Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 4 Chapter 6 ( Chapter 66 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 4
Author's Notes: To everyone who is shocked at the long absence, I will refer you to the author's notes in chapter one, where I make the SPECIFIC warning that I've been known to take more than a year between chapters, before. I'm afraid this chapter might be a bit disappointing after all that time, since it's not really anything 'special' for a chapter, but we'll see.

By the one, one of my biggest pet peeves in a story is when, after the story has been long established and the character pairings have been declared, the author decides to change the pairing. There are people who read fics exclusively of one pairing or another, and once you're some 50 pages or so into a fic it gets really frustrating if the fic changes from a pairing you love to a pairing you hate; it's too much like a bait and switch scam, no matter HOW good the fic is otherwise. Secondary pairings are one thing, especially since you rarely have people search for fics based on secondary pairing, but changing the primary pairing in mid-stream -- no matter how important to the story or how much your personal tastes have changed -- make me lose all respect for the author. I would rather they abandon the fic altogether than change the pairing of the fic mid-stream. To paraphrase Kishimoto, 'Authors who write pairings I don't like are writing trash, but authors who change pairings mid-stream are worse than trash.' (not that I REALLY think any authors who do that are trash, but I wanted to make it obvious what I was paraphrasing). I dislike it that much.

So, those five or six of you who decided to spend a week PMing me three or four times a day to change the pairing to NaruIno... not only will it never work with this story, especially not now, and not only do I not particularly like that pairing (at least, not without Sakura also involved; trio and harem fics are acceptable, and it isn't exactly my least favorite pairing, either), but I would NEVER change a pairing of a fic, especially this late into a story. And for those five and six of you (and you know who you are), you damn near killed my desire to continue writing this fic. Which may have been your real goal, after all, but I won't give in to that kind of tactic, either.

I may have lost some 'real' PMs and reviews during the above incident. My apologies, if so -- I know those wouldn't be the only messages and reviews I failed to reply to over the past year. I can only ask for forgiveness in that regard. I tried to reply to anyone who wasn't either rude or wasn't just asking 'gee, when are you updating again?' but I know I missed a few. This has been a crazy year.

Chapter 6

To say that Hyuuga Hiashi was a bit surprised would be something of an understatement. He had fully expected the new hokage-designate to come visit him soon -- after all, the Hyuuga were widely regarded, even with the current internal strife, as the most powerful clan in Konoha, and he was widely regarded as one of the most influential people on the Council. His vote would be crucial to Naruto's confirmation as Hokage. Hiashi would probably vote for Naruto, regardless -- he had been fairly impressed with the boy ever since his performance at the Chuunin exam all those years before, and had managed to overcome the instinctual bias he held for the kyuubi when considering the young man's character.

He was starting to wonder about that decision, though, as he saw just who it was that Naruto brought with him. "Just what is the meaning of this?" he asked, glaring.

Naruto bowed in a fit of pique. "Why, I'm simply making my rounds with the clan heads as the new hokage designate. Is there something wrong with that?"

Hiashi's lips tightened as he tried to keep his temper. He refused to look anywhere except at Naruto. "Not that. What is with bringing these... these... ahem. These people with you?"

Sakura, who now understood just what Naruto's plan was, decided to play along. And to make a statement while she did. "I am his fiancee, and he intends to involve me in all of his affairs whenever possible."

"Not you!" Hiashi snapped, not understanding just why Naruto and Sakura were deliberately antagonizing him. "I mean them!"

Naruto made a show of glancing back at the others he had brought with them. Hanabi looked a bit nervous, but Inari, Adaha, and Umiko were all grinning impudently. "Oh, them. Well, I thought you might want to meet with your daughter and her lovers."

Hiashi flinched, but still kept his eyes on the young man who had been named the hokage-designate. "My daughter is a Hyuuga, and is not permitted to take lovers outside of our clan."

Naruto smirked. "Uh huh. Sure. And I'm certain you would have doomed her to a life of virginity had your clan been wiped out before she returned, right?"

"There was a young man I decided was acceptable in such a circumstance--"

"Who is right here," Naruto pointed out.

"--But only one. Hyuuga do not sleep around."

"She isn't sleeping around," Sakura pointed out helpfully. "She's quite loyal to those three, and I doubt will ever leave them."

