Disclaimer: You'd think after three stories in this series that I wouldn't have to have to keep saying that I do not own Naruto.
Naruto walked merrily on his way towards the training areas. He swung a small bag in his left hand and lofted a rubber ball up and down in his right. After training with Ino the day before, he went and got a water yo-yo to test the results of his work. The thin skin of the balloon had shredded nicely. Today, he'd be working making the rubber balls explode, the second stage of the Rasengan. Concentration, focus, and power were his key words for the day.
He stopped at the first grounds that he came across. Going to an out of the way one didn't seem to make a difference since people kept finding him anyway. First Tenten, then Ino. Naruto wondered why those two had thought he'd be able to help them. His idea hadn't improved Hinata that much, had it?
Dropping the bag next to a tree, Naruto pushed the thoughts from his mind. He resolved to think about it at another time, lest it ruin his concentration. He focused on the ball still in his hand. His chakra built up within the ball, rotating this way and that. The sphere began to bounce around and distend in some places. Naruto narrowed his eyes and concentrated on the center of the mass of chakra. The energy swirled around that area tightly. He pushed more power into the technique, willing the force of the rotations to overcome the limits of the rubber.
Naruto blinked as he became aware of a feeling of intent bearing down on him. Not killing intent, just... intent. Someone was focusing on him very hard and wasn't being discreet about it. He looked across the area, concentration broken. A hiss brought his attention back to his hand. The ball had sprung a pinhole leak. He eyed it with humor while it slowly deflated. He held the scrap of rubber between his fingers for a moment before tossing it aside. He brought his gaze back to the origin of that feeling.
A girl passed a tree and came into view. She stormed directly towards him. Well, as close to a Hyuuga got to storming, anyway. A pair of milky white eyes stared at him with laser-like focus that threatened to burn a hole in him. She walked with a gait that demanded everyone pay attention to her because she was important. Naruto recognized her as Hinata's little sister. He'd seen her around before, mostly while he was hanging out with either Hinata or Neji. She came to a stop right in front of him, staring unblinkingly at his face. She folded her small arms lightly under her chest. There was silence for a few moments. Naruto was about to say something before she finally spoke up.
"Make me stronger."
Naruto blinked at the girl. What? "What?"
"Hinata-neesan," Naruto tilted his head to the side at this. Whenever he'd heard Hanabi speak of her sister, it was a disdainful "that girl." It had always bothered Hinata, even if she didn't say anything about it. "She's gotten stronger. I know you've been training with her. And I know her most recent climb in strength came with you bringing her to the mansion unconscious. I saw you that night."
Naruto flushed. Hanabi unfolded her arms and stepped closer. Naruto noted a fading bruise on her arm peeking from under her short sleeves. His face broke out in a grin. "Hinata-chan kicked your butt, didn't she?"
Hanabi's expression remained impassive, but the color in her cheeks betrayed her embarrassment. With a huff, she turned her head away from Naruto's insufferable grin.
Naruto took in Hanabi's posture for only a moment before he turned around and went for his bag. He was pulling out another ball when Hanabi turned her attention back to him. "I like Hinata-chan better than you. Why should I help you learn to beat her up?"
Her mouth opened to say something, but she realized that she had nothing to say. Hanabi hadn't expected to have to convince Naruto to train her. She was used to people automatically capitulating to her because she was of the Hyuuga main branch. She'd hardly ever met resistance to getting anything she wanted in her life.
Naruto glanced back to see Hanabi's koi fish impression. He suppressed a snicker at her. The girl seemed to be lost in thought. He took a moment to inspect the girl. Unconsciously, the rubber ball in his hands was tossed back and forth. He hadn't seen her in action very many times, but Hinata and Neji had spoken of her sometimes. She'd taken to the Juuken much like Neji did. She was skilled and focused, as well as quick for her age.
Naruto sighed. He didn't know why he was doing this, but...
Hanabi jerked a bit when Naruto suddenly asked her a different question. She turned to see him looking at her expectantly, rolling a ball in between his palms. When she asked him to repeat the question, he tapped the ball against his temple in annoyance.
