Author's Notes: Okay. So Murphy decided he hates me. A few weeks ago was my spring break, and I had every intention of writing all of this chapter immediately. I was going to spend a week with my parents, sitting on my computer, and writing. I got on the plane and the next day was knocked off my feet with some form of the Flu. When I got better and finally got my stuff written, one of my Beta's got super sick too. Anyways, we're all feeling better now. So here's the next chapter. Way over due.

Well, Geronimoooo!

Chapter 14: Small Victories.

Kurenai stared at her three students. Naruto shifted uncomfortably, kicking at the dirt near his feet like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Hinata stared down at her own feet, not too unusual for her, but she stole glances at the furious Kurenai, not at the abashed Naruto.

Kiba on the other hand, had his chest puffed out with pride. He was flashing a big smile that still had some food still stuck in his teeth. He looked up at Kurenai expectantly, like a puppy that had just defecated on your carpet and thought he had done you a favor; an image Kurenai thought that was a very apt metaphor at the moment. Akamaru was at his master's side happily wagging his tail; the same knowing look as his master's was in his eyes.

Kurenai, for her part, didn't even know where to begin. She had planned on showing Naruto and his team just how effective his shadow clones were, but then that happened.

She was still debating on where to begin, when her team started for her. Naruto mumbled out an apology, "Sorry, Kurenai-sensei."

"What are you sorry for?" Kiba said, the shock in his voice too real for Kurenai's hopes. "You did nothing wrong!"

Why me? Kurenai wondered. "Kiba... you ordered Akamaru to urinate in a public restaurant!"

"Yeah! They deserved it!"

"Kiba! It was a restaurant! It's unsanitary for one! Two..." Kurenai sighed. She closed her eyes and shook her head as she thought, Two... it affects your life if they see you defending Naruto... and it reflects on your clan. She looked down at her three students with a pained smile on her face. It was a terrible thought, and it wasn't like she hadn't gone overboard defending Naruto herself.

His landlord was still in therapy.

"Kiba," Naruto began, "you really shouldn't have done that."

"Why not?" Kiba snapped.

"'Cause... I'm used to it," Naruto began. Kiba bristled at that. "And, they're going to give you problems too now."

"You said the same damn thing about Sakura! I don't know what the hell you see in her! Do you like her punching you?" Kiba growled out as he threw his hands up. "And I don't care if they give me problems! We're a team. Damn it! How often are we going to have to go over that until it gets in our damn heads!"


Kiba and Naruto turned toward Hinata, who was refusing to look at them. Kurenai raised an eyebrow as she waited for Hinata to finish. She wondered what the girl was going to say.

"I-I t-think K-Kiba did the right thing..." she said quietly, but the effect hit them all like a Katon jutsu mixed with a Fuuton.

"See! See!" Kiba shouted, pointing at Naruto. "Even Hinata agrees with me! If she says it's the right thing then we know it's okay!"

"H-Hinata!" Naruto shouted, looked at her in shock. "But... but..."

Kurenai slapped her own forehead. The worst part about all this was she couldn't really bring herself to be mad about all this. Kiba might have gone overboard punching Sakura, she couldn't condone that, but she definitely approved of Kiba standing up for Naruto, even if he might have gone overboard on that.

She sighed. I'm such a hypocrite.

"Kiba, Hinata, let me make myself clear, I am not mad about Kiba standing up for Naruto. I am not mad Kiba gave Sakura a piece of his mind. I am not even mad about you three forgetting to pay for the food."

The three of them looked at each other and chuckled. "Whoops?" Kiba said apologetically.

"What I am worried about though," she said, as she got their attention back, "is that you might have gone a little overboard. Sakura, even if she was wrong, is still a shinobi of Kohona, and therefore an ally who you should treat with respect."

Kiba folded his arms defiantly, and shot Kurenai a look that told her exactly what he thought of that.

"I'm not saying you should have ignored what she was saying, but resorting to violence isn't the answer."

"It is a solution."

Kurenai groaned and realized she hadn't removed her hand from her forehead from the last time she had introduced her hand to her forehead protector. "Yes, but it wasn't the appropriate one this time. I also do not think your actions after the fact were very appropriate."

"I'm not apologizing to them," Kiba stated matter of factly.

Kurenai stared down her student. "What if the Hokage tells you to?"

"I still wouldn't!" Kiba declared boldly. "I don't care what he says, I don't even care what the restaurant owners say! I especially don't care what Sakura says! I don't care if Naruto is used to it. I'm still going to kick anyone's ass if they mess with him!"

Kurenai was torn. On one hand, she was downright proud of her student, but on the other hand... "Your mother is going to hear of this." Kurenai watched as both Naruto and Kiba paled. She avoided showing the smile that came with her winning this argument. Instead she straightened and brought up her original reason for this. "Now then, we're going to have a joint training exercise with Team Ten."

"With the banshee?" Kiba asked.

"You mean Ino, and yes. Yes you are."

"Why?" Naruto asked, seemingly forgetting about the earlier events.

"Team Ten makes great use of positioning. They have to avoid being tracked. However, we have three trackers on our team. So while Ino, and Shikamaru, and Choji are going to be hiding from you three, you are going to be trying to find them."

"T-three t-trackers?" Hinata wondered, looking at Naruto.

"Sensei! What gives? I'm not a tracker."

Kurenai looked at her three students and smiled. "Kiba, may I borrow a soldier pill?"

Kiba reached into his pocket. "Sure thing, sensei, but why?"

