Chapter One: Beach
Tenten looked around, surveying the sparse vegetation around the house and the sandy beaches that the house overlooked.
"It's beautiful," Tenten murmured and Neji, standing near her, nodded in agreement. The smell of salt was sharp and the wind almost cruel, but Tenten didn't mind- it was all a part of being near the beach.
The two of them turned their attention to a beautiful, modern beach house. The east and western sides of the house had large glass windows, allowing a view of the sunset and sunrise everyday, and letting the light flood into all of the living areas. The warm yellow slats on the outside of the house were resistant to the harsh conditions of the wind, sand, salt and sun and were as impeccably bright as the first day that they had been lovingly painted.
They walked into the house, taking off their shoes in the lavish, semicircle shaped foyer. The floor was made of cream and warm coloured marble and formed a kind of intricate geometrical design that was placed directly beneath a crystal and gold chandelier- but it had light bulbs instead of candles. A curved staircase ran along the curved side of the wall, the banister the same cream colour- but it had lacquered wood that was smooth, and it shone brilliantly in the warm light. It was more of a modern design, for it had nothing underneath the beech steps and the supporting beam that ran along beneath it.
Tenten quickly flitted upstairs and into the master bedroom. There was a small balcony that faced the west, along with a walk-in wardrobe and a beautiful white marble and gold en-suite bathroom.
"This… is…" Tenten began. "So beautiful… I think I've always dreamed of living in a house like this." She laughed, and fell back onto the white bed. She propped herself up onto her elbows and looked at him questioningly.
"Really?" Neji strode towards her silently and gently pushed her back onto the bed, lying down beside her. Their lips met in a gentle, chaste kiss and Tenten looked into Neji's lilac eyes.
"So… are we doing anything tonight?" the kunoichi asked, as curious as ever.
The sun continued on its path through the sky and Tenten and Neji spent their day settling in and unpacking, then going for a swim in the pool which was filled with, not surprisingly, sea water. The pool was built on a cliff that looked down onto the peachy sunset-dyed sea.
"Come on, Tenten- it's time to get ready." Neji said as he stepped out of the water. The water droplets fell away from his skin and out of his hair and he looked like some kind of god in the sunset rays. Tenten refrained from letting her jaw drop.
"Quick or we'll be late for our appointment!" Neji said. Tenten smiled up at him, and pushed herself up onto the pool ledge and wrapped herself into her white toweling kimono (aka bath robe).
Once in the bathroom, Tenten washed her hair thoroughly, getting rid of any of the salty scent of the ocean by washing her hair with a new pomegranate, lychee and persimmon shampoo and conditioner and the matching body wash. The kunoichi dried her hair with the blow drier and then gathered up her clothes and threw them into the laundry chute that was concealed in the hall way.
"Neji?" Tenten pulled her bath robe tightly around her naked form. "Where are we going?"
"You'll just have to wait and see, won't you?" Neji replied from the bedroom. Tenten walked in and Neji was standing in front of his wardrobe, looking for something to wear.
"Here," Tenten quickly picked out a casual suit from the rack and pressed the hanger into his hands. "Now, tell me- where are we going?"
"Out, for dinner." Neji said, looking at Tenten's clothes. He suddenly saw the sapphire dress and pulled it out of the armoire. "Why don't you wear this? It'll match your bracelet."
Tenten smiled and fingered the end of the sleeve- it had no threads sewn onto the ends to neaten up the hem or to prevent fraying because both were not possible, as the store keeper had said. She loved the way it seemed to just vanish and fade at the end.
"Okay." She smiled as she pulled on some underwear and removed the dress from her coat hanger. The dress was designed to be worn for missions that would require one to have concealed weapons, yet look inconspicuous and appropriately attired at the same time. Tenten put her arm through the left sleeve, and then the right, leaving it open at the front like a long blue jacket. She found the hooks and clips in the side seams of the dress, closed it properly, and spun around a few times.
The small breeze caught Neji's attention. He glanced up and saw Tenten, whirling around on her tiptoes in a dress that looked stunningly gorgeous on her. The V-neck cut of the dress revealed half of her shoulders and stopped just before revealing too much and the way the silken fabric wrapped around her form was flattering and showed off her curves, but it was not skin tight.
The long, flowing sleeves curved slightly at the beginning of her wrists, came to an angle and covered her hands which could easily hold and hide any weapon that she chose. The hem of her outfit ended around ten centimeters before her knees and simply faded away like gossamer silk, without any threads to neaten it up or to cut off.
On top of all of this, the fabric subtly shifted in its weave- it was solid in some areas, and diaphanous and wispy in others, miraculously revealing nothing it covered. Neji smiled. It was a worthwhile purchase.
Tenten felt Neji's eyes upon her and looked up. She smiled and walked over to him noiselessly, the bottom of her dress fluttering in her stride.
