It's finally Christmas Break! Yes! I am so sorry for not being able to update. :( I felt homesick... and worse, I fell ill again. I just recovered last week and I was absent for three straight days and that really sucked.
But I can say that I'm all better now. :)
With no further ado, here's chapter 29!
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN NARUTO.
Chapter 29: When Paths Cross Again Part I
Naruto couldn't believe it. He sat there not taking his eyes off the portal fearing that it would suddenly close and trap Hinata in there. For three straight nights, all he could do was sit on the ground and wait for the maiden to come out. He couldn't believe that all what he could do to help her in her training was wait for her to come out. Yes, he trusted her. A hundred percent without any doubt. But, can't he do anything else aside from this? Sit? Wait? Everyone knew that he was not a patient person—he'd rather jump into action he knew that would endanger his life than do nothing.
It has been three nights, after all. Still, she had not come out. Naruto was reaching his limit. It has been too long that Hinata was in that portal and they couldn't hear or see anything that's going on inside that place. It was worrying him so.
All of a sudden, the portal began glowing intensely. The phenomenon alerted Naruto, Tomoyo and Shinra. The blond-haired ninja was on his feet in a heartbeat and was on his way to charge into the huge door.
Shinra immediately grabbed his arm to stop him, "You mustn't, Naruto-dono! That is a place where only the Sacred Priestess is allowed to enter. Other people like us will be killed—even you."
"I already spent three long nights doing nothing while she's inside that place that I don't know training very hard! There's no chance that she's not hurt from that training… so I can no longer bear sitting around and waiting for her! And I already said that I don't care if some Holy Creature is only allowed to go in there. I won't let her disappear again." Naruto said and roughly shoved his arm away from Shinra. Before he could take another step closer to the portal, the intensified light started calming down but maintained its brightness. A shadowed figure began appearing in the light.
Naruto, Shinra and Tomoyo stood like statues on the floor as they waited for the shadow to completely reveal itself. Slowly, the figure advanced out from the light only to unveil the most beautiful girl—now woman, than Naruto had ever seen in his entire life. There was no doubt… no one will be able to match up with her beauty.
Hyuga Hinata stood with grace in front of them. She was very regal and elegant in her dark blue furisode; the dazzling ornaments on her head were no match to her pure beauty but they elevated her fairness more; her long dark hair fell gracefully behind her back and was full of radiance from the light behind her; her calm pale eyes was full of light that would give peace to anyone. She looked like a Goddess. The most beautiful one of them all.
"Hinata…" Naruto's breath was taken and he felt his heart skipping a beat.
Hinata smiled sincerely at him in pure bliss, trying her best to hold back her overflowing emotions. "Naruto-kun…"
In a blink of an eye, Naruto splinted towards her and enveloped her in a very tight embrace.
Hinata felt dissolving in Naruto's arms. Her heart was beating in an uncontrollable pace and that any second she could feel it going out of her chest. She reciprocated the hug and descended her face into his hardbound chest.
Naruto buried his face into the crook of her neck, taking in her sweet fragrance. "You're back… You came back…"
Hinata could only nod. She kept on holding back her tears.
"I was really worried. You were there for three straight nights—I won't ever forgive myself if anything were to happen again to you." He said as he held her tighter.
Hinata shut her eyes, "I told you, Naruto-kun… Nothing will ever happen to me again. I will never disappear… I will never leave you again. You have faith in me, right? That is what gave me strength to keep on fighting… and that strength… made me retrieve my memories." She slowly pushed back to look at his face but remained in his arms. She stared deeply into his ever mesmerizing blue eyes, "You give me strength to get back everything that was taken away from me."
Naruto gently touched her soft cheek, "Hinata…"
Hinata kept that smile of bliss on her face. She touched Naruto's hand that caressed her cheek, "Everything is back, Naruto-kun. I remember everything now. And never again I will forget."
Naruto smiled back at her, "I won't let anyone… or anything take you away from me ever again."
Hinata could only warmly accept his words. She felt her cheeks burning upon hearing his sweet protective words, but as much as she wanted to savor the moment, she still had to take care of other dilemmas first. She gently pulled away from Naruto's grasp and then turned to the two priestesses who looked very relieved in seeing her again. She appreciated how concerned they were but there were still things she wanted to clear up and know.
"Tomoyo-sama, Shinra-san. I think that it is the perfect time for us to finally talk." The Sacred Priestess said.
The two priestesses nodded. They all turned to go back down to one of the rooms in the temple to settle their discussion. Hand in hand, Naruto and Hinata walked… never letting each other go.
Hinata and Naruto were seated beside each other on a Zabuton, across them were Tomoyo and Shinra.
Tomoyo and Shinra both waited for this moment of Hinata's judgment. They expected for this to happen a long time ago right just when they were given orders by Maeko. They both knew they had to suffer consequences of lying and hiding everything from Hinata's loved ones—especially from Hinata herself.
"I know Rika-san is not here… but I have to start without her. After all, I cannot prolong this anymore." Hinata began, "As you can see, Tomoyo-sama, Shinra-san, I was able to complete the training. I came back being a full-fledged Sacred Priestess… that means I had already reclaimed the memories I once lost five years ago."
Tomoyo and Shinra nodded, but said nothing and just let her continue.
"I was finally able to get back what was once mine." The Hyuga maiden went on, "I met Maeko-sama who helped me in there to retrieve my lost memories. Both of us… we were victims of the Shamans assault five years ago. Unfortunately, she died fighting Masayo's brother, Domon. But I—" she turned to look at Naruto, "I was able to live because of Naruto-kun's chakra protecting me…"
Naruto stared back at her eyes deeply, feeling the sweetness and appreciation from her voice.
Hinata shifted her gaze back to the priestesses, "And then when I woke up… I was in that casket. I wondered where I was… I was so scared for it was so dark and I couldn't move my whole body. I couldn't breathe. It was so suffocating… it was so painful. The day after that, I can no longer remember who I was." She paused, "That time—I was in complete loss. I didn't know who I was, I didn't know who you were, I didn't know what to do. Until you began telling me the story of my life… that I was Tsuki, an orphan who had priestess skills that's why the Sacred Forest adopted me. I died conducting an exorcism, but was brought back to life. All these times until now… I lived believing your story. I kept on forcing myself to stop doubting about the life you told me that I once had because I trusted you all. I stopped myself from wondering if what you told me was the truth and if you were hiding something else from me. I stopped wondering if I had loved ones that I left behind. I stopped wondering if I had a family somewhere in this world. It was too painful to think that I lost memories which I was sure that had precious moments that I would never want to forget.
