Author's Notes:Man, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It's been a pain in the neck to get this one out. From writer's block, to no internet access... Anyways, I've toughed through it. And Phantom took a big ol' crowbar to the back of my head. Then we got through it again.
Before we get going, I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed. Some people have pointed out mistakes I've made. Some of them are more Naruverse specific, and it'd be difficult to go back and rewrite a lot of what I have because of it. Not much I can do but chock it up to experience and remember it for the next time I write a fic, and I do have three ideas itching to use the experience.
Okay, now that that's done we can get started.
Chapter 18: Consequences
Shikaku sighed as he watched the Hokage pace. The smoke in the room following the aged man as he continued his patrol of his office. Occasionally he stole glances outside toward the mountains as if silently pleading his predecessors and his protege for guidance. Shikaku knew why the man was so upset, but didn't dare tell him 'he told him so'. The Hokage paused his pacing to read the sky. The sun casting a shadow across the faces of the Hokages of the village, giving them a look of anger as they looked over the village.
"Did I make the wrong decision, Shikaku?"
The Nara sat up right and coughed. But a glance from the Hokage told him what he needed to say. Shikaku folded his hands. "Hokage-sama, with all due respect, but Danzo is dangerous. I disagreed then, and I disagree now."
The aged Hokage turned and faced the mountains again. "How do I fix this, Shikaku..."
The Nara refused to answer that. What the leadership had allowed was horrible, and they both knew how disappointed the Fourth would be with them. They both also knew there was no way to fix what they had done; which brought them back to why they were waiting.
Shikaku sighed. "The ANBU will get him. They're the best of the best."
"It's been hours..." Sarutobi responded reaching up to his pipe. In a fit of anger, he tossed it at his desk, scattering the papers there.
Shikaku ignored the outburst, no one could blame him after all. It was possibly the Hokage's decision that had left them in this predicament. "Well, given the speed techniques of the Inuzuka, and he has the stamina from the Fox, he could have been running this entire time."
"But could he outpace our ANBU?"
"It took them some time to leave the village quietly. We couldn't rush out immediately, that would tell everyone something was wrong." The Nara sighed. "You know this, Hokage-sama..."
"You're right, forgive me."
Shikaku leaned back and sighed. The breath leaving his lungs moved the air about in the room. The Nara watched the smoke move as he tried to make out shapes in its wisps. He tried to imagine what his son would think of him if he knew. "Troublesome... Hokage-sama, I get it, trust me I get it."
"But hours?" the Hokage mused quietly.
"Long enough for them to get to Hana's location."
The Hokage sighed and looked away from his predecessors. Neither spoke of the fact that ANBU could have easily made the trip back in time already. If they hadn't made it back by now it was because either they ran into problems or someone was injured. Shikaku sighed as he slowly relaxed and extended his senses. The village was winding down, and with his senses completely extended he could feel the village become more relaxed with the setting of the sun. Suddenly, there was a strong presence near the gates. He sat up. "Hokage-sama! They're back!"
The Hokage's head snapped around as he looked toward the direction of the gates. He closed his eyes and reached out with his own senses. "There's six... six of them." His eyes opened up and he looked at Shikaku. "Looks like you won't be needed after all."
Shikaku let out a long sigh. "He pulled it off?"
"He did the one thing that could save him. Turns out his unofficial mission was a success. Go get Kurenai and her remaining students," the Hokage said as he carefully picked up his pipe again. He folded his hands. He still needed to punish Naruto, but it didn't have to be nearly as bad as he was planning. He sighed as he relaxed into his chair as he monitored his wayward ninja through his senses.
Naruto abandoned his post without permission, which even in a peacetime situation was a huge offense. However, it could be overlooked, if it had a valid reason. However, Naruto wasn't your normal ninja. He was a living human sacrifice. The Hokage sighed. Danzo would just love this...
He was broken out of his thoughts as he heard a voice outside. "Ow! You crazy bitch! What the hell was that for? OW! Ow! Stop it!"
"First one? Because apparently you're a moron who doesn't realize what level of shit he's in! Second one? Was for your language! I swear if I hear one more word, you and Kiba are gonna get it!"
There was a moment of quiet followed immediately by a string of expletives as Hana shouted, "Oh that's it! You two! Hold him down while I get this!"
"Ma'am, yes ma'am!"
The Hokage sighed as Naruto begged for mercy before blissful silence fell. His ANBU were enjoying themselves with this far too much. He sat up straight as he heard them approach the door. The captain of the team opened the door, and a member of the team was helping Hana walk, even through she had procured a large stick to use as a crutch. The Hokage had to resist a chuckle as Hana's three dogs circled the last two ANBU and Naruto, who looked quite disgusted with a bar of soap in his mouth.
The Hokage placed his pipe in his mouth and breathed deeply, as they waited for him to speak. "You two," he addressed the ones holding Naruto, "you are to ensure Naruto does not remove that bar until my explicit say so. Understand?"
"Sir, yes sir!"
"Good." he said with a nod. He put the papers on his desk back in order and looked at Hana. "Now, Hana, I'm glad to see you're alive, if not completely in one piece."
"Sir, I'm glad to be back."
Hana made a small motion toward the chair, not intentionally, but the Hokage picked up her desire to sit. He looked at the ANBU next to her and indicated the chair, and he helped her into the chair. "Thank you," she said looking at the ANBU, who nodded and moved over next to the ANBU captain. Hana's dogs circled her and sat down around her chair. She reached down and scratched the ears of one and began, "Sir, you know that I was sent to investigate a criminal named Oga who had fled his home and joined up with a gang. Correct?" At the Hokage's nod she continued, "The reason why they were so bold to move close to our village was cause they had a man named Meizo, a missing ninja."
"I remember him," the Hokage said, closing his eyes, "he was one of ours, before he got hooked on red dust."
