A/N: Hey all! Hinatasgreatestfan here again! This is the other fic I am adopting from Mr. Alaska. I've gotten his approval to do this, and I am essentially rewriting this fic from the ground up, so all I'm really adopting is the basic concept. However, I hope you all enjoy it anyway!
There are times in life when it's better to be proven wrong than it is to be proven right. Naruto Uzumaki, Number One Prankster and Knucklehead Ninja of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, was, for the very first time in his life, experiencing such a moment. He had been feeling extremely down for days now, nearly panicking in fact, as the Chunin Exam Finals, and his fight with Neji Hyuga, approached. The result of this was that he'd found himself wandering around the village, head hanging low, and had ended up back at the training ground where Kakashi had granted him, Sakura, and Sasuke their Genin ranks. That felt like a lifetime ago...was it really just a few months?
Upon arriving at the training ground with its three training posts, Naruto was surprised to find that he wasn't the only one there. Hinata Hyuga, cousin and recent victim of Neji, was there, seemingly having a staring contest with one of the posts. "Oh, hey, Hinata," Naruto had said, his voice soft, almost hesitant.
Hinata jumped and turned, her eyes betraying...not fear, but immense surprise. "Oh, Naruto!" she said, her normally low, timid voice full of shock at seeing him there. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, nothing really," Naruto said, trying to hide his fears behind fake cheer like he always did. This time, though, it just wasn't working. "It's just...this is where I became a Genin, so I come here to think sometimes."
"Sure, but aren't you going to be late?" Hinata asked, her voice betraying her concern. Naruto looked at her, his eyes showing her how deeply scared he really was. Hinata gasped at the intensity of his fear; she'd never seen anyone look so vulnerable as he did at that moment. "What's wrong, Naruto?"
"I'm just really worried about the fight, that's all," Naruto told her; he wasn't really sure why he was opening up to Hinata like this, but he never thought twice about doing it. It just felt...right to tell her, somehow. "I mean, I know I'm always the underdog and all that, but I'm so worried that I'll screw up, this time in front of the whole village."
The obvious fear in Naruto's voice gave Hinata some small amount of courage, and she stepped closer to him. Resting one hand gently on his arm, she spoke in a quiet yet steady and, surprisingly, confident voice. "You know, Naruto, you may screw up, but you know something?" Naruto shook his head, his eyes full of surprise and wonder at the normally shy girl in front of him. "I know for a fact that, even if you do mess up, you'll just get right back up and try again, just like you do every time you do something wrong. I think...that determination, that will to keep going, is what true strength is. I think you're an incredibly strong person, Naruto. That's what I've always admired most about you, Naruto: how you could always keep getting up and trying again, even when everyone around you was knocking you down. It always made you – how can I say it? – a proud failure, from my point of view."
Hinata's words had proven him wrong not only about Hinata herself, but about something else as well: he'd always thought that no one had noticed how hard he tried. But now, he knew, Hinata admired him for that very thing. So now, here he was, about to leave the training ground to head to the arena to face Neji. But first, he had to say a few things to the girl he now realized he barely knew. "Thanks for that, Hinata," he said first. "I really needed to hear that. I'm glad someone has seen how hard I've always tried. Thank you." He paused a moment, thinking. There was more he needed to say. "Hinata...I always thought you were...a dark, quiet weirdo," he said, his voice thoughtful now. Hinata's face fell. "But you know," he added. "I actually like...people like you!"
Naruto looked up as he said this and saw fireworks going off in the distance. "Oh, no, I'm going to be late!" he thought in a panic. He was about to turn to say one more thing to Hinata, but, before he could, it looked to him like the fireworks came flying toward him! Just when they would have slammed into his eyes, Naruto closed them instinctively in an attempt to protect them. He'd been expecting some loud sound or some extreme pain, but instead there was...nothing? Everything went quiet. Opening his eyes hesitantly, Naruto found himself in a place that reminded him somehow of the basement of his apartment building. It took a second for him to realize this was because it looked like a boiler room. Wait, a boiler room? It couldn't be...
