The Byakugan Introspection
Disclaimer: Never and will never own it. The things that I do own are my brain and this fiction. Unfortunately.
Their age? How about 25?
Hyuuga Neji was known throughout Konoha as a Byakugan expert—the only living person from a Hyuuga branch family who could use it tremendously to his own advantage.
From that darned pair of eyes that could scare the living hell out of anyone, he could see through anything—far beyond the reaches of the naked human eye. He could tell the difference between black and white, differentiate truths from falsities, exempted from the color blindness thing, and more importantly, distinguish a really hot chic from that Kyuubi boy's Sexy-jutsu. There were actually more things to it but to make things plainer, Hyuuga Neji could see through anything. Yes, anything. Except, probably, one thing...
And this time, he couldn't blame it on his blind spot.
One unusually boring day, Neji decided to walk around the surrounding woods of Konoha. He was walking and going around in a sense that he had a bunch of kunai in his hands and he was basically dodging and aiming for leaves that fell after kicking an innocent tree. Needless to say, after pinning down a pile of them in a formation that suggested he was bored to death and he was too good to practice with falling leaves, he noticed that the once blue horizons that hovered above his Konoha was suddenly covered by tuffs of nimbuses.
Then a drop of rain fell on his nose.
He blinked, a little startled, until his skin finally felt an army of water droplets drizzling right above him.
It took him three to four beats before he blinked again and then frowned; finally deciding that this unusually boring day was more than he could take. It was deliberate. It looked like he, Hyuuga Neji, had been fated to live out this hated day in deep slumber. Even the thought of meditating in this... unusual day seemed dull and dreary and was apt to shred his prided ingenious mind if he didn't do something. Sleeping on the other hand was an entirely different matter to fuss about...
"Well I'm sure you could do better than sleep all day!"
He immediately halted; veins protruding on his head's skin. He didn't know how the seemingly haughty speaker found out about his thoughts. Much to his dismay though, when he turned around to face the insulter, there was no one to practice his Jyuuken on.
Boredom was really seeping into his cranial nerves.
"You call THAT training?" Sounds of clashing metal were heard in between heated retorts. From the deadly missile-like intensity of insults shooting out from that person's mouth, Neji could only ponder why her blasts of insults were significantly familiar up to a point that he could basically picture her grinning with an eyebrow raised. "Come on! If you couldn't handle Taijutsu-based attacks, how are you supposed to take on the strongest?"
Neji fought the urge to listen but failed.
"Even the strongest person would conquer the odds to fulfill the dreams of their youthful soul." Came an eerily familiar line; this time, it was uttered by a male, "The raging fire within a youth would spring into life if motivated. Who would I dare challenge for such honor?"
The girl merely obliged without a change in tone, "Well, for starters... and if you could convince him, which I highly doubt..." punch, kick, kick, duck, swish, "Hyuuga Neji."
Neji, seriously, wanted to scoff but settled on raising an eyebrow.
After seconds of digging deeply into his thoughts, he finally realized the reason why and why did it sound so utterly familiar considering that he had spent years of training with those two in the past. Wanting to keep a safe distance to avoid being noticed, he gathered up a good amount of chakra, leapt off towards a tree branch and settled on it as he usually does; activating his Byakugan in the whole process to spy—well, he amended, watch his teammates, Tenten and Rock Lee, train from afar.
"Ah... Of course... How could I forget Hyuuga Neji-kun the genius?" said Lee, shielding an arm to block off Tenten's hand attacks and ducking around to avoid the horrifying display of armory being hurled at him.
Tenten smiled smugly at her sparring partner. "Maybe because his most august Jounin presence had been missing for a year due to a mission and you just got used to the fact that it'd be just you, Gai-sensei and me training around." She pulled her hurricane tactic, making Lee's eyes bulge all the more than it already was.
The poor guy managed an audible "Eek!" as he ducked, rolled, jumped, leapt and ran together with the whole acrobatic package for the sake of coming out alive and lacerated-throat-free. When the whirlwind of weapons stopped its deadly mambo-jambo, Tenten merely flashed an innocent smile at the victim who was panting for his very life. "Oh dearest youthful flower of Team Gai! Wait 'til our very own Gai-sensei hears the news about how you've honed your skills! He'd be proud of you!" fake sunset background with waterfall tears streamed in.
The woman landed gracefully with a bead of sweat trailing down her head, "You really have to call me that..." she said, then abruptly went serious, "And may I remind you that you're the one who wanted to spar with me."
Lee's lachrymal duct spurted an abnormal downpour of tears. "And you've proven to me that I still have to train harder!"
Tenten half smiled as he walked towards Lee's crouched form. "Well," she said, crouching down in front of him to affix a smug yet sisterly kind of smile that beamed her respect for the guy. "It all comes down to hard work, Lee." she fondly poked his forehead. "And if I'm really determined to be as good as Tsunade-sama, then I have to give it my best shot."
