A glorious Konohagakure morning greeted the young kunoichi — sunshine pouring through the windows and flooding the room with too-bright light. With that first flicker of consciousness, she felt the violent protesting of her tummy for food. Sex tend to have that effect, she had come to realize. Suddenly, the memory of Naruto tore through her mind: the delicious pleasure and sensuality, and then his sad departure — truly a bittersweet combination.
The princess groaned gloomily and rolled over onto her side to face her bedside table, light penetrating her closed lids. Slowly, reluctantly, she opened her eyes, blinking rapidly until her vision came into focus.
Her alarm clock depicted 6:30am — she slept in; waking thirty minutes later than usual. She always slept in whenever she and Naruto engaged in the "naughty". Hinata cupped the sides of her face and blushed at the thought. Then she spied light reflecting off glass beside her bedside lamp.
Curiosity swamped her.
By extension, Chibi-G was curious, too. Right away, the lewd deity ceased browsing through the dirty magazine resting on the armrest of her favorite love seat, each page illustrating various snapshots taken from the couple's many passionate sex-adventures. What is it? What're you looking at? Did Naruto-kun leave us something?
Hinata's eyes widened. Applause!
The princess sat upright in her excitement, reaching for the small cube of glass within which, in mint condition, was embedded a pallid lavender rose. A smile tugged at her lips as her heart and mind resonated to evoke that memory — she and Naruto were at the festival in Fuugetsu, watching the fireworks when he placed the rose in her hair. He told her it complemented her eyes perfectly.
Hinata beamed at the beautifully preserved parting gift, as if Naruto had given her a bouquet of prize-winning roses. But, behind the influx of glee and appreciation, was a churning sea of grief, worry, and loneliness. Where exactly had her golden knight gone? When would he be coming back? And this method with which to control the Kyuubi — was it safe?
Her eyes wandered as the questions formed in her mind. Suddenly, an unfamiliar bed-buddy appeared in her field of vision. For a moment, Hinata thought it was another stuffed animal she hadn't recalled getting at the festival in Fuugetsu. Or perhaps it was another recent parting gift from Naruto, along with the preserved rose. But that assumption immediately went out the window when the plushy began to move.
Wide-eyed, flustered, the princess found the sheets and pulled it up to her nose in a cute defense mechanism. As small as a baby Akamaru, her unexpected guest pushed its small frame up off the bed onto its four tiny legs. Hinata swallowed in her curiosity, slowly lowering the sheets as she scanned for malicious intent.
The creature held a close resemblance to a fox — sporting sleek, saffron fur that seemed to glow in the warm morning's light. Its eyes were big and beautiful — a liquid crimson gaze that seemingly whispered to her heart in a subconscious and sublime connection, politely asking for recognition and companionship. Politely asking to be understood, forgiven, held.
What Hinata found most fascinating and curious was the fox's nine tails. They were bushy and majestic — but it also spoke to the fact that this was not your typical animal. Was it perhaps a summoning, and to whom did it belong? Did its presence tell of an impending threat?
As if to dismiss her pessimistic thoughts, the small canine stood on its hind legs and tentatively licked her cheek. It swayed its nine tails in a friendly manner, its big, bright eyes deep and enchanting — mysterious, like Uzumaki Naruto's own oceanic gaze.
"Are you feeling lonely, too?" Hinata asked with a wanly smile, stroking the fox's head gently. Its ears sagged cutely in response, eyes closed in obvious delight.
Despite its tiny size and charming disposition, the critter reminded her of the Kyuubi. Had Naruto already gained control and somehow induced some kind of miraculous change in the creature? This couldn't be the same fearsome Nine-Tail Demon Fox that terrorized the village a few years ago, could it? Impossible!
Withdrawing from the gentle weight of her palm, the tiny canine proceeded to the pillow on the other side of the bed and stuck its head underneath it — a clear indicator to the curious princess. "Is there something under my pillow?"
