Squad Seven spent the next week and a half with the same routine. They didn't even try to wait for Kakashi in the morning anymore knowing that he would be arriving around two hours late. However the trio followed his training schedule faithfully. The amount of D-rank missions that they completed daily varied from two to five, depending on how time consuming each task was.
Naruto was overall happy with how his life had settled into the new routine. The missions, or 'chores' as he and his team had come to call them, annoying him more than almost anything else in the world. If it weren't for Kurama it would have been almost impossible to be around him while completing the chores.
The only thing those tasks were good for was spending time with his dear Sakura-chan and earning the extra money. He had considered more than once using his clones to complete the missions faster, but Kurama was against it.
During his spare time, Naruto trained mostly. Kurama had helped him work out his own taijutsu style. It was basically the same thing he always did but including more blocking and dodging than what he usually did. Naruto mostly focused on attacking up front. That allowed his opponent to get behind him easily. With some training drilled into him, Naruto could now block almost any physical attack by instinct alone.
Kurama didn't want to alter his fighting that much because she knew how unpredictable the blond was. And being unpredictable was a good thing when it came to battle. So the only thing she tried to do was to give him a set of skills –which he should have gotten from his sensei– that would more likely insure his survival.
It was surprisingly easy for him to learn. When he questioned Kurama as to how that was possible, she stated that it was because he was gaining a few of the traits belonging to a fox.
Naruto's jaw dropped when he heard the words come out of the fox's mouth. "What?!" He screamed, his voice echoing through the sewer they were currently standing in.
"You hear me kit." said Kurama. "You're gaining a few traits form me. Its probably due to the amount of contact you're having with me."
"But I don't wanna look like a fox!" The blond Jinchuriki exclaimed.
Kurama sighed in frustration. "Of course you won't look like a fox, idiot. Its just sharper instincts, better hearing, that kind of stuff." She explained. The fox demon saw that her host was now much more excited about the prospect. "Of course you won't gain them over night. But eventually you'll be able to become a pretty decent sensor."
Kurama decided not to mention that his strength would also increase immensely. And since all of these changes in him were gradual, he would probably never notice on his own.
From the fox's perspective, she was overall happy with how Naruto's life was turning out. She had talked him into eating healthier foods now that he had the money to afford them. That in turn made his body stronger and give her less trouble to keep him away from illnesses.
Of course all that the nine tailed fox had to do was rush some of her chakra through his system while he slept to avoid him getting ill and to heal any injury he might of received from training or a certain cat. Still, the improved diet made her work a lot easier. And it also helped make Naruto's attention span a little longer.
Another thing she was happy about was his relations with his team. Sasuke was still Sasuke and he would always probably be the more quiet and stoic type. But he didn't openly show hostility towards her host or his other teammate without reason. He was also open to receive feedback on his skills and to give his own input their's in return.
The rivalry thing never stopped though. If anything it had grown more intense as the days passed. There wasn't much she could do about that but the fox was slightly grateful that they were rivals. She knew that having a rival only made them both stronger.
The other teammate was both pleasing and irritating Kurama. She was pleased with the kunoichi because she now openly accepted Naruto as a friend and tried to help him out with many things. The makeover she had given him was proving to be incredibly helpful. And having clones do his laundry, Naruto was able to keep his new and improved appearance.
But the pink haired girl was still highly irritating in the eyes of the Kyuubi. She wasn't fawning over Sasuke, which was good, but she wasn't paying much attention to Naruto in that regard either. Honestly, the girl knew that Naruto genuinely loved her, and he had even kissed her, but she made no move to upgrade their relationship.
Kurama wasn't an idiot. Even though she wasn't human, she had seen enough through mostly Kushina's eyes to know when someone liked another person. The constant blushing and fidgeting Sakura did whenever Naruto got a little close to her was a clear sign that she liked him. Of course the blond was too dense to see it, he was merely happy that the pinkette didn't hate him, but it was so frustrating for the fox.
