Tag: TOTR (page 1 of 2)

TOTR – Epilogue

Epilogue: Where things are wrapped up faster than they should be, and one or two plots are left in deep, dark holes.

 

The tea had gotten cold. He had not noticed.

 

How long would it be? It had already been a day, but the news that he was expecting should have arrived by now. It was perfectly fine to just wait, he realized, but he was actually beginning to find himself becoming impatient.

 

Niro had been found dead. That ruined his plans greatly. He did not figure that the one he sent would have actually killed everyone there, nor did he expect Niro to have been defeated so easily. He was the one who had defeated Dejiro after all, and Dejiro was one of the strongest on the planet. To die so easily, was something else at work here?

 

It was entirely possible that they were involved. The news always seemed slightly suspicious. Niro was one of the Five Lightning Gods, and the last of them to die, but he was always a thinker, not a warrior.

 

He ceased his idle musings for now, and continued to wait. The messenger had just arrived in the village. He could sense it, and they were rushing here. He lifted the tea to his mouth, but pulled it back down when he realized the temperature.

 

“Welcome back, my love.” He said simply, as the black shadow appeared beside him, already bowing. “What have you found?” He waited a moment. She was out of breath, clearly the news that she had for him was alarming for her to waste her stamina tracking across country as fast as she had.

 

“It appears the Mist Ninja has killed them all.” She stated simply. “There were three graves with forehead protectors on them, but the bodies had actually been burned nearby. Their scents confirmed them”

 

“I see, and the children that were with them?”

 

“They had left the scene, it seems. Their trail shows them heading back for the Fire Country.”

 

“Very well. We can leave it at that. If nothing has happened to the children, then we are safe for now. Leave the Mist Ninja to do what he wants. I have a feeling he will not return for payment.”

 

“Yes, my lord.” He looked at her sternly. She was playing with him again.

 

“You may leave.”

 

“Yes, my lord.” He showed nothing as she left him, disappearing once again, as she always did. He would not see her until the night. When he was alone, he allowed a sigh to escape his lungs.

 

He knew it wasn’t entirely true, there was potential to suggest otherwise, and that was enough for him, but he no longer cared. He was a tool, and he had a more important task to do. He needed to rebuild the country that he was created to be a tool for. With the useless tools thrown away, he would just move on to his next job. He had a lot of work to do.

 

*********************************************

 

She woke up, and could immediately tell it was past midday. Her mother had let her sleep in again. She stretched and yawned and got out of bed and slowly got changed, wondering if her mother would mind if she still had breakfast this morning.

 

All of a sudden, her thoughts turned the day before, and she was amazed at how she had nearly forgotten for a second.

 

“You don’t have to call me Sensei anymore, Ino.”

 

“Why not, Sa-yu-ki-sensei? After all, you taught me a lot during all this.”

 

“Well, if that’s the case I’m going to have to start calling you sensei as well then.” She remembered being almost confused as she saw her teacher smile at her. It looked like the brightest, happiest smile that she had ever saw. It was like the exile from the Hidden Village of Clouds had become the most carefree entity in existence.

 

It was the last time she saw her. It would be the last time she would ever see her.

 

She felt like it didn’t matter. It was a perfect way for them to leave, although she would have like to have gotten to know her better.

 

“Yo, Ino.” She found herself growling loudly, as she turned to face the window, already knowing who it was. Asuma sat, perched on the windowsill, as he greeted his student. “You awake? We have a mission today, so get dressed as soon as possible.” She didn’t hesitate to throw a pillow at him, and he just smiled as the fluffy cushion hit. She grabbed the nearest item and covered herself up, but he was already gone.

 

She sighed, shaking her head, before moving to her cupboard and getting her top out. Life would just continue, she guessed. Life will always just continue.

 

SakuraxIno scene?

 

********************************************

 

It had taken four hours of requesting to be alone for a while, but he had finally got away with the excuse of training. He didn’t feel like training, something about him felt like rolling up into a corner and burning away. He couldn’t understand it, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. He just wanted the feeling to go away.

 

Tenten had approached him, and he had ignored her. Everything about her, he closed all his senses and just repelled her very presence until she gave up and went away. She would probably be back in an hour or so. Why did she care so much?

 

“I am unworthy of being cared for.” He found himself muttering. He wasn’t sure if he really believed it, but it would do for now. He just wanted to do nothing but hate himself for now. He just wanted to jump down from the tree and land heavily. To then throw himself into the tree. To punch and kick and bite and claw away at his soul until nothing was left. He didn’t want to exist anymore. Not in this cage that he was trapped in, that told him what to do, that treated him and his family as sacrifice, that forced him to kill in order to protect.

 

She was your first, huh? The virgin kill is always the most delightful.

 

He stopped as he heard it, looking up and around for the source. He wouldn’t find anything, but he knew it now. This was his destiny. It was inescapable. He would just have to accept it.

 

**********************************************

 

“Kiba-kun?” She said, surprised at his presence as much as he was surprised as her. They were at the training post, her hand stuck in mid thrust as she became aware of him walking up to her. Akamaru barked, to indicate that he was there as well, stuffed in Kiba’s jacket as usual.

 

“Yo, Hinata.” He said, as he finally let a friendly smile come out. It was half hearted, but she appreciated the effort. “Don’t let me stop you.” He was a little more surprised than her, and he was guessing she’ll probably be embarrassed at him catching her training like this.

 

“I…I was just about to finish.” She said, relaxing her palm strike and standing back. “Do…do you wish to…” she indicated the training post, and he found himself laughing a little.

 

“There are two, you know?” He said. “We can both train individually.” He allowed himself to laugh a little longer, before stopping. Her face was more glum was usual, and he knew the reason why. He heaved a sigh and felt a little depressed as well, the wounds over his body only making them worse.

 

“We..” He stuttered. “We need to become stronger, don’t we?” Hinata just looked more saddened, but eventually nodded.

 

The two of them wouldn’t speak for the rest of the day.

 

*********************************************

 

“It’s been too quiet.” She stated, with distinct worry in her voice. “He’s going to come back any second, I know it.” Kouji shuffled uncomfortably. He felt it as well. The storm had pasted for a moment, and the birds were chirping happily for a change. It would be a perfect chance for him to jump out and do something to them.

 

“To be honest,” she said, still high with tension, “I just wish he would. It’s getting annoying waiting.”

 

“Yeah.” He said simply. He wasn’t listening fully, the tension was high within him as well. The café was empty, and they had closed up early again. It was always the worst move, since it always made him come back when they let their guard down. He calmed down, and stood up off the table.

 

“Maybe he isn’t come back.” He said, dropping all the pretenses, as he went to open the café back up.

 

“I wish he would. I kinda miss him.” Tomo said, a little miserable still, even as she stopped acting as well.

 

“Hey, tell you what? Why don’t we do a special offer on something? Make a huge profit to mock him with when he gets back.” A grin appeared on her face as she heard this, and she stood up to help him set the place back up.

 

“Yeah, we can do two bottle of sake for one or something, whilst upping the price of Dango slightly. He’ll be really pissed at that.”

 

“You get the pens and cardboards. I’ll pull the other sake we have out of the basement.”

 

“Okay!” She rushed up to the counter with a smile on her face, when she let out a loud gasp that sent Kouji running back to her. On the floor, was an unconscious man, taking up more than half the width of the café.

 

“It’s…It’s Takeda-san! What’s he doing here?” Tomo blurted, as Kouji rushed to check up on one of their most regular.

 

“Don’t bother with that now. Help me help him up.” The girl laughed sarcastically.

 

“Are you kidding? We’ll never be able to pick him up.” Kouji looked at the tall, bulky man and found himself agreeing. How the man even lifted himself up was a big mystery. They were going to do it.

 

“It is okay. I am fine now.” The jounin stated, standing up fully, shocking the two waiters at his sudden revival. They watched as he immediately fell over again, and spent the next three minutes pulling the fully conscious man into a chair. They were somewhat used to it, and understood the problem immediately. The man had almost no chakra left, Tomo left to cook up some food, as Kouji tended to whatever wounds he had decided not to treat this time.

 

“Man, you’re completely beat up.” Kouji stated, before almost fainting at the sight of the kunai still embedded in the hip of the jounin. He caught himself and studied it for a moment, before opting to leave it there until they could call one of the village doctors in. “What happened to you?”

 

There was no answer, and Kouji forced himself to wait patiently whilst the man in front of him gained enough courage to speak out.

 

“Danjuro-san has left for good.”

 

“I see.” Kouji replied, in the only way he could think of at the time. He waited a moment longer, to see if anymore was going to come out.

 

“I think he wanted you guys to keep the shop.”

 

“Oh, Okay.”

 

********************************************

 

“Woman…I just can’t understand them at all.” He had said the sentence four times now, and it still didn’t feel like it would ever changed.

 

What was there to understand? They had irrational mood swings, and acted constantly different to how they really felt. Then if you either noticed or didn’t notice, it didn’t matter, they would get angry at you for either pointing it out or not pointing it out. It was too troublesome.

 

She had hugged him as they parted ways. She had hugged all three of them, with the most unique smile he had ever seen on his face, but it felt like she had hugged him for a major reason.

 

“You’ll be a great ninja one day. Just remain true to yourself like you are doing, and you’ll be fine.”

 

What had that meant? He couldn’t be bothered to analyse it. He just wanted to sleep, but the pest next to him wouldn’t let him.

 

“You should have seen it Shikamaru.” The idiot next to him shouted far too loudly. “Kakashi-sensei was giving it to this Mist Ninja and beating his ass, whilst me and Sasuke handle this guy who looked like a girl.”

 

“Be quiet.” Shikamaru muttered. The boy ignored him.

 

“And he could control water and everything. It was way cool. He was firing these spikes of ice at us and everything. Sasuke was taking all these hits, but I was dodging them and pouncing about easily.”

 

“Be quiet.”

