Meech Macko: I wouldn't claim that Narusaku is canon. My personal opinion is the series will end without really addressing the successful romantic relationships between the characters of Naruto's generation. Assuming relationships are addressed, my take is a little different than yours. When Sakura was handed the letter in the last few chapters she thought about Sasuke. At first I cringed. A moment later I considered this; Sasuke has never returned Sakura's feelings. The shinobi that gave Sakura the letter was in the same position as Sakura with Sasuke. I might be looking at the world with Narusaku colored glasses but I hold out hope that Sakura will move on from Sasuke or she already moved on and we are being mislead with foreshadowing. A few frames haven't convinced me of anything.

Anyway, canon has nothing to do with Fan Fiction.

Charles cdv: Meh

Twinblade01: Chapter length is related to the time I have to write. I would love to paint a beautiful picture and get into more detail, but I don't have the time to commit to it. I'm opting for shorter chapters that focus on key details. More action is coming. Hiro isn't in the story as a side plot.

Cerb57: Better but more could be done.

Abzilla: Thanks for the support.

Sorry for the long delay. A combination of work and private life got in the way. Visits from my family and my in-laws along with 200 pages written in 30 days didn't leave me with much time to write fan fiction. My time is still pretty limited with another 100+ pages soon but I will try to post when I can.

Naruto was tired of hunting. They'd been hunting Hiro for months. His tactics were always hit and run. He'd show up with no notice, take what he wanted and disappear. The battles usually cost him a warrior or two. The loss seemed to be acceptable as the redhead continued to use the tactics.

"Taichou," yelled a ninja from behind the blonde.

The blonde landed on the nearest branch.

"What is it?" he asked.

The chuunin pointed to the sky. A hawk was circling. The sage cursed mentally for missing the messenger bird. He held out his arm and the bird circled down and landed on his outstretched left arm. After removing the message, the bird took to the sky. Naruto looked at the message. It was a meet up request from Sand ninja. They had some information about Hiro.

"Let's move. We're meeting up with Sand Shinobi," said the blonde.

His subordinates nodded and followed his lead toward the border with the Wind Country. Naruto's thoughts shifted from Hiro to Sakura. She'd been living with him for nearly five months now. The wedding was supposed to take place in about two months. Sakura's parents requested a little extra time. Tsunade agreed reluctantly but Naruto figured it had something to do with Shizune. The raven haired medic nin looked like she was going to collapse from helping Tsunade all day and planning the wedding at night.

In the time he and Sakura lived together, their relationship had improved. It seemed she could tolerate him. The tension relaxed but it seemed she still wasn't comfortable with him. He could admit that having her in his house altered his routines. His morning ritual of staggering to breakfast in whatever state of dress he went to bed in was over. She strongly requested he dress more completely before coming to a meal. He'd asked little of her. Words were never his specialty. He'd say something that he intended as a compliment and it would sound insulting. In some sense he was grateful this marriage was for practical reasons. He didn't have to worry about anniversaries or other "real" husband responsibilities. The downside was the closeness with another person. She wouldn't curl up with him when he was sad. She wouldn't be there when he woke up.

The sage shook his head. He had to focus.

"Is everything alright, taichou?" asked one of his subordinates.

Naruto nodded. He needed to focus on his mission.

It was a day of hard travel to meet up with the Sand ninja. He was happy to see Temari when they reached the rendezvous. It was too late in the day to travel anymore so they set up a joint camp. The Suna nin had intelligence that Hiro was spotted traveling back toward the Fire Country from Suna. Most of the squad was resting, but Naruto sat by the fire. Temari joined him.

"You're strangely quiet," she said.

He looked at her. She was a good friend's sister and another good friend's girlfriend. The politics to two villages slowed the engagement.

"Can I ask you something?" he said.

Temari looked at him for a moment. She was analyzing him. He'd seen Shikamaru do it many times before answering.

"Sure," she replied dropping her more rigid posture.

She tried to put on a friendly smile.

"How…I mean…what if…," he started before stopping.

"Use your words, Naruto," she teased.

He glared at her. She treated him like a younger brother because of his friendship with her younger brother.

"I'm having trouble talking to Sakura," he said.

Temari nodded.

"You asked her to marry you and you can't communicate with her," said the wind mistress.

Naruto's face soured. Temari leaned closer to him.

"I know more is going on. I'm not an idiot," she whispered.

The blonde Konoha nin nodded. He accepted that some people would figure it out. As long as they didn't voice their opinions, their marriage would be fine. Public knowledge of their circumstances would hurt Sakura and make his life more difficult.

Temari suggested a few things that seemed helpful. Try simple compliments and build up to more elaborate gestures. Talk to her like she's one of the guys. The most important advice she offered was listening.

"People want to be heard. Let her talk. Respond when she stops talking."

He nodded thinking about this.

"Now rest. It seems you have some work to do tomorrow."

The sage nodded in agreement. His relationship with Temari was like his relationship with Tenten. All the complications of male-female relations were removed. Both were beautiful, powerful women, but he didn't view either as having romantic potential. A one night bed-buddy was not his goal.

