Title: One Small Step
Author: Shawny Wong
Theme: #27 overflow
Disclaimer: The characters of Naruto belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission, for fan purposes only. Do not reproduce without permission.
Summary: What if Hinata had actually found the courage to approach Naruto at the Academy? How would befriending him change their lives? Drastic changes are the result of one small step.
Chapter 6: Familial Kiss
Hyuuga Hiashi frowned at the reports before him. How had all of this escaped his notice? As the Hyuuga clan head, he naturally took great pride in his eyes. The Hyuuga eyes were legendary for their ability to see things at great distances and with great clarity – even more so for their ability to see through, not just objects, but people, as well. Their fighting style revolved around that fact. Of less renown was their ability to see and analyze a person's potential. The Byakugan was nothing like the Sharingan, of course. But a highly trained Byakugan master could read the smallest nuances in body language and could predict with great accuracy his opponent's next move. Off the battlefield, the Byakugan had other uses – especially in diplomacy and negotiation. (A Byakugan master could almost always spot a lie or an ulterior motive.) It could be used to analyze people.
Hiashi had never been wrong about anyone before now. But according to his own recent observations and the reports sitting on his desk, he could only come to one conclusion. He had been wrong about his eldest child.
Five years ago, he had analyzed Hinata's abilities and found them lacking. Even without the Byakugan, her shortcomings were obvious. Physically, she was smaller, weaker, and had less talent than any other Hyuuga child her age. Her performance in Jyuken was abysmal. She did not stand tall with pride; instead she was overly timid – almost jumping at her own shadow. Whoever heard of a meek Hyuuga with a stutter? Hinata was not fit to be a Hyuuga of the main house, let alone the next clan head. So he sent her to the Academy. It would have been a waste of time to continue training her personally.
He had been proven right. In her first year at the Academy, among the commoners attempting to be ninja, Hinata – even with the benefit of prior training – had not distinguished herself in any way. Even though he had predicted that outcome, he had still been… angry – and informed his daughter that unless she ranked at the top of her class, he would not waste any more of his time looking at her Academy records. (In retrospect, that had been a mistake. If he had paid more attention to her progress at the Academy, perhaps he would have noticed the change sooner.) Hinata had not shown him any further reports. And he had busied himself with more important affairs, such as running the clan and overseeing Hanabi's training once she turned three. Unlike her sister, Hanabi showed great promise for one her age.
Over the years, he'd received minor reports of Hinata's progress from the Hyuuga instructors that had been assigned to her training. None of it was noteworthy. While her academic studies were beyond reproach, her skill at Jyuken was still below average. For any other clan, it might have been enough – but not for the Hyuuga, who produced some of the best close-ranged fighters in Konoha. Each of her Jyuken instructors had remarked at one time or another that Hinata's work ethic was impressive; she worked hard and never stopped trying until she showed improvement. But hard work was nothing compared to a person's innate strength. Hard work could only take a person so far. For Hinata – who was far, far behind her peers – it could not possibly take her far enough. So he disregarded the few positive comments her instructors had to say about Hinata's progress.
Then several months ago, he had received a late night visit to his office from Hyuuga Isamu.
Hyuuga Hiashi rarely retired early. In a clan the size of the Hyuuga, there was much to be done. It was time to review the fiscal reports for household supplies and food expenditures. Then he needed to review the revised patrol schedule for the branch members assigned to protect the Hyuuga grounds. A cup of cold, green tea, half full, sat by his elbow. Only the rustle of papers broke the silence in his office as he worked.
A knock roused him from his concentration.
"Hiashi-sama," Hyuuga Isamu – one of Hinata's Jyuuken instructors – bowed low. "I apologize for disturbing you so late."
"Isamu," Hiashi acknowledged his apology with a nod. "I assume you have news that cannot wait until you submit a written report."
"Yes, Hiashi-sama. I thought you might be interested to hear an account of Hinata-sama's spar today with Katsu – of the branch house."
"Now, why would you think that?" Hiashi narrowed his eyes in irritation. "No doubt my daughter lost yet again. I tire of hearing her failures."
