A/N: Final chapter… *sighs* And it's so very much more important than any other chapter. I won't waste time apologising for the late update – these things happen. It's finally come to an impasse, and I feel like this chapter is so much better written than the others as well.


Naaw, I've grown so much! ;P

Anyway, check the Author's Notes of other chapters if you don't remember what's going on. Oh yeah, and there's a teensy time-skip of four and a half months from the end of chapter 9.

I have to warn (and apologise) about a scene near the end – more than any lemon, it has earned this story it's M rating. It's dark, but I kept out the details as best I could while still giving the overall picture, so skimming over it shouldn't be necessary. But hopefully it'll give you guys a better idea of why the Hyuuga and Uchiha are so dead set on overthrowing the current ninja regime. You still love me… yes? n_n

Anyway, enjoy. ^_^

Chapter 10 – The Path Forward.

The afternoon air was warm and excited – a tangible feeling for all those present. I had my traditional Hyuuga kimono on and couldn't remember the last time I'd gotten this dressed up for something that wasn't an exclusively Hyuuga affair. I wasn't that close to Tenten, though we got along nicely enough; because I was so close with Neji, I suppose she already thought of me as a little sister. But she'd been excited when her shiro-maku kimono finally arrived, and being the only girl within arm's length, Tenten had grabbed me and dragged me into her fitting room to show me what she and her girlfriends had picked out.

Today was the wedding between Neji Hyuuga and Tenten Harakuma [*].

The girl was freakishly friendly with me, always trying to involve me in the preparations for the wedding and I remembered this fondly as I watched her marry my cousin. The ceremony was just one aspect of a wedding, but seemingly the most important. They looked so happy, so determined – I wondered how much they'd actually thought this through. I also wondered how much Tenten knew about her now husband's family's plans to take on the Konoha ninja.

'Focus,' I told myself, glancing in the direction of the Hokage.

She was beautiful, with long blonde hair and a buxom build – there were so many questions, so many doubts in my head: was she a good person, a victim of circumstance or evil incarnate? It was killing me to not know what the hell was going on.

The entire higher echelon of high society was invited to the reception of course, but only a set amount had seen the actual nuptials. I wandered away from the buffet table after inspecting the finger food and attempted to avoid Sasuke Uchiha, looking for a familiar blonde in the crowd.

Over the past four and a half months, Sasuke had tried several times to talk to me, and I managed to avoid him for awhile – until one day in school, an hour before classes even started. He didn't attack me or threaten me – which I half expected him to do, despite the fact that the last time we'd talked he actually said he wouldn't do anything to hurt me. He'd just wanted to know what I thought about his speech on Naruto's vengeance, our clans looking to take over…

But that smouldering, lustful stare of his wouldn't leave me alone.

"Hinata!" Naruto Uzumaki almost tackled me, only holding back because of the formal affair. He embraced me. "You look beautiful as always."

I blushed. "Th-thank-you Naruto."

He looked handsome in his tuxedo, having opted for the new age look – the dark of the suit clashed with his bright blonde hair and cheery disposition, but I love it. He wouldn't be Naruto if he had chosen to wear what everyone else was wearing.

Naruto's smile faded as his eyes drifted toward the Hokage and her entourage – which also included the council members. I took his hand in mine and pulled him with me as I spotted my cousin. We both needed a "pick me up". Neji and Tenten had just come off the dance floor and a few of her closest friends scuttled away as she spotted Naruto and I and waved us over unnecessarily.

"Congratulations N-Neji nī-san and Tenten chan," I said, bowing respectfully in front of them both.

Neji smiled lightly in return and Tenten threw her arms around my shoulders, squeezing me gently. "Thank-you," she whispered. "It's your turn next."

I blushed profusely as she pulled away, still holding Naruto's hand. He offered his congratulations as well, earning himself a hug from the bride as well.

"Come on Neji," Tenten said after a few minutes, taking her husband's arm. "I'm hungry and the buffet table looks lonely."

Neji squeezed my hand affectionately before following Tenten and I sighed.

"So much for that," Naruto said.

Before I could suggest we dance (or something of the sort), a hand tapped my shoulder.

"I don't believe we've officially met," Tsunade Senju said courteously and I shook my head.

"H-Hokage-sama," I said as evenly as I could, and we introduced ourselves.

"It was an honour to be invited," she said, her eyes raking a quiet Naruto and I nodded to her.

