Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Stumbling Blind

Maximum Tokage

by Virgo 2 reviews

More of the Asuma metaphors.

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance - Characters:  Ino, Shikamaru - Published: 2005-05-08 - Updated: 2005-05-08 - 3622 words

Stumbling Blind
13. Maximum Tokage

bgm- "Worried Eyes", Eagle Eye Cherry

Perhaps it was odd that, despite being involved with a very motivated, very driven and very stubborn girl, Shikamaru still managed to do the things he loved best. And, perhaps amazingly enough, Ino was almost always at his side and actually enjoying it. The thing they spent the most time together doing was, of course, cloud watching.

Ino liked clouds. Maybe not spending hours at a time looking up at them, but she liked them. Especially the big, fluffy-type clouds. But, she had to admit, sometimes it was nice to just lay back and watch them go by. Or maybe it was just because of who she was watching them with.

For a while now, Ino's mind was revolving vaguely around a certain subject, one she wasn't actively thinking about. But her mind had decided upon something- she wasn't entirely sure what it was -and she rolled onto her side. Shikamaru's eyes flickered at her, but he said nothing. He didn't say anything as she just looked at him. Even when she pushed herself up by her elbows and gave him a peck on the lips, he still didn't say anything. For that matter, neither did Ino as she rolled on her back again, looking up at the darkening sky.

On the way back to her house, they didn't say anything. It was surprising for Ino, all the silence that was in their relationship. But somehow it was a comfort to her. Because they didn't have to talk to know they liked being with each other, that they wanted to be together. And somehow it just made their words all the more precious to her.

Standing outside her front door, Ino turned to Shikamaru and said: "That wasn't a kiss of a girlfriend. That was a kiss thanking you for making me happy." She leaned forward, giving him another light kiss on the lips. "And that was because I want to make you happy."

She felt his lips on hers, words gentle in her ears. "That was because you already do."

These days recently she started to think about Shikamaru more. Being away from him even during the nights she missed him dearly. There would be times that she'd just lay in bed and think of him. She remembered his shoulders, looking broader under his flak jacket, the muscles in his arms getting thicker as the weeks went, his torso tighter. He still frowned an awful lot, but she liked to think a part of him was smiling when he was around her.

It was always the little things about him Ino missed most. The crinkle by his eyes when he chuckled at something under his breath, how the lines on his face smoothed out when he watched the clouds, even the way he'd scowl at something stupid, cupping his chin with a palm. He always looked cool when she really thought about it. Sure, he didn't turn heads like Sasuke did, but when you really looked at him, Ino decided, Shikamaru was hot in his own way.

His own 'not-making-an-attempt-because-I-don't-care-about-looking-good' way.

She thought about making him take better care of his appearance, but she figured it wouldn't make much of a difference. He'd resist until he got tired of it, sure, but he'd just let all her effort go to waste the minute she turned her back. Even if he did do it to humor her, he'd hate it and the last thing Ino wanted to do was needlessly get on Shikamaru's nerves. Well, in a not teasing sort of way. Besides, he was fine with his looks and she was at least satisfied that he didn't look grungy. She supposed he could get away with it.

That is until she could afford to put more focus upon that issue. Instead, Ino's world just seemed to get a slight more heavy.

She looked at her instructor as if something was sinking fast inside of her. Actually it felt more like the bottom of her stomach went into a pitfall.

"A new team?" She didn't succeed in keeping the whining note off the edge of her voice.

Asuma didn't seem to enjoy the news too much either, puffing away harshly at the end of his cigarette. "Yup. After all, you can't do the chuunin testing unless you're in a team of three."

"Who'll be my new teammates?"

"Don't know, yet. You have to wait until the next class graduates."

Ino mouth dropped open. "But....!" She couldn't think of anything to follow.

"I know, I know. They're too green. They probably won't follow your orders. They'll probably give you a hard time." He sighed. "Trust me, I know the apprehension you're getting far too well."

Looking down Ino pouted. "They won't be anything like Shikamaru and Chouji." She said quietly.

