Pre-shippuden.

Chapter Two:

Team Gai Gaiden.


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Neji's Side.

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Life, Neji decided, was weird. And unpredictable.

Though, perhaps, not as unpredictable as Naruto Uzumaki.

"Come on Neji, run faster!"

Neji resisted the urge to simply knock Naruto out and be done with it. Instead, he picked up the pace and activated his Byakugan. His range, though not as impressive as the older members in his clan, wasn't something to scoff at. He saw multiple Jonin and Chunin chasing Naruto and, in extension, him.

"What's going on?"

It was a valid question.

He highly doubted Naruto of all people had turned rogue, considering Naruto never stopped rambling on how he was going to be the next Hokage and fix things. Though, if Naruto did turn rogue, Neji was sure he'd feel disappointed, and perhaps even inclined to join Naruto.

To be honest, he was slightly unnerved of how loyal he was to Naruto...but somehow, it felt right. Naruto just had a certain charisma that inspired loyalty, didn't he?

"I, uh," Naruto sheepishly smiled.

"Repeat that again? Louder this time."

"I may or may not have messed with grandma Tsunade's monument."

Blinking, Neji momentarily turned his gaze towards the Hokage monument. The fifth Hokage's face was covered in wrinkles, the ryo symbol was drawn over her eyes and 'the legendary sucker' was written on her left cheek. His eyes immediately widened. How had he not notice that?!

"That was the exact same face Kakashi-sensei made before ditching me."

Neji felt incline to ditch Naruto himself.

Screw the whole loyalty towards Naruto thing.

Naruto Uzumaki was suicidal.

"Naruto," Neji pinched his nose, resigned. "You are the most idiotic ninja I have ever heard of."

The blond had the nerve to give him a cheeky smile, "At least you've heard of me."

Neji...couldn't argue with that.

"Come on Neji, we gotta lose those idiots."

Neji withheld the urge to correct Naruto, considering Naruto was the only idiot the Hyuga was seeing at the moment. And since when did they turn into 'we'? This was Naruto's problem, not his.

Though...he owed Naruto one, didn't he?

"Follow me," Neji ordered, taking the lead.

He could literally feel (and see) the blond grinning at him.

Perhaps, Neji mused, stupidity was contagious. There could be no other explanation as to why he had led the blond towards his clan's compound and towards his own home.

Also, how was he the only one panting? Was the Uzumaki, who didn't seem to even be sweating, even human?

"Think we lost them?"

Taking a deep breath, Neji activated his Byakugan once again. "Yes, they're not here..."

He winced as Naruto loudly cheered, "Man, you're a lifesaver, dattebayo!"

Neji sighed. There went his clean record.

"Do you have food?"

"Where do you think you're going?" Neji asked, exasperated as he followed Naruto to his kitchen. Did the blond have any manners?

Neji's eye twitched as the blond began rummaging around.

"Ramen!" Naruto cheered, producing two cups of instant ramen.

Neji fought away the embarrassed flush. No, Neji wasn't a big fan of instant noodles. They were just easy to make and it wasn't like Neji had anyone to cook for him, so he settled for instant food or eating takeouts.

"Neji, I was serious, ya know?"

Neji frowned at Naruto's suddenly serious expression, "What?"

"When I become Hokage, I'll change the Hyuga clan. There won't be any cursed seal anymore."

Naruto was looking at him, blue eyes filled with understanding and determination.

Neji gasped in surprise. There it was, that weird feeling that Naruto inspired in others. The charisma that Naruto had that just made it impossible to not believe the blond when he said stuff like that.

And if Naruto really was going to change things, then...

"I'll help."

"Huh?"

For the first time in what feels like forever, Neji cracked a smile, "Any Hokage worth their salts needs a worthy ANBU commander by their side."

In response Naruto grinned at him, "It's a promise then, dattebayo!"

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Tenten's Side.

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Sakura couldn't help it as she tackled Tenten into a hug, "You're the best! Thank you..." she thanked.

"It's the least I can do, after all you're planning on avenging me." Tenten said in a casual tone

"Are you okay?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I mean you worked hard and in the end..." Sakura trailed off, hesitantly.

Tenten smiled sadly, "I did work hard...but in the end luck just wasn't on my side. I'll probably be taking another chunin exam."

"For what it's worth...I think you'd make a great chunin."

"That makes one of us." At Sakura's confused look, she elaborated: "I mean I'm not leader material here, I don't think I'd be able to lead a squad by myself."

Tenten looked down at her hands.

Once upon a time, and even now, she wanted to be just like Tsunade. But then she had settled for being a Weapons Mistress. Even though a part of her still longed to be just like Tsunade.

