DISCLAIMER: No, I don't own ninjas. Please stop thinking that I do. :P
On a lighter note...
I'M NOT DEAD! Ha, I know, I can't believe it either. In a nutshell, I took a year off from writing so that I could adjust to my new job as a math teacher. Well, adjustments are done and I FINALLY decided to finish this story once and for all. To any readers who actually remember who the hell I am after all this time...thanks for being awesome. ;D
Now go! Read this chapter before I go AWOL for a whole decade or something! Oh, and...ya might want to skim chapter 7 since I just jump right into things here. In other words...
NO RECAP 4 U! Mwahahaha!
Having taken but a moment to compartmentalize her waning self-doubts, Hinata barreled through the massive wooden archway...only to step in a dainty fresh pile of manure. Her newly ruined pedicure emphatically exclaimed that the circus was in town!
With but a single dumbfounded glance, the small girl took in all the sites (and smells) before her. Festivities abounded, not the least of them being the World's Weakest Man, a Clean-Shaven Woman, and the Domesticated Wild Boy. Truth be told, Hinata couldn't give a Rat-nin's ass about any of that crap and was instead intrigued by the 'Inventions of Tomorrow!'.
Despite her current predicament, the young woman rubbed her hands together in a most diabolical fashion.
I wonder if they finally managed to make a ramen noodle wonder bra without all the chaffing...
Curious to see if she could officially patent her long-held desire for Mesh Naruto Taming Lingerie (a.k.a. Project MeNTaL), the young Kunoichi darted her way over to the impressively lit-up outdoor exhibit. Truth be told, the majority of items displayed were far too f'd up to ever write about in a dignified fanfic such as this; the sheer abundance of hand lotion and hair removers alone made for a rather unsettling (yet pleasantly supple) experience.
(Still, nothing would ever compare to the time Gaara replaced all the ice cream in Suna with KY brand INTENSE © Jelly. To this very day, none of the village children could enjoy a cold refreshing treat without being lectured on the perils of indecent exposure in public places. Mind you, the real fun didn't begin until they realized all the red rainbow sprinkles had been replaced with flesh-eating fire ants. ROFLcopter!)
As luck would have it, a quaint little stand made itself known in the far corner, beckoning the young girl over. Immediately upon her arrival, Captain Yamato disengaged himself from a nearby tree while dusting off what appeared to be a greasy car salesman jacket. The post-timeskip Jounin dug out a small cedar splinter from the inseam of his pants. He immediately assumed a face-splitting grin.
"I've got wood!"
Hinata cringed visibly. He flicked the item into a trash can.
"But enough about me, let's talk about you! Has it ever seemed that there wasn't enough music in your life? Or for that matter explosions? Well we here at ShinobiCo have just the answer!"
At that particular statement, Yamato pulled out a bright red cylinder spanning the full length of his arm. The young girl sweat-dropped as he blew a raspberry into one of the open ends.
"Allow me to introduce the Kazooka; its not quite a kazoo, and its not quite a bazooka, but man is it awesome!"
Noticing her incredulous stare, he dumped the piece of junk and went for the next one.
"Not into music, eh? No matter! What you need is one of these babies!"
From out of nowhere, the older man pulled out a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.
"Are you familiar with an RPG?"
The young girl pondered that for a moment before offering a tentative answer.
"Uhh...y-you mean a Rocket Propelled Grenade?"
The older man took on a slightly insane grin.
"Nope! Rocket Propelled Genin!"
And with that, Kiba promptly popped his head out of the business end of the weapon in question.
The dog boy waved emphatically.
Struck deaf, dumb and temporarily blind at such an act, the Hyuuga maiden rubbed her eyes vigorously as Kiba presumably approached entry into the stratosphere. She peeked through her fingers to see the Jounin sporting what appeared to be a Konaha-issued protective vest.
Of course, the real surprise came when his pectorals began to inflate to gargantuan proportions. He offered a good natured thumbs up to offset her unparalleled look of horror.
"I take it you're familiar with a flak jacket, but make no mistake...this here is a rack jacket! Guaranteed by ShinobiCo to increase a woman's bust size in three seconds flat! Did you know it even comes with a handy pre-set feature? Simply select 'sporty', 'voluptuous' or 'Hindenburg' and off ya go!"
