How could she know that a single cry to the boy she admired would make all the difference in the world? She couldn't, of course. Yet that would prove to be the case. Hinata was watching closely as Naruto faced Kiba during the preliminary round of the final chunin exam. She wanted to support Naruto; after all the years of watching him, she had come to admire him greatly, so of course she wanted to root for him. However, Kiba was her teammate, so she was torn. Who should she cheer for? Who should she support? Her teammate, or the boy she admired? So it was for that reason that she remained silent for much of the match.
Naruto had said he did his best work with a handicap, which was generally true, and yet Kiba and Akamaru were soundly beating him. He couldn't keep up with Kiba. The feral boy was just too fast. It was all Naruto could do to keep on his feet. He was happy that everyone was watching his fight, but he was getting annoyed that he was getting his butt kicked with everyone watching. No one had ever believed in him, and now he was proving them right. DAMN IT! Why did he have to prove them all right like this? And why was no one calling for him to do better? No one. His head hung in shame. No one cared that he was losing here. No one. All he needed was just one person to care for him. Just one. That's all he needed, but it wasn't happening. He should just forfeit. No one cared anyway.
Hinata had her Byakugan activated and she was focusing on Naruto. She saw his head hang in shame. She saw that he was thinking no one cared. She realized that he was about to forfeit. She saw it. She couldn't believe it. He had finally given up caring anymore. NO! She couldn't allow this. She had to do something. She had to let him know that someone cared. Her! Not that anyone else cared what she thought, but maybe it would help him just to know that someone cared about him. But how could she do that when he was fighting her teammate? No, forget it, she had to let him know she cared. She gathered her courage. This was it, her one chance. She had to do something and do it NOW. She opened her mouth.
Naruto's hand was rising. It was the only part of him that was. He was ready to give up, seeing as no one cared how well he did anyway. They'd probably all be glad to see him give up. They all wanted him to fail. It didn't matter how hard he tried or how much effort he put into his life. No one noticed, no one cared. And his new technique would be wasted on his audience. They all wanted Kiba to win, so why not give them what they wanted? That's when he heard it.
"NO, NARUTO, DON'T GIVE UP!" EVERYONE heard it. And EVERYONE turned to look at the young girl who had suddenly screamed this. It was Hinata. Shy, quiet Hinata had just yelled out so loud that everyone in the arena had heard her. And Kiba was her teammate. How could she do that? And yet she had. She had cheered Naruto to beat her teammate. He turned and looked at Kiba. Okay, so one person did care. Kiba had stopped and was standing still in shock at Hinata's outburst. Naruto felt his confidence return along with his determination to win. He saw that Kiba wasn't going to be moving for a moment, so he took his chance. He formed a hand sign he was all too familiar with.
"SHADOW CLONE JUTSU!" He yelled and four clones appeared and circled Kiba. One clone rushed forward and delivered an uppercut to Kiba's jaw, sending him into the air. The original ran up that clone's back and jumped into the air while the other three clones kicked Kiba higher. The original did a spinning kick into the back of Kiba's head while yelling out "NARUTO BARRAGE!"
Kiba was sent flying into the floor, face-first. Upon contact, he was knocked out. Naruto landed a few feet away, panting heavily. He turned and looked up at Hinata, who was smiling at him. So she did care. She had really wanted him to win and he had. It was all thanks to her. He saw her saying something but couldn't hear her. He just knew what she said. "Well done, Naruto." That's what she said. He knew it without hearing her. He owed her this win. He would return the favor to her somehow, he swore it. For now, he walked calmly to the ramp and back up to the balcony while medical ninja were removing Kiba on a stretcher. As he was passing Hinata, he stopped.
"Thank you Hinata." He smiled at her. She blushed.
"For what, Naruto?" she asked him.
"When you cheered for me, I knew that someone cared. It gave me the confidence and the courage to keep fighting. Without you, I would have forfeited the match. I only won because of you. So, thank you." Then he looked up and saw the next names that were chosen for the next match. Hinata Hyuga vs. Neji Hyuga. She followed his eyes and gasped. He saw her fear and whispered to her, "Don't worry Hinata. I beat Kiba. You can beat Neji, too." She looked at him, smiled, blushed slightly, then nodded. Yes, she would beat Neji. For Naruto.
As Hinata walked down the stairs to the arena floor, she saw Neji coming down from the other side. She looked up and met his eyes, hesitant and shy, as usual. She cursed herself for her weakness. She noticed something as she was coming down. Naruto had a single closed chakra point. She hadn't noticed before. Oh well, it didn't seem to be bothering him too much, but she wondered when it happened. Then Neji was before her, staring at her with that cold look in his eyes. As her pupil-less eyes met his, she saw hatred, of her, of the main branch, and of her father. She cringed from his cold stare.
Neji said to her, "Hinata, withdraw from this match. You cannot fight against fate. And your fate was sealed the moment I was chosen as your opponent. You will lose this match unless you withdraw now."