She gasped, lifting the fluffy cloud to reveal a book. On its cover, printed in black, was the title: Tails of a Gusty Ninja. He remembered...
Hinata felt her heart swell as she hugged the book against her chest. There was a bittersweet import of emotions, but still she clung to her fiancé's most treasured possession, tempted to read it before she rose from bed. But she was already running thirty minutes late into her morning routine; indulgence would have to wait.
Resting both parting gifts on her bedside table, Hinata veered her attention to her new and rather mysterious friend, who sat looking up at her quietly. "I have to take a shower now. Will you be good and wait here until I'm through? You…," she reiterated slowly, her mind processing a seemingly pressing matter. "Now that won't do, will it? We need to find you a suitable name. Of course, I would ask what your name is, but you can't speak... can you?"
The fox's eyes changed.
"Mmm..." the princess pressed an index finger to her chin cutely, looking upward with a frown as she deliberated an appropriate appellation. Suddenly, she beamed and heaved an open smile. "Since you remind me of the Kyuubi, how about I call you B-kun?"
The tiny Bijuu cocked its head to the side and Hinata giggled playfully. "I'm not very good at coming up with names. I will try again in the afternoon but, right now, I have to freshen up for breakfast before Neji-niisan scolds me again. You wait here, kay."
With angelic grace, the princess fished the necessary resources from her drawer and quickly scooted into the bathroom. The Kyuubi allowed his facial expression to soften. As simple and somewhat uncreative as the given name was, he liked and appreciated it.
He allowed a crooked grin.
Now that he was without darkness and the presence of the human he adored was no longer present, the exuberant tailed beast had ample time to examine his surroundings. So much time had passed — decades, centuries, perhaps a millennium. He didn't care to remember. But, now that he wasn't blinded by the rage and the hate associated with his original form, he was able to view this realm in a new light.
He didn't know the world to be so beautiful, so divine. Hinata existed in this wondrous world; this is where she was reared — nurtured and molded into the unique individual that she is; the individual with whom he was fond.
Walking to the foot of the bed — the mattress and quilt plush beneath his paws — the Kyuubi watched his reflection in the mirror of the dresser. When was the last time he had seen his reflection? When was the last time he was free and his wrath was not seething, clouding his conscience? There was so much to feel when he had no negative attachments.
The Bijuu sighed, pushing the chain of thoughts from his mind.
Pivoting his head to the side, he continued assessing the furnishings and overall layout of his goddess' private chambers. He had never been in a human's household before. Everything was so intricate and convenient. There was so much he didn't understand — everything tugged at his attention, peaking his curiosity. It bothered him not being able to ask questions when this world was so big and, its human societies, intriguing!
It wasn't long before Hinata was out of the bathroom, garbed in her customary attire, her skin smooth and freshly scented. The Kyuubi watched in fascination as she sat in front of the mirror, pleading with her hair to surrender and yield to her will. Then, she was bustling about frantically to make her bed and tidy her already tidy room.
Finished, she blew out a sigh and swept away the non-existent sweat from her forehead. "That ought to do it — and just in time, too!" Her smile was radiant. "B-kun…," she found the fox's curious eyes. "For now... I think it's best I keep you a secret from my father. So, would you mind staying here, until I'm through with breakfast?"
His expression unchanging, the complacent canine leaped from the dresser onto the bed and made himself comfortable on her pillow.
"C-Could it be that B-kun understands me?"
He ignored her, and Her Majesty's excitement gradually faded. Disappointment touched her lips and gleamed in her eyes, but she gently smoothed her hand across his head, over his ears, before turning to take her leave. "Be good while I'm gone. I'll bring you back something yummy to eat."
The Kyuubi's ears perked up at the mention of food. But he kept his eyes closed, his head resting quite comfortably on crossed legs. A single eye opened to study the girl as she left the room, her brilliant aura, her brilliant flair, lingering in her wake.
