The Silent Warrior

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

"This isn't going hurt him, is it Kurenai-sensei?" Hinata nervously asked.

Kurenai smiled, "No. Don't worry, everything will be fine." She looked at Naruto, "May I?"

He nodded.

Kurenai closed her eyes and once again entered into Naruto's mind and heart. When she opened her eyes, she smiled at him and nodded.

"Well Kurenai?" Jiraiya asked.

"The same gate as before, but this time, it was standing wide open. Inside was a hug flame made up of three different chakras, black, red and blue. The black and the red are the largest, seeming to fight against each other. The blue chakra surrounded the other two and kept them contained. However in places I couldn't tell the difference among the chakras. They seem to be combining."

"So it is as Kaien said. He is all of them and none of them at the same time." Iruka said.

"But parts can come out as evidenced by Orochimaru's anger and Naruto's nickname for me." Tsunade said. She was deep in thought. "We haven't seen the fox demon yet. Who knows how that part will show itself. Unless…" Unless we try to bring out more of Naruto's personality and memories. She made her decision.

"Naruto and Hinata. I'm going to let you go freely throughout the village. Hinata, I want you to help bring out Naruto's memories."

They nodded. "But what about Gaara? He has to be with us." Hinata went over to Gaara and grabbed his hand and clung to his arm. "We don't want to be separated."

This took Tsunade by surprise. She didn't think about Gaara's involvement. "Well, Kazekage, what do you want to do?"

Gaara smiled, "I wish to stay with them."

Naruto walked over to the two of them and put a hand on a shoulder of each. Hinata and Gaara spoke at the same time, "Thank you for giving us our freedom. There is something that we need to do. We will be on top of your monument." Red chakra surrounded them and then they disappeared.

Everyone was in shock. Have I made a mistake!? Tsunade thought.

"Come on everyone, let's get to the top of the monument." Kaien said.

"Why!?" Temari said in a stern voice.

"Tsunade, Jiraiya, think about what tonight is." Kaien said.

"It's night already," Jiraiya said surprised. "I didn't realize this took all day."

"What is important about tonight?" Sakura asked.

"It's a demon moon." Kaien responded.

"Demon moon?" Neji asked.

"Come on. Let's go. It's something you should see once in your lifetime." Kaien said as he walked to the door. He held it open as everyone filed out of Tsunade's office.

--

On the hill top, the three of them were staring at the moon. It was huge and blood red.

"It's beautiful." Hinata sighed. Gaara nodded. They both felt exhilarated.

Naruto the most. He felt as if his heart was going to leap out of his chest. His eyes had turned fiery red. He closed his eyes and let his chakra build. Hinata and Gaara looked at him, their excitement growing. Naruto's eyes flew open and his chakra flew off of him into the night sky to the moon. All of the sudden red flowers started falling out of the sky.

Hinata started spinning and giggling, her hair flowing out behind her. Naruto thought he had never seen anything so beautiful. "BUT MY MEMORIES ONLY GO BACK ONE DAY."

"Hey! I heard that!" Hinata called as she gathered the flowers and ran to Naruto. Gaara smiled and also started to gather flowers.

Everyone else had come to the top of the mountain at that point. They all stopped in awe at the sight before them. The flowers were still falling, practically glowing in the moonlight.

"This is amazing!" Sakura said as everyone started fanning out.

"THIS is a demon moon." Kaien was talking in a reverent tone. "I've seen it once before. When the moon takes up most of the night sky and is blood red, the tailed demons will find their hearts."

"What are these flowers?" Temari asked.

"Naruto has the Nine-tailed fox, so that will make these fox flowers. Each tailed demon will produce different flowers."

"I didn't realize the tailed-demons could produce something so beautiful." Sakura said.

"It's a way to replenish the chakra of the world." Kaien replied.

"I don't understand," Neji walked up behind Kaien. "I thought charka was inside of people, how can flowers replenish chakra?"

Kaien smiled, "Understanding chakra may seem simple, but there is a lot you still need to learn. You are very young yet."

"But…" Neji wanted to know more, but Kaien would not say anymore.

