Chapter 23: Secret Technique: Monkey Transcends Time
Following Wuspep talk, Sakura and Ino began putting much more effort into their training. Their effort couldnt compare to Hinatas, who managed to get on speaking terms with Naruto after around seven months, but Wu wasnt complaining. The trio had become more open and honest with both themselves and Wu, so his job as their instructor and apparentconfidant had become significantly easier. They would sometimes come to him with problems they were facing at home or with other people, but, as children, most of their issues could be resolved with simple compliments or words of support.
On a markedly more positive note, Tentens father, Saizo, had relented to permitting Wu to learn the basics of forging. However, instead of teaching him directly, the muscular man left the explanations and demonstrations to his daughter. This allowed him to confirm that his daughter had taken his lessons to heart but, more importantly, ensured that the two spent a fair amount of time together.
While Wu could see through the intentions of Tentens parents, especially after the stunt pulled by Hiruzen, he didnt particularly mind. Teten was a decent option if he ever actually cared about acquiring a spouse. She was smart, high-spirited, fairly attractive, and, most importantly, earnest when it came to improving herself. She was also proficient in bojutsu and a host of other weapon arts, so Wu could actually learn from her while helping to actualize her dream of being a capable Kunoichi.
If there was one thing that annoyed Wu about Tentens character, it was her penchant fordoting on him. He had proven himself superior to her in almost every way, but because she was a little over a year older than him, she acted like he was a little brother that needed her care. She frequently fretted over his appearance, making regular remarks about the clothes he wore, how he should style his hair, and how he should act if he wanted to impress theladies. Simply put, she was an idiot. Clever, but irredeemably dense…
With the Academy going on break for two months, permitting students a much-needed vacation, Wu was looking forward to making up for the ten months he hadsquandered playing a student. He had used the fact they were going on vacation as an excuse to give the girls a chance to improve on their own, and, as an extra precaution, he planned to spend the entire break at Jigokudani. He hadnt returned a single weekend since his arrival in Konoha, so while Hiruzen had attempted to convince him to spend the vacation playing with hisfriends and visiting their families, Wu forced the man to send him back.
Needless to say, Wus seven weeks in Jigokudani were more productive than the forty-six he spent in Konoha. Old man Enma and the remaining Monkey Clan Elders viewed Wu as one of their own, so when he appealed to them for assistance, Enma agreed to oversee his training personally. In exchange, Wu had to pledge he would remain an ally to the Sarutobi Clan, not because they were worried he would betray Hiruzen, but because the Monkey Clan had forged an ancient pact to that effect. In other words, if he wanted to inherit their techniques and receive their aid as an extended member of the Monkey Clan, he had to abide by their traditions.
Since it wasnt like he had any intention of betraying Hiruzen, someone who would die of his own accord in a decade or two, Wu had no problem agreeing to Enmas terms. He had a fair amount of respect for the elderly monkey, and, as annoying as Hiruzen was, Wu didnt hate him. He might not be willing to fight and die to preserve the Clans honor, but the nameSarutobi Wu had grown on him…
From his seat at the back of the classroom, allowing him to observe the entire class, Wu couldnt help admiring his handiwork, a triumphant grin adorning his ruggedly handsome but still youthful face. Sakura and Ino flanked Sasuke at the same table, Hinata and Naruto chatted happily in one of the aisles, and Kaia slumbered peacefully at his side. The latter somehow appeared even more boyish than she did as a prepubescent brat, but Wu didnt care in the slightest as her appearance didnt detract from her usefulness as a subordinate.
As if she could sense Wus thoughts, Kaia stirred awake, shamelessly wiping away the drool from her mouth before asking, “Did you need me for something, Aniki”
Shaking his head, Wu maintained his smile as he replied, “I was marveling at how much everyone has changed since my first day at the Academy. If I didnt know we could meet whenever we pleased, I would grieve at the notion our days at the Academy have reached their end…”
Adopting a toothy grin, Kaia reached up to thumb the headband that now protected her forehead. A similar headband rested on the heads of nearly everyone present, the only exceptions being people like Ino and Sakura, who, like many of the girls, elected to wear the band like a belt.
Before the conversation between Wu and Kaia could continue, the entire class fell silent as their scar-faced instructor, Umino Iruka, entered the classroom and made his way to the central podium. The clipboard in his hands drew the gazes of nearly everyone present as, now that they had all graduated, they would soon be learning whichteam they belonged to.
Though virtually everyone would have preferred if he got straight to the point, Iruka was famous for being the most earnest yet overly sentimental instructor at the Academy. When he reached his position at the podium, a proud smile adorned his face as he said, “First of all, let me congratulate each of you for a job well done. While there may have been differences in the way each of you performed, it doesnt change the fact that, from this moment onward, you are all fully-fledged Shinobi of Konoha. Take pride in that fact, no matter what your future holds.”
Finished with his speech, Iruka stared down at the clipboard in his hands and began announcing the team distribution. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji each ended up on one team. Whatdid surprise the class was that Naruto had been placed on the same team as Sasuke and Sakura. The blonde-haired youth had the third-highest scores in the class when it came to physicality, but his lazy demeanor and lack of focus in every other class had him ranked 26 out of 27 students. He was also dating one of the AcademysThree Goddesses, so nearly every male in the class resented him.
