Hey guys! ducks from many objects thrown by angry readers Gomen! I really didn't mean to let the story go this long without an update. I do have a good reason though. Severe writer's block, finals, four guys chasing after my heart, one girl simply chasing after me 24/7, basketball, a job, field hockey, and youth group can sure lead to late updates.
However, this chapter is extra long for you guys so I'm expecting slightly less harsh reviews.
Once again thanks to my amazing beta: xoayamexo! Without her the story would simply not be the same.
And thanks to my lovely anonymous reviewer Eagle-Owl!
Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto
"…" spoken words
Akamaru nosed his way in the door and followed Neji's scent along a long dark hallway. He didn't let the other strange scents compromise his mission, and the little dog kept his focus, careful to remember all important directional changes.
After only a few more minutes of following the stale trail, Akamaru was halted by a large metal door. The scent was strongest in there; surely the Hyuuga must be residing in that room.
The nin dog scratched at the door frivolously before realizing that there was a glass window on the wall above him. Hopefully it looked into the room where Neji was.
Akamaru leapt lightly onto a small pile of boxes that appeared to be filled with papers, in order to see through the glass. Two small black eyes gazed through the thick window.
It was Neji all right, and from the looks of it, the boy was injured. He was covered, almost head to toe, with bandages. However a good few of the white cloths were stained a deep red, proving that many of the wounds were still open.
The white dog pawed at the glass, attempting to enter the other room to comfort the hurting genin. He was persistent and so absorbed in his task that he didn't sense a presence behind him.
"Now when Akamaru gets back we're going to need one person to infiltrate Kumokagure and bring Neji back without attracting attention. It would be difficult, and I understand if no one wants to volunteer." Three hands shot up in the air.
"I'll go and save Neji! Those Cloud nin won't know what hit them!"
The blonde pouted at Shikamaru. "Why not?"
"We need someone who can blend in, someone who won't let their heart get in the way of the mission. As soon as you get in there you would probably tear up the whole city in search of Neji. That's not what we need right now."
Lee stepped forward. "I will go."
Shikamaru shook his head. "I'm sorry Lee; you really shouldn't. After what you did to that bounty hunter, I don't think you can handle this without losing your head." The green beast started to shake with disbelief. The Nara, noticing this quickly, spoke again. "Listen, I know you and Neji are best friends…we just need someone with a cool head to go in…Shino?"
The bug-user gave a barely visible nod and pushed up his dark glasses. "Now when Akamaru gets back Shino, you have to-"
"You don't understand!"
The team looked to Lee, whose face was taught.
"I have to be the one to go; I have to see that Neji is alright! I have to show him that…that…please understand."
Sakura placed a hand on the taijutsu-master's shoulder. "It's alright Lee. You'll see, Neji-san will be fine and we'll be able to go home soon." She looked imploringly at the lazy nin begging him to send Lee instead of Shino.
"Alright, alright, new plan. We'll have to get Lee a disguise because he can't use Henge." Quickly pulling the team's extra clothing together, the green beast was soon clad in Shikamaru's thin vest, Kiba's extra set of leggings, and Chouji's scarf. It was also decided that his shiny bowl-cut was too distinctive. Ino and Sakura soon remedied that however, spiking the dark tresses.
The pink-haired kunoichi tapped Lee's nose playfully. "You look cute that way Lee-san."
The taijutsu-master's heart soared, and he tried to find words. "T-thank you…Sak-Sakura-san."
He noticed that Tenten had remained silent for the entirety of the team's conversation. She was absentmindedly sharpening a kunai, and looked composed. However countless hours of missions, training sessions, and spars taught him better. The way that she focused only on the kunai in hand, and the way her right foot jiggled as with an unheard beat showed Lee that she was upset.
Choosing friends over his love, he approached the weapon's mistress. "Tenten?" He paused and waited for her answer. But she didn't reply. Instead, her eyes shimmered with unshed tears, and her hands shook slightly. "I will bring him back."
The kunoichi still did not look up, and the disguised nin turned to leave. A soft voice met his ears, and caused him to smile.
"I know, Lee." The green beast turned back and grinned at the girl, before heading back to the team, knowing that she needed space.
