The Secret Prodigy

Hi again! Special thanks to all that favourited, alerted and reviewed. I'm glad people like the way I portrayed Kankuro, and I am taking in everyone's ideas into account.

Spoiler (for this story, not the real manga/anime)

Oh yeah, a lot of people are asking about Gaara! Yes, I love him too, but he can't come straight in to the story when she's just begun her time in Suna! He will come as the climatic ending to the Suna arc.

One last note – Please don't kill me for my extremely late update – I know the last time I updated it was last year. Life, school, family and tiredness have all contributed towards my tardiness, I am extremely sorry for this. Please don't give up hope on me just yet but updates will be slow.

Anyhow, Review Time! Take Note that they were written last year near Christmas so they are a little out of date!

HinaLover: Ahaha, I'm really glad you like it so much as to read it again! I'm trying to keep it slow and steady, I like it that way I just hope everyone else does too. I'm a little stressed right now with studies and well… life, and I haven't had much time to write, what about you? Are you alright? Thanks for this review, it reminded me I still had a story to write lol! Happy Reading! x For your second review, I'm sorry, I haven't abandoned anything yet I promise! x

Nightraze: I try to, but my life is hectic and Christmas is… well Christmas! Happy Reading!

LoveOverHate: I'm a little lazy too sometimes so don't fret. I'm happy if my readers are happy, and it's nice to have such lovely feedback. I'm also very happy when readers aren't too bothered who the pairings are; I don't want to disappoint. And I don't know what to say at your praise; to be honest I first expected readers to really criticise my writing but all you've done is support me. Unfortunately, I have to take my time right now; school is gradually getting harder and now its Christmas already I haven't had the time to sit and think. I love long reviews also, the longer the better (as long as its not too much spam lol). Happy Reading! x

Tough Chick: Lol, no don't haunt me I'm slightly superstitious! Happy Reading! x

Jiin-Chan: Wow, all the way to where I've got up to in one sitting? That's dedication :) I see you've written some stories too, so I bet your writing is great too! Thank you very much for your lovely review, I'll keep writing but it takes ages now. Happy Reading! x

I love Hinata: Honestly I try and update, it's really hard though. Thank you so much for the recommendations, I'm sure I will get round to reading them all :) Happy Reading! x

Chakira16: Great, it was a little but filler-y so I tried to detail it to make it a little more interesting to read. Thanks, and Happy Reading! x

BlazeStryker: Good, it was the theme I was going for for him :) Happy Reading! x

Dark-Poems: I have no words for you apart from thank you :D Oh, and get some Kleenex? JK, but the menthol ones are really nice. Anyhow, Happy Reading! x

Kaila Azroth: Lol, thanks :D Gaara will come into the mix, just read the spoiler thing. Yeah, it's not very nice making miserable/disturbing/cruel things happening to her all the time, but she gets stronger with each one. Thank you, your words made me go all fuzzy inside XD I want other Hinata stories to pop up; it would be nice if people really focused on her a little more as a shinobi not as a stuttering Naruto fangirl. You don't sound like a geezer you sound like a very nice person :) Happy Reading! x

Themis Decima: Thanks, I'm reassured a bit more by everyone else's reviews too. Wow… did I make it that obvious? Yeah, its part of the plot but shhhhsh, don't tell! Sames, even though I'm going to be writing it! It's okay to forget their names or about them, but they will be around quite a lot so you will probably be able to name them off by heart by the time this story is done. Why, thank you very much and Happy Reading! x

Evil-x-Love: Never? Really? I have a few times, but he was really mean and unlikeable. Hopefully I didn't do that here. I will try to keep it up! Happy Reading! x

ChocoRoseLuv: Me neither I'm itching to write it! You'll find out what happened to Hinata this chapter! Why, thank you! I do try! Yeah, it was only a little inspiration flash anyway. Happy Reading! x

StarDustX: Its okay, I just like it when people review because I really like seeing what people think of my story. Its not really necessary for readers to review, but it gives me a motive to write. Awww, I'm glad I made your day :D Happy Reading! x

Naruto-Neko: Yeah, something like that. Good job on your observational skills :D Thanks, and its no problem if you forget to review! It's not like I'm gonna go flame you or something! Yeah, I have to write in the mornings (and that's only about for 5 minutes) and then if I get all my homework done (or I'm not off out somewhere) I write. I feel your pain… stupid school, getting in the way. *Sigh* I suppose it's important though. I wanna make people super happy, that's why I write! Happy Reading! x

Eirdaru: I will update, I won't let this story die out just yet! Thank you for the compliment! Tem didn't get a big part and I don't know how to portray her. Ideas? Yeah, I think I just need to put her in a little more I suppose to get a feel of her character. I have no idea how the ANBU are supposed to act, plus they want to be kinda disciplined and efficient when the Hokage is around so they would be a little bland I suppose. Sorry about that. Err… I couldn't find out about the two's masks so I made them up. I like descriptions in stories because most Fanfiction writers don't put them in, they just get straight to the point and it's a little… blunt for me. I will try to update okay! Thanks for your helpful review and enjoy this chapter! x

