Churprise. Happy new year. Thank you all.
Too many things to say.
End of comment
Day Twenty-nine pt.2
"Thirty. Woman, the package clearly states thirty. Can't you be patient and sit for five bloody minutes?"
Masculine hands caked and powdered lightly with baking flour made its way to rub the back of the young man's neck. He was oxymoronically amused, despite displaying his mild habitual act of frustration.
This wouldn't be the first time the Hyuuga regarded the kunoichi's terrible intolerance for patience, though strangely enough, he didn't seem to mind. He watched her in silent hilarity at how she childishly rocked back and forth, crouched low so that her eyes were parallel to the glass-screened oven. How old was she again? Four?
Like a toddler waiting in line to see the magnificent Tiger at the local Konoha Zoo, the pink-haired young woman cradled her head in her hands and puckered her lips, making slight popping sounds that made the Hyuuga almost cough out a laugh. Her eyes, glazed by the light of the emitting oven heat, gaped in fascination at the wonderful discovery of the rising crust pizza, puffing up with every second.
Delissio. She had said, mimicking the commercial. Not Delivery.
If the Hyuuga had no control over his emotions, he would have blurted out a playful insult at her pathetic posture, in which he would have bowled over and laughed at. Sadly, fish could not fly, nor could Neji joke so casually. It was just not right by nature.
Instead, he shoved the baking timer in front of her face so he could deliberately point out the buzzing arrow, slowly counting down the moments until their cooking science project would be ready.
"Five minutes." He said sternly. "Wait."
Gawking at him and taking the timer, she sighed in open defeat.
For a moment, Neji was breathless for words. It had hit him rather hard, like a splash of cold water on a sleepy face, at how drastically the table of events had turned. Barely an hour ago, the pair had been immersed in a deep and serious conversation on the formality of their friendship, which was to now say quite formal indeed. In their elucidation, emotions were shared, pains were empathized, and even if it had not been evident… the Hyuuga had no uncertainty that tears were shed…on the kunoichi's behalf. Although he had not expected it, Neji had lifted a burdensome load off of her delicate shoulders by allowing her to express the ache that had overshadowed her her entire life.
Yet, despite the sedateness of the mood, she had cunningly made light of it, by smiling and telling him to proceed with the interview, so that whatever fault that was stated to be forgotten would be forgotten. Being the joyfully shrewd person she was, she was capable of vaporizing any clouds of uneasiness between them by her dazzling personality and her intolerance for lingering harsh feelings.
For turning the entire atmosphere around, credit went to both her and the little red baking timer in her kitchen, which had dinged just before the seriousness resettled due to Neji's anticipated question. Following her into the kitchen, the Hyuuga had inwardly decided to save the question for later. Offering his assistance instead, he thought, would be better, just to allow time for the light mood to tarry.
It was quite charming, to Neji's discovery, that the kunoichi had been practicing the dishes she would bake at his cousin's New Year's party. In spite of her rather chaotic clutter of a kitchen, the food was actually quite desirable, in which he had to discreetly gulp in order to smother his appetite.
When the decision of which meal she would bring was made, the Hyuuga had unexpectedly took upon himself the job of cleaning. Battling her insistence to step out, Neji inwardly snickered when she had finally surrendered to letting him have his gentleman way, and permitted him to clean her mess.
In the process of what seemed to be like rebuilding the zone of ground zero, Neji had acquired quite a bit of baking flour all over his hands and clothes, making Sakura smile at his amiable appearance. She had then decided to reward him with the baking of a pizza, in which they would both enjoy together, before their daily question would be discussed. Famished, the Hyuuga had politely agreed, thus bringing them to the predicament they were in now: Patience.
…Or lack thereof.
