Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 4 Chapter 8 ( Chapter 68 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Notes: On my mentioning of the Raikiri and Chidori thing -- I have long thought these were two seperate techniques, for a number of reasons. I am not convinced either way, yet, about whether they're two seperate techniques -- despite the one translation of Gai's description of the Chidori, I have also seen evidence that contradicts what Gai says (which, if they are different techniques, could mean that Gai just doesn't know everything about it, or his descriptions have been mistranslated, or many other possibilities; Gai's words are convincing, but over time other evidence has built up on the opposite side, as well -- Sasuke's dialog in chapter 361 which I referenced in my last authors notes, a poll conducted by Kishimoto's publisher, the differing appearance between the two that shows up most in the anime but which can also be seen in the manga, etc.), but there is nothing definitive (the differences could simply be caused because Kishimoto confused himself and or the publisher about the matter, quite frankly, but it's enough for me to suspect that maybe they aren't the same technique after all (long after I had been otherwise convinced that yes, they were)). I won't bring up my arguments, again, because, quite frankly, I'm tired of all the nonsense around this thing, and too tired to argue about it. However, I ALSO know that there has NEVER been any description of what the differences may be from any official or semi-official source. PLEASE stop talking about this 'Raikiri is S-rank Chidori is A-rank' shit -- because there has never been anything which said that beyond mere fan speculation. So, that will be my last words on the subject -- just as 'yellow flash vs. golden flash,' I will not be talking about it again and will ignored reviews and private messages on this subject and its relationship to the fic. For the purposes of this fic, regardless of what it says in canon, they are two seperate techniques. Or not, as it is completely irrelevant to the story save whether Kakashi had just one original technique or whether he had two, as of the time when this fic started... something which no longer matters.
Okay, let's calm down and make a story-relevant note. Aburame Shibi's characterization, in this chapter, comes almost entirely from the timber of his Japanese voice actor's voice in the single scene he appears (or at least, the single scene before the filler episodes -- never watched a lot of the post Tea Country fillers, so I suppose he might have appeared again there), and Shino's own behavior. I can't really figure out what else to get his characterization from. So no complaints he's out of character -- he doesn't have a character to be out of, yet.

Chapter 8

Naruto faced down every challenge with heart and fervor. Often times, this resulted in a bit of bravado as he went up against seemingly impossible odd. It was more than bravado, however, that he was faking as he marched through the streets of the Aburame district. To be quite frank, the whole place creeped him out... and he wasn't doing as good a job of hiding that as he should. He couldn't help it, though -- the two things that creeped him out the most were snakes and bugs. He hoped that Shino's father, Aburame Shibi, at least kept his bugs out of sight like his son did.

Shino was guiding him through the streets, obviously unphased by all of the swarms of beetles and bees and wasps and other insects that were flying about everywhere. Lights were carefully covered with paper or cloth in order to protect moths from their own curiousity. Spiderwebs adorned most of the windows and doors in place of screens. The smell of compost -- being used as maggot and grub food -- was everywhere. And everyone -- male or female, young or old, ninja or not -- wore dark shades that would not show anyone the wearer's eyes. If ever there was an arguement for clan autonomy, this was it, Naruto decided.

It was after he was nearly trampled by a happy-looking Aburame boy riding on the back of the largest centipede Naruto had ever seen that he finally broke.

"Er... no offense, Shino, but I'm starting to get a little creeped out here," he said, shivvering visibly. "I mean, aren't centipedes poisonous? A bite from one of those could kill someone, and yet you've got little kids playing with them!"

Shino's expression could not be seen, thanks to his ever-present coat, but he still seemed somewhat amused. "It will do good for our future hokage to learn that even the smallest of Konoha's creatures hold power, and so should not be overlooked. If you are scared by a few bugs, imagine what some of our enemies who do not share your... determination will think."

"This is more than 'a few bugs,'" Naruto shot back. "How much further is it?"

"We're here," Shino replied, pointing to a larger building. "The home of my father, Aburame Shibi, and the one-time seat of power for the Aburame clan prior to Konoha's unification." He paused. "Proceed with caution, as some of the insects here are not friendly with humans not of our clan."

Naruto twitched. "Um, right. Lead the way!"

Shino lead him into a large room that was almost empty. Spiders, worms, grubs, and -- most of all -- beetles were crawling all over the walls, and there was no furniture. The only light source was a skylight, which let the reddish light from sunset in to shine directly in the center of the room. Sitting in lotus position on what looked like a large, rolled-up pillbug in the center of the room, Aburame Shibi looked to be meditating. It was hard to tell if his eyes were closed or not, of course, because of the dark glasses over his eyes, but Naruto got the sense his eyes were closed.

