- I -
Kissing, Hinata decided, was certainly very nice. Especially when one’s new boyfriend was very good at it. Not that she had any comparisons to make, but she never knew having someone else’s tongue in your mouth could be so pleasurable. She finally understood why Tenten-nee and Neji-nii-san did it at every given opportunity.
Really, there wasn’t much privacy within the Hyuga compound. Not with so many pairs of capable-of-seeing-through-almost-anything-byakyugan running amok.
At least, it was nice until one’s highly overprotective elder cousin brother stormed in and roared, “What in Kami-sama’s name are you two doing?!”
The snogging couple broke apart guiltily and Naruto quickly rolled off her. Quickly breaking apart, they picked themselves up to be confronted with a very livid Hyuga Neji.
- II -
“And when I entered the room, the two of them were rolling on the floor, in an indecent state of undress, kissing the daylights out of each other!”
He had dragged them away and stormed into the Hokage’s office, where Tsunade, Shizune and Tenten were having a meeting of sorts. Admittedly, the enraged man was a little concerned at his girlfriend’s presence in the Hokage’s office, but there were more important things at hand.
Like protecting his little cousin’s honor.
“Neji-niisan,” Hinata almost wailed in despair at her older cousin’s highly incriminating testimony. “It’s not what you think!” She turned to her fellow “captive” to appeal for help.
Only that, Naruto did not seem to mind being hauled away like a criminal by a fellow ANBU towards the Hokage office.
In fact, he almost seemed amused.
“Is that true, Naruto?” Tsunade turned to the blonde ninja.
“That’s correct,” he shrugged, and confirmed Neji’s words.
Hinata wanted to cry.
“You see, Hokage-sama? Hinata-sama is the heir of the Hyuga clan and should not be subjected to such disrespectful behavior. She’s not just some common lay in the streets!”
Tenten stiffened up. “Neji, calm down,” she said calmly, masking her rising ire. He certainly had no such worries when he spent the night at her place last week despite their obvious unmarried state.
So, Hinata’s the Hyuga princess. But who does he think I am? Chopped liver? She thought.
“But we were only kissing!” Hinata protested. “You kiss Tenten-nee all the time!”
“Then explain why weren’t you wearing any underwear?!”
Everyone gasped in shock, and Naruto instantly moved in front of Hinata, who had crossed her arms in front of her. Tenten glowered at Neji dangerously, “You’ve got some explaining to do, Hyuga Neji.”
Neji sweated a little, “I... I had to use the Byakyugan to scout for Hinata-sama’s whereabouts, and you know how strong my Byakyugan is... So I accidentally caught a glimpse...”
“Is that so?” Tenten said silkily.
“Yes, yes,” Neji swallowed again and tried to divert their attentions away from his little misdemeanor. “Anyway, the fact remains, you have no... err... you were not fully clothed”
Hinata flushed, “My clothes were in the wash, so I had to make do with Naruto-kun’s clothes.”
“What were your clothes doing in the wash?” Neji pounced.
“Err...” Hinaa fumbled. “They were dirty?”
“And how did they get dirty?!”
“She got some vomit on them,” Naruto finally deigned it time for him to speak.
“VOMIT?! YOU GOT HER PREGNANT?!”
“No, no... I just drank too much last night,” Hinata clarified hastily.
“Why does everyone think I had sex with her last night?” Naruto asked morosely. “Am I the kind of man who would take advantage of an innocent young woman without full control of her faculties?”
An image of Jiraiya leering lewdly superimposed with Naruto appeared in everyone’s mind and they chorused, “YES!”
Tsunade tried to keep a straight face, and she coughed discreetly to get their attention. “I gather that the whole debate here is regarding whether or not did Naruto and Hinata have sex last night?”
Neji nodded grimly.
“Alright, Hinata-chan. Did you and Naruto-kun have sex last night?”
Hinata shook her head frantically.
“She’s just protecting him,” Neji doubted her cousin.
The fifth sighed. Young people nowadays are so prudish. Ahh, she could still remember her younger days, when she was on missions with Orochimaru and Jiraiya... ahh.. those were the days...
“Have you ever had sexual intercourse before?”
Again, Hinata shook her head, this time flushing beet red.
“So you’re a virgin?”
She nodded her head, not trusting herself to speak.
“Alright then, please follow me behind this curtain,” Tsunade gestured to the examination table in the alcove with a green hospital curtain to hide it. Hinata followed the Hokage mutedly.
The room was deadly quiet while Shizune, Tsunade and Hinata went behind the curtain, the only activity being Tenten glowering at Neji, Neji glowering at Naruto and Naruto...
Naruto whipped out Icha-Icha Paradise Volume one and started reading calmly, reminiscent of a certain one-eyed jounin.
After a while, the three ladies finally emerged from the curtain and Naruto kept the book away. Hinata walked silently towards him and he took her hands and peered into her eyes, squinting slightly as if asking, are you alright? She nodded wordlessly.
“Well, Neji-kun,” Tsunade addressed the male Hyuga, “I’m sure you’ll happy to be assured that your cousin’s honor which I’m sure you cherish very much is still very much intact.”
The tension in the room dissipated and Neji grunted non-commitally. He glared at Naruto and Naruto raised his eyebrows at him cheekily. He apologized formally to the Hokage for the inconvenience, and the older woman waved it away.
“I was about to call you here to discuss something, anyway,” she told him.
Neji stiffened as the leader of the shinobi handed him a nondescript brown manila folder. He opened it, expecting to see the details for a new mission.
Instead, “Tenten’s medical report?” he asked, mildly puzzled. Pale eyes scanned the report, and suddenly, its traveling gaze stopped. The blonde man instinctually pulled his girlfriend closer to him, with one arm around her waist, sensing the deadly ki her cousin was giving off.
Byakyugan-activated eyes trained on his lover, his voice deadly cold, “Which bastard is the father?”
She kept quiet and he moved to grab her by the shoulders and shook her roughly. “Tell me, and I’ll kill him!”
“Then commit seppuku right now!” she suddenly burst out and her arm swung in a wide arc before making contact with his pale cheek with a resounding slap.
A deafening silence descended on the room and the echo of the slap seemed to linger on forever. Nobody moved as the sobbing girl pushed her unmoving boyfriend away and rushed to the door.
As soon as she pulled it open, two figures fell at her feet. Izumo and Kogetsu looked up at her sheepishly. “Hi,” Kogetsu said uncertainly.
“He made me do it,” Izumo immediately pointed at Kogetsu.
Tenten looked at the room and the two men at her feet in horror, before bursting into tears and stepped over them into the hall.
Hinata was the first to react, “Tenten-nee!” she cried as she ran after her.
