Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Tis the property of one Masashi Kishimoto.
Author's Note: This piece has been floating around on my hard drive for a while now, but I never really thought about uploading it until now. I don't know how to really describe it other than as an almost eye opening experience to the way that life works for most people. How life never actually works out the way you want it to. And how, of course, everything ends up working out. To some extent it also masks my own experiences with life, so I'll cross my fingers and hope you'll like it.
People constantly find themselves looking for their fairytale ending. They come in the form of simple wishes. And yet sadly the eye opening reality is that most people do not find their fairytale ending.
Some examples of these deluded wishes come in the simplest forms. A wish for a huge group of friends, or the perfect family. To be rich, or at least well enough off to get by without any trouble. To be the best possible person you can possibly be. Or maybe even to simply live a long and fulfilling life with no regrets.
We cling to these illusions for a promising future because it is the hope that fuels our desire to press forward through the murkiest trenches of our lives. We read love novels and watch romance movies because they (well…for the most part) have those happy endings that we hold so dear. Why do we hold them dear? I think secretly we all want that happy ending.
Sadly though, life is no cliché like the movies.
My name is Naruto Uzumaki. I am a simple seventeen year old male going through the stage in his life where his fairytale ending seems far too distant. Even someone like me, who can laugh and smile and declare with incredible confidence my dreams and aspirations for the future, can feel like a fairytale ending will never occur.
That's right. Even the most confident person has times when everything feels out of place.
I wake up bright and early everyday on Sunday mornings. You may ask why that is since I have no work unless summoned. The reason is simply because I've taken up the habit of going on early morning strolls. Seeing the world at the early hours of the morning when a cool wind is still present from the chilly night is one of the few relaxing feelings I have been allowed with the path I have chosen to follow.
The path to being the greatest ninja this world has ever known.
Yes. Farfetched as this dream may be that is what I make my living doing. I work as a military man for the village. It isn't uncommon for a young man such as myself to aspire to live and die for my country. Nor is it uncommon that I see my comrades fall in battle right in front of me.
If I wanted to be truthful then I would tell you that it had already happened on more than one occasion. But since it is a sore subject for me, I act as though it is no big deal and go on with my life as though nothing detrimental has occurred. Why would I do something like that you may ask? It's because I have been trained to never show my true emotions.
And so…I keep it all locked up inside. People will often tell you how unhealthy it is to do something such as this. That one day it will all flood out during one chaotic moment. And I think they are probably right, but for now I'd rather just deal with my own life using my own judgments of what I should and shouldn't do.
It is while I am taking my quiet morning stroll that I sometimes accidentally find myself drifting down memory lane. You've all been there before. So have I. Right now I am looking at the park where Shikamaru, Chouji, Kiba, and I used to play on the playground equipment and talk about the next big way of causing trouble for our teachers.
And then somewhere during said memory, reality decides to make a painful retaliation on your life. You realize that when you talk to your old friends now it is more due to business than it is anything else. Or you remember how much they have changed since back then. The truth is that each of us has had to learn to grow up due to the numerous battles with the now extinct organization, Akatsuki.
We just aren't the same as we used to be. Not as close as we used to be. You would think that when you are walking down the same path as one another that you would be going in the same direction. Sadly that is incorrect. We all have split in completely separate directions with our lives.
I guess it's all a part of growing up. You grow up and apart with time and you form new relationships with different people. Back then I was closest to Shikamaru, Chouji, and Kiba. Now my closest friends are Sakura and Gaara. Although it is Sakura more so than Gaara since he lives so far away…
Sakura. I have loved this girl from the moment I first laid eyes on her. As I grew to know her more and more, my love for her grew as well. She is everything in the world to me. I would gladly die just to keep pain away from her. I would hold her quietly and pray her torments stay at bay. I would give anything in the world to her just to see her smile.
And yet…she cannot reciprocate my feelings.
To some extent, maybe this is what caused this frame of mind in the first place. The best place to go for the truest form of reality…is the heartbroken.
Heartbreak is the most god-awful feeling imaginable. All you can think about is her. The way she smiles. Or the way she calls your name. All the little things build up inside you. By the time you try to fall asleep at night, daybreak is on the horizon. You're not hungry so eating seems pointless. You try to ask your friends for advice, but they don't have much to say except that classic line. "It will only get worse before it gets better." The redundancy of that particular statement does nothing to help you. If anything, it just hurts you more.
With such a harsh reality, you would think the best thing to possibly do is just simply end it all. End the pain and sadness caused by the harsh reality.
The harsh reality that there is no fairytale ending.
But to someone like me the idea of suicide just seems pointless. I was given life by my father and mother and whatever sentient being that rules over us and helps in creating us. To end it all due to my unhappiness in this particular moment of my life seems like such a waste to those that have pulled me out of the countless fires that have burned me.
That and I'm just too stubborn.