She seemed nice enough – this fact, while making me feel better momentarily, did nothing to sway the butterflies in my stomach. Did she know Naruto wanted her dead? Would she really kill us for something as uncontrollable as simply being born into a clan with a hereditary ability? Am I as good as dead regardless of my opinion on the coup?

'I have to stop this.'

These thoughts were why I was having trouble sleeping: Naruto's warm embrace softened my inner turmoil, but didn't get rid of it entirely. Some mornings were better than others.

Naruto continued to ignore the Hokage as she engaged me in my opinion on the ceremony. I watched the way her eyes flickered to my boyfriend every now and then and was glad that she didn't try to drag him into the conversation. But after the Hokage asked us if we knew about the relationship between the ninja and civilian councils, I knew I had to intervene.

"Father doesn't talk to me about politics," I said without stuttering. "I'm afraid it's not all that interesting to m-me."

'Crap, almost had it.'

"What about you Naruto?" Tsunade asked the blonde that was suddenly squeezing my hand tighter than before.

Naruto didn't respond, letting his eyes wander over toward the buffet table – and where Neji and Tenten had disappeared to. I didn't know what to say to placate him, so I just bowed to Tsunade, politely excused myself, and led my boyfriend away from the Hokage before he got us both into trouble.

X X X

Most of the guests had already departed – the Hokage included – and my father was looking at me oddly. I had already shared my concerns over the coup d'état with him, but right now, he looked positively confused.

"There isn't much more to explain," he said. "But if you're unsure, there's one last thing that can be done."

"What do y-you mean father?"

He looked past me. "Fugaku?"

I spun around, staring into the sharp eyes of Fugaku Uchiha. The man looked resigned and frustrated, nodding his head.

"With your permission," he said. "I'll have Itachi show you."

And with that I was being led over to where the Uchiha heir was sitting all by himself. He wasn't a party or people person, as I'd noted over the years, but was still hanging around. Fugaku let go of my arm as my father stood by my side, and walked over to his oldest son. They talked for a minute (the younger of the two glancing at me a few times) before seemingly coming to an agreement.

Itachi had always seemed to me like he was the epitome of style and poise. He rose from his chair and walked over to me with such grace, I almost stopped breathing. No-one could deny that the Uchiha heir was both formidable and the silent kind of dominant. I found myself struggling not to feel like he was trying to intimidate me. But at the same time, he exuded a kind of warmth that Sasuke had never been able to muster.

He was also incredibly good looking.

Not that I would ever admit that out loud: I had enough trouble admitting it to myself.

I barely noticed that Fugaku had followed him back over to us.

Itachi stared at me. The only people anywhere nearby were either unconscious from drinking too much, or already knew what was going on. He sighed.

"Father?" Itachi glanced at me before shifting his piercing gaze onto Fugaku Uchiha. "Are you sure?"

The elder Uchiha nodded at me. "She deserves to know. Show her."

He ignored Itachi as he left (after a moment of hesitation, my father also retreated), and the heir to their clan now stared uncertainly at me. He didn't like it, clearly, and continued to frown at me as though hoping I would opt out of knowing. The thin line he'd forced his lips into was not an uncharacteristic Uchiha trait, as I'd learnt from my friendship with Sasuke, but no matter how much he tried to make me not want to know, Itachi's attempt at intimidating me was failing miserably. I stared back into those dark grey eyes. Sure, he made me want to turn and run the other way, but my need to see this memory his father had spoken of was stronger.

Eventually, Itachi sighed, backing down from this staring contest.

Did he do that on purpose?

"You have no idea how bad the ninjas are," he said evenly. "You had best prepare yourself."

I nodded. "I need t-to know."

"And stuttering is a sign of weakness," he said seriously, and I glared at him.

Itachi chuckled, now startling me. "You've got guts. Okay, meet me at the Uchiha estate in –"

"Can't I m-meet you somewhere else?" I interrupted quickly.

I really did not want to risk running into Sasuke. He had been telling the truth about a lot of things, but that still didn't mean I trusted him.

Itachi shook his head. "You opened this can of worms. If you want to know badly enough, you'll meet me where I tell you to."

Fury and indignation built up in me, but I wasn't Naruto, with his blissful fearlessness. I wouldn't be testing Itachi Uchiha's patience any time soon. I nodded my head, biting back my retort. So much had happened lately, and so quickly. This new me, who thought of quips, whether she spoke them or not, was very surprising to me. Maybe this meant that one day, this stupid stuttering of mine would ease off as well.

