Rock Climbing

Gen, Neji and his team.

Neji didn't need to tilt his head back to really appreciate the size of the cliff looming overhead. He did it anyway. For emphasis.

"You want us to climb this."

Gai beamed. "Of course! It's a good exercise, mobilizing many more groups of muscles than are routinely used in tree-walking and sparring."

Neji gave the cliff another look. It looked awfully smooth from down there, and it was a little damp from the breeze that carried a fine mist from the nearby waterfall. "Without chakra?"

"Of course! It is wise to prepare for all sorts of eventualities, after all."

"Do you mean like chakra-detection traps?" Tenten asked, tapping the flat of a three-pronged pick against her palm thoughtfully.

"That also!" Gai grinned at her in approval, and then sobered up slightly. "But several villages, such as the Hidden Rock Village, have several chakra draining techniques."

The three teenagers stood in silence for a few seconds, exchanging serious looks. Earth Country had been behaving conspicuously for the last months; apparently, their teacher believed it might escalate.

"In this case," Neji sighed, and found a roll of bandages in his bag.

His teammates watched him in puzzled silence as he blindfolded himself.

"... Neji?"

"If I have no chakra, then I can't see," Neji replied grimly as he smoothed his hair so that the bandages didn't tug. He had trained to be able to fight without an arm -- without a leg, even, alone and outnumbered; this wasn't too different. It would be quite unpleasant, but he didn't believe in sparing himself.

After a few seconds, Tenten chuckled softly. "As if you couldn't cheat with us none the wiser, if you wanted to," she teased.

"Tenten!" Lee protested, as Neji made his way to the cliff cautiously and felt the rock for cracks. "I'm sure Neji would never cheat, especially on such a noble and perilous self-imposed challenge!"

Neji heard a zipper opening behind him, and the ruffling of someone moving their belongings around in their bag. "Of course he wouldn't," Tenten commented cheerfully. "Here, you hold onto that for me. Neji? What do you think of giving Lee our bags, so he has a little handicap of his own?"

Neji shrugged, and let his sailor bag slide off his shoulder. "That works."

She took it from his hand; the grass whispered under Lee's feet when he stepped closer to take it.

"Now, Lee, I'm trusting you! My best blades and chains are in those scrolls."

"YES MA'AM! I will guard your bags like my own life!"

Neji snorted, and Tenten swallowed a cough.

"... Even better than my own life. I promise!"

Turning to face the cliff more fully, Neji smiled faintly.

Lee with some extra weight, Tenten without her weapons -- he still thought he had the worst part of the bargain. But training was supposed to prepare them to deal with unsavory possibilities, after all.

"My students are so admirable! Taking on such handicaps -- here, Lee! You may carry my bag also."

Gai's hand landed heavily on Neji's shoulder, startling him; but he was too proud to flinch. Behind and a little to the left, Lee was juggling Tenten's, Neji's and Gai's bags -- which contained, on top of standard belongings, the tent, a first aid kit, and many, many training weights.

"Go forth, my beloved students, and conquer this mountaintop! Your glorious teamwork and youthful enthusiasm will carry you to victory!"

Chuckling, Tenten brushed past Neji and up, her sandals scratching softly against the stone. "I'll open the way."

Neji waited a little to leave her some space to maneuver, and then, finding a few cracks as a support, slowly followed the noises she made. He knew Lee would stay under him, ready to catch him if he fell. Enhanced strength and familiarity with chakra-less movement or not, Lee would no doubt fall too, if Neji landed on him; but then, this was why they had Gai.

Not that Neji would fall. He might have the worst part of the bargain, but that didn't mean he wasn't fully able to deal with it on his own anyway.

"Left," Tenten commented cheerfully. "Two hands' width up from your shoulder."

Neji found the handhold, pulled his weight up. Under him, Lee followed, assiduously counting the distance they'd covered.

He didn't need his teammates; but sometimes it wasn't too horrible to have them anyway.