Way to Go Guys That Was Real Smooth
Glancing at Minato, who lay snoring softly on the creaky and rather uncomfortable bed, Kushina sighed. She was pacing back and forth in their small room; Naruto's words had shaken her a lot more than she would admit. As a child she had always known that she was to be the one who would be taking the burden of the nine-tailed beast over from her great aunt, as she had been the next child born after Mito with the special chakra that enabled them hold its power back. Kushina had been told by one of her many handlers that her birth was just in time as well, since Mito was nearing 100 years old.
Sitting down in the single chair she rested her head on the back of it and closed her eyes. Pulling herself down into her mind she blinked and was suddenly standing in a white room. The walk to the area where the beast was caged was not a terribly long one, but one she hated to make. Kyuubi was always very violent and loud, and even though she was used to it, she occasionally had to activate her special chakra and tie him down with her chakra chains. While it made him calm down, the hate that glared in his eyes always seemed deeper. The last time she had made this trip she had been covered in blood and crying. Kushina looked at the floor as she walked, and noticed that they were just as pristine white as they had always been. She was silently thankful.
Kyuubi was lying down with his front paws crossed, but his head was held straight and he watched her make her way to the doors of the cage. His calmness was eerie. By now he would have been shouting at her. Something wasn't right.
"What are you doing here, child?" He said, his voice booming over her with a bass so deep it rattled the air in her lungs. Kushina stood her ground and put her hands on her hips.
"To be honest, I have no idea. Did you hear that last little bit or should I tell you what happened? I can never be sure how much you can hear in here." Kushina said, frowning. This wasn't the first time he had been calm enough to talk to her like this, but it was still odd enough to put her on her edge. Kyuubi just gazed at her. He wasn't even glaring that much.
He flexed his paws, scraping his claws on the ground with a deafening screech before he replied. "I heard." Kushina didn't say anything waiting for the nine tailed beast to continue. When he didn't she shifted her stance into one that conveyed her annoyance. "Well?" She said, "What did you talk about? I hope you didn't scare him too much, I didn't want to ask. Also, why did you save him? That has been plaguing me since that night. Not that I'm not grateful, but you aren't exactly the most kind and loving creature." Kyuubi snorted and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, "It was no wonder I was so angry all the time." But she couldn't be sure so she stayed quiet.
Finally after a minute or so he snorted again and said, "I said nothing other than introductions. The boy has no fear in him. I gave you some of my chakra because I had detected traces of it in him already and he amused me." Kushina was looking sceptical.
"He amused you. The almighty Kyuubi no Yoko." "Yes." Kushina blinked. She let her eyes roam over Kyuubi, taking in his humongous size, the way his claws were tapping gently on the floor, and the way his face looked almost curious instead of distorted in anger. This was probably the longest civilized conversation she had had with him without a single angry shout.
"What's wrong with you?" The redhead blurted out. She almost winced at her tone, thinking for sure that she had just broken this weird mood of his. However she was surprised when not a single hackle was raised, so she corrected herself. "I meant to ask if you were feeling alright. You are not so… calm normally." Kyuubi glanced down at her with disinterest.
A few of his massive tails gave an irritated looking flick and Kyuubi finally said, "I tire of this conversation. Go now." Before Kushina could say anything else, she felt the familiar upward motion of regaining consciousness and when she opened her eyes she was sitting on the bed again. Frowning she cursed slightly. What the hell was wrong with Kyuubi? She'd have to ask Jiraiya tomorrow.
Himawari was extremely nervous. Naruto had led her down to the small arena where the finalists from the second test were to be told the third task. Naruto assured her it was likely to be a tourney style series of fights, but it didn't quell the ball of nervousness that was eating her alive from the inside. She tried hard to look like she wasn't spacing out so as not to look weak in front of the other competitors, but hanging off Naruto's arm didn't exactly help that image.
The blonde had moved her so she stood beside him where they had been directed and he whispered that he would lead her around if they needed to move and to not be so nervous. A blush crept up to her cheeks at the thought that even Naruto could tell how badly she wanted to remove herself from the situation. Finally she heard a loud voice ring out and the increasing noise from the audience cut itself short.
"Welcome!" The voice shouted. It must have been chakra enhanced as it was so loud it was ringing in her ears. "Welcome to Kusagakure's first chuunin exam! I will now introduce the remaining competitors!" The proctor started listing off names and after the third one Naruto quickly whispered to her. "When they call your name just give a short bow." Himawari nodded quickly, but when her name rung out over the audience she nearly faltered. Her instincts kicked in and she bowed as a polite applause reached her ears.
