Chapter 13

A/N: Thanks for waiting, people. The story goes on. This was originally goingto be a much shorter section in a longer chapter, but then things happened,and finally I decided to release the result like this instead of making youwait even longer for an eventual megachapter whose unwieldy mass would cause agravitational collapse of the Internet. As a helpful side effect, this meansthat the content of the next chapter is fully nailed down and partly written.

Please do leave reviews, as they’re the only way I’ll know how I can makethis story better, and they also inspire me to write a lot more than I wouldotherwise (even if you can’t tell from my currently dodgy release schedule).Among other things, there is a standing bounty on logic and consistencyerrors, since those are best caught and fixed early on. I don’t want to reachthe endgame only to realise that I accidentally patched smart!Akatsuki’s onlyweakness sixty chapters ago, and now it is no longer physically possible foranyone to stop their ritual to summon Jashin-sama into the Demonic Statue ofthe Outer Path. (disclaimer: I make no guarantees that this will or will nothappen in the story; smart!Akatsuki does not equal sane!Akatsuki)

Also, the anime story is now covering Madara and Hashirama’s friendship andthe founding of Leaf. Please do not post manga spoilers beyond this point inreviews or PMs.

Also also, courtesy of Traiden’s suggestion, I’ve posted a link to thischapter at the /r/ rational subreddit(/r/rational/comments/2bcft8/rt_new_chapter_of_lighting_up_the_dark_a/). Feelfree to go there for discussion. Well, feel free to go anywhere fordiscussion, but that’s where I’ll be participating.

-o-

Today was a very important day for Hinata. This day only came once insomeone’s life, and there were those who considered it to be the point atwhich one stopped being a child and became a woman (though typically one wouldbe a bit older at this point, and more experienced). She was excited, andanxious, and wished there’d been more she could do to prepare. But she washere now, she trusted Naruto as much as anyone in the world, and if everythingwent well, this day would mark a permanent change in their relationship.

Before she’d started getting to know Naruto, she’d always assumed that she’dbe doing this with Kurenai-sensei, in accordance with unspoken but near-universal ninja tradition. Though she’d thought it would be years before shehad the confidence, or perhaps that it would never happen at all. Shecertainly wouldn’t have expected to find herself here at the age of thirteen,in a remote corner of the little-used Seventh Training Grounds, with herByakugan on to make sure of their privacy, and Naruto lying on the ground infront of her looking rather stunned. (She’d tried to be as gentle as possible,but there were some things you just couldn’t do gently, and he himself hadinsisted that she not hold back.)

Yes, this was the day Hinata presented her master with her first originaltechnique.

A couple of seconds later, Naruto picked himself up off the ground, a littleunsteadily. “Can you show me again, in slow motion this time?”

Hinata obliged. Her open-palm strike went for his solar plexus. Then, at thelast second, her arm jerked back with unnatural speed, and instantly came inagain, stopping just beneath his chin.

“Gotcha. So this is what you’ve been working on, is it?”

Hinata nodded. She’d practiced it over and over before this meeting, but she’dstill been afraid up to the last second that it would have some incrediblyobvious flaw or counter that would make Naruto stop her before she’d evenfinished demonstrating. Now, she was feeling flushed with success.

“I was reading”, she explained, “about how many of the oldest martial artsstyles are supposed to imitate the movement of predators, and it made mewonder why there were so few based on prey. I think people underestimate howmuch effort a prey animal puts into surviving when it’s always surrounded bybigger and stronger things that want to eat it.”

“I see. So how does that translate into an unblockable death strike?”

“Well,” Hinata went through the motions again as she explained, showing theway it could be adapted to strike at different points, “it’s about turningescape into an offensive move. You project chakra from your palm as if youwere doing Water Walking or Tree Walking, only you do it as soon as the otherperson starts blocking your attack, and you do it in a sharp burst. Your armsnaps back, and now you’re in the starting position for the real attack whilethey’re still in the middle of blocking your feint. Unless they’re literallytwice as fast as you, they’ve got no hope of defending.”

