Hey. Okay, so I apologise for the late update. I really pushed hard for this one. I suffered from writer's block for a while, it was come and go for this chapter. The next update will probably take longer cause I have my finals coming up so I won't be able to write for a while. Again, I'm really thankful for the reviews and favourites. I worked hard on this chapter. Lotta research for this one. Beta-read by Valkipher, huge thanks to him as always. As you guys judged so far, this fic will have a slow buildup. I'm working out the pacing as I go on. It's all still new to me. With that being said, hope you guys like the chapter.

~~X~~

Naruto and Ashina had made their way to the Uzumaki/Namikaze clan compound. The compound itself was surrounded by a reinforced wooden wall. The wall was contrived by Senju Hashirama as a gesture of recognition for the Uzumaki clan. It was about roughly ten feet; surrounding the compound. The Uzumaki whirlpool was imprinted on the wall on regular intervals in a faded blood red. The compound itself was not colossal but on account of the clan's obscurity; their techniques and Jutsu, precaution was mandatory. The compound was roughly an acre. But was ensconced diligently.

The gateway itself was donned with the Uzumaki crest carved into the surface with the gates intersecting the symbol in two.

Ashina made his way in front of the gate with Naruto following behind anxiously. Naruto found it kind of daunting when his Nii-chan had told him that he would be living with him in one of the most affluent accommodations Konoha had to offer. But when his Nii-chan told him that his mother used to live here a while ago before getting married to his father; he changed his mind. He wanted to know as much as he could about his family. He wanted to ask his Nii-chan about them but could not find the mettle to do so. He was apprehensive that maybe if he found out, he would not like the outcome. Ashina sensed what the blonde was pensive about. He knew once he had mentioned Kushina, even if it was just an innuendo, the blonde would most likely inquire about their parents.

'All in due time, Naruto-kun.'

Ashina channelled his chakra to the front of the symbol. The seal consisted of several webs bound together by lattice like arrays overlapped with each other. One of the arrays, Ashina knew, was bounded individually for traits specifically heredity. 'Wonders of Fūinjutsu.' Ashina pondered. If Kushina and Minato were able to open it, imminently that meant he could too of course. The spiral twisted mechanically and the gates swung open. A courtyard was visible entering the gates. Behind the courtyard was the compound itself. It was a traditional design. The front of the compound resembled the Uzumaki Mask Storage Temple with the whirlpool donning the entrance in front of the staircase. The lower section of the compound was not visible although Ashina knew it contained a dojo that Kushina and Minato clandestinely used for testing Jutsu which were not for the generality of people. It also had a personal library and an established area for clan meetings and such. Not that Ashina had any use for that. For now, at least.

Upstairs, bedchambers were available with a dedicated master room for the clan head himself. Everything was chalky and arenose. Minato and Kushina had planned to move in permanently after little Naruto was born but... 'Things happened.' Ashina pondered sadly. He shook himself quickly of those thoughts and made seal-less Kage Bunshin to get started on cleaning. As soon as the clones appeared, "You can do the Kage Bunshin too, Nii-chan?!" Naruto asked in his usual demeanour better after the talk he had.

Ashina chuckled, "Of course. Most members of the clan know it. I told you about Uzumaki vitality and chakra, being an Uzumaki has it's perks, right?"

Before Naruto could ask more, "Yes, you can make them as many as I can too. But your chakra control isn't as developed as mine is. You'll have to learn to be careful. Otherwise, you'll get exhausted easily. You already have much bigger reserves than the rest of your class but it's all for nothing if you can only do the Kage Bunshin and can't utilise all of it." Ashina said before he saw the sad pout on the blonde's face. He flicked his forehead,

"Ow!"

Ashina chuckled when he saw the blonde glaring at him, "Cheer up... That's what I'm here for, aren't I? Have you ever wondered why you couldn't do the regular bunshin? While everyone else in the class excelled at it?"

"You don't have to make me feel bad, Nii-chan. I already know I suck at it.", mumbled Naruto with a frown.

"Let me finish, Naruto-kun. The reason is because of your massive chakra reserves. It's because they're so gigantic, you have horrible chakra control. Plus you have the Fox's chakra. That itself is a behemoth. Fixing that is going to be the first step in our training."

"We're gonna start training?!"

"Yes, we are. Let's go down to the dojo. I also want to talk to you about something important."

~~X~~

The dojo was not an extensive one. It had an assortment of training materials. Shuriken, kunai, a selection of practice katanas, practice dummies.

Naruto was amazed and bewildered at the same time. He never knew that the Uzumaki clan existed in Konoha. He never realised that the symbol that his Jii-san told him to wore always, whether his PJ's, his shirts, his jumpsuit, was in all actuality the symbol of the clan. His clan. The totally awesome and kick-ass sealing jutsu clan. Speaking of his Jii-san,

'Why didn't Jiji ever say anything?'

Ashina was watching Naruto with a keen eye. He knew now was the perfect occasion for the fox to instigate him.

Naruto was quite honestly... pissed at his Jii-san for having kept this information from him for so long. All the abuse he went through when he was little. All the neglect. Was it worth it? His hands were starting to convulse. Where was all this hatred coming from? There was just so much anger.

Deep inside the recesses of Naruto's mindscape, behind a steel gate with a sealing mechanism, the depth of darkness revealed two blood-red slitted eyes which had an aura of malice surrounding them.

'It's happening. If we're going to do something, I suggest we do it now.'

