I'm back with a new chapter! I'm sorry it took so long, but a lot has been going on. The recent passing of my father and subsequently moving to live with my cousin has put a lot of stress on my family, and I haven't had much time or motivation to write. I will try to get the next chapter out quickly, but I feel it will be about the same amount of time as this chapter. Hopefully it won't, but no promises. A few people had complaints about Hiashi, but I just want you guys to remember that he is from the generation that resented the Kyuubi for destroying the village, and he is very protective over Hinata. He's more like an overprotective father without knowing how to act properly on it. His intentions are good, but he goes about it all wrong. He isn't a horrible villain like some portray him, at least I hope not. Who knows, I may change my mind, but I have a good idea of what I want to do with him in this story. Anyways, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this chapter. Not much goes on, but it builds up for the next chapter. Remember to review when you finish reading! Thank you and once again, enjoy! XXXXXXX
Hinata slowly awoke as the bright sunlight crept in through her window, setting upon her pale eyes. She covered her vision with her hand and slowly sat up in her bed, letting her eyes adjust to the light. The room was filled with light, unusual for her waking time. She concluded that she must have overslept by a few hours.
She turned to look at the clock across the room from her, confirming her thoughts. It was after nine in the morning, a good three hours later than she was used to sleeping in. While she had been to bed much later than usual, she still was surprised she allowed herself to sleep so long.
One good thing about this was that she would not have to face Hiashi once she left her room, as breakfast had long passed, and he had more than likely gone out to run errands for the day. She sat for a moment, recalling everything that happened the night before. It had truly been wonderful—until she had come home. She couldn't understand why her father thought so low of Naruto, when he had more than once proven his worth to the village.
Setting that thought aside, she stood and began to get dressed and ready for the day. She had slept horribly that night, and it showed when she checked her reflection in the mirror. Darkening patches under her eyes gave away her restless sleep, and she sighed in frustration at the fact that her father's words had that much of an effect on her. However, she was plenty determined to do her best starting today.
She quickly zipped her jacket and walked out of her bedroom. As she made her way through the main house, she tensed up when she was suddenly stopped by someone as she reached the door.
Hinata slowly turned to see Neji standing behind her, arms crossed over his chest. His eyes held no anger or unpleasant emotions like the ones she had seen in her father the night before, so she relaxed.
"I was wondering if you had a moment so that we could talk before you leave for the day."
Hinata nodded silently, wondering what this was all about. Neji rarely asked for time alone between the two of them outside of training.
"Well then, for starters, I have a question for you."
"What is it?" Hinata asked him, giving him a quizzical look.
Neji smirked at the look on her face. She thought everyone was fooled.
"How long has it been going on?"
Hinata looked at him blankly, not understanding what he was referring to.
"I'm not sure what you're speaking of, Nii-san."
Neji chuckled inwardly, noting her familiar brotherly term for him. It was nice to know that she felt more like siblings with him than cousins. It showed she trusted him, which made everything much easier.
"I am referring to your relationship with Uzumaki Naruto."
Hinata's pale eyes widened at his words, and she frantically searched for an excuse to give him. There was no way she could have anyone in the Hyuuga clan knowing of her relationship yet, not with her father's views on Naruto.
"I-I don't know w-what you—"
"Hinata-sama, I promise you that Hiashi will not hear about any of this from me." he began, raising his hand reassuringly.
Hinata paused, staring at him and waiting for him to continue.
"I simply want to know how long it has been going on to have such an effect on your confidence."
Hinata decided that it was okay to tell Neji, since he seemed to hold no hostility towards the two of them being together. In fact, he seemed rather pleased by it all.
"We've been together a few weeks. Since the mission we had together." she told him, smiling brightly at him.
"I see." Neji replied. "So in a matter of weeks he has dramatically increased your confidence to this level. I am very proud of you for standing up to Hiashi last night, whether or not you succeeded in your argument."
