"Some sort of plant creature?"
"I know it sounds strange but that's what nearly killed Naruto. The body of the assailant looked like it was covered in a…fly trap." Shino managed to say with some disgust.
"Did it see you?" Kakashi asked.
"Yes sir. We grabbed Naruto and left before it could come after us though it could still be nearby." Shino said with some worry present in his voice.
Kakashi nodded his head before turning to the Anbu Captain. "Take your squad and search for anything matching the description Shino described. Approach with extreme caution. Authorized to kill."
"Yes sir." The captain replied before he and his squad disappeared into the forest.
Night had fully descended upon the forest and with it the regular sounds. From chirping crickets to croaking frogs to hooting owls the entire forest had come back to life after being silenced by the rain earlier that day.
Kakashi then turned to Hinata who was handing Naruto over to a medical ninja who just arrived.
"We'll get him straight to the hospital. Don't worry Lady Hyuga." The medic reassured her before taking Naruto and toward the Hospital.
Hinata looked out toward the direction the Medic went before focusing back on Shino. Shino simply nodded his head in response making Hinata smile.
Seeing as how the other two were alright Kakashi focused on his own student. Sakura was a few feet away from the others looking out toward the forest. With a great deal of nervousness Kakashi walked up to her.
"Oh hey Kakashi sensei." Sakura said hearing him walk up. "I know I said it about a hundred times while we were getting out of the forest but I'm still so….."
"When were you going to tell me you were gaining super strength?" Kakashi asked interrupting her.
"How did you…?"
"Shino told me. He said he was rather impressed." Kakashi continued.
"I….. I was saving it as a surprise for when Naruto got back with Sasuke. I was going to punch Sasuke in the face for leaving." Sakura managed to say with a sad smile.
Kakashi just looked down in response.
"Do you think the Anbu will find him Sensei?" Sakura asked.
Kakashi was silent before replying "I think Sasuke is too far gone for anyone to find him now including the Anbu." Kakashi said never once looking up at her.
Sakura looked deeply saddened by this. "Oh. I see."
"How do you think you parents are going to feel about you leaving the Village?" Kakashi asked trying to change the subject.
"Oh I think they'll probably hug me then kill me right after." Sakura said with a smile glad to change the subject.
They had exited the forest a few minutes ago and now were just outside the Village. The only things blocking their paths however were some worried/angry family members.
"SAKURA!" two figure yelled out before charging straight at Sakura leaving a trail of dust in their wake.
"Thank heavens. Are you alright? Are you hungry? Why did you leave? Why didn't you let us know?" Kizashi asked as he checked over his daughter for any signs of cuts or injuries.
"Sakura. You are in so much trouble. " Mebuki told her while hugging her child tightly. "Don't you ever do that again."
Sakura on her part hugged both of her parents tightly before going with them back to their house.
Shino looked over and saw his father close to the gate. Shino walked over to it. "Father, I apologize for not informing you but….."
"Shino. We'll discuss this back at the compound tomorrow. You are looking far too tired to stand here and explain yourself to me. Let's get home."
"Thank you father." Shino replied gratefully.
As Shibi inspected his son, he sensed very little insects with him"I sense you have a very small amount of Kikiachu. Didn't you just get back from you mission today?" Shibi asked his son.
"Yes sir. The bandits I had fought used a gas jutsu that killed about half of my insects and the ones I used today for one reason or another they never came back to me." Shino said with a hint of exhaustion coming through his voice."
Shibi nodded to his son. "I see. Let's get home then." Shino simply nodded his head in agreement and walked and began walking back with his father to the Aburame Compound. While walking away Shino noticed Hinata dealing with some elders.
Now Shino was known for being able to keep a cool head a great majority of the time. All Aburame were. Ever since their younger years, all Aburame were taught to control their emotions and be able to hide them. However, seeing Hinata being verbally abused by her Clan Elders was one of the few things that were able to anger him. This Elder couldn't even wait for her to get to the Compound before abusing her. He had to do it just outside the Village in front of him Kakashi, Sakura's parents, and the returning Aburame and Hyuga search parties.
