Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any material retaining to it. I only take claim to the plot of this story, and only that.

A/N: Here is another chapter. I apologize for the delay for this update. I've been working on my own novel and glad to announce it's been published and available to read on Amazon Kindle. It's called "Autumn King" Darkmoon Chronicles. I hope you all check it out, but if not, that's fine. Also I've a few other projects underway, but I did what I could to get this chapter done for all you who've been loyal and patient, I thank you all.

xXx

Chapter 5

The last person anyone expected for the last fighter to be was the bane of the entire village, Uzumaki Naruto. A collective groan almost swept through the entire crowd when they saw the familiar whiskered-face shinobi. One in particular sat up from her seat and marched over to the Hokage's booth and bowed before Tsunade.

"Tsunade-sama, don't you think it's redundant to have Naruto as her last challenger? I mean, she wiped the floor with three of our best, what chances does he have?" a teenager with short pink hair argued respectfully.

Tsunade narrowed her eyes at this teenager. The only reason she wasn't snatched up by Anbu or reprimanded in any way for questioning her decision was only because she was Tsunade's current apprentice. "Sakura, you should have more faith in your teammate. He is after all a sage now."

Sakura only gave her a disbelieving look. "I doubt he really managed that. He couldn't have handled that kind of serious training under such a short amount of time. Not with his past record back in the Academy."

Tsunade gave her apprentice a disapproving frown. "I have made my decision on the matter, Sakura. I have chosen Naruto to be her last opponent, not only to test her sage abilities, but to show everyone that he had indeed earned his title as Konoha's new Toad Sage."

Sakura looked totally skeptical and before Tsunade realized it, the pinkette jumped down to the arena, right in between Naruto and Hinata. "Naruto, forfeit right now! You can't win against her!"

Naruto surprised her when he just locked a stern gaze on her, one that she had never seen on his face before. "Get out of the way, Sakura. This is an official match and you are interfering."

"Don't give me that tone, Naruto-baka! There's no way you can stand up to her. You couldn't bring back Sasuke, so what makes you think you can beat someone with a stronger dojutsu?" Sakura barked at him, tightening a fist threateningly.

Normally when she raised her voice and showed she might get physical, the blonde would begin whimpering and quickly back down and do whatever she said. It always worked when he got out of hand or did something stupid. What she saw instead of him instantly trembling in fear was an angry snarl on his whiskered-face, giving him a very feral and menacing expression. She actually saw him point up to the seating where everyone was watching them. "Go back to your seat, Sakura, now."

"You don't get to tell me what to—!?" her sentence was cut off when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She started to look over her shoulder when she felt the cold hard steel of a kunai touch the skin of her neck.

"That's enough of that. You're holding up an official fight that your sensei and Hokage has approved. Now get the hell out of here before I feed you to one of my toads," Jiraiya whispered venomously into the girl's ear.

He had expected better of Tsunade's apprentice. He had heard she had a promising future as a Medic-nin and even learned enough control to use Tsunade's legendary super strength. But seeing her now, he wasn't very impressed at all, and he was very displeased that this girl thought to question her own leader's choice and question her teammate's abilities. Naruto had done the impossible and completed Sage-training and surpassed him…and his late beloved father. The boy really overcame all the odds that had been put up to block him, and he was not going to let this uppity pink-haired girl treat him so disrespectfully. In truth, he was saving her life because technically, Naruto outranked her, as his title as Sage placed him above the rank of jonin, placing him almost at equal level of a Kage. Should she attack Naruto in public, she'd have been punished for assaulting a superior officer.

Sakura did not question him, a Sannin of all people, so she quietly conceded, but not before shooting a disapproving glare at Naruto, who returned it with his stern one. It was odd for her to see him not cower at all. Figuring he was just being too stubborn to realize he was outclassed. She turned away from him and channeled chakra into her legs to make the high jump up to the seating, then returned to her seat. She'd have plenty of time to chew Naruto out for being an idiot after he got his ass handed to him by the mysterious girl. There was no way Naruto could stop her, not since she possessed the strongest dojutsu in the entire world.

When she looked back down, she was somewhat startled to see a heated glare Hinata was shooting directly at her. They locked eyes but Sakura could not hold it and averted her eyes nervously.

Hinata sneered at the pink-haired girl and turned her attention to Naruto. "You know her?"

Naruto groaned and actually looked embarrassed. "Yeah, she was part of my genin team after I graduated from the Academy. She's really a good person deep down, even though she's got a short temperature."

"I heard that!" Sakura shouted from her seat.

Naruto actually ignored her. "Either way, don't mind her. She's always cranky and ready to hit something. She doesn't know what I've done during my training trip with my sensei."

Hinata nodded. "So long as she doesn't get in the middle of the fight again."

"I promise if she does that again…" Naruto slowly turned and shot a death glare that was very unexpected from him. It was completely different from his usual grinning expression. This one almost felt like it belonged to someone that lived far longer than he did. It was cold and at the same time promised nothing but a swift death. "…I'll handle her myself."

Sakura actually felt herself shiver in her seat. Naruto wasn't the only one giving her a death look. From the Hokage booth, Tsunade and Jiraiya were giving the girl their own glare and it was a miracle that Sakura hadn't fainted from the concentrated killer intent they were directing right at her; granted they weren't unleashing their full killer intent on her, but still.

"If we're done with any further interruptions, let's begin the final match, shall we?" Tsunade said with a bit of snip to her tone while she continued to glare at her apprentice.

The pinkette flinched and shrunk a little in her seat, feeling a little ashamed that she had spoken out at all.

Seeing her apprentice had finally learned her mistake, Tsunade continued. "Good! Now let us begin the next match! HAJIME!"

Everyone predicted Naruto to rush in blindly and start swinging like a brawler, as he was known to do whenever he fought, but all he did was stuff his hands into his pockets and smirked at his opponent. "Wanna make this fight a bit more challenging?"