She clutched her hands on her lap. Not a single tear was forming in her pale eyes from releasing the pain she conserved to herself for such a long time. "Finally, this day had come for all of us to end this stratagem. All my questions and doubts were answered at last when I silently listened to your conversation with Naruto-kun three nights ago and when I finally got my memories back. The secrets I never hoped to exist, they existed. The lies that I wished that would never exist also existed. It pained Tsuki and me so much. The ones I treated as my very own family—the ones I completely trusted with my whole life—I cannot believe that they were the ones lying to me all along."
Shinra looked down her lap. She had no excuse for her actions after all. She was to blame for everything more than Tomoyo because she was there that night when Hinata died right in front of her clan. She and Tsunade acted as if they didn't know anything about Hinata's fate—it both pained them so much to do such a thing. On top of all, she was there when they dug up her grave to get her out and bring her to Tomoyo's lounge.
"I know… you all had reasons. You all wanted to protect me. Maeko-sama, Tomoyo-sama, Shinra-san, Rika-san, the Godaime… and Itachi-nii-san… you wanted to do what was best for me. To hide me from those shamans who were after my soul, and also to protect the world. Despite the pain I went through… all the hardships and sufferings I encountered, I forgive you Tomoyo-sama, Shinra-san for what you have done to me. Since I know, both of you also suffered with me when we lived in that village."
Tomoyo and Shinra shot their heads up. They stared at her in bewilderment, they were totally not expecting to hear those words from her.
Naruto was wide-eyed. He slightly jolted from his spot as he stared at the maiden with furrowed brows. What? She forgives them easily? Seriously? After all she had gone through—all those kind of pain. Those lies, those hidden information, those tortures she got… she forgave them? Before he could disagree with her, the Sacred Priestess suddenly continued her point.
"I forgive you all for doing this to me. I can forgive you… if it was only me who experienced this dreadful pain. If it was only me who had to suffer in this conspiracy." Hinata was in fury, but remained her composure. "But no, the family I left—my father, my sister, my cousin… even Sasuke-san… especially Naruto-kun and my mother, they all suffered from what you all did. My mother died because she fell very ill after my death—she died because all that she knew is I was dead. All your actions… killed my mother! And that is what I can never forgive!"
Tomoyo bowed her head down the floor, "My actions are unforgivable. I have no excuse for all the mistakes I've done in this conspiracy… But I would continue serving Hinata-sama. And I will definitely face all the consequences and punishment for my actions. Even if it costs my life—I will accept it."
Shinra bowed down as well, "I too will do the same, Hinata-sama. I deserved to be punished the most for it is I… who executed my late master's plans." And then she lifted her head up to look at Hinata directly. "But… there is one thing that I would like to wish."
Hinata stared back at the green-eyed priestess and said nothing to stop her.
"Please, do not be angry at Itachi also." Shinra begged, "He was part of this but… he was the one who insisted on telling the truth to you. He never wanted to lie to you—and he was sick and tired of hiding the truth. We kept on arguing about it because I always stopped him from doing so." She paused and then continued pleading, "That's why the day when he left—that day when he told us that he would meet with his brother after a very long time, he said to me that if he comes back alive, he wouldn't hesitate to tell everything to you."
"Itachi-nii-san…" Hinata said under her breath as flashes of Itachi's images appeared in her mind. He was always so gentle and caring towards her. She treated him like her own biological brother even if they weren't related at all. His death had torn her heart into pieces and up to this time, she could still feel the clench in her chest. But she never knew the cause of his death.
"So please, Hinata-sama… I beg of you. Do not hate Itachi… it is I who must bear all your hatred." Shinra added and bit her lip, "Not him…"
Hinata knew how dearly Shinra loved Itachi. She knew that Shinra could offer her life just for Itachi.
Shinra lowered her head again, "Please… Hinata-sama… please forgive him."
Hinata stood from her Zabuton and walked towards the shoji. She halted at the threshold and looked back at Shinra without turning her head, "How… did Itachi-nii-san die?"
Shinra gulped hard as she slammed her eyes shut. She never had the courage to tell the truth to Hinata—right from Hinata's real identity up to the truth about Itachi's death. She was the worst. She deserved to be punished more than anyone else. Taking one deep breath, she had spoken the truth.
"He was killed by… his own brother, Uchiha Sasuke."
The Sacred Priestess was stunned for a short moment but soon she found her body mobilized. She opened the shoji and said, "I see. I finally know." Then she walked out of the room with Naruto immediately joining her.
The fair Hyuga maiden sat down on a porch nearby the garden she eventually found. She was seated in her usual modesty as she stared up the cloudless night sky. Her white complexion glowed as the moonlight showered its light upon her smooth skin. Her long soft hair swayed along with the gentle wind brushing against her body. It was such a quiet, peaceful night. It was too tranquil to be ruined by sad emotions and angst. The gentle spirits and elementals flew around the garden in harmony as their own lights illuminated the colorful night flowers. She could never see such a relaxing sight again as this.
Naruto stood gazing off on his spot. He was too attracted to what he was seeing. In front of him was the girl—now woman he loved the most. He was finally seeing Hinata as a seventeen-year-old maiden, not the thirteen-year-old girl he used to see in his own dreams and illusions. But this was no longer a dream or illusion. It was reality. He could finally stop wondering how she would look like if she were the same age as he was… because right here, right now, she was in front of him. Hyuga Hinata is in front of him. Just as he always thought, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen in his life that even the stars, the moon and the flowers could never match up with her.
It was selfish for him to think but she was his. That beautiful creature belonged to him. He has loved Hyuga Hinata ever since they were young, and his strong affections towards her never grew any less, it grew stronger day by day even if he lived in a lie that she was dead. And he knew… that she still felt the same.
She belonged to him and he belonged to her. That was the fate he never wanted to change.
He finally found the strength in his legs to drag him towards Hinata. He sat right beside her and gazed at her that made her feel a little bit embarrassed. He saw how her white cheeks suddenly turn to deep red upon realizing his stares. A grin formed on his lips as he chuckled at her adorable reaction.