Hinata's eye widened slightly, not used to being complimented from her own family so much, even if it was Neji. They had grown closer over the years, but she was still not quite used to the change in him compared to the other Hyuuga members. Nobody else thought she was good enough, but Neji was supporting her against the rest of the clan's judgment. This made her happier than he could ever realize.
"Th-Thank you." she replied, choking up a bit.
"However," Neji began, his tone changing slightly. "Hiashi has requested that I keep an eye on you for him. I, of course, did not decline his request."
"O-Oh…" Hinata mumbled.
This was, of course, her father's way of making sure she stayed away from Naruto. It was to make sure she didn't disobey his commands, and learn her place. How would she ever see him again if she was constantly being watched?
Hinata snapped out of her thoughts and looked up to see Neji smiling down at her. Had she missed something? What was there to smile at about her not being able to see Naruto outside of ordered training?
"Yes, Nii-san?" she answered.
"While I am required to watch and escort you for the time being, I don't think the details about what you do in your free time are necessary to be reported. Do you understand?"
Hinata looked at him for a moment, not making the connection at first. Then it hit her. Neji was willing to hold back information about her and Naruto being together outside of training. Her eyes lit up and Neji smiled when she seemed to figure it all out.
"Thank you!" she replied, uncharacteristically loud for the heiress.
"It's no problem." Neji stated. "I simply think that for you to make this much progress within the span of only a few weeks, this relationship can only benefit you. You seem much happier and are much bolder in your speech and actions. This may have been the thing you needed to boost your potential as the future leader of the clan."
Hinata nodded, thankful for Neji's support over her relationship with Naruto. Neji continued.
"If Hiashi is unable to see your ability to stand up for yourself as a good thing, then it is quite ironic how the leader of a clan said to have the near ultimate eyes can be so blind."
Hinata almost laughed, but forced it back, thinking it inappropriate.
"I wanted to tell my father of my relationship with Naruto when we came back from the mission, but now that I know how he feels…I don't think I can do that. I am so thankful you are on our side in all of this, Nii-san."
Neji smiled once again, liking that she seemed to be looking better after this conversation. Her eyes held more life in them than they had when she first turned to him, and her voice wasn't so weak. It was strong and confident and showed how determined she was to protect her relationship. He was curious about seeing how Naruto affected her in person.
"I would like to escort you to the training grounds, both as a requirement of Hiashi's request and to witness for myself the effect Naruto has on you." Neji told her.
"Of course you may." Hinata cheerfully replied, not that she really had a choice in the matter.
"Well then, we should get going." Neji said, moving towards the door.
"Right." Hinata replied, glad things were beginning to look better.
Neji walked beside Hinata out of the main house. As they passed through the gates and into the village, Neji couldn't help but think that if Naruto could turn his shy, weak cousin into this bold and confident young woman, he had the potential to change the world.
Kakashi leaned against a tree in the large training grounds, hidden in the shade. He was all alone, reading his book while waiting for everyone else to arrive. He had come early because he had nothing better to do. At least, that's what he told himself. But what he really wanted was some time to think. He wanted answers.
The only other sounds around him were the wind blowing in the trees and the waterfall across the field, leaving him with peace and quiet to think things through. To anyone passing by, he would have just looked engrossed in his book. However, he had been stuck on the same page for the last half hour, not being able to really pay attention to the material. His mind was elsewhere, thinking about the events of the night before.
The main thing on his mind: Sakura's kiss. He didn't know why it bothered him so much, but he couldn't seem to get it off of his mind. Had she meant to do that, or was it all simply an act of stupidity in her drunken state? Why was it even important to him? She was nothing more than a student and friend. Why couldn't he just ignore it like any other incident?
As he was thinking this, he noticed none other than the very person on his mind approaching the grounds in the distance. She didn't seem to notice him there, his figure hidden in the shadows of the tree. He closed his book and tucked it away, giving up on getting any further in his reading.