She shook her head, thinking of Naruto. "I will not run from you. Not this day, cousin." He looked surprised, then she told him, "This is the first time the one I admire has been watching me. I will not fail, and I will not run, and I will NOT humiliate myself in front of him. Not today, not ever. So come at me, cousin." The two cousins activated their blood trait at the same time, veins bulging around their eyes. Then they charged.
Neji and Hinata's battle was quite the sight to behold. Chakra flew everywhere. They seemed to land a glancing blow once in a while, but the chakra was what made it a sight to see. It was flying off every blow. And that was what made their "Gentle Fist" technique deadly, of course. Even a glancing blow could cause serious damage. Hinata was getting frustrated; her reach wasn't as long as Neji's, so every attack she did, he blocked easily, and she was having trouble even getting close to him. Then she spotted an opening and she placed her hand directly on his chest. He froze.
She grinned. She had him. Then he slowly rolled up her sleeve and she saw marks on her skin. Wait. He hadn't...had he? Apparently he had. Her arms had no chakra in them. The Gentle Fist had failed her. All she had done was touch him. He had closed the chakra points in both her arms. All of them. She backed away, frightened now. A yin-yang symbol appeared below Neji, then he charged at her.
"Eight Trigrams 64 Palms!" he yelled out, then started hitting Hinata, letting all his rage at the main house go into this one attack. "Two palms! Four palms! Eight Palms! Sixteen Palms! Thirty-two Palms! Sixty-four Palms!" As he said each one, he hit Hinata's chakra points till he'd gotten sixty-four of them at the end. They were all closed. He turned away from Hinata as she fell to the ground. He called up to Naruto. "This will be your fate as well, loser." He started to walk away, as Hinata slowly regained her feet. She was in his blind spot and she knew it. If only she could have used her chakra, maybe she could have done something. Then she heard it.
"Don't give up Hinata! Fight him!" It was Naruto. Kakashi tried to restrain the boy, but he called out to her, "Hinata, look up here." She did. She saw that closed chakra point he had again. He saw her watching and said to her, "You need to open them, Hinata. Do this." And as she watched, he forced a lot of chakra into the chakra point. So he had known it was closed. As she watched, to her amazement, his chakra point expanded and finally burst back open. He seemed to feel a twinge of pain, but he didn't seem to mind as it stayed open. Neji wasn't watching that, he had deactivated his Byakugan. His mistake, Hinata thought. She followed Naruto's example. With her much better chakra control, it didn't take long till all of her chakra points sprang back open. She gasped, but damn it, it worked. Neji still had his back to her, his Byakugan off, as he turned to tell Hayate to call the match.
"I don't think so, cousin." The Eight Trigrams yin yang symbol appeared below Hinata now. He turned at her voice and she saw him looking at her. She grinned and continued, "Your turn. Eight Trigrams 64 Palms!" And she rushed at him, doing the same combo of hits he had done to her just minutes before. She turned off every single one of his chakra points in a single move. He fell to the floor, unable to move. She looked at Hayate and told him, "You can call the match now. He's done." Hayate agreed and called the match. Hinata had won. Before leaving, she walked over to Neji and held a hand out to him. He took it slowly, and she helped him to his feet. She told Neji, "I know you think fate is what caused this, and that you struggle against your fate. Neji, before today, I had never used that move. EVER." He looked at her in shock. "I told you, the one I admire was watching me. I wasn't about to give up in front of him. I did what I had to do. And it was him that allowed me to reopen my chakra points like that." While she was talking to him, she had moved them off the arena. She stopped at the bottom of the ramp. Then she looked at him and said quietly, "I'm sorry for hurting you, cousin." He looked even more surprised. Then she extended a hand to him. "Please, cousin, let's be friends, and together, we will fight your fate. I will get that seal removed from you one day, I swear it as a Hyuga."
Neji was in shock. He had always thought the main branch members were nothing but his masters, yet here Hinata was, extending a hand in friendship and swearing to help him fight his fate and beat it. He slowly took her offered hand and nodded. Then she activated her Byakugan. He knew it! Now she was going to attack him again! But no, she extended her hand and touched him gently, barely even making contact. He looked at where she touched. Then she moved on. She was reopening his chakra points. He couldn't believe it! But she was. He smiled at her, a genuine smile, for the first time since his father died. "Thank you, Lady Hinata."
"Just Hinata, cousin, please. As I said, we're friends now. This was just a show of faith. I trust you." He nodded to her, bowing slightly, as she continued, "And no more bowing to me either. I told you, we're friends, equals. You are no longer my servant." He looked at her in shock; she just smiled.
"You are too kind, Hinata. Why are you so kind after I have been so cruel?" He wasn't blind to the way he had been. He just hadn't cared before this.
