I'm not dead! Stop spreading those rumors. ^_^

Yo, Merry Christmas. And you thought I wouldn't get you anything. I got a laptop.

Please review, it gives me a reason to live! And I'll update tonight.

Disclaimer: Riyuto-san does not own Naruto. Any likeness is strictly coincidental.

Chapter 3: Naruto's Quest

by Riyuto San

"So is it true or not, Forehead?"

"Honestly Ino, I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't give me that bullshit Sakura," Scolded Ino from the opposite side of the bar. They were both inside of the hospitol. Ino had decided to pester her friend about a rumor she had heard earlier that day. When she had found her, Sakura was busy filing the names of the patients into the appropriate folders and droors. Despite Ino's interrogation method, she had still yet to learn the truth behind the rumor. "Are you going to the dance with Sasuke-kun or not?"

"Why would that be any of your concern, Ino-pig," Asked the pink-haired kunoichi nonchalantly, obviously preoccupied with getting her job done as fast as she could. She took another patient record from a fellow nurse and placed it into the appropriate folder.

"Come on Sakura! It's not that big of a deal. What's the harm in telling me?"

Sakura stopped and gave her friend an incredulous look. "Are you kidding me? You're a walking rumor warehouse. I tell you something, you tell the whole village and I get hounded."

Ino stood up as if victory was achieved. "Aha! So you are going with Sasuke-kun!"

"What makes you say that?" She asked, returning to her work.

"You just said that if you told me it would become a headache for you!" She said, folding her arms across her chest, waiting for Sakura's answer.

If Sakura was worried, she didn't show it. "That's not what I said," She said as she took another folder, crossed the short distance to the droors, and placed 2 folders inside of one before returning to the front desk. "I'm just not giving you any details about anyone that I'm going with." She finished with a smile that told Ino to just drop it.

Said kunoichi sighed. "Fine, you win...for now. So." Ino paused for a moment before an idea came to her. "Say, when do you get off?"

Sakura glanced up at the clock. "In about half-an-hour. Why?"

"I'm going to Kairi-sama's cafe. You wanna come with me?" She asked. Sakura nodded. "Cool, see ya in half an hour." She turned around and left towards the stairs. 'That's right Sakura. I'll get you to loosen up and reveal who your going with at the cafe. Don't think me defeated yet.'

"Yosh, I do not know who it is that likes you, Naruto!" Answered Lee, who strolled down the road with Naruto after a brief training session. "However, I'm sure that whoever it is will definitely ask you to the dance anytime now!" He knew, of course. Everyone did. He hated to lie to Naruto, but a certain death threat from Sakura silenced him like a Jew reading Mein Kamphf. *

Naruto raised an eyebrow at his strange friend. "How do you know?"

"Because of carma."

"Carma?"

"Yes, carma. The ability to be rewarded for one's selfless deeds. I'm sure that there are many girls who like you because of the way you managed to defeat the villages greatest nemasis."

Naruto sighed. "That's the thing. I'm desperate, but not so desperate just to go with a girl because she likes me for saving the village."

"Then what do you want, my friend?"

Naruto sighed, folding his arms behind his head. "I dunno, a girl that likes me for me, I guess."

Rock Lee clenched his fist and raised it chin level, his face serious; like he was giving a dramatic speech. "That is very admirable. I, too, wish to find a girl that does not run away at the sight of my incredible, mighty eyebrows, or my perfect clothing, or my bug eyes, or my...Well, you get the picture, Naruto." Rock Lee sighed.

As they continued down the road, they both spotted Gai standing in the center of said road not 40 meters away. "Lee," He called, and motioned for Lee to join him.

Lee stopped in his tracks and, turning towards Naruto, clasped his shoulders. "Naruto, you should embrace the springtime of youth, and grasp the flowers of hope in earnest before setting it free to bask in the joy that is spring, and push the harshness of winter away with your youth! Just keep looking towards the emmaculant sun, and you will be fine! Farewell, Naruto!" He finished, then bound off to meet with Gai.

Naruto stood stock still, staring at the wall for a full minute. His eyes twitched a few times before he gave up thinking, shot his head up, cleared his throat, and yelled, "What the hell does that even mean!"

As agreed, Ino met up with Sakura outside of the hospitol at the specified time. The two greeted each other before engaging in normal conversation, on their way their favorite cafe. It wasn't long before the girls spotted Hinata strolling down the street, as if she were looking for something. Somewhat curious, they approached Hinata.

"Hey, Hinata," Sakura greeted.

Hintata smiled warmly. "G-good evening Sakura-san, Ino-san." She greeted timidly.

Sakura smiled. "So, what are you doing today, Hinata?"

Hinata flushed a bit, her gaze falling from Sakura and to her feet. "I...ano...was lo-ano..."

"You thinking of asking Naruto to the dance?" Ino chimed in, clearly impatient to wait for Hinata to speak for herself.

Hinata quickly looked up at Ino, wearing an expression as if her biggest secret had been found out. "How did you...?"

"Please, everyone already knows that you like him," She said, the paused. "Well, almost everyone." She corrected, remembering that Naruto was still oblivious.

