Sorry for the delay but the world really did all it could to keep me from getting things done recently. Still not nearly as good as I wanted it, but oh well.

-*o*-


-Life was good-

-*o*-

"Hello Hinata!"

Hinata jumped more than a little, having been too focused elsewhere "Don´t s-sneak up on m-me like t-that S-Sakura!"

"You, with the allseeing eyes didn´t see me walk straight up to you with no sneaking at all involved?" seeing Hinata get flustered Sakura added "Sorry, just teasing. So what kept you so spaced out?"

"Trying to improve my layer, e-especially control of the outer chakraflow I use for attacks, it felt much t-too inflexible and... strained, in that fight... and... I was too slow a-and inaccurate with it to deflect the attack that injured me..." Hinata winced somewhat as she could still feel the shoulder and would have to be a bit careful with it at least another week.

"Ah, well I bet it felt like that because of how you used your strikes without touching him, I thought that was required..."

"... I -do- have to touch to use my chakrastrikes..." Hinata said uncertainly.

"I only saw a little of it from a distance, but Sasuke says you hit him from over a foot of distance at least once, and over half your strikes came without touching."

"I don´t remember doing that? I, I CANT do that?"

Sakura smiled "You were too busy worrying about Naruto, but you really -can- do it, because you did."

Hinata closed her eyes to try and focus on remembering, after a while she opened her eyes again "It seems I really did..."


-*o*-

Naruto was having a big problem... It was getting harder and harder not only to successfully prank Nana, but just figuring out a good prank was becoming far too difficult. She took things much too easily for a lot of his usual ideas to work.

As he was slowly walking and trying to think of something good enough, she had really gotten one over him last week and it was annoying him. That was when he spotted a trio of kids, one of which was almost clinging on an older shinobi, clearly trying to convince him of something.

The clinging part, that gave Naruto an interesting idea, he like almost everyone else involved with the academy knew that Nana had a very enthusiastic tendency to sneak into bars, nightclubs and especially any kind of party involving adults, and preferably adult themes.

The theme was obvious, but from what else he had seen he made a little mental leap of deduction... He waited until the older shinobi had left and then approached the kids "Hi, having trouble with your teacher?"

The formerly clinging kid replied sullenly "Stupid Ebisu, always lecturing about learning -the basics- first, he never gets around to anything beyond -first-!"

Naruto smiled, this was perfect, his inclination was to help the kids a bit either way, but they would be perfect for helping him prank Nana, and he was fairly sure they would just find it funny, so they could help each other, excellent!

.

The next day during lunch, Nana was just about to sit down and eat at one of the tables on the academy grounds when she heard people running towards her, obviously from the footsteps they were not trained ninja so she was casual about turning around and looking, because of this she had almost no warning before three noticeably younger kids threw themselves at her.

"Daaarling!" Konohamaru shouted as he hugged the older girl tightly, putting his face neatly attached to the middle of her chest and nuzzling in deeply between her quite noticeable breasts.

"Take me I´m yours my honey!" a rather daring Moegi shouted as she clung onto Nana from the side with a steelgrip hug.

What truly finished Nana off however was when a moment later, Udon jumped to the ground, hugging her legs and crying out "Mommy!"

There was quite a few people in Konoha that wondered if wolves had somehow managed to get into the village, the loud, agonised howl during lunchhour had been most disturbing.

Those who were closer at the time had no such illusions, as Naruto´s almost manic laughter was very distinctly heard barely a moment later.


-*o*-

"Sensei?"

"Ah, Nai-chan my dear girl! You look as lovely as always. Still no desire for a quickie in bed with an old man I guess?"

Kurenai smiled wryly as the man hobbled through the room to her, giving her a small and considering what he just said, extremely chaste hug then sat down at the kitchen table and waiting for her to also be seated.

"I think I will pass, you´re not quite my type sensei... How are you doing?"

He chuckled a bit "Ah, as usual, well enough... They´ve even added one more category for me to keep proper in the archives, apparently at least someone stopped to think for a moment so it´s the section next to the one I already had. Running around is hell on the leg even with the best fake foot one can get these days."

