Thank you to everyone that has wished me a speedy recovery! Seeing your positive thoughts and well wishes were amazing, I truly appreciate it. I hope that this renovated chapter pleases you!
Even several hours after Hizashi & Neji left my residence, I couldn't get Neji and his new mark out of my head. Constantly the question of 'how will this change him?' soared through my mind in unending circles. It was almost selfish really; I didn't want the innocent dreams and smiles of my dearest friend to burn and crash as he plummeted into the darkness of unyielding fate and cynicism. As I lay in bed that night I was consumed with yet another ambition, to keep Neji from the cage of cynicism.
Yesterday's visit with Neji left me with questions but I felt at peace, how unusual that I'm not even four and have my life somewhat together, a feat I wish I could have accomplished in my old life. Then again, had I accomplished restoring my sanity and integrity, I doubt I would be in the world of the shinobi. My daydreams could have continued but today was an important day. Neji and I were going to meet up at the Training Field to help each other become stronger. 'How fortunate was I to be able to train with him?' I pondered, as I finished tying up my ponytail make sure to form a perfect bow of violet at the top, and ran to the table where my mother had fish and onigiri out.
I looked at my Mother as she sat pensively across from me, a hand placed on her engorged stomach as she stared in my direction. I honestly couldn't tell if she was looking at me or looking through me to see the past, and better times. As I picked at my delicious fish I stared at her right back, until she shook herself and truly looked at me.
Placing a chopstick full of rice in my mouth, I quickly chewed before deciding to embark on the bold mission of communicating with my mother. "Mother, when is my brother going to be due?"
She rubbed her stomach with slow circles before drawling out, "Within the next month I would think." Her listless eyes never left my face, as she droned out the small answer.
Beaming that she actually spoke more than two words to me, I decided to test my luck again. "Do you still think it will be a boy or a girl, like me?"
She looked at me in my eyes and smirked, emotion on her face was something I was shocked but pleased to see, "Mayu, I don't think there is another child in any of the Lands that are like you."
I tilted my head in confusion, smiling wildly when she choose to elaborate, "To answer your question. I think it will still be a boy, a great, big boy."
I chuckled, if it were the runty Konohamaru then he would not only be a runt, he would be a handful, he would be annoying, kind of like Asuma.
I frowned at the thought, 'Asuma, when will you return, Uncle?'
Before I knew it my mother had placed a red lunch box in front of me, the once prevalent displays of emotion gone, before patting my head and reminding me that I was going to meet Neji today.
'Neji!' I reached for the lunch box like a flailing beast and sprinted my way to the Training Field, as I shouted an incomprehensible goodbye. The moment I stepped out of the house I wish I had never left, only the thought of seeing Neji kept me from the cool indoors. Yes, it was Summer, but I had never felt a day so exhaustingly searing. The sun was overbearing as in seconds it was beating down on my poor youthful body. Beads of sweat poured like rivers down my skin as I sped through the Village, wishing only to find Neji and perhaps momentary shade.
By the time I rushed to the tree of Training Field 3, Neji was sitting on the roots of the tree, beads of sweat decorated his skin lightly as he laughed at my bedraggled appearance. It must have been quite a sight, I felt like I took a soak in a hot spring from the sweat that drenched my clothes before we even began training. Today was going to be a long day, but looking a Neji so happy and unrestrained reminded me that today wouldn't be bad at all, I would become faster and I got to spend the day
"Mayu, you're late," he kindly faux-chastised me, still restraining himself from laughing to hard at my haphazard appearance. 'Well at least he's polite,' I mused.
"Eh! I am so sorry, Neji! I was talking to Mom, I won't, I won't be late again." I heaved, the fatigue from having ran already making me feel unproductive, and disgusting. I hated being late, and could not make this a habit.
Neji smiled, "It's alright Mayu, are you still up for today?" A genuine question as he gazed over my haphazard appearance.
I smiled, pushing myself to stand straight up, forcing myself to forget about fatigue and the fire in my lungs. This would not only help me in the future, it would save my life and the lives of my friends and comrades. "Let's do this Neji."
"Hmph," Neji smirked as he moved to stand beside me, taking my lunch box and placing it on the ground next to his own wooden lunch box. "Let's race."
I smiled, "You will lose," I carefully informed him. It didn't matter that I almost exhausted myself as I pushed past the oppression of the heat, I would not loose.
Together we counted "3-2-1-GO!"
I was on fire and not just from the burning flames of the sun racing down my back, but as I ran around the village I was a wildfire, feeling as if I could destroy anything in my path. Wind whipped my face in currents, but the fact that I was at least several yards in front of Neji soothed the sting. I felt alive as I zipped past the birches and the laurels, strutting proudly in front the villagers who seemed, or at least what I did catch of their blurred images, bemused by my training methods.
We swooped around the village four times before Neji came to a reluctant stop, having pushed his limits. We walked silently to sit at the tree where our lunches were placed on the Training Grounds. As I sat leisurely now in the shade, Neji flopped down in front of me with a huff, passing me my lunch as he began to open his own.
