"This punch... THIS PUNCH IS DEDICATED TO THE PEACE AND GOODWILL OF THE EARTH!" With all his might, Rock Lee attacked the waiting Hyuuga Neji with his flaming fist.
The Hyuuga sighed, and then stepped to the left.
"AAAAAH!"It was too late for Lee to step on the brakes. And with that, he slammed flatly on the wall.
"NOOOOOO!" cried Maito Gai in despair, unable to believe the fate that befell his favorite student. He had bore witness to how this young spirited lad energetically finished one whole week of training in the proper battle poses worthy of appearing in top Konoha fashion magazines, as well as a whole day of seminar in the cool way of releasing combat dialogues. Yet for all his perseverance and hard work, why oh why was he defeated so easily?
Neji looked at his teammate in disdain. "If you had only concentrated on your opponent instead of your speech, you may have been able to bruise me."
"Yursh sho hurrugent," grumbled a voice from underneath the fallen debris of the wall.
"What did he say?" Instinctively, Neji glanced behind him to ask for a translation. And then he frowned.
Oh, right. Tenten wasn't present in today's training. There were no excuses whatsoever-- she simply didn't appear in the rendezvous spot of Team Gai.
"Hyuuga Neji!" Lee rose from the broken pieces of the brick wall like a phoenix of burning love, his eyes ablaze in fiery desire to avenge his shameful crash. "Our fight is not yet over! I shall fight till my last breath!"
Neji grimaced. If he would decide to wait for the last breath of this creature that carried a dozen oxygen tanks for a lung, Armageddon would already come and yet they would still be fighting then.
On the other hand. Gai was grinning proudly at his look-alike student. "That's my boy! A determined warrior that refuses to lose his fighting spirit! That's right, show him your talent that can be unleashed only by the great Red Horse Extra Strong!"
Neji groaned. Damn, he hated this part.
"Yes, Sir Gai!" Lee fished out an amber bottle carrying a beer brand from out of nowhere. "I'll show you, Neji, how wrong it is for you to underestimate my abilities! Get ready… get ready to taste my Drunken Fist Technique!"
The bowl-head shinobi closed his eyes, gathered his chakra, and then unceremoniously dumped the bottle's contents into his fist. "I must warn you, Neji-san! With my fist totally drunk, its strength shall be magnified into a hundred times. Once this fist lands on your face, you will never get to see the ending of that reality show re-run you're watching!"
Again, by instinct, Neji called out the name of his lone ally against the evilness of these two bowl-heads with a combined IQ comparable to a pebble.
He only realized how big a mistake that was when he saw the knowing grins that formed on the faces of his teacher and his teammate.
An English translation request of my Tagalog fic, Kutingting. for Blood Sencere. It's not everyday that people are interested in reading non-English works, let alone request for them to be translated :D Mild OOC warnings.
While making his way to Tenten's apartment, Neji silently analyzed at what point exactly had he done something wrong in his life for fate to annoy him like this. Deprived of a sparring mate today, relentlessly tormented by his team's crazy antics, and now, matchmaking him with Tenten…
Well, admittedly, among his team, it's with the kunoichi whom he shares a deepest understanding with. And it wasn't only because the rest of his teammates were usually as intelligent as calculators that state one plus one is three.
It's just that Tenten was the only one who could really read his emotions well. She would always know when he was bored, when he was very bored, and when he was very, very bored enough to hurl the nearest bowl-haired person next to him into outer space.
She also served as his bridge to other people's lives—people whom he usually wouldn't bother connecting with had he been on his own. For instance, if it weren't for her kindness to translate the strange language and culture of Maito Gai and Rock Lee into something he would understand, he would forever be at lost as to how the lives of these two really operate.
(Not that it's important, but sometimes, it was handy to know just when exactly they were starting to target him with their absurd schemes).
However, everyone around him had just got to have filthy brain cells.
Like Gai and Rock Lee, who would always start their cough-ahem-cough whenever he would invite Tenten out to train with him in the woods every weekend.
There was nothing he could really do about that, since Tenten was the only person who would come in his mind whenever he was in need of a sparring mate whom he felt could match up against his fighting abilities. Or whenever they were out on missions, the backup he would always ask from the office was Tenten, simply because… in his last mission, and the missions that preceded that, it was Tenten who had always been his partner.
Whenever they were together, words were unnecessary. She knew when to talk to him and when to leave him alone with his thoughts. She knew when to let him fight alone and when she should come to his assistance. She knew when he could still endure his wounds and when it was necessary to call a medic nin or even a priest.
In a nutshell, Tenten was indispensable in his life… a life as a shinobi, that is. Which might explain why everyone's teasing was un-disposable as well.
And Gai and Lee's teasing in the field this morning… it wasn't like it was the first time that he was teased. In fact, the whole Konoha office was already coaxing him to find his partner in life outside jounin missions. Naturally, it was always Tenten whom they would match him, for according to them, she was the only woman who could stand his company for more than ten minutes, least of all ten whole years.
As if we're teenagers paired together in screen loveteams or something.
