AUTHOR'S NOTE (October 21, 2005) – After MONTHS of letting this stew, it's finally updated. I hope you understand the reason for the delay (see my note on the 1st chapter, bottom). Also, I certainly hope that you'll still like what you read here.

Also, if you'll notice, I changed the title for this chapter. It should have been "The Second Day" but that sounds soooo bland. So this is the new one. I suck at naming chapters, heh. Anyway, enjoy!

Chapter Two – Onward

Today's training session proceeded uneventfully, Naruto carefully following his master's instructions as he diligently learned to harness his chakra, as well as learn new techniques and improve his existing ones. The hours rolled by without his noticing, and as night fell, Jiraiya called his student to have dinner. It was the usual fish cooked on an open fire. It would be long before they reached the next village, and this would have to do.

Naruto glumly munched his fish, muttering, "Man, if I knew it was really going to take this long, I would've brought more instant ramen."

"Naruto, you finished ALL your instant ramen on the first day,' Jiraiya retorted, a little annoyingly, "Not that I'm surprised, of course. Why, I'd be surprised if the ramen you brought actually lasted a week."

"Shaddap," Naruto grumbled, tossing a fish skeleton over his shoulder and grabbing a new one over the fire.

"Anyway, it'll take a few more days before we reach the next village, so eat up for now, wash up, and get some sleep. I know you're probably tired of hearing me saying this, but…"

"'You've got a long day ahead of you,' I know, I know," Naruto grunted, eating another fish, "I still don't see how this is going to help me find Sasuke."

"Your temper's getting shorter, you know that?" Jiraiya replied, putting the fish he was eating away, "I hate repeating myself, but like I told you, not only Sasuke's, but also your life is also in danger. The Akatsuki are not to be trifled with, and they will execute any method, employ any means to have what is inside you. They will not hesitate to kill you, or anyone else that would stand in their way."

Like Jiraiya said, he had repeated this more than Naruto could remember, but every time he said it, it would immediately put him in his place.

"Yeah…," Naruto replied, defeated.

"Well," Jiraiya said, lightening up, "Let's not talk about this now. There's still time, so keep your spirits up. We'll have you in tip-top fighting form."

"Right," Naruto responded, a little weakly.

Jiraiya noticed his downward change in mood, and felt somewhat guilty. What he admired most about his student is that he would always be exuberant and energetic, and would never give up no matter how dire the situation would be. Seeing him hopeless like this made him feel a little bad about himself.

After all, Jiraiya knew that hope was the only reason why Naruto kept on fighting this long.

"Something wrong, kid?"

"…It's what you said, about 'anyone else who would stand in their way.' Would they really do that?" Naruto asked.

Jiraiya sighed, saying, "I would be shocked if they didn't."

"I…I don't want that…I mean, I've got a lot of friends now, and…well, I don't want them putting their lives on the line for my sake," Naruto said, looking at his master.

Jiraiya smiled, saying, "You'd rather want it the other way around?"

"Yeah, if I could," Naruto replied, so quickly that it surprised Jiraiya. His master, however, did expect this reply, so he just smiled again and said, "Well, if you train hard enough, maybe you wouldn't have to. Don't lose hope, Naruto."

"Yeah…heh, " Naruto chuckled.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, it…this whole thing reminds me of something, back in the Academy. I think I remember saying the same words to her," Naruto replied, scratching his cheek sheepishly.

"Her? Don't tell me…it's that girl that got you sucking up erasers up your nose, huh? That's still disgusting, mind you," Jiraiya said matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, yeah, her," Naruto answered, brushing his comment off.

"Tell me about it."

"What! You serious?" Naruto asked back, not quite believing his ears just yet.

"Tell me about it!" Jiraiya repeated, putting down the fish he just finished eating, adding, "It'll be good for you. Thinking of good experiences, thinking of friends and the support they give you, is a way to earn strength and motivation."

"Wow. That's probably the smartest thing you've said all week," Naruto replied in a sarcastic tone, though he had to admit, he was impressed (not that he'd admit it out loud).