— "The Kyuubi, too... the Kyuubi must be suffering."
He allowed his muscles to sag as Hinata's words replayed in his mind. Indeed her words fazed him; touched him — but words are cheap, especially those of a human. However, what if she did spoke the truth — what if she genuinely cared? What if she could offer him a fraction of the understanding and affection he, a tailed beast, received from the old man?
This is what he was here for: to justify the truth of her words and to test her conviction. Did she really want to meet him — the incarnate of all that was evil? Soon, whether or not she expected it, all would be revealed in time.
A Treasure Worth Protecting
Are you sure about adopting B-kun?That's what Hinata's inner goddess anxiously inquired and yet, with each helping of her salted-salmon, the princess felt guilty about gorging while her guest was alone and probably famished from roaming the village.
Needless to say, there were no deliberations to be had; she was certain she wanted her new friend to stay by her side. Although their acquaintance was short, she could feel the comfort and strange sense of familiarity that emanated from the canine. It reminded her of Naruto on some spiritual and visceral level.
Meanwhile Hiashi was entirely engrossed in his carrot-based breakfast, Hanabi was busy shooting her sister surreptitious gazes, concerned as she was aware of Naruto's abrupt depart. Would Hinata be all right? As curious as the teenager was, she did well to keep her questions in check, preferably until their father was on the opposite side of the estate.
Kuwashima smiled warmly as Hinata entered the kitchen with a stack of saucers and bowls in tow, a careful haste in her strides. Quickly, carefully, the woman took the used crockery from the princess's small hands. "Thank you, sweetheart."
"You're welcome." Hinata replied politely, returning a smile as wholeheartedly as she could possibly manage.
Just before she could turn on her heels to fetch the remaining utensils from the table, Kuwashima took her hand and presented her with a lunch box containing food to tie her over throughout the training she had decided to undergo in the next hour.
"This lunch is specifically made to give you lots of energy, so be sure to give it your all in your training. There's something special that you wish to protect, isn't that right?"
Hinata could feel her eyes widen at the woman's question. And she inclined her head meekly, looking down at the lunch box neatly wrapped in cloth with a perfect bow at the top.
"I'll retrieve the rest of the dishes on the table and handle things here in the kitchen. Why don't you go ahead and prepare yourself for what your day has in stored?"
"H-Hn!" Hinata nodded. "Thank you very much."
The woman smiled and rubbed the girl's upper-arm affectionately before making her way into the dining room. But the princess couldn't go on her way just yet; she had a hungry friend to attend to — and she wasn't just about to break her promise. It would have been a bad first impression.
Without delay, she fished a frying pan from the cupboard, placed it above a moderate flame, and then poured in a measure of oil before bustling about to fetch the appropriate garnishes for her grant endeavor.
What would B-kun want to eat, Hinata considered calmly. I thought you got the oil going because you had already figured that part out, her inner goddess scoffed. The princess ignored the overfamiliar hostility. Foxes are carnivores, right... which means that any form of meat should suffice.
Grabbing strips and cutlets of ham, beef, pork, and chicken from the fridge, Hinata sets out to please her furry friend. And, as her excitement grew, she eventually fetched an entire fish, squid, and a bag of rice to boot.
"Sweetheart…?" Kuwashima uttered questioningly upon reentering the kitchen, looking around curiously before meeting the girl's eyes anew.
Hinata couldn't quite find her tongue, and she averted her eyes coyly. She was so excited to see B-kun's expression to her specialized lunch box that she didn't stop to think that Kuwashima would demand an explanation. An explanation as to why more food needed to be prepared — what with the hefty load she was already given.
"Umm, etto..." she began fiddling with her fingers.
"Oh, Hinata honey... you shouldn't make a habit of using food to console herself; it's not healthy."
Hinata's eyes popped open in alarm. Did she know that Naruto had left the village? "No, that's not it," the princess opted to clarify. "I might end up staying out later than initially planned, so I decided to make something more, just in case. And Kiba-kun could be joining me, too."
