Chapter 18: I, Your Father, Have Had Enough…
After making a show of cutting ties with the posse she had formed over her past two years at the Academy, Ino made herself at home with Wus group. Sakura was also present, so each of the seats at their lunch table was now filled: Wu, Kaia, and Naruto on one side and Sakura, Hinata, and Ino on the other.
Though Naruto felt a little uncomfortable being surrounded by so many girls, he was content so long as he and Sakura were sitting at the same table. As for Wu, he couldnt care either way, so even when Ino acted as though she was now the groups leader, he just shut off his brain and let her prattle on, only speaking when prompted to do so.
Despite her bravado, Wu could tell that Ino was forcing herself. Cutting ties with people she had known even before the Academy wasnt as easy as she made it appear. She was secretly afraid that she would be kicked out of Wus group and find herself without any friends, so she was doing her best to maintain a confident front.
Fortunately for Ino, Wu didnt care if she was the biggest bitch in the world or even more bashful than Hinata. So long as she made an effort, he would at least tolerate her existence. After all, if she aggravated the others enough, there was a chance their training group could dissolve on its own. He would still be stuck with Kaia, but she was fairly easy to get along with as she, more or less, obeyed him without question.
With school ending without any other notable incidents, Wu returned to the Sarutobi Estate with Kaia, Sakura, Hinata, and Ino. The latter took the lead, never shutting up for more than a few seconds at a time, but it didnt really matter as their destination was the same…
“Is this seriously all you do Standing like youre about to poop while practicing Chakra control…”
After seeing what Wu had Sakura, Hinata, and Kaia doing, Ino couldnt help feeling like she had made a grave mistake. She had expected Wu to have a secret training regiment developed by the Third Hokage. Standing atop a log and squatting down until their legs gave out just seemed like a convenient excuse for Wu to touch their bodies.
Maintaining a blameless expression, Wu calmly explained, “Strengthening the body and improving your Chakra Control is the foundation atop which all other techniques are derived. Chakra is the aggregation of a persons physical, spiritual, and mental energies, so what could possibly be better than training that promotes all three”
Furrowing her brows, Ino muttered, “You say that…but how does letting you stare up at our butts help promote anything Like, I get what youre saying, but this just seems so…suspicious…”
Shaking his head, Wu flatly replied, “Then just dont get up on the log. I already showed you the Tree-Sticking Exercise and explained the idea of spreading your Chakra through the ground. If you want to sit on the side and stick leaves to the soles of your feet, be my guest. However, before you complete this training, you simply arent prepared for anything more advanced.”
Perking up slightly, Ino remarked, “So there is more to it. Tell me, what comes after we master sticking to things You should have at least one or two super-secret Ninjutsu, right”
Though he was tempted to tell Ino to leave, the truth of the matter was that Wu had, in fact, prepared a technique for the girls to use. Watching Hinata perform the Gentle Fist had given him all kinds of ideas, so instead of answering her with words, Wu extended his hand, surprising Ino as the air around her seemed toharden.
While keeping the visibly trembling girl firmly in place, Wus expression and tone flattened as he explained, “Chakra can flow through virtually any medium, be it the ground beneath your feet, the water in a lake, or the air around you. Once you master diffusion and hardening, the only thing that can limit you are your reserves and Chakra Control.”
As the technique he was performing was incredibly taxing on his reserves, Wu released the teary-eyed Ino from his grasp, preempting her outburst by pointing out, “If your body was stronger, you could have easily broken free from such a technique. Do you think your tears will stop your enemies from killing you”
Though she was briefly cowed by Wus words, Inos jaw began to visibly quiver, eventually culminating in her shouting, “Youre a real jerk…!” before storming off toward the nearby treeline. She needed to vent her emotions, and she didnt want Sakura, or anyone else, to see her crying.
Exhibiting no remorse for his actions, Wu turned to the stunned Sakura and Hinata, asking, “What Its infinitely better she hears these things from me than someone who genuinely wishes her harm. The duties and responsibilities of a Shinobi include hunting people down and killing. Our enemies will not show us mercy, so lessons like this are a kindness that wont be afforded to you in the real world. Remember that.”
Turning away from the duo, Wu forced his expression to soften as he said, “Come, Kaia. Let us continue where we left off on Friday.”
Completely unaffected by Wus apparent cruelty, Kaia smiled broadly and replied, “Yes, Aniki~!” in a spirited tone. As Kiba had demonstrated during Wus first day, the Inuzuka Clan could be fairly cruel to one another. They lived a rigidly hierarchal lifestyle, so Kaia didnt even question the method Wu used todiscipline his packmates…
After calming to the point her tears were no longer flowing freely, Ino stared off into space with a listless look on her face. The technique Wu had used against her made it impossible for her to breathe, so she was suffocating for the duration of his explanation. Sheknew Wu wouldnt kill her, but that didnt make the situation any less frightening…
Having been spying on Ino with her Byakugan, Hinata waited until the former had calmed down a bit before approaching her hiding place, her voice soft, gentle, and caring as she asked, “Are you okay, Ino-chan…”
Taking a moment to wipe away the remnants of her tears, Ino forced herself to smile as she replied, “Yeah, Im okay. Itll take a lot more than that to break my spirit. Im just pretending to be upset to make Wu-kun feel sorry for what he did.”