"I have my moments," Jiraiya replied with a grin, "So, start talking."

"All right…well, actually it starts off from where I left off yesterday, when I talked about the whole eraser thing? This takes place the next day…"

It was the Academy's lunch hour, and the school's cafeteria, as usual at this time of day, was bustling with hungry students who have endured the first half of their lessons and have come here, their refuge from the horrors of the classroom, to rest and prepare for the second half. Umino Iruka's class was no exception, despite the fact the teacher was out on a mission. The class was divided into pairs to study for an exam once he returned at the end of the week. Knowing how temperamental their Iruka-sensei could be when it comes to examinations, as much as they'd like to spend the week goofing off, they had no choice but to actually get serious with this and do the best they can.

At one table of the cafeteria, Shikamaru, Chouji, Kiba, and Naruto were treating themselves with a good meal when Shikamaru broke the silence.

"So, how are things with your group?" He asked Kiba, who was feeding a biscuit to his ninken, faithful dog Akamaru.

"It's fine. Shino can be a little…well, he can be REALLY stiff, but he's okay. At first, he gave me the creeps, but you kinda get used to it after a while. Oh yeah, I was worried that Akamaru might get a bad case of fleas, but he didn't seem too worried about it," Kiba replied, heartily munching on his own meal.

Naruto listened quietly as he ate his curry, keeping to himself.

Kiba asked, "How are things on your end, Shikamaru?"

Shikamaru shrugged, replying, "Okay, I guess. I'm lucky to have been paired with Chouji here. It'll be way too troublesome if I had to go with someone else, like, say, one of them."

With his thumb he listlessly pointed at another table, and there were two girls, Sakura and Ino, in yet another rather violent argument. Nearly tearing each other's hair out, clashing foreheads, their shrieks and shouts would've filled up the entire cafeteria if it weren't for the other students making noise as well.

"I see what you mean," Kiba replied, a little shocked.

"Not that I have anything against girls, mind you," Shikamaru added, "But me, I'd like to able to work with someone that'll allow me to actually hear myself think, you know?"

Chouji nodded, and then asked, "What about you, Naruto?"

"It's…okay, I guess," Naruto replied, a little meekly.

It appeared to them that he wasn't so eager to talk about it just yet. Sensing this, Chouji said, "You were paired with that Hyuuga girl, if I remember correctly. Is anything up?"

"Well…uh, let's just say that we didn't start off very well," Naruto replied, and talked about the Hyuuga guardian who shooed him off when it seemed like he was getting too close to Hinata.

"I wouldn't be surprised, Naruto," Shikamaru replied, slumping on his seat, "from what I heard, she's an important person in her clan."

"Important, huh?" Naruto repeated.

"I'm not too keen on the details," Kiba said, "But her clan's like, one of the oldest around in Konoha, and even though it might not look like it, she's pretty big, from what I hear."

"She doesn't act like it, though," Naruto remarked, "I mean, if she was like anything you guys say, I'd expect her to be a little more…bossy? Aggressive?"

"A complete opposite of who she is?" Chouji spoke.

"Yeah. She's…well, so quiet! And she's so shy, too. I mean, I've never seen apologize as much as her!" Naruto said, amazed.

"Speaking of which, there she is," Kiba said, nudging his head over to her direction. The other three looked, and found Hyuuga Hinata, by herself, at a rather secluded corner of the cafeteria. She was eating quietly by herself, and despite there were vacant seats around her, no one sat beside her.

"Doesn't she have any friends?" Naruto asked to his.

"If she's as shy as you say she is, I don't think she's ever really made any," Shikamaru responded.

After a short while, Kiba excused himself from the group, saying that Shino, his study partner, wanted to meet him earlier than usual to have more time to study, much to Kiba's chagrin. Shikamaru and Chouji followed suit, saying that they had some books to get from the library and Shikamaru wanted to borrow them before anyone else could, as it would be too troublesome if they had to be kept in the waiting list. Still not finished with his meal, Naruto just smiled and waved them goodbye.

