Disclaimer: Naruto is an ongoing manga and anime that I clearly do not own. This story is written without permission for fan-purposes only.
Naruto twisted sideways as Hinata's hand passed his arm by mere centimetres. .
She could be devilishly quick, and sparing against her was always a challenge. She knew all his moves, and he hers. It made their spars a stage of 'improvements', in other words improvisation. It really showed in their fighting skills as well. Naruto had, since they started sparing, adopted more and more elaborate dodging techniques, throwing himself around like mad to avoid being struck.
Hinata on the other hand, had incorporated a very subtle twist on her original Juken style. It could only be described as 'dirty'. Her gentle flowing style would quickly turn into sharp jab with her elbow, or even a knee to the groin (something Naruto had become particularly weary of).
Twisting low, to get into Hinata's backward elbow, Naruto tried to get behind her back, so to subdue her. He was rewarded with Hinata backing into him full force, with a dosage of chakra, just to seal the deal.
He ended up on his rear, with Hinata's glowing finger pointed directly at his nose. His gaze followed the arm and up to her face. She was huffing a bit, but a satisfied smile was plastered on her face.
"This one is yours then?" he asked teasingly.
With a final huff, Hinata released her stance hand helped him up. "It is, do you remember what the prize was?"
Naruto did, and he was dreading that. It was the making of the dinner. In truth, it wasn't the worst thing he could have been stuck with.
But then "…and remember that Jiraiya-sama is coming to visit."
That changed everything. It was amazing how much the taste buds changed after a reincarnation. It also meant that Naruto had to go bug hunting, and preparing two different meals. He still wasn't forgiven for the first time he had toads over for dinner, and they had a surprise visit from Hiashi-sama. It was the last time he would be lazy with the cooking.
Never before had he seen a Hyuga loose face like that (including colour), and not forgetting the lecture he'd gotten some days later about not feeding his daughter right. Not surprisingly, the rumours were flying after that….
The sun was just peaking over the mountains when Hinata arrived at the street corner where her team had agreed to meet.
She was the first to arrive, just like the day before.
She felt unusually tired this morning, having had a somewhat dramatic evening the day before. It had been a long time since she had felt excitement like that, or terror, which she had mistaken it for.
She wasn't proud of what she had done, but after having settled down, and come to terms with her first near discovery, she had managed to convince herself that it wasn't the right time to come clean after all. Not until she could manage a whole sentence while thinking about it anyway.
She knew that it made her a coward, but that was nothing new. She'd been at the academy for nearly a year, and she hadn't even dared to raise her hand when there was something she wasn't sure about.
With that, she tried to think of something else. It was easy for her to get lost in thoughts of her own short comings, and it never lead to anything good. So with that in mind, she tried to distract herself by examining her surroundings.
The only building that was near was one under construction, with scaffoldings made of bamboo covering the outer walls. The whole first floor had been finished, and partially the walls on the second floor. There were no doors, nor windows, which caused the fresh morning light to darken the shadows. As the builders had yet to arrive, the place lay silent. The overall feel of the place became a bit too spooky for Hinata's liking.
Feeling her hand raise itself to her lip, Hinata forced the scary thoughts away. It was bad enough being useless in Juken, it would kill her father if he found out she was still a bit frightened of the dark.
She wasn't afraid of monsters like she had been when she was younger; the overnight excursions out in the woods during the academy had cured that fear (in a not too gentle way). No, what unnerved her was a more potential and real threat of enemy shinobi, which had taken on the role as bogymen in her nightmares.
It was the remnants of the kidnapping attempt made on her when she was younger that still haunted her. She had been placed in a genjutsu when it happened, so she didn't really experience any of it, but the end result had been the death of her uncle, which was real enough.
She had been such an easy target, not only was she incapable of defending herself, her incompetence had caused a tragedy which still pained both her father and her cousin more than anyone of them would admit…not that she dared to ask them about it.
Thinking it better to be safe than sorry, she activated her Byakugan, and looked around inside the building. With her dojutsu active, there was no dark, no colour, and no place for people to hide. It was actually rather peaceful once one got over the feeling of vertigo that having a 180 degree vision angle caused.
"Is there someone hiding inside?" a reserved voice asked from behind her.
Shino's sudden appearance startled Hinata enough that automatically deactivated her Byakugan, and let out a surprised yelp, which came out as more of an "Eeep!"
She had been so focused on the building in front of her, that she hadn't even noticed that her team-mate had walked up beside her.
Turning around slowly, keeping her eyes firmly focused at the ground, she answered him, with a barely audible "…no…Good morning…Shino-kun."
"Good morning Hinata."
Shino stood there for a few seconds before he nodded and stationed himself with his back against the fence.
Hinata still wasn't used to Shino's natural aura of silence, so her first thought was that he had simply dismissed her. On their first day, Hinata was afraid she might have offended him, but Shino had never been very talkative. Being placed on the same team as him, she was just now starting getting used to how little he actually said.
The first day, she had become so unfocused, trying to find out what she'd done to offend him, without offending him more, that their sensei had easily noticed and taken it upon her self to unravel the misunderstandings.
Kurenai had explained their situations to both of them, and made sure that Shino understood that Hinata's constant apologizing was because she thought Shino was angry at her. This had caused Hinata to blush madly, and Shino's eyebrows to actually rise in surprise.
She had then explained to Hinata that Shino wasn't angry at her at all, he just didn't talk much, which Shino nodded his agreement to. Hinata's following apologies for making the mistake was enough to have Kiba burst out laughing.
As her fingers started to press themselves against each other, as was her nervous habit, but she decided to try to strike up a conversation with Shino anyway. She wanted to get to know him better after all.
"Anou…may I…ask you a question?" she tried, and was painfully aware of how scared she sounded. It wasn't just the thought of offending him that made her voice quiver; she was also worried about her lack of social skills. Not the formal ones, that required her to bow a lot and keep quiet until spoken to, but those that seemed to come so natural to everyone else.
Shino looked at her for a moment before he nodded, making Hinata fight her own self doubt while it lasted.
Forcing herself not to further explain that he didn't need to answer, she asked, "Do…do you have any…hobbies?"
The question didn't sound all that invasive now that she had said it, but still, she held her breath.
Shino took a moment before he answered her with a simple "…Yes."
It wasn't exactly what Hinata had in mind, as it wasn't much of a conversation starter. She must have been fiddling again, because he started talking.
"I collect and study insects in my spare time."
"…Anou…how long have you…collected insects?" Hinata tried, as she didn't want to loose the conversation, even if it wasn't the most original of questions.
"…Since I was six. It is the norm among my clan, so we will be better able to improve ourselves and our colonies."
