Chapter Seventeen: Closure
Neji sprung into action a split second later and threw himself at the wall behind the women. He pushed himself off it with his feet, grabbing Tenten in his arms as he used a clone to pick up Emi. The chain ripped out of the stone easily and he placed the kunoichi gently on the floor of the cave. She was still unconscious, but her breathing was steady. He pushed her forehead protector back up onto her head and went to Emi's aid.
His young fiancée was flushed, apparently unable to hide her relief that Neji had come to rescue her. Neji gently removed the gag and untied the rope that bound her hands.
The moment she was free, Emi flung her arms around his shoulders, clinging to him.
"You came for me!" She sobbed with relief and drew away so she could look into his eyes. They were still clouded over with anger, and he glanced at Tenten. "Neji," Emi said softly. She moved quickly and suddenly, and the Hyuuga found himself kissing Emi. Or rather, Emi was kissing him.
A strange tingling sensation shot down Neji's spine, and the Hyuuga found that he was paralysed, each limb frozen in place. Emi stood, roughly pushing him away. She spat in Tenten's direction as she rubbed her arms.
"Someone get me a cloak," she called imperiously, and the order was quickly obeyed by one of the sisters. Emi wrapped the thick jacket around her form, and glared at Neji.
"Finally, Neji- I have you at my command. I realized a long time ago that you were never going to come around to your senses- especially with what happened at the engagement party … so I devised this scheme to bring the both of you here, and kill you."
"Jealous, already?" Neji smirked.
Emi clicked her fingers and Neji's face froze. His vision was beginning to cloud, his mind wasn't working properly and his tongue wouldn't move. The only thing he could do was blink and breathe.
"Well, I'm not going to waste my breath now, am I? I'll just let you sleep for a while, and wake up in the same position that you found me in," Emi smiled and tossed her hair back over her shoulder, and left the cave with the sisters in tow. Hiroshi grabbed Neji's shoulder, and then the prodigy knew no more.
Tenten woke again a few hours later, but this time, she knew she wasn't alone- she could sense that Neji was nearby- something that she was grateful for, but where was Emi? What was the time? Where was she? How was Neji? Why was she now sitting on a chair?
"I see that you're awake now, Tenten, and Neji," Emi said quietly. "Remove the blindfolds, on the both of them," she commanded, and it was obeyed quickly.
A bright light was shining in her eyes. Tenten suddenly knew what was happening. They had been duped.
Neji blinked and shook his head, still feeling the after-effects of the poison, and looked around. Tenten sat beside him, tied to a wooden chair in a similar fashion as he. There was a chair behind the light, and he knew that Emi sat there.
"So… it's finally come down to this," Tenten said. Her voice was husky with disuse.
"What was that?" Emi leaned forward.
"Does the bad hearing run in the family, or something?" Tenten said irritably. "If I'm going to die here, I might as well get some answers to the questions I thought of."
"I'm happy to answer them, then," Emi said pleasantly.
"You're Tetsu, aren't you?" Tenten said immediately.
"I'm glad you finally noticed," Tetsu replied sarcastically.
"Tetsu…?" Neji echoed, unsure of what was happening.
"And secondly," Tenten glared at the light from anger. "Why the hell did this all happen!?!?" she shouted. The light bulb shattered with the force of raw power in her voice. "Why did you have to murder Hiashi? Why did it have to be me? What did Neji have to do with all of this? Why did you want to marry him? How did this all start?" she demanded, and took in several deep breaths.
Neji was only beginning to absorb the words when he realised.
"Hiashi… was murdered?" he echoed once again.
"Well, yes," Tetsu said simply. "It began a thousand years ago. One of your ancestors, Hyuuga Hideaki, was born into the clan without the bloodline limit. He was shunned and scorned by his own family because no one would acknowledge him without the Byakugan ability. But Hideaki and his family did not know of the other talents that he possessed, so he was disowned by his own father and kicked out of Konoha. He wandered aimlessly for a few days, not eating, sleeping or resting until finally, on the third day, he collapsed from exhaustion. That day, he Dreamed for the first time and found that he could make whatever he wanted in his mind become a reality. When he woke the next day, Hideaki vowed that he would create his own clan named after him. He would have his revenge upon the people who turned their backs on him, and kill the Head of the Hyuuga clan."
