Hello, thar. Meinos Kaen here!
As promised, here we are with the next part of CoU. With a landslide, our Naruto has decided to prioritize training over checking if something else has been screwed over by The White. Yes, I'm going to write it capitalized from now on for emphasis. So, I'll let you get right to it... After a service announcement! I finally found an use for Twitter that it isn't just to post more quickly on Facebook!
From now on, I'm going to post the most amusing excerpts and phrases of my next updates on Twitter, before the actual chapter gets published. Some times they will be amusing, some times they could contain huge spoilers for the most attentive readers and some times I'm going to enjoy quakeing with your brain with what I write. Out of context, some sentences can become something else entirely. *cackles*
Well, with that out of the way, and reminding you of the links on the blog's right, I give you the next part of Corridor of Uncertainty!
Meinos Kaen out!
“Hmm... I suppose I should check if I lost any strength or techniques first.” 'To training it is, then!' Punching his right palm with his left fist, Naruto headed for the door.
“Well, this place is unchanged." Naruto observed the water as it flowed under the bridge. He had decided to take a small detour. The usual meeting place of his original team. He sighed, wishing for a moment that it was a few years back. It would have given a sense to everything. 'Nostalgia. It's so NOT me.'
"Nostalgia doesn't fit you, Naruto." He turned around to face his mind-reader, finding a teasing smile under blue eyes and long blonde hair.
"What? Can't I reminisce too, Ino?" He said with a frown as he crossed his arms. The girl in violet just chuckled.
"Not with that long face. Although, it almost makes you look thoughtful. I take that back: mope all you want!" He groaned as the girl closed the distance till she sat on the opposite side of the bridge from him.
'Yamanaka Ino. A friend from the academy, rival of one of my team-mates in both ninja-hood and love. She always acts bossy and teases me because of my less than stellar academic past. Although she may act vapid from time to time, she is very intelligent and competitive.' Naruto thought and then blinked. 'And why exactly am I reading her resume in my head?'
“Naruto, staring into space isn't helping your cause.” He was broke out of his reverie by her mocking voice, which caused him to frown again.
'Thinks she's so smart, huh?' “Well, if you're oh so smarter than me, let's see if you can answer me this question! What's a fennel?” He barked out the unknown word from that morning's message, which caused Ino to blink and stare at him like he had just grown a second head. He smirked. 'Hmph. Not so smart are you, n-'
“Oh my god, you're serious! BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!” She suddenly broke into a fit of unlady-like laughter. It was Naruto's turn to stare as she held her stomach. “I can't believe this! You were challenging me about knowing the name of a plant?! Ahahahah!”
“... It's a flower?” He blurted out. He bit his tongue immediately after.
“... Oh my god, you didn't even know! AHAHAHAH! THIS IS TOO MUCH!” She was now leaning on the bridge for support while Naruto blushed up to his ears.
“S-Shut up! Unlike you, I don't work in a flower shop!” 'The most I do is take care of my plants, but I'm not a cono-conoie-Whatever! A plant-otaku!' He retorted, while Ino breathed deeply, trying to calm herself down.
“Alright, alright. I'm done. Oh, my sides hurt.” Straightened her clothes and hair, Ino cleared her throat. “Well, do not worry. Ino-sama will impart that thick head of yours with some knowledge about flowers.” Naruto pouted while she posed, hand on her chest and another on her hips. She then raised the hand from her chest and stretched the index finger to the sky. A true teacher. “A fennel, my dear Naruto, is a plant with yellow flowers and feathery leaves of the family Apiaceae. It's highly aromatic, it has uses in medicine and cooking and it's one of the main ingredients of absinthe. In the language of flowers, it means 'worthy of all praise' or 'strength'.”
“... Thanks, I guess.” He let out grudgingly, since the matter had been bugging him. She chuckled at the praise he forced out of his mouth.
“No problem, knucklehead. If you ever have any questions about plants, you know where to find me.” She said with a satisfied smile. “Now, I should go. Shikamaru and Choji are waiting for me. Team training, you know.”
“Really? Say hi to them from me.” With a nod and a wave, she started walking away in the direction he had come from. He sighed, recovering from the embarrassing two minutes he had just gone through. “Well, at least now I know what a fennel is-Ah!” He got startled when something started to vibrate on his chest. “What the-Ah, right! The Messenger!” He opened his jacket and dove inside for the object. “Another message?” Not this time. The display said... “'You got a new app'? What the hell is an app?”
