The sun seemed beautiful as it rose over the trees. It was a small joy for Hinata, as she walked towards the Academy for her team assignment. Naruto-kun had failed, at her hope, her dream of being on his team…was dead.
No one had noticed her last night, crying herself to sleep. She knew she shouldn't be this emotional. The Hyuuga were strong and kept their emotions in check. But she was the weakest of the clan, the only failure. Her fathers scorn for her was well deserved. She felt the tears returning as she walked across the playground to the classroom.
She stopped herself and wiped the tears away. She still would be able to see Naruto-kun. He would be here in the academy, so she could come by, and with that wonderful jacket of his it was easy to spot him. All she would need to do is watch for his latest prank. Sniffling slightly, she opened the door.
The first thing her eyes fell on was Naruto, proudly displaying his forehead protector.
" Now, for those of you…" The Third had begun as the door to the meeting hall swung open. Sarutobi sighed as his son entered a half hour late for the jounin meeting.
" Hey, sorry I'm late. Kakashi must be rubbing of on me." Asuma said, chuckling.
" I was here twenty minutes early." Kakashi said without looking away from his book. The nods from the other jounin convinced Asuma. Figures this is the one time. he mused as he sat down.
" As I was saying, we now come to the genin teams that you will be assigned this year. Do any of you have requests for a specific student?" said the Third, refocusing everyone's attention.
" I'd like the Uchiha." Kakashi said with boredom.
" That seems sensible. Anyone else?"
" I want the Hyuuga, the Inuzuka, and the Fourths kid." Asuma said, fiddling with a cigarette. He knew that this was going to take some convincing.
There was quiet pause. It was rare for a jounin to hand pick a team.
" I assume you have reasons for this?" Sarutobi asked dryly. He and his son were on speaking terms again, but situations where Ashuma overstepped himself were very tense and, unfortunately, common.
" My genin team had a Inuzuka on it." begun Asuma. " They have some of Kohona's most powerful attacks. But I've never seen a member of that clan that possessed any finesse." Several Inuzuka jounin nodded in agreement. It was hard to argue against the truth. " The Hyuuga, on the other hand, have nothing but finesse. Their attacks are deadly and precise, but they lack power. The two would balance each other out."
" And Uzamaki Naruto?" Sarutobi asked, seeing where his son was going.
" The boy is a loose cannon. I'd say that personality wise, me and him match." There was a slightly insulting but unanimous nod from everyone. " Naruto probably pulls so many pranks because there aren't any adults he can respect or relate to tell him to stop. I figure I can either control the punk or knock some sense into him. Plus, since I'm putting together an assault team, I don't want really specialize kids." Asuma smiled as his father and others nodded, agreeing with his logic.
" You want to form an assault team from genin?" Kakashi asked, looking skeptical.
" Sure. You start them young like we do with other types of teams and they'll be better at it later on. Kohona needs to make sure it keeps a supply of heavy hitters around. This peace can't last forever."
" Are you sure you want the Uzamaki boy, though?" The academy teacher that had asked quailed under a glare from the Hokage. However, many shared the teachers opinion from the looks on their face.
" Sure. That way, I can pay off my debt to the Fourth by making sure that his son doesn't get killed. I've seen the reports. That boys met with more "accidents" than anyone his age should have and is lucky to have lived through them. He needs someone to keep a eye on him."
There was a stunned, awkward silence in the chamber. Asuma's true meaning had been painfully clear, and several individuals looked guilty.
Asuma sat back as everyone digested what he had said. He knew that he had laid it on a bit heavy, but he had wanted to. At Kurenai's stern suggestion, he had looked though the genin graduating to get a feel for their abilities. He had been utterly amazed at Naruto's file. The boy had been hospitalized so many times from obvious attempts on his life that it angered him that his father hadn't taken action. He'd talked with Iruka and found out the boy was as unpopular with the students as he was the villagers. The Inuzuka, however, was as friendly as could be and had only argued with the boy, and Iruka believed the Hyuuga girl had a crush on Naruto. They seemed good candidates for a team with the boy.
" Very well." Sarutobi said. Asuma smiled and sat up, facing the looks that the other jounin gave him.
" Hey, Naruto, I thought you flunked out!" Kiba said as he passed Naruto.
" I stayed after class and did extra credit." Naruto said, feeling superior. Kiba looked annoyed.
" We could do extra credit? Akamaru, I told you we didn't need to study!" The boy and the dog walked to their seat, looking annoyed.
Naruto smiled. Beating Mizuki, saving Iruka, finding out that there was someone in the village that truly cared about him…the night before had been one of the best of his life. Iruka entered and nodded to him, causing Naruto to swell with pride.
" All right everyone! I have your team and jounin assignments. You will wait for them and then go with them for team introductions."
The genin all tensed as Iruka began to read. Hinata looked down at Naruto.
" I could be on his team…please let me be on his team…" she thought, trying to will it to happen.
" Team Seven is Sakura, Shino, and Sasuke! Your jounin will be Kakashi." Sakura cheered. Naruto sulked. He had wanted to be on Sakura-chan's team so bad…
" Team Eight will be Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji. Your jounin will be Kurenai." Ino's face fell as she realized the fat kid and the slacker was on her team, making Kiba and Akamaru laugh a little. The girl was such a shrew she deserved it.
" Team Nine is Kiba, Hinata, and Naruto."
Hinata went numb. It had really happened. She was on Naruto-kun's team. A warm, joyous feeling she hadn't felt since before her mother died flowed though her body. Somehow, fate had conspired…for her.
" Hey Hinata!" Kiba said, plopping down in the seat by the girl, who seemed to be frozen. Naruto slumped up the steps to sit with them. He took a seat on the other side of her. Kiba noticed Hinata's cheeks flush and body tense. " Hey, Hinata, are you okay?" Kiba asked, concerned.
