Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto and not me.
A/N: This chapter is a little bit short, sorry, but it's a sweet one anyway.
Chapter 3: Hopes
It was dark when the old man and his student reached the docks. Their boat was dwarfed in comparison to the tankers that lined up around them. The smell coming from the docks matched the size of the tankers though. Oil, rotting fish, the pollution from the city… Naruto had to pull the collar of his shirt over his nose for a minute to become adjusted. He coughed regardless.
"Keep it down," growled Jiraiya. The man shrugged his shoulder to keep his bag on. "I don't want to draw attention to ourselves."
"Yeah, yeah," muttered Naruto. "But I could take out anyone who tried to come near us."
The man rolled his eyes. "That's what you said when you tried to steal that kid's car magazine. And just look what happened there – the kid got his friends to gang up on you and you got your ass kicked."
"They were just kids, I couldn't hit them." Naruto grumbled to himself. His sensei had a point though; he'd been careless that day. Naruto clamped his hands around the straps of his backpack. It was heavy, that was for sure. But he'd picked up a number of nifty knick-knacks while he'd been abroad. Travelling had opened his eyes up to a lot of possibilities. And he couldn't wait to get back and show everyone.
Sakura locked the door to her office.
The pink-haired girl gave a startled jump, turning to her side. "Oh, Hinata! You gave me a fright."
"I'm sorry!" apologised the girl before her. She went to bow, but Sakura grabbed her by the shoulders – Hinata had almost bowed herself into hitting the wall with her head. The girl had been facing the wrong way.
Sakura turned her around, looking into her eyes. They were the lightest shade of lavender, pupil-less, but full of sincerity. Sakura smiled at her, though she knew the girl couldn't see it. "It's alright, Hinata," she told her, noticing the girl had messed up her hair. "Come on, I'll fix your hair for you." She unlocked the door to her office again.
Hinata felt around her as she found a chair to sit on. She carefully placed her walking stick beside her. She winced as she heard it clatter onto the floor.
"Don't worry," Sakura reassured her, fishing a hairbrush from a drawer in her desk. She set about to brushing the girl's long dark-blue hair. Sakura reminisced back to a few years ago, remembering when the girl had much shorter hair. Hinata was still timid, but she had begun to grow up. It had taken her a while to get it right, but she learnt how to put on a little make-up. She'd also started wearing clothes just a little less modest, showing off a womanly figure that had quite surprised Sakura when she had first seen her. Today she was wearing a fitted white t-shirt underneath a denim vest. Her skirt reached halfway down her calves, simple, but ruffled at the bottom. Sakura noticed she hadn't gained enough confidence to start wearing heels though, instead opting for a pair of black sandals.
"Sakura-chan… is… what I heard true? That… Naruto-kun is coming back soon?" A blush spread across Hinata's face. She wrung her hands together nervously.
"Apparently he is," came the reply.
Hinata tapped her fingers together. It was a bad habit, but the feeling somehow calmed her. She wondered about how much Naruto may have changed – maybe his voice had gotten deeper, or he spoke more maturely now? She didn't think about how he looked, after all, she'd never even seen him before. In reality, the only thing she truly knew was his voice. It was his voice that had caught her attention so many years ago as a child. She always heard him at school, yelling over something. Sometimes he'd sound excited, sometimes angry. But she'd never heard him sad… not at first anyway. Not until she'd found the courage to follow him after school was over. After some time, she had found it easy to be able to follow him – she'd memorised the sound of the pattern of his footfalls. She had become so dedicated that she rarely messed up and ended up following someone else. One day, after following Naruto, she'd found him back at the playground, the swings creaking as they swung in the breeze. There was another sound though…
Sobbing. Teardrops dripped down Naruto's face. The boy clutched at the chains of the swing as he sat, his legs dangling down just short of the ground.
"It's not fair," he whispered.
Naruto jumped in fright, tumbling out of the swing. Quickly, he got back onto his feet and turned. A girl was standing before him, nervously tapping her fingers together. Naruto, not wanting to be seen crying, wiped at his face with the edge of his shirt. Halfway through, he paused, looking at the girl. He noticed her eyes were blank, not normal. She also had a stick of some kind in her hand. Realisation hit him.
"Are you blind?" he asked.
The girl jumped a little herself. After a moment, she nodded. "I'm… I'm Hyuuga Hinata. I'm… in your class, Naruto-kun." A blush spread over her face. Naruto wondered if she was too hot or something – she was wearing a gigantic jacket for such a warm night. The girl's fingers tapped again. "I… I heard you crying."
"I was not!" retorted the boy swiftly. "I was… It was the swing."
Hinata didn't seem like she believed him. "It's okay to cry a little sometimes," she said.
