(Well, this one if told from Hinata's Point of View, from the 1st person perspective. Many who read this think it's similar to Team 8 by S'Tar'Kan, and I admit that I have read his story, and borrowed from it. HOWEVER I have no not stolen his story and just switched Naruto and Hinata's roles. This is apparent, considering that I'm much farther along in my story line then S'Tar'Kan, and I've nearly finished this story's outline. Another question I often get is what can Naruto do, why is his performance under par with his teammates, and that's because he had help from Minato to learn what was in the academy, similar to someone getting the answers to a test before he takes it. He learns a fighting style created by his father called the Fist of the Flash through Part 1, and a Flash Mode to go along with it later in the story, becoming probably the most powerful member of his team after my time skip. Also, no one is perfect, and not even Sasuke can break Kakashi's Earth Element jutsu in canon, so even Rookie of the Year Genin have their faults, Naruto's happens to be molding Earth Element Chakra, since his affinity is for win, what I imagine is it's polar opposite. Yes, this is a Naru-Hina story, so if that bothers you, you'll have to find something else to read. However, if you can stomach the warnings in this note and feel that you're still interested in what is obviously my most popular work, then read on. However, if you're going to leave me a nasty little review about how I'm just stealing someone else's ideas, then I'll have you reported for abuse, if you have the balls to sign the review. Oh, and finally, I own none of the characters involved in this story with few exceptions, most notably Hibana Hyuga and Haruka Uchiha, and several other lesser characters that have no major impact on the story. All other characters are copyright to the original author, whose name I can't spell off the top of my head, but every Naruto fan knows.)

Chapter 1: Revelations

"Now class, those of you who passed the Genin exam, return here tomorrow at 9 am for you squad assignments." Iruka Umino tells his class.

The members of the graduating class of the academy nearly throw up their hands in a cheer at their former teacher's words. The scarred Chunin was congratulating all those who passed the exam, but I don't feel the same exhilaration that the others in the class feel.

I know that if I were to yell out like the others, I'd draw a scowl from the teacher for the outburst…

After all, I'm a member of the main branch of the Hyuga clan, and for some reason, nearly every adult in the village glares at me for it…

"All right…" Umino Iruka says. "You're all dismissed until tomorrow."

The entire class seems to stand up as one, and the entire class files out of the classroom.

My name is Hinata Hyuga, and I'm a newly graduated Genin from the Village Hidden in the Leaves. I was born on December 27th, though my birthday is never celebrated, because it is on that day that a demon called the Kyuubi No Kitsune attacked our village. The Fourth Hokage, the village leader, was ready to sacrifice himself to kill the demon, but the demon managed to wound him, and my father had to take his place. My father sacrificed himself to save the village, and sparing the Fourth Hokage's life…

Life continued on for the village, and that day is looked back on as a dark day in the village, when many lives where lost, and the life of the leader of the Hyuga clan was lost to protect the village.

My father's sacrifice had another effect as well. His sacrifice catapulted the clan even higher in the eyes of the village. Even so, whenever I go out alone for any reason, I see people scowl at me, and their eyes look like they're rejecting my very existence…

I took a seat near the back of the class, and somehow I managed to get into the same class as the son of the Hokage himself, Naruto Namikaze. The boy's presence in the class constantly brightens the atmosphere. The boy is intelligent, graduating at the top of our class, even beating out the latest offspring from the Uchiha clan…

I don't know why I can never seem to answer the tests right, but I barely managed to graduate, and I don't think that Grandmother would like that very much…

I leave the classroom, wearing my normal gray jacket and dark blue pants, my newly acquired headband resting around my neck. On my feet I wear sandals like every other Genin does. As the majority of the class file out of the classroom and through the academy, into the courtyard of the building, the other students see their parents waiting for them in the courtyard. Their parents' faces happy that their child emerges from the academy wearing a headband, but when I emerge from the academy, I don't see the happy face of a parent waiting for me…

My mother wasn't a part of the Hyuga bloodline, so she was barred from seeing me and hasn't had a single hand in raising me. Now, with my father dead, it's up to my grandmother Hibana to run the clan, but she's getting older, and I'm nowhere near capable of inheriting the clan and assuming the role of leader…

No, rather then a smiling face of a parent, a Chunin member of the branch family, wearing dark gray robes, with a headband covering their forehead waits for me. The 22 year old man possessing the same lavender eyes I do…

Well, my eyes aren't the same as his, not if you look closely at mine, anyway. In mine, you can see a tint of red around the edge of the retina, and Grandmother says my eyes are the evidence of the 'gift' my father gave me right after I was born…

The member of the branch family is a man whose name I never even bothered to learn. Whenever I look at him, I see in him the same scowl that the other villagers give me, amplified by his position of servitude toward me and my grandmother…

"Let us go, Lady Hinata, Lady Hibana is waiting." He says in a neutral tone, though the man's eyes still posses the restrained hatred.

"Yes…" I respond with a barely visible nod.

The branch family member starts back toward our home, the Hyuga Mansion that has been the ancestral home to my family for generations. The branch family member walks ahead of me, and every day, during my trip either to the Mansion or to the academy, Grandmother Hibana always assigns a branch family member to escort me. Though I have no idea why my grandmother constantly assigns a branch family member to escort me, I do know that it must have something to do with the glares that the other villagers constantly give me.

I know that as a member of the Hyuga clan, my life as a shinobi is not a choice that I can make. I also know that with my father dead, and no brothers or sisters, I have no choice but to become strong, so I can fulfill my role as the leader of the clan…

But, grandmother always seems to hesitate whenever I ask her for additional training; she tells me that a good leader needs more then just power. She says that a good leader also knows when she needs help, and if I don't learn how to work as a member of a team, then I'll never learn how to lead. She always tells me that our Byakugan makes the Hyuga apt at seeing through deceptions and that I should always search for any hidden meaning in anything I do in life…

However, to see the hidden meaning in everything I do is a lot harder then it sounds, and much easier to say then it is to do. Walking back to the Hyuga home, my eyes locked on the back of the branch family member, I feel the eyes of the people of the village, glaring at me with hatred in their eyes. For my entire life, I can only remember seeing those expressions in nearly everyone in the village, the only people who've ever shown me kind eyes are my grandmother, the Fourth Hokage himself, and the Fourth's son, Naruto, though I have no idea as to why the blonde boy would show me any kindness when no one else does…

It must be something to do with his father, I overheard that his mother is working as an ANBU and is busy a lot. Maybe Naruto-kun takes pity on me, and sympathizes with my not having any 'real' parents either. Though, his father is extremely busy, so I doubt that he's around that much…

I clear my thoughts as I follow the branch family member into the home. He stops three steps inside the main doorway. He turns around, putting his hands behind his back.

"Lady Hibana is waiting in her chamber." The branch family member says. "She wishes to speak to you immediately." He finishes with a clipped tone.

I nod, bowing lightly to the branch family member as I walk past him and into the Hyuga home. I slip my shoes off at the door, and I walk down the halls, heading toward the chamber of the leader of the clan. It doesn't take long for me to arrive at the door to my grandmother's chamber. I raise my right hand to knock on the door, only to hear her voice from within the chamber before my hand can touch the door…

"Come in Hinata, I've been expecting you…" Hibana Hyuga's voice passes through the door.

I nod, realizing that my grandmother has her kekkei genkai activated, and she's using it to see through her door. I slide the door open, seeing into the chamber as I step inside. It isn't unusual that my grandmother keeps her room very darkly lit. The overhead light in the room is shut off, candles lining the room, casting an orange glow over my grandmother's bedroom. She sits on her bed, with her back to me, but I can tell that she sits with her feet together, her hands resting with her fingers interlaced, and her palms toward the ceiling.

