"O-Oh, um hi, N-Naruto" She was pressing her fingers together the whole time she talked, refusing to meet Naruto's surprisingly penetrating gaze. His cerulean blue eyes tried to lock onto Hinata's paler lavender ones but they darted around too quickly and he gave up trying. He was wondering what the girl was doing so far out of the village so late. He had seen her a few times in his class but hadn't talked to her much. Mostly she just seemed shy and in his opinion, a little weird.
"Hinata, what are you doing out here?" He knew he really didn't have a right to ask her that considering he too was out but he needed to hurry the conversation along before the ANBU or other shinobi could catch his trail.
"Oh, um, I-I was t-training" Naruto's brow furrowed, he thought he was the only one who actually trained outside of school time but he guessed there were others as well. He was suddenly caught off guard as Hinata gained a sudden burst of fleeting confidence.
"W-What are y-you doing out h-here?" He gulped, not sure whether or not to actually tell the truth or not. Honestly he didn't have a real excuse for his actions, a rather large oversight on his and the Kyuubi's part. He hadn't known Hinata nearly long enough to know whether or not he could trust her. In a split second decision he figured it wouldn't matter anyway as he was still leaving.
"I'm leaving the village." Hinata's eyes widened; something that looked strange with her already rather large eyes. All the confidence was drained out of her with that statement and her whole world was rocked, Naruto was giving up? At least that was how her mind connected the dots. Seeing the girl in front of him almost short-circuit from his explanation he continued, the silence becoming awkward. At least he was about to until Hinata seemed to reawaken and look at him, her eyes shimmering in a way that Naruto just thought was a trick of the light.
"B-But why?" Naruto paused, the way she said it made it sound like she actually cared; it was a new sensation for the young boy.
"I needed a change of scenery" he couldn't help the old mask slipping back on; it just tended to happen as a reflex around his peers. He said it with a false grin but upon seeing Hinata's slightly shocked and partly disbelieving face he dropped it again, taking on a more serious face. "I have my reasons Hinata" She nodded, mostly out of practise for whenever somebody said anything to her in that same serious tone, especially her father.
She had of course seen the way Naruto was treated in the village and for a while she had assumed it was because of his pranks or maybe something he had done in the past. Except it seemed to go beyond that, to something much deeper that couldn't possibly have earned Naruto the ire of the entire village in his short life. It was a mystery to the Hyuuga Heiress, one she had hoped to unravel as the two became friends and she now saw that chance slipping through her fingers.
"W-Where are y-you going?" No, that wasn't what she was supposed to ask, why did she do that? Naruto was about to answer the question before Kyuubi's voice rang out in his head quickly.
"Stop Naruto, you can't tell anybody where you're going or they'll be able to track you and take you back." Naruto firmly shut his mouth on the answer he had been about to foolishly give away. Hinata may have seemed nice but she was still a part of Konoha and right now that meant he couldn't trust her, at least not completely.
"Um, I can't tell you that Hinata." The girl had noticed the pause between what he had been about to say and what he had eventually replied with. It was like before when he had first spotted her; like he was hearing one part of a conversation Hinata wasn't privy to.
"Are y-you ever c-coming back?" Again Hinata screamed at herself inside; that wasn't what she was supposed to say. She had firmly told herself to ask him to stay, to reconsider and just come back to the village before he got in trouble. Technically he was an academy student, not a shinobi yet, so he wouldn't be counted as a missing-nin but if he was caught outside of the village so late he would be punished.
"I don't know." The answer was completely honest, Naruto honestly had no idea. The whole point was to go out and make his own life somewhere new, somewhere that wouldn't treat him unfairly or put him down. If that meant he could someday return then he might; but first he had to get away, at least for now. He didn't let it show just how much this conversation was paining him, reminding him of the village, his home and everything good about his life so far. Surprisingly it was the soothing word of the Kyuubi that entered his mind with these thoughts.
"It's going to be alright Kit, I promise" His resolve strengthened with the kind words and he mentally smiled for what he realised was his first true friend after the Hokage. He looked at Hinata as she appeared to be in deep thought, her eyes flicking back and forth between two points on the ground which would have shown somebody with the emotional sensitivity greater than a teaspoon that she was internally conflicted. As it was, Naruto only saw somebody hesitating around him, silence and awkwardness; something he was all too familiar with.