 

“Well, actually I don’t really remember most of what happened. It went fuzzy at one bit. But the guy said I had beaten him, and gave up. Isn’t that cool?”

 

Shikamaru said nothing and glanced over at the boy lazily. Naruto stood there, with an excited look on his face, waiting for any kind of compliment. Compared to his last month, this Wave Country business sounded boring.

 

“Why do you have to be so loud, you moron?”

 

“What? You’re the one who wanted to know?” Shikamaru resisted the urges flowing through him at that one moment. “Besides, it’s natural for the hero to tell of his deeds after he returns from battle.”

 

“You’re hardly the hero.”

 

“Of course I am.” Naruto replied, brimming with his usual energy. “After all, I am the main character!”

********************************************

 

The two genin sat there, on the rooftop. They had met up half an hour or so ago, and both seemed to find themselves having to be polite and associate with each other for a short while. Even so, each had barely said a word to the other.

 

“So….”

 

“So…”

 

“Didn’t get much air time, did we?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

***********************************************

 

“So that’s everything then?” Danjuro asked, as Sayuki placed the last piece of soil over the third marker. It was Itako’s marker. The girl’s body had been burned, along with Yamato’s and Megumi’s. Cremation had been the only real option. Regardless of everything that had happened, they were still ninja, and techniques could be extracted from their corpses. At least by doing it herself, those that hunt the exiles wouldn’t give them a shoddy death later when the corpses were found.

 

“Itako…sorry girl. It looks like I won’t have to suffer as you did, but I think I understand your situation a bit more now.” She wasn’t crying. She felt no reason to cry now, their deaths set them free in their own way. Now, all those that she cared about were free, and she could leave happy.

 

“We should go. The trackers are on their way.” Danjuro stated plainly, as he sensed things Sayuki could not.

 

“How much time?”

 

“About twenty minutes. This one’s fast.” They were in the Country of Fire now, officially anyway. They were on Mt. Kaminari and although it was just literally a few feet past what counted as the boarder, there were no markings to show it. Those coming after them wouldn’t have legal ground to past over the line, but it didn’t mean that those coming might not be willing to risk it.

 

Sayuki finally got up and held her left arm out, and Danjuro watched as she pulled off her forehead protector. She had never once put it around her forehead, she noted. Was it an instinctive way of showing that she didn’t view herself part of the village or something? She decided not to think about it, and placed the blue ribbon around Itako’s wooden marker.

 

“That’s not going to work.” Danjuro pointed out, as he guessed her intentions. “Even if it did, they would be able to tell it was you who buried them.” She didn’t reply at all and brought her right hand to her nose, holding two fingers vertically to it as she concentrated.

 

It took him more than a few seconds to notice, but he found himself impressed when he did. She had used her chakra to scatter the air currents at such a precise level, that it moved her scent so that it covered the fire where the bodies had been burned, leaving the assumption that her body had been burned as well. When she finished, nothing about it felt unnatural.

 

“Can you tell?” She asked monotonously, although the smile he saw on her lips that showed she was proud with herself.

 

“Only because I saw it. It should work fine in hiding your trail.” He answered honestly, and she decided to take his word for it.

 

“Sorry, but I’m going to leave your scent. Make it just look like you escaped.”

 

“No problem. I haven’t exactly created my legacy yet, although a return from the dead would have been good.”

 

“You do realize what they said is probably true. You probably won’t be allowed back in your village after all this.” He flashed his trademark grin at her.

 

“And about time too. I’ll guess I’ll miss my café, but at least I won’t have to see that bureaucratic, miserable, old fart again. Except on the day that I kill him.” Sayuki laughed at this a little, before she began to walk away. He noted he could only follow her with his eyes at the moment. She was gone to both his ears and nose.

 

He felt the usual small trace of frustration build up inside of him again. The last fight had made her stronger. He may have had a mental realization during all of this, but so had she. He would need to pay attention or she would be his rival no more. He couldn’t allow this, not when he now fully understood the nature of the relationship. They were rivals, and they were friends. He stopped in thought and smiled at this. She was his rival. His rival. She was his friend. His friend. It sounded nice in his brain and he found himself muttering it almost deliriously before he realized she was getting further away from him. He walked up quickly to catch up with her. She turned around with a stern look on her face.

 

“Why are you following me? I still hate you.” She said it hatefully, but he saw through it this time.

 

“Hehe, earlier you called me rival-san. Admit it, you accepted that you are my rival.”

 

“That doesn’t mean I want to be friends.”

 

“Ha, so you do admit it?” She turned around pompously and began to walk off, sticking her nose up at him.

 

“I only said that so you wouldn’t give me any fuss. Fighting against three jounin was going to be hard, so I just figured I’d use you to lighten the load.”

 

“Oh suuure.” He retorted. “Just because you free yourself from all that mental bondage crap doesn’t mean you can go ahead and use others. Just shows you’ve learnt nothing.”

 

“Hey, I’ve learnt plenty.” She shouted back, pushing him slightly.

 

“Oh, I’m sure. Like how to play with grass, how to constantly wound and burn yourself by jumping into attacks, oh, and my personal favorite, how to trap yourself in an irrational mind setting for the larger portion of your life. Hardly the greatest of achievements for one of the top jounin of The Hidden Village of Clouds.” He pushed her back in response.

 

“All this from the person who fights with a stupid weapon and misses entire countries.”

 

“Hey, you used that one already. No fair repeating mistakes.”

 

“Who said war is fair?”

 

“Who said this was war.”  

 

“I did.” She said, jumping up to kick him. He exhaled slightly, and leaned back hard to avoid her kick.

 

“You bitch.” They both just grinned at each other, as he went to tackle her, missing as she jumped over him. He grabbed her leg however and pulled her back down. She responded by rolling underneath him and kicking his stomach, the momentum causing him to roll over her. She jumped back on top of him and he disappeared in a puff of smoke, landing back on top of her.

 

“Hey, no fair, using techniques.”

 

“Oh, so you’re allowed to repeat mistakes, but I’m not allowed to use techniques.”

 

“But, they’re completely different.” She whined, as she tried to push him off of her, but he weight was down on both her arms, and he was using his hands to hold her legs down. They were technically at a stalemate. She struggled for a little, and he had to use all his strength to hold her down.

 

Then they both stopped, the smiles dropping from their faces.

 

“We should get going.” She said, waiting for him to lift off of her.

 

“Yeah,” he replied, taking his weight off her and standing up. “We can sort this out later.”

 

“Indeed, after all. We have all eternity.”

 

She watched him with a pout as he burst into laughter. “What?’ She complained.

 

“You, using melodramatics. I can see why you laughed at me.”

 

“Oh, come on. Let’s just get moving.” Not waiting for any protest, she jumped off the side of the mountain. He almost screamed after her, as he fell down after her, not quite sure what she was planning. He looked below, to see her using the wind pressure to control her fall. He allowed himself to catch up with her, and then use his chakra control to mould to the side of the mountain, allowing him to ski down next to his friend.

 

“So Sayuki…” He said after a moment. “What was your dream? The one that guy mentioned.”

 

“Oh that?” The girl said smiling, as the wind rushed through her hair. “I always wanted to fly.” He turned to her and saw her joy as the wind continued to hit her at heavy speeds and he knew this was where she was most happy. It sort of explained a lot. “What about you?” She said after a moment. “What was your dream? When I think about it. I barely know you in some respects.”

 

“Heh, actually you know me in all of them. There isn’t a lot to me.” He commented wisely. “As for my dream, I always wanted to capture the King of Lobsters, and cook him.” She looked at him gone out for a second, before responding the only way she could.

 

“Weirdo.”

 

“Hey, you asked.” He retorted.

 

“Still. I think we can arrange that…”

 

The storm continued in the distance and all around. It felt like just another day for the both of them. Another glorious day in the rain, just like that first time they fought.

TOTR – Chapter 10

Chapter 10 – Jounin Rumble: 5 Way Battle Royale

 

“Ooh!” Danjuro cooed, as they continued along the pathway to their genin. Sayuki looked over to him, being completely unable to read what he meant by his expression.

 

“What is it?” He glanced at her for a second, and got the feeling he should at least try and act serious, especially with the news he was about to give.

 

“Someone just died up ahead.”

 

“What?” Sayuki shouted with alarm. Asking no more, she sped up her pace, with no intention of waiting for the man behind her. He grunted, and also sped up his pace.

 

***********************

 

The battle was over. Itako was dead, and the genin of the Hidden Leaf Village were just slowly starting to stir. Most were injured, be it a minor bruise, or a heavy wound. Some hid it better than others, and Shino walked up to his comrade to help her up.

 

“Are you okay, Hinata?” She didn’t answer, even as she took his hand to stand up. Her eyes were looking at the ground. They had a hollow look in them, as she stared at the ground, her white pupils almost completely disappearing behind the rest of her eyes.

 

“Did we win?” Kiba said, finally sitting back up. Akamaru had been awake for some time, but the boy barely noticed his partner licking his face as he saw the corpse of Itako on the floor. The other two teams were back now. Ino, almost completely uninjured, except for the residual shock that had transferred to her whenever Kiba was injured, was helping Chouji stand up, as the overweight child kept losing his balance. Lee still wasn’t around, and Tenten had ran off to find the boy.

 

Neji was just standing around, saying and doing nothing.

 

“Ugh, that was quite a troublesome distraction.” Shikamaru whined, as team eight got closer to the others. Ino turned sharply at him, and shushed the lazy male. Confused, the boy looked over at the distraught Hinata. She was away from the body, but it seemed clear that was what she was thinking about. He looked over at the corpse of the enemy, and felt nothing. He walked away though, knowing he should stay quiet in a situation like this, especially if he didn’t want Ino beating up on him later.

