Disclaimer:I don't own Naruto, only Kio this time I guess?

Sorry for the long wait but now that exams are over I can concentrate more on my writing for you pleasure. So enjoy and review if you like it!

Chapter 4: Mission start!

The morning sunshine pierced from above like needles into his white eyes as he tried to shield them with one hand. Neji had just awoken from a sleepless night, heavy eyes bags putting on weight each time he remembered the night before.

The owners had told him that they had moved him and Hinata to a single room since they had noticed that the two of them were using the hot spring together, without mentioning the part of them "cuddling". The question about the fact on how the owners came to know the incident had been more important at that moment than the fact of their rooms being moved for Neji. It was just after having been led to his room did it finally hit him. In seeing two pair of mattresses laid out close beside each other.

Hinata had already settled herself in her own mattress, faint snoring filling the before empty room. After having practically pushed him into the room with knowing grins, the owners left him all alone with the sleeping Hyuga heiress and mixed feelings. He had never thought of sleeping so close to a woman before even more if it was to be with Hinata. Therefore, he silently crept under the sheets of his mattress, whispering to himself to calm down. The attempt on trying to sleep peacefully failed miserably as he began to grow flustered at each turn and toss he gave. What surprised him the most was the fact that Hinata hadn't moved an inch since he came to the room not ignoring the fact that she was practically holding a kunai in each hand. She was probably used to do it when she had been training in the forest.

Still, there was the problem of her being right next to him and his incapacity to feel sleepy. So, he started to try different methods such as counting flying shuriken being thrown, holding his pillow over his head, over midnight lone walks, signing lullabies although he didn't know more than two sentences and he even tried reasoning with himself in trying to comprehend what exactly bothered him. Sure he could have moved to another room but it was either his mind that recommended staying or the owners who seemed never to sleep to ask him if something was wrong. Naturally, he couldn't say the truth as it seemed that the owners wouldn't quite like it to have certain "actions" being made without explanation. Thus, his night had stayed sleepless.

Walking steps rose up behind him and as he turned around, he saw Hinata freshly prepared, her red cape worn elegantly on her shoulders with its long sleeves reaching mid arm, its end diligently following her wherever she went. He saw no sign of tiredness in her eyes, indeed, it was quite the contrary. Her eyes matched her face with full determination, showing how fully prepared she was for this mission. Suddenly her eyes locked with his and she let a sigh escape. "Now I see where the sound of someone tossing and turning came." Hinata stated the fact without annoyance but she had said it with a hint of disappointment as she started to walk away.

Neji lowered his gaze to the ground, feeling awfully ashamed of himself but then a realization came to mind. She had seemed so fast asleep so how come she knew he had had trouble sleeping? Most importantly, she had noticed his lack of sleep because she had known of his turn and tossing. He gave out a sigh when Hinata called out to him.

"Neji, we're going." With this single sentence she began to walk with fast steps and Neji followed wondering why the Hyuga heiress seemed so eager to arrive.

It wasn't long until they arrived at their destination. They were in Kusa village, hiding in the shadows of the several bushes around the huge mansion a few feet away. They had taken a little more time than expected to find the exact location as they had tried to avoid any fights along the way to narrow suspicion.

They were contemplating the mansion which was in full activity with servants rushing through the numerous yards and bodyguards standing watch in front of the entrances. "Hinata-sama, what should we do now?" He slowly whispered to his cousin who was still crouching down, eyes fixed determinedly on the mansion.

"Here's what we'll do. First we are going to blend in with the bodyguards with the clothes we have been given then we're going to attend whatever party is awaited. Therefore…" She let her words trail into the air and Neji heard a sound of clothes shuffling. He turned his head to Hinata, only to find her about to take her shirt off. He quickly turned his head to the opposite direction, stumbling on his words. "Hi-Hinata-sama, where has your prudery gone?" He had tried to sound outraged but visibly failed at it.

"Don't need it at this point. We already saw enough of each other yesterday at the hot spring why would it matter now?" Hinata retorted right back, continuing to change into the guard's uniform.

After a few seconds, he felt clothes being thrown on his back followed by Hinata's order for him to change. After getting changed the two of them finally decided to head towards the mansion. They presented themselves as new staff which had been employed by the owner of the mansion himself under false names. Everything was going as planned until the owner himself requested to see the two of them.

