A nice challenge set up to help the little try hard ninjas become Chuuins. Practice makes perfect and err, it's the best plot line I could come up with! Joking, heh heh. So after the first attempt at Chuuindom for the mains and all that. Only Konoha competitors!
Neji shook his head as Lee shuffled excitedly beside him. Tenten was reading the scroll he had just finished. Eventually she commented.
"You would think with all that time they would think of something new. I mean it's hardly different at all! Same location, same concept..." Neji chose not to answer feeling it below his worth to encourage someone so intent on pointing out the obvious.
"At least we know we will succeed once again! Our previous display of teamwork and group love was-"
"As I recall, you left our 'team' to waste your time being chivalrous in front of some idiot girl who had gotten herself cornered." Lee looked at him with the serious expression he had adapted. Neji decided that he still looked laughable.
"Honour comes first Neji. Remember what Gai Sensei told us?" Neji continued to keep his face blank. He was trying his hardest to forget everything that fool of a man expressed in his daily pep talks.
"Find your special someone and protect them no matter what cost!" Neji looked uninspired despite the impressive teeth glint.
"You do realize you repulse that girl, she can hardly be your 'special person'." Lee looked a little down trodden and Tenten interrupted.
"You seem to know a lot about what she likes Neji." He glared at her and she turned to Lee to smile reassuringly.
"I assure you, I know very little of her. What I stated isn't a hard thing to observe..." He took the time to glance at Lee "For most..." Tenten looked like she wanted to slap him.
"Actually Lee, that quote works out really well for this task! We can look out for each other and oh, Neji can be his own special someone! Seems to work every other day for him!" A pitiful attempt at an insult. She could at least aim for something that was close to true! He wasn't...
"Now Neji, being the genius you are, you should wear the ribbon." She slapped it un-ceremoniously onto his back.
"Or, being the cold hearted bastard I am, you wish to watch me prance around with this ridiculous thing dangling behind."
"I knew they called you intelligent for a reason!" Lee was bubbling with happy anticipation again. It would take a lot to dampen his spirits...sufficiently enough for Neji's liking. He adjusted the ribbon on his back feeling more than a little idiotic. Rather than scrolls, these strips of brightly coloured blue and red material were used. There were two colours so you could pick your target rather than attacking and hoping for the best. It was harder to be concealed in a bush with colours that could rival Naruto's wardrobe flapping about and they were not allowed to remove them, unless of course they were snatching them of the backs of their opponents. This made trying to bargain your way out of a fight more difficult as you would have to offer the ribbon with your back turned straight to the enemy who could easily take away their word of truce.
At least, this is what Neji should have been pondering as they waited to be allowed entry into the 'Forest of Death'. Instead his mind drifted back to what Tenten had implied. Well, he wasn't exactly compassionate but that didn't mean he couldn't have feelings. Sure, he was no Lee but he could perform good deeds and such. It was simple enough to do. Minus the teeth glints and ridiculous outfits he could do exactly the same thing. He was sure of it. When ever such an opportunity arose he would be able to quite simply, show a little empathy and comfort or defense. Before he could contemplate his emotional generosity further the gates opened and they left hurriedly.
They were definitely in a bad position. He didn't need his Byakugan to figure that out. Knowing what other teams colours were had also provided another tool. Teams could create temporary alliances if they were of no threat to each other with the same coloured ribbons. Temporary alliances that resulted in Neji, Tenten and Lee being backed against a cliff face by, from what they could gather, an alliance of teams. They had fallen right into the trap along with another that included Naruto. Both teams were sidling closer together now to avoid the incoming threat and he noted Naruto's identical red ribbon to his. He could see the other member now. The girl of Lee's fancy. Only two members in their team and he had no reason to ask why. Naruto turned to the group.
"Plan?" Neji answered before they got a speech from Lee about flying from the crevasse on wings of hope.
"No." they couldn't see the enemy yet but a fight would be pointless. They were surrounded and even Naruto was agreeing with the idea that a number older enemies that had entrapped them may be a bit of a challenge to defeat when they were all exhausted. Both of the new arrivals seemed to have already been fighting, both scratched and the girls dress was torn and muddy. Still it seemed slightly out of character for him.
"There are three teams."
"What?" Sakura spoke now glancing meaningfully at Naruto.
"They were herding us in from that side. We had already been attacked. I think we should make a run from that side; it appears to be clear, then split up." It sounded reasonable enough and Lee was making vigorous sounds of his entire support to such a brilliant plan. He shrugged and Tenten nodded.