His last statement made Hinata bite her own lip hesitantly. She was unable to read anything from Shino in terms of emotion or feelings about the issue. Was he telling her that he didn't consider it a hobby, and merely did it to please his clan? Or did he mean that he liked doing it, so he could contribute to his clan?
Luckily, the mismatched conversation was interrupted when the bark of a familiar puppy sounded in the morning air. The noise was immediately followed by the appearance of an excited Akamaru, as he ran over to Hinata wanting to get the girl to cuddle him (which he had discovered was an easy task the day before).
The stumbling figure of Kiba appeared from around the same corner, looking so tired that Hinata wouldn't have been surprised at all if he were to fall asleep right there. "Morning," he managed to grunt out as a greeting.
"Good morning Kiba-san, Akamaru-san," greeted Hinata as politely as she could manage, even giving a small bow.
Following Hinata's example, Shino also greeted their team-mate, only with a nod.
"What's with the 'san'? Makes me feel old," commented Kiba in a voice that betrayed his apparent tiredness.
Thinking that she might have stepped out of line with the formalities, which she automatically used out of habit on anyone that looked tired, Hinata wasted no time before apologising. "Gomen…Kiba-kun, gomennasai!"
Kiba looked at her with an expression that seemed lost, before he shrugged and dismissed whatever Hinata had apologised for, "No worries, so what do you guys think we'll be doing today?"
"Training, a mission and lunch," was the stoic answer he got from Shino.
"You could at least try to be happy that were finally real ninja," Kiba resorted with a scowl.
Shino just looked at him, and a trained eye would have noticed that one of his eyebrows moved a bit, before it stayed perfectly still. The apparent lack of a response however, was enough to irritate the already grumpy Kiba.
"Stop acting so uncaring! And you don't know for certain what we're going to do today!"
"He's right though," said Kurenai as she suddenly stood amongst them, as if she had always been there.
Kiba barked out in surprise at her sudden appearance "Gah! Don't scare me like that sensei!"
He was so shocked by her appearance, that he let both the tiredness and his tough-guy attitude drop.
Hinata had also gasped at their sensei's sudden arrival, but Shino had barely reacted. That is, to those who knew Shino well, or was good at reading body posture, would have discovered that he was actually rather shocked to have someone sneak up on them like that, but to every one else, he was as calm as ever. The only sign of agitation was that he had pushed his back away from the wall.
"Just as Shino said," continued Kurenai after giving Kiba a friendly smirk, "we'll do training first. Let's start warming up, running from here to training area fourteen. It's not too far from the gate so it won't wear you out too much, but by the time where finished, you will be."
The genin just stared at her for a few seconds, as they all found it rather surprising how eager the Jônin was to start their training. She hadn't seemed like this much of a morning person the day before.
After a moment, where there was no indication that the genin would start moving, Kurenai added, "Well? Are you going to start today?"
At that, the genin scrambled hurriedly away, before they started to run properly.
Kurenai sighed happily as she watched her genin running as fast as their feet would carry them towards training area fourteen. Her first team assignment as a Jônin sensei was steadily growing on her.
She waited until her students were out of sight before she made for the training area herself. She had read a book on teaching, and it always paid to impress in the beginning. It would make the students more interested in what she said and respect their teacher more.
It wasn't long before she passed the genin, but she was careful to do so unnoticed. She made sure that she kept herself upwind, and had been careful to remove Shino's beetles from the day before. She had also made sure that her contact with him today, hadn't left enough time for him to replace them.
Even though they couldn't see her as she passed by, she got a good look at them. Kiba was leading, which didn't surprise her. The Inuzuka clan based everything they did off canines, and that included their speed.
Kiba was probably the noisiest genin she had ever encountered. He was always cocky and way too sure of himself, but he was a good boy and his enthusiasm was delightful to work with. If she managed to get him to focus, he had potential to go far.
On a close second was Shino. The Aburame acted much like any grown-up member of his clan, silent and observing. They weren't a bad lot, but the nature of their clan jutsu made for little interaction with outsiders. This often made them a bit awkward with normal conversation, and they usually came of as being overly focused on facts and precision.
Shino was no exception in his social skills, but it hadn't taken long for Kurenai to see through this trait and see the boy beneath. He had a good heart, and yesterday he had really tried to get to know his team better, even though it had seemed as if his sole intent was to gather necessary facts.
The last one was none other than Hyuga Hinata. Kurenai remembered the girl from the time she walked the girl to the academy. It had just been couple of D-rank mission to get back on her feet after a rather hazardous B-rank.
In retrospect, it was a task anyone could have done, and the Hyuga clan wasn't short of manpower to do it themselves. It shamed her that it had taken more than an hour to deduce it to be something as simple as a message.
To Hinata they said, 'We won't hold your hand among strangers,' and to anyone else they said, 'She is protected.'
It wasn't a cruel thing to do, but Yuuhi Kurenai was convinced that it would have been far simpler to just tell the girl instead of making her guess.
The girl had been silent the whole time when they walked to the academy that day, but her body language had been so easily read, that it had taken a mere moment to determine that it wasn't unwillingness to talk with outsiders that kept her silent, like some elite clan children would do, but simple, and natural nervousness.
It was such a natural trait, that if felt utterly unnatural for a child in Hinata's position to display it. It was actually a bit silly when one thought about it. The girl came from one of the richest and most elite clans in the village, living along side several shinobi masters, and she felt nervous in the company of a simple chuunin.
She was timid and shy, and Kurenai didn't fault her. Hiashi-sama's loud comment before they left had been both unnecessary and hurtful, and at the time, it had served to make Kurenai angry enough to actually go out drinking the following night…with Anko…who had felt it appropriate to break into a sandal maker's store and nail random pairs to the ground.
It had actually taken her over a week to crack the code of that particular episode, and her anger drifted over to something akin to bafflement and irritation. Hiashi wasn't tired of his eldest daughter…he was just terrible at raising children. What he had failed to see, was that his daughter was her own person, and whatever he'd manage to do when he was her age didn't mean that she would be able to match.
His use of reverse-psychology was also poorly timed to the extreme, so much that even Anko would have done a better job. And Anko was a woman who timed her daily schedule around dango and whatever whim she cared for that particular week.
Realising that her thoughts only served to make her angry and disappointed, Kurenai dispelled them from her mind.
Instead, she thought about what she had seen during the team assignment. Hinata was just as timid and shy as she had been when they first met, but the nervous fiddling, combined with her fixed stare when she walked to the front of the classroom hinted that there maybe were now someone she was interested in.
Also, her momentarily hesitation at the door, combined with the rose red blush afterwards told Kurenai that whoever she had a crush on (and that was what it was) was still in the classroom when they left, which narrowed the possible targets to seven boys. Not that Kurenai would admit to have counted.