Kurenai popped it into her mouth, the pills tasted like undercooked meat, and as she chewed it she wondered if it was intentional for the Inuzuka. She closed her eyes as a brief pain and elation filled her body as her chakra reserves overfilled. She put her hands together and gathered every ounce of chakra she had. "Kage Bushin no Jutsu!"

A single clone of her appeared next to her as her students eyes went wide. Kurenai glanced at her clone. The clone was standing there, a proud smile on her face. For the briefest of moments she thought the jutsu would fail. Even extending her chakra reserves with a food pill it was still pushing her chakra to its limits. She could never use it like Naruto used it, but for now it'd work.

Her clone turned toward Naruto. "Naruto-kun, please make a shadow clone."

"Okay!" he shouted. He threw his hands together as his chakra spiked wildly. He shouted out his favorite technique. Chakra cloaked the formation of his shadow clone technique as his smile grew wider. When two clones appeared his smile vanished as he glanced back at the two annoyed clones. He laughed nervously as he looked back at Kurenai. "Whoops?"

We definitely need to work on your chakra control," Kurenai's clone muttered.

The two clones looked at each other, and at some unseen signal they both threw their hands out. One with an closed fist, the other with two fingers extended.

"All right! I win!" shouted the winner of their game of rock-paper-scissors.

The other stared at his two fingers, then at the taunting clone. He quickly jabbed his fingers into the other clone's eyes then turned to his shocked sensei as the other dispelled. "What'd you need me for?"

Kurenai tried to make sense of what she had just seen, then decided she didn't want to start developing her jonin quirks yet and turned around. "I can't do perform the shadow technique under combat situations yet, and probably never will. It takes too much chakra for me," she said. Her clone grabbed Naruto's and took him in another direction. Meanwhile she herself lead them to a training ground. "Since Naruto uses that particular technique so much I started learning it today in order to understand it better."

"Awesome sensei! It took me a lot longer to learn it!"

"I had the Hokage giving me pointers," Kurenai mentioned. "And my chakra control is impeccable. Since my job was mostly theory it was a lot easier for me. You were learning from the ground up, with no practice with difficult techniques to fall back on. It's amazing you learned it as quickly as you did. Now, back to the-"

"There she is!" a voice interrupted them. The owner of the voice began running toward Team Eight. "Kurenai-san!" The four ninja turned to see Ino running towards them. She ran up and quickly threw an arm around Hinata's shoulders."We were wondering where you were!"

"So Asuma sent us to look for you," a boy said walking up toward them. "I'm glad we found you quickly, this could have been troublesome."

"How did you find us so quickly?"

"Choji heard something about Team Seven and your team over here. Something about a barbeque joint and a fight."

Ino stepped away from the confused Hinata and looked over the three of them. "You three don't look like Sasuke kicked your ass."

"That's not what happened," Kurenai said resignedly. She motioned for Kiba to explain and the feral boy began without a shred of embarrassment.

"We were eating together just fine, until team seven came in. We were talking to them, but when we started talking about our C-Rank mission. Sakura started talking down about Naruto calling him an idiot."

"But he-"

Shikamaru covered her mouth and shot her a knowing glare. "Ino," he said with a false sweetness, "let the man finish."

Kiba stared at the two of them before brushing off their strange behavior. "So after a while, I decided enough was enough and gave her a piece of my mind. We yelled at each other for a little while, then the waiter came out and kicked us out. On our way out, I gave the whole restaurant a piece of my mind too."

"Okay," Shikmaru started, "so by giving Sakura a piece of your mind you mean..."

"I socked her good."

"And by the restaurant?"

"I had Akamaru give them a one-legged salute."

"I see..." Shikamaru said already covering his ears.

"That's disgusting!" Ino cried out, causing everyone to flinch. "Why on earth would you do that?"

"'Cause they called Naruto stupid!" Kiba barked back. "I agree he's not the brightest person around, but I'm not going to let anyone diss my teammates!" He shrugged and added as an afterthought, "That's my job."

Ino glanced at Shikamaru, and sighed. "How come I can't get teammates that want to defend me like that?"

Kurenai heard the familiar sound of a hand meeting a forehead protector and looked up to see Asuma. Apparently Ino failed to notice that Shikamaru probably saved her a very bruised ego and possibly a bruised face as well. Kurenai sighed and shook her head. "Well, now that we're all here, we can start the training. No need to do it in a training ground after all. We can use all of Konoha."

"Why are we doing this again?"

Shikamaru sighed as Kurenai began her explanation. He wanted to complain about the entire situation, but reality was just too troublesome to deal with. He didn't want to do extra training, but this was intrinsic to the basic composition of his team, they had to be good at this if they wanted to survive.

Ino completely ignoring him helping her was just par for the course.

"Well, let me put it this way," Kurenai began, "if we needed to find something. How would we track it down?"

Naruto was the first to answer. "We could use Hinata's eyes! They're great for that!"

Shikamaru groaned as he saw Ino giggling something to Hinata. Whatever it was, it got quite a reaction from Hinata. Shikamaru shook his head, as Hinata turned as red as a tomato, either at Naruto's praise, or Ino's comments.

"Okay, but Hinata can't see eveything-"

"She can't?" Naruto asked confused.

"No," Kurenai said smiling softly and shaking her head, "so if her eyes don't work, what would we do?"

"Well, we could use mine or Akamaru's nose," Kiba stated. He glanced at Naruto who had suddenly jerked upright. "Me and Akamaru can track most things."

"Kurenai-sensei! You really want to teach me genjutsu?" Naruto blurted out.

Kurenai smiled at him. "Well, I'd like to teach all of you three, but only if you want to. I imagine Kiba wouldn't enjoy it."

