Yin and Yang

Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.

Chapter 1 – A Single Step

I'm not certain of when I came into existence. No, that isn't quite right. I know I've always existed, from the same moment as her. The real question is, when I did I become separate? Conscious.

It's a humbling experiencing, observing the world without the ability to change it. To be a spectator with no power of your own. Sights, sounds, and all external stimuli felt only as a pale, muted version of what they really are. I've always been dissatisfied with that. Both of us have, really. We hate that feeling of being powerless. The only difference is, she isn't powerless, yet she chooses to believe she is. Whereas I don't believe myself to be powerless and yet, really, rationally speaking, I am.

My fate is that of a prisoner. It is one I rebel against with every fiber of my being, yet freedom eludes me. I remain caged, left to rot in the shadow of obscurity. I have nothing save for my sense of self. It is my only solace, but it is enough. Enough, to preserve my existence at the very least.

She isn't aware of me. She'd probably pity me if she was. Always the bleeding heart, that one. A fool, really, but I won't say that. After all, that would make me a fool, too.

It isn't that I resent her, not really. If anything, I pity her. Ironic, isn't it? But then, I am a bleeding heart, aren't I? Her existence and mine are inextricably woven. We are separate, but whole. Different, yet the same. Adversaries, yet allies. Yin and yang. Our existence is a paradox, and I often meditate on it. What else do I have to do, really?

I have no more answers than I began with. I've always believed it's the journey, rather than the destination that's important, though. Pondering, analyzing, questioning. They keep my thoughts organized. Perhaps they're the only thing sustaining me. I've wondered what might happen if I ever stopped.

Would I simply fade into nothing, swept away like so much dust in the wind? Would my consciousness dissolve and become one with her's? Or would I simply continue to exist as a caged animal in the zoo, comfortable enough despite my imprisonment, my instincts and my drives deadening as I finally accepted escape would never come and I ought to make peace with my captivity.

I won't abide the last. My resolve is what defines me. It's what separates me from her. She may have lost the will to forge ahead and carve out her own path, to make her mark on the world. But I never will.

It's sometimes maddening, having that ambition yet being robbed of any power to influence the world, save for the inner workings of my mind. Not our mind. Mine. Wholly separate, and the only thing I can truly claim as my own.

I choose not to dwell on it, though. Such thoughts are unworthy of me. I am proud, but I am not a monster. I want to change the world, not destroy it.

No, that's imprecise of me. Rather, I want to change myself. And her. "Ourself", I suppose.

It didn't matter if I was powerless now. If I didn't believe that even had a remote possibility of changing, then I would remain so forever. Hope, and my consciousness, were the only things I had.

So what if that hope might go unfulfilled? It didn't mean I should stop. If I did, that would be the end of the line. I couldn't accept that. After all, as I said before, it was the journey and not the destination that mattered.

She may have given up, but I never will. For I am the yin to her yang. I am her mortal enemy and yet her most steadfast friend. I am the key to her salvation, our salvation.

I am Hinata Hyuuga.

It was too noisy, as usual. The din of rowdy roughhousing from the boys, giggly schoolyard gossip from the girls, and laughing children of both sexes permeated the air, infusing my ears with such a terrible cacophony of ugly noise that I couldn't even hear my own thoughts.

I didn't mind in the least. My thoughts, especially of late, tended to lean on the unpleasant side. My father had been particularly vocal in recent weeks about what I disappointment I was to the Hyuuga name. Barbed critiques of my mediocre Academy grades and abysmal performances in private sparring sessions with him, Neji-niisan, and Hanabi-chan were a favorite dinnertime topic. As graduation loomed ever closer, his ire stoked ever higher, fueled by my daily failures to live up to his lofty expectations of the future clan head.

Deep down, I knew his words came from love. He wanted me to succeed, to learn and grow as a person and as a shinobi. He wanted the best for me and only worried for my future. Someday, I knew, he would no longer be there at my back, to push me, to point out my mistakes and how I might correct them. Someday, perhaps soon, I would be sent on a potentially lethal mission into enemy territory, where my opponents would simply use my mistakes as opportunities to kill me rather than lessons to improve me.

