The Last Prayer @graefoxx
18The Month-Long Cost

Hey guys,

This chapter gets us to within a few days of the Chuunin exams. I blocked out my ideas on Scrivner and I've written some of it. There's still a lot to write, but I feel confident I can get out two more updates before the summer demands all of my time. I'll definitely do my best to get at least to the second task of the exam.

I want to thank you all for supporting this fic and taking the time to comment. I truly do appreciate your point of views and they truly do help me become better, so thank you.

Warning: Lemons.

This chapter took a while to get right. It's 12.4K words. Enjoy!

KURENAI

Observational Log: W:11 D:02 67/?…

…Personal Notes:

I can't say that it's entirely due to Summer Fox's request, but I've been having a lot of anal sex. At first, it was simply about instructing him on the finer points of having safe and pleasurable anal intercourse, since then, it's morphed into… more. I can't blame him too much. I've always liked getting stuffed from the back and he's a good student; always eager. I may have to repeat instructions at times, but once he gets it, he does it to perfection… and of course, the thing that he's doing to perfection is making me cum from taking it in the ass.

Now we both enjoy it when he floods my ass with no less than two loads of his hot cum. He knows how to play with my sphincter during vaginal intercourse, how I like my ass cheeks kneaded and pulled, how to angle his thrusts so it rolls the thinly veiled neighbor that is my sexual organ as his cock draws out the best friction, how to man-handle my body by the neck, ass cheeks, or using my arms for leverage when he's pounding my rectum into the mattress; how to tug on my hair until my entire body just feels like a gigantic erogenous zone made for his pleasure. So, yeah, I really can't blame him for teaching him how I loved to be fucked.

Of course, I explained to him the importance of lubrication and the one I use not only aids in preventing tearing and other injuries from the rapid pumping, but also eliminates infections. I made sure he understood the different types of lubricant and that anal sex should only be done after proper preparation or the risk of injury and infection is high.

His knowledge base on sex is also getting better… It's getting to the point where I'm just… it's not quite practice, nor is it quite lovemaking, or even just fucking… I feel like he sees me now… intimately. Kami, how did I get here?

NARUTO

It's Saturday morning and despite having to face Tenten for Zabuza's Kubikiribōchō later in the evening, Naruto crosses his paired index and middle fingers before him, concentrating on amassing every ounce of Chakra he can feel within him and bringing it to the precipice of his tenketsus. As he builds the acidic influx of raw power to painful heights, he holds his raging spirit-energy there. Crouched as he was crying out gutturally in Iruka-sensei's backyard until he couldn't stand the pain any longer, he emphatically activates, "Tajū Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"

Nearly the entirety of the large back yard and even parts of the roof erupt into a massive puff of thick white smoke. There's so much puffy white gas it takes nearly two minutes for it to clear with the wind, unveiling at least two hundred clones of Naruto. Though proud, a weak and depleted Naruto lets out a gasp. Since he distributed all his chakra equally, he knows he's not actually out of chakra, but it still feels far less than what he's accustomed to. Like every morning since Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke-teme left, the large group of Narutos all search the seal within for the power of Kurama's chakra.

While not an exact science, splitting his entire reserve with this many clones makes Naruto feel like thin glass, easily broken with a single punch. However, when he calls on Kurama's outrageous amount of chakra to replenish twice what he used, he and his nearly two hundred clones feel twice as strong as his base level. Though he still hasn't seen this red tail of chakra Naru-nii told him about, Naruto does take a moment to enjoy the morning, feeling excited by his training regiment and the results he sees every day. Looking around, he spots a few clones with red eyes and fierce whiskers, but not a single clone loses himself to the chakra.

"All right," Naruto calls out once he's fully reinvigorated. "Everybody on this side, head to the waterfall. You know what to do and good luck!" There's a slurry of shouts and, "ossu!" before two-thirds of his clones all take to the trees.

"Now, I want all of you over here to keep studying Fūinjutsu. I opened all the scrolls about Fūinjutsu in Iruka-sensei's house, so if you don't have a scroll to study, head over to the library." Normally, telling any Naruto to read would prompt a disgusted look on his face, however, Fūinjutsu was different. It didn't feel like reading. It felt like remembering something he'd simply forgotten. He just understood it like nothing else and couldn't get enough of it.

"Mnn," Naruto hums looking at the remaining twenty-five. "Ten of you get to that sweatshop in the civilian sector and keep learning how to be a pro tailor." "Ossu!" they cry before rushing toward the fashion district of the civilian sector. "Don't forget to henge as a civilian!" Naruto shouts at the ten versions of himself rushing away before turning to the remaining fifteen.

"The rest of you, we gotta work those jobs we got if we ever want to buy a pair of Asuma-nii's chakra blades. While Sakura and I do D-ranks, one of you go back to the janitor job at the theater, three to the three restaurant jobs we got as a dishwasher. I know they suck but after a few months of that, we could be promoted to server—don't forget to tell them where the best ramen in Konoha is. Ah, and that one gig collecting garbage. The rest of you look for more work. With the Chūnin Exams coming up, a whole bunch of shops are looking to hire for the rush of people coming in. You already know cash jobs are the best so make me proud!"

"Ossu!" they yell before they head out.

Alone in the early morning sunlight of Iruka's wooded backyard, Naruto chuckles at the idea of commanding his clones like the Hokage commands his shinobi, then settles to a serious demeanor. While the clones can transfer back physical experience, like muscle memory, they can't transfer back physical strength gained in the repetitive experience. Naruto has to gain physical strength on his own, and so, despite facing Tenten later in the day, Naruto starts his physical conditioning.

Naruto meets with Sakura and they train together.

SAKURA

Like Sakura expected, Ino—henge'd as Naruto—used her large orange toy to bring her to orgasm, though the size took some getting used to. Sakura had asked Ino why she bought such a large vibrator, going so far as to even cite a few studies she's read on her newly found sexual awakening that points out how little size matters. "Penis size doesn't necessarily affect sexual function like orgasms or sexual drive. It's the expectation's of penis size that drives anxiety and dissatisfaction more than physical function." Ino may have agreed but she gave no clear answer as to why she bought a vibrator that's on the larger side.

Even with a kunoichi's mastery over their body's flexibility, it took Sakura a week to become accustomed to the size before she can enjoy it as much as everything else Ino's done. It's not that Sakura enjoys this activity with Ino-Naruto, but what else can she do without the photos. She's earned five and in the two weeks before Sasuke-kun's return, there's only four more to go. Sakura knows Ino's whole plan is to make her feel so good she'll admit that she doesn't need her love for Sasuke-kun to feel good. Sakura knows Ino is diluting her love for the last Uchiha using Naruto's face, but it won't work.

Though Sakura has to compartmentalize quite a bit to separate the Naruto Ino henges as with the Naruto she trains with, she's intelligent enough to do it. It helps that training with Naruto is so grueling, making it nearly impossible to combine her teammate Naruto, with the Naruto she moans with every orgasm. She will admit it's a little tougher not to think about the sexual activity she's done with his look-a-like when he's sweating and heaving.

'It can't be helped,' her mind comments. On top of Ino using his face and making her say his name when she orgasms, Sakura trains with him every day. They've been training together for months now and in that time, Sakura is happy to learn that she doesn't hate him, or even dislikes him. He's so focused on becoming stronger and getting better every day, she can't help but admire that about him.

'He beat a Jōnin,' her mind constantly reminds her in disbelief. No matter how it happened, that felt like the most unexpected moment in shinobi history. How can Sakura see her teammate and hate him as she once had after the Wave mission? He can set her off sometimes but training with Naruto has become such a normal part of her life and she doesn't mind it one bit. It's even easier when Kurenai-sensei is around.

