I don't think I can make it...I've tried hard... For nine long years I sat in this forest, alone.
Well, not alone. Kouden is my gift, my only gift from the one that I love. I only hope that wherever my love is, he is content. I will be joining him soon; Kouden is almost of age to become a true shinobi. Not just some bastard child, raised by an outlaw. My only problem is where. Where to send him? Certainly not back to Konoha...but maybe, maybe I should.
Just to spite the people I used to call my family. I could send him to Neji-ni-san, he would understand, and raise Kouden as his own...I hope. I fear that the heartache that is slowly killing me will get what it wants before I can find a suitable place for my son. Everyday, I can feel it. My heart, my mind, withering away. Love, wherever you are. I'll join you soon.
Love, Uzumaki Hinata.
Hinata set down the pen on the yellowed page of her diary, and leaned back with a sigh. Resting her hand over her heart, she could almost feel the ache with her fingers. Thinking of Naruto always did that.
Looking to her left, outside the slightly dusty window of her small cabin, Hinata quickly spotted her nearly nine-year-old son, Kouden, practicing his forms for the delicate style of Jyuuken. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than anything Hinata could have done at his age. Hinata smiled, he was much like his father at learning. It only took him a few tries before he picked up on it.
Getting up from her wicker chair, Hinata unconsciously pushed it back into its place as she walked out the front door. The smell of flowers hit her senses, sending her mind into higher places, and for a moment, she could forget everything.
The small scratching noise that Kouden made as he skidded to a stop half way through one of his forms brought Hinata back to the world of the living. Kouden was gazing at her, he often did. He was always observant. In that he was like her.
Kouden started to walk towards Hinata, his hand rubbing the back of his head of bright blonde hair. A small pain struck Hinata's heart; Naruto used to do that. At least she was spared Naruto's eyes. Kouden inherited the famed byakugan, and knew how to use it.
Hinata sighed, but this time in a loving fashion. Kouden really was a genius. Hinata only wondered what hidden village she should put him in.
"Kaa-san, why do you always have that look?" Kouden said, breaking Hinata out of her thoughts.
"Look? What look?"
"That one. You always do it when you look at me. It's...it's hard to explain, but I always see sadness. Don't be sad. Otou-sama will come home one day. I don't think he's dead." Kouden nodded. Like he always did when reassuring Hinata.
"Kou-chan..." Hinata said. She didn't want to start another argument. Naruto wasn't coming back, and that was that. Hinata turned her head away from Kouden's all seeing eyes to wipe an unwanted tear that had formed.
"Kou-chan, get ready please. We are leaving for the village to buy supplies." And to get news on Konoha. Hinata added to herself. Kouden whooped and jumped a foot off the ground. Running into the house Hinata could hear him shouting,
"Yea! I get to see Sasami-chan! This is so awesome!" Hinata laughed. Ditama Sasami was the youngest daughter of Ditama Seiji, the local fisherman in the closest village. Sasami was short, had bright brown eyes, and very light hair, a pale pink almost. She reminded Hinata of Sakura-san.
Which coincidently reminded Hinata of Konoha. Which, then, determined not to break the chain, reminded Hinata of the village problem. Since she was still on Fire country territory, it was logical to send Kouden to Konoha, but then everyone would know that she was alive.
That was a problem in itself, and Hinata decided to do herself a favor, and stop thinking for the time being. Besides, Hinata knew in her heart, everything would work out. Whichever hidden village was picked, it would be happy. Who wasn't happy to have a genius?
"Kaa-san, do we have to walk? Why can't we jump in the trees? I hate walking this slow." Kouden said, bordering on whining. Hinata rolled her eyes. He did this every time they set out for the small village.
"Shush, Kou-chan. You know very well why. We are close enough to be spotted, and we don't want to create any rumors." Hinata pursed her lips slightly, it pained her to walk this slowly too. She enjoyed the free feeling of flying through the trees.
"Kaa-san, why don't we live in a hidden village? Or even a small one?" Hinata hesitated. He had asked this before, but Hinata never knew what to say. It was the only subject that she lied flat out every time. He wasn't old enough to handle the truth. Not yet.