Hinata raised a curious eyebrow. "How so?"

"Let's make it so neither of us uses our summons, just rely on our own strengths. I have a feeling that if we did use our respective summons, this stadium wouldn't handle it too well."

"Are you sure? From what I saw that toad you summoned earlier might help you deal with some of my abilities," Hinata replied, surprised that he actually wanted to throw in a handicap.

"He's good, but he's not the most powerful toad I can summon, I'll show you!" Naruto said and without even using hand-signs, he bit his thumb and then slammed his hand down on the ground as kanji writing appearing around his hand. "Kuchiyose No Jutsu!"

There was a giant puff of smoke and Hinata had to jump far away when something massive almost filled the entire arena. When the smoke cleared, she was startled to find an enormous toad taking up the entire space. As it was, the toad was standing up straight and trying its best not to lose its balance in the limited space, standing mostly on one leg.

"What's this?!" the giant toad hollered in indignation, using its short front legs to hold itself as best it could in the stadium.

On top of the toad's head, Naruto was sitting there and rubbing his head as he laughed nervously. "Heh heh, Sorry, Gamabunta! I had to make a point and I thought you might like to see the fight, too."

"Naruto?! You baka! What were you think summoning me in this cramped space?!" the Boss Toad Gamabunta shouted in rage.

"Oh come on, Gamabunta. You were complaining that I don't summon you hardly ever and like I said, I thought you'd might like to see me fight, especially someone else who's undergone Sage-training," Naruto replied, pointing down at Hinata.

The giant toad gazed down with his one good eye, quickly spotting the Ifrit that was shielding her summoner from him. Upon seeing the Ifrit, Gamabunta widened his eye in recognition. "I see…so that is the one."

"Huh? What'd you say?" Naruto uttered in confusion.

"Never mind, gaki. You, girl!" Gamabunta barked at Hinata. "Summon the Old One! I imagine he will wish to see this as well!"

"Might be hard with hardly any room to do that!" Hinata had managed to reply after quickly getting over her surprise. She had thought the Old One was a huge being…obviously she was wrong. This toad had him beat by at least three more stories in height.

"I'll fix that, girlie, just give me a sec," Gamabunta grumbled and worked as best he could to climb out of the entire stadium without crushing anyone or causing too much damage to the stadium's structure.

Once he was out and standing up over the stadium, gazing down at everyone, he nodded. "Okay, now go ahead, girlie!"

Hinata wasn't too sure about doing what the toad wanted. The Old One was an extremely temperamental Boss Summon, and he didn't like to be around humans at all. If she summoned him here she was afraid he might have one of his raging fits and destroy the village. It was only by chance and fate that he had come to like her and vice versa. She was very fond of him, seeing him almost like an adoptive father for all the kindness and support he gave here where her biological father never would have given her. She didn't want him to become an enemy to her ancestral home, but more out of fear that the shinobi of the leaf might actually attack and hurt him.

"Do it, girlie! He'll wish to see this, trust me!" Gamabunta ordered, seeing her hesitance.

Frowning at the bossy toad, she bit her thumb. "Don't blame me if it doesn't end well," she warned and then slammed her hand on the ground, then said, "Kuchiyose No Jutsu!"

When she performed the summoning jutsu, everyone was anticipating another blinding cloud of smoke and held their breaths to keep from choking. But rather than smoke…the ground began to shake. All around Hinata, the ground began to scorch as fire ate up the grass and soil, leaving only hard rocky ground underneath her, then a circle of fire began to form all around her and the stadium shook violently as the circle began to rise up. The rock underneath Hinata rose her up and formed into a platform, fire licking up from the exposed earth they saw a creature far more fearsome than the toad or the Ifrit woman. The Old One rose up in an orb of heat and flame and looked as if he was sleeping as he rise, then he jerked his horned head and let loose a roar that put fear that would have put the Kyuubi No Yoko to shame, and the platform Hinata stood on crumbled away.

Hinata had jumped off the platform just as this happened and sailed down when gravity caught up with her. The great fiery beast gazed up and raised its huge clawed hand up and caught her easily and brought her to his muzzled face where Hinata stroked his furry nose lovingly before he gently put her down and looked around at his surroundings.

"So…I am called once again to walk in the realm of humans. Am I to assume the village has not taken well to you, my little fireball?" the Old One questioned, glaring viciously at the crowd of humans.

"Not yet, Koneko-chan! So far I've been able to handle the bigots I've told you about," Hinata said.

"…She calls that beast…a kitten?" Tsunade uttered in disbelief, not aware that she had voiced what everyone in the stadium was thinking.

The Old One heard the Hokage and narrowed his molten-like eyes at her. "She has earned the right to call me what she wishes." He pointed one of his massively long claws up at her. "But if anyone else uses that title…will be incinerated."

"Okay!" Tsunade said, fighting as heard as she could not to eep like some academy girl as the tip of the giant claw stopped just at the tip of her nose.

The Old One's growled deeply and it only took Tsunade a moment to realize he was actually chuckling. He withdrew his claw and observed the rest of the humans, not bothering to hide his snarl at them, but then stopped when he finally saw Gamabunta. "Hmm, were you the reason my little fireball called me to this human village?"

"Yes, I was. My contractor is about to fight yours. I thought you might like to see the boy we just declared a Sage," Gamabunta replied, looking up at the awe-struck blonde sitting on the toad's head.

The Old One's eyes widened only a fraction, then he nodded. "Then I shall witness this fight as well." With much more grace and ease, the Old One leapt out of the stadium and hunched over the edge of the stadium seats. The people who sat near the spot the Old One made himself comfortable all ran to give him space, wanting to avoid being accidentally hooked by his curved claws as they hovered over the seats as he rested his elbows on his knees. "Commence with the fight."