It's clear to Sakura that Kurenai-sensei isn't put off by Naruto in any way; even when he asks dumb questions. Sakura had tried to apologize once on his behalf, but when the beautiful sensei responded, 'why would he need to apologize, Haruno-chan? I'm a sensei and he's a student. Obviously, I want to answer anything he's unsure of so he, and his team can always return home safely.' Sakura was blown away by something so simple. To Kurenai-sensei, Naruto was just a fellow leaf nin; not someone annoying who is an impediment to her love. Just a ninja like everyone else. Kurenai-sensei simply wants Naruto to be his best. 'No, she wants everyone to be their best. And that's all that matters to her.'

As the raven-haired Jōnin is more verbose in her attention to them, Sakura has really enjoyed the moments Kurenai-sensei is with them. Unlike Kakashi-sensei who allows Team 7 to make mistakes before he voices how they should change it, Kurenai-sensei asks for their thoughts during missions, actions or decisions before suggesting other possible choices and how they might develop. She also talks about the history of techniques and how they've evolved through the years as well as what techniques to expect from specific regions. Sakura always knew the shinobi world was large, but reading it in a text manual and hearing it from a first-rate Jōnin were two entirely different things.

Sakura now understands why Ino admires this woman so much. Aside from being beautiful, Kurenai-sensei is a strong positive role model who genuinely believes in the future generation that will inherit Konoha's Will of Fire. After two weeks with Kurenai-sensei, Sakura earnestly enjoyed identifying with a woman so much stronger than her. It's why nearly all the kunoichi look up to Tsunade-sama of the Legendary Sannin. In such a male-driven world, it can be amazing to witness proof that kunoichi can be just as strong if not stronger than shinobi. Tsunade-sama may not be in the village, but it's also wonderful to look up to Kurenai-sensei.

It makes Sakura more attentive and train to her limits every day, which is never hard with a teammate like Naruto.

Before they split up for their specialized training, Sakura asks Naruto, "are you going to use that technique on Tenten-chan? I get why you don't want her to have Kubikiribōchō but please tell me you can win without shredding her muscle fibers like you did with Zabuza's."

Naruto turns to her as they walk down the dirt path toward the market. It's a beautiful day as he gazes at the blue sky and answers, "hopefully I won't have to but I won't know until we fight. I've gotten pretty good at making it stronger or weaker though."

"I suppose it'll be fine with Kurenai-sensei there," Sakura mentions before asking, "you spend time at her house, right?"

"Yup," Naruto answers her with a wide grin.

"Have you ever seen Asuma-sensei there?"

Naruto tilts his head like he does when he's thinking before answering, "in the beginning, sure. He had dinner with us once—that was pretty nice—but he hasn't been over since. Why?"

"Um," Sakura voices, before wondering if she should inform Naruto of her's and Ino's intention of getting Asuma-sensei and Kurenai-sensei together. 'It might be beneficial to include Naruto if he's always over Kurenai-sensei's house,' her mind points out. "Never mind. It's nothing," she tells him, realizing he would probably ruin such a delicate situation somehow.

"If you want to come over, I can always ask," Naruto suggests with hopeful glee.

Though tempted, she shakes her head, "maybe next time." To her surprise, he just leaves it at that and when they split up, she meets Ino in her home. Though she didn't leave with a photo, she did leave with a wide smile and a nice tingle throughout her perky form. Sakura has taken to returning some of Ino-Naruto's attention just to frustrate Ino further. Leaving Ino hot and bothered is her only avenue of rebellion and she does it every day now.

INO

Even if it was slower, running through the forest was easier than the chakra concentration necessary to hop from tree branch to tree branch, but an aroused Ino finally made it to the half-mile-long waterfall. As she expected, she found a bunch of half-naked Narutos training in a way that was never explained to her. She can clearly see a splash of water every time they all cry out in unison but in her horny state, she cares very little about his training and more about his sexual organ.

Ino walks on the water's edge before nervously calling out, "uh, hey! Naruto? I mean the real one," she clarifies looking from the left of the Naruto buffet line to the right. One calls out, "Ino-chan?" Then her name migrates from one clone to the next until finally, one Naruto jumps down, naked but for his shorts with his wet muscles gleaming in the afternoon sun. The rushing sound of the waterfall is as hypnotic a sound as the sight of his bare-chested tanned body, making frustrated Ino throb between her legs.

"Hey, Ino-chan," Naruto starts with a bright smile. Ignoring her state of arousal, he comments, "I heard your team is back together," and Ino sobers some at the mention of her team. After nearly two weeks away, Chōji rejoined Team 10 a week ago. Despite how much he tried to act as if nothing had changed—despite his credible clan-related excuses for his long absence—he couldn't fool Shikamaru, Asuma-sensei, or her. He was far more aware to resemble that lovable fatass he once was. He looked like he survived a traumatic experience and the world just wasn't what it was anymore… a feeling she can easily relate to. While Asuma shrugged it off, it clearly bothered Skikamaru.

Ino had her mask so she wasn't worried about giving anything away, and the way he was acting, it didn't seem like he would say anything either. It took a few days, but when they were finally alone, he immediately begged—hands, knees, and forehead on the ground, begged—for her forgiveness.

"I didn't think- You have to believe I never wanted something like that to happen… never to you," Chōji cried. "You're like family to me and I… I just… I'm so so sorry Ino-chan! From the bottom of my heart, I'm so sorry!"

Ino wanted to cry along with him, but thanks to Kurenai-sensei, she truly felt past it. Kurenai-sensei helped her get better, so she told the crying prostrating boy to get up. "I'm not sure when I'll forgive you, Chōji, but I don't hate you-"

"I hate myself," Chōji interjected but Ino quickly responded, "well, you're not allowed to! I'm the one who was hurt, and I refuse to add a teammate who hates himself on top of that. If you want to do right by me then train. Train hard and don't let this happen again."

"It'll never happen again," Chōji assured her. "You have my word."

"Are you okay," Naruto asks, bringing her out of her thoughts to see he was worried about her.

Though he didn't need to, she still thought it was nice of him to ask, and answers, "I'm okay, thanks."

"If you want to talk about it, I'd listen," Naruto offers, moving a step closer for emphasis, and making her recall why she came out here in the first place. Though the urge had dulled, Ino reasoned there was still enough; 'plus, I already ran all the way out here. It wouldn't make sense to go back just because I'm a little calmer.'

"Thanks but I'd rather not," Ino tells him with a reassuring smile. "I just want to move on with my life."

"Yeah, I totally agree," Naruto happily conveys. "You can't ever let bad stuff keep you down, you know? Or else they win."

"Is that how you got through it? All the bad stuff, I mean," Ino asks, thinking of all the hate he sees every day.

"Mnn," he hums with a nod as he adds, "that, Ji-chan, Teuchi-jiji and Ayame-nee-chan, Iruka-sensei and training."

Looking up at all the clones erupting splashes of water from the rushing cascade of water, Ino asks, "is that what all this is? Training?"

Nodding, Naruto wonders aloud, "didn't Asuma-nii tell you?"

"Asuma-nii?" Ino quirks her brow.

"Yeah. He's been helping me with my training. I thought he might've told your team."

"No, I knew he was helping, I just didn't know you called him Asuma-nii," Ino explains.

"Oh, yeah," Naruto says with a shrug. "I'm really glad you came by. Um, do you think it would be okay if I came to see you sometime, like at the flower shop or somewhere else?"

Smiling, Ino easily detects an opportunity to play and asks, "Naruto-kun, are you asking me out on a date?"

"Wha? No," Naruto stutters, unsure if he should or shouldn't. "No, I mean- not that I wouldn't- Well, I uh, was thinking-"

"Because as a rule, I generally expect the men who ask me out to bring flowers and or chocolate, and be fully dressed," Ino jokingly stipulates. With sad brows and a pout, she asks, "don't you think I deserve flowers and chocolates?"

"I," Naruto tries to backpedal, searching his brain for reassuring words. "I, yes! I mean, of course, you deserve men- I mean, flowers! And chocolates!" Ino holds in her bubbling laughter as he nervously adds, "I was only- because you remember we liked it- friends, I mean. I mean, we would like it if we were friends!"

