Chapter 1. Shatterpoint
"Are—are you sure it is really fine, Naruto-kun? I don't want to bother Hokage-sama with this..."
"Nah, trust me! It's perfectly cool! After all, he owes me for saving his ass from granny Tsunade last month, haha!" Naruto patted Hinata's hand reassuringly, to which she smiled timidly and lowered her gaze.
"Ooh… It's just that—I don't think it is appropriate to—"
"Ugh! Look, Hinata!" He stopped, grabbing her shoulders which almost made the girl squeak in surprise, and looked deep into her eyes. His expression was now unusually serious, and so was his tone as he said, "This is our wedding, and there's nothing inappropriate in us wanting for it to go perfectly, okay?"
"Yes, b-but…," She blushed, looking away. "Your responsibilities…"
"You are my big responsibility too," he gave her a gentle smile and lowered his head to give her a tender kiss on the lips. "No need to be ashamed, you know. Get used to it, haha!" He winked at her jovially and, grabbing the girl's hand, pulled her towards the stair that led to the Hokage's office.
"Yo, Kakashi-sensei!" The ninja opened the door with a strong push, storming inside. "There is something I wanna discuss with ya! You see, we—"
"Naruto… Were you ever taught to knock?" The masked ninja sighed, putting his pen away and glaring at his former student critically.
"Nah, I guess you overlooked that moment back in the years, sensei!" He smirked boldly while Hinata was eyeing her soon-to-be husband as well as the Sixth Hokage perplexedly. She looked as though she was unsure if the situation was supposed to be funny or serious.
"Most definitely, yes." Hatake sighed, leaning on the back of his seat and stretching his limbs tiredly. "So how can I help you two?"
"Oh! It's about Kiba and Shino's assignments. Could you please cancel their missions for the date? Ple-e-ease?" The blond man made a pleading gesture with his hands, but his self-assured grin easily gave his true attitude away. "It is very important to Hinata, and, well… They're kinda my friends too, you know?"
"Hm-m…" Kakashi gave him a long searching stare, his expression not revealing anything at all. "Naruto… I understand that you are excited for the upcoming event and all, but you are still a shinobi, and the same goes for every one of us too. I can't simply cancel someone's missions just because there's going to be a celebration, even if it were my own wedding. We are not royalty, and there can be no exceptions."
The younger ninja blushed, clearly looking ashamed as the words of his teacher reached him, passing through the wall of the euphoria that had been surrounding the young man lately.
"Eh… Sorry, sensei. You're right, I suppose. I kinda got too excited, it's just that… well..."
"It's okay, Naruto-kun," whispered Hinata, caressing his hand gently before looking at Kakashi. "We apologize, Hokage-sama," she added more firmly. "I told him that it's not the best idea, but—"
"I haven't finished," pointed out the man, this time making the girl close her mouth awkwardly before blushing even worse than her fiance. "Like I said, we are not royalty, and I can't make any exceptions. However… Considering how extraordinary you are as a ninja, Naruto…" He scratched his chin thoughtfully, smiling behind his mask. "I'm sure you can figure something out to make them return from their assignments sooner, just to make it in time. After all, you're a sensory type just like them. Not to mention that you're the fastest shinobi alive."
For a few seconds, the Uzumaki was looking completely dumbfounded, just like Hinata who gave the Hokage a confused look at his slightly cryptic words. But then she gasped happily in the belated realization, and Naruto's lips slowly curved into an understanding smile the same moment.
"So… it's an official permission then?"
"No, it's a friendly advice. A couple days of your own vacation would be a small sacrifice in this case, don't you think?" The smirk in Kakashi's voice was barely hidden now. "Go and help them, this is your only chance. Shouldn't take a lot of time for you anyway, their mission is just B-rank."
"Roger that! Ha! Piece of cake! Thanks, Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto raised his thumb up and smirked again. "Let's go, Hinata!"
"Uh… yes… Thank you, Hokage-sama!" The girl smiled at the man sheepishly before Naruto pulled her towards the exit, almost making her trip on their way.
"Oh, the young ones…" The gray-haired ninja shook his head as the door closed, grabbing his newspaper and rubbing his eyes. "I guess I can afford some rest as well for once… Shizune-san! Could you please bring me some coffee?"
Right after the conversation with the Hokage, Naruto and Hinata rushed toward the blond's old flat. Both of them were in hurry, and although the girl had her own important, clan-related business to attend, she still decided to help him prepare for the upcoming mission.