"That's really original," she drawled, "and sad, too- you've held a grudge for a thousand years!"
Tetsu made some kind of signal, and Hiroshi came out of the shadows and slapped her across the face. Tenten tasted blood in her mouth, and looked up at the man. Smirking, she turned her other cheek to face his hands, and he snarled at her.
"It makes no difference, Hiroshi- I will be the one to kill you," she spat her blood at him, and it marred his cheek. He wiped the blood off his face with a dirty look at her.
"Hiroshi?" Neji said, his mind starting to catch up on things a lot faster. "I thought you said that you killed him."
"Well, she didn't tell you a lot of things," he said, and kneeled by Tenten's chair while looking at Neji. "Did she tell you about that time when you woke up and she had vanished and that she was in the forest… with me… and…" Hiroshi gave a significant glance to the kunoichi who paled. "Did she tell you about those bruises you saw a few days ago? Did she say how she really got them?" Hiroshi licked the side of Tenten's face, sensing triumph, and her demeanour changed automatically into a cool, emotionless mask.
"Get away from her," Neji growled.
"Make me," Hiroshi taunted as he gripped Tenten's chin between his thumb and forefinger, then kissed the weapons specialist. Tenten shut her eyes, feeling the familiar bonds on her body reacting to Hiroshi's commands. She tried once again to reach her chakra to over power him, and found that it was only faintly there- and not yet strong enough to fight against him. But it gave her hope, and she endured the few moments of asphyxiation.
"Okay enough Hiroshi! We don't need to see that!" Tetsu snapped. "If you're so attached to her, I just might make you the one to kill her."
Hiroshi pulled away, and Neji smirked at Tetsu.
"Aww," he said sarcastically. "Is Tetsu jealous again?"
"Neji- please," Tenten said. "I need to know why this all happened."
Neji nodded, trying to curb his anger for the one he loved dearly, and Tenten looked expectantly at the light.
"Anyway," Tetsu sighed and looked at her nails. "I am a direct descendant of Hideaki himself, and so I was able to fully develop my powers with the help of the works left by my ancestors. Hiroshi, when he became my husband, became a part of the clan and I bestowed upon him the five seals of Hideaki, along with his four sisters. One day, Hiroshi came to me and told me that he had saw you in his sleep- that you had the potential to fulfil the noble pledge that Hideaki had made, and that you would be the one to raise our clan out of the darkness and into the light.
"We came up with a plan- Hiroshi and his sisters would go to Hyuuga Hiashi and, using our special bloodline abilities, force him to write the will dictating that Neji would have to marry me, and then they murdered his mind while he slept. I, on the other hand, would go to you as Temari and stage everything that happened on your anniversary to make sure that you would be as far apart as you could get in those few days. Then, after you split up, Hiroshi would train you for six years, and I would marry Neji and then wreak havoc on the clan with Neji as my puppet… but, of course, these last few things did not go to plan," Tetsu sighed tiredly.
"But… if you married Neji, then… what about Hiroshi? Didn't you love each other?"
"We were soul bonded. It exceeded the weak rites of 'marriage'," Hiroshi said firmly.
"You liar. It hurt, you bitch and you knew it, and you ripped up my relationship, too! You deserved every moment of pain Neji caused you!" Tenten sneered, and Tetsu glared back.
"Asuka, Akane, Hotanu and Hana!" Tetsu called. They came into the room. "I want you to put them back asleep," she commanded as she stood and left with Hiroshi.
Tenten looked at Asuka. Their eyes met, and Tenten touched on a thought in the other girl's mind.
"You and that slut," spat Asuka. "Tetsu is the reason this is all happening. If you hadn't gotten involved with her, then this never would have happened. That stupid Hyuuga, too, and all them people who came with this! You're a stupid, egotistical bastard, you know that? You just want her with you and your own sisters dead- just so you can have your petty power!" Asuka stopped for breath. "And you know what? Kill me for all I care, because Miyako will remember. She will become Tenten, and kill you, and you know it!"
Asuka couldn't meet Tenten's eyes. She knew that everyone else in the room had heard her words, now. Her sisters were looking at her and Neji raised an eyebrow as he heard Asuka's memory.
