Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor am I making any money from posting this fic. I have borrowed the original script for Hinata in Episode 59. I cannot bring myself to write anything as sickeningly sweet. Also, you will be seeing more canon dialogue twisted to convey a different meaning. You'll know what I mean as you read.
: ... Kyuubi Talking... :
: ... Kyuubi Thinking... :
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Stasis: Dynamic Balance; the concept that changes occur so that balance can be
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oOoNaruto sighed dejectedly as he sat up in bed. He switched off the alarm on the clock before it could go off, after all what good would that do. Naruto had been awake all night long thinking of his upcoming match against Hyuuga Neji. For any other genin, that would have spelled a recipe for disaster, but fortunately (or unfortunately) for Naruto he was not your everyday ordinary ninja. No, he was the number one surprising shinobi of Konoha, so sleep or not Naruto was feeling bright and chipper!
And oh… it might have just a little something to do with his big fluffy prisoner.
Naruto could feel sardonic amusement roll off the kitsune in waves at the "fluffy" comment. Ever since the fateful night that Mizuki-sensei had broken the Sandaime's law, Naruto had become increasingly aware of the kitsune's emotions. It seemed as if just by becoming aware of his prisoner, Naruto had begun to form some kind of mental bond with the nine-tailed fox, or maybe the bond had always been there and only now Naruto was taking notice of it.
:So easily surprised little mortal? We share a vessel… Our souls are intertwined… It should come as no surprise to you, my vessel, that we are each able to sense the other…:
Naruto nodded to himself.
Yea that kinda does make sense, I guess…
Naruto felt the Kyuubi shift its body and wrap its long sinuous tails about itself in a makeshift blanket as it settled down in a relaxed position.
Naruto had been surprised at how benign the monster fox of Konoha was most of the time. When Naruto had first met the demon fox, the sheer size of the demon and the magnitude of the raw chakra rolling off the fox had hit him with the force of a blow, leaving him petrified with more awe than terror. No, Naruto was not terrified. Okay maybe perhaps just a little bit. But still after having been faced with murder attempts and killer intents from the day he had been self-aware, Naruto knew that the demon fox meant its vessel no harm. Naruto could sense the kitsune's killer intent alright, but he also knew that the murderous thoughts were not directed towards himself but towards whatever had forced the Jinchuuriki into a situation of such enormous peril that the Kyuubi had been forced to pull the orange clad ninja into his mindscape.
:Come closer child…: the fox had murmured and Naruto had obediently moved forward.
How could he have done otherwise? The incredible presence before him was power incarnate and Naruto had instinctually sensed that disobeying the creature would have consequences far greater than mere death. When the claws had rushed out at him, Naruto had fallen over in surprise.
:I want to devour you, but this gate will not open…: the fox had said after its strike. :It is a detestable seal…:
Now Naruto may not have been the sharpest kunai in the pouch, but he did know a little something about predators. It was a basic lesson at the academy as so many Taijutsu styles were based on creatures of the wild. All hunting creatures were incredibly well adapted to gauge distance so that they may successfully pounce or slash as the situation may demand. So why should the Kyuubi, the mighty a demon fox be any different? The look in the fox's eyes… it spoke of infinite patience and inhuman intelligence… why would such a powerful creature fail to destroy a mere genin had it felt so inclined. It did not occur to Naruto until later that it was highly suspicious that the demon was freely giving away information about the conditions of its captivity.
As these thoughts and others came to Naruto, the orange clad ninja could sense the demon's approval.
This situation is familiar… Naruto thought. It almost feels like the bell test Kakashi-sensei made us do. So does this mean that this is all… a test…?
Naruto thought that the Kyuubi had seemed amused and approving at that time. But then again, what did he know of the facial expressiveness of demon foxes anyways?
:You came to me this time… Why did you come here…?: The Kyuubi murmured quietly, when Naruto had reached his conclusion. It almost seemed like the demon fox was searching for something within its vessel's personality.
A test of character perhaps? Naruto thought in frustration. Or maybe it is something else? What does the fox mean by "you came to me this time"? I did not come here! The fox dragged me here... Gah! This is all so confusing!