Yamato immediately began to play with the individual controls, creating a hypnotizing display that very much resembled a beach ball trying to mate with a grapefruit. He gestured towards the ever expanding ensemble, suddenly taking on a deadly serious ghost-like expression as the lights momentarily dimmed.
"Just so you know, this makes for one helluva nice life preserver, too."
Intent on not letting that stray comment further corrupt the inner recesses of her mind, Hinata immediately began to formulate the best way to incorporate such a gimmick into her existing repertoire of clothing.
Hmm...maybe I could sew it into that lavender coat I have and pretend its a wardrobe malfunction...
Suffice it to say, she wasn't granted much of an opportunity to dwell on such promiscuous thoughts after observing her cousin decked out in a top hat and tuxedo several feet in front of her. The fact that Choji was squeezing his butt into a form-fitting pink leotard just happened to be icing on the cake.
Neji hopped up onto a nearby soapbox and thumped the ground with his cane while twirling a glued on mustache. His beautifully grotesque assistant nonchalantly adjusted a pair of man-boobs beneath the skin tight outfit. Both stood before a dilapidated tent promising no end to the torture this day had so far brought along with it.
"Hur-ray hur-ray hur-ray! Be the first to see the most sensational sights, mystical mysteries and fantastical fantasies! Don't be shy ladies and gentleman, just step on up to experience the wonders of the world!"
Having been the only sane person actually present to hear such a grandiose introduction, Hinata instantly became the singular point of interest to a pair of Genjutsu-induced psychotic gazes. She swallowed back a surge of bile as Choji bounded over to her not unlike a lava lamp with legs. The poor girl was unceremoniously dragged back to her oblivious older cousin as he tipped his hat in her direction.
"Young lady, I say, have you an interest in the supernatural, the cosmological or the paranormal?"
She twitched involuntarily. His monocle hadn't been apparent until now.
"Ah, n-not really, I just-"
"Then today's your lucky day! My lovely assistant Chojilina just happens to have a spare pass to the main attraction. Enjoy!"
Without further adieu, both young 'men' hoisted her up under an arm and, with a mighty heave, shoved her through the flap and into a hastily constructed world of illusion. As she skidded to a halt, a tiny golden ticket fluttered down upon her head. She snatched it off and glanced at the writing.
Admit ONE to 'Neji's Narcissistic Novelties'.
The young girl briefly considered the appropriateness of that statement before looking up. What greeted her eyes was nothing less than a full deployment of all the eccentricities life had left to throw at her. Set in a haphazard arrangement were stall after stall of assorted activities, all leading to the exit at the precise opposite end of the canvased structure. Thinking it best to simply make a mad dash for said exit, Hinata briefly checked the wound on her arm before sprinting forward...only to be immediately lassoed around the waist by what appeared to be intricately woven synthetic eyebrows.
The Byakugan heiress halted, staring dumbly at the rough pseudo-keratin cord adorning her middle.
She was knocked from her deadened perceptions by a most youthful proclamation.
"Gai-sensei! I believe I have managed to wrangle myself a lively one!"
She turned about to see Lee and Gai in matching leather cowboy hats and leaf embroidered butt-less chaps. (Frightening how that just rolls off the tongue, isn't it?) The scariest part was her immediate understanding that she greatly preferred this version compared to their earlier encounter.
Maito Gai gave his prodigy a hearty slap on the back.
"Boy howdy, Lee! Did you ever! Now for the branding!"
Hinata gave a short gasp.
"W-What!? No! I-"
Before she could utter another word, Lee bounded over and stuck a tiny yellow item upon her cheek.
"There! Now you are official property of Gai-sensei's Dude Love Corral!"
Despite that being one of the most horrifying statements to ever befall mankind, he nonchalantly held up a mirror pulled from parts unknown. It turned out that adding bowl cuts to a generic happy face sticker did not make for a pretty sight. She hastily peeled off the adornment and wiggled out of her make-shift belt as the Delinquent Duo argued about the proper ways to hog-tie a falcon.
