Chapter 20: Resolve
Rising around an hour before dawn, as usual, Wu went through his usual routine of cleaning his face, brushing his teeth, and checking his body for stray fleas or ticks. The latter was no longer necessary after his departure from Jigokudani, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
Just as Wu was preparing to head outside and conduct his early morning workout, a faint knock emanated from his door. His face briefly contorted into a scowl, but it had returned to normal by the time he opened the door to find Hiruzen standing on the opposite side.
Preempting Wus greeting or complaint, Hiruzen said, “Worry not, Wu-kun. I have not come here to interrupt your training. I merely wanted to ask if I could borrow some of your time later, specifically around 11 AM.”
Since it gave him a decent amount of time to prepare, Wu nodded his head and answered, “Sure, no problem.” before asking, “Where should I meet you…”
Adopting one of his grandfatherly smiles, Hiruzen said, “Ill need you to heave over to Sara-sans place, our Clans personal Seamstress. She has some clothes for you to try on. After that, I would like you to accompany me to a meeting. Dont worry, you arent going to be tested or anything. Its just a formality.”
Though he instantly regretted his decision to accept Hiruzens request, Wu returned a curt nod, asserting, “Ill be there.” Hiruzen had done him several favors in the past few months, and Wu hated being indebted to others. If it turned out Hiruzen was luring him into some kind of trap, the old man would lose his trust, and that was that.
Understanding that Wu didnt like deviating from his schedule, Hiruzen returned a cut nod before turning away and meandering down the hall at a slow, leisurely pace. He could feel Wus gaze boring a hole into his back, so he did his best not to give anything away…
Contrasting the kata, form, and weight training he did in the afternoons, Wus early morning regimen revolved around cardiovascular exercises. Kurenai may have thought he had infinite stamina, but the truth was that he was constantly circulating his Chakra while simultaneously absorbing energy from the atmosphere through his mouth, nose, and pores. In fact, except for when he was sleeping, Wu was constantly absorbing what old man Enma referred to as Natural Energy.
Despite what he had said to Ino, Wus reserves didnt increase the same way as an ordinary persons. No matter how much he trained his body or focused his mind, his reserves would barely increase. He had tested this bynot training for a short period, and the increase was pretty much the exact same. Thus, while other people could train, meditate, or consume a special elixir to increase their Chakra capacity, Wus only method of doing so was aging.
As terrible as Wus situation sounded, the truth of the matter was that he was incredibly blessed. He didnt know precisely how fast it regenerated, but his ability to absorb Natural Energy from the environment allowed him to replenish his reserves in minutes. Other people would need to sleep for around 8-10 hours to achieve the same feat, so, as long as he didnt exert himself too much, Wu had functionally limitless Chakra.
Fortunately, while Wus reserves appeared to increase slower than some of his classmates, this was mainly because they were entering their rapid growth period. As their bodies transitioned from children into adults, their physical parameters and mental acuity would increase rapidly. However, without consistent effort, they would eventually hit a wall that could only be surmounted with considerable willpower.
Unlike his classmates, Wus unique form of growth meant his progress would never plateau. Even if he didnt train, he would continue to grow stronger, seemingly without limit. Since hedid train, Wu was confident that his strength would remain well ahead of his peers for the rest of his life. He could already give a skilled Chunin a run for her money, so by the time he graduated, Wu anticipated he would be able to do the same with a Jonin…
After changing into a black and grey yukata with the symbol of the Sarutobi Clan sewn onto the back and chest, a stone-faced Wu was escorted to one of the guest houses on the Sarutobi Estate. It was a place prepared for foreign dignitaries and high-ranking members from other Clans. Hence, various thoughts, mostly negative, pervaded Wus mind as the elderly man heralded him inside.
Just as Wu was psyching himself up to encounter someone important, the metaphorical wind was taken out of his sails as Hiruzen guided him into a tea room containing Hinata and a middle-aged man from the Hyuga Clan. The former had been dolled up with makeup and garbed in an expensive-looking, predominately white kimono, so it wasnt difficult to imagine why Hiruzen had requested his presence.
Interrupting Wus brief pause, Hiruzen placed one hand on his shoulder while gesturing to one of the flat cushions opposite the pearl-eyed duo, saying, “Please, take a seat, Wu-kun. I can tell youve already guessed the purpose of this meeting, but I can assure you. The decision is yours and Lady Hinatas to make.”
Without responding to the conniving mans words, Wu took his seat and stared at Hinata. She currently had her head and eyes facing downward, but that was customary during these procedures. This was obviously the setup for a marriage interview, but, as neither he nor Hinata were adults, it was up to their respective Guardians to negotiate the terms. Hiruzen may have said it was up to them, but Wu knew things couldnt be so clear-cut.