Ino lets her laughter free and a fatigued Naruto lets out an overly worn exhale, mumbling, "Ino-chan…"

"Sorry, sorry," Ino says, clear the corner of her eye. "I was only teasing. Yeah, we can hang out."

"Really!" Naruto lights up. She nods with a satisfied smirk, to which he adds, "Sweet! I'm training right now but maybe I could ask Kurenai-sensei if you can come over for dinner. Or you can come over when Haku and I have dinner! We eat together all the time since he likes to make my favorite-"

"Are you guys ever going to kiss!" Both blonds hear yelled over rushing water from the wood ramp above. All the clones stand huddled, spying, and one clone yells, "we're tired of waiting!"

Ino is suddenly aware of the audience as Naruto yells with a pointed finger, "who said any of you can take a break!"

"Ah, come on boss! Don't be so stingy and show us how it's done!" They yell and laugh.

"Whoever said that, don't make me come up there!"

Turning to Ino, Naruto says, "here, follow me." Without a word, she follows him as they run over the water, getting wet for several minutes by the waterfall's splash-back. In that time it made her remember the last time they were together in which she was following him. 'He was fully naked by the end of that trip,' she thinks, and quite forcefully, those memories along with her earlier sexual frustration re-ignite her sex. 'We were both completely naked,' she vividly recalls, picturing him plowing her walls and painting them white.

When he stops suddenly, she nearly runs into him. If her hand hadn't gripped his shoulder, her sensitive chest would've definitely pressed wonderfully against his strong back. Instead, one of his arms takes her around the back while the other scoops her up by her knees and she's suddenly held against his warm strong chest, princess style, before he jumps through the rushing wall of water. Panicking, Ino wraps her arms around his neck with the expectation they would hit a solid wall, however, they splash through the torrent of water and he lands confidently in the moderately sized cavern behind the waterfall. Ino opens her eyes to the privacy of the simple circular cave that looks like it's been scooped out by a large ladle. Behind the rushing waterfall, in a darker cavern, a hot and hard Naruto is half-naked and holding her to him like a princess…

'Yeah, I'm triggered… I'm triggering… fuck,' her hazy mind states as her body heats up, softens and lubricates. Ino can't think but for the vivid memories of their amazing times of incredible pleasure, growing more aroused. 'I know this scent,' she recalls his intoxicating aroma along with the pounding motion that mixed their secretions. Alone, in his arms, hot and wet, she looks at him dazed, and dumbly reveals, "you made me wet."

It's as if Naruto only realized then that jumping through the waterfall would make her wet. His profuse apology is on the tip of his tongue until he notices her flush cheeks, lidded eyes, her bitting her plump, lower lip, and her relaxed squirming. Naruto felt his dick twitch and swell. He can feel her heartbeat and the way she tightens her legs, he answers instead, "I know how to fix that."

'Oh, Kami does he,' her body screams. Suddenly feeling flush and soft, Ino holds him tighter, pressing her face beside his, wondering, 'he's so warm.' Feeling her juices trail back to her bottom cheeks, rather than voice what her nether region is aching for, Ino simply nods, 'yes,' against his face as she breathes him in.

Naruto walks further away from the rushing water to the rounded end of the cavern. He sets her down but he doesn't let her paper-thin knees fold as he holds her against him. His hands keep her steady as they run hungrily up and down the silhouette of her figure. Her nipples stiffen to stone teats as her lean presses her bosom against his hard chest.

"Ino-chan?" he softly calls.

The heat and hunger of his strong hands cull all the stress in the arc of her lower back and love handles and patiently spreads a hyper-pleasant tingle up her spine and down her trembling legs as she answers, "y-yeah?"

When his hands skillfully drag and distorts the firm bubble of her butt before grabbing her cheeks, pulling her flush against him, feeling his raging hard-on against her humid crotch, Naruto kneads her pliant cheeks over her skin-tight shorts as he asks, "don't you normally wear leg bindings under your purple skirt?"

With his grip, he easily grinds himself against her rapidly drenching vagina as she mindlessly mumbles, "mm-hhmnn."

She knew why she wore her white, elastic fit, athletic shorts and clearly he does as well as he whispers in her ear, "these are much easier to take off." His impregnating words in her ear is all her mind and sex need to flood her hot contracting quim with excessive lubrication. Ino was burning for him now, and couldn't help the whimpered moan before she pleads, "Naruto… I need…"

"Ino…" He moans as his hand dips inside her elastic white shorts. Just feeling his hot hand cup her dilating labia and erect clitoris, her knees buckle and her arousal rockets to fearful heights. Driven by vivid memories of the past and certainty of how this will end as well, all reason is lost and her wet need was as great as it was near at hand. "Narutooooo…." Ino moaned fearfully, wondering if she might survive the rupture of her ever tightening pleasure coil.

Naruto wanted to taste her juicy snatch but she was blushing humidly, breathing quickly and he couldn't resist the nearly painful look on her beautiful face. She holds on his shoulders as he peels her white shorts enjoying the sight of her juices glazing the entirety of her inner thighs. She trembled when she felt his large head press against her sodden center, ready to spread her wet pink line into a wide dripping O.

"I missed you Ino-chan," Naruto whispers into her ear, gently peppering the side of her face with kisses in hopes of calming her down as he slowly slides into the buttery warmth of her juicy love glove. Though he wanted to calm her down some, when he whispers hotly in her ear, "I missed my Ino-hime," her brain melts as she instinctively squeezes his meat in. Ino moans gutturally as his imposing crown feels like it's burrowing in every one of her pleasure zones at once, beautifully stuffing her wet heat deeper than she felt space for until he was fully inside her tightness.

"My pretty little Ino-hime is so tight for me," Naruto moans in her pregnable ear and her trembling arms squeeze his neck tighter as he slowly withdrew every inch of thick meat from her sensitive snatch, making her head swim in euphoria and eyes cry. Ino shakes her head no, as he stops at her entrance, thinking, 'I'm not going to make it, I'm not going to make it, I'm not going to mak-' "KUH!" Her head snaps back at his full thrust, stuffing himself completely as her quivering quim snaps shut around him. Her mind explodes with undiluted euphoria, seizing and shocking her entire body in boundless pleasure. She's vaguely aware her climax squirting on Naruto as she suffers happily in his embrace.

Ino wasn't sure how long she came for but other than her buzzing fatigue, nothing changed when she regained awareness. They were still inside the round cavern behind the waterfall, Naruto was still throbbing hard and he was still inside her. Glazed eyes turn to his affectionate face, looking at her adoringly before he takes her pink lips. He kisses her deeply and her giddy mind returns it just as happily.

'He's so good,' she thinks as he plays masterfully with her mouth, sucking and biting perfectly to entice but never crossing the line of too much. It amazed her before she saddens when he pulls away.

She only had time to pout before he asks, "can I finish inside my beautiful Ino-hime?"

His brows are knitted in withheld pleasure and she can tell he's been enduring it this entire time, reflexively squeezing him a bit. She leans in and though scared for her sanity, she fearfully rewards him as she whispers, "fuck me Naruto- AAHH!" she yelps, cut off by his deep thrust. Leaning back to balance their combined weight and for more leverage, he pumps into her repeatedly ripping a mewling moan from her hoarse throat with every thrust. The pleasure ring at the pit of her stomach expanded frightfully fast and before she could tame her expectations, her taut tank of pure bliss ruptures, over-saturating her entire system with electric ecstasy.

Despite her moaning bliss, Naruto keeps pumping his large fiddling member, keeping her in euphoric paradise until the mercy of his climax plunged her into cognitive darkness, illuminating it to pure white. Ino only felt the moment a massive amount of his hot seed flooded her quaking walls before her pupil-less blue eyes roll back and she passes out.

