Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 23 ( Chapter 33 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: My first case of plagiarism! Someone going by the handle 'KingKilala' on decided to repost chapter 1 as his own, keeping not just the title but also my original author's notes... including "by David A. Tatum," who I'm pretty sure this person is not. I waited for a bit because I wanted to see if anyone would leave him a review ridiculing him for his poor attempt at plagiarism, but then I reported it when someone else mentioned they'd done so as well. I've never used the reporting system (since I usually feel it's administered pretty unfairly) but I'm pleased to see cases of plagiarism are dealt with properly, at least... or at least this person realized that he'd stirred up a bit of a hornets nest as people started to realize what he was plagiarizing (thank you all who noticed). I suggest you search for his name (since you cannot write a link anywhere, even internally, on, so I can't post it for you) and see if he's taken your work as well. Also, check out the authors in his 'favorite authors' profiles -- I suspect they're aliases of his, at least in part, since I noticed comments on several fics by those authors which had comments calling them out on plagiarism. Remember to report those, because obviously the comments aren't doing it. In one comment, someone made the assumption that the Hyuuga (and others in Konoha) were aware that Jiraiya was Naruto's master. I don't think they do... in fact, I doubt most people in Konoha know anything about his abilities, save for what they saw in the chuunin exam -- events which they aren't necessarily going to remember all that clearly, considering what ELSE happened that day. No-one in canon has ever seen him with Jiraiya (outside of Ebisu and Kakashi, who are both in Blossom, and Gai, Tsunade, and Shizune, who have had no opportunity to spill that bit of information). No-one in canon is aware that he can summon Gamabunta, save Gaara, Sasuke, Temari, and Jiraiya. Very few people have seen him perform the rasengan. No-one is aware that he won the battle with Gaara, not Sasuke. No-one is aware of what really happened in Wave, save the people who were there... and so on. Basically, outside of certain major characters, the battle with Neji is the ONLY chance he's ever had to impress most of Konoha. About the legend of Toad-master, Snake-master, Snail-master: I don't really know much about it, myself -- I've already posted just about everything I know, which came from a footnoted copy of a translated interview with Kishimoto answering the question of what legendary characters he had incorporated into Naruto. (He only mentioned Jiraiya, but Tsunade and Orochimaru are also both mentioned in the same legend, from what I've read). Not sure there's really anything more I can say about it. Well, I guess that's all for now. Enjoy.
Chapter 23
Naruto continued to flip through the letters he had been handed by Inari, who was waiting with less and less patience for the mail he was supposed to deliver. Tsunade's dispatch had said there were five personal letters inside this packet which he would have to be especially careful to censor -- possibly to destroy -- but he couldn't find any of them. Perhaps there was a last minute change of plan, and so Tsunade had not included those five? But no, there would have been an addendum somewhere in the messages, and there was none.
"Inari," Naruto said, repeating his thumb-through of the letters. Sakura had already started censoring a couple, now that she knew what had to be removed. It would make things go a whole lot faster, having her help, but the speed she was adding was being taken away, as well, by the search for the missing letters. Perhaps the boy who had picked up the mail knew something. "Are you sure that this is all the mail?"
Inari fidgetted. "Um... why?"
"The old lady's letter says that there are certain dispatches I should be expecting, and all of them are missing."
The boy relaxed. "Oh. Well, there certainly wasn't anything official that I failed to bring you. I did give out some personal mail, though, when I, um, ran into Hanabi-chan's team."
Both Sakura and Naruto froze. "How many letters?"
Inari hesitated, suddenly realizing that those might actually be the letters he was talking about. "Um... five?"
"Crap!" Naruto exclaimed. "Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn! When did they get into town, anyway? They weren't due back from their mission until tomorrow!"
"I guess they got here early," Sakura sighed. "And now we're in a hell of a lot of trouble."
Inari hesitated. "Um, does this have something to do with Hanabi-chan?"
Naruto sighed. "We've been trying to keep a certain bit of news from home away from the people most involved. You are aware of the clan system back in Konoha, right?"
"Well, I did say that I understood Hanabi-chan's problems with dating outside of her clan," he pointed out, "Although I might not know everything about it."
