This chapter was saved and beta-ed by mionethekneazle. Thank you for bothering to read and edit this...thing.
Disclaimer: I can't think of anything witty and original to say so I'm going to go for the classic. Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.
The night was dark and the trees were quiet. No crickets could be heard, no drop splattered; yet the moon rose to its entire being, its rays raining down upon those in the world. All was peaceful. The hum, the scent and feel of war which used to threaten people's senses and was the only thing plaguing their thoughts, their will and their dreams at night; it was gone. The war was gone. War. The word seemed so easy to say, yet hard on the eye. War was what caused mortals their untimely deaths and immortals their names.
The war had ended over three years ago. And Hyuuga Neji was one of its glorified heroes. Along with most of the Rookie Nine. They were all quite gifted, even he had to admit that.
And their gifts were used--constantly. It had been less than a week since his last mission. By the gods, it was only three days ago. And here was a little chuunin, informing him that the Hokage was calling for him. Again. In the middle of the night, no less!
He knocked on the office door, requesting permission to enter.
"Come in," he heard her beckon in an almost drawling voice. It seems that the Hokage had been drinking.
Neji stepped into the room. As he did, he could see Tsunade sobering up a bit, "Oh, good. You're here. Quickly, then."
She motioned for him to sit down, and he did. Or would've, if someone hadn't crashed into him first.
"Sorry," she apologized sheepishly. "I didn't notice you there."
He stared at her, noting the familiar face.
"Ino-san!" A man quickly rushed inside to help her up. Inquiring in panic, as would a doting mother upon her three-year-old after tripping, "Are you alright? Are you hurt in any way?"
After the girl assured him that she was fine, the man quickly turned to glare at him. "I swear if Yamanaka-san got hurt--"
"Hateshi-kun." She said, her voice firm and final. With that, the threat remained empty.
Yamanaka Ino? Ah yes, the former head of AID.
Tsunade then cleared her throat, announcing and implying that they were in her presence taking up her valuable time.
"Sorry," the girl said to Tsunade--clearly not, "I'm a bit clouded right now, just coming back from a mission this afternoon."
Apparently, Neji wasn't the only one being deprived of a well-deserved break.
"Anyway," the Hokage cleared her throat once again, "I will be sending you three to our camp in Namigakure."
Tsunade's fingers trailed over the wood grain on her desk, as she looked at Neji, "Yamanaka Ino will handle reconnaissance and will serve as your back up."
His brows furrowed in slight confusion. She's for recon? Now he was definitely curious. Arrogance aside, what ability could she possibly have that could possibly beat his Byakugan in reconnaissance?
After everything was done and over with, Tsunade slumped back to her seat, "Is that clear?"
He gave a curt nod. Even when she was drunk, Neji trusted the Hokage's decision.
The two beside him gave their approvals as well, most probably wanting to go home as early as possible.
"Good. You leave at dawn," she yawned, placing her feet on top of her desk, "You three are dismissed. Do you need Shizune to lead you out?"
Neji shook his head. "Thank you, but I think I will manage."
"Same here," the Hokage laughed. "I have someone to do that already."
When Tsunade replied with a short laugh, Neji had a feeling that there was a joke he didn't get. Not that it would've made a difference in his reaction or lack thereof.
The way back was as silent as the night was a few hours ago. None of them spoke a word, until of course, right now. Even after ten years, Yamanaka was never one to keep the sanctity of silence.
"You know," Yamanaka trailed off, not turning her head. "We haven't introduced ourselves, have we?"
"Ah, true," he replied. Personally, Neji didn't like ceremonies like this nor did he deem it necessary. They fought together during the war, after all. Still, courtesy is necessary even among peers.
"This man beside me is Tooru Hateshi," The man gave him a look, polite yet hostile. He obviously knew how to nurse a grudge--even if the direction was a little off.
"I'm Yamanaka Ino," she held out her hand.
This was normal. Holding out one's hand is a very common form of greeting. Respectful, yet casual. If only she wasn't directing it at a lamp post.
"Hyuuga Neji." Nonetheless, he took it and shook her hand. "Looking forward to working with you, Yamanaka-san."
She held her breath and quickly pulled back her hand in surprise. "Hyuuga Neji?"
"Yes?" His left eyebrow rose.
"Oh my God, it's been a while!" She grinned at him. "I heard you've been doing well."
He said nothing. Neji merely stared at her doing--something. It was as if her hand was searching or trying to reach for something.
Suddenly, he felt his arm being led to Yamanaka's hands. He gave Tooru an inquiring look.
"Here, Ino-san." Was the only response he received.
"Ah, there you are," she smiled once again, her hands trailing over his. When she reached his shoulder, she proceeded to pat him. Man, this girl was strong. "You've gotten taller, haven't you?"
Already getting slightly uncomfortable, he pulled back his arm and slowly moved to the side. "Yamanaka-san?"
"Heh," She grunted. "This is embarrassing. When the old hag told me I was going to work with a reputable jounin, I didn't know that it was going to be you. Not that you're not a well known nin yourself but, you know."
Again, Yamanaka wasn't looking at anyone in particular. She looked as if she was talking to someone invisible or to a wall. Any man with a ittle common sense would be able to figure out that she was talking to him, but why she kept refusing to face him was beyond his comprehension.
She couldn't possibly be. But that would explain the crashing into him and her conversations with inanimate objects.
She was looking at the spot he was earlier. Neji's stare hardened, daring her to look at him. She didn't. He waved his hand in front of her face. She didn't even blink.
Neji turned to Tooru, as if to ask for confirmation. Realization dawned.
Yamanaka Ino was blind.
1 ANBU Intelligence Division--AID
Author's Note: Confession time. I don't know shit about Naruto. I've only seen one episode for like, ever. At my friend's continuous coaxing, I had been forced to read an Ino/Neji fic. It's "Coming to Terms" by Amwong88. It's really amazing. I mean, I fell in love with the story/characters/everything. And I'm a stranger to the fandom.
Well, I know Ino a liiittle bit because the one episode I watched ever was the one about her match with the girl with pink hair. That episode gave quite a flashback. Well, that pretty much covers my first-hand Naruto knowledge. Everything else, I got from the wikipedia/narutopedia. And from reading other Neji/Ino fanfics--which are surprisingly few.
So butcher me now. All ye who take pleasure in mocking n0obs like me.