Book Two

Legacy Part Two


Legacies are meant to be looked on to either be exalted or scrutinized. They are events, tools, methods, and even philosophies left behind to be of use or to be discarded by the current generation.

At least, that was what Shino knew. The legacies left behind the by their ancestors have certainly made an impact into their lives one way or another. The first Hokage for example, left behind the legacy of the village that is to create other villages of ruling power. That has always been the legacy of First Hokage. It could also be looked on as the time when Hashirama was looking for order in sea of bloodshed. The man had earnestly wished for a world where children wouldn't be sent to battle. What he didn't anticipate was the change not only in politics, but also the scale of warfare as well.

To someone like Shino, such a thing was inevitable. Conflict was ingrained in every living creature's mind. Even the most basic of sentient life had conflict, such was the natural way of the world, he surmised. One cannot hope for peace when there is scarcity.

But as nations grow, so do the knowledge and scale of battlefield strategy, tactics and weaponry, there comes a point where a nation or a group of nations would back off from war for fear of mutually assured destruction.

The thought of massive destruction and man-made mass extinctions has not happened before and most likely never will in his lifetime. But Shino can be assured that he would be naïve to think that conflict is avoidable in such a fear ridden state. He understood nature with a very cold and calculating stance.

He looked at the scroll in his hands and he asked himself if there was a conflict that existed between the clan and this man that he had only seen once in his life.

In his hand was a scroll of his relative, an older cousin by the name of Torune. He had not seen or heard from the man ever since he was a child. So curious as to what might have happened to his cousin, Shino decided to learn more about Torune's mysterious disappearance and looked at the archives of his own home. He had looked over the files of his relative and was surprised that the profile written on the person had been wiped out.

Torune had apparently wiped out his existence from the clan altogether.

So when Shino presented his findings to his father, he was pleasantly surprised when he got an answer from his father.

"You are in the precipice of your growth, my son. What would you wish to discuss with me about our clansman?"

Shino raised an eyebrow at this, "It is to my understanding that Torune has vanished from our files. By all accounts, we recognize that he does not exist. Which leads to me to think that…"

"He has done something terrible that our clan disowned him? No, son, your cousin is very much alive but he has relinquished his existence officially to join an underground operations unit." Shibi had answered for him, Shino tilted his head sideways ever so slightly.

Shino was bewildered at this, "I do not understand. Why would you allow for something like this to happen, father?"

There was silence for a few seconds before Shibi answered, "Because he willingly entered ROOT."

Shino was perturbed at this, "Why would he do that? It is illogical for him to have entered it on his own accord especially if you knew of its existence."

Shibi stood up as he went for a scroll and looked out to their garden. The sound of bamboo hitting rocks echoed around their home as the older man sat down by the floor and let his feet dangle on the edges.

"As we are a clan of shinobi, we are still subservient to the ministrations of the village first. When authority must take precedence before autonomy, then we are but foot soldiers for those that lead us into battle. Such is the way of the shinobi. Obedience is implied, not voluntary."

"And if he refused?" Shino asked, he could not think of any answer as to why his cousin would willingly subject himself under the shadow of a vicious man liked Danzo.

Shibi once more didn't answer for a few seconds, he was contemplating on whether or not to answer the truth or leave Shino in the dark. He felt powerless in such an instance.

"Danzo would have come for you." He finally said. The thought alone stirred such a very disturbing image in his mind. His son being trained and mentally tortured to the point that he would be removing his entire being just for the sake of Danzo's interests brought a chill down to his spine. If that were to happen, then Shibi would have most likely defected.

"Did the Sandaime Hokage give Danzo the authority to create his own ANBU unit?" Shino asked and his father gave a nod.

"Sandaime-sama understood the importance of Danzo's unit. He had given Danzo his wish but the man had gone too far with his methods and was thus unrecognized as part of Konoha's main forces. But the damage had already been done. Danzo has more than several units of elite ANBU members under his command and mostly recruits members who have no familial ties or orphaned by past conflicts. Sandaime-sama knew of his works too late. But rather than appear weak in the eyes of the village, Sandaime-sama chose not to act in order to maintain the image that we are not disunited for fear of another major war. And Konoha would fall should Sandaime-sama chose to act rashly."

To this, Shibi motioned for his son to come by his side as he handed the boy the scroll in his hands.

"Take this with you, it should prove useful. Your cousin isn't the only one who has had access to the Rinkaichu. His father did as well. Inside this scroll are notes meant for those who would wish to take the training in taming the rinkaichu and a seal containing a summoning scroll from your grandfather, but I would rather see you safe than to take these tasks on your own."

Shibi stood up as he patted his son on his shoulder, "But as you are my son, it is also my deepest wish to see you grow and live longer than me. To see you become a man of great standing pleases me like no other. There is no logic to such a thing and there needn't be. It is simply out of the affection I have. Once I die and my flesh consumed by the earth, I will be happy to know that you are my legacy." Shibi then began to walk away as his son stood there, bewildered by his words.

"You will understand someday, once you have children of your own."


Izumo village:

Panic was noticeable on Naruto's face as he watched his girlfriend be consumed by the waning space surrounding the shrine. Jiraiya remained calm as he frowned and looked at the aftereffects of the seal's unlocking. He watched as his apprentice followed only to be blown back by a field of energy and he was sent careening to the opposite end.

"Carrier of the will of the second son, you are not allowed to be given passage here. Only those who carry the blood of the Iwagami are given right to enter. The Iwagami shall only be the ones who can take this trial."

"The will of the second son?" Hyuuga Natsu asked out of nowhere. Jiraiya palmed his face and dragged it down out of exasperation.

"Shit. So much for secrets…" Jiraiya murmured as Naruto remained transfixed on the gate of the shrine.

"Like hell I'm just going to leave it like this! Out of the way!" Naruto moulded chakra from his hands and sharpened them to a certain range before swinging his arms in chopping motions. The wind picked up from his actions and swayed with him as he targeted the gate of what he believed was one of the sealing matrices that kept the gate closed for him.

"Fuuton: Kuukanzangeki (Wind Release: Space Cutting Strike)!" Naruto shouted as the wind phased through the distortion of space and managed to cut only the stone beside it.

Naruto growled at this. His newest jutsu didn't work and the matrix was resisting it. Jiraiya had appeared beside him and held the boy on his shoulder urging him to stop.

"It's useless, boy, that seal is a jikuukan (space-time) type of jutsu. Only those of comparable skill can be able to neutralize it. And you're not in that level yet."

Naruto turned to his sensei and said to him, "Teach me all about Jikuukan seals, now, ero-sennin!"

