::A/N:: Holy crap. I haven't been on here in ages. I could barely manage my way around!
Anyway, I was in a severe writing mood, so for the past week I have been fighting over ideas for a story. And alas...I picked a multi-chapter one, again. Good news is that I have several chapters already written in advance!
I got this idea from watching episode 284 of shippuden, where Tenten is team captain of a mission to gather weapons. And I noticed small things that Neji would do that made me want to write about what was going through his head in a lot of situations dealing with her, from the chuunin exams til the beginning of shippuden. This chapter is more to begin everything, and in case you haven't seen the Tsunade-Idol episode, this is where most of it came from. I may be reading way too into it, but until the author tells me otherwise, I'm going to believe he cares about her more than just a friend.
But this chapter was a pain to write. I've proofread the thing a thousand times, so I am hoping it's worth the effort I put in to it. It wasn't my favorite chapter, but it got me going, so I found it a necessary starting point. And now I am done rambling. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. If I did, I wouldn't be majoring in Biochemistry.
Apple of Her Eye
"I want to be like the legendary Sannin, Tsunade-sama!"
Neji didn't think anything of his female companion's loud proclamation at the time. Well, he actually did think along the lines of, good luck. Fate brought you up in two different times. You will never be like that. He kept these thoughts to himself, more so to keep his other teammate from saying anything stupid like he had done earlier. Why was he on a team with hopeless dreamers again?
Oh. Right. Fate.
"Tsunade is legendary for her super-human strength. If you want to be like her, you must have the determination to undergo a rigorous training regimen!"
Neji also wasn't a fan of their sensei. Aside from his looks and his crazy antics of youth, he was actually trying to convince them that as long as they were determined and had the passion, anything was possible. No, they needed to be told when they could not succeed and not waste time chasing a dream that was impossible to obtain.
At the sound of a hard training routine, the other boy, Lee, squealed with delight. Neji sighed. No amount of time or determination would ever be enough for him to surpass someone like himself, a genius, someone who was born with the talent. Someone like Lee should never have been allowed to even graduate.
But, he found himself taking part in the ridiculous exercise of running laps around Konoha. He quickly grew annoyed at the constant shouting of phrases of "youth" and other motivational mantras. He decided to conserve his anger for a physical spar with one of them and focused on the beating of his heart instead. After a few minutes, he had nearly drowned them out.
It was around lap 72 (he was impressed he knew that) that he noticed the shouts had become more strenuous from his female companion. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn't at her limit, that she had realized exactly how childish their actions were, and was growing tired of complying with them. However, by the next lap, she began to fall behind. His sensei and his duplicate had failed to notice and continued their pace, yelling about "sunsets" and "youth" and other words Neji tuned out.
He didn't know if he should slow down to keep up with her or keep pushing along. Sure, he was getting tired quickly, but he wasn't nearly in the shape as (he could not for the life of him remember her name) she was. She didn't have the endurance he did; that was currently obvious, but he had already known when they had their first team meeting. He was the best. End of story. So why should he allow himself to stoop to her level when he could have been running next to Gai and Lee? The only reason he wasn't ahead of them was due to their level of insanity and the fact he couldn't outrun them. So, he had stayed at a comfortable distance behind them.
In the end, he decided to slow his pace, only a little, using it as in excuse to conserve his energy so when she gave out, he could still go on. He also wanted to take this chance to tell her that her little fantasy of becoming just like Tsunade was impossible, especially since Gai was no longer around to convince her otherwise. That fate had predetermined that fact long before she even knew who the legendary woman was. He felt slight pity for her; he knew all too well what it meant to want to reach for something that was never meant to be.
After one more lap, she finally came to a halt, stopping to rest her hands on her knees to catch her breath. Lee and Gai were long gone; there were no more words of…whatever they were saying. A part of him wanted to carry on and leave her behind. If she wasn't strong enough to overcome this incredibly difficult and silly routine, then she would never be strong. Ever.
