Chapter 1: A Familiar Face, A Familiar Feeling
“Oi, Hinata!” a bold voice called her from up ahead.
“It’s good to see you again.” A deep voice followed.
“Kiba-kun! Shino-kun!” Hinata rushed over to her best friends since childhood. After exchanging a warm hug with Shino and enduring a particularly rough squeeze from Kiba, Hinata beamed up at the two who had always made sure to keep in contact with her throughout her time away. “Thank you for waiting for me at the gate!”
“Ah, it’s no problem! We couldn’t leave ya hangin’,” Kiba broadly smiled.
“Kiba is right. We wouldn’t make you go around alone on the first day. The reason is that we're your friends,” Shino explained.
Hinata felt the nerves that had built up over the past week melt away with their words of assurance. Even after spending five years abroad in Moon Kingdom with only a few trips back home to Konoha, she had managed to maintain a relationship with Kiba and Shino, who were like brothers to her.
Walking through Konoha High School together, the three caught up with each other since the last time they had met up. Hinata admired the architecture of her new school as they headed across freshly cut grass lawns. KHS wasn’t considered the most prestigious and established school in the nation for nothing. Tall trees spread their limbs wide, providing dappled shade across walkways. The rounded, white-plastered buildings rose from the ground, blending with the trees, their roofs a charming, warm oak. Students bustled through the hallways, and bursts of laughter rung out as students rowdily greeted each other after a long summer break. Soon Hinata found herself approaching a group of such teens.
A pink-haired girl hit a blond boy on top the head with no reserves.
“Ahhhh, owww Sakura-chan!” he whined.
A long-haired blonde laughed, while a dark-haired boy who looked like an idol singer turned away as if he didn’t know them.
“Jeez, seriously, Naruto, it hasn’t even been 5 minutes into senior year. Give me a break!” The pinkette accentuated her words with a threatening fist.
Kiba grinned at the scene. “Hey guys! Look who we have with us!” he loudly announced.
Hinata felt her cheeks color as all eyes turned towards them. She forgot to breathe when ocean blue eyes met her own. It was him. She would never forget him. Not in a million years. Memories flashed by of the times she had talked to him, which mostly ended in her fainting. But not this time. Hinata exhaled. Five years of practiced grace in the Moon Kingdom didn’t go to waste after all. “Hello,” she offered shyly.
Intelligent, green eyes squinted at her in recognition. “Hinata? Is that you?”
She nodded. “Sakura-san, it’s nice to see you again.”
“Ehhhhhh!!! Hinata! Oh my gosh! It’s been forever! How have you been? Where have you been? Oh my gosh! How many years has it been? Woah! Oh my gosh! You’re looking great!” Ino gushed excitedly.
Students heading past curiously looked there way, making Hinata feel more self-conscious.
“Yes, it’s been 5 years. You look good, too, Ino-san!”
“Ohhh, you remember me! And no need for honorifics! We’re friends! Ah, Sai, Shion, you guys don’t know Hinata! Hinata, this is Sai. Sai, Hinata. You two will get along great. And Hinata, this is Shion. Shion, Hinata. Both of you are like birds of a feather. Super nice people. Ah! Hinata went to elementary school with us but left before intermediate school. You...went to the Moon Kingdom - is that right? That’s right, right?” Hinata only had a brief moment to nod her head. “Yes, I knew it. Shikamaru, Choji, Naruto, Sasuke-kun, you guys remember Hinata, right? Ahh, Hinata, we have to catch up. What’s your class sched-”
“‘Sup, Hinata. Long time no see,” Shikamaru lazily cut Ino off.
Choji began politely, “Hello, Hinata. It’s nice to see you aga-”
“OH HINATA! Yeah, ‘course I remember you! Long time no see!” His bright words and huge smile directed right at her was like the sun pouring warmth straight into her veins.
She had almost, only almost, forgotten what it was like to be in his presence.
The dark haired boy nodded in her direction. “Long time no see.”
“Shikamaru-san, Choji-san, Naruto-kun, Sasuke-san, it’s nice to see you all again,” Hinata nodded and shyly smiled.