"It was just an act," she said coolly, placing a hand on Tenten and Neji's shoulders. Her sisters all touched her hands, and, after a moment, the shinobi slumped forwards on their chairs, and the four girls left the room, Hana locking it in her wake.
Her mind and body passed in and out of consciousness in an endless cycle- she would be woken and Tetsu and Hiroshi would torment her some more, and then she'd be put back to sleep. However, Tetsu was skewing her sense of time to further disorientate her. Tenten eventually figured out that they were jumping around within the space of two weeks, judging from the welts on her wrists. Sometimes they were healed, and other times, they were still raw.
Tenten always tried to fight off the drowsiness brought on by Asuka and her sisters. In the end, she let her body succumb to the numbness, but kept her mind awake. The channel in her mind had opened, and her chakra was beginning to circulate around her body once again. She couldn't yet access her full powers, but she could sense the world around her without opening her eyes. Beyond the locked door lay a complex network of caves that were completely iced over- even if she managed to survive the next few days in her current state, she could not navigate the maze fast enough- and once they were out, they'd probably have to fight in the cold. She was losing the circulation in her body, and frostbite was likely in this situation, Tenten realised. They had to get out, and soon.
Tetsu came into the room and woke the pair up with a brisk jolt of lightning. Tenten just hated her all the more.
"Why are we still here?" Neji asked quietly. "We are of no value to you."
"Tell that to your village," Tetsu said primly. She clicked her fingers and Hiroshi dragged Hinata into the room. She was bleeding, bruised and battered. Her left arm dangled uselessly at her side.
Neji felt the rage well up inside his mind, his Byakugan instantly activated from stress and worry, and Tenten surprised everyone by laughing. For a few moments, the Hyuuga thought that she'd gone insane. The sound was cold and sent shivers down his spine. This was not the Tenten he had once known. She had grown wise and even more powerful beyond her years in a short time.
The laughter subsided and Tenten glared at the pair.
Her words wound sinuously into the charged atmosphere around them.
"You just shape shifted a log into her form," she said carelessly. "Besides, Hinata would never fall to you."
"Neji fell to you," Hiroshi filled in glibly, tossing aside the illusion of Hinata. "If the other Hyuuga came, we would overpower her in an instant. Nothing happens on this mountain without us knowing."
Tenten smiled serenely. She'd been preparing for a while now. Her welts were healed, her power flowed strongly in her veins.
"No," she said quietly, "not everything."
She shut her eyes and the source of light in the room exploded, hot shards of glass flying straight for Hiroshi and Tetsu. The wooden door slammed shut and Tenten unwound the rope with her mind. The old wood in her chair gave way to the call of her power, shaping itself to her will. Tenten's eyes were still shut; Neji could see that. A staff flew to her hands and the rope around her feet unwound itself smoothly.
The kunoichi took only the smallest of breaths before swinging out her staff, striking both Hiroshi and Tetsu in the smooth motion. They slumped in the corner, knocked unconscious by the sheer power in the blow.
Neji could not help but gape. How she had kept her chakra hidden from him was a surprise. Tenten seemed to guess his thoughts.
"Not now," she said. "We need to get out of here first."
Tenten led the way in the dark, her bare feet hardly feeling the icy cold rock. She kept a mental note of where they were in her head and turned left to where their weapons were stored.
"They're stupid," Neji muttered. "Keeping the weapons together would ensure that we'd be totally armed if we escaped."
"They hadn't counted on my abilities," Tenten said with a smirk. "I'm not complaining about their stupidity though."
They discovered that the lock on the door was more like a wall of chakra that burned the skin when touched. Neji activated his Byakugan silently, and found no weak spots, so Tenten sighed. Hiroshi had taught her about locked doors such as these, so she reached into her mind and formed some seals, her fingers glowing with golden chakra. She deftly slammed her palm into the centre of the door and it splintered soundlessly, sending woodchips flying.
Unfortunately, there was someone else in there, intent on stopping them. Tenten quickly summoned her katana to her fingers and blocked the blow against the kodachi. Tenten's kodaichi. In a matter of seconds, her opponent was disarmed with a katana and a kodachi at her throat.