Counting her blessings for such a...tolerable experience, Hinata was just about to activate her Byakugan for clues to Naruto's whereabouts when she was catapulted through the air by a hidden spring-loaded floor tile. The poor girl completely missed the inherent awesomeness of such a cool trap as she shrieked her way into a perfect three-point landing. Luckily, an ultra-plush cushioned chair was there to absorb the impact.
Dosu, Kin and Zaku fanned out around her, each sporting a chibi grin.
"Welcome to the Sound Garden Spa Resort! Please relax and let us take care of everything!"
Without the slightest hesitation, all three Sound-nin promptly got to work. Dosu grabbed a metal knob jutting from the chair and flicked his arm. The riveting massage coursing through the framework melted her in a heartbeat. It just got all the better as she received a complimentary shampoo and blow dry from Zaku's Wind-style Ninjutsu. Kin applied a bit of acupuncture to her damaged shoulder, easing away the pain in an instant.
Her senbon accompaniment to 'Carol of the Bells' wasn't half bad either.
Lost in the blissful hold of complete and total relaxation, Hinata let her mind wander across all the insane crap she had gone through thus far. Naked Gai, Crazy Tenten, Corporate Shino...
So many memories. But alas, even in her intoxicatedly mellow state, it seemed like she was...missing something.
It wasn't until the vibrating ninja foot massage that she sat bolt upright with a screech.
"Holy sweet crap Naruto-kun!"
She snatched her newly-scrubbed sandals and bolted for the exit. A crazed flurry of hand signs activated her Byakugan, indicating that highly condensed chakra had passed through here quite recently. Hinata shifted into high gear and plowed through the opposite tent flap, passing by a very upset Kunoichi in the process.
Tayuya sat in the far corner of an adjacent room, listening attentively to the monotone announcements.
She glared at her Bingo card in a blind rage.
"Gosh darn it!"
From directly behind her, a pair of hands shot up in the air. A dual shout sliced through the crowd.
Tayuya ground her teeth and shredded the aforementioned card, her white-knuckled grip threatening to break off the edge of the table. She whipped around to confront the unlucky victim.
Ukon and Sakon beamed with pride, their twin heads bobbing with glee. Each took a turn speaking in a haughty manner.
"B4 you start anything, Tayuya...I8 to tell you, but...you'd never stand a chance against us."
Her lips curled back in a feral manner, causing both young men to smirk derisively.
"N-yway, it really is too bad you lost...G, I hope she doesn't stay mad at us too long, brother."
At that little exchanged snippet, each began to laugh in a mocking tone. The bright-haired kunoichi reached for her flute before sneering sadistically.
"O, I wouldn't worry about that. I'm more interested in testing something I learned in band camp on you two..."
Sakon looked at Ukon. Ukon looked back at Sakon. A pair of smiles promptly evaporated from their vaudevillian faces.
"...Do you mean-"
And that was the day they learned the unfathomable joys of a prostate exam.
Back to the action!
Just as she had left the canvased structure, Hinata's all-seeing eyes were practically blinded by the sheer volume of residual chakra inundating the area. To further complicate matters, it had become all too clear that the once singular path branched off into no less than nine distinct trails. Confusion and panic gripped her heart, singling out the notion that perhaps this whole situation was truly beyond her ability to handle.
Heartbroken, she released the Kekkai Genkai and pondered her current predicament. As she did so, something strange made itself known.
That's...odd. It looked like nine trails, but...compared to last time, it only feels like one. Could this...could it be a trick...?
She activated her signature ability one more time, straining to catch a glimpse of some tell-tale sign of what she should do next. Though she could still see nine distinct signatures, there was just no way they could all be emitting the same level of chakra as before. Unless...
Did Kyuubi use Shadow Clones to throw off the trail?
If that were the case, each path would be an identical fraction of the original, leaving no way to truly discern the real Naruto. She couldn't waste time checking each one, nor could she herself muster enough chakra to create any more Shadow Clones for reconnaissance. Without anyone else to help in the search, it was hopeless. Her Byakugan faded once more. There was just no way to-
The young girl swiftly blinked away her doubts as a fresh idea popped into her head.
