Author's Note: Back after eons of thinking about ditching this story.
To Faery, the anonymous reviewer, thank you so much for your constructive criticism. I'm not mad nor do I take it as a flame. I appreciate it and I've thought about what you said, and I think I do sorta owe explanations. Neji's character may seem OOC at times only cuz his mind's corrupted with distractions of the whole engagement thing. He's not thinking straight and it all roots back to thing that mattered to him the most: his succession technique. He's doing all these things because he wants that technique. I know perfectly well he's a genius, however, even geniuses do get distracted by the weight of burdens (Look at when he was fighting Hinata, and he went out of his calm collective character. He almost rushed into killing her out of impulse because of what she said about the main house clan and the branch clan). Anyway, if I'm doing a crummy job of keeping characters in tact, I'll try a bit harder not to do so in the future. But also take notice that THIS IS A FANFIC, a person's own rendition of how certain scenarios might work out. Gotta have a little freedom, ne? Thanks for the review. I take it for everything its worth.
To the other anon reviewer called OKAY… GUY, RELAX. I haven't even finished yet. I didn't even describe Gaara in his TRUE colours. That whole gentlemen thing he put up at Tsunade's office was a FRONT, as I will explain in this chapter. And the only Japanese I ever inserted was the names of karate moves, just cuz I didn't want to butcher it by putting it in English. It's as bad as calling a good technique exactly what it means in English (example: when inuyasha shouts WOUND OF THE WIND instead of KAZE NO KIZU.) just doesn't have the same effect. As for Neji saying BLOODY, I have to say, I have a clean slate. I don't swear, nor do I think Neji would be the kind of person to swear.
And like I told Faery, NEJI IS DISTRACTED. He can't think like he would during normal circumstances. I wrote that he was too drowned in his worries to notice Sakura coming. Frig, he just spent his entire day in madness for finding a wife in order for him to get his technique. For the spelling errors, SUE Me. I doubt there are many fics without at least ONE error in it. I, by the way, do NOT have an editor, so like I said… SUE ME.
Finally, THIS IS A FRICKEN FAN FIC, I repeat. Courtesy of, I LIKE THESE TWO TOGETHER AND I HAD TO FIGURE OUT SOME SORT OF WAY FOR THEM TO INTERACT. So, I HAD to be creative. If this was a stupid way, BITE ME. I like it.
Besides, Neji isn't on bad terms with his uncle. His uncle has accepted him as his own son, thus in the manga, Haishi decides to train him LIKE a mainhouse Hyuuga. Why WOULDN'T Neji feel obligated to follow the normal main house rules? READ THE BLASTED MANGA FOR GOODNESS SAKE. DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE FLARING AT ME and pulling off a "Ten things I hate about your story".
All I'm saying is RELAX. Geez, you flamed me so hard I wanted do ditch this. IF YOU DON'T LIKE, DON'T READ. That's that. Don't worry, ok? They'll all be in character soon enough.
Ok. Now that THAT's finished… let's proceed, shall we?
ITONAMI, you ROCK MY SOCKS OFF! This continuation is dedicated to YOU and the FORMERAURORA people. I will cherish your reviews forever!
Oh and to REIJ, (WINKS) yeahh, girl. You know this one's for you too.
Sakura closed the door after her midnight escort had retreated home. She was disappointed when he had refused to meet her at the hot springs early the next morning upon her request, but nothing was expected any less of the Hyuuga. He was anti-social, aloof, and probably had much better things to do than to relax alongside her.
Oh well. It was worth a shot asking him, though. His muscle tension was terribly noticeable, and as a med-nin, it was her nature to offer help when she could.
But he refused it, and there was nothing more she could do.
Hoping it wasn't the last she saw of the handsome Hyuuga, she had let him retire to his home, where he could get his much-needed rest, and so that she could get hers.
The kunoichi tiptoed to hang her keys up on the hook next to the front door.
"You're late." A voice spat in the shadows of her home, nearly killing the kunoichi in a heart attack. She dropped the keys and bowed in recognition of the figure that stood before her.
