A/N: As a result of the poll in my profile, here is another long waited chapter of my story. Pleae enjoy it.


Special thanks to my reviewers!

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Started: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Draft Finished: Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fiction: Continuation

Rated: PG-13

Disclaimer: The character and names of Naruto characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi-sensei. This story belongs to me. I don't own the company for that makes the series Wars Of the In-Laws, which belongs to the creators and Hong Kong corporation of TVB television.

Anime: Naruto

Pairings: NejiTen, slight SasuSaku and other pairings

Genre: Romance/Humor

Summary: AU Running away from an attempted robbery, Tenten gets caught up in the middle of an arranged marriage ceremony and takes the chance to hide, posing as the bride. With her friends captured by the Empress Tsunade, Tenten tries to do anything she can to get them out. But only one problem: she's now the wife of Hyuuga Neji. Tempting to leave, she is forced to undergo ridiculous household rules and most of all, adjusting to a well-manner attitude to complete her role as a fitting princess. Can she escape her "husband's" watchful eyes in time to save them, or would her cover be blown before she gets a chance? As the time for her friends' execution draws near, Tenten plans to use her status and cunning knowledge to free them. With that in mind, all she needs to do is be . . .


One Step Ahead

Chapter Ten


Recap

"Neji," she gasped, putting her hands on his shoulder. "Please stop," her voice died in vain. "I can't breathe." His movements slowed and he pulled away, holding her face between his hands.

"I'm sorry," her husband whispered. Tenten didn't know what to say. As they tried to regain their breaths, they stared at each other. With lips slightly pink, hair in disarray, Neji saw himself in the reflection of his wife's orbs. How was he going to explain himself?

"Why did you do that?" Tenten heavily strained, tasting the rice wine on her tongue. Panting slightly, she did not leave Neji's never-ending stare. His pearl orbs never blinked. Cheeks vaguely pink, hair admist his face outlining his strong jawline, high cheek bones, and perfectly straight nose, her husband stayed close to her. His hard body pressed against her own. Tenten did everything in her will power to not faint at that very moment. Hands gliding down her face to her chin, his soft touches dangerously lingered to back of her sensitive neck as he leaned in closer to her left ear. She shut her eyes the instant she felt his hot breath.

"Tenten" His voice sounded like velvet, trickling down her neck and sending shivers to her spine while she tried to ignore the heat that was seething through their clothes from their overheated bodies. The tension between them was so thick, she could have sliced it with a blunt sword, but it was what he said next that broke the ice, pulling her back into reality. "I need to get you pregnant."


To say she was shock was the understatement of the century. Out of all of the difficult challenges Tenten had to face in the Hyuuga compound, this was one thing she had not see coming, not by a long shot. Her first instinct was to knock Neji unconscious and forget about the entire episode completely, however in her current situation, it seemed her efforts would be useless. It took Tenten a couple of minutes to organize her thoughts after catching her breath. Staring into Neji's eyes, she noticed the sudden change. They still held an intense emotion, not of passion but of anger. Unlike moments before, his entire facade changed drastically. Quiet, cold, and calculating, her husband removed himself from their current position. It was then Tenten knew that it was over. Instantaneously, the thief gathered herself up and stood fully in front of him. Amber eyes blazing, she squared her shoulders to match his anger for what she lacked in height.

"Do you really think you can fool me?" The harshness in his tone of voice did not shake her. If it did, she did not show it. The entire time, the entire evening, all of which was merely an act. She should have known that throughout the evening, all he had was water, and just before she carried him to his room, he sipped a bit of liquor to fool her into thinking that he was drunk. He figured her out. The question was, how long had he known? As if he read her mind, he told her. "Your dance this evening confirmed my suspicions from the moment you walked through that front door, Tenten, or is that even your real name?" Tenten bit her tongue and let him continue. "Your speed and accuracy to accommodate to my fighting style suggests you have learned more than a thing or two about martial arts, and your eagerness to save the prisoners sealed your fate. You're Heaven's Phoenix." He knew. He knew. He knew from the beginning that his wife wasn't a princess. The way she talked, the way she marveled at weapons instead of jewels. He took a step towards her. "Well, do you have an answer?"

