Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 22 ( Chapter 32 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Someone asked for a time skip this chapter until 'after the new class in Blossom has graduated.' Um... there will be timeskips, but at this point there's nothing that dramatic (you're talking about eight or nine months of time skipped). There are still things that have to happen before Kakashi returns, and there's still the Chuunin exam for the current genin after he gets back, and there's at least one other thing I want to have happen, first, so I can't make that dramatic a time skip for you. Sorry. People are asking when Naruto will learn that Anko is his mother. I wouldn't have addressed this if it was just one person who said it, since it's a bit too big of a spoiler, but I had more than one question about it, so... I'll say something. I won't answer that question, however -- nor will I answer if she even does or not before the end -- but I will say that the important bit about that subplot will occur in Vol. 4, so don't expect anything like that until then. I'm going to try and fit her into the occasional background scene between now and then, just so that her storyline will keep 'fresh,' but there won't be any major developments for a while. I'll admit she's been lost a bit while I try to juggle the 'delayed fire' storylines I've been developing, so I'll try and include a character development scene with her at some point -- maybe not this chapter, but soon. My doctor said that, because of the odd way I hurt my back, a back brace is not a good idea. However, I don't need to worry about it much longer -- I'm significantly better, and in a week or so I should be at the point where I won't even realize I ever hurt it (or so he says). Thankfully, my back problem isn't as bad as an on-again, off-again (formerly much closer, but things are a bit confusing right now... I know some of my older readers may recall certain soap operas between the two of us) girlfriend's back problem -- she can't recieve a back massage without throwing her back out and temporarily paralizing herself below her lower back. She fell off a horse many years ago, and her spine healed oddly... I don't understand all of the details, but I've seen the results at least once. As always, my own health problems are insignificant compared to hers... *sigh* (the only time I ever got any sympathy for an injury from her was when I broke my toe... because she was the one who broke it. Other then that, it's always been sort of a 'so what?' type of thing for her -- she'll try and be nice about it, but I can tell just by looking at her that she's always thinking 'what are YOU complaining about? I've got (fill in the blank). Someone going through the earlier chapters of this fic asked about my evaluation of Orochimaru as stronger then Jiraiya, after the Sannin battle in the canon ended in a draw. I mentioned this because I believe Jiraiya, as the Toad Master, is going to match up with the toad master from real Japanese myth. Namely, the Toad master beats the slug master, the slug master beats the snake master, and the snake master beats the toad master -- according to the myth from which Jiraiya, Orochimaru, and Tsunade's names are taken by Kishimoto. (I suspect, in canon, this means that Sakura is going to be the one who has to defeat Sasuke, not Naruto, but I may not go that route in this fic). Or rather, what little bit of a nod I'm giving to that myth has already taken place -- Sakura 'beat' Sasuke by refusing to join him, and instead staying with Naruto (Slug 'beats' Snake). Naruto has already lost to Sasuke in a canon battle (Snake 'beats' toad). Naruto has won the heart of Sakura (Toad 'beats' slug). It's more than that, of course -- I wouldn't base my power rankings exclusively on that myth -- but that's what I'm going to CLAIM is the basis behind Jiraiya being weaker then Orochimaru for the purpose of responding to that review. He also felt that I made the jounin weak in this fic -- not quite sure how he comes by that belief, but what I did do was make Naruto and Sakura -- really, the entire 'rookie nine' and the remaining genin who made it through stage two of the Chuunin exam in canon (i.e., Gaara and co., Neji and co.) -- stronger then the average genin. So much stronger that they're probably stronger then most of the chuunin in Konoha -- unprecedentedly stronger. In other words, instead of a 'legendary sannin,' we're talking about a 'legendary fifteen,' say. Or something like that....
Chapter 22
Things had run fairly smoothly in Blossom since the day of Sakura's birthday party. About a week after it had taken place, he had dispatched a team consisting of Hana, Futaba, Hanabi, and -- substituting for Daichi, as his Sakura had said not to send any boys on the mission -- Moegi. They were to evacuate the brothel and escort its residents and employees to Blossom, keeping them all safe. He also sent Ino, as well, as he felt this was almost a borderline B-rank mission considering the involvement of the Gatoh group. They were still gone, but he had recieved a dispatch from them a day earlier, letting him know they were back in friendly territory and likely to be back in Blossom soon. All was well, it seemed, for Blossom.
