Hi, I finally got this story updated. I'm working through my older stories one after the other, but updating will continue being slow, as I'm in Reha after healing from cancer. It simply takes time.
I want to thank everybody that wished me well during that time, it was very encouraging.
Now happy reading.
Setting up a Base
The group reached the house of Tazuna about an hour later. Genma was carrying Kakashi and the genin were keeping watch for possible attacks. While he was sure that they had at least two to three hours before Zabuza had regained the chakra he had used up, they couldn't be sure that he didn't have an accomplice that could take over attacking. And a long-distance attack was always a problem, especially as they were on an island and the enemy was from Kiri, where most ninjas specialised in water jutsus. Which was why he was carrying Kakashi and didn't have some shadow clones of the boys do it. He had better-trained reflexes in case of an emergency. He could delegate in case they were attacked. Once the house was in sight, Genma let out a small breath of relief.
Tazuna opened the door and they were greeted by his daughter, Tsunami. She was very happy to see her father back alive.
"Tsunami, these are the super ninjas that brought me back safely. Without them, I wouldn't have made it back alive. And Konoha even sent a second team to support the one I started out with, once it became clear that Gato had hired ninjas, instead of the usual thugs we have to deal with," Tazuna told her.
"I'm pleased to meet you all. Thank you for bringing my father back safely," Tsunami said with a bow.
"You're welcome. Do you have a room where we can place Kakashi to rest a bit? He used up too much energy during the fight against the ninja Gato hired," Genma asked.
"Sure. You can take him upstairs into the second room on the right side. Though it will be a bit of a tight fit for everybody. I didn't expect father to bring back this many people," Tsunami said.
"It's no problem. My team has everything we need for camping packed," Genma assured her.
Team seven looked confused where they would have that equipment.
"Everything we need is in storage scrolls," Haru answered the unspoken question, "It makes transporting material much easier."
"Did your sensei teach you that?" Tai asked curiously.
"No, fuinjutsu is a specialty of the Uzumaki clan, so we all learned it, though I'm much further advanced than Nev and Naruto. I simply had more time to learn it," Haru stated, "Naruto can use all kinds of basic seals and recognise several advanced ones, next to making a few basic seals. Nev's specialisation is in medical jutsus and therefore he didn't study too much in the area of seals that don't concern that area. Though he can also use all basic and advanced seals."
"Interesting. Is it difficult to use these storage scrolls? Because I had to prioritize which things to pack for the mission," Tai asked.
"No, using them is very simple. I can show you while we stay here, but I first need to secure the house with some higher-level seals," Haru informed him.
Tai nodded. Haru looked through his backpack and took out two scrolls. From one of them he unsealed several blank sealing papers and from the other a well of special ink and a fountain pen. It was much easier to write seals with that than a brush. He quickly started making the seals needed, shocking the members of team seven how proficient he was at this difficult art. Naruto watched closely, as he had talent in this art as well and by watching he could learn a lot. Similar to Haru, he could understand the workings of seals easily by just looking at them. His main problem was overcoming years of neglect in writing clearly.
After half an hour Haru was done and handed Naruto four tags while taking the other four.
"I need one tag in each corner of the house, Naruto," Haru stated.
"Understood. I'll place them on my side," Naruto nodded and left towards the back of the house, while Haru went to the front.
Once there, he put a tag into both bottom corners first and then walked up the wall to put them in the upper corners. Again, team seven had trouble believing what they saw. This time though, Sakura didn't stay silent.
"How did you do that?" She demanded angrily.
"What? Walking up the wall? That's a simple chakra control exercise. Didn't Kakashi sensei teach you that already?" Haru asked, honestly surprised.
"No, he didn't," Sasuke answered, not liking that Haru's team seemed so much further advanced than he was.
"Well, he should do it soon. It's something you need to learn to not waste chakra when you use jutsus. There are more advanced exercises as well. Like water walking, like our senseis did while fighting against Zabuza."
Sakura didn't like one bit that her crush Sasuke was behind Haru, and seemingly his whole team, regarding his skills. She had already hated that Haru had taken the position of rookie of the year from him, plus Nev also pushing before Sasuke in the final tests, but she had been convinced that it would soon change once they got proper training from a jonin. Clearly that wasn't the case. Haru and the other two had demonstrated skills when they had fought against Zabuza that Sasuke had never shown and now the thing with the chakra exercise. Why did they get such a lazy sensei?