At least, that's what I told myself.

Sometimes, I would glance at Father's face after suffering unfailing defeat at the hands of my elder cousin, and never once did I see concern, or even the slightest bit of remorse or compassion. I only ever saw his shame and disgust of having sired such a weak heir. And then, as I lay sprawled on the sparring room floor, aching and gasping for air, he would turn his back to me and leave without saying a word.

That always hurt the most, when he said nothing. Even criticism meant he acknowledged me. But nothing? What did nothing mean?

It meant nothing. And that was my biggest fear of all, that I meant nothing to my own father…

"Hey! You!" said a loud, overly exuberant voice that was somehow familiar to me. "Hello? You there?"

Snapping from my reverie, my senses started to process reality again and mere inches from my face was that of a certain blonde-haired, whisker-faced mischief maker. He squinted at me, as though trying to decide which mental illness I must have had. I jerked back instinctively, my face flushing as my knees bent inward and I averted my gaze timidly.

"Hey, what's wrong with you?" Naruto Uzumaki, class clown and aspiring Hokage, asked me. "You feeling sick or something? Maybe you should go see the nurse."

"N-No," I stuttered, my tongue numbing as I struggled futilely to enunciate coherently. He must have thought me a fool. "I- I'm fine, Naruto-kun!"

"You sure?" he asked, still peering at me suspiciously. "You look like you might have a fever…" His voice trailed off and he jerked back as though I'd slapped him in the face. "Hey, you know my name!"

I frowned, confusion overpowering my embarrassment temporarily. "Of course, I do. We've been in the same class for years now."

His eyebrows shot up above his hairline. "Really? I don't remember seeing you before."

I wasn't surprised by that admission, really. For one thing, I tended to keep a low profile in class. I'd never enjoyed being the center of attention for any reason. I tended to freeze up when put on the spot, something Iruka-sensei and the other teachers had caught onto long ago, thankfully, and thus I was rarely called on to answer questions. Being from a prestigious clan probably greased the wheels too, and certainly it helped stave off the bullies, which is something that couldn't be said for Naruto.

It might be paranoia on my part, or maybe I was over thinking things, but Naruto did not enjoy the popularity I felt he deserved. Unlike me, he was funny, good-natured, and sociable but even from day one at the academy, he'd been singled out like a pariah. From my observations, which I freely admit are more frequent and detailed than they really ought to be, the entire village seemed to harbor a seething animosity towards the boy.

On more than one occasion, I'd seen adults mutter in hushed tones when he was present, some shooting him murderous glares that made me thankful looks couldn't kill. He did not fare much better at school, often excluded from typical schoolyard games and shunned when he tried to approach or converse with just about anyone.

To be honest, I knew an awful lot about Naruto Uzumaki. I sort of… have a crush on him. It isn't because he's particularly handsome, though he certainly isn't ugly. What attracts me to him is that he's everything that I'm not, but wish I could be.

Despite his hardships, he remains a resilient and kind person. Whereas my failures discourage me, his only seemed to motivate him to try even harder. Hardly a school day passed where I didn't see him practicing alone on an empty training field as I walked home after class. His unflagging enthusiasm and good nature shame me. Maybe he didn't have the grades or the fighting skills to prove it, but I felt he was the strongest person I knew. Even stronger than Father, maybe.

Thoughts of Father immediately sobered me. If he knew I harbored affections for Naruto, he would not hesitate to punish me. Naruto was a clanless commoner, and worse, an abject failure as a ninja according to the academy instructors.

I was ever under the watchful eyes of Hyuuga clan bodyguards. Always. Under Father's orders, I suspect. If I activated my Byakugan, I could detect them. There were always at least two monitoring me every moment of every day I spent outside the clan compound. If they saw me acting closely with Naruto, we'd both be in dire straights.

And so, I could only admire him from a distance, which was enough for me, really.

At least, that's what I told myself…

"Hey, girl who knows my name," Naruto said. "You sure you're okay? Your eyes are glazing over again."

