A Naruto Fic
(AN: Naruto and Hinata are now six years old, Neji seven, Teijo and Kurenai twenty-three.)
"Why have you called us together, Hiashi? I was unaware of any pressing clan business."
"Yes. And should you not be with Kiyoshi-sama, preparing for the birth of your child?"
Hiashi gave the elders a flat gaze. "I do hope you were not implying that I would shirk my duties to the clan for any reason."
"Enough. This meeting has been called to discuss which clan members we will be sending to the Academy this year."
The members of the council traded looks with each other before Hyuuga Genkei, the chairman spoke. "We sent you a proposed list."
"You did." Hiashi produced the scroll. I found it to have both an interesting omission and addition."
"You speak of your daughter's place on the list, I take it." At Hiashi's nod, Genkei sighed. "She is not showing skill at our clan techniques."
Hiashi's mouth formed a visible frown. "She is holding her own against Hyuuga her own age. I will admit that an heiress should preferably excel, but her skills in administration and her education are second to none."
"And possibly more important to the clan, yes, we have heard. The fact remains that many of her tutors have given us this recommendation. And Hinata-sama's victories, such as they are, come when she abandons Jyuuken."
"No, abandonment. Similar concepts, but not built on the same structure."
Hiashi suppressed his instinct to wince at following his deceased brother's advice at letting Hinata spend time around Teijo's Keitai no Nesshin Shou. She had certainly been…corrupted. "Very well, I suppose it would do her some good to learn more about the other Konoha clans." He studiously ignored the implication that his next child would take over Hinata's place.
"Excellent. Then we have no more business."
"We still have an omission." Hiashi indulged in a foul mental curse as he watched the clan council's mutinous body language. This does not bode well for continued relations with the Hokage. He leveled his gaze at the council.
Genkei returned it. "What omission do you speak of, Hiashi?"
"Uzumaki Naruto's name does not appear on the list."
One of the other council members, Hyuuga Kaede went so far as to spit. As mistress of the clan's finances while Kiyoshi was indisposed by her pregnancy, he already knew the argument that would come from her mouth. "With the boy to die in a year, we have no need to waste clan finances on the little monster."
"One of the Hokage's terms for our clan's adoption of the Uzumaki boy was that he was to attend the Konoha Ninja Academy."
"Old fool," muttered one of the lesser members of the council. "He'll deserve the surprise."
Overconfidence will destroy this clan, mused Hiashi. The Hokage did not gain his position and power by fluke. "Perhaps. But the fact remains that if Uzumaki is not sent to the Academy, Sarutobi will become suspicious."
Kaede frowned. "I suppose that we can spare one years tuition if it means Hiruzen doesn't take a closer look at our motives."
"Good. Then unless there is other business, I must attend to my wife."
Hinata slapped at the back of Naruto's ankle as she twisted out of his lunging kick's path. Chakra burst out of the tenketsu at the base of her middle finger, crashing over all seven ankle tenketsu. As always, the chakra in Naruto's kierakukei resisted the hekishou's intrusive element, but the jet smashed through three of the tenketsu, setting up localized turbulence, even as the physical strike shoved the attack to the side.
Naruto had been expecting the strike. He was hoping for less tenketsu breakthrough, though. One or two was annoying, but easy, well, easy enough to deal with. Three, three was a pain. As his foot came down to drag him forward and return the fight to in close, the turbulence in his kierakukei left his tendons…twitchy. Losing traction, he improvised, throwing his body forward and driving ahead with his rear leg.
As Hinata completed her spin, open palm out high for another hekishou strike that would catch any normal Jyuuken practitioner in the side of the neck or be countered by a morishushi strike to the tenketsu under the arm, Naruto's shoulder spear caught her in the solar plexus, shoulder tenketsu smashing chakra into her center meridian. Her tongue exploded in tastes and her shoulders lost strength as the turbulence from Naruto's chakra rushed up her kierakukei.
As Hinata hit the ground in a tumble of limbs, as much from the physical strike to the solar plexus as the chakra hit, she reflected how annoying it could be fighting her friend's Keitai no Nesshin Shou with pure Jyuuken. Not that her Jyuuken was pure anymore. Was it so bad that she had used some of the footwork Naruto did? Or surprised a sparring partner two years her senior with a hekihada strike from her elbow? She had won, hadn't she?
