a/n:

First of all... I would like to apologize to everyone for such a very long delay of updating the story. I am very sorry from the bottom of my heart. During the Christmas break and the New Year's I was stuck with a pile of work, whenever I found the time to update the story, my mind wasn't on the mood because of all the worries that has been clouding my head since December 2013. I'm really glad that I'm able to sign in to my account again to update the story... I thought that the moment I sign in, I will set the story on "HIATUS" but I was wrong because I was able to post the new chapter as you can all see. I hope you can all forgive me for taking it so long. I would also like to say Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

Thank you very much for sticking with my story for the whole year. I really appreciate it.

This chapter is dedicated to Serious Sam-san. :) Please forgive me for not posting this on New Year's eve!

So... here's chapter 30! Enjoy, everyone!

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN NARUTO.


Chapter 30: When Paths Cross Again (II)

Hinata took a very deep breath for the tenth time. She was pacing back and forth in her room at the Inn, glancing at the full length mirror every now and then. She was on her favorite yellow kimono with a red obi. The design was white flowers starting from the bottom of the Kimono climbing up to the red obi; the size of the flowers get smaller as it went higher and its opacity faded as its size decreased. Her obi was done in a simple Taiko musubi with the help of her fellow priestess Shinra. Her long dark hair was tied in an elegant single braid which fell across her left shoulder. Her master Tomoyo was the one responsible for her hair since she noticed how anxious the maiden was with how she'd look like with her date with Naruto and it was Tomoyo who decided not to let her wear the golden lace to not entirely attract too much attention from the crowd. Besides, the golden lace and the clips in a form of Athos's wings were the signs that she was the Sacred Priestess. The Hyuga also decided not to wear the furisode since it was too long and would just get in the way if they walk at the streets with the villagers.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Hinata took another deep breath. It has been two hours since she and Naruto parted ways from the mixed onsen and it has been half an hour since she was done preparing for their date at the Stargazing festival. Date? A date? She thought to herself as she shook her head. Don't jump into conclusions, Hinata. Naruto-kun invited you to the festival… but it doesn't mean it's a date. She reminded herself.

And she continued pacing.

A knock from the door came that startled her so much.

"Hinata-sama? Are you still there? Naruto-dono is waiting for you downstairs."

It was Shinra's voice.

Hinata gulped and she looked at the mirror again to check if anything was wrong.

"Hinata-sama?" Shinra then came in the room to see how the troubled maiden was doing. She was not surprised to see how nervous the girl was even if she was already a maiden with pure beauty. A soft smile formed at Shinra's lips as she approached Hinata.

"D-do you think he'll like it? Do I not look ridiculous?" She asked Shinra.

"Oh, Hinata-sama. How could you say such things? Come now." Shinra took Hinata by the hand to assist her out of the room, "You're beautiful inside and out. I assure you… no matter how you look, Naruto won't like you…"

Hinata's eyes widened. Terror rose up in her chest as she heard Shinra's words. But then the priestess continued.

"Because he'll definitely love what he's about to see." Shinra said with a wider smile and they were out of the room with a speechless Hinata.

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Naruto leaned at a wooden pillar by the lobby of the Inn. He was in his simple tight dark blue shirt and black combat pants. He didn't wear his hitai-ate since he didn't want to draw attention from the crowd with the symbolic sign of Konoha yet his distinct whiskers and blond hair were enough for people to easily recognize him as the Great Hero. People passing by whispered when they saw him, if he was right, he even saw some ladies squeal and blush when he unintentionally glanced at them. Quite popular, wasn't he? Some citizens even approached him to shake his hand, little kids looked up to him with adoring eyes, the elderly blessed him. He couldn't believe he was well-known in this village despite that it was his first time to stay there.

For the very first time… he could taste the sweetness of the victory he had achieved one year ago. When he returned to Konoha a couple of months ago from his recovery at Mt. Myoboku after the war, the villagers celebrated and filled him with numerous praises. They were all grateful to him. They were all thankful to him. They accepted him. They loved him. Finally after ending the war, he was able to achieve his dreams… That is to be recognized, respected and praised by the villagers from his beloved home. But in the end, he didn't feel anything. Despite all the success he attained… he still felt nothing. Because all those years, he mourned for Hinata… all those years, he blamed himself for not being able to keep her alive. Because for him, he didn't acknowledge himself as the Great Hero… He succeeded in saving the entire shinobi world from the 4th Shinobi War… but it couldn't change the fact that he failed to protect the most precious girl in his life.

That's why he never felt anything whenever people praised him for his Heroic deeds.