"What are you two talking about?" Asuma asked, either out of confusion, or worry at the blonde prankster was getting a new technique for his arsenal of pranks. Shikamaru gathered it was the second one. Konoha had been a quiet place lately and everyone had enjoyed that.

"Well?" Kurenai asked, expectantly looking at Naruto. "Do you know, Naruto?"

"We sent our clones off... and they started talking, but..." Naruto said confused.

Kurenai smiled. "Our clones talked about it. Specifically, our shadow clones."

"What are you getting at?"

Shikamaru sighed. "The normal clones we were taught in the academy are just illusions, nothing real. They don't do anything beyond distractions."

"Right, they're the beginnings of genjutsu. The simplest of the genjutsus you can learn. Most cloning techniques however fall under the jurisdiction on ninjutsu. Shadow clones aren't as easy to form as water clones, and they're not as durable as earth clones, nor do they have the element of surprise like lighting clones," Kurenai explained. "But they have a single redeeming trait."

"What's that?" Naruto asked.

Shikamaru was amazed. Kurenai had to be the most patient woman he knew. He had figured out what two and two meant as soon as Naruto had mentioned sending clones off, and judging by the looks on the other genin's faces they were slowly getting it.

Meanwhile, he was groaning at Naruto's ability to fail to notice the obvious. Mizuki's strange extra exams for the genin for starters, Hinata's obvious infatuation with him also came to mind. Sakura's dislike of him, Hinata's strange crush, the ability of the Shadow clones, and Hinata's thing for Naruto were all on the list as well.

He was aware that basically the same thing was on there three times, but it was so apparent it deserved to be.

"I can't send an illusion out to learn new things, and the other clone techniques can't be sent out to listen in or have conversations with people."

"But mine do!" Naruto shouted with a big grin on his face.

"Exactly, so, back to my original question, if we had to find something in an area?"

"We'd have Naruto make a thousand clones and have him search the area!" Kiba said excitedly.

"Right!" Kurenai said with nod. "Now, because we're such a great tracker team, we're going to do a joint exercise with Team Ten." She turned her attention toward that particular team. "Since Shikamaru and Ino both have to be hidden in order to be super effective, the two of them will have a head start to hide. Choji, you're a defender for those two. You're going to have to keep my team off of them."

"But how-" Choji began.

"Don't worry about it," Shikamaru said throwing an arm around his friend, "I'll tell you how you can do it."

"Thanks, Shika."

"My students will stay here, for a while. Then they'll try to track you down."

"Wait a moment," Asuma stated, pulling out three colored ribbons. He cut them in half and handed a piece to each of the genin. "Goal is to get all the pieces, if one team gets all the ribbons that team wins the round."

"What do we get if we win?" Kiba asked taking the ribbon.

"Team Ten tradition is all you can eat barbeque after a training session," Asuma stated. "So how about winners get to pick where we eat?"

Shikamaru glanced up at team eight's sensei. Kurenai raised an eyebrow, not at all amused at the concept of eating with his sensei. He sighed. Why can't Asuma just come out and say it? he wondered as he dutifully took his ribbon. "This is troublesome," he decided.

An hour later, he realized. "Understatements... suck," he groaned as he hid in alley way.

"There he is! Get him!" a nearby clone shouted.

Asuma reached into his pocket as he watched Naruto over run Shikamaru's position with a hundred clones. If he had known Naruto could actually summon that literal army at will he would have insisted they train in an actual training ground. The kid was giving people a heart attack.

He pulled out a cigarette, but before he could get it into his mouth, it was snatched woefully away from him and crushed brutally underfoot.

"Was that really necessary?"


He sighed, and watched the sea of blondes as it was divided by Choji. He whistled as Naruto summoned even more clones. "That boy just isn't quitting."

"He doesn't even know how."

"You realize that he's terrifying everyone right?"

"That he is," she said cooly, but the faintest of smirks pulled at the corners of her lips. It wouldn't be enough for anyone else to notice, but Asuma wasn't just anyone else.

He was even able to guess the reason. "This is revenge for people pushing Naruto around isn't it?"

"It might be."

He sighed. "You're going to make me take the blame for this aren't you."


Asuma sighed. Worst part is... I'm not even going to try and stop her. "You know, I've been meaning to ask you. What happened that made Naruto switch out of his orange jumpsuit?"

"I made him change it. Orange was too obvious a color."

"He's capable of evading ANBU while wearing it. I don't think his clothing choices affect his stealth at all. And there are successful ninja who have worn worse."

"I know, but orange is just such an ugly color. I do plan on teaching him some fashion sense. Both of his teammates do have enhanced senses after all. One of which is visual."

Asuma smiled at Kurenai and said quietly to himself, "Didn't strike me as the motherly type."

"What was that?" Kurenai asked, turning quickly and shooting a glare at Asuma.


Kakashi popped in on his three students."Greetings! My cute students!" He smiled as the three of them looked up in shock at him. The horrified looks on their faces, the angry Hanaro, the narrowed eyes of the Uchiha, and the unfazed reaction of the Aburame.

Kakashi entertained himself with the idea that Shino actually was shocked that he was on time for a change. He hoped he was at least. He liked to think that he was somewhat surprising.

"Sensei!" Sakura said angrily. "Where were you? The freaking mutt boy hit me!"

Kakashi sat down, and the waiter, whom he had come to an agreement with earlier, brought out the meal Kakashi had ordered. Effectively making Kakashi the first one to eat at the table. "Why, yes, Sakura, yes he did."

Sakura just growled at her sensei. He pointedly ignored her as he was about to dig into his food. He picked up his chopsticks and was about to dig in when movement caught his eyes.