"Oh." Enlightened, Kuwashima placed the crockery in the sink. "In that case, why don't you allow me to take care of that while you finish up your preparations for today?"
A light hum in her throat, the princess slowly shook her head in denial, the fringes of her bang swaying in the sudden motion. "It helps when I keep myself preoccupied like this. I'll take care of the dishes, too."
The woman gave a wanly smile and inched closer to stroke the girl's hair compassionately. "I'm sure he's thinking of you, too," was all that she said, and then she was gone.
Hinata's eyes followed her and, even when the woman was no longer in sight, the princess gazed unseeingly out into the empty dining room. Suddenly, her eyes went alight with recollection and she quickly turned the flame down beneath the frying pan and tucked her hand into her pocket, to retrieve her engagement ring.
A somber blue, warm purple, and fierce orange resonated together in the sacred crystal, which Hinata surmised as Naruto missing her, desiring her and, at the same time, was doing something extremely exhausting — training, maybe? Or perhaps he was in some sort of moral danger?
Her heart eased into a spasm of palpitations, and she inspected the stone carefully, searching for blemishes that would have indicated he was wounded. But there were no signs of any cracking, only the vibrant mixture of colors that illuminated her wedding band.
Blowing out a sigh of relief, she looked to her overheating frying pan sulking as of neglect and continued with the feast for her adorable friend.
Time pressed on in that disjointed fashion she still hadn't gotten used to. Listening to her inner goddess and subconscious tend to do that, especially when they were engaged in a brawl.
Once the food was finished and neatly placed in a sectionalized lunch box, Hinata attended to the dishes, and then made her way back to her room.
The fluffy canine was sleeping soundly next to a stuffed Pikachu, complacency evident upon his neatly cut face. He slept so peacefully that she felt bad about waking him. But staying home was not an option — she wouldn't, couldn't give her mind the opportunity to consistently think about him. Thinking about her loneliness and the fact that he was putting himself in harm's way for everyone's sake... for her sake, only added fuel to her grief.
"B-kun..." she smoothed her hand over his head gently and, even in his sleep, the Bijuu's ears sagged cutely in response. He opened his eyes. "I'm very sorry for taking so long, and for waking you."
As if to indicate that all was well, the tiny canine pushed to his feet and shook his body, effortlessly brushing off her apology and bringing back his saffron fur to a perfect luster.
Hinata smiled warmly, admiring the fox's adorable flair. Then she placed the picnic basket on the bed before him and raised a hand to her mouth, illustrating her imminent whisper. The curious Bijuu quickly inched closer and sat. "Until we're off the estate, I suggest hiding in the basket."
The canine frowned, so slightly that the princess thought she imagined it. "My father's very curious, and I'd rather avoid the commotion." Now the fox's eyes gleamed with enlightenment, and Hinata at least took notice of that. "You... You understand me, don't you?" Palm up, she rested her hand on the bed before her mysterious new friend. "Paw," she instructed enthusiastically.
The far-too-proud deity looked to her hand and then to her eyes anew. His expression was still cool and collected, seemingly uninterested. But, beyond the "Kyuubi-etiquette", beyond the perfect decorum befitting the Bijuu bestowed with the most number of tails, was a rush of thoughts and temptation that was restrained with the will of a hundred years. He would not yield.
"Well," Hinata almost sighed. "Let's get going..."
The tailed beast could note the slight twinkle of disappointment that played in her eyes, and she tried futilely to bite back the glum smile. He pretended he didn't see and climbed into the basket, once she had hoist the lid for him.
"I'm sorry about this… but you won't have to hide for very long. I promise."
Quickly, furtively, Hinata made her way through the house. From the open courtyard, she stared up at the lofty vista of Konoha's skyline, and then to the stone statues. There was a sudden gust of wind as she admired her broken home, and the princess expertly combed tresses of hair back into place — and, for those persistent locks, behind her ear.
