While yes, I realize that I have yet to complete my latest ongoing story…I just couldn't help myself. The Scenario Series has not been abandoned, and it is not on hold. This idea simply would not leave me alone until I wrote it out.
Recently, I've taken a great interest in "what if?" AU fictions. It amazes me how much in the Naruto-verse can change by even the slightest alterations in character/storyline. I've seen some amazing stories on this site that rival the anime/manga in terms of entertainment. I've even read a select few that I like better. But one thing in particular that never fails to amuse me if the fact that a large percentage of these stories tend to gravitate towards the Naru/Hina pairing.
Alas, this is going to be one of those instances where I am guilty of going along with the crowd. :P
The title originates from an expression my Japanese literature teacher shared with us: 中心 の種, or "Kokoro no tane," an expression described by the visual of a tiny seed sprouting into several branches and leaves. The effect of a single presence—one seed—can be astronomical if given the chance to grow and prosper.
One more thing I would like to add is that, while this story revolves around the idea of including Hinata's mother into the Naruto-verse, it does not revolve around her as a character. The focus will still remain primarily on Naruto and his generation, must like in the original.
"Is that the child?"
All eyes instantly turned to the doorway at the question, though everyone already knew the answer before it had even been asked. A very tired-looking Sandaime met their gazes; in his arms, he cradled a tiny infant no more than a few days old. For the moment, the boy slept, though his feeble whimpering was amplified by the surrounding acoustics.
Of the few dozen chuunin and jounin gathered, not a single one had been spared completely from the horrific battle that ended only a few hours prior. The scent of blood new and old was thick, and blood-stained bandages were a popular accessory for the moment. Weariness and injury left several unable to restrain their emotions, the pain of loss still fresh in their minds. As such, none bothered to hide their apprehension and even contempt when they caught glimpse of the child.
"I, myself, saw Yondaime-sama carry it from the battlefield," Yamanaka Inoishi spoke up, his voice grim. Though he had been one of the luckier ones—his wounds long since clotted and in the process of healing—he still bore the knowledge that his wife was unconscious at one of the hospital centers. "What other purpose could a newborn have on the battlefield?"
"Now, Inoishi, we don't know anything for certain," His longtime friend, Akamichi Chouza offered. "His parents might have been among those attempting to flee, and were caught in the crossfire. Yondaime-sama then rescued him after they were lost."
A masked jounin in the far corner of the room shook his head. "You can sense it as well as I, Akamichi-san: Kyuubi no Kitsune's distinct chakra signature. Though nowhere near the level it was before, it still radiates from the child in waves."
"We have all heard the rumors of Suna... Perhaps there is some truth to them, after all," A younger chuunin added. "Why else would Yondaime-sama have vanished so shortly after his apparent victory over Kyuubi?"
Sarutobi remained silent as he slowly made his way to the Hokage desk, weariness claiming him as he slipped into the chair. He was well aware of the stares of his shinobi, as well as the whispering. Some began to argue amongst themselves, unabashed by their ignorance in the matter. They knew only what they saw, or were told. They believed what they wanted to believe.
One kunoichi believed louder than the others: "Possession…reincarnation…call it what you will; that creature must be destroyed before it can regain its full strength and finish us once and for—"
The room grew silent a regal-looking woman with a swollen belly stood up. Though her expression remained neutral, her gaze betrayed her fury. A fury not directed at any one person in particular, though she made her distaste for the pink-haired woman's unfinished statement very clear. Soft cries were heard coming from the infant, having been awoken by the shouting.
"If I recall correctly, there are many in this very room who have been blessed with children of their own this past year. Haruno-san…was your daughter not born this spring?" Hyuuga Haruko's words were cool and carefully chosen. She received a dumb nod in reply before continuing, "How then, could any one of you even consider harming another's child. What evidence could you possibly have against a babe less than a week old?"
"But, Hyuuga-sama," the Haruno matriarch protested, though not without hesitation, "this is a demon we're talking about!"
"I see no demon in this room. Only an infant boy who may very well have suffered a loss equal to or greater than the rest of us." With more grace than one would expect from a woman so far into her pregnancy, Haruko crossed the room and came to stand in front of the desk, holding her arms out towards the child. "May I?"
Eyeing her for a split-second, Sarutobi quickly deemed her intentions nothing less than pure. With great care to mind the head, he passed the boy over. At worst, he would be subjecting him to a series of motherly smothering and gushing.