"Oh, right!" Naruto uttered almost stupidity and quickly jumped down back down to the fighting arena. He gave the Old One a final look, then smiled widely at Hinata. "That's some friend you've got there."

"He's more family to me than friend, but thank you for the compliment," Hinata said with a soft blush on her face, something the Old One quickly noted and smirked.

'She's smiting with the Child of Prophecy…let's see if his strength is worthy of my little one's affection,' The Old One thought to himself.

From the lip of the arena, Kikyo leapt up to rest beside the Old One after she bowed in greeting to him. The Old One gave her a brief nod and focused back on the blonde. He was very curious to see if the Toads had kept their word and trained the boy as he desired. The fate of the world depended on him and his own summoner. The two had too much weight on their shoulders and could not afford any shortcomings. It was just wise foresight on his part that he sent Kikyo out on a private mission to locate the Child of Prophecy and learn all she could. He had been anxious to learn more about the boy he had foreseen his summoner aiding in the coming darkness. Imagine his surprise that the one chosen of destiny was in fact an underdeveloped, undertrained orphan.

The rage that overcame him forced him to retreat quickly to the volcano to vent his anger at the incompetents of humans. The boy that was chosen to save the entire world was being treated like scum! Kikyo had secretly infiltrated the village, never telling Hinata under his orders, while she learned the boy's history and how he was trained. It was a piss poor job entirely. It seemed because of the ignorant hatred humans had about things they did not understand, they allowed the boy to grow up alone and almost completely useless, even when the boy had proven to have a tenacious spirit to prove himself and work to the bone, he had so much potential…and still the humans treated him like he was some vermin for them to step on.

The Old One could not allow that to continue. This was why he personally went to visit the Toads; the first to have the vision that prophesied the dark conflict coming to swallow all in its path. It was then he learned their own summoner was actually taking over the boy's training, and at first he was pleased with it, but after another secret report from Kikyo giving in detail the Sannin's training method, the Old One almost killed the Sannin for his stupidity. He confronted the Toads once more and demanded they get their lazy summoner to do his job properly or he would set ablaze their entire mountain. It was a brash threat on his part, but one he could carry out should his wishes be denied. The Toads had been wise to heed his threat and from what Kikyo had informed him, the well-known pervert Sannin had gotten his ass literally handed to him by Gamabunta personally to see that the boy was given the proper training he was denied out of spite.

Now he was going to see if the human and the Toads did as he desired…if not, then his people were going to see just how good roasted toad legs tasted.

Apparently, the Toad Boss knew exactly what the Old One was thinking as he slapped his webbed foot against the side of the stadium, shaking it some and scaring the hell out of the unsuspecting people. "Don't hold anything back, Naruto! As your boss, I order you to beat the snot out of your opponent, even if she is a girl!"

Naruto sweatdropped and looked up at the Toad. "Whoa, you're coldhearted, Gamabunta."

"You're not just fighting to win. You're fighting for the honor of Mt. Myoboko's as one of our Sages!" Gamabunta roared.

"Yeah, yeah…" Naruto replied offhandedly, waving a dismissive hand at the toad, then grew serious when he nodded to Hinata. "Sorry for the little delay. I know the match started but thanks for being so patient."

"It's all right. I'm glad I did as I see now why you wished not to use our summons. They'd demolish this stadium before they could even land a hit and that would just hurt too many people," Hinata said, but she started to clinch her fists and her knuckles popped very loudly as she started to form a fighting stance. "Let's just see who might have had the better Sage-training."

Naruto chuckled and flashed a foxy grin. "Sounds good to me!" He crossed his index fingers and suddenly was surrounded by five kage bunshin.

Hinata raised a shocked eyebrow. "Those bunshin, they're solid!"

"Yep, and they dish out real damage, so heads up!" Naruto warned, shocking the crowd that he was actually revealing his techniques' ability to his opponent, only to sigh as they remembered just who they were talking about. Naruto was the most unpredictable shinobi in Konoha, but one thing that he always did was show off, and it seemed he hadn't yet learned to stop doing that.

Sakura was frowning at his poor judgment. She had hoped that he would at least learn a little while training with the Great Jiraiya; silly her to think he'd actually get something right. "That baka…"

She watched as the bunshin all attacked Hinata, only the real Naruto hanged back with that cocky grin on his face. Hinata wasn't sure what he was planning, making only his bunshin attack her while he hanged back. She figured he was doing so to ready another attack, so she needed to finish off these bunshin quickly. Raising both her hands, the clones that rushed her immediately were repelled when trying to land direct hits on her. As soon as they were struck by the invisible force, they poofed out of existence, but before she could do anything else, more bunshin attacked her and she was forced to dodge their attacks. After a few moments, she used the same force that knocked away the first wave, but as she destroyed them, more bunshin attacked her right after them.

"What the hell is that baka doing?" Sakura grumbled impatiently. "He's just wasting time sending his bunshin to attack her…she's knocking them away as soon as he makes them."

"Obviously, you're not looking close enough," a voice said behind her.

Sakura jerked around to see Shikamaru moving to take a seat next to her. With him was Temari who sat down on his other side.

"Oh, hey you guys! I was wondering where you two were!" Sakura greeted.

"Humph," Temari replied, not giving the pinkette a greeting in reply.

"Huh?" Sakura uttered in confusion.

Shikamaru sighed and rolled his eyes lazily. "She's not happy with how you talked about Naruto, so she's not going to talk to you. Anyway, we've been here the whole time. I just figured this was a safer spot to sit since that huge summon almost wacked us over the head with its claws."

"What is that thing, anyway?" Sakura wondered looking up at the huge horned creature.