I smiled down at him, sure it felt good to win, but I didn't have to boast, well except to maybe Asuma when he returned, but Neji was my friend, my young friend, so I didn't need to tease him too badly.
I smiled wildly at him as he only frowned and mumbled down to his tomatoes that were packed for him inaudibly. "Good job, Neji. You are so fast!" I complimented, not a false statement, he was faster than when I first began to work on my speed.
He just looked up at my beaming face and continued to frown, "You beat me, plus I'm older than you"
I just shook my head, still keeping my arm outstretched, "Yep. You are. But I've been training for a long time, so it's only fair I won. But," I paused, looking for words to make him feel better without sounding like the older girl that I was, "you are going to get faster. Plus you have those eyes, we can play hide and seek after lunch to practice…if you like?"
Neji beamed, somewhat eased by my words. "Mayu, let's eat."
I nodded, feeling quite hungry after such a workout and opened my own lunch box. I laughed when too pulled out onigiri and tomatoes, "Yep, Mom & your Dad are a great team."
Neji smiled, but then frowned suddenly.
Tilting my head at the sudden change in emotion I too frowned, but in concern, "What's wrong, don't you like tomatoes?"
He just shook his head, "I like this, today was fun. But, I'm getting old" he whined, a deep frown burying itself in his features.
I couldn't stop my laughter, unintentionally offending him. "Oh Neji, you're four, I teased, not understanding why his age was a bad thing.
He scoffed, "Yes Mayu, but soon you'll be four and I'll be five, and then…and then next year I'll be six, and I won't see you, I'll be at the Academy."
I stopped smiling and frowned before smiling, "You're a silly old bird," I laughed as I stuck my tiny tongue out for good measure, "that doesn't matter. That's in like, like, forever. Plus, you're my best friend, you are stuck with me, no matter what, even if you do get old!"
He rolled his eyes, no longer was his frown present on his usually joyful little face, and he went back to happily munching on his food. After we both ravaged our food like a horde of Mongols, we both left the solace of the shade and rolled on to our backs to watch the clouds that couldn't be pushed away, even by the demonically hot sun.
While Neji looked up at the sky in contemplative silence, I smiled as I tried to find shapes in the clouds that passed, mumbling on about the cows, fish and even dragons in the sky. It was important to me to announce my findings as my friend lacked my capacity for imagination.
"Mayu, how can you see all that?" Neji whined, unsure of why my mind was so different than his own.
I laughed, "Because silly, you're not opening your eyes."
He grumbled, "They are open, Mayu." Obviously someone was pragmatic at a very young age.
I only laughed, but stopped when he interjected with, "All I see are little puffs set on a current," he muttered indignantly.
I was worried when the feelings of fate would arise in Neji, but was shocked it was so early. I shook my head vehemently, gathering his attention, "No Neji, the clouds aren't forced in a current; they just are what they are."
Before Neji could utter his protest I sat up and grabbed his arms, propelling us up. The flabbergasted look on his face was priceless, "What..."
"Let's play hide and seek," I exclaimed, wanting to desperately distract him from his future fate rant. I forgot how upsetting his destiny rant was in the Narutoverse, and maybe I could stamp it out early. Since my existence was bound to upset the balance of things, I might as well try and do good.
We played three rounds of hide and seek, which at the age of four, Neji utterly destroyed me at. It didn't matter if I hid behind the Sakura trees or behind a tree trunk, he would easily find me, laughing as he did so. 'Well I'm glad he didn't take losing the foot race so hard', I grumbled on his last find. To be four and have surpassed the basic knowledge of his bloodline was awe-striking.
After feeling truly and utterly exhausted, the heat and all of this exercise made it difficult to stand, I would definitely appreciate my dinner, and shower when I got to call it a day and go home.
"Neji, I've had fun, let's do this tomorrow," I heaved, pushing myself up, "I'll be on time next time."
Neji smiled at me, "Come on, I'll walk you home." So together, we walked side by side, baking in the late afternoon sun as we walked towards my home. Today was a great day.
Neji and I were quick to establish a training routine. We met every morning at 9:00 at the Training grounds, in the past four weeks I had not been late a single time after the our first training session. Indeed, we would place our lunches down and do our countdown of "3-2-1-GO!" and race off into the sunshine. I could now run 7 laps, even quicker than before, much to Neji's good natured chagrin. While he still couldn't keep up with me, his stamina had definitely improved and he was much faster than before.
Today though we didn't make our now 7 mile laps, we made it only to 4 laps as the sun was glaring down and suffocating us to where was had to find temporary reprieve. It was the hottest day I had ever witnessed in Konoha. Never had the sun been as blazingly bright, the unmanageable heat was worse than the flames of a crematorium. When we sat down for lunch today, Neji couldn't help but puff when I pulled out my bento and he pulled out tomatoes and onigiri, a meal his father had packed him every single day we had trained for the past four weeks.
I giggled at the adorable look of indignation on his face, "Why so glum, Neji?" I asked teasingly, knowing full and well why he was pouting so much.
He grumbled before putting his tomatoes back in his box, "Tomatoes are beginning to taste a lot like pumpkins."
