Thanks go to MageOhki and Skelthin for some suggestions.

"Crimson Edge"

Chapter 4


Ino stood, rooted to her spot.

She wanted to run, to jump to...

She couldn't.

'...So much blood...'

Sakura's body was like a broken, bleeding doll as the medics carefully raised her prone body to place in on a stretcher. One of the medics, her hand glowing faint green, held her hand near Sakura's abdomen and from the frantic whispers this was not good.

'Not good... not... good?' Ino stared numbly. 'Oh gods... She...'

A bile rose in her throat and Ino was close to vomiting. If not for the harsh experience in the Forest of Death she would have. She thought that after that violent 'exercise' she'd be all calm and collected but... But this was her friend. Her best friend, even if they were at odds.

Odds... Oh gods she didn't know if to laugh or cry. Sasuke's attention seemed so damn hollow now. So damn... insignificant as she stared at Sakura's bleeding body being carried out by the medics.

On some level, she just couldn't... wasn't able to believe this was real. She thought it was like back in the academy, like when they had first aid classes, like when Sakura would whine and scowl at the fact her hairstyle was ruined as she got up and...

'...this... is... real... Isn't it?' She thought numbly. 'Real... I... I...'


She was proud. She was unyielding. She was Yamanaka Ino of the Yamanaka Clan... and she was scared.


"Inuzuka Kiba, Yamanaka Ino." Hayate coughed. "Please come down to the arena. Your fight is now."

Ino blinked owlishly.

'...Real... I...' Her eyes traveled to the stain of red that was left from Sakura's broken body.

' red...'

"Yamanaka Ino, please come down to the arena."

Ino flinched as she felt Asuma's hand on her shoulder.

"Ino." The jounin looked at her seriously, for once his cigarette absent. "If you don't want to..." He followed her gaze to the stain of red. "I won't blame you. You can go and check on Sakura. There is no shame in that."

Ino opened her mouth, closing it. Then she opened it again.


"Heh, we really lucked out, Akamaru!" Kiba laughed loudly, patting his dog. "We really got a weak one! We just knock her out and it's finals for us, boy!"

The dog barked, obviously happy.

Ino licked her lips.


"Hey, Yamanaka!" Kiba called to the stands. "You getting down here, or quitting? Eh?" He grinned savagely. "The same to me, either way. I'm gonna beat you one way or another."

Ino flinched, staring at the pool of red.

' vibrant... It is... so dark but so vibrant...'

Oddly enough, the more she looked at it, the more she saw Sakura's hair. Her pink, blood matted hair...

"Oi!" Kiba scowled. "Decide, goddamit! You're wasting our time! You wanna forfeit, so do it!" He shrugged. "Not that I blame you, really. Getting ass kicking like Sakura and all... That kind of pathetic defeat stings like hell."

Had Ino knew Kiba better, she'd know that the trash talking was Kiba's way. Wild and savage, he talked a lot, psyching himself up. It was his way, a habit and nature. She'd also know that he usually didn't mean half of the things he said.

But the moment she heard Sakura's name... Something snapped.

"...Kiba..." Ino's eyes turned cold. "Kiba...!" She hissed.

"Oi... Ino!" Asuma tried to grab the blonde's shoulder but the Ino shrugged his hand away, jumping down to the arena.

"...That foolish little..." Asuma sighed, shaking his head at his blonde's student display of infamous temperament. Still... He could understand how she felt.

"So, decided to get a beatdown?" Kiba taunted. "Fine with me!" He laughed uproariously. "Don't worry, I won't even bruise you too much!"

Ino's eyes narrowed.

"Shut up and bring it on!" She hissed venomously.

Hayate shook his head. Grudge matches were always the worst.

"Inuzuka Kiba versus Yamanaka Ino... Start."

"She can't win this."

Asuma gave Kurenai a sideways glance.

"Kiba might be rash but he has incredible offensive potential. He is a typical war shinobi, a front line fighter. Pitting him against Ino is a cruel joke." The crimson eyes darkened. "Asuma... Why?"

"She is a Konoha shinobi. She knows the stakes." The ninja said calmly.

"She can't possibly match him and you know it!" The kunoichi snapped. "Didn't we see enough blood today, Asuma?!"

The bearded jounin turned, looking at Kurenai calmly.

"Now this I didn't expect from you, Kurenai." He said finally.

Kurenai's eyes narrowed.