" Y-yes. Sorry." Hinata said, eyes turning downwards.
" You don't have to say sorry!" Akamaru barked, forgetting Kiba was the only one who understood him.
Before the class had setteled back down and before they could talk, the door to the class opened.
" Hey, dog boy, blondie, and you, miss . Your with me." The genin looked up. A large, powerfully muscled man was leaning through the door. He wore the standard ninja uniform, but also wore a strange sash on his waist. He had a full beard and a lit cigarette. Hinata recognized him as the son of the Third. They got up and followed him.
" Hey, sensei, where are we going?" Naruto asked.
" A grill. Its my treat today."
" All right!" Kiba exclaimed. He and the pup now wore wide smiles.
It had taken ten minutes to get to the grill, but Asuma already knew he had a good feel for the genin's personalities.
Kiba and Naruto were brash, argumentative, and refused to back down. They were going to butt heads with each other continually and were almost ready to fight each other. In short, they were normal boys. Hinata, on the other hand, was the most timid and quiet girl he had ever met. He wondered if it was really wise for someone so passive to try and become a ninja. She didn't seem like she could harm anyone.
They got to the grill and were welcomed by the staff. Asuma was a regular and a favorite here, so they were happy to see him. They glanced at Naruto worriedly until Asuma gave them a glare. He knew that he would have to deal with the villagers dislike for Naruto, and he already impatient with them. Idiots, he thought. The Fourth had given his live to turn his only child into a jailor that could keep them safe from the fox, and they had decided the boy was something to fear. Some times, he hated being back in the village.
" We'll be right out with your lunch." said the waitress, faking a sweet smile to the genin. Naruto didn't notice, but Hinata and Kiba seemed a little surprised at the obvious forced nature of her greeting. Asuma knew it would be best to distract them.
" All right, I brought us here so we can get to know each other more. I don't know too much about you, and this is a chance to get to know your new friends better." Naruto's eyes bulged as Asuma said the word friends. He'd never even considered that his teammates could become his friends. He suddenly felt nervous. He hadn't had many friends before, so he didn't want to blow this.
"Since you will be training, going on missions, and depending on them to keep you alive, you had better do your best to learn who they are. It might help you spot a imposter or something. Also, I'm required to do this. Blondie, you first."
" I'm Uzamaki Naruto!" the small boy exclaimed loudly. " I…"
Asuma silenced him by clasping his hand to the boys mouth.
" Have you never been in a restaurant before?" He felt a pang of guilt as the boy shook his head no. " Well, you need to talk at a normal, polite level."
He removed his hand. The boy looked embarrassed.
" Sorry. I didn't know. Anyways, I'm Uzamaki Naruto. I want to be the next Hokage. I like ramen."
Asuma nodded, pretending the boy had done a good job talking about himself. The level to which the boy had been isolated was already horribly apparent.
" This is Akamaru, and I'm Kiba." said Kiba on his turn. " I'm part of the Inuzuka clan. We raise dogs like Akamaru to aid us in battle. My families been with the dogs so long we have special bloodline jutsu to use with them. Akamaru like chasing cats, sticks, and birds. His favorite type of chew toys are rawhides soaked in beef juice. He also likes those ropes you have tugs of war with." Akamaru yipped in agreement.
" Uh, good Kiba." said Asuma, who knew more about Akamaru than he did about the boy. He looked to Hinata, who blushed and looked down.
" I am Hyuuga Hinata, heir to the Hyuuga clan." she said in a practiced tone with a few contained wavers.
" I study my clans jutsu and fighting styles, but I am not very good with them."
" That's no problem. Your only twelve, Hinata. You have plenty of time to learn and improve." Asuma tried to compliment her and reassure her, but Hinata only got more depressed looking.
The meat for the lunch arrived, with the boys immediately arguing over the largest piece. Asuma sighed, hoping he had not bit off too much with these kids.
" Man, that was good." Kiba said, patting his stomach.
" It wasn't as nearly asgood as ramen, but it was tasty. Thanks for treating us, sensei!" Naruto said, smiling. Hinata mumbled something, but Asuma didn't catch it.
" All right then, we come to your first test. We're going to race to the fourth training ground." Asuma said, standing up and stretching.
" Sensei, we just ate!" Naruto whined.
Ashuma gave him a look of "So?" and dove though the window. The genin looked surprised at his graceful landing. Asuma raced at top speed to the training ground, arriving five minutes later.
Kiba and Akamaru arrived first, unsurprisingly. The Inuzuka had the fittest bodies in Kohona, thanks to their bloodline. Naruto arrived shortly after, and to Asuma's surprise he seemed barely winded, even though he had gone at top speed. Hinata was last, puffing for breath and red faced.
" Can anyone guess why I had you do that?" Asuma asked. The genin's faces were blank, so he continued.
"As ninja, you will be required to react to inconvenient situations like running after eating on a regular basis. I also wanted to see how fast you are. You all did pretty good. Now, we're going to test your hand to hand skills. Naruto and Kiba, you first."
Hinata needed a break, so it seemed a good idea to put the boys up first. Kiba set Akamaru down and turned and faced Naruto. Akamaru crouched into a ready position.
" Hey, get the puppy out of here! He'll be in the way!" Naruto said, pointing to Akamaru,
" Akamaru and I fight together as a team." Kiba said, revealing a fanged smirk.
" But that's not fair! Sensei, is that fair?" Naruto asked, looking to Ashuma.
" Deal with it, Naruto. It'll make you tougher." Asuma said, lighting a cigarette.
Naruto entered a rough crouch, grumbling. Kiba sprang forward and before Naruto could react Kiba delivered a light punch to his stomach.
" Ha!" Kiba said, smirking.
" You got lucky!" Naruto fumed.