"You have been a great disappointment most of your life But now… Now you have gone beyond just disappointment. You have willingly gone out of you way to embarrass us haven't you?" One of the Elders told her.
Hinata just simply held her head down in silence as a response.
"You are truly a disgrace to the Clan Hinata. If it were up to me you would be taken back to the Hyuga Compound and given the Caged Bird Seal immediately but you are luckily Hiashi's daughter so I can't. However don't think you are safe. You will be severely punished for this." The elder promised coldly before turning and heading back toward the Compound. Hinata just slowly followed never making a sound or looking up.
"You are angry." Shibi told his son while keeping his hand on his shoulder. "You keep it contained well."
"Father with respect, should we not have assisted her? She is a team mate and a friend and the Aburame protect their friends." Shino asked to his father while clenching his fist in a rare showing of emotion.
Shibi was silent before replying."You are not wrong Shino. We should assist our friends and protect them. However there are certain steps you need to make sure you don't cross when you leader a clan. If I, the Head of the Aburame clan were to provoke a Hyuga Clan Elder on an internal matter such as the one involving Lady Hinata, he would then bring it before Hiashi who would then be obligated to bring it before the Village Council and Hokage which would cause problems for the entire Village and specifically our two clans. I am sorry for the Hyuga girl but I can do nothing to help her at the moment without risking a confrontation between our two clans." Shibi told his son.
Shino nodded his head still angry but understanding before following his father to their own compound eager to get some rest.
Eventually Kakashi was the only one left outside the Village. He pulled out a scroll and just looked at it for a while. Before long, tears began to form in his visible eye which he quickly wiped away before putting the scroll back in his bag and walking into the Village to speak with the Hokage.
When Naruto opened his eyes, he was greeted with the sight of bright hospital lights which temporarily blinded him. After his eyes adjusted he noticed that there was someone sitting next to him. Said person looked around Naruto's age with a Chunin vest on and pineapple like hair. Recognizing the person Naruto smiled.
"So you actually had enough energy not to sit around and die. Got to say I'm impressed Shikamaru."
The young Chunin hearing that his friend was awake turned to speak to him. "So you're still alive. I thought you had moved on to the place where ramen is the only thing to eat." Shikamaru replied with a smile of his own.
"Now that you mention that it makes me wish I didn't wake up." Naruto replied.
"You are a real pain in the ass. You know that?" Shikamaru told him.
"Yeah which makes you just a lazy one."Both he and Shikamaru chuckled at this.
"It's good that you are alright Naruto." Shikamaru told him with a hint of sadness. Picking up on this Naruto immediately worried.
"The others are fine aren't they? I mean they could handle some sound ninja right?" Naruto asked him praying that they didn't die.
"Naruto. Chouji and Neji are in emergency surgery. Last time I talked to the doctors they told me it could go either way." Shikamaru replied not trying to hide his sadness.
"What? But…What about Kiba?" Naruto asked fearing the worst.
"He has some serious injuries but nothing life threatening. He and Akamaru are hurt but nowhere near as bad as Chouji and Neji."
"Okay….Lee! What about Lee? He had to face that bone guy. He could still be."
"He's fine Naruto." A new voice said.
Shikamaru and Naruto turned to see Gaara materialize into the room. "He has only minor injuries."
"Temari, Kankuro, and Gaara here all appeared just in the nick of time. It's because of them that Kiba, Lee and I are still alive if injured." Shikamaru told Naruto before showing him a cast around his right index finger. "I was the least hurt out everyone."
Naruto breathed a sigh of relief before turning to Gaara. "Thanks Gaara. For helping them I mean."
Gaara not used to being thanked stood quiet for a moment before responding. "You are welcome Naruto."
Naruto smiled at his fellow Jinchuriki before asking something to both him and Shikamaru. "How did you guys find me then? I was pretty far off from the rest of the squad and I had gotten knocked out by some sort of plant thing."
