The Last Battle of Tenten Nohara
(WARNING... Contains spoilers For Naruto Chapter 614)
"So Naruto..." sneered Obito. "I thought you said you weren't going to let even a single one of your friends die?"
The Uchiha let his gaze drift away from the obnoxious Jinchuriki cradling the dead Hyuga boy, and took a moment to survey the battlefield. Riding atop the Ten tails, Obito could have been a god surveying the four corners of the earth.
Not that he took any gloating pride in that. Not that any of that mattered. Nothing mattered. There was only one reason that he was still alive, one reason that he forced his broken twisted body up every morning. There was only one reason for all the death and terror and horror and war.
It was all for her.
Rin Nohara. Her smile haunted him still. Obito would be the first to admit that the dark powers that kept his body moving put him in the category of 'no longer being human.' He accepted that the horrors that had happened to him had dashed his mind into a thousand pieces. As long as he still had his memories of Rin, he could struggle from one hour to the next. He accepted that he was more monster than man. He accepted it all as just one more price he had to pay. It would all be worth it- just to hear her laugh once again, just to be able to see the wind toss her hair. Just to breathe the same air that had once crossed her lips.
There was nothing he was not willing to do.
Right beside Obito the reanimated corpse of Madara Uchiha rode the Ten tails, casually tossing his head. Obito shot him a glance heavy with triumph and giddy excitement, and Madara returned a cold heartless smile. "Even the great Madara Uchiha has to wait his turn behind Rin," thought Obito. Madara wanted Obito to use the Heavenly Life jutsu to bring the former head of the Uchiha clan back to the land of the living. Such a thing could be done, but only at the cost of Obito's own life. Despite all Madara had taught and done for Obito, there was no way Obito was going to leave this earth before he saw Rin returned to it.
"Have you spread enough despair yet?" Madara asked, a tinge of amusement in his voice. "We do need to have a Jinchuriki for the Ten tails before we can bring this Eye of the moon plan into fruition." He tapped his fingers impatiently on his thigh. "Or maybe you were thinking of modifying the plan somewhat? Surely you don't think that you are strong enough to be the jinchuriki of the Ten tails?"
Obito shook his head. "I would never assume that I could surpass the great Madara Uchiha, Let us just say... that at this late point I would like to have some reassurances."
"Reassurances," hissed Madara, "Are you insinuating that my word is not enough?"
For a second Obito gave a high pitched giggle, reminiscent of Tobi. "Not at all... I simply..." He paused and focused on the boy, Naruto, again. There was a small commotion occurring around him and the killed Hyuga. That idiot from his childhood, a life time ago, Might Guy was bawling his eyes out, a smaller version of Guy (his son maybe?) was clinging to the corpse, screaming in a display of showy anguish.
There was a third shinobi, standing slightly off to one side, quietly watching the whole scene. This new ninja hugged himself and shuddered. With one swift, determined move, he turned and started walking towards the Ten tails. "Simply what?" prompted Madara, "Obito? What is it you want?"
Obito looked over at Madara quickly. "I simply need some sort of assurance that..." There was something about the approaching shinobi that drew back his attention. Something about this shinobi sparked some long hidden memory deep in his mind. There was something about the way he walked...
Correction... She walked. Details about the kunoichi grew clearer as she approached. She was far too young to be anyone he knew from back in his days in Konoha. "Obito," Madara said, in that calm voice he used to indicate he was losing his temper. "If you wish to re-negotiate our deal, you will tell me your terms now. I am growing impatient with this stalling."
"I... " Obito started, and froze. The kunoichi had her hair done up in two tight buns. As she advanced, the left one slipped, coming apart. She paused and gingerly touched that side of her head. After a brief hesitation, she stepped forward with dread purpose. With her right hand she tore out the right bun. Her brown hair fluttered in the wind. Her narrow face and pert nose could just be seen under the shadow cast by her headband. "No... It can't be..." he whispered.
He shivered as she planted her feet and shifted her gaze upward. The kunoichi's tears had cut streaks through the grime and blood on her cheeks. Her honey brown eyes were alight with pain and fury and madness. They were the eyes of someone who had lost their entire reason for being. The eyes of someone who would smash the world for no other reason than to just make the hurting stop.
Obito recognized that look. He saw it in the mirror every morning.
He also recognized those eyes. He recognized her whole face. He felt what was left of his heart lurch. "Rin?" he muttered in disbelief.
Madara was losing his patience. The thrice damned boy was proving much more unreliable than he had hoped. This whole plan was slowly twisting and slipping out of his control. It was still salvageable, yes, but the effort required just to get the smallest goal accomplished was beginning to get on his nerves.
"Obito!" he barked harshly. The boy didn't even flinch. He just stood there like a simpleton, ogling some kunoichi who was standing defiantly before the Ten tails. Curious as to what could command Obito's attention so, Madara gave the stripling of a girl a second glance.
