The moonlight was smiling coldly at him that night, and added by the stubborn wind that pushed the dark clouds over the moon, they almost entirely covered the Aburame clan's village in darkness.
He could not sleep, knowing that she might walk away from his life again even if she was sleeping soundly only in the next room. Having been through the abyss of war and hate, he found it so hard to trust again. And even if Hyuuga Hinata meant so much to him, Aburame Shino still had doubts about her. Five years can, in fact, change people greatly. Their meeting was haphazard, but he did not belive in coincidences; he knew fate.
He sighed deeply once he buried his face under a pillow. There were too much to think about: from the protection of his clan, to the war against other clans, and the preoccupation of the fact that an enemy from Konoha was being taken care of in his village. He was too young, anyway, to carry the burden of everything after his father passed away.
Shino shut his eyes tightly. He tried his best to get some sleep since he needed to be ready for anything tomorrow. Bit by bit, he felt himself drift off to dreamland...not without a soft, little voice telling him that she will leave him. With that in mind, it was a quiet, dreamless slumber.
Aburame Shino hit his fists against a sturdy, mahogany table with all his might. Because of his highly-developed chakra, he had created a huge hole at the center of the desk.
One of the members of his clan bowed deeply before him. "I apologize, Aburame-sama. I have sent guards to go and look for him already."
The clan head exhaled deeply, and ran his fingertips through his hair in frustration. "How could you allow this to happen? If Naruto will not be found, I'm afraid our clan will be in grave danger."
The auburn-haired nurse bowed even deeper. "I am willing to accept any punishment from Aburame-sama. If I put the clan in danger, then I might as well give up my life for anything Aburame-sama wishes."
Their great respect for him never ceased to amaze him. He wouldn't want to put anyone in danger, and he knew that Naruto had every ability to escape anyway. He was, afterall, one of the best warriors in Konoha. Shino stood up and took a deep breath.
"I will let your punishment pass. For now, there are much more important issues I need to settle," he said, then was on his way out the house. There was one thing that concerned him the most, though-Hinata.
She was the one who wanted to find Naruto so badly.
But the question was: How will he be able to tell her that Naruto had left already?
The bug manipulator walked out of the house to discuss this matter with some of his trusted clan members. Upon passing by the wall that sundered Hyuuga Hinata from outside, he could not help but feel a needle-like pain in his chest. It only meant one thing...
She was already awake.
However, Shino let it pass this time for he had to settle an important predicament. He continued on his pace, keeping in mind that Hinata may have heard his discussion with the nurse in the other room. Though she wasn't an expert shinobi, he knew she wasn't stupid; she has Hyuuga blood and she was certainly trained to do these in missions, let alone spy as quietly as the wind.
Meanwhile, Hinata was, indeed, wide awake.
In her room, she could not help but release a quiet sob.
Naruto was here... and I let him slip away again.
Of all the chances in her life to just talk to the Kyuubi loudmouth, she let them all slip away. She would then feel a great and overwhelming hatred towards herself.
But she figured she had enough.
She will find him and complete her task no matter what.
And so, she began to think about catching up to him even if she knew her injury would be a burden. Her lower abdomen was badly sliced through, explaining the endless flow of blood. Luckily though, just two hours after she was found, her bleeding stopped, which was a miracle since the wound was deep. A kunai was used, she assumed, but she had never seen her attacker all this time. It was most possibly an Aburame clan member who happened to guard the village. She couldn't balme him; he was only doing his job. And since it was a time of war, she was only as vulnerable as a fish out of water.
But she will leave tonight.
She will finish her mission, which was to bring back Naruto to Konoha, which she willingly decided to do on her own. As of now, she began to prepare herself for the worst.
Hinata took a long, deep breath of air, braced herself, focused her chakra on making the pain of standing up a little less excruciating... and she placed one foot on the floor. Another deep breath, and another foot on the floor. The following tasks to stand upright weren't easy, and she was exhausted once she had already stood up as she clutched her injured side.
The fear of opening the wound again terrified her. She wouldn't be able to catch up in this state...but she had to escape.
A tear formed in her gray eyes. I don't want to turn my back on Shino-kun. He's helped me so much already.
Naruto was all she needed to think about now. How he inspired her to live after her Chuunin match with Hyuuga Neji propelled her to strive harder. She didn't want to be feckless and dependent anymore; she wanted to stand on her own.
For the time being, Shino canceled all the guards who were sent to look for the runaway escapee.
This, of course, aroused some complaints from the older clan members.
"Aburame-sama, I doubt if your father were still alive, he would allow this," one of them spoke out. The whole room was then filled with whispers of agreement. "We cannot risk getting attacked. The blonde boy must be captured immediately before he attempts to call in reinforcements."
The young clan leader shut his eyes for a while. "I know what I am doing. I grew up in Konoha, and I know what kind of people they are."
"I am the clan head now, and this is my decision." His strict tone signaled the end of the meeting. It was final. And, although he still had qualms, his instinct told him that he was doing the right thing.
I can do this on my own.
A nurse came into Hinata's room with a tray of steaming soup, carefully balancing it with one hand and with a fresh batch of bandages clutched on the other. "Hyuuga Hinata-sama, Aburame-sama told me to prepare you some vegetable soup…"
She trailed off once she found the girl lying on the floor. Immediately, she put aside the things she was carrying and ran to her aid.
Hinata had collapsed since she couldn't hold her legs straight anymore. Her wound was too serious to even think of moving.
Later when she was settled on the bed, Shino arrived home and was told about everything. He was definitely disappointed that the bugs on his body smashed a cabinet nearby on impulse.
His gaze fell to the closed door of her room. He knew exactly what she was planning to do… but he wasn't about to let it happen.
He dismissed the nurse, reassuring her that he will handle everything hereafter. Instead of going inside the room to check on Hinata, he went to his own room and grabbed two scarfs. After wearing one around his neck, he kept the other tucked away in his coat.
The weather was cruel for her; she had nothing but warm clothes to keep her safe. Her weapons- kunais, potions, and everything else- were left in the house… in order for no one to suspect her absence.
Hinata chose to go on with her plan no matter how dangerous it would be for her. She didn't want anyone to know she was leaving… especially Shino. Her wound tore her apart in every step she took. But the determination in her eyes continued to swell; she wanted to go through this.
Her heart finally relaxed once she saw a small light in the distance, probably indicating the exit of the village. There was no other perfect time to escape since she knew that all of the guards were called to the meeting by the clan head. A smile broke though finally, perhaps the first one today, as she began her slow walk on the snow once again.
Once she went through the agonizing pain, her efforts were finally rewarded when she reached the gates. The overwhelming emotion of happiness caused her to cry a bit. Never in her life had she expected to see herself accomplish such task. But the journey was far from over- there were still much more dangers ahead.
Hinata opened a smaller gate within the premises…
…and unexpectedly found Aburame Shino standing outside, waiting for her.
Her hert raced. How did he know she was coming?
But she was too near-sighted to see the fact that Shino was an excellent tracker; he had his insects to serve as his eyes.
However, before Hinata could explain or struggle to tell him how sorry she was, or how she felt so disappointed about herself, Shino dug out the extra scarf he took from his closet.
Then, in a slow, lingering motion, his lips arched into a small smile.
"You'll need this. And I'm coming along."
Waaai! The plot is getting baka-ER already. (pouts) If I get tired in writing this –most possibly—I might really stop. Ah well… There are at least three ShinoHina fics in My Documents already. :) Most are angst, like this one.