"I take it you graduated, my granddaughter?" She asks; her white hair short and styled back, showing her age.

"Yes, grandmother…" I respond, bowing my head.

"How did you score on your graduation exam?" She asks, nearly cutting straight to the point.

I knew it; she wants to know how I did on the final exam for the graduation test. Because I'm a member of the main branch, she wants me to display a positive showing, and not bring shame to the clan…

I feel a lump form in my throat as I swallow the saliva in my mouth.

"I received a 68 percent on my final exam…" I mutter, hearing the embarrassment in my voice.

"A 68 percent…?" I hear the surprise in her voice.

I nod, feeling ashamed of the low score.

"What was the graduation test?" She asks, wanting to know what the instructors tested me on, the woman looking over her right shoulder at me.

"We had to perform a successful clone jutsu." I explain. "After we performed the technique, the instructors critiqued the results."

I see her right eyebrow rise, the veins around her eyes bulging, the pupil in her eye visible with her Byakugan activated...

"They critiqued your performance?" She asks.

I nod a curt nod.

"Yes, after I successfully created the clone, the Chunin instructors carefully looked my clone over, and they picked out several minor differences in my clone and my original appearance."

"Show me…" She responds.

I nod, making several signs in quick succession, focusing chakra as I use the technique. I create an illusionary clone of myself standing two feet to my left, the clone standing in the exact same pose as I am.

My grandmother eyes the clone a moment, and then her eye shifts back to my real body…

"Is this the same caliber of clone you created for the graduation exam?" She asks, and I nod.

"I attempted to create my best clone for the test, since the teachers at the academy often found reasons to reduce my score on tests and other exams. I wanted to create a clone that they could not find fault with, but I couldn't…" I tell her, my voice getting weak at the end of the statement.

The woman sighs, putting the back of her head toward me, but I know better then to think that she can't see me.

"The clone you created is virtually flawless to only the most scrutinized inspection, no more can be asked of a genin." She tells me, her voice bearing a no nonsense tone. "No, I believe your low grade on the graduation exam is the result of something else entirely." She explains.

"Something else…?" I ask. "What would make them want to give me a lower grade?" I ask.

"Tell me my daughter, have you ever noticed people showing you a special treatment?" She asks.

I raise my eyebrows.

"You mean, because I'm a member of the Hyuga Main Family?" I ask.

My grandmother shakes her head.

"No, I'm not talking about your status as a member of this family…" She tells me. "I'm talking about something else…"

"What Grandmother…?" I ask. "What could make people stare at me with those eyes?" I ask, referencing the expression most of the villagers cast toward me.

"So, you've seen the expressions that the other villagers give you?" She asks, and I nod.

"Their eyes…" I begin. "It's an expression as though they are rejecting my very being…"

She nods, though I don't see the grim expression on her face.

"For that, I am very sorry Hinata…" My grandmother tells me. "I'm afraid that it is the ignorance and hatred of the people in this village, and our own family that causes them to spurn you."

"But Grandmother, why would they spurn me? What reason could cause them to hate me, when they don't even know me?" I ask.

"Do you remember the 'gift' from your father that I always mention?" She asks, and I nod.

"You tell me that my father gave me something the day I was born, but you have never told me exactly what it is." I explain.

My grandmother nods solemnly.

"I can't tell you because if I tell you, you could have me put to death for a criminal infraction."

A criminal infraction that carries a death penalty, what law could be related to me that carries a penalty of death? Of all the laws of the village that they taught us about in the academy, the only law that carries a death sentence is treason. So, what law that carries a death sentence has something to do with me?

"What could you not speak of that would carry a death sentence?" I ask.

"I cannot tell you, my granddaughter." She says. "However, I can say this; think about the red tint to your eyes, the date of your birth, and the fate of the Nine Tailed Demon that attacked this village…" She suggests.

"The color of my eyes, the date of my birth, and the fate of the nine tailed demon, what do you mean?" I ask.

"Just as I said, you're a bright girl Hinata, your father's daughter, I'm sure you'll come to only a single conclusion that can explain the three things I've brought up…"

Okay, well, my eyes have a red tint, which is supposed to be a genetic abnormality from my mother since she wasn't of the bloodline. My birthday is December 27th, a day that carries a solemn air throughout the rest of the village, because it was the day the Kyuubi No Kitsune attacked, and…

My eyes go wide in recognition…

"Grandmother, do you mean…" I begin, my voice showing the dread I feel at her response.

"I can only tell you that the chakra of the Kyuubi No Kitsune was colored red, unlike the chakra of any human being alive." She says.

Red chakra, and my eyes have a red tint to them, and the fox attacked the village on the day of my birth, and it was my father that sacrificed himself to seal away the nine tailed demon, but we were never told what exactly what the fox was sealed into. It is assumed that it was sealed into a shinobi, but if it was, then there wouldn't be any reason for Grandmother to bring up the color of my eyes, and the color of the demon's chakra, unless she means to tell me that the Kyuubi No Kitsune was sealed inside ME…

"You don't mean that the demon was sealed inside of me?" I ask, and I see my grandmother turn around, facing me with her body, and for the first time in a long time, I see her smile.

"Yes, Hinata, the demon was sealed inside of you, and your father wanted you to be regarded a hero for containing the demon within your body." She explains. "Since that day, your chakra coils have grown larger and your chakra capacity has grown farther then even the most gifted Hyuga leader."

"So…the 'gift' that you kept talking about from my father was the fact that the demon's presence inside me has increased my chakra capacity farther then I would've been able to grow on my own?" I ask, and my grandmother nods.

"Now that you know, you should also know that there is a law in this village, passed the day you were born, and that law is that no one can speak of the fate of the Kyuubi No Kitsune, and no adult can speak about it to their children or anyone who doesn't already know about it, other then you." She explains to me. "The Fourth decreed that law to protect you. He wants you to have a chance for acceptance amongst those your age. He had the foresight to see that parents would've simply told their children about the demon, so instead they tell their children to shun you, but they won't tell them why…"

Suddenly, everything about my younger life and my childhood up until this point makes sense. I'm a member of the prestigious Hyuga clan, but at the same time, I'm also the village's dirty little secret, the container of the Nine Tailed Fox. Most of the villagers look at me like I AM the fox, rather then the fox's jailor…

Then, I see something that I've never seen before, my grandmother gets off of her bed. Standing up straight she bows to me, putting her forehead on the ground, her hands in front of her head.

"I am sorry Hinata, I've had to hide this fact from you for so long, and I was afraid that someone from the village would try and harm you in a futile attempt at revenge against the demon, so I always had you accompanied by a branch family guardian. I know that you didn't like it, that you would've rather gone on your own, but I was so afraid that my only granddaughter would die because of something completely out of your own control…"

Seeing my grandmother bowing to me, a 12 year old girl who has no power within the family whatsoever, and the sincerity in her words…

"Grandmother, I understand…" I respond, kneeling down.

I reach out with my right hand. I touch my grandmother's extended hand, and I see her look up, and I smile at her, a genuine smile.

"Thank you, Hinata…" My grandmother Hibana says her tone full of sincerity.

"Come now…" I begin, motioning for her to stand. "If someone sees you like this, rumors will spread like wildfire through the village, and you can't let that happen, can you grandmother?" I ask, and the old woman nods.

She stands up, and I move away from her, giving the woman space in the dimly lit room.

"I spoke to Lord Hokage earlier today…" Hibana begins. "I asked him who he had in mind to assign to your genin team, and he told me that he was planning on teaming you with Shino Aburame and his own son Naruto Namikaze…" She says.