She stood glaring defiance and hate up at them. Another challenger no doubt, hoping to make a name for herself battling the great Madara Uchiha. "Really Obito," Madara grumbled, "it's not like you to lose your focus over a lowly pawn like that." The girl was chunin, and a rather unremarkable one at that. A second glance at Obito revealed him to be mumbling under his breath. He was repeating the same indistinct word over and over in his refrain, quivering with each breath.
There was one of those pregnant silences that only seem to affect dinner parties and battlefields. Madara felt the attention of the gathered shinobi army fall upon this one lone kunoichi. He dismissed her with one contemptuous wave. He would not even waste his time acknowledging her challenge.
"It's just a girl!" snapped Madara to Obito. "Pull yourself together!" Annoyed at his subordinate's distraction, he focused his chakra and gave the ten tails a nudge to move forward and crush the woman who would dare attempt to provoke him.
The Ten tails paused as a ground swell of powerful chakra rippled across the battleground. Madara himself had a slight frisson as the energies passed over and through him. He smiled a tiny thin lipped smile. This kunoichi was playing a dangerous game. She was using her emotions to feed her chakra supply. She was forcing open her tenketsu allowing this new flood of chakra to crash over her like a tidal wave. In that brief moment her chakra strength went from 'impressive for a chunin' to 'almost Kage level'. One could use emotion to boost one's power, that was true, but the shinobi who did so, and failed to win his or her fight, was often easy prey for their opponent, assuming that they even survived the chakra burnout afterwards.
The repeated toll of metal striking metal sounded out over the plain. A low hanging haze that stretched for a third of a kilometer lifted slowly off of the ground and hung threateningly in the air. Madara scowled as he heard Obito's shocked intake of breath. "Rin... No... Don't do this Rin," he muttered. The cloud tinkled gently as if it was made of thousands of tiny bells.
Every discarded kunai, every spent shuriken, every katana, kama and scrap of steel rose at the girl's unspoken command and hovered behind her like a deadly swarm of hornets. "Rather impressive," Madara grudgingly admitted. "It's reminiscent of that young Kazekage's sand manipulation." Madara gave the girl a polite nod. "Very well," he said, his voice loud enough to carry. "If you insist so badly, I can spare a few seconds to send you personally to the afterlife."
Tenten called out with her pain and fury. The steel answered.
Sometimes it felt like her whole life had been a battle. She had grown up with nothing. A lone toddler found crying in a pile of debris after the Nine tails had decimated Konoha. No relatives had come forth to claim her. No well meaning neighbors had identified her. No mourning parents had chosen her to replace the child spaced hole the kyubi had left in their lives. She had been raised on pure charity. There were plenty of others like her.
Tenten learned early on that in order to survive and succeed, you had to be hard, you had to be tough and you had live inside a shell of cold steel. Konoha's orphanages were overcrowded, underfunded, and home to a cruel melting pot of bullying and betrayal. There were too many children for too few adults. Tenten's first lesson was that even if you were younger and smaller, the bullies would leave you be if you had a weapon. Since she couldn't depend on friends or adults, weapons became what she relied on. She learned that as long as you cared for it, good steel would never let you down. She mastered the kunai by the time she was seven, when she was eight, she had the kusagari, katana and staff down pat. By nine she had run out of things for the weapons instructors to teach her, so she began to incorporate her blades into her ninjutsu training. Before she entered the final few years of the academy, she would have told you that she was going to be the toughest, strongest shinobi there ever was.
And then she met Neji.
He was cold, aloof, distinguished in all his ways, and like her, he had something to prove. He was a genius. Everyone knew it, and he let them know it.
She hated him. He would seem to effortlessly best everyone in their class, including her at every task. No matter how hard she tried, the best she could hope for was second place. Like everyone else in their year, outside of school she left the Hyuga boy alone.
That started to change six months before graduation. She was just leaving the academy gate when he hailed her. She was so surprised that at first she didn't believe she heard it. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Excuse me? Tenten-san? I wonder if I might have a moment of your time?"
She turned towards him. "Yes Neji-kun?"
Neji cleared his throat at the familiarity, and glanced away quickly. "I was wondering if you would have some spare time to train this afternoon? I believe we could both benefit from some added practice."
Tenten clenched her books a little tighter to her chest. "I'm sorry Neji-san, I really have to be getting home. I am supposed to be doing some cleaning and then I have to make myself some dinner."
Neji nodded. "Yes. Well... I can't take you away from your duties. I'm sorry to have bothered you." He turned to walk away.
Before he took two steps, Tenten called out to him. "Neji?" he stopped. "Why me?"
"Why would you want to train with me? I thought you were a genius? You've beaten me in everything."
