Itonami: Yes, I'm back with another Neji x Sakura, though this will be short like Rain's Sonata. Hopefully, you'll like this one and find it in your heart to support me again. I'll start off with a prologue.
Disclaimer: I checked this morning, and I still don't own Naruto.
Prologue: The End
It was a quiet dawn as always and the hands of an elegant clock drew patiently with time, though it was said that time was something much more mysterious than mere clocks. There was silence all around the large oriental manor, the trees quivering from the warm chill that had begun to settle in the air.
The sky was painted in red and yellow hues as the sun stretched forth and it shined its rays through the thin rice paper doors of one of the rich bedrooms. However beautiful this golden light was, the man sleeping fitfully on white futons did not notice it. The lean man tossed and turned with blankets abandoned and thrown aside on the floor, forgotten as his mind ensued with chaos.
This was a morning ritual. No matter the day, rainy or sunny, the man awoke startled and afraid, reliving something beyond his capabilities, causing him to be helpless and weak. Dull white eyes snapped open and their owner sat up in bed, rubbing a sweaty palm across them, soothing an intense pain away. Silky brown locks fell over his back and firm shoulders, while bangs proceeded to gently shield his face from the light.
Not to say that he needed it.
A knock on his door notified that a servant was waiting with breakfast. He ate alone in his room. "Hyuuga-sama, your breakfast is here. Will you take it?" A meek male voice belonging to a young servant boy came through to his sharp ears.
"Aa." The young man sat up fully as he heard the door slide open with an all too familiar scraping sound. He faced away from the door, waiting for the boy to leave the tray on the floor and leave. The servant did so.
Hyuuga Neji, a thoroughly accomplished ninja of Konoha, the Hidden Village of the Leaf, stood to dress. He reached for his gray training garb and tossed it on casually with accustomed grace and then pulled his long hair in a low, loose ponytail. Putting on his usual forehead protector over an enigmatic symbol, he sat down to eat.
After the breakfast, he slid open the door to the dark outside world that held nothing but fighting and blood for him. He could never forget the color of blood.
His stroll through the quiet, forest parts of the village usually went undisturbed, but he never knew what path he would take another day. Walking to the east, where he felt the sun's warmth the most, Neji soon turned his head to the sound of rushing water, a different sound than usual from what he heard.
When he was at least a hundred feet away, the Hyuuga felt the presence of strong, compact chakra. He automatically conjured up a genjutsu to conceal his own and slipped a hand into his weapon holster as he slipped past two trees, closer to the other shinobi.
The recognizable sound of an airborne weapon as it whistled towards his back gave him time to duck quickly and dodge another set of kunais hurled his way. When he landed on his feet, the ground beneath him crumbled as if an earthquake had struck, almost causing him to lose his balance. A smirk now took its place on the Hyuuga's handsome face.
"Oh, Hyuuga-san, you scared me." A voice that was slightly quickened by activity could be heard.
"Haruno," Neji greeted politely, never forgetting his manners in front of the Godaime's prized apprentice.
Haruno Sakura carefully wrapped her naked body with a towel. "I didn't know you liked to walk here." She knew of his habits.
He shook his head and turned away from her to face somewhere far off. "I'm sorry to have disturbed your bath. Continue. You know I can't see you anyway." The splashing in the water had given her private activity away. Sight was of no use to him; he now relied completely on his other senses.
The young woman before him frowned at the mention of his once legendary eyes. "With or without your eyes, Hyuuga-san, you are still a man and I, a woman. I was done anyway."
The blind Hyuuga pursed his lips. "Then you will accompany me back to the manor. I don't remember where I came from."
Sakura smiled at him and knew that what he had just spoken was a lie. Hyuuga Neji had excellent sense of direction and he didn't need his eyes to know which way to go. But she would gladly service his amusement, her willowy figure dripping wet from the water and clad in a mere cloth.
She carried her clothes and sandals as she treaded on the dewy grass, waiting for his dark, tenor voice to speak to her again. Sakura had known him for so long, it felt like eternity. She also knew of every scar on his torso, his legs, and a jagged one embedded in his hip; she treated him countless times during training and missions.
Sakura gazed at the tall figure of the Hyuuga beside her, wondering in silent amazement how easily he walked without faltering or having anyone guide him. It wasn't that he could walk without tripping, but the air of compressed confidence yet the evidence of humbleness surrounding him that truly made her stand in awe. She had been there when his eyes were injured in the S-class mission and through that painful moment when it was revealed that he wouldn't be able to see or use the clan's Byakugan.
Perhaps that day was the most heartbreaking moment of her life.
She had a glimpse of the raw pain of being reduced to half the ninja that he was. Maybe it was the way everyone would feel if they lost the one thing that made them who they were.
