The preliminaries to the Chunin exams. Neji and Hinata stood on the arena floor. Neji was enjoying the rare opportunity to openly humiliate a member of the main branch of his clan. As he began mocking her weaknesses he was surprised to be interrupted by shouts from the balcony. Naruto was yelling at Hinata to stand up for herself. As he shouted Neji saw the way she was looking up to the loud mouthed blonde runt. He smiled.
So the princess has feelings for the village pariah does she? How perfect.
"Does he know about your feelings Lady Hinata?"
"What?!" Her eyes suddenly snapped back to him. From her reaction it was only too plain she was even more nervous now than she had been.
He sent her a cruel smirk. This would be an even better way to humiliate her and completely crush her will. He would make it clear to everyone just how pathetic and weak the main branch really was. "Why don't you tell him what you really feel about him? Or perhaps I should."
"Neji please don't!" Hinata pleaded.
Neji turned away from her to stare at the ridiculous orange clad ninja who was still glaring down from the balcony. "Hey loser!" Neji shouted. "Are you upset that I am about to beat up your girlfriend?"
Those words took Naruto totally by surprise and his shock actually overtook his anger. "What are you talking about?"
"What, you didn't know that Lady Hinata has a crush on you? That she likes you?"
Hinata could feel her entire world crashing down around her. She had hoped to earn Naruto's respect and make him really see her. But now instead he was staring at her like she was some sort of pathetic stalker.
"Hinata," Naruto called out. "Is that true?" He had never really noticed her before, but he could see her now. She was standing there all alone trying to be brave as Neji insulted her. He knew what that was like, to be mocked and treated like you were nothing. And as he looked at her he suddenly realized that she was one of the very few people who had never looked at him with anger and never once said a cruel word to him.
He looked down at the balm still clutched in his fist. She barely knew him and he had just beaten her teammate, but she had still given him a gift. Despite everything he had tried to do for Sakura she had rarely even given him a kind word. She's actually been nicer to me than Sakura-chan ever has. How did I never notice that?
Hinata could not read his thoughts. All she could do was look at the expression on his face. She took the look of honest surprise and instead thought it was a look of embarrassment. She couldn't stand it and turned her eyes to the floor. She had dreamed of confessing her love to him some day. Now all her secret feelings and hopes were being made public in the cruelest way possible.
Neji could see the obvious effect his words were having and was nowhere near done yet. "Of course even if she is foolish enough to have feelings for you nothing could ever come of it. She is after all a princess and what are you? Nothing but a piece of low born trash masquerading as a ninja."
"What did you say?" Naruto shrieked.
Kakashi grabbed a hold of him and whispered in his ear. "Take it easy Naruto, don't let him provoke you." Kakashi knew just how hard Naruto struggled to gain respect, and how much he hated being treated this way.
"It's actually a shame because the two of you really make a good couple, you're very much alike. You're both born losers who will never amount to anything. You're both pitiful and weak and completely lacking in any of he characteristics of a real ninja. You're destined to be nothing but failures."
"Shut up!" Naruto screamed at him. "Who the hell are you to decide what someone can or can't be?! Hinata can be anything she wants to be! She is brave and kind and strong and I'm sure she'll be a great ninja!"
Hearing the boy she cared about say those things she gasped and looked back up at him. Naruto…
"And as for me I'm going to be Hokage one day so don't tell me I'm a loser."
Neji laughed. "If you really do believe that then you're nothing but a self deluded fool. Do you really believe that a worthless piece of garbage like you could ever be Hokage? Those few who become Hokage were born with that destiny. Your destiny is to be nothing but a weak failure."
"Neji," Hinata spoke.
Neji turned and was surprised to see Hinata standing tall and facing him without any sign of nervousness. Instead to his great surprise he saw…
"Your heart beat is rising and from your stance it is very clear," he smirked. "You are now extremely angry. Did my insults to your one true love upset you?"