"Naruto-kun and Shino-kun…?" I ask, and my grandmother nods.

"He said that he's had an ANBU watch your interactions with the other students during your free time at the academy. He says that Naruto is one of the only students that speak to you in a friendly manner, and Shino doesn't seem to care one way or another toward you. Thus the Fourth believes that with the two of them will be able to see you for you, and not as the demon like so many of the adults of this village do." She explains.

Shino and Naruto, my teammates, but what will I do? How can I be on a team with them when I'm hiding the fact that I'm the Jinchuriki? We learned in the academy that Jinchuriki are supposed to have been created to be weapons, and during time of war they were desired, now in the time of peace since the war between leaf and rock, Jinchuriki are no longer desired…

I see my grandmother smile at me.

"You'll be fine Hinata; you don't have to tell them about the Kyuubi right away." She tells me. "Let them see you for the real you, and then when you tell them about the Kyuubi. They'll see that you're a good person, and not the human incarnation of the demon." She tells me.

I nod solemnly, though I can't help but feel a pit of dread form in my stomach at the thought of telling my soon to be teammates about the demon residing in my body…

"For now Hinata, you should relax, tomorrow will be a big day for you and your new teammates, so after dinner take a long bath, and then you should relax and go to bed." She tells me.

I nod my agreement, and it isn't long before dinner is called for. During dinner that night, my grandmother and I eat in silence. After dinner, I go to the large bathroom in the mansion, and I take a long, slow bath, letting the warm water relax my mind and my body. After my bath, I go back to my room and I change into pajamas, pulling the blankets up over my body.

Tomorrow I become a genin, a ninja trainee for the Village Hidden in the Leaves, on a team with the son of the Fourth Hokage and the heir to the Aburame clan of bug ninjas. I can't let either of them down, they don't look at me like I'm some sort of monster, and I won't disappoint them…


The next morning, I'm out of the Hyuga mansion bright and early, my headband resting around my neck as I walk toward the academy. It's still early, and since I'm less then well liked by most people of the village, I tend to travel early and avoid running into as much as people as possible. The academy opens its doors at 7 am, and I wear a small backpack, my bento packed in it along with a thermos. I know that if I get to the academy early, I can duck into the room and take my seat without causing any real trouble.

I manage to get to the academy at 7:20 in the morning, having been awake since 6:10 this morning. Sleep last night was fitful, and I don't feel fatigued, but I could've slept better. The entire night, I was thinking about my assignment to a team with Naruto Namikaze and Shino Aburame.

At first, I didn't know what to think, but then I thought that it's possible that I ask for a transfer, for the two of them to get a better ninja to work with. I'm sure they could have Ino Yamanaka or even Sakura Haruno as a kunoichi on their team…

Entering into the academy, I walk toward the specified classroom, and I go inside, the academy classroom empty this early and I make my way to my seat. I sit down in the top right corner of the stadium style seating. I set my small bag next to my seat, and I put my head down on the desk. The thought of knowing what's coming quickly becoming a curse, the more I think about it.

At least the others are coming here with no idea that their teammates are so they're free to wonder just who will be assigned to their team…

And I bet none of them want me around them…

I think the thought bitterly, and then I close my eyes a moment, barely shaking my head.

Even though it may be true, I can't think that way. I have to try my best to prove to both Shino and Naruto that I'm not some demon. I'm a member of the Hyuga main branch, and my name is Hinata Hyuga…

I sit there, trying not to think as the time slowly crawls. As the hour draws closer, more and more students enter the room, some one at a time; others enter in small groups, people chatting amongst themselves, hopeful for what today may bring them. I notice that Sasuke Uchiha enters the room alone, and then shortly after, several girls from the class follow him inside fawning over him the entire way. The Uchiha boy ignores the female attention, muttering something under his breath. I personally don't understand what the other girls of my generation see in the Uchiha boy. He has looks, but the boy has the personality of a tree stump…

Or maybe a tree has more personality then he does. He's so self-centered, and he tried so hard to be the best in the class, but Naruto Namikaze did better at every test and examination we had. I don't know why Sasuke tried so hard, but Naruto has been better then he is, and I'd rather have Naruto on my team then Sasuke…

Not that either of them would want me on THEIR team…

I mentally kick myself as Ino Yamanaka and Sakura Haruno both storm into the room, arguing with each other over who arrived first in a stupid, pointless argument. The two of them bicker seemingly endlessly as Naruto Namikaze walks into the room, walking past both kunoichi with a heavy sigh. Naruto wears an orange jumpsuit with blue trim, and he wears the same blue shoes that other ninja wear. He wears his headband on his forehead, unlike me. The son of the Fourth Hokage takes a seat in the other half of the class seats, and oddly enough, no one fawns over him…

He's always been so happy go lucky about everything, and he treats me like I'm a person. Not like the other kids, who look at me because they're told to by their parents without a reason why.

I barely notice Shino Aburame enter into the room, the boy carrying nearly no presence. Without a word, Shino takes a seat, the other kids in the class staying away from the boy, simply unsettled by the strange boy. The kikai ninja wears a gray trench coat with a high collar. He wears dark brown pants and blue sandals, his headband on his forehead. As the time for assignments draws near, Kiba Inuzuka, Shikamaru Nara, and Choji Akimichi all enter the classroom, the latter two together, with the larger boy nearly pushing his smaller friend. Both of them take a seat, and Kiba sits off alone, his dog, Akamaru resting on top of his head. The class sits in anticipatory silence waiting on the Chunin teacher that will be bringing in the entire classes' genin assignments. I look around the room, and I see both Naruto and Shino waiting calmly as the door opens, and Iruka Umino enters the room.

The Chunin guard carries a clipboard in his right hand, and the entire class goes into a murmur when the Chunin stops in front of the class. He clears his throat rather loudly, causing the entire class to hush.

"All right now settle down…" He tells the class unnecessarily. "I've got your Genin assignments here, directly from Lord Hokage…"

Directly from Lord Hokage, does he mean that Lord Hokage didn't decide until this morning? If that's the case, then what grandmother told me last night could mean nothing, what will I do if I'm assigned to another team? Will my new teammates accept me like Naruto and Shino might've?

My thoughts continue to swirl as Iruka names the first 6 Genin squads, until finally, he comes to Squad 7, and my ears begin paying attention again.

"Squad 7 will be Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno, and Kiba Inuzuka…" Iruka explains.

You'd think that Sakura Haruno had just won a million Ryo from the way she reacts. The girl stands up and throws her arms into the air, yelling 'yippee' like she's a little school girl. I see Sasuke scoff and lower his head, and Kiba shakes his head slowly, and I can tell that he's REALLY looking forward to working with the resident self centered emotional nutcase and one of his fan girls. I look toward Ino Yamanaka, and I see a cloud of depression form around her at being denied a chance to be with her precious Sasuke…

"All right, now for Squad 8…" Iruka begins, pulling my attention back to him. "Squad 8 will be Shino Aburame, Naruto Namikaze, and…Hinata Hyuga." He explains.

There's a silence for a moment, and I look around to see both Naruto and Shino appear surprised for a moment, and then they look around. I see curiosity in Naruto's eyes, and when I look to Shino, I don't see any emotion in the bug user's eyes behind the dark sunglasses he wears…

I'm too preoccupied with looking around the room to notice the members of Squad 9 being announced, until the members of Squad 10 are announced…

"Squad 10 will be Ino Yamanaka, Shikamaru Nara, and Choji Akimichi." He finishes, naming the last of the 30 students in the class. "Now that you've all got your squad assignments, you're being given a long lunch break to get acquainted with your new teammates." He explains. "You have until 1 o'clock this afternoon to report back here to meet your Jounin sensei."