He began to make his way down the grassy hill to meet her, wanting to figure it out for himself what everything had meant. While the shinobi in him wanted it to have just been a mistake and nothing more, a small part in him wanted to hear otherwise. He shoved that part down, wondering what was coming over him. As he made his way down, he noticed her stop for a moment when she caught sight of him. He could have sworn he saw her blush. Maybe she did remember everything after all.
Sakura made her way up the hill to the training grounds. She remembered only bits and pieces of the night before, but for the most part she knew what happened. She remembered being sad and upset because of finding out about Sasuke. She remembered somehow getting to Naruto's place. She remembered throwing herself at him in a drunken frenzy and getting yelled at by him to leave. She couldn't believe how she had acted that night.
Then she noticed Kakashi making his way down to her. Suddenly another memory surfaced. She remembered being carried home in Kakashi's arms. She remembered a warm feeling, a sense of safety and security in his arms. The closeness had made her feel a bit better. But there was something she knew she was forgetting, something important.
"H-Hey, Sakura-chan…" Kakashi greeted her, stuttering. Was he seriously nervous? What the hell was wrong with him?
"Hey…" she replied, avoiding his eye awkwardly.
Kakashi wondered how much she remembered about the night before. She refused to make eye contact with him, so maybe she was feeling guilty. Maybe that indicated that she remembered most of it. He hoped that was the case, despite the fact that she seemed to be suffering because of it. He needed answers.
"I acted pretty badly last night, huh?" Sakura started, deciding to come right out with it, but still avoiding eye contact.
"That's one way of putting it." Kakashi replied, scratching the back of his head.
"I feel like such an idiot. Everyone must hate me. And I wouldn't blame them. I doubt they'll ever forgive me, and I don't deserve it anyway."
"Sakura-chan…" Kakashi said, not knowing what to say to make her feel better.
"I can't believe I did something like that to Naruto. Forcing a kiss on him? What the hell is wrong with me?" she said, disgusted with herself.
Despite her current state, Kakashi couldn't help but feel a little hope at the fact that she seemed to remember that part of the night. Maybe she remembered the rest of what happened.
Sakura finally looked Kakashi in the face, trying to gain some sense of what he was thinking. Did he judge her? Did he think badly of her? Was he disgusted with her? She hoped not, but knew she deserved it. But when she looked at him, what she saw surprised her.
He had a slight smile on his face, coupled with his drooping eyelids. But it didn't look like his usual lazily drooping eyes. She couldn't place it, but the look was familiar. As she looked him in the eye, something in her head snapped. She suddenly recalled what happened when he had dropped her off that night.
She had kissed him! She had kissed Hatake Kakashi! She kissed her sensei! She was completely mortified. It may have been only on the cheek, but a kiss was a kiss. She blushed madly, realizing that the entire time they had been talking, he remembered it clearly.
"Sakura-chan…What else do you remember from last night?" he asked.
Her eyes widened and she immediately averted his gaze, realizing he was probably asking if she remembered that specifically.
"I-I, d-don't remember m-much, you know? It's all k-kind of spotty." she replied frantically, her voice shaking.
He had to know she was lying. She couldn't stay composed at all. She knew he had to see right through her.
"Oh, I see. That's too bad." he simply replied.
Weirdly enough, if he noticed her lie, he didn't show it. He almost sounded saddened at hearing that. Why would he be sad about it? She dismissed it, glad she wasn't found out. The last thing she needed was more tension between her and the one person who seemed to stick by her through everything.
Before she could say anything else, they both noticed movement in the distance. They looked to see Hinata, Naruto, and Neji across the field by the waterfall. Sakura lowered her head and stared at the ground, feeling guilty for all she had put them through.
"I think it's best if I just stay away from them from now on. It hurts, but it hurts more to keep causing problems for them. I owe them that much. They deserve to be happy." Sakura said, her gaze remaining on the ground.
Kakashi remained silent, thinking how despite all of the things Sakura had done, she seemed to be maturing. She was no longer thinking selfishly, but thinking of others before herself. She was doing her best to help the one she loved be happy with someone else, despite the way it hurt her so deeply. He was proud of her. Pulling himself out of his thoughts, he decided they should probably get to the main point of why they came here.
