Aoi Tori
(part 2)

"G-Good morning, Hyuuga-san."

Not.

Sarutobi had entered the classroom and found the desk missing. Some of the other rougher classmates had thrown it outside and into the chaotic downpour where it was all but exposed to the dreary and ruthless weather. Sarutobi barely said a word before he disappeared from the classroom, in search of the desk, our eyes escorting him out the classroom.

We sat still in our seats, wondering what it was that made him so determined to greet her empty seat every morning and go out of his way to remind us of our transgression. Was he trying to humiliate us for the rest of the week? To scold us indirectly for our actions? To make us feel regret? Or did he secretly meet Hyuuga? Was it her secret request, for this to serve as retribution?

We heard him before we saw him, wet shoes squeaking against the floor. He reentered the room with the desk in his arms, and he lugged it across the room and beside me, leaving a wet trail behind him and a puddle beside me. One of the nichoku stood up and took a mop from the back of the room, ready to clean the wet mess, but his gentle eyes guided him back to his seat.

Chairs and desks scooted backwards again and Hyuuga's desk was restored.

Déjà vu.

"G-Good morning, Hyuuga-san."

. . .

"You were the ones who threw the desk out into the rain right?" Yamanaka Ino walked up to Inuzuka Kiba's desk and looked him in the eye. Inuzuka leaned back in his chair and scowled to her face.

"Yeah? So what? I know you all wanted it out of the room."

"Despicable."

"What did you say, you bitch?"

"You guys were always bullying her! You guys started it!"

"So what? Don't think I don't know what you girls secretly do. I know what you did, Yamanaka."

"Shut up."

"You've been sending emails around telling all the girls to ignore Haruno Sakura right?"

"Shut up!"

"Just because of some stupid fight. You're sneaky, the whole lot of you!"

"You started bullying Hyuuga first!"

"Numbers don't matter!" Uzumaki Naruto stood up and clutched onto Inuzuka's collar as Haruno broke into tears and dashed out of the room. "Look, arguing isn't going to do anything about it!"

"Oh, I thought you liked Haruno?" Inuzuka taunted.

"What the fuck?" Uzumaki shoved Inuzuka into a cluster of desks. Two others were caught in the jumble in an attempt to pull them off of one another and all but chaos ensued. There were screams as people dashed away from the two wrestling with one another. Desks and chairs were shoved aside, clattering into other desks and chairs as they brawled viciously. I felt faintly irritated at it all along with a strong desire to break them up and tried to do so, shoving Uzumaki away from Inuzuka and holding the latter back from it all.

"What the hell is this?"

Morino Ibiki. Fuck.

"What do you fools not get about the school value that clearly states 'think before you act'! What's going on? How did this start?" He glowered angrily around the room and grit his teeth as he stepped closer to the three of us.

"Uzumaki? Inuzuka?" Finally turning his eyes to me and anger dissolved from his eyes, replaced with disappointment. "Uchiha, you too?"

I didn't reply.

"Alright everyone, to the counseling room!"

"Even the girls too?" one of them gasped.

"Of course!"

"Mr. Morino."

Our attention was diverted by the soft and mellow voice that was Sarutobi.

"I'm sure…that they understand."

. . .

The second class meeting took place, though no one expected us to get anything out of it. What could the teachers hope for? A new case where they could solve everything and prevent another case like Hyuuga's from happening again?

"Please empty the box."

The two new nichoku repeated the same steps as the ones before them had. Again, there were only advertisement sheets and trash. Accompanied by two folded sheets. Morino looked a little more hopeful at it now, and he asked that the first be read.

"It's the same as last time's, Mr. Morino."

"Read it."

"What is Aoi Tori?"

The class was silent, and so was Morino. He took a look around the class, before dismissing the question and asking for the next sheet.

"Is disliking someone the same as bullying?"

Sarutobi had joined this class meeting, and he stood at the windows, looking out as we had when Hyuuga had arrived on school grounds dripping wet and lugging her bag and body towards the school building. Watching.