 

Kiba, finally pulling himself up, walked over to the dead body of the exile and knelt down in front of it. The explosions caused by her tenketsu had knocked her bandana off slightly, revealing the eyeless sockets on her head. He felt sickened just by having to see it. It was much worse now that she wasn’t alive. Before, it was just some freaky joke of hers, and now, it was like a testament to the absence of her life. He reached up and pulled the bandana off fully, intending to place it over her face respectfully. Instead, he found the piece of cloth coming undone by the weight of the girl’s head. He let it flow off her, revealing her beautiful blond hair, still shining even now.

 

As the wind blew through it, he noticed something within the bandana. He caught it before it could get away. It was a simple photograph, containing four people. The most prominent figure was a black haired woman, who had to be the female jounin they were traveling with. She had a look on her face that showed she was completely uncomfortable with the picture being taken. On her shoulders was a boy with a bright smile, who looked like he was having a great time just because he was able to get up there. To either side of the woman, there were two kids. A boy with spiky brown hair and purple shaded glasses and a girl. It took him a moment to realize that it had to be the younger version of the dead girl beside him. She seemed almost completely different with the thick-rimmed glasses, almost a different person.

 

He looked into it for a second longer, wondering why a blind girl would keep such a photograph, before placing it within her bloodied hands. He then took the bandana, allowed it to open up all the way, showing spots of white where blood hadn’t managed to soak it somehow and placed it over the girl’s face. He felt it was the least he could do for her, even though somehow, he felt no regret.

 

He turned to Hinata and Shino, knowing the girl must be very distraught by now. She hadn’t seen what he had done, and more importantly, she didn’t see the man as he dropped down from the trees, landing into Shino and grabbing Hinata in one fell swoop. He was so quiet that even Neji seemed shocked at his presence, he didn’t have time to do anything though, as the air around him became heavy, the boy quickly fell asleep. Shino hit the ground hard, and was knocked unconscious. The man looked around to assess his situation.

 

Kiba turned to run at him, but felt his body betraying him. He watched as team eight turned around in shock, having not even noticed the man until Kiba groaned in pain. They watched as the man chopped the back of Hinata’s head lightly, causing her to black out. He went to run away, when a foot inserted itself into his face and knocked him flying.

 

“Megumi!” Ino called out, reassured for just a second when she saw the Cloud Jounin land near the man. The girl fell out of his hands and next to Kiba.

 

“Oi, boy!” Megumi cried out to him, as she kept her eye on the man, who didn’t appear to suffer any damage from her attack. “Take your friend and get out of here. All of you, go!” Kiba didn’t need any more encouragement, and picked up his two friends and ran for it. Team eight just stood there, somehow guessing what the presence of this particular jounin in this area meant. The female jounin moved towards the current threat. “I know one of the best times to attack somebody is while they are celebrating victory, but don’t you think this was just a little rude.”

 

“Don’t make me…” The man stared into space for a moment, and it took Megumi a second longer to realize he didn’t intend to finish his sentence.

 

“Oh, but we have to fight,” Megumi mocked. “I may not be here for you, but it’s clear what your intentions are. You intend to make it appear that our village kidnapped that girl and extract her eyes. It would cause war between my country and the Country of Fire. We cannot let that happen.”

 

Takeda said nothing, and just looked behind him. There, standing on the top of a tree, Sayuki stood tall, staring down at all those above her. Beside her was Danjuro.

 

**************************

 

Lee scene.

 

**************************

 

“Megumi-san.” Sayuki said sternly, but with a hint of worry in her voice. “What are you doing here?”

 

“What do you think, girl?” Her old teammate replied. “You think you can just leave like that without repercussions, or were you just thinking you’d get let off again. We came to take you home Sayuki, whether you want it or not.”

 

“Actually,” a voice said behind them all. It shocked all those around, and caused Sayuki and Danjuro to jump off the tree, away from the presence directly next to them. “We’ve come to kill you, Sayuki-kun.”

 

“Yamato-san.” Sayuki barely whispered, and for the first time ever, Danjuro heard fear in the woman’s voice. He turned to her, as her eyes went wide. He could understand, barely. This man, he had taken the Mist Ninja out back in the village with just one shot, and left him helpless. He would have been dead by now if it weren’t for politics. This Yamato had to be the strongest here, and now he intended to kill them both.

 

“No Yamato-kun.” Megumi shouted out to her teammate. “We can’t kill her. If we take her back, I’m sure something could be sorted out.”

 

“You heard Raikage-sama, Megumi.” Yamato said confidently. “ ‘My tool is broken forever. There is no need to fix it, just to dispose of it.’ We have to kill her. Such is the rule with all exiles.” Sayuki had gone quiet at all this. The betrayal of her friends was hitting her very harshly, if it could be called a betrayal, for wasn’t she the one that had abandoned her village?

 

Danjuro looked on between all the people standing about the clearing, he then only just noticed the body of the dead girl, lying on the floor between all of them. He had watched Sayuki turned to talk to her teammates, and finally caught a glance at her dead student. The woman’s eyes were widened in horror, before turning into a look of pure anger. He looked on at her in admiration, every emotion that this girl showed him was just captivating. She slammed her fist into his face. He wasn’t expecting it at all, neither was anybody else around them.

 

“You bastard!” She shouted, as he looked up at her, still confused, and a little disappointed. “She’s dead. She’s dead because of you and your stupid group.” She lifted her fist again, and leveled it at his face, as he bought her own hand up to try and stop her.

 

“Woah, woah, woah.” He called out. “What the hell? What makes you think I’m responsible? This isn’t my fault.”

 

“This is your fault.” She stressed angrily. “If only you hadn’t been stupid enough to land on my country instead of your own. None of this would have happen. And now, Itako is dead, I never wanted that.” Behind her, Danjuro could just see the grin of the male jounin that stood above them all. She went to punch him again, but he was more than ready to deflect it this time. He grabbed the attack and twisted it around, causing her to fall beside him. He then quickly got up and got on top of her, holding her down, as she struggled uselessly.

 

“This isn’t the time for this, kid.” He stated calmly, as she ignored him, kicking him in the back with everything she had. Danjuro quickly looked behind him, not being able to tell if the attack had come from Sayuki or not, and not willing to risk it. Sayuki took the opportunity and freed her hands, before clapping them against the ears of the jounin on top of her. The disorientation knocked him back, and she pressed the advantage, pushing against him and kicking him three times in the face, spinning round each time, then finally kneeing him in the chin as hard as she could. Falling back, the Mist ninja tried to flip backwards, but with a loss of balance ended up falling in a heap on the floor. He looked up groggily, as Sayuki stood above him and went to throw her wooden shuriken. He turned around at the last second, waiting for his frying pan to take the hits.

The three kunai tore through his pan, and he felt pain in three separate placesAs his back muscles danced around in perfect agony, he tried to see what had happened, but couldn’t see anything due to the size of the pan. He could only guess, based on their last fight, that the winds had reinforced her shuriken. enabling them to penetrate even his thick-rimmed pan. Not totally, but enough to make him bleed.

 

Not being able to think of anything clever in that one moment, he reached into his pouch and threw something at her. She reeled back in agony, as her eyes began to burn and he threw himself at her again. She disappeared, her speed proving near immeasurable, as she dodged to the side whilst still in pain.

 

She cleaned her eyes as best as she could, finding herself pulling grains of cooking salt out of her retinas. The Cloud Ninja looked towards the man she was fighting in blind fury, and he was staring at her the same.

 

Megumi placed her hand on Danjuro’s back, and he exploded, flying directly into Sayuki.

 

“Don’t forget you’re still fighting us.” Megumi stated simply. Danjuro turned around to look at her, as Sayuki threw him off from underneath. The woman in front of both of them began forming seals, and Sayuki stood up and started moving towards her when she realized what she was doing.

 

“Ninpou: Razor Wire Arena.” Megumi called out, as she spread her arms in front of her. The remaining jounin watched as wires started to shoot out of each of her fingers and, like a spiders web, began to circle around them all, again and again, using the trees as posts to wrap around. The simple wire string, normally used as trip wire or for tying people up, moved faster than the Mist ninja had ever seen. Soon it was barely even visible around the trees it was wrapped over. Within five seconds, the technique was over, and he could tell what the elite shinobi had done. It was just as she said, an arena, with the surrounding ring being reinforced by razor wire. They were caged in, and Sayuki stopped running when she realized that it was too late.

 

“I always was faster than you, girl.” Megumi mocked. “But then that’s because I trained earlier than…” Sayuki seemed to stutter at this, and called out to her friend.

 

“Please don’t do this Megumi. Just let us go.” The other female ninja just shook her head.

 

“You know as well as I do that I can’t do that, Sayuki-han. Even if me and Yamato-kun disagree on how we should end this, we still have to defeat you, and we’re both agreed on killing the two Mist ninja.” Danjuro turned to face his old teammate. He had forgotten about him for a moment there, the eight footer was just standing there, looking dazed and confused by the appearance of so many elite shinobi. Looking around, Danjuro saw that his team had gotten out of the way. Wherever they were now, they were gone, not that he cared. The other team was still here though, and he saw the two boys on the other side of the arena, looking in. They would be safe at the least for now, although he figured that only Takeda wanted to kill them at the moment. He slowly walked up to Sayuki, as she stared on at the enemy.

 

“Listen, my dear rival. I shall take on…” He stopped talking, as she spun round and went to kick him. He stepped back at the last second and just avoided it. “What are you…” He turned around, as she got behind him, kicking him and going to knee him in the chin once more. He caught it easily. “You know, you should stop using that same tactic all the time, it’s easy to…” She swung her other leg round, and clipped him in the ear. He allowed himself to fall and rolled with the attack. So did she, and she was on top of him once more. He was blinded for a second at her speed, and punched blindly into her ribs. The woman on top of him disappeared, as the kawarimi took effect, leaving in her place a large slab of rock, too close and too heavy for him to move easily. As she appeared directly above him, he found himself totally undefended. She pulled out a kunai, a metal one this time.