"Ano...Well, Your Kaa-san doesn't enjoy large crowds of people. Even a small village would be too much. Speaking of villages, we can probably get some new clothes for you. Those are a little small." Hinata said, successfully turning the conversation topic away.
"Ne! Kaa-san! I like my clothes just as they are! Besides, they remind me of what you said Otou-sama looked like."
Hinata smiled at Kouden, which was returned. Kouden's clothes were basically just a jacket and slacks, like his father's. But the colours were inverted. Bright orange on the top, and solid black on the bottom half. His slacks were different though. Going all the way to his ankles, instead of halfway, and completely black, with two stripes of orange running down the sides.
They were very Naruto-ish, but Hinata wouldn't have him change them for the world.
Sigh I suppose I'm a little stuck up on Naruto...
Soon they arrived at the small village, walking, of course. Hinata gave Kouden a few ryo and he took off to buy something for Sasami. Hinata continued on to the local tavern to see if she could catch word of Konoha. It didn't happen often, but when they did, they were usually very important. Last time she heard news, she had heard that the Uchiha clan had been revived. A boy, they said, Hinata didn't catch the name. Only that he had pink hair.
Hinata had giggled for a week after hearing this. Sakura-san had finally used the right bait to catch her beloved Sasuke. She was glad. She, Sakura, and Tsunade-sama had to all use their healing jutsu on Sasuke to remove the curse seal. She wished she hadn't have been there. There was a lot of blood. Hinata shuddered at the memory.
Pushing the weathered door open, she was greeted by the bartender, and a few people who she was acquainted with.
"Minako-san! Welcome! We haven't seen you in a while! Sit, sit! Here, have a drink on the house." Hinata smiled and sat down. For her protection, and discretion, she used the name Minako.
"It's good to be back." Hinata said. She was just about to open her mouth when the bartender said, in a voice that was barely above a whisper,
"I suppose you haven't heard yet, living out in nowhere." Hinata shook her head. "Well, I heard a hunter talking this morning, apparently some shinobi, you know, the kind that wear the masks? APU, or ABU or something? Anyways, this hunter guy says that there were scouting around the area that you always come in by. When you leave be careful. We don't want anything happening to you or Kouden-chan." He nodded and moved over to serve someone else.
Hinata's mouth was dry. ANBU? Here? Why? Hinata took a drink, not tasting what it was. Could they be after her? But, why now? It's been so long... Hinata shook her head. It must be another Missing-nin. They weren't that uncommon as one might think.
"Kouden! Kouden! Where are you?" Hinata half shouted. A mist had settled in around the docks, and Ditama-san was nowhere to be found. She'd have to try again in the morning. But first she had to find Kouden. He usually hung about the docks, chasing after Sasami.
"Kaa-san! Im over here!" A voice called. It was followed by a small thump, and Kouden burst through the mist into Hinata's arms. Hugging her tightly, Hinata could feel her son's fast pacing pulse through her jacket. She pulled him slightly away and said,
"Kou-chan, calm down! What happened?" Kouden was grinning from ear to ear.
"Kaa-san! I saw them! They were so cool!" He said, quivering with excitement.
"Im not sure, I think the one I talked to said he was ABU...or was it ANBU? Yea, ANBU!" Hinata's heart missed a beat. ANBU?
"Where? What did they say?" Hinata asked, her grin slipped off and was now a small frown.
"I was by the east docks, playing on the shore was Sasami-chan! There were three of them. One came forward and took off his mask...Kaa-san? Can I get a mask like that! It was really cool!"
"Kouden, please finish." Hinata said.
"O yea, sorry... So as I was saying, He took off his mask, which was weird, he was wearing another one underneath it. It was really weird...he had a bandage covering his left eye, but I could see the edge of a scar underneath it. His hair was gray, but he didn't look very old…" Kouden trailed off in thought, while Hinata broke into a cold sweat.
Kakashi-sensei...here... Back in the ANBU, no less!