Naruto never was good at figuring out logic problems and riddles. He was more adept at making riddles and setting up pranks than doing the converse. With a jolt, Naruto remembered that outside his mind, his body was steadily plummeting towards oblivion.
I don't have time for this. he thought desperately. I need chakra now!
"Hey, you dumb fox!" Naruto called out with a bravery he did not feel. "Since, you are staying in my body, give me your chakra as rent!"
He winced at calling the fox "dumb", when he knew it was anything but. However, Naruto needed to get the fox off balance. Insulting Sasuke always made the angsty genin furious making the raven haired boy unable to think clearly. Maybe it would work on the fox as well.
The fox had been quiet and contemplative for a few moments as it considered the blonde genin's words, not even slightly put off. Naruto waited with baited breath for the Kyuubi's answer. If the fox did not acquiesce, he would die! If he was dead, his dreams would die with him as well. He said he would become the Hokage. For that to happen, he needed to live.
:You are saying that if you die, I will die as well?: The Kyuubi murmured thoughtfully.
Huh… I don't remember saying that… Naruto thought. But that is a good point… Why didn't I think of that?
Again the fox seemed amused and both approving and disapproving. Naruto looked at it suspiciously wondering if the fox could hear his thoughts.
:You have guts blackmailing me like that…: The fox lazily commented at length as it gazed down upon its mortal vessel with unreadable eyes.
:Very well…: The fox continued as red chakra leaked across the bars of the cage imprisoning the demon, surrounding Naruto. :It is a reward for coming all the way here… I will give it to you…!:
Naruto remembered being in excessive pain as he absorbed a miniscule fraction of the great beast's chakra. When he opened his eyes, Naruto found himself still plummeting into the deep chasm, with no end in sight.
How deep is this abyss anyways? Naruto wondered as he hurriedly went through the hand signs of the summoning technique and summoned the Toad Boss – Gamabunta.
:There is somewhere you need to be, little mortal.: The Kyuubi reminded quietly, breaking into Naruto's reminiscence. :Regardless of your sensei's example, tardiness will become an enormous hurdle in your quest for power…:
Huh? What? Oh yeah… the Chunin examinations… Naruto thought as he leapt out of bed and hurried through his morning rituals and hurried through the streets in the direction of the amphitheatre that served as the tournament grounds.
Naruto walked unseeingly through the marketplace, when he overheard a pair of villagers discussing the upcoming chuunin examinees. To be honest, it was the name of his opponent that had captured his attention. Naruto slowed down his pace and walked directly behind the two villagers and shamelessly eavesdropped on their conversation.
It turned out that both of the young men were very excited to be able to witness the skills of last year's number one rookie who was also a Byakugan user first hand. Naruto almost snorted and wondered if every ninja with good grades and some kind of bloodline was considered a genius. From what he had seen in the Forest of Death and the C turned B class mission in the waves, the feral creatures of the wild and rogue ninjas could not care less what your grades may have been in the academy, and possessing a bloodline only helps in moving up in priority of the enemies "must kill" list.
Listening to their animated conversation, Naruto remembered the words of Kakashi-sensei and Rock Lee from the Chuunin Preliminary fights.
Even my Sharingan is not able to see those Tenkutsu. (Kakashi)
The strongest Genin in Konoha is most likely on my team. And he is Hyuuga Neji. (Lee)
Naruto realizing that he was getting depressed again laughed out loud suddenly, garnering strange looks from passer-bys.
"I'm able to summon a toad now, so I should be fine!" He exclaimed out loud, thinking of the King of Toads – Gamabunta.
Hey fox! You don't think that that Hyuuga will be much of a challenge against Uzumaki Naruto eh?
The fox did not answer the query causing Naruto's frame to slouch in defeat. Not even his prisoner had any faith in his abilities it seemed. But then how could he hope for anyone to trust in his abilities. His own jounin sensei had abandoned him, foisting him onto another claiming that the closet pervert was a better ninja than himself.