"It's an Ifrit. It's a creature that was thought to be legend. My clan's got a few scrolls that talks about them, but all that is mentioned is that they're very bad-tempered and can incinerate almost anything with their fire," Shikamaru humored her enough to answer the lame question. "As to the other one you haven't asked me, the answer is that Naruto is testing a theory."

"Naruto…has a theory? Really?" Sakura deadpanned.

"Knock off the attitude, you've yet to realize the great change in Naruto like the rest of us have," Shikamaru actually growled back. He then pointed down at the arena. "Look very carefully. See what happens every time that Hinata girl uses that weird force to push away the bunshin?"

Sakura humored him enough to study the lame strategy Naruto was using, watching as more and more of his bunshin were being destroyed. "He's just wasting chakra on those stupid bunshin…wait!"

"Finally some sun shines on that large forehead of yours," Temari mumbled under her breath. She really did not want to be sitting near the loud girl, not after how she dissed her own teammate and her little brother's first friend.

Sakura shot a glare at the Suna fan-user, but before she could say anything, Shikamaru cut in before the situation became more…troublesome.

"See it now? Every time she uses that force there's a lapse time between her uses of it. Naruto is trying to determine just how long it takes Hinata to recover before she can use that attack again. If he goes in himself, he'll just fall victim to it and leave himself exposed to any finishing move she might use," Shikamaru explained as he rubbed his chin. "Hmm, from what I've been able to tell…it looks like she has to wait five seconds before she can use it to repel anything."

"What good will that do? If she can recover in five seconds then what hope does he have in getting close enough to do any damage to her?" Sakura questioned.

"And you were considered the top kunoichi of our class…pathetic. Use your brain for something other than daydreaming. Every second can matter in a battle. If Naruto can use the exact time, then he can plan a proper method of attack," Shikamaru continued bluntly.

"In other words, rather than risk getting his ass handed to him like the other fighters, Naruto is using his trademark move to find a weakness in her defense," Temari added, not believing this girl could not realize the simple truth. Was she really that oblivious or when it came to her teammate, she just forced herself to be ignorant rather than accept the truth that her teammate was stronger than she thought?

Shikamaru kept quiet after Temari spoke. It was pointless to try and explain anything to the pinkette. Obviously she was still stuck in the past with her opinions, that was fine. He along with some of the few who really called themselves Naruto's friends were expecting to see the blonde improve where the Academy failed to do. It was no secret to the shadow-user. He saw the way the teachers and the adults treated Naruto, and saw some of the tests and exams they forced on him. They were far too complicated from the lessons they were taught in class. There was no way Naruto could have solved them back then, and he knew the teachers would get away with it as the blonde had given up a long time ago of paying attention to the lessons.

Then the passing exams to become a genin. Their class was given a completely different kind of exam than other classes were set to take. The clincher was that their class was the only one that required to perform a simple bunshin…Naruto's greatest weakness back then. He learned this after the few conversations he had with a mutual friend of his and Naruto's: Rock Lee.

He was the physical proof that the Academy had rigged something. If it was truly required for all students to perform a perfect bunshin, then Rock Lee should have never been allowed to enter the Academy. Due to a special condition that prevents him from using chakra, he technically never should have tried becoming a shinobi. He had no talent save in Taijutsu and yet he was allowed to graduate. It only raised more questions in the Nara and he did some investigation of his own and learned that quite a bit of the Academy had been influenced by non-shinobi members of the council. They had purposely lowered the bar to allow their children to be able to pass to become shinobi, but when time came for Naruto when he entered, they used their power to hinder what they could subtlety without rising suspicion with the Hokage.

Shikamaru had brought this forward to his father, Shikaku, and was shocked to learn that he knew all along. He and his two old teammates, the head leaders of the Yamanaka and Akimichi clan, were fighting to regain control of the Academy from the civilians and fix the damage they were unknowingly doing to their own children. It was simple logic that a civilian could not train a shinobi. Only a veteran shinobi could teach what aspiring genin would need to survive the harsh, bloody world they were entering. But the power that the civilians had been gaining ever since the Sandaime retook his position after the Yondaime had died…would not be given up willingly.

The non-shinobi residence of Konoha had been slowly trying to warp the village to fit their comfort zones. They wanted rights but at the cost of taking away those rights from shinobi. They wanted their kids to gain top positions, but they weren't willing to put the children through enough hardship to ready them for the cruel life that comes from living in a military run village. What was more was that they were picking favorites…the biggest sign was the traitor Uchiha Sasuke. They were so afraid of losing the Sharingan after the massacre that they had seen that Sasuke was given the best chances, the best tutors, and always had the best food to keep him healthy.

It was sidle how they made the Uchiha's life nice in the village, and in Shikamaru's opinion, it was only fitting that things had gone the way they did. Pure irony, but it was a good slap in the citizen's face when their prized Uchiha turned on the entire village.

Shikamaru smirked inwardly but he would have enjoyed it more had he not led the retrieval team that failed in re-capturing the Uchiha. He hated that he had failed his first task as a chunin at that time, how almost all his teammates had nearly died, and how none of them were able to back up Naruto when he confronted Sasuke. It took some time, and some help from his teammate Ino once she began working on being a Medic-nin herself that he was able to pull up Naruto's hospital file. The boy should not still be alive…

The damage that had been inflicted on him would have killed anyone else. Sasuke had truly tried to kill his own teammate and his best friend, just to show he had truly severed his ties to the village. Yet, Naruto lived…

There were factors that weren't being told and when Shikamaru asked his father if he could fill in some of these holes, his old man only smirked and said, "You'd have to ask Naruto…"

Shikamaru and all of Naruto's 'real' friends had been pulling for him, hoping that his training trip with the Great Jiraiya would pay off, and now it seems it had.