Gaara had come up to Temari and Kankuro. He held out some of the flowers to Temari, "A way to say thank you, sister." Temari and Kankuro were in shock.

"Gaara…" Temari didn't know what to say.

Gaara turned to Kankuro, "I didn't think you would like flowers…unless you could make poison out of them." He smiled and walked back to Naruto, leaving the two of them speechless.

Naruto was placing flowers in Hinata's hair. Gaara came over and stood near by. They were all very content. Naruto grabbed Hinata's hand. "ARE YOU READY TO GO?"

Hinata shook her head gently. "NO. I WANT TO STAY HERE. IT'S SO AMAZING. THE THREE OF US SHOULD STAY LIKE THIS."

Naruto shook his head. "I CANNOT STOP TIME. WE MUST MOVE FORWARD."

Gaara nodding in agreement, "AS MUCH AS I WOULD LIKE TO STAY, MY VILLAGE NEEDS ME. I WILL NEED TO GO BACK SOON."

Hinata sunk into Naruto. "I UNDERSTAND. BUT I DON'T HAVE TO LIKE IT."

Naruto held her close, "WE WILL STILL BE TOGETHER." She nodded but she stayed in Naruto's arms.

The others had walked around, some gathering flowers, other just talking in the sight. Jiraiya and Tsunade had stayed to the back. "Do you really think Naruto is in there?"

Tsunade nodded, "That song Hinata was humming, it was what I was singing to Naruto the night that I…" Tsunade paused. She didn't like thinking about it. "Plus, he called me Granny Tsunade. It's him Jiraiya. We just have to remind him of himself."

The flowers stopped falling. Without any words or thoughts, Gaara, Hinata and Naruto started moving. When Naruto turned, he saw Sakura for the first time. All day she had been a face lost in the crowd. But now… "SHE LOOKS SO SAD."

"Who looks sad?" Hinata asked. But there was no response because Naruto had fallen to both knees.

"Naruto!" Gaara and Hinata said in unison. Everyone came rushing over and surrounded them. Tsunade pushed her way forward. "Naruto, are you alright?" She knelt in front of him. His stomach let out a huge growl.

He looked at Hinata, "WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?"

Gaara smiled and Hinata laughed. "You're hungry. I guess its been days since you've had anything to eat."

Sakura had made her way over. She still didn't know how she felt about all of this. Is it Naruto or isn't it? Hearing his stomach growl brought back lots of memories. But it was to much, the tears that she thought were gone, started flowing again. She put her head down.

Naruto looked over to her as he stood up. I make her sad, more so than any of the others. These were thoughts he did not want to share with the others. He really didn't like making Sakura sad, but he couldn't figure out why it bothered him so much.

"Come on Naruto, let's get you something to eat." Hinata was tugging on his arm. He turned to face her, smiled and nodded.

Gaara had noticed that Naruto had been watching Sakura. He was going to talk to Sakura, but Hinata called for him. I'll talk to her later. Gaara went to catch up to the other two.

As everyone left, no one noticed the watchful stare of the shadows.

--

The next day, Hinata, Gaara, Naruto, Sakura, Jiraiya, Kakashi, Temari and Kankuro went to Naruto's residence.

"Yuck! Are you sure I live here?" It was Gaara's voice. It had been decided that Naruto was to choose either Gaara or Hinata to speak for him, instead of the back and forth. So today, it was Gaara.

Hinata was laughing at Naruto's reaction. "Well, you are a boy who lives alone. Of course your place would be a mess."

Naruto just shook his head. Gaara: "Well, if I am going to live here, then I better get started cleaning up."

Hinata, Gaara, and Sakura helped. The others just watched.

Sakura came across Naruto's usual clothes. Should I… She took a deep breath, "Hey! Naruto! You can't stay in your hospital clothes. Why not try these." She held up the clothes.

Naruto looked at them, Gaara: "But I like what I am wearing."

Sakura's face fell as she let out her breath. She nodded, "But, you really can't stay in your hospital clothes."

Naruto saw how upset she was, so he took the clothes and started to change.

