Nichole's Note: This is my first story on FF! I really hope you like it! Read and review! It will get better, I promise... I'm just not the best at starting out a story. But I've got a really good idea, I swear! Yet again, hope you enjoy!
It began like any other mission that my team would take.
We were called into Tsunade-sama's office, and told that we would be heading off to the Village Hidden in the Clouds very, very soon. She asked us to pack light, because speed was of the essence.
We were to deliver a scroll to the Kage of the village, which contained information on the whereabouts of a group of missing nin from their village that our trackers had spotted and were now following.
Gai-sensei was in another place doing something else for her, so it was just Lee, Neji, and I.
"Neji, I appoint you squad leader. This scroll is of the utmost importance, so I encourage you to let nothing happen to it. I want you to leave within the next hour."
"With all due respect, Hokage-sama," Neji said, speaking in his deep voice, "why didn't you just send this by messenger hawk?"
"The scroll is too important to be interfered with. There are ninja who are looking for this information. We feel we are being watched, and any bird sent out will ultimately die before reaching its intended target. If I send it out with a small squad, it will be less suspicious. You three are some of the fastest ninja in the village, and your skills are perfect for a mission like this. Understood?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama." With that, Neji bowed, and Lee and I followed suit. We walked out of the office and out of the building.
"I want you two to meet me at the gate in thirty minutes. You heard what she said; pack light."
"Hyuuga-san!" A voice called out. We all turned to see a man standing in the door leading to the building. "Hokage-sama needs to see you again." We all turned to walk back up, but he shook his head. "She says just Hyuuga-san, Lee-san."
Lee and I froze, but for much different reasons. Lee stopped because the man told him to. I stopped because he seemed to forget to tell me to stop. Neji looked back at us, and murmured, "You too, Tenten. You know what he meant."
I just nodded, a grimace plastered on my face.
"I will walk you home, Tenten-chan," Lee said, a smile on his face. He had this weird sense of chivalry when it came to me. He wouldn't bring flowers, or open doors, but he'd always make sure I got home safely. I guess he just feels for me because we're in the same situation; alone.
We began our walk toward my lonely apartment, keeping the tone light and playful, despite the fact that I still felt like ripping someone's head off.
"I wonder why Tsunade-sama wants all of us to deliver a message. You think she would have just sent you or Neji instead of all three of us," I commented as we neared my apartment.
Lee grinned. "Or you. You forgot to mention yourself in that grouping, Tenten-chan. As for the reason… I think there is more to this document delivery than Tsunade-sama will say. I believe that is what she is telling Neji-san right now."
"For some reason," I muttered, "I don't think Tsuande-sama would ever send me on a mission that is truly important, Lee." I looked up at the sky, and then smiled at Lee before he could open his mouth. "Well, better be going and all. You know how it is. Gotta pack. Gotta be at the gate in twenty minutes."
Lee was still standing beside me, looking slightly confused. "Yes. Yes, I must be ready on time, or I will run 1,000 laps around Konoha before we leave!" He said, fist held aloft and fiery eyes streaming.
"I don't think Neji will like that too much. If you're late, any more hold-ups might cause him to massacre the village," I joked, winking.
"Do not even joke like that, Tenten-chan," Lee said, but I could tell he found it funny, as well. Neither of us could resist a good Neji joke anymore.
"See ya soon," I said, waving him goodbye as I made my way into my house, ready to get ready. Lee left, and suddenly, I felt very alone again.
Then again, for a 16 year old, I seemed to always feel lonely. It's not that I don't have good friends or a good sensei. But that's just it; I only have Neji, Lee, and Gai-sensei. Sure, I know the rest of the ninja my age, and I hang out with Hinata sometimes, but I'm only a sometimes friend.
'Oh, Kiba, Shino, Naruto, Sakura, and Ino are doing something… Might as well go find Tenten and see if she's available.'
Not to mention if it wasn't for the fact that I was on a team with Neji and Lee I would only get stupid missions, like make sure there are no people breaking into the medicine room of hospital, or go find this cat because the genin have more important things to do. Out of all the Konoha 12, as they call us, Tsunade-sama trusts me the least. Well, I guess she trusts Sasuke the least, but that's only because he left the village.
I'm sure that if he came back, he'd even get better missions by himself than I do.
A small sigh escaped my lips, and I opened up my bag, throwing another set of clothes, some food, and a scroll into it. This was no time to be thinking on why I'm a loner, or why my once Idol seems to think so little of me.
"2 minutes to get to the gate," I muttered, running out of my apartment and toward the gate. When I got there less than a minute later, Neji and Lee were already there, waiting. Damn it.
Neji was giving me the 'You're late' glare.
"Sorry I'm on time, Neji, I was just making sure everything was in order at my house."
I winced as his ice-cold 'Hn' ran through my mind.
I had once been told by another sometimes acquaintance, Reiyu, that any girl would LOVe to be on the same team as a hot, strong guy like Neji.
Yeah, being on his team is absolutely the best.
We walked outside of the gate, ready to start another mission, when Neji turned to me, and took something out of his bag. It was a scroll.
