Your Summon is Pink
Disclaimer: If you're not a ninja, you probably shouldn't bother that one ninja that has a demon sealed inside of them. If you think that the demon took over, why are you bothering it? You're just gonna make yourself a target.
Chapter Six: Eventful Days
The next day, Naruto improved by leaps and bounds with his control over cloth.
"Naruto?" Rarity asked. "How'd you get so good at this?"
"Well," he paused in the middle of controlling four ribbons with one hand as he considered the question. "Come to find out, an enemy combatant had placed a chakra-disruption seal on me. I've been doing the past three weeks with it on."
Rarity pawed at the ground as she watched Naruto move the ribbons in a sinuous pattern, using Koutetsu Kireji Sori at various different positons on them and moving the sharpened edges up and down their lengths as he sawed through an oak log at a rapid pace.
"I suppose you're ready for what I've designed for you then, considering you're as good at my technique as I am now."
That broke his concentration. "What do you mean? I couldn't possibly have mastered it!"
"But you have," Rarity insisted as she levitated a ruby-encrusted box out from within Carousel Boutique. "I dare say, you may surpass me in two days. While I can slice through granite with the Sori, I never thought of doing what you have to cut through that log. Combine that with your immense chakra reserves, and you could fight like that all day."
She pushed the chest towards Naruto. "I have designed some proper battle-wear for you. I intended to give it to you when you surpassed my own skill, which didn't take as long as I thought it would."
"You're okay with the fact that I am taking your art from you?" the blonde asked. "I know you were giving it to me to prove your own genius, but I never imagined I would out-pace you."
Rarity sighed. "You're sweet, but I haven't given you everything. I assume that Twilight has explained to you about chakra affinities?"
Twilight had taught his clones about the different affinities and what each of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony were - Twilight had a strong affinity for fire, but was quickly mastering all five. Fluttershy had an affinity for water. Rainbow Dash was lightning with a strong secondary affinity for wind. Pinkie was wind and seemed to have a strong affinity for fire. Applejack was overwhelmingly earth. And Rarity...
"You have an earth affinity," stated Naruto.
"True, but my magic works best with gemstones. I can't teach that to you - it's my special talent related to my cutie mark. I dare say that I could hoof you your own flanks by combining my cloth techniques with my gemstone magic and the various other cantrips I've learned." She stepped closer to Naruto. "But I think that the one fighting skill I developed myself needed to be passed from my hooves into your hands. You will prove my genius. You have worked hard enough to prove yours. Now, open the box."
He slowly opened the chest, the hinges gliding smoothly. Staring at it for a moment, he suddenly grabbed Rarity's kimono and pulled her into a hug.
It was a midnight-blue kimono, almost black, with orange trim. It had an orange sunburst on the back, overlayed with the crescent moon, the crest of Equestria. The obi itself was orange and had kunai and scroll pouches attached to it. It came with a black hakama (a leg cover worn over the kimono) and a midnight-blue haori (overcoat), which covered the crest on his back. It had a small crest of Equestria on his left breast and his trademark red spiral on the right. The sleeves of the haori had an orange flame-motif trim and the back had a thin embroidery of the Konoha leaf in silver. The nagajuban (undergarment used only with kimonos) had seals inside of it that helped keep Naruto's body temperature stable and whisked away moisture, as Fire Country was a bit warmer than Ponyville.
Rarity had also gifted Naruto with a giant scroll of fabric, onto which Naruto would be able to draw whatever seals he desired, but the scroll itself was a weapon, being made of cloth. Hidden inside the sleeves of the kimono and haori were many smaller rolls of fabric, ribbons, threads, and various kinds of pins and needles, including medical senbon.
Twilight had designed a seal that was placed inside the nagajuban on the back, to passively absorb Naruto's chakra and store it for later use. Twilight also included an auto-stop subseal that would turn off the main seal once it was at full capacity.
There were seven more identical outfits in the crate.
Naruto went back to the human world that day, leaving twenty more clones with Twilight. Rarity insisted he take the day off.
The blonde wondered what he should do when he remembered that Hinata was still recovering in the hospital after nearly being murdered by her cousin. Naruto decided to take a visit to the Yamanaka Flower Shop to pick up a bouquet for her. Of course, he wasn't sure about how he felt about Hinata, so he should probably stick to flowers that meant friendship.
"Oh! Hello! Welcome to the Yamanaka Flower- Should I know you? You look familiar."
Naruto chuckled at the blonde girl. "Hello Ino."
"Naruto!?" She gaped at his appearance. "Why's your hair so long!? What's with the wardrobe change!? I didn't know you owned a kimono."
"What?" Naruto pulled his bangs down over his hitai-ate. His hair reached his chin. That diet Pinkie was having him eat seemed to promote hair growth. "Huh."
He smoothed his hair back. "I've been training for the Finals. I've learned a few new things that necessitated the change in clothing."
"... Since when do you know the word 'necessitated'?"
"Do you grill all your customers this way?"
"I noticed that you dodged my question."
"You also dodged mine."
Ino glared at Naruto from around her bangs. "Just tell me what you're buying for Sakura."
"Not for Sakura."
Naruto bought a bouquet of yellow roses, for friendship; an azalea, to ask her to take care of herself; a palm leaf, wishing her success in her future; and a pair of magnolias, the first in recognition of her noble status and the second to recognize her noble acts.
He got the room number from the secretary at the front desk. Taking the elevator, he quickly got to the appropriate floor. He found Hinata's room's door open, a raven-haired woman. She turned her red eyes to Naruto's face and glared.
Naruto's etiquette training with Rarity kicked in. He softened the features of his face as much as he could without looking as though he was fearful. He tried to convey as much non-aggression as possible through his eyes while maintaining eye-contact, despite the fact that he felt his hackles trying to rise. A brief pause while letting the woman stare him down before he spoke.
"Good morning, Yuuhi-san," he said evenly. He turned his eyes to the bed where Hinata looked ready to hide under her sheets. "Good morning, Hinata-chan. I brought you a bouquet."
The Hyuuga girl squeaked before mustering a response. "... th-thank you, Naruto-kun."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Yuuhi Kurenai's glare vanished and her features softened. Evidently, she hadn't recognized him. Of course, he remembered her as Hinata's Jounin-sensei. He also remembered that Kurenai had nearly attacked Neji when he had attempted to murder Hinata in the preliminary matches almost a month ago.