Hana nodded. "He's clean now, as far as I can tell, but he's moved from using to dealing."
"You mean, he's brought those drugs here?"
"Not into the village, he wouldn't dare, but, I'm sorry sir, there are pieces that I don't remember..."
The Hokage nodded and indicated her leg. "What about your leg?"
"Meizo caught me snooping around, and he caught us with. Red dust affects ninja differently than those who can't use their chakra, but..."
"It's not your fault, Hana, if I had known, I would have never sent an Inuzuka out there."
"They're planning on moving out in the morning, but I don't know if that's changed due to this moron here."
"He broke in, kicked ass, and saved my life, sir."
Suddenly the doors bust open. The ANBU not holding Naruto jumped and reached for their kunai. "Sis!" Kiba shouted as soon as he laid on his sister.
"You won't be!"
"Oh shit!" Kiba said beginning to turn.
"Grab him!" Hana ordered, and the captain and the other free ANBU grabbed Kiba before he could even make it out the door. Hana waved her makeshift crutch threateningly at Kiba. "Bring him closer!" she demanded. "I want to hit him with my stick!"
"Hana..." the Hokage said gently.
"Fine," she said reaching into her pack.
"Oh sweet gods no! Hana! No-"
"Shut up!" Hana said throwing the bar of soap with the aim of a kunai. The Hokage raised an eyebrow at the displayed skill. "Now you keep that there! And think about what you've done!" Kiba's eyes went wide, although in disgust or in shock the Hokage wasn't quite sure. "First of all, AWOL? Are you that dense? Secondly, what kind of damned language are you using around Naruto? Don't be giving him your damn habits! Little piece of shit..."
"Hana..." the Hokage said again, this time less gently.
"Sorry, Hokage-sama, clan business."
The Hokage chuckled as Kiba looked at him with pleading eyes. "I am aware. You can put Naruto and Kiba against the wall there. They will not take those bars out of their mouths and they will stand there 'till I say otherwise."
The two painful whimpers coming from the boys was wonderful music to an elder's ears. He who loves his children chastises them. He thought with a smile. He turned toward Hana, who was also smiling. "Why don't you start from the top? Don't worry about what you can't remember, just give me as much detail as you possibly can."
Kurenai slowly marched up the stairs to the Hokage's office. Asuma was a half step behind her. "You shouldn't be coming," she stated, somewhat bitterly.
Asuma shrugged. He didn't think that she was angry at him, it was probably more that she was angry that she had failed to keep Naruto and Kiba in line. Of course it was also probably the fact that he had managed to light a cigarette. "I know I don't personally have a stake in this fight, but you probably want me there."
"Why would I want you there?"
He took a quick glance behind him, and saw his students, and Kurenai's remaining one, weren't paying attention. He let out a long breath, smoke creating a temporary wall between them. "Let's just say, I just want to remind him why I left in the first place."
"What?" Kurenai asked, but the wall of smoke had faded and they no longer had their privacy, as the their students began waving away the smoke.
"Besides, I think they'd kill me if I let you two go in alone."
Kurenai glanced back at the students, who were unaffected, mostly, by Asuma's cigarettes. Hinata was in the middle of them. Ino on her right, giving her a pep talk of sorts.
"When you get in there, let them have it! Punch them right in their stupid faces and let them know just how stupid they are! They need some woman like you to boss them around, cause obviously they can't handle themselves!" Each sentence of Ino's was punctuated with her throwing a fist as if she was boxing one of the boys in question.
Shikamaru sighed. "Troublesome. Listen, you don't-"
"Don't you start, Shika! They need a beating from a smart girl like Hinata, so that's what they're gonna get!"
"Geez, no wonder Sasuke avoids her..."
"What'd you say?" Ino screeched.
Shikamaru winced and quickly took an offered chip from Shino. He chewed for a long time before telling Ino, "Nothing, nothing at all." Ino just continued to glare at him before he shrugged. "Don't you think they're in enough trouble already?"
"No! What were they thinking? Leaving Hinata alone like that!"
Asuma sighed and looked over at Kurenai, who glared back. He took a long deep breath and pulled the cigarette out of his mouth he slowly let the smoke out of his mouth and float up into the air. He tossed the cigarette up into the smoke and with a quick hand sign, and spat out a tongue of fire and the cigarette was no more.
"When did you learn that?"
He shrugged. "I have a fire technique or two. Did spend a stint as a ninja guardian remember?" He walked up to the guards at the door. "We're here to see the Hokage. We understand that Naruto is back?"
The guard looked past him at the group of genin. Asuma heard Ino move behind Hinata to give her support and the guard nodded. He looked up at Kurenai and Asuma. "Take pictures."
"What?" Kurenai managed to ask before he opened the door. Asuma let out a long slow breath, in an attempt to keep from laughing as the two jonin observed the two, as Shikamaru would put it, troublesome genin, Kiba and Naruto, standing near the Hokage's desk with bars of soap in their mouths.
Kurenai wondered why she hadn't thought of that first.
Their disgusted faces turned into shock, as Hinata moved past Kurenai. The Hokage made a subtle movement to let the ANBU allow the scene to play out. Hinata slowly moved toward the two boys.
"N-N-Naruto, K-K-Kiba..." Hinata began.
Ino shouted and threw a fist in the air, "You get 'em!"
"Y-you t-two..." Both Kiba and Naruto both tensed up, getting ready to take the punches that they assumed were coming. Hinata continued moving forward, ignoring Ino's shouted encouragements to beat the two boys senseless. "You're okay!" she shouted enveloping the two boys in a surprisingly strong hug, before she started crying.
Ino stopped shouting and winced. "Ooooohh, even worse!"
Shikamaru shook his head. "Troublesome, going for a low blow like that."
Choji looked down at his chips. "Don't you guys think that's a little mean."
"No," was the immediate response.