"Father," Shino said, giving a quirky half-bow in greeting. "This is Naruto, the Hokage-designate. He wishes to speak to you."

"I know who he is," Shibi replied. "Greetings, Naruto-dono. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"

Naruto paused, then donned a confident smile. "Heh heh. Well, I was probably going to come see you pretty soon, anyway. After all, I need to meet with the clan leaders about the upcoming vote confirming my position as hokage."

Shibi gave a barely perceptable nod. "You have my vote. But that is not what brought you here, today."

Naruto blinked. "That easy? You aren't going to have me bring in my students to challenge you to a fight, you aren't going to have me prove I'm not really the kyuubi, nothing?"

"I know you can fight, I know your students can fight, and I know you can lead. If you couldn't, Blossom would not have grown as much as it has. That village's success, whether you are the kyubi or not, you are capable of being hokage," Shibi explained in a monotone voice. "Now, my patience is expended. Could you please give me the reason you came, today?"

Naruto took a deep breath as the pillbug Shibi was sitting on started uncoiling while the Aburame elder stood on his feet. It occured to him that his questions might be taken with some offense, and he wasn't exactly in friendly territory if so. Still, he had to ask it. "The hokage has reason to believe believe that there is a spy intercepting private conversations inside the residence of Hyuuga Hinata. We know that Shino had a bunch of his bugs in her apartment to, uh, help keep his teammates safe. We suspect that maybe another of the Aburame clan may have been inpersonating Shino to his bugs."

Shibi didn't answer for a very long time, and Naruto wasn't sure what was going on. After almost two whole minutes with no answer, Naruto slowly stepped forward and started waving his hand in front of the eyes to make sure he was awake.

Shino shifted nervously. "Um, Naruto...."

"I am not ignoring you, Naruto-dono. I am merely investigating," Shibi said. "And I know it was not one of us. Like the insects, the community of the Aburame is very hive-like. Shino is part of the team on Hinata and Kiba, and so that as a part of that team has become part of a second hive, in addition to the family hive. As a hive, however, we have decided to be neutral. Shino's protection of his teammates as a part of his second hive does not violate the neutrality of his central hive, but no-one whose loyalties were not divided would even consider taking as simple an action as spying on Hinata-san in violation of the hive decision. I used my bugs to consult with the bugs of those who might, in fact, have divided loyalties for another reason. None of them have done this action. No others of our clan would take such an action, either."

Naruto frowned. "Well, shoot. Then who's the spy?"

"I would not know, and can not help your investigation," Shibi replied, sounding genuinely remorseful. "My son, Shino, may take any action that does not bring our clan into this war -- including investigating this for you. But, as the Aburame Clan hive was not involved, it would strain the credibility of our declaration of neutrality if we were to go looking for those who are spying on her."

Naruto seemed to think about that. "But... but what proof do I have that your clan wasn't involved?"

Shibi cocked his head, crinkles in his forehead showing that he was narrowing his eyes. "I have explained to you that no member of the Aburame clan would do such a thing."

"Yeah, sure," Naruto agreed, nodding. "I know you explained why it's unlikely. But, see, thing is, we're all ninja. How do we know that that those hive members with 'divided loyalties' haven't taken their knowledge as experienced ninja, and hid from their own bugs what they had done? But perhaps there's a way to investigate the area, itself, and see if there's any evidence that will, ahem, clear those members of any suspicion...."

Shibi once again went silent, though this time even Naruto could see he was just thinking. "Again, Naruto-dono, there is no question I will be voting for your confirmation as hokage," he said, walking over to the door. "Let us clear my clan's name, shall we?"


One day's trip out of Blossom, Lee looked around to see that their camp for that night had finally been completed. It took longer than it should have -- in part, because the two genin teams were arguing with each other about which items were whose from the shared camping equipment. These sorts of things were common occurances among genin teams in their first multi-team exercise. Fortunately, Matsuri and Daichi were effective in preventing their respective teams from going to war with one another, and all that had been lost was some rations. Things were settling down, now, as people slowly gathered around the campfire to enjoy the luxury of having one while they were still permitted to have it.

"All right!" Lee cheered, taking his place at the head of the camp fire. "Good job, teams! I saw a lot of the fire of youth in you all!"

