Hi everybody, sorry for the Long wait for this chapter. I can't promise quick updates for my stories, as I'm quite busy with work. But I'll try to update Things when I find the time. Happy reading.
Naruto had just talked to the homeroom teacher of the second-years, which had been sent onto the test about fifteen minutes ago and body flickered into the classroom of the first-years. The children there showed different kinds of looks. Many were disappointed, angry, annoyed or worried. Others looked thoughtful, some satisfied, mainly the two teams that got all pendants, but all eager to find out more about their performance in the test.
"Good morning, class," greeted Naruto, like he always did.
"Good morning, Naruto sensei," replied the students.
"As I told you yesterday, today we will go over the test you did. First things first, this afternoon, your homeroom teacher will address several areas that were repeatedly a problem for the teams that were trying to pass yesterday. Now that you have experienced a mock mission, you have a better base to understand what your teachers have tried to explain to you in classes so far. A ninja's life is never simply following some instructions. You always have to think, you need to investigate, you need to analyse. Otherwise, it can and will end badly.
"I think some of you have realised that this modified capture the flag scenario could also happen once you are genin, chunin or even jonin. If a bandit group, a group of missing ninjas or perhaps even a traitor of the village has stolen something, and you are tasked with retrieving it, you can't simply assume that all that the mission includes will simply be getting to the item and bringing it back. There will be traps, there will be obstacles and often you will have to fight the thieves to retrieve the item. That was the basic idea behind the way I set up the test. Something that can take place on a mission early into your ninja careers," explained Naruto, and he was happy to see that several children nodded along, having understood the reasons.
"Traps are common protections against those trying to get to an item. Thieves of all kinds will seek to either delay your progress or take you out when they intend to keep the item you are after. Never underestimate their trickery. There are many missing ninjas out there. The civil war in Kiri was a major contributor to the situation, but there are always those that feel treated wrong in the villages that decide that leaving would be better for them. Or washouts from the academies of a village that use their limited training to gain money by preying on the weak. There are numerous ways that people with ninja training can be part of criminal groups. Never dismiss the possibility.
"Now, the first part of the mission was actually before you actually got into the action. Something that you should have known but which many groups only did quite late. As you are beginners, it won't bring your grade down, as long as you did it before attempting the actual retrieval of your group's item, but in the future, this won't be treated as lenient anymore. I'm talking about a check of your equipment," pointed Naruto out.
He looked over the class and many frowned, some blushed and several looked at the floor in embarrassment.
"You didn't pack the pouches that were used for the mission yourself, meaning, you didn't have a way to know what you had in there, except you had a look into them. Never forget checking your equipment. It doesn't happen often during a mission that you have to rely on equipment you didn't prepare yourself, or it shouldn't happen, but if time is short, you might be given a standardized pouch from a superior to immediately head out onto a mission. You won't have to deal with that as genin, but once you make chunin, it could happen.
"It doesn't take more than a minute to do a quick check of a pouch. Had you all done that, you would have noticed that there was a mask with filter seals inside each pouch. It was meant to give you a way to deal with the sleeping gas seals that I had placed on each training ground that was the destination for a team to retrieve their own item."
"How would we have known what the masks did?" A girl from a group that had been knocked out immediately when they failed to exercise any caution asked annoyed.
"I mentioned the use of this type of mask in our first lesson and I covered the filter seals one month into your classes. It isn't my problem that you decided that sending notes to your friends instead of paying attention to what I was teaching you was more important, Kaori," stated Naruto with a stern look, "You are responsible for doing the work here at the academy. And, especially after the invasion, I expected you to understand that this world wasn't as safe as many of your parents would like to let you believe. The only way to protect yourselves and those you love is by being ready."
Kaori looked down, chastised by the harsh words of their sensei.
"Another point was not rushing into the training ground, but actually slowly checking for traps. All the traps I used were on the same level you covered in the class for them. Outside of the fact that you had to check the seals for what they did, the setup was along the lines you were taught to recognise, use and disable. Several teams did well on that part," complimented Naruto, "Most of those that followed basic caution, found most of the traps I built and disabled those they found properly. Though you should all revise the ways I taught you about determining which seal you are dealing with. Remember, a seals expert can let it appear as if you have a weapons storage seal with kunai, but in fact it holds a paint bomb."