"Tomorrow night," Itachi said, "at six o'clock, meet me at the estate gates."

And then he left, without waiting for a response. Typical Uchiha.

X X X

"Want to go to the Theatre?"

I shook my head at Naruto's question. I wasn't in the mood to head to the nightclub. It wasn't exactly a common hang out for me anyway – I only went there to be with friends or dance with Naruto. Neither were very appealing to me right now. The day had ended on Neji and Tenten's wedding and I was a bundle of nerves – I hadn't told Naruto yet about Itachi, just waiting to digest it myself first. Again I felt like I was in over my head with everything that was going on, but the worst feeling was not knowing what was going on – the deciding factor on standing up to Itachi and that intense stare of his.

"Let's go out t-to the gardens," I suggested a moment later, wanting to just get out of my room.

Cleaning the room we shared was a moot point now as the place was spotless, and Naruto was getting impatient, wanting to do something. Since Neji had actually moved out of the compound months ago, Naruto had moved in. Technically, he had his own room (it was improper for him to publically claim to be sharing my room with me after all), but spent more time in mine. My father would have a fit I suppose, if he knew just how many nights over the past four months Naruto had spent in my bed, but a part of me hoped he wouldn't mind. He'd proven he actually does care about me, so the little girl in me that wants her father's approval and love, was banking on him being protective. Still, Naruto moving into the compound had been Hiashi Hyuuga's idea in the first place.

They still wouldn't tell me why, but I suspected it had something to do with me in the first place.

Impatient, Naruto sighed, looking annoyed, but then a small smile graced his lips.

"Yeah," he said excitedly, "I wanna show you something."

He took my hand and practically dragged me out the shogi door and out of this wing of the complex. With the koi pond to our left, we sat on the grass, leaning against a tree.

I waited patiently for Naruto to show me what was so interesting and was about to ask him about it when he sat up straight.

Naruto flicked his finger and a spark lit up the cool air. I watched in fascination as the tiny speck of fire took the form of a fox and seemed to dance as it moved about in a graceful manner: the night was rife with small luminescent lights being created by a low level jutsu. Normally I'd be worried – the ninjas could see through things like this – but Naruto had assured me none were in the area and the lights would disappear once any got close.

The appearance of this strange light of fire warmed the area and I leant backward into Naruto, just watching the fox as it pranced. It was beautiful. I didn't even care that the koi pond was empty.

After a few minutes of pondering, I just had to ask: "How do you d-do that?"

"It's just a parlour trick," Naruto said huskily. "A little fire jutsu I learnt from Itachi but on a smaller scale – just strong enough to play with."

I giggled at that. "It's b-beautiful."

"I know."

I elbowed him gently. "What–"

"You're right," he corrected himself. He chuckled. "But anyway: the ninja of Konoha have been known for their fire techniques in the past, and the Katon no jutsu – a fireball jutsu – is an Uchiha one. It's who we are." He lifted his free hand, fingered the side of my face where I was supposedly able to activate my kekkei genkai. "It's in our blood."

I inhaled deeply. "Itachi is an enigma," I said. "H-he's intimidating b-but so serene at the same t-time."

"Don't go making me jealous now," Naruto joked. "But yeah, I know what you mean. I've been friends with teme for years, but I've always liked Itachi more."

His face fell at his own reference to Sasuke. I really wished none of that had happened – that the two could be friends again – but there was nothing remotely trustworthy about the youngest Uchiha anymore. He'd scared me more than Itachi, that's for sure.

"He wants to show m-me his m-memories," I said, referring to Itachi.

Naruto peered at me. "The ones with the Hokage?"

"You've s-seen them?"

He nodded. "It's not pretty Hinata. Are you sure you–"

"Yes," I interrupted abruptly, and then apologised profusely.

"Don't apologise," he said. "You're right – you need to see. If you're not sure you want in, then you at least need all the information you can. How else will you know what to do?"

"N-Naruto," I shuddered, hugging him and burying my face in his shirt.

I worried that he wouldn't want anything to do with me if I decided not to join the coup – I was terrified of losing this moment and never getting it back. Naruto had been so good to me (even if a part of it was guilt over what he'd done to me) and I felt more confident just knowing he cared – but the nagging doubt about what was going to happen wouldn't go away.

I didn't want to hurt anyone.

"I love you Hinata," Naruto whispered, kissing the crown of my head. "And nothing will ever change that."

The fire fox gave a tiny howl and imploded, disappearing and taking the warmth of our surroundings with it.

