Disclaimer: I do not own any Naruto characters
I've had this on my comp for a little while cos this was meant to be my next main project once I finish Tenten's special assignment but I seem to have encountered a bit of a writer's block for that (plus having lots of assessment for uni doesn't really help). For those who read my other fics I haven't abandoned Tenten's Special Assignment don't worry! Heh my first AU, more Neji and Tenten to come in the following chapters so enjoy and let me know what you think!
It was late in the night and the camp fires were starting to die out. The willowy blue-haired girl took a deep breath to calm herself and strode towards one of the gypsies. A boy with short brown spiky hair and red markings on his face was leaning against a brightly coloured wagon having a serious one-sided conversation with his dog that only thumped its tail happily in reply.
"Excuse me sir?" she whispered. She hardly ever spoke to strangers, it had been deemed dangerous for a lady of her status. Especially as the heir, she would make a nice ransom. It was ironic that her father was about to marry her off to one. She had seen him from a distance and he was tall and handsome but there was just something about his cold demeanour that frightened her.
The boy and dog turned towards her curiously and they both studied her garments and the way she held herself. "I'm no sir," he finally replied. "What do you want?"
Hinata winced, it had sounded quite harsh to her and she was about to turn and walk away when the dog trotted towards her and began sniffing her feet, tail wagging. "I-I wish to travel with you and your troupe," she asked hesitantly, changing her mind.
The boy whistled sharply at the dog who promptly returned to his side. He scratched the back of his head looking uncertain, "I'll have to ask the leader, just wait here for a second." With that he strode towards another wagon which was larger and even more colourful than the one he had been leaning against. This wagon had ornate carvings decorating it as well. It was beautiful in a wild kind of way as it had detailed vines and leaves crawling haphazardly all over the sides, a different type of beauty to what she was accustomed to at her austere but imposing home.
A stunning black haired woman who looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties had poked her head out of the caravan and was speaking quietly to the boy she had spoken to. He was gesturing towards her and shrugging his shoulders as the woman questioned him. She came out of the wagon, colourfully dressed, and both gypsies approached her. Hinata gulped, hoping desperately that they would not refuse her. She did not know what she would do if she was refused. The woman smiled at her gently, "You seek passage with us?" She had red eyes, Hinata was quite surprised. Red eyes were quite unusual but then again, so were her own pale pupiless eyes.
Hinata nodded and blushed in reply.
"Girl, where do you wish to go because we follow our own route. We won't escort you to your destination unless it is on our way," the woman explained.
"I-I don't have a particular destination in mind, I just want to get as far away from here as I can," whispered Hinata, tears welling up in her eyes.
The black haired woman nodded sympathetically, the young girl was another runaway as she had been many years ago. She sighed, "You will have to make yourself useful. Will there be anyone looking for you once they realise that you have left?"
Hinata paused, tell the truth that her father would probably send out half his men to search for her and risk being refused passage, or lie and get caught. She opened her mouth to reply but the woman interrupted her. "I'll take that as a yes. Kiba wake the rest of the troupe up and send Tenten to me, we leave now."
The boy nodded and disappeared with his dog into the night. Hinata could hear the troupe of gypsies beginning to stir. The woman motioned to her to follow and Hinata complied. "I'm Kurenai, what's your name?" the red eyed woman asked her kindly.
"Hinata," replied the young girl shyly. "Thank you so much for letting me travel with you. I really don't want to cause you too much trouble…"
"Hinata," said the older woman dryly, "when I was your age I ran away with the gypsies because my parents were going to marry me off to be a second wife to a disgusting old man." She began to harness a handsome looking horse up to the wagon who snorted indignantly.
The girl smiled at Kurenai, "Thank you for understanding."
A slim brunette girl about Hinata's age suddenly appeared, yawning and rubbing at her eyes sleepily. "You called for me Kurenai?" The girl stretched languidly, waves of brown curls cascading down to the small of her back.
"Tenten, I want you to hide her trail. You're both about the same size so take her shoes and create a false trail leading southwards towards the forest," instructed Kurenai. "Meet us at the bottom of the valley pass."
Tenten nodded, her large almond shaped brown eyes now alert. "What direction did you come from?" she asked Hinata as she began to take off her shoes.
Hinata carefully removed her shoes, hoping anxiously that she would get them back. They were soft leather boots of the highest quality and she was very fond of them. "F-from the Hyuuga estate," she murmured.
Both Tenten and Kurenai stiffened. Tenten turned towards the older woman with narrowed eyes, "Are you sure it's a good idea to take her with us? If she's one of the nobles we will be lucky to only be thrown in jail if we get caught."