"No, Hiashi-sama. Hinata-sama won her match against Katsu."
Besides a miniscule twitch of an eyebrow, Hiashi remained impassive. But for someone of Hiashi's iron control, it was equivalent to open-mouthed gaping on anyone else.
"Explain," Hiashi ordered.
Isamu had described the spar in detail. Hyuuga Katsu, while not a prodigy, had modest skill in Jyuken. Had it been a fluke? As the months passed, it became obvious that it was no stroke of luck. Hinata emerged victorious several more times against various other Hyuuga children in her age group – not against Neji, of course. (Neji remained undefeated among his peers.) Her rate of success was steadily increasing. In the last month alone, she had won three out of five spars. She was no longer the weakest Hyuuga.
Within weeks, the entire clan – including the elders on the clan council – had noticed the change. Although Hinata had shown astonishing – and absolutely amazing – improvement in Jyuken, it was not enough to cement her position as the heiress. Behind closed doors, Hiashi knew that the elders were hotly debating the next clan leader. Should they choose Hinata or Hanabi? Hinata was the elder daughter and by all rights the position should have been hers without question. Now that she was proving herself to be at least proficient in Jyuken, the more traditional elders of the council were content to have her remain the heiress. However, others were still skeptical of her ability; it would take time for them to change their perception of Hinata. While younger, Hanabi was very talented – and would also make a fitting heiress.
The council was too evenly divided. Thus, the elders decided to settle the issue with a trial by combat.
It was Saturday.
It was time for training in Jyuken. Hinata sighed in resignation. (She much preferred to learn Jyuken from Gai-sensei.) Hinata arrived at the clan dojo, expecting only Isamu and perhaps another Hyuuga as her sparring partner. Instead, she found all twelve elders of the clan council, her father, and Hanabi waiting for her. She ruthlessly squashed her rising anxiety. What were they doing here?
"Father. Honorable Elders," Hinata bowed respectfully. "Hanabi-chan."
"We have heard of your new aptitude in Jyuken – and wish to see this for ourselves. You will fight Hanabi today," announced Hyuuga Hideki, one of the elders.
What was going on? Why did they want her to spar with Hanabi? It was no use trying to read the impassive faces of the elders or her father; they were too skilled and would not give anything away. On the other hand, Hanabi was only six… Hinata glanced at her sister. While Hanabi tried to maintain a stoic expression, she was not entirely successful.
Hanabi-chan is afraid! Hinata realized suddenly. Why would she be afraid of a simple spar between sisters? Unless…
"This is not a simple demonstration of my skill. You wish use this fight to determine which of us will become the successor – and which of us you will place in the branch house."
"You are correct," Hideki nodded once. If he was surprised at how quickly she caught on, he did not show it.
Hinata almost panicked. What should she do? She was certain that she could defeat Hanabi if she went all out. Hanabi was undeniably talented, but Hinata had five extra years of physical growth and Jyuken training behind her. Unless she deliberately threw the fight, there was no way Hanabi could win…
And if she cannot win… Hanabi-chan will be sent to the branch house... with the caged-bird seal!
The thought horrified Hinata. She had promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to protect her from that fate – although she had expected a few more years to work out a plan. What was she going to do now? She had promised! Naruto… Naruto would never go back on a promise – no matter what. (Just the thought of him gave her courage and filled her with resolve.) He would never break a promise – and neither would she.
"Your logic is… flawed." Hinata raised her chin – just a fraction of an inch; it was barely noticeable… unless you were a Hyuuga. It was equivalent to screaming her defiance in their faces – and the elders knew it.
"Oh? Please explain," Hideki's voice remained smooth and courteous, but his sudden, intense stare said volumes.
"If you wish to see the true extent of my abilities, then you have chosen the worst possible opponent for me to face. Hanabi-chan is my precious imouto. I will not hurt her. I will never hurt her. If you force us to spar… I will hold back. How will you judge my true abilities then?"
Hinata could feel the weight of thirteen intense glares fall on her. Her hands trembled. She might not have been the most perceptive Hyuuga. But even she could not mistake their silent message.
You do not know your place – and you will stand down!