Naruto was not making any of the rookie mistakes he once did when they were younger. He was eyeing down his target with a tactical look that made the Nara very curious to what he might be thinking. He continued to send his endless army of bunshin at the Fire Sage, testing her time limit over and over again. Each time there was a five second delay before Hinata unleashed that strange invisible force. It seemed that Hinata was starting to realize Naruto found out about the time gap, as she decided to stop messing around with the bunshin anymore. Dashing herself right into the middle of the next wave of bunshin, she unleashed that invisible force and destroyed them all, and then charged directly at Naruto with her fist cocked back.

The blonde smirked at her as she came right for him and let the fist slam right into his face. This might have been end game…had Naruto not burst into a poof of smoke like a bunshin.

"What the?" Hinata blinked, then sharply looked up at the top of the giant toad's head, only to see Naruto sitting there and smirking down at her. "It's been a bunshin from the start?"

"Yeah, sorry. I hid myself after I summoned Gamabunta and let the clone do all the talking for me. I wanted to buy some time as you seem to keep ending all your matches so quickly!" Naruto shouted back and leapt off the Toad Boss's head. "But now I think it's time I took this seriously," he added after he landed down and folded his arms across his chest.

"I'd say I'd be insulted that you weren't from the start, but you're the first one to try and weasel out enough time to learn my technique's weakness," Hinata smirked. "I wonder how you plan on making good use of that five second relapse…"

"I'll be sure to make good use of that time," Naruto said after shooting a wink her way.

Hinata tried to keep from blushing, taking that moment to brush of her long locks away from her face to hide her redden cheeks. "Then I guess I'll need to change tactics."

"Bring it!" Naruto challenged and grinned widely at her.

Hinata smirked and vanished from sight, having with the amazing speed that took Neji by surprise and appeared right behind Naruto. A fist shot out to land a punch right where his left kidney was, but as she launched the fist, Naruto had disappeared himself in the same manner as her and was standing beside her with a kunai in his hand going for her neck. She used her invisible force as soon as she sensed the attack, to blow him away, but the Naruto that was going to stab her vanished in a poof of smoke and she had only a moment to duck down before a foot knocked the back of her head. Not bothering to look behind her, she swiped out her right leg in an arc pattern and wasn't surprised when she didn't hit anything.

A flaming aura surrounded her body and blasted a wave of heat. This had been good because had she not done that, she would have been slashed in the back as Naruto came down over her after he jumped out of her leg's reach. Not expecting another form of force to knock him aside, Naruto flew through the air helplessly, until two clones appeared out of nowhere and caught him in midair and helped him land safely on his feet. His coat was slightly smoking from where some of the material had started to burn and he quickly put himself out as fast as he could.

"Man! I just got this coat!" Naruto complained as put out the last bit of smoke.

"Sorry but when I use that particular move…I can't be held responsible for what gets burnt," Hinata said with a wink.

Naruto's mood instantly switched as he smirked at her with his biggest foxy grin. "Is that a fact? Then you might wanna look at your feet."

Hinata quickly looked down and saw a litter of explosive tags that were burning up. "When did he?" She barely had time to shield her face as the flames finally got to the explosive seals on the tags and detonated all around her. There was no time to use her All-Mighty Push Jutsu. She disappeared in a plume of black smoke and flames and the crowd gasped at the large explosion that should have only been a little one.

Sakura ducked down from her seat, screaming, "What the hell did that baka do to those explosive tags?!"

"Troublesome…He made them more deadly, you nit!" Shikamaru actually yelled at her, having pulled Temari down and using his body to shield her from the shockwave and heat from the explosion.

After the destructive carnage and everyone recovered from the initial shock, they looked back toward the burning arena and saw something extraordinary. The column of smoke and fire that should have been dominating most of the area was starting to spiral up like a tornado. It continued to spin, heating up the entire stadium, and then the burning tornado started to dissipate. At its core was Hinata, her hair flying freely above her, her Rinnegan blazing bright as her hands were up above her as the remnants of the fire were sucked into her palms. Surrounding her was that fiery aura and it only looked stronger than ever before.

All the way back on top of the Toad Boss's head was Naruto, and he was staring at her in a very intense way, then he said, "So you're able to take any fire and use it to your advantage, hmm?"

Hinata, her power blazing around her, giving her an ethereal beauty like none anyone ever could imagine, looked up at Naruto with a look of pure confidence, then stated simply, "I'm the Fire Sage."

Something suddenly stirred in Naruto. That look in her eyes, that intense fire burning deep in her ringed eyes, he actually see she was practically yearning for this fight. Deep inside…so was Naruto and he was starting to see something else he liked in her eyes. "Hey, Hinata! How about we add a bit more spice to this!"

"I'm all ears!" Hinata said, slamming her fist into her palm.

"If you win this match, I'll take you out on a date wherever you wanna go! If I win…you show me how to use that awesome fire aura thingy you're using!" Naruto said, inwardly smirking.

People did not realize it but Naruto had actually expected the reaction that came from her. Rather than looking ticked that he would force a date out of her, her eyes shined with a new desire and her face beamed with excitement. "You mean it!? When I win, you wanna go on a date with me?"

"Yeah, you heard right, I…Wait, when you win? Oh crap!" Naruto jumped from his supposed safe spot on the Toad Boss's head when Hinata leapt up, showing an incredible burst of speed, right up to him and appeared right in front of him, her fist already swinging out to punch him.

"I'm gonna win that date!" Hinata declared.

Naruto barely had time to dodge the attack, as it was, he felt his cheek almost burning from the aura surrounding Hinata's arm as he got his head out of its path. Hinata did not let that stop her as she started to spin when her first attack did not land and brought her elbow around to smash against his face. It seemed she actually hade Naruto at that moment as her elbow just faintly touched the tip of his nose. But she caught his grin as he suddenly surrounded in a golden aura and vanished, once again evading her attack. There was a blink of golden light in the middle of the burnt arena…followed by a great hush from every single person in the stadium.