Tenten glared down at Hana, who was panting. She was obviously unused to combat of any kind, and had put up a pathetic fight.
"I admire your audacity Hana," Tenten spat. "Get up, slowly, and make no sudden movements."
Hana obeyed, her green hair glinting in the dim light from the torch outside. Nothing could hide the hatred in her eyes.
"Now, unlock our weapons slowly, and don't you dare try to use them against us or tell anyone that we're here, got it? I could make you regret it in more than one way," Tenten threatened as she pressed both weapons against Hana's back. Hana nodded and passed back their weapons.
Once she was equipped, Tenten commanded Hana to turn around.
"You know," she said conversationally. "I had once vowed to myself I would kill you all if I ever saw you again." Tenten sheathed her weapons swiftly and quickly grabbed Hana's face, pressing her thumb against her temples. Hana was silent, and Neji frowned as he watched. Tenten stared into Hana's eyes, and the young woman fainted. Tenten laid her gently on a rug on the floor.
The weapons expert stood up and turned to Neji, who nodded, and they quickly ran up to the exit with Tenten leading the way once again, her sole purpose to find the way out. They arrived at the surface, panting. The snow was blindingly white and the air was thin, but they were used to it, and it was achingly cold.
"Well, well, what have we here?"
Tenten turned to the source of the sarcastic voice. Asuka, Akane and Hotanu stood, partly down the mountain. Their escape had been imminent.
"Well, well…" Tenten mimicked as she sighed. "It's you three- the one with the fiery temper, the firefly… and the most beautiful of the sisters; Akane, Hotanu and Asuka. Sorry if we kept you waiting."
"Not a problem," Asuka said sweetly, and the three of them ran up the mountain, and surrounded the pair.
"I hope you put up a better fight that Hana- it was quite pathetic, really," Tenten said breezily as she pulled out two katanas from thin air. One glowed as red as hot lava and the other was so black it seemed to suck in the light. Both weapons shocked you into looking at it; a stark contrast to the white snow.
Neji cracked his knuckles and glared at Hotanu, activating his bloodline limit without a word.
"I'll take Asuka and Hotanu," Tenten said quietly.
"And then we'll have to try and avoid Hiroshi and Emi."
"Tetsu," Tenten corrected immediately. Emi was the conniving girl who had tried to seduce Neji. Tetsu was the enemy- Tenten knew that she could not afford to take any of it personally.
Neji grunted in response and Tenten spun her katana in alternating directions. Neji felt the heat of the red blade as it passed by his face and then the icy cold chill of the black. They were made to be used together and, in Tenten's hands, could guarantee success in any battle and excruciating pain for the enemy.
Their enemies' attacks were swift and brutal. They raised their hands and looked directly at Tenten and Neji, directing their energy towards them. It came in a glowing ball of pure energy.
Tenten dodged the crackling energy nimbly, deflecting the stray wisps of electricity with her black katana. In the same movement, she slammed her red katana into the ground, melting the snow, and filling the crack with lava.
Asuka leapt out of the way. Tenten was still blinded by the whirling snowflakes but she sensed the other woman's mind and spun, slashing downwards with her red katana, nicking Asuka's arm. The burn would scar forever. Hot blood splattered onto the snow and Asuka fell back, calling up more wind to distract Tenten from her other sister.
The kunoichi was five moves ahead of the two of them. She turned against the wind, lashing out with her black katana, slashing in a cruel arc down Akane's leg. More blood mingled with the snow. Akane limped backwards, cursing and lunged at Tenten again. She wielded fire like a chain and it lashed at Tenten's feet as Asuka sapped at the weapon mistress' energy with whirling gales that wrapped around her enemy. Tenten dropped her black katana in the snow and Akane pulled her further away from the weapon with the rope of flames.
Taking a deep breath, Hotanu lunged at Neji with lightning at her fingertips. Neji fell into his Jyuuken stance and she matched him blow for blow. Neji felt his fingers tingle as his nerves reacted to the electricity. She was only zapping him now, but he sensed a change in the wind; a storm was gathering, and he knew that Hotanu and Asuka were the causes of it. Neji was blinded by a bright flash of lightning and something slammed into his chest. The Hyuuga fell back into the snow, winded. His heart was racing and he could hardly move.