"Yes?" she asked softly, her deep mahogany eyes staring into his silver ones. Another question was about to leave her mouth when Neji gently cupped her face in his hands and bent his head slowly, and he kissed her gently, inexorably and lovingly on her lips. The kunoichi brought her hands up and put them behind his neck, and Neji pulled Tenten deeper into the curve of his lean body, enveloping himself in her scent- and that of her newly washed hair.
The pair stepped out of the beach house at around seven o'clock that night. It was wonderfully cool in the early autumn weather, and it was a perfect night out.
Tenten was drawing many stares with her attire. She was oblivious to everything but Neji, that, or she was just ignoring the stirring she was beginning to cause. Her beauty was natural and radiant like the sun and the hue and cut of the dress suited her magnificently, along with the twisting, elaborate necklace the kunoichi wore at her throat.
"So," Tenten said as she leaned her head on Neji's shoulder. "Where are we going?"
"Fine, be that way." Tenten said, standing up properly and walking at a smaller distance away while their fingers were still interlaced. Neji smirked and pulled her closer to him at once.
"We're going…" he began, "to the best kept secret in this area."
"You found the best kept secret in this area?" Tenten asked, a bit doubtful.
"There's a reason why my eyes are white, you know." Neji said dryly and Tenten sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Neji, sometimes, you make my blood boil." The kunoichi said in a low voice.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Neji asked innocently, his smirk ruining the whole effect.
"Just shut up and take me there." Tenten replied, a humoured smile brightening up her face.
Neji shrugged and guided Tenten out of the main road. It split into two, and both were dead ends. The alley way was dark and lit by only a few lanterns. The kunoichi could make out a pale door at the end of the road that drew her attention away from the gloomy walls and doors in the street.
They walked at a measured pace and Tenten hummed absentmindedly. She couldn't shake off the apprehensive feeling building up in her chest- something would happen tonight.
Neji and Tenten reached the door, and two words gleamed under the moonlight.
"The Garden," Tenten murmured. Neji opened the door and Tenten stepped through, her breath stolen momentarily. She removed her shoes and her feet touched the spongy, lush grass.
"It's all… real?" she asked no one in particular as she looked around, awed.
The sky above and around her was navy and sprinkled liberally with stars. There were chairs and tables dotting around the area, along with blossoming sakura trees.
"Aren't they out of season?" Tenten turned to face Neji.
He smiled briefly at her reverent tone, and stood at her side. A gentle breeze blew through the area, the subtle scent of the sakura blossoms momentarily replaced by Tenten's fruity, aromatic hair as the silken strands caressed his face.
"No, miss- they do not go out of season in the Garden." A waiter appeared at Tenten's side.
"Ah, you must be Mr. Hyuuga-reserved table for two?" he looked down a checklist which he had conjured from somewhere.
"That's correct," the said Hyuuga replied.
"Follow me, please," the waiter turned smartly and weaved his way through the numerous tables at which many couples were dining. Tenten was mildly surprised.
"How come so many people know about this place? It seems so out of the way… and secretive."
The head waiter turned and smiled at her, one that Tenten mirrored tentatively.
"Word of mouth is one of the methods that we rely on."
Tenten nodded, and the waiter turned around and led the pair to a small, screened off area. There was a willow tree growing on the other side, and a small table set for two, with candles and flowers. Tenten smiled as Neji pushed in her seat and the man serving at their table handed the couple a menu each.
They ordered their food and Neji ordered some red wine. Their waiter poured the blood red liquid into the wine glasses and left them alone.
"This is so…" Tenten sighed dreamily as she swished the wine around in the glass. Neji interpreted it the wrong way.
"Is there something wrong with it?" he asked.
"No, there is nothing…" but Tenten knew she was lying. She placed the glass back onto the table.
Neji quirked an eyebrow at her.
"I think I might be a bit paranoid but there's something telling me that there's something wrong." She said quietly, her lips barely moving, staring into the plum coloured depths of the drink.
After a while, she shook her head and looked at Neji. He crossed his arms and sat back, as if contemplating her words.
"What are we going to do, then?" he asked just as softly, with his lips just as tight.
"I guess we wait- I could be wrong, and even if something does happen, we will be prepared." Tenten smiled brightly and laughed as a waitress appeared.
Neji uncrossed his arms and sat straighter in his chair once more and smiled ever so slightly.
'These people,' he thought, 'come and go silently. There's something disconcerting about it, and I am not sure whether or not they are listening to what we say.'
He looked into Tenten's eyes as the waitress served them their meal and Neji knew that the kunoichi was thinking the same thing.
Neji activated the Byakugan without a word and quickly scanned the area. There was no one in the vicinity.
Tenten lifted her glass and Neji reflected her actions, and the two wine glasses met with a gentle chime. As if on cue, the screen ripped apart and a man with blue hair and violet eyes stood in its place.
"What is the meaning of this?" Neji thundered, rising from his seat. It took much of Tenten's restraint to not flinch.