Kakashi was much better the next morning. He was honestly surprised at how fast he had recovered. While he wasn't back to full power, he had about half his chakra reserves replenished, which allowed him to move around freely and do some training. He listened to Genma's report of what he had arranged for the teams to do while they were at the house. Kakashi was very relieved to hear that they wouldn't have to fear for attacks that targeted Tsunami and her son Inari. Considering Zabuza, there hadn't been any activity, but it was to be expected that he would take a day to recover the chakra he had used up before doing something more than analysing the battle and thinking up a better-working strategy. They would have to be aware of spies trying to find out more about the team.
Genma had tasked his genin to make five shadow clones each to go scouting the island, as they needed to know what kind of terrain and overall situation they were dealing with. The clones had by now dispelled and Naruto, Nev and Haru were writing down the information for them to analyse.
"What do you think we should do, Genma?" Kakashi wanted his comrade's opinion.
"Well, the situation is tricky, as Zabuza can attack at any time. While I trust Haru's knowledge about seals, when he had the time to prepare everything, Zabuza isn't a jonin for nothing. And being in a place with lots of natural water resources, he has a distinct advantage. We can't take that away. You are able to counter any jutsu he uses, thanks to your sharingan, but, right now, you aren't able to do so, thanks to having used up too much chakra. Nev estimates that you will be back to normal the day after tomorrow, as the rest of your chakra needs to replenish normally.
"We need to cover all our bases, which means Tazuna and his family need guards all around the clock. But your team isn't at a level where they could do much. Why didn't you teach them chakra control yet?" Genma asked.
"I couldn't start two of them on the exercise while one wasn't ready yet, Genma. I had enough to do with getting Sakura to a level where she could physically manage even the tree climbing exercise. Her stupid diet, which I still haven't managed to fully convince her to drop, makes her weak. I could have shown Sasuke and Tai the exercise about three weeks after the team was set up. Sasuke is really good already and Tai only needed some tightening of his forms and a higher-level training schedule. About what I expect of academy graduates when they pass the jonin test. Sakura, for all she was ranked first among the kunoichi in her class, needed to build up her physical strength, which I had her working on.
"I gave all of them a training plan to do before they came to team training. Normally, they should have known to do it on their own, but I wasn't about to take any risks after seeing their behaviour in the bell test," Kakashi explained.
"Makes sense. The turnout of fangirls by the academy is truly a problem. How is the training schedule working?" Genma wanted to know. After all, he was aware that Kakashi was always late for anything and the genin should have realised that by now and used the time for that schedule to be done.
"Sasuke and Tai are developing as expected. I know that they perform the training schedule dutifully each day, except on Sundays, when they have the day off. Sakura, well, she does it sometimes, but not in the intensity I would wish for. But so far, I didn't take more action about it. I mean, I didn't have the team that long and the first year is normally meant to be used for building up the base slowly and to let the genin find together as a team. They have to work out the team dynamics on their own to really make things work. At least Tai and Sasuke have managed to create a workable behaviour. Sakura will take some more time," Kakashi answered.
"I see. I'm glad that I got the training nuts on my team," Genma commented, "They would always invest lots of time into their private training. And Naruto's development was incredible."
"I thought it would be. The return of his clan members was a huge benefit for him," Kakashi agreed.
"Yes. Especially the acknowledgement and involvement into family life helped him develop far faster than he would have otherwise, no matter who his sensei would have been. Though the shadow clone jutsu being perfect for those of Uzumaki descent helps along," Genma admitted, "Back to topic. I suggest that we put Tai and Sakura on guard duty around the house. They can switch every four hours. We can't risk Sakura being in a true battle and Tai isn't advanced enough for it yet, even if his performance in the battle against Zabuza was very solid."
"I agree. I wouldn't have taken this mission, had I known about the involvement of ninjas. I was honestly only expecting bandits," Kakashi sighed, "Tai and Sasuke could have easily dispatched any kind of bandit and Sakura would have stayed close to Tazuna during those situations. She has potential, but needs more time to bring it out."