Nafsi-chan: Thanks, it's nice to have someone who understands! Good good, just tell me when anyone gets OOC okay? Yes… and there's a little nugget plot thing that I'm going to put in later. Alright, sorry to say this but he wont be in here for a couple of chapters because I need to write about her whole experience in Suna with the meeting being the climax :D Wrong about the symptoms, Hinata's powers didn't activate. It's quite a boring reason, but I needed to end the chapter. Same, they belong to each other… poor Gaara, he doesn't have any girl (Matsuri is a BIG NO NO!). Yeah, he's a bit of a brick head but y'know. I will try :D Happy Reading! x

Faux Princess: Really, why didn't you expect a tough Kankuro? Yeah, I felt sorry for him when I wrote him. Orochimaru, sneaky little snake, I just wanna kill him. Too bad he would probably molest me or use me for experiments. Ah, good you remembered his age! Makes my job easier! Nope, I go gym (to get fit and tone up) so I'm a little stronger than most girls in my year, but I've never trained in fighting! Lol, I thought I was too nervous to ever post something up on here, but I got over it and look what happened! I bet you would be a kick ass fighter! Ingat, my lovely little Filipino friend, and Happy Reading! x

SasuHina4evr: A little OOC but not too much? That's good for Kanky then; he's a little hard to write because he doesn't get much screen time! Anyhow, Orochi doesn't come up till later, but there will be action etc. Happy Reading! x (The Deidara sign is pretty awesome! :D)

Avasaya: Good, I wanna give him 'tough guy biker' image, it kinda suits him! Mr Gekko and Tomoke will come up again later, just a little back-story inspiration flash I had! Happy Reading! x

Failure-chan: Yes, yes they are. I've had science tests, wrote 2 stories (for English), countless math homework's, French homework, yet more English homework, history and geography homework and scouts, gym and social life. At least I get some relief from writing! I try! Happy Reading! x

TwiliFay: Yeah, Temari ain't all tough (to me anyway… although she could whoop my ass easy!). Well, I don't know whether he's gonna get his butt kicked but I'll try. I kinda like our old friend Kanky! Happy Reading and take care too! X (they are going to meet I promise!)

Happy Reading Everyone! X

Chapter 17

The first thing that Hinata became aware of was a feeling of coolness. It was very pleasant, and she was tempted to drift right back off to sleep. All she could remember now was that it had been agonizingly hot, then there had been in a little pain and then… nothing. Just when unconsciousness began to take hold once more, a voice startled her out of her relaxed state.

"Suna… Kankuro… heat stroke." The half awake bluenette caught snippets of conversation, and she snapped her eyes open. She immediately closed them again, the environment was a blinding white and her eyes had not adjusted to it. Most carefully, she squinted and little by little, her sensitive optical organs adjusted to the bright light. She was in a hospital room, which didn't surprise her. By the time the wooden door had opened, Hinata's sight was unclouded and sharp. Two Kage's, accompanied by a sullen Kankuro, walked in.

"Ah, Hinata-chan? How are you feeling? You gave us quite the scare, you had a heat stroke. Kankuro-kun here saved you." Hinata bowed low to the painted boy even though she was sitting, but Kankuro's attention was fixated on the floor. "But, in hindsight, it's my fault. I didn't teach you much about Suna before we came, nor how to protect yourself from the heat. For this I am dreadfully sorry… we will have to sort out that matter once you are discharged from the hospital." The Hokage apologized, while the Kazekage watched with narrowed eyes. Meanwhile, Kankuro continued looking to the floor as if it were the most engrossing thing he had ever seen.

"N-no… I should have been smart enough Hokage-sama, to know about the heat. I th-think with all the fun I was having with Kankuro-san, I forgot about it." Kankuro darted his eyes over to Hinata once before they meekly returned to the floor. Now that she was fully awake, Hinata noticed Kankuro's aura was dimmer than usual; its usual sinister tone was all but gone and grey fear had replaced it. There was nothing for him to be afraid of… Humbled maybe, he was in the presence of two Kage's, but terror should not be radiating from him. Well… he did have a… strong father figure, but that should only make him respectful, not afraid. Hinata suppressed a sigh; there was too much fear in this town. Her thoughts were going to elaborate, but the Kazekage spoke.

"My doctors say you shall be out of the hospital soon. When you are discharged, someone capable will show you around and make sure you are safe. I think one of our ANBU will be observant enough to know when something is wrong. We don't want anyone getting the wrong idea if you are hospitalised again." Hinata noticed that Kankuro flinched when the Kazekage put emphasis on certain words; she was starting to piece together the cause for his sullen fright. The leader of the Wind must have… talked with him. Not only that, but the foreign leaders words caused some unease within herself; it was like the Kazekage was being too careful about harming her. Of course, if she were to be harmed, relations between Konoha and Suna will be a little strained, so she could understand why Kankuro's imposing father was going to such measures for her security. Not only that, the Hokage would keep a closer eye on the Kazekage to make sure he wasn't planning anything. Anxiety thrummed through her body; she shouldn't be thinking political thoughts like this, she was on holiday!

"I th-think Kankuro-san and T-Temari-san were very good guides to me sir… It was my own f-fault. Pl-please don't be mad at them." Hinata quietly begged. She didn't mind taking the blame for anything; it wasn't like she was going to live with the Kazekage, unlike Kankuro and Temari who would have to put up with the Kazekage's rage at home. She even bet that after this ordeal she wouldn't see him this close again, so it wouldn't matter if he were angry at her.

