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 Post subject: Hope Will Never Die; A Naruto Fanfic
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:15 pm 
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Chapter 1: Changing Uzumaki

This time, he was pissed. Though, somewhere in the back of his mind, he had always known it was coming. His façade of always being happy, cheerful, and the one he had acquired during the academy, which was being a dumb ass, was once again fading. It was closing in on the time where he would drop the façade anyway, though he wanted to be strong enough to back those words up.

But now, he wasn't so sure he was ever going to get the chance to show his true self.

"So…you've entered us into the chunin exams…two days before the exam?" Naruto inquired, a building cloud of ki surrounding him.

The ki was directed at none other than their so called sensei, as the cycloptic ninja scratched the back of his head sheepishly, akin to the loud blonde in front of him.

"Well, I had hoped to inform you tomorrow, but I'm going to be busy." He said with his unusual eye smile.

"That's no better." Sasuke growled, almost as pissed as Naruto. Their pink haired comrade only stared in disbelief at their sensei, mind trying to wrap around the thought of chunin exam.

"You three shouldn't worry though! I'm sure you're all ready for this!"

"Kakashi-sensei, all you've taught us is tree climbing. Unless walking up a tree is going to save us from a hail of kunai and chunin ranked jutsu, I doubt we're ready." Naruto deadpanned, gaining a raised eyebrow from the jonin.

"Honestly, Naruto! I thought you'd be excited about this!"

Naruto frowned. 'Oh yeah, I'm the dead last who rushes into everything blindly. Of course I'd be happy to go into a deadly tournament that's sure to get my less than mediocre ass killed.'

At the same time as his thoughts, Naruto plastered on his fake smile. "Of course I'm excited about it. I'm just worried too is all! We're going to dominate, believe it!"

The next second, a fist collided with the back of Naruto's head, making him wince in pain. 'Leave it to Sakura to capitalize on nothing at all.'

"Baka, don't be so arrogant! The chunin exams are no joke!"

"Well, seeing as you three have some preparing to do, I'll be on my way. See you at the academy at 7 sharp in two days." With a wave, Kakashi vanished into wind.

"I've got to learn how he does that!" Naruto exclaimed. Another fist met his head.

"Don't be stupid! That jutsu's probably too advanced for a dobe like you! Isn't that right Sasuke-kun?" Just like that, the bubble gum ninja went from yelling to fawning.

Sasuke's reply was to promptly walk away. The ever so faithful obsessor *which is not a word by the way, don't go using it*, Sakura bonded after him like a puppy on a leash. Naruto's smile fell instantly and he rubbed the knots on his head.

"The hell does she do that for. As if talking is too hard, she has to hit to get a point across."

Walking back towards his apartment, Naruto pushed the thoughts away. He still had a small crush on Sakura, if that. He knew that it was a long shot from being called love, and the only reason he made it seem that way was to keep up appearances. He wouldn't turn down a date any time soon, but he wasn't going to keep letting her hit him either. Being obsessed was something that he would like to leave to fangirls and he was far from a masochist as well.

Entering his apartment he looked at the various cups or insta-ramen strewn over the foyer. It was the only dirty place in the apartment, which was just a show to those who were at his front door.

On contraire to popular village beliefs, Naruto was not a dead last. He was far from an idiot, albeit he didn't have as much knowledge as others due to the teachers sabotaging his learning at the academy. He had taken it upon himself to learn as much as possible on his own, and because of this, knew things that others his age shouldn't have known.

He wasn't weak. He'd be damned if he said he was ready for chunin though. His skills were lacking greatly, and he had to admit that most of his accomplishments were based on dumb luck. *Note, pretty much it's canon Naruto but with the insight to know his strengths and weaknesses.*

He knew that a certain Hyuga had a crush on him. Come on, when someone stalks…follows you around damn near every day, you're liable to notice them at least once. The only problem was that Naruto didn't want to get too close to her. One, if he did, the villagers were likely to start treating her the way they treat him. Two, if he got with Sakura, the villagers would treat her the way they treated him. (Oh would he enjoy watching that until he developed actual feelings for the girl.) Three, she kind of creeped him out. Past that, he just wanted the girl to be happy. So far, she was content with just watching him train.

Walking into his room, he pulled off his horrid jacket and flopped onto his bed. He flared a hand sign, creating three clones.

"Go train or whatever the fuck you do while I'm sleep."

"Come on boss, you should actually try to train too. You're never going to get stronger this way." One of the clones said.

"Yeah boss. You want to prove everyone wrong don't you? Quite procrastinating and get off your lazy ass!" The second one responded. Naruto rolled over on his bed.

"If it weren't for the fact that you were me, I'd tell you to go fuck yourself. But I don't feel like masturbating right now, and I'm already feeling silly for arguing with myself." He waved the clones off who only looked at him sadly.

Because they were him, they knew what he was feeling. Kakashi hadn't really taught them much of anything, just like the academy. Now they were going to be put into the chunin exams. Naruto knew it was only for Sasuke. Kakashi knew perfectly Naruto and Sakura were nowhere near ready for the chunin exams, but Sasuke was probably. All their sensei had done was set them up for humiliation, and ultimately failure. A deep chuckle inside of Naruto's mind made him wince.

"Priceless. You should see the look on your face." The booming voice of the Kyubi laughed at it's container.

"Go choke on it, furball." Naruto spat back, entering his mind.

"My, pretty feisty today aren't we? What happened to having a mutual relationship?"

Naruto dug in his ear. "You're the one that keeps bugging me dammit! We agreed that you wouldn't be evil and I'd listen to your advice here or there."

"Yes, nowhere does it say I can't annoy the living shit out of you. Also, you haven't been listening to a word I've been saying recently." The foxes red eyes narrowed at the blonde, sending a shiver up his spine. Even knowing that the fox was one of his word, Naruto could never forget that it was also a dangerous killing machine. If it wasn't for the seal, he wouldn't have anything to do with the creature.

But not being able to escape his fate as a jinchuriki, Naruto opted to make peace with the beast, or as close to peace as he could get. The fox wasn't downright evil, but a hell ride from even being remotely good. When not being evil, it was just being annoying as all hell.

"The only advice you've been giving me lately is to talk to Hinata so we can mate and pop out 'little kits.' I don't even like her like that…much…" A small blush crossed his face, earning chuckles from the demon.

"Fool, I've been telling you to train with the Hyuga heiress as well. She could've been helping you get stronger, as well as you helping her overcome her insecurities. She will be in the same position as you in the chunin exams."

Naruto's head shot up. "What?"

