The Big Date...
Naruto awoke early in the morning. Earlier than usual, as if to remind him that after today, he wouldn't be back in Konoha for three years.
"So, it's tomorrow, huh?" Naruto said a loud as he sat up in his bed. He smiled when he looked down to see Hinata on his right and Hanabi on his left as usual. Naruto crawled down the bed so that he didn't disturb either girl as he made is way toward the bathroom. After taking care of his business the blond washed up and then dressed himself and exited the room. The blond took a moment to look around the apartment, his home, where he and the people he called family lived. "I won't see any of this for a long time," Naruto said quietly as he headed toward the door and then exited the apartment.
It was barely daylight out and there were very few people out. The only people visible at the moment were those who were getting ready to open their shops and begin another busy day in Konoha. Naruto took another good look around as he headed out toward his favorite training spot. This would be the last time in three years he'd get the chance to train here; he was certainly not going to miss the chance. The blond arrived at the spot and took a moment to look at the monument made for all of the fallen hero's of Konoha. Naruto then turned to stare at the logs and reflect back on how his life as a ninja truly began. After that Naruto began his morning workout, began with a few stretches and then a light jog. Naruto then created several clones and began to spar with them. This went on for about an hour and then Naruto switched to shuriken and kunai training. Naruto went through several different types of training for the better part of two hours. The sun finally crept up into the sky. Naruto continued to train for a while longer. He was eventually disturbed by the familiar sounds of a thousand screeching birds nearby. Naruto smiled and decided to take a stroll toward the sounds he heard. He was correct when he came upon the raven-haired boy with the Uchiha fan on his back.
"So Naruto, you're up training early as well I see," Sasuke said his back still turned to the blond.
"Yes, I figured I'd better train here while I can, starting tomorrow I'll no longer be able to do it again for a while," Naruto replied.
'That's true, today is your last day in Konoha for a while," Sasuke said.
"Yes, so I got a lot of things to do today. I need to go have some ramen, and maybe say hello to a bunch of people and I have a big date with Hinata-chan today," Naruto told the Uchiha boy.
"That's right; I remember hearing that from Sakura. Ino stopped by the hospital and told Sakura that as I was leaving," Sasuke told the blond. "So, what do you have planned on that date of yours?" Sasuke asked.
"I... I don't really know. I've never been a really big date before. I… the most I ever usually do is take her to Ichiraku's and then we walk around. I know I need to dress up and take her somewhere really awesome for dinner, but I don't have a clue where to go," Naruto replied.
"Clueless as always, you idiot," Sasuke said with a smirk. "Come," Sasuke said as he turned and started to walk away.
"Sasuke?" Naruto said looking curious.
"Just follow me, idiot," Sasuke said not taking the time to stop walking and reply. Naruto decided to follow the Uchiha boy anyway. The two arrived at his place and then entered the Uchiha estate. Inside, Naruto stood looking perplexed as Sasuke looked around for something.
"What are you looking for?" Naruto asked.
"I found it," Sasuke said ignoring Naruto's question. Naruto looked even more curious as he stared at the object in Sasuke's hand; it was thick black book, with the words "Uchiha Family Recipes" on the cover.
"A cookbook?" Naruto asked looking even more confused.
"No, idiot," Sasuke said opening the book and pulling out an envelope and handed it to Naruto. "Here take it, I was planning to use them tonight, but I think Sakura will understand,"
Naruto opened the envelope and saw two pieces of paper each with the words "Reservation for one at The Golden Dragon" written on the paper. "The Golden Dragon? What's the Golden Dragon?" Naruto asked.
"It's a very fancy restaurant. It takes about a month to get in. Those tickets are for tonight. I was going to take Sakura out there, but I'll let you have them, just this once. So you'd better take them and make sure Hinata has a good time," Sasuke said putting the book down and sticking his hands in his pockets.
"Sasuke, I can't take these. What about Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked.
"Take them, idiot. Sakura will understand, besides, it'll give me a chance to test out some of mom's recipes," Sasuke told the boy.
"Ah, so that's what the cookbook is for. Well alright, thanks a lot Sasuke," Naruto said.
"Sure, now go on and get whatever you need to do done, you'll need to give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your date tonight, especially since it's you and your good at screwing things up," Sasuke said smacking Naruto in the back of the head.