Kurenai was, as usual, ambivalent about meeting her old sensei, he was a lovely man, nice and smart, but the fact that she had been the only one to survive the fight that killed her two teammates without permanent injuries, no matter how well aware she was that it wasn´t her fault that her sensei lost a foot, an eye, almost the second eye as well as getting one hand half useless, as always it made her feel unhappy, with herself and the world in general, every time they met.

But she still wouldn´t stop visiting him no matter what. He was also one of her friends. At least now it was not nearly as bad. And fortunately he had always understood the issue.

"I bet you couldn´t guess how much paperwork you´ve caused though..."

"Hmm?"

"In the new section I´m handling, there´s a bundle, mostly surrounding that silly buggar stunt someone pulled the other year."

Kurenai looked up with a lot more interest "What, you mean those civillian trader clans?"

He nodded with a surprising degree of gravitude "Take caution Nai-chan, the descriptions and phrasing used in several of those documents are suggestive and most certainly questionable, and not in your favour."


-*o*-

Orochimaru looked around more thoroughly, still keeping his gaze inconspicious to avoid alarming the large number of shinobi around him. He had been in Iwagakure before certainly, but never before like this, with as much time to spare as he chose.

He was amused by the fact that the trio in Konoha thought that -they- were using -him- for this task, the fact that he would be the contact meant that when things happened, he would be the one that could pull strings as he wanted.

He was also at the same time both content and rather annoyed with the body he currently used, his improved transfer technique had been a success, except that the first body he had used it on had had an inherent flaw that after less than two years suddenly forced him to change again, with only a few days warning he had not been able to get one of his preferred bodies.

And so he was now using a body without any special bloodlines at all, no special modifications or interesting abilities beyond those he brought with him. The woman he had picked was a good, strong fighter, decent with just about all sides of ninjutsu and had a massive amount of chakra, all very good.

But it still annoyed him to be without any of the extra abilities he had grown used to, or the marvellous bloodline abilities his previous body had provided him with. And with the latest switch he had found that his improved transfer technique had a downside, it gave him the ability to keep a body for at least a decade, and that was just his absolute minimum expected timeline, but it came at the cost of the body naturally preferring to stay in its original shape, causing some problems with getting used to it as well as some inconsistencies when he used some ninjutsu techniques.

The advantages still greatly outweighed the downsides, although the addition of a minimum time before he could switch bodies again was something he needed to fix in case it became necessary. And only taking his own shape as if it was an advanced transformation that had to be maintained by chakra and even then he was still far from being able to do it constantly, this was annoying by itself.

Really, except for the lack of special abilities there was nothing truly or critically wrong with his current body at all as far as a shinobi should need to care. What really caused most of his annoyance was that he had a bad case of PMS. For a shinobi, it would normally be no problem at all, kunoichi had long since figured out techniques to make such an issue irrelevant, and the woman whose body he now used had indeed known a very good technique for this purpose and even known it to perfection.

And Orochimaru now had her knowledge and in theory should be able to use it just as well. Except that the small disjointedness he experienced was more pronounced in some cases, and this was one of them. His mind was completely male, and trying to deal with a technique directly and in detail affecting a female body that he inhabited just didn´t work well, not yet at least.

He had already placed it high on his agenda to fix, right above his need to be able to maintain his own shape without limitations. He already knew how to deal with the latter, it was just going to take some time to develop it. The former could be seen as much less important, but it was in fact more, as in the future he may require to make full use of a host´s personal talents, and anything that might prevent that was something he needed fixed ASAP.

He sighed again at the effort it took to keep himself somewhere near normal and continued his slow walk through the Iwa village, his amusement soon coming back to the front of his thoughts 'So, they think to use this village as a diversion? I´m sure I can use it in a far more, interesting way...' His mental chuckling didn´t quite reach the level of -Evil Overlord- manic laughter but probably got at least somewhere halfway there.

Playing errand boy for someone else didn´t bother Orochimaru even the slightest. Not as long as he could use it for his own advantage at least. With a slightly strained smile, he walked on to find his objective. He did have time, but he still had many more interesting projects to work further on, so delaying too much he would not.

Things were far from perfect, but overall, despite certain major annoyances, life was good.


