Chapter Forty Four ~ Checking In

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After all his talk about never giving up, Naruto seemed depressed into inaction once we lost Sasuke's scent. When we arrived back at Konoha, he didn't even say goodbye before splitting from the group and trudging in the direction of his apartment, head lowered and feet dragging. I shrugged; not my problem.

"I'm assuming you have the report covered?" I asked Kakashi and Yamato. They both nodded. "Good. I need to check on my team and get a decent meal. See ya."

It was still afternoon, so I wouldn't be surprised if my substitute instructors were still training Aisa, Michiko, and Kento. I decided to check on Aisa first, only because his and his instructor's location was most predictable.

As I had thought, Aisa was with Gai running laps around Konoha... on their hands? I shuddered as I caught sight of Gai; even after all these years, he gave me the creeps. Gritting my teeth, I decided to not delay the inevitable, and jumped down in front of them. Gai, sadly, noticed me first.

"Ah, Cashile-san!" Gai shouted in way of greeting.

I closed my eyes for a brief moment before putting on the fakest smile I could manage. "Gai," I greeted curtly.

"Cashiiiile!" Aisa exclaimed, flipping back onto his feet and running toward me. I nodded in approval when I had to sidestep to avoid his flying tackle of a hug sooner than expected; he'd grown faster in the little time Gai had been training him.

"Cashile, that is quite the wondrous bud of youth you have on your team!" Gai grinned. "Before you know it he will flower into a fine shinobi!"

"I'm... glad to hear it," I responded, studiously ignoring his thumbs up and sparkling grin. "Aisa, normal training grounds, 5 o'clock. Get something to eat."

"Alright! Then you'll tell us how your mission went?" He asked happily.

"Sure, whatever," I agreed absentmindedly, keeping an eye on Gai's antics. He seemed to be doing one armed hand stand push ups.

"Can I have some money for ramen?"

"Don't you have pocket money now that the team is going on missions?" I questioned. "Bad spending habits should be squashed now."

"I know! I'm saving some! And I don't want to go into my savings, but I reeeeeally want some ramen," Aisa wheedled, making a constipated face that may have passed as puppy dog eyes.

"Whatever," I sighed, fishing some money out of my pouch. "But this is all I'm giving you. Don't even think about asking for more."

"Thanks Cashile!" Aisa grinned. "See you at 5!"

I rolled my eyes and sprang away before Gai could challenge me to a race up the Hokage mountain.

***

To my surprise and satisfaction, when I was about 50 yards away, Michiko turned sharply in my direction. Her sensitivity to chakra had clearly been further honed. When I landed next to her I purposefully flared my chakra as though preparing for a fight, and she barely winced. I nodded approvingly.

"How did she do?" I asked the Hyuga.

"While she will never come close to the complete awareness that comes with having the Byakugan," the Hyuga began, and I barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes, "Her sensitivity is unique and well honed for a genin. Her perception is acceptable."

I nodded. From a Hyuga, it actually was high praise. "Come to our usual training field at 5. Get something to eat."

"Yes, sensei!" Michiko grinned, correctly interpreting my lack of criticism as my having a lack of things to criticize. She was progressing well. "See you then!"

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