"Watch it Sasuke, just because you did this for me, doesn't mean I won't still kick your ass," Naruto replied.
"We'll see, clumsy idiot," Sasuke said.
"Well first I'm going to go grab some ramen, and then I've got to go see Ino-chan about helping me out with an outfit tonight. I don't have anything fancy to wear," Naruto said as he turned and started to leave.
"See you later, Sasuke," Naruto said as he left the Uchiha estate.
"This should definitely be interesting," Sasuke said a loud with a smirk.
Naruto made his way over to Ichiraku's in no time flat.
"Hey Naruto, what's the rush, you trying to set a record or something?" Iruka asked turning to greet the boy.
"Iruka-sensei! What are you doing here?" Naruto asked looking surprised.
"Well to be honest, I had sometime before class and was hoping to meet you here for ramen," Iruka said.
"Yes! Free ramen, this day rules!" Naruto yelled in excitement.
"Calm down Naruto, just sit down an order already," Iruka said.
"Sure thing, no problem. Hey old man, I want an extra big bowl of miso ramen," Naruto said.
"Coming right up." The old ramen chief said as he started to prepare the order.
"So Naruto, you're leaving us for a while, huh?" Iruka asked.
"Yes, Ero-Sennin and Tsunade-nee-chan even went as far as making it a mission," Naruto replied. "I'm supposed to be training and get stronger, because of the threat of the Akatsuki,"
"I see. Well, I know it's going to be hard for you to leave with everything going so good for you now, but I want you to know, I'm very proud of you," Iruka said as the meals were pushed in front of the two.
"Thanks Iruka-sensei, I'm going to work extra hard. I'm going to get strong enough to beat those bastards in the Akatsuki and then I'm going to take the title of Hokage," Naruto said with a huge grin as he immediately dug into his bowl of ramen.
"Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here, just work hard and get stronger and return to us Naruto," Iruka said.
"You don't have to worry Iruka-sensei, I will. I won't let anyone down. I got too many people who are important to me now. I can't afford to let a single one of them down," Naruto replied.
"Naruto, you've indeed grow stronger. But not just physically, I can see it; you're a lot stronger mentally now as well. You truly deserve to be a chuunin. I can't wait to see what the future brings. I think Konoha's future is looking really good," Iruka thought to himself as he watched Naruto devour the bowl of ramen.
"That was great, thanks Iruka-sensei. I wish I could stay and chat but I got to go see Ino-chan, so she can help me get ready for my big date with Hinata-chan tonight. See you later Iruka-sensei," Naruto said as he took off from Ichiraku's.
"See you later Naruto," Iruka said even though Naruto was no longer in sight.
Shortly after leaving Ichiraku's, Naruto arrived at the Yamanaka's flower shop. Naruto entered and was immediately greeted by Ino, who was behind the counter.
"Ah, Naruto-kun, you're here. I figured you'd be here early so I got up and decided to run the shop for a while, so I could wait for you," Ino said to the blonde boy.
"Hey Ino-chan, I'm here for that help you offered to give me. I need something to wear; I have nothing good for a big date at home," Naruto told the girl.
"I figured as much, I also had Sakura take Hinata-chan out to get her a new outfit for this evening, and I promise you this, you're going to faint when you see her," Ino said with a grin.
"Hinata-chan's out shopping? She was asleep when I left this morning," Naruto told the girl.
"I had Sakura drop by your place and pick her up about an hour ago. They stopped by here first before they went out. Hinata-chan seems pretty excited. She's stuttering and blushing more than I've ever seen her do, and that's saying something," Ino said with a sly smile. "That girl really loves you, though I don't know what she seems in you," Ino told the boy.
"Hey, that's not fair Ino-chan," Naruto said pouting.
"Relax, I'm just kidding. Let me go tell my mother that I'm leaving and then we'll go," Ino said as she turned and went inside her home. She returned about a minute later and the two left the flower shop.
"So, where are we going Ino-chan?" Naruto asked.
"Well, I know this really good store, the owners are super nice. I think we'll find what we need there," Ino said.
"Alright, then lets go do this, I got a lot of stuff to do today," Naruto said.
"I'll bet, you have a big date tonight and a long trip in the morning," Ino said. "Do you know what you got planned for this evening?" Ino asked.
