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Ch.10: The Two-Tails (1)
It is early morning and Naruto stares at Hinata's face. Her chest goes up and down and her hair is sprawled over their bed -where his hand plays with it slowly so as not to wake her-. He brushes the hair out of her eyes, and he can’t help but notice the contrast between his tanned skin against the pearl white of hers, even whiter under the moonlight.
He had not been able to go back to the meeting. After a while -when he had composed himself somewhat- he went back and asked to be excused. Nobody said anything and he holed himself in his room.
It was also not the first time this had happened. But now when he sat in his room, looking at the wall as the hours went by, Hinata sat next to him, dragged her hand over his back, brought him food and let him rest his head on her shoulder and lap as she soothed him.
He felt better and worse all at the same time.
She rustles in her sleep and Naruto startles, turns into a statue as she settles again. She didn't move as much in her sleep before, but now with the baby it takes her a while to fall asleep, and then she moves and turns, her legs curling up and then straightening all night long.
Naruto adjusts the bedclothes around herself and lets his hand rest on her belly. Her perfect round belly.
She had once touched herself after he came inside and brought his seed over her stomach by chance. And now Naruto has found a new favorite place in which to finish.
Outside is dark and he can't bring himself to wake Hinata only because he's horny, so he takes care of his erection himself.
Muffled moans as he stares at her body and images of himself touching and licking and sucking. His breathing grows labored and he comes into his hand. A sticky mess he cleans quickly.
He sits there, spent and with his robe half opened. With his pregnant wife next to him, and the words from yesterday come back with a vengeance.
He washes himself, puts on clothes and kisses Hinata's temple with reverence.
He doesn't know how he can ask for forgiveness.
Jiraiya is going over some documents when Naruto knocks.
"I was waiting for you."
He motions for Naruto to come inside and then sprawls a bunch of pages in front of him.
"Would you believe me if I told you I found Toad Sages deep into the forest this one time?"
Naruto glances over the documents while a chuckle leaves his mouth, "Please, I've seen weirder."
"It took me almost a whole year to master the whole sage mode, you know, but I was able to-"
"Sage mode? Tacky."
"Because the Toad Sages called it that way, thank you, I'll be sure to let them know you find their naming sense lame."
Naruto goes over the documents and crosses his arms as he reads. Jiraiya is glad to see him back to normal.
"Anyway, I made sure to write down the main points, you see?" He motions towards the paper Naruto is holding, "You should be able to start seeing results after 5 months or so-"
"Two," Naruto interrupts and Jiraiya only snorts as an answer.
"Two it is, then. Go over the whole process and then we can get started at once."
The sound of papers being moved fills the room and Jiraiya goes back to his own documents. An assortment of reports he got from Shikamaru regarding the movements of the Beast Tamers, other prominent clans and whatever information they could gather about the Uchiha.
The Uchiha are nonexistent though, and it makes him anxious.
Jiraiya turns after he stops hearing sound. Naruto is staring at a paper on the floor, but he's not reading any of it. Jiraiya can guess what's going on inside his mind, but he has never felt qualified to help his godson navigate through these obstacles.
"Do you think I should go through with it?"
Jiraiya takes his time turning around. He leaves his pen on his table, accommodates the papers spread across in front of him. And lets his shoulders fall when he is looking at Naruto's blonde head, as he keeps staring at the papers. He knows why Naruto asks him.
Minato would say yes.
Mito would say yes.
Because they care more about Naruto than the clan.
Out of love. Out of guilt. It doesn't matter. Naruto thinks they are blinded, so he asks the man who has been able to keep him on track and grounded on reality throughout his life.
"I think you were- are in a tough spot, kid."
Naruto scoffs, because that is an understatement.
"I also think I would have taken the same choice if I were you.”
Naruto lets out a shaky breath. It doesn’t mean much, but knowing that someone would have taken his same decision is enough to make him feel slightly better. Slightly.