'Yeah, I can feel it. The jutsu should work, we tested it on the training field... But I'm not going to take the risk right now... with him being so vulnerable. Let him deal with the trauma first.'

'You trust that he can resist it?'

'He won't fail.'

'I know, Kit... but be mindful of the chakra. It's still potent. It won't harm us but the people will still recognise it.'

Ashina looked over to Naruto to see how he was holding up. He did not look like he was in a good place. He was holding his head. His eyes were beginning to slit and his canines were starting to cuspidate. His head suddenly started throbbing intensely.

Naruto always had an odd nightmare mechanism. His nightmares almost invariably depicted death. Of everyone close to him. Inside his dream, the precipice was peculiarly the same, a voice, which sounded infernal, vicious, and ravenous, told him to kill. Just kill. Everyone and everything.

He never listened to it. He would always try to ignore it. But dreams never listened to him. He would stay awake the rest of the night hoping that the nightmares might go away.

He was perceiving voices in his head tending him to go and slaughter everyone and everything. He was holding his head, the pain was becoming unbearable.

'Give in...'

"No!"

Naruto's voice sounded feral. Ashina suddenly grabbed Naruto's arm which made Naruto fall forward but Ashina caught him. That seemed to work slightly as Naruto's eyes started to restore to their original cerulean blue but they were still slitted. He still looked like he was not himself as he looked scared and confused.

"Snap out of it, Naruto-kun! Listen to my voice. Listen to your Nii-chan, okay?"

Ashina started stroking the blonde's shoulders to calm him down. That seemed to work as Naruto locked eyes with his Nii-chan with a perturbed look but was reciprocating now.

"N-Nii-chan? W-What happened?"

"Okay, come with me, Naruto-kun. Can you walk?"

"I-I think so... I-It's just my head hurts really bad. Did I fall down or somethin'?"

Ashina helped Naruto walk to the nearest support in the dojo and helped him lean against it. He then took a scroll from one of his leg pouches and unsealed a bottle of water, and held it to the blonde's mouth.

"Just drink a bit. It'll help." Once Naruto was finished. Ashina looked at him with a serious expression.

"Tell me everything, Naruto-kun. And I mean everything."

Naruto gulped because he had never seen his Nii-chan with such a solemn expression before. It all came to mind what happened, "I-I... It just came to my mind all of a sudden, Nii-chan... Why didn't Jiji ever say anything about the fox to me?"

"Okay... Go on..."

"A-And a-all of a sudden my head was pounding... it was like someone was bangin' my head against the wall. I-I just fell all this anger...There was just so... much... anger. And I kept hearing this voice inside my head..."

Naruto paused after this and stared at his Nii-chan with a nervous expression. The serious expression that the redhead had held, softened, upon seeing the state of his chibi.

"Hey, it's okay... Go on."

Naruto gave a nervous smile to the redhead and his apprehensive expression changed into a grave one, "I-I have nightmares sometimes, Nii-chan... T-There's always t-this scary voice that keeps telling me t-to kill everyone... E-Even though I don't want to... I-I still d-do it... I-It's like the voice i-is controlling me... making me do it..."

The blonde had tears in his eyes. Ashina was looking at the blonde with a woeful expression. 'I know how you feel, Naruto-kun... I know...' Ashina did not say anything so the blonde continued after taking a moment to handle himself, "I-I heard the same voice again... It said to give in... Wha-What does that mean, Nii-chan? And why am I hearing the voice from my nightmares? Jiji always said it didn't exist..."

Ashina sighed. He wanted to wait but, 'So what do you think, Kurama?'

'It's happening sooner than we thought. But it's nothing to be alarmed about.'

'Ya sure?'

'Well, probably.' Ashina sighed.

Kurama sort of felt he owned it to the Kit to sort of explain it and justify himself, 'Kit, you know how I was back then. All I saw was hatred... I gave up on humanity itself... I know we have not talked about it because there was war everywhere but if I knew about what the Old Man had planned back then...'

Kurama stopped when Ashina held up his hand, 'Don't sweat it, furball. We never could've known what Old Man Six Paths wanted. And we can't change the past... no matter how much we want to.'

The fox remained silent. Ashina then held up his fist for the Bijū. Kurama saw this and chuckled. He then bumped his fist with the redhead who just smiled back, 'We're cool, furball...'

Ashina sighed again, 'Now on to more pressing concerns...'

He turned to look at his blonde counterpart.

"Naruto-kun."

Said blonde looked at his Nii-chan with his apprehensive look, "Nii-chan?"

Ashina sat next to the blonde, "Listen, I have to tell you something but you have to promise me something, okay?"

The blonde nodded so Ashina continued, "Just promise me to keep an open mind. Learn to control your temper. We're going to be going through chakra control exercises that will help with it. But I want you to try... to work on it by yourself too, ya know?"

Naruto just looked at the redhead with a confused expression, "Um, ok."

"These nightmares you have... it's the same voice every time, right? And a couple of times you might've ended up in a sewer-like tunnel."

The blonde's expression was becoming more and more pale upon hearing of the place which had haunted him up to this day. Ashina continued,

"Naruto-kun, it's the Kyūbi."

"What..."

Ashina remained silent letting Naruto proceed with his approach to the subject.

Naruto got up all of a sudden irate, "Why?!"

"What does the stupid fox want with me?! Doesn't it know how much pain I went through with the villagers?! How much pain they me cause of it?!"