After several more rounds, it was obvious that Kiba had not. He was several times faster than Naruto, stronger, and had height and reach on his side. Asuma could not help but notice Naruto's taijutsu was outright pathetic. His movements were unpracticed and had obviously received very little attention, making Asuma wonder how much Iruka had really been able to do for him. Iruka had said that the other teachers didn't spend much time with Naruto, but he had truly understated it.
Hinata gasped as Naruto was knocked down for the tenth time. He angrily stood back up and dusted himself off.
" Come on!" he said, motioning to Kiba. Smirking, Kiba set into a ready stance again.
" That's enough. Kiba, your still up. Naruto, come take a break."
" Sensei, I'm not tired!" Naruto whined. Despite all the times he had been knocked down, the boy seemed fine.
" Well, its Hinata turn." Asuma said, not wanting to argue. Hinata looked fearfully to Kiba.
" Don't worry, Hinata. I won't hit a girl hard. Akamaru, you can go take a break." Asuma had to stop himself from laughing. The boy had no idea what was about to happen.
Hinata took a fighting stance, though she still looked somewhat afraid. Kiba raced towards her at his fast lope and went for a punch. Hinata simply sidestepped it and delivered a pat to the back of Kiba's neck as he flew by, indicating a lethal strike.
" Way to go Hinata!" Naruto cheered. Hinata immediately blushed and fell into her finger tapping position. Kiba whirled and looked at her, stunned. He leapt back in for another attack. Asuma was sure that Hinata was about to be injured and almost had called out when she ducked the blow and rolled away.
The gap between Hinata and Kiba was not as bad as it had been with Naruto and Kiba, but it was still vast. While Kiba had speed on his side, Hinata moved with the signature grace of the Hyuuga, avoiding the Inuzuka's wild attacks. She delivered precise strikes that didn't look like they would hurt, but Asuma knew were deadly Jyuuken strikes. Kiba began to get out of breath and his form began to deteriorate.
" Kiba, take a break. Naruto, your back up." Naruto cheered and raced to face Hinata.
Hinata froze. Naruto-kun was going to fight her. She couldn't hit him…he was worse than Kiba, and if she fought him he would just be embarrassed and hate her.
" All right, Hinata! I'm looking forward to this!" Naruto said as he crouched into a position he hadn't against Kiba. Asuma wondered if he had been holding out against Kiba.
Hinata could hardly believe it. Naruto-kun was looking forward to fighting her.
" Naruto-kun…why are you…?" Hinata asked shakily.
" Well, you beat Kiba so easily, its obvious you're the best of us. I can learn a lot from you, then. Plus, I think I know how to beat you!" Naruto said, smiling widely.
The best? Hinata paused for a moment, letting the comment filter though her mind. Naruto thought she was good at Taijutsu. Suddenly, it didn't matter to her that she was the weakest Hyuuga. If Naruto thought she was good and wanted to see her fight, she knew she could.
She took her stance. Naruto smiled his foxy grin and without warning he leapt into the air, coming down like an meteor towards Hinata. Hinata had to back up to avoid the kick. It was still roughly done, but the Hyuuga style's defense was weak against aerial attacks. How had he noticed that so quickly? She aimed a jab at him, but he simply dodged backwards. He kept his distance from her. He used a series of aerial kicks against her, retreating after each one. If she tried charging, he would just dodge away. After a while, Asuma stopped them.
" Naruto, why did you go with that strategy?" Asuma said, eyeing the boy and reassessing him. He had more brains than was apparent.
" Well, since I attacked from above, Hinata would have to dodge or block me. If she blocked, it would hurt, so she had to dodge. Since she's really good at close range, but not as fast as I am, I need to keep away."
Hinata looked to the ground ashamed. Naruto had noticed her styles weakness so quickly, it must have been glaring. She wished she wasn't so pathetic so she could have challenged him.
" Hey, but Naruto didn't get any hits in." Kiba said dourly. " That means he didn't really do better than me."
" Correct, but he didn't get hit himself. Combat isn't about how much you can hit your opponent. Its about avoid your opponents attacks."
The genin looked up to him, confused. Ashuma sighed and began to explain the basics of combat to them again. He knew they, like he had, had not listened to the lecture in class. At that age, they just wanted to hit the other person, and since they had never had a wound, would not appreciate what getting hit was really like.
" So its better to fight for a long time and not get hurt than beat your opponent?" Naruto asked, confused.
" Not always, but generally. Sometimes you have to risk getting hurt, but usually its best to get though with as little injury as possible. Considering the focus of our team, that will be a goal."
" The focus?" Kiba asked as he scratched Akamaru's ear.
" This group is a combat-oriented group. While we have other abilities, the skill selection of the group is better for engaging opponents. We might be put on patrol in a dangerous area, be used to open a large attack against a number of targets, or defend against a attack by a powerful opponent."
" Awesome!" Naruto and Kiba cried. Hinata looked worried. Ashuma knew the boys would like that information, since at that age, they were raring for action.
" Sensei?" Hinata asked. She didn't think she could handle that. " Why am I on this team, then?"
" Hinata, the Hyuuga clan had incredible skill and precision with their attacks. Jyuuken is also one of the most deadly fighting styles ever invented. No matter who you fight, you have the potential to end the fight in a single hit. Hyuuga techniques, however, do not have large damage effects. The Inuzuka have some truly incredible attacks, but they are hard to aim."
" And me?" Naruto asked, looking hopeful.
" Naruto, you don't have any specialization. You are on the team to balance out the other two." Naruto seemed a little crestfallen, but quickly raised his smile again.
" Now, I want you to demonstrate your best jutsu."
Kiba and Akamaru instantly sprung into their Four Legs Jutsu, which made them even faster and stronger. They demonstrated their abilities by delivering several hits to a tree, leaving impacts on the bark and cracking the wood. Hinata showed her Byakugan ability to see in a long range and how she could close the chakra points on a enemy, leaving Kiba's arm numb. Naruto laughed at Kiba as his arm flopped at his side uselessly.