Eventually opening her eyes, a tingling Ino feels warm and safe. She's still clothed in her purple high neck crop-top blouse and purple apron skirt but her white shorts were around one ankle and she's resting comfortably atop of Naruto, her head cozily under his and on his chest. Despite the now oddly falling cold water beside them, she was toasty warm against him, feeling completely at ease in the world. She could go back to sleep but knew she needed to get back. With great effort she extricates herself, waking him up, but rushing away with a quick goodbye kiss, she's jumping through the unevenly falling water. Looking behind her in her sprint away, the water looks like it's being broken apart somehow by the clones.

HAKU

"May I see you tomorrow, Yuki-kun," the polite boy asks.

With an easy smile and consenting bow, Haku leaves the helpful silver-haired boy to meet Kurenai-san. It hasn't been long since his welcome party and Haku is in awe of his life now. He's meeting with Kurenai-san in the market to buy a few ingredients for dinner with their endearing blue-eyed blond and they're nearly done when a relaxed-looking shinobi with brown hair under his bandanna, brown eyes, and a small senbon between his lips walks up to Kurenai-san. Though the man was very subtle, Haku didn't like the way he gazes at her.

'This is Naruto-kun's lover,' Haku mentally asserts as Kurenai introduced him as Shiranui Genma. Haku inclined his head slightly before taking a territorial step closer toward Kurenai-san, a move both jōnin notice. When Kurenai-san asked for a few minutes and to go ahead without her, Haku simply states, "I'll wait for you just up ahead, Kurenai-chan," eying the ever collected Genma before he leaves.

It isn't until they're both in the privacy of Kurenai's home, putting away the groceries before preparing dinner, that Kurenai asks him, "what was that?"

Haku doesn't turn to her as he takes Naruto's steak out of the freezer to thaw before asking, "what do you mean?"

"Don't even try that on me, Haku-kun," Kurenai sternly tells him. When the beautifully feminine boy turns to her, she asks, "please, explain yourself."

Haku sheepishly admits, "at first it was simply for diversionary purposes. If others assumed I was interested in you, they would be less inclined to believe you were spending time with Naruto-kun. And if you deny anything going on between us, you wouldn't be lying to your friends."

Stern red eyes never waver as Kurenai nods before responding, "at first?"

"I ultimately felt I was protecting Naruto-kun's love-"

"Naruto doesn't love me," Kurenai quickly asserts.

"Doesn't he? It isn't outside the realm of possibility," a composed Haku returns. "But forgive me if I have it wrong. It's just you both seem-"

"We are not anything more than what we are," Kurenai quickly responds. "It isn't one thing or another. It just is."

Haku eyes her just as genially as he is enchanting before asking, "then, would you be opposed if he dated Hinata-chan?" At her surprised look, Haku adds, "it's quite clear the girl is in love with him, near the point of worship, which I approve of, and with some more emotional maturity, I'm sure he may grow to love her as well."

"Haku-kun…" she groans with mild agitation. Kurenai rubs the bridge of her nose as she explains, "that can't happen." Kurenai briefly explains the Hyūga clan and the hard situation Hinata-chan was born into. "The clan, especially her pig of a father, would never allow their union. I'm asking you not to do anything that would hurt her needlessly. Facing the truth at some point in the future will be horrible enough; giving her too much hope for feelings that will never be will only hurt her that much more."

"I see," Haku solemnly states. "To be clear, I simply want Naruto-kun to be happy. At the moment, you bring him the most joy, as he seems to bring out the same in you." Kurenai doesn't say more and Haku hopes she's replaying his words in her mind… but the boy couldn't be more amused when the subject of their conversation runs into Kurenai's home.

Well before dinner, an obviously aroused Naruto rushes into the kitchen and when Haku assures Naruto he can handle dinner preparations alone, Naruto carries a blushing and weakly protesting Kurenai-san upstairs. The rhythmic creaking coming from Kurenai's bedroom brings a smile to Haku's face as well as a boy with round glasses to his mind. Having seen the lengths Naruto trains for those he deems his precious people, Haku knows he can't fail him. Because failing Naruto-kun means also failing Zabuza-sama. And that he will not do.

NARUTO

While laying on Kurenai's couch, Naruto dispels his clones three at a time, thirty seconds apart and uses that entire time to listen to another one of Naru-nii's stories. For the past few weeks, his future counterpart would recount some of his missions or talk about the things he missed the most, his Godfather, his teammates, and his friends. Shikamaru was a complete surprise to Naruto, and it was weird to hear Naru-nii describe someone Naruto knows as the laziest person in the world, as a genius and a very caring person.

He's heard a bit about how amazing his friends are—Sakura's crazy training, Kakashi-sensei's wicked eye, how unbeatable Sasuke becomes—a bit about Kakashi's old teammates, but Naruto has also heard some about the deaths Naru-nii wasn't strong enough to prevent. He already knows exactly how Haku was supposed to die, alongside Zabuza-jiji. Learning how Ji-chan died at the hands of a former student nearly did Naruto in with panic, followed by extremely reckless training. He was only comforted by Naru-nii reminding him it hasn't happened, and things are changing so there's no reason to think that it will either.

'But what if it does happen,' Naruto mentally yells.

'Then you do what you always have, get even stronger so you can stop it next time, because trust me, there will always be a next time. You become the strongest so you can protect those you love with everything you have.'

Naruto couldn't understand how anyone could be so evil as to kill Ji-chan and it took Naru-nii several days of thirty to forty-minute sessions to explain his thoughts on evil.

'It took me a while to learn how to look underneath the underneath,' Naru-nii admitted.

'Kakashi-sensei says that all the time,' Naruto mournfully points out.

'Well, he's right,' the older Naruto chuckles. 'Every time I come up against someone really crazy strong, and learn why they're being so inhuman to others, it's always because of something sad, like they lost someone they really loved, or a family, a clan, and they couldn't bear it. Like us, they got really strong because of it, but unlike us, they wanted to make others feel their pain; to make them pay. The problem with that is innocent people have nothing to do with it, and it's like they're in the way of the things these bad people desire, so they just remove or kill them, which breeds more hate and pain, pushing more people to do really horrible stuff and that cycle just continues.'

It's how Naruto currently finds himself, laying on Kurenai's couch as his clones dispel a triplet at a time while Haku and Kurenai prepare dinner. Focusing on Naru-nii's voice instead of the headache, he listens to the third part of a long story: The Pain and Loss of the Uchiha Clan, along with the details of the noble clan's downfall.

Naru-nii told him about the suspicion that befell the Uchiha after an enslaved Kurama was forced to attack Konoha; About the planned coup d'état to overthrow Ji-chan; About Itachi, Shisui, and Shimura Danzō's part—Danzō, in particular, seems like the person who wanted all of this to happen. With care and respect, Naru-nii explained Itachi's sacrifice and deal to make sure his little brother would always remain safe. He explained Sasuke's misdirected desire to kill Itachi. And all of it took Naru-nii nearly three sessions to finish explaining it.

Unclear, Naruto asks, 'why did Tobi tell you all that, then just leave?'

'He thought he was defending all the bad stuff Sasuke was doing,' Naru-nii replies. 'Like I would understand Sasuke more if he explained how little Sasuke is actually in control of his destiny.'

'Did you,' Naruto questions. 'I mean, it doesn't really sound right.'

'Mnn, well, more stuff made sense, for sure, but Tobi didn't truly know Sasuke, so he missed the thing that mattered the most.'

During many of these story sessions, Naruto understands Naru-nii like he understands Fūinjutsu, so he's more confident when he picked out what mattered most to Sasuke—mattered like the way Nai-chan, Ji-chan, and Iruka-sensei do. Even if he and Sasuke clash and rival, Naruto always felt the avenger's loss, so with reasonable certainty, Naruto mentions, '…he loved his brother more than anything.'

'Exactly,' Naru-nii chuckles. 'I know you want to be the one to reach Sasuke, just like Sakura-chan and Kakashi-sensei want to be the one to reach him; to save him from his hatred… but I learned the hard way that there's only one person who can reach him, and that's his brother, Uchiha Itachi.'