Naruto was breathing hard from that outburst. Ashina looked at the blonde with a solemn expression, "Naruto-kun, listen to me. The fox was jailed ever since you were born... I'm not saying the fox is innocent but look at it from the Kyūbi's perspective... his way of viewing it, ya know?"

Naruto said nothing so Ashina continued, "Ever since the beginning of time, tailed beasts were used as weapons for the Shinobi world. I already told you about that, right?"

Naruto nodded so Ashina smiled and continued, "Well, the Kyūbi was first sealed by the Shodai Hokage inside of, believe it... an Uzumaki. She was the Shodai's wife. Uzumaki Mito, but you can call her Mito baa-chan."

"Eeeehhh... The Shodai's wife was also..."

"Exactly. She was a kunoichi who originated from Uzushiogakure. She was the first Jinchūriki of the Kyūbi."

Naruto was listening to the redhead with a keen perspective so Ashina continued, "She was exceptional at fūinjutsu, Naruto-kun. Able to seal the entirety of the Kyūbi within herself. Even for an Uzumaki, she had an especially powerful and unique type of chakra. She was also able to sense negative emotions in people. 'Although that ability is due to Kurama. But Chibi doesn't need to know that...'"

"She was able to seal the Kyūbi... And within herself?! Why would she do that, Nii-chan? Doesn't she know what being a Jinchūriki is like?" The blonde stated sadly.

Smack!

"Ow! What hit me?!" Chibi looked around but saw nothing other than his good old Nii-chan who was looking at him with an amused expression.

"Why, me of course." Ashina said with an amused smile that made the blonde's eye twitch.

The blonde was glaring at the redhead but said redhead was impassive, "Mito baa-chan was happy, Naruto-kun. Despite being a Jinchūriki."

This statement seemed to shock the blonde. Ashina put his hand on the blonde's shoulder and continued, "And if she could do it... then so can you. Okay?"

Naruto said nothing for a while but his expression changed into one of determinism suddenly, "I-I can and I will, Nii-chan. Believe it!" The blonde pumped his fist for emphasis.

"That's the spirit, Naruto-kun. Now let's get started!" The redhead stated with enthusiasm reminiscent of handsome green beasts.

"Start what, Nii-chan?" The blonde asked innocently.

"My dear cute student... your training, of course. And you will refer to me as Ashina sensei when we're training... Understood?" Ashina stated with an unnerving tone at the end which made the blonde pale a little.

"H-Hai!"

Ashina smirked.

"Good. Let's begin."

~~X~~

Yuugao was sitting in the dango cafe slightly depressed and confused at the same time. She sighed compunctiously and laid her head on the wooden table with a cute pout, 'Why did I have to embarrass myself?'

Flashback

~~X~~

The medic had just left after attending to the mysterious redheaded shinobi. Neko aka Uzuki Yuugao was inside and guarding the room. The only you could hear in the room was the light snoring coming from the bed.

The redhead was on the bed and breathing peacefully but the Anbu could also feel a strong presence from him. As she was a sensor like her sister figure Kurenai, she could not neglect such a potent source of chakra.

'Kami. He must have twice as much chakra as Hokage-sama...'

Yuugao was one of the regular Anbu stationed to the Hokage himself recurrently. And a habitual guard at the Hokage residence. So she knew how much powerful the Sandaime himself was in terms of chakra. But this person in front of her, he was mammoth. Up to the point that it was colossal. More than the Hokage himself. The only other person who was close to this much chakra in a single embodiment was a cute little gaki that she had grown to be so fond of.

'So this man saved Naruto-kun...'

Yuugao thought that was quite fortuitous. Usually, people were always boorish towards the child she was so fond of. Some people even went as far as attacking the child when he was little. That was when Yuugao had to arbitrate at first as she pledged herself as an Anbu to always serve and protect irrespective of creed. So she was protection detail a couple of times for the child. That was before the incident at the orphanage. Fortuitously, Yuugao was the one who found the blonde after he got kicked out. He was unconscious in an alley in a small hut after he got kicked out. When she saw the state of the boy, her heart shattered. The boy was so visibly malnourished, his bones were prominent.

She took him home, gave him a bath, dressed him up. Naruto was unconscious the whole time due to the extent of his exhaustion. When she pulled him out of the bath, she held him to her chest to carry him, which made her broke down in tears yet again. The boy was so devoid of human contact that he clung to her and would not let go. When she tried to pull away, he started subsuming whimpers. Her heart softened which was very unlike her. If you asked her colleagues in Anbu, they would tell you that she was as stiff as a rock, all work and no fun. It was so unusual for her... but she saw first hand how a child was being targeted for something that was out of his control. Being the target of false propaganda. Someone so little, so innocent. He did not deserve it. Not even a bit of it. So she let him stay the night with her. The cute gaki slept soundly after what seemed like his whole life so far. She notified the Hokage via one of her colleagues. The next day some civilians and the Hokage himself suffered Yuugao's wrath.

After the incident, Yuugao always kept an eye on Naruto, in the shadows. Always made sure he was provided for. Practically threatened the Hokage to provide Naruto a home which he planned to anyways but Yuugao was... assertive and the Hokage knew better than to piss off an already pissed off woman. Stocked his supply of ramen from time to time. Applied some Fūin seals on his apartment to fend off mobs. She wanted to adopt Naruto but the Hokage would not let her. Saying it was dangerous for an Anbu to raise a child. Which made sense. And told her to keep her distance until he was made a Chūnin, ultimately when Naruto was old enough because it would lead to him becoming too attached and also compromise her duty as an Anbu. So Yuugao relented after much hesitation. She also suspected that there was something that the Hokage was not telling her but shook it off.