His ears perked at the sad tone in her voice. Gauging the expression on her face, Asuma gave a small, sad smile and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Ino-kun." He said affectionately. "I know the two of them mean a lot to you. And I know it feels wrong having to be in a team without them, but you have to. You'll never become a chuunin unless you do this."

"Maybe I won't be a chuunin, then."

"You know you don't mean that."

She clenched her hands, knowing that he was right. Ino was ambitious. That drive was bred into her family's blood. For her to settle for a genin, no matter the reason, caused every cell in her veins to riot.

After a moment she looked up at Asuma. "Will you still be my instructor?"

The question caught him off guard and the man pulled back a little, trying to think of a good response. He must've hesitated too long because that lost look on Ino's face increased.

"Maa, Ino." He tried to laugh but his voice came out a little strained. "Don't be like that. I don't know if I will be, but I'll see what I can do."

"I don't see why you can't be. They chose the groups with students that can compliment each other's abilities, don't they? So the groups will be balanced and one ability doesn't overpower another. And they choose instructors that would best fit the groups' personalities, isn't the right? So they can bring out the genins' potential?"

Surprised, Asuma took another drag. "Been thinking about this a lot?"

Ino shook her head. "It's something I remember Shikamaru telling me before. The creation of each group is extensively thought out. So wouldn't it make sense if you were still my instructor?"

He shrugged, smile on his lips. "It would, yes. But sometimes admin has a very warped sense of logic." He took another puff and tapped out his cigarette, pocketing the butt before Ino could glare at him for littering up the shop. Even if they were sitting in the room behind the counter, she'd still burn his ears off if she caught him leaving any of his 'cancer sticks' around. He was lucky enough he could even smoke in there.

"By they way," he said conversationally, "how is Shikamaru?" He grinned discreetly when the girl blushed.

"He's doing fine."

"Good, good. Not having trouble keeping up with the workload, is he?"

"At first the only thing he'd do when he got back from a mission or training is sleep. But he seems to be getting used to it now, he's not so exhausted anymore."

"Ah, good." He thumped a finger against his lips, just for something to do. "Haven't gone all the way with him yet, have you?"

"A-ASUMA-SENSEI!" She shrieked, nearly sending the chair out from underneath her.

"Have you?"

"N-No! Of course not! We're only 12!"

"Oh, there's a lot of kids out there that think they're old enough to do anything. Even if you're really mature, there's some things that you really should just wait for."

Ino crossed her arms, face still unbearably red. "If I didn't know any better, Asuma-sensei, I'd call you a closet pervert."

"You mean I'm not?" He asked innocently before pumping a fist. "Yes! Another oblivious one!"

The young girl shook her head, giggling. That's why she liked Asuma- sensei. He was like an older brother or the immature uncle everyone liked. He would always do something that made her and the boys feel relaxed. If any of them ever had a problem, Asuma had a way of making them forget about it.

Which, of course, brought herself to the main reason she had wanted to talk to her instructor.

"Ne, Asuma-sensei."


"Have you ever been in love?"

She was having this conversation with him? Asuma was surprised. With a grin, he leaned back. "Now, Ino-kun. I know we've been through a lot together, but there are rules against teachers dating their students...."

Ino glared at him. "That's not what I'm talking about and you know it."

He waved her anger off with a dismissive smile. "I know, I know." He tapped a finger against his leg. "You think you're in love with Shikamaru, huh?"

The girl blushed and looked away. "I'd talk to my parents about it, but Mom would probably make a big deal out of it. And Papa would either be ecstatic or hunt Shikamaru down."

"Still Daddy's Princess, I see."

"Besides," she growled, "I think they've been together for so long, they've probably forgotten the difference between like and love."

"And you think because I'm single I know the difference?" He sniffled dramatically. "Just strike down a man, just because he's unloved."


"Okay, okay. I'm being serious, here." The man cleared his throat and sat up straighter. "What do you want to know?"

"How can you tell when you love someone? When it's more than just liking them?"

He steepled his fingers, his mannerism making Ino lean forward in curiosity. "Well, first off, what do you think love is?"

She blinked, apparently not expecting a question to her question- though she wasn't entirely certain what she was expecting.

