"All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion and desire." -Aristotle
Tenten grasped the thick blue silk of her new forehead protector with both hands and stared into her hazy reflection, broken up by the engraved Konoha mark. A wide grin broke her face as she leaned against the brick wall of the Academy and watched her classmates milling excitedly in the courtyard, their yells of triumph almost drowning out their parents' praise. She briefly contemplated sitting on the single swing for a better vantage point, but disregarded it to keep from displaying the awkward fact that she was there alone. Her long brown hair in two braided buns atop her head, she swiftly tied her forehead protector around her head and let her bangs spill down to frame its sides, displaying her achievement to any who glanced her way.
Eventually, she pushed herself off the wall and started to head into town, laying a hand on her pocket to access just how much money she'd saved. Maybe she'd treat herself to– She stopped as the sight of a young man, presumably a member of her graduating class from his age and brand-new forehead protector, making his way through the crowd alone with his hands in his pockets and his eyes closed in frustration. Impulse striking her, she wove around a tight knot of students and planted herself in his path, hands on her hips. "Congratulations on your graduation!" she announced loudly.
Stopping short, his eyes flew open to reveal orbs of a distinctive lavender-white. Suspicion crossed his face as his eyes flicked to her forehead protector, then measured her body and ultimately returned to her face, all without saying a word.
"Hyuuga... Neji-kun, right?" Tilting her head in puzzlement at his small nod, Tenten frowned and looked around. "No one came to see you graduate either, huh?"
His eyes narrowed. "Graduation from the Academy is no big deal," he said shortly. "There would be no reason for anyone to come."
"Well excuse me," she huffed, crossing her arms and turning on her heel. "Sorry to bother you about something so insignificant. I forgot you geniuses don't care for much of anything."
Neji watched her stomp away, admiring the grace hidden behind the mask of anger. She wasn't truly angry, he could tell– disappointed, but not angry. With a sigh, he went to rub his forehead, but his fingers collided with the cold metal of his new forehead protector. "No one came to see you graduate either, huh?" her voice rang in his mind as clear as if she had been standing right beside him instead of stalking away on the road into the main shopping district. That girl, that– what was her name? He didn't think he'd ever had her in any of his classes before, but that didn't mean much; he didn't pay much attention in class. Why bother when he already knew everything?
Perhaps it was that same boredom that guided his steps after her. Perhaps it was the irritation of someone knowing his name when he didn't know her. Perhaps he wanted to know why she'd bothered to notice that he was alone, too. Perhaps it was fate. For all he knew, these steps he was taking at this very second had already been preordained, and he was just following someone else's script. For whatever reason, he followed her into town, watching her bounce from shop to shop– never buying anything, just pausing long enough to insure that everyone took notice of her before she disappeared back into the bustle of shoppers. Her behavior confused him until he tapped a thumb against his forehead protector and smirked to himself. Of course– she wanted people to see that she'd graduated, whether she was conscious of it or not.
As her head jerked around, Neji busied himself by peering into a display case, watching her reflection in the glass as she turned and headed toward the man who'd addressed her. Tenten. So that was her name. Almost as if drawn against his will, he ventured closer until he was staring at the stall directly behind her, shamelessly eavesdropping.
"Tenten-chan," the slightly overweight, older man addressed her familiarly as the pace of her footsteps increased until she stood before him. "How are you? I haven't seen you for a while!"
Neji risked a glance over his shoulder to catch her grin as she put her hands on her hips and leaned toward the older man, announcing loudly, "I was getting ready for graduation from the Academy, so I promised myself I wouldn't come back until I was a full-fledged ninja!"
Snorting through his nose, Neji heard the man respond to her leading statement with the question he knew he would ask. "And? You did it?"
"Of course!" The pride in her voice was unmistakable, even as she tried to hide it. "It's no big deal really."
Tuning out the rest of their conversation, Neji frowned. This false modesty didn't suit her. Her body language was screaming how she wanted to proclaim to the entire village that she'd graduated, and he wanted to know why. If only he'd managed to catch her last name, too, then he might be able to reconcile her face with information. Was she homeless, too? Though not homeless in the strictest sense of the word– after all, he had a place to sleep and food to eat– the lack of any kind of supporting family was unfortunately common for his generation. Many, many shinobi had been killed when the Kyuubi attacked the village, and many more had perished in the destruction and unrest following. For whatever reason, he felt a strange kinship to this girl, Tenten, who he'd met just an hour ago.
An ungentle tug on his bound hair brought him from his musings and spun him around, his gaze sharpening into a glare. Only years of shinobi training kept the guilty expression from crossing his face as Tenten released his long hair and stood before him, arms crossed and foot impatiently tapping the ground. A single stick of dango in one hand, she deliberately took a bite and stared at him. "You wouldn't happen to be following me, would you, Hyuuga-kun?"
"..." Unable to answer honestly, he paused for the barest of seconds before muttering quickly, "Congratulations on your graduation, Tenten."
She blinked and pulled the bare stick from her mouth, pink lips parting in surprise. "Um. Thank you?" Suspicion entered her voice, and Neji had the eerie feeling that their earlier roles had been reversed. "But how do you know my name? I only know of you because you're a genius, we've never met before."
Unintentionally starting like a kid caught in a lie, he looked away from her penetrating stare. "I... heard that guy say your name," he admitted, glaring at the old dango seller as if it were somehow his fault.
"So you were following me." The way she gripped the stick was similar to the way one grasped a senbon needle, he noticed uncomfortably from the corner of his eye. But all of a sudden she relaxed and offered him a smile. "You could have just asked, you know."
"Ah. Then what's your name?"
"Your full name."
Fiddling with the dango stick between her fingers, it was her turn to avoid his eyes. "That is my full name, Hyuuga-kun," she said finally, glaring as if to dare him to comment.
He gritted his teeth at the sound of his family name, then smirked and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Well then, Tenten, since all I can do is refer to you by your given name, by all rights you should call me Neji."
"That's kind of rude. Don't I even merit a 'san,' Neji?" His name slipped from between her lips as if she'd been using it comfortably for years.
"I see I've lost the 'kun,'" he pointed out drily.
"It's only fair." Her retort caught him off guard, and he stared harder at this girl. None before had possessed the temerity to argue with him just by the sight of his eyes, let alone knowing that he was a member of the most prestigious clan in all of Konohagakure.
"Hmph." The tiniest of smiles crossed his face, and he jammed his hands in his pockets. "I'm going to get something to eat. You're welcome to accompany me."
Her eyebrows rose, and she grinned. "What, like a date?"
Unflustered, he just rolled his eyes and started to walk away. "As long as I don't have to pay for your meal."