Walt Disney and Gothic Dancer proudly present:
Tenten as Jane Porter or Kishimoto's Neji
The fire blazed brightly in the night, filling the dark sky with smoke and sparks. Ashes fell from the burning ship into the ocean, where a single rowboat floated. A woman clutched her baby tightly, refusing to let her son get anywhere near the flaming wreckage. A man jumped down from the ship at the last second before it exploded and sank to the ocean floor. Terrified, the woman searched the dark water until she saw her husband reach out for the boat. Freeing one hand from her child to assist him, the man flopped his way on board and panted heavily. He looked up at his wife and smiled to see she and their son were safe. That was all that mattered.
By the time the sun rose, the small family had reached land, but there was no sign of any human life. Disappointed and worried, the couple slowly climbed a nearby hill to get a better look. That was when the baby laughed and pointed towards a tall tree. The couple looked back down at the beach to see there was plenty of wood from the wreckage of their ship. They decided right there to survive on the island.
For days, the husband and wife worked together to build their lives out of how little they had. Fortunately, they had managed to save some of their essentials from the fire, so the tree house quickly became a new home for them. Together with their son, they lived happily.
What the family did not know was that humans did, in fact, live on the island, but it was a tribe that hid itself deep in the jungle. These humans lived together in packs and roamed together, looking out for one another. The leader of the tribe, a tall, sturdy man with all-knowing eyes, smiled at the newest member of his pack. Even though the mother had died in childbirth, the family's eldest daughter was mature enough to look after the child, and together, they decided to celebrate this new life instead of prolonging their mourning of the lost one.
It was a simple, peaceful life for the tribe. The eldest daughter took care of her younger brother with everything she had, loving him as if he were her son. The two were inseparable, and this pleased the tribe leader. He knew the child had a promising future.
Two Worlds, One Family
But on one dark, cold night, everything changed. No one knew that a feared predator to the tribe was back in their area of the jungle. It only took the small child a moment to wander away from his sister while everyone was asleep, and by the time the elder sister and the tribe leader awoke, it was too late. Crushed, the young woman cried out for her brother on that cursed night, unable to cope with her loss. Her heart was broken, and she felt as though she had nothing left to live for.
Time did not heal that wound. The days quickly turned into weeks, but the woman did not show any signs of recovering. The tribe leader did his best to help her along, but he knew there was nothing he could say to her. He decided to press onwards and let nature take its course.
One day, however, things were strange in the jungle. The tribe passed along a small river bend, and the woman felt as though something was different. She looked up towards a large tree and noticed the house there. For some reason, it seemed to call out to her, and she abandoned the tribe for a moment to get a closer look. Quickly, she sped up the tree and opened the door to the house.
The place was in ruins. Furniture was broken and the floors were stained bright red. Scared, the woman eased her breathing and quietly stepped over to a small pile of fabric where she heard some rustling. Cautiously, she pulled the sheets away to reveal a baby, the son of the man and woman who had attempted to rebuild their lives. For a moment, the two just stared at each other, quiet and curious. Then the woman picked up the child and held him in her arms. He was so tiny and so helpless, and she could not bring herself to leave him alone.
But then the woman heard a roaring sound, and she quickly turned to see the same predator who had taken away her younger brother, a demonic-looking Nine-Tailed Fox. The woman knew what had happened to the child's parents. She dove under the fox as it jumped up to attack and managed to trap it inside the tree house, but just as she was about to escape back into the jungle, it broke free and dashed after her. Panicking, the woman hopped into the rowboat hanging from a rope and set the anchor down. The fox tried to jump after her, but its foot got caught in the rope, and it twisted into a knot.
Breathing a huge sign of relief, the woman clutched the baby boy to her chest and ran back into the jungle to meet with her tribe. It was nightfall by the time she found them.
"Hinata!" a young girl called when she saw the woman. "Where have you been, hmm? And what's that you've got there?" She and the other women of the tribe gathered around Hinata to see the little boy in her arms.
"It's a baby, Hanabi," Hinata replied softly. "He came from the outside world."
"He's freaky-looking," Hanabi remarked, but she smiled when the baby laughed. "Heh, he's not so bad though. Where are his mommy and daddy?"
Hinata stroked the baby's cheek gently. "I'm going to be his mommy."