"You have been blinded Neji. I know the reason you are so bitter, and I know the truth of it. Go, talk to my father, he will tell you now." Neji started to bow, but she shook her head, smiled, and pointed to where Hiashi was sitting. Neji made his way toward his uncle. When he arrived and asked about the truth of his father, Hizashi's death, Neji was presented with a scroll. He sat down in a seat and read his father's account of what happened. He looked up from it and got a third shock for that day. Hiashi Hyuga, head of the family, was on his knees, his forehead pressed to the floor.
"Forgive me, Neji. I'm sorry for keeping this from you for so long."
"Please, sir, don't bow to me. I'm sorry for being so bitter toward you all for so long. From this day forth, I swear to you I will be a better family member to you all." Hiashi rose and smiled at Neji. Neji continued, "And I will be as good a friend as I can to Lady Hinata." Hiashi jumped and looked at him in shock, but Neji just smiled and told him, "She extended a hand to me in friendship; it is the least I can do to accept it." Hiashi smiled and nodded to Neji. Neji bowed a bit and the two parted, Neji returning to his team.
Hinata, meanwhile, was on cloud nine. As she passed by Naruto, she had mustered up all her confidence and spoken to him. He had answered willingly and the two were now talking easily as they ignored the battle between Lee and Gaara. Lee had knocked away Gaara's gourd with one of his Leaf Hurricanes. After that, Naruto and Hinata had ignored it, talking easily to one another.
Naruto smiled at Hinata and told her, "Thank you, by the way."
She jumped and blushed. "F-For what, N-Naruto?"
He grinned at her, "For calling out to me when I was fighting Kiba. I was about to withdraw, but then you called out to me. It was knowing you cared that gave me the courage to keep fighting and to win against him."
She smiled at him. "I wanted you to win, Naruto. I have watched you for so long, and I've always admired you for your courage." She was surprised it had gotten so easy for her to talk to him, yet it had. Her stutter was as good as gone. She was about to continue when she noticed that Naruto's eyes were glazed over.
Naruto was in his mindscape, in front of Kyuubi's cell. "What the hell do you want, you damn fox?" he yelled.
"Just wanted to tell you, brat, this girl is the one you should take. She's the one you're meant to be with. She's the one you'll bond to and the one who will make your life complete. Now get out of here and make sure she doesn't get away," the fox said, grinning his vulpine grin.
Naruto shook his head as he came back to the real world. He smiled at Hinata, "Sorry about that. Please, continue."
"I was just going to say, thank you for showing me what you did. How did you get that chakra point closed, anyway?" She was just curious about that.
"I closed it myself. I'm not sure how I did it, but I did. I've done that from time to time, so I've had to learn how to re-open them. That's why I did it when you were watching, so you'd see how."
She smiled, "I only won because of you, Naruto. Thank you."
He grinned, thinking of what the fox had said, and said quietly, "Well, if you really want to pay me back, how about a date?"
She jumped, blushed red as a tomato, and stuttered, "A-a-a-a-a-a-a d-d-d-d-date?" He nodded. "I thought you l-l-l-l-liked S-S-S-S-S-Sakura."
He sighed. He had liked Sakura. "I did. But today, you showed me that you're the one who's been there for me. And I'd like to get to know you better. What do you say?"
She gasped. He was serious. She blushed even redder, then gasped out, "YES!" just before fainting. She came to a few minutes later, then blushed again when she found herself in Naruto's arms. He smiled at her, then helped her to her feet. She grinned at him, still feeling shy, but very very happy.
"I better get back to my team. When do you want to come get me for our date?" She was stunned by the fact that she didn't stutter while saying that.
"How about tomorrow, say six?" She grinned and nodded, then went back to her team. Naruto turned and saw Sakura giving him an evil eye. "What?" She pointed at Lee's fight. Lee was kicking Gaara all over in the air, then suddenly he kicked him down, brought him back up, punched him hard and sent him flying into the ground. Without his sand, Gaara didn't stand a chance. He was out.
Hayate called the match. Lee had won. Everyone was shocked, but nonetheless happy for Lee. As it ended, Naruto looked back at Sakura, who was still glaring at him. "What?"
Sakura, then Ino, then a few others came over and started telling Naruto that Hinata had been watching him since they started at the academy. He couldn't believe this but they insisted it was true. "But...that's four years!" he gasped out.
They nodded, and Sakura told him, "Exactly, Hinata has been waiting and hoping for this for four YEARS! So you need to make an effort to make it special for her."
Ino interrupted. "Come by the shop tomorrow, I'll have a bouquet for you." He smiled in thanks. He hadn't thought of that. He did, however, know where he was going to take her. He just had to let her know to eat beforehand; they weren't going to have time for that. He grinned, thinking ahead. Hinata, across the arena, smiled, thinking of tomorrow night. Neji smiled at Hinata, sincerely, happy to have her as a friend. Hiashi smiled at Hinata, proud of his daughter. And Naruto thought of what a difference a single call could make.