Disclaimer: I don't own anything of Naruto.
Destined to Love
By: Chigiri Sasaki
Summary: He was a prodigy, with a damaged past and no future. She was a commoner, with a hidden secret. Strung together by fate, it was only a matter of time before she changed his life forever. AU, NejiTen
The short phrase that was seethed through perfectly straight teeth was uncommonly strong, but not quite loud enough to reveal the underlying anger and irritation of the speaker. There was no tremor from uncontrolled or vehement passion, no offering of particularly prepared flowers to sweeten his words—there was only the sharpness of his voice, the venomous aura he emitted and the piercing gaze that would penetrate deep enough to make anybody shudder from fear.
In other words, if he had had lesser control over his reactions, even Hyuuga Hiashi himself would have winced. The flat reply was something he wouldn't often hear from his nephew, Hyuuga Neji.
Neji had always been a top-of-the-line shinobi; he was one to accept orders wordlessly and follow their requirements with ease and grace. He was an intelligent strategist that had been blessed with the most talent in his clan; in fact, he was known as the the clan's prodigy. So it was only natural that his refusal was taking his clan by surprise.
"I refuse," the sixteen-year-old repeated, his voice nearly trembling with anger, almost betraying the emotionless expression that graced his pale features. He knew he was obliged to regard Hiashi with utmost respect and courteous manners at all times, but he couldn't help but leave the harsh bitterness evident in his voice. "I refuse to marry that woman!"
The sun's brilliant rays shone into the Hyuuga estate, illuminating particles of dust that would not otherwise be seen in the pristine mansion. The light that was pouring in shafts permeated the locks of his dark, auburn hair, causing the tips of it to glow like golden threads. The soft breeze, albeit chilly, carried the moisture and crisp scent of late summer. The warm rush of cool air rustled his long, russet locks, causing the loose strands to flutter smoothly in waves with each caress.
Despite the quiescent weather, Neji stood motionlessly in the centre of attention, his eyes frosty and his aura cold. He was surrounded by the Hyuuga Elders that had gathered a few minutes ago for a meeting. They were all peering curiously at the sixteen-year-old boy, wondering what had possessed the naturally compliant boy.
"Neji," Hiashi countered carefully, "you will not be married to her right away. Only an engagement will be arranged, which will only take place after you become acquainted with her. Furthermore, it's a tradition that Hyuugas choose their wife at the age of sixteen. Your birthday passed weeks ago."
"I will not be married to anyone whom I do not know. And also, by being familiar with the traditions, I know that I have to agree to the contract before it is legitimate. So I refuse. I reject this proposal and my decision will not change."
"B-but Neji-nii-san," Hinata stuttered softly, "she's the best option you have." She gasped when she felt the weight of everyone's attention on her. She had planned to further reason with her older cousin, but just the quick flicker of his disapproving glare was more than enough to silence her. She instantly lowered her gaze, dropping it to look back at her pale hands.
"I have two more years until I become a legal adult. Can I not decide then?" The prodigy stared at the older man expectantly.
"No, because you have to be married by then."
"I don't see your point."
"You are supposed to be engaged right now, Neji." A look of distress had already swept across the clan head's wrinkly features, and he sighed as he closed his eyes. He decided to take a more relaxed approach. "You know you have to choose someone anyway, so why not choose now? Mikya is a great woman who comes from a good family."
"If she's so great, then she should marry someone without a curse mark."
Hiashi dismissed the sardonic retort. "It is an honour that she has chosen you, above everybody else. She is definitely a wonderful woman, as indicated by the number of suitors who are currently pursuing her; she's a lovely, young lady."
"Opinions are subjective."
"This is not an argument," an Elder admonished. His eyes were grave. "We are simply informing you of the decision we have already made. You only have the right to choose a wife, and even then, the woman you choose must be approved by the rest of the clan. Furthermore, you have no say in our decision to introduce you to a suitable candidate."
The sixteen-year-old stared briefly at the Elder, Hideki. "There is no point in bringing someone over if I'm not going to accept her."
"You cannot change the clan's traditions," Hiashi said tiredly. He knew first-hand how unfavourable it was to marry someone by force, but all male Hyuugas had to be engaged at the age of sixteen and married two years later. Yet despite knowing this, Neji had flatly declined all offers from any country's lords, refusing to even meet any daughter they had. It was impossible that he had an affair with someone else, seeing that he was strangely cold around everybody.
"My refusing to meet this girl is not changing anything."
"Think about it," Hiashi tried again. "She's a lovely girl and marrying her has more than one advantage. Because her father is a powerful ruler, forming an alliance with their country will protect the clan in many ways. Please give this a little consideration. Do it for yourself—do it for the clan."
The instant Neji's eyes narrowed, Hiashi regretted his choice of words in his attempt to coax the Hyuuga prodigy. The clan, if anything, was a deterrent for someone who attributed his parents' deaths to it. The air suddenly grew heavy and suffocating. Hiashi smiled bleakly, suddenly feeling much more like a contrite uncle than an authoritative leader. "Neji—"
"You want to say that it is my duty to serve the clan," Neji cut in listlessly, his eyes blank. His voice was the only thing that was betraying his expression; his voice was free of the pain that had once wrenched his insides, yet it still contained the dull notes of a seemingly lifelong, acrimonious grudge. He let out a single laugh. "Is this what you told my parents?"
Before anyone could protest or even utter another word, he left the room, his long hair snapping behind him. He had walked away ineffably quickly; no traces of impact were left to suggest he had actually been there in the first place, refusing to marry a woman.
"That certainly went well," Hiashi muttered. "That boy is impossible to deal with."
