Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, yeah. What makes you think that, yeah? Now shut up before I blow you up…Yeah.

Refraction
Chapter 3: Unseen Eyes
By Irritus185

Naruto looked around him. How many times had he entered Hokage tower, called for or otherwise? The main headquarters of Konoha was almost like a second home to him; it had jiji, and it was the place he was brought almost every time he had been caught in his more monumental pranks (at least when he hadn't put too much effort into covering his tracks). Still, for a boy as young as he was, and for a ninja as low-ranked as he was, he knew the building better than most of the people in the village.

As he followed the ANBU leading both him and Haku, he took note of some strange oddities in both the elite nin and older girl's movements. Every so often, they would make something almost like a hop, or take a longer step than normal, or even change their path completely as though something was blocking them. Naruto just continued, not seeing why such actions were necessary. It was rare for anything to just be lying around the corridors of the tower as tidily kept as it was, and he didn't see anything at all. The frequency of their quirky evasions decreased the closer they got to the center of the tower. He shrugged. Well, if they weren't going to bring it up, he wasn't going to ask them.

Stopping at the grand double doors to the Hokage's office, the ANBU sidled to the side and motioned for them to go ahead. Naruto gave a sloppy salute, and Haku bowed politely, before the two of them entered. Naruto grinned as he saw Sarutobi at his desk, filing paperwork as per usual.

"Hey, jii-san!" he bellowed.

The elder man smiled warmly at the blonde. "Hello, Naruto." He turned and nodded at his guardian. "Good afternoon to you as well, Haku-kun."

Haku clasped her hands together and gave a formal bow. "It is an honor to meet you again, Hokage-sama."

Naruto barked a laugh. "Eh, there's no need to be so polite, Haku. Jiji doesn't deserve that kind of respect."

Sarutobi frowned mockingly. "Most people would respect the leader of their village and head of their military forces."

Sticking out a tongue, his eyes falling back into their trademark fox gaze, Naruto drawled, "Yeah, most people, but I'm gonna be the next Hokage, so I'm not most people." He turned to Haku and winked.

Haku tilted her head to the side and blinked slowly. That same serene smile crossed her face. "As you wish, Naruto-sama." She looked back at Sarutobi. "Hello again, ojii-sama."

Sarutobi hid his chuckle behind his robed arm at the compromise, though Naruto had no such compunctions and laughed out loud. Haku's expression did not change, but her eyes did hold a hint of confusion in them, like there was a joke that she didn't know was being told. Sarutobi waited for Naruto's laughter to dwindle before he cleared his throat. "Now, as you already know, I've called you here because I believe I've discovered the effect of your doujutsu."

Naruto sprang forward, his eyes bright and passionate, and slammed his hands down on the large wooden desk. "Yeah, yeah!" he cried. "Tell me 'bout my new abilities! I bet they're awesome, right?! Like the colors are the other guy's lifeforce, or what jutsus they could know, or something cool like that! Right?! Right?!"

Sarutobi waved a hand at the hyper boy. "Now, now. I said I have an idea of what it could, but I still need to do a few tests to determine if it's accurate or not."

"Well, c'mon then! Let's get it over with!"

Sighing, the man folded his hands as his mind tiredly chuckled. "Very well. First, I need you to activate your doujutsu again."

Naruto nodded sharply and called the chakra to his eyes. He waited for the colors to start swarming around Sarutobi, but was unpleasantly surprised to find nothing appeared. His brow furrowed. Trying again, he gathered more chakra. Still nothing. A frown deepened on his face. What was going on?

Sarutobi narrowed his eyes. "Is something wrong, Naruto?"

The boy's eyes widened and settled. He laughed and put a hand behind his head, a subtle sign only a few knew that meant the boy was bothered by something and attempting to hide it. "Eheheh, it's nothing. Just forgot for a second how to direct my chakra."

A cool hand touched the bare skin on his arm. Haku's gentle voice followed. "If you need help, Naruto-sama, I can give you a quick refresher."

Naruto shrugged her hand off and laughed. "No, no, it's okay." He turned to the girl, hiding the humiliation that had begun to trickle into his subconscious. What was wrong with him? He had been able to call his kekkai genkai so easily. Was it all just a fluke? Was it all just a temporary side-effect of when he had tapped into the Kyuubi's chakra? "There's really nothing to worry ab-" He stopped.

Haku was looking at him in concern, but that wasn't what made him pause. Surrounding her was the bluish light ribbons that he had come to associate with the girl. They flowed around her in varying speeds, some fast, some slow, some hectic, some not. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Naruto glanced back at Sarutobi. Nothing. Back to Haku. The spectacle he had grown used to when he activated his doujutsu.

What did it mean?

"What…what's going…"

"Is there something you want to say?"

Focusing on the man in the robes and tricorne he so desired, Naruto finally noticed a small quirk in the man's lips. Something clicked. "You…you aren't jii-san, are ya? You're not anything."

The man tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

Naruto swallowed as his mind began to piece parts of the puzzle together. "My eyes can only see those colors on people, not animals or plants or anything. You're not either, so that can only mean…" He spun around, his eyes searching. The scene awaiting him smacked him in the face like a sledgehammer. A plethora of hues assaulted his vision when he looked back at the entrance to the office, swimming in a stationary position right next to the doors in a cozy armchair with no body to wear them. He whipped out a hand triumphantly. "That was only a genjutsu, and the real you is there!"

The air shimmered fluidly before dissolving into Sarutobi. He smiled appraisingly and clapped his hands. "Very good, Naruto. I'm happy to see you figured it out."

Haku blinked carefully before raising her voice. "So, you mean to say, we've been caught in a genjutsu ever since we entered the room?" She couldn't believe; she had no inkling that she was being deceived. There was no resonant hum of chakra in the air to signal the use of a jutsu, and she could not feel a disturbance to show someone was hiding. And yet Sarutobi had made it seem like the task was nothing. Haku began to fully understand why the wizened man was known as the "God of Shinobi" throughout all the Elemental countries.

"Not since you just entered the room, since you entered the building."

Naruto frowned petulantly and huffed. "What are ya talking 'bout, jiisan? There weren't any genjutsu when we came inside."

Sarutobi quirked an eyebrow and smiled capriciously. "Oh really? Are you sure there wasn't anything strange that happened when you were walking to my office?" How he enjoyed being the one to pull a joke on the boy for once instead of the other way around. It was for educational purposes, sure, but the feeling of satisfaction he got from Naruto's confusion came all the same.

"None I can really think of. I mean, Haku and that ANBU guy were acting weird but…" His face fell and his eyes changed. He faced Haku. "Why were you acting that way, Haku? You were so jittery, moving like ya hand ants in your pants or something."

"I was simply avoiding the people in the hall and sidestepping some random debris on the floor, Naruto-sama."

"What are you talking about? There weren't that many people on the way here, and I didn't see any trash or nothing."

"There were only a few pieces, Naruto-sama. But I did find it odd you did not even bother to step over them and…"

She trailed off. The two looked at each other as something passed between them. They both turned back to a softly chuckling Sarutobi, his eyes twinkling with mirth. He leaned forward, clasping his hands together and leaning his chin on them. "Hmm? Did you think of something?"

