Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
-a romance tempered in blood-
Dark; the only notable detail.
It occurred with no suspense or surprise, no traumatizing experience for the child, nothing really. It did not pass with any fanfare or retribution, let alone justice.
No, the murder of Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina was of no great importance. It was just a number.
"Case file 891-GJ-2336-S."
"That's right." The man replied gruffly.
"I'm afraid I'm not authorized to give you access to any case above rank B, Master Jiraiya."
"Then just give me some information. There was a boy, a young child with them. About two years old."
"I'm afraid I cannot say, Master Jiraiya. There is no record of the victims ever having a child together."
So he was able to hide it from the council… must have blocked me so there would be no record of inquiry on my part. Jiraiya thought critically.
"I guess I was misinformed." He said stupidly. "Anyway, are you sure there isn't any information for me? A message?"
"Ah yes, that's right. I nearly forgot." The clerk punched a few keys on his computer and brought up a file attached to the case. "Someone left you a memo. It says there's a letter waiting for you in safe box 22B at Sunny Enterprises' private bank.
"Is that so?" The hermit asked with slow rhetoric.
"Here, let me write down the address for you."
Something clicked in his mind as the clerk scribbled down the information.
"Who left the memo?"
The young man glanced at the screen. "It doesn't say."
"I see…" Jiraiya said, stroking his chin. "What's your name kid?"
"It's Umino. Umino Iruka, sir."
"I appreciate your help."
"Oh, but it wasn't me. I was given specific orders from Wise One to assist you."
Checkmate. The older man grinned. "So that's what he's calling himself these days, is it?"
Iruka stared at him blankly.
"Ah, never mind. Here," he tossed him a fifty-mark, "go spend that on something you find interesting."
"Th-thank you Master Jiraiya!"
"Don't mention it."
He deposited the small piece of paper into his coat pocket and walked out the revolving glass door.
As I thought, it was Sarutobi. Good move, my friend.
A black Lexus pulled up at the curb. Jiraiya handed the valet a five-mark and lit up a cigarette. He sat down in the comfortable leather interior and punched the address into his GPS.
"I'm getting to old for this shit." He grumbled.
He drove out of the complex and onto the highway. The address he was headed to was located in Tenrei province. He had four straight hours before he would arrive. He hit a button on the side of his steering wheel.
"Please select a number." A feminine voice said.
"Slug Girl." He said crisply.
"One moment please." A series of beeps varying in pitch assaulted his ears. "Dialing…dialing…"
She was going to pick up. She had to pick up.
He breathed a sigh of relief. "It's Jiraiya."
"Eh? What's so important that you needed to call me at 1:43 in the morning?"
"It's Minato and Kushina." He said gravely.
"What, do they need me to babysit for them again?"
Jiraiya paused. "They're dead, Tsunade. They were murdered."
There was no immediate reply. Silence filled the car for several minutes.
"How?" She finally asked.
"It was them."
"Are you sure? Minato and Kushina were exiled a long time ago. Surely, they covered their tracks well enough."
"Maybe... but who else could take those two down? ANBU? It's unlikely given Minato's ties with the Old Man."
"…what about Naruto?"
"The only ones who knew about him besides his parents were you, me, Hiashi and the Old Man."
"Do you know what happened to him?"
"I sneaked in after the cops were gone and checked the compartment under the floor. It looked like he had been there during the attack. Someone probably took him."
"That's why I'm calling you." He explained. "Listen, I need you to go Roiyaru district."
"What for?" She asked indignantly.
"I have a hunch that Naruto is in the custody of the Hyuuga."
"The Hyuuga? Why?"
"If it wasn't me, and it wasn't you, and it wasn't the Old Man, then it was probably Hiashi."
"Do you have any proof?"
"The Old Man left a message with the guy at the front desk. He said there was a letter waiting for me in a safe box at Sunny Enterprises' private bank."
"So he was giving you a tip?"
"No." Jiraiya stated. "The message was probably added to the case by Hiashi himself. It's a decoy to keep me away long enough for them to secure Naruto."
"And you're going to fall for it?"
"On purpose." He replied. "Wasting time on the decoy will make him think I'm out of the loop."
"But what's so bad about the Hyuuga taking care of him? Weren't Minato and Hiashi friends?" Tsunade questioned.
"Yes, but for different reasons. Hiashi was only interested in an alliance and maintained their friendship for business purposes. I tried to tell Minato, but he was blind."
Both of them knew exactly what "business" meant. It was the code word for a reality to which the world was ignorant. If it was ever discovered, the very foundations of society would crumble.
"Yes, that would make sense. He seems to be that kind of man." Tsunade paused. "So you think he'll try and use Naruto?"
"Definitely. The Hyuuga consider the Namikaze and Uzumaki bloodlines to be as strong as their own. Imagine how powerful Naruto's blood must be. Hiashi would do anything to have it."
"But didn't Minato seal away his blood so he could live a normal life?"
"Even Minato couldn't create a perfect seal, he said so himself. The power can still leak through. It will only be a matter of time until the Hyuuga found a way around it."
"So Hiashi will harness Naruto's power and raise him as a weapon." She stated.
"Exactly. We need to act quickly."
"After I pick up the decoy I'm headed to the Tenrei district to see an old friend."
"Yeah, him. It'll be OK. I referred Kakashi over to him, so I have some strings I can pull. Besides, he's getting old. You know how old people can get all sentimental. He'll be happy to see me again."
"He'll be happy because you'll take him out to go peeping." Tsunade muttered under her breath.
"What was that?" Jiraiya asked.
"Nothing. So what do you want me to do?"
"Hmmm... how should I put it?"
"Just spit it out, perv-boy."
"I need you to kidnap Naruto from the Hyuuga."
"What?" She yelled. "Are you fucking insane? You think I'm going to go on this suicide mission just because-"
Jiraiya plugged his ears until the rant finally cooled down. He knew what he was asking was suicidal for most people. Then again, Tsunade wasn't "most people."
"I'd do it myself, but Hiashi's information network is too good. I need to be out of the area when it's done to avoid suspicion. The Old Man is unable to move. You're the only one who can do it."
"How am I any less suspicious than you?"
"As far as Hiashi knows, you're on the other side of the world right now working in a mental hospital, remember?"
"Just because I only talk to you and the Old Man, doesn't mean that he's unaware of my movements."
"It's very unlikely." He said dryly.
"What you're asking is impossible. I'm sorry, Jiraiya. I can't do it."
"Sure, you can. Just imagine it's me you're hitting, knock them out and alter their memories. That is what you were practicing in that mental hospital, right?"
"For strictly benign purposes."
"You're sure it has nothing to do with those debt collectors?"
"So what if I can do it? You don't even know if he's there."
"He's there, Tsunade."
"Even if he is, it wouldn't make a difference. There's no way I can get past their perimeter."
"I've already taken care of that." He chuckled.
"Let's just say I called up a couple of girlfriends to go sweet talk the guards."
"Does that even work on Hyuuga?"
"They do have dicks, you know."
"What?" He asked innocently.
"Is now really a time to joke around?"
"I'm not joking."
"You'd use such base tactics? You sicken me."
"If it works, it works."
"You could've come up with something else."
"It doesn't matter! It was the best thing I could think of at the time!"
"You use hookers in your plan and I'm supposed to take you seriously?"
"This is serious Tsunade. I called you because I know you can do it."
His urgent tone sobered her. That in turn brought up painful memories.
"But…but what if there's blood?"
Jiraiya grit his teeth. He was usually a very patient man, but this was a very unusual circumstance. He didn't have time to fuck around.
"If you don't do it, Naruto will spill more blood than you have ever seen! He'll do it willingly. Do you want that to happen?"
"His true nature doesn't automatically make him cruel. Not all of them are like that."
"You're avoiding the question." He pressed.
"I'll do it."
He let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. "Good."
He hit the call button again and asked for the computer to dial "Haku."
"Jiraiya?" The transvestite pimp asked. "Looking to get one of my girls for a late night booty-call?" It was an inside joke between them.
"Not tonight, Haku. Listen, I need every available girl you have to show up at the Hyuuga estate in two hours."
He cut him off. "I'll triple their hourly rate."
"O..kay. Sure, I'll send them over. What are they supposed to do?"
"Sweet talk the guards and cause as much mayhem as possible."
Haku frowned. "What are you planning?"
"To pay you triple so you don't ask questions. That's what I'm planning." He said bluntly.
"Alright, but I do so love hearing about your perverted little schemes." Haku teased.
"Maybe another time."
"But, Jiraiya darling-"
He hit another button on the steering wheel.
"Call ended." The computer said.
All the pieces were in place. Now all he needed to do was fulfill his part of the plan and pray to god that the whole thing worked. Jiraiya pressed the petal closer to the floor. The sooner it was over with the better. If everything went according to plan then Naruto would live a life of peace, free of the dark reality to which he belonged.
If everything went according to plan.
