A/N: Thank you to everyone who read/ reviewed! It means a lot to me!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
"And remember: the homework is on page three-hundred ninety-five numbers one through forty all."
I was the first to stand up and pack my things into my bag. The chair scraped against the ground like metal claws running across a chalkboard.
"Ms. Murakami, leaving so soon. I have not dismissed class yet," Shizune, my mathematics teacher, said. I blushed with embarrassment as a chorus of snickers rang through the classroom.
I sat back down, bowing my head, willing myself not to cry. This was who I was in the eyes of my fellow pupils. I was a misfit, always doing something wrong. Shizune watched me for a moment, eyeing my crestfallen look.
"Dismissed." This time, I waited until everyone had left before I stood up.
"Tenten, you seem… a bit out of it today. Are you alright?"
I bit my lip, wanting so badly to just disappear.
"I'm fine professor," I lied, shoving my textbooks almost sluggishly into my bag. But just as the words left my mouth, a tear sprinted down my cheek and plopped on my cardigan in a very noticeable blob.
"You're upset. Deception will lead you to receive a penalty. Three penalties will lead to your demise. That is the school policy. Now, care to explain why you are crying?"
I hastily wiped my face, and lifted my head.
"I- it's just that I-I feel…sick." This was my second falsehood. Shizune looked skeptical.
"And why would that be?" she prodded further, into dangerous territory, no doubt.
"I-I didn't have much to eat for breakfast." I twisted ringlets of my curly hair between my two fingers, praying she would ask no further questions.
"Well, you'll be having quite a large lunch, won't you?" she concluded, turning to scoop her own papers into her arms and preparing herself for her next class.
"Yes professor." Shizune gave me one last measured look before repeating the homework and walking out into the hall.
I shook my head as I waited by the threshold, watching her form disappear in a mass of students.
I scurried to the ladies' restroom across the corridor, fishing a red comb from my pocket. I ran it through my frizzy, untamable hair that resembled nothing short of a pom-pom. All students must be in proper attire and be well groomed for each class. That was another Vita policy.
I frowned at my reflection. I looked so normal, so average, so invisible. The only time anyone would look twice at me was when I made a mistake.
"They're all-they just aren't human," I told myself. But I knew this boosted my self -confidence no higher than it already had been. "But Neji liked me. He said I was interesting…"I trailed off. I hadn't seen Neji for a good month. A month! And in his letter, he had made it seem like he'd pop up around the corner the very next day.
"Maybe he was a polite inhuman," I ventured. "He didn't want to say he really didn't care about me right to my face."
I sighed and shook my head. I shrugged my bag back on my shoulder and headed to my next class: biology. I hated that class. It reminded me too much of Charos and his guillotine.
"You seem to be in quite the hurry. Perhaps, you won't have a moment to spare for me," a rich, deep, familiar voice spoke. I stopped in my tracks, glancing about me. I found that the hallway was empty.
"Up here, mate." I looked at the ceiling. There was Neji, standing upside down. His hover board was attracted to the metal infused between the concrete, allowing him to stay in that position till all the blood rushed to his head and he fainted.
"You," I narrowed my eyes, my visage clearly showing my disappointment in him.
"You seem angry," he commented, nonchalantly. A smirk tugged at his lips.
I was hoping to meet that clumsy, sweet boy from the night a month ago. Instead, I got a cocky jerk, an inhuman, as I took a liking to call them.
I flipped my hair over my shoulder and proceeded walking, ignoring him completely. But even so, I was acutely aware of his form, his face, his eyes watching me. And slowly, he began to follow. I stopped, and so did he. I moved, and he did as well.
I was growing rather irritated with him. I turned abruptly; ready to order him to the ground. But I didn't have the chance, for he fell right on top of me.
The sound of the collision rang throughout the corridor, and I held my breath, waiting for the echoes to fade.
Neji grinned, like an excited puppy.
"Get off my person," I hissed.
"Not until you agree to come with me." My mouth flew open, ready to contradict.
"What? You want me to ditch? Did I not tell you that I'm not aiming to be killed at the end of the year? And here you are, telling me to do something absolutely preposterous! Something that completely negates my wishes! I will not come with you!"
The Hyuuga rolled his eyes.
"You're so lame," he said, crossing his arms. "Besides, no one would ever want to execute a nerd like you. In fact, you're exactly the type of person they'd keep around."
Anger boiled from the pit of my stomach. I grabbed his collar, and rolled us over so I was on top of him.
