Tenten (lau_kun) wrote in nejiten,
Tenten
lau_kun
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Contest Entry (FANFIC): “Message in a Bottle”

Title: Message in a Bottle
Author: Kriste-chan
Theme: I Set You Apart/ Dive 
Rating: K+
Word Count: 1,791 

Summary: A simple note that changed everything. After hearing Gai and Lee's love advice, Neji decided that he might as well be hung for a sheep. 

Mustering the guts to jump in on a do-or-die mission was, by far, easier than summoning it in times when you have to tell her the truth— the truth that you’ve been interested in her for years and years now, you simply decided to be hung for a sheep. It never would’ve mattered if it was an ordinary training day; that he could handle since he had already contented himself with the knowledge that she’s safe and sound and as constantly enlightening as the bright and soft rays of the sun. At least, he thought that in that way, his dignity would be preserved under excuses of smugness and arrogance even if she had caught him stealing glances— unless, of course, she’d actually caught whiff of how much his blank eyes spoke of his want to have her in his arms without having to explain himself.

Either way, he knew that it was only proper for someone who belonged in the regal and respectable Hyuuga clan to face the impending doom of love confessions and manfully accepting her decision in the end, if worse comes to worst. After all, a shinobi’s life had always been chock-full of decisions that could very well hold the meaning of life and death; what difference does it make?

So, after all those rationales, Neji finally decided to knock down his pride and inwardly squirm at the thought that he was actually following an advice given by two bowl-heads who, apparently, had lost a couple of precious screws in their heads. “Byakugan!” he checked if his course was clear and dropped a bottle on the lake; vaguely hearing Lee’s proclamation about challenges and laps. “Yosh! I will take on Gai-sensei’s challenge and run 500 laps around Konoha if I’m not the first one to catch something!” He could only sigh and swear that if this doesn’t work, he’d use his precious blood-limit to beat the bloody hell out of them.

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Spill it. Now.” Tenten demanded; turning her scrutinizing eyes from the older bowl-head to the younger. “What are you up to again?”

A pair of big eyes blinked, as if pleading for innocence, “Gai-sensei...” it didn’t even falter despite Tenten’s deadly suspicious glare, “Does fishing on the prime of our youth in this beautiful summer afternoon imply something suspicious?”

Gai’s eyes crinkled, amusedly. “Ohoho, Lee... You have to realize that our youthful flower is just being cautious!” he narrowed his eyes as he searched the vicinity seriously— too seriously, it looked absurd. “A great shinobi must never let her guard down under all circumstances you see. But do not fear oh youthful flower student-of-mine!” trademark pose and pinging smile. "I don’t seem to sense anything hostile threatening our magnificent team’s bonding time in this beautiful lake...” Tenten’s suspicious glare was enough to make the Green Beast of Konoha squirm like a maggot. "Er... I-It’s only a pity that our Neji-kun couldn’t join our team bonding today.”

Effulgently, it worked; proven, when Tenten’s suspicious glare morphed into a meager blink. Oh, right. After being intent on cracking up the duo’s plans, she hadn’t really noticed the prominent figure in her team going AWOL. And now that she had ample time to ponder on the thought, she had noticed that Neji had been acting really strange lately— strange, being that he had been significantly quiet during their sparring sessions. Never mind that there was nothing new with Neji being quiet and all but describing it to be unusually significant would mean a difference for someone who knew the prodigy for years now, right? “Where is he by the way?” she asked; and then suddenly felt something tug on her fishing pole. “What the hell—?”

It was Lee who responded to this, much to her chagrin. “Gai-sensei!” his lachrymal duct spurted an abnormal amount of tears despite the unfathomable excitement that Tenten didn’t fail to catch. “The youthful flower of our team beat us into catching something first! We have to uphold our word’s honor and run laps around—”

“No, you won’t.” uttered Tenten, flatly; throwing and catching the bottle with practiced ease. “It’s only a dumb bottle.”

“Ah...” Gai’s eyes twinkled. “But you’re still first to catch something!” Tenten noted something suspicious in his tone as well, regardless of his toothy grin. “Despite your victory, the springtime of youth still glorifies with humbleness, Tenten!” the kunoichi's eyes twitched at this one. “Come on, Lee! Let us uphold our honor and run five hundred laps around Konoha in the name of our youthful vigor!” and before she could even hurl an armory of weapons, Gai and Lee wisely decided to scram, leaving a trail of dust on their wake.

Boggled as she was at their sudden exit, the thought that those two certainly looked glad to be vacating the vicinity didn’t escape the kunoichi at all. Hah. Fat chance that she’ll fall for their tricks; she wasn’t promoted to Chuunin for nothing after all! After a while though, when she glanced at the bottle on her hands and realized that she was left by those two again, she bashed all that was left of her control and groaned in annoyance, “Where’s Neji when you need him?” out of her frustration, she threw the bottle out on the lake; only to do a double-take when she realized that it actually contained something not liquid. She blinked, gathered enough chakra on her feet and went after the thrown bottle...