Twenty years later…
Two bullets punched through the chest of his expensive suit. He was dead before he hit the ground. The sickly man lay in a pool of his own blood.
A tall young man stood over the body and frowned. He hated targets with so little spirit. The man had given up before the fight had even begun.
"What a waste of time."
He turned away and straightened the collar of his red leather jacket. His eyes trained over his weapon, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol of polished black steel. He deftly removed the silencer he had attached to it specifically for the assignment. He clicked the release button and the clip fell neatly out of the hand grip. It had four rounds left in it. Without looking he loaded two more pieces of cold brass into the narrow carrying space. The clip slid smoothly back into the bottom of the gun.
A rag appeared from his pocket to clean it off. When his task was completed he nodded in satisfaction. The gun disappeared in a poof of smoke. Sealing techniques really rocked.
A woman with a red stripe on each of her cheeks exited from the elevator and smiled politely at him.
Unfortunately for her, Inuzuka Inc. would not be merging with Kaguya Limited. The last living member of the clan had just passed from the world along with his inheritance.
He smiled back and hit the button for the ground floor.
He left the building just as the police arrived. People were already gathering around the building. He walked through the crowd with practiced ease and turned down a side ally. He whistled a happy tune as he turned the corner and made his way to a set of stairs. He took the steps two at a time. Perfectly completing a mission always put him in high spirits.
On the second story of the parking garage a man with long white hair stood waiting with his arms crossed.
"Took you long enough." He said.
"It was a twenty-two story building. What was I supposed to do? Base-jump?"
"Your lip is as bad as your father's was."
The young man smirked. "As bad, or as good?"
Jiraiya shook his head. "Sometimes I wonder how things ended up this way."
"It probably had something to do with the entire country banning your ero-novels and declaring you a public enemy." Naruto said cheekily. "Then you had to stay underground with the boss."
The hermit puffed up with pride. "And since then sales have been better than ever!"
"Is that really something to be proud of?"
"Of course." He said seriously. "A man is not a man until-"
"Yeah, I really don't want to hear it. Let's get going ero-sennin."
Jiraiya sighed. "Kids have no respect for their elders these days."
He opened the door and slid into the driver's seat of his newest-model sports car. Naruto got in on the passenger side. A moment later and they were off and rolling.
The greens and reds of the traffic lights blurred as rain began to beat steadily down onto the roof of the car. They continued to bicker about whatever they felt like until Jiraiya put on his "serious" face.
"Kakashi has something big waiting for you when we get back. Bigger than anything you've ever done before." He said in an unusually quiet voice.
"Bigger than the hit on the Haruno family?" Naruto asked skeptically.
"Pffffft- there's no way anything could be more important than sealing the lips of that pink-haired bitch for keeps."
Said "bitch" and her family had been his first and only A rank assignment. That she was the girl that had strung him along in middle school and made his life a living hell was only an added bonus.
"Believe me, it's much more important than that."
Silence filled the air when he didn't continue speaking.
"Well, what is it?"
The old master hesitated. "…Naruto, there are certain points in our lives that define what we will become."
"Are you going to start getting all philosophical on me again?" He pouted.
"Shut it boy! I'm having a moment!" Nobody was allowed to interrupt him during the rare times when he was actually speaking useful words of wisdom. AKA words that didn't pertain to the ways to increase one's chances of getting laid, and how to get girls to do things they normally wouldn't using drugs and booze. "Though we may dictate our own actions and walk through most of our lives freely, there are some things that are unavoidable. These choices make up what most refer to as 'destiny.' No matter what happens, you must always face these choices with courage."
Naruto stared at him with his mouth open. There were only two possible explanations. Either his master was bestowing him with profound wisdom or he was drunk.
He was pretty sure he knew which one it was.
"Ero-sennin, are you drunk?"
"Of course not!" He snapped. "Now shut up and listen!"
"Sorry." Apparently he had been wrong.
"This is important Naruto, one of the most important things I'll ever teach you. You can't let anyone make decisions for you. You must carve out your life with your own hands. Got it?"
"I think so."
"Good." He looked his student straight in the eyes. "Naruto, I want you to decline the mission."
"What? I thought you said I had to make my own decisions!" He yelled.
"Didn't Kakashi ever tell you the number one rule in this business?"
"Ermm…" The teenager wracked his brain. "Never abandon your friends?"
"Nope." He laughed. "What sensei says, goes."
"Bullshit he never said anything like that! Screw you, I'm taking the mission!"
The old pervert chucked. It was just too easy. The boy had fallen for it hook, bait line and sinker.
It was really a sad and terrible thing when he looked at it. It was his fault that Naruto had gotten involved in all of this. His rage had led both of them down a path of vengeance that would ultimately solve nothing. Things in the past could not be undone. He knew that fact very well. Her absence reminded him everyday.
If only that bullet had hit a quarter inch to the right.
Tsunade had rescued Naruto and made it all the way to the Old Man before the bullet that had penetrated her heart finally killed her. Her strongest medical jutsu and sheer concentrated power of will had kept her alive for an entire hour before she collapsed. If the Hyuuga hadn't pursued her she would have had time to remove the bullet and save herself. Instead she had wasted half an hour shaking them before she got to the Old Man's house.
He had gotten there just in time to hold her hand as the light faded from her eyes, just in time to hear the words "I've always loved you" pass over her lips with her last breath.
It had destroyed him. No amount of tears could ease the pain. He had lost his best friend, his pupil and the love of his life. They had taken everything from him.
All he had left was Naruto. Tsunade's hopes and dreams lived on through him, represented by the necklace she had tied around his neck before she died. Jiraiya gave the boy everything he'd never had in his life. He loved him as if he was his own son. He loved him so much that he lied to him. Naruto knew nothing of his lineage and the world he came from. He didn't know about his parents' murder, Tsunade's death, or the Old Man. All he knew was that he had been an orphan and Jiraiya had adopted him.
As Naruto grew, Jiraiya began to feel happiness again. The wounds of the past had slowly closed up bit by bit. By the time Naruto was ten Jiraiya finally felt like himself again and began to write his novels. His novels were what had led them to seeing Kakashi again. Kakashi had sparked Naruto's interest, and before he knew it, they were inducted into the guild. The guild was an organization of assassins, a brotherhood really. When the last boss had died Kakashi had taken over. The guild had provided them a safe haven and a steady line of work.
He struck a deal with Kakashi and told him about Naruto and the events surrounding him. His pupil's pupil had vowed to secrecy and was good to his word.
Jiraiya had made the choice to have the boy trained. If he was going to live in a world of death then he would have to become one who dealt death. On top of his formal training Jiraiya taught him everything the boy could learn. Unfortunately, his seal interrupted the flow of power from his core, and so he was unable to do more than the most basic of techniques.
One thing had led to another. Jiraiya realized that, through Naruto, he had the means to achieve vengeance. The idea had been too tempting to resist.
And now here they were.
With this everything will come full circle. It'll be all over after this. Finally… Jiraiya felt tears building behind his eyes. You could have escaped that night, but instead you decided to hide your precious son. I understand you did it willingly and without regrets, but I swear we'll make them pay. We'll take them down one by one, starting with the friend who betrayed you… Minato, Kushina, Tsunade! Your sacrifice will not be in vain!
She felt fantastic. Every inch of her was pressed up against him. Her tongue tangled with his in a frenzy of unadulterated lust. He cupped her ass with his hand and ground into her, savoring each thrust. Her big tits…
Knock! Knock! Knock!
…bounced up and down as she rode him, screaming in pleasure….
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Her breath was hot in his ear, whispering for him to fuck her harder…
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
"God damnit!" Kakashi finally lost his temper and marched over to the door. He opened it to see his sexy secretary standing with her clipboard in hand. "What is it, Anko? It better be important."
"Uzumaki Naruto and Master Jiraiya have returned, sir." She said politely.
"You interrupted us to tell me that?"
"Whatever, you're going to pay for this with your ass later." He smirked. "Literally."
"Y-yes, sir." She turned and walked back to her desk.
Kakashi peered back into his private quarters and stared at the latest release of Icha Icha sitting on his bed. There was no point in continuing to read now, the mood had been ruined.
He sat down is his large leather chair and opened one of the big desk drawers. Inside was a large folder of information he had collected about the next target. Normally he wouldn't have considered such a job, but the pay was just too high to ignore. What was being requested was absolutely outrageous and boarding on just plain stupid. Kakashi had decided to investigate.
He had to hand it to the man- he had covered his tracks well. The anonymous employer had stayed just that: anonymous. Even his best spies had been unable to dig up anything on him. He was either a nobody with a vendetta and a lot of money, or someone with a great deal of power who had enough resources to expertly avoid any connection to the mission request. Kakashi was betting on the latter.
When Jiraiya had insisted they give it to the boy Kakashi had refused him outright. It was only after a great deal of persuasion that the old hermit had managed to bring the Hatake around to his way of thinking.
