Kurenai Yuhi was rather excited as she entered the Hyuuga compound. Though she was rather disappointed her first solo mission as a chuunin was within the village, being chosen by the head of the most distinguished clan in Konoha certainly softened the blow. The guards at entrance bowed to her in respect of her rank before they gave her directions to the meeting hall.
With every step she could feel the many eyes of the clan stealing glances at her vest. It was stiff and clean and certainly reeked of her new rank. Kurenai tried her best not blush from the discrete attention. It may have been a vain attempt to appear professional, but she stuck to the regulation shinobi wear. Dark blue pants and long sleeved shirt, newly bought from her shopping trip the night before. If it wasn't for her crimson eyes and short black hair, the genjutsu specialist could have blended in with the rest of Konoha's ninja forces.
She finally arrived to the doors of the hall, the guards had her wait a moment before Hiashi's voice called out, easily heard through the shoji doors. "You may enter Yuhi-san."
Beyond the doors, the polished wooden floors shined brightly. Upon the raised dias sat Hiashi. The leader of the Hyuuga clan wore the traditional robes of his family. White clothing that appeared to flow with him with every breath. The sign of his station, the pantone haori, hanged from his back. With a deep and respectful bow, the Konoha chunin greeted the clan head. Out of the corner of her eye, Hiashi motioned for her to sit at the place in front of him.
"Yuhi-san," Hiashi started, his tone respectfully. "You were highly recommend by your former jounin sensei and your mission reports certainly show your ability and skills as an extremely talented shinobi." Hiashi's gaze never wavered as he spoke, Kurenai had a very hard time at hiding her discomfort being under his pale pupil-less eyes.
"I've selected you for a mission at my own personal cost." Hiashi's words only added to his already intimidating presence in the room. "With the upcoming festival celebrating the defeat of the Kyuubi, my daughter requires an escort. Usually I have members of the clan keep her safe, but the Hokage has made a request of us."
At his moment of pause, Kurenai took the initiative. "The Kumo delegation. The Hokage has notified the importance of their visit with all on duty shinobi." She already showed her respect, the chuunin needed to show that her rank was earned not given. Conversation and proper up to date information is a good way to display such skills in a tactful environment.
Hiashi nodded. It was the right answer. "Correct. We are hosting the ambassadors from Cloud here at the compound as a show of good faith in both villages' belief in peace. I need all members to participate in the hosting of our guests, but it would still be prudent for us to have one main family member to be seen in the public eye."
Kurenai cannot help but to notice hardening of Hiashi's eyes. "It will be up to you to supervise Hinata and ensure her behaviour reflects the standards of the Hyuuga clan." He continued with grim tone. "She cannot be seen as anything other than an exemplar Hyuuga." Kurenai could have sworn that Hiashi made an inkling of killing intent known, just so his orders were clear. "Your presence will be expected three days prior to the festival to build a comfortable relationship with my daughter and your mission will end three days after the festival when the clan resumes its general duties towards the village. Are there any questions?"
Her response was immediate. "May I introduce myself to Hinata-sama before my mission begins tomorrow?"
Hiashi thought over her request. "You may. The guards will point you to her quarters. They are aware of your mission."
With grace instilled into her for the sake of tactful meetings, Kurenai rose from her seat and bowed low towards the clan head. "I bid you farewell Hiashi-sama." He gave her a deferent nod in return.
As soon as she left the room, the guards immediately showed her the way to Hinata's room. Kurenai used the walk to prepare herself mentally. If Hinata was anything like her father, she would need to prepare herself for this weeklong mission with rigorous, unflinching child.
Honestly, Kurenai did not expect her first day with Hinata to be anything like this.
The open café in the center of Konoha's marketplace was a great place to take a break. After spending most of the day with the young heiress exploring the other parts of the village, Kurenai took her café to get her a light snack. Watching the young Hyuuga happily nibble on a cinnamon bun, only solidified what today had proved about Hinata Hyuuga.
She was nothing like her father.
They may wear the same robes, but Hinata lacked the presence of Hiashi. When the young heir asked if it was possible to visit the open air market, Kurenai was surprised. Instead of a walk-around as a show of the Hyuuga's presence in the village, Hinata wanted to look at the market stalls. Being the recognized heir of the clan, Kurenai concluded that first-born child never had the chance just to explore Konoha like the other kids.
