Disclaimer: SUPER MARIO RPG IS GETTING A REMAKE? WHAT? WHAT!? WHAAAAAATTTT?! AND IT LOOKS THAT GOOD!? THAT'S WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY DISCLAIMER I CAN GIVE ABOUT NOT OWNING NARUTO!
That game was my childhood! I sunk so many hours on that thing back on the SNES and I can't believe it's actually being remade! Day one insta-buy! While I don't own Naruto, I WILL OWN THAT! GENO AND MALLOW ARE IN A MODERN-DAY VIDEO GAME, BABY! HELL FUCKING YEAH!
"With the conclusion of the final match, we will take another thirty minute recess before continuing with the sole match of our semi-final round!" Sōzōshī's boomed throughout the arena.
The audience cheered in response as a few of the spectators started to stand-up from their seats and began to move around, a few making plans to get food or refreshments.
In the shinobi waiting area, Naruto relaxed further into his seat, a smirk on his face. There was still pride beaming from his last two victories. The reaction of the crowd was also still replaying in his head. Samurai and shinobi have had centuries of distrust with one another, so there was something incredible that he managed to fight against two strong samurai and receive the praise of those watching. He, a shinobi, was getting cheers from a group of people who were against the concept of shinobi, and that was a surreal, special feeling to him.
'It almost feels like I'm a hero.' He noted, chuckling to himself: 'I wonder… will I get this reaction when I become Hokage?'
He had long outgrown the childish desire to become Hokage solely for the attention and praise of the villagers that had previously shunned him. While his motives nowadays were more altruistic, he could not help but be curious. The thought only caused his smirk to widen.
"Kinda funny how badly you all fucked up the battlefield." Honoka noted: "Even funnier that they aren't doing anything to try and fix it."
"I mean, did you see what these guys have been doing to it?" Kankurō asked with a snort: "The arena floor has been caught on fire multiple times, it's suffered direct manipulation from that Sazanami asshole manipulating the earth, Han literally created a literal geyser, and three of the last matches had endings that created explosions and shockwaves. There's no 'quick' way they'd be able to fix the battlefield."
"That's true." The redhead nodded her head before turning to face Hinata: "Wonder what damage you would have caused if you had a match in the second round, eh?"
"Hmm?" The Snake Sage blinked in response, turning attention to Honoka: "Did you say something?"
"Uh, yeah." Honoka frowned in response: "You good, Hinata?"
"I'm… fine." She replied, bringing her hands together as she turned her attention back to the battlefield: "Just… thinking. About the next match."
"Ah." Chōjūrō's eyes widened in response: "Y-You're g-getting ready t-to fight N-Naruto-san, right?"
"Huh?" It was Naruto's turn to blink as he was pulled out of his own thoughts and back to reality: "Someone say something?"
"J-Just that you-"
"Chōjūrō, he's not going to hear if you speak that softly." Honoka interrupted, sighing.
"… S-Sorry." The blue-haired swordsman frowned: "I was j-just mentioning the f-fight you and H-Hinata-san are g-going to have?"
"HUH?" Naruto blinked, jumping out of his seat as he turned to face his wife: "We… Are we really going to be fighting here?"
"Well, yeah." Honoka realized before shrugging her shoulders: "You two will be the next match. Since Risho tied against Sazanami, that means Mifune is going to move to the final round. Meaning, the next fight is going to be you two."
"A-Ah." Naruto mumbled, his eyes wide in thought as he turned his attention to his wife.
Hinata was still staring at the battlefield, not even looking at him. She had a pensive look on her face, but he could not quite peace the emotions on it. There seemed to be a variety of feelings present in her eyes.
Anxiousness. Desperation. Excitement. Worry. Determination.
"Well, if either of you lovebirds have any issues you still need to work out, now's probably the best chance." Kankurō noted with a smirk.
"Th-That's not nice." Chōjūrō's frown from earlier deepened.
"What? I'm just joking." The puppeteer snorted.
The swordsman shook his head: "Y-Yeah, but th-they don't seem happy about th-this."
The two began to argue with one another, with Honoka turning her focus to them in surprise that Chōjūrō was seemingly talking back to someone. Naruto did not pay attention much, however, as he turned his thoughts inward.
"When was the last time you ever fought your mate?" Kurama's voice rang in his head.
'I haven't.' Naruto shook his head: 'I mean, we've sparred before and stuff, but it was all basic training stuff. Nothing remotely serious.'
"I mean, do you consider this serious? You two obviously aren't going to fight to kill." The fox noted.
'That's… true…' Naruto nodded his head: 'Getting to fight her, though…' His smirk from earlier finally returned: 'Maybe this will be a good opportunity, y'know? This… This should actually be the most fun match I could possibly have here!'
While Naruto's excitement for the match was seemingly growing, Hinata's mixed emotions seemed to be festering even further.
"Are you comfortable with just allowing your former teammate outclass you this much?"
"You won't be able to stand next to him as equals sooner rather than later."
"If I am being generous, you maybe have two years at maximum before Naruto is at a level that you can never hope to obtain. And if I am being honest, there is a chance he could already be at that level."
Utatane Koharu's words from months ago rang in Hinata's head. She and Shikamaru had always been at around an equal level to Naruto, but ever since Naruto returned from Shimagame Island during his training in Kumo, that perception had shattered. The thought of Naruto moving far ahead of her, especially right now when the threat of Akatsuki was still real, was one that disturbed her to her core.
'I'm his wife now, dammit! I can't allow that. I need to stand next to him as equal.' Her eyes narrowed, her fists tightening. 'I… need to see it. What is the disparity between our strength? I need to see it completely. I… I…'
"Naruto." Hinata spoke-up softly, pulling his attention towards her: "You… You and I are not going to hold back at all in this fight, okay?"
"Of course not." Naruto nodded his head in agreement, his smirk widening further: "I plan on kicking-"
"I mean it." She interrupted, her Byakugan subconsciously activating. He stiffened in response, but before he could reply, she continued to speak: "You need to use your Bijū Mode from the start. I… I won't accept anything other than your best. Understood?"
"From the beginning?" Naruto mumbled, his eyes slightly widening: "You… sure about that?"
"Yes." She said.
"Heh. I stand corrected. She's deadly serious." Kurama snickered in Naruto's mind: "Well, kid? It'd be rude to ignore a request from her like this."
Naruto was quiet for a few seconds before he nodded his head in response: "Alright, will do. I was never planning on going easy on your anything at all, but if you want go to all-out right from the beginning, then I'm ready."
"… Good." Hinata, for the first time since the final match, smiled in response.
'Is… Is that really what it feels like to be hit by my sound ninjutsu? God… damn…'
While Dosu did not fall fully unconscious from his fight with Menma, he did have a nasty concussion and he could not process much of what happened during his initial treatment. As his cognitive functions returned to normal, he turned his attention to his own physical state.
Despite some bruising that he could see and feel on his visible skin, he was actually not in as much as pain as he expected to be. He actually felt as if he had been treated by medical shinobi in Konoha.
'I'm aware my injuries weren't severe or anything, but this feels almost like I had been treated with medical ninjutsu.' He noted.
"Do not underestimate the healing techniques of the samurai."
Dosu blinked in response before turning his attention towards one of the occupied beds. He saw Okisuke lying down, who was heavily bandaged up and had icepacks on his body over areas where he had some serious burns.
"My… apologies." Dosu bowed his head: "Did I speak that aloud?"
"No, but I felt like I could understand your thoughts." Okisuke chuckled in response before turning his head: "Us samurai may not use 'medical ninjutsu', but our apothecaries are rather skilled, and they still incorporate their own chakra into the healing creams and liquid medications they prepare, and our surgeons operate with extreme precision."
"I… see." The Konoha shinobi nodded his head in understanding: "This trip really has been enlightening for me."
Okisuke was quiet in response for a few moments. After a minute, he nodded his head as he relaxed further in his own bed, trying to rest from his own injuries.
"Kinuta Dosu was your name, correct?" He asked. Dosu nodded his head: "You fought well. You truly impressed our people."
Dosu's eyes widened: "I appreciate-"
"You did so as well, Menma."
The Konoha shinobi blinked in response as he turned his head to the bed directly to his right, coming face-to-face with the bard.
Menma had a pinkish-tone to his cheeks as he avoided looking at either Dosu or Okisuke: "I-I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, I was just trying to keep quiet so you two could talk. I only j-just woke up and-"
"You're fine." Okisuke shook his head, chuckling as he closed his eyes.
"Menma-san, you are quite the skilled fighter." Dosu commented.