"She has been watching you train. This means that she has been neglecting her own training. As well, her father cast her aside and has not been teaching her himself."

"How do you know that?"

"Your mind is not the only one accessible to a mighty demon, kit."

Naruto rose an eyebrow. "You could read other people's minds this whole time? You could've been helping me you stupid fox!"

"No. If I were to reveal what others are thinking to you, things would only get worse. Besides, it's fun to screw with you." Was the foxes only reply before bursting into laughter. "Seeing as you already know my little secret now, would you like to know more?"

Naruto stretched before getting comfortable on the sewer floor, indicating that he was willing to listen to more. The fox laid down as well, putting its muzzle on its front paws.

"Listen closely, because I intend to make you take life seriously. As you are now, you are but a liability to yourself, everyone around you, and especially me."

Naruto grunted at that.

"Of your former classmates, only the Nara child is ready to be a chunin. His brain more than makes up for his lack of physical strength, though with his clans stronger moves, that won't matter for long. The Inuzuka, Akimichi, Aburame, and Uchiha are ready physically. However, their mindset will hinder them from achieving that goal. Hinata would be ready physically if she was trained properly, but even so, she is far too focused on you and the problems that she deals with daily."

Naruto frowned. Just off of inquiry, it sounded like Hinata was living a shitty life as well. It made him think of the Hyuga heiress even more.

"Finally, you have the Haruno and Yamanaka. Neither of them should even consider chunin. Both are completely pathetic physically, in more ways than one. Mentally, they share brains with Sasuke seeing as their heads are so far up the pompous brats ass."

Even Naruto had to giggle at that one.

"But the Yamanaka may take less convincing to become serious, seeing as she has spent less time with the Uchiha."

"Okay, so what does this have to do with me?" Naruto asked.

"Don't you get it kit? None of these kids are ready because none of them are taking being a ninja seriously. They are either latched onto their jonin sensei's, or dealing with problems the way children would, which is relying on others. None of you, outside of the Nara, has the mindset of taking your future into your own hands seriously. Do you truly wish to become Hokage?"

"Of course!" Naruto shouted.

"Then take a page from your fathers book and get serious!" The fox boomed. As silence filled the area, it looked at Naruto. His mouth hung open and his eyes stared straight forward. The Kyubi rose an eyebrow for a split second before it realized the mistake it had just made. "Crap…"

"You knew who my father was?" Naruto asked, just above a whisper. The fox sighed and leaned up, stretching as it did.

"Of course I know who your father is kit, he was the one who sealed me inside of you."

Just like that, pieces of a puzzle fell into place. When Naruto had learned about the Kyubi, the third had said it was the Fourth that sealed it inside of him. Now looking back on it, he felt stupid for not asking why him of all people. Then even more stupid for not seeing the resemblance between him and his hero. Finally, he felt like a moron for not seeing how OBVIOUS all of the clues were. In consolation, he could at least say most of the villagers were just as stupid.

"Why…why didn't you tell me sooner?" Naruto asked, tears forming in his eyes.

"It doesn't mean as much coming from me as it would've coming from the Hokage." The fox replied. Cold hearted demon, he may be, but he still believed in honor. The honor of telling Naruto the truth should've been reserved for someone precious to him.

Naruto held his head in frustration. The Fourth Hokage was his father. Okay, it wasn't much of a shock when you did think about all the obvious clues, but it was still an overwhelming revelation. He felt so many emotions at once. Anger, joy, sadness, relief. It all washed over him like a soothing breeze, only to be yanked away by what the Kyubi had just said.

"I'm…I'm not taking being a ninja seriously…" The fox watched as Naruto began thinking, knowing that it was rare to see Naruto evaluate anything he had said. "You're right. This whole time me and my friends have been sitting here, waiting for things to fall into our laps. The little effort we do put forth is nowhere near enough, especially when we live in a world where death is as natural as breathing."

The fox nodded, actually shocked that Naruto had figured it out so quickly. "Your father would not be proud of this village as it is now." He added.

"I know…jiji is doing the best he can, but he's already old. And I know dad didn't get to be Hokage by sitting around." Naruto frowned, looking at himself. He felt ashamed now. Ashamed of the fact that he had been playing ninja for the most part of his life. Ashamed that he had purposely let himself get as weak as he was. Ashamed that he had accepted it.

"Well then, Naruto. If you know this, then what are you going to do? Are you going to keep your façade, and wait for that loathsome, pathetic excuse for a sensei to teach you something?"

"No…not at all. I'll be stuck here for the rest of my life if I waited." He paused, standing up with a confident smirk. "The Fourth Hokage is my father, and knowing that only makes me want to become Hokage even more. Not just to make him proud, but to prove that I am his son. But more than that…" Naruto closed his eyes. "To prove that I'm better than him. I want to become a ninja that even dad could only dream of being. I want to be able to destroy bijuu if need be!"

The Kyubi scoffed at Naruto's implications.

"Knowing that the Fourth is your father has spurred all of this?" The demon chuckled slightly.

"No…and yes. I was going to start getting a bit more serious regardless, but knowing that my father was the greatest shinobi to walk this planet makes me want follow after him, and eventually over take him. Plus…I want to protect those precious to me, especially Hinata. If what you said is true, then she's had a rough life just like me. I won't be able to make her happy if I'm weak."

Naruto frowned again. The weight of what the Kyubi had revealed to him was weighing completely on his shoulders. It shouldn't have taken him until now to get serious about his training. It definitely shouldn't have taken him that long to see the path they were going down. He needed to start thinking about what was truly important, even if it meant sacrificing happiness now for happiness in the future.

"From this point on, Naruto Uzumaki…Namikaze, is going to be the best damn ninja to walk the face of this earth. No one will forget that name."

Without warning, Naruto left his mind, much to the chagrin of the demon fox. He immediately jumped out of his bed and reached for his jacket. Stopping in mid motion, he frowned at the offending piece of clothing.

"No. I can't wear that crap anymore."

The reality was that Naruto had always worn bright colors so people could see him when he did his pranks. They would remember him, acknowledge him. But that was the past now. He didn't need to pull pranks anymore. (Though he wasn't saying he was going to stop completely) He was going to have people acknowledge him for his skills.

Instead, he walked over to his dresser and pulled out a pair of black cargo pants. Switching those with his orange jumpsuit pants, he left the dark blue shirt on. But he ripped the sleeves off anyway, feeling that it was a slight variation from the jumpsuit, blue shirt combo he usually wore. Plus, it was cheaper than going to buy brand new clothes anyway. Real ninja didn't have time to worry about exactly what they had to wear.

