Chapter One

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

A/N: Edited – 2012 October 09 - n.b. - Jiraiya's not as ignorant as he appears...

"Aww, Pervy-Sage do we have to?" Naruto whined as he dragged his body behind his sensei.

"Naruto, why do you have to be such a party-pooper, huh? You've been training all day, you should let loose and have a little fun?" Jiraiya said as he took huge steps on his geta, furthering the gap between him and his apprentice.

"Training?!" Naruto cried in indignation. "If by training you mean that I spent the day looking into every spa there was and then getting chased out of said spas and then when I finally did catch up to you I spent the rest of that time being chased by irate women, jealous husbands and mysteriously enough, two rabid dogs, then yes, I suppose I did train today. I trained in how not to be a perverted sensei!"

"Your sarcasm is not appreciated."

"Who's using sarcasm?" Naruto muttered.

It was night time in the Land of Lightning, a country only a few miles to the northeast of Konohagakure, in the Land of Fire. It was a surprisingly warm October night and the Kumogakure nightlife was bustling. Everyone was out and about dressed up as they hopped from restaurants to teahouses to little vending stalls to whatever else they had to do. The night was so bubbling with activity that it gave the appearance of making everyone look eager and cheerful if looked at as a whole. Well, everyone else looked cheerful except for the miserable-looking ninja clad ironically in a bright seizure-inducing orange jumpsuit. His hair colour was a bright laser lemon yellow, a colour that could only be found in a box of crayons. He had three whisker marks on each side of his cheeks that unfortunately made him appear cute instead of fierce because of his yet to melt baby fat. Naruto Uzumaki was thirteen going on fourteen years old and was on a training of a lifetime. If only that training would start he would be so happy. Instead, Naruto fixed a scowl onto his face and walked through Kumogakure with annoyance radiating off of him like cartoon stink waves.

"Pervy-sage, I really don't want to visit any stupid teahouse to see any stupid geisha! I want to train. I want you to train me!"

"The first thing I have to train you in is how to shut up." Jiraiya muttered. "Look Naruto, I'm taking you to a geisha house because I think that there is something that can be learned from them. Geisha are calm, collected women whose entire career is centred on control, which by the way is something you lack."

Naruto's eyes widened as he digested his sensei's words with awe as if manna from the heavens had spilled from Jiraiya's mouth. "Control, huh? You're right. I do lack control and if these geisha can help me then I'm all for it. Let's do this!" Naruto fist-pumped with excitement, while Jiraiya marvelled at Naruto's ability to eat up shit. The legendary Sannin chuckled to himself as he led Naruto into the teahouse.

"Jiraiya-sama, so glad of you to visit us again. It has been too long." The mistress of the teahouse bowed deeply as Jiraiya and his pupil walked in.

"It's good to be back. I have a young student with me and I just thought that I'd introduce him to one of the finest attractions that Kumogakure has to offer. So, are you busy?"

The mistress giggled and blushed as Naruto tried his best not to gag.

"Oh Jiraiya-sama, you say such naughty things. Let me lead you and your young apprentice to the main banquet hall. We have a new maiko with us tonight. She made her debut recently. Maybe I can interest you in meeting her."

"Maiko? She might be a bit young for me. She might be better suited to my apprentice here."

Naruto gave Jiraiya a sideways scowl as he muttered, "Too young for you? The International Handbook for Perverts prohibits you or something?"

"Yes. Chapter 7, Section 36 D." Jiraiya snipped at Naruto.

"36D? Why Jiaraiya I thought you already knew the right size." Naruto looked up and standing in the doorway to the banquet hall was a tall and most stunning geisha dressed in a light manatee blue kimono with silver lines to represent the reflection of the sun in a stream. She was extraordinarily pretty and though she was a geisha, there was something very commanding about her.

"Nayako!" Jiraiya exclaimed and smiled his toothiest, perviest grin of all.

"Who's the shrimp?" Nayako looked past Jiraiya to see a quietly seething Naruto.

"I am no shrimp! I am five feet three and a half inches!"

"This is not an arena, kid. There's no need to shout in that big voice. But then I suppose something has to be big on you." Jiraiya joked and Nayako laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world. Naruto growled and charged after Jiraiya, obviously not taking into consideration that he was about to tackle a legendary Sannin. Jiraiya however, did not even need to draw upon any of his legendary Sannin jutsu. He simply stepped aside and Naruto bowled straight into the banquet hall where he collided heavily with a table.

"Ow. Stupid pervy-sage who thinks he knows better than everyone else. Well I'll show him and his white hair that looks like someone took a razor blade to a roll of toilet paper –"

"Are you alright?"