" All right!" Naruto shouted, springing onto a rock. " My turn!"
Kiba and Akamaru laughed their barking laughs. Hinata looked at Naruto embarrassedly.
" Naruto, you don't have any jutsu. You were the worst in the class with them." Kiba said.
" Really?" Naruto said, looking mischievous. He formed a hand sign and drew a massive burst of chakra. Asuma was surprised the boy his age could manage that much without dying immediately. There was a burst of smoke, and ten identical clones of Naruto appeared.
" That's it?" Kiba said, looking unimpressed. " So you can make a lot of clones?"
" Not clones. Shadow clones." Naruto said. One clone leapt and landed by Kiba and poked him. Kiba looked shocked.
" Kid, you can use shadow clones?" Asuma said, also amazed. The shadow clones was a high level and tiring technique. Creating ten would exhaust most ninja's chakra.
" Yeah! I can do a lot more too!" Naruto said proudly.
" How are shadow clones different?" Kiba asked. Akamaru looked puzzled as well.
" Shadow clones are exact physical copies. They can fight and hurt you like the original. They disappear if they take a some damage, but they are still useful. Naruto, how many can you make?"
" Lets see!" Naruto said. He and the clones formed the hand signs again. There was a massive burst of chakra, far too much to be coming from the boy. Asuma didn't know of anyone who could draw that much chakra. The cloud of smoke the clones appeared in overwhelmed them for a moment, then faded away.
In every direction there was orange. They were surrounded on all sides by rows and rows of clones.
" All right! Line up and count off!" said one. The clones began to count themselves as Hinata and Kiba looked on, amazed.
" I definitely want to learn that jutsu." Kiba said. " We could get every cat in the village at once."
" Oh man…that would be awesome." agreed Akamaru.
" You could, but there's two things you should know." interjected Asuma. "First, it's a third level jutsu, a jounin level technique. That's like your clans Piercing Fang technique." Kiba looked stunned. " Second, Naruto has insane chakra reserves. I think that I could manage maybe twenty shadow clones at max. It's a useful technique, but a costly one. I've never seen anyone create that many clones."
Hinata just stood in shock. Naruto was even more incredible than she had thought. That many clones, it wouldn't matter how skilled your opponent was. No one could block that many attacks, except maybe her father and the Third.
" One hundred and five!" said a clone, trotting over to where they stood.
" That's pretty impressive, kid. Your role on the team just changed." Asuma said, ruffling Naruto's hair.
" Really? What?" Naruto said, looking excited.
" You're the jutsu powerhouse. That many clones will be able to overwhelm enemy groups and with chakra reserves like you have you'll be able to do some truly incredible jutsu."
" Really! That's great!" Naruto said, throwing his arms up in celebration. He suddenly doubled over in pain. The clones all did so as well, causing the jutsu to be disrupted and them to disappear.
" Naruto-kun!" Hinata shouted, rushing to his side. Kiba, Akamaru, and Asuma were there a second later, all sharing Hinata's concern. Naruto groaned.
" What is it, kid? Upset stomach?" Asuma said before he noticed a burn on Naruto's jacket. He had Naruto lay down and unzipped it. When they say what was underneath, they all gasped.
Naruto's shirt was a charred mess. His skin was burnt in a strange pattern, which Asuma knew to be the seal. The skin blistered visibly and some sections were smoking. The burns were at least third degree.
" Drawing that much chakra has some drawbacks." Asuma ad-libbed, trying not to reveal the demon fox's existence. " Don't do it unless it's a emergency."
" Y-yes." Naruto gasped.
Hinata searched though her pack until she came to her medical supplies. She had several salves she had made herself, to help deal with the injuries she received from training. One was for burns, but she hadn't tried it before. Hoping it worked, she unscrewed the lid. Fighting away her nervousness about touching Naruto, she began to dab it on the burns. Naruto's face immediately relaxed.
" Hinata, what are you doing?" Kiba asked.
" I-i'm t-treating the burns." Hinata said, smearing more on a blistering spot. She felt strangely ashamed of touching Naruto.
" That stuff works great, Hinata." Naruto said, somewhat stronger. " It doesn't hurt anymore."
Asuma, Akamaru, and Kiba had all looked to Naruto's face when he talked, and when they turned back to the burn they gasped. Where Hinata had applied the salve, the burns had began to heal rapidly. Hinata had a needle and was lancing the blisters before she applied more of the salve. In less than a minute, there were only light red marks on the skin.
" Hinata, that salve, where did you get it?" Asuma asked in awe.
" I made it, sensei." Hinata said, looking bashful. " I have a limited allowance, so I just make my medical supplies myself."
Naruto sat up and rubbed the healed skin, wincing only slightly.
" Hinata, that stuff is great!"
" I agree." Asuma said as the girl blushed. " You might have some serious talent as a medic-nin."
Hinata's eyes bugged. She had talent? She was always the worst at everything and was worthless….but they had all seemed so impressed by the salve. It had worked well, but Hinata knew it still needed some refining.
" Thank you, sensei." she said, bowing.
" No, thank you. You saved Naruto a trip to the hospital." Asuma was glad when Hinata perked up, realizing what she had been able to do.
Asuma had stopped practice after Naruto had injured himself, telling them to meet back the next day. Kiba took off running. He'd enjoyed practice, but it was past time to go run around.
" Come on, Akamaru! The ducks might still be in the pond by the hospital!" he said, leaping a small fence.
" All right!" Akamaru barked back.
They boy and dog were almost identical in interests. At least once a day they went to disturb the local wildlife, they romped around town constantly, and when they spotted a cat in a alley, they often would spend hours chasing. All of which is to say they were typical Inuzuka.
