Velvet Lined Prison: Chapter one

Disclaimer: I don't own anything except for this plot.

Warning: Not sure what to put here really. Oh well.


Passive onlookers watched as two men lowered the coffin steadily into the surprisingly shallow hole. It was a beautiful, yet simple coffin made of dark wood with elegant carvings along the rim of the lid. What had made the people who surrounded the coffin shake their heads in shame was the sloppy and hasty job the workmen had done with digging the hole. It was disgraceful, really. It looked more like where the peasants were buried and not the noblemen and royalty.

The two large men grunted as they let go of the coffin, the case dropping an inch to rest on the wet dirt. Rubbing their hands, they walked away from the ceremony, intent on heading back to their camps from which they were hired for the time being. For the second time that night, the sky opened and rain quickly descended. In mere minutes, the mourners were almost thoroughly soaked and water was beginning to fill up the hole in the ground.

There were only about twenty people attending the sudden funeral, eight or so women and the rest of them men. No words were said as they lined up to place flowers on the coffin, choosing to keep their last words to the fallen boy between themselves and the corpse. Women hid their tears behind thin black veils, and men set their face in stone. A rose, a tulip, a rose, a rose.

Unbeknownst to them, while they were whispering to the coffin, they were being watched by three hooded figures standing just outside the cemetery's cast-iron gate. Donned in too large black cloaks with hoods drooping below their eyes, the fabric shielded the majority of their face to anyone who was looking. Not that anyone was. Everyone was focused on the coffin, not on three strangers watching a funeral. The one on the left was the tallest, and by the way they stood and the width of the shoulders, you could tell it was a man. The figure on the right was slightly shorter, and was most definitely female. The person in the middle though, you could not tell.

Another rose. White this time.

They stood and they watched. They didn't move and they didn't speak. They merely observed, as if they were waiting for their chance.

About half of the attending people had paid their respects to the deceased royal. Those who had already placed their flower on the damp coffin stood back a few feet in respect for those who had yet to do so. The next woman in line walked up to the coffin and instead of letting her flower fall onto the wood, she knelt down in front of it. Sitting back on her heels, she reached up to the black veil covering her face and gently lifted it back to rest on the top of her head.

She had a slim face, framed by thin dark purple hair. Her pale eyes were filled with sorrow and you could tell by the tear tracks and the slight redness of her eyes that she had been crying. The women started sobbing anew when they saw who she was, and the men looked to the ground in despair. She was Hinata Hyuuga, cousin of the newly dead. Everyone in the land knew that she had been like a sister to Neji, not a mere cousin. Everyone surrounding her then knew that it was she who was taking the death the hardest.

The black clad young woman sighed and looked down at her lap where she was gently holding a blooming black rose. It was Neji's favorite flower, even though it symbolized death. He believed that only the strong could accept death, and only the brave could face it. Looking up again, her eyes wearily drew in the sight of the coffin that held her cousin, the beautiful carvings and the magnificent craftsmanship. He would have loved it.

Leaning forward, Hinata placed the black rose on top of the other flowers before standing up and moving off to the side. She didn't bother putting her veil back in place, choosing not to hide from the truth anymore. "Neji, you fool," she whispered.

The two taller cloaked figures turned to the left and slowly walked away, leaving the smaller person behind to continue observing the funeral.

It took another twenty minutes before everyone had placed their flower on the coffin and whispered their final words to the corpse. Everyone had left, except for the young Hyuuga. She continued to stare at the coffin until the two strongmen from before came back with their shovels to finish burying it. Watching the dirt slowly cover up the coffin was like cutting the final thread that connected Neji to the real world. It was the harshest wake up call, and she felt it start to sink in that she was never going to see him again. It wasn't just a bad dream.

Feeling fresh tears start to well in her eyes again, Hinata clasped her hands in front of her and looked away from the burial. Her eyes wandered over the surrounding tombstones and she wondered if Neji's was going to be just as marvelous as the others. She hoped it would be.

Something drew her eyes to the gate of the cemetery, a cloaked figure standing a few feet away from the tall iron gate. Hinata couldn't tell if he was watching her or watching the burial, but somehow the presence of the person calmed her. Yet at the same time, she felt an incredible amount of sadness from them. Her eyes flickered back to the two men and saw that they had finished covering the coffin. She was glad to see that they had done a very good job and the ground looked neat and clean. Nodding in their direction as they walked past her, Hinata looked back to the figure by the gate.