Being the denying romantic that she was, Yuuhi Kurenai had already set a personal goal to find out who it was Hinata had become sweet on. If only to make sure it didn't interfere with the girl's training and activities as a shinobi of course (at least, that was what she told herself whenever she felt like giggling like a little school girl).
When Hinata reached the training area, both Shino and Kiba were waiting for her. The fact that she was last didn't surprise her, and she was prepared for any scolding that might come her way. She wasn't sure that she would get one, as Kurenai had yet to criticise anything she'd done, except the frequent apologizing on the first day.
Realizing that Kurenai was actually there as well, before she'd even arrived, was enough to make her miss the obvious exhaustion that Kiba displayed openly, and Shino did his utmost to hide.
"Ok, team eight, time to do some taijutsu practice," Kurenai ordered with what could have been considered sickening optimism under those circumstances. "You're not going to actually fight, so no solid hits, clear? I want you to get a 'feel' on the flow of you're comrades fighting style."
Yesterday, they had tested their endurance, so their sensei would know just how much they could do, before they were ready to drop. Not surprisingly, Hinata had come last there too.
Kurenai didn't give her time to dwell on it as she continued. "Now, to do this, we'll move slower than what you would normally do in a spar, but fast enough to get past you're opponents guard."
After that, she put Shino and Kiba to spar, while she herself tested Hinata.
Hinata was not as fluid as most Hyuga that Kurenai had observed, but she did have a knack for blocking incoming strikes. Having been stationed as a guard for the clan, Kurenai was also aware, to some extent, of the different levels of proficiency and somewhat of the styles that was to be had with Juken.
Hinata clearly favoured to use her entire palm when fighting, and if she had used chakura, the wide spread of the attack would probably have an easier time blocking her chakra, than actually damaging anything.
It was the style used whenever non lethal force was intended, and was often the favoured style when there was a spar. The only other style she had clearly observed was when the attacker used only their fingertips when advancing, which supposedly sharpened the strikes and could easily deal lethal damage if necessary.
The later one was both faster and more dynamic than the one Hinata used. Even so, with the safer and slower style, Hinata made up for it in timing. Kurenai didn't use any real speed in her attacks, but even so, for Hinata to time her defence almost as flawlessly as she did must have taken a lot of practise.
She never actually blocked an attack, but instead used whatever limb closest to the attack, to knock it away from its original target. It made her movements rather erratic, as she sped up to block and slowed down to attack. That along with the original movements of the opponent, that she never really stopped but forced to miss her, made her taijutsu very strong defensively.
With that in mind, Kurenai stopped her assault, and stepped back, intending to guide the girl into attacking her, so she could judge her offence.
It came as a surprise when Hinata didn't follow. Rather than following, she stepped back with a confused look on her face.
"What's wrong Hinata?" asked Kurenai, as she noted that the girl was unsure if she should step out of the combat stance or not.
"Anou…were we not supposed to stop?" Hinata asked hesitantly.
"No, It's you're turn to attack," answered Kurenai with what she hoped was a neutral voice.
Hinata hesitate a moment before she nodded to signal that she was ready again, and launched herself into an attack pattern. Kurenai had a clear view of the girl's eyes when she did this, and even without visible pupils, she was surprisingly easy to read. She was uncertain and self-scolding, as if she'd done something wrong and expected to answer for it. She didn't have time to think about it for long though, as Hinata attacked.
From the first strike, Kurenai saw a problem. Hinata's attacks were precise, but there was really no timing at all this time around. She launched blow after blow, but not one came even close to connect with Kurenai, and she was going easy on the girl.
There was just no will behind them. No plan, no sense of purpose, just a predictable pattern of repeated attacks that she must have memorized. It was with an internal sigh that Kurenai blocked the girls attack, grabbed her arm and forced her to the ground by using it as leverage.
"You have a good defence Hinata, but I see we'll have to work on you're attacks."
"…hai…sensei" was the quiet response she got.
"Don't sound so disappointed Hinata, you did very well, and you've only just now become a genin."
"G-Gomen! Kurenai-sensei!" Hinata blurt out so fast and apologetic, that Kurenai instantly realized that there had been another misunderstanding. Hinata wasn't disappointed just because she felt herself inadequate, but also because she thought that Kurenai was disappointed in her performance.
The boys had stopped their spar, and it looked like Kiba had gotten the worst of it. His clothes were dirty and he was breathing harder now than before. Kurenai didn't think he was actually tired, but the speed oriented fighting style of the Inuzuka would be much more taxing than he more standard academy version (which was designed to be bent and moulded to one's own liking) that Shino seemed to favour.
Looking over her students, Kurenai decided that they could use five minutes to devour what they had learnt before switching.
"Ok, we'll take five, and let me tell you more about you're situation. I realize I might not have been all clear when I told you that only thirty percent of you're class would go on to pass the test to become genin."
It had been clear that little of the actual situation had been explained to them, which was designed as such to give the Jônin an extra edge when testing their students. Hearing the truth would allow the more impatient members of her team to stay calm for a few minutes, even if they didn't want to.
"What I meant was, that only thirty percent would go on to become active genins in training. All of you're old classmates has passed to become genin, but only nine of you was to be put under the guidance of a Jônin-sensei, so as to advance you're training further than the rest."
At that Kiba reacted, "But you said that if we didn't pass, we would be sent back to the academy!"
"And if you wanted to be put under the tutelage of a Jônin-sensei, you would have to," Kurenai went on without pause. "Most of Konoha's population are graduated genin, even if they have other careers today. They are everywhere. Administration, diplomats, traders, shop attendants…everywhere. Most don't bother continuing their training, and settles down for something else. Those that don't give up the hope of becoming a shinobi goes back to the academy to pass the exams again, so they can get another shot at being on a team."
It was a bit strange for Kurenai to observe Hinata and Kiba's faces as they absorbed this clearly new knowledge. The academy didn't seem to have deemed it important to tell their students that other career paths were open to them, even if they didn't manage to pass the tests of the Jônin.
They probably thought Jônin's would take it upon themselves to inform the various teams if they failed, which she would have, but she doubted Sarutobi Asuma or Hatake Kakashi (the other Jônins who'd passed a team that year) would have done so.
She talked a bit more about these simple facts, until they seemed ready to start again. There was to be two more of these pauses, before she was to take them on another D-rank mission, which probably seemed much more exciting for those student's that didn't belong to a financially sound clan like every one of her students did.
After the mission had succeeded in dirtying their clothes, Kurenai wanted to continue to evaluate their progress.
"Now that are done with the obligatory tasks of the day, we'll continue where we left of earlier."
"Yoshi! Another spar! We'll do better this time, right Akamaru?" Kiba announced loudly.
"Not so, now we'll test you're chakra control."