"Are you going to arrest me now?" She asked in full confidence. She had been in this situation many times before, cornered by an authority who saw her as a threat. What real harm was she actually doing? She was just pilfering the necessary values to help people who needed most. She wasn't to going to sit back and do nothing while the government pretend to solve current issues by sitting around and talking about it. The process was too long.

Neji's stoic expression did not tell her much of anything. Truthfully, she should be scared, but somewhere deep inside her mind, Tenten reassured herself of her safety, especially since the Empress held her in high esteem.

"If you were to be arrested, the Empress would have made the request the minute she stepped foot in this compound." Inwardly, the auburn haired girl was relieved, though that didn't mean that he trusted her.

"You have to understand that I had no choice in this matter. Believe me when I tell you that this was accidental. I did not intend to marry you. I only wanted to save my friends, who were on the verge of being sentenced to death due to their connection to me. The real princess ran away and I decided to take her place to escape the authorities. I did not mean for it to go any further than that, but it seemed one thing led to another and before you know it, the Empress herself forgave me and has given me a duty to serve as an adversary in order to return the prosperity Konoha once had a long time ago."

Closing his eyes, Neji concentrated on his heartbeat. The thumping of his heart echoed in his ears, pushing blood to his head while his breathing calmed. Now, he was able to piece together everything. The princess he was supposed to marry ran away, she took his place and now she was here, with him just so that she could save her friends. She could have ran away easily. There have been chances in which she could have like the she was alone in the kitchen, or when she was in the market with Hinata. But she stayed, in hope that she could save her friends from their ill-fated death. Silence ate up the room until Neji decided to question her motives.

"Why did you request the Empress to make me-" Tenten cut him off.

"For what it is worth, the Empress approved of this idea entirely. She needs to be protection. The government is corrupted and she needs people who she can trust." Though he saw the sincerity in her eyes, Neji stopped himself from further interrogating the female in front of him, who happened to be his wife. "She trusts you." Tenten looked straight into his eyes. "Maybe you can find some sense and trust me as well."

"You suggest for me to trust you, when all you've done since you stepped through the front door was lie?" The thief remained still, taking in his fully accusation without a fight. What else was she suppose to do? It was the truth, after all.

"I told you, I had a good reason to," she yelled. "We need to work together to find out who has been pulling the strings. For example, the invasion that happened this evening, whoever is in charge is definitely after me, ready to use me as a scapegoat. I, for one, am not going back down without putting up a fight." For the first time during the entire conversation, the Hyuuga noble gave Tenten his full attention. "If they are after me, then they are going to target you next. I doubt you want to sit around and let this explode right in front of your face." Although Neji didn't agree with her tactics, he understood that her predicament held some merit. The Empress had personally enlisted him to aid her to prevent the coup d'├ętat. He couldn't refuse her. On top of it all, the irony of this mission called for an unorthodox approach: an elite general working alongside an infamous thief. What was the Empress thinking?

"We'll see about that," Neji finally said to her in a measured tone.

"Then we are in agreement to work together, right?" Dropping her princess act entirely, Tenten stuck out her hand, in which Neji only stared at disapprovingly. Though he conveyed her gesture as an understanding between them, he refused to take her hand.

"If you plan to further deceive everyone that you are a princess, I suggest you to be on your guard even if we are alone." At that, the thief scoffed at his remark, noting the tension between them had dissolved immensely. A glint of humor was evident in her eyes.

"Of course." Before Neji could reach the exit, Tenten decided to answer his pending question. "By the way, my real name is Tenten."

"So it seems," Neji replied nonchalantly. With that, he walked out the door, and like the previous nights, he left her alone in the empty room. Just like that, their intimate evening was long forgotten, and the truth finally came out.

'Well, that went better than I imagined,' Tenten thought solemnly. Tired and mentally strained, the thief decided to go to bed, for she was sure to wake up to an interesting morning. If only it was anything but.


Morning approached faster than Tenten had anticipated. Like clockwork, Hinata came into her room with a tub of water and towel so that she can wash her face. The only difference was that Hinata seemed more joyful this morning. Tenten knew that a certain blonde was the cause of this change. From what she could piece together last night, the two of them were compatible. Although it might take some time for Naruto to fully realize the affection from the Hyuuga heiress was more than friendship. It's too early to tell, but Tenten had a feeling that it'd work out for them eventually.