Jiraiya shook his head, "No, seals like those are definitely out of your league. They are way too advanced for you even with your talent. You're just going to have to put your trust in me to figure this seal out and you're going to help me."

Naruto gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, anyone could hear the knuckles cracking loudly as Naruto tried to calm himself down.

Hanabi however, decided to come after her elder sister but was held down by Natsu.

"You musn't Hanabi-sama! We do not know of what lies ahead of the seal!"

"B-But, onee-san!" Hanabi struggled to let go, being a child, the grip of an adult was definitely very difficult to get out of. Hanabi turned around, desperate to follow her sister as she shouted at the top of her voice, "ONEE-SAN!"

This was the last thing Naruto could recall as his vision swam very suddenly and he blacked out.

On the other side of the seal, Hinata had snapped out of her trance as she looked around. Scrolls upon scrolls, upon scrolls were littered all around her. They were placed in shelves, on the floor and neatly placed by the side. She grabbed one of the scrolls and immediately, she noticed the emblem that was emblazoned on the scroll's outer layer.

It was the image of a spear pointing downwards to the left, with a sea of water towards the left and land on the right. Above the land and the sea was the cloudy sky. Sky, sea and land were surrounded by a circle while the spear overlapped the circle by its handle.

Hinata caressed the symbol with her right hand and imagined how her mother would touch the scroll as well. She closed her eyes for a few seconds to let the image remain before she opens them and began to read a portion of the scroll.

Let it be known that this scroll contains the records of the philosophy of ninshu, its leaders and its actions. The Iwagami clan has seen its creation and through the clan's eyes, they shall write the chronicles of its first leader, Ootsutuski Hagoromo to his sons, Ootsutsuki Indra and Ashura, where the feud of the brothers lead to the creation of the clans and thus, the eras of tragedy and war.

"It has taken you long enough to see what your clan has left behind."

Hinata had snapped out of her concentration as she looked around to the source of his voice, finding a cub, no bigger than her leg, wearing strange and bejewelled ornaments on its chest and hair.

Hinata looked at the small creature strangely, "A-And you are?"

"You may refer to me as Byakko, the white tiger. I am the Kaze no Kiba (Fang of Wind), the guardian of Izumo's western side, and with the rest of my companions along with the Iwagami, am the legacies left behind by the brother of the Rikkudo Sennin here on earth, Ootsutsuki Hamura. I was created from Hamura-sama's tooth, using the technique Banbutsu Sozo (Creation of All Things) and breathed life into us by mere flow of chakra, for Hamura had the power the same as his brother and like his mother before him." The tiger announced with pride as he held his chest out and thumped it with his right forefront paw.

"You were the one that was calling out to me?" Hinata asked and the tiger gave a single nod.

"Only those of the blood of the Iwagami can be called into this sacred place. Those who do not contain the blood are forbidden to enter."

"Why?"

"The descendants of the Rikudo Sennin still thrive in the world, they must not know of the existence of this place, lest the work of Hamura-sama become undone. We are here to prevent such a thing from happening when the time comes."

"W-What does the Rikudo Sennin have to do with your task?"

The tiger gave a huff as he turned around.

"Descendant of Hamura, should you wish to find out the answers, then you must choose; to seek us further into the caverns of this sacred ground and prove yourself or to remain here, knowing that you shall gain the knowledge of the Ootsutsuki clan's history and the events that had led to this moment. Beware that once you have chosen us, then you must be ready to face death. Such is the way of the Iwagami."


Outside:

Senju, Uchiha, Hyuuga, Uzumaki

These were the clans that had official records concerning their connections since the establishment of Ninshu. Beyond that, the period gets blurry as the existence of the great Rikudo Sennin was thought of as a myth, a story to further exalt those who came from these clans. The Uchiha especially, since their eyes were given by the Rikudo Sennin himself as the legends have stated before.

To anyone who believed those stories, they would be in awe at the mere presence of the first recorded leader and inheritor of ninshu, Ootsutsuki Asura, standing before them through the body of a thirteen year old boy, one who had Uzumaki lineage and the scorned container of the Kyuubi no Yoko.

"This shall be the first and last time that someone shall speak of me by my title through this boy. My awakening here has not happened by mere chance alone, I surmise, so let me speak as concise as I can, for Naruto has begun assimilating me since he started his journey and my hope to finally stop this curse of reincarnation shall be realized through him. Indeed, I am he who the voice that you heard described. I am Ootsutsuki Asura, the supposed heir to my father's legacy, ninshu. Much as I am very irritated of having been forced out of this, this too, I think, shall be for the best as to not have any more complications concerning the validity of my own existence."

Jiraiya had wanted to speak to the man personally, the one who advocated bonds to forge peace. This was the man who he had based his ideals on, the one who the Rikudo Sennin had chosen to be his successor.

But the mere presence of the man through his apprentice was quite an astounding experience. His mere chakra had brought the flowers around him to bloom and the branches to grow leaves as the life giving force of his yang chakra was so strong that it made the whole foliage of the mountain side livelier than before. It felt like every living creature was celebrating the arrival of the one who can breathe life into them by his mere presence.

The two bodyguards there, Ko and Natsu, bowed to the man as the chakra overpowered their senses while Hanabi remained in awe as he watched the swallows perch on his shoulder and hands, life giving energy flowing through his veins as he set them off to their journey.

"Of all the people to have the honor of being your reincarnation, why this boy?" Ko asked out of nowhere, Asura merely smiled as he looked up to the sky. He could tell the disbelief that the Hyuuga had just for the fact that he was housing inside the boy who the Hyuuga had looked down upon.

"A being such as I cannot answer that for you, I am just as bewildered as much as anyone. Perhaps my father can give you the answers that you seek, but not me. Though it surprises me that this boy has had to endure more pain and suffering than I did, I cannot be more proud of my current incarnation. He has learned to connect to people and he understands human suffering better than any of my esteemed descendants. Though you look at him with indifference and even perhaps disdain for his status, he walks a path greater than any noble that I have come to know."

He then looked melancholic as he sat down, with the gateway behind him. "Which reminds me…"

He then looked at the people present at the shrine currently, "You all have not learned a thing from my father."

He then continued, "Three large scale wars, millions of deaths, multiple sacrifices and extensions for peace and not one of you humans have learned the valuable lesson of empathy. Perhaps you have experienced pain and you have endured suffering as well, but this is not the way."

Asura merely looked at the boy's tools in his hands, kunai, shuriken, paper bombs and the rest. These were not just tools, they were instruments of death.

"Ninshu has been twisted, a perversion of what it is supposed to be. My father taught ninshu for peace just as I have, yet it has been changed dramatically to something I do not even recognize anymore. This is not the world that my father had envisioned. This is a mockery of his teachings."