Hanabi was about to respond when the tribe leader stomped forward and glared at Hinata. "I forbid it," he hissed. "Look at him, Hina. He's not like us."
"But he needs me! He doesn't have a family!"
"He's a danger to our tribe!"
"Does he look dangerous to you?!"
The tribe leader roared out in frustration but quickly calmed down when he saw the look of determination in Hinata's eyes. He sighed. "Was he alone?"
Hinata nodded. "Yes, there were no others. The Nine-Tailed Fox...killed his parents."
"Hina...he won't replace the one you lost."
"I know. But still...I have to take care of him, Hiashi."
"...Fine. He can stay."
Hinata's eyes brightened. "Oh, thank you! He'll be wonderful, just like a son to you!"
Hiashi narrowed his eyes. "I said he could stay. That doesn't make him my son." He paused. "And just to be sure he doesn't betray us, he's going to a side branch of the family." He held out a single finger and touched the baby's forehead. Hinata gasped when she saw a green mark appear.
"You didn't have to bind him to us with the Curse Mark," she whispered as tears welled up in her eyes. But she couldn't dwell on that. She watched as the tribe made its resting place for the night and held the baby close.
Hanabi sensed the despair in Hinata's eyes. "What are you going to name him?" she asked, trying to lighten the mood.
Hinata managed a small smile. "I'm going to name him...Neji." She watched as Hanabi shrugged and made her way to her own resting spot. Satisfied, she cuddled the child when he started to cry, attempting to soothe him so he would sleep. Turning away from the tribe so she didn't have to look at Hiashi's glare, she sang softly to Neji. "Come, stop your crying. It'll be alright. Just take my hand...hold it tight. I will protect you from all around you. I will be here; don't you cry. For one so small, you seem so strong. My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm. This bond between us can't be broken. I will be here; don't you cry...because you'll be in my heart, no matter what they say. You'll be here in my heart...always."
As the years passed, Neji grew into a happy, healthy child who was always looking to play and explore. He was quite mischievous, and his curiosity often annoyed the other members of the tribe. "Hinata!" they scolded, blaming the one who had introduced the outsider to the Hyuugas.
But Neji didn't just annoy the other tribe members. With just the smallest step outside the tribe's boundaries, Hiashi would become infuriated. He often yelled at Neji, and his threats to abandon him scared even the other Hyuugas.
"You idiot!" Hanabi snapped, bonking Neji on the head. "How many times have I told you that you can't run into Hiashi like that? He doesn't like you! The best way to get on his good side is to avoid him and follow all his rules!"
Neji wasn't convinced. "I don't want to do what he tells me to. I want to create my own destiny."
"You'll never do that as long as you've got the Curse Mark."
"Then I'll find a way to make Hiashi remove it!"
"Ha! Yeah, right! Hiashi's never removed a Curse Mark from anybody! Not even his own brother!" Hanabi suddenly grinned when she heard some of the other Hyuuga children running towards a waterfall. She turned to follow them, but Neji stopped her.
"Can I come play?" he asked hopefully.
Hanabi smirked. "Uh, yeah. You can play...if you can keep up!" And with that, Hanabi dashed into the jungle, sure she had left Neji in the dust.
But the boy appeared before her and the other Hyuuga children in no time. "Hi, guys!" he greeted. "I caught up with you, Hanabi. That means I can play!"
Hanabi glanced into the water below her as if to find some way to get Neji to leave. Right next to the waterfall was another tribe happily bathing in the afternoon sun. The little Hyuuga girl smirked again. "That was only Part 1," she laughed. "See those members of the Aburame Tribe down there? You have to get a single hair from one of them. Heh, it's impossible, no? I mean, the Aburames are famous for their wild, curly hair. Why don't you just go home?"
But Neji would have none of that, without a second thought, he dove into the water and swam towards where the Aburames were bathing. He tried sneaking up on one of them, but a little boy caught sight of him. "Papa!" The boy adjusted his sunglasses and ran into the water. "Papa, there's something swimming out there!"
"Shino..." the man sighed as he splashed his son. "How many times do we have to go over this? There's nothing out there that's going to hurt you. Besides, you're training your insects, aren't you? They'll protect you."