"Weren't you the one always so adamant about the pride of the kunoichi?" He drawled. "What kind of right do you have to take it away from others? Well?"

The kunoichi flinched under Asuma's cold gaze.

"...It is not like that. It is just... She can't win it Asuma! She will be broken! Like Hinata... like that Haruno girl! Do you really want to witness that? Your own student?!"

"Exactly. She is my student. My soldier. Mine." Asuma growled. "She is my student. I will believe in her, regardless of odds. And I don't want to hear a word."

Kurenai took a step back, eyes wide.

Asuma was lazy, laid back and one of the friendliest men she had ever known. She had never seen him speak in that cold, clipped tones to anybody. Much less her.

"...Asuma..." She whispered.

"Take care of your own team, Kurenai. And let me take care of mine." He snapped, turning to the arena.

Kiba stared at the young kunoichi in front of himself, before snorting.
"I dunno what you want to accomplish but..." The Inuzuka shrugged. "You won't win, Ino. This arena is fit for me. No backstabbing, no tricks... Just guts and claws. This is my kind of fight, Yamanaka." He cracked his neck. "No prissy little kunoichi florist is gonna beat me."

Ino didn't seem to acknowledge him, staring at something, her hands quivering. Kiba blinked, following her gaze.

"...Oh geez..." He muttered, spotting the red stain. "I'm gonna make it quick, Ino." The boy said, lunging forward.

Ino's head snapped up.

Her fingers moved.

Kiba's eyes widened.


Ino's hiss was the last thing he remembered before things went dark.


Asuma's eyes widened.

"...well damn..." He muttered. "She baited him... let him close..."

Shikamaru stared.

Shintenshin was supposed to be a support or information gathering skill. The offensive use was... well, almost nil. It was too slow, traveled only in straight line and any shinobi could dodge it.

'...If they saw it coming.' He shook his head slowly. "What a troublesome girl..."

Still, he couldn't stop a small smirk twitching at his lips.

"...what is she doing...?"

Shikamaru blinked, hearing Kurenai's astonished voice and he looked down the arena.

Ino in Kiba's body calmly threw away the boy's kunai and pouches, leaving only one, withdrawing something from it before discarding the last pouch as well.

Shikamaru froze.

"An explosive note." Asuma leaned. "That is... unlike her."

"No." Shikamaru said, gripping the railing as he saw Ino calmly tying the explosive note to Kiba's chest.. "This... this is exactly like her."

Asuma looked at him.

"...that girl... she is... pushy. Loud. Obnoxious. Proud. And she... hates to lose above all." He scowled. "This is... exactly like her. Troublesome."

"That's enough!" Kurenai snapped. "Hayate-san! This is too much!"

"There was no formal declaration of surrender from either of combatants and this isn't a permanent state." Hayate said calmly. "The rules are clear."

"She incapacitated him!" The kunoichi growled.

"Do you wish to withdraw your student from this fight, Yuuhi-san?" Hayate coughed.

"...I..." Kurenai bit her lip.

Kiba was proud. If she called it now... He'd never forgive her or himself.

"Don't worry. Ino won't kill him." Asuma said calmly.

"Yuuhi-san?" Hayate looked at her.

Kurenai clenched her hands.


The sickly looking jounin nodded.

Ino finished tying the note and looked at the confused, whinning Akamaru.

"No touching, doggie." She pointed at the note, before Kiba's body slumped, striking the floor.

A second later, the Inuzuka groaned, rubbing his strangely pained forhead.

"...what the hell...?" He muttered, wincing. "...damn that hurts..." He looked at his chest. "...the fuck is-"

"I wouldn't touch that."

Kiba snapped his head, noticing Ino, already up and holding her fingers in a tora seal.

"!" His yes widened.

"This is, as you noticed, the release seal. I add a little more chakra, you go boom." She looked at him, her eyes flashing. "You touch it... it goes boom. I see even a slightest bit of jutsu or your dog so much as breathing wrong..." Her eyes narrowed. "Well I guess even an idiot like you has some idea."

Kiba gritted his teeth.

He was helpless. There was nothing he could do now and he knew it.

"Well?" Ino snapped. "Anything to say?!" Her fingers twitched and Kiba blanched. "Or do you want to become itty, bitty Inuzuka PIECES?! EH?!"

Kiba lowered his head, hands clenching.

"...I... lost." He ground out finally.

"I can't HEAR you!" Ino screamed. "Louder! So that the examiner can hear you!"