'Tobi gave up,' Naruto thinks in blocks, like building a seal one segment at a time.

'Yeah,' Naru-nii agrees.

'So, he only sees through the eyes of someone who's given up,' Naruto continues.

'Yeah.'

'But we don't give up,' Naruto adds with a small though genuine smile.

'Hell no,' Naru-nii emphasizes. 'We don't run and we don't go back on our word.'

'Ninja build,' Naruto adds happily. "Because that's our Nindō."

'Damn right,' Naru-nii proclaims. 'I'm almost out. We'll pick this up next time.'

'Sure thing Naru-nii,' Naruto bids before quickly thinking of tonight. 'Real quick, how do you think I should fight Tenten-chan?'

'Hehe,' Naru-nii laughs. 'I have faith in you,' is all he answers before leaving and Naruto smiles. He didn't need more than that. No accurate fortune could possibly be better than feeling Naru-nii's faith in him. The way Naru-nii just gets him, is patient, and always believes in him, fills him with confidence. There's no better inspiration and Naruto strives every day to get to that point faster… to make Naru-nii proud.

After an immensely satisfying dinner with three people he cherishes, Naruto gets ready to meet Tenten-chan, her father and her sensei in Training Ground 3. Though reeling from dispelling so many clones, some time to heal and food helped to reduce his head pain to a mild headache that's gradually going away.

"Here comes a worthy opponent, Tenten-chan!" Until that moment, Naruto had forgotten how weird her sensei was, but Naruto couldn't say he disliked the man. He just had too much positive energy not to like. "We haven't formally been introduced, Naruto-kun. I am Konoha's Sublime Green Beast of Prey, Maito Gai!"

'Huge eyebrows!' Naruto mentally yells, before calling out his own, "my name is Uzumaki Naruto, the future and greatest Hokage there'll ever be!"

"Oh!" Guy calls with tight explosive fists as he shouts to the night sky, "let the power of our youthful lives explode!"

"Sensei…" Tenten mumbles embarrassed and Kurenai mumbles an equally embarrassed, "Naruto, don't- don't encourage this."

Kurenai greets her fellow Jōnin-sensei, laying out the rules of the challenge. "Should Genin Tenten win, Kubikiribōchō will be hers. Should genin Naruto win, Tenten is to be his personal shopper covering seventy-five percent of all his market needs-" Kurenai puts her hand up, cutting Naruto off before he can assert how little he cares about that. "However, rather than covering his market expenses, Naruto would prefer you never challenge him for Kubikiribōchō again. He's explained his reasons and I find them to be sound."

"What reasons!" Dānyī calls, eying Naruto with a curled lip of disgust. Though Tenten seems mildly startled, she smiles and shrugs as if fine with the amendment while her father continues, "my apologies, Kurenai-san, but I find it incredibly unprofessional to change the wager after it was agreed upon. This is unacceptable and an affront to good business relations!"

"I see," Kurenai coldly states, taking a firm stance over the shorter weapons merchant. "Well, as Naruto doesn't even want this to happen, you are more than welcome to leave."

Dānyī then asserts, "if we leave it's because he broke the rules of the wager and should forfeit Kubikiribōchō as recompense."

"You have two Jōnin who would disagree with you," Kurenai counters with an edge without actually confirming with Guy-sensei. "And if you truly feel slighted, you are more than welcome to take it up with Hokage-sama, as the civilian council will have no say in this wager between active Konoha shinobi. So what'll it be, Dānyī-san?"

Dānyī huffs and turns in acceptance. Unsealing the great buster sword from a flashy orange and blue scroll, Naruto hands Kubikiribōchō to Guy-sensei before he and Tenten-chan walk to the middle of the field.

"You know if you want to practice with it, I don't mind," Naruto begins to express to her when they are alone in the middle of the grass field. The night air whips around them and Naruto adds, "but I can't let you have it."

Smirking, she responds, "that's nice of you, but once I beat you, I'll practice with it whenever I want."

"End it quick, Ten," they hear Dānyī yell, before Guy-sensei calls out, "begin!"

Tenten hops back a fair distance as he hears the rubbing metal of shuriken, making Naruto hear Kurenai's voice in his head asking him what she's been trying to beat in his head for the past three weeks, 'did you analyze? Is the attacker long range or short-to-mid range? Does the attacker want to trick you?'

'Long range,' Naruto thinks as he dodges shuriken she accurately shoots to keep him from closing the distance. When she lands many paces away, she immediately takes out two scrolls. Unfurling them so they spin around her, she unseals a multitude of projectile weapons—to his evident surprise—before sniping him with pinpoint accuracy. Whipping out his kunai, Naruto dodges and parries a hail of sharp weapons being perfectly shot at his chest. Even as he runs to the side, she's perfectly marking him and going all out from the very beginning. Without the time for Kage Bunshin, Naruto sprints for the nearest tree while parrying her attacks with his kunai.

Ducking behind a tree that's quickly stuffed with the puncturing 'taps' of at least twenty weapons, he calls out, "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" and fifty clones armed with kunai billow out from behind the tree, sprinting around to catch her from multiple angles.

Though not necessarily surprised by his shadow clones, having already seen them on the waterfall, watching them try to outflank her from the left and the right all with kunai felt very different. Feeling the pressure, Tenten pops a squad of clones automatically as she easily punctures them repeatedly with her pinpoint accuracy. Though she questions why his clones haven't sniped her with their kunai.

One clone unseals a Fūma shuriken and tosses it to another clone right before she pops him. In one motion, the Naruto clone catches and throws the larger shuriken perfectly at Tenten-chan before that clone is popped as well. Tenten smiles as she dodges the large weapon while simultaneously decimating his clones, calling out, "you're going to have to do a lot better than that-" until she hears a pop behind her. Rotating her head to the extent of her neck's range, she's surprised to see the Fūma shuriken was a henge of another clone before it launches a non-lethal kunai strike right to her thigh.

It cries out, "gotcha!" making her smile confidently as she narrowly avoids a major injury. Though the kunai cuts into her leg a bit, it's not deep enough to hinder her attack and she pops that clone as well before returning her lethal focus to the original…

…Who she had no idea was thrown in the air by his remaining clones and coming down on her, fist cocked, just as her face turns to him. Naruto lands a powerful, gravity-assisted punch across her lovely cheek, spinning her whole body twice before she hits the grass floor face first. Tenten-chan is knocked out with one, brain-rattling, punch before landing sprawled on the floor.

"Winner, Uzumaki Naruto," Guy-sensei calls.

"Fuck!" Dānyī yells. "He cheated! That damn demon cheated!"

"Dānyī-san, calm yourself," Kurenai orders him as Guy checks on his student.

"Why!" He yells, "he obviously can't be trusted! There's no way he could've won!"

"Regardless of your daughter's impressive mastery over weapons, Naruto located and exploited her weakness of multiple fronts of attack," Kurenai states. "He did not cheat."

"I agree," Guy states as he carries Tenten over to them with Naruto beside them.

"She's crazy accurate," Naruto proclaims, extending his arms to look at his torn jumpsuit.

"You fought splendidly," Guy notes as Tenten-chan starts to come around. She winces when she tries to talk and realizes she's been struck in the face nearly as hard as Lee-kun does. "Wha-" "Be calm, Tenten-chan," her sensei tells her. "We can talk about your strategy later, however, Naruto is the victor of this wager, but you shouldn't feel ashamed! Your amazing and beautiful sensei has also lost many battles in his youth, but I never gave up and neither should you."

"Yeah," Naruto adds. "You almost had me a bunch of times."

"No," Tenten bemoans through her sore jaw, turning to her father. "Tou-chan…"

He simply shakes his head in undeniable disappointment before turning away from her. The weapons dealer observes Haku sealing Kubikiribōchō in the orange and blue scroll before leaving his daughter behind. Tenten hides her face in her sensei's shoulder. Naruto stomps forward to yell at her asshole of a father for making her feel sad but Kurenai puts her hand on his shoulder and he refrains from chasing the man and punching him.