My walk so far has finally led me to a dead end due to the mountain in front of me. My only choice is to turn around and go back the way I came, and yet I hesitate in turning around. Why? I don't want to go back. I'm tired of walking this same route over and over again. You'd be tired of it too if you had been doing it for the last year or so.
So I pumped chakra into my feet and set off at a steady pace up the mountain that lay in front of me. My goal was simply to overcome the mountain of problems that I had been carrying this year. My mindset drifted to if I could just climb this mountain then I could climb any mountain. The mountain is a lot taller than I had expected. My thoughts are overriding my concentration. I can feel the chakra slipping from my feet. It's a shame. I was only a few steps away from reaching the top. I close my eyes and accept my fate.
That's weird…I'm…not falling…?
A hand. A hand had grabbed hold of mine just as I was about to fall. I look up at my savior and I am surprised to see the graceful hand of one Ino Yamanaka clinging onto me for dear life.
"Grab on!" she exclaims. I didn't need to be told twice. I grabbed hold of her hand with both of mine and let her pull me up to the mountain top alongside her.
Her immediate reaction is to reprimand me for my actions. Like how a mother might do to her son when he comes in with a bruised eye and busted lip gotten from a school fight. Ino says I should be more focused before attempting something as "fool hardy" as what I attempted. My immediate reaction was to apologize for unnecessarily worrying her.
The concerned look on her face is etching itself into my mind. Soon after she asks me what's wrong. I throw on my mask and grin. She looks unconvinced but doesn't press the matter. All she says is that she needs help looking for a certain type of flower that grew around the mountain at this time of year. I obliged wholeheartedly in hopes of keeping my mind focused on different thoughts.
We're running rampant searching for this so called 'flower' of hers. I want to give up but she wants to keep going. Opinions collide and a full blown "war" is underway as we attempt to outdo the other's insult. She is stubborn. I am too. It is nothing short of chaos.
It only ended when I, being the klutz that I am, fell down from the tree and landed spread eagle on the ground. The first sight my eyes beheld upon looking up was Ino laughing and holding her sides gasping for air at my misfortune. But fortunately, God has a hilarious sense of humor. Ino lost balance amidst her laughing and also came tumbling down from the tree landing flat on her tush. And then it was my turn to laugh as she sat there embarrassed.
Amidst all the burdens that weighed themselves down upon me, I have found a sense of normalcy that I had begun to think no longer existed. It comforts me.
We eventually found a grove full of those flowers she has been searching for. We begin to carefully uproot them from the ground so that they can be sold in her family shop. Well…she carefully uproots them. Apparently I wasn't doing a good enough job since she kept panicking every time I supposedly did something wrong and then reprimanded me for it.
And soon enough the "war" continues until we hadn't much left to say to one another.
Upon re-entering the village she cautiously asks the question. "Feeling better?"
She knew that I had been feeling down in the dumps earlier, and yet she did a very uncharacteristic thing by simply letting the subject go. I'm so thankful to her for not intruding that I strangely find myself telling her exactly what has been bothering me. My harsh shinobi life. Sakura's rejection of my feelings. Everything is pouring out of me all at once.
This is my chaotic moment. The moment when all of my emotions start pouring out of me. I didn't mean for them too. It just sort of happened by accident. It just goes to show that even the strongest of people have their own insecurities surrounding them.
I may have said too much, because Ino has wrapped her arms around me and started crying as well. She can relate to my story as she has had her own rejections in the form of Sasuke and Sai as well as the true toll of Asuma's death hanging over her.
Right now, in this moment, I realize that the depiction of whom I thought was Ino Yamanaka had been severely misjudged. I had mislabeled her…and now I feel guilty for ever doing so…
I walk her back to the flower shop that is her home and thank her for listening to my story. And she thanks me for listening to hers. And we both went on our separate ways leading our separate lives.
But for some reason…I can't stop thinking about her.
Everything she did today, I found charming. Her different expressions from today continue to swim around inside my mind. Concern. Happiness. Goofiness. Sadness. Anger. Why was it that the more I thought about it, the more captivated I became?
I have never been the fastest person to realize exactly what it is I am feeling. It wasn't until the wee hours of the morning that I sat up in shock as the epiphany finally took hold of me.
I like Ino Yamanaka.
When morning breaks, I search her out. It isn't hard to find her. It's her shift to watch the flower shop. She smiles that infamous smile of hers, and I know I'm going to do whatever she asks. So, I spend the day helping her tend to customers as they come through the doors. Mostly helping if anyone wants any fertilizer out of the back room since Ino didn't seem too fond of carrying it. Whether it was because of what fertilizer, in essence, is or because it was just heavy was hard to say. A mind reader can be hard to read. One thing is for certain though. She doesn't want me anywhere near the flowers. Especially so after I tripped over that rogue gardening hose and ended up having to get her help in order to untangle myself from its snake-like grasp.
She said I was a klutz. For once I agreed with her.
