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TenTen's bizarre Adventure.

A Naruto AU-Fusion fanfic

Fused with Jojo's Bizzare Adventure.

By LackeyH

Chapter 1 – Awaken...

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From the personal diary of Higashikata Tenten.

On the day this all began I guess I didn't really expect things to explode the way they did. I remember that morning clearly, even now, several years later. Sometimes I think back and I laugh at how shallow I had been up until then, thinking only of my annoyance at failing my first chuunin exam and how I was glad that my team-mates - Neji and Lee - had also failed.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I did feel sorry that the two of them hadn't made it to the next stage of their lives as shinobi but... well... if they had passed, what would have become of me? They were my friends and, frankly, I didn't want to be separated from them. No matter how annoying Lee was and how infuriatingly depressing Neji could be they were still the only real friends i had. If they had succeeded, I would have been bounced from team to team until I too passed the exam. I guess... I guess I didn't feel I could handle that very well.

Nowadays I know differently, I have friends that are in many ways closer to me than Neji and Lee could ever be. But then, I must admit, these friendships I have now were forged in the bizarre adventure that began that day. An adventure that Lee and Neji, I doubt, could ever understand entirely even though they were there when it started.

On the day this all began...

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"Damn it!"

Higashikata Tenten, though not usually one to swear, cursed under her breath as she fiddled with the needles that held her hair-buns in place. Naturally they were no normal hair-pins, instead they were sharpened senbon, disguised with little plastic bobbles that slipped over each end of the tiny throwing weapons. They were both a fashion statement and the weapon of last resort for many enterprising young kunoichi.

Mostly, though, they were a pain in the neck to get in properly. If it wasn't one of the bobbles falling off and needing to be reattached - a process which usually earned Tenten more than a few needle-pricks on her fingers - then they hadn't been aligned quite right and wouldn't hold her hair properly. Even on a good day in which she had no problems, it always took Tenten a long while to get her hair ready. Whilst not a particularly vain girl in most respects, the young weapons expert was fiercely - if not almost psychotically - protective of her hair. Now, she knew that she didn't have the best looking hair in the leaf, not by a long shot, but... well... it was important to her, the style she kept her hair in. That was all really.

Almost unconsciously, her left hand slid down and away from her head even as her right fumbled with her hair. Tenten knew she was doing it, and she knew it made her job harder to work with one hand but this was almost a daily ritual. Kind of like some strange ceremony without which she believed she would never be able to face the day. Brushing against the side of the dressing table in front of which she stood, Tenten's hand slipped carefully into a small recess just underneath the mirror mounted on top. Her fingers moved around in well practiced motions, unlocking the tiny security seal hidden inside.

Though it was unusual for a family to make use of security seals, those which either alarmed the inhabitants of a building when set off or did somewhat worse things to whose who did set them off, it wasn't unheard of. For one thing, unless someone in the family had the skill to produce such a complex set of seals, which was a jounin level skill at the very least, it cost an absolute fortune to have such seals placed by another. Tenten knew her family wasn't rich and every so often she wondered just how had her father managed to afford the seals in the first place since she knew he couldn't make them himself.

As to her mother...

The young genin's slim fingers completed their movements and, once she was sure the alarm had been disarmed, she pulled them out along with what had been kept safe by the seals.

"Mother..." She whispered, tears in her eyes, as she stared at the tiny arrowhead she held in her hand; the only solid link she had to her mother. It looked to be made of some strange stone that was oily to the touch and had evidently been inlaid with a design made of a second, semiprecious, stone. There was a short length of shaft, a dark brown that was almost black, affixed to the arrowhead by some unidentifiable method. Though she new it to be impossible, Tenten thought it was as if the shaft had been pushed into the stone like a stick into some kind of thick tar. Given that it had been snapped off part way down, leaving a splintered mass, the shaft was evidently made of some form of almost petrified wood.

This weird piece of broken weapon was practically a family heirloom, passed down from parent to first-born child through the ages. According to what she had been told once, the arrow originated from before modern history. From a time when the world was very different from what it was today, before the creation of the hidden villages at the very least.

Strangely enough, it had also never left the Higashikata family line... Possibly it was a tradition she had not yet been told about, but every child who had been given the arrow had, when married, kept the Higashikata name. Personally she thought it was just to keep the family name from ever dying out but, well... well. It didn't matter now. Unless her father knew, which she doubted, there wasn't anyone left alive who could say the reason. After all, her mother was dead, killed merely a few yards from the village walls when her squad had tried to halt the escape of the infamous Uchiha Itachi.

Tenten had been six years old at the time, just a year into the academy. She'd cried for days over it before eventually trying to follow her mommy by rushing out into the forests surrounding Konoha. She'd been lucky, a returning squad of chuunin had found her in the rather unfortunate company of some giant tigers and, after dealing with the freakish cats, had returned her home to her fathers arms.

But that... that was in the past. Tenten had gotten over it, eventually. Sort of. Perhaps that was the reason she wanted to become an incredible ninja like Tsunade, so she could be able to stop, at least in some small way, the same thing happening to other children.

"Oooooi! Tenteeeeen!" The yell, unmistakably that of her team-mate Rock Lee, filtered through the thin walls of her family home. "Teeeeenteeeeeen!"

At the insistent yelling, the Higashikata heir's right hand dropped from where it was just teasing the last of her hair into place. The moment it did so, however, the pins holding her hair up started to slip out of position, ruining what had been a good ten minutes work at least. Scowling at this new setback Tenten stomped over to a window situated at the other end of the room.

"What?" She yelled back, a little more angrily than she'd intended given that Lee actually stepped back in surprise. The boy looked odd since he wasn't wearing his usual training uniform. Instead he was wearing a fairly generic genin outfit - a dark green shirt and black cloth trousers. Both of which were baggy enough to conceal his body shape, along with his leg weights and a kunai or two.

"A-ah... Gai-sensei sent me to get you!" Lee yelled back after getting his wits together again. "Don't you know you're almost half an hour late for our morning meeting?"

Tenten glanced behind her, at the tiny clock that sat upon a little table by the side of her bed, a snow country style thing made of wood and metal with what was quite possibly the most comfy stuffed mattress ever laying on top. A far cry from the normal futons the average fire country citizen used at least. As she stared, the clock did, pretty much, nothing. Not a damn thing.

It was at this point that Tenten remembered that her clock hadn't been working last night when she went to sleep, and that she had meant to change the batteries today. Thus, quite obviously, her clock was showing completely the wrong time.

"Damn!" She cursed under her breath. Evidently this was shaping up to be the start of a bad day, especially now that she had to face one of Gai's demented punishments for being late. What would it be this time she wondered, a lap of the village on her hands perhaps? It was his favorite punishment for Lee, not that the bowl-haired moron ever really got on their sensei's bad side enough to be punished - except for the one time recently. On the other hand Neji never received punishments because he was always perfect. Perfectly on time, perfectly balanced, in perfect fitness and health... Perfectly drool-worthy too, although mostly he was just perfectly depressing. "I'm coming!" Tenten yelled out the window, hastily cramming a myriad of scrolls and a selection of small and very pointy objects into a pouch. Then, without so much as a glance down below, she leapt out of her bedroom window.

Lee cried out in surprise and launched himself into the air, snatching Tenten from mid-fall before rebounding off of the wall to her house and making his way, at considerable speed, towards where they should have all been gathered some time ago. He didn't really mind that Tenten practically considered him a form of public transport since he was the fastest in the team (not counting Gai of course, but then he was a jounin so comparisons with him were always pretty one-sided affairs) and not adverse to giving his slower team-mates a lift if they asked. Not that Neji ever asked, he was far to prideful for something like that. Besides, he could at least keep a decent pace up; Tenten knew that she herself was the slowest member on the team and, frankly, she wasn't adverse to taking a free lift if it was offered. Her speed aside, she was the only one out of the entire team, sensei and all, who knew how to handle more than just the basic kunai, shuriken and senbon needles that all genin were schooled in. This gave her a certain sense of pride and something to gloat about over Neji and Lee - who was a disaster with anything more complicated than a solid, sharp, piece of metal.