As if the elements themselves submitted to his will, Asura conjured chakra in his hands and in each of his fingertips, all five elements danced around them. They surged, spun and raged upon each finger as it reminded him of the harsh training he had to submit into in order to be at the same level as his brother. And within less than a second, all five primary elements vanished from his fingers.

With enough courage, Jiraiya finally had asked the man of the question he had been dying to ask since Naruto's reveal to him.

"I don't understand, why do this now, why couldn't you have appeared earlier when it was just the two of us, Ootsutsuki Asura?" He has been perplexed by the man's strange decision especially with three individuals that weren't actually in the know of the whole situation.

Asura answered with a neutral expression, he answered as truthful as he possibly can.

"Because I know you would believe him even if I haven't had the chance to appear. And it is a punishment, though I understand you would want to keep your home safe for him, you also forgot about him as his godfather. You have done a fine job in atoning, but it does not totally absolve you of your sins to him. Thus, you have brought him pain by thinking of what is best for him. Just as many of the people around him be they the people who look at him with hate or those who take care of him who insists on doing things for his benefit. It is the paradox of our own sense of justice."

"The paradox of our own justice?" Jiraiya asked. True to what he had envisioned, the Asura that talked to him spoke volumes of philosophy and ideals. All of which, the man took after from his father.

"The boy has suffered much in between people who look at him as a symbol of hatred, and those who look at him for whom he came from. That is not justice, it is not empathy and it is most certainly inconsiderate to him. Let me ask you this first, what use is power without purpose? What use is wisdom without courage to act? What use is courage without wisdom to think? What is growth without pain? What is conflict without desire? These questions are the aspects in which I was taught about ninshu and something people have forgotten by choosing an easier path. Something my brother has never learned through all the battles that we have fought in and something this boy has come to understand by his own struggles."

Asura's chakra then turned golden for a second as it emitted from the boy, "Thus it is my sincere hope that this boy carries my legacy. He will be greater than you all and you will look at him in awe and people will follow him. Others will fear him, but they will be overcome not by his power, but by his understanding of people and their suffering. This boy does not dance to the tune of destiny but it is destiny that follows him."

Asura then let his visible and dense chakra create silhouettes of people gathering behind the visage of Naruto as the soul inside the boy smiled, "Pain is but a tiny pebble in our steps and this boy too, he understands it and grows from it. For this alone, he is already beyond the reach of any common human."

Jiraiya knew he nailed it when he thought of Naruto's jinchuuriki status as something of a symbolic nature.

Internally, all of his signals were now designated towards Naruto being the child of prophecy spoken through the words of the great toad sage. If he had doubts before, he most certainly didn't have one now.

It was then that Hinata finally got out of the gateway from the middle of the waning shrine and Naruto now fully gaining back his own consciousness as the flow of Yang Chakra slowly trickled down.

Naruto now looked around. He could feel the ambient chakra around him slowly vanishing but the flora around him remained the same, lively and filled with energy. The birds that perched on his shoulder flew away as Naruto watched them fly. He looked towards the gate, standing there was Hinata looking at him with wide eyes. He noticed that her Byakugan was activated and she could tell that Naruto was the one who was emitting such a radiant and warm chakra that it made all the flowers bloom and attracted the swallows to rest on his shoulders.

To Hinata's Byakugan, Naruto looked like the sun personified.


Kiba and Akamaru:

The duo of master and pet had managed to get out of the hideout in one piece. No thanks in part, to the Uchiha that continued to make Kiba grind his teeth in sheer annoyance.

"Being with that bastard in a team must be a fucking nightmare. I can't imagine anyone sane would put up with that asshole. Don't you think so, Akamaru?"

Akamaru barked in affirmation. Seeing that the Uchiha having that many cats made Akamaru think that Sasuke was terrible for having awful preference to cats and he always knew that the more cats a person had, the more likely it is that the person must be awful because of the stuff he heard from his master about cat ladies being horrible people.

"I knew you'd see it my way, boy. That asshole acts like a cat too, broody and quiet. He doesn't even look like one and he's got the ladies going after him. What's he got that I don't?"

Akamaru didn't know how to answer that so he just whined. Bitches always go for the Alpha Male and Sasuke somewhat resembled one being strong as he is. But Akamaru also knew that Naruto was strong as well and he literally is an alpha male material with just his chakra alone being able to eclipse anyone in the village and is closer to the Hokage's level (chakra wise) than most people their age. Akamaru could tell from just the scent that people emitted that those who had the behaviour and the scent of the Alpha on them. And Naruto was untameable and as dominant as he can get if he wanted to be.

The reason of Kiba's recent complaining was that from their arrival at the hideout, Kiba met a cute girl that was helping out this old lady who happened to be the one who was commanding the cats. The cute girl by the name of Tamaki had those same googly eyes that she was showing to Sasuke and was blushing when he took notice of her while he remained mostly ignored. Though Tamaki eventually did notice him, it was more in the lines of her just being friendly compared to Sasuke.

Kiba never wanted to punch someone as hard at that moment and he felt like aiming it at Sasuke.

Hearing the silence from his companion, Kiba let his shoulders sag a little, "Chicks dig bad boys. Is that it? It isn't exactly in my nature to be a complete asshole unless I'm in a fight. Even then, sometimes I think girls these days simply like androgynous men."

And he had to admit, Sasuke would look good as a girl.

Kiba had then vomited a little in his mouth.

"Sasuke being a guy is enough. Him being a girl doesn't change the fact that I want to tear his face off for being an asshole. But my mom would probably skin me alive if I did."

The thought alone brought forth awful ideas about all of his friends suddenly gender swapping and he had to stop if he went in deeper.

His thoughts were cut off when he had finally reached the shrine of the Inugami.

The fabled shrine of the Inugami was said to have been the ancestral home of the Inuzuka clan, they were more likely hunters than they were mercenaries, though. They started off as a nomadic tribe and hunted as a means of survival and thought to settle down near the prairies of Hi no Kuni (Fire Country). The lands around them served as a hunting ground and proved very bountiful even through the age of the warring clans.

The old cobblestone path that led up to the stone base of the shrine reminded Kiba of a castle as he went up the steps and into the torii gate.

It was common superstition even in this day that the Torii gates that were placed before entering a shrine were gateways to another world. In this case, he was entering the sacred ground of the temple as he passed by the torii. He looked at the center of the temple and in it was a shrine dedicated to the Inugami. Kiba noted the silence that remained there. He had heard from his mom that the temple was abandoned years ago when the Inuzuka left to join of what was now Konoha. They had people keep the place tidy and clean in honor of their deity and a tradition is born from the Inuzuka as those who come of age to perform a pilgrimage from Konoha to this shrine to offer prayers and other things. Kiba chose to offer some meat to the shrine as he laid it to rest to the statue of the Inugami before he offered his prayers.