Much to the surprise of the room, the baby instantly ceased all his fussing the moment he was secured in the matriarch's arms, snuggling further into her warmth. Haruko was well aware of the many pairs of eyes on her at the moment, and made no show of acknowledging them. Instead, she quietly activated her bloodlimit to observe the baby more closely.
Several feet away, Hyuuga Hiashi did the same.
Barely a moment's pause had passed before she looked up. "Just as I suspected. He is nothing more than a fortunate survivor of a most unfortunate event."
"But what of the demon chakra?" Mitarashi Anko questioned. Others were similarly hesitant to accept her declaration.
"Harmless," was her reply. "The child survived, but not without having to withstand an attack of some kind, most likely indirect in nature. Consider the chakra nothing more than a battle scar. At worst, he will grow up with an above-average stamina and chakra supply."
Not allowing the rumor mill time to grow, Sandaime immediately turned to the head of the Hyuuga clan. "Can you confirm your wife's claims, Hiashi-san? It is not that we doubt Haruko-san's honesty…but there are times when a mother's love can turn a blind eye. No pun intended, of course."
Hiashi made no attempts to acknowledge the old man's pitiful attempt at providing humor to the situation, instead meeting his wife's eyes from across the room. A brief, but meaningful conversation—one understood by none but themselves—passed between the two, until at last they broke away and he gave his answer.
"All that my wife says is true, Honorable Hokage-sama."
This time, there was no stopping the wave of mutterings that spread across the room. Louder, yet without their previous hostile overtones. Words of praise and adoration for their fallen Hokage were uttered, as well as a gratitude to Those watching over that a youth of their village had been spared. How like their beloved leader, they said, to have rescued an orphaned child from the clutches of a monster. His last act before falling, no less.
"Very well, then," Sandaime's voice rang out, suddenly powerful and full of conviction. Though his retirement had begun long ago, he found himself renewed with leadership spirit. "We shall place the child in our local orphanage, where he will be cared for an looked after. There will be no further mentioning of the meeting that has taken place here this afternoon, now or ever. The boy shall grow up as any normal child would, regardless of his…unique chakra signature. Does anybody else have anything they would like to add?"
"What of a name?" one called out.
"A name, eh?" A thoughtful look crossed the elderly man's features, before he turned to the pregnant woman beside him. "It is by your words he shall lead the life he will, Haruko-san. I find it only fitting that you should grant him a name to live by. Tell me…what do you think we should call him?"
She stared at the child for a moment, admiring his tiny features, naturally bronzed skin, and already unruly blonde hair. Already, he looks so much like him… she thought to herself, before smiling internally as an idea came to her. The room waited with great curiosity as she slowly lifted her head and uttered a single name.
Hiashi waited until they were alone, long after the remaining shonobi had left to attend to more pressing matters at hand. There were still many casualties to attend to, many civilians in need of assistance. Even so, he spoke quietly so as not to alert any who may have lingered. His voice carried no accusing tone behind it, though his eyes were serious as he turned to his wife: "Haruko, why did you not tell the whole truth about the child?"
"Because you know as well as I that this village is full of great fools." Neither remorseful nor ashamed of her words, the woman carried a slightly far-off look as a hand lingered near her stomach, and Hiashi knew she was thinking of their unborn child. "If they knew what was inside him, regardless of Yondaime-sama's exceptional seals and precautions…they would treat him like a monster. A demon. No child deserves such a fate."
"There is not a Hyuuga who will not know," he reminded her gently.
"Then there is not a Hyuuga who will speak of it!"
It was not often that she spoke to him with such conviction, let alone assumed authority with her head held high. She knew her place. For this reason, Hiashi was more than willing to comply with his wife's demand. A Hyuuga council meeting would be held that afternoon, a new clan rule enforced under strict penalty.
Three Years Later…
"Keep your head up, Hina-chan," Haruko instructed her daughter, "Hyuuga women walk with dignity, but just as much respect for others as well. Be proud, not boastful."
It was a special day for the young heiress; she was being taken into the village to purchase her very first formal kimono, to be worn at important meetings and clan engagements. Though still very young, her official status as future head of the Hyuuga clan was already under great scrutiny by the elders. Whereas, until that point, she had been introduced as the child of Hyuuga Hiashi...soon, she could be attending as Hyuuga Hinata. In just a few short years, she would be tested for her right to her entitlement, and first impressions were of great importance.