So it struck as quite the stupefaction that someone would save Naruto-kun, to her. The only handful of people which were good to the blonde that she knew of were, somehow Kakashi-senpai, Hokage-sama, Kurenai, Anko-chan and a cute lavender haired girl who used to follow him around from what Yuugao saw.

'They're so cuteee togetherr~'

While Yuugao was gushing about pairing young gakis together, the redhead stirred in his sleep. Wrinkled his nose a bit, then started snoring again. Yuugao giggled at the sight, 'Heavy sleeper, huh?' She made her way over to the redhead. He looked so peaceful other than the occasional snoring, the shinobi was unmoving. The only slight progression was his chest moving indicating that he was breathing normally and of course, the snoring. The most noticeable thing on the redhead was his scars. They were quite prominent and visible. Yuugao thought it made him look quite sexy in her opinion. She always was a sucker for virile attributes. But then again, 'Which woman isn't?' She concluded to appease the butterflies in her stomach.

Now Yuugao was a woman of virtue and dignity. She took her duties earnestly. Even her childhood friend Hayate who had a crush on her, 'Still does...' said that she was so driven, up to the that it was deranged how much work she did. So for her to start a relationship with someone, she would do so with commitment and devoutness. That was probably the reason why she was still celibate. Even her sister figures Anko and Kurenai were like that.

She started tracing her hands on the redhead's scars. She did not know what made her do that. Some of those scars looked quite familiar. The revelation quickly came to mind which shocked Yuugao. 'They're Kenjutsu slashes...' Her hand involuntarily went to her abdominal region, next to her solar plexus. It was her worst scar. It made her feel very insecure about herself, so she hid it from everyone and never let anyone see it. Not even Kurenai or Anko.

She quickly shook those feelings off and focused on the person in front of her, 'He must've trained himself into the ground...' She used her fingers to trace a particular scar which made the redhead stir a bit. Her fingers must be cold. Yuugao pulled her hand back and clenched her teeth nervously.

"Sorry..." She said in a subdued voice.

Once she was sure he was in dreamland, she went back to her... fondling? Is that what it was? She did not fathom that she was feeling up the shinobi's muscles now instead of comparing scars... 'Mmm. Works out a lot too. I bet Anko-chan would have a field day with you...'

She was so preoccupied with what she was doing that she did not even notice the Hokage walk inside the room.

"Ahem..."

~~X~~

Yuugao once again banged her head on the table and groaned, 'Whyyy?'

"Still stuck on how you felt up the guy in front of our esteemed leader?"

"S-Shut up... How many times do I have to explain it to you?! I-I did not fondle the guy! I was just looking over his s-scars..." Yuugao whispered the last part at the end.

The woman laughed rather boisterously, "Keep telling yourself that, Yuugao..."

Yuugao groaned, "What are you doing here, Anko?"

Sitting in of Yuugao was Mitarashi Anko. Light brown pupil-less eyes. Spiky violet hair tied in a ponytail. Clad in her beige trench coat, wearing nothing but a mesh bodysuit underneath. Not that she would ever go beyond teasing. A miniskirt exhibiting her slender and robust thighs which were feminine in every way. Effeminate legs hidden by shin guards. A Shinobi's perfect wet dream but deadly as a serpent when condign.

Anko looked towards Yuugao with her signature smirk, "Isn't it obvious?"

"Figures..."

"And where did the -chan go when you called my name?" Anko pouted adorably which Yuugao would have swooned at but was not in the mood for, even a little bit.

"Y-You accused me! Of such w-wanton acts! What did you expect?! A cookie?!"

"Oh come on, Yuugao! There's no shame in admitting that you snuck a feel on the guy... Pretty lucky bastard though... getting Uzuki Yuugao to do something as vulgar as sneaking a feel... oh and especially when the guy was unconscious..." She emphasised on the vulgar part with her cheeky grin.

Yuugao blushed a deeper shade of red at what was implied, "Fuck off!"

Anko laughed and held up her hands in defeat. She gestured the waiter to bring two plates of dango that she loved, "Okay, I'm sorry. You still haven't told me the whole story though... Spill..."

Yuugao sighed, "I already told you that I was guarding him... The man was gravely injured, Anko-chan. He had acute trauma in multiple places from what I could see. He should be bedridden for a few days, at least."

"That doesn't explain why you talked about a person of the opposite gender for more than ten seconds."

"It's not that rare! And besides, the man saved Naruto-kun, Anko..."

"Who? Whiskers?! I thought you and the Old Man were the ones who saved the shrimp and took care of that silver-haired asshole?!" Anko emphasised by standing and slamming her hands on the table.

"Shh. Keep it down..." Yuugao gestured with her hands after the stares they got. She continued, "That's not what happened. When we got there, Naruto-kun was safe. And the shinobi who saved him was unconscious. The Hokage ordered us to take him to the hospital."

"O-Oh..."

Yuugao smirked. 'Time for a little payback...' She leaned over the table close to Anko's face which made Anko pull back with a nervous look.

"W-Why are you looking at me like t-that?"

"It's just so cute!" Yuugao gushed even more so than usual which seemed to annoy the hell out of Anko.

"I don't get what the hell you mean..."