"Damn it, did they figure it out?" Neji began to think hard of possible ways to escape if they had been found out but looking at Hinata who looked completely unfazed by what was happening made him more flustered than he already was.

Soon they found themselves in a round room with nothing else than luxury brand bottles of alcohol lined up on the shelves hiding the walls and two couches facing each other with a coffee table separating them. Hinata scowled at the view before she spat silent words under her breath. "That bastard, showing off with that corrupt money of his." After a few moments of waiting the host finally showed himself in an all in white silk suit, holding a wooden antique pipe in his right hand.

"Welcome to my humble abode, dear kittens. As you can see, it is of my obligation to welcome every person who enters my mansion. I hope you will do a good job. Hard work always pays well my friends." With those words, he gave a curt bow before leaving through the door he had come in. His voice had been one of the most high pitched one's Neji had ever heard. Kio, the name of the man they had just met was tall and well-built but half of his face was hidden by a theatre mask with a horrible grin printed on it. It seemed like the man was completely merged within the character of an evil theatre actor.

Hinata clicked her tongue in disgust, it must have been hard for her to keep her mouth shut to not let her real thoughts out but she had shown no sign of it.

They were back to the first room they had been assigned to keep watch in, an extremely wide party hall which was already filled with many people from high society. There were men and women of all ages with diamonds as escorts and pockets full of money. They were the perfect alibi for someone who would want to sell forbidden plants behind the shadows in masking this party as a charity gala.

As requested by their temporary supervisors, the two cousins were looking around the room for potential suspicious people but were really just strolling around only pretending to do a "good job". Truthfully, if the case of people suddenly disrupting the peace should come, then it would be only easier a job to find and stop the mastermind from executing his plan.

"Hey!" There was a call from one of the supervisors and Neji turned at the sound. He saw the supervisor motioning for him to come closer and as he did, the supervisor began to whisper to his ear. "I've got an order from Master Kio that whatever should happen to the people in here should stay a secret, understood?" His voice had been intriguing, as if there was something more hidden to his words. The urge to ask the supervisor for reasons seemed like a bad idea and Neji more than anybody knew that it would probably lead into suspicion. As a branch member from the Hyuga clan, he knew that questions asked to people standing above you was seen as inappropriate, so he stayed by his principles and kept his mouth shut, nodding before turning his back.

He searched Hinata with his eyes to report what he had heard when he spotted her talking with another guard who was probably relaying to her the same message that had been given to him. There was a moment where his eyes had met hers but she had turned her head just as fast as her eyes had met his. Neji felt a heavy weigh rise on his heart at her gesture even though he was fully aware that they were on a mission, his feelings, however, had a mind on their own.

Neji had been so concentrating at his own thoughts that he hadn't noticed the presence of somebody next to him. "Neji, I need you to focus only on the mission." His back instantly straightened as he heard the familiar commanding voice of his cousin. He was about to apologize when glasses of sake were being passed by waiters to the guests and surprisingly enough to the two of them as well. After having been passed the sake, the waiter left with the excuse that it had been ordered that each person in the room had to be served with a glass of sake, the guards included. Neji raised a brow and looked at the other guards to confirm the waiter's statement which happened to be true. Every guard in the room had obtained a glass but no one was yet drinking any of it as it had been instructed that it must only be consumed after the toast given by the owner of the house. As well as he liked to evaluate things, Neji began honestly to ask himself why such restricted rules had come with the sake or maybe he was thinking too much of nothing again.

Finally, after breaking out of his thoughts without having found any satisfying conclusion, he decided to ask Hinata for her opinion when he noticed her intense look and furrowed brows over her glass of sake. "Could there be something wrong with the sake?" He turned his gaze to his own glass bringing it to his nose when Hinata shot him a sharp hiss. "Don't drink it, it's poisoned!"

His hand instantly froze and he had to support the glass with two hands to keep it from falling to the ground and shattering in pieces. He barely managed to breathe out a sound when Hinata began to explain her reasoning.