There was a heavy silence as Hinata's words sank into everyone's heads. The quiet was just becoming borderline uncomfortable when a blonde doctor walked in. Of course, the Kage's didn't even flinch (and Hinata was used to being aware of her surroundings so she had heard him from a mile off) but Kankuro twitched slightly, and finally his eyes darted to his father a couple of times before wandering around the room. He really looked to be on edge around the man he called his father.

"Miss Hiuga" Hinata tried not to flinch as Kankuro suddenly focused his dark eyes off the bare-looking plant in the room to stare at her. Well he does have politics training… he must have heard s-something about my former Clan. My name does sound the same to theirs after all… "I can see now that you are fine after your ordeal. I suggest you stay out of the sun at midday for the rest of your trip, drink plenty of water and wear light clothing. That is all I can give you; just try and bear the heat. I've already signed your discharge papers, I expected you to be up and about soon. You seem like a strong little girl." The blonde doctor smiled gently before bowing to the two powerful men in the room. He then left, his white coat swishing behind him like smoke as he turned round.

"Well Hinata, since you have the all clear now, I bet you're craving to see the rest of the city." Hinata twitched in anticipation; she had only seen a small portion of what the town had to offer but that portion had excited her greatly. "However, night is dawning quickly. You slept for an entire day."

Ultimate letdown. Hinata's small body seemed to deflate; her stupidity had cost her a whole day of her short visit. Well, it was a month but Hinata knew how quickly a month could fly by. This was a short visit to her. The year she had had since the incident with Akane had been one of the best in her life, and had all but flown by. She had friends, a stable source of income (her reputation amongst Konoha as an herb mistress was now legendary, even though they didn't know it was really Hinata. Hinata just hoped no-one would put her absence along with the absence of the herb woman together and figure out her identity. She didn't want attention), a surrogate family of Mongeese and of course, Naruto; not to mention that she was coming on well as a ninja. Yes, it had been a peaceful, fun and fulfilling year. It was also one of the quickest years of her short life. If this visit was going to be as fun as her past year, this vacation would be over in what would seem like a week. Unfortunately for her; the beginning of her holiday wasn't going to be fun at all… neither was the end.

But Hinata didn't know that now. Currently, she was strolling down the long corridor of the hospital halls, Kage's and Kankuro by her side. She had a slight stomp in her step and a small sulk on her face; someone could have mistaken her for having a temper tantrum. She wasn't exactly, but she was grumpy that she had missed out a whole day of exploration. And being the girl she was; she blamed herself. Hinata concluded that her first full day in Suna had been somewhat of a disaster, but hey, there's always tomorrow.

Too bad tomorrow would be just as bad. Worse even.

Eventually, the cold Kazekage and his equally stony faced son bid goodnight to the Hokage and Hinata. Not long after the pair of Konoha souls found their inn. Relief coursed through Hinata's body, she just wanted today to be over already.

Keeping an open mind about the future of her trip, the oblivious Hinata snuggled down into the covers of her bed as whispers of chilled wind snuck in through the glass-less window. Due to her little fainting session today, she had been asleep for a long time and her muscles were aching for release; she needed to exercise. How strange it was, to crave movement. Hinata hadn't known exercise had been such a part of her until she had stopped moving.

Shivering as the covers fell off her small body, Hinata got out of the warm confines of her bed. As quickly as she was able, she got dressed into warmer, but still light clothes. Once she was done, she held her hands up in a position she hadn't done since she had come from Konoha.

There was a miniscule wisp of smoke as an illusion of a young, brown haired woman covered the bluenette's true appearance. Inspecting herself to make sure that she had done the Jutsu properly, she nodded to herself in the small, face mirror hung up across her room. Satisfied with her work, Hinata jumped onto the window ledge, not even needing a second to compose herself as she leapt out of inn onto the nearest buildings roof.

Cool night air rushed through her hair as she ran across the flat roofs of the desert town. A wide, unrestrained smile graced Hinata's face and after five minutes of non-stop running she halted her movement and just took the time to think.

Hinata's breath was taken away, not by exercise, but by the sight before her. Stars, along with the light from peoples houses lit up the entire town and the moon shone its waxing light over the town also, so intricate shadows appeared everywhere. Over the rocky military wall the silvery desert stretched forever and beyond like a never ending sea of quicksilver. But despite the beauty, Hinata was worried.

Of course she didn't want to have anxiety on her mind, but a lifetime (excluding this year so far) of trouble and woe had given her a paranoid edge on her already nervous disposition. Hinata knew she analysed things too much, read into things that didn't concern her, but she couldn't help it. If it plagued her mind, she would think about it. So far, the main things that bugged her were Mr Gekko, the mystery of the third 'Sand' Sibling and the Kazekage's demeanour towards Kankuro and herself.

She found herself looking at Fan in the Wind, the lights were on and her eyes could just make out the silhouette of Mr Gekko himself. Over the drunken shouts of citizens being thrown out of the local clubs and pubs, her ears caught a loud crashing come from the shop. Without thinking, Hinata dashed forward towards the shop, Mr Gekko's safety fully on her mind. A small part of her mind remembered to discard her Transformation illusion so Mr Gekko would recognise her.

Without warning, Hinata burst through the shop door, fully ready to fight.

The sight of a suitcase was not a sight she expected. Nevertheless, Hinata's mind tried to figure out what was going on.