After a few seconds of debate, he came to a stop as well. He turned to the girl doubled over behind him and decided she should know the truth.
"You're never going to be as strong as Tsunade-sama."
Her reaction surprised him. He was expecting her to retaliate with some retort, call him stupid, say something hateful, or blatantly admit he was right. She slowly straightened her back once her breathing became steady and looked him directly in the eye. She didn't seem angry or upset at all, but as she walked closer to him, he could make out the faintest hint of disappointment.
"Isn't there a reason you want to become stronger?"
And before he had a chance to answer, she walked past him, did a few stretches, and took off after the other half of their team.
"YOSH! It's time for one-on-one spars! Neji, you will fight Tenten first!"
Tenten! That was her name, he thought, feeling somewhat embarrassed at forgetting something as simple as her name. He took his stance across from her, his left hand up in usual fashion, left foot in front of the right, positioned to attack or defend, and to counter when she attacked. She appeared to be sizing him up, her eyes looking for an opening in his defenses. Too bad she was looking in vain. He wondered exactly how much she knew about his fighting style. Everyone knew about the Byakugan and its abilities, but beyond that, he would have to find out.
She made the decision to strike first. He quickly and effortlessly dodged her punch, and in one swift motion, spun on his heel and knocked her feet from under her. He was actually somewhat impressed when instead of falling, she used her momentum to flip agilely back on her feet. She didn't seem like his attack fazed her at all. Good. She charged at him again, attacking with more calculated and precise punches. He was still quick enough to dodge them, and he even jumped over her attempt to knock him down.
She was growing frustrated, which seemed to amuse him. She came at him for the third time, and as she attempted to land a hit on his shoulder, he bent back to avoid the attack, grabbed her around the waist, and literally chucked her over his shoulder. He hoped he hadn't hurt her; the move had been much easier than he thought it would have been and he probably used too much strength.
"Alright, Lee! You're up!"
Before he could even turn to ask if she was alright, Lee began his barrage of punches and kicks. His aim was worse than Tenten's, and she was at least quiet. While he continued to dodge Lee's sloppy onslaught, he caught Tenten walk and sit down beside their observing sensei. She must have been fine, or she didn't show it. Either way worked for Neji.
That put his mind back on the annoying opponent in front of him. He easily sidestepped a kick and blocked a punch that followed. He countered with a palm to his chest. He didn't use too much chakra; just enough for Lee to stay down and Gai to recognize Neji as the true genius of the team.
Just as Gai was about to speak, Tenten interrupted. "Can you teach me medical ninjutsu?"
Neji could not believe his ears. Why couldn't she let this Tsunade idol thing go? It wasn't going to happen. It wasn't meant to. It was fate. Even their sensei seemed hesitant! Shouldn't that have been a sign for her to stop?
"Can you teach me, too, Sensei?!"
Now Lee wanted to learn?! It seemed like this was an argument neither him nor his sensei would work their way out of. The look in Tenten and Lee's eyes were ones of determination. He sighed.
His team truly was a hopeless bunch.
When Tenten arrived at their meeting spot the next morning holding a small bag and wearing a serious expression on her face, Neji's curiosity spiked. Did she actually manage to learn such a high-level jutsu overnight? There was no way. Had she been asked to come back for more training? Did she leave that much of an impression? She didn't strike him as a medical expert. Then again, he didn't really know that much about her at all.
She took her seat in between the two boys and dropped the bag on the table in front of them. "I couldn't do it."
Of course not, he thought, his shoulders relaxing in response. Could she really have thought otherwise? Lee anxiously reached for the bag and pulled out a medium-sized fish, no doubt the poor experimental victim.
Gai smiled at her. "Not everyone can be an expert in the medical field, Tenten. A kunoichi can still become legendary without those skills!"
Neji shook his head. He was, in a sense, correct on that assumption. But how could one become legendary without being destined, without being born with the talent to become legendary? Just as he had been born a branch member, Tenten had been born, for lack of better terminology, un-legendary. There was no way around that.
"Ooh, let's eat him for lunch!" Lee shouted, and Gai reluctantly agreed. Let the poor fish go to waste being useful, or…something like that.
Gai and Lee jumped right in as soon as their sensei had finished preparing their lunch. Tenten did not seem interest in eating, either due to her humiliation of her own failure or the fact that she couldn't eat something she had taken life from. Or maybe she didn't like seafood. Or she simply wasn't hungry. Neji thought the flavor was bland, but it was food, and he was not picky. And he was hungry.
The group ate in comfortable silence for a little over a minute before Tenten brought up Tsunade again. "Isn't there anything else legendary about Tsunade-sama?"
Neji was growing agitated quickly. She needed to be told that this dream of hers was impossible, and she needed to be told now before she wasted her life chasing it. How hard was it to see that she could never be like Tsunade? He took a deep breath to calm himself. This was not his problem. He refused to become a part of it. He reached for another slice of fish, attempting to ignore the conversation around him.
"Well, she also has the ability to use the summoning jutsu, and she can summon a large slug that—"
Neji nearly gagged as the image of a large slug came to his mind and replaced the fish that came toward his mouth. He immediately placed his chopsticks and the piece of untouched fish, now pictured as a slug, back on the plate. He also made a mental note to himself to never eat around Gai. Ever.
A few seconds later, the table was cleared and Gai replaced the dish with a scroll. "Now," he continued as he unrolled the parchment. "Let's see if you can use the technique."
Neji watched as Tenten stiffened suddenly, knowing that all eyes were on her at the moment. She swallowed her nervousness and steeled herself, then began to make the proper hand signs. She placed her hand on the center character and a puff of smoke caused the three of them to draw closer to the table. She lifted her hand to reveal half of a small sai dagger. Lee's eyes and mouth were wide with shock, and Tenten bristled with excitement. Neji was even slightly impressed.
"It seems you can do it!" Gai exclaimed proudly. "Now all you have to do is enter into a contract with an animal." Neji watched as Gai bit his thumb and created a number of hand signs before slamming his palm onto the concrete floor. A similar puff of smoke followed, and when it cleared, a large tortoise was staring at them. He would have been just as shocked as Lee had been, but this was Gai…and a turtle. He found more excitement in Tenten's newfound ability to summon weapons.
Tenten seemed to think the same. "It's a…turtle?"
The red reptile sneered at her. "What else did you expect?"
"Oh, I don't know," she replied, drawing a hand to her chin in thought. "I just thought you would be, you know, legendary."
Neji almost broke out into a chuckle when turtle angrily shouted at her, telling her he refused to enter into a contract with her. How could a turtle be angry, or jealous for that matter? Well, he was on Team Gai. Nothing should surprise him now.
Then Tenten made a face as the animal vanished in a cloud of smoke, and Neji retracted his previous statement. It seemed he really was surrounded by immature children.
At least Gai reprimanded her for it. "Do not be selfish, Tenten." She straightened up, but that only brought back to her mind the unresolved issue of the legendary slug, and of Tsunade.
"There's nothing else legendary about her?"
Gai sighed, much to Neji's surprise, and fell into silence, deep in thought. "Well," he started, "She is notorious for her drinking and gambling." Realizing what he had said, he laughed. "But you are far too young for that!"
But there was something about the look in her eyes as they parted ways that told Neji she was not about to give up until she tried.
Lee and Gai were late to their meeting place the next morning. For the first time, Neji actually wanted them to be present. Without them, he had nothing else to think about besides what the crazed Tsunade worshipper had done the night before. He wanted to ask if she went through with attempting to go to a bar or a gambling house, but he was not one to pry. Besides, he really didn't want to know. If she did, she obviously didn't succeed because of her age. If she didn't, well, he knew it would spark the topic of Tsunade. And it was too early in the day for him to listen to her ideology.
"Lee and Gai are late."
He didn't address the issue as a form of conversation, but more as a matter of fact to himself. However, he was surprised when she didn't answer, or even seem to have realized he had spoken. He couldn't grasp the idea of why it bothered him, but it did. Maybe she didn't feel like talking. Maybe she had tried and failed, just like everything else she had done previous to this last escapade. Maybe she really didn't hear him.
Curiosity got the best of him. "Why would they be late this early into our formation of a team?"
Again, his question was met with silence. Surely she had heard him the second time. He turned his head to get a better look at her and noticed she seemed more tense than usual. Maybe something had happened to her?
"Are you alright?" He usually didn't meddle in business that wasn't his own, hated it actually, so he really had no clue why he was asking about her well-being. He reasoned with himself that since they were on the same team, the dynamics would have been thrown into chaos if one of their two sane members was unfocused.
It took her a few seconds to register he had asked her a direct question. "Oh," she stuttered. "Sorry. Yeah, I'm fine."
It wasn't the answer he wanted to hear. "You do not look well."
She looked puzzled, and frankly, Neji felt that way as well. But, she was a teammate, the other possible sane one. He needed all the help he could get to fight off Gai and Lee's insanity.
Finally, she let out a nervous chuckle. "I had a long night last night."
He knew what was coming. The inevitable: Tsunade. Of how all she wanted was to be like her. He immediately regretted trying to get her to talk. He should have stayed quiet.
But before she brought up the events of her evening, he took this chance to once again inform her of her fate. "You can never be like Tsunade."
His comment was met with silence. He hadn't meant it to come out so cold, but it was true. And it was high time someone told her that. "You were not born with the first Hokage's blood like Tsunade. Because of that, you will not possess her strength. You were not born with the talent for medical ninjutsu. Fate has made it this way, and that cannot be overcome. You cannot become legendary unless you are born with that level of talent."
He had finally said what he had wanted to tell her from the start. And he had to admit, as harsh it had sounded even to his own ears, he felt relieved to say it. He didn't intend to hurt her feelings or make her feel worthless, but she needed to realize this dream she was chasing was a waste of her time. Where would that leave her in the end when she finally did realize that?
"You may be right."
Neji was surprised to hear her speak so quickly and almost missed what she said. Again, she didn't sound upset, or angry, or hurt, which confused him to no end. Most people would have snapped at him, but she did not. And he wondered why.
But she continued. "But how are we going to get stronger by saying things like that? I may never be as strong as Tsunade, or as gifted as her, but I will do everything I can to reach that goal, even if I can't make it. She might have had the natural talent, but she still had to work hard to get better. If she can make the effort to be the best, then why can't I?"
Simple. "It has already been decided. Lee will be a failure. You will not be Tsunade. I will be a genius. Those facts will never change."
"Nothing in life is guaranteed or certain. If you are a self-proclaimed genius, how can you not see that?"
He could not believe she was arguing with him. She really thought he was wrong! How could she not understand how destiny worked when she was already cursed by it?
"Look," she said, causing his attention to focus back on her. "Life is simply unpredictable. If you live your life solely on the fact that life has been decided for you, then what's the point of living, of becoming stronger?"
If he was not Neji Hyuuga, his jaw would have dropped to the floor at the girl in front of him. But since he was Neji Hyuuga, he simply scowled at her. Was she really so simple minded and thought that life was that easy? She knew nothing about what it meant to be chained to a destiny she could not control. She knew nothing about how it felt to have her life ripped to shreds because she was not born into the proper family. She knew nothing about fate!
"You know nothing."
He apparently came off colder than he had intended because she took his words as a slap to the face. She quickly averted her eyes and uttered a quiet apology. He sat down, folded his arms across his chest, and closed his eyes. He wisely decided to keep his mouth shut, hoping she would do the same, as to not create any more tension between them. She knew nothing, but at least now she seemed to understand that, and she didn't press it further.
Even though they were quiet, he could tell she wanted to say something. He could hear her fiddling with something in her hands, a typical nervous gesture. A few minutes passed and she finally broke the tension. "Well, I might not know how it feels to be in your position, but if you ever want to become strong enough to break free, I'd be happy to help how I can."
It was a nice gesture to get on good terms with him, he assumed. It wasn't necessary though. He didn't need her help. One could not become strong enough to escape destiny. However, he thought a little more about her invitation, and decided it would greatly benefit him if he did not have to be around Lee and Gai constantly. He knew they met and trained quite a bit as a team, but he also wasn't stupid enough to miss the fact that Gai had personally taken Lee under his wing. That left the two of them with quite a bit of free time. So, he decided it would do more good than harm to accept her request.
He answered with his soon-to-be trademark 'hn' and the two of them remained silent until their obnoxious teammates showed up.
They had been deployed on a simple mission, one that Neji had insisted be given to someone else. Silently, of course. But out of respect, he obliged and his team had set out.
Everything was going well. They were waiting for the group of enemy-nin to appear. Gai informed them that a small band of rouge ninja had been causing disturbances, and one of their known abilities was some sort of body transfer jutsu, a technique that could have been disastrous if used on them. Neji found this humorous; finding the time to utilize it and having the precision to jump into someone else's body took extreme talent and experience. If this jutsu had been that big of a threat, a Genin squad would not have been sent to exterminate them.
They were huddled behind the shrubbery of the forest floor, well hidden from prying eyes. Neji confirmed encroaching enemies with his Byakugan, and deactivated it quickly to avoid them reading his chakra signature. Gai peered out past the brush to watch as the enemies perched themselves on the trees around them.
And before anyone could reply, Lee went into a hysterical fit. The three of them quickly turned to their teammate. He stood up quickly, and Neji knew that he had fallen victim to the enemy's technique. His eyes were bloodshot and he was salivating like a dog with rabies, screaming incoherent words as he leaned in to attack.
The enemy quickly took advantage of the situation. Neji and Tenten fought off the enemies attacking from the trees, and Gai attempted to knock Lee out, telling Neji to find the perpetrator, and quickly. Most of the ninja were no match for the combined efforts of Tenten and himself, and before long Gai had subdued Lee, and he had found the ninja who invaded Lee's body. Gai swiftly grabbed some rope from his pack and proceeded to tie Lee's arms and legs up for safety, just in case the enemy's jutsu had any lingering side-effects.
The sun was falling from the sky, so they decided to set up camp for the night. As easy as the fight had been, Neji could not hide his discomfort in what had happened. Lee had been taken over by a simple jutsu, one that had probably been used only once before. The ninja they fought off had been amateurs at best. How could he feel at ease when his teammate was an easy catch like he had been, especially on a simple mission as the one they had just completed? What would happen when they were up against real enemy ninja with perfected techniques?
"That could have gone worse," Tenten said, poking at the fire with a stick. But she was wrong. It couldn't have gone worse, it had gone worse. It shouldn't have happened at all. Had Lee not been as weak as he was, he wouldn't have fallen into the enemy's trap.
"I feel uneasy with someone like him on my team. His lack of genjutsu and ninjutsu made him an easy target. Had he been strong enough to avoid being caught, they would have posed no problem at all."
His words were met with silence. Tenten dropped her stick into the flame, a look of shame etched on her face. She glanced over at where Lee had been placed and frowned. She had every right to be disappointed, but after a closer look at her expression, he realized that she actually felt bad for Lee.
But if she was going to defend him, she wisely kept her comments to herself.
"I will beat you this time, Neji! And I will prove to you that effort can overpower a genius!"
Neji smirked as Lee charged him. He had heard that proclamation so many times in the past month that he could hear it in his dreams. But it didn't change a thing. He had been born with the talent that Lee lacked. And no amount of hard work and effort was going to make up that difference.
After all, it was fate.
And Lee was predictable. He would attack with an onslaught of punches, and every so often, a few kicks. He never once landed a single one. He came close a few times, but only because Neji had a mental lapse for that split second. He did find an advantage to their sparring matches though. He was able to read body movements much more quickly and more precise to predict when and how the next attack would be made.
He avoided another kick. And another punch. It was all Lee really had going for him. He had no special ninjutsu or genjutsu he could use on him, which made him wonder why he fought a losing battle. Neji was a genius at hand-to-hand combat, thanks to his kekkai genkai. He assumed Lee knew that, so he didn't understand why he was so determined to defeat him if he knew Neji held the upper hand every time.
He quickly grew tired of the fight, so he caught Lee's punch and slammed his palm into his chest, knocking him to the ground. He coughed to reclaim lost air in his lungs, and just as he struggled to get to his feet, Tenten rushed to his side and kneeled next to him.
"Lee, when will you learn? You can't beat Neji. You're not like…" She stopped when she realized what she was saying. He wondered why; what she said was the truth. He couldn't beat him. It wasn't possible. He was destined to beat Lee. Every single time.
Lee, however, seemed to have taken her words to heart. Had Neji said what she did, Lee would have attacked out of rage. Since Tenten was the one who spoke them, he saw the truth behind them. But Lee shook his head regardless. He still seemed determined to prove his point.
"I will defeat you one day, Neji. That's a promise."
With that, he quickly stood, turned his back on his team, and walked away. Neji could hear the anger in his voice when he spoke, and could feel it when he glared at him. For that split second, he had been completely caught off guard. It was like that enemy from their previous mission had possessed his body for that short amount of time before he regained control and stormed off.
"Lee, wait!" Tenten called out to him, but he was already gone. She lowered her head in regret, and Neji took the opportunity to address her previous statement.
"You were correct. Lee will never be able to defeat me."
She sighed, her eyes still fixed on the ground. "You're stronger than he is, but you don't work nearly as hard as he does."
"That's not enough. I was born with the talent. He was born with nothing. He will always be nothing. No amount of hard work can change that."
"You might not see him as anything, Neji," she stated, fiddling with the blades of grass from where she sat. "But Lee is my friend. And he has worked so hard to make something of himself. That effort alone has to make him something, even in your eyes."
Oh, how wrong she was. "No," he declared. "He will always be a failure."
"Well…then," she started nervously, plucking some of the grass out of the ground. "Then…do you think that way about me, too?"
His mouth acted as if he was going to respond, but he had nothing to say. Of course he hadn't thought the same way about her. She was sane, unlike Lee was. But more importantly then that, she knew her limits. She hadn't pranced around in her Tsunade-haze in weeks now. Because she knew it wasn't worth her time anymore. She had channeled her energy in becoming a better weapons specialist. Lee had not changed. He still spent all his time trying to beat him.
"I wasn't born with any kind of special gift or talent like you were. So in a bunch of ways, Lee and I are a lot alike."
"You don't spend all of your time trying to defeat me."
She chuckled and leaned back, her gaze now on the clouds above her. "I do, though. Every time we spar, Neji."
Again, he was at a loss of words. Thankfully, she exhaled and spared him the time to come up with a response. "I know you're a tough challenger, and I know I may never be able to best you in battle. But that doesn't mean I will give up on trying to become stronger." She slowly got to her feet, and Neji was about to reply when she beat him to it.
"Not even after I do manage to defeat you."
If there was ever a moment in Neji's life where he wished he could disappear, this would be that time.
He followed his team at a safe distance while the crowds increased around them. Gai was currently walking on his hands; Lee at his side in that stupid green spandex Gai had attempted to convince him to wear. Tenten was perched on top of Gai's feet, and in a small way, Neji felt worse for her. He could at least act like he was not part of this fiasco, but she was at the center of it.
And she made her embarrassment known. "Gai-Sensei? Do you really have to do this? Everyone is laughing at us."
Neji sighed. The mere sight of the two "Green Beasts," as they were now known to be called, were enough to open eyes as they frolicked around the streets of Konoha. How could she expect people just to pass like this was normal?
"Nonsense! This was my rule! Since you defeated me in combat, I have to carry you around Konoha 500 times!" He seemed quite pleased, like Neji and Tenten were proud to be part of this humiliation. Gai never ceased to amaze him.
"But…this is a little…much." Neji at least found comfort in the fact that she had to have been ten times more mortified that he was. Her face was nearly the same shade of pink as her shirt, and she kept looking at the ground, hoping it would swallow her up. Or so he thought. He couldn't blame her.
"Do not worry, Tenten! If I had won, my punishment for failing to train you properly was to hoist Neji up and walk around Konoha 800 times!"
Neji stopped dead in his tracks. Did that crazy man really believe he could drag him around Konoha in the same fashion he was carrying Tenten? There was no way in hell that would have been possible. There would have been a war. And he would not have lost.
He walked much slower after that, afraid that Gai would turn around and catch him off guard and before he would know what was happening, he would be the source of pointing fingers and laughter.
"Regardless, you were amazing, Tenten!" Lee exclaimed. "Even with Gai-Sensei's handicap, you were still able to defeat him! You truly are a master with weapons!"
It was then that her face lit up, despite her current situation, and Neji realized she was truly happy. Even though it was Lee who offered the compliment, he couldn't help but notice he was telling the truth.
He took pride in the fact that he had, in a small way, helped her achieve her current standing amongst their team. Yes, Gai had given her the opportunity and knowledge she needed to get started, but he was the one who was there to help her make use of it.
They didn't train together a lot, maybe twice a week after their daily team meetings. She usually would be the one to ask him to spare a few minutes so she could test out her newest technique. He remembered the first time she had asked, he politely declined, but that didn't stop her from training. As he recalled, she had simply shrugged her shoulders, murmured something like, "Maybe next time," and proceeded to train alone.
And there was something about that that bothered him. He hadn't thought too much about it before, but over the course of months training and completing missions, he had begun to favor her over the green-clad morons. Not only did she share similar feelings about the other half of their team, her determination to prove to him that his fate could be overcome caused her to be a decent challenge for him in a spar. Lee was clumsy, but getting stronger through his training with Gai, but he was still no match for his unique fighting style. Tenten, on the other hand, had proven to be better at long-range attacks, which had led Neji to perfect his defenses.
After he turned her down the first time, she usually walked away without asking him to train. He refused to seem like a beggar and in need of her assistance, but in a sense, he was slowly becoming dependent on the girl he knew nothing about. He knew he had to have been drawn to her sense of independence and iron will, so in a way, she really wasn't that much different than he was.
One day, he had asked her to train with him. She had been surprised, but she did not turn him down. In fact, she had been very happy with his request. Something about him finally opening up to someone…or something like that. He wasn't opening up to her; she still didn't know a thing about him, but he had wanted to prove to his family the wrongs of their actions. And training would not only help him hone his skills, but also have the means in which to alleviate his frustration.
Over the course of a few weeks, it had become a routine. The team would meet first thing in the morning (as soon as Lee and Gai came back from their early morning training) then work on fundamentals and suffer through Gai's ridiculous regimen for the day. By noon, when the team would go their separate ways, well, Gai and Lee would leave them behind, they had continued where they had left off the day before.
So yes, he had helped to shape her into the expert she was now, and he was happy for her. The Tsunade dream was finally coming to an end, and she was now chasing a dream that was well within her reach.
A few comments: Some terminology could be wrong, so if you caught something that I did not say or use correctly, please let me know. My big one I think I butchered was the sai dagger. I googled it, and googled it again, so I think I'm right, but I'm not an expert. But I needed a name, and it seemed legit. I also feel I jumped around in tenses a bit more than I should have. Advice is always welcomed.
Thanks for reading.