The Naruto franchise is the property of Masashi Kishimoto.


The end of winter ushered in the beginning of spring. Already, the snows were succumbing to warm sun, melting to reveal the first signs of verdant life beneath them as birds took to flight anew, celebrating the long-awaited rebirth of the world with their merry song.

The majority of Konoha was quiet, though. All of the shinobi, the Hyūga clan and a fair portion of the civilians had all been gathered in one place that day. All, that is, with the exception of one.

"Sakura?" Ino called out, poking her head through the doorway, "Are you ready yet?"

"No," Sakura confessed, wringing her hands, "I don't think I'll ever be ready for this."

The blonde sighed and shook her head, stepping into the room. She busied herself with rearranging her rose-haired friend's clothes neatly and fussing over her hair until everything was perfect.

"Everyone's waiting for you," she said with her most encouraging smile, patting her fellow kunoichi on the shoulder reassuringly, "I'll tell them to wait a little longer, but don't take too long, okay?"

She left, closing the door quietly behind her.

The rose-haired medic surveyed herself in the mirror and closed her eyes.

"I wish you were here, Neji," she murmured to no one in particular.

"You told me it was bad luck for me to see you before the wedding."

Sakura jumped, upsetting several bottles on the dresser. It was only due to her sharp reflexes that she caught the lamp before it fell.

Neji crossed his arms, looking thoroughly amused.

"Neji!" she hissed, "What are you doing here?"

"Yamanaka said you were having an issue with your nerves," he responded easily, "I came to check on you."

She set the lamp back down and sighed, slipping into his embrace and delicately touching her painted lips to his.

"I'm nervous," she mumbled.

"As am I," the prodigy responded, "We can take a moment longer, if you like."

Sakura lifted her eyes, marking the seal on Neji's forehead.

"Are you sure you don't want to cover that?" she asked, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach.

"If it weren't for this, I wouldn't be here," the white-eyed captain answered.

"You're a lucky man, Hyūga," Tsunade said, crossing her arms, "You had just enough chakra left in that seal to keep you alive. Honestly, opening the eighth gate? What were you thinking?"

The Hyūga prodigy shook his head.

"I don't believe in luck," he replied cryptically.

"I wear it with pride."

Sakura took a deep breath, then exhaled sharply.

"Okay. Let's do this," she nodded, her features set.

Neji smiled warmly and held out his hand.

"When you're ready."

~o END o~

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