"Of course it is," Morino scowled. "When you dislike someone, you're bullying them." His eyes swept around the room. "Is that it? If so, you are dismi—"

I raised my hand, thrusting it angrily into the air. I locked my eyes onto Morino's, and his onto mine. Eyes were upon me now, as they wondered what would be of this nonconformist—the one and only person to participate voluntarily in the class meeting—the only person who didn't sit tightly in his/her chair and block out all sound and wish that everything would be over quickly.

"What is it, Uchiha?"

"What makes disliking someone an act of bullying?"

"When you dislike someone, you do unnecessary and terrible things to them. That is called bullying."

"Have you ever disliked someone?"

He scoffed. "If I did, I wouldn't be a teacher."

"Not as in a student or school-wise."

His eyes were serious now, and he straightened up from his initial leaning posture. In a single change in stance, he had become a dangerous man. "Is that all you learn these days? To counteract and retort to what we say?"

"That's not what—"

"H-He's speaking e-earnestly," Sarutobi interrupted. He finally took his eyes away from the window and closed the pane. He turned around to face the fuming Morino and said gently, "It's out of p-pure and h-honest curiosity, not to f-frustrate." He turned to me now. "W-When you dislike someone, y-you're not b-bullying that person. But w-when you take actions upon that p-person and are aware that it h-hurts them, then it b-becomes bullying.

"D-Do you understand, U-Uchiha-kun?"

Was it? I found his words to be impervious, taking into account his daily routine. Sarutobi would, every morning arrive into the classroom and greet Hyuuga Hinata's empty desk before the sinners who couldn't bring themselves to repent. He knew what influence his words brought upon us, and continued to do so regardless. Was that in itself not a form of bullying? In other words, he was defining his own actions, wasn't he?

I did the same thing that I had when I was confronted with Hyuuga's attempted suicide.

I fled.

"Hey Sasuke, do you think we were really driving her insane? To the point that she would want to kill herself?"

"Are you really asking me this? What other factors would have caused her to do such a thing?"

"I didn't mean that. I meant: were we really bullying her? Do you think we were?"

"I don't know."

It was the whole guilt factor right? The whole 'you undermined a life's value' right? It must be what he was getting at. Graduation day was coming soon and we had all been looking forwards to it. All except Hyuuga, but that didn't matter to us. It was like the story where a group of children on Venus locked a girl in a closet preventing her from seeing the sun. It hadn't mattered to us, but now it would. Now we were regretting our actions. Sarutobi was like the sun appearing in the Venus sky. He was the one who introduced us to the feeling of regret.

A while ago, my class was told to write a letter to Hyuuga—or more like an essay as if we were writing to her. The first draft held our honest and pure feelings—something near repenting, but not quite there. They weren't satisfied. We were required to edit it and the teachers to revise it according to what was considered appropriate. 5 pages, was the new standard for the 'letter.' Yet the new and revised versions had become something that was no longer us. It no longer spoke of truthfully and there was hardly variation between the letters.

They'd become the same.

It's wrong, what we did. I too, felt that what we did was cruel and dehumanizing, but I was too cowardly to do anything to stop it. I know that saying sorry doesn't help with anything, but I truly regret what I did.

Wrong. All wrong.

I found myself at the door to our classroom, the classroom where I'd found Hyuuga's dying and bleeding body. I slid open the door, but didn't want to enter the room. It was afternoon, and the sun was ruthless enough to cast the same setting glow upon the room—the same damn warm orange hue.

"Uchiha-kun?"

To hear the soft and tentative voice was like a slap to the face. She was there, sitting at her desk, but she rose to greet me. Fumbling, her fingers dug inside her bag and she pulled out a pack of onigiri from the convenient store across the street.

"D-Did I get it right? I tried hard to get it right."

"Stop it, Hyuuga-san."

"So you too, like them—"

"NO!"

I tore my way into the classroom, shoving my way to the desk, not knowing why this was happening to me, why her idea still haunted me even after she was gone even after she'd moved to some other prefecture that the school newspaper had mentioned but I hadn't remembered. I threw my backpack onto my desk and dug out an eraser. If I erased her presence. If only I could erase evidence of her presence. The eraser rubbed furiously on the stamp on the desk's surface, trying to destroy her name.

