A/N: Welcome to what, I hope, will be the most epic NejiTen fic ever. That's my goal anyway, and I'm going to do my best to accomplish it. I must warn you that this fic is going to go some very dark places, and I'm going to push TenTen about as far as I can. It's an exercise for me in plot and character developing, ultimately, but I hope you enjoy the ride.
A few things you should know before we start: my past for TenTen is pretty much set in stone and, while I'm going to do my best to nutshell the thing here, if you want further explanation please see my stories 'The Forgotten' and 'View the Puppet master'. That second one is incomplete but…it won't be that way forever. You're also more than free to ask questions, and I'll answer them as best I can.
The second thing you should probably know is that I am quite aware of what Jai Ho means, and while I would normally use the translation of Hallelujah, I have a very good reason for keeping the Hindi—namely that the song I know of with the title of "Jai Ho" fits this fic very well, and I want to keep it in mind as I write.
I think that's all, so now sit back and enjoy.
Disclaimer: Any and all recognized characters and places are not mined, but the property of Kishimoto. I am not affiliated with him, and make no money off my efforts with this story. It is simply for the sheer joy of writing.
Summary: TenTen is given the opportunity to achieve her biggest dream, but soon finds the consequences might be more than she can handle; for herself and those she loves most. Eventual NejiTen with a LeeSaku frosting and NaruHina sprinkles.
Rating: M for mature situations, language, and violence.
Warnings: Will warn by chapter.
TenTen pushed herself to her feet, strands of dark hair clinging to her face and neck as she stood shakily, her breath coming in ragged gasps. At seventeen years of age, the young kunoichi knew well what her limits were and that she had passed the safety threshold about a half hour ago. Her body was exhausted, her chakra dangerously low, but she was so close. Push further, push faster, and she'd have it. She would have figure out the secret to the mirrors.
When she thought about it, what Naruto had told her all those years ago still thrilled her.
She knew relatively little about her family's past. She remembered a place surrounded by tree and snow, and then she remembered blood and fire, and coming to Konoha for help. She knew that her family was from a clan in Mist that had the blood limit to use ice chakra, to manipulate both water and air. And that was all she knew, until Naruto had told her about the boy he'd met on his first mission outside the village.
He'd explained to her, in detail, about the circle of ice mirrors and how the boy had jumped from one to the next. He'd gotten Kakashi-sensei to show her the hand seals he'd memorized, even if he couldn't use them. From there, she'd had to figure much out herself.
She could create the mirrors now, as many as five at one time. The problem was figuring out how to get inside them the way Naruto had described. TenTen thought it was probably some way of turning one side into something like water, while maintaining the other side and all the other mirrors. She'd been trying that for hours now, with no success.
Resolutely, she started the seals again, trying to block out the screaming from the house behind her. Didn't they ever get tired of fighting about the same thing? Konoha had been home for thirteen years now, and would be for the foreseeable future. They should just get used to it.
Her hands were trembling as she put them together, trying to force the last of her chakra into work. She was in for a hell of a morning tomorrow when she met the rest of her team for practice, but she didn't care. She didn't care because if she learned to master her limit, she would be more powerful than ever before. Stronger. Faster. Better. She would be able to keep up with her teammates, and no longer be forced to depend on them for help. Watch them succeed and grow and leave her behind.
And why were they still yelling? They'd already been over how food tasted better in Mist, how the men were better in Mist. Which led to screaming about how SHE was a whore who'd sleep with anything with a penis, destroying their family, and then how HE had already destroyed it the moment his thrice-cursed ability was discovered, and so on and so on in a pattern all too familiar to TenTen. It amused her a little that they would sometimes argue for her like she still needed them. She had not seen or spoken directly to her parents in years now, but they still thought they could speak for her.
Sometimes she would sit back and laugh at how stupid it all was.