As he was about to finish, he had heard a yelp that was certainly a dog's. He turned around to see if it was Akamaru but found his dog simply sitting beside him and looking at him quizzically.

When he heard the whine of a dog once more, Kiba turned to locate the sound of where it might have come from.

A few minutes of searching, he looked underneath the floor of the temple and found a small pup, with a broken hind leg on its left and looking quite famished.

Feeling sorry for the puppy, Kiba grabbed his meat offering from the shrine and pinched some of the meat and fed it to the poor dog before he grabbed his water container and fed the dog from his palm. The puppy greatly accepted Kiba's help and in a matter of minutes, the puppy was a little more energetic and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Kiba and Akamaru followed suit.

POOF!


Izumo Village:

Hinata was stunned. Revelation after revelation had hit her full force just after learning about the Iwagami and now Naruto hosting the rightful heir of the Rikudo Sennin's legacy.

If she were as weak as back then, she would've fainted from the shock. But this was just as hard hitting as her finding out about the secret that the Iwagami had held for ages.

"So what have you learned, Hinata-chan?" Naruto asked with a grin, glad that he could tell her his predicament concerning Asura.

Hinata looked conflicted for a second, deciding whether or not she should tell the truth about what she had learned. Hinata never asked for Naruto's secret to be revealed but he did so anyway as a sign of his complete trust and the fact that he was discovered by Hinata's travel companions. He was eventually going to tell her, once he had undertaken Asura's training, that is and he could perform just as well as being noteworthy of Asura's pupil.

"Nothing as of yet, I have yet to read the scrolls inside, I just wanted to get out and think for a while if I decide to get back. But did you think that I would find you a liar if you told me about your other tenant?"

He sighed, not that it would be believable unless he had some form of proof for it to be true.

Hinata slightly giggled at Naruto's reasoning to her as she daintily covered her mouth before she continued, "Yes, even I would have my doubts. But I know you, Naruto-kun. You wouldn't lie about something like that. You were always a bad liar, anyway."

Naruto gave a sigh once more and slumps his head on the table with his hands in the small restaurant while they were waiting for their order.

"I know, I know, I'm pretty horrible when it comes to telling a fib. But it would have been nice to show you that I meant it."

"It's nice to know of the lengths of what you will go through just to tell me the truth, Naruto-kun, really. It shows how much you are willing to trust me and…"

Hinata blushed as she held his hand across the table with a smile, "… I can't be any happier than I already am when you open yourself for me. I feel happy knowing that you can come to me and ease your problems."

A few tables across them, Jiraiya was writing furiously in his notepad as ideas began popping in his head.

"OH THIS IS GOLD! THESE TWO ARE SO INNOCENT YET SO MADLY IN LOVE. MINATO, KUSHINA, YOUR SON IS A GOLDMINE!"

If it were any more ridiculous, Jiraiya had smoke coming out of his nose as ideas flowed forth from his mind to his writing hand.

Naruto merely looked at Jiraiya with a twitching eyebrow and a frown while Hinata was blushing and looking at the table. Instead of lashing at the old man, though, Naruto turned his attention back to his girlfriend and grinned again at her, "Enough about me, what did you see inside?"

Hinata gave a nervous laugh and replied, "Nothing much, but I was greeted by this small tiger cub and…"

Hinata then explained the details of the cub and Naruto listened intently. He frowned at the last part that Hinata could have the very real chance of dying if she were to take the offer. He thought about her safety and just how he would be devastated if he would lose her. But he knew that Hinata was willing to bet her life for this training, just as he would. But Hinata did not have the advantage of having a bijuu sealed inside him, thus negating the effects of much of the fatal potential in his training. But ultimately, the one who would decide would be Hinata.

So with a heavy heart, he said to her, "Whatever makes you feel is right, I'll be there with you. Even if I would rather see you safe, Hinata-chan, I wouldn't give it a second thought if that's what you want to do. The only thing that I can give you right now is my faith in you. Whatever it is that you have to do or want to do, then go for it."

Hinata looked at Naruto a little pensive about his statement before the blonde added with a smile, "If you are willing to bet your life on it, then I'm willing to bet mine too! It'll be unfair if you were willing to take some of my burdens if I can't take away some from you as well."

Hinata suddenly stood up, "B-But you have a job to fulfil! You're the reincarnation…"

Naruto sealed Hinata's lips with his finger as he gestured for her keep quiet.

"That just makes it an even bigger motivation for us not to fail, isn't it?" He grinned and his smiles made Hinata sit back down and Naruto chuckled.

"With that behind us, I'm sure we'll both do great, don't you think so, Hinata-chan?"

Naruto had put a lot of faith in her by betting his life with her own. He was willing to die for her and even with her if need be. Such an unequivocal level of trust made Hinata's heart leap with joy.

She hardened her resolve now as she looked at Naruto with a straight face and gave a nod, "Naruto-kun, thank you for everything, for putting your faith in me, for having the trust in me to make the right decision, and for giving me this chance to stand beside you. I swear to you, I will take your complete faith in me and I will succeed in this training."

Naruto smiled sincerely as he remembered Iruka's words about his description of Hinata.

Hinata was shy. Although she had the tools to succeed, she had always doubted her own self-worth. She always shrunk back whenever the attention was placed on her and with no one to encourage her, she always stumbled and failed. What Hinata needed most was that little encouragement and that little push to make her stand tall and try again. Most of all, what she needed was to be reaffirmed that she could do things better than what people expect of her. To have someone who could give that unconditional trust was not pressure, but an encouragement. And Naruto was willing to give that and then some. He exuded the confidence that Hinata badly needed and Naruto, in turn, let her feed from his own beliefs and convictions.

Naruto took Iruka's advice to heart and kept encouraging Hinata and told her that no matter what might happen, he would support her all the way to the end and he was willing to bet his life on it.

She had made her decision and she is willing to go through it.

The reason was not just because Naruto had encouraged her. It was also because she wanted to protect Naruto as well and to change the Hyuuga. For that, she would need the necessary power to do so.

"Absolutely not!" Ko shouted as he stood up from the table in the outpost, hands slamming on the wooden table.

All the females and the two guards stationed at the outpost looked at Ko as if the man grew another head.

"I cannot allow Hinata-sama to take such monumental risks, support of Ootsutsuki Asura's reincarnation be damned!"

Hinata scowled at this, "I do not understand why you are so against this, Ko. With or without Naruto-kun, I would have willingly taken the offer."