One day, Naruto's face would also be carved into that mountain face. Whether it was as the sixth or the seventh Hokage, he would eventually get his turn — and his governorship would be monumental. He would be the one to revolutionize the shinobi world. He had to... he promised her — and Naruto wasn't one to dishonor his promises, no matter the difficulties, no matter the adversity.
"Sister!" Hanabi called, leaping down from a neighboring tree beside the surprised Hyūga.
Hinata turned to face her. Was she lay waiting her in that tree? What exactly was her baby sister up to this time? "Ha-Hanabi... I thought you left after breakfast?"
"No, I ended up going back to my room to change and couldn't decide what to wear." She sighed and blew upward at wisps of hair sitting on her forehead. "Boys have it so easy."
The elder princess scratched embarrassingly at the bead of sweat that sat at her temple, and then heaved an awkward smile. Hanabi was sporting a gray, sleeveless vest over a tube top — and cutely cupping her waist was a far-too-short pleated skirt, adorned with a belt and a bow at either side. Pulled up to her thighs were white, silky stockings, which complemented her arm warmers and the long, blue scarf around her neck that was almost identical to the one that Konohamaru always wears.
She looked... well, amazing! Konohamaru was about to have his mind blown. Again. But, for a moment, Hinata had to wonder if it were ideal to have so many ornate designs to her outfit rather than the necessary protective gears to shield against and mitigate injury. For one, she wasn't wearing a chainmail vest. In any case, Hanabi was not to be underestimated. Hiashi Hyūga didn't invest all these years raising a naïve and irresponsible shinobi.
"You look great, Hanabi... really..."
The girl's eyes flashed open in utter delight, and she took a hold of her sister's hand with both of her own. "Y-You really think so?"
"Of course!" She nodded and, despite aiming for nonchalance, both Hanabi and the Kyuubi could note the dejected tone to her voice.
Reeling in her excitement, Hanabi took a step back and her smile faded. "The reason why I was waiting is because I heard from Konohamaru-kun that Naruto-oniichan left the village on a super important mission. Umm," she veered her eyes away, just for a moment. "...how are holding up?"
Hinata didn't hesitate, nor did she stutter. "I'm fine; there's no need to worry." Her smile still wasn't impressive, nor remotely close to being reassuring.
"Erm, are you sure?"
"Naruto-kun gave me his word; he promised he would return — and Naruto-kun always keeps his promises!" Always... "Has Konohamaru-kun spoken as if he's worried about Naruto-kun? He knows as well as I that—"
"Naruto-oniichan's well-being isn't what I'm worried about," Hanabi interjected. "He's a more than capable shinobi — besting father in taijutsu is proof enough. You're the one I'm truly worried about."
Hinata gasped in her surprise.
"Before Konohamaru-kun, I didn't know what this type of love was like. If he were to ever go someplace very far away, I know I wouldn't be able to endure it very well, especially if his journey was going to be more dangerous than usual."
Our lonely snugglie-wugglie struggled to keep her guard up, but the foundations were slowly slipping away as a grief-stricken heart dawned in her chest.
Hanabi understood now, if only just a little. The love and affection one gave and derived from family and friends was of a different flavor and potency than the one related to that "special" someone. Ever since Naruto left, Hinata's world had been rendered black and white; there was no color; the sphere of her world had grown cold and mundane. Every fiber and cell of her being was starved and needing him — and to think only a single day had gone by.
In addition, the reality that she had no clue as to when he would return kept hope far away from her reach, leaving her stranded beneath a dreary sky of loneliness. But the princess would persevere; she had to. There were no other paths to take. She would patiently await his return, owning her skills as she did, so that she could stand by his side throughout the treacherous roads that lie ahead along his difficult journey.
"I'm fine," Hinata declared once more, but with more conviction than the last.
