"I learned something from this, uncle," Asuma, a little too wise for his age, said.
"What'd you learn?"
"I learned the importance of saying things in a clear, concise manner." Asuma nodded his head solemnly, knowing the wisdom of his words to be true. "Especially in a love letter."
Kankuro suddenly paled. "You won't tell your mom, won't you?"
Kankuro dropped to his knees on the ground, head downcast. Temari was bound to kill him for dragging her son into the Hyuga's business.
Kankuro stood up and grinned at the little squirt, fondly ruffling his blond hair.
"It'll be our and the Hyuga's secret, uncle," Asuma proclaimed.
It was the worst thirty minutes of his short life as Asuma listened to Ten-sensei sob.
He learned a lot of things like that Tenten-sensei was pregnant with Neji-sensei's child which reminded him, like his pop before him, at a most inopportune time, discovered that Kurenai was pregnant. The only difference in this instance, Ten-sensei was betrayed with another woman while Kurenai-san was cheated by death.
His pop had said that pregnant women tend to be emotional and the young Asuma was about ready to enter into a self-imposed trance. He was about to pretend he was listening when he was not when he heard something.
"...Neji chops strippers..." the older, bun wearing woman mentioned.
A tingle of foreboding zinged through Asuma's spine as he entered his trance...
Most of the nins in Konoha had their own sob story. Take for example Naruto; both his parents died and he was publicly shunned because he was the vessel of the nine-tails. Sasuke, whose family died in the hands of his own brother, lived with hatred only to learn later that his older brother was a victim too. And then there was his uncle Gaara. His youngest uncle was betrayed by his own uncle and was convinced that his mother didn't love him and that he was all alone.
For these shinobis, their sob stories had made them stronger.
He, Asuma, had his own sob story now.
Ten years from this day, he would still be silently watching Tenten-sensei and her offspring visit Neji's memorial. He would continue to carry the burden of his sin for destroying a family. His punishment would be the guilt that eats his soul until there wouldn't be any left.
"Asuma, are you listening?" Tenten asked, shaking his shoulder, breaking his trance.
The little boy's lips quivered, and like his father before him, a lone tear escaped from his scrunched eyelid. "Please sensei, you got it all wrong. Neji-san did not betray you."
Three days later, Neji arrived, tired and wounded but alive.
Tenten hugged him just inside the gigantic Konoha gates and told him, "Sorry." Before he could asked why, Tenten conveniently excused herself, complaining loudly that she was needed somewhere.
When Neji arrived at the Hyuga compound, everyone even Hiashi avoided his eyes.
Neji, wondered about the weird way his clan was reacting to his presence that he asked his cousin Hinata.
Hinata shook her head and honestly said she didn't know.
Next, he asked Hanabi. Hanabi's answer was the same as her older sister.
Ten years had passed, but the secret that the Hyuga clan kept from Neji was still intact.
An older Asuma with no sob story in his resume lay on the grass, chewing a green stalk while pondering the uneventful meaning of his life. He needed to fall in love and have his life turned upside down by what his pop called a troublesome woman...And then life would surely get more interesting.
~11 3, 21 13AF P 11 21 13~
A/N: The fic has already reached its goal...so it's time.
Thank you to all that reviewed and liked/hated this collection. You all contributed in the fun of the experience.