Fans, of all sizes, colours and textures were scattered everywhere, some utterly destroyed, and others fully in tact but merely out of place on the grubby floor. Judging by the bare money-draw the old, red cashier register had been emptied entirely, and the only paper Hinata could see was from the torn books also on the floor. A distant part of her mind raged; books were a mine of knowledge, she had snuck around to get her hands on the most basic of volumes, when here, on the floor, a wealth of information lay destroyed. But her vision was really focused on the wild haired man stood amongst the destruction, hands holding an admittedly small wad of cash. Dark eyes impossibly wide, the withered form of Mr Gekko stumbled forward as if to greet her. Quickly as her body would allow, Hinata saved him from falling flat in his face; he had caught his foot of a ripped fan.

Mr Gekko shot out of her steady grip, and Hinata let him go willingly. Immediately, the man shoved the money in the suitcase and struggled to zip it up.

"M-Mr Gekko?" Hinata breathed over the frustrated grunts of the rushed elderly man in front of her. "Wh-what is going on?"

"No time, no time, they are coming for me. I've gotta get out of here, quickly, quickly! Why won't you close!" Mr Gekko shouted at his suitcase, still trying in vain to shut it.

Stepping forth lightly, Hinata went to help. Her eye then caught a pile of envelopes spread almost shockingly neat across the desk. Each one had a splash of red stamped on them, and the crimson words were enough to make Hinata feel fear.


Hinata had only once seen an envelope like this one. It was when she had paid the rent, but the rent collector had bumped up the price of her apartment because… Naruto lived there. The next day she had received an envelope like this one, demanding money… or a list of threats written after the sum would be carried out. Of course the Hokage had sorted it out, but straight after the whole ordeal Hinata had requested permission to set up a bank account in the Hokage's name (Hinata feared that if she used her own name, someone could interfere with her account). The Hokage had agreed, and now Hinata's bank had enough money in it to keep her and Naruto afloat if something were to happen.

One letter demanding rent had shook Hinata into a state of panic; Mr Gekko had at least 11 letters. And that was only by a rough estimate of her eye. Hinata could only imagine what Mr Gekko was feeling; or just how much he was in debt. No wonder he looked ready to… ah.

He was running away.

"Th-there are people after you aren't there M-Mr Gekko?" Hinata whispered, and somehow the panicked old man heard her and just stopped dead still.

"Yes." A straight one word answer was all Hinata got before Mr Gekko grabbed his finally zipped suitcase and sprinted to the door. Once again, the man stopped still.

"Revenge has a heavy price. Remember that child." The words hung heavy in the air as the door slammed shut. Mr Gekko had gone, and as the shop's door bell tinkled through the air, Hinata tried to piece it all together.

People were after Mr Gekko. He was on the run, and she was worried for him because the more in debt someone is, the more they are hounded. And judging by Mr Gekko's flight, he had racked up a tremendous bill.

Although Hinata wanted to run free through the town, the matter of Mr Gekko was far more intriguing (and frightening); Hinata wouldn't be able to concentrate on the beauty of the city with something like this weighing on her mind. Grabbing the numerous warning envelopes, Hinata took on her illusion once more and slipped out into the quietness of the night.

Muscle memory kept Hinata from stumbling into her room, but not even muscle memory could keep her from collapsing on her bed. She wasn't tired, just drained. It had been a hard day (even though she had slept for most of it), and emotional fatigue was beginning to take its toll.

She would have gone to sleep then and there, but someone was going to wake her in the morning with water, so she had to get changed as not to arouse suspicion. Groaning in resentment, Hinata dragged herself off the bed (which strangely felt more comfortable when she knew she had to get out of it) and quickly undressed and redressed in her night wear. The envelopes on her bed also had to be hidden, so dragging up the mental energy Hinata lifted the mattress up off her bed a placed the letters underneath. Hopefully no one would go snooping in her room; they had no reason to anyway. She was just a child after all.

A distant part of her mind screamed at her to not be so stupid and turn the letters in but… two things stopped her. One, was the Hinata was far to curious as to what was going on with Mr Gekko and no doubt that if she handed in the letters she would be kept out of the loop. The second reason was self preservation. The Hokage's would know she had been out after hours and that she could slip away at any time undetected. Security measures would be taken to keep an eye on her and that would limit what she could do. So she would keep this little secret.

Slipping into her temporary bed once more another groan left her lips, this one of contentment. At ease knowing that she didn't have to get up until dawn, Hinata let herself drift off into peaceful darkness, hoping tomorrow would be a better day.


The massive crash of a door being thrown open blasted through Hinata's small room, waking her with a startling shock. Not a second did she have to compose herself before a green flash darted past her bed and rested beside her.


Over the ringing in her ears, Hinata's mind could still process what was being said. Well, bellowed. Th-that is way too much excitement for morning time… or any time for that matter…

Groggily, Hinata accepted the cool drink and drank gratefully, the dryness becoming present now that she had woken up a little.

"Alllllriiight! Our esteemed Hokage would like you to be up and ready soon to meet your new escort! With that, I bid you a productive and most youthful day!" Hinata coughed a dry giggle as Guy did the good guy pose, teeth pinging brightly in the morning sun streaming through her curtain less window. Then, in another flash of leaf green that reminded her strangely of home, he was gone. A small part of Hinata worried she was turning antisocial for she was glad to be left alone in peace.