"I hadn't realized you may have had company already," he said, his voice genuine. "But I am glad you had your sensei visiting you already."
He deftly removed a dying bouquet from the vase on the nightstand beside Hinata's bed and replaced it with his. By the looks of things, the nearly-dead flowers had been placed there by hospital staff almost a week prior. He filed the information into the back of his mind for later.
"My apologies for not coming by sooner," he said, setting the old bouquet on its side on the nightstand. "I've been training extensively for the Finals. I hope my late arrival does not offend."
Hinata squeaked as she shook her head in the negative. Naruto found the behavior adorable - it reminded him of Fluttershy. He also noticed her flushed cheeks - was she embarrassed? Wait...
Naruto gave a bright smile a split-second later. He had finally recognized what her behavior meant and cross-referenced it with her past behaviors - she had a major crush on him. It seemed Twilight's study-sessions on psychology and observation were paying dividends.
His smile had Hinata looking elsewhere while her index fingers tapped together. Kurenai had a small smile on her face - she had figured out that Naruto realized Hinata's feelings for him.
"So," he began. "When are they going to let you out of the hospital?"
"Um..." floundered the dark-bluette.
Kurenai finally spoke. "She is released the day after tomorrow at noon."
"Really?" Naruto dragged the word out slightly. "I suppose I should be back then - we can go someplace to eat to celebrate your recovery." The blonde immediately pointed at Kurenai as she opened her mouth. "And no, I'm not going to insist on ramen. That's not the sort of food you eat on a date."
The black-haired woman smirked as Hinata's face turned beet-red.
"Unless, of course, you don't want to go on a date, Hinata-chan," he ammended. "I'm not going to force you into anything you don't want to d-"
"NOLET'SDATE!" the lavender-eyed girl shouted suddenly. Immediately regretting her outburst, Hinata squeaked again and hid under her sheets.
"If you insist," the blonde chuckled. "I'll be by at eleven-thirty in two days."
Suddenly remembering something, Naruto turned to Kurenai. "By the way, is Rock Lee still injured?"
"As is Chouji," she answered. "Are you going to pay them a visit?"
"I probably should, since I'm here." He turned to the bed where Hinata hid under the sheets. "Have a good day, Hinata-chan."
Kurenai was impressed with how well Naruto had cleaned-up. While still a little clumsy with the execution, the boy had improved his social graces - he probably had a tutor of some sort or had discovered the memory-transferrence property of his shadow clones and was reading a library somewhere. She remembered Asuma saying something about doing that himself once he was confident in the jutsu.
Additonally, Naruto seemed to have filled-out a little - gone was his scrawniness. His hair had grown surprisingly long as well - perhaps he was taking some sort of keratin supplement? Considering that it was said in the Jounin grapevine that he was being trained by Jiraiya, the Toad Sage may be preparing Naruto to learn the Hari Jizou (Needle Jizo), a jutsu that weaponizes the user's hair.
The way the boy moved now spoke of a hidden grace. Before, his movements were hopelessly inefficient but still effective. Now, he seemed like a cat ready to pounce when he was still, but with a spring to his step when he walked - almost like he was trying not to bounce. Extremely odd, but potentially very dangerous.
The boy's wardrobe change was the most surprising though. His gaudy orange wasn't completely gone, but had been transformed into a more appropriate form while the rare hint of dark-blue he used to wear had been darkened and expanded. The jumpsuit he wore had been entirely replaced with a kimono. As far as Kurenai's trained eyes could see, he had pockets hidden in his sleeves and various other places in the garments he wore. The boy was probably a walking arsenal, but the giant scroll he had strapped to his back was very out-of-place. Then again, if Jiraiya had been teaching him seals...
Kurenai also pondered the fact that Naruto had been seen around town with some strange summoned-horse creatures on a few occasions. It was possible that these equines could be teaching him things.
Now Kurenai had to make sure Hinata would be able to go on her date.
Naruto saw Shikamaru carrying a basket of fruit.
"What's up, Shika?" the blonde asked as he fell into step with the lazy scion of the Nara family.
"Doctors say Chouji can't have this fruit," sighed Shikamaru. "Why're you here?"
"Hinata was still in the hospital. She gets out soon."
The black-haired teen didn't say anything for a moment. "About time you noticed her."
"Has it been that obvious?" A step later. "Don't answer that."
Shikamaru groaned. "Where are we going now?"
"I figure we should check on Rock Lee."
Gaara had to do it. It had to be done. He had to validate his existence. The bowl-cut taijutsu specialist's very breaths cause pain to Gaara. But crushing him immediately would be too quick. Mother was howling for the boy's blood. Soon, Mother. We will smother him slowly. Yessss...
Wait, why can't I move, he thought.
Incredibly, he found his face punched heavily.
"Gah!" excaimed a voice.
"What do you think you're doing?" asked another voice.
"Naruto," muttered the first voice. "You do remember that I feel what he feels when I've got him locked with my shadow, right?"
Gaara found himself staring down two of the other finalists for the Exams. The lazy boy, Shikamaru, and the idiot, Naruto. While the second looked different, he was still that idiot from before. As the last of the sand retreated back into Gaara's gourd, the blonde spoke again.
"What did you think you'd accomplish?"
"... I wanted to kill him," Gaara replied after a short pause.
Shikamaru looked worried. "Why would you want to do that? You already won your match against him... Is this some sort of personal vendetta?"
"No," Gaara chuckled. "Nothing like that. I want to kill him because... I want to kill him."
Naruto cocked his head to the side. "I don't think you understand the question. Or how cause and effect are correlated. The effect is that you want to kill him. What is the cause?"
Shikamaru almost missed what Gaara said next due to his surprise at how sophisticated Naruto suddenly sounded.
"If you continue to interfere, I'll kill you too."
While Shikamaru tried to find a way to stall for time, Naruto was already acting.
"And what would that accomplish? Even people like you don't just wantonly kill everyone they meet. What do you have to gain from the deaths of three people from an allied ninja village?"
"You idiot," Shika whispered. "Why are you egging him on? This guy's a real monster."
"You worry too much - I've gotten strong over the past month. Besides, I'm pretty sure the monster in me is stronger than him," Naruto whispered back.
Before Shikamaru could even process that comment, Gaara began speaking again.