With that, he allows the papers on the clipboard to fall, and I see the Chunin teacher smile.

"All of you have done well to have become Genin. From this day onward, you are shinobi of the Leaf, remember that." He tells us all.

With that, he walks out of the room, and I see Sasuke Uchiha immediately stand up. The dark haired 12 year old heartthrob walks out of the room without a word, the pink haired kunoichi yelling after him.

"Sasuke, wait up…!" Sakura yells, and I see Kiba sigh heavily as the pink haired girl runs after her crush, Kiba and his dog trudging behind.

Poor Kiba, it's obvious that he doesn't want to be with the two of them. Sasuke is such a self centered kid, but with what happened to him and his family, it's understandable.

Newly formed teams of Genin get up and walk out of the room, and I get up, walking down the side of the room. I quickly make my way out of the room, my mind going into auto pilot. I manage to get out of the classroom without incident. I start down the hall, only to hear Naruto's voice from behind me yell out.

"OI, Hinata-chan…!" He yells out, and I feel myself start at his loud yell.

I turn around to see him running toward me, and he grins as he wraps his right arm around my neck, leaning on me like a good friend.

"Hey, what're you doing running off like this?" He asks a big happy go lucky grin on his face.

I feel my cheeks flush at the sudden expression of friendship, and the close…personal contact the boy so willingly entered into with me.

"Naruto-kun…" I mutter, feeling my cheeks flush ever further.

"We're supposed to use this time to get to know our new teammates right?" He asks. "We should eat lunch together, and even Shino thinks it's a good idea." He says, motioning toward the classroom door.

I see the bug ninja standing there, his arms at his sides. I see him reach up and push the sunglasses up to the bridge of his nose as he walks toward us. The kikai ninja stops with 3 feet between himself and where Naruto and I stand.

"It would be prudent for us to learn of each other during our extended lunch period." He says.

"Um, but, um…" I mutter, looking like a deer in headlights.

Naruto looks at me with a curious expression.

"Is something wrong Hinata-chan?" He asks. "You look flustered…"

He doesn't seem to his notice his right arm resting on my right shoulder, wrapped around behind my neck…

"Naruto-kun, I believe Hinata-chan may feel uncomfortable with your arm in its current position…" Shino suggests.

"My arm…" The son of the Fourth Hokage mutters, looking down at his arm.

Almost immediately Naruto retracts his arm, and I see him blush.

"Sorry, Hinata-chan, I didn't mean anything." He says, scratching the back of his head.

"It's all right, Naruto-kun…" I mutter, pressing my pointer finger tips together.

There's a moment of silence between the three of us, and Shino clears his throat, reaching up and pushing his sunglasses up again.

"I believe we should locate a suitable location to consume our respective meals." He suggests.

Naruto's eyes seem to light up.

"I know the best place we can go eat!" He says. "Follow me!"


10 minutes later, I find myself sitting a stool in front of the Ichiraku Ramen Shop. The man behind the counter is an older man, and he seems well acquainted with Naruto. Both Shino and I have a menu in front of us. I never knew there are so many types of noodles and ways of serving them.

Living in the Hyuga mansion and being a part of the head family, I usually eat meals prepared especially for me by a member of the branch family or a paid cook. The meals are good and nutritious, and I wonder why Naruto seems so well acquainted with the owner of Ichiraku's when he could be eating at the Fourth Hokage's home?

"Do you young people know what you'd like, or do you still need some more time?" The old man asks.

"I'll have a bowl of Miso ramen…" I say.

He nods, and I hand him the menu.

He takes the menu with a nod, and then he turns toward Shino, Naruto already having ordered a bowl of pork Ramen with extra meat. Shino looks at the menu, contemplating what he would like to order.

"I would like a bowl of beef ramen with extra noodles." He finally says, handing the menu to the proprietor.

He takes the menu from Shino, and then goes to work preparing the three orders from his new customers.

"So, we're supposed to get to know each other, you guys have any idea where we're supposed to start?" Naruto asks.

"I believe we can discuss our abilities; or ourselves in general." Shino suggests.

"Well, I'm Naruto Namikaze; my dad is Minato Namikaze, the Fourth Hokage." He says. "I became a ninja because I care about this village, and like my dad, I want to protect it."

He cares about this village, and he wants to protect it. Those are both admirable goals, but what do I want to do? I want people to recognize me as a person rather then as the container for that damn fox…

"What about you, Hinata-chan?" Naruto asks.

"Um, well, I'm Hinata Hyuga, and I'm a member of the main house of the Hyuga clan." I explain. "I'm the only child of the main house, so I became a ninja to help myself become stronger so I can inherit the clan."

"A laudable goal…" Shino speaks up, and Naruto turns toward him.

"What about you Shino?" Naruto asks, leaving the question open.

"All right, here are your orders…" The owner of Ichiraku's says, bringing three separate bowls of ramen to the counter, and placing them in front of Shino, Naruto and me.

"All right, thank you Ichiraku-san!" Naruto says, breaking his chopsticks apart.

With a shared 'Itadakimasu' the three of us dive into the food. The ramen is surprisingly good, and as we eat, the three of us don't talk much. Though, after 5 minutes of silence, Naruto opens his mouth after sucking a long string of noodles into his mouth.

"So Shino, what do you want to do with your life?" Naruto asks, asking the big question.

I glance past Naruto toward the kikai ninja, and I can see bugs crawling out of his sleeve and into the bowl of ramen. I feel a shiver run down my spine, fighting the urge to look down at my own bowl and examining it for bugs…

If I'm this nervous, I can't imagine how Naruto feels about the whole thing…

"My name is Shino Aburame, and I'm a member of the Aburame clan of the Leaf Village." He tells us all. "I want to become a formidable shinobi and master the various kikai techniques."

"Okay…" Naruto begins. "Well, we know about each other now, so can we ask questions about each other?"

"I believe non personal questions would be appropriate." Shino says.

Naruto turns toward me, and I see him look me in my eyes.

"Why are you always so quiet, Hinata-chan?" Naruto asks. "I mean, you sound like you're a really good person. You aren't mean or anything, so did you always stay by yourself during recess at the academy?" He asks.

"Most of the other students don't like me very much…" I mutter, staring down at the bowl of Miso ramen. "So, I didn't want to force myself…"

"Well, I never thought you were a bad person or anything." Naruto responds. "I would've played with you."

"Well, uh, I didn't want to bother anyone by interrupting them…" I respond, trying to find a way to hold up my end of the conversation.

I can't tell them the real reason, the real reason the other kids glare at me, and treat me like I'm some monster. I can't tell them, if I do, they'll want me off their team, and then…

"I do not believe our team mate is comfortable with your line of questioning, Naruto-kun." Shino interjects, still looking at his bowl.

The blonde boy blinks, apparently forgetting that his teammate was even sitting there…

"Oh…sorry Hinata-chan…" He says, scratching the back of his head. "It's just that you're so quiet all the time, I hardly know anything about you."

"Maybe she chooses not to speak, because she simply has nothing she believes is worth contributing to the conversation?" Shino suggests, and Naruto turns toward him.

I can't help but feel relief at the kikai ninja's sudden desire to speak in my defense, having other people looking at me does make me nervous…

Even when they don't stare at me like I'm a monster…

"I suppose…" Naruto responds, his tone reflective.

"What about you, Shino-kun?" I ask. "You hardly spoke during our time at the academy…"

The Aburame boy shifts in his chair.

"I simply had nothing worth contributing to the conversation." Shino says, finding as many words as possible to say 'I had nothing to say.'