"Aww. And she doesn't even realise how much worried she was for little Naru-chan!" Yuugao faked swooned which was working because Anko was getting really frustrated now.

"W-What?! I was not! Who cares what happens to the gaki? I don't... I-I sure as hell don't care..." Anko shrugged inadvertently and seemingly but looking closely, Yuugao could see a tiny drop of sweat coming off of her brow.

'Gotcha...'

Yuugao knew that Anko cared about the boy because he reminded her of herself and her harsh past. Even though she was slightly hoydenish in her inclinations towards certain things, Yuugao knew underneath all that tough demeanour and semblance was a very insecure girl. Who secluded herself from the world after the events of her past. It was a tough shell to break, even for her, and even then there was some mitigation left. Not that Yuugao could blame her. She was the one who found her after all. Yuugao decided not to tease her and just drank her tea with a shit-eating grin.

Anko wanted to change the subject, "So... Ahem..." She coughed a little before continuing, "What did he look like anyways?"

Yuugao sighed, "Anko... Not this again..."

Anko waved her hands feigning innocence, "No-No messing around. I'm serious. He did save the gaki after all..." She looked down at her lap with a slight red tint on her cheeks.

Yuugao smirked, "Finally coming around, huh?"

Anko was about to retort but Yuugao cut her off by replying to her impending question, "He was about 6' feet tall... has red hair... The same red as Kushina-sempai, oddly. Let's see... What else?" She paused before replying, "H-Had a lot of scars on his body from what I could see..."

Anko smirked, "Ah. I know about your obsession with scars.. that's a major turn on for you probably. Don't deny it. You were probably gushing down there when you saw them, weren't ya?"

Yuugao blushed full red at what was implied, "What the fuck is wrong with you?!" And Anko burst out laughing.

"I j-just... couldn't resist..." Anko squeezed out whilst wiping stray tears from her eyes.

"Damn it, Anko!" Yuugao was getting pissed now and Anko knew when to stop when it came to her surrogate sister and her hellish temper.

"Okay. I'm sorry. I won't do it again... At least for now." Anko said with a nervous grin.

Yuugao sighed, "Fine. That's the best I can get from you anyways."

"So... How long do you think he'll be in the hospital?"

"He's probably going to be in for a couple of days from what I could see... Why?"

"I wanna get a good look at the guy. See who softened my sister's cold and gloomy heart..." Anko said with an overly dramatic voice.

"Speaking of hospitals... Kurenai should've been released probably two or three days ago..." Yuugao interrupted with a small blush avoiding any mention of the redhead anymore.

"Yeah... Where is Nai-chan anyways?"

~~X~~

Kurenai was going through a pickle of her own. She did not know what to wear to her date! 'That's definitely a first...' Kurenai inferred.

"M-Maybe something more traditional, Kurenai-sensei?" Hinata said in her soft and introverted inflection.

"Hmm... What do you think he'll go with, Hinata?"

Hinata squeaked, "I-I wouldn't know, sensei..."

Kurenai sighed. She had been trying to get her out of her reservedness and make her more susceptible and confident before team placements. She thought by helping her pick out clothes for her date, they would bond a little and she would forget all that's happened the past few days. So far it was working in that regard but her self-infliction and morale issues were far more abyssal than she had thought them to be. She definitely had her work cut out for her.

Kurenai shook herself from those thoughts to the present and grinned at Hinata, "Now now, Hinata... You have to know a little bit at least. Don't you wanna go on a date like this with Uzumaki-kun someday?"

Hinata let out an 'eep' at the mention of her ever so unrelenting crush.

Kurenai, of course, knew because Hinata had told her all about it. 'At least it's healthy and she's not a fangirl...' She frowned inwardly at the mention of fangirls. She hated them. A lot. In her opinion, fangirls were the pinnacle of scum in the Shinobi world. They were the reason why Kunoichi had such a bad name. Kurenai knew about the girl's insecurity and how much the blonde meant to her. How the blonde saved her from those bullies and how he gave her his scarf. It made her swoon every time she recalled the story... how she looked at the blonde as a source of strength. 'And besides, they look sooo cute togetherr~' Yep, Kurenai was as much a shipper as Yuugao.

"D-Don't say such e-embarrassing things like t-that, s-sensei..." Hinata said in a tiny whisper far too flustered right now.

'Kami, the poor girl looks like she'll faint...' Kurenai giggled in a half amused-half worried sentiment.

"Sorry, Hinata. Anyways, well, I've narrowed it down to two..."

One was a black ruched tie shoulder bodycon. Gifted to her by Anko for her birthday last year. Her choice reflecting upon the dress. It was extremely close fitting and she knew it was going to drop his jaw if she wore that. But she was nervous in regards to it. She did not want to show off too much on the first date. If you could call it that.

Second she opted to choose was traditional. It was a dark magenta Yukata with red poppies stitched intricately at the bottom which were reminiscent and bought out the colour of her eyes. The stitching was exquisite. It was the perfect balance of recherche and elegancy. She bought it from the land of Water once whilst on a mission. And was saving it for a special occasion. 'Now's as good as any, I guess...' She paused before pondering, 'Maybe I shouldn't have teased him too much... Is it really a date? I-I mean I kinda forced him into it...' Kurenai bit her lip nervously. 'S-Suck it u-up! I'm going to do this! Yeah!' She started pacing around the room. Hinata was getting worried. 'Fuck fuck fuck... How am I going to go through with this?'