Most of Lee's chuunin's looked rather knowingly embarrassed, and Matsuri and Daichi looked a bit startled, but most of the genin present looked quite startled at the sudden exclamation. "What's going on?" one of them asked. "Why is Lee-sensei crazy?"

Lee blinked, hearing the genin but not able to tell which person it was who said it. Apparently, one of the new students had learned to talk without moving his mouth, which was a useful trait for any ninja. Still, he was glad he wouldn't have to discipline one of them -- he knew he was considered a bit... odd... by most people, and didn't particularly like disciplining those under him when they reacted to his wierdness.

"It's time to give you all your mission briefing. Your teams were hand-picked for this mission, so I know that your youthful energy will serve you well in this mission," he said, feigning ignorance of the insult. "You all know this mission is supposed to last a full month, but now you'll find out why. This mission comes from the daimyo, who tells us that he is recieving strange reports that some towns bordering Wave Country -- towns from both sides of the border. Unusual numbers of strangers going through towns, ususually large purchases of certain supplies being made, and the like. About a month ago, we found out a possible explanation for all of this -- one person mentioned to a man in the daimyo's employ that he was a part of a band of refugees fleeing from what we believe to be a series of disasters. But there is a lot that isn't known: Where all of these refugees are coming from, where they are going, and what -- exactly -- they are fleeing from. Our mission is a surveillance mission to infiltrate these towns, find whatever we can, and return to Blossom with a full report. Genin -- if a combat situation presents itself, no matter what the situation, you are to flee without using any ninja talents -- no-one is to know that any ninja are along this border. Even a bar fight could prove disastrous. Instead, find your team leader and report to them. Chuunin -- use your best judgement when it comes to fighting. Everyone -- if combat proves unavoidable, do your best to survive, but try to minimize any evidence that you are ninja, either during the fight or afterwards. And, above all else, do not antagonize the civilian population. Any questions?"

It was Matsuri who raised a tentative hand. "Lee-san... why were we hand-picked for this mission if we are not to engage in combat? You are a combat specialist. I am a combat specialist. Daichi is a combat specialist. Every member of our teams are combat specialists. Is something going on that you aren't telling us?"

Lee frowned. "Nothing that I am aware of. Tenten-chan asked me the same question. In my case, it was because this mission needed a jounin leader, and there are no jounin who are infiltration and surveillance experts not otherwise employed still residing in Blossom." He glanced at Matsuri. "I know there were other chuunin and genin who could be adequate surveillance experts -- Pansuke-chan being the biggest example, as she is unquestionably the top surveillance expert now in Blossom, yet is unemployed. But I trust Gai-sensei knew what he was doing when he picked us, so we'll carry out the mission to the best of our abilities. Does everyone understand?"

"Yes, sensei!" the assembled teams chirped.

Tears started falling from Lee's eyes. "Oh, Gai-sensei... if only you could see us now. The explosion of youth truly is glorious, isn't it?"

No-one said anything, but there was a great many eyes rolling at his behavior. Fortunately, his team was used to it, and once he had gone to bed for the night they were able to reassure everyone of Lee's competence. It would be a long trip for all of them, however.


Shibi frowned, glancing around the room. "So, Shino... what zones were your bugs told to patrol?"

Shino hesitated, but knew he had to do what his father said. Hinata was already wary around him, Kiba was ticked, and he could tell he was even on somewhat shaky ground with Naruto for his behavior. He didn't exactly want to remind everyone of his perversion, nor to get in trouble with his father. However, he had no choice. He pointed to several areas, hesitating only when he came to Hinata and Kiba's bedroom. "Here, here, here... and here."

Shibi cocked his head. "Okay, the door and window makes sense. And I think your decision to place bugs in the bedroom and the office were correct -- not every ninja will use the door, after all."

Shino relaxed slightly, pleased that his father didn't make an issue of his voyeurism, and that Kiba and Hinata were staying silent about it... for now. "Thank you father."

"But nothing in the kitchen? Nothing in the bathroom?"

Shino shook his head. "Those two rooms are interior rooms, whose walls only touch this apartment's interior or my neighboring residence. Given the security I place in my own condo, there was no way for any approach to escape my notice."

Hinata, supervising the investigation alongside Kiba and Naruto, glanced at the doors into those two rooms. It was true -- even going through walls, the only way into those rooms without crossing one of the regions Shino had said he was patrolling was to cut through Shino's condo. All of the other walls, though, were vulnerable... which meant she and Kiba would need to start securing them better.