Come to think of it, Lee wasn't entirely sure on just how many weapons Tenten knew how to use, though he did know that he hadn't yet seen her with one that she couldn't. He also knew that she was a real pain to spar against, as even though he held the advantage in speed, strength, stamina, and of course, the burning passion of youth; Tenten, however, always held the advantage of surprise. He could go in with any method of attack and it was almost a guarantee that she would pull out a weapon he hadn't seen before, forcing him to take a few steps back in order to re-evaluate the situation; during that moment Tenten would usually make use of one of her tricks or scrolls to try and defeat him.

Sometimes she'd succeed and be able to immobilize or defeat Lee in that one attack. Most of the time, though, Lee would make use of his incredible speed - even with his weights on - and be far out of the attacks range before it could take effect. Then he'd dart in and smack her one in the gut, winding her and pretty much ruining any chance she had of beating him that day.

It was really incredibly annoying, especially since she knew that the few victories she had achieved were simply because Lee had let her win. At least in that respect Neji was somewhat more honest than her thick-browed team-mate. He never let her win, ever. After all, it would be unseemly for the Hyuuga genius to lose to anyone; especially after his ego-shattering loss to the worst ninja in the village - Uzumaki Naruto. That had shaken him badly, for days after the events of the chuunin exam he had been convinced that the loss was due to his going against his own fate of being 'second best'. Second to the main house, now second to Naruto.

Tenten had eventually snapped him out of that though, by belting him around the head and effectively telling him to shut up and get over it. And boy had he got over it - she and Lee could still feel half the bruises they'd picked up from the almost obsessive training and sparring regime he had embarked on after that, claiming he would go against fate. Naruto had shown him it was possible and now he was intent on become the best ninja, better even than the main house Hyuuga.

Personally Tenten thought he had a chance. But only if Tsunade-sama died or something, since she was far superior to any ninja. She was Hokage, and Tenten's idol, after all.

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"Yooooshaaaa! Today we shall walk forwards with youthful pride!" Came the familiar yelling voice as team eight left the village via one of the giant gates in the wall that surrounded it. The self-proclaimed beautiful green beast of Konoha, one Maito Gai, was never a quiet person at the best of times. Oh no, not him. It seemed to Tenten that the quietest her jounin-teacher ever got was when he didn't actually say anything at all. Whenever he did speak, it was always as loud as he could be. "Our first official B rank mission! Isn't the sense of adventure overwhelming?"

Needless to say Lee was nodding his head enthusiastically and adding his yells of youth to Gai's own. Neji, who was standing beside Tenten as they both followed behind Gai, was instead sighing to himself, going on a B rank mission was not particularly something to be so overjoyed about. It was no secret that he himself had been part of the 'rescue Sasuke' special A rank mission which had failed so dismally some time back. Unlike Lee, who had also shown up on the mission, Neji had his participation marked down in the shinobi registry. The reason he had been recorded as doing an A rank mission and Lee had not boiled down to one simple tiny fact - Lee had gone out against orders. Or, rather, Lee had joined in on the mission without actually telling anyone.

Such rash, and frankly stupid, action on the part of his students was something that Gai had frowned on quite seriously. He'd even gone as far as to order Lee not to wear his training uniform for a month; he wouldn't be needing it due to being forbidden from doing any training beyond basic fitness exercises for that time. Mostly, it seemed, this punishment was to make sure he didn't go and mess up his recovery from his surgery again like he had done when he had fought the person who had called himself Kimimaro. In fact, there was only a day or two until the month was up and then it was pretty certain bet that Lee would be back to looking like a miniature clone of Gai rather than like the generic, though still somewhat weird, genin he looked like now. Still, it had been rather interesting to learn a few things about Lee that neither Neji nor Tenten had known before due to this. Such as Lee's allergy to wool and the fact that he didn't have much in way of clothing because his family was so... poor. Neither of his parents were ninja, and their income was pretty scarce. So much so that his entire family practically depended on the money he got for missions to supplement what his parents could earn. His training outfits and weights, it had turned out, had all been gifts from Gai when Lee had fully passed his genin exam and, later, on his birthdays.

Tenten had felt somewhat guilty about that, when she realized how often she had insulted what he wore, in light of this. Neji had just snorted and acted uninterested though if one knew him well enough, like Tenten did, then it was possible to see the signs of surprise and perhaps even a little guilt of his own. After all, whilst they both had their own family problems, neither of them had them as bad as Lee did.

His father, apparently, had been killed during the kyuubi attack when Lee was barely a year old. His mother, on the other hand, had been partially crippled in the same attack and now earned a pittance through work as a seamstress when once she had been a good ninja in her own right. Not that Lee had told them this much of course, he never really said anything about his life outside of being a ninja. Instead Gai had taken the two aside to give them a brief explanation about Lee's family - as well as a week of harsh punishment - when he had caught them making remarks about his prize student's 'ridiculous' and 'out of date' outfit.

"-en? Tenten? Are you alright Tenten?" The kunoichi blinked in surprise when she realized that Lee was trying to get her attention.

"Ah," She responded, before Lee decided to start shaking her or something to get a response. "I'm fine Lee, just fine." Beside her, Neji snorted to himself, an act which earned him an elbow in the ribs. Ignoring Neji's now irritated expression, Tenten placed a hand on her hip and stared at Lee. "Well?" She asked, "What did you want?"

"Ah," Lee began, looking somewhat embarrassed at having irritated Tenten. "I was, ah, just wondering where you got that from." He said after a moment, "It looks pretty old, is it an heirloom or something?"

Tenten blinked. "Lee, what are... you..." She glanced down at the arrow she held in her hand. "Damn." She whispered, barely loud enough for her two team-mates to hear. Her voice rose from a whisper to a shout as she ran through pretty much every expletive she knew in one breath. Lee turned red and slapped his hands over his ears, intent on not hearing such rude language. One of Neji's eyebrows rose as he tried not to show how impressed he was at the sheer number of various curses that Tenten knew; perhaps he'd file a few away for when he next had to rant about the injustices of the Hyuuga main house. Gai on the other hand was still ranting, at the top of his voice, about how his most excellent and youthful team would ace their B-rank mission. As such he barely noticed the, now rather angry, kunoichi's outburst.

Eventually, however, Tenten calmed herself down somewhat. By now, due to their high speed of travel, the team of genin and their jounin tutor had practically reached their destination, so it wasn't like she could dash back and put the arrow somewhere safe. "Damn," She spoke up after a few minutes, causing Lee to clap his hand over his ears again. Once the poor, innocent, genin had removed them Tenten continued in a half-whisper. "Yeah, Lee, this is an heirloom. I can't let it get wrecked, see? So I was angry because I forgot to put it away when we left my place." She stated, in a kind of apology for swearing so much earlier. "I guess there's not much I can do about it now, huh?"

Neji snorted, his eyes closed. Not that this was a hindrance because even the slightest amount of chakra diverted to his eyes meant he could see through his eyelids without having to fully activate his byakugan ability. "Like we would run into any trouble." He stated, in a matter of fact tone. "No-one would dare raid a caravan, even a medical one, with us guarding here." Tenten sighed to herself when she heard this, as it was obvious that what Neji really meant was that no-one would attack with him on guard. Honestly, she could only take so much of his ego in one day.

"Yeah, well, I'm going to be careful anyway. Since you've improved the range of your byakugan I'll swap positions with you Neji." Tenten was, of course, referring to the standard formation the team took when guarding. Tenten would normally hang at the back, acting as rear guard, with Neji in the middle using his Byakugan to scan the area for any hidden assailants and Lee at the front, where his incredible taijutsu could be bought to bear on anyone who attacked head-on. Gai usually moved between the three positions and a fourth, flanking, position depending on the terrain they were passing through and how likely he thought an attack was.