"Good improvisation, Naruto," noted the spar's overseer, Haiirogan activated to track both the internal and external aspects of the bout. "And your hekishou execution has improved since the last time I observed, Hinata-sama." The veins around his eyes receded and the red flecks faded back into the grey. "Very good, both of you."
Hinata sucked air back into her lungs as the riot of tastes faded away, smiling slightly as Naruto offered a hand up. Her silver-eyed friend's hair positively glowed in the sun, matching his grin. "Nice hekishou on the turn-around, Hinata-sama! Betcha that woulda got Neji good!"
Teijo pinched the bridge of his nose. "I swear your speech has gotten worse, Naruto."
"Ah, only around friends, Teijo-niisan!" He looked as if he wanted to throw his arm around Hinata's shoulders, but refrained. "I can still be all formal and stuff around the old guys on the council."
Teijo studiously kept his frown off his face. Neither of the kids might have their Byakugan activated, but even with normal sight, that would be far too much of a clue to the inquisitive Naruto, and Hinata had a great deal of knowledge of things that might let them piece together something he rather they not have to worry about. "In any case, I promised you Ichiraku, Naruto. Would you like to come along, Hinata-sama?"
Hinata twiddled her fingers. "I don't want to be trouble…"
"You're not trouble, Hinata-sama. It's awesome having you along!"
Teijo smiled at his ward's antics. "Naruto's right, Hinata-sama. No trouble at all. Besides, Kurenai's been asking about you."
Hinata smiled. "Alright."
Naruto leapt into the air. "Yes!"
"So missions have been pretty much C-rank busywork. You know how it is." Kurenai shrugged as she slurped a helping of her noodles. Naruto was already on his third bowl, and aiming for more. She swallowed. "I've been assigned heir escort tomorrow, so you'll be seeing me then."
"Heir escort? Which brat did you get assigned?"
Kurenai's eyes flicked over to where Hinata sat. Teijo only barely managed to keep his shock off his face, then flicked his fingers to attract Kurenai's attention. You're joking, right? he twitched out in recon raider finger code, something he had pointedly not taught Naruto.
No. The mission request is clear. I couldn't say why, but I'm to escort Hinata to the Academy.
Teijo allowed himself a visible frown. I suppose it could have to do with her picking up some Keitai no Nesshin Shou. And with another child on the way for Hiashi-sama and Kiyoshi-sama, the elders might be trying to shift the status of heir off Hinata-sama.
Oh. Kurenai shot a glance over at Naruto and Hinata. I don't suppose there's anything we can do.
Teijo-niisan and Kurenai-neesan had been talking in the weird finger code that Naruto couldn't understand since they had left Ichiraku. They looked awfully worried, but whatever it was, Teijo-niisan would figure out something to fix it. He always did. So instead, Naruto had turned to Hinata and complimented her on her Jyuuken, something he knew she worked hard on.
He hadn't quite expected her to look so downcast.
"I should have been able to hit you,"
Naruto shrugged. "You were spinning. It always gives me fits."
"But I could see you. I didn't think it through."
"Nah, Hinata-sama, I'm just the most unpredictable guy in the clan. Seriously, you were awesome!"
If anything, she looked worse. "You're the only one that says that."
"Doesn't stop me from being right." He waved his hands, drawing even more attention than a blonde-haired, silver-eyed, jinchuriki mark-sporting boy in branch house Hyuuga clothing normally attracted. (A not inconsiderable amount.) "Your hekishou popped three tenketsu. The others our age are lucky to get two!"
Hinata smiled a bit and raised her lavender eyes to meet her friend's silver ones. As always when he was trying to cheer her up, Naruto had an open, honest, and slightly manic look about him. "I suppose you're right, Naruto-kun."
"Damn right I am!" he crowed before wincing and looking back at Teijo. The chunnin was too engaged in his finger-flick conversation with Kurenai to scold him on his language, though. "Phew." Naruto ran his fingers through his shock of spiky blonde hair, which he had been growing out recently.
Hinata giggled. She would miss her friend when he went to the Academy.
"So the Hokage assigned you," said Hiashi.