 

“I can see your panties from here.” He said, totally lying. She seemed too angry to appreciate the humour and he could tell she had stopped paying attention to the reality around her again. She lifted the kunai up, and went to bring it down through his neck. It struck into the girl in front of her, and the eyes of the elite ninja went wide as she realized who she had struck.

 

“Ino!” She said, as the girl faced her, with a mixed look of anguish and anger on her face. Sayuki went to step back, but Ino grabbed her hand, holding the weapon in.

 

“I…id…Idiot!” She finally shouted, as she did her best to ignore the pain in her shoulder. Sayuki looked on, unsure how to react, as he blood rate started to speed up. “He’s trying to help you, you idiot. Can’t you see that? He wants you to be free. They don’t.”

 

“Ino…”

 

“He may want to kill you, but they want to imprison you, Sayuki-sensei.” Ino’s knees buckled, as the pain began to be too much for her. “To be imprisoned…that’s so much worse than death, Sayuki-sensei. Can’t you just quit being stubborn and accept his…presence” The girl passed out in front of her and Sayuki was only just able to catch her in time, pulling the knife out as she did. The jounin felt awestruck by the girl’s feelings. They seemed to ring so true to her own, even though she had never felt like that before.

 

She had never thought of it as imprisonment, but now, as if she had just been given the answer to a riddle, it all seemed so obvious. Emotionlessly, she placed the girl down on the floor as carefully as she could. The wound wasn’t fatal, and at least the girl would have a few scars now. She stood back up, and looked towards the enemy at all sides. The man from the Hidden Mist Village still hadn’t made a move yet, and neither had Yamato. Megumi stood in front of them, now with a stern look on her face, as if she understood something deep had just happened, something that would change the person in front of her, whether for better or for worse. The person in front of her held her hand out slowly, and Megumi found herself gasping in surprise as she saw Sayuki do something she had never done before.

 

“I’m declaring a truce.” She said simply, as she held her hand out for him to take. He was just as shocked as the girl behind him, but accepted nonetheless. He took her hand without any hesitation, knowing there was nothing to fear now, and pulled himself up. “We will work together for now. Understand, rival-san?” The new title did shock him a little, and he found himself grinning widely in response.

“I understand.” He stated simply. “So, what’s the plan?”

 

“Same as what yours was going to be. I will handle this woman, you take your friend back there.”

 

“He’s not exactly a friend…” He said, look at the man that he considered a nothing more than an oversized freak.

 

“Danjuro-san.” She called out, he turned, expecting to hear a quick lecture. Instead, she was smiling at him slightly. “Good luck.”

 

“What the hell just happened to you?” He muttered. She didn’t answer, and turned to face her opponent. Megumi just stared down at her.

 

“You think it means something, just by not calling me by my name? It means nothing.” The woman in front of her stepped forward slowly, as Sayuki watched carefully, for even the simplest of movements. Despite the amount of times they had joked about it, the two had never really fought. She knew Megumi was a lot faster than her, although something in the back of her head also told her that there were times when she was a lot faster than Megumi.

 

The wind is mindless, uncaring.

 

She put the thought on hold, she didn’t have time to be thinking, and Megumi also had that other ability as well.

 

Megumi threw a small rock at the jounin, and Sayuki found herself instinctively catching it, not being able to stop thinking in time. She realized with a small yelp what it was, and threw it away, watching it explode over them, and showering the arena with small shards.

 

“What on earth?” Danjuro mused. That was the third time he had seen the woman do that now. She was making things explode somehow, yet he never saw any exploding tags. It couldn’t just be her speed, since he would still see the tags in the second they had to wait to explode. He looked back round, Takeda was standing, right there in front of him. He dodged as a force threw itself at his face, and went to counter with another straight punch. His hand passed through nothing.

 

Takeda was standing, right there in front of him, doing nothing as before.

 

“What?” Danjuro slowed his pace down and observed the man in front of him. Takeda always was an enigma, but he thought he knew everything the man could do, since Takeda was always stupid enough to show him. He saw the man flicker, and he jumped out of the way again. This time, he saw it. It was a simple straight punch, but incredibly fast, before he had even reached the ascent of his jump, the man was already standing as if he had never moved.

 

“…Poker face.” Takeda said, as the man landed. “To make it look as if you’ve got nothing.”

 

“What are you getting talkative about?” Danjuro said mockingly, as he unhooked the frying from his back and swung it around, only just remembering he hadn’t gotten serious yet. He understood what it was now. It was an incredibly simple Taijutsu move. Takeda would just stand there, apparently about to do nothing. Then the punch would come, as strong and as fast as possible, all in less than a split second. Then he just returns to standing there. So simple, and yet because of speed and strength of the punch, he couldn’t risk one. On top of that, he would return to his original position. As weird as it would sound, it would make some people question if it had been him that was doing the hitting.

 

“But it looks like…” Takeda stopped, realizing that he didn’t have his weapon out, he fumbled into one of his pouches, and pulled out a small mushroom. “Won’t work on you.” Danjuro allowed his grin to return.

 

“You and the damn mushrooms. You do realize that I won’t be affected by any poisons, and neither will anyone else here, probably.” He watched, as the extremely tall man squatted down, and placed the mushroom on the ground carefully, covering its rootless base with a bit of soil. His hands were delicate, doing their best not to break the mushroom in any way. Danjuro felt a twitch of annoyance coursing through his body at this, and had had enough.

 

Stepping forward, he jumped high and raised the two hundred and fifty pound cooking utensil above his head. Shifting his hips as hard as he could, he lunged forward, intending to bring the base down upon the enemy’s head as hard as he could. At the last second, he let go.

 

“Gaton: Gokyaku no jutsu!”

 

“Kuchiyose:… Mushroom soldier!”

 

Danjuro blew fire from his mouth, and aimed it directly at his frying pan. Knowing the way his weapon worked, he knew it would absorb the temperatures pretty quickly, bringing the base of the pan above a hundred degree centigrade in a matter of seconds. It slammed into something a few seconds earlier than he expected, and stopped his technique appropriately. Instead choosing to land on the pan and use his weight to force it down on whatever was underneath.

 

He landed hard, and felt the pan slide a little to the left, before falling off whatever was under it. Catching a glimpse, he realized his ears hadn’t deceived him. In front of him was a giant peach mushroom, definitely as tall as him, if not taller.

 

“Well that’s…certainly unexpected.” He muttered as he looked at the inanimate vegetable in shock. It wasn’t alive, he didn’t think. Did the freak intend to use it for defense? He looked around, the freak had gone for just a second. He didn’t even need to guess and just jumped for the mushroom. Behind him, Takeda used the Poker Face again and just remained standing as he missed.

 

“You know, you got quite the weird fetish here, Takeda-chan.” Danjuro said sarcastically. As he landed on the summoned object. He got an idea and went to squat, intending to use his strength to rip the mushroom out of the ground and hurl it as a projectile. Instead, he realized he was sinking. “What the?” He exclaimed, as he felt his feet go under the surface of the large plant. He tried to pull out but found it useless. Somehow, he realized that this must have been his old teammate’s intention all along. He cursed himself for this. Takeda may be socially inept in the worst ways, but he was made a jounin for good reasons.

 

Takeda just ignored Danjuro now, and turned to look at the two women fighting. Sayuki was losing the advantage. With Megumi proving faster than her, it was near impossible for the exile to formulate a strategy or even a seal. She had to rely on high kicks and blocking Megumi as much as she could. At one point, luck was on her side, and as Megumi overextended her reach, she grabbed the wrist of the jounin and levered her elbow against her shoulder, enabling her to flip the woman a small distance. She took the advantage instantly, and formed her signature move.

 

“Kazeton: Oak Cutting…” She turned as Takeda appeared next to her and threw a punch. It connected solidly against her jaw, and knocked her flying. She was amazed to find it barely hurt, and slowly began to realize that he was substituting power for speed in his attacks. She turned to face him again, and found him right in her face, already launching another punch. Attempting a counter, he merely stepped to the side, reloading his attack and firing again. The Cloud Ninja jumped away, and found him still standing there, simply punching her in the face yet again. At the rate, she figured the punches would soon begin to take effect, and it felt like he could do this for ages.

 

Despite her brain being constantly jolted, she figured a plan, and went for some weapons. This time, as she jumped back, she also stepped forward, stretching her arms out as she did so. As planned, she found herself moving into him, and was able to wrap her arms around his back, plunging one of the two kunai into him as she did so.

 

He looked down at her in shock, as she struggled to stab him with the other weapon, something was blocking her, and she could smell it all over him. After a second of trying, she gave up and just dropped the weapon. Using his moment of weakness to get away far enough.

 

Danjuro’s brain told him he was in trouble and should think of something, but he was ignoring it for the moment and futilely trying to rip his legs out of the mushroom. He was amazed how strong it was, nothing he did was causing it to budge, and it seemed to have sealed up completely after taking in his legs.

 

It was sucking his chakra away, he knew that much, but it didn’t mean anything knowing that unless he got away. These mushrooms were just too freaky. He knew they were once a delicacy in the Country of Water, but they had been banned after it was discovered that had the ability to suck people’s energy away. If he was right, it was also how Takeda maintained his shield, since the essence of the mushrooms would use the chakra to protect itself. It made him invincible to certain forces.

 

“Just too damn…freaky!” He cried out, struggling with his own legs still.

 

“You look like you’re having fun.” A voice said below him. He turned to see the woman underneath the mushroom, smiling at him evilly.

 

“A real blast. Why don’t you help me down?”

 

“Would love too. Why don’t I use a ‘real blast’ to do so.” He saw her walk out of sight, under the head of the mushroom, before jumping away as fast as she could. He swore a little as the giant vegetable exploded underneath him, and sent him flying in the air. He turned to see himself, flying towards the razor wire that covered the top of the woman’s little arena.