“Nice!” Naruto sounded impressed. His satisfaction washed over Hinata like awarm glow (in addition to the existing warm glow that had lasted ever sincethe date and showed no sign of going away).

“All right, let me try it myself. Multiple Shadow Clone Technique!”

As Naruto practiced against Hinata, a small army of shadow clones did the samething in pairs around them. Every few seconds, one would disappear, and thepairings would adjust, until finally there was just one shadow clone left,which summarily dispelled itself.

“That should be enough,” Naruto announced. “I do like the idea, but I’m afraidit’s an incomplete technique. You can’t use it.”

And there it was. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Way too much strain on the elbow, or any joint that has to take the impact ofsnapping back. If you did this on a regular basis, you’d have severe jointproblems pretty soon. I bet that’s why the Hyūga don’t already use it, whatwith pure chakra emission being your thing and all.”

Hinata’s good mood vanished as if it had never been. Of course she wouldn’t bean inventor like Naruto after a few short months. Who had she thought she waskidding? How had she even missed such an obvious weakness, when as a Hyūga sheprobably knew more anatomy than most Chūnin? And he’d probably had such highexpectations of her, and now she’d let him down, and managed to simultaneouslydisappoint her master and embarrass herself in front of her new boyfriend,and maybe she should just leave now and not waste any more of his time…

Some of this must have shown on her face.

“No, no, look, it’s all right to invent incomplete techniques!” Naruto toldher, waving his hands in a slightly panicked fashion. “What matters is thatyou keep trying, and… and don’t give up, and learn from your mistakes, and…”From Naruto’s expression, he was as aware as she was of how reassuring thoseplatitudes didn’t sound.

“Here, I’ll give you an example,” he changed tack. “Do you remember beingtaught the Rule of Stability when we learned the Substitution Technique?”

Hinata nodded. The ABCs of ninjutsu, at least, were something even shecouldn’t get wrong. “Never use an unstable substance such as a liquid or gaswhen anchoring yourself in real space.”

“OK, so I never got taught that.”

Hinata’s mouth dropped open.

Naruto shrugged. “I’d broken Kataoka-sensei’s niece’s nose in a fight theprevious day, and I think he was still a bit freaked out. So he arranged it soI got taught it on my own, and ‘forgot’ to teach me a couple of the essentialprinciples. It’s the kind of thing that happened when I was at the Academy.”

Hinata was still giving him an incredulous look. “But… But if you break theRule of Stability, you explode, or your body gets lost in phase space, orsomething terrible happens to you.”

There was a pause.

“Are you sure it wasn’t an accident?” she asked, not so much doubting Naruto’saccount as requesting reassurance she already knew she wasn’t going to get.

“Yeah,” Naruto gave her a wry look, “just like when we were learning aboutexploding tags and someone ‘accidentally’ happened to give me a real setinstead of replicas. Would you believe there was a time I thought _everyone_went through this sort of thing, like the Academy was culling people who weretoo careless to be ninja?”

Hinata’s brain was frozen. Naruto seemed to be describing some completelyalien parallel universe. She couldn’t imagine living in a world where teacherstried to kill their pupils; it was like that dystopian novel where instead ofbeing reformed, the Hidden Village of Bloody Mist had conquered the entirecontinent (and after reading twenty pages, Hinata had decided never to trustShino’s book recommendations again). It was what you got when you went out ofyour way to write grimdark, not something that happened right here in everydaylife.

She tried to think of something to say, and failed. Her mind was completelyblank. Naruto wouldn’t lie about something like this, it wouldn’t make anysense. And it was horribly consistent with the various comments he’dpreviously made about his childhood. Except she couldn’t picture stern yetkindly Kataoka-sensei (who’d always had a soft spot for her) as some kind ofcold-blooded murderer of children.