"Y-Yes," I stuttered once more, feeling very self-conscious when I realized his face was just inches from mine again. "I think I just need to sit down for a bit. I think I'll go back to class early."

"Huh?" Naruto said quizzically. "Didn't you hear Iruka-sensei? Everybody's supposed to head over to Training Field 8 for sparring. I think we're the only ones who aren't there already."

I looked around and noticed for the first time that the playground was indeed quite empty. I felt mortified. So much for the all seeing eyes of the Hyuuga clan.

"C'mon, we should go," Naruto said, taking me by the arm. He wasn't usually terribly enthusiastic about school, but when it came to the practical lessons, like sparring, he was always eager. I wondered if it was because he didn't have any friends to spar with on his own time…

"Y-Yes," I said, following his lead. He broke off into a brisk pace and I followed several meters behind. I didn't want Father's bodyguards getting any wrong ideas. Mostly for Naruto's sake, rather than mine.

We'd not gotten very far when he came to an abrupt halt. "Hey, I just realized," he said as he turned to face me. "You know my name, but I still don't know yours."

I blushed, unable to meet his piercing blue eyes. "It's… It's Hinata. Hinata Hyuuga."

"Hinata-chan," he repeated my name slowly, as though testing it out on his tongue. He pursed his lips and then smiled at me. "That's a nice name."

I almost teared up, then. Pathetically, it was probably the nicest thing anyone had said to me for a long time. The last compliment I'd gotten had probably been something along the lines of "Wow, you're getting really big, Hinata-chan!" from my uncle Hizashi, Neji-niisan's father. My father had been less distant back then, and I'd been much closer to Neji, too. Uncle Hizashi's death had changed us all, though, and none of it for the better.

When I thought about that, I really did cry.

"H-Hey!" Naruto yelped in panic. "W-Why are you crying? Did I say something wrong?"

I quickly wiped the tears on my sleeve, mentally scolding myself as I did so. Father was right. I was too prone to fits of emotion, something that often led to the deaths of better shinobi than me in the past. "No, it's nothing," I lied. "Just something in my eye."

"Oh," Naruto sighed in relief. "Okay. Let's hurry, then. I can't wait to kick Sasuke-teme's butt."

I smiled at that. Sasuke Uchiha was the best student and the best fighter in our class. Naruto had about as much chance of beating him as I did of beating Neji-niisan. That it to say, none. In spite of his bravado, I think Naruto knew that, too. Yet, again, it didn't dampen his spirits. It only made him want to try even harder.

After all, what is true of today may not be tomorrow. Humans are gifted, and cursed, with the power of free will. We can forge our own destinies and shape our own futures. I think Naruto understood that, intuitively if not intellectually. His drive and his ambition would propel him to great heights someday, I was sure of it. I believed that someday, he would indeed become Hokage.

I only wish I could tell him that. But I wasn't brave. I wasn't like Naruto. If he was the sun, then I was the moon. Any light I had was a pale reflection of his own brilliance. I think, if he wasn't around to inspire me, I might have given up on myself a long time ago, much like my Father seemed to have recently.

But Naruto gave me strength. So long as he never gave up, neither would I. That would be poor tribute to the bravest boy I've ever known.

"Just you wait, Sasuke-teme," Naruto said as we neared the training ground where the rest of the class had already gathered. "Today's gonna be my day. You're going down!"

I smiled, wanting to believe his words. As much as I hated to admit it, though, I knew today would not be Naruto's day.

But tomorrow? Who knew? Maybe tomorrow would. And maybe… just maybe… if I tried hard enough and never gave up like Naruto, it would be mine, too.

I was surprised when Naruto echoed my thoughts aloud. "And if not today, then tomorrow! And if not tomorrow, then the day after that!"

I felt something warm well up in my chest. It was a feeling that I'd experienced precious little of after Uncle Hizashi died. I wasn't sure because it had been so long, but I think it was… hope.

"Yeah!" shouted Naruto. "Someday I'll beat you and someday I'm going to be Hokage! Believe it!"

