Well, in case you were wondering, Esus927 never got back to me about this story. In fact, I never received any sort of message from them at all.
Part of me feels unsure about continuing without getting permission, but I'm going to anyway and go by that old saying.
Better to ask forgiveness than permission
So, here's chapter two!
Disclaimer: I, Raymond Smith (aka pain17ification), own nothing
Chapter Two: Coming to Light
Hanabi was sitting at the Ichiraku Stand, enjoying some tea given to her by Ayame. Despite her best efforts, her friend still ate more ramen than she felt was healthy. Not to mention that she found herself coerced many times into having a bowl with him.
The stubborn blonde used her early trick against her, guilt tripping her into eating the food after already paying for it with his own money. But still, as much as she put up a front of reluctance, she did enjoy sharing a meal with him.
Holding back a groan, she mentally reminded herself that he would be treated to an all-he-can-eat as a reward for passing the Academy Exam. She didn't accept the slightest notion that he would fail; not when she put in so much effort into helping him improve.
His victory was just as much hers, too.
"Hanabi-chan~!" she heard a familiar loud voice calling from down the road, and she fought a blush at the teasing look from the ramen waitress.
Getting down from her seat, she stepped outside to greet her friend. As he approached, she took note of the headband tied proudly across his forehead and smiled proudly.
"Congrat-" she began to say before she was cut off by him literally sweeping her off her feet in a joyful embrace, complete with a few spins that she was ill-prepared for.
"I did it! I finally passed, and it's all because of you!" he cheered triumphantly as he spun her around, setting her down and giving his patented foxy grin that she had grown to love.
She tried to look reprimanding at his actions, but his excitement was too contagious, and she couldn't resist smiling back at him. "It wasn't just because of me, Naruto. You put forth the effort and were willing to listen to me, despite me being younger than you. You deserve that headband."
He chuckled bashfully, scratching the back of his head for a moment before regaining his pleased expression. "Now that I passed, it's time for ramen!"
"Of course, it is," she replied with a roll of her eyes, stepping back inside with him and joining him at the stools. "One all-he-can-eat, please," she ordered, earning a giggle from Ayame while Teuchi laughed good-naturedly.
"Coming right up! What'll you start with, Naruto-kun?" Ayame asked.
"A large miso!" he answered excitedly.
"You got it, kid. And congrats on passing!" Teuchi told him as he prepared the first bowl.
Life was good for Naruto Uzumaki.
"Are you sure that's what you saw?" Hiashi questioned Hanabi's personal caretaker, Natsu.
"Yes, Lord Hiashi," she replied bowing to him from the waist. "Lady Hanabi was seen alongside the- I mean, alongside that boy at some common eatery. He addressed her in a familiar tone and even took Lady Hanabi into his arms in an embrace."
"And she did nothing to prevent this?"
"No, my lord. In fact, she seemed to…enjoy the action. From what I saw before departing, she's treating Uzumaki and paying for his meal."
Hiashi frowned deeply at this, not enjoying what was being reported to him. He had noticed his youngest acting differently of late; showing restraint in spars, expressing concerns for her failure of a sister, and being absent for long periods most days. While at first, he was distracted by the affairs of being the Clan Head, he soon became aware of her odd change in behavior and had Natsu investigate it.
'To think that she's been fraternizing with that delinquent of a boy… Why is she associating with him? Is he blackmailing her? Is this some sort of rebellious phase?'
"Do you wish me to fetch her, Lord Hiashi?" Natsu questioned, breaking him from his thoughts.
Nodding once, he replied, "Bring her to me at once. And when you do, be sure to advise Uzumaki about his place in society."
"As you wish, my lord."
It was close to ten bowls later when Naruto finally called it quits. "Ah~! Now that hit the spot!"
Hanabi rolled her eyes as she finished her single bowl of vegetable ramen. "All finished?"
"Yep! Thanks again, Hanabi-chan!"
Hanabi gave him a small smile and turned to Ayame for the bill, only to be surprised when the waitress put a finger to her lips and winked at the young Hyuuga. The surprise changed to gratitude and Hanabi gave her a smile and thankful nod.
Getting off their stools and bidding farewell to the chefs, the duo stepped outside the stand and started to head for their usual training spot.
"I really am grateful to you, Hanabi-chan," Naruto told her sincerely. "If you hadn't offered to help me, I don't think I would've passed the Exam."
"You had the potential, Naruto," she replied, giving him a reassuring smile. "You just needed the right push. Someone to point you in the right direction."
"I just wish the teachers at the Academy would've helped me instead of just telling me to keep working on Chakra Control. They never even told me about Surface Walking or Water Walking."
"What exercises did you know before we met?" she asked curiously.
"Leaf Sticking… That's it."
"I see… I suppose, coming from a clan, I have an advantage in terms of lessons and training. I'm more than positive that the other clan children were taught more advanced exercises."