"Sake has normally transparent colors, going from snow white to the water-like white. This one is the water kind of white but if you strain your eyes to a certain point you can see an abnormal glow which shouldn't be in any sake regardless of its date or label. No sake should contain this substance nor any drink per se." Neji had strained his eyes all he could but he still couldn't figure out that glow which Hinata had been talking about. Hinata noticed his perplexed face and gave out a heavy sigh. "In any case, no person could have been able to figure this out if they hadn't handled with the said poison before. Never mind that, we will have to-". Her voice was suddenly cut off as her eyes darted between the guards which had been particularly interested at watching in their direction.

Sadly, Neji had noticed this too late. Sticking close like this would only lead to suspicion and to top it off they had been talking too much together although in whispers, which was also a lead to suspicion. "Neji, crouch down and do as if you are trying to fix the hem of my shirt." At first, he had thrown her a confused look but soon understood that she wanted him to crouch down so as not to be visible in the crowd by the other guards who had in all normality returned their gazes before them.

Neji crouched down beside Hinata and began to reach for the hem of her shirt when his man side decided to show itself. His heartbeat increased with every inch his hand made towards the spot in the hem he had set eyes upon. Hinata urged him with sighs of impatience, when his hands finally held the part of the hem lying just above her thigh. He was aware that his face was near an intimate place which he was trying as hard as he might to ignore the location of but his nature as a man couldn't betray him as his temperature began to heat up.

His self only began to calm down when Hinata decided to speak of their next move. "Listen carefully. I already know the location of the drugs which are ready to be dispatched in black trucks. While you busy the guards, I will go after Kio who will prioritize the dispatch more than a make believe gala, leaving him with only the possible solution to flee the party at once. Be sure to start the commotion before everyone drinks the sake, also hold onto your glass until the moment comes. The explosion of the bomb I set outside will be the trigger for the real thing. That is everything, understood?" Her harsh command showed just how serious she was invested into this mission and Neji nodded, forgetting about his little ordeal from before.

After a moment of patience, Kio, the very man of the party showed himself on the stage, wearing the same horrible half-mask as before, adding a black cape to his black and white suit. "Good evening and welcome to tonight's charity gala. I want to thank you personally for coming out tonight as everything I desire under this rising moon, is your enjoyment. Without further ado, let's toast for this wonderful evening." All along this introductory speech, Neji had been on alert, his head focused at every word being said until the sound of Kio's glass tipped with another. The sound was the starting gunshot and he threw the glass he had been holding to the ground, shattering in thousand pieces, gathering the attention of everyone. At that moment, Hinata had snapped her fingers and an explosion resounded in the next room.

As planned, Kio instantly began to retreat, two guards tailing him from behind while every present guest began to panic about the room. The remaining guards were making their way to him when he suddenly spotted that Hinata hadn't left the room like she had planned to. He didn't have the time to ask as he was already surrounded by the "fellow" guards. Kunai clashed kunai, fists met with other fists while Hinata did the same against her opponents. Neji grew worried. It would sound ridiculous to say that he was worried about her being able to fend off the guards. No, what he was truly worried about was the fact that Hinata was supposed to follow up the plan when she's clearly wasting her time in the party room.

"If I don't hurry, Hinata-sama won't have any opening left to leave without being followed after by the remaining guards." Neji managed to defeat a great number of guards but Hinata had mainly focused on driving them back off. After a while the number of standing guards was greatly thinned down when suddenly a guard lunged at Hinata and stabbed his kunai right into her back.

"Hinata-sama!" His scream echoed in the room, putting the stabbing guard immediately out of harm's way with a strong air palm. It is only after several moments did he realize that Hinata's body had vanished, leaving him alone amidst a whole bunch of unconscious guards on the floor, he had hit the last of them. Slowly he began to put back the pieces of his unfinished puzzle as he realized what had happened. Hinata had made a clone after the crowd began to panic. While leaving a clone behind, she ended all suspicion on someone thinking that she was missing and went after Kio as she had planned.

Neji let out a defeated sigh. "She is truly a genius at work." A little chuckle had followed his silent whisper before he returned back on working mode.