Tsunade and Shizune looked disapprovingly at the stupefied Neji. Naruto whistled as he looked at the open doorway, “Man, you blew it big.”
Neji closed his eyes and groaned. He couldn’t help but agree with the dobe for once.
- III -
Neji had never cared for many people in his life. In his opinion, not many people deserve his care and protection and the main family certainly deserved it less. But after the chuunin exam episode, he had to revise his opinion.
And in the process, he had to award his cousin a form of grudging respect. She stood up to him in the preliminaries and fought fairly although she could have won the bout by just making the seals to activate the curse seal. From then onwards, he had re-elected himself to be her champion. Many people says that at 12, it was a little too old for Neji to start having the “older-brother-issues” but not like Neji gave a damn about what people thinks.
Besides Hinata and his mother, the only other girl that he had grown to care a lot about was his former teammate. Her cheery attitude and ambition to be as strong as Tsunade, while he initially found it absurd and ridiculous at first slowly grew on him. And before he knew it, he was madly in love with her.
He smiled a little at the memory of their first kiss. They were on an undercover mission in the Wave country two years ago, impersonating as a couple. A woman had approached him in the bar they were at for gathering information while she headed for the restroom.
Neji futilely tried to extract himself from the woman’s clutches. He could have easily knocked her out with a single blow but they were supposed to keep a low profile. Then, the heard Tenten’s voice hiss dangerously from behind him, ordering the bitch to get her filthy paws of her man before she knock her into next Sunday.
“You’re a dangerous woman, Tenten,” he drawled lazily from his sprawled position on the hotel bed. They were sharing a room, to further make their cover more believable.
“Any woman can be dangerous when they’re in love,” she shot back without thinking from her place at the dresser.
“Oh, so you’re admitting that you’re in love now?” His reflection in the mirror smirked a little.
“No,” she stammered. “I just didn’t want people to think that I’m unable to keep my man. We are a couple here after all.”
“You’re a terrible liar, Tenten,” he told her matter-of-factly. “Your face goes all blotchy when you lie.”
Her hand immediately shot up to her face and her reflection in the dresser’s mirror mimicked her action. She sighed ruefully; he was right – she was blushing and turning pale at the same time, hence the blotchy effect.
“So what if I am?” she asked challengingly. “It’s none of your business.”
“Can I make it mine?” He moved towards her.
“NO! You cannot make it yours,” she told him, scooting out of her seat and walking to the wardrobe to avoid him.
He followed her undeterred. “And if I insist on making it mine?”
“Then you’ll find out just how sharp and dangerous my Kunai can be?” she squeaked helplessly, backing away from him. “Neji, what are you doing?” she asked as he continued to approach her, step by step.
“Searching for an answer.”
“The answer to the question I asked you of course.”
“It’s a personal question! I have the right to refuse to reply!”
Unfortunately for poor Tenten, a room is enclosed by walls, and it was inevitable that she found herself backed against the wall, with a yeti called Hyuga Neji looming in front of her.
Desperate, she decided to make a break for the exit.
Bad decision, but then again, her entire evening seemed riddled with bad decisions starting from the one which she decided to “rescue” him in the bar.
He grabbed her and spun her into his arms in such an effortless manner that frankly, she felt insulted.
"Hold still," he murmured huskily as he tightened his arms around the struggling girl.
"Don't come near me," she shrieked, pushing against his chest in a futile attempt to put a decent amount of distance between them. She panicked even further when she saw him leaning down. "Don't kiss me! I don't want you to kiss me! Hyuga Neji! Did you just hear...hrmph..." her following words were smothered as his mouth came crashing against hers.
It was warm, soft, and Tenten had to admit to herself, she was lying when she said she didn't want him to kiss her.
It was warm, soft, and Tenten had to admit to herself, she was lying when she said she didn't want him to kiss her.
She was still too dazed in the aftermath to pay attention. "Huh?"
"It's me," he told her with such arrogance that could only be matched by Uchiha Sasuke. "You're in love with me."
Tenten decided that for his own sake, no matter how much it hurt her to hurt him, he had to be thought a lesson.
“I’m sorry, Neji,” she told him firmly. “But you need to be taught some respect for women.”
Without further ado, she raised her knee and sent it crashing upwards into where the sun doesn’t shine.
He sighed. As the dobe said, he had really blown it big this time.
“Oi,” someone poked him in the stomach. He opened his eyes with effort and looked up to see Naruto looking down at him. The fox-boy had led him out of the Hokage office to the observatory on the roof of the building.
“Aren’t you going to go look for her?” Blue eyes gazed into his pearl colored ones.
Neji exhaled heavily. “I don’t think she wants to see me now.”
Naruto took a seat beside him. “How can you even ask her such a stupid question?”
“I don’t know,” the long haired man muttered. “We were always very careful, you know, since we both felt that starting a family at this point will only hinder our advancement in our careers. We did use all those contraceptive jutsus, you know.”
“Even contraceptive jutsus ain’t guaranteed 100 you won’t strike lucky. But panties are good contraceptives; she can’t get pregnant if she still has her panties on.”
Neji shot him a dirty look but he continued his rambling, “but then again, panties can break too, if you’re rather... desperate and forceful.”
“Well, it seems that I should go buy Lotto now,” he muttered glumly. “And it also proves that celibacy is the best option. Remember that.”
“Only difference is that I wouldn’t have posed such a stupid question to Hinata if we were in your’s and Tenten’s shoes.”
“Oh, if memory serves me correct, you only got together very recently. Why do you place so much faith in her?”
Naruto shrugged and took a seat beside him. “She just isn’t the kind of person to sleep around, just like Tenten isn’t that kind of person. Even a blind person can see that she loves you very much.”
“You never noticed that Hinata-sama liked you when you were younger. Even the blind noticed that.”
“It’s different now; I’m better at dealing with emotions and feelings now then I was when I was twelve.”
“Ahh... I guess it’s the same for me. But don’t you think you’ve rushed things a little with Hinata-sama?”
“I don’t know,” he closed his eyes and image of a smiling Hinata surfaced in his mind’s eye. “I just feel very comfortable with her, something that I have not felt for a pretty long time.”
Since that incident. Those words hung unspoken between them.
“I think you’re wrong.” Neji’s companion spoke suddenly, startling him out of his reverie.
“Huh?” Neji was confused by the certain shift of topics.
“I think she would want to see you now,” Naruto explained.
“I don’t know where she is...”
Naruto made a noise of exasperation, “How long have you two been together? You don’t even know where she’ll go when she’s upset?”
Neji thought about it for a moment before snapping his fingers, his eyes shining, “I think I know where she is.”