In this mission the thing that they were guarding happened to be a small medical caravan, filled with medicines, herbs and supplies that were required by the smaller villages and towns that couldn't produce some, or even all, of such goods themselves. Unfortunately it went without saying that medical supplies were also wanted in high demand by the various bandit gangs and, worse, groups of missing-nin who usually didn't know how to make these items and couldn't just wander into town to buy any either.

"Fine." Grunted the Hyuuga child. "I don't ca-." The rest of his sentence was cut off as an explosion tores its way into the sky some distance away. Immediately Gai was there, barking orders and leading the trio of genin in the direction of the blast. Wit ha wave of his hand he commanded them to form into a diamond-shaped formation with Lee on his left and Neji on his right. Tenten was directly behind him, where her vast array of ranged attacks would be most useful at keeping both flanks secure no matter how the enemy came at them.

Within moments they arrived at the scene, a burning hulk of what was once a caravan laying on its side as a group of what appeared to be missing-nin rifled through it's contents. Nearby lay the dead bodies of the regular caravan guards, all of them looking like pincushions due to the number of kunai and senbon sticking out of them. A little further off, and even Neji felt the urge to throw up when he saw it, were the caravan owners. Apparently one of them had been a woman. Had being the operative word as now she was just so many chunks of flesh, guts and other things too gruesome to look at for long. Only Gai, with his years of experience, was able to ignore the nausea of the sight and concentrate on the important things - such as the ruined chunk of metal that was close to the center of the mess. Unless he was mistaken the woman had been unlucky enough to have been hit by a kunai wrapped with an explosive note or two. That was probably the cause of the explosion they had detected.

The other owner lay a little distance beyond the mess of flesh that had been the woman. He didn't seem to have any obvious injuries, but if he was alive then he'd most assuredly either been knocked unconscious by the blast or been rendered useless by the sheer shock of seeing someone being blown, literally, to pieces.

"Lee! Check for survivors! Protect anyone that's still alive!" Commanded Gai, his voice that of an experienced leader rather than it's usual overly enthusiastic tone. "Neji, support my left! Tenten, covering fire! Wide spread!" Gai glared at the missing-nin, who were dropping what they had grabbed and drawing weapons to deal with the oncoming threat. "Explode!"

Lee was a blur as he ran, half ducking, towards the nearest guard's body. A quick glance revealed that his throat had been cut. Wasting no time Lee moved to the next body and checked it over. Also dead, this time due to the large icicle impaling him from behind, obviously the work of ninjutsu of some kind. The third body, dead, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth... all dead. Turning to yell his findings to Gai, Lee was forced to throw himself to the floor as a body flew by only to land in a crumpled heap somewhere behind him. It was a missing-nin, probably flung his way by a blow from Gai or Neji. Lee grimaced when he saw that the nin was alive and trying to rise. "Gai-sensei..." He whispered, realizing that this man was probably going to be his first kill as a shinobi of the Leaf. The man's neck was, to Lee's growing horror, surprisingly fragile, crushing under just one stomp of his foot with a dull and wet cracking sound. That done the proud green beast, who wasn't feeling particularly proud right now, continued to check for survivors. It was only once he was done that he allowed himself a moments respite to empty the contents of his stomach over the floor.

Neji noticed Lee throwing up and quickly put the image to the back of his mind, instead concentrating on the strike he was about to perform. His hand touched flesh and he could feel his opponents body tighten under it as his chakra invaded the others system and fried the inner coils that surrounded his lungs before exploding outwards, shredding the organs and killing him as effectively as any other means. The missing-nin fell the the floor, but Neji was already facing another opponent and slapping his palms against the spots which, he knew, would make their heart burst. Killing was... not new to him like it was to his team-mates. It never was to a Hyuuga. Not with their ability to kill with a single blow if need be. Besides, hadn't he killed on the mission to capture Sasuke? No, killing was not a particularly new thing to him.

Nor was it to Gai, who was laying into the bulk of the missing-nin group, shattering skulls and crushing rib cages with almost every blow. He was vaguely worried by the sheer number of missing-nin here, but this was far from Konoha and only an hour or so journey away from the border to the River country. That was one of the less populated countries that had no shinobi village to deal with such things themselves. It was only natural that missing-nin should congregate in such a country, alongside native clans of non-unified shinobi, where they were less likely to be wiped out by a decent-sized village task force. Of course, in such groups the few hunter-nin that ran into them were no threat, merely a minor annoyance. Eventually such gatherings of missing-nin got large enough to warrant attention; not always violent attention either, diplomacy became just as important. The village of Hidden Rain, for example, had begun merely as a large grouping of missing-nin - mostly from the Cloud and Mist villages. Some time later it had developed into an organized community, then into the beginnings of a village. Now it was a player in the international game of shinobi politics, though not a particularly major one as yet. It was also one of Konoha's closer allies thanks to a few deft diplomatic moves and the wholesale slaughtering of a large number of angry Cloud shinobi that had been ordered to level the newly formed village that was Hidden in the Rain.

Lost in these thoughts Gai idly backhanded a young missing-nin girl, sending her flying across the battleground. He felt a little guilty about it, the girl seemed to be no older than his own students and, well, it did seem a little harsh to do such a thing to someone so young. Then again, she had been trying to stab what had looked like a poisoned weapon into his side, so he supposed it evened out somewhat. Another nin, this one older and presumably more experienced, dove at him from above whilst a further three attacked from the front, a plan that would force him to leave himself open to at least one of them. This plan, however, was rendered useless as the older missing-nin lurched to one side mid-dive, crashing into the ground nearby rather than landing on Gai as intended. The reason for his failure was painfully obvious as one entire side of him looked like it had just sprouted a thick coat of metal due to the sheer number of sharp objects embedded into it. Gai grinned, no-one could beat Tenten when it came to long-range covering fire.

Or short range covering fire for that matter. Tenten, thanks to her pre-prepared item summoning scrolls had, as it were, more weapons than a small army. Everything from slim senbon needles to giant fuuma shuriken were her ammunition, and there was very little that could survive a volley of fire from her without some kind of special defense. As if that wasn't bad enough, she had been practicing with melee weapons almost religiously since her disastrous defeat during the last chuunin exam. Now anyone who managed to survive her storm of sharp metal would be faced with the even more daunting prospect of a girl who could competently handle the ideal weapon for almost any situation. So far only one nin had been able to circumvent both Gai and Neji and get within striking distance of Tenten. He was currently lying unconscious nearby thanks to a blow to the head from a relatively light flail Tenten had pulled out from, seemingly, nowhere. There was, however, one tiny problem. As of yet, Tenten hadn't killed anyone. Sure she'd turned a few people into pincushions, but they'd live assuming they didn't hang around for too long.

So convinced that she was unapproachable, Tenten never really considered her own weaknesses. Namely that spending so much time learning weapons had left her other skills not much better than they had been when she'd passed the genin exam. Her stamina and speed was low, though her reflexes and precision were well above par. She had little use for ninjutsu beyond those used to prepare and summon simple items such as weapons from her scrolls. genjutsu... well, Tenten had tried it once and found out that it only made her head hurt, so she had given up on that fairly quickly. Unfortunately, having so little experience with the uses of ninjutsu and genjutsu meant that she was completely unprepared to counter them, or even to imagine ways in which they could be used.

This was why she hadn't expected one of the nearby corpses to vanish as a volley of kunai shot her way. Only quick reflexes saved her skin as she dove to one side and let loose her own wave of weaponry, deflecting most of the volley. Suddenly her vision went white as a series of explosions rocked the area, shredding her cloths and sending her sprawling to the floor. Had the kunai been wrapped with exploding notes? It seemed that way at least. Tenten vaguely heard Lee yell a warning, and it was only that which prompted her to roll aside as a metal spike burst out of the ground she had been laying on. A second spike came a moment later, clipping her arm and leaving a nasty gash in it's wake. Tenten didn't stop to think about the pain as a third, fourth and fifth spike burst forth. She guessed it was some kind of ninjutsu, given that the spikes seemed to be following her movements. Still, nothing she couldn't avoid now that she knew about it.