As he headed to the group he caught his reflection in a small stream. He didn't look like himself at all, the new hairstyle making for a new him altogether. However, as he looked at his hair for a moment longer, he realized something. It was spiked just so to look like…to look like…Sasuke's.
He shook his head. 'No wonder Sakura-san liked it. It reminded her of her real love.' His heart sunk and he glumly kept on towards the group.
"Hiashi-sama, Hiashi-sama, I'm sorry. Forgive me!" Neji was kneeling before his enraged uncle fearing for his life.
All of a sudden the older Hyuuga was gone. Neji looked up quizzically.
Pale eyes widened before turning to face the speaker.
"My son, you have quite a destiny to live up to. After my death, there is no one else left. You must be handed over to Kumokagure."
"Otousan…no. No, please."
But Hizashi was gone, and in his place thirty Cloud nin appeared. They surrounded the young Hyuuga. Neji tried to fight them off, but found that he couldn't move. He tried to yell, but found that even his voice had failed him. The shinobi rushed in and kicked, punched, and beat the poor genin until he knew no more.
Akamaru was focused intently on the turmoil his master's friend was going through, and didn't realize someone was behind him until it was too late.
The white nin dog was picked up by the scruff of his neck and found himself face to face with the guard.
"What are you doing in here pooch?"
Akamaru looked at the Hyuuga behind the glass before growling at the Cloud guard.
"Now don't give me that, pooch. I'm only following orders. It doesn't mean I like 'em. Now you go outside where doggies like you belong." The guard carried the small nin dog out of the building and gently placed him on the ground.
"Go on now, get, get." Akamaru set off at a fast run to reach his master and the rest of the team as fast as he could.
Fifteen Minutes Later
"Hey guys! Akamaru's back!" Eight heads turned toward the Inuzuka's voice. The white nin dog yipped loudly and leapt into his master's arms. After a few moments, Kiba had translated his pet's story.
Shikamaru nodded. "Alright Lee, you know what to do. Konoha must not be involved in another war Stealth is key."
The green beast saluted the chuunin resolutely. Akamaru had already sprung from Kiba's grasp, and was barking for the taijutsu-master to follow him. Lee nodded at Tenten before heading off with the nin dog.
"Please bring him back Lee," Tenten whispered after her teammate's retreating form.
After about only ten minutes, the pair- boy and dog- entered the village without attracting much attention. Akamaru walked confidently along the streets, stopping now and again to sniff the ground, as to not arouse suspicion.
Lee followed a good distance behind his guide, hoping no one would notice he was trailing a dog. All went smoothly; no one questioned a teenager that did not appear to be a shinobi walking though the village.
Akamaru stopped at the dojo. As he had passed, he noticed the girls had stopped practicing their fan taijutsu, but paid it no mind as he headed towards the back of the building.
The green beast tailed his small leader, and opened the dark door Akamaru was waiting by. "Here we go."
Lee entered warily, the nin dog at his heels. He followed the hallway until a pane of glass came into view. The canine bounded ahead of his human companion and leapt onto the boxes underneath the glass window.
The green beast followed quickly and quizzically and looked through the window. He gasped. "Neji."
His close teammate and friend was strapped to a metal table, unconscious, bandaged, and clearly not in the best condition.
Now that Lee had seen the Hyuuga like this, there was nothing stopping from saving his friend and killing some of the guilt that had been haunting him for a few days now.
Except for one thing.
"What are you doing here, boy?" a smooth voice purred in his ear. The taijutsu master jumped in surprise, mentally chastising himself for not noticing the woman behind him.
He did not respond, except to perform a roundhouse kick, attempting to knock the person out.
The woman behind him, Toya's employer Yami, caught Lee's foot easily and struck it with one of her small fans.
The green beast gasped in pain, but the wound was not too damaging. His weights had taken most of the blow, and the taijutsu master was ready for a fight. However, he noticed more guards coming, six in total, and made a quick decision.
"Konoha Daisenpū!" Lee kicked Yami twice, sending her flying back. He looked at the guards coming, grabbed Akamaru, and headed into the room where Neji was, locking the door behind him.