"Let's go inside," Naruto suggested, and I followed him onto my feet.

Without discussing it, we held hands on our way back to our room. We didn't need to go the Theatre – we didn't need to worry about anyone else right now. Inside our room, I spun around and initiated the first kiss of the night. Naruto happily returned my fervour and lay me down. The foreplay was short lived but I didn't care, and as he slid inside of me, I let my worries over the coup go… at least for tonight.

X X X

The next morning, I woke up content and at peace... strange for these times. But with Naruto by my side, this was easier than not. But the moment I started to get ready for the day, the nerves kicked in again. Worst case scenarios wouldn't keep out of my head and a few times, I almost dropped the breakfast tray on my way back to my room. Naruto had just emerged from the shower as I re-entered my room with our breakfast. Being a Hyuuga, I had a cook and maid to do these things for me, but I had just felt like doing this myself this time.

I was a worse, jittery mess than usual when I had nothing to do.

"Morning," Naruto said, in his sing-song voice, and I smiled at him. "Got anything planned for the day?"

I nodded. "Gardening mostly: and l-lunch with the family."

"You haven't done that in awhile," he said, looking over our breakfast eagerly. He didn't ask to join us, probably realising the Hyuuga members needed some time to discuss things… whatever he thought those things were. Instead, he gave me a grin before digging into his food.

Over an hour later found me musing on the school holidays and the inevitable run-in with Sasuke once they started up again. I was on all fours, clearing out a new garden bed when I sensed my sister's approach. We may not have activated our kekkei genkai yet, or worked with chakra, but we could always sense each other within a certain radius: it was a weird bond that also extended to Neji. The three of us had spent our formative years training together, but when father wasn't around, we took it further, by attempting to incorporate some of the Hyuuga techniques in with the child's game hide-and-go-seek.

It had interesting results.

Hanabi joined me in the gardens and even went down on all fours in the middle of the soil to help. I was pulling the weeds out by hand and for the first time in my memory, my sister was willingly getting dirty. She didn't comment on it, so I let her work beside me silently. But regardless, she definitely wanted to say something. She was weird in the fact that the idea of bonding was both strange and exciting to her.

"Sister," she said an hour later (we'd finished with the weeding and started planting the flowers I'd set aside for the array of now empty garden beds, including cyclamen, hyacinth, and lilies), "have you been having sex with Naruto-kun?"

And that was where the bonding ended.

I almost fell over giggling at the innocent look on her face and changed the subject. But her eyes narrowed on me nonetheless, and when we arrived in the family dining room for lunch, she finally stopped looking like she wanted to ask if I was taking precautions to not fall pregnant.

Half an hour later, lunch was over and my father was arguing with Neji again. Since they'd left the building, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but my cousin left the Hyuuga compound in a very undignified manner – storming out. Father wouldn't tell me what it was about, and yet again, I was stuck listening to Hanabi's wild theories. She thought maybe Hizashi had not really left it in his will for our father to take care of Neji… then she decided that Tenten was the cause, being from an unassuming family. I had to remind Hanabi that our father had been supportive of this matchup from day one.

"Hmm…" She rubbed her chin thoughtfully as we made our way back to our rooms. "Then it has to be something to do with living arrangements…"

And she was off with her theories again.

I wondered if mother had indeed succeeded in getting Hanabi permission to know about our heritage, and by extension, the planned coup d'état. The joint efforts between the Hyuuga and Uchiha were forefront in my mind these days, so it was my own theory as to the conflict between Hiashi and Neji for the past four months.

I left Hanabi at her door but instead of returning to the room I was sharing with Naruto, I walked out toward the gardens once more. After the lunch I'd had, a little peace and quiet was what I needed.

'Until tonight that is.'

X X X

The minutes were ticking by so slowly. It was currently five-fifty five in the evening, and I was staring at the gates to the Uchiha estate in fear. I'd been here a few times over the years, seen the tidy parterre, the winding streets and plain buildings – unlike the Hyuuga, very few Uchiha cared for gardening beyond just keeping it clean. They weren't a particularly decorative bunch either.

I didn't even have to knock once my watch told me it was six o'clock – Itachi opened the gates expectantly. I greeted him respectfully and he awarded me with a genial smile.

"Come in," he said, and turned to lead me away and then stopped suddenly. His voice was dangerous. "Go home otouto..."

'Sasuke?'

I panicked, not knowing where he was but at least trusting that Itachi had sensed him. There was no response from the shadows. Itachi growled softly as he continued: "…if you want to be able to pleasure a woman ever again."

