"Exaggeration. That must be it, purely overstatement."

"But Tenten, you saw what he looks like. He does seem very strong."

The brown-haired girl turned to her dark-haired friend, making a tsk-tsk sound. "Lee, there are no absolutes in life. Even fortresses like the Tower of Babel have weaknesses. I refuse to believe what Gai-sensei says."

Rock Lee's eyes went wide as saucers. "Gai-sensei will never fool us! If he says that Neji-san is a genius, then I'll take his word for it."

The nine-year-old academy student groaned. "A genius is still a human being. A human being is still prone to errors. Errors corrupt the absolute, including the genius. Clear?"

"Um, somewhat." Lee, under his breath, added, "You just don't like the thought of someone else stronger than you…"

"You said something, Lee?"

A wide-eyed innocent look from the fuzzy eyebrows boy. "I didn't hear anything."

She paused, and then smiled. "Well, anyway, as I was saying, he doesn't look so strong to me." Tenten shrugged casually. "He's anemic, his eyes look lifeless, and he's got bandages everywhere. I mean, bandages without wounds? That's so…hmm… pretentious. Only mummies do that! And he isn't even a mummy. You know what he really is? He's a snobbish little mute freak who is sadly misguided when it comes to acceptable fashion norms."

"What an interesting creature you make me sound like."

Both children jumped in surprise when the subject of their conversation popped out from nowhere.

"Neji-san!" Lee tried to smile breezily. "Have you come to join Tenten and me as we explore each other's strengths and weaknesses in combats amidst the serenity of our much-loved Mother Nature?"

"We're going to spar," Tenten explained when she saw the puzzled look in the Hyuuga's face. "Wanna come? No? Oh, that's too bad. What a shame! Well Lee, Neji doesn't want to go so we might as well—"

"Let's go," said Neji, startling the two.

"E-Excuse me?" Tenten, blinking.

"You shall celebrate the springtime of youth with us?" Lee, hopeful.

"Let's go," repeated the young Hyuuga, crossing his arms.

Lee and Tenten looked at each other, and then shrugged.

…………………………………………………

One Hundred Themes: Genius

Sourced from NejiTen LJ Community

Dedication: Panda Tenten

……………………………………….

"Wooden training posts?" Neji looked disappointed when the two showed them where they were going to train.

"Do you not like the woodiness of our posts?" asked Lee concernedly. "We can get a different type of wood if you want."

"All academy students train with dummies first as a warm-up before we spar with our live opponents," Tenten explained, placing her hands on her hips.

"A target that doesn't fight back," said Neji disinterestedly.

"Sorry. They don't come in models with artificial intelligence." A vein popped in Tenten's head. "Anyway, we begin our workout by doing one hundred fifty punches, kicks—"

"I didn't come here for an exercise program," said the Hyuuga, looking at the dummy posts in disdain. "Let's just get the sparring over with and go home."

Her eyes blazed in ire. "Jerk."

"If Neji feels he must get home immediately, then commence the battle we shall!" With a flourish, Lee went into his battle stance: one hand behind him, the other pointing upwards, palm facing him. "Neji, please make my day end beautifully. Give me a battle to remember!"

Tenten sweatdropped—everyday the signs of her teammate growing more and more like Gai-sensei were becoming more and more apparent.

Neji stood wordlessly, showing no sign that he remotely cared to listen to Lee.

"Here I come!" In a swift flash of movement that Tenten had come to admire, Lee seemed to vanish before her very eyes. She glanced at her other teammate, expecting to see shock in his face, but to her astonishment, boredom remained on his countenance.

Doesn't this guy ever get excited?

"Yaaaah!" Lee appeared right under Neji's nose in a blink of an eye. But the latter, with a smirk, bent his body back, regained momentum, and used his fingertips to deliver a chakra blow that resembled a massive blow of an adult fist.

"Lee!" cried Tenten, her eyes widening.

"Not yet through!" In mid-air, Lee incredibly found an invisible airbag within his body's remarkable equilibrium. Regaining balance, he propelled himself back towards his waiting opponent. "Neji!"

"Too slow." Neji's bandaged leg slammed on Lee's neck, sending the boy tumbling down the ground.

"Lee!" She was about to rush to her fallen teammate, but she checked herself. Instead, she faced the Hyuuga prodigy. "You were too hard on him! It's all a sparring session, Neji!"

"T-Tenten," said Lee, getting up weakly with a smile. "H-He has…done me a favor. H-He gave me a fierce battle. A battle…to remember…"

"He nearly killed you, idiot!"

"I-I'm sure he doesn't mean it, Tenten…"

"Idiot! Argh!" Tenten buried her face on her hands in frustration.

"Your friend's out cold."

She looked up, and met the boy's cool gaze. His jaded eyes directed her to her teammate. Her chest tightened.