Naruto had three friends. It wasn't a lot, but he truly treasured these friendships. Bound together by a certain similarity (all four had a penchant for mischief), as soon as their first class started, the four of them were almost always together. Naruto was lucky to have them, and even luckier that their parents didn't seem to mind, unlike the others who would scorn him and keep their children away from him. Of course, Kiba, Chouji and Shikamaru was initially avert to being friends with him, seeing as everyone else seemed to be doing it, but fortunately for Naruto, they went beyond that and befriended him.

Shikamaru was the lazy observer who seldom did anything while together with the group, aside from watch the clouds, read manga, sleep and beat everyone in shogi. Chouji always brought the snacks (although it seemed like there wasn't always enough for everybody) and he had a kind-hearted disposition that allowed him to get along with the group, especially with Shikamaru. Kiba, with his brash and aggressive nature, was a sort of rival to Naruto, who liked to play rough games and make him go on daring challenges.

And Naruto? He was just lucky to have them. He'd never let it show, but he was absolutely grateful for them. He had had a taste of what it was like to be alone, to be isolated from every person that he met, for whatever reason. If there was anything Naruto hated, it was to be lonely, and he did not wish that anyone else would share the same fate.


She seemed to be a little preoccupied with something, so Naruto, who had stood up and gone over to her table, had to call out her name again, a little louder this time.

"Yooo, Hinata? Anyone there?"


She said nothing else, looking directly into her steaming bowl of congee. Naruto couldn't see her face behind her lowered bangs.

"Mind if I sit here?" Naruto asked.

She did not reply. Naruto took that as a yes and sat himself right across her.

Naruto started talking, rather casually, "So, uh, what'll we be doing later, after lunch? I think someone's going to post the topic of the practical exam later on, and I suppose we should check that out, even though it'll just probably depress me, but hey, what we gotta do, we gotta do…"

Naruto just kept on talking about the woes of being a student of the academy, while keeping an eye on her reaction. Slowly, she was raising her head, though her expression was that of confusion more than anything else. Naruto was honestly expecting that'd she'd just join in on his monologue.

"A…aren't you…" She began. Naruto felt relieved. Finally he could stop talking to himself and stop acting like a moron.

"Aren't I…what?"

"Aren't you…well, mad at me?" Hinata asked, uneasily

"For what?"

"Well…for yesterday."

"Oh that. Forget about it!" Naruto exclaimed, grinning. Hinata was clearly startled, and when she was going to protest, Naruto cut her off, saying, "Forget about it, okay? I've gotten used to it…well, I think anyone would've gotten used to it if they've been living with it for almost their whole lives! Haha!"

Naruto meant that to be a joke, but it occurred to him that even worsened Hinata's already self-pitying mood. She just drooped her head lower in shame.

"I'm so sorry…" She muttered, her weak voice barely audible, but Naruto heard.

"Like I told you, forget about it!" Naruto said, almost exasperated, "It doesn't bother me even a little bit! I'm more concerned about what we should be doing later on. So, let's work hard, 'kay, partner?"

He stretched his hand out, a gesture of accepting her despite what happened. Hinata looked at it with uneasiness, questioning herself whether if it was all right or not, if she deserved to be accepted. What had happened before was yet again another example of her own ineffectiveness, her own weakness. She was controlled by her own servant, and it shamed her to even think about it. She had thought that she lost him on that day, that he had lost his friendship.

But she looked at his face, and saw his usual wide grin, so wide it seemed like his cheeks pushed up his eyes forcing it to squint. Although it occurred to her that while this might be normal for Naruto, it was almost like a blessing for Hinata. It seemed to her that he never really did care about what happened yesterday, and if he did, he'd want to be her friend no matter what.

Meekly smiling, blushing a little, she took his hand and shook it, saying, "Okay."

As soon as they were dismissed, Hinata immediately headed over to the training grounds to meet with Naruto later on to practice. Naruto said that he had something to do before, so he told her to go there at around 4:00 in the afternoon. But, not wanting to disappoint him any further, she went to the training place almost an hour early, as soon as she did, she took out her notes and began to study the lecture notes.