"But Papa!" Shino tried to convince his father. He gasped when Neji surfaced, and he saw several sharp teeth in his mouth. "It's someone from the Inuzuka Tribe! They hunt out here!"
Just then, Neji grabbed onto an Aburame woman's hair and tried to pluck a single strand out. The woman screeched out in terror and caused all the other tribe members to cry out. They scrambled onto shore and ran into the jungle, disturbing the Hyuuga tribe. The women grabbed onto their babies, one of them almost not making it.
By the time the Aburame Tribe was gone, the area surrounding the waterfall was in ruins. Hanabi punched Neji in the chest a few times until the boy spat up the water he had swallowed and took a huge breath. The little Hyuuga girl cheered but suddenly grew angry. "You scared me! Are you happy?!"
"Uh-huh!" Neji held up the single hair for Hanabi to see.
"Is this all about a hair?" Shino asked, carefully stepping over to the Hyuugas. "You should have just asked!" He plucked a strand of hair from his head and grinned.
"WHAT HAPPENED HERE?!" Hiashi suddenly roared. The children looked up and glared into the white eyes of the feared Hyuuga Tribe leader. Hinata ran past him to take Neji in her arms, and Hanabi and Shino backed away slowly.
"It was my fault," Neji whispered. "I'm sorry, Hiashi. We were just playing."
"You almost killed someone!"
"But it was an accident!"
"Hiashi," Hinata begged, "he's just a child."
"THAT'S NO EXCUSE. Look at him, Hinata! He will NEVER be one of us! He will NEVER become part of the Main Branch!"
Late that night, Neji stared into his reflection near the waterfall. What Hiashi had said had hurt his feelings badly. Disappointed and frustrated, Neji tried to make himself look more like one of the original Hyuuga Tribe members. It was that stupid Curse Mark. He rubbed at it as if it could be washed off and tried hiding it with mud.
The boy turned.
"What are you doing?"
"Why am I so different?!" the boy shouted. "Hiashi said I couldn't be part of the Main Branch of the Hyuuga Tribe. Look at me!"
Hinata smiled. "I am. Do you know what I see? I see two eyes like mine, a nose like mine, two ears like mine, and..."
"Two hands?" Neji added. He held his palms up against Hinata's and gasped sadly. While they were similar, there was something about Hinata's that made Neji feel inferior, like he truly wasn't of her kind.
Hinata noticed this and brought the boy close. "Forget what you see," she whispered. "What do you hear?" She brought his ear to her chest, and Neji smiled calmly.
"It's your heartbeat," he murmured. "It's exactly the same as mine."
"See? We're the same. Hiashi just can't see that.
"Then I'll make him see it!"
The years passed quickly. During that time, Neji devoted himself towards becoming the best Hyuuga he possibly could. He used the world around him to help his family eat better, sleep better, and live better. He matured greatly and was welcomed by the other tribes in the area. He and Hanabi became best friends, and Shino spent most of his time with them. They were a happy group that survived well in the harsh jungle.
Neji grew into the Son of Man.
One day, Neji and Hanabi got into one of their wrestling matches. They fought each other playfully and rolled down several grassy hills, Shino following them. He had learned a long time ago that it was better just to be the referee, so he kept an eye on everything Neji and Hanabi did. Once down at the very bottom of a grassy hill, he announced that Neji was the winner, as he had Hanabi's arms twisted behind her back.
Neji was just about to celebrate his victory when he heard something. Out of nowhere, the Nine-Tailed Fox appeared and lashed out at the three friends. Hanabi cried out and ran back up the hill with Shino while Neji climbed a nearby tree. That was when Hiashi appeared and tossed the fox backwards, wrestling with it to protect the family. Neji took the opportunity to make a weapon.
He had perfect timing. The Nine-Tailed Fox bit Hiashi and tossed him back. The man was out of breath and unable to move well, so Neji jumped into the battlefield and fought the fox with a sharp spear. Hinata cried out for Neji to stop, but the man wrestled the fox to the ground and eventually down into a gorge. The impact was enough to snap the spear in two, and the sharp side landed far from where Neji was. He was able to stall the fox by trapping it long enough to grab the spear and shove the fox downwards. When the two emerged, Neji was hanging onto a dead fox.