The ten copies of signed first edition Icha Icha novels that sat in his private library were proof that Jiraiya was indeed a man of great wisdom.
It wasn't the sole reason Kakashi had agreed, but it had certainly helped. The job also specified that it had to be someone no older than twenty years of age and no criminal record. The only way to get to the target was to earn the trust of her keepers.
Kakashi glanced over the details one last time. Everything was in order. It was time.
"You can send them in now, Anko."
He watched her strut to the door, enjoying the way her hips swayed back and forth. He had taken her in out of pity. He would never have imagined that she would become his secretary, let alone his lover. He still had nightmares about the first time she had seduced him… that had been an interesting night. The first time it happened he almost killed her on instinct. She managed to calm him down enough to explain that she was only turned and not born. It had been hard to deal with at first, but eventually he had grown accustomed to it, even enjoyed it. Her allure only increased because of what she was. She was dangerous, and nothing was sexier than danger. Yeah, she was a handful alright…
"You may enter." She opened the door and the two walked inside.
"You're late." Kakashi said flatly.
"Like you're one to talk!"
"Shut up, Naruto. He may be a lazy, perverted, undisciplined idiot, but he's also our guild master, and that's what counts."
"Thank you Jiraiya, that's enough."
The pervert bowed. "Of course."
They seated themselves across from him and waited patiently. Kakashi always found it a little unnerving that his sensei's sensei was serving beneath him.
He shuffled the papers on his desk and moved them to one side, placing the folder in front of them. He studied the stoic face of the guild's number one rookie. He appeared to be composed, but the experienced assassin could tell he was nervous.
"Has he told you anything yet, Naruto?"
"A little. Just that it was something really big."
"Good." Kakashi nodded. "You understand that we can't tell you anything unless you accept first, right." It was a statement, not a question.
"You also understand that this is an S+ rank request. It's not like anything you've ever done before."
"Ero-sennin said it was even bigger than the hit on the Haruno family." He confirmed.
"That's right. That was only a low A rank. I believe it had a predicted success rate of 40%?"
"Something like that."
Kakashi put his elbows on his desk and rested his chin on his fists. He locked his single visible eye on the young man in front of him.
"The predicted success of this request is no more than 5%. Are you still willing to take it?"
Naruto glanced over at his master. So this is what he meant about choices. Sneaky bastard… trying to warn me to think it through, were you?
"Courage", a voice inside him whispered, "face it with courage." It hadn't been his thoughts and nobody else had spoken. Whether he had imagined it or not, his choice was the same.
"Yes. I'll take it."
Kakashi clapped his hands together and smiled. His eye closed into a 'U'; it was his happy face.
"Great! Take a look in the folder on the desk."
Naruto picked it up and opened it. Inside was a detailed schematic of a massive complex, some background information on the family, and the method he was to use to accomplish his mission. Paper-clipped to the side of the folder was her picture and name.
"Hyuuga Hinata." He frowned as he read it. That name sounded awfully familiar… "Wait a minute. Hyuuga Hinata? As in the Hyuuga Hinata? The heiress to the second most powerful clan in the country? That's insane!"
"I told you it was big, didn't I?" Jiraiya said angrily. "This is why I told you to think it through!"
"How the hell could I when I didn't have any idea what the mission was?"
"It's not like there isn't a plan, Naruto. You're not going in half-cocked or anything." Kakashi assured him. "Read the details first."
The Uzumaki calmed himself and did as he was told. After ten minutes he had managed to skim through most of it. Apparently the Hyuuga were hosting some kind of event to select bodyguards for the royal family of the clan. According to the guild's spy network the Hyuuga were having a lot of inner conflict. There were two parts of the clan, the main family and the branch family, masters and servants, and both seemed to detest each other. Their recent rise in power in the last twenty years had earned them a lot of new enemies. The concern was that if an enemy clan attacked the main family, the branch family might do nothing to prevent it. There was no possible way for a servant to harm their master, but they could certainly refuse to act.
In other words, they were paying top dollar for highly skilled and trustworthy bodyguards, people who would give their lives to keep their charge safe. It was Naruto's job to outshine the competition and get selected for the most important job of all.
Being Hyuuga Hinata's Guardian.
"It's kind of sad." He said, looking at her picture. "She can't be older than six or seven-years-old by the look of this picture."
Kakashi cleared his throat. "Actually, Naruto, that photo was taken about fifteen years ago. She's about the same age as you are, give or take a few months."
"Oh… well I guess that makes it a little easier. She's probably some mean spoiled brat anyway."
"Why do you say that?" Jiraiya asked, genuinely interested at where his assumption had come from.
"Well look at her eyes- she's blind. She must be waited on hand and foot."
Kakashi and Jiraiya exchanged glances before bursting out into a fit of mutual hysterics.
"What?" Naruto cried. "What's so goddamned funny?"
"She's not blind, you idiot." Jiraiya said, wiping a tear from his eye. "The Hyuuga possess a special trait in their genetics that gives them all fair skin, dark hair, and tinted-white irises."
Naruto was not convinced. "That sounds pretty fishy to me, ero-sennin."
"Really it's true," Kakashi agreed, "they all look like that.'
"If you say so…"
"So I'm just supposed to waltz in, become her bodyguard, get close to her, and kill her?"
"Yes and no." Kakashi replied. "The assignment is the assissation of Hyuuga Hinata. However, what concerns us is we haven't been able to trace the request. For now, this mission is recon only. We want you to discern the origin of the request. Its important we understand the rammifications of carrying out the mission. You will work under the assumption that you are Hyuuga Hinata's Guardian, at least for the time being."
"Isn't that kinda..." Naruto furrowed his brow. "I don't know... kinda against the rules?"
"Not exactly." Jiraiya answered. "We can pull out of the mission later, if we have to. It depends on if pulling out will have a bigger fallout than carrying out the mission."
"Jiraiya is right. If the wrong person requested this it could badly upset the balance of power. We need to find out who the employer is and weigh our options first."
"This is giving me a headache." Naruto complained. "I'm not good at this kind of stuff... why me?"
"That is for us to know, boy." The old pervert said. "Suffice to say that you are exactly what this mission calls for."
"Why don't you go get something to eat, Naruto? Jiraiya and I need to catch up a bit."
"I understand. When should I expect to start?" It was clear he had outstayed his welcome.
"Jiraiya will drive you to the event tomorrow morning. It's a five and a half hour drive, so be up bright and early at 0400, alright?"
He gave them the thumbs up and the cheesiest smile he could manage. "Got it!"
Naruto exited in the room with a spring in his step. Jiraiya watched him go with a look that couldn't be described as anything else other than parental concern.
"Hey, don't look like that. It was your idea, not mine." Kakashi said.
"I know." Jiraiya admitted. "I just wish all of this had never happened."
"We all wish for a lot of things. Unfortunately, the world doesn't listen very often to wishes." He shrugged. "At the very least you were able to get him out of Hiashi's reach."
"And I'm throwing him right back into the lion's den."
"It's not like he'll be expecting anything. Everyone was sure Naruto died, Tsunade made sure of that by using that jutsu of hers, right?"
"And nobody even has any photos of Naruto, not even as an infant. His alias is as solid as anyone else in the guild, if not better. There is no record of his birth. They don't even know his name."
"You're right, you're right. I just can't help but be suspicious about the job. Isn't it a little too convenient for us? Doesn't it almost seem like bait?" Jiraiya leaned back in his chair. "I'm worried."
"Well that's obvious." Kakashi said bluntly. "So what is it that has you so paranoid?"
"Naruto is… unstable." He said slowly.
"You mean mentally? He seems well enough to me."
"No, I mean… you know."
Kakashi raised his eyebrows. "Oooh. That's what you're talking about. You think that being around others of his kind might affect him?"
"Naruto himself?" Jiraiya saw Kakashi nod. "No, it's the gift he inherited from his parents I'm worried about. I've seen it, Kakashi. He's able to draw on its power."
"You didn't tell me about this before."
"You didn't need to know about it before. It's only a trickle, but Naruto is consistently stronger than he should be. When he gets angry, upset, or is in danger, it's even more noticeable."
"If it hasn't been a problem so far, then I don't see why we have to worry about it now."
"Normally I would agree, but I've been checking up on the seal from time to time. It's not happening very fast, but it is beginning to weaken. Naruto's blood is too strong to be contained forever."
Kakashi rubbed his forehead. He was getting a headache. "When are you going to tell him?"
"When all of this is over. When it will no longer threaten who he is."
"So what's the problem then? If he pulls this thing off, everything will be fine, right?"
Jiraiya shook his head. "There's one major problem with the plan. Minato told me there was a way to destroy the seal completely. It was a fail-safe in case something went wrong and they had to cancel the technique."
"Do you know what it is?" Kakashi asked.
Jiraiya's gaze turned to Anko, who was dutifully working away in the corner. Kakashi followed his gaze. After a moment his single eye widened in alarm.
