Foxhound Chapter 2: Part 6
“Alright, your setup isn’t that bad. I would suggest more nin-jutsu and some tool skills though. I am curious… What’s with the question mark on the blood point?”
Ino glanced up at Kakashi, amazed that his pork buns were already gone. She herself was only halfway through her miso soup. She’d been idly curious if the man would remove his mask to eat, but it seemed he could ingest food at the speed of sound or something. The two ninjas were sitting at one of the many restaurant styled booths in the large, well lit hospital cafeteria. The place seemed less like an actual cafeteria and more like a large food-court from a mall. It was spacey, clean, and had assorted plants all over the place. There was even a semi-transparent skylight in the ceiling and a large fountain set into one wall. Tsunade was deadly serious when it came to medical funding, it seemed.
They had picked a seat in the less crowded area in the middle of the court, where they could watch the fountain or the different food vendors easily. Ino currently had the scroll spread out in front of her on the table, with her soup and a dango sitting off to the side. Kakashi’s notes had turned out to be little tidbits of advice that he’d written in the margin all throughout the scroll. They were actually pretty helpful, with advice on what info was good and what parts were faulty or just plain crap. He had even jotted down the titles of a couple books with good training techniques, the address to a good second-hand scroll/bookstore that specialized in texts on the ninja arts, and the names of a few chuunin and jounin who might train her in their spare time. For a genin with poor experience, it was a gold mine.
“Well… I was thinking about my family’s jutsu. You know, the Shintenshin?” Ino said. When Kakashi nodded, indicating that he knew of the technique, the genin continued, “So I’ve been thinking that it’s just a family technique but what if it’s part of something more? I’ve had strange dreams ever since I learned the jutsu and they always seem be…I don’t know. Not prophetic or anything, but I see things in them that I later experience in real life. Well, usually anyways.”
Kakashi’s rested his chin on his steepled hands and narrowed his eye a little in thought.
“So today? With Naruto?”
Ino nodded, her gray eyes darkening in memory.
“I… Last night I had a dream. I still can’t remember much of it, but I do remember the ground wobbling and the smell of blood,” She said.
“Gamabunta-sama’s jumping and Naruto’s injuries,” Kakashi said, filling in the blanks.
Ino continued, “That’s what I figured too. Anyways, I was thinking there’s a chance I might have some sort of psychic Bloodline Limit. At least, that’s what I hope. In all honesty, I’d settle for a Bloodline period, whatever it might be. I was wondering if you knew how to awaken a Limit, seeing as you have a Sharingan and all. If you don’t, or if I don’t have one, I was wondering if it’s possible to create one.”
Kakashi allowed his eye to close as he thought out an appropriate response. Not sensing the silence to be uncomfortable, Ino grabbed her dango and took a bite out of it while looking over the notes in her scroll again. There was a comfortable buzz of conversation in the air as assorted medics, patients, and visitors walked about the cafeteria looking for an early dinner. Kakashi’s eye finally opened and focused on the girl in front of him. He took in the sight of a slim, pretty blond who looked more like someone who spent their days at the mall than someone who spent their days figuring out how to kill more efficiently. Ino was calmly munching away, nodding her head in agreement to something she was reading. She didn’t seem like the type to take being a ninja seriously, but at the same time he’d seen the traces of her determination and fury up close. She was very much like a quieter, less foolish version of Naruto in that respect. If she really did want to do this…
“Why do you want a Bloodline Limit so badly? For that matter, why all this?” The Copy-Ninja asked as he gestured to the scroll on the table. “Is it to pass the chuunin exam? To beat Sakura? To prove yourself to a boy? Why?”
Ino set what was left of her dango aside and narrowed her eyes at the jounin.
“The long and short of it? I’m weak. I’m at the bottom of the pole compared to the rest of the ninjas my age and while I graduated near the top, everyone else has exceeded me. I’ve got one special move and that barely works unless it’s used with the Nara family jutsu. Teamwork is important, but so is being able to stand on your own two feet. I want to get better and stronger. More than that, I want my own niche and place to fit in. This,” She said, pointing at the scroll, “will hopefully be a start to that. A Bloodline would be a powerful asset and would give me a specialty that could be useful. Even without a Limit, maybe with some advanced training I’ll be able to at least catch up to my friends while I’m looking for a unique style of my own.”