She took a deep breath. This was it, wasn’t it, one of those times when youhad to weigh up evidence and check what you thought you knew and how youthought you knew it, and all the other techniques that sounded easy until youhad to use them for something real rather than for practice.

However, Naruto went on, oblivious to her distressed state (or, the low-self-esteem voice in the depths of her mind whispered, simply unwilling to dealwith it).

“That’s why when I got taught the Substitution Technique, the first thing Idid was sit down and try to think through the obvious failure modes. It didn’ttake me long to realise that if you could really Substitute with anything,people would be Substituting with air all the time, and there’d be no need forthings like the Body Flicker Technique. So I knew right then that I hadn’tbeen taught the whole thing.

“But long story short, I filled in the gaps as best I could from books andcopying the other kids and pretending I was so dumb they had no choice but tocorrect me. And obviously I didn’t dare experiment with the incomplete versionof the technique until later, when I had clones to do it with. All thingsconsidered, I really wish they’d taught us the Clone Technique right at thebeginning. It would’ve made my life a lot easier.”

Naruto turned to look directly at Hinata, his voice rising a little. “But thepoint is, there’s something I discovered only because I knew an incompletetechnique. It’s probably a very big deal, though, so it needs to stay anabsolute secret.”

Hinata nodded, curiosity temporarily distracting her from her inner turmoil.

“Great. Then use your Byakugan one more time to make sure no one’s watching.”

A quick scan of the area later, Hinata nodded again.

With a grin, Naruto summoned several ordinary clones – not shadow clones,Hinata noticed, which was unusual for him. With that effortlesssynchronisation unique to clones, they began forming seals, familiar and yetsomehow slightly off.

“Uzumaki-style Ninjutsu: Dimensional Anchor Technique!”

Hinata blinked. Her Byakugan was still on, and suddenly she could see that alarge section of the clearing in front of her was filled with a faint mist ofNaruto’s chakra. But it wasn’t moulded into elemental chakra or anything, andtry as she might, she couldn’t see what the advantage was of creating clonesonly to make them commit suicide. It didn’t help her concentration that,according to Naruto, someone she trusted had intended to turn _him _into mistlike that.

“Awesome, isn’t it?” Naruto beamed at her. “I’ve checked around, and I haven’tbeen able to find a single existing technique for efficiently spreading yourown chakra over a large three-dimensional area. All the techniques I’ve heardof are about transforming it into something else, or charging it with specialproperties, or infusing it into objects or whatever. Even the Hyūga stuffyou’ve shown me is about projecting small bits of chakra with pinpointprecision rather than anything like this.”

“Isn’t that because neutral chakra doesn’t do anything on its own?”

Naruto’s grin got slightly wider. “And that’s where you’d be wrong. Go on, seeif you can figure it out.”

Hinata tried. In addition to being an instruction from Naruto, it was anexcuse to postpone having to turn her worldview upside down. Plus, she’d donelittle but read in the library during the couple of months after the…misunderstanding, and her understanding of general ninjutsu theory had grownfairly solid.

She’d watched his clones use the incomplete Substitution Technique, and thenvanish as chakra burst into existence elsewhere. Based on what Naruto hadsaid, they’d been violating the Rule of Stability, so presumably they weretrying to anchor to thin air instead of a solid like the classic log. Whichmeant that when the chakra reached its destination, it tried to assume theunstable pattern of the air, failed, and dispersed into the surroundingenvironment. Without a stable anchor to come back to, the clones would eitherremain trapped in phase space forever, or they would come back in pieces (theexact details depending on complex equations that she didn’t have thesealcrafting training to follow).

All right, so if you were trying to disperse chakra across an area, why do itin this roundabout way instead of simply making clones and letting them pop?

As she pondered Naruto’s chakra, she realised that it still wasn’t fadingaway. Normally chakra from destroyed clones vanished almost instantaneously.Naruto wasn’t adding any more chakra, or indeed doing anything at all, andthere was nothing special about this clearing, so something about the chakraitself was unusual.

