Chapter 3: Blue as the Sky

At the end of training, Sayuri felt sore but she was sure she'd learned something. She just had no idea what it was.

"Sayuri!"

She looked back to see Lee trying to catch up with her. "Hey, Lee. What's up? Is something wrong?"

"Sayuri-chan, would you allow me to walk you home today?"

She saw that Neji was following close behind for some reason. "Um... I-I'm actually really flattered, Lee, but no, thanks. Sorry. See you tomorrow, okay? And please don't be sad. Don't take it personally, please. I don't like seeing my friends sad."

"Oh... alright. Ja ne, Sayuri-chan."

"Bye, Lee."

Neji came up beside her. "Sayuri, could... I walk you home?"

"Did you not hear what I just said to Lee? I don't need anyone to walk me home, okay? I'll see you tomorrow."

"Fine, I won't walk you home. I'll just walk with you for a few minutes."

She sighed. "I'm not getting rid of you as easily as I got rid of Lee, am I, Neji?"

"Iie."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine. But I'll tell you this, you better have scatted off by the time we get to my house. My uncle hates visitors. Sometimes I think he even hates family. Besides hating me, I mean."

"I'll comply to that. I understand. So... how was your first day training with us?"

"It was... alright, I suppose. Guy Sensei's tough, isn't he?"

"Yes, he is. Thankfully, only Lee is really trained hard. The rest of us are just, like... there."

Sayuri giggled. "You're funny, Neji."

"Thank you." Neji put his hands in his pockets and looked at the sky. "Hey, check it out. The sun's going down already."

"Really?"

"Yeah. First day of training always goes to, like, six. That's the time now. It's... sort of... picturesque."

"You know, I've always seen the sunrise, but I've never seen the sunset. I'm always inside when the sun sets, and my room only has one window and Oji-san usually makes me cover it with a drape, and--"

Neji stopped her by putting a hand on her chin and yanking her face up to look at the sky. It was cold out, so Sayuri's gasp came out in a little cloud. "Wow," she whispered. "It really is beautiful."

"That's what I was trying to tell you." She blushed. "U-Um, sorry. I didn't..." "It's okay. I'm used to people not listening to me."

"Really? I wouldn't think that'd be a problem for you. You seem so... you know... you have that aura around you that just screams, 'Shut up and listen to me or you die'."

He chuckled. "Well, yes, I suppose you could describe me that way. However, many people don't like what I talk about. You see, I believe in destiny, and sometimes I just shoot off into these long speeches. People either walk away or fall asleep. And Lee just yells in my ear to cut it out."

Sayuri shrugged. "Destiny's okay, I guess." She looked down at her feet as they continued walking. "People can't avoid it forever. It eventually catches up with you."

Neji looked surprised at her words. "Really? You think so, too?"

"Yeah. Really, what's the point? If we're destined to a certain way of life, there's no use trying to fight it. I mean, what exactly are you supposed to do to fight it? Honestly, you screw destiny, heck, it's gonna screw you back ten times worse and then some."

Neji carefully reached over to her. Sayuri looked at him, not knowing what he was going to do. But he simply brushed some hair behind her ear, and then looked down, as if he were shy. "You... are a very interesting person to talk to, Sayuri Suzuki."

She blinked, and her face felt hot again. "Um... y-you think so, Neji?"

"Yes. We... believe in all the same things."

"I... guess." She reached over to him and put back some of his hair. "Hey... Neji?"

"Yes?" "Do you believe..." She looked at the sky. "In reincarnation? That we've... been on Earth before, and that we were someone different before this?"

"No." He kicked at a stone. "That's absolute garbage. I mean, if we were, how come we don't retain any sort of memories of our past lives? Why don't we-- you know, remember being a pharaoh in Egypt in 2000 B.C., or a soldier in America during the Civil War? If we've lived before, then it should have an impact on who we are now. We should have an inclination towards power or leadership if we were a king or queen, or an inclination towards battle if we were a soldier. To answer your question, Sayuri, no, I don't believe in reincarnation, past lives, or the fact that regressive hypnosis can make you relive a past life. It just doesn't make sense to me."

She kicked the same stone he'd been kicking. "I believe in it."

"Why?"

"Well, because... it's part fantasy and part my thoughts. On the fantasy end, it would be so fascinating if we'd lived before, if-- if there was a possibility that we were someone else and led an exciting life. On the end of my thoughts, if you really do think about it... things start adding up. There's something called cell memory, which is the theory-- or rather fact, I believe-- that a person's cells remember everything that's happened in that soul, from one body to the next. See, there are medical reports that make no sense-- pains in a place where it doesn't make sense, unexplained fears of turning a certain age, even freaky things like getting hit in the head and not being able to talk. And when a person is put under regressive hypnosis, they remember their past lives, and it turns out that the problem was in a past life or usually several past lives. After that, they don't have the problem anymore. That's why I believe in reincarnation. The soul is transferred from body to body until it decides it doesn't want to live another life on Earth."

Neji suddenly stopped in the middle of the road, and he laughed a little bit.

"What?" Sayuri looked back. "What's so funny, Neji?"