"Naruto! Wait! You can't change in front of us!" Sakura said as she spun around, blushing. She looked over to Hinata, who was still watching Naruto. Sakura grabbed her and spun her around. Even Temari turned her back.

Hinata just giggled.

Gaara: "I do not think I can wear this."

The girls turned around. Naruto looked like his old self. Sakura smiled. "Well, that looks better."

But everyone could tell he was uncomfortable. Hinata walked over to him. "How about this?" She took the jacket off. Naruto had a black sleeveless shirt on. He seemed a little more comfortable and nodded at Hinata.

Sakura looked at Naruto. It was odd seeing him without his jacket on. She walked over to him. 'One last piece." She held out Naruto's Leaf village forehead protector. Iruka had given to Sakura that morning. "Here, this may help him to remember who he is."

He looked at it, started to reach for it, but stopped. Clouded memories were trying to surface. He pushed them back and shook his head. Gaara: "No, I do not think I am ready for this yet. I am sorry. Let us get back to work." Naruto turned his back to Sakura. I am hurting her. I do not want to, but… But there were memories stirring that made him feel uncomfortable.

Sakura was a little disappointed. But know he looks more like Naruto. One step at a time.

They all went back to cleaning until Naruto came to the picture of when he was part of Team 7. There was Kakashi, him, Sakura, and…

Gaara paused with what he was doing. As he walked over to Naruto, he voiced Naruto's thoughts. "Sakura, it looks like we were part of a team. This boy, who is he? Where is he? I do not remember seeing him yet."

Sakura had stopped what she was doing. What do I tell him? "Well, you see…"

"He left the village. He is now a rogue ninja." Jiraiya seethed.

"But…" Gaara's voice quivered in response to Naruto's thoughts. He looked at Naruto, "Naruto?" Hinata also came over, "Are you alright?"

FAILED! I FAILED! HE IS NOT HERE! MY PROMISE! Naruto's hands started shaking. The memories that were trying to come back were painful, he put a hand to his head. FAILED AGAIN! I FAILED AGAIN! MY PROMISE!

Hinata put a hand on his arm. "Naruto? What is it? I can't hear your voice."

Everyone had been watching. Sakura was getting angry. So Sasuke is still causing him pain. I won't that happen anymore. She stormed over to Naruto and grabbed the picture out of his hand. She placed the other hand on his face to draw his attention to her. "You listen to me! Don't think about that boy! He left a long time ago of his own free will. He is not someone for you to get all worked up about."

Naruto looked a her, his eyes full of confusion. But my promise… Sakura stared right back at him, but her eyes were full of fury. Is she mad that I did not keep my promise?

"Do you hear me? There are better memories for you to remember. Forget this picture." Sakura turned and walked away. I'll keep a hold of this picture. Naruto's been through so much. I won't let Sasuke hurt him any more.

As she walked away, Naruto started to reach out to her, but stopped. He felt really unsure of himself. Maybe this is wrong. Maybe I should not try to be this Naruto Uzumaki.

Hinata squeezed his arm, "Are you ok?"

Naruto nodded, "LET US GET BACK TO WORK." He looked over to Gaara, who nodded back. But Gaara knew something was still bothering Naruto. Gaara looked over to Sakura. A failed promise, huh? I need to talk to Sakura, …soon. But for now, he just helped clean up.

Jiraiya and Kakashi had been closely watching the exchange.

"Naruto hesitating to reach out to someone? That's new." Kakashi said in surprise.

Jiraiya just snorted. I know the eyes that looked back at me were Orochimaru's. I think he's playing a good act. But… Jiraiya just shook his head. None of this made sense.

At mid-day, Temari had Gaara stop. "We better get over to the Chunin Exams. If our shinobi don't see you, they will get worried."

"Chunin Exam?" It was Hinata's voice.

Gaara nodded. "Every six months there is a Chunin Exam held in this village. Other villages are invited to participate. Each village can pick who they want as their next chunin, but it is a way to show off in front of everyone."

CHUNIN. The name rang through Naruto's head. "BUT WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?"

Gaara responded, "It is the next level of ability for a ninja. You start off as a Genin, next Chunin, then Jonin."