From the looks of things, Neji could tell that she was proud of Lee and his progress. Tenten was the kind of a person who would say a thing and really mean every letter that comprises it down to the core. Not only that, Hyuuga Neji also realized that it actually took him a year in a Jounin mission before the thought actually dawned upon him: that his teammate had somewhat... changed from the mental images he had of her. She was taller now; grown out of the pink sleeveless Chinese collar top she wore, put on a few curves in all the right places, and heck, he would be lying if he didn't admit that she had grown quite... interesting. Beautiful, to put it bluntly.
But she was still his teammate—his partner. And that, in Neji's opinion, said it all. Well, partly at least. In that cluttered and padlocked deepest recesses of his mind, he had always regarded her highly for working hard if she wanted to achieve something. She gives her all in everything she does and she, along with a hand-counted few, could still surprise him and his Byakugan pretty well. And he couldn't say he didn't respect her tremendously for that.
"Come on, Lee." She smiled, "Give me your best shot and then we'll rest up for a while."
Between this and that, a smile tugged at Neji's lips without him really realizing it. The mere fact that he just witnessed Tenten's perseverance and affection for their seemingly worthless teammate just touched something in him. It was perhaps the weirdest feeling that he could feel for her but—the smile faded into his normally reaction-less face—no one had really done this to him since... well, no one had really done that to him in the first place.
And he couldn't decide if he should hate Tenten for it or not.
Ten minutes later Neji noticed that the drizzle of rain falling over the woods of Konoha had begun to splash out in bigger droplets. And along with the harmonious sound of water falling over leaves and branches was Lee's continuous howl of excruciating pain after receiving several blows from Tenten's Soushouryuu.
Neji, to say the least, wasn't even tempted to jump out and help him back to the village for treatment. It was his idiocy that led him into this kind of situation anyway.
"I have to turn your offer down, youthful flower of team Gai..." Said Lee, firmly; posing in with that pinging killer smile of a valiant hero who would rather die than to let a lady carry him back to the village. This was enforced with the fact that said lady was also the cause of his broken bones and was revealed to be totally and extremely universes away from their basic D-I-D (damsel-in-distress) material. Tenten, on the other hand, sweat dropped. "I just need to rest around for a short while before I can walk with ease back to the village."
Tenten snorted, "I didn't know you could be as stubborn as a pig." She said, "Well, anyway, rain's coming down pretty hard any moment..." she sat on the adjacent side of the tree and leaned her back against the trunk, closing her eyes to rest for a bit, "But I guess you do need to rest before you can drag yourself back there."
Lee only chuckled.
A moment of silence passed, until Neji felt the sudden pang of boredom creeping in yet again. The only thing that preoccupied his mind was the unintentional "entertaining" game of tug-o'-war going around his head: weighing the pull on whether he should just get up and leave them since eavesdropping—he amended, listening to them would be pointless because they weren't talking anyway; or give into his whim to wait a bit longer. Fortunately, Lee's yawning and talking suddenly made him pull towards the wait-a-bit option—like for a full minute in case they don't talk about something that could push the living hell of boredom immigrating in him.
"Tenten..." called out Lee; his tone promising something smart, interesting and something that was totally... un-Lee.
Neji listened and counted from sixty back to fifty.
"What time is it?"
A vein popped on Neji's head as he continued his countdown. He should've known better than to expect something more from him.
"Four... I think." Answered Tenten; looking a bit disappointed. "Time does pass slowly on a boring day like this... no missions... no Gai-sensei..." And by this time, Neji was preparing to jump out and walk back to Konoha village like nothing had happened. He had better things to do than to listen to his teammates babble about the time and, if he was lucky enough, the obviously drizzling weather that was as cheerful as hell. Sleeping was one fine example of better things to do. At least it would recharge his body's chakra.
"Hmm..." Lee uttered, as if considering an idea. "You 'think'?"
An audible sigh of exasperation, "Of course I do. That's the purpose of having a brain, baka." Said Tenten, unmoving to neither look nor pound her teammate like a malleable tin can. Then, she opened an eye, curiously, in an almost silent kind of way. "Why did you ask?"
"Oh, I was just wondering..." Lee scratched his chin, "Do you get to think about time too whenever you're out training with Neji?"
Tenten opened her other eye in surprise while Neji clung hard on the branch and stopped himself from leaping down. He didn't know why but something about Lee's tone implied that he should listen to what he's about to say. He cursed himself. It wasn't his nature to spy on his friends at all. Why did he have to be so curious whenever... touchy things like that get in the way?
He sighed in defeat and thought that boredom was apt to hurt him more than the extra minute he would spend.
"Well..." Neji witnessed how Tenten's face switched to thinking, "I also get to think about time..."