He put his hand up at Hinata and began to walk off down the path again only for her to grab his arm and pull lightly. He turned, expectantly waiting what she was going to say but even though her mouth was opened slightly, no words came out. He sighed and pulled away from her grasp; his hopes had been raised slightly by the encounter but now he was back to normal. Hinata watched his retreating figure, her mouth still open as her mind fought for dominance over the mouth that her shyness had firm control over. Finally she broke down her barrier but it was too late, Naruto was too far gone.
"Naruto." It came out as nothing more than a squeak; so quiet that it might have been mistaken for the wind.
The conversation with Hinata had slowed Naruto down considerably so now he was jogging away from the village. It left little time for thoughts but even so, he couldn't help but remember all the good feelings that Hinata's words had invoked in him. It was already dark when he had left the village and the starless night was making it difficult to see more than twenty or so feet in front of him. In retrospect he should have rested more before his escape but he could hardly dwell on the past now.
Even so, he was a seven year old boy and it was late, already the veil of sleep was beginning to descend over his eyes. Bar one training exercise from the academy Naruto had very little experience with the outdoors; that wasn't to say he hadn't learned anything about surviving. It was merely a new medium to test his skills in and internally, much to his occupant's amusement, he was considering all of this a challenge.
A tent was too bulky for him to lug around, his small body wasn't yet built to carry heavy loads. The best he could do when the exhaustion on his body became too great was to climb up a tree and pull a blanket over himself after securing himself tightly with a length of rope. It was a trick he had learnt on one of his more successful flights from the villagers when he couldn't come down from the tree he had been hiding in. Back then he had used his shirt, cut into strips, in order to stay on but the rope just made this easier.
It was an understandably cold night, being late autumn, and Naruto first found it difficult to allow his body to shut down. However after a few comforting words from his tenant and a small amount of waiting to let sleep come he finally descended into the dark.
Hinata sat on her bed staring uncomprehendingly at her bedroom wall. One may have thought she was trying to see through it from the intensity of her gaze, something that was quite possible with her kekkei genkai. However her mind was far from the images her eyes projected, too lost in her own thoughts to even begin to care. All of these turbulent thoughts that swam through her mind and distracted her from her usual sleep focused around one mop-headed boy.
He had left.
That one phrase in particular stood prominent in her thoughts and for good reason. The very reason Hinata had begun to notice and especially admire Naruto was his inability to give up, sometimes to the point of idiocy. Everything that life threw at him he merely took a hold of and peacefully returned it with a smile. It was the single most important trait of the kid which had allowed him to last even this long against the impossible odds of loneliness and hatred.
Hinata kept trying to puzzle it out, kept trying to figure out the ulterior motive, the other way of seeing this that didn't mean her idol had simply given up. However when she did try and take that route her mind simply turned to more saddening thoughts. Her gaze turned inwards, looking at herself and berating harshly her own inability to simply talk to the boy, to ignore her father's warnings and try and make a friend out of him.
She cursed her shyness and blamed herself, unfairly of course, for the fact that Naruto had left at all. She believed it was her own weakness, her own unwillingness to act, even if it meant she could help him and maybe even herself. It was thoughts like these that made her want to break down and weep; she was only kept from doing so by the other thoughts that inhabited the current maelstrom of her mind.
Maybe if she was stronger, maybe if she had said something or did something, then this wouldn't be happening. It was her fault and she truly believed that. She thought of Naruto some more, the way he might have handled the situation in her position, how he might have acted to bring her out of whatever it was she was going through. She knew he would, it was just the way he was; he was so unused to kindness in his own direction that he constantly had to project it outwards to even glimpse at what it felt like, at the cost of his own happiness.
It was a strength she never thought she could have and finally the barrier couldn't hold back anymore, the overwhelming tide of negative emotions burst through and Hinata began to cry. She thanked the protective seals on the walls that prevented her father from looking through into her room and seeing her in this weakened state. He would have berated or punished her, calling her unfit and weak, unworthy of her position as heir.
It was a vicious spiral of thoughts that appeared to have no end to them but end it did when a bright glimmer of hope erupted through the pain and sadness. A blonde image of hope that projected through the crying girl like a beacon, telling her that she could be stronger, that she could better herself. All it would take was some effort, some perseverance and most importantly, determination. Against all odds and despite the fit of tears, that had only seconds before cascaded down her cheeks, the young Hyuuga managed to drift off into surprisingly peaceful sleep with the faintest of smiles adorning her features.