"Ha ha ha! It's about time you came to visit me, brat!" a voice roared. Naruto turned in surprise and found, as he'd just realized, he was in front of the Kyubi's cage.
"I don't have time for this!" he yelled in frustration. "I need to get to the arena...I can't be late to the Finals!" His brows furrowed in determination. "I have to beat Neji!"
The huge fox within the cage in Naruto's mindscape, for that is where he was, laid down and rested his head on his front paws. He regarded Naruto with a mix of amusement and what looked like morbid curiosity. "And just exactly how do you intend to get out of here?" the fox asked.
"What do you mean, you stupid fox?" Naruto asked in response. Kyubi pointed behind and above Naruto with one of his tails. Naruto looked around him and found, to his shock, that he was trapped within a cage similar to Kyubi's. Above, below, and on three sides of him were bars, with the fourth wall of his cage being the gate that led into the fox's enclosure. "What the hell is that?" Naruto ran at the bars furthest from the fox and began beating on them. The sound of fists against metal rang out throughout the cavernous area, but Naruto was unable to put even a dent into any of the bars. The fox watched all of this with the same morbid curiosity and amusement he'd been regarding Naruto with before. Suddenly, Naruto wheeled on the fox and roared, "YOU!"
Kyubi looked taken aback by this. "Me? What in the world do you mean, brat? I didn't do that! You're not trapped in here by anything I've done," the fox growled. Naruto looked at him a moment, looking suspicious. He saw no deceit in the fox's eyes, much to his surprise.
Suddenly, a third voice joined the conversation. "Kukuku. Indeed, Naruto, your tenant speaks the truth," the voice said. Naruto turned and glared at the source of this new voice. Orochimaru! But how did he get into his mindscape? "Oh, this isn't the real me," the apparition said, seemingly reading Naruto's thoughts. "You're in that cage now because I put you there. It's a seal. The seal I put on you that that fool Jiraiya released wasn't the only one I put on you that day in the forest! This was the other one," here he rapped his knuckles on the bars nearest him, "and let me tell you, there's only one being in this world that is powerful enough to break this seal, and he's right behind you!" With that, the phantom Orochimaru disappeared as if he'd never been there.
Naruto turned slowly. Sure enough, the only one behind him was the fox. "What did he mean by that?" Naruto wondered aloud.
Kyubi chuckled. "What indeed," he deadpanned.
Hinata was in shock. Naruto had said he liked people like her! This had to be a dream! But no, she could still feel the pain in her chest from where Neji had hurt her. But that would mean...Naruto actually liked her! Hinata was surprised, to say the least, that Naruto would say that after she had seen him when he was as vulnerable as he had been before.
It took a moment for Hinata to notice that Naruto was walking away, but just when she was about to take her attention from him, he froze. He seemed to be looking at the fireworks going off in the distance, but then he just...fell. Seeing him fall to the ground snapped Hinata out of her stupor. She moved, running to her blond crush as he collapsed. When she got there, she found him breathing easily, his body limp, seemingly boneless, and his consciousness gone.
Suddenly, from behind, she heard a new voice. "Hinata? Are you here?" the voice called. Kiba! She had never been so glad to hear her feral teammate's voice as she was at that exact moment.
"Kiba!" she called out. Seeing her, he ran over to where she was crouching by Naruto's unconscious form.
"What in the hell? Why is Naruto here? And why is he unconscious?" Kiba asked her. Hinata explained briefly what had happened. "So, you talked to him without fainting, then, as he was leaving, he fainted? Come on, Hinata, even you have to realize that's a little far-fetched," Kiba said, winking to show he was just teasing his friend. Hinata crossed her arms and huffed at Kiba, which only made the dog-user laugh. The shy girl seemed about to say something, but her teammate waved her to silence. "All right, I'll be serious, I'm sorry, that was just too good to resist," he told her. Hinata just pouted. "Okay, you said you checked him and he's not hurt, right?" Hinata nodded to this. "Hm, then I guess we probably better get him to the hospital, we can't really leave him out here unconscious."