"I LOST!" Kiba snapped.

"Winner... Yamanaka Ino." Hayate coughed.

Ino glared at Kiba, before nodding to Hayate.

The Inuzuka boy clenched his teeth as he watched Ino dispel the seal, deactivating the note with a snort as she passed him.

He glared at the Yamanaka's back hatefully, a growl welling in his throat and Ino stopped, turning to him, her eyes icy.

"Tell me...How does it feel to lose so completely to a 'prissy little kunoichi florist'?" She sneered. "Just how does it feel, mutt?" She swept her blonde hair gracefully, turning away.

Asuma popped a cigarette to his mouth, lighting it with a quick katon jutsu as he saw Ino walking up from the arena.

"You were saying?"

Kurenai just looked at him for along moment.

"I will attend to my team now." She said, her voice oddly dispassionate as she turned, walking away." Congratulations on your student's victory."

Asuma sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"...Sometimes, I think you are right, Shikamaru."

The genin looked at his sansei oddly.

"Women..." Asuma took along drag from his cigarette." They are so troublesome."

Sarutobi looked over the gathered genin.

"As I told you before, your final matches will be seen by everybody. You will fight to show the pride and strength of your countries. Hence, in the upcoming matches, I would like you to show all your powers with no restraint." He puffed on his pipe. "Which is why the finals will be held a month from now on."

"We're not going to do it right now?!" Naruto protested, glaring at Neji.

"No. This break will be used for you to heal, rest... and prepare."

Naruto growled, gripping Benihime tightly.

'...that bastard...' He closed his eyes, trying to calm the anger that seemed to spiral in him ever since the prelims bean. Lee... Hinata... And Sakura...

'That fuckin' mutt is SO getting a beatdown when I catch him...' Naruto scowled.

Taunting was one thing, but...

'I'm gonna carve him up like a piece of fuckin' meat!'

He gritted his teeth, only to relax slightly, feeling Benihime's faint, reassuring mutter.

Although her presence was as strong as ever, if not more so, her voice was fainter somehow.

'...come to think of it, I feel... weaker.' The blond frowned. 'That... thing. That red thing... it was after that, I think... weird.'

Though weaker, he also felt... lighter. The chakra was always oddly heavy, for lack of better comparison. Oh it moved, it obeyed his will... somewhat, but this was better. His head was clearer. His senses felt sharper, as if he had been looking at the world through a sheet of milky glass that also muted his senses beyond sight. Now, there was nothing dragging him down. It was as if he had chains that had been cut or weights, like that Lee guy.

He blinked, feeling Benihime's faint laughter.


"Oi! Brat! Quit spacing out!" Anko snapped, shoving a box under his nose. "Here, draw."

Naruto blinked, but did as ordered.

"" He frowned, looking at the number.

"All right, now I will reveal to you the final tournament!" Sarutobi stood straighter. "Ibiki, if you would reveal the match arrangements?"

The scarred jounin calmly presented the sheet he had been working on.

"Those are the arrangements for the matches based upon the numbers you have drawn." He exclaimed. "First match is Uzumaki Naruto versus Hyuuga Neji..."

'YES!' Naruto smirked, drawing his fingers over Benihime's blade as the sword vibrated, her song humming in his mind so loudly it almost tuned out everything else. 'You will cry, cry blood you bastard!'

"Second match is Uchiha Sasuke versus Sabaku no Gaara, third is Kankuro against Aburame Shino, Fourth is Temari versus Nara Shikamaru. Finally, the last match is Yamanaka Ino versus Dosu Kinuta. That is all."

"You have been told your matches. You can start on your preparations as soon as you leave. Are there any questions?" The Hokage looked at the gathered genin.

"Yes, I have one." Shikamaru raised a hand. "Since this looks to be a tournament, it means it will have only one winner. Does that mean only that person will become a chuunin?"

"No. Not at all. With the various judges present, they will be evaluating your abilities as a whole." Sarutobi smiled. "Those who show the neccesary qualities, will become chuunin, even if they lose their very first match."

"Does that mean that we all have a chance to become chuunin?" Temari asked, blinking.

"Yes." Sarutobi nodded. "But... there is also a possibility none of you will earn the rank. Keep that in mind." He looked the small crowd. 'Since there seem to be no more questions, I thank you for your effort in the trails! I will see each of you a month from now, and I wish you all luck!"

'So... A month.' The blond frowned thoughtfully, before glaring at Neji. 'This guy... He's supposed to be a prodigy and shit, huh? Seems I will need to train.'