Over where he was Lee couldn't help but panic as Tenten wove her way around the clearing, giant spears of dark metal shooting out of the ground where she passed in an attempt to impale her. He could see the nin that was behind it, she had evidently been using a genjutsu or some sort to disguise herself as a corpse. Damn! He had walked right by the corpse, passing it off as another dead guard and not even noticed it was a fake whilst he was looking for survivors! And now, with a number of nin having made their way around Gai and Neji, he was too busy to go to Tenten's aid! Growling to himself, Lee ducked and smashed his foot into a missing-nin's leg, shattering their shin and letting them crumple to the floor. Immediately another, stronger opponent came at him, forcing him on the defensive and further away from Tenten.

Tenten swore to herself. It seemed that this opponent was the worst kind she could have come up against, worse even than the sand-nin girl from the exams. Her opponent was a metal ninjutsu user, those were about as rare as someone who was competent with the incredibly complex wood-type jutsus, only they were several times more dangerous. Especially to someone who carried around more metal than a small foundry as her standard armaments. Grimacing she whipped her arm out and let loose a rain of senbon needles, only to see them suddenly veer off to one side as her opponent used some kind of metal-controlling jutsu to divert their course. A nasty thought occurred to Tenten then, and she flung herself forwards as a storm of weaponry passed overhead, barely skimming along her back and leaving more than a few holes in her tunic.

"Damn, damn, damn, damn!" Tenten struggled for a few moments with her pockets as the mass of sharp metal, obviously under the control of the metal-jutsu user, began to turn around for a second wave. With a squeal of victory she managed to fish out one of her scrolls and, after wiping the thumb of her good arm through the blood dripping down from her earlier injury, smeared a mark across it's surface. With a burst of smoke a large domed object popped into existence around her, moments before the onslaught hit. The object was, more or less, just like a giant metal wok and, as Tenten cowered underneath listening to the sound of her own weapons striking the other side like a storm of hail, it made a most excellent shield. Unfortunately, she also knew this defense wouldn't last long since it was made of metal - the very thing her opponent seemed capable of controlling with their jutsu. Still, it bought her enough time to rip some of her other scrolls to shreds, hopefully dispelling a large portion of the summoned weapons that made up the rain she was hiding from. Feeling her only defense begin to shake and rise somewhat, presumably under her opponents control, Tenten decided to risk making a rush at the nin. Flinging the wok-like shield aside, she grabbed a few kunai from her waist-pouch, thankful that her opponent obviously hadn't realized that she would be carrying a few normal ones in addition to her hordes of summoned weaponry.

Neji ducked under the open palmed strike of one of the remaining missing-nin, his attention only partially focused on what was going on around him. With his Byakugan he was looking behind him, at Tenten's battle, rather than at his own opponents. Mentally he made a count of the battlefield, there had been around thirty missing-nin when they had started, now there were only six still standing, the rest either dead or incapacitated. It was a large number, but then none of them were particularly strong - chuunin level at best - and were easy opponents for himself, Gai and Lee. Him especially since the Hyuuga method of fighting had been designed to deal with multiple opponents like this. Still, with so many to fight he had been getting tired faster than they were winning. He'd noticed a few fleeing, but they were unimportant, it was those who had the discipline to stay behind who were the big threat. These last six were far stronger than the others, though that wasn't really saying much as none of them even approached the strength of someone like, for example, Gai. Suddenly a scream filled the air and Neji's head whipped around to look at the source even though he didn't really need to since his Byakugan could already see; the action was instinctive and almost entirely against his control, as was his voice when he yelled out the name of his female comrade.

"TENTEN!"

The kunoichi was standing there, swaying on her feet, the metal dome of her shield lying upturned where she had left it some distance away. Her clothes looked like they had been ripped open, and her pouches of normal kunai and shurikens looked as if they'd just exploded.

Gai turned in shock, never before had he heard the Hyuuga prodigy yell in such a way before. His eyes widened, his fists clenched and his teeth ground together at the sight of his beloved student.

Though Tenten was still standing, it was only barely. An assorted mix of kunai, shuriken and senbon jutted out of her body, blood running freely from the wounds caused where they had penetrated her flesh. From what Neji had seen, moments before his instinct took over, was that the enemy shinobi had used their metal-controlling jutsu to take over all the normal weaponry Tenten had, caused them all to explode outwards from where they had been hidden and then... then... sent them back. Right into the girl.

Lee was upon Tenten's opponent before Gai had even begun to move. His fists and feet were swinging wildly, smashing bone and pulping everything else when they hit. It was obvious that he wasn't thinking, as he didn't even notice when he cracked the woman's skull with an uppercut or when he snapped her spine with an elbow to her back or when he reduced her abdomen to jelly with a kick from the front or... or...

Neji gulped slightly. As emotionless as he was even he was scared by Lee's actions and how mindlessly brutal they were. It didn't even register that he himself had just shunted a lethal amount of chakra into the nin he had been fighting, effectively boiling his opponents brain from the inside. The situation just a few short feet away was like that time when Lee had trashed a restaurant after getting drunk only... worse. Much worse. Suddenly he realized that Tenten was falling, like a collapsing building she seemed to fold in on herself and, with a sick feeling in his stomach, he realized that the arrow Tenten had been worried about earlier was impaled in her skull, piercing through one eye.

"LEE!" Gai's voice cut through the sounds of Lee's abuse, through the numbness Neji felt inside his mind and through the silence of the remaining missing-nin. Lee stopped dead, the body of the metal-jutsu user falling to the floor with a sickeningly wet sound as his pummeling ceased. "Take her!" Came the next command, "Tsunade! Now!" Though his orders were clipped and incomplete, Lee knew what his idol meant. Stopping only to wipe tears from his eyes, Lee carefully lifted the prone form of his team-mate. Then he virtually exploded with power, ripping open five of the celestial gates as if they hadn't existed. Raw, unfocused power washed over the area, causing Neji to shield his eyes with his arm. This was far, far more than what Lee had pulled out during the chuunin exam.

When Neji lowered his arm there was nothing left of either Tenten or Lee except for a vast stretch of shredded earth which led in a direct line towards Konoha and had been caused by the sheer force of Lee's passing. The only living things left in the clearing were himself, Gai and the few remaining missing-nin and, given the anger he could feel radiating from Gai, Neji was pretty certain that they wouldn't be alive for much longer.

The missing-nin had guessed this also and backed away at speed, turning to flee into the forest.

"No." Whispered Gai, and Neji could tell something bad was about to happen. "No escape."

"Gai-sensei -" Neji began, but was silenced when Gai held his arm out in a silent command to shut the hell up.

"Hamon-ken..." He stated softly, "Personal technique..."

Gai spread his legs slightly and raised one arm, his fingers curling up like claws. Glaring at the ground he tensed up slightly and suddenly, with a burst of motion he slammed his hand through the ground. "PRIDEFUL GREEN OVERDRIVE!"

For a moment nothing happened and Neji wondered what the hell punching the ground was supposed to have accomplished. Since he'd let his byakugan drop he hadn't actually seen what Gai had done with his chakra but...

The tree nearest to their position exploded, showering the area immediately around it with wooden shrapnel, though none of it reached far enough to so much as scratch them.

Neji whirled around to face it, just as another tree exploded, followed by another... and another and another... and... Suddenly his world turned into a hell of sound and smoke as every single bush, tree and plant within range of his vision exploded at once. The dust and smoke caused by the explosions filled the clearing, causing him to choke and cough as he tried to get a proper lungful of air. Beside him Gai stood, like an angry mountain, ignoring both sound and smoke as he waited for visibility to return.