"Good morning, Hinata," the auburn haired girl greeted brightly. In reciprocal, yet sheepishly, Hinata returned the salutation and went off to perform her daily chores. After changing into different robes and feeling refreshed, Tenten walked down the corridors. The sun was high in the sky signifying a beautiful day. Naturally, she walked to the kitchen only to find Neji waiting for her.

"Breakfast is ready at the table," he pointed nearby. Bewildered, Tenten didn't say anything and proceeded to join him. As she took her seat, the feeling of familiarity enveloped her. Just what was he trying to pull pretending that their conversation last night did not happen?

"Eat." Placing a spoon in her hand, Neji grabbed his own. On the table, three large bowls of congee were accompanied by several dishes of vegetables and a plate of donuts. Staring in disbelief, Tenten eyed the different types of congee: the blue bowl was a mix of salted pork and century egg topped off with scallions, the next had salted duck eggs, and the last bowl contained ginger and sliced chicken. Unable to choose, Tenten found that Neji had already served her. She watched as he ate his congee in small slurps. "The food is getting cold," he duly noted, motioning to her untouched bowl. Fighting the urge to kick Neji under the table, Tenten followed his lead and started to eat.

Slowly, her body registered her hunger and her jaws started to move on its own accord. "Tenten." She looked at him when he said her name. His mouth formed a thin line. "Without intel, we are going into this mission blind. Time is running short, so I am going to only say this once." She nodded in acknowledgement. "I will trust you." Had she not held onto her spoon tightly, it would have fell on the table.

She didn't know what to say, except, "Really?" Neji merely held her gaze. He went out of his way to forgive her and all he received was a word. He should be downright furious for her continuous games of deceit, yet apart of him knew that it was a selfless act. It was quite admirable, though he would never freely admit that to her, at least, not yet. Before Neji could react, Tenten moved into his personal space and hugged him. It was unexpected and complex at the same time. Although the contact was brief, his thoughts lingered back to the night before, but only for a split second.

"Tenten," the Hyuuga noble hissed. Reluctantly, the girl moved away to witness the slight anger on her husband's face. "You spilled congee down my back."

"Oops," she laughed with her cheeks burning with embarrassment. "Sorry."

"It's fine," he told her. Neji ignored the heat creeping up his face and averted his attention to his own bowl. "Finish your breakfast and perform your daily chores. We'll meet tonight to discuss our course of action."

"Okay," the former thief replied. Smiling, Tenten continued to eat her congee and every now and then peered at Neji, who was trying his best to finish his breakfast with the slick feeling of congee running down his back, and the bubbling nerves at the pit of his stomach. The thought of what she's going to do to him next made his head spin as he silently watch her slurp her broth with etiquette, though he was certain that he would find out eventually, whether he liked it or not.


Outside, servants were busy cleaning up the household, hauling trash and taking down other decoration that is not needed. No one noticed that a particular person was hiding in her room. No one except for Sakura. The cherry blossom was introduced to Neji as a new servant in the household near the end of their breakfast. He didn't give her a second glance and went back to his study to get ready for the day's work after giving Tenten a knowing glance. It seemed nothing could escape his eyes.

Sakura on the other hand liked her freedom in the household. Though it only has been a few hours, she adjusted to the daily schedule and even had time to talk to Tenten without being scolded by the senior servants. Having your best friend to vouch was a cool perk that was hard to pass up, especially when it gets you out of laundry duty. However, the most enjoyable venture Sakura loved about being indoors is the ability to live out her day without having the need to run into that overbearing bastard of an official, Uchiha Sasuke.

"So, he just kissed you and now he's acting like nothing has happened?" The pink haired girl repeated. Tenten nodded. "Oh man, what a jerk! Tell me, is he furious at you, now that he knows your true identity? He seemed very angry when I saw him this morning."

"He's always like that every morning," Tenten told her.