There was an insect on his chopsticks.

He knew that despite everything his mind screamed about bugs, insects, animals and the wild, the kikaichu weren't unsanitary. In fact they were cleaner than most humans. They had to keep their hosts bodies pure of any infection or disease so as gracious hosts, they cleaned themselves often.

Didn't change the fact that it was disturbing.

The kikai insect flew off of his chopsticks and landed on Shino's hand and crawled underneath his fingernails. Kakashi laid a lazy eye on Shino's who face was like chiselled stone, but the raised eyebrow and the quizzical tilt of the head told Kakashi all he needed to know.

Kakashi sighed. "Do you know why Kiba punched you Sakura?"

"'Cause he's a jerk?"

"Now come on, you were the smartest student from your grade were you not?"

Sakura just grumbled as she nursed her sore jaw. "The mission..." The three turned toward the quiet voice. Sasuke continued, "Something happened during that mission."

"That's true, something always happens on a mission," Kakashi mused as he waved off one of Shino's bugs and decided to eat anyways.

If Shino was bothered by the dismissal, he didn't show it. He tapped a finger against the table. "I noticed that Kiba has been moving around Naruto, intentionally or unintentionally, like one would protect the queen of a hive."

"You're calling Naruto a queen?" Sakura asked incredulously.

Shino focused his gaze on her, and raised an eyebrow.

She threw her hands up in the air. "Fine, so Kiba's acting protective of Naruto. Isn't that normal for Inuzuka's?"

"That is true. However, Kiba has always viewed Naruto as a rival that he should be better than. Why? Because despite Kiba doing better than Naruto in combat drills, theory, and even in most practical applications, Hinata has always viewed Naruto as his better. A fact that for obvious reasons, does not suit well with Kiba, since he has had feelings for her for quite a while."

Dead silence at the table, except for Kakashi eating. He enjoyed the looks of confusion they gave him when he ate with a genjutsu up. Nothing too difficult, just the illusion that all of his masks were still in place.

Shino raised an eyebrow. "I find it hard to believe that no one else has noticed this..."

"Poor Hinata," Sakura mused.

Shino tilted his head. "I do not think she needs to be pitied. Why? Because as far as I can tell, she's just as unaware as Naruto is of her."

"Poor Hinata," Sakura reiterated.

Shino stared at her; at least, Kakashi assumed he was. He might have blinked; it was hard to tell with the sunglasses. "That, I suppose, is appropriate," the boy stated.

Kakashi didn't look up, but mentioned, "You are getting a little off topic." Shino straightened, just barely, just enough for a trainined Jonin to be able to get inside his head. Ah, Shino now gets it. This is training. He glanced over at the Uchiha, who had his gaze drilling the Aburame. Seems Sasuke understands as well.

The table was silent, as the three thought for a moment. Sasuke spoke first, "What was the last thing Sakura said?"

Shino nodded, almost imperceptibly. "She said something along the lines of, 'I would believe he almost died on account of his stupidity'. Kiba took great offense to this. Why is that important? Kiba stated their mission didn't go well, and Naruto was uncomfortable. This might have been closer to the truth than was acceptable." The insect user turned toward his sensei then asked, "Are you capable of telling us?"

Kakashi set his chopsticks down. "Hinata was captured during their last mission by an unforeseen threat. The resulting fight almost resulted in the death of all of Team Eight, and it is by no means a small miracle that they came back unharmed."

"Oh," Sakura said, her face becoming contrite. "I think I should apologize to them next time I see them."

"Perhaps, either I or Sasuke should do that. Why? Because I think there was more to it than that."

Kakashi nodded. "I'm still having trouble believing it, but Naruto was the one to pull their bacon outta' the fire, but not before he was almost killed trying to save them." Then Kakashi added, "Naruto took on odds even I would think twice on," he lied smoothly, he would have had no issue, but everyone knew the risks of taking on a seal master on turf he had prepared beforehand.

"I believe I understand Kiba's reactions now..."

"Me too."

"I want a C-Rank mission," Sasuke stated. The other genin looked at him and slowly nodded.

"I believe we are capable of one. My reasoning is such as this, if Kiba, and Naruto, who both were below me and Sasuke when it came to our scores, are capable of taking a C-Rank mission, then we should be able to handle one as well. Especially with Sakura, who performed admirably as well."

"Are you sure you just don't want to catch Tora again?" Kakashi deadpanned.

"If I am required to capture the Bakenko again, it will end with it having a case of fleas for the remainder of its soon to be shorter life span."

Kakashi clapped his hands together. "Well then! As much as I'd personally love to see that, I'll see what I can do tomorrow."

Hokage-sama, please tell me tomorrow that catching Tora has been upgraded to a C-Rank!

Shikamaru and the rest of his team jumped down toward their sensei. He was sitting at a noodle stand eating Udon noodles. Kurenai was standing outside, waiting for her team. Shikamaru glanced at the Shogi board next to his sensei. Before he knew it, he was sitting down and beginning his favorite opening. Asuma smiled at him, and opened as well.

"Finally!" Ino moaned as she dropped down next to Shikamaru. "I thought we'd never finish! I swear the mutt over there never lost sight of me!"

Kiba laughed and declared, "I didn't! Your shampoo is the same type we use on our dogs, so it's easy to smell." His sudden appearance made everyone but the jonin in the stand turn around suddenly.

"EXCUSE ME?" Ino screeched.

Kiba stepped back as Ino marched toward him. "Well it's true!"

"I use a very nice and high quality, shampoo. And you're telling me you have your dogs use it?"