Meanwhile, Hinata was following Kio with his two main guards tailing behind him. It wasn't surprising that the eccentric half masked man was able to keep up that much stamina as the head of a drug dealing organization had to be at least strong enough to keep his position on the top. Nevertheless, the man could not be unbeatable, at least not to Hinata. They were passing through a hallway filled with stacked boxes when Kio drew a sword out to slice them, blocking the way. However, he didn't leave without first surprising his guards by locking the door he had just passed. The hall blocking boxes were no challenge for Hinata when she saw the incident that had happened to the guards. "Tch, leaving his own pals just to save his own sorry ass." Hinata cliqued her tongue, prepared for the attack of the two guards.

They came rushing down towards her, one kunai in each hand. "This will be easy." Hinata didn't stop running, in fact, she only continued, easily knocking the first one down to the floor with a punch to the stomach before jumping over the head of the other one, planting a kunai in his back. When her feet touched the ground, she dashed for the door, exploding it with the palm of her hand. She stopped when she noticed that the door had led her to the courtyard of the mansion, her target already waiting a little distance away for her in the middle of a round flat and incredibly large stone used as a decorative item in gardens. Hinata cautiously looked at her surroundings but the bushes of roses all around them made it her harder for her to know what was happening beyond the gardens. Still, she could notice that the truck with the illegal merchandise was just leaving the mansion's grounds. Hinata didn't show any sign of frustration as she already had set her plan for the truck in motion.

"Welcome to my stage, darling. I hope you will be able to entertain me." The high pitched voice reached Hinata's ears with much distaste as Kio bowed down to her mockingly.

She made no sign to move while Kio played around with his sword in hand. "I see that with you it is the man who must take the first step, well then." He paused in his overly sarcastic sentence to raise his fingers to his lips, performing a hand seal. "Apertura: Andante, Prima Spada."

A strange yellow glow appeared on his sword at the same time as the grin on his face widened. Hinata had clearly stepped in what seemed to be a sort of theater play with them being the main characters. The man had just used a technique which Hinata now tried so vainly to figure out what would be the outcome.

"I see that you look confused my dear. Let me explain by demonstrating it to you." Without further details he lunged at her with his sword in hand. Hinata raised her hand to block the attack with her kunai but as soon as the two weapons touched, the kunai Hinata had held broke in two. Due to her momentary surprise at what had just happened she sprang back to put a secure distance between them, suspiciously glaring at Kio.

Her opponent let out a humorless laugh before beginning to explain his action. "Exactly how I greeted you earlier on, this is tonight's stage. I am someone who's in love with classical opera thus leading me to come up with related techniques. "Apertura: Andante, Prima Spada" refers to the first part of the opening song in an opera play. At last should I mention that there are three remaining parts that follow the first one? I sure hope you will stay long enough to see them though my previous opponents didn't stay long for the whole play. Well, each play has its tragic deaths somewhere in the middle to keep it interesting. As you can see, my sword can cut through everything, including human bones." At the mention of his last words, his voice had grown darker not intimidating Hinata in the least.

"Hmph, if you're waiting for some sort of thanking on my behalf for your explanation, you can keep dreaming." She shot him a last glare before getting two other kunai out of her leg holster and getting into her personalized stance. Kio only gave out a satisfied smile. "No need for thanks, you'll just have to entertain me instead." He rushed towards her again, swinging his sword behind him.

Hinata quickly blocked it with one of her kunai but here again, because of Kio's technique, the weapon broke in two. Expecting this, Hinata bent down and with a swiping movement to the man's legs, succeeded to catch him off guard. Kio fell backwards, leaving an opening for Hinata to steal his sword. Unfortunately it didn't come to this as Kio sent one of his kunai flying, not letting Hinata any chance to evade it completely, and leaving a scratch on her cheek.

The two of them distanced themselves with Kio breaking the silence that had fallen upon them. "Hm, I applaud your efforts but let's take it to the next level shall we? I have a truck to catch after all." With a swift motion, he threw his sword into the air and in that moment Hinata saw an opening but refrained to take any action. Unknown enemy techniques were better dealt with when knowing their aftermath, hence leading Hinata to favor momentary distance.

After several rapidly performed hand seals, Kio chanted away his next technique. "Allegro, Seconda Spada." As soon as he had spoken out his words, a second sword appeared out of the same yellow light that the first one had appeared. The man, now armed with two weapons, got down into a light bow, gesturing with his unmasked eye for her to make the first move.