Hiashi's mouth opened and closed several times, his anger rising. "Damn you. I was going to support you to the council, but you insult me like this?" he snarled. "How dare you!"

Naruto just shrugged off the threat. "Insult you? Hardly. I'm just trying to be honest with you. I made a promise to Neji several years ago that, when I became hokage, I would change the Hyuuga clan for him. That means making your clan relax some of the restrictions you place on its members... which would include allowing your children to marry into other clans. By coming to you now, like this, you will see what I'm really going to do, and vote for me based upon what you really think of my abilities and ideas. If you vote against me, well, so what? I'll still become hokage."

Hiashi stiffened. "Unlikely. No hokage has ever been able to take the position without the support of the Hyuuga clan. And the Hyuuga clan will never support someone who would destroy what we are -- so I fear you have just doomed yourself."

Naruto sighed, shaking his head. "Well, I was sort of hoping to avoid this, but... if I can demonstrate that those outside of your clan can add to it, and not weaken it, will you change your mind?"

"And just how would you prove that?" Hiashi snorted.

Sakura decided it was time for her to intervene again. "I'm one of the best medical ninja around. Only Tsunade-sama is rated greater then I am in all of Konoha, correct?" Hiashi's grudgingly agreed with a simple nod. "Well, I have been conducting extensive medical studies into your clan's genetics, and--"

"How dare you!" Hiashi snapped. "What gives you the right to--"

"Oh, get over yourself," Sakura laughed. "I am maintaining the proper confidentiality expected of a medical specialist, so I haven't violated any ethics. And I wasn't looking at Hyuuga genetics for fun -- rather, I was investigating the genetic problems of the Uchiha clan by studying their closest relations."

Reluctantly, Hiashi had to admit that was an acceptable excuse... and so he tried to rein in his anger. She wasn't the one he really was upset with, after all, and making a simple concession like this might help him regain the moral high ground. "I am not happy with this, but I'll bow to the necessity of your study."

Sakura didn't seem all that impressed with his show of magnaminity, however. "Yeah, whatever. Like you could stop me." She smiled darkly, but decided to reveal her findings rather than to antagonize the man further -- they wanted him angry, but not so angry that he would completely ignore what they were saying. "I'll go so far as to say there is a reasonable excuse for forbidding some relationships between your clan and others without certain restrictions. But none of these three have the genetic difficulties a major clan might have interacting with your own, and it is wise to bring in 'new blood' for any clan. A few generations of intermarriage is fine, but without fresh blood you start seeing genetic defects." She paused, then said something she suspected that she hadn't even mentioned to Naruto. "I fear that may be why Hinata-chan's clan abilities are so weak -- there is some sort of genetic defect weakening her byakugan."

Hiashi stiffened. "Our clan has been growing stronger and stronger by intermarriage for hundreds of years. I doubt it would suddenly start weakening us."

"Suddenly? No. But Hinata-chan doesn't show any significant defects, either -- she's just weaker then she should be. It would take a few more generations." She paused. "The best bet your clan has to survive is to bring in fresh blood, and fast. It wouldn't hurt if they were strong people who aren't already a part of another major clan, like Hanabi's three lovers here."

Hiashi eyes the trio with distaste. "I don't see anything special about them. How are they 'strong?'"

Naruto smirked. "Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you have a practice match with one of them? If they can beat you, surely they're strong enough to join your clan."

Well, now,Hiashi thought. Maybe there's a way to eliminate some of this stain on our heritage already. There is no way any individual not of a major clan could defeat the strongest of the Hyuuga. "If one of them can beat me, then I'll consider it. But only if they can beat me -- if they can't...." He paused to consider what to demand of them. Hanabi didn't seem to be willing to divest herself of her lovers, and he... well, he actually cared for his youngest daughter. But he couldn't allow her to have her way in this... although there was an option. "If they can't, she'll willingly submit to having her blood sealed."

Naruto was thrown for a second -- he was pretty sure his students could handle Hiashi, but this wasn't what he intended to put up for ante in the fight he was brokering. "I'm not so sure about that one..."

"Losing confidence in us, Naruto-sensei?" Inari snickered.

"I accept," Hanabi snapped. "Inari-chan will be my champion. And father... you will lose."

