Hyuuga Hiashi walked briskly under the rainy night. Despite his utmost celerity, his steps were firm and confident, radiating the strength and authority expected –no, demanded– from an institution such as the great clan's head. His perennially neutral, if a bit stern, expression showed no hint of complaint towards the raging sky above, flimsily protected as he was from the raindrops by a small dark blue umbrella his cautious daughter had thought of carrying with her. He wasn't the kind of person who said such things out loud (or, at least, he wasn't supposed to be), but he was grateful. Rain, while being a minor inconvenience to most, could be potentially troublesome to Hiashi. Supposed to be the closest thing to perfection in almost every aspect, he was somehow supposed to remain immaculate despite the roaring storm that wrapped the Hidden Village of the Leaf like a mantle of strife.

That might be the reason he had chosen a different route to his home that night, as if purposely avoiding other people. Certainly, that muddy, dark street seemed completely devoid of life other than the tall man and his little daughter. How could they possibly know that same dark street and, more specifically, an even darker alley a few hundred feet ahead, had been the scenery for a horrible tragedy?

The little girl, Hyuuga Hinata, struggled to keep her father's pace. They were in a section of the village she didn't see very often, and she'd have liked to look around a bit. Of course, she wouldn't have been able to see much in the dead of night, in that particularly dark street, with all the rain. In fact, the street was awfully dark. She'd have been more scared if her father weren't walking with her and if tiredness hadn't claimed her, demanding some much-deserved rest. It was quite late. She'd normally be fast asleep in any other day and for quite a while already. While a part of her wanted to beg her father to slow his pace a bit (of course, she'd never do something like that), her body couldn't wait to be comfortably wrapped under her sheets, sleeping peacefully.

It was the seventh anniversary of the defeat of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox. Of course she knew the story: it was the most important historical event of recent times. She knew about the heroic victory of the valiant Yondaime Hokage over the fiendish beast, at the cost of his life, and she understood the importance of such an event and why it was celebrated with a day-long festival. That didn't mean she had to like it. She wasn't against festivals or celebrations, she just wasn't used to such large gatherings of people. Her family's few celebrations were completely unlike that festival. She was used to quiet dinners and stoic reunions where the only reason she wouldn't be bored was because she felt too nervous to. In a family where every waking moment seemed to be a challenge, a test of strength of mind and proper manners, the slightest sign of disrespect would be very regrettable.

Certainly, she wasn't used to the things she had seen that evening. Such an explosion of emotions; an almost……savage burst of excitement, she had never seen something like that; it was the first time she had assisted to the village's celebration. Apparently, she was of age to start attending events as the Hyuuga Heir.

But she knew she would think about those sights for days to come. The scents of sweat and alcohol had sickened her, and the copious amounts of food had overwhelmed her. Her ears had threatened to burst with the loud music and the cacophony of hundreds of voices. She had eaten so much, she didn't feel too well……but so many people had offered so many different kinds of food to the "cute heiress of the Hyuuga," and she found it so hard to say no………

She always had problems dealing with other people. She couldn't fight against her natural shyness, amplified to superlative levels after the tragic demise of her beloved mother. She felt so small in front of others, so weak that she could only answer with little more than monosyllables. She was forced to face so many different people that night, and the vast majority of them she had never met before. She had tried to at least properly answer all questions fired at her, so she hoped she hadn't embarrassed her father. However, she ended up tired and bored, especially since she wasn't allowed to join the other children, being the heiress and all. She probably wouldn't have even tried approaching them otherwise, anyway. The whole place, the whole village seemed to be infused with energy too intimidating and alien for her. However, she couldn't stop herself from wishing she could have become one with that enthusiasm.

It had been an exhausting day, and Hinata couldn't help but be glad it was over. It seemed not even the rain would stop the partying. The people of Konoha would simply seclude themselves in their homes, sheltered from the elements. Some of them would simply ignore the rain, too wasted to mind. While Hinata (and the Hyuuga clan in general) didn't approve of such………"outright barbaric" behavior, she guessed the people of the Leaf deserved to celebrate. The Demon Fox had been a tragedy and its defeat stood as Konoha's greatest triumph after its foundation. It was a day of extremes: a day where they would mourn those who died in that calamitous day and also celebrate the epic defeat of the terrifying demon.