As Hinata dressed in her heat sensible clothes, her thoughts wandered back to last night. As much as she tried, Hinata just could keep her gaze off the bed where the letters were stashed. One look won't take too much time…

The rookie 'detective' lifted up the mattress again and with relief saw the letters to still be there. She picked out the most recent one and found the envelope to have already been opened, so neatly it looked like it hadn't even been touched. The other letters hadn't been opened, only this one so Hinata drew to a conclusion that Mr Gekko had only opened this one to see exactly how much trouble he was in. The bluenette flinched; he must be in a whole lot of trouble to be running like that.


Mr T. Gato

Loan Services

Gato Companies

Land of Hot Water, Kobe Port, Yuhi Street, Gato Company

H66 O6T

13th January 2005

Mr Gekko

Loan Number: 236598

Original Loan: 25000000 ryo (£250,000)

Compound interest per year: 29.2%

Years (and rising…) since loan: 25

Amount currently paid: 40000000 ryo (£400,000)

Amount due: 15088296210 ryo (£150,782,962 OR 150 million, 7 hundred and eighty two thousand, nine hundred and sixty two pounds)

Mr Gekko, it has come to my own personal attention that you have only paid 40000000 ryo back since your loan in 1980, and have failed to repay the interest rate I charged. This is not acceptable. I gave you plenty of time to arrange the payments, but it seems now my generosity was wasted. I do not care if you are unable to pay me back, the debt will be payed whether it be in money, objects or blood. More specifically, yours.

If I do not receive my payment within 5 months, a face-to-face meeting will be in order. And I can assure you, it won't be pleasant. I will be forced to take action against you. You will lose everything, your home, possessions and life. If the debt is not payed, you will suffer greatly. That is a promise.

This is the last letter my company and I will waste on you. Final chance.

I look forward to receiving my money. If my demands aren't met then I cannot wait to meet you in person.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Gato of Gato Company

Blood swiftly drained from Hinata's face at the amount Mr Gekko owed. She had never seen so many zero's! How exactly could one man use 25000000? And the amount of debt… she nearly fainted! The Mr Gekko Hinata knew lived in a very humble shop and well… his attire didn't exactly scream wealth. Hinata speculated (more than a little out of it) that owing that amount would do that to you.

The threats, although no details were specified, also chilled Hinata to the core. She wasn't even the one on the true receiving end of this menacing letter and already she wanted to run away from that letter, or burn it so its words couldn't frighten anyone ever again. All that she could comfort herself with was the fact that she knew who was going after Mr Gekko. A man named Mr Gato… she recognized that name.

Hinata was aware that the Hokage couldn't provide for her forever, no matter how young her physical appearance may be; she had lost her childlike innocent view on the world a long time ago. She had grown up so quickly mind-wise, and knew that people did get into debt. The little incident with her own 'final warning' bill had taught her that, and in her terror she had gone to the library seeking help.

Enlightenment of what to do when the inevitable happened came in the book Shinobi Life: Getting past Genin. Although she couldn't understand some of the more complex sentences, the book had shed light her a little on the subject of adult life. For example, unless under extraordinary circumstances (like having a demon inside you, Hinata had guessed), neither a Genin nor an Academy Student under 13 is not allowed to live in a household without a responsible adult to look after them. But the age of a 'responsible adult' was different for civilians and shinobi, a civilian's legal age (where they could buy drinks and be a carer etc) was 18 where as a ninja's coming of age was only 15. Not only that, but if you were a Chunnin under 13 you were allowed to live alone because you were considered capable enough of taking care of yourself. But that was only little details; Hinata had found what she had really been looking for about halfway through the book, a chapter labelled 'Loans and Debt'.

She had started to grasp the concept of loaning, but what had really caught her attention was the subsection named 'Sarakin's and Yamakin's'. Recalling the information now, Hinata remembered that Mr Gato had been under the sarakin section. And the simple definition of sarakin was a loaner who you didn't want to mess with. They allowed one to take out a massive sum of money and then they demanded insane amounts of interest (that were just below the maximum legal limit) till the sum became un-payable. Then… Hinata swallowed. The book had brushed on the subject of punishment, no gory details but enough to leave her scared. It was really lucky that the Hokage had been on her side and it had only been a small scale bill, otherwise Hinata might have died worrying.

So, to sum all it up, Mr Gato really was trouble. And Mr Gekko was in the trouble.

Suddenly, footsteps approaching her room snapped Hinata out of her shocked daze and she moved with inhuman speed to put the envelopes back where they belonged. She had only just finished adjusting the bedcovers when someone knocked on the door. Hinata's aura sense picked up that it was the Hokage, and she relaxed a little and tried to cool her face with her hand. She was human after all and blind panic did fluster her.

"My Hinata-chan, you look like you have seen a ghost!" The Hokage was right in a way; a ghost of the figures Mr Gekko owed kept haunting her mind. "Yet, you seem so flushed! Pray tell, what is wrong little one?" The brown, concerned face of the Leaf leader gazed at her, expectant for an answer.

Hinata struggled to find an answer. "I-I… er… d-don't feel too well…" In her uncertainty, Hinata stuttered more than usual. Luckily, her stomach growled and gave her a real excuse as to why she looked like a deer in the headlights. "I-I can't remember the last time I ate, H-Hokage-jiji… I feel d-dizzy."

"Well, I will remedy that in no time! I do hope you are adjusting to the Suna cuisine, it took me a while to get used to it… especially the milk!" The Hokage said as Hinata followed him out of her room and down the stairs. A combination of the Hokage's presence and no longer being under the Hokage's scrutiny relaxed Hinata, but not enough to forget about those dreaded letters hidden underneath her bed.