"A monster, eh? I've got one of those in me too. I robbed my mother of her life when I was born, because my father decided to use a forbidden ninjutsu to seal an incarnation of sand inside me as I was birthed. I was BORN a monster!"
Naruto folded his arms. "Jinchuuriki, the power of human sacrifice. I know of it."
Shikamaru glanced at the blonde but didn't comment.
"A monk of the sand, Shukaku, had been sealed inside of a teakettle. His spirit was resealed into me."
"That's just messed-up," Shikamaru stated. "What kind of parent does that to their child? What a twisted love."
"Love?" Gaara growled. "Don't judge me by your standards. Family is just a word. Husks of flesh connected by hatred and murderous intent." Gaara glared at the two of them. "My mother was murdered so I could be brought to life as Suna's greatest weapon! My father, the Kazekage, taught me one ninja art after the other, sheltered me, isolated me... I thought that was love." He growled again. "Until the incident."
"... w-what incident?" stuttered Shikamaru.
Gaara lost focus with his eyes and smiled. "For the past six years, half of my life, my father's been trying to kill me! I've lost count of the failed attempts!"
"What do you mean?" asked Shikamaru. "I thought you said you were sheltered and spoiled..."
"They realized I was too dangerous!" laughed Gaara. "A presence that is too powerful is feared. The fools of the village elders realized their error - they thought I was unstable, and my father agreed! I was too much of a liability! Hazardous material must be disposed of!"
The red-headed child suddenly became somber. "So... If I am a relic of the past that the elders just want to erase, what is the meaning of my existence? What is my purpose? At first, I had no answer. Without such a purpose, I might as well be dead."
Naruto's eyes widened with recognition - he had felt those feelings before, when he was neglected at the orphanage all those years ago.
"Eventually," continued Gaara, "I came up with this: 'I exist to kill all humans besides myself.' Living in constant fear of a successful assassination attempt, I found solace. By killing those who sought to kill me, I justified my existence. I felt alive."
Shikamaru shifted his weight, clearly uncomfortable, which forced Gaara to move. Gaara smiled.
"I will fight for myself and love only myself. All others exist for me to amplify that love. As I kill, I feel alive. This is a beautiful world, one in which there are people for me to kill. As they continue to die by my hand, I will not cease to exist."
I may have become like him, realized Naruto. In fact, if Iruka-sensei hadn't helped me I'm sure of it. But this kid's still alone. He has no one and will kill us, given the chance.
Naruto started letting a ribbon slide out of each sleeve, sensing that Gaara was about to make his move.
"Now," Gaara began, sand tendrils rising behind him. "HELP ME FEEL ALIVE!"
Shikamaru realized that his control over Gaara had broken and took a step back. Naruto began spooling more ribbons out of his sleeves, intent on fighting as hard as he could.
"ENOUGH!" said a voice as a foot stomped hard enough to send cracks spiderwebbing along the floor.
The three boys turned to see Might Guy, the Jounin-sensei of Rock Lee, standing in the doorway of the hospital room.
"Save it for the Exam Finals," he demanded, an implied threat in his voice. "You can wait three days. Unless you wish to be an inpatient today?"
Gaara clutched his skull as his sand returned to the giant gourd on his back. He groaned as he walked to the door. Guy side-stepped, allowing him to pass.
As Gaara reached the threshhold, he groaned. "I will kill you all."
After Naruto was sure he was out of earshot, he turned to Guy. "You heard that he's a Jinchuuriki, right?"
Guy raised an eyebrow but nodded. Shikamaru looked up from where he was sitting, having taken a chair to prepare for the adrenaline crash.
"Something weird is going on," Naruto stated. "I've noticed that my summon animals are making preparations for war."
"Indeed," Guy agreed, causing Shikamaru's eyes to widen. "But sometimes, the best way to counteract a trap is to spring it. Carry on as if you don't suspect a thing."
"What a pain," sighed the Nara boy.
"Agreed," said the blonde.
Twilight insisted on sending a letter to Celestia the next day. Information about a confirmed enemy would need to be distributed to the appropriate commanders. As the Matriarch Prime of the Equestrian Armed Forces, Celestia would know who needed to know about Gaara.
"Now, about that date you have with the Hyuuga girl," Twilight began, "I think you should leave an extra clone with me. I'll have Rarity come over and we'll test your knowledge."
Naruto shrugged and summoned the number of clones Twilight required. He stepped outside and had to walk around a skycarriage full of books - Twilight had mentioned that she would need to acquire more books for him to read as he had nearly finished off the non-fiction section of Golden Oaks Library.
As he arrived at Sweet Apple Acres, he discovered that Big MacIntosh wanted to give him some advice. But not on striking technique.
"AJ heard you're gonna go on a date tomorrow," he drawled as he observed Naruto's progress. The boy could almost clear a tree of apples in four strikes. Quite impressive, considering that it took exactly six on the first day (once he used the proper technique).
"Twilight and Rarity are going to make sure I do well," Naruto said in between breaths. He was surprised about how fast information travelled through the pony grapevine.
"That's fine. But they will be givin' ya the female's perspective on dates. Yer gonna need the male perspective. Ahm gonna give ya some pointers as ya train." Big Mac's tone brokered no arguments.
"Alright," Naruto said as he concentrated on the next tree.
"Now the girls are gonna tell ya about how ta make sure yer date is havin' a good time. While Ahm gonna say that ya need ta also have fun, ya do need ta have a few precautions. From whut Ah heard, yer date is an heiress. The last thing ya need is her pappy comin' after ya for gettin' her pregnant."
Naruto missed the tree entirely and smashed his face into the bark.
Naruto waited in the lobby of the hospital, feeling nervous, especially after Big Mac insisted that Naruto be given "the talk" and taught about safe-sex practices. While Naruto knew most of the mechanics about procreation and birth-control, there were a few things Big Mac did teach him. For example, Naruto had no idea that cold-sores in the mouth could turn into genital herpes if they came into contact with your partner. That wasn't something that any of the magazines he used to research the Sexy no Jutsu had mentioned.
Naruto supposed it was best that Big Mac had been the one to tell him about the birds and the bees, though. He couldn't imagine how embarrassing it might have been if Applejack had been the one to tell him. Or worse, Pinkie.