' Who would have thought...' Naruto thought absently, shaking his head.

Kakashi wasn't there and he had to run around a bit, but after learning where his cyclops of a teacher went, he didn't hold it against him.


"Haruno-san is still unconscious and Sasuke-sama is not allowed visitors."

"I'm their teammate, goddamit!" Naruto scowled, unknowingly brandishing still uncovered Benihime.

The nurse took a nervous step back, paling.

"I can't! Threatening me won't help!" She said with panic.

"...threatening?" Naruto blinked, before looking at Benihime.

"...Oh. Sorry. I don't have a scabbard for her yet, heheheh..." He laughed sheepisly.

"Then get some bandages or something, geez!" The nurse threw a roll at him. "...brandishing weapons in hospital... I should have you taken by ANBU you damn brat..."

"Hey, hey! I just want to see my teammates!" Naruto protested. "Come on, lady!"

"I can't-"

"Naruto... This is a hospital. Be quiet."

"Oh... Kakashi-sensei!" He jumped up to the man. "Can you take me to see Sakura-chan, she looked so bad an I wanted to see her and see how she's doing and stuff!" He frowned. "Well, the bastard too."

"Sorry, Naruto. Sakura is still unconscious, as is Sasuke. But they are both okay, Sakura's wounds weren't as serious as they looked and Sasuke just needs time. But they aren't allowed visitors for now."

"Oh..." Naruto slumped, before perking up. "Hey, hey... I have a request Kakashi-sen-"

"No need. I already know what you want from me." Kakashi nodded. "Come with me for a minute, Naruto."

Naruto grinned.


"I can't train you. I won't have the time." The jounin said calmly. "Don't worry though, I found somebody to look after your training instead."

"What...? But..." The blond scowled, opening his mouth.

"And this time it will be actually someone I know of, for a change." Kakashi said calmly.

Naruto blinked.

"Why did you hide it, Naruto?" Kakashi looked at the blond with disapproval. "I'm not merely your teacher. I'm your commander. I need to know the capabilities of my soldiers to command them effectively. What you did was stupid and immature. It breaks the teamwork and my orders."

"...huh?" The blond scratched his head. "What are you talking about, Kakashi-sensei?"

Kakashi leaned back with a sigh.

He was starting to get a little irritated with the brat. Two teammates injured and in recovery, situation thickening far beyond the worst expectations, and he still let his jealousy of Sasuke's skill and popularity drive him into those childish games?

"Don't play dumb with me, Naruto." He said bluntly. "That sword... This isn't some overnight thing. That kind of skill is not something you can learn on the off weekends by beating your Kage Bunshin. I don't know what your teacher told you and, quite frankly, I don't care. You will stop this immideatly."

"...the HELL you talking about?!" The blond exploded. "I don't get the word you are saying!"

Kakashi stared at the genin for a long moment, before sighing.

"No. You obviously don't." He closed his eye briefly.

"Well I sure as HELL don't see what does it have to do with you picking Sasuke over me to train!"

"You saw the person Sasuke will be facing. Gaara is a fearsome opponent, even for a sharingan user. He needs help if he wants to survive, much less win."

"And I DON'T?!" Naruto scowled. "You saw that freaky style that the Hyuuga bastard uses?! I need to get stronger if I want to kick his ass!"

"You are facing a Leaf nin. Your loss will end up just in a few scrapes and some bruised ego. Sasuke's opponent is a killer, an unstable one, at that."

" loss...?" Naruto blinked. "I'm not gonna lose, goddamit! I will kick his ass!"

"It is nice to have confidence, but against a prodigy of Neji's class, guts and determination won't be enough." Kakashi said blandly, before frowning. "On that note..." He extended his hand. "That chakra blade... Give it to me."

Naruto blinked owlishly.

"...Kakashi-sensei..." He said slowly. "What are you-"

"You saw Gaara, right? His armor of sand?" Kakashi cut before the blond managed to finish.

Naruto nodded slowly.

"It uses not only physical means, but chakra as well. It is an extremely powerful defense. There is a jutsu I can teach Sasuke... But he will be capable of using it once. Maybe twice. And there is no guarantee. That chakra blade of yours has an incredible cutting capacity. With it and some speed, chances of winning against Gaara rise considerably." Kakashi explained.

"...But.. but she is MINE!" Naruto said, taking a step back, hugging Benihime to him protectively. "And it's not like she wants to go!"