Yes, it was a happy day for all……

……all but one. Of course, there was no way she could know that……yet.

The relentless rain fell upon the two, drowning their steps within its boring cacophony. The sound of their sandals splashing water and carefully avoiding the pools of mud disappeared in the roaring symphony of the falling droplets; an immense curtain of water like nature's arabesque. Torrents of water poured down from the roofs with loud splashing sounds. For an instant, Konoha drowned in light when an irregular white line fell from the sky behind the Hokage Monument, and exploded, immediately followed by the mighty growl of thunder. Hinata shrieked (fortunately, the outside noise hid her shameful display of fear) and clutched her father's robe. Hiashi didn't react in any visible way.

Hinata looked up at her father. It had been a while since the last time she had spent a relatively prolonged period of time with him. He had changed. The Hyuuga family had changed. In fact, it might have disappeared.

It had been almost two years since the worst day of her life. Her mother had left, taking the soul of the Hyuuga family with her. She wasn't the same since that day, and neither was her father, and it was indirectly affecting the entire clan as a whole.

Hiashi's step faltered for a split instant, but long enough for his daughter to notice. A glance at her sire showed that something had caught his attention. With her short stature it was difficult for her to follow his eyes, but she managed to trace the object of his attention: a dark bundle on the ground, leaning against a wall some twenty yards ahead by her left side. What was that?

She noticed her father's pace changing to slow, cautious steps as they approached the……whatever that was. It was too big and its shape too aberrant to be a stray dog or cat. For a moment she pondered the idea of it being a trash bag, but her father wouldn't be so cautious when dealing with such a lowly thing!

It was right about then when she realized it was a human being. Hinata was puzzled by her father's behavior, as if he expected that person to suddenly grow fangs and attack them. Even if that had been his (because it certainly didn't look like a she) intention, Hinata seriously doubted he could have been able to take into fruition. Even from a distance, she could see this person was drenched from hair to toes. He looked exhausted to the point of having succumbed and dropped himself on that empty street to be punished by the elements.

For a reason beyond her comprehension, Hinata couldn't stop herself from devoting her undivided attention to that small person. Apparently, her interest wasn't disapproved by her father, who seemed to be almost as interested as her, even if his face didn't show it. She guessed such morbid curiosity was unsightly from a Hyuuga, but, well……nobody was looking. She still wondered why her father was so intrigued by whoever was sitting on the muddy ground over there.

As her eyes focused a bit better and her concentration improved, Hinata was able to figure out a few more things about the "mysterious figure." And, the more she saw, the more she wished she wouldn't have.

She easily guessed that, from his size, he had to be a child approximately her age. Something clutched her chest the moment she imagined herself in that boy's place. Why was he there? Why wasn't he enjoying the commodities of a house and a warm bed?

The boy had his arms wrapped around his legs and his face buried in his thighs. Every single inch of his body was wet, of course. His green shorts were stained with mud, and his golden hair draped down his face like an ugly mop. His shirt she found intriguing. Was it white with dark spots, or dark with white spots? She couldn't figure it out. She had never seen something like that before. It reminded her of some camouflage suits she had seen once, but white wasn't a color she'd seen on those. Whatever it was, the t-shirt was torn in many places, the rain being probably the only thing that ensured the piece of cloth still clung to the boy's body.

Much to her surprise, her father stopped when the boy was exactly to their left. Hinata had been so focused on watching the boy that she almost crashed on her father's left leg. She looked up, and she was amazed by what she saw.

There was a curious glimmer in his eyes and a subtle change in his expression Hinata barely noticed. The little girl figured it was the Hyuuga equivalent of a shocked expression. Hiashi had obviously seen something she hadn't, because she couldn't understand why the kid elicited such a reaction from her father.

Hinata looked at the boy one more time. She, too, had recognized the boy, of course. That blonde hair, even if his usual messy hairdo had disappeared courtesy of the raging storm, was unmistakable. She had seen the boy once or twice before. It was that boy everyone seemed to hate.