I used to love her. Hell, I used to fucking love her. And I still do. She was the only one I thought was different from everyone else. Slim with long, dark hair and pearlescent eyes. Always a smile on her thin lips. I couldn't even come close to hating her. It was impossible for me to hate her kind and gentle personality. But I treated her all the same as every other person did. Like trash.

Burning. A burning sensation. Fury. Tears.

I didn't know when it was that I realized I wasn't alone in the room. "Why did you bring back Hyuuga's desk?" I whispered, clenching the eraser tightly in my hand. I whirled on my heels and faced the doorway, where Sarutobi stood. "Why do you do this to us? Why do you talk to it every morning? Why are you there to constantly remind us of what we did? What she did?"

My heart was accelerating and my vision was all a blur, blurred from the tears that had run down my cheeks and onto her desk. I wanted answers. Answers as to why he gave a fucking shit to go out of his way and bring back what we wanted to forget.

He was silent for a long time as we stared at one another from across the room. It was a long while before he spoke.

"Hyuuga-san w-wanted to be here, in this r-room…w-with you all. But he can't."

"And so you put the desk here."

"B-because no one took her s-seriously, I-I restored her to this c-class. I w-wanted to give her the best attention."

"She'll never know what you did for her! Why can't you just let us forget?" My voice trembled and my throat was painful, strained. I fell back against Hyuuga's desk, seeking comfort that was never there to begin with. Pitiful. "Is this punishment?"

"S-She isn't…but you all are."

"T-this isn't punishment," Sarutobi continued with a smile, "but responsibility. To f-forget and start a-anew is cowardly. Y-you all did something terrible to H-Hyuuga-san and she'll never forget you. She may h-hate you, or harbor a g-grudge against you, but she'll never forget. Therefore you must never f-forget her. Never f-forget what you did to her. That is your responsibility."

"Hey, can you buy me some chips? Like, sneak outside of school during lunch?"

"Heh, that's kind of difficult…."

I'd never felt more ashamed for the times that I'd asked her to help me with some terrible favor and she would look at me for a split second, almost as if saying, "You too, Uchiha-kun?" with those sad eyes. She'd give a weak little laugh and do it anyways, only to receive another request and she'd look at them too with her sad eyes, pleading for them to stop. She probably thought we never noticed. But I did. Monster.

He said finally, "Never forget what you're feeling now."

Without a stutter.

. . .

Sarutobi Asuma stood on the roof of the school, just behind the wired gate. From the view of a person who just reached the roof, it would have looked to be as if he were surveying the cityscape. But a closer look would reveal a photo in his hand. A photo that held fourteen smiling faces of his former students from another school, and himself included. It would also reveal the timid and gloomy face of a girl to the farmost right of the photo.

The face of Hinata Hyuuga.

He pocketed the nostalgic photo and went to the next class.

. . .

"Hey, tell me."

"Yeah?"

"The only time you got along with Inuzuka was when you two were bullying Hyuuga," I asked Uzumaki as we washed our faces after PE class. It was the last class of the day and there was another class meeting afterwards. The third one. Unfortunately today, it was my turn to be nichoku along with Aburame Shino. I would have to meet with Morino, something I didn't like in particular, considering that I ran from his class before we were dismissed.

"Heh…yeah."

I wallowed in that thought and his confirmation. "That's despicable."

"Yeah…w-wait. Did you just say 'despicable'?"

"Yeah, I did."

"Hnn…it is."

"Do think that she's made some friends at her new school?"

A short pause. Then a faint smile. "Hell yeah, I think so! Definitely. There're definitely a lot of better people than we are."

I couldn't help but to agree with his words. We were terrible to her, but there definitely had to be schools with people who would be kind to her and accept her, rather than use her for the sake of entertainment. It was dehumanizing.

"I'm glad she's alive," Uzumaki said suddenly, breaking the silence. I looked at him, and he was staring at the sky, something that Nara would do. Forget the class meeting, I told myself, and I too raised my head to stare at the expanse of cloudless blue.

"I'm glad too."

. . .

It was the wrong time. He came into the room as he always did, a near-shuffle.