Naruto stood up as he heard Kurenai's voice echoing from the hallway. He smiled at Hinata as she rounded the corner with her Jounin-sensei. The raven-haired kunoichi had made sure that Hinata was prepared. Hinata was in a red kimono with an intricate black floral pattern. The blue obi was tied in the otaiko pattern, the most traditional knot for women to wear. Naruto noticed that Hinata seemed to wear her mesh shirt underneath the kimono rather than a nagajuban. Briefly, the boy thanked Rarity for her foresight in adding moisture-removal seals to his own nagajuban.
He realized that he may have been staring a bit and tried to cover it with a bow to Hinata. He noticed that she bowed as deeply as he had, meaning that she wished for him to be viewed as an equal. At least, according to that one book Twilight had his clone read.
He still let her cease the bow first. He spared a quick glance to Kurenai, noticing that she was relaxed, but her face showed a slight suspicion towards Naruto. Again, he was grateful that Rarity had the seals placed on his clothing.
He offered his arm to Hinata. "Shall we get going?"
The shy heiress swallowed but nodded. She took his arm, seeming to be happily-embarrassed.
Naruto felt elated. Sure, he wasn't on a date with Sakura (which he had always dreamed of), but he was enjoying Hinata's company. She may have been quiet, but she listened intently as he told her about his summons.
"... and Rarity is what's called a 'battle-seamstress', and she taught me this really cool technique. She's a unicorn who taught herself how to be a ninja. Fluttershy is a very quiet pegasus, but she's also a medic-nin. I haven't really seen her do anything combative though. You'd probably like her."
He looked at her, to make sure she wasn't bored.
"They all s-sound lovely," she muttered. After a moment, she asked "Where are we going?"
"I know of this nice restaurant," he explained. "Not too nice, of course, but I'm pretty sure we'd be able to get in."
The maitre d' didn't give Naruto any hastle about wanting a table for two without a reservation. Naruto checked his haori - while the maitre d' didn't insist he seal it into a scroll and leave it with her, he knew it was more polite. Besides, not even half of his weapons were in it. They only had to wait five minutes to be seated.
Naruto was feeling good about the situation. He had recognized many of the staff of the restaurant as some of his former tormentors, from before he joined the ninja academy, but none of them had seemed to recognize him. That, or they were afraid that any discrimination against Naruto would result in upsetting the Hyuuga heiress, which could bring her father into the mix. No one would want to anger a clan leader, especially not this close to the Exam Finals - there were visiting merchants and dignitaries from all over the known world and bad customer service would drive away most of their future profits from tourism.
At least, that's what Naruto had hoped would happen. While Hinata seemed to enjoy conversing with Naruto, she began to look confused at some of the activity around them. Naruto held up his glass of water and watched other people be seated. He even watched waiters visit the tables of people who had arrived after them.
"... and my summons have - even they are getting served before us?" Naruto asked of the reflection in his glass. "They haven't even been here two minutes. We've been here an hour."
Naruto was fuming. He slipped a ryou note under his glass with something else underneath it.
"I'm sorry about this, Hinata-chan," he sighed. "Looks like we're going to have to eat somewhere else."
The maitre d' claimed that she couldn't find Naruto's scroll. The blonde was sorely tempted to spit in the woman's face when Hinata spoke up.
"It's that one, third from the top, second to the left," she stated louder than Naruto had ever heard her speak. He glanced to her to see veins bulging around her eyes, meaning her dojutsu (eye technique) was active.
The woman looked at it, even picked it up, before she set it back where it was. "That one isn't his."
Hinata started openly glaring at the maitre d'. "You will give him his haori back or else the Hyuuga will shut this place down and confiscate all of the money in your accounts."
"I'm not scared of your empty threats," the woman said. "We can't refuse entry to this demon child, but we can refuse him service."
Absolutely confused, Hinata turned to the livid blonde.
"I've tried being nice," he muttered. "Return my clothes to me or face immediate consequences."
"Like what?" sneered the maitre d'. "You can't hurt us without being imprisoned."
Naruto smirked. "Just remember: you asked."
He suddenly grabbed the sleeve of her dress and she found her clothing forcing her to move. She began to be pushed out from behind the podium. She started screaming only to find that her dress had returned to normal. She turned to see that both Naruto and Hinata were gone. So was the boy's scroll with his haori.
A chuunin rushed into the building and asked her what had happened. As soon as the woman opened her mouth, the paper underneath the ryou "tip" at the table exploded with a foul-smelling substance. Naruto had left one of his trademark stinkbombs as a reward. It had only detonated when one of the waiters picked up the glass to get at the money.
Staff and clientelle exited the building, coughing and cursing as the acrid smoke kept spewing from the paper seal the blonde had left.
About an hour after they left the restaurant...
"I'm so sorry," Naruto apologized again. They were sitting on top of the head of the Fourth Hokage. "I wanted to give you a good place to eat, but they must have recognized me."
"I d-don't understand why th-they would do that," Hinata said, looking down into the village. A yellow-brown smoke could still be seen rising from the restaurant. "And w-what did sh-she mean by 'demon'?"
Naruto stiffened slightly.
"I've h-heard some of the civilians s-say it when you passed by when w-we were younger," the bluette continued. "I don't un-understand why so much of Konoha seems t-to hate you."
"I can't tell you," Naruto said. "At least, not yet. There's not many people I can tell. My teammates don't even know."
"Not even Kakashi-san?"
Naruto shook his head. "He knows. I sort of wish I could see him before the Finals tomorrow. You know, let him know what's going on."
The boy sighed. He looked up towards the billowing smoke. "I'm not looking forward to that conversation with the Hokage."
"Uh... um... How m-much longer w-will the s-smoke keep c-coming?"
Naruto smiled fondly. "One of my summons, Pinkie Pie, came up with it. That smoke is non-toxic. The seal will keep spewing it for another four hours. The smell will stick to everything in the restaurant after that much exposure."
"Y-you put them out o-of business on m-my behalf?"
"I did," he turned to Hinata. "I'm sorry I can't take you out to eat."
Hinata could see the sorrow in his eyes. Hesitantly, she took his hand. "It's okay."
She surprised herself with her lack of stutter, but she tensed when she heard something. Naruto heard it too, having palmed a kunai. An ANBU with a raccoon mask came out from the underbrush in the small wood behind the Hokage Monument, her hands open and up in the attitude of non-aggression.
"Pardon me, Hyuuga-san, Uzumaki-san," she began. "The Hokage invites you both to have a late lunch with him in his office."
