Master and Weapon
Hinata was drowning. The one thought going through her panicked mind was of her imminent demise. I'm going to die.
Her hands clawed at the water and her feet thrashed against the watery doom that tossed and spun her in circles. She felt the salt in her throat, the pain in her jaw and chest. Somewhere above or below her, Naruto fought alone; her sense of direction was thrown to chaos in the inky depths. She had failed again, and this time she would die for it.
She hated herself in that moment, hated what she had allowed herself to become. Weak. Still she did not want to die, she did not want to leave her partner alone, and for his sake she kept clawing. If I could just reach the surface!
The sea was darker than anything she had imagined, she couldn't tell which way to swim. In a moment of clarity she remembered her byakugan and with effort activated the bloodline trait inherent to her clan. In response, the world lit up around her; Naruto's soul lit up her world like the sun. The fiery red wavelength pulsed even more violently and grandiose than she remembered, but she didn't have time to ponder. She was out of breath, and her muscles strained like wild as they tried to pull her towards the surface and Naruto. Oh Naruto please don't let me die! I'm trying Naruto! I'm trying!
Her byakugan began to waiver as the oxygen starved blood began to rush out of her head, cutting off the supply to her eyes. The red sun began to flicker, like a fire struggling against the wind. Hinata wanted to scream as the pressure of the water began to wrench at her lungs and her muscles; she felt a pain begin to build in her temples as the brain fought to stay alive.
She went blind just before her hand broke the surface, and she nearly sucked up half the sea before icy air filled her starving lungs. She coughed violently and tried to scream, but caught a wave in the face and sank a bit before clawing back up. With tunnel vision she could barely make out the outline of a bridge support, but she swam for it desperately. I'm alive!
Hinata caught the edge of the concrete support and tried to pull herself up onto the ledge, but her muscles were spent and she had only the strength to keep her head above water. The water still tore at her body, trying to drag her away, but Hinata had a vice-like grip and would be damned before she let go of the slippery concrete edge. She could breathe now, and her eyesight began to clear as she looked towards the bridge above, Naruto was up there somewhere, and thankfully still alive. She tried to scream for him again, but all that came out was a tortured moan; she wanted to cry as the pain in her shattered jaw returned all at once. The icy water had numbed the pain but now it was returning with vengeance. A wave smashed her up against the bridge support, raking her jaw against the rough surface, and then she did cry, violently.
She heard a voice above the sound of the sea and looked up through the tears and sea water stinging her eyes. Naruto was looking over the railing, and she whimpered in relief when his blue eyes caught hers. She could see the almost childish fear in those deep blue orbs and she cried even more. I'm so sorry Naruto! I was so scared too!
In seconds she felt a strong hand close around her wrist, and she was hoisted bodily from the water. Hinata's body was completely spent and she couldn't do anything to assist him, but Naruto didn't seem to notice as he lifted her like she weighed no more than a feather. She cried out softly when he cradled her to his chest and wrapped his jacket around her shivering body. She felt the heat radiating from his core and knew she was safe. He was trying to say something, but she couldn't focus on his words and soon she blacked out.
When she woke, she knew she was dreaming. The familiar ceiling of her bedroom greeted her view and she could feel no pain from her injuries. Gingerly she put a hand to her shattered jaw - it was healed. From outside she heard voices, but strangely she couldn't get up out of bed. The dream must want her to stay still, there was something she had to witness.
"She isn't ready!"
"She has to be. Do you want to hold her back again, Hiashi? She will never succeed if you coddle her."
Hinata heard her father grumble, and his voice was suddenly stern, commanding even; she'd never heard her father talk with authority.
"I do not coddle. You and I both know special consideration has to be taken with her. She's not like the others, she cannot handle rebuke or failure. If we push too hard, she'll break and then we'll have hell to pay."
"-I didn't say anything about breaking her, just.. I don't know. Give her a chance to use her own steam to accomplish things." The second voice, Hinata recognized, was her mother! Her mother who'd been dead for nearly 5 years.
She tried again to rise, to see her mother's face again, but her body wouldn't leave the bed. Damn you! Let me go! I want to see her!
"I can't bring in a buki to bond with her, the Hokage's law clearly states that potential shokunin have to go to schoo-" her father was cut off by a slap, Hinata could feel the tension from here.
"I don't care what the Hokage says! This is your clan Hiashi, this is your legacy, the clan's legacy we are talking about! If we don't start training her now, she will fail even moreso at school, in front of her peers no less!"
