Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. . .although I am awaiting my next copy of Shonen Jump, which I am going to own. I also do not own Hasegawa Tohaku-sensei, a real artist, and I hope I never do because he's been dead for quite a few centuries.
Gold Equates to Heaven
Summary: Neji's side of the story to When Heaven Falls. During his early years as a genin, Neji is dragged by Lee to take an art class with him. There he learns the significance of gold. Years later, it becomes an obsession.
Note: This fiction is meant to be read after When Heaven Falls; however, you don't have to if you really don't want to. It'll just feel like there are holes.
Setting: Konoha, Fire Country
"Please, Neji! It's only four nights a week for six weeks! One hour a night! Pleasepleasplease!" Lee's eyes sparkled pleadingly.
A thirteen-year-old Neji sighed. "For the last time Lee, I have no interest in attending an art class with you. I have better things to do."
"Oh, but Neji! I'll be fun. A great educational experience!"
"Please! My mom will only let me go if I bring a friend along."
"I'm not your friend Lee."
"Neji!" he whined, tears flowing down his face.
"Lee. . ." Neji growled.
A week later, he found himself sitting in an art class with Lee, while Tohaku-sensei explained the curriculum, which he ignored. Why was he here again? Oh, right, Lee had given up on him and gone to beg Tenten instead, who threatened never to help him train again if he didn't go. He let out an undisguised sigh. Frankly, he didn't know why Lee wanted to attend an art appreciation class. It sounded more like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Who cared about line and color? Knowing that a painting used chiaroscuro or that a sculpture had contrapasto wouldn't help defend themselves against enemy shinobi. What was he supposed to do? Bore them to death with artistic detail?
He was drifting off again sometime during the third week of class when something Tohaku-sensei said caught his attention.
"-embroidered in gold. You see, during this time, religion became a large proponent in art. The flatness of this painting gives the feeling that it is something not of this earth. Also, this gold hammered in represents Heaven. Gold was a symbol of Heaven."
Neji listened incredulously. Gold? Heaven? His mind wandered to Tenten. As far as he knew, she didn't wear a single speck of gold. Well, unless the trimming around her pink shirt counted, which he highly doubted. Whatever. He continued to ignore the teacher.
It had been two years since her disappearance. A week after she vanished, Tsunade had been forced to mark her as a missing-nin, despite Gai-sensei's protests to wait a bit longer. Everyone except the remnants of Team Gai had already given up hope of finding her. They believed she had somehow died; however, Gai-sensei and Lee continued to believe in her. How they could keep up their hope so enthusiastically was a mystery to many.
Neji's way of coping was even more of a mystery to them. When he first discovered what happened, there was no real reaction. It seemed he simply froze, then left without a word, as if unfazed by the news. A concerned Hinata trailed after him and later reported that all he had done was buy a small, gold bracelet from a local trinket cart. It was indeed peculiar. The first of uncanny events to follow.
Two years later would find a whole wall in his room bedecked in other mismatched, gold items. Miniature tessen. Hairpins. Chains. Pendants. Hyuuga Hiashi was more that a bit worried over his nephew's new obsession. Every week or so, a new item would make its way into the Hyuuga complex. It became an eyesore just to walk past his room with the door open.
Meanwhile, Neji became even more reclusive, not even speaking to taunt his opponents. For those who knew him, being able to hold a conversation with him became an epic feat to be congratulated. There was a defeated look in his eyes; yet, there remained a desperate spark of hope somewhere in their opalescent pools. Hiashi shook his head unapprovingly when, through an open window, he saw his nephew slouch into the complex gates.
Neji opened the door to his room and, on the opposite wall, was greeted with twinkling, twenty-four carat treasures. In his pocket lay the newest haul, a delicate golden butterfly. A piece of his foolish hope that would bring back his heaven.
A hand disrespectfully pushed the side of his head away before he could walk in. The gesture was followed by a head sticking in past his shoulder.