"…D-Did Naruto just use the Hiraishin?" Tsunade uttered in total disbelief, looking squarely at the smirking blonde. "W-When did he learn that? How the hell did he learn that?"

Jiraiya was the only one not sharing everyone's flabbergasted expression. "So she made him use that, huh? That girl really is at our level if she managed to make him use his father's jutsu."

"Jiraiya, explain now!" Tsunade ordered.

Jiraiya waved his hand at her. "Calm down, hime. I didn't teach the brat that…he learned it all on his own. It seems to be a family trait."

"Y-You mean, he re-invented the Hiraishin all on his own?" Tsunade exclaimed. She looked at her adoptive little brother in a whole new light. He boy was indeed everything like this father and more. If nothing else the fact that he was able to perform the Hiraishin without any seals or kunai like Minato would do with his signature technique made Naruto a very powerful shinobi.

Jiraiya just smirked bigger. "Yep, the brat's got his father's talent, after all…I never even suggested it to him. He just did it on his own and like he did with the Rasengan, he made it better."

"He improved the Rasengan, too?!" Tsunade said in flabbergast.

"If I tell you how, do I get a prize?" Jiraiya teased.

Tsunade blushed some. Oh, she could guess what kind of prize the damn pervert was thinking. "I doubt Naruto could improve on the Rasengan…it's already a very powerful jutsu."

"Let's make a bet then," Jiraiya said with a familiar twinkle in his eye. "If Naruto shows off his new and improved Rasengan…I get a very nice prize when we've got a moment of privacy."

Tsunade just stared at him. She knew he had some balls….but to actually make a bet…it made Tsunade very scared of what Naruto really has achieved during his training trip. What was more, Jiraiya had played on an old weakness of hers. Her addiction to gamble. It had been very long since she had made a gamble…over anything…and it burned in her blood more than any amount of alcohol ever could. She couldn't help herself.

"…And what do I get if I win this bet?" Tsunade conceded.

The old Toad hermit's nostrils flared as he already looked to be planning on what he wanted for his 'prize'. "I'll destroy every note I've ever written. I'll end the entire Icha Icha series for good."

Somewhere in the Infirmary located in the Stadium, a horrified scream cried out in horror.

Naruto looked around with a raised eyebrow. "Kakashi-sensei?"

Tsunade stared wide-eyed at her old teammate. He really was going to put his entire life's work on the line? Just what did he know that Tsunade didn't? She knew she was being suckered into a bet she could not hope to win….but her hips squirmed and her heart would not stop racing.

"You're on," Tsunade blurted out, no longer able to resist the temptation.

Jiraiya's eyes grew as big as sake saucers. He really never expected Tsunade to give in to his bet. It really was just a joke on his part, but seeing that burning gleam in her eyes, that excitement he only saw her when she was one the edge of a kunai and riding on a bet made her look younger than any genjutsu she could have ever used to make her beautiful.

"YATTA!" Jiraiya cheered and cupped his hands over his mouth and started to shout. "Naruto! For the love of your sensei, the man that taught you to be the coolest shinobi in all of the Elemental Nations and for the love of Kami! USE THAT NEW RASENGAN!"

Naruto looked at his sensei and just muttered. "…No."

Jiraiya literally fell out of his seat. "Nani?! Why, for the love of all hentai, why?"

Naruto looked back up at Hinata who had jumped back down into the arena and took on her fighting pose. "Because I'm not ready to end this fight yet."

Jiraiya recovered and stared in realization. "…I never would have thought it possible."

Tsunade blinked. She had expected Jiraiya to now be panicking over the fact Naruto wasn't going to win their bet for him. "What are you talking about?"

"That girl…she got our gaki intrigued," Jiraiya said, smiling in a manner that should he was indeed as wise as he was strong.

Now it was Tsunade's turn to smirk. "I never would have believed it…" Inside a chibi Tsunade was doing cartwheels and waving her little arms around in celebration. Her little gaki had finally broken away from his childhood crush on Sakura and found someone that was actually interested in him. Her musing ended when her senses were suddenly overloaded with an immense source of chakra. Turning her attention to the arena, she focused right on Naruto and saw something very different from him. "What…happened to his eyes?"

Naruto stood before Hinata and at some point his eyes had shifted from their brilliant blue orbs...to yellow ones with flat irises much similar to those of a toad. Just above his eyes red eye-shadow markings appear, giving him a more intimidating glare as he now focused on Hinata with a piercing determination. That look was back by a very powerful sense of chakra beyond anything Naruto had ever emitted. It wasn't really his own…and it wasn't the Kyuubi's…this was thicker, denser.

"That, my dear hime, is the perfect form of a Toad Sage in Sage-mode," Jiraiya answered, cutting into her observation. "He did what even myself or his father couldn't achieve…he really is the most surprising shinobi in the world."

Tsunade was very proud right then of her little gaki. Finally, he was starting to come into his own and he was showing the world he was not the dead-last as everyone kept labeling him as. Just that feat alone put him at a level far beyond jonin or Anbu. Such an imposing presence came from the boy that she was reminded of her grandfather, the Shodaime.

"That gaki…I'll always be surprised by him," Tsunade whispered to herself.

Hinata was warier now. She was familiar with what Naruto had just done. He activated his Sage-mode, having called upon nature-chakra to implore it. It was very impressive and seeing not a single disfiguration on his body showed he had mastered it fully. Seeing that he was actually getting serious…it was time for Hinata to show him in kind that she was, too.

"Two can play at that game," was her only warning when she slammed both her fists together and was suddenly surrounded by white-hot flames.