The members of team twenty-two nodded in chagrin. They had found out that part the hard way when they wanted to unseal the weapons and got splattered with paint instead.
"Another point that I noticed, but which normally didn't hinder the groups, is that some of you need to invest more work into learning the codes used for encrypting messages. I used the first code you were taught this year, as I didn't want to make the test too difficult. Still, many of you didn't manage to decipher what was written there. As I mentioned, it didn't hinder the teams, as at least one member of each team could work out the messages, but you can't rely on always being in that situation. You have to know the basic codes of Konoha, as mission scrolls will often be encrypted to prevent that enemies can find out what kind of mission you have.
"In fact, the Hokage has already decided to start this practice with D-rank missions, as it gets you into the habit of working with codes, which is important for the higher ranked missions. It can happen that you have to leave information for back-up teams behind that can't be read by the enemy, should he find the hiding place. Information can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. Therefore, codes are vital to know for every ninja," declared Naruto.
Several children wrote things he pointed out down, to not forget them again.
Naruto then showed the blue-prints of a trap field on the blackboard and went over how to properly approach the situation, how the disable the traps and then the retrieval of the item. As he had set all places up similarly, he only had to do this once. He let the children copy this down and told them to go over it again at home, to memorise it better. Then he continued to the next part of the test.
"Up to that point, this was all fairly standard. If I had ended it there, all teams could have passed the scenario. Had you studied properly and performed properly, you would have got a good grade easily. But that doesn't match ninja life. Something happens on a mission you didn't calculate for. In this case, I simulated that the item you had to retrieve consisted of three parts, which the opponent had split up among them to not make it too easy for a Konoha team to succeed.
"You had to enter combat situations against an opponent that was on a level close to your own, meaning your own classmates. As you are the youngest students at the academy, I gave you information which team got which pendant to retrieve. Had you paid attention at the beginning of the day, when the teams were created, you could have simply made a complete list of which team was which and known how to form a good strategy to get both other pendants.
"Many only knew the groups their closest friends were in, or perhaps a rival. That cost all but one team the chance to fulfil the mission perfectly. For this, congratulations to team eleven, who were the only team to retrieve their item and win against two other teams in combat during the time you were given for the test," Naruto looked at the three children, Hanabi, Jiromo and Papropi, that had been on the team with approval, which made them smile happily.
"But didn't Konohamaru, Nintaro and Riku also manage to get three pendants?" asked Moegi.
"They did, but they only defeated one other team. They found the loophole in the mission parameters and used it to their advantage, which was perfectly allowed, by the way," answered Naruto, "I never said that you couldn't attempt to find items of other teams that didn't manage to retrieve them after all. And I left the envelopes with the instructions in the spots where the other team fell prey to the traps in case some of you got that idea."
The three boys grinned at hearing that. They had worried that it would cost them points, but seemingly it was perfectly allowed.
"But that's not right, they didn't follow the rules," protested a boy.
"Which rules?" asked Naruto amused, "If you remember, I didn't give you any rules beyond following the instructions inside the envelope, which gave you the location of your group's item, where you got new instructions. You had to retrieve the item within the given time period, and then follow the new instructions, which told you to get the two missing pendants from other teams. Nothing more. How, well, that was fully up to you. You could ambush another team, fight them directly, trick them, steal the item, or see if others didn't manage to disable the traps.
"On a mission there are few rules, which is something you need to understand very quickly. Sure, among your allies, you have rules, but among enemies, you don't. During the chunin exams that I participated in here in Konoha, which led to my promotion to special jonin, there was a test very similar to the one I gave you. We got one scroll and had to survive five days in the Forest of Death, while fighting at least one other team to get the scroll we were missing. And everything was allowed. There were no rules at all. Had we not been ready for anything, the other teams could have killed us. Several genin didn't survive the exams. And you know that many people died in the invasion. I repeat, this is no game. While nobody expects you to manage beating a trained ninja yet, you have to take the academy serious. Otherwise you will deeply regret it when you go out on missions," stated Naruto.