Sitting down on a curb to take a rest after harassing a postal worker, Kiba began to mull over the day. He wasn't the quickest thinker in existence, but when there was something to consider he was good at making himself do it.
" So, what did you think of the team?" he asked.
" Naruto smells weird, doesn't he?" Akamaru said. Kiba nodded. " Like a combination of bad milk, ramen, and something like a fox, right?"
" Yeah. Hey, that's what it is, a fox! Those tattoo's on his face, they look like a fox's whiskers!" Kiba exclaimed. They had wondered for years. " Maybe the Uzamaki clan had something to do with foxes?"
" I don't know. The older dogs won't tell me anything about him your parents won't."
They sat in silence for a moment.
" Hinata's hot, ain't she?" Akamaru asked, smiling.
" How would you find her hot?" Kiba asked, looking stunned.
" Well, you can tell if a female dog is good looking, I can tell if a human female is good looking. Plus, they all have the same basic parts."
" Dude, you could get in so much trouble if your mom heard you say that." Kiba said. He and Akamaru laughed for a moment. " But your right. She is totally hot."
" I like Asuma. He's going to bee a good alpha. He strong and from what I hear, he's pretty smart."
" Yeah." said Kiba, standing up. " Plus, he bought lunch. If the alpha can provide, the rest doesn't matter."
There was a mewing sound nearby.
" Cat!" they yelled in unison.
Later, after many misadventures, they arrived home. It was nearly dark.
" Hey mom! Were back!" Akamaru yipped, bounding through the dog door. Kiba squeezed through a moment later.
" Kiba, you'll get yourself stuck one day." woofed Akamaru's mother. " When that happens, you will only be able to blame yourself."
" Aw, come on. Give me a break." Kiba said, standing up. He walked to the kitchen. The Inuzuka manor was much different than the other clan houses. It was in disrepair, dirty, and filled with rowdy, loud dogs and people. The estate was overgrown and littered with holes the pups and kids dug to hide toys. The only people who could stand living by them were the Aburmae clan, which traded for the lice and other bugs that the Inuzuka and their dogs would pick up in the course of their existence.
" So, how did today go?" Kiba's father said, looking up from a partially chewed newspaper.
" Pretty good. I think my teammates are pretty nice, and I got good sensei."
" Good. You'll have to tell us about them over dinner." His father stopped and sniffed. " Go take a bath. You smell like a cat."
" Aww." said Kiba and Akamaru in unison.
Today had been the best day of Hinata life.
Even the fact that she was being beaten by Hanabi as badly as usual in training couldn't dampen her spirits.
" What is with you? That smile is creepy." her little sister said, scowling.
" I had a good day and was teamed with…" Hinata began, heart fluttering at the thought, before being cut off.
" That blonde brat you have a crush on? Fathers going to be angry when he finds out." Hanabi teased cruelly. She had discovered Hinata's secret and often used it to blackmail her sister. Usually, this would have sent a rush of terror though Hinata, but for some reason, it didn't faze her today.
" I don't really care." Hinata said. Hanabi stood shocked for a moment, her guard dropped. Hinata landed a Jyuuken hit on there arm, shutting a chakra point and numbing the limb.
" You don't care? He'll punish you." Hanabi said, rubbing her arm and scowling.
" I don't care!" Hinata said somewhat loudly, feeling unusually defiant.
Today had been so incredible, so great, she truly believed nothing her father could do could make it bad. She had beaten Naruto , Akamaru, and Kiba at Taijutsu, but they didn't mind. They had been excited about training with her, not at all put off by the fact she had beaten them. Everyone had complimented her and she had deserved their praise. She may be the weakest of the Hyuuga, but today she had realized that the weakest of the Hyuuga was still very strong.
And Naruto's injury…she had healed it and saved him from pain. It wasn't dangerous, but it could have been very bad for him. He'd been so grateful and smiled at her…she felt her spirits rise just thinking about it. Hanabi looked on is disbelief as Hinata smiled and squealed quietly to herself, wrapped in the memory.
" Come on, then! Again!" Hanabi said, taking a stance. She barely waited for Hinata before charging. Hinata suddenly remembered how Naruto had attacked her and forced chakra into her legs, letting her leap forcefully into the air. She brought a kick down with all her might. Hanabi, shocked, tried to block with her arm. Hinata's size and inertia, however, was too much, and there was a crunch as Hinata brought her foot down.
"Aahhhh!" Hanabi screamed in pain while clutching her arm. Hinata blinked in shock as she landed. She immediately reached for her pouch and drew a small tin she kept filled with acupuncture needles.
" Here." Hinata said. Hanabi held her arm out and Hinata stuck a needle into the nerve bundle. Hanabi immediately relaxed. " We need to get you in to the healer."
Hinata guided Hanabi in, supporting her arm. The pain would be far lessened from the needle, but it would not be gone. Hinata had likely fractured the bone with her kick. The walked though the Hyuuga manor to the healers chamber. The healer immediately set to using a medical jutsu to repair the bone. Hiashi arrived almost immediately.
" I was told my daughter had been injured." he asked as he entered. He saw the healer tending to Hanabi and Hinata standing nearby. " What happened?" he asked Hinata curtly.
" I attempted a aerial kick one of my teammates tried today in our training. Hanabi blocked it, but it fractured the bone."
Hiashi, used to his least favorite daughter being quiet and apologetic, was taken aback as she described how she had injured her sister, a contented smile on her face.
" Is it serious?" Hiashi said, asking the healer.
" No, but she should not use her arm heavily for several days." replied he healer.
" Hinata used a cheap attack against me." Hanabi said accusingly.
" Shut up." Hinata said in a sing song voice. Hiashi and Hanabi looked to her in shock. She was looking at a scroll on the wall, seemingly ignoring them.