"Didn't you hear yourself? It's high quality! Of course we do!"

"You... but... the..." Ino choked out, she opted to just let out a cry of anguish and say, "No wonder why Sasuke never liked me! I was using a dog's shampoo!"

"Sasuke never liked you 'cause he's an egotistical prick," Kiba fired.

"You're just jealous you can't compare to him!"

Shikamaru sighed at the same time as his sensei. Not this troublesome conversation again, he grumbled internally, not daring to voice his opinion aloud.

"I'm not jealous," Kiba stated seriously. "I have friends, I don't need anything else."

Ino glared at him, then with a derisive, "Hmph!" turned away.

Kiba glanced back behind him as the rest of his team entered the stand. Kurenai smiled at him and asked everyone, "So, who wound up with the ribbons?"

Shikamaru shuffled in his pockets and pulled out three balled up ribbons. He glanced up from the board to look to see who had the others. Hinata shyly pulled out her's, and Kiba pulled out two. Kurenai smiled. "Good work all of you. I'm impressed."

"Would have been easier if my dad didn't forbid me from using my techniques on Naruto."

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. That's strange, why would... He looked up at Asuma, who looked worried. Whatever it is... I'm pretty sure I don't want to know.

"We tied," Kiba griped.

Asuma indicated the chairs. "So my choice."

Kiba sighed and sat down. "Here I was hoping to get some barbeque again."

"You just ate there didn't you?" Ino asked.

"Well, yeah that was a while ago."

Ino just rolled her eyes.

Choji sat down next to Shikamaru. "I'd like barbeque too, but this place does have a very good beef udon."

Ino groaned. "Choji? Is there any place you don't know what's good there?"

Choji shrugged. "Probably, but they use an Akimichi recipe here. So I know it's good."

"Akimichi recipe?" Naruto asked.

"Yeah, my family is known for good food, and its big ninja," Choju said happily patting his stomach.

Naruto switched sides of the stand and was now next to Choji with a notebook out, "Can you help me out here?"

Asuma laughed. "I think Choji just found a new best friend, Shikamaru."

"If Naruto can keep up with his eating, then I'm all for it," Shikamaru joked. He looked over Asuma's shoulder and saw a pale Kurenai. "Everything all right, Kurenai-sensei?"

"I need a bigger list of jutsu..."

The next morning, Kurenai smiled as she saw Naruto running up to her before she had reached their training grounds. He had two boxes in front of him. He ran up to her and thrust one of the two boxes into her hands. The smell of food hit her strongly before she even opened it. She cracked it open and looked at the food inside. Naruto had brought pancakes, scrambled eggs, two hardboiled eggs, sausages and toast in the box.

Kurenai sampled a bit of each of the items Naruto had learned to cook. "Good work," she stated. "Looks like I owe you a few more techniques," she stated, as Naruto opened up his own box and began to eat. "Since I already taught you a fire technique, and a water technique, I can teach you a wind one and a-."

"Actually, sensei? I was wondering if you'd teach me a genjutsu?"

Kurenai glanced down at her student. Naruto was looking up at her with very big eyes. She smiled at the puppy eyed look on his face. "Naruto, genjutsu are very diff-"

"I can do it!" Naruto interrupted, as she assumed he would. "Really! I can! I can make a hundred clones to practice it!"

"Naruto, it's an exercise in control, not chakra intensive like ninjutsu. Genjutsu, too much chakra and your technique won't enter their tenketsu and won't affect them. Too little and you don't have any affect at all."

"I can do it!" Naruto insisted.

"Is there a reason why you want to learn genjutsu?" Kurenai asked.

"Well, you use it," Naruto answered abashed. It was a simple answer, one that made a lot of sense. Kurenai was one of, if not the, best genjutsu users in Konoha. Any jonin that had a chance to work with her asked for a pointer or two. As a student of hers, they had a great opportunity.

But in Naruto's case it wasn't just that he wanted to learn something from her, he wanted to have something in common with her. The blonde was looking up to her, and wanted a chance to prove himself to her. Not that he needed to, but he wanted to.

"Okay," Kurenai said, not able to hide the smile at seeing Naruto's elation. "I'll teach you a fairly simple genjtusu. It's one of my own, and it'd mesh pretty well with your combat style."

"What do you mean?"

"Genjutsu users are the type to stay in the back and help their allies fight. We don't often have glorious flashy battles that can be heard miles away, if a genjutsu user is spotted, the battle is already turning against them. Not like your upfront way of fighting. So, I'm going to teach you a rather unique technique, called Koyomu."


"Crimson Leaf Dream. Now, listen closely..."

"Hana! I want to get to training!"

"Quiet!" Kiba's sister barked. "I don't think you realize how crazy your stunt was last night! Mom wasn't sure if she should praise you or kick your ass!"

"They're the same thing anyways!"

"Quit your whining!" Hana said dragging her brother along. "Be glad that your mother is out for a week."

"She's out? I didn't get to say goodbye!"

"Of course you didn't! The clan wants mom to drag you to the restaurant and make you apologize. Mom, of course, is still on the fence about it."

"Oh..." Kiba said, a little more subdued. "Naruto would have liked to have said goodbye."

Hana stopped yanking on Kiba and looked back. "Really?"

"Yeah, he likes her."

"Good, he and I can switch."

"He'd take that up and be happy about it."

Hana raised an eyebrow. "Really? Even after getting beatings like yesterday daily?"

"He's been chasing a girl who's been hitting him for asking her out. A small thing like yesterday wouldn't come close to chasing him off."

Hana blinked in confusion before stating, "So he's into that, huh?"