Hinata was slowly getting tired of her opponent's antics and cursed under her breath. Still, it wasn't that much as to get her angry and drive her out of control. Indeed, when she was training in the woods it wasn't only to get stronger but it was also to train keeping her emotions under control. A tiny drop of sweat trickled down her forehead as she felt her body getting warmer, remembering her that she didn't have much time left. "Damn it. I have to hurry or else…!" With new resoluteness, Hinata dashed to her opponent.

The weapons of the two opponents, clashed together, blocking each other's blows. Suddenly, Hinata noticed an opening and swung her two kunai at him which obviously got blocked with Kio's two swords. "Just as expected." A quick smirk appeared on her lips as she did a backflip, kicking his chin with a powerful blow upwards, breaking his mask along the way.

Hinata distanced herself after a successful action while Kio got up to his feet, an oddly smirk plastered on his face. His hand was hiding the now uncovered part of his face as a long silence broke out. The two of them glared at each other when Kio's hand slid down, showing a horrendous scarred face. The view of it was slowly getting uncomfortable to Hinata's eyes but nothing of it was shown on her face.

Kio broke out into laughter, clapping his hands in amusement. "Brilliant! Simply marvelous! I was right in saying that this would be entertaining. Does this face disgust you my dear?" He paused, absently touching his face. Hinata stood still, showing no interest in whatever her opponent might say. Seeing Hinata's uncooperativeness he continued. "Well I see that you only want to end this exciting play as soon as possible but first let me tell you this." He paused again, his fingers circled his burnt scars then continued. "I was a popular actor before being, how do you say it, a "plant" dealer. Because of my success many were jealous so they felt the need to eliminate what was giving me the success. My face. One thing was for sure, they didn't completely miss their aim though. Oh, I apologize for my rambling, I only wanted to waste the precious amount of time you could have had left."

Hinata narrowed her eyes. "Care to explain?" Her opponent feigned a face of surprise, using his horribly nerve wracking voice. "Oh goodness, did you not see your wound on your arm." As soon as his words had reached her ears, Hinata immediately looked down at her arms and her eyes widened unbelievably. Her right arm got cut, an extremely amount of blood now gushing out of the wound or should we say was and is still gushing out. Hinata tried to stop the bleeding with whatever she had at hand but nothing seemed to work. Her whole arm was tainted with a deep red and there again she cursed herself for her absence of attention. Not only did she not pay attention but she didn't notice that her opponent had clearly been messing with her with his speech. The worst was that she didn't even feel any kind of pain from her wound.

"Yes, you began to experience what my second technique can do. Sadly when using the second one, the first technique's effect is annulled replacing it with a new one. Once the wound inflicted to the person, blood endlessly starts to flow out until there's no more left." Kio smiled satisfactorily at her, chuckling at every attempt she gave to somehow stop the bleeding. However, everything she tried never worked and suddenly an idea came to her mind.

She called out, breathing calmly between her words, showing no signs of fluster, on the contrary she was very calm. "Hey drama queen, do you think this is enough to take me down? Heh, watch closely." Her eyes fell to her ninja pouch hanging on her hip before contemplating her cut where her blood was still flooding. "My hand doesn't stop the blood from escaping, it just flows through my fingers but considering it now, two of them should fit."

Kio was still smirking albeit confused about what Hinata was trying to call out to him. Then, his eyes widened as Hinata took two kunai out of her pouch only to crush them on her wound. She bit her lip so hard that a tiny drop of blood was beginning to form but it took her even more effort to keep her from screaming her lungs out.

Hinata's labored breathing was hard to conceal but it didn't keep her from managing to send a content smile to Kio who was dumbstruck on the spot. "You would go this far? Dear, is this annoying. I thought I could play with you until you emptied yourself of your blood but now that you stopped this desirable plan of mine, I shall take another step. "Andantino, Terza Spada." Another sword appeared which he held between his teeth, prepared to close the play. Hinata went into her stance when suddenly her heartbeat began to thump heavily in her chest, several beads of sweat rolling down her forehead. Kio, saw it as an opening and rushed towards her. She jumped up just in time, evading all his attacks with much effort.

