Warning: Very cliched anime stuff. Also, my grasp on how to write children characters are flimsy at best, and I think it shows in the following chapters. Try not to be too critical.

AN: Sorry this came out slower than I anticipated, since having a working laptop apparently is being unreasonable these days. Going into backstory again now. If I'm not careful, I might end up turning this thing into a full story instead of the originally planned episodic manner. Luckily, the reception wasn't bad for the crazy previous chapter. I personally thought it was too whacky but I'm glad some of you thought otherwise.

Just to give people a head's up, I might stop updating immediately upon the release of the movie in Japan, as the movie will most likely eradicate all credentials towards my liberal use of imagination about the characters. So far, I predict reaching just ten chapters, of which includes a Neji gaiden that tells the story of the dilemma of one Hyuuga Neji, about his role in the Hyuuga clan as well as how he came to become Jiraiya's student/research assistant.


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The days following the birth of Naruto as the Namikaze heir as well as the third jinchuriki of the Kyuubi were ones of happy apprehension and chaotic joy, not just for the newly minted parents, but also for all those who were closely tied together by the emotions of familial love. Lively days were spent in laughter, frustration, joy, tears, and all the spectrum of emotions in life.

"Holy crap, I'm a dad!"

"You choose now to panic! ?"

"What the heck is that smell! ?"

"I have to do what! ?"

"Oh, gross! Ah! Double gross!"

"No! Naru-chan, you can't eat that!"

"How is this possible! ? All I did was blink!"

"He's playing in the toilet!"

"Jiraiya-sensei, no! You can't give Naruto sake!"

"But he won't stop crying~!"

"Holy shit! Put out the fire!"

"Rin, what is that! ?"

"I don't know but kill it quickquicknow!"

"I think he just puked on me!"

"Kushina-san, are all babies like this! ?"

"What do you think?"

"Minato-sensei…!"

"No, Kakashi, you're too young to have a vasectomy."

But mostly in tears, of course.

There was no need to worry, however, as they were all tough-as-nails ninjas of legendary proportions, and they persevered in the value of sanity and a healthy childhood for baby Naruto. The major concern, of course, remained a secret in the shadows to all but those who needed to know, and only a very select few fit that parameter. Thus one could say Naruto grew up in a caring, loving, if somewhat peculiar, volatile, and slightly overprotective home. But then again, if one were to ask Naruto, the center of this domestic maelstrom, himself, if would he prefer it any other way, he would reply…

"More ramen, dattebayo!"

Of course.

"So I can share it with Hinata-chan!"

Hmm? Well, that's certainly an interesting change in direction, but it shall be the direction we take.

The event of the birth of Hyuuga Hinata was one of part celebration and part cynical anticipation. While the birth of a potential heir for the leadership of the clan was, of course, an important, joyous occasion, the more traditional viewpoints deemed it slightly disappointing that the newborn wasn't a male heir, as in said viewpoint males were often regarded as the more suitable candidates for leadership. Hindsight has always been indiscriminately vengeful regardless of the ability of sight.

As was per the traditions dictated by the clan, circumstances aside, all potential heirs must have reached at least two full years in age before they were allowed outside visitors. And so it was at roughly over the age of two when the young heiress received her first official visitation from another family outside the clan.

"Hokage-sama," Hiashi addresses, wearing a rigidly neutral expression, before giving a reverent, formal bow. "You honor my family and the entire clan with your presence."

Beside the clan head, his wife Kiyoko and their daughter bow in elegant unison. The current family of three is the very picturesque image of an aristocratic nuclear family unit.

Minato smiles genially, a rather stark contrast to his counterpart, and bows in return. "We are the ones honored by your gracious invitation, Hyuuga-sama."

Next to him, Kushina, ever the aspirant of the ideal image of feminine grace, bows alongside her husband with a charming smile, that is until she notices her son has yet to stop spinning in place to stare at everything in excited awe, and bops the child on the head. "Naru-chan, pay attention! You're being rude to our hosts, ttebane!"

"Kaa-chan! We're in a castle!" little Naruto exclaims, somehow excited enough to block off pain signals. "Are there goblins here! ? I want to see goblins! Then I wanna fight em!"