After lunch break, a messenger had arrived with a memo from Iruka, containing the coverage of the mock exams, as well as the subject of the Practicals. While she was feeling a little confident about the written portion, she wasn't feeling too happy about the other.

The subject was Bunshin no Jutsu.

In theory, she had practically memorized the move. A Ninjutsu, it enabled the user to produce an exact copy of himself, or any other item he might have, if he was skilled enough. The regular Bunshin would dissipate in a puff of smoke once receiving adequate impact, since it would usually serve as a decoy or a way to set up an attack. However, there were advanced types of Bunshin that did not disappear so easily, such as the Mizu Bunshin, Suna Bunshin, and Kage Bunshin.

She sighed loudly. She understood how it works, but to actually perform it was another thing. Holding her notes closer to her eyes, she reviewed one more time, going through it again and again. So engrossed she was in her reading, however, that she did not notice that an hour had already passed and Naruto had not yet arrived.

"He's late," she mumbled, looking around. Most of the other students who were training here had already left, but there was no sign of her partner.

Shrugging to herself, she waited patiently, going through her notes and practicing the appropriate hand seals. Thirty minutes passed, and finally, Naruto arrived, out of breath and looking worse for wear.

"Oh man, I am SO sorry! I just totally forgot, oh man, I'm so sorry," Naruto apologized repeatedly, bowing repetitively in front of Hinata to the point that it was embarrassing her.

"I-It's okay, ah, please stop," Hinata said, flushing, "But…where have you been? Why are you covered with paint?"

Naruto was indeed, covered with paint, in all sorts of colors. His orange outfit was plagued with splotches of green, blue, red, and yellow, and his goggles were entirely white.

"O-oh, this? Ah, well, err…it doesn't matter! Haha!" Naruto blabbered, avoiding the topic, "Come on, we gotta go practice!"

Hinata just shrugged again and smiled, and followed Naruto into a more secluded portion of the training ground. It was a small clearing with lush grass and large stones, and it was rounded by towering trees. The afternoon sun still shone through, however, orange lights entering in wide slivers through the spaces between the trees.

After setting their stuff down they began to practice, Naruto at one end of the clearing and Hinata at the other, at her request. Naruto didn't know exactly why, but he thought that Hinata might be embarrassed to show the technique in front of him. It still suited him fine, since he wasn't exactly eager to embarrass himself in front of her.

Forming the seal, yelling a battle cry, Naruto gathered his chakra, letting it form in the shape of his body, giving it features, giving it color…

Man, this is exhausting, Naruto thought, irritably, Come on…

He forgot to mold the chakra to the size of his body, so he had to restart. After doing so, he molded it to the shape of his body, now giving it features, giving it color, molding the chakra a little more for clothes, making a little bigger, then making it a little smaller, then changing the color since his face was too pale, now redoing it again, and then…

"AAAGH!" Naruto screamed in exasperation, and a puff of smoke exploded in front of him, and as soon as it dissipated, Naruto beheld his Bunshin…or what seemed like a Bunshin…it looked like an awfully pale version of himself smashed by a spiky club or something large and blunt.

Naruto growled, muttered, "One more time," and browsed through his notes on Bunshin no Jutsu. Then, he realized that he didn't have any notes on the technique (as well as anything else), so he yelled over his shoulder, "Hey, Hinata! You got notes on Bunshin? Can I borrow them?"

There was no reply. He called out once again, but there was still no reply. He then concluded that she was probably deep in concentration that she couldn't hear him. Shrugging, he tried performing the Jutsu one more time.

And hours later, night had fallen, as well as Naruto, who finally gave up for the day after roughly twenty failed attempts. Feeling awfully tired, his seemingly heavy body on the soft grass, panting, he groaned, "Hinata? It's getting late. Let's try again tomorrow."

There was no response.

"I mean, I just totally blew it today. I mean, my Bunshin were all messed up! There was even one that had a beard! Man, that was creepy. I should've listened more…but heck, I can do better tomorrow, I always say. Hinata? You still there?"