The same can't be said for Konoha, though, Naruto mused, once again reviewing a top secret report sent to him by Tsunade, detailing the events surrounding the latest crisis. He had enacted a secret moratorium on the news, not wanting to panic anybody -- especially not his genin -- and so far things were being kept quiet. He didn't like going through other people's personal mail, however, but he had no choice if he wanted to keep things secret.
Sakura walked in without knocking, gave him a greeting kiss on the cheek, and then sat down at Hanabi's desk. She was filling in while the genin was away -- in part, to spend more time with Naruto -- and so she didn't have to say anything to explain why she was there. Naruto noticed a rather odd look on her face, though, and couldn't help but mention it.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Not really," Sakura sighed. "My parents just found out about, um, the birthday present."
Sakura still refused to acknowledge that she was his fiance. Whenever she wanted to refer to that moment, she always called it her 'birthday present.' Naruto couldn't understand why -- she had said yes, hadn't she? Still, he accepted it, and allowed her the use of the euphamism. Perhaps it was just as she said -- she wanted to keep their engagement a secret for a while, so she didn't want to refer to it by name until she was ready to go public -- but he wasn't sure if that was true.
It seemed, however, as if that secrecy had been broken, somehow. "Well, is that a bad thing?" Naruto asked uncertainly.
"Again, not really," Sakura replied. "Mom's thrilled, and dad doesn't seem to mind. It's just... well, that was partly why I wanted to keep things secret, for now. I'm not ready to get married, but... well, now they'll start pressing me to set a date, they'll try 'helping' us pick out what to wear and where to hold it, they'll be teasing and joking about us becoming an 'old married couple like them' -- they already started on that last one -- and so on. It's... almost like the wedding will be looming over us, you know?"
Naruto frowned. "Do you want me to talk to them? Maybe I could ask them to stop?"
"Don't you dare!" Sakura snapped, reacting so fast she almost gagged on her own spit. "That'd only make things worse!"
Naruto shrugged, settling back in his chair. "Whatever. So, how many people does this make it who know, now? Kireme-chan, your parents... does Ino-chan know?"
"She guessed," Sakura answered. "Kireme wasn't as discrete as she could have been -- while she didn't say anything explicit, Ino-chan was able to put two and two together and figured out what you were going to do." She paused. "I... I think you should tell Anko-chan."
"Me?" Naruto wondered. "Why me? I barely know her, outside of our training. Why should she know, anyway? I mean, yeah, she's a friend of yours, but I didn't think the two of you were that close...."
"I think it would be better coming from you," Sakura explained, glossing over the question of why she thought Anko should know.
"Why?" Naruto asked, confused.
Sakura hesitated. She didn't want to reveal the real reason, but she was sure she could come up with one. She thought for a moment. "Well... I don't really want to tell her," she finally said, then decided on an excuse for telling Anko as well. "I'm not sure how she'd take it. But... I think you should -- after all, when it comes to the fight with Orochimaru, you'll be the lead in whatever fight we have. I know that much for certain, after all. And Anko-chan was the one who was warning us about how Orochimaru could use, well, our love for each other against us... I just thought you should get whatever warnings we'll need. I don't want to deal with the inevitable teasing -- again -- just because I told her instead of you."
Naruto seemed to consider that. "Well, I--" There was a knock on the door. "Come in!" he called.
"Inari-san," Sakura greeted the unexpected arrival as he walked through the door. "What brings you here, today?"
Inari blushed. "Um... well, see, I was thinking of asking Hanabi-chan out on a date...."
"Hanabi isn't here," Naruto pointed out.
"And she's not permitted to date you. She's Hyuuga clan," Sakura added sympathetically.
"Feh," Naruto snorted. "So what? Clan affiliation means nothing, here in Blossom. Or it won't mean nothing, if I have anything to say about it!"
Sakura hesitated. "Naruto, I'm not sure that would work. Especially not with Hanabi...."
"I know about her clan and everything," Inari pointed out. "But it isn't that she can't date outside the clan -- just that she can't marry outside of it. Nothing says I couldn't take her out to a nice restaurant or something like that. I... well, she's cute, and I--"
"Never mind," Sakura sighed, tossing up her hands. "You can try, I suppose, but I doubt it'll do any good. Especially since she isn't here."
"I knew that," Inari nodded. "But... well, if I do get to take her on a date, I'm going to need some money to pay for it. I, um, don't really have enough for that, so... well, I got this part time job. With the dispatch office. I'm here to deliver the mail, and I was told I have to pick it up from you?"