Minato sends an apologetic chuckle and a somewhat sheepish smile towards their hosts as the mother and son pair verbally tussles in a rather loud manner, the red haired mother in particular somehow manages to have forgotten their hosts in favor of stretching her blonde son's cheeks in an attempt to stop him from gawking and spinning.

Kiyoko merely laughs demurely, hiding her mirth behind the sleeve of her kimono, while Hiashi stares unblinkingly, but one could say the man is amused, if one squints very, very, blindingly hard.

Hyuuga Hinata, who has been maintaining excellent posture despite her relative inexperience in terms of social interactions, quietly observes with keen, lilac eyes.

Hinata's first impression of the Namikaze family was that they were…colorful. In character as well as in sheer visual representation. Standing there together, they seemed like an array of blooming bright pigments a child smeared hazardously across a canvas in the name of art by random chance. They were starkly different to what was considered the norm for the Hyuuga heiress, who was accustomed to a much more structured, quiet, and somewhat monochromatic environment.

The Yondaime Hokage, is her very young mind, looked too gentle of a person to be considered the strongest, most talented shinobi of the entire village, and even possibly the world, if the stories she was told were to be believed. The man was visibly less imposing than her father, who sustained a regal bearing at all times and was reputed as one of the strongest warriors both within and outside the clan districts. In her childish inclination to favor one's parents, the young heiress wondered what a fight between the patriarchs would be like, in hopes of her father proving to be the stronger of the two.

Kushina, like her husband, was much different to the young heiress's own mother, who was gentle, kind, and incredibly well-mannered at all intervals and situations, while the red haired person was noticeably lacking in the certain ways of etiquette. That is not to say, that the woman was uncouth or unrefined, but given that she was more or less giving her son a noogie as a means in her quest to calm said boy down, there might be some work left to be done. But the hair. Long, vibrant, an exotic red that seemed to instill a life of its own, was something to behold and admire, and the young heiress could not help but wonder how she herself could achieve something similar. Before she could ponder further, her mother cued her on self-introductions.

"Hinata-chan," Kiyoko urges softly, "why don't you introduce yourself?"

Hinata nods at her mother's request, stepping forward before giving another formal, well executed bow. "My name is Hyuuga Hinata. It is an honor to make your esteemed acquaintances."

Her voice is clear and her tone appropriate, but this is still her first time introducing herself to such interesting strangers, and thus she still can't help but fidget with the insides of her kimono sleeves. But judging from the amiable approval from the Hokage and the sparkly smile of adoration upon the red haired lady's face, she must have done well, and thus internally feels self-congratulatory.

That is until she notices that the smiling face of the red haired lady seems fixed in place and suddenly much closer than before. Before she can react, she is somehow now facing blinkingly at her parents on the other side of the visitation, secured in the arms of the red haired lady.

Minato sweatdrops with a nervous chuckle. "Uh…Kushina-chan?"

"Isn't she just adorable! ?" Kushina gushes, turning towards her husband as if a child showing off a brand new, shiny toy.

Hinata blinks, dangling in the woman's arms.

Hiashi raises an eyebrow, whilst Kiyoko smiles.

"Yes, Kushina-chan," Minato nods, "and she's also the child of someone else. So I'm quite sure it would be considered abduction."

Kushina manages to shamelessly look put-off.

Kiyoko smiles ever so pleasantly. "We could always arrange a trade, Kushina-san."

The red haired mother glances at her son and almost seems to consider the so-called offer.

Naruto gapes in utter disbelief at the blatant betrayal from his beloved mother. "Waahh~! Kaa-chan wants to sell me like smelly apples!"

"Oh, nonsense," Kushina denies while gently releasing her captive back to her rightful parents. "Naru-chan is more like an entire crate of dorayaki!"

Nodding at his wife's look and ignoring the mock talk of child trafficking, Hiashi addresses his honored guests, "Please, if you would be so kind, let us continue this pleasant conversation inside with some tea."

As she walks back to her smiling mother's side, Hinata decides the Namikaze family is sort of weird indeed.


And so went the first meeting between the Namikaze family and the Hyuuga, and as time went on, so did many more visits came to pass, with some involving unofficial business between Minato and Hiashi, while the other majority usually simply consisted of Kushina and Naruto on friendly regular, monthly visits, during which a comfortable friendship formed between the two young mothers.