Her father was quiet for a while; Hinata assumed he was either shocked or deep in thought. When the clan head spoke again, it was a whisper, and she could barely strain her ears to hear.
"The Gentle Fist style would shred her muscles at this stage. She isn't big or strong enough to handle that kind of strain. Neiji still has trouble with it and he's half a decade older!"
"So when will she begin to learn? After the Genin school saddles her with a cut-rate buki? After she becomes an adult? Assuming she lives that long!?"
There was a rustle of clothing - a struggle. After a few tense minutes, it was quiet again and she could hear soft sobbing coming from the other room. It was her father's voice Hinata heard next, he sounded tired.
"You can train her in a few years, I promise."
"I don't have a few years, my love. I'm dying."
Hinata began to cry, this dream was a cruel thing. It occurred to her, that this dream wasn't just part of her imagination; she was living through a part of her past, a very painful part of her past she had no recollection of.
Someone must've heard her sob, because it wasn't long before the door to her room slid open and a person's silhouette filled the doorway. From the long robes and silky sheen of hair, Hinata knew it was her mother.
"Hinata? Why are you crying?"
Hinata desperately wanted to speak, to say anything, but all she could do was sob. Her mother's face was hidden in the darkness, but she could feel the weight of the woman as she sat beside her bed mat. It was so real, it made her cry even harder.
"Hush child, what has got you so upset?" Her mother cooed, with a voice like a warm breeze.
Mama! I missed you so much! I need to hold you! Can't you hear me!?
"Sshhhh, lie still. Everything will be alright.."
No mother, it won't! I'm weak and clumsy! I need your help! I need your guidance!
"You're not weak, punk rock. Be still."
Hinata's eyes went wide for a second as the image of her mother faded and Naruto's concerned face filled her view. The room changed around him too, till it was no longer recognizable as her room back at the Hyuga mansion.
"Hinata-" her partner began to say. She didn't let him finish as she pulled herself up into a hug, burying her face into his chest. There were bandages wrapped around her jaw, holding it in place, but she felt no pain.
"She's awake then, good-" came a voice from behind her. "-can I leave now?"
Hinata pulled away for a second to look over her shoulder. Zabuza's buki stood in the door way; the boy's clothes were torn, and his beauty was marred by cuts and bruises that covered his face. He looked beaten and angry, in this state he actually looked like a boy now.
"That was the deal, but you don't have to leave. You can come back to Konoha with us and enroll in the academy. I'll speak to the old man myse-" Naruto stopped when the other buki held up a hand, shaking his head.
"I don't want your charity. Your girl is alive, so this is where we part ways."
Hinata wondered exactly what had happened in her absence, but from the looks of it, Naruto had made a deal with the boy in exchange for her life. Was I that close to death? Is he a healer?
She caught Haku's attention and signed her thanks. He nodded in reply. "I set your jawbone and made a poultice for your cuts. Change the bandages every couple days and rest. You'll live."
Without another word, the boy turned his back on her and Naruto and left. No sooner had he gone, than Tsubaki poked her head through the door. "Naruto are you hungry? I was going to-" there was a pause as the girl noticed Hinata up and awake, "Hinata!"
Tsubaki burst into the room and pushed Naruto away so she could swoop in for a hug. It was almost painful for Hinata; the weapon girl was really strong. "We thought you might've slipped into a coma. The blow to your head must've been massive!" Tsubaki blurted rapidly as her eyes shifted to Naruto. "You still didn't tell us what happened during your fight."
Naruto cleared his throat. "We won."
Hinata quirked an eyebrow, it wasn't like her partner to be so humble about a victory. In recent months Naruto had taken to bravado - no doubt an influence of Kiba. She wondered what he was hiding; she remembered his wavelength acting strangely, but that could be expected in battle.
Tsubaki showed a twinge of disappointment, but didn't press for information, the weapon girl was always very respectful of Naruto's boundaries.
"So, the little blueberry is up and at em'!" Kiba sauntered in with so much swagger his heels never hit the floor. He wore a few new scrapes, but was otherwise pristine - well, as pristine as the wolf boy could ever be. "I take it you would like to hear about what happened in your absence, milady?"
"H-hey! It was more extravag-, it was more excit-, it was more.. better!" Kiba snarled, punching Naruto in the stomach. The blond crumbled to the floor. Tsubaki took a worried glance at Naruto, then turned to Hinata and smiled. "We won, yes, but Kiba and I fought the best fight of our career. You should've seen us!"