"Yo, boss, what's with the new look?" The clones filed back into his room, two holding scrolls, the last one balancing kunai on the tips of its fingers. Naruto glared at the useless act for a second before turning to the clone that asked the question.

"Just dispel and save me the trouble of explaining to myself." The clones did as ordered and Naruto was instantly filled with the knowledge of the scrolls, and how balancing kunai on the tips of his fingers was actually good concentration practice. Who knew?

Naruto grabbed several kunai and shuriken before heading out. The sun was setting so he didn't have nearly as much time as he thought. He knew one night of intense training wasn't going to make much of a difference, but if he could be at least one percent stronger by the chunin exams, then he'd take that one percent. Just before he reached the road, he paused. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and calmed down.

'I won't be sluggish if I go calmly.' He jumped onto a rooftop and began heading towards his team's training field, using large and smooth strides as he crossed the buildings. It didn't take him long to reach field, and he smirked. The entire time he was on alert and even caught one of the villagers throwing something at him while he passed. Normally, he would have missed the little stunt.

"Okay, so what am I going to do until the morning?"

"How about I show you a little jutsu." The Kyubi boomed in his mind. Naruto rose an eyebrow.

"You're being a lot more helpful than normal. What's gotten into you?"

"You are getting serious. That's it and that's all. I want you to be strong enough to give me a challenge by the time I escape and destroy everything." The Kyubi chuckled as Naruto grimaced.

"Hey, no evil talk! Now what's the jutsu you're gonna show me?" Naruto closed his eyes as the demon sent an image of a shadowy figure standing in a clear field. The man was surrounded by enemies and they all had weapons.

"The name of this technique is the Tatsumaki Renpatsu." (Tornado Barrage) "It's a move The Fourth…your father created."

Naruto remained silent and watched the scene. The person waited until all the enemies were close to him. Suddenly he spun, whipping up a large gale that quickly formed into a small twister. The enemies were sucked up and the person seemed to be flashing in and out of the twister, slashing the enemies with a katana.

"I can't do that." Naruto said bluntly. "For one, I didn't even know I had a wind affinity until just now. So I won't be able to use anything wind related until I get at least a week of training in. Even more, dad was known as the Golden Flash for a reason. I can't move that fast, so I wouldn't be able to attack my opponents while they're in the tornado."

The Kyubi smirked at Naruto's conclusion. It also reminded him that he was still young. "Kit, you have shadow clones. You can get one month of training in a night. As for the speed, use your clones here too."

All the blonde could do was sigh. Maybe it was going to take a little more for him to change completely. Seeing that move made him feel lazy. For a moment, he began to have second thoughts about everything. Could he really become as great a ninja as his father?

He looked up towards the sky. Thinking about wasn't going to get him anywhere. Now wasn't the time to be having doubts. He needed to get stronger, for everyone's sake.

"Alright, let's get started. But after I've mastered that move, I want to try to make one myself." Naruto said creating hundreds of shadow clones.

As the moon began to settle into the night sky, a silent wind blew over the leaf village. Many who felt it, also felt the tides of change. Not good, nor bad. The serene feeling of the blessed air chilled some and brought melancholy to others. It was the last night Uzumaki Naruto wore his mask…

The next day…

The sun shined brilliantly down onto the sleeping face of the Uzumaki, seeming to illuminate his oblivious, yet peaceful features. The silent chirp of birds echoed off of the thousands of pieces of steel that littered the training ground. With kunai, shuriken and ninja wire in heaps all over the field, it looked more like a battleground. Silently stalking the outskirts of the field, someone drew a kunai and looked at the helpless blonde.

In a blur of speed, the person dashed toward the sleeping teen. In less than a second, the person was pinned to the ground, a kunai aimed at the back of their head.

"Uh…heheh, wake up call boss!" The clone said nervously as Naruto held its arm behind its back.

"Good work." Naruto said before dispelling the clone. The clones had been trying to get the drop on him ever since training had ended the earlier that morning. He had intentionally left one alive to see what it would do. 'I wonder if this falls under suicidal tendencies.'

Naruto looked around at the field, stretching and yawning. He had only gotten about an hour of sleep, but the thought of how much he had progressed just by using shadow clones brought a smile to his face. He wasn't sure if he was ready to take on the chunin exams just yet, but he was sure that compared to the Naruto he was the day before, he was ready to give it a shot. With the flare of a hand sign, the kunai and shuriken vanished in poofs of smoke. He walked around and collected the real weapons before heading back towards the village.

Taking a deep breath of fresh air, Naruto smirked sadly. It felt like the first real breath of air he had ever taken. It saddened him that he could've changed at any time but chose not to. Shaking his head, he decided to no longer dwell on the past. He needed to look towards the future, or he'd never be able to make it better. The sound of a child crying caught his attention and he rose an eyebrow.

"Hey, leave Konohamaru alone!" Sakura's voice was heard several seconds later. Naruto groaned and walked towards the area where the sounds were coming from.

"This little brat needs to watch were he's going from now on!" A teen wearing what appeared to be a full body, black cat pajama suit and makeup held the little boy up by the scruff of his shirt. Moegi and Udon stood behind Sakura helplessly, and Sakura stood there screeching like a banshee…

"Come on, Kankurou, we don't have time for this." A sandy haired blonde with a fan on her back said in annoyance. She was looking around nervously as if expecting someone to show up at any moment. Naruto sighed again. He hadn't wanted anyone to see him until the chunin exams had actually started.

"Hey, drop the kid before I make you." Naruto said as he walked around the corner with his hands in his pockets.

"Naruto!" Sakura called, actually a bit excited to see her team mate. That excitement turned to curiosity as she noticed his new attire.

"What did you say brat?" Kankorou said glaring at Naruto.

"Come on, boss, teach this pajama wearing freak a lesson!" Konohamaru called, still struggling against the older genin's grip.

"I said drop the kid." Naruto's voice was right in Kankurou's ear. A shadow clone stood right behind Kankurou, holding a kunai to his neck. "We don't want any trouble, especially right before the chunin exams."

Kankurou gulped, eyes wide as he never noticed the clone there, nor had he felt any signs of chakra building when Naruto performed the technique. He was too distracted by Konohamaru to see if he had made any hand signs at all. Kankurou prepared to release Konohamaru, but before he could, a small rock hit his hand.

Everyone's gaze, save for Naruto, went up into the nearby tree. Naruto scoffed, whispering show-off.

"You should listen to the dobe." Sasuke said and jumped from the tree, slowly walking towards the group.

"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura cried, swooning over the raven haired Uchiha. Naruto rolled his eyes and prepared to walk away until he felt a malicious presence. His eyes widened and he turned around.