I heard him then, shifting in the bushes, and then a moment later, the sound had stopped. Was he gone? Itachi seemed to think so, having started walking again.

We walked toward his family's acreage in silence, but it wasn't uncomfortable – he seemed much more agreeable than he had at the wedding. Perhaps it was because there he was surrounded and outnumbered, while in the Uchiha estate he was in his element.

"Where are we?" I asked when he stopped suddenly.

"Hinata-san," he said, turning to look at me. "I won't bother to ask you if you really want to do this, but look around."

I gasped slightly. This area had seemed like just another open clearing between buildings, but now that I really looked at it, the image was distorted.

"Look through the illusion," he said.

And then I saw it – it was a training ground, or at least made me think it could be used as one.

"We hide our abilities from the ninja," Itachi continued. "The Sharingan is stronger than any genjutsu they have, so they can't see through it unless we tell them it's there. Are you ready?"

I started back at him. The answer was "no, not really", but I didn't want to back down now – this illusion was extremely exciting to see and there was no way I was going to let it scare me off. I nodded. "I'm r-ready Itachi-san."

He frowned at my stutter but said nothing of it. "Look into my eyes."

Dark grey turned to red and black and the tomoe spun fast. This was the Sharingan: the power to manipulate space and time, to copy ninjutsu, and a host of other things my studies on both Hyuuga and Uchiha powers had revealed to me.

It was scary… but exhilarating at the same time.

I relaxed my body as the tomoe seemed to draw me in.

"This is a memory passed down the Uchiha line," Itachi said huskily. "Just try to keep in mind that you're in no danger – what you're about to see is in past and can't hurt you now."

I nodded, feeling my eyelids grow heavier. I closed my eyes for a moment, just a split second really, but once they opened, unfamiliar surroundings greeted me. The area was brown for a starters, with a heavy scent of blood and iron in the air. I was confused as to this memory's significance until I spotted a small child that reminded me of Tsunade Senju. But it wasn't her.

A man standing behind her looked like the first Hokage, and he was. He didn't look happy, watching the child with an expression of disdain and pity.

"We have to do it," another person said, coming up from behind me. "If we don't, they'll kill us all."

The man was unfamiliar – he had short silver hair and was dressed like a Konoha ninja, but didn't wear the headband I'd seen them don time and time again.

"I know," the first Hokage said.

"I know you don't like this," the silver haired man said. "I know you'd rather have a Konoha where disgusting little blood limit children can run through the streets and spread their diseases."

Hashirama Senju looked about ready to call off whatever they were planning, but his eyes hardened as he surveyed the blonde girl in front of him. It was then that I realised she was kneeling, her hands bound in front of her, and sobbing softly.

"She's not some monster, Hakku," Hashirama said.

"I know that," Hakku said scathingly, and I frowned at him. He certainly sounded like he thought the girl was. "But the village comes first Hokage-sama."

Hashirama flinched as Hakku grabbed the girl, but didn't stop him. "She needs to be made an example of," Hakku continued, ignoring the increase in the girl's cries. "They all do."

I tried to look away, unable to do so as the man had his way with the child before slitting her throat. Bile built up in my throat and once the girl stopped breathing, I finally managed to turn away, my hand on my mouth.

"There's more."

Itachi's voice rang in my head and the image blurred as Hashirama's disapproving face swam out of focus.

"Oh Kami…" I muttered, feeling like my early dinner was a mistake.

"Relax," Itachi said. "Distance yourself from it Hinata, or these feelings will overwhelm you."

I nodded. "O-okay."

The next image (and hopefully the last) was more familiar. Tsunade stood there, in front of a man who reminded me of Naruto. He was older, his hair a little longer, and he was wearing ninja regulation clothing. But he was also on his knees, like that little girl had been, and bound. He looked resigned but angry and I looked closer, noting the blood on his extremities.

"It's over," a man I recognised as Danzou Shimura said.

I only knew him because despite being a ninja, he had a lot of business dealings with my father. He was unforgettable, radiating a kind of darkness that only the truly sick at heart could carry off.

"Minato," Tsunade said softly and I gasped, looking down at the man. "I'm sorry."

This was Naruto's father?

"Then don't let them do it," Minato said, looking up at her. "But you won't stop them, even though you know they're wrong."

She inhaled sharply and shook her head.