"But?" Unintentionally, Lee voiced out Neji's thoughts.
"But..." she repeated, a light smile touching her lips, "I just noticed that it goes by faster when I'm with him."
Lee leaned forward to peek on Tenten's face with a curious smiling glance. "Uh-huh..." he sat back, sounding all too satisfied with the thing that he saw, and then closed his eyes. "So... you get bored when you're training with me?"
"..." thought Neji. For some reasons, watching Tenten sharpen her weapons was more interesting than to do sparring with Lee—not that he'd ever watched her do it in a uniquely precise and poised manner before and after training; or how well she manages her time by doing something productive when she's got nothing else to do. Or, whenever she decided to hang around with him, he always noticed how she fiddled with her sharpened kunai...
Well alright, he does watch her every now and then. And believe him; it's more interesting than doing a spar with Lee.
"Perhaps." Tenten answered. Neji's Byakugan, on the other hand, was now screaming something that he wanted to know but he shouldn't know at all about his only sane teammate. "But don't take it badly, Lee. I enjoy training with you since you're always up for a good but pitiful warm-up exercise."
"Hah!" he exclaimed confidently, "Pitiful now but I promise you," Lee raised a hand up to fortify his promise; "I will get stronger like Gai-sensei!" pinging smile.
"Yeah, yeah... whatever..." Tenten waved a hand comically, and then abruptly smiled seriously. "But as you all know... I can never do that to Neji-san—even with his Byakugan deactivated." she said, "But he cannot do that to me as well because I somehow improve as he improves." She stopped at an afterthought and then let out a light chuckle, "or he was just being too easy on me."
Damn straight. The one thing that Neji admired most in Tenten was her ability to cope up with whatever situation she was in. From the time that she got beaten by that Sand punk Temari, he knew she vowed to herself that she would get stronger than ever. Her persistence and determination told him just that and anyone who disagreed with the fact that Tenten had improved more than anyone could ever expect would suffer Hyuuga Neji's wrath.
As he had learned a long time ago, people weren't limited to their fate alone. If they make a move to maneuver it and twist it to their liking, then changing it wouldn't be as impossible as it always seemed.
"And by that," Lee woke Neji up from his musings, "I have concluded that you really appreciate Neji-kun."
Tenten nodded. "I'm not denying that."
Lee nodded too, "You appreciate him more than anything else."
"I really do."
"You really, really, really appreciate him a lot."
"Because you like him and you're starting to fall in love with him."
"I won't deny—" she stopped; eyes twitching.
Although Neji's face carried on the emotions of a rock, the sight of a really, really irritated Tenten pounding the protégé of their sensei stirred a somewhat surprised reaction in him. It wasn't because he thought that the blow must've hurt a lot, well, partly of course, but it's just that he never thought that she would react so... guiltily over things like that. It wasn't her fault that she sort of... slipped off... to begin with.
Still, he couldn't help but think. Did she really mean it?
When things calmed down a little, Lee stood up and grinned at her sparring mate. "But honestly," he said with mischief blaring in his round eyes; forcing in her his sparkling killer smile. Tenten looked about ready to give him one until his perfect set of teeth we're either reduced to half or ready to be picked up by the tooth fairy in exchange for a few yen. "Are you really denying the fact that you're falling for the young Hyuuga genius?"
Tenten was already aiming a kunai towards Lee's throat.
"I stand by my question." Uttered Lee; valiantly imitating Maito Gai in his usual "role model" speech and other what-the-hell orations stance. Otherwise, it was just a stubborn I-will-not-stop-until-I-get-what-I-want kind of situation and he had all the determination to pull it off through wire or fire.
Tenten glared at him fiercely, "And I stand by the sharpness of my kunai that I will kill you if you don't stop nosing around."
An out-stare-me joust ensued.
Several seconds later, Neji felt the urge to leap off, knock some sense within his teammates' heads and force them to hurry up. Although lagging behind the point of uncertainty and denial, Neji had grudgingly admitted that he found it... interesting... to know whether Tenten really liked him more than admiration or not.
His defensive side was dictating, however, that Sakura's hints and Hinata's occasional slip-of-tongue was already getting on his head without him really noticing it. He blamed THAT on them. It WAS the thing that intrigued him to the point of "overhearing" Lee and Tenten's conversation even if he knew darn well that Tenten wasn't the person to preach about her emotions. On the other hand, if the reason was otherwise, he can consider the thought that there were just some things that he failed to notice even with his Byakugan glaring at each direction.
He didn't want to believe the latter but nevertheless, he WILL find out.
Tenten threw her kunai half-heartedly, merely missing Lee's throat by a millimeter. "You know me damn well..."
Inwardly, Lee sighed in total relief before flashing his sparkling, toothy smile. "All it takes is a yes or a no, Tenten." he said, "Are you denying the fact that you actually like—and I mean really, really like— the great Hyuuga Neji-kun because it is the truth and nothing but the truth?"