"W-why are you looking at me like that, N-Naruto-kun? Is s-something wrong?" She stuttered.
That was it. That was Naruto has been waiting for. Her cute little stutters whenever he was near her. He tried his best to control himself from launching at her and squeezing her in his arms due to her extreme cuteness. Damn, it must be a sin to be that cute. He thought to himself.
"Well, I just thought that you're really beautiful. That's all." He said in his casual tone, the boyish grin never leaving his handsome face.
Hinata's blush grew deeper. She felt her cheeks burning in its highest level as she tried her best to calm herself. All that she could do was look away from him and hide her face under her bangs.
"No matter how I look at it, you really are my sweet little Hinata." Naruto said, "You never changed… you still have that shy attitude when I'm near you." He teased.
Hinata felt more embarrassed, "M-mou. Is Naruto-kun making fun of me?"
Naruto waved his hand and laughed nervously, "No! No, of course not! You got it wrong…" his energetic voice suddenly trailed off as he brought his hand towards her. He gently brushed a strand of her hair off her face as she suddenly looked back at him noticing the change of his tone. His features softened that he could clearly see the natural beauty of her face up this close, "It's just that… I missed you so much."
Hinata was breath-taken.
"I… I lived my life continuing to blame myself for letting Hinata die!"
Naruto's voice only echoed in Hinata's head as she stared at him. It broke her heart, especially that night when he talked with Tomoyo. She heard him say everything that he felt right after her death five years ago. After five years, she met him again and she thought that she began seeing his memories of her. How he mourned for the young Hinata's death, how he loved her, how he cared for her, how he wanted to protect her… she saw everything. But she didn't have any ideas that it was her memories that she was seeing.
Sooner or later, Tsuki found herself falling in love with the Great Hero.
Hinata distanced herself from him and looked down. Her hair covering her pretty face. They were able to meet each other again. Even if she didn't know him and even if he never knew that she was Hinata all along. They met each other… and she wasn't able to remember him. She wasn't able to remember the person she loved so much when they were kids. He was the guy she always dreamed of having. He was the guy she only loved with her whole heart despite being engaged to Uchiha Sasuke. He was the guy who always gave her strength. He was the guy she never wanted to forget, and that no matter what happens, he would always be in her heart.
Yet, she wasn't able to remember him.
"I'm sorry, Naruto-kun… I'm sorry…" she said in a soft voice.
Naruto frowned at her, "Hinata? What are you—"
"I made you suffer…" She said promptly, "I—I w-was not able to remember you when we first met after five years. I'm very sorry… if I was just—"
"Yamero." Naruto's deep voice cut her effectively, "Look at me, Hinata. Please, just look at me." He slid closer to her as he placed his hands on both of her shoulders to turn her facing with him.
Hinata's head slowly lifted up. Fear and regret were written all over her face.
It stung Naruto's heart badly. After all what's happened to her, she was here telling him that she was sorry. For what? For not remembering him? It was all wrong. "None of this was your fault, Hinata. You don't have to blame yourself. I say, do not blame yourself. It's not your fault that you lost your memories—it's not your fault that you don't remember me… or Neji, or Hanabi-chan. I will never ever blame you for everything that happened between us that separated us for all these years."
Hinata was shaking her head, "No, no… Naruto-kun. I—I was a-able to see my memories back then whenever we met each other. At first, I thought that it was yours… but—but I should've realized sooner that it was mine so I could have immediately remembered you. I am very sorry, Naruto-kun… I am very sorry." Tears threatened to fall down from her eyes.
"Stop saying that, Hinata!" Naruto slightly raised his voice, "You have no rights to blame yourself. Out of all the people here, you are the one who should never blame herself for making this situation. You and I… both of us are victims here. We both lived in this lie. But among us, you were the one who suffered most. So don't you dare… don't you dare blame yourself for anything nor think that this was your fault."
Hinata fell silent as tears flowed down on her cheeks again.
Naruto felt helpless. He brought his hands to her face and gently wiped off her tears with his thumb. "You are always so selfless, Hinata. I can't believe you. After going through a lot, you still thought of me—of my own feelings. What can I ever do with you?" he then pulled her close to him and encircled her petite body with his arms. "You are one unique girl… that's why Sasuke and I fell in love with you." He began caressing her long dark hair as she cried on his chest. "Of course, you now remember Sasuke, right?"
He felt her nod but didn't say a single word.
"I can remember how very careful I was on not mentioning his name when I tell you stories about my missions. I was afraid that when I tell you his name along with his heroic actions with me, you'd also get attracted to him. Sasuke was very popular with girls that time, and they fall head over heels with him easily. Everyone hated me… my first crush, Sakura-chan, kept on rejecting me because she likes Sasuke so much. And then I was able to meet you… a girl who could see who I really am and didn't reject me for who I was. It was so selfish of me but, I never want to let anyone else know that I have a friend like you because I have a feeling that they'd steal you from me." He chuckled slightly at his foolishness at his reminiscence, "I hid that I know you. I never mentioned your name to my teammates when I tell them stories of our bonding. I really wanted to keep you to myself… I never want anyone else to be near you. I'm really selfish, am I not?"
Hinata felt herself blushing again. Eventually she had calmed down and stopped crying.
"Feeling better?" He asked.
"Good." He said. Then all of a sudden he lied on his back and pulled Hinata down with him. They both lied on the well-polished wooden floor of the temple, Hinata's head was on top of Naruto's right upper arm as he sheltered her body with his warmth.
Hinata felt very safe and relaxed at his embrace. She nuzzled closer to feel his body more.
Naruto lowered his head and sniffed Hinata's hair. She smelled so good. He always loved her scent. He could always smell the sweetness of the azaleas in her.
Silence took over for a while as they savored each other's scent. They lied down together on the ground, embracing each other to keep themselves warm from the cold breeze.
"Naruto-kun…" she calmly called his name.
"Hm?" He responded with his eyes closed as he felt very relaxed on both their positions.
"When you were away… he and I met." Hinata said, "Sasuke-san and I met… he thought that Tsuki was me at once. And he was never wrong."
Naruto's eyes opened but he remained silent to let her continue.
"I saw him in the woods. He was running a very high fever that's why I took him and cared for him. We became friends… and when I was captured by Hiraishi—Sasuke-san came to save me. But he suddenly felt in severe pain that made him lose consciousness, his teammates came soon to get him out of the village." She narrated.