It was during those visits, that Hinata got the opportunity to observe the Namikaze heir in closer detail. The boy was visibly a healthy mix of his heritage, with aspects from both parents, though his facial features resembled the red haired Kushina much more than his father, the Yondaime. More interestingly, his cheeks were marked with what appeared to be stripes of some sort, a characteristic of which the young heiress frequently wondered about, but never inquired, because she believed it would be a flaw on her part for not knowing.

That was probably the best description of the majority of their interactions for the months to come. After the mothers convened to chat, they would set off the two of them and allow them to 'play', as it were. The boy would follow her around the compound, into the garden and even into the study, and ask her wave after wave of questions, especially during calligraphy practice, since she couldn't quite run away. It was the momentous event in which the first time she understood the meaning of annoyance.

"Hey, Hinata-san! What you doing?"

"Practicing, Namikaze-san."

"Hey, what's this?"

"That's a scroll."

"What's this mean?"

"It's the kanji for 'loyalty'."

"What about this one?"

"It's the kanji for 'forgiveness'."

"Do you know the kanji for goblins?"

"No."

"Do you know how to draw goblins?"

"NO."

The boy was usually loud and rambunctious, a trait obviously inherited from his mother, and oftentimes seemed incapable of staying still, always fidgeting or running off to explore places and things that should have long since been identified. Occasionally, though, when the young girl answered some of his questions that she deemed not entirely asinine, the boy would stare and contemplate in a manner very similar to his father, and his large blue eyes gained a certain pull in them that caused her difficulty in looking away. Which was why she poked him in the eyes with her fingers.

"Aaah! The goblins made me can't see!" Naruto wails as he rolls around on the tatami, clutching at his eyes.

"Stop talking about goblins!" she demands with a definitively annoyed frown, which superseded the brief flash of horror at her own violent display.

Naruto gives no reply but exaggerated wails as he keeps on rolling, and rolling, right out the study, and rolling, into the main garden, and rolling, and right into the pond.

Splash.

"Whoa, hey! You guys have a pool!"

"N-Naruto!" Hinata cries as she runs next to the body of water in which the blonde boy now floats in, as did several servants who heard the commotion.

The boy is obviously unhurt by the way he is smiling. "You finally said my name!"

She doesn't quite understand what it is with the boy and his constant high spirits. His behavior should be frowned upon and chastised. No Hyuuga would be caught acting in such a manner. But it's been…nice, having someone so bright and energetic around, even if that someone can make trees plea for death with his incessant badgering.

Before she knows it, she's trying to hold in her laughter and failing.

Naruto grins at the sight, until he feels light pecking at his feet and notices that he has been rather surrounded by a large number of the koi fish inhabitants of the pond.

His eyes widen like saucers as more pecks are made at him by the curious fishes. "Ah! No! They know I'm tasty! I'm being eaten! Save me~!"

Hinata continues to laugh, perhaps even harder than before, as the servants frantically pull the splashing Naruto out of the pond.

Contrary to what the others expected, once he is out of the so-called danger, Naruto does not call for his mother in fright. Instead, all signs of panic vanish instantly and he goes on to grab Hinata's hand and pulls her along so that they can have an 'adventure'.

Perhaps it is because she is still addled by the ridiculousness that is laughing so unrestrained, but Hinata does not resist, and allows herself to be pulled along.

From the interior, Kushina and Kiyoko watch with warm smiles.

Things remained largely the same since then, but from that point on, the two addressed each other much more informally than before, and the young Hyuuga heiress did not mind indulging in the boy's request for having some fun on occasion. And it was on those little adventures did the girl learn of a peculiar thing called pranks. The idea seemed ludicrous and impractical. To her, there didn't seem to be much point in setting up simple to elaborate scenarios for the purpose of causing minor terror and inconvenience for unsuspecting individuals for the sake of mischief. That is, until she witnessed her cousin-brother running and screaming in the garden.

"AAAH!" Neji screams as he tries to run from the flock of birds pecking at his head. "I wasn't the one who ate your eggs, I swear!"

Both of them try their darndest best, but they soon surrender to the bubbling mirth twitching at their lips and burst out laughing as well as their cover.

With a sigh, Hizashi moves aside the giant plant pottery and picks the two giggling children up, one in each arm, and hauls them off to their respective mothers.