"Gaara-sama." She panted, hoping to God that he wouldn't kill her. He'd been so silent. She couldn't even sense his chakra…
Sakura kept her eyes glued to the floor, as if it were a sin to look him in the eye.
Sand ran past her cheekbones and brushed against her jaw, lifting her chin slowly. It moved as if it possessed a mind of its own, slithering around her in mid air like eels. Reluctantly, she followed its persuasive tug and soon met eyes with the Kazekage before her, crossed-armed and leaning casually against a wall. His face was emotionless as always.
"In two weeks we will be married." He spoke in a monotone voice. He took a step towards her and she inwardly winced. "Such formalities aren't necessary."
With one hand, he recollected the sand that had caressed her face and it vanished in his palm. Sakura trembled.
"What are you doing here?" she managed to ask, through rapidly pumping blood. During his visit to Konoha, the Kazekage was supposed to have been residing in the guest quarters of Tsunade's Hokage building. HOW he managed to sneak into her house and WHY he did totally stumped the girl clueless. It wasn't like they had actually interacted much before, so he couldn't have been simply seeking for her company. What if he was out to kill her so that he wouldn't have to marry her?
Gaara didn't blink and kept his dark gaze plastered on her.
"Are you scared?" he snorted, as the sand resurfaced from his palm. It moved slowly around her ankles, gradually constricting them like a boa.
He was mocking her. He was testing her. He was toying around with her patience, seeing if she would break…
But he'd forgotten that she was Haruno Sakura, and she would not give in so easily.
Sakura shook her head and fought to suppress her quivering.
"It's just late, that's all." She replied with a straight face. "I thought you'd be sleeping."
She heard him scoff, while he turned around, examining the empty house.
"I don't sleep."
Sakura gulped, remembering that tidbit fact she'd heard from Naruto. It was the reason behind the blackness that bordered his eyes. All because of the demon trapped inside him.
Hm. That gentleman act at Tsunade's office was a FRONT after all…
Kissing her hand… BAH! It was all pretend.
Gaara's movements remained silent as he brushed by her, heading for the door.
"Your mother requested I verify your safety." He explained. "Your face tells me your security will only be confirmed AFTER my departure."
At that bitter comment, he reached for the door knob.
Her mother had requested such a thing? And he actually obeyed? She just couldn't believe that he'd gone out of his duties as Kazekage just to check on her welfare. Now, she felt guilty for just letting him leave without so much as a thank you.
"Wait." Sakura called, stopping his movements. If she didn't feel comfortable with him now, then she wouldn't be comfortable with him the rest of her life. She needed that somewhat sense of security. She needed to know she could trust him… or at least cope with him for her remaining days alongside him.
"Would you like to stay for tea?"
"I don't drink tea."
Figures. What DID he do other than kill people with deadly looks?
Sakura frowned and looked down, running her fingers up and down her bear arm.
"We haven't spoken much nor discussed about the whole arrangement since we found out about it. If we're going to spend the rest of our lives together, we might as well get on the same page, wouldn't you agree?"
No answer. He was finding her view on the marriage painfully boring. She had read too much into the whole love-thing while he couldn't care less.
"Do you even remember me? Seven years ago?"
Sakura sighed knowing that he probably didn't file silly little girls with childhood crushes away in his memory. Yes, she had fought him, but she had also been defeated by him so quickly. Such weakness probably wasn't even worth remembering. She knew that he genuinely had no recollection of her whatsoever. She knew he spited her and their marriage because she was weak.
Yet she couldn't understand why he did not back out of it. He WAS, after all, the only one of the two who could.
Sakura fingered the hem of her dress.
"I don't even know what you think about this arrangement."
Gaara took his hand off the knob. She was interested in HIS perspective? No one had bothered to ask him about his opinion…EVER. He did was he was told, his way, mind you, but with no questions asked. His opinion mattered to no one up until now… Up until her.