After the proctor had finished calling the names out, he started describing the next task. Naruto had been right; it was going to be a series of elimination fights. One against one all drawn randomly on the day of the fight. The part of his speech that made the bundle of nerves return was the proctor's announcement that the fights were to take place in one week, to give the competitors some time to rest. The rest of his speech went by as a blur. She hoped Naruto had been listening because she was just trying to concentrate on not throwing up everywhere. Eventually the proctor stopped talking and Naruto started to gently lead her to the edge of the arena.
Naruto glanced at Himawari with a tinge of worry on his face. She looked vaguely green and pale. He knew she was really nervous but this was getting out of hand. He honestly didn't know how to comfort her at all. He led her towards where the newly minted team 7, Kushina, and Jiraiya were waiting amongst the thinning crowd.
When he was within talking distance of them he sent his brother a worried look. Minato frowned. Obito and Rin were bickering quietly beside a silent Kakashi. Kakashi met his eyes and held them silently until Naruto let his eyes flicker towards Jiraiya who also looked concerned, and then to Kushina who looked a little shyer than usual, but still returned a knowing look. Surprisingly it was Himawari who broke the silence.
"I am going to resign if my vision does not come back before week is out." She said. Obito and Rin stopped bickering for a moment and Naruto finally spoke up. "Are you sure? The proctor said that you would be judged on your skills, rather than if you win or lose. All you have to do is give a good show. Hyuuga are trained to act and fight as if they were blind, you'd still have a shot."
Himawari shot him a sharp look, albeit a bit off to the right of his face. In lowered tones she said, "How do you know about that?" Naruto's eyes widened and he sputtered a bit. He glanced at Jiraiya who was frowning again. "U-uh, Ero-sennin told me?" he half-said half-asked in the sannin's direction. Jiraiya didn't even miss a beat. "Yes, I was teaching him how to successfully court young Hyuugas and the topic came up." Naruto turned an equal shade of red as Himawari did. The younger blonde groaned but was thankful for the instant way out of some very difficult questions.
Kushina was never one for this kind of tension so she spoke up quickly. "Well! Yes, Himawari-chan, why don't you and I and maybe Rin-chan here as well, do some shopping? I have never been here before and I'm anxious to spend a bit of money! We can meet the boys for dinner tonight at 5, right boys?" Minato and Naruto nodded and this was close enough for the redhead as she grabbed Himawari's hand and started to drag her away.
Naruto, Minato, Jiraiya and the two male components of team 7 made their way to a place where they could sit down at a table and eat some food, although only Obito seemed to have any appetite. He and Kakashi sat at a different table a few seats away. Naruto drained his glass of water and set it down gently on the table. "So what happened? The few times I had seen Sakumo-san he and Kakashi seemed pretty happy."
Minato pursed his lips. He glanced at the white haired boy who was just staring at Obito as if the boy was the weirdest thing. Obito didn't mind and was busy chatting away in between bites. Minato shook his head slightly. "I'm not a hundred percent sure what happened, but apparently a few years ago something happened on a mission and he got a lot of flak for it. It's been said that he was battling depression since then." Jiraiya picked up after Minato spoke.
"He was on a vital mission and abandoned it to save his teammates. It messed up some really important information that cost us in the long run. I don't personally know him very well, but I have heard from others that they were disappointed and angry with how he handled the mission. Even his teammates were angry." And now Naruto was angry, but for different reasons. His fist hit the table with a small thud and he said in angry, but hushed tones, "That is ridiculous. Who cares about the stupid mission? Your comrades are always more important."
Minato and Jiraiya both were looking at him a little weirdly. Naruto slid his fist off the table and straightened his face. "What?" He said, sharply. Minato shrugged and Jiraiya said, softly, "It was a really important mission. I can maybe understand some people being angry about it but-" "No! No one had the right to do what they did! Drive a man to take his own life! It's despicable and both of you should be ashamed of yourselves for even thinking that he should have left his teammates, people he was probably good friends with, to just die so he could get some information!" The younger blonde had realized that his voice was a bit louder than the original whisper it had been. He looked over at Kakashi but saw that he wasn't at the table. The front door of the restaurant closed and he saw the reflection of silver hair briefly in it. Obito looked puzzled, and both Minato and Jiraiya looked like Naruto had slapped them. Good he thought. How could they even…? Naruto shook his head and followed the silver haired boy.
Himawari didn't want to admit it, but just being able to hang out with girls that weren't other Hyuuga was fun! She almost forgot she was supposed to fight someone in a week and would probably have to forfeit and be the laughing stock of the branch family. Thinking of her family reminded her of the looming marriage in her future and she quickly quelled those thoughts as Kushina handed her another dress to try on.
The fun was over as soon as Kushina offhandedly asked her a question while she was pulling the dress (hopefully the right way) on. "So have you told Naruto-kun how you feel yet?" Himawari fumbled with the dress and took time to get it on straight before she answered carefully. "Kushina-san, I have no idea what you are talking about." Kushina just laughed.
