Disclaimer: I own nothing.


Author's Note:

Another chapter huh? Guess this is sort of turning into a drabble series. Instead of a one-shot as I originally planned it.

Heart's Door -

Thank you so much. Especially for the comment on my mistake in the previous chapters with the sentences. I didn't see it until you pointed it out to me. Shall change it promptly. All and any suggestions are more than welcome.

It does look like I'm continuing. But this one's rather a big spoiler if you haven't read the manga up to post-timeskip. And its not as humorous... but more, philosophical I guess you could call it.

Siehorse -

Thanks.

philosophergirl

Lol. Yeah... XD I wonder what the poor guy thought... Lolz.

Matahari

Yup, that's what I'm planning on doing now... This chapter has less humor, and more... I guess philosophy? It's actually a bit angsty. But just read through it. The rather cute/embarrassing moment of this chapter is at the very end. Hopefully I wrote it in a way that it doesn't feel tacked on. But... guess we'll have to see won't we?

tomboy901

Cute review.

Indian Black Star

I liked your story too. Kakashi is such a bishi ne?

Dewwater

Keeping the characters in-character is one of the hardest things to do. I work at it. So your review makes me very happy.

Temari411

Yah, the futon scene. So common-place I had to work super hard on not writting it in such a way that it seems like I copied it from somewhere... Lolz. In other words... read so many blanket scenario fics that it worried me if I accidentally didn't copy my lines from some another author. XP

Shadow Fox777

Yup, embarrassing people is also one of my favorite hobbies as a person... like praising people a lot for all the good qualities I see in them, and asking two cute people I see hanging out together if they're 'going out'. XD Real or imaginary people, matchmaking can be very fun. As long as its done in an unobstrusive sort of way.

Is my writting style unique? Yes, this is likely to become a series of one-shots. I'll have to work on keeping the common thread though. With this chapter I stretched it a bit. But it's still there...

Princess Hinoto

Team 7? Hmm... Actually you know, Team 7's dynamic is actually a whole lot more complex than Team Gai's... If you haven't seen past the timeskip

It might be a little bit dark at the beginning (or at least, compared to the previous two chapters), but wait till the end.


-

Their most recent mission, was one where they had to go to the Sand Village to help save the Kazekage.

It was of the utmost importance. The entirety of both nations' futures depended on the sucess of this mission.

There was no room for failure, but so much chance to fail. This was not against a weak foe, but against one of the strongest organized crime syndicates outside of Orochimaru and the Sound. To truth, even Orochimaru would have no chance against certain members of the Akatsuki. He even said so himself.

But their team was one of the best. It was pure coincidence really that the Kazekage they were trying to save was none other than Gaara of the Sand.

The one who had once tried to kill Lee, only to later on saved his life.

Lee and Gaara had a connection. It was one that was fairly complicated, and involved strange concepts and notions like honor and debt.

But regardless of that, this was a mission, an important one. They'd do best not to fail.

All had seemed hopeless at one point.

Even though Gaara's body was brought back, he was no longer alive.

Then miracles of all miracles happened, Chiyo-sama of the Sand, committed the ultimate sacrifice and gave her life in order to save Gaara's.

It was because of Naruto and Sakura. Somehow, those two had changed her outlook on life in such a way that she was able to do something so dramatic and profound.

Neji wondered, as he watched the scene.

'Is this the ultimate purpose of a shinobi? Is this why we live in the way that we live?'

'We fight battles, not for ourselves, but for those who count on us to be strong. We live not for the sake of our own wants and desires, but for the sake of making better the lives of future generations, and for those who love us despite who we are. And for this reason...'

Strangely, this was not something Neji was unfamiliar with. He too had at one point, realized the same truth that Chiyo-sama had, ironically because of the same person.

He too, had at one point been willing to completely sacrifice his life for the sake of others. Except that fate somehow saved him from the grasp of death. Or rather it was, that at the brink of death he heard voices cry out.