~~X~~

If Kurenai was going through a pickle like that, Ashina was no better. He was salvaging through his parents' closet to find something to wear. Otherwise, he would have to go shopping and he did not want to do that. He was not a fan of shopping. He usually went for Hinata's sake but now that he could help it, never.

Ashina sighed and recalled his first date with Hinata, 'It was Ichiraku's on a snowy day... The snow had just gathered. A tiny speck of a snowflake had fallen on her nose. Kami, she never looked more beautiful. Even more than life itself. Her lips pouted as she let out an adorable sneeze... She tucked a strand of her beautiful indigo hair behind her ear. She noticed I was looking at her. She blushed and hid her face underneath her shoulder whilst having a complacent smile of her own...'

'You're doing it again...'

"Huh?" Ashina shook himself quickly as he wiped a stray drop of tear from his eyes.

'Sorry, Kurama...' Ashina said with a smile but it was clearly coerced.

The fox sighed as it rested its head on its imposing paws, 'I meant what I said, Kit. What we talked about... You need to let go.'

'I'm trying, Kurama... but I feel like I'm doing something wrong... I might've messed around during the war but that was just lust clouding my sentiments. This is real. This can turn into something more... I-I feel like I'm dishonouring her somehow... I-I'm just not comfortable with this...'

'Think of it as this way. How would the shy Hyūga feel like knowing you were hurting yourself? Do you think that she would want that for you?'

'Of course not!'

'Just think about that...'

The fox clearly having said what it wanted to, closed its eyes and went back to its nap. Ashina paid no mind and continued, 'And it would be unfair to Kurenai-chan... Maybe it isn't a date? She kinda just forced me into it... which is kinda my own fault... But she called it a date. So maybe it is...?'

Ashina waited for the fox to respond, 'Kurama? Furball? Oi!' The fox started to subsume snoring. Whether he was pretending to do so was unperceived.

Ashina sighed, 'Lazy bastard... It's up to me then, I guess.'

~~X~~

Kurenai was getting slightly anxious now. She did not know when exactly her supposed date was going to arrive. She had prepared over an hour ago. Even though it was just half-past six. They did not exactly decide what time they were going out.

Kurenai was fidgeting nervously a bit. Luckily Hinata arrived carrying a tray, "I-I made some tea, Kurenai-sensei..."

"O-Oh! Thank you, Hinata!" Kurenai said a bit too enthusiastically.

"A-Are you alright, Sensei?"

"W-What?" Kurenai said to no one in particular. She suddenly realised that Hinata had asked her that, "O-Oh, I'm fine! Yep. Nothing wrong here... 'I'm stressed as fuck! What do you think?!'" Kurenai covered her incommodious thoughts by giving a nervous smile which creeped Hinata out.

'Normally Sensei is so confident and dauntless... T-This is so unlike her.' Hinata pondered. 'Is going on a date actually that stressful? I'm sure N-Naruto-kun will be much better than the man Sensei's going out with...' She contemplated what she had just said, 'What...' She covered her mouth with her hands in a paw-like bearing while wiggling her face adorably with a healthy blush.

Kurenai saw and smirked. She was used to this level of internal-squealing that Hinata fought against her innate Hyūga demeanour. 'Anko called her bipolar. And got a nasty genjutsu kindly in return.'

Kurenai was pondering with a smug expression when the door suddenly knocked.

"Hinata!"

"H-Hai, Sensei!"

"Sorry, but can you please answer the door?" Kurenai asked with an expression that screamed desperation.

Hinata seemed to understand what her Sensei wanted to do and nodded.

Kurenai mouthed 'thank you' and shunshined quickly to her room to wrap things up. Hinata made her way to the door and opened it, "C-Can I help you?"

Ashina was standing there with a flabbergasted expression. He was not ready for this.

"A-Ano?"

Ashina chuckled internally with a slightly doleful recalling, 'She's just as adorably embarrassing as I remember her.'

Ashina suddenly cleared his throat and gave a small bow, "Konbanwa, Hinata-chan. I'm here to pick up Kurenai-san for our date." Said the strange man with azure eyes which kind of reminded her of Naruto-kun. Hinata was a little confounded that this man referred to her with such an affectionate honorific.

"D-Do I know you, Nii-san?" Hinata asked inquisitively.

Ashina smiled, "No... But you will in a couple of days from now."

Hinata was curious what the redhead meant by that but before she could ask more, "Ahem."

Ashina took one look at the fount and his jaw dropped, "Wow..." He did not mean to say that out loud.

Kurenai was clad in her yukata which gave away a graceful amount of her healthy cleavage. Hair tied in a bun, two red poppies adorning, with a hairpin. Light makeup with red lipstick gracing her puffy and pink lips which reflected her eyes gleamingly. Her cheeks were powdered moderately but she hoped to Kami that it hid her blush well enough which was at full throttle right now.

Ashina did not look bad himself and Kurenai was well aware of that. His long red hair was let down sliding at his shoulders which screamed sexy for Kurenai. He wore a black Iromontsuki, chest visible, opting to go without a hakama but still wore an haori. Dark red flames donned at the bottom of the Kimono. The Uzumaki family crest stood proudly on his back. Minato definitely had good taste in fashion.

Ashina actually had his hand behind his head and smiled nervously with a small blush. He really did not mean to say that out loud. He remembered, 'Yeah, before I forget...' He then sealed out a bouquet of orchids which he bought from the Yamanaka flower shop on his way here. He did have to fend off a squealing Ino but it was well worth it after seeing Kurenai's complacent and coy smile.