But now… that changed because she is back.

"Come now, Hinata-sama. He's over there." There came a feminine voice from upstairs that made Naruto snap out of his thoughts. It was Shinra… with the most beautiful creature he had laid his eyes upon. She gracefully descended from the stairs with Shinra assisting her, and before he knew it, she stood right in front of him in just a few yards away.

Shinra smiled at Naruto's reaction. "I'll leave both of you now. Have fun. But remember, you two shall be back before midnight. We set out early tomorrow." She didn't know if the ninja heard her at all but she trusts him. She then walked away and left the two love birds to themselves.

Hinata tucked a hair behind her ear and looked down her feet. Her cheeks red as rose.

Naruto once again… was breath-taken. Indeed… the little Hinata he once knew now grew up to be a very fine lady. A blissful smile formed at his lips as he stared back at her lovingly. "You look stunning, Hinata."

She smiled demurely, "Th-thank you…"

"But that's quite a problem, isn't it?" he said and it made Hinata shot her head up in surprise.

"E-eh?" The nervousness inside her doubled. Did he not like it?

Naruto noticed the worried look on her face. If he could just wrap her with his arms right now and never let her go… She was too cute. He reached for her hand and began leading her out of the Inn, "Yeah, it's a problem 'coz you and I are both such stunning people." He grinned boyishly as he pushed open the door, "So you better be prepared if we get so much attention, okay?"

The worried expression on Hinata's face abruptly vanished. She smiled innocently and giggled melodically, "Hai, Naruto-kun."

Thus, their memorable night has begun.


The streets were loud and lively with the spirit of the much-awaited Stargazing Festival of the Village Hidden Under The Moon. Street lamps hang beautifully emitting their own gentle lights, booths were everywhere, the villagers were all properly dressed, and everyone was enjoying the beautiful night.

Naruto and Hinata were walking side by side at the middle of the streets, experiencing all the happiness of the festival. Since Naruto was the well-known Great Hero of the Fourth Shinobi War, everyone recognized him easily and he gained a lot of attention from them as expected. But it was not only him who was the center of attention, the lady beside him as well was attracting attention from the villagers on her own. Who wouldn't want to look at someone as beautiful as her? She was like an angel walking gracefully at the streets. Everyone will be enchanted by her beauty.

"Okaa-san, that lady over there is really beautiful! I want to grow up as beautiful as her!" A young female child said to her mother as she pointed at the pale-eyed maiden beside the hero.

"Seeing her makes me feel really at peace. She is so dazzling." A village woman said to her friends. Her female friends nodded in agreement as they all looked at her with adoring eyes.

All their compliments made the maiden blush, as usual. She still wasn't used to have people looking at her like that. All she could do was lower her head and inch closer to Naruto to hide behind his shoulder.

Naruto felt a light tug at his shoulder and he saw the girl clutching his sleeves in an attempt to hide from the eyes of the villagers. This made him smirk, She's still the same as always… He suddenly felt his confidence boosting up as he felt how the girl stuck to him.

Yes, she belonged to him. Hinata trusted him. Her attention was devoted only to him.

"Is she Naruto-sama's woman? Man, he is lucky to have her!" Another villager commented.

Hah! Eat your hearts out!

He mentally declared in victory.

He reached for Hinata's hand at his shirt and gently encircled his to hers. This made the girl look up to him in surprise. He looked back at her with his ever so confident smirk and said, "Daijobu da, Hinata. I'm here with you."

Upon hearing the ninja's words, the anxiety and insecurity that Hinata was feeling inside abruptly dissolved. He was always an expert to make her feel safe and at ease. He was always there to make her world feel lighter… and she was forever thankful to that. A soft sincere smile was formed on her lips and she held back Naruto's hand without hesitations.

She didn't have any ideas how happy Naruto felt when he felt her hand hold him back with such sincere affections.

The couple strolled at the village for a while, undecided of where they would go first. Hand in hand, they walked together to check at different booths. The village men tried their best to refuse looking at the angelic girl for they all knew that she was Naruto's date at the festival. They didn't want to get involved with a blond Hero raging at them for stealing glances at the innocent maiden who appeared to be his lover. But… not taking a second look at her? As if that was an easy thing to do.

Naruto understood that. Maybe if he was just a villager from this village and he saw Hinata walking at the streets, he also wouldn't be able to resist staring at her. So… he allowed the village men to stare at her. To only stare at her. But if he felt that they desire more than that—if he felt that they were getting close to his Hinata, then he wouldn't be able to hold back.

"Ooooii! Uzumaki Naruto-san!"