" What did you say?" Hiashi asked angrily.
" I told her to shut up. She's so much better than me, if she can't handle the fact I got lucky once, it'll be embarrassing."
They all stood in silence. Hinata bowed to her father and began to leave.
" Uzamaki Naruto is on her genin team, and she has a crush on him." Hanabi said, laying her trump cards on the table. Her father would be furious.
Hanabi was not disappointed. Hiashi's temple vein bulged and a intense killer intent radiated from him.
" You…what….Uzamaki?" He fumbled with the words as he advanced on his daughter, who was still smiling.
" Naruto-kun is on my team, as well as Inuzuka Kiba and Sarutobi Ashuma. And yes, I love Naruto-kun."
Hanabi and the healer gasped in shock when Hiashi struck his daughter across the face, knocking her to the ground.
" You little slut! It is bad enough that you are so weak and useless, but now you besmirch the family honor like this?" Hinata beg to rise up, one eye darkening already. Hiashi stuck her again in the mouth, knocking several teeth out. She fell to the ground and ceased moving. " You have no idea the embarrassment this means for us! That boy…that boy is the nine tailed fox, a monster! The only reason we have to killed him already is the will of the Third protecting him!"
" Hiashi-sama!" the healer cried.
" I don't care! This lie…its lasted long enough!" Hiashi turned, fuming. " Its time that everyone be told what the boy is." He walked towards elders chambers, leaving his daughter where she lay. Hanabi looked on in horror as Hinata sat back up, blood dripping from her damaged gums and one eye swelling shut. Her smile was still on her face.
" Hanabi-sama, please help me tend to your sister." Hanabi complied with the healer and picked up Hinata and set her on the medical table. They then found the missing teeth. The healer set to healing Hinata's gums and re-inserting the teeth. A strange, cold feeling flowed over Hanabi as she watched the healer work on her sister.
Asuma was seated at his favorite table in the grill, working over lists and plans.
" Hinata will need extra endurance training and speed training…we'll have her do that during to mornings." he said to himself, writing it down. He had devised a training schedule he felt would work the best for his group. In the mornings they would each work on their deficiencies. Hinata needed to improve her stamina, Naruto his Taijutsu, and Kiba his brains. Asuma had got the feeling that the boy was rather dull and had checked his grades. They were far worse than Naruto's. He would be giving Kiba chess lessons to try and sharpen him up.
After lunch they would do combat practice against each other for four hours. Then, in the time before they returned home, they would practice their jutsu. Hyuuga and Inuzuka used specialized techniques, so his aid would be of limited use. Naruto, however, he could do something with.
He had to be sure to not play favorites, though. He would focus on one of them each day, which meant they would receive his full attention twice a week. He wouldn't ignore the others the rest of the time, but he would be less attentive. On the last day they were going to meet with the other teams for the large group training Guy suggested. He knew it was just a attempt to call Kakashi out for competition, but Guy had a good idea.
He took a long drag of his cigarette and sat back, savoring the flavor. He'd treated himself today, smoking a high quality import from the Water Village. They had the best ports and the most exotic trade goods, and the tobacco they had was simply incredible. He couldn't afford them, since they cost as much as two packs of his regular fare, but he felt like it.
His team was a little rough, but they were going to mesh fine. Hinata had taken to the inclusion the boys had given her after a while, and the boys had rivalry going already. Naruto and Kiba were going to be a dangerous pair. Kiba had brute power and Naruto brute chakra, which meant they would rarely need to worry about being outmatched there.
" Asuma!" Kurenai said, appearing in a whirl of leaves. " There's a emergency. Come to the Hokage's tower at once. "
He followed wordlessly. Kurenai was the most practical and calm jounin in the village, and if she was concerned like this, there was no time for words.
They arrived minutes later. There was a large crowd assembled of ninja and villagers. The Hyuuga clan seemed to be out in force, as were the Akimachi, Yamanaka, Nara, and several other notable clans. The Inuzuka and Aburmae were conspicuously absent.
" The boy is a monster!" shouted a Hyuuga. Asuma recognized him as Hiashi, the clan leader. " Training him in combat has been a huge mistake! We should kill him now!" A large number of the villagers seemed to be supporting him.
" The boy is the Fourth's legacy." said the leader of the Nara clan. " He is no threat to the village." The Akimachi and Yamanaka, not surprising, agreed with the Nara. The two latter always followed the formers lead.
" But you yourselves are afraid of the boy! You do no different than us, and warn your children against him!" Hiashi shouted.
The villagers and ninja's anger began to rise, and Asuma could see this was heading to violence.
Naruto had been eating ramen at Ichiraku like usual.
" A third bowl please! Miso this time, with two eggs!" he said cheerfully.
" Coming right up!" said Teuchi, smiling at his favorite customer.
Naruto thought back over the day as he waited. It had gone pretty well. He liked his team. He had wanted to be on Sakura's, but at least he wasn't on the same team as that stuck up Sasuke. Kiba was a idiot, but he was a pretty nice guy. Hinata was just weird, but at least she was nice to him. That burn stuff she had put on him had been great too. It was hard not to like a puppy, which put Akamaru in his good graces, and anyone who'd but him lunch was cool, so Asuma was on the good list as well.
He looked down at his black shirt sadly. He had gone home for a new shirt and taken his jacket to the one laundry place that didn't throw him out for repairs. He hoped they could fix it. He was fine with just his shirt, but he loved the jacket.
" Here you are, Naruto!" Ayame said, handing him his bowl.
" Thanks!" he said, grabbing his chopsticks.
" Uzamaki Naruto?" came a voice from behind him. He turned. Two ninja with strange animal masks were waiting behind him. He recognized them as some special group Iruka had mentioned a few dozen times. He supposed he should have listened.
" Yes?" he said before taking a bite of ramen.