Naruto, having thought he was pretty badass after showing off both his version of the Hiraishin and his Sage-mode was floored back by the display of power. He was forced to shield his eyes from the blinding intensity of the white flames, as were everyone else who was trying to watch the spectacle. Up on his perch on the Stadium, the Old One smirked. Gamabunta noticed it and started to feel very worried by it. For an ancient being like the Old One to have that look on his muzzle could only spell trouble for Naruto. It took some time but he managed to gaze through the white flames and saw the shadowed figure of the girl. He only realized he was able to see because the flames were starting to die down and reveal what had just happened.

Hinata had activated her Sage-Mode.

Unlike Naruto whose eyes were the only thing that changed, Hinata was more obvious. Her creamy pale skin was now deeply tanned, making the same skin pigment as an Ifrit and curved around her horned head-protector…was another set of horns, azure in color and very much like the Old One's set. Around her eyes and face were neon-red glowing tribal markings that traveled from her face down her neck and round what little of her chest was exposed with what her fishnet shirt revealed. When she opened her eyes, she showed her Rinnegan had also undergone a remarkable change. In place of their purple hue, they now burned molten orange, the black rings in them were almost drowned out in their glow.

She sighed to herself in a way that seemed to give her great satisfaction and as he did, a wisp of smoke escaped past her lips. She started stretching out her arms and shifted her hips slightly to the left. Naruto who had finally managed to see again had caught the gesture and couldn't help himself by drool slightly at the imposing sexy creature now before him. "Whoa…you're hot."

"I know…" Hinata said huskily, her eyes burning with more than chakra. "And I'm about to get hotter."

"Can't wait to see that!" Naruto replied and fell into a taijutsu style that was taught to him by the Toads and Jiraiya.

"Ready or not…" Hinata whispered and yet her voice carried everywhere. "…Here I…"

In a burst of fire she was right behind Naruto, an arm grappled around his neck and a hand stroking his blonde locks teasingly. "Come…" she finished in his ear.

"Argh!" Naruto cried out as her arm tightened around his neck, revealing a steel-like strength in her arm.

Normal instincts would have made someone try and reach up to pull the choking arm of their assailant off, but Naruto had been trained by the best and he didn't do anything normal. Digging the balls of his feet into the ground, he leaned forward to make Hinata think he was going to try throwing her over him, but really it was a feint to allow him to get his legs bent better so he could perform a backflip. She hadn't expected him to actually do a backflip while in a choke-hold and that had loosened her grip unconsciously to let Naruto get his hands on her shoulders to support his momentum and landed behind her. Now fueled with nature-chakra to increase all his strength and his speed, Naruto held onto Hinata's shoulders as he brought up his knee to small into her spine.

His knee was halted when Hinata brought up the foot behind her, revealing just how flexible her body was and that her new form did nothing to hamper it. She pushed his knee away and herself out of his grip and leapt away to get enough distance to turn around and smile at Naruto before her mouth suddenly started to glow red. Seeing the impeding danger, Naruto used the Hiraishin to teleport away when Hinata opened her mouth and breathed out a cone of red fire. He reappeared in a golden blink to the far side of where he once stood and watched how much damage her fire-breath caused.

Her attack had expanded like a giant flamethrower. Where it touched the ground, it instantly melted and liquefied the ground and burned a hole clean through the concrete wall of the arena. The attack looked endless until Hinata closed her mouth and turned her gaze toward Naruto, looking too calm after that display of power. Naruto just grinned and wiped the side of his nose cockily.

"Nice trick, let me show you mine," Naruto said and then started tapping to his other source of chakra…the Kyuubi's.

There was no fight for it as the red chakra started to pool into his chakra coils and he focused it into his lungs as he started to take a deep breath. Hinata wasn't sure what he was doing until she saw the strange chakra focusing into his chest and throat. Naruto's canines started to extend a side-effect of tapping the Bijuu's chakra as his whisker-marks started to darken and he opened his mouth wide as he let out a deafening roar. From deep in his throat, a blast of chakra charged wind expelled from his mouth and thrashed through the air in one concentrated blast. Hinata brought up her arms to shield herself from the attack and was shocked when the blast actually threw her off her feet and sent her flying.

She screamed for a brief moment until using her gifted flexibility to twist around in the air, much like a cat, and angled herself better to land back on her feet. Around her where the blast continued to travel, it kicked up huge clouds of dust and impacted against the other side of the arena, cracking the wall and created a round crater in its surface. As if that wasn't enough of a display of power, Naruto glowed golden before he blinked out of sight and appeared above Hinata and let out another blasting roar. Hinata was ready this time, locking onto the nature-chakra Naruto was now using and let out another cone of flames from her mouth. The two forces collided and the mixture of wind and fire created a combustive force that knocked the two combatants back.

Hinata managed to roll back onto her feet and launch another attack. From her fists, pools of flames drawn from the explosion formed into orbs, expanding to great sizes as she pumped more chakra into them. Spinning on the ball of her left foot, she twirled her body in two quick fluid motions as she tossed the two giant fiery orbs in the direction she saw Naruto fly to. They zeroed in on him like homing missiles, being directed to target his chakra signature and zoomed in to unleash their destructive force on him.

"Chō Ōdama Rasengan!" Naruto's voice exploded through the plumes of smoke.

From the blanketing smoke a massive, almost impossibly huge Rasengan expanded out, knocking away the smoke. The oversized Rasengan's size acted as a shield and forced the fiery orbs to explode pre-maturely. Hinata stared in awe at the size of his attack and felt her legs started to buck, the only physical evidences that she had gotten extremely excited by the show of power. One of the side-effects of using her Fire Sage-mode was that it tapped into her more primal instincts; the part of her mind that was more animal than human and seeing such a display of power from Naruto revealed he was very strong…and potential…alpha in her mind.

Up in her stand, Tsunade was floored by the massive sized Rasengan, and feeling she just lost her bet. "…Damn it…I thought I might have a chance of winning there for a moment," she muttered.