"Don't tell me…" He trailed off.
"It's not quite as bad as you think. It can't be a turned it has to be a born, and one of power roughly equal to his. I doubt even Hiashi has the strength of two of the Great Houses combined."
Kakashi's brows furrowed in confusion. "I don't understand what has you so upset. If that's the case…"
"There might be someone whose able to do it." Jiraiya said ominously.
"What have you heard?" Kakashi asked.
"I've heard rumors." The hermit said. "Rumors about that girl."
"That she's timid as a flower… and stronger than the devil himself."
"Stronger than her mother and father?"
"The Hyuuga have a hit-and-miss thing going on with their bloodline. They've become too inbred. Hiashi and his wife were one of the few pairs that weren't related in some way by blood."
"In other words…"
"In other words," Jiraiya continued, "she is not only born, but true born. Just like Naruto."
"I… I need to think about this." Kakashi said slowly. "Let's just leave it for now and talk about it after we see if he gets past phase one of the plan."
"Very well. I'll call you as soon as I know."
The old hermit stood and exited the room. Kakashi decided he needed to do something to relieve his stress.
"Hey Anko." He yelled out into the waiting room.
"Remember when I said you'd pay with your ass? Well it's time to pay up."
Naruto slept almost the whole time he was in the car. He only woke up once to go to the bathroom at a gas station. They got into the area fifteen minutes earlier than expected, at 0915. That gave them forty-five minutes until the gates were opened and the event started.
Jiraiya spent ten minutes driving around until they found a good coffee shop. They each got a bagel with egg, bacon and cheese, as well as a large cup of coffee. Jiraiya took a black brew straight up, Naruto took a mocha with extra whipped cream. He teased the boy about it for a full five minutes before Naruto threatened to spill his drink on his expensive suit. Then it was Naruto's turn to rag on him for "being soft." By the time they parked and made their way to the large amphitheater it was 0955.
"I didn't think that there would be this many." Naruto said quietly as they stood in line.
"Don't get distracted. 90% of these guys are all punks." His sensei assured him.
There were over a hundred of them, and the number was only getting bigger. By 11am the official count was one hundred and sixty-three. The doors closed and an elegant looking youth made his way to the podium.
"Greetings." The speaker began. "My name is Hyuuga Neji. I am in charge of the security forces at the Hyuuga estate. You are all here to apply for the sixteen spots available, two of which are limited to protecting a single person. The selection process is quite simple. You will all fight until there are only sixteen of you left. The remaining sixteen will then proceed to the stage where I will test them personally to judge their worth. These grounds have been secured by the clan to allow you to participate without reservation. The only rules are no firearms, no lethal weapons, and above all, no killing another combatant. Release wavers only go so far…" He smiled sadistically. "Good luck."
"Wait… that's it?" Naruto exclaimed out loud. "Ero-sennin isn't this a bit… Ero-sennin?"
His master had mysteriously disappeared. 'Figures.' He thought. 'Might as well go and wait it out somewhere. No use tiring myself out on the weaklings.'
The fighting broke out almost immediately. Naruto was forced to take down a few opponents, but with a little effort he was able to work his way to the stage where Neji and several other Hyuuga were observing the battle. They were all giving him the strangest looks. He stared right back at them and turned to watch the bloodshed. It was very difficult to see what was going on other than that the crowd quickly thinning. Within five minutes less than half of the original hundred sixty were left standing.
"You are not fighting?" Neji asked him.
"You never said it was against the rules." Naruto pointed out.
One corner of Neji's lips quirked up in a quasi-smile. "You will have to fight eventually."
"Yeah, but this way I wont waste any energy on the small fries."
Their conversation ceased after that. Ten minutes later there were under twenty-five contestants left. One particularly vicious looking guy with red eyes was dropping people left and right.
"That guy looks troublesome." A voice said from behind him. "What a drag."
Naruto turned around in surprise. "Shika? What are you doing here?"
The senior guild member shrugged. "I was sent here to keep an eye on you."
The blonde boy chuckled. "They would, wouldn't they?"
The last few remaining excess fighters finally seemed to realize that two entrants were sitting on the sidelines and decided to take down what they thought were a couple of weaklings. One man came forward with a straight punch that Naruto caught with his open palm. He squeezed his hand until the bones in the man's fingers began to crack and he crumpled over in agony. A second man came at Shikamaru with a bokken. The lazy man simply side stepped and kicked him into a tree. Those last two made the count exactly sixteen.
Neji walked up to the podium again. "That's it. Everyone who's still standing come to the stage."
They all filed up looking battered and bruised with the exception of himself, Shikamaru, and the weird guy with red eyes.
"You, what's your name?" Neji asked the dark-haired man.
The Hyuuga looked unimpressed. "The sole remaining member of one of the Twelve Great Houses." He stated. "I've heard about you."
"Really?" Sasuke asked dully. "What have you heard?"
"That you'll do anything for the right price."
"Let's see what you've got."
The podium was moved off of the stage, as were the other contestants.
"The rules are simple. We will fight until I am satisfied, you are knocked out, or thrown off of the stage."
"And if I win?" Sasuke asked arrogantly.
The first thing Naruto noticed was how fast they were. It was unlike anything he had ever seen before. He had no difficulty keeping up with it.
The other contestants were turning pale.
Is that what I look like to other people?
Sasuke did a back bend under a straight jab to his chest and followed through into a spinning leg sweep. Neji flipped over his head and came at him with a backhanded blow. The Uchiha deftly grabbed the extended arm with both of his and twisted. Neji was forced into a barrel roll motion in midair. He managed to land on one foot and spring off of the other. Mild surprise was evident on the Uchiha's face, but he was still able to side step and come down with an elbow strike to the Hyuuga's back. The more agile Neji was able to drop to the ground and push off of his hands for a handstand kick. It grazed Sasuke's chin and he retreated a few steps, thrown off balance.
So that's the power of the last Uchiha eh? Naruto smiled. I'd bet my last pack of ramen he's holding back.
"I've seen enough. You will be Hinata-sama's bodyguard."
Naruto didn't let the Hyuuga's words get to him. He hadn't fought him yet.
After ten more minutes only Shikamaru and himself remained.
"You there, with the dark hair. You're up." Neji said.
"I'd rather pass. Just put me in with the regular detail."
"You must fight." The Hyuuga said sternly.
Shikamaru made his way up to the stage looking shamelessly bored. He bowed with his hands in his pockets. This done, he looked up to view the clouds.
Neji declared the beginning of the match and waited, beckoning for Shikamaru to attack.
"You are to attack first." He said.
A visible throbbing vein appeared on Neji's forehead. He charged the lazy boy and prepared to hit him with a double palm strike. At the last moment he found himself with his hands in his pockets looking at the clouds.
"I think that one looks like a ferret. How about you?"
"What have you done?"
"You can use the ancient arts?" Neji inquired.
"Not really," Shikamaru said, releasing the jutsu, "I just know a few parlor tricks."
"Very well." He turned his gaze to Naruto. "Ok, big shot. You're last."
Naruto smiled and jogged up to the stage. Despite the heat of the late morning, he wore his red leather jacket with the orange maelstrom design on the back. A white t-shirt, black jeans, white tennis shoes and red headband completed the look.
He pulled on his black fingerless gloves and tucked the necklace auntie Tsunade had given him (before she passed away) under his t-shirt.
"Alright, ready." He said confidently.
"You may begin."
The second the last syllable had left Neji's mouth Naruto burst forward with every cent of speed he could muster. He had noticed that the Hyuuga hadn't tired in the slightest since the beginning of the bouts. Naruto had nearly unlimited stamina himself, but somehow he doubted he would last long against the Hyuuga if he didn't give it everything he had. Despite his efforts, Neji easily dodged his punch and delivered a hard poke to his side. Naruto fought down the anger he felt from his enemy making fun of him and focused on the fight.
If I can get him to take me head-on I can win. He thought.
"Is that it? A poke? Don't tell me your not man enough to hit me in the face?" He taunted.
Neji looked unperturbed, but Naruto sensed the slight shift in his stance. He sprung forward to meet his opponent in the center with a punch as Neji charged with a palm strike.
Okay, just like Jiraiya said. Focus your energy at one point…
The extra power flowed into his arm and he punched with all his might. Neji slammed his palm into his fist and was immediately pushed back by the superior force. He recovered by turning the punch to the side and moving past Naruto for another cheap shot. The Uzumaki was ready for it and extended his leg to trip the Hyuuga. Neji was forced to jump over the obstruction and was unable to connect with his intended strike. He landed gracefully and turned around. That same twitch played at the edge of his mouth.
"Impressive. You can channel ki into your attacks. It's not much, but its better than most can do. You will be sufficient as Hanabi-sama's bodyguard." He said with satisfaction.
"Hmph, you haven't even seen my trump card yet."
"Oh?" Neji sounded skeptical.
