Funerals, Koyaiba decided quietly, suck.
He was dressed in his most formal clothing, a black robe that was only accented by his dark skin. People surrounded him, mainly Hyuuga's, their heads bowed. Koyaiba recognized some of his old teachers from the academy. Looks like they had turned up to pay their last respects to Rhea.
Koyaiba glanced over to Rika, whose head was hung in an expression of defeat. Her normally unruly red hair was pulled into a tight bun, and she was wearing a conservative black kimono.
As the village Elder prattled on, Koyaiba continued to look around the crowd. It was disrespectful, he knew, but he was afraid if he allowed himself to focus on the reality of the situation, he would be crushed. He could not afford to lose strength now. He was a chunin. Rhea had known the risks.
The majority of the Hyuuga clan was there, the main family taking up the front row of the crowd. Koyaiba recognized the head of the clan and Rhea's uncle, Hiashi, his head up, his eyes blazing clear and strong. At least, that's what Koyaiba imagined. He could only see the back of the man's head.
The speaker finally finished, and the procession began. People began lining up for one last glimpse of Rhea before she was buried. Or cremated. Whatever the Hyuuga main family did with the corpses of the branch.
Koyaiba barely noticed when it was his turn to approach the coffin. Rhea looked calm inside, dressed in a white kimono with the Hyuga symbol emblazoned on it. The infamous "caged bird seal" marked her forehead, but otherwise there were no visible blemishes.
That's because she took the kunai in the back.
Koyaiba figured he should say something to someone in Rhea's family. It shouldn't be hard - they were everywhere after all. But if he could find someone Rhea had mentioned specifically.
There was someone. A small, quiet girl with the traditional Hyuga eyes stood next to Hiashi. She was two years younger than he was, but Rhea had mentioned her often, and Koyaiba at least knew her name. maybe he should got speak to her...
"Are you Hinata?"
Apparently his feet and mouth had decided to go ahead without consulting his mind first. Hiashi looked at him in mild curiosity, while Hinata's younger sister glared up at him. Hinata just blushed and bowed her head.
Her father fixed a glare on her, and the Hyuga heiress seemed to actually feel it, her head jerking up and her mouth opening. "S-Sorry," She said, bowing slightly. "Yes. I am Hinata."
Koyaiba worked hard to keep his face straight. "Rhea talked about you often. She was very fond of you." His words were stiff and formal, and sounded almost forced to his own ears, like he was trying out a new language for the first time.
Hinata blushed and looked down again. "Thank you." She said softly. Koyaiba nodded and turned to leave, but Hiashi spoke up.
"You must be her teammate."
Koyaiba turned back to him. "Yes, Hyuga-sama."
Koyaiba swallowed. "Yes, Hyuga-sama."
Hiashi looked at him calmly. "I would like to speak to you."
Koyaiba bowed. It was the only thing he could do to hide the look on his face. When the leader of the most influential clan in Konoha wanted to talk to you, it was rarely for anything good. "Of course, Hyuga-sama."
Hiashi inclined his head, a sign for Koyaiba to follow him. The young chunin fell in behind Hinata and her sister, and followed them outside the graveyard.
"You must understand," Hiashi said when he had finally stopped, "there are precautions we must take."
"Rhea spoke of you often," Hiashi continued. "You and her and the Nara girl trained together."
"We were all on the same team,." Koyaiba said.
Hiashi nodded. "How much did Rhea tell you about the Hyuga clan techniques?"
Koyaiba swallowed nervously again. Now that he though about it, Rhea had probably told him more than he really needed to know. "I know the basic theory behind the gentle fist." He said. "I know that the Byakugan's range of vision does not extend a full 360 degrees."
Hiashi looked displeased at the last comment, but accepted it with a grim face. "Of course. It is...wise to inform her teammates of her shortcomings." When he mentioned shortcomings, his eyes flickered down to Hinata.
The girl's face was impassive, but Koyaiba noticed her shoulders twitch. According to his sister, something like that, in this situation, might as well be a full recoil. The girl was scared of her father.
"Neji!" Hiashi barked suddenly. Koyaiba's eyebrows raised a bit as a boy around a year younger than he was came and joined them.
"Yes, Hiashi-sama?" He asked, bowing his head. It was a polite gesture, a symbol of respect towards the leader of his family.
So why did his voice have so much resentment in it?