"Plant thing?" Shikamaru asked to get clarification.
"Yeah this plant looking thing somehow came out of the ground and attacked me. I made some shadow clones but I was low on Chakra, so the thing easily beat me. How did you guys beat it? Did Gaara use his sand to crush it or something?" Naruto asked curious.
"I didn't see any plant creature Naruto, I also didn't find you." Gaara told him
"Neither did I even though I tried." Shikamaru stated killing Naruto's theory.
Now Naruto was confused. "Okay if you guys didn't find me and beat up the plant thing. Who did?"
Both Shikamaru and Gaara looked at each other before Shikamaru explained who exactly went out and rescued him.
That morning Tsunade called Sakura, Hinata, and Shino to her office. When Sakura arrived she found Hinata standing outside looking extremely downtrodden.
"Hey Hinata what's wrong?" Sakura asked worried about her friend.
Seeing that there was someone else there Hinata quickly wiped away the tears and focused on Sakura
"Oh h-hi Sakura, I was j-just…..w-waiting for Tsunade to c-call us in." Hinata said turning to her fellow kunoichi
Figuring Hinata didn't want to talk about what was bothering her Sakura moved on. "Where's Shino? He's usually one of the first people to arrive at meetings like this."
"Some of the A-Aburame told me he couldn't c-come today. He needed to have his h-hive replenished." Hinata replied.
Sakura nodded her head in response. Both of them stood quietly for a few minutes before speaking again.
"Hey Hinata. How long exactly have you liked Naruto?" Sakura asked eager to start a conversation.
Hearing the question Hinata immediately turned crimson. "I-I d-d-don't know w-w-what…h-how d-did you…."
"Come on Hinata, Practically everyone we know knows you like him. Ino and I even have a bet on whether Naruto will realize it or not before he turns sixty". Sakura told her with a smile.
Hearing this Hinata turned even more red now rivaling a tomato which caused Sakura to laugh. "Everyone knows….."
"I'm not making fun of you Hinata." Sakura told her after she was done laughing. "I just wanted to know how long you've liked him for."
Sighing before turning back to normal color Hinata told her. "I-I guess it started out in the a-academy. I was never a top student there like you or…..' Hinata stopped herself from saying Sasuke before continuing." It was a h-hard time for me. My m-mother had recently passed away and I…I thought about l-leaving the ninja program." Hinata mentioned sadly.
Sakura looked shocked at this statement but let Hinata continue. "I was p-planning on telling my father and the r-rest of the clan when one day a group of kids a-attacked me. That's when he s-saved me." Hinata told her with a smile. "I had always seen him on his own away from other people. I was told by the clan to a-avoid him and I did and yet he saved me." Hinata said with admiration in her voice.
" I started to follow him after that. I saw how he was constantly looked down upon as a failure but he never gave up." I -a-admired Naruto for not giving when he failed at things. H-He gave me h-hope that I-I could get through the academy and b-become a successful ninja." Hinata told her while maintain a small blush. "I guess from then on out I…" Hinata didn't finish the statement and started pressing her fingers together
Sakura hearing this story just sat amazed. "Wow… That settles it then."
"Tsunade will see you two now." The receptionist told them before Hinata could ask her question.
As the two moved toward the office, Kakashi walked out looking absolutely miserable. Seeing his student, he walked up to her. "Sakura, meet me and Naruto at our training field later this evening, there are….some things we need to discuss." He finished before disappearing into a cloud of smoke.
Confused Sakura turned to Tsunade who didn't look much better than Kakashi. "Lady Tsunade are you okay?"
"No Sakura, no I am not. I was up half of the night making sure Chouji would survive and it's still not a guarantee he will. Shizune is still up trying to heal Neji, Kiba is seriously injured, we've lost a ninja, and three of my soldiers decided it was a good idea not to inform me before leaving the Village to go after Naruto. No Sakura I'm not okay. I'm actually a horrible combination of tired and pissed off." Tsunade practically yelled at them. "And where the hell is Shino?!"