There's a silence among us after Shino's response. We all start back at our bowls, and I feel relief for this silence. For whatever reason, Naruto seems curious about me and my disposition, which is largely effected by the demon sealed inside my body, which both of my teammates seem to have no knowledge of…

If you tell them about it, they'll think you're the monster, just like everyone else in the village, and they'll either shun you, or they'll try and get you killed during our missions…

"Hinata-chan…" Shino finally speaks up.

"Yes, Shino-kun…?" I respond in a formal tone.

"This may be considered a personal question, and therefore you have every right to refuse to answer, but I wish to inquire about your eyes." He begins, and I can tell it takes Naruto a moment to find the question in Shino's statement. "I have seen other members of the Hyuga clan, including the clan leader, Lady Hibana, and none of their eyes possess a coloring like yours do." He explains. "I merely wish to know the origins of the red tinting of your eyes, when other members of your family do not possess it."

Oh no, I had hoped they wouldn't notice…

Unfortunately, Naruto's head spins around. I see a curious expression on his face, as though he wanted to ask the question. With his previous attempts making me uncomfortable, he didn't want to risk irritating me on the first day…

"My eyes…" I mutter, and Shino nods.

"Yes, it is a rather perplexing scenario." He responds.

I push my pointer fingers together in a childhood expression of nervousness. For years, my grandmother has scolded me over the nervous habit, and yet I've been unable to break myself of it, no matter how hard I try…

"It's because my father had a child with someone outside of our family bloodline." I explain using the response my grandmother gives to dignitaries from other nations when they come to Konoha for business. "She had a particularly strong eye color, and it was passed down to me." I tell them. "My grandmother tells me I'm fortunate that I was born with the Byakugan, as I easily could've been born with normal red eyes…" I explain, lying to them.

While it is true that my father had me with a woman outside our clan, I have no idea as to the color of her eyes. It is the presence of the Kyuubi No Kitsune within my body that causes the red coloring of my eyes. In history class, we were taught that the demon had red fur and red eyes, with a menacing red chakra filled with murderous intent. I have no proof, but I assume it is the demon's chakra within my body that caused the slight coloring of my normally lavender eyes…

"Oh…" Naruto is the first to respond, sounding thoughtful.

"That answer…is acceptable…" Shino responds, pushing his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose again, determined to keep the sunglasses on his face and concealing his eyes.

Thank Kami that they believed it, but now, I'm lying to them, my own teammates…

"So, who do you think our Jounin-sensei will be?" Naruto asks, changing the subject.

"One would assume with the diversity of our group, that it would be a shinobi diverse in many different forms of the shinobi arts." Shino suggests. "Though, I would assume your father, the Fourth Hokage, might give you some insight as to the Jounin he would consider for his own son…"

With that, I get a small glimpse beneath the happy go lucky mask that Naruto Namikaze, son of the Fourth Hokage, wears nearly constantly.

His face contorts for a brief moment, and in that moment, I see a solemn, almost depressed expression pass on his face.

"Well, dad didn't tell me anything…" He responds, his tone on the verge of depression.

Why does he sound so sad? When Shino mentioned his father, his expression changed. The air around him got so solemn, almost sad, what about his relationship to the Fourth Hokage could be troubling him so much?

"If you think about it like that, the Jounin we'd be assigned would be the Copy Ninja, Kakashi Hatake." I explain. "However, I believe that the Fourth would want his talents focused on the Uchiha survivor, due to no one else in Konoha possessing a Sharingan to teach Sasuke how to use it." I suggest, showing my knowledge of the other shinobi clans in the village.

I look to see Naruto look surprised, and Shino makes no outward expression.

"You know a lot about the Jounin of our village, Hinata-chan." Naruto says, smiling again.

"Grandmother always told me that a good leader is knowledgeable, both of her allies and her enemies." I explain.

"Wise words, from a wise leader…" Shino comments, his tone neutral.

The rest of the lunch goes rather comfortably, compared to the beginning of our time together. We discuss subjects which aren't related to any of the three of us, from the other students at the academy, to the Jounin which could possibly be our teachers. Before I realize it, our lunch time nears its end, and Shino is the one to speak up.

"I believe our lunch period is nearing its end, we should return to the academy to rendezvous with our Jounin instructor." He suggests.

Both Naruto and I nod, and we leave the payment for our bill on the table, the three of us contributing to the total bill. We walk back toward the ninja academy together, though I intentionally walk behind both Shino and Naruto. The two boys walking together and I try to distance myself as much as possible, but yet not appear to be doing so…

I don't want them to see the looks the other villagers give me, so maybe if I walk behind them, the people won't glare until after they pass.

The other reason I walk behind the two boys, is because I do not want their reputation sullied by my presence. Deep down, I believe that both of them will want me removed from the squad once they learn of my secret. Because of that, I do not want their chances of advancing stunted because they worked with me for even a short period of time…

Shino walks with his hands in his jacket pockets. Naruto walks with his hands half stuck into his pants pockets. I walk with my hands in front of me, my right hand on top of my left, my fingers interlaced and curled in front of me, my knuckles pointed toward the ground. I walk with my head down, trying to avoid the glares of the villagers as I walk by. Fortunately, I walk in the wake of both the son of the Fourth Hokage, and the youngest member of the Aburame clan, and most people give the two of them plenty of space, scarred of one, and fearful of the other…

At least with people giving them room, I can just walk behind them in their wake, and that way most people won't even notice me. They'll be staring at Shino and Naruto…

The three of us manage to return to the academy without an incident with the other villagers, though I notice Shino glance backward. Behind the sunglasses I can't see any emotion in his eyes without my Byakugan. The three of us return to the classroom, only this time Iruka-sensei isn't waiting there, the room is empty save for the other graduating students waiting on their teachers.

We take a seat away from everyone, and I want to retreat back to my seat high and behind everyone. I know to sit apart from my assigned team would only draw more attention to myself, and only raise both Naruto and Shino's suspicions that I'm hiding something…

The last of the students file in and take seats, and all of the students, including Squad 7, sit together as their three man cells. We wait quietly as the clock strikes 1 o'clock, and then the door to the classroom flies open. An older man and woman enter the room.

The man is tall, easily one of the tallest shinobi I've ever met, with short dark hair and a sash around his waist signifying him as a member of the Daimyo's personal guard. The woman wears a white robe that comes down to mid thigh, and she has long black hair and red eyes. Her form is slender, and the man is bulkier then she is, a stark comparison between the two of them…

I recognize their faces, they're Kurenai Yuuhi and Asuma Sarutobi, and they're both Jounin…

"Squad 10, you're with me!" The man yells out.

I see Shikamaru, Ino and Choji all get up from their seats and walk toward the man. The four of them leave the classroom while the woman stays silent a moment. Looking around, I can see hopeful expressions on many of the other Genin's faces. They want this woman to yell out their team number, so they can finally find out who their teacher is…

"Squad 8, you're with me…" The woman finally speaks up.

Naruto, Shino and I all get up and leave our seats. We follow the woman when she leaves the classroom and leads us through the academy and out into the streets. She stops after 5 steps into the streets, and then she spins on her heels.

"You three are familiar with training ground 8, correct?" She asks, not even bothering to introduce herself.

The three of us nod our agreements.

"All right, meet me there in five minutes, no stragglers." She says, and then disappears in a puff of smoke.