"-I know goat's milk is supposed to be more nutritional than cow's, but I just can't seem to get my taste buds to accept goat. Or my mind for that matter!" The Hokage chuckled and Hinata joined in even though she had only just tuned into the Hokage's chatter.

"I-I prefer go-goats milk… its sweeter to me." Hinata replied quietly, happy that she didn't miss anything important whilst she was thinking.

At the dinner hall, the ANBU bowed their heads to the Hokage and nodded in Hinata's general direction. As she was getting her breakfast (flat bread, salad and something called falafel. It looked rather nice and smelt even better, and she hadn't seen it on offer the day before) she asked the Hokage (who had accompanied her to the buffet) why the ANBU was still in uniform and masks. She was merely curious; it was a holiday after all.

"Well Hinata-chan, I am unarmed and it's safety protocol for any Kage to have weapons on them unless accompanied by armed ANBU members. It's a gesture of goodwill that the Kazekage let me and my ANBU come and stay here, and you of course. And it's a goodwill gesture on my part to keep my ANBU in line and come unarmed to any meetings we have. It's just a trust matter. Nothing to get worried about. They seem to be having a good time, even though you can't see their faces." Her Hokage answered, casually helping himself to some flat bread.

Hinata nodded noncommittally and finished selecting her breakfast. The Hokage strolled to the ANBU's table, plate full of food and Hinata followed suit.

Breakfast was a quiet but comfortable affair, the inn Hinata and her party were staying at was expensive enough to be comfortable, but humble enough to not be famous and attract too many customers. Her experience was only slightly marred by the fact that Guy was sitting next to her and she was quite afraid of another outburst of 'Youth'. It was not something she needed when she was eating her falafel at roughly 8 in the morning. She was used to Lee's exuberance, but Guy was on a level far beyond Lee. Hinata (with some fear) realised that Lee was one day going to be exactly like Guy, so she might as well get de-sensitized to Guy now. Fortunately the usual exuberant man was quiet, devouring his morning meal with a hearty gusto. Breakfast in general was a quiet and relaxed affair, much like yesterday. That was, until the Leader of the desert entered the dining hall.

All mindless chatter stopped amongst the patrons of the hall, and all eyes were turned respectfully to the Kazekage. Luckily, he didn't seem angry. There was just a proud haughtiness to him that seemed to suck the warmth out of the air.

The Hokage was the first to move, the scraping of his chair breaking the heavy silence. Hinata (as she was sitting next to the Hokage) could see her Lead ruler give the Sand a small smile in greeting which wasn't returned. Hinata wasn't surprised that the Kazekage didn't smile back; he didn't seem like that type of person.

"I didn't expect you to meet us until noon, old friend. What brings you to us so early this morning?" Sarutobi asked cautiously, whilst Hinata tried to read the emotions of the foreign Kage.

Her conclusion was… mild annoyance and traces of unease. But what could possibly make a Kage uneasy? Hinata could only think of one thing… but it was so small scale that no one really should have noticed. Unless Suna's population was smaller than she thought.

"There was a disturbance in the night; one of my civilians has gone missing." Hinata took a sharp intake of breath and held it while the Kazekage's dark eyes swept over her form. They held her gaze for a moment before the Sand ruler moved his penetrating gaze away. "We've been investigating the scene and found some… rather interesting things."

"I see… And so your meeting this morning is going to be held off, hence why you came to me." Hiruzen finished slowly, saying the words like they were a statement and not a question.

"Indeed. We have much to discuss. Our lucky visitor has an escort outside waiting for her." The Kazekage turned to Hinata, no emotion in his eyes. "You will have a chance to see the desert today; no harm will come to you this time; your escort is sure to take care of you."

Before Hinata could give her thanks, the Hokage spoke. "I hate to rush you into this so soon, but the Kazekage and I have to get working soon. Boring grown up stuff. Have a lovely day in the desert Hinata-chan; I'm sure you will learn lots. Who knows, you might see the mongeese again." The elderly man smiled down at her, every wrinkle in his browned skin made clear by the movement. Hinata tentatively smiled back, knowing that it was the Hokage's way, albeit kind, of saying 'you need to go'. With a low bow to the Kage's and the Leaf's ANBU, Hinata left the hall. For some reason, she felt all eyes on her, but quickly discarded that to the back of her mind. She didn't really feel pressure that she had been in until she had left the room though.

Letting out a breath of relief, the prodigy child wandered down the halls, letting her memory guide her to the entrance. A figure appeared out of no-where when she was a few metres away from the entrance, making Hinata tense up in fear.

Still tense, Hinata assessed the man before her.

He was a very tall man, with a muscular build and dark, tan skin, not without its scars. He had two distinctive, red markings on the right side of his face, the only visible part of his head, with the rest being covered by a white, turban-like head gear and by a sheet hanging from it on the left side of his face. His eyes held no particular warmth, but Hinata could detect any dislike in them either. His mouth was thin, and set into a small, tight smile. Hinata let a frown ghost her face for a moment; she would rather spend time with a man true to himself than one who was forcing himself to smile at her. His attire was of little consequence; a standard ANBU flak jacket and a Sand forehead protector tied tightly round his head, holding his turban in place.