"I guess it pays to be part of a family," Naruto mused softly, making her wince.
"That's not what I meant-"
"I know what you meant, Hanabi-chan. Don't worry, I'm used to having to work harder than others. I mean, look at Sasuke."
"What about Uchiha-san?"
"He may be an orphan now, like me, but he still had a family before then, and he still has clan scrolls that he can go back to. Whereas I don't have a family, or anything I can turn to for help."
She frowned at this but was caught off guard by him smiling at her.
"Then you came along. A girl from a famous clan, offering to help some nobody like me and only asking for me to be her friend. By being friends with you, my dream to become Hokage doesn't seem like a dream anymore. It's starting to feel like a possibility."
She smiled at him. "First of all, you're not a nobody, Naruto. You're a stubborn, loud-mouthed, idiot who I'm happy to call my closest friend. Second, just because you don't have any family scrolls or anything to look back on, that doesn't mean you can't succeed. Even the clans today didn't start as large families. They started small and became what they are now over many years. And someday, you'll have your own family to leave scrolls for."
Grateful for her words, Naruto closed the distance and pulled her into a warm hug that she immediately returned. "…thank you, Hanabi-chan."
She remained silent and enjoyed the embrace, blushing at the warmth she felt as she realized that her initial goal had changed. While at first, she only wanted to take something away from her sister, now her feelings for the blonde in front of her had become sincere.
He is her friend, he is making her happy, and she does want to see him succeed. And not just succeed, she wants to be there alongside him in his success.
'Am I-?' she mused before her thoughts were cut off by a familiar voice.
"Lady Hanabi!" Natsu called out, sounding scandalized at the sight of her young mistress hugging the village's biggest pariah. "What in the name of the kami are you doing?!"
Frowning at her caretaker, Hanabi pulled away from Naruto. She noted the confusion on his face and gave him a short look to get him to refrain from talking. Turning back to Natsu, she gave the woman a cold look fitting for a Main Branch Hyuuga.
"What I do, and whomever I do so with, are none of your concern, Natsu. Why are you here?"
Natsu recomposed herself, breaking from the shock of what she had seen and the frosty tone Hanabi spoke to her with. "Your father has demanded your presence. I am to escort you to him."
Hanabi kept her cold look, and Naruto could sense that she was not pleased with being called home. Hoping to ease the situation, he placed a hand on her shoulder, getting her attention and earning an appalled look from Natsu.
"Remove your hand from-!"
"That's enough, Natsu!" Hanabi cut her off sharply, making the woman recoil as if she had been slapped. "I will join you shortly."
Naruto gently squeezed Hanabi's shoulder, hoping to calm her down. "It'll be alright, Hanabi-chan. I'll see you another time, okay?"
Hanabi dropped her frown to regard him, noting the sad smile he had on his face. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't ignore a summons from her father. Reaching up, she grasped his hand and gave him a small smile.
"I'll meet with you tomorrow, Naruto-kun," she assured him, being sure to add the suffix in Natsu's presence.
"Sure thing. See ya around," he bid before giving Natsu a respectable bow and departing.
As soon as he was far enough, Natsu spoke up, "You shouldn't be associating yourself with him, Lady Hanabi. His presence would bring nothing but shame to the Hyuuga Clan name."
"You," Hanabi began, her tone becoming cold once more, "will not speak of this any further. Who I associate with is my business; it is not the clan's. Now, do your duty and escort me to my father."
Bowing at the waist, Natsu hid her frown as she replied, "Of course, Lady Hanabi."
Standing before her father in his private office, Hanabi kept a blank expression that betrayed nothing as Natsu stepped out of the office to give them privacy. "You wished to see me, father?"
"Have a seat, Hanabi," he spoke to her sternly, and she complied without protest. "I have been noticing some issues of late regarding you. My main concern is how your attitude has changed over these past few months. Do you need me to specify, or are you aware of what concerns me?"
"I have an idea, father. However, I do not see why they are a cause for concern. What I have been doing lately has not affected you or the clan to my knowledge."
"And that is where your vision falters. You are young, and not familiar with how our clan must present itself in public. For starters, you are showing needless mercy in your spars of late; refusing to deal finishing blows against your opponents."
"My only opponent has ever been my sister, and I find no worth in striking her when her defeat is obvious. Doing so shows a callousness that I do not wish to be associated with," Hanabi defended herself calmly. "If other clans or potential allies see us as overly cruel or incapable of mercy, they may be hesitant to work with us or broker an alliance."
Hiashi grunted softly at that, hard pressed to find an argument against hers. What his youngest was saying had merit, and it showed she was thinking of things in the long-run and not simply short-term. Those were qualities that one would hope for in the next Clan Head.
