Disclaimer: Naruto series and characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto. The plot, though, is mine.
That Face in my Dreams
Chapter One: Vanishing Into the Rain
This is probably my favourite time of day. The clock just ticks the hours away as I sit outside in the courtyard.
Meditating with my uncle ended three hours ago, but I don't want to go back inside yet. The sun just started setting, and everything is calm. Exactly as I like it.
Hinata is gone with Naruto, thank goodness. The girl's finally just got the guts to ask the oaf out. I'm rather happy she's not around. Truth is, I don't quite feel safe when she's in the house un-supervised. She'd probably invite a thief right into the house and serve him tea! She's much too shy and kind.
Well, now she's gone and the house is mine. I can look up at the sky without having my name called every few minutes by Hinata's little sister, my uncle or anybody else. I have time. Time to breath. Time to relax. Time to think...
Time to be bored.
That happens to me alot. I think that the time is perfect to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, when suddenly boredom strikes. Not to worry though. When I get bored, I just dream.
Dream... of her.
I slap my own forehead. This is the third time this week! Why can't I get her out of my head? "Cursed puberty!" I yell out loud.I sit up and let my hair fall in my face. I really should get it cut... but my hair always lets me cover my face when I feel like hiding. Hiding that stupid smile I have everytime I think of... well... her.
Oh great, this is becoming a habit. I've got to get a grip. I don't want to become a drooling idiot who's brain melts at the thought of a female. Then again... she doesn't seem like those other girls that go around in skimpy clothes like Yamanaka Ino does. Those are the type that seem to get stared at the most. She's... different... special...
"Gaah! Curse it all!" I scream, letting myself fall back down and roll to the side.
I hear the chime of the grandfather clock in the parlour. That normally means the clock struck seven. Seven... seven... why does that number seem so important right now?
"Shoot!" I bolt forwards and run into the house. "I'm supposed to meet Lee and Tenten at the training grounds at seven!"
I quickly grabbed my weapons bag and run out the door, sliding it shut before I go. Rushing through the streets of Konoha, I dodge the merchants and villagers as best as I can. A road block right ahead. Darn. I leap onto the rooftops of the stores and houses to try to buy time. I pass over alleys and scare away some birds as I jump from roof to roof. I see an orange blurr from the corner of my eye and stop. Naruto is beside Hinata, walking through the crowds. That's alright, but he's holding her hand, and that gets me ticked.
Bah, I'll scare and threaten him to take good care of her later, right now I'm running late.
I arrive at training ground number eight at five past seven. Lee finds it most "unyouthful of a young person" such as myself to arrive so late. Five minutes! Just five minutes and he gives me a tenminute lecture on punctiality. It's kind of funny though, how he tries to look serious. His huge eyebrows and buggy eyes make him look like a character from a child's cartoon. I hadn't realized I thought that outloud until Lee went slightly pink.
Tenten is five or six yards away, crippled over, laughing so hard she'll be exhausted before training even starts.
I try hard to keep myself looking indifferent, but I can't help the slight smirk that tugs at my lip. I don't know which is funnier, Lee's embarrassment or Tenten's laughing fit. I just turn away and hide my face in my long hair.
We begin actual training fifteen minutes later. We fight in the evening to train our eyes and instinct, or so says Guy-sensei. With the Byakugan, I can see everything and instinct isn't something necessary, but I have to abide by it for Lee and Tenten's sake. Although, I think it's practical just because the sun irritates my eyes.
We organize our training this way: Lee and Tenten fight first and the winner gets to confront me. After that, the loser of the first fight fights me and we take a break, then start again. We give eachother tips and tricks to improve our styles.
I must say that I most enjoy fighting Tenten. Sure, I go easy on her, but she doesn't shout out stuff such as "the power of youthfulness!" or "my fist of the springtime of youth!". Quite frankly, Lee can get very annoying. Granted, he's talented, but he still can't beat me.
Sometimes I wonder what he would have become if he hadn't have had the operation to fix up his spinal cord. I could see him as a bakery salesman crying out "These pastries are made with the essence of youth!" or "This pie is made from the fruits of justice!".