"Right," Sakura sighed, taking over the explanation. "Look, Inari -- Konoha has a number of great clans, each of which train their children in special family techniques, or at the very least have a common heritage which influences how they behave, how much effort they put into training, etc. The Hyuuga clan is reputed to be the strongest of these clans, but they also have many strict rules and laws governing the behavior of its members... including laws regarding who you can marry, and things like that. Apparently, Hanabi's sister broke one of those rules, and her clan -- lead by their parents -- decided to kill her as punishment. She resisted, obviously, and now that clan is in a civil war."
"To make matters worse," Naruto continued, filling in for things that Sakura had yet to learn. "The Inuzuka clan is involved -- Hinata-chan decided she'd marry Kiba, and they tried to get rid of him, too."
"Oh, god," Inari replied, horrified. "But... Hanabi-chan was sitting with the two Inuzuka girls when I gave her the mail... and I gave them some letters, too. Oh, god!"
Naruto sighed. "Looks like we've got our work cut out for us, eh, Sakura-chan?"
"I'd say so," Sakura agreed, standing up from her desk. "It looks as if trying to keep this information out of Blossom's eyes is no longer an option. So, do you want to take Hanabi, or the Inuzuka?"
"Well, I like the two puppy girls," Naruto sighed. "I don't want to have to do anything to them. Why don't you handle those girls, and I'll take care of Hanabi?"
"I think I'm going to need a bit of help for that," Sakura said. "But I think that'll work -- I'll get Anko-chan and we'll easily be able to deal with Hana and Futaba. Ready?"
"Yeah," Naruto said. "Let's go."
Inari watched the two leave, completely ignoring him, and wondered if there was anything he could do to help.
* * * * *
Despite what her father had said, Hanabi knew that she had to return to Konoha. She just wasn't getting a big enough picture staying in Blossom to really know what was going on. Her mother had recalled her, after all, and her mother outranked her father -- well, she claimed she did. Hanabi wondered just how true that was, since the few documents she'd seen on the clan's laws didn't say anything about that. According to her father, she would have been made into a Branch family line if her mother had her way... which made her wonder just how reliable either of her parents were, since they both had always said she would be the true heir, as Hinata was a failure. It was her mother's words about how overpowering the Hyuuga clan was that kept her from bothering to learn the henge or the kawarimi techniques... which she sometimes regretted not knowing.
Hanabi hesitated, glancing at the still unopened letter from her sister. If she truly were interested in seeing 'all the sides of the story,' as she claimed she was, she would continue to break the rules imposed by her mother and read Hinata's letter as well. But... for some reason, she was holding back. She couldn't bring herself to break her mother's rules to that extent... but she couldn't destroy the letter, either. She didn't know -- too much was on her mind, and too many things were happening, and she had to move quickly before things got out of hand -- but she couldn't betray her sister like that, either.
Sighing, she finished packing her travel pack. It was past nightfall, and she well knew all the ways to leave Blossom secretly. This might get her declared a missing nin... but unless she committed some additional crime other then going AWOL, she could always return and be forgiven... there would be some punishment, yes, but she wouldn't be imprisoned or killed for leaving. She could deal with any punishment that remained, as long as she had something this important to do.
She stepped out of her house and looked around. She'd hated this place, where her clan meant nothing and she only had this tiny apartment to call her own -- not that she even really owned it -- but now she was reluctant to go. However, she had to leave. Her clan needed her too much to stay.
With a sigh, she left, making as much effort as possible to remain undetected as she could. As she slipped outside of the border, she grinned ruefully. There was no turning back, now....
* * * * *
Hana shrugged. "Hey, I don't really think Hanabi's likelyo to do anything wrong, whatever is going on in Konoha," she said. Sakura had found her and Futaba together, eating in a restaurant, and explained everything -- Anko standing by her waiting to do something in case the Inuzuka clan members overreacted to something. So far, however, they both seemed calm enough... although the younger of the pair appeared quite anxious.