Which is why, knowing how irresponsible his approach usually was whenever it came to such situations, she only giggled as he whined, grabbing his temples:
"Gah! Please, don't even start! I'm not taking all that crap with me, period!"
"But, Naruto-kun, it's so far to the north—you might catch a cold if you don't have any warm clothes with you, and besides—"
"Oh, come on, I never get sick! Kurama can easily heal me no matter what happens!" He crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly and pursed his lips playfully when their eyes met.
"I simply care for your health, that's all."
"Ah, well, thanks, mommy! No need to care so much, though." He grimaced, and she giggled again.
"You are my big responsibility too. So get used to it," she quoted him, making the ninja roll his eyes and snort.
"Fine, fine. I guess you have a point. It's not like some snowflakes can kill me or something."
To his surprise, Hinata only frowned at his words, lowering her hands that were gripping the jumper she had made by herself.
"Hey, what's wrong?" He touched her chin lightly, attempting to meet her eyes, but this time she only backed off a bit, biting her lower lip worriedly.
"Please… be careful out there…," she nearly whispered, which made Naruto raise his brow in confusion. Of course, he couldn't simply ignore such a sudden and dramatic change of mood...
"Careful, eh? Hey, it's me, you know? Nobody can put a scratch on me, don't you know that? Well, I guess Sasuke can, but it's not like we're going to meet up, and besides, we've settled things between us long ago…" He then stopped his jabbering, noticing how her features darkened even more. "Now, now… Seriously, what's wrong? Tell me, will ya?"
She took a deep breath, hugging the jumper tightly.
"W-Well… it's just that, a few days ago…
Hinata, Ino, Tenten and Sakura were unhurriedly walking across the newly opened mall in the middle of Konohagakure, having been visiting one store after another for hours by now. It had already made the Hyūga feel a bit tired, but she wasn't about to complain. Her friends seemed to be enjoying their humble celebration, and besides, although it was too early yet as there were two weeks left… Like Ino had said earlier, this was the only way they could have something similar to a hen-party dedicated to her upcoming wedding, considering how strict her clan, and her father, in particular, was.
"He-e-ey, girls! Come here, I found something interesting here!"
The dark haired girl snapped out of her thought, raising her head to look in the direction of the merry voice of her friend. Ino was standing next to the store that had no nameplate visible anywhere, and there was the mysterious dim crimson light coming in the farthest corner of the dark room. The place almost seemed to be uninhabited, but the way the Yamanaka was waving at the three of them clearly meant that Ino knew what she was doing.
As they all entered the small dark room, Hinata looked around curiously. There were countless oddly looking talismans, totems and relics, but none of them appeared to be for sale. And right near the source of mysterious light, which turned to be an old-looking red lamp, was a peculiar, aged woman. She was wearing numerous amulets and trinkets shining all over the ancient rag that distantly resembled a poncho of some sort, but her eyes were the weirdest thing about her. They looked just like Byakugan…! Except they couldn't be that, but rather the woman was probably blind.
Hinata shrank a bit, suddenly feeling uncomfortable in this strange place. Why had they even come here…? Oh, Ino...
"Ah, the young ones! Please, be my guests. Would you like some tea? You, the one keen to steel arms… I believe you would love the ginseng I have. Do you want a cup?"
"E-Eh?! How do you know? That's actually my favourite!" exclaimed Tenten loudly, to which the woman only smirked in amusement.
"I know a lot of things. Now then, you've come here to get something, is that correct? All of you."
"Yeah, the paper on your showcase says you're proficient in divination," said Ino, turning back for a moment to give her friends a confident grin before continuing, "I think it would be cool to give it a shot, wouldn't you agree, girls?"
"I guess…," mumbled Sakura incredulously, while Hinata remained silent.
Meanwhile, the woman hemmed, staring at Ino blankly with her empty white irises.
"Huh… Of course, someone capable of stealing the thoughts of others would be interested in my delicate art. And now you want to test me out. Fair enough; I hereby accept your challenge, girl…" She chuckled at the Yamanaka who frowned, putting her hands on her sides. "One of you is to get my service for free. If my prediction turns out to be correct, or rather, if you believe in it, I would appreciate if the rest of you would for it… If you want it, that is."
"Cool. Let's start," snapped Ino, rolling her eyes sceptically. Hinata then belatedly realized why had the blonde decided to drag them here. She merely intended to expose this bizarre fortune-teller!
"Very well then." The woman grabbed a deck of ebon-black cards from her table. "Kindly look directly into my eyes now."
"Fine, fine," Ino sighed, crossing her arms over her chest and doing as she was told to.