Naruto's mouth opened to say something and then closed. He shook his head. "You mean, it was all fake?!"

He nodded. "Yes." Standing up from the chair, he walked back over to his desk. "It would seem that even when not activated, your new kekkai genkai has given you a slight resistance to genjutsu. There was not anything or anyone in the path to my office, simply one illusion after another, each more powerful than the last. After a while, even you were affected by them. It looks like most low-level and a few mid-level genjutsu are more or less useless against you. But what really amazes me is how your doujutsu works when actually activated."

He sat down, pulling out his pipe and crushing some tobacco into it. Sarutobi ignited it and inhaled a small amount before puffing out a few smoke rings. Feeling more relaxed, he continued. "Even if the genjutsu has infected your chakra system, forcing you to sense what it wants you to, your eyes can still somewhat see the truth of the matter." He nodded and clamped the pipe between his teeth. "My double didn't have a 'Flow,' as you put it, of its own, correct?"

Naruto grimaced. "Yeah, I thought that was really weird when I couldn't see anything. I mean, Haku had one and everything, right? So how come you didn't? But, when I looked at where you really were, there was one there even though I didn't actually see ya."

"Indeed, it appears as though your bloodline reacts to humans and only to humans, or at least something similar to them. My double, though it may have looked like me, wasn't actually me, so your eyes basically ignored it. But when they came upon me, though your brain didn't register my physical presence thanks to the genjustu, your doujutsu still registered my actual 'existence.'"

"Huh?" Naruto felt like he was about to go cross-eyed at Sarutobi's explanation. He was there but wasn't there? His presence couldn't be seen but his existence could? What was the old man babbling about, and why did he feel extremely ignorant right now?

Sarutobi chuckled at the boy's bafflement. "I'm afraid it is a bit complicated, but everything will begin to make more sense once I verify the second part of my hypothesis. To put it simply, you will always see a person, regardless if they cast an illusion to hide themselves, but you can still be affected by their genjutsu. This ability will certainly come in handy if you go against someone who primarily uses genjutsu."

Naruto pursed his lips. "So that means I can destroy people even if they use genjutsu on me?" That would be great! Iruka had said genjutsu was Naruto's weakness thanks to his horrific chakra control, so every bit that helped would only make him greater!

"In a way, but-"

"Yeah!" Naruto jumped and pumped a fist up.

"It's not that simple, Naruto. Genjutsu is still dangerous even if you can partially see through it."

The boy stopped midway in his premature celebration. "Huh?"

Sarutobi sighed. "Never mind. You'll come to understand when you gain more knowledge about the nature of your doujutsu, as well as through training. In any case, come here. I have to perform one more experiment on you to make sure my guess is right."

Naruto complied and sat in the chair facing the desk, Haku silently filling in the one next to him. Sarutobi cleared his throat. "Now Naruto, I want you to look at my Flow carefully. Whenever I ask you, I want you to tell me what the dominant color or colors in it are."

"Domina-wha?"

"He means what color there is most of, Naruto-sama."

Naruto grinned and perked up. "Ah, right! I knew that!"

Sarutobi prevented himself from rolling his eyes. Honestly, this boy…No, forget that. He cleared his mind and continued. "All right, let's begin."

For the next hour or so, Sarutobi occasionally questioned Naruto as he focused on him. Each time the boy came up with something different –somewhat yellow mixed with orange and pink, mostly red, a deep indigo, and so on and so forth. When they finally finished, Sarutobi leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin. It had taken him two weeks of intensive research to make an educated guess, but from the data he just gathered, he was sure one of his initial theories was right. How ironic, though, for such a subtle doujutsu to fall into the lap of such a rambunctious lad.

"Well, well?!" Naruto quipped excitedly. "Did you figure it out?! Do ya know what my bloodline does?!"

"Now, now, calm down…" Sarutobi gestured at the blonde. Really now… "Yes, I believe I'm certain of what your kekkai genkai does. But before I tell you, I want to ask you something. Do you know what I was thinking of when I asked you what my Flow's color was?"

Naruto puffed out his cheeks and sank back into his chair. "How could I know that?!" he asked impatiently. "I can't tell what you're thinking! I'm not a mind-reader!"

No, perhaps not like the Yamanaka, but maybe you're something even greater than that. Sarutobi took a deep breath. "Naruto, each time I was recalling a memory that was very dear or very important to me. Something that made me happy."

The birth of his first child.

"Something that made me angry."

Orochimaru's betrayal.

"Something that made me sad."

Minato's sacrifice and Naruto's unfair sentence.

"Each one left a deep mark on my heart, and each one made me feel something very strong. Do you know what that means?"

Naruto turned in on himself in thought. What the heck was that supposed to mean. Sarutobi's memories? Did that mean he could read a person's memories? No, that couldn't be right. He just saw colors, not someone's inner thoughts. He sighed and shook his head in defeat, his shoulders sagging.

Haku looked between Naruto and Sarutobi. She understood what it meant, but did she have the right to…? She saw Sarutobi make an imperceptible nod at her. She smiled. Turning to her master, she said, "Naruto-sama, ojii-sama means you can read a person's emotions, that you can see what they're feeling."

Naruto raised his head. "I can do what?" He could see what someone was feeling? He knew what they were thinking? He could sense if they were happy or sad or mad? What…what…

"What the hell's the point of that?!" he burst out. "How's that gonna help me be the greatest ninja ever?! Am I gonna beat someone by knowing that they're embarrassed or in love or something?! It's totally useless!" How was he supposed to beat Sasuke's now?! The teme had that awesome Sharingan; he could copy any jutsu and use it as his own! All Naruto had was the ability to see if someone was having a good day or not! There was no way Sakura was going to like him with such a wimpy skill!

Sarutobi sighed. He was afraid Naruto would react this way. The boy was too hung up on "cool techniques" or "flashy spells," just like all of the younger generations. Complicated, strong moves were becoming more important and sought-after than weak, more useful ones. Perhaps peace did have a somewhat negative effect on children – it weakened their appreciation of the simpler things. Well, he couldn't just let the boy go on and on like a spoiled child. Naruto had a great gift, and only by learning about and cultivating it could he bring out its full potential.

"Naruto, as a ninja, being able to see a person's emotions is a wonderful skill. For interrogation and diplomacy, it's invaluable for trying to corner the person. With enough experience, you can tell when someone is lying, or if they are more eager for something than they outwardly show. To be able to read a person is absolutely needed in the realms of subterfuge and sabotage. People 'hide' their emotions all the time, but to truly suppress them is all but impossible."

"It is true, Naruto-sama," Haku said, placing her hand on Naruto's shoulder. "A shinobi is known for killing their emotions, but very few are able to completely do so. Remember what I said about sealing my heart to fulfill Zabuza-san's wishes?" Naruto winced when he looked into her eyes. They absolutely ached, and her Flow was spiraling down into darker colors. "Though my face may have looked like ice, my heart was anything but."