"I threatened her," Futaba admitted. "I don't want her to be siding with the members of her clan who've declared war on my family! But I'm also worried for her. We are teammates, and while she doesn't always seem like it Hanabi-chan is a very nice girl. A bit stuck up, but she really does her best to help other people as much as she can. If her clan is tearing itself apart... well, she's very connected to her clan. I'm worried she'll tear herself apart, as well."
"If the Hyuuga collapse, they'll deserve it," Anko spat.
Sakura blinked. "Anko-chan?"
"It's just rumor -- or rather, I can't prove it," Anko sighed. "The Uzumaki clan records were stolen by the Hyuuga, at one point, because the Uzumaki clan -- one of the original twelve, mind -- beat them in an inter-clan war. That's only one of several incidents I've heard tales of, where they have abused thier power to maintain their status. I'm aware of the genetic disposition to insanity you noted for the Uchiha, which you learned of from your own clan scrolls... I've always felt as if the Uchiha got it not from the combining of two great lines of power, but rather from the Hyuuga exclusively."
"It... could actually be both," Sakura hesitated, looking around. "A genetic flaw causing the Hyuuga to strive for power and dominance over others, amplified by the connection to another greater bloodline... it could cause serious problems."
"I would think it would weaken the defect, not strengthen it," Hana mused. "When a wolf and a dog breed together, the result is usually a beast tamer then a wolf."
"Yes -- an apparently calmer animal," Sakura agreed. "But, correct me if I'm wrong, many wolf-dog hybrids have somewhat... erratic behavior. They'll seem perfectly domesticated, but then... they snap, their eyes go red and the fur stands up on their backs, and they become aggressive when confronted with anything that might stress them." She paused. "The life of a ninja is very stressful. If the Uchiha were actually bred from a relatively calm family -- the 'dog' in the pairing -- and a family with a genetic disposition that makes them power hungry -- the Hyuuga, representing the 'wolves' in this scenario -- then perhaps their incidents of insanity are really just the... the 'wolf' in them breaking through when the stress gets too much."
"Possible," Hana replied slowly. "Kuromaru has some wolf in him, and he's snapped like that from time to time. But he regains his sanity -- according to your notes, the Uchiha do not."
"They do," Sakura pointed out. "With the right trigger."
"Animal instinct," Anko pointed out. "The need to breed is sometimes stronger then even the need to survive. Sasuke-kun, unless I am mistaken, has longed to 'rebuild the Uchiha,' has he not? Which -- forgive me for putting this so crudely -- requires that he breed. Perhaps the stress caused by the need to breed could have broken the stress that was--"
"Look," Hana sighed. "It's a decent theory, all right? But it's still just a theory. We don't need to worry about the Uchiha, right now -- we've got the Hyuuga to worry about! If they do have some sort of genetic defect which causes them to become so power-mad...."
"I could do some tests," Sakura pointed out. "If I had a test subject."
"How about two?" Futaba asked slowly. "Hanabi-chan... and that student of yours, Adaha-san. One from before they 'enhanced' their powers, one from after... perhaps it has something to do with the oni they took into their blood."
"If so... it could be sealed out," Sakura mused. "It shouldn't weaken them as a clan, at all, merely... correct a defect in them. If I can examine Hanabi-chan, I can maybe save their clan!"
"Yeah," Naruto said suddenly, appearing amidst them. "But you actually need to see Hanabi-chan in order to do that. Which might be a problem."
"Eh?" the four girls chorused.
"Hanabi has run off. But I don't intend to let her get to Konoha -- get everyone. We will retrieve Hanabi-chan and bring her back here... whether she wants us to or not."
* * * * *
Hanabi froze, hearing a twig snap behind her. Someone had managed to follow her... but, given the sounds she now noticed he was making, it wasn't a very skilled someone. She must have really been out of it not to notice earlier.
"Byakuugan," she whispered softly, hoping to identify her pursuer. There was a chance, if it were one of the other genin, that she could avoid them completely, as long as it wasn't Futaba and her dog. She doubted it was someone stronger then a genin, given how poorly they were hiding their presence, but she didn't exactly respect that certain higher ranking ninja (such as Naruto) would necessarily have mastered the stealth normally required of a chuunin or better. She searched all around, extending her special vision to its maximum to see everything that was around her. She had a slightly larger blind spot the Neji did, but she wouldn't miss anything the size of a human... and very few things the size of a dog.