"And what about your daily disappearances, daughter?" he pressed. "You are away from the compound for long periods of the day, coming home only to share in our evening meal and leaving not long after the morning meal."
"I was helping a potential ninja with something they were struggling with," she answered truthfully.
"Potential ninja?" Hiashi repeated, a brow raised to show his skepticism.
"Yes, father. I won't beat around the bush and say that I was helping Naruto Uzumaki with his chakra control. I saw potential in him to be a great ninja, and I offered him my assistance in exchange for a…personal favor."
"And what sort of personal favor would Uzumaki be able to provide you?"
"I'd rather not say, for it is something private, father. This favor was impossible for me to have within the clan, though."
"It is not private to me, Hanabi. I am your father, and your concerns are mine. Is this favor the reason why you were seen behaving so intimately with Uzumaki in public?"
Hanabi managed to hold back her blush to the faintest dusting on her cheeks, but Hiashi's piercing gaze spotted it; even without the need for the Byakugan.
Frowning in displeasure, he ground out, "You've been fraternizing with that boy? Have you no shame?! That boy is a delinquent child who has no business being a ninja!"
"And yet, with my help, he was able to pass his Academy Exam with ease," Hanabi fired back calmly.
"That only shows how pathetic he really is, needing assistance from someone not even in the Academy!"
"Or, it shows just how little aid he has received from those within the Academy. Why is everyone so against him, father? He has potential, and he took to my advice without much issue."
"Any potential that boy has is minimal at best, no matter what he has at his disposal," the man shot down dismissively.
"At his disposal, father?" Hanabi repeated questioningly.
"Don't concern yourself with that, or with Uzumaki any further. I am forbidding you from associating with him from now on."
"Father, he's not just someone I helped pass an Exam. He's…" she started to say, but she came short.
Here, she found herself at a crossroads. Down one road, she could stay silent and obey her father's will, losing her only friend and only having memories to fall back of happiness: the Road of the Heiress.
Down the other road, she could tell her father the truth, and bring to light her friendship with Naruto and how happy she has been. Doing so would more than likely erase any chances of becoming the heiress, but there was a potential to gain so much more: the Hopeful Road.
Steeling herself, she took the plunge and finished, "He's my friend, father; my best friend."
Hiashi's shock was palpable, but she couldn't let him take the wind she had started to gain in her sails.
"I offered to help him with his training in exchange for his friendship. I feel…suffocated here in the compound, unable to live a life for myself and only having the life of a Hyuuga to look forward to. And even then, it would be that of a Branch Member since Hinata is the rightful heiress; despite how you wish she were better qualified."
She laid her hand across her heart, and for the first time she could remember, graced her father with a real smile.
"He makes me…happy, father; genuinely happy. When I'm around him, I don't need to play the part of the Hyuuga Heiress and can be myself; be Hanabi. He accepts me for who I am, and not for what I can be; just as I have accepted him for who he is."
Taking a breath to steady her rising nerves, she finished strong.
"He is my friend, and someone I care deeply for, father."
Hiashi was left speechless for a moment, not expecting such words from his daughter. Hinata, he could anticipate behaving this way, for she was too soft to be a true Hyuuga.
But Hanabi? The daughter who showed real promise, but was held back due to being second-born? He was caught completely off guard.
And now, she was boldly declaring a friendship and care for the village's most infamous outcast; a blight who squandered the legacy of the late Fourth Hokage. What madness was he bearing witness to?
"With your permission or not," Hanabi continued, breaking him from his thoughts, "I will not stop being his friend, father. Just as he has brought happiness to me, I know I have done the same for him. I don't know why the village seems to disregard him, but I refuse to do the same."
Frowning at her, he ordered, "Return to your room for the evening. I have…much to consider."
Rising from her seat, Hanabi gave the man a bow before departing from his office. She had taken a leap of faith, and only time would tell if she would make the leap…or fall.
"Thank you for seeing me, my boy," the Hokage greeted Naruto as the fresh graduate was escorted into his office by ANBU Operative Cat.
He gave Cat a small smile and nod before taking a seat before the village's leader. "So, what did you want to talk to me about, gramps?"
Taking a breath, the man replied, "There is something…important that I have neglected to tell you for many years, Naruto. This is something you've asked me about before, and I have denied you an answer for as long as I felt was necessary."
"Which question are you finally coming clean about?" the blonde questioned with a deep frown. "The one about why people ignore or hate me, or the one about my parents?"
"The first one."
"So, you still plan to keep it from me. Why should I bother listening to you now when you won't tell me things that I have the right to know? What gives you, or anybody, the right to keep my parents a secret from me? Would you do the same if it were anyone else? Or am I just special?"
'I knew this would be difficult,' the Hokage thought lamentingly to himself.
Decisions made over the years were coming back to bite him in the ass, and there was no easy way out of this. No matter what he said, he would lose Naruto's trust in him; assuming there was even any trust left.