Naruto flushed. "Oh, um... I need to go through it before you send it out -- I've got to censor some things because they're secret. But I forgot to stop by the dispatch office to pick it up, myself -- I've only been doing this a couple days, now, and the routine hasn't sunk in. You could go get it for me, though...."
Inari grinned. "Sure thing, Naruto!" With that, he dashed out of the office.
Sakura narrowed her eyes as she looked at Naruto. "You didn't tell me you were censoring letters from home. What's going on?"
Naruto hesitated. "I can't tell you. It isn't that I don't trust you to know things, and it has nothing to do with you, really, but... well, I can't talk with you about it. Too much chance of it being overheard... especially with the door open.
Sakura frowned. "Then write it down -- not the whole thing, just the gist of it -- and I'll destroy the paper you write it on once I'm done reading. Okay?"
Naruto hesitated, then sighed. He stood up and closed the drapes behind him. "Close the door," he said over his shoulder.
She didn't like all the secrecy, but she was a ninja. She knew just how bad things could be if the wrong information reached the wrong ears... or eyes, in this case. Saying nothing more, she walked over to the door and closed it tight, making sure to bolt the lock. That done, she walked over to his desk, where he had returned once he was done with the windows, and waited while he pulled out paper and a pen. It didn't take him very long to write, but he still seemed reluctant to hand it over. Finally, he shrugged and let her have the paper.
It took her only a second to read it. It took her another ten to get enough control to reread it, hoping to find that she was wrong the first time. Finally, she paled, rushed over to her desk, and pulled out some matches. Moving at speeds she rarely managed, from the time she was handed the paper to the time she had read it and destroyed it took her all of twenty seconds -- seven of which were waiting for it to burn.
"Hanabi and the Inuzuka cannot know about this," she finally stated. "It would... it would...."
"I know," Naruto agreed, sighing. "I'm hoping it will all blow over before the word gets out, as it certainly will, but I can't count on that. The best I can do is try and hold on until Kakashi-sensei gets here -- he might have an idea."
"I hope so, Naruto-kun," Sakura sighed, staring at the ashes desperately. "I really hope so."
* * * * *
"Well," Hana said wryly as they left the boarding house where they'd left the brothel's people. The mission had been a success, she supposed, but it wasn't exactly the sort of escort mission she was used to. "That was... interesting."
Futaba giggled. "I thing Daichi-chan would have enjoyed coming along... too bad he wasn't allowed."
Moegi blushed. "I think I learned a lot... um, from the three of you," she added hastily. "You three are really good at this! My own style seems so... sub-par."
"You have nothing to be ashamed of," Hanabi answered her. "After all, you are not a Hyuuga -- you do not possess our superior genes, so it is no surprise you cannot keep up."
Moegi stiffened. "Hey, we Akamichi aren't half-bad! You Hyuuga's are overblown, anyway -- you're only the 'best' because you're the most organized, nowadays. Naruto-sama could beat any one of you, and Konohamaru-kun is almost as good as he is!"
Futaba blinked. "Um, no offense, Moegi-chan, but I have serious doubts that Konohamaru is anywhere close to as good as Naruto -- not saying that he couldn't beat Hanabi-chan, since I don't know anything about how he fights, but I've actually fought against Naruto-kun... and I know that no-one short of a hokage could lay a finger on him. Maybe in a few years, Konohamaru could be -- he has the right ancestry and all, being the Third's grandson -- but...."
Moegi started to look upset. "Konohamaru-kun has been Naruto-sama's student, in the past! Okay, so Naruto-kun was only a genin at the time, and it wasn't for very long, but he learned in that time! And Ebisu-sensei has been his personal tutor since he was born, and we all know how good Ebisu-sensei is as an instructor, don't we?"
"Ebisu," Hanabi stated darkly. "Cannot come close to even the weakest of the Hyuuga. Naruto...sama wouldn't be good enough to fight out of a paper bag if he didn't have so much chakra, despite what you may think. If you think Konohamaru is so strong because of them, you don't know what you're talking about."
"Bullshit!" Futaba exploded. "Naruto-sama is the greatest fighter I've ever seen! Do you even know how--"
"Ebisu-sensei is an elite teacher! He might not be one of your over-rated Hyuuga's, but he's still--"
"Children," Hana sighed. "Can we please stop fighting?"