 

Not wanting to be sliced and diced, he pulled out a shuriken as quick as he could and threw it at the wires, his frustration grew as he saw the weapon just fall apart, the wires somehow proving sharper than the metal weapon. He turned once again, hissing in pain as six of the small wires cut into him vertically. Gravity instantly took effect, and he began falling, seeing the woman directly underneath him.

 

“Ah shit.” The woman had her hand raised, as if to catch him, and for the first time he saw the weird markings on her hand. Shifting his position a third time in mid air, he used his hands to balance on her head and shift away as she did, causing them to both fly in different directions. He landed on top of Takeda, kicking him and giving Sayuki a chance to breath as he went back for his weapon.

 

Not stopping, he used his chakra to bring his large pan to him and continue to charge at the Cloud ninja at Megumi. He swung the large weapon around him to use it as a battering ram, and saw the woman jump over him as he reached her, using his pan for support. She jumped away again, and Danjuro could tell what had happened. Using chakra concentrated at his feet, he leapt forward at her, shocking her with the increase in speed and swung his pan at her. It exploded, knocking the young woman flying into a tree.

 

“So that’s it.” He said, fully understanding her secret now. She got up slowly, and pulled off her burnt jacket, holding her arm carefully as she looked at him in disgust.

 

Meanwhile, Sayuki had been able to press the advantage against Takeda, thanks to Danjuro’s earlier help. Despite having the offensive, she still couldn’t hurt the man in front of her. Taking too long, she found him doing his strange punching technique again, and back flipped out of the way, grabbing a handful of grass as she did so. He didn’t follow her this time, she noticed. Was he getting tired, or just complacent?

 

She didn’t give him time to answer her unspoken question, and blew hard into her own hand, using chakra to manipulate the air inside her lungs again, the grass flew straight into her opponent, and bounced harmlessly off of him. She stayed silent, as she tried to assess what went wrong. Was he simply too dense? He disappeared and appeared in front of her again. Out of reflex, she blew hard in his face, the last strain of grass that she had flew into his left eye and embedded itself there. The normally silent man fell back and screamed silently in pain, holding the wounded nerve center as he did so. He fell to one knee and tried to pull the strain out of his eyeball.

 

“I’m beginning to wonder,” Danjuro said simply, as the woman in front of him began to look very pissed off, “do you even have a single exploding tag on you?” He waited for an answer, grinning as he knew he wouldn’t receive one. “Or, is it possible, that your hand is an exploding tag.” He saw her look of anger increase, as he pushed the right buttons. “Could it actually be you’re stupid enough to have painted a reverse kanji on your hand, so you can summon explosions at any time?” She didn’t reply, but jumped at him again temporarily losing her focus as she threw a punch at him. He didn’t even try to avoid it, and instead flicked at her wrist and bragged the attack, opening up her hand as she did so.

 

She gasped, as she looked at their hands, the Mist ninja wrapping his fingers around hers to trap the symbol between them. She closed her eyes and looked away, concentrating as hard as she could to hold back what was coming next. This time the explosion was very small, and neither saw any flames appear, but they both felt the huge backlash happening in the small, concentrated area between their palms. He let go first, realizing that, although it proved his theory, it wasn’t safe for his hand to take an explosion like that.

 

“So, you can use chakra to protect yourself?” He continued to narrate, as she examined her own hand for injuries. “My chakra control is pretty good. It should be more than enough to protect me.” She saw her hand had become one big bruise, but the symbol was still there.

 

“Bastard!” She shouted, as she placed her hand on the ground. He realized instantly what she intended to do. However, the detonation went off instantly, and sent her flying upwards, also covering the entire area in dirt. She controlled her ascent, and began to fall before she even reached the wires. Sensing his location easily, she opted to throw her shuriken at him, knowing that he couldn’t sense them all in this condition.

 

Seven of them went flying, straight to where she knew he was, but as she landed a few feet away, she heard six small metallic ‘clangs’. As the dust settled, she expected to see at east one of them strike her target. Instead, there was Sayuki, protecting the Mist ninja. She had caught one of the kunai, and deflected the remaining six with the first one. She looked just as shocked as anybody else that she was standing there.

 

“How did I…I just stopped paying attention for a moment and then…” Danjuro swept her off her feet and jumped out of the way, as the ground began to shake underneath them. He landed in his frying pan, which he had fell to the ground after the last explosion.

 

The wind, it can be gentle yet strong, it can be mindless yet fast.

 

The jounin exile held her head as the voice started to come back to her. She almost found herself growling, but was able to calm down. As she got down from Danjuro’s arms, she looked at the battlefield. Megumi seemed to be getting more and more angry, and had definitely taken the most hits so far. The other Mist ninja was still slowly pulling the blade of grass from his eye, she almost felt bad about what she had done. Part of her told her she should be taking advantage, whilst the other half insisted she apologized. She ended up doing nothing and watched him form seals in response.

 

Yamato was still just observing, but that was always his style.

 

“Hijutsu: Rebirth of the mushrooms.” She felt a tremendous surge of energy, coming from the Mist ninja, and watched as he planted his hands into the ground. The area continued to rumble, and she understood that he was the cause of it. She watched as more and more mushrooms started to fill the area. Soon, even below them, the mushrooms came up.

 

“Watch it, they try to suck us in.” Danjuro began to explain. “We best stay on the…”

 

“Ino!” Sayuki called out, as she watched the mushrooms flow under the girl. As she went to jump after her, she felt a hand, grabbing her own. She turned to face her rival, and looked at him angrily. “Let me go!”

 

“Didn’t you hear me?” He asked. “You’ll just get sucked up too. Stop and think for a second.”

 

“I don’t want to think!” She said childishly, ripping her hand away from his and disappearing. He stepped back in shock, and watched as she just reappeared next to the unconscious Ino, displaying the amazing speed that she did before, speed that even she didn’t seem to be aware of. As she reappeared in the giant frying pan, she paused for a second and looked at the man above her. “Did I just do that?”

 

“What are you talking about? Of course you didn’t.” He ignored her and turned to focus on Takeda. The man was standing on top of one of the mushrooms now, observing them all with a superior air to him. Even the other woman was trapped and trying her hardest to get out without having to blow the mushroom up below her.

 

“It happens when I don’t pay attention…when I stop thinking…does it?” It was coming to her now. The childish attempt when she was young to play with the wind. Just playing. Not controlling, not paying any attention to the logic. Being able to rip every leaf off the Sakura tree without realizing, creating the sandstorm by mistake. It was just being playful.

 

Gentle and uncaring. Strong and fast. The power of Kazeton. The full power. Just stop trying to control it and let it flow.

 

She understood. Just a little, but now she understood. She just had to figure how to apply it consciously. An explosion happened a few feet away from them that snapped her out of her thought. She looked up to see Megumi had opted to blow up the mushroom beneath her, and was now running across the mushrooms to reach the other man, going too fast to allow the plants to suck her up. She reached him, and went to attack. The man fell through the mushroom, and remerged on the mushroom behind her, grabbing her round the neck and standing there.

 

“Let me go.” Megumi screamed, her once cool façade now completely gone as she began to elbow him in the ribs. The man grunted a little and held on, only letting go when she struck a previous wound. Megumi retook her lead, and began punching his face, before imprinting a tag on his chest and jumping back. The explosion rocked the body of Yatsuhara Takeda, but he stayed standing.

 

Back in the pan, Sayuki was about to try something new when she noticed Danjuro breathing weirdly.

 

“Danjuro-san?” He responded with a finger, implying she should wait a moment, she watched as his stomach, and then neck seemed to increase in size, before he started to vomit a yellowy liquid. Sayuki recognized it as the oil he had used before. It came out as a fountain over them, and Danjuro started spitting it all over the arena. After around ten seconds, he stopped, and breathed heavily, gasping for air.

 

“Stay…in…the …pan.” He said weakly, as he brought out a small box of matches. Sayuki understood instantly, and checked that Ino was still okay. Realizing the base of the pan would become extremely hot, she quickly lifted the girl up, just as the Mist ninja tossed a match to the ground.

 

The entire place instantly became an inferno and the raging heat soon overcame both mushroom and ninja alike. He saw Takeda look around expressionlessly as he couldn’t think of a place to go. The surrounding branches of trees also quickly took alight and Sayuki started to feel it through her boots. They definitely couldn’t stay here, but Danjuro still looked pretty calm.

 

“Now, Sayuki, do it now!” He commanded, as she looked on confused.

 

“Do what now?”

 

“You know, it!”

 

“You didn’t say anything.”

 

“I didn’t? Oh crud.” Sayuki looked around, beginning to wonder what it was she could do in a situation like this, especially with Ino in her hands. She knew there was one thing, but she found herself hesitating. After a few seconds more, she grumbled angrily to herself, as she saw him smile.

 

“You’ve really got to stop acting stupid.” She muttered, as she tossed him Ino. “It’s confusing.” He caught the young genin with a grin, and watched as his rival started to form a few seals. It was what she considered her ultimate technique, developed recently, but still unperfected. She found her hating herself for being forced to show him. She realized that he was the last person she wanted to see it. She turned her mind off, as she now fully understood everything and completed the hand symbols.

 

“Kazeton: Whirlwind top.” She shouted, and transferred all her chakra to her feet. She began spinning around, feeling the pressure of the wind like it was a part of her, controlling the lift and the drag, the thrust and the weight, as if they were parts of her own body. Her legs spun round like a spin top, and wind shot out while she didn’t it. She couldn’t believe she didn’t know how to do this a while back. Now it all seemed so obvious. The wind  felt so obvious.

 

The fires died down, having been blown asunder from the heavy winds and left the arena a mess. Despite the wires still being in place, trees had been scorched, and all the mushrooms were now cooling nicely on the dried up soil. Takeda was lying on the ground as Danjuro dropped down next to him. Sayuki didn’t even realize the man had jumped out of the way. He put the girl down, as he watched over his old teammate.