Because the pain of knowing what this means for everyone around him is-
“But you know what you can focus on, instead of going around in your mind wondering if what you did was the correct thing to do?”
Naruto knows. Remembers. Time after time, fall after fall. The same words.
“On the things I can do for myself,” he utters.
Jiraiya slaps his shoulder as he tries to cheer him up. He does. Or at least Naruto lets him think he did. “Let’s go train your body now, shall we?”
Naruto follows behind him, reciting the words inside his head. This is a real thing he can do to stay longer. This is something he can do without putting everyone else at risk.
This is something that will help him stay longer.
They reach one of the training grounds that Naruto likes to use. Far and secluded from the compound, where he can unleash part of his power without worrying excessively over its consequences. But now there are no flashy movements, no chakra powered moves that make holes in the ground or can tear trees in half.
Naruto sits in a patch of grass, places his hands on his thighs, and breathes in and out while being conscientious of his body. His blood flow, his breathing, the way his muscles tense and relax. The cold makes him shiver at first, but after a while his mind is so focused on the task at hand that he can barely hear what Jiraiya is saying.
“Thin out your chakra,” Jiraiya instructs, “you are supposed to become as non invasive as a rock to the chakra flow around you.”
All the years Naruto has been meditating make it easier for him to enter this trance. He usually uses this technique to correct his own flow -disrupted by the Beast's chakra- before he starts his day and before going to sleep in hopes of minimizing the damage.
Spreading his chakra comes easy, too, something he did as a child out of curiosity, then something he was trained to do in case of an attack, then as a means to further control his output, and now as a means to quench his anxiousness regarding Hinata's well-being.
"Remember to have enough to control the Beast's chakra, though." Adds Jiraiya, and Naruto wants to laugh.
As if that wasn't drilled into his very bones.
His chakra flows and he covers the inner compound without trouble, he keeps on reaching and goes halfway through the outer compound before Jiraiya stops him.
"You have to feed on the energy around you, you're just reaching out for reaching out. Focus."
There are no changes on Naruto. From the outside he remains still, impassive. But Jiraiya can feel his energy going around, he has attuned himself to catching the chakra flow around him as a fighting skill, but now thanks to the Toad Sages he can catch changes around him with more precision. Naruto is doing better than any other chakra wielding person. Better than Jiraiya did himself when he was being trained, too.
It’s a curious thing. Jiraiya can’t know for sure if the Beast’s vessels are stronger because they have to deal with their Beasts, or if it’s only because they are strong that they can deal with such an enormous chakra.
Naruto is a monster in his own right. Kushina was a prodigy, too. Sometimes he likes to let his mind wander and think about what it would have been if the Nine-Tails, no- if the Beasts were left alone like before the Beast Tamers came into the picture.
They were fighting their wars just fine.
But he guesses that someone wanted more, as always.
He wonders if Naruto likes to daydream about what-it-could-have-been like him, too. But that’s not a fair question to place upon him, so he has never shared it with him. Nor with Minato. Nor with Mito.
He has seen first hand what failure after failure does to a person.
He himself wanders the world in search of help he never finds. Takes off into places unknown in hopes of finding something, anything. This time for sure. This time for sure.
Naruto had been as full of hope as his father once. Blue eyes open wide when he came back, hands reaching for his scrolls while laughing. Jiraiya tried to lift the mood with a joke here and there, but then… time after time, the barest of progress and Naruto began to mimic him.
Minato would shake his head at their antics, and Jiraiya would indulge Naruto without missing a beat, but it was obvious, so obvious that he was as disappointed as his father.
Jiraiya rests his hand on Naruto’s shoulder. “Focus.”
Naruto is doing everything he’s supposed to do, but it is difficult enough to thin out your chakra and try to lose yourself with your surroundings without the need to stay very much conscious of your own body. Lest you bring destruction to everything around you.
“You gave yourself two months, kid, don’t rush it.”
Naruto tries to stay in control, but his chest is beginning to feel like it's shrinking, so he lets go. It’s just the first day.