Kiba was the only one that gave her a blank stare in return, which was a good sign. Luckily he didn't object, proof that the energetic Inuzuka was for all his impatient nature, a fast learner.
"This will only take a second, so you don't need to look so startled Kiba. I only want to see you demonstrate you're favourite chakra control exercise. We'll work together from there."
If anything, Kiba's face paled at that, which left Kurenai to wonder why.
Shino was the first to demonstrate his choice, and Kurenai was impressed to see the boy walk directly up the trunk of a tree. It was not often genin, fresh from the academy, had enough control to manipulate the chakra under their feet. His stride was steady and paced fast enough to demonstrate both chakra control and leg strength. Done enough, it would probably work as a double work out.
Hinata, who only fiddled a little, also took a couple of shaky steps up the same trunk before she too quickened her stride. Her pace was faster than Shino, but even so, she looked as if she had a harder time of it than the boy. From her body language, Kurenai read that the girl had to work much harder to place one foot over the other and still retain a grip on the tree, to the point of it looking like a struggle.
To Kurenai's trained eye, she was easily able to see that it wasn't her control that was the problem, but rather a shaky confidence. Oh, the girl probably had more than enough chakra and her control was excellent, but she was just so focused on not falling, that she had trouble with the dynamic increase and decreasing of chakra that was necessary for a steady stride.
As her only female student reached the branch, which Shino had made the unofficial goal, her attention drifted onto her last genin, but the look of utter defeat on Kiba's face made her hesitate for a moment. She had only really known Kiba for a couple of days, but she had never seen him look this unsure of himself…or even been able to imagine it.
"Kiba? What's wrong?"
Her voice actually made him flinch. He looked like a kicked puppy.
"Sensei…I can't do that," he muttered with a small voice, clearly uncomfortable to admit a weakness to his new team.
"That's alright Kiba, we're only looking at the chakra control, not the exercise. Just demonstrate one of the chakra exercises you know."
"…I don't know any…" was all he said, and Kurenai got the impression of a puppy who had just been scolded, but not from the one that was whining in sympathy on the boy's head.
"Now, I know that's not true," she stated in a firm, motherly voice, bringing Kiba's focus back on her. If he didn't know how wrong he was with his statement, she saw it as her duty to correct him.
"I know for a fact that Inuzuka track by scent, and I also know that you do the same."
"And how are you able to enhance your senses to do that?"
"It's an open secret Kiba, doesn't mean anyone can do it anyway."
"…We channel chakra to our noses?"
"Correct, and what happen if you channel too much?"
"We get a nosebleed?"
"Again you are right. You hurt yourself when you do that. Now what does that tell you?"
Kurenai actually heard Hinata gasp from her position in the tree, while the genin that she was actually trying to explain the concept to was still working on the answer. She guessed that Hinata didn't like the thought of blood, which would be a huge disadvantage in the shinobi trade, or that she was just uncomfortable with Kiba smelling her with super senses, which would be more natural for a girl her age.
Anyway, it was things that she would see to later.
Hinata was shocked, and a bit horrified to discover just how Naruto had spotted her the day before.
He had smelled her!
It was bad enough to be self conscious about her looks (like any female, of any age), but she had been to the animal pens yesterday, and she knew that she must have reeked.
She missed the rest of the explanation, as her mind was filling up with the horrible possibilities that would come from this. Naruto would know it was her the next time they met, or worse, he already knew.
This made her decision to tell him even harder. He would know before she said it. What if he accused her before she could confess her guilt? What would he think? She was uncomfortably aware that her panic was steadily beginning to show on her face.
Taking a deep breath, she decided that she needed help. If she were to tell Naruto about her wrong doing, she needed to tell him before he found out on his own.
She didn't think he would start yelling at her, as Naruto never seemed to want to be alone, or care if someone pulled a prank on him, but he might be disappointed in her going behind his back like she had done.
To do that, she'd need to ask her sensei about what could be done to counter this technique, so she waited. She waited until her sensei was finished talking with Kiba, and he was preoccupied with his exercise before she even dared approach her sensei.
She had walked down the trunk and was halfway to their sensei, before her courage broke. She couldn't do this. What was she going to say?
Luckily, or unluckily as Hinata saw it at the time, Kurenai noticed Hinata's approach and deduced that she wanted to ask her about something.
"Do you have a question, Hinata?"
Caught in the open, Hinata couldn't do anything but nod stiffly (if a bit hesitantly and trembling). "H-Hai…Kurenai-sensei."
Kurenai didn't press her further, but her smile welcomed the question. It was probably the only thing that enabled Hinata to continue. "Anou…I just…just wanted to know if…if there was a way to…hide you're scent?"
As soon as the question was out, Kiba's shoulder stiffened. But before he had time to say anything, or for Hinata to panic, thinking she'd done something wrong, Kurenaitook it upon herself to defuse the situation.
"Don't take it personally Kiba. It is only natural for girls to worry about such things, and whatever else, your family's jutsu is invading peoples personal space, so to speak."
Hinata, feeling mortified about having insulted her team-mate opened her mouth to apologise, but she was interrupted as well. "And don't feel bad about asking that question Hinata, as I was going to teach you about that anyway. We're going to be a recon team, and as such, we will work primarily on hiding and scouting. Besides, Kiba isn't insulted because he thinks you don't approve of his technique, just surprised over a possible weakness."
It wasn't exactly the reason why Hinata had asked the question. Well, not entirely why. Truth be told, she had completely forgotten how the question would seem directed against Kiba, and the realization that it could be seen as an insult, mortified her. Neither was she completely convinced that her sensei had been entirely correct about why Kiba reacted, even if he seemed to take the explanation in stride.
Not wanting to disobey her new sensei, she didn't apologize, but her expression was easily enough read, that Kiba picked up on it and took it upon himself to fix things.
"Don't worry about it Hinata. Sensei's right, besides, it'll be cool to be able to fool my sister with that kind of technique."
"…I meant no offence…sorry Kiba-kun."
Kurenai sighed as Hinata's instinct overruled her own instruction, which again caused Hinata to blush at the realization of her so-called disobedience.
Before Hinata had time to fuss any further, Kurenai launched into another lecture, this time about how to suppress scent. It was only a matter of time before Hinata fell into the whole team concept, and Kurenai thought it best to just take things as they came until that time.
"Suppressing ones odour isn't as difficult as one is led to believe. Or at least the theoretical part isn't. Kiba, can you tell us what it is you do when you track someone by scent?"