Naruto dug deep inside himself, tapping into the core of his energy. After a moment he was able to force a trickle to the surface for conscious use.
He made a single hand sign and there was a large poof of smoke. When it cleared, not one, but three Naruto's stood on the stage.
"More tricks?" Neji assumed. "That looks impressive, but there's no way it's the real thing."
"Really? Are you sure about that?" Naruto challenged.
Neji's eyes seemed to pulse and the veins around them became visible. After a few seconds of close scrutiny he returned to normal.
"How many can you make?" He asked simply.
Naruto smirked. "As many as six when I'm in a real jam. They can only take a few hits, but anything I have on me at the time appears along with them. So if, for example, I had a firearm…"
The Hyuuga raised his eyebrows. "I have changed my opinion. You will be Hinata-sama's bodyguard. Uchiha Sasuke may guard Hanabi-sama."
"Hey wait a minute!" Sasuke yelled from the sidelines. "Isn't that kind of unfair? Why can't I just fight him?"
"You would loose." Neji replied evenly. "Come, we must go finalize your documents. When we are finished all of you will report to the estate in appropriate attire for duty at 5pm. Uchiha and… I'm sorry, I never asked your name. It's…?"
"Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto."
"You and Uchiha-san will speak with Lord Hiashi before you begin your duties. He will be available to see you at 6:30pm."
The combatants continued to finalize the paperwork. When they finished, Shikamaru took Naruto aside to tell him about the support role he would be playing. After that he took off to go cloud gazing while Naruto went to locate his wayward master.
Going on previous experience, Naruto scouted for the nearest bar. He found one a block and a half away and managed to get by the bouncer, who was half asleep anyway.
Sure enough, Jiraiya was sitting at a table schmoozing it up with a couple of girls.
"I should've known I'd find you at a bar." The Uzumaki muttered.
"Hey! Hey! How did it go?"
"I'm going to be her bodyguard… but…"
"What?" Jiraiya asked, distracted by the beauties at his fingertips. He didn't even congratulate his pupil on his success.
"Well, doesn't it seem too easy?"
"Perhaps." His master speculated. "But the Hyuuga are supposed to be able to see through any lie. If it's true then they would have nothing to fear, right?"
"What do I do?"
"Just make sure to lie indirectly by telling partial truths and you'll be fine. Remember, you're not there to kill her. Yet."
"Easy enough. I'm supposed to be there at 6:30pm. Can you try and get over to the hotel by 5:30pm? I need to pack my stuff and change into some better threads for when I meet Hiashi."
Jiraiya spewed out his drink. "You're meeting Hiashi in person right off the bat?"
"Yeah. Why, is that bad?"
"No… no…" The hermit reassured. "It's just unexpected. Be on your toes. You don't want anything to catch you off guard."
"Pfft, nothing ever catches me off guard." Naruto replied lightly.
"What if the girl is butt-ugly huh? Then what?" His sensei leered.
"Fortunately, I am not captivated by physical beauty and sex appeal, or lack there of, like you are." The blonde chuckled. "If that's all I have to worry about I'll be fine."
"Just don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"You mean anything you would do?"
"Don't worry I wont! See ya' later ero-sennin!"
Jiraiya made his best effort to dull the feeling of uneasiness in his chest by immersing himself in women and liquor.
The first thing Naruto did was secure the most important location in the Roiyaru district: the number one ramen stand. He had heard of the famed Ichiraku for a long time, but had never been there before. He was surprised to discover that it was just a father-daughter joint on the side of the road. Still, it said "Ichiraku" so it had to be the place. He walked over and sat at one of the six stools. One other seat was occupied. As soon as he sat down the person gasped in surprise and got up, quickly exiting the establishment. The person was wearing heavy robes with a cowl to hide her identity, or at least he thought it was a "her." He could smell the person's sweet scent even over the powerful aroma of the cooking ramen.
Even at a young age, Naruto's senses had always been more acute than others. As time went on he began to rely on smell rather than sight to judge people. For some odd reason people's smell tended to reflect their true self… or soul if one wanted to be philosophical. Most people had two distinct scents correlated with them, one pleasant, one unpleasant. Jiraiya smelled like sunshine and swamps, while Kakashi's scent was closer to dog and scorched earth. Occasionally he would find someone who had two pleasant scents, like Yamato's wood and damp fertile soil.
But this person was different… exceptional… something he had never encountered before… this person hadn't just smelled good… this person had smelled amazing.
Vanilla, jasmine, cinnamon, lavender and crisp mountain air. She didn't just have two wonderful scents, but five. Naruto concluded that A: it was a girl or else he was gay and B: she was probably some kind of goddess on earth or something.
An attractive girl in her mid twenties appeared behind the counter, interrupting his bizarre thoughts.
"Welcome to Ichiraku. My name's Ayame, what can I get for you?"
"Hi! I'd like two beef, two pork, three chicken, a miso, and a seafood special please." He saw the look of confusion on her face and realized he hadn't done the polite thing and given her his name. "Oh, oh yeah! Sorry, my name's Naruto."
"Right…" The girl seemed to hesitate. "So two beef, two pork, three chicken, a miso, and a seafood special?"
"That's right!" Naruto replied happily.
"Ayame, stop harassing the customer! Come and help me make the poor boy's order, he must be starving." The voice of an old man carried over the clank of serving ladles and pots.
The food turned out to be as excellent as he had heard it was. Naruto ended up ordering a few extra bowls just for the taste. When he was finally satisfied he left a large tip, but not before he got some information first.
"So… who was that person who was in here before me?" He asked.
"Oh, she comes here from time to time." Ayame said neutrally. "I think she comes to get away from her family or something. She's such a shy little thing…"
Well I was right about the girl part. Naruto thought happily, satisfied with his senses.
"One more thing. I've heard a lot of rumors about the heir to the clan that rules this province. I've asked a lot of people, but nobody seems to know anything about her..."
Ayame exchanged glances with her father. He shook his head in the negative and she cleared her throat. "I don't know that much… but most people say she's very kind. I've had friends who've caught glimpses of her and they say she's very beautiful."
Naruto waited for her to continue. When she didn't, he narrowed his eyes. They obviously know more and aren't going to tell me. At least not yet.
"That so?" He asked with curious enthusiasm.
"Alright, thanks for the meal. I'll definitely come here again."
And next time I wont be so friendly.
After that he decided to wander around the district so he could get a better feel for the area. He found a few places of interest including a casino, an arcade, a supermarket, an electronics shop and a karaoke bar.
Eventually he began to run short on time and headed back to the hotel. Miraculously, Jiraiya managed to get there only a few minutes late.
Naruto dressed in his best suit, which was a plain black. He undid the top two buttons of his orange dress shirt and forewent the tie. He removed the single earring he sported on his left ear and replaced it with a small stud that had a diamond inlay and a silver cast. He strapped his platinum gold Rolex onto his left hand. He remembered to gel his hair to give it just enough styling so that his short spikes looked cultured and natural at the same time. He looked at his brilliant blue eyes in the mirror and smiled.
"In lady-killer mode, now are we?" Jiraiya commented.
"Hey, whatever works, right?" Naruto countered.
"Alright," the hermit tossed him the keys to his sports car, "take good care of her."
Naruto caught the keys with ease. His alias was supposed to be twenty years old, two years younger than he actually was. It wouldn't make sense if he didn't drive, especially considering his clothes. He had spent a lot of mission money to afford everything he was wearing… He considered it only fair that Jiraiya had to donate his car for the sake of the mission. It was just an added bonus that it would drive him crazy to no end, worrying about the thing.
"And don't forget to keep your necklace underneath your shirt." Jiraiya yelled.
Naruto didn't argue. The the beautiful crystal necklace was supposedly worth a whole province. He tucked it beneath his shirt.
He drove over to the estate and was stopped at the gate by the new guard contingency. They recognized him from the event earlier that day and let him through without any hassle.
The Hyuuga estate was located on several dozen acres of land in the middle of the city, a scandalous amount of room considering how many people lived on it. A large central building was visible after five minutes of driving. It looked more like a castle than anything else. Several smaller buildings that were probably the barracks for security and housing for the branch family spotted the sides of the roadway within a few hundred yards of the mansion. His car rolled over a marbled circular driveway went around an elaborate courtyard with lush plant life and fountains.
They sure know how to live in luxury.
A valet took the black sports car and drove it off to the garage. Two branch family guards that stood in front of the massive double doors checked his ID and let him through.
At the end of the entryway he found Sasuke standing with his arms crossed. The Uchiha was wearing a dark blue dress shirt with khaki slacks and black shoes. On the back of the shirt was a red and white design that looked like a fan feeding the flames. Naruto idly wondered if the Uchiha did anything in his free time other than brooding; the most noticeable part of his outfit was the empty look on his face.
"Uchiha-san." Naruto said formally. "I see you're early."
"I got here a few minutes ago." He replied coolly.
"No need to get pissed man. We're both getting paid the same amount, right?"
