Pandabot: Hahaahh! Have some more story! Also, some interesting stuff! And some indecision!
Chapter 33: Decisions
Ino let her team eat in peace while she worked out the last few pieces of her plan from here. Realistically, there were only a few people she could trust with training Kazuki for a month.
She could leave him with Guy or Lee. They could take his taijutsu to a completely different level, but could she deal with a 'Green Beast of Konoha' in her team everyday? Ino shook her head with a smile,
No chance. Not to mention it wouldn't really address his inherent weakness with ninjutsu and genjutsu which is what she really wanted to get sorted this month. She bit her lip; the ideal choice in her eyes would be Kakashi really, but she knew he was very busy at the moment. The same went for Naruto.
She felt a great jolt in her stomach as she thought of the future Hokage. Her conversation with Lady Tsunade had really thrown her into a situation that she had not seen coming; one that she wasn't entirely comfortable with.
She shook her head violently; she could think about that on her own time, she was working right now. So, back to it.
Realistically, she needed someone who was an expert at utilising ninjutsu and chakra in combat and preferably someone who used it to complement their style of taijutsu. They should also have a passing knowledge of genjutsu and were not too busy to train a young, enthusiastic shinobi.
Sakura? Ino suddenly had visions of Kazuki saying something particularly annoying and Sakura punching him through a wall. Maybe not. Then, it hit her like a bolt of lightning.
Hinata! Ok, she was missing part of an arm but it's not like she had to fight him properly after all. She used the Hyuuga style of fighting which was all precision and grace and much, much less aggressive than his current style.
She allowed a smile to work it's way over her face as she allowed the idea to sink in; Hinata would be perfect.
"Sensei, are you ok?"
Ino snapped back to the meal to see her students looking at her quizzically; she raised an eyebrow in question. Kana, looking like she was beginning to question her teacher's sanity, spoke up,
"You've been shaking your head and pulling faces this whole time. It's weird." Ino rolled her eyes,
"I'm just thinking. You know that thing you do with your brain? Yeah, that" she said sarcastically. Her team shook their heads and caught each others eyes with a huff; Ino grinned at them.
"So, third Chuunin exam in a month. We excited?" She caught the look Kana and Yomiko gave each other as Kazuki nodded enthusiastically, mouth full of pork. The girls were a little excited but they were more worried about fighting each other than the exam.
Ino wasn't sure how to approach that problem, especially as she was going to leave Kana and Kazuki with other people for a month. But maybe that was the solution, to seperate the team temporarily so it became more about the exam and less about who they were fighting.
"Ok, so Kana and Yomiko have been drawn in the first round to fight each other. That's ok" she said calmly, ignoring the awkward looks on the girl's faces. Ino took a breath and continued,
"Does anyone know how these tournaments actually work?" She saw the uncertainty on their faces and continued,
"Basically, it's a standard tournament format. Winner moves on, loser drops out blah blah. What you need to remember: the winner of the tournament will not necessarily become a Chuunin. They are looking for good judgement not just raw combat ability."
"The longer you stay in the competition, the more chance you have to impress the judges but people can make Chuunin from what they show in one fight. Shikamaru made Chuunin after he forfeited a fight against Temari. Sure, he technically wasn't far away from beating her, but he forfeited because he was running out of chakra. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about." Ino decided against mentioning just how impressive Shikamaru had been in the exam battle, using a series of distractions to manouvre Temari into position before striking.
"Sensei, how are you going to train all three of us for this though? Isn't it a bit too much?" Kana asked, apparently echoing the sentiments of the team by their nodding. Ino smiled,
"That's true. So, for one month, I've decided to split us up and you are each going to be trained by a Jounin that I've picked out for you." She saw the startled looks they gave each other and nodded,
"Yeah, but I think it's the best option. Not to mention, the Jounin I've set you up with are going to make you a lot better than you are right now." Ino signalled for the bill before she continued,
"Kana, we've managed to convince Temari to stick around here for a month to train you so that's worked out rather nicely. I'll find out the details for you after this and let you know but I can imagine she'll want to start as soon as possible. I'm sure you do too." She fought back a smile at the blush already starting to creep across Kana's face.
"Yomiko, you're going to be with me. You will report to my apartment at dawn tomorrow morning with any supplies you think you might need. If you're late..."
"You will use me for taijutsu practice, I understand" Yomiko interrupted. Ino pulled a face,
"I need a new threat" she grumbled, drawng a laugh from her team as the bill was delivered. Ino was counting out bills when Kazuki, apparently bubbling with excitement, interrupted,
"What about me, Ino-sensei? Am I training with Naruto again?" Ino almost flinched at the mention of Naruto and she shook her head a little too violently,
"No, he's pretty busy right now. But, I might just have the perfect person for you. And we're going to go and ask them now."
She had watched her team's awkward goodbyes with a certain amount of amusement; they really weren't close enough yet to be too affectionate but they were still friends. Eventually she had stepped in and made it far less awkward before she pulled Kazuki away to the opposite side of the village.
The Hyuuga compound was hardly the most welcoming place in the village but she knew that most of the Hyuuga were good people. But they were strict followers of tradition and protocol; even Hinata was bound by these laws.
As such, while waiting for an audience with Hinata, Ino and Kazuki were kneeling in a reception room when Naruto came storming silently through it; he pulled up short at the sight of Ino.