The two doesn't stop enjoying the moment, despite being in potential trouble again.

As the young Hinata continues to share laughs with young Naruto, she wonders if this is what having a friend is like.


But just like everything else, good things never quite last, and it was all too soon that the two no longer had the luxury of time to spend together. Both of them were of the age close to be joining the academy soon, and the young heiress found herself boxed into stricter regimens of Jyuuken practice, social etiquette lessons, history lectures, floral arrangement lessons, calligraphy, tea ceremony, and so on until time became a resource of perpetual shortage and the concept of fun a nonexistent fantasy and the images of a brightly smiling boy was pushed far into the back of her mind.

So it was at the age of roughly over six, on the fourth week of spring, did the young Hyuuga Hinata find herself doing self-introductions to an entire classroom of academy students, all of whom stared at her and passed indiscreet observations amongst themselves through hushed chitchatting until the instructor, one Umino Iruka, silenced them.

This is it. The official beginning of her training towards a shinobi career. It's not as nerve wrecking as she imagined, she thinks, as she stares back at the rows of similarly aged but mostly older children of varying appearances.

She can tell a good number of these so-called academy students would only amount to dropouts, if they were lucky, because if they were unlucky enough to graduate, the misfortune of being cannon fodder would be the likely draw of the lot in their near future. But that is no concern of hers. For now, she is only here to announce her name, and allow the masses the chance to remember it when she awes them with the action to back it.

She straightens her posture further, her pristine white robes hanging about her like sheets of light as she tilts her head just right, and takes a steadying breath. "My name is—"

"Hinata!"

She blinks.

"Up here, Hinata~!" that someone shouts again.

Following the voice that somehow knows her name, she looks up, to the sight of a blonde, whiskered boy waving energetically, seated in the row just near the top.

"Naruto…?" she whispers, as her mind runs through so many images and thoughts that she almost feels dizzy.

It's definitely a weird feeling, the feeling of the heart skipping a beat and the extreme tug at buried fragments in the recess of one's mind. For one, long moment, the world runs out of focus as the forgotten pieces reassemble, once again, and becomes nothing but a stage for two.

"Oi, Hinata~! It's me—bwah! What gives, Iruka-sensei! ?"

"Naruto-san! You're being rude and disrupting! Don't interrupt others when it's their first day in class!" the instructor scolds as he picks up another piece of chalk. "You wouldn't like it if someone else interrupted you, now would you?"

Naruto makes a noise of petulance and sticks his tongue out.

The spell is broken, and she remembers to breathe.

The instructor turns to her, and smiles in a friendly manner that is at complete odds with his previous display of righteous teacher fury. "I guess you and Naruto-san know each other. Still, please introduce yourself to the rest of the class."

She does so, and nearly fumbles through her supposedly well-rehearsed, succinct reveal of her name and background tidbits, because Naruto is sort of smiling broadly at her and she keeps finding herself glancing at him.

When the instructor tells her to pick any empty seat, Naruto immediately tries waving her over and starts kicking a dark haired boy with gravity-defying hair in what apparently is the quickest method to create an available seat next to himself.

Of course, the other boy doesn't quite appreciate being forced to relinquish his seat, and expresses this by kicking viciously back, which then results in them accidentally hitting the other students around them, who then get angry and retaliates.

Before she knows it, there's a dust cloud of flailing limbs and biting teeth and the instructor is throwing chalks and erasers like an automatic weapon at the group of rowdy boys as the rest of the class either starts backing away in fright, mostly the girls, or begins encouraging the quickly escalating class disruption.

She watches as Naruto somehow gets put into a headlock by four other boys and still manages to headbutt them all.

Watching for a few moments longer, Hinata then picks one of the seats at the edge of the front row, sits down, and blinks.

She doesn't understand why she is so affected. Logically, she knew that the blonde would be here, he had told her several times before that he is to enter the academy alongside his friends. She simply forgot, and she's not entirely certain how that could be.

She looks back at the now broken fight and calmed commotion as Iruka is now somehow furiously scolding them with a head the size of a barnyard.

Whist cowering under the magnificent barrage of tongue lashing, Naruto still manages to catch her stare, and smiles back.