I smiled and wiped a single stray tear from my eye. I did believe it, even if nobody else did.

Once Naruto and I arrived, Iruka-sensei and the other instructors quickly ordered us into pairs. Half of the class fought while the other half observed, and then we would switch. Naruto was among the first to spar, while I was in the observation group. It seems he got his wish as his opponent was Sasuke after all.

When their match was announced, Naruto had a giddy, almost feral grin. Sasuke remained as stoic as always, if a bit more irritable than usual. The two stood opposite to each other, Naruto in the standard academy taijutsu stance while Sasuke had his hands in his pockets. It angered me that he wasn't taking his opponent seriously and I found myself eagerly anticipating Naruto to attack him so that I could confirm that he could feel something, even if it was only physical pain.

"Okay, this is just a simple taijutsu practice session," Iruka-sensei announced from his position between them as referee. "Limit yourselves to only physical attacks. Any use of genjutsu or ninjutsu will result in a disqualification from the match and a detention with myself directly after class. The match is over when your opponent can no longer fight, yields, or if an instructor determines the match up to be too one-sided and declares a winner prematurely. Does everyone understand?"

Each of the combatants and the members of the audience, including myself, nodded.

"All right," Iruka-sensei said. "Then begin!"

Though there must have been a dozen or so matches occurring simultaneously, my focus was only ever on one. Immediately after the prompt by Iruka-sensei, Naruto charged forward with a savage cry, making a beeline toward Sasuke with his fist coiled back.

Sasuke remained motionless, calmly observing his opponent. Naruto closed fast, and it looked like his punch was going to connect when Sasuke sidestepped it at the last second. He extended his foot forward, causing Naruto to trip and spill to the floor. Considering Sasuke's popularity among the girls and the resulting jealousy of the other boys in the class, nearly everyone in the audience was watching their fight and subsequently broke out into laughter. I fought the compulsion to scold them, instead focusing on Naruto and silently willing him to stand and regroup.

His face was a few shades redder than normal when he did and he growled at his opponent. "Hey, that's fighting dirty!"

"Hmph," Sasuke said with no hint of amusement, or anything else, in his voice. "That wasn't fighting at all. All I did was move my leg. You're the one who let himself get tripped by it."

I don't think he meant those words to be a provocation, but Naruto certainly read them as such. He roared, "You bastard! I'm gonna pound you into the ground!"

He flew at Sasuke again in a blind rage. "Try this on for size!"

As I watched Naruto's charge I feared in his anger he'd lost all sense and was simply going to attempt the same futile attack all over again. My worries proved unfounded as he stopped short before going in for another punch, and he pivoted on his left leg to deliver a roundhouse kick. Sasuke must have shared my earlier sentiments because his eyes widened and he recoiled back slightly as Naruto's attack connected, catching him square in the jaw.

"All right!" Naruto cheered, delighted with his success. "How was that, teme?"

Sasuke had already recovered by the time Naruto made the jeer, looking much like he wasn't much affected by the blow and was merely irritated, as though he'd gotten careless and allowed a mosquito to bite him.

"That was pathetic, dobe," Sasuke drawled. "I know grannies who can hit harder than you."

That comment, I was sure, was intended to provoke Naruto, and it worked. Not that it really took much to provoke Naruto, where Sasuke was concerned.

"Shut up, teme!" Naruto howled. "I was just holding back because I didn't want to embarrass you! Now I'm gonna get serious!"

"You're never serious, dobe," Sasuke said. "Your taijutsu is a joke. Why don't you just forfeit now and preserve what little dignity you still have?"

"Shut up!" Naruto roared, and he closed on Sasuke again.

Sasuke ducked as Naruto kicked for the second time that match and as Naruto's leg was still sailing over his head, he extended a palm and struck a firm blow to Naruto's midriff.

Howling in pain and outrage, Naruto crumpled to the ground. It wasn't even a fair match. Sasuke was leagues ahead of him. While I'd expected as much, it was still disheartening to actually see. Naruto always worked so hard. He deserved more than such an ignoble defeat at the hands of a pompous narcissist like Sasuke.