As members of the most prestigious clan in Konoha, Hinata's family has access to the best tailors in the land. Some did not even live in the village, but rather traveled specifically to attend to their most valued customers' needs. There was not a request that could not be fulfilled, be it a desire for rare fabric or intricate design. Hinata could literally choose any kimono she wanted.
The problem was…she didn't know what she wanted.
Initially, her request had been a smaller, but otherwise identical replica of what her mother always wore, down the precise shades of blue and lavender. Hinata loved her mother dearly, as any little girl would, and nothing would have made her happier than to be able to emulate her appearance. But Haruko had shot the idea down before she even had a chance to picture it in her mind.
Choose something that holds a personal significance to you. That represents you as a person, she had told her daughter. Show the world who Hyuuga Hinata is.
Hinata had thought about it, long and hard, until coming to the realization that she didn't know who she was. At least, not in a manner that could help her choose a wardrobe color. She had briefly considered asking her mother for help, but was unable to muster enough courage to do so. No doubt the elders would find fault in her inability to make such a simple decision.
It was with those thoughts in her head that she had followed her mother into the village that morning with her head lowered. When called on her undignified posture, she tried redeeming herself with a display of carefully observing her surroundings, in hopes of finding inspiration. Leaders were also expected to be attentive, and ever since she was a little girl, she had always been praised for her acute awareness.
What she saw was not a reflection of herself, however, but of a life she did not lead. To one side, a cute, blonde-haired girl was sharing a bag of potato chips with a chubby boy her age, a third companion of theirs lounging in the shade of a nearby tree; Hinata had few friends, and even few time to herself. Across the street, a group of children roughhoused with a small litter of pups; Hyuuga considered such animalistic displays beneath them, and any such social interactions took on the form of sparring or lesson instructions. Girls of various ages were picking flowers in the field, save for one who seemed more content at tossing metal sticks into the side of a wall. Hinata wasn't sure what she was doing, but it certainly seemed to impress the rapidly-growing crowd that surrounded her. A crowd she would sooner blend in with than stand out.
So distracted by the scenes before her, she almost didn't see the figure heading straight for her. At the last possible moment, a flash of bright, yellow hair caught her attention; she quickly let out a small 'eep' and dashed to safety behind her mother's leg...
Hyuuga Haruko spared a downward glance at the child who had just collided with her, now sitting on the ground in an undignified slouch. A hand covered his forehead in pain, eyes squeezed tightly shut. As she got a better look at him, recognition suddenly swept over her, though she outwardly maintained her trademark neutral expression.
"That was quite a fall, Naruto-san. Are you unhurt?" Gracefully, she knelt down to meet him eye-level.
"I think so…" the boy began, before his eyes sprung open and he looked up at her in surprise: "Wait—how'd you know my name?"
"I know your name because I am the one who gave it to you," she answered simply. When it became clear that all he could do in response was stare at her in pure disbelief, she continued, "I have not seen you since you were a baby in Sandaime's arms, when he first brought you to the orphanage. You've certainly grown since then, haven't you?"
A faint blush spread across his cheeks from the compliment. Rubbing the back of his head sheepishly, he gave an embarrassed grin before noticing the little girl peeking out from behind the woman. "Who's that?"
Hinata's eyes widened slightly at having been noticed; letting out a tiny squeal, she ducked back behind her mother, face buried into her back, out of sight.
"This shy little thing is my daughter," Haruko stated, resisting the urge to smile at the scene. Glancing behind her, she addressed her little 'shadow': "Why don't you come out and say hello, Hinata-chan?"
Slowly, a head peaked out. Naruto quickly stood up, brushing the dust off his pants before turning to greet her. Thick, raven bangs shielded her eyes from his sight, as she suddenly found the dirt ground very interesting. The rest of her eventually followed, and with a gentle shove from her mother, she came to stand only a few feet in front of him. Her fingers twiddled in nervous habit before she put them down and bowed.
"M-my name's Hyuuga Hinata." Her words were so soft he almost didn't hear them. "Nice to meet you."
It wasn't until she lifted her head that their eyes finally met. Time seemed to freeze for the pair as they stared at one another for a moment, as if in some sort of a trance. Haruko watched them with great interest as she rose from her kneeling position, her eyes shining with amusement. After a moment, it was Naruto who first broke the silence:
"Tsuki," he whispered.
"…I'm sorry?" The sound of Hinata's quiet voice seemed to snap Naruto back to reality. Shaking his head slightly, he gave one of the brightest smiles she had ever seen.