Whoever it was hadn't realized that she was 'looking' at them, and continued to move in her direction. They were at the extreme of her range, so her focus was... limited, but she could tell it was probably a genin... although she wasn't sure which one. She didn't recognize the profile, so... wait, was that who she thought it was?
"Inari-san?" she called, deciding there wasn't really any point in hiding her presence -- especially if her follower was only an Academy student. "Is that you?"
The boy poked his head out of some bushes. He had twigs and leaves strapped all around him -- pretty good camoflauge, actually, if a bit basic. Obviously, once he learned to mask his movements better, he'd be pretty good at stealth activities. Perhaps the Blossom Academy students wouldn't all be utterly useless, after all, even if none of them had any clan-based advantages like special techniques or, say, bloodline abilities... well, not counting Adaha. "Um, hi, Hanabi-chan," he said, blushing in embarrassment. "I guess you saw me?"
"Heard you, actually," she explained. "You move too loudly."
"Ah," Inari replied, blushing even more.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, a bit put out. She had made the perfect escape from Blossom, but... but she couldn't leave an Academy student alone, way out here, when he hadn't even mastered the basics of ninjitsu yet. He'd never survive the trip home... she'd have to take him somewhere safe, after all. The closest safe place was Blossom, however, so... just what could she do?
"I, um, heard about your family problems," he answered hesitantly. "I wanted to help."
Hanabi stared at him in disbelief. "You. You want to help? You think there's anything a snot nosed little brat who doesn't know the first thing about real ninjitsu can help solve all of the problems of the Hyuuga? By yourself? Are you out of your mind?"
"No!" Inari exclaimed, his temper getting the better of him as her insults rained down. He was attracted to the girl -- she was cute, and the 'take no prisoners' attitude which she often displayed when she was tutoring most of the students in the Academy (for Adaha wasn't the only one she worked with -- he was just the one she worked with the most. She'd worked, at least briefly, with every single student in the Academy, including Inari, in sparring lessons) appealed to him -- but he wouldn't put up with being bullied by her. That was one thing Naruto's visit during Konoha's first mission to Wave had taught him. "I am not out of my mind. Nor am I trying to say I can 'solve all of the problems of the Hyuuga' by myself. But maybe... maybe I can help you."
Hanabi sighed. If she were of lesser blood, she might even lower herself to slap her forehead in disbelief -- something she'd seen a number of lesser men and women do. However, she was a Hyuuga -- whatever that meant, now -- and she would act like one. "Listen. To. Me. Go home. There is nothing a boy -- without an ounce of an advanced bloodline in him of any sort -- can help me with. What I need... is someone strong. Someone powerful enough to defeat armies single-handedly. You... you would just get in the way."
Inari was crushed, looking down at his feet as if they were the most important things in the whole world. "Then... then what are you going to do?"
The girl froze. "Eh?"
"You're just a girl," he pointed out. "A girl my age. A girl who may have an advanced bloodline, but could hardly have mastered it as well as most of those older then her. A girl who I doubt could defeat armies single-handedly. What are you going to do?"
That... almost sounded like an insult. "What... who... what do you know!" she snapped. "I'm the greatest Hyuuga of my age! Possibly the greatest ever of my age--"
"Then who is this 'Neji' guy Naruto talks about sometimes?" Inari shot back. "You know... I liked you. You're cute and all... but you're just an irritating little bitch, aren't you? I thought you were cool, but you won't accept any help -- and I wasn't even talking about the fighting kind of help, you know -- and you talk about how strong you are as if that matters. Hanabi-chan, think about it: You're ten years old. Outside of the children your age or younger, who probably shouldn't be fighting themselves, you'll be the weakest person there!"
"Take that back!" Hanabi snarled, losing her composure. For some reason, this kid had her rattled and she didn't know why. She wouldn't be insulted this way, that was for sure. "Unless you want me to make you take it back."