-*o*-

"So, how is it going Sakura?" Kurenai asked as she came to check on the girl.

Sakura grimaced a little then moved the short sword back and carefully sheathed it and sighed "It still feels uncomfortable with anything larger than a kunai, although this kind of sword is much better at least."

"Mmm, I hope you get used to it, because you really need something to offset your disadvantage in speed. Wires and that chakra scalpel you´re working on will help a lot, but even a short sword would give you far more."

"Well, I think I´m getting somewhere with it at least, the one´s I´ve practised with before and at the academy felt nothing but plain and complete awkward. Something like this, I´m certainly getting used to it at least, even if slowly."

"Good. I know your mother is a noncombat shinobi but didn´t she show you any speedtraining at all?"

"No... I don´t think she even knows any."

"No wonder you had such a hard time getting faster then, at least you have improved a lot, however with your highend chakra control, you could learn to do very good chakra edges on a sword, like this." Kurenai focused a moment, followed by a couple of hand seals, after which the sword she was holding sported a thin bluish extention from the edge.

After making sure Sakura had seen enough, she brought out an old, overused kunai and very slowly cut straight through it with the enhanced blade. The strain on the chakra edge was visible, but it cut through. Kurenai´s face also showing a hint of strain.

"Oohh, I´ve never seen anything that good before, and I´ve never seen you use it?"

"My control isn´t good enough for me to form it and maintain it in combat, and in training it´s just too dangerous, so it´s mostly useless for me, except if I need to cut through something while I have time and outside of combat or stress. Wind chakra would be even better at this, mostly because then the edge is automatically sharp and much easier to maintain."

"And you think I can do that in combat?"

"Without doubt, your control is the best I´ve ever seen, you were exceptional even when you began training with me, now though, now you have gone far beyond even that."


-*o*-

On a practise field on the outskirts of Konoha, team 11 had just started another training session, Gai and Lee was already doing their usual -not quite deadly- sparring nearby and Neji was waiting for Tenten to start a fullout weapons assault against him, giving her practise with attacks and him with defense, mostly at least.

It was somewhat more troublesome to reverse the roles due to how their specialities didn´t match well, but eventually, Gai had found that he could talk Sasuke into playing the attacker to give Tenten defensive practise while he and sometimes also Lee were decent targets to allow Neji some serious offensive practise.

Neji was wondering why she was taking so long however, she actually seemed to be hesitating.

He was just about to ask if something was wrong when instead of doing her usual routine, she put her hands together in a single, simple hand seal and spoke up with determination "Kage bunshin no jutsu!" and three copies of her appeared.

Neji had startled a little at the sight, that was certainly not a regular skill genin learned, and he also realised that he was probably going to get a more serious workout than usual.

Tenten and her clones seemed to strain slightly for a moment, then they jumped apart, weapons started flying his way from almost everwhere at once and Neji had to start dodging better than ever before, repeatedly during the following ten minutes he was forced to resort to the Kaiten or get swamped by the attacks, which very fortunately were practise weapons as he had still taken a quite impressive multitude of mostly glancing hits.

He also got his one main question answered, the weapons the clones used on their own were real enough, they dispelled the moment after they hit something, but they lasted long enough for them to be plenty useful as weapons. Though they obviously didn´t have all that many since Tenten repeatedly let them have weapons from her. Which was the only reason he could keep track of which one was the real Tenten.

He finally signalled a halt to the practise, Tenten dispelled the clones and walked over to him, he noticed she was quite a bit tired, but he knew he was a damn lot worse, not quite exhausted but far too close.

He spoke up, slightly out of breath "That... Was impressive... Tenten... Would you have been able to keep it up... another ten minutes at that rate?"

"Probably, though i might need another weapon seal scroll, maybe even several, or a much, much more tightly packed one to be sure since the sealed weapons are not cloned."

"I see, I wondered why they did not attack as often and why you sometimes threw weapons to them..."

"I´m trying to learn the Kage bunshin shuriken technique as well, then only my chakra would be the limit, and that´s what I have the reserve seal for. Really wish I was capable of copying Kaori´s weapon seals though, would be great to have at least some of the weapons return automatically. Why do you ask?"

