A/N: Chapter 4 is here! I apologize for the delay due to finals (I HATE MUSIC HISTORY AND MATH ==) I want to wish those who are in a similar position with final exams, papers, assignments etc good luck and we can do it! :D
Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported this fanfic from the beginning! Onwards to items 5 and 6!
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi
Chapter 4 - Item #5-6: Tin of Blended Tea & Carved Bird
It was another typical day for Team Gai. Gai-sensei and Lee went off on their own intensive training regimen while Tenten and Neji got into their usual partner sparring. They had been going at it for three hours and Tenten and Neji were too focused on their sparring to notice the light drizzles slowly falling from the sky. Not before long the drizzles turned into heavier drops and quickly transitioned to a heavy downpour.
Both shinobi quickly ran to Tenten's house since it was closer to the training grounds than the Hyuuga compound. Tenten quickly rummaged for the key under the mat, unlocked the door and both of them hurried inside for shelter.
"You went overboard," Tenten sneezed as she began peeling off her sandals, "even when it was drizzling you just kept going…"
"You're one to talk," Neji interjected as he placed the chest that he was carrying on the table. "Barraging your bombs and explosives even though they're useless against the rain." Tenten rolled her eyes as she grabbed a towel for both of them.
"Looks like we've gotten the overly-compulsive training syndrome." Tenten joked as she wringed her hair, "man, wouldn't Guy-sensei be proud of us?"
"Please don't get me started…" Neji rolled his eyes and he dried his hair carefully. "By the way why don't we get started with out next item?" She nodded as she wiped her hand on her towel before carefully opening the chest. She dug her hand inside and felt something smooth and a bit cool to touch. She lifted her hand and held out a tin. Questioningly starting at it, she opened it up and gave a whiff.
"This smells like tea," Tenten dumbly remarked as she pulled out a tea bag, "what is this doing here?"
"Of course it's tea," Neji snapped as he ran his hand in his hair, "that was one of my more stressful times…"
"Stressful?" Tenten tilted her head to one side in confusion.
Tin of Blended Tea
"Shikamaru, what do I do?" Neji muttered as the two fellow shinobi sat outside the dango shop. "I want to give something to Tenten for our anniversary together but I'm unsure what to do…" Shikamaru let out his signature sigh and stared at Neji.
"Why do you bother asking me?" Shikamaru yawned and sipped his tea. "You know very well that I'm the last person to even bother what women really care about." Unbeknownst to him, Sakura and Ino walked by and heard what he said. Not before long did he receive two strong punches from both kunoichi.
"You heartless bastard! How dare you insult the female population?" Ino yelled and pulled one of his earlobes roughly. "Do you want me to show you want happens when you insult us?"
"I've been perfecting my latest punch," Sakura offered as she began to gather chakra in her fists. "I don't mind testing it out on you…" These two are as dangerous as ever…Neji stared at the scene in front of him.
"Okay okay I'm sorry alright? Just stop yelling." Shikamaru grabbed at Ino's hand and remove it from his ear. "Sheesh this is so troublesome…" Ino grabbed on his ear again and twisted it, leading Shikamaru to wince in pain.
"So what is this that you're worried about, Neji?" Sakura asked as both she and Ino sat with the two guys. "Is it something to do with Tenten?" Although Neji gave a deadpan glare, both girls could easily tell and giggled.
"Come on, don't be shy," Ino teased, "It's great to have guys think about their girls, especially someone as suave as you…"
"Where did that come from?" Neji sputtered as both Ino and Sakura burst into laughter. "Anyways, what do you think I should do?" Ino paused for a second before
"Why don't you propose to her?" Ino nonchalantly said as Neji and Shikamaru sputtered their tea simultaneously. "That's every girl's dream…"
"Ino, be reasonable… they've only gone out for 2 years…" Sakura chided as she handed a napkin to both the guys.
"But they've been practically stuck together like glue since their genin times!" Ino argued, leading to Neji to fluster a bit and Shikamaru raising an eyebrow. "Oh fine, be that way."
"Hmmm why don't we brainstorm what makes Tenten the person she is?" Sakura suggested, "Is there anything that she would like?"
"Don't ask me, I wouldn't even bother dating her," Shikamaru yawned, "Not with her overprotective boyfriend…" He felt daggers from both the Hyuga prodigy and Ino.
"She's not into item gifts that much," Neji stated and Ino nodded in agreement. Suddenly a thought crossed Sakura's mind and she smiled.