The Hyuugas cheered and applauded the man's accomplishment. For too long, they had been at the mercy of the demon-like fox, and now he was no longer a threat. Neji called out his victory and brought the body of the fox to Hiashi in silence, offering it to him.
Just then, the group heard a strange sound. It was unlike anything anyone had ever heard before, and Hiashi ordered the tribe to move away from it. Neji started to follow his leader, but he quickly turned to investigate the odd sound. Eventually, he came upon a bamboo grove. There, on the ground just outside it, was a small, hard, cold tube with some kind of strange, foul-tasting powder inside. Then Neji heard voices. He climbed a nearby tree to get a better look at what was coming. No doubt it was the cause of the weird noises.
Then he saw something he never thought he'd see. It was the strangest-looking animal ever, but, the more Neji thought about it, the more he came to realize he sort of looked like this being. Neji tried to look closer, but the animal blast something at it, and Neji jumped back in surprise.
"Lee! Lee!" another animal called. "What are you shooting at? Are we in danger?"
"I thought I saw something," Lee murmured. "Professor Gai, stand still."
Lee and Gai looked into the bamboo grove and saw a young woman in a yellow dress appear. "Daddy?" she asked again. "What's going on? Why are you standing still?"
"Lee told me to."
The woman cocked an eyebrow and approached the man with the gun. "Lee," she began, "I want to remind you that Daddy and I came on this expedition to study the Hyuuga Tribe. I'm afraid that your shooting may be scaring them off."
Lee smirked. "Miss Tenten, you hired me to protect you."
Gai suddenly called to his daughter in joy. "Tenten! Look where we're standing! This looks like a place where humans have been recently!" He pointed to the flattened leaves and circular patterns on the ground. "The Hyuugas must travel as a family!"
"A family?" Lee repeated, laughing. "These are savage natives who would kill you without a second thought."
Gai and Tenten ignored the hunter's words as they continued through the jungle. At one point, Gai and Lee walked towards their camp, but Tenten found something that sparked her interest. "You look like someone Miss Sakura back in Tokyo studied last summer," she giggled. "What was that tribe called...? Oh yeah! The Uchiha Tribe!" She took out her sketchbook and pencil and started drawing the little boy on a blank sheet. Somehow, the boy managed to climb up onto Tenten's shoulders to get a good look. Satisfied with the drawing, the little Uchiha boy grabbed the book and tore out the pages until he came upon the picture. "Hey, stop that!" Tenten scolded. "Give me that! I want that paper on the count of three. One...two..." She smirked. "Look! Tomatoes!" She grabbed the paper when the boy looked away. "Ha! I can't believe you fell for that one!"
Tenten was about to go on, especially when the little boy started crying, but she heard terrible noises coming from behind her. She turned and gasped. There was an entire tree full of Uchiha Tribe members, their eyes red with rage. Tenten tried backing away slowly, but the tribe attacked her, and she ran through the jungle screaming for help. She cried out when she had to jump over a gorge, but something grabbed onto her dress. She looked up and screamed in terror. There was a wild man hanging onto her dress! He was swinging on a vine in the middle of the jungle!
The wild man raced to get Tenten to safety, but it was tough when she squirmed and wriggled about in fear. Regardless, the man did his best to navigate through the trees, underneath branches, through logs, and up into a tree. Tenten watched in horror as the man shouted at what she assumed was the little Uchiha's older brother. The wild man grabbed the picture from Tenten and gave it to the Uchihas. Satisfied, they floated softly to the ground with Tenten's parasol and one of her boots.
"I'm in a tree with a man who talks to the Uchihas!" Tenten gasped as she tried to crawl her way down to the ground. Just when she thought things couldn't get any worse, it began to rain. Tenten cursed the heavens but suddenly screamed out, because the wild man was in her face. She fell backwards and landed on a wide branch that was big enough for the both of them. "Stay back!" she cried, bracing herself against the trunk. "Don't come any closer!"
But the man ignored Tenten. He glanced at her bare foot and played with her toes, causing her to laugh aloud. When he tried to peek under her dress, she kicked him backwards. "It serves you right!" she defended. "Get away! Get away!" She swatted her hand about, and Neji caught it. It was gloved but there was a tiny rip in the fabric. The man, fascinated, took the glove off Tenten's hand and pressed his palm towards hers.