Suddenly, a vine wrapped around his feet and hauled him through the snow. His fingers touched something deathly cold and Neji knew what it was. His palm closed around the hilt and he swung out, cutting the plant. There was a high pitched keen and Neji rolled over, using the weapon to help him stand.
He was still injured, but he swung out the blade in a wide arc. He saw Tenten free herself and look in his direction. Time seemed to slow and the blade freed itself from his grasp, wounding Hana as it cut a small capillary in her neck as it whipped past her.
Hotanu shrieked and rushed at Neji once again, lightning surrounding her. She looked unearthly and ethereal in that one moment, and the Hyuuga knew he would not survive being struck by lightning a second time. He spun quickly on one leg, emitting chakra from his pores. Hotanu did not falter and slammed into the blue dome. Neji felt the shockwaves reverberate through his skeleton but he did not falter for a moment. Suddenly, the lightning was gone, and Hotanu flew up into the sky, her arms outspread like she was flying. Five bolts of lightning struck her in the heart and her form vanished- ash to be scattered across the land. She was the first of the new Hideaki generation to join her ancestors.
Tenten felt Hotanu's life flare out, and was distracted by the sudden loss. Akane dove in from the side, attempting to cut Tenten's leg. The kunoichi jumped, flinging the red katana into Akane's chest, piercing her heart, but could not avoid the chakra infused wind that left a long gash down her right arm. The warm, precious blood dripped down to the snow, as did Akane's and she died within moments. Tenten wrenched the blade free, taking two steps backwards.
Neji and Tenten both felt the other at their backs. Despite their injuries, they were stronger than this. They would get through this together… or die together. The pair did not speak or communicate in anyway, but simply breathed in and out slowly and fought once again.
Hana winced as Neji dodged both vines she wielded. He ducked under the first and grabbed the second, although it did cut into his hand. The Hyuuga tugged, and the woman stumbled forwards into the snow. She pressed her hands into the snow and her fingertips brushed against the earth. A thorny vine shot out from beneath Neji and he dodged it as it lashed out at him. He spun around once again and delivered a chakra filled blow to Hana's chest. Her blood fell onto his hand as she coughed, and the light left her eyes as she fell to the ground. Neji used the snow to wipe the blood away, the tension evident in his eyes.
Asuka summoned a weapon of her own, but it stood no chance against Tenten's weapon of fire and shattered after the first bone jarring blow. The woman, suddenly afraid, backed away from the weapons specialist.
"Tenten… I loved you like a sister!" she pleaded pathetically. "The thought that you picked up from my mind was real! That is how I feel!"
"Asuka," Tenten said lazily. "We both know that isn't true."
Asuka was trapped between Tenten and the edge of the mountain. The blonde was utterly exhausted and she knew that her time had come. Using the last of her energy, and the last seal of the Hideaki clan, she shut her eyes and her chakra flowed out of her body. The black mark crawled down her arms and she poured it into the ice. The precipice she had been standing on broke away. She died before she hit the icy rocks below. The kunoichi turned away, and began to limp towards Neji.
"Are you o-" she began to say, but she was cut off by his lips as he kissed her passionately. All the cold left her body, and she returned the kiss with every effort she could muster.
Then, it was over. Neji stepped back, with a hand to his chest. He was panting, and his face was ashen, like he was sick.
"Neji!" The shrill, echoing scream brought his attention. He looked to Tenten- her face was stricken with horror.
"You… I can't see you," he said faintly.
He turned around and Hiroshi stood there with a wicked looking weapon. Emi- or was it Tetsu? – stood beside him, her hands pressed together with glee. Her jutsu had worked. Tenten's eyes narrowed; she knew exactly what Tetsu had done. With a growl, she began to run over to the pair standing on top of the cliff.
Neji felt strangely light, like he was floating away. He shook his head and jumped up onto cliff with Tenten. The kunoichi had broken all of the bonds that Hiroshi had held upon her the moment she'd seen Tetsu poison Neji. She scaled the small cliff in the blink of an eye and pounced on the man and punched him in the face.
"I hate you!" she screamed, tears beginning to fall like the snowflakes around them. "You took everything away from me!"