Taking a small step forward, the stranger began to speak.

"Allow me introduce myself. I am Baki, and I shall be your guide today." He had a pleasant, gravely voice, and spoke his words very clearly. "On the agenda for today is a trip across the desert to the water facility we have there. It's a routine check-up, and a way for you to get out of the city for a while."

Hinata controlled her expression, but inside the first tendrils of anxiety were starting to wrap around her mind. Why did she need to be out of the city for a while? Yes, investigations were going on as to Mr Gekko's disappearance, but that would be confided to one area, wouldn't it?

"Before that, a master class inert survival is in order. I heard about your accident yesterday, and it is up to me to prevent that from ever happening again." Baki gestured for her to follow, before turning and walking out of the door, only stopping to hold it open for her.

Baki walked swiftly, wasting no time, and Hinata's small legs were struggling to keep up with him at walking pace, so she started jogging beside him. Baki's eyes slid over to her, and narrowed. He stopped, all of a sudden, and Hinata's lightning reflexes stopped her from crashing into anything.

"Lesson one –" Hinata flinched; Hiashi used to say that to her just before he… her thoughts trailed off and she shuddered, still keeping her ears open for as to what Baki had to say. "In Suna, physical exertion has to be kept at a minimum, unless you absolutely need to run. As people in Suna grew up with the heat, they have adapted so they can walk at normal speeds and not feel the heat. You on the other hand, coming from a cooler part of the world, aren't used to the temperature, and therefore will lose more sweat and gain heat quicker, resulting in another heat stroke or severe dehydration." Baki frowned for a second, face locked in thought. "The obvious solution is to lesson the intensity of which you are working at, but we are in quite a hurry today, the group are setting off in just a few hours, around 5 in the afternoon and you need to be taught the proper survival techniques." Baki scratched his smooth, tan chin with an equally tan hand. Hinata took note of the small scars littering his hands. He was a shinobi, through and through.

Suddenly, without warning, Baki swooped up and placed Hinata on his shoulders. "If you don't have to work at all, then the chance of you becoming ill is lessened." Once again Baki set off, Hinata clutching his head tightly.

Atop his head, Hinata had little to do except for admire the sights around her and inspect Baki's personality through his aura. He wasn't on her mental 'register' of auras yet.

Closing her eyes, she rested her head on his and instinctively 'felt' around with her mind.

His aura was a murky blue, flowing in calm waves around his body, occasionally changing directing spontaneously. The man had quite some power at his fingertips, but there was a sense of experience and reserve that Hinata knew would keep the man from going wild with it. She trusted this man a little more, but she didn't really know him, so she vowed to keep her guard up. He might be allied with the Leaf, but friendships can turn rather easily. She would never forget her experience with Ino.

Hinata familiarised herself with Baki's chakra signature until she felt him come to a sudden stop. Opening her eyes, she took in the sight of the building before her.

It was a huge, towering dome of sandstone, with a brightly coloured sign of the front face saying 'Suna Academy'. Hinata shifted a little in excitement, she was coming to learn! And hopefully… no one would be mean to her in here. They didn't know her after all.

Neither did anyone back in Konoha really, and they were nasty too… Hinata flopped a little, but was forced to come to her senses when she was suddenly removed from her perch on Baki's head.

"I trust you can walk now, it will be shady and cool inside. Come." Baki barely finished his sentence before he turned on his heel and disappeared inside, Hinata obeying his command obediently.

The room through the great entrance of the school was a gigantic hall which was occupied by around 15 students who were waiting patiently in 3 even rows. Hinata spotted Temari and Kankuro in the 1st row, and a surge of happiness and then guilt ran through her. She had got them into trouble… They won't want to talk to me again…

Baki led her gently up the front, and introduced her to the entire class. No one said a word to her, and when a blushing Hinata looked to Temari and Kankuro to gauge their reactions to her presence, she found nothing. They were apathetic to her.

Unfortunately, Baki directed her to stand next to Temari and quietly instructed Temari to help her with anything she happened to struggle on. Hinata caught a flicker of confusion go across the spiky haired girls face before an empty look replaced it. Temari nodded silently and then Baki went back up to the front again.

The lessons of desert survival had begun.


8 hours later… 4.30pm

"I hope you use what I taught you today wisely. Homework will be a 2 page essay on the correct equipment to use from the sheet I will give you and why you have chosen them, and not the others." Baki's gravelly voice instructed the class, handing round a crisp, paper sheet. Hinata, Kankuro and Temari did not receive a sheet, and Hinata wondered why. Then she remembered, she was leaving for the desert soon! Still, why aren't the Kazekage's c-children getting one?

Baki finished handing out the sheets before dismissing everyone. When Hinata and the two Sand Siblings tried to move to leave however, Baki held up a large, tan hand to stop them. The trio did, and waited for Baki to explain.

"The Kazekage has already told Hinata that she will be joining the trip across the desert today, but I doubt anyone told you two?" The two Sand Siblings shook there in head confirmation. "Well, no matter, the Kazekage has been very busy today with an investigation."

"So the rumours are true then? Me Gekko has gone missing?" Temari asked blue eyes wide with fear.

"Unfortunately, yes. However, I do not have permission to divulge any more information regarding the case." Baki said gravely, dark eyes softening a little when Temari held a hand to her mouth in a strangled sort of gasp and turned away.

