To Fly Again
Chapter 1 Starting Anew
It was a busy day as the village of Konoha was in the middle of rebuilding itself after the invasion of Pain had completely destroyed it. Their savior, Naruto was amidst the people, using his shadow clones to further aid them in clearing the rubble and building temporary shelters and medical houses for the people to stay in and recuperate. With him was one of team Gai’s members, Rock Lee, along with said team leader, who were using their great strength and stamina to help clear some of the larger pieces of debris. Their cries of ‘YOUTH!’ and ‘Believe It!’ could be heard from across the village, causing the other two members of team Gai to rub their temples in annoyance.
The other two members, Neji and Tenten were also helping wherever they could with their individual techniques, such as delivering medical supplies to the newly instituted hospital and searching the debris for any remaining people. Being part of team Gai enabled them to better tolerate the antics of their bowl cut wearing, green spandex-clad duo, but the recent addition of Naruto into the already boisterous group was really pushing the limits of their patience.
“Can those three be any louder?” Tenten asked in a weary voice as she shifted the rather large scroll on her back into place again.
Neji kept walking with a smirk on his face, “Well you wouldn’t want to jinx us now, would you? I’m sure the village wouldn’t be grateful to have to deal with any more unnecessary nuisances.”
Tenten turned her head in response to this. “Oh, so the great Neji Hyuuga is superstitious now?” she fired back.
Neji’s smirk only grew at the comment, but he chose to remain silent as they continued walking. This made Tenten scowl at him in annoyance. “And now he decides not to explain himself too? I swear, you can be just as big of a headache as they are at times with your ‘I’m too cool for this’ attitude”
There was still no response from the stoic Hyuuga, who kept to himself for the rest of their trip to the hospital in order to see Hinata.
He felt obligated to visit her whenever he wasn’t on duty since he still felt guilty for what he had done to her in the past. It wasn’t right for him to criticize her for being born in the main branch. She couldn’t decide which family she would be born into. He also condemned her for being too weak just because she was extremely shy. It was just a part of who she was as a person. After Naruto had showed him that he could decide his own destiny, he had made efforts to rebuild his relationship with not just with the Main branch, but with Hinata as well, by occasionally sparring with her to help her with Gentle Fist training. She had made significant growth, and was able to hold her own against him for a little while. She even developed her own techniques such as her twin lion’s fist, which she had used to temporarily overwhelm him during one of their sparring matches, and even used it to fight Pain, if even for a little while. It showed him just how much stronger she had become in the past few years.
While she may have survived against Pain’s gruesome attacks, Neji still couldn’t rid himself of the small pang of guilt that was constantly nagging him in the back of his mind for not being there to help her when she needed him the most. Neji, along with the rest of Team Gai, had been sent on a mission some time earlier and were about to take a break after completing it, when they realized that something bad was happening to the village and returned as quickly as possible. With him and the rest of the team there, he felt that they might have had better chances of surviving than if Hinata had gone solo, but still, he tried to keep reminding himself that there was nothing that he could do about it now, as it had all happened in the past.
Neji and Tenten recognized Shizune, Tsunade’s personal assistant as well as the current head of the hospital, once they had arrived at their intended destination. She was administering medicine to an unfortunate shinobi who had several broken limbs. From the scrunched up look on the poor shinobi’s face, the medicine was obviously not agreeing with his taste buds. Shizune recognized the two incoming shinobi as they were one of the few regulars that came to the hospital almost on a daily basis, and stood up to meet them after treating the injured shinobi.
“Greetings, Neji-san and Tenten-san,” she greeted them with a courteous bow, “I presume you wish to see Hinata again?”
“Hai, Shizune-san, we would like to see her again with your permission,” Neji replied with traditional Hyuuga politeness, while him and Tenten both bowed in return.
“Of course, Neji-san” she said happily. “You are always welcome to visit her. She is still resting in the same room as before.”
“Arigato, Shizune-san. We’ll make sure not to bother her too much while she is recuperating.” Neji replied and bowed again politely as they left to see Hinata.
They both walked silently through the halls until they came to Hinata’s door. Neji opened the door slowly and as silently as possible, trying not to disturb the patient inside. To their surprise, Hinata was laying on the bed, waiting for them to enter. The sunlight coming in through the windows reflected off of her slightly pale skin. She turned to face them them and gave them a warm smile. They both noted, however, that she had her byakugan activated.
“Good afternoon Neji-san and Tenten-san,” Hinata began quietly, “How are you today?”
Neji, while glad to see Hinata again, still expressed concern for his oversensitive cousin. “We are doing well Hinata-sama, but you shouldn’t be using your byakugan now. It will slow the recovery process, and you need all the rest you can get to recover as soon as possible” He stated in a stern voice, arms crossed over his chest.
