Disclaimer: Naruto series and characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto. The plot, though, is mine.
That Face in my Dreams
Chapter Two: A Terrible Secret
It's been an hour or two since Tenten ran into the village for some unexplained purpose. The heavy storm just ended and the rain has taken up a slightly softer way of falling a couple of minutes ago, so I decide to go look for her, make sure she got home okay. It would have been senseless to search for her under the weight of the rain a half-hour ago.
I enter the village and turn the first corner. I follow the path that led to Tenten's home last time. My tired mind all of a sudden comes up with an unlikely possibility. What if she didn't make it home?
I break into a run. What if she got hurt on the way? She could be in trouble! I shake my head. That would never happen to the Tenten I know! Then again, it is dangerous in Konohagakure at night.
What am I doing?! There's no proof anything bad happened to her! I kept telling myself, but my legs wouldn't listen. I found myself sprinting as fast as I could, cutting corners and leaping over obstacles of all sorts like closed merchant stalls, sleeping guard dogs and road blocks.
As I skidded to turn on the before-last road, I spot a figure, on the side of the path.
My heart sank. There, sprawled on the ground, soaked to the skin, lies Tenten. The first reaction I have is to rush to her and wrap her up in the extra jacket I have on. Then I pick her up and find a slight overhang that can protect us from the merciless downpour. Her bangs stick to her forehead, but as I brush them away, my fingers feel very warm. I place the back of my hand on her forehead, but have to retrieve them quickly. It's so hot! A fever so high can't be good.
Where do I bring her? The hospital? No, it's at the other end of the village. But, I do know one place where I can get treatment at the exact same level.
"Sorry to impose something like this on you so late." I'm sitting in the corner of a large bedroom. Infront of me, at the other corner of the room, is Tenten, sleeping soundly under many blankets.
"Oh it isn't..." she yawns, "... any trouble, Neji-kun. A fever like this is quite serious." explains Haruno Sakura.
Sakura and I have been friends for a while, ever since she healed me many years ago after a mission gone wrong. Had it not been for her first aid, I probably wouldn't be here. Not that we talk much, but we always know that we won't be uncomfortable if we ask favors from each other. Although I have a feeling she doesn't enjoy being woken up at one in the morning by a teenager holding an unconscious girl infront of her apartment door. Nevertheless, she helps those in need.
"So, how, when, where and why?" she asks in a back-to-business voice.
How am I supposed to explain that? "Uh... I just found her like that on my way home from training?" Obviously Sakura knows I'm not trying very hard.
"Okay then... during the day, did she show any odd symptoms?" she tries again.
Well, she was being happy, then all of a second depressed and secretive. Moody. Do those count? "She seemed rather tired this evening." I offer. Sakura ponders this for a while. Her eyes come back into focus and she walks towards the bed where Tenten lay motionless.
Sakura proceeds to examine Tenten. She runs her chakra-enveloped hands over Tenten's listless body.
"What are you looking for?" I ask her out of the blue. Funny how I seem so talkative today...
"Well, if Tenten has any rashes, it could serve as another symptom." she explained while her eyes scanned Tenten's arms and shoulders. She turned her over on her side. "If she has any cuts, it could mean the fever was caused by an infection or..." Sakura lifts the back of Tenten's shirt and goes to check for any damage, when she suddenly freezes, her hand still hovering above Tenten.
Infection or what? What's going on? I look up at Sakura to see her, eyes wide, gaping at something on Tenten's back. I rush to her side, but wish I hadn't.
I feel my stomack lurch.
My eyes follow one dark red line on Tenten's back, then I gape at small burn marks on her shoulders and lower back. What particularly disturbed me were the hundred small, deep stab wounds scattered everywhere on her skin. Sakura removed something from one of the bigger ones. It was a big piece of shattered glass.
"Oh my..." whispered Sakura. She set Tenten back down gently and folded over the bottoms of Tenten's pants until they were above her knees. She then turned Tenten over again to see that there were similar wounds all on the back of her legs, but mysterious enough, there weren't any wounds below where Tenten's pants normally would stop.
"Sakura, what does this mean?" I asked in a cold tone. Sakura looked at me with tear-filled eyes. "There's a big chance... that Tenten is hurting herself this way..." Her voice was unstable.
No way! Tenten wouldn't do that! It can't be... it can't be...
The house is too merry tonight.
It was last night that we saw those terrible scars, and I'm still feeling queasy.
Of course, tonight is Hinata's sixteenth birthday. And of course, I totally forgot. But luckily, Hanabi had also forgotten so I had to accompany her to go get a present, hence I was saved from seeming disrespectful to the eldest child of the Main Branch family. Even so... I don't feel relieved.
I've spent all day locked up in my room. I wouldn't let anyone disturb me.