He remembered that time. In the aftermath of one of the most intense battles he had ever fought. Even to date, none of his jounin missions had been nearly as tough, as impossible, as dramatically life-changing, as that battle had been.

With his nearly 360 degree vision, he didn't need to turn his head. But he looked towards his team mates who were standing next to him.

He lived because there were people who needed him to live. If not for them, he might have been content to die. But for their sake, he held on.

It was because of Lee, who not only respected him as a rival, but was also his friend. He knew Lee needed someone he could constantly challenge to a match. Part of Lee's motivation as a ninja was to become stronger, to prove himself in Neji's eyes. What he would never know if Neji died, was that a long time ago he already earned his respect.

He needed to live for the sake of those who trusted him. Gai-sensei, who despite seeming to favor Lee, often times gave Neji the responsibility of team leader whenever he had to go off to do the bit of a mission that only a jounin would be able to handle.

And Tenten... Why was it that it was her tears he saw in his dreams of unconciousness as the medical team tried their hardest to repair the damage that should have killed him in an instant, but somehow did not?

It was Gai-sensei who told him afterwards, that Tenten had cried when she heard that he'd come back from the mission barely alive. He told Neji that he'd found her collapsed and in tears in front of the opperation room at the hospital, and had to send her home against her will. Gai was one prone to exaggeration, but he never really lied... and never about something like this.

He knew he had never been particularly nice to her. He never thanked her for helping him in the month prior to the finals of their first chuunin exams. She offered, he accepted. And then he proceeded to use her as nothing more than a personal kunai launcher. He did nothing to assuage the unwaranted guilt he saw in her eyes after the finals when he lost to Naruto. Rather, he began to ignore her completely and started training by himself. But still she would come, and occasionally offer her help. He'd refuse, she'd smile and sit silently nearby to watch. Many times after he was done, she'd ask him if he didn't want to go eat, or watch a movie, just little things one would normally ask a friend. He would always refuse. After a few times this happened, he yelled at her and told her to leave him alone. Did he see the hurt in her eyes? Of course... but... though the awakening had occured, his heart had yet to melt.

The last time she asked him anything, was when she asked if he wanted to go see Tsunade with her. Once again, he refused.

If he died, his soul would forever be filled with the regret of never having known what any of those offers could have come to be.

There were so many mistakes he'd made when it came to the women in his life. He'd nearly killed Hinata-sama. And still somehow she forgave him.

And why? She had full right to hate him forever for his actions. But she was always too kind. Though he called her weak, he had slowly begun to realize, that like Lee, in so many ways she was stronger than himself.

There are so many people like her... so many of these people he never thought to look up to, so many people he looked down on simply because he was undeservingly labeled genius. What right did he have to gain acknowledgement before they recieved theirs? And this is what he suddenly understood. And this was why he held on.

There was no way he could make it up to them, to any of them. There was no sacrifice great enough to make up for all the pain and sadness he had caused.

He would live to change the fate of himself and the lives of others. He would learn eventually to show people that he cared despite the inadequecy of his ability of expression.

And it was for these reason, he was different than Chiyo-sama.

It was for these reasons, that he lived.

---

The look on Gaara's face as he witnessed the crowds of people, celebrating that he was still alive... was hard to describe.

Neji saw it with his Byakugan. Gaara did not cry. But if it was anyone else, they would have. Gaara's true emotions were best viewable to those who saw his internal systems. As Neji did.

He still had his his byakugan from when he used it to watch Chiyo-sama as she performed her strange ninjutsu. He'd never seen the likes. It wasn't medical ninjutsu precisely...

But he initially thought it was. It looked so incredibly convenient. He stored the process of the chakara flow in his mind, in order so that he could analyze it on his own at a later date.

Then the old man remarked that the jutsu was originally made for puppets, and it was a forbidden technique that only Chiyo-sama really knew. The consequences of using it however, was death of the user. The sacrifice of one life for the sake of another.