Kurenai took a small whiff of the flowers and smiled, "Thank you, Ashina-kun. They're lovely... Let me just put them away and then we can leave?"

Ashina nodded with a smile. He then turned to Hinata who was feeling slightly left-out, and awkward seeing her Sensei so shy and reserved around someone. It was the exact polar opposite of her! It reminded her of herself!

"Goodbye, Hinata-chan. I'll bring back your Sensei before midnight. Is that acceptable?" Ashina said with a small smirk practically knowing which response he was going to prompt.

Hinata blushed being put in the spotlight in such a way, "H-Hai..." She could detect no sense of malice from the man and his chakra was comforting like her Naruto-kun's. 'I-I should stop doing that...' She inferred flustered at the referral.

~~X~~

They made their way to the shops' district. It was a weekend so the stalls were busy. There was an assortment of different ones. But it still was not enough to cover the awkwardness the 'couple' was feeling right now. Kurenai had her hands folded in front of her lap avoiding any type of eye contact with a slight red tint on her powdered cheeks.

Ashina was not doing any better. He had to diffuse the situation somehow. 'M-Maybe Ramen?'

'Idiot...'

Ashina palmed his forehead which startled Kurenai. Ashina realised what he had done, "I'm sorry, Kurenai-chan!" He sighed deeply before saying, "I-I'm not being a good date, am I?"

Kurenai's expression changed one of shock, "N-No! No! It's not your fault! It's mine. I forced you into it... I'm the one who should be apologising..." She did not know when she had grabbed his hand in the midst of it. When she finally noticed, she gasped and pulled away with a heavy blush.

Ashina also blushed and looked away. Apparently, Kurenai's discordant behaviour was affecting him. He was the centre of female attention during the war in his timeline. Especially in his later years before he became Hokage. So it was not unusual for him. But Kurenai was not just an ordinary person. She was eminent and renowned not just for her unparalleled beauty but also for her skill as a Kunoichi. And most importantly, as a Sensei. Granted, she still was not introduced to the role in this particular timeline yet, but she was a general badass in Ashina's opinion. He recalled his discussion with Kurama, 'The furball's right... I can't keep doing this to myself. I need to let go...'

Ashina cleared his throat with his blush clearly visible which made Kurenai feel some sort of triumphal even though she was incredibly embarrassed how she had behaved around him. She cut him off by saying, "You don't have to say it, Ashina-kun..." She stopped abruptly when she felt a finger on her lips.

"It's okay, Kurenai-chan... I wanted to come. I never would've agreed if I didn't want to." Ashina said with a smile which made Kurenai feel that particular warmth again.

"Let's just relax, enjoy the night and try to have a conversation? See where it leads us? Is that okay?" He spoke with a soft tone.

Ashina then held out his arm for Kurenai to take which she gladly took with a smile, "Lead the way, Ashina-kun."

~~x~~

They made way to the game stands. The stalls were bustling with Shinobi and civilians alike. There was a variety of games to choose from. All the classics were available. Dart throwing, ring tossing and all the like. Kurenai walked them over to a particular one, "How about this one? I'll go first..."

It was dart throwing. But there were blunt Kunai instead of darts. Kurenai always had a slight competitiveness to her. She turned to Ashina with a sly grin, "Best two out of three?"

Ashina gave her a smirk of his own, "You're on..."

And it was at this moment that he knew... he fucked up. Kurenai was deadly accurate. She hit nine out of ten targets dead in the centre unwavering. It was sexy as fuck. And surprisingly difficult. The vendor was a retired Shinobi so he was using chakra to move the targets irregularly using a chakra utilising device. Apparently, it was brought in from the Land of Snow.

'That's...'

'Damn...'

'Will you stop watching us? It kinda feels weird.'

'Why should I? It's the only entertainment I get down here...' Kurama stated with a snobbish tone.

'You have a point there... but don't be there when we... ya know...'

Kurama grinned, 'What? You plan to consummate your relationship, Kit?'

'W-What? N-No! H-How can you even say that?!' Ashina stated with a heavy blush. Kurama kept his shit-eating grin so Ashina groaned, 'I meant when we talk or something, you perverted furball...'

'Sure sure... But you better not lose this game even if it is just for amusement. Establish dominancy antecedently, and you shall be rewarded as she will reap your seed...'

'Okay...' He covered his ears. 'I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear that.' Ashina tuned him out after that.

"Think you can do better?" Kurenai inferred teasingly.

Ashina grinned, "Oh, I know I can do better..."

He then proceeded to hit all ten of the targets dead in the centre which made Kurenai all the more amped and slightly pissed. 'So he's not gonna back off just cause I'm his date? I'll show his sexy tanned ass why they call me the Genjutsu Mistress of Konoha...'

It went back and forth between Ashina and Kurenai on whom got the upper hand. Kurenai using Genjutsu to conceal the targets. Ashina using his wind release to amplify his thrusts and obviously negating the Genjutsu ineffective. It was difficult already as it was with the targets moving. The odds were stacked as 9-10 with Ashina having the upper hand.

'Last one...' Ashina thought with a smirk. He propelled his wind chakra onto the kunai. Just as he was about to throw, he looked to see what Kurenai was doing and his smile immediately dropped, 'Oh no...'

Kurenai had an adorable frown with a pout. Ashina knew from his experience with the opposite gender was that it was not a good sign and he was going to regret it if he did not resign himself. He sighed and then threw his kunai. The blunted blade missed by just a meter from the designated target.