Naruto turned to Jiraiya. Hinata: "And Sannin."

Jiraiya and Kakashi looked surprised. 'Yes, Naruto. That's right." Jiraiya replied.

Hinata: "May we watch?"

"Wait a minute. Why are you using Hinata's voice. You are supposed to be using Gaara's" Jiraiya asked suspiciously.

Naruto shrugged. Hinata: "He needs for me not to have him as my voice right now."

They looked over to Gaara and he nodded. "I need to be the Kazekage right now.

Naruto looked anxiously at Jiraiya and Kakashi. Hinata: "May we go?"

Kakashi smiled. Just like Naruto. He nodded. "I don't think it will be a problem."

Naruto smiled, big. It was just like how he always smiled. Sakura didn't know whether to take it as encouragement or not.

Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro started to leave. "I must get ready. We will see you there, then." Gaara said as he left. But, Hinata caught his sleeve. "Will we get to sit with you?" But Gaara shook his head. "Not this time. As I said, I need to be the Kazekage."

Naruto and Hinata's faces fell. "But…" she started.

Gaara pulled her into an embrace and looked at Naruto. "Don't worry. We will be able to be together afterwards." Naruto smiled, but he wanted to be with Gaara, too.

Gaara released Hinata and turned to Temari and Kankuro. "Come on, sister, brother. Let's go."

Temari and Kankuro didn't know how to respond. They had never seen Gaara like that before. Gaara looked over his shoulder, "Temari, Kankuro?"

"Yes Gaara! We're coming!" Temari said as she grabbed Kankuro and they followed him out.

"Naruto? What is with the personality changes with Hinata and Gaara?" Sakura asked.

Naruto shook his head.

"Hinata, do you feel any of the differences in you?" Kakashi asked.

"Actually, it's like I've found the me that I've always wanted to be." She said as she was cleaning.

"And why are you so attached to Gaara?" Jiraiya asked.

"He's family," was her only response.

Sakura went back to helping clean-up while Jiraiya and Kakashi conferred. "If you apply how Hinata feels to how Gaara is acting, the same could be said for him. It could be that Gaara has become the person he always wanted to be." Kakashi stated.

Jiraiya nodded, "And the 'like family' comment could be like a pack. Foxes run in packs."

Kakashi nodded. "Well, if Naruto has been able to release their hidden potential, it would be understandable that they would all be very close."

"Hidden potential, huh? Or hidden desires? So far all of this has been harmless. But…"

Kakashi shook his head. "Believe in him Jiraiya. I realize that it can be hard to see him as Naruto. But give him a chance."

Jiraiya was going to respond when he heard Hinata's voice, "Hey! Pervy Sage! What are you and Kakashi-sensei talking about? Is it the Chunin exams?"

Jiraiya's eyes got very wide and he turned to face Hinata and Naruto. Hinata was still cleaning and giggling. Naruto was standing with his hands on his hips, waiting for a response.

Sakura had stopped cleaning. More! He's remembering more! She was so relieved. Maybe, I can get Naruto back! She almost blushed at her own thought. He's a close friend! Why wouldn't I feel that way.

Well, maybe. Just maybe. Jiraiya felt a little ray of hope. "So what if we were? You wouldn't understand any of it."

Hinata: "But I would like to know. Please tell me more."

It wasn't quite the response Jiraiya had been hoping for, but at least Naruto's enthusiasm was there. He glanced at Kakashi, who gave a slight nod.

"Alright! Come over here and I'll try to explain some of this to you."

Naruto started to move, but stopped.

Hinata said, "It's alright Naruto. I don't mind finishing up. Besides, Sakura is here to help me."

Naruto nodded and went over to Jiraiya and Kakashi.

Sakura sighed. I guess some things never change. But, this thought brought a smile to her face.

--

At the Chunin exams, Sakura, Hinata and Naruto sat together. Jiraiya and Kakashi stood watching over them.

Naruto looked very interested in everything going on around him.

I wonder if this is a good idea? The last Chunin exam Naruto attended didn't end very well. Jiraiya thought.

"Oh, Naruto! Look! There's Gaara!" Hinata said excitedly as he pointed and waved.