"I said, 'Have you learned the Kaiten, yet?'" The girl looked offended. Naruto waved his hand placatingly. A smirk bloomed on his face. "Then, show me." His hands came together in a familiar sign. Eight kage bunshin appeared around Hanabi. They all lunged without warning.
Hanabi pushed down her surprise and reacted. Her knees bent as she dug in the ball of her anchor foot. Chakra was exuded from every tenketsu. She pivoted on her foot and began to rotate. Her body was a blur within the sphere of chakra. The surrounding clones dissipated when they were rebounded away with the force of the technique. When Hanabi slowed to a stop, her Byakugan was activated and she stood in a perfectly circular crater. To the side, Naruto nodded. All in all, it was beautifully executed.
"Good," Naruto commented while stepping closer. Hanabi's kekki genkai receded. "Sit," he commanded. The girl in front of him blinked owlishly, confused. Exhaling a breath, Naruto closed the distance between them. He placed a hand on her shoulder and one at her abdomen. His foot came around and swept her legs from under her. With a yelp, Hanabi landed straight on her rear end in the grass.
Hanabi craned her neck up to glare at Naruto. She blinked in confusion again at seeing the serious expression on his face. Hanabi's bewilderment and surprise had her absentmindedly following Naruto's directions. She dimly realized that he was saying something to her while her legs were opened as wide as they could go while she was bent forward and reaching out as far as possible with her arms. Naruto was behind her with his hands on her shoulders to make sure she kept her position. She noted that there was a little pain coming from her inner thighs and back because of the muscles being stretched in unfamiliar ways. She pushed the uncomfortable feelings aside. The same was done with the warm feeling of Naruto's hands, though she would vehemently deny ever thinking about it. Naruto talking in the background almost went on unnoticed.
"...on your flexibility. You should be able to attack from any position."
"What will that help?" Hanabi asked when Naruto directed her body to stand up then bend backwards. Her hands touched the ground. She looked up from her arched position and saw Naruto giving her an exasperated expression.
"Being able to use the Kaiten means that you can expel chakra from any tenketsu," Naruto explained again. "That means you should be able to put the Juuken to use with more than just palm strikes. With extra flexibility, you'll be able to attack from anywhere and from any stance." Naruto nodded when he saw that Hanabi understood and almost forgot to support herself. "Done correctly, the only way you won't be able to damage an opponent would be if you couldn't touch him at all."
A few moments of silence passed while Naruto supported her while she tried to sink down to the ground with her legs going in opposite directions in front and behind her. Hanabi asked the question that was gnawing at her. "Why?"
"Why am I teaching you?" Hanabi nodded. "Well, you'd have to be really good to beat Hinata-chan with this. We already started working on it a little. She's already really flexible; it's what her own personal technique is based on, after all; but, she can't push out her chakra from all the points, yet."
Hanabi hummed thoughtfully. Her sister's Shuugo Hakke Rokuju-yon Sho was a technique that put her flexibility to use while making up for her inability to use the Kaiten. The style that Naruto was proposing was an amalgam of both traits. She didn't notice that she was able to bring her split-leg stance all the way down to the ground while her thoughts turned to herself. Hanabi, herself, was able to use the Kaiten, but didn't possess her sister's natural limberness.
Naruto laughed and unknowingly shared Hanabi's sentiments. "Between the two of you, you'd have the style down." He took hold of her forearms and helped her rotate her upper body around. "I'd bet that, if you worked on it together, you both'd be able to perfect the style and put it into the Juuken."
Hanabi almost frowned at the thought of working with her sister. She'd always thought her older sister too weak and docile. Their spars had expounded on that. She wasn't a bad person, to be sure. But as a kunoichi, and moreover a Hyuuga...
"And, besides," Naruto cut into her thoughts. He paused, not believing what he was about to say. Ino's flirtatious comments seemed to have stuck in his mind, affecting his thinking.
Hanabi turned her eyes to Naruto while he directed her to stand and bend backwards again, this time staying upright. With her knees bent and arms outstretched, she rotated her upper body around. She wondered what other reason he could have for teaching her.
"I can't seem to say 'no' to cute girls asking for training," Naruto finished, dropping a wink when she came back around to complete her revolution. He supported her with a hand on the small of her back when she lost her balance. The tension in her arms loosened, making them fold over her head. A few moments passed before Hanabi jerked back to awareness and continued her stretch.