Despite her shaking hands and pounding heart, Hinata returned their fierce glares with one of her own. She raised her chin – just another fraction of an inch.
The air was thick with tension. Hinata would not back down. And the elders were not used to their desires being thwarted – especially not by the "weakest" Hyuuga. They were at an impasse.
The trial by combat between the sisters had not happened. In the end, Hiashi had stepped in – and reminded the elders that they were still there to judge Hinata's prowess in Jyuken. A different opponent had been selected for Hinata – and she had acquitted herself admirably. The elders had been outraged! Outraged… and grudgingly impressed. Rumors continued to spread through the clan. Not only was Hinata no longer the weakest… She was also gutsy – and had the sheer audacity to stand up to the council. True, it had been a small matter… but the old Hinata would have acquiesced immediately.
The timid little mouse among the Hyuuga had transformed into a kitten – that had claws and teeth and wasn't afraid to use them.
Hiashi was both pleased – for Hinata was finally showing traits worthy of a Hyuuga – and perturbed.
He was overflowing with questions.
When did Hinata start to change? How had he not seen it before? Where did this hidden strength come from? (Was the training provided by the Ninja Academy actually superior to the Hyuuga training methods in some way? Preposterous!) And if she had been hiding her strength… What else had she been hiding? How had he been so wrong – so blind – about his own daughter?
Hiashi could only come to a second disconcerting conclusion: He did not know his daughter.
Who was Hinata?
Hiashi was a busy man. He spent time with Hanabi every day, as he oversaw her training in Jyuken personally. But he only saw Hinata for a short while during dinner every night. (Dinners were silent affairs; Hiashi never saw the need to make small talk with his children.) During the day, he was occupied with clan business and Hanabi's training. He had never made an effort to make time for his eldest child. He tried to think back on the last time he'd seen Hinata outside of their nightly meal… and could not remember.
After Isamu's shocking news, Hiashi started to observe his daughter more carefully. Hinata showed no signs of any outward changes. She still did not walk tall with pride. She still spoke softly – though her stutter had (thankfully) disappeared. (When did that happen?) She still jumped whenever he raised his voice. She still gave every appearance of frailty – though he knew now that she was more than she appeared. Each observation only reinforced the (incorrect) impression that Hinata was just as weak today as the day he sent her to the Academy. He waited to see if she would mention her progress in Jyuken or her victory against Hyuuga Katsu. She did not. Were it not for Hyuuga Isamu, Hiashi would have remained ignorant of her improvement. It was almost as if… as if…
She didn't want him to know!
Why? Why try to conceal such news when it would only improve her position within the clan? This was not something that could be concealed – not for long in any case. Why delay? What was she trying to hide?
There were too many questions and not enough answers. Thus, he (finally) requested detailed copies of Hinata's Academy records for the last five years. There had been some delay – apparently her files had been misplaced – and he had only received them last week. (Hiashi made a mental note to file a complaint against her instructor – Umino Iruka, was it? – with the Superintendent of the Academy for his incompetence.) Hinata was not the number one student in her class. That position belonged to Uchiha Sasuke. But for the last two years, she managed to rank among the top five – and she was the best kunochi in her class. While not ideal… Ideally, she would have wrested the number one spot from Uchiha Sasuke… It was… acceptable – and much better than her mediocre performance during her first year.
According to the records, Hinata's improvement had begun sometime in the middle of her second year. (What happened that year?) He could glean nothing else from them. In a fit of aggravation, he commanded Hyuuga Sho – the best information gatherer in the clan and a colleague of Morino Ibiki – to "observe" Hinata's activities discretely and report every detail back to him.
Hinata left the Hyuuga compound every morning before the sun came up. She trained with Maito Gai – building up her stamina and working on both standard Academy taijutsu and Jyuuken – before heading to the Academy. (How long had she been working with Gai? Hiashi frowned in distaste at the thought of the green clad jounin. Was he the one behind her transformation? It seemed likely.) After the Academy, she would spend time with one of her classmates until she returned home for dinner. Usually, all they did was extra training together – although occasionally, they visited the Konoha Public Park or Ichiraku Ramen, instead. From their familiarity with each other and bits of overheard conversation, Hyuuga Sho concluded that the two children were very good friends – and had likely been good friends for years. (Reviewing the report, Hiashi had to concur.) After dinner and before bed, Hinata and Hanabi would spend time together bonding and just talking about inconsequential things.