She was angry. All the fear and nervousness of a moment ago was now forgotten. "You can insult me if you need to Neji, but don't insult Naruto-kun. I have been watching him for a long time now. I only wish I had even half the confidence he has always shown in himself. He has been mocked and hated by almost everyone but he has never doubted himself for even a moment. He is the strongest person I know and a far greater ninja than you." She looked up to the balcony and directly at her crush. "And when he is Hokage one day I will be the first bow to him."
She really meant it. It wasn't a joke. She really did believe that he would be Hokage one day. Except for Iruka-sensei she was the only one to ever say she really believed in him. And all of a sudden the way she was looking at him he began to get a warm feeling all over.
"You really think that fool is a better ninja than me?" Neji shook his head. "You really are deluded lady Hinata. But enough of this," he suddenly snapped down into a jyuken fighting stance, his byakugan already active. "Withdraw from this match Hinata, or I will be forced to hurt you."
She did not activate her own byakugan or go into a fighting stance. Instead she just stood there with head held high calmly facing him. For once she did not look the least bit shy or nervous. She looked like the heir to one of Konoha's great ninja clans. Kurenai saw the change and smiled proudly at her student. She really had grown.
"I could forgive you for anything you said or did to me, but I won't forgive the way you have insulted Naruto-kun." Hinata said defiantly. "I am going to defeat you."
"Brave words," Neji mocked. "Too bad you're too weak to do anything about them."
Hayate coughed. "If you do not intend to withdraw then please," cough "let's begin the actual match."
"Fine." Neji began to rush forward.
Hinata made a single hand sign. "Pain."
All at once Neji felt as though his brain were being shredded. He grabbed his head and howled in agony. Hidden beneath his hitai-ite his curse seal pulsed.
Hinata only let it remain active for five seconds. But that was long enough to leave him lying on the arena floor quivering. She had never before used the seal and had never thought she would. But then she had never once thought she could feel so much sheer fury at someone.
Everyone who had just witnessed the match was shocked. Shy quiet Hinata had just crushed the genius with a single move.
"Wow what kind of jutsu was that?!" Naruto wondered. "Man I wouldn't want to go up against her." Hinata was turning out to be a total revelation.
"You wouldn't have to worry Naruto." Kakashi informed him. "She wouldn't be able to do that to you. She can only do that to clan members who wear a seal."
"As my youthful student Lee pointed out earlier The Hyuga are divided into two branches, the main and the cadet." Guy began to explain as Naruto, Sakura, Lee, and Tenten all listened. The main branch provides leadership while the cadet is expected to carry out all orders. In order to enforce this separation as well as to seal the secrets of the byakugan after death all cadet branch members have a seal placed on their foreheads upon the age of three. Any member of the main branch is able to activate the seal to inflict pain or even death."
"That's just awful." Sakura declared.
"Guy-sensei, why did Neji never mention this before?" Lee asked.
"Yosh, it is not something to take pride in. He did not want to admit that he could be so easily controlled or even killed."
Down on the arena floor Hayate confirmed that Neji could not continue the match. He did not seem injured but was barely conscious. "Winner, Hyuga Hinata."
Hinata slowly nodded and headed towards the stairs. There were no loud cheers as everyone, even Kurenai, was still stunned by what they had just seen. As she climbed the steps her anger faded and she seemed to revert back to the shy insecure little girl everyone was familiar with. She was dreading the fact that she was going to have to walk past Naruto to get to Kurenai and Shino. She could feel herself blush and her index fingers began pressing against each other. After everything Naruto had just seen and heard she could only imagine what he must think of her.
"Hinata?" Naruto called to her.
She brought herself to a halt and gulped as she lifted her eyes to see he was looking at her. "Y…yes Naruto-kun?"
He gave her one of his big smiles and put his hands behind his head. "Do you want to get some ramen with me later, you know like a date?"
Before his eyes she seemed to go five shades of red in the space of about seven seconds. She did however manage to shout out the word, 'yes' just before fainting.