The Konoha nin and Suna nin parted ways early the next morning. Naruto felt more focused. Temari's advice gave him some peace. She joked that he was over-thinking matters. Relationships between men and women were not as complicated as men wanted to believe. It was even funnier to her that he was over thinking something. The wind mistress was one of the first to tell him to think more. After traveling for five hours, the ninja stopped for a quick meal.

"Be ready for the worst against Hiro," said the blonde.

The chuunin were listening.

"He is a master of seals and he uses all sorts of tricks," continued the Jonin.

Naruto continued his description until they were ready to travel again. Messenger birds were coordinating team movements in the Fire Country. Naruto could feel the anticipation as they moved closer to Hiro. They were chasing him to the coast. Naruto burst into a clearing when he felt the attackers. He rotated as the shuriken and kunai flew at him. He felt a pair nick his arm and leg. He looked back to see one of his comrades take a fatal blow. The other two were injured. All three chuunin landed with thuds on the ground. Naruto rebounded off a tree and landed between them and Edo Tensai soldier that threw the weapons. He instinctively activated the Kyuubi's chakra. Two chakra arms reached out and grabbed the warrior. He crushed the warrior. Its body turned to dust and couldn't rebuild.

"I know you're here," yelled the blonde into the forest.

Chakra arms shot into the forest. Most encountered the reanimated soldier but one arm was caught. The blonde tried to withdraw it but it wouldn't return. He felt the chakra drain and suppressed the Kyuubi chakra. He heard clapping in the forest.

"You figured it out so quickly. Maybe I was wrong about you," mocked the red head.

"What were you doing?" demanded the sage as he looked around the forest.

"I said it before. You are Yang. You are power. I need that power if I am complete my plan."

Localizing his voice was nearly impossible.

"Come out and I'll show you everything," said the blonde.

Hiro laughed.

"I'm sure you'd like that. Rush at me with the Kyuubi's chakra. Smash me with one of your chakra spheres. Claim victory and return to the pink haired woman."

The Konoha Jonin growled.

"She is quite powerful, but too much like you; all Yang and very little Yin. She unleashed that seal you gave her."

The redhead laughed once.

"I guess I should congratulate you on saving her. It wasn't a simple thing to undo."

The blonde was losing his temper.

"Fight me coward," he roared into the forest.

A scolding sound came from the forest.

"No cousin. I fight battles on my terms."

"Hiro," roared the blonde.

He started on hand signs.

"Wind Style: Tornado," roared the blonde.

The ninja were standing in the center of a tornado. Naruto drove more chakra into the jutsu and it grew in diameter. After a few moments, he had to release it. Taking deep breaths, the blonde looked around. He didn't see any sign of Hiro or his warriors.

"Taichou," groaned one of his subordinates.

Naruto turned quickly and made two clones. He picked up his fallen comrades and moved toward the nearest village. Two would live but the third was already gone. He tried to keep his thoughts focused on the mission but his anger was getting the better of him. While traveling, Naruto encountered another squad with a medic nin. He was able to patch up the two surviving chuunin. They sealed the body of their fallen comrade into a black scroll for easier transport to Konoha. This was the first time Naruto had to carry a black scroll back to Konoha. Plenty of ninja were lost in the war but he was not assigned a scroll. It was his duty to report to the Hokage and then the family. It was his duty to explain the circumstances of their family member's death. It was part of Konoha's tradition and he would see it through.

The return to Konoha was miserable. The weight of the scroll was worse than the body itself. It felt wrong to seal a comrade this way. His comrades returned home. He made sure of it, but he was caught off guard. He was too eager and let his emotions get the better of him. Tsunade was going to be furious.

He stood at the Hokage's door. The scroll was in his hand. He looked at it and closed his eyes. He cursed. Once told to enter, Naruto saw matters were far worse than he expected. The village elders were in the Hokage's office. His squad members supported his story, but the elders dissected every detail and critiqued every decision he made. Normally, Tsunade would intervene but it seemed she was just as concerned about his actions.

"So this person is after the Kyuubi's chakra," said Koharu. "It is clear what must be done, Tsunade."

The elders left the Hokage's office. In typical fashion they were not going to do the dirty work. The slug sannin dismissed the chuunin.

"You know what I have to do," said the blonde kunoichi.

Naruto didn't acknowledge her.

"You are not a genin any longer so stop acting like it," she growled.

He looked up before bowing his head.

"Forgive me, Hokage-sama," he said mechanically before raising his head.

Tsunade pulled out a saucer and filled with her beverage of choice. She took a sip.

"Uzumaki, Naruto. You are hereby confined to the village until this matter is resolved. You will join the internal defense force until your wedding."

"Hai," replied the blonde with no enthusiasm.

"Go home after delivering that," she said gesturing to the scroll. "Have Sakura look you over."

The blonde looked away.

"Or you can go to the hospital, your choice."

Naruto nodded and left the Hokage's office.

Sorry if the quality is lower than usual. I'm trying to get back into FF writing instead of technical writing.