I laughed, "And what would you want?" I asked, before moving to share my bento with him.
"Herring Soba, any day of the week," he exclaimed, before thankfully digging into my bento. Together we munched on in harmony, not once taking a look at the tomatoes.
"So Mayu, when are you going to start working on your chakra?" Neji asked in between bites.
Instead of smiling it was my turn to frown as I remembered I was still waiting for Asuma to return. "I was waiting for Asuma…" I trailed off, thinking of my uncle, sure he was annoying but really did love him, even if I wouldn't tell him that in a million years, it'd be too much for his ego.
Neji tilted his head in confusion as I was submerged in my thoughts. 'What if he doesn't make it back…," I trailed before shaking my head furiously to break my reverie. "No, if he said he was coming back he's coming back. That idiot can't die, not anytime soon."
"Sorry Neji, I was just a little worried, I haven't seen my Uncle in weeks," I murmured, looking into his vivid hues that were filled with concern for me. Seeing his sympathy I tried to shake off his concern, it was invalidated, Asuma would be fine. "He'll be fine. He's coming back, and he's going to see how fast I am."
Neji smiled, placated with my response, "Let's play hide and seek!" I exclaimed, successfully getting him off of the depressing topic of Asuma possibly not returning.
Neji grimaced, "Mayu, let's not. It's hot. Let's meditate in the shade."
I tilted my head, I hadn't exactly meditated before, "Umm Neji, it's a good idea, but can you teach me?"
Neji grinned gleefully, and began to instruct, "Okay. Follow me."
Neji calmly moved to cross his legs indian style and rested his palms outwards on his knees. His body was perfectly straight, all except his head that was calmly looking for me to follow his lead. Quickly I fixed myself to mirror his image.
My "teacher" analyzed my posture before adjusting my back to relax perfectly straight with the light push of his hand. "Good now close your eyes," he waited until I did so, "now relax, quiet your mind."
I tried very hard to "quiet" my mind, but questions kept buzzing in my head, the most prevalent being, 'how did a four year old have so much self-restraint as to meditate?'
But soon enough, the questions started to fade, instead I focused on my breathing, I thought of nothing, concentrated on nothing, instead I just relaxed in the quiet state of my mind. Neji and I must have been there for hours as the early afternoon sun was gone when I opened my eyes, feeling a very small sense of clarity, only to find a slowly fading sunset.
I glanced to my left and couldn't help but smile at Neji, he was so calm and happy. The sunset was a clue though to get moving, so I decided to mentally photography is zen moment and wake him from his reveries.
"Neji, it's late," I stated almost guiltily, I knew we should be getting home but it felt wrong to interrupt such tranquility.
Immediately he opened his eyes and they were wide in shock, before looking to his right to gape at me. "We meditated for hours."
I giggled, "yup."
He shook his head, before bouncing up and giving me a hand, "We should meditate more." I quickly agreed, as I launched myself up into the air with his help. "C'mon, let's go home," he murmured, picking up our lunch boxes before together we trudged off.
The serenity achieved today was no match for my home. When I opened the door all composure that flowed through my veins left me. I found my mother wailing on the floor at the feet of my grim looking Uncle. Had it not been for the sobbing of my mother I would have smirked at Asuma and challenged him, but the sobriety of the situation was too much. I couldn't' tease my way out of my feelings, instead I succumbed to the waves of emotion and ran at Asuma, stopping only to latch onto his legs. Small tears fell as I knew that whatever this was, was bad.
Before I knew it Asuma had scooped me up, cradling me to his chest before walking in to my room and sitting on my bed, leaving me sitting in his lap sniffling. He patted my head before shushing me softly.
"What's this, are you getting soft?" Asuma attempted to tease, but I wasn't having it.
"What's going on?" I replied, wanting to quickly learn the truth, much like ripping off a bandage.
"Well kid, I don't know how to say it but I'm leaving the Village. You see, I've been given a promotion of sorts, to be an elite ninja for the Daimyo." He loosely explained.
I just pushed myself closer to him and wrapped my arms around his neck, wanting to relish his company while I could. Who knew when the next time I would see him would be.
After a few minutes of snuggling, that Asuma surprisingly hadn't complained at, I was dry of tears. Still attached to his neck I decided to speak, "Will you ever come back?"
Asuma chuckled before looking down at me, "Tsk. I have to, eventually I'm going to come back and getting that sparring match you promised me."
I smiled, "You're going to be the best elite ninja, that is until I become one" I ended with a grin, hoping that if I smiled I would feel better.
Asuma only laughed at me. "You haven't been slacking while I've been gone have you?"
"Nope," I shook my head, "I've ran every single day, I even started meditating."
Asuma tapped my nose gently, "You're going to be great, just keep training, you have to live up to your promise to beat me."
I just burrowed myself deeper into his chest, knowing I wouldn't be here for a while.
Asuma unlatched me after a few minutes, somberly placing me on the ground next to my bed. "Be good, kid."
He started to walk off before I ran and wrapped myself around his legs once more in a hug, "I love you, Uncle."
Asuma gently patted my head as I dislodged myself, "I love you too, brat."