Never Meant To Win
A/N: This is officially the last chapter. I'm doing it from Neji's POV. Strange, yes, but that's the way the chapter will work. I thank all of you who read my story, and I would like to thank all of my reviewers doubly for reading and reviewing. Thanks so much!
The wedding was held in the church just outside of Konoha, which overlooked both Konoha and the large acres of forestation bordering the city. It had been about a year since the incident in Sound, and since then, my new cousin-in-law has done a lot to make up for any past transgressions. My father agreed full-heartedly when Sasuke asked permission to marry Hinata, and it wasn't long before the ceremony was set up.
Sakura Haruno was the maid of honor, and Tenten, Chiyo (Kiba's girlfriend), and Shizune (who Hinata knew very well from work) were Hinata's other bridesmaids. The best man was, shockingly enough, Naruto. The ring bearer was Shino, and the flower girl (to her chagrin) was Hanabi. My uncle was the one who performed the marriage, and the marriage continued on without any problems.
Even from my seat, I could see how shockingly pale and gaunt Sasuke looked. He still hadn't fully recovered from the Sound, which wasn't surprising—organ damage took a long time to heal.
Naruto definitely made a good decision in making Sasuke the head of the Sound cleanup—Sasuke was very adept at organizing people for the missions, and he kept the records of research and findings almost obsessively filed. As leader, Sasuke even got to read all of the findings before anyone else—aside from, perhaps, the people who actually found whatever it was.
In Sasuke's annual report (he had to issue monthly reports, but only Naruto read the monthlies—everyone, however, had access to the annual reports), he listed all of the data he had complied from each individual search. I could still remember the reaction of the entirety of Konoha's ninja population when the report was released—shock.
And it was no wonder.
Findings on Sound. Written by Uchiha Sasuke.
Common knowledge of Orochimaru includes that he was originally a Konoha Sanin who was hell-bent on living forever. However, after he departed from the Leaf, his goals became far more likely to actually occur. He got his start in the Akatsuki, but when he realized that he could never gain control of the organization, he left for greener pastures.
He joined up with around fifty individuals, none of whom he even knew the names of—except Kabuto Yakushi, another Konoha refugee, of questionable background. Kabuto wasn't a ninja, but instead, was the son of a renowned doctor. He had excellent medical skills, but no ninja skills to speak of. Thus, Orochimaru 'installed' a certain power in Kabuto—it amplified his chakra, his agility, his strength, and his intelligence.
Soon after genetically changing Kabuto, he came up with a way to control his subordinate partners, who were becoming unruly and rebellious. He installed something similar to what was placed in Kabuto, except this new development was a seal—and it allowed Orochimaru to read the minds of all of his minions. He could not, however, place this seal on Kabuto—the old one cancelled out anything Orochimaru attempted to do.
For a while, this system worked just fine. Kabuto was grateful to Orochimaru for giving him extra powers, but even though he was completely loyal, Orochimaru couldn't help but question Kabuto's intentions. The truth was, as far as we can tell, that Kabuto had no intentions whatsoever—he had nothing to work for, except towards pleasing Orochimaru.
However, Orochimaru could not simply do away with Kabuto. He needed a replacement for Kabuto, and he needed one that was just as well trained. Thus, he met a young man called Shiniji (now deceased), who was very adept with medical skills, but was by no means a ninja. Orochimaru planned on altering the seal slightly before installing it on Shiniji—he was going to combine the power of the first one with the control of the second. He was in the middle of developing such a device when he was eliminated. There is substantial evidence to prove that, though no one can ever really be certain, that due to the lack of a strong second-hand, Orochimaru was in his weakest position, though he didn't realize it himself due to pride.
By the time of his death, Orochimaru had complied an impossibly large collection of jutsu. Everyday a new piece of research is brought in, at least ten more jutsu are added to the list. There are specific people who are cataloguing the jutsu electronically, and others whose jobs are to check for replications and needless information. The current total, though this will almost immediately become obsolete information, is nearing 3,000. Not only did Orochimaru have information from every village, but also he had compiled a list of every bloodline, and every type of every genjutsu, ninjutsu, and taijutsu. In the electronic catalogue, we have also listed which types of jutsu each are, as well all of the seals required, and all of the elemental types. By the time the catalogue is completed, we hope to have a library of jutsu nearly a hundred times larger than the current Konoha library, as well as extra information on each village.