"You think so?" The bard asked. When Dosu nodded his head, he chuckled, rubbing the back of his head: "I haven't been in a serious fight in a long time, so I was kinda worried I was really rusty and didn't do good. You saying that makes me feel very happy."
"If that's you 'rusty', I would be very curious to fight again someday when you're at your peak." Dosu replied.
"Heheh. Thank you." Menma smiled brightly in response before he reached for his ocarina, which was on a small stand next to his bed: "Still, those are some pretty crazy odds, you know? That you and I both seem to specialize in Sound jutsus!"
"It is quite the crazy coincidence." Dosu admitted as he crossed his arms: "But I suppose it makes sense when you look at our backgrounds in Otogakure."
"Yea-" Menma's eyes widened for a moment as horror quickly developed in his eyes: "Wh-Wh-What did you say? Y-You're… f-from…" He shook his head, as he prepared a fingering on his ocarina, preparing for a jutsu: "H-How did you know about me? Are… you…"
"… I phrased that terribly. I am so sorry." Dosu sighed, a frown forming on his face: "Mifune-sama mentioned a refuge from Oto. Relax, I'm not loyal to Orochimaru's legacy or anything. I promise."
"You… aren't?" Menma mumbled, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, his grip on his ocarina tightening: "Orochimaru's goons… they were super loyal. How can I be so sure?"
"Because I deserted to Konoha before he died." Dosu replied, pointing to his forehead protector. Menma's eyes widened in response, which prompted Dosu to continue: "Orochimaru never cared about me. He never cared about us. We were his pawns… and I've only been able to find true happiness in my life after separating from him."
"… Agreed…" The bard mumbled in response, finally relaxing his grip on the Menma, his body language relaxing: "My… the clan I was raised in, the Shiin Clan, were never good people, but they got so much worse when Orochimaru took us in. He… He was truly evil."
"That he was." Dosu nodded his head in agreement.
"… If… So you were an Otogakure shinobi, you… you also have done… things, right? Followed his orders?" Menma asked. Dosu, again, nodded his head. Menma then brought his legs upward, wincing slightly as he held himself in a fetal position: "Do… Are you able to forgive yourself?"
"Forgive myself?" Dosu repeated the question, his eye widening.
"I… I killed so many people under his name to held fund his 'village'. His stupid, evil, amoral, monstrous experiments… funded by blood money that I helped him earn…" Menma noted, his eyes starting to water: "I… I was forced to do it, b-but does that even matter in the end? Kids were orphaned because of me…" He dropped the ocarina onto his bed as he brought his hands to his face: "How… How did you forgive yourself for your sins? How do you make the memories stop?"
Dosu grew quiet as Menma sobbed to himself. Seconds passed before Dosu pulled himself out of his bed, wincing slightly at the feeling of standing. Nevertheless, he walked over towards Menma's bed and sat down at the other end. He then reached out to him, his hand grabbing onto his shoulder.
The bard stayed crying for a few moments, but the volume started to go down. A few more seconds passed before he finally stopped and was able to look Dosu in the eye.
"Forgiveness… it's hard. Borderline impossible." The Konoha shinobi admitted: "But you need to understand something. Orochimaru used you. He abused you. You were put in a situation where you had to act a certain way, or you'd die."
"Th-That… It's true." Menma admitted, biting his lip: "B-But still-"
"The memories won't go away. It'll be impossible to forget. However, your circumstances are different now. And now you are living the type of life you can only live with him gone." Dosu noted, a smile forming on his face: "You are not the person who wanted to do the things Orochimaru wanted you to do. You are not a person who still has to do those things. So, don't let those sins you were forced to commit weigh you down. All that will do is prevent you from doing any of the good that could make up for those sins."
Menma was quiet for a moment, his expression moving to a neutral expression as he closed his eyes, processing Dosu's words. After a moment of thought, he hesitantly nodded his head, a small smile forming on his face.
"I… I think I needed to hear that." He admitted: "… I'll try. Thank you."
"Nothing to thank me for." Dosu replied with a chuckle. He then eyed the ocarina on the bed: "On a more light-hearted note, if that is your weapon of choice, I have to assume you at least have some passion for music. What type do you enjoy?"
"Eh?" Menma instinctively reached for his ocarina as he tilted his head: "Do you mean what I like to listen to? Or what I like to play?"
"Both." Dosu shrugged his shoulders in response.
Menma's smile widened further as he proceeded to get rather animated, explaining to Dosu the different styles of music he tries to incorporate into his performances, and what genres inspire him. The Konoha shinobi replied by talking about his own musical interest, which only seemed to make Menma more excited.
'Ah, this is the life.' Yugito noted with a content sigh as she finished another roll of sushi. She had heard rumors of the quality of Tetsu no Kuni sushi, which apparently rivaled the quality of Mizu no Kuni's, but she could not fully believe just how good it truly was.
The Nibi jinchūriki sat alone at a table of a small, cozy, 'traditional' Tetsu no Kuni restaurant that specialized in sushi with multiple plates of different types of sushi, including a plate that served its sushi on a tray shaped like a giant wooden boat. Her chopsticks moved at speeds that would make both the Yondaime Raikage and Yondaime Hokage blink as she moved from roll to roll, devouring her sushi. And after each place was emptied, she quickly ordered a replacement before moving onto one of the other places at her table.
The server, the chef, and the owner stared in amazement at the shear amount she was consuming. Since the Goodwill Tournament was happening, they had assumed today would have been a slow day without much profit. Yugito was their first client of the day and, somehow, she was eating enough sushi to cover for a completely full restaurant.
While the server and the chief were getting a little overwhelmed, the owner had a large grin on his face as he began to envision exactly how much money they were going to end up having at the end of this one-person lunch rush.
'Wonder what Ē would do if I turned missing-nin and moved out here… probably try to kill me.' Yugito told herself as she tore through a whole plate of the finest red snapper sashimi she had ever had: '… it would be worth it, though.'
She briefly heard the sound of the door to the restaurant, but she was too focused on her meal to pay attention.
"Good afternoon Sōseki-san. I'd like to place my usual-" The voice stopped for a moment: "… What the devil?"
Yugito finally looked up from her plates towards the new restaurant patron. He was a tall, older-looking man with black hair styled in a top-knot, thick black eyebrows, and black-colored eyes. A scar resembling a sword cut ran down the right side of his face through his eyebrow, almost reaching his eye. The man wore a loose-fitting grey kimono, held-up with a black belt around his waist, and he had on a bulky purple scarf around his neck, which covered his mouth to Yugito. He also had a sword attached to his waist.
His eyes were glued to Yugito and the plates on her table. A scowl formed on her face as she crossed her arms.
"Something I can help you with?" She asked.
"Are you going to eat all of that?" He asked. He then shook his head, focusing on the empty plates: "No, better question; did you seriously eat all those plates?"
"Yeah." She said, her scowl deepening slightly: "And what of it?"
"I'm assuming they already took some of your empty plates." He noted, closing his eyes for a moment: "How many plates total?"
Yugito's scowl morphed into a pensive look as she brought her hands together in thought: "… Maybe fifteen plates so far? Combined with what I still have to eat, twenty-two total."
The man nodded his head in response. He was quiet for a moment before turning his attention towards the owner.
"Six plates of salmon temaki, four tekka maki plates, twelve plates of eel sashimi, and a cup of green tea. That'll do for a nice starter." He said.
Both the chef's and the server's eyes widened in horror at the order. The owner, meanwhile, grinned in response, his eyes seemingly glowing as he was already counting the profits he was about to make for the day alone.
"C-C-Coming up!" The chef mumbled to himself as he quickly ran back to the kitchen, the server heading back to assist.
A grin formed on Yugito's face as she nodded her head in approval while the man took a seat at the table next to hers.
"A fellow connoisseur of sushi, I see." She stated.
"Of course." He replied with an amused chuckle, finally opening his eyes again: "May I have your name?"
"Nii Yugito." She answered. "And you?"
"Urakaku." He said. His eyebrow then raised as his eyes focused on Yugito's forehead protector: "I assumed all of you shinobi would have been at the tournament. Did not wish to participate?"
"Nah, I had something else I had to do." She replied, shaking her head: "Could ask the same question to you, though? I know most of the city is out watching the fights."
"Call me old-fashioned, but I do not like tournaments." Urakaku replied, bringing his right hand to his scarf, seemingly rubbing his chin hidden behind it: "I do not believe they are a good assessment of a samurai's kenjutsu, and I find the culture surrounding them to be rather vain and focused on 'glory' rather than skill."