"Well, that all aside, we should probably start our first day of training."
"R-Right…" Sakura replied, looking up to meet his gaze once again.
She felt a small blush creep over her face at making eye contact with him. She felt awkward and embarrassed, knowing that he was probably thinking badly of her over her actions that night. Trying to kiss Naruto was one thing, trying to kiss her sensei was completely out of line.
They began to make their way over to the target range a few yards away, beginning their training by warming up with kunai practice. As they walked, they both remained silent. Sakura looked up at him while he walked ahead a bit, wondering why he didn't bring any of it up again. However, she was thankful he had seemed to drop the subject. As she pulled a single kunai out of her pouch, she swore she would never drink again.
Naruto was sitting in the shade of a tall tree in the training grounds, arms crossed over his chest, beginning to doze off. He had come early that morning, excited to begin training with Hinata. Aside from another reason. He actually had left his apartment early that morning to run an errand.
Upon waking that morning, he had left his apartment in search of a certain toad sage. He had figured if he was going to acquire some form of protection, who better to go to than his perverted mentor, Jiraiya. The errand itself hadn't taken long, but the talk with him had taken at least an hour. It had been embarrassing enough to have to go tell his mentor that he needed to get that kind of thing, knowing he was going to be teased and questioned. But once the embarrassing part passed, they had a long talk about everything that had occurred since their return. Particularly his relationship with Hinata.
"You really love her, eh?"
The serious question suddenly coming from Jiraiya after all the joking and banter had caught him off guard, but there was no doubt in his mind about it. They might not have been together very long, but Naruto was ready to spend a lifetime with her.
"Absolutely. She's the most wonderful person I've met, and she's been in my life for as long as I can remember."
Jiraiya had chuckled to himself at that answer. Said something about young love that Naruto hadn't been able to hear. Then he became very sincere, surprising the young shinobi.
"Well, if you feel that strongly about her, kid, you've got my support. She must really be something special."
"You have no idea."
He had been glad to catch up with his mentor after a few weeks of not seeing him. But he had also been extremely glad to bring the items he had sought him out for back home and off of him. If people found out he was getting that sort of thing from Jiraiya, word would spread fairly quickly. The last thing they needed was rumors.
After hiding them away in a drawer, he left his apartment once again to head for the training grounds. Despite having only been awake for a couple hours, he was fairly tired from the whole ordeal of that. But at least from now on they wouldn't have to worry about that aspect of their lives.
Having sat there in the cool shade of the trees for a while, he began to doze off. He finally shook himself awake from his nap after a few minutes. Before he could doze off again, he saw Hinata coming towards him. He quickly stood up and ran down to greet her, but stopped when he saw Neji, remembering that her family didn't know about their relationship.
"Good morning, Naruto-kun." Hinata cheerfully greeted him.
"Morning, Hina-chan!" Naruto replied. "Why's Neji here?"
"W-Well…Neji is…My father—"
"Allow me." Neji interrupted, stepping forward. "Hiashi-sama was upset when she came home last night, from which I presume was with you. However, his anger over her late—or rather, early return—quickly dissipated when he redirected it to you being on the same team as her. He has essentially forbidden her from seeing you outside of training and has sent me to make sure that she obeys. He does not seem to know about the relationship, which I presume is probably best considering his low opinion of you. But while he may think that you two being near each other is bad, I think this relationship is benefitting Hinata-sama greatly. So while I will keep an eye on her, I will not report if you two say, take an extended break from training together."
Naruto took a moment to let everything sink in. Hinata watched him warily, hoping he wouldn't let her father's judgment get to him too much, considering how much Naruto suffered from the village treating him that way in the past. However, Naruto looked at her with a troubled look on his face.
"Hina-chan…" Naruto started.
"Yes, Naruto-kun?" she answered.
Naruto stepped forward and hugged her tightly against his chest. He kissed her forehead lightly.
"Naruto-kun?" she asked, her voice muffled against his chest.
