A NaruHina sidestory/prequel to About a Daddy and a Nanny. A very belated July birthday gift for my good ole sensible fairy grandmother, Attorney.
"I'll think about it."
Uzumaki Naruto's four simple words made both women halt for a few minutes, the food served before them laid forgotten.
That was the last reply they would expect from him after Tsunade had declared her most important announcement for this afternoon.
The Godaime sat straighter, and then spoke again. "You…heard what I said, right?"
Naruto smiled wanly. "Yeah."
"And understood it?"
"Sober?" the blonde pressed, still incredulous. After all, she had just said that she had finally gotten her pink-haired protégée's agreement for the latter to have a matrimonial union with him. She was expecting nothing less than a cry of pure unadulterated joy from the golden-haired boy who had been infatuated with Haruno Sakura ever since childhood.
"Most definitely." Naruto turned to the still shocked Sakura, giving her an apologetic smile reminiscent of the boyish grins he used to wear in his genin days. "I respect Granny Tsunade, and I like you a lot, Sakura-chan, but…"
"But what?" His teammate of a decade or so had already recovered from her initial surprise and was now starting to smile. Predictability would never become Naruto. Never.
"I keep on… I keep on getting this weird dream…" began the Rokudaime, frowning thoughtfully. Twenty-six years old but already an important figure in the whole continent and the pages of its history even, the Sixth Hokage still keeps traces of his charming childlike innocence that manages to display itself in his few unguarded moments such as this one. This afternoon, he had taken a break from his busy schedule in the Hokage office to sit down in an intimate dinner with the two closest women to his heart. They had barely touched the soup when Tsunade suddenly declared that she was going to give him the news of the lifetime that he would surely want to hear.
Unfortunately, he had to disappoint the old woman, at least in this aspect. He couldn't possibly settle down unless he discovers the cryptic message behind those recurring dreams of a silhouette bearing the figure of a woman in kimono.
Every night, he would see the woman in various places: by the window, behind the waterfalls, by a kitchen, by the door…
And again and again, he would hear her haunting words echoing inside his mind. That she would wait for him till the day after forever.
He couldn't understand why those words seem to hold such power over him—his dreams would cross the boundaries of his waking hours that should be allotted for his work as the Hokage and his life as Uzumaki Naruto. He would spend countless moments pondering, struggling to recall the identity of that person—that is, if he did meet her already.
Yet something within him was nagging that the woman in his dreams was someone his heart was so closely familiar with; and at the same time, she could invoke a powerful emotion within his chest, something he couldn't exactly name.
These and so many other reasons why he felt most unready for the unexpected proposition that both women handed out to him.
"Weird dream, huh?" Tsunade's lips twisted in wry amusement. "That is just one of the numerous consequences of hanging out with a dirty old sannin like him."
"I know the difference between weird and plain wet." Naruto's eyes twinkled mischievously. "Besides, we don't need to hurry. Sakura-chan still needs to enjoy her social life, while I still have other stuff to fuss about—namely, those you left on the Hokage office table."
The Godaime chuckled. "You should try the drawers, young man. More documents are gathering dust in there."
"You sound proud."
"I am." The old woman with the glowing youthful face smirked. "Very."
"So what made you agree to Granny Tsunade's offer?" Naruto asked when he and Sakura were walking back to their respective quarters.
Sakura shrugged. "I like you."
"If that's your reason, you should have married a teddy bear," he pouted.
Making the kunoichi laugh heartily. "But I do… I really do like you, baka Hokage-sama—"
"Thanks for bothering with the honorific title."
Another crisp female laughter. "It took me a couple of years or so to admit it, but deep inside, you had always been very special…"
"A special child?"
"… to me." Her emerald eyes softened under the moonlight. "I like you a lot."
"But…" The lines on his forehead moved knowingly. "You do not like me enough to love me."
She nodded shyly. He knew it from the start, even with his countless attempts to win her heart back in their childhood days. She had reserved her heart and soul for only one person, irregardless of whether he would take it or not.
"Then why marry me?" he asked, frowning a bit. "I'm not Sasuke's understudy."
She vigorously shook her head. "Iie. It's nothing like that." A sigh escaped her throat. "It's just that…"
"I don't want to grow old alone." Her voice shook a bit. "I can't imagine living all by myself in an empty house in the future when today, I can't even stand the loneliness of my apartment."
"I guess." Pensive silence followed for a moment before she spoke again. "We've been friends since childhood. It's a start. We can live with each other as time passes us by. The important thing is, we'll have each other to take care of."