Ino trailed off and watched Kakashi for his reaction. For a long moment he didn’t even blink, but a pleased glint seemed to appear in his eye after awhile.
“Not a bad argument. Could be better,” The copy-nin casually dodged as Ino chucked a wadded up napkin at him, “But a good start, either way. I do have some knowledge on Bloodline Limits that’ll help you, but more than that, I think you need to spend some time researching exactly what you want in a fighting style.”
Kakashi reached out and tapped the pentagon on the scroll and said, “Like I said earlier, this is not a bad idea. It needs fine tuning and you shouldn’t force yourself to stick to it if you aren’t going anywhere, but it’s got potential. You understand enough about gen-jutsu to know that you can’t over-depend on it. You do need some tai-jutsu training, but with your build it would probably be better to learn more nin-jutsu. I’d say the focus on tai is fine, but mark the nin point up a little more and fill at least a quarter of the tools point. You’ll still need to know how to throw a kunai and what the odd object your opponent just pulled out is.”
“I left it blank because I didn’t want to over-depend on it like-” Ino started, but was cut off when Kakashi interrupted, “-Like Kiba does. Yes, I’m surprised Kurenai-chan allowed him to do that. A tool is supposed to play a supporting role, not a necessary part of the fighting style. Anyways, you should still have some knowledge in that field. I suggest getting a few weapon and tool books to study. A few scrolls on traps would be helpful too, so you can at least identify them. For tai-jutsu, try to get one of your friends to tutor you in it. I’d suggest Lee-kun. He’s almost as weird as his teacher, but he’s powerful as hell. No one knows more tai-jutsu in Konoha than Maito Gai and that shows in his student. Lee-kun’s been training under him for only two and a half years and he went from drop-out to near jounin levels in that time. Just don’t let them talk you into wearing one of those god-awful spandex suits, okay?”
“I’d rather melt my eyeballs out with lye than be seen in something like that,” Ino deadpanned in a perfectly serious voice. Kakashi replied in an equally serious tone, “Good.”
“Anyways,” The jounin continued. “As far as gen-jutsu goes, I’d say buy a bunch of scrolls and books on it and mark all the jutsu you want to learn. Then take them to a gen-jutsu specialist and have them train you in it or tell you if you’re looking at the wrong skills. On top of that, regularly do exercises that build stamina and chakra control. Don’t expect miracles for your chakra reserves, but definitely plan on perfecting your control. Gen-jutsu doesn’t rely on control as heavily as medical jutsu does, but it’s far more important than having a lot of raw chakra.”
Ino had pulled out a normal pen she’d scrounged up from somewhere and was scribbling down additional notes as Kakashi talked. Most of what he was telling her he had already written on the scroll, but it was still helpful to have it in her own words.
“Got it. So what about nin-jutsu?” She asked. At that, Kakashi frowned and scratched his chin.
“Ironically, the best person to tutor your nin-jutsu would be Naruto,” He said. Ino dropped her pen in surprise.
“Really? You’re serious?” She asked.
Kakashi nodded and continued, “You see, I’m setting this up so your trainers match how far you want to go in a particular field. You want to specialize in gen-jutsu so you’ll need a jounin to teach you, while you comrades will be able to improve your nin-jutsu and tai-jutsu, and tools you only need to review. Now, of your comrades the people with the best skills in pure nin-jutsu would either be Naruto or Sasuke, if he hadn’t left. Everyone else is specialized in some other area or has their nin-jutsu tied up to their Bloodline or family jutsu. Naruto doesn’t know many nin-jutsu, but he learns them fast and is a total stamina freak. If you wanted someone to help you learn a nin-jutsu skill, those are the best qualities in a tutor. Besides, who knows what kind of skills Jiraiya-sama has taught him since they left?”
Ino nodded slowly.
“I get it. But he’s totally laid up right now. Who’ll teach me in the meantime?”
Kakashi’s eye turned into an upside down “U”. Ino shook her head in disbelief.