The young girl flushed. No one had ever complimented her like that. Of course, being a usual unapproachable Hyuuga, anyone with comments about her didn't say them while knowingly being within earshot. It wasn't until three gyrations into her current exercise that she realized that she was still wide-eyed with her mouth slightly open. She stopped gaping and mentally composed herself. If he noticed her momentary lapse in decorum, Naruto didn't say anything about it.
Hanabi considered the orange-clad shinobi. Naruto meant something to Hinata. The bruises on parts of her body reminded her of that fact.
The match had started normally, with her wondering out loud why she should need to gauge herself against "that girl." Hanabi knew it irritated her sister, but if Hinata let it take away her focus then it proved her lacking as a kunoichi all the more. For a while, it was the usual: Hanabi easily saw her sister's moves and kept just slightly ahead, and Hinata hesitated at crucial moments that would allow her to get the upper hand. But this match, and the few before it, Hinata had been improving slowly. She was a little more sure-footed and the openings Hanabi attacked came less frequently. After being forced off the offensive for the second time, Hanabi decided to comment. It was something along the lines of, "It seems that orange loudmouth idiot who dragged this girl home the other night is good for something at least." The backhanded compliment caused Hinata to frown, the lines from the bulging veins around her eyes deepened. Hanabi was about to take advantage when her sister suddenly jumped back to get some distance. She did something to herself that Hanabi didn't understand. After moving her hands over her body, Hinata went on the attack. Hanabi had flinched back at the speed.
Hanabi shelved away the memories as she felt Naruto guide her to a laying position. She did as instructed and hugged one knee to her chest while he held the other straight. Naruto had her hold the pose for twenty seconds before making her switch.
Naruto pulled Hanabi to her feet. "This isn't going to be structured, refined, or even neat," he explained. "Nothing like your family's style."
Hanabi nodded. She blushed when Naruto came around her, leaving his arm around her shoulders. Closing her eyes to calm herself, she missed the mischievous grin that found its way onto Naruto's face.
"This style is going to be crazy, spontaneous, adaptable. The hard part will be getting you to start to think that way. Be that way." He punctuated his statement by gripping Hanabi's shoulder and pulling it backwards while sweeping a foot under her legs again. Surprisingly, she reacted quickly by throwing her arms up and arcing back. Her palms hit the ground and she did a back somersault. The moment she was right side up, she jumped and snapped a spin kick his way. Naruto ducked under it instinctually. "Or not," he commented dryly.
Hanabi smirked at him.
Naruto straightened up. "Well, spontaneity can't really be taught. But, we can work on improving even more on your impressive reaction time." Hanabi coughed into her fist to keep from preening under his praise. Naruto paid it no mind as he continued. "Adaptability and inventiveness can come later."
"Shall we start?" Hanabi glanced over to Naruto. He was wearing a grin that she would grow to fear. It bordered on sadistic and downright evil.
"As Hyuuga-sama wishes."
And so started some of the longest hours of Hanabi Hyuuga's young life.
Hanabi huffed with exertion as she faced down twenty of Naruto's kage bunshin. They were attacking at least two at a time. Normally, the numbers were no problem for a Hyuuga, but she was restricted to fighting without the Byakugan. In addition, she was limited to defense sans the Kaiten.
With a heave, she leapfrogged over an onrushing clone. Another came in with a high kick that met air as Hanabi threw her weight backwards upon landing, rolling down to her back. She folded on herself to avoid a blow aimed at her knees. The bunshin shifted its fist on the ground into a palm as it rotated around into a sweep kick. Hanabi responded by nipping up. She landed in time to trap the clone's attacking limb in between her shins.
The real Naruto was watching approvingly from the side. His clones were trying as best as they could to attack from awkward angles and to keep the pressure on with short intervals of relative rest. Her anticipation to oncoming attacks was formidable, even without her bloodline gift.
Naruto smirked. But then, it was her adaptability to the unexpected that he was trying to improve. A kage bunshin appeared next to him in a puff of smoke.