"Right. But I didn't ask if you knew what I was talking about, I had asked if you had told him how you felt about him?" Himawari opened the door of the change room, and gave a small twirl. "How does it look?" Kushina put a hand on her chin. "Mmm, not bad, but it wasn't designed for someone with a chest like yours. Here, try on this, and tell me why you are avoiding my question or I'll have to assume that you haven't told him and I might have to do it for you." Himawari snatched the garment out of the redhead's hands clumsily and felt her way back to the dressing room.
She took her time taking the garment off and putting the new one on before she stepped out of the room again. She didn't twirl this time. Kushina clapped her hands. "Oh my, that looks lovely on you. Rin-chan, what do you think?" Rin who had just returned from the book section of the large store sighed happily. "Oh Himawari-san it looks really pretty on you. You should definitely get it!" Himawari's anger melted a bit. She smoothed her hands on the dress. "What colour is it?" She asked. Kushina replied. "It's a creamy yellow colour. It goes with your hair. You know I think you would lovely with long hair. You should think about growing it out."
Himawari turned to go back into the small room when Kushina spoke up again. "I will tell him you know; you don't want to let things like this slip away from you. Life is too short, especially for shinobi." Himawari spun on her heel and said with more sharpness that she had probably ever held in her entire life, "Listen, Kushina-san. Naruto-kun is my teammate and my best friend. He's the only person in my life that has ever listened to me, the only one who has never judged me, or treated me differently because of my clan. The only one who has supported and helped me through difficult situations, and as such I came to love him, as everyone seems to know and apparently can't keep their mouths shut about. He knows. Oh does he know how much I love him, but he also knows that I am in an arranged marriage that could quite possibly come as soon as we get home from this stupid exam."
Tears were glistening in her eyes but her face was too angry to let them fall. Both Rin and Kushina looked stunned at the tone of her voice. Himawari visibly calmed herself and said, "He knows because I am not coward enough to think that he would reject our friendship if he knew of my feelings. He shares his secrets with me as I do with him. I told him myself and he told me that loves me, but as a friend. His closest, he told me, and that is good enough for me. I am not so shallow as to have done anything other than be grateful that our relationship hasn't changed at all. In fact, I think it has strengthened it. I look forward to meeting the girl that will catch his attention and I will wish them both all the love this world is capable of. Now if you don't mind, I am going to pay for this dress and hope one day that I may be able to see it." Himawari disappeared into the changing room and after a few minutes of trying to put her clothes on in the proper order, she stormed out with the dress and felt her way to the counter, paid for the dress, and stumbled out the door.
Kushina and Rin found her standing in the middle of the street with her arms crossed angrily over her chest. She sensed Kushina, rather than heard her in the busy street and said, still lacing her words with ice that was very Hyuuga-like, "If you wouldn't mind, I would like to be taken to my room, please." Kushina half-heartedly agreed and escorted her to the large building that was hosting the chuunin hopefuls. Himawari slammed the door in Kushina's face after curtly thanking the redhead and threw her package against the wall where their bags were stashed. She felt her way to her futon and after laying down on it she started to cry.
Kushina and Rin were both silent the entire way back to where they were supposed to meet the boys. They were an hour early, but were surprised to see that Minato, Jiraiya, and Obito were already there, looking as lost as she did. "Oh, hey what's up? Why are you guys here so early? Where's Naruto-kun and Kakashi-kun?" Kushina asked. Minato looked sheepish so Jiraiya spoke. "It seems we plucked the wrong hair from his head and we managed to make him say some things that he would have rather not said in front of the Hatake kid. Naruto's off with him and he's probably not going to join us for dinner. Speaking of missing students, where is Himawari-chan?" It was Kushina's turn to look sheepish. "Well the funny thing about it is that I got her so riled up that she screamed at me in front of an entire store and had me escort her back to her rooms. I didn't know she had it in her. I'm almost glad she couldn't see the other people in the store staring at her." Minato's eyebrows rose. "I'm surprised. She's very quiet." Kushina just looked a bit awkward.
"I'll have to apologize to her tomorrow. It sounds like they won't be joining us for food though, so shall we start? I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." Rin and Obito both laughed and Kushina was reminded that mere ten year olds were making genin these days. It was a little saddening. Hopefully these skirmishes with the other countries will stay just that, and not escalate any further. She had seen firsthand what a major war could do to a country and it hadn't been pretty. She was lucky that Uzushio had such a close alliance to Konoha or she'd probably have ended up in another country possibly treated like dirt for what she was. Settling down at the table the redhead tried to decide what to order, but the general feeling of guilt was wracking the adults at the table. Hopefully Himawari would be calm enough for her to apologize to tomorrow. Her thoughts were echoed by the men across the table.
End Chapter 21
Yep! Right so the new formatting of the site has apparently deleted all of my scene change markers! I hope it works this time!