"Listen you," the pitch of my voice dropping low, "I no longer wish to associate with you. If this is who you really are, forget it."
Instead of an angry retort, he stood up in a flash, flipped me over his shoulder, and rode off on his hover board.
"Put me down!" I commanded.
"No! I want you to see something!"
"Well, I'll just close my eyes when you point it out."
The Hyuuga stopped. "Do that and I'll drop you like a hot cake," he threatened.
"On no you won't."
"Oh yes I will." He dipped his board forward, as if to prove his point. I let out a yelp.
"Neji! Stop it!
"I won't until you agree to look at what I'm trying to show you."
I huffed, all the energy draining from my form. Pouting, I complied.
Neji ducked through the hallways silently, and weaved through the trees and shrubbery outside like an expert (which I'm sure he was).
I shut my eyes as the speed and blur of scenery made me nauseated. Only when he slowed and lowered his board to the ground, did I allow myself to peek out behind my lids.
Neji pressed me back against a brick wall, holding me still by a hand on either shoulder.
"Stay quiet, Love," he whispered, peering around the corner.
"Don't call me that!"
"Call you what?" he asked, still glancing around.
He drew back to look me square in the face. "I think it suits you."
"Well I don't. But if you insist on calling me that, I'll call you… darling." I smirked as he raised his eyebrows.
"Darling?" he repeated, then shrugged. "It's fine with me, Love."
We heard hushed whispers and immediately, Neji had pushed me back against the wall, with his body pressed to mine.
"Stay still and listen. I'll tell you when to look." I nodded, taking a whiff of his minty breath.
"…I'm very well aware of that. The student was found with a knife protruding from her back in the west wing of the boy's dormitory. I have already notified the head master. I am sure he will make haste and find the assailant in a remarkably quick time! I-"
"But what was a female doing in the boy's dormitory? Did she venture there on her own accord, or was she taken there by force? Not even the head master could uncover the criminal without making inaccurate assumptions."
"How are you so sure his assumptions will be incorrect?"
"I am not sure. I'm just-"
"You're assuming! Perhaps you should not doubt-"
"Perhaps you should not have so much faith! After all, haven't you heard what stories have been circulating through the tabloids these days? There is a scandal left and right!"
"But they could be lies!"
"Preposterous! How can those journalists print out such falsehoods and not be punished?"
"What if they are punished?"
"They aren't! But I suppose no one cares what they say. They're all considered prostitutes in our society after all!"
"Prostitutes! I must say: you have an odd sense of humor!"
"I was not joking. But… come to think of it, the notion would fit, wouldn't it?"
"Pardon? I'm afraid you lost me."
"The girl, what if she was a prostitute? She certainly did not look like a Vita student."
"There you go making assumptions again! Let us just leave it to the head master. What he makes of it won't affect us, anyway."
The conversation died, and Neji ushered for me to look. Trailing behind the two men was the school nurse, carrying the corpse of a girl.
She had wild, untamed dirty blonde hair. Her dark, large coal black eyes were wide open, filled with something remnant of fear. And then her body: it was sprawled every which way, paralyzed in the unnatural pose.
I couldn't tear my gaze from her form. The way her mouth hung open, ready to scream. A scream that probably was never heard, a scream that probably didn't even get the chance to escape her throat. She frightened me; death always frightened me.
"Neji," I whispered, tugging him back behind the building, "Who was she?"
But the Hyuuga wasn't listening. He seemed just as transfixed as I was a moment ago.
"Neji," I called for his attention again. He seemed frozen in shock. "Who was she?" I repeated.
My eyebrows furrowed when I received no reply. Neji's eyes seemed hollow and I stared at his chest for a moment, realizing it wasn't rising and falling like it should have. He had stopped breathing.
He slumped to the ground, and I bit my hand to keep from screaming. I knelt down beside him. I shook his shoulder again and again, panicking.
"If-If anyone finds us, we'll be in huge trouble!" I said half to myself, half to him. I sat back on my haunches, contemplating what to do.
I couldn't possibly carry him. I'd be caught instantly. I couldn't take him to the nurse, who was occupied at the moment. I couldn't drop him in his dorm and then go to class; I was already late. But then something caught my eye: the hover board.
It took me several attempts to haul Neji's body onto the board, and then I had to figure out how to turn it on.
I felt around for buttons, frowning when I found none. I searched Neji's pockets for a remote, but I came up empty-handed.