Kurenai managed a tight nod. "Yes sir. Chunnin Yuuhi Kurenai has been assigned to escort Heir Hyuuga Hinata to her first day of schooling at the Konoha Ninja Academy in lieu of a clan-appointed guardian."
"You are curious as to why." It wasn't a question.
"It has been my observation that you have never understood, nor liked, the workings of the Hyuuga clan. This can perhaps be attributed to your growing up without a clan. In any event, you are no Hyuuga, and these matters remain the business of others than yourself, Yuuhi."
Kurenai bit back a fiery retort. "Yes sir."
"Very well. Accomplish your mission, shinobi."
It was possibly the tensest walk to school Teijo could imagine. Hinata had been informed of her enrollment in the Academy essentially just after they had made it back to the clan compound. Neji had overheard, as the open space he had picked for forms practice was nice and close to the dojo in which Hinata had been given the news. He had elected to simply continue his form, even as Hinata teetered on the edge of tears.
Naruto had taken exception to his friend's inaction, something that was getting more and more common these days, even if it hadn't progressed to outright hostility. An impromptu spar had occurred, one that Neji won with a flurry of morishushi strikes and some really excellent footwork for his age. It didn't keep Naruto down for long...Jyuuken never really seemed to…but it did give Neji the chance to leave with his nose held higher than most Main House member would like to see.
This had put Hinata over the edge into crying. Naruto, true to form, had done his best to comfort her, his silver eyes a bit watery too. Feeling distinctly out of his depth, Teijo had done his best to make sure the two had as much privacy as could be had in the Hyuuga compound. After all, it wasn't as if a pair of six-year-olds were going to get up to something that could cause real scandal.
It could be worse, he supposed. Neji could have been trying to separate Naruto and Hinata. Instead he was walking a good fifty paces ahead from the little four-man party of six-year-olds and recon raiders. Which wasn't particularly good either. Naruto didn't seem to see anything wrong with having friends divided against each other. Teijo wasn't so sanguine.
"Tsume-chan!" Teijo's head snapped over to Kurenai, who was waving at their former genin teammate. "And Kiba-kun!" Ah, yes, Kiba was starting at the Academy too, wasn't he? Well, that was good. Naruto had gotten on pretty well with the Inuzuka boy the few times they had met. Sometimes he wondered if the boy might have been best served by being adopted by his teammate's clan. He doubted that they would try and summarily execute him as soon as he became a fully-fledged clan member.
Or at least he hoped his friend wasn't capable of doing something like that to a child of the Leaf.
Neji was being a jerk. Had been for a couple of years now. Oh sure, for the first year after his father's death he had at least been kinda friendly with Hinata-sama, and Naruto was pretty sure Neji was still his friend, but there wasn't anything else to describe Neji's actions. Well, maybe Teijo-niisan could think of something. A polygot like him with a flair for cursing could find something, for sure.
But yeah, Neji. Jerk.
Which made Naruto all sorts of happy to see Kiba. It was pretty much inevitable that Naruto was going to meet the son of the Inuzuka heiress, what with the team ties between Tsume-san and his Kurenai-neesan and Teijo-niisan. Kiba hadn't met Hinata-sama yet, but Naruto couldn't see a guy so like him being mean to a nice girl, and that went double for Hinata-sama.
He grinned as Kiba let his hair get ruffled by Kurenai, then make a beeline for his blonde Hyuuga buddy. "Naruto, what's up man?"
Naruto gave Kiba a friendly body blow, scandalous for a Hyuuga, but standard practice for the Inuzuka. "I'm going to the Academy!"
"Me too! What about her?"
Naruto opened his mouth for a boisterous reply, then remembered Hinata's reaction to being told she was going to the Academy. Still, the lessons Teijo-niisan had ingrained in him said he had to tell Kiba something…
Kiba blinked as the withdrawn Hyuuga girl in Hyuuga robes spoke up, still looking at the ground and poking her fingers together. "Who's she?" he asked Naruto in a stunning display of how much stock the Inuzuka put in traditional social niceties. That was to say, little to none.
"This is my friend, Hinata-sama!" Naruto's hand landed on her shoulder, making her look up in shock. Another scandal, but Teijo-niisan wasn't gonna tell, and neither was Neji…he hoped. "She's from the main branch, and throws a mean hekishou."
Kiba quirked an eyebrow even as Hinata blushed at the praise. "Burst palm?"