"Not just that. I punched that Haku guy with my wavelength!"
Hinata looked at Kiba incredulously. "Mmm?"
Kiba sparked up immediately, more than happy to explain himself. "So we got jumped by pretty boy, ne? He goes on and on about his purpose in life, whatever, mumbo jumbo, and then attacks us. Tsubaki and I immediately went ninja-mode and she changes into her kusari-gama, ne? Turns out Haku is a giant sword buki, like Naruto! He even used the claw-fingers thing too! Well obviously Tsubaki and I know how to handle a sword buki, seeing as we've kicked Naruto's butt many times in practice-"
Tsubaki interjected to apologize to both Hinata and Naruto, before letting Kiba continue.
"Anyways I have this brilliant idea to throw Tsubaki so she can wrap this guy up, ne? Well I happen to have a nasty right-hook, and I really wanted to plant a fresh one on this Haku guy."
"Sounds like a stupid idea. Getting rid of your defense and offense." Naruto offered.
"Well that's what you think, sunshine. The move worked; Tsubaki wrapped the guy up and I ran in for the closer. I got in close, real close, it was damn insulting how close I got, before I reared back and swung. I put a lot of emotion into that punch, and my fist lit up bright blue! Needless to say it was a knockout, and pretty boy hit the ground like a sack of rice."
Tsubaki nodded vigorously. "There is more to the story, but I think you need to lay down now. We can swap stories later. Come on Kiba."
She and Naruto watched the other girl turn to leave. Tsubaki grabbed Kiba by his arm and dragged him along, but not before the wolf boy promised to share his 'secret technique' with her sometime.
Hinata doubted there was any real technique as opposed to blind luck and happenstance. Despite her misgivings though, she was actually impressed, very impressed. Unknowingly, Kiba had used a rough form of her clan's ancient fighting technique, the Gentle Fist. It was a martial art of the highest degree, and what made it so potent was the use of soul energy to enhance the blows. In addition to making the blow faster, Hyuga masters could harness the soul energy into points, needles, of soul energy that would extend from the physical blow and strike the target's very soul. It was extremely effective, because even if your opponent managed to block the lightning fast punch, the needle of energy could still pierce the flesh and strike the wavelength. It was even rumored that every few generations a Hyuga was born who could use the Gentle Fist in union with a buki partner. This meant that in addition to using one's own soul power, a Hyuga meister could use the soul power of the buki itself and extend a lethal blast from the weapon as well.
Hinata's mother had been the last known user of the fabled technique.
"Hinata? Are you alright?" Naruto stepped into her line of view, a curious look written across his face. "You spaced out."
She nodded slowly, blinking to bring herself out of her memories and into the present. Naruto snorted and walked over to look out the window of their room; she soon realized they were back at the hotel they'd originally visited upon arriving in Wave country. Outside the sun had set and lights began to come on around the town.
"I nearly killed both of us today. If it wasn't for Ky-" Naruto paused and seemed to shake himself, as if ridding himself of something slimy. "If it wasn't for blind luck, we would have died." He looked fit to say something else, but went silent instead.
What happened to you back there? She wondered, as her partner paced around the room, occassionally stopping to peer out the window or check the door. He told her that Team 4 had posted up outside the room in the hall to keep anyone from catching them unawares. Hinata remembered that they were still very much in enemy territory. Very far from home, from reinforcements, and very, very far from safety.
She suddenly felt very tired, as if her wounds were draining her body of all its strength. Her eyelids began to grow heavy, and before she knew it she was sound asleep.
Her dreams were vivid that night; ghost visions and sweet memories of her mother played through her head for what seemed like weeks. Hinata could not recall her mother's face anymore and it made her sad and ashamed. Has she been gone so long? What she could remember however, were her mothers hands: soft like silk, but with suprising hidden strength.
In this dream her mother brushed her hair, the fine teeth of the comb carving smooth, straight lines through the tangled blue mess. She shivered with glee, this was the sweetest and simplest of memories and it warmed her soul.
"She's crying again.."
Hinata woke up abruptly and tried to rise, but a strong hand held her head down. She started to resist, but a sharp pain shot through her jaw and she laid down with a whimper. Tsubaki looked down at her and smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, I took the liberty of combing out your hair while you slept. The sea really caused some havoc on your pretty hair."