Naruto's bitter mutterings were interrupted by a sweet and timid voice. He looked up to see the most interesting eyes he had ever seen in his entire life. Her eyes looked like liquid smoke. They were a swirling platinum colour, a metallic tint of pale, greyish white. He had seen eyes similar to hers back in Konoha. Neji Hyuuga had eyes similar to these, but these eyes were different and more beautiful. These eyes had a hint of lavender swirling around in them. The lavender shifted with the light. He rose up himself, unconsciously drawing closer to the girl until any closer and he might head-butt her. Naruto realized that he must have been staring because he started to see a faint blush spreading across the girl's face despite the white makeup that was caked onto her face. Suddenly the girl swayed a bit and her eyes rolled to the back of her head and just like that she fainted and fell directly into his arms.

"Kid! What did you do?" Jiraiya shouted in horror.

"ME! I didn't do anything! I swear! Look I'm not even touching her!" Naruto said as he stood up with such speed that he got slight vertigo, but he couldn't have been as bad the young, pretty-eyed geisha who landed on the ground with a thud.

"Oh my!" Nayako cried and quickly came over to the apprentice geisha as she called for the mistress of the teahouse to bring smelling salts. Jiraiya shook his head in exasperation at Naruto who just realized what a prat he'd been and was now deliberating whether it was too late for heroic action. The mistress returned with smelling salts and Naruto decided that the least he could do was lift up the young apprentice. He propped her up against his shoulder as he held onto her shoulders. Gradually the girl's eyes started to flutter open and Jiraiya cleared his throat for Naruto to let go of the girl now. Naruto understood the code and stepped aside and the poor apprentice stumbled backwards and nearly fell again, but this time Naruto caught her. She turned to him and Naruto again couldn't help but notice her eyes. He could barely look at anything else. He was so close to her that if he moved forward a bit his nose would touch hers. He could feel her breath on his face. Oh oh. He could see the blush starting to creep up her face.

"You gave us quite a scare there, Hinata-chan." Nayako said, snapping Naruto out of his reverie. This time it was Hinata that gently pulled away reminding Naruto that he was touching a geisha inappropriately. It was his time to blush now. He could hear Jiraiya's mischievous chuckle. "Are you feeling better, Hinata-chan?" Her older 'sister' Nayako asked.

"I am much better. Thank you for asking Nayako-san. I am sorry that I inconvenienced the party." She bowed deeply to both Jiraiya and Naruto, her eyes trained on the floor. Naruto grinned. This girl was so adorable.

"Ah don't worry about it, Hinata-chan. The room's really hot." Naruto said as he gave Hinata a wide grin. Hinata smiled weakly, careful not to have her eyes directly on Naruto.

"I bet she thinks something is hot in here." Jiraiya muttered and Nayako laughed heartily, while Hinata seemed to sink into the floor with shame, but she held up gracefully. Naruto looked confused, but this was a state that he was accustomed to, so he shook it off as an 'adult' joke. Hinata knew that while her 'sister' was laughing, she also knew that she was going to be in a lot of trouble later, so she had to try hard to salvage the situation later. She took a deep breath before she turned to speak to Naruto.

"Hello. My name is Hinata. I am an apprentice geisha and I beg your indulgence."

It was official. Naruto liked geisha. No one had ever met him for the first time and had shown him such respect. He knew it was all an act, but he couldn't help but be swooned by the fact that this girl looked like she was actually happy to meet him and wanted to indulge him.

"Hi. I'm Uzumaki Naruto! I'm a Genin from the Hidden leaf village and I'm going to be Hokage someday!"

Hinata was overwhelmed. She couldn't help but smile at this young boy who was bursting at the seams with energy and confidence. He screamed assurance and tenacity. He was the exact opposite of her, yet she felt herself being drawn to him.

"You are from Konoha in the Land of Fire? I have never been there." Hinata had never been anywhere else but Kumogakure as far as she knew, but this was the correct response. Besides, she wished that Naruto would go on talking. There was something about him that she instantly liked.

"Oh! Konoha is beautiful! Not all this rain and clouds and lightning–" Hinata smiled politely and Naruto suddenly realized that he was being rude. "– I mean, lightning isn't that bad, if you like that sort of thing. I mean, the rain and the lightning kind of makes for dull days outside, but lightning isn't that bad. I mean, it'll kill you quickly unlike the rain which could drown you..." It was like he couldn't stop. One minute he was telling her about Konoha and the next he was rambling on for what seemed like hours about the best way to die. There was a loud, grating noise and Naruto realized that it was the sound of his own voice. He looked at Hinata desperately thinking, 'for Kami's sake, do something!'

"That's a very unique view on lightning, Naruto-san. What are you doing here in Kumogakure?"

"Well, that's my sensei over there talking to that geisha, Nayako-san. He's Jiraiya. He's one of the legendary Sannin."

"Oh." Hinata's eyes bulged in surprise and awe and then she remembered that she was not supposed to do that; it wasn't particularly lady-like. She sure was racking up the points against herself. "I've heard of him and Lady Tsunade."

"Oh yeah. Granny-Tsunade is the current Hokage. I told her that she wouldn't even have time to let her seat get warm before I'm Hokage."