"Naruto, don't be childish." Kakashi chided his subordinate with a frown. "It is not like I will take it from you forever. Sasuke really could use it in his fight."

"Well I need her help against that Hyuuga bastard!" Naruto growled.

"Stop being so obstinate." Kakashi sighed tiredly. This was getting ridiculous. Why was the brat so unreasonable? Couldn't he see the facts at all? "It is not like it will help you much anyway."

Naruto froze, looking at Kakashi in shock.


"You are going against a Hyuuga prodigy with a year of experience under his belt, trained by the foremost taijutsu specialist in Konoha." Kakashi shook his head. "I'm sorry Naruto, but with just a month of training, no matter how intensive, you just can't win this. Even with this sword." He pointed at Benihime. "Sasuke has the control and skill to use it to its full potential. It won't mean anything for your fight in the long run, but for him it might be a difference between life and death. So..." Kakashi extended his hand.

Naruto just stared dumbly as Benihime's angry hiss started to turn into a low growl and the irritation slowly simmered into anger.

'...he...I... He doesn't even... believe that I can win...?' Naruto thought with disbelief. 'Sensei... Sensei... wants to take... And he doesn't believe... Kakashi-sensei...?'

To say it was a shock was putting it mildly.

While he didn't exactly... resent Sasuke's sharingan, he had always envied it. Well, at first he envied the fact that Sasuke was apparently 'special' in that good way. The way that gave him fame, love of the village and admiration of people all around him.

Sharingan and Uchiha. Uchiha and sharingan. Two sides of the same coin. Both admired. Both loved. Both respected.

For him... Benihime was a little bit like that. More, of course. She was an excellent, cool and just plain badass sword. She cut. She ripped apart and gleamed with pride and... and love.

When he heard that voice, when he felt her warm hand touching his cheek, her soft lips on his own and her song humming, humming all the time at the edges of his mind now...

It was like missing piece sliding into place, like something finally.. clicking into place, like home and a voice calling 'welcome home' after along absence and... And all those things at once.

And... Kakashi-sensei... wanted to... take her? Away? Away from him?


He gripped the hilt tighter.


He would NOT give her up! She belonged with HIM. Now and always. Now and forever.

A furious voice, between a growl and a hum, resounded in his head.

Benihime was angry. Benihime was furious. And Benihime most certainly did not like Hatake Kakashi.

Nor did he at the moment.

"Kakashi-san." Naruto's head snapped to the side.

"Ebisu." Kakashi nodded simply at the new arrival. "We are just finishing here. He's all yours right after."

The jounin trainer nodded.

Naruto stared incredously, even the rising fury forgotten under the wave of utter disbelief.

'...he wouldn't. No way. He wouldn't. Even he wouldn't be so...'

"What is he doing here?"

"I told you I arranged someone to train you. Ebisu is-"

'...he would. He did.'

"Him?" Naruto pointed at Ebisu slowly. "HE is supposed to teach me? That closet pervert?" The blond jabbed his finger at the bespectacled jounin slowly for emphasis.

"...why I never!" Ebisu scowled, pushing up his glasses.

"Oh, so you know each other? Ebisu is an elite trainer and-" Kakashi blinked watching Naruto turn on his heel. "And where are you going?"

"Away from here before I stab someone." The blond growled.

"Not so fast, Naruto." Kakashi's eyes narrowed as he took a step, trying to grab Naruto's arm, only to accientally touch Benihime's hilt as naruto moved. "There still remains a matter of-"

The pulse was so momentary, that had Ebisu not been a good shinobi, he'd never manage to spot it.

It just... responded. With a crackle akin to a raiton jutsu and a... growl?

Ebisu blinked.

Kakashi hissed, jumping back and holding his bleeding hand.

'...what in the world...?!' The copycat looked at his hand with astonishment.

The part where his gloved hand rested on a hilt was... well, scratched and smoking. Or rather clawed. His glove was ripped apart and his skin fared a little better in most places. '..almost like raiton but... What is that? Some kind of a jutsu channeling? I've never seen anything like it...'

"Don't touch her, Hatake." Naruto growled. "Don't you ever touch her!" The cerulean eyes narrowed, showing the faintest traces of red. "She doesn't like that."

"Naruto, as your teacher I command you to-"

"You are not my teacher." The blond snapped, gritting his teeth. "Go and teach your precious Uchiha! That is all you care for anyway, you fucker! Just like everyone else! I will take care of myself. On my own." He spat. "Just like I always do."

