Permission to Engage
"Where are you taking her?"
The room was tense as three kunoichis from Konoha surrounded their target. They were all menacing and fierce, secure in their information-gathering skills. Not only that, they were jonin-level, their ninjutsu and taijutsu skills battle-honed and tested.
The taller one with brown hair balled into buns on each side of her head twirled a kunai. The blond-haired one with the exposed navel peeking through her purple dress cracked her knuckles. The one with pink-hair and a diamond healing mark on her forehead brandished her weapon over him.
The man being interrogated was glued to his chair, but his eyes darted fearfully from one angry face to another.
He started to sweat, his heart pounding. He swallowed audibly.
"I don't know," he said, his voice filled with dread.
He knew it was the wrong answer as the pink-haired woman bore the full weight of her power and smashed her weapon onto the side of his head.
She peered at him, green eyes relentless and unforgiving.
"I'm going to ask you one more time and you're going to give me the answer I want to hear. Where are you taking her?"
"I don't remember," he whispered.
The man buried his face in his hands and braced for the blow.
It came again, the rolled up newspaper made a loud whooshing sound through the air and collided against his temple, making Naruto blink back tears of pain.
"Sakura!" he yelled. "Don't you think this is too much?!"
"No!" she snapped. "You wanted help, and this is how you're going to get it. You're the type to learn through physical contact. I'm going to beat it into you."
Her eyes glinting, she whacked him again. "Now say it! And remember it this time: The bluff overlooking Konoha, on the stone faces of the previous Hokages."
He repeated the sentence. "I'm taking her to the bluff overlooking Konoha, on the stone faces of the previous Hokages."
"You make dinner reservations at the inn first, then give her sunflowers, her favorite flower."
"I make dinner reservations at the sunflower inn—"
"Sakura, let me have a try," Ino suddenly said, grabbing the rolled-up newspaper from her hand and smacking Naruto over the head before she even asked a question.
"Ino!" Sakura said sharply. "Stop!"
Naruto glanced at her gratefully, pleased that she was defending him from Ino.
"You're doing it wrong. You have to hit him on the side of the head. He won't feel it if you do it that way-and roll the newspaper more tightly," Sakura said.
Ino nodded. "Gotcha." She did as instructed.
Naruto didn't even try to dodge the blow that came.
"Ouch!" he yelled. "Ino, you didn't even ask me anything!"
He raked his fingers through his blond hair, gently massaging his throbbing head.
"Ladies, we are not playing whack-a-mole here," came Tenten's dry voice.
They looked at her.
"Let's focus on our objectives?" Tenten reminded them.
Ino and Sakura grinned. "Sorry, Tenten."
"You guys! When I asked for your help, this isn't what I had in mind," Naruto whined from his chair.
"Stop complaining!" Sakura said to him.
She looked at Ino, who'd just lowered her arm. "Thanks for doing that, Ino. I was getting tired. This is so draining."
She sighed. "Naruto, you have to remember the steps! Otherwise, you're going to screw it up and not be able to propose to Hinata!"
Naruto looked at them, his blue eyes pleading. "I'm nervous! I don't know what she's going to say. It makes me forget what I'm supposed to do!"
Naruto turned around, more in surprise than pain. He hadn't seen her, but Tenten had slipped by quietly, grabbed the rolled up newspaper from Ino's hand, and smacked him on the side of the head.
"You're shinobi! You've faced worse than this!" she said in an unsympathetic voice.
He looked dazed then held up his trembling hands to show the girls. "What if she says no?"
The girls looked at each other, expressions softening.
Ino placed a hand on a hip and tucked her blond hair behind an ear. "Look, you only have two days to do this. You're planning to propose to her on her birthday, right?"
Tenten folded her arms. "Besides, she loves you. She's not going to say no."
"Like she's ever said no to you?" Sakura said drily. "Yeah, the answer is a given. Your job is to make her remember this once in a moment event, to make her feel special. She adores you so you need to make a special effort for her sake."
He looked at them. "I know. This is for her, not for me."
"Correct," Ino said.
Tenten nodded. "Hinata deserves a beautiful proposal."
Naruto's eyes shone with understanding. "Yes, I'll do it."
Sakura continued, "So remember, you take her to that inn, that ryoukan that she loves so much. You know she loves the food over there. You invite her for a walk. You guys head towards the stone faces. You hand her the sunflowers that Ino personally will pick out. You take the ring out of your pocket, get down on your knee, and you ask her the question. It's romantic."
"It's so simple!" Ino said. "Even an id-"
She broke off as she glanced at him. "Never mind."
"Hey!" Naruto glared at her. "That's just mean!"
She grinned back at him. "Oh, yeah? Who told you about her birthday?"
Naruto lowered his head. "Fine. But that's different."
Ino chuckled. "Sorry, I'm just teasing you."
He sighed. "Well, it's not funny. I'm just so worried!"
"Relax, Romeo," Tenten said. "Look, her expectations are probably pretty low, considering you're you, but as long as you do what we tell you, it should be okay."