The fortune-teller shuffled the deck a few times, whispering something indistinguishable under her nose. And then she finally placed all the cards on the table in front of the girl, making a welcoming gesture with her wrinkled hand.
"Please, take three of them, and tell me what you think about it."
With an almost mocking, slightly venomous grin, the Yamanaka took the first card and turned it around, looking at its contents not without a bit of interest.
"What is there, Ino?" asked Sakura impatiently, both annoyed and curious at the same time. Apparently, just like Hinata herself, she wasn't very happy to be there, but she was also quite interested to see her friend's reaction at the same time…
Which was quite strange, because Ino suddenly frowned, biting her lip.
Hinata took a step closer, looking at the card, and then covered her own mouth with her palm reflexively. The golden lines written on the abyssal black paper formed a simple message:
Ace of Grief: The pain of loss shall vanish one day, but there is a long road ahead. He shall always live in your heart no matter what.
"I see what you did here, old hag," muttered Ino darkly after a brief pause. "You've come to a hidden village. Every single person here has lost someone at some point. That's quite low," deadpanned Ino, putting the card back on the table.
"If you don't find this one convincing, you have two more to pick. Maybe they will change your mind… If you want, that is," said the woman softly, as though suddenly feeling compassion for the angry Yamanaka.
"Hmpf." The blonde hesitated for a moment, but then grabbed another card nonetheless, a bit too abruptly this time. She blinked a few times, opening and closing her mouth as she read another golden line:
Two of Love: His inky eyes and paintings shall melt your heart, but for how long? Only time knows.
"His art… huh? Well, Sai is kind of—"
"Oh, shut up, Sakura!" Ino almost growled, putting the card back and taking the third one without an invitation this time.
Three of Horror: Let go of your greatest fear, or else you shall lose yourself in the future.
"Fine. I admit that one of the three makes sense" snapped Ino after staring at the card for some time before dropping it carelessly. "Just a coincidence. I'll go wait outside if you girls wanna give it a shot, but don't get your hopes too high."
The woman followed her back with a thoughtful empty stare as the blonde left the store, and then she turned to Hinata, making the kunoichi flinch as the woman uttered softly,
"Now then, the girl with blessed eyes that are similar to my own, but so different at the same time… Would you like to know what awaits you ahead?"
"Uh…" Hinata frowned, taking a step backwards. "No, thank you very much, but I—I—"
"Oh, come on, Hinata! Let us all do it, okay? Go for it, just out of curiosity! It's gonna be fun!" said Sakura, giving the Hyūga a light push on the back.
"Um… alright, I guess…" She sighed, clenching her fists reluctantly.
The woman smiled at her reassuringly, shuffling the deck once again.
"Please, be my guest. Take one."
Hinata looked at the narrow line of cards lying in front of her, hesitantly reaching out to take the first one.
Ace of Passion: His flame shall ignite your soul in its midnight, letting it shine once more, brighter than ever!
"Aww, that's so romantic! I envy you, Hinata! Looks like Naruto is going to be a good husband!" Tenten smirked teasingly, and Sakura chuckled as well.
The white-eyed girl blushed horribly, hearing the giggles coming from behind her back, and then accidentally dropped the piece of black paper on the floor. She squeaked, quickly picking it up and putting it back on the table.
"No need to feel embarrassed, young one," the fortune-teller smiled again. "You have two more to take. Your call," she added.
Pursing her lips and collecting her resolve, Hinata reached out and carefully took another card.
Three of Death: The hardest trial of your life has yet to come, just like the strongest pain you shall have ever felt.
The white eyes widened at the neatly written words, and she slowly put the card back. What was the meaning of this…? Assuming that these predictions were true, which was very dubious, but still… What was going to happen to her?
Whatever it would be, Hinata was sure that she didn't like it. Sunken deep in her thought and consumed by the sudden tide of anxiety, she took the third card, accompanied by the oppressive silence in the room as everyone was watching her now. And just as she was about to turn it around to see what was written there…
She flinched, lowering the hand which was gripping the card, and turned towards the entrance of the room, followed by Sakura and Tenten the next moment.
"Kō-san...? Uh… Is something the matter?"
"Yes, Hinata-sama! I'm afraid so! Hiashi-sama is urgently summoning you to the mansion. It's just that—Uzumaki Naruto, he is—"
Oh, no… She bit her lip, suppressing an embarrassed smile, and shook her head. Apparently, her father and Naruto had just had another fight…
"Please, hurry up! I'm afraid it might end badly!" pleaded her former babysitter. "I'll pay for you here, don't worry!"