- IV -
“Stupid, stupid man,” Tenten lashed out angrily and sent her kunai into respective targets. To her, each of the targets had Neji’s face imprinted on it, which fueled her anger and adrenaline even more. It took the last of her energy out and she slumped onto the ground panting heavily.
Hinata sighed and took a step towards the exhausted woman when someone placed a hand and restrained her. She looked up and saw her cousin looking at Tenten. He spoke quietly, “He’s waiting for you 100 metres to the east, at the training posts.”
Her gaze traveled back and forth from her cousin to the woman on the ground worriedly.
“It’s okay,” he assured her, squeezing her shoulder lightly. She nodded and headed off.
“Naruto-kun,” she called softly and tapped him on the shoulder, when she reached him.
He turned and smiled at her, putting an arm around her waist. “Do you still remember this place?”
Her heart beat a little faster. “Yes.”
“You’ve always had the knack to make me feel loads better,” he told her sincerely. “I was really nervous then, but your words were really encouraging. I don’t think I would have managed to even reach the stadium if I hadn’t met you here”
She blushed a little, “You’re exaggerating, Naruto-kun. You managed to beat Neji-niisan with your own strength. I only gave you a little push.”
He looked at her, blue eyes staring right into hers, right into her soul. Hinata felt like she was drowning in those crystal blue orbs that seem to hold so many secrets and pain. “I won because of you,” he told her quietly.
“Because of me?” She asked, her throat feeling a little constricted.
“I swore in your blood at the preliminaries, that I would take Neji down.” He brushed a lock of her hair away from her face. “I was so angry with him then, for his stubborn belief in his crapload of shit about destiny, for him hurting you. I couldn’t forget how you suffered in the preliminaries.”
She felt the familiar stinging in her eyes and she quickly blinked them away. “Are you okay?” he asked, wiping away the tears that escaped her lids with his hands. Did I say something wrong?”
Hinata shook her head furiously. She found his constant worry of saying the wrong things endearing, when to her; he always says the right things. “Thank you, Naruto-kun.”
“For everything,” she responded simply, and kissed him quickly and shyly on the lips. It was her first time initiating a kiss, and she really did not know how to go about it.
Naruto blinked. It happened so quickly, he wasn’t sure what happened but he could have sworn she just kissed him. Voluntarily.
“Ahh,” he said, interlocking the fingers of his left hand with her right, “I’m hungry. We never got to finish our breakfast, with Neji storming in and all. Are you hungry?”
Her stomach answered him.
She blushed and he laughed, leading both of them back towards town. “Tell me Hinata-chan, have you ever been to Ichiraku?” She shook her head. “Wow? Where have you been living? That’s like where the most fantastic Ramen in Konoha is. We’ll have to go there and you must order their Pork Ramen. That’s like my favorite...”
Hinata followed him only half listening to him extolling the virtues of Ichiraku Ramen Stall. She looked down and smiled at the sight of his hand holding hers.
He suddenly stopped short, “What did Tsunade-obaasan do to you behind the curtain?”
“Nothing,” she said.
“Nothing?” he asked, still suspicious. He didn’t like the idea of anyone touching his girlfriend anywhere, even if it was just a medical examination.
She reddened slightly, “Hokage-sama said she trusts you.”
“Ahh.” With that, they continued down the path.
“I trust you, too.”
- V -
“You shouldn’t work yourself so hard.”
Tenten’s eyes widened at the sound of his voice. He crouched beside her on the ground, “You might harm the baby.”
“It’s not like you care. After all, he’s may not even be yours,” she lied sarcastically.
“Don’t joke about these things,” he said sharply. She sniffled in response, “I’m not the one who doubted my partner’s fidelity.”
She was still mad at him, and was making damn sure that he knows it.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “It came rather unexpectedly, that’s all. I mean...”
Tenten cut him off forcefully, “I don’t know which world you were living in, but in this world at least people do have babies when they have sex.”
“I know... but all those contraceptive jutsus...”
“I told you from the start that they don’t always WORK!” she shouted at him angrily, blinded by her tears.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he murmured as he gathered the crying woman into his arms. He sat on the ground, and pulled her into his lap. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m scared, Neji,” she sobbed into his chest. “I’m only 19; I’m not ready to be a mother!”
“Shh, we’ll get through this together.”
“And I haven’t told my parents. God, they’re so going to murder me when they find out.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll work around it.”
“Neji!” she cried in despair. “This is serious, what are we going to do?”
He said evenly, “We’ll get married.”
She fell silent for a minute, “Oh, Neji. I don’t want us to get married just because I’m pregnant,” she said quietly. “I would rather raise the kid by myself than for us to get married just because we had an accident.”
“What are you talking about?” Neji asked almost angrily, “He’s my kid, too. I’m not letting you take the full brunt of it. Admittedly, this is faster than I planned, but we would have gotten married at some point in the future anyway.” His eyes narrowed, “Unless you were thinking of marrying someone else?”
“I’ve always fancied the thought of being Mrs. Uchiha, if that’s what you mean.”
The arms encircling her stiffened and she sighed, “I was joking, Neji, joking.”
“I told you not to joke about these things,” he told her grimly. “And I’m serious about us getting married.”
“I don’t know,” she said doubtfully. “What will the village think? Especially when the baby comes early?”
“They don’t have to think and frankly, I don’t give a damn what they think,” Neji told her.
She still looked unconvinced.
“And they won’t have to think at all when the kid’s born with Byakyugan.”
“What makes you so sure that he will have the Byakyugan?” Tenten asked curiously.
“Because he’s Hyuga Neji’s son, that’s what,” he replied and was rewarded with a half hearted slap on the upper forearm.
“Ouch, you’re really a dangerous woman, Tenten,” he grumbled. “You shouldn’t hit your fiancé with no reason.”
His fiancée stuck out her tongue at him, “I told you that women are dangerous when they’re in love.”
“Are you in love?” he asked her, gazing deep into her warm brown eyes.
“Yes,” Tenten responded breathlessly.
“Can I find out who is it?”
That was all he needed, as he bent down and kiss him gently. After all, he had learnt his lesson about respecting women.
- VI -
“Wow,” Ino said enviously, “That’s one rock you have on your finger, Tenten.”
Ino, Sakura and Hinata had convened in Tenten’s for a sleepover. Her parents had taken the news unexpectedly well. They had even set a date for the wedding already; the fifteenth of next month.
“He essentially walked into the jewelers and ordered them to bring out their most expensive rings,” Tenten recounted happily, drawing another round of envious oohs and aahs from Sakura and Ino.
They all smiled and congratulated her again. Tenten was so happy, positively glowing. She looked like a woman in love.