The two heard a middle-aged man calling the ninja's name. He and Hinata both turned to where the voice came from, and saw the man at a booth on their left side waving at them in full arm length.

"What is it, oji-san?" Naruto asked back as he and the girl walked towards him.

The man wore a proud smile on his face, "I notice that you and your beautiful lady here haven't decided on where to go first. Why don't you try my booth first then?" he asked.

"Your booth? What does your booth do?" Naruto raised a brow as he looked around the place. He then saw two muscular men seated opposite each other with their hands linked on top of a wooden table. As an arbiter signal for a go, the two men struggled pushing down their opponent's hand down to the surface of the table. In a couple of seconds, the other's hand was down and one man was declared as the winner.

"Arm wrestling." The man boasted and crossed his arms on his chest. "Why don't you try it, Naruto-san? Show off your strength to your lady here." He winked with a toothy grin. "It's a five level challenge, if you win all the challenges, you're going to get our first prize!"

"What's your prize then, old man?" Naruto asked with a smirk on his face. He liked challenges. And showing off his strength to Hinata was not a bad idea after all. Participating in the old man's Arm Wrestling booth can make all the village men see how strong he was and they'll probably stop looking at the girl once that happens. It was a good idea to start off in this booth.

"The first price is… you're going to be able to ride the legendary carriage of this village with our very mystical horse!" The old man exclaimed and presented the price. The two white mystical horses the man was talking about stood there with the unroofed carriage behind it. It was called mystical because of the strange Yin and Yang logo on its fur, which appeared to be naturally embedded there, one was white in color with the Yang symbol, and the other one was black with the Yin symbol. "We call them Shirosuke and Kurohime. They've been together ever since they were little ponies. We never knew where they came from so our late forefathers took care of them. Those lovers that are fortunate enough to ride at their carriage are granted everlasting love as what the legend said in the history of our village."

Hinata was attracted to the two stunning horses, "Shirosuke and Kurohime…" her features softened at them. "Can I… go to them?" she asked the booth owner.

"Oh, Shirosuke is quite protective of Kurohime. Kurohime can be as cold as ice if she doesn't like the person petting her. They're quite picky horses if you ask me." The man said.

Naruto stared blankly at the man, "Then what's the point of your prize of those two horses don't like the couple?"

Without warnings, Hinata suddenly walked towards the two horses without reluctance and petted them.

"Ah! Ojou-san!" The man was about to stop her, but suddenly he and Naruto saw that the two horses did nothing to harm her as she approached them.

Shirosuke only stared at her without doing anything. Kurohime walked close to her and allowed the maiden to pet her. Hinata laid her hand on Kurohime's head and stroke her fur gently. The black horse returned the affections by brushing its head to Hinata's cheeks. "You're a sweet one, aren't you? She giggled.

The man gawked at the maiden, "I don't believe it. It's the very first time I saw those two accepted someone so… easily!" he said in astonishment.

Naruto smiled at the sweet sight in front of his eyes. He was glad to see how happy Hinata was… and hearing her giggle like that after so many years, he was in a state of pure bliss. He then walked to the maiden to join her in petting the horses, but suddenly, Shirosuke stood to block his path from Kurohime and Hinata. The white horse was glaring intently at the Hero's blue eyes.

"Ah, that's right. Shirosuke also guards the person who Kurohime acknowledges. Especially, when that person is a woman. You have to prove to Shirosuke that you're worthy of the pretty lady's hand, Naruto-san." The man explained, "So… prove it by the way of Arm Wrestling!"

Naruto glared back at Shirosuke confidently. "You want me to prove that I can protect my woman? Arm Wrestling won't show even 1/5 of my affections towards her. But I accept the challenge." He said and the white horse looked at him as if he understood everything that the Hero said. The blond then walked towards the table to face his first opponent.

"I know that you'll win this, Naruto-kun. G-gambatte kuda sai!" Hinata cheered from the bottom of her heart.

Well. That was it. All the confidence that Naruto could gather automatically enhanced inside his chest. "Yosh!" He shouted and readied his hand in front of his muscular opponent, "I will never lose!" He can't afford to lose, especially when he has the girl rooting for him. Well, he was sure that he'll win every single challenge in the first place. He was not titled as "The Great Hero of the Fourth Shinobi War" without a reason.

"First Round winner: Uzumaki Naruto!"

"Second Round winner: Uzumaki Naruto!"

"Third Round… won by Uzumaki Naruto again!"

"Fourth Round, Uzumaki Naruto!"

"Champion of the Arm Wrestling challenge, Uzumaki Naruto!"

