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An Unexpected Romance

By Ann Shannon

Romance

Chapter 10-Arriving in Konoha

As they approached the gate Chikako looked at the crowd that had gathered to greet them nervously. She shifted a little closer to Tobirama.

"Don't be nervous Chikako. Most of them aren't here for me, Hideo, Kin and Isamu all have families and I see many of them there."

She breathed a sigh of relief and then there was man in front of them. "Tobirama! Welcome back!"

The man was slightly taller than Tobirama and other than his eyes looked entirely different. His hair was black and long. Flowing down behind his shoulders. His face was kind and smiling but he had the air of someone who was used to being listened to. He wore the same black shirt and pants that Tobirama wore but his armor was brown instead of the blue that Tobirama used. Chikako guessed this to be his brother, Hashirama.

"Hello Hashirama. It's good to be back. How have you been?"

"Well. How did the talks with Hata go? Were you able to form an alliance with him?"

Tobirama turned towards Chikako, who wanted nothing more than to fade into the shadows, and said, "Hashirama, I'd like to introduce you to Chikako Hata, my wife."

Hashirama stood there in stunned silence, as did the other people standing there waiting to greet Tobirama, staring at her as if they didn't know what to say. Finally a red-headed woman broke the silence.

"Welcome Chikako-san. May I call you that?" She had approached Chikako and was now standing directly in front of her smiling. "My name is Mito. Welcome to Konoha."

Chikako looked at the woman in front of her. Her smile was genuine. She was slightly shorter than Chikako was, and was holding out her hand in friendship. Chikako smiled back "Please, simply Chikako will do. Thank you for your kind welcome." She turned to Hashirama, "I would assume that you are Tobirama's brother?"

Hashirama smiled, he liked this girl already. "I am. It's nice to meet you Chikako. Welcome to Konoha."

"Thank you Senju-sama. I appreciate the opportunity to form an alliance between our clans and villages." She bowed as she said this. When she stood Hashirama and Mito were both smiling at her in a bemused way and she got the feeling she'd done something wrong. She looked to Tobirama who was just watching her quietly with a smile quirking at the corners of his mouth.

The solemn moment broke just then and the group around them burst into chatter. But Chikako felt Mito's firm grip on her arm. "You must be positively exhausted Chikako. Come on, lets go have tea!" And she pulled her away from the crowd and away from the lifeline Tobirama had been.

Chikako followed Mito through the village until they came to a building that was comprised of two towers next to each other. As they walked Chikako noted that not many of the buildings in this village were built in the traditional style like the buildings of the Hata compound had been. Mito opened the door and taking her hand said, "Are you hungry? When was the last time those men fed you? You look like you might pass out."

Chikako followed her through the house as she spoke and into the kitchen. "Oh no. Tea would be lovely, but I'm not hungry. Tobirama has been very kind and considerate of my needs during the trip."

Mito stopped what she was doing and stared at her. "He has?" Her face showed surprise but she shrugged and continued making tea. "I'll have to set a bedroom up for you two. His is too small." She looked back at Chikako, "You are sharing a room, right?"

Chikako blushed, "Yes, we are."

Mito observed the girl, she seemed so young and yet there was a strength about her that didn't say youth. She would enjoy getting to know her new sister-in-law. She served the tea and invited Chikako to sit at the table with her. "Relax, Chikako. Take your time."

"Thank you. I'm fine, just a bit nervous."

"Which is to be expected." Mito decided it wouldn't do to grill the girl so she simply started talking. "I think you'll like Konoha. We're a new village so our infrastructure isn't the best yet. In fact the Hokage doesn't even have running water. He's been making sure the villagers are seen to first." she sighed, "I've gotten used to him putting the villagers first." She giggled a little. "So we have to haul our water from the well still, although he promises to fix it soon." Her eyes narrowed as if she was making a list in her mind, "though I imagine he'll build your house first now," she sighed again, "oh well, can't be helped. You do need a place to live. Of course you can live here until the dust settles." she paused. "Where is all your stuff?"

Chikako indicated the pack she had put down. "It's here."