" There is a special situation going on. The Third sent us to find you to move you to a safe location."
" What's going on? Can I take my ramen?" Naruto worriedly asked.
" We can't tell you. Come on." One of the ANBU grabbed his shoulder. He gulped down a mouthful of ramen, paid his tab, and raced off, following them.
" So Akamaru, I hear you and Kiba got a team today." asked a elderly dog by the dinner table. The dogs were all lined up around their bowls, while the Inuzuka sat at a table, though their dinner plates were rather dog bowl shaped.
" Yeah, we did!" Kiba said. " We got someone called Asuma for our jounin. He seemed pretty cool. There was also a Hyuuga girl called Hinata and Uzamaki Naruto."
Several people choked as he listed the last name, but nothing else was said. Kiba and Akamaru exchanged glances.
" Um, just a question about the Uzamaki clan…did they have something to do with foxes?" Akamaru asked.
The adults coughed, taken by surprise. Kiba and Akamaru could smell the agitation rising.
" Why do you ask?" inquired Akamaru's mother. She had a tense tone.
" Well, Akamaru and I noticed he kind of smells like a fox, and he has those tattoo's on his face that look like whiskers."
The adults, to the younger pups and humans confusion, all relaxed and sighed.
" No one really knows. The Uzamaki are not from this village. His mother was found by town pregnant and brought in. She died in childbirth." said Kiba's mother, going with the lie the Third had prepared.
" Oh." Kiba said, looking at his food. He wondered what had prompted all the tension just for that.
There was a light tapping on a window, making everyone jump. An Aburmae was standing outside. Kiba found that strange, since the bug user's came by only on rare occasion. Kiba's mother went to answer the door and went outside to talk. She came back in after a moment.
" Kids, pups, you all go to bed now. Everyone else, follow me." She seemed scared, which was odd. She was one of the clan leaders, and rarely showed such emotion. Kiba and Akamaru started towards the door.
" Kiba, you and Akamaru stay." his mother said.
" Mom! Were genin now! We're adults now!"
His mother looked uneasy for a moment, then sighed.
" You can come, but I have to tell you something first. I'm not supposed to, but given the situation, to hell with the law. Everyone lied about the Fourth killing the demon. Naruto, your teammate, had the Nine Tailed Fox sealed in him by the Fourth Hokage. That's why the villagers hate him. There has been a faction of the village that wants to kill the boy to destroy the fox forever, but the Third ordered them to not. Tonight, for some reason, they have decided to act. They are at the Hokage's tower, demanding the boy be killed. We're to go there and help the Aburmae prevent a civil war."
" Naruto…?" Kiba said blankly. His mother turned and joined the others, and he and Akamaru followed.
They arrived quickly. The crowd of villagers and ninja was huge and visibly drawn in two. The Aburmae took up positions on the rooftops. Kiba was with his mother, by the clan leaders for the Inuzuka and Aburmae. Seemingly from nowhere, a old man in black battle armor appeared on the steps of the Hokage's tower, and a moment later Kiba realized it was the Third.
Sarutobi had rarely been angry in recent years. However, as he walked down the stairs smoking his pipe, his fury could be felt by all the assembled.
" Tell me, Hiashi. Why tonight?" he asked in his regular tone.
" I have had enough. The boy is a danger to us all." Hiashi said boldly, facing the legendary ninja.
" Hiashi, chances are, I am going to kill you tonight if you and those supporting you do not immediately leave. With the support of several of the most powerful village clans, I believe my side would be victorious in the battle."
" The support." Hiashi sneered. " The Aburmae follow the leader of the village blindly, and the Inuzuka killed those in their pack that did not agree with you. The Yamanaka and Akimachi follow the Nara clan, the only ones who truly follow you. And yet, none of them obey the law any better than the Hyuuga. They warn their children against the boy and hate him, just as we do. The Hyuuga are the only clan strong enough to resist you."
" Quite true." said Sarutobi, flicking the ask from his pipe and putting it away. " But, they did obey the letter of the law, if not the spirit. That's all I can really ask for."
Sarutobi walked down several more steps until he was face to face with Hiashi.
" If there is a battle here tonight, the village will be crippled. We should send our subordinates home and deal with this manner ourselves."
" Behind closed doors? Your secrets and lies cripple this village, you old fool!" Hiashi shouted.
" I suppose I should differ to your judgment on that. You are the master of crippling things." Sarutobi smiled as confusion went over Hiashi's face. " Just a hour ago, you crippled your eldest daughter."
" What?" asked Hiashi, as the crowd looked to him in shock.
" Oh, when you beat her earlier. Your families healer and your younger daughter had to rush her to the hospital. They say they were able to replace her teeth, but you detached the nerve in her right eye. They're going to have to remove it."
Hiashi suddenly became aware of how far everyone had backed away from him. Whispers were echoing though the crowd.
" That is irrelevant to what is going on tonight." Hiashi said desperately.
" Your younger daughter also said you did so after she informed you Hinata was in love with Naruto, and deeply regrets doing so."
The Third smiled as the crowd completely turned against Hiashi.
" Besides, if you knew anything, the seal the Fourth used on Naruto grows stronger with the more chakra he possesses. Training him in combat only makes the Nine Tail's dungeon more vast and inescapable. Hiashi, with my authority as the village leader, I place you under arrest. The Hyuuga elder council will govern in his absence."
Hiashi didn't resist as four ANBU hauled him away.
Naruto was sitting in the cave outside of Kohona the ANBU had taken him to. He was still hungry.
" Hey, so what's going on? If it's an attack, I want to go help!" Naruto said impatiently.
" I'm sorry, we cannot tell you. Hokage's orders." said the female ANBU in a kind voice. Suddenly, Asuma appeared at the cave entrance.
" I'm here to relieve you." he said. The ANBU nodded and left. " Naruto, we have some things to discuss."