The challenge was pretty evident for everyone. It was one-sided, and Naruto defeated all his opponents in just one move. So, the victory was for Naruto and Hinata.

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After the Arm Wrestling challenge, the two again strolled at the streets, but this time, they were riding the carriage that they won for Naruto being the champion of the booth. Right after Naruto won the challenge, Shirosuke acknowledge him as well as Kurohime. They were all in good terms and the whole village was amazed by how they were able to tame the two wild mystical horses. One thing all crossed in their minds, and that is, Naruto and Hinata being star-crossed lovers. Before the two left the booth earlier, the old man offered them a coachman if ever Naruto wanted someone to control the carriage for them. Of course, the hero refused. He was skilled enough to ride horses so he can take care of the carriage himself. Aside from that, he wouldn't want anyone else to join them in their romantic date… having a stranger with them would only ruin their mood.

Before Naruto could ask where he and Hinata should go next, his stomach made a loud gurgle that spoke for him.

Hinata giggled at hearing this.

Naruto only scratched the back of his head, "I guess it's telling us where to go next." He laughed. Coincidentally as if the Gods heard what his stomach wanted, they stopped in front of a Ramen shop which made Naruto's eye glitter in excitement. "They have Ramen here?!"

Hinata followed his gaze, "It seems so," she said as she remembered how the teenage ninja loved Ramen to the core. Without hesitations, Naruto jumped down from the carriage and gentlemanly helped Hinata get down, "Let's eat at this place! You're gonna love it here!"

She smiled at him as she grabbed Naruto's hand. Then she was dragged inside the shop energetically by the blond. "When you were in Ibaragakure, you told me that you never tasted Ramen all your life, right? I'm sure you're going to love it, dattebayo!" he exclaimed. When they were inside the Ramen shop, Naruto made their way to the counter and settled on a vacant stool adjacent to one another.

"Old man! Two Pork Miso Ramen please!" He ordered raising his two fingers.

"Yes. Hold on a sec!" the old man at the counter responded.

While the two were waiting for their orders, Naruto whispered at her, "When we get back to Konoha, I'll definitely treat you to the world's greatest Ramen Restaurant. The Ichiraku! I'm sure that the Ramen here does not match up to that but I guess the taste in this place is okay, though. I did promise you back then that I'll take you out to Ichiraku's right?"

Hinata nodded, "Hai. Thank you, Naruto-kun."

After a minute or so, their orders finally came. When they were done saying their prayers, Naruto dug into the Ramen like there was no tomorrow.

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"Ahhh I ate so much! I feel great!" Naruto exclaimed. He and Hinata were now back riding the Carriage with Shirosuke and Kurohime. He just finished six large bowls of his favorite Pork Miso Ramen while Hinata was satisfied by only one bowl. If there was an eating contest at the shop, Naruto probably had joined it to win more prizes for Hinata. Though he wasn't able to find any eating contest booth, he was now refueled to take on all different challenges from different booths.

"Where should we go next, Hinata?" he asked.

Thus, their fun night continued.

The two participated in different contests, and they all won it without breaking a sweat. They went to lotteries, which they won the first prize which was a hundred thousand Ryo worth Kimono in first attempt because of Hinata's formidable luck. Then, they went to buy cotton candies and watch the traditional street dance of the village. The Feudal Lord of the village even had the privilege to proudly declare that Uzumaki Naruto came to visit the village and participate in their much-awaited festival. After that, the couple went to watch a dramatic puppet show about the life of Kaguya-hime. Since Hinata already had her memories back, she remembered how she loved the story of Kaguya-hime when she was still a child. She was very delighted when they were informed that a dramatic puppet show would tell the story of her favorite book.

When the puppet show was over, they finally decided to settle on the plains of the village to relax and enjoy the starry night sky.

Naruto and Hinata sat together with her heads directed towards the cloudless sky, with the stars reflecting their glimmers at the lovers' eyes. The two horses and the carriage were settled yards away from them, who also appeared to be enjoying the peaceful night.

"Tonight was really fun. I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life!" Naruto said and then he inclined his back at the plains with his hands behind his head. "I'm really happy that you came with me today, Hinata."

"I-it's no big deal, Naruto-kun… I'm more thankful because you brought me to the festival. I was very happy as well… because I was able to spend a memorable night with Naruto-kun after all these years." She said with an evident peacefully joyous voice but somehow it implied a hint of melancholy on her tone.

Silence engulfed the two as they only stared at the stars above them. Their feelings were similar… Naruto knew how Hinata felt upon saying those words to him. Never in his life had he imagined that the both of them would be able to sit right beside each other again and watch the starry night sky like what they usually did when they were still young.

