A/N- My deepest apologies for taking so long to get this up. Things have been insane lately and I haven't had hardly any time to write. Anyway, please keep in mind this is an epilogue and not a chapter meaning it is meant to wrap things up. I usually don't do epilogues, but the continuation of everyone's lives in the Ryukaze world could have become another novel in itself. Thank you everyone for reading. Special thanks to Kayli for providing the quote from Kingdom of Heaven.
See ending author note for details on my next story!
Disclaimer: The characters of Naruto belong to Kishimoto, the quote belongs to the writers of Kingdom of Heaven and Sorano belongs to me.
"You are not what you are born to be, but what you have it in yourself to become."
-Kingdom of Heaven-
Sorano lounged in a tree and watched the three young teenagers below with incredulous amusement. The two boys were tangled in a scuffle and the girl eagerly cheered one on while scolding the other. Unfortunately, she was blessed with a shrill, ear-piercing voice and it was a wonder neither boy had suffered permanent hearing loss by now.
From her perch, Sorano surmised the current disagreement had been caused by a few ill-chosen words regarding someone's mother. Usually by now she would have pulled them apart and assigned repetitive workouts that would impress even Lee's abnormal dedication to fitness, but this time she decided to let them have at it. Kio had the right to defend his mother's honor and, for once, was doing an admirable job. His taijutsu skills had really improved over the last few weeks.
She had taken special interest in the vertically challenged boy and spent extra time working with him after the other two went home each day. It was nice to see his hard work, and hers, pay off.
Life as a jonin was busy. Missions had been frequent, but she welcomed them eagerly and was given the opportunity to work with a wide variety of Leaf shinobi. Anbu still haunted her steps hoping to entice her into joining the black ops even after her refusal seven times now. Neji never pressured her in this. He knew she hated to kill and only did so when forced to. Serving in Anbu would only increase such incidents, so he supported her decision to refuse the black ops.
It had been a year now since she had become a Leaf jonin and six months since she and Neji had married. They had a largely traditional ceremony and Naruto had stood as Neji's witness, Hinata as her own. Tsunade officiated. Because she had no surviving family, she had asked Sasuke to stand in their place. He had simply blinked at her for a few seconds, then glanced away and said, "Whatever," with an indifferent shrug, but not all the arrogant cockiness in the world could hide the blush dusting his cheeks. Though lacking shared blood, he stood by her side as her kindred.
Sorano sacrificed her little apartment for her husband's sanity and they now lived in a cozy house in a lovely residential district. Neji adamantly refused to live within hearing distance of Naruto, but the hyper blonde often visited along with his betrothed.
Naruto's meeting with Hinata's father and the Hyuuga Council was not as nerve-wracking as he anticipated, nor as risky as her own. Tsunade had begun training him as her successor so that she could expand on her travels once more and the future Rokudaime Hokage was welcomed into the family without too much fuss. Apparently, his lineage was nothing to sneer at after all.
Everyone's favorite pink-haired medic was seldom seen without a smile now that Sasuke had finally stopped being an idiot and made her his own. Of course it took another man moving in on her to light a fire under him, with the ultimate result of a crispy fried shinobi for Hinata to tend to since Sasuke refused to allow Sakura anywhere near the unfortunate admirer.
So strange how things had turned out.
When she had first come to the Village Hidden in the Leaves, she had been seeking, but not daring to hope for, a new beginning. Instead she found a home she would fight for, friends she would die for, and a man she would live for.
Three months after becoming a jonin, the future of Konoha was entrusted to her in the form of three genin who held little skill and much fire. She never dreamed she would be mentoring young shinobi. Honestly, who made these decisions?
It took less than a day to figure out that her three genin were particularly abnormal. Each had scored ridiculously low in one or two skills and remarkably high in another. Between the three of them, they made up for each other's weaknesses…if only they could get along. Tsunade assigned them to her because of her seemingly endless patience (that was currently up for debate), and her own experience as a late bloomer. If she did not take them under her wing, no one else would.
Sorano had a history of defying the odds and saw no reason to stop now. They were obstinate, quarrelsome, wretched little beasts and she had managed to shape them into a team of misfits with a stubborn ferocity that more than compensated for all that they lacked. They would be taking their first shot at the chunin exams next month. She hoped it would instill in them a greater respect for teamwork. Neji had agreed with her decision to recommend them and she was grateful for his faith in her judgment.
Yes, life as a Leaf jonin was busy, but life with Neji was bliss. He was a kind friend and a gentle lover, but had a possessive streak that left her breathless. There were a few times when he put his foot down on one matter or another and if intimidation didn't get him what he wanted, he resorted to seduction, which was irritatingly effective. Of course, two could play that game and the man couldn't seduce what he couldn't catch…
She ached when he was away on missions. The house was too quiet without him, the bed too cold, but she had spars with Sasuke and Lee, ramen with Naruto and her wretched little beasts to keep her distracted until his return.