Pure guilt engulfed Hinata as she looked at Temari's broken expression. Wrinkles of grief made themselves clear as her blue eyes shut tightly, almost as she were physically holding back tears. A deep, heavy feeling weighed in Hinata's stomach and her mind whirred at what to do.

She was out of her depth. How stupid of her to think she could investigate Mr Gekko! Of course others would try and find out what was going on!

A decision was made. When she got back from the desert she would leave the bills somewhere safe, as well as give an anonymous statement as to what had happened in the shop last night. It was the least she could do, and also the most. Fear stopped her coming forward now; the fear of disappointment in the Hokage's eyes at finding out she was a sneaking little liar, and fear of never being welcomed into Suna again. Fear of non-acceptance.

The silence that had weighed down all of them was broken as Baki spoke again.

"Temari-chan, I am sorry for your loss. But we need to be focused. You are all going on this trip, and I expect you to be as clear headed as any ANBU we have. I will accept nothing less, from any of you." An unknown emotion filled Hinata and she touched her chest tentatively. No-one had ever really expected anything of her before, no one had ever believed she could do anything. It was… such a strange feeling.

Did Baki truly believe that she could do it?

"Sir, is the fact that Gekko-san is missing the only reason we are going to be out of town for a while?" Kankuro asked, narrowing his painted eyes in suspicion.

Baki sighed. "The third sibling is returning early from his mission. He might be especially… unpredictable and so we deemed it right to get you two as well as our guest out of town for a while."

The two children beside Hinata paled and there auras abruptly changed to radiate grey terror. Just the mention of him gets everyone sc-scared…

"We better be getting off then, unless you three have any more questions?" Silence was Baki's only reply. "Your bags have already been packed, we sent some Chunnin into your rooms to gather your supplies so we don't have to wait."

Hinata only just kept herself from fainting. Nodding, Hinata bit the inside of her cheek and dug her nails into her hands to keep her from acting in fear. What if they f-found something?

"Come along you three." Baki turned on his heel and left with a grace and speed that Hinata was already getting used to. She was careful to keep behind the two Sand Siblings… she didn't like leaving her back exposed to people who could possibly be hostile.

The sun was now a low, simmering orb in the sky, still giving out intense heat to an extent where it was pleasant. There wasn't cloud in sight as usual, but Suna's dusk sky didn't need clouds to give it character. The sky was streaked in shades of magenta and yellow, like the brushes of a hurried artist had painted them, and the stars were only just beginning to make an appearance from the blackening heavens.

The trek would be easy on the senses; however the company might send Hinata over the edge. Kankuro hadn't said a word to her all day and Temari had been perfectly polite to her but it was a cold politeness that warded Hinata off from going further in their conversations. As for Baki, well, he didn't seem like the type to speak with actions rather than with words.

The realisation that there's no place like home crashed into Hinata, and she longed for the furry faces of her surrogate family and her friends back in Konoha now more than ever.

Awaiting the quartet at Suna's heavily guarded entrance was a single man with numerous bags arranged carefully into a line before him. He was, like most ninja Hinata had seen, perfectly composed and dressed. He wore the traditional shinobi flak jacket, light grey pants and bandages were wrapped around his arms from his wrists to his elbows. His Sand hitai-ate was securely wrapped around his forehead which held in place a white turban which Hinata assumed would keep his head cool. Than man had no defining facial hair or features apart from a little stubble, and his face was not one you would remember in a crowd.

"Hinata-chan, this is Kayoto Utashi, one of Suna's best Jonin. He will be accompanying us for the desert trek tonight." Baki said. Hinata bowed deeply to the man in respect, but couldn't find the courage to introduce herself back. Luckily, the man just smiled politely at her before averting his blue eyes elsewhere.

"Alright, you lot, get your supplies ready. We are leaving in 5 minutes, no excuses." Baki commanded, and so Hinata, Temari and Kankuro proceeded to check their equipment carefully. Anything broken or missing might be the thing they needed most – Hinata learnt that today. Even matchsticks might be the difference between life and death.

5 minutes later, as promised, Baki ordered them all to move out. Hinata noticed that the Sand Siblings were sticking close together, and that they were sending out faint signals for her to keep away.

Hinata sighed and followed Baki out through the main gates, hoping that this trek would result in the Sand duo bonding with her a little more.

Bonding, however, was going to be the least of her worries…


Since I am only 14 (it was my birthday on the Feb 17th) my knowledge of loaning etc is sparse so I apologize if I have done anything wrong. I did however, try to get the interest rates right and such, 29.2% is the maximum legal interest in Japan (according to Wiki), so I did my homework!

A sarakin is someone who is just below a loan shark, charging the maximum legal interest rate.

A yamakin is a loan shark and goes above the legal interest rate. These are the terms (provided, once again by Wiki) used in Japan.

I made a bit of a corny joke about the letter address. First, I put Land of Hot Water because apparently its part of the real Naruto world map, and it made me laugh because 'being in hot water' means getting into trouble. Yeah… I'm bad at jokes. Also, rearrange the postcode and you get 666 HOT. Like devil. I hate Gato.

Moving swiftly on, I hope you enjoyed that chapter!

I won't be updating any time soon, my real exams are getting closer (I had my mock GCSE Science and Math tests a few weeks ago) I dedicate this chapter to UnknownRider541, because they sent me a PM which reminded me I needed to update! Thank you for getting my ass in gear!

Till next time, ingat! xx