Naruto scowled at her. "Have I mentioned that I'm asking for help? This is not an occasion for all of you guys to rag on me, you know!"
Sakura laughed. "Yeah, but this is pretty fun. We finally get to see you so pitiful after all the years you completely ignored Hinata. It's payback."
Naruto pulled at his hair. "Don't remind me!" he howled in frustration. "That's why I'm so nervous and anxious! I just want to do this right!"
He put his hands over his face.
The three looked at each other and smiled.
"It will be fine, Naruto," Ino said.
"She'll love it," Tenten said.
"Now, let's go over this again," Sakura said. "And really pay attention this time."
Two days later...
He was still nervous, making him more quiet than normal. Hinata had noticed, of course, and asked about it. He'd brushed it off by saying he'd been thinking about the work that Shikamaru had recently given him: studying the history of Konoha.
In all honesty, it had been difficult to remember all the facts from the past. Shikamaru had been inflexible, deaf to Naruto's excuses. "You pain in the ass! You would know this already if you'd paid attention when we were in the academy. Now you've given me, and yourself, extra work by having to learn it a second time."
But Hinata had been sympathetic. She'd nodded and accepted the lie for his nervousness.
She sighed happily now as she hugged his arm and looked up at the stars.
"It's a beautiful night," she said.
Naruto breathed a sigh of relief. So far, everything was going according to plan. Hinata had looked radiant when they'd had dinner at the inn. As always, the food was exquisite. She had talked enthusiastically about her last mission with Kiba and Shino and how they had all stopped by to visit their former captain, Kurenai. Mirai was growing taller and had demanded hugs from all three of them.
"Kurenai-sensei's doing well. Mirai's gotten bigger. She's so adorable," she said.
She was now smiling up at him as they were heading up the path towards the Hokage stone cliff.
"Thanks for taking me out to dinner for my birthday, Naruto," she said sweetly, making him smile back at her in return.
"I'm glad you loved it," he said. She squeezed his hand, still smiling in that gentle way of hers. He never failed to fall in love with her all over again every time he saw that expression on her face.
They were now at the top. The city of Konoha lay before them, immutable in its defenses. But at night, the sparkling lights illuminated its beauty in the darkness.
"Oh, I love this view," Hinata said with a sigh. "It makes me so glad I grew up and live in Konoha."
"Yeah," he said, agreeing whole-heartedly with her.
I can do this, Naruto thought, slowly gaining confidence. He'd followed all the steps so far, and the girls had been right. It was all very romantic. Hinata was glowing. He was happy, certain she would say yes and remember this night forever.
He spotted the sunflowers wrapped in beautiful packaging at one of the benches. He grinned. Perfect timing, Ino! She'd probably used her mind transfer jutsu to enter somebody's mind to make sure they were on their way to the bluff. That's probably how she knew when to put it on the bench. Either that, or she'd used one of the animals close by...
Wait a minute. If Ino was able to use her jutsu, then that means she, or the other girls were around.
Shit. He started sweating. His heart started pounding. He was starting to get nervous again.
Okay, what was next again? he thought in a panic. Oh, right! Ring.
He glanced at Hinata, who was still looking out into the view, a sight smile on her face.
Completely forgetting the sunflowers, he reached into his pocket to take out the ring, but was dismayed to see that his hand was shaking.
Trying to be discrete, he fumbled inside his pocket but became alarmed when he couldn't find the ring. When his fingers finally closed around it, he breathed a grateful sigh of relief.
But he'd been too careless in his relief. He whipped out the ring hastily then watched in terror as it slipped out of his hand and slowly dropped to the ground.
Hinata caught a flash of something sparkly out of the corner of her eyes as it hit the earth, rolled slowly, and slid unerringly into a crack in the ground.
Naruto, frozen in shock, could only watch in horror.
"Did you drop something, Naruto?" Hinata asked. She looked at his horrified face and acted instinctively.
"Byakugan!" she said and found it easily. She hunched down and beamed in delight as she was able to reach it through the crack with her slim fingers.
"I got it!" she smiled up at him. "Don't worry, Naruto. Is this what you dropped? Here it is! See?"
She held up the golden circlet, beautiful diamonds glinting unmistakably in the night.
Just then Sakura, Tenten, and Ino burst into the scene. They'd been in the area to make sure he didn't screw things up. Mainly, though, they'd been eager to congratulate Hinata after Naruto finally popped the question.
But there was Hinata, on her knees, smiling at Naruto and holding up a ring in the air.
"Hinata, are you proposing to Naruto?!" Sakura yelled in disbelief.
Naruto glanced at her in surprise. He looked at their furious expressions, then at Hinata still down on her knees, the ring clasped in her hand.
"Wait! No! It's not what it looks like!"
The three advanced on him slowly, deliberately, threateningly.
Sakura was already slipping on her gloves.
I tried to imagine Naruto being suave and romantic when he proposes, but this is all I could come up with. He will always be the lovable goof I want him to be. I'll keep on working on it. :D One of these days, I hope to write a proper proposal.
Thank you for reading!