"His face stays like that?" A laugh escaped the cherry blossom's lips. "He must be quite an actor to fool you last night, or was it just an act?" Her brows moved up and down suggestively. Tenten rolled her eyes.

"Oh, believe me, you had to be there," the thief exclaimed, noticing the sudden heat rushing to her face.

"There's no easy way to say this but-" Her friend paused for effect. "I think he has fallen in love with you!"

"What? That's impossible! I'm not even that pretty. Who would-"

"Save it Tenten. I saw what every male was thinking the moment you went on stage for the final part of the competition." She tilted her head to the side. "It wasn't romantic at all, trust me. More like gross." Sakura made a face and shook her head violently to get the mental picture out of her system.

"You're wrong Sakura! You've met him. He doesn't seem like the 'fall-in-love' type. Besides, he did that test me, that bastard, knowing who I was from the beginning. There is no way," she waved her hand uncaringly. "Don't forget he is going to help in the investigation as well. With his help, it would probably be solved quickly and we can escape this place."

"I bet he has a crush on you! How cute, a husband crushing on his wife." Tenten gave her friend a skeptic look. "Okay, fine. Maybe he just thought it was a good time to release his pent up sexual emotion. I mean, you guys didn't certainly get to do enough of that during your wedding night so-"

"All right, STOP! We did not have sex okay!"

"Gee, thanks for dashing my dream of becoming the greatest aunt to your children-"

"You're welcome," Tenten said sarcastically. Childishly, Sakura stuck out her tongue.

"Let's hope he has a good plan because if he screws up, we will screw up, and then we all will be dead." Knowing that had to be said, Sakura moved onto a lighter subject. "Anyways, Kiba and Akamaru will be here in a bit." She rose up from the table. "We'll catch up with you later when I meet up with him. I'll be going now."

"Okay," the auburn haired female replied. Then, automatically, Tenten went on her way. It was time to do some chores.


All morning, Tenten had been humming a tune. It was a melody of soft notes that she had heard once before. There were no words, but vocalization of many octaves, each note carried for second until the string of notes turned to a song. The song she hummed continued and she did not pay the least attention to the person that had entered the room, until she spoke out.

"What is that song are you humming?" Tenten stiffened, but her hand was still wiping the dust off the book she was currently holding. The humming stopped. Giving her a few seconds to put the book away, she repeated the question.

"It's just a song," she told the younger Hyuuga female. Moving over to another shelf, she didn't bother to turn around. In fact, she was so focused on the book she was cleaning, her vision blurred.

"Are you going to clean all day?" Now, Tenten was getting mad. Did she come all the way here just to torture her? Turning around, she faced Hanabi.

"May I help you with something" She inquired with a slight hint of annoyance. Hanabi gave her a look, and said nothing. Sighing, Tenten went back to cleaning, moving as far as she could away from the little girl, while she stood to watch her clean. The silence was deafening. No one spoke. No one moved. The sound of the cloth brushing against the paper covers and the slight shifting noise as she put the book back onto the shelf filled the room. It was torture.

"My father returned home late last night after the banquet." Arms to her sides, the ebony haired girl just stood there in front of her without revealing the reason behind the sudden information. In a swift movement, Tenten lifted her head over her left shoulder, looking up at Hinata's younger sister. "He left me here," she told Tenten softly. It was the tone of Hanabi's voice she noticed, filled with emotion as she easily recognized. It was one thing to be left behind and another when that person who left you in the first place was your own father. With her father gone and her sister and cousin busy with their agenda, Hanabi decided to find other means of keeping herself busy to subside the feeling of home sickness. Loneliness was hard to ignore when you were in a place where you are regarded as a guest by your own family.

Tenten knew exactly how Hanabi was feeling. Having been married into the Hyuuga family just only few days ago marked her as stranger still. The fact that Hanabi went to her for a connection made her slightly happy. Maybe they could get along for the time being instead of ignoring each other's existence.

Tenten stood up and set the cloth on the bookshelf before taking a long exhale. It was now or never. "Do you want to help me feed Tori?" Eyes lighting up, Hanabi had a look of confusion on her face, but only for a slight second before regaining her usual facade. That gesture made her feel welcome ever since she had set foot in the Hyuuga compound.