Hinata focused her Byakugan. Observing chakra flow on the finest scales washard, much harder than mustering the level of concentration needed to followit through a human body, but her father had been clear that someone unable tomaintain flawless one-point focus could hardly be called a Hyūga at all, nevermind an heir. With this hard-earned ability, Hinata could now see that thechakra was sort of… pulling itself together, not enough to counter its naturaltendency to drift apart, but enough to slow the process down significantly.Almost as if it was intelligent.

Which, of course, it was. It possessed no apparent will separate from itsmaster’s, and did not respond to any attempts at communication (at leastoutside some really wonderful speculative fiction), but this intelligence wasthe reason that mere hand motions and visualisation were sufficient to bringforth effects that even the most cutting-edge commoner science couldn’t beginto replicate. The academically dominant Mechanical Theory of Ninjutsu in factsuggested that the Sage of Six Paths had invented ninjutsu as a user interfaceto allow human beings to give instructions to chakra, like Clone AIprogramming for the very lifeforce that animated all living things.

In short, Naruto’s chakra, now fully separate from him, was still followingthe last instructions it had received from the incomplete SubstitutionTechnique, namely to form a stable anchor at a given location. The nextquestion, naturally, was what this accomplished.

Hinata risked a glance at Naruto, who appeared to be giving her a measuringlook. The sudden sharp awareness that this was a test (how had she notrealised earlier?) doubled her heart rate. Now she _had _to get this right,and the faster the better.

He’d called it the Dimensional Anchor Technique. What did that mean? It didn’tmean he was anchoring one dimension to another (which wasn’t even a coherentconcept), or that he was anchoring a location in one to a location in another(because he was explicitly failing to create a working anchor). Was heanchoring an object from moving between dimensions? But you couldn’t do thatwith a D-rank technique. The laws of physics explicitly permitted space-timeninjutsu, and altering them even in a small area took advanced sealingtechniques; a Genin doing it would be like having Tora the cat perform Kiba’sBeastman Clone Transformation. Although this _was _Naruto she was dealingwith…

While Naruto still hadn’t told her about his A-rank mission, the rumours werebeginning to spread. Hinata had now been informed that, among other things,Naruto had single-handedly killed the Seven Shinobi Swordsmen and theirleader, the Heir of the Serpent Lord (throwing mystics across the world intoconfusion, since according to prophecy the Heir had been supposed to slay theLightbringer in the Battle of the End and thereby cast the world intodarkness); had saved Captain Kakashi’s life through an epic dance-off with theGod of Death; had seduced the Queen of Wave (at this point Hinata had feltinexplicably compelled to run to the nearest atlas, which informed her thatWave hadn’t been a monarchy for three hundred years); and had invented anoriginal almond cake recipe which used demon blood, and which the Hokage hadclassified as a forbidden technique after a single bite. At least half of themhad probably been started by Naruto himself, but this only made her wondermore about the other half.

Captain Kakashi wasn’t helping, as for reasons best known to himself he’dchosen to answer all queries with a completely deadpan “all rumours regardingUzumaki Naruto are 100% true; all of them. And yes, he is the reincarnationof the First Hokage _and _Uchiha Madara _and _General Chaos.”

Naruto was still looking at her, still expecting something. She couldn’t relyon her assumptions, that much was clear. But how else was she going to workthis out, with as little information as she possessed?

She took a deep breath. No, they’d been over this. Don’t propose solutionsuntil you’d thought about it for five clock minutes (which was anexcruciatingly long time to have to sit still while Naruto watched you, notthat he seemed to realise).

But once she’d started looking for things that weren’t solutions, it didn’ttake long for her to think of the question she should have asked from thebeginning. Naruto was a genius, and some of those rumours might even betrue, but he was still only human. How had he figured out what theincomplete Substitution Technique was good for?