As for the Genin that was the 'messenger' nearly a year and a half ago from the date of the publication of this report, he was a Konoha ninja who thought he could help Konoha by pretending to join Orochimaru. Once he braved the addition of the seal, however, Orochimaru knew of his plan. Orochimaru sent the Genin on a fake mission, and halfway on the way to Konoha, a bomb that Orochimaru implanted in his chest exploded. Using a series of nerve controls developed by the soon-to-be deceased Kabuto, Orochimaru could control the body, even from far away.
The autopsy of the Genin's body read that a massive explosion occurred near his chest, and a small scrap of skin had been removed on his neck—Orochimaru had this arranged using the Genin's body as well.
The rest of the report had been about how the Sound ran, how many ninja were remaining to be eradicated, and other such things.
The minister's voice shook me out of my thoughts. "The groom may now present his vows."
Sasuke fumbled through his jacket pocket, pulling out a small sheet of paper. "Hinata Hyuuga, before I met you, I honestly believed that my purpose in life had been fulfilled. I believed that I was a stain to the world, something that needed to be destroyed for the good of the entire nation. However, just by smiling and being there for me, you've shown me that there is always something to live for. I love you, Hinata, and I vow to love you until death do us part."
"Sasuke Uchiha, I know you've made a lot of sacrifices in order to be with me. For one, you've given up your last name. For another, you've given up your past as an avenger. However, I've made up my mind to always support you, and to continue saving you whenever you need me." A few chuckles were heard throughout the chapel, though most people thought it rude to laugh during a wedding. "I'm glad I've found someone to spend the rest of my life with. When I was little, this wasn't my idea of what my future would be. However, I'm glad this is how it's turning out. I promise to love you for the rest of my life, and to always be faithful to you and your needs."
"I know pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride," the minister announced loudly. I could feel the entire room shifting forward to get a good look at the new husband-and-wife, watching with great anticipation as they performed their first act as a married couple. I rose to clap, along with the rest of the witnesses to the wedding. Soon after, we filed out and left for the reception, which was to be held at the Hyuuga manor.
I was rather glad Father allowed Hinata to have her wedding at a church, instead of at the Hyuuga mansion.
But then again, only members of the Main family absolutely had to get married in the Hyuuga estate. Hinata gave up her birthright as the eldest offspring of the Clan Leader to Hanabi, in order to marry someone outside of the (very, very, very) extended family and to continue her life as a medical ninja. She had recently been branded with the sign of the Hyuuga Branch family, and under tradition, she began wearing her ninja band across her forehead nearly all of the time.
Naruto raised his cup, clinking lightly against the finely spun wine glass with a pure silver fork. He did this gracefully, and I was beginning to think he would not embarrass himself. However, when he stepped on his chair to make the best man's speech, even I felt annoyed that he hadn't made the speech from the floor. And that was when I noticed that Naruto was at least slightly inebriated.
"Guys, I've known these two people for a long time," he began, stretching the word 'long' out way too far, "And I must say, I'm just glad that Sasuke isn't gay. No offense," Naruto said to Shino. A few nervous chuckles were heard throughout the room, but luckily, Shino seemed to take it all in good humor. "And how they ended up is beyond me. I mean, seriously—just look at Hinata! Then look at Sasuke, and…" he shuddered. More chuckling, but this time, less nervous than it had been before.
"But, I would like to say that their love is most definitely genuine. I would also like to point out that I do love Hinata so—not as much as my wife, but still—and if Sasuke ever takes out any anger on her, well, I'll have to kick his ass." Louder laughter. "I'm glad you two have tied the knot—may your marriage be blessed with lots of children—I call godfather—and lots of love."
The room erupted in applause, and Naruto nearly fell over in taking a bow. I watched with overwhelming joy as Hinata cut the cake with Sasuke. They looked like the perfect newly wed couple, smudging icing on each other's cheeks, and playfully joking with each other.
"Sorry, Tetsuo was a little dirtier than I thought," Tenten apologized as she took her seat beside me. She turned to our son, who was about three months old, and grasped his hand lightly. "Yes, you were stinky, weren't you?" Tetsuo gurgled and laughed in response.
"You missed a drunk Hokage giving a speech," I said as I circled my arm around her waist and smiled at Tetsuo.
"He stood on the table?" Tenten asked with a sigh.
"He stood on the table," I confirmed, absent-mindedly ruffling his small tuft of hair.
"There should be a lack of intoxication requirement for those making speeches," someone agreed from behind me. I turned, and found myself suddenly facing Chemo.