Yea right. Naruto thought sarcastically. The administrative elite jounin is more powerful than the former ANBU captain.
It had hurt to be cast aside so easily in favour of the Uchiha survivor, and not even his current sensei took him seriously, choosing to make use of his time spying on naked women in bathhouses rather than train his student.
Around him, his sensitive ears picked up comments about the "loud mouth freak" and the "accursed demon boy". Naruto laughed nervously as he walked faster through the crowd. He could now pick up murmurs of people talking about how skilled Hyuuga Neji was, and about how he was certain to destroy the demon boy come today's match. There was no question of who would be the winner today. No, the bets that were going around was whether or not the Hyuuga would succeed in eliminating the "Demon of Konoha" for good. The villagers had even begun discussing commemorating Hyuuga Neji as a hero of the leaf for eliminating the "Kyuubi incarnate".
Not realizing what he was doing, Naruto broke into a sprint pushing past the two villagers who had just been glorifying the Hyuuga prodigy. He had to get away from those voices. By the time Naruto had realized he was running, he was almost at the training grounds of Konoha set aside for the genin and chuunin. This was where he always came when he was feeling a little down, so it was not surprising that he would find himself here when he was distressed and running blindly.
Naruto had stopped going to the Hokage monument after the vandalizing experience. That place had stopped being his private haven as far too many people would be there watching Naruto closely, fearing a repeat performance from him. Naruto stopped in his tracks when an image of Hyuuga Neji rose within his mind from the Chuunin examinations preliminary round, when the Hyuuga prodigy was staring at the form of his fallen cousin.
Hyuuga Neji… those eyes… he murmured thoughtfully. The pain in those eyes…
Unbidden, the images of Gaara followed by Sasuke rose in his mind. The Kyuubi seemed to grow alert as he remembered the sand user. The demon fox seemed to have taken a solid interest in the Jinchuuriki of the sand.
"Everyone has those weird eyes..." Naruto murmured out loud. Within his mind he could feel the Kyuubi move restlessly within his cage.
Burning eyes that are… hard like stone… cold like ice… there was darkness within them…
:Foolish mortal… now is not the time for such idle speculation… your mind wanders…:
Not now? Naruto thought at the Kyuubi. Why not now?
There was silence for a few moments where Naruto was afraid that the Kyuubi would not answer.
:You must focus if you desire to win against the human child that wields the eyes of a demon.: The Kyuubi murmured at length. :If you continue along this vein you will not be able to fight to your full potential in the match and you are already mentally exhausted.:
Demon eyes? You mean Gaara? Naruto asked.
The demon shook his giant head in the negative and projected the image of the Byakugan user right in front of Naruto, almost like a bunshin that only the Kyuubi vessel could see.
Eh? Those aren't demon eyes. That's the Byakugan, Neji's bloodline limit.
Naruto waited for the kitsune to reply, but the fox seemed to be pondering something.
Eh, Whatever! I'll be fine! When the battle starts and my blood starts rushing through my body, I'll be as good as new! No worries! Naruto said to himself as he put on his fox smile and walked through the training grounds.
:It is foolish to rely upon the rush of battle for your strength little mortal.: the Kyuubi reprimanded harshly from within its cage. :Learn to leash your temper short-lived child or you will find your lifeline cut shorter still as those with demon blood overthrow you in fair combat. My vessel you may be child, and you have only just begun to learn to wield the power I have lent to you. However, the fact remains that your blood is vastly inferior to that of one with demon blood in their veins like your opponent.:
Hey I told you, the Hyuuga are human. They have the Byakugan not demon eyes and they are all human!
The Kyuubi only hummed noncommittally and did not pursue the subject further.
Naruto continued walking towards the tournament grounds when he felt a familiar chakra signature before him. Naruto blinked, wondering who it was when he spotted a familiar figure before him practising palm strikes against a practise stump.
"Hinata?" he called out in recognition, causing the addressed kunoichi to let out a startled yelp.
"Na- Naruto-kun...!" she called out as she hid behind the training stump, peeking out from behind it. "Why did you come here? Isn't today the main matches?"