"Well originally I didn't, but I met up with Sasuke this morning during my training and he gave me his reservations for a restaurant called the Golden Dragon," Naruto said.
"W-What! The G-Golden Dragon, is where you're going tonight?" Ino said in shock.
"Yes, why?" Naruto asked looking puzzled.
"Sasuke-kun is very generous indeed. That's a very nice restaurant. You can't just wear anything that's for sure. I guess the store I had in mind won't do. I'll have to take you to a store that specializes in men's clothing and suits," Ino said.
"A suit? I have to wear a suit? I hate suits, they're sweaty and stuff," Naruto said.
"Shut up, do you want this date to go well or not?" Ino asked.
"Yes, I do," Naruto replied.
"Then deal with it, the way Hinata-chan is going to look, it's the least you can do for her, to look your best and wear a suit," Ino told the boy.
"Alright, I'll do it," Naruto said with the sound of defeat in his voice.
"Good, now what else do you have planned?" Ino asked.
"Well, I was think we could do some shopping around the markets. I heard from Sasuke that it's very nice and very quiet in the evening before the shops close. Then I was thinking I'd take her for some ice cream or something like that, and then finish it off with a nice quiet stroll through on of the nicer parks, before we head back to the apartment," Naruto told the girl.
"You know, for an idiot, that's not a bad idea. I rather like that idea, it's not super fancy, it's simple, yet smooth, and I'd say that's pretty good indeed," Ino replied.
"You really think so?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, I definitely do," Ino replied as they arrived at a clothing store. "Well, we'll start here, and work our way around until we find everything we need," Ino said.
"Why do I have a feeling this is going to take a while?" Naruto asked a loud.
"Oh stop your complaining and let's get going," Ino said dragging the boy inside the store.
After about three hours Ino stood admiring her handiwork. She had adorned Naruto in a simple black suit. Under his sport coat he wore an orange silk shirt, and a black tie to match the suit. He still wore his forehead protector, saying he needed it to keep the hair out of his eyes. Ino had tried to fix that as well, but it seemed no matter what she tried, his hair would do nothing different. It suited him fine though, and she had to admit, he would look strange any other way. His leg holster was left off, but he kept a couple of kunai and shuriken in an inside-pant holster just in case.
"Well I must say that I am a genius," Ino said with a huge grin on her face.
"Yeah, well I still hate suits, it's really uncomfortable," Naruto said complaining as he fidgeted with the suit.
"Naruto, if you mess up that suit in anyway I will personally kick your ass, you got me fox boy?" Ino said cracking her knuckles causing Naruto to shiver.
"Y-Yes, Ino-chan, I got you, I won't screw anything up," Naruto said.
"Good, you're going to go straight back to your apartment and sit on your butt and do absolutely nothing until Hinata-chan returns for your date, you got that?" Ino demanded.
"Yes, I get it already stop being so damn bossy," Naruto said complaining as he started to head back to his place. "See you later Ino-chan, and thanks for everything," Naruto said as he walked away.
"He truly is an idiot. He's a great guy, but a pure idiot," Ino said under her breath with a smile on her face.
Naruto returned to his apartment to find the place empty. Hanabi, Akina, and Neji were no where to be seen. Naruto to a seat on the couch in the living room and closed his eyes and let his mind wander about many things. He wondered how Hinata would look and how his date would go, and then he wondered what Akina was up to and how he wished he didn't have to leave everyone. But then he started to think about the training and possibly how strong he would be when he returns. He continued to sit in silence for quite awhile. The sun had already set and the evening was just beginning. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the door to his apartment opened and so did Naruto's eyes. Naruto was amazed as his jaw hit the floor when Hinata walked through the door. Hinata was dressed in a sleeveless black dress for her last date with Naruto before he left. It went down to her ankles, with a split on the right side up to her knee. At her waist the color began to lighten and continued to the bottom of the dress, finally ending with the last several inches solid white. The final touches were the black one-inch heels she was wearing, and the see-through black shawl she had draped across her shoulders. She had left her hair down, rather than fixing it into her usual rigid style. It hung down to the front of her collarbone in front, rising at an angle to end just below the middle of neck in the back. She had decided to leave all of her ninja gear at the apartment, not wanting to think of anything but her last moments with Naruto tonight.
"S-So, how do I-I look N-Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked stuttering and shaking fiercely with nervousness.