"Really?" Naruto said, suspicion barely kept out of his voice. Naruto knew that there were ninja from other villages arriving today, as well as all sorts of tourists and dignitaries. While it was unlikely that this ANBU was an impostor who happened to know who he was, he wasn't taking any chances. Also, it was possible for this woman to be a Kumo (Cloud) agent from Lightning Country trying to take Hinata for her bloodline. It was a good thing that Hiruzen had taught him some of the ANBU passphrases for checking identity. "The tiger hunts at night."
"And all are prey that cross its path."
Naruto relaxed. That was the confirmation phrase that also meant that no hostiles were nearby. "Will you escort us to the Tower?"
Eating with the Hokage was surprisingly relaxing for Hinata. Naruto seemed to be tense even though Sarutobi Hiruzen said they weren't in trouble.
After the main dish was served, Hiruzen turned to Naruto. "So how much money did it take to make that seal?"
"Uh... About two-hundred bits," Naruto muttered.
Hinata didn't understand. "W-what's a bit?"
"It's the form of currency Equestria uses," he explained. "I'm not sure how that translates into ryou, but a loaf of bread is three bits."
"That's an expensive seal," the Hokage surmised. "Did you have to pay for it?"
"Pinkie made it. Twilight helped make the chemical compound."
"And you have more of these gas tags?"
Naruto didn't answer but did shrink in his seat almost imperceptively.
"I see," the Hokage replied. "While I'm not sure exactly how much ryou I should give you, I think three-hundred should cover the costs of making the seal, plus another hundred-fifty for your time."
Both Hinata and the blonde boy looked at the Hokage as if the old man had just gone completely senile.
"I... I thought I had to wait for the Exams to be over before I started pranking again."
The old man smiled. "That's what I would have preferred. But that restaurant embarrassed the name of Konoha. Some of the dignitaries who were present were calling for the maitre d's head. I was sorely tempted to have it delivered to them on a silver platter. Literally." Taking another bite of his food, the Hokage continued. "As it is, the owner of the restaurant, who was present and ordered the waiters to ignore you, no longer owns property in Konoha. He has six more hours to leave the city. The maitre d' is being thrown out of Konoha as well."
"I... would rather not have ruined their lives, Jiji," Naruto admitted. "It leaves a bad taste in my mouth."
"Unfortunately, they ruined their own lives," the old man replied. "As for the punishment enacted on them, I actually had to do something. To let an insult to our allies like that go unpunished could mean war down the road. This is not the first time I've had to punish someone this way, though this is the first time it has brought me a measure of satisfaction."
"Um..." Hinata managed. "What d-do you mean?"
"Many people have slighted Naruto over the years," the Hokage sighed. "This is the first time I was able to punish his transgressors without repurcussions from the village council."
Unspoken went the annoyances that all ninja in Konoha dealt with on behalf of the council. While the council was comprised almost entirely of ninja, the ten members of the council who were civilians also had a say, though not as much of one as the ninja. Each civilian council member had one vote. Retired jounin had three votes each. Clan heads had five votes. The Hokage's chief advisors, Mitokado Homura and Utatane Koharu (his teammates from his genin days), each had seven. Two special members, Shimura Danzou and Akimichi Torifu, each had six votes. The Hokage had ultimate veto power, but his decision could be overrulled with enough votes.
"What is nice about this arrangement," the Hokage began again after another bite, "is that Naruto's prank budget has been ratified. The only ones who opposed were the civilians. That means that the arrangement is locked-in and cannot be overturned. As it stands, Naruto is effectively my secret weapon against the council, though I'm not above getting pranked either."
Naruto gave a sad smile as he contemplated the situation.
Hinata led Naruto to a secluded training ground. It had a healthy copse of trees and a brook running through it.
"What are we doing here?"
"Um..." she stammered. "I often c-come here to meditate."
Naruto looked around. From the looks of the training posts, they were worn, but intact. He supposed that the Hyuuga's Gentle Fist style didn't cause much in the way of external damage, but he took a closer look at one of the posts. It appeared to have holes with chakra burns all over the post. Naruto found it fascinating as he inspected the piece of wood.
"This is your personal training ground?"
"M-mostly," the bluette admitted. "I'm the only o-one who uses it n-now."
Naruto pondered the evidence for a moment. According to what he could remember from history lessons at the Academy, most Hyuuga had earth-natured chakra.
He turned to see Hinata standing slightly behind another one of the posts, watching Naruto as he looked about. When he made eye contact, she blushed and looked away. He smiled and walked over to her.
"Can I see your hands for a moment?" Her blush deepened, but she presented her hands and he interlaced his fingers with hers and closed his eyes. "Channel a little bit of chakra to your palms, if you would."
Her blush disappeared, but she wasn't upset. Only curious.
Naruto had learned from Twilight how to detect someone's elemental affinities. Ponies used their hooves as they did not have access to the trees that chakra-sensitive paper was made from, but Naruto figured out how to use his hands to perform the test.
"Your chakra affinity is water, unlike the rest of your family," Naruto stated with closed eyes. "You also have an above-average chakra capacity, excellent control, and soft hands." Naruto's eyes opened as he smirked, seeing that Hinata's blush had returned. "You also have pretty eyes, Hinata."
Suddenly, Hinata spread her arms wide, dragging Naruto's arms with them and pulling him closer. His yelp of surprise was interrupted as Hinata locked lips with him.
All thought fled his mind as he initially failed to process this turn of events. As an electric tingle ran down his spine, the warmth of Hinata's mouth against his invited him to return the kiss. Just as he began to realize how close he was with Hinata, as well as the fact that this must be her first kiss, he felt her tongue touch his lips. He opened his mouth as he felt his heart race, beating a staccatto of passion as they began dueling with their tongues.
At some point, he felt a massive burning in his chest and recognized it as oxygen starvation. Reluctantly, they broke the kiss, panting for air. As Naruto's mind resumed working, he realized that they must have disentangled their hands as he felt the sensation of Hinata slowly release the grip she had on his collar to slide her hands behind his neck. He immediately realized that his hands were on her hips, holding her close to him. Very close. Had they been grinding while they kissed? Naruto thought so. It was a good thing that he was keeping his bulge from being noticeable with his cloth techniques - he wasn't sure he'd be able to handle the embarrassment otherwise.