He loosened his grip around her and looked into her eyes.
"Are you okay, Hina-chan? He didn't make you cry, did he?" Naruto asked her, a look of concern on his face.
"A little…" she mumbled.
He held her tightly in his arms once again, comfortingly stroking the back of her head. She wrapped her arms around his waist tightly in return.
"I don't care what anyone says about me," he said against her dark hair. "Nobody is allowed to treat you like that. We'll prove him wrong. Together."
Hinata lifted her head to meet his eyes, smiling up at him. He leaned forward to kiss her, but stopped when he remembered Neji there. They both looked at him for a moment, as if asking for permission.
"Well don't stop on my account." Neji told them, waving his hand at them. "Pretend I'm not even here."
With that, Naruto and Hinata proceeded to kiss, holding each other tightly. Neji turned away out of respect for their privacy, but managed to catch a glimpse as he turned. He couldn't help but smile at how much happier Hinata was with Naruto. As he thought this, he noticed Kakashi coming towards them. In the distance, he saw Sakura at the target range, practicing her kunai throws.
"Oi, you two, time to get serious." Neji called out to the two behind him.
They both looked up to see Kakashi coming towards them. They separated themselves for the moment to focus on what he had come to say to them. They needed to be even more serious about their training from now on if they stood a chance in a mission to retrieve Sasuke again.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto shouted. "Err…Thanks for last night…"
Kakashi paused before realizing what he was talking about. He simply waved his hand like it was nothing.
"Don't worry about it, it was no problem." Kakashi told him. "I'm just glad I stopped it before it got a lot worse."
Neji looked over at Naruto and wondered what exactly happened the night before that Kakashi had to interfere with. However, it was not his business so he quickly ignored the thought and let Kakashi proceed.
"Well, now that everyone is here, shall we begin?" Kakashi told the two of them.
Both Hinata and Naruto nodded, both determined to work hard.
"Good." he said.
Kakashi then reached into this pocket and pulled out a few pieces of paper, holding them up in front of the two of them.
"Can either of you guess what these are?" Kakashi asked them both.
They shook their heads, not having the faintest clue about what was so special about some paper.
"This is a very special kind of paper that determines your chakra's nature." he explained.
"What does that mean? What is our chakra's nature?" Naruto asked.
"Good question." Kakashi began. "You've seen many techniques give off elemental attacks such as fire, water, or lightning, correct?"
They nodded, signaling for him to continue.
"Each of those elements are established through a chakra's nature. There are five basic types into which the nature of chakra can be transformed. Those five types are fire, wind, lightning, earth, and water. In general, every person has chakra that has an affinity towards one of these types. This paper can detect which nature type you have a natural affinity towards."
Kakashi held a single piece of chakra paper up for an example. As they watched the paper, it wrinkled up between his fingers.
"As you can see, the paper I'm holding wrinkled up. This is the paper's reaction when it comes in contact with a lightning affinity. Here, you two try it now."
He held out the papers in the palm of his gloved hand for them. Naruto and Hinata each hesitantly grabbed a piece of paper, not sure what to make of the situation or where Kakashi was going with all of it. Naruto held up his paper, a confused look on his face.
"Kakashi-sensei, I think my paper broke. Can I get another?" he asked, frowning a bit.
"Naruto, it ripped in two because that is your chakra nature. You have a wind affinity." Kakashi explained to him.
Hinata held up her paper, showing Kakashi the result.
"Then, do I have a water affinity?" Hinata asked, holding up a dampened paper between her fingers.
"Very good." Kakashi praised, smiling at Hinata.
"What does all of this mean, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked.
"Well," Kakashi began. "Now that you two have figured out which nature you have affinities towards, you can begin training in mastering nature transformation of those affinities."
Kakashi turned to Naruto, answering his question before he could ask it.
"Nature transformation is when you use your chakra affinity in ninjutsu, transforming your chakra based on that affinity, altering its properties and characteristics, just like I was talking about earlier. Simple enough?"