When it did, Neji couldn't help but gasp. Every single scrap of plant life for as far as he could see was gone, exploded for some unknown reason. About the only thing remaining was the grass immediately beneath his feet. Then he saw the missing-nin who had been trying to flee. Or, rather, he saw the remains of them all. Each of them had been shredded, caught in the midst of the exploding plant life and ripped to pieces by high speed chunks of wooden shrapnel. He had known jounins were powerful, and that his own teacher was one of the best but this... this was beyond anything he could have imagined, the only thing more devastated than this that he knew of was the site of where, according to Naruto, the 'dead last' and Gaara had fought during the chuunin exam.

It was only when Gai took hold of his wrist that Neji was bought back to reality. "Tenten," he whispered. Gai nodded and took one last glance around the wasteland the had once been an area of dense forest.

Then, the two were gone.

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Life hurt so much sometimes.

It wasn't as if it meant to cause such pain, such misery.

It just... seemed to happen. That was all.

Looking at the faces of the three in front of her, Tsunade wondered just why it always seemed to happen to the people who didn't deserve such anguish. It had been over a month since Lee, the muscles in his limbs all but liquefied due to his over-use of the celestial gates in getting to Konoha in time, had blown apart the doors to her office and strode in, Tenten's body in his arms. He'd looked at her, tears running down his face and smiled.

"You can heal her." He had said, his voice cracking under the strain, "Y-you can heal a-anyone..."

Fortunately Lee's injuries had been easy to fix, relatively anyway, and he had been up and about within a few days and had been easing back into training in under two weeks. Tenten however... had been somewhat more complicated and had required many, many sleepless nights of work.

Now here she was, looking at the girl's team. Knowing that none of them had heard a word about Tenten's condition. Even her father, who was hanging at the back of the room, was as in the dark as the rest.

All that they had been told, under her own orders, was that Tenten wasn't dead. Sure, that was some consolation but, well, when one was a ninja one could think of a thousand, maybe even more, fates much worse than death. Still, given some of the rather odd events which had been occurring since the brown-haired girl had been admitted to the highest ranked medical facility in Konoha had been... worthy of concern. Such as when the wound caused by the arrow, which should have been fatal given the position and depth, had practically regenerated in moments once the arrow had been removed. Leaving Tenten alive - at least as alive as a human pincushion could be - and well, with no trace of the fatal wound remaining. According to all medical instruments and experts, though, Tenten had been officially dead for almost three minutes before her 'miraculous' revival. Even her eye had regenerated and Tsunade knew that such a thing was impossible, even to her own full regeneration jutsu. (Though, admittedly, she wouldn't have put such a thing past Kyuubi's regenerative powers, but fortunately she hadn't yet had the need to find out for definite yet.) That had shocked her quite badly and had prompted her to put some security in place.

"Well," Stated Tsunade, noting how everyone in the room was suddenly paying far, far more attention to her than anyone had in months. "She's alive and recovering, though unconscious we're pretty sure she'll be awake within the week at least." she said, not wanting to drag things out much, they deserved that much at least. "We'll... have to keep her under observation, but physically she should be fine."

"... Only physically?" Asked Neji, which caused Tsunade to mentally curse how observant those goddamned Hyuuga were. "What about her mental state?"

It was Gai who spoke up in answer, before Tsunade could even open her mouth. "Not good." he stated, quite simply. "Such an... event would scar even a full jounin, with years of battlefield experience and mental conditioning. Young Tenten has neither to aid her, I would not be surprised if, at the every least, she quit being a kunoichi." Next to Gai, Tenten's father nodded in agreement. From what Neji and Lee knew of the man, he had been a chuunin up until he'd quit being an active ninja when his wife had died.

"As Gai says," Began Tsunade, "I would be hesitant to even let her train without first having a full analysis of her mental condition. Which, unfortunately, is something I just can't do right now - not until she's properly up and about anyway. Also..." She paused, considering her words, "... there were some... occurrences. Nothing to panic about but, well, I want to keep her under observation even when she does leave. Still. No use worrying about that until I declare her physically fit enough to leave."

"Ho-hokage-sama!" Squealed out Tenten's father, who had a voice that reminded Neji of a strangled bear, a bass sound trying to hit a high note. "M-my daughter!" The man practically flung himself over Tsunade's desk in order to be noticed, "I m-must see her!" Neji thought this display was far too overdone but... he did want to see Tenten himself and he was sure that both Gai and Lee also wanted to see their team-mate.

Tsunade just sighed to herself, "Fine, fine," Reaching over her desk and knocking a few piles of paper out of the way, the fifth hokage eventually uncovered a little intercom buzzer, which she promptly pressed. "Oi, Whoever is down there, send someone up to escort Mister... er..." Her gaze flicked to a document in front of her, "... Mister Higashikata and genin team three to secure medical room sixteen as soon as possible."

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So.

There she was.

Team three, the official designation of Gai's team, had been asked to wait outside the room in which their companion, Tenten, was recovering. Mostly this was so that her father could get in some private time alone, as any parent would want when their child had just survived a certain death experience. Now, though, they had been let in to see her for themselves.

What little of her wasn't covered in bandages or blankets at least.

Only the left side of her face, a portion of her neck and the top of her head, along with her hair, were visible. Her right eye was covered with both padding and bandages and from the neck down Tenten looked like a mummy, not that they could see much further down given that she was covered by a thin, hospital-issue, blanket.

Neji's hands clenched into fists at his sides as he stared at the unmoving form of his team-mate. Sure, he wasn't exactly one for relations of any kind, but Tenten had been his team-mate for, what, two years? She was someone he liked, or at least got along with well enough as a comrade. She wasn't like most girls, she wasn't annoying, clingy or ridiculously over-concerned with her appearance.

Except for her hair anyway, he still remembered how badly bruised he'd been for weeks after insulting her hair. Hyuuga genius notwithstanding, he simply hadn't expected the calm and collected Tenten to explode on him like that, which is why she'd landed several painful blows before he'd started dodging and blocking the rest.

Nervously he stepped forwards, in front of Lee and Gai. "Recover soon." he whispered, so softly that even Gai couldn't hear him. Then again, Gai was bawling his eyes out like a kid and probably wouldn't have heard him even if he'd been yelling at the top of his voice. "Things are... wrong... with you missing."

The Hyuuga genius backed off then, not wanting to look at Tenten's condition any longer. He'd see her again when she was fully recovered, that he was sure of. If nothing else, Tenten had big dreams, similar to those of the blond boy, Naruto. Like him, he felt, something as serious as a certain death experience would most likely be seen as nothing more than a minor setback to her. He glanced at Gai, his pale eyes almost shining in the dimly lit room. "I... shall go... order some flowers." He mumbled, grasping for an excuse to let him out of the room. He really, really didn't feel comfortable here. "She should have flowers when she wakes up." he explained, "To show we... care about her."

Gai nodded. He knew Neji was just making excuses, but he didn't mind. To tell the truth, he didn't particularly want to be here either... it was one thing to look upon a dead comrade, or one who was maimed but up and speaking... but watching over someone he cared about who was hovering in that strange place between life and death... That scared him. To know that Tenten could die at any time, without any warning at all, like this... no shinobi could prepare for that feeling.

"Daffodils." He said at last, wiping the tears from his eyes with the back of one sleeve. "I don't know much about flowers, but daffodils are supposed to represent a will to survive, are they not?" The tall man nodded to himself as he spoke, "I understand the Yamanaka flower shop, just off the fifth branch street, has the best selection of flowers in Konoha. Order some daffodils from there." pausing to glance at Tenten, the jounin pulled a wad of bills from a hidden pocket and pressed them into a surprised Neji's palm. "Along with anything else you think appropriate for her."