Hinata's gaze shifted to Sakura, asking for confirmation. Sakura reluctantly nodded, answering Hinata's question. "Oh, my..."Hinata mumbled to herself. Did Father know?

"What's wrong with people knowing?" Ino asked. "It's not like it's the end of the world. And besides, maybe someone will tell him that you like him and he'll come running to you." Hinata flushed a bit again, obviously fantasizing about that scenario. "Or, he could outright reject you, crushing your hopes."

"Ino!" Sakura yelled, chastizing her friend. She couldn't help but feel angry as she saw Hinata's face fall the way it did. Poor girl.

"What, it was just a thought." She said, attempting to defend herself.

"Yeah, well next time keep those thought to yourself." She scolded before turning to a down trodden Hinata. "Sorry Hinata. To make it up to you, we'll take you to Kairi-sama's Cafe with us."

Hinata looked up at her pink haired friend. "Ano..."

"Come on," Sakura said, "It'll be my treat. And I'll tell you how to win Naruto over." She finished, winking.

Hinata thought about it for a moment, then took Sakura's offer with a nod. The girls then proceeded to the cafe.

Naruto had no idea how it had happened, but it had. He had went from talking with Rock Lee to speaking with Hyuuga Neji in a matter of minutes. The astute Hyuuga was reluctant to entertain Naruto's company as he ventured towards the center of the village, which had been restored back to normal (in the latest chapter of Naruto, Pain freaking blew it away) a few months ago.

The question Naruto had asked him was the one he had asked almost every one else in the village. "Do you know who likes me?" He had asked after a few moments.

Neji's face betrayed no emotion, his eyes fixated on the road ahead. "Why would you ask me such a trivial question, Uzumaki?"

Naruto turned to the male Hyuuga. "Oh come on, I figured since you're one of the smartest guys in the village, you would at least know this."

"Oh, so is that why you started talking to me?" Asked Neji, eyebrow raised.

"Yeah," He answered blankly.

"I appreciate the honesty, but I'm afraid I cannot tell you."

"Wait, you just said you didn't know," The blonde said, arching his eyebrow.

"No, I said I did not want to answer such a trivial question, meaning one with an answer sitting in front of ones own face." he said, attention turning to Naruto now.

Neji found it odd when Naruto's eyes went wide and he took a quick step to the side. "Listen, dude. I'm flattered, but I'm not gay." Naruto said, eyes wandering to the sky.

Now Neji's eyes widened. "When did I say I was gay?" He asked, bewildered and embarrassed. "All I said was that…."

Neji paused.

"Hmm? Said what, homo?" Naruto joked.

Neji sighed, his face growing serious as he lowered his head in Hyuuga fashion. "Very well, if you choose to misconstrue my words, I will not offer my hint as to who likes you any longer."

"Wait, what?" Naruto asked.

"Since you insist on making fun of me, suffer the consequences."

Naruto shook with frustration, arms trembling as if he were trying to contain the beast within him. He thought he could feel even the beast wanting to beat Naruto to a pulp. "but but but but but but but…"

"That is all, Uzumaki. Good day to you." Neji said. He did not bow, but turned a corner and vanished.

Felling it to be too much work to catch up to him, Naruto sighed and continued down the streets. 'Man, Neji gets really defensive when you call him gay.'

The girls had been sitting at the outdoor café for about fifteen minutes before Tenten came by, and Ino called over to her and insisted she joined them. The group was having a great time, swapping stories and gossip- Hinata didn't discuss gossip, she was too shy to.

"Okay, so are you going with Sasuke-kun or not, Forehead girl?" Ino tried one more time.

A vein throbbed in Sakura's forehead. "Ino…" The kunoichi warned.

Ino fell silent for a second before reverting her gaze to Tenten. "Are you and Neji going?"

Tenten blushed slightly. "Well, I was thinking about asking him, but-"

"But' what?" Sakura and Ino questioned.

"I'm not sure if he'll say yes or not." She admitted.

Hinata's gaze shifted from her small beverage in font of her to Tenten, whose predicament almost matched hers.

"Well, if you don't ask him, how will you know if he's interested or not?" Ino asked.

"But what if he's not interested, and it ruins the friendship?" Hinata's heart sank; this was true. What if asking Naruto did turn out to be the worst thing she ever did, pushing the only man she truly loved away by ruining what little bond that they had.

"Or he could say yes. I mean, it is Neji. I seriously doubt if he would turn you down, it's not in his character to be an asshole like that." Chimed Sakura.

"That's another problem. Neji's too nice to turn someone down like that. What if its just a pity date. I would feel terrible." Hinata sank deeper. She had heard that Naruto was desperate….

Ino leaned in towards the table, the other 3 girl's attention fell to her. "Well, that's the game of love, Tenten. You try and succeed, or you crash and burn."

"Ino…" Sakura started, but Ino had other plans.

"But that shouldn't stop you from not even playing in the game at all. You have to fight for the one you love to love you back, or someone else is going to come into the picture one day and steal the throne that was originally yours."