"If she needs a place to stay, please bring her to my home," Kurenai offers.

As her father wouldn't allow her to enter her home with the shame of her loss, Guy-sensei did bring Tenten to Kurenai's house that night. Though Naruto couldn't spend the night, he was happy Nai-chan cared enough to help Tenten.

Despite how much stronger Naruto felt, he was still nearly done in by her impressive accuracy, so rather than go to bed right away, Naruto and eleven clones practice the next step of creating the Rasen-shuriken. He wanted to know who his parents are and more than anything, he wanted to be strong enough to fight against the worst out there, because Naru-nii, said the ninja world is big and there's a lot of weird fighters out there.

KURENAI

"You're welcome to stay here for as long as you need," Kurenai tells a glum Tenten with a bandage over her cheek. Tenten enters the spare bedroom without a word. "If you need anything, I'll be down the hall."

Finally setting her duffel bag down, she asks, " why does he have Kubikiribōchō?"

"I'm sorry Tenten-chan," Kurenai starts. "I'm not at liberty to discuss that. It may be hard, but trust in your sensei-"

"Please," Tenten calls emphatically. "I lost to a genin fresh out of the Academy. What has this whole year and a half meant if I can lose so easily… I…" her voice fades when Tenten realizes Kurenai-sensei has no reason to answer her; to help her make sense of her loss.

But Tenten didn't know Kurenai's a strong inheritor of Konoha's Will of Fire and leans against the door frame as the beautiful Jōnin states, "this has less to do about Naruto and more to do with you. It seems to me you expect a lot of yourself and while that's not a bad driving force to have, it can lead to adverse effects if you rely too heavily on it. The only thing you are responsible for is training every single day to extend your limits."

"But I do," Tenten replies. "It's impossible not to with a Sensei like Guy."

"I can't fault you there," Kurenai muses before stating, "maybe ask Guy-sensei on ways to round out your abilities. I wouldn't be the Genjutsu Mistress if I only knew how to manipulate one of our five senses. I need all five perspectives to be masterful and you are more than one thing. Taijutsu, Genjutsu, Ninjutsu, Fūinjutsu, Iryō Ninjutsu, and on, and on. The shinobi world is large and as Guy ultimately means to say, never give up, because Naruto surely doesn't."

INO

Ino has a problem.

Sex, lovemaking, fucking; Naruto is a lot better than she ever expected him to be and he consistently makes her pass out from mind-bending pleasure. His kisses, the way he whispers in her ear, the way he holds her, his all-around impressive manhood and the way he uses it on her… 'either he's a natural at sex or my psychosomatic trigger is working overtime to suffocate me in raw pleasure. Maybe it's a bit of both?' her mind reasons.

Since they made their deal, she's had sex with Uzumaki Naruto at least twice a week, and every time, she's only able to make it to his first orgasm before passing out. They generally tend to have sex in that ever-widening cave behind the waterfall, but they've also had sex in her room when he visited her, his room in Iruka-sensei's home, and even in his old apartment. The only time she ever survived two of his orgasms was when he fucked her in the ass first.

'It's so humiliating,' Ino mentally groans, as she's always taken delight in her effect on men. Certainly, it can be annoying when some men don't understand when she's not interested, but at the end of the day, she'd rather have the attention than not. After all, it isn't the flower's fault for being so magnetic.

Naruto is not the most attractive man she's ever seen; especially standing next to Sasuke-kun or Hyūga Neji. Naruto's slightly above average in looks but nothing to write pages about. 'I should be dominating him,' her mind yells. 'Wrapping him around my little finger. Under normal circumstances, if I even gave him a chance to date me, he should be thanking me for spending time with him!' And yet, Ino's knees automatically wobble whenever she sees him. Her breath quickens, her nipples stiffen, her womanhood steadily grows drenched, and her memories stuff her deep into heavy arousal.

Certainly, Sakura hasn't helped the irregular acuity of her arousal in any way. Since the pinkette's been returning the attention every day, Ino always finds herself debating finding Naruto to relieve her heavy ache or not. There's so much that goes into that decision; many questions that all center around her fear of why Naruto makes her feel so good when she doesn't love him like she does Sasuke-kun. Yet, every time Ino leaves Naruto, she's thinking about him, about herself, about possibilities, and about what she thinks she knows about real love. Her mother had once confessed she preferred the phrase, 'life-partner.'

'While romance is most certainly an important part of love, it's not the only part that matters, nor is it the most important part if you want to have a long loving relationship,' her mother once told her. 'Your father, the love of my life, is also my very best friend, and there are many times when a friend matters more than romance.' Young as Ino was—with her fantasy life as Sasuke-kun's future wife—she easily disregarded her mother's thoughtless comment, but Ino isn't so innocent anymore.

With Sasuke-kun returning in a few days, Ino's finally ready to end this plan for Sakura and possibly think of something more honest with Naruto… a friendship… maybe more?

'I must be going crazy,' Ino mentally groans as she roughly rubs her symmetric face in frustration for her Naruto Sasuke-kun dilemma. While it's true Naruto isn't who she originally thought he was, sometimes he still feels like it. In many ways, he's still the same as she remembers, but in a lot of other ways, he's more…

The knock on her bedroom door brings her out of her thoughts as she hops out of bed. In her purple hotpants and tight top, Ino opens the door for Sakura and though she smells clean, Ino can see her pink-haired former friend and rival looks exhausted.

'In one study or another, she probably trains all day now,' Ino thinks as she comments, "you look nice."

"I look like crap," Sakura mundanely corrects.

"But nice looking crap," Ino adds with a smile.

"Shut up," Sakura simply huffs.

Ino hops on her bed and sits with her legs spread before patting the bed and adding, "come here." Sakura removes her outerwear for her red hotpants and tight pink and white tank underneath. It's not the pinkette's favorite style of clothes but Ino traded a photo for her to wear it for the entire year and it was the easiest photo she ever earned. Sakura takes a seat between Ino's legs before the platinum blond begins giving her a much-needed massage. Sakura doesn't even care when she moans in delight.

"So, with Sasuke-kun coming back in a few days, I thought I may as well tell you how to earn the last two photos. As you can imagine, it'll be harder than vibrator-sex with yours truly."

"Let me guess," Sakura starts, dreading to say aloud, "you want me to… have sex with Naruto."

"Who's my smart little girl," Ino jokes. "When did you figure out that's how this ends?"

"…A week ago," Sakura sorrowfully answers.

"When you asked if I could henge into someone else…" Ino recalls. "I assume you thought I was preparing you mentally for him, so it'd be easier…"

"It's not going to work, Ino," Sakura heatedly returns and Ino feels the pinkette's muscles tense. "You can force me to be raped by anyone and I'm still going to love Sasuke-kun no matter what!"

"Since I know how much you love to declare, 'no matter what, no matter what,' we're putting that theory to the test. You're going to have sex with Naruto and as always you are more than welcome to back out, even though you've already had sex with me multiple times."

"Fuck, Ino!" Sakura nearly yells, trying to move away from Ino, but the Yamanaka wraps her arms around the pink-haired girl and doesn't let go. Frustrated Sakura weakly adds, "I- … I was really starting to not hate you again. Then you do shit like this!"

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't like you-"

"Is that why you're raping me?"

"It's why I'm the one willing to hold up the mirror," Ino responds. "Because no one else will!"

"And Naruto?" she asks. "I didn't think it was possible but we're in a pretty good place. He can be annoying sometimes but I actually have a good opinion of him. Whether you can believe it or not, I like being his teammate. Having sex with him is going to ruin all that."

Ino can believe it but it's not as if they talk about Naruto a lot and so she answers, "first, remember you don't have to do it-"

Fed up with that empty platitude, Sakura asks in frustration, "why do you keep saying that like this isn't blackmail? You always say that and guess what? It doesn't make it any less demanding."