"Out of everyone in our year, you are the only one who could be my equal." He gave her a cool appraising look over one shoulder. "You are the only one who could push me to a new level."
Tenten blushed slightly. "O-oh," she stammered. She called out to his retreating back. "Neji! I'm free tomorrow afternoon! Would you like to train then?" Neji gave her a reserved nod and kept on walking.
That was the beginning of their friendship. Tenten began to open up and lose some of her armor. She had to- Neji was taciturn enough for ten people. Someone had to talk about something during their breaks.
When they were both assigned to team Guy, they had reams of topics to talk about. Mostly dealing with their sensei and their new teammate, Rock Lee. Oddly enough the tight bond that Guy and Lee shared, pushed Neji even closer to her. Little by little he began to open up, dropping hints about his life and his past. Underneath his hard shell was a bubbling cauldron of hatred and resentment. "I envy you," he admitted one day as they relaxed after a particularly gruelling session Guy-sensei put them through. "You always seem so... free."
Tenten propped herself up on one elbow. "Free? What do you mean?"
Neji vaguely waved a hand. "Free. No family restrictions. No clan rules to adhere to. You seem to have so much..." he frowned at her faint smile. "What?"
"It's funny," Tenten said smirking. "There are times I really envy you. You have that whole big clan backing you up and supporting you with everything. It must make some things easier." Something she said upset Neji. He drifted back into one of his stoic silences. Tenten had learned by now not to take them too personally. The last thing she said was. "You know... Someday before I die... I'd like to really find out who my family really is. I'd like to really know where I came from.."
He changed with time. They changed. They grew and matured together, becoming fast friends and confidants. There was little that they didn't share. They were clearly strong teammates, but their relationship never proceeded past the professional level.
The day Neji made jonin, gave her the first hint that they might be able to become something more. They were walking back from the celebration Might Guy threw for him. Guy-sensei and Lee demanded to continue the festivities with a bout of karaoke. Three songs in, Tenten hastily made an excuse, and Neji offered to escort her back home.
It was a warm night and Neji was in a very good mood. The smile never left his face. Tenten had always admired him as a shinobi, but this was the first time she admitted to herself that he might be handsome too.
She reached out and took his hand as he turned to leave her at her door. "Tonight was a lot of fun," she said with hopeful bravado. "We should do it again sometime,"
Neji gave a hesitant chuckle. "Really... I would think that one night of Karaoke with Guy-sensei and Lee would be enough to last for a lifetime."
Tenten found herself giggling at his joke. "I wasn't talking about inviting Guy-sensei and Lee... I meant... just us."
There was a long pause. "I... suppose," he stopped nervously and started again, "I suppose spending more time together outside of missions would... improve our cohesiveness as a team," he finished weakly.
A chill of disappointment settled around her. She nodded coolly at him. "Yes," she said primly, "team cohesiveness. That's exactly what we need to improve." She turned to her door, hurt by his rejection.
"Tenten," he paused and let out a sigh. "I... understand what you are asking. You just don't have the full grasp of my situation."
"Neji... It's fine. Forget about it. I just had this silly idea that maybe..."
"My situation Tenten," Neji interrupted, "Is that I am a Hyuga, and your family is... unknown."
Tenten felt the armor close around her heart. "Well," she snapped, "I had no idea social status was such an important point in the people you considered friends. I'm sorry to have intruded on your time, your majesty." She tossed the door to her apartment open and began to step inside.
Neji's hand seized her shoulder and spun her around. There was a light in his eye that Tenten hadn't ever seen before. Cool, composed Neji was flustered. "Listen to me!" he pleaded, stepping towards her and giving her a small shake.
Their faces were centimeters apart. Tenten could feel his breath, hot and fast. Neji stared at her and licked his lips once.
He slowly let his hands drop from her shoulders. "I apologize Tenten. I did not mean to make you upset. I was merely trying to say that... as a Hyuga, there are a great many choices that are not my own. Among them is whom I may marry."
Tenten jumped. "I'm just talking about going out Neji! I didn't say anything about..."
Neji shrugged. "Fine... Who I have a relationship with then." His pale eyes stared into hers. "Among the traditions of the Hyuga clan it is all one and the same. Our lives are carefully choreographed from the time we are born, till they wrap us in our funeral shrouds. I have little influence and even less choice in the matter." Neji took a deep breath and quickly looked away. "I wish it were otherwise," he said quietly. His voice tinged with longing.
The next day he almost acted as if nothing had ever been said. A casual acquaintance would have seen the same cool collected Neji as always. It was very slight but, Tenten noticed a tenderness towards her that was not present before. She wouldn't admit it outside of her own head, but she cherished it.
Two years later came the Fourth great Ninja war. Shinobi from the five great nations came together to battle the Akatsuki, a common foe determined to rule the world. The enemy was frighteningly powerful. Casualties were expected to be high. The night before the conflict emotions were running hot with nervous energy. There were fights, arguments, and brawls running through the ranks of the hastily assembled troops. There were also many instances of 'battlefield romance' floating around as well.