The vendor himself was rooting for Ashina. He patted his back, "Tough luck, gaki..."

'Yeah, tough luck...' The redhead thought with a depressed sigh.

He suddenly felt something warm and wet against his cheek but the sensation left as soon as he felt it. Then a soft and dainty hand grasped his cheek, "I appreciate what you did, Ashina-kun... But please, never do that again..." Kurenai said with an intimidating tone which put Kurama to shame.

Ashina shook himself off with a small sweat. Too scared to feel any type of embarrassment because of the innocent peck on the cheek, 'She's even scarier than Hinata was when she got pissed off...' Well, she was her Sensei after all. He may be the strongest shinobi Konoha had right now but he knew never to piss off a woman. A common occurrence, really.

~~X~~

"It's so cutee!" Kurenai gushed whilst holding a plushy teddy bear and hugging it.

Ashina chuckled at her behaviour. Women really were an enigma. They were taking a walk through Senju park. Kurenai had her arm wrapped around Ashina's.

They were enjoying the tranquil semblance until Ashina broke the silence, "So tell me about yourself, Kurenai-chan. What are your hopes, your plans for the future?"

"Hmm. Nobody's ever asked me that before... I guess I want to change the general perspective people have in regards to Kunoichi, you know? I don't wanna come off like a feminist but I think the perception people have of us needs to be changed. Fangirls definitely need to be annihilated." She said with a smirk which made Ashina laugh. She continued, "I know it's dangerous for us especially with the way Kunoichi are treated if captured... Kami, I can't even... begin to fathom it." She said the last part with a horripilation which made her rub her arms over.

"I understand. I understand the risks... But that's the world we live in, Kurenai... It's the harsh truth. It's fucked up, and we can't change it... But we certainly can adapt to it... Train harder, Kurenai. Train and become the best version of yourself. That way you can make a difference... and your words will mean something... They will matter." Ashina said with a smile which made Kurenai's heart flutter. These were all unfamiliar sentiments she was going through. She wondered why it felt so right to be in the redhead's company when she knew they had just met a few days ago.

Kurenai did not know what came over her but she suddenly lept and kissed the redhead on the lips. It was such an unfamiliar feeling. His lips were warm and soft. They made her feel tingly and dazed all of a sudden. She wanted more. She suddenly felt surprised when strong arms wrapped around her back and a chiselled chest pressed against her own firm cleavage. Kurenai became instantly overwhelmed. Her eyes snapped open when she felt his tongue slide against her lips asking for entry. She was in such a daze that she did not realise that she had granted entry to the foreign appendage. She couldn't believe how amazing it felt to kiss someone. The combined taste, the smell. It was intoxicating. She definitely tasted... ramen? Her core was apparently being affected too. Her panties felt slightly soaked. That was her wake up call. She definitely needed to stop now.

Kurenai pulled away and she saw that her arms were wrapped around the redhead's neck. She did not remember when that happened. She was panting and so was he. Lips swollen and eyes lidded, "T-That was, um, my first kiss..." She said in almost a whisper sheepishly.

Ashina smirked, "Oh... A natural, huh?"

Kurenai blushed and hid her face under his shoulder. They both stayed like that for a few moments, basking in the comfort of one another. Both wondering why it just felt just right, holding each other.

"So how do you want to... proceed? With us?" Ashina asked breaking the silence.

Kurenai lifted her head from his shoulder but still wouldn't look him in the eyes, "Um, I would rather we take things slow... I-I'm not ready for people knowing about us... 'It's mostly due to Anko and Yuugao...'" She sighed internally at the end and hoped to Kami that he would understand.

"Okay..."

Kurenai finally looked up and made eye contact with him with a healthy blush, "Okay?"

Ashina chuckled and lifted her chin with his fingers, "Okay..."

Kurenai closed her eyes as she saw Ashina moving in. As soon as they were about to make contact, Kurenai's stomach groaned. She covered her face with her hands which made Ashina laugh.

Kurenai punched his arm which made Ashina wince but did not stop his laugh, "It's not funny!"

Ashina wiped some stray tears from his eyes, "It kinda was..." And soon as he said that, his stomach grumbled which made him frown and Kurenai giggle.

~~X~~

Kurenai opened the door to her apartment and slid her back closing the door. The clock read a minute from midnight. She rubbed her shoulders, 'I forgot to give him back his haori...' Ashina had given it to her during their walk when she felt a bit cold. Thinking of the redhead made her smile and hug the thin jacket close. 'Mm, he definitely smelled good...' It smelled like it was a blend of sandalwood with a bit of musk. Today was perfect. Honestly, it had worked out a lot better than she had hoped. It was the complete opposite of what she thought it would be.

She left the haori at one of the chairs from the kitchen table. 'Hinata probably stayed the night. She would be asleep by now...' She concluded by the washed dishes next to the sink. She made her way to the living room and turned on the lights hoping to eat some ice cream. She gasped in horror at the sight which greeted her.

Anko and Yuugao both had their arms crossed and were levying Kurenai with the dead stare. Well, mostly Yuugao because Anko was too busy grinning.

'Fuck...'

~~x~~

Sorry about the fluffiness, lol. The next chapter will be somber comparatively. It'll be team placements and the start of the Wave Arc, expectantly. Look forward to the next update. Leave reviews. I'll try my best to reply to everyone. Thanks again for reading.