The Way of Shinobi

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Chapter 3

Aoba Yamashiro suppressed a sigh as he observed the passing clouds. He shook his head, dismissing his turbulent and somewhat errant thoughts, now deciding to intently observe the three genin that had been assigned to his team, silently assessing them personally and comparing them to the academy reports. Thus far, there had been a vast disparity between the children described in the academy reports and the silent warriors seated before him. Additionally, although he had observed them for several days before he accepted his post as jōnin-senseis, their behaviour had abruptly and almost inexplicably changed since then.

The first, Masaki Takeda, was a dark-haired boy of average height and build. He wore a short-sleeved black shirt and a pair of black pants, with black shinobi sandals completing his outfit. His hair was styled in an undercut, and he had tan skin and teal green eyes set in an unsmiling face. He was supposedly a cheeky brat predisposed to garrulousness, but thus far he was silent and had been intently observing Aoba with a hint of suspicion in his wary gaze.

Next was the only kunoichi on the team, Asami Hashimoto. She, like Masaki, was of average height and build, but that was where the similarities between them ended. She stood at 4′ 9" and was exquisitely beautiful, with a somewhat long, yet slightly rounded face with soft, feminine features and long, curly red hair that she styled in a center-parted fringe. She had topaz blue eyes and light skin, with a somewhat well-developed figure, as evidenced by her sizeable bust and curvaceous, yet athletic frame despite her young age. She wore a sleeveless blue shirt and a black knee-length skirt, with black shinobi sandals completing her outfit. She had been described as a lazy and lackadaisical girl who lacked the motivation to accomplish any given task. Contrary to the reports, however, she had been intently observing him, seemingly trying to get a read on his skills, like Masaki.

Last but by no means least was none other than Naruto Uzumaki. He was by far the biggest surprise of the three, as he towered over his two teammates at 5′ 5" and was muscular, but his muscles were clearly meant for maximum output of speed and strength, the lithe and wiry frame he sported attesting to this fact. He had been belittled in the academy reports, described as an idiotic and untalented joker, a constant source of annoyance with his apparent mania and consistent pranks, by all means a brash and immature liability that would merely drag the team through the mud. That person was the polar opposite of the Naruto that faced him now, as he was subtly assessing his competence and was wary of any abrupt attacks, his muscles coiled even while seated to show that he would be ready for a burst of energy to move quickly at a moment’s notice.

Aoba stood abruptly, prompting the red-haired jinchūriki to twitch and reach for a kunai out of reflex, before he relaxed when the spiky-haired jōnin slouched lazily against the rails that occupied the edge of the academy roof.

“Okay,” he said. “I would like you to introduce yourselves.”

“Why don’t you go first, we already know something about each other. You’re the odd one out here,” Masaki retorted, eyes narrowing slightly.

“Alright,” Aoba replied, ignoring the slight suspicion in the dark-haired youth’s voice. “My name is Aoba Yamashiro, and I am twenty-nine years of age. I am proficient in ninjutsu, taijutsu, genjutsu, shurikenjutsu, and kayakujutsu. I am skilled in Katon, Suiton, Raiton and Fūton nature transformations. My goal at the present moment is to assist you in reaching your full potential.”

He then gestured to Asami. “You’re next.”

“My name is Asami Hashimoto,” she said somewhat belatedly, not having anticipated a breakdown of his skills in his introduction. “I am twelve years of age, and my preferred shinobi art is genjutsu, but I am reasonably skilled in ninjutsu and taijutsu, and my shurikenjutsu is at an acceptable level. My goal is to become a powerful kunoichi and surpass Tsunade of the Densetsu no Sannin.”

Aoba quirked a brow, but nodded in acceptance and agreement upon learning her ambitious goal. It was a refreshing change from the almost numberless amount of kunoichi aspirants that were nothing more than incomprehensible fangirls. He had encountered his fair share of fangirls, and they were pitiful excuses of kunoichi at best, and that was due to the fact that they spent the vast majority of their time mooning over their chosen spouse. Honestly, he was glad that the majority had either perished or had been expelled from the shinobi program. Fangirls were liable to jeopardize the mission and endanger their companions, and it was honestly for the best that they were compelled to leave the shinobi world and struck from the roster. It was, at the very least, good to be bestowed with the knowledge that there was at least one exception in the bunch.

Not only that, but he could detect subtle nuances in her behaviour and her appearance that hinted at her true dedication to her ambition. She had a lithe, wiry frame, and he could tell that her muscular development was at a level that could only be attained through hard work and diligent training. Additionally, her hands were callused, which was attributed to a thickening and hardening of a part of the skin or soft tissue, especially in an area that has been subjected to friction. Unlike the other kunoichi aspirants in her generation, she also seemed to care very little for her appearance, as while she incontestably took the time out for her personal hygiene, it was apparent that she was not pompously obsessed with her looks. That had been a trait that seemed to be characteristic of the kunoichi in her year, Aoba mused thoughtfully. He then inclined his head in Masaki’s direction, indicating that he was next.