Tenten couldn't tell what the man was thinking. He was studying her so closely, as if he had just discovered something he couldn't explain. Tenten looked at their pressed hands, which, she confirmed, looked similar, and then looked into the man's eyes. He suddenly leaned in towards Tenten and pressed his ear to her chest. There was the exact same heartbeat he and Hinata had! This person was exactly like him!
"That's a lovely heartbeat," Tenten commented awkwardly when Neji brought her ear to his chest. "It's very nice."
"...It's very nice."
"You do speak!" Tenten gasped. "Oh my! And here I thought you were just some crazy wild man...!"
The man pointed to himself. "Neji. NE...JI."
Tenten suddenly understood. "Oh, I see!"
Neji smiled. "Neji...Oh, I see!"
Tenten shook her head. "No, no, no, I'm Tenten."
"...No, no, no, I'm Tenten."
"...No." She cleared her throat and pointed back and forth between them. "Tenten...Neji...Tenten."
Suddenly, Neji understood. He put his hands on the woman's shoulders and whispered, "Tenten."
Then there was the gunshot again. "Lee!" Tenten exclaimed, happy that the ran had stopped.
The shot went off again. "Lee!" Neji called.
Tenten shook her head in fascination. "Wow...Um, let's go to my camp!"
Neji made a shooting noise and grabbed Tenten. The two flew through the jungle and down towards the camp.
Hanabi, Shino, and the other Hyuuga children got there first. "Whoa!" Hanabi exclaimed. The place was surrounded by all sorts of furniture, gadgets, and science equipment. Scared and curious, the friends carefully inspected the place, but Hanabi realized something she could do with all the stuff. She and the others eventually formed a steady beat with their own music and had a party as they trashed the camp.
That was when Neji and Tenten returned. "The Hyuuga Tribe!" Tenten squealed.
Suddenly, everything stopped. Neji tried to convince Hanabi to meet his new friend, and, for a moment, it looked as though everything would work out. But that was before Hiashi let out a frustrated roar and commanded everyone back into the jungle. Tenten fell over in shock, barely noticing when her father and Lee returned. "Tenten!" Gai called to his daughter. "Are you okay? We've been looking everywhere for you!"
"OH. MY GOODNESS, DADDY!! I was out walking and...little baby...little baby Uchiha! I drew a picture!"
"Yes? Go on."
"Suddenly, the little Uchiha starts crying."
"Oh, poor thing..."
"And I turn around...and there's a whole fleet of them! There's an army of Uchihas! A huge tree full of them...screaming at me! ROAR!!"
"Oh, Charades! You're very good at this."
"Terrified, I was, terrified! Suddenly, I was swinging in the vines up in the air! Swining! Flying! I was in the air!"
"What did you do?!"
"And then I was all surrounded! And, Daddy, they took my BOOT!"
"...Those were the ones I bought you!"
"And then I was saved! I was saved by a flying wild man in a loincloth..."
"Loincloth? Good Lord..."
Lee nudged Gai in the side. "What is she talking about?"
"I have no idea," Gai replied, shrugging. "She takes after her mother, you know. She used to make up stories all the time."
"Oh!" Tenten realized. "And there was the Hyuuga Tribe!"
Gai and Lee perked up, and the hunter ran to the dazed girl. "You saw the Hyuuga Tribe?! Where, Tenten, WHERE?!"
Tenten sighed dreamily. "He left with them..."
"The Hyuuga Man..."
"And that is why none of you are to go anywhere near these creatures!" Hiashi shouted.
But Neji would have none of it. He was too interested in Tenten. "Why does anyone different threaten you?!"
Hiashi's eyes narrowed dangerously. "You will protect this family," he ordered, "and stay away from those strangers."
Hinata guided her son away from the leader. "Please, Neji, for once, listen to Hiashi."
Neji glared at the woman. "Why didn't you TELL me there were creatures like me out there?!"
"Well, he crouched over like this, Daddy," Tenten explained as she knelt to the ground. "He walked a bit like this, supporting his weight like this. It was the exact same way a Hyuuga Tribe member does!"
"And like Kakashi-san during a book sale back at home!" Gai added, laughing. "Oh, Tenten, this is such a great discovery! A man with no language skills, no human behavior..."