Hanabi surrendered reluctantly, but offered her to join Konohamaru and herself in their sparring session. Perhaps companionship would ease her pain, if only just a tad.
"Thanks, but no thanks," Hinata refused with a smile. "I appreciate the offer but I'm actually going out to do a little private training of my own."
Hanabi returned her smile. "Naruto-oniichan will be fine, you'll see."
"I know he will…"
Lying comfortably beneath the shade of a tree, relishing his freedom and the scenery, the Kyuubi watched Hinata meditating out in the open field. They had traveled far out to the outskirts of Konoha within the confines of a lush valley that was apparently Hinata's private training ground.
The world around them was picturesque — vast and bountiful in its unaltered splendor. There were warm, vibrant colors all around, animated greenery and wild life, and a soothing breeze that carried around a profusion of lovely aromas. There were so many different sounds, as well, the most distinct being the warble of birds situated throughout the dense forestry.
The Bijuu couldn't get enough; the contrast between this realm and the dark prison within which he was sealed was far too great. It was hard to believe that the evil part of him could readily destroy and sully such enchanting perfection — the amazing world that homed the human female they found intriguing.
Hinata paused for a moment, her moves weak and sluggish beneath the weight of her pondering and grief, her eyes a mixture of emotions that was a most unsavory blend.
Whether or not the Kyuubi was the incarnation of evil, a natural disaster, a deity known for its malicious deeds, the creature had a conscience — and he knew Hinata was hurting. Being the positive embodiment of the Nine-Tailed Fox, he couldn't push away her trauma.
Aside from old man Rikudo, this woman was the only other human he cared for. She was beautiful, kind, sincere, and clumsy — an endearing spirit who hated fighting and violence. Her love and affection did not discriminate, and he felt an innate desire to protect such a rare and exquisite creature — but there was only so much that brute force and overwhelming strength could resolve. Hinata needed company; emotional support — a role the Kyuubi was uncertain he could or was meant to play. It was better this way; his presence was all that he could offer in her time of loneliness... nothing more. And so, he continued to watch her.
Under the unmerciful UV rays of the ever-vigilant sun, the princess carried on with her training regimen. Swamped with heat and sweat, she allowed herself to drown in the bittersweet sensation of exhaustion, burning muscles, and growth. All that mattered was transcending her limitations to achieve a new pinnacle of power — and her desperate endeavor did well to keep the grief and loneliness at bay... to some extent.
"HHA!" She exclaimed simultaneously to a firm and powerful forward thrust. Sweat flicked from the fringes of her bang and dripped from her chin. "HHAA!" She drove the other hand forward.
Weather: Partly cloudy
Naruto-kun... how are you? Umm. I've decided to keep a dairy until the day I see you again. I'm not sure why, but I just really felt like it. Is that strange?
She smiled, throwing another palm forward.
There's absolutely no need for you to worry; I'm doing fine, and I hope that Naruto-kun is just the same. I miss you, but I promise that I'm OK. Focus on what you need to do. I know you will keep your promise.
It has only been a few hours since you left the village, but I wonder where your journey has taken you so far. Are you traveling by land or by sea, I wonder. In either case, the sun is so HOT! Maybe I should have given you an umbrella before you left. Oh, and I would have made you a bento, too. Did you pack enough clothes for your journey, and did you remember to bring your toothbrush? Did you bring mosquito repellent? Oh, and what about a first-aid kit? Oh, no... what will Naruto-kun do if it rains?
She paused with an outstretched arm and a worrisome expression, but then she heaved a sigh followed by a short smile.
Etto... please forgive me; I overreacted. Naruto-kun has been on many missions before, so I'm sure he will be fine. Plus, Yamato-sensei is accompanying you also, right?
Oh, that's right! I saw the rose along with the book you left in my room. Thank you so much! I'm glad you remembered! I'm so happy! I've already decided to read it on a rainy day; that's only the best time to read, wouldn't you agree?