Kurenai let out a slow breath, partially in relief, but mostly because she was trying to prevent herself from laughing. As the two boys looked at each other with very contrite faces. Hinata pulled away and looked them both in the eyes, fixing them a hard glare that the two boys didn't know she could level at them. "Don't... you... DARE... do that again!" The two boys nodded vigorously.
"They better not," the Hokage said speaking up. "Fortunately for them, it turns out this time it was for the best."
"Meaning?" Asuma said.
The Hokage glanced at his son. Asuma raised a hand to his chest and tapped a space over his heart. The Hokage nodded and placed his hat on the desk before turning his attention to Kurenai. "Normally, an act like this would put a ninja under suspicion of treason, and after a a military tribunal, you could be facing heavy fines, dismissal from duty, or even execution." The boys audibly gulped. "However, from Hana's report, Naruto's and Kiba's actions did actually save her life, and obviously helped her in completion of her mission. So this time, I'll sweep it under the rug."
The two boys got happy expressions, at least as happy as they could be with bars of soap in their mouths.
"Let me be absolutely clear, I am not happy about this. It was foolish, reckless, and not to mention stupid, even for Naruto." Naruto turned livid, but the bar of soap prevented him from speaking out. "Understand this, your actions are punishable. But thanks to Hana, you will get off lightly." He waved his hand, and the the ANBU removed the soap. "No missions for a week. You're dismissed."
Naruto spoke up quickly, "But I need the money! I still haven't paid rent for this month!"
Asuma coughed, and raised an eyebrow at the Hokage. The Hokage noticed, but pointedly tried to ignore it. "You will not have to worry about that."
Hana reached up and grabbed Naruto's hair, pulling him away from the Hokage. "The Hokage said not to worry about it, so don't worry about it. In the meantime, I owe you a huge debt, Naruto. So you're staying with us for a while," she said over his cries of pain.
"Really, sis?" Kiba asked.
She then let go of Naruto to pull Kiba in putting an arm over his shoulder. "Yeah, but don't worry Kiba, I have plans for you..."
Hana turned toward her commander and with both of the boys under her arms asked. "Am I dismissed as well?"
"Yes, you are," the Hokage said as he inspected his pipe, "however, I want a written report on my desk tomorrow. You may leave out the details involving Naruto and the ANBU."
"Sir, yes sir!" she said, saluting. "All right you two, help me up and let's get back home. Now, I've got just the training for you Kiba..."
"Is it... taijutsu training?" Kiba asked cautiously, as he helped her to her feet.
"Nope!" she responded, way too happily for Kiba's comfort.
Shikamaru shuddered as the three left the room. "That... didn't sound good."
Ino stomped her foot. "Serves them right! They left Hinata behind!"
The Hokage cleared his throat, getting the remaining genin's attention. "That... is not the issue."
Conversation stopped momentarily as a cry came from outside the room, "NOOOOOOOO!" Kurenai sighed as her hand met her face. "Do I want to know what made Kiba scream like that?"
"Sorry sir," Ino said apologetically. She turned toward Hinata and winked. "You did good, way to put them in their place. I would have just gone for hitting them, but you really got them."
Hinata put her fingers together, as she began to blush. "T-that..."
Ino grabbed Hinata's hand and began leading her outside. "I think it's time to celebrate!"
Asuma sighed. "Just make sure to come to training tomorrow!"
Shikamaru nodded and he and Choji began to leave. Kurenai sighed and said as she moved toward the door. "I guess this is a blessing in disguise."
"How so?" Asuma asked, not making any movement toward the door.
Kurenai looked back and answered, "I've been trying to fix some... damage... that has occurred in Naruto during his time at the academy." A movement from the Hokage in the corner of her eye caught her attention, but he seemed to be doing his paperwork. It was then that she realized that the ANBU in the room had left; and Asuma was making no move to leave the room quite yet. "He really needed a lot of attention, but unfortunately, unlike Naruto, I can't clone myself to spend extra time with all of them."
Asuma sat down in a chair, Kurenai was surprised when the Hokage didn't react to his actions, and Asuma indicated a chair for Kurenai. She looked at it, and when the Hokage didn't react, she slowly sat down. She placed her hands in her lap. "Hinata... has self-esteem issues. And I think her father may be the cause..."
"That's... quite an accusation," Asuma stated.
Kurenai watched the Hokage shuffle papers around. He glanced up at her and said, "What the clans do within their own walls, is up to them. Without reason, we can't interfere."
"If you can find a reason, you could take her out..."
"She a heiress, that would be a political nightmare!" Kurenai pointed out.
"Removing her from her clan is off the table," the Hokage stated. Kurenai was shocked when Asuma glared at the Hokage with a look that would stop many men in their tracks, who only acknowledged it by putting it on the hat that marked him as the Hokage.
Asuma sighed and nodded. Kurenai realized a conversation had just passed between them that she wasn't privy to. He looked back at her, and folded his arms. "Well, you have one week, hell, call it a training exercise and take her out for a week."
Kuernai put her chin in her hand and leaned forward. "I could, but I can't just let Naruto and Kiba get off with no punishment."
Asuma thought for a moment. He stroke his beard as the gears turned. "Well, Kiba's family will take care of him."
"Please," Kurenai said rolling her eyes, "they're going to encourage it."
"By training him," Asuma pointed out.
Kurenai thought for a moment, remembering watching Naruto and Kiba training together with the Inuzuka Matron. "I suppose you're right."
"So that leaves Naruto," Asuma said. "We need to punish Naruto, of course, it's not really a punishment, because he's not officially being punished. So it needs to be something that's more of an honor really. So it's something any normal person would consider a punishment."
Asuma's face grew into a huge grin. "So why don't you just hand him over to Gai for a week?"
"Asuma!" Kurenai shouted, scandalized, then after a moment added, "I like it."