He could hear the guards aiding the woman outside, and knew that time was short. He had to get Neji out of here.
Lee drew a kunai and attempted to destroy the locks that held the metal straps which, in turn, held Neji to the table. However, he found that the metal was strong and he could not break them.
By this time the Hyuuga had begun to rouse. Blurred lavender eyes looked up at the green beast and Lee's heart broke. Those eyes looked lost, sad, betrayed, and hurt; all the things he never ever expected from Neji.
"Do not worry Neji. I will have you out of those bonds in no time!" The taijutsu master returned to his previous task, now with a hint of panic in his normally confident strikes.
The Hyuuga's eyes drifted to the door, where he could hear angry voices and furious pounding on the door. He knew what he had to do.
"Lee, you—you must leave." The Konoha genius' voice sounded weak, even to his own ears.
"I know Neji, this metal is not cooperating. Please have patience."
The pale-eyed genin shook his head. He gathered what little strength he had left. "Lee, listen to me. I know my time is short…..I cannot face them again. Please don't make me."
The pounding at the door was growing louder by the minute, and Akamaru yipped in warning.
"Almost got this one." Sweat was beading on the green beast's forehead; he had almost destroyed one of the locks. Unfortunately, after that one, there were four left.
"Lee. I cannot face them again. You must leave."
Something in the taijutsu-master's head clicked.
"No Neji…I cannot do what you ask of me." Dark eyes peered into lavender, dreading what was to come from this.
"It would be a last favor to me. They make me see…see things. I can't go back there. Otousan…he….I cannot go back there. Please Lee."
Lee began to shake.
"Just ask it of me Neji, and I would stay and fight them all. I would fight them all, but I cannot do what you ask now."
"I don't ask that of you Lee, I ask you to end it."
The pounding grew even louder, and the door's hinges began to fail.
The intensity of the conversation had drained what little strength the Hyuuga had regained over the past two days. His eyes drooped, and his muscles relaxed.
"I am sorry Neji, for what I must do." Lee crouched into a fighting stance, and Neji smiled.
"Do not thank me just yet, my friend." Lee sank down low, preparing to strike. "Konoha Senpū!"
The green beast kicked the table his best friend was currently bound to, destroying it. Though it successfully released the Hyuuga from his chains, it wounded him in the process. Another broken rib and a deep laceration to the thigh, was Neji's price for freedom.
The pale-eyed genin's body could take no more pain and passed into the realm of unconsciousness. But before his limp form could fall to the floor, strong arms grabbed him, and threw the lithe figure over his shoulder.
Reaching for a kunai, and opening the Initial Gate, Lee shattered through the reinforced glass window, that even the guards could not get past.
Without looking back the green beast hurled a dozen shuriken at the attackers speeding towards the exit, he heard a high pitched shriek, but did not stop. Right now his top priority was his injured teammate.
Akamaru, who had been silent for quite some time, led the taijutsu master towards the exit.
Following the small nin dog towards the door, Lee shifted Neji into his arms. The Hyuuga's blood had long since leaked through the bandages and bled through Lee's clothing, making the green beast feel sick.
The exit came into view and the Konoha shinobi breathed a sigh of relief.
They were safe.
Until a dark figure appeared in the doorway. Lee stopped suddenly, dropping into a defensive position. Akamaru stood in front of the pair protectively, and barked angrily at the man.
"I should have known you were trouble, pooch." The guard's soft voice penetrated the still air. "Don't worry," he said to Lee, "I'm not going to stop you. It's my job to follow orders, no matter how much I don't like them…I'm just glad there are still people like you in this dangerous world of ours."
The Cloud nin stepped aside. "Hurry now, Yami and her other guards will be catching up soon. Don't get caught."
Lee couldn't find what to say. He merely nodded and headed back to the rest of the group at top speed, not believing his luck.
So there we are. Neji's finally in safe hands, but will he make it back to the team alive? Mayyyyyybe
Oh yes, I based that little desperate friendship scene a little off of Cassia and Sio's LOTR fic "Escape From Mordor" I just loved it so much I couldn't resist!
Sooo close to 200 guys! Let's get there with this chapter!
Thanks for reading!