Kurenai rubbed her temples tiredly, "Create more false trails then, we are going to need as much of a head start as we can get. Take Shino with you and if we're not at the valley in a week's time, I want you to get in touch with the Suna troupe and stay with them until you hear directly from me or the Legendary Sucker."
Tenten nodded, looking serious. She took Hinata's boots and walked over to a tall silent boy wearing a high collared cloak which hid the bottom half of his face and spoke with him quietly. They both disappeared into the night. Kurenai smiled at the worried blue haired girl reassuringly, "Don't worry, they'll send the Hyuuga men on a wild goose chase. You'll be safe with us." The older woman swung up onto the driving seat of the wagon and helped Hinata up. "You'd better stay inside the wagon until we reach the next town and catch up on your sleep."
Hinata nodded and climbed inside the gypsy wagon. There were many trinkets and surprisingly, quite a collection of weapons, inside. There was also a bedroll and a pile of colourful clothes and shawls she could curl up on. She hadn't realised how exhausted she was until she sank deep into sleep into the colourful pile.
Tenten and Shino both sat hidden from sight in the tree branches. It had been a week since that quiet blue haired girl had come to their troupe asking for passage. She and Shino had created many false trails and after that they had run through the forest, taking the shortcuts that the gypsy wagons had no hope of passing through. Shino, on many occasions had carried her on his back as they ran through the forest so as to leave no trail to follow. The silent black haired boy was one of the best trackers she knew and he could run through a forest, just after the rain, and leave no trail for even the best hunters or trackers to follow. The only way they could be followed was by smell but they had crossed quite a few rivers and streams so it was near impossible even for the best dogs, including Akamaru.
The petite brunette scratched at an insect bite irritably as they waited for their troupe to meet them at the designated meeting place. Both she and Shino were looking forward to a good night's rest and a good meal. They had been living off the land for a week. She turned to her companion who was currently intrigued by a large beetle crawling on the branch towards him. "Do you think they'll fall for it?"
He nodded, still fascinated by the beetle.
Tenten inspected a very muddy pair of boots that belonged to the mysterious girl who sought refuge with their troupe. "I wonder if she'll want her boots back, I wouldn't mind keeping them they are very well made even though they were a little big for me," she mused out loud.
Her companion didn't answer.
Tenten sighed and stretched out along the branch so that she was lying on her belly. She fingered a knife that she had had hidden on her person idly. Shino wasn't much of a conversationalist and frankly, she was bored out of her mind. A dog barked excitedly and Tenten looked down and grinned. Akamaru was jumping up at their tree wagging his tail furiously, Kiba came running up panting. He looked up and waved, "Oh great you guys made it!"
Tenten and Shino both jumped down nimbly. They could hear the troupe approaching; the bells on the wagons tinkered away. "Did anyone follow you?" asked Shino quietly as they waited for the wagons to catch up. It was nearing sunset, they would set up camp here.
Kiba shook his head, "There were a few people doing random checks but the full scale search was in the wrong direction." He grinned, "All the Hyuugas were on horseback with dogs. It looked like they were all going on some kind of foxhunt. They were headed the wrong way as well."
Shino smirked with satisfaction. Three brightly coloured gypsy wagons rounded the bend of the road. Two gypsies dressed in every bright shade of green possible and with identical bowl haircuts waved excitedly at them. Tenten waved back cheerfully at Gai and Lee.
The gypsies set up camp quickly and efficiently as it was a familiar routine. Hinata stood to the side poking her fingers together not quite knowing what to do since everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Tenten noticed her striking pale eyes properly for the first time. She had seen them before in that devastatingly handsome soldier she had met in the capital city a few months ago but his were much harder. Tenten noticed the shy girl's nervousness and felt a bit sorry for her. "Hinata?"
The white eyed girl turned, startled, "Y-yes?"
"Do you want to help me find some firewood for the fire so we can cook?"
Hinata nodded and gave Tenten a small shy smile. They wandered into the forest and began collecting wood. Hinata felt guilty, all the gypsies had been kind to her but she felt so useless. She also missed her family, especially her little sister Hanabi. Tenten hummed away cheerfully as they headed back towards the camp. Hinata ate mechanically as she had for the past week, refusing to meet the curious glances of the other gypsies and quickly excused herself to sleep when she had finished. As she lay inside the wagon which she now shared with Kurenai and Tenten, she listened to the music outside as the gypsies sang around the dying campfire. She had always assumed that they would sing merry songs you could dance to but often she heard them sing some of the saddest but beautiful songs.
Hinata closed her eyes and wandered if she would ever see her family again. But that was the price she would have to pay for her selfish acts.