However, the Kyuubi did have to acknowledge that perhaps the kunoichi wasn't too sure herself. One can't easily compare true love to the infatuation that she previously possessed towards the Uchiha. Kurama guessed that she would simply have to let things play out on their own between those two. Love isn't something that can be forced after all.
A little over a month had now passed since Squad Seven graduating from the Academy. They now each had a total of one-hundred and sixty pounds on their bodies. Meaning they had forty pounds on each wrist and ankle. How they were able to walk with that much weight baffled Sakura, but she was proud of herself nonetheless.
Sakura, Sasuke, Naruto and Kakashi were walking back from the forests on the outskirts of Konoha to the Hokage Tower. Naruto held in his arms a brown cat with a red bow on it's right ear. This cat was named Tora and it belonged to the Daimao's wife. It must have been around the thirteenth time that they had caught that cat. And each time they did it seemed to be harder to actually find and then catch the feline.
They arrived at the tower and Naruto gladly handed the cat to its owner. The owner was a round woman that wore fancy clothes and supported a lot of jewelry. She happily received her dear Tora and proceeded to strangle the poor animal. Naruto and Sakura couldn't help but smirk in the satisfaction of seeing the cat suffer.
It was still relatively early in the afternoon, so after collecting their payment, the team waited to receive their next mission. It was one of the rare days in which the Hokage was present to hand out mission. Usually he would be in his office doing paperwork, but occasionally he would help the desk chunin hand out missions, just to check up on everybody. The old man began to recite a list of chores, each more pointless and menial, let alone repulsive, than the other.
'Kit, calm down!' Kurama said to her host as she saw him losing his patience. 'You won't be doing these for much longer...'
Her efforts were in vain though as Naruto finally snapped. "Hokage-jiji! Give us a real mission! I'm tired of these pointless chores! Come on old man!" Shouted the blond.
'He's got a point.' Thought Sasuke, his glare fixated on the Hokage.
'Please let Naruto convince him! I'm tired of all this crap!' Sakura shouted in her mind. She even crossed her fingers behind her back, hoping that luck would be on their side.
Kakashi let out an audible sigh. "Hokage-sama, I'm sorry about my student's behavior. But we both saw this coming, you should be grateful that Naruto held it in this long."
Iruka, who was sitting next to the Hokage, also snapped as his former pupil. "Naruto! How can you be so disrespectful towards Hokage-sama!" Were it any other genin, he would have scolded them for trying to take on something that they couldn't handle. But Iruka knew Naruto, and he knew, like Kakashi, that he should be grateful that the blond managed to hold off his impatience for that long. Plus, the scarred man knew that Squad Seven was more than capable.
Hiruzen took a puff from his pipe before speaking. What he spoke about had to do something or other about how missions were arranged from D-rank to A-rank and given to shinobi of different ranks or whatever. The three genin before him had lost interest. This was something that both Sasuke and Sakura already knew, and something that Naruto really didn't care about. Even Kakashi found no need to listen to his leader's lecture and managed to entertain himself with his Icha Icha book.
Only when the Hokage had finished his lecture did he notice that he had been completely ignored. He came to realize that the three genin had been discussing a fight that they seemed to have had earlier that day.
"Your dodging and blocking has improved." Sasuke said to Naruto. His voice was still in its usual unemotional state but Sarutobi Hiruzen had to hold back a gasp. Did Uchiha Sasuke just compliment someone?
Naruto smiled at his teammate and scratched the back of his head bashfully. "Yeah, I had been working on that for quite a while. I seem to have finally got it." He said happily. His arm when back to his side as he continued "Sasuke, your speed seems to have improved too. Even with my new dodging techniques, I could barely keep up with you!"
"I think it has something to do with the weights." Sakura added. "They make us use and train muscles we don't usually use as much, making our overall speed increase. I'm scared to see how fast Sasuke would be when he takes off the weights."
The Uchiha nodded. "It seems like we use our leg muscles differently while we walk then while we run, so walking with the extra eighty pounds makes our running better, even if we run carrying the same weight."