"Please, Kouden, this is important...what did he say to you?"
"Ahh, umm...I think he said..."
"Ahh, what a pretty flower. Did that nice boy give it to you?" Sasami nodded. Kouden, who hadn't noticed the visitors, looked up from his sand castle.
"Sasami-chan! Who is that?" Kouden looked at the three men, two with ((really cool)) masks covering their faces. The man who was closest looked past Sasami at Kouden and the man's eye widened.
"So it's true." He said. It was so quiet Kouden almost missed it.
"Boy, come here, just for a second." Kouden nodded. He rose from the sand, brushed his rolled up slacks and joined Sasami, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her slightly away from the strangers.
"Can I ask your name?" He said, Kouden hesitated but finally said,
"Kouden. Its Kouden." The man nodded.
"That's a nice name. Can I ask what your mother's name is?" He said, almost timidly, as if embarrassed to be asking.
"Umm...It's, Minako." The man smiled. A smile of knowledge. Kouden didn't miss that smile. The man stood up fully and scratched the back of his head.
"So, Kouden-san, how would you like to be an ANBU one day?" Kouden hesitated at the topic change, but finally said,
"Would I get a mask like yours?" The man with the gray hair laughed.
"Of course! Except you would have to be a shinobi first. A registered shinobi of a hidden village." He said with a tad of mirth still in his voice.
"Hidden Village? Which one are you from, ANBU-san?" Kouden asked, tilting his head.
"Heh, call me sensei, kid. I am from Konohagakure. Do you know where that is?" Kouden nodded eagerly.
"Ever been there?" Kouden shook his head, "You should tell you Mother to take you. Im sure she would be glad to know that she would be welcomed with open arms. Be sure to tell her that."
"Kakashi. We scouted around and the missing-nin is nowhere to be found." The man behind him sighed.
"Really...well, we'll catch him. You kids should go back to the village. It isn't very safe here. There is an evil man lurking somewhere around and he might get 'cha if you aren't careful." Kouden grinned.
"I could take him. Kaa-san taught me to fight. She said I'm a genius shinobi and that I learned faster than her." Kouden said, trying to impress this gray man.
"Oh really? Well, it's a rule of shinobi to protect. So I suggest you take Sasami back to the village."
"Oh...heh, yea. Sasami-chan, let's go! I wanna tell Kaa-san!" Kouden said, turning around, dragging Sasami with him. The gray man cupped his hand around his mouth and shouted to the retreating couple,
"Hey kid! Don't forget to tell your mother that she is welcome!" Kouden waved his hand in acknowledgement.
"So his legend lives on..." The man with gray hair said, covering his face with his Dog-ANBU mask. His red scarf draped behind him, he turned and said to his teammates,
"Yuugao-chan, Shikamaru, let's go." Yuugao sniffed, she hated being called "chan", and Shikamaru didn't say anything, but stared thoughtfully at Kakashi, through his deer mask...
"...and that's what they said, more or less." Kouden said. Hinata was speechless. Her mouth was agape, and she stared at Kouden. Kouden tightened his grip on his mother.
"Kaa-san, he said you could go back. Does that mean you were there before? In Konoha?" Hinata smiled, and ran her fingers through Kouden's untamed locks of gold.
"Yes...I was born there." She said.
"What! Really? Why don't we live there?" Kouden asked, getting tense from excitement again.
"Kouden...that place has some bad memories for me." Kouden calmed down again, seeing the sadness in his mother's eyes. He rested his head on his mother's stomach, hugging her tighter.
"It's ok, Kaa-san. I know you don't want to go there, but do you think I can be a Konoha shinobi? If you were born there, it must mean that you used to be one, right?" Kouden asked.
"Well, yes...I suppose I could think about it. But for now I think it's best we return to the hotel. We have a long day ahead of us." Kouden nodded and walked slightly ahead.
Taking advantage of her eager son's position, she quickly activated the Byakugan to see if she was being followed. Hinata sighed. It was obvious she would be.