"Quit opening the oven door, woman, or the thing will never cook." He reprimanded after catching her taking a glimpse of her prize. Honestly, how was it that someone with such refined cooking abilities could be so impatient over a frozen, already-made pizza that was to be ready in thirty promised minutes? Perhaps it was the fact that it was not her own cooking, or that the Hyuuga was watching over her shoulder … but her fidgeting made Neji dizzy. They had argued and bickered (just as before) over the directions of the package label, where she had wanted to take the pizza out pre-mature. Being the strict Hyuuga that he was, every direction, every order was taken seriously to him, down to the very last detail. Whether it were the steps to achieving a justu technique, or to boil ramen noodles, he followed instructions quite cautiously, thus resulting him on being the target for the girl's taunting.
Uptight, she had called him, but he didn't care. Rules were rules, and obedience was a Hyuuga virtue.
"Too long…" she sang. "I'm taking out it now."
A hissing noise spoke before Neji's protests could be made, and the pink-haired girl retracted her hand with a whimper. Instinctively, she moved her index finger to her lips in order to quench the biting sting of the fresh burn.
This was the very definition of 'Curiosity killed the cat'.
Neji sighed and walked over to the disaster site where the emerald-eyed victim sat dejectedly holding a finger innocently to her mouth. Whatever feeling a person gets by seeing a puppy sitting cold and wet in the rain…well, it was very much the same feeling growing rapidly inside the Hyuuga's gut. He bent over, squatted and forced her hand away from her face so he could examine it. He kissed his teeth.
"I suppose it's too late for an 'I-told-you-so'?" he said, raising an eyebrow that silently read 'baaaaaka'.
In a father-like attitude, he walked over to the sink to dampen two pieces of paper towels. Neji then folded it into a makeshift gauze bandage, and returned to the source of injury. In silence, Sakura watched in curiosity as he took her finger and wrapped the paper towels repeatedly around the burn, betraying none of his thoughts in an emotionless expression.
Whether it was because of the oven, or because the thermostat has suddenly risen the temperature of the room, an unexplained heat managed to grow over the kunoichi's cheeks, making it difficult to ignore the thumping drumbeat in her ears in rhythm with the pulse of her burn. Several times, she attempted to say something to make the panging noise go away, but she felt as if she had swallowed her own throat, for no words manage to squeeze out. Perhaps it was the fact that the Hyuuga had regarded her with a mild sense of affection and care that no one had shown her in years…or the fact that their faces were quite close… The kunoichi could not decide which, but she secretly felt a sudden warmness tickle the insides of her stomach. By textbook definition, this would be known as complete flattery.
Quit gawking at him like a boyband fangirl, she thought, trying to peel her eyes away from his finely chiseled jaw line, angled quite attractively in her perspective. For a moment, he stopped in what seemed to be the catching of his breath. Was he too preoccupied to manage to forget how to breathe?
As if sensing the rising awkwardness level, the baking timer saved them both once again.
Its ding seemed to prolong itself, before fading into the silence, indicating that the pizza was now complete.
Neji patted her hand before standing up to brush himself off casually.
"I think it's safe to say that an important lesson was learned here, don't you agree?" he mocked, snapping the kunoichi out of her dazed state. She stood up and brushed herself off the same.
"Don't you be so smug, Hyuuga. I was watching you tap your foot the entire time it was baking. You were just as impatient as I." she pouted, one hand placed firmly on her hip.
"There's a difference, woman, on being impatient, and acting impatient." He retorted. "You did the latter of the two, and suffice to say, you got what you deserved."
If it were any other man, the comment would have resulted in quite a furious argument, but seeing as how Sakura was used to these common Hyuuga blunt outbursts, she only laughed genuinely.
"Yes, I suppose you're right. Lesson learned: always consult Hyuuga Neji when cooking domestically. He may save your life."
More laughter resounded, soon following a grunt.
"Oh? Then amuse me with a better title."
"'Lesson learned: Never allow Haruno Sakura to touch another box of frozen pizza again.' A more life-saving lesson indeed." He said, carefully taking out the thirty-minute-forbidden pizza, and sliding it onto a round metal dish. Placing it on the table, he picked up the pizza slicer and made three division lines perfectly.