"The art of quickly unsheathing and then sheathing your sword, that is Iaijutsu." Sakura explained, placing the two scrolls down on the ground.

"Temari-san, you beat up my friend when you knew she didn't stand a chance against you. What's more you could have killed her, so...no matter what happens next, you have no problem, right?"

It was as if a stunned silence befell the arena.

Tenten was staring at Sakura in awe. Since when did it feel like Sakura had surpassed her?

"The Haruno Sakura Surprise was for insulting me, the Iaijutsu was for being the worse big sister ever to Gaara...and this one's for Tenten!" Sakura called, pumping chakra to her hand.

"Water Style : Roaring Twin Dragons!"

What happened next was a wonder to Tenten, it almost felt like a distant dream. She could only stare in awe as two giant dragons made out of water lunged towards Temari,washing away the Sand-nin and making her collide with the arena's wall.

She should have felt happy in that moment, shouldn't she? After all, Sakura had avenged her. But Tenten didn't feel happy. She felt inadequate. She felt like she was weak. Then, as the proctor announced Sakura Haruno the winner, Tenten realized she was jealous of Sakura.

"The Hokage will see you now."

Blinking, Tenten walked up the stairs of the Hokage Tower.

'Sakura...it feels like you've gotten stronger in no time. I used to be stronger than you...' Tenten thought to herself, outwardly frowning.

"So, I have to catch up," Tenten concluded aloud, knocking on the door leading to the Hokage's office.

"Enter," the voice of her idol ordered.

Tenten opened the door, suddenly feeling nervous as the Tsunade gave her an assessing look.

"What do you want?"

"I, uh, train, uh," Tenten cursed herself for turning into a stuttering mess.

"Speak clearly, girl. Time is money."

Tenten took in a deep breath.

'I don't want to be the weak link,' she thought to herself, steeling her resolve.

For the first time since she entered the office, she looked up directly into Tsunade's eyes, not thinking about how the woman's eyes had widened slightly.

"Please take me in as your student!"

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Lee's Side.

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"Fight me Sasuke-san!"

"No," the Uchiha dismissively said, walking away without glancing at him.

Lee wasn't in the least deterred as he followed after the Uchiha, "Why not?"

This time the Uchiha did spare him a glance before scoffing. "Didn't you already beat me once?"

"But you've gotten faster, Sasuke-san! Besides, last time was to see who was stronger!"

Lee could tell that his words had garnered Sasuke's attention, seeing as the Uchiha had paused. "What's it about this time then?"

"For Sakura-san!"

"...what?"

Lee nodded furiously, "Ino-san told me that Sakura-san is smitten by you! To win Sakura-san over, I will have to prove my youthfulness in a spar!"

"Was."

Lee blinked as Sasuke continued walking, "Pardon? I do not think I caught what you said," the green-clad ninja followed, stepping in line with the Uchiha.

The Uchiha sent him an annoyed look, "She used to like me back in the Academy, that's it."

Lee was dumbfounded.

"Is it un-youthful of me to ask why?"

"Hn."

"Oh..."

Sasuke sighed, "I was an asshole. That's why."

Lee gasped, "Swear words aren't youthful, Sasuke-san!" he exclaimed before Sasuke's words truly registered in his head. "Wait, so that means that you don't like Sakura-san?"

"No, I don't," Sasuke confirmed without hesitation.

"Yosh!" Lee cheered, ignoring Sasuke's scowl. "I have a favor to ask then, Sasuke-san!"

"What?"

"Please help me acquire Sakura-san's youthful heart!"

Lee was too caught up in his excitement that he didn't notice when Sasuke stopped walking and accidentally walked into the Uchiha. Rubbing his throbbing nose, Lee took a step back and raised a bushy eyebrow towards Sasuke. "Are you alright Sasuke-san?"

"What did you ask me?" Sasuke turned around, finally looking at him.

"To help me court the youthful Sakura-san!"

"Why ask me?"

"Sakura-san once liked you, right? And all our other youthful male companions are also smitten by Sakura-san! Except for Neji, but Neji doesn't know Sakura-san like you do Sasuke-san."

Lee blinked as Sasuke disappeared, leaving a log behind.

"Yosh!" Lee exclaimed loudly, startling innocent bystanders. "I will catch the youthful Sasuke-san and prove myself worthy!"

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Gai's Side.

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"...huh?"

Kakashi, his ever youthful rival, sighed. "I asked if you can help me build up my stamina Gai."

Gai felt struck at his hip and cool rival's words, "Of course! You've finally seen the light, Kakashi! Yosh, let us run a hundred laps around Konoha!"

Before he took off, he heard Kakashi muttering: "I knew I would regret this..."