Hiashi was stunned by that last piece of news. He had not known that his daughters were close. They had never been demonstrative in front of him – and he had assumed (incorrectly, yet again) that the five-year age gap and Hinata's almost-but-not-quite outcast position in the clan kept them from being close. He did not know Hinata. Now he wondered if he even knew Hanabi.
All in all, Hinata comported herself almost without reproach. She sought additional training from Maito Gai – a respected taijutsu specialist. She produced acceptable scores at the Academy. And while surprising, Hiashi could find no fault with cultivating a close relationship with her sister. If her friend had been anyone else, Hiashi would have approved of Hinata's conduct. He tapped a finger on the report before him. It landed on a name. Now, he understood exactly what (or rather, who) his eldest daughter was trying to hide.
The jinchuuriki – the demon container – of the Kyubi no Youko.
His daughter was friend to Uzumaki Naruto!
Unlike the majority of the village, Hiashi did not hate the Kyubi container. He had known the Yondaime personally – and had absolute faith in the abilities of the Forth Hokage. Before his death, the Yondaime had assured him that his seal would hold the Kyubi – and that it would never break free or take control of the host. Hiashi believed him. But the Hyuuga had a reputation to maintain – and Uzumaki Naruto was the village pariah. Hinata must have known this – it was obvious to anyone with eyes, let alone the Byakugan – though she would not have known the reasons behind it. She must also have known how he would react.
It was time for him to make some time for his eldest daughter. They were overdue for a father-daughter chat. It simply would not do for Hinata to associate with that boy.
Hinata was spending a rare hour with Hanabi in the garden their mother had loved.
Hyuuga Haruki had secretly been a non-traditionalist. As the wife of the Hyuuga clan head, and as the Lady Hyuuga, she had publicly conformed to the rules and standards set for her. But in her private garden, she could let her desires run wild. Haruki had secretly detested the perfectly manicured lawns, perfectly trimmed shrubs, and perfectly pruned flowers that were the norm in every other perfectly ordered Hyuuga garden. It seemed that even the plants on the estate were forced to conform to perfect Hyuuga standards. However, in her own private garden, she had allowed nature to take its course; the plants and flowers were free to grow as they would. There were over a hundred different varieties of wildflowers that blended together in a rainbow of colors. None of which were forced to grow in specific flowerbeds or patterns. The only "order" in the wild garden was a gravel path that meandered lazily throughout – granting visitors a way to enjoy the natural view from different angles. A moss-covered fountain in the center provided the soothing sound of running water. A single stone bench beside the fountain offered a spot for rest and contemplation. This had been her escape – however temporary – from the rigid structure of her life.
For both Hinata and Hanabi, their mother's garden served the same purpose. Away from prying eyes, they could simply be sisters – and Hanabi could simply be a child, not the fearless Hyuuga warrior the clan was trying to mold. Hinata sat on the stone bench and watched the little girl run about the garden gathering flowers to make flower crowns and necklaces for each other. Hinata smiled. She never took her relationship with her sister for granted. It was too precious – and two years ago, it had almost been destroyed…
Hinata was dead tired.
It had been one of those days where life seemed to hate her more than usual. The day had been one disaster after another. First, she had overslept and arrived almost an hour late to morning training with Gai-sensei and the boys. As a result, she missed her chance to spar with Naruto because Gai-sensei had her run extra laps in order to "rekindle the flames of youth!" When she arrived in class, she discovered to her consternation that not only had she forgotten her homework assignment, she had also forgotten to bring her lunch. Luckily, Iruka-sensei had been understanding and would allow her to turn her assignment in the next day. And Naruto was more than happy to offer her one of his cups of instant ramen. (He always seemed to carry a few extra with him.) After lunch, she'd accidentally run into Neji in the hallway. He had been so angry, that she half expected him to hurt her then and there – though he'd probably try to take it out on her the next time they sparred. (She shuddered just thinking about it.) To make matters worse, Naruto had earned detention after class with Iruka-sensei for pulling a prank on Kenta and Jirou. (They had been making fun of Naruto's inability to perform henge – the transformation jutsu.) Hinata was disappointed because she had wanted to hang out with Naruto after class; he could always cheer her up with just a few words – and she really could have used a full dose of Naruto today.
