Wow…has it really been 10 years since I've written this story?
It's amazing really, to still have fans of Acknowledgement even though I discontinued writing it. The true mark of a good story is when people still remember it years later, when it can stand the test of time…
In 2004, Naruto was not the monster manga masterpiece that it is today. In 2004, the newest anime/manga to take center stage from the former anime king (that being DBZ) was Yugioh. Naruto was one of those "hipster" manga back then, in that you had to "be in the know" to know about it. Or if you were like me, pick up copies of American Shounen Jump.
In 2004, the American Branch of Shounen Jump was still in its infancy. The manga offered was interesting, as it was a mixture of stuff already popular and familiar with Americans along with new stuff that hadn't already been released outside of Japan. Dragon Ball was of course the established veteran manga/anime to bring in fans to Shounen Jump, while YuyuHakusho and Yugioh were the latest "flavors of the month" in the States. There were two other series however that would become dominant kings in their own rights in another decade. One of the series is currently the best selling manga series of all time, Eiichiro Oda's masterpiece One Piece. The other manga series might not sell quite as well as One Piece, but it is without question the most popular manga in the United States, along with having more fanfiction written for it than any other anime or manga, that being Naruto.
Naruto was a killer hit in 2004, partially because America has always had a ninja fetish (Ninja turtles, 3 Ninjas, Ninja Gaiden). While there was some Naruto fanfiction in 2004, it was pretty much NaruSasu as the majority with a mild helping of SakuKaku if you got lucky.
In 2004, for me there were two Naruto/Hinata stories that seemed to touch my heart. The first one was a story called "I'm Not Alone" by Kinumi. To this day, it is still my favorite Naruto fanfiction. In fact, it was this story that inspired me to write Acknowledgement in the first place.
The other popular Naruto story was one called "Believe". This too was a great story that dealt with the popular NaruHina pairing. After reading two great NaruHina stories (this was shortly before other great stories such as "Two Halves"), I decided that I couldn't hold it in any longer and wanted to contribute to the Naruto fandom. There needed to be a variety in Naruto fanfiction for fans who weren't into the NaruSasu pairing. And like the common adage goes, if you want something done, you gotta do it yourself! So I wrote one chapter. It seemed to generate some interest, so I wrote another, and it was then that things had started to take off.
Seeing that this is the 10 year anniversary of Acknowledgement, let's have some fun! We will take a trip down memory lane and discover some other interesting things that you may not have known, along with some spoilers for what I had planned for Acknowledgement, and what ideas are going to be used for the stories Beloved and Betrothed (former title Coveted). So grab yourself a snack and a drink, and we will get this show started (cause this will be long)!
You ready? Ok, let's begin. The first thing that some people may not know is that there were actually two different Naruto stories running around the same time with the title of "Acknowledgement". The other story with the same title was by a writer called Xaerox. Xaerox's version of Acknowledgement premiered a month and a day later then my version did. I actually read it and I have to say that it is pretty enjoyable. In fact, one of the things in the story is something that actually came true in the actual manga years later! Sadly, it was discontinued after about 4 months, while I kept going for another 5 years before taking a break and reviving the series via Beloved and Betrothed.
Check it out for yourself.
While I was writing Acknowledgement, there were plenty of other popular Naruto stories being written that were the rage in the community. "Two Halves" by DameWren was one of the most popular Naruto stories during my Acknowledgement run, but one of my favorites was a story called "Genin" by Flashfire5 and "Training for the Job" by Desaix.
I loved these two stories in particular because they both had two things going for them that Acknowledgment did not. One, they are NaruSaku stories (NaruHina is still the ultimate pleasure for me but I can tolerate NaruSaku if it is written well) and Two, both stories are written in a way that put what I wrote to shame. Was I envious? I was, but not towards them, but myself. Around the mid to late 2000's, I was still a hungry young fanfiction writer trying to find his place in the world. I had originally made my mark writing Street Fighter fanfiction, but Naruto was an entirely different ocean to traverse. My previous accomplishments would not help me. I would have to start over from the beginning.
Anyway…besides suffering burnout due to my own desire to make my writing come to life, the other main issue I was having with Acknowledgement was deciding if I wanted a serious, action packed story with lots of romance, or a slapstick, comedic, romantic adventure. To be fair, genre shifting is common (Kinnikuman was a slapsticky spoof on Superhero stories such as Ultraman before becoming a serious wrestling manga while Mahou Sensei Negima shifted from an ecchi school slice of life story to a serious, action packed, "Harry Potter" type of story), but I had no real distinction in what I was trying to do, and it was frustrating me as a writer. It is for this reason why both Beloved and Betrothed exist as two separate (yet still connected) stories that have both spun off of Acknowledgement. I don't like to be too serious all the time cause that can be seriously draining on my muse, but I also don't like to be too "slapsticky and hammy" cause I also like to write stuff that truly pierces the soul. True, Rumiko Takahashi had done the exact same thing with Ranma 1/2, but I was nowhere near skilled enough to accomplish such a feat near the end of 2008. But enough of my decade year old musings, now it's time to enlighten everyone on what I had planned for Acknowledgment had the series continued, and which plots will continue.