"If you could... keep it up long enough... you might be able to defeat me by sheer exhaustion, though you would have to be able to stay away from my attacks as well obviously."

Tenten was silent for a moment, looked at him closer "I really managed to tire you that much?"

"Yes, thank you it was... a superb workout. Noone has managed to pressure me that well before I think, not even Gai." that certainly got Tenten to go wideyed, Gai was an unstoppable force of nature, and Neji would never ever lie about training, she had actually managed to go beyond Gai in something? The very concept felt alien and incomprehensible. And damned cool!


-*o*-

Naruto held out his hand, Akiko took it and let him help her back up, she winced and held her other hand over the large bruising she had taken on her right thigh, Naruto shook his head "I just can´t understand how you can manage it..."

Absently she asked "What?" while with some difficulty she started to slowly heal the painful bruise.

"You´re totally amazing when you move through an obstacle course, you can do acrobatics that I couldn´t even dream about, and then you´re... You´re actually clumsy with taijutsu, and not just a little either, it just don´t make no sense Aki-chan..."

Akiko grumbled, for more than one reason "I´m getting a damned lot better." the only reason she didn´t give the most annoying boy ever a knock on the head was because at least he had also said something nice, and because he was pretty much right, unfortunately.

"You sure is! But couldn´t you like, move like when you do acrobatics instead? Sometimes it almost looks like fighting I mean?"

*hmmm* "By the way Naruto, why are you wearing that old fashion disaster again?"

Naruto looked down on himself a moment, then looked rather unhappy "Aaww, I like this orange!"

"Most of the world have noticed that already, the orange and black combination you´ve used most of the time still have orange and actually looks good, and most other combinations you´ve used, even that strange orange and blue thing was passable, but that overall makes you look like some strange overripe fruit or something."

Naruto cringed slightly at the description and then sighed deeply.


-*o*-

Kurenai noticed Sakura wince quite badly after practising, walked over and noticed her hands being quite badly bashed up "Sakura, what happened with your hands?"

"Yesterday I practised, trying to make the cherry blossom strike work properly, and the few times I did, the impact exploded back at me enough to hurt my hands."

"Oh damn, I´m sorry Sakura I should have thought of that, we need to get you a pair of high quality gloves before you train that any more."

Sakura blinked in surprise "Ah... I thought you were meant to just get used to it, since it´s almost just medic-nins that can use it after all, well it´s not that hard to heal, there just wasn´t enough time for me before tonights practise, so the cuts opened up again."

"Tomorrow after academy ends for the day, alright? And remind me to get Akiko some as well, even if she wont need them just yet, she will soon enough probably."


-*o*-

"What is it Ten-chan?"

Tenten looked up at the approaching Hinata from the scroll she had been looking at "This, this scroll of Minato´s looks really interesting, it´s..."

Hinata smiled "So good you´re speechless?"

"You remember that E-rank wind-jutsu you can use to give extra speed to something thrown?"

Hinata nodded slowly "Mmm, fairly good but very troublesome to use well since it takes some time to perform it."

"This is almost infinitely better. It requires both a seal and a technique when used, but the seal means the technique is reasonably fast when you actually activate it."

"So, what is it?"

"You choose how to activate it when you throw whatever the seal is on, first how far it travels before activation, at that point how far it teleports, and how much further along its trajectory it reappears, you can then also choose what direction it will appear pointed in and the direction of all present kinetic energy and add a bit of additional energy based on how good control you managed when throwing."

Hinata stood very still for a long moment "... Y-you mean you can throw it through w-walls or around corners?"

"Uh-huh, that´s exactly what I mean!" the smile on Tenten could almost be called an evil grin, and her eyes could certainly be said to be shining.

Hinata started giggling, after a moment Tenten blinked and went "Eh?" as she looked over at Hinata.

"Y-you looked l-like someone with a new f-favorite toy or something, the best new toy in the world..."

"Erhm..."

"You did."

"Oh alright, but it´s a really cool technique right? I bet this one even Naruto would consider really cool. Just a pity it´s not an easy one."