“Well, I can’t spare too much time since the Hokage always has me on missions, but I have more free time now that I don’t have a team anymore. Most weekends I’m here in Konoha so we can go over some jutsu and training exercises if you want. Although, you might want to get Asuma’s OK first,” The Copy-ninja said, leaning back in his seat.
“Pfft,” Ino rolled her eyes at that one. “Asuma-sensei’s a good fighter, but he barely trains us at all. He spends most of his time playing old man games with Shikamaru and tells us to train on our own. I’ve been yelling at him for years to take us more seriously. He’ll agree just to get away from my nagging.”
Kakashi nodded, “Good. We can meet up this Saturday at the Memorial training ground and I can look over your progress so far.”
Ino put a finger to her chin in thought and asked, “Why are you willing to train me? We’ve met like three times before. Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture, but I’m curious.”
Kakashi stared down at the genin’s unfinished soup for several long moments before saying, “I fucked up.”
Ino blinked. That wasn’t what she was expecting.
The copy-nin met her gray eyes with his obsidian gaze.
“With my team. I screwed up.”
The girl thought about it for a long moment before realizing, “Sasuke.”
To her surprise, Kakashi shook his head.
“Not just him. I messed up just as bad with Naruto. And Sakura to a lesser degree.”
Ino asked, “How so? I mean Sasuke turned traitor, but none of us really saw it coming. And both Naruto and Sakura turned out great.”
“Under other sensei,” Kakashi replied. He crossed his arms and looked down at the table. “While I gave general training to them all, I focused much more on Sasuke. I made the mistake of just looking at who they were on the outside. Externally, Sasuke was a genius, Sakura was weak, and Naruto was a fool. But I didn’t follow my own teachings. My first lesson to them was ‘look underneath the underneath.’ If I had bothered to look, I would have seen that Sasuke was power-obsessed and riding a vengeance kick, Sakura had excellent chakra control and medical potential, and Naruto…”
As Kakashi’s eye closed, Ino filled in the blank.
“Naruto is potential incarnate.”
The Copy-Ninja gave a painful nod and continued, “At the time all I could see was a genius and two extras, despite Naruto and Sakura’s great progress. I actually bragged once that Sasuke was just like me. I even told off that Sand kid for assuming he knew what Sasuke was really like even as I was making the same mistake. It figures I’d be proven wrong by a lunatic. But I didn’t realize it then, so I kept training him and teaching him as much advanced jutsu as I knew. I even taught him the only technique I ever created.”
Ino looked a little confused as she asked, “That’s it? I mean that bad considering he turned traitor but…”
Kakashi shook his head and said, “No, I don’t mean I just trained him. I favored him over Naruto… Blatantly.”
The blonde’s eyes narrowed as she said, “Define blatant.”
The jounin sighed and rubbed his eye.
“As in he asked me immediately after the chuunin preliminaries for help in the upcoming tournament and I flat out told him ‘no’, that I was going to train Sasuke instead.”
Ino raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms as she said, “I have to say Hatake, when you fuck up, you do it big.”
Kakashi winced a little at the sharp tone. It sucked being in a guilt trip, but it sucked even worse when someone else agreed with your reasoning.
“Yeah… I tried to get him another tutor, but-”
“He wanted his own sensei to teach him. He saw it as being tossed aside for the umpteenth time for the great Uchiha Sasuke, this time by his own teacher who he’d worked hard to impress. Then he went off on his own and by luck stumbled across a better, stronger teacher. And now it burns you that not only did you basically tell him that he wasn’t worth the time to train because Sasuke was better than him and would beat him anyways, he bounced back and now he’s someone else’s star pupil and you can’t take any credit for it. Am I right?” Ino calmly stated in her calm, yet razor-sharp voice.
“Disturbingly correct. Are you sure you’re not psychic yet?” Kakashi jested, trying to cover his guilt with a bit of humor. The guilt in his eye gave him away though.
“And now you want to make that up a little bit by properly teaching someone else?” The sharp blonde continued. Kakashi could only nod.
“Hmph. And everyone said he was the idiot of Team 7… Did you even apologize to him about it or congratulate him on beating Neji and that Sand freak and this Kabuuko guy or whatever his name is?” Ino asked. The copy-nin grimaced under his mask and shook his head ‘no’ to all the above.