She was shy and quiet, but she wasn't stupid. On the few occasions she had seen the boy, she had also noticed the way he was looked at by everyone else. Hyuuga or non-Hyuuga, it was as if the entire village had joined in a horrible alliance focused on despising that boy. Hinata couldn't possibly understand the reasoning behind such behavior, but she had quickly forgotten about it, until that moment.

She had seen people shouting all sorts of horrible insults at him, people spitting at him, some even threw trash and rocks at him. She didn't know, but he had even been on the receiving end of kunai and shuriken. She didn't understand how people could just do such things and get away with it. Of course, that was because the whole population of Konoha seemed to be one single accomplice.

Remembering the boy's sad, unfair and incredible circumstances evoked Hinata's pity. Watching the (apparently) sleeping form of the boy Hinata was reminded that out there, somewhere, there was always someone faring worse than you. Ever since her mother's death, she had been the object of scorn from the Clan Council. Hinata, as the heir of the clan, was somehow expected to suddenly grow up and prove herself as a person worthy of the title. She knew she would eventually enter the Ninja Academy and become a kunoichi; no less could be expected from the future leader of the Hyuuga. While she didn't precisely have anything against becoming a ninja, she wasn't sure she had what it takes for such a career.

She didn't hate herself (that would come in due time). She didn't dislike her weakness or her natural kindness: it's a part of who she is, the young little girl her mother had loved. But, apparently, the traits her mother had praised and encouraged in her were the same traits the council rejected and found inappropriate in a worthy heiress. It was confusing, intimidating and very depressing, watching the disapproving looks of the Main Family and, even worse, the disappointed expression on her father's face. She had already been introduced to the family's combat style, Jyuuken, and she had already shown she wasn't the natural taijutsu genius she should have been as the daughter of Hyuuga Hiashi. If there was a Jyuuken genius among the youngest generation, it was her cousin Neji.

While things weren't precisely the best for her, her self-pity disappeared when faced with the harsh reality of the boy in front of her. Her tiredness disappeared and her expression softened. He was a person she could understand, because she was like him. Even her infant mind knew her situation was nothing compared to his, but she guessed that, in a way, she could understand.

However, the sudden awareness of who the boy in front of her was incited a frightening idea in her mind. Had someone done something to him? Had someone hurt him and left him alone under the rain?

When she realized the horrible truth, she gasped. She gasped apparently loud enough for her father to hear, because she could feel his strong arm clutching her left shoulder in a way that was almost painful. It didn't matter: she was too shocked and too terrified to do anything.

It was blood.

The dark stains on his white shirt. It was blood.

An unconscious reflex made the girl swiftly hide her tiny body behind her father's legs, peeking at the bleeding figure from a side. She then understood her father's expression. Even the cold and normally expressionless leader of the Hyuuga Clan was unsettled by the sight of a wounded child. Hyuuga Hiashi was many things, but not heartless. Like any parent, for an instant, Hiashi replaced that pitiful boy for his daughter, and the mental image of Hinata in such a state made his blood boil.

Needless to say, Hiashi knew a lot more than his daughter. He had easily recognized the blood stains for what they were. He had also (correctly) inferred that the boy had lost a lot more blood than it showed, but it had already mixed with rainwater and disappeared, consumed by the ever-hungry land. He also had a pretty good idea of what had happened and, of course, why it had happened.

He knew it was the boy's birthday, and he also knew the boy had the (smart, he'd admit) habit of going into hiding that day, as the village's hatred towards him reached its annual peak that day. Apparently, the boy hadn't been fast enough that evening.

It troubled Hiashi to admit he wasn't particularly fond of the blonde brat. Like every other family and clan in Konoha, he had lost someone during those terrible days exactly seven years before. The Hyuuga Clan had lost many valuable and brave members. Human being as he was, he understood the village's hatred focused on the demon's vessel, even if he didn't fully approve of it. He was aware that the boy was as much a demon as his first daughter was a vicious sadist, but he was also aware of Konoha's need for a scapegoat. The fear, the hatred, the pain and the tears would take too long to disappear. In the mean time, the citizens of the ninja village needed an outlet, a way to release those negative emotions so that they wouldn't consume them. It was a pity that this outlet had to take the form of a small child.

