"Inu!" Neji yelled as he tore into the flames trying to find Tenten. He bit his tongue to keep from using her real name in a panic. It didn't matter how many times it happened, when one of his teammates was in trouble, it was hard to remember to use the name of their mask instead of their real one.
Lee was having the same problem and Neji heard him cut himself off when he started to say her name out loud.
"Do you see her?!" Lee yelled over the roaring fire.
"No. Keep looking!" Neji headed deeper into the fire where he'd seen Tenten thrown. The further he went, the more flames licked at his skin, snatched at his hair and he felt as if he were melting. That didn't stop him though. If anything it made him go faster to try and spare Tenten from this. Sweat coated his face and he could hear trees crackling all around him as the fire rose. For them to already be breaking apart the trees, the heat must have been worse than he thought.
Heat wasn't the only problem though. Smoke billowed around him. Stinging his eyes and trying to get into his lungs. Neji ignored it as best he could and crouched low, trying to see any hint of her chakra. Was she hurt?! That was a stupid question of course she was, but how bad?!
His heart was pounding as he picked up his speed and felt as if he was going in a circle.
"INU! Can you hear me?" he all but screamed into his microphone. Usually he was so calm. Calm, in control, never being phased by what happened but learning to accept it. This was one thing he couldn't accept though. One thing he couldn't force himself to be calm and methodical about. If he lost her it would kill him. Without him having to harm himself in any way, her death would destroy him physically and emotionally till he lost the will to breath. These times were when he felt his hatred for the Main branch rise up again. Without their rules and selfish fears of deluding the Hyuuga blood he wouldn't have to hide what he and her had. She wouldn't have to sneak in his room at night for a chance of his touch and they wouldn't have to call the shadows their meeting place. If things were different he could have asked her what he'd been wanting to ask her for months and never did. Would he get the chance now? That thought always ate at him whenever she got hurt or he couldn't find her. Would he have a second chance?
They should have never let her go by herself to check that thing out! It was probably a trap and he let her walk right into it. He cursed under his breath. Had these been planted by the same people that took Guy, or someone else? He didn't know and he didn't care! If she was hurt, if Tenten was hurt and he ever found out who did it then he'd kill them!
Snarling, Neji hacked through the burning bushes with his blade and flipped even higher than the flames could reach before coming down in a shadowed area filled with smoke. He continued to call out for her, then for Lee, but he heard nothing. He...
"Look out!" he heard a tree cracking and whirled around just in time to see Tenten tackle him out of the way just as the tree crashed. They both hit the burning ground and skidded through the ashes.
"You...you're..."Neji gasped, choking back on smoke and panic. She was alright. She...well she wasn't alright, but she was alive and she could move! It took every ounce of his willpower not to pull her into an embrace and let himself feel her heart beating against his. He couldn't now though! He had to regain control and hold onto the internal ice that made it possible. He had to be numb, even to her.
"I'm fine!" she hauled him up by his arm. "Where's Tori?!"
"I don't know! We were trying to find you!"
"We have to find him and get out of..." she was cut off as another tree began to fall and they leapt away just in time.
Neji nodded and grabbed her hand.
"Stay with me!" he tightened his grip, holding his sword in his free hand and they shot forward together, calling out for Lee both aloud and using their radios. So far they heard nothing.
If Tenten was fine though, so surely Lee was! He wouldn't let himself get killed in a fire. Neji swallowed back another bought of panic, holding it in and forcing himself to believe it didn't matter one way or the other. He hated himself for even thinking that way but making himself numb was the only way to fight through the fear. If Lee wasn't injured though, why didn't he contact...
"UMA?! INU?!" Lee's voice finally blared over the radio and Tenten and Neji clutched their ears.
Stupid...idiotic...fool! Neji cursed. Lee must have gotten disconnected from them and then set his radio back on the wrong frequency!
"Turn it down!" Tenten yelled.
A second later, with less volume, Lee's voice came over the lines.
"Where are you?" he demanded.
"We're..." Neji started, then realized he wasn't sure. "We need to get above the flames. Meet us in the air." he said, grabbing Tenten's hand again before shooting upward. They both bounded off of the trees, causing several thick branches to fall from the force of their jumps. Eventually they rose above the smoke and shot upward into the blue sky. A few yards away, they could see Lee.
"Over here!" Tenten yelled.
He looked over at them and nodded before going down. Seconds later he was back up and closer. Using every bit of strength they had, they all fought to keep themselves in the air as Neji and Tenten used chakra to propel themselves forward a bit with increased speed. Tenten grabbed Lee's arm as soon as he was close enough and pulled him along. They couldn't stay suspended for long though and they were beginning to come back down at a rapid speed.
Still, their time in the air allowed Neji to see they were almost out of the fire.
"As soon as we land, run straight!" he ordered.
The second their feet touched the ground, they did as he said and shot forward with as much speed as humanly possible. Leaping over fallen tress, through clouds of smoke, flying embers, and numb to pain as they finally leapt from the flames and landed among the forest that was still untouched.
Without giving thought to why it was like that though, they didn't even stop to catch their breath and continued to run.