"I see…" Naruto said in a low voice. After all, there was still this issue that Sasuke also fell in love with Hinata and that he is her fiancé. "Do you… love him?" he needed to ask.
Hinata shook her head no. "I love Sasuke-san only as a friend… but never as a lover. You're the only one I love so much, Naruto-kun…" she said and hugged him a little bit tighter. "Nothing had changed… it didn't grow less, it only grew even more."
Naruto felt relieved hearing those words from her. After all this time, they still felt the same way towards each other. He was so happy to know that.
"Thanks for telling this to me, Hinata. I really appreciate your honesty." Naruto said and kissed the top of her forehead. "You don't have to be afraid… you won't be taken away from me by anyone."
Hinata sighed in relaxation, "I know, Naruto-kun… I know…"
Both of them slowly shut their eyes, and the next thing they knew, they were falling asleep. They had a hard week. They needed to relax even just for a bit.
Shinra happened to see them as she was passing by a corridor. Her features softened as she saw the two reunited lovers sleeping peacefully cuddled with each other. She smiled and opened a cabinet to get a blanket. She walked towards the two sleeping figure and then placed a blanket on top of them to avoid catching colds.
"Have a good night… Hinata-sama, Naruto-dono." She whispered gently and then walked away to leave the star-crossed lovers alone.
The spirits roaming around the garden stopped with their rituals upon noticing Hinata and Naruto both sleeping. They quietly gathered around the couple and began blessing them. When the spirits were done, they went back to the night flowers to give their finest glow in the dark garden.
They made everything comfortable to Naruto and Hinata who were cuddled together, ensuring that they were having the best sleep they had after all those years.
"Sakura-san. Wake up. Sakura-san!"
Sakura finally had the strength to open her eyes. The pain in her body was all gone, thanks to her activation of automatic healing before she passed out from the fight with the traitor priestess earlier. She immediately pushed herself up, worrying how long she has been out, but her gaze was still blurry making her dizzy for a bit.
Sai assisted her up. "What happened to you, Sakura-san?"
Sakura massaged her temples and appreciated Sai's support, "How long was I out? Did the night already pass?" she urgently asked.
"The night has not yet passed. It is an hour before midnight." Sai answered, "The Hokage summons you, Sakura-san. The village is under attack by powerful shamans; many lives are in danger." He reported.
Sakura's eyes widened, "What?! Already?" she said worriedly, "Sai, I need you to come with me. We have to leave the village."
Sai frowned with confusion written all over his face. "What are you talking about, Sakura-san? Are you planning to run away from the attack?"
"Of course not! How could you think of that?" Sakura replied in annoyance but chose to drop Sai's harsh words, "We have to go and get Naruto at the Getsugakure. We need to take him back as soon as possible. Please, come with me, Sai."
"I see." Sai said, "I'll come with you."
Sakura's face lightened up. "Thank you. Then let's go! We have no time to waste!"
"But wouldn't it be better if we go back to the Hokage and report where we will be heading?" Sai asked.
Sakura's face turned bitter as she avoided Sai's gaze. She remembered her argument with the Hokage earlier that day. Indeed, she has gone too far to talk back to her master that way. "No. It's best if we leave now. We've got no time to lose so summon the fastest creature you have to take us to Getsugakure!"
In the end, Sai could not argue. So he just brought out his scroll and summoned a huge eagle with his ink.
An army of dark-cloaked men gathered at the entrance of the Sacred Forest. All of them contained strong darkness inside but one woman stood out most. Not only she had the strongest power, she was the fairest yet most feared by all. Her long straight dark hair floated behind her back elegantly, her white skin glowed at the darkness of the night, and black eyes shined menacingly. She firmly stood outside the barriers of the Sacred Forest, she brought her hand towards the shield and a small yet electrifying spark reacted at her touch.
"Such a robust barrier you have created, Maeko." Masayo chuckled. "You surprise me even if you're already dead. Well, I shall erase everything what's left of you."
"Masayo-sama." A young priestess in brown hair approached the fair head shaman.
Masayo looked very delighted to see her, "Ah, Rika. You always have impeccable timings. I have heard about your fight with a Kunoichi, how's your condition?"
"I am completely healed, you don't have to worry." Rika answered, "Tetsuya-sama has started invading Konoha successfully. Everything is under his control; I believe it is time for us to execute our next move."
"Very well then. You must do what you must do, Rika. Do not ever fail me… or else, you won't get what you want." Masayo said.
"Yes." Rika responded like a servant. Then she went inside the Sacred Forest normally, leaving all the unnoticed shamans outside the barriers.
Domon approached his goddess-like sister, "Do you really trust her, Masayo-sama?" he whispered.
Masayo arched a brow, "Are you doubting my plans, brother?"
"No, of course not. I have full confidence in your schemes. I just wanted to make sure that that priestess will not be the cause of our failures." Domon explained.
Masayo smirked, "Oh no, she won't. She had proven herself worthy of my trust, and I will not doubt her. I am quite sure that she'll be able to do this… after all, those dumb priests and priestesses still don't know that she's become a traitor of her own kind. For now, I treat her as one of my trump cards."
"But if she does anything to destroy us, I will not hesitate to kill her." Domon said.
"Well, that is part of my plan, too." She replied.
"But what about her wish? Will you fulfill it after we have succeeded our plans?" He lastly asked.
"We both know who her parents were, my dear brother. And never could I forget what they did to all of us…" Masayo said in a dark voice, "The girl still doesn't know what her mother and father did—and I could still manipulate her young mind. But, even if she did help us a lot, I will never ever resurrect her dead mother and father."
After waiting for several minutes or so, they all felt the barrier starting to get weak. It was a sign that Masayo was waiting for that Rika had successfully weakened the forces of the Sacred Shield. The shamans had begun their rituals and slowly but surely, they were destroying the barrier. Soon, they would take over the Sacred Forest and make all the priests and priestesses their slaves.
Back at the village, the chaos was continuing. Dark summoned creatures continuously appeared as the shamans led by Tetsuya invaded Konoha. Villagers screamed as they ran and hid for their lives; some were fortunate to have escaped but many were not. Konoha ninjas were being slain by the unknown monsters but fought bravely to protect their village.
"This way! Women and children first!" a pale eyed Hyuga assisted the innocent villagers to safety.
The villagers kept on running away, but the dark creatures kept chasing them and the others became victims.