Naruto closed his eyes as the gentle breeze passed by them that added to the tranquility of the place. He reminisced a certain memory with the two of them at the Hyuga Household. A young Naruto and a young Hinata sat at the porch near the Koi pond and they both watched the cloudless sky with the sparkling stars. It was one of those peaceful times that he felt at ease most… only the two of them together chatting and relaxing. They always felt peaceful whenever they were together. It's as if that they weren't suffering… it's as if the world was not against them as long as they were together.

But the pain of losing her during those times, it came back to him as he was remembering their childhood.

"Nee, Naruto-kun…" Hinata suddenly broke the ice and it distracted Naruto from his thoughts.

"Hm? Nani?" He asked.

Hinata bent her knees closer to her body and hugged them as she looked down at the grassy ground, "I wonder…" she began, "I wonder if I was born to be a normal Hyuga…" the blissful tone that her voice previous had was now gone, it was replaced by pure sadness.

Hearing Hinata speak like that, Naruto rose up from his reclining position and shot her a worried look.

The girl refused to look at him as she let her bangs cover the expression of her melancholic eyes, the wind blew again and it coldly brushed her skin. "I wonder… if I became a ninja like Naruto-kun did. Maybe our lives would be much different…" she continued, "Maybe… I would be that girl who'd only adore Naruto-kun from afar and only hide my affections towards you." She managed to stifle a depressed giggle and she hugged her knees tighter, "Maybe if I became a ninja—if I was born normally be… people wouldn't have to suffer because of me."

"Hey, Hinata, what are you thi—"

"My clan wouldn't have to suffer," She interjected, "My mother wouldn't have to die. Hanabi wouldn't have to be pressured by the role she has for our clan. Father wouldn't have to be disappointed in me… and they all wouldn't suffer upon losing me. If I was just strong enough… and wise enough to defend myself back then—then none of this would have happened. Naruto-kun wouldn't be able to go through those dark years… Naruto-kun wouldn't have suffered."

"Stop saying that, Hinata." He said in a firm tone and turned to her. He held her shoulders and made her face him, "Look at me, Hinata. Look at me." He said.

Slowly, the girl lifted her head and stared at his sky blue eyes.

"You always told me not to blame myself for anything that has happened to you… you told me in that letter that I should not ever blame myself because it was not my fault that you…" his voice trailed off at his last statement, refusing to say the painful word, "Instead, you're the one who's blaming yourself, aren't you? People have suffered… your clan, your mother, father, sister, Neji and… even Sasuke. We all suffered because we lost you and we blamed ourselves because we weren't able to do anything to save your life. But in the end, you told us to never blame ourselves. You've been always so selfless that's why… you're the one who's taking all the blame." He paused, "Just how many times do I have to tell you that none of this is your fault? How many times do I have to tell you that… that our suffering is not the same extent of your agony?"

Hinata now refused to look at his eyes as she lowered her head, but before she could do that, Naruto's hand cupped her chin to prevent her to do so.

"I regret nothing, Hinata. I don't regret that I loved a girl like you—I don't regret that I fell in love with a person who's not a ninja. It pains me to hear you say those things… that you want to change your life—that you want to change yourself. It's you, Hinata. You're the girl I fell in love with. Even if the world was cruel to the both of us, even if the world separated us in the most painful way, look at us… We still found each other. Those painful experiences that we've been through, it all made us stronger. With us getting through all that, I don't see anything that could come between us."

He paused and directly stared at her eyes, "That's why don't you ever blame yourself again. It's my turn to tell you that, Hinata. This time… I won't ever waste this chance again."

"But Naruto-kun… I… I was not beside you for all these years. I was not—I was not able to support you and help you in everything you've been through. Your fights, your trainings, the war… I was not there for you."

"Chigau."

His statement made her eyes widen.

"You got it all wrong, Hinata…" he said, "You were always there for me, Hinata. When I was training with my master, when I felt like giving up, when I felt that everything was over for me… you always show up to give me courage. You were the reason why I was able to pull through all the hardships I faced after you were brought to Ibaragakure by Shinra. You were always the source of my strength… you have always been my inspiration… you were always the person I desired to fight for. That's why in everything, I did my best… because I always believed that your feelings for me have lived on even though you were not physically present anymore. Your simple words of telling me that I was a proud failure, it was enough for me to gather all the strength I have to fulfill my duties as a person and as a Shinobi."