Finally they distanced themselves and Hinata cliqued her tongue in frustration. "If this goes on, I fear that it's going to end badly for me. The two of them need to hurry or I won't have any strength left." She had been fully aware that her plan had been risky even more so that she had been the only one to know what had been planned in the first place. There had been no flaws in her plan at least until now. However, she knew that she couldn't possibly have used all her potential seen as her strength was needed elsewhere. "Now what?"


"What is this feeling?" Neji had been staying in the party hall, defeating enemy after enemy in order to protect the way Kio and Hinata had gone to. But now an uneasy feeling was looming in his heart. A feeling that told him that Hinata might be in danger. Of course, he saw it as ridiculous seen as what she had shown him proved highly that she could get rid of a simple dealer. Then again, wouldn't she had come back to him if she had actually gotten Kio captured? As far as he knew, there wasn't anything written telling them that the target was in any way "dangerous".

Suddenly his feet began to move on their own, according to what his heart was saying and ignoring his mind who had told him that he shouldn't in any way leave his position. "Too late to think about it now." Soon walking became hurrying then it became running and lastly he began rushing in an incredibly speed, following the mess in the hallways. His heartbeat increasingly grew in speed at every step he took when finally he reached a door after having stepped on something soft he didn't had the care to look the origin of.

The moment he opened the door, two pair of eyes immediately turned to him. He saw Hinata's eyes slightly widening in surprise then they turned back to look at her opponent. He tried to approach her but was fiercely stopped before he could even take one step. "Don't even try to interfere in my battle." Her voice had sounded overly menacing, sending cold shivers down his spine. For a moment, he had considered stepping out and distance himself but he quickly changed his mind when his eye caught Hinata's red colored arm, pierced by two kunai. He slowly grew anxious at the view. "Something's not right." Had the mission scroll been wrong about their opponent's abilities? What exactly put Hinata at such a disadvantage?

Kio had barely sustained any damage while Hinata was enormously sweating and trying to breathe for all the air in the world. "And she thinks, she can fight and win like that? I can't have that happen." With strop calculated steps, he moved forward. Hinata could yell or stab him right now for all he cared but he couldn't and he wouldn't let her get hurt any more than she already was.

Hinata glared back at him, ordering with her eyes for him to stop at once but he didn't. At least until she barked back clear orders. "Stay the hell out of it." Her eyes had put on such pressure that the only thing he did was stop, his fists clenched and his lips pursed. He sighed almost audibly sad. "When is she going to accept the fact that she needs me?" He didn't expect her to soften up to him just yet but he somehow felt the need to be "needed" by her, even "used" would have been a progress. Finally he decided to stay put, ready to intervene at any moment.

Noticing how he had given up, Hinata looked back at her opponent and there again she began to curse under her breath at her carelessness. Kio had just summoned his last sword, laughing at her frustrated face. "Allegro vivace, Quarta Spada. Now if this isn't sweet, two partners who are bickering with each other. You really are helping me winning time aren't you? Unfortunately, I'll have to use grand measures if there are two opponents don't you agree?" "What an irritable high pitched voice. Not bad thinking though. Now, he has the advantage in weapons but he's using it cowardly. His next technique might be one on the defensive side seen as he's only trying to protect himself."

Just as expected, Kio's technique was put to use as he began to juggle his swords, gaining more and more speed until he was completely protected by some sort of ball formed shield due to his unnatural juggling speed. "Now Hinata-sama, what will you do?" His thoughts spoken in his mind he shifted his eyes to Hinata again. She had hung her head, her hand holding her shirt above her heart. Neji began to grow anxious again when he heard the word he had so longed to hear since he had stepped in this battlefield surrounded by wild roses.

"Neji!" As soon as he heard his named being called out of her lips, he directly leapt to her side, kneeled, waiting for her orders. Her head was still hung, her eyes covered by her bangs. "Neji, do you remember the cherry blossom dance of the Hyuga clan?" He narrowed his eyes, puzzled by what she was trying to say. "Of course." He answered her with the same discretion she had talked keeping their discussion hidden from enemy's ears.