Tenten is also coming to be a pretty good kunoichi. Her weapons are always well shot and her techniques are becoming more and more accurate and swift.
After a good evening of sparring, we all rest and gaze up at the stars.
"Yosh! I feel pumped tonight! I'm going to run 500 laps around Konoha before going home!" cried out Lee as he leapt up and ran towards the village. I shake my head and wonder if he'll even manage.
Tenten sighed and sat up. "That guy is really hopeless, isn't he?" she asks.
I shrug. "It's his way of feeling like he's getting somewhere."
Tenten nods and brings her knees up to her chin. She stares down at me. I don't particularly want to look her in the eyes since she might feel like she's annoying me and say sorry again. That's kind of sad about Tenten though. She may look all tomboy and strong, but she's just a shy girl when she's not around weapons or in a fight.
I'll never tell her, but I find it cute.
After chatting about something involving the Tokido championships in Wave country, Tenten decides it's time to go home. I agree. If I try to estimate the time according to the moon, I'll say it's past midnight. Tenten turns to leave, but then I realize something.
"There's been a group of muggers going around town, I'll walk you home." I offered, trying to sound as indifferent as possible.
"That's alright, I can handle them if they attack me..." she explained. Oops. Forgot about that.
"Yeah... but... but you never know." I stammered, feeling the heat rushing to my face.
Tenten stared for a minute, but smiled. "Hyuuga Neji, if I didn't know you better, I'd think you want to walk me home." she giggles.
"But you do know me better, right?" I pointed out, suppressing the urge to jump off the nearest cliff. She paused and thought about this for a moment.
"Yeah, I suppose I do." she laughed.
Tenten leads the way and I try my best to memorize the path that leads to her house. Now that I think about it, I realize I never even knew where her house was. She never actually talks about her family either. We arrive at the corner of a long road near the center of the village. There are alot of apartment buildings. I never thought Tenten was the kind to live in an apartment. She stops and looks at me with a grateful smile on her face.
"You can just leave me here, Neji. Thanks a bunch!" she says softly.
"Is this your home?" I inquire, pointing at the apartment building to my left.
"Yeah, that's it." she answers, facing the said building.
"Oh... well, see you tomorrow." I say awkwardly.
She nods and smiles. "Yeah, see ya tomorrow!"
I watch her walk on the path that leads her to the front door. She turned back and waved. I waved back, slightly less enthousiastically. I sighed as soon as she passed the door. The walk home would be long and lonely.
I dreamed of her again last night. Well, I don't really know who she is. Truth is, all I really see in my dreams is a blurry face. That girl... she seems so different, yet familiar. When I do dream of her, I see her in the streets, walking among the crowds and smiling as people pass her by. She occasionally stops by a young child and has pleasant conversations. She then ruffles the young one's hair and walks off, laughing in a clear, light, almost refreshing voice.
Once or twice I actually came very close to figuring out who she was by racking my memories, but as soon as the idea came, it left.
On mornings like these, I like to lie in bed and try to discover the girl's identity while my conscience screams at me to quit it and focus on the upcoming day. After an hour or so, I decide to obey that noisy conscience and finally get up. Lazing around in bed isn't too bad, especially when you actually wake up at the crack of dawn. I don't sleep much...
I walk into the kitchen and Hinata's already there, attempting to cook something. Once in a while she gets it right and we eat something nice. But mostly, we just end up heating up some instant breakfast thing like oatmeal.
Hinata is a so-so chef and her cooking depends on her nervousness. It's rather simple to interpret; when Naruto's on her mind, the breakfast is burnt to a crisp. When she doesn't feel sure of herself, the food is edible, but tasteless. When she feels calm and determined (rarely so), the breakfast is delicious.
By the time she notices I'm there, I'm already seated at the table and staring out the window.
"D-did you sleep well, N-Neji nii-san?" she asked in her unsteady, timid voice.
Breakfast would be tasteless.