As the most senior person present, by a long shot, Hiruzen was given the responsibility of initiating the interview, gesturing to Hinata and the older Hyuga as he revealed, “This esteemed gentleman here is the Patriarch of the Hyuga Clan, Hyuga Hiashi. He has brought his daughter here today to discuss the possibility of marriage between our two Clans.”
Bowing his head slightly, his back as straight as a board, Hiashi stated, “I believe this union benefits both our houses. My daughter has progressed considerably these past few weeks, and the responsibility for that growth lies in your tutelage, Sarutobi Wu-kun. It is my desire to see her reach her full potential, but I would not have you devote your time and effort to her without recompense. Therefore, I have proposed entrusting my daughter to the care of the Sarutobi Clan, fortifying the union between our houses and ensuring the prosperity of the forthcoming generation.”
Though it would ordinarily be his turn to state the positives and negatives of such a union, Hiruzen looked to Wu and said, “I am interested to hear your opinion on this matter, Wu-kun.”
Surprising the two adult men, Wu didnt need to consider his words before responding, “I am not against it. However, as Lord Hiashi pointed out, Ive been observing and training Lady Hinata for several weeks. The two Lords may not be aware, but there is another that has captured the heart of the Hyuga heiress, Uzumaki Naruto. While it is reasonable to assume that she would become powerful if left in my care, it is beyond my ability to change her heart and guarantee her happiness. If Lord Hiashi truly wishes to see Lady Hinata reach her full potential, he will support her decision and allow her to follow her chosen path. People do not become extraordinary at the behest of others. True power comes from a desire to attain or protect the things closest to our heart…”
Though it was an extreme faux pas, Hinata couldnt help raising her head ever-so-slightly to meet Wus gaze. She doubted his words would be able to convince her father to retract the proposal, but she appreciated that he had tried. She could only dream of having the same courage…
Leaving Hinata stunned beyond words, not that she intended to speak, Hiashi nodded his head and said, “There is considerable wisdom in your words, Sarutobi Wu-kun. Lord Third was equally wise to have suggested we defer to you on this matter. Now, even if the proposal falls through, I can be certain my daughter will double her efforts moving forward…”
Raising her head, Hinata looked up at her father with a mixture of hope and disbelief as she softly inquired, “Does this mean…”
Revealing avery rare smile, Hiashi nodded his head and reiterated, “As Lord Third mentioned before, the decision is ultimately yours, and young Sarutobi-kuns to make. A coerced union jeopardizes the stability of both houses, so we will not proceed if either of you is against it. Sarutobi-kun has already expressed his approval, so the final person to decide is you.”
Not expecting to be given the option to refuse, Hinata found herself at a complete and utter loss for words. She almost felt like she was dreaming, but, at the same time, she also felt guilty. It was true that Wu was going out of his way to foster her growth, both as a Kunoichi and as a person, so part of her felt like she owed it to him to say yes…
Irreversibly complicating things, Hiruzen chimed in to explain, “Even if you agree today, your marriage will not be officiated until the two of you reach a suitable age. If either of you changes your mind between now and then, the engagement can be annulled at any time. Furthermore, to ensure the honor and integrity of both houses, your engagement would not be made public until arrangements for the ceremony have been completed.”
Listening to the words of Hiruzen, someone every citizen of Konoha had been taught to fear and respect from a young age, Hinata began feeling a little lightheaded. He wasnt using any special techniques or Genjutsu, but the elderly mans calm, grandfatherly words penetrated her mind, filling her with the sense that everything would be okay…
With the assurance that she could annul the engagement any time, Hinata softly and absentmindedly replied, “Im not…unwilling…”
Hearing Hinatas response, the faint smile on Hiashis face visibly twitched while Hiruzen exhaled a soft yet throaty chuckle. Contrasting this, Wu had no reaction at all, his expression and smile seemingly frozen in time as he gazed into Hinatas eyes and internally screamed, (“All you had to **ing do was say no…!”)
Though he could technically annul the engagement whenever he wanted, the persona Wu had cultivated during his stay in Konoha meant he would need a good reason to refuse. He currently wasnt willing to compromise his position as a member of the Sarutobi Clan, so Hinatas acquiescence meant he was stuck with her until she decided otherwise.
As her senses gradually returned and she found Wu staring back at her, a soft blush colored Hinatas cheeks. However, while she did lower her head slightly, she didnt avert her eyes, a faint smile gracing her lips as she held Wus gaze. It was strange, but now that they were engaged, she suddenly felt a lot closer to her golden-eyed classmate…
Seeing Hinatas smile, Wus internal cursing became louder, contrasting the softening of his expression. In reality, the only thing preventing him from flipping over the table separating them was the notion that he now had a perfect excuse to increase the intensity of Hinatas training. At least that way, even if theywere forced to marry, she wouldnt be completely useless…
(A/N: For those of you who think this guarantees Hinata a spot in the harem, please refer back to the comment at the end of Chapter 17. Have a nice day.)