Sasuke gave him a sidelong glance. "Yeah, but you get to deal with the quiet and well mannered beauty while I get stuck with her bossy brat of a little sister."
"So it's really true then?" Naruto asked. "The rumors?"
"No, that's just what I heard."
Sasuke turned to face him directly. His neutral expression morphed into a scowl.
"Let me make something perfectly clear. I do not like you. It's not personal, I just loath annoying people. I also loath people who force me to be around annoying people."
"Guess I'm at the top of the shit list then, eh?"
"Something like that."
The door to the right of them opened and Neji walked in wearing a formal kimono.
What kind of idiot wears a dress? Naruto puzzled. Guess they're really old fashioned out here.
"If you are wondering about my attire it is not what I normally wear. The combat gear I wore earlier today is what I prefer. However, tonight we have guests."
"No need to dress up for us." Naruto joked.
"Don't flatter yourself. Hinata-sama is simply sending another lord's son home crying."
"Eh? I thought she was really nice? I mean, that's what people say." The blonde questioned.
"Oh she is when she needs to be, in order to get what she wants."
Sasuke almost smiled. Almost. "Looks like I got the sweet end of the deal after all, dobe."
"Dobe?" Naruto questioned. "Well if I'm a dobe, you're a teme."
Neji cocked an eyebrow. "Please, do try to refrain from using profanities in this household. Lord Hiashi would be most upset."
"I'll keep that in mind."
They walked through a labyrinth of hallways decorated with artwork, statues, suits of armor, portraits of the Hyuuga main branch, plants, stained glass and just about any other fancy thing Naruto had ever imagined could be inside a castle. Nearly ten minutes later they came to what must have been the central hall. It was bigger than any of the rest and had a large long table that was probably capable of seating over fifty people.
At the end of the table was a man in a simple white kimono. To his right was a portly gentleman loaded with every type of jewelry known to man. Sitting next to him was a much younger man who was only a little less offensive than what was probably his father.
"You really must forgive her," the man in the white kimono said, "she can be touchy whenever she doesn't let herself eat."
"This is unacceptable! I demand my son be able to meet your daughter!" The fat man half-yelled.
"I'm afraid I don't find you acceptable either." The host sighed, sounding bored. "Neji, please escort these gentleman to the door."
"This is utterly preposterous I-"
Neji appeared behind the "guest" in an instant. His speed was completely different from what he had demonstrated earlier that day- Naruto hadn't even seen him move.
"I suggest you do as my Lord suggests." The branch member said menacingly. "I'm afraid I may harm you if you resist. It's certainly better than angering my Lord. He is far less forgiving than I."
"Th-that won't be necessary." The man bumbled. "My son and I were just leaving. Come, Choji!"
"Yes father." The young man said, stuffing his mouth with food as he left. "This was a great restaurant dad, let's come back again. The service kind of sucked though. I wonder if…" They disappeared into the hallway with Neji leading them.
Well that was interesting. Hiashi must be the kind of guy who believes in silent strength. He's dangerous.
The Hyuuga Lord turned his gaze to the Uchiha and the Uzumaki. His face brightened into a warm smile. It was most likely one reserved for strictly political purposes.
Naruto could sense that death lurked behind that smile.
Screw dangerous, this guy is terrifying! I hope ero-sennin was right about that "partial truth" stuff. Shit.
"Please, do sit down. I'm sorry if my guests offended you. It seems I will need to fire another matchmaker." He said pleasantly. "Have you gentleman eaten? I can have the servants bring something for you."
Naruto occupied the seat to the right of where a set of silverware and plates lay unused. If he were to guess, he would say it was Hinata's place. Sasuke sat where the fat son had been and pushed the disgusting dishes away, crossing his arms.
"I've already eaten, thank you." Naruto said politely, folding his hands in his lap and smiling. "I wouldn't mind an Italian soda, though."
"I'll take a coke." Sasuke said flatly.
"Very well." Hiashi rang a little bell on the table with a single movement of his index finger. No more than ten seconds later a servant appeared in plain dress and bowed deeply. "These gentlemen would like an Italian soda and a coke."
"If I may ask what flavor of soda, my Lord?"
Hiashi glanced at Naruto.
"Strawberry would be favorable."
The man nodded and left without a word. Hiashi made small talk until the drinks arrived. After they had each taken their first sip Hiashi wove his fingers together and leaned forward.
"My nephew tells me that you gentleman are both equally impressive."
"Hn." Sasuke acknowledged.
"I am surprised that you are both so young." Hiashi continued. "All of the other bodyguards hired, save one, was over the age of thirty."
Naruto shrugged. "I had a rough upbringing. My father was from the West and left my mother in the Hintama province. She died when I was very little. Since then I've worked here and there and picked up a few skills."
"I am an Uchiha." Sasuke explained at length.
"I see." Hiashi's eyes danced with dangerous intelligence. "Well, I suppose that explains it. Tell me, Uzumaki-san, where did you learn the ancient arts?"
Only partial truths huh? Oh, boy.
"Some old man raved to me about it when he was drunk. He said that I reminded him of someone. He ended up trading me a scroll with that technique in it in return for paying his tab."
"Yes, that would make sense." The Hyuuga said cryptically. "And you, Uchiha-san? Where did you learn you're skill?"
Sasuke scowled and activated his "skill." His eyes turned blood red, a single black dot in each eye spun around in a mesmerizing pattern. "I learned this after my brother slaughtered my family."
"So that is the legendary Sharingan." Hiashi said, ignoring Sasuke's tragic past. "A pity that you are the sole remaining member, the Uchiha were a mighty and noble clan."
"That they were."
A few seconds of awkward silence passed before the Hyuuga spoke again.
"Did my nephew outline your duties, Uzumaki-san, Uchiha-san?"
"No," Naruto replied, "and please call me Naruto."
"Very well, Naruto-san." He sipped at his cooling tea. "You are to guard my daughters at all times, day and night. You will each be given an adjoining room to your assignment. Hinata lives at the far end of the west wing. Hanabi and I are in the east wing."
"That is all?" Sasuke asked.
"You must attend to their every need. You are not only a bodyguard, but a servant, friend and confidant. You will treat my daughters with respect, and in return, I will do my best to make sure they respect you."
"It will be as you say." Naruto agreed.
"And the pay?" Sasuke asked.
"The pay will be 5,000 marks a day. Assuming you fulfill your roles adequately, this sum will be increased over time. Are we in agreement?"
5,000? Damn. If this job wasn't worth 50,000,000 marks I'd take this guy's offer in a heartbeat. Naruto nodded. "Yeah that's fine."
"Hn." Sasuke confirmed.
"Good." Hiashi beamed once more. "I shall have a servant escort you to your new quarters. Your possessions have already been unpacked. Naruto-san, a word if you please."
Naruto did his best to remain calm and not jump to any conclusions. He followed Hiashi off to the side of the chamber and waited patiently for him to speak.
"In regards to my eldest daughter," he began seriously, "she can be a bit… unstable at times. I highly recommend you remain vigilant. If ever you should notice her exhibiting strange behavior, you should pay special attention to her and treat her with kindness. I'm afraid my elder daughter's kind heart has begun to shrink since she began to isolate herself."
"Yes. She keeps to herself in the west wing of the manor. She appears for dinner and visits the hospital occassionally. She comes to required social events."
"She is a minimalist?" Naruto asked.
"In a manner of speaking." Hiashi confirmed.
"If that is all, I will be going."
"No, there is more." He paused and lowered his voice. "Sasuke will be informed of this too, but it is vital that nothing outside of the ordinary you see in this household become knowledge outside of this household. Do I make myself clear?"
"Lastly and most importantly… there may be times when my eldest suddenly becomes weak or tired. When this happens you must immediately notify a servant. Do not try and help her yourself."
Naruto was genuinely confused. "Don't help her?"
"If you do not refrain you will certainly regret it." Hiashi warned. "In time you will come to understand exactly what it means to be a member of this household. Until then, try not to make that choice and let the servants handle it."
"It will be as you say, Lord."
Hiashi brightened once more. "Good."
A servant who had been silently waiting stepped in and bowed. "My name is Waruji. I will show you to your quarter's sir."
Uzumaki... I wonder if. No, no it couldn't be. That boy died long ago. Hiashi corrected himself for his improper thoughts.
It simply wasn't possible.
Coincidence. That is all it is.
The room was overkill to say the least. It was more luxurious than any he had ever seen, and he had been to some ritzy places.
It had a sunken bathtub, a king sized bed with a canopy, a walk in closet the size of a small room, a fireplace, a T.V., expensive paintings, high windows, a polished wood floor, a down mattress, comforter and pillows… the list went on and on. His possessions had already been stored and organized. The only thing left to do was explore.
The first thing he did was check out the adjoining room. The floor plan was set up so that each room could be accessed individually by the hallway.