Inari swallowed nervously. He knew from Naruto's stories that the Hyuuga clan's legendary status was well founded. The techniques he had to face when fighting that Neji person were brutal, and there was nothing he knew which could counter them... but he'd learned a while back that unless you stood up to the bullies, the bullies would demand more and more from you until you had nothing left to give. It had cost him his father -- and his land their pride -- before they realized that, but everyone in Wave knew not to back down, any more. And so he couldn't.
Licking his lips, which had suddenly dried, he slowly drew out his response. "No."
Hanabi narrowed her eyes. "Byakuugan!" she snapped, using her enhanced vision to guide her fist. Moments before her fist struck, she knew something was wrong. With a crack, the log which substituted for him shattered into splintered. A kawarimi? and he got it off that fast? But... how in the world could he do that? He's just an Academy student?
Her senses warned her of an attack from behind -- although she couldn't tell what kind, since most of it was in her blind spot -- and so she leapt away. The wooden training kunai landed in the pine-needle covered paths with a slight bounce, apparently completely harmless. She spun around to face her attacker... only to be knocked aside and sprawled out onto the ground by the force of the explosive tag which had been attached to the projectile. Before she could react, Inari was there, on top of her, trying to pin her arms to the ground. He had one, but the other was free... and so she began her next move.
With deadly precise accuracy, she started shutting down his chakra system. She wouldn't kill the boy -- she didn't want to kill anybody -- but she had to stop him. Her best non-lethal offensive moves involved controlling her opponents chakra, and shutting it down was a whole lot safer -- for both of them -- then trying to make it overproduce and burn itself out. After just a few strikes, he'd managed to grab her other arm and pin it as well, but the damage had been done. The chakra in his right arm was fading, and while he did still have a few open points in his arm which could accept new chakra it wasn't enough -- his arm was weakened, and it was only a matter of time before she had her own free.
It was only then she started hearing what he was shouting at her.
"Settle down, dammit! Settle down! I don't want to fight you, I just wanted to prove my goddamned point. If a simple, undereducated, barely trained brat of an Academy student can do this to you, think about what the rest of your family could manage!"
Hanabi stopped struggling for a moment, taking a few deep breaths. "You just caught me by surprise -- I didn't think you even had explosive tags," she explained. "I'm going to break free and take you down in just a second."
Inari raised an eyebrow at her. "Hanabi-chan... what makes you think you know everything your family can do? What makes you think that they don't keep stuff in secret, themselves, to have something in reserve when their children get 'uppity?' Do you think they can't surprise you? You claim the Hyuuga are the greatest clan ever -- what makes you think they aren't so great they can beat you, too?"
With that bit of logic, something finally broke through to her. "I... well, I never actually thought that anyone was weaker then I was. Well, except Hinata-neechan, or any of the Branch family... or, well, the Inuzuka, or basically a whole side of this civil war. Which I'm probably mistaken about, since niether of the other sides seem capable of beating her faction, so... I don't know. But I'm not going there to fight, anyway."
"No?" Inari asked. "Then just why are you going? And why wouldn't I be able to help, since it's not my fighting talent which would be needed, anyway?"
Hanabi winced. "Inari-san... I'm not sure it's a good idea for you to come along. My mother... my mother would kill you. Literally."
Inari blinked. "Why?"
"Because you aren't Hyuuga," she explained. Not wanting to explain further, she continued, "And... and I need to go not so that I can fight, but so that I can... um, figure out just what is going on. Because, see, I can't do that -- not from my parent's letters."
Inari considered that, then checked through his pockets. To her surprise, he pulled out his wallet and started counting the money inside. It took him a few moments before he nodded. "How much does hiring a team on ninja for a mission cost, anyway?"
Hanabi blinked. "Um... it varies. A D class mission can sometimes cost as little as a hundred ryou a day. A C class or better runs in the thousands, if not the millions, per day. Why?"
"Hm... it'd probably be C class, wouldn't it?" he mused, counting his money again without answering her question. "Well... if I can negotiate it down to the low end, maybe I could afford it. I'm a Wave country citizen, after all, so I'd be getting a small discount anyway...."
"Excuse me?" Hyuuga tried to interrupt, confused.