Only one mirror this time. It was all she could manage with what she had left. That hardly seemed worth it, as even if she got inside she would have nowhere to go. Defeated for the night, she let it fall to the earth and shatter with a sound of breaking glass. The neighbors would probably just think it was her parents again.
Trembling and exhausted, she sunk to the ground. Why had she let Neji have the last of her ear-plugs? He should have just suffered through Guy-sensei's latest speech about how his manly youth was blooming nicely like she did. Although, she confessed to herself with a rueful smile, Neji was still only getting used to the man, and it always so much worse when he was talking about you.
She adored Guy-sensei, really, but the man could be a bit overwhelming, even more so for her reserved teammate. This is why she'd taken pity on him and given him the earplugs, knowing full well that it meant she would get little sleep that night. Because he was Neji, and that alone was reason enough.
"Guy-sensei is going to be furious with me tomorrow," she laughed to herself, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her head on them. There was no way she'd be back up to full strength by morning, and once her over-protective former sensei—now team leader, though they treated him much the same as before—realized this it would be a long winded rant about how, if she wanted to truly enjoy the spring time of her youth, she needed to take better care of herself. Followed by a soft reminder that the futon in his study was always open for her whenever she needed.
Appreciated though that offer was, to those outside the team who didn't know it would seem strange, and she didn't want to bring questions on herself. The rest of the village didn't know that it was Guy-sensei who had looked after her before she'd learned to do it herself. Guy-sensei who had bought her new clothes when hers got too small or torn for repair, who had made sure she was fed, and first taught her to do her hair in what was now a trade mark style. Guy-sensei who had signed his name as enrolling her in the Academy.
They would just ask why a girl of barely seventeen was spending the night at her former-teacher's apartment, and then they would investigate, which would sooner or later lead them right here. Where they would see the wreck of a small house, with its broken windows and barely hanging on front door. It's balcony that she used as her only entrance and exit when the need for food or winter chill forced her to return home.
Her team knew, and Naruto knew, but no one else. And no one would if TenTen could help it.
It wasn't so bad out tonight, anyway. Autumn would be coming soon, but until winter camping out wasn't so bad. She could always use Lee's shower in the morning. He always kept a few sets of her clothing in his drawers for times like this.
Resigning herself to a night spent on the cold ground out by the training fields, as she was just too tired to climb the side of the house to retrieve her usual pack of supplies, TenTen rose slowly to her feet again. It was then that something hovering just behind the trees caught her eye. A flicker of movement, barely more than a shadow.
Were she anything but a trained kunoichi, she probably would have thought she imagined it. The thought crossed her mind briefly, even so, but she knew better than to trust to that. It was impossible for a shinobi to be too careful.
Her first thought was that it might be Neji or Lee, coming to check up on her like the sometimes did. They never said anything about it, and she pretended not to notice because they obviously went out of their way to remain hidden. She didn't know why they did it, but allowed them to just the same. That was ruled out, though, by the creepy feeling that she was being really watched crawled over her skin. She never got that feeling from her boys.
Reaching into her ever present weapon's pouch she removed one of her poisoned senbon; one meant to incapacitate not kill. If someone was spying on her and seen her practicing her blood limit, she had to know who and why.
Her needle sliced the air with deadly accuracy, hitting the spot she had intended. The problem was that her target had moved. The rustling of leaves proved there was most definitely someone there, and TenTen crouched, bracing herself for a real battle, cursing the timing.
"It's alright, it's alright," a voice called from the darkness, a pair of hands coming out into the light in an obvious position of surrender. "I come in peace, TenTen-chan."
Nobody called her that. Not even Guy-sensei. TenTen clenched her fist around the kunai she had already half drawn. She didn't recognize the voice at all. "How do you know me? Who are you?"
The person, whoever they were, stepped out of the trees and bushes that lined her yard at the edge of Konoha, and her first thought was that it was an ANBU as they were dressed in a formless black cloak. After a moment, however, the hood was pulled back to reveal a man. He had long black hair like her father's, which he wore in a high ponytail, and eyes the same color brown as her's and her father's. His face was older, but still smooth and surprisingly kind, with high cheek bones and an easy smile.