Out of fatigue, the clueless bowl-haired shinobi had sunk down on the ground, eyes closed. He had drifted off to unconsciousness.

"You…you…" Her fists trembled violently. "How dare you do that to Lee!"

"He asked for it."

"Yeah, but…" She was now torn between her anger at him for acting with so much arrogance, and at Lee, for, well, for asking for it.

Now Neji looked almost amused at her expression. He straightened. "Bring your friend home. He'll come around within a couple of hours presumably."

"Not yet." She tightened the hold of the holster around her thigh. "I still have to attend to one more business." She looked at him straight in the eye. "I still have to kick your arse, Hyuuga Neji."

"Heh." He eyed her intently. "Now you're asking for it."

………………………………

They faced each other squarely amidst the verdant grass field. He, standing with his arms crossed. She, bent down in her usual battle stance.

"No battle lines, incantations, or oaths?" asked the Hyuuga sarcastically.

"Lee's good at those, but I'm not." She tensed her muscles, silently vowing to give her all in this combat.

Moments of silence passed as she studied her opponent quietly, running in her mind the possible moves he would make. However, his face, his postures, or his aura didn't seem to clue her into anything. It was as if she was staring right through vacuous air!

In the end, she had no choice—she had to do the first move, but just be careful enough not to get caught immediately by whatever trap he was going to set up for her.

Guided distance attack, she chose, nodding to herself. She could attack decisively, but with ample space to draw back just in case he retaliates.

Heartbeat racing, she moved her muscles. You're going down, Hyuuga Neji! With that, she ran towards him before leaping up, kunais flying swiftly away from her fingers like sprays of water escaping from a fountain.

To her shock, the boy didn't even move more than three steps from his place to avoid all of her missile assaults. Her heart fell when she saw that none of her weapons even touched a skin cell of the target.

She landed on the ground, panting from the few seconds of activity. To her dismay, her exhaustion was not of physical nature, but of mental, making it all the more difficult. She had also failed to do a follow-up attack because of her shock.

Meanwhile, Neji looked at her, his face devoid of mockery she would have expected from him.

"The number of weapons you can release in a brief time is fairly satisfactory, but more than the quantity, the accuracy of your aim should be your priority." The long-haired boy glanced at her disgraced kunais. "Don't show off. You can't win battles by throwing the most weapons uselessly on the ground."

Her face flushed in embarrassment. "I don't need your insults!"

"They're pieces of advice." Neji shrugged. "I am not obliged to coat them in honeysweet words to your liking."

Despite her anger, a cloud of rationale in her mind told her that he was, well, he was right.

"Such incredible conceit!" Lee said breathlessly. "Now, it's my turn, Neji-san! Let us exhaust our youth's beautiful power together once more!"

Tenten jumped, looking at her teammate in surprise. "Lee, how long had you been awake?"

"Haha! Tenten, I just closed my eyes awhile ago because a foreign object entered my eyes!"

Her face darkened. "Lee…you…"

The thick-browed ninja was blatantly ignored by Neji. He kept on looking at her. "Feel free to try and kill me again." Neji turned his back on her and walked away.

"Wait, Neji-san! Please don't go yet!" cried Lee. "You still have to fulfill one more battle challenge! My challenge!"

Tenten shook her head so vigorously that her buns bounced up and down along with her head. "I can't accept that! You may be a genius, but you're not invincible!"

Neji smirked at her in return. "If you wish to defeat a person you acknowledge as a genius, then you have to be someone above that person. But what else comes after that level? Nothing."

"Hmp!" She clenched her fists, glaring at him with as much ire as her little brown eyes could contain.

"That is reality. Accept it." He started to walk away, just as she came up with a perfect answer.

"Neji!"

He paused, but didn't bother to turn her way. "What is it?"

"Even a genius bows down to one person." She crossed her arms haughtily. "And I'll be that one person someday."

"And just who do you intend to be?" he asked, finally glancing her way.

"Your wife."

For the longest time, he stood still, absorbing what she said. And then like a flash of lightning, she thought she saw the unthinkable happened—he smiled.

Bit it vanished immediately from her sight. He was already walking away, his back turned on her and Lee, as he followed the setting sun's direction.

Rock Lee came up to her, looking puzzled. "Do you really mean what you said to him, Tenten?"

"Of course not!" she snapped hotly. "Who'll want to marry a jerk that dresses like a mummy and has a prettier hair than a girl's?

"I wonder," Lee said, chuckling.

"Let's go home, Lee. You'll need lots of calcium to get your bones back growing, the way he pummeled you," she said, patting his shoulders.

"Oh Tenten, it was such a magnificent battle! I feel I have found my purpose in becoming stronger! To defeat Neji-san!"

"Let's just poison him and dump his body in a compost pit. It'll be easier that way."

"That is not a fair battle!"

"Oh. Well, come to think of it, his body doesn't seem to hold much nutrients that can make the plants happy…"

………………….

end