Naruto frowned, though Hinata's face gave no response to it. Sadness swept over him. "I don't cry a little sometimes," he told her. "I come here every night."
"Every night?" Hinata's fingers stopped tapping. It seemed almost impossible for her to believe. "Why?"
"It's not like I have anywhere else to go," grumbled Naruto. "You wouldn't understand. You're not an orphan."
Things started to make sense to Hinata suddenly – why he was always so loud. She had been told he was a class clown and an attention seeker, but he did it because he didn't have any family to go home to at night and get attention from… or love. She almost felt sick remembering how in nearly every single class she had heard someone yelling insults at Naruto at some point. Even some of their teachers went out of their way to make him feel unwanted. But he never made himself out to seem like he was some kind of poor orphan. He put on a strong demeanour and endured life's hardships. Hinata gulped, feeling a hot flush across her face. She had to say it… she just had to.
"Yeah, what is it?" asked a quiet voice. Naruto sounded like he was about to cry again.
She had to say it, had to! "I-I-I… I-I…" She choked. "I wish I could see your face!"
Naruto blinked. That had been… unexpected. He stared into the girl's white eyes. As he stared, he began to notice they weren't exactly white – they were more like a really light purple. It was kind of pretty really. His brow twitched in a frown. The girl had just said she wished he could see his face? It was a strange request, especially when he thought about how most people probably wished they didn't see his face at all. And this girl… really wanted to be able to see his face? When all others shunned him instead?
"Naruto-kun?" Hinata was shaking. She'd choked, not wanting to say what she wanted. She felt like a fool.
Suddenly she felt something grasp her around the wrist. Her hand was guided up until she felt something warm and soft against her palm. A droplet of water slid down onto her fingers, following the contours until falling off her wrist.
But just as suddenly as she realised what she was touching, it was gone. She heard running, going over the pavement and towards the school gate.
Hinata held her hand in the air a little longer, remembering the feeling of Naruto's cheek and the tear that had run down her hand.
"How has your family been, Hinata?" asked Sakura.
Hinata snapped out from her dreaming. She could almost imagine the feeling again. "It's been… okay," she replied.
"Any more word on the research?" Sakura felt badly for asking about it, but her curiosity was too much, as well as her concern. For as long as anyone could remember, the Hyuuga family had always been blind. It was some kind of genetic defect – incurable by medicine. That was why the family had turned to science and technology. However, the science came at a price, for half of the family at least. The research needed guinea pigs, and only living family members could suffice. It was then that the family became split. Some had volunteered, and some had been forced, but it was during that where the ' Main' and 'Branch' parts of the family had appeared. The Branch house were the guinea pigs, something that consequently caused their children to be cursed with it as well. The research was painful, excruciatingly so. After a while, the Branch house had begun to rebel, but the Main had predicted it, placing small transceivers in their brains. With one touch of a button, that pain would return. The Branch had become servants, a sad and terrible fate… and all in the name of science.
"Uh… research…" Hinata paused.
Sakura raised an eyebrow. Had there been a hint of excitement in the girl's tone?
"They, uh, had a breakthrough," said Hinata quietly. "It's not complete yet, but it's a step."
"That's great news!" exclaimed Sakura. "Do you know anymore?"
"Neji-nii-san has volunteered to test it." Hinata clutched at the fabric of her dress. "I'm worried for him."
Sakura put the brush down and put her hands on the girl's shoulders. "Neji-san is doing a wonderful thing, Hinata. He's doing it because he cares about you and knows your dream is to be able to see."
Hinata wiped at her eyes. Her cousin once never would have even considered doing such a thing for someone of the Main house. In a way, it was all thanks to Naruto. He'd shown him life was better than living off of a grudge. And inspired by Naruto's determination, Hinata had found herself telling her father to reconsider the way they treated the Branch house. If she was going to be the heir of the family, she had to show she wanted to take charge. Her idea of how to 'take charge' had been a little different in comparison to previous generations, but it was what she desperately wanted. And somehow, miraculously, since then things had suddenly started changing. It was like fortune was smiling down at them and a burden was suddenly gone. Research had suddenly been taking leaps forward, the separated houses didn't seem too far apart anymore… and Neji had out of the blue seemed to have matured into a wise and caring young man.
The thoughts filled Hinata with hope. One day, maybe she'd be able to see Naruto's face for real? It definitely would be a wish come true, even if it was one she hadn't originally thought about.
"Hinata, let's go out to celebrate!" said Sakura, picking up Hinata's walking stick and putting it in her hand. She grabbed the girl's other hand and led her towards the door.
"Where are we going, Sakura-chan?"
"It doesn't matter. Let's just celebrate the future, okay?"
A/N: Until next time!