Naruto nodded, signaling for Kakashi to continue.
"Adding on to that, each chakra nature has an affinity it is stronger than, as well as one it is weaker than. Water is stronger than fire, fire is stronger than wind, wind is stronger than lightning, lightning is stronger than earth, and earth is stronger than water. Naruto, since you have an affinity towards wind, you have an advantage over Sasuke's lightning attacks. Additionally, Hinata's water affinity has an advantage over his fire based attacks."
Naruto and Hinata nodded, letting the information sink in for a moment. Naruto's eyes suddenly widened in realization.
"Sensei, if we both have an advantage, it should be a lot easier for us to bring Sasuke back, right!?" he asked, suddenly very excited.
Kakashi nodded, smiling at Naruto's excitement.
"That is true, but it's also not that simple. Mastering your chakra affinity can take a very long time. You have an advantage Naruto, because of your shadow clones, but it will still take a long time even using those. That being said, it may take much longer for Hinata to learn this, seeing as you have a lot more stamina and chakra than most, Naruto."
"How long will it take?" Naruto asked.
"For you, maybe three to four months using a moderate amount of clones." Kakashi answered.
"And for Hina-chan?"
Kakashi turned to face Hinata, trying to give off a reassuring look to her.
"For you, Hinata, I'd say about six to seven months, if you practiced constantly."
Hinata lowered her head, her dark hair shrouding her face from sight. Kakashi felt bad that he was the one to give her the news, telling her she would take so much longer than Naruto. The girl was not known for her immense strength, and was constantly told she was not good enough by people, including and especially her own family.
Even Neji felt bad for the fact that she would once again suffer because of this. He knew of her determination and how badly she wanted to succeed, despite being told so often that she was weak. She tried her best constantly, always to be told that she was not good enough.
Naruto placed a hand on her shoulder comfortingly, knowing that she was probably upset that she would take much longer than him. He wished he knew how to help, to make her feel better.
Naruto and Kakashi looked up at each other in confusion. They both looked back at Hinata before Naruto spoke to her.
"What do you mean by—"
"Three months." Hinata told him, looking up at him. "I will do it in three months."
She was smiling up at him, but this smile was different than her usual sweet smile. The determination in her eyes reflected in her smile as she looked at him. She was ready to go through hell to make her goal a reality.
"Are you sure, Hina-chan?" Naruto asked.
"Definitely. I won't go back on my word."
She turned to face him, her raven hair blowing in the wind around her. She placed her hand upon the one he had placed on her shoulder. She looked into his azure eyes with her own pale orbs, determination burning in them.
"Because, Naruto-kun…That is my ninja way."
Naruto stood in silence as she said the very same words he had repeated many times. His motto, his way of life. He was absolutely touched that she had adopted his determination and way of life. She really was perfect for him.
"Alright then, Hina-chan. We'll beat the odds together." he told her, giving her shoulder a light squeeze.
Kakashi couldn't help but smile in amusement at how determined they were together. It gave him hope that they could actually pull off the mission if it came down to it.
"Well, since you both are so determined to do this, we should get started as soon as possible."
"What exactly do we have to do, sensei?" Naruto asked.
Kakashi scanned the ground around them. He bent down and picked up a single leaf off of the grass and handed it to Naruto. Naruto looked down at the leaf in his hand, then back up at Kakashi, a puzzled look on his face.
"For your training, you are to focus your chakra to cut this leaf in two." he explained. "Envision your chakra molding into a sort of blade, slicing the leaf in half. Think of it as if you were molding chakra for the Rasengan, just into a thin blade instead. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is. The key is concentration. I know you can do it."
"And what about Hina-chan?" Naruto asked.
"I'm getting to that." Kakashi told him, sighing at Naruto's impatience.
Hinata stood silent but eager, awaiting Kakashi's instructions.
"Hinata, your training is going to be a little more complex." he started.
Hinata cocked her head to the side, confused as to how her chakra nature could be any more difficult than another.
"What do you mean?" she asked him.