Kiba didn't get to the door of his house because as soon as they stepped foot on the property the dogs charged at it and broke it down. Hana hobbled into the house with the help of Naruto. She turned toward Kiba as the boy fixed the door to their house. "All right brats, first things first, sleeping arrangements. Naruto, you saved my ass, and normally there are a honors that we'd give you, one of which is sleeping with the dogs, but since they're not used to you like they are us, you're going to get Kiba's room."
"So I get to?" Kiba almost shouted hopefully.
Naruto looked at his friend confused and asked, "You want to sleep with them?"
Kiba nodded, and flashed his friend a massive grin. "Yeah, sometime you should try it!"
Hana laughed and ruffled Naruto's hair. "I wasn't joking when I said it was an honor. Yes, Kiba, you get to sleep with the dogs."
"So the rest of tonight for me is going to be me getting all my books together. Kiba, please set Naruto up in your room. I'm gonna get everything ready for your training. So you two have to do everything to make sure he's comfortable for a week."
Naruto shifted uncomfortably, not used to someone trying to take care of him. "Are you sure this is okay? I mean... I'm happy and all, but-"
"But nothing!" Hana interrupted a bit harshly. "Listen brat, you did a damned stupid thing, but you still saved my ass. I owe you a serious debt, Uzumaki."
Naruto glanced at the two of them, as a hand slowly crept up to his stomach. Hana noticed this and so did Kiba. Hana knocked Naruto upside the head. "Anyone who has a problem with you is got a problem with me while you're here."
"Ow! Got it! Just stop hitting me!"
Kiba smiled. Then proceeded to lightly punch Naruto in the stomach. "Good! Cause if anyone does have a problem, then we're gonna present leg to those bastards!"
Hana smiled and ruffled Kiba's hair. The younger of the two said, "I can't wait 'til mother comes home."
"Me too, brat, me too."
Hana was awoken by a pounding at their front door. She quickly got out of bed, taking care not to put too much pressure on her broken leg. She grabbed a crutch and began hobbling toward the front door. While she hobbled down the hall, she lamented that she hadn't been able to completely heal her leg yet. When she got to her front door, the visitor had finally knocked the door off its tracks. Standing outside was a jonin by the name Maito Gai. The jonin was standing there confused at the broken down door, as if he was unsure how to act now that he could no longer pound on the door. She tried to suppress the groan she knew was coming, seeing the man at the entrance to her home.
She knew of the man, though she didn't know him in any personal capacity, but everyone knew who the man was. The tall taijutsu specialist with the horrifying green spandex outfit and with the possibly living eyebrows. The only thing more terrifying than the sight of his genjutsu technique was seeing him on your front porch.
"Can I help you?" She asked politely.
"Yes!" Gai exclaimed, stopping in confusion as she held up her hand.
"Indoor voices, please Gai."
Gai blinked twice. "Of course, people are regaining their youthful fires by sleeping." Hana's hand met her forehead at an astounding speed. She mentally added a factoid about Gai in her mental files. He had to have hearing damage. Gai continued, ignoring her expressions. "I am here because Kurenai-san wanted Naruto to rekindle his flames of youth! So I am here to take him on my morning jog!"
Hana paused for a moment. "It's four in the morning..."
"Yes, yes it is!"
Hana thought for a moment, then sighed. "Breakfast is at seven. I want Naruto back by then."
"Great! I shall endeavor to get my four hour run done within that time!"
Hana nodded. "Okay, then give me a moment to collect Naruto."
Gai nodded and entered the threshold. He took a moment to fix the door. Hana was a little unnerved at how quietly he had done so. It didn't match the nature of the jonin, or who normally walked through that door. She proceed to walk through the halls, not needing any light to find her brothers room, her sense of smell guiding her through the house. That same sense of smell stopped several feet away from the door, when a scent of fear hit her nose. She dropped her crutches, and drew chakra to her legs. She threw open the door and relaxed once she saw Naruto was safe, just tossing and turning. She felt something bump against her leg, and saw the youngest of her triplet partners behind her, with the crutch she had abandoned.
She used the crutch to walk over to Naruto and sat down the bed. "Naruto," she said quietly, but the boy didn't wake. "Naruto!" she said more forcefully, but he still didn't wake up. She sighed. "Heavy sleeper." She looked at her dog and gave him a quick whistle. The dog jumped up on the bed and began licking Naruto awake.
"What? Sto-" Naruto's complaints were stopped as he got a face full of dog tongue. He pushed the dog off of him as he tried to wipe the slobber off his face. He looked up, suddenly realizing a girl was on his bed. "Hana?"
"Having a nightmare?" she asked rhetorically, she stroked her dog's fur. "When I had my first kill I had problems sleeping too. My partners were there for me, they're basically one big ball of emotional support." Her partner, sensing Naruto's distress forced himself under the boy's arm and put his head in his lap. "Get nightmares often?"
Naruto nodded as he began to pet the dog. "Almost every night..."
"What happens?" Naruto stopped petting Hana's youngest partner, who began to whine at the lack of attention. Hana sighed. "Come on. It helps to talk it out."
"It..." Naruto sighed, and continued to pet the dog. "It starts with Mizuki... Telling me that I'm," he faltered and worked moisture into his mouth. "He's telling me I killed Iruka... and ever since our mission together, Kiba's been showing up in it too..."
"Iruka is dead, and Kiba is dying. He looks up at me, and just begs me, he asks me not to do it, not to..."
"To what, Naruto?"
"To kill him..."
"What happens next?"
"I... I hold Kiba down. He screams, terrified, I kill him, and then I go destroy the village."
Hana nodded and ran a hand through Naruto's hair. "I'm not a therapist, the heavens know we ninja could use a few in our lives. But you've got nothing to worry about." The boy looked up with her with wide eyes and she smiled. "This is about the Fox isn't it?" Naruto's eyes grew panicked and she hit him. "Yeah, I know about it. I was alive when the Fox attacked. I am older than you after all." She laughed and put her chin into her hand. "You aren't the Fox. I don't think the Fox would have nightmares; not to mention that Kiba is your friend. He knows what he's getting into. I can't believe he'd be so stupid to try to seal the Nine-Tailed Fox, but you do stupid shit for your friends."