Like many others, when the truth behind the Kyuubi's "defeat" was revealed to the adult citizens of Konoha, the Hyuuga Clan had demanded the newborn's death. It was Hiashi's and his wife's reasoning which prevented the most emotional members of the clan from openly challenging the Hokage and attempting to slay the helpless child. After all, nobody really knew the workings of the Fourth's seal, except maybe Jiraiya of the Sannin. What if killing the baby only released the nine-tailed beast? Hyuuga Hiashi wasn't willing to take the risk. The Fourth was dead, and Hiashi wasn't as arrogant as to believe the Hyuuga Clan could protect Konoha from the mightiest of all demon beasts. They were a proud clan, but, as much as it pained him, they knew their limits. Very few people can stand to face a bijuu and live to tell the tale, and only in legends it's heard of humans defeating such powerful creatures. Hell, most people (shinobi included) crumble and break down just by experiencing the demon's immense killing intent.

This unfathomable fear of the possibility of a second advent of Kyuubi no Kitsune saved the boy's life. Unfortunately, it also turned it into a living hell. However, no Hyuuga had ever raised a hand against the boy. If anything, they showered him with glares and scowls, but Hyuuga Hiashi and his wife didn't tolerate any violence towards the "Kyuubi brat." It was the least and the only thing they could do for him. However, as much as he disliked admitting it, Hyuuga Hiashi disliked the boy. It wasn't really his fault, though: as it was the case for pretty much everyone else, the boy reminded Hiashi of so much death, sadness and outright terror. True, he protected the boy that night seven years before, and he knew keeping him alive was the right decision. That didn't mean he was supposed to like it……or like him, for that matter.

That's why the Hyuuga Clan Leader was caught in a dilemma. He could tell the kid was still alive. He could also tell that the only reason he was still alive after losing so much blood was probably his……tenant. A part of him wanted to take his daughter and resume his walk home. However, the part of him that was once a loving husband, the part of him that loves his two daughters, demanded him to do the right thing and ensure the boy's safety. He was a proud and cold Hyuuga, but he was also a parent. In his mind, no child, not even the demon's vessel, deserved what the boy was going through in that moment.

However, he didn't move. For some reason, he couldn't move. He simply stared in morbid fascination at the still form of the terribly wounded child. He could also feel her daughter's trembling form, and he also knew it wasn't just the cold.

Uzumaki Naruto was in a universe of pain.

It wasn't the first time he had taken kunai wounds. But it was definitely the first time he had taken so many. He had known for a long time that he was quite resilient to pain, and his wounds were always quick to heal. That was one of the reasons he managed to bear the abuse and hatred of the villagers.

It was also the reason he knew he was going to die.

Blood no longer poured out of his wounds. Considering the terrifying amounts of blood he had lost, it was to be expected. The pain all over his body had dulled, but that was probably because he could no longer feel his body at all. It was painfully ironic. His body was numb, almost inexistent, but his head felt like it was on fire.

His throat was sore. He didn't felt like screaming anymore. He had done that plenty enough, and nobody had shown up to help him, not even the fearsome ANBU which always showed up whenever a person's aggressiveness towards him crossed a certain boundary. That night he'd been completely alone and at the mercy of the crazed predator.

He knew he should have locked his house and disappeared in the forest until the next sunrise. That was what he always did on his birthdays. But he had allowed hunger to defeat him. He had stayed too long in the village, hoping to find someplace, someone willing to sell him something to eat.

He'd pay for that with his life.