Kiba looked like a caught deer when Kurenai asked the question. Hinata knew that Kiba wasn't the most attentive student, and that he didn't like to speak up when in class. Even so, with only a smile, Kurenai got him talking, hesitantly at first, but it soon evolved into confidence. "Well…smell, you know…its like, a part of the body…you know? Like, no one smells the same, right? Mom says it's these, very small pieces of skin, like dandruff, but even smaller, and that is what you smell when tracking someone…"
Kurenai smiled approvingly. "Very good Kiba, that's almost right. What you smell is part of the body, or object which you seek to track. What it actually is, is molecules which evaporate off the object in question."
Kiba looked a bit embarrassed that his sensei seemed to know more than him on the subject, so Kurenai wasted little time fixing it. "I spent a month with your mother during a tracking mission. By the time it was over, I'd probably learned more about tracking than any ANBU training would be able to provide. So in retrospect, you are all learning this, second hand, from Inuzuka Tsume, your mother."
Taking a second to savour the priceless look that crossed Kiba's face, Kurenai waited a bit before she asked, "Now, with that information, what can be done to stop this from happening?"
Hinata was unsure if Kurenai asked the question to the group in general, or just too Kiba, but it was Shino who answered. "Stop the molecules from spreading?"
Kurenai didn't miss a beat when the silent Aburame answered, which made Hinata all the more aware that she had jumped a little at the sound of his voice.
"Very good Shino, now, do anyone know how this might be done? I'd like to point out that you have all the pieces you'll need to answer that question. No Kiba, it's not something you learnt in class", Kurenai broke off as Kiba started to raise his hand, "All the pieces have been provided today."
After Kurenai said that, there was silence. Shino didn't answer, so he probably didn't know. Kiba made a show of thinking about this, even asking Akamaru. Hinata didn't know, but as their sensei said, they'd gotten all they needed to deduce the answer, so she got to work.
She thought about Kurenai sensei's lecture, turned Kiba's lecture, turned back to Kurenai sensei's a moment ago. She said that humans continuously gave away molecules, which was used by trackers to locate their target, but what about other things? Did they give away molecules as well? They probably had to if that was how smell worked. Was it the same concept? Even so, how could they stop it?
Kurenai's smile seemed to become even bigger as Hinata and the others thought it over, only twitching whenever Kiba sighed and said he gave up. But he started up again whenever she raised her eyebrow at his claim of it being too difficult.
As Hinata thought about what clues they'd been given on how to counter this, she came up with exactly nothing. Whatever Kurenai-sensei had said, there was little that could be applied to this situation in anyway that Hinata could think off.
Her thoughts were jolted as Shino asked an unexpected question. "Are we to assume that however it should be done, it is to keep the targets signature smell from reaching an eventual tracker?"
Kurenai just kept smiling whilst she nodded in approval. She was evidently enjoying the sight of the genin's struggle to find the answer.
Shino continued, "But not by the use of conventional means like staying downwind."
It was a statement, even if it could have been seen as fishing for the right answer. Kurenai nodded before she answered.
"Our missions could be to infiltrate enemy lines, and a shift in the wind can be very hard to predict, and disastrous behind enemy lines."
So one was too keep whatever they gave away, from falling off their body, be it skin-cells, dirt or molecules. The only thing Hinata could relate this to was the tree walking exercise, in which they…created a magnetic pull between themselves and the tree… so they would…stick to…it.
It was such a far fetched idea, that Hinata would never have subjected it to her team, but again Kurenai read her like an open book.
"Hinata, would you like to share what you have discovered with the rest of the team?"
Hinata both hated and loved being put on the spot like this. She hated it because it made her leave her comfort zone, and loved it because it forced her to change, even if it was just a little. "…anou…if, I mean…what if…one used chakra to…like t-the tree w-walking exercise…but not just…but everywhere…?"
Hinata could have kicked herself for how many times her voice broke. Looking at her team, she noted that Kiba looked confused, and Shino looked…like Shino, but somehow he looked like an approving Shino. Kurenai on the other hand had the most beaming grin Hinata had ever seen on her sensei's face.
"That's exactly right Hinata, if a bit simplified. When you use the concept from the tree-walking exercise, and modify it to cover your entire body, you'll effectively become a magnet of a sort. It's hard, and takes some extremely delicate control to only attract so tiny substances over such a large area, but you'll effectively shut away any molecules that can be used to track you down."
Hinata's cheeks flushed with the compliment as she listened intently to what her sensei was saying. She wasn't used to getting compliments like this, and it both embarrassed her and warmed her to the core at the same time. Not to mention, if she could learn this, she could apologise to Naruto, without him realizing what she'd done before she got to tell him herself.
Kurenai continued speaking, "that being said, it is also very, very difficult to learn. Most chuunin are unable to do it, and not all Jônins can do it either. But I know that you all have the potential to become experts with this technique, because it is demanded of us.
The daily goings for most chuunin was very little like what genins imagined it to be. The traditional surprise of what D-rank mission consisted of had long since past for those of chuunin rank, but that didn't mean that they were finished with them. This also seemed to be the story of Kamizuki Izumo and Hagane Kotetsu's life. They were both chuunin, had been since they were both nineteen years old (now twenty-five), but their life of adventure had yet to start.
The only real achievement they had, other than making chuunin, which some people would consider a monumental achievement in itself, was that together they held the village record in most completed D-rank missions ever recorded. A stunning number of 983 missions each. This however did nothing to help them overcome the overall monotone which haunted these types of missions.
That was why they had gone to great lengths to acquire the most potentially dangerous, most important mission, with an overall risk factor so high, it would at times be classified as a C-rank. They were going to guard the village gate.
The high risk D-rank was not enough to erase overall monotone however, and they'd adopted the traditional position of being slumped over the desk. The only reason why the mission was now classified as a D-rank, was the fact that it was the slow season for trade and workers from outside the village.
It was a by product of the sudden increase in Genin activity, providing cheap labour over the summer, as all the unlucky genins worked overtime to earn some money before they either went back to the academy, or resigned to the position of Genin and eventually got proper jobs. Genin wages wasn't much to live on.
As it was, Izumo and Kotetsu had almost nothing to do. Sprawled over the desk like a couple of lazy bums, they were the prime image of 'shinobi at work'. Only their respective uniforms and the area they occupied alerted people to their line of work, and they got several disgusted glances directed in their direction by once lowly genin, turned respective citizens of Konohagakure.
Some time during the day, a shadow passed over their heads, and didn't drift on like it should.
Just before it got suspicious, it quickly slid off, and onto the middle of the road, where something large landed, blowing up a cloud of dust as it did so.
As the dust cloud enveloped the gate entrance and anyone in the vicinity (Izumo and Kotetsu), voices was heard from whatever had landed in front of them.
"I told you, you could do it!" a recognisable, but hard to place voice said and then a strangely large sounding voice replied, "Yeah, yeah, lousy drunk, but this erases any economical obligations to you! Alright?"