Wait a minute. This whole mess is caused by Genjutsu. Kurenai-sensei is a master of Genjutsu! If I could get her to weaken the spell, maybe then...maybe then I could finally make a difference!
Clamping on to a fresh reserve of determination, the young Hyuuga departed from her current endeavor and sped off towards the high rise apartments her sensei currently occupied. Within minutes, she was situated before the Gunakilyu Housing complex. Unfortunately for her, she hadn't ever gone further than the front entrance and thus was now completely at a loss as to which apartment was inhabited by her teacher.
Steeling her resolve, Hinata dashed through the gate and looked all around for clues. Her sensei enjoyed flowers, so maybe...yes! On several distinct balconies rested a multitude of potted plants glowing in the light of a rising new moon. Taking a moment to further examine her surroundings, the young girl smiled faintly, now able to narrow the search to a scant three dwellings. Each held a certain beloved flower, stirring up pleasant memories from her subconsciousness.
Those are Sun Orchids!...I remember when Kurenai-sensei placed a bud in my hair, saying it was just like me...that I would blossom one day, and...and that I would finally understand...
When questioned as to 'what' she would understand, Kurenai had gazed affectionately at her student, succumbing to a motherly charm.
"You're still so young, Hinata, even for your age. When you get a bit older, you'll see why things ended up being the way they are."
That had only added to the girl's confusion, eliciting a good-natured laugh from the older woman. Despite the cryptic musings, it was from that point on that Hinata had begun to feel much more comfortable around her sensei. Suddenly back in the present, the young girl cheerfully rubbed at her moist eyes before dashing towards the first flowery apartment.
The door creaked open by its own accord. There were no lights. Undaunted, the young girl inched her way into the abode.
"Kurenai-sensei, is that you?"
A glob of something dropped onto her shoulder. Shrieking, Hinata swatted her arm and leapt backwards, inadvertently hitting the light switch in the process. A thick clod of mud now adorned her jacket, apparently having plopped down from above. Dumbstruck, the young Hyuuga glanced upwards to find the source of such earth-based treachery. She was ever so slightly surprised.
"W-Why are there pig tracks everywhere...?"
Lo and behold, she turned towards the kitchen...only to spy Tenten in a tutu walking Tonton upside-down across the ceiling. (Hooray for bastardized alliteration!)
Both girl and swine sported identical euphoric grins as the weapon mistress began to sing.
"Spiderpig, spiderpig. Does whatever a~ spiderpig does. Can she swing...from a web? No she can't... she's a pig. Look ouuuuut! Tonton the spi-der piiiiigg..."
To put it simply, Hinata just about passed a shit taco in her mad dash for the exit.
With the door now firmly closed behind her (and then arc welded shut for good measure), the young girl raced off to her next stop, zoning in on the second of three potential Kurenai hot spots. As she approached her destination, Hinata noticed a weather-beaten poster plastered rather crudely to the wall:
"Learn to tell time wherever you are! Impress all the friends you never wished you had! Attract highly questionable and troublesome women!" -Nara S.
Not quite sure what to make of that last part, Hinata stared at the handle for many long moments before finally deciding to open the door. Why, you may ask? For the lulz.
The wooden barrier between herself and impending insanity swung inward. Without hesitation, a vast assortment of seizure inducing strobe lights and ear splitting techno music assailed her highly developed senses. Her slackened jaw began to twitch with the beat as the sole occupant of the room cranked his gangsta up to eleven.
"It's Peanut-Buttuh-Jelly-Time! Peanut-Buttuh-Jelly-Time! Peanut-Buttuh-Jelly-Time!"
Hinata rested her head against the door frame, not quite sure what in fact she had just witnessed. Regardless, for some inexplicable reason, the young girl took a deep, cleansing breath...and opened the door once more.
"Do the PeanutButterJelly! PeanutButterJelly! PeanutButterJelly with a baseball bat!"
In truth, it wasn't the fact that Shikamaru had been dancing to the rhythm in the most ridiculous fashion imaginable...no, she was pretty sure her mild cardiac arrest had been from his emphatic crotch thrusts while wearing a glorified banana suit and vigorously shaking a pair of Temari-shaped moroccos.