He suddenly remembered a conversation that transpired recently…
"Neji, don't you want to get married yet?" The hottest question in town was once more voiced by his teacher, Gai, one fine day after they finished their daily rounds in the borders of the Konoha village.
"It's not the right time yet." He replied simply, wishing that everyone would leave it at that. But as usual, his answer had an instant follow-up.
"Eh? You can't mean to say that even marriages have timeslots!" asked Lee, smiling impishly.
"I need to do a lot of things first before I settle down." He unscrewed the lid of his water jug and gulped. "I want to ensure first the safety of the whole village and the stability of the whole Hyuuga clan before I decide on that."
"Why?" asked Inuzuka Kiba, who was part of the roving guards that day. "It's not like you're crossing to the other side of life if you get married. And you can still do your duties even if you already have a family of your own!"
"My attention would be divided," he replied. "Anyway, my life is fine as it is. Why would I bother changing the system when it's working as it should?"
"Just so you know, buddy, you're turning 29 next year," protested Kiba. "Don't you want to feel the joy of matrimonial nights while you are still young and strong?"
"You are really a top-notch pervert, Kiba," Aburame Shino, who was a mere spectator awhile ago, commented crassly. "You are embarrassing Akamaru."
"I'm just concerned, Bug Boy. It's not my fault if you're reared like some Victorian old woman." He turned to the beast." And I'm so sorry, Akamaru. Man talk. You understand, right?"
"…" Shino had just found another reason to be anti-social.
Meanwhile, the puritan Neji could not understand a single thing about the direction of the conversation. So as not to let them know that, he subtly shifted the topic to a safer turf. "By the way, which do you think moves faster, a turtle running over peanut butter or a snail sprinting over sticky paste?"
Everyone was silenced.
"Damn, how did the turtle end up inside a peanut butter bottle anyway?"
"Maybe they were going to have the turtle for sandwich."
Women had also advised him about his love life, courtesy of his cousin, Hyuuga Hinata. Well, technically, it was Haruno Sakura who kept on yakking; Hinata was just the one who brought Sakura to him. Details, pft.
"Neji, for pete's
sake, go get yourself married already!" exclaimed Sakura
exasperatedly, her hands on her hips. "Don't you even pity
"Why?" He was then typing a report on a Class B mission he just finished. He couldn't fathom what made Sakura think that he would even listen to her when it was so obvious that he was busy at this moment.
But upon hearing his teammate's name, his attention was successfully grabbed. That was why he was forced to listen a little. But just a teeny itsy bit; he would never give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him interested over ANYTHING.
"Well, because she couldn't leave her obligations to you as your partner, she couldn't find enough time to mingle with the guys!" she explained.
He had to arch an eyebrow at that. "And why ever does she have to mingle with other men?"
"Becauuuuseee," said Sakura, "she also needs to live and interact with other human beings! She wouldn't be able to fully experience the wonders of her womanhood if she wouldn't be able to find her own provider and have her own baby, you know!"
He stared at the A,S,D, at F keys. His finger position was wrong, as usual. The word he typed, murder, ended up as bitfrt. Oh curse these complicated technologies!
"Well, have you mulled over your wrongdoings?" asked Sakura, a triumphant smile pasted on her face.
"Am I right?"
"So…you're going to get married already?"
"Then what do you want to happen in your life!" shouted the pink-haired woman, her temper nearing its limits.
"Find someone to buy me a correction fluid."
But perhaps, the argument that made the most impact in his mind came from an unlikely inspirational source: Uzumaki Naruto.
Eh,you're still a virgin, Neji? Wahahaha! Surrender it already, Captain! It's your ball, I mean, call, but if you put that thing off longer, your little guy down there might sulk... and shrink.
Must he get married already?
Afterall, most of the people around him had already settled down. There's Naruto and Hinata, Yamanaka Ino and Nara Shikamaru, Kiba and Akamaru…
He suddenly wondered if Tenten was visited by these kinds of thoughts too. Maybe not.
One of the things he liked best about her was that her concentration on her mission was in superlative degree. She treated every battle they face as their last.
Which is why it was kind of hard to imagine that this kind of woman—strong and tough, bordering on Amazona-ish characteristics—was ever going to be domesticated. Men who were robust enough to tame this shrew would certainly be a rarity. For Tenten was like a wild stallion— used to her personal freedom to run free and ability to make decisions for herself.
When Neji arrived in her apartment, he immediately saw his teammate. She was kneeling beside her bed, tying something.
"Wait," she said, not taking her eyes off her work. Which made him all the more uncharacteristically curious about it.
His eyes assessed the thin, near-invisible threads that crisscrossed between the legs of her bed. "Isn't that a booby trap?"
"For that son of a gun!"
Neji was stunned. "What?" Then his face darkened. "Who is it? What did he do to you? I won't let that bastard get away with—"
She looked at him, sweatdropping. "Actually, I'm not the victim."
"H-Huh?" She was referring to the pure white kitten that they found on their way home from one of their missions. Out of compassion, she brought the creature home and took care of it.
But that was six months ago.