She paused and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Think about it. Marriage can live on love, may it be romantic or platonic. We'll both make it work."
He nodded quietly, digesting their conversation slowly.
She smiled, and then patted his forehead with concern. "How is your forehead holding up?"
"My wrinkles won't give up its habitat without a fight," he kidded as he gently dismissed her hand. "It was just a little accident."
"Little it is most not!" she said hotly.
"Ne, Sakura-chan, relax!" He shook his head smilingly. "It will take more than a few Waterfall Village ninjas to get rid of me."
"I order you to get your butt in the house and rest already."
She rolled her eyes at him before entering her dwelling place.
His mind bore nothing but blurred images and hazy recognitions. Instincts alone had permitted him to survive amidst the isolated woods in a place he too could not remember.
But he gave himself no time to think of the circumstances—all his mental energy was focused on motivating his feet to continue running.
Running from what? He could not remember also. Alas, the blood on his white coat told him that whatever he was running away from, it was surely going to harm him.
He didn't quite recall when had he started running, but he was very certain that his body would soon meet its limits. If fatigue would not down him, his bleeding wounds would surely do.
Just then, his ear caught the sound of someone's footsteps nearby.
Adrenaline surged within him as he found a new reason to keep his sprinting.
In a matter of seconds, he finally caught up with the source of the footsteps.
A woman with ebony hair and flawlessly porcelain skin, dressed in immaculate white kimono and carrying a pail of water, turned to face him. He saw how her pale eyes widened as if he was someone she recognized, and that gave him some hope.
"H-Help….me," he managed to mouth before finally losing the battle of consciousness and collapsing on the ground.
Naruto's eyes opened, startled. The first thing he saw was the familiar ceiling of his bedroom that was made visible only by the moonlight passing through the windows. It was then that his senses came back—the woods, the feeling of blood rushing out of his numerous wounds, and the raw fear that had nearly sent his wits immobilized which could have been fatal to him… they were all but part of that dream.
And the woman…
He turned to his other side, and then closed his eyes tight. Earlier, his sensei, Hatake Kakashi, had assured him that if, indeed, the dream was really a message, then it would unravel all by itself as time passes by.
If that was the case, he certainly hoped the message would come sooner. Peace of mind had been elusive to him ever since these dreams had surfaced in his life.
"I'll be going for a while, Granny Tsunade." Naruto was talking with the blonde Godaime the next morning in the Hokage office. He was grateful that the few pitiful hours of sleep he managed to catch this early morning was not evident in his typical cheerfully energetic face.
"And your itinerary…?"
"Some talks with the leaders from other villages," he replied. "My party and I would not be gone for too long."
"Have a safe and merry trip then." Tsunade gave him a smile that spoke volumes of her confidence and pride of him. "Hokage-sama."
He tipped the edge of his triangular hat reverently towards her in return.
"We should also be discussing the intensified safeguard measures for all high-ranking village officials that would help avoid careless incidents such as the assault launched against you," Sakura, who also plays the role of his personal assistant, told him as she studiously checked her notes.
He frowned. "Wasn't it an isolated case? Everyone acknowledges that the Leaf is a pacifist village that holds neither alliance nor grudge against any other territory."
The pink-haired kunoichi winked. "Trust me. Reminding the other villages of the ambush would make them apologetic and eager-to-please. It'll put us in a more strategic location in our future negotiations."
This made the Hokage groan audibly. "I hate politics."
"Who doesn't?" she asked good-humoredly. "But whether we like it or not, society is run by politics—not necessarily by governance."
He looked out at the window, sighing. "When I was a kid, I wanted to become Hokage so I could shove to everyone's faces that I'm not a low-life failure they make me want to believe in. At twelve, I wanted to become a Hokage to prove that a destructive monster within me does not stop me from desiring to protect everyone I love."
"You proved both," she replied softly.
"And I'm glad." He then made a face. "But the old man Hokage never told me the hardest part of being the number one ninja in the village."
"Smiling politely though you want to make crushed cereals out of an asshole's nose." That was the Uzumaki Naruto definition of diplomacy, and Sakura couldn't help but laugh heartily.
"Ne, Sakura-chan, I'm hungry!" he whined after a moment.
"We're almost there."
"I think I can see a ramen stand! Wow, I really see it!" he cried excitedly when the drew nearer the entrance of the village. "And here I thought it was a mirage—"
"Naruto…grah, you idiot," she said amusedly. Just when she thought Naruto had already outgrown his old cheerful persona, he would surprise her every time.
She then turned to the horsemen. "Let's take five, guys. The Hokage-sama is famished."