“I think, more than tutoring me, you owe him an apology when he wakes up,” Ino calmly said, the venom in her voice disappearing. Kakashi blinked and stared at her, surprise evident on his face. She was suddenly letting him off the hook? The girl shrugged at his look and took a sip of her lukewarm soup. “What? It was him you screwed over, not me. It’s not like you aren’t sorry about it, but I think he’d appreciate it more if you actually told him rather than beat yourself up for it. This whole time he’s probably been thinking you’ve missed your protégé more than you missed him.”
“And they said Sakura was the smartest of your class,” Kakashi said, chuckling and shaking is head.
Ino snorted and replied, “Flattery only gets you so far, Hatake. I’d rather you tell me what you know about Bloodline Limits, since that’s the only thing we haven’t covered. We can go over the rest on Saturday.”
Kakashi looked at her a little surprised and said, “You still want to meet up for training?”
“Well, duh,” The genin replied, rolling her eyes. “You may play favorites, but at least you actually train your students. Asuma-sensei can’t even claim that much. Now tell me about the Limits.”
The copy-nin nodded, eager to get of the subject of his failure, and began, “Alright. First off, while you may have a hidden Limit that’s been forgotten by your family or was added by an external marriage, the odds of it are very low. In this village, only one person in thirty has a Bloodline and we have the largest collection of Limits on the continent. Recessive Bloodlines are even rarer than that. Next, assuming you do have a Limit, it’s harder than hell to awaken it. I know the Sharingan awakens during times of battle and great stress, but that might not be the case for yours. There’s a range of difficulty when it comes to awakening different Limits. For instance, every Hyuuga who can use chakra can also use the Byakugan. That’s just the way their Bloodline is.
“In your case, I think some sort of mental disturbance, like an outside force trying to enter your mind, would be your best chance to awaken the Limit. This is, of course, assuming you have one and assuming it’s a psychic ability. And the Byakugan brings up another point. Even if you do awaken a Limit, it might not be very powerful, especially if your family hasn’t been selectively breeding to strengthen the Bloodline. Every Hyuuga can use the Byakugan, but not every Hyuuga can see chakra opening points, you see? Only a few have inherited the Bloodline that strong. So you’ve got quite the crapshoot to work through. Your Bloodline might be weak, you might not be able to awaken it, and you may not have one at all.”
Ino sighed. She had known it would be a gamble, but she hadn’t known just how bad the odds were. Still, there was one other route.
“What about making a Bloodline?” She asked, having no idea if it was safe or even possible, but figuring it wouldn’t hurt to find out.
Kakashi shook his head as he said, “Not a good idea for two major reasons. One, creating a Limit is a very long process. It takes mastery of seals, rituals, and extensive knowledge on the workings of the human body. Not to mention you need to be about as powerful as a Sannin to pull off the creation process. The seals have to be balanced properly and they need to be thoroughly tested to avoid nasty side effects. The rituals themselves are deadly and even masters get themselves and everyone involved killed half the time because of a tiny error. You also pay a high price for making the Limit. The Bloodline wouldn’t go to you, but to your children. In return for your descendants bearing the Limit, your ability to use chakra is virtually destroyed. To get a Limit you either have to be born with it or have it sealed into you the day you are born. That’s the first reason.”
“And the second?” Ino asked in a groaning tone, her hopes at creating a Bloodline already destroyed.
“The second reason is no one knows how to make them anymore,” Kakashi said with a cheerful eye smile. The genin rolled her eyes at the man’s mood swings. The jounin ignored the not-so-subtle jibe and kept talking. “The only place that information is kept would be in an old clan’s scroll vault or in the Scroll of Forbidden Seals that only the Hokage has access to. Either way, the knowledge is pretty much gone in the Leaf. There may be other Hidden Villages that still actively practice Bloodline creation, but not here. We’ve never really practiced Limit creation, actually. When our village was founded, Shodai-sama had an open door policy to any and all bearers of Advanced Bloodlines. We got hundreds of refugees from Bloodline bearing clans from all over the continent with that move and we’ve never been so short on them that we needed to create new Bloodlines.”