"Why, Hyuuga Neji! So you're not the spoiled man I once thought you were. Washing dishes, preparing food… You might actually be quite the suitable housewife one day." Sakura laughed, putting a hand to her cheek in girlish over-dramatization. She half expected him to growl out an empty threat, but to her surprise, he only expanded the joke.
"I would be driven insane as a housewife if I were to marry an annoying salary man like you."
"Harsh words, Neji! You should work on making yourself more refined. Like a geisha." With this, she cocked her head to the side, and fanned her neck, poorly imitating the grace of a geisha.
"Corrupting my innocence with suggestions that I become a seductress… How low have you degraded me from your standards, salary man?"
"A geisha is not a prostitute."
"Oh? Then educate me."
Sakura tsked with a playful smile.
"Sarcasm, dear. The housewife thinks his salary man is stupid."
"The salary man most certainly IS, if this conversation in third person should continue any further."
There was a pause before Sakura could no longer keep a straight face, nor find a witty comeback. She broke down into hysterical laughter that tickled the Hyuuga's keen ears. When covering her mouth could not stop her, she gave up and simply let herself be lost in laughter.
The Hyuuga, at first, had remained as untouched as ever, but soon, the aloof façade could no longer maintain its substance. With the eroding mask slowly crumbling, it was as if watching a series of television bloopers that for some reason could not be unlaughed at. Try as he may to fight the giddy feeling, the mask finally cracked, and out slipped the tiniest of smiles onto his lips. And if anyone had been listening carefully, one might have actually heard a grunt of amusement…
"Gasp!" Sakura exclaimed, speaking the word, rather than literally performing it. "The Hyuuga smiles after all."
In panic, Neji quickly averted his gaze so that erasing the smile would be more possible.
"You're eyes deceive you, woman. The Haruno mistakes this smirk for a smile."
It was a pathetic excuse, really, but he couldn't very well let it be admitted that the kunoichi had seen Neji's extinct smile.
Not that it made a difference. Either way, she had seen it, and she would certainly be content with that much.
"Mistaken, am I?" she said, slumping into a chair and taking a slice of pizza. "Well, then, suffice to say, the Hyuuga has a very attractive smirk. He should do it more often"
She watched the ball of his Adam's apple elevate up and then down at this response and she wondered if it was too aggressive to have said such a bold statement. She had not intended to be so…flirtatious…
Being with him, as she had expressed earlier, made her feel complicatedly valued again. Although she knew from the beginning that he was not there for his own interest, she couldn't help but bamboozle herself into thinking that he might've possibly found her presence as pleasant as she found his to be. It was a foolish assumption, she thought, and many times she tried brushing the notion off due to the fact that she had presumed Sasuke felt the same way. She did not desire to be disappointed a second time.
Yet, her judicious observations couldn't help but catch the peculiar acute signs he had been sending the past few days. Call it paranoia or girl's intuition, but she couldn't ignore how often she had caught him staring at her when he thought her gaze was averted. Or the amount of times she would watch him glance away every time she was certain a smile would break out of his composure over something she had said or done.
It was a terribly far-fetched shot, but it flattered her a great deal to even think that someone as powerful—and attractive---as Hyuuga Neji would be the slightest bit interested in someone like her...
…Perhaps she was reading too much into their interview…
With as much casualty as she could muster, Sakura bit into her pizza, hoping that her face did not divulge any of her thoughts.
Unfortunately, the notion only drew more attention to herself.
"NYAH." She managed to squeeze out of her stifled scream. Flailing her hands around while tears welled up in her eyes, she looked like a bird trying to fly---but failing miserably.
"H-hot." She puffed after the dreaded bite had been swallowed.
The Hyuuga watched as she blew out a slow breath before chugging down a glass of cold water. It was quite comedic, observing her while she wiped the tears away.
He retrieved for her another icy glass of water, and then sat down next to her.
"You have about as much grace as a giraffe underwater." He scoffed, inwardly laughing when she put a hand to her chest, exasperated.
"Shuh-up…" she breathed. "Naw funny."
"Perhaps you should be the one to take geisha lessons." He retorted. "They could certainly use your flailing movements for a new dance accompanied by the shamisen."