Hanabi took a deep breath as a new round started. This time, two bunshin came at her with kicks. She took a step back and bent forward. The foot sliding over her head ruffled her hair with a slight breeze. The other kick sailed just below her chest. Her arm was grasped from behind and she was levered over for a throw that sent her towards another clone. She rolled into the throw to increase her momentum. Instead of crashing into the upraised knee with her back, Hanabi managed to alight onto it before using the bunshin's shoulders for a springboard and flipping over it. Her eyes widened when she landed. Neji was coming at her, palms at the ready. She was too shocked to put up a defense and was blown back by a strike to the stomach.
Naruto was behind Hanabi to arrest her sudden flight. He lowered her slowly down to the ground. Once her coughing subsided, Naruto tsked. "I honestly thought you'd do better than that." 'Neji' stepped closer before being surrounded in smoke and revealed to be a henged kage bunshin.
Hanabi glared at him over her shoulder.
Hanabi stood perched precariously on a high tree branch that was just thick enough to support her weight. She struggled to stay calm while readjusting her balance. For this exercise, she wasn't allowed to use chakra to stay on the branch while she walked on it.
Naruto watched from a nearby tree. It hadn't taken long for the number of times that Hanabi almost lost her balance to decrease to practically none. He patted his pants pocket once before creating a bunch of clones in the trees surrounding his current student. With a frown, he noted that she didn't detect the increase in her audience. Oh, well... he thought. He and half of his kage bunshin pulled a rubber ball from their pockets.
Hanabi was about to turn around and start walking back in the other direction when something sparked her senses. She looked to the left to see a ball coming towards her. With a sharp intake of breath, she jerked her head back to avoid it. It passed in front of her face and landed in the hands of her temporary trainer. She looked back at where the projectile came from to see another Naruto. He smiled at her and gave her a wave. Hanabi's lips compressed into a thin line. She contained an unladylike growl of annoyance when Naruto's smile widened and he gestured to the trees around them. With a sigh, Hanabi activated her byakugan.
She spent the next twenty-five minutes tumbling back and forth on the bough to avoid the barrage of rubber.
Hanabi winced from a punch hidden in the smoke of the dispelled clone. She hopped back to avoid the follow-up knee. She twisted her body, lashing out with her legs as she cartwheeled. She ignored the puff of the clone in favor of three more closing in on her. Her body arced to the side to avoid a kick from the lead bunshin. She planted her hands and shot a split kick to destroy the following attackers.
Hanabi was amidst another sparring session. The rules this time were the same as the last, except that she could attack. Naruto was off to the side, replacing the bunshin as she dispersed them. He smirked as Hanabi spun and redirected two clones, reminiscent of his match with Neji during the Chunin exams.
Hanabi flipped backwards a few times to get some distance, incidentally kicking a clone who decided to attack out of existence. She didn't have much time to catch her breath. A clone came down from the trees. Hanabi bent backwards to avoid a punch. The bunshin followed up with a sweep which she evaded by jumping up and putting her weight on a palm anchored on the ground. She kicked out with both legs, catching the clone in the side and the head. The next clone came in with heavy punch. Hanabi reached out and guided it harmlessly to the ground. Pivoting on its fist she brought a knee around to its jaw. She flipped up and back to avoid an attack from behind. Landing in a low crouch, she sent a double palm strike into the bunshin's back.
From the side, Naruto decided to wrap up the session. He summoned another set of clones. They rushed in. The tempo of the fight increased dramatically. He smiled when her only reaction was to get wild. She lashed out with attacks that left the area around her clouded with smoke. Naruto grinned wider, jumping into the fray.
Hanabi was a whirling dervish of palm strikes, kicks, chops, knees, even a head-butt at one point. In the middle of the cloud ring, she scanned the smoke. Two more Naruto came at her from opposite directions. Hanabi planted a foot and twisted her body. One Naruto received a knife hand to the stomach. The other got a kick to the sternum. She pulled back only to realize that her hand was trapped.
Naruto tugged hard on Hanabi's arm. Overbalanced, she couldn't stop him from spinning her. He held her with her own arm cinched lightly around her neck. Before Hanabi could throw her other elbow back to strike, he grabbed her wrist and restrained that arm across her abdomen.