"Mr. Sarutobi…the next teacher isn't you."

"I a-asked the teacher to switch w-with me." The chatter died down eventually, and all attention swerved to his podium and where he stood. He held a folder and notebook in his hand which he set on the podium. From the folder, he pulled out a pile of lined paper which he set again on the podium on top of the folder which he arranged and neatened up with his fingertips.

"Today is the last d-day that I will teach here. Mr. M-Morimoto will return tomorrow."

"Last day, huh," Uzumaki muttered from his seat beside me. Whispers ran through the room, a quiet commotion.

"For the last d-day, I would l-like you all to write an e-essay. Please try to r-remember the essay you wrote l-last week. Reflect upon it, a-and if you are truly s-satisfied with that essay…then you will not h-have to do so. Otherwise, you may c-come up here and take however many s-sheets you'd like…and rewrite the essay t-the way you want it. This time you're not w-writing for the school…but for yourself."

His instructions had left us at an awkward silence, which we sneaked glances at one another, wondering who would be the first to rise. It didn't help that Sarutobi was standing at the podium looking at us all.

Yamanaka was first to act, but she didn't rise for lined paper—but to take out a book and begin to read. One would think that she could finally let go of whatever grudge she had towards Hyuuga. Many followed her example and took out something to do, anything but rewriting their essay.

The first to take a sheet was Uzumaki. He rose and walked slowly and gracelessly up to the podium. "I can only write one page…is that okay?" Sarutobi nodded. By the time Haruno had risen and taken five sheets, not looking at Sarutobi as she did, a few who had chosen otherwise slowly put away whatever they were doing and rose for lined paper one after another.

I rose too, unable to accept the revised exam that I had written before. It was what the school wanted to say, not what I wanted to say. Yet upon returning to my desk, I found it difficult to begin. If I were truly delivering this to Hyuuga, what would I say to her in an honest and unrevised manner that was truly me?

I started with a title, 'Reflection Essay' but that was to write for the school. I erased other attempts so much it left a dark mark, ghosts of the characters I'd written before.

It was a letter. A letter to Hyuuga. And letters began with the word "dear."

Dear Hyuuga,

Your desk is still in this classroom. It's to help us be aware of where you are or what you might be doing. So that we never forget. To recall what it was like when you sat there, to wonder what it would be like if you were still here. Hyuuga, I've never wanted to see someone and talk to her as much as I do now. Hyuuga, I'll never forget those eyes of yours when you looked at me and that the blacked-out part of your note should have included my name first. I'll always, always remember that. Hyuuga, I know it's too late to do anything, but this is the only thing I can do. To never forget you. That's my only option. But even as I write this, I still don't trust myself. Because I'm so dishonest. Because I'm so cowardly.

Some time while I was writing this letter, Sarutobi left the classroom.

This time, for real.

He'd finished what he'd come to do.

. . .

A/N: (1) – in Japan, people rise and bow before the teacher upon entrance. The nichoku announce this and the class does it all simultaneously. It is said "kiritsu, rei, chakuseki."
(2) – Nichoku are the "class leader of the day," hence "ni ()"which means "day." The lead the morning greeting and do what they can to help the teacher.
(3) – Aoi Tori means "Blue bird"

Disclaimer: Based off of the movie Aoi Tori. Very closely followed. All I did was put Kishimoto's characters into the story and modify a few things to meet my needs.

Sasuke's rewritten letter included in this fanfiction is actually the exact wording as it was in the movie, except that 'Noguchi' was replaced with 'Hyuuga.' I thank the people who had translated the movie's subtitles for that :) So that's another disclaimer.

Something big was bothering me as I was writing this fanfiction, and it was the fact that actually the substitute teacher, Mr. Murauchi, had actually taught Noguchi before in another school, which was why he understood him to some extent. In the movie, he held a photograph and looked at it every once in a while and it was a class picture from the other school which had both him and Noguchi in it, but I wasn't able to really incorporate that into this fanfiction because it was all based on Sasuke's viewpoint. It's there, but not really fitting. Same goes for the teacher meetings. I couldn't incorporate them in here either.

But anyways, hope you enjoyed Aoi Tori :)