"Well, you see, the water nature can be utilized in many different ways. It can change both shape and state, and can be manifested within and outside of the body, as well as being created using only your chakra or using water already around you."
Hinata nodded, signaling Kakashi to continue.
"You see that waterfall and lake over there?" Kakashi asked her, pointing in the distance behind them.
"Yes?" she replied.
"Your training will be split into four parts. The first of them is to focus on manipulating bodies of water around you. I want you to try to change the direction of the water using your chakra. The wind is blowing it in one direction, so it is your goal to manipulate the water enough to either go against the wind in the opposite direction, or make a ripple that fills the lake. When you have successfully completed that part, I will assign you the next. Any questions?"
"No, I understand." she answered.
Kakashi smiled, taking a step back to look at both of them.
"Now that you both know what to do, you are free to begin. I'm going to go back to the target range now. Enjoy your first day, though I promise you it will be frustrating. Frustrating, but worth it."
He then turned and began walking back to the target range, a single hand raised in the air waving goodbye.
Neji took that moment to speak, having stayed silent for a while.
"Well, while you two are training, I'm going to find a place to sit and observe. I'll be close by."
He walked away silently, leaving Naruto and Hinata alone.
"Well, we should get started then." he said enthusiastically. "You ready, Hina-chan?"
Hinata nodded, and they began walking towards the lake. Naruto grasped Hinata's hand in his own, squeezing tightly. She gave his hand a firm squeeze, smiling up at him as they walked. Naruto smiled back at her, slightly blushing.
He still couldn't believe he was blessed with such an amazing woman. To think that she went through hell for him and was willing to go against her father for him. He wished she wouldn't have to, but he was thankful she was willing to go so far just to be with him.
As they approached the lake, he slowly stopped walking, causing her to stop and see what was wrong.
"Naruto-kun? What is it?" she asked.
He pulled her towards him gently until they were standing inches from each other. Hinata noticed the light blush on his face and couldn't help but blush herself.
"I just…I really can't believe that you're with me. That you're willing to do so much just to be with me. Things you shouldn't have to do. I am so thankful to have you in my life, Hime."
He brought his hand up to caress her cheeks, slowly leaning in.
"Naruto-kun…" Hinata breathed, slowly being pulled in towards him.
The space between them closed as they melted into each other's lips in a passionate kiss. Naruto involuntarily grasped Hinata's other hand in his own, holding both tightly. This kiss was different than most. Before then, each kiss usually was a precursor to something more. But now that they had both explored each other's bodies in the most intimate way possible, it was as if they were expressing their love without even using words. The message was clear, and yet as they broke away, Naruto still felt the need to say it, confirming it out loud.
"I love you, Hinata-hime."
"I love you, Naruto-kun."
"Good luck on your training." he told her, slowly releasing her hands.
"And good luck with yours, Naruto-kun." she replied.
Hinata then began to walk the next couple yards towards the lake. Naruto decided to stay put, thinking that if concentration was the key, he would have a hard time focusing on his training if he was so close to Hinata. As she walked away, he summoned fifteen clones to aid him in his training. He and the clones then closed their eyes and began to envision the chakra slicing the leaf in their hands, just as Kakashi had said.
Once Hinata reached the lake, she sat down about a foot from the edge. She then placed her palms at the very edge of the ground where the water began. She closed her eyes and envisioned her chakra pooling into the water and churning it at her will, moving against the path the wind was pushing it in.
Both Hinata and Naruto kept at it nonstop for hours, only stopping when hunger or fatigue became an issue. Hinata was even more stubborn than Naruto, refusing to give up until she could not even use her Byakugan without becoming faint. Even then, it was not until Naruto told her to take a break that she would listen. She was more determined than ever to do her best.
They decided to get lunch to replenish their energy at Ichiraku's. As they sat down to order, they began to talk about their progress that day.
"Kakashi-sensei was right, this is really hard." Naruto said, beginning the conversation.
Hinata nodded in agreement. "I just wish I weren't so behind you, Naruto-kun."