"And NO respect for personal boundaries! He was so close to me, Daddy! He was staring at me. He seemed...confused." Tenten stood and drew a picture of Neji on the chalkboard before her, adding in as many details as she could remember. "It was as if he had never seen another human before. Oh, I've never seen such eyes..."
Gai snickered. "Should I give you and the blackboard some alone time?"
"Oh, Daddy, stop it! Just think about what we could learn from him!"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Lee interrupted, walking towards the father and daughter. "Professor, you came here to study the Hyuuga Tribe, not indulge in some girlish fantasy."
Tenten was offended. "I didn't imagine him! Neji is real!"
And, as if to prove her point, Neji dropped down into the group. Tenten crossed her arms and grinned proudly while her father and the hunter gazed in awe.
Neji looked up. "Tenten!" he cheered, staring into the girl's eyes.
"PROFESSOR, TENTEN, STAND BACK." Lee aimed his gun at Neji, but Tenten shoved it away at the last second. The shot went off into the bamboo grove.
"Lee!" Neji cried.
Lee stared at the strange man. "Have we met? How do you know my name?"
Tenten giggled. "He thinks it means 'the sound of a gunshot.' Hello, Neji! Nice to see you again!"
"Oh, Tenten!" Gai exclaimed. "This man could be the missing link!"
Lee suddenly smirked. "Or he could be our link to the Hyuuga Tribe. Heh, I'll just ask him. If I can teach parrot how to sing anime theme songs, I can teach this guy to tell us where the Hyuugas are." He drew a picture of a Hyuuga Tribe member on the blackboard and said, "Hyuuga."
Neji took the chalk from Lee and starting drawing all over the board. "Hyuuga!"
Lee got angry. "TAKE US TO THE HYUUGAS!!"
"TO THE HYUUGAS!!" Neji screamed back, delighted.
Tenten shook her head. "Shouting won't help, Lee. He doesn't understand Japanese. I think I'll take it from here."
And with that, Tenten taught Neji everything she knew. She showed him slides of people and places he had never seen before, and Neji quickly caught on to the fact that the world was a lot bigger than he thought. He was thrilled when Tenten taught him how to speak and read Japanese. She even taught him the little English she knew! In return, Neji taught Tenten how to swing on jungle vines. They were both so happy, and Neji was starting to like Tenten more than he ever thought he would.
He was fascinated by these strangers like him.
One of the slides Neji saw was of a man giving a woman flowers, and that gave him an idea. He picked a few wild flowers from the jungle and brought them to Tenten, but he didn't expect to see the camp almost gone. There was Tenten with her suitcase.
"Tenten?" he asked.
"Oh, Neji..." the woman whispered.
"Where are you going?"
"Um, the boat has come for us. Daddy and I are going home to Tokyo, and, well, we were wondering if you...wanted to come with us."
"Go to Tokyo today, come back tomorrow?"
"Oh...no, you'd stay in Tokyo forever."
"...Tenten must stay with Neji!"
"But I can't!" And Tenten ran off sobbing.
"Heh, how like a girl," Lee sighed. "Ah, if only she had been able to spend time with the Hyuugas..."
Neji stared at Lee. "If Tenten could see the Hyuugas, could she stay?"
"Oh, of course!"
"...I'll take you to them."
"Oh, come on. Hanabi! You just need to distract Hiashi and keep him away!"
"NO WAY!!" Hanabi shouted. "You've completely abandoned us for weeks now. You can't expect Shino and me to do you a favor."
"Aw," Shino sighed, "but Neji's so happy."
"I'm asking you as a friend, Hanabi. Please?"
Hanabi was powerless against Neji's begging. "OH FINE! Just don't make me do anything embarrassing."
Hanabi jumped out of the bushes in Tenten's dress. "I'M GONNA KILL YOU, NEJI!!"
Shino, holding a stick dressed like Gai, was about to say something when he heard shouting coming from behind him. Hiashi was hot on their tails, chasing them deep into the jungle.
Neji eventually took Tenten, Gai, and Lee to a secret area in a nest place known only to the Hyuugas. He smiled at Hinata, who was sitting near a bush. She started to smile, but the expression faded when she saw the others.