Kakashi noticed that Hinata's other hand never left Naruto's. He scanned the crowed and saw that all of Naruto's friends had turned out.

Kiba, Akamaru and Shino were sitting in the row below Naruto. Ino, Shikamaru and Choji were directly behind Naruto. Neji, Lee and TenTen were to the right.

The finals of the exam started. The first several matches went fine. But, by the fourth or fifth match, Naruto was starting to grab his head. He kept trying to reassure Sakura and Hinata he was ok. But as he sat there, memories tried to flood back. But there were three different memories. First, was of releasing chakra to the brat again. Second, was watching the Uchiha boy with evil anticipation. Third, was going after Sasuke and Gaara.

Which one is right! I do not like the feel of any of these! Naruto couldn't take the conflicting memories anymore. He looked at Hinata, 'I AM SORRY, BUT CAN WE GO? I…I JUST CANNOT BE HERE ANY LONGER."

Hinata wrapped her hands around his and nodded. They got up to leave, but Ino stopped them. "Wait! Where are you going? The best matches are just going to start." Then she noticed how much pain Naruto was in.

Hinata shook her head, "No, Naruto's had enough for today. I'll take him back to his place."

Everyone started to get up to go with them. "No really, it's alright. We would feel terrible if everyone missed out because of us."

Hinata was speaking on her own. Naruto's mind was so confused that he couldn't send thoughts to her. And his confusion was growing. He gripped onto Hinata's hand harder, his was starting to shake. Hinata put her arm under him as support. "I'm here. Don't worry." She whispered softly to him.

He gave a weak smile, but nodded, as they made their way out.

"I wonder what happened?" Ino asked as they watched Hinata help Naruto out of the bleachers.

"Sasuke!" Sakura was seething. Everyone turned around in surprise. No one ever thought that she could sound that angry about Sasuke.

"The Chunin exam that Naruto was a part of was all about Sasuke. Orochimaru wanted Sasuke. The crowd wanted to see Sasuke. Even I…" She closed her eyes at the anger felt at herself for ever putting Naruto second.

"But why…" Lee started.

"When we were at his place earlier, he saw a picture from when we were all apart of Team 7. It caused him a lot of pain. I don't know exactly what he was thinking, but…"

"That he failed to keep a promise." Everyone turned to face Gaara.

"What are you doing over here, Kazekage?" Skikamaru asked in surprise.

"I could feel Naruto's mind growing confused. I came over to try to help."

"How did you know what he was thinking back then, Gaara? Hinata couldn't hear his thoughts." Sakura felt terrible. That damn promise again!

"Hinata doesn't know what it's like to have another voice inside of you. It is something that only Naruto and I share. When Jiraiya had mentioned that Sasuke was not here, all he could think was that he failed to keep his promise. He was trying to hide it from us. But that thought overwhelmed him."

Sakura was angry and sad. No one else really knew how to react.

"Now, he has three memories all competing. I believe one from each personality inside of him."

"Can you let us know?" Sakura asked.

Gaara closed his eyes for a moment, then started to speak. "That annoying child! How dare he ask for my chakra!" A pause, Gaara's voice changed slightly, "So this is Sasuke Uchiha! Put on a good show for me!" Another pause and change of voice, "Sasuke wait for us! Don't take him on all on your own!" Gaara opened his eyes. "He also has his current thoughts of not knowing which memory is really his. He doesn't like any of them. He is trying to push them aside. But the more he watches, the more persistent each memory becomes."

Sakura was so angry, at Sasuke, at herself. She put her head down trying to control her emotions.

Gaara walked down to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "He remembers you a little. But he knows that he causes you pain. He doesn't want to cause anyone pain, but especially you. He just doesn't know why."

Sakura smiled, "Damn him! He never tells me how he really feels. He always…" But she was happy. It really is Naruto.

--

Meanwhile, Naruto and Hinata were walking through the hallways. "Are you feeling any better?" Hinata asked worriedly.

Naruto was grabbing his head. He couldn't hear Hinata. He felt like he was walking in a void, until a voice called out to him.