Hinata, though out of breath, was positively ecstatic. Not only had she finally managed to kiss Naruto, but she'd done it on her own choice. She was able to reach out and get one of the things she wanted for herself. For the previous few moments, nothing else mattered. No fractured Clan, no politics, no disappointed Father, no Chuunin Exams, no Village out to get the boy she loved. Just her, Naruto, and passion.
She leaned into Naruto as he slipped one hand onto her lower back and began running the other through her short hair. She sighed in contentment as she put her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat as it began to slow down from the rush. She breathed in his scent - a smell not unlike a combination of sunlight, effort, and a hint of vanilla. Wait... that really was vanilla she was smelling! He must have some kind of cologne.
Naruto enjoyed the moment, cuddling with Hinata as he felt his bloodflow return to normal. He inhaled deeply, detecting the scent of lavender in her hair. He opened his eyes on the exhale, noticing that the sun was quickly approaching the mountain range to the West. He realized that they'd miss the view of the sunset he intended to show her if they stayed here too much longer!
"There's something I have to show you," Naruto said, Hinata's eyes shooting open as her mind fell into the gutter. "We've got to hurry if we're going to make it though!"
She hesitated, but stepped back and took his arm as he led her towards the Village Walls. While disappointed that that wasn't on his mind, she was also relieved as she wasn't sure she was ready for elevating their relationship to that level yet. After all, this was only their first date.
Unseen and undetected, Jiraiya stifled a cheer as he put his spyglass away. He had to admit that the kid had some natural talent when it came to wooing women. The old pervert was slightly upset that he hadn't taught the boy any of his moves, but was happy that the blonde seemed to be adjusting to things that he was previously too inept to handle. It must be the influence the ponies were having on his life. While Jiraiya had intended for Naruto to be a Toad Summoner, he wasn't sure the toads' way of handling interpersonal relationships would have been beneficial for the boy.
In any case, Naruto had given him enough inspiration. He began to walk off, furiously writting in his little notebook.
The two kunoichi ANBU that operated the watchtower Naruto had taken Hinata to had let the young teens climb to the very top.
Naruto had met them on many occasions throughout the years, but insisted that Naruto not learn their names. They were part of a two-team squad that operated this particular tower. They kept track of movement both within and without the village with their telescopes and spyglasses. A series of seals allowed them to send messages to the other watchtowers as well as to the Hokage's Tower. They were excellent at keeping track of civilians, merchants, and foreign dignitaries and their entourages, but the watchtowers were almost completely ineffective at detecting ninja movements. Though that's not what the watchtowers were built for, back when Konoha was built. They were for keeping track of siege engines, samurai movements, and the like as well as creating some artificial high ground. For the detection of ninja movements, ninja squads patrolled the terrain around the village.
This particular watchtower was the highest in Konoha, and all eight operatives had met Naruto and allowed him to enter the tower. Some of the ANBU at this tower seemed to barely tolerate his presence, but the rest seemed friendly enough. All of them let Naruto use the telescopes when he was little and tried to teach him about detecting important movement through the forest canopy with varying degrees of success.
The two ANBU thought that Naruto and his date made a cute couple. They also thought it was quite romantic of him to want to share the sunset with Hinata. They tuned the teens out as they continued to monitor the area.
"You'll like the view, I promise," Naruto said as he gestured towards the mountain range that was under the sun.
As the sun began to dip below the horizon, the light caught on millions of reflective surfaces on the sides of the mountains, adding a cacophony of lights to the already impressive display of golds, oranges, reds and purples that the sky had become. Hinata gasped at the view.
"Apparently, those shiny surfaces are mica deposits," Naruto said. Hinata nodded, but continued to observe the brilliant sunset. "Only on a few evenings of the year do we get this effect, and it's best seen from this tower."
She leaned into him as he prattled about how he discovered this phenomena, feeling that the day had ended quite well, despite the earlier hiccups.
Naruto made sure to kiss Hinata's hand when he dropped her off at Kurenai's place. After promising to take her out again, Naruto walked down the street, trying really hard to not bounce. He felt the sensation of being summoned to Equestria and accepted the call. His time being summoned back and forth between realms had increased his tolerance to the interdimensional turbulence and his pain threshold. He barely had to clear his throat when Rarity's hoof poked him in the chest.
"So~o, how did it go~o?" she sang.
Before he answered, he spotted the other five Element Bearers staring at him with great anticipation within the Golden Oaks Library.
"Well, there were bad parts, but it wasn't my fault, nor was it hers. But I'd say it was a great first date."
And he recounted the tale of the day.
The morning had finally arrived. The last of the delegates entered the walls of the Village and were escorted to the Arena stands. Naruto was out of bed and dressed within seconds, due to his control over cloth. He forced his heart to stop racing and evened out his breathing.
"No time for last-minute jitters," he muttered to himself. "The Tetsu Kireji Koura should protect me from the Gentle Fist strikes and should be all-but-invisible to Neji's eyes. And my backup chakra has two full-tanks charged to it. I can do this. I can do this!" (Iron Cloth Shell)
Cutting through a training field to get to the Arena quicker, the blonde saw Hinata. Naruto found it to be a strange coincidence that she'd be waiting for him, in the very field Kakashi had tested his worthiness for the rank of genin no less. She must have seen him with her eyes and gotten ahead of him.
"H-hello Naruto." She turned towards him, slightly startled.
Must be a coincidence after all.
"I know Neji's your cousin. Do you think he's strong?"
"Y-yeah. He is. V-very."
Naruto scratched the back of his head. "I see."
"B-but I'm sure you c-can beat him, Naruto-kun. B-because -"
"I'm really strong, yes?" Naruto's voice was a little subdued. The silence was so thick one could cut it with a knife.
After a couple of minutes... "Look, I know how much I boast about my strength. I'm not quite as strong as I seem, Hinata. I act tough due to my frustration with my many failures but -"
"Naruto!" There was a firmness in her voice he had never thought would be there. "Even though you fail, y-you have the strength to get back up and try again. That is what I b-believe strength is." Her voice got quieter. "That's why, when you cheered me on during my fight with Neji, I felt a change within me. I was ready to give up a-and you helped me."
Naruto smiled. "Thanks Hina-chan. That really helps. Do you want me to walk you to the Arena?"
Several minutes later...
"Hey Hinata, sorry I'm late but Shino's match isn't 'till later... Where'd she go?"
A puppy barked.