Gaara's recollection of the arrangement stirred up boiling anger in the pit of his gut. How he despised his father for the ridiculous plan. The idiotic idea for them to be rid of him…Him and his monstrous power…
But while he would do ANYTHING to back out of it, he couldn't. Gaara was bound, for reasons deeper than blood signatures on a silly contract. The sand, the very sand that formed his being, was bound to the contract. It was to ensure that he wouldn't try to escape the agreement.
For those reasons, Gaara SPITED his father.
"It is my obligation, a fate that was decided years ago." He snarled, biting back the grueling thoughts. "Nothing changes. So my opinion doesn't matter. Neither does yours."
Sakura was hit by that rather blunt statement, mildly hurt from its sting. She bit her lip, afraid that if she pestered him about it longer, she would wind up a victim of his deadly sand claws.
"I don't want to marry you." She simply said in a low, honest tone. It was terribly childish of her, but if he could play the blunt game, then so could she.
Gaara turned his head, reaching for the door handle once more.
"Same said for me." He spat, turning the knob. "Suck it up. The world doesn't care about anyone but themselves. Stop whining and accept what you've been destined to do."
Sakura gritted her teeth. This was not what she had hoped for. She had at least wanted herself to be on his good side. But now she could see that he had none. For the rest of her life, she'd be married to a moody, rude monster with no sensitivity for a girl's feelings whatsoever.
He was no fit fiancé for her.
Love was something she looked for in a marriage… And love was something Gaara did not posses.
At that moment, she wished to strangle her father. Promise or no promise, she couldn't go with the wedding. She had actually believed that she could make it work, but now that she knew he had no ounce of affection in him, she couldn't do it. By all means, she would stop it. And she would do it in the two weeks she had left, no matter what it took.
As selfish as that was…it was decided. She wanted to break off the arrangement.
Through her facial expression, Gaara could read her deep resentment for him and it brought him some amusement. He wondered how much further he could poke at her patience before she'd snap.
"Quit pouting, kunoichi. You make a ridiculous bride."
His comment only resulted in a deeper pout.
Gaara's facial expression seemed unmoved, although he inwardly laughed at the girl's stupidity.
She was more interesting when she was angry, having enough courage to tell a Kazekage to shut up. Hate definitely made things more fascinating. Hate was such a beautiful thing…And irritating her was greatly amusing.
The cruelty of reality was the best way to break a person, and Gaara wished to test that out on the unstable kunoichi.
"No wonder the Uchiha left you."
At that, he vanished in a trail of sand, leaving the girl fuming at the venom in his comment and speechless at his hint that he HAD remembered her seven years prior.
She was filed away deep in his memory after all…As the helpless crybaby who swooned over Konoha's greatest betrayer.
Not such a nice way to be remembered.
Sakura's fist shook in boiling antipathy.
Tomorrow, she would go on a search…
A search for a new fiancé.
A creamy blue tunic wrapped around Neji's finely built torso as he tied off the front with a black belt. In the mirror, he could see his scowling face, pale from exhaustion and lack of sleep.
Hyuuga Neji was in a crappy mood that morning and it vividly showed.
"Neji-san." A voice called on the other side of the door after two sharp knocks.
Neji had almost chucked a chair at the maid in annoyance.
"What?" he barked. He turned his head and it instantly shot up a painful sensation.
The young Hyuuga rubbed the back of his neck and silently damned the pink-haired kunoichi from last night. She had been dead-on correct when she mentioned that he wouldn't sleep very well due to the strain on his muscles.
Small dark circles underlined his eyes from hours of tossing and turning in his bed, and he slept very little that night, if any at all. His shoulders felt as if they were in the wrong place and every time he turned his head, a soft click could be heard. The Hyuuga inwardly beat himself on the head for not taking the kunoichi up on the offer for her massage. The consequences were more brutal than he thought.
"Hiashi-sama would like to meet with you. He's requested you have breakfast with him in the garden." The maid announced and then quickly left after fulfilling her duty.
Not only did the Hyuuga obtain little sleep, but his ANBU training session scheduled for that day had been postponed to the following week, due to a specially classified mission that required ALL ANBU shinobi on duty.