"What's so wrong with order?" Danzou asked, motioning toward a masked ninja not far from him. "You were trying to take out our regime from the inside, to unseat your masters, and for that you must die."

Minato chuckled slightly, startling me. "I'm not dying because I saw your corruption and attempted to stop it. You fear me, what I can do, and how small you are by comparison."

The kekkei genkai.

Minato was glowing now, a soft blue colour that extended out from his body. It was just like Naruto's Aroyugan, but apparently not as powerful. The ninja Danzou had motioned to jumped on him, several more coming to his aid, their weapons drawn.

"You're just delaying the inevitable," Danzou snarled. "The clans will die and your sacrifice will have been nothing. Is that what you want?"

Minato Namikaze stopped, letting the strangely dressed ninja overpower him. The old man had just given him an ultimatum – come quietly or watch the clans slaughtered. This memory wasn't as disgusting as the first one, but made me equally revolted.

"I think I'll do this one myself," the old man said, drawing his own weapon.

He looked excited at the prospect of taking Minato's life. I glanced at Tsunade – just like Hashirama Senju, his granddaughter was just watching. She didn't like what she was witnessing, but she stood on the sideline nonetheless. My eyes flickered back to Naruto's father, my heart hammering in my chest as Danzou raised the sword over his head. I clutched my shirt, not fighting my tears as the sword came down.

I cried out involuntarily, unable to stop myself from watching and felt like throwing up.

Itachi's voice warned me he was about to pull me out, and I came out of the memory on my knees, panting, sweating and crying – silently crying, but crying nonetheless. I didn't want to sob my heart out with an audience. Itachi was patient, just waiting for me to recover. How much of what I'd seen could've been avoided? The picture of the Hokage in my head from Neji nī-san's wedding did not match the one in Itachi's memory. It was too confusing.

Where had they gotten the first memory from? While waiting for my heart to stop hammering, I contemplated this. What that man Hakku had done wouldn't have stayed secret, at least in the right circles, since he'd wanted to make an example of the girl. So someone had extracted the memory?

Then there was the execution of Minato Namikaze… none of it made any sense.

The cynic in me wondered how accurate these memories could possibly be, and whether or not I should just trust Itachi that they had actually happened. But I'd felt them, like the memories that my unknown assailant had dredged up of the night Naruto killed me.

I forced myself to stop sobbing and looked up at Itachi. The indignation must have registered something fierce on my face because he cocked his head at me like one would a resentful child.

"Sasuke showed you the night Naruto came back to Konoha," Itachi said, as though reading my thoughts. "Why do you think he's been avoiding you, for the most part? Father and I discovered he'd circumvented the seal on his kekkei genkai with the help of another and they were both punished."

"P-punished?" I croaked.

"We're not the ninjas," Itachi said severely. "We don't rape and kill children. We don't attack without provocation, and we certainly don't think someone deserves what they get when another person has an urge like that and acts on it."

I looked up at him. "What do you want from me?"

"I want you to consider that the world isn't as perfect as it seems," he said, now sounding more calm and in control of his emotions. "I want you to not blame anyone but Sasuke for Sasuke's actions, and I want you to look at this situation – to really look. Even the Hokage, who hadn't actually lifted her hand to kill Minato Namikaze is still culpable for what happened. But ultimately, whether you help us or not is up to you."

I nodded in resignation and climbed shakily to my feet.

If shadows could move on their own, Fugaku would be the architect of such an intrinsic design. Itachi didn't respond to his father's appearance, proving my suspicions that he had known he was there all along. The older Uchiha wore a stern expression as usual, but there was a glint in his eyes, like he was teetering on the edge of something. He didn't ask me if I was in or not, but his expression spoke volumes.

I nodded my head slowly at his silent question. "I'm in."

X X X

A/N: Hmm… deeply content I am. ;)
Good news: yes, there is a sequel. Bad news: it's a one-shot, not a multichapter. I don't have the inclination for another NaruHina multichapter, and therefore would not be able to do it any justice. I'll let you guys know in an author note when the epilogue is complete. And just as a head's up, it's called
'The Legacy of the Fourth'. Didn't need saying, but I wanted to, so there it is. It shouldn't take anywhere near as long to finish as this chapter did, btw. More good news! n_n

Anyway, thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed thus far and/or will review this chapter! Frankly, that's what kept me going in the first place and is the reason I've finally managed to finish this chapter. I keep my promises… no matter how long it takes, lol. Lotsa love! ^_^

Tenten Harakuma [*]: Yeah, I gave her a last name.