Hyuuga Neji stood completely unmoving, his back pressed against the rough trunk belonging to one of trees bordering the walls of Konoha. He made use of the shadows as the night hid all traces of his presence. Almost too cautious to even risk breathing he chose to tap the microphone poised before his mouth twice rather than risk betraying himself with his voice. It was a signal to the remaining three members of his team to stay in their current positions until he signaled otherwise.
With his Byakugan already activated he scanned the surrounding forest, individually assuring the safety of each member to himself. He was not on close terms with any of them but the success of the mission partially relied on their objective not stumbling over one of the hidden figures they provided.
The mission, as Neji assured himself it should be now referred to, although self-determined and assigned had been brought about by pure chance. Originally, he and the team he was chosen to lead, were sent by the Hokage to the outskirts of the Hidden Village of Sound to observe the un-rest in the parliamentary status there. When the centre of the problems arising were uncovered to be based around nothing more than a marital dispute, they had left sooner than planned doing nothing more than raising an eyebrow at the disgruntled Stones leaders.
The relaxed journey home had taken a sudden change when Neji had been alerted to a nearby gathering. They had been lucky to have not burst into the middle of them as it consisted of over fifteen Sound nin, the man Neji was able to identify as one of Orochimaru's associates Kabuto and missing Nin Uchiha Sasuke. Wishing he was with a slightly more professional team, Neji was just able to slap his hand over one of then men's mouths before they spoke and involuntarily managed to get them all killed.
They did not have to remain hidden for long before the group began to move again, the ninja and Kabuto making their way in a direction similar to that which Neji's team had come while the Uchiha had separated himself from the group to travel the complete opposite way. In the moments Neji had to make a decision, he chose to follow the traitor in an attempt to retain their chances of gathering information and to even the team's chances of survival if their presence was noted.
Neji knew that in the position he was now, it was thought that the correct action to take would be that of attempted capture. However, with the present state of his team and the opportunity to gather further information concerning Orochimaru's movements he chose to follow and observe Sasuke's movements.
They had to increase their speed of movement considerably and discard several items that were acting to slow the progress they were making. The journey lasted three days with little relief or time to rest. It was after this time that it became clear that Sasuke's intended destination was the same as their original, Konoha. The terrain had become notably different as night set in and Sasuke finally chose to perch himself at the base of a branch to undoubtedly rest himself.He took the opportunity to overtake him, leaving a wide perimetre and position his men in waiting.
Nejiflexed his arm slightly to prevent it from going entirely numb as he made note of Sasuke re-entering his line of vision,Sighing inwardly with relief as the man passed his hidden team with no signal of acknowledgement. Knowing this was the time to follow through with his plan in hopes to save two lives he sped out from behind his tree and towards the gates taking the night watchers there by surprise.
"I'm to relive you both from your position." He was running out of time.
"When you have just returned from a mission?"
"...And only one person to keep the gates?" They both prepared themselves to attack assuming he was an imposter from his sudden attempt to take over their places. He answered by gesturing with his hand at his eyes.
"The Byakugan cannot be replicated by a Jutsu nor should you smoke. It's bad for your health." He pointed to where he had observed the packet in the man's jacket. The tension surrounding them disappeared slightly.
"If you are sure..."
"Do not question the Hokage's orders." They left him and the moment he was out of their sight range, he performed a replacement Jutsu mimicking them before resuming his position behind the tree. He made it with only seconds to spare before Sasuke burst through the tress and threw several kunai at both 'guards'. Barely hesitating he ran past them both before they could resume their true pot plant status. Neji smirked triumphantly before following him through the village pausing only to signal for his team to take their positions guarding the gate.
Despite the years Sasuke had been away from Konoha, it appeared he still retained an admirable knowledge of the streets and buildings he now navigated himself through. Neji found himself relying more and more on his Bloodline ability, the Uchiha moved at unnatural speeds and made no discernable noise, feats he could only match by resorting to desperate measures of taking short cuts he spotted through gardens and between houses.
There was little lighting remaining in the buildings Neji dashed past giving him an indication of the time and reasoning behind Sasuke's sudden decision to rest. Stealth became obviously easier when there was no one to observe your progress. Neji smirked at the thought. His ego responded well to having the knowledge he was one step ahead of the Uchiha genius and traitor of Konoha.
Slowing his pace to match the dwindling speed of Sasuke's he watched him stop in front of a small building. In an attempt to reserve chakra, Neji used this as an opportunity to de-activate his Bykugan now peering around a wall of to watch Sasuke's movements.
The building which he assumed was a house was completely un-lit and he tried to see whether Sasuke gave any indication as to if this was what he had been expecting or not. The darkness prevented seeing his expression but as Sasuke took a few more cautious steps towards it he was suddenly illuminated as he stepped in range of a security lighting system. Neji blinked once taking in the nowbrightly litgarden containing the man's impressive silhouette before it was gone. He swore as he tried to run and activate his Byakugan at the same time.
It was never good when a plan went wrong, especially if it involved a possibly dangerous and powerful S-Ranked criminal running un-observed through the streets of suburban Konoha. It was even worse when Neji knew it was his fault. He weaved his way though the buildings in a desperate attempt to stumble across Sasuke's placement. He finally caught him with his Byakugan as the man slowed to walking pace once again. Admittedly shaken by the previous events, he made the decision to attempt to subdue the criminal and hope for assistance from any of the nearby buildings. Before he could move however, a door opened on Sasuke's right causing them both to simultaneously spin around.