"But wait!" Naruto said, "Why didn't I get any faster then?"
"Oh you did." Answered Sakura "You just don't realize it because the progress is slower than is noticeable to one's self. Maybe if you ask–"
Sakura was cut off but the Sandaime's clearing of his throat. Naruto turned back around to face him as he had previously been facing his teammates to ask "What is it old man, finally decided to give us a real mission?"
Kakashi had looked up from his book when he heard to Hokage clear his throat and managed to catch Naruto's remark. The jonin shook his head at his student and mumbled "I'm gonna hear about this later." to himself.
Iruka couldn't help but smile to himself as he saw his old students discuss a battle like that. They were genuinely trying to help each other grow stronger. They had really become full fledged shinobi. The Hokage also chuckled lightly, realizing that the little boy he saw as a grandson had grown up.
"So be it." The elder man said. This sparked a surprised reaction from all three of the genin before him. "Since you are so determined, I'm going to give you a C-ranked mission. You'll be bodyguards on a journey."
"Really?" Asked Sakura eagerly. She failed to notice that Naruto was jumping for joy beside her, and even Sasuke had a cheery mood around him, well, as cheerful as it could get around him.
Sandaime smiled again at the reaction of the kids in front of him. "Send in our visitor!" He called.
Squad Seven all turned to the door which was positioned behind them to meet their client. The door slowly slid open to reveal a slightly older man wearing what seemed to be rags put together by a moderately skilled hand to form clothes. He had a pair of glasses on the bridge of his nose and carried a Sake bottle in his hand.
The man took a gulp of the Sake before saying "Whats this? A bunch of snot nosed kids? You expect them to guard me? Tazuna, master bridge builder?" As he said that he took another huge swing at the Sake bottle.
The three thirteen-year-olds glared at the man, Kakashi even had to place his hand on Naruto's shoulder to make sure that the blond didn't do anything too hasty.
It was only three weeks afterwards that Squad Seven was returning from the land of waves. They were walking down a dirt path that had bushes around them and trees overhead. They would have opted to travel through the canopy, and they had been only a few minutes ago, but Sakura had suggested that they walk on the ground for a while and relax. Their spirits were high and couldn't've been higher. I mean, who wouldn't be happy after completing a C turned A-rank mission after only like two months of being genin.
Sure, there were a few moments where they feared for their lives, the first was when the Demon Brothers attacked. Naruto was sure he would of died then if it wasn't for the fox-like instincts that he had gained along with his super awesome dodging skills.
They could have also died that time when Kakashi got stuck in Momochi Zabuza's water prison jutsu. But then again, Naruto and Sasuke got the chance to show off their awesome teamwork and strategy skills. Also that fight that they had with the Hyoton user, Haku had had to have been the hardest fight in their lives. Though Sasuke enjoyed that fight in particular since he managed to unlock his almighty Sharingan in the middle of it.
And Sakura was no slouch either. The kunoichi managed to break her two teammates out of Haku's dome of mirrors just before Naruto had to resort to using Kurama's chakra. Naruto wanted to avoid using her chakra at all costs since the one time he did use it he got drunk off the power. Who knows what could happen should he gain control of a higher amount of it.
Not that Kurama wasn't helpful during the fights. On the contrary, there wasn't as second where she wasn't telling Naruto where the enemy was and what to look out for. Also, Kurama was a huge help with the training Kakashi put them through. If it weren't for Kurama's help, Naruto and Sasuke wouldn't of had time to perfect their tree climbing, let alone have time to learn water walking as well. Sakura perfecting both of those skills with ease was also a giant boost in her confidence.
Anyway, that was all behind them now. Kakashi couldn't have been prouder of his students. All three of them had grown exponentially. But he was getting slightly suspicious of the trio since they always seemed to be talking about someone named Kurama. This Kurama, in their eyes at least, was extremely powerful. And they always looked to their advice whenever they couldn't figure something out.