On top of that, his uncle was now requesting a meeting with him that would probably last a good long while, considering that it was being held in the garden… With breakfast.
That could only mean that Hiashi would be painfully discussing Neji's so-called fiancée and his impression of her last night when they had tea.
Neji groaned at the thought, as he tied back his hair in a loose ponytail.
A crappy week, he was no doubt foreseeing.
As he walked out of his bedroom door, he caught sight of the turquoise robe neatly folded on his futon, and he instantly remembered the events of last night. The young Hyuuga had escorted the kunoichi back to her home upon his uncle's request, and surprising as it was, the girl was actually tolerable. She wasn't as annoying as the Uchiha had made her out to appear, and he almost enjoyed her company.
He was a little taken back, however, when she had asked him to accompany her at the hot springs the next morning, and it almost made him choke in laughter—if it weren't for the fact that he rarely ever even smiled.
Ahh. He had thought. So she DOESN'T know it's Hyuuga property.
It made sense, the reason how the girl found herself in his territory and had mistaken it for a secret abyss. It was quite reasonable though. There were no signs or banners that broadcasted "Hyuuga Property". No one was supposed to have even been aware of the hideout.
Neji had almost spoiled it for her by telling her that it was restricted area, but something about recalling her tears when he saw her there prevented him from bursting the bubble. It was both of their getaways from the horrendous pressures of real life. He somehow couldn't ruin it for her.
"No." he had declined to her invitation. "I have things to do."
Then, he had left her that night, allowing her to believe that the hot springs really were her own little secret discovery. He certainly did not want to inform her the truth without coming across the fact that he had seen her almost naked the morning before.
If they really were to be wed, she'd discover her mistake in little less than two weeks.
Neji cringed at the recollection of his current dilemma and how he was certainly screwed over. Hiashi was bluntly making it obvious that the idea of this marriage was the most brilliant thing Neji had ever decided. To make matters worse, Hiashi had dragged Sakura into the whole ordeal. Sure, she was part of his plan, but Neji was planning on telling her, rather than her discovering through his uncle.
Neji was a bit shocked that after all the embarrassing hints given last night at the tea fellowship, the girl had not picked up on what was going on. Moreover, he couldn't understand HOW she had known that in two weeks they were supposed to be married. Was she speaking of a totally different event than Hiashi?
The young Hyuuga was almost positive that the girl wasn't aware of the set-up marriage. If she was, it would be a sure thing that Neji would receive the beating of a lifetime.
Which led him to wince all the more at his upcoming task at hand. He'd have to convince her to play along.
Neji's mind ached from both the neck pain and the swarming situations he'd have to clear up that day.
But, first things were first:
Breakfast with Hiashi.
A few maids stopped their duties to bow to the young Hyuuga as he passed by them on the stone pave way to the garden. Many of them had been watering the plants or feeding the bird sanctuary, maintaining the cleanliness of the haven, as they did with pretty much the entire Hyuuga estate.
Neji nodded in response to their respectful acknowledgement and signaled for them to return to their valued duties.
When the Hyuuga prodigy came across the garden clearing, he found his uncle kneeling on bamboo mats in the circular gazebo located at the centre of the clearing. Three maids had just finished putting the remaining breakfast dishes on the table, then scurrying off to complete their chores.
Hiashi sat still, eyes plastered on the cushion across him, lightly fluffed on the other side of the table.
"Please join me, Neji." He said.
Neji took a deep breath and entered the divine shelter.
Taking off his shoes, he knelt facing his uncle, posture straight, and silver eyes stern.
"Hiashi-sama." He acknowledged.
His uncle poured out two cups of green tea using the regular china ware, and handed one to his nephew.
Inwardly, Neji rolled his eyes at how his uncle was painfully stalling. Whatever he had to say, Neji couldn't understand why he hadn't come out to say it already. Hiashi was usually quite the straightforward man.
"Eat." The elderly Hyuuga said, pushing plates and bowls of extravagant food towards him. Neji made no movements to accept the food.
Instead, he kept his eyes locked on his uncle's.