"Don't count yourself out yet. That's not the completed Rasengan he should be USING!" Jiraiya revealed, shouting that last part of his sentence directly at Naruto.

Tsunade almost felt her eyes pop out of her skull. "You mean, that's just a normal Rasengan?"

"Yep, the best is still to come," Jiraiya revealed.

"Fuck me…" Tsunade uttered without thinking.

"I'm still deciding on that," Jiraiya retorted quietly so only she could hear.

Tsunade flinched at his words and really wanted to pummel him for making that wise-crack, but if he indeed won the bet…she'd have no choice if that was what he wanted as his consolation prize. Jiraiya just continued to smile, letting his teammate think of her own scenario. She could do a far better job of wondering what he was toying with in his mind than he could imply. The two older Sannin returned their attention to the match.

Naruto sailed through the air with his oversized Rasengan, drilling the ground where it touched as it worked its way straight toward Hinata. Not about to back down, Hinata raised up her hands and looked as if she was actually going to catch the massive ball of spiraling chakra.

"Is she insane!? She'll grind her hands right off if she touches that thing!" Sakura yelled.

Temari almost agreed with the pinkette, until she saw Shikamaru smirking. "What is she planning on doing?"

"Same thing she did with Neji…she's planning to absorb it," the lazy Nara prodigy said simply.

And true to his words, when the massive Rasengan touched Hinata's hands, her body was surrounded with chakra and the Rasengan stopped moving and it started to shrink in size. Understanding what she was doing, Naruto stopped channeling the Rasengan and Hiraishin'ed away from here to gain a tactical distance. He appeared where the melting hole Hinata had created and looked even more determined than before.

"I didn't think I'd have to use this since I was afraid it might end this match, but I think I got no other choice," Naruto said and then showed everyone that he could create a Rasengan singlehandedly.

"You're using the same attack?" Hinata said, looking slightly disappointed.

"Oh, just give me a sec. You'll like what I'm about to do!" Naruto said and from his side, another bunshin appeared and placed its hands over the spiraling orb. This was similar to Naruto's old method of activating a Rasengan but something was vastly different. The bunshin wasn't helping to make it stable; it was channeling something into it.

It wasn't until the wind started to kick up around Naruto and swirl around his Rasengan did everyone with a trained-eye realized that Naruto was channeling wind chakra into his attack, creating a whole different kind of attack as the Rasengan started to take on a different form. Four-blade like manifestations of wind chakra began to spin around the orb, creating a large shuriken-like weapon in Naruto's hands. It spun rapidly and made a humming sound as it sliced the air. Naruto pulled the hand back that held the wind-charged Rasengan…and to everyone's amazement and sealing Tsunade losing the bet…Naruto tossed it like a real shuriken right at Hinata.

As he did, Naruto announced his attack. "Rasenshuriken!"

Hinata was excited once again that Naruto pulled another move to impress her, but sadly, it was going to end the same way as his last attack. Getting ready to catch the spinning chakra shuriken, she was preparing her Petra Path to absorb it, when suddenly the Old One shouted out at her.

"Dodge it, Hinata!"

Not questioning his command, Hinata quickly channeled chakra into her legs and jumped as high as could right over the Rasenshuriken. She looked over her shoulder to watch it impact the stadium wall and gasped in shock when the entire wall was liked as if millions of blades had sliced into it. The attack was so powerful, almost that entire side of the stadium started to crumble in on itself from the weakened integrity of the wall. It unfortunately forced everyone who had been sitting on that side of the Stadium to flee for their lives as their seats literally fell out from under them. Thankfully, everyone had managed to get to a stable part of the stadium, having been aided by fast-acting Anbu who leapt into action and grabbed the slow genins who almost were buried alive.

Naruto stared at what he did, looking very worried and very pale. "Whoops…"

"Whoops? That's all you can say, you baka! What were you thinking?" Sakura shrieked, having been one of the few that were forced to run from her seat.

"Uh, heh heh! I thought Hinata might be able to block it or counter it somehow," Naruto said sheepishly.

"I'm going to kick your ass when I get down there!" Sakura promised, only to fall down unconscious after Temari had lost her last nerved and hand chopped the pinkette behind the neck.

"How the fuck does anyone stand her yelling all the time?" Temari asked no one in particular.

Shikamaru and everyone who heard her just shrugged.

Tsunade could not believe the destructive power of Naruto's attack. Truly, he had mastered the Rasengan where his father hadn't been able to. But seeing how they only had half a stadium left, she was forced to end this match just in case the two accidentally destroyed the rest of the stadium. "Seeing as we're going a new level here…more than this old stadium can handle, we'll have to call this match a draw and as Hinata had won three out four of her matches and shown her sage abilities, I can now state that she is indeed a Sage and will be treated as one from this day forward.

Hinata wasn't happy about the declared draw. She wanted to continue fighting. Her blood was boiling for more action and she wanted to see if she could defeat Naruto. This was only the start of their fight as far as she was concerned and planned for it to keep going on, until one of them was the victor…But then a massive explosion echoed up from somewhere in the village. It rocked the stadium and those that weren't expecting it screamed in fear.

Tsunade shot up from her seat and looked to the neared shinobi. "Report!"

One jonin, who had his hand to an ear-piece he was currently listening to, looked back to the Godaime and looked very scared to report. "…G-Godaime, I beg to report…one of the apartment buildings in the old district was blown up."

"…Apartment building? Why would…" Tsunade's eyes narrowed in fury. "Naruto's apartment building?"

The poor jonin who was already praying to Kami nodded his head, expecting the worst from the angry Sannin.

"Oh Kami…" Tsunade whispered and looked at Naruto who looked up at her curiously in turn. "Naruto…someone just destroyed your home."

xXx