Naruto suddenly had the feeling he had done something very wrong. Asuma sat down and sighed. Naruto found it odd he had no cigarette.
" Hiashi, the leader of the Hyuuga clan, almost started a civil war tonight."
" What?" Naruto exclaimed. Asuma silenced him.
" He did so because he and his supporters demanded to have you killed." Naruto paled. " Don't worry, the situation has been dealt with and Hiashi arrested. The Third had to revoke the law surrounding you tonight, because otherwise half the village would have to be killed."
Naruto stared guiltily at the ground. Asuma hated the fact the boy seemed to feel blame for this.
" By tomorrow, all the children will know about the fox. They will still be unable to take action against you.."
" I'll leave the village." Naruto said quietly.
" No." Asuma said, forcing Naruto to look at him. " Five of the six most powerful clans in Kohona support the Third. We can keep the other side in check."
" I don't want you to. I don't want anyone to die for me."
Asuma stared at his student for a moment. The boy seemed to have aged decades. His face was etched with sadness and weariness.
" I'd rather you stay." said Kiba from the cave entrance. Akamaru barked friendlily from where he sit on Kiba's head.
" What?" Naruto said, dumbstruck.
" Akamaru tracked you down after we helped disperse the crowd. I'm glad he did. I don't want you to leave Kohona. Your our teammate and a friend."
" Your friend?" Naruto said, tears welling in his eyes.
" Yeah. I'm sorry we never hung out in school, but I thought you were just another loser like me. I wish I had. I feel bad now, knowing what you went though for years without anybody. I mean, knowing a little. I can't really imagine it. Anyways, we want to make up for that."
" I do to. I requested you as a student because I thought I could teach you well. I was a ruffian and a prankster as a kid too. But after finding out the hell you live in, I feel damn guilty not doing so years earlier."
It was awkward for Asuma, Kiba, and Akamaru, but Naruto burst into tears in front of them. He leaned forward and hugged Asuma, who, knowing nothing else to do, simply stayed still. Naruto stopped after a moment and looked to Kiba.
" Hey, hey, don't do that to me." Kiba said, rubbing the back of his head.
" Sorry, sorry." Naruto said, wiping a tear away.
Akamaru barked to Kiba, and he suddenly got a worried look on his face.
" Oh, yeah. Asuma-sensei, did you hear about Hinata?"
" No. What happened?" Asuma asked.
" Hiashi apparently injured her before starting everything."
" He what!?" Naruto and Asuma yelled, their surprise mirrored on each others faces.
Hinata woke in a bed. Her head felt terrible and there was some bandages over her eyes, so she didn't open it. Her mouth tasted like blood. The taste brought the memories of her father hitting her back. She grimaced, remembering the impact. She sat up.
" Hinata!" she heard Hanabi cry. " I'm so sorry! I never though father would act like that!"
" Its all right. I forgive you." Hinata said as her sister hugged her tightly. " I'm kind of glad you did. Now that father knows, I think I can tell Naruto-kun."
" Fathers been arrested. He tried to convince the villagers and Hokage to kill Naruto!"
Hinata was sure her face was dumbstruck.
" What happened? Did Naruto-kun get hurt?"
Hanabi told the whole story of the night as the doctors had told her. When she came to the end, Hinata lay back in her bed.
" I hope they kill father." Hinata said weakly, nearly choking on the words. " Naruto-kun is a kind, good person. He's brave and never loses confidence in himself. He deserves to live far more than father does."
" I agree." said Hanabi softly, surprising Hinata. Hanabi and her father had always been close, and Hinata had expected Hanabi to defend him. " I've been a horrible sister to you, but you are my sister. He should not have hurt you."
The sisters sat in silence, closer than they had ever been in their lives. Suddenly, the door burst open.
" Hinata!" called Naruto's voice as he clattered in. " I just heard! Are you okay?"
" I-I am, Naruto-kun." Hinata said, blushing and tapping her fingers.
" Why are your eyes bandaged?" Naruto asked, sounding concerned.
" I don't know. Hanabi, why are they?"
Hanabi sobbed loudly. She got herself under control after a minute.
" The doctors said when father hit you, he hurt part of your right eye. They had to take it out. They said your left one would work fine, but they bandaged it shut to keep you from trying to open your eyes."
" Oh." was all Hinata could say.
" Hinata…" Naruto trailed off, sounding like he was at a loss for words.
" Good to see you are awake." said the medic, entering. " I'm sorry if I came in at a bad time. Since you are awake, we can take the bandages off if you want."
Hinata did, though Hanabi and Naruto were worried. Hinata wanted to see, however. The doctor took the bandages off, telling her to open her eyes slowly and putting her in front of a mirror. Hinata did, and couldn't help but gasp.
There was a hole where her right eye had been. She could see fine out of the left one, but only half of the room.
" We'll have to seal the eye cavity, but we can wait a little."
Hinata closed her right eye. It didn't seem so bad like that. She turned back to her sister and Naruto.
" Naruto-kun…I'm sorry about how my father acted."
" Don't be! It wasn't your fault!" Naruto said, trying to sound comforting. " Tell you what! When you get out of here, we can go get you a eye-patch! We can get you a pink one, or some other color if you want."
" T-thank you, Naruto-kun." Hinata said, blushing. Kiba and Asuma entered quietly. Akamaru ran over and jumped onto the bed and began to lick Hinata's hand, making her laugh. " Why are you here?" Hinata asked as she scratched Akamaru's ear.
" Well, your our teammate!" Kiba said. " Since we're like a pack, we have to make sure everyone is doing well! Plus, you're supposed to visit friends when they are in the hospital." Kiba said.
Tears welling up in her remaining eye, Hinata felt more acceptance than she had ever. A eye was a small price for gaining what she had today: friends and a sisters love.