"G-Gaara!" Kankurou stammered out, taking a step back from the red head that had just showed up. "We..we were just-"

"Shut up, before I kill you." Gaara spoke monotonously, and Naruto could see the kids tremble visibly. Even Sakura seemed to be shaking. Gaara's gaze passed over everyone's faces, but lingered on Sasuke's. "Mother wants your blood. I look forward to proving my existence against you."

"Naruto, say this." The Kyubi told Naruto, getting a questionable gaze.

"Gaara. Your existence can't be proved by killing. You're only making yourself fade further into darkness as that thing gains more power. If you're willing, meet me behind the chunin exams building an hour before the test. I need to talk to you."

Temari and Kankurou looked astonished between the blonde and their brother. Did he know that he had just gotten himself killed. The weird part was that he wasn't dead already. Sakura and Sasuke also looked on in bewilderment.

"Fine. But if what you have to say doesn't interest me, I will kill you."

"Works for me." Naruto said and crossed his arms. He frowned, not knowing what the Kyubi was playing at. The sand trio walked away, Temari and Kankurou giving nervous glances back at the leaf nin.

"Hey boss, that was cool!" Konohamaru exclaimed. Naruto smiled down at him, but quickly frowned as Sakura opened her mouth.

"Not as cool as Sasuke-kun!" All present, including Sasuke, sighed.

"N-Naruto-senpai, what's with that n-new look?" Moegi asked, head cocked to the side in curiosity. Udon and Konohamaru seemed to want an answer as well. Once again, Sakura made her opinion known.

"Yeah Naruto-baka! Why does it look like you're on your way to do laundry?" She stifled her own snickers.

"To answer your question Moegi, real ninja don't have time to worry about appearances all the time. As long as what you're wearing makes it easier for you fight, then it doesn't matter what you wear." He answered in a calm tone, taking all present by surprise. "Now, I'd love to stay and get re-acquainted with my team, but I've got a little more training to do before the exams tomorrow. Ja'ne." With the wave of his hand, Naruto walked away from the stunned group.

Konohamaru and friends left without a second thought, leaving a very confused pink haired kunoichi and slightly disturbed Uchiha.

"Sasuke-kun…I think there's something different about Naruto." Sakura inquired.

"Don't be stupid." Sasuke said before turning to walk away. "It's obvious that's the same shirt he usually wears."

_________________
Nada es para siempre...

Lost souls need not wander into the depths of hell alone. Together, even the damned can forge a silver path into the troughs of heaven.




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 Post subject: Re: Hope Will Never Die; A Naruto Fanfic
 Post Posted: Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:00 pm 
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Age: 12
Sex: Female
Chapter 2: Fruits of Devotion

Lucky for him, he was good at predicting the stupidity of his team mates. Neither had wondered how he was able to get the drop on Kankurou several hours ago. So of course they wouldn't have thought too much about him actually going to train. He figured Sasuke just didn't care, with that whole superiority complex of his, and Sakura followed him blindly with that whole obsession complex of hers. Also going by things that he was good at predicting, he expected Hinata to be finishing her team training and being on her way to stalk…watch him.

He stood up, wiping sweat from doing push-ups. He turned towards the stone pillars where he knew Hinata was hiding. She was most likely watching with her byakugan. Chuckling, he pretended not to notice her, creating several clones before taking a fighting stance. He was used to it, and under the watchful gaze of the Hyuga heiress, Naruto felt he could train in peace. No one would come to disturb him without Hinata noticing, and when he felt her lower her chakra, he would know something was up.

After several minutes of light sparring Naruto finally stretched and looked directly at the pillar. "Hey, Hinata, you can come out at any time if you want to practice before the exams."

A small squeak was his only reply. He chuckled, holding back full blown laughter and walked towards the starry eyed girl. She blushed profusely, amazed that her long time crush had known she was there. She looked up at him, wondering if it was the real Naruto.

For reference, Hinata Hyuga was, and still is, the shyest girl to walk the Hidden Leaf Village. So as the image of her crush, puppy love or not, seemed to descend from the heavens themselves, one could only imagine that the girl was completely, utterly, speechless. As the gears in her head cranked into overdrive to prevent the pre-teen from falling back and most likely smacking her skull onto hardened soil, she let out what Naruto could only describe as a pleasure filled moan of bliss known only to those who have felt complete in more ways than one, yet contained all the virtue of an angel.

As over-dramatic as it seemed, it was exactly what happened.

'Naruto-kun…he's talking to me!'

The only thought that crossed the princess's mind, of course, was on this trifle event. Naruto, on the other hand, was debating running from the now dream induced girl. He was currently waving his hand in front of the spaced out pre-teens face, hoping that her conscious wasn't on a one way trip to obsession land.

"Yo? Hinata! Wake the hell up!" He called shaking the girl slightly. The girl shook her head before looking directly into Naruto's eyes…

And diving right back into the blissful ocean of her mind.

'Well shit! We aren't gonna make any progress like this.' Naruto picked the girl up, carrying her towards a tree. He began to sweat as the girl incoherently mumbled something along the lines of 'Don't stop Naruto-kun.'

Setting her down by the tree, he sighed before going to continue his own training.

"Actually, maybe I should've thought that one through a little more. I hate to admit it, but she may be almost as bad as Sakura in her own little way."

Naruto really liked Hinata, more than Sakura no doubt, but he couldn't ignore the fact that she was just plain weird. He was insightful, yes, but still held his adolescent mind. There was a lot the boy knew about love and romance, though it seemed he still didn't completely understand the term 'shy' and the concept of 'being too afraid of rejection to actually confront my crush and/or love'. Hinata Hyuga fell into both categories.

So until the young teen actually began to understand the true depth of the feelings Hinata had for him, he would never truly be able to accept the girl's heart. Nor would he be able to open his heart in the same way…

"Uhn…" The Hyuga heiress began to stir in her semi-conscious state. "N…Naruto-kun?"

Naruto paused from his exercise and smiled at the princess. He dispelled the remaining clones and walked over to the girl. Of course, she blushed, and a flurry of questions ran through her mind.

'Is that really Naruto-kun? He looks so…different! Where's the orange?'

"Yo, Hinata, if you keep fainting on me like that, we'll never get any training done." Naruto called flopping down next to the girl. Her blush grew at the close proximity, and she suddenly found herself holding her breath. It was unbelievable, to actually be having real interaction with the blonde. Though she hadn't spoken one coherent word the entire time, now's better than never.

"N-Naruto-kun…" And she had nothing. Nothing could come to her to describe exactly what she wanted to say to him. She didn't know herself.