"I guess..... something special. Where you feel strongly about someone and you don't think you could live without them. Someone you want to spend your entire life with, all your secrets and fears and favorites. Someone that understands you and makes you feel like you're the only thing that matters. Love is something you'd never give up."

Asuma nodded. "If that's the case, why did you ask me what love is when I don't have anyone?" Ino blinked, obviously not understanding. "You just said that if you love someone you'd never part with them. If that's so, how could a single guy have been in love."

She shifted slightly. "Well, it could've.... Not worked....."

"Then that wouldn't have been love, would it?"

"You could've been in love."

"But you also said that they feel the same way about you."

Ino frowned. "How is this answering my question?"

Shaking his head, Asuma leaned back in his chair. "The truth is, Ino, no one really knows what love is. You could ask your parents, you could ask your friends, you could ask anyone and most likely you'll get different versions of the same answer. Love's intangible, you can't describe it, you just feel it."

"But then, how do I know?"

"Let's try it like this. Do you care about Shikamaru?"


"Would you do anything to make him happy?"


"Do you think he'd be happy if you told him you loved him?"

She hesitated.

"Come on, Ino."

Shyly, she looked up at the man. "I don't know....?"

"Just think about, Ino. Don't be afraid."

Pulling at her lip with her teeth, she thought. "I-I guess he would....."

"Would you be happy if he were?"


"If you said that to him, do you think you'd be lying?"

She seemed confused at first, then her eyes grew wide as she realized. She quickly shrank back a bit.

"I-I can't, though."

"Eh?" Asuma blinked. "Why not?"

"Because..... What if he doesn't feel the same way?"

"Why wouldn't he?"

"I don't know!" She exploded. "He's Shikamaru! I don't know why he does things!"

"What things?"

The question rocked her mind to a halt. "Huh?"

"What things does he do that you can't understand?"

"Well.....!" She wordlessly threw a hand around, emphasizing what she couldn't name. Asuma- not fluent in random pantomiming -waited. ".......Things!"

"Ah, I understand now." He nodded.

"You're being sarcastic."

"With an answer like that, I'd have to be." But he smiled all the same. "Do you really think you don't understand him?"

With a groan Ino sank into her seat. "It's not that I don't understand him, it's just...... Sometimes I don't know what goes on in his head. I don't know what he's thinking and sometimes I'm afraid that I'll do something that he'll hate me for."

"Bah. He can't hate you. After everything you've done to him, nothing short of you saying you never want to see him again can tear him away from you. And even then, he'll probably just stalk you."

"Asuma-sensei!" Ino had to physically keep herself from kicking him. "Don't say those sorts of things!"

"Right, sorry." He toned down his grin. "But Ino, you don't have to go through these sorts of lengths. If you're afraid that he might not love you back or that it won't last, just say so."

It always amazed him that Ino's face could go that pale that quickly. "How- How did you-"

If he said she was easy to figure out, chances are she'd get mad at him. So, instead, Asuma said, "That's what everyone worries about, don't they? That the person they care most about either won't love them or will eventually stop loving them."

"Then what do you suggest I....." She trailed off as Asuma started rooting through his pockets. "You're not going to smoke again are you?"

"Not necessarily, no." Ino lifted a thin eyebrow when he produced an untouched cigarette. "Just proving a point."

She looked at her instructor flatly. He had this weird habit about somehow relating every obstacle the team across with a smoking reference. "You need help. Seriously. This goes way beyond addiction."

"C'mon, now. Just here me out." He held the cigarette upright between them. "Now, let's say that this is life. Everyone gets one and when they're born, this end here," he tapped said end, "it lights up. What do you get when it burns from here to here?" He tapped the opposite end.

Ino looked at him as if he were crazy. "No more cigarette."

"Exactly. Now you have a choice between the time you the cigarette starts burn to the moment it stops. That is to take a drag, correct?"


"You can chose to not smoke at all and waste a cigarette, or you can puff the entire thing away. Or you can just indulge in a smoke every once in a while. Now," he pocketed the slender cig in his pocket again, "I think it's a waste to just let a cigarette burn out like that, don't you?"

"......" Ino frowned. "Are talking about smoking or living here?"