"Di-Did we just... just have like a mini-debate or something on reincarnation?"

She giggled. "Yeah... yeah, I guess we did, Neji."

"Like I said..." He looked over at her as they began to walk again. "You're a very interesting person to talk to. You gave an impressive argument there."

She smiled. "Thank you, Neji. So are you, and you did, too. Mine was better, though. You didn't have many facts." She giggled again. "It would've been more convincing if you'd had more to back it up, you know?" She blushed. "Not that I'm trying to criticize you or anything..."

"Isn't this your stop?"

"Huh?"

"I said, isn't this the Suzuki compound?"

She looked up. "Oh. Yeah."

For a moment they just stood there on the doorstep, looking at each other and rocking back and forth on their heels. "Well..." Neji looked away. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Sayuri."

She stuck out her hand, and he reluctantly shook it. "You don't have to be afraid of me, you know, Neji," she told him. "It's not like I'm carrying the plague or anything."

"I'm not afraid of anything," he said, then mumbled something she didn't quite catch.

"What was that, Neji?"

"I said, it's just not often that I find myself around someone like you."

"Someone... like me?"

"Someone... smart and nice and... um... attractive, I guess is what I'm saying."

She blushed again. "Thanks, Neji."

"See you tomorrow, Sayuri."

"Ja ne, Neji."

He walked off somewhere, and Sayuri went inside. Oji-san was in the living room waiting, by the window. Oh, no, not good... he'd seen her with Neji. It had probably created the wrong picture. "O-Oji-san?" she said quietly.

"Who was that boy, Sayuri?" he asked in a calm voice.

She swallowed. "Um, he's one of my new teammates."

"And what's his name?"

"Neji Hyuga. He's just sort of kind and he talks like a college kid and he's really--"

All of a sudden Oji-san grabbed her arms, his nails digging into them. She knew there would be little red marks on her arms shaped like fingernails. That may be hard to explain to Guy Sensei tomorrow. His electric blue eyes stabbed a hole in hers. "You will not let him walk you home again. Do I make myself clear?"

Sayuri blinked a few times. "B-But... I don't u-understand, Oji-san. Why do you want me to stay away from him?"

"It's simple, Sayuri. Hyugas are farther up in the book than we are. You could never have a chance with one of them-- not as a friend, not as a lover, not as anything more. You're barely a teammate to him. You wouldn't be any different if you belonged to a different clan, either. And secondly, the Hyugas are not to be trusted. Neither the main branch nor the lesser branch is anything but lying, perverted infidels. Not that I care what happens to you, but if you get involved with this boy, the Suzukis' reputation goes down the drain." He dug his nails in even harder. "I do not want to see him walking you home again."

Sayuri breathed hard. There was no point in telling him that he hadn't been walking her home and they'd just been talking. "U-Um, okay."

"Good." He threw her aside, and she hit the wall. "Now go up to your room and do your homework. Don't come out till I call you for dinner."

Sayuri nodded, clutching her bag. "Yes, sir." She ran up to her room, bolted the door, and sat at her desk. She wrote in her journal.

September 5- Chunin Exams, Day 1

Today I met my new team: Tenten, Rock Lee, and Neji Hyuga, my sensei being Might Guy. I also met my other new friend, Kabuto Yakushi.

Neji walked with me home for a little while, after I turned Lee down. I didn't want anyone finding out about my family, and Lee would be the type to ask a million questions about it; about anything, really. But Neji just shook my hand and left when we reached the house. I like Neji very much as a friend, but how am I supposed to tell him that I'm not allowed to talk to him while we're walking to my house after training? It would break his heart; we really bonded today. I don't want to hurt him... but what am I supposed to do when Oji-san forbids it? ... I'll figure something out. Eventually.

-Sayuri Suzuki

P.S. Neji doesn't know I'm from the Suzuki cadet branch yet. He thinks the Suzuki clan only has one branch, because that's what I told him. I'll have to tell him sooner or later. But, the weird thing is... I don't want to. I want it to stay just like this. Neji and I getting along... talking to each other without insults... walking until I have to come home... just staring at each other, not needing words. And if I tell him I'm a member of the Suzuki clan cadet branch... all of that will go away. He won't want to talk to me anymore. He won't want me to stay so he's not lonely, and he won't want to smile at me. He won't want to walk with me. He won't want anything to do with me; I think he's from the Hyuga main branch, and main branches hate cadets. And I'm just not ready for all of that to go away. I've only just met him, but...

Now I feel like I've known him my whole life.

I don't know what to do. All I know is that...

I want Neji to be my friend forever.

Notes:

Japanese Translations

Ja ne = see you later

Iie = no

Wonderful, no? Also I recently found out that Neji's name means "screw". As in a spiral. As in the Heavenly Spin. *waits for peeps to stop laughing their butts off* OK, OK, it's funny. I know! I was sitting here looking for Naruto characters' name meanings, and it said "Neji - screw" and was rofl-ing. And a quote from Might Guy that made me fall out of my chair laughing: "Run, run into the sunset and suffer. But don't mess up your hair!"

Ja ne!

~A'isha