"Chemo!" I greeted. "I see you got off work for the wedding."
"Yeah, wasn't easy. Naruto had to find a substitute. I only hope he actually did the filing."
"You're doing filing? What a good little secretary you are," Tenten replied lightly.
"Yeah, well…" Chemo sighed. "The budget cut-backs means everyone in the office has to do more work. Not many people mind it too much, though. Naruto is a very generous Hokage. I doubt he has a lot left in his own personal fund. He's a good man."
"Yes, he is. He is definitely worthy of his title," I agreed full-heatedly with Chemo—everyone did.
"So, is anyone here single?" Chemo asked, surveying the people lined up at the edges of the dance floor. Sasuke and Hinata had started their first dance as husband-and-wife.
"Shino," Tenten offered.
"Shino…" Chemo nodded, and then faltered. "Wait, haha, very funny. I'll just have to, uh, examine my options." With a small wave, he dismissed himself and headed for the small gaggle of girls circling the bridesmaids.
Tenten and I began watching the two of them circle on the dance floor, to some romantic song that neither Tenten nor I would know the name of—Hinata picked it, I'm sure. I caught a false of black on Sasuke's neck—his what used to be a curse seal, but now was a brand of guilt.
"Sasuke, Hinata is beside herself with…" I paused, looking for the right word. "Well, I think it's anger. She keeps telling me it's not, but she's snapping at everyone."
"Yeah, it's anger," Sasuke agreed with a sigh. "She really wanted me to have the plastic surgery to remove the tattoo."
"You must be tired of everyone pestering you," I nodded. "But I don't think anyone really understands your point-of-view on the matter."
"Neji, you know that, as Hanabi is going to be the Hyuuga leader, there is a good chance that the old tradition of the curse seal on the Branch family members has a good possibility of being revoked, right?"
"Only because she, herself, was so close to getting the seal…"
"Yes, well, that doesn't change the fact she'll probably get rid of the curse seal. If it happens… Would you remove your seal?"
My hand automatically flew up to my forehead,
though it only touched the cold metal of my headband. Get rid of my
seal? That'd be… I'd love the curse part of the seal gone, but
the actual seal? I wouldn't be able to—not only had it been a
part of my life for so long, but…
"Would you get rid of it if I answered, 'Hell yes?'" I responded jokingly.
"Nice try. I'd ignore it."
"Well, I see your point. My seal symbolizes everything I had to go through to get… here, and yours does the same thing, huh?"
"Yeah. That's pretty much it."
"So, how long do you think it'll be before they have children?"
"Not long," I chuckled, noting the way that Sasuke held Hinata in his gaze constantly.
They finished their dance, and while Hinata was dancing with my uncle, Sasuke made his way over to me. I think he would have gone to Naruto, but at this point, he was slightly out of it.
"Hey," he greeted.
"Hello, Mr. Hyuuga," I greeted, half-welcoming him into the family.
"You took her last name?" Tenten asked incredulously.
"Yeah. It was a requirement."
"Don't you feel bad? I mean, now there are no more Uchihas running around. Your clan is… Well, gone," Tenten obviously felt awkward for bringing that subject up.
"Actually… I don't really care. The only reason I ever defended the name Uchiha was because of my parents, and they've been… avenged, so I have no worries. I don't think I ever really gained true respect for my clan."
"That's pretty sad," I said, almost in shock due to the lack of pride he had for his lineage.
"Yeah, it is sad. But it's the truth," Sasuke shrugged. I guess he didn't really care after all—or, at the very least, he cared more for my cousin than for a name.
"Have you talked about children yet?" Tenten asked, quickly changing the subject.
"Oh, god. Hinata wants a big family. She says she wants seven," Sasuke looked mortified.
"Seven? Oh, trust me, after the first one, she'll change her mind. I used to want five. I want maybe two, now," Tenten scoffed lightly, before nuzzling Tetsuo lightly. "And it's all your fault, yes it is, little Tetsuo," she cooed at him, and since he didn't know any better, he laughed.
"How many did you want?" I asked.
"Really? Just one? Most people want more than that, unless they're terrified of the birthing process."
"Yeah, well… I think I'd screw up." He turned to the side, just as Hinata finished the dance with her father. She was beaming—Sakura and herself were chatting, and she looked radiant. Sasuke grinned softly, as if thinking of a private joke, and then added, "On second thought, I want as many as possible. As long as they all look like her."