"She's beautiful," Tenten gasped.
"She's my mother," Neji murmured. He crouched to the ground and started speaking in the Hyuugas' language to coax Hinata into coming out, but the woman just hid further. Tenten tried helping it along, but soon she was gone.
"Oh, for the love of...Get up!" Lee commanded. He looked up and gasped. "...Don't get up."
Tenten looked up and saw the entire Hyuuga tribe appearing in the trees. It had worked! They all gathered around her, and the mothers even let their babies play with her! She was so happy!
"It looks like all our dreams are coming true," Lee commented as he drew a large "x" over a specific area of his map.
Tenten could barely pay attention to him though. She listened to Neji talk with the Hyuugas and said, "Can you teach me to speak Hyuuga?"
Neji nodded and made a few sounds for Tenten to follow. After a moment, she said, "Ou ou ee eh ooo!" The other Hyuugas cheered and grabbed onto her; Tenten laughed. "Goodness, what did I say?"
Neji smiled. "You said that Tenten stays with Neji."
"Stay? But I thought..."
At that moment, Hanabi and Shino burst through the nearby bushes screaming their heads off and running as fast as they could. Tenten watched in horror. "Is that my dress?"
And then Hiashi appeared and let out a frustrated roar. He tried to attack Lee when he saw his gun, but Neji wrestled him back and told the others to go. Tenten, Gai, and Lee ran off to safety, but Neji was now the one in trouble. The other Hyuugas looked upon him in shock. He had attacked their leader to protect outsiders. Neji couldn't even believe what he had done, and when he backed away, he ran into Hinata.
"Come with me," she whispered. "There's something I should have shown you a long time ago."
Hinata brought Neji to the tree house where she had first found him. Neji examined the area and eventually found a photo of him as a baby with his biological mother and father. He looked up at Hinata, confused and scared.
"Now you know," the woman murmured. "Neji, I just want you to be happy...whatever you decide." She stepped out of the tree house and waited for a few moments. When the door opened again, Neji was standing in his father's clothes. "Oh, my..."
"No matter what happens," the man began, "you'll always be my mother."
"And you'll always be in my heart..."
The next morning, Neji boarded a rowboat and went to the ship with Tenten and her father, Lee waiting on board. Hanabi and Shino watched from the shore.
"WHO NEEDS YOU, HUH?!" the little Hyuuga girl shouted. "GET OUT OF HERE, NEJI!! I HATE YOU!!"
Shino adjusted his sunglasses and sighed. "I'm going to miss him, too."
Tenten, on the other hand, was thrilled. "I'm so glad you decided to come with us, Neji. You're going to see all sorts of amazing things! Things beyond your wildest imagination!"
But Neji couldn't get excited. He already missed his home.
As soon as the group made it onto the ship, a few of the sailors grabbed Tenten and Gai and threw them below the deck. Neji tried to save them but was hurt by Lee. "I am so sorry to give you such a rude welcome," the hunter began, "but I can't have you interfering with my plans. Thank you so much for telling me where to find the Hyuugas."
"What do you need them for?!"
"For ten thousand yen each of course!"
And a few more sailors threw Neji below the deck with Tenten and Gai. The trio panicked and tried to get out, but it seemed like no one could hear them.
They were wrong.
"That sounded like Neji," Shino commented.
"He doesn't need us," Hanabi sighed. "He's got new friends."
"But we're his old friends! So WE'RE going to help him!" And with that, Shino jumped into the water with Hanabi close behind, and the two swam out to the boat. Once there, they knocked the remaining sailors unconscious. Shino sent some metal-eating bugs to free Neji and his friends, who were so grateful somebody had found them. Neji jumped into the water and quickly swam back to shore.
Lee and the other sailors made their way through the jungle and quickly spotted the Hyuugas in their nesting area. That was when the cages came out. They tossed the young ones in first and tied the stronger ones up before trapping them. Hiashi was able to rip apart one of the nets and break free, but it only lasted a moment. The sailors got out their whips and dragged him to the ground. Lee appeared over him, smiling devilishly.
"I remember you," he snickered, loading his gun, "I think you'd be better off stuffed!"
But Neji got there first. He was able to get the help of the Aburame Tribe to come with him while Shino and the others charged onto the battlefield, knocking Lee out of the way. Neji freed Hiashi and helped him stand.