Meanwhile, Lee had quietly shuffled up to the edge of the bed Tenten was lying on. "Tenten," He whimpered, with tears streaming down his face. "Tenteeen. Wake up Tenten, please?" The normally hyperactive young man whimpered again, he liked Tenten. Sure, she didn't burn with the passion of youth as much as, say, Gai did, but she did laugh at his jokes and she was always there to patch him up after losing to Neji. Even though she did make fun of him for always trying to beat the genius, he didn't really hold that against her. Besides, he could always get his own back by saying that he'd actually met - and been treated by - the legendary Tsunade, Tenten's number one idol. She always smacked him around a bit when he mentioned that he'd met her whilst Tenten hadn't. "You even got to meet Tsunade-sama, and if you wake up you'll get to talk to her! You've always wanted to talk to Tsunade-sama, right? Tenten... Don't stay like that... Wake up please?"

The girl laying on the bed didn't so much as twitch in response to Lee's plea. Staring at her for a while more, Lee was vaguely are that Neji had left and that Gai had stepped up behind him to look over Tenten. "Ahhh..." Rumbled the talker of the two clones. "Perhaps, like a story, Tenten merely needs the kiss of a prince burning with youthful passion to awaken her!"

Lee turned to look at his sensei. Even for the great and all-wise Gai, this was perhaps a little... strange. Yup, definitely strange. Still, he wasn't one to argue with his hero. Besides, the idea did have a certain... merit to it. Namely that he'd be kissing a pretty girl, even if it would just be a quick peck. Tenten was, even banged up, a very pretty girl after all.

Though, he did feel a little uneasy at the thought of such a thing as well, it was almost as if something were glaring at him, promising much pain should he try to kiss Tenten.

Ah, but that was absurd. There was no-one here but himself, Gai and Tenten.

Anyway... a kiss... to wake her up... it couldn't hurt to try, right? All it was was a little peck on the cheek. Nothing to fret over. It wasn't like he'd never kissed a girl before.

... Well, okay, he had never kissed a girl before, but that was beside the point!

Trying his best not to panic, Lee leaned in towards Tenten, intent on giving her a little kiss on... on... her forehead. Yeah. Her forehead seemed a safe place to kiss. He leaned in closer... closer...

Suddenly his legs were knocked backwards and Lee was sent falling forwards only to smack into the metal railing that surrounded the edge of the bed nose first. Before sliding off of it only to to smack his nose again, this time on the floor of the room. The sound of the impact made Gai jump in surprise. "Lee!" He exclaimed, "What happened Lee?"

"Ow..." Mumbled Lee, from where he now lay on the floor. "I dink I broke by dose." He groaned, feeling very strange indeed. He was sure he'd just been knocked over, he'd felt something impact against his shin to push him off balance, and his shoulders to smack him face-first into the railing. Yet... he couldn't see anyone else in the room. Tenten hadn't moved an inch, and Gai wasn't the sort of person to pull a nasty trick like that. "I guezz... I guezz I muzta slibbed or somebing."

"And just what, exactly, is going on here?" Gai spun around at the new voice, whilst Lee merely began to pick himself up off of the floor, blood streaming from his nose. At the door to the room, silhouetted by the bright lights in the hallway behind her, Tsunade's assistant Shizune stood, hands on hips, glaring at the two. Frowning, the medical specialist eyed the blood coming from Lee's nose. "You weren't doing anything... perverted were you?" She accused, glaring even harder than before. Behind her a few of the more nosy medics were scurrying away, not wanting to draw Shizune's attention. She did, after all, look ready to kill anyone she found doing something wrong.

"Ahaha!" Gai laughed nervously, "Of course not Shizune-san! My youthful student here was merely grieving over his companion's condition when he slipped! Breaking his poor nose in the process!" He laughed again, this time bending down to give Lee a hand in getting to his feet.

"A broken nose?" Shizune sighed to herself, "Honestly Lee, anyone would think you mean to keep injuring yourself." Waving one hand, the woman stepped over to lee and gently placed two fingers at the top of his nose. They pulsed with chakra for a moment, giving Lee a very cold and stuffy feeling. "There, that'll stop the bleeding for now, go out and find one of the duty medics, they should be able to fix it up properly. I've got to stay and run a few tests on Tenten here."

As Lee nodded his thanks to the medic-nin and practically ran out of the door, Gai slipped over to stand beside Shizune. "So," He began after a moment, gently placing one hand on her shoulder. "How bad is it really?"

"Very bad," Came the reply. "She should be dead right now, hell, she was dead for a while but... Well... something happened. Something weird, Tsunade's still looking into it but..." The dark haired woman sighed once more, "She's lucky. More than lucky. We think that arrow had some strange power to it, that's the only reason she's alive. If it had been a senbon or a kunai that had hit here where the arrow did... well... we'd have had her funeral weeks ago. As it is she's still lucky, the arrow may not have killed her, but everything else almost did anyway." Shizune smiled slightly, "She's one lucky girl, a real survivor I think."

"Did you know," Gai said, his voice almost dreamy as if he were not entirely all there. "Tenten has a dream, she told me back when she became a genin. You know, when I asked the usual questions." he glanced at the unconscious girl. "She said she wanted to be like Tsunade-sama, a famous kunoichi of legend. You wouldn't believe how badly she wanted to meet her idol when she heard of her arrival in Konoha."

"She shouldn't have met her in this way, huh?" Whispered Shizune, "It's not fair that she should meet her idol and not be conscious to register it."

"No... no, it's not." The bowl-haired jounin stretched his arms out for a moment. "Perhaps a meeting could be arranged? Once she's awake?"

The medical specialist merely smiled slightly. "I guess we could do that, after trauma like this it may be just the sort of thing she would benefit from. Still... there's nothing we can do until she's awake."

As the two talked, Shizune slowly going about the act of changing various drips and feeds, neither of them noticed Tenten twitch slightly...

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Her mouth, to be blunt about it, tasted like an animal had just dropped a load of crap in it.

No, correction, like a whole herd of animals had just crapped in it.

Her head felt like lead, her arms and legs felt like wood and her eye was refusing to focus properly now that she'd finally managed to open it.

Wait a minute.

Why could she only see out of one eye? More to the point, what was she doing here? This wasn't her bed at all! Her bed was softer, more comfortable, and her room definitely wasn't white. Her room was a lovely shade of a warm, deep, red. So, then, what the hell was she doing in a white room?

"Whaa" She managed to croak out, discovering just how dry her mouth and throat were. There was a rustling to one side of her, though she couldn't seem to turn her head to face it, she tried but... it simply seemed so... difficult.

"Shhh," Came a voice, and Tenten was damn sure she didn't know who it belonged to. Actually... maybe it did seem a little familiar, someone she'd heard in the street a few days ago maybe? Still, why the hell was she in an unfamiliar room, unable to move and unable to see out of one eye, with someone she didn't recognize? Suddenly there was something, a hand, slipping under her head from behind, lifting her up into a sitting position.

Tenten did what any young lady, immobilized and in a strange place would do in such a situation.

She panicked.

There was a faint tugging sensation from her chest, and then she fell back onto the bed, the hand at the back of her head gone. Along with that came a string of pained curses and the sound of a door being slammed open.

"What the hell was that?" Came a demanding voice, female, authoritarian. Familiar.

"Tsu-Tsunade-sama!" Whined the voice from before, "The patient awoke and, as you instructed, I was going to give her a little of the tonic you prepared but... I think she panicked and did... something. I couldn't see anything but whatever it was damn near broke my arm."

Tsunade? The Tsunade? As in, fifth Hokage, legendary kunoichi, Tsunade? The same Tsunade that was her hero? Her idol? She was in the same room as herself?

"Hn... Doesn't look too bad. Mostly bruising really. Go get it checked out and take a day or two off until the swelling - and it will swell - goes down." Spoke the authoritarian voice, Tsunade's voice. It seemed she was talking to the person who had been in the room with her when she had awoken.

Tenten felt like she could have fainted right then and there, simply due to being in the same room as her idol. Fortunately, though, she controlled that impulse, instead wanting to find out what the hell was going on before she did anything silly like fainting.

"Wha..." She tried to speak, again coming out with a rather pathetic sounding croak. Even as the made the noise, the sound of approaching footsteps echoed in her ear.