"Huh? Hinata's already been here? Why didn't she wait?"
"Naruto's been here recently too?" Kiba thought about it for a moment. "That sly bastard. He escorted her to the Arena!" He laughed. "C'mon Akamaru, we'll see if we can't get there ahead of them."
Potential clients and ninja filled the seats of the stadium. Seven genin stood around a new proctor, Genma Shiranui. With brown, shoulder-length hair and brown eyes, Genma doesn't posess an imposing figure. Even his backwards bandana hitai-ate and the senbon (medical needle) he carries in his mouth give the impression that he's incapable, but his jounin vest attested to his skill.
Gaara and his brother and sister, Kankuro and Temari, stood to Genma's left with Neji between him and the three siblings. To his right stood Naruto, Shikamaru, and scion of the Aburame clan, Shino. Sasuke was nowhere to be found, and the Sound ninja, Dosu, was also absent.
Shikamaru glanced around trying to find Dosu, curious as to his whereabouts. Naruto noted that Sasuke was missing.
Probably picked up Kakashi-sensei's habitual lateness, Naruto smirked to himself.
"Stop looking around," Genma chided the genin. "Face the clients. In this main portion of the tournament, you guys are the stars. Look professional."
In that time, the Hokage learned that the ANBU teams hadn't located Sasuke or Kakashi yet, but he had to cut the report short as a guest had shown his face.
"Ah! Kazekage-dono, what a pleasure to see you again!" the old man rasped, voice full of good cheer. (Lord Wind-Shadow)
The younger man sat in his seat, flanked by two bodyguards.
"You must be tired from the long journey," began the elder Kage.
"Not at all! Good thing it's held here this time. The trip may have been too much for you though, Hokage-dono. Maybe it's time you decide on another replacement?"
The Hokage chuckled. "I'm not quite that old. I plan on doing this for another five years. Well then, let's begin."
He stood up and channeled a portion of chakra to his lungs and larynx. "WELCOME ALL TO THE CHUUNIN EXAMS FINALS! WE WILL NOW START THE MAIN TOURNAMENT MATCHES BETWEEN THE EIGHT PARTICIPANTS WHO PASSED THE PRELIMINARIES. PLEASE STAY AND WATCH UNTIL THE END!"
"If there are eight contestants," noted the Kazekage. "One seems absent..."
Back down on the Arena floor, Genma pulled out a piece of paper. "There's been a change in the roster. Please study it to confirm your bouts."
Dosu's name was missing entirely. Naruto was still paired against Neji as Gaara was still paired against Sasuke. Kankuro was now paired against Shino and Shikamaru against Temari.
"Question," Naruto began. "Sasuke seems to be missing. What happens now?"
"If he's not here by the start of his match, he forfeits by default."
Naruto knew that Sasuke would have dragged his half-dead carcass to the tournament if he had to. Something seemed to have happened.
"Alright," began Genma. "This is the final test. The battleground may be different than within that tower, but the rules are the same: you fight until one of you dies or forfeits. If I've determined that the match is over, I step in and stop it. No arguments. Got that?"
He scanned the faces of the assorted genin.
"Good. First match is Uzumaki Naruto and Hyuuga Neji. You two stay down here. The rest of you clear out and wait at the observation balcony."
After a moment, Neji spoke.
"You seem like you have something to say."
Naruto brought his fist up and clenched it towards Neji. "Nothing I haven't said before, but I'll say it again: you're going down."
Neji activated his Byakkugan, the All-Seeing White Eye, the special bloodline that allows for 359-degree perception that pierces through materials.
"BEGIN!" declared Genma.
Not a shred of doubt in him. He's totally confident... Neji observed. "Heh. That makes it worthwhile... It'll be fun to watch you far apart when you discover you're destined to fa-"
"Stop talking." Naruto punctuated his statemet with a brace of thrown shuriken. While Neji dodged them, part of his jacket was cut. While the Hyuuga was preoccupied dodging that, Naruto spawned thirty shadow clones. They began rushing the lavender-eyed boy in waves of five, wielding kunai. They stuck to the ground at odd angles with feet and hands, stacking on top of one another, and jumping high to attack from above.
Neji found himself hard-pressed to block the attacks, much less eliminate the clones. It didn't help that their chakra networks appeared identical to the original either. Every time he tried to counter an attack, another kunai was coming for his unprotected flank, or for his back, or his knee. He didn't want to reveal his trump card just yet, but he was being forced into it.
"HAKKESHOU KAITEN!" (Eight Trigrams Palms: Revolving Heaven)
Neji spun counterclockwise, expending chakra from every tenketsu (pressure points that are chakra nodes) from his body, creating a rotating shield of chakra blocking the clones' attacks and dispelling half of them. The other half were ejected violently from the spinning dome, most dispelling on impact with other objects.
In the stands, the various Hyuuga were surprised to see Neji, who was a Branch House member of the clan, use a technique taught only to the Main House members.
The real Naruto completed a string of hand seals, finishing with the bird seal. "Fuuton: Daitoppa." (Wind Release: Great Breakthrough)
Overcharging the jutsu with chakra, Naruto expended a violent gust of wind from his lungs, creating a solid wall of air that rushed towards Neji, whose rotation was slowing down. Before he could react, the Hyuuga was tossed off his feet and tumbled through the dust. He ending his roll with a handstand and flipped back to his feet, having seen Naruto rushing towards his position at a frightening rate. Just before reaching Neji, the blonde tumbled forwards, sticking to the ground with his left hand and swinging his right foot for an overhead axe-heel kick. Neji sidestepped to his left only for Naruto to plant his right foot on the ground and striking Neji in the chest with his right palm. The blow knocked the wind out of the Hyuuga, cracked a rib, and sent him tumbling backwards.
Neji flooded his lungs with chakra, forcing himself to take in air, becoming painfully aware of the hairline fracture in his chest. He looked up to meet Naruto's eyes with his own, glaring hatred into the blue, confident irises of the blonde.
"Looks like you have something to say," Naruto stated.
"Yes. Hakke Rokujuuyon Shou." (Eight Trigrams: Sixty-Four Palms)
Neji hurled himself forward, quickly striking Naruto once in the chest and another in the stomach before he could react. "Two!"
He struck another two times on either side of Naruto's sternum. "Four!"
Three more times he struck the blonde in the chest with a fourth strike hitting the boy's right thigh. "Eight!"