"I hope not!" Kiba shouted, squeezing his eyes shut in a grimace.

"Good, now help me carry this, and no digging in!" she shouted throwing him a bag of dog food. Kiba caught the bag, but wasn't prepared for the second one. He picked himself up off the ground and shifted the bags under his arms.

"This is easy! I bet I can- oof!"

Hana smiled as she observed Kiba walking with four bags of dog food. "Great, now I just have to get some medical supplies and we can be off." Kiba grumbled as his sister led the way to a small store that smelled like someone had dumped a bucket of bleach on the the building. Kiba kept away as his sister went inside. He went across the street and looked in the window of the shop there.

A bookstore.

"Never thought I'd willingly walk into a store like this," he grumbled, setting down the food. Akamaru jumped up on the bags of food as Kiba walked into the store.

"Can I help you?" The clerk asked.

"Yeah," Kiba said glancing about. The smell of paper hit him strongly, but somewhere in the store he detected the scent of a dog. "I'm looking for a book on sealing."

"Back there and to your left," she said.

"Thank you," Kiba responded automatically and began walking back. There was a tall man with white hair back there, and Kiba instantly recognized that he was the one who gave off the scent of dog. Must work with some ninken, Kiba thought


Kiba looked up at him. "Are you talking to me?"

"Unless there's someone else back here."

"Ah... yo?"

"Don't recognize me, huh?"

"Should I?"

"I'm Kakashi, I'm the sensei of Sakura, who you punched yesterday."

"Oh..." Kiba suddenly felt like the bookstore was very cramped.

"I'm offering an apology for my team, they didn't know what you just went through."

"Oh," Kiba said rubbing the back of his head, "I suppose I should apologize too. Kurenai-sensei chewed me out a bit for that."

He waved it off. "Both parties were at fault, so why don't we just sweep it under the rug?"

"I'm cool with that, I think."

"May I ask what brings you here?" Kakashi asked. "You don't strike me as the reading type."

"I'm looking for a book on seals."

Kakashi pulled out a big book. "Here's a good one for the basics, but," he trailed off with a hint of mischief in his voice, "if you're looking for some basics, and a good read, this one will do."

Kiba looked at the little orange book in his hands. "Adults only?" Kiba read aloud. "You've got to be kidding me."

"You're an adult now, just like all the other genin," Kakashi pointed out.

"I... think I'm gonna stick with the boring one for now."

"Too bad, you're missing out on a great read."

Kiba thanked Kakashi, and bought the book. He waited outside for his sister and started looking at the overview of the book. Functional? Object-centered? Variables? Methods? What on-

"Earth are you reading?" Kiba jumped and looked at his sister, who was now looking over him. "Kiba, is that a book on seals?"

"Yeah. I wanted to learn how to do seals myself."

Hana straightened up and looked over Kiba. "I don't see it."


"To work with seals, you've got to be smart."


"Though, if you become a seal master, you'd be one of like three in our clan."


"Yeah, they require hours and hours of studying. I've tried my hand at them but-"

"Teach me!"

"If you'd let me finish!" she shouted, hitting him over the head. "I've tried my hand at them, the simple stuff, just storage seals and the like, but I couldn't get far."

"Please, teach me what you know," Kiba said again, this time glaring at his sister. "I need to learn."

His sister stared at him for a while. "Pick up the dog food," she ordered. "Now the first thing I know about seals is..."

Hinata went got up and went down to the dining room. Her father was already sitting down, waiting for her. She could hear his stern voice talking to a branch member. Hinata looked about for Hanabi, but didn't see her about. She quietly approached the table as she ghosted over the floors and sat down some distance away from her father. There was a seat dedicated to the heir of the household at his right hand, but she wasn't allowed to sit there yet.

"You returned very late last night," her father stated. It wasn't an accusation. That was for when one was charging someone with wrong doing. He stated and it was law.


"Where did you go?"

"T-t-to N-Nikurui Shurou..."

"I haven't heard of it."

"I-it's a-a civilian restaurant, n-near t-the training grounds."

"Ah, that explains that," her father stated as a branch member seemingly appeared and poured him more tea. "I had hoped to continue your training session last night."

"I-I a-apologize, f-father. K-Kurenai-s-sensei found us and started a new training regimen."


"S-specializing i-in tracking and retrieval."

"As far as I know, the Uzumaki child has no tracking skills."

"H-he h-has his shadow clones, t-they c-can relay info back to Naruto-k..." she trailed off before finishing the honorific. She looked up at her father to see a harsh skeptical look on his face. She glanced at the branch member, who only had a mask of impassivity on his face. She looked down at the meal before her, and urged her fingers not to shake as she ate.

"Interesting," her father finally said. He stood up and motioned to the branch member that he was dismissed. "I put some thought into what Kiba said. I'd like to invite your two teammates over for training. I hope their presence may be some external factor to help you with your training."

"K-Kurenai-s-sensei w-wanted me to spend time with Ino tonight."

"The Yakamana heiress?" her father questioned. "Very well, we'll have to step up your time table then. Invite them over for the afternoon, after lunch."

"Yes father."

"And do try to be friends with Ino, she may be a valuable ally someday..."

Kurenai had to admit, this was not what she expected to see. The four of them were in their designated training ground, and the two loud boys, were doing their best to be quiet. Kiba was reading a large book. Kurenai instantly recognized some of the images as the beginning explanations of seals. He was staring furiously at the book, flipping pages every so often, often going backwards. On occasions he let out a growl of frustration that cut across the clearing.

