LazerWulf: Finally, an update. Honestly, most of this chapter has been sitting on my hard drive for a while. I didn't want to post what I had, because I felt that it was too short to make an adequate update, and I was too busy working on beta-ing Kanius' YuYuGiDigiMoon series (which if you aren't reading, you should) to make it longer. However, now I've finally gotten enough of a break to write enough to call it a chapter, and so I present it now to you.

Also, I realize the term "shinobi" can refer to either male or female ninjas, but for the purposes of this story, it will be used to refer to male ninjas only to counter the use of the term "kunoichi" for female ninjas. The broader term "ninja" will be used to refer to ninjas of either gender.

The Festival of Roses

Chapter 3: The Challenge

--

Day 1
0723 Hours

Hatake Kakashi landed on the roof of the Konohagakure Ninja Academy a full twenty-three minutes after the appointed time.

"You're late, Kakashi."

Kakashi turned to find Might Gai waiting for him.

"Sorry, Gai. I stopped to help my neighbor water her lawn."

"Always with the excuses, Kakashi..."

"Don't start with me, Gai. I get enough of that from Naruto and Sakura. Now, why did you ask me here?"

"As you know, we have faced each other 99 times, and I have won 50 of those matches, one better than your record."

"Ah, and you think it's time for our 100th match. If I recall, it's your turn to choose the battle, and judging from current events, I assume it has something do with Godaime-sama's Festival of Roses."

"Correct. As you know, for the next week, the kunoichi of the village will be trying to capture and tag the shinobi of their choice. The challenge is this: the one who can evade being tagged the longest wins."

"In other words, the first one to be tagged loses."

"And if I lose, I will do 1000 one-handed handstand push-ups." Gai flashed a smile and a thumbs-up, his famous "nice guy pose."

Kakashi sighed. "Always with that self-imposed rule of yours... Very well, I agree to your terms."

"Then let the games begin."

With that, the two jounins disappeared in the blink of an eye.

--

0800 hours

"Onee-sama! Our tags are here!"

Hyuuga Hinata woke up as her sister burst into the room, waving around two slips of paper.

"Hanabi? Wha...?"

Hanabi held out the tag with her sister's name on it.

"The tags? For the festival? Here's yours."

Hinata, still a little groggy from just waking up, sat up on her futon and took the tag.

"Oh... Thanks."

"So... Are you gonna ask Naruto-san to the festival, or are you gonna try to capture him?"

The mention of Naruto's name caused Hinata to wake up in a hurry.

"Wh-what?"

"Naruto! You like him don't you?"

"No! Well... I admire him, but I-"

"Oh, don't give me that. I'm your sister, I know you better than that. You wouldn't mind being more than friends with him..." Hanabi gave her sister a nudge with her elbow.

"Hanabi!"

"Well it's true, isn't it? Practically the whole town knows it. This is your chance to let him know, too."

"I... I couldn't. What if he rejects me? I don't want to force him to go with me."

"Sheesh! Quit being Miss Negativity! You're never gonna know how he feels unless you actually ask him."

Hinata thought about that as her sister left the room in frustration.

--

0917 Hours

Team Gai met at their usual training spot. Rock Lee was kicking a padded tree stump, working on re-strengthening the leg that was broken, talking between grunts of exertion.

"So do you think (983) Sakura-chan (984) will ask me (985) to the festival? (986)"

TenTen finished sharpening a kunai and sealed it back into one of her scrolls. "I don't know. It's possible. She did bring you flowers during your recovery." She summoned the next weapon on her scroll, a sickle, and proceeded to sharpen it.

Hyuuga Neji was meditating, his Byakugan (White Eye) activated, scanning the surrounding area. "On the other hand," he interjected, "you don't want to make it too easy for her."

Lee, after kicking his 1000th kick, paused to take a breath. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that you shouldn't seem too eager. This is a contest after all. You should try to avoid capture for as long as possible, make her work for it. It's training for you, and also training for her."

"That is a good idea. I shall run from her whenever I see her."

"As a matter of fact," Neji added, focusing his Kekkei Genkai, "I think I see her coming this way now."

"Ah, then I better head out. Thank you, Neji." With that, Lee disappeared into the woods.

TenTen noticed a slight grin on Neji's face. "Sakura-san's not coming," she stated.

"No, she's not. I just wanted to see if I could get him to run away from the only girl who's likely to ask him."

"That was mean. I was thinking of asking you to the festival, but now..." TenTen threw the sickle she was sharpening right at Neji's head. Neji dodged it, but a single strand of hair fell to the ground as the sickle embedded itself in the tree behind him. "Now, I want to 'work for it,' as you so eloquently put it. I'm going to capture you, Neji, and when I do, I'm going to humiliate you." TenTen stalked toward him. As she reached behind him to retrieve her sickle, she leaned in close and whispered in his ear. "If I were you, Neji, I'd run."

A feeling washed over Neji that was beyond fear, beyond terror. Neji couldn't explain it, but he trusted it.

And so he ran.

--

LazerWulf: Now, before you start complaining that Hanabi is OOC, realize that the only time we've ever seen her is in the presence of her father, who is very strict, so she tends to be quiet and subservient when he's around. However, when her father's not around, I imagine that she's a lot more outspoken and confident, kind of like the opposite of Hinata's character, so the two play nicely off each other.

Also, Neji is a jerk. He's getting better, but at this point he still has some residual jerkiness from before his fight with Naruto. Just wait 'til you see what TenTen has in store for him. Please Review!