Hinata walked to each stall with the poise her clan was known for, underneath the calm exterior however, Kurenai could see that child was excited. Her hands twitched within her sleeves at every vendor, wanting to touch the wares. Her eyes lit up at all the nifty doodads that came from the foreign merchants while a smile threatened to break across her face. Despite the pressure put on Hinata from her father and clan, she was still very much a child.
Hinata finished her last cinnamon bun and sat back in her chair with the most content look on her face that the chuunin has ever seen. Kurenai resisted the urge to wipe the few crumbs left on the heiress's face. "So now what do you wish to do Hinata-sam-san?" The honorific has been the most difficult adjustment for this assignment. Hinata insisted and Kurenai could not say no, professionally and personally.
She appeared to think the question over thoroughly, then Hinata said, "I heard from the lady at the flower shop that there are many beautiful flowers blooming near the outskirts training field 5. Do you know where that is Kurenai-san?"
The genjustu specialist knew that Hiashi may not approve of her going off the beaten path, but Hinata was having such a good time today. It wouldn't hurt to let her indulge in a personal pleasure. "I have an idea where we can start our search."
Hinata smiled, only for realization to strike. "It is just like a search and recover mission Kurenai-san!" At her exclamation, her face flushed red as she noticed how loud her voice went. Kurenai chuckled to herself.
"Oh? And what are we recovering during mission Hinata-san?" Kurenai asked. She was curious about the young heiress possible intentions.
"I like to press flowers in my free time, and I've never had the chance to see wild ones. I've already have samples from all over the compound." Hinata said. She appeared doleful. "My mother and I used to do together when she had no prior duties to the clan."
With that, Kurenai knew that she really could not let her go home without at least one flower. "Let's go see what we can find."
"Be careful where you step Hinata-san. There are many wild animals in these woods and some can be very dangerous." The ebony haired ninja warned.
"Isn't dangerous to have them inside the village Kurenai-san?" Hinata asked with a slight hesitation.
"Only people who come this close to the training fields are shinobi Hinata-san. Even if they are in the academy, they still need to have proper situational awareness." She assured the young girl. "They wouldn't be Leaf ninja if they got bit by a snake in the grass would they?" Kurenai asked rhetorically.
Hinata had a light-hearted laugh only to be interrupted another voice.
"The Mamushi is one of the more common snakes of the fire nation, they are really hostile when confronted with something new." A woman said from nearby. "They really go to town on foreign animals crossing the border."
Kurenai instantly put herself between Hinata and the origin of the unknown voice. The mission always takes priority. No matter if they are in their home village. The flowers that they are looking for could be found in the same place where the voice was coming from.
"So it's safe to be friends with it?" A young boy questioned, his voice from the same place as the female. That made Kurenai relax. She gave Hinata the go ahead to continue on their walk. Most likely they might have to intrude on a family outing to get the flowers.
They reached the clearing and the two people there made Kurenai very nervous. Anko Mitarashi and Naruto Uzumaki. They had their backs to them while Anko held a pale brown snake in her arms, its head in Anko's tight grip. "Brat, if there is one thing you should learn about snakes," Anko started. "Is that wild snakes can't be trusted."
"I agree." Kurenai stated. Startled, Naruto jumped away in surprise while Anko calmly turned around to face the other chuunin, the snake in her hands attempted to coil around her arms. "You can't trust snakes." Kurenai did not allow her eyes to deviate from the snake summoner. "A single bite can kill."
The other kunoichi glared at Kurenai, her distaste at their intrusion evident on her face. "You can't say that chuunin-san," Anko commented cattily. "Anyone who tempts a snake deserves to be bitten don't you think?" She asked rhetorically.
Unaware of the air of hostility between the shinobi, Naruto walked over to Hinata. "I remember you! You were the one who was being picked on by those bullies outside at the playground!" He exclaimed.
Hinata blushed. "Yes, I never got the chance thank you." With a respectful bow, the heiress introduced herself, "My name is Hinata Hyuuga."
In contrast to Hinata polite introduction, Naruto made a pose. His thumb scrubbed away imaginary dirt under his nose and with a big smiled he yelled aloud, "I'm Naruto Uzumaki! Nice to meet'cha!"
To Kurenai's displeasure, Hinata was utterly befuddled by the loud child. Being raised by a man like Hiashi along with the rest of the clan, poor Hinata probably never had too many chances to interact with other children. If it were any other child, Kurenai would probably let it slide.
Naruto is not like other children.
"That is no way to address Hinata-sama, boy." Kurenai chided Naruto. Anko practically sneered behind him in indignation. "She is the heir of one of Konoha's most prestigious clans, you must use proper honorifics."