Some children nodded, others frowned, some looked frightened. If this led to several children washing out, well, it was better to let those that couldn't shoulder the job leave and stay civilians instead of wasting money and time for training them for a job they could never bear. He had discussed it with Kakashi and he agreed that the children shouldn't be kept ignorant until their last years at the academy. It was much better to make clear what they could expect when they were ninjas, instead of letting them be killed.
"So, how will the different results be graded, Naruto sensei?" asked a boy.
"Well, to answer this properly, have you been informed about the way the senseis at the academy were instructed to create your grades?" asked Naruto and only saw shaken heads, "Then I will explain it for you. You know that the curriculum of the academy was changed during the end phase of the reign of the Third Hokage, right?"
"Yes, we were told that the curriculum was bad for the students, as it didn't really prepare us for the time after we graduated the academy. Since then, many classes were changed, and the physical exercising aspect is much larger now," confirmed Moegi.
"At the same time, the way the grades of the students were determined was also changed, as, like with my classes, not all senseis have the option of teaching regularly, simply because the specialists that teach here have to go onto missions a lot of times. Thus, we needed a way to give you fair grades, even if we aren't present at school each week. The system, to make things fair, is used for all classes. At the beginning of a term, you start out with zero points," explained Naruto.
"Okay, that's logical," nodded Hanabi.
"Over the course of the term, you have to earn points to build up your grades. These points are earned by participation in class, like correctly answering the questions of the teacher, achieving set levels during practical exercises, results of written homework, sparring matches and so on. Tests like the one I had you go through yesterday give you double the points you earned in the test. Same for official written exams. Over the course of a term, you collect the points and when it's time to write the report cards, the senseis look how many points you have collected. That determines your grade for the term. Or course, you have more chances to get good grades in normal classes that you have more often, simply because you have more chances to collect points."
"Does that mean we could make up bad results, like from yesterday, by good results during class time, even if it's more difficult, Naruto sensei?" asked Udon.
"That's correct, Udon. And it also means that a good test might better your grade if you didn't collect many points during classes. It should be an incentive for you all to always do your homework, by the way, as not handing in your homework on time will mean that you don't collect the easiest points. For the first three years here at the academy, it won't cost you points to not do your homework, in the last three years it will happen. If on the day you have to hand in the homework, you don't have it, it will cost you five points, no discussion. You do the maths," shrugged Naruto.
Some students looked worried about it.
"Why did none of the other senseis tell us this?" complained a girl.
"So far, it wasn't important for you to know it. Let's face it, you just started your education at the academy. I'm sure that all the teachers have made it clear that doing your homework is important and have given detention if you didn't do it. As long as you don't refuse to do your work, you won't fail any classes. The requirements for each grade are lower than for the older years. Simply because it can be expected that somebody that has been at school for a while knows how to behave and that the studies are important. If you want to get good grades, you have to study hard and train to do well in the practical classes.
"The expectations for you are still quite lenient. As long as you work hard, you will gain points in classes. For example, in this test, just checking the equipment you were given earned you ten points, because I needed to set up certain benchmarks to look out for. Disabling a trap without triggering it earned three points, meaning, as each field normally had ten traps, you could have earned an easy thirty points by just using what you learned in trap-building classes. Correctly identifying what seal was used in traps, like if it was a storage seal for weapons or paint, also earned you five points.
"There were many things that allowed you to earn points. Take the information and remember it in the future. Everything can earn you the points you need to pass a class at the end of the term," pointed Naruto out.
"Even knowing the set-up of the other teams?" asked Hanabi.
"I gave the teams that wrote down the correct teams one point per team they identified. Good question, Hanabi," nodded Naruto, "Information is vital on a mission, especially correct information. If you know your opponents or allies and can immediately identify them, without giving up that you have that information, it will make all kinds of missions much easier and safer to perform. For example, if you identified a team with the same pendant as the one you got during the mock mission, you could have worked together to achieve your Goals much easier. That was also allowed, even if none of you did it. We will work on that aspect again in the future. And you can never dismiss any information!"
Many children wrote that statement down, as it was important to remember.
Naruto then continued to revise all the types of seals he had used in the test with them and then told them which parts of the test a team had passed, and which were failed. Each student got a note with his personal results, as they could differ for teammates.