Training ground 8 is 10 minutes away, at best…

The three of us take to the trees, and we all head toward the training ground, attempting to make it in time for the unrealistic deadline. I allow chakra to feed into my legs, strengthening the muscles and increasing the force with which I can leap. I don't wear a watch, but I know how quickly five minutes can pass. I try to move as quickly as possible, though I find myself beginning to outrun my teammates, so I intentionally slow down, allowing them to catch up as we move toward our destination…

Five minutes draws ever closer. I release a massive burst of chakra into my legs, not wanting to be late. I take off on my next leap, moving much quicker then I was before. I silently curse myself for trying to make the unrealistic deadline, which I know must be test of our abilities.

I land in the training ground near the five minute mark, and I see our sensei standing there. When my feet touch ground, I see her spin around in surprise. Seeing me standing there, winded, but within the five minute deadline…

"This is unexpected…" She says, confirming my suspicions.

She intentionally set an unrealistic goal, so see just how quickly we can move from one place to another under impossible conditions.

"I know what I did was wrong, but please do not punish Shino-kun and Naruto-kun." I say simply. "I only made it here…"

"Because you're the Jinchuriki, right…?" Kurenai Yuuhi asks.

My eyes go wide.

"You know…?" I mutter, and the woman nods.

"I was a genin back then, and I was away from the worst of it. I'm well aware of what happened that day, and I am also well aware of the mistreatment you've been on the receiving end of at the academy."

I don't say anything, though my surprise is evident.

"I also spoke to your grandmother, she told me you know of the law pertaining to your situation, and you're fully aware of it." She says, and I nod.

The Jounin looks up toward the trees. I see her expression shift from a serious expression to calm, reassuring smile.

"It appears as though they've caught up." She says.

A moment later, both Naruto and Shino emerge from the trees, landing next to me, and I feel an apology forming in my throat.

"So, you two finally made it, Hinata have been here for nearly 3 minutes waiting with me." Kurenai tells the two of them.

Both boys are winded, and I can tell they tried to keep up with me as best they could, but they were unable. Because they haven't had as nearly as much training as I have in chakra control and manipulation…

"We are both well aware of that fact, Sensei…" Shino says, his chest moving up and down quickly in the only outward expression of his physical state.

I open my mouth to apologize, though Naruto cuts me off.

"You really poured on the speed there Hinata…" He says, winded enough that he forgets the honorific. "How'd you manage to take off like that?" He asks, not a hint of anger apparent in his voice.

"She did it with chakra, isn't that right, Hinata?" Kurenai asks, and I nod, not saying anything.

"You can manipulate your chakra that well?" Naruto asks, and I feel myself blush, putting my pointer fingertips together.

"Well, it's just…my family…and…" I mutter.

"What she means is; the Gentle Fist form of taijutsu that her family is so famous for relies heavily on chakra manipulation." Kurenai explains. "Because of the skills she learned in that, she was able to apply them to this test." Kurenai continues. "I didn't expect any of you to make it here to this training ground within the allotted five minutes I gave you." The Jounin instructor explains. "It was a test, to see how far and fast you could push yourselves when faced with an impossible situation, and it gave me a good insight into your skill levels."

"Um, sensei…" Naruto begins, and Kurenai shifts her gaze to him.

"Yes, Naruto…?" She asks.

"We haven't even been introduced yet; don't senseis normally introduce themselves to their genin before testing them?"

The Jounin gives her student a smile.

"You're quite correct Naruto, and that's exactly what I was going to do next." She says. "The three of you can sit down and cool off while we talk." She explains.

The three of us do as we're told, and before long, I sit cross legged on the ground. I wonder just what my grandmother would think of me sitting on the bare ground…

I look toward my two teammates to see Naruto sitting with his legs crossed, his arms crossed over his chest. Shino sits to his left, legs crossed, but his arms at his sides.

"Um, Naruto-kun, Shino-kun, I'm sorry…" I mutter to the two of them, hoping Kurenai doesn't hear it.

"What do you have to be sorry for, Hinata?" Kurenai's voice cuts into my ears, telling me she heard every word.

I look to my Jounin to see a stern expression on her face.

"Um, well, I left them behind so I could make it here, and I know that it's wrong to leave your teammates behind…"

"That's true, in a life or death situation, but neither of your teammates was injured, and you had a goal to achieve." Kurenai begins her lecture. "You did nothing wrong, and that skill may be needed in the future, should we ever need an advance scout." Kurenai continues. "What you did was attempt to complete the objective to the best of your abilities, you were not being tested as a team, nor did I want to test you in that manner." She continues. "I wished to see the level of physical ability of each one of my students, nothing more, so you have nothing to be sorry for."

I nod, though I feel as though I was just caught with my hand in a cookie jar, and scolded by my mother…

"Now then…" Kurenai begins, taking a breath, slightly winded after scolding me about apologizing. "My name is Kurenai Yuuhi, and I'm a genjutsu specialist." She begins her introduction. "Until a few years ago, I was an instructor at the academy, and I specialize in information gathering." She says.

Her gaze shifts to Shino, and I see the kikai ninja push his sunglasses up to the bridge of his nose.

"My name is Shino Aburame, and I wish to learn more about the various insects and kikai in the world." He explains. "I hope to master the various techniques that can be performed with the help of my allies, and one day to become a productive, functioning member of my clan and this village."

He almost has a hive mentality, could it have something to do with the bugs that live inside of him?

I feel and suppress a shudder at the thought of things crawling inside my body. I resist the urge to scratch at my arms. I see Kurenai's gaze shift to Naruto.

"My name's Naruto Namikaze and I will become a powerful ninja, worthy of being Hokage!" He explains.

She shifts her gaze toward me, and I look down, avoiding my teacher's gaze.

"My name is Hinata Hyuga, and I became a ninja so one day I can take the burden of leadership of my clan from my grandmother, and become a strong leader myself…" I explain.

I look up to see her smile.

"Good, you've all got hopes and dreams, and all of them seem to involve the three of you getting stronger, am I incorrect in that?" Kurenai asks, and none of us disagree. "Since that is the case, I will do my best to help you three achieve your goals." She finishes.

I feel relief at her words, and I didn't feel any hatred coming from her during the brief conversation her and I had before Naruto and Shino arrived…

"Now then, that being said, Naruto, what in the world are you doing wearing an orange outfit when shinobi rely so heavily on stealth and concealment?" She asks, directing her gaze toward her blonde student.

I see the boy grin, as though he saw this coming.

"I only wear this when I'm in the village, if I get called out on a mission, all of these suits my dad had made reversible. They're green and black on the reverse side, so they're perfect for blending in." He says, pulling the zipper down halfway, and revealing the reversible inside of his suit for all of us to see.

"I see…" Kurenai mutters. "All right, since it's still relatively early, we'll forego going on a mission today, and instead focus on learning to work with each other." She explains. "One of the best ways to learn what your teammates are really capable of, is through FRIENDLY competition in sparring matches, just remember to pull your punches." She says, and I see her cast her gaze at me a moment, and I understand her concern.

With my Gentle Fist, I could kill Naruto or Shino with a single strike, and she knows that…

"All right, I don't want things to be mismatched, so Naruto, spar with Hinata." She says.

He looks at me a moment, and then he nods.

"All right, sensei." He says, standing up.

He walks to an open area, and take my backpack off. After I remove the backpack I follow without a word, but I feel Kurenai touch my right shoulder as I pass.

"Remember, don't actually use the Gentle Fist, he isn't your enemy." Kurenai gently reminds me, and I nod.

I walk to a position five feet apart from Naruto. I quickly activate my Byakugan, seeing the blonde boy drop into a defensive stance. I assume a standard Gentle Fist stance with my left arm out and my right arm near my chest. I exhale as I look at him with newly granted insight…

That's odd, his chakra coils are larger then Grandmothers, but I only see a blue chakra in them. I know grandmother has told me my coils are enlarged due to the presence of the Kyuubi, but for what reason could Naruto have such large coils?