The first day of many.
“It took me five months to start seeing any type of results, you know? Don’t push yourself too hard.”
Naruto stares at his hands, at their slight tremble.
“I wasn’t rushing,” he whispers. He feels Jiraiya’s stare on the back of his head, so he plasters a smile on his face and raises his head. “Let’s try again, then.”
Naruto is on his way to meet Shikamaru when Neji comes to him.
Neji shakes his head no before he’s close enough to be heard without raising his voice. “No, my lord, Lady Hinata is fine, she’s with Sai. It’s Lord Shikamaru.”
“I’m on my way to see him…”
“Yes, but he’s not there, he is in a meeting with the Inuzuka’s leader.”
“Tsume?” Naruto’s legs start moving and Neji follows.
“Yes, we have received a message and Lord Shikamaru has gone to check on security-”
Naruto hurries now. “What was it about?”
“I- Maybe we should wait-”
“No. Tell me now, what was it about?”
“The Two-Tails is asking for a meeting.”
Naruto is frowning the moment he enters the meeting room.
“My lord!” Tsume starts, her hair wild and her eyes filled with worry.
Shikamaru locks eyes with Naruto for a second before coming back to the plans on the desk.
“Kiba went to get her,” Tsume informs. She shakes her head before anyone else can add on the conversation. “I don’t like this, my lord.”
And judging by Shikamaru’s deep frown, Naruto surmises neither does he. “Do we have a date?”
Naruto stops for a second, “Oh, that’s… not that urgent.”
“A month and a half is a good amount of time to prepare, yes,” concedes Shikamaru, “but-”
“I do not approve,” says Tsume. “Putting all of the Beast Tamers that are left in one place after… after what happened?”
“Hana went to look for him,” Tsume shares. Her eyes don’t leave Naruto’s face and he feels the pressure.
“What’s the purpose of this?”
“Prepare countermeasures,” Shikamaru air-quotes. As for excuses, it is one, but it is so vague, it can only be seen as-
“That we have already put in place,” Tsume snarls. “This is just a plot from the Two-Tails to fuck around with our lord. Now our clan has the upper hand, we are literally keeping things together by being decent human beings and keeping low while the whole world is running around like wild beasts. I can smell this from kilometers away! They want to take a chance and do something underhanded, I assure you, do not waste your time, my lord.”
“The Four-Tails is going,” Shikamaru says.
“A ploy,” Tsume crosses her arms, disgust on her face, “now they’re using a dead man to keep the ball rolling?”
“Allegedly,” Shikamaru sighs. Tsume glares at him, but Shikamaru only shrugs, “allegedly dead, he may well be alive and kicking, we have no way of knowing.”
“Our lord doesn’t go and what can they do,” Tsume presses, “we have our lord and Lord Gaara, whatever they can do-”
“But they can do damage,” Naruto is close to the table now, he puts down the message Shikamaru received and he knows Tsume is right. This looks nothing short of a trap.
This looks like nothing but a trap.
“We can’t just deny a call from a Beast Tamer without good reason,” Shikamaru taps his fingers on the table, “now even less, with the Beast Tamer truce we have going on and all.”
“You don’t need a reason to say no.” Tsume sighs to the ceiling, hating the direction this is going.
“You could…” Shikamaru looks at Naruto. They could use Lady Hinata’s pregnancy as an excuse, but then everyone would know about her condition and-
“No,” Naruto shuts him down, his head shakes side to side. “Hinata’s pregnancy stays a secret.”
Tsume frowns. She can see where the lord is going with this. Can taste it. Ever the one to put himself in danger to take the brunt of it all.
“This could be an opportunity,” Naruto starts. Shikamaru looks at him and the cogs move inside their brains.
A fight away from here. A fight where Naruto could potentially unleash his power without worrying about the repercussions.
A trap, sure.
But a trap they know is one.
Shino arrives a while later and without the knowledge of anyone else, they hatch a plan.