"Hello, Lord Orochimaru. Not quite the body you wanted, but it'll do."

Naruto and Hinata stopped. "Who said that? Where are you?" Hinata called.

"Now, now. We don't want to upset Lord Orochimaru any more than he already is." Out of the shadows walked Kabuto.

"What do you want?" Hinata was having trouble holding onto Naruto, because he was starting to shake all over. Hinata had no choice but to let Naruto go. When she released him he fell to both knees, still clutching his head.

"I've come for Lord Orochimaru." Kabuto said with a sly grin. "Enough of playing ninja with you Leaf Shinobi !" With that, he charged at Hinata.

Naruto's head was spinning. At the sound of Kabuto's voice, dark memories started to come to the surface. He didn't want them, he was trying to push them back. But when Kabuto had said, 'not playing ninja,' different memories stated to come. Memories of fighting Sasuke. Of desperately trying to get him to come back. Not wanting him to go…to go…to go to Orochimaru!

Kabuto had thrown Hinata against the wall. "Now little girl! I'll show you who you are fighting against!"

Hinata was trying to get to her feet. As Kabuto swung, she closed her eyes and waited for impact. But it never came. When she opened her eyes, Naruto was standing in front of her, blazing with chakra.

"Lord Orochimaru? Why are you protecting that girl?"

Naruto reached out, grabbed Kabuto's arm and flung him down the hallway. Then Naruto started walking towards Kabuto. Hinata could feel the malice in Naruto's intensions. "Naruto! NO!" She tried to call after him, but she couldn't find her voice. She felt as if she was being crushed by his chakra. "GAARA, HELP!"

"I'm here Hinata." Gaara had appeared at her side.

"Naruto…"

"Yes, I know. I'll take care of him. Sakura."

Sakura came over to Hinata and Gaara left to help Naruto.

Naruto had had enough with the conflicting memories. With all his strength of will he buried all of them. As deep within himself as he could. NO MORE! I AM THOSE PEOPLE NO LONGER! I AM MY OWN PERSON! He had sent out the white snake that he had used to attack the Hokage monument . But this time it had fiery red eyes instead of the dull gray.

The snake completely wrapped around Kabuto and started squeezing. "You see! You are Orochimaru!" Kabuto yelled with the breath he had left.

Naruto started towards Kabuto when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He glanced back and saw Gaara. Gaara shook his head. Naruto nodded and backed down a little. He faced Kabuto again. Gaara: "You are wrong! I may have had parts of those people, but I am my own person now! I cannot tolerate the flashes of memories any more. The sadness, anger, longing, frustration, and regret! I have rid myself of them all!"

Naruto walked over to Kabuto and released the snake. "You need to realize that they are gone. I am my own person. And if you ever come after my family again, I will not hold back." Hinata had left Sakura and was standing to Naruto's left and Gaara was on his right.

"Your family!?" Kabuto said with disgust as he looked from Hinata to Gaara. "Lord Orochimaru…" Kabuto was getting ready to attempt something when he suddenly found himself surround by all of Naruto's friends including Jiraiya and Kakashi.

"Well, well. Orochimaru's lap dog." Jiraiya said menacingly. "We have some questions for you." Jiraiya nodded to Naruto, Hinata, and Gaara, "It's ok, we'll take care of him from here."

Naruto and Hinata were walking out. They walked passed Sakura, who was standing there in shock. He refuses to be Naruto because of the negative emotions? But, Naruto has good memories. Right!? Sakura was devastated. As she thought about Naruto's life, only sad memories came to her. The more she thought the more sad she became.

She turned to watch Naruto and Hinata leave. Naruto, how were you ever able to keep a smile on your face? How were you able to always support everyone else? You should have ended up like how Gaara used to be. You… She felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Gaara.

"Don't let it upset you. He is trying to sort out a lot. Yes, a lot of the memories are painful. But, notice that he has never had a problem being called Naruto."

She nodded, but she put her head. Then she shook her head. "No maybe he's right. Naruto's gone through so much. When I think about it, if it were me, I don't know if I could have ever kept a smile on my face."

Gaara spun her around and then let her go. "Do you really think that? That he has no happy memories?"