"Y-You, look... you look... um..." Naruto tried to answer but his jaw was still stuck on the ground, he was absolutely speechless by Hinata's appearance.
"I-Is this not good?" Hinata asked starting to look disappointed.
"No! It's not that, you look amazingly incredible Hinata-chan, I-I... words can't describe how great you look," Naruto said sensing Hinata's disappointment.
"Thank you Naruto-kun," Hinata said blushing fiercely. "You look great as well," Hinata said with a smile.
"Thanks Hinata-chan, so would you like to get going?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, that would be great," Hinata replied as the two exited the apartment. Naruto extended his hand to Hinata, which she gladly accepted. "Where are we going Naruto-kun?"
"Have you ever heard of a place called the Golden Dragon?" Naruto asked.
"Y-You... I mean yes, of course I have. It's a really expensive, high-class restaurant. Naruto-kun, you can't possibly be..." Hinata started to say but was cut off by Naruto.
"Well that's where we're going; I hope it'll be alright with you," Naruto said with a grin.
"Naruto-kun... this place, it doesn't have ramen," Hinata said in a low voice, barely understand except for the fact that Naruto's senses are heighten from the Kyuubi.
"Hey, don't worry about that, if someone ate ramen all the time, that person would probably die," Naruto said aloud still grinning. "Let's just go and enjoy ourselves," Naruto said.
"Yes, thank you so very much Naruto-kun," Hinata said with a great smile that showed off her true beauty.
"M-My ramen... I want my ramen, but Hinata-chan looks so beautiful and look how happy I made her... but my ramen," Naruto thought to himself his inner mind almost wanted to cry.
The couple arrived at the busy restaurant and when they got to the door, Naruto took the reservations out of his pocket and handed them to the doorman.
"Name please?" The man asked looking down at the couple with a clipboard in hand.
"Uzumaki," Naruto replied as the man looked down at the clipboard. Naruto then remembered that Sasuke had given him the reservations. "Oh Damn, it's not going to be under Uzumaki. I'm so stupid," Naruto thought to himself as started to sweat. "I got to think of something quickly," Naruto thought. "Hey Hinata look over there, isn't that Neji and Tenten?" Naruto said to the girl point to his left causing the girl to look over in that direction. Naruto than went up closer to the doorman and whispered to the man. "Did I say Uzumaki, I meant Uchiha, the reservation is for Uchiha," Naruto said to the man.
"Ah, yes here they are, right this way," The man said entering the restaurant.
"Naruto-kun, that wasn't nice, I don't see them anywhere," Hinata said pouting.
"I'm sorry Hinata-chan; I guess I was just imagining things," Naruto said breathing a sigh of relief as they entered the restaurant and were shown to their seats.
"Your waiter will be with you shortly," The man said handing them a pair of menus.
"Thank you very much," Hinata replied.
"Yes, thanks," Naruto also replied as the man left.
The couple soon ordered their meals and engaged in small talk, the dinner was peaceful, quiet, and quite enjoyable. Naruto was given the bill and after an argument with the waiter about how many zeros appeared in the bill, Naruto reluctantly paid and the two exited the restaurant and headed straight for the shopping district.
"That was a great meal Naruto-kun, thank you again for taking me," Hinata said to the boy, trying to raise his spirits after the expensive dinner.
"No problem Hinata-chan, it was my pleasure," Naruto said with a smile.
The couple wandered around the shopping districts. They mainly stuck to window shopping, though the couple did wander in and out of several clothing and jewelry stores. After exiting one of the stores Naruto spotted something of great interest to him. Naruto had spotted a small photo booth.
"Hey Hinata-chan, let's go over there," Naruto said dragging the girl over to the photo booth.
"Naruto-kun, why did you want to come here?" Hinata asked.
"Because it'll be cool," Naruto said with a grin as he dragged the girl inside the photo booth and feed it some coins. After several minutes and several different poses the couple exited the booth and retrieved the photos. They sat on a bench next to the photo booth and admired the different photos. Several of the photos had the couple making all sort of different faces, between Naruto's goofy looks and Hinata's suppressed giggles, all the pictures turned quite ridiculous, except for one shot that Naruto had hoped for. It was just a nice, pure shot of the couple close together smiling.
"Alright, perfect, I got the picture I was looking for," Naruto stated a loud getting Hinata's attention.
"What is it Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked.