In the back of her mind, she wanted to speak up, to engage a conversation or anything, instead of just sitting there like a choking ditz. Her irrational side was telling her to be reckless and admit her feelings on the spot. However, the Hyuga could have a level head, to some degree and could easily push that thought away. The fact that Naruto was taking his time to talk to her meant that he was interested in her, even if just bordering slight curiosity.

She knew she wasn't very articulate to begin with, and her courage was just a shot above none. So tears came to her eyes as she realized that she wouldn't be able to speak to him comfortably at that time. She cursed herself on the inside, feeling weak and helpless. Unable to confront Naruto in a simple conversation, and unable to stand up to her father over her own usefulness.

Pathetic.

She felt pathetic, in her own right. All the talks of her being useless and being shunned by her own family. She was finally starting to think that maybe there was a reason. How would she change her entire clan if she couldn't even talk to her crush? Now she couldn't even look at him. He must have felt the same way. Everyone around her thought she was pathetic. Her father, her sister, Neji, her teammates…and now even Naruto.

Naruto froze in shock as tears streamed down the pre-teens face and she rose, darting from the area before Naruto could utter a single word. His gaze followed the girl until she was gone from his sight. Half of him thought that the girl was of course, being weird. However, a sliver of acknowledgement showed that he was seriously worried about the girl. He hoped he hadn't done anything to cause the sudden emotional change in the girl.

"Yeah, you just fucked up kit." The Kyubi barked in a calm tone, as calm as a bellowing demon could get.

"What? What did I do? What's wrong with her?" Naruto asked, hoping he could find a way to fix whatever had just happened.

"She's hurting kit. That's all I can tell you. This is a problem you will have to fix on your own."

Naruto frowned. Maybe he did come on too strong. He startled the girl, but why would she run off crying? For a split second, he wondered if Hinata felt just like the villagers. He wondered if she had hated him all along…

"Stop it kit. It's not like that at all." The fox coaxed the blonde as the thoughts began to sadden him. He could care less about what many people thought of him, but he had thought Hinata admired him the entire time. The demon knew that Naruto was still young, so he couldn't completely blame the blonde for being oblivious. "Focus on your training for tomorrow."

Naruto silently nodded his head, knowing that dwelling on the girl would distract from his training. Of course he wouldn't just push her to the side, opting instead to find out what was wrong with her during the chunin exams. Besides, maybe pushing her away now would be a good thing.

The thought itself both confused and hurt him. She was one of the only kind people to him, so he didn't want her to vanish from his life all together. But if she were to be away from him, then he'd be able to get stronger and re-build whatever bond they had over time.

"Kit, if you continue to practice tonight, you will be able to master the Tatsumaki Rendan. You will have enough time to practice those other moves you've been working on as well." The fox was trying to re-focus him, albeit, with a bit more effort for his comfort. He'd be damned if Naruto was killed during the chunin exams because he continued to neglect his training.

"Okay…" Naruto sighed and created five clones. The clones looked at their creator with worry, all still feeling what he was. Drawing a kunai, Naruto lazily slid into his own little fighting stance. He held the kunai reverse handed, his arm sticking straight out. His legs were spread wide and his other arm was pressed to his side. It was like a kenjutsu variation of judo.

The clones sighed themselves before rushing the original all at once. Naruto spun effortlessly, plunging the kunai into one of the clones. As another one drew close, he brutally front snap kicked it into smoke. Spinning one more time, he used his forearm to block a jump kick from the third clone. The fourth clone used the distraction to sweep Naruto. Using the momentum from his backwards motion, he planted his hands on the ground and vaulted into a backflip. In the air, he flashed through hand signs before putting his fingers to his lips.

"Fuuton: Kaze Yari!" (Wind Technique: Wind Javelin!) After taking a deep inhale, Naruto fired one swift stream of wind down onto the two clones, destroying them instantly.

As he landed, he cursed. The sounds of sizzling paper surrounded him. The last clone had surrounded him with exploding tags. Desperately looking around, he spotted the clone hiding in a tree. Quickly, he flared one last hand sign. The clone's eyes widened as it was switched with the original in a substitution jutsu, and was destroyed by its own trap. Naruto dropped from the tree, sighing in indignation.

"That's good kit. Quick and efficient. You're starting to show the true prowess of you shinobi."

Naruto didn't respond for several seconds, mind drifting to everywhere and nowhere. Two days of training still wasn't enough for him to dominate in the chunin exams, but he had one small advantage. Everyone that knew him would be thinking that he's still the same weak, dead last. With the element of surprise and deception, he could at least catch many people off guard.

"Hey…fox, if I master Tatsumaki Rendan, I won't be efficient with that last jutsu. I can practice my Kaze Yari up to the point where it's strong enough to do real damage. I won't always be up against kage bunshins. Then I can focus on doing that last jutsu. I'd rather go into the exams with at least two decent jutsus and one experimental one."

"If that is what you wish."

Naruto nodded, feeling grateful that the fox wasn't bothering him as much as usual. He kept his mouth shut, knowing that it wasn't permanent. His mind kept focused, trying desperately not to think of Hinata. The whole ordeal confused him greatly. Shouldn't he had just kept trying for Sakura? No, he couldn't do that. He knew he would never truly fall in love with Sakura, and she would most likely never give him the time of day anyway. Maybe the whole time he had been fooling himself. Using Sakura as an excuse to not get close to the Hyuga.

But he couldn't do that anymore. He was changing. Holding onto that part of his past wasn't going to help him grow. Whoever accepted the new him and respected the old him. They would be part of his future. Several people he knew were already going to be cut from his life.

'I guess…this is it. Whatever happens from this point on…I can't look back.' He created fifty shadow clones and began his final preparations for the chunin exams.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Where the hell IS he?" Sakura's piercing voice roared from in front of the academy. Many participants entering the building gave the girl a deadly glare before continuing on their way. Sasuke grunted in annoyance at both Sakura's shrieking, and Naruto's tardiness.

"Maybe Kakashi-sensei's rubbing off on the dobe." He huffed. Thinking back to the day before, he remembered his teammate saying he was going to talk to that red-haired kid behind the academy. Sasuke had shown up, hoping to catch the conversation but the two only seemed to be standing there, staring into each other's eyes. It freaked him out for the most part, because they stood in place, unmoving for a half hour. Then they parted ways without a word, plunging the raven haired boy into confusion.

"Naruto-baka! Where've you been?" Sakura screamed, bringing Sasuke back to reality. Naruto had the same attire as the day before, though cleaner. His gaze was down and his attention seemed to be far from the chunin exams. Even Sakura's voice wasn't enough to bring the teen out of whatever thought he was having.