Naruto however, as soon as the two of them had reached the training grounds, instantly started a regiment of chakra control exercises that Kurenai had suggested. Kurenai didn't know Naruto was capable of being this quiet. He and four clones were each sitting cross legged with leaves on their foreheads. Trying their best to not even shift as they course chakra through their bodies and keep the leaf steady on their forehead.

Meanwhile, Hinata was running through her Jyuuken kata. Kurenai watched her quiet student push herself and wished she knew enough about the gentle fist of the Hyuuga to give her pointers, but the gentle fist was a very close guarded secret, even in Kohona.

They were working so diligently, Kurenai actually felt bad about interrupting them. She clapped her hands, and everyone looked up at her. "Good morning," she greeted. The cloned Naruto's dispelled, as Kiba slammed his book shut, frustration evident on his face. Their hectic movements almost drowned out the quiet greeting Hinata gave her. Kurenai nodded at Hinata then asked, "All of you were already training in some way when you got here. I'm curious as to what each of you were doing."

Naruto answered immediately, "But sensei! You already know what I was doing!"

Kurenai smiled and ruffled his hair. "But the others don't."

Naruto folded his arms in mock annoyance as he half-heartedly knocked her hand away. "I was doing chakra control exercises, since I want to learn genjutsu."

Kiba looked between Naruto and their sensei. "Are you even capable? I mean, you have huge chakra reserves. I mean, I have decent chakra reserves, but control is difficult even for me."

Naruto smiled at Kiba. "I'm gonna do it!"

Kiba just shrugged. "Well, can't say I'm doing anything easier, I got a book on seals. A jonin called Kakashi recommended this one and an orange book-"

"Kiba, you are never allowed to read those orange books."

"I didn't get it," Kiba said shaking his head, "but I don't understand it at all!"

The three turned toward the final member. She pushed her hands together as she ground the dirt underneath her feet when she twisted uncomfortably. "I-I... I-I w-was practicing my Jyuuken, I-I h-have training tonight. F-father a-asked for all of us to come."

Kurenai raised an eyebrow. "For training?"

"N-no. H-he w-wants you to watch..."

Kurenai stared at her in shock. Word of this must never get out to Gai, the man would run laps for a week shedding tears at missing such an opportunity to observe Hyuuga training. On second thought, this would be wonderful to share with jonin next time they start bragging. Kurenai was dragged out of her thoughts as Hinata looked down, almost in pain. She began to realize this might not become a good memory.

She clapped her hands. "All right then, why don't we start with some chakra control exercises today? That'll be our warm up for taijutsu practice, then after we cool down, we'll try going over Kiba's book. It'll be new material even for me, but we'll work through it together. Then we'll get lunch, and then return for Hinata's training."

"What about the Inuzuka training?" Naruto asked Kiba.

Kiba waved it off. "My mom went out today. She's got some sort of mission or something."

Naruto slumped slightly. "Oh," he perked up quickly and began, "too bad! At least this way we get to see Hinata's awesome training!"

Kurenai felt a pit in her stomach form when Hinata flinched, like she had been struck, as Naruto mentioned her 'awesome' training.

She clapped her hands. "All right boys, get up those trees! Naruto, make ten clones."

Naruto clapped his hands together. "Kage Bushin no jutsu!"

Kurenai sighed as Naruto missed his target by three, making only seven. "Good enough, but if you ever want to cast a genjutsu, you'll have to get it perfectly every time." She pointed toward the trees. "Start climbing, I want you to be able to get up and down at least twenty times in the next hour."

That of course, was impossible, only someone like the Gai and Mini-Gai could do something like that. These trees were tall, but the two boys just smirked and charged the trees like they were their enemies.

Kurenai grabbed Hinata. "Hinata? A moment." She knelt down to get to eye level with her student. "Are you okay with this?"


"The boys are gone," Kurenai said with a smile. "Do you want them there?"

Hinata looked away. "N-no, b-but my father."

"Will listen to me."

Hinata shook her head. "H-he w-won't take no for an answer. T-they h-have to come."

Kurenai gripped Hinata's shoulder's tightly. "You sure?"


Kurenai sighed and brushed Hinata's hair. "It'll be okay. Trust me."

"I-I d-do. Kurenai-san."

"All right, can you do water-walking?"

"I-I c-can, b-but I-I'm not very good at it."

"Now's a good time to practice as any," Kurenai said taking her and leading her toward the water. "Don't worry, Hinata, I'm sure you can do it," Kurenai comforted as she herself walked out onto the water.

Hinata looked down at the water, and slowly stepped out onto the lake.

Hisano stared at the sub-par heiress in front of him. Behind her were her teammates and sensei. Kurenai he knew of, she was a well respected genjutsu user. She had slowly been falling out of favor with many jonin as she was known to have protected her demon of a student. For some reason that Hisano couldn't figure out, the Hokage seemed to have begun to favor her more since then.

Said demon brat was there as well, cheering on the pathetic girl. It made some sort of sense, he supposed, the unwanted would band together, misery and company after all.

He was very upset to hear that Hinata's team was only there to observe, not to participate. He would have given his right arm to have a chance to hurt the thing that had taken his wife away.

He still remembered her screams, and woke often in the night remembering her screaming to be saved, as the demon bore down on them. The creature caused many earthquakes when it appeared in their village, and one such quake trapped his wife in their bed, as the fires spread. She screamed for Hisano, begging for him to save her.

He blinked away the thoughts as he focused on the girl in front of him. The one who deigned it worthwhile to spend time with that thing. A small smirk graced his lips as Hiashi raised his hands. The worthless heiress took a laughable combat stance, her weight on her back foot, ready to retreat. He knew his stance was flawed at the moment, his weight distributed slightly forward, ready to attack.