Hinata wondered if she was glowing as well.
“But this is rather a shocker,” Sakura piped in. “You and Neji getting married and all.”
Tenten blushed, “Well, we didn’t exactly plan this, so we’re kind of like riding the wind. Anyway, I don’t think my pregnancy and shotgun wedding is as shocking as what happened to Hinata last night, hmm?” she poked at Hinata teasingly.
The dark haired girl blushed furiously as Tenten continued. “You didn’t see how mad Neji was. I clearly remember him using the terms, ‘indecent state of undress’ and ‘kissing the daylights out of each other’!”
“Wow, Hinata-chan, you sure have changed,” Ino joined in the teasing against the Hyuga girl. “You move fast now.”
Hinata spluttered. Sakura chirped, “She’s all grown up now. I remember the days that she used to be unable to even look at Naruto in the eye.”
“That’s your entire fault, Sakura,” Tenten said severely, “He was too hung up on you.”
“Ahh... Not my fault, I wasn’t exactly leading him on or anything.”
“What about Lee?” Ino asked.
Sakura blushed and fiddled with a piece of loose thread on her pajamas.
“You should give him a chance,” Tenten advised. “He loves and cares for you very much.”
“Ahh... we’ll see how it goes,” the pink haired girl replied non-commitally and hastily changed to topic, “Anyway, we’re talking about Hinata-chan.”
“Me?” Hinata pointed at herself, flaming red again.
“Yes, you,” Sakura hugged her pillow. “Tell us, is Naruto a good kisser?”
“Ahh... I think so,” Hinata replied cautiously.
“How does it feel?” Ino prodded.
“It feels,” Hinata paused to search for an appropriate word, “nice.”
“Girl, you’ve gotta do better than that. What about the part about being, ‘in an indecent state of undress’?” Tenten asked.
“Undress?” Ino’s eyes were as big as saucers. “Wow, did you see him naked?”
“Is he big?” Sakura chipped in curiously.
“Yes, Yes, Yes,” Hinata answered helplessly, feeling her severe inability to lie.
“Are you sure all you two did was kiss?” Tenten asked suspiciously. Like her fiancé, she too had grown fond of the younger Hyuga.
All the other girls eyed her doubtfully.
“I’m going to bed!” Hinata said, embarrassed and quickly slipped into the futon and pulled the covers over her head.
“Hinata-chan!” the rest of the girls cried and tried to pull the sheets back to continue their interrogation.
“Go to bed!” came the muffled reply under the covers. “Neji-niisan won’t be happy if Tenten-nee didn’t get enough rest.”
Grudgingly, the rest of the room settled into their respective places.
“Don’t think you’ve escaped entirely, Hinata. The morning comes quickly,” Ino warned as she fluffed her pillow.
Hinata wisely pretended to be fast asleep.
- VII -
“Sakura-chan? What are you doing awake?” Hinata asked softly as she crawled to Sakura who was sitting by the sliding doors that lead into the balcony.
“I couldn’t sleep, Hinata-chan,” she replied, not taking her off the moon that hung low in the sky.
“Are you thinking about him again?” The two girls had grown really close in the past six years. It goes without saying, who’s ‘him’.
Sakura nodded. “I can’t forget him. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel that I’m partly to blame. If I was only stronger, better and smarter, I could have protected him from Orochimaru. Maybe I could have stopped Orochimaru from giving him the curse seal. Maybe I could have stopped him from leaving. Maybe...”
“Sakura-chan,” Hinata said with gentle firmness. “It was Orochimaru, one of the legendary Konoha Sannin that took him. You couldn’t have done anything to stop him. In the end, it was Sasuke-kun’s choice to go. You cannot save a person who does not want to be saved.”
Sakura kept quiet and mulled over her words.
Hinata took Sakura’s hand into hers and drew the green-eyed girl’s attention to herself. “Maybe you should listen to Tenten-nee,” she said softly, “you’ll never be happy if you don’t let him go. Lee-kun is a good man; he’ll try to make you happy.”
Her teammate looked at her in the eye, green meeting grey in a steady gaze, “If Naruto never returned; would you have settled for Shino or Kiba? Would you have kissed them, pretending that you’re kissing Naruto? Would you say ‘I do’ at the altar, when you secretly love another man? Would you given up and settle for second best?”
The Cherry Blossom smiled sadly, “In the same manner, I could not do this to Lee-kun. It would have been too unfair to him.”
The dark haired girl understood. She would have kept waiting for Naruto – one year, six years, ten years, or one hundred years – she would have continued to wait until her hair was as white as snow and all whom she once knew had journeyed on.
“What about you? Are you sure about Naruto?”
“Hinata,” Sakura halted to search for the right words, “The Naruto now is not the Naruto we knew in our childhood. He’s different now and... I don’t want you to get hurt.”
She shook her head vehemently, “Naruto-kun may be different now, but underneath it all, he’s still the same old Naruto-kun we once knew.”
Her friend raised her hand and caressed her cheek. “I’m happy for you then,” Sakura said softly. “I think you two will be very happy together. Nobody deserves happiness more than the two of you.”
“I hope so. Everyone deserves a chance with happiness.”
The emerald eyed kunoichi smiled again. “Maybe. We will never know what tomorrow holds. You look tired,” she observed. “You should go back to bed.”
Hinata shook her head, trying to keep her eyes open desperately. “Go now,” her friend told her. “I’ll go myself in a while.”
She nodded, and crawled back to her futon, where Sleep embraced her almost instantly.
Sakura smiled at her silhouette before she turned back to the moon.
- VIII -
“Naruto-kun, what do you think we should buy for Neji-niisan’s and Tenten-nee’s wedding?”
They had been together for a couple of weeks already. The entire Konohagakure was shocked when they first heard the news, but very soon, everyone was claiming that they saw it coming from miles away. A match made in heaven, they all cried, the heir of the premier clan in the village and the man who was obviously being groomed to succeed the Hokage.
The foxy ninja pretended to think really hard before replying his girlfriend, “We could buy them a family planning starter-kit, but it’s obviously too late now.”
“Naruto-kun!” Her voice was both filled with exasperation and suppressed laughter.
“What about a set of Icha Icha Paradise? Maybe it’ll help spice up their sex life?”
She tried to put on her best I-am-not-pleased-with-you-at-all glare, as Tenten had advised and claimed that it even worked on Hyuga Neji.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he warned. “You’re begging for a thorough kissing.”
The glare level dropped a notch; it was pretty difficult to look angry when you’re happy.
She switched tactics to Ino’s this time. “Naruto-kun, you aren’t even trying,” she said, pouting what she hoped was cutely.