"And risk jeopardizing the entire clan as well, Hinata-sama? You are the heir apparent! Your life is worth more than us! As your guardian, it is my duty to make sure you are alive!"

Hinata took a deep breath and paused for a second before she spoke, her conviction flowing through her words, "This is more than just the Hyuuga Clan now, more than we could ever hope to realize. That is why I must take this step. It is essential and I will not stand by just as we are in the cusp of history's turning point. We cannot afford to be complacent, not now. Or else our clan will truly be wiped out."

Natsu then asked the heir apparent, "What have you learned past that gate, Hinata-sama?"

"That there are things far more dangerous than just Orochimaru and Akatsuki, why I have to do this is to give our village more than just a fighting chance, but a chance to survive. If need be, I will be the one who shall obtain its strength and lend it to the village."

"Onee-sama…"

Hinata looked at her dear little sister who was looking unsure at first but ran to her older sister and hugged her tightly, "Although it's dangerous, I want to believe in you, onee-sama, I haven't seen you like this before and I want to believe you because of it."

Hinata gave a sincere smile as she reciprocated Hanabi's embrace as she said, "Hanabi-chan, I want to see you safe. It is why I'm doing this."

"But what about you?" Hanabi looked up, Hinata assured her, "Don't worry. I have an incentive to fulfil my promise. And I never broke a promise to you, have I?"

Hanabi shook her head.

"Then trust me when I say that I will be back."

Hanabi then smiled at her elder sister and answered, "Yes, I will."

Natsu merely shook her head as she gave a sigh, "Normally I would defer the authority on such a thing to Hiashi-sama. But seeing as you will not be swayed any other way and will not change your mind, then I can only wish you luck, Hinata-sama."

The maid then turned to Ko, "You have done a good job so far, Ko. I think it is time we let Hinata-sama walk the path that she is meant to walk, or rather, the one she wants to walk. Perhaps this is indeed for the best."

The remaining Hyuuga in the outpost agreed with the maid's assessment.

Ko merely sighed and went out of the outpost. If he consented, then he would not only be putting the clan in danger, he would also be held responsible for the fate of the eldest daughter.

"I need to get out and calm myself, I apologize for my rudeness, Hinata-sama."


Naruto:

The blonde had a lamp on as he read from the scroll, the various attempts of performing fuinjutsu. He had been rudely awakened by the fact that even with his talent, time-space seals were still much too complicated for him. They were the epitome of Fuinjutsu skills, those raised at the highest order serving as a reminder of how good his parents were and how wide the gap was between him and them.

Despite the huge difference in skill, Naruto was encouraged even more to learn the complexity of Fuinjutsu. If not for the for its versatile use, then the sheer thought of his parents being so good at it that their skills were not only feared, they were renowned throughout the world was enough to convince Naruto that Fuinjutsu was the art to go.

As Naruto read the scroll in his lap, he leaned on to the board he had just created hours ago and took note of the problems he had with it.

He was trying his hardest to make himself look busy and not think about the dangerous road that Hinata was taking. He was worried, but even if he knew he had to put his faith in her, a part of him still had that lingering anxiety and the possible scenarios that entered his mind.

"Uzumaki-san."

His thoughts were cut short when Hinata's bodyguard, Ko had approached him. From the looks of things, he was looking as anxious as the blonde was about Hinata's predicament.

"You're one of Hinata's companions, right? What are you doing here?"

Jiraiya was inside, doing his own ministrations with his own scroll, writing another report to be submitted to Tsunade and preparing his student to what was possibly his most rigorous form of training yet. Jiraiya knew that Tsunade would most likely decline to having Naruto learn Senjutsu this early in his career, but a word in from Fukasaku and Shima should have her agreeing with them soon enough.

He looked outside and saw the Hyuuga's bodyguard approach his apprentice with curious eyes. He decided to remain silent and let the two talk, he knew for a fact that if he butted in, things could get worse.

"I am here to ask you to how you are taking HInata-sama's decision to undergo this difficult task of hers. I am very disturbed by this news, Hinata-sama is the hope of our clan, without her ambition, the clan would descend into ruin."

Naruto aptly put his scroll down and looked up from beyond his lamp and into the star ridden sky. He sighed as he put his hands behind his head and replied to the man.

"You want me to stop her from taking such a dangerous proposition, right?" Naruto reaffirmed what Ko said and the man nodded. The blonde closed his eyes as he didn't look at Ko for a second.

"Frankly, I'm just as worried as you and everybody else. It's the kind of risk that I wouldn't want anyone to go through if it can be helped."

"Then why approve of it? This is a delicate situation and knowing that she seeks your opinion in the matter only makes it worse for her! We simply cannot allow for her to take this phenomenal risk!" Ko argued, but Naruto merely answered with a hum as he said.

"Hinata gets to decide her fate. She wants to take a gamble with this. She sees this as her opportunity to grow stronger. No matter how much I try to stop her, what I can't take away from her is her conviction to go through with it. Even though I would say she does so otherwise, the fact of the matter is that she thinks she has to go through with it. If she's willing to take the risk, then I'm willing to take mine as well. No matter what she does, I would have to be there for her all the way."

"Sometimes just having faith in someone is never enough, Naruto-san." Ko replied, he was very sceptical of the whole fiasco in the first place.

"And you need to have more faith in her if you think she's going to be your hope of stopping your clan's destruction. If you are willing to push for her to change your ways, then you have to be willing to trust her that she will be fine."

"But it is blind faith…" Ko was about to finish his sentence when Naruto had cut him off.

"Sure it is, but sometimes taking that huge leap is something we all need to do, even if that leap leads to something unknown. I took that leap forward and now, I see a different path. Just know that I would be there with Hinata to give her my support."

Ko was simply flabbergasted with Naruto's reasoning. It was just hard to conceive to have Hinata undergo such a dangerous trial for the sake of this boy who is possibly more exalted than the Hyuuga clan itself.

"She is talking about something more dangerous than Orochimaru and the Akatsuki. I know not what she has found, but I daresay that this is something that is beyond her."

Naruto simply gave a shrug, "If she has a chance to change things, then she will take it. That is who Hinata is. She will take that opportunity and will see through it to the end. She'll survive, I know she will."

"This is ridiculous." Said Ko in frustration.

Naruto merely gave an amused smile, "I'm betting on my life that she will succeed, Ko, and I have never lost a gamble before."


Unknown Place:

When Kiba appeared on the expansive plains of grass and trees, he looked surprised when his surroundings weren't the same as it was before.

"Well, looks like I'm not in the temple anymore."

Akamaru grumbled at Kiba's remark.

"Oh, an Inuzuka? I haven't had seen one for half a century, chalk it up to little Ashimaru to be the luckiest pup in the pack." A voice remarked. It sounded deep and bellying. But it didn't sound threatening at all.