“O-oh, w-well, I thought that m-maybe I could practice some chakra control exercises while I was here. Besides, it’s not like I can do anything else besides resting while I’m here, so I might as well make use of my time.” Hinata replied again in a quiet voice, her smiling fading and her now deactivated eyes averting from his firm look.
Neji sighed and shook his head, his hard facial features softening slightly unbeknownst to him. He couldn’t help but be reminded of how much Naruto had affected her. Though Naruto was completely oblivious to the significance of Hinata’s reactions when he was around her, he was also somewhat oblivious as to how much he inspired her. She also reminded him of Lee when he was hospitalized after the preliminaries in the chuunin exams. Despite his injuries and the nurse’s constant admonitions, he continued to train, unwavering in his nindo, or ninja way.
He looked back up at Hinata, “Even so, the quicker you recover, the faster you will be released, and the sooner you will be able to resume your training.”
At this, Hinata seemed to be thinking for a moment as what Neji said sank in. Tenten came up this time to talk to her.
“Don’t worry Hinata, at the rate you’re recovering, you’ll be out of here in no time at all!” She reassured her with a sincere smile.
Hinata looked to Tenten and gave her a small smile, “Hai, Tenten-san, I guess you’re right. I’ll be sure to rest up as much as possible.”
“Now that’s what we like to hear! As we all know, a nice, positive attitude helps to speed up the recovery,” Tenten cheered happily. Neji simply nodded his approval of her words.
They began a short conversation afterwards about how the rebuilding projects were going in the village. While Hinata could see a small portion of the village through her window, and even more so with her byakugan, it wasn’t enough to really see how well things were going in the entire village. Neji briefly informed her of Konoha’s current state and how well the rebuilding projects were coming along. It was still far from being what it used to be now that the majority of the village was tucked inside a massive crater, but progress was still being made.
Once they were finished with their small discussion, Neji and Tenten decided to take their leave at that time in order to ensure that Hinata had plenty of rest. As they were leaving, they met Kiba and Shino, who happened to come across the hospital in their journey around the village and stopped in to wish their teammate a speedy recovery.
Neji and Tenten politely thank Shizune again for letting them see Hinata once more before heading their separate ways, Neji towards the somewhat rebuilt Hyuuga compound and Tenten to a small, but new apartment complex.
Along the way home, Neji pondered about how well things were looking for Konoha’s future. Hopefully none of the other villages would catch wind of what had taken place in Konoha and try to take advantage of it when they were vulnerable, especially since their Hokage, Tsunade, was still in a coma. This led him to think how well the other Konoha forces would fare in any possible attack. While a good portion of the shinobi were injured, they could still hold a resistance effort if necessary to hold back the enemy to evacuate the villagers into shelters away from the village, though their ally’s from Suna wouldn’t be able to help due to how far away they were. This, in turn caused him to think about his own power. While he considered himself to be a fairly powerful shinobi, probably even second to Hiashi himself in the Hyuuga clan, he also thought about how well he could protect Hinata. He didn’t even want to consider what would happen if she fell into the enemy’s hands once more; he would never forgive himself if such an event took place. Not only that, but the Hyuuga elders would most likely punish him through his curse mark for not protecting the main heiress.
He unconsciously reached for its resting place slowly, gently placing his fingertips upon his hitai-ate. The clan’s dreaded curse mark was the permanent brand of a slave, meant to keep the side branch members in check. He solemnly wished that the clan didn’t have to go to such measures to protect the byakugan, but he knew that without the seal in place, other shinobi or kunoichi would be able to steal the byakugan and uncover its secrets with relative ease as they would simply need to court a branch member and wait for the right moment to ambush them once they were vulnerable. The visit with Hinata, however, helped to boost his resolve to protect her with his life, even if he did have doubts about his own power, and not just for her sake, but for his as well; he had no intentions to experience any of the possible scenarios that came to his mind.
Neji arrived at the smaller version of the compound late at night, where he immediately went to his quarters. There was more work to do tomorrow, and he needed all the energy he could get to help out once again with the rebuilding efforts.
As Neji entered his quarters, a man looked from several miles away in the distance. He knew that in order to make his plan work, he would have to be able to avoid all of those eyes that were no doubt constantly scanning the compound. A man with his abilities would no doubt be able to infiltrate any fortress, no matter how well built, but if he was caught by any of the wandering eyes, he would be dealing with the entire Hyuuga clan. Word would soon spread to the rest of the village about the assault, and he knew that it would be foolhardy to even consider trying to take on the entire village, let alone the powerful Hyuuga clan.
He needed an effective plan to bypass the legendary all-seeing eye, and he knew just the person who could help him out with this sort of situation. He would have to wait until tomorrow night to put his plan into effect, as he needed thorough preparation in order to pull off something as dangerous as this. With that in mind, he vanished into night, without a trace.