It wasn't the first dead body she'd seen. Nor would it be the last. Her team members all lay on the ground motionless. There wasn't a single sign of battle. Not a loose kunai lingering in a tree. No shurikens buried in the soft dirt of the clearing. No, each of the four members of the squad seemed to suffer from either internal or extreme external injuries. Kyo, who she was currently standing over and examining, had his neck broken before he had even a chance to draw his katana.
She turned slowly on her heels stepping past the dead and further into the woods. She had to put in as much distance between her, and the corpses before anyone caught onto what had happened. She'd already taken the first step towards a harsh fate. A fate she'd knew better than anyone else who lead to certain death. But she had to run. It was the only way she would ever be truly happy with herself. Deep down in the back of her mind she knew this was probably not the best decision she'd ever made, but nonetheless it was the right one for the moment.Three months earlier
"KANPAI!" The cheers and laugher echoing through the restaurant could be heard from outside. But there was honestly good cause for celebration. Hyuuga Hinata, the raven haired-white-eyed Jyuuken master from Konoha's most famous Hyuuga clan had been recently given the opportunity of a lifetime.
"So tell me, how does it feel?" Haruno Sakura, disciple of the Fifth-Gondaimae Hokage Tsunade-sama and leading practitioner of medical ninjutsu wrapped a warm arm around her friend.
"I…I-I don't know really." Hinata replied blushing. She wasn't used to all this attention, but it gave her a warm feeling deep inside her chest that couldn't be described as embarrassment. The impromptu party laughed at her answer.
"Oh come on, you've got to be very excited." Howled Inuzuka Kiba.
"Woof!" Kiba's lifelong pet, Akamaru barked in agreement. Hinata continued to blush, wondering how in the world that dog was able to get seated inside the restaurant.
"Its not everyday people get promoted to Captain of an Anbu Squad." Abarame Shino spoke calmly from behind his sake cup. "You should be proud of your accomplishments, Hinata-san. Especially since this proves to your father that you are not worthless." Shino had a way of sobering up any situation. But from behind the dark sunglasses that he wore, he gave his longtime teammate a hearty smile.
Hinata blushed in reply.
"In any case we're all proud of you." Yamanaka Ino's words were slurred; possibly she had too much sake to drink. "So, drink up, this rounds on me!" Ino raised her glass once in the air, and then as if on cue to show how plastered she was, fell backwards out of her chair, beckoning laughter from everyone.
Hinata gulped down her sake glass and silently wished that there was one more person congratulating her right now. He was probably out training right now, of course, and though this party her friends had thrown her was wonderful, the one thing she did wish for to make this moment perfect, was for Naruto be sitting next to her, cheering her on…
"Congratulations," Offered a voice so silent and bitter, that it stopped the sounds of the party in a mere instant. It was if everyone had strained to listen to a feeble old man belting out his last requests before he died. Everyone turned to see who the speaker was. Everyone, that is, except for Hinata. Her body instantly tensed at the voice of her husband, the man her father had given her to.
Hyuuga Kurono waved hello to everyone, though his presence gave off a joyous and friendly aura, no one could help but notice the frightened look on their friends face. Feeling that everyone's eyes were suddenly on her, Hinata turned her head in feigned surprise, giving her husband the best smile she could muster.
"Thank you," She quickly searched her brain for an excuse, but before she could speak, Sakura spoke for her.
"Hello there Kurono-san, I hope you don't mind if we borrow your wife for a couple of hours. We were just dying to throw her a little party since its been forever since we saw her last."
"Ah, yes well that's fine." Kurono smiled. "I just came back from a mission and was stopping in for a drink, so would it be alright if I simply imposed myself on your little gathering here?"
"Sweet deal!" Ino had finally climbed back into her chair and raised her sake glass high in the air. "Next rounds on you."
"Fair enough." Kurono laughed, taking a seat next to his wife.
The party ended soon after midnight, the shinobi happily stumbled out of the restaurant so far past drunk that no one would remember parts of the excitement they had that night. All save the two who were silently walking down the darkened streets of Konoha, more sober than the night, or party allowed.
"I…I'm sorry I didn't come home." Hinata's meek voice broke the dark silence. "They just grabbed me before I could protest. Forgive me." She turned to look back at her husband, her eyes betrayed her expression.
"Its fine," Kurono stopped to look down at his wife. She didn't have time to raise her hands to block his strike. His fists were to fast for her to avoid. Hinata fell to the ground, her face red with pain. "The next time I have to go looking for you, I won't be so pleasant understand?"
Hinata was silent, but nodded her head as she lay on the ground.