-o-

Around the same time, Sasuke was wandering the streets of Leaf, meditating onthe ubiquity of weakness and betrayal, and whether he was alone in hisperception of the world, or whether there was some hidden enclave of sanepeople which had somehow failed to become aware of his existence and issue himan invitation. He never made up his mind, however, as he suddenly became awareof something very unusual indeed.

The girl walking a few metres in front of him was wearing a folded battle fanon her back. Not a hand fan, either, but one of the full-sized weapons of warthat had not been seen in Leaf for many decades (after Uchiha Madara’sspecialisation in that weapon had made them unfashionable to say the least).Of course, Madara had only been following an earlier tradition: the Uchihaclan symbol had, for all of recorded history, been the Fan That Feeds theFire, and indeed “Uchiha” itself was a corruption of an ancient word for“fan”. As such, Sasuke made it a point of pride to know all there was to beknown about that particular weapon. This specific fan type would not beparticularly effective in the Fire Country, where attempts to gather greatwinds were impeded by the endless forest, but in the flat deserts of theneighbouring Wind Country (where Leaf’s ally Hidden Sand was based), one whomastered it would be lethal indeed.

His curiosity piqued, Sasuke looked more carefully. The girl, a blonde, wasthe leftmost of a party of three, each carrying something on their back. Inthe middle was a shorter, red-headed boy with an oversized gourd, while on theright, a tall shape of indeterminate gender (from the back, at least) wore afull-body black suit and carried a strange-looking cocoon of bandages. Theirequipment and their body language clearly said “ninja with a purpose”; butwhat would Hidden Sand be doing here?

Not that he was going to strike up any sort of conversation with them, ofcourse. That was the kind of thing Naruto would do, inflicting his presenceon others with no sense of when he was or wasn’t wanted. No, Sasuke was justgoing to-

Slam.

Some random kid – on closer inspection, the Hokage’s irritating grandson –apparently hadn’t been looking where he was going, and had charged straightpast Sasuke and into the red-haired boy in the middle of the ninja group. Thesequence of events that followed was surreal.

The redhead turned around and looked down at the kid, Konohamaru, with agentle, contemplative expression, as if trying to decide if the latterfulfilled some sort of abstract requirement. Sasuke noticed, with a feeling ofdistaste, that the foreigner had a prominent red tattoo in the top left of hisforehead – “purpose” in traditional characters, as if writing random words onyourself magically made you deep and profound.

The look on the girl’s face, initially neutral and distant, quickly turned toanxiety. “Gaara, no!” she hissed, urgently but quietly enough that an ordinaryninja wouldn’t have been able to hear it from this distance.

Gaara gave her what could best be described as a reproachful look, and didn’tkeep his voice down at all. “Temari, I haven’t killed anyone in twenty-fourdays. You know what happens if I go too long without killing.”

The joke – obvious as such from the fact that Sasuke couldn’t sense even awhisper of bloodlust – was in poor taste, and only confirmed Sasuke’s dislikeof the little poser.

But Temari’s whole body seemed to tense up, as though she’d suddenly foundherself in a life-or-death situation. She glanced briefly at Sasuke, as if notknowing what to do with him, then looked back to Gaara. “Remember what Baki-sensei said,” she whispered more softly (as if that could help against thelip-reading prowess of the Uchiha). “No killing anyone until the secondstage of the Chūnin Exam.”

The third figure, a boy who might have been all right but for the ugly purplewar paint on his face, finally weighed in with a nervous mutter. “Listen toyour sister, Gaara. Listen to Temari. _Please _listen to Temari. She knowswhat’s best for you.”

Gaara looked back down at Konohamaru, who seemed to be on the verge of tears.

For an instant, Sasuke’s vision seemed to blur, and instead of Konohamaru hesaw Inari lying on the ground, his hand raised in a feeble block that wouldn’tward off a punch from a drunken civilian, never mind an attack from a ninja.It was impossible, of course, and Inari was safely in the Country of the Wave.But by the time Sasuke had reminded himself of this, he was somehow alreadystanding in front of Gaara, his body weight shifted very nearly into a combatstance, and his Sharingan active in as explicit a display of threat as hecould project.