The sight of all those marks stayed burned into my thoughts. Tenten couldn't possibly be able to inflict those onto herself... then again, she is a weapons master... But then she wouldn't use something as low-class as beer bottle shards... unless she wanted to hide that it was her doing this to herself. Everything makes sense... and I wish it didn't.
I finally allowed myself to be convinced to go downstairs and join the group (well, "join"... let's say just being in the same room is enough for me.)
Ino was there, Temari was present, Chouji and Shikamaru were chatting (Chouji being right beside the snack table), Kiba was laughing with Hinata and Shino was simply standing with them. Naruto is still off training with Jiraiya-san, so he missed the party. Sakura had been invited too, but she stayed home. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't leave Tenten behind. After all, she still hadn't waken up yet.
I looked to the side. Hanabi's pale eyes stared back at me. "Neji-nii-san, where's Tenten? A week ago she said she'd show me how to handle a katana on Nee-chan's birthday." she complained, pouting a little bit.
"Hanabi-sama, you're eleven years old, please don't pout at me like that." I say bluntly. Hanabi reddens a little, but then looks back up at me. "So, where is she?" she asks again. I can't lie to her, she'll know immediately because of our Bloodline limit.
"She's with Sakura and she wasn't feeling well enough to come." Well, it isn't a lie, right? Hanabi looks at me a little longer, but finally sighs and decides it isn't worth it. Smart kid.
The party rolls on; Hinata receives her gifts, I decline all invitations to dance, Hanabi puts on a demonstration show of her skills and Hiashi-sama gives a long talk on how he's "so proud of his little girl and always has been". I notice Hinata looking shameful and timid. She has a hard time believing it. If Hiashi thinks he's making amends after so many years of reproval and criticism, he is sadly mistaken.
Later on, when Hinata is feeling better, she comes up to me. "Neji-nii-san, S-Sakura-chan and Tenten-chan do not s-seem to be here? D-Did I do s-something to of-offend them?" she asked in a high-pitched, worried voice.
I'm about to tell her what I told Hanabi, but then I think against it. Hinata is a medic-nin in training and is a very close friend of Sakura's and Tenten's. She would find out one day or another. I can also trust her to keep a secret. "Hinata-san, could I talk to you about that later on, when everyone is gone?" I ask her. She pales. She probably thinks she really did offend them. "It's not for the reason you think." I reassure her, before turning away and walking out to the gardens.
Hinata and I sat in the garden on a bench among Azalia bushes. Hinata looks pale, her mouth slightly parted and her lower lip trembling. I'm sitting straight, facing forwards, ignoring the sight of her horror and shock, trying to avoid reacting like that myself.
"T-Tenten-chan is... a... a m-masochist? I... It's so... h-hard to believe..." she managed to say. I close my eyes, repressing my own feelings regarding the issues. Unpleasant feelings. I was waiting for tears to flow and the sound of choked sobs, but none came from her. She looked bluntly at her feet, her eyes gleaming with unshed tears. "I knew it... " she whispered softly. Knew what? I was about to ask her until she spoke first.
"S-something... just wasn't right when I w-was with Tenten-chan." she said sadly. A tear fell from her eyes. "She always s-seemed like she was hiding something... i-important... from me. I can always t-tell when she talks to m-me. She wants to t-tell me something, but she's hiding it a-away, as if she's ashamed of it."
I ponder this for a while. Why didn't I notice it at all?
"I... I don't know if it's b-because of Byakugan that I noticed... but I d-doubt it because Sakura seemed to have noticed as well. We were both so worried..." she explained, her hands shaking slightly on her lap. She couldn't hold back her sobs anymore and broke down.
I nodded. My Byakugan is more developped than Hinata's, but hers can detect feelings better than I can.
Hinata is stronger in that point.
I need practice.
"Neji-nii-san! Someone's here for you!" calls out Hanabi from the basement. I'm in a grumpy mood. My clock reads midnight. What's Hanabi doing up at midnight anyway?
I slowly get up and make my way to my room door. The night before burned me out and I fell asleep in my clothes, so I wasn't ashamed of going to the door. All that disturbed me was that I was dreaming of that girl again and I felt really close to finding out who she was. Trust my unlucky lifestyle to barge in on me whenever it feels like it.
"Hurry up, Neji-nii-san!" calls out Hanabi. I can picture her with her hands on her hips and tapping her foot impatiently. That kid seems so calm when she's with her father, but she really is obnoxious. I made my way down to the front door and looked up to our unexpected quest.
Bundled up in a travelling cloak and a grave expression on her face, Sakura looked at me with wide pleading eyes. Her hair was plastered to her face because of the heavy rain pouring down on her, giving her a helpless look. I can already feel the dread build up inside of me.
"You need to come with me, Neji-kun." she said in a rushed, worried tone.
"What's going on?" I ask solemnly. Somehow, I don't want to know. Hanabi stood between us, looking from Sakura to me and back again.
Without another word, Sakura and I disappear into the night, leaving my young cousin behind, dumbstruck and curious.