He pulled back from her and reached for her cold hands, he tightened his grasp at her so he could provide her heat, "You were the reason why Sasuke and I were able to end the War. We thought of you and how you loved the village so much. Both of us decided to protect what was important to you and we didn't give up until we succeeded." He said, "You were always there for me, Hinata. Your words have always made me stronger and better."

And then he looked down solemnly, "But you… you lived your life without remembering anything related to your past. You didn't know that you had a family that loved you… and you didn't know that you had me ever since. In all those years you lived in that cruel village, I was not able to be with you. What would be more painful than that?" he said, "But… even after all those times, you managed to live on. You managed to go through all those sufferings by yourself. And after all those times that we've been through being separated from each other, we were still able to see each other again. That's why right now… we've learned all our lessons, we grew as persons, we became stronger and we're together again, this is a chance that we cannot waste. We are reunited and we knew that we both have each other… that's why this time none of us would have to go through this alone. Together, we have to be strong to face what's ahead of us.

"Can you promise me that, Hinata? Can you promise that both of us will face this together?"

There was silence for a while again. They only looked at each other's eyes, and finally Hinata responded with a nod and she dissolved into his arms. "I'm sorry… for suddenly saying those things…" she whispered to him.

"Hey, it's all right. You can always open up to me… I'll be always here to listen to you just like the old times." He said as he hugged her back, his heart suddenly accelerating at their bodies' close contact. He could smell the sweet fragrance of her hair and he could feel the gentle warmth of her slender body.

"I just… missed them so much. Okaa-sama, Otou-sama, Hanabi, Neji-nisan, the village… and Naruto-kun. I just missed you all so much that's why… I was able to say those things."

"It's fine. I understand how you feel…" He said. "You don't have to worry any more. I'll get you back to the village. I promised you, didn't?" he tightened his arms around her as he buried his face into her hair, "I even promised Tsuki that I'll bring her to Konoha, didn't I?"

Upon hearing Naruto's words, Hinata suddenly clutched his shirt tighter, "Tsuki…" she whispered "Naruto-kun… you fell in love with her, didn't you?"

There was a sudden change on the tone of her voice. A tone that he never expected that would come from her. If he guessed right… If he was right… did he hear a tone of…

He gently pulled back at her and stared at her face. He was welcomed by red cheeks and hidden eyes, "Hey, Hinata… could it be that you're jealous of Tsuki?"

jealousy?

The girl was frozen on her spot. She avoided his gaze as much as possible and tried to distance herself from him. But Naruto didn't let her.

"You're jealous of your own self, Hinata?" Naruto pressed on.

Hinata still didn't answer. Her head was just turned away from him, still avoiding his beautiful eyes.

This was bad. Reaaallly bad. Naruto wouldn't be able to hold back anymore because she was being very… lovely. His heart pounded strongly and swiftly inside his chest, and before both of them knew it, Naruto pinned the girl down to the ground and settled himself on top of her on fours. His hands were in both sides of her head, and his knees were on both sides of her legs.

Hinata was caught off guard by Naruto's abrupt actions. She stared at him with large eyes, completely stupefied by their current situation. This was the very first time she had seen him look at her with those eyes. Her heart pounded uncontrollably inside her chest and the redness on her face intensified. There was an indescribable feeling inside her… she felt as if he was looking at her in a very new way.

He was looking at her… as if she was a woman.

His woman.

"You can be foolish at times, too… getting jealous of your own self, I never expected that." He said in a rough voice. He stared back at her widened eyes. Every time he saw her look at him like that, it always made his heart accelerate. He just couldn't help himself but adore the pure beauty of her face. Seriously? How could she get so insecure by possessing such beauty that no one else could compete with? Moreover, she was not only beautiful on the outside but she also had a heart of gold. He would have never asked—he would have never sought for another woman better than her.

To him… she was everything.

His eyes then slowly traveled away from her eyes and fell into her soft lips.

"I love you, Hinata… I love you." He said as his cold breath touched Hinata's smooth skin. Before he could think, his body suddenly began moving on its own. Slowly, his head bent down closer to her face, their noses touched and he brought his hand to caress her smooth cheeks. Both of them closed their eyes in a peaceful manner… and then finally, his lips pressed on against hers.

Tears formed in Hinata's eyes as she felt Naruto's lips on top of hers. She wasn't able to think for a moment… but her body was able to act on its own. Her hand slid to also touch his whiskered cheek, and she kissed him back instinctively.

The wind gently blew at them again.

Naruto deepened the kiss… and Hinata allowed him to. They passionately kissed each other, showing how they both reciprocated their feelings—showing how they deeply loved one another after all these years of separation and loss.