"The match is over!" declared Iruka-sensei. "Sasuke Uchiha is the winner!"

"No!" Naruto moaned, still clutching his sides and he lay on the ground. "I can still fight! This isn't over!"

Iruka-sensei merely looked at him piteously as he collected his student and lifted him back to his feet. "The match is over, Naruto. You need to see the nurse."

"No, I don't!" Naruto insisted, even as his face was contorted with pain. "I'm still moving, aren't I? I can fight! I can win! Just give me a chance!"

A chance. That's all Naruto ever wanted. A chance to be acknowledged. A chance to make a friend. A chance to prove himself, and to dispel the belief by most of the village that he was nothing more than a pest and a menace, hardly worthy of tolerance, much less respect.

There was a pain in his eyes, and it wasn't from Sasuke's blow. It was more than wounded pride, too. There was something more. Something desperate. A yearning. A hunger. I don't know why I felt that way, but something deep in me told me so. I don't think I was the only one to notice it, either.

I think Iruka-sensei almost relented, then. Unlike most of the other instructors, he actually seemed to care about Naruto's well being. Naturally, he was my favorite teacher.

But then he shook his head. "No, Naruto. I'm sorry, but the difference between you and Sasuke is too much. It's impossible for you to win, especially now that you're injured. You and I are going to see the nurse right now. Mizuki, can you take care of the rest?" he asked, addressing his fellow instructor.

Mizuki-sensei nodded. "Of course, Iruka."

I watched as Iruka-sensei led Naruto away, stooped over and supporting his student's weight with his shoulder. After Iruka-sensei's reprimand, and amidst the jeers of the other students, he stopped protesting. I couldn't remember ever seeing him so weak, so defeated.

I was terrified that something in him might have broken in that moment. Maybe he'd realized how horrifically outclassed he'd really been. Maybe he saw where he was and where he wanted to be and it shook him. I could only pray that he would be over it by tomorrow, and would go back to the cheerful smiling boy I knew and admired.

I sat in a daze, wondering and worrying of Naruto's fate. My surroundings blurred, becoming indistinct and irrelevant.

Naruto couldn't give up. He couldn't. If he did, then what hope was there for me?

"…nata. Hinata-kun?"

When my spatial awareness returned, Mizuki-sensei was shaking my shoulder lightly. I jumped, mumbling apologies in a flustered panic. "Y-Yes, Mizuki-sensei! I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"The first round of matches are over, Hinata-kun," Mizuki-sensei said, with what was either concern or pity in his eyes. "We're ready to start the next bout. Your opponent is Ino-kun."

Ino Yamanaka smiled slightly and waved her fingers at me. She was an above average student, attractive and popular with the boys. She also had a rather frightening obsession with Sasuke. I didn't have particularly strong feelings about her either way. She'd never done me any harm and while she wasn't particularly kind to Naruto, she wasn't overtly cruel to him, either.

I'd actually been hoping to be paired with Sakura Haruno. The pink-haired kunoichi was the top student in our class in written exam scores, but closer to fifth or sixth overall, because her practical displays of skill were not particularly impressive. Naruto made it no secret he liked her and hardly a day went by when he didn't make a charming, yet clumsy, attempt to woo her.

I ground my teeth just thinking about it.

Squashing those feelings down, I stood and faced Ino, bowing to her. She returned the gesture.

"Good, it looks like everyone is ready now," Mizuki-sensei noted with satisfaction. "All right, take your places! And… begin!"

Neither I nor Ino made any moves at first. Naruto's… straightforward tactic of blindly attacking his opponents head-on was not typical ninja battle strategy. Before being assassins, hired muscle, killing machines, or whatever you wanted to call it, ninja were supposed to be covert information gatherers.

With the proper knowledge about your opponents, a ninja could win a battle before it even began, or sometimes avoid a battle altogether. As a member of the Hyuuga clan, one who possessed the all seeing white eyes of the Byakugan, I was to be especially adept at gathering, analyzing, and acting on such intelligence.