Kiba turned around and saw a red dog slightly shorter than Akamaru and wearing a piece of cloth around its torso as a blade was sheathed on its right side with the handle having a guard and five studded spikes on the guard and at the hilt of it. The dog was perched on a tall rock formation, perhaps thrice a man's height. The canine was big and the fact that the dog was wearing an eyepatch like Kuromaru reminded Kiba of her mother so much that he whimpered slightly.

The canine grinned as it looked down from the rock it was standing on.

"I'm used to talking animals, since they're not that uncommon, but seriously, what the fuck?" Kiba asked as he scratched his head.

The big dog then hopped down through several stones as if they were steps and landed nicely in front of the only human and sat down.

Akamaru was prepared and he spread his forearms slightly just in case.

"At ease, pup. I do not threaten your partner in the slightest. He has saved my son, after all." The red dog replied as it grinned while he sniffed Kiba.

"Pup? You mean that puppy that had a broken leg back in the temple? How did he end up there?" Kiba asked.

"Ashimaru is always the curious little whelp. He would always venture forth to places unknown to him to pick up different scents and see new things. It is unfortunate that he had an accident trying to see the old temple where we used to go to."

His pup has been known to be an explorer within the pack, often wilfully going out of their home in order to see the sights that he would be telling in his youth.

"You used to go that temple before? Why'd you suddenly stop?" Kiba asked to the dog and the dog merely gave huff.

"You could say that once the humans left, we certainly had no other purpose to stay in that place. The elder has made that perfectly clear for us."

The dog then looked at the boy straight to his eyes and said, "With that being said, I sincerely thank you for saving Ashimaru. I am Yaiba, the acting leader of the Inugami clan."

Kiba gave a nod, "Inuzuka Kiba, second in line to take the seat as the head of the Inuzuka clan, I'm just glad that pup is safe."

Yaiba simply chuckled once more, "That it is, Inuzuka-dono. Am I to assume that you were at the shrine to perform your pilgrimage?"

Kiba nodded.

"Yeah, my mother made me do it, I would have just made camp and trained out in the outskirts of the village, but then my mother has that instinctual ability that could tell if I was lying or not. I didn't want to take the chance."

This time, Yaiba gave a full blown laugh, "Well thanks to that choice, my son is saved. Come, let us discuss the terms of finally having the Inugami back on active combat."

Kiba fumbled at his words with this, "Ha, wha- what? Am I going to assume that I'm going to be your clan's summoner?"

Yaiba grinned, "A fair deal, pup. A life for a life, you saved the life of my child, I am indebted to you. Thus, our clan is indebted to you. It is only fair that we honor your deed by fighting by your side. Plus it has been close to a century since our clan has seen any form of action. Our old contract scroll was lost in to the pages of history, probably destroyed."

Kiba couldn't believe any of this at first. Imagine his luck in continuing his journey, it sure made the trip of tolerating Team Seven's asshole archetype totally worth it!

Kiba's expression turned to a large toothy grin as he turned to Akamaru and said with enthusiasm, "THIS IS AWESOME, RIGHT AKAMARU?"

His companion couldn't agree more.

Yaiba gave a small chuckle as he looked at human's dog companion.

"I see the feral blood is strong with your companion, Inuzuka-dono. There is much potential to learn from us. Would you agree for an extended time of your pilgrimage and train with us in order to understand how we operate?" Yaiba asked and Kiba nodded full force.

"I can maximize this thing for about three more weeks. After that, my mom would scour the countryside and have me clean the kennels until I'm thirty. So yeah, let's get to it!"

It was then that two dogs appeared just behind Yaiba.

The dog on the presumed leader's right was brown and had a sharper snout than Yaiba as well as a more contoured set of triangular ears. The dog's build was much leaner than Yaiba and had a longer set of legs compared to the said leader suggesting that this canine had an emphasis more on speed and the crossbow saddled on its back further enforced what Kiba had been thinking. The dog on the left of Yaiba was much bigger or bulkier for a better description. The dog had a shorter snout and its fur was black all over. Its jaws and cheeks were well defined, telling Kiba that this dog had a very strong bite and from what he could tell from the dog's jaws, it meant that he could probably lock it up too. Behind him was a collapsible twin-bladed lance.

"Allow me to introduce to you two of my subordinates, Kaishoku the lancer and Sokyumaru the archer."

Yaiba then grinned, "They are some of my fiercest and strongest warriors. Now, Inuzuka-dono, you must prove yourself to us."

Clenching his fists tight and with Akamaru already bending down ready for the charge, Kiba grinned befre he bent his knees down.

"I'll gladly blow your expectations out of the water!"


Konoha, mission assignment room:

Aburame Shino was upset. Although no one could tell from the surface, inside, Shino was feeling quite vexed and angry. He knew for a while that Konoha wasn't as good as it seemed. He knew that all entities, no matter the origin and purpose, have a distinct dark side. Be it through history or approach, the lessons he had learned told him that neither figure nor society were perfect. Many things he had read through books talk about the impossibility of such a civilization. Yet, even after knowing such a thing was real, it certainly did not help his mood at all that his clan had been tampered with by a megalomaniac.

His talk with his father smoothened a little and his questions were brought to light. But it did not quell his anger for the man that had taken away a part his family in exchange for him.

'How could such a thing be allowed? Against his will too?'

Thus, he had begun his training. He had never bothered to put a tangible goal before as he had no set goals other than the prosperity of his clan and his village. His dream could be fulfilled even if without his shinobi training, but now with what he learned, he had gained a certain goal now.

As he thought about when he got to know his teammates and his sensei before they started, he now thought about a different goal, one where he will put his training to good use, one where his skills will be relevant.

'Torune-niisan, I will take you back from Danzo.'

"Something on your mind?" Shikamaru asked as he looked at Shino who then looked at the one in front of him.

Shino gave a slightly raised brow, "I would expect Shikaku-san or Tsunade-sama herself to give missions today, am I to assume that they are busy?"

Shikamaru nodded as he returned his vision to the scroll spread on the table, "Yeah, they're discussing a meeting about something really important because Tsunade-sama counted it as an emergency meeting. The decryption department is already starting it."

Shikamaru scratched his chin a little.

"The missions had already been filed out for the right people. I'm only here to distribute them, so excuse me if my debriefing can't be as comprehensive."

Shino gave a nod as Shikamaru pulled the scroll with Shino's name on it from the box below the desk and pulled the paper out to read the contents inside.

"You're assigned to a route from Konoha to the border outpost near Taki no Kuni. Your mission is to make sure the routes are secure, bandits aren't normally a thing in Hi no Kuni, but I suggest to remain cautious nonetheless. You'll be staying in that outpost for about several months and relieve one of the members assigned there."