Taking a step forward, he struck at Naruto's arms and legs twice each. "Sixteen!"
Concentrating on Naruto's face and shoulders, he struck another sixteen times. "Thirty-Two!"
Finally, he hit the remaining tenketsu in Naruto's body, finishing with the blonde's forehead. "Sixty-Four!"
Naruto tumbled backwards before sticking his landing, sliding through the dirt about a meter before stopping.
"What!?" Neji gasped. "How can you still stand! I struck all sixty-four tenketsu!"
Naruto coughed and tried to flex his fingers. "Looks like you only hit the points that aren't covered by clothing. I'll admit, it's kinda difficult to move right now."
Neji and the other Hyuuga in the audience could see that only sixteen tenketsu were sealed by Neji's strikes, mostly in his hands and head.
"Seems I'm going to have to reveal the tricks up my sleeves," the blonde sighed. "Release!"
The seal in the back of his nagabujan flooded Naruto's chakra coils to their maximum capacity, forcefully opening his tenketsu and causing chakra smoke to billow out of his kimono, temporarily obscuring his form. Naruto reached back and grabbed the strap for the scroll, swinging it over his shoulder. It rapidly unfurled, forming a giant hoof that struck Neji's crossed forearms, knocking the older boy back.
"How do you like the Tetsu Kireji Koura?" He smirked. "Guess how I defended against your attack."
Neji stared at the twitching cloth, noting that he couldn't see chakra flowing through it. He could see a little bit of chakra flowing at the point where Naruto was holding the scroll though. He narrowed his eyes.
"I suppose I'll have to strike you in the head."
"You're assuming you can catch me."
Neji sped forward and to Naruto's left, trying to get at the boy's relatively unprotected side only to find his progress halted by twelve ribbons ending in kunai coming from Naruto's sleve.
Back on the Kages' Balcony, the Kazekage clapped softly. "Impressive technique that Uzumaki is using. Who taught it to him?"
"I know of some persons who could teach it to him," the Hokage stated.
"Not going to divulge their identities?"
"You have your puppeteers, Kazekage-dono. Don't be too greedy."
The Kazekage chuckled. "It's just so interesting though. Not sure how he'd stand up to my Gaara though."
Back on the floor, Neji was desperately trying to get past Naruto's defenses, deftly avoiding getting tangled in the ribbons or the scroll, but finding his advance halted at nearly every opportunity. He decided he had to use the Kaiten just to get close enough. The spinning chakra dome appeared for a brief instant, knocking and tearing all of the ribbons away and shredding the scroll. He used this opportunity to get in close to Naruto and stabbed the blonde through the eye with a kunai.
Only to find that it was a shadow clone. The boy burst into smoke leaving only the haori behind.
"Wha-" Neji began only to have the back of his head hit by the wooden post that the giant scroll had been wrapped around. He tumbled forwards to see that one of the shadow clones he had disregarded holding the torn end of the scroll. Even augmented with the Byakkugan, his vision was getting blurry.
"Have a concussion, eh Neji?" Naruto smirked. "I switched with a clone using Kawarimi no Jutsu when I expended that smoke. I'll admit, you're faster than I am, but you rely too much on your eyes." (Substitution no Jutsu)
"How dare you!? I had no grudge against you before this bu-"
"I have one against you!" the blonde shouted. "The way you treated Hinata in the preliminaries... the horrible mind games... and you attempted to murder her. You make me sick."
Neji took a step back to steady himself as his vision swam. "Do you not understand the cursed history of the Hyuuga?"
"Actually, I do." Naruto said, surprising Neji. "I'm aware of the seal on your forehead, that marks you as a slave to the Main Branch. I'm also aware of the circumstances revolving around the death of your father."
Neji grunted. "Then you understand why I hate them."
"The hate against the traditions and the elders of the Main Branch, sure. The hate against Hinata?" Naruto spat onto the ground in front of him. "Is unfathomable."
"Then you do not understand what it's like to have a seal determining your destiny being branded on you from a young age."
"Just because you have no evidence it doesn't mean that you should assume something," the blonde sneered. "I'll tell you about it later, but for now you should give up. I've outclassed you and out manouvered you."
"Fancy tricks and clones mean nothing if you don't have the -" Neji let out a sudden gasp as the haori on the ground in front of him wrapped around his torso, constricting his arms. More ribbons spilled from the sleeves, tangling his legs together. He suddenly became aware of a single thread that led away from the inner pockets of the haori, through the dust where he hadn't noticed it before, and into Naruto's glowing left hand. He tried expelling chakra from various tenketsu to tear his way out of the jacket, but the cloth and ribbons seemed stronger than before.
"Fancy tricks are everything in ninja combat," Naruto snorted. "Give up. You cannot escape."
Neji growled as Genma agreed and called the match.
"Did you see that? He can manipulate his clothing at a distance using connected threads."
"I wonder if it's a special type of cloth that he can manipulate. He'd make for a great hunter-ninja with his ability to capture targets alive."
"And his opponent showed skills that he would not have learned normally. I don't know about you two, but I was impressed with him as well."
"He'll have to pass the psych eval. There seems to be too much anger in his heart."
As the medical ninja forced Neji onto a stretcher, Naruto and his four remaining shadow clones retrieved as much fragments of fabric as they could find within a couple of seconds. All pieces were accounted for and Naruto put them in his pocket as he walked over towards the observation balcony he other genin contestants waited at.
End chapter six.
Next Chapter: "Shino versus Kankuro!" "I give up!" "Okay then, Shikamaru versus Temari!" "... what a drag."
Parts of this went in directions I hadn't intended.
For example, one of my fans requested a particular pairing for Naruto for this story. Sorry mang, but I don't think it's happening. The way Naruto's personality is changing in this version of the world forced me to pair him with Hinata. I may try my hand at putting that other girl with him, but I would like to keep it from becoming a harem!fic as many Naruto fics devolve into.
So, six months. Better than over a year. This particular chapter is longer to make up for it.
I know I'm retreading some of canon Naruto, but that's because I need to explain things for those fans of MLPFiM who haven't gotten into Naruto. And I'll retread some of MLPFiM canon because it's changed to suit this world better and/or to explain things for those fans of Naruto who haven't become bronies yet. Basically, I'm trying to turn all of you into broneeaboos. ;P
((No editing done for this chapter. I can't get ahold of any of my beta-readers.))