"Huh. That's… valid, I guess." Yugito noted: "But you don't think this one would be different? With samurai fighting shinobi?"
"I think it makes no difference. After all, I'm sure none of the shinobi nor samurai will actually fight to kill." He said: "The only time I draw my blade in combat is for a mission. I refuse to participate in something where I would not be able to fight at one hundred percent."
"… Not sure I agree, but I guess you have a point." She mumbled.
The jinchūriki could tell this man most likely did not get the opportunity to go 'one hundred percent' often; of all the samurai she had seen or met in passing, the only two that had more chakra than him was Mifune and his main attendant, Okisuke. This man was most certainly an S-Ranked samurai, and he most certainly would have given any of the shinobi – even Naruto and Han – a run for their money. It almost felt like a waste that he was not participating in the tournament.
'Then again, it's probably a waste I'm not…' A sigh escaped her lips.
A part of her did regret not agreeing to participate. In hindsight, it would have been a rare opportunity for her to test her skills against strong opponents that she would probably not get the chance to ever again. But alas, her sense of duty to the objective was a little too strong.
'… I probably need to wrap things up here and get back to research-'
The jinchūriki's thoughts came to a halt as the server rushed out of the kitchen, carrying out four trays of tekka maki rolls. He quickly placed them on Urakaku's table, alongside a fresh pair of chopsticks.
"We-We're getting the rest ready. Please just take this for now-" The server's eyes widened in horror: "Oh gods, the tea! I'm s-so sorry, please give me a moment!"
As the worker rushed off to finish brewing the green tea, Urakaku brought his hands together for a moment before reaching for his chopsticks and breaking them apart. Yugito's eyes looked down towards his plates of sushi before recalling the number he ordered.
A snort escaped her lips: "Just dawned on me you intentionally ordered the exact number of sushi rolls as me. Feeling threatened or something?"
"Yes." The samurai replied. His blunt honesty caused Yugito to blink in response, so he continued to speak as he reached for his first piece of sushi: "This is my favorite restaurant, and I'm Sōseki-san's top customer. I cannot allow a visitor in our country outeat me here of all places."
She snorted a second time in response: "I thought you said you didn't like fights for glory."
"This isn't for glory. I'm being completely serious." Urakaku replied as he ate his first piece of sushi before grabbing his second.
Yugito stared at the samurai for a few seconds, quickly watching him eat sushi after sushi, before she began to laugh lightly to herself, shaking her head.
'What a bizarre guy.' She thought as she turned her attention to her own sushi: "Alright, Urakaku-san. I'll finish the orders I have left and then I'll stop until you catch up to twenty-two. Then I'll order alongside you." A grin formed on her face: "We'll see if you really can back up your talk."
"Believe me, I can." The samurai replied confidently as he finished off his first plate of sushi before moving onto his second: "I take my duels seriously. Consider this your defeat, Yugito-san."
As both Urakaku and Yugito grew quiet, focusing on their sushi, the owner – Sōseki – watched the two from the corner of the room with a wide grin on his face.
Despite the majority of his patrons being busy at the Goodwill Tournament, this was already shaping up to be the most profitable day of his career. He was excited to see just how much he can push on them and how much money he would walk away with.
This was also shaping up to be an extremely costly day for both Yugito and Urakaku.
"Well, after that recess, I believe it is time for us to continue with the tournament, yes? And now we can move onto the sole fight of our semi-final round!"
"Finally!" Tōneri nearly shouted.
The Ōtsutsuki had grown impatient waiting, especially with how long these last fights had been. He could barely recall what happened in any of them; they were all boring and did not have his princess involved, so why should he bother giving them the attention they do not deserve? He nearly lost it when he learned that Hinata was able to skip the last round of combat due to a pair of losers tying against one another.
But now, his princess was finally getting to fight! And against that sham of a 'husband', of all people!
Tōneri observed as both Hinata's and Naruto's names were called. The two walked up to the center of the arena. As the Ōtsutsuki observed, he could sense both taking in nature energy.
'Both sages… and I can sense the Kyūbi's energy flaring in his body. Appears this could end up very interesting.' Tōneri said, smirking: 'Hinata, please. Show me all that are you capable of. I wish to know as much about you as I possibly you can.' His smirk then turned malicious as he changed his focus to Naruto: 'And you… show me your limits, so I know exactly how to kill you.'
Both Hinata's and Naruto's eyes were closed as they stood across from one another on the stadium. The two completely zoned out the cheering crowd around them and were focused on only two things: channeling nature energy and focusing on each other.
The married couple opened their eyes simultaneously, revealing the yellow-coloration of their pupils. Another second passed by as Hinata activated her Byakugan while Naruto entered his Bijū Mode, his chakra cloak surrounding his body.
"Once again Naruto; please, do not hold back." Hinata requested.
He shook his head: "I'm not going to-"
"Use the bijūdama, if you need." She stated, tightening her hands into fists: "Use every tool you can to-"
"The bijūdama?" Naruto's eyes widened, a frown forming on his face as he shook his head: "Hell no! I'm not good at creating one at a low-level of chakra. One of my bijūdama would vaporize you!"
"Trust me, you won't be able to land it on me." His wife replied, smiling: "I was able to evade Tsumiki Kido in the invasion. I'm sure I can dodge one of yours."
"I should be insulted that she thinks any bijūdama that you create with my chakra would be comparable to that fraud scientist, but I respect her boldness." Kurama noted.
Naruto ignored the fox's praise, his focus still solely on Hinata: "I know you want to take this seriously, but are you really wanting me to come at you with the intent to kill?"
"You won't kill me. Just like I won't kill you." She said. A second passed by before she nodded her head, her eyes narrowing: "But, yes. I need you to take this seriously. Please. Let me see where I stand against you."
Naruto's eyes widened further as a voice spoke in his mind.
"All I'm saying is that I'm not weak. I need to see what I'm fully competing with so I can try and catch up to you."
"Hope you give the same treatment to Shikamaru and Hinata too. I know they aren't going to like you being so far ahead of them either."
Anko's words from before the wedding echoed in his ears. He stood still for a moment, processing them for a few seconds, before he nodded his head and got into a stance.
"Alright then, Hinata." Naruto said as he began to channel senjutsu chakra into his lungs: "I'll trust you. I'm not going to hold back at all then, alright?"
Hinata's smile widened for a moment before shifting into something more akin to a smirk: "I expect nothing less."
"I believe our combatants our ready!" Sōzōshī stated: "Now, ladies and gentleman; let the semi-final match between Hinata and Naruto begin!"
"Sage Art: Wind Style: Grand Breakthrough!"
As soon as the match began, Naruto breathed out a massive gust of senjutsu-enhanced wind that tore into the whole arena in front of him, digging up various rubble and flinging them off the arena with loud thuds.
Hinata's eyes widened as she quickly channeled chakra towards her fight. She grit her teeth as she resisted the wind's pressure. It tore into her body, causing her to get pushed back slightly and her feet to leave tracks, but she managed to hold her ground against it.
As she struggled with the wind, Naruto rushed towards her, closing the distance as a large spiraling orb formed in his right hand. As he grew closer, Hinata took in a deep breath of her own, channeling senjutsu chakra in her mouth and beginning to change its shape.
"Sage Art: Miasma of the Snake King!"
Before Naruto could slam the Rasengan into Hinata's body, she opened her mouth and spat out massive purple cloud that crashed into Naruto's body. The cloud, upon impact, caused Naruto's body to freeze in place for a moment as he felt his vision and hearing slowly begin to fade.
All Naruto could see was darkness, with the hint of a purple haze at the corner of his vision. His breathing grew more erratic for a brief moment as he struggled to resist the sensation of the darkness closing in him.
As soon as it nearly consumed him, however, the haze began to fade. Light slowly returned to his vision as he could see traces of the original battlefield.
"It's only poison. An effective one admittedly, but nothing I can't correct." Kurama spoke-up in his mind: "My chakra's almost done auto-filtering it out-"
"Sage Art: Eight Trigrams Sixty-four Palms!"
Just as Naruto's senses were returning, Hinata was now positioned directly against him in a familiar stance. He tried to move in time, but Hinata's first two palms connected with his chest.
"Two palms! Four palms! Eight palms! Sixteen palms!" Hinata continued to strike at his tenketsu rapidly, moving faster than he could get away. "Thirty-two-"
"Uzumaki Fūinjutsu: Binding Winds!"
As one of Hinata's palm strikes connected with Naruto, a sealing tag inside one of his flak jacket's pocket activated, causing a ring of wind to form around her body and interrupting her jutsu.