Hyuga Kaoru gritted her teeth as she jumped into action. She served herself as the boundary line between the village people and the shamans. "You will not step further than this! You will have to kill me first before you touch the villagers!" she bravely exclaimed and activated her Byakugan.
The shaman chuckled. "Let's see what you can do."
Three beasts charged towards her in a swift motion. She got into her defensive stance, readying herself to release Kaiten. But before the beasts could even get near her, a familiar voice came.
In a blink of an eye, two fast spinning figures drilled through the three dark beasts and successfully eliminated them. Two identical ninjas landed on their feet in front of Kaoru, and one of them spoke to her, "You okay, Kaoru?" then the other clone puffed into smoke and went back to its original form, which was a huge canine.
"Kiba! Akamaru!" Kaoru was surprised of their arrival, "Good thing you came. I'm just fine."
"Good to hear. We have to beat these creepy-looking people's asses for suddenly invading the village." Kiba said with his gritted fangs.
Kaoru nodded, "They're shamans who once also invaded our household five years ago. They were responsible for Hinata-sama's death, so I won't let them get away easily."
"Shamans… this is the very first time I have encountered them." Another deep voice from behind came. It belonged to a tall man whose face was well-hidden by his hood and black goggles.
"Shino." Kaoru called for him, "How's Kurenai-sensei and her child?"
"They're safe. The ANBU is with them, along with the other villagers." Shino replied.
"I see… that's a relief. Now, let's start beating these shamans, Team 8!"
Hinata-sama… I will be waiting for your arrival. Kaoru thought to herself as her team launched towards the army of Shamans.
Ino gracefully landed on her feet as she commanded the children to follow the path she had directed them, "No matter what happens, do not look back. Just run straight ahead and Iruka-sensei will be there waiting for all of you. Understand?"
The children nodded, but were hesitant to leave Ino.
The blond-haired kunoichi could feel their hesitations, but it was not the time for them to be so hard-headed. Her sensei believed that the children of the village are the Kings, so just like what Asuma did, she would also not think twice of sacrificing her life to protect the treasure of Konoha. "Hurry now! You have to get away from here!" She urgently demanded as she felt a strong aura approaching.
"But what about you?" a child asked.
"I'll meet you all there! Now GO!" She firmly commanded and the children finally obeyed her orders, much to her relief. By that time, the owner of the strong aura revealed himself.
It was Tetsuya.
"All I need to do is follow those children to discover where the secret hideout of Konoha is located." He said in a low voice as he glared at Ino in sinister.
"I will not let you pass." Ino growled as she drew out her kunai.
"Are you that confident to face me?" Tetsuya chuckled, "You might regret this, pretty girl."
Shikamaru's shadows pierced through the guts of the dark creatures and some shamans. But no matter how many beasts he had killed, they kept on appearing out of nowhere and the number of shamans didn't even grow any less.
"Nikudan Hari Sensha!" Choji's technique was able to clear the path occupied by the shamans summoned creatures, but just like Shikamaru's problem, the eliminated beasts were promptly being replaced by new ones.
"Damn. There would be no ending to this." Shikamaru cursed under his breath as Choji retreated to him. "If this continues, we'll just run out of chakra."
"What should we do now, Shikamaru? We've never fought people like this before… and I thought shamans were long gone." Choji said.
"For now, all we have to do is eliminate those shamans. Without them, those dark creatures wouldn't be summoned. We have to hold them off and make sure that they don't find where the villagers are hiding." Shikamaru told Choji. He was mad at himself for not being able to think of a better tactic to completely defeat the shamans. All he could do was hope for the priests from the Sacred Forest to come for their aid as soon as possible.
The shamans came forth and whispered ancient magic. Dark lightning struck the ground and aimed at Choji and Shikamaru. The two were able to dodge the lightning attacks thanks to their fast reflexes, but then the beasts also launched for an attack. Shikamaru immediately took out a kunai with an explosive from his pouch and threw it towards the beasts, giving them time to execute their next move.
"Choji!" Shikamaru called.
"I know!" Choji nodded as he evolved into a huge human tank.
Shikamaru formed a Rat sign with his hands abruptly activating his Shadow Bind Technique. With speed and timing, he was able to bind several shamans, effectively controlling their body movement. "NOW!"
Choji managed to hit all the pawns that Shikamaru trapped in his shadows, leaving the street free from the village invaders.
"That took care of them…" Choji said as he transformed back to his original form.
"Where's Ino? She hadn't returned yet?" Shikamaru suddenly asked.
Choji looked around, "She led those three children we found back to the secret base." He said.
"But she's not back here yet." Shikamaru frowned as anxiety clearly appeared on his face. In a blink of an eye, he stormed through the roofs to find the medical ninja.
"Pathetic little ninja. You know you'll never defeat someone like me. You just wasted my time…" Tetsuya said as his grip around Ino's neck tightened.
Ino struggled to get away from his grasp, but he was suffocating her so much forcing her body to weaken.
"Now, time to claim my prize for winning." Tetsuya smiled evilly as dark aura formed around his hands gripping the Kunoichi's neck.
Ino screamed in pain when suddenly she felt her energy being drawn out of her body. Her white aura came out of her eye sockets and mouth as Tetsuya absorbed her very soul. In a matter of minutes, the shaman was done extracting the medical ninja's soul, leaving her body as an empty shell.
"Ahhh, that felt good." Tetsuya said in pleasure, "Your soul is now mine…" when he was done with his business with the female's body, he tossed her aside like an old rag and went to the path where he last saw the children running.
"Time to collect more souls." He licked his lips and followed the street ahead.
Shikamaru leapt from roof to roof, glancing at all directions in order not to miss any place to locate his female teammate. Behind him was his brown-haired best friend, Akimichi Choji, who was doing the same. Finally, they had seen a flash of blond in the middle of the street and the two immediately came down knowing that the person there was the one they were looking for.
Indeed, it was Ino.
Shikamaru swiftly went to her and crouched to pick her up. His eyes widened at the sight of the paleness of Ino's face and skin. Her lifeless blue eyes were left open staring into the distance. His hands trembled at the touch of her cold flesh—and all the life her cheerful demeanor usually emitted was now gone.
He refused to believe what he was seeing. He checked her wrist to feel her pulse… but there was none. Her heart didn't beat; she didn't breathe.