For a moment, sharp green eyes connected with soft pale ones and Hinata had a dying urge to cry again. His eyes…they're just like Neji's.

She stood and watched as the cloaked figure turned and walked quietly away, left to wonder who they where and why they were watching the funeral. Longing. Neji's eyes were so full of longing.

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It was three in the morning, a mere two hours after the funeral had finally finished. This time the cemetery was quiet and deserted, at least until the keeper made his rounds. They had to be quick if they wanted to do this right.

The cloaked figures were back at the iron gate, this time they weren't calmly standing and observing. The smallest figure moved to the left of the gate and proceeded to nimbly scale the ten foot fence, landing quietly on the other side. The woman did the same, though slightly slower, and the obvious male had difficulties even getting off the ground. Once the three of them were on the other side of the fence, they took off.

It wasn't raining anymore, but the ground was thoroughly soaked. Large puddles formed randomly across the yard and in some places grass had been turned into mud. The three figures darted in between graves and large tomb markers and crumbling entrances to long forgotten crypts. Carefully skimming around the puddles, they ran almost inaudible through the grave yard. Stopping at the newest grave in the lot, they stood for a few seconds before pulling off their cloaks.

The man pulled his off first, throwing the material onto the ground and glaring at it in distaste. He had choppy brown hair that was starting to fall into his equally brown eyes. Purple face paint was drawn across his cheekbones and nose. He donned a simple long-sleeve black tunic, tight black pants, and black slip on shoes. He turned towards the fresh dirt and smirked, propping his hands in his hips and tilting his head in the others' direction.

The woman sighed and carefully pulled off her cloak, neatly folding it and tucking it into a small pack that was slung across her shoulder. Her hair was sandy blond and fell around her face, brushing her shoulders annoyingly. She was wearing a top that was more like a long piece of cloth tied around her chest and wrapped in the front. It ended just below her breasts, not covering her slim middle at all. Around her waist hung a colorful skirt that flowed around her knees, swaying and fluttering with her every step. Leather sandals wrapped around her ankles.

She frowned and reached up, running her fingers through her hair and separating it into four chunks before tying each part into a spiky ponytail. Smirking now, she glanced at the last hooded figure before turning to face an area of the cemetery to the left, squinting at something in the distance.

The last person reached up and with a pale hand slowly pulled off the cloak, letting the dark fabric slide over the front of their face to land on the ground. It was a very slim male that made up the last member of the odd trio. He was small, a little smaller than most men, and lithe in build. He had choppy red hair that fell in chunks around his face and framed bright green eyes. He was wearing a black sleeveless skin tight tunic that laced up his front and equally black pants that tethered off around the middle of his calves. Black, slip on shoes donned his feet like the other male, and pieces of off-white cloth were tied around his wrists. The black outfit caused the boy to appear paler than usual, giving him an eerie appearance in the night. A long shovel was strapped to his back, the metal spade smudged by old dirt.

The larger man sighed and scratched his head absentmindedly, glancing around before looking at the woman out of the corner of his eye. "Well, Temari, let's get this started. I'll go to the front gate, see you in a bit." The man picked up the tattered cloak and awkwardly wrapped it around himself, obscuring his face from the world. Doing as he said he would, he slowly walked back towards the front of the cemetery, adopting an odd limping gait as he went.

The blonde woman, Temari, rolled her eyes at the man's antics and propped her hands on her hips. "I guess he's going for the old beggar act tonight," she muttered to the air. Glancing up, she studied the almost invisible clouds before letting her hands drop to her sides and turning to face the small red-head. "It looks like it might start raining soon. I'm going to go ahead and seek out the grave keeper. Work in haste, Gaara. I don't think we have long." With that, Temari spun on her heel and nimbly dashed away, keeping a look out for the bobbing light that signified the keeper making his rounds.

As she disappeared behind a giant tomb marker, Gaara slowly turned to face the new grave. Standing at the end of the rectangle of fresh dirt, he recalled how the coffin had been buried. Remembering that it opened from the left, he moved quietly over to the left side and knelt down. Reaching for the shovel on his back, Gaara stood up and tentatively prodded the edge of the dark rectangle. The two strongmen who had buried the coffin had done so hastily and sloppily, even though it appeared that they had down a good job. He didn't know why, seeing as how this was a noble grave. It should have been neater. It didn't matter to him though. It made things quicker and easier.

