A/N: I'm not even gonna say anything. Except maybe, HI! This is short, done on a whim of guilt and a sudden rebirth of interest. I don't know if anyone is still out there, but for those who might be reading; I'm back.
Chapter 17. Update
The morning came too quickly. Tenten had fallen asleep the second Lee had regained consciousness, and was somewhat ready to take his watch. She was currently trying to pack her stuff together as quickly as possible, without letting anyone catch her yawning every third and a half second.
«You are supposed to sleep when it's not your watch,» Neji said. Tenten looked up and was surprised to find him kneeling right in front of her, helping her packing up her things.
«I slept,» she said.
«Then why do you move like a dying turtle?»
«Meh,» was all she could muster.
He was looking perfectly well rested, and his brain seemed to be working just as perfectly as anything else worked on him. Tenten ended up sitting back, while he shut her back pack for her. If she had been even just remotely awake, she would have caught him sending her a humored smirk.
«TENTEN! LOOK ALIVE!» Gai roared and picked her up. He shook her like a maraca until she practically begged for her life.
«I am alive! Please, stop!» Gai put her down again, his booming laughter sending shockwaves into the woods. As she sunk down on the ground, she still felt like she was shaking. She met Neji's steady gaze with an exasperated look of her own, and grabbed her finished backpack.
After the previous night's adventures with the cougar, Tenten was now ready to face anything. At least that was what she told herself before she fell asleep last night. Right now she was out on a mission, as a ninja, babysitting the notorious, 7 year old, Mai from the deepest cracks of hell and beyond. She was not really notorious, and she was not really that bad either, but she had a splinter in her right thumb, and therefore could not walk on her own. Of course Tenten was the only one qualified to carry her as the others were boys, and her hairstyle provided the perfect handles for Mai to hold on to.
«Please, don't lean back so much when you're holding onto my hair, Mai,» Tenten hissed.
«But there's a rainbow!»
«Think positively, Tenten! You're scalp is getting stronger each time she pulls at your hair!» Lee said and gave her a strangely familiar thumbs up.
«That's good, in case some rouge ninja I fight in the near future tries to pull my hair,» she could not help rolling her eyes. She looked at Lee for a moment, realizing that he was bouncing in his steps. «Lee, you know that you are rapidly turning in to Gai Sensei, right?»
«Can you blame me? He is so inspiring! Just look at him way up there!»
«I can't see him,» no one could see him, because he was constantly covered in a thick cloud of dust.
«He is so full of power and youthfulness and knowledge! Speaking of which!» Lee dashed off into the woods and disappeared. Riku was about to follow him into the woods, but Tenten grabbed his shirt and hauled him back on the road.
«It's best to let Lee act on his strange whims on his own, Riku,» she said with a smile, trying to reassure the boy that his hero was coming back.
«Where did Lee go?» Neji asked from the front of the group.
«He thought of Gai Sensei's knowledge, and dashed into the woods,» Tenten explained, and could not help a soft laugh to escape her lips.
«Right,» Neji sighed and squinted in between the trees to try and spot their white clad friend. «Do you think that he is getting more and more alike Gai?»
«Yeah. It worries me,» Neji frowned at her. She read his face and decided that he was a little worried too. One Maito Gai was already way more than the world could handle, if Lee turned into the sequel, who knew what would happen?
«Yes! I feel so youthful!» Lee exclaimed as he emerged from the bushes and joined them on the road.
«Lee! Where did you go?» Riku asked and balled his hands up into fists with anticipation.
«I did as Gai Sensei told us yesterday! I filled my backpack with things that are bigger than my head,» he grinned from ear to ear. He was so proud of himself, but walked like an old man. The weight of the back pack forced him to haunch forward, and his legs shook like guitar strings under him. Tenten wondered if this was better than having him skipping up and down besides her all the way to Border Town;
«HNNGH!» Lee groaned as he forced himself up in the air again.
She decided no.
Neji was nearly driven crazy by Lee's unstoppable groaning. The sound of the rocks grinding together in his backpack, combined with his eternal groaning every time he tried to jump; yet again combined with Mai's singing and Riku's nonstop talking, was just too much. It took absolutely all the willpower he could possibly work up, but in the end, it could just might be worth it.
«Gai Sensei!» he called after the lunatic in the dust cloud way ahead of them. It took approximately two seconds before he was back in the group.
«What is it, dear student! An ambush, a demon, a -«
«I'm just wondering,» Neji wisely cut him off. «If you don't have any training planned for us today?» He could hear Tenten gasp sharply behind him. She probably thought of this as the ultimate betrayal. Gai on the other hand was so taken aback by this willingness to train by his own standards, that he was, for once, speechless. «It's seems crazy to have gone nearly twenty-four hours without shedding blood and sweat.»
Neji did not recognize himself anymore. This could lead to a serious identity crisis for him, but that he would deal with later, right now he needed to escape Lee's foolishness, with the additional annoyance that came with two kids.
«Neji!» Gai boomed with tears in his eyes. He stopped, and spread his arms out, ready to embrace Neji in a hug. Neji had not seen this coming. He was lifted up from the ground and locked into human chains, as Gai nearly cried into his hair. «I knew this day would come! You have finally put our differences aside and decided to follow your master! Oh, what a glorious day!»
Gai put him down and took a minute to regain his posture. Neji took a minute to look at Tenten, who could not decide whether to glare at him, or laugh. Which ended up in a very strange expression. He noted that Mai had stopped her singing, and that Riku had finally quieted down. He then looked at Lee, who already had fished up his notebook, ready to take notes of whatever Gai was about to utter.
«Very well, students! Today, as we travel on, you will learn how to walk up trees!»
Yeah... I don't know if I've still got the hang of this.