe."

"You said that six months ago." Kakashi pointed out.

"Not my fault the little gaki has a skill curve like a malfunctioning waterspout," Jiraiya scowled, shaking his head, "Ginger coloured crackhead." He muttered under his breath.

That had been something Kakashi had noticed, and he guessed that Jiraiya and the Sandaime had made the same deduction on certain things Naruto excelled at or was very shaky in understanding.

Seals? Suiton and Raiton Ninjutsu? Kenjutsu? He thrived like what you'd see in an S-rank quality prodigy. But chakra theory, elemental release outside of the first two, control over his chakra, and other things like that were painstakingly slow and not too far above his friends.

"If you're finished complaining about him, what else was it you were wanting to say to me?" Kakashi diverted the conversation back to what was supposed to be the first order of business.

"Oh, yes, that." Jiraiya said with a flat tone, his brow furrowing. "Tsunade wanted to let you know that ANBU missions are getting increased and Konoha needs more recruits into their ranks. You're requested to train the next batch alongside Yamato."

Kakashi prided himself on being able to maintain a pretty sturdy control on his thoughts and feelings under most circumstances. That wasn't always the case, especially with all the hair raising events that had transpired over the last couple of years, but it was otherwise tolerable.

The stressing of the word 'request' threatened to make him scowl rebelliously.

"Even if I technically have a choice in the matter, we both know I really don't." He sighed, setting his hands into his pockets. "When do I start?"

/(SCENE BREAK)

"Darui," The Raikage looked at one of his lieutenants, "Your thoughts on this?"

Currently, there were five people present in the office, even the ANBU guard were absent. The Raikage, both Jinchuriki, and Darui and C were the ones present.

But a missive from the Hokage had been delivered via the summons of Jiraiya, and had laid out a few things relating to a joint front being prepared on more than one axis.

At present, there was an unknown subordinate of Orochimaru's that was capable, and willing, to use the Edo Tensei. The suspected nin was believed to be Yakushi Kabuto, and Konoha ANBU were already on the prowl for any of the recently dead rogue Sannin's bases. With the Nidaime Hokage being the creator of the technique, and his most prized student still alive, Konoha was undoubtedly better equipped to counter the use of it.

The second axis was the diminishment of information coming out of Iwa. Konoha had also confirmed that they had experienced the same thing, and it did not bode well when a terrorist organization full of S-ranks was attempting to bring about the end of days.

And it wasn't like they could just out and publicly proclaim that the Juubi is real and the legend of the Sage was factual. It would sound like madness, and only clue their enemy into a significant detail they knew about.

But what the Raikage had asked of the younger man was something that had not been spoken about with Konoha. Four of the five in the room were varying degrees of S-rank, with C being a decorated and experienced A-rank. They were well within the realm of successfully hunting members of the Akatsuki.

'Will you assist in hunting down the most dangerous missing nin alive to protect Kumo?' Was the unasked question.

"I will do what is necessary to protect Kumo, sir." The dark skinned Jonin replied.

The Raikage shook his head.

" Your personal thoughts, Darui. You will likely be leading the team, B and Yugito are their targets."

Darui didn't change his answer all that much.

"My personal thoughts are that you believe I'm the best suited for this mission, so I will trust your judgment." He said steadily, totally at ease, "Are there any Shinobi you think will suit this team of prospective S-rank hunters?"

Ay just grinned.

"A good question."

None present left for hours, the final ironing out of a plan formulating behind the sealed walls of the room that contained the beating heart of Kumo's high command.

/(END CHAPTER)

Not too much happened in this one. This is mostly a build up to Naruto leaving with Jiraiya for a couple months, as well as some buildup in the background. So, I hope you all enjoy and have a wonderful day.

Raging.