Shibi walked into the kitchen followed by the younger people and frowned. "Kiba-san... can you enhance your nose for a moment?"

Kiba blinked. "Uh, sure."

"Do you smell anything... unusual in this room?"

Kiba sniffed, frowning. "Well, it's a kitchen, so there are a lot of scents around here. It's hard to tell what are normal cooking-related scents and what aren't."

"Try hard," Shibi replied. "It's important."

Kiba concentrated, seperating out the scent of various cleaning products first -- those were the strongest scents in the room, and therefore the most likely to mask whatever it was Shibi wanted him to find. Then he 'tuned out' the scent of stale food, the scent of gas vapers both burnt and unburned, the scent of some long-dead insects underneath their refridgerator, and on and on. Finally, he got to people -- first Naruto, Shibi, Shino, Hinata, Sakura, and himself; then those visitors he knew had been invited into the house; then Ino, whose scent just barely remained after she and Sakura had moved out years before. Kakashi, Tsunade, and various other people whose scent were weak enough he knew they had been visiting during Sakura and Ino's occupation of the condo were the last eliminated... and there was still one last scent remaining. And it was strong, and definitely a human scent, and it had been there for a while.

"Someone's been here. Someone I've never smelled, before," Kiba finally said. "They must have stayed here, off and on, for almost a year before they finally left... about the time Naruto came to town." He paused. "And the man was wearing materials only found, to the best of my knowledge, in the village of Rock."

Naruto's eyes narrowed. "A Rock ninja? What were one of them doing here? No offense, Hinata-chan, but I wouldn't think you were important enough for them to bother with, even though you have become a leader of one of the Hyuuga clan's major factions."

Hinata shrugged. "I have never met anyone from Rock. I have no idea."

"Curiouser and curiouser," Shibi said. "Naruto-dono, I have determined that it was not an Aburame who was spying on Hinata-dono. However, as Kiba-san was able to confirm the findings that my bugs suspected when they smelled those elements we know only come from Rock, I am now of the belief that there was something going on here that is more than just the Hyuuga feud. I will consult with the hive, but I am fairly certain we will all agree with my decision: The Aburame must continue this investigation, not for Hinata-dono's sake but rather for the good of all of Konoha."

Naruto grinned. "Well, then... I'll be glad to be working with you, Shibi!"


Nanigoto Izure wasn't really sure what to make of the situation he now found himself in. He was born in Wave country, and had been part of the first class of genin at the Academy. Then, because he had a good eye for kunai and other types of shuriken, he was shipped off to Konoha to study weapons mastery under Tenten. Now a part of Tenten's team, he was once more back in Blossom as she had been assigned to his old home town. He still felt rather startled at how much the town had changed in his absence, but many things were still the same. The biggest industies outside of ninja were, before he left, were the brothel and a series of ramen restaurants that had been springing up. The ramen restaurants were still there, and the brothel was thriving as it had evolved into much more than just a brothel, but those places weren't the major industries any more. Thanks to the encouragement of Naruto and the marketing ability of Sakura's father, Blossom Steelworks was now the most sought-after brand when it came to professional chef's knives, chisels and carving tools, gardening equipment, and the like -- an industry bringing into the village almost as much money as the ninja work. Those industries were vital to the life of the village, especially as winters didn't generally bring in many missions and the coffers would be rather lean in the village during those coldest months of the year if there wasn't another industry to support it.

But Izure wasn't sure what to make of it. He had been astounded by Konoha when he first came to it, but over the years learned it wasn't a very pleasant place to live. The internal strife caused by the Hyuuga civil war combined with the aura of mystery surrounding much of Konoha's history made things very tense, and unless you were part of a clan there were very few places to relieve that tension. No-one was willing to teach him anything, either of Konoha's history, it's politics, even the names of its streets and the locations of its buildings. As he discovered when puberty first hit, even romance and sex was difficult in Konoha. How was he to know that the cute girl he'd caught in the shower during a prank was actually a young woman who had been pledged to marry a member of the Aburame clan since she was born, and that he'd have the entire clan after his blood if he so much as talked to her? He still had to be careful when walking Konoha's streets, or he'd get bitten by a mosquito four or five times a day.