"You do have a choice you idiot," Ino calls, feeling her own edge. "And I may want you to have sex with him, but I want you to do it in a specific way."

Pulling up short, Sakura slowly asks, "…what do you mean?"

"I want you to convince him it's goodbye sex."

"What?" she calls incredulously.

"Kind of like a goodbye kiss, but with sex-"

"Yeah I got that, but I don't understand how you want me to-"

"Listen," Ino interrupts. "I want you to tell him- no, to convince him that you can't, nor will you ever, return his feelings, but you would like to give him something special in return. Make him understand that this is so you can both move on. You know you'll hurt him by rejecting his feelings, but because he's going to be a part of your life, it's only fair you give him something special."

"But that's not fair! That makes no sense!"

"Keyword, Sakura: Convince," Ino points out, regardless of how much sense it makes. "If he believes this is what you truly want, regardless of what you actually believe, then why would he doubt it?"

"He'll never fall for that," Sakura points out defensively.

"Try!" A frustrated Ino pointedly asks, "Kami, how many times have you rejected him? How many Sakura?"

"…I don't know," she slowly answers. "Hundreds, I guess."

"How many times have you hit him, and he keeps asking you out," Ino then asks, to which Sakura shamefully answers, "…a lot-"

"That's my point," Ino argues. "It's not exactly normal behavior. I'd almost say he's obsessed," Ino says, though she knows it's not as severe as Sakura's obsession. "Even if you tell him it's over, how likely is it that he'll believe you more now, then before?"

"So your solution is giving him my virginity?"

"Don't pretend I didn't claim that land before him," Ino asserts. "Remind Naruto that the earlier he begins to accept it'll never happen between you two, the quicker he'll eventually start noticing other girls." Ino's heart beats a little faster at that. Despite, noting how much this plays in her favor, Ino convinces herself it has everything to do with Sakura shedding the last vestiges of innocence in hopes that what's left will react better to the final prong of her plan. Almost thinking aloud, Ino then asks, "what if Naruto misses out on the real love of his life because he's pinning after you the entire time?"

Her face crunches in confusion as Sakura asks, "why the hell do you even care about his love life?"

"I don't," Ino defends. "Th-this is just to convince him, is all."

Shaking her head at the crisis before her, Sakura shakes her head in abhorrence, citing, "for days, I watched Naruto thinking this has been your plan all along… To force me to fuck the person Sasuke-kun hates the most. Even if you promise not to tell Sasuke-kun, and of course, I deny it to my grave, what's to stop Naruto from telling everyone?"

"Just make him promise not to," Ino answers. "He takes those pretty seriously."

"How do you know," Sakura asks, tilting to look at the blond.

"I was with Kurenai-sensei when she talked with Iruka-sensei about Naruto," Ino answers honestly.

"…Fine," Sakura sadly agrees, feeling hollow in the process.

"I'll be around if you-"

"What are you forcing me to do for the last photo," Sakura sadly asks.

"I want you to ask Sasuke-kun a question for me," Ino plainly answers before they both go over various possibilities of how to go about convincing Naruto.

NARUTO

'You cut the entire waterfall in half and you're already practicing Rasenshuriken?' Naru-nii awes, as he asserts, 'it hasn't even been that long!'

'What can I say,' Naruto hums in happiness before adding, 'I'm just too awesome.' Naruto is atop the waterfall, taking a lunch break with Haku as his clones continue to practice below. He's seated crossed legged with his eyes close, seemingly meditating, so Haku doesn't find it weird.

'Yeah, yeah, mister Awesome,' Naru-nii chuckles to hear himself. 'Yeesh, I really can be like that. Tell me how the new technique feels and where it might be tough.'

'Ne, before that can you tell me who my parents are and who my Godfather is?'

'Well, I said after you learn Rasenshuriken,' Naru-nii hums to himself. '…but you have been doing super amazing so how about I tell you half?'

'Half?'

'Yeah,' his older self answers. 'And I'll tell you the other half after you learn Rasen-shuriken. Deal?'

'Deal!'

'Cool. So, our surname name, Uzumaki, comes from kaa-chan's side of the family, as well as our clan.'

"Uzumaki Clan," Naruto mumbles and he realizes he spoke aloud when the more patient eater, Haku, asks, "what was that, Naruto-kun?"

"Ah!" Naruto coughs with an artificial smile. "Nothing. Just thinking about… about starting my clan, actually. Don't mind me." Once Naruto closes his eyes, he asks Naru-nii, 'sorry, Uzumaki clan, huh?'

'Yeah,' Naru-nii answers, happy to hear Haku in Naruto's mind-echo. 'Kaa-chan's name is Uzumaki Kushina, and we're a lot like her, except she has long tomato-red hair.'

'Uzumaki Kushina' Naruto mentally repeats, trying to hold in his emotions and keep from tearing up. 'I bet she's a total badass!'

'Oh, man! You know it,' Naru-nii asserts.

'And tou-chan?'

'Sorry, Mini-me,' Naru-nii cuts him off there. 'After you learn Rasenshuriken. But, your Godfather's name is Jiraiya. He's like a super strong legendary shinobi, but he's also a super legendary pervert! He should be in Konoha after the second stage of the Chūnin exams.'

'Jiraiya-jiji,' Naruto mentally laughs. 'Sweet! I can't wait to meet him. This is like the best day ever!'

SAKURA

Sakura and Ino rehearsed for far longer than Sakura felt was necessary. For nearly two hours they planned for different responses but Sakura felt the blond idiot gets to have sex with her. 'It's the luckiest day of his life,' she weakly thought. Ino pointed out to her he probably wouldn't understand it as being lucky enough to have sex with the love of his life and further explained he prioritizes emotional bonds over his own physical gratification. Sakura couldn't understand why Ino was so certain but it never hurt to be prepared.

After a very deep exhale, Sakura knocks on Iruka-sensei's front door and after a few moments, the ever shockingly beautiful Haku opens the door. With a warm smile, Haku tilts around a bit and calls, "it's Sakura-chan," before they both hear a yelping, "Sakura-chan!"

"We were just having dinner," Haku asserts, and Sakura blushes, wondering if the beautiful boy knows how adoringly domestic he sounds.

Rushing to the door, Naruto adds, "you want to have dinner with us?"

Smiling weakly, she simply shakes her head, but thanks them before adding, "Naruto, can we talk."

After his quick, "of course," Sakura leads him to his old apartment. The building is dark and for the most part abandoned, however, between floors two and three, Naruto actually had to kick out some thugs who were harassing one of the last remaining, elder tenants. "Don't let me catch you back here again!" Naruto yelled to the stumbling half beaten thugs. The unexpected one-sided fight between Team 7 and the four thugs actually put her in a slightly better mood, until they reach his old apartment. Once inside, Sakura was surprised to see how clean it all was.

Fortunately his couch, and after she checked, his bed are still there as Naruto asks, "why are we here?"

After much thought, Ino and Sakura had decided on his apartment because it was the last remaining solution to all her stipulations. To mentally get through having sex with Naruto—a thought that sent an unpleasant shiver down her spine—she couldn't do it in the privacy of her own bedroom because she'll always be reminded of it every time she's there; or in Iruka's home, because not only is it wrong, she doesn't want to remember that if she ever has to go to Iruka-sensei's. A hotel room wasn't an option either because she didn't want to pay in any way for this, nor did she want to risk the possibility of being detected either going to or coming from a hotel. And lastly, it's highly possible the building will be razed to the ground, removing the location of this event forever.

"We came here to talk," an evenly breathing Sakura starts.

Luckily it's dark enough she doesn't have to clearly see him if she doesn't focus her eyes, and hears him respond, "you're acting kinda strange. Is everything okay? Is it…"

"…Is it what," she wonders aloud.

"Well, I know Sasuke'll be back soon," he sullenly states, making her wonder when he stopped using 'teme' to refer to Sasuke. "I can tell you've gotten stronger so I was thinking… well, I thought maybe you didn't want to train with me anymore." It's a sad expression on his face that makes her focus.