The blond jumped off the hospital roof, quickly vanishing from sight.
Ebisu pushed up his glasses, looking at the space occupied by the blond shinobi seconds prior thoughtfully, before looking at Kakashi.

"Well this could have gone better." He deadpanned.

It was almost surreal to hear Benihime's angry dirge when his own blood was pumping so loudly in his ears. Every heart beat, every breath...

"...That bastard... I can't BELIEVE HIM!"

The young shinobi spat, Benihime shaking in his hand.

"...Sasuke...Sasuke...SASUKE! It is always about Sasuke! Always about the precious bloodlimit! Always about 'genius!" He hit the tree, uncaring of the pain. "It is always about that goddamn precious fucking BLOODLIMIT! Like that makes both those bastards fucking BETTER because they have it! DAMMIT! I should have...!"

Naruto slumped.

It was always like this. Ever since he could remember. Sasuke this, Sasuke that. Everything for Sasuke. Sasuke the genius. Sasuke the last Uchiha. Sasuke the handsome, Sasuke the admired... Uchiha Sasuke.

He didn't... hate that. Sasuke was a bastard and all but he wasn't so bad. Only... He just wanted a little bit of it. For himself. Just a little bit. Just... for people to notice. To smile when they saw him. Just... just to matter. But it seems he couldn't get even that. Even from he people closest to him.

'...Being acknowledged... My own opponent... did. A person I don't know at all and my own teacher... he just... just dismisses me?'

He was just so damn happy in Team 7. Sure, Sasuke was a brooding bastard, Sakura didn't give him the time of the day but... But he mattered. He was part of the Team 7. He had friends. A teacher.

"...Teacher..." Naruto snorted. "Yeah. Some teacher he is... Can't win... Can't win... huh?" He looked at Benihime's gleaming edge. "'Cause I'm just a loser? Because he is a genius, prodigy and I am the 'loudmouth idiot'?"

The blond sat down heavily, closing his eyes.

'...damn... I should have seen it...' He closed his eyes tiredly. "Sharingan... Sharingan Kakashi and Uchiha in the team... huh? We... Sakura-chan and I... we are just... dead weight. Expandable. Dammit... He... That apathetic bastard... He simply doesn't care... He never did... what an idiot... I was...' Naruto sighed. 'And in the end I'm all alone, huh? On my own like always...'

Benihime vibrated in his hand, almost angrily and Naruto smiled, caressing the blade.

"...Sorry..." The blond said pressing his forehead tot he hilt. "Sorry... I'm just... So tired..." He muttered, closing his eyes.

The wind blew through his hair, carrying the familiar rosy fragrance and Naruto blinked, opening his eyes.


The roses were haphazardly put and tightly packed like before, though the color seemed a little.. washed out. The trees as well, the blond noticed.

' it me or is it darker here...?'

He frowned, looking at the sky.

"Now that's odd." Naruto said looking at the slowly darkening clouds and blinked, feeling a droplet of water on his cheek.

"...rain?" His eyes widened. 'Oh no WAY I am going to sit in that!"

Naruto jumped up, running for the castle.

The jinchuuriki didn't need to look. It seemed he knew the way by heart and didn't even need to think about it to reach the familiar chamber.

He took a look around, noticing the familiar carpet and curtains, as well as decorations and the odd bed, but... Where was the-

He relaxed as he felt a hand on his cheek.

"Hello, my beloved."

"Benihime..." Naruto leaned into the embrace with a sigh, her long hair pooling around him, her scent intoxicating.

"I'm so sorry..." She held him closer, melding herself to him, just allowing him to bask in her warmth.

"Don't be. It ain't your fault."

"Still, I am sorry it has come to this." Her grip tightened, venom entering her voice. "That scum... If his filthy hand dares to touch me again I shall flay it!"

Naruto laughed weakly.

"...You do that." He muttered. "It'd be fun to see."

"Of course it would." She frowned. "Though I'd prefer not to touch him if I can help it."

"Don't worry. He won't take you away." The blond growled, gripping Benihime's kimono and hair tightly. "Nobody will. EVER."

"So possessive..." The beauty murmured, a smile quirking her crimson lips. "But you have no need to worry, my beloved. We shall remain together forever. No one will take me away... And no one will take you away from me. I promise."

"Good." Naruto let his senses drink her presence, drawing strength from it.