“One of the few important people in my life is holding this note...” Tenten read out loud; her brows knitting together curiously as she tried making sense out of the words. Well, one thing was for sure: she was holding the note, but it couldn’t be for her now, could it? She only fished it out of the lake by accident anyway and what were the odds of finding something like that locked up in a bottle for anyone to fish out? Specifically, her? “Hm." she shrugged. "The writer must be suffering from a romance novel overdose...” a hint of amusement tainted her voice as she turned towards solid land...

Then, she halted when she saw Neji standing a few feet away from her with his smirkTM, “What kind of idiot picks up a stray bottle that for all she knew could contain an explosive tag from an assassin?”

Tenten nearly scowled at the unfeeling swine that was her teammate. Nearly. He had the unique talent of making her want to strangle him to bits within seconds. “Probably an idiot closely affiliated with a jerk who gives a warning a second too late..."

Languidly, he grunted and waved the topic aside; as if he was trying to prove to the world that his understanding stood pedestals above her to even encourage the conception of their pointless argument. “Hn... I don’t seem to find anything overly romantic.” He nodded at the note when she stared at him confusedly. “The writer was obviously stating a fact with simple words arranged in a certain order.”

Enacting an engine working on top pressure, Tenten steamed. “I was referring to the gesture of messages in bottles, genius.” She snapped with dignity. “But I do find the note charmingly sweet despite its simplicity.” She hesitated, then shook her head, “Mushy poetic stuff doesn’t spell romantic for me anyway. Unlike most girls, I don't dive into men's sweet talk as if it held the very meaning of life.”

Neji crossed his arms on his chest, confidently. “I know...” He uttered with finality before proceeding to forming a small smile that, oddly, reached the prodigy’s usually expressionless eyes, “That’s the very same reason why I set you apart from the rest.” 

She blinked. Something about that line just didn't sound... normal. Maybe, she heard him wrong then; or maybe her ears got irritated from all the cotton-buds-poking it received. Yes, that was it. That should be it since she's talking about Hyuuga Neji for crying out loud! He couldn’t have meant it to sound so... so unlike him, right? It's insane. It's demented. It's... “Wha... What do you mean by setting me apart from the rest?”

The smile morphed into a smirk as Neji reached forward and took the note from her hand, “Observe.”

She could only blink curiously as she watched him dip a portion of the paper on the lake before handing it back for her to read.

And read she did. Only, this time, she had gasped involuntarily when the soaked portion sported a name that came last on the list of romantic people and came first on its opposite end. “H-How...?”

“White crayons...” he sounded a bit smug at his cleverness, “Hanabi-sama hinted that if I used white crayons on white paper, the characters would appear once it was soaked in water.”

When she looked up to confirm that she wasn’t hallucinating or had somehow obtained some psychological problems due to hanging around with Lee and Gai-sensei for such long notice, it wasn’t healthy for one’s health anymore, she saw something in his eyes that belied the arrogant and smug tone in his voice. “I knew there was something suspicious about you being all dodgy with romanticism and messages in bottles.” She uttered instead.

Neji choked but hid it well behind a self-righteous grunt. “You mentioned something about an idiot closely affiliated with a jerk?”

The tone was recognized to be honesty and plea for acceptance. Yes, plea. The Hyuuga Neji knew how to plea for something that was beyond his reach. For an arrogant jerk, that must’ve meant more than directly hitting below the belt.

“Y... Yes.” She managed after kicking herself mentally.

He took her free hand and smirked, softly— softly, it could almost pass for a smile. “How close?”

A proud jerk to the tips of his hair, she thought; and then scowled impatiently. “Get to the point, Hyuuga.”

Neji tipped her chin up; forcing her eyes to meet his smiling gaze, “Be my girl.”

And after those three words were softly spoken, she immediately catapulted herself straight into his arms; dropping the bottle and finding words— written or spoken— entirely useless when they knew they could very well express their feelings through actions now without having to explain themselves any further.

Fate or no fate, they were truly in love. And the thing about it is that we’ll never know exactly where or how it could lead anybody and when it would come. Even if you try running away from it— or even if you try chasing it, love will forever be as constant as the seasons change; never moving in haste and never moving too late. It just... comes at the right moment in time.

The only downside to that, however, was they were caught unaware of a camera’s sneaky glare, flashing consecutively behind tall grasses and humongous rocks.

“Yosh...!” whispered Lee as he waved four Polaroid pictures, “Picture-perfect mission for Gai-sensei: accomplished!”

Later that day, Neji and Tenten found a copy of said picture on their respective bedside tables; blushing an infinite shade of red at the “scene of love in the prime of their youth” as the note at the back of the picture gracefully described the moment.

The next day, Lee and Gai-sensei would die.
 

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A/N: Take the first letter from the first 16 paragraphs to form something ^_^ Inspired by the concept of Nicholas Sparks' Message in a Bottle and the cutest NejiTen picture that I’ve ever seen in the net. Go to my LJ profile to see.
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