"You... you remember the Fox?" Naruto asked quietly.
"Not well," Hana admitted, "I was really young, I don't remember anything much about it, just that I could sense a chakra. It was for few minutes, not long at all really. And it was so long ago, I don't even remember the damage it did, but I do remember that chakra. It was just... evil..." Hana heard her partner whine and she reached over and calmly smacked Naruto upside the head. "Ahh... now that's therapeutic."
"Ow! What was that for?"
Hana smiled at him. "No way that fox would let anyone do that to him. You're not the fox Naruto. Figured that out when Kiba said you were part of his pack, and he just gave me this look." She laughed. "Oh man, it was like seeing a nin-dog get its first kill." She shook her head. "Anyways, you're part of our pack, so you're gonna be okay. Me and Kiba? We got your back."
"Thanks," Naruto said with a great big grin on his face.
"Okay, so Kurenai-san has decided to let you experience another form of training. So for a week, she wants you to work with a jonin named Maito Gai, he's waiting for you in the front."
"I thought you were going to teach us?"
Hana smiled, and it wasn't friendly. "Oh, I still will be this is just for the mornings. But just to let you know, if you come back wearing that damn spandex I'm gonna knock you silly."
Kiba woke up with the dogs, and not a moment sooner. Even if he had, he wouldn't have been able to go anywhere with the dogs acting as both a pillow and a blanket. The dogs didn't need to do anything until the food was ready, and no one would have risked waking the dogs to get Kiba up to make him work with them. In Kiba's mind it was the second best perk of sleeping with the dogs, the first being able to sleep with the clan's dogs out under the stars.
As soon as the dogs woke up, all of them charged toward the kitchens. The clan members had individual homes, but every breakfast, and three dinners a week they shared in a group meal. With the dogs getting fed first, Kiba got a chance to take a choice spot, right next to the kitchen, but once the dogs had entered the communal dining hall, the Inuzuka began pouring in themselves. Within seconds, the room was filled with noise as everyone began eating and talking.
It wasn't until his sister had shown up that Kiba had realized that people had gotten to sit next to him. Hana had sat down next to him and taken a piece of meat from center of the table. "Looks like someone is excited for training."
Kiba shivered, remembering what was in store for him today. He realized something and took a break from eating to stand up. He glanced around and sat back down. "Where's Naruto? He's not here."
Eating immediately stopped around Kiba and Hana, and several clan members looked at them. "The prankster brat?" one of them asked with venom. Kiba turned to look at him across the table, while Hana was taking advantage of the situation to take the best pieces of bacon. The offending clan member was one of the elders. He had been moved to an advisory position when he had lost his eye, which he had lost in the Kyuubi attack. Kiba slowly began to rise, to look down at the elder.
"Yes, my teammate, and a member of my pack!"
The elder stood up, standing over Kiba, which stopped most of the conversation in the room. "I wasn't aware that we'd allow someone like that in our buildings."
Kiba jumped up challenging his elder. "If this is about-"
Hana yanked her brother down and shoved a piece of sausage into his mouth. "Kiba! Respect your elders! Naruto is training with Gai, and he'll be here soon enough." She then looked at the now livid Inuzuka elder. "And yes, Naruto is living in our house this week, as a thank you for his actions on my last mission. Since, after all, he's the reason why I'm eating here today, and that if it weren't for him, I'd be lost to Konoha." She paused in her explanation to steal a few pieces of meat from her elder. "And if you throw a fuss about it, I swear on your life that I will fix you and your partner before the end of the week." She turned back to Kiba and said, "See? You have to be respectful to your elders. Being rude doesn't get you anywhere quickly."
"Sis, you're scary..."
Suddenly, the doors to the kitchen were thrown open, and Maito Gai was standing there. "I have completed my four hour morning run in only three hours!" he proclaimed before looking over the entire clan. He spotted Hana and Kiba and proceeded to jump over half the clan to land to next to them. He deposited Naruto next to Kiba. "He did well! So well in fact thatI have a gift for him! It shall help him in his training!" he said as he produced a green jumpsuit in Naruto's size, and laid it upon him. He flashed a winning grin and gave Hana and Kiba a thumbs up before running out of the room.
Kiba poked Naruto. "Is... is he okay?"
Hana grabbed the spandex and threw it over by the dogs, the dogs took a curiosity sniff, before tearing into it violently. "Kiba, fill a plate for me," she said before moving Kiba into her spot and taking Naruto's head. Her hands began to grow green with her chakra. "Wow, Gai did a number to him..."
"Is he okay?" Kiba asked with a full mouth.
Hana grabbed a piece of bacon and waved under Naruto's nose. The boy shot up and snapped at the food. "He's fine," Hana stated dryly as she checked to see if all her digits were still there.
"Man, what happened?" Kiba asked as Naruto began shoveling food into his mouth.
"Gai... took... me... on... a... run..." Naruto said in-between bites.
"When?" Kiba asked.
Naruto suddenly began choking on a piece of food, and Hana slapped him on the back. "At four," she answered.
"But it's seven!" Kiba exclaimed. Naruto just kept eating, jamming food into his mouth.
Hana stopped him, but grabbing his hair and pulling it back. "Chew, damn it, and slow down. You'll make yourself sick." Without letting go of Naruto's hair, she turned toward Kiba. "You two have five minutes to finish eating, after that. We're gonna get to training."
Kiba whimpered, and Hana let go of Naruto's hair. Naruto rubbed his scalp and looked at the two. "What kinda training?"
"The worst kind," Kiba said as he returned to eating.
"We're going to be doing some good ole' fashion book learning; lots, and lots of studying."