"You will know that part better than I, Kakashi. Concerning the mission, we should split the genin up into teams of two for guard duty on the bridge with the other two scouting and finding out weaknesses of Gato that we can exploit. If we take out the employer behind Zabuza, he would simply leave."
"He would. He is only here for the money and if nobody will pay him, he would drop the mission. I think we should have two days before he attempts killing Tazuna the next time. He will have recovered by now, but our numbers work to our advantage. Even he doesn't have an easy time going up against two jonin of our level," Kakashi nodded, "I think I should go with the scouting team, as my ninja dogs would be an advantage for that part. You are better suited to protecting Tazuna while he continues building his bridge."
"Currently that's true. Even in your weakened state, you would be able to summon the pack. And they would do most of the work from there on," Genma nodded, "I think the one best suited for scouting in my team would be Naruto, as he can create the largest number of shadow clones and we trained his transformation jutsu to the point that his clones can take any form they want. From a flower pot to a seagull. Nev is better as a guard on the bridge, especially as he can quickly give medical aid if needed. Haru would be good in both parts, but, considering that you will be part of the scouting group, I think you should take Sasuke with you, as he doesn't know me as a sensei and is much harder to work with than the other two. And we will be the team that has a higher probability of being attacked, which means that Haru's sealing skills will be better used with my group."
"Makes sense. And I think Sasuke has realised that Naruto improved a lot since the academy and won't give us trouble in having to work with him," Kakashi commented.
"Then we will set off after breakfast. The sooner we get our information, the better," Genma declared and Kakashi nodded in agreement.
Sasuke and Naruto stood ready to go onto the scouting mission with Kakashi. Sakura had of course complained why Naruto of all people got to go with Sasuke, and not her, but Kakashi had quickly silenced her. Telling her that she had no useful skill for a scouting mission and wasn't physically up to all the running they would have to do had shocked her, but she had to admit that he was right. It didn't sit right with her that Naruto was better at something than her. She had always been sure to be much better than the dead last of her class and now the tide had turned.
Sasuke, after having seen how Naruto easily held his own in the battle against Zabuza's water clones, accepted that things weren't as they had appeared at the academy and took his sensei's orders about the mission easily. He was content with doing something proactive for the mission and interested in gathering more data about Naruto, who had turned out to be wrongly judged during the time at the academy. If it only took his clan coming back and pointing out a general problem of all Uzumaki clan members with their type of chakra, well, it was hardly Naruto's fault.
Especially as Sasuke had realised a lot of things during his time under Kakashi. Right now, he wasn't a big fish yet. Kakashi could easily beat him in their training spars. Without much effort. And if Kakashi could do that, Itachi would be capable of doing the same. Not to mention that Kakashi had a sharingan, meaning, once his own eyes activated, the man would be the best source of instruction about the bloodline limit's working process he could find in Konoha. Sasuke had been deluded by the praise that had been heaped onto him by all kinds of people, but mainly the civilian council. The beatdowns he got from Kakashi spoke a much more realistic and brutal language.
He was good for a genin, no doubt about that. He had a lot of potential, also a fact, but that didn't mean anything if he didn't go the extra mile and trained the right way. If he let his pride get into his way. He didn't like Sakura. She was weak and didn't really do much to change that part. Only forced by Kakashi did she train more. But Tai was a different matter. He wasn't on Sasuke's level, but he had a very good working ethic and didn't bother Sasuke all the time. Tai did his work reliably and tried to find out in which areas of the ninja life his strengths lied.
Considering that he wasn't from a big clan, Sasuke was positively surprised during the first weeks of their training. And Tai was always up for training spars before Kakashi arrived at the training ground. It helped him develop his own abilities to have a proper sparring partner on his team. And Tai had only been in the middle of their class. Academy labels didn't mean anything in the long run, case in point, the sannin. Jiraiya had been the dead last of his class, according to Kakashi, and now the man was a legend. Even if all three sannin hadn't been seen for years in Konoha, what with Orochimaru being a traitor to the village, Tsunade having left and Jiraiya leading a spy network, his father's notes on the matter had been interesting, their reputation never wavered.