"Good," Kurono spat. "I hope there won't be a next time."Present Day
She found the cave off the trail and had decided camp there for the night. She still had no idea of which country she was going to go seek asylum, though doing so would be like sending up a flare telling Konoha where exactly to come and find her. She sat with her back against her cave wall, and rechecked her supplies. One ration meal, twelve shuriken, a half-dozen kunai, and barely half of those had exploding tags attached to them. As far as exploding tags go, she had almost a full stack of the volatile little papers to probably set up a protect trap for the night. She let out a sigh, as she repacked her accessory pouch. She wished things had not turned out the way the did, if anything she wished she could change the past so that she would never have had to runaway from a home she'd loved so much.
Naruto dashed along the rooftops of Konoha as soon as he received the summons for the special mission. It was about time the old lady gave him a mission worth his time. He leapt high in the air allowing the wind to take him as he twirled about landing perfectly in front of the offices of the Fifth Hokage. A slight grin worked its way to his face, he'd been bored in Konoha doing nothing but training his new ninjutsu tiredly without end. He leapt up to the second floor and rushed passed the old lady's attendants as he made his way to her office.
"U-Z-U-MA-KI NARUTO!" He said joyously as he flung open the old lady's door. "Has-" Naruto paused as he took in the solemn look on the face of the Hokage. Inside her office, with their backs to him, were Sakura and Kiba. Usually, at an entrance like his they would turn around and berate him, but the silence in the room, and the burdened look on the Hokage's face said that the mission he was about to partake was serious. Dead serious, with a capital D.
"You're late," Tsunade, the Fifth, glared at Naruto.
"Late?" Naruto protested. "I came here as soon as I got word! And what's with that serious look on your face? You know you're gonna get wrinkles if you keep your face like that."
"Normally, I would humor you and your antics, but this situation is too serious for you to screw up. And if you don't think that you can be serious for the duration of this, then I'll simply replace you."
"Whoa, whoa!" Naruto raised his hands as he took his place next to Kiba and Sakura. The looks on both their faces were grim, and he was wondering what exactly could make everyone in the room act so uptight. "So what's the mission? Rescuing a princess, escorting a Daiymo? Oh, oh I know! We're gonna pay off Granny's debts by going on a treasure hunt? Right? Right?"
No one laughed, or even gave him a hint of a reaction. The only thing that made Naruto's face drop in surprise was the picture Shizune handed him. Before he could ask questions the old Lady answered them all at once.
"Your Mission, is to locate the whereabouts of that person, and either bring them back to Konoha." There was a slight pause, long and dramatic enough to pound the point home. Naruto had been staring on the old lady's mouth, watching her lips form the words that his ears simply did not receive.
"WHAT!?" He didn't mean to scream, but certainly his reaction didn't even being to explain the sudden surge of emotions he was feeling at the moment. "Why?"
"Two days ago, an Anbu Squad was on their way back to the village, however, suddenly their captain refused to return to the village. Confused, the squad tried to bring their leader back by force." Shizune slid another photograph across the Hokage's desk and Naruto's eyes went wide. "Yesterday we found that Anbu squad decimated, their captain missing and one survivor who told us of the account. Normally, I was scramble every last Jounin and Anbu I had and have them bring this person back for questioning, however I figure that the situation is too delicate for them. So against my better judgment, I'm sending you three plus one more to, if possible, bring this person back alive. If you cannot convince them to come back on their own, then I want you to kill Hyuuga Hinata."
The picture of one of Naruto's dearest friends tumbled out of his hands.
"No," Naruto protested, almost on the verge of tears. Both Sakura and Kiba were already crying silently to themselves.
"If you three can't handle this, I can find others…" Tsunade paused. "Who are less…merciful."
Sakura, from behind her tears, shot Naruto a look so evil, it silenced him permanently for the remainder of the meeting.
"So," Kiba spoke, Naruto picking up on the weakness that was taking over his voice. "Who's the fourth member of our team?"
And as if on cue, the door to the Hokage's office slowly opened, and all eyes then focused on one Hyuuga Kurono. He didn't speak, though his simply bowed and acknowledge everyone's presence.
"Leave as soon as possible." The old Lady ordered.
"Right," They all meekly said in unison.
"Oh and Sakura, take this," The Hokage opened up a drawer in her desk and handed her disciple a small pouch. "I've prepared a special medicine for you all in case she seals away your chakra. If, that should happen, take this and you should be able to swiftly recover from the effects of her Jyuuken."
"Yeah," Sakura nodded, carefully taking the pouch from the Hokage's hands Sakura hurried to catch up to the others.
"WHAT THE HELL!?" Naruto's screamed carried across the courtyard as the newly formed search team silently left the Hokage's office. "I don't get it. I just don't get it, why the hell would she runaway? I thought she loved living here."
"Naruto, why don't you just shut up?" Kiba barked. "You're not the only one who doesn't completely understand the situation." Naruto followed Kiba's gaze to the man silently trailing behind them. Hyuuga Kurono was staring at the dirt beneath his feet; the look on his face was a mixture of sadness and the harsh reality of life as a shinobi.
Naruto snatched Kurono up by his collar, suddenly alive with anger towards the man for reason unknown to him.