Hanabi was wide-eyed and breathing a little harder. She ignored the pleasant feeling of Naruto's chest against her back. "Surprise," he said into her ear. She could only barely suppress the shiver that ran through her.
Naruto sat at the base of a tree. The ball in his hand was bouncing and swelling violently. This part of the training was going well. While he had yet to burst the ball, his recent attempts shredded it in half. He knew that he had the random rotations down pat, though. Each time the ball was sheared in half, the cut appeared differently. The ball in his hand halved again with a pop, this time parallel to the ground at its center. He gave the scrap pieces of rubber a cursory glance before toss them into a pile he'd been accumulating. Another ball was retrieved from the bag as Naruto moved his eyes over to Hanabi.
She was in the clearing in front of him working on a kata. With each attack, she exuded a burst of chakra that was visible as flares of blue light. It was more than was needed for the Juuken, but she was just getting used to expelling chakra from her feet, knees, and elbows in that manner. Naruto nodded as she began to throw in a few graceful tumbles and even a small shoulder ram into the routine. He went back to his own exercise for about fifteen minutes before deciding to end the session.
Step. Sway. Pivot. Kick. Spin. Sweep. Flip. Cartwheel. Elbow. Twirl. Crouch. Palm. Turn. Swing. Twist. Heel. Hanabi was starting to lose herself to the rhythm. She felt like she was dancing as much as she was practicing. A little smile was threatening to curl her lips.
She gasped when Naruto filled her vision. He stepped in front of her as she struck out with a chop that sent a burst of chakra into his chest. Her heart stopped. She looked horrified at the stunned expression on his face. She was about to scream when the body seemed to unravel from the heart outwards.
"Wow, I wondered what would happen if a shadow clone were hit with chakra like that..." came Naruto's voice as the bunshin rippled out of existence. He froze on approach when Hanabi whirled around and pinned him with a fierce look.
"You," she muttered darkly. With quick strides, she was in front of him. "Idiot!" She laid into him with a punch that could have rivaled one of Sakura's best. That is, after the pink-haired kunoichi's training with Tsunade. Leaving her temporary trainer slumped against a tree, Hanabi stalked angrily into the forest. She paid no heed to the bits of moisture at the corners of her eyes and the fading remnants of the ache in her chest.
Naruto fingered the purpling bruise on his cheek and decided to give Hanabi a forty minute break.
Hanabi stood suspended a few meters from the ground. She was balanced on a rope tied between from two trees. It was just taut enough to walk along its length, but was loose enough that it swayed wildly with each step. Once again, she was barred from using chakra to keep her footing.
Naruto paced around the area while Hanabi did her new balance exercise. Sometimes, he would jump up and hit the rope to try and make her fall. Other times, the attack was sent her way. She did one particularly impressive dodge by splitting her legs in line with the rope and folding her body under a kick as she slid backwards on it. Afterwards, she smoothly closed her limbs to get back to standing position and continued to walk as if nothing happened.
There was another session of Hanabi having balls thrown at her, but Naruto switched it up by telling her to knock the projectiles back to clone it came from. She became so absorbed with the task that, even with the Byakugan, she didn't notice the clone that settled near where the rope was tied to one of the trees.
Hanabi yelped as she found herself in sudden freefall for a moment before Naruto caught her. After his last surprise, he'd decided to tone down some of the others. He noted with a trace of admiration that she still managed to send the last three balls thrown to the correct clones as she fell. The girl in his arms glared up at the kage bunshin standing against the tree trunk grinning at her with kunai in hand.
With a frown, Hanabi slapped Naruto in the arm as he placed her on her feet. Though, he noticed that it held considerably less force that her punch from earlier.
Hanabi and Naruto were having their final spar of the day. He told her that she could use any of her skills save chakra strikes. He dispelled any clone that suffered even a glancing blow, working under the assumption that she was using the true style anyway. Clones scoring attacks or were blocked were kept around because they found out that she didn't always have the presence of mind to burst out chakra while on the defense. It was something that she'd work on herself.