“My name is Masaki Takeda,” the somewhat taciturn youth said. “I’m also twelve years old, and I’m well rounded in ninjutsu, taijutsu and shurikenjutsu. I’m a Katon user and I will become an Anbu agent.”

Aoba raised both brows at his introduction. This team was quite intriguing. Like Asami, Masaki at the very least seemed to be competent. He too sported a lithe and wiry build, and the subtle assessments that he had been conducting in pertinence to his adroitness as an instructor only hinted at the boy’s intellectual acuity. Not only that but the dark-haired lad carried himself with a level of quiet dexterity and an air of confidence that only a true shinobi could ever possess. Not only that, but the fact that the dark-haired boy was contemplating joining the Anbu was honestly surprising. Anbu were the village’s elites, comprised mostly of B-rank and even A-rank shinobi. He had a long way to go if he ever wished to attain that particular level of skill, but he was determined to assist them in eventually reaching his goal, the spiky-haired jōnin mused thoughtfully. He then bobbed his head at Naruto, and the redhead dithered for an infinitesimal moment before he began.

“My name is Naruto Uzumaki,” he said, his sonorous and musical voice a monotone. “I am twelve years of age and I am proficient in ninjutsu, taijutsu, genjutsu, shurikenjutsu, kayakujutsu and kenjutsu. I am skilled in all five nature transformations. My goal is to become the Hokage.”

Aoba raised his brows again in surprise. That aspiration was a complex dichotomy if there ever was one, considering that the redhead was the village’s jinchūriki and desired to become the leader of a village that despised him for the most part. Because of the difficulties involved when learning to control a tailed beast and the history the tailed beast itself may have with a village, jinchūriki were often hated and ostracized by their fellow villagers, treated as no different than the beast that they contained. However, because a jinchūriki was such a valuable asset, it was not in the village’s interest to let them be captured or turn into nuke-nin. Even so, many jinchūriki indeed experienced hardship and near-insurmountable tribulations for the duration their lives.

This was especially true for the Kyūbi’s jinchūriki. The Uzumaki boy had been the subject of an agglomeration of open derision, condescension and antipathy from the vast majority of the civilian population, and these sentiments were generally shared by shinobi, although carefully concealed by an elaborately weaved mask of apathy. Admittedly, he knew that many had lost a great deal to the bijū, and viewed the boy as an abomination. No-one was able to ascertain exactly how much influence the bijū exerted over its host, but the vibrant shade of crimson hair that Naruto possessed was frighteningly telling to most of the grossly misinformed villagers. That was what made his desire to be Hokage so surprising. The Hokage was one who represented all of the villagers, one who was the embodiment of the “all for one, one for all” mentality that was effectively a precis of the unity that percolated Konohagakure no Sato. To become Hokage meant that one had to be willing to sacrifice everything in an instant for the sake of the villagers, and he or she had to be capable of making decisions that had the potential to have far-reaching deleterious ramifications, but could benefit Konoha.

That particular degree of dedication was rather uncommon, and he knew that there were very few people in Konoha with the dedication needed to take up the mantle of being Hokage, and even fewer possessed the resilience and pertinacity needed to endure the hardships they would inevitably encounter. However, upon peering closely at the redhead, Aoba could barely detect the flash of uncharacteristic emotion in the lad’s eyes, and he smiled grimly. The emotion that he detected was actually a spark of an indomitable will, and he knew right then and there that Naruto Uzumaki would be a great Hokage. That was true at least once he put his mind to it and was ready for all of the additional responsibilities that being a Hokage entailed.

“Report to training ground five tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. for your genin test. Be warned though, two-thirds of those who take this test fail and get sent back to the academy,” the spiky-haired jōnin said.

He paused, idly noting that Masaki and Asami became grimly determined, and Naruto’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“Make sure you’re there tomorrow at the specified time. Ja ne,” Aoba said in farewell before he vanished in a smoke Shunshin.

Naruto threw a sidelong glance at his prospective teammates, noting that they both seemed lost in contemplation. He looked away, watching the rapidly dissipating smoke from the Shunshin no Justu as he engaged in silent musings. Their test tomorrow was almost certain to be one that was specifically designed to discombobulate their mental faculties, whilst simultaneously concealing the true goal of the test. He theorized that it was to be the bell test that was characteristic of practically all Konohagakure shinobi. Their deceptive tests were merely meant to ascertain how well a genin cell functioned as a unit and under extreme duress. In other words, it was simply designed to test how well they worked together. His eyes strayed towards Asami and Masaki, both of whom were still silently contemplating the ramifications of their to-be sensei’s words, their faces screwed up in twin rictuses of concentration. He was not aversed to co-operating with them, provided that they were not the proverbial Kyūbi haters and were willing to work with him. If that was the case tomorrow, then he would certainly co-operate with them in their endeavour to pass the deceptively simple test. He looked away and then disappeared, leaving no indication that he had ever been present.

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