As the cloud retreated on the gentle breeze, a tall, white haired man was left standing in front of the startled guards. He smiled at them for a moment, before he took a ridiculous pose, standing on one foot and then started to…dance?
"From the tales of legend…" the man started as he jumped on one leg sideways, "…I come flying on the Wind!"
Izumo and Kotetsu didn't know what to make of the display, so they just kept watching.
"The master of toads, the charmer of women…" he quit jumping, and posed ridiculously with his palm held out towards them and his head turned away,"…one legendary warrior of three and the One True Sage, holding life's meaning…"
Not daring to say anything, as this was the closest thing to entertainment they were likely going to see that day, the guards remained silent as the man started rotating his entire upper body, causing his long ponytail to whirl around dramatically.
"The best selling author of the most divine of literature of man! The great Jiraiya-sama!" the man finished, in such a ridiculous wide pose, that only the mentioning of his name managed to stifle the laughter that threatened to overtake the onlookers.
Kotetsu didn't make it, and fought the snort that came, actually making him drool for a moment.
The man grinned from ear to ear, looking like he enjoyed the inner struggle of Izumo (and the lost struggle of Kotetsu) and proclaimed in the same booming voice as he used in his introduction,
"I AM HOME!"
The frog was in a tight spot. The poisonous human (brightly coloured) behind him was acting funny, like the smaller, deadly ones (children) was prone to act. True, it wasn't big, like the harmless humans that ignored it, but it was still bigger than those prone to torture a careless frog to death.
In an effort to escape, the frog cunningly leaped forward two times and stopped. That would put the poisonous human off guard for a bit.
To the amphibian's horror, the human did the exact same thing as he did. Imitating his brilliant move with a twisted parody of amphibian jumping. The power of humans was horrible to behold indeed.
It tried again. This time he jumped three times before he stopped. He had included some cunning sideways jumps this time, so his direction was slightly altered from before. The human followed suit…even adjusting it's position when it landed.
Truly, this human had to be a horrible genius. A mastermind of the most dreaded sort.
Sakura and Sasuke stared at their team mate in confusion. Kakashi hadn't been gone for more than five minutes before the orange clad blond had gotten bored and reverted to a childlike state of mind. So they watched in silence, as Naruto squatted down behind a frog, only to mimic it's jumping as the creature tried to escape.
The scene was bizarre.
They'd had to do taijutsu sparing that day, and as expected, Sasuke had dominated the exercise. They'd even gotten a lecture on the particulars of animal based fighting styles that could be described more as off hand comments about them, and why they were unsuited for shinobi work. Sasuke and Sakura both guessed that it was the reason for their team mate's strange behaviour.
After Naruto had jumped after the frog for about a minute, Sakura couldn't hold it in anymore. "What are you doing?"
Naruto, who had been in the process of puffing his cheeks up, made no move to get up to answer. "I'm trying to figure out if frog movements can be applied to taijutsu, like monkey or crane," was the reasoning he gave before jumping forward again as the frog did.
There really wasn't anything more to say about that, so Sakura didn't feel justified trying to talk him out of it. Naruto was annoying and childish, but he was thinking about something useful, even if it probably was a futile endeavour, as taijutsu styles based on animal movements had been around so long that there probably weren't any other animals one could create more styles from.
A 'huff' from Sasuke, told Sakura that he was also thinking along those lines. Even so, seeing an opportunity to have a conversation with the Uchiha was good enough for her. "What do you think Sasuke-kun?" she asked, with a tone she hoped would be neutral enough to bend whichever way Sasuke thought about Naruto's behaviour.
At first, she didn't think he would answer, as he stood there silently, but at the point of becoming clear that he wouldn't respond, he said "It is an impractical animal to imitate."
Taken somewhat off guard by Sasuke's comment, Sakura struggled to find his reasoning. Sure, frogs weren't exactly aggressive creatures, but neither were monkeys…or cranes. "…What do you mean Sasuke-kun?" she tried hesitantly, hoping beyond hope that he wouldn't go silent again.
To her delight, he appeared to take interest in the subject. "A frog's only means of escape is its legs, moving like no other creature can. For that to transferee onto human movement, one would have to develop movements that no other can follow, or imitate. Monkey style is based on moving so not to be hit, crane is based on deflection. Frog would be based on running away, in a way that could not be imitated, something which is not that useful in defeating an enemy."
Naruto seemed to take notice of the conversation for the first time and stopped his chase. "Actually, I think it could be based on the same as the Monkey," he chipped inn, not really that bothered with his team not thinking it a worthwhile idea. "Just look at this…"
He broke into what could be considered a half-hearted cartwheel (his legs didn't leave the squatted stance), and made an exaggerated frog leap when he landed. He then proceeded to land in a roll, coming back up on his legs, beaming with pride.
Sasuke just grunted at his display before adding his two cents. "That was just a more 'airy' version of the Monkey style demonstration they gave at the academy. It defeats it purpose when it is all happening in striking height."
Beside the two boys, Sakura didn't know how to proceed. From out of nowhere, her team mates had started a taijutsu discussion. Sasuke and Naruto had a discussion on a subject, other than why Sasuke was popular (or in Naruto's words, why he was such a bastard). It was unheard of.
"Besides, all the animal based styles that could be of use have probably been invented a long time ago," continued Sasuke, as if it hadn't occurred to him that he was actually talking to the dobe. "Thinking that you can just invent another is just being unproductive."
Naruto scowled, but before he could say anything more, they were interrupted by a cough from above.
Squatting on a branch over their heads was Kakashi. He had his book open in his left hand, whilst the other carried a large sack labelled fertilizer.
"…I think you may have to rethink that sentence Sasuke-kun," he began, with his not so hidden smile. "There is actually a family here in Konoha that has invented a fighting style based of an animal model in recent years."
Noting that his students hadn't moved or said anything, he took it as an invitation to continue. "The Inuzuka clan has a style based on canine hunting, which has proven very successful, even against advanced taijutsu experts like the Hyuga."
Sasuke scowled a bit but didn't say anything. The appearance of their teacher had reminded him about his goal, and thus he reverted into his old silent routine.
Noting Sasuke's reaction, Kakashi decided to cut it there (if the boy wanted to learn, he'd have to learn how to ask) so before any of the others could get a word inn, he added "but that is a story for another day. Now that I've gotten the things I needed form the store, you are free for the rest of the day. Good bye."
And with that, he just disappeared, leaving his stunned students behind.
Standing there, speechless and somewhat agitated that their teacher actually ran away whilst he was actually teaching, Sakura was the first to react. "He just left us here while he went of to buy fertilizer?"
Sasuke only grunted before turning to leave.
Seeing the development, Naruto spoke up, "Hey Sasuke, Sakura-chan, why don't we train some more? It's way too early to stop now."