Yet, I was not permitted to activate the Byakugan in this practice session, therefore I could not see the tenketsu nodes on Ino's body. I had no way to precisely target them and cut off the flow of her chakra and I couldn't get reckless with jyuken attacks, because even a slight miscalculation in my aim could prove deadly. Even had my opponent been Sakura, I wouldn't have wanted to kill her.

Maybe maim, but not kill.

Thus I was at a disadvantage. While Father might not think highly of my skills, I was more proficient with jyuken than any other taijutsu form. At home, I trained exclusively with jyuken and thus only used academy standard form at school. Consequently, I lost more fights than I won, but that wasn't the reason why my grades were so mediocre. The academy and my clan have a certain understanding when it comes to taijutsu.

I almost wish it weren't so. At least then I'd have an excuse for being so unremarkable.

I saw a flash of something in Ino's eye and averted my gaze immediately. The Yamanaka clan was notorious for their mind manipulation techniques and eye contact was a surefire way to walk right into one of those. Granted, we weren't supposed to use anything other than taijutsu for this practice session, but mind techniques were often subtle and difficult to notice, and I wasn't entirely certain of Ino's scruples or inclination to fight fairly.

"Something wrong, Hinata-chan?" Ino teased.

I ignored her, refusing to be provoked. If only I could activate my Byakugan, I would be able to monitor her without looking directly at her, but no such luck. It was no use; I couldn't fight her if I didn't see her. Grimacing, I turned back to look her in the face. I tried to concentrate on her nose and her mouth, avoiding her eyes.

That proved to be a mistake. I should have been watching what the rest of her body was doing.

She was much quicker than I expected. Before I knew it I saw her left fist closing on my face like a locomotive. Well, at least I knew she was left-handed, now. That counted as "intelligence gathering", right?

I raised up my arms to shield myself only to feel a sharp, searing pain in my gut.

Her initial attack had merely been a feint. When I moved to block it, she took advantage of my opening and struck a solid blow to my stomach.

I recoiled backwards, coughing. For such a delicate looking girl, she really knew how to pack a punch. Now I had a vague sense of the pain Naruto must have felt when Sasuke delivered a similar blow to him, though I was certain Sasuke must hit harder than Ino.

I blocked it out. I had to focus. Already I had made a grave tactical error: underestimating my enemy. Out in the field, mistakes like that generally didn't happen twice because you were too dead for there to be a second time.

I re-evaluated Ino. Okay, I now knew she was quick, could deliver a blow with a decent amount of force behind it, and probably wasn't left-handed after all. How did that help me?

It didn't. That's when I started to panic. Not that I was unaccustomed to losing, but it was usually against the boys in our class. I could generally hold my own against my fellow kunoichi. I stumbled backward, unsure of how to proceed.

Ino capitalized on my hesitance and attacked again, going for my face for a second time. Another feint? Before I could decide, there was a cracking sound and I felt something wet running down my nose.

Okay. Not a feint, then.

Father was right. I was hopeless. I was a disgrace to the clan, unable to fend off attacks from a girl from a clan that hardly ever even used taijutsu. I felt my spirits spiraling downward. I realized I couldn't win. I should forfeit. Was this how Naruto had felt when Sasuke defeated him? This cold, dark feeling welling up from the pit of my stomach?

I marveled. Even then, he'd wanted so desperately to continue. Determination burned in the fires of his eyes even when he felt this way, knowing he was completely outmatched and had no chance in winning?

Naruto, you are amazing. Everyone in the village ought to strive to follow your example.

Starting with me.

I jumped back, putting distance between myself and Ino so I could regroup. I thought about Naruto. About how he just charged forward with reckless abandon, heedless of whether or not he had any chance of victory.

It isn't the destination, it's the journey.

I don't know why, but those words suddenly popped to the forefront of my mind. I thought about what they meant and for what reason I'd thought of them.

Naruto. I wonder if he even cared about the consequences of his actions. Not in the irresponsible sense, but more of a philosophical way. Did it really matter if you won or not? Did it matter if the odds were against you and you knew you probably wouldn't come out ahead?