Naruto, now no longer being assaulted by Hinata's Gentle Fist, began to cough up blood in response. His blood, while predominately red, had small traces of dark purple in it. He looked at it for a moment for a moment before his hands tightened into fists.
'Her poison being 'effective' is an understatement.' Naruto noted as he took in a deep breath: 'That could have really fucked me up.'
"Correct. As I said, I can filter it out of your bloodstream, but the effects it brings to your senses will make you open to attack. You need to avoid her poison completely." Kurama replied.
Naruto nodded his head in response as he turned his attention back to Hinata. While she appeared to be struggling to break free from the wind ring holding her in place, two cyan-colored snakes made of senjutsu chakra formed from the bow on her back. The senjutsu-snakes slithered on her body until the reached the wind ring holding her onto place. They then then opened their jaws and bit into the binding, causing the wind to scatter and dissipate, freeing the Snake Sage.
"You use more snake-related jutsus than Anko-sensei does nowadays, don't you?" Naruto asked with a smirk.
"I guess." Hinata giggled in response as she reached for her bow: "Are you wanting to see more of what I can do with senjutsu?"
He nodded, his smirk widening: "Well, if you want me to take this seriously, than I'm expecting you to do the same."
Hinata's response was to grab the bow and pull on the string. As she pulled, a water-elemental chakra arrow formed on the string.
"Sage Art: Water Style: Never Ending Arrow Downpour!"
She released the arrow, which as it flew towards Naruto, caused the water moisture in the arrow to take shape into more-and-more arrows. Naruto proceeded to clap his hands together before he launched himself into the sky, flying away and avoiding the arrows.
Hinata turned her head upwards and fired more water arrows, following Naruto's position. The Uzumaki continued to fly through the air as hundreds of arrows formed. He swerved through the air, doing his best to avoid each of the oncoming arrows.
"You're not going to get close to her at this rate." Kurama noted.
'I know. That's her intent.' Naruto said, gritting his teeth as he felt one of Hinata's arrows graze against his leg. He felt a stinging sensation, but he barely avoiding getting a direct hit from the attack: 'I think she's aware that it's best to try and keep me on the defensive as long as possible, cause my attacks are more destructive than hers.'
"It's a similar approach that the Samurai Sage took once you started using my chakra." The Kyūbi nodded its head in understand: "So, with that in mind, do you know how you'll respond?"
Naruto's response was to form two tails of chakra from the bijū chakra cloak. He brought the tails in front of his body, which were promptly hit by a series of arrows, before swiping forward with them: "Nine-Tails Twister!"
Two large tornadoes formed from the tails and flew downwards towards Hinata's position, completely sucking-up her arrows and causing the water to evaporate upon impact. Hinata jumped to her right, avoiding the tornadoes as they made contact with the ground.
Through her Byakugan's extended vision, Hinata could see the tornadoes remain on the ground, releasing a strong vortex of wind that would easily consume her if she stepped too close to them. A frown formed on her face as she stared at Naruto.
'There's so much chakra in his jutsu still, it's overwhelming… I really need to finish sealing off his tenketsu.' She noted as she pulled back on the string of her bow: "Eight-"
Before Hinata could finish preparing her jutsu, an adamantine sealing chain rushed out of one of the tornadoes. The chain surrounded her right hand, causing her to turn her head back in horror.
"What?" She gasped: "How? I didn't see-"
The chain dragged her body, pulling her towards the tornado at a rapid pace. Hinata quickly put her bow on the holster on her back with her left hand before she was dragged directly into the tornado. Upon entering the vortex, she felt wind blades tears into her skin bit-by-bit, causing her to hiss in pain.
At the center of the tornado was a shadow clone of Naruto, grinning as it held onto its grip on the chain, keeping her locked inside the tornado.
Pushing past the pain, Hinata focused her attention on the clone as she released a rapid palm thrust in the direction of the clone with her left hand: "Eight Trigrams Vacuum Palm!"
The palm thrust released a massive airwave directly at the clone, making impact and causing it to explode upon impact, causing the chain gripping her right hand to vanish.
Upon being freed, Hinata turned her head upwards at the top of the tornado, towards Naruto. She then made three hand signs: 'He'll sense me taking out the tornado, so he'll definitely turn his attention downwards!'
"Sage Art: White Rage Technique!"
Hinata spat out a large red dragon of senjutsu chakra gripping onto an orb. The dragon rushed up the tornado before it started to coil on itself and screech, generating intense bright lights and soundwaves.
As Hinata had predicted, Naruto had looked down into the eye of the tornado upon his clone's dissipation. He was then greeted by an overwhelming sensory blast to his ears and eyes.
"ARRRGGHH!" He screamed in pain, his eyes closing shut as he felt his ears starting to bleed.
"WHAT THE HELL?" Kurama growled, gripping onto his ears from within Naruto's mindscape: "MAKE IT STOP! BIJŪDAMA THAT THING!"
On cue with Kurama's request, Naruto spat out a massive black orb of chakra from his mouth in the direction he had been facing. The bijūdama flew into the tornado, causing the winds to disperse before the orb crashed into Hinata's dragon-construct. The creature exploded upon impact, ending the jutsu.
Naruto took a few deep breaths, still unable to open his eyes as the sensory overload was still affecting, almost in a worse way than Hinata's poison from earlier had. As he seemingly tried to push past the pain and re-focus, Hinata stood on the arena ground at a forty-five degree angle from his position. She raised her bow as she began to alter her footing. An invisible eight trigrams symbol formed on the ground underneath her feet and expanded until it reached the ground directly underneath Naruto's body.
Hinata's Byakugan pulsated for a moment as two chakra arrows formed in her bow. The arrows resembled the cyan colored snakes that Hinata had formed to dispell Naruto's earlier fūinjutsu.
"Sage Art: Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Arrows!" Hinata took in a deep breath before pulling back on the string: "Two Arrows!"
With a release of her bow's string, Hinata fired both chakra arrows simultaneously, flying towards Naruto's body. The two snake arrows collided with his skin before biting into his skin dissipating upon impact, having struck at his tenketsu and injecting poision in its place.
"Agggh!" He hissed.
"Four Arrows! Eight Arrows! Sixteen Arrows! Thirty-two Arrows!"
Hinata's bow repeatedly reloaded with more-and-more snake arrows that she continued to fire at Naruto's body. Each arrow connected with his different tenketsu points, with each strike causing him immense pain as he began to choke up. As she struck at his chakra points, Naruto's flying began to get lower-and-lower. His vision also grew cloudier, as he could tell poison was traveling through his veins. Kurama was doing his best to filter out the poison before it could truly take effect.
The second tornado that Naruto had created earlier also began to dissipate, revealing a small hole. Hinata readjusted her bow as she fired off her final barrage of arrows at the descending Uzumaki.
"Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Arrows!"
With each of the final arrows connected with Naruto's remaining tenketsu points, Naruto's body fell to the ground instantly, colliding with a loud thud. Hinata remained still for a moment as she watched Naruto slowly pull himself up from the ground, his hands and legs shaking as blood dripped from his lips.
His bijū cloak dissipated for a brief moment as he struggled to pull himself up before it quickly reformed as he came to his feet. Her eyes narrowed in response.
'Naturally, the Bijū Cloak would reform since I targeted his tenketsu, where as that chakra belongs to Kurama... who also is doing his best to filter out all the poison I hit him with.' Hinata noted. She then looked over at Naruto's face, noting this his eyes lost the yellow coloration. A grin formed on her face: 'However, looks like I managed to pull him out of Sage Mode! So, targeting someone's tenketsu does impact the senjutsu chakra they've taken in... or maybe it's because I am using senjutsu myself in my attacks.' An image of Kabuto came into her mind: 'Either way, I can help take him down, then!'
"Hinata… where the hell did you learn to do that?" Naruto asked between heavy breaths.
Hinata's grin seemed to widen in response as she tightened her grip on her bow: "I've tried to find ways to make the Gentle Fist techniques long-range. Vacuum Palm does exist, and I do have the Protection of the Eight Trigrams, but I really wanted something that could accomplish the core mechanics of the Gentle Fist into long-range form." An arrow materialized as she began to pull back on the string: "I've yet to accomplish it without the use of Sage Mode, but I don't mind that limitation for now."
"Very… impressive." Naruto noted, smiling at her: "Now… let me see what else you're able to do."
Before Hinata could fire her next arrow at Naruto, the ground under her feet opened-up. She blinked in response as she focused her concentration below. Her eyes then rapidly widened as she noticed the chakra presence slowly rising-up.