Asuma sighed. He liked Ino, really, but sometimes she had a habit of taking things too literally. "Life, Ino. The way I see it, there are two things I think everyone should experience at least once in their life: happiness and love. Both can be fleeting, both can be hard to come by. If you ever have a chance with one of them, go for it. Don't worry about what might happen, all that matters is that moment." The girl still looked unconvinced. "Go ahead and ask someone that's tried for it. Ask you're parents if they're happy they took that risk. Ask Shikamaru's dad if he regrets the time he spent with someone he loved. Even if you get hurt in the end, the fact that you even had that time with someone that makes your life full, it makes you that much a better person no matter what may come of it."

She fidgeted slightly, but Asuma could see confidence coming back to her slowly. "So..... you really think he cares about me?"

He laughed. "You're the only one he'd go through all this trouble for."

"A-And if he doesn't? If he hurts me?"

"I don't think I'll have a chance at him once your dad found out."

"Asuma-sensei....." to his surprise, the girl crossed the table and hugged him tightly. "Thank you!"

"Aw, it's not problem." He put a large arm around her, patting her head in a fatherly gesture. You know, times likes this always reminded him why he liked teaching so much. After a few seconds his eyes caught the clock. "Hm, I gotta get going. I'm supposed to be meeting someone in ten minutes."

"Oh, okay." Ino pulled away, following the man to the store. "Thanks again for all your help."

"Oh, it's no problem." Asuma smiled warmly. "You guys were one of my favorite teams. It's my pleasure to help you guys out."

Ino giggled. She waved him off. "Say hi to Kurenai-sensei for me!"

His step faltered. "Geez, why do people keep saying that? We're not going out!"

"Of course you're not." Ino humored him with a grin. "By the way, a light red carnation would go really well with her complexion and bring out her eyes."

"Er...." He hesitated, torn between taking her advice and trying to deny her accusations.

"On the house." She supplied helpfully.

With a scowl he glared at the girl. "All right, I'll take it. But only because it's free and not because I'm going out with her." Asuma said sternly.

"I understand completely." She watched as her instructor picked up the flower, blushing and fidgeting all the way out the door. "Have fun!" She sang to his back as he walked out the door.



Well, I'm afraid I have to say it. The next chapter will be the last one. This is the penultimate chapter. Stumbling Blind is coming to an end. I know some of you will be upset, but I'm actually happy because this is my first multi-chapter (and I mean multi /multi-chapter) fic that I have actually finished. I may do more half-side stories for Stumbling Blind like High, Clear Summer Sky (though they won't all be written in the same style), but that'll only be when I feel like doing it.

I'm lazy, yes, yes, I know. Why do you think Shikamaru's my favorite Naruto character :P

I'm a big AsumaKurenai fan. I keep getting this idea that they're trying to hide their relationship- not because they're embarrassed, but because they don't want people making a big deal out of it. Of course, I also have this idea that everyone knows that they're going out no matter how much they try to deny it^_________________^

I've come to realize that my version of Ino is different from a lot of other people's. Not saying that theirs is vastly out of character, or that mine is completely out, either (at least, I hope not o.O;;). Mine just seems to have a better understanding of Shikamaru, I think, or rather, they have a better understand of each other. Maybe because I have mine communicating better^^;; Though I do think that mine could be a little bossier, but I may just chalk that up to the fact that they're still starting out as a couple and still unsteady in their relationship. Once they settle in, I wouldn't be surprised if Ino utterly owns his ass. But then, I wouldn't be too surprised if she didn't either because my version seems to know that that's not the kind of woman Shikamaru wants. Someone that'll push him and point him in the right direction, yes, but not someone that'll run his entire life for him.

Or maybe I'm just giving Shikamaru more backbone^^;;

By the way, because someone asked, the reason why I put these marks around some words is for emphasis. I know some people use bold or underlined text to the little asterix uses them for actions instead I've also tended to use them for other things like the occasional thought (though not much anymore) or something like a telephone call or something similar, but 9 out of 10 times, it's for emphasis.

Anyway, I'm going away for a loooooooooooooooong during May, so I'm going to try and get the last chapter up before I leave. That's my main goal or else you won't be getting it until after a month or more and I'm sure you'd all hate me vastly should that happen.
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