For the last time, Tenten glared at Lee with all her might. "You're really choked up about this aren't you?"
Lee tsked disapprovingly, "Yes or no, my beautiful Tenten."
Silence. And then an audible sigh was heard.
"Yes or no, huh?" she paused. And then, Neji—through a breathless moment—witnessed how a smile found its way on Tenten's lips, "... No."
Lee broke into a wide grin. Neji almost fell from where he perched himself.
"No, as in..." she continued, making Neji pay full attention with both brows drawing in to meet, "I don't have to deny it because it's not the truth."
Lee's grin broke into a frown. Neji was somewhat... disappointed, to say the least. Not that he cared or anything.
"Look Lee," she let out another audible sigh; as if preparing for a lecture engineered exactly for extremely dumb kids who didn't even know what a kunai's pointy edge was for. "Neji-kun is... a likeable person behind his placidly emotionless persona. He's the most confident person that I've ever met and..." a smile formed on her lips, "Instead of being intimidated by it, I find his confidence rather... infectious whenever he's around."
Lee propped his chin against his knuckles. "And your point is?"
Tenten sighed hopelessly, "The POINT is..." she said, as if explaining to a kid that the pointy end goes through the enemy, "It's not what you think and it goes the other way around."
"And what IS the other way around?" Lee asked persistently.
"That I don't actually like Neji-san."
Lee's lips further curved downwards. "Come on! Stop denying it!"
"Believe what you want." She said, dismissively; positioning herself comfortably against the tree with both hands behind her head. "I just told you the gist of it and that's that."
"Stop denying it." Said Lee, persuasively.
"If you don't, I'll tell every person in Konoha that you're denying it."
"Dare me if you want." She closed her eyes and then heard a sharp intake of breath before Lee actually did something that she wouldn't even expect him to do in a million years.
"TENTEN AND NEJI SITTING ON A TREE K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" he trilled on the top of his lungs.
Neji and Tenten, though in two different places, blushed scarlet and out came a vein popping on their heads at the exact same time. The young Hyuuga felt the impulse to do his 64 strikes jutsu on him. Tenten, on the other hand, although less lethal—but lethal nonetheless—felt her eyes twitch once... twice; her grip on her scrolls getting tighter and tighter and...
Neji had no choice but to follow them around, leaving the torture-him task to his ever reliable teammate.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY!" Tenten's yell scared the hell out of Lee.
Seconds later, she was already chasing a supposedly crippled Rock Lee as he made a mad dash towards the village for the sake of his very life. As they say, enraging someone as calm as Tenten would somehow result to the devastation of the world—or HIS world for this matter—and with those weapons being thrown blindly at him; he knew he had to hide somewhere safe— like a metal box locked by Tsunade-sama herself with a few sealing jutsus to keep her and her kunai away. Otherwise, he'd find himself as her favorite moving target throughout the span of his miserable life if word leaked that Neji and Tenten was actually doing the stuff he said.
"AND IF I EVER HEAR YOU SAY THAT AGAIN," shouted Tenten as Lee continued his dash for the village, "I SWEAR I'M GOING TO SKEWER YOU WITH A SHARPENED POLE!" she decided to spare him anyway... for now at least.
Neji halted on a tree branch, eyes still on Tenten's form with a thousand thoughts swirling across his brain. He didn't know what to think about what he just witnessed as it all came too suspiciously for his taste. However, as he witnessed the few drops of rain fall down on her cheeks, something tugged within him.
"I'm not lying at all about the denial part, Lee. And it really goes the other way around..." He heard her say, "Because... I don't like Hyuuga Neji."
Neji stared some more; feeling a painful pang on his chest upon hearing her words. It awfully felt like somebody poured a bucket of cold water over him and he couldn't do anything about it other than feel a surge of... disappointment. It was weird—really weird, and his conscience was somehow nagging him about a thing or two that he knew all too well but was only... at the stage of denial... to even acknowledge the blindingly obvious fact.
The fact that he really had a thing for his only sane teammate after all this time...
He followed her as she retraced her path calmly, bending down to pick up the scattered weapons on the ground with that unusual smile lighting her drenched form under the rain. "There's no point denying it at all because, obviously..." She said again; followed by a brief moment of silence before she spoke the words that almost caused him to lose his nerves, "I am as guilty as Hinata-chan was with that Kyuubi boy."
For the first time in his life, Neji didn't know what to do and how to react.
Feedbacks are as welcome as drops of rain in times of drought.
A/N: Eh... First Naruto fic. First NejiTen fic. Must've exaggerated Lee a little but what the hell... he's more exaggerated in other fictions and he's also exaggerated in his own little way anyway. Not to mention, I like him that way. He's funny with Gai. C3 Criticisms and honest opinions are welcome.