Now, Kitty-Kitty was a gargantuan cat—perhaps the biggest cat he had ever seen in his entire life. And how could it not grow that huge when all it did was eat and sleep and lounge around, and then loop from the top.
And because all it did basically to lie under the bed all the time, its white fur couldn't remain pure anymore, thanks to the dust and cobwebs of its chosen den. Kitty-Kitty now sports a dirty white to grayish coat that Tenten called "silver". Yeah, right.
"I saw a brown cat here this morning. It came out from Kitty-Kitty's room." His teammate's fist shook in ire. "I looked at its gender… and saw that he and Kitty-Kitty were opposites!"
Her face crumpled. "My Kitty-Kitty has finally become a womaaaaaan!"
He grimaced. "Tenten, every and all animals will have to go through that biological process. It's part of its survival instinct: mate and spread genes."
"But…but… Kitty-Kitty is too young for the adult world! She's so small, so defenseless, so…so vulnerable!"
Neji imagined the cat again and immediately concluded that next to Tenten's pet, Godzilla was as cute and lovable as Pikachu.
"… and I still have so many plans for my baby!" she continued. He knew that her training the lazy cat for a mission wasn't too far-fetched a thought, considering her adoration for the feline.
"What else can you do? What's done is done," he asked, still staring at the booby trap.
"Maybe…maybe she isn't fertile this month." She shook her head vigorously. "Anyway, the point is, that criminal wouldn't be able to mess with my baby again!" She finished tying her trap, and then pondered whether she should place lasers too.
"You shouldn't feel so bad. Didn't Kitty-Kitty mess with him too?" he asked sarcastically.
"Give it a rest, Tenten. It isn't even a valid reason not to go today's training—"
"Kitty-Kitty doesn't have to be a valid reason, Neji," she snapped. "She is like my sister, my only family now. What will you feel if someone messed with your sister?"
"I don't have a sister."
"You don't and will never know what I feel until you're in my shoes," she explained loftily.
He sighed. "You may not know it, but what if Kitty-Kitty felt that she wanted something significant to happen in her life aside from watch her weight tip off scales? And since you're always out of the house, doing missions, it may do her good if she has a family of her own to mind and be responsible of."
She looked at the barricade quietly, weighing his rationale.
"I may not have a sister, Tenten, but when Naruto decided to ask for my younger cousin's hand, I gave Hinata the choice to decide on that serious matter which will affect the rest of her life. Even if I was her assigned keeper, I knew the limits of my powers. I knew that my right doesn't include anymore choosing for her the person who would make her happy," he said quietly. "Simply because she knows herself more than I do."
"A-And in your case…" he began, remembering what Sakura told him. "If you have decided that you have about enough of these missions and you decide to settle down… I-I won't stop you. Even if… it'll be difficult to find someone… a dependable partner like you…" He swallowed air, and then paused. "But if you think—"
"What the hell are you saying, Hyuuga Neji?" she scolded, a smile cracking on her face. "And what made you think that I'm starting to get sick of doing missions?"
He looked away. "A-According to someone I've talked to recently, you need to mingle with other…ah… human beings. Male species, to be exact."
Her eyebrow rose, and then she smirked. "Wow, Neji. Why do I feel like asking you that infamous Konoha office question?"
"It's not that—"
"I don't want to settle down yet. I'm not yet tired of my work, most especially not of you," she replied with a smile. "And if ever I do feel so, I'll let you know. That, or I'll stick a kunai on your nose, okay?"
"Heh." He said, a smile dawning on his face too.
"But as of now, I'm very happy with my life," she added. "I can't think of greener pastures beyond the proverbial fence because I'm contented with the verdant landscape of my life.
"And like what you said, no one else can decide for my happiness. After all, I may have already found mine; I'm just not announcing it," she finished smilingly.
He nodded slowly. "I suppose you're right."
"Just assist your cat while going through her morning sickness and food cravings. Just stock up on unripe mangoes and fish paste," he advised her as he helped her put away the booby trap.
She nodded. "Right. And I'll play classical music in the house all the time so her children would grow up smart. I'll also enroll in Lamaze courses so I can help her when she goes into labor. I'll also buy her lots and lots of iron supplements."
"I'll also secure educational plans for her kittens so they'll all grow up as educated and bright as their mommy. And that brown cat, that insolent husband of hers, I'll bring him to the Jounin office and make him catch mice. I'll teach him how to be a responsible father!"
"Tenten, you're going way overboard, just so you know."
He and Lee watched the next day as their female teammate searched the audio racks for Beethoven music.
"I'll be the godfather when Kitty-Kitty's children will be baptized!" Lee excitedly told him.
"Congratulations," he said, rolling his eyes.
"Tenten is sure one heck of a girl. She really thought of all the details of Kitty-Kitty's motherhood. What more when it's her turn to personally experience it?" Lee winked at him teasingly.
He didn't answer him. But they both already knew that even if Tenten was not the stereotypical mommy material, she would always prove everyone wrong and come out as the best of them all.
And going back to him and Tenten…
Although he couldn't pinpont exactly if he had accepted this fact already or not, but whenever he thought of the person whom he wanted to grow old with…
… it was that woman whom he still ended up thinking of.