Tenten, his instructor and the captain of his team, wasn't sure if she had a clan or not. She had been the daughter of a pair of ANBU, who both were killed on a secret mission for the organization. As ANBU members were wiped from historical texts and clan rolls if such an event occured, Tenten didn't even know her family name. However, this type of occurance had happened before, and ANBU became her clan following her parents demise, providing for her food and livelihood while helping her on her quest to become a ninja. She was taught no special techniques that might be traced back to any one family, but had been given access to a level of instruction in the field of weapons rarely offered to people not in ANBU. That knowledge, she had passed on to him... but the guardianship ANBU provided had not been.

Here, back in Blossom, things seemed so much more open and friendly, even if the level of secrecy was about the same. No real clan structure had been set up, so no inter-clan tensions occured. The people were proud of there history, and wherever allowed they would gladly spend hours rattling off on the great workings Blossom had managed. If he didn't know where something was, a friendly stranger would gladly tell him. Even in training, he was learning more than he would ever have learned in Konoha -- while Tenten was obviously the greatest weapons expert alive, with no piers in Konoha or Blossom or anywhere else, there were things she didn't know. From the head of the hospital, Shizune, he was learning how to conceal weapons much better than Tenten could. He had also been told, by Tenten herself, that his old classroom instructor, Haruno, would be able to teach him ways to care for his blades that had been lost to the masses for decades. Politics was a bit of a mystery, it was true, but everyone assured him that he knew about as much as they did. And, well, outside of the odd angry parent or older brother, there weren't any major clans around to try and suck his blood dry with mosquitos and leeches if he even made eye contact with a girl... or if they did with him. All in all, it should be a pleasant experience.

But it had been so frustrating, being a stranger to everyone. This was his home town, now -- his younger sister was a student at the Academy, his older sister was a civilian nurse at the hospital, and his parents ran a flower shop that had been set up for them by Yamanaka Ino, who had experience running one in Konoha. He had spent a year of his life here, and had helped to build several of the buildings that were now workshops or stores or residences. However, everything had changed so much....

His thoughts were interrupted as Tenten finally showed up at the training ground. She was never late -- never that Izure ever knew of, anyway -- but she often set a range of time in which she could arrive rather than an exact time, and she had been pushing it today. "Hello, Tenten-sensei," he said, bowing in a respectful greeting. "What do you have for me, today?"

Tenten glanced around, sighing. "Well, your teammates are both off on solo class-C missions, so it's just you and me today. Normally on a day like this, I know we'd train, but without any missions on the horizon I would like to ask that we take the next few days off."

Izure was surprised at that, but nodded nonetheless. "You are the sensei, you do not have to ask me for permission to take a day off. May I ask why, however?"

Tenten sighed. "I'm missing... an old friend of mine, I guess you'd call him. I was thinking about getting rip-roaring drunk and starting a bar fight in his honor."

Rolling his eyes knowingly, Izure couldn't quite surpress the chuckle from escaping him. "Missing Lee-sensei, huh? Well, I'd join you, but it isn't exactly legal for children my age."

Tenten considered him briefly. "And how old are you, anyway?"

Izure blinked. "Um... you know, I actually don't know? I've been too busy to think about birthdays or anything like that for years, and no-one in Konoha or Blossom ever knew, at least not until my parents moved in after I left. I seem to recall it was some time in March...."

"Never mind," Tenten laughed. "I'm pretty sure you're right, and you're under twenty. You weren't even a teenager when we first met, and that was only... what, four, three years ago?"

Izure shook his head. "Something like that, I believe."

"Well, I've always thought the drinking age was a silly thing to enforce for a ninja," Tenten said, pulling Izure into town by the arm. "If you're old enough to fight to the death for a mission, you should be old enough for any of the vices of life. I'm not one who usually encourages drinking, as you know, but I've imbibed a few on occasion... and I'm pretty sure I was younger than you when I had my first bottle of sake. Come on, let's get drunk... in honor of Lee-kun."

"In honor of Lee-sensei," Izure agreed, though he didn't know Lee that well. "I accept your invitation."


"Just what is going on, here?" the Hyuuga matriarch demanded. She had been left waiting outside of the office of Aburame Shibi -- one of the principle leaders of the Aburame clan -- for hours, and every minute had been growing more frustrated. It didn't help that, every time she looked through the wall with her byakugan, all he was doing was meditating. "I hear there are suddenly dozens of your clan encircling the complex of apartments and condos in which Hinata live. They are denying my people access to the area. Is this not a violation of your neutrality?"

Shibi cocked his head at her knowingly. "I will not ask why your people were trying to get into that compound, Hyuuga-dono. Regardless, nothing we are doing has any relation to the feud splitting your clan apart, and therefore we see no violation of neutrality."