There was a silence at the table, as the short speech sunk in, not only to Tenten, but to Hinata as well.

Tenten sighed with a grin. "Alright, I'll ask him tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Why not today?" Asked Sakura.

"I'm still too nervous."

The four girls shared a quick giggle before they heard two familiar voices.

"Okay Shikamaru, this is something that you should know!" Called the obnoxious voice. The 4 girls turned in their chairs to see the owner of the voice. Not 15 feet away, at the street corner, walked Naruto and Shikamaru, in light conversation. Hinata's stomach was doing back flips at sight of the blond.

"If it gets you off my back and into someone else's hair, fire away." Shikamaru responded with a yawn. Tsunade had kept him up to the wee hours of the morning writing those damnable invitations, while she slept on the couch. Shikamau had even considered cutting her neck with a knife while she slept, but decided it would be too much work and a headache if he had succeeded.

"Really? Sweet. Okay, who likes me?" Naruto asked.

Hinata let out a tiny yelp that didn't go inaudible to her friends. Ino nearly choked on the tea she had been drinking, while Sakura quickly slid her chair back and stood up, attempting to catch Shikamaru's eye. Sadly, it both were closed at the moment as he massaged his temples.

"Geeze, you still haven't figured that out yet? I've known for years."

"Okay, okay…sheesh. Just tell me who it is!" Naruto said, his anticipation showing by the way he was bouncing on his feet.

Hinata felt like crawling under a rock and dying, Tenten felt bad for her friend, Sakura was still trying to get Shikamaru's attention, and Ino was beaming with a thirsty look on her face.

"Okay, the girl that likes you is Hi-" It happened, Shikamaru had opened one eye, and that eye had conveniently landed on Sakura's warning glare. Shikamaru read it in an instant. It said, "Tell Naruto, and I'll build your tombstone with your bones." "…"

Naruto nodded his head, motioning him to continue. "Hi…what?"

"Hi…heesh, never mind. I can't answer this question after all."

"Heesh?" Naruto asked, tilting his head.

"It's a real word, go look it up."

"Come on, you just said you would tell me." Protested Naruto.

Shikamaru thought of something really quick to get Naruto to leave him alone. "What I meant to say was that I would tell you how you can find out who like you."

Naruto's head was starting to hurt. "Okay, who do I see to find out?"

Shikamaru pointed over to Sakura at the small café table. "Sakura, she's right over there. Knock yourself out." He said before turning and walking away, to a safer place than the there.

"Thanks Shikamaru," The blond thanked before strolling over to Sakura's table.

"Oh, great," Mumbled Sakura.

"You're right Sakura, this is great!" Exclaimed Ino.

Hinata was looking around for that rock.

"Shut up Ino," Sakura said getting up and marching to Naruto.

"Hey Sakura-cha-" Sakura grabbed him and spun him around. She pushed him until she was sure that the others couldn't hear them. "What was that for?" He asked.

"Never mind that, what do you want?"

"Oh, right. Shikamaru said that you know who liked me, and I was wondering if you would tell me. No one else has so far." Naruto said, his face growing a little somber.

Sakura tilted her head. "This dance thing is really getting to you, huh?"

Naruto grinned. "Yeah, and it's only the second day."

Sakura sighed. "Listen Naruto, the girl that likes you is afraid to ask you to the dance because she is afraid of you rejecting her."

"I don't think I have that many options that I can just reject a girl right now, Sakura."

"I know, but that's also a part of the problem. That's a form of rejecting her is just accepting because you're desperate. She wants you to accept her because you want to go with her, not because you want to go to this dance so badly you can't see straight."

"Uhh…Ok, I got ya." 'How the hell does saying yes mean that I'm rejecting the girl. Okay, she might not be the one I want to go with, but I'm still saying yes.' "But when will she ask?"

Sakura stood and thought for a moment. She turned to see her friends, Hinata especially, watching the conversation with extreme enthusiasm. She turned back to Naruto with a reassuring smile. "Just trust me, Naruto. If you are patient, she will come to you and ask you herself."

"You sure?"

"Most definitely."

Naruto grinned. "Okay, thanks Sakura-chan." He said before turning to leave.

Sakura sighed heavily before turning to rejoin her friends at the table.

As soon as she sat down, Ino spoke. "So?"

Sakura looked at Hinata with a sly smirk on her face. "So Hinata, how badly do you love Naruto?"

Phew, meant to update this by Christmas Eve, but that was kinda hard, what with the being conscious for a total of 11 hours on the 22nd and 23rd. I swear, bad things happen to me on December 23rd.

Rest assured that this story will be completed by New Years. And the next Fusion Chapter as welll, and the new Bonds of Time chapter. Sorry for my hiatus, I'm back for good this time.

Fact about the author: December 23, 2004: Ice storm hit's Tennessee. Riyuto-san goes out to play in it, slips on the ice, and slams his head into concrete. Does not lose consciousness, but sees a fairy floating around for a few hours.

*No offense to anyone who is Jewish. Just a joke.

It's 3 in the morning, I'm tired...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz