Auburn and Gold

Prologue: In Death

Synopsis: A Chunin kunoichi from Konoha dies from elemental chakra poisoning during the Fourth Shinobi World War, only to be given a opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to change everything. Time Travel, AU, Tenten-centric

Dying is less painful than she had expected.

Unlike what the stories said or other people claimed, her life doesn't flash before her eyes. The only thing she can see with her blurring vision is the open sky, curiously blue and cloudless for a day where blood had been spilled from even before dawn. She tries to recall what had happened; blue-green chakra, elemental wind chakra and healing chakra.

Deadly chakra.

She had been fighting someone who used a perverse version chakra scalpels, somehow managing to channel both wind and healing chakra together in a deadly combination. If the healing chakra didn't manage to incapacitate, the pure wind chakra would finish the job. Entering and flooding her chakra vessels directly through the scalpel's incision, the wind chakra would overwhelm her own lightning-natured chakra, shredding her organs apart and killing her painfully but quickly.

The dull, searing ache of the foreign chakra working its way towards her heart is nothing compared the fierce burn of her lower organs being destroyed, but she steels herself to ignore both pains. After completing the interrogation training she was subjected to upon her promotion to Chunin, she could withstand pain with the best of them, and for that she is grateful. For countless months she cursed Yamanaka Inoichi and Morino Ibiki for their thoroughness in introducing her to the most painful aspects of mental and physical torture, breaking her genin persona and remaking her into a formidable chunin kunoichi, but at this very moment she would be thanking them endlessly instead. Not that she'd ever get the chance, unless they didn't make it through this war alive.

Although her death through battle would be no surprise considering the events and circumstances of the Fourth Shinobi World War, she knows it would come as a lowering blow to Konoha's morale. She isn't so arrogant or self-important to believe in her own value, but she knows what she stands for within the Konoha ninja ranks: the generation of talented, fate-changing Leaf nins crowned Konoha's Eleven. For her to die, when the eleven of them had withstood and survived thus far, it would either break her friends or shape them. She fervently hopes it would be the latter.

She hates to think of her two teammates and her sensei, knowing they would blame themselves for her death. Their insistence in protecting her had lessened considerably since her genin days, but she knows that they had only resorted to subtler methods. Little things, like draping her in the unused blanket when one of them took watch, or placing her in the middle of their formation, as if she were a client they needed to protect. She had noticed but didn't say anything, letting her team think she is oblivious. She wouldn't ever admit it, but it makes her feel loved, a feeling she has craved for her entire life. Their love is her protection, however subtle it was, and as her skills as a kunoichi became known, they protected her even as they rose into infamy as formidable shinobi themselves.

Her own notoriety came more through association with her team and the Konoha Eleven than her personal skills, but it is powerful nonetheless. That association places her in the one of the precarious positions of carrying Konoha's future, and paints a target on her back that she would carry for the rest of her life.

Or what few minutes she has left of it.

She tells herself if could've been worse; at least her death would be quick and relatively painless. There are worse things than dying, especially for a kunoichi of her age and position. Though Kami-forbid if she had been left bleeding painfully and slowly, counting down to the moment when Death would finally be merciful. She would rather take herself out of her misery with her own chokuto, stabbing herself in the heart.

Her last breaths are smooth and slow and steady, the now excruciating pain locked and tucked away in the back of her mind. She ignores the feeling of the wind chakra attacking her heart, blocking out the sounds of the battle waging mere paces from where she lies. She closes her eyes, and could just barely pretend that she is falling asleep on her bed at home in the village, the sounds of yelling and fighting fading into the familiar noises of her teammates' morning spars.

In the light of the late afternoon, the Chunin kunoichi of Konohagakure known as Tenten slips into Death's waiting arms with a smile on her face.

"Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace." - Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost

And so it begins.