Sasuke, not seeing a benefit in the idea voiced his opinion, "I'll do better on my own," and then he turned and walked away.
Sakura actually seemed to consider it for a moment, but she wouldn't hang about without Sasuke (who know, Naruto might think of it as a date). "Not today Naruto," she said, before she jogged after Sasuke to try talking to him alone.
That left Naruto on his own, as the frog had used the distraction to get away.
As Kakashi opened the door to the Hokage's office a bit later, he was surprised to find himself face to chest with a giant of a man. "So, how is the little gaki?" the giant asked right out of the blue.
It took a moment for Kakashi to place the voice, and identify the face that was looking down at him. Not because he was unfamiliar with it, but because he wasn't used to be taken by surprise.
"Which one, Jiraiya-sama?" he asked as way of an answer. If Jiraiya was going to surprise him like that, then the legendary ninja would be the one to explain.
Diving right through Kakashi's defence like question, Jiraiya powered on, "My new apprentice."
That raised Kakashi's eyebrows, both of them. Was he going to loose one of his new students, just like that? It was enough to divert Kakashi from the answer he normally would have found with little trouble, "…you're going to take one of my students?"
Jiraiya's smile didn't budge, but he didn't answer either.
From behind the legendary Sannin, the voice of the Sandaime answered for him, "No, Jiraiya is not going to take away one of you're students."
At that moment, Jiraiya burst out laughing, leaving Kakashi even more confused. However, now that the initial shock had passed, and the Hokage had said that he was not going to loose any of his genin, Kakashi had time to think. "You're going to teach Naruto?"
"That's right. So, how is he?"
Kakashi didn't know exactly what Jiraiya wanted to know, so he just stuck to the basics, "He is a bit of a mess to be honest. His taijutsu is very sloppy, and most of the time he don't know what to do. He has no skill at genjutsu, but his ninjutsu is promising, if he can learn to control it better."
Jiraiya's smile dropped a bit, and he stole a glance at the Sandaime, who only shrugged.
Having noticed this, Kakashi continued, but kept an eye open for any other reactions, "He has a tendency to fool around, but he has also showed himself to be very good at improvisation, much more devious than anything he did at the academy."
"At least from what I read about in the reports", he added as an afterthought.
Jiraiya's facial feature was blank for a bit before a happy smile crept upon his face.
"So, Jiraiya, what is you're assessment?" asked the Sandaime with a very flat voice.
"I don't know yet, not before I have the details, but no matter what the situation is, I am adamant about teaching him."
Kakashi, who now felt as if he was being left out of the loop, asked the only question that would be appropriate, "Is there something I should know?"
The Hokage let out a tired sigh, while Jiraiya smirked at him. "That depends," Jiraiya said, "are you prepared to keep a secret?"
Kakashi looked at the legendary shinobi in front of him for a moment, trying to decide if telling Jiraiya that he knew who Naruto's father was would make him look foolish or not. Surely the Sannin knew that he knew. In the end, there was only one thing to say, so with an exaggerated sigh he muttered a tired "…yes."
"I am his godfather."
Kakashi's eyelid opened a bit more. It was news to him, but not all that shocking. If there were any person closer to his sensei, other than Uzumaki Kushina had been, than himself, it would be his old sensei. Having read Jiraiya's first book, and been thoroughly disappointed by the lack of adult entertainment, he was certain that it was from that book Naruto had gotten his name.
"…So you plan to take on a father role?" was the only question Kakashi could ask that would have made sense to him.
"Not exactly the fatherly role, but I'm as close to a family as anything he's got. More importantly than that though, is that I see something in him that I recognise."
The cryptic back and forth was the way shinobi talked. That didn't mean that Kakashi had to like it though. "What is it you recognise?"
The smile grew much warmer than it had been, and Kakashi could actually see the open and bare truth when Jiraiya said, "The best of both Minato-kun and Kushina-chan."
That was something Kakashi could sort of relate to. Naruto did seem to have inherited his father's looks, but his attitude and behaviour was all Kushina (A much younger and less cunning Kushina, but still Kushina). It surprised Kakashi a little that Jiraiya would deem those the best qualities to inherit from his parents though. Kushina's looks would have masked him better, and Minato had been quiet socially and brilliant as a shinobi.
Having probably seen the question on his face, Jiraiya answered, "He is much more Kushina than Minato, but he is there, and all he needs to get out is the right outlet."
That was a strange phrase. "So you're saying that you know how to train him properly?"
"I think I have a few ideas, yes, but he will still be with your team, training and taking missions with you. I'm just going to train him on the side, like any clan would do with their members."
"But why do it now? Why not before?"
"Because now is the right time."
It wasn't much of an answer, but it was all Kakashi would get.
After Kakashi left, Sarutobi fixed Jiraiya with an annoyed look. "Did you really need to tease him like that?"
"No, but it was worth it," Jiraiya replied with a smile.
"He'll watch Naruto-kun more now though."
"Maybe that's a good thing, sensei," replied Jiraiya as if he'd just thought about it.
Sarutobi was silent for a time, tossing the idea around in his head. "From what you have told me, wouldn't it be better if he focused more on little Sasuke-kun from here on out?"
"I'm not so sure about that. He kept a close eye on Sasuke, even engaged him in private one-on-one training sessions, and he still ended up defecting," Jiraiya let that rest for a bit. He was still unsure about what he should call the other place. "Maybe I should drop him a hint about Sakura as well, just for diversity's sake…"
The Hokage raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Is there something you haven't told me yet?"
"A lot I'm afraid. It's not easy to recall everything that happened in over a decade."
Sarutobi frowned, but not at Jiraiya, "But you are sure about the invasions, the war and that Madara is still active?"
Jiraiya nodded gravely.
"Should I inform the other Kages?" It wasn't as much a question, as a gauge for his reaction.
"Not yet, I think. Let Naruto grow a little, but we should probably let Suna know about Orochimaru and his plans."
"That would be a well received peace offering…" muttered Sarutobi, but he didn't disagree. He didn't object, he was just questioning if Suna would see it as a peace offering, and not just an effort to starve off an attack.
"Maybe we should try to contact Itachi as well?" suggested Jiraiya after a few moments.
Sarutobi's eyes locked on Jiraiya's. "Not yet. If all you say is correct, informing Itachi now could jeopardize everything, as he would be inclined to act on his own or take contact."
"You think there is a way to save him yet?"
"…I don't know. We'll contact him when we have a clear strategy on how to proceed."
Jiraiya was quiet for a moment before he sighed and nodded. He didn't have any real connection with the so-called traitor Uchiha, nor was he really that bothered with his supposed power level. No-one was more powerful than the knowledge of their jutsu, and he knew for a fact that Sarutobi was fully aware of Itachi's capabilities. His old sensei was sly like that, and he probably had the recipe to counter whatever move Itachi could make if he ever decided to really go rogue.