Benihime hummed a wordless song, stroking Naruto's hair gently as the rain outside of the castle kept on pouring down.

Naruto opened his eyes slowly, only to blink.

"...huh?" He looked at the sky. "Man but it's late."

It was at least late afternoon. Around six, if he wasn't mistaken. He'd been sleeping good several hours it seemed.

"...Maaan..." he stretched. "I feel GOOD!" he looked down at Benihime's form, looking almost smug, if a sword was capable of that. But then, this was Benihime. Who knew what she was capable of? "Thanks, Benihime. You're too cool for words."

He grabbed the roll of bandage he kept from the hospital incident, carefully tying it around the edge.

"I don't have a sheath for you yet... Just wait a little." He murmured, patting the hilt. He was tying the cloth over the edge, until a movement caught his attention and made him stop and look up.

'...Is that...?' Naruto's eyes widened, before a low growl erupted form his throat.

"Seems the covering will have to wait for a while." He gritted out, standing up and cracking his neck as he stalked forward, Benihime gleaming in the afternoon sun omniously.

Kiba snarled, his clawed hand ripping a tree to shreds as he stopped the Gatsuuga.

"...That... that BITCH!"

He stabbed his kunai in the wood viciously, growling like an animal as the rage and humiliation burned.

Losing was one thing, but... losing to INO? Losing to that prissy, vain, shallow, shrilly little...!


The loss alone wouldn't be so tragic (thoguh it was still damn bad) but the bitch had to, just HAD to humiliate him! In PUBLIC! With Hokage-sama, with his teacher and a shitload of genin from all around the world in the stands!

Now EVERYBODY knew he was fucking swatted like some unruly puppy by a frail little bitch!


The Inuzuka snarled, turning to the source of the voice.

'Oh not him. Not now.' He scowled. I'm pissed as it is.'

He really wasn't in a mood for listening that idiot prattle endlessly in that shrilly voice.

It reminded him too much of that fucking bitch that was otherwise known as Ino.

"Get LOST dead-last! I am n-" Kiba only dimly felt his back hitting the tree. His jaw hurt too much. "...what the...fuck...?" his eyes widened as he wiped his broken lip. " loking for a FIGHT, you moron? Y-"

"Okiro, Benihime."

Until the chuunin exams, Kiba wasn't even considering being scared of Naruto. The guy had guts, he would admit that, but nothing beside that, save maybe his stamina. He was stupid, rash (and in Kiba's case that was saying something) had no damn skill to speak of and was just plain too moronic to be afraid of. He was also too much of a'good guy' to be really scary.

During chuunin exams, Kiba had to revise his opinion a little. Not that he'd admit it out loud, but seeing Naruto fight with that Tenten chick... Well, stubborn Kiba might be, but he also could appreciate a good scrap. And that one was good. Anybody who could use a sword to fucking cut stone wasn't 'harmless'. Not to mention, the moment Naruto faced Neji after Hinata's defeat was... well, creepy. If he didn't know any better, he'd have sworn it couldn't be Naruto. Naruto wasn't that cold and didn't radiate that kind of focused killer intent. But he obviously did. And could. And was doing it now.

A pulse of power rose form a sword like a faint crackle of lightning and Kiba would swear later on that the blade flashed with opaque red for a second.

"You shouldn't have said that about Sakura-chan." Naruto growled. "She gave it her all. She fought to he fucking END. She had shown more courage than lousy' mutt like you can ever know. So don't you fucking DARE to put her down."

" stupid idiot!" Kiba exploded. "So it is about that? I said nothing but the TRUTH, you moron! She got fucking owned by that Sand chick, and that's the damn fact! If she wasn't stupid and trained a l-" Kiba barely avoided a swing that ended carving the tree in half.

The Inuzuka's eyes widened.

' he fucking INSANE?! If he hit me with that...!'

"At least she had the guts to fight against the odds, not like you." The blond snapped.

"So you want a fight, eh? But then you were always infatuated with her." Kiba growled, taking a stance. he had a lot of frustration to work out and Naruto was a perfect target. "OKAY with me! Bring it on, loser!" he snarled, lunging forward.

Naruto raised Benihime, eyes furious.

Kiba coughed, blood splattering on the ground from his smashed lips.

'...oh fuck... Damn but that thing is sharp...!' He winced, holding his cut up arm. The cut was shallow, Naruto obviously wasn't going for the kill or even a serious injury but... 'What kind of sword cuts THROUGH a kunai?!'