Naruto looked at her in surprise, but then shrugged. "You heard her, Hiashi-san. Fight's on...."


"Remember, this is a 'friendly' practice match," Naruto said, glancing about to inspect the battlefield of 'urban training area 3,' where they had decided to hold the match in the end. "Pull any lethal blows or permanantly crippling blows. Nothing to the crotch, either -- I hate crotch hits, especially when they happen to me, so I don't want the two of you doing anything of the sort. Fight until unconsciousness, surrender, or other inability to continue. Um, am I forgetting anything?"

"If any rules are broken, the match is forfiet," Sakura added, smiling dangerously at Hiashi. "And if the violation is serious enough, Naruto and I may have to... intervene. You wouldn't like that, Hyuuga-san. Trust me on that."

Hiasha frowned at the lack of respect. He was the most powerful man in Konoha, outside of a kage -- these brats should be more respectful of him. But he would tolerate it... and crush this 'champion' into dust. "Agreed."

"Ready?" Naruto asked Hiashi, ignoring Inari as the young ninja pulled out a bowl of ramen and started eating. The Hyuuga patriarch glared over at the boy, but nodded. "Begin!"

Hiashi intended to strike quickly, ending the battle from the start with a single blow of the jyuuken. He dashed in, his fist pulling back to strike as quickly as he could... but as he started to throw the 'single blow,' he found his hand wouldn't move. His byakuugan activated, he figured out why pretty quickly -- his hand was stuck to the wall of the building behind him by a long, sticky strand of seemingly unbreakable ramen noodles. "How...."

"A little chakra manipulation here, a slight modification of a technique from a scroll on ninja puppetry that Naruto-sensei couldn't use himself, and a good bowl of noodle soup," was all the explanation Hiashi was given by Inari. "Udon works better, because it's a bit thicker and stickier, but ramen's good too... and it's much easier to find instant ramen than it is to find instant udon."

"You wouldn't have this much control over it unless you've been practicing this technique for a while," Hiashi noted, raising his other hand peacefully to indicate he wanted a pause for discussion, as was customarily granted in friendly practices. "This is a jounin-level technique, I can tell. How long have you been able to perform it."

Even Naruto seemed surprised at that. "Jounin level? Really? I got a bargain, then -- I only paid for a genin-level technique from that Ninja Puppetry school Ero-sennin took me to."

"You bought this technique?" Hiashi asked, surprised. The only ninja techniques he had ever heard of for 'sale' of any sort involved either missing nin trying to fund their escape from their home village, or very simple and basic techniques taught to encourage other ninja to join a new village. This technique required much more complexity than should be expected from the later, and wasn't exactly the sort of thing the former would bother with.

"I signed up for a crash course in ninja puppetry basics at a neutral school somewhere in the north," Naruto explained. "The scroll was my textbook, which was only supposed to be giving me an 'introductory' lesson. I found I couldn't control my chakra as they wanted me to, so Ero-sennin, who signed me up for the course, pulled me out after a couple weeks. Just as well -- I hated the thing."

"And how did you come to give it to this child?" Hiashi asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Back when we were all studying our basic techniques," Umiko explained, surprising the Hyuuga elder. The girl lover of his younger daughter had some of the distinct voice patterns he recognized in his older daughter... though only some of them. There was no stuttering, no nervousness, only... a quiet softness that struck him wishing that he was not so estranged with his whole family at the moment. Perhaps that was why Hanabi had allowed herself to be so seduced. "Our class was getting bored by studying the same three techniques over, and over, and over again. Haruno-sensei noticed our lack of attention, and so she discussed the problem with Naruto-sensei and the other veteran ninja."

Naruto picked up the story from there. "I'd collected quite a few scrolls I just couldn't use from my three-year training trip with Erosennin. Usually, they were the basics of techniques -- things which I couldn't pick up, like genjutsu specialization or ninja puppetry -- and I wasn't sure what to do with them. I certainly had no use for them, and most of the people I knew who would be interested in those types of techniques felt they were too simple to bother with. I decided to use them in a bit of a competition."

"He replayed a certain part of his youth," Sakura chuckled. "I'm sure you remember when the whole village was in such a panic because he'd stolen a certain sealing scroll from the archives?"