And before I knew it, her shift is over and we have the rest of the day free. I ask her if she's hungry. She says she doesn't want ramen. I ask her what she wants to eat. She says she doesn't know. I ask her if she wants to go on a walk instead. She says she's been standing all day and would rather sit down.
Women can be very complicated at times…
But I endure it and come up with a good idea, but the problem is that I have trouble getting the words out. Finally I swallow my fears long enough to ask her if she would like to have a picnic lunch with me. She blushes the same color that I am at the moment. The implications of a picnic lunch would make it seem like we were on a date.
But that's what I've been aiming for all this time, right?
She accepts surprisingly and I yip out in joy. She says I should show more restraint. I'm too happy to care.
We find a nice secluded spot in the forest and begin setting out the necessities. While eating we discuss about different missions we've been on recently. Then the conversation deters completely to different gossip about our friends. Specifically, the surprise relationship between Kiba and Hinata. And then it turned into another rambling as Ino got on a tangent about her babysitting experience with Asuma's and Kurenai's child. That, of course, also inevitably led to more sorrowful memories, but we pushed through them slowly and steadily. Talking about the dearly departed, one after another. We would always miss them but they were still with us in spirit.
All in all, we had been talking for over four hours. And still I haven't manned up and said the one sentence I needed to say. An awkward silence has been created between us. My hands are trembling and yet she sits there eyeing me curiously wondering what's going on in my head.
It is at this moment I realized I'm not going to be able to say it aloud…not quite yet…
So instead I did what any unpredictable knucklehead ninja would do when he can't get the words out of his mouth.
I lean forward and plant a soft kiss on her lips. She breaks away a second later out of shock and for a second I fear that she's rejected me. She apologizes and says it just surprised her and slowly leans forward. I meet her half way.
And Sparks fly.
I smile to myself as I continue to read over the journal entry from back then. Time has an undeniably wicked way of catching up on you when you least expect it. I'm twenty three now. And looking over what I had written over five years ago has the right to make me feel old, even though I am still quite a young man. But a lot has changed since then.
"Aya Uzumaki, get off the counter this instant! I told you! If you want the cereal you have to ask mommy or daddy first!" Ino yelled from downstairs.
"I want to get it by myself!" Little Aya screamed causing a distant cry to erupt in another part of the house. This in turn caused Ino to let out an agonized cry to the heavens before presumably going to take care of the baby.
Typical Aya behavior. I chuckle at that. That's what you get when the genes of two very stubborn people intermingle. You get stubborn children. Ino and I have had a fair share of arguments over where she gets it from. We just pray that the baby won't be as bad.
Stubborn children can create stressed out parents.
"Naruto Uzumaki! Get down here and control your daughter!" Ino called out before pounding on the attic door. This in turn scares me so much that I lose my balance and come tumbling down the stairs bringing box upon box down the stairs with me.
Ino opens the attic door to see me lying here with a box of Christmas ornaments and old Halloween costumes. She hurriedly pushes the boxes off of me while feeding the baby all at the same time.
Women always astound me with their ability to multi-task.
"Are you alright?!" She asks in a panicked tone
"I'm fine," I say reassuringly.
She shifts gears instantly, "Good grief, and look at the mess you've made! I knew better than to send you up there for some of Aya's old baby toys! What were you doing?! You need to be more careful! You klutz!"
"I love you too dear," I say with a forced tone as my eye starts twitching. I know she cares, but the instant she knows I'm okay is the second that the negativity and reprimanding sets in.
She pecks me on the lips and smiles that caring smile for a brief instance before punching me lightly in the direction of the kitchen.
"Go get your daughter off the counter before she hurts herself." She states seriously to which I sigh and tread my way towards the kitchen.
As I trudge towards the kitchen my mind wonders back to what I had written in my old journal. I said that there might not be such a thing as a fairytale ending. To some extent, I still believe that to be true.
My fairytale ending had been me becoming Hokage and Sakura Haruno as my bride. I still haven't achieved the Hokage title and I married Ino Yamanaka instead. Yet for some reason, I think that this is the right ending. I don't need my fairytale ending, because I love what I have been given so much more.
If I had to choose between the life I live now and my fairytale ending, it would be no contest. I love the life I live now and everything about it. I live for this moment and I will fight on to keep this moment alive. I love my family and everything I've been given. I have been truly blessed.
The only thing sweeter than a fairytale ending…is a realistic one.
I think we've all been there at some point in our lives. That moment when we realize that there's more to life than an old Disney film we used to watch as kids. That moment when the person we have pegged as our prince/princess turns out not to be the one and we start truly understanding all the different concepts of life. It's hard to put into words how you feel when the epiphanies of life finally ingrain themselves within our heads. But it's just another part of life that we need. It can make us more understanding of others and also more ambitious with the life goals we set.
I hope you enjoyed this little one-shot. Keep on the lookout for updates to my other fics. And don't forget to leave a Review! *Nudge Nudge Wink Wink*