"Sure," Hanabi answered. Dusting off herself as she rose, Tenten walked out of the room along with Hinata's younger sister. The two walked side by side without speaking a word. Only the echoes of their footsteps filled the emptiness between the walk from the library to the courtyard. When they reached their designated location, Tenten was surprised to see her husband sitting leisurely at the courtyard table with a pot of tea and a bag of sunflower seeds right beside him. Tori was parched on his arm, gently pecking on Neji's food-filled hand.

"I see someone has beaten us to it." Upon hearing his wife's voice, Neji looked up immediately. His gaze flickered between the two females in his presence. "I thought it would be a nice idea to let Hanabi feed Tori today," Tenten said with a bright smile on her face. Complying to her suggestion, Neji got up, grabbed a couple of more seeds in the process, and made his way to place Tori on Hanabi's elbow.

"I only begun feeding him a few minutes ago," he said, transferring the sunflower seeds into Hanabi's hand. "You may hold him if you like."

"Hopefully, he won't bite," murmured Tenten as the memory of the parrot injuring her hand jumped into her head. Regardless, she watched with content as Neji placed Tori on Hanabi's arm. The white bird sat majestically on her arm as it ate from Hanabi's small hand. Seeing that his cousin was enjoying herself, Neji joined his wife at the table. Pouring a new cup of tea, Tenten placed it in front of him before pouring one for her. "Taking a break, I see." Neji took a sip before replying.

"I can say the same to you." The thief mentally rolled her eyes. Would it kill him to engage a simple conversation with her?

"Does Hisashi usually leave without taking Hanabi?" She tried again, this time with a promising start.

"Only if he believe his journey home might be a little more dangerous," Neji stated. "My uncle is more than capable to fight, but from yesterday's encounter, it is wiser to leave Hanabi's care under my supervision.

"Oh, I see," Tenten intoned.

"Hanabi doesn't often associate herself with people she does not know. You must have left quite an impression on her." When he finished his statement, Tenten thought back to the encounter. Their first meeting wasn't planned, although it was anything but ordinary.

"You can say that," the auburn haired girl waved off. "She already knew who I was before you," she cleared her throat, "interrupted." She recalled his intrusion in the bath house. "At least she wasn't in the room to witness when I got scolded." The Hyuuga male remained silent at her remark and decided to change the subject.

"Your friend Sakura seems familiar with the new officer and his canine companion. Am I to assume you all know each other?" Tenten nodded. "Then I suggest for them to join us this evening for our meeting." Before she can reply, Tori flew from Hanabi's arm to the table, taking Tenten by surprise, but not enough to make her forget about Neji's sudden gesture.

"I will," she told his retreating form. Tenten knew he heard her by the way he paused, only to look over her shoulder to see if she was okay. As for Hanabi, she was enjoying the moment because she just taught the bird how to fly. A small smile was set on her face for the first time and Tenten was glad that she was there to witness it.


Night came and Tenten found herself in the study with Neji, Sakura, Kiba and Akamaru. They went through the introductions and quickly began to brainstorm some ideas about collecting intel in order to propel their investigation.

"You're the Elite General now, can't you just get inside?" Kiba said to Neji, who was sitting across from Tenten.

"Whoever is involved will not trust me that easily. What have you heard when you were imprisoned?" The male thief pondered on the noble's question.

"I heard a lot of names being thrown around, but they were all middlemen. The name I hard often from the elites was a man name Danzo." Sakura gasped when she heard Kiba's answer.

"No way! I heard that name a couple of times too." The cherry blossom turned to Neji. "When I was sneaking in the palace grounds to find Tenten before her final performance, I overheard some guards talking. They were elite guards as well."

"So whoever this Danzo guy is, he likes to surround himself with the elites," Tenten deduced.

"Or, he has enough power to have control over the elites," Neji pointed out.

"Then, I guess you're our way in," Kiba told him, while Akamaru barked in agreement. "The question is how?"

"I think I have an idea," Sakura told them. "It evolves only two people."

"What is it?" She turned to Neji and locked her jade eyes directly into his pearl orbs.