For those of you that have been reading Beloved, you might notice the emphasis on Hanabi, Hinata's younger sister. Hanabi was originally supposed to make her debut back in Chapter 7 of Acknowledgement (as the next episode preview stated) as an antagonist. Hanabi's original plot will continue in Beloved, pretty much the same as I envisioned. Sasuke is another character in Beloved who is pretty much the same as they were in the original fic Acknowledgement. The subplot concerning Sasuke will continue. However, there is one key difference. In Acknowledgement, the curse seal is removed for good while in Beloved, it isn't.
Rock Lee and Neji were going to have a subplot together concerning another character. This plot will continue in Beloved as more chapters are written.
In Acknowledgement, Hinata becomes Anko's apprentice, signs the snake contract, and gets her own personal snake summon named "Hebiko" (snake girl). This returns in Beloved.
Speaking of Anko, she would get some development with both Hinata and Naruto. This is another subplot that will continue in Beloved.
And finally, the protagonist of the series, Naruto, will get one of his many subplots continued in Beloved. The main gist is that if you want to read about 75% of Acknowledgement with a more mature tone and some of the humor and slapstick trimmed down, read Beloved (though note that Beloved is instead in first person). If you want to continue with the slapstick and potty humor, then Betrothed is the story for you. Also note that the Hinata that appears in Betrothed is closer in tone to the Hinata of Acknowledgement then the Hinata of Beloved.
Well, happy 10 years everybody! So long!
…Just kidding! I can't end the 10 year anniversary like that! So…what can we do for the final swan song…? I know! Let's write an epilogue!
Final Chapter: Till we meet again!
"Naruto-niichan! Please reconsider! You don't have to go!"
"I'm sorry Konohamaru," forty year old Uzumaki Naruto apologized, "But we've discussed this. I can't stay in Konoha anymore. It's best that I leave…"
Naruto could understand the feelings of the young man with the unofficial title of "surrogate little brother", for Naruto felt them himself. Konohamaru had always been one of the few people to accept Naruto from the beginning, without malice, without deception, nothing but wanting both of their dreams to come true.
And now it would. After ten years as Hokage, Uzumaki Naruto was stepping down, having appointed the grandson of the Third Hokage. From this day forward, Konohagakure would answer to Sarutobi Konohamaru.
"But why?" Konohamaru pleaded. It was a losing battle, but Konohamaru refused to sever the bonds of friendship that he had gained with Naruto so many years ago. Very few people understood him as Naruto did, "The village accepts you now!"
"Do they?" Naruto raised an eyebrow as he looked outside the window of the Hokage office. He would miss this view, seeing his citizens hard at work, shinobi and civilian alike, working towards a common goal, the growth of the village, "Does Konoha accept me, or merely tolerate me? Ever since I fused with Kyuubi years ago and gained all of his chakra, my entire life has changed. For all intents and purpose, I am the Kyuubi. Staying in the village is only asking for our enemies to attack us. On top of that, I'm immortal. I am forty years old, yet still look like I'm in my twenties, and will continue to look so even when I'm sixty. Konohamaru, I don't leave our village because I want to, I leave because I need to. I'm not even fully human anymore…"
"You're right…" Konohamaru sighs, nodding his head in acceptance. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but better the bitter truth then a sweet fabrication, "But will I never see you again?"
"Whenever you want to contact me…" Naruto starts to put on his orange duster as he heads for the door. His love for orange had never died out as he got older, "Just grab one of my special kunai and channel some chakra. I'll be there in a flash whether it's emergency backup to protect the village or its dinner night. Moegi is a great cook, huh?"
"Yeah…" Konohamaru blushes as he thinks about his wife, "She really is. Moegi-chan says that the next time you are in the village, she will cook you whatever you want…"
"I'll take her up on that offer…" Naruto nods, "Well it's time for me to go. Take care of the village, Shichikage!"
"I'm going to miss this village…" Jiraiya sighs as his godson shows up outside, "Konoha has always had some of the finest beauties in all of the elemental nations!"
"Be thankful you are precious to Naruto-kun, otherwise I would kill you on the spot old man…" Hinata seethes as her fingernails turn into claws. Having long consummated her relationship with Naruto, Hinata had turned into a hanyou with nine lavender fox tails, "I cannot stop you and your perversion, for it is part of who you are. However, I ask that you not do it around me before an accident happens…"
"She is truly your apprentice, Anko…" Jiraiya shivers as he takes out his notebook, "It's almost frightening how effective your training methods are…"
"Considering who my teacher was…" Anko remarks, "I cannot afford to go soft. If you aren't strong enough to survive in this world, you will be eaten alive."
"Ready to go everyone?" Naruto asks the group, "Anyone have to make any other stops in the village before we leave for the last time?"
Having all become hanyou (Anko and Jiraiya via blood transfusions), everyone understood that they could no longer remain in Konoha. Outside of occasional visits, the village hidden in the leaves must remain hidden to them. They no longer belonged.
Everyone shook their heads as they headed towards the village exit. They had said their final goodbyes and made peace with their old life. Now it was time to begin a new adventure, the remnants of the Kyuubi no Kitsune, true name Kurama.
Turning back around one last time, Naruto waves goodbye to everyone he had met over the years before finally walking away with his family. His wife, his godfather, and his aunt.
Naruto had done it. He had finally earned his…Acknowledgement…