He looked to the side where Naruto was looking into his backpack, checking his equipment one last time. At least the blond had got a better suited wardrobe, not the eyesore of a bright orange jumpsuit. There still was some orange, but on more muted shades and a lot less. Then his sensei summoned some ninja dogs.
"Alright, we will go about this mission this way: Naruto, you will make fifty shadow clones and transform thirty-five of them in all kinds of native birds and ten into animals like squirrels and mice. I want them to scout from the air and the ground and map suspicious areas for us to investigate. Five of them should go untransformed into all directions. One of them will go with the second team that will protect Tazuna on the bridge, to give us a warning in case Zabuza strikes today already, even if the probability is low. He will first strategize normally to have a better chance to get past us. My dogs, except for Pakkun, will spread out as well and sniff out places that we will need to hit.
"We will go to the main base of Gato, which according to the intel Tazuna could give us, is somewhere to the north-east of this house. For now, except we get a clear shot, we will only gather information. Neither of you is trained for infiltration or assassination missions and I don't plan to change that just yet. Things we will attempt to find out are numbers of thugs working for Gato, possible additional ninjas hired by him, plans that we can overhear and locations of valuables and documents. Chances are that Konoha will want to take over a large part of Gato's business once he is dealt with," Kakashi instructed them.
"Do we have clearance to just kill him, should the chance appear?" Naruto asked.
"Yes. He is a criminal that keeps the daimyo of this island his hostage. In cases like this, any ninja is permitted to take out the danger permanently," Kakashi replied, "There won't be any official repercussions."
"And unofficial ones?" Sasuke asked.
"You can never be sure who profited from Gato's crimes and would want revenge. Hiring an assassin is always something you have to consider being done in retaliation. But few people would want to invest the money to pay somebody that could infiltrate Konoha and kill one of our ninjas. Not to mention that our defences are very strong and it would need somebody of high jonin level to even have a chance to succeed. Not to mention that they would need to find out who exactly did it," Kakashi explained.
Both boys nodded.
"Okay, let's move out, we have a lot to do today," Kakashi instructed and the boys followed him and Pakkun.
On the bridge, Haru and Nev had started placing seals onto all surfaces to give the bridge more protection. It wouldn't do after all, if Gato managed to send somebody that blew it up with explosives. With the monetary situation in Wave Country being as strained as it was, they wouldn't be able to buy new materials for a new bridge. And then Gato would have free hand. Neither of them understood why Gato hadn't simply done that. It would have been way more cost-efficient than hiring a missing nin like Zabuza. When they asked Genma, he also didn't know a good reason why.
But possibly, it was because the main source of explosives were seals and those were hard to get for a civilian, especially the dangerous kind. Any kind of bombs, like Haru knew them from the muggle world in their birth country, were fairly unknown here. It was a major reason why most people used swords, knives and staffs to fight. There were some chemicals, but their effect wasn't large scale enough, so most ninjas never considered them, as jutsus were more powerful.
Still, if the bridge was secured with seals, it would be in much less danger than otherwise. Tazuna was all for it. His workers were especially happy when they heard that a certain kind of barrier seal that Haru also installed would prevent that anybody that didn't have a certain mark could get onto the bridge, which made working there much safer for them. It certainly lessened their worries about being ambushed there. The thugs rarely could distinguish one inhabitant of Wave Country from the other, and they rarely bothered to lay ambushes on the way back from the bridge. They were happier to spread general terror in the village instead of targeting specific people outside of Tazuna.
Haru and Nev even managed to lessen those concerns, by handing all the workers an alarm seal, which would send them a signal, should they just put a little blood onto it. It didn't matter whose blood it was, just blood on the seal would suffice for them to locate the triggered seal and come running to help. The way it worked was based on notes of Haru's father in a journal, which described his and his friends' project of the Marauder's Map. And Haru currently had five shadow clones mapping the village to create a map similar to it. Chakra, which every person had, even if not all of them could use it actively, could be used to track people as well as magic. And the flare from the seal would be shown on the master map.
Haru planned tasking Tai and Sakura with watching the map, once his clones were done with it. And Tai would get a two-way mirror to contact them and give them directions to the emergency. Those thugs were definitely no threat for trained ninjas, especially not ones on their level.
That's it for this time. A bit of a filler between the action parts, but I hope you liked it.