Kiba smirked proudly and Shino gave a small smile as they watched Hinata reintegrate herself into Konoha life.
Students crowded into the auditorium for the start-of-year assembly.
“Hey, Hinata, Kiba, Shino, over here. We’re sitting over here,” Sakura motioned them over.
Sliding into the cushioned chairs next to Sakura, Hinata glanced around the large room, but didn’t see the person she was hoping to see.
“Looking for the idiot? You’ll see him,” Kiba grinned knowingly at her.
Hinata scrunched her face up in embarrassment of being caught so soon. “I-I wasn’t looking for anyone in particular.” Hinata clapped her hands over her mouth. A stutter?! She hadn’t stuttered in years!
Kiba smiled deviously at her, and all Hinata could do was shut her eyes in an attempt to will the embarrassing moment away. Thankfully Sakura had been engaged in some deep gossip with Ino for the entire exchange. The last thing Hinata wanted was everyone to know she still harboured feelings for him.
Not long after, four students walked onto the stage. Chatter died down as attention turned to a tall, blond boy at the mic.
“Welcome, Konoha High School students to a new year! We are your Student Council. My name is Naruto Uzumaki, and I am your Student Council President. We have so much in store for you all, better look forward to it! Together we will make this year the most epic year yet!!”
Students clapped and cheered loudly in approval at his infectious positive attitude. Hinata watched in awe as he continued his welcoming speech. His words, although simple compared to the formal speeches she had grown accustomed to hearing in the Moon Kingdom, somehow could affect his audience so much more powerfully. Familiar admiration bubbled up within her as she watched the animated blonde close up his speech on a more serious note.
“We each hold the Will of Fire within us! Remember to represent yourself, this school we call home, and this family we have in each other with pride and carry an undying passion for the pursuit of knowledge to make this world better than it is today. Let’s have a great year, everybody!”
As he headed off the stage to bring the school headmaster, everyone clapped and cheered for his motivating speech.
“Can you believe that knucklehead is our Student Council President?” Sakura snickered to Hinata as the assembly ended. “Who would have thought he could be so eloquent? The last time you saw him, he was just screwing around everyday.”
Hinata gave her a confused look. She had always known he could do it. She had always seen the leader in him. “Naruto-kun has always been a serious kind of guy, though, hasn’t he?”
Now Sakura gave her the confused look. “Are we talking about the same Naruto? Ugh, Hinata, you are still too nice for your own good. If you get too close to him, the stupid will rub off on you, you know,” she smiled cheekily and laughed. “I’m just kidding. Or not,” she then frowned and dramatically sighed. “He’s still an idiot sometimes. It’s like one moment he seems like he’s grown up. And then the next it’s like he’s just...urrrgggg.” Sakura gestured dramatically as if to wring an imaginary neck.
Hinata gave an amused smile at Sakura’s dramatics. “He’s not that bad, is he?”
“Ah well, you’ve always been understanding,” Sakura tilted her head as if to observe the workings that make up someone like Hinata. “Where’re you going now? Can I see your schedule?”
They took out their class schedules to compare. “Oooh yes! We have Calc together with Kurenai-sensei!” Sakura cheered.
“And Bio with Aoba-sensei!” Hinata added. “Oh, wow, Sakura, you’re taking Chemistry, too?”
“Oh, yeah,” she brushed it off as if it wasn’t a big deal to take both at the same time. “I couldn’t decide which one to take, so I just decided to do both and cut my language elective out.”
“Ooooo, are you guys comparing schedules? Let me see!” Ino cut in and ran her eyes down their lists. “Ew. You both are gross. It’s your senior year! How can you enjoy life if you’re only taking AP classes?”
“What are you taking, Ino?” Hinata asked.
“Fun classes, of course! I’m especially looking forward to creative writing and psychology! I’ll be psychoanalyzing you, Hinata, mwahahaha. Get all your secrets from the last five years figured out with just one look at you.”
“I don’t have any secrets, Ino.”
“Mhmmm. That’s what they all say.”
Laughing and talking, the girls headed out ready to begin their first day of a year that was sure to be eventful.