He opened said 'new app', which brought him face to face with...
“... Ino's guide to Flower Language?” 'What the hell?!'
"Huff... Huff..." Catching his breath, Naruto observed his handiwork, which consisted of the side effects of him and his clones punching holes in whatever was at disposal, be it rocks, trees or each other. The latter was quite difficult since he had discovered of still being able to use Sage Mode and gather nature chakra, which tended to make his body quite sturdy. His copies disappeared, his stamina now depleted. "Seems like... My chakra and stamina didn't drop... Aaah!"
He had been going at it for more than four hours, without pause. Because that was his style. But it also wasn't a good idea. Tired, he let gravity do his job and drag his back to meet the ground. “I'll just... Rest my eyes a bit.”
… … … 'Soft. Has the ground always been so soft? Has the grass always smelled this good?' … … … 'No, wait. There's no way the ground is so comfy, and warm. Also, this isn't grass, it's some kind of flower. But there are no flowers on this training ground.'
“... Uto-kun! Naruto-kun!”
'Someone's calling me? I know that voice.'
'She sounds worried. Ahh, I'd better open my eyes.' His eyelids slowly opened up, light returning to his vision once again, colors and shapes filling his field of-
That was the first adjective that came to his mind. Not as big as, say, Tsunade but still pretty damn big. He was Jiraiya's apprentice and it showed. It took him just a fraction of second to understand exactly what he was staring at. 'Holy-!'
“Naruto-kun, are you awake?” Also to Jiraiya's merit, it took some effort to shift his gaze a bit above and lay it on the face to which they belonged, framed by long dark blue hair. He almost lost the hard earned focus when she sighed in relief, which did some interesting things to the first objects of his attention. “Thank goodness.”
“H-Hinata.” Naruto went red in the face from his resting spot on Hinata's tights but the girl seemed to ignore it, rewarding his waking state with a smile. “What-What are you doing here?”
“I was going back home from team training and I saw you passed out and I got worried.” She answered, a tiny bit of worry still showing in her eyes. “I'm glad that you're okay.”
'Hyuuga Hinata. A really shy and once meek girl who eventually broke out of her shell and stood up for herself. First daughter of the head of the Hyuga clan, possessors of the Byakugan. Despite her gentle nature, she's a strong kunoichi. She confessed to me.' He blinked as he realized he had done it again. 'Seriously, what-!' “SON OF A BITCH!”
“WAH!” Sudden, too sudden for her, Naruto rolled on the ground away from her and then stood up in a crouch, his face redder than her own one, judging by the heat on her cheeks. “N-N-Naruto-kun! What's wrong?!”
“What's wrong?! You-Don't you remember that you mowhaued lo be?!” Naruto's latest blabbering erased any trace of tension from the scene. 'GOD DAMN IT! AGAIN?!'
“N-Naruto-kun, are you sure you're well?” Hinata asked, concerned. The blonde stared at her incredulous.
'Is she playing dumb or what? Doesn't she remember that when Pein-Wait.' When Pein had attacked, Hinata had confessed. There was the little matter, though, that Pein still had to arrive. 'So, no Pein, no fight, no confession. She doesn't know that I know.' He sighed in relief but then noticed that it wasn't a shared emotion. “Ah! I'm sorry, Hinata! It's just that, hum... I was afraid I had lost something, but... Huu...” He picked out the Messenger from his pocket. “Here it is! I found it! All is well!”
“A-Ah. Okay.” Hinata didn't seem that convinced, but that Naruto was acting norm-Well, Narutoish, was enough to make her at ease. He patted himself on the back for a job well done and stood up, closing the gap between him and the busty kunoichi once again. She stood up as he approached. “I'm glad you're alright, Naruto-kun...”
“Heh, you know me. Nothing's gonna bring me down! I was just exhausted from training!” He declared with a grin. “Thanks for waking me up, otherwise I would have missed lunch! Sorry you had to waste your time!”
“It was no problem.” She replied, head lowered and a healthy blush on her cheeks. She had come a long way from the meek girl she once was, but she still couldn't help but act like this around Naruto.