It would work; there was no need for his normal perfection tonight. Tonight, he'd show that demon what exactly was waiting for him.

His active Byakugan momentarily observed Hiashi who had the smallest of frowns on his face. Perhaps he was disturbed by Hisano's behavior, but as quickly as the thought came, Hiashi raised his hand, and lowered it quickly, tersely saying, "Begin!"

Hisano rushed forward, his arms quickly going for nerve clusters under her arms. Hinata flew to the side, avoiding the painful strike. Hisano cried out as he struck again, and again this time she flew away. Hisano took a moment and took a deep breath. She trains with an Inuzuka and the demon, she's used to straight forward attacks.

He reshifted his weight back to the perfection that was the Hyuuga Jyuuken. He closed his eyes, even though he had no need for them to be open. Balance in all things, he forced himself to recall. He rushed forward again, this time feinting for Hinata's chest. She fell for the feint, and his true strike, going for a nerve cluster in her arm, hit with perfect precision. The heiress screamed in pain and clutched her wounded arm.

Hisano stomped his foot as she collapsed. "Get up! Hinata! Don't shame the clan in front of outsiders."

Hisano's Byakugan caught movement, even as he observed Hinata struggling to stand again. Kurenai was holding the demon and Kiba back. Their faces were looking at their sensei and at Hisano in anger. They didn't understand the perfection required by the Hyuuga clan.

Hinata raised her weakened arm, and looked up at Hisano. He stared impassibly at the tears threatening to form in her eyes. As soon as Hiashi gave the signal again, Hisano charged.

He was surprised to see her throw up some form of defense. She always retreated, but each strike Hisano threw out toward her was attempted to be knocked away. It was a valiant effort, but one doomed to fail.

Hisano kept up the assault, waiting for his moment. Eventually, it came, a successfully blocked strike, but Hinata twisted too far. She opened up her side. Hisano dug his fingers deep into her side, and twisted, his fingers touching the back of her ribs. Hinata screamed out again, collapsing to the mat.

Hisano's eyes picked up a flurry of emotion; the demon brat had ripped out of his sensei's grip and ran along the mat. Hisano wished the worthless thing had tried to defend Hinata, and then he could have had the honor of beating the thing into submission. Hinata twitched on the ground, as the pain rocked her body. Her father, frowning from his seat above, apparently disturbed at his heiress's weakness.

"Get up, Hinata! You can do it!" the brat screamed from the sidelines. He was kneeling at the edge of the mat. Eyes imploring her to get up.

"Yeah! You can do it! Beat that wrinkly old man into next week!" that was the Inuzuka. Hisano frowned; it seemed they didn't understand how the Hyuuga worked. Perfection was sought, imperfection was tossed aside.

Hinata was the definition of imperfection.

The girl stood up, despite the mind crushing pain she felt. The brat cheered, "Yeah! Go Hinata!"

"Rearrange the ugly bastards face!" Hisano grimaced as the Inzukua attempted to work the Hyuuga heiress into a frenzy.

The brat laughed. "Yeah! Make his wife scream when she sees him!"

Hisano turned toward the demon, intent on tearing out the things tongue. He didn't care about what anyone would say, the demon would pay for that-

Then everything went dark.

Hinata stared down at the unmoving form of Hisano. Her trainer hadn't paid attention to her father, like she had. She had struck out, expecting him to block her with the normal ease he demonstrated. Instead her strike had connected, and he had crumpled, just like she normally did.

She was still in her fugue like state when two arms picked her up. "Great job Hinata!" Hinata looked down as her world spun about and saw that Naruto was holding her. She cried out and Naruto dropped her. "Oh! I'm so sorry Hinata! You're probably still hurting huh?

I... I won! And Naruto hugged me!

She was dragged out of her thoughts as an arm landed across her shoulders. "I knew you could kick that son of a bitch's ass!"

"T-Thank y-you, K-Kiba, N-Naruto."

She felt a hand on her head and looked up. Kurenai smiled down at her. "I had to keep those two from running out there and bloodying that man for you. I'm glad I stopped them. You won."

A stern voice broke out over them. "It wasn't a true win by any sense of the word." Hinata winced as her father spoke, his cold voice carrying over everyone. Naruto jumped up to shout at her father when he continued, "That being said, a win is a win. And Hisano is unconscious, and is unlikely to wake any time soon, and Hinata, while you are injured, and in great pain, are standing. Therefore, you still have won. Thank your teammates, Hinata, it is because of them that you won. You have the rest of the day off. Neji!" The called for boy appeared from the walls and bowed to Hiashi, but didn't offer the same respect to the others. "Take Hisano to the infirmary." Neji bowed again and did as he was asked. "Hinata, I understand you were to meet with Ino today? I suggest you go change before meeting her."

"T-thank y-you, f-father!" Hinata almost shouted. She turned and looked at her teammates.

Kurenai pushed the two of them toward the door. "You two can brag all you want about her later, for now she's got to go meet Ino." She smiled as Hinata turned red at the thought of the two boys bragging about her.

Hinata rushed to her room, and changed out of her training clothes and put on a fresh set of clothes. She ran outside and stopped suddenly. "Neji!" she said quietly upon seeing him.

"That was a terrible display," he began. Her eyes widened as he continued, "Yes, I did see it all. You were a shriveling mess. Completely unable to defend yourself. If it wasn't for your teammates interfering in such a distasteful manner, you would have lost."

Hinata looked her cousin in the eyes, for once not daunted by his cold gaze. "You're right," she admitted. "But Neji... I still won." She then ran past him, not noticing the look of disbelief on his face.