The cherry blossom dance, had been a traditional dance done by the main members as well as the branch members in spring to help the growth of the cherry blossom trees. "Had been" because the dance wasn't done among the Hyuga clan any more but was still taught. Now, it was only necessary for the main members to know the exact steps as it was considered as knowledge passed down by the ancestors. Even though he wasn't a main member, Neji had learnt the exact steps, the same time Hinata had. Seen as the dance could only be done with two people, he was assigned to assist Hinata with her exercises. Although it had been over ten years since he had been taught the so called dance, he could still vividly remember the steps. Why he did, he had no idea but he thanked his memory for recalling him those moments back now that Hinata had spoken of them.

"Good. Now I want you to do that dance with me but replace the last six steps by down, grab, up, left, twirl and straight, understood?" She still wasn't' looking up to him but he nodded firmly anyway. Then, she lifted her head, a grin playing about her lips as she eyed her opponent who had apparently stopped swinging about his swords. After a moment her eyes locked with his and in that instant Neji saw in those eyes a flame burning that would only go out after having had its share of battle.

"Now, now, are you really trying to fight here or just trying to stall me? Come at me if you have the guts." Kio excitedly began swinging his swords again as protection, laughing maniacally to no end.

The two cousins went into fighting stance, Neji waiting for Hinata's signal. "Now!" At her call, he performed the famous dance, gracefully twirling at the apropriate moments, completely in sync with Hinata who mirrored his movements completely. Through the corner of his eye, he caught Kio's confused face and there was not a moment where he suspected what the two of them were trying to do. Finally they came up to him, closing the distance but also carefully putting a safe space so as not to touch the swords' shield.

"He's so into protecting himself that he's not seeing what big opening he's giving us." Then, Neji duck down at the same time as Hinata, grabbing onto his left leg while Hinata grabbed his right one. They rapidly twirled him upside down as they lifted him, leaving a surprised Kio flying in the air. He had been so caught off guard that all of his four swords had fallen out of his hand, his body was as if frozen when he came falling down. Just as he was about to fall Neji punch him into his ribs, Hinata mimicking simultaneously his very movement like a mirror. For the finishing move they rapidly twirled behind Kio and now side by side , they punched Kio's back as hard as they could, sending him flying to the other side of the yard. They remained in that position, arms stretched forward, the rose petals swirling with the night breeze around them.

Only the howling of the wind was to be heard as well as Hinata's heavy breathing. He was about to ask her when two Konoha ninjas suddenly appeared before them. One of them turned to Hinata, bowing in greeting. "We thank you Hyuga Hinata for showing us the way to the dealer truck. Without your two clones, we couldn't possibly track what the truck's route was. You can withdraw them, we have everything under control." While he was doing the talking, his partner was approaching Kio's unconscious body, tying him up before lifting him on his shoulders.

Neji's body stood frozen on the spot while he listened to the ninja's report. "Two clones?" Suddenly everything took shape in his head. "Of course! She couldn't easily beat him because if she had used more chakra then she wouldn't have enough for her two clones. I'm assuming one was left with me, another was following the truck and yet another one was leading the reinforcements to the truck. How could she have possibly managed that while focusing on her battle? That's why she got hurt so badly." His eyes rested upon her wounded arm while his thoughts had come to an explanation of what had just happened. There it was again, he had been left in the dark while Hinata did everything alone. Not exactly though, seen as in the end they even did fight together in combo.

Now he was feeling perplexed, not seeing that the two ninjas had long already left and that Hinata was making her way to the woods. As he finished his monologue in his mind, he noticed the slow retreating form of his cousin and he rushed to her. When he reached her, he began to walk behind her as usual, noticing that her legs were wobbling but said nothing. Somehow he still hoped for her call, fulfilling his desire in being needed by her. It didn't come, however, her speed was slowly decreasing until she dropped to the floor.

Neji caught her just in time before she hit the floor. He lifted her up in his arms, sighing disappointedly at his hopes which didn't get fulfilled. "Neji." His heart thumped at her words and he looked down to her. Hinata's eyes were slightly open, then closed again.