Half an hour later, once they were sure they put enough distance between them and the fire, they finally sank to the ground.
"You..." Neji gasped, grabbing Tenten's shoulder. His eyes were locked on her, taking in every scrape, cut, bruise and burn there was. She didn't look to bad, but his heart was still pounding so hard it hurt and he felt as if it were literally cracking through the ice he'd encircled it in. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." she coughed hard and moved her mask slightly to get a better supply of fresh air to her lungs.
"What...was that?" Lee asked, trying to catch his breath. "An explosion tag?"
Tenten shook her head.
"No...it was something else." she said and sat back on her legs. As soon as she did though, her eyes widened and she began rummaging through her pouches.
"What..." Neji started.
"The scroll and the map!" she said as she searched. A minute later, she pulled them both out with a sigh of relief. "They're fine."
"Good. But what about you two?" he looked between Tenten and Lee.
Tenten rolled her eyes and pushed his shoulder playfully.
"You already asked me that."
Lee's answer was a thumbs up, before asking how he was.
"Fine." Neji grunted, forcing himself to bite down on any overreaction towards them. Treating Tenten like she was worse off than she was would be like painting a target on his face and telling her to go for it. And Lee...well if he treated him like something was wrong when he was fine, then when something really was wrong he wouldn't say anything about it.
"What was that thing?" Lee asked Tenten again.
"I'm not sure. It was a mirror, but definitely not a normal one. It...I got the feeling someone was watching us."
Neji's eyes widened, but Lee beat him to the question.
"Do you think that's how Guy-sensei's captors would know if we left the marked path?"
Tenten put the map and scroll away.
"It's possible. Whoever put it there sure didn't want anyone to get a close look at it."
"Why would they be watching us though?" Neji asked as he moved his mask to wipe some sweat from his face before readjusting it and helping his teammates up.
"I don't know." Tenten sighed, before clenching her fists. "Once we're through kicking them around, we should ask."
There was no argument from either male as they all started walking again; shooting looks over their shoulders every few minutes. Now that things were calmed down and his team was safe, Neji found himself wondering why they were being watched, and why the fire hadn't spread further.
The day was over when they finally reached the end of the forest and without stopping, the three headed into the barren wilderness. Animals howled from their dens, and shadows danced in the moonlight, sometimes causing them to overreact and pull out their weapons.
So far though, there were no attacks. Just them, and their soundless footsteps on cracked land. When the night was half over, they decided to stop and get some rest before heading out again.
"I'll take first watch." Tenten said.
"Are you sure?" Neji asked, and Lee looked ready to ask the same thing when Tenten cut him off.
"I'm sure. You two get some sleep."
"I'll take the next shift then." Lee said as he laid down and pulled his small folded blanket from one of the pouches on his belt. Just before he closed his eyes though, they popped open once again. "Are you sure you want the first..."
"Yes." she hid a smirk and turned her attention to the night, though she could hear Neji coming closer to her.
"Here." he placed a blanket over her shoulder's before laying down next to her. "We'll find him." he said loud enough for both her and Lee to hear. "There's no doubt in my mind. Besides, knowing him he'll give them all so many lectures on youth, they'll let him go."
Tenten nodded. Part of her wanted to smile at Neji's joke and curl up next to him as he fell asleep. She could keep watch while he held her. There was no rule that said she couldn't. But her body wouldn't move, and a larger part of her mind was focused on what was ahead, and what could be happening to Guy. That focus soon turned fear, and it settled deep inside her stomach like an expanding knot.
When was the last time she felt like this she wasn't sure. She had been frightened before, and there were times when she was little, especially around her parents, when she would feel to terrified to even move. This was a different fear though. It was the kind that would keep her moving and trying instead of making her stay in one place. It was the kind of fear she felt whenever she thought she might loose someone.
Guy promised she wouldn't loose him though. He promised her that when she was seven. He'd been injured on a mission and been struck with a case of severe phenomena. She'd been terrified he would die and often instead of going to Lee's after school, went there instead to watch him. He'd promised her though, after a time when he'd been sleeping so soundly she thought he was dead and shook him awake, that he wouldn't leave her. He gave her his word and they made a pinky promise. He said she was to important for him to leave behind. That no matter what, he'd always come back to her.
Tenten felt sick as she pulled her knees to her chest and stared through the eyeholes of her mask. The more she tried to hold onto the naiveté that everything would be fine simply because he promised, the more she remembered this didn't just involve him. It involved other people to. People that had promised to kill him without giving any sort of reason. For all she knew, these were just sick murderers who wanted to play some kind of game, and when they got there...they'd find he'd already been killed.
Her nails dug into her arms to keep herself from thinking about that. That wouldn't happen. Guy was to strong to be killed by a bunch of cowards! He wouldn't die. He wouldn't leave them. He promised he wouldn't. He promised he'd always be there for them, and if there was one thing Tenten had learned about her Ojisan, it was that he always kept his promises.
"Just hold on, sensei. We'll bring you back." she whispered. "We'll find you." that was her promise to him.