"Ah, so you are awake. And here I though my subordinate was just covering their own error. Still, do you know where you are?" Came the female voice, Tsunade's voice. "You're in a hospital, can you remember why?" As she spoke Tenten could feel herself being lifted up like before, though this time she didn't panic as she knew, sort of, what was happening. A few moments later something was pressed against her lips. "Drink," came the command. "Just a sip or two, it'll make your throat feel better."

She sipped and, indeed, it did make her throat feel better. Enough to answer the question at least, though her mouth still felt like something had died in it. Then again, given how bad Tsunade's medicines were rumored to taste... it was probably a good thing that her mouth felt like that. According to Lee, it had taken weeks for the taste of the medicine Tsunade had given him to fade away

So... a hospital. This implied that she was injured and, since she couldn't remember being brought to the hospital, she must have been injured enough to be knocked out entirely. Right. So. She remembered setting out on a mission that morning, B-rank, guarding a medical caravan. Nothing particularly amazing really. Only... yes, they'd run into a band of missing-nin who'd attacked the caravan, there was a fight - with Gai and Neji doing most of the work whilst she provided fire support as usual. Lee had been sent to check for survivors from the caravan, but he'd got sucked into fighting too... So had she come to think of it. She'd been fighting some crazy nin who could move metal around, hadn't she?

Yes, she remembered hiding under her makeshift shield, then dropping to to charge and... and... and...

Tsunade swore as Tenten's one visible pupil shrunk down to a tiny black dot in her eye. The girl slowly turned pale and began shaking madly, sweat pouring down her face only to soak into her bandages.

Then she began screaming.

Not that the legendary medic was able to do anything, as at that moment something, some unknown force, blasted her across the room like a rag doll. If it had been a person of any lesser physical strength in her position then they probably would have been coughing up a lung or two now. As it was Tsunade's body had left a deep indentation in the room's wall. Peeling herself out of the wall, the fifth hokage flicked her fingers through a set of simple seals. Most ninja would also have to call out the technique's name, to further focus themselves on its use. Tsunade, being as legendary as she happened to be, was above such things when it concerned small-scale techniques like this. Besides, she had always thought that yelling out the name of the technique you were using was, all in all, a pretty stupid thing to do - especially if your opponent recognized the name.

Regardless of her silence, the room almost instantly began to fill itself with slightly off-white feathers that appeared in the air and floated to the floor. Unlike it's better known brother, the nehan shouja no jutsu, which had reportedly been used during the previous chuunin exam, this was a fairly small sleep-inducing genjutsu that was both smaller in range and weaker in power. Not much use in combat, but Tsunade had found it to be most effective when dealing with troublesome patients or, more commonly, the hysteric relatives of patients. Over where she sat, feathers falling all about her, Tenten began to quieten her screaming even as she started falling backwards. Thanks to the genjutsu she was asleep before her head even hit the pillows on her bed.

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So. She'd been shot in the eye, apparently. What a... weird thing.

Scary too. Best not to think about it.

Tenten had woken up from the technique Tsunade had used after a few short hours worth of sleep. Well, no. Actually this was the sixth time she'd woken up, as she hadn't been able to stay awake for very long for the few times she'd woken up after the first. This time, though, she didn't feel particularly tired. In fact, she felt pretty damn good. During her time asleep someone had come and delivered a vase full of flowers, mostly daffodils, but a few other blooms were mixed in there also. Not that she could name them, she'd never been all that good at the 'womanly arts' classes the kunoichi went through at the academy. She'd only barely managed to scrape herself through flower arranging thanks to one of her classmates, and her musical skills had only gotten her through that part of the course thanks to a little cheating on her part.

Well, okay, a lot of cheating. Sitting around playing music wasn't exactly her goal in life after all. Besides. It wasn't her fault she'd gotten a dozy old guy as her examiner, a dozy old guy who just so happened to be so completely tone deaf he would have thought a wailing cat was beautiful music. Really. Not her fault at all.

Thinking about such meaningless things was nice. It kept her from thinking about... about... no! She would not think about it! She would think about, say, the food next to the flowers! Yes. That was a safe thing to think about, the basket of fruit someone had delivered whilst she'd been asleep. It looked pretty good actually, she could definitely see a banana in there, a few grapes, oranges and apples too. Ooh! Was that a wind country cactus-plum at the back there? Those were really nice, so sweet and juicy that they easily qualified as one of her favorite foods, even if one did have to be careful when peeling the thick needle-studded skin off from it to get at the fruit inside. Those needles were sharp! Sharp like her... own...

"No!" Tenten whispered to herself, "Th-This is not the way to th-think. Tenten, what wuh-would Tsunade-sama say if she saw you now?"

"Offhand, I'd say you look better than you did before." Tenten twitched slightly at the voice, then tilted her head to get a good look at the door - and the well endowed woman who was striding through it. "Nice to see you're not screaming the place down this time, oh! And someone even bought you flowers and fruit! That was nice of them, wasn't it Tenten-san?" Tsunade smiled at the younger girl even as she led with the innocent smalltalk. This was something she'd learned about years back, that giving a traumatized patient something other than themselves to think about was always a good approach to such a case.

"Heh... I guess..." Tenten's voice was quiet. Partly from awe at actually speaking to her idol in person, partly in fear over the thoughts she didn't want to think, and partly in shock that Tsunade knew her name. Actually, not so much in shock over Tsunade knowing her name, more like shock over why Tsunade knew her name and what she had meant about her screaming. She didn't exactly... remember screaming. "I don't think N... Neji or Luh-Lee would be so th-thoughtful. Guh-Gai sensei p-probably put them up to it I guess."

"Oh, i don't know. Lee can be very sweet sometimes," Tsunade replied as she fussed around where Tenten was now sitting up on her bed. "Lets see now, vital signs look normal, some of these drips could probably do with being taken down now you're properly awake, and maybe we can get you into some proper clothes too. Then perhaps some visitors?"

"Ah... no... thank you." Whispered the girl, "I... I don't think I could... see anyone right now."

"I see." The medical legend didn't sound all too impressed at that response. "So... tell me. What will you do now? You could always quit as a ninja you know, especially after the injuries you suf-"

"No!" Came the yell from the brown-haired genin, cutting Tsunade off before she could finish. "I... I don't... don't want to quit... I... I can't be anything else... b-but..." her hand reached up, touching the bandages over her eye. "What happened to me? I... I remember... I... I should be dead... Shouldn't I?"

Tsunade looked away from her when she asked that question, she didn't want to answer but... it wasn't like she could dodge the issue really. "Actually... you did die. For exactly two minutes and forty-seven seconds you were, as we put it, 'dead'. No heartbeat, breathing or brain activity at all." She sighed then, and gently hooked her fingers under the bandages and padding that covered Tenten's right eye. "Then we pulled that arrow out of your skull and, well, as near as we can tell the wound regenerated completely for some reason. Brain activity returned, a quick jolt of chakra got your heart started again and then your breathing followed almost on it's own." There was a gentle tearing as the bandages gave way, Tsunade's fingers having more than enough strength to rip them in places to remove them.

Tenten gasped as the light hit her previously covered eye. Reflexively she backed away, whipping one hand up to cover it from what felt like a blinding light. After a few moments she began to remove her hand, letting her eye grow used to the light and color of the room. It took some time but eventually she was able to look at Tsunade with both eyes - though her vision in the right was still a little blurry.

"So..." She whispered, blinking furiously to rid herself of the blurriness. "I was dead, but now I'm not? That's... pretty hard to imagine you know. I mean, I've only been out for a few hours right?" She paused, looking at the strained expression on Tsunade's face intently. "...Right?"

"You've been out for almost five weeks," Came the response, slow and deliberately stated. "During which time you've lost quite a bit of weight and muscle-mass, though not enough to set you back more than a few weeks intensive training. If, of course, you're serious about still being a ninja." The older woman smiled at her, placing one hand upon Tenten's own. "I wouldn't hold it against you if you did, if it were up to me I'd even advise that you quit. But, since you are physically well enough to continue i can't order you to stop."