Kurenai stood at the gates to the Hyuuga household, a frown hidden behind a smile. It felt weird, but the trained skill was easy to use. She thought for a while, realizing that she hadn't felt the need to fake a smile in what felt like a long time. Becoming a sensei to a team of genin had been a wild ride, not what she expected at all. She hadn't expected that she'd get so attached to her students, nor did she think it'd be so difficult.
She sighed as she remembered that conversation with Iruka she had back not too long ago, but it felt like it had been months since then. Back then she had thought the village was a nice place, now she wasn't too sure, after what had happened to Naruto. Then she had witnessed Hinata's training session. She knew that Hiashi didn't have the highest opinion of his eldest. He had even called her a failure in front of her, but now she wondered how much damage the man had inflicted on his eldest.
She was allowed entrance, and she began walking down the walkways toward the main house. Her guides footsteps were completely silent on the gravel. The pace was slow, something she was thankful for. She wanted more time to get her thoughts together. She wasn't sure how she was going to go about building Hinata up, but she was beginning to have somewhat of an idea.
Suddenly, she was at Hiashi's office. The door open, and the man was standing there. His unmarked forehead bare for anyone to see. He glanced at the two branch members and dismissed them with a nod. Once they left he looked at Kurenai.
The man stepped away from the entrance and let her in. He indicated a chair for her, which had a cup of tea next to it. The man sat down behind his desk and folded his hands in front of him. "I understand that Naruto and Kiba are currently suspended from missions. Officially, they have over exerted themselves."
"Yes, that is what happened," Kurenai answered as a half-truth.
"I also understand that it is in fact because they decided to try and rush off to rescue some chunin."
Kurenai shrugged. "They really did over exert their rights as genin and family members. Kiba was caught beforehand, but Naruto made it to her location. She was quite thankful for that."
Hiashi let out a long breath and said, "More likely she's trying to cover him. The Inuzuka are loyal to a fault."
"Yes, I am proud that one of them is one my students."
"And what of Hinata?" he asked pointedly.
Kurenai felt a smile on her face that she didn't feel. "She has great potential, I am worried that certain... events... may be holding her back."
Hiashi's face flickered for a moment. Kurenai wasn't sure if the man was enraged, or was hurt by her comment. It was almost impossible to tell past the Hyuuga's stoic face. He reached for a cup of tea, and Kurenai took a moment to do the same. It was silent in the room for a while before Hiashi spoke again, "If she is... held back, how do you intend to fix this?"
"She was not involved in the recent events. She and I are to remain training together while Naruto and Kiba are suspended. I plan on spending this week focusing solely to her development."
"Would you object to let Hinata continue training here in the compound?"
"Yes." Kurenai said immediately. Unbidden, the memories of Hinata's training came back to her. Her eyes narrowed as she stated, "I have... other plans... for Hinata's training this week."
Hinata's father leaned back in his chair, a very subtle eye brow raised at her reaction. "I see... However, Hinata's tentative position is based on her taijutsu. The clan head must have a decent mastery of combat. I must stress that her taijutsu practice is not put aside for... other pursuits."
"I believe as her sensei, I have final say in her training schedule."
Hiashi stood up and faced a wall. Kurenai watched him, trying to see what the man was seeing while looking at blank wall. His hands tightened behind his back, and she realized that he was looking toward the direction of the memorial stone. "Kurenai... Hinata's position within the clan, is dependent on her taijutsu abilities." Kurenai was silent. Hiashi looked back at her, as if he expected a response. Kurenai schooled her features, as she wanted to point out Hinata's position was based off his decision to brand one of his daughters, but decided that would not go over well. He turned away from the wall and moved back to his desk. "Hinata has a sparring match against her sister in two weeks. Hanabi has a strong case for her position in the clan, which Hinata is losing. Hinata needs a win."
Kurenai looked at Hiashi, trying to keep an impassive smiling face, but she could feel a little bit of her mask crumble around her eyes. The man seemed to notice and gracefully avoided looking at her until she had her mask back under control. "Hiashi-sama, if I may make a suggestion? It'd be easier to work in a taijutsu regiment if I were to spend even more time with Hinata. If I may, would it be okay to have Hinata live with me for a week?"
"Done," Hiashi said, even before Kurenai had finished her sentence, "though how do you plan on teaching her jyuuken forms?"
"With all due respect, sir," Kurenai said, "I don't believe Hinata's weakness in taijutsu comes from poor form, it comes from a lack of will."
"A lack of will?" Hiashi repeated.
"She's unpracticed in fighting with a desire to harm. She is capable of it, yes, but she hasn't had the positive reinforcement she needs in order to excel." The room grew quiet for a moment, and Kurenai wonderd if she had spoken more than she should have. But as soon as the moment came, it passed.
"Very well, you may inform her immediately," Kurenai stood up and bowed at her dismissal, and she turned. "Kurenai..." She stopped and looked back. "Make sure she does well..."
"That is my plan, sir."
"Excellent," he stated and sat back down. Kurenai opened the door and was met by a clan member. Kurenai felt like she should recognize the boy. He had a thin sheen of sweat on him, from training she guessed. He seemed like a year or two older than Hinata. "Neji," Hiashi spoke up, "show Kurenai to Hinata's room, please."
"Yes, Hiashi-sama," the response from the boy was ice cold, but neutral, a perfect example of emotionless. "Right, this way, Kurenai-san."
Kurenai fell into step behind the boy, although she could find Hinata on her own easily, having an escort was supposed to be a sign of respect, even though sometimes it felt like baby-sitting. "Neji... I believe I've heard your name before. Have we met?"
"Unlikely, but you know my sensei, Gai-sensei."
"Oh, I see... I am currently letting Naruto learn what it's like to be training with others. I have him under Gai for a week. How is he doing?"
Neji paused and looked at her. "He surprised us. He only collapsed half way into the second lap. And he kept pace with Tenten."
Kurenai raised an eyebrow. "I see..." Wow, the Inuzuka training plus Naruto's natural stamina, along with all the running from the ANBU really did help out.
Neji continued walking. "It was... interesting, to see him try so hard." Kurenai's eyes narrowed as she heard a slight twinge of condemnation in his voice, but he didn't continue. Kurenai observed his body language carefully. The way his fingers straightened, as if to prepare for a gentle fist attack, along with the straightening of his back, and his slight twitch of the head to face back toward Hiashi's office told Kurenai one thing.
Naruto struck a nerve... Kurenai realized, but before she could act on this new information. Neji knocked on a door and opened it slightly.
"Hinata-sama, your sensei is her to escort you out of the clan buildings. You are to pack for a week."
Kurenai stepped past Neji and sent a disarming smile toward him. "No need to say it like that," she pointed it out. She opened the door enough for her to enter and then turned toward Hinata, who was sitting on her bed looking up at her with hurt eyes. "You do need to pack for a week. While the boys are doing their thing, us girls are going to have a week to ourselves."
"Yep! I got lots of plans," she said smiling. Now that Hinata didn't need to come home to her family, it was now a good time to introduce Hinata to some strong kunoichi who could make a difference on her. Anko, despite her obvious flaws, or perhaps because of them, would be particularly fun. "So you're going to be spending the week at my place!"
"O-oh okay!" Hinata said, a little unsure of herself, but at the same time sounding happy.
Kurenai sat down on Hinata's bed as she began to pack. A smile becoming her default expression as she began to plan out the week, and realized quickly that it was going to be a difficult one. She shook her head and wondered if the other teachers had to deal with problems like this.
Kakashi didn't sigh, but the desire was there. Instead he buried his nose in what appeared to be his favorite book, but instead of it being his favorite book it was a different one with a genjutsu over it. How to Win Battles and Influence Shinobi, the psychology book was not forth coming on how to handle the situation in front of him.
Sure, Tazuna was putting on a brave face for his daughter and grandson, but the grandson, Inari, was having none of it. That wasn't that big of a problem, but it weighed heavily on his students. The next problem came from Shino's revelation that there was another shinobi, who was either helping Zabuza himself, or was also after Tazuna's head. They couldn't be too sure because Shino's insects only caught his location, but since they hadn't stepped out during Kakashi's fight, they had to assume they were another enemy. That wasn't even the worst of it. Kakashi's eyes lazily went over ever member of the group, until he came to Sakura, who was staring into her bowl of rice quietly.
Kakashi could understand why she was upset, after all, both Sasuke and Shino made an impressive showing at the battle with Zabuza. Which was something Kakashi was worried about, since they might have been put on his radar because of their contributions to the fight, even if most of it was just bluster. Sakura had been in the background, quiet and unassuming.
Which while that was what she was supposed to do, she did feel bad about it.
Kakashi sighed and began running through his memory techniques, trying to find something, anything that might really help them in the upcoming battle. It didn't need to be anything to win the fight, just something to help them survive. He could handle the winning part no problem.
"Sensei," Kakashi looked up from his book, not betraying his surprise at Shino speaking up, "I... have reviewed our actions the yesterday and... I am concerned. Why? Because I have found myself lacking."
Before Kakashi could speak up, Sasuke added his input, "I agree."
"You two have nothing to complain about," Sakura said looking up at the two, somewhat bitter. "At least you guys helped. I doubt he's even going to recognize me next time."
Kakashi smirked. "Sakura, that's a good thing."
"It might be, if I had something to show for it!" Sakura said throwing her hands up in the air. "Sasuke-kun's got his eyes, Shino's got his bugs, they both have a weapon in their back pockets, but I have nothing!"
Kakashi put the book away, and put his whole attention into the group. "Well, you do have better chakra control than the other two."
Sakura sighed and hung her head. "Real helpful, sensei. Look out guys, she won't waste chakra on her bushin no jutsu."
"In the right hands, that's deadly," Shino spoke up.
Sakura looked up at Shino. "What?"
"A weak blade once sharpened can become a deadly weapon," Shino stated, as the insects inside him buzzed an agreement.
Sasuke, who had been quiet for a while chose that moment to speak up again. "Regardless, we all need training."
Kakashi stood up, slowly. "That you do. Follow me." He smiled underneath his mask. While it was true that Sakura didn't have the great awesome power that Shino and Sasuke had with their techniques, she had a beautiful grasp of chakra control. There was also the added bonus, that after so long working with his students, he could read them as well as his beloved books. Shino had a plan.
And once they got to a good spot for training, Kakashi had a bet as to what it was. He approved completely. Shino was by far his favorite student. He clapped his hands to get their attention before saying, "All right, so what we're going to do is probably going to save your lives during the next fight."
"Really?" Sakura asked looking very hopeful.
"Yep! Chakra control!" Kakashi said clapping his hands together and giving them his biggest smile that he could muster with the mask.
Sasuke asked flatly, "What?"
"Chakra control!" Kakashi said happily again. Messing with Sasuke is just too much fun.
"We already can use chakra, sensei, or did you forget?" Sasuke asked with more venom than normal.
"You guys aren't even close to using chakra properly yet," Kakashi said as he began to explain. "Releasing chakra means to bring out physical and spiritual energy and mix them together within your body, which you aren't doing effectively. Even if someone like me were to release a huge amount of chakra, jutsu will be weak, or even not work at all."
Kakashi threw three kunai at their feet. "And if you waste energy like that, you won't be able to fight long fights and weakness will appear. So you're going to learn how to control it through very through training by-" Kakashi leaned in and the three students leaned in despite themselves. "- by climbing trees!"
The three students looked at each other and sighed. Shino didn't make a noise, but his posture slumped in defeat. Kakashi laughed and waved it off. "Listen to the end, this isn't normal tree climbing, you'll be climbing without your hands."
"Perhaps, it'd be faster if you were to just give a demonstration." Shino suggested, a subtle twitch forming in his eyebrows.
"Well, I suppose you're right," Kakashi said walking over to a tree, and without breaking stride began walking perpendicular to the forest floor.
"Now, do you understand? Gather chakra in the bottom of the feat and climb up a tree. This is pretty simple once you can use chakra easily. So... get to it!"
Shino, Sasuke, and Sakura all reached for the kunai at their feet, and moved toward the trees. Sasuke was the first to charge toward his tree. He sprinted toward the tree and placed his foot against the tree, his first step crashed into the tree and splintered the wood underneath his feet. A quick slash marked his first steps.
Sasuke looked over to see Shino stepping gingerly to the tree, but not making any progress up the tree. Sasuke's eyes narrowed, as he realized the difficulty in this training. Too much chakra and his feet would break the tree, like he had just shown, and too little and they wouldn't stick like Shino. This would be good training.
"Sensei, got anything more difficult?"
Sasuke's head shot up, as he saw Sakura standing atop a tree branch. She glanced down at him, some hope in her eyes that he'd be impressed. He shook his head and charged the tree again.
"Why yes, Sakura, I believe I do have something for you. Later. Once you can get up and down the tree again." Kakashi said, "In the meantime, I'm going to keep watch on Tazuna." Kakashi used Shunshin no jutsu to teleport a small distance away, before leaving a shadow clone behind. The clone immediately suppressed it's remaining chakra signature, and pulled out his favorite book. Neither spoke, there was no need to.
Sasuke after a moment, picked up his kunai and walked away. "I do training better on my own."
Sakura, who was resting on a tree branch after making an impressive distance between her and the ground, looked at Shino. Hopeful that the bug user would somehow make Sasuke continue to work with them as a team.
Shino tapped his glasses. "I don't believe that's true, Sasuke. In fact, I'd bet on it."
Sasuke just grunted. "Hn, believe what you want. Doesn't matter to me."
"Perhaps you'd like to wager?" When Sasuke didn't respond, Shino continued, "Three months of not having to come to a team dinner with me and Sakura. If... you win..."
Sasuke stopped, even as Sakura cried out, "What? What are you doing Shino?"
"What if I lose?" Sasuke asked carefully, his posture turning defensive.
"You have to take Sakura out. On a date. In public."
The silence was deafening.
Sasuke didn't move, and Sakura held her breath, looking wide eyed between both Shino and Sasuke. "What is this bet, exactly?"
"In one week, Sakura will face you in a fight. You train on your own, without any outside help. We'll train together. If she wins, when we return to Konoha, you take her out to a nice restaurant, and an evening activity of her choice. If she fails, then we will not expect you at any group activities outside of our normal team hours."
Sasuke smirked, confidently walking over to Shino. "Deal," he said holding out a hand, Shino shook it and turned back toward his tree, while Sasuke walked away from the clearing.
It took a moment for Sakura's brain to catch up to what had occurred, but once it had she immediately Sakura was beside Shino. "Shino! I can't beat Sasuke!"
"You can, and you will, Sakura. Why? Because out of the three of us, you are the best suited for using the basics."
Sakura blinked, confused. "What has that got to with anything?" she asked. "Even if I'm good at the basics, Sasuke has much better techniques than I do."
"The basics are the basics, because they are the basis for everything. If anyone can compound on them, it's you. Before we continue further, can you make it to the top of the tree like sensei asked?"
"Probably?" Sakura said as she strained her neck to look upward.
"Well, my cute students, I sense a plan coming together," Kakashi said appearing between the two of them. Kakashi looked at Shino. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I believe that in order for Sakura to have the best chance of defeating Sasuke, she needs to have a powerful defense. Kawarimi no jutsu, or the replacement technique, is her best bet."
"Little long winded compared to what I was thinking, but sure. That sounds better than Sasuke will kick her bloody two ways to Tuesday if she doesn't master that." Kakashi nodded and looked at Sakura. "Okay Sakura, go practice that technique."
"For how long?" She asked looking up at her sensei.
"Isn't it obvious?" Kakashi said smiling at her. "Until you collapse of course!"
Sakura frowned, but quickly turned pink as a light blush spread across her face. "For a date with Sasuke, of course!" Then turned away to find a new place to practice.
Kakashi straightened, and looked at Shino. "So Shino, out of curiosity, why are you doing this?"
Shino turned to face his tree that he had originally attempted to climb. "Well, one reason, Kakashi-sensei, is that it benefits the team if Sakura is powerful."
"And the real reason?" Kakashi said raising an eyebrow at his student.
"This..." Shino paused for a moment as he tried to put what he felt into words, "entertains me..."
Kakashi put a hand on Shino's shoulder. "I knew there was a reason you're my favorite. But, as my favorite student, I expect you to get your training done quickly."
"And after that?" Shino asked turning to face his teacher and commander.
"Obviously, we get Sakura ready to get her date of course!" Kakashi said smiling and closing his visible eye.
"Of course," Shino said solemnly as he lifted his kunai and charged his tree, making it a good half foot feet higher than his last attempt. When he landed, Kakashi had his book out. "Less focus, Shino. Don't think about yourself. Chakra is as much spiritual as physical. Relax, then focus on the tree. Learn, then forget."
Shino's bugs began to buzz in excitement. "Understood, Kakashi-sensei."
"Good, now off to help Sakura," Kakashi said as he began to walk in the direction Sakura had went.
"Sensei," Shino stopped his sensei, "why are you helping?"
"Why am I helping? Because Sasuke's face is going to be priceless! I'm even going to record it with my sharingan!" Shino glanced back at his sensei, not sure if he was serious, or if he was messing with him, before deciding that it didn't really matter, as long as he took advantage of it. With that thought in mind, he charged the tree again.