"Gramps could loan me some money, too, I think," he considered. "And if I could talk my way out of being fired at the dispatch office, I could use that income to live on instead of my savings..."
"What are you talking about?"
He grinned at her. "I'm going to hire Blossom to scout out the Hyuuga clan situation for you, and give you an accurate report."
Hanabi's eyes widened, but then she shook her head. "I can't let you do that, Inari-san."
"Why not?" he protested.
"Because with the Hyuuga clan involved, it'd be a B-rank for sure, and we're not allowed to perform B-rank missions in Blossom," a voice replied, coming -- strangely enough -- from the tree they were lying down (still on top of each other) next to.
Hanabi was startled -- she hadn't sensed anyone else in the area, and she still had her byakuugan running. She glanced at the tree, and still didn't see anything unusual... until the chakra system started changing, molding itself into something much more... humanlike. Then the image changed to match it -- a blond-haired, blue-eyes image. "How--"
"I rarely use a true henge," Naruto explained, anticipating her question. "At least, not any more. I created a varient -- testing it with a technique I call the 'sexy no jutsu' -- which changes my entire physical structure when I use it. I remain conscious, even if I become something like a shuriken or a dead log, but my chakra system and biology both mold themselves along with my form." Explaining more for Inari's sake then Hanabi's, he continued, "A normal henge can give you such features as claws or sharp edges, and make you, say, into the aerodynamic structure of a kunai, but it's still detectable with the right kind of eyes. The byakuugan will allow you to see through a normal henge, as you can see the human chakra structure -- however compressed or distorted it becomes -- in the object or person who has transformed. My varient -- which I will not teach, since it leads to a certain kinjutsu I developed -- alters my chakra structure as well. I tested this by transforming to a girl... and undergoing a pelvic exam by a medical nin. It's embarrassing, but I had proof that even my DNA changes, which it doesn't for a normal henge. I'm not sure how my consciousness remains intact -- especially when I change into things which don't have any kind of brain at all--" Hanabi snorted. "But it does."
"So," Inari said, trying to bring things back on target. "I can't afford to hire you to check out the Hyuuga situation for Hanabi-chan, can I?"
Naruto shrugged. "No, but why bother? The old hag sent me a detailed report from an unbiased observer's view, after all, so she shouldn't need to return to Konoha... should she?"
Hanabi's eyes widened, but Inari remained confused. "Old hag? What old hag?"
"The hokage," the girl breathed, unable to believe her ears. "Naruto-sama calls her that all the time."
The chuunin in question grinned cheekily. "Ah, she lets me get away with anything -- if I ever had a mother... well, a grandmother, I think she'd be just like her. And she is an old hag -- you should see her when she's not using those anti-aging jutsus of hers!"
Hanabi blinked. "Anti... aging? There is such a thing?"
"Apparently," Naruto laughed. "Although even Sakura-chan doesn't know what they are -- and she's Tsunade's apprentice! Anyway... Hanabi, two of your three clan factions and the hokage herself are ordering you to stay in Blossom -- and so am I. Don't worry, though -- from now on, you'll be getting the complete reports, just as I see them. Deal?"
Hanabi eyed him suspiciously. "I don't trust you. You're friends with Neji and Hinata too much -- you're too sympathetic to them."
Naruto shrugged. "Maybe -- they are friends, after all, so that'd probably bias anyone. It's your family, though, so you'd be biased anyway... unless you've already made up your mind?"
"No!" she snapped. "That's why I want to go back to Konoha! I need to know what's going on!"
"I know," Naruto pointed out. "I heard... well, almost everything you and Inari said to each other. I got here while you were telling Inari that he was out of his mind."
"Oh," Hanabi blushed. "Um... I was a little upset... I didn't really mean it."
"Of course not!" Naruto agreed enthusiastically. "Now, I might be biased towards Hinata and Neji, but I'm not actually on their side on this battle."
That brought the Hyuuga girl's attention up in a flash. "But... then you agree with my mother, that they and the Inuzuka boy should die?"