With his bloodline, Neji observed, and suddenly realized that the chakara flow had started to become not that of normal chakara one used in battle, but began to turn red... the color of life chakara which supported the human system. Soon, after all the red chakara drained out... the miracle of Gaara's resurrection occured. But Chiyo-sama... was dead.

----

Both team seven, and team Gai, stayed for the ceremony of Chiyo-sama's burial.

Of all of them, Sakura seemed to have been the most affected by her death, if only because she was the one who cried the hardest.

Others showed their own signs of grief.

As the ceremony came to a close. Gaara stood up in front of the casket to give a speech. His words were solem... in a way almost cold. Except that they were words of thanks... and to anyone who knew anything about Gaara, he rarely if ever thanked anybody. He spoke words about Chiyo-sama, things only someone who knew her in life could say. He thanked her, not only for his life, but for all she taught them in her years. It seems she taught quite a decent amount of her knowledge to Kankuro. Gaara thanked her for this on behalf of his brother. He promised that he would protect the village with his life again should it be necessary and for the sake of those who trusted and believed in his abilities. He'd become stronger so that no one would ever have to die for his sake again. The coldness of the way in which he spoke the words, masked the emotions which were boiling inside... these were given away if one were to observe his hands, which were clenched tightly into fists. They were hidden from view by the folds of his sleeves. But once again, Neji was able to see the way Gaara's arms were trembling...

In that moment, Neji respected the Kazekage a great deal.

'He is also one who lives for the sake of protecting those who are important to him.'

Gaara had also once taken for granted, that there were people who loved him despite himself. Too used to living in the darkness, it took one blond-haired 'idiot' to knock into him some sense.

'It's ironic how in this world, people can be so different and yet we're all the same. Even though we live different lives, in the end our dreams and hopes are quite similar. In order for countries to have peace with each other, is this all that we have to realize?'

At the point when the ceremony ended.

Lee and Gai had gone to talk to Gaara. Well, Lee went to actually have a conversation, Gai went along to talk to the Kazekage and recieve their pay, which was his responsibility due to being the leader of their group. Kakashi and the rest of team seven had left as well. But Neji was just standing there... deeply into his thoughts. So deeply into them was he, that he failed to notice when Tenten came up behind him.

He was startled when he felt someone tug on his sleeve. Then he realized that it was only Tenten.

"Neji. Gai-sensei's told me that we're staying for the festival they're having to celebrate the Kazekage's safe return. But they're not having it until three weeks after the funeral.

Temari-sama told Sakura and I that foreigners usually have to stay in this really cheap and run-down hotel in the center of the village, but since we're partially responsible for saving Gaara-sama, we get to stay at any hotel we want... for free! Even the best ones in town!

But unfortunately, since Gai-sensei and Lee are off talking with Kazekage-sama, we're the ones in charge of finding which hotel to stay in again.

Neji... are you alright? You seem a bit out of it."

At her concerned look, Neji smiled.

Tenten blinked, and smiled back. But then placed a hand on one of his cheeks. His forehead was covered by the forehead protector, so that wouldn't work.

"You're not sick are you? I know the temperature here is usually really hot, but it does get awfully cold at night. Are you sure you didn't catch a fever? You're acting really strange."

First he got startled, he never gets startled... then he smiles. Neji rarely smiles... and from experience Tenten knew that Neji always hated funerals. Part of the reason why Tenten stayed behind instead of following Lee and Gai was to make sure he was okay. And now here he was... smiling at her.

She tilted her head. Her hand was still on his cheek. It didn't feel warm...

Suddenly noticing what she was doing.

When one of his hands came up, she was expecting him to brush her hand away in embarrasment. She was very surprised when he didn''t, but instead took her hand gently in his.

"I'm okay... but thank you."

"Neji..."

"Come, lets go find a decent hotel."

Smiling brightly, her eyes shone as she replied, "Hai!"

And she followed him quietly as they both walked down the street together... without realizing... that they were still holding hands.


Author's Note:

Is this format better or worse?