"Eh?" Naruto blinked and rubbed the back of his head with one hand, a nervous gesture. "I… Uh… You know… I just came to see this training area… since this is where I became a genin…" Naruto murmured, picking the first excuse that came to him, the words sounding lame to his own ears. Naruto did not need to be concerned though as the shy kunoichi seemed to accept his answer at face value.
"R-Really?" she asked. "But why?"
Naruto looked away defensively, feeling anger budding within him. Why should he explain himself to her huh? No one answered any of his questions because he was the demon boy. Why should he answer their questions? Who was she to question his whereabouts?
"No reason! Who cares about the reason..." he snapped at the Hyuuga heiress.
"Oh…" Hinata murmured softly, looking down dejectedly. "Yeah... I umm… I'm sorry… I didn't mean to… I mean… W-What I mean is…"
Naruto also looked away in shame when the scent of salt hit his nose causing him to look back at the Hyuuga heiress in alarm. Hinata… she… she's crying… Naruto began to feel a little guilty for snapping at the pale-eyed kunoichi. He had always known that Hyuuga Hinata had confidence issues, and after meeting her cousin in the preliminary matches, it was not difficult for him to guess why the girl always stuttered so much. Naruto shuddered at the thought of those pupil-less eyes staring at him day in and day out, watching, measuring and judging his every action. It was not surprising that the gentle kunoichi was breaking under the pressure.
To think that he himself had hurt the girl when she was only just beginning to blossom.
Within his mind, Naruto could feel the Kyuubi sit up and peer through his eyes with interest. Naruto wondered what was so interesting about Hinata, to capture the demon lord's attention. Shrugging off the thought, Naruto focused on the problem at hand.
"Hey Hinata, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you…" Naruto murmured looking at the kunoichi earnestly. "I'm just feeling a little jittery you know from the match and all…"
"You don't have to apologize, Naruto-kun…" Hinata murmured, a soft blush spreading across her face. "I understand… You are battling Neji-niisan today…"
Naruto remembered the conversation from the marketplace.
"Hey Hinata…" Naruto murmured, causing the kunoichi to stare at him in surprise. Naruto found it a little strange that she was always so surprised when someone addressed her. It was almost as if no one ever paid attention to the girl…
:She is unused to attention…: the Kyuubi supplied.
Huh? How could that be? I thought she would get tonnes of attention, like Sasuke-teme. They are both heirs to the clan.
"Na- Naruto-kun?" Hinata murmured, "Is there s-something you wanted to ask me?"
"Umm oh yea… Neji is your relative, right?"
As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Naruto wanted to hit himself. Of all the stupid things he had to say…
Hinata giggled softly and nodded shyly.
"He is my first cousin." She replied softly, peeking out from behind the training stump.
"Hyuuga Neji… Is he strong?" Naruto asked quietly.
Hinata's face fell and she looked off to the side with downcast eyes.
Naruto's spirit plummeted.
"I see… So he's that strong huh…"
Last year's number one rookie… and he has an advanced bloodline limit… how am I going to defeat him… Naruto thought dejectedly.
"But... You might be able to defeat him Naruto-kun!" Hinata blurted out.
"Huh? What? Oh!" Naruto laughed out loud. He didn't want to appear weak before Hinata and he easily plastered on his practiced fox grin and put his arms behind his head. "Yeah! I am strong!" he called out energetically.
He tried to keep laughing, but found it difficult to do. Frustrated, Naruto realized that the fox was right. He really was mentally strained. Was he really ready for this battle, he wondered.
"I'm sure you can beat him, Naruto-kun…" Hinata murmured.
Naruto looked up in surprise to see the heiress twiddling her fingers.
"When you cheered me on, I felt like I had become stronger than before." Hinata continued, her voice beginning to gain strength as she took a step out from behind the stump in Naruto's direction. "If a stranger looked at me, it might seem like I haven't changed... But I think I was able to change." Hinata suddenly seemed to realize that she was staring at Naruto and looked away blushing hotly. "I- I think it was thanks to you, Na- Naruto-kun! I think you helped me become stronger…"
Naruto looked at the shy kunoichi, taken aback. That had to be the longest speech he had ever heard Hinata make, that too without stuttering.