The princess giggled, and then veered her attention in the direction that her fluffy friend was resting, his nine tails a constant memory in her mind.
By the way, Naruto-kun... when I woke up this morning, there was a small fox lying next to me on my bed. I was surprised when I noticed that it has nine tails! Is it related to you, in some way? Maybe a new summoning contract?
Oh, but if it's not, there's no need for Naruto-kun to worry; B-kun is very friendly and CUTE! Do you think it's the Kyuubi? But that doesn't make any sense, does it? In any case, there's no need to worry... I will be careful. Promise.
Repeatedly, Hinata drove her arms forward with a determined cry, one and then the other. Right. Left, then right again. Once, twice, three times, over and over — vigorously, sequentially. Until, finally, the princess surrendered to her human limitations before she could succumb to heatstroke or dehydration. While it was imperative that she become stronger, a wise warrior knew well to never stray too far over the line. Knowing when to take a break and rest was also a part of the equation to excel.
"How about we have our lunches now," Hinata attempted another smile, now sitting on her heels beneath the heavenly shade of the tree beside her tiny companion.
The Kyuubi pushed to his feet as she reached inside the hamper to retrieve a rectangular lunch box, which she gently placed before him. Keeping his cool visage in check, the tiny deity marveled at the food through the transparent cover, waiting patiently for it to be properly presented and offered to him.
How many decades, if ever, had it been since he ate human-made food? While he didn't particularly share their interest in the creative presentation of their cuisine, he had to say he was fairly impressed and, his appetite, stirred by Hinata's gourmet lunch box.
Fried squid and pork. Roasted fish. Barbecued chicken. Grilled beef. Baked ham. Rice — the Kyuubi was happy to be alive! He didn't know where to start, and he beamed as he relished the coaxing smell of the impressive compilation.
Nipping curiously on a piece of roasted potato, Hinata watched avidly as the canine guided his nose toward the food — like a baby about to take its first steps — further indulging his sense of smell before tentatively sampling the barbecue. He stood frozen as unfamiliar flavors exploded on his tongue, sparking those carnivorous nerve-endings that were a part of his beastly design, stirring receptors that had long since been dormant.
Amazing! The food was beyond amazing, and the Bijuu kept eating — gorging frantically as if he was given a limited time to eat before the precious assortment of meat was forever taken away, along with the delightful taste that had eluded him for far too long.
With each bite, the deity felt his adore elevating. Hinata Hyūga was becoming more of a goddess, if that was even possible. She was the ideal human female, and she made him feel more alive than even the days he was free to roam the earth. And a silent oath rose in his subconsciousness.
He would always protect this woman; the female was too much of a treasure to be lost in the pathetic and meaningless squabble of the human race — and he would personally see to it that her existence was prolonged. He knew his act of charity was born of selfishness, but he didn't care. As long as she was alive and happy and he could bask in her company, then that was all that mattered.
Hinata chuckled, already having as much as she could manage. "Well, someone especially enjoys barbecue chicken," she teased playfully, watching as the fox started on another cutlet. "Have as much as you would like; there's plenty more in the picnic basket — and be sure to eat your veggies, too."
The complacent Bijuu grinned inwardly. He felt a weird sense of delight and belonging when Hinata demanded the same thing she did of Naruto. Some irrational rush of heady excitement gushed through him, but he bit back the string of words that were intent on rolling off his tongue.
Suddenly, the girl's warm countenance changed, and she was standing tall, gazing with open alarm at something far off in the distance. It was smoke… rising up from the forested mountain range a few miles east of the village. Oh, no — it was clearly a signal for help! Then again, it could have also been a trap. But, what if it wasn't and someone was genuinely in need of assistance? A moment's hesitation could possibly determine whether this person lived or died.
Without second-guessing herself, the princess apologized and quickly gathered up the food and supplies, swiftly taking off with her fluffy friend in tow. Making her way to the foothills, she became one with the thick forest, following the dark tower of smoke to its source.