Konohamaru saw that he and Nintaro had remarks about properly deciphering the codes on the papers, while Riku was reminded to revise the codes taught in class and didn't get any points for it. They had all got points for dismantling traps. It went on, if you had correctly identified seals you got points, though if the team had worked together and discussed which seal was which, they all got the same points, same for the fight against the other team to get the pendant. Creativity in interpreting orders also gained them points.
Overall, it was a good report, and the comments on how to improve would help in the future to become even better. Once Naruto had answered a few more questions, he ended the class and left to continue with the test for the second-years.
Naruto stood inside his sensei's office, listening to the report that the teachers of the younger years at the academy were giving right now. It had been discussed that once all results from the mock mission test that Naruto had them perform were in, they would discuss the results with the Hokage. Kakashi listened intently and made some notes.
"I see," Kakashi commented once the last report was finished, "There is still a lot of work to do, but there also are first signs that the children understand what they need to do to get proper grades at the academy, not to mention what being a ninja will be like."
"Yes, Hokage Sama. At the very least, it woke many children that had still thought that they could take the academy easy up. A few will probably drop out by the end of the term, but others will invest more work into their training," one of the teachers confirmed.
"Good. I believe it's better that they realise that they aren't suited for ninja live early on, when they can still switch to the civilian schools and get their education there. We need ninjas that can actually do the job and don't have ridiculous ideas of what being a ninja means. Sure, we don't want to traumatise children by letting them see the full reality of the job, but I remember too well how much work it cost to break Sakura out of the stupidity her mother had created. It's better they know what can happen and decide if they can manage that or not.
"In case you get requests from parents to talk about options, please handle them with care. You know that soon your students will also be taught certain craftsmen skills at the academy. If those parents would be happier if the child concentrated onto a career as a craftsman ninja, we could lessen some complaints."
The teachers nodded, knowing that the new programs that had been started were taking form and the next graduation class would be introduced to the results. While the jonin senseis would still perform the tests to see if their candidates had what it took to become a ninja, those that were unsuited for the normal job would be given a follow-up test to see if they qualified for other areas. The first craftsmen ninja teams were nearly ready to start. They consisted of older genin that had either never entered the chunin exams, as they would only die, according to the estimations of the senseis, or had failed several attempts.
Kakashi had interviewed all those that had at least been ninjas for six years to find out the reasons and had then talked to the ones that simply didn't have the skill to advance in the ranks, but also didn't have any other option for their lives. Mainly they were orphans that depended on getting the payment from the D-ranks and occasional C-rank to pay their rent and the bills. Many were happy to agree to switch into the craftsmen ninja branch. The idea of getting proper training as craftsmen and combining it with their ninja training appealed to them and the payment for those specialised D-ranks was a bit better than before, not to mention that they would get a basic payment each month independent of the missions they performed that at least covered rent and utilities.
Others that didn't have the talent for craftsmen jobs were delegated to the office ninja branch or, if they had really good chakra control, they were sent to get trained in the medical program. It certainly thinned the ranks of actual ninjas and freed the genin teams to take up those missions that benefited them in their training, getting them ready for higher ranked missions in a reasonable time frame.
"Naruto, what are the overall results of your test? How many did at least collect a third of the possible points?" Kakashi asked.
"Well, on average half of the students in each class got a third of the points or more. The main reason it wasn't more, Kakashi, sensei, was that the students were too bull-headed to stop and think what this test entailed, mainly that they should check the equipment before starting, or they stormed ahead, wanting to prove themselves. Several times one teammate brought the others down by not being careful when dealing with the traps, in combination of the team not realising that I had given them the ultimate protection from the sleeping gas traps with the masks in their pouches.
"Had they managed to get to their item and decipher the second code, it would have already earned them forty percent of the points I was willing to pass out for the test," Naruto informed the others.
"I see. I would like for all the teachers at the academy that teach the basic classes to use this experience of the students to revise the important things for any kind of mission. The children will be annoyed if they failed and aware of the advantages to always consider these things if they passed. But they will understand why they need to learn this. I also suggest telling them that a test about all the basic skills and knowledge will be taken in two weeks, to drive home that if they didn't already do it, they should brush up those things properly.
"I think each year should do two mock mission scenarios per month. Both with different focus. For example, one could stress strategies and tactics, the other skills needed on a mission," The Hokage stated.