After a long, very long second, during which Gaara regarded both of them witha calculating expression, the redhead suddenly smiled. Ignoring Sasuke, heglanced sideways at Temari, and then gave Konohamaru a sort of conspiratoryshrug, as if to say “see the kind of thing I have to deal with?”

“I apologise,” he said, with a light bow that didn’t have any trace ofmockery. “I promise I will kill you after the second stage of the Chūnin Exam,so please wait until then.”

And before Sasuke or Konohamaru could make sense of what had just happened,the three were gone.

-o-

Hinata collated her impossible experimental results with a frown. Within thefield of Naruto’s chakra in the middle of the clearing, the SubstitutionTechnique did not work (in either direction). This despite the fact that theSubstitution Technique was not a thing that could be blocked. There was noknown technique that prevented a person who was following all the rules – theRule of Stability, the Rule of Consent, the Rule of Conservation of Space, thevarious rules relating to size and shape and correct visualisation etc. – fromshifting herself or an object into phase space, or from shifting back. It wasone of the reasons why space-time techniques were so coveted in spite of theirhigh difficulty.

It had only got worse from there. The Clone Technique didn’t work either.While there were techniques, very advanced ones, that could destroy clones asfast as they were created, she knew of none that could block the process socompletely that she wasn’t even allowed to spend the chakra. She _was _able towalk pre-made clones in from outside the field with no harm done, but theywere then subject to the same limitations as she was. This had in fact beenthe first thing she learned, in accordance with Naruto’s Law ofExperimentation Number One: Get A Clone To Do It First.

That had left only one basic technique that Naruto would have known whenexperimenting himself.

But the Transformation Technique fared no better. Hinata was good at theTransformation Technique, and tried it every which way, even transforming intothe Perfectly Generic Object, an Academy training aid specially designed to bean ideal target for transformation, and useless for absolutely every otherpurpose. But no, in spite of her best efforts she was still just Hinata.

So that left her with exactly one more thing she could try.

Hinata walked out of the field, and turned to Naruto. “I’m going to use theadvanced version of the Transformation Technique to turn into… let’s saySakura, and walk into the field and see what happens.”

Naruto had drilled her very thoroughly in certain elements of ninjutsuexperimentation, and one of these was that if you were experimenting on howyour techniques interacted with someone else’s, you cleared every singleexperiment with them first. And if ever she felt tempted to ignore the safetyprocedures Naruto had taught her, there was always the memory of the Clothes-Dispelling Incident.

“I wouldn’t,” Naruto told her in a serious, perhaps slightly over-emphatictone of voice. “You’d get the same results as for the other techniques – can’tactivate, can’t dispel once activated, otherwise working as normal. But don’tactually do this one.”

“Why shouldn’t I…” Hinata cut herself off. She was still in mid-test, so shehad to try to work this out herself.

Hinata thought the process through step by step. The Transformation Techniquealways began by shifting your real body into phase space. At the same time,you applied all your concentration to shaping the chakra you left behind intoa custom anchor, possessing the properties of a physical object but alsoallowing limited sensory input. Only in the case of the advanced version, thatphysical object was a remote-controlled clone of sorts, shaped like the personyou wanted to imitate. There were a number of limitations – for example, ittook a lot of finesse to be able to use ninjutsu through a clone whose chakrasystem only partially resembled a human one. Otherwise, as Kurenai-sensei hadexplained, any sensible shinobi would be transformed at all times duringmissions, to prevent enemies from guessing their powers from reputation (oreven make them guess wrongly by disguising themselves as other famousshinobi), or to confuse opponents during combat in any number of ways, or tocommit hostile acts while making accurate retaliation impossible.