 

“You…cooked my secret technique?” The man said, clearly in shock at the huge elemental events that had just taken place, yet still maintaining a poker face.

 

“Yup” Danjuro replied honestly, with a light smile on his face. He knew his old teammate had given up now. All that was left was the finish stroke. Inside, he felt he would miss him a little and regretted never having to see him again.

 

“Don’t you think it’s about time you went home?”

 

“…Okay.” Takeda fell asleep at this, and Danjuro just sighed. There seemed no way for him to leave at the moment anyway, so taking a nap didn’t really matter. The razor wire was still up, even after the devestation. He decided to let the man sleep for now. Sayuki had walked over to Megumi’s body, and was standing over it. After a few moments, she said.

 

“My apologies Danjuro. I wanted to use that on you, but even so…” As she went to talk, she figured something out, and turned round, cursing the air, as the body beneath her disappeared, being replaced with an exploding tag. Before anyone could say ‘Kawarimi’, Megumi slammed her elbow into the back of Sayuki’s head, just as the note went off.

 

Danjuro remained calm. He didn’t want anybody else killing Sayuki, but he knew better than to lose his head in this. Sayuki became engulfed in flames and quickly hardened to stone, appearing behind her old friend and neighbour. She went to kick her in the head, riding off the air of his reappearance. Megumi disappeared once again, leaving another tag in her place that soon exploded. Going with the flow, Sayuki replaced herself with a slab of rock again. They both came back at the same time, and came at each other with kunai hand in hand. They pushed hard against each other for an instant, and Sayuki gained the advantage. As she stepped forward to slash, she barely blinked as she watched Megumi disappear a final time.

 

Not at all concerned with the repetitive nature of the attack, Sayuki went to jump back, intending to clear the distance for the tag that she saw in front of her. Her back hit something hard, and she turned round with a gasp to find her own rock standing in her way. Hesitating for a second longer than she should have, the final note exploded, showering Sayuki in a mountain of rubble and knocking her to the ground, barely conscious.

 

As the explosion cleared, Megumi walked up to her friend. She saw as the girl fought with all of her strength to keep from blacking out, her back was bleeding heavily and her clothes were all torn and scorched. As she reached her old nakama, Megumi kneeled down and placed the kunai at Sayuki’s throat with a sigh.

 

“Can we stop this now? I don’t like getting that angry.”

 

Sayuki felt like just telling her friend to kill her, but couldn’t find the words. She wanted to live, and to be free, she realized that now, more than ever, yet it was being denied to her, by her own best friend.

 

“Come on,” Megumi said. “Let’s go home.” She wasn’t being completely kind and, as she lay there, Sayuki knew that her old teammate intended to knock her out so she would be more compliant on the trip back. She watched as her old friend paused, and closed her eyes.

 

The dagger plunged into the back of her neck, and Megumi’s eyes burst wide open, as Sayuki watched alarmed, liquid crimson spurting out like water through a broken value. The woman above her stuttered for a moment, as her life’s blood started to drip down on the defeated jounin. Behind her old teammate, she saw her other old teammate, just standing there with a stern look on his face.

 

“Ya…Yamato-san…” She said weakly, as her entire body began to tremble, taking in what just happened. “…Why?”

 

“We are tools, are we not, Sayuki? If a tool cannot do its job properly, it needs to be replaced.” She felt her own words being reflected back at her, words said years ago, when she executed an exile without a second thought. She continued to look on as Megumi’s life disappeared before both of them, before her lifeless corpse fell on top of the girl. She let it stay there for the moment, too horrified to move.

 

“How does it feel, having the body of your enemy fall on you? Does it feel the same way as I felt, all those years ago?” Sayuki didn’t answer. Indeed, she could not. For how could this girl ever truly be considered ‘enemy’? Any thought was lost with what happened next.

 

“You bastard!” Danjuro shouted, as he swung his weapon at the male jounin, who dodged with extreme ease. “How could you kill your own nakama like that?”

 

“She was a traitor.” He said confidently, as he continued to dodge Danjuro’s blows. “Her entire life, she was Raikage-sama’s tool. She accepted that. If she is no longer a tool, how can she have a reason to keep her life?”

 

“That’s fucked up and you know it.” Danjuro continued to attack futilely. Sayuki knew it was as pointless as much as he did. Whenever Yamato got into a fight like this, it was like he was a completely different person. He would mock everyone he was fighting against, play against their emotions and make them useless. Gone was the man that would laugh at anything, and play tricks just to annoy, now, there just remained the Genjutsu actor, Sakiyama Yamato, the one who could maintain any illusion, and play any part, regardless of his own personal feelings.

 

She knew how he would fight, with no emotion or care for his opponent. Instead, he would abuse the emotions and care of the opponent. He would play them like a fiddle and draw them into what he wanted to do. Control was everything to this ninja. It was what made him one of the strongest, the battleground was his theatre, and the fighters…were just puppets.

 

“Are you not the one who’s fucked up Danjuro-san? Why, the only reason you are here, the only reason you are fighting us, is to protect a person who you wish to kill yourself, is that not right?”

 

“Shut up!” Danjuro insisted. The jounin had lost his bearings for a moment, the idea of killing a comrade was almost completely alien to him. Even with the fight against Takeda just a few moments ago, he never once thought of killing his long time nakama. He wasn’t even sure he could.

 

“It’s because she’s your ‘rival’, right?” Yamato continued, not even putting in any effort anymore. “You want to be the one to fight her, even though you know she’ll never truly accept you. She’s too much of a tool.”

 

“She’s not a tool!” Danjuro shouted, defending the woman.

 

“She would disagree, I think? And if she doesn’t consider herself a tool now, then that means your rival has disappeared. Without her title, she has become nothing, certain not the one you have fought in the past.”

 

“She’s become free.” The jounin cook pleaded, as he finally connected a hit. Yamato disappeared, and surprised Danjuro when he continued to talk behind him.

 

“Free?” Yamato said. “Free of what? Responsibility and Obligation? If that’s the case, then her only freedom might as well be death.” He stopped to light a cigarette. “And what do you care of her being free anyway. Shouldn’t you hate her?”

 

“Heh, she’s may be my rival, but I also consider her my friend.” Sayuki called out for them to stop for a second, but no one heard. Danjuro was beginning to pant heavily now, and his blows were becoming more sluggish, more thuggish.

 

“Your friend? That’s just stupid. You barely know her.” Yamato was still grinning, and, as his opponents looked on, it was becoming harder and harder to tell if he was real or not. “And we both know she’ll never like a freak like you.”

 

“Be quiet and fight me already!”

 

“And I can’t see how you like her either, especially after she killed your sister.” That did it for Danjuro, and he lost complete control at the same time he lost his pan, Yamato appeared all around him, and one of them grabbed him, taking him down to the floor.

 

“You’re just as useless. Separated from your village. You’ll be considered exile soon enough, then you’ll lose your reason to live as well. Might as well end it here.”

 

“Serving that bastard was never my reason to live!” Danjuro screamed out as his face hit the mud. “All I ever want to do is fight and cook.” Yamato actually stopped with this sentence, almost being unable to believe what he was hearing.

 

“Fight and cook? That’s it?” He said shocked, but still with a sarcastic tone. “I’m amazed such a simplistic idiot can be a jounin.”

 

“You’re the simplistic idiot, and you’re a coward as well. Hiding behind the excuse of being a tool. You’re the one without a proper reason to live. At least she’s fighting her fate. Your just scum who never even tried to fight.”

 

“Hehe, don’t try and turn this on me. It’ll just make you dead.”

 

“At least I’ve been alive.” Yamato found himself snapping at this comment, and he raised his kunai for a finishing stroke. It never got there, and Sayuki pushed herself hard into Yamato, knocking him off her friend.

 

“Sayuki?” Yamato said in shock, not realizing the woman had enough strength to get up.

 

“Get away from Danjuro-san.” She commanded him. Yamato just smiled again.

 

“Excuse me?” He stood back up and prepared himself to fight.

 

“He’s my rival. I’m going to be the one that kills him.”

 

“Man, you just get influenced by everybody around you, don’t you?” He held his head in his hands out of disgust. “First Raikage, then Itako, that ditzy blond over there and now this stupid weirdo.”

 

“This psychoanalysis stuff won’t work on me Yamato.”

 

“It shows how much of a tool you are, you’re just constantly been used by others, affected and modified like a spanner, again and again to suit those who grab hold of you.”

 

“You’re wrong, Yamato-kun. I want to be free.”

 

“Free? You cannot be free, you don’t even have a soul anymore. You lost that as a child.” He pulled out the stub of his last cigarette from a box, and lit it up again. “You are just a tool. One which has fallen out of the toolbox and been scratched. Now useless and ready for disposal.”

 

“You’re wrong, Yamato! I’m Free. I’m whole, and I have a soul.”

 

“Doesn’t sound good just because you make it rhyme.” He said jokingly, as she jumped at him. He was temporarily surprised by her huge increase in speed. He hadn’t noticed she could now use it intentionally, the wind backing her up all the way. He bent too far, in order to avoid the first attack and was in a bad position to try and avoid the second, her foot connected with his left ear for all of a second, before he shifted away from his own genjutsu, and just slipped under.

 

“I admit you did well for yourself by mastering the Fuuton, especially since it’s one of the strongest set of techniques there is, but other than that, you are still weak Sayuki. It just makes you look strong. It’s just an illusion.”

 

“You’re right. I’m not strong yet. I need to be stronger.” She said simply, although a doubt still lingered in her mind, brought on by all that he had said, plus a knowledge that it may be impossible to defeat Yamato. Not only were both she and Danjuro heavily wounded, but also Yamato didn’t have a scratch on him. Not only that, but he was considered the best in the village, even rivaling the Hidden Village of Leaves Copy Ninja. “And I’ll be stronger when I defeat you.”