"More like you are far too lenient," an Elder nearby said. "The fact that he is your nephew hinders your ability to be authoritative."
"He wouldn't be this bitter if you told him the truth," another one commented. "He still thinks Hizashi died for the clan's purposes."
"That is not the solution," another member of the council argued. "Neji is naturally spiteful about everything. I doubt anything could change his attitude."
"Not telling him was a wise idea," Hideki added. "Look how strong he has become. If he hadn't been so traumatised he wouldn't have put so much energy into training."
As the Elders continued to discuss and murmur about this impossible boy, Hiashi started to rub his temples. Despite what he had said about Neji, the Hyuuga leader couldn't blame the young lad for being difficult on an occasion like this. He knew that his heart was filled with nothing but remorse for the main household and the restrictions it put on him. His tragic past had caused him to be this way; at the age of four, he had witnessed both the death of his father and the disappearance of his mother. Had anyone expected him to be a normal child after that?
The fact that he, too, like his parents, was bound to the duties of the branch family didn't help either. There were traditions to which he had to adhere; like all the other members of the branch family, he only served to protect the main household. It was unfortunate that someone as strong as him would ultimately be a sacrifice, but what could be done?
The clan leader couldn't help but sigh again, feeling much older than his actual age. His enigmatic ivory eyes were now dull and filled with despair. His gaze shifted to the sky, which was coloured a silky blue, enveloping the earth with its gentle embrace. He, despite the perfect weather, frowned. While the fleecy clouds seemed to chase one another, so carefree and unfettered, he was imprisoned by the many responsibilities tied to his position as the Hyuuga clan's leader.
Somehow, he felt that the search for the right girl was hopeless. Who could possibly change Neji's outlook of the world?
Neji had all the attributes of a strong ninja, but Hiashi knew something wasn't right. The sixteen-year-old had a face that was constantly cold and commanding. He had lines under his eyes and a burden on his shoulders far too heavy for someone his age to support. He lacked the desire to appreciate anything. He ultimately needed to spend more time with friends, but Hiashi didn't know how anyone could endure his piercing glare and his rude remarks.
The clan head was in the middle of cursing under his breath when an advertisement flew in through the window. His tumultuous predicament made him want to rip it to shreds, but he stopped short of doing so when he saw a picture of a girl.
Said photograph had a lithe girl in it; she was standing by a beautiful cherry blossom tree, leaning on its hard, sturdy trunk. The pink loosened petals from the tree drifted around her, some finding an attachment to her hair, some in her clothes, yet she didn't seem to mind any of it.
Her long, silky brown hair was wrapped into two charming buns atop of her head, adding a touch of childishness to her personality. She wore a Chinese-styled top, the collar encircling her long, porcelain neck. She was a ninja, without a doubt—the large weapon scroll she was holding was the main indicator. Her dark red pants ended after her knees, revealing the creamy white skin that had remained soft after years of training.
The corners of her lips were curved into a smile and her head was tilted to the side. Her large brown eyes stared back at Hiashi and the warm, comforting, chocolatey eyes seemed to ease the knots in his stomach.
It was just a photo, above a caption that claimed that she was a skilled ninja and willing to complete missions for money, but Hiashi himself was taken back by the weight—the significance, rather, of the entire situation. Maybe it was the temerity in her eyes, or the way she looked like she could complement Neji perfectly, but it felt like the Fates were already working something out. Hiashi, for the first time in months, relaxed, and felt triumphant. Yes, he concluded, she had to be the one. Curving his lips into a smile, he murmured, "Perfect."
"Perfect." A tall girl with two buns tied neatly atop of her head smiled proudly when she examined her target board: a tree on which she used a blade to mark multiple targets. As usual, her aim was flawless, even at varying distances, angles and launching speeds. She sighed in satisfaction as she looked around her training area; the entire lot was littered with sharp weapons. Her weapon-summoning skills were improving and it was getting easier for her to control the heavy ones. She was pretty good, especially for someone who had not been officially trained.
The sixteen-year-old instantly swivelled in the speaker's direction, her right hand already at the knife strapped to her thigh. She was about to launch her weapon when she realised that the speaker was the leader of the venerable Hyuuga clan. She blinked twice before bowing humbly. "Hyuuga-sama."
"Please, call me Hiashi." The tall man smiled. "Tenten, right?"
"Yes, that's me."
"Sorry for intruding. I did not know you would be training after sundown."
"I like training in the dark," she explained, both embarrassed and animated at once. "It helps one rely less on sight."
"Ah," Hiashi mused with a smile, "that is something my nephew would say."
The brunette could only nod. She was still slightly flabbergasted and confused as to why such an important figure would be conversing with her.
"I must say, Tenten, it is quite clever of you to reside so far away from the village. There is so much more space to train here."
"It is quite nice here," she agreed, gesturing towards the open area. "Quiet, too."
Hiashi smiled again, as if she had just proven her compatibility with his nephew. He fished a piece of paper out of his pocket. "You handed out these advertisements I presume?"
Tenten nodded emphatically, finally realising the reason for his presence. "Is there anything that I can do for you?"
"This is perhaps not the mission you've been hoping for, but would you like to become acquainted with my nephew?"
A/N: First chapter to my first multi-chaptered story! I feel so proud of myself, even if I did only write one chapter haha. Lots more to come, and lots of characters as well. Quick note: Neji is cold and in the dark about everything in this story. So pretend that Neji beat Naruto during the Chuunin exams and still doesn't know the truth behind his father's death.
I'd love to hear from you! :)
Posted May 2007, edited July 2013.