"Uh… of course." Hinata quickly nodded and rushed towards the door. A bit dazed by everything that had just happened, she unconsciously put the remaining card into the pocket of her jacket, instantly forgetting about its existence...
"Huh? And... so? That's it? Are you seriously afraid of some crazy old fraud's trickery? Oh, come on!" Naruto hugged her tightly, and the warmth of his body instantly made her feel a lot better, her own arms wrapping around his torso hesitantly as well. She had expected such a reaction from him, of course, but still…
"I—I just worry, that's all… I don't want to lose you," she whispered, feeling the unwanted tears coming to her eyes.
"You'll never lose me, silly!" He smiled, caressing her hair softly. "Like I said, nothing can possibly happen to me. Like, it's a fact, you know? Not just empty words."
"I know…," she said quietly, backing off and looking into his eyes. "I love you, Naruto-kun."
"I love you too!" He smirked, letting go of her and then glancing at the clock on the wall. "Oww, I think I'm already out of the schedule! I'll be back before you begin to miss me, you'll see! Until then!" He winked at her playfully and then…
"Wait, Naruto-kun…!" she yelped, bowing down to grab his backpack from the floor. "You forgot… the clothes…"
Of course, the only response she received was the complete silence of the room, broken only by the measured ticking of the clock hands.
The girl sighed in defeat, putting the backpack on his bed carefully, and then sitting right next to it.
Objectively, Naruto was right. There was absolutely no reason for her to worry about him. He was the strongest ninja alive after all. And not only that, but their world was currently relatively peaceful… And besides, that fortune-teller was most likely a fraud indeed, just like Ino had anticipated. Now that Hinata thought about it, she was probably from Sunagakure judging by her looks. And the Sand was widely known for their tricky magicians and other mischievous people…
She kept thinking about various things for some time until her eyes stopped on the clock at some point. Hinata blinked, baffled for a moment, and then paled as she realized what time was that.
Almost noon already! And she had to be at the ceremony back in the Hyūga estate… in five minutes!
The kunoichi jumped up, zipping her light grey jacket and straightening the light lavender skirt she was wearing before quickly running outside and storming towards her home. Hanabi wouldn't forgive her if she would come late, that's for sure… Not on the day when she was to be officially announced the next head of the Hyūga clan…!
Realizing that Naruto's place was located pretty far away from her destination, Hinata ran up the nearest wall, keeping moving in the right direction by jumping from one rooftop to another steadily for some time.
Yes, there it is! She smiled to herself, spotting the familiar gates a few hundred yards away. The procession accompanying the current leader — their father — as well his heir, was only nearing the territory of the estate. Fortunately, that old custom gave her plenty of time to get back to her room and even change into something more appropriate… Although she was about to formally stop being a part of her clan, Hinata still respected her family and its traditions very much, and she didn't want to upset anybody with her carelessness.
As she felt her mood getting better at the involuntary reminder of the upcoming wedding, Hinata's smile became even more bright.
There it is… Home. I wonder if I'll still be able to call it so afterwards, she thought distantly, jumping over the fencing that surrounded their estate.
And just when she was already mid-air, a horribly loud explosion deafened the kunoichi, the shockwave hitting and stunning her the same moment, changing her trajectory and making the girl fall painfully on the cobblestone ground.
She didn't know how much time had passed by the time when she finally opened her eyes, coughing and slowly getting up. There was no sound breaking in her ears, and she couldn't see anyone around as she was currently in the backyard, but even so, did she realize that something horrible had just happened.
Rubbing her eyes in an attempt to focus her vision and activating her Byakugan the next moment, the kunoichi looked around herself. And then gasped as she noticed something that made the blood in her veins freeze the same second.
The procession… It was gone. Instead, there was only debris and countless flinders… as well as a few corpses in the middle of it.
Later on, she wouldn't remember how her legs brought her to the remains of the exploded coach. Everything else around was just too blurry to recognize when she found herself on her knees, holding the still warm body of Hanabi who was blindly staring into the bright blue sky, her peaceful face being the only part of her that hadn't been badly damaged.
And their father… there wasn't even a sign of him aside from the blood-stained shreds of his burned kimono showing from under a huge piece of wood.
Hinata clenched the body of her sister ever so tightly, far too shocked to even shed a tear, let alone to try to do something. Besides, she knew that even if she tried to, it would be completely futile.
Because they were gone. Hanabi… Her father… and a few others… were no more.