For that matter so had Jiraiya, now that he had knowledge of the future…sort off. It hadn't taken his counterpart long to start preparation after the encounter at the inn…which he was convinced would still happen if events brought them there.
"I hope you're right sensei, because I'm determined to let Naruto grow up without having a rogue team-mate occupying his every waking moment."
Sarutobi watched Jiraiya with sad eyes for a moment before saying anything. "It really was that bad?"
"…Not all the time, but it was…would be very dominating. Kid really deserves to live a more easy going life than that."
Being silent for a moment, Sarutobi turned the conversation onto a different subject. "What are to going to do now?"
Jiraiya walked over to the window and looked out over the roofs of Konoha. "I think I'm going to observe him for a bit, before I make any contact…"
"You think that's wise? You don't think Kakashi will tell him?"
Looking at his old sensei, Jiraiya started smiling again. "And miss the opportunity to see Naruto shocked? Kakashi may be a brilliant shinobi, able to hide his intentions like the best of them, but socially; he is as easy to read as Naruto."
The look he got was all Jiraiya needed to correct himself. "Maybe not, but not knowing the situation, he won't act before he gets the details. Anyway, he'll watch Naruto closer this time around, and will probably spend a bit more time teaching him, rather than wait for the team to balance itself out on its own. It'll also bother him to no end, which is always fun to watch."
Hinata didn't know what she was thinking. She had already decided that she wouldn't tell him yet, but she still found herself making her way to the training area just like the day before.
She had every excuse not to meet him for the time being. She even had a really advanced technique to learn, just to make things a little bit less awkward than talking to him at this time. Even her counter argument, that she needed to observe him a bit more to know how to approach him when the time came, was meek and half-hearted in her mind. So it was with more doubt than ever that she found herself on her way to see Naruto.
When she reached the regular area, and landed well out of sight, she took a moment to calm her breathing. She had done this many times, she winched at the thought of how dishonourable she was, so why would she be nervous?
Granted, she was always nervous when she approached Naruto and she should be. He was the person she admired after all. A source of inspiration to her, and a beacon of hope (a phrase she'd gotten from the book), but worst of all was the fact that she'd nearly been discovered the last time she did this. So she just had to do a better job at paying attention to what he did this time. Make sure to bolt if he seemed to be doing that tracking exercise again (She had faith in Naruto, but she was a realist, and Naruto usually took weeks to get chakra based tricks right).
Having calmed herself down to a reasonable lever of anxiety, she stealthily made her way towards where she sensed Naruto would be.
She found him about the same place as the day before, and she was in luck. He seemed to be preoccupied with perfecting the wall walking exercise. She remembered learning that herself, and it had taken all her focus to get the timing right (an easy task when you didn't really want to focus on the instructors words). He wouldn't pay too much attention to his surroundings then.
Being sure that he wouldn't see her at the moment, she started to reflect on how he was training. He seemed to be having a hard time with the technique, putting enough chakra into it to crack the bark several times on his way up, making his run look more like a desperate scramble than a gravity defying run. Even so, Hinata found it to be more graceful than anyone she had seen do it.
It wasn't like he had anyone here instructing him. They didn't learn it at the academy either, so he must have taken the initiative to learn it himself. Not to mention that it was a chakra control exercise, something she knew Naruto found to be very hard indeed. He was improving himself bit by bit, and nobody would be able to stop him.
Gathering herself, she stood up. She had decided. She was going to face her now, before her nerves broke.
Keeping her gaze locked steadily on the ground, she took one step. Another, and another towards her idol.
He deserved to know. He had the right to know. This person never gave up, never gave any room for doubt, never yielded when the odds were stacked against him. He was so much better a shinobi than Hinata was ever going to be, without the teaching of a clan to aid him. The least he deserved was for people that had wronged him to step up and apologise for their transgression.
She was closer now. She could hear him grumbling, and the complaining creaking sound from the bark under his feet. She dared to look upon him. He was halfway to the top, hadn't noticed her yet. His pace was slow, very slow. It looked like he was fighting the tree as much as the gravity, and it was a tie.
Feeling her nerves starting to kick in, she squeezed her eyes shut, got down on all fours with her head pressed against her hands on the ground, like a formal apology demanded.
It was now or never. It was too late to back away. Too late to not do it. Breathing heavily, she announced in as clear a voice as she would manage, "Sumimasen! I am so sorry!"
From above she heard a surprised yelp and then there was a 'thud' directly in front of her.
The usage of Japanese words in the text is nothing more than tool to place the Japanese voice-actors voices in the minds of the readers. I've yet to see a single Naruto episode with the dub (not counting the games, where I switch at the first opportunity), so I've never had to hear "–believe it" over and over. It will also lessen considerably from here on out.
I hope I got the scent thing right. I only have a surface understanding about how dogs track animals and such. The thing with the three-walking concept is just how I think they did it in Kakashi gaiden. God knows if it is correct, or if I got it from some other story that I don't remember (in which case, I apologise for stealing the idea), but for this story, It'll have to do. As for the thing with the molecules, I'll have to thank Shawny Wong for that. She is the one that got me to look into it a bit more, and though she thought it to be a bit simplistic (and it is, no matter how brilliant I thought it was originally), it is the best I could come up with. Update: I've now fixed several mistakes in the chapter…though, not all.
Kurenai: I have little idea about how Kurenai actually is. We see her in the story as a silent, but strict woman (she was the only one with students whom actually looked like they were struggling the first time they were shown in the manga). I choose to see her as an eager and silently enthusiastic teacher, who like for her students to be as prepared as she can make them. Whatever the case, she is probably very, very OOC in this story, and I apologise for that. As for her interest in Hinata's love life…what self respecting woman wouldn't be interested in who the shyest person they know are interested in?
This chapter was mainly about Hinata, as you've seen. Whatever I write in the future will be divided between Naruto and Hinata, as this is a NaruHina story. It has taken so long to put this chapter out, because I find her hard to write (I don't want to over do it, but it is so easy to do so). Sorry about that. I'd like to hear if you have any objections to how she is portrayed, as I like for her to be as close to canon as possible.
This chapter had no Final Beta-reader. That is to say, It has been beta-read several times during in the making, but changes has been made several times, and whatever good that has been done by Shawny Wong (who isn't really a beta-reader, just a very nice person and great authoress) and Dean Angel might have been compromised. For that I am sorry. If it is well written and not too inconsistent for your liking, then the full credits should go to them. Update: It had been compromised. Very much so actually. That's the danger of letting your fingers do the thinking for you.