"I know just the thing." Sakura beamed while the other three looked at her.
"That was fun," Tenten beamed as the two of them left the theater, "It was really interesting how the animals somehow band together and save their forest…" I didn't think an animated comedy movie was what Tenten wanted… Neji sighed as they held their hands together.
"It was rather… interesting…" Neji replied to which Tenten laughed. "What? There's nothing else to describe talking animals taking over human places…"
"Neji, it's just a movie okay? You seriously need to loosen yourself up." Tenten continued to laugh, "There's no need to be over-analytical over an animated movie." Neji rolled his eyes
"Why don't we go to our usual spot?" Neji suggested and Tenten nodded. After a few minutes, the two of them stopped in front of a bench by a willow tree. Neji sat down, and motioned Tenten to sit beside him. Both of them sat in silence until Tenten broke it.
"Is something the matter?" Tenten inquired, noticing the eerie silence emitting from Neji. "Did you catch a cold…" She was about to place her hand on his forehand, which he quickly grabbed.
"Will you stop assuming I'm sick?" Neji snapped but quickly calmed down. "Ahh, I screwed up…" Tenten gave him a worried look and noticed that he was behaving rather strangely. After a couple more minutes of silence, Neji let out a deep breath and handed her a small box. Tenten, a bit confused looked at the box.
"What is this?" she inquired as she opened the box, revealing a tin of tea. Her eyes widened in surprise as she stared at the label on the tin. "This is from my former workplace at that teahouse! How did you get this?" A small smile graced Neji's face as he opened the tin for Tenten.
"I wasn't sure what to get you for our anniversary," Neji admitted as he took out a bag of tea, "I was surprised that you wanted to watch a comedy movie and I thought I screwed up. Hopefully I sort of saved it…" Tenten chuckled as Neji examined the tea bag.
"This is jasmine tea blended with cinnamon and orange." Neji recited as he handed the bag to Tenten to smell, "The jasmine scent reminds me of you, the cinnamon of course are from the cookies that you bake and the orange was the first fruit you shared with me during our academy years." Tenten nodded and smiled. He is so thoughtful, especially with the meaning of each flavor. Neji held up a different tea bag and handed it to her.
"The second blend is honeybush vanilla with sakura and peach," Neji continued explaining. "This might sound a bit cheesy. The honeybush represents your sparkling honey eyes and the vanilla is another scent that reminds me of you." Tenten blushed a little when Neji described the main flavor.
"What about the sakura and peach?" Tenten asked as Neji smiled to himself.
"The sakura represents our first meeting under the sakura tree by the academy." Neji answered and hid his face, "And the peach is from your backyard's peach tree." Tenten gasped, as she smelled the familiar tangy yet refreshing scent of the peach.
"Wow, this is really thoughtful of you." Tenten softly said as she replaced the tea inside the tin, "I didn't think you would remember our first meeting so clearly…" Neji looked up from his hands.
"If it's with you, of course I remembered." Neji stated as he gave her a warm look. "I hope you don't mind this gift."
"No no I love it!" Tenten stated as she leaned on Neji's shoulder, "Although I won't give you credit for originality since it sounds exactly like the sachet I gave you…" Neji tried not to look annoyed but wrapped one arm around Tenten as they both chuckled and stared at the scenery in front of them.
"Happy second anniversary."
" I was genuinely surprised that you would know about my old part-time job," Tente said as she replaced the bag inside the tin. "I can't bear to use this though."
"Ahh but tea has an expiry date so you should use it now," Neji reminded as he continued drying out his hair.
"Alright high and mighty, I'll brew some tea for us since it's really cold," Tenten sighed and walked into the kitchen. She took the honeybush vanilla tea and began brewing it in the teapot.
Meanwhile, Neji, whom already changed into a different set of clothing, finished drying his hair. He placed his hand into the chest and felt something smooth yet a bit rough. He pulled out a worn but well-crafted bird with spread wings. Not recognizing this item, he turned the carving around and around between his hands and examined the craftsmanship.
"Have I seen this before?" Neji spoke aloud as he stared into its eyes.
"That was something from our academy days…" Neji turned around and saw Tenten holding a tray with two cups of freshly brewed tea and a plate of biscuits. She placed the tray on the low table in the living room and sat next to Neji.
"Academy days?" Neji asked, still confused as he looked at the bird. "I don't recall seeing this…"
"That's because you were too angsty at that time…" Tenten huffed as Neji tried to recall the faint memory. "I don't even want to remember your past self..."