There was still no response. Curious, Naruto, after a bit of a struggle, stood up and went on over to Hinata's side of the clearing. She was practicing behind a rather large rock, so Naruto couldn't see what she had been doing. Walking around the rock, Naruto called, "Hinata? Hey, is everything okay?"

He thought his heart must have skipped a few beats; he was truly startled. Finally arriving at where she was training, he found her sitting on the grass, curled up, her head resting at the top of her knees, her face hidden inside her arms.

"H-Hinata? What's going on?"

"I…I can't do it…" she murmured, her voice choked.

"What…you can't perform the Jutsu?"

She said nothing, only her shoulders heaved a little faster than it was before. It was only then that Naruto realized that Hinata was…

"Are you…crying?"

She did not reply, but only kept sobbing in her arms.

"I…It's okay, I mean, I wasn't able to do it too, heh, I failed around twenty times! Man, that's got to be a record, haha…" Naruto tried to sound cheerful, but it was obviously not working. Hinata was still not budging from where she sat.

"I…it's useless…It's hopeless…"

"Don't say that!" Naruto replied, "We've got plenty of time. We just have to try harder next time. Come on, please?"

It was no use. She was still sobbing uncontrollably, now even turning away from Naruto. Her hands gripped tightly on the sleeves of her jacket, and she began to speak, in between sobs, "F-father was always so disappointed in me…no matter h-how hard I tried, I-I could never really live up to his expectations…He keeps saying that I'm weak, that I'll never be up to par…I can't bear to look at his face each time I mess up…I-I can't even perform a simple Jutsu like this…it's so humiliating…"

A period of awkward silence ensued, save for the sound of Hinata's crying, and the cold wind that seeped into the forest. It was already getting dark, with only the stars and the moon the remaining sources of light, and that did nothing to lighten up the area, as well as their moods.

Naruto then said, his voice stern, "Pack up your stuff and come with me."

"W-what?" Hinata asked. It was too sudden and too forceful that it startled her.

"I said pack up your stuff. I'm taking you somewhere," Naruto ordered, then left to get his things.

Hinata saw his face before he left. It was pained, and she could not tell if it was out of disappointment or anger, though she was betting on both. She did not blame him, though. Even her own father treated her like this, so why shouldn't her friend? She was sure that he was just going to take her back to the academy to leave her there, and probably the next day, he would be with another partner.

Naruto returned, ready to leave. "Come on."

His voice was cold, and it nearly made Hinata shiver as she heard it. Sad, upset, she picked up her stuff and followed Naruto out of the clearing. Naruto walked at a rather slow pace, but Hinata kept her distance, letting Naruto be far ahead. She kept looking down, however, and in her mind she kept replaying her failure to perform the Jutsu, as well as the memory of her father's face when it explicitly expressed his disillusionment.

It took only a short time for them to arrive at the Academy. Hinata's fears were realized, she thought. As soon as they arrived at the gates, Naruto kept on walking.

Taking this as his way of separating, Hinata just walked towards the edge of the gate. She wasn't so eager to go home just yet, but sooner or later a servant would probably come and pick her up anyway.

She groaned, and cursed herself for not being better than who she was right now.

"Hinata? Hey, what're you doing there?"

She raised her head back up. Naruto was coming back, with a muddled look on his face.

"N-Naruto-kun?" She said, seemingly as confused as he was.

"No, no, you're not going home just yet. Come on, I told you I was gonna take you somewhere," Naruto replied, with a smile.


"What, you thought I was going to leave you here? No way, that'll never happen," Naruto said, grinning as usual, "Come on!"

More curious than confused now, Hinata followed him. Whatever disappointment or guilt she felt was oddly gone now, and even she felt this. As strange as it seemed, just seeing him smile, just talking with him, Hinata found it a little easier to breathe, she found it easier to smile, but most of all she found it a little easier to be herself.

And, she realized, that the best of this had yet to come.

"Naruto-kun? Can I open my eyes now?"