Tenten herself was feeling a little apprehensive and sought out her team for reassurances. They were to be split up into different battalions and as such were all located at different posts. Team Guy met together at the large central depot before heading their separate ways. She joked around with Lee and Guy for far too long before deciding to head back to her tent. Neji, once again, offered to accompany her.
They walked through the throngs of noisy shinobi. The tension could be felt vibrating in the air. They passed the third division's encampment, turned right and headed to Tenten's bivouac. Neji cleared his throat. "I hope that you don't find me presumptuous but..." He took a deep breath.
Tenten used the pause to impishly interrupt. "I'm shocked! I've never known you to presume anything!" she teased.
Neji smiled but barreled ahead. "I had the opportunity to look through the archived Konoha records a few months ago. Tsunade-sama wanted a detailed report regarding the Nine tail's attack from sixteen years ago." Tenten's pace faltered a step. "I took the liberty of searching the death records, even though it was not part of the original request."
This time it was Tenten's turn to take a deep breath. "Neji... I appreciate the sentiment, but, Its been checked over and over again. There was no one who claimed me. No one wanted to step forward."
Neji shook his head. "Actually... I think I have found something. It might be worth looking into."
Tenten inhaled with a sharp hiss. "Really?"
"There was a weaponsmith who came to Konoha from an outlying village sixteen years ago. His wife wanted to come to Konoha to visit her sister's grave. It was close to the anniversary of the sister's death. She was a Leaf chunin who was killed in the line of duty." He coughed gently into his hand. "They had a young daughter, barely a year old. Both parents were killed when the fox attacked, the babe was listed as missing, presumed dead."
Tenten scoffed to cover the butterflies in her stomach. "Right... and the odds of that little girl being me are?"
Neji shrugged. "Slim, but not insignificant. They were part of a small clan that had produced some fairly skilled shinobi in the past. Alas, in recent years, they have fallen into disarray."
Tenten marched on. "And you're telling me this because?"
Neji glanced away nervously. "We're entering a war, the likes of which our generation has never even seen. You mentioned to me once that you would like the opportunity to know who your family was before..." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, at a time like this, I know I would like to make peace with my past if I could."
Tenten thought for a bit. "So aside from having a girl roughly the same age as me, what makes you think that they are my parents?"
Neji glanced over and gave her a small smile. "Well there was the history of ninjutsu, and the skills with weapons the father had. Plus there are the colorations." He looked into her face for a moment. "Both parents had brown hair and brown eyes. The babe was described as having the same. The clan markings were two purple bars painted on the cheeks. But of course," he said smiling nervously, "you wouldn't be wearing those."
Tenten shrugged. "Okay. Even taking into account all that you've said. It's still just a bunch of circumstantial evidence. What are the best odds that you think these people would have been my parents?"
Neji looked away. "Ten percent maybe?" He looked back at her. "I'm sorry if bringing it up makes you uncomfortable."
Tenten tried to look him in the eyes. "Not so much uncomfortable as...curious as to why you were checking up on me in the first place."
Unlike most Hyuga, Neji did not often blush. Tenten was surprised to see a faint flush on his cheeks. "It wasn't exclusively you. There was talk of sending a Hyuga trade delegation to meet with this clan after the destruction of Konoha. The Hyuga were very interested in securing an alliance."
"And I came into this how?"
Neji hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "I was mostly just curious. There seemed to be some similarities, and well, the more I investigated, the more coincidences appeared. I was planning on seeing if you wanted me to make any inquiries on your behalf... but the delegation was cancelled, and now... with everything happening... I just thought you might like to know."
Tenten took eight steps, wrestling with how this potential tidbit made her feel. She had always found that whole 'who am I' thing to swing between being an annoyance and the most important thing in the world. With the war starting soon, she didn't think she could deal with it right now. "So what was their clan name anyway?" she asked quietly.
"Nohara," Neji replied.
They uncomfortably walked to Tenten's camp in silence. Returning to the light and the protective ring of sentries seemed to make her relax some. There was a chill in the night air and she sidled up to him for warmth. "Hey Neji?" she asked quietly. "How do you stay so calm? I mean here were are going off to war and you... You look like you're just walking down to the corner store."
To her shock Neji laughed. "I look calm to you?" He shook his head. "Tenten... I'm about as nervous as I can be."
"Well this has got to be a first. Neji Hyuga is nervous."
To her surprise he put his arm around her. "Well, after all I am only human. I worry about what will happen to me... and my family and... people I care deeply about." His breath tickled her cheek.
She stopped. "Neji? What are you doing?"
Neji jerked his arm away. "Nothing... I was just... Nothing" Tenten looked up. Neji had turned his head away, but he was plainly blushing under the moonlight.