'…That's right!' Sakura's mind yells in realization. The entirety of her mind was so eclipsed with mental preparations to get this heinous act over with as fast as she can in order to forget and return to her Sasuke-kun, that not having to train with Naruto escaped her notice. Aside from the buzzing satisfaction of her many orgasms with Ino, training with Naruto was the most positive aspect throughout this entire enslavement.

"Well, maybe it'll be good for us to switch it up a bit," Sakura responds. At his weak smile, she tries to cheer him up by pointing out, "come on, we'll still be teammates, Naruto. Team 7 is finally reuniting. That's a good thing."

"Yeah," Naruto states with a larger smile. "You're right. Was that all you wanted to talk about? We didn't have to come all the way out here for that… even though I do kinda miss this place," he adds looking around happily.

Growing nervous, anxious, and combative at the same time, Sakura clears her throat before saying, "no actually. There's something really important I want to say."

"What's up?"

"… I know you love me," Sakura starts shocking the rapidly blushing Naruto.

"Wha- Lo-love? Sakura-chan, I-"

"Save it," Sakura calls. "It's pretty obvious. I already know, so, you don't have to pretend, but it's like I said, Team 7 is finally reuniting, and we're here because I don't want you to have those feelings for me anymore."

Naruto shifts from one foot to the other, before he nervously asks, "uh, do you really know?"

Shocked, Sakura asks, "did you actually think you were hiding it?"

He slumps before slowly asking, "I… uh, don't get it… I stopped asking you out and everything, so it's fine."

"It's not fine, Naruto," Sakura asserts. She takes a deep breath before communicating, "I actually like training with you, but I don't want to if you're going to continue harboring romantic feelings for me. I just want to be friends and teammates and nothing more."

She can see him swallow and step away. His fingers flex as he claims, "but- but we can totally be friends and teammates and I don't have to-"

"But you want more," she challenges him and he balks. "I know you're in love with me, and since we're teammates spending every day together, it'll be hard to outright reject you… so… I- I thought of a solution." His confused eyes make her gulp nervously. "Come morning, you have to stop loving me. It'll be hard, but you have to start and really try getting over me."

"No," he retorts on reflex.

"You will," she insists before adding, "and I'll give you my virginity." That completely takes him by surprise, so much so it's nearly comical how much his eyes bulge. "Don't think of it as a trade," she tries, defending the idea from his outright rejection. "Even though I know that's how it sounds like, it really isn't. I don't know what I'd do if someone asked me to stop loving Sasuke-kun, but that's what I'm asking you to do, so, because you do matter to me, I want to give you two things."

"Sakura-chan you don't-"

"One," Sakura continues, cutting him off. "Is something precious to me that I only want to share with someone I care about, and two, the emotional freedom for you to move on. In this way, after tonight, I think we can move forward."

"I can't," Naruto plainly states, slowly shaking his head and stepping away.

"You can," Sakura asserts, grabbing his hand to keep him from leaving. When he tries to say, "you don't have to-" she cuts him off, staring into his night eyes. "I'm doing this for myself as much as for you. I'll feel… content giving you something I'll never be able to give anyone else. Let me give you this one night, then we can move on and our team will be better for it. Sex isn't love, so, I won't feel bad when Sasuke-kun and I eventually get together, and you'll be free to fall in love with a girl who'll actually love you back."

"This isn't you!" Naruto yells. "Who are you and where's the real Sakura-chan?"

"It's me Naruto-baka," Sakura states, rolling her eyes.

"Prove it!"

"…You only told me, Haku-san, and Kurenai-sensei where the real Kubikiribōchō is."

He pulls up, before defending, "th- that doesn't prove-"

Sakura interrupts, "I know you used a special technique and chakra we're not supposed to talk about during our Escort Mission to Wave." Close as they are she saw in his eyes that did it. Sakura takes the bold step of ending this by moving toward the bedroom, but he stops her just before entering the door.

"… I don't get it," Naruto pleads, though he doesn't outright yank his hand free from hers. "Why?" He asks, "why do this?"

"I've already explained why," Sakura asserts. "This is the only way."

"That doesn't tell me anything!" Naruto calls. He takes a step closer as he hollers with conviction, "those sound like excuses to me!"

Hoping to put him on the defense despite how accurate she feels he is, Sakura asserts in her fiery way, "well excuse me if how I feel isn't genuine enough for you!"

"Sakura-chan," he calls with desperate attention. "I can't stop loving you… I won't. Not until you make me understand this."

"How many times have I said I won't go out with you," Sakura accuses. "How many times have I hit you? And you still don't get it?" She doesn't let him respond as his wide eyes try to realize where he might've erred. "Naruto, this is what I want to happen and like always, you're not using your head."

"That's because my heart isn't in my head," He casually responds before his face crunches in pain. "What you're asking me to do hurts…"

Gulping in horror of the hurt on his face, Sakura fights the prickling heat in her eyes that lead before the tears and states, "fine, but understand this… if you don't do this… I will hate you."

"WHAT?"

"I'll hate you," Sakura repeats.

"But-But that makes even less sense!" Naruto calls. "How can you hate me for not making love with you."

"I'll h-hate you," a weakening Sakura just repeats.

"Pl-please, don't," Naruto begs. "You can't! We're teammates!"

"I'll… hate you," Sakura repeats, ignoring the way her voice croaks as she mentally curses Ino to the seven levels of hell.

"I don't understand! I want you to be with the one you love!"

Sakura yells back, "I want that too!"

"We don't have to do this," Naruto assures her. "I can wait- I'll wait! Even if it's for the rest of my life! I'll wait!"

"It won't happen, not now, not ever…"

Instead of allowing himself to be led into the bedroom, Naruto pulls her to him for a fierce hug. Feeling broken, he just hugs her and cries. 'He really loves me,' she weakly cries herself, "Naruto…" 'Oh Kami, if you cry, I'm going to cry too.'

"Please, Sakura-chan… Please, don't ask me to stop loving you…" he begs, hugging her tighter.

When she thinks of how Ino is hurting them both, a tear streams down her cheek. When she thinks about the month-long cost of her love, more tears stream down her face. Naruto can be annoying, but she never wanted to hurt him, and yet here she is, forced to break his heart so her love can live. "I'm sorry, Naruto." Sakura wonders why this has to happen as she mechanically continues, "I'm sorry I couldn't love you the way you love me." Her hollow voice adds, "I wish I did, but sharing this with you is important. It's the end, and it's what we both need."

After many moments of painful silence and sniffing, his voice is so detached when he asks "will you give me some time?" It actually startles Sakura how lifeless he sounded. She feels like she gutted him and there's nothing left. "An hour," she tells him before moving into the bedroom. "I'll wait for you here."

The story time Naru-nii referred to in the beginning of the previous chapter was a lot of what happened to the future Naruto that the past Naruto needs to know about for the upcoming Chuunin arc.

I believe Naruto's love for Sakura-while not as bad as Sakura's obsession for Sasuke-is a mix between infatuation and rivalry. Kishimoto couldn't be convinced to evolve his character until a movie at the end of the series, that's fine, but I'm breaking his heart now 😢

Ino does still have a final step to her plan and you'll see what in the next chapter. If you guys feel she crossed a line again, I totally get that and I assure you she knows as well. I'll write her character as so. But I, as the author, literally could not see another plausible way Naruto, who constantly asks Sakura out, even though she regularly hits him, would give up chasing her... unless, she gives him a hollow version of the thing he truly wants. Game of Throne Season 8 taught me when something you thought would be amazing, isn't, the disillusion can help you let go pretty quick. At least we still have the books.

Haku is phenomenal and I'm going to have so much fun writing him. Also, I needed to have Choji apologize to Ino. He's a teddy bear.

Naruto is progressing with his training right on schedule and he's really starting to branch out with his clones. There's some other stuff I set up as well.

As always, I'd love to hear from you all and have a great one,

-Grae

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