"Five... weeks?" The genin gulped slightly. "heh... heheh... F-father must have b-been going crazy," She laughed, a slightly strained laugh that made Tsunade a little wary. "No, no. I want to continue being a ninja... I... I have a dream." She whispered, "It's my dream..."

"It's a good dream is what it is," Laughed the Hokage, "Gai told my assistant, who told me about it. Huh, never thought I'd be a role model for anyone - everyone knows I drink and gamble far too much." Then she flashed Tenten a conspiratorial grin. "You do realize, that to equal me now you'd have to become hokage yourself? That would put you in direct competition with the brat, Konoha's loudest ninja -"

"Uzumaki Naruto." Supplied Tenten, before the hokage could finish her sentence. She giggled slightly after saying it, "Always running around claiming he'll be the hokage, he's a funny kind of kid."

Tsunade merely raised an eyebrow. "Funny? That kid is determined enough to do it you know. He doesn't stay down long enough for anyone to stop him." She glanced at Tenten for a few moments, pondering to herself. "Still... The brat has gotten to be somewhat egotistical lately. Maybe some decent competition would put him in his place, make him actually study something rather than going around yelling about ramen and jutsu. He just doesn't seem to see all the hard work that being a hokage will mean." The woman frowned slightly and stood up, "Speaking of which... I suppose I should go back and get on with it." Then she merely sighed and began to walk out of the room.

Tenten just nodded mutely, feeling a little let down that her idol had to leave. Suddenly Tsunade turned to look at her again. "Oh, one more thing. You can leave in three days - but I'll be having you watched to make sure you're fully recovered. Also, when you do leave, no strenuous exercise for a week at least, and I'll be making damn sure that Gai knows it." She smiled, "Take it easy for a bit, go hit the town, visit a salon, a movie or something nice like that. Then you can think about going back into training, okay?"

Tenten just grinned at her, "Sure!"

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Thank heavens for restrooms. Or, more specifically, thank heavens for restrooms with mirrors on the walls behind the washbasins. Since she'd had the padding over her eye removed the day before, Tenten had been dying to take a good look at herself in a mirror. Good or bad, she really wanted to know what, if any, visible marks covered her face. She was vaguely hoping for a decent scar over her eye, like the one the famous Sharingan Kakashi was supposed to have. Something like that would have made her look a total badass and it would have been a real boost to her image as a powerful kunoichi.

Of course a few boys may have been put off by it, but then if they were going to be put off by something so trivial then she really didn't want to know them anyway. Besides, even if she didn't have a cool scar then she could at least use the mirror to do her hair up properly.

Almost skipping over to the mirror in her calf-length medical smock, the kind that covered everything rather than opening at the back, Tenten surveyed herself and frowned. Tsunade evidently hadn't been lying when she'd said both weight and muscle-mass had dropped off, she looked like a freaking skeleton for crying out loud! It would take a lot of training, and more than a little eating, to get herself back up to her usual not-too-skinny, not-too-fat self. Unlike some kunoichi she could name, Tenten knew that being too slim was just as bad as being too fat. A good body, after all, was powered by a good meal. As to her face... well, it was a little pale looking, but nothing too bad. No cool scars unfortunately, though she did seem to be missing some of her bangs and her hair was much shorter than she liked. She suspected that the medics had given her a quick and short cut whilst she'd been unconscious, possibly so they could get a better look at her eye or possibly because it had simply grown too long.

Her eye though... She'd missed it on the first casual glance, it was only now that she was looking closer that she saw what had happened to her right eye. Where her iris used to be a dark brownish-grey color, it now appeared to have been split diagonally into four quarters. The two quarters to the left and right of her pupil were their normal color, whilst the two above and below had apparently changed into a rich shade of green.

Odd... with such a change she would have thought that at least one of the medics would have pointed it out since she'd woken up. Then again, they'd probably dismissed it as something of little importance beyond looks, her eye did seem to be working normally after all.

"Ah Excuse me." A voice came from behind her, "Can I get to the basin please?" Tenten blinked at the voice and glanced at the reflection in the mirror for a moment. Ah, it was that pink-haired girl from Naruto's team, what was her name? Sakumi? Sakuya? Sakura? Yes, that was it, her name was Sakura.

"Sure, I'm not using it." Mumbled the older girl, stepping to one side to let Sakura past. The pink haired girl looked a little pale in the face for some reason. "So... you're Sakura, right? I saw you in Naruto's team back at the chuunin exam."

"Hn?" Sakura blinked and looked up from where she was quite thoroughly scrubbing her hands and lower arms. "Oh... yeah... I was there." She frowned for a moment, trying to place the girl beside her. "Wait a minute..." She mumbled after a minute, "You're Higashikata-san! Do you have any idea how frantic everyone is because you just vanished from your bed?"

Tenten just smiled. "Nope!" She exclaimed, "But... don't tell them I'm here yet, please? I... I guess I want a few minutes to think, without having medics coming in to fuss over me all the time." She watched as the pink-haired girl frowned slightly, wondering if she'd agree or not. "Just a few minutes, then I'll head back on my own, please?"

"Fine. But if someone else finds out and you get in trouble over this, I never saw you, understand? And if you're not back in the next, uhm, ten minutes, then I'll let slip that i saw you here." Sakura crossed her arms and glared at the taller girl for a few moments before turning to make use of the hand-dryers nearby.

"Sure, whatever." Came the reply before Tenten, after a moment's thought, spoke up again. "Hey, ah, Sakura... Could you tell me what's wrong with my right eye? It kinda looks funny, especially the color of it..."

The slightly younger medic-in-training turned and peered into Tenten's eyes for a few moments. "Looks fine to me," She said after awhile. "It's identical to the other one as far as I can tell, though I'm not exactly an eye expert you know. If you're really worried about it, just ask one of the duty medics, they all know a bit about every medical field. Enough to tell you if something is wrong at least."

"I see," Whispered Tenten, "Thanks. I guess... maybe I'll see you around for the next few days?"

"Maybe, it'd be nice to have someone to talk to who isn't twice my age." With that last, parting, comment, Sakura slipped off out of the restroom. Given how pale she looked, Tenten was guessing that whatever her current tasks were, they weren't pretty. Come to think of it, weren't student nurses the ones who had to clean up after someone made a mess of any sort?

Still, it was weird that Sakura had thought her eye looked normal as, looking into the mirror again, Tenten was sure her eye was different. It still, to her, looked like it held that funny quartered pattern she'd seen in it earlier.

How... very...

Bizarre...

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Authors notes:

I'M BACK!

Yupyup, this is the first thing I've written in a while and boooy is it a doozy. 13,000+ words for one chapter? Ouchies. Still, it's done now, and chapter two is in the works. In the very slow works.

. And I know, the first thing people will say is 'where have you been' or 'when will you update Betrothal/Bubbling Water Spiral/Etc... Well, this past year or so has been filled with a general shying away from writing in general mostly because all the fun felt like it had gone from it, I just didn't feel like writing for the longest time due to this. After all, I'm not being paid to write, I'm doing this partly for my own enjoyment (and partly for yours - ). By the time I did feel like it, though, I was slap bang in the middle of some heavy work from university. Anyway, chapter 3 of Bubbling Water Spiral should be hitting soon enough (once i get back from visiting relatives at least, stupid rural places without civilized technologies like the internet.) and sometime after that Betrothal 15.

Concerning Betrothal, I've seriously been considering doing a major re-write of it as a whole, since when I look at it now I see a load of the plot-related mistakes I made x.x Even if i do re-write though, I'll leave the original up somewhere - Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this bit of writing and hopefully I'll be a bit more, ah, regular? (yeah, right. XD )

LackeyH, wishing he could find a girl like Tayuya to cuddle. (Or die trying at least XD )

... And yes dammit, I am a guy!