"No!" All three of them chorused.
Suddenly, a mad blur sped in and collided with the trio of bickering girls. They all fell like bowling pins, collapsing in a heap. "Ow," said the new arrival.
"Inari-san?" Hanabi muttered, the first of the bunch to make it to her feet. Hana was checking an unconscious Futaba out, while Moegi just sat on the ground, dazed.
"Oh, Hanabi-chan," Inari said, rubbing the back of his head nervously. "Um, hi!"
"Why were you running so fast, Inari-san? Is there a problem?" Hanabi asked. It would be her duty as a Hyuuga to help if there was a danger, and even to defend him if necessary. While the Hyuuga were strict, and refused to let anyone else be thier betters, they would always fight to protect those who were weaker then them... as long as those weaker ones weren't trying to challenge their ascendancy.
"Er, no," he replied, blushing. "I'm just... I got a new job delivering mail, and I'm already late because it wasn't ready -- I need to take this stuff to Naruto's office pronto -- and so I was rushing. I'm, um, sorry I hit you guys."
Futaba sat up slowly. "Woof?" she said, dazedly.
"Arf, arf," Gonta replied, walking over to her. All the dogs had been congregating around Kuromaru during the argument, but now they were around thier fallen human sister.
"Ah, I see," she finally said, standing up.
"I guess it's okay," Hana said, seeing that her family member wasn't injured. "Well, since we're here, why don't you give us our mail? Then you can head on off to Naruto's office -- we'll help you."
"Um, I'm supposed to let Naruto see it first," Inari explained.
Hanabi, who had in fact spent some time learning from the prostitutes they had travelled with -- specifically in the art of influencing men, since as a Hyuuga she would never have to endure the horrors of courtesan training. She smiled a flirtatious smile on her face, leaning into the boy with her hands wrapped together in front of her coyly. "Inari-kun," she began. "I haven't had any mail for over two weeks, and I've been anxious for letters from home. Are you sure you won't let us have our mail, now?"
Inari hesitated. There was Hanabi, looking all cute -- maybe she was attracted to him after all! He might stand a shot at getting a date with her, if he played his cards right... but then again, how could he pay for that date if he got fired for violating the rules he'd been given his first day on the job? But if he didn't give her the mail, maybe he'd lose his only chance at going on a date with her! His thoughts bounced back and force for what felt like hours, but was really only seconds. Oh, what the hell, he finally thought. What could be so wrong in letting a few girls get their letters from home a little earlier. I can even give Hanabi a little guilt trip and make it a little harder for her to say 'no' when I ask her out.
"Oh, I guess so. But I could get fired for this!" he pointed out, openning his bag to find the letters for them. "Let's see... two for Hana-sensei, one for Futaba-sempai, and three four Hanabi-chan. Wow, you're popular, Hanabi-chan!"
Moegi sighed. "I never get letters from home!"
"Well, I'm already late, so I'd better get going," Inari explained. "See you all later!"
"Bye, Inari-kun," Hanabi serenaded, giving him a flirtatious wink. When he was finally out of sight, she dropped the act. "Bleh! What an annoyance. I hate boys like that... well, time to see what father has to say," she said. The other two letters seemed to be from her older sister and her mother. Well, her older sister's could wait -- she was useless as a Hyuuga, after all, as both of her parents had explained repeatedly -- but her mother's was very important. Possibly as important as her father's. She opened that letter, just as both Inuzuka's opened theirs, and started reading.
"Hanabi," it began -- not in the ballpoint pen or printed type of most dispatches, but in the highly precise brush-and-ink calligraphy of a formal clan edict. Hanabi knew that such hadn't been issued since the death of the Kyuubi and the razing of the Uzumaki archives, so she was astonished to see it directed to her.
"Your sister, Hinata, has betrayed us. Listen to nothing she says, and never speak her name again. From now on, she is merely The Traitor. War is upon the Hyuuga clan -- civil war -- and she must be killed to prevent the disease she is from spreading. Already, she has the aid of many in the inferior branch family, so they must be destroyed as well.
"Also, the Inuzuka clan has allied themselves with her, and must be destroyed as well. You are directed, by clan decree, to return home -- we will need the help of you and all true Hyuuga to defeat them as well as The Traitor and her faction.