He waited for her to continue but seeing as she probably said everything she needed to say, he began running through the woods to the nearest village to get his cousin's wound treated. At that moment he also noticed that even though Hinata had her eyes kept closed, she was still alert to her surroundings, no doubt that if somebody would ambush them, she could easily "wake up" and protect herself. What an amazing woman he held in his arms. She never ceased to amaze him. Even in knowing that she was in incredible pain, she had still wanted to finish her battle on her own, not caring if she could have let down her life. What was even more surprising was the fact that she had kept her plan to her alone, controlling two clones doing two different things and still concentrating to win her fight. She was strong, truly powerful not only physically but mentally too.

He held her body closely to his chest, tightening his grip on her. With each passing day, his determination in protecting her grew stronger. He was ready to do anything needed to get her to the top, even if it meant to give up his life for her. There was yet another feeling that was increasing importantly in his heart and unbeknownst to him, this feeling will be the start of everything.


A few days later.

"She's like glued to that window." Kakashi sighed as he entered the so familiar hospital room. Kurenai was at it again. It seemed that her favorite hobby now was looking outside the window, observing the daily rushes of the people in the streets of the leaf village. He knew exactly what she wanted to spot but couldn't bring it in his heart to ask her for confirmation.

"Kurenai, don't you think that's enough stalking for today? I mean it's not like you-" He couldn't finish his sentence however, Kurenai had lifted herself from her chair stopping him in saying anything further and for a good reason.

"She's back! Look, I can see her." Her voice had changed from the usual sad one to a cheerful happy sounding one. She turned around to him with a smile and tried to rush past him but with no success. He had caught her in his arms, strengthening his hold on her.

"Kakashi let me go! What are you doing?" She struggled against him and although she was feeling slowly better, she was still considerably weak in physical strength. It broke his heart to deprive her of something she wished for all her heart and here again, his mind took over his heart.

"Don't! You know fully well what you promised when you fought her. Do you really want to break it that way or do you simply not remember?" He tried to keep his tone down as well as trying to sound angry to persuade her to stay as to not do something brash.

Kurenai struggled a few more times before collapsing in his arms. He began to reach for her legs to lift her up when she circled her arms behind his back making his heart jumping out of his throat. He stopped halfway, straightening his back up, searching her face for any kind of clue but she had buried her face in his chest.

When she spoke, her voice was muffled but still quite understandable albeit sad. "Kakashi… Do you know how it feels when you can't even touch what is so dear to you?" Oh and how he knew. He replied her with a whisper, retaining the urge of putting his own arms around her.

"Yes, I know it all too well. Your precious everything so near to you yet so far. You ask yourself to behave and keep your fingers to yourself because you know that touching it might result in sinful deeds or you begin to burn yourself. The you curses to the sinful you because you had been fully aware of the aftermath." She looked up at him, her glistening eyes threatening to shed rivers of tears. "Damn, has she caught on?"

He cursed himself in his mind, he had promised to keep his emotions under a leash but confronted with such pain coming from her, it seemed like his heart just overflowed with desires which he knew could never be spoken of.

Kurenai sighed, telling him that he had been right and that she had to control herself with the risk of breaking everything if she indeed, went out to Hinata. "Care to carry me?" She had gone weak in her legs and he bent down to carry her in his arms. It was for moments like this that he had mostly declined barely all of the missions that consisted to depart out of Konohagakure. Still he cursed Asuma for not caring even more for his woman even though he had gratefully thanked Kakashi for the support he was giving Kurenai.

Kurenai had fallen asleep in her bed and Kakashi softly brushed a strand of her hair from her face before taking back his hand in disgust. He held his hand with his other one, nearly ready to break his wrist while he looked out of the window. Biting his lip he thought of his moments with the red eyed woman. How many opportunities had he had? Lots and lots but as strange as it may sound, it wasn't his type to use easy openings. It was wrong, it had always been wrong to feel what he was feeling but what could be do?

"Damn Asuma, do you really want me to steal her from you?" He sighed again, leaning his forehead against the window pane. "Maybe I really should distance myself?" Many questions rose up into his head as he looked back to the sleeping beauty just two feet away. He clenched his fists as he saw her tempting slightly parted lips and attractive long eyelashes. Yes, he had made his decision.

Next chapter 5 up next: An unknown seal