Blinking in surprise, Hinata briefly considered pointing out that Wu didnt appear to feel even remotely guilty for his actions. Instead, she sat down next to Ino, an awkward silence lingering between them before she softly whispered, “I dont think Wu-kun is a bad person…he just..views things differently than the rest of us…”
Rolling her eyes, Ino hugged her knees and replied, “You dont need to make excuses for him, Hinata-chan. Wu-kunis a jerk. Hes just a jerk for the right reasons. I know he was trying to scare me so I would take the training seriously, but that doesnt make him any less of a jerk…”
Unable, or, more accurately, unwilling to argue with Ino, Hinata just gave a faint smile. She knew that Wu was only being ajerk because of the way Ino was behaving. Wu was very patient and understanding if you worked hard or seriously asked for his advice. He would even explain things more than once if you didnt understand his initial explanation, so it didnt feel fair to regard him as a jerk. He was just…earnest…
Feeling awkward due to Hinatas silence, Ino bounced to her feet, her smile regaining a bit of its confidence as she said, “We should probably get back. Im tempted to get Wu-kun into trouble with the Hokage, but I dont want him to kick me out of the training sessions just yet. Until I can catch him in that same technique, Im not going anywhere.”
Extending her hand to Hinata, Inos smile cramped when the former didnt immediately accept her assistance. Instead, the pearl-eyed heiress just stared at her outstretched hand for several seconds, seemingly oblivious to Inos good intentions…
Though things were noticeably awkward for the first few days, Ino never complained a second time about theefficacy of Wus training. She would sometimes get frustrated, but that was mainly due to herneed to be the best in the group. Sakuras impressive and improving Chaka Control gave her a massive advantage when it came to sticking to the log. Ino refused to play second fiddle to a girl that had required her rescuing several times in the past, so she was at her wits end trying to catch up.
Fortunately, instead of interfering with the groups progress, Inos fiercely competitive nature spurred the others to train harder. Friendly competition was a powerful motivator, so Sakura and Ino were improving rapidly while Hinata continued at a slower but steady pace. Her goal was different from the two rivals, so she didnt feel as much pressure to improve. As for Kaia, well, she was just having fun…
“Wait, are we really going to train I thought that was just an excuse we gave our parents so we could hang out together”
Having never witnessed how serious Wu was about his training, Kiba was surprised when the former dragged him, Naruto, Shikamaru, and Choji out to his usual spot before asking them to demonstrate their regular routines.
Narrowing his eyes slightly, Wu replied, “Were supposed to be preparing ourselves for a career as Shinobi. The Academy already consumes a lot of our time, so we must train hard when the opportunity presents itself. Dont you want to get stronger…”
Scratching the back of his head, Kiba replied, “I mean, yeah Of course, I want to get stronger. But I already do a bunch of training back at the Clan Compound. At least give me my weekends off…”
Shifting his attention from Kiba, Wu passed his gaze over Naruto, Choji, and Shikamaru, his expression and tone hardening as he asked, “Do the three of you feel the same way…”
Smiling awkwardly, Naruto replied, “Come on, Wu. We can still train while having fun. No need to be all serious.”
Though it was only noticed by Shikamaru, Wus right eye twitched when he heard Narutos words. Ever since Naruto had learned about his mother and began receiving a bigger allowance, he no longer exhibited the same sense ofurgency. He still tried his best to prove himself at the Academy, often challenging Sasuke to spars, but that was primarily to try and show off in front of Sakura…
Surprising the group of boys, Wu reached up to massage his forehead and eyes, muttering, “I need a minute to process this…” Then, without waiting for the groups response, he abruptly sat down, continuing to conceal his eyes as he fought hard to suppress his rage…
Feeling awkward and concerned for his friend, Naruto tentatively inquired, “Hey, are you okay Wu…”
Before Naruto could make the grave mistake of shaking Wus shoulder, Shikamaru placed his hand on the formers shoulder, shaking his head as he softly yet firmly asserted, “Just leave him be, Naruto. When people say they need time to process, you give it to them. Come on, lets go sit in the shade.”
Shaking his head a second time, Shikamaru pulled Naruto along, Choji and Kiba following soon after. His father had advised him to keep an eye on Wu since the latter first appeared at the Academy, so Shikamaru could tell when the usually affable boy was genuinely angry. Thus, while the others were more than a little confused, he made a mental note to never intrude upon Wus training unless he was serious about joining in…