The person exciting the building used for the Hokage's collections of scrolls and books however seemed less alert to the situation. Both men remained entirely still as Haruno Sakura juggled a pile of intensive medical literature and attempted to jam her key into the lock of the door she had just exited from. When she had completed that seemingly strenuous task she paused to ruffle hair, glance at her watch, let out a sigh that was audible from where Neji was standing before turning around and proceeding to what he assumed would be make her way home.
She made it to the third step before she looked up and proceeded to drop everything she was carrying. From his view of Sasuke's back he saw him draw a sword Neji was unfamiliar with seeing him with as a Genin. Concerned for Sakura who appeared to be un-armed he took a step forward only to have Sasuke speak suddenly.
"How long have you been following me?"
"Sasuke? W...What?" From his knowledge and observations, Sakura had been infatuated with the Uchiha and apparently she still let it cloud her judgment and Ninja proficiency not yet having taken note of another person in the area.
"What is your purpose in Konoha?" Sakura finally looked up and noticed him staring and unmoving her eyes still wide. He graced her with a single nod as the Uchiha turned to face him properly.
"My business is not important to you."
"I assure you, my interest is placed quite the contrary." He tried not to let the exhaustion filter through in his voice as he hooked his finger through a shuriken.
"And I assure you that how much you know will be determining whether or not you live."
"If I lie?"
"You make an excellent point. I shall be forced to kill you either way."
"If that is the case do you still require me to answer?" Sasuke smirked and within a second it was only Neji's Byakugan that allowed him to know his new position as Sasuke stood behind him. Sasuke paused for a moment before looking up in the direction Neji was facing.
"Where is Sakura?"
"Your years of total ignorance to her presence have not done you a favour here."
"She wouldn't betray me." He was obviously noting the correct option that she had left to get help but hisvoice did not falter as he spoke.
"Wrong, she wouldn't betray Sasuke…Traitor." He turned in time to see Sasuke snarl and soon enough to step away from the attack he presented. Before he could move further he saw the glint of metal slicing through the air towards him again. Leaning backwards as quickly as he could knowing it would probably do very little for him, he felt the blade cut through his cheek as he watched Sasuke hesitate and step backwards preventing what he had prepared himslef to belive a fatal hit.
The sword dropped to the ground beside him as Sasuke reach to pull a kunai from his shoulder. They both looked at Sakura who even from the distance she was standing was visibly shaking. Neji was surprised she had returned herself at all let alone save his life.
Sasuke began to walk towards Sakura fist clenched around the weapon she had previously used. Before he stepped within a metre of her however Tsunade and several ANBU made their way down from the roof to surround him.
"Don't try anything funny, you're not Orochimaru yet." She glanced at Neji with her eyebrows raised before turning to one of the ANBU "Get him out of here." She commanded gesturing at the dark faced Sasuke before turning and walking towards him beaming in a somewhat frightening manner. "Neeeji, I suppose you have an excellent explanation for the part you undoubtedly played in this?"
"Of course, as soon as you are willing to hear it."
"Which I assure you will not be until slightly more agreeable hours." She glared at him. "Until then, I suggest you escort Sakura home as from what I have gathered you could have gotten her killed."
"Or you could have gotten any number of Konoha's civilians killed instead Neji! I know about your men at the gate…YOU LET THAT MAN IN?" He bowed his head.
"I have no idea what you were thinking! I'm going to just HOPE that you didn't realize who he was!"
"STOP INTERRUPTING ME!" Needless to say, he did. Tsunade let out a hiss. "Get that girl home SAFELY and you better have a report for me tomorrow morning…Later this morning REGARDLESS of your condition." She snatched at the front of his shirt. "Got it?" He selected the safest option of nodding.
He was thankful to watch her walk away towards the group of remaining ANBU. Sakura detached herself from them a few moments later and approached him carefully.
"Tsunade said you volunteered to walk me home. That's very kind of you but I think I'll be fine…"
"Lets' go." He was about to set off but stopped himself. "I don't know where you live." She smiled weakly.
"This way…Do you want me to do somthingabout your cut?"
They remained silent as they walked. Neji had not tried starting conversation at risk of saying the wrong thing to her. Besides that it was a rare occurrence that he tried making small talk anyway, he enjoyed the silence…
"Have you been on a mission?"
"Really? I wasn't told about anything to do with Sas…Orochimaru."
"It was a mission to Stone, nothing to do with Sound was concerned."
"Oh, right…So it was a coincidence…I mean everything that happened?"
"Hm." If she expected to be able to probe him for further information he would be tempted to tell her to forcefully shut up. She didn't however ask anything else which allowed him to brood over the fact she hadn't given him any reason to get angry.
Sakura stopped suddenly and turned and he only just stopped himself from crashing into her.
"Here we are! I'm sure I will be able to make my own way up the garden path but thank you for bringing me this far." She sounded cheerful but Neji wasn't looking at her, he was looking at her house with slightly wide eyes.
"You live alone?" She laughed nervously.
"Uh, bye Neji!" He watched her half run away realising how strange his behaviour must have seemed. No matter, if fate was with him he wouldn't have to speak to the girl again.
A/N: Hello! Well, right into the action already! Sorry if this was really long and boring being a first intro type chapter, I was just getting them all in the same place as quickly as possible so the story may progress. It was longer but I cut off the end so hopefully that will result in a fast update!
Please review, I would really appreciate your support /puppy eyes/