A very important looking scroll.
"I think it would be best if you hold onto it, seeing as you are…" Neji paused, looking to me. I felt myself stiffen, like I knew where this was going. I did know where this was going. "Well, seeing as Lee and I are more likely to…" He paused again, his glance shifting over to Lee. "It's just that enemies aren't as likely to attack…"
Lee understood the silent command for help. "Seeing as you are better equipped to protect the scroll. We both know that you will never let anyone touch it."
I grabbed the scroll, and slipped it into my bag. "Yeah, whatever. Let's just get going."
Without waiting for my teammates, I shot off in the direction of the Village Hidden in the Clouds. My body was pumping, and I was sure that I could get there in a day and a half without stopping. A lot less if I ran at high speeds the entire time. After all, Tsuande wanted it delivered quickly, and I was more than ready to get this damn thing off my hands. My teams stamina could take a day and a half of hard running without quitting.
"Tenten!" I heard someone yell, far, far behind me.
"Tenten-chan, please slow down!"
But I didn't listen to them, and kept running. Pumping my legs faster, harder… Let all my anger, all my frustrations, let them go. Neji didn't know what he was talking about. Enemies were just as likely to attack me as they were to attack them! It was just as likely that the weakest member was holding the scroll! In fact, it was more likely!
I ran for the longest time, still angry, letting it all flow through me. I knew I was making good time; I knew that I was getting closer to the completion of the mission with every quick-paced step. The sky became darker, and I strained my eyes, but I could see the beginning of the mountains that the village was hidden in.
"Tenten." Neji's voice was suddenly in my ear, and I slowed to a stop. Neji and Lee slid on the ground a few feet, finally coming to a stop a good 10 feet ahead of me.
Even in my anger, I couldn't outrun them.
"What?" I snarled, looking at them.
"When we tell you to stop, we mean it," Neji growled.
"Don't treat me like a child! I can watch over myself. I'm not weak, you know," I argued right back, my words leaving no trace of having been heard on his impassive face.
"I never insinuated that you were weak, Tenten," he pointed out, still staring with those white, oppressive eyes.
"What, telling me to hold the scroll because you and Lee were more likely to protect me anyway? I knew where you were going. You and the rest of Konoha look at me like a child. A lonely, useless child. I sixteen, goddamnit! I can hit a bullseye 10 out of 10 times. I'm fast and smart. Sure, I can't heal. Sure, I've got no bloodline. Sure, I don't really have any jutsu…" My voice trailed off as I started to doubt myself again. No. I can't let myself fall prey to the self pity! "I'm just as good as any of the other girls! Even though the Hokage doesn't believe I am, I AM."
"We know, Tenten-chan. It is okay. Just calm down."
But by this time, with the tears streaming and the anger flowing, there was no calming down. Usually, I was levelheaded. Usually, I held all of this crap in. I've never, EVER cried in front of them. These guys, that I've known for years, and I've never let a single drop fall. Yet now, in the middle of a mission, I'm screaming my head off, probably giving any enemy ninja our location. God, how stupid could I get?
Suddenly, Neji's hand was clamped over my mouth and his own lips were next to my ear. "Tenten, quiet."
I stopped crying.
In a very small part of my brain, it aggravated me that Neji had this kind of power over me. After all, he treated me like a baby. He treated me like something weak and powerless. He respects Naruto more than he respects me. Yet, at his word, I'll stop crying. At his touch, at him being so close, I'll just calm down immediately.
I kind of maybe sicken myself. But a girl can't control who her hormones are attracted to…
"Now that you've calmed down, let's proceed, shall we?" he whispered once more.
I nodded. "Sorry," I muttered. "I don't know what came over me. I guess it's just everything came crashing down."
"It's okay," he responded, and removed his hand from my mouth. A small smirk formed over his face, and I followed him up toward Lee.
I felt extremely foolish, but I tried my best not to act like it. After all, who really cares what I think, yeah? Better just to pretend it was a stress thing than something I really felt and wanted them to know. Better pretend like none of it happened.
"Okay, everyone, I might as well tell you what Hokage-sama told me," Neji said, looking at Lee and I.
"Apparently, the reason she sent the three of us instead of a normal chuunin was not the arrival time, but the fact that this scroll contains information that a rogue group of ninja, who are monitoring the Cloud, want. That's why, against her better judgment, she sent a Byakugan user into a village that wants the power for themselves."
Lee and I exchanged glances at Neji's someone harder than usual tone. We both knew about his father, and how much he still resented the Cloud still. He usually wasn't one to let these kinds of things slip, but then again, he is more comfortable around us than he lets on.
"She wants us to protect this scroll and the Raikage's reply with our lives. Understood?"
"Yessir," we both responded at the same time.
We began our journey once more, with Neji leading the way (Byakugan on) and Lee and I following.
Lee looked over at me, black eyes full of concern. "Are you okay, Tenten-chan? You seemed very upset."
"I was just letting stress out. After what happened with that guy earlier, and Hokage-sama never trusting me… I was just thinking too much and too little at the same time, ya know?"