Naruto panted, a few bruises on his body, though overall he was in much better shape than Kiba.

"That was for Sakura-chan, you bastard." he spat. "Next time you say something like that about her, I will turn you into Inuzuka sashimi and feed you to your dog, get it?"

"...yeah, yeah... You fucking maniac." Kiba muttered, leaning on the tree. "You're lucky Akamaru's on the check up, you bastard..."

"You want more?" The blond growled, waving Benihime threateningly.

"Fuck you and fuck that sword of yours too." He snorted.

"You're not her type, mutt." Naruto wiped the blood form his split lip, turning away.

"...huh?" Kiba blinked with confusion. "What the... Ah fuck..." Kiba hissed as the wounds pulsed with pain again. "Seems it's hospital for me after all... Dammit."

Naruto smiled, pulling the bandage covering Benihime tighter with satisfaction.

Beating Kiba was... therapeutic. It allowed him to let loose some of the anger that had been boiling in him. Not all that much, but some.

'Okay... a mutt down, a prodigy to go.' He frowned, thinking of Neji. 'He's supposed to be all kinds of hot shit... I need to use that month well. Damn. I really could use some-"


Naruto blinked, looking to the side.

Leaning on the tree, there was a man in a traditional jounin vest, a sword hilt over his left arm.

Naruto squinted. This guy looked familiar. He had seen those dark rings and...

The man coughed and Naruto perked up.

"Hey, I know you! You're that examiner guy!"

Hayate looked at Naruto oddly.

'Didn't he just see me this morning?' He wondered briefly. 'Ah, whatever.'

"Former examiner. I was just a referee for the prelims." Hayate coughed again.

"Oh." Naruto nodded. "Why are you here?" He asked curiosuly.

"I've been looking for you actually." The sickly looking jounin said.

Naruto frowned, before looking at Hayate suspiciously, holding Benihime protectively.

"I'm not giving you Benihime!"

The jounin blinked.


"I didn't give her to that Kakashi bastard, I'm not giving it to you either!"

"Geez, kid... cough calm down. I'm not here for your sword!" Hayate frowned. "Who do you take me for?"

"You aren't?" Naruto blinked.

"No I'm not." The older man rolled his eyes. "I'm not here to take it... but I'm here because of it, you might say." He said finally.

"Because of it...?" Naruto looked at him with confusion. "What do you mean? And I'm still not giving you Benihime." he said warningly.

"Do I look like some scum that steals weapons from people?" The jounin snapped with irritation.

Naruto shrugged.

Hayate sighed.

"Look... You've got a good sword, but you will be facing a Hyuuga. Alone, that won't be enough, even with a chakra blade. Not unless you will learn to use it properly."

Naruto scowled, opening his mouth.

"So, how would you like to learn?" Hayate coughed.

The blond stared at the jounin, eyes wide.


"You heard me." The sickly man coughed again. "You've got some talent, but your footwork sucks, you waste over a half of a power due to it, your speed is just so-so and you lack so much precision it is just sad to watch. I can help you with that."

Naruto blinked owlishly.

Somebody was actually... offering to train him? Somebody he didn't even know?

It was almost too good to be true and...

...and it probably was.

"What do you get out of it?" He asked warily.

"Beyond the fact that your sloppy attempts at swordsmanship will stop making me cringe?" Hayate raised an eyebrow with a cough. "I will get to see a humbled Hyuuga. By a weapon user, no less."

Naruto looked at him with confusion.

"You saw the Jyuuken, right?"

Naruto nodded.

"Hyuuga call themselves cough 'the strongest in the Leaf'. They disdain weapon users in particular, believing their taijutsu is be-all, end-all of shinobi arts. Now what happens if their prodigy gets beaten by a sword user?"

"So... you wanna train me to make them... look bad?" Naruto asked slowly.

"Something like that." Hayate nodded, another cough interrutping his words for a moment. "So?"

Naruto looked at the man for a long moment, before smiling.

"Hey, examiner-guy... what's your name?"

"Hayate. Gekko Hayate."

"Okay, Hayate-sensei! Teach me, and I promise I will cut that Hyuuga bastard into little ribbons with Benihime's help!" Naruto said. "They won't be looking down at swords anymore, I can guarantee that." He grinned.

Hayate smiled faintly.

'Enthusiasm, some talent, a grudge and a powerful chakra blade. This could be interesting.'