Naruto looked at her and grinned, “You’re still looking as though you’re begging for a thorough kissing, if not more.”
Hinata considered screaming at him like Sakura usually did when she was displeased with something, but she didn’t dare attempt it in public. An evil thought popped into her mind.
She turned away, with her back facing him and sniffled slightly. For an added depth, she raised her hand to her cheek and made a brushing motion.
He was caught. “What’s the matter?” he asked panicked and turned her around to face him.
The cute kunoichi caught him full blast with her Teary-eyed no Jutsu. Her face was slightly flushed and her eyes slightly red. A single drop of tear trickled down from the corner of her eye, tracing a wet path across one smooth cheek and hung at the tip of her chin.
Naruto groaned and conceded the battle.
“You win,” he grumbled as he took her hand and led her towards the shopping district of Konohagakure.
Teary-eyed no Jutsu immediately vanished and was replaced by a smile so sunny it could rival her name.
Naruto sighed. He was so whipped.
- IX -
“What do you think of this vase, Naruto-kun?” Hinata asked, inspecting a beautiful porcelain vase with a red and gold dragon and phoenix motif.
Her companion sniffled, “It’ll most probably wind up in a million pieces after Tenten smashes it against Neji’s head at some time or other when she’s displeased with him.”
Hinata sighed and replaced the vase on the display shelf. They were in one of Konohagakure’s most expensive curio shops, searching for a perfect wedding gift for Neji and Tenten. He had been acting like a little kid since they had begun, banning all her suggestions and not contributing any. Well, not any appropriate ones anyway.
“Hinata-chan!” Naruto’s voice came from behind another row of shelves. “Look what I have found here.”
Hinata hurried over to him. “Ooh,” she squealed as she picked up the pair of combs he’d found. They were made with sandalwood with a design of vanilla flowers carved along it and an intoxicating fragrance. “Tenten-nee will love it.”
The blonde ninja smiled and took one of the two from her hands. “I was meaning to buy it for you,” he told her as he picked up a lock of her dark hair and slid the comb into place.
She glanced at the price card and gasped, “It’s too expensive, Naruto-kun! I can’t let you to buy something this expensive for me.”
“Nonsense,” he told her, as he took the other comb and slid it into place as well. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my money. There, you look all pretty.” He took a mirror and held it for her to take a look herself.
Hinata had to admit, the combs made her look very pretty. And she did like them very much.
But they were still too expensive.
“Shh. If you don’t want them, I shall buy them anyway and throw them into the river. I don’t think anyone should have them besides you.”
Her hands flew to the beautiful combs in her hair, fearing that he might really hold true to his threat. He laughed and she decided that she could find a way to repay him later.
“What about the wedding gift?”
“We’ll take the vase,” he told her nonchalantly. “It’ll look good on Neji’s head anyway.”
- X -
“I look fat,” Tenten wailed as she surveyed her image in the full length mirror.
“No, you look filled,” Tsunade told her firmly from her seat at one end of the room. “In the olden days, it was a sign of prosperity. Call me old or whatever, but I find it ridiculous that girls nowadays starve themselves to death. What’s wrong with being a little stacked?” She threw out her generous chest a little and looked disapprovingly at the near-anorexic Ino, who quailed under her Godaime’s ferocious glower.
Sakura giggled a little, as she continued to arrange the folds of Tenten’s wedding kimono. Tsunade’s attention was immediately drawn to the Cherry Blossom. “And you too, Sakura,” she continued censoriously, “One would think we are not paying you enough to feed yourself.”
“It’s my metabolism, Hokage-sama” Sakura replied sweetly. “I can’t put on weight no matter how much I eat.”
Tsunade huffed in response, drawing laughter from the rest of the room.
The mother of the bride stuck her head into the bridal room, “Are you ready, dear? Neji-kun’s wearing a hole in the floor with all his pacing.”
Tenten snorted. “It’s not like I can run away in this,” she grumbled, waving at her elaborate shiromoku and headdress that took four dressers four hours and to help her put on. “And look at this face,” she gestured critically at her visage which was painted white in the traditional Japanese wedding-style. “People will think they’re seeing a ghost if they saw me on the street.”
Hinata smiled from her position at Tenten’s side. “I think you look lovely, Tenten-nee,” she said smilingly. “I’m sure Neji-niisan will think so too.”
“Really, Tenten,” Ino admonished her, “So many of us would give eye and tooth to be in your shoes today.
“I’ll be sure to let Shikamaru know you said that,” Sakura supplied with saccharine sweetness.
“Sakura!” Ino raised her voice threateningly.
“Maa maa!!!” Hinata immediately tried to mediate between her two friends. “It’s almost time to go out already, and we wouldn’t want an impatient Neji-niisan storming in here to abduct his bride.”
They had decided on a formal Japanese wedding ceremony with a western styled dinner party later in the evening. It was more of a give and take situation as Hiashi was adamant about having a traditional ceremony for Neji but Tenten had always wanted a garden wedding, attended by close family and friends.
In the end, Naruto had pointed out the solution: a Japanese ceremony in the morning and a garden-party-gathering in the evening for family and friends only. It suited both Tenten and Hiashi fine. They can invite all the local and foreign daimyo as well as representatives from the other ninja villages to attend the formal ceremony. After that, they can adjourn to one of the Hyuga Clan’s many estates in the outskirts of town to hold their reception in a more intimate setting.
“Tenten-nee,” Hinata said softly, “It’s time to go to the family shrine.”
The bride nodded. She was really nervous and was trying desperately to hide it. The reason she had always dreamed of an informal wedding was because she didn’t think she could handle the stress of a traditional wedding. Everything had to be just right, and it didn’t help that she was marrying a Hyuga.
Hinata helped her soon to be cousin-in-law to the sliding door, which Ino had already helpfully slid open. She smiled at Tenten reassuringly, “We’ll be waiting for you at the reception. It’ll be over, real quick.”
Tenten smiled gratefully, and proceeded down the corridor, to the main entrance of the building. The Hyuga Mansion was a sprawling estate with many buildings and wings housing many families. Their ancestors had believed firmly in the motto, “One family, and one roof.”
Her breath caught a hitch when she saw her husband-to-be. He looked tall, refined, dignified and dashing in the Montsuki kimono that bore the Hyuga family crest of a burning flame. Long, raven hair hung loose and Tenten noticed that he was not wearing his headband over his seal.
The sight of the seal sent a shiver down her spine and her hand instinctually went to her belly. Would the seal be forced upon her child as well?
Neji took her hand and tucked it safely in his bigger one and smiled comfortingly at her, as though he had caught the last vestiges of her thoughts. She swallowed and smiled back bravely at him; she was sure that whatever the future holds, they could make it through together.