That, or it could have been last night's five-alarm chili coming back for a second go. Whichever.
The point is that Hinata was off again, pushing herself to the limit so that she might track down her sensei in time. Just as she began to approach the last door on her list, a husky, feminine voice stopped her mid stride.
"Oh Asuma...oh yes, right there!"
The young Hyuuga stopped dead as in death.
"That's the spot...mhmm, just turn a bit to the left and...it fits perfectly."
Hinata numbly sat back on her haunches, wiping away a nosebleed. She had always considered Asuma-sensei to be rather good-looking, but...damn.
"Uh huh...you've almost got it...that's it! Oh God, that's it!"
Ok...well...Hinata certainly knew where she wasn't needed, and that place happened to be right the hell here, right the hell now. She hastily gathered her thoughts and peeled off down the fire escape, racking her brain for alternative methods in which to stop the greatest nemesis Konaha had ever known.
Meanwhile, Kurenai and Asuma stared at the table in her living room, taking the time to admire the newly completed picture adorning its surface. The male Jounin took a slow drag from his cigarette.
"Jeez Kurenai, I never knew anyone could get so worked up over a jigsaw puzzle."
The young woman had the decency to blush.
"Well...I always used to play with them in my childhood, and it just brings back so many memories."
Both Jounin looked at the floorboards, too shy to say anything more. Team Ten's captain absently began to scratch at his beard.
"So...ya wanna go at it like rabbits?"
The seasoned Kunoichi tapped a nail against her lips, silently considering his proposition.
And everyone lived happily ever after. The End.
Well, that is until Asuma suffered a gaping metaphysical hole in his chest caused by a deranged psychopath and his voodoo-like jutsu. But hey, that's life. (And a story plug for the astute reader!)
Outside the apartments!
Adding that little endeavor to her list of things she hoped never to experience again (set between 'See Kiba naked' and 'Pull Gai's finger'), Hinata jogged to a halt and rested her hands upon her knees, slightly woozy from all the chakra expended throughout the day. She took a moment to catch her breath.
Only then did she notice 'Tetris Music A' playing in the background. (Youtube it! 8D)
Straightening, the young girl slowly turned about, unsure what could be the source of such a retro bout of nostalgia. To her surprise, an old man in red and white robes was crouched down next to a pile of multi-colored and oddly-shaped bricks. As she approached the solitary figure, Hinata cast a disbelieving stare at the tri-point Hokage hat glistening softly in the moonlight.
At the faintly spoken words, Sarutobi Hiruzen glanced over his shoulder, taking the time to offer the timid girl a warm wave and smile.
"Hello, Hinata! Nice night for repairing the Fourth Wall, don't you think?"
Seemingly in a trance, Hinata did little more than slump to her knees beside the legendary God of Shinobi. The sheer surprise factor completely nullified any reserve of tact she might have at one time possessed.
"But...you're dead. I...I went to your funeral. Orochimaru k-killed you."
The older man scoffed at the memory.
"Nah, he just turned me into a newt."
His young visitor cast him a blank stare. The Sandaime meekly glanced off to the side.
"...I got better."
Returning to his circa 1984 work, he slid an L-block next to a T-block and watched a whole row of items poof out of existence. Hiruzen let out an annoyed grunt as the pipe in his mouth vented a cherry-scented plume of smoke. This would be so much easier if Enma hadn't refused to answer his Summons. How dare the Monkey King choose barrels, a plumber and a princess over him!
Still completely dumbstruck at such a turn of events, Hinata watched as the grandfatherly figure gave up his self-appointed task and turned towards her, the ever-present grin fading from his weathered countenance.
"Naruto and the Kyuubi are locked in a life and death struggle even as we speak...I trust you already know this."
Her eyes grew wide at the jarringly sane words, eliciting a faint grin and nod from the older man.
"Jiraiya wasn't the only one to make it his business to know that boy's chakra inside and out. I'd wager the last thing you expected was to meet another person able to resist the Kyuubi's genjutsu, eh?"
A wave of relief flooded through the kunoichi's chest, overwhelming her senses as it became apparent there was still someone left to help after all. Despite her newly found strength, she could already feel the tears beginning to form. Her words gushed forth under the strain of a bleeding heart.
