Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. I am not making any money from this page.
Rating: T, for slight violence and minor language.
The hard day's training with her team left her muscles sore and aching, but Sakura could not keep back a smile of pride as she walked through the bustling center of Konoha to her home. Finally, her hard work at the Academy and while sparring was beginning to pay off. Now more than ever, her shinobi techniques were sharpening into finely honed skills.
She grinned. Between herself, Naruto, and Sasuke, she was the one progressing the furthest. Today, Kakashi had even complimented her balance while she walked on the water. The method had come to her much more readily than either of the boys, and Sakura couldn't keep back a feeling of smug satisfaction when she saw the irritation on their faces at the sight of her gliding over the pond.
Oh, the resentful glances Naruto and Sasuke had sent in her direction when they had fallen into the water, only to surface to find her trying and failing to suppress her smile of amusement. Their obvious jealousy had been priceless.
Of course, they had only been performing the technique over still-moving water, but that didn't diminish her sense of accomplishment.
Energetic thanks to pride in spite of her weariness, Sakura moved steadily along, walking towards the stone staircase in Konoha's square, only to pause at the sound of a cold and astringent voice speaking.
"Unbelievable. The heir to the clan cannot even order someone out of her path."
She glanced around for a moment, trying to locate the source of sound, and then her gaze landed in front of her. Sakura directed her attention straight ahead to watch the scene that was taking place before her, only a few paces away.
Timid Hyuuga Hinata stood in the center of the stairs with her back to Sakura. The dark hair cut into a short style, along with her expensive, custom-made jacket, were dead giveaways.
Several steps above Hinata was a boy who looked to be about their age, posing with his arms folded across his chest. An arrogant smirk turned his mouth upward while not revealing any teeth as he looked down at Hinata. The silver eyes in his pale face were remarkably similar to Hinata's, as was his sleek hair, although his was dark brown, nearly black, rather than blue.
Sakura didn't need to see the shinobi band upon his forehead to know that he was a ninja; the distinct muscles in his arms and legs were an unmistakable indication.
"With all due respect, Hinata-sama," the boy's icy gaze rested on the shy girl in front of him. "You take the word 'pathetic' to a new low."
A scraping noise drew Sakura's stare of disbelief up a few stairs to where a girl rested against the railing that divided the staircase into two halves. She wore a light blue shirt that was speckled with a substance that appeared suspiciously like blood, and black pants that stopped just below her knees, revealing ankles wrapped in bandages.
Due to the absence of sleeves on her shirt, Sakura could see the clearly defined lean muscles in the girl's arms flex as she sharpened a vicious-looking knife on a chunk of wood; obviously, this girl was a ninja, even if she didn't wear a headband. Her hair was tied into two buns on the top of her head in a style reminiscent of bear ears, but the vaguely bored expression on her face and lack of any emotion whatsoever in her brown eyes caused a jarring dissimilarity between her youth and impassive outward demeanor.
"P-p-please," Hinata stammered. "I j-just want to g-go home."
"It might not be home to you for much longer," said the boy callously. "Hiashi-sama isn't pleased with your performance as a shinobi, I daresay. Does it bother you that you're such a waste of space that even your own father is willing to admit your uselessness?"
Anger boiled up within Sakura, and before she had even considered her actions, she was already charging toward the staircase.
"Hey!" She shouted. "What do you think you're doing?" Swiftly, she mounted the steps, ran to Hinata, and stood by the shy girl's side, glaring up at the boy.
Incredulousness and impatience settled on his face. "Excuse me, but this is family matter. It doesn't concern you."
His quick dismissal of her only served to incense Sakura. "I think that it does!" She retorted. "Leave Hinata alone, she's not doing anything to you!"
The boy looked at her as if she was a bug he'd relish in squashing. Glancing at his friend sharpening her knife, he asked, "Do you know this girl, Tenten? She wears the headband of a shinobi, but she doesn't act like one."
With an expression of supreme disinterest, the girl, apparently Tenten, looked at them briefly. "I don't know her, Neji. She's not from a shinobi Clan. Perhaps she's just a ninja from a civilian family."
"Don't talk about like I'm not here!" Sakura said angrily. "What's your problem anyway?"
"My problem is that a pink-haired degenerate who doesn't know her place is interfering with my personal business," Neji returned acidly.
A flush grew in Sakura's cheeks, but she resolved to give no hint of her discomfort. She opened her mouth to snarl a scathing comeback, but a diffident tap on her shoulder drew her attention away from Neji.