 

“How can someone that doesn’t exist anymore get stronger, someone that has just been knocked down and rebuilt on other person’s ideas and dreams.”

 

“I do exist.” She shouted, as she threw grass at the illusions around her, now no longer needing to blow them through her mouth. “Just because I get encouraged or persuaded by other people, doesn’t mean I stop existing, I can encourage them as well. Ino has shown me that.”

 

“Hmph. You’re just a fool.” He said simply, grabbing each and every strain of grass and phasing behind her. “Die fool.” Between them, Danjuro jumped into the way, having already formed the seal, just as Yamato threw the grass back at her.

 

“Suiton: Suikoden no jutsu.” He called out, and a barrage of water came from the sky. He instantly felt weak as he did it. The only water nearby was a small pool a few hundred meters. He questioned why he had even bothered to do it. Against this guy, it felt like nothing would work.

 

The man had stood there, as he took the barrage of water full in his face. The grass had been washed away and there were practically no elemental forces left within the arena, still standing, even after the death of its owner. “Useless.” He said, as he kicked the weakened Mist Ninja in the stomach. Sayuki didn’t wait for him to turn on her, and jumped up high, aiming to axe kick him in the head. She hit him, again, just for a moment, and then he wasn’t there.

 

Her mind turned back on again. It was telling her she needed to think this through. If she was alive and free, she needed to prove it by thinking her way to victory. Learning that she could become more one with the wind by no longer thinking had been helpful, but she needed to stay with both mind and body.

 

“You don’t have time to do this, Sayuki.”

 

She gasped in realization, and jumped up and away, into one of the higher branches of the trees. Danjuro observed her just for a moment, but then got the drift and ploughed into his enemy. Yamato sidestepped of course, but he wasn’t expecting the barrage of water, having not stopped from before to come straight back at his knees. He stood there all the same, just smiling as he did before.

 

“That’s it.” Sayuki muttered to herself, as both hope and futility came to her. All this time, they had been facing a genjutsu that had been using genjutsu in order to look more real. She scolded herself for not realizing it sooner. She scanned the area as fast as she could. If that was the case, then Yamato was probably still uninjured, and she barely had any energy left. Only enough for one more move really.

 

She looked down as she saw Danjuro fight. He was amazing. He was still going, even now. Even after fighting two enemies and currently through a third one, and she hadn’t even seen him sleeping recently. She found herself proud that he was her rival, and then shocked, as she found herself accepting that idea so easily.

 

She shook her head, and concentrated on the final task. She let her chakra into the air, and felt it as it floated around. How she did it, she wasn’t entirely aware, she just found herself doing it as naturally as any other wind technique. It moved around, searching the entire area, spreading out like a thin veil across the whole land. She began to feel the air like never before, the squirrels and badgers, the trees and flowers that the air 3was always around, her students and rival, and then, finally, her enemy. “Got you.”

 

Her mind turned off again, as she brought her hands together, forming the seal for her whirlwind top technique. However, at the last second, she felt no reason to move her body, and let the wind fly on it’s own.

 

“Kazeton ougi: Talons of the eagle!”

 

The wind was gentle at first, and she felt it breeze past her, before turning back in on itself and swinging around, then again, picking up speed as it did so, and again, and again. Soon the winds were stronger than her oak cutting gusts, and then even stronger, she watched as the trees began to get cut up, as the ground threw itself up in the air, as the illusion pretended to be hurt. Then, as if she was holding the bird in her hands, she let it free, and watched it fly through the razor wires, cutting them with incredible ease, and carrying them along with it.

 

The wind flew down, and bared in on her target. She almost screamed when she saw him turn to face it, and then watched as he merely stood there, and allowed himself to be hit. The wounds were instant, and the concentrated gale forces scratched right through him like he wasn’t in there. Around them, the arena cage shattered to pieces, as the support strings were ripped. She heard Yamato yell out his pain, and saw the blood splatter across his chest. The man stayed standing, holding himself up by the knee, whether he noticed Danjuro appear behind him or not, he couldn’t tell. He didn’t even seem to acknowledge the knife as it entered his chest. The strongest jounin of the Hidden Village of clouds, then finally fell.

 

“Yamato-kun.” Sayuki said weakly, as she dropped down from the tree and ran to him. Danjuro looked a little confused for a moment, before deciding he didn’t want to try and understand it all. The relationships of others had far too many grey areas as far as he was concerned. He stepped aside, and left Sayuki to say goodbye to the enemy.

 

“Ha!” Yamato started to laugh. “An excellent final performance, for the illusion master of the Hidden village of Clouds. Right Sayuki. What would you call it, ‘Sayuki’s awakening?’ Nah, that’s crap.” Sayuki just looked on in astonishment, as she realized what he was trying to imply.

 

“You…you were saying all those things, just to make me realize…You let us kill you, just so…”

 

“I had to know, if you were serious, about your wish for freedom. If you were willing to defend your death,” he coughed up blood, but didn’t stop talking, “and the only way for you to be truly free was if we were out of your way. Sorry if I upset you.”

 

“You forgot yourself, Sayuki. You abandoned your life of fun and playing in the mud for ours, your way of life for ours. Everything for us. When we realized that, after you changed, the only thing we could think of was getting it back for you. This was the only way.”

 

“By killing Megumi! By letting me kill you? By dying!”

 

“You didn’t kill me, I couldn’t try and bring you back to your old self and then have you kill, it would just restart the whole crappy event again. Besides, I’m perfectly happy with dying, just to see you smile properly again. The only time you ever smiled was with Dejiro. When you did, I realized how much I missed it. I wanted to see it a lot more. Megumi thought the same”

 

“How can I smile if you die? The team was everything to me.”

 

“No it wasn’t. Your daydreams were everything to you. Your thoughts and hopes. Your imagination. I may have been considered the Genjutsu Actor, but you were the one that started to fake every emotion you’ve shown. We helped take that away so you could become a better ninja, and in return you gave us happiness but…”

 

Tears were flowing from his eyes at this point. She had never seen them before, even when laughing, Yamato’s laughs and eyes had been empty, hollow, as if he was holding them back and they were now finally able to burst free.

 

“But how could we be truly happy, if our joy had only come about by imprisoning the teacher who taught us how to laugh?”

 

“Yamato-kun…” She saw water dropping onto his uniform, and it was a concept so alien to her that it took her a few moments to realize what they were. She brought her face to them and, for the first time in a decade, she cried. She well and truly cried.

 

“I may have been a tool all my life, but at least in death, I’ll be making a conscious choice.”  He sighed, as he realized he was being far too melodramatic. “Ha, this is all just stupid. I shouldn’t be overacting like this.” He breathed, as loud as he could, the blood flowing freely wound a wound in his mouth.

 

“Sayuki. Let me do you one last favour, to help truly set you free.” The jounin said it in barely a whisper. He knew he did not have much time left. He could already feel his body, no longer moving. “Do you remember what your dream was?”

 

“I…guess so.”

 

“Heh. Did you know it was behind you this whole time? Right behind you, just resting on your shoulder.”

 

“What? You mean…” Without intending too, she smiled. The news he had brought her filled her with a joy she had forgotten. He started to laugh.

 

“Ha! That’s it! That’s what I wanted to see!” He laughed, long and loud, echoing into the forest, almost as if he was trying to convince the entire world to join in. She just kept smiling, as the tears ran down her eyes. She understood now. She finally understood.

 

Then he was dead. His face permanently etched with the look of laughter. She would never forget it for the rest of her life.

 

End chapter 10

TOTR – Chapter Nine

Chapter nine – Where the big fights begin, and the mysteries unravel to the point where you can’t put them back together again.

 

It was the beautiful morning after the passionate night. The two of them had been awake for a while now, but laying down in bed like this was just much more refreshing, like a long deserved break after working with the kids for so long. They were clutched in together, enjoying the feel of each other’s presence, as the sun joined them to provide more warmth.

 

“We really should be getting up you know?” Kurenai stated, having no intention of doing so just yet. “We may not have the kids at the moment, but there are still things we could do.”

 

“Heh. I can think of a few myself…” Asuma commented, getting a quizzical look from his lover.

 

“Again, but we just…” The male jounin started to laugh to himself.

 

“Well, it wasn’t entirely what I thinking. I was planning on their training course for when they get back. Chouji really needs a helping hand.”

 

“How do you think they’re doing at the moment? They have a week left, I hope nothing bad happens.” He could tell by her voice that the woman was dropping off again. He was half tempted to fall asleep himself, he took his cigarette out and placed it on the side, before pulling the covers up over both of them.

 

“I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

 

******************************************

 

“Neji…Oniisan?” Hinata said slowly, more out of shock than her usual stutter. “What…What are you doing here?” Her white eyed, extremely serious cousin didn’t appear to look back at her, but the girl knew he was staring at her, his Byagugan allowing him to see almost all around him.

 

“We were sent to act as bodyguards in case anything went wrong, Hinata-san.” The girl next to him replied, when the male genin failed to answer. Hinata didn’t recognize her, or the black haired boy, but she guessed they were on Neji’s team.

 

“Bodyguards?” She said quietly. The young girl figured it made sense to an extent. The Branch family was supposed to be guardians of the Head family, but why had they sent Neji out? He seemed far too young for this, although she hadn’t seen or talked to him properly in a few years now, she figured such a job for an older, more accomplished member of the Branch family.

 

“Hinata-sama.” Neji called out, grabbing her attention. “We will get you out of here now. Be prepared to run.” He stated it simply, as he eyed the attacker. He noted her eyes were bleeding under the bandana. If he remembered right, she was technically blind. “It appears I made a mistake in leaving it up to you to rescuing her the last time. You are clearly insane.” He told her, shocking the girl behind him, as she realized the possibility of how long they had been near.

 

“Fuck you!” Itako screamed, slamming her elbow directly into his forehead. The eight surrounding genin watched in horror as began to Neji fell over slowly, before speeding up and flying into a nearby tree, breaking it in two.