"Tsuki. Your eyes look just like the moon. Hers—" he motioned to Haruko, "look like warm milk drops. But yours look like two full moons. They're pretty."
A sudden rush of blood spread across the girl's cheek's, and her face grew warm. Partially from the compliment, and partially from the fact that she had been admiring his eyes as well, trying to determine what color they were. She had never seen anybody with such bright blue eyes before. They reminded her of the sky on a sunny day.
Hinata was on the verge of fainting from embarrassment, when a loud voice rang through the air, shattering the moment:
"Naruto! There you are!" A middle-aged woman quickly hurried over to where they stood, very obviously out of breath. Her once chocolate brown hair was pampered with various shades of grey, and a conspicuous white streak on one side. Her eyes betrayed her weariness and age. "You horrid child; how many times must I tell you not to run off on your own like that?"
Though the words were harsh, her tone held nothing but worry and compassion behind it. No sooner did she reach the boy, than she dropped to her knees and began inspecting him for injury. For his part, Naruto looked more guilty than afraid, so much so that he didn't say a word about the woman's doting.
"Honestly! You know I'm getting far too old to run after you, Naruto-kun. And yet you won't be satisfied until you've drained all the color from my hair, will you? You aren't hurt, are you?" A wordless shake of the head was his reply, which seemed to satisfy his caretaker. Straightening, she took the boy into her arms before turning to the Hyuuga matriarch, bowing her head slightly. "Thank you for finding him, Hyuuga-sama. Please believe me when I say that he's actually a really good kid deep down."
"This I do not doubt. 'Boys will be boys'—is that not the expression?" Haruko replied calmly, though her eyes practically sparkled in mirth. "Though I believe it would be a more accurate assessment to say that he found us."
"I made a new friend!" Naruto contributed to the conversation eagerly. The smile on his face spread from ear to ear, indicating his excitement overshadowed any possible dread of punishment. "Her name's Hinata and she's my age and has eyes like the moon. Can she come over and play?"
It took a moment for things to register in the woman's mind. Long ago had she resigned any effort in keeping up with Naruto's hyperactive nature; she'd realized when he was very young that he had more energy than most children, and she could barely keep up with them. As it was, the boy was all but bouncing in her arms expectantly.
Once things begun to sink in, she turned her sight on the little girl in question, and did a double-take upon recognizing her as none other than the young Hyuuga heiress. For her part, the little girl was staring up at her with wide eyes, shyly sticking close to her mother while holding a tiny fist over her mouth. It was an adorable sight the caretaker could not help but smile at, in spite of her shock.
"I…" she began, but soon found herself at a loss for words. Nervously, she glanced between the heiress, her mother, and Naruto. How was she supposed to answer his seemingly innocent request?
Fortunately for her, Haruko chose that moment to step forward. "I'm afraid Hinata-chan can not go play right now, Naruto-kun." She watched the smile disappear from his face instantly, and added, "But if your guardian does not mind, you are more than welcome to visit our home some time and see Hinata-chan there."
His eyes widened into great big saucers. "Really?" When Haruko nodded, he let out a huge cheer, causing the older woman to wince at his volume. "Can I, 'ba-chan? Can I?"
A glance at the Hyuuga matriarch earned her a nod in confirmation. "Of course, Naruto-kun. As long as Hyuuga-sama says it's okay, you may go see your new friend later."
"Yatta!" The boy exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air.
"And what about you, Hinata-chan?" Haruko turned to her daughter. "Would you like that?"
Three pairs of eyes instantly focused on her, a fact that the three-year-old was suddenly all too aware of. Hoping to hide her beet-red face, she quickly nodded before rushing to re-bury it in her mother's stomach. Yet she couldn't stop herself from smiling.
"That settles it, then," Haruko announced. She nodded once to the orphanage caretaker before attempting to pry her daughter's arms from around her waist. "Come along, Hinata-chan. We're going to be late. We'll see you again soon, Naruto-san."
"Bye, Hyuuga-sama!" Naruto called out, wildly waving his arms as he was carried off, back towards the direction of the orphanage. "Bye, Hinata-chan!"
Hinata watched him timidly out of the corner of her eye, until he was no longer within her line of sight. Only then did she briefly turn to the direction he had gone. "Bye, Naruto-kun," she whispered softly, a tiny smile tugging at her lips.
Thoughts of kimono designs and colors once again resurfaced in her mind as she moved to catch up with her mother; this time, however, she began picturing herself in a light sky-blue...