I don't have time to think about it as the boy springs into a right jab. I shift left, allowing the blow to pass over my left shoulder, mere inches from my ear. I extend my left arm, tapping him in the stomach with my fingertips, my middle finger directly on a tenketsu…

"Whoops…" He mutters, pulling his arm back. "I didn't think you'd be so good at this…" He says.

He nods the point, and we separate, ready for the second skirmish.

"You shouldn't take Hinata lightly, Naruto." Kurenai warns. "That attack she just landed could've sealed off a tenketsu within your body, and damaged your internal organs, had she willed it." Kurenai says lightly.

The blonde haired boy blinks once, and then looks at me a curious expression on his face.

"Is that true, Hinata-chan?" He asks, and I nod.

"Yes, Naruto-kun, it is true, but because this is a sparring match, I will restrain the chakra from passing through my arms and into your body. I use my Byakugan only to practice striking the tenketsu, not actually damaging them." I explain.

He nods in understanding.

"All right, let's go…" He mutters.

He starts toward me again. This time he goes low, sweeping his right leg out, trying to knock me off balance. I flip backward, avoiding his strike, and through the entire motion, I watch my teammate through my Byakugan. I see him complete the spin and then lung forward, ready to drive his right palm into my face as I return to a standing position from the flip. It would work, save for the fact that I know its coming.

I get to my feet and then shift backward, using a my left arm, I deliver a palm thrust to his wrist, only enough to shunt his punch upward, not actually hurt him. With his momentum, I fall backward as he goes forward, and I send my right foot into his chest. A light tap against his ribs as he goes over me, and I curl into a ball as I hit the ground. Coming up on one knee, my back to Naruto, but I'm still able to see him.

"Jeez Hinata, how much do you train with this Gentle Fist taijutsu of yours?" Naruto asks, my back to him, though I see that he rolled into a ball and came up on one knee, the same as I did.

"I usually spend anywhere between 4 and 5 hours a day with my grandmother in training sessions after my time at the academy, though those sessions have ended now that I am a Genin."

If you do the math, during my time at the academy, I was working a 12 hour day, spending roughly 7 or 8 hours there, and 4 or 5 more hours at home training with my grandmother. All that training over the many years has resulted in my skill level being higher then an average Genin, though I never paraded my skills in front of the other kids, lest I wanted to be scolded by my grandmother…

The secrets of our family are to remain secrets Hinata, you must never fully reveal your abilities to anyone but an enemy, and then, you must make sure you take their life…

Her words come back to my mind, but I ignore them as I stand up.

"I believe that's enough for now Hinata, you've given Naruto something to think about, as well as Shino here…" Kurenai explains.

I look through the Byakugan to see the kikai ninja sitting attentively, and I see him push his sunglasses up again.

The veins around my eyes recede as my bloodline limit turns off. I look toward my teacher.

"Kurenai-sensei did me…" I begin, but I see the woman smile.

"You didn't do anything wrong Hinata, and I'm sure Naruto doesn't think ill of you for besting him in a sparring match." She says, and I look back to my teammate to see him smiling at me.

"You're a good sparring partner Hinata-chan, and it's good that you're so good with that Gentle Fist stuff, because it means the whole team's better because of it." He tells me.

I fight the urge to cry, and suppress the tears I feel beginning to well up in my eyes. No one other then my grandmother has ever treated me this way, accepting me for a person, seeing what I'm capable of and smiling, not scowling at me and calling me a demon…

"Hinata, are you all right?" I hear Kurenai's voice, starting me from my reprieve.

I don't realize until that moment that I was standing there silently. My emotions must've been easy enough to read, as both my teammates and my teacher stare at me. They have a concerned expression on both Naruto and Kurenai's faces. Shino has his head cocked on the left ever so slightly, as if intrigued about something. Both Kurenai and Shino have stood up. Naruto has half walked to the place where they were sitting.

I sniffle, wiping my eyes with the sleeve of my gray jacket.

"I'm fine, I'm sorry I was just standing here." I say, walking to the same spot Kurenai and Shino sat at.

I sit down, and Naruto does so as well. I see Kurenai's gaze follow me for a moment. Then both she and Shino enter the 'sparring area' that Naruto and I used to face off against each other.

"Remember to pull your punches Shino, this is a sparring session, and you don't need to have your allies draining off my chakra." Kurenai warns the boy, and I wonder if it's because she's his teacher, or she feels her skin crawl at the thought of bugs crawling on her.

"I only ask that you take the same precautions, Kurenai-sensei." The boy says.

He enters into a defensive stance, and she assumes a taijutsu stance as well. Both Naruto and I watch as Kurenai attacks Shino. The kikai ninja defends; parrying her palm thrust and returning a chambered kick. I watch as my teacher sidesteps, and a moment later Shino's leg retracts in response to his teacher's knife hand chop entering the space his leg used to occupy. The bug ninja stands ready as Kurenai fires a quick 3 punch combo toward him, and he dodges the first two, blocking only the last punch by crossing his arms over his chest. After the block, he drops down and performs a leg sweep, trying to catch his Jounin teacher's legs out from under her. The dark haired Jounin does a single hand handstand backward, avoiding the sweep and coming up on the balls of her feet, assuming a defensive taijutsu stance.

"So, you hid how much you really knew when you were in the academy Shino." She says with certainty. "That stops here, do you understand?" She asks, not once leaving her stance.

The kikai ninja nods, assuming a defensive taijutsu stance.

The two go at once more, but I can see Kurenai getting more and more complicated as she spars with her student, wanting to know the true depths to his skill with hand to hand combat. I see Shino begin to feel winded after nearly 5 minutes, and I can tell that his combat plan is to act as a distraction while his allies attach themselves to his opponent and drain away their chakra, leaving them basically helpless and at his mercy afterward. He isn't used to drawn out hand to hand combat at a Chunin level. Though it's amazing that he's capable of fighting against sensei for as long as he is…

He throws a kick, and it's a moment too slow as she sidesteps, sending a knife edge chop into his chest, with little more then a tap for impact. The boy nods her point, and then takes a step back, ready to continue as she raises her right palm, calling a halt.

"That's enough…" She tells him. The kikai ninja lowers his arms to his sides, his hands finding his jacket pockets.

"Sensei, what do we do now?" Naruto asks as Kurenai approaches us. She motions for Shino to sit next to us.

Shino nods, sitting down next to me without a word.

"To answer your question Naruto, I believe a small talk on the basics of teamwork is in order, since the three of you are new to working with each other." She explains. "The sparring session between you and Hinata Naruto showed me that you've never once seen her fight, much less have any idea how good she actually is, or you would've been much more careful, am I correct?" She asks, and Naruto nods.

"Yeah, well, Hinata never really hung out with anybody during lunch or after school, she'd always eat by herself and then go straight home once school let out." He explains.

Our teacher looks at me for a moment, and then looks toward Shino and then Naruto.

"Do you know why she always ate alone, and never tried to join in on the after school sessions?" Kurenai asks, and I feel a pit of dread form in my stomach.

No, don't sensei; don't tell them about the Kyuubi…

I open my mouth to speak to try and tell my teacher to stop speaking, but Naruto speaks up before I can.

"I always just assumed it was because she's a Hyuga, and she couldn't show off her moves to everyone, at least, that's what my dad said when I asked him."

"That may be true for the after school sparring sessions, but what about during your lunch time, what would make her eat alone?" Kurenai asks, almost as if I wasn't here, and she looks at me, giving me a glare that tells me not to respond.

Naruto opens his mouth, and then closes it again, and it is Shino who speaks.