"It's nothing. Hinata-chan, do me a favor and sit right here and don't move, and close your eyes and don't open them until I tell you to, I have something I need to get," Naruto said grabbing the photo and running off.
"N-Naruto-kun, where are you going?" Hinata asked.
"Please, just close your eyes and don't worry about it," Naruto said as Hinata closed her eyes allowing Naruto to run inside the store he was looking for.
"Yes, can I help you?" A middle-aged lady asked looking at the boy as he admired a certain object.
"Yes, please I'd like to purchase this, and could you put this in it?" Naruto asked handing the lady the photo.
"Yes of course, just give me a few minutes," The lady said turning her back to Naruto.
"Great, I really appreciate it," Naruto said waiting for the lady to finish.
"There you go, all done," The sales woman showed Naruto her handiwork.
"Alright, that's great thank you. Naruto gave the woman the money and then took the object and exited the store and went back over to Hinata. "I'm back, Hinata-chan, did you miss me?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, where were you? May I open my eyes now?" Hinata asked.
"Not yet, but give me just a second and you can," Naruto said going around behind the girl and placing the object around her neck. "Now you can open your eyes Hinata-chan," Naruto told the girl as he let the object fall gently.
"What is this?" Hinata asked as she looked down to see a locket hanging from her neck. It was a really simple gold locket, much like the one Akina owns. It was a gold heart with very small little switch that allowed the locket to open easily.
"Open it up Hinata-chan," Naruto said. The girl did so, and there she saw the photo they had just taken staring her right in the face. "I hope you like it; I saw it and thought it would be good. It'll help you remember that you and are will be one always. We'll always be together no matter what. I had remembered how hard it was to open Akina-chan's locket, so I figured this locket would be good because you'll never have to struggle to open it and see us together," Naruto said with a big smile. Hinata quickly got up and hugged the boy tightly.
"Thank you so very much Naruto-kun," The girl said as she placed a kiss on his lips that caused them both to blush.
"Y-You... um... are very welcome," Naruto said blushing scratching lightly at his face. "So would you like to go get something for desert? I was thinking some ice cream if you'd like." Naruto asked trying to distract his mind.
"Y-Yes, that would be lovely," Hinata replied still with the blush on her face. Naruto took Hinata's hand into his once again as the two strolled around the village and headed over to a small ice cream cart.
"I'll get our ice cream and be right back," Naruto said with a smile as he guided Hinata to the bench and let her take a seat. "Let me get one chocolate cone, and one strawberry cone," Naruto told the man as he pulled out some money and placed it on the counter. The man handed him the cones and his change and Naruto made his way back over to Hinata. "Here we are, one chocolate cone for me, and one strawberry cone for you," Naruto said smiling as he handed her the ice cream cone and then sat down beside her.
"Thank you Naruto-kun, how did you know I liked strawberries? I don't remember ever telling you I did," Hinata asked looking curiously at the boy.
"Well it seemed to suit you. So I figured you probably like strawberries because you're sweet like them," Naruto said causing the girl to blush. The two sat there in silence after that exchange and ate their ice cream cones.
"Hey Hinata-chan, I was thinking, after this would you like to go to the park with me? This time a night I hear the main park in Konoha is really nice. Shikamaru told me he goes there often at nights to relax before he goes home for the evening. He said the stars and the night sky are perfect at this time of night," Naruto asked.
"Sure Naruto-kun, I'd love to," Hinata said as the two finished their ice cream. Hinata grabbed a hold of Naruto's arm as the two made their way over to the park. The couple entered the park and moved silently through it arm and arm as they admired the night sky. The stars were out in full and the moon beamed down upon them. "Naruto-kun, this has been a perfect evening. I-I wish it never had to end. I-I... I know this isn't fair, but I really don't want you to go. I know it isn't even really your choice, but I can't help it. The thought of being without you for all that time... I don't know if I can take it," Hinata said as tears started to stream down her face. Naruto embraced the girl tightly and started to stroke her hair.