"We don't really have a choice. Are you sure there were three teams?" He was going to activate his Byakugan when to his surprise he was jerked sideways as Sakura had grabbed his wrist and was pulling him towards her.
"We don't have time! Come one!" She looked desperately at him. Well, now was as good time as ever to start trying to be nice.
"Fine." He stated gruffly making sure his annoyance and self sacrifice was evident in his tone of voice. She beamed at him and they began to run together. He was just too nice.
As they finally made it into the open forest they all began to split up.
"Neji! Come with us so the ones following Tenten and Lee are wasted with no ribbon to grab. It evens out the opponent numbers!" Seemed logical enough but even so he kept his distance, following the blur of pink hair. After a while, he noticed she was struggling but the blonde was not slowing. As her pace continued to slacken so did his matching it, so he was right behind her when she stumbled and fell forwards out of the tree. Naruto glanced back but continued running obviously considering the safety of the ribbon more important at present. It looked like a pretty bad fall. He stopped and jumped down congratulating himself on just how nice he was being today.
"Here." He followed her voice and found her crouched pitifully on the ground. "You remember my name?"
"You're kind of hard to forget." She looked up at him and he realized what he had said. "With your hair...and Sasuke and everything." He added trying to cover up his comment. Damn it had sounded wrong.
"Of course, Sasuke." Oh, just his luck, she was going to cry. "He would laugh at me now." This was a curious comment as from what he had seen; the boy was as far from laughing as he was. Still, the new loving and kind Neji took action.
"You can't know that." An intelligent comment. As the Sasuke boy was not here at present it would be a prediction to make any sort of guess as to what actions he may take.
"He would...He thinks I'm weak and now Naruto..."She paused to sniff dramatically "Doesn't think I'm worth the effort to come and help up." He paused at this.
"Perhaps he just trusts you to get up on your own."
"What?" He went to crouch in front of her incase she was experiencing hearing difficulties.
"Maybe he thinks that you don't need his help. He can rely on you to catch up on your own. From what I've seen, you're far from weak." A lie of course. She couldn't even properly defeat that purple wearing idiot in their battle. Still, she had something about her. "Naruto would know that too...and he would believe in you." She was staring at him, no longer crying. He had to admit, he was pretty good at this.
"Th...Thank you." She leaned forward suddenly and embraced him. Taken by surprise he was still able to admit that he quite liked it.
"Now, are you going to prove him wrong or rise and catch up with him?" that was the smooth Neji he had come to know. Get her off him without upsetting her further.
"Neji, I have a question first." She mumbled from somewhere in his shoulder as she still clung onto him.
"What is it?" Translation: Well hurry up and ask so you may release me and we can get on with this stupid practice. The fact that you are caressing my neck is making me nervous.
"I...Do you wonder why there are none of the opposition around?" She raised a valid point.
"We must have lost them." He stated confidently.
"Wrong. They never existed. It was us, Naruto and I." He stiffened slightly as she continued to embrace him.
"What are you talking about?"
"Neji, do you wonder why my dress is torn?" He didn't answer. "I tore it because it is red. To cover up the blue one on Naruto's back. It looks just like this one." She pulled away from him to display the ribbon she had removed from his back while she had been hugging him.
"Very clever. Why are you telling me this and ruining your plan. Don't think you can beat me in a fight-" She put a finger on his lips to quiet him.
"One more question. Do you wonder what kind of poison I rubbed on the back of your neck?" His eyes widened.
"You didn't...No..." She stood up. He tried but he felt heavy and an overwhelming drowsiness was taking him over.
"You will be out for a while. Sorry Neji, I didn't realize you would actually stop to help me. I didn't think the plan would work."
"Generally I wouldn't stop." He was just able to mutter. Damn Lee, damn Tenten. He was smarter when he was a stoic bastard. She smiled down at him.
"But thank you for all you said." She whistled and Naruto cautiously made his way out from the trees and grinned when he saw Neji on the ground. "Perhaps we can meet up again sometime?" He watched Naruto run up and thump her on the back. She handed the ribbon to him and he went into a high energy victory dance. He saw her smile nervously and guiltily at him and then he saw only blackness.