Hiashi winced. He had been part of the search party, and had always felt affronted that a loud, obnoxious academy student had been able to hide from him and his entire clan. "Yes," he growled.

"Well, Naruto hid the scrolls in 'secure' locations, and told the students to find them and steal them, if they could," Sakura continued. "They would have until they were caught by mother, Naruto-kun, Ino-chan, Kakashi-sensei, or myself to study these scrolls, and in future classes they could bring that knowledge out if they desired."

"Inari-kun managed to learn enough of the scroll to figure out some of how it worked before he was caught," Hanabi explained. "He didn't quite grasp everything right away, but when he started on the chakra control techniques Haruno-sensei was teaching us, he figured out how to modify what he knew so that he could use it. The problem was, he figured it out in the middle of lunch, and all he had to test it with was a bowl of ramen noodles. He would have practiced on wire, like he figured he was supposed to, but he didn't have any. He improvised."

"He flipped my skirt with it!" Umiko pointed out, laughing, much to Hanabi's annoyance. The Hyuuga girl had accepted Umiko into her... well, harem, for lack of a better word. That much was true. But that didn't mean she could completely ignore it when Umiko was able to 'flaunt' an encounter with one of her boys. "I don't think he was trying to, but looking back on it the whole thing was pretty funny. Hanabi and I both nearly gave him a black eye for the insult."

"A similar technique using wire is often graded a chuunin level technique," Hiashi explained slowly. "But with noodles -- or any similarly delicate material where one would have the added difficulty of making them strong enough not to be too easily broken -- the exponential increase is such that this would be graded at jounin level."

"Well, that's how I figured it out," Inari snapped. "And taught it to Naruto-sensei, who taught it to the whole class. No-one does it better than me, though... but enough already! Are we here to spar or are we here to talk?"

"You're here to die," was all the warning the boy had before a kunai sank into him. Hiashi flinched, finding himself in the uncomfortable position of not being able to see where the attack was coming from. Evidently, the assassin knew where the Hyuuga patriarch's blind spot was located, and had been hiding in it the entire time they had been fighting. Given that he had told only one person where that blind spot was, he had a pretty good idea as to where that information had come from.

Fortunately, Inari wasn't killed by the kunai. Instead, a puff of smoke eventually revealed that it was a log, not the boy, who had taken the blow. Inari slipped out of his hiding spot, eyes widened. "What is going on?"

"Mother!" Hanabi snapped. "Quit playing around and get out of here!"

"I guess we get to meet the folks after all, huh?" Umiko said to Adaha. "Not exactly a pleasant meeting with your future in-laws, though."

The Hyuuga matriarch landed not too far away in front of them. "You are no longer my daughter, so I would appreciate it if you didn't call me 'mother,'" she growled dangerously. "Husband, it is nice to see you." So far, outside of the kunai to Inari's chest and the death threat which some ninja might actually find a pleasant greeting between one another, she hadn't done anything overly aggressive. She was just walking casually between them, approaching Hiashi with an almost seductive gait. Despite her words and actions, there was no 'killer intent' felt by anyone, and in fact she was carrying herself in as non-threatening a manner as was possible for a ninja. Even the kunai, as it was thrown, looked to be little more than a 'warning shot.' Everyone was being watchful, however.

"And you are here, because?" Hiashi asked slowly.

"Why, husband, is that how you greet me?" she asked, feigning offense. "I remember a time you liked it when I surprised you like this."

"Those surprises rarely involved a kunai in my blind spot," Hiashi snapped.

"Temper, temper," the Hyuuga matriarch chided. "I'm not really here to kill anyone. Any ninja worthy of the name would be able to avoid that kunai, even a first year student. Now... you were having a little 'practice' session with this boy, here, huh? Interesting." She glanced at Hanabi, giving her a cold smile. "So, you're willing to put your blood on the line for these pieces of trash, huh? Interesting. Very interesting."

"Hyuuga," Naruto began slowly. "You were not invited here. You are not welcome here. I have been told of at least one S-class missing nin who was killed by a kunai thrown just as simply, before, so I don't exactly ignore 'warning shots' like that one. As this is a private training session, I must ask you to leave."