Glancing down once more from her perch, Sorano smiled to see Kio had finally managed to get the bigger and cockier Hoshu in a headlock, but Aimi had latched onto his ear in an effort to free her crush and judging from the pained look twisting his young features, it was going to work.
Deciding enough was enough, Sorano teleported down to stand over them with a fixed, irritated glare. Her ability to appear anywhere at any time with only a thought seriously freaked out her kids, giving them the impression that they were always being watched and could get away with nothing, which pretty much was the case with her.
"That's enough," she snapped and the three wide-eyed teenagers instantly snapped apart.
"But Sensei!" And Aimi proceeded to whine her excuse for defending her beloved Hoshu who was obviously Kami's gift to women and that Kio had no right to blah blah blah…
Sorano pinched the bridge of her nose to suppress the urge to beat the crush out of the girl. Her patience was drawing a lot thinner lately with the frequent headaches from ignoring her increasing fatigue. Sometimes she wondered if the three teenagers were really leaches in disguise determined to suck the life out of her.
"Go home," she said quietly and Aimi stopped in mid-rant.
"Just go home, all of you. We start training for the chunin exams tomorrow."
"Really?" Aimi bounced up and down like a pogo stick.
"Whatever." Hoshu shrugged and started to saunter away.
"Hoshu-kun, want to get something to eat!"
Sorano winced at the shrieking banshee that shot after the most conceited member of her team and felt the tiniest bit of sympathy for the boy.
She looked down at Kio to see him scuffing his foot against the ground and avoiding her eyes. "What is it, Kio?"
His shoulders hunched and he glanced up at her through his mussed hair before quickly looking away. "This morning, I was…I was taking a message to the Hokage…for my father and I," he shook his head and glared up at her with eyes full of hurt, worry, and resolve. "Are you going to ditch us?"
Sorano blinked in surprise, still trying to make sense of his sentence fragments. "Ditch you? Whatever gave you that idea?"
"I heard the Hokage say—," he bit his lip and looked away.
Sorano frowned in confusion. He was taking a message to the Hokage and he heard her say… "Oh," her eyes widened in surprise and then softened.
"Kio," she reached for his shoulder and he cringed as if expecting her to strike him. He did eavesdrop on a conversation between the Hokage and a jonin after all.
When he refused to meet her eyes, she kneeled and tilted his face towards her. "Kio, I am not ditching you. I just find myself in need of a leave of absence. I will still be over-seeing your training, but another jonin will have to accompany you three on missions."
His big brown eyes blinked at her warily. "Who's going to take us on missions?"
Sorano smiled at his obvious anxiety. Not many had her patience or were willing to believe that one as short and lacking in skill as him had the potential to be something great.
"Don't worry, Kio," she squeezed his shoulder as she stood. "I have selected the best of the best to work with you guys. You don't really think I would hand my little soldiers over to just anyone, do you?"
He smiled hesitantly up at her with relief. "Of course not, Sensei."
Sorano ruffled his already messy hair and shooed him off. "Go on, get. I'm sure your mother will be happy to see you home early for once."
The boy hurried off with a backward wave and she smiled, shaking her head. She had never even noticed his presence at the Hokage's office and was beginning to wonder if Kio's talent might be his ability to remain unseen. She would have to give that some thought.
Thankfully free of the demands of others, she decided to head straight home and have a simple dinner before crawling into bed at a nice early hour. She wasn't intending on telling her genin about her leave of absence until after the chunin exams, but it looks like that would have to change. Their self-confidence might suffer if they did not know the whole truth and believed as Kio had done that she was abandoning them. But first, she needed to tell her husband and that was bound to be an interesting conversation.
He was still away on a mission so she had made the decision on her own upon Tsunade's recommendation, but she would still rather him know before everyone else did.
The moment Sorano stepped into the house, she spied the muddy shoes and discarded pieces of Anbu uniform in the foyer and smiled. Looks like my quiet evening wouldn't be so quiet after all.
Hearing the creak of the bathroom door, she strode down the hallway to find her husband clad only in a clean pair of pants with his freshly washed hair spread out over his broad shoulders. He stopped in surprise at seeing her home at such an early time and then a slow smile spread across his lips.
"When did you get home?" she asked as she walked up to him and brushed a lock of damp hair off his shoulder.
Neji slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. "A few minutes ago." He kissed her sweetly. "Why are you home so early?"
"Lack of patience," she said and he chuckled, having had to listen to her vent about the rug rats on more than one occasion. "Hungry?" she asked.
"Mm, absolutely," he purred as he trailed kisses down her throat.
Sorano laughed softly and wound her arms around his neck. "I meant real food."