When she could not assemble even a fake laugh, Neji was concerned that she had attained yet another burn that was perhaps more painful than the one on her finger.
"Baaaaka. We just pulled the pizza out of the oven. Of course it's going to be hot." He informed as she began scratching her tongue with her teeth. "And stop doing that. Just gurgle with toothpaste and cold water later. Kami, you'd think that for a medical ninja, you'd be more tolerant to physical pain than that."
"Shush." She simply said. "I'm still learning how to repair burn wounds. And if you're so smug about it, why don't YOU heal me?"
"It's more amusing to watch."
"The housewife is amused by his salary man's pain."
"The housewife thought his salary man was more intelligent."
If one hadn't known any better, one would have thought that the two of them—sitting and eating casually at the dinner table---were an actual married couple, enjoying their beautiful lives together in harmony. This thought had not escaped the Hyuuga's mind, and when he let himself take pleasure in the tranquility of the moment, he could not deny that it made him indisputably happy.
Lee had better have made him a bloody Best Man in their future wedding, seeing at how much mental pain the Hyuuga had gone through for him…
…Which reminded Neji…
"Alright, woman. Bite back your pain so you can answer my questions. I don't have to remind you that the utmost honesty is required."
Sakura licked her lips.
"You're a cruel man, Neji. Fine. Proceed."
This question, Neji knew exactly where it had come from and why Lee was asking.
"What flower would best describe you?"
Without a doubt, Neji knew that Lee would be bringing a bouquet of whatever flower she was described as the very next day. While it was a charming gift, it wasn't exactly original. The Hyuuga knew that the type of girl Sakura was, and girls like her appreciated creativity and inventiveness when it came to courting. Flowers weren't exactly high on the innovativeness scale…
"I'm surprised this question wasn't brought up earlier." She said.
Truth be told, Neji had anticipated her answer to be her very name, which was why it wasn't asked earlier. But then he came to discover that she was not the predictable kunoichi he had once thought she was.
"Wrong, Hyuuga, it's not the cherry blossom." She spoke before he could even reply.
"I never said it was."
"But you were thinking it."
"You don't know what I was thinking."
"Alright, then. Enlighten me. What flower would you describe me as?'
Her arms were now crossed, and she sat in an upright posture that showed she was very interested in what he had to say.
"May I remind you, kunoichi, that this is my interview, so I'll be the one to ask the questions."
"Am I not allowed to wonder about your opinions?"
"Because they don't matter. Now shut up and answer my question."
It wasn't said harshly, but Neji only wanted to keep on the topic of her. He hadn't wanted to discuss anything on himself, being a tad afraid of revealing something that was not meant to be revealed.
"Who said your opinions didn't matter?" she said, disregarding his demand.
"They just don't, now---"
"Well, they very much matter to me. I'll answer your question after, I just want to know what you think." She spoke innocently, but with a powerful enough authority to make himself consider how he might answer.
Neji sighed, and paused a while, unsure of why he was being so submissive, or why he hadn't put up much of a fight. He wondered why his opinion intrigued her, and he was---for a moment---dazed by her curious eyes. She really wanted to know.
Before long, he was deep in thought, searching his mental directory of flowers he had seen, known, and researched. It was a difficult question to answer, because she could be so easily described in the beauty of countless flowers. But finally, he managed to recall a flower that fit her persona like a glove.
A peculiar answer.
Sakura had to admit, she had not expected that. And by the look of her face, Neji could tell she was somewhat disappointed.
Baby's breath was no more than a garnish on the plate of extraordinary and exotic flowers. She had discovered this through the mentoring of Ino as a child.
After all these years, she was still an insignificant flower?
Neji sensed her dissatisfaction and was obliged to continue.
"Have you ever seen Baby's Breath before?" he asked.
"I'm not stupid, Neji. Of course I have." In her answer, Neji could tell that she was somewhat offended through the tone of her voice.
"It's not a particularly extravagant flower." He said.
"No, it's not."
"Nor is it uniquely coloured."