A clone of Naruto emerged from the underground and uppercut her in the jaw, sending her flying upwards. She choked up blood in response as she dropped her bow.
The clone grinned in response for a moment as it turned its head to face Naruto. The original locked eyes with the clone's still-yellow tinted eyes and nodded head, causing the clone to disperse. In an instant, the senjutsu chakra the clone had absorbed returned to the original Naruto, causing his eyes to morph into the toad-like pupils once more.
With Sage Mode active again, Naruto rushed over towards Hinata's initial position. He reached down for her bow and pulled out a scroll from his flak jacket, sealing the weapon inside. He then pocketed it as his wife descended back to the ground, blue chakra forming around her fists.
"Gentle Step: Twin Lion Fists!"
The Uzumaki jumped backwards just as Hinata's fists connected with the ground, creating a small crater. Dust clouds scattered across the battlefield as Hinata stood up. She rubbed at her jaw, brushing off some blood that had dripped down from Naruto's punch, before narrowing her eyes on her husband.
"That's two times now that I didn't notice a clone of yours, despite having my Byakugan active." She noted: "How are you doing that?"
"I'm not doing anything in particular." Naruto shrugged his shoulders in response: "I'm just trying to find ways to distract your attention. Cause while your Byakugan's vision should make it impossible to surprise you like that, vision isn't going to help if you're too focused on me, y'know?"
"Ah... I was careless." Hinata admitted, her eyes narrrowing on her husband. The blue lion chakra shrouds around her fists seemed to grow as she crouched downward slightly: "It won't happen again."
Hinata did not wait for his response; she immediately charged forward at him.
Naruto began to channel more of Kurama's chakra as nine tails formed on his chakra cloak. The tails began to glow a bright red coloration as he slammed them into the ground: "Lightning Style: Tailed Beast Storm!"
All nine tails released red lightning bolts that flew directly at Hinata's approaching figure. She proceeded to jump and side-step, narrowly avoiding bolt-after-bolt as she neared Naruto.
"Wasn't that one of Tsumiki Kido's techniques?" Hinata asked.
"Yeah, but I liked it. Besides, he used the Kyūbi's chakra to use it anyway." Naruto replied with a chuckle.
Upon closing the distance, Hinata tried to punch at Naruto with the Gentle Fist Lion chakra shrouds. The Uzumaki side-stepped each time, narrowly avoiding the attacks. After a few seconds of dodging, Naruto proceeded to fly up into the air, creating more distance between the two.
She grimaced slightly, the feeling of her missing bow feeling more apparent. The feeling vanished, however, as a grin formed on her face. As she ran through hand signs.
"Sage Art: Water Style: Giant Vortex Jutsu!"
A massive orb of water began to form from the water moisture in the air. It grew in size exponentially, rivaling the size of Naruto's toad summon Gamaken, before it began to rise into the air.
"That thing's big!" Honoka exclaimed from the sidelines: 'Even with Sage Mode, how the hell is someone able to make a water jutsu that big from just water moisture alone?'
Naruto continued to fly further up into the air, his eyes narrowed on Hinata's jutsu.
'So, the amount of chakra in that thing is impressive and its size is scary, but it should be easy to avoid.' He told himself: 'Flying around this, I have much more freedom with dodging that thing. And when she misses, I'll be able to swoop down and-'
"Sage Art: Water Style: Hydro Detonation Jutsu!"
After making another series of hand signs, Hinata began to channel more senjutsu chakra. The giant water orb in the sky proceeded to expand in size even-more, matching the length of the arena battlefield itself and the height of a Boss Animal Summon, before exploding. The resulting explosion sent water everywhere around, flying into the sky and crashing towards the ground.
A massive downpour, akin to a massive waterfall, crashed into the stadium battleground with enough force that the stadium battlefield was eroded by the water on impact, causing the stones to grow more ragged and to lower slightly. Hinata, however, was seemingly unaffected – the water bouncing off her body instead of truly colliding with her.
More water rained down around the stadium, but with much less force, hitting the spectators in the audience like rain.
"What the hell?"
"No, I can't get my clothes wet!"
"It's actually pretty refreshing!"
While the audience continued to shout in surprise, the shinobi-and-samurai in the waiting areas proceeded to get soaked as well, with much more force than the audience was receiving. Mifune had little reaction, seemingly unaffected by the downpour, but Takeko, Honoka, Chōjūrō, and Kankurō were knocked out of their seats and sent to the ground, their clothes entirely soaked and, in Kankurō's case, with Sanshōuo falling apart once more.
"YOU'VE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME!" He growled out as he began to reach for his puppet's pieces once again.
Above the battlefield, the deluge of the water fired upwards like multiple water bullets. Naruto tried to fly away and avoid, but there was no avoiding no matter how he tried to maneuver; the water blasts collided into his skin, hitting him with the pressure of multiple cannon balls.
After the onslaught, Naruto's body began to freefall, the pain of the attack overwhelming him as noticeable bruising formed on his skin despite the chakra cloak over his body. He took in a deep breath, pushing past his pain, as he began to channel chakra into his mouth while he formed hand signs.
"Sage Art: Toad Oil Bath!"
Naruto spat out a deluge of oil from his mouth directly at Hinata. She jumped to the side, causing the oil to splash on impact with the ground before quickly every inch of the battlefield. The oil continued to grow as Naruto released more-and-more of it.
His wife raised an eyebrow as she channeled chakra to her feet. Despite the oil piling under her feet, she remained directly above it, seemingly untouched from it.
In response to her unasked questions, Naruto ran through another hand signs before his hands began to glow a pinkish-red coloration. He then submerged his hands inside the oil stream.
"Sage Art: Scorch Style: Combustion Zone!"
"Shit!" Hinata's eyes widened in horror as she immediately got into position: "Protection of the Eight Trigrams: Sixty-four Palms!"
The pinkish-glow flowed from Naruto's hands down through the oil around the battlefield. In an instant, the oil erupted, creating a massive pink firestorm that surrounded the battlefield like a giant cloud.
On cue with the firestorm, Hinata began to rapidly released chakra threads from her body in a rapid fashion, forming a protective dome around her. Pink fire continued to rain down onto her dome, however, forcing her to move even faster with her chakra threads.
'This is overwhelming!' She noted as she felt her skin starting to sweat. Heavily. She watched sweat droplets fall from her face before they immediately evaporated. She bit her lip in response, trying to ignore that: 'But I need to keep this up!'
A full minute passed by before the firestorm finally came to an end. Immediately, Hinata dropped her jutsu as she nearly fell to her knees.
Although her jutsu protected from the fire itself, it did not do anything to stop the heat. Her entire skin was red, in a state between 'sunburnt' and 'second degree burns'. The rain that had been created from her last water jutsu had been entirely evaporated, yet she was still wet from the extensive amount of sweat dripping from her body.
'That jutsu… it also affected the water moisture in the air too.' Hinata's bite on her lip intensified, drawing a small bit of blood: 'A good majority of that was evaporated. I… I think that firestorm completely got rid of my ability to use water jutsus in this fight.'
She briefly turned her attention towards Naruto's original position in the air only to notice he was there no more. Her eyes then narrowed as she tried to channel as much chakra into her hand as possible, creating her lion shrouds once more. She then turned her attention downwards.
The ground underneath her feet began to crack, but just as Naruto jumped out one more time, a Rasengan formed in her hands, Hinata side-stepped the chakra orb before slamming her chakra covered fist into Naruto's head. He was sent backwards a few feet before he caught his footing. He rubbed at his nose, which started to bleed slightly, before turning his attention to Hinata.
"Well, glad to see you weren't distracted again." He noted with a smirk.
"I wasn't going to fall for that trick again…" She replied as she rubbed her forehead from the sweat again. "This is far… from over."
Naruto's response was to hold out his right hand, causing an adamantine chain to rush forward. Hinata side-stepped just in time, causing the chain to crash into the ground. Naruto then tugged on the chain, pulling himself right towards her, his fist raised.
Hinata prepared to block his fist, but just as he was about to punch her in the face, he vanished with a flicker. Using the Shunshin, he moved directly behind her, a Rasengan formed in his hands. Before he could plunge the jutsu into her back, though, Hinata turned around in time and punched the orb with one of her chakra-shroud covered fists.
The collision of the Rasengan with her Gentle Step: Twin Lion Fists, created an explosion that knocked the two backwards, both crashing into the ground and rolling on it as they moved back.
'Since the Gentle Step technique drains chakra, I thought it could actually counter the Rasengan. I should have known that one powered by Sage Mode and Bijū chakra would be too much…' Hinata gritted her teeth for a moment as she tried to steady herself.