Hinata quickly turns away, a slight tint of red on her cheeks that quickly fades away into a thoughtful frown.

Class resumes once order has been reestablished, that is, once Iruka calls in an assistant instructor and drags the group of misfits for proper punishments to be carried out in the hallway.

She ignores the feel of several pairs of eyes on her as the rest of the time passes, listening to the substitute instructor prattle on about this and that, basically information she already knows firmly by now, but she takes notes and reviews the material because she is supposed to.

That's right. She's here for a purpose, and she absolutely needs to excel, even beyond expectations so that she can set things straight.

Class is over before she knows it. Time passes by relatively quickly when one's mind is focused elsewhere, she decides, and hurries to leave without appearing to do so.

Without a second glance at the rest of the class, she walks out into the open and chooses an unoccupied crop of grassy space to wait, glad that at least for today she doesn't have to deal with—

"Hinata, wait up!"

Her breath hitches, but she forces herself to remain calm.

"Hey, Hinata," Naruto greets as he runs over, panting slightly. "It's been so long since we've seen each other! It's so awesome you're finally here-ttebayo! Sorry I couldn't get Sasuke to get his butt off but hey I'll make sure we're sitting together next time and—"

"Namikaze-san," she greets politely with a short bow.

Naruto blinks, his excitement dying down. "Eh? What's with the, um, surname stuff! ? It's me, Naruto, remember! ? We used to—"

"My apologies, Namikaze-san," she interrupts politely once again, as an older Hyuuga male appears within sight, "but my escort is here. Farewell and a good day to you."

She begins walking away, her long sleeves trailing behind her, but pauses when Naruto calls to her again.

"W-wait! What's going on here! Don't you remember me?"

She looks at him. Unseen, she tugs on the inside of her sleeves. "Yes, of course, Namikaze-san. Your family visited ours for many times."

"Then—"

"It is a pleasure meeting you once again, but please do not be so casual with my name in the future."

With another bow, she walks away without a second glance back, leaving a completely baffled Naruto to his bewilderment while her personal guard and escort, an older Branch House member named Hyuuga Kō, who lingers behind briefly to say something to the blonde.

When she reaches home, she greets her parents before excusing herself to stay in her room, staring at the ceiling and listening to the sound of leaves in the wind scratching at the window.

Before long, the door slides open and her mother walks in with a gentle smile. "Hinata-chan? Are you feeling well?"

She sits up proper. "I am well, Okaa-san. Thank you for asking."

She's uncertain why, but her mother seems a little sad at the response. "Did you enjoy your first day at the Academy? Did you make any friends?"

The image of a despondent boy flashes through her mind. "The Academy is passable for its purpose. Because of my late entry into the class, it is too early to say how I compare with the rest of the students, but I will catch up."

Kiyoko sits down carefully, her bulging abdomen holding the beginnings of a new life, next to her daughter and begins stroking her hair. "Do not worry about grades, Hinata-chan. You are a talented, strong child. You will perform marvelously. Mother just wants you to enjoy the time learning and playing with the other children. Did you talk to little Naruto-san? I'm sure he was very happy to see you again."

There is a pause.

"We spoke. He did not remember me."

Kiyoko blinks, her hand stops and drops down to her daughter's small back. "Are you certain? The two of you played many times together when you were younger, and I heard—"

"He does not remember me," Hinata insists, staring the door as the evening sunlight dances in colors.

The mother looks worriedly at her child's expression. "Hinata-chan?"

The girl abruptly shakes her head and gives her mother a small smile. "Please, Okaa-san, there is no need to worry. I am fine and well."

Kiyoko seems discontent, but does not press further. Her breath suddenly hitches as movement occurs in her abdomen, and she exhales deeply as she soothes the sensation with her hands. "Mmm…it looks like this little one wishes for attention."

Hinata's smile grows wider as she presses her ears to her mother's belly. She giggles excitedly when she feels small bumping from within. "I can hear it, Okaa-san!"

Kiyoko smiles brightly. "Hmm. In a few more months, there will be a little baby brother or sister for you, Hinata-chan. You're going to be a big sister soon."

If possible, the girl smiles even wider as she continues to listen for sounds of the life that is already family. "I will protect you," she whispers.