"Are there any other parameters that I should be aware of?" Shino asked and Shikamaru gave a nod.

Shikamaru smirked inwardly, he and Naruto made the right choice in choosing Shino on peer review. Their former classmate certainly knew his ropes even if Shino was only several months behind him and Naruto.

"None that are of concern, but do try to keep your distance from Takigakure shinobi as well as keeping your curiosity to a minimum. I know you won't do so without considering your options, but shinobi from their village tend to be very serious about their secrets. If you think there is a problem, you're going to have to write an emergency report and standby for further instructions until you deem it necessary. But I suppose you understand that protocol enough, though."

Shino gave a nod and then said, "Am I to assume this will be long term?"

Shikamaru gave a nod and added, "For someone like me, five days is already a long term mission. Your stay will be for about half a year, I reckon. But it will depend on Tsunade-sama just how fast her rotations on border patrol would be. We're still recovering pretty much from that invasion, so I doubt she will pull you guys out quickly."

"Understood, I will begin my preparations shortly." Shino then took the scroll from Shikamaru's hand and turned around to get out of the office.

Maybe Shino needed this, to get away from the village for a while. He had been simply too wound up, too stressed and just too upset to be in the village currently. Shikamaru could tell that Shino was tense, the boy's body language spoke it all, from the subtle curling and tightening of fists to tucking his hands on his pocket.

Just as he was about to exit the room, he was met by Sasuke and Sakura who was already going for the door handle until touched it.

"Ah, Shino, it's been a while. Heading out on a mission?"

Shino gave a nod and replied, "Long term, nothing too dangerous, but it's important."

Shino then looked at Sasuke, "Uchiha-san, may I ask you something?"

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at this but answered with a grunt and a nod. To Sasuke, Shino was one of the least annoying people around. He could certainly tolerate Shino's silent observations and poignant remarks so he was at least amiable to what Shino had to ask him.

"How is life treating you in ANBU?"

Sasuke looked at Shino as if he had grown another head, wondering where that came from.

"Nothing much that I can't handle, they're letting me take on missions now. The training is rigorous but it's what you'd expect from an elite fighting force. Why do you ask? Interested in joining?"

Now that was certainly something to think about. Shino had never thought of joining ANBU, he had no desire about it and although he may just be perfect for joining with his skillset, he thought that the high stress workload, the psychological strain and high level of demand on their training alone brought second guessing in his head about joining it.

Yet he felt mystified of this very exclusive branch of Shinobi work.

"No, but I'm asking because of something important though I can't tell you anything about it, currently."

Sasuke gave a nod, "Right, I understand. If you ever change your mind just approach either Kakashi-sensei or me."

And just in time, Kakashi popped in a cloud of smoke beside Sakura as the trio looked at him.

"I heard someone mention my name, anything I can help you with?" Kakashi asked as Sakura gave a quick answer.

"We were just discussing something about ANBU, Kakashi-sensei. I think Shino might be interested in joining."

Kakashi gave a hum at this and looked at Shino before he answered, "His skills would be very useful in ANBU, but I don't think Shino would actually be interested in joining."

"You can tell just from looking at him, sensei?" Sakura asked and Kakashi gave a smile beneath his mask, "A hunch."

That and it was a pretty well-known fact Shibi was not interested and letting his son enter ANBU anytime soon. The last time they let a child enter the ANBU, it resulted in the boy snapping and killing his clan almost entirely. And now, that only remaining remnant of the Uchiha clan was now his subordinate.

It's not like he could argue against it, though. Kakashi had also entered ANBU at a young age. But unlike Itachi, Kakashi had entered ANBU at his lowest point, already broken, severely damaged from the trauma of losing people one by one. By no means had he buckled under the pressure of ANBU. In fact, if he had to be honest with himself, he enjoyed it. For a time, the numbing sensation of despair had always been behind him after the final straw that broke the camel's back and joining the ANBU, with all of its dangerous jobs and requirements, had given him a sense of feeling alive. The rush of life or death battles was always lingering and never truly disappeared. That was when he thought he could at least feel something.

Whether the ANBU lifestyle had given him catharsis or not was certainly a question that he would never likely answer with himself, he didn't want to go there. There were moments where in the thick of it all, he felt like he wanted to die then and there and he didn't want to think about such dark thoughts now.

"I am merely investigating something. I had remembered something important and I decided to ask Sasuke-san to at least give me an idea of life in ANBU."

Kakashi raised his eyebrow at this, "Oh, Sasuke? He's not exactly a real field agent, yet. But given a short time, he will be. He certainly has earned his mask and respect from his peers there. Are you REALLY interested in joining? Are you going to change your father's decision later on?"

"Unlikely. Though my skills can be useful, I am not suited to a much more demanding level of work. I feel that my current work level is sufficient enough." Shino replied before giving a bow to team seven.

"If you're all done with bothering Shino now…" Shikamaru remarked as he grabbed a scroll from his drawer and laid it out on to the trio.

"Here's the mission that Hokage-sama had assigned your group, Kakashi-sensei. She's asking you to go to a village near Kannabi Bridge. She says you were familiar with the place being a veteran of the third war. Apparently, there are some suspicious people moving about outside it. They aren't asking you to engage but to investigate with a team from Kusagakure. It will be a joint mission since, apparently, Kusagakure is also shorthanded on men right now. It seems like many of our potential clients now know that we are lacking with shinobi personnel. So, to show a sign of goodwill and trade, the Hokage asked for one of his best jounin for the job and for additional support."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at this, "If I recall, you were also part of that operation weren't you, sensei?"

Kakashi gave a nod, "I was. I was the one entrusted with the command of my group since I was the jounin back then. My sensei entrusted that command to me while he was given a different role in that operation."

"Has Hokage-sama added any other protocols?" Sakura asked and Shikamaru looked into the scroll.

"If encounters are inevitable, then capture is a must. But if it can't be helped, neutralizing the target would suffice."

"Is Kusagakure willing for that to happen, though? I imagine we can't just perform unauthorized engagements on foreign soil without Kusagakure's permission." Sasuke asked and Kakashi replied, "That's why it's a joint task force. If we are going to engage, then it is best when Kusagakure shinobi see us at the get go."

'That would make sense.' Sakura thought.

When the debriefing mission was done, Kakashi and his team were about to exit when Tsunade had finally arrived looking serious as she motioned Shikamaru to get out which the chuunin all too happily accepted.

"Ah Kakashi, just in time, I was worried I wouldn't make it in assigning another member for your team." Said the Hokage.