He was used to the villagers' hatred and abuse. He was used to being kicked out of stores, parks and restaurants. He was used to being overcharged for even the pettiest things. He was used to being called names. He was used to being ignored. He was used to watching parents not allowing their children to play with him. He was used to being thrown things, from rotten food to ninja weapons. He was used to finding his room trashed every single time he tried to give it a semblance of decency: it had happened in the orphanage, and it was happening in the pitiful apartment the old man Sandaime had offered him a few months before. Yes, he was used to being the village pariah. And he had long before figured out that complaining, crying or getting angry was only adding fuel to the flames. The bastards reveled in his weakness and his agony, and they were always eager for more. He had also given up on asking why. He had given up on that a while ago, too. He didn't even know why he was the object of such abuse, and nobody would tell him. It made him feel like actually doing something hideous and justify their behavior.

At least the old Hokage was nice to him. After five years of solitude in the orphanage with the other "Kyuubi orphans," the Third had offered him a chance at living on his own. Naruto had guessed it couldn't get any worse and accepted. Boy was he wrong. He appreciated what the Third did for him, of course. Naruto had so little he knew when to be grateful. The old man made sure he had enough money to afford his measly living, and he also made sure the ANBU controlled the villagers' most violent outbursts. Naruto was grateful, yes, and that is probably one of the reasons he never complained.

Naruto didn't want to bother the old Hokage. He didn't want to give old man Sarutobi a reason to hate him. Naruto had refused to cry or complain: that only made things worse. He faced the hatred and the abuse with a mask of silliness and blissful ignorance, and hid the tears deep within his anguished self. He didn't have much. He simply existed, a meaningless existence drowned in darkness.

And, that night, the darkness had become awfully real.

When hurt, Naruto never cried, screamed or called for help. Not before that night. That night, when caught by the man with the insane eyes and the gleeful smile that dripped demented hate, Naruto's mask of toughness and smiles cracked and became nothingness, to be replaced by true terror. On his seventh birthday, Naruto looked at death in the eyes and, despite being an exemplar of resilience and willpower, succumbed to primal fear.

He cannot be blamed for that. He was, after all, seven years old.

He never had a chance, of course. So he screamed, cried and pleaded, first for help, later for mercy, his voice drowned by the harsh rainfall. He screamed at the top of his lungs until he bit his tongue. He took a deep breath and screamed again, until the vicious assailant buried his weapon in his lungs. Then he simply watched the dark sky, his body flinching every single time the piercing weapon stabbed its way through his skin. He felt his mouth filling with blood and ignored the bitter taste of approaching death. He simply watched the sky, the gray clouds briefly turned white by the occasional flash of lightning. Had his brain not been overwhelmed by unfathomable pain, he would have concluded it was the perfect choice for his last visage of the world of the living. It was beautiful, in all its violence.

However, his to-be killer wouldn't even grant him that pleasure.

He didn't know how long he had been unconscious. He didn't know how he managed to get up and walk out of the dark alley he had been dragged to by his attacker. Leaning against the wall to his left, he made a few weak steps before stumbling on a trash can and falling one last time. He barely remembered shifting his body to the position he was when the two Hyuugas found him.

As if the forces that be were mocking him, his body refused to give in to unconsciousness again, forcing him to bear with the pain. The hundreds of droplets of water that hit him every second felt like needles on his skin. His head was the worst; the throbbing pain was simply too much. For the first time ever, he actually found himself wanting to die. He was just so tired………

He couldn't scream or call for help. His throat was sore and every few seconds or so a trail of blood escaped from the corner of his mouth. Any attempt at speech turned out a weak, pitiful sound. One more, and hopefully last, time he found himself wondering……why?

A combination of sensitive senses of smell and hearing plus simple instinctive awareness alarmed to the presence of someone else nearby. Had the crazy shinobi returned to finish the job?

No……he didn't feel that horrible, rotten killing intent tainted by alcohol and dementia. It was someone else. But that was of no importance. Whoever it was, he or she was probably enjoying the sight. Oh, well, he might as well face his end with his head up.

He wanted to cry, but no tears would come out. The bastard who attacked him had made sure of it.

Hinata flinched when the boy's body shook. It was barely imperceptible, but the Hyuuga family members are perceptive if nothing else. The two Hyuugas had thought Naruto was unconscious. That's because the rain made it impossible to hear his weak groans and whines. However, his slow and uncertain movement alerted them. He had to be aware of their presence. Both Hyuugas quickly realized why Naruto wouldn't speak or move or face them. He was too weak, too tired and too hurt to do either.