"You will be told about them when the time is right-"
"And when the hell is that going to be?! You expect me to drop this and just trust you when you've done nothing but lie to my face for years! Why should I listen to you at all, huh?!"
"Because I am the Hokage, and this position forces me to make difficult decisions for the betterment of the village. You, yourself, will be forced to make such decisions if you become the Hokage in the future."
"If being the Hokage means I have to lie to a sad, hurting, and angry kid for most of his life…then fuck the Hokage," Naruto declared spitefully.
"You don't mean that, Naruto."
"Yeah? How the hell would you know? It's not like you give a damn about me. It's always about them!" he yelled, pointing out the window. "No matter how hard I try, they have never accepted me; and I doubt they ever will! But that doesn't matter to you, does it? After all, we can't upset the villagers now, can we?"
The blonde scoffed before his tone became a mockery of the Hokage's.
"Oh, don't lose hope, my boy. They don't know any better. They'll come around; you'll see. You can change them if you just work hard enough."
Hiruzen winced at his words being spat back in his face.
"I'd like to see you live a week in my shoes. We'll see if you still believe those words then," Naruto challenged bitterly.
The Hokage sighed tiredly at this and decided to get back to why he called the Uzumaki to his office. "The reason the villagers are so negative about you is because you're what is known as a Jinchūriki."
"The hell is a Jinchūriki?"
"They are people who have…entities sealed within them. Surely you have seen the seal on your stomach over the years, yes?"
Naruto frowned at the man and nodded once while his mind recalled the time Hanabi was looking at his seal. 'The seal must hold that extra chakra the Hanabi-chan saw before…'
"As for what is sealed within you, I believe you can figure that out, yes?"
"Kami, do you ever give anyone a straight answer? Or is having them figure shit out just some kind of game to you? Just tell me!"
Cat gave her fellow ANBU a sharp look when they tensed. She, having watched out for Naruto more than most ANBU – save Dog – knew that he would be angry during this talk. And she also knew that he had every right to be.
Giving another sigh, Hiruzen revealed, "You hold the Kyuubi, Naruto. On the night you were born, the Fourth Hokage sealed it into you."
Shock took hold of Naruto for a moment, but it was incredibly brief and almost immediately replaced by righteous anger. "So, the villagers hate me because the Fourth decided to stick a monster fox in my gut? What, do they think I'm the Kyuubi Reborn, or something equally stupid?"
"That's exactly what they believe, Naruto. Either that, or you're a ticking timebomb filled with the fox's chakra; a timebomb that will lay waste to everything when you're finally set off."
"And you expected me to change them?! What the hell are you smoking, you stupid bastard?!"
"Don't speak to me like that, Naruto!"
"Or what, Usokage?" Naruto fired back, making Hiruzen look like he had been slapped. "You sit there and tell me to work hard to change people who have already made up their minds since the day I was born, and who have passed on their beliefs to their kids. And then you expect me to trust you while keeping this, and my parents, from me for years."
Scoffing, Naruto stood up from his seat and gave the old man a look that reminded him of the First Hokage whenever he showed disappointment in him, and Hiruzen couldn't fight the slight cringe the look brought forth.
"Well, sorry to get your hopes up, but no; I don't trust you. And I don't think I can ever trust you again. However, I am still a ninja of this village, and while you are its leader, I will perform my duties. But in my eyes, you are not my Hokage. You are, and will always be, the Usokage to me." (1)
With that said, Naruto turned and walked out of the man's office. He didn't storm off. He didn't slam the door. He didn't show any fury or rage.
It was a calm, almost casual, exit. As if what he had declared was the simplest thing in the world and didn't deserve any show of emotion. And it was the casualness of the exit that stung the old man the most.
"…Leave me," he ordered his hidden ANBU, who appeared before him and saluted before complying with his order. Left alone, the Hokage felt his true age and the guilt over the years weigh him down.
If one were to bear witness, they wouldn't see an aged veteran who had survived more battles than most. No, they would see a shadow of a man, crippled by age and seemingly accepting whatever judgment may come.
1~ Uso means "Lie". So, Naruto is calling Hiruzen the "Shadow of Lies"; the Usokage
This chapter was noticeably short compared to the first. However, please remember that the first chapter was a combination of the original three that Esus927 had for this story. That puts each of those chapter at roughly 4K words.
I've always believed that the length of a chapter doesn't matter, so long as you get the point of the chapter across. A chapter's point can be presented in a couple hundred words, a couple thousand words, or even over ten thousand words.
So long as the readers got the message, then it's fine in my eyes.
At any rate, I hope you all enjoyed this update! Please leave me feedback and let me know how you hope this story will go!
Reviews give me inspiration to write, and someone could leave a review that gives me the tools to move forward!
Until next time!
Stay safe, healthy, and positive!
Dreaming of the Future