Naruto frowned. "No, I don't. I side with your father -- who actually makes a lot of sense. I know how valuable a treasure family scrolls can be... and I certainly would want to protect mine if I had any! Sakura-chan tells me that the hokage's archives can occasionally be altered, so I wouldn't want to risk losing such a precious thing."
Hanabi flushed, remembering her mother's words on their raping of the archives for just that -- Naruto's family scrolls. "Um... right. But what about the power sealing thing?"
"Well, yeah, I kinda agree with that, too," Naruto mused. "I've read a bit from Sakura's papers on the Uchiha about how their madness was caused by a mixing of the Hyuuga clan's blood traits with another clan's major bloodline traits. The Inuzuka are probably one of the stronger clans in Konoha -- I wouldn't want a new group of crazed super-powered ninja wandering about." His eyes darkened, and -- if Hanabi saw right -- turned red and fox-like very briefly. "I don't want anyone else to have to deal with friends who will ultimately be driven by their blood into betraying them."
Hanabi nodded slowly. "I... guess that you wouldn't, would you? Naruto...sama, may I see whatever you have from Tsunade already?"
"Sure," Naruto agreed, but then pointed to one of her pockets. "And I'll let you know, now -- there hasn't been anyone killed, yet. It's more of a cold war, at this point, thanks to the hokage's personal intervention -- she's arranged for all the clans but the Hyuuga and the Inuzuka to stay out of things, and she's managed to force the three sides to agree and not fight each other until after there's been some attempts at arbitration, first. But I want you to promise me to read all the letters you get from home, because if I'm going to have to do anything about this this, I'm going to want your insight. I like to know what's going on back in Konoha, and only you can tell me the ins and outs of what is going on with the Hyuuga clan. But that means I'll need you to be informed, as well...."
That was a hard decision for Hanabi to make. Essentially spy on her own clan -- the clan she had been raised as an infant to believe was the best creation the world had ever made -- or else never find out just what was going on in Konoha. She was fairly certain that he'd stop her if she tried to leave again, and -- as much as she didn't want to admit it -- he apparently was able to track her and sneak up on her without her knowing. She'd never make it back... and, unless she agreed, she'd never be able to know just what to do.
Deciding, in the end, that there was really only one option, she finally nodded. "Okay...."
That night, back in Konoha, Hanabi opened her last unopened letter and started reading.
"I want you to stay home. Please. I don't want you -- or anyone else -- getting killed over this. I'm sorry. I love you too much to ask you to risk yourself for this."
Hanabi read that again.
"I love you."
And a third time.
"I love you."
A tear dropped onto the page, followed by another. This was why she was never able to believe her mother's words. Why she couldn't accept that Hinata was a traitor who deserved nothing more than death. This was why it was wrong -- all wrong.
"I love you."
Hinata would never do this on purpose. She was too kind... too kind to really be a Hyuuga. Too kind to really be a ninja. Too kind to really know just what she'd been getting herself into. And too kind to sentence to death just for wanting to get married....
Hanabi hugged the letter to her chest. "I love you, too, Hinata-nee-chan," she whispered.
* * * * *
Notes: The information on wolf-dog hybrids comes from a dog my family used to own almost twenty years ago, when I was a five year old. A chocolate lab bread with -- it was claimed -- another type of dog. We later learned that it was actually a wolf who was the other parent (as there were families in the area -- Ithaca, New York (I haven't been there in just under twenty years, so I'm not sure if its still true) -- who bred wolves as pets), and the behavior of that dog reflected it much as I described. We had to put him down, sadly, because he went crazy. I was... very young at the time, however, and barely remember it now. I do remember my dog's eyes turning red when we had an 'intruder' (really a visitor we knew fairly well) -- that was scary, and that was also the first time we began to suspect the wolf in his ancestry. My health problems are now... well, mostly recovered. It took me a day and a half to write this chapter, allowing for adequate rest times for my back and everything. I may be able to get back to around two chapters every three days or so -- I'll try, at least. If I start backsliding, it's because of other problems then my back, however -- I'm getting a bit busy in real life, too. Next Chapter: Once again, someone unexpected arrives in town to hire the ninja of Blossom for a special mission. This time, it may be too big for Blossom to handle, however.