"What's this about?" came his blunt interrogation. He didn't feel ashamed for rudeness, nor did he need to. Hiashi knew very well that he had been beating around the bush.
Neji did not back down.
"I have things to do, uncle." He lied. "With all due respect, please be brief."
Hiashi sternly looked at him, but after seeing that the boy would not falter, he finally sighed.
"I'd like to apologize on behalf of myself and the elders."
Neji's ears perked up in interest.
An apology, huh? That was unexpected.
The young Hyuuga gave his uncle a look of patience, silently granting him permission to continue.
"We do realize that you've been rushed into decision-making, and that marriage now-a-days is not viewed the same as it was in my days. We apologize for our brutality." Hiashi continued.
Neji stirred slightly at Hiashi's words. Damn right, he had been rushed. Now look at the mess he was in!
"We don't make up the rules, Neji. They've been in our family as tradition for a long time. Family destiny cannot be broken. You know that."
Neji was quite aware of this. It was the cage around his entire being.
"Even though you've been rushed, I appreciate your co-operation and I do praise your choice. The Haruno is a fine young woman."
Neji was surprised. Hiashi had approved? Being as stubborn and picky as he was, Neji was shocked that Hiashi had accepted the girl…
Hiashi had praised her.
"Her rank as a ninja and status as a medic is quite impressive. It would make a majestic addition to the Hyuuga clan."
That's what his uncle was after. Shinobi status making the damn Hyuuga clan even stronger than they already were.
Hiashi read his thoughts and was inclined to carry on.
"However, Neji, status isn't what put my approval on her." He said.
Oh? Neji perked up. What did?
"Her character, Neji," he said with pride, "is composed of fine attributes. A rare find. She is loyal, strong, and she has a pure heart. My own Byaakugan sees it. Your choice was an honorable and wise one. Forgetting the Hyuuga clan, she will do YOU some good, Neji. That, I guarantee."
Neji was completely baffled. There was nothing special in the girl, other than her pink hair and vibrant green eyes. What the hell could his uncle see in her that he couldn't? What had she said or done to receive such a prideful blessing from Hiashi? Obviously, Neji was missing something and he couldn't figure out what.
Oh, the guilt tormented him. How far this lie had gone, beyond his control. He had disgraced himself as a Hyuuga. Should he tell the truth?
"Hiashi-sama…" Neji began, but didn't know how to finish. How was he supposed to tell his uncle that he had lied to get the technique and hadn't really planned on marrying Sakura? Neji didn't want to be eternally bound to the girl for the rest of his miserable life. How was he going to slither out of this tangle? Especially since Hiashi had sacrificed quite the amount of ego points just to admit his approval.
Hiashi put up a hand signaling that he wasn't finished.
"I will teach you the technique after the wedding is complete." He said, almost smiling. "I promise."
Gulping, Neji lost all confidence in confessing the truth.
The elderly Hyuuga took Neji's hand and placed an object in his palm, closing his fingers around it. Hiashi took his hands away and got up to leave.
"Give that to your bride for me. You've both officially received the household blessing."
With that, he vanished into the garden foliage, leaving Neji shaken at the turn of events.
When the young Hyuuga gathered the rest of his faltering courage, he opened his hand to reveal the object of Hiashi's approval.
In his palm lay a the shiny, twenty-two karat white gold, fifty-one diamond prized Hyuuga family engagement ring.
Holy freaking crap.
Neji was screwed.
Author's note: Wow, bet y'all didn't expect this chapter to come out. Actually, speaking of confessions, I've really had this chapter sitting in my computer desktop for quite a while now. I had really wanted to discontinue the story, but there had been ooooooodles of requests for me to continue, a lot of them being really nice and encouraging ones. So, I decided to give you all the treat you all deserve.
I do apologize if anything seems a bit off. I haven't had this story in my head for QUITE SOME TIME, so I sorta lost the feel to this fic. But don't you worry, I'll get my groove back again. Re-reading my notes, I think this may turn out to be a good story after all.
Sorry for the slow events. I'll continue this along with the Question Game.
Reviews are MOST appreciated.