" Lady Tsunade, Shino c-couldn't come, he's…"
"With his clan. I know, I know." Tsunade said remembering the Aburame giving her the message. "So it's just us then, fine by me. I'll start with you." Tsunade said as she turned toward Sakura. "I gave you specific instructions not to tell anyone about the mission I sent those five on. So mind explaining to me why you disobeyed my orders and told two people?"
Sakura was quiet before responding. "I know I went against your orders Lady Tsunade and I apologize for that but…. Naruto and Sasuke are my teammates and it was my fault Sasuke left the village and I pleaded with Naruto to go after him. The whole thing was my fault. When I heard from Shino and Hinata that Chouji and the others were in the hospital, I became immediately worried about them, about Naruto so I told them what I knew." Sakura finished with a sizable amount of guilt in her voice.
Hearing this Tsunade sighed. "Damn it Sakura. You can't go and tell people secrets just because you feel guilty about something. I thought a young woman as smart as you would understand that." Tsunade told her with a disappointment evident in her voice. "Every ninja will at some point in their life be told not to do something even though they want to. While it may seem unfair, it is for the good of the Village."
Hearing this Sakura held her head down in shame. "And you." Tsunade said turning toward HInata.
"You are the one who has caused me the biggest headache. Having Sakura and Shino go off alone was one thing. But you, the heir to the Hyuga Clan, for you this is an entirely different matter. Do you realize how much danger you've put yourself into? Some of the Elders have told me they want you removed from the ninja program. While that is out of their jurisdiction, and I told them such, they are going to keep harassing me to do something drastic. Do you know what happens to you if I do that?!"
Hinata was silent for a moment before responding. "Yes. I know what will happen L-Lady Tsunade. You won't be a-able to p-protect me anymore from getting the Cage Bird Seal."
"Then why did you go if you knew what could happen?" Tsunade asked
"Because N-Naruto needed help. I-I couldn't leave him out there to…..d-die." Hinata spoke lifting her head up and looking Tsunade right in the eyes.
Realizing that going on like this would just waste time, Tsunade feeling like a broken record just sighed again. "Okay fine. Since you both know what you did wrong and you take responsibility for your actions. I'm not removing you from the ninja program."
Sakura and Hinata smiled at this.
"Instead, for the next few months you two will be assigned to teach the Academy students and D rank missions. Oh and you'll be having a one on one training practice with me in a few days before starting those jobs." Tsunade replied cracking her knuckles
The smiles they had quickly vanished.
After Shikamaru had told Naruto what happened, he and Gaara were left to check on the others, leaving Naruto to his thoughts.
"Shino and Hinata went out to help me? Why would they do that? They could have been killed. And Sakura… how am I going to tell her?" Naruto thought to himself.
A knock on the door brought him back to his thoughts. A moment later his sensei came in. "Kakashi Sensei!"
"Hey Naruto." Kakashi stated relieved to see his student doing well. " You're looking well."
"Sensei, are Sakura, Hinata, and Shino okay? They aren't in trouble are they?" Naruto asked hoping his friends were alright and wanting to avoid the other subject.
"I guess word has gotten out all ready." Kakashi sighed "I don't know Naruto, they are meeting with the Hokage right now."
Naruto nodded before attempting to get out of bed. "Okay I'll get over there and tell Grandma not to…" He couldn't finish as he fell to the ground not having the energy to stand.
"Naruto. One you can barely stand let alone walk to the Hokage mansion. And Two, they need to deal with this on their own." Kakashi told him as he helped Naruto back to his bed.
"But Sensei. It was my fault they went out there! If I had come back sooner they wouldn't be in trouble. And if it wasn't for them I might not even be here anymore. They don't deserve to get in trouble for helping me when it was my fault!" Naruto yelled at him.
"Naruto. We can't get involved because it was their decision to go after you. They knew what would happen if they went out looking for you. If you were to help them now that they have to deal with the consequences of that decision, they won't be as strong as they would be otherwise."