Thus, Hinata returned to the Hyuuga estate early – hoping to spend some time with Hanabi. But Hanabi's politics instructor, Hyuuga Shin, had coolly informed her that Hanabi was still training – as a daughter of the main house should – and did not need any distractions, especially not from her elder sister. Hinata knew that she had just been insulted. By his tone of voice, Hyuuga Shin had clearly implied that Hinata did not work hard and should not be allowed to see Hanabi – lest her weakness and incompetence was contagious. The implication stung.
Hinata was being pressured to abandon Hanabi.
It was not the first time… nor would it be the last. At one time, Hinata might have believed that Hanabi would be better off without her weaker, older sister holding her back. But that had been before Naruto. Naruto's unconditional encouragement and support – even when she felt she didn't deserve it – made Hinata... happy. It never made her weaker.
Hinata loved Hanabi.
Hinata wanted Hanabi to be happy.
So Hinata silently promised herself that she would be there for Hanabi – the way Naruto was there for her. Hanabi would always know that her oneesan cared for her – and supported her. Whether or not Hanabi succeeded or failed, Hinata would still love her – and still believe in her. The Hyuuga elders could pressure her as much as they wanted. Hinata stubbornly refused to abandon her sister.
But when subtle pressure failed to get the result they wanted, the elders tried a different tact.
Hinata saw Hanabi every night before bed without fail. The sisters were usually kept so busy that sometimes the few minutes before bed were the only time they had together. (Hanabi received private instruction and hours of Jyuken training each day – while Hinata had her own training and classes at the Academy to attend.) Even if all they could do was exchange a hug or a few words… For Hinata, it was the best way to end the day.
Hinata was dead tired after one of those days. She just wanted to see her sister, then crawl into bed and pray for the next day to be better. Her day certainly couldn't get any worse! It seemed as if Fate was laughing at her because as soon as that thought crossed her mind, it got worse – much worse.
"I hate you!"
Hinata jerked back as if she had been physically slapped.
"Hanabi-chan!" Hinata gasped. She stood in the doorway of Hanabi's bedroom in shock.
Her sister's normally immaculate room was in shambles. The sheets had been torn off the bed. Every book and scroll she owned had been knocked off the shelves. The painting of a lotus blossom that hung over Hanabi's bed was askew. The collection of small ceramic cats that Hanabi had started collecting was shattered in sharp jagged pieces in a pile by the wall. Most telling of all, the photograph of Hinata and Hanabi (taken on Hanabi's last birthday) that usually graced her desk was torn to shreds – and the glass frame cracked. It was as if a hurricane had come through her room – leaving nothing intact – or… Hanabi had thrown a massive tantrum and destroyed her room in a fit of rage. Hanabi's face was streaked with tears…
"Hanabi-chan! What's wrong? What happened?" Hinata rushed forward in an attempt to comfort her distraught sister – only to receive a punch in the gut. There had been no chakra in the attack, but it still hurt enough to make Hinata gasp for breath. What was going on?
"I hate you!" Hanabi was still crying. "You… You… Liar!"
"Hanabi-chan… I have never ever lied to you. Why would you say such a thing?"
"Don't call me that! You liar! You don't love me at all!" Hanabi tried to hit her again. But this time, Hinata caught her fist and pulled the smaller girl into her embrace. She ignored Hanabi's struggle to get free.
"That's not true, Hanabi-chan! You are my precious imouto. I love you more than my life. I swear it." Hinata gently stroked Hanabi's hair and rubbed her back.
"Really?" Hanabi sniffled. She started to relax under her sisters calming touch. It was hard to disbelieve her oneesan, especially when Hinata was so concerned and caring – even after Hanabi hit her. And she sounded so sincere!