"It wouldn't be difficult to realise that," agreed Iruka, "We could have three years do them one week, then the other three during the next week."
"True. And if we have each of us teachers create one scenario, we could rotate the years through them until all six scenarios were done and then create new ones. It would make the work better manageable," agreed one of the other two teachers.
"Good, I will leave the set-up to you. I expect reports once the first round is over," Kakashi agreed, "Now, you three may leave, continue with the discussed procedure. Naruto, you stay please."
The three adults left, and Naruto was the only one staying behind.
"What is your impression of the academy transformation?" asked Kakashi, as he had given Naruto a secondary job while teaching fuinjutsu.
"It is noticeable, but there is still a lot of work to be done, sensei. But that was to be expected, as the changes have only been in place for about six months and have had the biggest impact with the next graduation class, as their education had been changed the most to allow them to catch up on what they haven't been taught before. I expect that their group will produce less suitable ninjas than the following years, who simply have more time to practice and study the important parts," Naruto explained.
"I expected something like that. There simply hasn't been enough time to implement the changes that the Sandaime started fully," Kakashi nodded, "What do you think about the proposal that Tsume Inuzuka made during the last council meeting about probationary teams?"
"It has merit, sensei. Considering that we need more time to get all students to a higher level at the time they graduate, it would be an advantage to take those among the graduates that show some promise, but not quite readiness to be full ninjas into a training phase under an experienced chunin that can remedy whatever they lack in their abilities. Though I would suggest to not put them in groups of three, like Tsume said, but six, meaning two teams.
"That way, it would bind less personnel, which is still a bit limited for us. And a ratio of one sensei to six students would still mean that they get more individual support than the academy can achieve. If they also take some simple missions that don't strictly fall into the area of craftsmen jobs, and which are left over from the full genin teams, which basically always happens, as there are too many D-rank missions available, they could get the experience needed over the course of one year, or then be transferred to branches that suit their talents better," Naruto pointed out.
"Yes, I agree. And this training could even be done by anybody that isn't cleared for full duty. Training genin candidates would be less dangerous or physically taxing than going out on missions," Kakashi mentioned.
"True. If they feel up to it, even some retired ninjas could be included in this area. Even if there are less of those now that the Sandaime reactivated them to teach at the academy," commented Naruto.
"I believe that there are still enough of them to manage getting a few back into action, at least among the younger ones that simply retired from the job due to injuries and the like. Most simply didn't want to teach at the academy, not believing themselves to be good at controlling a whole class. But training smaller groups and overseeing D-rank missions might be more to their liking."
Naruto nodded, as there was a lot of sense in that.
"I also have a new mission lined up for you, Naruto," Kakashi informed him.
"What rank?" Naruto asked professionally.
"B-rank. But, depending on how it goes, it could be upgrades to A-rank," Kakashi answered.
"How long will it take normally?"
"It should take between two to three weeks normally. We got a request from the Land of Birds. It's quite a distance away and the type of mission is a bit strange. I want you to use your abilities to find out what's really going on there. I believe that something fishy is going on over there. The client told about the appearance of a ghost that was terrorizing a high official from that country. They lost their precious daimyo recently under dubious circumstances, somehow, he was poisoned, and no culprit was found, and after that the daimyo's daughter Toki was also killed, only leaving Sagi, the son, as the one remaining member of the daimyo's family.
"I will be sending a team under the command of Sasuke there. This team will deal with the official mission that was requested, but you will infiltrate secretly to find out the real situation. None of the team members will be informed about your presence there. Sasuke might notice you if he activates his sharingan but won't mention it to the others. I plan on sending Ino, as she has made a lot of progress on poisons, which would be helpful on this mission, then Kiba and Choji. They have worked well as a team since their teammates were promoted to chunin."
"Okay, I know what to look out for then. I have ways to prevent that Kiba and Akamaru can catch my scent to detect me," Naruto stated.
"Good. I want you to shadow the team until they reach the Land of Birds. I don't expect anything bad to happen, but their guide might reveal valuable information on the way there. Once you arrive, you will only contact the team if you have finished your part of the mission. The information gathering is B-ranked, should you find out about some plot that you have to deal with, it will be A-ranked," explained Kakashi.
"Alright, I'll prepare for the mission then," nodded Naruto and left the office.