The jonin never noticed it before, but the name seemed to come up a lot while Naruto and Sasuke were training to climb trees with chakra. He'd have to look into it when they got back to the village. But for now he would just enjoy reading his Icha Icha Paradise book as they peacefully made their way back to Konoha.
Naruto was walking with his arms linked behind his head in a cheerful manner. There was a clear smile on his face as he walked in between Sakura and Sasuke. All three of them were in complete silence so Naruto took the chance to talk with Kurama.
'Hey Kurama, do you think I did well in this mission?' He asked innocently.
'Of course I do kit.' The great fox responded. Naruto could practically feel the joy and pride she held in him. 'You could work on being a little more perspective, but in action you're almost flawless. Well, at least for a genin you are.' She said with a chuckle.
'Well thats just it...' The blond thought to her, 'I'm still just a genin. I want to know what I can do to be able to fight against chunin and even jonin.'
Naruto became confused when he heard the Kyuubi chuckle. 'Kit, you honestly didn't realize that the Demon Brothers were chunin. Zabuza was a jonin and that Haku kid I can't be sure but its probably either chunin or jonin.'
The blond blinked a few times, the smile still not leaving his face before he chuckled inwardly, just for Kurama to hear. 'I'm so awesome.' He said to her. 'But still, how can I get stronger? I want to become Hokage remember.'
Kurama giggled at her host for a bit before beginning to answer his question. 'I think the main thing you can do right now is expand your jutsu library. The Kage Bunshin (shadow clone) and Henge (transformation) are great, but they do sort of limit your arsenal.' She told him. 'Maybe if you bug Kakashi enough he'll teach you something new or–' She abruptly stopped mid-sentence.
Her sudden halt caused Naruto to expand his senses to locate some sort of danger. He didn't know how, but he just knew that there was some big guy with a sword about to pounce on Sakura.
With speed he didn't know he had, Naruto crouched down himself using his left hand to softly hit the back of Sakura's knees causing her to fall. Her back landed on the blond's right arm and her legs remained in place on his left. Naruto brought her to his chest as she finally let out a gasp. He didn't pause, not even for a second as he jumped backwards into the air, narrowly avoiding the giant sword of a large man.
Sakura had no clue what was happening. One second she was peacefully walking back to her village in the clam company of her two teammates and sensei; then the next she was falling, and not even a mili-second after that; she felt warm arms around her. The only thing she managed to do was gasp as she fell and look up to see Naruto looking in front of him with a very serious expression.
Before she could even ask something, she heard Sasuke shout out. She looked to where the sound was coming from to see him kick a large man in the face. She looked slightly downwards to find a giant sword where she had previously been standing.
Time seemed to slow down around her as she looked back up to Naruto. The realization finally hit her. She would have died had it not been for the blond that held her in his arms. She could have died less than a minute ago. Her eyes widened in shock as she clung to Naruto's t-shirt.
Naruto easily landed from the leap he made to get away from the man. As soon as his feet touched the floor, he saw Sasuke already taking action to knock out the man. With a swift kick to the face, the man collapsed on the ground, unconscious. Sasuke also took the liberty to tie him up, just in case.
He turned to Kakashi to see that he had disappeared. 'Kurama, do you know where Kakashi-sensei is?' He asked her, the safety of his team being his main priority at the moment.
Kurama quickly sent some chakra out to scan the area before she informed 'He went out to take care of the other three guys that were still hiding in the bushes.' And true to her words, only a few seconds after her voice echoed in his mind, three other men hit the ground beside the first, already unconscious and tied up.
That was when Naruto felt Sakura grab onto his shirt. He looked down at her to see her emerald eyes wide open in shock. "Sakura-chan?" he asked in a whisper.
Sakura heard her name being called by a sweet and tender voice, but the idea that she could have died just seconds before overcame the need to answer that voice. She heard her name being called again, followed by a slight shake of her shoulders. She blinked, and then looked up to him.
Seeing her look at him made Naruto smile. "Are you alright?" He asked her.