Tetsu did not need to even try and read her thoughts; they all screamed of rage, desperation and a massive amount of hysteria. The raw emotion was scalding and she could not bear to keep contact with the kunoichi's mind.
Neji climbed over the lip of the rock as Tenten summoned a pair of mismatched scrolls- one was apple green, and the other was pink. Neji frowned- the weapons in the green scrolls all required blood.
Tenten opened the pink scroll with shaking fingers and ran a kunai along both of her inner arms, miraculously cutting none of the veins that stood out on her pale skin.
"Tenten…" Neji said softly. "What are you…?"
Tenten ignored him and unrolled the scrolls, and jumped over the edge of the cliff that looked into the small valley. The scrolls unfurled and created a spheric cocoon around her body, and then weapons rained down from her fingers, along with her blood.
Tetsu calmly used her powers to deflect the metal, but Hiroshi could only take so much; the anger in Tenten was so overwhelming it made him sick.
Neji watched through hazy eyes as the scrolls continued to spin after the weapons stopped falling. Tenten summoned the last pair of katana on her green scroll and dove down, slamming the weapon into Hiroshi's heart as he attempted to stand. There was no glory, but only the warm splatter of his blood that arced across the snow and onto her skin and face as he fell to the ground. He was no more, anywhere in the world.
Still, the tears continued to fall as Tenten panted. Her arms were no longer bleeding, but the blood on the hilt that belonged to her fell to the snow mixing with that of her enemy. She stood there, panting.
With just a cruel thrust of her blade, she had ended the source of misery in her life… but there was no joy; just the insanity that threatened to overwhelm her. Everything was just too much for her senses.
Tetsu prepared herself for a death curse, and Tenten's heart sank as she felt the gathering of negative energy. The young woman stood still as she now prepared herself for a suicide technique, eyes shut. When her eyes slid open once again, they were pitch-black. The strange markings were shifting and gliding across her skin and Tenten could read the meanings of all of the symbols.
Tenten took a deep breath in and out, taking up a different stance. Neji did not know what she was doing. With both hands on the hilt of the blade, the metal began to shimmer as it repelled snowflakes. The same field of energy began to glow brightly with white energy and Tetsu's eyes widened.
She lunged at Tenten with one of Tenten's fallen blades. Neji could only watch through misted eyes, the world sliding slowly out of focus.
Tetsu's skill with blades were, Tenten had to say, impressive. It was not the first time she had wished an enemy was an ally. The two women could match each other blow for blow but Tenten's strength and experience were beginning to give her an edge despite the fact that she knew she was tiring.
Tetsu could not read her opponent's thoughts; everything was blissfully blank and silent within Tenten's mind and she had complete faith and confidence in her own abilities. Suddenly, the kunoichi ducked and thrust her katana up in a fluid arc, cutting Tetsu across her body from her left thigh up to her right shoulder.
Hideaki Tetsu stumbled back and met Tenten's eyes. The kunoichi blanched, knowing what she was doing- she had experienced a death curse before, and it had not been pretty. She did what any sensible person would do- she scaled the cliff in two chakra enhanced jumps, tugged on Neji's hand and, together, they ran as fast and as far as they could.
The Hyuuga could not see a thing beyond Tenten's arm. His eyes were watering with the speed at which they were running and then everything around them faded into darkness and the only thing keeping him running was Tenten's hand tugging on his.
Tears blurred Tenten's vision and, with a sudden surge of power from the depths of her mind, they were running down the main road in Konoha.
The pair stopped running. Neji was awestruck.
The kunoichi was laughing hysterically. She spun around and kissed Neji on the lips. He gently wrapped his arms around her and when she pulled away to breathe, Neji's arms dropped from her waist and he fell to the ground.
Every moment seemed to go forever and beyond, and the dust in the street seemed to float around his body.
"Neji!" Tenten cried, kneeling at his side, her tears falling onto his face. She shook him desperately, but it had no effect on the Hyuuga whatsoever. "Neji!" she sobbed, and took him into her arms and kissed him.
Everything faded away from their ears as their lips touched. Tenten grasped his hand tightly, and Neji weakly placed his other hand on Tenten's cheek.
The kunoichi felt his essence just… vanish, and she broke away, screaming in anguish and terror.