As they entered the Shrine, the musicians took their cue and started playing. The actual ceremony was only witnessed by the immediate family members of the bride and the groom.
Hinata smiled to herself as she watched the priest carry out the ancient rituals that bound all her ancestors before them together in matrimony sanctity, and which will now bind her cousin and his wife together in the eyes of man, law and God. It was a beautiful ceremony, especially the partaking of sake in the san-san-kudo, where the bride and groom took three sips of sake from three different cups of varying size. San-san-Kudo meant three times three equals nine, an auspicious number that signified eternality.
At the end of the ceremony, the members of both side of the family drank sake served by the attending mikos. It is not only to symbolize the union of the bride and the groom, but of the two families as well. The austere ceremony concluded with Neji and Tenten offering sasaki, small tree twigs to the Gods.
She had never seen Neji looked so handsome and Tenten looked so beautiful. But it wasn’t their physical appearance that astounded her most; it was the serene calmness that both of them exuded together.
Deep down, she hoped that one day, too, she could be united with her love in such a beautiful ceremony.
“You look really pretty today,” he murmured into her ear as they swayed gently to the music with his hands resting lightly at his waist.
She did look resplendent, in her ivory silk dress with a halter top and skirt that ended just below her knees. It clung to her every curve, hugging her body like a second skin.
Naruto never wanted to be an inanimate object as much as he did then.
They were spirited away almost immediately after the formal wedding reception. It was a boring affair, with many boring speeches. Naruto spent most of his time looking across the room, where Hinata sat at the head table, sandwiched between her father and her sister. Her midnight black kimono bearing the Hyuga family crest was served to accentuate and milky white eyes and dark hair which was swept back and held in place with the sandalwood combs he gifted her.
Even across the room, he could smell her scent of vanillas mixed with sandalwood.
She blushed prettily in his arms. She thought he looked very handsome, too. He wore a black kimono for the morning reception. Black was supposed to make someone seem smaller, but somehow, it made his broad shoulders even broader and brought out the gold in his hair and the blue of his eyes.
Now, he was garbed in a simple black sweater and dark slacks. Locks of his unruly gold nimbus fell into his eyes; she had asked him not to wear his headband the around his forehead tonight because she thought he looked adorable with his hair down.
“You look very good yourself,” she said lightly, eyes dancing. “I think I saw the daimyo’s daughter staring at you. I thought she might have asked her father to request for your hand in marriage from Tsunade-sama.”
“She did,” he picked up the banter. “Unfortunately, Tsunade-baasan wanted to keep me all for herself,” he sighed dramatically.
Hinata found herself laughing in response. The past month with Naruto had been filled with happy memories. She had been surprised by how much he had changed, but change it seems, was inevitable, when she realized how much she changed herself.
It was very awkward between them in the first week of their relationship. The day after they got together, he had been dispatched on a 4 day mission to the grass country. Hinata was slightly sad to see him go, but at the same time relieved since it will give her a chance to sort out her feelings properly.
The day before he was due to return, she was still unsure about their new relationship. Everything happened so fast, she was still reeling in the aftermath. She spent the next three days carrying out the assigned local missions and trying to figure out her heart.
But by the third day, she was heartsick from missing him; yet fearful that when he returned, he would tell her it was one huge drunken mistake.
Hence, she nearly passed out from both happiness and nervousness when a little toad appeared at her window one night, delivering a missive from him.
The message was short and to the point. Meet me at Ichiraku Ramen Bar tomorrow night at 2000. Missed you.
And so, she had dutifully arrived at the meeting place for their first formal date.
He showed up dress in a navy blue sweater, with its long sleeves pushed back to the elbows to reveal muscled forearms and a pair of black pant. Hinata noticed that he was favoring dark colors more nowadays along with trendier styles, compared to his choice of clothes in yesteryear. And dear Kami-sama, he looked so gorgeous in them.
Hinata smiled nervously at the approaching figure. Blue eyes lit up and he waved enthusiastically and he broke into a jog. When he finally reached her, he leaned down and planted a quick kiss on her cheek.
“I missed you very much,” he whispered.
“Ahh,” she had blushed furiously. “I missed you too,” she finally managed to squeak out.
Naruto laughed, and took her hand in his. Part of her died and went to heaven there and then, and she allowed him to lead the way.
To her surprise, they did not enter Ichiraku as she originally expected. Instead, he led her down the street, away from the ramen bar.
“Where are we going, Naruto-kun?” she had asked curiously.
Her heart jumped a little when they finally ended up in front of an upscale restaurant serving Waterfall cuisine. It was famed for its seafood ramen, as well as its exorbitant prices. Rumors have it that the famous actress Yukie Fujikaze is a regular patron. Naruto made a move to enter, but she pulled him back.
“Eh?” he looked at her, puzzled.
Licking her lips, Hinata opened her mouth. No sound came out. She tried again. In her third attempt, she finally managed to say, “Are we eating there?”
He nodded and proceeded to enter when she pulled his sleeve again. “Ano, Naruto-kun?” she whispered, adverted her eyes from him. “Can we go to Ichiraku? I feel like eating ramen today.”
“They serve ramen in there too,” he told her. “Waterfall’s ramen’s the best in the world, even slightly better than Ichiraku.”
“I, I’m not attired appropriately,” she tried to dissuade him.
“You look as pretty as ever.”
Despite his reassurance about her appearance, she was still highly reluctant to enter.
Blue eyes squinted at her, bewildered. “Don’t you like the place? I’m told it’s one of the best eateries around.”
“It’s not that,” she swallowed nervously. “It’s just that I heard it is very expensive,” she said at last.
He smiled at her. “It’s okay. I brought enough money with me, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“But I’m really fine with eating out at Ichiraku.”
Her boyfriend sighed. “This is our first date, Hinata-chan,” he said patiently but firmly. “And I think it’s only appropriate I treat you to something classier than Ichiraku. Come on.”
They entered, and Naruto gave his name to the man at the counter. Soon, they found themselves seated at a cozy alcove, away from the rest of the crowd.
As the heir of the Hyuga clan, Hinata was accustomed to such finery. Instead, she was rather worried about Naruto being able to adapt.
Her concerns were unnecessary as her companion conducted himself extremely well through out the entire course of dinner. In fact, he acted as if he had been doing it all his life.
She found it rather hard to believe that this was the same boy who used to drink his ramen.
They took a walk after dinner, hand in hand with her lagging slightly behind, continuously blushing as people threw surprised glances at them. The air was cool and balmy and the chirping of crickets interrupted the otherwise silent night. After a while, they found themselves in a park.