Naruto placed his hand over hers, trying to comfort her.
"It's okay, Hina-chan. You're doing great. If it weren't for the damned Kyuubi, I'd be right where you are right now." he told her.
"But I still wish I could do better. I can't even do the shadow clones like you."
Teuchi then placed their orders of ramen in front of them, smiling and telling them to enjoy. Naruto took a large slurp of noodles, glad to finally have some food after a long day of hard work. He thought of how to help Hinata feel like she was doing better. Then it hit him.
"Oi, Hina-chan. Why don't I just teach you the Shadow Clone Jutsu?" Naruto suddenly asked her.
Hinata stopped, nearly choking on her ramen when he said that. She looked up at him, confused.
"Think about it. If I teach you how to make shadow clones, you can make a few and be able to gain experience faster, and then we can both complete our training fast." he explained.
Hinata nodded, thinking it through carefully. It made sense, but she was unsure if it was even worth the trouble.
"But I will only be able to make a few at best, so it might not do much good." she countered.
"Maybe, but it is worth a shot. The more clones, the faster you will get it down." he told her.
Hinata thought about it for a moment more, weighing all her options. It seemed like a good idea, and if he was willing to go through it for her, she was willing to accept it.
"Alright, I'll do it, Naruto-kun." she finally said, smiling up at him.
Naruto smiled back at her, glad he was able to help her after all in her training. He only wished he could do more.
"I think it sounds like a great idea, Hinata-sama."
Both Hinata and Naruto whipped their heads around in surprise to find Neji standing behind them. They had completely forgotten about him.
"Neji, what are you doing here?" Naruto asked, forgetting what Neji had told him.
"I told you that I would be close by. I am under orders to keep an eye on Hinata-sama, and that is exactly what I am going to do." he told Naruto, a bit annoyed that he had been forgotten so easily.
"Oh right. Do you want to get some ramen?" Naruto offered.
"No thanks. I ate at the training grounds." Neji replied before turning his attention to Hinata. "I am impressed at how well you have kept to your training. Your determination is impressive. I suppose this idiot has something to do with that, of course. But to go as far as learning how to make shadow clones to speed up your progress is most impressive. You have grown a lot in these few weeks, Hinata-sama."
Hinata blushed at his compliment, still not quite used to it.
"Th-Thank you." she told Neji in response.
"It is not problem. I trust you are done with your training today? Seeing as you could barely walk straight when you left the grounds." he asked her.
Hinata nodded, not happy that she had to quit so early.
"And you Naruto?"
"Well, I could still go a bit more, but I don't want to leave Hinata behind. So I am done until she is ready to start again." he told Neji.
"Very well." Neji replied. "Then for the next two to three hours, I suggest you two use it wisely. I'm going to go find Ten-Ten and Lee and see what they have been up to for the day. Hiashi should be back from his errands by now, so it should all work out. I'll come find you in a couple hours, Hinata-sama."
Neji then turned and walked down the road, leaving Naruto and Hinata alone once again.
"So, we are finally able to be alone again, huh?" Naruto thought out loud.
He took a loud slurp of his ramen, making up for lost time talking with Neji.
"It would seem so." Hinata replied.
"So, do you want to go back to my place after we finish eating?" Naruto asked her.
Hinata remembered everything that happened the night before, wondering what exactly he meant. Assuming it would go as most times she went over, she was a bit wary.
"I don't know. I mean, last night was a lot, and I'm so exhausted—"
"No, no, Hina-chan, that's not what I meant. I just thought we could relax together while we have the chance. But it's okay if you don't want to."
"Oh…" Hinata replied, blushing in embarrassment at her assumptions. "No, I do want to. Sorry, my mind got…carried away."
Naruto laughed, grinning at her before finishing off his ramen.
"It's okay, I thought it was kind of funny."
Hinata giggled, finishing her noodles. Naruto took this moment to pay the check while she began to finish her broth. When she finished her bowl, they both stood and began to walk back to Naruto's apartment, holding each other's hands tightly.