"This can't be happening…" Choji knelt down beside Shikamaru as tears threatened to fall from his eyes. "No… not Ino."
Shikamaru remained frozen on his spot, shadows covered the expression of his eyes but the shaking of his body was uncontrollable. He didn't want to believe that this was happening to him—that this happened to Ino. He brought a hand to caress her cheek, but she didn't flinch nor move to respond to his touch. He stared deeply into her eyes, but it's as if she didn't see him. Her eyes were blank and cold—it pained him so much to see her like this. He had never seen her very tragic… and lifeless.
"Ino… you can stop this act right now." Shikamaru whispered to her. "You really got me so stop it!" he gently shook her body to wake her up.
"Shikamaru…" Choji lowered his head and shut his eyes as finally river of tears were streaming down his cheeks.
"I know you're upset I didn't tell you what our real mission was in Ibaragakure… but I told you that I'll tell it to you soon, right? You still have to hear me out so you can finally know the person that Naruto loved! You were always hoping that you become friends with her, right? You always wanted to know who Hanabi's sister is, right? So stop this already… you can be as troublesome as you can be and I will never complain again. So… come back to me now."
Shikamaru's voice trailed off at his last words. Still, all he got from her was that blank stare of her dull blue eyes.
"No… Please, Ino… don't do this to me."
"It's no use, Shikamaru…" Choji sobbed, "She's… she's…"
Shikamaru pulled Ino's dead body closer to him and then tears flowed down from his eyes. He cried her name as if to bring her back.
But it was no use…
Even with his IQ of 200, even with his flawless tactics, even with his natural born genius…
He could never bring back someone's life.
He could never bring back… his lover's life.
Yet again, he lost another precious person—he lost his sensei, he lost his father—and he swore he wouldn't let anyone close to him die as far as he was around. He swore to Ino's late father that he would protect her with his life… but in the end, he just failed.
"Stay hidden no matter what happens, Miki. Do not come out of this cave until the war is over." Kakashi said as he placed her down the ground, letting her join the other villagers hiding in the cave. He was about to leave without saying more to the librarian, but he suddenly felt her grip around his arm.
"But what about you?" Miki asked. It was a dumb question. She knew well Kakashi's duties… but she still had to ask.
"You know I need to fight to protect the village." Kakashi answered, "Just promise me, no matter what happens… you won't come out until everything is over." He looked at her deeply in the eye. "Stay with the villagers where it's safe."
"I wish to also fight… I can't sit here and wait as all of you fight in a war again. I used to be a jounin too, Kakashi-kun. I was classmates with you and Obito." Miki protested.
"You'll just get in the way, Miki. They'll come after you once they find out that you were the one who discovered the whereabouts of the Scroll of Energy Detachment. Stay out of trouble, please. Promise me." Kakashi said.
Miki bit her lip as she tried to hold back her tears. "All right… but make sure…" she looked straightly into his visible eye, "You have to come back to me, Kakashi-kun."
"I will." Kakashi then pulled down his mask and kissed Miki on her lips. He quickly pulled his mask up after the sweet peck, and dashed away from the cave.
"No, father! I do not agree on this! I will stay here and fight with you and Neji-nii-san!" Hanabi protested to her father's decision of sending her away to a place where the Shaman's wouldn't find her.
"We have no time for arguments, Hanabi. Ko, I leave her under your care. Make sure she doesn't get found by anyone." Hiashi instructed his loyal guard.
Ko knelt and nodded, "Yes, Hiashi-sama. I will protect Hanabi-sama with my life." He was about to reach out for Hanabi, but the heiress threw herself towards her father and continued pleading.
"Don't do this to me, father. Please, don't send me away. I want to fight… they are the shamans involved with my sister's death five years ago… and I know that she'll come back soon to save us all from this war! I don't just want to sit and wait while you, Hinata-nee-chan and Neji-ni-san are fighting!" she clutched her father's robe as if her life depended on it.
"You must understand, Hanabi. We cannot risk your safety. You are the heiress of the clan—you are my daughter. The shamans had already done so much pain in our family. They are the reason why your sister and mother died, and I cannot let them do it again to my family—to you. I almost lost you and I thought that I lost Hinata forever, too… so I will not make the same mistake again." Hiashi said as he gently pushed her away.
"Father… no…" Hanabi was about to protest anew, but Neji suddenly came and threw someone in front of them.
"Geez, you don't have to drag me like that!" A spiky-haired ninja lamely stumbled in front of the Hyuga Leader and heiress and tried to regain his balance.
Hanabi's eyes widened in surprise, "Konohamaru-kun? What are you doing here?"
"I saw him lurking around the household. He might come in handy." Neji said.
"Konohamaru… the Sandaime's grandson, what brings you here at this kind of time?" Hiashi inquired.
Konohamaru regained his composure, "I came here to offer Hanabi protection. I swear, I will guard her no matter what it takes." He proudly stated.
Hanabi frowned, "What? Are you insane, Konohamaru-kun?! Not you, too…"
Hiashi stared back at Konohamaru, his eyes keen and cold as usual. But the courage inside the Sandaime's chest didn't falter.
"I see. I entrust my daughter to you, Konohamaru. Guard her well." Hiashi replied.
A huge confident grin appeared on Konohamaru's face, "You bet I will!" he boastfully exclaimed and gave the Hyuga Leader a thumbs-up.
Hiashi's face was void of any emotion, but deep inside he was relieved that there was someone else willing to protect his daughter. Konohamaru is the Sandaime's grandson, and he was Naruto's good friend who inherited so much of his antics. He knew that Hanabi would be in good hands.
"You must leave now. The shamans would come here soon. Use the backdoor to get to the hideout." Hiashi said.
"Yes, sir!" Konohamaru saluted and took Hanabi's hand.
Still, Hanabi wasn't convinced. "No! I will not leave this place! I can also fight!"
"Just shut up and let me protect you, will you?!" Konohamaru snapped and it effectively stunned the Hyuga heiress. "Can't you understand what your father is trying to do? You were once targeted by those shamans—and thanks to Shinra-nee-chan you were free from that curse! And then those shamans are back, they can target you again. Why don't you just do what your father tells you and make this less hard for him and your clan?"
Hanabi looked away.
"So, come with me. I will protect you, I promise." Konohamaru swore and offered his hand to the stubborn heiress.