He still made TenTen feel like her skin was trying to crawl off her body.
"I shouldn't be surprised you don't recognize me," the man said, his smile widening slightly. "You were very young when your family left Mist after all. My name is Hideki. I am a cousin of your father's."
TenTen sucked in a surprised breath as he eyes widened, the grip on her weapon slackening slightly until she forced herself not to let go just yet. This was too strange. She didn't even know the name of her clan—her own last name—and her father, when she heard him, always talked like almost all of them had been killed. Now here, suddenly, in Konoha was a man that claimed to know him?
She wished she could just turn around and get her father; ask him if this man was who he said he was. But even if they would have noticed her coming in, he was likely too drunk to know.
This man, Hideki, certainly did look the part, though; she had to give him that. Suddenly she wished Neji were there, to help her see if he was a henge or not. "Even if that's true, why are you here?"
"Suspicious? Smart girl." The man laughed, sounding truly delighted. "I was here in Konoha on business, and remembered hearing how my cousin had moved his family here. I just wanted to come see how you were doing, that's all."
"Very well, thank you." There was no hiding the lie, though the screaming had died down to almost nothing. She didn't know how long he had been there, but even a few minutes would have been enough.
The man shrugged, moving forward but keeping his hands open in front of him in an obviously pacifying gesture. "Konoha hasn't been kind to you it seems, TenTen, and I am sorry to see it. You showed much promise when you were young."
The insinuation that she hadn't lived up to that promise stung, even if this guy was lying. "I manage."
"So I can see," and that infuriating easy smile was back. "Did Isao show you how to do that trick with the ice?"
It had been so long since she'd heard her father called by his actual name that it took TenTen a few minutes to remember who Hideki was talking about. She shook her head, refusing to give that man credit were it wasn't deserved, even with a stranger. "I figured it out."
Hideki hmmed, his lips thinning as he looked thoughtful. "Very impressive, TenTen. When you master it, you will certainly be someone to be feared."
Even if that was true, TenTen was beginning to doubt she ever would master it. She'd been working on the move for three years, and made relatively little headway. She was also certain that there was so much more she could do with the power she had, but she had no idea where to start. She wasn't like Neji or Lee, who could see the potential uses of jutsu and made up new ones frequently. All she saw was ice.
Some of that doubt must have shown on her face, as Hideki's eyes softened as he looked at her. "You know, my business will keep me here for a while. Why don't I teach you some things while I'm here?"
Her heart started to race in her chest, and TenTen suddenly found it difficult to breathe. 'Steady there, girl, don't get your hopes up. You have no proof that he is who he says he is. He could have been sent to kill you.'
Except that she wasn't important enough for anyone to want to. She was just plain TenTen, outshone on all sides by her teammates and friends. The only thing she had going for her was a blood limit she couldn't even use. If she had a chance to, maybe, get some of her own back, why shouldn't she take it? If he wasn't who he said he was, she would find out soon enough.
"Why don't we start tomorrow? You look ready to drop right now." Hideki moved back toward the trees, waving behind here. "I'll see you here at sundown tomorrow, if you're interested."
It was such an odd encounter that TenTen could feel her instincts going haywire. The shinobi in her was telling her not to trust it, that there was something to coincidental about this. But, she argued back with herself, such coincidence happened to other ninja in the village sometimes. Maybe it was finally her turn to get a little good luck. Besides, what could he really do to her in the middle of a village full of ninja? If he'd wanted to kill her, tonight would have been the better choice. He'd even acknowledge her exhaustion, so he'd know she would have been less of a struggle tonight than the next day.
This was a win-win situation. Keeping him close, she could see what he was up to. If he was fraud, she could figure out what he really wanted and take care of it as a shinobi of Konoha should. And if he wasn't she could finally, really, have her moment to shine.