"Really," Hinata said firmly. She looked her sister in the eyes. "Hanabi-chan is very precious to me."
"Oh," Hanabi said in a small voice that trembled. "But… But… Shin-sensei… He said that Oneesan can't wait to be named clan head! That Oneesan can't wait to put the cage bird seal on Hanabi-chan! And… And… that Oneesan wants to send Hanabi-chan away to the branch house! And then… Shin-sensei… he… he…"
Hinata frowned. She could feel Hanabi shaking in her arms – nearly overflowing with fear. She placed a comforting kiss on Hanabi's unmarked forehead. "What did he do, Hanabi-chan?"
"He hurt Miyu from the branch house because she didn't bring him his favorite chocolate candy from Snow Country when she brought us our tea. She screamed and screamed. And then… Shin-sensei said that when… when Oneesan becomes clan head… Oneesan will make Hanabi-chan scream and scream if… if Hanabi-chan makes Oneesan mad."
Of course, Hanabi had always known of the cage bird seal. She was a Hyuuga of the main house and the second born child of the clan head. She had known of the caged bird seal almost before she could walk and talk. But the caged bird seal had always been an abstract, technical thing that did not impact Hanabi personally. If Hanabi ever thought of the seal at all, it was in the same way that she thought of marriage or death. Eventually, she knew she would get married. Eventually, many, many years from now, she knew she would die. And… Eventually, when her oneesan became the clan leader, she would receive the caged bird seal.
It had never been personal.
It had never frightened her.
The thought of her loving sister actually using it on her had never crossed her mind. But now…
"I'm so scared, Oneesan," Hanabi whispered. The four year old crawled into her sister's lap and buried her face in her sister's shoulder.
Hinata had a kind soul. Despite her harsh treatment at the hands of her family, she did not hate her clansmen. Instead, she did her best to fix her flaws and improve herself for their benefit. But this… This was unforgivable! The elders had failed to get Hinata to leave her sister. Now they were trying to break the bonds between Hanabi and Hinata – and trying to frighten Hanabi into leaving Hinata. For the first time in her life, Hinata knew true hatred. She hated the division within her clan. She hated the cage bird seal. And she hated Hyuuga Shin for using the caged bird seal so frivolously – in order to scare Hanabi away from her!
(She had seen her father use caged bird seal used three times before. Even though it made her sick, each time he used it, it had been for a major transgression that would have brought danger to the clan – never for something as simple as forgetting to bring candy along with the tea!)
Hinata took several deep breaths and pushed her anger and disgust aside.
"Listen to me, Hanabi-chan. I love you. I promise on my life that I will never hurt you or send you away. Nothing could ever make me mad enough to hurt you."
Hanabi gave her sister a long searching look and seemed reassured by the love she could see in Hinata's eyes. Her fear slowly faded away.
"I… I trust you, Oneesan." (Hinata nearly sagged with relief.) Hanabi gave her sister an apologetic kiss on the cheek. "I love you, too. I'm sorry I doubted you. I'm sorry I hit you."
"Already forgiven and forgotten, Hanabi-chan," Hinata said with a small smile.
A few minutes later, Hanabi looked at the destruction around her and sniffled – once again on the verge of tears. "I broke my cats and tore my favorite picture of us."
"Don't cry, Hanabi-chan. I can buy some new cats for you. And I still have a copy of that picture. Or we can take a new picture of us tomorrow. Would you like that?"
Hanabi nodded and let Hinata dry her tears.
"Come on. I'll help you clean up."
The next week, the entire stock of dark chocolate candies imported from the Land of Snow – the same ones favored by the elder, Hyuuga Shin – vanished from the Hyuuga estate. It would take at least another two months before more of the candy would arrive; trade between the Land of Fire and the Land of Snow was often slow due to distance and bandits. Coincidently, that same week, a bolt of lovely, purple, patterned silk arrived anonymously for Hyuuga Miyu of the branch family; Miyu had sighed longingly over that bolt at the market several days prior, but could not justify the purchase of such expensive fabric on a whim.