"You can't make me do that," she replied, shaking her head dismissively. "Not if you intend to hold your match here. These training grounds are owned by the Hyuuga clan. Konoha leases them from us, but we have the right to be here if we wish, regardless of you desires."

Naruto narrowed his eyes, glancing over at Hiashi for confirmation. A little surprised that the young man who had been acting like such a brat since they met would trust his word, he found himself nodding reluctantly.

"I'm afraid that's correct," Hiashi sighed. "It is part of our clan's holdings. While the terms of our lease state that Konoha may send any of its citizens onto these lands as they see fit, for training and other purposes, only a higher ranking Hyuuga may force another from these lands. And -- at least until some form of arbitration has settled our disputes -- she is the highest ranking Hyuuga present."

Hanabi gave a slight smirk. "Oh, it's all right. Might do 'mommy' good to see just how good a non-Hyuuga can be."

The Hyuuga matriarch clenched her fists, restraining her anger. She had beaten into her daughters -- literally -- that she should never be called 'mom' or 'mommy,' but rather 'mother.' Nothing less formal would do for her. Hinata had also started taunting her with taunts of 'mom' during the efforts at arbitration Tsunade had brokered. 'Mommy' was ten times worse, however.

Naruto glanced at Hanabi, but she just smiled at winked at him in answer to his unasked question. "Well... if you insist. Inari, Hiashi -- continue!"

Hiashi grimmaced. This was a bad situation. As much as he disliked the fact that Hanabi was apparently choosing people outside the clan to take as lovers, he knew she did love them. She would not have wagered a blood seal to preserve their relationship if she didn't. He didn't want to risk the death of her lovers, or Hanabi herself, but with his own wife here there was a chance they would be in danger. Naruto and Sakura could not protect all four of them at the same time, but he might be able to even out the odds. To do so, though, he couldn't afford to tire himself out... so he had to end this fight as quickly as possible, it would seem.

"You may have a few impressive tricks," Hiashi said, addressing Inari. "But you are not capable of challenging the most elite of Hyuuga techniques. You surely have learned that from my daughter." He paused. "And, undoubtably, you've learned what the words 'you are within the range of my divination' means, correct?"

Inari's eyes widened as the first pair of pinpoint attacks struck. He counted -- two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and finally sixty four. Good, he thought to himself. He didn't do the full hundred and twenty eight.

Hiashi was a little surprised at how unphased his daughter appeared, seeing her lover's sixty-four tenketsu closed as he was knocked back several yards. Instead, what he saw appeared to be a rather nostalgic -- and someone disturbingly sensual -- grin appear on her face.

Inari rolled back to his feet, a grin on his face. "I figured you'd try that one. So did Hanabi. We had such a fun time exploring where my tenketsu were so that I could defend myself. Of course, in order to figure out where they were, I needed as little clothing as possible -- just to be clear -- so that I would know exactly how much I needed to dodge."

Hiashi's furious intake of breath as he heard about some of the things this boy had done while... despoiling his youngest daughter was quickly overshadowed as the Hyuuga matriarch's fury also made itself known. "You've done what?" she screamed at Hanabi, making no pretense at civility. "How could you reveal family secrets like that!"

Hanabi shrugged it off, although a slight tenseness in her shoulders showed that the bravado was at least somewhat faked. "What were you expecting? I know you'd want any lovers I take outside of the clan killed. I had to give him a means to defend himself from you, and knowing where his own tenketsu were was vital to that defense. It's not like they'll be able to use it for anything other than dodging your attacks."

Umiko grinned. "It was really interesting when she pointed them out to me, too. The tenketsu are in much more 'fun' places on a girl than on a guy, I think."

That was the final straw, as the Hyuuga matriarch's control snapped and she charged blindly at Umiko. She didn't make it more than three steps, however, before she found herself unable to move. Chakra-laced ramen bound her wrists and ankles, and Eagle, Toad, and Slug had her pinned, hew own daughter struck out against several of the tenketsu in her arms and legs, and Adaha stood between her and the girl, his eyes glaring her down unflinchingly. Naruto and Sakura stood in position to keep Hiashi from interfering, but it seemed her husband was willing to stand back and let things run their course.

"Is this sufficient, father?" Hanabi asked, not looking at him. "Or does Inari-kun have to keep up with this game while 'mommy' plots to kill my lovers and myself?"