"You have to betray Tenten." Before anyone can start a sentence, Sakura continued with an explanation. "Think about it. Danzo likes to control the elites. Since you are Elite General, there is no doubt he would want to add you to his collection seeing you are close to the Empress. Of course, he has suspicions about Tenten, so it wouldn't be long until he shows up again with another army and demanding her arrest. All you have to do," she paused to let them absorb her observations, "is to gain his trust by capturing Tenten. Seeing that you are a 'victim'," she air quoted. "Danzo and the village will sympathize with you. Once you get close to him, you can get the information we need to confirm that Danzo is behind this entire get up. We tell the Empress, throw Danzo into prison, and Tenten will be release, just like that." They all looked at one another, silently trying to comprehend the entire extent of the plan. No one was staring more intently at Tenten then Neji himself. Finally, she looked up and turned to her husband.

"You must do it," she told him firmly. Neji closed his eyes and breathed. "You have to," her voice urged. "It is the only way." Without a warning, Tenten placed her hand on top of his. Neji didn't pull back her touch, nor did he indicate that he would. It was too much. The thought of turning her in when she was the most wanted criminal troubled him, and on top of that, she was his wife. The plan was too cruel. Nevertheless, she was right. This is the only way to get into Danzo's plan with the short time limit they have. Tenten cannot hide forever and with inside knowledge, he can bring Danzo down and free Tenten.

"Fine," he replied stoically, gripping slightly onto Tenten smaller hands. From across, the three thieves watched the scene in silence. It was practically a suicide mission, but they didn't have to say it out loud. They all knew. It will be a matter of time until everything falls into place. Little did they know that it would be tonight because just as they were about to continue, they heard the servants running outside. Observing from the windows, they were heading towards the front doors. "What's going on?"

"Royal guards at the gate are demanding to come in," a passing servant informed him. Wordlessly, the four of them got up and raced down the corridors to the front doors. They can heard the clattering of armor from the other side, and steady themselves for an announcement. When they heard none, Tenten decided it was time to remind Neji of his part of the plan.

"Neji, I have to tell you something." Tenten stood right in front of him with her head held high. It was time to tell him the truth for once, that way she could save what is left of the Hyuuga family. Running away wasn't a option for her when she was married into this family, so what is the point of doing that now? For countless days she has been avoiding the inevitable, but it was time to stop this foolish game and take care of her own problems without dragging anyone else in. Neji have done so much for her already, not to mention Hinata. They have been so nice to her and this was how she is going to repay them? No, it shouldn't be this way. This was wrong, and she was going to set it right no matter what the consequence calls for.

"What is it?" It was hard to look in his eyes, revealing the truth she had been hiding from him.

'Why is this hurting me so much?' Her mind cried out while she tried to ignore the tugging feeling of her heart. 'I must do this.' She wouldn't have thought that she would spend their last moments like this because before she can say anything, the door bursted open revealing armed soldiers with heavy weaponry and shields to match.

"Hyuuga Tenten," the tall one stepped into the room. "By the order of the Imperial Intelligence Agency, you are under arrest for continuous thievery, a traitor conspiring against our country, impersonating a high court position, and for the kidnaping of the high princess of the royal court." When those words died from her ears, she saw her world falling right before her eyes. "You're under arrest."

"Don't hold back," she exclaimed as she rushed to fight the small army of men heading towards her. Sword fighting is the most basic of combat. A swing here, a swing there and you might hit something. But for Tenten, she didn't have time to mess around. In a shift movement, she had three guards down for the count. Two came charging at her, who she deflected their attack by using their own force against them, making them stagger and fall backwards. Metal clashed onto metal, the collision of the sharp edges echoed into the night as Tenten tried to hold her ground while at the same time, distancing herself with three others that were gaining up on her. Executing a series of flips and spins, her amber eyes scanned the quantity of her opponents, knowing that she was totally outnumbered.

For Sakura, Kiba, Akamaru, and Neji, took all of their will power to stop themselves from rushing in there and help her fight off the growing number of guards ready to take her down without remorse. From the corner of her eye, the cherry blossom observed the Hyuuga noble. Though his face did not betray his emotions, his hesitance to follow the plan was evident by every stalling minute. Deep inside, she knew that this part of the plan was the hardest, especially for him.