"Neji," Hiashi said. "I wish you to test this boy's knowledge of the gentle fist."
Neji nodded quietly and turned to Koyaiba, shifting his stance into one Koyaiba recognized from his sparring with Rhea. The veins around his eyes bulged, and Koyaiba realized he had activated his Byakugan. "Very well. Let us begin."
Koyaiba arched his eyebrows. "Wait, what? I don't even have my yari..." But it was clear from Hiashi's facial expression that he would brook no argument. Koyaiba sighed as he too shifted into a fighting stance. Whereas Neji shifted his center of gravity low, becoming the "unmovable mountain" Rhea had mentioned so many times in practice, Koyaiba moved up the balls of his feet, ready to move at a moments notice.
Koyaiba leaped towards the Hyuga, his right leg lashing out towards his head. Neji pivoted to his right, and brought his hand up in a motion to catch Koyaiba's leg.
It was a maneuver Koyaiba had seen Rhea execute countless times. So he knew what was coming next the moment he felt Neji's grip close around his ankle. Neji's right hand came up, practically glowing with chakra, in an attempt to hit the chakra point near Koyaiba's ankle.
But Koyaiba twisted his foot violently, causing Neji's hand to hit his boot. The Hyuga frowned, and Koyaiba used it as an opportunity to close in. He landed barely a foot away from Neji and tried to bring his knee up to his stomach, but Neji was too quick. He grabbed Koyaiba's collar and shoved him away, bringing his fist up in preparation to strike again.
Koyaiba tsked. This was getting nowhere. He noticed that several of the crowd had gathered around them, watching the fight impassively. It seemed almost disrespectful to Rhea, to fight at her funeral, but perhaps they needed something to get their spirits up.
Fine then. If they wanted a show, he would give them one.
Koyaiba leaped forward again, bringing his foot in a downward kick. Neji's forearm blocked it, but Koyaiba had been expecting that. He pushed off Neji's arm and flew into the air, his hands already coming together to perform seals.
"Fuuton: Four Part Wind Cannon Jutsu!"
Neji frowned as the boy launched himself into the air. This was so pointless. Just another whim of the Hyuga main family turned into reality. All of this because Hiashi wanted to see a fight.
He had not however, expected the boy to try ninjutsu, and his frown deepened as he recognized the seals.
"Fuuton: Four Part Wind Cannon Jutsu!"
The boy's mouth swelled, and when he spat, four balls of tightly compressed air burst from it. Neji clenched his teeth together. The range was too short to dodge completely. There was only one way to avoid this. But if Hiashi saw...he would just have to time this perfectly.
He stepped back, and the first ball hit the ground with a thunderous impact. Dust and dirt flew into the air as the other three balls hurtled towards him providing an adequate smokescreen. Luckily, the concrete was thick here, meaning the move was performing wouldn't leave a mark.
"Heavenly Spin." Neji whispered, chakra pouring out of his body. Hopefully, nobody from the main family had activated their Byakugans, or he would have some explaining to do. He spun his body like a top, and felt the last three busts of airs hit his defense and disperse. He stopped, just in time to see Koyaiba come diving in from above.
So that had been his plan. Use the attack as a diversion so he could finish him from the sky. Neji smirked. They were always overconfident. His right arm lashed out, hitting Koyaiba center mass as he came down on top of the Hyuga prodigy. There was a burst of chakra, and Koyaiba slumped to his knees as the dust cleared.
The crowd around them blinked slowly in surprise, but Neji did not see any shock on the faces of the main family. Good. They had not seen him perform the Heavenly Spin, which would save him a lot of grief.
Hiashi closed his eyes in relief. They boy was talented, but he couldn't even give Neji a decent workout. If his ariel attack failed so miserably against the someone of the branch, he could only imagine how it would perform against a Hyuga armed with the Heavenly Spin. The boy was not a threat to the security of the clan, and so his buisness here was done.
"Neji's veins flow thick with the blood of the clan." he said to Hanabi. "You would do well to learn from him."
Beside him, Hanabi nodded once. Hinata's head fell, but Hiashi did not notice. She wasn't important at this point anyway. Better to let Kurenai deal with her.
Hiashi nodded to Neji and walked away. The rest of the Hyuga clan followed.
Koyaiba stood a few minutes later, wiping some blood from the side of his mouth. "Well. Shit."