Hiashi stepped forward, acknowleding Naruto with a nod as he passed. It was beginning to dawn on him just why the young hokage-designate had decided to bring his daughter and her lovers to him that day -- they were more than just lovers, they were a team. In a flash, they had taken down a Hyuuga clan member he would have found nearly impossible to defeat, himself. They obviously loved each other, and they seemed strong enough. And if Sakura, whose medical skills were thought to be the equal of the hokage's, believed there might be a slowly developing problem with his clan's intermarriage... then perhaps it was time to bring in fresh blood, after all, and these children seemed like good additions. He could have done without the other girl, though.

"As long as you avoid pregnancy, I will leave your blood unsealed for the moment," Hiashi declared, ignoring his wife's anger. She couldn't speak, as Sakura's slug had an... well, an appendage of some sort was clamped over her mouth. "I would like to learn more of Sakura-san's medical findings before making a decision as to children of this... um, union. However, I am not pleased with how much you are flaunting this relationship in my face, daughter."

Hanabi, for the first time since confronting her father, blushed. "I'm sorry, father. I needed to provoke both you and mother into taking certain actions, and it seemed... well, this was an ideal way of doing so. I usually have much more discretion with this relationship; I do not try to hide it, and in Blossom it is common knowledge that we have this... unusual bond. But we rarely even talk about it in public, much less flaunt it as we have been." She paused. "And at least none of us have Moegi-chan's problem."

"Moegi-san's problem?" Hiashi repeated. "What is that?"

Here, Naruto and Sakura both blushed, but Hanabi's explanation kept them from having to meet anyones eyes. "During my chuunin exam, Moegi-chan took a life-threatening blow to protect me from Sinobi Gashir. Naruto-sempai had a way to save her life, but it involved a mixture of blood and chakra that... well, 'poisoned' Moegi's blood, in a sense. As we recently found out, while the kyuubi is healthy inside of Naruto-sempai, she remains healthy. When it becomes ill, the kyuubi-chakra still inside her may inflict minor damage against her immune system. And it has resulting in a somewhat... empathic bond with the kyuubi's hosts... which means, when they are having an, ahem, encounter, Moegi's libido is... strongly affected. To the point where she's been seen almost raping Konohamaru-kun in public on occasion... not that the boy minds."

Hiashi had tuned much of that explanation out, however. "Sinobi... Gashir?"

Naruto winced. "Um, Hanabi-chan? You father didn't know about that one, and it was supposed to be a secret."

"What is this about Sinobi Gashir?" Hiashi demanded.

"You will have to talk with Tsunade-sama about it," Hanabi sighed, sending a non-verbal apology Naruto's way. "Apparently, some parts of that mission were classified that I was not aware of. She would know what can and cannot be revealed."

Naruto added a little bit more. "Let her know that I said you can have all the details. I haven't had an update, myself, in a couple years, but last I heard he was still in custody. You might want to, um, question him." Hiashi was gone in moments, and Naruto turned his attention to the other adult Hyuuga present, whose eyes were looking more and more wild as time went on. "Now, as for you..."

Finally pulling her mouth from the slug's grip, the Hyuuga matriarch started ranting. "How dare you treat me like this! I should--"

"Shut up," Naruto said, slapping her hard across the face. "You are a piece of trash who would, left to your own devices, ultimately destroy everyone trying to prop up some twisted sense of what your clan should be. You should be expelled from Konoha, and I would do so in a second if I didn't know you'd be more dangerous as a missing nin than you would as a citizen. If your faction wins the day in your little 'family dispute,' I almost think it would be best to wipe your clan to the ground and rebuilt it from scratch, using sensible people like Hinata, Hanabi, Neji, and even your husband Hiashi as the guides. But because it is a 'family dispute,' I won't interfere... provided you ensure that it doesn't negatively affect the functioning of Konoha. At this point, you are just barely more of a nuissance as a dead martyr than as a live enemy, but only just... don't push it."

With a nod, Inari let her go. She glared from person to person angrilly, seeing only defiance flashed back at her, but she restrained her anger enough to disappear without a word.

"My mother is insane," Hanabi sighed. "I will kill her, myself, if she tries anything. I almost think you should have, there, Naruto-sempai."