That didn't mean he didn't try. Slowly, very slowly, the blonde raised his face. Uncertain of where to look at, he looked straight in front of him. Not that it made a difference, in any case.

Hinata couldn't stop herself. She shrieked, holding to her father for dear life. Her legs had given in. She almost stained her lovely kimono. She wanted to look away, she desperate needed to look away, but the same fear that begged her to run away from that boy as fast as she could stuck her body to that place and her eyes to his face.

Hiashi, who had seen his share of atrocities in his life, obviously fared much better. However, the expression on his face would have elicited some quite scandalous comments from the Council had they seen him.

Naruto's eyes were gone, replaced with two…bloody……things. Someone had stabbed Naruto's two eyes with a piercing object, most likely a kunai. Like some freaky kabuki make-up, two torrents of blood mixed with rainwater poured out of the two eye sockets. As for the eyeballs themselves……

Naruto kept his eyes half-closed, protecting their bloody remains from the elements, but his eyelids were just as torn. He had obvious closed his eyes reflexively as the metal tip of the deadly kunai fell down on his orbs. He was looking at nowhere, which Hiashi guessed was obvious. He guessed Naruto had noticed their presence, even if he was unable to see them. He wondered just how that kid was still alive after such abominable punishment. As the leader of a family that values its precious bloodline limit, the sight in front of him was particularly unsettling.

Hiashi knew he should have somehow protected Hinata from such a shocking sight. However, she had already seen plenty enough. A part of him acknowledged the girl for staying relatively steady after seeing……that. He had expected her to faint on the spot.

Hinata was terrified, yet she couldn't stop watching. Her mind immediately pictured herself in Naruto's position, and she felt like throwing up. The idea of someone……stabbing her eyes………

Her father's strong hand held her before she could fall on her knees. Hinata grimaced at the taste of bile in her mouth. Tears were forming in her (still intact) eyes and threatened to mix with the droplets that fell with renewed intensity. Hinata's extreme sensitivity plus an overly active brain resulted in a stinging pain behind her eyes, as she couldn't stop herself from imagining the agony the boy in front of her was experiencing. If Hinata needed proof of the fact that she is truly a strong girl, she only needed to notice that she was still conscious and not emptying her stomach on the street.

A single word escaped her mouth. That was the best and the worst thing she could have done.


She remembered the boy's name. It was one of those little facts that are shelved in the most recondite depths of the human brain, forgotten until they're suddenly needed.

Once again, Naruto's prodigious hearing did its job, particularly augmented by the sudden loss of the most important of the five senses. Naruto heard his name, a faint whisper within the furious cacophony. He liked rainy days a lot, but enjoying that particularly rainy night was proving to be quite the challenge.

Ignoring the rain, Naruto slowly moved his head to where he figured the source of the voice was. He had recognized it as a girl's, but he couldn't place a name on it if his life depended on it (curiously enough, that might just be the case). This is to be expected, since he had yet to meet Hyuuga Hinata, the very same Hinata who gasped when Naruto's bloody, lifeless orbs "stared" at her. It took her an instant to remember he couldn't see her, but that only made her feel worse.

Out of some feeling of respect towards Naruto, Hinata refused to look away, as if somehow he could tell. Naruto didn't move. He knew there was a girl in front of him, but there wasn't much he could do with that information. He guessed she was probably pretty grossed out; he (correctly) guessed he looked hideous. But there was one thing he was completely certain of.

That girl couldn't help him.

However, he was surprised to realize it didn't matter anymore. He was too tired to be desperate, too aching to be sad. Uzumaki Naruto was never an ordinary kid, so it doesn't come as a surprise that he has a different mindset.

Truly, in death, he would find peace.

So, for that reason, he did the only thing he could do. There was no hope for him, so, for that girl, he would shed his mask one last time.

Hyuuga Hiashi only blinked. Having been left speechless, he allowed his daughter to be emotional for the two of them.