"It is distinctly possible that she ate alone because no one in her class made the attempt at making her feel welcome to eat with them." He says.

Kurenai looks at me, and I see her expression soften.

"Hinata, is that why you always ate alone, and you never really talked, because no one at the academy made you feel welcome around them?" She asks, and I nod.

"Yes…" I mutter weakly, looking down at the ground.

"Do you both see now?" Kurenai asks. "When you're in a team, knowledge of the other members of the team is crucial, and can be the difference between life and death." She explains. "Your lack of knowledge on your own teammate could've lead to your own death at her hands, if she had wished it." Kurenai explains. "And the same is true for when you're on a mission, not knowing what your allies are capable of can cause you to walk into a situation unprepared, and cost you your lives." She tells us all. "While your lives were not in danger today, in the future they may be, and you should never risk your life without full awareness of what your team is capable of." Kurenai finishes.

Both Naruto and Shino nod, and I do so as well, having heard a nearly identical speech from my grandmother. Only with her, it was about leading a team, and knowledge of your subordinates' abilities, instead of your comrades…

"All right, now, we'll work on chakra control exercises, as well as other physical exercises to help improve your stamina and your chakra as well." Kurenai explains.

We spend three hours running drills and going through various chakra control exercises at the direction of our teacher. She works us hard, though I enjoy the time together with my two teammates. Working toward a common goal, rather then questioning me about the many facets of my life. In one exercise, she has the three of us climb a tall tree, wearing a rope tied around our wastes. The exercise meant to show that we're all connected, and if one of us fails, their dead weight will pull us all down. We climb the tree barehanded, moving from branch to branch. We climb together, trying to remain on the same level as one another, but I see Naruto plant his foot on a thin part of a branch. I see it snap, his leg going through where the branch was, his hands reaching out for anything. I quickly lunge out, grabbing his right hand with my left hand, and I concentrate chakra on my right hand, grabbing the branch with my free hand, Shino remaining on the branch.

"I've got you…" I mutter as I hold the hand of the son of the Fourth Hokage, 20 feet in the air.

"Shino-kun…" I mutter, looking up to see the bug ninja standing over me.

"Allow me to help you…" He says, kneeling down.

I strain, trying to lift Naruto up with my weak arm, and I concentrate chakra into my left arm, and I feel my hold on the branch weakening as I shift the energy inside my body. I feel the chakra energize the muscles, and I lift, pulling Naruto up into Shino's waiting arms. The kikai ninja takes the blonde boy onto the branch, and then I pull myself up as well, kneeling on the branch a moment, and I hear Naruto breathing heavily.

"Thank you, Hinata…" He mutters. The three of us are too high up for Kurenai-sensei to hear.

"Your actions were most commendable." Shino remarks and I nod, feeling myself blush.

"We should head to the top, we're almost there…" I suggest, and both boys nod.

As we resume our climb up the tree, I reach a decision.

I don't want to lose these two as my teammates, they both treat me like a person, like I'm worth something, and I won't let either of them down…

We make it to the top without another incident. I see Naruto checking the braches he reaches for constantly, not wanting to make the same mistake again. Finally, after nearly 10 minutes, the three of us stand on the highest branch we dare to stand on. We look at each other, and I feel a sense of accomplishment…

"Very good, all of you…" I hear Kurenai's voice, and we all look under us to see her hanging there by her feet, her arms crossed, her hair hanging down toward the ground.

Most surprising of all, the red eyed woman is smiling.

"Sensei…" I begin, but she cuts me off.

"Now, all you three have to do is get down together, and this exercise is over." She tells us.

We all nod, and we start back down the tree. The climb down goes much smoother then the climb up, and before long, the three of us are on the ground. The rope still holds us together. I look up to see Kurenai still attached to the tree branch, and in a moment, her feet drop and she flips. She lands on a branch with almost practiced ease. She comes down the tree like a blur of motion, coming to a stop on the ground in front of us with her back to us. She coils her knees to absorb the impact, standing up straight a moment later.

"All right, give me the rope, and the three of you are dismissed until 9 am tomorrow." She says, turning around, holding out her right hand.

We each untie ourselves, and Naruto takes the rope, winding it up into a large circle and handing it to our teacher.

"Thank you, Naruto." She says, and I see the blonde boy smile. "All right, you're all done for the day, tomorrow, if there's time, I'll teach you all how to climb trees without using your hands, though we will have a mission tomorrow, so get some sleep." She tells us.

We all nod, and we start walking away, but I hear her call out.

"Hinata, wait a moment, would you?" I hear my teacher's voice.

In light of the recent teamwork building exercise, not only do I stop, but a few steps later, both Shino and Naruto do too.

"Sensei, is Hinata in trouble for what she did during the tree climbing exercise, because I…" Naruto begins, but Kurenai waves him off.

"She isn't in trouble Naruto, I just need to speak with her in private, you two should go home, your parents are probably wondering when you'll be getting back." She says.

I look back to see the two boys nod, and both of them look at me.

"See you tomorrow, Hinata-chan." Naruto says, waving.

"Until tomorrow..." Shino says in a flat tone.

"See you all tomorrow…" I say, returning Naruto's wave.

The two boys walk off, and I remain behind. I look to see Kurenai-sensei hang the loop of robe over her right shoulder as she approaches me.

"Tell me Hinata…" My teacher begins. "Did you jump to help Naruto because he's your teammate, or because you didn't want to fail the exercise?"

I look down, and I feel myself press my pointer fingers together.

"Um, I wanted to prevent him from getting hurt, he is the son of the Fourth Hokage, and…" I begin, but my teacher cuts me off.

"It's more then that Hinata, I can see it." She tells me. "Tell me, has anyone ever treated you like Shino and Naruto did today?"

I shake my head no.

"Other then my grandmother, no…" I tell her, my voice solemn.

"I see…" She mutters her tone reflective. "I'll have to speak to Lord Hokage about this…"

My eyes jump at her mention of the Hokage.

"No one broke the law, my grandmother only hinted at it, and I figured the rest out, so…" I quickly blurt out.

She shakes her head.

"I don't mean anyone did, not directly in front of you anyway." She explains. "That law is in place to allow you to gain acceptance with those of your generation, but if behind closed doors parents tell their children to hate you, then the law's effect has no real point." She says. "Though, I know Shino's father, he's a good man, and not one to go spreading lies, so I doubt he'd tell his son to shun and hate you." She explains. "As for Naruto, his father is the Fourth Hokage, and the Hokage above all else supports you, and wants to try and help you."

I nod.

"I'm sorry sensei, but I didn't want to let the team down. I didn't want them to think I'm only good for showing them up and beating them in sparring sessions…"

"I've been meaning to ask you about that as well…" She begins. "Your records in the academy have you placed near the bottom of your class, so how is it that you can perform taijutsu so well, when your scores in it are nearly failing?" She asks.

"I…am not allowed to use the Gentle Fist in front of others needlessly, and I know secrets to the clan, so I couldn't use them without being punished for it." I explain.

"Hmm…" She mutters, looking down at the ground a moment, and then she looks back to me. "Does your grandmother know that the instructors at the academy were intentionally lowering your scores?" She finally asks.

I hang my head and nod.

"My grandmother believes they lowered my scores, or nitpicked on my assignments. They wouldn't outright fail me because I'm a member of the Hyuga clan, and they were scarred of my grandmother…"

Kurenai nods once solemnly.

"Thank you Hinata." Kurenai says. "Now, go home and shower and get some sleep, we'll have a mission tomorrow, and you should be rested."

I nod once, and I turn away from her, starting back to the village, toward my home…