"Sakura, please," Sakura turned and found herself looking into the wide, pale eyes of Hinata Hyuuga. "T-t-thank you for your help. You s-s-hould be going on y-your way n-n-now." The confrontation seemed to have enforced Hinata's timorous nature, and she was barely able to speak without stuttering.
"Yes, Sakura," Neji mocked. "Go on your way, like a good little girl, and do your best to mind your business from here on out."
"This is my business!" Sakura declared. "Hinata is my friend, and I'm not going to allow you to terrorize her!"
"How noble of you," commented Tenten, her tone deadpan.
"And you!" Sakura rounded on the other girl. "How can you just stand by and allow this to happen? What Neji is doing is wrong, and if anything, you should be trying to help Hinata! You ought to show some compassion for another girl!"
Tenten met Sakura's gaze with an unsettling aloofness, her dark eyes completely void of sentiment. Nervously, Sakura began to regret speaking in such an impertinent tone to someone who had a formidable-looking weapon in her hands.
"Really? I am also a girl, and therefore I should show compassion? What a dim-witted thing to say. Grow up and discard such old-fashioned ideas. Listen to me: the reason I do not intervene is because it is not my place to do so. This is a private matter that involves Neji and his family. It does not concern me in any sort of way, nor does it concern you.
"I am not a judge or a government official. I am not even a person who values morality, so if I were to stop this disagreement because it is 'wrong,' I would be a nothing more than hypocrite. I am not getting involved in the matter, and I suggest you do the same." Tenten gave her a flat look, which Sakura took to indicate disdain. Nevertheless, she didn't back down.
Sakura looked Hinata in the eye. "Not happening. Don't worry; I won't leave you alone with this guy, Hinata. I can guarantee that."
"Would you look at that, Tenten?" Neji smirked at the two of them. "The two failures are uniting. Isn't it sweet?"
"Shut up!" Sakura ordered him.
"What are you going to do, failure?" Neji demanded, his eyes sparking with malice. "Faint? Replace one of my teammates and drag down us on missions by your inherent nature of being a deadweight?"
Fury surged through Sakura, and before she realized what she was doing, she had launched herself at Neji, wild with rage, and Hinata's cry of "Sakura, no!" came too late. The only thing she could think of was ripping the smug smirk off of Neji's face and beating him into the ground.
But she was unable to even touch a hair on Neji's impeccably groomed head; a sudden impact knocked her down onto one of the wide, stone steps only an instant after she had moved. Her hands were summarily pinned over her back, and a knee rested on her spine, forcing her to lie on her stomach, her cheek pressed against the rock.
"Thank you, Tenten," Neji said calmly.
"Not a problem, Neji," Tenten replied casually from above Sakura. "I know that you would do the same for me."
Furiously, Sakura struggled to free herself from Tenten's grip, but her efforts were futile. The other kunoichi didn't budge, and she had a year's worth of training and experience on Sakura.
"I can feel your backbone," Tenten remarked offhandedly. "Strange, because I wasn't certain you didn't have one." She rose, allowing Sakura to get up.
Sakura ignored the hand Tenten extended to help her get to her feet. She almost made a move to punch the other girl, but then she noticed the knife in Tenten's grip and the creepy, blank stare that was focused on her at the moment, and unwillingly reconsidered. Instead, she concentrated on Neji. "What's the matter, can't you fight for yourself?"
Neji gazed at her, his manner self-assured. "It wouldn't have mattered if I did. An abysmal failure such as yourself going up against a Clan member like me? I would've put you in the hospital if you had attacked me. You're lucky that Tenten isn't willing to take the risk of herself and I getting into trouble, or she would've snapped your spine like a twig."
"Let's stop wasting our time, Neji," Tenten said. She gestured dismissively toward Sakura and Hinata. "Tormenting stupid children bores me."
She turned and began walking away, allowing Sakura view of a Clan symbol on the back of her shirt. Neji tossed Hinata and Sakura one last look of utter disgust prior to turning and joining his friend.
"Don't listen to him," Sakura said to Hinata, who was watching the two bullies walk away. "He's a jackass. And that Tenten girl is really a-"
"Sakura," Hinata interrupted softly. " You didn't h-h-have to do that for me."
Taken aback by the other girl's response, Sakura shrugged uncomfortably. "I know, but I wanted to. I know what it's like to have other people bully you."
"Thank you," Hinata said shyly.
"Don't mention it," Sakura said, smiling. "Want to walk home together?"
Hinata nodded silently.
Together, the two girls enjoyed each other's company, basking in the glow of the setting sun as they walked.
A/N: In Chapter 36 of the manga, when Tenten first appeared, she had some sort of symbol on the back of her shirt. So in my background for Tenten, she is a clan member.
Constructive criticism is always appreciated.