Pushing the shovel into the wet ground, Gaara found that the metal sunk into the earth easily. Tapping the spade down with his right foot, he pushed down on the wooden handle and hoisted up his first load of dirt. He had managed to go a little over a foot down into the ground, and he could already see a few glimpses of wood. Bringing the shovel back around, Gaara tapped the top of the coffin, hearing the spade make a dull 'thud' on the wood. Sliding it parallel with the flat plank, he scooped another mound of dirt off.

Carefully piling the removed dirt at the foot of the grave, in a mere five minutes Gaara had uncovered the entire coffin. Laying his shovel on the grass next to him, the red-head knelt down once more and brushed off a few pieces of dirt away from the clasp. Hearing faint giggles and laughter, he looked to the left and could see a faint yellow glow shining around some tombstones some twenty feet away. Whispers were heard, followed by the awkward chuckle of an old man.

Returning his attention to the grave, Gaara slid his fingers slowly down the side of the coffin until he found the catch that opened it. Pulling carefully on the surprisingly cheap metal, Gaara dug his fingers under the lip of the lid and steadily lifted up, letting the small rocks and clumps of dirt roll off the top before opening the casket completely. The outside of the box looked cheap and somewhat sloppily made, but the inside made up for its outward appearance. The wooden coffin was lined with deep purple velvet and edged with intricate and delicate white lace. The workmanship shown in the interior was remarkable, and Gaara almost wished he knew how to remove the fabric without damaging it, for it was certain to be worth a lot. Perhaps if Temari made it back early, she would remove it for them.

Once his sister crossed his mind, Gaara glanced left again, seeing that the dim light was now shining lower to the ground. He realized this was because the lamp had been set down, and if he strained to listen, he could hear the forced moans of his sister as she distracted the keeper. Gaara frowned and returned his gaze to the beautiful box, knowing that Temari was cleverly acting. She said so, and he believed her. She could fake moans, she could fake sex, but he knew she wasn't faking the nights he held her as she cried because of what she did.

Gaara's eyes traveled once more along the sides of the coffin, drawing in the sight of deep, soft fabric before he was drawn to look at the actual occupant. His eyes opened slightly in surprise as he realized who actually inhabited the grave. Neji Hyuuga? His eyes narrowed in disbelief and thought back to the funeral. They hadn't known whose procession they were watching, and it hadn't occurred to any of them that the reason why Hinata Hyuuga was there was because one of her close relatives had died.

He stared at the dead man's face, noticing that he looked slightly in pain rather than dead and calm. He knew that when people were buried, their face was moved so that it looked at peace, and their body was laid in the coffin to make it seem as though they were merely resting. Neji's body looked awkwardly placed, as if he were tossed in the coffin rather than gently set in. Frowning in confusion, Gaara shrugged slightly before scanning the sides of the coffin, looking for the family heirlooms and gifts that are buried traditionally with nobles. As his eyes raked up the young man's chest, he noticed something especially odd. There was a blood stain blossoming at the corner of his chest, near Neji's left shoulder. The red seeped through and the stark white tunic quickly soaked the liquid up.

Gaara slowly reached over and brushed his fingers along the wet fabric, his eyes widening as he felt the warm blood. His fingers immediately jumped from the injured shoulder to Neji's throat, pressing against the skin under the corner of his jaw and he felt it. The dead man had a pulse. It was weak, it was very weak, but it was there.

Almost instantly, Gaara leapt to his feet and dashed back towards the entrance to the cemetery. Kankuro was closer than Temari, and there was a strong chance that his sister was still busy with the keeper. Reaching the front gate in under a minute, Gaara knelt behind the crouched figure of his brother pretending to be a homeless beggar. Grasping the iron bars between his hands, Gaara easily slipped his head in between them and whispered. "Kankuro. Kankuro!"

The man jerked forward before quickly turning around and pulling off the dirty cloak, taking in Gaara's strange expression. "Gaara? What is it? Is everything okay? Where's Temari?"

Gaara withdrew his head from in between the bars and stood up as Kankuro did the same. Shaking his head, Gaara took a few steps back, staring at his brother somewhat urgently yet calm and confused at the same time. "The man in the coffin, Neji Hyuuga-"

Kankuro cut him off quickly. "Yeah? Neji huh? Didn't expect that, but whatever. What about it?"

Gaara took another step back from the gate. "He's still alive."


A/N: Hey, so apparently I've had this chapter written up for quite some time now. I guess I just forgot about it. My bad. I'm really excited to continue writing this one, I have to admit that it is my favorite fic of mine. In any case, enjoy, and I will try to update this one in a week or so if time permits it.

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