"Dobe, what's the deal?" Sasuke prodded. Naruto slowly looked up, a look of worry on his face for only a second before it was replaced with a passive look.

"Nothing. Has Kakashi-sensei shown up yet?"

"At your service!" Kakashi appeared in a swirl of leaves, eye smile in place. "Did you need me Naruto?"

"Yea…" A quick glance at his teammates and he sighed. "No. Just wondering if you had shown up on time for once." Naruto's tone was low and even, as if he were depressed. Because of this, it was obvious that he was hiding something. Kakashi rose an eyebrow, though he wasn't interested enough to prod further into the situation.

"Well, I'm glad to see you've taken a step towards becoming a real shinobi Naruto. Those dark colors will keep you hidden well!"

All three students sweat dropped.

"Is there any other reason you're here other than to annoy us sensei?" Sakura dead panned. Kakashi chuckled.

"Well, I was going to wish you luck. The first test will be in room 247. These exams aren't all fun and games. Your life will be in danger. I wouldn't have entered you if I didn't have complete confidence that you coul-"

"Save it sensei, we're late." Naruto interrupted and began to walk towards the building. Now Kakashi was alerted.

'Something's wrong here…'

Sakura and Sasuke looked after their teammate in shock. He was acting strange. Stranger than normal. Kakashi looked at the two and then back at Naruto. He couldn't confront him their without raising a ruckus. He'd have to wait, but he was going to find out what was going on. What could make the usually hyper active blonde so solemn?

"Well, get going you two." Kakashi faked a smile and waved, vanishing once again. Sasuke began walking towards the building, ignoring Sakura's attempts to ask him what he obviously didn't know. Neither could possibly understand what was making the blonde act the way he was.

Inside, Naruto stood waiting by the stairs. He was looking down a hall towards a large group of genin standing in front of a door. Sasuke and Sakura walked up, following his gaze to the group.

"Naruto-ba-" Before Sakura could begin screaming, Naruto had grabbed her from behind and covered her mouth.

"Stop being so loud or you'll draw unnecessary attention. Now go, the boss is upstairs." In a silent puff of smoke, the clone dispersed. Sasuke frowned, though part of him wanted to laugh, seeing the disheveled and fuming Sakura. Sasuke began to head upstairs, Sakura only following because it was…well, Sasuke.

Naruto stood in front of a similar looking room.

"Baka, what the hell was that stunt back there?" Sakura cried stomping forward with a ready fist. She swung…and hit air. In the next second, Naruto had her arm twisted behind her back and she was pinned against the wall. Sasuke's mouth dropped and Sakura grew motionless.

"Save your strength for the exams. And stop trying to hit me, or I'll start retaliating." All of his words were even. It made her shiver, knowing that he could give her advice and threaten her all in one tone. Her mind was far behind the thought process of the position he had her in.

"Dobe, we're already late! What the hell did you drag us up here for?" Sasuke called. Naruto pointed to the room number on the wall next to the door.

"That was the first floor. Kakashi sensei said the room was 247. I'm pretty sure everyone else just saw the group down there and instantly decided that was the testing room. You can't just follow the crowd or you'll end up dead." Naruto was once again subject to the shocked gazes of his teammates. Blushing slightly, he turned from them and opened the door.

They entered a wide room, full of chunin exam hopefuls. Naruto spotted Gaara instantly leaning against a wall. The sand genin nodded towards Naruto and Naruto nodded back ever so slightly. No one caught the movement. Naruto was about to begin scanning the competition until a blur of purple and blonde soared past him.

"SASUKE-KUN!" A voice almost as loud as Sakura's shouted out. Without even having to turn around, Naruto knew Sasuke's number 2 fangirl had latched onto him.

"Beat it Ino-pig!"

'Yep. Ino.' Naruto thought with a sigh. 'She's pretty much a female version of me with a bad obsession problem and a tendency for sadism...'

"I'll gut you!" Sakura yelled out.

'I take that back. Sakura's the sadist...'

"Yo, Naruto! You guys made it too! What's with the new get-up?" Shikamaru lazily asked while lazily trudging forward, showing the world exactly how lazy he was. A few steps behind Shikamaru was his forever eating friend, Chouji.

This team, together, was a force to be reckoned with, Naruto knew. With Shikamaru's brain, Chouji's brute strength, and Ino's…well, loud annoying voice, they would definitely be an obstacle were they to come across each other. On nice terms, Naruto had his exact opinions about all three.

Shikamaru was the coolest person he'd ever met, hands down. Lazy as all living hell, but everything he did do, he made it look effortless. Plus the pineapple haired teen was also one of the only nice people to Naruto. They were good friends. He wasn't sure if he could beat the Nara in a one on one due to his superior tactical thinking.

Chouji was jolly. That was the only way he could describe him. (Mainly for the fact that Chouji tried to smash Naruto every time he called him fat.) They were friends because of Shikamaru, though they did have a few things in common, a.k.a Ichiraku's ramen. Without knowing what type of training he's been through, Naruto didn't know if he could win. But if Chouji hadn't worked on his speed, then Naruto would have no problem.

Ino. He almost rolled his eyes thinking of the girl. She may not have been as bad as Sakura, but damn she was almost as annoying. They had shared little to no interaction during the academy, except for eating lunch together once. And that was because she had almost passed out from dieting. He never knew if she really appreciated what he had done for her, and as of late didn't care. Sasuke was all she thought about. She would be too easy to beat.

"Hey, looks like the old rookie nine is back together again!" A series of barks followed the brash voice. Kiba and Shino walked towards the small group, Akamaru in its partner's jacket.

"Yo! It's dog breath and Akamaru!" Ino called happily. Kiba scowled at the blonde.

"Hey, where's Hinata?" Chouji asked. Naruto's eyes widened and he looked around, noticing that she was indeed missing.

"She said she would await seeing everyone until the exams have started. She has…undergone a change you could say." Shino spoke in his usual monotone.

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, speaking for the first time since entering the room. Several of the genin jumped.

"Whoa, Naruto! Is that you?" Kiba asked. Naruto ignored the boy and looked at Shino for an answer to his question.

"It is hard to explain Uzumaki-san. Please await the exams to see for yourself."

Naruto frowned, hearing the saddened tone in Shino's voice. In the back of his mind, he had a feeling that whatever was wrong with Hinata was his fault.

"Naruto, what are you wearing?" Ino asked, actually detaching herself from Sasuke to his and Sakura's delight.