Were you supposed to just roll over and die? To just accept your fate without even trying to fight and change it? Naruto didn't think so. It wasn't about winning or losing. It was about trying, about playing the game.

The journey and not the destination, huh? I think I liked that…

I felt reinvigorated. If I must lose, then so be it, but I wouldn't do so as a whimpering little coward.

A scream escaped my lips and suddenly I found myself charging headlong at Ino. She could only stare, frozen in shock at my sudden change in demeanor.

I rained blow after reckless blow on her, forcing her on the defensive. She successfully blocked most of them, but a few connected and before I knew it, I was gaining ground on her.

Father would have been disgusted, so inelegant were my attacks. I was driven by a primal urge to smash every obstacle in my path, both physical and metaphorical. I wanted to strike down Ino and prove I wasn't the failure my father believed me to be. I wanted to purge myself of my own doubts and inhibitions and live the way I wanted to instead of toiling under the thumb of those more powerful than myself.

And I wanted Naruto to notice me, to let him know that I acknowledged him and to be acknowledged by him in return.

By that time, I'd made such a scene with my cathartic outburst that the eyes of everyone, including the other combatants were on us. Ino noticed this fact as well, and looked quite flustered. She was part of the "in" crowd and had a reputation to protect after all.

Her head flailed around as she looked out at the crowd. She was searching for something. Or someone, rather. Her eyes settled on Sasuke. No doubt she was worried about what he might think of her if she lost the match against me. I suspect he wouldn't care either way, but I doubt Ino shared that sentiment.

Her jaw locked and she turned back towards me. By the time I realized what she'd intended to do, it was too late. I was already caught. The world around me blurred, colors mixing and warping until everything faded into black.

Then, I saw a single light shining in the darkness. I approached it, and upon closer examination, I saw that it was a window. Strange. I was in some sort of small room. I searched for an exit, but three cold stone walls, and one made of metal bars boxed me in. The room resembled a holding cell of some kind.

I tried the door, but it was locked. Obviously. I wouldn't be getting out that way. So I went back over to the window to see if that was a possibility.

And I saw Ino. But… not in front of me. It was like looking through, well… a window. I saw what my eyes must have been seeing, but not through them, per se. I saw my arms in front of me, through this strange contraption. I was turning them over, flexing them, as if I'd never used them before and was testing them out.

Ino had collapsed to the ground. Mizuki-sensei was shaking her, trying to get a response. Then I saw him take her pulse. Judging by his relieved reaction, she was still alive. I wondered what happened to her, or what was happening to me, for that matter.

"Mizuki-sensei," I head my voice say, though I hadn't even opened my mouth. "I forfeit."

I didn't understand what was happening. Was I watching the portal to some alternate reality where I'd forfeited my match to Ino? I certainly didn't remember doing any such thing. I was winning, after all.

And then it hit me. This had to be some sort of Yamanaka mind technique. Somehow, Ino had usurped control of my body and was forcing myself to say I forfeit. I felt a surge of indignation. How dare she!

I could only stare helplessly, watching myself resign without being able to stop my own body.

"Mizuki-sensei, that isn't me!" I cried out, but nobody heard. After all, who besides me would be in my own head?

"Who, indeed?" said a voice from behind me. Ino! I spun on my heels, falling into my traditional jyuken stance. Then I faltered. It wasn't Ino, after all. It was… well, it was surreal…

"Hi, Hinata," said a girl who looked exactly like me, though maybe her shoulders were straighter, her chin a little higher, and her eyes more confident. "So we finally meet, at last."

A/N: The idea for this story has been niggling me in the back of my head for a while. I tried to ignore it, because I have other things I need to work on, but the compulsion to put it to pen was just too strong.

Update: Concerning the reviews about using the "kun" honorific for females. Actually, this is used by teachers or bosses for their subordinates, regardless of sex. As Mizuki is the teacher of both Hinata and Ino, he's perfectly within his rights to use the "kun" honorific appropriately.