"Yeah..." She answered softly. It was then that she finally accepted it. Sure, she could have died a few seconds ago. But she could have died at any time during the battles again Zabuza. It was more likely that she would of died at the hand of such a high skilled shinobi than at the hand of these lowly bandits.
The pink haired kunoichi closed her eyes and sighed. She had decided to become a kunoichi of Konoha. To fight for Konoha, to risk her life for Konoha, and to probably even die to protect Konoha. The risk of almost dying is something that she should get used to. She should even be happy about it. She almost died. Almost.
"Yeah Naruto, I'm fine. Just a little shaken up is all." She said now a slight smile on her face. She sighed and pressed her head against his chest her eyes slowly closing. His shirt was now released from the clutches of her hand. 'Naruto...' She thought.
The blond was happy, how his presence seemed to calm her down. He smiled as he watched her breathe slowly against his chest.
"Naruto!" He looked up to see that Sasuke had called his name. "Is Sakura okay?"
The Jinchuriki was slightly irked that their little moment was interrupted, but he answered his teammate nonetheless. "She's fine, just a little shocked."
"That was pretty quick action on your part Naruto." Kakashi said. "If it weren't for you, Sakura would have probably died or been seriously injured."
"Yeah." Naruto said. He looked down at the girl who was still almost sleeping in his arms, even though he knew she was awake before turning to his sensei. "But shouldn't you have noticed them first?! Kakashi-sensei, aren't you supposed to be the jonin that is an expert on everything and stuff?!" He shouted.
Kakashi took a step away from his student. "Now now, Naruto." he chuckled nervously "Calm down, I have an explanation. This was all a test. Yeah thats it! This was all a test to see if you could react properly. And..." the jonin paused to chuckle nervously again holding his arms up in front of him as a sort of defense. "And you pass!"
"Liar!" Shouted Naruto.
"Naruto is right Kakashi." Said Sasuke while glaring at his sensei. "You were so absorbed in that porn book that you didn't even notice that we were being followed."
Well, the squad had indeed discovered that the book that Kakashi always read was porn on one of their many attempts to see his real face. Of course he had received a huge lump on the head, courtesy of Sakura, but they didn't give him much trouble for it. Now on the other hand, Sasuke made sure to give Kakashi double the beating because Naruto was still holding and comforting Sakura, and thus his hands were busy.
The jonin didn't fight back, though he easily could have. He was pretty disappointed with himself. He had failed to protect his students and comrades. He deserved every punch that Sasuke delivered and even more, but he also couldn't have been prouder of Naruto. Who knew he could act so fast in a situation of dire need?
Sakura was aware of all the commotion going on around her. What with Kakashi's shouts of pain, Sasuke's battle cries and Naruto's shouts of encouragement to Sasuke, who in the world could ignore that? Even a deaf person wouldn't be able to tear their eyes away from it all. But Sakura was at peace in Naruto's warm arms. She just wanted to relish in the feel of them. The sound of his deep heartbeat and how his voice made his chest vibrate. It just felt to right to her.
However, everything must come to an end and this was no exception. Sasuke eventually felt that he had made his sensei suffer enough and ceased beating him. And as soon as that happened, Naruto asked Sakura if she could walk.
The kunoichi reluctantly said that she could because otherwise it would cause them all to worry more than they had to. Naruto set her down slowly and she was able to stand as if nothing happened. Because nothing really did happen to her. At least not physically. It was mentally that she was a little shaken up, but physically she was perfect.
Even with the weights, she could stand straight. She pumped chakra into her limbs to make the weights a little easier on her, but that was already almost like a reflex to her when she stood.
Kurama confirmed that the men that attacked them were nothing but bandits because of their close to nonexistent chakra reserves. Then the team made their way back to Konoha through the trees even though Kakashi was having a little more trouble than he should due to Sasuke's beating.
Before they knew it, Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke and Kakashi stood in front of the gates to Konoha. A dignified red arch with the kanji for 'fire' spelled proudly on it.