And it was so that the two met again, only for the Hyuuga heiress to dampen the rekindling of their friendship. Naruto, being the person that he was, initially did not relent in his quest to reacquaint himself with the girl and had set off to talk to her at every available opportunity in order to 'jog her memory', only for Hinata to repel such efforts with polite apathy. She was never hostile, and always replied with a well-mannered countenance, but maintained a distance between them by refusing every invitation the boy extended. As a couple weeks come and went, apparently so did Naruto's enthusiasm. The boy's confusion continued to mount as Hinata only seemed interested in paying attention to lectures and showing off during weapons and taijutsu practice.

The bell rings.

After Iruka give a few warnings about potential quizzes, earning groans from the majority of the class, the students quickly forgo the worry in order to file out for lunch.

Naruto walks down the stairs, stopping just a couple steps away from Hinata, who is apparently looking over the homework assignment for the week.

He stares, frowning, shakes his head and opens his mouth to—

"Hey, Naruto!" Uchiha Sasuke calls from the door. "Hurry up or we'll lose the spot under the tree!"

Naruto scowls. "I know already! Gimme a minute!"

The dark-haired boy shrugs and takes off.

He stares at the girl again, ruffling his own hair in frustration. After a few more moments of deliberation, he walks past her without a word.

Unbeknownst to the boy, Hinata raises her gaze from the paper, and stares until he is no longer seen.

After a beat during which the sounds of outdoor activities fill the silent classroom, she unpacks her bento and eats lunch alone.


And so, things continued for nearly another month in similar fashion. They acknowledged each other when appropriate, but neither hung around each other unless necessary. Hinata's clan trainings came into effect, and she climbed the class rankings with relative ease, challenged only by few others in terms of weapons proficiency and academic knowledge, and nearly opposed by none in taijutsu. She remained modest and polite to her fellow classmates, but generally kept her distance as she did with Naruto, spending all her time reading or training instead of talking or anything resembling a pastime. Most of the class at that point decided she was the weird, loner type and opinions of her were generally unfavorable. The boys disliked her because of her talents while the girls believed her to be an antisocial, stuck-up bitch, who didn't give anyone the time of day simply because she was Hyuuga deemed everyone beneath notice, even the students from the notable clans as well as the son of the Hokage. That, however, was not entirely true.

Surreptitiously, Hinata studies a number of her peers as she makes her way for kunai/shuriken practice.

Akimichi Chouji, the current heir to his clan. His stern countenance belies an admirable kindness, especially towards those he considers friends. She has yet to witness usage of his clan techniques during spars, as the class has yet to reach such a point, but what she's seen so far is impressive and hints of qualities suitable for leadership. His interests seem to mainly lay in the carpentry lessons that is part of the boys' curriculum, and has been seen asking questions in regards to crafting armors.

Nara Shikamaru. He is…difficult to judge. The boy seems to have an attention span of a dying rodent and only the timely intervention and efforts from his friends keeps him in one place long enough to get information through to him. Still, he is of the Nara clan, a clan supposedly noteworthy for their intelligence, so she will keep vigilance, which is quite the problematic task considering the boy chases grasshoppers.

Yamanaka Ino. The blonde girl is either shy, or has a severe case of anthrophobia. She makes barely any noise and is seemingly content to be left unnoticed. The only people she is comfortable interacting with are the Akimichi heir, who acts like a protective elder sibling, and the Nara heir, who usually requires the blonde girl's worried reminders in keeping him focused on whatever tasks are at hand. She is uncertain as to the reason, but sometimes she feels a mysterious kinship with the girl, especially when the girl pokes her fingers together in nervousness and blushes a bright red.

Inuzuka Kiba is a cat. A concept at complete odds with what should be considered normality. Apparently, he is a natural occurrence within the Inuzuka clan that comes to pass every couple of generations. Some say it is a curse from a rival clan of nin-cat users from pre-village history. After a particularly brutal conflict between the two clans that resulted in the demise of the nin-cat-using clan, their leader crafted a terrible curse upon his dying breath. As such, the Inuzuka clan is cursed forever to occasionally bear the shame that is a neko girl upon their children, which makes Kiba a special occurrence as on top of being the cursed child he is also of the incorrect gender. Naturally, instead of being gifted with the strengths and the ability to communicate with dogs, it is of cats. Thus the boy doesn't have a nin-dog partner, and is mostly seen behaving like a wild feline and making bad cat puns when the opportunity arises.