"Just normal clothes. Nothing flashy." He replied. Naruto walked away from the group, leaning on the wall. This brought up questions in all of the genins minds. Naruto didn't care for the looks, though he did catch Shino looking for a split second longer than the rest.

Shino had what could be called a silent friendship with Naruto. Until recently, he never knew what the boy was feeling. But now, just looking at small body movements, Naruto could tell what the bug user was feeling, if only slightly. With his clans techniques, Shino would be a big problem. He wouldn't be surprised if he had already put a bug on every single last participant in the room already.

Kiba was almost just like the old Naruto. The only difference was that he actually had his own strength to back up…most of his words. And he was ten times cockier. Actually, he was cockier now than he was in the academy. They were good friends in the academy but now, Kiba had followed the crowd. He was underestimating Naruto too. Because of his brashness, he would be a mediocre challenge, a little more than a warm-up for Naruto.

Naruto frowned as the last person was Hinata. In the academy, she had won every single sparring match against the girls. Actually she only ever lost to Sasuke. Outside of that, he didn't know any of her skills. He cursed himself, starting to understand why he should've been training with the girl. She was far too timid to actually utilize any of her latent abilities. But Shino had said she changed, and the way he spoke meant it was for the worse.

"Hey, you guys should be a bit quieter. You'll bring unnecessary attention to yourselves. You're making it obvious that you're new to the exams!" Naruto looked up to see a gray haired older teen talking to his friends. He didn't move, analyzing the newcomer. Something just didn't feel right about the teen. Naruto could have sworn he smelled snakes all around the boy. In his musings, he found out the teens name was Kabuto.

'Gotta remember that. I've never seen him around the village at all. Maybe he's…' Naruto's thoughts trailed off. The sound of vomiting brought him back to his senses. Kabuto was on his knees, coughing up whatever had just occupied his stomach. A sound ninja wrapped in bandages stood over him. Naruto ignored what was happening, taking this time to move closer to the sand team since everyone else's attention was on his group.

"Pretty cold of you to ignore your friends like that." A female voice stopped Naruto in his tracks.

"Pretty cold of you to ignore your teammates in the midst of so many enemy ninja." Naruto called back, turning to face the girl. She was the sound kunoichi that had come with the other two. She had long dark hair and wore camouflaged pants.

"Why aren't you over there with the rest of them?" She asked with folded arms.

"Why do you care?"

"We aren't gonna get answers if we both stand here asking questions." The girl said with a smirk.

"True. To answer your questions, I have other things to do than entertain anxiety driven children. Now how about you answer my question." Naruto smirked back at the girl.

"I care because you're actually kind of cute."

"I'm flattered and impressed that you'd be so straight forward with an enemy nin."

"We're not enemies until the exams start right? Besides, you seem different." Her face became serious.

"How so?" Naruto asked, tensing at the statement.

"I don't know. Something about you is familiar…"

"Kin! Get your ass over here!" One of her teammates called.

"Shit. Got to go. I look forward to seeing you again." She said with a wave and ran to her team.

'Fox, should I know that girl?'

"No. However, you are more connected to her than you know. When the time comes, I will reveal why to you."

Naruto didn't pry further. He knew that the Kyubi was trying to keep him focused on the exams, so he would worry about the Kin girl later. Seconds later and the proctor for the first part of the exam had entered the room. Morino Ibiki, head of the T&I Division of Konoha's ANBU. He informed the genin that the first part of the exam was a written portion, consisting of nine questions, and in the end a final tenth question.

The genin began to file into another classroom, taking assigned seats. Naruto sat down at 4C and looked around the room as more and more people entered. Wolf whistles drew his attention to the back of the room and his eyes widened. Hinata walked down the row, her winter jacket nowhere to be seen. She was left in her black short sleeved under shirt and her black ninja pants.

'Holy…her rack is HUGE!' Naruto's jaw hung open, getting snickers from several of the ninja around him. In reality, they too wondered how a twelve year old could develop that fast.

Hinata never noticed the people around her due to her being focused on the paper she held. Her assigned seat, 4B…Her heart skipped a beat. Naruto's gaze made her blush, but it also brought tears to her eyes.

'Why…why Kami-sama! Am I really to be punished so?' She ignored his gaze and sat down next to him, hands in her lap and eyes on the desk. 'No…I don't care anymore…'

"Hi…Hinata…" Naruto stammered out. She shifted slightly, gazing at him out of the corner of her eyes. She held a passive look, but it was just short of a scowl. Naruto felt his stomach sink. Hinata's eyes looked dead. She held his gaze for several seconds. Seeing that he had nothing to say, she looked away sighing in disgust. 'Okay, that actually hurt…'

Naruto looked away as well. Now he was truly worried. The two didn't look at each other as the test rules were explained, the test were handed out, and even when silence enveloped the room.

Hinata felt like crying. She had told herself she would stop harboring feelings for the blonde, but it was getting harder every second. Just being around him was bad. The words on the paper began to blur as tears entered her eyes.

'Why…why am I pathetic to you Naruto-kun?'

No matter how much he wanted to fix things with the young Hyuga heiress, he knew he needed to focus on the test. Scanning over the paper, he almost immediately came to a single conclusion.

'I can't do this shit.'

It was impossible. Nothing on the paper had been taught to them at the academy. Of course, Kakashi had taught them jack-shit so that probably factored in as well. Seriously, the questions weren't meant for genins. So Naruto narrowed down the results to two single options.

Either they really expect us to answer this shit, and me, Sakura, and Sasuke are going to fail miserably because of a neglectful bastard sensei.

Or the more likely, they want us to cheat our asses off without getting caught, the way ninja would take a test.

Naruto was about to do exactly that until he noticed a smudge at the top right hand corner of the test. His brow furrowed and he looked at it closer. It looked like a tiny N.

'What the hell?'

Looking at the illustrations to some of the questions, he began to find more smudge like letters. At first, he thought they were typos, but then he began to put the letters together.

'N.O.R.I.G…' He continued on until he could find no more. His eyes would have widened but he didn't want to draw attention to himself or be suspected of cheating. The message was clear.

'No right answers…'

"Good, Kit. Good!"

'That's it? There are no right answers? Then what's the purpose of this crap then?' He paused. 'That really is it then! They want us to cheat without getting caught. Which means, someone here isn't a genin and has fake answers. They would know we were cheating without even having to catch us!'

As time passed, Ibiki spoke up, prepared to give the tenth question. He sprayed bullshit about quitting now and taking the exams another year. Naruto paid it no attention, knowing that it was all lies. A majority of the room raised their hands and gave up on the spot. All of the rookie nine remained.