He was never going to live it down. From the way it was being told, she had seduced him and snatched away the ribbon mid-pash. He had given up trying to correct people, he sounded like just as much of a fool in the real tale. He was too humiliated to care what anyone said, all that mattered was that she had been able to trick him and perfectly execute her plan while he sat there congratulating himself on his counselor type comforting skills. She had better hope he didn't bump into her in the street. He would wring her bloody neck.
He looked up as there was a knock at the door of the room he was sitting in. He grunted his approval for entry and it slid open revealing a maid.
"Miss Haruno here to see you." Idiot woman.
"I don't know anyone by that...Sakura." She entered the room before he could finish.
"Hello." She whispered to the floor near his feet. She glanced up at him and he glared at her.
"What?" No need for the niceties with someone who had beaten him and kicked his pride around.
"I...came to apologize...about...you know, the ribbon thing..." He didn't answer her. "How I pretended to-"
"Don't assume because I displayed stupidity once and didn't answer right away that I am unable to interpret what you are implying!" He snapped at her and she looked taken aback.
"Yes, so you have said. Anything else constructive to say or are you going to leave? Oh, or have you another poison to test run me on?" He was practically hissing at her.
"I only came to try and make it up to you!" So she was going to shout now.
"How? By arriving and allowing your presence to rub in the fact? I don't have time to humour an idiot girl!"
"You don't have time because I'm an idiot or because I beat you?"
"You didn't beat me!"
"No, you obviously let me win! I didn't realize you were still so much of a bastard! Naruto said you changed!"
"I tried, and look at were it got me!" She looked at him as it dawned on her that he had been trying to be nice to her in the forest.
"I didn't mean...You were the first team we spotted..." She really did look apologetic and Neji tried to stop himself from feeling guilty. After all, she had humiliated him!
"Hm." He sneered at her.
"Fine, you can be angry at me but...here." She handed him a box wrapped in brown paper.
"What is that?" Unless it was a photo of her and a set of kunais to stab it with he didn't want it.
"A cake." Why was she giving him a cake? Perhaps there was some more poison in it...
"To say I'm sorry!"
"For what?" He was curious. He'd never been given cake before.
"FOR HUMILIATING YOU!" That's right, she had, hadn't she.
"Oh..." she looked at him nervously, perhaps waiting for an explosion of some sort. "What flavour is it?" She looked startled.
"Wha...What do you mean?"
"Don't pretend to be ignorant, it doesn't suit you."
"Oh, good. Thank you." She was beginning to back away from him.
"I'd better leave..."
"No, you'd better stay." She looked at him incredulously.
"Don't think for a second I'm going to eat any of this without you going first. Last time you knocked me out, this time you could be going in for the kill." He nodded in a matter of factly way and she slowly re-entered the room.
"What are you talking about?"
"Apology? I don't think so. You fooled me once now you're slipping me a spiked chocolate cake." He began setting it out on the conveniently positioned table beside him.
"I didn't..." she finally realized that he was joking. "Oh, damn, you're on to me." He offered her a piece.
"I can only hope that it was a particularly painful death inducing...err..."
"Yes! Exactly..." she took a few bites.
"Fine." She said with her mouth full. He took a slice and began to eat it. She swallowed and looked at him daintily nibbling. "How do you know that I didn't think of this and only poisoned a certain piece?"
"I gave you a random one."
"Still, if I had refused it would have looked suspicious. I may have taken a chance. Or what if it's slow acting? I may die to try and kill you."
"You're friends with Hinata. You wouldn't put her at risk. I could easily offer the cake around."
"And, how am I supposed to trust you! You could have slipped something on my slice while you were preparing it!" Seemingly a lot less concerned than what she was saying, she finished the slice.
"Why would I do that?"
"Revenge? Sadistic pleasures?" she shrugged. He felt a little impressed. Nothing like a good debate to exercise his 'chauvinistic bastard' skills.
They were continued for a while until Sakura finally rose and he led her to the door.
"You know, I could really get used to our conversations." She raised an eyebrow at him
"We are threatening each other."
"I don't care. Meet me at that tacky Ramen place tomorrow night at seven." He decided that was a sufficient farewell and slammed the door in her astonished face. He had said it before and would repeat it now. Damn he was just too nice.
Nut2: Well, wasn't that just the most pathetically random one-shot ever? I'm just bored. Anyway, it depends on whether or not you want this to be romance when you read it. Think what you like really I know what it is for me /crazy nejisaku fangirl scream/
Please review! Please! But no flamers, they hurt my feelings...
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto; I just like to mess around with the characters a bit...