Naruto waved it off. "Hyuuga stuff."
"Ah, you always say that."
"Well it's not like you can do it!" Naruto dodged most of another friendly swing. "I wonder what they're going to teach us?"
The man who stood at the front of the lecture hall was old. A collection of old scars left no doubt that he was once a mission ninja, but gray strands had almost completely replaced his jet-black hair. He wore one of the standard jumpsuits, impeccably pressed and tailored, along with the standard Konoha-pattern tactical vest. His hitai-ate gleamed from its proud place on his forehead, and his eyes spitted them all in turn.
"You are here to learn to be ninja. And not just any ninja, but ninja for the Hi no Kuni. Konoha's Shinobi of the Leaf are the finest assembly of souls in history, and over the next eight years I and my subordinates will give you the tools you need to join our august ranks.
"Inevitably, most of you will fail, or simply quit. Make no mistake, learning to be a ninja is the second-hardest thing to do in the world. Only serving as a ninja is more difficult. Here at the Konoha Ninja Academy, we give you the world as it is, and if you do not measure up, you are not worthy of serving. Many a dream is broken in these walls.
"I can see that most of you can't even comprehend that you may not be good enough. For those of you that do, good. You show wisdom, even at this young age. For the rest, you will learn. We will teach you. I do not care about your goals, I do not care about your families. I do not care about your bloodlines, I do not even care about your potential. I care about results. Potential can be wasted, but results are absolute.
"And if your results measure up, I will be proud to see you receive your hitai-ate and take your place among the Shinobi of the Leaf. But until then, your every moment is a struggle to earn that honor. Because if you think that the road to become the shield, sword, eyes, and ears of the Hi no Kuni is a stroll through the park, you had best quit now. Life and I will not be gentle as we disabuse you of that notion.
"I will not wish you good luck. Luck is a crutch for the weak that will inevitably leave them to fall. But now is your time. Time to prove to me, the world, and yourself, what you are, and what you are worth. Welcome." Again his gaze looked through them all before he turned on his heel and exited.
Naruto suppressed a low whistle that wanted to escape, only to chuckle as Kiba let one out from behind him.
"Looks like they're serious, huh?"
Naruto was about to respond when the boy next to Kiba spoke up. "They have to be. Ninja training's no laughing matter."
"Man, I know all about ninja training." Kiba pointed to his tattoos. "I'm an Inuzuka, see?" He huffed, then pointed at Naruto and Hinata. "Them too, they're Hyuuga."
The other boy glared back with an angry frown. "I know the Byakugan when I see it, idiot. Your tattoos too. Doesn't change the fact that ninja training's important."
"And what would you know about it? You from a ninja clan?"
The boy looked away. "No. I'm a Velon."
Naruto perked up at that name. Teijo had mentioned fulfilling mission contracts for the Velon clan before. A merchant clan that was said to come from the lands west of the Kaze no Kuni's borders, they were immigrants to Konoha. They had acquired quite a bit of influence though, as they specialized in strategic resources and ninja equipment, working very closely with Konoha's administration. The boy's clan was the ones who made their lecturer's tactical vest.
He didn't look like too much though. Short brown hair with slight spiking was a dime a dozen in the Elemental Countries, and if his gray eyes were a little odd, they certainly weren't the Byakugan or Sharingan. He was taller than Naruto, but that happened with depressing frequency. He also had a pretty narrow face, under the baby fat they all still carried in their cheeks. But what was a merchant clansman doing in the Konoha Ninja Academy?
"Hah! A merchant? Go count some money."
The Velon boy looked ready to tackle Kiba and beat the stuffing out of him. "Keep on laughing. I'll train, and do a little dance when you fail, mutt. Velon Loic. Remember the name."
Naruto chuckled again. It looked like things weren't going to be boring, anyway.
A/N: Well, that was a little faster than last time. Of course, it almost have to be. With this chapter we're moving into the Academy arc, one that will focus far more on Naruto's generation. I'm hoping that you'll enjoy it, especially as I've been looking forward to writing these parts. As always, please review and tell me what you liked and didn't like. If you've got questions, I'll try and answer them, and if I don't it's probably a future plot point. Thanks as always to KrillinFan, the best beta an author could ask for. See you next time, folks!