'Damn. I really have no experience with girls. It becomes so obvious once you know it.' All the little things, the way she acted around him and the return of the stutter... 'Maybe I should have let ero-sennin also teach me ab-No! Don't go there!' He focused on what was important. The girl standing in front of him. "Well, let me make it up to you. Let me buy you lunch!"
Hinata raised her head at that, blush still in place. "L-Lunch?" The blush intensified. "With Naruto-kun?"
"Yep. So that I can th-Oh, wait." Hinata went from embarrassed to confused. "Your family's waiting for you. You were going there when you stopped to check on me."
"N-No! It's no problem-"
"Too bad. I really wanted to thank you." Not even Hinata's unusual loudness managed to get through Naruto's suddenly selective hearing. She hung her head low, dejected. "Well, just let me know when you're free then!"
"Heh?" Naruto gave her his patented full toothage grin, along with a thumbs up.
"You got a free 'Meal on Naruto' card! Just come see me whenever you're free, okay, Hinata?" Saying that, Naruto placed the Messenger back in the inner pocket of his jacket and zipped it up.
"B-But I'm free right n-"
"See ya!" With that, Naruto disappeared in an after image, leaving behind a gaping Hinata who then turned into pouting Hinata.
"Naruto-kun, you dummy..."
“Phew. What a day.” Naruto rubbed away the last leftover droplets of water from his hair with a towel while he walked to his apartment's door, locking it for the night. “Better go to sleep, so I can get an early start tomorrow.” A buzz and chime from his right pocket. “What now?”
“Is ero-senning sending me these things or what?!” The name was just too subgestive to-'Wait a minute. Maybe...' He opened the App he had received that day.
“So, someone is sending me messages telling me that I've collected plants and flowers but I haven't.” Naruto sighed and closed the App. “Whatever. Time to sleep. Got active duty, tomorrow!”
"Alright. Time for some action!" Naruto felt pumped as he stood in front of the doors to Tsunade's office. He still had buttloads of questions about his sudden situation, but his character would only take so much moping, lamenting and borderline insanity from him. Uzumaki Naruto faced his problems. He didn't know the how and why? Big deal. He was still going to make the most out of everything. And right now, that meant a second chance. 'I'm going to get so strong that Tobi won't know what hit him. Well, I'm going to need Kurama's help for that.' But he wasn't going to find his partner standing around. He punched his left palm and then threw open the doors. "Fear not! Uzumaki Naruto has arrived!"
"Yay. The Genin has arrived. The red carpet, now!" His smile turned into a frown while Tsunade laughed at his expenses. "Simmer down, brat. I wanted to talk to you about that, to tell the truth."
"Really, now. And-Huh." Naruto then noticed that no one from his team was currently in the room. "That's strange. Yamato-taichou is usually here before anyone else."
"Well, that's because you're going to fly solo for a while." That made Naruto confused. "You see, brat, starting today, you're under evaluation for a field promotion." More staring. "It means that you could make Chunin without the need for the exam."
"Eh?! Really?!" Now, if that wasn't a second chance...
"Yep. After all, the higher you climb, the easier it will be for you to become Hokage. Right, brat?" Tsunade threw him a small bone. He guessed he was expecting him to complain. "But since that means evaluating your individual ability, you won't be able to count on your original team. Sometimes teams just get put together, as you've recently experienced."
"Heh, yeah. Me and Sai didn't exactly hit it off." Naruto admitted, grinning sheepishly.
"That's what I'm talking about. Also, as a Chunin, that also means you can't choose your own missions. So, no complaining on that either." Tsunade added, crossing her arms over her chest. "So, what says you? Are you okay with all this?"
"You bet I do! Promotion, here I come!"
"Huh. Just like that?" Tsunade asked, surprised by the speed of his agreement. "I would have expected at least some complaints about going after... Well, you know."
"Let's just say I have a good feeling. So, missions!" Tsunade stared some more and then decided to label the behavior under 'This is Naruto'.
"Well, first I said that you wouldn't be able to choose your missions. That wasn't exactly true... For now. Don't get used to it, brat." Tsunade then picked up two scrolls from her desk's drawer, the one in her right hand green, the one in her left hand blue. "First, would you like a mission that doesn't require you to leave Konoha and its surroundings or are you up to some traveling?"
"Hmm..." Naruto put a hand to his chin, deep in thought, pondering both options.
- Stay in Konoha