'This is it,' she thought. 'I don't have time to play around anymore.' Moving away from her friends and Neji, Tenten stopped at the fallen guard and took the shining blade from the ground to her side to cut away her long robes by making a slit to make it easier for her to move. Once she was done, the sword landed with a 'clank' when she dropped it by her feet.

"Well gentlemen," a smile was on her face when she spoke. "I say it's time for the show to end." And with that, the thief pulled out two identical scrolls that were tied behind her back. Throwing them up into the air, the binds loosen, making the markings visible. In an instant, Tenten was up into the air, running her hand up the scrolls as she reached the top. Then, without warning, a shower of weapons poured down like rain, striking every guard with daggers.

Those who were pierced (or didn't know they were) stood there for a split second before tumbling down with their face flat on the ground. Before her feet even reached the floor of the stage, every one of them fell down like a domino effect.

"Is that the best you can do?" The smirk on Tenten's face brought back the memories of her taunting her opponents. "I've fought with your royal guards before, how is this batch any different?" You can call her cocky, but it was the truth. For years she had battled and the experiences she carried throughout the years were put into good use. It was not until then when she got bored and started playing around with them. Fighting was second nature to her. They had to be a whole lot better than that to defeat her.

"No, it is not." This time, it was the official who gave a smile, knowing that he had the upper hand. "Hyuuga Neji," his voice rang. "Capture this woman and bring her to the place she belongs."

They stared at each other for a moment and she gave him the signal. It was time to set their plan into action. As Tenten heard the footsteps travel toward her, she inhaled deeply, preparing her exhausted body to stand strong. Turning around to face Neji, she didn't expect him to give her a chance to catch her breath. With lightening speed, he came right at her penetrating through her defenses like he had done before. He was playing his part, making it believable enough to fool everyone with the entire scene. It was hard for Sakura, Kiba, and Akamaru to watch. Tenten was able to defend herself at some points, deflecting his ability to touch any part of her body, but her efforts were in vain. Block after block, kick after kick, they were matched. Soon, Tenten felt like her body was weighed down by a ton of bricks. Her body gave in and she was staggering to avoid the taps from Neji that rendered her limps numb. And with a final tap between her neck and shoulder blade, the force knocked out the air in her lungs, leaving her body immobile. This was it.

She was falling. Her body reached its limit. All the doubts, the fears, the animonsity, she was letting it go. The world was getting smaller and it was happening in slow motion. As the darkness continued to engulf her vision, she would never forget the look in Neji's eyes when caught her in his arms. She didn't shed a tear.

But he did.


A/N: Well, there you have it. Sorry it took so long to update. How is your summer going? If you are not busy, remember to review! If you're not busy after that, visit my profile for my other NejiTen story, Six Seeds of a Pomegranate. You won't be disappointed.


Preview of Chapter Eleven

Light was very cruel, especially when it threatened to expose the most deepest darkest of things. It was not the sun's light that was glowing, but an artificial light contained in a vessel that was floating in mid-air. With a lantern held in hand, Hyuuga Neji reached the desinated cell door and opened it after dismissing the guards that stood for security. The keys rattled against the metal door and it creaked upon opening. Despite the noise, it did not wake the prisoner inside.

Slowly, the light lit the room, bring the vision of the cell to life. He approached the jail cell, standing in the distance as he watched her slept. Hands chained together, they hung above her head, pale in color from the lack of circulation. Her body weavered while the feet folded under her stay as they were ever since she got here. Dressed in all white, and disconnected from the outside world, Tenten was a prisoner; her life set for execution for the crimes she had done. She was like a rock, at rest and barely alive. Almost lifeless to say the least, and he hated it.

There was another click, and this time, the door of the jail opened. The dim light that illuminated reached farther and farther as he went into the hay-filled containment. He kept his distance and kneeling down, he observed her, noticing that her face was once again free from make up, just as it was on their wedding night. Without thinking, he reached toward her, caressing her pale complexion. His long fingers trailed down down her jaw line to her chin, lifting her beautiful face toward him.

"Tenten," he whispered aloud, regardless if she was awake or not. "I'm sorry."


Thank you for reading!