Naruto looked down, ashamed at his actions. He didn't know why but guilt was welling up in him. No, no he knew quite well why. Indirectly, he was still the cause of Zabuza's death, and though Haku may have forgiven him, he knew that she would never forget that fact…and neither would he. He rose up to speak. "Haku…I…"

Sarutobi interrupted him. He realized this was a poignant moment, but he needed to tell Naruto about his new skill. An untamed kekkai genkai was one of the most dangerous abilities around, even if it seemed, at the moment, like a domesticated house cat next to the wild tiger of the Sharingan and Byakugan. "Emotions play an important role on the battlefield as well, Naruto, though it may not be as obvious as a fireball or lightning bolt. Emotions change wildly in combat, and someone who is able to read and predict how someone acts has a better chance of coming out the victor. The Sharingan may predict what a person will do, but your doujutsu has the possibility of showing how and why."

Absently, Naruto's mind wandered back to the bridge. He remembered the wave of red, crashing down on him and his team moments before the mercenary had attempted a charge. Is…is that what Sarutobi meant? He looked at the older man. "I…I guess I was acting pretty stupid there, huh, jii-san?"

He chuckled softly. "Everyone has their moments. You just have them more often than most." The blonde squawked in indignation, but Sarutobi continued unheeded. "In any case, now that I'm sure of what your doujutsu does, I can call upon the correct person to help you learn how to use it. Tomorrow, I'll find a teacher for you." Standing up, he moved around the table and fondly ruffled Naruto's wild mane of hair. "Do try not to be too much of a holy terror, alright?"

Naruto pouted under the man's ministrations. "Alright, jiji." He stood up. "C'mon, Haku. Let's go get some ramen. I gotta go tell someone about this, and Ayame-neechan is always a good ear for me." He stopped. "Maybe I can bum some ramen off Iruka-sensei, too."

She followed suit. "As you wish, Naruto-sama." She made a short bow to Sarutobi. "Good-bye, ojii-sama."

He smiled. "Goodbye, Haku-kun." Before the two teens left, he called out. "Oh, Naruto."

Naruto looked over his shoulder. "Yeah?"

"Every kekkai genkai deserves to have a name, right?"

He nodded slowly. "Uh-huh…"

"I thought of a name you might like. Your eyes can see into the souls of people and discover exactly what they're thinking and feeling on the inside." He chuckled at the edgy look on the child's face. "It's a name that seems simple at first, but can mean so much more – the Naitekigan."

Naruto looked at Sarutobi idly. The Inner Eye…huh? He sighed dramatically. "It's pretty lame, but I guess I'll take it. After all, a lame ability deserves a lame name." He turned around nonchalantly, but the corner of his lips was turned up ever so slightly. "See ya later, jiji."

He left the room, Haku following swiftly after him. As the door clicked shut, Sarutobi sat back down and gave a sigh of relief. Honestly, that boy…that boy…He picked up a sheet of paperwork, a mission report of sorts, and tossed it carelessly back on the desk. He took another puff from his pipe. Things were going to get very interesting very soon.

RRRRR

Training ground twenty was a rather plain-looking practice area compared to the other ones. It was mostly open space with a few trees and boulders sparingly scattered about to act as makeshift cover against attack. The crunching of gravel underneath soled feet announced the approach of people.

Looking at the piece of paper in his hand, Naruto scratched at the back of his head. Huh, so weird to have a teacher, err, teachers like this. He knew the older one would definitely be of help considering his doujutsu's capabilities in genjutsu, but the other one was only his age! Regardless, if Sarutobi said that they could help him, he would take it.

He was hardly surprised at his team's reaction to him gaining another teacher. Kakashi seemed a bit miffed at first, but relented when he came to the realization that Naruto wouldn't badger him as much thanks to his (supposed) teaching status. Sakura just said good luck and chased after Sasuke, no doubt thinking it would be easier now that Naruto wouldn't bother her. And Sasuke? Well, he just made his customary "hnn" and ignored him.

He glanced to his side, where Haku was quietly walking. He grinned lopsidedly. "Err…Ya sure you want to join me, Haku? You don't have ta if you don't want to. I'm sure it'll be boring for ya since you'll sit around."

She merely smiled congenially. "As I have said many times before, Naruto-sama, I shall always be by your side. Besides, watching other ninjas in their training will only help me to become better, and I might pick up some tips on how to assist you."

"Well, what about your job at the hospital?"

"I am not scheduled for my first shift for another week yet. Until then, I am free to help you and do whatever you need."

"Well, if you're really sure…" At another smile, he hung his head in resignation. "Whatever…" Looking back up at the sound of fighting, he was pleased to see the ninjas he would join were in the middle of a spar. He raised a hand in greeting. "Yo!"

The two genin separated from each other at his call, looking at the blonde in annoyance and stoic indifference respectively. A wild-looking boy with a puppy at his side sneered as the blonde boy and black-haired girl approached.

"What the hell are you doin' here, idiot?"

Naruto flipped Kiba the bird. "Ah, shut yer yap, ya mutt. I'm not here to kick your ass today." Before the Inuzuka could angrily retort, Naruto waved cheerfully at the other silent genin. "Yo, Shino! How you doing?"

The boy pushed up his glasses, a slight buzzing echoing from inside his high-collared jacket. "I am agreeable right now. May I inquire as to why you're here, Naruto-san?"

"I believe I can answer that, Shino-kun." The teens watched as an attractive woman in her early twenties approached, red eyes gazing, while a much shyer and somewhat mousier brunette scampered by her side. Kurenai flashed a polite smile before talking to her genin. "The Hokage assigned me as a partial instructor to Naruto-kun thanks to the awakening of a bloodline in him. He said genjutsu is a heavy aspect of it, and as one of the foremost genjutsu users in Konoha, I was found best-suited."

Kiba turned with a skeptical eye onto Naruto, while Shino just watched cautiously and Hinata looked on anxietiously. "Huh, a bloodline? Yeah, right," he snorted. "As if the dead-last could get something as important as that. He's not even part of a clan or anything."

"Bite me, Kiba." Naruto growled. "Jii-san said it's the first of its kind, so obviously it doesn't matter if I'm part of a clan or not." He turned his nose up, looking down at Kiba imperiously. "But I guess you wouldn't know something like that when you have the brain of a dog."

Shino stepped forward, his eyes hidden behind heavily-tinted glasses. Naruto suddenly felt as though he were under a microscope. The sensation of barely-kept excitement flowed through him, and he didn't know where it was coming from or why. His thoughts were broken when Shino spoke.

"If you don't mind me asking, what exactly is your kekkai genkai composed of?"

Naruto grinned. At least someone believed him! "It's a doujutsu, just like Hinata-chan's! Speaking of which…" He made a flourished bow at the introverted girl. "Nice ta meet ya, Hinata-sensei!" He finished it off with a cheeky smile.

"Hinata-sensei?"

Kurenai intervened, seeing that Hinata was too busy blushing at all the positive attention Naruto was lavishing on her, and it seemed like she would pass out at any moment. "Sarutobi-sama figured to try and kill two birds with one stone. As it's a doujutsu and also deals with genjutsu in some form, he figured the best way to discover all its intricacies was to bring him to team eight, which deals with both – my illusions and Hinata's Byakugan."