"So, this is the room of the infamous Hyuuga Neji." The voice belonged to a Hyuuga girl, a few years younger than him. "You know," she continued cheerfully, "everyone used to talk about you as the Hyuuga genius. Wanna know what they call you now?" She paused a bit then answered. "Kinko!" She burst into laughter. "Can you believe it? Kinko!" Gold Child. "Why do you have so much gold anyway? Are you a collector?"
When she received no response, her eyes moved to gaze at the items on the wall, and were snared by a particular object. "Oh! Can I have that?" Her index finger pointed at a golden dove, perched on one of many rungs. She made to enter his room, but he grabbed her arm and pushed her out.
"Go away." With that, he slammed the door in her face. From the other side, he heard her huff indignantly and leave. There were many who sought to have him answer their curiosity, but no one had ever had the audacity to march into his room and expect him to give them something.
He stared at the wall which was chaotically filled with trinkets. Then, he picked a random spot and added another rung. From it, he hung the butterfly. Why he chose to believe that old instructor was beyond his mind's rationality. He felt he'd lost it at the moment. This insane collection seemed to be his only form of consolation. As much as he hated to admit it, he'd taken his female teammate for granted. Now that she was gone, the guilt could only pour in.
Denied. That was how he felt.
After nine years, Konoha had finally established the connection between the missing Tenten and sudden appearance of the notorious Naraku no Kuroryuu. The traitorous Uchiha had confessed it all after they had healed him enough to speak. A few days later, a woman was seen leading Naruto away. He, along with Shikamaru, Ino, Chouji, Hinata, Shino, and Kiba were sent to track them down. By then, they had all achieved jounin rank.
When he confronted her, she was with Itachi. He asked her to come back, but she refused. Then, he told her. . .he loved her. Did he really mean it? Or was it an act of desperation, to make her come back? Either way, she met it with coldness.
"Neji. . .I don't feel the same way."
The words had crippled his heart, a sinking feeling in it. His mind had screamed for him to take off after her. To force her back. But his body had refused to budge. The mission to rescue Naruto was a success, but he felt like a failure, as he dejectedly entered the Hyuuga compound.
As if on cue, the voice of a cheery Huuga female greeted him and followed him to his room like a tail. "So, Neji, how'd the mission go? Are you finally going to give me that dove now?" she asked playfully behind him, as she had done for the last seven years of their lives just for the sake of annoying him.
His emotional gears began turning, faster and faster, as if making up for years of disuse. He stalked into his room, leaving the door open. She stopped at the door, curious at his behavior. He went to the corner of the room and ripped the bird from it's perch.
"Take it," he mumbled.
Surprised, she bared stopped it from hitting the floor.
The anger began to well up. He snatched the butterfly from the wall. The tessen. The chain. "Take it!" he shouted as he threw them behind her paralyzed form. "Take it! Take it! Take it!"
They were flying at her too quickly, some managing to hit her, others falling to the floor. "Neji?"
He was giving up, tearing away her place in his mind and heart with each item he threw out. Emotions long overdue began forcing their way out. A teardrop spilt. Then another, and another. He was unaware of the commotion being caused by his hysteria, nor did he care.
"Neji! Stop it!" He found his hands stopped by the same ones who faithfully followed him for the last seven years. A few small cuts were present on her face and hands, bleeding. She carried an air of calmness he'd never seen in her before. "What's wrong?"
He looked at her, as if noticing her for the first time, then disregarded her question. "What's your name?"
She cocked her head sideways curiously, then sensing that everything was okay, released his wrists. The smile returning to her face. "Tentou. Hyuuga Tentou," she grinned.
He gasped, shocked, and slid to the floor, scattered with flecks of gold. He smiled bitterly at them.
"So, is everything, okay now?" Tentou asked cautiously.
He tilted his face up at her and nodded, gesturing her to sit. Everything was okay now. Only one thought remained in his mind:
Maybe, gold did equate to heaven.
A/N: Okay! For any of you confused with the end, Tentou means heaven in Japanese! Oh yeah, and I got the idea for the story from the art appreciation class I took this summer. It was so boring–dubbed snooze class by my friend. Really hoped this fic appealed to you! Now that you've read, please review!