"Later," he growled and nipped at her skin only to suddenly find himself spitting out white feathers and his wife retreating down the hallway, laughing. He really hated when she did that.
"Well I need food now," she said over her shoulder as she began pulling out something from the fridge. "Did the mission go well?"
"It was easy enough," he said, standing behind her to peer over her shoulder while she prepared a simple meal of rice and fish.
Sorano smiled when she felt his hand lazily stroke her back. The first thing she learned about Neji after they married was that he loved to touch her. The man simply could not walk past her without brushing her arm, her hair, or her back. When they went out into the village together, he often held her hand.
Between the two of them, dinner was made quickly and they shared little tid-bits of their separate lives with each other. When they were finished, Sorano picked up the dishes and began to fill the sink to wash them when a muscled arm reached past her to shut the water off.
"The dishes can wait," Neji said, kissing the back of her neck.
"Now, Neji, you know I don't like to lea—eep!" She squeaked when he suddenly spun her around and tossed her over his shoulder.
"Neji," she laughed as he strode down the hall and into their bedroom. "Put me down!"
"As you wish," he said and promptly dropped her onto their bed. Despite the softness of the covers, her breath left her in a whoosh and before she recovered he was stealing it away again with a soul-searing kiss.
She knew then he had told her the truth about the ease of his mission. Whenever a mission went badly, when a teammate was critically wounded or killed, upon his return they would make achingly tender love. He savored every inch of her body and held her for many hours afterwards while stroking her hair or her back, memorizing her scent and touch. She came to understand it was his way of reassuring himself that she was safe and he was alive.
But when everything worked out perfectly, the pent up restlessness from the lack of action came home to her in the form of fiery kisses and the savage need to possess her mind, body, and soul.
Abandoning all thought, Sorano surrendered to Neji's ardent kisses. There would be plenty of time for words later, but for now, she only wanted his passion.
In slumber, all his cares were swept away and the carefree child he once had been could be seen. Neji had managed to keep her up quite late despite her fatigue, but even just a few hours of sleeping in his arms was enough to ease it. The voices of the past were always silent when he was near.
Sitting up in bed now with a part of the sheet wrapped around her, Sorano watched the morning light play across Neji's handsome features and became so lost in thought she did not even notice silver eyes crack open to peer up at her.
"What are you thinking," he asked as his hand brushed against her thigh and settled comfortably there.
"You are a very beautiful man," she murmured absently and he smirked before gently pulling her down to him for a soft kiss.
"I can't argue with that," he murmured against her lips.
"And conceited," she decided to add.
Without warning, Neji flipped her onto her back and proceeded to tease her mercilessly with feathered kisses along her skin until she was giggling and tugging at his hair to get him to kiss her properly.
"You wouldn't have me any other way," he growled playfully against her lips and felt her smile.
"You wouldn't be you," she agreed as she gently pushed on his shoulders to get him to pull away, but he turned his attention to her neck instead and murmured something indistinguishable that told her if she didn't grab his attention soon, the things she needed to say would have to wait until evening and she didn't want to put it off.
"I spoke to the Hokage yesterday," she said, trying to keep her voice even despite her own rising desire. The man could turn her into jelly just with his voice alone, let alone his touch. A muffled grunt was his only response and when she felt his wicked hands begin to move she quickly blurted out, "She's taking me off missions!"
Neji froze. Slowly he pulled his head up and met her dilated eyes with open curiosity. "She's taking you off missions? Why?"
"It's just temporary. I'm going to fill in at the Academy for a while," she said as she curled a long lock of coffee brown hair around her finger.
"What about your genin?" It didn't make any sense that Sorano would abandon her genin team to fill in at the Academy. Despite how troublesome the teenagers could be she loved them deeply and was viciously defensive of them.
"I'll still oversee their training, but someone else will have to supervise them on missions. I was going to ask Naruto if he would do it."
Sensing there was something very important lurking behind this, Neji tilted his head and gave it serious thought. "He abhors low rank missions but I'm sure he would do you the favor. It would probably be good for Kio." He knew how much she worried about the little runt. Like Naruto, Kio had graduated the Academy with the lowest of expectations, but he had a fiery, determined spirit not unlike the future Hokage.
Sorano nodded. "That's what I was thinking." She continued to play with his hair and avoid his gaze, saying nothing more.
Neji's brows drew together as he mentally reviewed the conversation and realized she had never really said why the Hokage had taken her off all missions. Any number of chunin could stand in at the Academy, so why pull Sorano away from her team? Did she get injured while he was gone?
"Sorano," he gently tilted her face up to meet his eyes. "Why is the Hokage taking you off missions?"
Whatever worry he was building within his mind evaporated when her eyes softened and she smiled. Gently taking his hand, she guided it down to rest on her flat stomach and held it there. Staring into his confused silver eyes, she watched with joy and amusement as understanding fell upon him.