"Yup!" Naruto raised his hands and looped them behind his head, occasionally hopping from one foot to the other. "I think it's awesome! I get two teachers at the same time! And the more I have, the faster I'll be able to become Hokage!"

"Like you'll ever get that strong," Kiba muttered out loud.

Shino gazed back at Naruto. "I see…" He paused for a moment. "As your bloodline is a doujutsu, it must be associated with something optical. The Hyuuga's Byakugan allows them to see everywhere and through anything. What does yours allow you to see?"

Naruto steeled himself for what was about to come next. Even after a day of thinking it through, he still thought the Naitekigan wasn't as cool as the other kekkai genkai he had heard of. Still, if Sarutobi said that it could make him stronger then he would just suck it up, stand up straight, and do his best to make it the most awesome bloodline in existence! He had always been at a disadvantage, ever since he was little, but he always managed to come out on top at the end.

With the villagers and their hatred, with the exam and his grades, and, most recently, with Wave country and Zabuza and Haku – he would find a way to make it better.

Forcing the chakra to his eyes, he called out his doujutsu.

"Naitekigan!"

The silver rings wrapped their ways around his pupils and begun their rotation. Immediately the Flow burst into existence as colors radiated from the people around him. Naruto spent the next few minutes explaining the basics of what his ability did. His fear that his skill would be laughed at was not unfounded.

Kiba was laughing so hard his sides hurt and he bent over, accidentally tossing Akamaru to the ground in the process. "You…you can see feelings?! Ha! That is the most worthless thing ever! What are ya gonna do, hug your opponent into submission?!" His mirth dissolved into feral barks. "I knew you were a dobe, but even when you get some 'super power,' even that's dead-last!"

"Sometimes, a bit of subtlety can mean all the difference against brute strength."

Kiba's joyful mockery caught in his throat as a wave of killing intent swirled around him, mixed with a sudden drop in the temperature. His eyes locked onto the dark-brunette next to Naruto, who he had ignored up till now since he was too focused on taking Naruto down a peg or two. Now, he wondered why he hadn't noticed her in the first place.

Luxurious long hair, alabaster skin, dark eyes and a slender figure made her fit the perfect image of a royal courtesan. Her face was tender and calm, her eyes wrinkled ever so softly in sweet glee and her mouth matched with joyful aplomb. At first glance, she seemed like a docile, beautiful young woman. But the more instinctual part inside of him, the one that made him more animal than human, was shouting at the top its voice that she was dangerous. That one small mistake would see him gutted and left for the crows.

Kiba watched in total stillness as Haku went on, her voice laced with velvet. "A shinobi knows to use all of his tools in battle, that nothing is valueless when in the heat of the moment. Someone who just plows on ahead recklessly can quite easily fall into a trap that was laid with the smallest of effort. A shinobi who doesn't take note of his surroundings often has the making of a shinobi that doesn't return from a mission."

Nothing was said. Kurenai watched as her student fell underneath not a technique, but simply a careful usage of killing intent and body language. The girl knew what she was doing, and Kurenai wasn't going to interfere. Sometimes, Kiba needed to have his pride shaved off every once in a while. Still, that girl…She hadn't received any information on her in the report she'd received other than that she was somehow related to the young Uzumaki.

For the first time, Hinata spoke up. "Umm…Who…" She raised a shaky finger and pointed at Haku. "Who are you?" She didn't like the way that the girl was standing next to Naruto. The brunette was acting far too familiar for her liking. And Naruto was acting like nothing was amiss, that it was normal for such a lovely lady to be in his presence. Not for the first time, she felt so ordinary and unappealing.

"Ah, forgive my discourtesy." Haku bowed as she formally introduced herself. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Haku. I am Naruto-sama's-"

"Friend! Friend! She's my friend." Naruto slapped a hand over Haku's mouth, silencing her from saying anymore, and tittered nervously. The last thing he needed was her to start her spiel on their whole master/servant relationship. As much as he liked Haku, her devotion to being his "tool" often brought more trouble than help. "Long story short, we met during one of our missions, she wanted to become a ninja so she followed us back to Konoha, and now works as a medic-nin at the hospital and part-timer helper for me." Naruto may not have been a great liar, but there were enough truths in his explanation to pass somewhat adequately.

Haku paused as Naruto looked at her plaintively and team eight watched in confusion. If that was what her master wanted then she would simply have to acquiesce to his wishes. She beamed at them, her words carefree and lilted. "Yes, I work as a part-timer helper for Naruto-sama, dealing with various jobs like cleaning and cooking, as thanks for him vouching to the Hokage for me." Unlike Naruto, she had no trouble lying to meet her needs.

Kurenai only gave it a brief thought. It wasn't her place to try and dig into others' personal lives. That was the past time of other purple-headed snake fetishists. "Very well," she said. "As long as you don't interfere, I don't see any reason why you can't stay."

"Thank you very much for the consideration."

Well, at least she was polite without being too extreme. Being in a team where each student had severe emotional demeanors made Kurenai worry sometime. She shook off that thought. "I'm afraid that all I can give you are refreshers on the details of genjutsu right now, Naruto-kun. My team hasn't reached the more advanced lessons yet, and it wouldn't feel right to give special attention to someone who isn't even my student. When it comes time for them, you're free to join in as well."

"Thanks, Kurenai-sensei!" He had no problem with that. It was actually refreshing to be part of a squad where the jounin didn't give preferential treatment. He had enough of that back on his own team with Sasuke and his blasted Uchiha status.

Kurenai smiled at the boy's enthusiasm. "Well, since the others were in the middle of their spars, we'll discuss genjutsu until they finish." She gestured at the genin, who took the order to continue what they were doing before Naruto arrived. Soon, the grunts and cries of battle filled the air. Kurenai took Naruto aside and sat him down across from her. "Now, what can you tell me about genjutsu?"

"Umm…" Naruto scrunched up his face. "It's the art of making things seem like something else?"

She chuckled. "Crude, but somewhat correct. Yes, genjutsu is the art of illusion, to cloud an enemy's senses and make them see and feel what you want them to. Do you know how that works?"

Naruto said nothing as a bewildered expression slapped itself onto his face. Kurenai frowned when he did not come forth with anything. "Didn't your jounin sensei tell you anything?"

Naruto scowled and cross his arms in front of his chest, looking away. "Kakashi-sensei doesn't really teach us much. He always shows up late, and when he is there, we just spend time on team tactics."

Kurenai felt anger well up inside her at that comment. What the hell was that man thinking? She knew of his chronic laziness and perverseness, but why was he even a teacher if he couldn't teach his students anything. Well, she would just have to remedy that problem, one piece at a time. Putting on her brightest smile, she explained. "Genjutsu works by taking one's chakra and infecting the target's chakra system with it. By doing so, we can force their system to register what we want it to, resulting in images or sounds or even physical sensations that only the target can feel. In other words, genjutsu users rewrite the systems of people so they react in the way we want."

"Yeah, yeah! Jii-san said something about the 'infection of the chakra system,' but I didn't really know what that meant."

"Yes, that's the basics of genjutsu. However, with a strong enough genjutsu other parts of the human body can be affected like muscles and the nervous system. That's why powerful genjutsu users are known to be able to kill people simply through illusions."