Naruto, as soon as he stopped rolling on the ground, pulled himself off the ground and turned his head towards Hinata. He briefly tapped the ground before he took in a deep breath before his eyes narrowed.
'Alright, you asked for it. I'm going to trust you when you said you'd be okay.' He told himself before he channeled chakra quickly into his mouth: "Bijūdama!"
Hinata's eyes widened in horror. She proceeded to jump out of the way, barely avoiding the Bijūdama which continued to fly until it reached the wall of the arena, creating a small hole in it.
Naruto then launched another bijūdama directly at her. Hinata continued to move, dodging the next attack as she jumped into the air. As she was about to land on the ground, though, her Byakugan noticed what was waiting for her.
Directly underneath her position was a shadow clone of Naruto that he had created, seemingly waiting for her to land on the ground before jumping out and attacking her when she would be staggered.
She hissed slightly before channeling chakra into the palm of her hands, forming chakra threads. As she landed on the ground, she sent the chakra thread into the earth, cutting through the battlefield and piercing the clone underneath, dissipating it.
Hinata turned towards Naruto just as he unleashed another large, black orb of chakra directly at her at a rapid pace. As it flew towards her, it doubled in size.
Not feeling like she can properly jump in time, Hinata lifted her hands upwards, pointing her chakra threads at the oncoming orb. The bijūdama, in response, did not decrease in size but the threads managed to push back on it, slowly it down exponentially.
She bit her lip in response: 'I managed to destroy that Scorch release jutsu earlier, but this will require more. As much senjutsu chakra as I can manage…'
Hinata took in a deep breath as she began to channel as much of her remaining senjutsu chakra into the chakra threads as possible. The chakra threads, in response, changed color to a deep, dark purple, resembling the coloration of the poison cloud she had created at the beginning of the fight.
"Sage Art: Protection of the Eight Trigrams: Sixty-four Palms!"
Hinata made multiple swiping gestures as she sent the senjutsu-enhanced chakra threads into the bijūdama in various angles. The threads continued to push further into it, bringing the orb into a standstill, but it still continued to push back, trying to move. The stalemate applied enough weight that Hinata could feel her feet digging into the ground, pushing her back.
Nevertheless, she remained focused on her jutsu, slicing at the orb with her chakra threads. After what felt like forever to her, the bijūdama finally began to show signs of cracks. She tightened her palms as she moved them faster, channeling every bit of senjutsu chakra she could.
And, as her eyes lost the yellow-coloration and she lost her Sage Mode, the bijūdama collapsed, reduced to fragments of black chakra that quickly dissipated.
'I did it-'
Hinata's eyes widened in horror as, with the bijūdama no longer taking her entire focus, she noticed Naruto charging at her, his fist extended. She turned her body towards him, releasing the chakra threads – which had gone-back to a blue coloration – at him. The threads tore into his skin, causing him to bleed heavily. He gritted his teeth from the pain, but continued on his path as he reached her.
Upon closing the distance, he punched forward at Hinata's stomach. She choked up a large amount of blood as she was knocked backwards.
Without Sage Mode to boost her defenses, as well as her exhaustion at this point in the match, Hinata flew a great distance, only finally coming to a halt as she passed the edge of the arena. Her body immediately crashed into the ground with a loud thud.
Naruto stood still for a moment as he breathed somewhat heavily. His bijū cloak faded as he began to wipe at some of his actively bleeding injuries before he walked over to the side of the arena. He then looked down as he watched his wife slowly try to pull herself.
"What a STUNNING display!" Sōzōshī exclaimed: "But with another great match comes another well-deserved victory. The winner of the Semi-Final match is Uzumaki Naruto!"
"JUST HOW STRONG IS THIS GUY?!"
"WE GET TO WATCH HIM FACE MIFUNE-SAMA NEXT!"
A small smile developed on Naruto's face as the cheering continued, but he quickly brushed it off as Hinata finally managed to stand-up on her own feet. His smile widened as he proceeded to sit down at the edge of the arena.
"You beat me… with a punch…" Hinata mumbled as she wiped at her lip, trying to brush off some of the blood: "Couldn't you have used the Rasengan… or any jutsu really… at least? Would have hurt… my pride less."
"Really? You managed to cut-up a bijūdama and your concern is your pride?" Naruto asked with a snort.
"Eh… Hehehe… heh…" Hinata giggled lightly in response as she rubbed the back of her head. A smile then developed on her face: "You did… use the bijūdama on me."
He nodded his head, his smile returning: "Knew you'd be able to do something about it."
"That's right… I did…" She nodded her head: "How'd you think I did? How… far behind… do you think I am from you?"
Naruto shook his head, his smile morphing into a grin: "Hinata, if you keep training at the level you are, you'll get stronger than me at some point!"
Hinata was quiet for a moment as she stared at her husband, her eyes narrowing slightly.
'I'm still out of breath and it hurts to even stand, but he's still good to keep fighting. Our levels are not as close he says they are.' She noted: 'However… he did exactly he promised. I can tell. While he definitely could have fought longer and harder and outpaced me… I don't think he held back…' A grin formed on her face as she nodded her head in approval: 'And I managed to hold my own. It's… It's a start.'
'It means that, as long as I keep up like this, he's not out of reach. One day, I can catch up!'
"Thank you… Naru-"
It was at that point that Hinata's legs gave-out once more. Before she could fall to the ground, though, Naruto jumped down towards her and caught her, holding her in a bridal-carry.
"Best… of luck… against… Mifune…" Hinata mumbled slightly before she closed her eyes and succumbed to her exhaustion.
"Heh. Thanks." Naruto smiled in response as he held onto her tighter.
The only response he got was some light breathing from his wife, which only caused him to chuckle.
"Alright, time to get you to medical then." He stated.
He could hear the cheers growing even louder – and he just realized that the majority of the Tetsu no Kuni audience who only just learned of shinobi most likely did not know that he and Hinata were a couple. He felt as if he could hear some chants hypothesizing about their relationship, but he pushed them to the side and just focused on the woman in his arms.
'I'm so proud of you, Hinata…'
After walking back inside the stadium's hallways, Naruto was escorted alongside a pair of samurai paramedics who intended on treating Hinata. They had initially requested to carry Hinata off themselves, but Naruto insisted that he carry over there, resulting in a begrudging agreement that he would drop her off and leave them to their treatment.
He was escorted deeper into the building until he reached a large room that resembled a hospital wing. In the room were a few beds that had been prepared for the combatants of the tournament in case of emergency.
On the beds, four fighters remained unconscious: Yoshiteru, Han, Risho, and Toki. Sazanami and Chiyomatsu - the guy who Hinata had beaten quickly in the first round - were conscious and attending to their wounds, seemingly ignoring Naruto's presence. The other three occupants, however, turned their attention towards both Naruto and the woman in his arms.
"It seems you won another round, Uzumaki-san." Okisuke noted, a small smirk on his face.
"You had to fight Hinata?" Dosu asked, his eye widened. Naruto nodded his head in response, causing the tokubetsu jōnin to sigh: "Marital problems already it seems, hmm? My condolences."
"Ah, shut up. It wasn't anything like that." Naruto snorted in response: "She wanted to have a full-on battle with no holding back."
He carried Hinata over to the nearest empty bed before laying her down. As soon as her body touched the bed, the samurai attendants pushed him to the side as they began to tend to her injuries. Naruto huffed in response but turned away from them, knowing they needed to get to work.
"That's your wife?" Menma asked. Naruto, again, nodded his head: "I… I guess you said she wanted to fight seriously, but isn't that going too far? I don't think I could fight someone I love like that."
Naruto frowned in response: "That's-"
"Menma-san, they wanted to fight each other without holding back. It's a sign they respect each other as warriors." Okisuke said sharply, crossing his arms: "To do anything less would be an insult. My own wife would stab me in my sleep if I dared to hold back against her in a fight."
"… Ah." Menma looked downward in response: "You're right. I'm sorry for being insensitive."
The Uzumaki shrugged, his frown turning back into a smile: "Don't worry about it!"
"I must say, even from here, I could sense the nature energy you and Hinata-san used in your battle. I must admit to being extremely impressed with both of your strength and fighting spirit." Okisuke said: "Perhaps before you return to your village, you and I can have a true battle with no holding back. It really does seem I have misjudged you shinobi."
"Ah!" Naruto's eyes widened in response before he rubbed the back of his head sheepishly: "Well, I'd love to fight you again! And that's nice of you to say. I'm glad I haven't given a bad impression of us, y'know?"