"What did you do to make her leave? You bastard If I found out you did something to her I'll kill myself."
"Whoa Naruto, calm down!" Kiba pushed Naruto away from the other man. "If anyone hurt Hinata, it would've been you."
"What?" Naruto's eyes shot open.
"See, you didn't even know that she was married did you?" Kiba pointed to Kurono. "Her wedding day was wonderful, though everyone could tell she spent the entire day looking and waiting for you to show up. You weren't on mission, so she had one of the worst days of her life."
"What are you talking about?" Naruto blinked in confusion. "When did she get married and why would she be sad if I didn't show up?"
"You're dense." Kiba sighed and pushed past Naruto, in a hurry to pack. "I'm going to go pack; I'll meet you guys by the gate."
"Kiba…" Naruto sighed. He didn't know how exactly he was supposed to feel, but somehow he could feel nothing but anger towards this whole situation. Hinata had been very nice to him during his time in Konoha, and to put on a mission where he would be put in a position to kill one of his dearest friends…
"This is seriously fucked up!" Naruto screamed, rushing off without saying another word.
"Are you serious?" The cigarette fell out of Shikamaru's mouth as if adding an extra period to the end of a sentence.
"Yeah," Ino was staring at the bottom of her sake glass, the bar was eerily silent for the time of day. Well, it would've been silent save for Chouji's excessively loud crunching. "Apparently she refused to return to the village, and when her squad tried to calm her down, she attacked them."
"No way," Shikamaru still couldn't believe his ears. "That girl couldn't even kill a cockroach for fear of upsetting the insect's family."
"I know, but something about this entire situation doesn't sit right with me. I've known Hinata since the academy, and I don't believe that she could even fathom becoming a runaway." Ino poured herself another cup of sake, gulping down the hot liquid praying that it would clear up the confusion swimming around in her head.
"So what has the Fifth done about this? She put together a team yet?"
"Yeah, apparently she deemed it necessary to send out Naruto, Sakura, Kiba and Kurono."
"Well, that was a smart decision." Shikamaru drew another cigarette from his pack and lit it.
"What? Sending Kurono as commander?"
"No, Sending in Naruto."
"Oh, yeah. She always did have a crush on that idiot."
"Only, I hope he's able to fight her if she refuses to return peacefully." Chouji said, grimly.
"Yeah," Shikamaru puffed. "Me too."
Hinata carefully disarmed the traps she set only hours earlier, not wanting to waste supplies. As soon as all the traps were disarmed she carefully dismantled her campfire, making it appear as if no one had taken refuge from the world in that cave. She hurried away from the cave and continued north, her Byakugan fully active and searching for any signs of people followed.
About midday she stopped running to take a break near a lake. She allowed herself the privilege of washing up; though still cautious of her surroundings she made her bathing session quick before hurrying to move on.
When night fell Hinata found a decent place to spend the night under a large tree. She built a fire there, though she was sure anyone idiot within eyesight would come to investigate the light, but for now she just needed to rest. She opened her ration kit, and ate what was her breakfast/lunch/dinner for the day.
She wondered what her father was thinking, what would he tell her if he was with her right now. He'd probably berate her and call her useless just like he always did. She honestly believed he simply didn't care about her at all. Then there was Neiji, his cold expressions and beliefs were made known constantly to her. She then thought back to her former teammates Kiba, with cute little Akamaru. Well Akamaru wasn't so little anymore. Shino and Kurenai-sensei. They could always make her smile, regardless of the situation. She lowered her head to her knees as she knew the shame she was brining to everyone went beyond disappointment.
Even Naruto would be ashamed of you. At that thought she began to cry, curling herself up into a ball next to the fire, she cried herself to sleep.
The search party traveled along just under the canopy of leaves in complete silence. Akamaru and Kiba were leading the formation, Sakura trailing behind him to his right, Naruto directly across from her and trailing the farthest behind the group was Kurono. He looked as silent and sad as the rest of the group. His mission was clear and he, just like the others in the group, where hoping that they could bring his wife home without any further incident.
They traveled all day and night not wanting to put any further distance between their friend and themselves than was already present.
"You think," Naruto was the first to break the silence. "You think that maybe she's gotten ill or something? Maybe she became possessed."
"I don't think so." Sakura nearly slipped on a tree branch, but quickly regained her balance and continued on. "Anbu normally do not go on mission if they are not one-hundred percent. Besides, I'm more worried about what might happen to her if other villages learn that she's runaway…" Sakura glanced over at her teammates and without saying it they all suddenly became aware of how dire the situation was.
"Woof!" Akamaru's bark froze all four shinobi's in their places.
"What is it?" Kurono whispered from his position.
"There's another scent here."
"Another scent?" Naruto cocked his head in confusion. "What do you mean another scent?"
"There's another person, following her trail." Kiba watched Akamaru sniff out and then move on ahead. "We need to hurry."