"Is that really wise, letting her go like that?" Sakura asked softly, putting a comforting hand on Naruto's shoulder.

"It's a risk," Naruto admitted. "And a big one. She will almost certainly have to die before this is all over... but not yet." He glanced at Hanabi. "We need to get your sister and your father on the same side, first, Hanabi-chan. Think you're ready to help me with that one?"

Hanabi shook her head, sadly, before her trio came up and started taking their places around her in a comforting group embrace. "Anything. To end this nightmare, I will do anything."


Tenten hesitantly slipped into the classroom. The woman at the counter had very carefully not laughed at her nervousness, but Tenten could read the amusement in the young woman's eyes. However, she was required to take this course, and so she had to endure all the laughter that was sent her way for it. Still, every kunoichi (well, almost every kunoichi; there were a few 'early exemptions' who entered every year, but that kind of girl, well... suffice it to say they were rarely popular with other girls) knew to dread courtesan training, and Tenten was no exception.

"Hello, Tenten-chan," Kireme said from the front of the room. "Come on in."

Tenten sighed, but stepped on through. It looked as if Shizune would be acting at Sakura's replacement in teaching the medical aspects of courtesan training. She'd wondered about that. "Hello, Kireme-sensei."

"Relax, we aren't so formal, here," Kireme laughed. "It'd be pretty embarrasing if we were."

"It's embarrasing, already," Tenten moaned. "How could it get any worse?"

Three or four other girls, all younger than she, were sitting down. None of them looked particularly embarrassed, but Tenten couldn't read their faces nearly as well as she could the woman at the reception desk. They all flashed her a sympathetic grin, but mostly seemed just as amused as everyone else was to Tenten's plight.

"Don't worry about it," one of the girls -- an administrative nin known as Ekisutora Bangai -- said. Well, she was supposed to be an administrative nin -- she had been revealed to be a junior ANBU-in-training when they rescued Naruto. She had been training alongside Kainashi Rouhi and Yowamushi Kasuka as ANBU in the years since Naruto, Sakura, and Ino had all taken fellow students for teams from the first Academy class to graduate. Their cover as 'administrative nin' was fairly tight, however, and even now only a few people knew who they were -- Tenten included, as she'd been asked to take command of the ANBU squad until Anko could return. She was an 'early entry' candidate, it seemed, but that wasn't unusual for younger ANBU members. "Sousou-chan told us that it's mostly just birth control techniques, unless you show particular aptitude or desire to learn more."

"Here in Blossom, it is, anyway," Shizune noted. "In Konoha itself, every girl is given the full course, regardless. Here, unless we feel you have a particular aptitude for it that must be exploited, we give you the option. Keep in mind, though -- birth control means just that: Control. We'll be teaching you how not to get pregnant... or how to get pregnant. There have, in the past, been missions where a kunoichi would have to seduce and have the child of a particular person. These techniques can be used in your personal life, as well, so keep that in mind."

"Yes, Shizune-sensei," Tenten and Bangai chorused.

"I still find it embarrasing, though," Tenten continued alone. "I mean, I'm a... a virgin, and it seems--"

"And do you intend to stay that way forever?" Kireme asked, looking her in the eyes. "Is there no man on this world you will ever decide to share yourself with? Birth control, in particular, can be as important to a marriage as it is to... well, 'walking the streets,' if you will."

Tenten flushed, thinking of Neji. She flushed deeper, thinking of Lee... especially thinking of Lee, and the secrets they were now sharing with each other. She had been looking after him especially closely, lately, and that closeness was starting to materialize in other ways, as well. "I...."

"Sit down and relax. We'll try and keep as much embarassment as possible out of this, okay?" Kireme asked.

Tenten smiled weakly. "Yes, sensei."


Notes: Well, most of what I had to say is up top. I don't know when the next chapter will come up, but given the way things are around here you'll be lucky to see another chapter in the next year (though, obviously, I'll TRY to write another one faster than that).

Next Chapter: Naruto, Sakura, and Hanabi talk to Hinata and Kiba. Neji sends several teams of genin out from Blossom to observe some curious reports along the borders. I might even get Sakura's mother's arrival in Konoha, if it works out right, but we'll see.