She was still reluctant and there was no way that she was not going to be. It was only three days ago when the Hokage had confessed everything she knew about Hinata; it shocked the whole clan. Now, they were informed that Naruto would soon come back with her and they all anticipated her return. But this suddenly happened to ruin everything. Hanabi couldn't easily accept that. Her sister would soon return and fight in this war… while Hanabi would be hiding in safety.
Hanabi couldn't accept it easily.
However, on the other hand, her father's decision was far better than hers. It was better that she was somewhere safe than stay and fight in the war being a hindrance to all of them. She hated to admit it, but she knew that she would just die.
"We'll be leaving now, old man. I ensure you that she'll be safe." Konohamaru said and forcibly took Hanabi's hand. The girl didn't back away nor flinch, much to his surprise. Without saying another word, Ko had led them to the backdoor and they left with the heiress.
"Old man…" Hiashi lightly smirked, "Reminds me of someone who used to call me that." He whispered to himself as Neji stared at him curiously.
"Hiashi-sama?" Neji blinked.
"Oh, don't mind me. It's not the time to reminisce some memories." Hiashi said, "Let's go, Neji. We must aid the village at once and wait for my daughter's arrival. I wouldn't want her to see me as a completely old man."
"Yes, uncle." Neji replied.
"Even if this were to be my last battle… I will make sure that I see my daughter's face again."
The next day.
Naruto, Hinata, Shinra, and Tomoyo had entered an Inn to stay for the night. They chose to occupy three rooms, one for Naruto, one for Shinra and Hinata, and one for Tomoyo. When they were done settling their items in their respective rooms, they suggested for Hinata to try the onsen to help her relax from her exhausting training.
Hinata always loved hot baths. She was happy that they checked in an Inn which had onsen. She asked if Tomoyo or Shinra wanted to join her relaxation, but the two priestesses declined saying that they still have tasks to do. So, the Sacred Priestess was left with no choice but to go alone—she couldn't possibly ask Naruto to join her in the first place. And she never would.
She changed to a simple white robe in preparation for the hot bath. Then she made her way towards the corridor that led to the onsen and then went inside the room to strip off her clothes. She was relieved that she was the only one using the hot springs this afternoon, indeed, she could relax at her very best. Without hesitations, she let her robe slide off her naked body and wore a towel on her head to secure her long hair.
She slid open the onsen's door and faced the foggy spring. In a matter of seconds, she slowly went into the springs and let the easing sensation fill her body. Another sigh escaped her lips.
With her eyes closed, she began flying in her own world. She couldn't help but still think of the recent happenings in her life… how unexpected things occurred… how everything changed. Yesterday, it's as if she was still that young Hyuga Hinata finding a way to make her clan accept her… it was yesterday as if she woke up without remembering anything about her past… and it was yesterday when she was able to remember everything about her real identity.
She couldn't believe how things unraveled slowly for her. She experienced a lot of hardships in the past—as the young Hinata and as Tsuki… but all of those were over. She went through a lot but she didn't back down. She was able to survive all the challenges her life gave her and made her a stronger person. That's the reason why she was here in the first place, right? If she didn't learn how to rise up on her own during those dark times, she wouldn't be back in Naruto's arms. She wouldn't discover the truth. She wouldn't get her memories back.
A loud disturbance of water from the other side of the boulder she was leaning on was heard. It distracted her thoughts.
"It's been a while since I got in a hot spring! This feels great!"
A familiar energetic male voice came next. Then more waves came, indicating that the person was near Hinata's place.
Hinata's face turned as red as tomato as she felt her heart jump in her throat. There was no mistaking it… she was not imagining things. There was someone else with her in the onsen. And… she was completely sure that he was not a stranger.
Oh, dear God… please give me strength.
Hinata silently prayed. Slowly and hesitantly, she turned her head to confirm her suspicions… despite the misty atmosphere, she was able to trace a very distinct image that her companion had.
Hinata gulped and immediately turned away from him. Her assumptions were not wrong in the first place… she didn't have to wonder in the first place since she knew too well who owned that voice. The ever so energetic voice which was music to her ears.
It was Naruto. Without a doubt.
In an onsen.
They were together.
Was this a mixed bath? Hinata nervously thought to herself. Before she could die in embarrassment, she decided to make her mini escape as cautiously as she could. But who was she kidding? Naruto will definitely feel her presence.
And she was not wrong.
"Someone else is in here? I thought I was alone. Hey, show yourself!" Naruto said.
Hinata froze on her spot. Even if the water was hot, she could feel cold stings down her spine. This was not good.
Then she felt the water move, he was starting to make his way towards her from the other side of the boulder that served as their temporary boundary.
"P-p-please, do not come this way!" she finally had the urge to speak.
Maybe that was the biggest mistake she has done.
Naruto froze on his spot. He knew that voice. He didn't have to think of who owned that.
"Hi…Hinata?!" he stammered… lamely.
The maiden pushed herself towards the boulder to hide her body from him. But he could somehow see her hair wrapped up in a towel and the nape of her neck as her back was faced against him. He immediately shifted his gaze and looked somewhere else, doing his best not to look back at a pretty sight he saw there.
Naruto slapped himself. Pretty sight? What the heck am I thinking!?
"I-I-I'll just go out, okay? I'm sorry. I should've listened to some other customers' conversation about this mixed bath. I thought that they were just joking." He said anxiously. "I'll just make sure that other men won't come in unless you're done so—"
Naruto's words were cut effectively by the sudden raise of her calm voice.
"I… I mean… what I mean is that…" Hinata gulped hard, "N-Naruto-kun doesn't have… to go…" she said.
"What?" Naruto couldn't believe his ears. Did she just say he didn't have to go?
"It's f-fine with me, Naruto-kun… I don't want to r-ruin Naruto-kun's relaxation so… please don't leave…" She said shyly.
Naruto's face started heating up. He couldn't find words to say… so all he did was slide down the water and try his best not to look behind him. Damn, it was very hard to resist the urge. After all, he was a boy; she was a girl. They were in an onsen… obviously in their naked bodies. Only a boulder served as their border. One couldn't simply ignore the situation.
Mixed bath. He was naked… as well as she was.
He wanted to bang his head towards a wall and bleed all his blood out. He must stop thinking about those things about her! He should be ashamed of himself.