Once they reached a certain part of town, Naruto had requested her to close her eyes for the remainder of the trip. Although she did trust him, she could not help but wonder where exactly they were going. She could feel that they were going somewhere high up, judging from the increase in wind speed, as well as the sudden cold.

To get there, a few minutes ago, Naruto asked her to hold his hand.

"E-e-eh?" Hinata was obviously flustered, but Naruto didn't notice.

"Well, it's sort of a secret, so that's why I'm going to have to ask you to close your eyes, but I'm going to have to guide you there, and I don't you think you can get there with your eyes closed!"


Naruto just took hers forcefully, and said, "Don't worry. You can trust me!"

So there she went, being led by Naruto's hand, the entire world around her shut out. She could hear Naruto's constant chatting about how great this place was, she could feel the cool, calming night around her, and she could also feel the warmth of his hand. She wasn't sure why, but his hand felt comforting.

A few minutes later…

"Okay, you can open your eyes now."

Hinata was feeling a little uneasy. She felt like she was at a very high place, and even though she wasn't exactly afraid of heights, she still felt a little anxious. So, she opened her eyes slowly.

And when she had fully opened them, it was a sight unlike she had ever seen in her entire life. It seemed like the beautiful night sky was beneath her, glowing a little, due to the gentle moonlight bathing its velvety black surface. The stars studded the sky, twinkling like jewels twinkling in all its glory.

Hinata could not help but be astonished by the spectacle, it was almost as if she was flying right above the sky.

"Nice, eh? This is Konoha, at night," Naruto said, admiring the view.

Hinata could not believe it at first, but as she began to focus her eyes, it really was Konoha beneath her. The lights from the windows of all the houses, as well as the streetlights and lanterns were the stars, and the darkness of the night made the village seem like the night sky.

"Naruto-kun…this is so beautiful," she said, honestly. "B-but where are we exactly?"

"Look behind you."

Hinata did, and was amazed to see that they were at the base of the Hokage Monuments. On the face of the mountain were carved the faces of all the four Hokages, the heroes of the village, the ones recognized as the most powerful shinobi in all of the village. Hinata knew from history lessons that these were the people that all of Konoha were proud of, and they gave a significant contribution to Konoha's history. Even the image of the currently living Third Hokage was engraved here, and to his right, considered to be the greatest hero of them all, who gave up his life to save the village, the Fourth.

"D'you know why I brought you here? It's because I'm gonna tell you something, and you better not laugh, okay?" Naruto said, looking away, scratching his cheek in what appeared to be embarrassment.

"O-okay, I won't laugh," Hinata replied.

"Thanks," Naruto replied, looking back at her with a bright grin. Hinata almost blushed.

"You see all this? All of Konoha? All the people?" Naruto began, his hand sweeping over the village, "Each and every day these people look up to these monuments and say 'these guys were awesome.' 'These are the people we want our children to have as role models.' These were great people, and these guys were heroes. The Hokage were recognized for their bravery, their skills as a Shinobi, and their greatness."

Hinata nodded, adding, "Yes. Even my father speaks highly of the Fourth."

"But you know what? Someday, they'll be carving MY face on that wall."

Hinata was surprised. "What did you say?"

"Someday, when I become stronger, I'll be the Fifth Hokage!" Naruto exclaimed, his fists trembling in excitement. Hinata could just stare in bewilderment.

"And once I become the Fifth, all of the people in Konoha would finally look at me, and see me as not the monster they think I am, but as Uzumaki Naruto, a ninja of Konoha, the Hokage!"

"N-naruto-kun…" Hinata was just amazed. She had to admit, that was an awfully far-off dream.

Naruto noted her disbelieving tone, and said, "Yeah, yeah, I know it doesn't seem believable…heh, even Kiba says that it's impossible, for me, of all people to become Hokage."