The whiskered youth withered under her tone. The traitor looked like she had a certain honorific to add to Kurenai's name, only to be interrupted by Hinata.
"It's okay Kurenai-san." The young heiress spoke up. "It feels nice being just Hinata." She blushed in embarrassment from the statement.
Naruto could not help himself and commented, "Your turning a bit red there, Hinata. You should sit down and take a breath. There are some real nice flowers nearby, they'll make you feel better!" Before either ninja could stop him, Naruto took hold of Hinata's hand and started to drag her away.
"Hinata!" Kurenai moved to stop them, only to be blocked by Anko.
Both children glanced back at the women, surprised at the fear in her tone. Anko called to them, "You kids go have fun, me and the newbie are just going to have a chat." She said, while her eyes dared Kurenai to make a move. "Ninjas only."
Naruto and Hinata shared a look and shrugged. They both wanted to look at the flowers. The headed off to the far side of the clearing, too far away to hear shinobi as they talked.
"Get out of my way, traitor." Kurenai coldly ordered. "Hinata-sama's protection is my main mission objective. I do not have time to deal with you."
"Like I wanted to spend any time with you, pink eyes."
Kurenai hand twitched for a kunai. Her eyes have always been a bit of a sore spot.
"Leave the brat alone, and we won't have any problems." Anko said lowly, as if she didn't even want to hear herself say it. "But the moment you try to poison his little mind with some crap about him or me…" To make her point, snakes started crawl around Kurenai's feet, hidden from view by the grass.
Refusing to be baited by an obvious ploy, Kurenai steeled herself. "Are you threatening me Anko Mitarashi? The Hokage doesn't take too kindly to insubordination."
With the mention of Hokage, the snakes near Kurenai's feet slithered away. Their hissing dissipated into the rustled grass. The snake lost its fangs, knowing the outcome if she threw the first punch. The genjutsu specialist was rather fed up with this dance around.
"I'm not here to fight you Mitarashi-san." She said politely. A stunned look flittered across Anko's face for a moment before it returned to her trademark scowl. "Hinata-sama's wellbeing is my priority," she paused to look over Anko's shoulder. "She is having fun even if it is with…him." With a heavy sigh, Kurenai said, "For their sake, we will let them have their fun. After that, we don't have to deal with one another ever again. Deal?"
Anko was silent as she thought over. "Deal." Neither of them bothered to shake on it. Kurenai did not want to even associate with the traitor, and the feeling was probably mutual judging by the other's attitude.
Both ninja returned their attention to their young charges across the field. The silence between them was frosty and hostile, with only Naruto's excited yelling being heard between them. To Kurenai's relief, the sun soon began to set and she called Hinata back. While she hurried as fast she could in her Hyuuga robes, Naruto ran beside her covered in dirt and grass stains.
"Yes Kurenai-san?" Hinata inquired.
"It is getting late Hinata-sama. It is time for you to go home."
Hinata's smile wavered for a second before she turned to address Naruto. "Thank you for your help today Naruto-kun." She bowed.
Naruto blushed, "No problem Hinata! They should look really pretty in your collection. I wish knew how to press flowers."
Hinata's eyes lit up. "What if I show you how Naruto? If you and Anko-san are free tomorrow I can bring my collection and show you how to do it."
Inside her mind, Kurenai pleaded to the powers that be that Naruto and Anko would say no. Her prayers were heard when the older kunoichi opened her mouth-
"That sounds great Hinata!" Naruto replied happily. The children were overjoyed, they talked animatedly. Hinata polite voice to Naurto's wild gestures. Kurenai felt like she just swallowed a rock. She would need to make sure Hinata says nothing of this afternoon to her clan, especially her father. It would reflect poorly on both of them. Hopefully the little heir does not ask why.
As they turned to head back the Hyuuga compound, Naruto and Hinata waved happily.
"See you tomorrow Hinata!"
Anko's scowl deepened before she gruffly said, "See you tomorrow Yuhi." She grimaced like her name tasted foul. Kurenai was not looking forward to tomorrow.
A/N: Kurenai arrives with Hinata in tow. General introduction complete! Remember, this story takes place after Anko's return to Konoha after being found near one of Orochimaru's labs. Its been nearly 8 years since coming back into the fold, but she's cold as ice. That reputation certainly doesn't help her in building relationships with her comrades, as seen with Kurenai's disposition.
Next chapter, Anko and Naruto have a little chat and make their own plans for the upcoming festival.
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