He found a bench and sat down and pulled her down to sit beside him. They sat together in silence for a while.
But Naruto being Naruto, just couldn’t keep quiet at last.
“Why are you being so quiet?”
Hinata blushed so hard it was almost painful. “I, I, I am always this quiet,” she replied.
“The Hinata-chan I remembered from the bar was quite vociferous,” he said.
“I... I... I was drunk,” she admitted shyly.
He looked extremely amused. “I was quite certain you were drunk, without you telling me.”
“What I mean was, I lose control of my tongue when I’m drunk,” she clarified hastily.
“Ahh,” silence fell between them for a moment before he continued, “I think I should buy us some Sake then.”
That shocked her. “Why?”
“Because,” he explained with a dead serious look on his face, “the drunken Hinata-chan is way more interesting than the sober Hinata-chan. And sake is like a key to unlock your voice box.”
She hung head in shame, “Gomen ne,” she whispered. “I’m not very interesting, I’m afraid. I understand if you want to break things off...”
She broke off when she noticed that his shoulders were rocking with laughter. Without warning, he hugged her.
“What I meant was, I would like to get to know you better,” he said without releasing her. “And I can’t do that if you won’t talk to me.”
Her pale eyes widened at his words.
“You did say, you would like to change, right?” he prodded her.
“Hai,” she answered shakily. “I will try to, talk more.”
“I can’t hear you,” he teased her.
“I will try to talk more,” she repeated sheepishly a little louder.
“Good,” he replied, satisfied with her answer.
They kept quiet for a while. Hinata struggled with her inner urge to remain silent, but she wanted to try to keep her word to Naruto.
“Ano, Naruto-kun?” she started uncertainly.
“Umm... Umm...” her eyes darted back and forth and she twiddled her thumbs, a habit whenever she was nervous as she racked her brain for a topic of conversation. “You... you... you were very familiar with the restaurant we went to earlier. Do you go there often?”
“That particular restaurant?” he asked. “No. But I’ve frequented many similar establishments before during my travels with Ero-sennin.”
He turned to her, his blue eyes twinkling. “Are you wondering why I know which fork to use, and all that table manners bull shit?”
Her dark head bobbed up and down. He smiled, “Ero-sennin often took me along with him when he is invited to the daimyos’ castles for dinner and other occasions. Said it’ll help me make contacts and learn to blend in at formals – essentials in a shinobi’s education.”
“Ahh,” that was all she could say.
“Do you want to know why he was invited so frequently?”
“Because he is the legendary toad sennin of Konoha?” Hinata ventured a guess.
“No,” he smiled really big, “Because he is the renowned grand author of erotica, Jiraiya.”
“You’ve changed a lot, Hinata-chan,” he startled out of her reverie. She smiled gently up at him, “Good change or bad change?”
“Good change,” he said, his eyes stole a peak at the cleavage her dress’ low bosom revealed as his hand slid down her waist, to the seat of her silk dress and applied a light pressure to her derriere. “Both physically and personality-wise.”
She feigned shock at his indecent touch, “Kindly mind your manners, Uzumaki-san! This is no way to treat a lady.”
He responded by pulling her close to him, forcing their fronts to touch intimately. “I’m sure you know that I’m very skilled in ways to treat a lady.”
Hinata shivered at his words; she caught the meaning behind them. For the last few weeks, they were doing more than just plain ol’ kissing. No, they haven’t gone all the way yet; something she secretly hopes to remedy very soon.
“It’s time to throw the bouquet! Unwed ladies, please gather at the stage!” Kiba crowed into the microphone. As the master of ceremony for the affair, he certainly added sparkle into the event with his party-animal personality.
Ino and Sakura showed up and pulled Hinata away from Naruto. Hinata looked at him helplessly and he grinned and made a waving motion to reassure him he’s alright.
“Okay,” Kiba’s voice boomed through the speakers. “The bride’s ready to relinquish her claim on that beautiful jumble of wee... I meant flowers,” he amended quickly, catching the death glare from Ino as the bouquet was from her family’s shop. “Who is the lucky girl? As you all know, it is said that whoever catches the bouquet will get married next.”
“Sure you don’t want a go at it, Tsunade-hime?” Jiraiya asked as he sidled up to the Godaime. “You’ll be out of the marriage market soon, if you don’t buck up.”
“Feh,” the deceptively youthful female responded. “You need to watch that tongue of yours a bit. It wants a spanking.”
“Are you giving me the spanking? I reckon we’re both too old for it now, but I’m game if you are.”
“Shut up,” his former teammate snapped at him. “From all that I’ve seen and heard, you’ve most certainly been a bad influence on Naruto.”
“They also said that about Yondaime,” he shrugged, “but he turned out to be a fine Hokage nonetheless.
“You’re right,” the Godaime replied wryly, “that boy is turning out as exasperating as his father. He used to be annoying for his denseness, but now, he’s annoying because he’s such a smart ass.”
“You women are never satisfied,” Jiraiya complained as he observed the bouquet sail through the air in a perfect arch and landed in the Hyuga heir’s arms. She looked utterly shocked as her friends congratulated her.
He then caught the bride winking at the smirking groom.
The toad sennin never heard his Hokage’s response as Kiba’s voice filled the courtyard again, “And the lucky girl is Hyuga Hinata!”
Everyone cheered and several Kakashi thumped Naruto enthusiastically on the back. He scratched his head a little embarrassedly. When the uproar finally subsided, Kiba spoke again.
“And now, we’ll have the groom remove the bride’s garter!”
All the men hooted and wolf whistled. Tenten flushed crimson and Neji scowled half-heartedly at his mates.
“You know you want to do it, Neji,” Naruto called out and the rest of the males erupted into loud cheers of agreement.
Neji knelt in front of his bride and looked questioningly at her, “We can forget it if you don’t want to do this.”
Tenten considered for a moment before she turned her head away and lifted her skirt up a fraction. Her husband took the cue and his head disappeared inside her skirt.
The men shouted outrageous suggestions to ‘help’ Neji in completing his task and the women (save Tsunade who was extremely blasé about it) half turned their faces from the spectacle on stage. Hinata pretended to studiously examine her bouquet, but snuck a peak at her cousin and his wife.
The bride was flushed and squirmed a little. Hinata noted that her breathing was a bit heavy. Neji was apparently having a bit of difficulty removing the required piece of garment, and his efforts had an apparent effect on Tenten.
Finally, he manages to slide the garter off her limb, and held it with his teeth for the crowd to see. The men congratulated him noisily. He ignored them completely.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Kiba announced as soon as the crowd quietened down. “We’re playing a little game tonight. The groom will throw the coveted garter to a group of bachelors that will gather here,” he pointed at the spot below the stage, “and whoever catches it will get to kiss the lovely lady who caught the bouquet, in this case, Ms. Hyuga Hinata.”