The man didn't reply. Tenten stood and positioned herself beside the Hyuuga, the wine glass still in her hands.
The man strode confidently over to the pair, and the kunoichi fluidly threw the wine glass into his face. The wine mixed with blood as it streamed down his face, shards of glass cutting his eyes.
"Tenten!" Neji said, grasping her hand. "Let's go!" he barraged past the man who was groaning in pain, and they leapt over the angry staff and dining patrons and into the street. The shinobi and kunoichi jumped up nimbly onto the roof tops. Unfortunately, there were people already waiting for them.
A figure launched itself at the Hyuuga and he was quickly eliminated with swift, brutal strokes to his chest.
The kunoichi found what she wanted within the folds of her sleeves and pulled. The silken, flowing fabric ripped cleanly and soundlessly, and fell away, revealing her pale arms. She twisted the metal rods in her arms with impossible speed, and the men screamed as they were killed by the whirring metal. The kunoichi connected the magnetized ends and tried to pull them apart. They would not budge. She smiled satisfactorily and twirled her newly made bladed staff.
Neji dispatched the last few men and jumped off the roof.
"We need to get back to the house!" he said to Tenten who nodded tersely beside him, her sleeves fluttering behind her like wings.
They landed on another rooftop and they both slipped on the oil slicked tiles.
Tenten, who was bare foot, slipped further than the prodigy, and slammed her staff into the rocks, fixing chakra to her hands and feet to enable her to hold on firmly. She quickly jumped up to where Neji was standing.
"Are you alright?" he asked, looking at her closely.
"I'm fine-come on, we have to get back!" Tenten's voice showed her calm and collectedness, and Neji nodded, took her hand, and they jumped off the oily roof and onto another.
It burst into flames.
The pair leapt again down onto the main street where they landed and began to run down the street. A few moments later, a gang of fifteen men appeared on all sides of the pair. They were trapped.
Tenten engulfed the staff in chakra, increasing the blades' length and thickness. Neji took up his Jyuuken fighting stance, and prepared to fight.
They paused for a moment to get their breath back, and they were off in a flash, eliminating the number of enemies.
Tenten swung the staff in a smooth arc, and twirled it above her head and brought it down, spinning it rapidly and the metal was soon stained red, even with the chakra surrounding it.
Neji let his chakra rush though his body, and felt his opponents enter his field of vision in his mind. With deft, fluid moves, all six were dead on the ground, their hearts beating no more.
The Hyuuga and weapons specialist looked at each other for a brief instant before running again.
When they arrived at the beach house, there were already a group of around a hundred people there.
"Damn it!" Tenten swore in a low voice.
They leapt off the ground and into a tree. The couple had already been spotted however, and the weapons began to fly up to meet them. The metal projectiles were deflected by the trees and the pair soared into the air, towards the house.
A few shinobi jumped into the air to meet them. Tenten gritted her teeth in pain as one threw several shuriken in her direction, but made no sound whatsoever. The kunoichi thrust her bladed staff down and the opposing ninja fell to the floor, blood leaking out of his skull.
She threw her weight forwards and felt a tingling over her skin as she passed through a chakra resistant barrier. Neji followed her shortly afterwards, although he was much less injured. He landed first, being heavier, and caught the injured kunoichi as she fell.
"Tenten!" he said, shaking her gently. Tenten opened her eyes slightly, her breathing quick and shallow. She lifted her hand to her mouth as she coughed and blood dripped from her fingers as her hand lowered down to the ground slowly. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets, and Neji tensed- he knew what kind of poison that was pumping through her veins
Neji kicked the door open and placed the kunoichi on the couch. He quickly gathered a pile of cloths, bandages and a bowl of warm water, along with an antidote for the poison.
The Hyuuga removed the cap of the syringe, flicked the plastic tube gently and injected the clear fluid into the kunoichi's body. Tenten moaned, and Neji murmured soothingly as he removed the weapons from her flesh, trying to stem the flow of blood that came from the wounds. He then unclipped the front of the dress, revealing Tenten's toned stomach which had been cut. Strangely enough, the dress was unstained and uncut apart from what had used to be the sleeves. The shinobi removed the dress entirely and set to work wiping the wounds and trying to prevent infection from setting in. The cuts were mainly on her stomach and arms.
When he was finished, Neji picked Tenten's limp form up once more and carried her swiftly upstairs, setting her down on the bed, and covered her securely with the thick blanket.
The Hyuuga then went down the hall and washed his hands until they were red, raw, and free of blood. He threw his clothes into the laundry chute and mechanically pulled on some pants before going downstairs. Neji burned the rags and threw the bloodied water down the sink. He glimpsed the dress and picked it up, then slung it over the couch.
Sighing, Neji made his way up to his bedroom where Tenten was resting, and sat down in a chair, trying not to think about what had happened in the space of the last twenty four hours. But sleep was just as welcome to his tired body however, and all he could do was wait.