Naruto awoke the same way he always did, early and blearily. Being tied to a tree changed nothing about the way he greeted the mornings, even if it was slightly later than he was used to. Most of the time he would be up promptly at five a.m to squeeze every last drop of the day's potential through training, reading and of course his usual prank or the planning that went into them. With a sigh he realised that, with him leaving the village; that part of his life was behind him.
No more using pranks to gain the attention he so desperately craved; it almost left him with an emptiness he couldn't quite explain. It had been a part of him for so long that it had actually managed to wriggle through his facade and become a part of his life. He shrugged wearily, something that would have looked impressive, being tied up like he was, to an onlooker. As it was, there was nobody about to witness the awakening of the young shinobi in training and he was allowed to continue with his improvised morning routine in peace.
He bathed in a nearby stream, the cold water not even affecting him as he was so used to the cold showers in the morning. Normally he would have worried about some passerby catching him but he was tired and distracted and thought nothing before shedding his clothes and lightly treading water. He got back out and drip-dried, only putting on his boxers in case someone did happen to chance by. He got started on his breakfast, marvelling briefly at the unusual sensation of not having ramen first thing in the morning.
After that, and when he felt he was dry enough, he shoved his clothes back on in a hurry, packed away anything loose that he had used and began to walk down the same path he had arrived here from. He chuckled briefly as he heard the yawn that reverberated around his kind that definitely wasn't his.
"Morning Kyuubi" he heard another yawn before he got his reply.
"What time is it?" Naruto looked about him, then up at the sky to where the sun was beginning its lazy drift across the sky.
"Around seven." He heard an unpleasant groan and a small growl from his travelling companion.
"Why in the world would you wake this early?" Naruto continued to walk at a steady pace, considering her words. He had gotten up as early as possible for as long as he could remember, by now it was merely routine. He shrugged and somehow knew that the old fox had understood the gesture, even though he had said nothing. He heard more mumbled complaints before Kyuubi seemed to wake up properly. "We need to get you on a new schedule, we fox's are nocturnal creatures and it might suit us better to be shrouded by the night as we travel."
"But I can't see in the dark." Naruto heard a chuckle from his companion, a light, tinkling sound that was quite pleasant.
"Don't worry about that" The ancient demon left her statement hanging in the air without further explanation and Naruto didn't bother to ask, knowing that she would tell him when she was ready. It was strange that he barely knew this being yet he felt an intrinsic bond between them as if he had known her his whole life. It was disconcerting and comforting at the same time. They walked on further in silence, just the next stretch of road and the rhythmic sound of his feet on the weathered path.
Finally, after another hour of walking, the trees on either side became thicker and the foliage more dense. They were obviously in another forest, one unfamiliar to Naruto, a feeling he knew he was going to have to get used to; after all travelling was a whole new concept to the boy. He could almost feel the fox in his body examine their surroundings with more intent, the focus she outputted putting the ninja in training slightly on edge.
"Yes, this will do." Naruto rolled his eyes back as if he could look into his mind and patiently waited for the being to continue even as he continued walking. "Kit, stop here and move into the forest on the left for a bit, you'll know when to stop."The boy was hesitant to move from the safety of the road but believed he had to start trusting his passenger a bit more, being the older and probably wiser of the two. He did as was asked of him, pulling a sharp left and walking straight on through the thick brush, his ears now greeted by the sound of crunching leaves and the stronger sound of bird song.
It was peaceful and Naruto enjoyed the gentle and lulling sounds of the wildlife around him. Eventually he walked through a line of trees into a small clearing with a river running off to one side and a thick wall of trees surrounding it like a perimeter wall. Naruto marvelled at how this one patch of grounds seemed unattainable to the forest, holding back the tide of nature inexplicably to preserve this tranquil place. He felt this is what the old fox meant when she said he would know when to stop so he leaned back against a tree and waited; he didn't have to for very long.
"Perfect, this will suit you excellently" Naruto was starting to become very curious now, the fox wasn't letting anything on and he hated not knowing something, especially when it involved him. Even so, he maintained his patience and allowed his tenant to finish in her own time; for the normally impatient and impulsive boy it was an amazing show of restraint that he felt his new friend deserved. "Now Kit, I assume you still wish to become a shinobi, and a powerful one at that, am I right?"