"What if it was you Naruto? If you had gone against orders and went out searching for your friends. Would you want them to save you from the consequences of those actions?" Kakashi asked him.
Naruto just sat quietly in response.
"I know its hard Naruto, but you need to have faith in your comrades if you want to them to grow." Kakashi told him while looking out through the window at his Village.
There was silence in the room for a long time with both people knowing the subject for Kakashi's visit but nobody wanting to acknowledge it. Eventually Naruto asked one of the questions that he feared the answer to.
"Sensei, do you hate me for… killing Sasuke?"
The way Naruto asked this question was in such a way that in combined grief, worry, regret, anger, and a thousand other emotions. Hearing this Kakashi was quiet for a moment before responding.
"Naruto…..What happened to Sasuke…. I don't blame you for it." Kakashi told him with grief evident in his voice. "What happened to Sasuke was not your fault or anybody's for that matter. It was my failure as a teacher to not see what he was becoming and which makes it my fault."
"Sensei, I didn't mean to…I just…..I…. He was my best friend. " Naruto managed to speak as he began to choke on his words.
Kakashi put his hands on his student's shoulders to comfort him.
"I know how you feel Naruto. I….I killed my best friend as well a long time ago. There is no greater loss than that and the grief and guilt you feel from it can easily eat away to your very soul if you let it. You can't let it Naruto." Kakashi told him remembering how he felt when Rin died.
As Naruto regained control of his speech he asked the question that by far worried him the most. "What do you think Sakura will say when she….finds out? I….I don't know how I can tell her or if I can." Naruto said with worry evident in his voice.
"I don't know how I will either Naruto." Kakashi replied. "But she will find out eventually and I would rather it be from us than from anybody else.
"Does the Village know yet?" Naruto asked still worried.
"Only the Hokage right now, but in a few days, the rest of the Village will be informed."
"Oh." Naruto responded saddened.
"What's wrong Naruto?" Kakashi asked as his student immediately grew sadder.
"How do you think the Village will take it when they here that the Village Pariah killed the Last Uchiha? I was just starting to gain their trust but now…. What do you think will happen?" Naruto asked him fearing the reaction.
"I don't know Naruto. It's hard to guess what the people will think. It's best not to dwell on that now." Kakashi told him before getting up.
"I have to get going Naruto but there's someone here to keep you company." Kakashi told him before vanishing.
Naruto looked around before seeing his other teacher sitting at the window.
"Pervy Sage!" Naruto exclaimed happily.
"Hey Naruto! You're looking remarkably well!" Jiraiya told his apprentice smiling.
"What's up? I thought you were on some sort of mission out of the Village." Naruto told him wondering why he was back.
Jiraiya was quiet before replying."I had returned while you were out on your Retrieval mission. I won't ask you about the mission or what happened to Sasuke. Remember that plant creature you fought? What was he wearing?"
"Oh yeah I think its name was Zetsu or something. And it was wearing…the same thing Itachi and the Shark guy were!"
"The Akatsuki." Jiraiya confirmed concerned.
Hundreds of miles away deep in a dark cave a group of ten extremely powerful individuals were discussing what Zetsu had just told them.
"You are sure of this Zetsu?" The Leader asked.
"Absolutely. We did see the whole thing." The White half replied.
"Well what do you know? Looks like the Kyubi brat beat you to it Itachi!" Kisame chucked to his partner who remained as stoic as a statue.
"So what's the point to this little meeting here Leader? I don't particularly care about an Uchiha being dead." Deidara asked.
"Now that we know that Itachi's brother is dead, we know that Orochimaru didn't get his body?"
"Exactly what does that slippery, Motherfucker have to do with this?" Hidan asked.
"It's quite simple. If Orochimaru didn't get his body it means that he had to find a replacement which leaves him weakend." The leader replied.
What does that matter? We don't know where he is." Kakuzu pointed out.
"Ah, but Sasori through the use of his spy network is closing in on one of his hideouts. Once we find it we are all going to pay him a visit." The leader said with a hint of excitement.