"Hey Neji?" she said quietly. Neji turned just enough to look at her sideways. Tenten seized his face and pulled him down to her lips.
It was an awkward kiss. Neji was shocked, Tenten was nervous, and neither one of them really knew what they were doing. There was much clicking of teeth and repeated posturing of lips.
It was the most wonderful sensation Tenten had ever felt.
His arms wrapped around her encircling her in warmth. She slipped her thighs around his leg and squeezed him tight. A warm, melty feeling slowly built in her stomach and creeped up her spine. She felt her toes begin to curl. Tenten kept one of her hands on his cheek while she teased her fingers of the other into his long hair, pulling it slowly through it's length.
For one moment both of their long held defenses fell away, and they gave in to their pent up needs for human contact and comfort.
Eventually she pulled away. "Neji," she whispered. "I'm nervous about losing people I deeply care about too." She stepped forward and pressed herself against his chest. "I want you to take care of yourself okay?"
Neji's hand reached up and shaking, tried to run his fingers through her hair. "You're not going to be able to do much with the buns in you know," she giggled at him.
"I don't think I've ever seen you without them," he said quietly. His fingers drew soft circles on the nape of her neck. "But I'm positive you would still be as beautiful." His eyes smiled down at her in the moonlight.
She almost invited him into her tent. Almost, but not quite. She knew that he would politely refuse at first. She could insist, and maybe she could convince him to stay with her, but that would be somehow... wrong. Making Neji not be Neji. Above all things he was a Hyuga, a servant to his duty. Like everything else in their relationship, that would have to take time.
She found herself smiling, entertaining the brief fantasy that maybe she could find this Nohara clan, get herself recognized, and maybe convince the clan elders that this once orphan girl could be a fitting match for a Hyuga. She shook her head dismissing her daydreams. "What is it?" Neji whispered to her.
She answered by giving him another kiss. This one was even better. "Neji Hyuga, you and I will need have a long talk after this war okay?" Grinning, she and Neji parted for the night.
She was late arriving to the location where Naruto was battling the Ten tails. She had had a lot of ground to cover. She knew something was wrong when she heard Guy-sensei's wail of anguish. It wasn't his usual overdramatized cry, his voice was filled with genuine hurt.
Something was wrong with Neji. Naruto and Lee were cradling him. He looked almost peaceful, his eyes half closed, his face half smiling.
Neji's hated curse mark, the mark that chained him to his destiny was gone.
Tenten felt her reality drop away from her in that instant. She knew. She saw the blood all over his flak jacket. She saw the huge spears piercing his flesh and bone. Neji was dead. That fact tumbled around inside her head and found purchase at the center of her being. Its footsteps echoed through her heart with boots of lead.
Neji was gone.
For a second she felt like she was floating. She felt the burning well up in her eyes and in that instant she wanted to do nothing more than collapse in a heap crying.
A sound made her turn. The Ten tails, that hideous twisted beast, grunted and fired off a second wave of spears at a group of approaching shinobi.
Tenten felt her steel armor close around her heart. Slowly, dreamlike, she paced towards the Ten tails.
Two figures peered down at her. They called out to her, but she couldn't hear their words. She doubted she would have cared to listen even if she could. These were the ones. She nodded to herself. These were the ones who killed her Neji. These were the ones who must die.
Tenten kept her mind calm, but her emotions were boiling over. They rolled underneath the surface of her skin, screaming to be let out, screaming for vengeance.
She let them out. Riding a massive wave of chakra, they pulsed outward in huge rings searching for the familiar.
The weapons were familiar.
Tenten could feel each one, singing in her mind, pleading to draw blood, begging to fly, floating in the huge cloud behind her. She knew without looking what that cloud of steel looked like, she knew that were she to try for a thousand years, she would never be able to perform a jutsu like this again.
That didn't matter. Once was all she would need.
Tenten stood there and glared at the monsters, the Ten tails and the two wearing human skin. "His name was Neji Hyuga," she called out loudly to them. "He was a good man. I loved him."
The weapons leapt forward with a hissing sound.
Rin was here! She was right here! Somehow without his lifting a finger she had come back to him! That fool Madara was taunting her, threatening to destroy her, but she was here. Here! Obito wasn't sure whether to pull out his hair with anxiety or laugh with glee. She should not be here! She could be killed... again! He had to figure out some way to talk to her! To touch her! To hold her in his arms and stroke her hair and convince himself that she was here and alive and well.
The cloud of discarded weapons cut through the air. It was only because of his sharingan that his addled brain was able to command his body enough to dodge them.
Rin was here and she was... so powerful. A tremor of doubt crept into his brain. The Rin he knew was never this strong. The Rin he knew was a kind, gentle, caring soul. This Rin was all blood and steel and vengeance.