"Nothing that has any relation to the feud?" Hyuuga-sama echoed disbelievingly. "You're protecting Hinata from us!"

Shibi frowned. "That may be the effect of what we are doing, but we are not protecting her because we have chosen any sides in this conflict."

"Then why are you?" she screeched.

The Aburame leader cocked his head, almost looking amused at her anger. That was unlikely, however -- Shibi Aburame was known for not having a sense of humor. "Again, we are trying to maintain neutrality in your conflict. The reason we are, however, does not mean that some of us do not favor certain sides, but rather that we feel the safety of Konoha is more important than getting involved in the squables of one clan, no matter if that clan is a historic ally or not. We have determined a foriegn ninja from the village of Rock has been spying on Hinata. Because of this, we are now making a serious effort to find him or her, determine why he was here, and to prevent further foriegn incursions. Consequentially, that means putting all the residents of that condo complex -- including Hinata-dono -- under our watch and protection until such time as our investigation is complete. When we have found the Rock ninja, or have confirmed that he is no longer in Konoha, we will remove this protection."

Hyuuga-sama barely restrained herself from killing him, but then stormed out of the residence and took the shortest route out of the Aburame district. Shino stepped out of the shadows he had hid himself in, watching her go.

"Do you see, now, why I sided with Hinata-chan in this conflict, father?" Shino asked softly.

"I knew why you had from the moment you made that choice, Shino," Shibi replied. "But I also knew it was in our clan's interest not to get involved, and that the majority of our clan who would side with her. We are much like the Hyuuga clan, cold and arrogant, and traditionalists to a fault. Had I tried to get the hive to decide in Hinata-dono's favor, it would have backfired. Hiashi's faction would have been acceptable to most of our clan, but there was still much danger of dissention if we were to pick his side. No, neutrality was the best thing we could do for our clan, and it was the best I could deliver in support of Hinata-dono. And I could only do that because of your association with her -- as my only child, the clan would not wish to put you in a position where you would have no choice other than to rebel. However, trying to force them to help you would make them rebel. I could get neutrality from the pro-matriarch members of our clan... but nothing more than that."

Shino nodded. "I see, father. And now?"

"Now, all the clan can see that there was a Rock nin inside of Hinata-dono's residence. There are few reasons why that might be, but undoubtedly our clan members know...."

"Know what?" Shino asked, curious.

"There are only two real reasons for spying on Hinata-dono. One is to try and capture her eyes... but we know that the spy has already left, no attempt has been made, and there was no information he could have gathered to make such an attempt." Shibi paused. "Which means it is option two. He was spying on the behest of someone else... and I think it is pretty obvious who that someone else was, don't you?"

Shino frowned. "But if the Matriarch is making deals with the Rock, then should we not tell the hokage?"

"We have no proof," Shibi pointed out. "But now, everyone in the clan can see that she bears watching. And watch her we shall." He paused. "By the way, Shino...."

"Yes, father?"

"I know it was difficult for you, with your future wife killed during the Sand-Sound war. However, that is no excuse for spying on your friends...."

Shino flushed. So his father wasn't quite so oblivious as he'd hoped. "My apologies, father. It... will not happen again."

"We are still looking for a possible replacement mate for you, Shino. Do not lose patience."

"Yes, father."


"I'm home," Naruto called, entering their temporary apartment in the Hokage's tower.

"Welcome back," Sakura called from a side room. "You missed my mother."

"Well, that's too bad, I-- wait, your mother was here?" Naruto exclaimed.

Sakura's laughed echoed through the apartment. "Yeah. She brought over our stuff from Blossom, but she had to leave right away -- she wants to get back in time for the next semester at Blossom's Academy to open."

"So your parents are staying in Blossom?" Naruto asked, sounding somewhat sad.

"She said they'll visit frequently," Sakura replied, sounding a little saddened herself. "So it's not like we'll never see them. But yeah, Mom said they've formed a life in Blossom, so they'll be staying there." She paused. "But we were talking, and I'd like to ask you something."

"Yeah?" Naruto replied. "What?"

Sakura stepped into the room, arms raised to show off the bracers she was wearing, a shy smile on her face. "How about we get married, huh?"


Next chapter: The wedding, the drunken brawl, and the Hiashi-Hinata Negotiations.
(again, no clue when the next chapter will come out, but it'll come in time. Might take a year, might take a day, we'll see)