Sakura sighed. Where was he going with this?
"No, it isn't."
"And you can tell that it's not very large in size." He continued, hoping that she wouldn't pummel him in sensitivity.
"Alright, Neji. I guess I deserved your complete honesty. I get that I'm not special. Baby's Breath it is."
"You didn't let me finish."
"Neji, I think that there's a limit to how many insults a girl can take in a day."
Neji ignored her.
"Baby's breath is one of the most fascinating flowers I have ever analyzed in my life."
This brought her to a halt.
Now he had her attention
"It's a flower no one expects to have such a big effect. Try imagining a wedding bouquet of white roses without a bed of Baby's Breath? Or try arranging a vase in perfect symmetry without adding Baby's Breath to the composition. It feels rather empty, does it not?"
Sakura could not nod or motion her concurrence, but she could not agree more.
So she let him proceed.
"Gypsophila, its botanical name. According to its meaning, Baby's Breath is symbolic for innocence and purity of the heart. Its brilliant white compliments any flower and seems to brighten a bouquet by sparkling some of its innocence.
"While it isn't an extravagant flower, it needn't be one. The simplicity speaks its beauty for it. And while it normally only accompanies other flowers, its proof that the other flowers rely on it greatly. Although it is commonly overlooked because of its size, Gypsophila is unmistakably a very important flower that aids the improvement of the bigger, better picture. Look at it by itself, and its beauty isn't quite seen. But with an array of other flowers, it seems to bloom better. Baby's breath was never meant to be alone."
Neji paused and took a deep breath. It wasn't hard for him to say what he did because he knew very well that it described every fiber in her being.
Despite what everyone thought, she was quite the powerful (and quite attractive) kunoichi. All these years she spent alone had done no good for her growth. Now, when he had given her company, he could tell that she had bloomed full beauty, and even improved his character appeal.
He knew more than ever that she was not meant to be alone. And though he would not be the one to spend the rest of his life with her, he would not waste this opportunity to let her know that she was needed, just like the Baby's Breath in a bouquet of roses. There were more than a handful of people he could name that would be nothing without her.
Sakura turned around and coughed a little, to hide the sniffle that the Hyuuga knew was present. If he had made her cry, he only wanted it to be grateful tears.
"Heh." She chuckled. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you stole that speech off of some romance manga. It was surprisingly original, even for you. "
She turned back around so that he could catch glimpse of her glossy-eyed smile.
"But thank you."
"Ah." He replied, and moved his eyes to something that would distract him.
How many sentimental moments had that been now?
One thing was for certain, there were far too many in the interview than he would be proud of.
"Stupid woman, you made me preach on something that was supposed to have been your answer." He fidgeted, trying to use coldness to cover the traces of his gentleness that he had exposed to her.
"Yes, you're right. But I would've never known that until you told me." She beamed. "So my answer is Baby's Breath."
"Hmph. Finding the easy way out. Next time, answer it yourself. That's the final time I'm letting you talk me into sharing my opinion."
A bright smile.
He stared, blushed, and cleared his throat.
"I think you've pestered me enough." He spoke, excusing himself to the door. "That's all for today."
With that, he vanished, leaving a trace of freshness in Sakura's spirits…
…Like the scent of the Baby's Breath flower itself.
Yes, I say CRAP. Blast this chapter, took me so long to finish. It's not even all that great either. I didn't know exactly where to go from the last chapter, so I sorta made it up as I went along.
Hope I didn't disappoint.
This was more of an outlet to educate myself by expanding my vocabulary.
Call it a late Christmas present to those who've been groveling for an update.
Ps. I mention geisha a lot in this chapter, mostly because I just finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha which is, by the way, a very good book. Haven't seen the movie. Don't want to. Can't stand Zhang Ziyi for some reason. Anyway Shamisen is just the term for that instrument that looks like a guitar lying flat on the floor. It's commonly played to accompany plays and dances that the geisha would perform. Just thought you'd like to know!
As for Baby's Breath, just google it. you'll know what i'm talking about.