The Ten tails shuddered under the hail of weapons. Obito looked over at Madara in dismay. "It is impressive yes," the elder Uchiha intoned. "But compared to the power we wield here it is less than nothing. No weapons like these will do more harm than a paltry handful of scratches to the Ten tails."
Sure enough the noise was fading away. Madara gave the beast another prod. "Go!" he snapped. "Trample the child."
"No wait!" cried Obito.
Madara cuffed him across the face. It was like getting hit by a falling boulder. "I believe that your usefulness to me may be nearing its end," he said casually.
Obito rolled with the blow and sprang back up to his feet. "You can't hurt her! She's a good girl!" he wailed.
Madara's response was a contemptuous kick that spun him to the limit of the umbilical attaching his body to the Ten tails. "Really," said Marada coldly. "I spend a few years in the grave and you forget your lessons so quickly?" He seized Obito by the throat and hoisted him high into the air. "You do not presume to tell me what to do!" He glanced down at the Ten tails. "Burn her!"
Obito kicked out with his legs, as the Ten tails gathered up enough chakra for an enormous lightning jutsu. He had to do something. He had to convince Madara to just stop, to just listen to him for a moment. He did the first thing that came to mind. He activated his Kamui and used the vacuum from the dimensional portal to tear off Madara's head. Obito landed down on his feet with a thump and rubbed his neck.
"Stop now!" he shouted, stomping on the Ten tails' back to get its attention. "Stop I said! Stop I command!!!" The damned thing wouldn't listen. The electricity kept crackling between its paws in a huge glowing mass, "Please stop? I don't want you to hurt the nice lady!" Obito whined in Tobi's voice.
The thunderbolt rent the air with light and sound.
When the dust had cleared, the kunoichi stood in the middle of a ring of blacked smouldering earth. She had made a spinning defensive shell using the metal she was wielding with her jutsu. The blast had channeled itself over her shield and grounded out around her feet.
Obito clapped and whistled. "That's my Rin!" he cheered. He started waving. "Up here!" He stopped waving at a soft sound from behind.
Madara Uchiha stood there gently fingering the holes in his slowly rebuilding face. He calmly looked back up at Obito. "That, my boy, was quite the misjudgement on your part."
Obito grinned desperately at him. "You don't understand... That looks like her... I think that's Rin! I can't let anything hurt her! She's the one I did all of this for! She's the girl I love!"
Madara tested his neck as the last few scraps fell into place. "You don't understand... boy. I don't care."
The two men on top of the Ten tails began to fight each other. Tenten didn't know which one, if either, was on her side, and to be honest, she didn't really care. She looked at it as a pure opportunity to get the upper hand. She had almost started weeping when she made that steel kaiten to stop the Ten tails lighting jutsu. She hoped that somewhere Neji was smiling down on her.
She kept up her attacks. Flowing tendrils of steel, swooping and cutting lanced the flesh of the hideous beast. She was having an effect. Every once in awhile, she could force the Ten tails back, but while these ordinary weapons could annoy the beast, they didn't seem to do any mortal damage. Worse, one of the men fighting on its back still had some intermittent control over the monster and would use it to launch earth shattering attacks at her. The distractions they were having by fighting each other gave her the slightest advantage. The length of time this fight was taking was going to be her downfall.
Most ninja battles end when one shinobi runs low on chakra. Most shinobi will flee a fight before they reach that point. Using up too much chakra was asking for weeks of recovery in a hospital bed, and in the more serious cases... death.
Tenten had already calculated that this was going to be her last battle. The only question was whether she could finish the fight, before she finished herself. If she was going to win, she would need to do something even more desperate.
Time was her enemy. She sent two thirds of the cloud of weapons fountaining up like water into the sky. They floated gently at the zenith of their arc, and then came whistling down at the two figures on the Ten tails back.
One of the two glanced up from their private brawl, shook his head, and commanded the Ten tails to form a protective dome with its tails. The weapons rattled on the monster like hail.
For a moment the two men atop the monster were blind. This is what she had been hoping for. Out of the thousands she had flying at her command, there was one more weapon she wanted to wield this day.
Her summoning scroll unrolled under her hands. There was a burst of smoke, and the bashosen was once again in her grasp.
The relic was dangerous. The last time she used it, it threatened to drain her of so much chakra she could have died. Somehow that didn't seem to matter much right now.
The bashosen eagerly leapt into her hands. It seemed to vibrate with anticipation as she began to feed chakra into it. She held it before her as it began to grow warm to the touch. Waves of intense heat rippled the air, and she continued to pour her life force into the weapon. The fan glowed dull red, and then bright orange, but it still wasn't enough for her.
Tenten began to feel light headed, but she kept adding chakra to the bashosen. The very air sizzled as it approached the fan. At some point she hit her limit. Tenten gasped for breath and eyed the weapon critically. The center of the fan was glowing white, but that still wasn't good enough. Not for her.