Hinata's younger sister, Hanabi, lost her last practice kunai the other day. I volunteered to go fetch some more at the market to get out of the house for a while.
You have no idea how boring it can be on Thursdays. With no planned taijutsu, ninjutsu or genjutsu training in the morning, all that's left is sulking in a corner or listening to one of uncle's lengthy stories about the wars. I prefer sulking, but even that gets boring over time.
I spot the merchant selling shinobi weaponry. Konoha being a ninja village, his stocks are huge and he can afford to sell things at a reasonable price, unlike other shops around the continent that sell them more as souvenirs than actual fighting weapons. I choose a couple of the finest, most expensive ones for Hanabi (that's the benefit of having an important, rich family).
Uncle allowed me to purchase a couple for myself, so I take a handful of razor sharp shuriken and a decorative kunai. It was made of good quality steel and had engravings on it's four faces. The metal was so polished I could see my pale eyes in the reflection. I particularly like one of the engraved phrases that read "The mind's eye is the path to our desires".
As I read the other inscriptions on the other three faces, a pair of brown eyes peer into mine, less than 4 inches away. I keep my cool, but I can't help but jump ever so slightly.
"Good morning, Tenten." I say as plainly as I can.
She smiles at me. "Good morning Neji-kun!" she greets happily. "I just stopped by Lee's place and found him tied to his bed. Apparently, he really did run 500 laps around Konoha, but didn't bring a sweater or a jacket so he's both burnt out and sick with a cold. Gai-sensei had to strap him to the bed because he didn't want to miss training." she explained, half amused and half annoyed.
I felt the hsmile from the corner of my mouth. It wasn't the first time things like that happen to Lee, but I just can't help thinking it's funny. He's too motivated for his own good. "Then I suppose it'll just be you and me training tonight." I confirmed, replacing my smile by an indifferent expression.
"Yup!" she answers cheerfully. Her glance drifts off to the kunai I'm holding. "Ooh, that's so nice! It's so shiny it looks like silver!" She took it out of my hands and read one of the sentences. "Huh? What's this? Where one's treasure lies, so does his heart? Neat." She looks at her watch and hands me back the kunai carefully. "I've got to hurry, see you later!" she calls out, weaving in and out of the crowds, hastily getting to wherever she needs to go.
I shrug. That girl's always rushing around. Where to though, I never bother to ask. I keep watching her go on, until she comes across a little boy.
He's bawling his eyes out and calling for his parents. Tenten crouches down beside him and asks him something. She takes his hand and guides him through the herds of people. Apparently, his mother was looking for her son as well. Once Tenten returned the boy to his family, she ruffles his hair and says her goodbyes, leaving with a smile on her face.
Just like the girl in my dreams...
Oh great, I'm going mad.
That evening was rather dreary. An indecisive rainfall kept us from training for more than ten minutes. I suppose it's alright though. Tenten and I sat under a pine tree for cover. Our conversations revolved around Lee's rather odd "my rules" theory. I wasn't really listening though, since I was listening to the silent prickling sound of the rain hitting the ground.
"... though he says Guy-sensei taught him those rules, I still can't help but think that even Guy wouldn't push himself that far..." she continued.
Suddenly, a random question came to me and I blurted it out in the middle of her sentence. "What do you do?"
Tenten stopped and lifted a skeptical eyebrow. "What do I do? What are you talking about?" she asked, perplexed.
"Right..." I mustn't have made much sense. "... what I meant to ask was where do you go when you claim to have to hurry." Tenten's facial expression changed dramatically. Her gaze dropped to her feet and she wiggled her toes nervously. She seemed... tired?
Oh crap... another Hinata.
"I... I have lots of things to do back at home... I just..." she glanced at her watch, then stared at it a little longer, eyes widening. "Oh fudge! I've really got to go Neji." she said hurriedly. Jumping up and running into the rain, she vanishes into the fog, leaving me alone, under the tree, blinking like a dumbstruck idiot. Did I say something wrong? Why did she suddenly run off?
Shikamaru's right, women are troublesome.