"Hey, I know. I hate it, I hate leaving. But I don't have a choice. No, it's more than that, after thinking about it, long and hard I want to go. The Akatsuki is still after me, and they're after Gaara, and they'll stop at nothing to get what they want. I'm going to get stronger, to be put on the right track to becoming Hokage, and to be able to protect everyone, not just the people important to me. I want to protect the whole village. My father did, and died believing in this village, I want to follow in his footsteps and protect all of Konoha. I promise you Hinata-chan, I will be back and better than ever, and when I get back, we'll never be apart again. You said during the Chuunin exam that you wanted to become strong enough to be worthy of being my wife, you don't know how much that meant to me. So now it's my turn to pledge to you," Naruto said getting down on one knee and reaching into his pants pocket and pulling out a small diamond ring. "I pledge to you, that when I return we'll never be apart again and that even though we're still quite young, I must ask this of you. Hinata-chan, though it'll be a long time before it actually happens, please will you do me the honor of one day becoming my wife?" Naruto asked staring deep into her eyes. The girl in question almost completely melted. She stood in pure silence for what seemed like forever, then as the moon shined directly down upon them little crystal like tears strolled down her face, though she was crying her smile couldn't be missed from a mile away.
"Yes Naruto-kun, of course, it is what I always dreamed about, I would love to one day become Uzumaki Hinata," Hinata replied accepting the ring on her finger and embracing the boy tightly as their lips meet once again, only deeper as if to cement the future promise between them. The two reluctantly broke the kiss after several minutes and stared at each other.
"Let's go home Hinata-chan," Naruto said taking Hinata's hand into his yet again and leading her out of the park.
"Yes, let us return home," Hinata replied.
The two arrived at the apartment several minutes later. Naruto opened the door and turned flipped on the lights and allowed Hinata to enter first. Naruto closed the door and locked it as Hinata sat down on the couch. Naruto made his way over to the kitchen counter where he found a note from Neji.
I've taken Hanabi-sama with me to Tenten's place where we will stay the night. Akina will be staying with Ino as well, the present in question is in my room, and you'd better clean up the mess I'm sure it made before I return. Also, you two are going to be alone the whole night, but I swear if you do anything to Hinata-sama that is inappropriate I will personally hunt you down and remove all of your vital organs. Have a good evening and see you tomorrow before you leave.
Naruto smiled at the letter before quickly making his way over to Hinata and planting a kiss on her lips.
"Sit tight for a minute Hinata-chan, I'll be right back," Naruto said leaving the room and heading over to Neji's room. "Don't worry Neji; I'll take care of everything," Naruto thought as he opened the door to Neji's room and lifted something up into his arms. He made his way back out to the living room. "Hinata-chan please closes your eyes for a moment," Naruto told the girl.
"Alright, I will," Hinata said closing her eyes. Naruto made his way over to the girl and sat down beside her where he placed some soft and furry into the girl's arms.
"You can open them now," Naruto said as Hinata opened her eyes and started down at the furry object. In Hinata's lap sat a small orange and white kitten. The kitten had a small black collar on with a tag hanging from it. Hinata gazed at the tag and read what it said.
"Mikomi? Is that his name?" Hinata asked.
"Yes, Mikomi is his name. It means hope. I guess you could say it means the hope for the future. I thought it was a good name. Do you like it?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, Naruto-kun, I love it and I love you," Hinata said wearing a bright, yet soft smile as she stared at the boy.
"I love you to Hinata-chan," Naruto said as the two embraced and kissed once again.
The couple spent the rest of the evening together with their new friend and finally like they always do, all good things had to come to an end as they lay in bed and drifted off to sleep. The morning came seemingly quicker than usually as the couple reluctantly got up and prepared for the coming event. They both took turns showering and dressing and as they headed for the door, Hinata picked up her new friend and held the kitten in her arms. The two exited the apartment and slowly made their way toward the village gates. The sun had barely made it into the sky as the arrived. Naruto was almost shocked at the sight before him. Standing at the gate waiting for him to arrive was everyone he knew. Jiraiya, Tsunade, Shizune, Kakashi, Gai, Asuma, Kurenai, Ibiki, Iruka, Anko were among the adults their as well as the old man and his daughter from the ramen shop. Sasuke, Sakura, Ino, Chouji, Shikamaru, Temari, Kankurou, Lee, Kiba with Akamaru, Neji, Tenten, Hanabi, Konohamaru, Moegi, Udon, and of course Akina who ran up to her brother and hugged him tightly.