"We're half-way to Konoha by now, in case you were wondering. Naruto bartered a ride for us girls. He didn't have enough to pay for Kiba and himself so they're walking a little ways behind the trade van."
Hinata wanted to smile, Naruto was trying to be a gentlemen - how cute. She sighed as she laid her head back down on Tsubaki's lap and let the weapon girl continue her work. Tsubaki's hands were suprisingly soft, considering how tough the girl was, and she took special care to be gentle with Hinata's hair as she combed. Living with a boy for so long, Hinata had forgotten what it was like to be around other girls, to be pampered a little.
It was hours before the trade caravan rolled to a stop, and another hour before she was checked into the hospital. She waved her goodbyes to Team 4, and finally Naruto, after he'd made sure she was comfortable in her room. The poor fool had even requested a guard, he was denied on the grounds that the doctors and staff were trained shinobi should an attempt be made on Hinata's life.
Visitors came to visit her, always respectful and curt; some visitors came on personal visits, others with more official purpose. Her father was the first to come, teary-eyed, moreso than little Hanabi. The Hyuga clan head brought her things from home, clothes, comfort items, and strangely a small handbook with many doggeared pages.
Hiashi smiled sadly at the little book. "It was Mama's. She wanted you to have it, and I didn't have the heart to give it to you until today. You need her now, and I think you're ready. I never opened it, and I've had it locked in the family vault. You will be the first to read your mother's last words."
Hinata swallowed the lump in her throat and hummed her appreciation, it sounded pathetic and feral, but she didn't care. How did her father always know what she needed? Could he know of her recent dreams and fevered visions? Despite all his foolery, she knew her father was wise beyond his years, wise and very, very smart. Even without his byakugan, Hiashi could peer into a persons soul and find the things hidden deepest.
Hiashi scooped up Hanabi and left, leaving Hinata alone. A clap of thunder sounded from far off, and she listened to the soft patter of rain against her window. The rain always made her feel comfortable, and she sighed contentedly as she settled into the hospital bed and opened the notebook. It was an odd feeling, opening something that belonged to someone else, especially when the owner was your late relative. Hinata smiled at the neat penmanship, it was much like her own.
Hinata swallowed the lump in her throat - it was the nickname her mother had used for her.
I love you. No other combination of words or symbols will show my feeling for you so completely. There are not enough pages in this notebook, nor a hundred like it that could contain what I want to say to you. If you remember anything of me, remember, please remember, that above all things I love you.
Hinata began to cry. She had to pause for a moment to wipe her eyes on the bedsheets, before she could continue.
Mothers always want to mold their children, to fight their battles, to propel them into life with their every fiber, but sadly all I can give to you is this notebook. All I can give you is these lessons, this legacy of our clan, of my mother, of my grandfather, of the Hyuga line. This martial art is the very DNA of who we are, it is in our blood, it is in your blood. The Gentle Fist is the Hyuga, and the Hyuga is the Gentle Fist.
I am sorry I won't be able to train you, I am sorry that you will have to learn this on your own, but you are strong Little bird. You may not know your strength, you may not see the iron in you, but I do. You are such a gentle girl, maybe as you read this you are still gentle. Do not lose that gentleness, do not lose that compassion, my love. Neiji, your cousin, you may be tempted to turn to him for advice, for help, but I urge you not to. He understands the power of the Fist, but he does not grasp it as a whole; the poor boy's heart is too hard, and I am scared for his future.
The secret. The secret is to be gentle. The gentle wind works with the mountain, not against it, and both are made stronger. You will see with your special eyes the weakness in men, the weakness in your foe - pity them. See beyond their soul, pierce the veil and see them entirely and be gentle. Be calm. Be steadfast.
Do not strike at their soul, do not fight against the bright light. Let the light come to you, feel the soul of your opponent, understand it, and then subdue it's rage. Like the gentle breeze, caress the flame until it burns itself out.
Through the Fist I can still be a mother to you. It is a beautiful thing, my love. It will make you better, it will teach you things about life, about yourself, it can mold you into something incredible if you let it. If you are gentle and willing.
The training will not be easy though, there will be pain and tears, you may even grow to hate this little notebook. You may hate me through my words, when I tell you to do things that no one should ask their child to do. I wish I could bear the pain for you, bear the frustration, but I know you will endure and you will succeed. Remember though, remember that I love you.
Tell your Papa I love him, little Hanabi too. The basic kata moves begin on the next page, my love.