"Mmm, I´m sure you and Sakura will make it work soon." Hinata looked around thoughtfully "It sounds a little like a simplified, reverse Hiraishin don´t you think?"

Tenten blinked several times, the thought had not crossed her mind for even the slightest moment "... The teleport is with the seal instead of -to- the seal, with an unusually high level of control... Sometimes you really amaze me Hinata, if you´re right this could be what Minato developed it from, or maybe the other way around... Oh that would be so great!" a moment later with a grin she added "And sooo cool." in an almost imitation of Naruto, making Hinata laugh.

"Heh, now that I think about it, this should be perfect for you Hinata."

"Hmm?"

"You said it yourself, through walls and around corners, how many people can actually make such a throw while also seeing what they aim for?"

Hinata went wideeyed. That was an extremely good point. If they could make it work at least.


-*o*-

Kurenai had brought Sakura with her to a store specialised in the less common sorts of supplies and Sakura now had three pairs of very special gloves, thin with extremely minimal impact on chakra and touch sense and yet still comparatively very resistant to physical damage.

As a sort of apology for forgetting to take care of it before Sakura had hurt her hands, Kurenai had taken her with her to a nice restaurant and while eating they had chatted along about various things, Kurenai realised that it was probably the first time she had a chance to talk with Sakura alone and without being under any kind of schedule or pressure and made a mental note to make sure not to forget to do it again, she was planning on having her as part of her genin-team after all.

And the fact that Sakura was both good and insightful with genjutsu, not to mention overall smart gave them plenty of things to talk about, she found it quite interesting, even very nice. It was not that a common combination after all.

"You planned from the start to make a team out of the three of us, right?" Sakura suddenly asked, jumping radically from a completely different subject.

Kurenai took a moment before she replied "Yes I did. Are you unhappy about it Sakura?"

"No... Not really, and even if I might have been a little once, not anymore. I did pretty much guess it from the start anyway so if anything I was playing along willingly."

"Was I that transparent?" Kurenai asked with a little smile.

"Not really, I... I just got the feeling that while you were serious, you seemed to... be serious about more than one thing if you get what I mean... And I really thought it was going to be bad to have to be around Naruto, so I sort of weighed that against being able to improve as much as you said would be possible... And then... Well Naruto is definitely an annoying moron, but he´s also kinda nice and... and Hinata has become my second best friend you know..."

Kurenai gave a hint of a laugh, getting Sakura to look up at her "You know, you don´t have to start taking after Hinata to be her friend." Sakura *huh* then realised how her speech had gone more and more quiet, getting close to the edge of even a little stutter and she had looked down as if she was shy, a moment later she giggled.

A bit later Kurenai remembered to ask "So, how far -have- you gotten with the cherry blossom strike? I assume you´re nowhere near being skilled in it yet, from what I´ve been told it usually takes years to learn it well."

"I can´t strike through stone, metal or anything like that yet, but i can make a halfmeter wide crater in dirt or sandy ground, based on the scroll you gave me to practise from, I think I can learn it fully in another half year if I have enough time to practise. Mastering it will take longer but I think I can do it in less than a year or two, I already have the needed control after all."

"Quite impressive."

Sakura smiled at the praise.

"So how goes your chasing of the elusive Uchiha nowadays then?" Kurenai asked with a friendly smile.

Sakura gave a hint of a blush "Ehm, well I... Not as good as I would like? At least he sees me now that I can give him a decent fight."

"How well...?"

"For every win I manage, I loose at least 3 maybe 4 times..." Sakura sighed, definitely not easy to even reach such a ratio "And I manage over half the wins from when sparring has specific limits added, he doesn´t handle that nearly as well as I do."

"Most people don´t."

"What´s really annoying though, I just can´t seem to ever beat Ino." Sakura frowned, this was a longstanding thorn in her side. No matter how much they were friends, they were also still very much rivals, even more so since they had reconciled their differences over chasing Sasuke.

"Even though you have trained much more in total, she has focused more on a few areas, taijutsu among them... If you fight only with genjutsu, you win easily instead, ninjutsu is probably a coin toss since you both have decent abilities there. However, if you were to fight with everything you have, I´m fairly certain that you would win."