"Naruto, you'd better get stronger and be back soon or I'll kick your ass," Akina told her brother as tears formed in her eyes. Everyone took turns saying something to the boy. They gave him encouragement or just a good old fashion pat on the back. Ino and the girls gave him each a hug, which almost made Jiraiya jealous, except for the fact that Tsunade had a kunai to his throat. Naruto after saying goodbye to also everyone turned to face the last group of people. He stood almost face to face with Sasuke and they stood there for a few minutes before Naruto finally extended his hand to the Uchiha boy.
"It's been wild hasn't it? When I get back, I'm expecting you to be much stronger Sasuke," Naruto told the boy.
"Stop trying to sound cool idiot," Sasuke said with a smirk and then shocked everyone as he gave Naruto a brotherly hug instead of a handshake.
"I owe you my life and my happiness, take care and get stronger brother," Sasuke said wearing a genuine smile. Naruto then walked up to Neji and also received a brotherly like hug from the Hyuuga boy.
"Naruto, take care my friend. I also owe you everything. I've never been happier thanks to you," Neji said also with a smile. Naruto then walked up to Kankurou and shook his hand.
"My entire family owes you a big debt Naruto, thanks for everything," Kankurou said.
"Where is Gaara? I don't see him," Naruto asked.
"Don't worry he'll be here," Kankurou said smiling. After saying goodbye to just about everyone Naruto made his way over to Tsunade.
"Well, I guess this is it? I won't be seeing you for a while Tsunade-nee-chan, don't go dying on me before I return," Naruto said with a grin.
"Don't worry brat, I can't die yet, I've got too many things left to do. You'd better not slack off while you're gone, if you do I'm going to demote you and send you back to the academy," Tsunade said trying to stay strong though everyone could see the tears streaming down her face. She finally broke down and gave the boy a bone-crushing hug.
"T-Tsunade-nee-chan, bones... breaking... can't breathe..." Naruto gasped for air as he started to turn purple. Tsunade came to her senses quickly though after Naruto started turning blue.
"Sorry about that, I forget about my strength sometimes," Tsunade said blushing in embarrassment. Naruto picked himself up off the group and began to make his way over to Akina when the wind suddenly pick up and then a wave of sand blew through. When it stopped Gaara stood before Naruto with a backpack strapped to his back.
"Where have you been Gaara? I was just about to leave," Naruto said looking rather annoyed.
"I was waiting for you, because we're about to leave?" Gaara replied.
"We're about to leave? Who are we?" Naruto asked.
"Jiraiya-sama, you, and I," Gaara replied.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Naruto asked.
"I will be going with you. It is best for me to learn to control my new power and safer for Konoha if the demons are both gone for a while. I have many things I need to learn and I fear I won't learn them here. I convinced Jiraiya-sama, and Tsunade-sama to allow me to go with you and they agreed," Gaara told the boy.
"That's so awesome. I got a training partner then," Naruto said. "Well I'm almost ready and then we'll go," Naruto said as he made his way over to Akina. "Well take care, I'll see you soon. I won't let anything separate us every again once I return. Father and mother wanted us to be together and I won't let him down," Naruto said hugging the girl.
"Just be careful and come back soon Naruto," Akina said with tears rolling down her face. Naruto nodded his head and broke the hug and made his way over to Hinata and Hanabi. He bent down and hugged the younger girl who kissed him on the cheek.
"Be careful Naruto-nii-san," Hanabi said.
"I will," Naruto replied. Naruto turned to face Hinata. "Well this is it, I got to go, but don't worry, I made my promise to you and Mikomi will be there for you as well. I will return and be better than ever," Naruto said smiling as he kissed the girl one last time.
"Yes," Hinata simply said as the tears poured from her face. Though she was sad she never let her smile leave her face because she wanted Naruto to see her smile as he left.
"Well guys I'm off see you in a few years, get stronger and kick some ass," Naruto said raising his fist in the air. "Keep on smiling Uzumaki Hinata!" Naruto yelled as he darted down the road not waiting for either Jiraiya or Gaara who both decided to casually walk after him. Several minutes later the three were no longer in sight. Hinata's tears still hadn't stopped but neither did her smile.
"Uzumaki Hinata? What did Naruto mean by that?" Ino asked as almost everyone turned to look at Hinata.
"It was nothing... just a promise for the future," Hinata said still with that bright yet soft smile Naruto loved so much.
To be continued in Choosing One's Path: Life's Hard Road.