Mito looked at the small pack, "That looks like a ninja pack. It can't have more than a change of clothes and a bedroll in it."

"Actually, it's a change of clothes and my nightclothes. I shared Tobirama's bedroll with him."

Mito's mouth hung open. "You did? Can I ask about your marriage? I'm sorry to be nosy but if someone in Konoha was going to be voted least likely to get hitched, it'd be Tobirama."

"Of course you can ask. My father desired a permanent alliance between your village and his. He arranged my marriage with Tobirama to form it." She looked at Mito carefully as she spoke.

"And you, how do you feel about it?"

"I'm happy to serve the villages and bring peace to the land."

Mito listened but she didn't believe what she was hearing. "You sound as if you are quoting lines you learned as a schoolgirl. How do you really feel?"

Chikako sighed. "I was frightened at first. I thought Tobirama was old, mean and grumpy."

Mito laughed, "So now you know he's not that old, just mean and grumpy."

"Not at all. He's been very kind and considerate to me in the four days we've been married."

"Four days!" Mito was starting to wonder if Tobirama had lost his mind. "You were married four days ago?"

"Yes. Let me tell you the whole story." So Chikako told Mito the entire tale, from how she'd been raised to expect an arranged marriage to how her father had sent her off with Tobirama the day after their vows had been completed.

"And he didn't even send you with an entourage?"

"Well... He did."

"Tobirama didn't refuse it, did he? Because if he made you walk all that way I will personally kick..."

"No. I sent it back."

"You what?"

"I sent it back," she repeated. "I didn't want to slow Tobirama and the men traveling with us down. So I walked too." She said simply as if it didn't matter.

"Well, well. I'm impressed." Mito looked at this girl Tobirama had brought home with him. "Are you a ninja?"

Chikako cast her eyes down at the floor. "No. I have no fighting skill at all. I was raised to be a wife, that's all." She looked around her, in her fathers house there would have been servants offering tea or guarding doors. "Where are your staff, Mito?"

Mito chuckled, "Staff?"

"You know, the servants who run your home? Why did you have to make your own tea?"

Mito looked at her, "I don't have staff, Chikako. I manage my own home."

"Oh." Her voice was small and resigned, and she was staring at the floor again.

"Is something wrong?" Mito thought the girl might cry. "May I ask how old you are, Chikako?"

"I'm seventeen. Why? Do I seem young to you?" She felt very small right then and thought she might cry. Her hands shook with nerves and fear, how was she ever going to find a place here?

"Not at all. But you do seem very nervous. Is something wrong?" She moved to sit next to Chikako and put her arm around her shoulders.

Chikako shook her head. "No, I'm fine." And then she burst into tears.

Mito held the girl as she cried. "It's ok. If Tobirama's been mean to you I'll put him in his place. We'll work this out, don't worry."

Chikako took a deep breath and calmed herself. "It's not him. I like him, he's been the kindest to me of anyone through this. It's that I don't think I'll make a very good wife."

Mito looked at her with confusion, "What do you mean?"

"I don't know how to keep house, or cook." She made this confession while her face turned a deep shade of red. "I think my father assumed that he ran his household the same way my father did. Formally."

"Is that all?" Mito breathed a sigh of relief. "We can teach you that." She chuckled. "Are you sure it's been Tobirama being nice to you though? He can be a little brisk."

Chikako was drying her face. "I'm sure. He's taken good care of me, better care than my own father offered. Thank you, Mito, for offering me help. I promise I'll learn."

They heard voices in the other room and looked up to see Hashirama and Tobirama entering the room. "Get me some tea woman!" Hashirama hollered at his wife, but laughed as he said it.

"Get your own damn tea!" She hollered back at him, smiling, even as she served it. "Tobirama, would you like some too?"

"Thank you Mito." He nodded but his attention was on Chikako, she looked as if she'd been crying. He hadn't seen her cry once since he'd met her and he wondered what had happened. He smiled at her reassuringly and cocked his head as if to ask if all was well.

She smiled back and nodded, sipping her tea.

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