"Sweet Kami," he whispered, eyes widening before he pulled their hands away and activated his Byakugan. Within her, so small he could barely even see, was the small pulsing chakra of a new life. He brushed his fingers over her skin in disbelief. Of course they had planned on having children, but he had never expected it to be so soon and seeing the reality of it with his own eyes…
"How long," he breathed.
"Four weeks," she said. "I was feeling so tired and getting headaches so I asked Tsunade-sama for a check up."
"Four weeks," he echoed then jerked his head up to look at her, the puffed veins of chakra fading from around his eyes. "I didn't hurt you last night, did I," he asked with obvious concern. He was always conscious of how he handled her, even when his desire for his beautiful wife savagely consumed him, but an unborn child was infinitely more fragile than Sorano was.
She smiled and pulled him towards her for a reassuring kiss. "I'm fine, we are fine. I just have to watch what I eat and avoid heavy blows to my back and abdomen which is why Tsunade has taken me off missions."
Neji relaxed and kissed her deeply, feeling his heart swell with love for this incredible woman who had given him more than he could have ever hoped for. She sighed deep in her throat, sweet and soft, melting in his arms. He kissed down her lean body until his lips hovered over the womb that carried their child. Smiling against her skin, he tenderly kissed her soon to be rounded belly.
"She will be beautiful like her mother," he said.
Sorano smiled as her fingers curled in his hair. Watching him stare down at her abdomen as if he could see the future growing inside, she felt her heart fly beyond and outside of herself.
"What makes you so sure it's a girl," she asked with amusement.
Neji grinned up at her. "You would give me a daughter first just to annoy me and she would be just as stubborn and beautiful as you. I fear for the future of any sons that come after."
Sorano laughed at his logic and tugged at his hair. "And if there are two?"
Neji had been about to continue his adoration of his wife's body when her words made him freeze. "Two?"
"Twins run in both of our families, Neji," she reminded him as he stared at her with startled eyes.
"Yes," he admitted, "But what are the chances—."
"Better than you think," she murmured.
Propping himself up on his elbows, he glanced down at her stomach and then back up at her. "I could only see one chakra signature."
Sorano brushed her fingers lovingly against his cheek. "Tsunade found two."
"Two?" he whispered, eyes wide in shock. One child was a blessing, two were…a miracle.
Neji gently laid his palm over her stomach. "If they are boys, we will name one after my father and the other after yours," he murmured.
Tears pricked Sorano's eyes and when he saw them, he gently brushed them away with a soft smile.
"And if they are girls?" she whispered.
"After your mother and mine," he said and tenderly kissed the tears slipping from her eyes. He hated to see her cry, but knew these jewels were born of joy for the lives that grew within her, a legacy of their own making.
In so short a time she had become his savior, his wife, his lover, and now the mother of his children. Taking her into his arms once more, Hyuuga Neji silently thanked the wind that blew her into his life and allowed them to fly free together.
To my awesome readers:
Chaosdragon82- Regards Sorano vs. the Hyuuga Council, the intention of the last contract she had them sign was specifically to protect Neji from personal attack namely because Sorano knew that certain members of the Main House were jealous of Neji's abilities and also might try to use him to manipulate her and their new clan.
It wasn't just Sorano's threat or her reminder that they should see the marriage as a form of alliance rather than the loss of one of their own that made the Council capitulate as the combination of these with the added motivation provided by Hyuuga Hiashi taking the initiative to sign the contract first. After all, he was the Head of the Main House and the one who placed the cursed seal on Neji in the first place. Also, they were still trying to process the fact that Sorano was willing and more than able to kill them all and make herself an enemy of Konoha for Neji's sake, so they were caught a bit off guard. The benefits the Council had trouble realizing at the time was that the Hyuuga Clan would now be family with the Ryuusen Clan who have the ability to summon Sumisora no Tatsu…not exactly someone you want to make an enemy of, but Sorano was trying to get them to focus more on the benefits the Village would gain as opposed to what the Clan would gain, appealing to their honor as the oldest and noblest Clan in Konoha.
There may have been a more thorough way to explain everything, but as I've mentioned in earlier author notes, this story was written immediately after a very long and stressful hiatus. I'm still trying to get my pervious writing bearings back. Thank you for reading!
Also thanks to Niaka1, akai-sora, Lobo-Chan, sanya12, Kagome093, Rinnalaiss, pixiedust8831, joster13, soccergrl15, Cataracta, destiny-penguin, Tainted Light, Darkangelsdevil, YamiKitsuneKami, lil'rockgirl, BlackWingsOfTheRaven, TeenAnimeLover, Li, Laine, Satta Kurosama, Space Jam Sandwitch, and Fire Halo for all of your delightful reviews.
Also thanks to all of you chibi shy shadow readers who have been following this story and occasionally poked your head into the light to let me know what you thought!