His voice was becoming grim, and serious, but his face never lost its energy, its enthusiasm. He wore a confident smile, and continued, "But you know what? I don't really care. I have had enough of people backstabbing me, I have had enough of people thinking like I'm some kind of demon that'll hurt them or give diseases to their children. Someday, somehow, I'm going to be Hokage, and once that comes true, they'll let go of their pre-made ideas of me and look at me as myself, as a ninja, as a person from Konoha, and most especially, as the Hokage!"

Hinata could feel her cheeks burning. She did not know why, but by just looking at him, seeing him getting fired up by his dreams, listening to his exuberant voice speak of his ambitions, it was almost as if his undying energy was slowly flowing into her, giving her strength. It was like just being with him was a source of power for Hinata.

But she had to know.

"W-why did you bring me here?" She asked.

"Well…ah…you weren't doing so well back there," Naruto replied.

"Oh…" Hinata still felt ashamed about that. She could visualize what she must have looked like when she was sobbing and pitying herself when she failed to perform the Bunshin no Jutsu.

"Like you were going to give up," Naruto continued, "But…the two of us…we're kinda alike, y'know?"

"Naruto-kun…" Hinata responded, looking at him while Naruto's gaze switched back to the village below.

"We're both suffering, you and I…we're both hurt from what people think of us, from the labels people put on us. I don't really understand the situation in your family and all, but, no matter what, you shouldn't give up."

Naruto looked back at her, with a smile on his face, even though it seemed to Hinata that it was a little strained.

"We both want people to believe in us, to recognize us for who we are, but we don't just acquire that in one attempt. We'll have to work hard for it, and even though it seems like it's impossible at times, we'll just have to keep trying, because…well, because when we give up, when we give up on our attempt to make people like us for who we are…we'll be lonely…and I don't want anyone to feel what I feel…when I get lonely."

Naruto looked away from her. Hinata's heart was beating fast, and she felt like tears were about to flow. She was truly touched by what Naruto had just said, but even more so was the fact that she had never thought that Naruto had gone through so much, just like her. She knew that he kept saying that he was used to the verbal abuse the people of the village would throw at him, but to hear it from him, to listen to him on how he truly feels…she had no idea that the energetic, cheerful Naruto that she had come to know had also suffered so much.

Hinata watched as Naruto wiped his eyes with his dirty sleeves, and he looked back at her, and said, "The dreams we have…they're kinda similar, right? So, I won't give up. No matter how hard it is, I'll never surrender. The dreams we shared…we'll never give up on 'em. I won't give up…so you shouldn't too. Don't lose hope, Hinata!"

Naruto took both her hands and encased them in his, and he held on to them tightly. Hinata was blushing furiously, she had no idea why, but she was drawn to his azure eyes, full of conviction and strength. She was drawing energy from him again, but this time, as she smiled in return, she took it all gratefully.

"We'll get through this, you and I. We'll never give up, we'll never back down, we'll keep going, okay? We're gonna pass the mock exams, we're gonna graduate, and we're going to fulfill our dreams! We'll do this, okay!" Naruto exclaimed, his voice strong and sincere.

Hinata smiled once again, a true honest smile, revealing her revived energy and strength, and replied, "Okay."

"Great! So tomorrow, we're going to practice again, and this time, we're gonna practice together! No more hiding behind rocks and stuff…and…ah…" Naruto's voice trailed off. In his face, Hinata thought, was sheer terror.

"N-Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked, slightly confused.

"A-HA! So the criminal returns to the scene of the crime! Why you, we've been looking everywhere for you!" A voice boomed.

Hinata turned around.

It was two Jounin, from the looks of their uniforms. One had his Forehead protector attached to a bandana, and his partner had a bandage across his nose. Hinata did not recognize the two, but she did distinctively notice that look of pure irritation on their twisted faces.

"The Third was yelling our ears off for letting you slip past us…" One of them spoke.

"But this is the LAST TIME you're going to paint on the Hokage Monument!" The other exclaimed, and released a long chain, and had every intention of binding Naruto with them.

Hinata took a look once again on the Monuments. She wasn't able to properly discern it before, but there it was, Naruto's masterpiece. Thanks to Naruto's paint jon, the Hokage positively looked like a mix between clowns and Yakuza henchmen.