That said, Kiba hefted Naruto onto his shoulder. He was surprised for a moment how light the blond was; he'd been on the receiving end of the kid's attacks, and he knew he was carrying one strong opponent just then. For said powerful person to be so light seemed...wrong, somehow. Shaking that off, he took off toward the Hokage tower, Hinata following fast on his heels.
As Hinata and Kiba were on their way to the village hospital, they saw the Third Hokage walking down the street they were following. "He must be on his way to the finals," Kiba commented, mostly to himself. "Hey, maybe he can help us out. LORD HOKAGE!" he called out.
The Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi, turned his kind, dark eyes on the two Genin. "Oh, Kiba, Hinata, what can I do for you?" he asked. As he spoke, his eyes fell on the still form of Naruto over Kiba's shoulder. "And why are you carrying Naruto?"
The two Genin quickly explained to the Hokage what had happened at the training ground. Hiruzen appeared to ponder what he'd heard a moment. "This sounds like...no, it couldn't be, could it?" he said, mostly to himself. As he spoke, he saw Hinata and Kiba looking at him, a mix of curiosity and worry on their faces. Thinking another moment, he created a Shadow Clone, which continued down the path he'd been following when the two Genin called to him. The real Hiruzen turned to them and said in an authoritative tone, "Let's get him to the hospital." The two Genin nodded, and the procession of three conscious ninja turned toward the hospital, which, thankfully, wasn't far from where they were.
The clone arrived at the Kage's box and sat beside the Kazekage. "Sorry to have kept you waiting, Lord Kazekage," he said quietly.
"Not a problem, Lord Hokage," the Kazekage responded. "Still, it's a good thing the finals are being held here, for your sake, since you can't even make it here on time. A long trip would have been hard for you, even as strong as you are, given your age. Isn't it about time you choose the Fifth Hokage?"
Hiruzen laughed heartily at the Kazekage's comment, then, rising to his feet, commented, "Nonsense, I'll be here for some time to come yet." Moving to the front of the Kage's box, he spoke to the spectators. "Welcome, all, and our deepest thanks for coming to the final competition of this year's Chunin Selection Exams! We ask that no one leaves until the eight candidates who made it through the preliminary rounds have completed all of their matches. Now, everyone, enjoy!" That said, he returned to his seat.
"You said eight candidates," the Kazekage commented. "Aren't you missing one?"
On the ground, the proctor was showing the six present candidates the new match-ups for the final tournament. Neji, Shikamaru, and Gaara were all wondering about their first opponents, until Shikamaru noticed that his first opponent, Dosu, was no longer listed. He decided to speak up. "While I'm sure this is more trouble than it's worth, what's going to happen if Sasuke and Naruto don't show up?"
The proctor responded sternly, "If a candidate is not here when his name is called, he forfeits his match." Shikamaru nodded in acknowledgment of the proctor's words. He then continued to remind the candidates that the rules were the same as before, then said, "These are the opponents for the first match, Naruto Uzumaki versus Neji Hyuga. Those two stay, the rest of you can go to the waiting area." The five candidates whose names weren't called moved, leaving only Neji standing there.
Back in the Kage box, the Kazekage was grinning widely under his mask. "So, it seems the Uzumaki kid isn't coming. Good, good, that match would have been a waste of time, anyway. There's no way that kid could beat the Hyuga genius!" he thought to himself.
Hiruzen saw that only Neji was there. Turning to Raido, who had arrived shortly after Hiruzen himself and was waiting behind the Hokage's chair, he said softly, "Tell Genma to call this match. Naruto's obviously not coming."
Raido vanished in a puff of smoke. Reappearing by the proctor, Genma, he said quietly, "Call the match, the Uzumaki kid isn't coming." Genma nodded, and Raido vanished again, reappearing back in the Kage box.