"Awesome! Does that mean I can do that, too?"

She smiled bitterly. "Sorry, Naruto-kun, but only people with very high chakra control can become genjutsu experts, and from what I've been told, your chakra control is not nearly good enough." The boy frowned, and she patted him on the shoulder in consolation. "However, from what I've gathered from Sarutobi-sama, your doujutsu allows you to see through genjutsu. If that's the case, then rather than a genjutsu expert, you could be a genjutsu destroyer. With practice and knowledge, you could easily break through any genjutsu cast against you."

The boy's mouth exploded into joy again. "Wait, seriously?!" That would be even more awesome! He could use kick-ass ninjutsu, and anyone who used genjutsu on him would just get their asses kicked! That would be great, and Sasuke would be totally jealous! Suck on that, Sharingan-boya!

"Yes, but there are still some things I have to confirm, so if you could humor me and let me test some genjutsu on you, I can begin to narrow down the specifics of your genjutsu resistance."

He snapped to attention. "Right, Kurenai-sensei!"

She giggled at his exuberance. "Then let's begin." Her hands began moving through the necessary seals. "I've been told that you're resistant to most low-level genjutsu, and that you react strangely to high-level ones when your doujutsu is activated. What I'm about to cast is a B-level technique that should bind your arms and legs to prevent you from moving and cause me to disappear. When cast, attempt to move and catch me."

"Okay."

"Here we go. Magen: Jubaku Satsu."

The name came out like a whisper as Kurenai melted from view. Her Flow stayed in place, and Naruto was about to move to touch her when he found his feet were rooted to the ground. Quite literally in fact; vines and roots had wrapped their way around his legs, crawling higher and higher up his body. As they reached his torso they spread out, twisting and twining into branches, leaves, and various fruits and flowers. When Naruto attempted to yelp in panic, the bark grew over his mouth, silencing him.

Eventually he was swallowed completely into the tree. He was frozen, completely restricted in his movement and not able to do anything to fight back. Is this what a genjutsu mistress could do – make him feel like he was totally helpless? He didn't like it, he didn't like it at all! Her Flow glided back and forth, mocking him, telling him that no matter what, he would never catch its owner.

Just when he felt he couldn't take it anymore, the illusion vanished, and he collapsed to his knees, panting harshly. Kurenai rushed forward, only beaten by Haku, who was already soothingly rubbing the blonde's back while whispering comforting nonsensical words. Kurenai place her hands on both his shoulders.

"I'm so sorry, Naruto-kun! I didn't think it would have that much of an effect! When the Hokage said that you were still slightly affected by the illusion, I thought that it was only phantom sensations, not the full effect!"

Naruto took a deep breath of air, glancing at the fretting woman. It felt nice being worried over like this; Kakashi-sensei always said to just suck it up whenever he was hurt during training. Haku's gentle motions on his back were nice as well. He threw a thumbs-up and grinned crookedly. "Eh, that's nothing! I feel great!"

Kurenai gave a sigh of relief. It'd be awful if she broke the young man's mind. Despite his bravado, he was obviously shaken, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. "That's good. But do you see now what I mean about genjutsu being dangerous? You couldn't move at all, right?"

"Nope, but I could still see ya…well, your colors anyway."

"I see…" She stood up and peered over at her team, who had stopped when they saw Naruto had collapsed. She made a comforting gesture and bade they go back to training. They obeyed, and Kurenai turned back to Naruto, who had been helped to his feet by Haku. "Well, now I'm beginning to understand a bit more about your Naitekigan, Naruto-kun. Your eyes bypass any visual corruption and always see where a person is, but the rest of your body is still subject. We'll just have to work on you being able to tell the rest of your body to ignore such incorrect signals."

"Roger!"

She sighed tiredly. Really, maybe he was a bit too lively. "Then let's continue. But let's go with some weaker techniques this time." Her hands began through another series.

RRRRR

"D-doujutsu are ke-kekkai genka-kai that are focused on t-the eyes. Because of this, a doujutsu user's vi-vison is the most im-important thing. So, it's v-very rare that some-someone with a doujutsu has b-bad eyesight."

Naruto was sitting across from Hinata as she stuttered her way through explaining the basics of optical-based bloodlines. Haku had left some time ago, stating that she had to go buy food for dinner. When she was gone, Kiba had immediately pounced on the boy, asking all kinds of questions, common and inappropriate, about the ice beauty. It seemed like the physical facet of him had already pushed out the fear caused by the brunette for other reasons.

Luckily, Kurenai had quickly reprimanded the boy, shooing him away so that Naruto and Hinata could be left undisturbed. Kiba promised he would get the answers out of Naruto later, though.

Naruto nodded absently. It was hard to pay attention to Hinata. He was excited that he was learning more about his Naitekigan, but at the same time he was still not of the demeanor to just sit and listen as someone lectured him. If he was, he would have done a lot better in the academy. Still, the least he could do was put some effort into paying attention, though Hinata's constant halting halfway through her explanations was starting to grate on his nerves.

"Although a doujutsu is st-still pa-passed genetically, the eyes h-hold the most informa-mation on the eye's genetic and phy-physical ch-changes."

"So…if someone stole a Hyuuga's eyes, they could maybe use the Byakugan as well?"

Hinata flinched as though he had stabbed her. Naruto wondered why her face had grown so twisted all of a sudden. Her Flow had taken a deep dive into the darker end of the spectrum, circling into purple, indigo, and black. "Y-yes, th-that's right. So…so lots of clans make s-sure there are ways to keep that fr-from happening."

Naruto decided not to push the issue. If Hinata was bothered by it, and it was obvious she was, then he would just let her keep her secrets. He didn't need to scare the girl anymore than she usually was. "Soo…umm…what about you, Hinata-chan? When did your doujutsu first activate?"

She looked down, her bangs covering her eyes. "No-normally a Hyuuga's Byakugan awakens in early childhood, from f-four to s-six." Her tone became even more melancholy. "I…I was a bit late. Mine didn't awa-awaken until I was eight."

Naruto slapped a hand on the ground. "Still beat me!" he laughed. Hinata looked up at him questioningly. "Mine just activated and I have no clue how the hell it works! So, ya see, you're a lot better than me when it comes to doujutsu!"

A shy smile passed through Hinata's face. "N-Naruto-kun…" She looked him in the face. "Yes!"

For the next hour, the two resumed discussing the nature of optical-based bloodlines, Naruto asking questions whenever he didn't quite understand something and Hinata answering to the best of her ability. When the two took a break to just talk, Hinata took the opportunity to ask something she had wanted to know since he had arrived.

"N-Naruto-kun…?"

He twisted his neck from watching Kiba argue with Akamaru and Shino scrutinize a colony of ants to look at her. "Hmm?"

She poked her fingers together, refusing to meet his eyes. "W-what exactly is your r-relationship with…with Haku-san?"

"Huh? Didn't I say already? We're friends."

Hinata nodded carefully. "Yes…but…you said she w-works for you. W-why would a total stranger just up and m-move to Konoha to work for you?"