“Shit,” Ino hissed. Well, that sucked. One method had terrible odds and the other way would just destroy her abilities, which was exactly what she didn’t want. Neat history on the Advanced Bloodlines though. “Looks like I’ll take my chances on unlocking a Bloodline. Even without a Limit to back it up, what do you think of the training plan I’ve got?”
“It’s still good,” Kakashi replied. “A Bloodline would only enhance an already sturdy setup. I say you stick to this and try it out for a decent period of time, say a year or so. While you’re doing that keep an eye out for anything that sets off those dreams of yours. They might be the key to unlocking a Limit. Keep the stuff I’ve written down in mind and you should be fine. Oh, one thing I’d say you need to be careful about is forcing yourself to match that graph too heavily.”
“Huh?” Ino said, confusion obvious on her pretty features. “Isn’t that the point?”
The copy-nin shook his head and replied, “Use that as a guideline, yes, but don’t force yourself to fit it if you’re unable to. You may not fit the mold at all. Who knows? You might find out that your gen-jutsu talent sucks and you’re actually quite skilled at tai-jutsu. If you try to force yourself to fit into something you aren’t made for, then you’ll only wind up hurting and weakening yourself in the long run. My point is: it’s good to have a goal as long as you don’t let it limit you.”
Ino thought about it for a moment, before nodding her head.
“Sounds good, Hatake. I’ll keep it in mind.”
Kakashi smiled at her, but there was a look of faint disappointment in his eyes. The girl scowled at that.
“What’s wrong now, you bum? Did I forget to read underneath the underneath?” The genin asked sarcastically, but with little venom in her voice.
The Copy-Ninja shook his head and answered, “No, you got exactly what I was saying. I only wish I’d been able to teach my students that lesson.”
“Well, Naruto seems to have gotten it pretty solidly. And I hate to burst your little I’m-a-genius-everything-relies-on-me bubble, but Sasuke turning out to be a traitorous asshole instead of a loyal asshole isn’t your fault, so whatever he didn’t learn from you is on his head. Don’t know about Sakura, but who knows what she’s thinking?” Ino said with a raised eyebrow as she forced herself to finish the rest of her cool soup before eating what was left of her dango.
The jounin in front of her let out a tired sigh and said, “You’re right, Ino-san, but I still feel that I could have taught Sasuke better. It seems that all he chose to learn from me were tricks to kill people with. His goal is to become an ‘Avenger’ and he’s sacrificed everything to realize that. Ironically, he’s only destroyed his growth in the process and he’ll never be able to fulfill his ambition. As for Naruto…”
Kakashi looked down at the table his arms rested on. He painfully said, “I could never teach that lesson to Naruto because he’s known it all along. He could teach me a thing or two about allowing a dream or a goal to hold you down. Part of being the Hokage is being the best at damn near everything, including being a good human being. I have little doubt that he’ll succeed in his dream. Well, I had little doubt. With his injuries…”
Ino looked up as she swallowed the last bite of her dango.
“Speaking of Naruto, I wonder if the Hokage is feeling better? I was going to head back up for awhile before I went home. You coming?” She asked casually, seeming to dismiss the man’s guilty air.
“No, I’ll hang around here for a bit. I’ll be spending the night on the couch in his room anyways. I figured I might as well pull guard duty while I’m stuck here,” Kakashi answered.
“Alright, I’ll head on up then,” Ino said, getting to her feet and grabbing her tray. “We still on for training Saturday?”
The Copy-Ninja nodded, his eye still downcast. He jumped in surprise when the blonde punched his arm.
“Knock off the gloomy act, will you? Rather than wallow in self-pity, you should be thinking up a decent apology. I hear Iruka-sensei takes Naruto out to a ramen bar all the time, so bribe him with food or something,” Ino said. As she walked off, she gave a flippant, “Later, Hatake,” over her shoulder.
Kakashi sighed, though it was less guilt ridden than before. The bitchy blonde had a point, dammit. As he sat there watching the fountain across the room, the copy-nin idly wondered if a jounin’s pay would be enough to satisfy Naruto’s ramen lust. Then he winced, remembering that Iruka’s wallet was always empty whenever the boy was in town.
‘And I was sooo looking forward to next Icha Icha volume.’