After all those years… he never stopped loving her.

After all those years without remembering anything, she still fell in love with him and only with him.

She kissed him back in the sweetest way as tears continue dripping from her closed eyes. When they were still young, she always hoped that she could find someone who'll truly love her for the way she was. For someone who will love her unconditionally… and Uzumaki Naruto came. He was her light. His smiles saved her from her cruel destiny.

The kiss lasted for a minute or so, Naruto decided to pull back before he could get ahead of himself. If this continues… then he wouldn't be able to hold back anymore. He distanced his face from her and opened his eyes to look back at her, as usual, she looked very stunning as she was catching her breath from their long kiss.

"You're very beautiful, Hinata… that's not the only reason why I love you so much…" he said to her and then he pressed his forehead gently against hers. "I can't think of all the reasons why I love you… it's just… everything in you—I can't put to words of how I fell in love with you."

"Naruto-kun…"

"That's why… there's no need for you to get so jealous. Because all these times… it has always been you, Hinata." He said.

"It was always you…"

Hinata could only wrap her arms around him and pull him closer to her. She couldn't express how thankful she was that he never looked for someone else. She was thankful that he didn't look for another woman.

She wanted to tell him over and over how she also loved him back. But, due to her crying, she wasn't able to speak. All she did was tighten her embrace and never let him go.


"Why did you have to take me away, Konohamaru-kun?!" Hanabi exclaimed as she and Konohamaru found a safe cave where they could use as a hideout for a moment. "I need to also fight there, you know!"

"Sssshhh!" Konohamaru hushed at her as he looked around to make sure that no one else was with them. Ko activated his byakugan to be certain, and after a moment, he looked at Konohamaru and shook his head indicating that no one else was around.

The Sarutobi grandson then went to the heiress and asked, "Hey, are you all right?" While they were on their way getting out of the village to get Hanabi to safety, they unfortunately encountered two shamans who planned to take Hanabi away when they realized that she was the Hyuga heiress. Ko and Konohamaru were able to put up a fight and successfully defended her from the opponents, but it took a lot of effort to defeat them.

"I can also fight. You saw me how I fought with those shamans, right? You know I can defend myself!" Hanabi argued.

"You're being too loud. Those shamans might spot us again." Konohamaru said.

"We can take them on. I can also take them on." Hanabi countered, "I want to go back to the village. My sister would come back soon and I need to be there for her!"

"You still can't understand it, can you?" Konohamaru glared at her, "Those shamans are also after you. See those two we managed to defeat? We're lucky enough that Ko-san and I were able to defend you from them. For now, you should be focusing on keeping yourself safe and hidden."

Hanabi fisted her hands, "Doushite…? Why are you going so far… just to keep me safe?" she asked. "It's none of your responsibility in the first place and… you and I… you and I are…" her voice suddenly dissolved at her last words as she looked away from him in a troubled manner.

"Datte ore…" Konohamaru started with pure seriousness in his voice, "I want to also protect those who are important to me." He said, "Just like what Naruto-nii-chan did to the whole village and to your sister."

Hanabi's eyes widened at this and it made her gape at him in a flabbergasted manner.

Konohamaru walked closer to her, "The village is going to be all right. I know it. Naruto-nii-chan will come back with your sister and everyone will be saved, I am sure of that. For now… I want to protect someone who's very important to me." He continued, "Besides, I promised your cousin and your father that I'll keep you safe, didn't I? I will never break that promise even if I have to sacrifice my life."

With this, Hanabi glared intently at Konohamaru with tears forming at the corner of her eyes, "Idiot! You… idiot!" she then shut her eyes by raising her voice and she turned away from her as tears cascaded her cheeks. "You… don't have to p-protect me… you're such an idiot, Konohamaru-kun. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot!"

"Then let me be that heroic idiot that will always protect you, Hanabi." He went close to her and placed a hand on top of her head. He only received more "Idiot" statements from the heiress and all he could ever do was smirk at her and adore how she adorably verbally lashed him.


An hour has passed and it was near midnight. Naruto and Hinata still lied on the plains being watched by the enchanting starry night sky, but this time, the couple was not looking at the heavens. Hinata was fast asleep on one of Naruto's arms, and he watched her closely with his blue eyes. She looked so angelic and innocent. It would break his heart to wake her up from such a sweet slumber. Suddenly, he felt the girl moving and she clutched his shirt tighter, moving closer to his chest.

"Naruto-kun…"

She mumbled in her sleep.

Naruto smiled upon hearing her say his name. Was she dreaming about him? Oh, how he wanted to know.