"Now then. On to the tenth question. Everyone that stayed…has passed." He smirked at the shocked expressions on the faces of the genin.

"What the hell? What do you mean we pass? What about the tenth question?" The Suna Kunoichi Temari asked, showing more frustration than she usually let show.

After an explanation on information gathering, Ibiki effectively made the genins lose their appetites. His head was covered in scars, and some looked ready to re-open at the touch of a feather.

"Sorry I asked." Temari groaned dropping her head to the table.

"Hinata, whatever I did yesterday, I'm sorry." Naruto whispered. The Hyuga heiress froze up, eyes widening slightly.

'He's…apologizing?' The Hyuga heiress instantly went pale. 'He doesn't even know why I'm upset with him! Oh Kami-sama, what have I done?'

Before the starry-eyed girl could explain herself, a blur of tan crashed through the windows. Two kunai lodged into the upper parts of room, revealing a banner over head.

"What's up chumps! I'm the deadly, sexy, Anko Mitarashi, and I'll be your proctor for the second part of the exams!"

Silence enveloped the room. Crickets chirped…getting Shino several glares from his teammates.

"Uh…too soon?" The special jonin sweated and looked at Ibiki.

"Like always."

Anko's demeanor instantly changed, and she smirked evilly at the group of genin. "Well, looks like we've got a decent turnout. Not too many, not too few. This is going to be fun! Everyone of you chumps meet me at the entrance to the Forest of Happy Kittens and Rainbows in half an hour!"

"Don't you mean the Forest of Death?" Ibiki asked.

"Exactly!" She called with a sadistic chuckle before shunshining from the room.

"Holy shit, that chicks almost as scary as my mom!" Shikamaru called, getting nervous chuckles from friends and foes alike. Everyone began to leave, save Hinata and Naruto.

"I need to talk to you Hinata." Naruto whispered. Hinata's gaze held his, and though she was listening finally, he could see that she still held indifference towards him.

'She never hated me...that was foolish to think that. But why can't I figure out what's wrong with her now?'

"Naruto…" Naruto's heart ached at not hearing –kun at the end of his name. "Forgive me. I may have misunderstood our positions yesterday. But please, give me some time to think."

"This is the first time you've actually talked to me." Naruto said, not wanting the girl to go.

"Wha…" Shock settled in as she realized that it was. She couldn't put together a sentence the day before but now here she was telling him that she wanted to be away from him. She looked away sadly.

"Hinata, for the record, I like you a lot. So if I gave you any doubts about that yesterday, I'm sorry."

"I figured." She said silently. "Just now, I had a feeling that it was all in my imagination." She laughed sadly, tears starting to fall. "I went home and told my father to go fuck his self."

Naruto rose an eyebrow. "You did what?"

"I thought that you thought I was pathetic. I thought that you were looking down on me too, Naruto." Wiping tears away, she looked at him. Her gaze was more calculating than before. "If you felt that way, then nothing else mattered. So I finally went off on my father. And you know the funny part? He acknowledged me for it! He actually said that I was acting like a Hyuga!"

'Shit, I think she's lost it…' Naruto gulped.

"I started to think then. If acting like a Hyuga was the only way to get acknowledgement, then I should start acting like it." Her fists were clenched. "But you say that you like me now, and I'm wondering should I be happy and go back to how I used to be, or should I give up on you and continue to get the acknowledgement of my father…"

"Do both." Naruto said quickly, not wanting an answer to that statement. Hinata looked at him confused. "Hinata, don't give up on me. I know I did things wrong…I should've been there for you. It took me this long to figure out that the world doesn't revolve around me. I should've talked to you the moment I knew you were watching me train." The Hyuga blushed deeply, wondering how he could have known the entire time. "Be my friend and still get the acknowledgement of your father. If you proved yourself to him last night, then you know that you're not pathetic. You just needed to fall before you could truly stand on your own. I'm sorry that it was me that had to make you fall though."

Hinata's mind was developing like Naruto's now. She was thinking more than she used to. So analyzing everything Naruto had just said, she realized where her mistake lied.

"Naruto-kun, it wasn't your fault. I preemptively thought that you were looking down on me. I know now that you weren't and I'm happy for that."

"But…" Naruto added sadly. He was happy that she wasn't upset with him anymore but he was sure that she had more to say.

"You know what I feel about you." Naruto nodded at her statement, a small blush forming on both of their faces. "I can't…I can't pursue those feelings knowing that I'm only going to make you weaker. I want to get stronger, Naruto-kun, so I can be of use to you and to myself. As of now…" Her next words would haunt Naruto for the duration of the day. "We just aren't compatible."

He knew it was true. They both were waking up as ninja, a little too late. They wouldn't be able to do anything with their current conditions. Hinata needed to be able to stand up for herself more and Naruto needed to get stronger.

"Hinata-chan, I'm not waiting though. I don't want to go about like this. It shouldn't have taken so much for us to start feeling this way. Let's get stronger together, until we are compatible."

"Naruto-kun, I don't know what the future holds anymore. I had always thought that your determination would make everything better. But my doubts yesterday made that vanish. I can't go back to that anymore and the reality is that my future is going to lead to more pain." She shivered as the thoughts brought more tears to her eyes. Naruto was respecting her more and more. She wasn't blindly throwing herself on him how he thought she would've done the day before. For the first time, she was thinking of herself over everyone else.

"Hinata-chan, I can promise you that things will always get better, no matter how bad they get! If you want to look towards the future, then take my hand!" Naruto said extending his hand.

"Naruto-kun…"

"We may not be compatible now, but if we get stronger together, I want to be…" He trailed off, a blush crossing his face. Hinata turned red as well and took his hand.

"Until we're stronger, then we're just friends…" She said with a hint of sadness.

"Then you're still willing to be more later?" Naruto asked. Hinata's blush grew and she smiled, nibbling on the tip of her finger. Naruto smiled warmly. Seeing her do that reminded him of the sweet girl she was in the academy. He had caught her before she had completely lost herself.

"I don't know Naruto-kun… it depends." She said slyly.

"On what?" Naruto asked genuinely confused. A devious grin formed on her face.

"If you can keep the new me interested!" She said before rising and leaving a stunned blonde in her wake. Ibiki looked at the scene silently.

"Well, kid, looks like you got a game of 'hard to get' to start playing." He called with a chuckle. Naruto looked back and forth between the door and Ibiki.

"Fuck the chunin exams. This is gonna be much harder…"

_________________
Nada es para siempre...

Lost souls need not wander into the depths of hell alone. Together, even the damned can forge a silver path into the troughs of heaven.




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