Genma spoke to the crowd this time. "It seems Naruto Uzumaki isn't here, so he automatically forfeits his match. Winner, Neji Hyuga!" This announcement was met with quite a few groans and more than one boo. Surprising no one in particular, Sakura Haruno, Naruto's pink-haired teammate, didn't even seem to notice that her teammate had been dropped from the tournament. Genma raised his voice again. "All right, then, will Sasuke Uchiha and Gaara please come down here?"
Neji snorted. "Guess that kid was all talk," he said quietly. On his way out of the arena, he passed Gaara, who was on his way down. Neither Genin acknowledged the other in any way.
Gaara arrived on the ground and stood with his arms crossed. Genma called out again, "Sasuke Uchiha, get down here!"
In the Kage box, Hiruzen sighed. "Guess he inherited his sensei's lousy sense of timing," he said softly. "Raido, it looks like we have two matches in a row that will end in disqualification. Tell Genma."
"Sasuke Uchiha is disqualified?" the Kazekage asked. "Don't you think that will annoy the people who came here just to see this match? Couldn't you make allowances for them?"
Hiruzen sighed. "I cannot show favoritism, Lord Kazekage. Just as you could not show favoritism to your son, Gaara, were these exams in your own land, I cannot show it for the Uchiha boy when they are here, either," he answered, his voice firm. "Raido, tell Genma to call it."
The previous scene replayed itself as Genma disqualified Sasuke. "Okay, fine, then, I guess the first real match of this tournament will be Kankuro versus Shino Aburame, so you two get down here!" Genma yelled; even he was getting frustrated with this farce by now. Kankuro would have withdrawn – his match didn't mean much, really – but he wasn't about to do that now that Gaara's match with Sasuke wouldn't happen, so he and Shino found themselves facing off on the ground of the arena. "Good, it's about time we saw a fight. Now, at last, let the final round of the Chunin Exams BEGIN!" Genma called out and leapt out of the way of the two Genin.
As Hiruzen, Kiba, and Hinata arrived at the hospital, they were greeted by several odd looks and more than one hostile glare sent Naruto's way. Hiruzen released a controlled burst of Killer Intent at the sources of the glares, causing all of those people to tremble in fear. Speaking in his most authoritative tone, the Hokage said, "Get me a doctor, immediately, this boy needs immediate attention!"
Within seconds, a doctor and a gurney had appeared. Kiba set Naruto's still body on the gurney, which was wheeled away with the three ninja in hot pursuit. A nurse attempted to stop the two Genin, but Hiruzen told her they were with him, and she left them alone. Soon, Naruto was in a hospital room with three nervous ninja watching as the doctor poked and prodded at him.
After a few minutes of this, the doctor came over to the Hokage and said, his voice betraying his confusion, "I can't find a single thing wrong with this boy, Lord Hokage. I have no idea why he's unconscious or why he won't wake up, he just...is."
The Third nodded, and the doctor made his way quickly out of the room; he had other things to do. "Hinata, Kiba," Hiruzen said. His subordinates nodded, their eyes curious. "I am assigning you two a mission, effective immediately. You two are to act as bodyguards for Naruto until he has come out of his current unconscious state. Understood?" Both Genin nodded. "Good, now, I'm going to see if I can't track down my old students, Jiraiya and Tsunade, to see what they can do to help out with this." With that, the Hokage vanished in a puff of smoke. He had a lot of work to do.
Hinata and Kiba made their way into Naruto's room. Kiba sat in one of the chairs along the wall, while Hinata made her way over to his bed and looked down at him. Neither knew when it had happened exactly, but Naruto's jacket was open and his shirt cut, leaving his chest and stomach bare. Hinata looked down in shock. There was some kind of seal on Naruto's stomach, and it was glowing! "Kiba!" she exclaimed, gesturing for him to come over.
Kiba made his way over. Hinata indicated the seal. "What the hell is that?" Kiba asked rhetorically, looking up at Hinata, who met his gaze with worried eyes.
"I think I know what it is," she said. "But it's not my place to say, really. All I know is if that's what I think it is, the way it's pulsing right now doesn't mean anything good in the best case scenario...and in the worst case scenario, it could mean the end of us all."