I snapped my fingers, something I did when I was thinking real hard. The hover board rose, but I didn't realize it, till it nudged me on the shoulder.
I almost shrieked, assuming it was a person.
I pushed it down a little, just so I could climb on. But balancing was difficult: I wobbled, my arms flailing about me. I bent my knees and pushed it forward with my feet.
I steered it towards the courtyards, nearly falling no less than five times on my way. The courtyards were empty while school was in session, and thus, I had a perfect hiding place.
But nothing in my life was ever that easy. I realized a little too late, that the two men and school nurse were actually walking through the gardens. I attempted to turn around and fly elsewhere, but a strong gust of wind caused me to topple off the board. This time I did scream.
My fingers, thankfully, caught onto the edge of the board, but I was dangling in the air, squirming wildly as I tried to get back on. But then the board flipped over and Neji fell. I caught his arm between my two feet, breathing hard as I struggled to hold on.
The trio was directly below me, and I was surprised they hadn't heard my shriek. I closed my eyes for a moment, praying more than anything else.
Neji, the boy I wanted to fling into the ocean for getting me into the predicament, decided to finally wake up.
I swore his scream was girlier than mine. I tried to get him to hush, but in the process, I kicked his face. He flinched and jerked, causing the board and I to be thrashed from side to side.
"Neji! Stop! We'll be caught if you move one more time!" I told him.
"Caught?" he asked.
"Don't look down," I told him, but of course he didn't listen.
"Holy shit! Tenten, how the hell did you get us into this?" he questioned. I scoffed and rolled my eyes.
"Me? You're the one that faints and leaves me to carry your body everywhere! Why did you have to pull me out of class for this?" I fumed.
"Calm down! This is the thrill of life!" he claimed.
"Thrill? You call this fun? You bastard!" I exclaimed.
I knew Neji was rolling his eyes at me. "Shut up. Just get us out of here."
I'm trying!" I told him, squirming a bit for good measure.
"Well you aren't trying hard enough. Hold still," he commanded, and began climbing up my leg.
He wrapped one arm around my waist, the other he used to push down the board. He managed to get on, and afterwards, helped me as well. I clung to him as he flew us out of the school grounds and into the surrounding forest. I knew we were breaking yet another rule, but I was too tired to argue.
He landed us near a stream and proceeded to sit down at the base of a weeping willow. Its limbs were bent and mangled, forming an arch over half the river. Its roots were perfectly spread to squeeze two humans between them. I sat down next to the Hyuuga, our shoulders pressed to each other and our heads lying in a heap on his shoulder.
"It's nice here, isn't it?" he murmured, his visage pensive. I agreed with a nod. From the school grounds, the forest seemed dark with an air of evilness that hung about it like the thick mist of the morning. But inside… it was a world of its own.
I remembered hearing stories of people disappearing within its vicinity. How they were grasped by the vines and suffocated. The forest was portrayed as a ruthless fiend, and I had believed it. But now, I felt it safe to say my perspective had changed.
As I drank in the sights, smells, and sounds, I couldn't help, but wonder. What would it be like to live to one's desire? What would it be like free from control?
"Why are you so guarded?" Neji asked me, still staring in a trance-like state.
"Because I don't want to die," I answered, "I've told you that before."
"Why what?" Here he turned to look me in the eyes.
"Why do you want to live?" he questioned, seeming thoroughly perplexed. I opened my mouth to speak, but shut it when I realized I didn't really have an answer.
"Well… to fulfill my dreams, I guess," I told him, after a moment of thought. It was a rather peculiar question, one that caught me by surprise. He would be the end of me; I just knew it.
"What are your dreams?" I sighed, exasperated.
"Well, that doesn't matter! Don't you want to live?" I demanded, huffing.
Neji turned his gaze back to the water and tucked his knees under his chin. Slowly, he shook his head. "Not really. I don't like the world. But… maybe if I lived somewhere like this (he gestured to our surroundings), I wouldn't be so opposed to it."
I blinked. He was so…odd. He was a thrill seeker, yet somewhat suicidal and…depressed? The combination did not make sense to me.
"Neji," I put a hand on his shoulder, "What's wrong? And why did you collapse today?"
He didn't answer, but instead picked a blade of grass and twirled it between his thumb and middle finger.
"Neji?" I said softly. Not knowing what else to do, I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and squeezed. He rested his head on my chest, closing his eyes and letting a few tears escaped.
"What do you want in life?" I asked a little later.
"Death," he told me.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading and please review!