The good thing about transforming into another person, on the other hand, wasthat you avoided the greatest danger of the Transformation Technique – that oftransforming into an object smaller than yourself, only to become trapped in aconfined space and find that you couldn’t transform back due to the Rule ofConservation of Space. Which in itself was horrifying enough, but if someonethen destroyed your anchor, thereby triggering the Rule of Automatic Return…No one knew what happened if two rules directly contradicted like that, andthat was partly because no one had ever experienced this and come back to tellthe tale. (And since there was such a thing as going insane from shadowclone feedback, that avenue of investigation was deemed firmly closed aswell.)

Hinata had nearly walked into an area where the Transformation Technique wasblocked. Suppose some accident had destroyed her clone form, and Naruto’sDimensional Anchor blocked the Transformation Technique from bringing back herreal body. She’d be… just gone, somewhere, or nowhere, or everywhere, and noone would ever know what happened to her, and she might not even be dead butshe would probably wish she was. She could feel the blood draining from herface.

“Relax,” Naruto told her, slowly, gently, evenly. “You’re OK. You’re safe.Everything is all right. This is why we always check first.”

Hinata nodded, a little weakly, and took the time to get her breathing undercontrol. But it was an axiom of the Academy, and certainly of Hyūga Hiashi,and probably of Kurenai-sensei too though it hadn’t come up yet, that near-death wasn’t an excuse to avoid training. So Hinata soon went back to work.

It clearly wasn’t as simple as Naruto blocking her from shifting her body toor from phase space, since that wouldn’t block the Clone Technique. Nor was itjust about blocking chakra emission (she’d used the Gentle Fist to check,aware that she was sort arguably cheating by using a technique Naruto hadn’thad access to). What principles did all three techniques have in common thathe could interfere with? It wasn’t the Rule of Conservation of Space, sincethere was plenty of space and Naruto’s neutral chakra should have no impact onthat. It wasn’t the Rule of Stability, since she’d tried using theSubstitution Technique on an ordinary log and failed. It wasn’t the Rule ofConsent, since she wasn’t targeting another living being…

Hinata’s mouth dropped open for the second time that day. Techniques didn’tdefine a living being by form, they defined it by presence of chakra.

Chakra was intelligent. It knew its master and rejected all others unless toldotherwise. It was why you couldn’t use the Substitution Technique on anotherliving creature unless it mentally consented or was chakra-drained virtuallyto the point of death. It was why you couldn’t get in range of an enemy andthen create a clone inside them pre-transformed into something small anddeadly. It was why medical ninja could shape their chakra into scalpels forself-defence, but couldn’t invert their healing techniques to serve as one-hit-kill touch weapons.

“You’ve made this entire area an extension of your body, and now nobody butyou can use any technique that involves the Rule of Consent,” Hinata told him,the awe audible in her voice.

Naruto beamed. “Yep. And that covers a whole bunch of stuff – summoningtechniques, for example. There are exceptions, though, like the FourthHokage’s Flying Thunder God Technique, and I’ve already figured out some hardcounters someone could use if they knew the right ninjutsu. So I’ll be keepingthis one a secret until I _really _need it.”

Hinata didn’t say anything. At this stage, it went without saying that shewould keep Naruto’s secrets, just as he would keep hers (at least once she hadsome worth keeping).

Then, out of nowhere, Naruto’s expression turned somewhat melancholy. “Hinata,you know how this technique works now. Remember it if you…” he hesitated. “Ifyou ever need to kill somebody who attacks with hordes of transformingclones.”

Hinata gave him a puzzled look, to which he did not respond.

“Anyway, that was only meant to be a demonstration of why you shouldn’t giveup just because a technique doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to,” Narutosaid in perhaps slightly too cheerful a voice. “And I know I’ve eaten way toofar into our normal training time, and I need to be at the Foreigners’Cemetery in an hour and a half, so how about we crank our sparring up todouble pace?”

Hinata gladly obliged. She had a lot to think about, but… later. All later.For now, there was Naruto, and there was training, and she let that fill herwhole world while she could.


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