"In regards to your strength and character, it's impossible to get a bad impression of you." Dosu spoke-up. Naruto's cheeks reddened slightly as he began to look down. A smirk then formed on Dosu's face: "Your intellect on the other hand, though… that leaves some to be desired-"
"Oi, fuck off with that. I'm not that dumb." Naruto hissed.
As Dosu chuckled in response, Naruto's eyes moved towards the other occupants of the room. His eyes focused on Hinata for a moment, watching the samurai still attend to her. He watched her breathing for a moment, noting the relaxed tone to it – as if she were sleeping. He smiled at her before his eyes moved a few beds past towards Han.
The Gobi jinchūriki had his mask and armor stripped and laying to the side of his hospital bed, which was always an unusual and somewhat disturbing sight for Naruto. His skin still appeared red from his body overheating in the battle and he had plenty of bandages wrapped over his body.
'… It's funny, I don't think I've ever seen him like this. Even when we fought the Akatsuki, he didn't seem this injured.' Naruto noted to himself, tilting his head. 'Probably had to do with all of us jinchūriki being together more than anything, but that really says something about fighting Mifune.'
"Your next match is with Mifune-sama, correct?" Okisuke asked, pulling Naruto out of his thoughts. He nodded his head: "I hope you are prepared, then. Despite his age, he is ruthless and uncompromising on the battlefield when he fights someone he respects as an opponent, and I have no doubt you've piqued his interest."
"The Samurai Generals have been traditionally regarded as Kage-level in strength." Dosu noted before his eye narrowed on Naruto: "Are you prepared to face someone on the same level as Hokage-sama?"
"Are you kidding me?" Naruto grinned in response as he slammed his fist into his right palm: "I'm more than ready! I'm gonna avenge Han-nii and kick his ass!"
"You… You truly think you can beat Mifune-sama?" Menma asked with wide eyes.
"… Heh. Hahahaha." Okisuke laughed as he pulled himself out of his bed. "This fight already seems promising. I refuse to be cooped up in a hospital bed for it."
As the four discussed amongst one another Naruto's upcoming fight with Mifune, Hinata continued to be treated by the samurai attendants, who were applying healing salves to her wounds now that they finished assessing her vitals.
No one seemed to notice the small grimace that formed on her lips as she continued to sleep.
"So, that's what you are capable of. Being able to destroy a bijūdama on your own with senjutsu… how marvelous!"
Tōneri could not hide his grin; he knew the girl had to be strong, but she exceeded all of his expectations. Beauty, grace, wisdom, strength; she was the complete package. She would make both the perfect wife and the perfect mother.
'With our genes, how strong will our children be?' He wondered, his smile morphing into a sneer as he began to recall the sudden and unwelcomed appearance of Zetsu: 'That monster thinks I would want to revive Kaguya to bring back the Ōtsutsuki, but why would anyone wish for that when she is right here. Hyūga Hinata; you will be the matriarch of the new generation of the Ōtsutsuki!'
Before his daydreaming could go on any longer, he returned his focus back to the Tetsu no Kuni capitol, taking in the sight of Naruto bridal-carrying Hinata. Tōneri's facial expression twisted once more, forming a deep scowl.
'While Hinata was able to destroy a bijūdama, she should never have been put in such a position. This man-' He shook his head: 'No, this monster needs to be put down. I don't know how you managed to steal Hinata's heart up to this point, but I will take her away from you. I will help her see the truth; of her fate with me, of this accursed world, and of your true nature, you filthy creature!'
With this thought in mind, Tōneri proceeded to bring his hands together as he began to channel throughout his body. As he focused, the bandages on his head unraveled, revealing his Tenseigan to the world.
As the healing process had not finished properly, blood could be seen dripping from them; nevertheless, they glowed a bright blue coloration that created almost a beacon from the mountain top he sat on. Tōneri grinned as his chakra was transmitted to different sources.
"I waited around long enough. Hinata, please take my ultimatum seriously." He spoke softly before he made a hand sign.
'More myths. More folklore. More myths. More… Arrrggghhh.' Neji groaned, bringing his hands to his face: "The Rikudō Sennin and his brother were around over a thousand years ago, walking this earth, and people did not think to keep better records of anything they said or did? Ridiculous."
The Hyūga had spent more of his time focusing on studying the Kūsho Byakugan while Hinata concentrated on the Tenseigan, and he was maybe two more books of useless 'myths' away from just leaving the subject entirely to her. His research into the Kūsho Byakugan was going somewhere and, after his talk with Yugito and further research, he felt like had a genuine hypothesis to test out regarding the upgrade. In contrast, the Tenseigan still felt like an unobtainable legend to him.
'Ōtsutsuki Hamura was a real person. He wasn't just 'The Man in the Moon'. Some of these records are written records of life in that time, so how did no one bother to learn concrete information and write-it down.' He noted.
After a few more moments of scanning for information, Neji sighed as he closed another book before reaching out for another in his pile.
Neji was so focused on his studies and frustrations that he failed to notice the two 'figures' in the corner tensed for a brief moment before they placed their books down and turned their attention solely on the Hyūga.
"Grandfather?" Hinata's eyes widened.
In all of her life, she could not ever recall having neither a dream nor nightmare involving Hyūga Yoshikane, not even when his involvement with ROOT was plaguing her mind. Nevertheless, hear she was, sitting at a shogi board across from the former Hyūga Head, fully conscious of her having a dream.
"Have you never played shogi before, Hinata?" Yoshikane asked with a snort as he made the first move: "I figured you would have, with that Nara teammate of yours."
"… No, I have. I'm not very good at it, but I have." She replied, her eyes narrowing as she moved her own first piece: "What do you want, grandfather?"
Yoshikane shook his head, moving his next piece: "Is that anyway to speak to the recently deceased?"
A sigh escaped her lips: "Even in my dreams, you still consider your imprisonment to be death, huh?" She then reached for her next piece: "It's just the consequences of-"
"I'm not speaking metaphorically, Hinata." Yoshikane replied, sighing: "This is not a normal dream. I am dead. Truly."
"Huh?" Hinata blinked her, her hand freezing as she was about to finish placing her next piece: "What does that mean?"
"Good gods, do I need to repeat myself all the time? And you expected me to be comfortable letting you and Neji to run the clan…" The Hyūga elder snorted: "Yes, I'm dead, but that doesn't mean I have all the time in the world! Are you going to make a move or not? I'm waiting!"
Hinata wordlessly finished placing her shogi piece, her eyes narrowed on the image. The two were quiet as they began to make moves on the shogi board for almost a minute before she broke the silence once again.
"You… no matter how much you speak like him, you're just a dream." She noted.
"Not the superstitious type, are you? Odd, considering you're in a foreign country, chasing legends in hopes of obtaining a myth." Yoshikane noted. Another snort escaped his lips, but it sounded lighter in tone, almost like a chuckle: "I've learned quite a bit in my short time in the afterlife and how connected our blood is to our ancestors. Perhaps it must be because the direct blood line of the Clan Head still traces itself all the way back to the progenitor…" He moved a piece, capturing one of her pawns with a knight.
"That… makes no sense…" Hinata mumbled, shaking her head as she moved a rook to capture her grandfather's knight.
"What doesn't? That the dead can speak to the living?" Yoshikane snorted once more: "There's a jutsu that lets the dead walk and fight like a slave, and you think it'd be impossible for a spirit to talk to someone?"
"I've never had any of our ancestors try to speak to me." Hinata replied: "If… If I truly believed you were dead, then why would you be talking to me?"
"Believe me, I don't want to really be talking to you now. I've gathered it's a faux-pas in the lead of the dead to try and speak to the living, anyway." Yoshikane admitted, moving another knight forward on the board: "But I didn't really have a choice in this matter. I found myself here, almost waiting for you to come here. I'd imagine it's because you are near my eyes."
"… Near your eyes?" Hinata repeated, frowning: "What do you mean by that?"
"He means that I am communing with you once more, Hinata."
Hinata's eyes widened at the voice. She looked beyond her grandfather's figure and saw Ōtsutsuki Tōneri walking towards them. The man had a serene smile on his face and his eyes were no longer covered by his bandages, revealing the Tenseigan to her.
"Tōneri…" Hinata mumbled his name for a moment, standing up from the board and taking a step back.
"First you kill me, and now you interrupt a conversation with my granddaughter?" Yoshikane snorted, not looking back at the approaching man: "You have no class, boy. Your parents should be ashamed of how they raised you."
"Don't speak of my upbringing, scum!" Tōneri hissed, his smile quickly dropping: "You are not welcome here, spirit. Leave."