She poured every lost dream she had about Neji into the bashosen. Every missing kiss, every time he would not be there to hold her hand, every time he wouldn't be there for her to cry on his shoulder. The wedding that was now so much dust, their shared home that was so much ashes. The children that would never be.
One by one the feathers on the fan flared white and incinerated away. The bashosen started a high pitched keening harmonic that, if it were alive, would pass for pain. This would be the last fight for the both of them it seemed. The light grew too bright for her to look at directly. The handle grew painfully hot. Tenten gripped it tighter and felt the agony of it course through her arm. Her flesh crackled and popped and smoked, but again it didn't matter. Nothing did anymore.
Well maybe one thing. She had to figure out how to get up high enough to give the Ten tails a fatal blow.
Obito was leaking white fluid everywhere. He had thought that his new and improved body was virtually indestructible. Madara Uchiha had emphasized 'virtually'. "So tell me boy..." Madara sighed, applying more force to Obito's knee with the sole of his boot. "Have you changed your mind any about wanting to continue this foolish chivalry, asking me to spare this girl?" Obito just groaned and tried to pull away as bits of his knee cap snapped apart.
Madara crouched down, with a cool smile. "Tell you what, I promise to grant her a quick death, immediately after you resurrect me. Do we have a bargain?"
"Rin!" gasped Obito with a bubbling breath.
Madara frowned. "Well, no one could say that I wasn't reasonable." With stiffened fingers he dug into Obito's chest searching for his heart. Obito screamed. Madara reached down and patted the beast with his other hand. "Kill the girl," he said.
The Ten tails started to lurch forward and then hesitated. "Go!" snapped Madara. The hideous monster groaned and seemed to shrink back. "What is it now?" snarled Madara, the last shreds of his patience finally gone. At his command the Ten tails lowered his protective dome made of tails.
Obito gasped and looked away to protect his eyes. The girl who looked like Rin stood there, brighter than the sun, lit up with blue white flame. In her hand was what appeared to be a flaming sword. He heard a sharp intake of breath from Madara. "Oh my," the Uchiha muttered in awe.
Obito risked another look. The kunoichi had leaped high into the air. Metal wings of overlapping shuriken unfolded from her back. The fiery light from her weapon made them shimmer and glow as she used them to glide towards the monster's head. A comet's tail of luminous gases and glowing plasma trailed her blade through the air. "An angel," Obito gasped. "She's an angel."
Her voice was a blood curdling cry to the heavens."NEJI!!!" she screamed. The Ten tails squealed with fear as the sword came around in a vicious arc.
There was a tremendous wave of heat, pressure and noise.
Then all was quiet.
Of all the things Tenten expected of the afterlife, seasickness wasn't one of them.
Her head was woozy and full of cotton. There was a continuous sour taste in her mouth. It took her a while, but gradually she realized that the gentle swaying motion wasn't due to the fact she was on the water, but because she was being carried. Strong arms were around her. Her eyesight was dim, she couldn't make out anything other than shadows. There was a ringing in her ears and all she could smell was burning meat. She said the name of the only person on her mind. "Neji?" she whispered in a parched voice.
There was a high pitched chuckle, but the voice was a bass rumble. "No... not Neji."
"Who?" was all she could manage to ask.
She felt a shrug. "I'm nobody. My name is not important."
"The monster?" She rasped through her parched throat. Those two words almost made her cry out with pain.
He knew what she was asking. "I have never seen nor heard of any jutsu like that. The Ten tails was burned to a crisp. I myself saw the supposedly indestructible body of Madara Uchiha blown apart into its component atoms. You slew that which could not be killed." Again there was a high pitched chuckle. "You have ensured that your tale will be told for a hundred generations."
"Didn't... do it... for me," Tenten hissed. "For Neji."
Her rescuer walked for a few steps. "Who is this Neji you keep calling out for? He seems important."
"Neji..." she mumbled. Tenten felt the tears start to come. They stung like burning coals in her eyes and on her face. "I loved him."
The man carrying her stumbled a little bit. "Really?"
Tenten's head gave the tiniest nod. "More than anything..." She swallowed and her voice grew stronger. "We... grew up together. It just took so much time for me to realize..." she broke into a choking cough. "I wish I had told him sooner." The world swam around her. Tenten thought she might have blacked out, but when her head started working again, the man was still carrying her. "Where are you taking me?"
"Back to your friends," the voice rumbled. There was a long thoughtful pause. "You... remind me very much of a woman I once... knew. You're the spitting image of her, I first thought you were her, but she'd be much... older than you." He cleared his throat. "You wouldn't by any chance be part of the Nohara clan would you?" Tenten started to laugh. "What's so funny?"