Naruto swallowed. He had figured this question would come up eventually, but he never thought the one asking it would be Hinata. She just seemed too shy and proper to be the kind of person to ask about others' personal lives. Still, he had come up with some kind of explanation, and unlike the initial rushed one, this he had been putting actual thought to.

"I kinda sorta caused Haku to lose her job. Her boss was the biggest ass you'll ever meet, but she still cared about him a lot and she took it hard. Umm…I made a rash promise to help her out, and she really took it to heart."

Okay, so it was an extremely watered-down version of what really happened, but it was hard to explain to a person that the person who served you now originally served under a infamous nuke-nin who had attempted a coup d'état of a hidden village.

"Her boss was a retired ninja, so he taught her some moves, and she figured she'd become an actual kunoichi. She took my promise and kinda ran with it. So now she's here in Konoha."

"Oh…" Hinata looked down. She couldn't imagine what kind of relationship they had. Naruto had gotten her fired, but then offered to take care of her afterward. Well, she could imagine some things, but they weren't the type a proper heiress should consider. A heavy blush took over her face as she considered the possibilities. If only she had managed to become connected to Naruto in such a way. Then… "Um…where…where does she live now?" If Haku lived far away, then maybe she still had a chance.

"Oh, we share the same apartment and…" Naruto stopped and slapped a hand over his mouth.

It was too late. Hinata had gone completely wide-eyed, and her blush had deepened to her complexion to maroon. Her fingers were grinding into each other as she looked through Naruto with the Hyuuga equivalent of the thousand-yard stare, which was made all the creepier thanks to her milky, pupil-less eyes.

Naruto was amazed as her Flow flashed through a variety of colors before whirling into a mixture of pink, green, and orange. It whipped around her like a summer monsoon, raining everywhere before crashing upward. It appeared like it wanted to swallow him up, as it kept falling towards him before quickly pulling itself back.

His eyes widened as a stray thought passed through his mind. The hue of colors was strange, but…did it mean…? The blush…the stare…the color scheme that was somehow similar to Kakashi whenever he read those Icha Icha books of his?

"Hinata…are you…thinking of something…naughty?"

"Eep!"

Naruto watched as she slumped to the ground, her eyes still open even though she had passed out.

He blinked as the rest of team eight came running to find out what happened.

"…was that a yes?"

RRRRR

The clinking of chopsticks on ceramic bowls filled the small room. Naruto glanced across the table at Haku, who was slowly and gracefully eating her meal. He chewed on the ends of his chopsticks before reaching for some more rice.

Ever since Haku had arrived, she had made it a rule that they would have at least one meal a day that didn't involve ramen. She had gone on about how ramen 'didn't have the proper nutrients' and that Naruto was currently 'suffering from a calcium deficiency' and the like, but it all went over his head as he considered the true problem – no ramen!

Ramen was his sustenance, his manna, his reason for living. If he couldn't it have three, four, even five times a day, then what was the point? Although it was nice that Haku was asserting herself for once, saying that he had to have a proper diet. And it was great to have someone make him a home-cooked meal. The few meals he had eaten at Ichiraku's that weren't ramen were pleasant and wistful memories for him. Besides, Haku had put all this time and effort making the meals for him, and had even spent part of her salary buying various potteries, appliances, and cooking and eating utensils for them.

After all that, if he couldn't just stop being selfish and appreciate what the girl was doing for him, then he was little more than a villainous cad. What that was exactly he wasn't quite sure, but Sarutobi had used it once or twice so he figured it was bad.

His chopsticks tapped against the bottom of the bowl. He blinked when he realized he had eaten everything while in thought.

Haku looked up from her meal at the sound. "Would you like seconds, Naruto-sama?"

"Umm…sure." He handed the bowl to her, which she soon filled with rice from the rice cooker she'd recently bought, and returned it. With a smile, she returned to her food. Naruto nibbled at his rice a little more before he sighed and placed the bowl and chopsticks down. "Haku?"

"Yes? Is something wrong?"

He shook his head. "No, nothing's wrong." He paused. "Well, maybe." Another pause. "I don't know."

She placed her hands in her lap. "Could you maybe tell me? It might help."

Naruto sighed again. "Haku, am I a good ninja?"

Her brows drew together in confusion. "Naruto-sama?"

He rested his chin on a hand, his elbow on the table. "I mean, watching Kurenai-sensei's team really got me thinking. They train in spars, genjutsu, ninjutsu, and all that. Kakashi-sensei barely trains us at all. And when I watched how hard Hinata-chan and the others practice, I can't help but feel like I'm not…good enough." He stared at her, looking for a response. "Ya know?"

Haku was quiet for a couple seconds. When she returned his gaze, her eyes were serious, her mouth drawn into a tight line. "Would you like my honest opinion?"

Naruto swallowed. "Yeah."

She took a deep breath. "Your stamina and chakra reserves far outclass almost any ninja I've ever met or fought. Even Zabuza-san could hardly hold a candle to you in that aspect. Your physical strength is above average, and your aptitude with thrown weapons is normal for a genin. And you are highly unpredictable, which is crucial for a ninja. However…" Naruto involuntarily winced at the inevitable tongue-lashing he was about to receive. "Your chakra control is negligible, hardly worth anything at all. You don't plan ahead, you have no penchant for tactics despite your unexplainable victories, your taijutsu style is crude and will probably get you killed if you fight against someone who is better trained in it, and your capability with genjutsu is not worth mentioning despite your kekkai genkai. You have no variety to your ninjutsu, preferring to spam the only technique you know. You are not quick enough, not precise enough, and you rely too much on your stamina to put any effort into defense."

Naruto felt himself retreating further with every complaint levied at him. He knew he wasn't the best ninja around, Sasuke had always held that title. But he had always felt that he was at least a good ninja. But when he thought about it, what Haku had said was true. If it weren't for Sasuke saving him and the emergence of Kyuubi, he'd be the one lying in a near-death state on the bridge in Wave country.

He laughed sheepishly. "That…that bad, huh?"

"I am sorry, but that is my honest opinion of your abilities."

"Heheheeehhh…" He sighed. "I was afraid of that." He looked up at Haku. She was looking at him sternly but tenderly at the same time. He knew that, despite her being his "tool," she would always remain completely unbiased on the matter of his skill level. In fact, it would make her all the more serious in making him stronger. He mentally braced himself. Well, never let it be said that Naruto Uzumaki was a quitter or let life have the best of him! If he was weak, then he would just simply get stronger! Yeah!

He slammed his hand on the table, causing the bowls and plates to jump. "Haku! Would you…I mean, would it be alright if ya trained me? I want to become stronger, strong enough that I can always protect those close to me!"

She slipped back into her serene smile. "If that is what you wish, Naruto-sama."

"Yeah, it is! And don't go easy on me! Really put the screws ta me!"

"Very well. I will ensure that you will take your training seriously no matter how much pressure it may put on you.."

"Yup!" He grinned, certain that he could take whatever she would dish out at him.

After all, how hard could it be?

RRRRR

"Naruto-sama, please wake up."

Someone was shaking him. He waved a hand in defiance.

"Naruto-sama, it is time to begin training. Please, wake up."

He let out a groan. "Ehhhh…just five more minutes…"

"Very well."