Neji sat alone under the sakura tree in the academy's courtyard. It has been six days since Neji received the news of his father's passing. Although some of the servants in the Hyuga compound have expressed their sympathy and sorrow towards the Hyuga prodigy, Neji felt more anger and betrayal against the head of the Hyuga clan.
Tenten observed Neji from the window as she finished her lunch. He hasn't been talking for six days and whenever there was a break or lunch, he would swiftly head outside and sit under the sakura tree alone. She heard from her friends and classmates that Neji's father passed away six days ago, which explains his silent presence. However she found it rather annoying that Neji wouldn't even say anything to her whenever she tried to greet him or ask how he was doing. Getting irritated by this thought, she shoved the last spoonful of rice into her mouth and ran out of the classroom.
"Hey how are you feeling?" Neji didn't bother to turn around as Tenten rolled her eyes and sat beside him. They both sat in silence for a few minutes until Tenten broke the silence again.
"I heard what happened and I'm sorry to hear about your father," Tenten softly spoke while playing with the grass, "I must have been painful for you…"
"You won't know since you don't have parents," Neji cut her off icily. Tenten stiffened but quickly got up and threw some grass at him.
"That was very rude." Tenten yelled at him. "You have no right to bring that up."
"It's fate after all," He coldly replied.
"Why are you acting like this? I actually want to help…" Tenten began not before Neji cut her off.
"And what would you do then, bring my father back to life?" Neji sneered at her as she shook her head. "It's fate that this has happened…"
"That's ridiculous, what's with all fate this and that?" Tenten tried to counter, "You're way too young to talk big…"
"You won't know since you haven't gone through this kind of life," Neji coldly remarked. "As a member of the branch family, it's fate for me to be a caged bird and to serve the head family for life until you die."
"God, fate this and fate that, you are hopeless." Tenten began pulling her hair, "Baahhh, why am I friends with you in the first place?" With that, Tenten gave Neji a whack in the head and headed towards the academy. Midway, Tenten quickly turned around and gave a weak smile.
"Just stop blaming on yourself okay?" Tenten quietly muttered before stomping back inside the academy. Neji rubbed the back of his head, a single tear flowed from his eye.
The next day…
When Neji returned to his desk, there was a carved bird on his desktop. The bird was carved with outstretched wings. Under the bird was a small note. He took the note and opened it.
Stop with your nonsense. You don't have to be a caged bird, rather be free bird.
– Tenten. P.S. you'll have no friends if you keep up with your rudeness.
Neji shrugged at his classmate's note but a small smile crept on his face for the first time in a while.
"God, and that led to your absolutely rude behavior during the chunin exams," Tenten rolled her eyes and gave a sigh, "but I'm glad that Naruto knocked some senses in you during that match…"
"Please don't remind me," Neji groaned at the memory while rubbing his temples, "It was my younger self alright?"
"That doesn't give you the right to be snobbish and over the top," Tenten pointed out, "You should be more aware of your surroundings and choice of words before locking yourself up again like a caged bird…"
"Will you stop with the whole bird analogy?" Neji snapped as he put the bird away inside the chest, "I get it now okay?"
"I don't think so…" Tenten teased as she nudged him painfully in the side, "With all of those high and mighty speeches of yours… oh what was it… These eyes of mine show me many things… The only destiny that everyone shares… is death… Seriously, what kind of a 13 year old speaks in the language of a 300 year old?"
"Then why didn't you tell me?" Neji growled, getting really irritated, and started tickling Tenten, "You could have saved me some of those embarrassing remarks…" Tenten playfully slapped his hand away from her.
"If I did, you would have used your kaiten and gentle-fist to destroy me," She laughed as she quickly got away from Neji's tickling, "STOP TICKLING ME!"
"Never!" Neji called as they both continued with their bantering and laughing while sipping tea in Tenten's house, sheltered by the rain.
A/N: Yosh, what did you think? [I think I made Neji and Tenten OOC in the second segment... my bad! ==] Sorry again about the late update due to all the final exams that's been going on. [seriously, the hardest exams have to be on the same weke as my analysis and final paper are due TT-TT I hate university…] As for my other fanfic, I won't be updating Musical Menu this week but I will update Chapter 5 for this fanfic this Saturday. :)
Again I wish those who are in the same position good luck and keep your studies up! I hope you have enjoyed this chapter and please let me know what you think about this fanfic by reviewing or messaging me!