Normally, Hinata did not condone revenge. Naruto must have rubbed off on her more than she realized. It was such a small, petty thing, too. But afterwards, Hinata felt much better. Despite further attempts to separate them, her relationship with Hanabi was stronger than ever. Hanabi trusted Hinata – and she would never betray that trust.
"Is Oneesan daydreaming about her boyfriend again?" Hanabi teased, bringing Hinata's mind back to the present. She dropped a pile of brightly colored blossoms in Hinata's lap.
"Hanabi-chan!" Hinata blushed. "I've told you again and again. Naruto-kun is not my boyfriend! We're just friends."
"I know he's not," Hanabi laughed. "But you want him to be, don't you? I can tell. You always get this dreamy look on your face whenever you talk about him."
"I do not!" Hinata protested – and blushed even harder.
"Do too! Hinata and Naruto… Sitting in a tree… K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"
In retaliation, Hinata threw a flower at Hanabi's head. But this only made her sister laugh harder. Hinata had to grin. Even though Hanabi was annoying when she teased her about Naruto-kun, Hinata was glad to see her smiling and laughing like a six year old. Unfortunately, the moment was broken by the arrival of a messenger at the entrance of their garden.
"I am sorry to intrude, Hinata-sama, Hanabi-sama." The messenger bowed low. "Hiashi-sama requests Hinata-sama's presence in his office immediately."
To be continued…
(1) At this point, Naruto and Hinata are both 11 years old.
(2) This was written for the Thirty Kisses (30kisses) community on Live Journal. More information on Thirty Kisses is in my profile.
(3) 6 down, 24 kisses to go!
(4) Oneesan means older sister. Imouto means younger sister. Author's Pet Peeve: people who indiscriminately use the word oneesan without regard for the age of the characters! Argh! The older sister should never call her younger sister "oneesan." That's just wrong.
(5) As promised, we have plot development! Fitting this chapter into the overflow theme was a bit of a stretch… Overflow (of emotion, of questions, of fear) was supposed to be the central mood of this chapter. (sigh) I don't think I managed to make it happen though. Oh well, I tried.
(6) Hiashi was really hard to write. He's not evil. He's just tends to put the clan before his own family (which is a mistake IMO) and doesn't know how to connect with his daughters. In the anime, Hiashi loosens up after the chunin exams and seems to become more of a father to his family – and less of a clan leader.
(7) My biggest worry about this chapter was writing Hinata. I'm trying my best to keep Hinata like… well, Hinata. She is definitely stronger – and a lot more willing to stand up for her beliefs – but still shy, uncertain, and sometimes unconfident – especially when it comes to her own worth. I'm walking a very fine line here. I hope I didn't mess it up! In canon, Hinata draws strength and inspiration from watching Naruto. How much stronger would she be if she and Naruto have been best friends for 4 years?
(8) About the last chapter: Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed to let me know it wasn't as terrible as I thought! I'm really surprised at how many people enjoyed the fluffy little filler. I had spent so much time going over it, checking for flaws, that in the end, all I could see were the flaws! I needed to step back and get a different perspective! Thank you. I feel much better about it!
(9) This kiss was not a NaruHina kiss. It was a HinaHana kiss. (groans – bangs head against desk) Why, oh why do I feel like I cheated? The rules for 30 kisses specifically state that the kiss does not have to happen between the main couple. I didn't do anything wrong! But still… I feel guilty. Naruto didn't even show up in this one! It should have been a NaruHina kiss! (cries) Sorry! I'll make it up to you in the next chapter. Speaking of which…
(10) Bwahahaha! (evil cackles) My first cliffhanger! Originally, I didn't intend for the chapter to break here. This chapter was supposed to conclude after the father-daughter "chat." But it's already longer than any of my previous chapters. And this was a good place to end it.
(11) Next Chapter Sneak Peak:
"One day, Naruto-kun will be the Hokage – and I will be there by his side!"
"I see," Hiashi stared impassively at his daughter. "Is that your final word on this matter?"
"It is." Hinata tried unsuccessfully to keep her hands from trembling under the pressure.
"You understand that you are defying a direct order from your clan head. Are you prepared to accept the punishment – including the possibility of receiving the caged bird seal?"
(12) Please review and let me know what you think. Thanks!