The shaking stopped. Naruto snorted and turned over, pulling the covers further over his head. He was rudely awakened when something cold and wet was dumped on his head. Sputtering unintelligibly, he sat up, wiping away the water that dripped down his face.

"What the?!"

Looking through bleary eyes, he found Haku standing over him with an upturned bucket that still had droplets of water falling from the edges. "Haku?!"

She smiled brightly and placed the bucket on the floor. "Good morning, Naruto-sama. It is time to begin your training for the day."

Naruto groped around for his alarm clock through the twilight of dawn. "What…" He wiped his face with a hand. "What time is it?"

"Six in the morning."

"Six?!" he squawked. "Why the hell am I up so early?! Team meetings don't even happen till eight, and Kakashi-sensei doesn't even show up for another couple hours after that!"

"I first thought to wake you up at five, but I decided I should wait until later, when you have become accustomed to the schedule."

"Five?! No, wait, still…six?!"

"A ninja must always be prepared and use the most of his time for constructive purposes. Since you have team functions later this morning, and training with Kurenai-san and Hinata-kun in the afternoon, I felt that physical training would be best in the early morning."

Naruto accepted the towel Haku offered him and started to dry himself off. "But why not later tonight?"

"That time has been reserved for studying psychology, as well as a few medical pointers."

Naruto froze. Horror began to well up in the whole of his being as he heard the dreaded "S" word. "But…but what am I going to use that for?"

"As your Naitekigan deals with the mental facets of the human body, the psychology will help your ascertain more on its uses and overall construction. As for the medicine, although you do not have the control needed for a medic-nin, learning which herbs can be used for healing injuries or curing poison is always helpful, and knowing which parts of the body can be manipulated to disable your enemy is vital as well."

Naruto watched with trepidation as Haku laid out breakfast and a change of clothes for him, humming a soft tune all the while. Haku always let him have ramen for breakfast. This was not ramen. She was also dressed up in her shinobi clothing, not her customary yukata. Haku was serious in how she was going to train him, and he was going to follow her lead like a good student.

He tittered nervously as he felt his life fade away. "I'm going to regret asking you to teach me, aren't I?"

Haku smiled, that brilliant smile that spoke of so much love and affection and downright niceness. "Yes, Naruto-sama."

He was in hell.

RRRRR

"So, erm, what are we supposed to be doing here?"

Naruto cased the training grounds they were supposed to practice in. It consisted of wide open plains with a small lake taking up about a third of its area. He and Haku were currently by the deep part of the lakeside, Haku placing down a variety of objects ranging from shuriken, senbon, iron balls, and even a small straw basket. When she was sure everything was in its proper place, she turned back to and addressed Naruto.

"The first part of your training will be to increase your mobility so you will not be caught so easily in combat, and also to teach you a few new jutsu."

Naruto jumped up at the prospect of learning new techniques. "Awesome! Let's get to it then!" If this was what he could look forward to, then bring on the dearth of ramen and the unsavory (and probably painful) training!

Haku giggled at his enthusiasm. "Very well." She pulled a small slip of paper out of her gi's pocket. "Here, channel some chakra through here and we'll discover your elemental affinity."

Naruto quirked an eyebrow. "Elemental affizuhwha?

"Elemental affinity is what a shinobi has that determines what kind of elemental chakra they can use the easiest. I visited ojii-sama last night, and he gave me this special chakra that will reveal what your affinity is. Mine are water and wind thanks to my Hyouton bloodline limit, meaning that I can use water and wind jutsus much more easily than any other kind."

"So…this will tell me what kinds of jutsus I can use?" Naruto tried to reason.

"At first, but with enough training you can learn to use every type of elemental jutsu."

"All right! Then let's get started!" Naruto placed his hand on the paper slip and channeled a little bit of chakra into it. It split neatly down the middle. "Huh, what does that mean?"

"It means that you are a wind-type," Haku said, placing the used slip back in her pocket. "That is a good thing. It means I can teach you the few techniques that I already know. Though I primarily work in water jutsu, I do know a few low-level wind ones."

"Great! So, what do I learn first? Can I cut a boulder in half, or how about blowing over an entire forest?!" Naruto was salivating at the idea of what he could do.

Haku smiled. "The first thing to learn is how to walk on water."

Naruto's eyes stopped shimmering and drool stopped tricking out of the corner of his mouth. "What does that have to do with learning wind jutsu?"

"It doesn't. It has to do with you learning better chakra control."

Naruto gaped. Then…then she…He stomped his foot on the ground for good measure and shouted. "Then what was the point of me doing the whole elemen-whatever paper thing?!"

Haku raised an arm to her mouth to muffle her laugh. "For preparation. I needed to know what your affinity was so I could get ready whichever jutsu you could use. Finding out that you are a wind-type just makes it easier for me." She laughed again at Naruto's pout, her voice like the tinkling of a bell. "Oh, please do not scowl, Naruto-sama. Learning how to water-walk will only help you."

Naruto frowned and crossed his arms. "Oh really? How?"

"You already learned how to tree-walk in Wave, correct?" He rolled his eyes. How could he forget? Him passing out from exhaustion because of tree-walking was how they first met. "Water-walking is simply the next step up. By learning to do so, you will not only learn how to conquer difficult terrain when in a environment such as Water country, but it will make it all the more easy to use your jutsu since your control over them will be better."

Naruto heaved a great sigh. It wasn't like he had much of a choice in the matter. If he wanted to get better, he had to listen to Haku. After all, it had been him that asked her to train him, not the other way around. "Okay, Haku. I'll do it."

She smiled again. "Very good, Naruto-sama." She began towards the lake. "Water-walking is much more complex that tree-walking. When using chakra to stick to a tree, you are only moving on a solid surface, so you must only learn how to exude a constant amount of chakra." As she continued talking, she placed a foot on the lake's surface. Naruto watched in awe as she moved about twenty feet from the water's edge, but still seemed as composed as though she was on solid ground. "However, water is constantly moving, it never stays in one place. Because of this, you must constantly monitor your flow of chakra to match the buoyancy needed to stay afloat. This requires much more concentration and attention to detail, as expelling too much or too little chakra will always end with you sinking."

"Cool…" Naruto immediately discarded his pervious notion of this being boring. If he could walk on water then he could walk anywhere! He'd be like a frickin' spider, sticking to any surface possible! "K, let's do this! First gather chakra to the feet and…"

He took one step onto the lake…and fell right in.

"Gyaaaahhh!"

He scrambled out of the water as quickly as possible, his teeth chattering. The water was freezing! It was near the end of spring, but he could have sworn the water was like it was in the middle of winter. Over his shivering he could hear Haku's melodious laughter. He glared at her.

She covered her grin with her arm again. "I forgot to mention that I lowered the temperature of the water with my Hyouton to just above 0°C. It should act as motivation to master this lesson sooner." For the first time, Naruto noticed that there was a thin sheet of frost underneath Haku's feet that spread out about a meter or so in every direction.

He grimaced and readied himself for the next try. Unbeknownst to him, his mind was mirroring the same thought Zabuza had considered not too long ago.

She is such a sadistic little brat.

RRRRR

Night was always the worst.