Both doors had numerous locks and powerful seals drawn on them. The only people capable of gaining entry were those with the keys and the proper "ki" as the servant had called it. In other words, the only people who could go in and out when they pleased were himself, Neji, Hinata, Hanabi and Hiashi. The door that joined their rooms together had no lock of any kind. The idea was that anyone who tried to get in would try and pick the locks, while unwittingly setting off an alarm that was located on both his and Hinata's bedside tables. No matter how skilled the person was, their "ki" would betray them.
Naruto had been skeptical at first. Waruji had made him cut his finger and press it to a specific area that seemed to have other fingerprints of blood in it. He did so on both doors and was rewarded with the markings glowing blue and a slight warmth in his hand. Waruji explained that "Master Hiashi" had personally reset the seals so an additional ki signature could be added. Sure enough, he was able to open the door without the alarm going off. To prove his point, Waruji went through the same process and opened the door, setting off the alarm. When Naruto had finally been convinced, Waruji politely excused himself and said that he might find "Hyuuga-sama" in the garden behind the manor.
After poking his head around in her room for a bit he began to get a feel for her. Despite the massive amounts of stuffed animals and other cute things in the room it still felt decidedly lonely. Her room was a near carbon copy of his scaled up with its own makeup counter and mirror in the corner. At the foot of the bed was a trunk that contained nothing but a few photos. The first was probably of her mother when she was little. Another was one of her father with her mother. The last was one of Hiashi, what must have been his twin, their wives, Hinata, and Neji. They were all smiling and looked genuinely happy.
There was no picture of Hanabi.
A few ornaments and pretty shells sat above her fire place. A single stocking indicated that she probably enjoyed western holidays like Yule. The drapes to her bed were closed. The bed was perfectly made, probably a chore done by a servant whenever Hinata left the door open in the morning. There was only a single stuffed animal that sat on top of her covers- a white and lavender cat. Naruto never fancied cats, they were solitary creatures and overall narcissistic furry little bastards. That Hinata identified with them didn't raise his opinion of her one bit.
On her beside table he noticed another anomaly, an old cream colored diary without a single entry in it. The manufacturing date identified it as roughly twelve years old.
As he began to exit the room he noticed something he had missed.
Everything. Was. Silver. And. Lavender. Everything.
She must really like those colors. He took a deep breath and inhaled the scent of the room. Vanilla, jasmine, cinnamon, lavender… crisp…mountain…air?
His nose must have been clogged. The scent he had smelled earlier that day had belonged to someone of profound purity. From the way Hiashi described his daughter, and the way her room looked, she must have been anything but. He dismissed the possibility from his mind. It was nonsense.
I should go find her. It's getting late. What kind of bodyguard am I? Not going to check on her at 7:15pm…
He headed out into the gardens in search of her. The task proved to be more difficult than he'd imagined- the place was huge. The garden alone must have been over four acres of intricate shrubbery, flowers, orchards, ponds, etc. He wandered around for over an hour trying to find her. In the end all he accomplished was getting completely and utterly lost. He forgot about trying to find her and just assumed she'd be back in her room when he returned. After another twenty minutes he was beginning to lose his patience.
8:35pm… damn. If it wasn't summer… well I still have at least half an hour of sunlight left…
His embarrassment turned into frustration, and his frustration into rage. Eventually he found himself cursing Hyuuga Hinata for making a fool out of him.
How could she be so selfish? Surely, the rest of the household must have been worried about her? What kind of person stayed out so late without telling anyone where they were? Not only was she a spoiled brat, but she was irresponsible too. He recalled Ayame's remark about her beauty and decided she must have been mistaken. Anyone who made him run in circles for hours could not possibly be beautiful in any way shape or form. What he had been told about her were strictly rumors. He conjured up an image of a pimple ridden, pale faced, thin lipped, beady eyed, fat girl.
Yeah... I bet she looks like that heheh. He thought. Isolating herself my ass! Hiashi probably just keeps her locked up so he doesn't have to suffer the embarrassment of his disgusting daughter.
He continued to fantasize and demonize her. Eventually he got so carried away he didn't even notice which way he was going- he just walked on automatic.
Suddenly he realized he only had ten minutes of sunlight left. As the sun began to set and twilight descended over the land, Naruto stumbled into a large clearing.
It was spectacular.
Apparently the back of the Hyuuga estate contained part of the ridge that surrounded the city. From over a hundred feet up a waterfall spilled water in silver ribbons to fill a small lake. Sakura trees surrounded it, reflecting the golden glow of the sun in their pale blossoms. The wind swept through the clearing and sent their petals up in a flurry. Naruto walked to the lake shore and sat on a rock, watching the petals meander on the wind.
He closed his eyes and enjoyed the simple pleasure of the air he breathed. There was a peace about the place, something soothing. All thoughts of the ugly girl and his assignment left him. His mind wandered and took him back to the happy memories of his childhood. A warm tingling feeling filled his body and he smiled. After several minutes he opened his eyes and started to leave.
At that moment the dying rays of the sun struck the waterfall.
His attention was drawn to the sight. The cascading blue twisted with orange-gold sunlight. Little dots of light appeared all around the clearing and on the lake. Fireflies came to play in the wondrous milieu provided for them. They flew about joyously, through the trees, over the lake, and all around him. From his seated position he caught one in the palm of his hand. Up close it was a very strange insect. He released it and watched its peculiar form slowly diminish into another point of dancing light.
Up close it's ugly, but from a distance it's beautiful.
The sounds of crickets filled his ears. He listened to their tune and was rewarded. He let his head drop and swayed with the beat that pulsed through the air. The waterfall created overtones in counterpoint to their string section. Hollow reeds and sticks added a chilling dissonance that resolved when the brass of a white gazebo's chimes joined in the song. Frogs croaked a bass line in time with the percussion of fish jumping to catch their evening meal. The result of the composition was a natural symphony that had him enchanted.
The lights, the peace, the serene beauty, the symphony, the steady pulsing of his heart, everything around him in the world in which he lived filled him with awe. Every moment in his life, painful, sad, happy, ecstatic, heartbroken, confused, excited, melancholy, every moment was beautiful. It was everywhere and everything in his eyes; an epiphany only boys with dreams could have.
It was perfect. Nothing in the world was better than this moment. Everything was connected in a seamless harmony. The sun moved to its lowest point and the light began to focus into a single spotlight. As it narrowed it began to center on top of the lake. He closed his eyes once more and wished for the moment to last forever and like all fairy tales, it ended. The fireflies disappeared and the music sections dropped out one by one. All that was left was the quiet sound of his breathing and the beating of his heart.
I've really spent too much time out here. I should start heading back. He thought, opening his eyes and preparing to stand. Something stopped him.
He paused in his motion and gave everything one last look, ingraining the image in his mind. He decided to wait another minute for the last of the light to fade. As darkness fell the light reached its pinnacle and formed in a single spot at the center of the lake. He followed the trail from the waterfall to the water, enjoying the miracles the simplicity of nature could conjure.
The trail ended.
Standing in bold contrast to everything he had seen and heard was something clearly not of the natural world.
There, illuminated in the golden silver light of the waterfalls reflection, in a swirling cloak of pink and white cherry blossoms, was a goddess.
She wore a plain kimono of light lavender with a silver flower pattern and trimming. The silky material flowed gracefully around her, mimicking the movement of the sakura petals. The sun caressed her creamy white skin, making it glow with beauty. Her face couldn't be described as anything other than angelic. Her hair flew in the wind as water splashed around her in icy blue bands. She spun in an intricate dance of gentle strength, literally walking on water. Her eyes closed in a blissful trance as she lost herself to music only she could hear.
The mere sight of her made his heart feel like it was going to burst out of his chest. In an instant he was overwhelmed and enveloped by the incredible power of her aura.
Something in the back of his mind was trying tell him that this was not what he thought it was. It was telling him to run away while he had the chance, that this was not something he was supposed to see. It was telling him to erase her image from his mind or forever suffer wanting a being he could not have. It practically screamed at him to get up and leave.
He would have, were it not for the deep and more powerful voice that told him to say. It was the same one that had told him to have courage and take the mission. Had it led him here?
"I didn't lead you. This is where you belong."
The words reverberated in his mind and sent shivers down his spine.
He lost himself in watching her. Even though it was covered by her kimono, he could tell that her figure was perfect. She was shorter than him by a few inches, but had long legs. Her bust was well in proportion to her shoulders, which were slightly broader than her hips. Her arms were long and supple, but solid. The fluidity of her movements bespoke of a lean musculature that provided her with quiet strength. Her neck curved perfectly beneath her chin and behind her head, weaving into the equally perfect curve of her back. Her rump was round and firm, small, but like everything else, it was also perfect for her body type. The noble features of her face were her greatest quality. Her angular jawline and round chin, proud cheekbones and straight nose gave her an air of complete superiority over other beings. The large eyes hidden behind her closed lids bore her courageous soul for all the world to see. Her slightly pointed ears made her look like an elf out of a fantasy novel.