Tears were welling up in Sakura's eyes. But Gaara smiled at her. "Just think about how much he loves ramen. It will all work out. Trust in him."

Sakura wanted to believe, but… But I know how painful all these years have been. When I look back now, I can see how Naruto tried to keep his feelings hidden, only showing everyone that smile of his. She nodded even though she didn't really believe it.

Gaara also nodded. "Temari, Kankuro, let's go." He walked past Sakura and left. Kankuro was right behind him. Temari, however, paused at Sakura. "Every time Gaara is around Naruto, he finds himself a little more."

"You know that Gaara is only acting like that because of the influence of Naruto's chakra." It hurt to even say his name.

But Temari waived her off. "Naruto's always been an influence on Gaara. Shared chakra or not." With that, she walked off after Gaara and Kankuro.

Sakura wasn't sure about anything. She wanted to go after them, but decided to stay and help with Kabuto.

--

The Chunin exams finished without a hitch. Kabuto was kept in a high security cell, under constant guard. Naruto, Hinata and Gaara spent as much time together as they could. But the day quickly arrived for the representatives of the Sand to leave. Everyone had gathered at the gate of Konoha to bid them farewell.

Hinata was having a rough time. "Gaara, we could go with you. Naruto has no family here and my father has Neji. We have no reason to stay."

Everyone gasped at what Hinata said. Gaara shook his head. "As much as I would like for you to come with me. If our connection was ever discovered, my village would loose faith in me. They could think that I had become a puppet of Konoha. Any decision I made in this village's favor would seem suspicious. My village would fall into chaos. I cannot allow that." Behind him, Temari and Kankuro were smiling.

Naruto nodded, but you could see that he was very sad. Hinata started crying. "But, Gaara…"

Gaara stepped forward and pulled Hinata into an embrace. He looked over at Naruto. "We are family now and always. We may be apart, but some part of us will always be together."

Naruto nodded, stepped forward and grasped Gaara's free hand. The chakra started to build, until all three were surrounded. It lasted for a few moments and then was gone. Hinata went into Naruto's arms. Gaara went back with Temari and Kankuro. "Until we meet again." Gaara said with a smile and then they left.

Naruto held Hinata. "DO NOT WORRY WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE A PART OF HIM WITH US."

Hinata nodded, but she didn't look up.

Everyone was standing there trying to decide what to do next. Iruka was the first to speak. "So, Naruto. What's next for you?" You could hear the nervous in his voice.

Naruto shrugged. He looked at Hinata. She dried her eyes and left his arms and faced everyone. "I guess I am going to need to learn how to be a member of this village. Does anyone object to me training to be a shinobi?"

Everyone felt a little relieved, at least they weren't planning on leaving. Iruka smiled, "Still trying to become Hokage?"

Naruto shook his head. Hinata: "I just want to be a valuable member of the village. Being leader of a village is the duty of someone from that village."

Iruka's face fell a little.

Sakura started to say something but was stopped when Kaien put a hand on her shoulder. She turned to look at him. Kaien smiled gently at her. He then walked past her to Naruto. "It's time for me to go back to my inn. I hope someday you can forgive me for what I've done to you."

Hinata: "I…"

But Kaien stopped him. "It's alright. Now you work hard and become the greatest shinobi of all times. After all, you still have the Uzumaki name to uphold."

Naruto smiled and nodded. Kaien smiled back and started walking to the gate. Tsunade stopped him. "Do you want an escort?"

Kaien shook his head. "I can take care of myself. Besides I think the time to myself with do me some good. He looked over his shoulder at Naruto one last time and then he, too, left.

Sakura was going to ask something when Naruto's stomach growled. Hinata giggled. "So where do you want to eat?" A pause. "Oh. Ok."

"What did he say Hinata?" Sakura asked.

"He said that he never got to try the ramen at Ichiraku. That's where he'd like to go."

Everyone smiled and looked at each other.

"Alright then. Naruto, it's my treat." Iruka said as he started walking towards the ramen shop.

Naruto smiled wide, grabbed Hinata's hand and took off after Iruka.

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