"Of course!" Naruto nodded vigorously with his statement even though he knew the gesture was wasted on somebody who couldn't see it. He earned a chuckle from the ancient creature at his enthusiasm.
"Good, because now I will be your teacher." Naruto's eyes swelled to the size of dinner plates, he couldn't believe his luck. He had teachers before of course but they obviously disliked him, holding him back whenever they could but now he had a teacher that was not only powerful, but his friend as well. He was so excited he almost missed Kyuubi continuing, he only heard because it was hard not to when the voice was inside your head.
"I warn you Kit, I am a thorough teacher and I have ways of ensuring your cooperation." The tone was more menacing than Naruto was used to and it made him gulp, however the old fox immediately lightened up. "Of course the benefits you will reap will be great." Naruto smiled broadly, it was exactly what he wanted after all. "All you must do is accept." Naruto immediately nodded, not even thinking it through beforehand.
"No Kit, I must hear you say it." Naruto took a breath to calm his excited nerves hover he could do nothing to remove the smile plastered on his face.
"I accept you as my Sensei Kyuubi" Even in his own head Naruto could barely keep the excitement from his voice. He heard a deep throaty laugh that sounded a lot more like Kyuubi's original, androgynous voice than the more feminine one he had become used to.
"Excellent, let's begin then." And that was the last thing Naruto heard before pain shot through his head and he blacked out.
Hours later, and he knew that because it was obvious the sun had set a long time ago, Naruto slowly got up from where he had laid sprawled out on the forest floor. He had his eyes closed and was rubbing the side of his head against the throbbing headache that had suddenly settled behind his eyes. After some time it died down into a light ache that he could live with and he opened his eyes. Amazingly when he looked around he could have sworn it was early morning, instead of the late hour he knew it must be.
Everything he saw had somehow lightened; the colours were more vivid and everything was much clearer than it ought to be when it was so late and dark. Naruto wasn't even sure how he knew that it was dark, but he did; if he had to guess he would say it was something to do with his body clock. He was cut off from is musings by a light chuckle that washed the thoughts from his mind.
"Now this is a more appropriate time to wake up, don't you think Kit?" Naruto was still at a loss for words and couldn't answer Kyuubi who just settled on another laugh before continuing. "So are you enjoying the upgrade?" Naruto continued to look baffled, not that the old fox could see that but she had been with the kid long enough to know what would and wouldn't startle him. Eventually he rallied himself together, turning his attention inwards, away from his unsettlingly excellent vision.
"What did you do to me?" It came out slightly more accusatory than he had intended but the feeling behind the words was clear.
"What? Don't you like it?" Kyuubi put on a mock-hurt voice and Naruto could practically feel the pout and puppy dog eyes the old creature was directing at him. It worked all the same and Naruto found himself buckling, it turned out even a female fox held emotional sway over him.
"No I didn't say that, I just wanted to know what you did." He tried to put on a placating tone and it worked as Kyuubi suddenly turned happy again, at least it appeared that way to the emotionally naive boy.
"Oh in that case then it's okay." Naruto found himself wishing he was in his mindscape right now so that he could enjoy the beam the fox was obviously levelling at him. "I just messed about with your senses a bit." Naruto gulped at the thought of an ancient demon playing about with his senses like a mechanic might a piece of machinery. Then he latched onto the second thing he noticed about her statement.
"Wait a second, sense's'?" He put heavy emphasis on the plural nature of the word, only to be met by another chuckle form the older creature.
"Of course, why would I only improve your sense of sight when I can open a whole new world of feeling for you? You humans use your body's potential so sparingly. Smell, hearing, taste; all as valid as sight, some even more so."Naruto briefly pondered how taste could possibly be more useful that sight but let it slide as he realised something else.
"My hearing isn't any better." Sure enough the birdsong in the air and the gentle rustling of the leave in the tree could be heard no more clearly than when he had passed out.
"Of course not, the sensory overload from all four senses being finely tuned at once might have knocked you out again. It is only because sight is your main reliance I was able to bring all the changes to the forefront." he quickly, and rather smugly in Naruto's opinion, added on "Including your new ability to see much better in the dark."
"So what does that mean for my hearing?" Kyuubi sighed and wondered why the boy was so fixated on hearing after she had explicitly told him all of his senses would improve.