"Also, your father has been corrupted, as well -- though not to the extent of The Traitor. Disregard his mailings, for while he does not side with the traitor, he refuses to take sides against her as well. We will deal with him after The Traitor is dead. Perhaps he can be saved.
"From: Lady Hyuuga, the True Head of the Hyuuga Clan."
Hanabi paled. She looked up quickly to see how her teammates were reacting. Futaba looked increasingly angry -- her letter appeared longer, and she was still reading, but she seemed rather upset. Hana... looked at her like she was waiting for some kind of decision. But what kind of decision could she make? If Hanabi's mother was, indeed, the true head of the Hyuuga clan (and, under their bylaws, she was... although her father's could be just as great under certain circumstances), then she was bound by her orders. But... but her mother's orders were strangely lacking in context. Why had her sister betrayed them? What had she done? And why were the Inuzuka on The Traitor's side, anyway?
Sighing, and knowing that her mother would punish her if she ever found out, Hanabi decided to read her father's letter, as well. Her sister's... well, there was no chance she'd read that. No Traitor deserved such a privilege, regardless of the reason for her crimes.
"Hanabi," it began -- also in the calligraphy of a formal clan edict.
"Undoubtedly, you are also recieving missives from your mother and sister alongside this letter. I do not know what they contain, but I suspect they request that you return to Konoha to deal with the situation here. Please, do nothing of the sort -- whatever side of the conflict you fall on, I believe it is better for you and better for the Hyuuga if you remain there, safe and sound, until matters here are resolved. If you come here, you may be caught up in open warfare among our clan. If you stay there, you will be able to remain relatively safe. You will also be available to restore our clan to life should the worst happen here -- should out clan fall. There is another Hyuuga in Blossom, I am told, even if he is not of our kind. He would be acceptable breeding material, however, if the need arose.
"I'm not sure if anyone will give you the whole picture of what's happening here. I will do my best to explain it, however, as I see it. Your sister, Hinata, has been resisting the clan's attempts to arrange her marriage with another Hyuuga. As her ninja skills are so poor -- at least by Hyuuga standards -- breeding her is the only effective contribution she can make to the clan. Her refusals of late had been getting more and more vehement. Recently, we found out why.
"Hyuuga Hinata announced her engagement to a boy -- a boy who was not a Hyuuga. He was an Inuzuka -- Inuzuka Kiba, one of her teammates. Personally, I hate no issues with that, save one: The Hyuuga bloodline should not be shared. It is dangerous to allow others to accept it, and so I was willing to agree to it, provided Hinata accepted a seal on her powers to prevent them from being bred into her children -- not even the full seal given the branch family, but simply a partial one. Your mother, on the other hand, demanded she give up this Kiba boy. When Hinata refused, she sent a party of Hyuuga warriors to assassinate him.
"That has started a civil war among our clan. Kiba survived -- largely due to the timely intervention of Hinata and your cousin, Neji, as well as others of the Inuzuka clan. Other Hyuuga tried to defeat Neji using his seal, but Hinata discovered a way to prevent them -- her own unsealed Hyuuga powers are apparently stronger then I believed, even if she cannot seem to tap into them usually. That sparked most of the Branch families to side with her. Her faction has made several demands: Release all seals on Branch family members (which is possible, but difficult -- I would need the help of your mother in order to succeed, and she will not perform such an action. She loves to follow the letter of our bylaws, which state that the only reason a Branch family member may be restored to the head family is the death of a whole generation of the Main family), which I am inclined to agree with after the experiences I have had with my twin brother and his son. Allow Hinata to marry whom she chooses, which I also agree with even if I would demand certain conditions. And, finally, the one point which keeps me from supporting her, release all Hyuuga clan records to the hokage's archives. Given the skeletons that would dig up out of our past, I cannot agree with it.
"I tried negotiating with both sides. Both your mother and Hinata are being rather unreasonable about it -- your sister refuses to even accept the seal condition, while your mother says that no deals are possible and that everyone who goes against her must be killed -- possibly including me. She has become too obsessed with the traditions of our clan, no longer able to see how archaic some of our traditions have become. She does not understand that we have made mistakes -- sometimes horrible mistakes -- and I fear she has filled your head with only the good side of our clan. I still believe that the Hyuuga are the greatest clan in Konoha, if not in the world, but I am more than willing to admit that we have made mistakes along the way, and that some individuals may surpass us.