Tsunade then motioned with her head slightly and someone dropped from the ceiling with a fixed and almost disturbing smile on his face. He had a pale face, much paler than Sasuke but he was much as good-looking as Sakura's teammate. He wore a pair of black pants that matched well with his long sleeve outfit that was bare at midriff showing his abdomen. If it weren't any better, Sakura thought that this person was showing off himself to her.

"This is Sai, he's a recent recruit in ANBU like Sasuke. I believe he will do a fine job in replacing Naruto for now since you can't function as a four man cell squad without Naruto. He'll basically do rotations on teams seven and ten. You can get your introductions on your way to Kusa."

With that, Tsunade had dismissed Sasuke, Sai and Sakura but asked for Kakashi to remain.

The three nodded without a word and went out of the room.

Tsunade then spoke to the Jounin, "Be on your guard with Sai. He's Danzo's subordinate. I can trust him following orders from you enough. But being a dog to that sleazy rat, he has ulterior motives, possibly to guard Sasuke and eliminate him should he be a threat."

Kakashi nodded but then added, "I think it's Sai who should be careful around Sasuke."

"His ANBU training doing well?" Tsunade asked, it was unusual for Kakashi to put heavy confidence in someone else.

"By no means is Sasuke a slouch, he can pick things up faster than most people. What Sai should be worried about is Sasuke's growing skillset." Kakashi answered as he then added, "Hokage-sama, you know what I am talking about, right?"

Tsunade gave a nod.

"Does he have control over the Mangekyou Sharingan?" She asked and Kakashi gave a shrug.

"I don't know the extent of it, but I would surmise that he is reluctant to use it. The use of that stage is damaging to his eyes. It's why he's been training much more in versatility of his jutsu repertoire than the actual use of his dojutsu. He'll mostly rely on his fully mature sharingan, but the Mangekyou? I would think that he would reserve that for his brother."

He would continue with his statement but stopped when they felt the earth shake slightly, the vibrations causing her pen to fall from her table. Then a loud, thunderous boom escaped and the sound of a high-pitch whistle coming from outside.

Quick to take action, Kakashi dashed outside to see what the cause was, his hands were instinctively clasping together to perform a jutsu of a most lethal kind but he stopped when he saw what the trouble was all about.

Outside the tower was a heaving Sakura, breathing heavily with a massive scowl on her face, her right arm was extended and looked incredibly angry.

Behind the Hokage's apprentice was Sasuke who was shaking his head and was holding his face with his right palm.

But Sai was nowhere to be seen, Kakashi and Tsunade suspected that Danzo's agent was sent to lower earth orbit for that one.

"THAT'S WHAT YOU GET FOR CALLING ME UGLY, YOU METROSEXUAL TROLL! CHA!"

Tsunade looked amused at this, "Huh? What was I worried about again?"

"Hokage-sama, your worry is misplaced and do you know why?" Kakashi paused for dramatic effect, "Because people shouldn't ever fuck with my team."


Izumo village:

Morning came and the sound of footsteps echoed throughout the sun kissed dew drops on to the flora that was the shrine of the Iwagami clan. Out at front was Hinata, a look of resolve etched on her face while behind her stood her body guard, her sister's caretaker and her sister as well while out further back were Naruto and Jiraiya.

As they approached the main shrine gates itself with Naruto and Jiraiya performing the seal again, Hinata drew a tiny amount of blood at the center as she then looked back at the people behind her.

"This is it."

They all nodded and Naruto stepped closer to her, a serious look on his face.

"Hinata, I don't know how long you will be there. I don't know what kind of test is in there for you and I don't know what it is that made you decide this. Your bodyguard is right about one thing. I'm placing blind faith into your decision but I can't sway you to turn your back away from this. So with that in mind, I had Ero-sennin help me with this."

Naruto then handed Hinata a single piece of paper written with countless seals and the center, standing as its core was the word heaven on it.

"This is a healing tag seal, I've placed some of my chakra in it to give you a one-shot chance to heal and replenish yourself with my chakra. Ero-sennin explained to me the details of my chakra as having restorative properties due to Asura but I don't have full control of it and this is the only thing that can suffice for me right now since I'm bad at chakra control and healing jutsu."

Hinata accepted the gift and noticed the bags under Naruto's eyes.

"Y-You look tired, Naruto-kun. Did you stay up all night just to get this right?"

Naruto merely grinned at her and said, "It's nothing I can't handle, Hinata. It's a small price to pay considering what you're going to have to go through. Consider it a small gift before I come back to Konoha, we can spend as much time with each other there."

Jiraiya scoffed at this and mumbled, "Not like he's going to cheat anyway, that boy is probably saving himself for his girlfriend…"

He then grinned as he continued, "BUT WHAT INSPIRATION THESE TWO HAS BECOME! IT'S LIKE LOVE IN THE PUREST FORM!"

Hinata decided to avoid Naruto's gaze and looked down with a blush on her face while Naruto had his left eyebrow twitching in annoyance but a blush of his own.

There was just no escaping his godfather's embarrassing behaviour.

"Wow, look at this old man, it's like he's acting like those crazy artists in the manga I read." Hanabi commented as both Ko and Natsu cleared their throats with a cough and decidedly not let Hanabi too close to the old man for fear of being corrupted.

"YOU'RE ALWAYS THE MOOD KILLER, YOU KNOW THAT!?" Naruto shouted to the old pervert who ignored him and kept writing with a giggle escaping his lips.

"Oh my next book is totally going to sell!" Jiraiya muttered as he continued to write without stopping on his notebook.

After Jiraiya had gotten to control himself, Hinata turned her sights towards the group and spoke with a tone of surety of decision and resolve made of steel.

"It hasn't been stressed enough, but I am sure that whatever I encounter inside, I will need to solve on my own. This is my mother's legacy thus, the legacy of the Hyuuga clan as well. For it to survive as well as the Hyuuga, I will have to take this chance. Our future has always been on the line, but now? Now I think we have more than a fighting chance."

Like a proud lioness, Hinata stepped forth, back straight and shoulders wide, her pride and her courage showing forth.

"As the heiress of the Hyuuga, I will walk out of this trial, successful and victorious."

And with that, Hinata walked through the gates, prepared to face even the most unpredictable.

Inside, he was met with the tiger cub from earlier, a smile gleaming on to the creature's face.

"You have chosen well, descendant of Hamura. I welcome you to your trial and may his soul give you blessings for what is to come."


To be continued…

A bit rushed, yes, and I am alive. I've been out of it for quite some time due to some problems and have been doing some reporting and finishing up my internship with a big hurdle coming along so I wasn't able to update much (hint: it's the boards).

So sorry I made you all wait this time, but IRL is always such a bitch and full of responsibilities.