"You came back," the leader gasped.
Neji shook his head and smiled. "I came home."
Neji and Hiashi then split up to take out as many sailors as they could. They were able to free all the other Hyuugas as well, but one was missing.
Tenten noticed two sailors bringing Hinata away in a cage. She grabbed onto a vine and swung out, kicking one of them. However, the other one was armed and coming towards her. That was when Tenten heard screeching coming from above her. There was the Uchiha Tribe! The little one still had her boot and parasol, and the tribe chased the other man off. Neji then appeared to help Tenten free Hinata, but once the woman was free, Neji was shot in the arm. Tenten gasped and looked up to see Lee aiming for them.
Hiashi saw this, too, and he cried out in frustration and rage. He charged to the hunter and tried to attack him, but Lee's gun was faster. The only thing anyone could hear was the gunshot.
Neji tried to get the others to escape, but Lee spotted him in the vines. "I love a good challenge!" he laughed as he followed him. "If it weren't for you, capturing your family would have been way too easy!" Once he was up in the trees, he searched the area for Neji, but the latter was faster. Neji shoved Lee against a tree and took his gun. He aimed it for the man but paused. At this, Lee laughed. "Go on, shoot me," he insisted. "Be a man."
"I'd never want to be a man like you!" Neji cried. He broke the gun and sent the pieces crashing to the jungle floor. Lee, enraged, grabbed a machete from its sheath at his side and swung it at the man. Lee chased Neji into the vines, and the two became tangled in the mess. Neji struggled to break free, but Lee started cutting the vines, thinking he could free himself faster.
However, Lee didn't see that two vines had made their way around his neck. Unknowingly, Lee cut one vine too many, including the vine he was hanging on to. He screamed out as he fell to the jungle floor, but he never landed. Instead, Neji could see the shadow of his dead, hanged body when lightning crashed.
Neji, still in shock, quickly ran to Hiashi to see how he was. Hinata shook her head sadly as he approached him. "Forgive me," the young man whispered.
"No," Hiashi responded, his voice weak. "Forgive me for not understanding that you've always been one of us. Our family...will look to you now."
"Take care of them, Neji. You're like a son to me." Slowly, Hiashi lifted his hand, and, with the last of his strength, pressed his finger to Neji's forehead. Instantly, the Curse Mark disappeared. Hiashi's hand dropped and he breathed his last breath.
"Tokyo will seem so small compared to all of this," Tenten sighed. It was morning and she needed to head back to her home country.
"Miss Tenten!" the captain called.
"Yes, I'm coming!" She sadly looked at Neji. "I guess this is goodbye..."
Neji reached out and took Tenten's hand, pressing their palms together. Tenten could barely look. She burst into tears and ran to the boat where her father was waiting. Once the two were out at sea, Gai spoke up.
"Tenten, I have the feeling that you should stay."
"Daddy, we've been over this. I belong in Tokyo with people and...!"
"...But you love him."
Tenten stared at her father and then looked back at Neji. She smiled, nodded, hugged her father one last time, and jumped into the water. She swam as quickly as she could back to the shore, where she tackled Neji with all her love. Without knowing it, she kissed him but suddenly pulled away.
"Ack!" she realized. "Um, I, uh...nice...uh..."
But she couldn't say anything. Neji brought their faces close, and they kissed again.
From the boat, Gai threw his hands up in the air. "What am I doing?!" he asked himself. "Captain, tell the officials in Tokyo that you never found us. After all, people get lost in the jungle every day!" With that, he jumped into the water.
Neji guided Tenten back to the shore where Hinata, Hanabi, Shino, and the others were waiting. Hinata took Tenten's hand in hers as if to welcome the woman to their tribe. Tenten grinned, cleared her throat, and said, "Ou ou ee eh ooo!"
From that day forward, Neji and Tenten lived in the jungle together. Neji was the new leader of the Hyuuga Tribe, and Tenten and Gai were his honored guests. They all played and lived together, none ever so happy before.
Neji let out a loud call to announce his place as the new leader, Tenten right by his side.
Two Worlds, One Family!
And they all lived happily ever after.
Next: Tayuya as Elizabeth Swann