Earning even more ire for himself, Naruto loudly groaned, “Aww, man. And I really wanted to be on the same Team as Hinata-chan…”
Disproving of Narutos outburst, Irukas expression hardened as he said, “These Teams were carefully decided during a conference with Lord Third himself. No complaining.”
Rolling his eyes, Naruto turned his attention to Hinata, whispering, “We can still meet between missions. Do you think your father will let me come over to your place…”
Seeing Naruto brazenly carrying on a discussion in the middle of class, even if they were no longer students, Irukas left eye twitched. He was half tempted to grab the boy by the ear and take him outside, but, as that wouldnt be fair to the other students waiting to hear the teams they were assigned to, he begrudgingly returned to reading the list.
Following the pairing of Hinata, Shino, and Kiba, several other teams were called until the only people remaining were Wu, Kaia, and the only person ranked lower than Naruto, an overweight boy with messy brown hair and a pig-like face named Kazuo. His mother was one of the Chairwomen of the Civilian Council, so even though he underperformed in every subject, he had a chip on his shoulder. At the very least, there were a ton of crumbs…
Hearing that he was on the same team as the AcademysLittle Professor, Kazuos expression became gloomy as he bellowed, “Why did I get put on the same team as that monster and his pet! This is discrimination against the students from civilian households…!”
Narrowing his eyes, Iruka explained, “You are no longer a civilian, nor are you a student, Genin Kazuo. These Teams were decided and approved by the Third Hokage, our Commander-in-Chief, and the leader of our village, Konohagakure. From the moment you were given that forehead protector, you became asoldier of the village. If you deliberately disobey orders, it isnt just you who will be held accountable…”
Though he was ordinarily a very kind and cordial person, Iruka wanted to make it clear to everyone present that they were no longer children. Being a Shinobi meant following orders and risking your life to ensure the peace and stability of the village. If a low-ranking Genin could speak out of turn or refuse assignments given to them by theirmost-superior officer, the system supporting their village would collapse, and their enemies would show them no mercy.
Cowed by the intensity of Irukas words and gaze, Kazuo shrunk into his seat and swallowed his argument. He planned to complain to his mother the first chance he got, but that would have to wait until he got home. For now, he was stuck in the same group as thebrat he resented more than any other…
While Kazuo dripped with more sweat than a leaky radiator, Wu and Kaia were comparably calm and relaxed as they sat in front of the elderly man that had been assigned as their Jonin Sensei. After all, the former lived in the same house with the man, and the latter had encountered him dozens of times over the past four years.
Noticing Kazuos nervousness, Hiruzen exhaled an amused chuckle and asked, “Whats the matter, my boy I may be old, but you look like youve just seen a ghost.”
Feeling even more nervous, Kazuo was wholly incapable of responding to Hiruzens words. He had never once imagined, not even in his wildest and most delusional fantasies, that he would end up on the Team of the Third Hokage. The man was a living legend in the Shinobi World, and one of the only two people Kazuos Kaa-chan feared to ridicule, even behind closed doors…
Exhaling through his nose, Hiruzen decided to allow Kazuo to collect himself, turning to Wu as he said, “For now, lets have everyone introduce themselves, their dreams, and their hobbies. Ill start off…”
Clearing his throat, a mischievous smile developed across Hirzuens face as he appended, “My name is Sarutobi Hiruzen. You may refer to me as Sarutobi-sensei from this moment onward. My dream is to ensure Konoha remains a fixture of the Shinobi World into the far future, a haven for those who carry theWill of Fire. My hobbies are…lets just say I enjoy reading a particular series written by one of my students. Hohohoho~”
Since Hiruzen was staring at him as he spoke, Wu understood it was his turn to go next, stating, “The names Wu, Sarutobi Wu. My dream is to be the strongest in the world. My hobbies are training, beating sense into my so-called peers, and opening up tabs in Jijis name.”
Wincing at Wus final remark, Hiruzen resisted the urge to ask where his adoptive grandson had opened a tabthis time. He didnt regret giving Wu permission to do so, but some of the items the boy ordered were…
Shaking his head, Hiruzen directed his attention to Kaia, prompting her to shout, “My name is Kaia! Im a member of the Inzuka Clan, and my dream is to be the greatest Kennel Master in the village! My hobbies are training, eating, sleeping, and spending time with my Aniki!”
Nodding his head in approval, Hiruzen remarked, “Youre certainly not lacking in spirit.” before shifting his attention to Kazuo. In response, the boy swallowed audibly before meekly stammering, “M-m-m-my name is Kazuo. I…my dream is to create a Clan of my own someday. My hobbies are…”
As his only real hobbies were eating and cooking, in that order, Kazuo couldnt bring himself to continue. He knew he was the odd one out in the group, so the confidence he usually presented in front of others was now nowhere to be seen. If not for the fact his cheeks pushed up, somewhat obscuring his brown eyes, everyone present would have been able to see tears forming at the edges…