"It's not as good as Ichiraku's, but I must admit, it's GOOD!" When she received a strange look from Sakura, Naruto quickly added, "In an un-Ichiraku way."
"You make little sense." Sakura waved her chopstick at him in mock scolding before proceeding to finish her own noodles order.
He grinned boyishly, and then reached for the seasonings tray.
"The father finally arrived."
Naruto's hand froze in the middle of grabbing the salt and pepper shakers. "Who said that?" His gaze darted back and forth across the customers and Sakura and his party. He, in turn, received quizzical looks.
"Who said what, Hokage-sama?" asked the pink-haired woman smoothly.
"N-Nothing." His attention went back to his meal, although his good mood had already been disturbed. He heard the harsh whisper in his ear loud and clear, even with its sharp hushed tone. He then realized that whoever said that, the message was just meant for him alone.
He reached for the shakers again, but another hand landed on them. He followed the length of the arm and the shoulder until he finally saw who owned them.
It was the cook, the owner of the noodles stand. He was an aged man, forty or fifty perhaps, with black hair barely covering the back of his head. He was looking at him with so much intensity that for a moment, Naruto felt that his eyes could have transcended to the most intimate depths of his mind. For awhile, he said nothing, as if he was studying his appearance. Until finally, he got up, leaving his puzzled wife alone to man the stall.
Naruto deliberated for a minute on what he should do next, but when he recalled those whispered words again, he found decision and got up to follow him.
"Where are you going, Hokage-sama?" one of the guards called out to him. This made Sakura and the rest of the Leaf soldiers turn his way, surprised.
He paused, then grinned at them. "To where nature calls."
He easily found the old man standing by a footbridge nearby. He was looking back at him, as if he was expecting his presence.
Although he had taken off his Hokage cap and was now garbed in his mere traditional white coat, he could still catch the attention of most people easily.
It may be attributed to the tales of the Kyuubi that surrounded him way back his childhood, or his small moments of fame in his first Chuunin examinations. Perhaps, the people too, could recognize him as the Sixth Hokage.
It didn't occur to him though that his striking manly appearance may also be at fault: what with his tall, solid built and charming boyish features.
The blond man joined him by the bridge. "Maybe now you can explain to me what you told me back in the ramen stall," he began.
The cook seemed to be gathering his words carefully. After a few seconds, he spoke. "My sister and I had been waiting for this kind of opportunity for some months already."
"What do you mean?"
"Your carelessness bore fruit, Hokage-sama," the cook murmured, audible enough only for him to hear.
"C-Carelessness?" His heartbeat started to turn erratic. Apparently, this man knew something he didn't about himself. The fact made him frantic, especially when he saw the grave expression on the old man's face.
"My sister is a medical nin," he began. "An aged one whom our village leaders had asked to retire already, forcibly if she must. She was on her way home to share her sad news when she met a young man wearing the forehead protector of another kingdom. He had just emerged from the woods, looking sullen."
"She thought he got lost, so she kindly asked him if she wanted instructions to reach the Information Hall of the village. Instead, the man asked her if she knew a midwife who was cooperative and would work in secrecy. He offered financial compensation, and so, my sister presented herself."
Naruto kept on nodding, although he himself was starting to get confused.
The old man continued his narration. "The man presented her at once to a woman who lives in the middle of a forest. She would have asked questions, but one of the agreements between her and that man was the rule of silence. Whatever questions that were forming in her mind then were buried underneath her instinctive concern and pity for the pregnant woman living on her own in the middle of nowhere."
"My sister came to visit the pregnant lady, which according to her was very beautiful. Very kind also, for the lady treated her warmly, like a mother of her own. My sister could not guess why the lady was in such state—she was, in no way, a loose woman. She acted with the refinement and elegance of a woman with breeding. There was also quiet pride in her eyes, and a lot of love in her eyes whenever she would tell her in passing how she never regretted the moment of untamed passion with the father of the child."
Father. Naruto suddenly felt butterflies roaming inside his stomach as he felt where all these was coming to.
"And then the day came that the lady had to give birth. My sister saw that the lady was undergoing excruciating pain with her labor for hours already. She was also bleeding severely. Transporting her to the city hospital with much better facilities could not be done anymore because it was too far and simply too late. Death was inevitable, but the child had to be born."
"Perhaps, sensing her death, she told my sister that when the right time comes, she must tell the father about their child. She said she wanted him to be the one to give the baby a name, and that she hoped the father would love the child dearly."
A lump formed in Naruto's throat. "And the father is…"
To be continued