Aburame Shino. The boy at first seems to be a loner type, preferring to observe from afar much like herself, but it is soon revealed by some of the other students that he is usually composing something called 'rap' in lieu of paying attention to class or anything else, for that matter. Not much else is known about him, but he also seems to possess a rather crude and colorful vocabulary, something that gave the instructors quite the pale face when they initially called upon him to answer lecture questions, and thus have not done so ever again.

Haruno Sakura is an excellent student. Like herself, the girl spends most of her time studying and training, a rather unusual behavior for a person from a clan-less background. It is likely at least one of her parents is a shinobi, for the girl to be so driven in the learning of the profession. The short, pink hair is another thing that boggles the mind, and will be an open subject for future investigations. She will be the most likely competitor for the position of top kunoichi of the class, but from what she's seen, the pinkette does not seem to care about grades all that much.

Uchiha Sasuke, the resident class brown noser, as some has called him behind his back, and the current holder of the title of top of the class. He is also apparently the holder of the title 'super bishounen' in the eyes of the female students. He is skilled and talented, unsurprisingly, considering his background, and invests much time in maintaining his class ranking, which makes it all the more important that she assesses his threat level given the rivalry between their clans. Especially given the rivalry between their clans. Outshining the Uchiha starling will be a suitable stepping stone towards showing her worth.

Namikaze Naruto. No comments.

She strides up a fair distance away, further than the standard starting line from the target, aims, and throws.

The Hyuuga, as the general rule, do not use projectiles often, as their main goal in any combat situation is to utilize the Jyuuken arts in close-quarters by preemption or by forcing the opponent into the position. As such, most of the Hyuuga do not carry shuriken and kunai because firstly, doing so would lighten their load, and because secondly, most are inept to mediocre at best in said skill to begin with.

She will be different, though. She has to be.

The kunai sails and hits very well near the center of the bulls-eye, and she internally frowns at the idea of 'almost', but will make up for it by reducing aiming preparations.

She spins in place, footing wide to give herself that extra torque in the throw, when suddenly another presence steps in to her left and her split second glance at bright blonde hair causes her to go off-balance and the aim is skewed.

The kunai, hers, is now accompanied by another one, almost like a shadow, and both strike the target close to simultaneous.

She stares at the foreign kunai, inches closer to the center than hers and turns sharply to her left.

Namikaze Naruto. Son of the Yondaime Hokage and descendent of the once prominent Uzushiogakure. Cheerful and loud, with a penchant for pranks. He doesn't care much for lectures and prefers to spend time drawing these odd symbols on any viable writing surface or joking around with friends. He loves his parents, both wonderful people, and always enjoys the lunches his mother packs him. His status as the honorable son of the Hokage automatically placed him in a prestigious standing in the eyes of the other students, and it initially served as a deterrent, until the other children got to know him as the goofy and approachable jokester who could care less about social standings and grade averages. His high spirits and indiscriminately friendly attitude quickly earned him a popularity second only to his close friend, Uchiha Sasuke. But he is a more well-rounded kind of popular, as both boys and girls find him genuinely likable and treat him as a friend. She can—once could relate.

Naruto grins, crossing his arms. "Your aim seems to be a bit off, Hyuuga-san~."

She stares back flatly. "I was distracted."

"Huh. I didn't know the Hyuuga make excuses."

Hinata allows a small glare to crop up. She glances around. More people are beginning to take notice. "What do you want, Namikaze-san?"

"Nothing," he chants, seeming to gloat at the tone of her voice.

She glares slightly harder, waiting for the boy to act out in what she can only assume to be one of his jokes.

When he does nothing of the sort, she decides to ignore him and resumes her practice. Except this time he manages to somehow pick her thrown kunai out of the air with his own.

Hinata gives the boy a cold stare.

"Oops, sorry," he says, looking anything but.

At this point, enough of the other students noticed the rising tension and began anticipating a fight of some sort to break out any moment.

She knows that the best course of action is to walk away, but that could be perceived as being afraid of confrontation, and she can't look weak in front of her peers.

The two of them stare off for several tense moments, as if trying to make the other to back down by sheer will, when in almost an instant, the two each flings another kunai, but this time Naruto aims at the target next to hers, and is slightly more off target compared to her.