However, his loss of not being able to see, of being completely swallowed in the darkness, only made him stronger. Neji trained harder, this time focusing on the ability to fight without his eyes and to lessen the odds against him. His training was brutal and she often stood nearby just in case he took it a step too far. Admiration didn't begin to cover the emotion that she felt when she looked at him. His once brilliant snowy orbs were now the palest shade of gray, displaying its own new beauty of color. The beauty of him, the new Neji, as if he had been born again from the ashes just like a phoenix. This time he emerged fully grown and mature, with a beginning of a legend about the first Hyuuga leader to not possess the ability of the Byakugan.
"Is something on my face? I did recently have breakfast."
The coolness of his voice surprised her out of Sakura's thoughts and she blushed a little in embarrassment. "Iie, it's nothing, Hyuuga-san."
Neji's soft eyes slowly moved as if they could see her and delicate eyelids blinked over them once then twice. "My dreams have not stopped yet."
Such a sentence coming from him sounded like something insignificant, but Sakura knew that he said it in all seriousness. He had finally confessed of his continuous nightmares only last year. She asked, "What do you dream about?" but she already knew the answer.
"You know of it. That mission where I lost my sight." He said it so calmly that she was the one aching for him.
"Don't you miss it, Hyuuga-san? Your sight?"
A ghost of a smile appeared on his face. "Miss it? Of course, Haruno, but no one grows by living in the past."
It was true, those words, and Sakura couldn't help but see him as a man who had seen much more than what she could ever hope to see. He was only a year above her senior but the difference between them made it seem like ten. Neji stopped walking.
Confused, Sakura halted her steps and glanced back at the male shinobi. "What is it?"
The Hyuuga shook his head and caught up to her. "Does tea sound good?"
Again, puzzled at the sudden inquiry, Sakura looked at his face curiously, only to trip over a stone in the path. An amused chuckle resonated from his throat.
"You should have known that the path leading to the manor is rocky." He said softly, stooping to help her back on her feet.
The cobblestone road snaking along the ground to the front steps of the clean porch was uneven. Sakura's face was flushed and Neji could almost feel the heat coming from them as she smoothly took his hand and got up. The distance between them was close, so close that their clothes were grazing against each other.
Neji cleared his throat and began walking once more and she followed behind him. He reached the stairs and hesitated as he always did before taking off his sandals. The clan patriarch slid open the door and beckoned her inside.
Between the Hyuuga and the Haruno, there was an unspoken bond of mutual trust that allowed each other to be open and comfortable. If he needed to talk, somehow he ended up at the door of her cozy apartment and vise versa. Love was not included in this unofficial contract, but a rather simple relationship, perhaps even a friendship, which kept them going.
They knew of the other to be broken inside.
Neji, as leader, was undeniably strong, but at times there were moments when he was tired to being strong. Nightmares plagued him every night and each one ended with an explosive pain in his eyes. Missions were difficult, especially on foreign ground, and the stress of not being able to see mounted with each assignment. Not even a man like Neji could be strong all the time.
Sakura was a very busy kunoichi, where she fought enemies and treated allies. Chakra was depleted at every battle, and she could barely manage the strength to keep up with the speedy Anbu team on their return home. There was also a secret heartbreak, something that she hadn't been able to let go. For women, love was a complicated thing.
The pair of ninja sat down at a cherry wood table with two cups of steaming green tea between them. Sakura ran a hand through her pale pink tresses and smiled at the man in front of her, knowing that he could feel that smile. "I will need to change. I'll come out dressed more appropriately."
Neji smirked and waved her away, in a barely teasing manner, and heard her get up from the futon. He at times wondered what the famed medical ninja looked like now. He could only vaguely remember her as an attractive girl with pink hair and sea-green eyes. This was the image of her five years ago.
It was a few minutes' wait before he heard her sit across from him. "Hyuuga-san, tell me what happens in your dreams." This was the first time she requested this of him, and Neji felt obligated to tell her.
'It starts with the end. It was raining hard and the mission had been to retrieve the stolen forbidden scroll of the Sand. We had succeeded but at a costly price. All that I could feel is the coldness of the mud and all I could see was the darkness that shrouded around my eyes. I was numb and I lay still on my side until someone pulled me on my back. I knew I had my eyes open because I was blinking from the rain.'
'But I couldn't see anything at all. I was blind.'
End of chapter notes: This was short, but bear with me. This is just a prologue, mind you. I'll write much longer chapters later. If you notice the last sentence, I like to end with evil cliffhangers.
Yes, Neji can't see. He's as blind as a bat. But, I will make him a superb ninja! Don't worry! Neji wouldn't be Neji without some kickass moves. Of course, Neji isn't Neji without his Byakugan, but that's exactly the point. I'm trying to show Neji in a different light and I hope it turns out the way I want it to. I don't usually plan ahead for stories. I just write what comes to me.
The next chapters will be a complete flashback to the mission where Neji lost his sight. It will not be told in his POV since I rather dislike writing in first person. It just doesn't get my point across as well. I will include a epilogue with this (of course) and I look forward to pleasing you once more.