Panic quickly formed on Yoshikane's face as he turned towards Hinata: "Hinata, please, tell Hiashi I am sorry. Tell my son that-"
Before he could finish his words, the spirit began to dissipate. Within seconds, his body vanished as if he had never been there.
"A cruel old man like him… he had nothing worth saying. Just wanted to verbalize some last-minute regrets in life before he passed." Tōneri noted, shaking his head.
Hinata was still for a moment, her hand going to her chest. Despite the dream-like state, she could feel her breathing growing heavier-and-heavier as her eyes flickered back from where Yoshikane had been towards Tōneri.
'He… this… this is real? This dream… he… Grandfather really is…' Hinata felt a pang in her heart as her breathing grew heavier: 'No… this can't be…' Her eyes then moved to Tōneri: 'You… You…'
"You killed him?" She asked.
"Of course. How do you think-" Tōneri momentarily stopped talking as he noticed a spike in killing intent from Hinata. He frowned: "Hinata, I have observed you your whole life. This man was abusive scum to you, your cousin, your father, and to the whole Hyūga Clan in general. Do you truly resent me this much for ending that pathetic man's life?"
"… Hyūga Yoshikane was a complicated man. He was not a good person." Hinata admitted. She felt her eyes begin to water as she shook her head: "But he was my grandfather… HE WAS MY GRANDFATHER AND YOU KILLED HIM!"
"… I don't understand." Tōneri's frown deepened for a moment before it quickly flipped back into a smile: "But I suppose it is fitting. You've always been gentle; you would forgive even a man like him."
"YOU DON'T KNOW ME!" She growled as she took a step forward, her Byakugan activating and lion-shaped chakra shrouds forming around her arms: "GET OUT OF MY DREAM BEFORE I KILL YOU!"
"No, I think I'll stay here and I'd rather you talk to me." The Ōtsutsuki said with a chuckle as he held up his hands: "After all, you'll want to hear what I have to say, unless you wish to lose more."
Hinata's eyes narrowed: "What?"
"Tensions are high right now, I understand. I want to have a better talk with you and properly explain things, but you definitely aren't in a place to listen to me. So, as I requested earlier, you'll come meet with me at the tallest mountain in the Sanrō Mountain Range in three days." Tōneri stated as his face morphed into a malicious grin: "You'll come if you wish for Neji to live."
A pause. Horror quickly filled Hinata's body as she took a step backwards, her eyes widening: "Wh-What?" The horror quickly faded and returned to rage: "What… What have you done with him!?"
"I'll do nothing, so long as you come." Tōneri said, still chuckling as his body began to fade: "I'll see you in three days Hinata. I trust you'll come alone; I'll spare Neji as I just promised, but anyone else who accompanies you with – especially Uzumaki Naruto – will be murdered."
Before Hinata could get out another word, the world of her dream began to crumble around her.
And within seconds, she had returned to reality as she pulled herself up out of her bed, a scream escaping her lips.
"LET'S START THE FINAL MATCH!"
"LET'S START THE FINAL MATCH!"
"MIFUNE-SAMA, TAKE HIM DOWN!"
"MAKE US PROUD!"
"NARUTO-SAMA, YOU'VE DONE A GREAT JOB! BUT MIFUNE-SAMA HAS THIS!"
"LET'S START THE FINAL MATCH!"
The chanting was non-stop after Sōzōshī announced the recess before the final match. It continued for the whole thirty minute period, to the point that Sōzōshī's announcement for the final match could barely be heard around the arena.
Naruto and Mifune both walked up from their respective waiting areas. Naruto had a grin on his face as he cracked his knuckles as he began to channel nature energy. Mifune, meanwhile, walked forward with a calm smile on his face, his right hand gripping the hilt of Kurosawa.
"You know, they were at one point cheering my name over-and-over. Now I'm chopped liver next to you." Naruto mumbled, rubbing the back of his head.
"Do you desire to be 'chopped liver'?" Mifune asked, his smile turning into a smirk as he drew his sword: "I'm more partial to sliced, but I can make that work."
"Very funny, old man." The Uzumaki scoffed as he closed his eyes: "Let's see if you'll be able to say that again when I beat your ass!"
"I'd love to see you try. Honestly." Mifune replied: "Han-san provided me one of the best fights I've had in years and I'm hoping that, at the very least, you can match him."
Naruto was quiet for a moment as he focused solely on his channeling of nature energy. After a few more seconds passed, he opened his eyes, revealing the yellow eyes of his Sage Mode once more. The Kyūbi chakra cloak followed-suit as he prepared for battle.
"I'll do more than 'match him'; I'm going to avenge him!" He stated.
"Well, everyone, we're in for a real treat! Let the FINAL match of our Samurai-Shinobi Goodwill Tournament, between our Samurai General Mifune and the Konoha shinobi Uzumaki Naruto, begin-"
Before either Mifune or Naruto could make the first move in their fight, the door to the arena burst open and two figures rushed to the arena's battlefield.
The first was Mifune's second attendant, only equal to Okisuke, Urakaku. And the second was Nii Yugito.
"Is that Urakaku-sama?"
"What's he doing here?"
"WHO CARES WHY HE'S HERE! URAKAKU-SAMA, GET OUT!"
"DON'T INTERRUPT THE FIGHT1"
"Yugito?" Naruto blinked, his body starting to relax slightly: "What are you-"
"Urakaku." Mifune spoke sharply, his demeanor shifting from a fighter ready for his next match to the Samurai General of Tetsu no Kuni: "Report."
"The Historical Library… It was attacked!" Urakaku stated.
Naruto's and Mifune's eyes widened: "What?"
The final match was canceled abruptly as Naruto and Mifune, along with all the conscious and able-bodied shinobi and samurai combatants in the tournament, followed Urakaku and Yugito to the Tetsu no Kuni Historical Library. A few minutes after leaving the tournament, the group arrived and stared in horror.
The library's ceiling and the seventh floor had been completely destroyed. Remnants of a fire could be seen at the top and a few samurai attendants were already on the scene, extinguishing the flames. Wood and stone, as well as torn and charred books and pages, were scattered on the ground around the building.
"What… the… fuck?" Kankurō mumbled, speaking everyone's base thoughts aloud.
"… Is there any sign of the perpetrator?" Mifune asked Urakaku.
The samurai shook his head: "Negative. It is to my shame, but none of us sensed any attacker until it was too late."
"Was anyone injured?" Mifune asked.
"No bodies were found, but-"
"Oi… Yugito." Naruto interrupted Urakaku as he turned to face his fellow jinchūriki. His eyes narrowed as he felt his voice begin to shake: "Y-You and Neji were studying right? Where… Where is he?"
Yugito's hands tightened into fists as she looked downward: "He… Naruto, there's no sign of him-"
A scream drew everyone's attention as they saw Hinata running towards the library. Despite her speed, the girl was wincing with each step and it appeared as if her treatment had not been finished, as she still had open bleeding and burns on her body. She, however, did not seem at all concerned at her own physical condition as she continued towards the library.
As quickly as she arrived, she took one look at the building's condition before realization dawned on her. She began to cry heavily as she fell to her knees.
"H-Hinata!" Naruto rushed over to her side, trying to help her up.
"Dammit… Goddammit! It was too late…" She mumbled, her tears hitting the ground as she resisted Naruto's help. She slammed a fist into the ground, causing her knuckles to bruise on impact: "DAMN YOU ŌTSUTSUKI TŌNERI! GIVE NEJI-NII-SAN BACK TO US!"
Her scream earned no response, but she had a feeling that she could almost hear the man – that monster – chuckling in her mind.
All it did was infuriate her more.
Author's Note: Hey everyone! Chapter 142 is finished! :)
NARUTO VERSUS HINATA HYPE! That was far and away the big priority for this chapter (to the point that I never interruputed it once the fight happened at all) and, honestly, of this little tournament mini-arc cause I REALLY wanted to give them a chance to fight each other in a way that was more meaningful than a standard sparring session. Not enough fanfics give them a chance to actually fight one another, so I hope I did a good job and did it justice! This was easily one of the most fun fights I have ever written!
But... onto more important things with the plot. Dun dun dun.
I think I've gotten a little more freetime than usual once more. I have gotten a significant amount of chapter 143 done, so I can promise that update before the end of the month, but my real goal is to hopefully get that and 144 done before I start posting. I'll post 143 regardless, but I'd love to get back ahead once more, especially as it's looking more and more like a possibility!
Anyway, don't have a ton to say at the moment, other than I hope you all are doing lovely and well and I'll see you all real soon when chapter 143 is done and up! Until then :)