Hanabi jumped and span diagonally in the air to avoid a sweep and a punch from two clones. She landed on one foot and went with her momentum to deliver a kick to another clone. It puffed out of existence. Turning to face the first two clones, she dove forward, palms first, into one of them. The dive turned into a handspring when it dissolved into smoke. The continuing heel towards the next bunshin was aborted when another came from the side. She threw herself to the side. Her body tucked into a roll.
Naruto watched while Hanabi flipped, tumbled, and spun through the ranks of his kage bunshin. Her transformation into a chaotic bundle of surprises went better than he expected, given her personality. He winced and created another set of clones after Hanabi took out five simultaneously with an impressive aerial display. It looked nothing like Juuken, aside from the palm strikes and moments of precise attacks. He spoke up.
Hanabi focused her Byakugan's vision slightly in Naruto's direction when she heard his voice. "Very sloppy, Hanabi-chan! And quite unbefitting a Hyuuga," he called out. She scowled a little, bending her body awkwardly. A kick whiffed by the top of her head. A punch flew by her stomach. And a shoulder tackle slipped by her side. All of it missed her by less than two millimeters. She saw that Naruto was grinning widely at her. "Good work!" The sentiment threatened to twist her face into a smile once again.
Naruto grinned even wider when she turned the unbalance from the awkward position into a tumbling attack that took out two more clones. He allowed the all-out battle continue for a few more minutes before dismissing the clones. Hanabi turned to him curiously. He told her that he wanted to work in a one-on-one, in case she fought an opponent that could withstand the chakra damage or could fight beyond it.
They stood across from each other. The exchanges were fast and furious. They barely touched each other, but there were a multitude of extremely close calls.
Hanabi bent forward to avoid a kick that was feint for a lower kick. She responded by going even further down and bringing her foot behind her. She flipped forward in place to bring down an ax kick that Naruto had to back up to evade.
Naruto wheeled backwards, weaving through a flurry of forefinger jabs. His eyes watched her hands carefully. He lashed out quickly and captured her wrists. Hanabi reacted quickly to being pulled forwards by twisting her body. Naruto's foot raced by her stomach. Their eyes met as their faces came together with their arms locked. A beat later Hanabi broke away and bounded back.
Hanabi twisted and turned low to the ground. She kept pivoting on her palms as she kicked out at Naruto's legs. She planted a hand in the grass and went into a partial handstand with her back to him. Her foot began to rocket backwards when she noticed that the boy was airborne. She allowed her balance to falter and make her roll off to the side to get away from the dropping knee.
Naruto pivoted away from a kick from Hanabi. He turned and attempted a spinning back fist. Hanabi ducked under it and grabbed his arm with both hands. She swung on his appendage and contorted her body tightly. He leaned his head back to dodge the kick on course with his temple. Hanabi was off his arm and on her way to safe landing before he had a chance to drop it to his side.
The intense, energy draining session only went on for twenty minutes before Naruto called for a stop. He told her that he was done and she should practice on her own. Taking on a teaching tone, he pointed out that Hanabi was still a little rigid with her style. She picked up the new fighting method easily, but she was dropping important parts of the Juuken style. Coming towards the end she abandoned strike redirection and the kaiten. Naruto suggested that she should work with Hinata. Before he could twitch, he sensed movement from her.
She was suddenly in his face once again with a placid expression. Moments passed with them looking into each other's faces. With a quick movement, Hanabi raised herself on the ball of her foot. She spun around to give herself room to bring her other leg up at nearly a straight angle. Naruto grimaced as Hanabi's heel came down on his shoulder, close to where it met his neck. She looked at him with her body leaning on his and her inner thigh sliding up against his chest. Her face remained as unreadable as ever. Two beats passed and Naruto was caught flat-footed for the second time in five seconds when Hanabi suddenly leaned in even further to capture his lips in a kiss. Seconds ticked by. When Hanabi separated from him, it was just as abrupt as the rest of her actions in the previous minute. Naruto stared up at her with a stunned expression.
"Spontaneity," was her enigmatic response. Hanabi turned and left the training grounds at a fast clip. With her back to him, Naruto couldn't see the flush on her face. Out of earshot of her trainer, she murmured, "Maybe." The possibility she was considering was unknown to anyone, including herself.