"Really?" Sakura smiled even more brightly at that. 'Hah! Take that Ino!'


-*o*-

"Aaw come on nee-chan, can´t you at least show me how you do it?" Hanabi almost whined, which was not usual.

"Y-you understand that it is part of why f-father doesn´t like me? A-and that it may be impossible for you to do it?"

Hanabi squirmed a bit uncomfortably "It´s not that he dislikes you, it´s... He´s embarassed..." she ended looking down with a scowl.

That was far more than Hinata would ever have thought she could find out, and it took almost no time for her to understand what her sister had meant, and knowing or at least hearing that her sister thought their father still cared for her, that was good, but at the same time, having confirmation for why she kept being called a failure by the clan, bad, extremely bad. She was mostly over it by now, but she still felt it when it was brought up.

She sighed and after getting herself together again she thought 'Oh well, there´s no harm in showing her...' while in the back of her mind she silently thanked Sakura for trying to help her develop the ability to handle things with a more professional and detached persona.

"Ok then Firey-chan, I´ll show you and we can see if you can do it at all." the smile she got from Hanabi, extra wide after she used Naruto´s nickname for her, made the whole world seem alright again.

.

An hour later, Naruto appeared from within the house "Ooh look at that! Hello my two nicest ladies in the world!" the primarily intended target for the overdone greeting giggled and had to break off what she was doing, Naruto actually worried for a moment as Hinata however blushed severely.

Hanabi cheerily grinned at him "Hi Naruto, look at us!"

Uncertain what she meant he looked between them a few times "You learned Hinata´s chakralayer!" he turned over to Hinata "I didn´t know you had trained her in that?"

"N-not u-until t-today." she took a more relaxed breath "She learned the basics r-really fast."

"Wow, well done Firey-chan!" after a moment of thought "You´re going to teach her your new style as well right?"

"Ehm, well-"

"If she can learn it, you should teach it, it´s great on its own, but as a complement to the normal Jyuuken I bet it could be darn neat, and it would let you have someone else that can use it that you can discuss it with and-"

Hinata held up a hand to stop the torrent of words as she nodded "I will. I-I just hadn´t thought much about it before she asked me today, b-but she will soon be a shinobi as well so I guess it´s ok."


-*o*-


-*o*-

Aftertake13, thank you, good to hear someone liked it. I originally tried to write it from the characters POV, but that really didn´t work well. Eventually I found that focusing on the intruder let the scene become much faster paced and "alive". Part of the scene was actually written over a year before posted, but I doubt anyone can figure out which was old and which was new.

RedEye00, yep, although they´re not even graduates yet, they´re good, that´s what you get from adding an extra 4-12 hours per week of training specifically set up to compliment both their other training, and also their individual skills over the course of a couple of years. And the group had several of those Kurenai expects to lead their teams (the jonin-instructor is supposed to be instructor first of all), and as such has been drilled a bit extra on plans and such. The disabling hit was a simple chakrastrike at the neck to shut down the intruders nerve system.

randumbdave, oh yes it is such a neat game, me and my brother actually competed on who could get the best time on it(very much not easy since the random play area was sometimes literally impossible to complete). A big virtual cookie for you for knowing about it! ^_^

Ryuujin96, she wasn´t really hard on him, and it was more a worry that he might have failed due to freezing up from being in combat. And it was not a matter of being outfought by a more experienced opponent, but failing to even TRY to use his most effective defensive move. Had he merely failed to employ it well enough, it would just be a matter of more practise. Claws would probably be more trouble than useful, due to how both the claws themselves but also the way they are strapped on would restrict how well he could use his hands for other things. Not completely out of the question but not likely.

Manah Scarlet Shadowsong, lol yeah, while it´s not the identically same character, the "heritage" is pretty obvious and I´ve always liked Mizore as well. Not to mention how her character with only some minor twists was perfect for what I needed.

And "Guest", oh yes, they´re a fun little bunch those summons aren´t they...

Next chapter should be the last one before the canon starting point, and it will likely take a while to get done, hopefully not as long as this chapter though. And I did warn from the start that I give no guarantees on any sort of regularity.