"Do not come to fight. If the situation there ever requires you to take sides, I can only say you should obey your own instincts and travel your own path -- don't let my words or anyone else's sway you from doing what you know is right. Let me remind you of something, however: If Hinata had not held this rebellion, your mother would have sealed your own powers the moment your sister became pregnant, and you would become the newest branch family. If you still with to follow your mother blindly, even after knowing of these plans, then so be it. You make your choice. But, whatever you do, stay away from this fight."
"Hiashi. Father, Patriarch, and a parent who cares for you very much.
Hanabi couldn't believe her eyes. She didn't know what to think of it, what side to take, who to believe -- her mother, who she had always trusted, or her father, who she also had always trusted? Or possibly even Hinata, whose grievance against her own clan seemed justified -- even if her demands did not. She was confused, uncertain, and... and she only knew of one way to deal with this. She would have to return to Konoha, and talk with everyone involved. Maybe her mother could explain things, after all, so--
"Hyuuga-san," Futaba growled -- a harsh growl, revealing once more the dog-like tendencies of her clan. Hanabi had never heard the girl speak so coldly, even to her... and had never heard her address anyone so formally. "I want you to understand something. If Kiba or any of my family are killed in this war of yours... I will destroy everyone involved. So you'd better choose which side you're on wisely... unless you want to be fed to Gonta in little bite-sized pieces. Got it?"
Normally, Hanabi would bluster on about how Futaba couldn't lay a finger on her. Normally, she would explain just how superior the Hyuuga clan was, and why that meant that no Inuzuka could ever defeat her. Now, however... she looked up at the older of the two Inuzuka present, and saw a curious look from Hana. The jounin was examining her intently, as if trying to discern just which choice she would make. Now... she wasn't sure saying such a thing would be a good idea.
"Futaba-san," she finally said. "I still don't know all of what is going on, so I can not decide on 'sides' or anything of the sort." She paused, looking towards the Gates leading out of Blossom, and sighed. "I intend, however, to find out."
* * * * *
Notes: I just want to emphasize one thing about this story at the moment: Hanabi is actually the youngest named character in Blossom, at the moment (the only named person outside of Blossom that I can think of who's younger is the daimyo's son, in fact). She's actually a little younger even then most of the students in Blossom's academy (she's ten, they're 11-12). So, despite the fact that she's been a right bitch so far, she's still at an age where her emotions and attitudes can still be significantly influenced by those around her. A small background note I haven't figured out how to add to the story (I intended to bring it up either in this chapter (I couldn't get it there without it getting too awkward) or the side story which I'm not sure I'll write, now. I'll try and find a spot for it in the future, but I'll mention it now in case I can't: Hiashi is actually the one who recommended that she -- and her team -- leave Konoha for Blossom. It is actually his intention to get her away from the clan -- especially her mother (or clan matriach, if I determine that, indeed, Hanabi's mother is deceased in canon), who he has started to worry about (as you can see from the above), and put her under the influence of someone who he felt could be a good influence for her. Anyone who is interested may speculate on the final pairings for the genin and Academy students if they like -- I've already got them all in mind for the next gen sequel to this fic, oddly enough, despite not figuring out all of the pairings from the list of more important and older characters (like Shikamaru, Ino, Temari, Neji, Tenten, Shino (probably a new char, if anyone), Ayame at the Ichiraku, Gai (er... right), Ibiki, Kakashi, and Lee (assuming I let him live to see the sequel), and maybe a couple others I'm forgetting about. Naruto, Sakura, Yuugao, Sasuke, Kiba, Hinata, Kurenei, and Asuma are all already spoken for in the fic. Hana is a confirmed bachelorette (and playgirl, of sorts -- I suppose saying I find Hana the most attractive girl in Naruto would be saying too much?) in this fic, but may have kids next one, so suggestions for her are acceptable, as well). I bring this up because I brought out Inari's crush in this chapter (and Moegi's unspoken one, as well, I suppose). Suggestions for pairings among the undecideds (save Shikamaru: Temari or Ino arguments. I have my own biases in that regard, but the story may dictate otherwise) would be welcome, provided you add an explanation besides "I think they look cool together!" (In other words, "I think Neji and Tenten should get together because they work so well together in training," would be acceptable. "I think Neji and Tenten should get together because they're such a cute couple!" is not.) Next chapter: Well, I suppose Naruto didn't quite get to 'stopping' Hanabi, yet, has he? Well, he will next chapter. Sorry, the break just didn't materialize where I thought it would.