He longed to feel her lips on his.
As the sun's rays dwindled and the wind died down he slowly began to come back to reality. He had no idea how long he had been sitting there, but he was suddenly aware that the moon was up and she was still dancing. She looked even more beautiful in the moonlight. It suited her better... she was dark, mysterious, cold, pale and pure.
Finally the movement began to slow until she came to stop in a final pose.
Her eyes opened and locked on his. Sky-blue met molten silver in a duel of wills.
Not blind... but genetic... whitish irises... Hyuuga…a Hyuuga… is she a Hyuuga? His brain was working painfully slow. ...Assignment...Hyuuga Hinata...in the gardens...look for Hinata...isolated...in the gardens...wait...is she... Hinata...Hyuuga Hinata... The name rang through his memory and he suddenly found it difficult to breath. Holy mother of god! That's Hinata? What the fuck?!
It was impossible. She was supposed to be the pimple ridden, pale faced, thin lipped, beady eyed, fat girl. Where the hell had this Hinata come from?
It is her, right? She's the only one that would be out here at this time of night... I came out here because Waruji said she was probably in the gardens. She isolated herself out here and... this is insane! This is out of this world! She is out of this world! Shit like this is not supposed to happen! Shit like this is not supposed to exist! Godamnit ero-sennin, what the fuck have you done? What if I have to complete the mission? How the hell am I supposed to kill that?
The stare-off continued. Finally, she lowered her pose and began to walk towards him. She possessed so much presence that each step she took made the air feel charged with electricity. The moonlight reflected in her eyes was inescapable. The goddess never broke her stride. Confident to a fault, elegant… and impossibly beautiful.
She had him.
"Did you enjoy my dance?" She asked in a cool alto.
Her question jolted him back into reality. "Y-yeah…"
"Did I say you were allowed to watch me?" Her voice was like a river, beautiful, full and strong.
"Did I say you were allowed inside my private sanctuary?" Her manner was disturbingly calm.
"Sanctuary?" He questioned dumbly.
"This," she gestured elegantly, "is my sanctuary. Nobody is allowed here but myself."
"Sorry?" He offered, backing up slowly.
She advanced. "You trespassed in my sacred sanctum. You defiled my dance with your presence."
"I…ummm-err, I mean.." He tried.
"Quit your stuttering." She demanded. "Now, what are you going to do to remedy this situation?"
Miraculously he was able to speak without tripping over himself. "Well, maybe I could-"
Her eyes narrowed into a deadly and focused glare; breath was stolen from him. "Enough chatter. You have five seconds to tell me why you are here before I send you to the afterlife."
For some reason he had the feeling she was serious.
"Well, you see I saw this add online and-"
"One." She said firmly.
"…and… uh it said that the Hyuuga were looking-"
"…for strong people so I showed up-"
"…to the meeting and made the cut so-"
"Four." The veins around her eyes began to bulge and she stepped closer. An awful power thrummed through the air that reminded him of nightmares and the darkness of night.
Naruto felt utter panic take control and his words choked in his throat.
"Five." Her hand began to glow blue and her elbow cocked back in preparation for a strike. The veins around her eyes bulged dangerously.
"InotherwordsI'myourGuardian!" He finished in a desperate frenzy of speech.
Her palm stopped an inch before his face.
"My Guardian." She said flatly. "That's the reason you're here?"
"Yes. That is why." He replied tensely
The girl exploded.
"Are you trying to insult me? Do you think someone as weak as you could become my Guardian?"
"Do you think I need to be protected?"
"Errrmmm-" Naruto fell back and landed on his ass, eyes wide with fear. So much for the pure and gentle goddess.
"You disgrace me with your very presence and now you wish for me to spare your life?"
Naruto covered his face with his hands and curled up into a ball. When nothing happened he opened one eye to see what was going on. What he saw took him completely off guard.
The young woman leered at him with a smirk on her face. "Hmph. Pathetic. You're not even worth my time."
She turned on her heel and walked away.
Naruto stared blankly into nothingness. She was fucking with me the whole time? Are you fucking kidding me?
"Are you really going to put up with that?"
Huh… who's there?
"Get up weakling!"
Suddenly he was on his feet and walking towards her. A deep seated power took control and demanded he get her attention.
She stopped and turned to face him without uttering a word. There was a look of mild confusion on her face. Then her eyes widened in what looked like understanding.
"Why did you call me?" She asked, her tone slightly softer than before.
His presence had changed as well. It was like he was addressing her as an entirely different person. The strength in his voice was not his own.
"I have been entrusted with the responsibility of being your Guardian. You may not want my protection, you may not need my protection, but my protection you will have."
She blew a strand of hair out of her face. "You are hardly necessary."
He glared at her. "Then I'll become necessary. I'll become strong enough to protect you from anything!"
"That's a bold claim." She said, remaining aloof.
"It's not a claim, it's a promise!"
His words hung, suspended in the air by a painful silence.
He might have to kill her. He probably would. Yet, he couldn't help but feel he'd just made a promise of a lifetime.
"Humans don't keep promises." She said cryptically.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing." Her features shifted ever so slightly, as if he had just answered an important question.
"Well, anyway that's a promise of a lifetime! I never go back on my word. That is my way of life!"
She couldn't help but laugh at him. He was a complete fool!
So why did she stop laughing?
Don't. Ignore. Me.
Her lips moved to form the syllables of some cutting remark. She was surprised when no sound came out.
"Well?" He asked impatiently.
She paused before rebuking him for his insolence. There was something… intriguing about this creature.
"I find you amusing. You may follow me."
She turned on her heel and walked away in long powerful strides, not caring to look back.
Naruto swallowed his pride and walked behind her. He realized he had just made one of those "choices" Jiraiya had been talking about only the day before.
That was so stupid you idiot! He told himself. You're not going to protect her from shit! You're supposed to kill her! Stupid, stupid, stupid! What did ero-sennin tell you about women and their mind games, huh?
Yeah, he was an fool alright.
Ten minutes later they arrived at the back door to the manor. How she had managed to guide them through the maze so quickly was beyond him. They rounded the corridors one by one until they were in front of their respective doors.
The woman glanced at the doors and noticed the new fingerprints.
"So you weren't lying." She observed casually.
"Of course not."
"What do they call you?" She asked.
"My name is Uzumaki Naruto. Most people call me by my first name."
She did not look convinced.
"I see. Well, goodnight then."
He made a show of clearing his throat when she reached to turn her door handle.
"Aren't you going to tell me your name? It's rude not to."
"Don't end your sentences with a preposition." She narrowed her eyes ever so slightly, like she could see right through him. "You already know my name." She stated coolly.
Something compelled him to speak.
"The only person allowed to refer to me as Hinata is my father. To you I am Hyuuga-sama, or Hime-sama. Make that mistake again and you will be punished."
Realizing he was outclassed, he did the only thing he could do: delude himself into thinking that he had the upper hand. So you want to play mind games do you? Alright, I'll play.
"Forgive me, Hyuuga-sama. I shall work to earn my proper place."
Before she could reply he shut his door. It was purely symbolic- she could walk into his room any time she felt like it.
He missed the look of curiosity on her face.
Naruto fell back into his bed and sighed.
Well, at least now he knew why the mission had such a low success rate. Even if the opportunity happened to arise, he probably still wouldn't be able to kill her. If Neji was capable of speed he couldn't even see, then what could she do? Would he even be able to summon his gun and get off a round before she killed him? Any way he looked at it he had his work cut out for him. His only hope was to gain her trust and learn more about her and the Hyuuga clan. Maybe that way he could find her weakness and defeat her. It wouldn't be his usual way of doing things, but hell, he'd try anything to get out of the mess he had just gotten himself into.
A part of him hoped that it wouldn't have to come to that. Maybe if he found out who the employer was he wouldn't have to kill her.
It would be a pity to kill something so beautiful.
No telling about the strange things I see in this household, eh? That Waruji guy commented about the garden like it was an every day thing. If this is normal, then what the hell is bizarre?
Everything sucked. His head hurt, bordering on a migraine from everything that had happened. He was parched from eating salty ramen and running around without any water. Then there was the slight pain in his chest, that he couldn't explain at all.
He reached his hand underneath his shirt and scratched. It didn't help much, but it distracted him at the very least. As sleep finally took mercy on him a black seal became visible over his heart. By the time he awoke it would already be gone. His last conscious thoughts registered her scent within his mind. Vanilla, jasmine, cinnamon…fresh mountain air…purity…loneliness…sorrow…
He was uncertain of how states of being had been added into his vocabulary of scents. In his current situation it was the least of his worries. He didn't know a single fact about her.
Except one: she was not the same girl from the ramen stand. Like the firefly, she was ugly up close...
and beautiful from a distance.
It was the very first time she had ever made an entry in her diary.
I find him interesting.
A/N: Next chapter, Yin and Yang.