"Hokage-sama! Please, I...I don't know what to do...Naruto needs help and the Fox is too strong! I can't do it all by myself! I...everyone is crazy, and...nothing makes sense anymore! I just...it's too much, and there's no one else!...It all feels so...it's almost as if..."
She dropped her chin, casting her eyes upon the dirt between her knees.
"Its like I'm all alone..."
At her words, Hiruzen leaned back a ways, nodding sagely as he scratched his beard.
"Oh, I see...that is a problem."
The old Shinobi cast her a sidelong glance.
"Hinata, do you know why I sacrificed my life to save Konaha?"
Pale lavender eyes shot up from the ground.
"B-But I thought you said-"
"Old men tend to say many things. Now, let me hear your answer."
She looked down again, contemplating his words.
"I...I suppose you did it because of your love for the village. You...You didn't want to see everything that was precious swept away into nothingness..."
He considered her candid response, smirking beneath the pipe.
"Hmm...I must seem like a very selfish person to you, Hinata-chan."
She jerked her head to the side, mortified at his words.
"N-No, Hokage-sama! I-I would never...please forgive my rudeness!"
And with that she made a frantic bow, nearly head butting his elbow in the process. He gave a hearty laugh, beckoning her to sit by his side.
"Well then, child...let me try and explain..."
He added a bit of tobacco to his long time companion as a certain twinkle entered his eyes.
"The reason I sacrificed my life was because it wasn't my life to sacrifice."
Hinata blinked, a questioning look overcoming her porcelain features. The old man smiled.
"I fought so that Iruka could continue to teach in the Academy, Tenten would have the chance to follow in Tsunade's footsteps and Ino might still catch the eye of Sasuke. I battled the First Hokage so Choji could celebrate every successful mission with a buffet, I bled at the hands of the Second in memory of Lee's constant determination to prove his worth, and I fell at the feet of Orochimaru so that Konahamaru might one day stand up and lead a good, honorable life."
A light entered the young girl's face as she quickly began to grasp what he was saying. Hiruzen cast a gentle hand on her damaged shoulder, catching her eyes in a vice as he spoke.
"I was never, ever alone, Hinata. I had everyone there beside me, including you and Naruto, giving me the strength to do what I must. It was that very strength which allowed me to protect the village, nothing more."
His hand began to glow a faint green, sending friendly chakra into the immediate vicinity of her wound. The young girl was too enraptured by his words to pay it any mind.
"You aren't alone, Hinata. You never have been, and you never will be. Naruto is counting on you, as is the rest of the village. My time here is over, but yours is just beginning. If you take nothing else from this night, remember..."
He pulled his arm back, revealing her healed shoulder.
"A true Kunoichi does not forget her home in a fight for her life, but rather forgets her life in a fight for her home."
Hiruzen stood the girl up, guiding her eyes towards the Hokage Monument far in the distance. Upon its peak, right above the Fourth's head, stood an almost imperceptible orange dot shimmering faintly in the moonlight.
"Your path leads to Naruto and the Kyuubi, Hinata-chan. Whether or not it ends there...is up to you..."
As if released from a trance, Hinata nodded, willing herself to draw on the wisdom of someone so deeply connected to everything she held dear. A small hand rose to massage her newly healed flesh.
She turned, revealing nothing more than a crumpled pile of robes to heed her words. Startled, the young girl took but a moment to calm herself before bowing in silent reverence.
Focusing her mind, Hinata set her sights on Hokage Mountain as she once again darted into the night.
Granted, the young woman's current thoughts weren't entirely set on the enormity of the situation looming before her.
Oh man! It was so cool how he just disappeared like that! Maybe if I'm really lucky, I'll be able to 'Obi Wan Shinobi' Naruto-kun's pants and Force out his lightsaber! Tee hee!
Well...there ya go! A year and a half late, but just like old times!
As you might have guessed from the chapter title, this is Part 1 of a two part finale, so stay tuned for the conclusion to 'Just Another Day!' There's also a very high probability of me updating before the turn of the century, too! Unless I don't, in which case it was a very low probability. *Grin*
Either way, see ya next time!