But Lee was not convinced, I could tell. "If you say so, Tenten."
The rest of the sprint into the Cloud was uneventful, like any other genin level mission. We were quickly allowed into the gate, shepherded to the Raikages office, and immediately seated.
"We have brought a scroll from Tsuande-sama," Neji said unemotionally, motioning for me to take the scroll out of my bag. I bent down to grab it, rolling my eyes slightly as he didn't even ask, and handed it to him. He then gave the scroll to the Raikage.
Way to bring back the middleman, Neji.
We averted our eyes as the Raikage did a few seals and opened the scroll. Soon enough, he had read it, and was writing the reply.
"This goes directly to Tsuande. No one else is to see it, understood?"
"Yessir," we all said in unison as we stood up. The Raikage handed me the scroll, and nodded at me. "I hope you will take good care of it, kunoichi."
I didn't say anything in response, but I felt a surge of happiness just knowing that someone was entrusting me with something so important without the reasoning that Neji had provided. The Raikage believed I was capable of holding this scroll and keeping it safe. Neji believed that I was capable of holding the scroll and HE could keep ME safe.
We stayed in the village for the rest of the night, preparing for the high speed day tomorrow. Neji had decided that we were leaving at the break of dawn, which gave us roughly 5 hours of sleep. It would be a nice rejuvenating sleep, leaving us ready for the day tomorrow. Oh wait… I've already said that, ne?
As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light. My bag was curled up next to me, and I snuggled up to it. No one was touching my scroll when I was sleeping.
Neji's voice jerked me awake, and I woke up to see the beginnings of sunlight through my groggy eyes. I blinked a few times, and then stood up, throwing the bag over my shoulder in the process.
Lee was still asleep, and Neji moved from my side to his, trying to wake up the 'youthful' sleeper.
"Oh wait, lemme change clothes first…" I said quickly, leaving Neji to his job of Lee-awakening. I whipped out the clothes I had brought, slipping them on in the bathroom. By the time I was done and ready to go (hair looking much neater), Lee was barely waking up.
"Lee. If you do not wake up right now, you must run 1,000 laps when we get back."
Suddenly, Lee was wide awake, a grin plastered on his face. "I AM AWAKE, GAI-SENSEI."
It took all of us a few seconds to realize the mistake. Neji twitched, Lee rubbed the back of his head, and I did what any self-respecting person would do. I laughed my head off.
"Gai-sensei, that's great," I said, eyes streaming with joy.
"Be quiet, Tenten," Neji said, eye still twitching.
"Right, Gai-sensei," I said, saluting him. "Shall we be going?" He just ignored my Gai comment, and we left the village.
Neji was again leading, byakugan still on, and Lee was trailing me. Neji came to a complete stop, and I almost soared past him. I would have, if he didn't catch me by the waist to stop me. Lee skidded to a halt next to us, looking around.
"What's up?" I asked the white eyed genius next to me. I was trying hard to fight the blush that he was causing by still holding onto my waist.
"Someone was following us. They're coming our way. Be prepared."
"Right," Lee said, getting into a fighting stance. Neji let go of me and turned to face where I assumed one of the enemies was.
"Remember: protect the scroll," Neji said, still staring into apparently blank space for Lee and I. "Tenten, keep it with you," he muttered, looking at my bag.
In the blink of an eye, a kunai was flying right for me. I moved slightly to the side, and caught it by the handle. "One kunai, heh. Child's play."
I threw it right back where it had come from, and watched as it deflected two other kunai. A third one went flying by, and Neji turned his focus into another direction. "They're splitting up. I think they're trying to come at us from all sides. Be prepared."
We got into our battle position, standing back to back to back, and watched. Neji kept telling us their new position. "They are coming out now."
I flipped out my nunchaku staff and stared straight ahead. 20 or so people came running out from all different directions, and I could feel my teammates tense up, excited to fight.
"Big group. Buushin?" I asked.
"No. All separate people. They want the scroll."
Lee was suddenly out of formation, moving forward a few steps to attack a few of the enemy. Neji was soon following his lead, catching a few ninja in his 64 strike. That left me to deal with the 6 ninja in front of me.
I threw a few kunai, and then charged at the girl that was coming directly for me. She grinned as I took a swipe at her with my staff, and kept dodging as I kept trying to hit her. Luckily for me, the other kunai had found their mark. One person was bleeding from the eye, a few others had kunai in their legs.
"You're the one with the scroll, aren't you?" the red head in front of me asked. My eyes widened a fraction of a centimeter, and I hesitate not more than a second before trying to hit her again. "It's her!" the girl yelled, dodging another strike. I surprised her by stabbing her in the side with a kunai as she moved to dodge the staff, but it was too late. They had heard her message.
I felt shuriken enter my arms and legs, and kunai knives as well. I dropped the staff, and felt blood seep out of my mouth.
"Damn," I muttered.
A kunai had hit me square in the back of the head. I felt a surge of pain, and then; nothing. Darkness. Abyss.