"The other senses will improve slowly, you will begin to notice the changes by tomorrow and by the end of the month you will be used to your new abilities, as well as being able to use them effectively." Naruto nodded, satisfied and slightly excited. He was anxious for the time when he would get to experience the world like an animal, not just relying on his eyes to see the world. It was something Shinobi actually strove towards and he knew that, to actually be in tune with the world enough that your ears and nose were just as valuable as your eyes.
"Anyway Kit, I didn't just bring you to this clearing for the scenery, I think it would be best to begin your training as soon as possible." Naruto nodded, only happy to agree with the fox's verdict. He sat under the tree he had fallen near and eagerly awaited his new teacher's first lesson with barely suppressed glee. "Now Kit, tell me everything you know about chakra..."
Kyuubi had to correct a great deal of Naruto's knowledge, not just about Chakra as after that they had gone through a number of things. They had covered the basics of being a ninja; Ninjutsu, Genjutsu, and Taijutsu as well as their applications. She had been disappointed when the boy had displayed little to no interest in Genjutsu, obviously thinking them useless in combat. It was a mentality she assured herself she would remove from the boy.
Starting to understand how Naruto saw thing she tried to put everything in words and phrases he would understand. She also tried to make what she said as interesting and as relevant as possible, not wanting to lose his interest for a moment. It seemed to be working as the boy sat there, rapt with attention and happiness at finally being taught properly. She was genuinely surprised that when she pointed out flaw, gaps and errors in the boy's knowledge he only seemed eager to correct them.
He proved to be a good student and after a while, as well as a few stories and examples of their actual use in combat, she even managed to get him interested in Genjutsu. It was mostly through telling him that the best ninja were those that utilised every advantage available to them. If one could distract their opponent even for a few seconds in the heat of combat then they had an immediate advantage.
It was obvious that his main focus was on chakra, what it could do, how you form and refine it as well as how to use it to its fullest extent. After a lot of shouting she eventually hammered in the point that chakra control was just as important as volume. It made her wonder how the boy could be the perfect and attentive student one second and a stubborn brat the next. She sighed to herself out of the boy's earshot; with her immense chakra contained within her body, as well as the large amount he was instinctively using to suppress hers, chakra control would be anything but easy for the boy.
However she knew how hard he trained and if he applied that same mentality to his new regiment then she was sure he could master just about anything. She also made sure to look out for anything that could help speed the whole process up; not shortcuts exactly but ways to improve his learning rate. Shocked out of her internal monologue she realised light was beginning to stream through the tree trunks as morning finally came. Naruto wasn't tired but she insisted he rest; it would be better if he became nocturnal like she was as soon as possible.
After he settled down for the night and she felt his conscious mind drift off Kyuubi was finally left to her own devices in the boy's mindscape. Ever since he had created the place she hadn't ceased to be amazed by its precision and intricacy. It took her a surprisingly long time to work out that the whole place was one massive loop. She would run in one direction for as long as possible and only end up right back where she had started, it was a seamless transition, one she knew he should be proud of.
At the same time she knew that he wasn't even aware of just how amazing his own accomplishment was. She blamed the villagers for that, beating out any sense of self-pride the boy had left and it sickened her to the core. She was hardly one to talk, having killed her fair share over the centuries but even so she had never turned on her own kind before, except Shukaku but the crazy biju hardly counted.
She pushed the thoughts to one side for the moment, thankful that at least Naruto had gotten out of the village. Especially before he had formed any real attachments that might have given him a false sense of loyalty. Instead she concentrated on how she was going to train the boy, chakra control would be easy, requiring very little actual input on her part. She would merely set him a task and let him go about it until he was competent enough to do so on his own, then set him the next stage up.
She was still going to have to find him a real trainer, a human one to be more precise. Despite her immeasurable power and wisdom, there was a limit to what she could offer the boy when it came to physical training and actual jutsu. It was one thing to show someone a few hand signs and explain the concept of a technique, it was another to actually demonstrate it and help them learn it. Taijutsu would also be a problem. And while she supposed she could teach him in his own mindscape, without actually doing it with his body she felt its effects would weaken.
She banished these thoughts as well after a while, confident that when he came to a hidden village these problems would solve themselves. If not then they would move on to the next; whilst she was hopeful that her container could become strong, and quickly, she knew they were in no rush for the foreseeable future. With those comforting thoughts she allowed herself to drift off into her own sleep, intending to wake Naruto up when night fell. She knew that after getting used to waking up with the light as opposed to the lack of it he would have difficulty adjusting.