Ten little ninja, dancing oh so fine. Along came a raccoon, and then there were nine.

He could never escape the dark.

Nine little ninja, standing at the gate. Along came a tiger, and then there were eight.

It chased him, hunted him down, never let him go.

Eight little ninja, singing up to heaven. Along came a turtle, and then there were seven.

No matter how hard he struggled, how much he fought back, it didn't make a difference.

Seven little ninja, making candle wicks. Along came a monkey, and then there were six.

The darkness swallowed him up, laughing in cruel, maddening joy at his plummet into the unknown.

Six little ninja, collecting honey from a hive. Along came a horse, and then there were five.

At least during the day he could escape the stares, the hate, the unrivaled loathing that followed him everywhere.

Five little ninja, watching the rain pour. Along came a slug, and then there were four.

But not during the night. The night always brought things back and forced him to relive it all.

Four little ninja, hiding in a tree. Along came a beetle, and then there were three.

All those people that lost those dear to them, all those that suffered on the whim of a demon.

Three little ninja, wondering what to do. Along came an ox, and then there were two.

And he knew why. It was hard not to when he saw it every time he closed his eyes.

Two little ninja, no longer having fun. Along came a great fox, and then there was one.

The visage of the beast glowering at him.

One little ninja, looking for his home. No matter where you go, little nin, you'll always be alone.

Naruto woke with a start, sweat pouring down his face. A nightmare…only a nightmare. That's all it was…really.

A wave of nausea struck him, and he scrambled away from his futon on the floor and towards the bathroom, slamming the door open without care for who it woke. He dunked his head in the toilet not a moment too soon as he emptied the contents of his stomach. He coughed violent as the bile burned its way up and down his esophagus.

Spitting out what was left in his mouth, he flushed the toilet. Standing up, Naruto stumbled to the sink, flipping the water on. He gathered a handful and gargled his mouth, trying to clean it of that disgusting taste. He repeated the motion until he was sure it was all gone and then turned the faucet back off.

He coughed again, wiping his mouth with a sleeve, and looked in the mirror. His face was haggard, spittle hanging from his lips. He furiously wiped at his mouth again to rid it of the drool. He sighed again and hung his head in thought.

It had been a while since he'd had those dreams. They'd plagued him all the time when he was little, being hated by the village folk without knowing why. He cried himself to sleep, and woke up crying almost every night. After a while, he had grown tired of it all, and just stopped. He just stopped crying; it was doing him no good and wasn't helping any, so he stopped.

The nightmares had ceased soon after that.

But now…now they were coming back with a vengeance. Perhaps not as hard or as frequently as when he was young, but they were clearer now and hurt even more because of that.

That song…It was a children's poem sung by ninja – "The Ten Little Ninja." At first it just seemed a bit creepy, but it was suitable for introducing early on the dangers of being a ninja. But now…Naruto knew the true meaning of the song, why it echoed deep within his heart, and why it continued to exist despite being centuries old.

Bijuu and the jinchuuriki.

He rubbed his face with a balled-up fist. The reason that song had come to mind was all thanks to his Naitekigan. He had come to use it to look at various people and how their Flows differed from each other. When he was in Wave, the people had such a rich variety of colors and hues and shapes. Naruto wanted to see if the same held true for those in Konoha.

What awaited him was worse than any punch or kick in the gut had ever been. The Flows seemed normal at first, but as soon as he had caught the villagers' attentions, everything had gone all wrong.

A dark mixture of ebony and crimson. That was what greeted him with every face turned his way. He didn't need to know much about psychology or whatever to know what it meant – pure, unadulterated hatred.

It was one thing to know that most of Konoha hated him; it was another thing completely to see their resentment.

Dark, rich, and all-consuming.

He chuckled bitterly as he made his way back to his futon. He wasn't surprised to see Haku up and looking at him from her bed, her eyes filled with concern. "Is there something wrong, Naruto-sama?"

He looked at her. Naruto still hadn't revealed his secret of being the human container of the Kyuubi no Kitsune to Haku, even after all the time spent with her. He was still afraid, still so uncertain as to how she would react. Would she hate him? Fear him? Would she run away after discovering just who and what he was?

…no, Haku wouldn't do that. Haku would understand. Haku would know who he was, not who he held inside him.

Naruto gripped the ends of his sleeves. "Actually," he started, his voice low. "There is something I want to tell you."

Haku shifted so that she was facing him, her legs still underneath the sheets. "What is it?"

"Promise me you'll listen to me all the way through before you say anything?" His tone was cautious, hopeful, vulnerable.

"Of course."

"Okay, well, it's like this…" He cursed himself for not sounding stronger, not resolute enough, but went on.

He told Haku everything. About how the Kyuubi had attacked Konoha, about how the Yondaime had sacrificed his life to defeat it, about how Sarutobi had made a law forbidding the citizens of Konoha to reveal the sealing, about how the citizens still hated him regardless – shunned him, ignored him, erased his existence…everything.

"So…I'm not the Kyuubi, but it's still inside me, and…and…" He let out a shuddering breath, his will depleted. He had put all that he was into that speech, and he could only hope it wouldn't end in disaster.

He wanted – no – needed her to accept him.

Haku said nothing. Her expression had not changed from its peaceful state the entire time Naruto had talked. As he waited with bated breath, she simply smiled at him – that same eternal smile.

"There is no need to worry, Naruto-sama. You are you, and no demon or entity can make me think otherwise. I will always follow you, regardless of what others will think or believe, even into the very depths of hell itself." She took his slightly shaking hands into her own. "Please do not ever think I will ever doubt you. You are my master, and I will believe in you always."

Naruto's mouth cracked open, canines slipping through as he chortled brokenly. "Thank…thank you, Haku."

"You are very welcome, Naruto-sama." With that, she slipped back into bed, falling into slumber.

Naruto regarded her silently before he slipped back into his own futon. His mouth, however, had melted into a grim frown. The rings spun lazily through his eyes, swirling like a whirlpool.

He had watched her. Not once had her Flow changed. He expected at least surprise or disbelief or…something to show up in her emotional rainbow, but there was no break or confusion. Her Flow had stayed the way it had always been – a sapphire blue that curled around and fell through. Not the tiniest change in colors, not even when she comforted him.

Blue, always forever blue.

She had accepted him, but the declaration had felt empty, unreal.

Hollow.

Naruto closed his eyes.

The night dragged on.

A/N: And that's the end of chapter 3. Been a while, but I finally got this done. On a side note, I revised chapters 1 and 2 to take away the silliness and make it more serious. The more I thought about this fic, the more I realized Naruto's power would make this plot more dramatic than funny. Speaking of which, yes, it has now been revealed – the Naitekigan, able to see emotions. An odd matching with Naruto, yes? Anyway, you've begun to see the fleshed-out relationships between the characters as well as the problems they invariably have. Not everything is as nice as it seems…

Oh yeah, and the harem members have been decided! But I'm not gonna say who…Nyeh! …okay, maybe one hint. Three real members and one fake. Whoever shall it be? I'll say this, the fake harem member will…No more! Figure it out on your own! In any case, Please Review, and remember, no flames!

Next Chapter – Of Wood and Iron