Instead of being petulant or petty about it, as she almost expects based on how he was behaving, the blonde boy instead throws one more and earns an almost perfect bullseye. "Beat that," he challenges cockily.

She steps up to that challenge. And the one after that. And the next one after that one. Before she knows it, somehow she's rigorously competing with Naruto in projectile skills by throwing kunai after kunai and shuriken after shuriken, which they don't even need to worry about running out of since the other students keep giddily supplying them with constant ammunition as well as clearing the targets for them as the cheers for the dueling pair grows.

It's only after that things got loud enough to attract the instructors that the crowd is forced to clear and the two of them are lectured on the importance of safety and positive attitudes and she tunes it all out.

She doesn't understand what happened. She's a Hyuuga. The Hyuuga shouldn't get carried away like she did. What's worse is that there isn't even a clear winner. They had been too busy just blindly throwing projectiles between glaring at each other.

Hinata makes her way back to the classroom, silently seething about how things went, when suddenly a pair of girl classmates wave at her as they pass by.

"That was pretty cool, Hyuuga-san," one of them, a brunette whose name she doesn't remember, says with a smile.

"Yeah," the other one, a girl with short black hair, agrees. "Super cool."

She watches them leave, still smiling as they do, and soon similar compliments start coming from some of the other students as well. She's suddenly cool and awesome instead of just unfriendly and jerk, and she doesn't know how to feel about that. She waits around to find Naruto so that she can…something, but the boy doesn't show up for the rest of the day.

The next day, when she does see him again, he makes no move to speak to her and she begins to think things have settled back into the norm, only for him to start raising his hand deliberately before hers during lecture to answer questions from the Instructor, and gets it wrong because Iwa is not a big pile of rocks lying around somewhere around in a big farm buried in hot sauce and Kumo is not a big, moving cloud that has goblins and ninjas in it and the Instructor informs as much. But the blonde boy just laughs it off as does a good portion of the class and she doesn't understand why he can just not care about making a fool out of himself but she finds herself forcing down a snicker.

The same thing occurs later at the chakra molding/leaf medication group lecture, where Naruto openly challenges her to see who can meditate better, which he absolutely sucks at since he can barely stand still long enough before he gets the idea that they should instead compete in who can stick the most leaves on their heads.

So a pattern emerges in which Naruto begins challenging her at everything. From making bushin, to test scores, to taijutsu sparring, lunch eating contest, and racing, to name but a few. Oddly enough, some people still dismiss the notion that he is challenging her specifically since it is known that the boy does have the habit of randomly picking on the other students, mostly the Uchiha, to fill in the role of rival of the day. But she knows otherwise when the blonde buffoon barges in on the kunoichi portion of the class and challenges her to see who can make the best looking flower or something to that effect before Instructor Iruka showed up, apologized, and dragged him away by the cuff of his jacket as the boy loudly declared the unfairness of her victory by gender default.

Really, it's absolutely ridiculous and just…stupid.

So why is that when she tries to refocus on the task at hand of arranging the lilies around the yellow carnation, Haruno Sakura smiles in her direction and says, "You look happy, Hyuuga-san."

Next to the pink-haired girl, Ino cutely nods her agreement with sparkly eyes.

She doesn't reply, choosing to ignore the now quiet but completely unsubtle, teasing attention from all the other girls, female instructor included, and hides her face behind her sleeves.

Time at the Academy had taken a turn for the young girl, where before she was content to be simply determined and diligent in her learning and training, and refusing all but the bare minimal interaction with others, suddenly found herself looking forward to each coming day of the Academy. Always wondering in what manner and what subject will the blonde boy issue another bout of competitions, how she'll respond the get the biggest rise out of him, and the best way to prepare in order to achieve victory, for despite how it seemed to most of the other students, the boy did actually outdo her on occasion, even in spars. The Hyuuga heiress's enthusiasm in her anticipation carried over to her normal routines, and was comparably much more spirited than she had been for a while, as happily noted by her mother, Kiyoko, who made no mention of the small giggles when the girl was reading over her history notes for an upcoming examination.

But as all stories go, the fundamental rule of thumb for when things seem to be going right, is exactly the time for things to go wrong.