Maybe… Maybe she was getting stronger… and it was because of him… He was partly responsible for her strength…
The thought made Naruto feel proud of himself, sending his ego soaring. It deflated instantly though when the Kyuubi projected snaps of the conversations of the villagers to the forefront of Naruto's mind.
"Hey Hinata…" Naruto asked in a subdued voice. "Do you really think that? I may look strong from your point of view, but I always screw up... and I just act strong because I'm mad… and-"
"No that's not true…" Hinata exclaimed, cutting in uncharacteristically. She looked mortified and clasps hands to her chest when she realized what she had done.
"Hinata…" Naruto said in wonder. The Kyuubi looked on interestedly listening and seeing through Naruto's senses. For some reason, the demon fox seemed terribly amused by all the proceedings. Naruto wondered what was so funny.
"That's not true!" Hinata repeated smiling shyly as if at some private thought. "Even if you did make a mistake you were always... from my point of view, a proud man who makes lots of mistakes. When I looked at you, there was this impact on my heart." Hinata began twiddling her fingers shyly. "You're not perfect... You make mistakes and get stronger from them. I believe that is true strength. Naruto-kun, I think you are a strong person."
With every word, Hinata shyly stepped behind the stump again, half hidden, half-visible.
Hinata… she… she believes in me… when no one else does…
"Thank you, Hinata." Naruto murmured, grinning shakily.
Hinata stopped twiddling her fingers and looked up in surprise. It was almost as if she was unused to being shown gratitude. Naruto frowned inwardly and put that thought away for later at the fox's advice and focused on Hinata. "I've always been last place in everything." He continued. "I was nervous over nothing. I was a bit depressed, but I feel better now!"
Hinata looked overjoyed at his words and Naruto walked off towards the tournament grounds waving as he walked away.
Naruto paused suddenly. He did not know why, but he felt like he had made a new friend. He had gained another precious person. He felt the need to acknowledge it out loud so that it was more firmly rooted in reality.
"Hinata." He said, not turning around.
"Y-Yes?" Hinata asked startled again.
"I always thought of you as... a dark, timid, and weird person." Naruto began walking away as he kept speaking. "But you know something...? I like people like you."
Pausing, Naruto turned around to see a blushing Hinata. "Oh… And be sure to come watch me beat Neji." He exclaimed just as the fireworks went off.
"Crap! It's time already?!" Naruto yelled, cursing. "I'm late... Late! See you later Hinata!"
Naruto ran off and made it inside the amphitheatre exactly on time, not even slightly out of breath. He felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off his chest and he could breathe more freely. Naruto realized that he was no longer mentally exhausted. Glancing up at the stands, Naruto caught sight of a pink haired kunoichi sitting beside her best friend. Naruto felt elated. Oddly enough, his heart did not pound or soar like it usually did when he caught sight of kunoichi of Team Seven.
Must be the exam getting on my nerves. Naruto thought as he lined up alongside the other chuunin examinees. Naruto only then caught sight of the dejection on Sakura's face. Naruto looked around and sure enough the Uchiha survivor was nowhere to be seen.
"Hey where's Sasuke-teme?" he asked out loud only to be met with shrugs all round.
Sasuke, you'd better get your ass here fast. Naruto thought distractedly. You're worrying Sakura-chan.
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oStilloDreamingo: This chapter was based loosely on Ep 56 & 59. This fic is intended to be a series of related sequential oneshots portraying Naruto's growth since his discovery of the Kyuubi. This fic will also be heavily NarutoKyuubi centric and will eventually be a Power Naruto fic (I'll try to keep it believable. No spontaneous growth happening whatsoever.). Kyuubi will be breaking the seal as story progresses. No pairings as of yet. I don't think 12 year olds have the psychological capacity or maturity to fall in love.
Please do review!