Three followers. All ANBU. It must be Kakashi and who ever he decided on coming with him. Turning to her son, just as they reached the village gates, Hinata said,
"Kou-chan, here, take this and hurry back to the hotel, I'll buy you some ramen on the way back. I have to do something first." Kouden's ear's perked at the word 'Ramen'. Hinata giggled. He really was just like his father. She gave Kouden her bag and he sprinted off to the hotel.
After a few seconds to make sure he left, Hinata turned around and faced the forest that was to the left of the road.
"Okay. He's gone. You can stop hiding." Hinata said, not quite shouting, but loud enough to echo in the silence of the night. Hinata heard a rustle, and then took a step back as three ANBU landed in front of her.
"Kakashi, I want you to leave me alone. I was never here." Hinata frowned, causing a small furrow to develop on her brow. Kakashi raised his hands.
"I can't believe it. You are really alive? After Neji told us all that he had killed you nine years ago, all the search parties had just stopped."
"Kakashi, who is this? How does she know you?" One of the ANBUs said, a woman, by the sound of her voice. Hinata directed her gaze on her. Eyes wide, even without the Byakugan activated, it was hard to mistake the power her eyes held.
"Please, Yuugao-chan, don't be rude." Kakashi turned back to Hinata. Taking off his mask, he took a step towards Hinata.
"Kakashi..." Yuugao said, but was cut off when Kakashi leaned forward and hugged Hinata. Not expecting this Hinata blushed.
"Oh! Hinata! It IS you! I'd recognize that blush anywhere!" The third ANBU said.
Hinata froze. Knowing one ANBU was bad, but two? Who was it this time? Shikamaru? Hinata inwardly giggled at her little joke. Shikamaru would think, that like everything else, being ANBU would be too 'troublesome'.
So naturally, when the third ANBU took off his mask and revealed that it actually WAS Shikamaru, Hinata nearly fainted.
Which itself was weird. She hadn't fainted since...since, that day. That awful day.
"Shikamaru-kun...this isn't good. I'm dead. I don't exist. Got it? I died nine years ago." Shikamaru seemed a little taken back at Hinata's fieriness; she definitely wasn't the Hinata he remembered. Then again, it wasn't all that surprising. Considering what happened.
"Hinata, that boy...Is it...his?" Shikamaru said, slowly, he knew he was treading dangerous grounds. Hinata looked sad, but it was replaced so fast, Shikamaru thought he might have imagined it. Hinata raised her hands together, but quickly moved them back to her sides. She was NOT about to pick that habit up again.
"Please. Leave my son alone. He doesn't have anything to do with this. It's bad enough his father died before he was born, and that I'm reminded of him every time I see Kouden, I don't need you, of all people, digging into my past. Im dead, for kami-sama's sake. I don't exist, and neither does my son.
Hinata turned on her heel and started to walk away.
"Please, leave. Catch your nin, and leave. Don't come back. I got your message Kakashi, and I'm not coming back." She walked a few more steps, but stopped, pulling out a small scroll, and a pen.
After a few moment of scribbling, she rolled it up and tossed the scroll to Shikamaru. Catching it he looked at Hinata.
"Take it to Neji-ni-san...and only you, Shikamaru, you and Neji-ni-san, come back to this spot in exactly a month. At this time. I have something for him." Hinata shot a look at Kakashi and Yuugao.
"Only Shikamaru. You can't fool my eyes." Then, abruptly turned and walked into the village, leaving a confused trio of ANBU in her wake.
"Well. That was troublesome." Shikamaru said, a few moments after Hinata disappeared around the corner.
"But still, I cant believe she's alive, after all these years, I was sure she was dead."
"Yea, biiig surprise." Kakashi said. Nodding his head.
"What ever, you guys...I don't even wanna know how you know her." Yuugao said, and disappeared with a small cloud of smoke.
Kakashi grinned and replaced his mask. Shikamaru followed suit, but wore a bored expression instead.
The last thing that could be heard as the two remaining ANBU left, was a quiet "Mendokuse"
End Chapter 1
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Naruto characters. But all of the OC's are mine.