Much as he wanted to make their moment last longer, he suddenly remembered his promise to Shinra that he'll get the maiden home before midnight. So, as gently as he could, he lifted her head up to gather back his arm. After that, he lifted her body carefully and carried her in bridal style back to the carriage.

They managed to get back to the Inn before the clock struck twelve. Since the maiden was still fast asleep and he didn't have the heart to wake her up, he carried her back to her room and settled her down on the futon. A smile formed on his lips as he stared at her peaceful sleeping form. He gently laid the futon's blanket on top of her fragile body to prevent her from feeling the cold, "Sweet dreams, my princess." He whispered to her and kissed her forehead. He then went out of the maiden's room and took one last glance before he closed the shoji door.

.

.

.

It was 5am and Naruto was already up from his bed. He was in his usual ninja attire which was a black and orange tracksuit, a brown cape settled to cover his entire body and he wore his Hitai ate with the symbol of Konoha carved on its metal. After a minute or so, he went out of his bedroom and walked across the hallway to reach a certain shoji. He partly slid the door open of the room to peek on the girl he couldn't wait to see for this day, but just like how he last saw her last night, she was still peacefully sleeping on the futon where he laid her hours ago.

It gave him a serene feeling as he saw how happy she looked while she was sleeping. It was a nice sight to start another eventful day.

"Naruto-dono?" a feminine voice came from his left side and he saw a seaweed-haired girl with aqua eyes staring at him, "Ah, ohayo gozaimasu." Shinra said, "Did you come to wake Hinata-sama up?"

"Ah, no… I just came to check if she's already awake. I don't have the guts to wake her or anything so…" He explained as he scratched the back of his head vaguely, "I'm just going out for a while. Don't leave until I get back all right? If Hinata wakes up and looks for me, tell her that I just went out to find something for her."

Then without saying anything else to the priestess, he went to the nearest window and leaped out of the Inn.

.

.

.

It was still dawn at the Village Hidden Under the Moon and there was still the cold breeze of the night. Naruto was leaping from the trees' limb to limb at the forest in an attempt to search for a valuable item that he forgot to give to the girl he shared his kiss with last night. He was so idiotic to forget something as important as that. He knew how the girl loved Azaleas so much and he wasn't able to give any to her last night despite knowing that the village's forest is capable of growing that type of flower.

He settled down on the ground when his eyes caught the pink bunch growing near the riverbed. He bent down to pick the finest looking azaleas his eyes could see. In every flower he picked, memories of last night flashed back in his mind. It made him smile sincerely. Indeed, it was a night that he could never and would never forget. They ate together, laughed together, had fun together… and shared a sweet kiss together. It was unbelievable that all those things still happened between them after all these empty years. He was in a state of bliss that no one could take away from him.

Because after all this time… she was his one and only happiness.

As he continued picking the flowers, he suddenly felt a familiar flow of chakra swiftly approaching his whereabouts. He was immediately up on his feet, and stood on an alerted stance.

There was no doubt about it… the chakra he was feeling belonged to none other than that person.

A quiet thump was heard on the ground meters away from Naruto's spot. Even with the blonde's back was facing the newly arrived ninja, he knew who exactly came to show up in a very unlikely place.

He was expecting to see him. But he never thought that it would be this soon.

"I finally caught up with you, Naruto." Said by a familiar deep voice coming from the Hero's back.

Naruto spun to face the newcomer. Immediately, blue eyes met black hawk-like eyes that glared intensely at him as always.

"Sasuke."

The Uchiha, without hesitations on his eyes, drew out his Katana and directed his Kusanagi at the blond-haired ninja.

"I came to take her away from you."

To be continued.


a/n:

It was short compared to the other chapters, wasn't it? Gomen! I just have to trim down things so I wouldn't end up writing something tragic again. Anyways, I did it! I finally made them kiss. Wohooo. But Sasuke came back. (BOO.)

I'm really excited to write the next chapter... but I don't know when I'll be able to update again soon. There are so many things running through my mind right now and I often tend to think a lot which sometimes worsen my condition. It also affects my writing so... I just hope I find the time to update. I'm stuck with a very important paperwork that I need to accomplish in order to pass my course so, yeah, it's a lot of work to do. I think I'll only be able to freely write when I'm done with that paper.

So for now, I apologize in advance because I don't know when I'll be able to open my account again. Thank you for always sticking with me!

See you guys!

If I made it back... then I'm alive.

Vocabulary

Daijobu da- it's all right

Gambatte kuda sai- do your best

Hai- yes

Chigau- you're wrong

Datte ore- beacause I…