Her chuckle quickly changed over to a choked sob. "Neji. He was asking me the same thing last night."
"Who was she?" Tenten asked in a mumble, getting drowsy again
There was a long sigh. "Her name was Rin. I loved her more than anything."
"What happened to her?"
"She died," the voice said simply. "Woah there, just relax."
Despite all the pain, Tenten was trying to struggle up. "How do you deal with it?" she slurred at him pleadingly. "How do you keep living like this? All I can do is think how he isn't here with me!"
There was a knowing nod. "It feels like you are going mad doesn't it?"
"I would do anything to bring him back," moaned Tenten.
The man froze. He shifted her slightly in his arms. "I know how you feel," he whispered.
Voices carried on the breeze. They sounded familiar. "...have never seen such a bounty of youthful energy! Did you see what she did? And all for the love of her comrade! If there is even the slightest chance we must find her!"
"Hai Guy-sensei!" There was a shift and she felt the ground underneath her.
She felt the man carrying her begin to pull away. "Wait!" she croaked. "Stay. It's just my friends."
"That... would not be wise." There was a pause. "May I ask your name?"
"Tenten." She tried to give her rescuer a smile but her face felt tight and cracked. "Please be careful... There were two men on top of the Ten tails. One of them might still be out there."
"Don't worry, If he is, I'm sure he won't be alive for very much longer." The voices were getting closer. She could hear Naruto and Hinata and Kakashi-sensei calling out for her as well. A few drops of water splashed on her face. A hand tenderly brushed her cheek. "Tenten... Go to Neji. Be with him. Live your life with him and be happy." Her rescuer began to pull away.
His words poured through her brain like ice water. Tenten's hand latched onto him like a vice. "What do you mean?"
Her rescuer underwent a strange shiver. One moment he was there, the next he somehow slipped through her fingers. "Don't you worry pretty-angel-Tenten-lady!" he said in a high pitched, chipper voice. "I can fix everything! I'll do a good job! I'm a good boy!"
"And who was that man Mommy?" asked Hizashi, vibrating with barely contained excitement.
Tenten laughed and gave him a gentle push back down into bed. "Nobody knows. He just mysteriously vanished. But before he did he used a special super jutsu that made everybody who got hurt really badly get magically better again."
"Everybody like Daddy?"
Tenten nodded. "Exactly like Daddy." She gave him a pat and pulled the blankets up to his chin. "It's past your bedtime sweetheart. You promised me you'd go right to sleep if I told you that story again."
She kissed him goodnight and started to step away. "Mommy?" asked, Hizashi, reaching out to grab her bad hand. "How come the magic man's jutsu made Daddy all better and not you? If you were all better you could still be a shinobi, couldn't you mom?"
Tenten gently pulled her right arm away. She gave her son a smiling shrug. "I guess I just wasn't hurt as badly as your father was. He needed it more than I did." She smiled at her son a little wistfully. "Sometimes I wish I was still a kunoichi.... But I wouldn't trade you or this family for anything in the world." She ruffled his hair. "But you already knew that, right?"
Hizashi smiled and snuggled down amongst his blankets. "You were really cool mom, beating the monster and all the bad guys like that. You sounded just like uncle Naruto!"
Tenten shook her head. "Stop stalling sweetie. Go to sleep."
Hizashi rolled over in his bed. "Goodnight Mom."
Tenten quietly shut the door to his room and walked down to the ground floor. She gave a quick look around for her husband and found him in the kitchen, finishing up the dishes. She snuck up behind him and put her arms around his waist. "Hi!" she said brightly.
Neji put the dish down and turned in her embrace. "Hizashi wanted the story of the Fourth war again did he?" he asked in an amused voice. He leaned his head in, awkwardly trying to kiss around her glasses.
"Let me take them off," Tenten said cheerfully, "the sun's setting so the light shouldn't bother me too much." She took off the protective smoked glass and put it carefully on the counter. She'd needed them since the light from the bashosen had burned out her eyes. "Thanks for doing the dishes."
Neji shook his head and gave her one of the special smiles he reserved for when they were alone. "It's least I could do for my lovely wife." He took up her right hand and ran his fingers over the twisted, lumpy, scar tissue there. "Has the medicine kicked in yet?"
Tenten reached up and ran her arthritic fingers over his face. Fingers too disfigured and stiffened by burns to hold a kunai. She paused lightly over the empty patch in the center of his forehead. "It's a little better, but not great," she admitted. She smiled at Neji impishly and hovered her hand in front of his lips. "Do you want to kiss it and see if that makes it better?"
Neji moved closer. With her injuries, she couldn't put her hair up in the buns anymore. Neji ran his hands through her pony tail. He teased it gently around one finger.
Neji kissed the center of her hand. Then, staring deep into her eyes, he pulled her tight and kissed her lips.
It was still the most wonderful sensation Tenten had ever felt.