"Granny-Tsunade? How rude of you, Naruto-san."

"No, seriously. She's like really, really old. I'm sure her first mission was to probably dig up dinosaur bones that were still warm." Hinata giggled, covering her hand over her mouth as she did so; her eyes squeezed shut in mirth. Naruto realized that he really liked Hinata. She seemed...genuine, unlike Nayako-san over there who laughed at Jiraiya's jokes like her life depended on them. Only sound shattering silence should have followed Jiraiya's joke about the wasabi, but Nayako laughed like he tickled her in a forbidden place. Seriously, it wasn't that funny.

After Hinata composed herself, she offered Naruto tea and he accepted. She poured the tea and Naruto couldn't help but be enthralled by the simple gesture. He caught a glimpse of the underside of her forearm and was amazed that her skin was not a far cry from the white makeup on her face. Her skin was pale and smooth like porcelain. Naruto looked up and saw Jiraiya giving him a wink and he jumped, forcing himself to look anywhere but at Hinata's arm. Naruto would not become a pervert! But he couldn't help but notice that Hinata-chan was so unlike any of the girls he knew. Sakura was a pink-haired force to be reckoned with in terms of her determination. Her pink hair was as feminine as she got, though Naruto still found her pretty. Ino was also pretty, but she was a blond, boy-crazy, overbearing, shrieking demon. Temari-san was another blond demon who was not as boy-crazy but similar to Ino in most respects. Ten Ten was a weapons master, so enough said about her femininity and grace. And of course, Granny-Tsunade was an old, blond demolition machine. Oh and Anko didn't wear underwear, so 'lady-like' wouldn't be the word he'd use to describe her.

But Hinata-chan. Hinata-chan was graceful and controlled. She had control in the way that she steered the conversation, in her determination to keep going even after she fainted because of the hot room, even her control in pouring tea. Jiraiya-sensei was right, Naruto decided. He could learn something from a geisha. He needed to be calm, centred and controlled in order to train better and go after Sasuke. Of course her looks was an added incentive to learn from her.

"This tea is delicious! Though I could really go for some ramen, right now."

"Ramen? Well, the best ramen shop in the world is located three blocks away from here."

"Pssh! The best ramen in the world is in Konoha. Ichiraku's ramen. Can't get better than life. I'd probably sell my soul for ramen like that."

"You sound like you're missing Konoha a lot. Why did you leave, Naruto-san?"

Naruto sighed. He didn't want to talk about Sasuke, but as he looked up at Hinata, he felt like he could talk about it. Her platinum-coloured eyes were inviting and caring. "Well, I left Konoha because I wasn't strong enough to stop my best friend from leaving. I made a promise to another friend of mine that I'd do everything in my power to bring back my 'brother', but I wasn't strong enough. He kicked my ah – I mean, he kicked my butt to within an inch of my life."

"Is he truly a friend if he can do that to you?"

"He's misguided, that's all."

"Hmm. So now you are searching for him?"

"Yep and in the meanwhile I have to try to get stronger and better. I don't have a choice. I made a promise. Some days though, it seems like an impossible task." He said the last part quietly.

There was a pause as Naruto reflected on the battle at the Valley of the End, oblivious to Hinata who was carefully doing her breathing exercises before she got the self-assurance to say what she had to say.

"N-N-N-Naruto-san, I've only just met you, but...I believe in you. I believe that you can do this."

Naruto stared at Hinata, amazed by the sincerity in her tone. Her voice was small and her eyes were trained to the ground. She was doing something odd with her hands. Her thumbs were touching as her index fingers repeatedly tapped each other. She looked like it took everything out of her to say something like that. This girl was shy. Naruto wanted to lift up her chin and look into her eyes and tell her something profound about not being so shy and having more confidence, but then he heard someone clear their throat and Hinata's head snapped up, her finger touching immediately stopped. The banquet hall door slid open and soon some businessmen and some more geisha filed in. Apparently, Hinata was quite the popular geisha because of her looks – everyone wanted to stare into her eyes. She was so busy that Naruto did not get to speak to her again for the rest of the night.

"Looks like you got bitten." Jiraiya said as he and Naruto left the teahouse a couple of hours later.

"What! No! I don't know what you're talking about. My focus is not on girls right now. I don't even like Hinata-chan like that. No love bug bit me. No siree."

"Who said anything about Hinata? No, I think a mosquito bit you behind your neck." Jiraiya said seriously.

"Really?" Naruto's hand flew up to feel for the bite.

"Nah, I'm just messing with you. I was talking about Hinata. Kids these days are so gullible."

"Why you –" Naruto growled.

"Would you like to see her again?" Jiraiya asked seriously; seriously serious this time.

"Maybe. She's nice. I'm not accustomed to nice."

"Hmm. Too bad she won't be able to see you."

"Why the heck not?"

"Oh she can entertain you, but she won't be able to see you. Didn't you hear? They say she's blind, shrimp."