"Ino! What are you doing here?" he said, his voice echoing around the silent room. Ino, smiling, put a finger to her lips as she rose gracefully to her feet,
"Quiet, Naruto" she reminded him gently. He grimaced, rubbing the back of his head,
"Sorry" he whispered. Ino shrugged; she felt a sudden jolt as she remembered the conversation she had with Tsunade. She stood awkwardly in place, unsure what to do or what to say; the silence was almost unbearable. Luckily Naruto was oblivious as ever,
"What're you guys doing here? Waiting for Hinata?" he asked quietly. Ino nodded shortly, glad of a topic,
"Yeah, Kazuki needs someone to train him for a month and I thought Hinata would be perfect." Naruto nodded,
"Believe it! Hinata would be an awesome teacher!" he hissed, volume already beginning to climb up again. Ino smirked,
"Much better than you anyway." Naruto pulled an exaggerated face,
"Ino, you wound me!" he said dramatically, "How could you do that to me?!" Ino gave him a glowing smile,
"All too easily apparently" she said brightly. She quieted as Naruto laughed and felt another jolt in her stomach;
Dammit, I'm doing it again!
"Miss Yamanaka, Lady Hinata is ready for you now" a voice interrupted and Ino spun to see one of Hinata's hand maidens bowing next to the open door. She turned back to Naruto, feeling guilty as hell;
"Gotta go" she said shortly. Naruto nodded and smiled,
"See ya, Ino." She turned and walked away, motioning Kazuki to stand,
"Yeah, see ya."
Hinata looked down at the panelled floor beneath her, pursing her lips thoughtfully. Ino and Kazuki were knelt before her, silently awaiting her decision. The Hyuuga had been silent since Ino had began speaking, putting forward her proposal, explaining her reasoning. There had been a long pause as Hinata thought and now she began to speak.
"Kazuki, what do you think of this?" she asked him softly and he started at the sudden break in silence.
"Uh, I don't really think it's my place to comment on it, your, uh, Lady...ness" he stuttered awkwardly. Hinata smiled indulgently at him,
"That would be Lady Hinata, or my Lady" she corrected him. Continuing on with the tiniest glance at Ino, she asked him;
"Regardless, I want to know what you think." Kazuki glanced at Ino uncomfortably,
"Um, well, no offence, but I'm not sure what I could learn from you if you've got, y'know, not...two...arms" he said awkwardly. Ino closed her eyes, pushing back the anger that suddenly bubbled up.
"But," Kazuki continued, "Ino-sensei is pretty smart so if she thinks it's a good idea, then, well, it probably is." Ino turned her head to him with an eyebrow raised in amusement; she had to admit that she hadn't expected that answer. Hinata studied Kazuki for a long moment, a soft smile on her face before she nodded,
"Good. Please be here one hour after dawn to begin your training. You will remain in the antechamber until I am ready to receive you. Do you understand?" Kazuki nodded enthusiastically, catching Ino's glance and remembering what she had coached him to say before they had arrived.
"Thank you, my Lady Hinata for the opportunity to study with you" he said formally, bowing from his kneeling position. Hinata gave Ino a knowing look before she bowed in return, much more gracefully than Kazuki could manage,
"Thank you, Kazuki. I shall see you tomorrow morning." She rose from her kneeling position and Ino and Kazuki mirrored her movement. Ino grinned at the regal Hyuuga,
"Thanks for this, Lady Hinata. I appreciate the use of your valuable time" she said formally, giving the traditional Hyuuga bow that Hinata herself had taught her. With a small Hinata bowed her head in response,
"You are very welcome, Ino." With that, Hinata glided from the room, leaving Ino and Kazuki free to leave.
As the pair left the compound, Ino turned to Kazuki seriously,
"I hope you realise how big an opportunity this is for you. The Hyuuga guard their secrets jealously so for Hinata to take the time to train you is a major concession on her part." Kazuki paused, thinking the statement over for a long few seconds before he responded.
"I'm just curious what Hnata, I mean Lady Hinata, can teach me. She's only got one arm..." he said cautiously. Ino sighed heavily,
"Kazuki, Hinata could still easily take you apart with one arm. What I'm hoping you'll learn is a little bit of the Hyuuga style of fighting; it requires a lot more thought than your current style" she reprimanded him. Kazuki frowned,
"What's wrong with my style now?" Ino paused, thinking over her answer carefully,
"It's not wrong as such. But it's too aggressive for certain situations" she said slowly.
"Remember the training with Kakashi-sensei? When you were outmatched, what did you have to do?"
"Well," Kazuki began, looking away, "we had to avoid him mostly. If we came into contact with him, we had to engage him without getting drawn into a real fight." His expression cleared as he understood her point,
"Which is where having an aggressive style is not good" he finished firmly. Ino nodded,
"Exactly. Look, you are very talented in taijutsu but if you can't handle genjutsu or ninjutsu you won't last long in this world" she said softly. He thought about that for a long time as Ino looked away,
"Ok. If you think it's best, sensei" Kazuki said, looking up at her with a clear, innocent gaze. Ino smiled, dropping a hand onto his head gently,
"I do, Kazuki" she said warmly. She slid her hand down onto his shoulder and held his gaze,
"Now, you take this training seriously, ok? I'll be getting updates from Hinata so I'll know if you aren't" she said firmly. Then, as he nodded she allowed her voice to soften,
"And remember, even if it's hard or you don't understand, you need to keep trying. Learning to control your chakra is hard but it is so worth it" she said. He nodded and she brushed a stray hair out of her face,
"Go on then, get some rest." He bowed, hesitated and then leaped away, clearing the Hyuuga compound's stone wall and vanishing from sight. There was a long moment and then Ino, reaching up to adjust her ponytail, huffed.
Right then, she thought, I'd better get some training in before tomorrow.
She leaped away, heading towards the not quite off-limits training field, ignoring the still, meditating figure of Naruto on the roof to her right. If he wanted to talk to her, he would find her.
What am I going to do about him?