Hinata's eyes widened, and she felt her tiny, fragile infant heart crack and shatter in millions of pieces.

Naruto had smiled. And his smile said it all.

"It's alright…………"

Naruto was smiling for her. He was trying to calm her down, to soothe her nerves and blow away her fear. He was crossing the boundary of life and death, yet he took his time to comfort little scared Hinata.

Something died within Hinata in that moment, and she (as well as her father, but she wouldn't know that) knew something had changed within her, forever. She wouldn't be the same person after that night. She didn't know exactly what had changed or the nature of this change, but she could feel it.

Uzumaki Naruto, in the brink of death, had done an immense favor to the Hyuuga Clan.

Maybe that certainty was the trigger for Hiashi to react. Maybe somewhere in the deepest back alleys of his cunning mind, his conscience told him Uzumaki Naruto was way more useful alive than dead. Or maybe he was just too appalled by the sight of the agonizing vessel of the Nine Tails.

A swift hand gesture later, one of his bodyguards (a Branch Family chuunin) appeared behind the Clan Head. "Hiashi-sama."

"Take Hinata to the house immediately, and do not leave her until she's in her bedroom." Hiashi barked swiftly, mildly amused by the way Naruto sought him by the sound of his voice. The kid was a fighter; that he was willing to admit.

"Immediately. Hinata-sama."

Hinata didn't even had time to complain before the chuunin gently picked her up and swiftly disappeared, carrying her away to the comfort and safety of her house. Hiashi was left alone with Naruto. Of course, there were three more bodyguards out of sight, but Naruto had no way to know that.

"The Third will want to know of this." Hiashi said to no one, but he knew one of three bodyguards was already gone to find the Third Hokage.

Lowering his body as well as the umbrella (he reminded himself to make sure Hinata hadn't caught a cold), Hiashi inched closer to Naruto, surprised to see that the boy figured out his position and faced him directly, despite being unable to look at him.

"………you'll have a debt with me if you make it out of this………Uzumaki Naruto."

Much to his surprise, Naruto's face contorted into a smile. It wasn't the same smile he offered to Hinata. This one was almost……mischievous.

Hiashi didn't notice, but his lips contorted into something remotely resembling a smile. Until that moment, he had decided to aid Naruto for fear of the consequences of his death. However, with much surprise, he realized he wanted that boy to live.

Heaven knows why.

Carefully picking up Naruto's body (and becoming awfully aware of his malnutrition), Hiashi sped up towards the hospital.

Hinata was unable to sleep. She had been thinking about Naruto, replaying the few memories she had of the boy from the few occasions she had seen him from a distance. Unfortunately, these faint memories were always replaced by the horrendous sight she had witnessed that night. Only when in the comfort of her bed had she fully understood the magnitude of what she had seen.

She had remembered his eyes. Those impossibly blue eyes, glimmering with so many different emotions. Her eyes, in all their superiority, felt dull and lifeless when compared to the brilliant spark of Naruto's cerulean orbs. His eyes brimmed with energy and enthusiasm she wished she had. She knew Uzumaki Naruto was an orphan. She couldn't understand how someone who had so little, someone whose life was stained with suffering beyond anything she could have imagined, could be so alive.

Yes, she remembered those eyes, and she had painfully realized those wonderful eyes might be lost forever.

In her six-year-old mind, that was the greatest tragedy of all.

Author's Note: there it is, my Naruto one-shot.

If you ask me, I don't have the slightest idea why I wrote this. The idea's been lingering in my mind for a while, and it wouldn't let me be at ease until I materialized it. I hope you found it an interesting read. Writing this was a lot harder than I thought. However, I definitely like how it turned out. While this is supposed to be a one-shot, it could be used as the beginning of something much greater……

Only recently did I start reading Naruto fanfiction, and I was pleased to find many very good stories. I think I said this before, but Naruto is definitely a fanfiction writer's wet dream.

Well, in any case, I'd be very grateful if you readers shared your opinion of this little piece. I want to know if I did things remotely close to "well." Thanks in advance to all the readers and reviewers.

Daneel Rush