Everyone gasped in shock. Neji and Tenten stared at Kiba incredulously. Naruto glared at Kiba and the latter returned his heated gaze with evil smirk. If looks could kill, Kiba would have been six feet under by now.
The blonde ninja reached the gathering in three large strides. He exuded an aura that promised instant death that no one dared near the spot by a dozen paces.
“What?” Kiba called out mockingly. “No other contenders for a kiss from the lovely Ms. Hinata? Are you sure you’re all men?” He handed his mike to the nearby Neji. “Hold this; I’m going to have a go at it as well.
As he jumped off the stage, another figure emerged from the crowds of people and stood beside Naruto. Naruto glared angrily at his love’s former genin teammates, bugboy and dogboy.
Neji shrugged. What could possibly happen? He held the garter with his right hand and spoke into the mike, “Three, two...”
It was over in an instant.
- XII -
“Lee-san,” the Cherry Blossom greeted him.
“What are you doing away from the party?”
“I needed to get some air,” she replied easily. “What about you?”
“I followed you.”
“I think its safe here, Lee-san,” Sakura assured him. “This is after all Hyuga compound.”
The taijutsu master grinned awkwardly at her. For once, he wasn’t wearing his sensei’s prescribed green body suit. “Actually, I was hoping to talk to you alone.”
Silence dominated before Lee spoke up, “Do you still remember how we met?”
“Yes,” she said. “It was very long ago, ne?”
“Yes,” he agreed and looked at her dead in the eyes, “and my feelings have remained unchanged. Sakura-san, will you do me the honor of becoming my girl?”
She smiled sadly at him. Tenten’s words resounded in her mind. It was tempting offer, to forget everything and be loved and cherished for once without having to worry about giving back. Lee wouldn’t have minded the scraps of affection she could spare him from whatever that was left of her heart.
Then she remembered her conversation with Hinata that night.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice elegiac. “I cannot accept, Lee-san.”
“Because my feelings for Uchiha Sasuke have remained unchanged, too.”
“But he has been gone for so long!” Lee burst out. “Will you continue to wait for him even if never returns?”
Sakura sighed, “It would be unfair for you, Lee-san, if I were to accept. You’re giving me everything you have, but I have nothing to offer in return.”
“I don’t mind,” he replied tersely.
“I hope we can remain as friends,” she said quietly. “But I believe it will be impossible if you continue to persist.”
“You cannot stop me from loving you,” he said emotionally, “or waiting for you for the matter.”
“You’re wasting your time,” she told him. Impulsively, she hugged him, “You’re a good man, Lee-san. And someday, you will find a woman that deserves you. And when you do, you will forget this infatuation with me.”
She released him and walked away, leaving Lee standing under the cherry blossom tree alone.
“You’re a stupid man,” a cold voice came from behind the tree. She stepped out of the tree’s shadow; her white eyes stared piercingly at him.
“Why do you continue to follow her around like a lost puppy if she has already made it clear that she can never love you back? Have you no shame?”
Lee shook his head and exclaimed enthusiastically, “When you’re older, Hanabi-san, you will realize that there is nothing that can douse the burning flame of love!”
The twelve year old girl could only shake her head and mutter under her breath, “Moron.”
- XIII -
Everyone stared in disbelief at the man holding up the bride’s garter victoriously.
Naruto was furious. He isn’t sure exactly what happened. One minute, he had jumped up as high as he could to reach the garter, but Kiba had grabbed onto his leg like a rabid hound and pulled him back to the ground. In the split second, a black and white blur sped past him in mid air and grabbed the piece of apparel out of the air.
Damn Einstein and his Theory of Relativity which states that when an object is moving very fast, time slows down for it. He had watch with his very eyes, the hand closing in on the silken cloth as if in slow motion. While to the rest of the onlookers, it was only a flash of an instant, it seemed like an eternity to him because he was moving so very fast.
But not fast enough, evidently.
Kiba picked himself up and took the microphone Neji handed to him. “And the winner is Aburame Shino!” he announced, somewhat lacking his earlier enthusiasm.
The crowd went wild. “Will Ms. Hinata so kindly step forward to present our champion with the prize?” Kiba called out.
Hinata panicked and looked around for help. Ino pushed her gently forward, “It’s only a kiss,” she said. “Don’t be a spoilsport.”
Pale eyes focused on Naruto and he shook his head urgently, urging her not to go out. Somewhere from the depths of the crowd, someone started the chanting before everyone else joined in later, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”
Naruto scowled heavily and considered committing mass murder.
The dark haired girl looked at her boyfriend helplessly as she was propelled forwards, onto the stage, where Shino stood waiting.
By then, the entire crowd was chanting as one.
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”
The Hyuga girl flushed crimson and averted her eyes from her prospective kisser. Shino strode up to her and brazenly tipped her chin up. Hinata gazed upwards to see her frightened reflection in his dark shades.
“May I?” he asked so softly only both of them heard.
The enthusiasm and pressure from the crowd got to her. She gave him one slight imperceptible nod that he felt.
The next second spanned like an eternity for the three of them.
- XIV -
“Gyah!” Naruto roared as he smacked a rasengan full force into a tree, toppling it.
“It was just a kiss,” a bored voice came from behind him.
Another tree fell.
“Really, at the rate you’re going, the village won’t be considered hidden anymore.”
Naruto turned and narrowed his eyes at the sight of the master of ceremony, calming louging against a nearby tree with a sake bottle in his hand.
“It’s not like they had sex or something,” he continued taking a swig from his bottle.
“It’s not the same,” the furious man bit out.
“You’re one to talk; I’ve heard you’ve done a lot more than kissing with other girls.”
Kyubi’s vessel’s anger abated slightly as memories of his somewhat debauched lifestyle before Hinata resurfaced. He stalked over to Kiba and roughly removed the sake bottle from his grasp and drank deeply.
“Take it like a man,” Kiba advised. “After all, I’m the one that came out last. You’ve managed to grab first prize, and Shino got a kiss as consolation. I got nothing,” he said almost bitterly.
“And make sure it stays that way,” the blonde man growled. His wrath had cooled considerably, after Kiba put everything into perspective.
What he said was true after all. He was probably the most undeserving of Hinata’s love among the three. 6 years ago, he only had eyes for Sakura and the Hokage’s office, whereas Kiba and Shino had been protecting Hinata and being friends with her.
And yet, he had emerged the biggest winner.
“Ahh, I see rationale returning to your eye