"So that was why you were covered with paint," Hinata remarked.

"A…ah…well, gotta go! Hinata, tomorrow, okaAAHHH!" Naruto wasn't even able to finish his sentence, as he began to run for his life as the two Jounin were hot on his trail. The three made dust clouds as they dashed all around Konoha, with two jounin bent on making Naruto as humanly uncomfortable as possible.

Meanwhile, Hinata stayed at that location a little while longer, watching the sky-like Konoha twinkle and shine. It was nothing like the real sky at night, but it was still beautiful, and as she reached out, it was almost as if she could cover all of Konoha with her hand.

The dreams we shared…

We'll fulfill our dreams!

She kept playing the scene again and again in her head, and it made her smile every time, and just hearing Naruto's words gave her the energy and inspiration to go for it just a little more.

She could imagine his wide grin, and the strength behind that smile.

Hinata touched her chest, and thought that her heart was a feeling a little faster than usual, and her face was warm. She imagined her cheeks were most probably red too.

She did not know why, but she began to think that she only felt like this when she was with Naruto.

"Why…" Hinata asked herself, confused.

But one thing was for sure.

She felt truly good about it.

"Wow…that's so romantic!" Hanabi remarked, her eyes glued on her sister, her ears tuned in on her storytelling. Her purely white eyes were glistening.

"A-ah…w-was it?' Hinata mumbled, embarrassed.

"Bet you were feeling a little annoyed when those Jounin guys came and interrupted your lovey-dovey moment, huh!" Hanabi said, her eyes narrowed as she softly elbowed her sister.

"S-shut up! I was not!" Hinata retorted, aghast.

"Ah! Onee-san's blushing! Ahaha! OW!" Hanabi yelped when Hinata slapped a pillow on her head.

"Heh, that's what you get!" Hinata said, slyly.

"Oh yeah, well, take this!" Hanabi took her own pillow and started bashing it on her sister's head. Hinata began to fight back, of course, though both were laughing heartily as they began their pillow-fight.

It continued for a while until the door suddenly opened, freezing both Hanabi and Hinata in their tracks. At the door was their father, and the leader of the Hyuuga clan, Hiashi.

"F-father…" Hinata and Hanabi simultaneously said, suddenly feeling awfully embarassed.

Clearing his throat, he said, "Hanabi, when I approved of your sleeping inside your sister's room for the night, I thought you'd actually sleep."

"Eheh…sorry, Father," Hanabi replied, scratching her head.

But then, their father just smiled them, something that shocked both his daughters, and said, "It's getting late. Go to sleep, the both of you"

As he slid the door shut, both sisters suddenly heaved a loud sigh of relief.

"Man, I thought I was dead," Hanabi mumbled, suddenly feeling tired. Hinata just nodded in agreement.

"So, what happened next, then?" Hanabi asked, tugging on her sister's sleeve.

"You know, Father's right, we should be getting some sleep," Hinata replied, slipping into her futon.

"W-WHAT!" Hanabi exclaimed, not believing what just entered her ears, "Y-you can't leave it at that! What happens next? What happened to the mock exams?"

Hinata yawned. "It's getting late, okay? Tomorrow morning, I promise."

Hanabi pouted, mumbling, "You better!"

As soon as Hanabi was under the covers, Hinata slipped a hand out to reach for the lamp, and turned it off. Moonlight and darkness immediately entered the room, and as their eyes getting used to the dim lighting, Hanabi yawned too.

But before she could fully go to sleep, she said, "But you know…you haven't told me when you actually felt something for him, or when you really thought you fell for him."

Hinata blushed tremendously, and snapped, "Just go to sleep already!"

Hanabi giggled, and snuggled closer to her sister, putting around her body. "But you know," she said, "I'm beginning to see why you like this guy so much."

Hinata smiled, and holding her hand, said, "Good night, Hanabi."

"Good night, Onee-san."

To be continued in Chapter Three!

(I'm not going to give a title since I'm probably going to change it again. XD )