An uncomfortable silence filled the space. No one dared to speak, no one dared to make noise in the water, no one dared to move. The two just stood there… like statues with their backs facing each other with a boulder in the middle.
After several minutes or so without communicating, Hinata had finally decided to break the ice since the tension was starting to drop off.
"H-how do you feel, Naruto-kun?" she asked.
Naruto cleared his throat in order not to sound in a lame voice, "I'm feeling good actually… how about you?"
"I… I feel good as well. It really is nice to relax once in a while." She replied.
"You're right." Naruto agreed, "We should do this more often together."
Hinata nearly fainted from the Great Hero's words. Mixed bath? Together?! More often?!
Naruto suddenly panicked upon noticing how wrong he delivered his point. "I-I mean! It's not that, dattebayo! Y-you got it all wrong!" he lost his nerve again, "What I'm trying to say is that…"
Hinata didn't say a word. She knew that Naruto meant something else… she felt relieved for that. But somehow, she was a little bit disappointed. Oh God, what am I thinking?
"Uhh… that definitely came out wrong. I'm sorry about that, Hinata." He said.
"It's… it's fine, Naruto-kun. Y-you don't have to apologize." She replied.
Naruto scratched the back of his head furiously as he hated his actions. He just ruined the newly made comfortable mood between them! How could he do this to her? But there was no other way to make it up to her but to use one of his trump cards. Never he had imagined to bring that up in a situation like this… anyways, he had to do it now. "Hinata…" he began.
"Yes?" Hinata tried her best to sound as normal as she could.
"What I want to say earlier is that… the village is having a Stargazing festival later. If you want to… would you like to come with me?" He finally said it, good gracious. He had never felt so nervous like this in his entire life. It felt like his heart would jump out of his chest any minute now.
Hinata didn't speak.
The silence was not helping Naruto at all. He became even more nervous. Why wasn't she speaking? Was she all right? Was he too straightforward? Did he do something wrong? Several thoughts occupied his mind and that wasn't a good thing. Sooner or later, he knew that he would have a panic attack. Maybe it was not the perfect time to suddenly ask her out. After all, she just got her memories back yesterday… maybe it was best that he let her rest for the whole night after going through so much this week.
"It's all right if you don't want to come, Hinata. I understand that—"
"I'd love to, Naruto-kun."
She said in the most melodic voice he had ever heard. He was stunned on his spot… he felt his heart skipping a beat. "Wh-what did you say?" since when was he deaf?
"I said that… I'd love to go with Naruto-kun…" Hinata repeated timidly as she began playing with her fingers. Her face could equal the redness of Naruto's cheeks.
Naruto's astounded look was all of a sudden replaced by an expression of high self-confidence. A confident grin spread across his face as he subconsciously rose up from the water and punch the air in triumph. "Oh yeah!"
Hinata felt the water moved from Naruto's side, the redness of her face didn't grow any less.
"I promise that we'll have a great time, Hinata. You won't regret it!" He said. Excitement filled his emotions that he nearly forgot that both of them were at a mixed onsen. He was about to run to where she was and give her a hug but it was a good thing that he immediately remembered that both of them… were both naked in the hot springs. He wiped off a sweat from his forehead, greatly relieved that he hasn't done anything offensive in the sticky situation they were in. He wouldn't want Hinata to think of him as a pervert. He didn't want to become someone like his late master Jiraiya.
But… that was really close. If Neji or Hinata's father found out that he suddenly abducted the fair Hyuga maiden in the hot springs, he might not see the light of the other day.
He wouldn't want to leave a bad impression.
Naruto sank back into the water and leaned his back on the boulder. He inclined his neck backward so that his face would be upward staring into the misty view of the afternoon sky. "You don't know how happy I am right now, Hinata." He said, "Thank you…"
Hinata smiled to herself, No, Naruto-kun… Thank you.
Silence filled the air once again, but this time, the awkwardness was gone. Because Hinata trusted Naruto… she knew that he wouldn't do anything that she wouldn't like. She knew that she was safe with him. He was not that kind of guy, after all.
They stayed there together for quite a time… it was quiet and peaceful until…
"I can't wait to enter the onsen! Time to have some fun!"
"I saw a beautiful maiden earlier! The one with long dark hair who was wearing a furisode! I wish she's bathing there right now."
Voices of two men were heard from the men's changing room.
Hinata suddenly flinched at her spot. Anxiety was drawn all over her face.
Naruto's eyebrows twitched. "Those bastards…" he growled under his breath. In a blink of an eye, he was out of the water slamming the men's door open and firmly standing at the threshold with only a loincloth around his waist. The two male customers halted right before they could even enter the onsen.
"Scram. Take one step closer… or else…" An evil grin formed on his lips as he glared menacingly at the two common men. "If you want to live, then leave." He cracked his knuckles.
The two men screamed in fright. "It is true! The Great Hero is here and she is his woman!"
"We are very sorry! Please, forgive us!"
In speed of light, the two men cowardly ran away from the men's changing room and never planned to go back for the rest of the day.
"That's right. She is mine. So back off." He said to himself.
While Naruto was busy making some modifications at the men's changing room, Hinata somewhat… was making a solution to her own problem also.
"Ara? What is this? Why is it locked?" a woman's voice was heard from the ladies' changing room.
"Locked? Is the onsen closed?" another lady spoke.
Clunking and clicking from the ladies' changing room was continuously heard as the female customers tried sliding the door open to enter the onsen.
Hinata tried to be ignorant as best as she could.
TO BE CONTINUED.
I have a confession to make... yesterday, I watched Barbie as The Princess and The Pauper. And I enjoyed it a lot... and I sang along with the songs. Please, don't hate me! Watching that really brought me back to the mood! I also have to admit that that was my favorite barbie movie when I was seven years old...
Anyways... as you saw in the title of the chapter, it's part one. Hehehe. The next chapter would be a part 2 of the NaruHina fluffiness! I got carried away in writing again so I needed to separate the chapter. I said that this chapter would be a breathe of fresh air since all the previous chapters had heavy dramas. But in the end, I couldn't help myself but be a tragic little writer again. I hope that you enjoyed this one! ^^
Oh, and I included the team 8. :) Hyuga Kaoru is an OC, replacing Hinata on team 8.
As for Kakashi and his little love affair over there... well, Miki is me. 3 I just wanted to give some candies to myself. Hahaha. Oh, I can dream, can't I? XD
Please, review! Thank you very much!