 

“What the?” Tenten screamed out. “How did she…” She judged the overall speed. The girl was definitely a little slower than Lee, and Neji could handle his speed easily. What did she miss? She looked over to her comrade, who lay there unconscious. “Dammit…”

 

“Tenten.” Her second partner called out, breaking her chain of thought. “You see to getting Hinata away from here.”

 

“Lee.” She replied, temporarily impressed at her comrade’s bravery as she could tell what he was implying.

 

“I shall buy you some time.” He turned to her, and flashed a nice guy pose, his teeth ‘ting’ing in the wind. She was annoyed, but impressed at his confidence. It was short lived.

 

“Lee, look out!” The boy in the green suit turned just in time to see Itako swing her weapon at him. He ducked down to avoid it, initiating his own counter attack by swinging his foot upwards. It connected with the girl’s chin, or at least he thought it did, but seconds later, her knee propelled itself into his stomach, knocking him flying as well. Tenten and the others watched him fly away.

 

“Damn it.” Tenten muttered, pulling out six shuriken and slipping them between her fingers. Judging by the girl’s speed, she would have no time to properly reload. She knew she would have to make these eight attacks count. The attacker was ignoring her now, and going for Hinata again, cursing her head off. Tenten had judged her next position, and tossed two shuriken, one in the path of her attacker, and one in the predicted path where the girl would jump to avoid the first one. The girl disappeared, as did both shuriken. It took the Leaf genin a second too long to figure out what had happened. She turned around and threw three more shuriken, in an attempt to block the two that were now being thrown right back at her. All three missed again, and she was only able to avoid two more of them, the third one embedded itself into her left arm. She cried out in pain, as her legs gave up on her. She saw the girl continue to fall at her, with nothing she could do in time.

 

**********************************

 

“I see. It’s like that, is it?” He was looking at a tree. He couldn’t see any tree, or feel it, or even taste it even if he bit the air in front of him, but he knew that, here in Hell, there was a tree right in front of him.

 

He pulled his fist back, aim at where the tree should be, and slammed his fist forward, full speed, full strength. The punch was executed flawlessly, he felt the muscles meet no resistance, and the air flowing down his forearm. If was as if he had hit nothing, his skin showed no sign of tear, and his muscles weren’t bruised.

 

Yet his chakra had had to fill a small gap.

 

“What an amazing genjutsu.” He said aloud, as he tried to feel his arm for anything out of the ordinary. “It covers everything, even hiding the fact that my hand is probably bleeding.”

 

He looked around the immense landscape. The screams of the damned, the wailing of demons, Hell was still presence and Hell seemed to have no intention of going anywhere. “Still, it was already obvious that it was a genjutsu, otherwise I’d be seeing pretty angels and other tasty morsels.” He brought his forefingers together and formed one of the oldest of seals. “Kai!” He used his chakra to try and dispel as much of the illusion as possible, but he barely felt it budge. He tried again. “Kai!” The moment he finished, he knelt down and tried to grab the earth, hoping to find grass, but instead only finding dark asphalt.

 

“Man, this is annoying. Do I just wait until it goes away? I’ll be dead by then.” He was pissed, he didn’t usually ever have problems with genjutsu, the only time recently was that one jounin back when he was fighting his rival. Who was causing this anyway, he thought to himself? The last thing that he remembered was scouting the area, but if that were the case, the person would have to be at least twenty miles away for him not to notice them. His eyes grew wide in realization. He knew what he had to do.

 

He ran, it didn’t matter where, as long as he kept going in the same direction. As he did, he brought his hands back together to form the seal, chanting the release technique as he moved along. It makes sense, if the one doing this ain’t too close, then there must be at least small weak points in the illusion. If i can find just one. He stopped, as the genjutsu closed in on him again, his dispel technique still proving ineffective. Something had just flashed to him for a moment. There was someone there, they were sitting on the ground if he felt it right. He tried again. Yes,definitely somebody. They disappeared again, the genjutsu quickly filling in any gaps it could find. He moved in their direction, he couldn’t tell if they could see him or not. It didn’t matter, he just needed another pair of hands for what he wanted to try. Releasing his chakra around him again, they were getting closer, yet not moving.

 

A demon passed him by, asking him if he had any money for bus fare. He resisted the natural urge to cook it on the spot. He lunged forward, guessing where the person was, and tried to pick them up. He couldn’t tell if he had succeeded or not, it certainly didn’t feel like he was holding anything. He just hoped for the best, and started running again, keeping his legs moving as fast as possible in any direction. He traveled a mile in two minutes, going faster than humanly possible. He figured that had to be enough. He just hoped that whoever it was hadn’t tried to wiggle away from him. He landed in a lava pit and submerged down for infinity. Here, he could hear the scream of thousands who had fallen down here by accident, those doomed to spend their eternity burning a death that would kill anybody in an instant.

 

It was getting repetitive, and if he wasn’t careful he might get noticed, but he performed the release technique again anyway. He sensed them clearly for a moment, the person was still with him. Still sitting, like they hadn’t even noticed. He couldn’t tell who it was though. He sat down directly behind them, and did the technique again, getting ready to see their arms. He got them, they were on the person’s lap. He grabbed them before the technique disappeared, noticing the other person squirm as he did so. He hoped they would understand what he was trying to do as he positioned his fingers in a certain way and hoped that this wasn’t just some forest boy who didn’t even know ninjutsu. One last time, has to work. The demon caught up to him, exhausted and out of breath, telling him he had dropped his wallet.

 

“Kai!” He shouted loudly, immediately feeling the chakra of the person in front of him as the wall around them evaporated and shattered, the noise that was made was terrible, and the demon looked very pissed off. He realized he was looking at Sayuki’s back.

 

“Woah!” He muttered, jumping up and away from the woman. She turned around and looked at him, a mixture of shock and anger in her face, as if she didn’t know what to expect yet ready to kill it all the same.

 

“Oh, it’s you.” She said simply in the end.

 

“ ‘Oh, it’s you?’ Is that all you have to say?” Danjuro said mockingly, as he pretended to look hurt. She had stopped paying attention and began looking around. “Where are the children?” She asked, looking at him.

 

“How would I know? I’ve just been ignoring a denizen of the neatherrealm that looked that a super hero for the past ten minutes.” He looked closer at her, she seemed a little worried, hidden by a layer of stern pretense. Isn’t she going to learn already?

 

“We need to get moving. During all this, I sense someone very dangerous. If she’s not here, then she’s probably going after the kids.”

 

“Someone dangerous? Like who, did they set up this genjutsu thing?” She had already began to hop up the mountain. He followed her as the conversation continued.

 

“I’m not sure if she could. She’s not dangerous to us, but the kids won’t stand a chance at all.”

 

“Who is she?”

 

“She is…she was my pupil.”

 

“Ah, I see. That crap.” He said honestly. “More mental burden. Are you going to be okay?” She paused in thought for a moment, as he watched her think it over.

 

“I don’t know.” She said sullenly. “I can’t be what I was as a child. I can’t be what I was as an adult anymore. IT confusing, and there’s a lot of conflicting thoughts in my head. I just don’t know what I can be.”

 

“Pfft.” The male jounin seemed to laugh with himself at that comment. “That’s easy. Just be yourself.”

 

**********************************

 

They just weren’t moving! Her feet were usually so easy to control, she didn’t even think about it half the time, but now, when it truly matters above all else, they wouldn’t shift. Why? She had been struck in the arm, but she couldn’t feel anything below her waist. She struggled futilely one last time, before the naginata went to strike.

 

“Meat Tank!” They both heard someone scream. The girl twisted out the way again, as a huge ball rolled straight through her intended path. Tenten looked in on in morbid shock, as the ball stopped its own movement and repositioned itself to attack the girl again, rolling around a few times on the same spot before charging off again. It took her a few seconds to realize that it must have been one of the genin. She felt someone pick her up from behind, and move her away from the current battlefield.

 

“You’re Tenten, right?” Ino asked. “I remember you were in the class above us.”

 

“Yeah, Ino, isn’t it?” Tenten found herself slightly embarrassed by being rescued by a group one year younger than herself, but it couldn’t be helped. Ino nodded.

 

“What is going on here?”

 

“We figured you might know more than us.” Tenten began, as they landed next to Shikamaru and Kiba. Shino had moved forward, but seemed hesitant in attacking. “From what we thought, this girl was a friend of Hinata’s or something. She helped Shino and Kiba save her from a kidnapper yesterday.”

 

“A friend?” Ino said shocked. “But Sayuki-sensei said that she was an exile from the Cloud village. Why would she help Hinata?”

 

“I don’t know, but now she’s attacking us for some reason and she seems focused on Hinata.”

 

“She seems angry.” Shikamaru stated, actually slightly frightened. It was bad enough when girls were ‘normal’ around him. When they were angry, all he wanted to do was run.

 

“Get lost already, you freak!” Itako shouted, using her Naginata as a bat to ricochet Chouji away. He slammed into where Shino was, but the boy simply disappeared into a hoard of bugs. She tried to watch him, but was honestly confused for a moment as she failed to pinpoint his location. In truth he was nowhere, he only existed as thousands of insects for that one moment, but the moment he wasn’t, he was right behind her, and she was on him.

 

The naginata stabbed through his left pectoral muscle, penetrating his heart. Itako ignored it of course, her raged filled brain at least active enough to recognize kawarimi as it happened. She finally figured him to be next to Hinata, and charged that way again. As she approached him, he stepped to the side, grabbing her naginata, except it wasn’t there anymore, the staff part slammed into his jawbone, knocking him down. The girl followed through her attack and kicked him in the stomach, any feelings of companionship she might have felt now gone in the winds.

 

“Shino!” Hinata called out, still uncertain as to whether she should be fighting or trying to calm Itako down. Whatever the reason the girl was attacking, it was certainly a misunderstanding, and she would hate to see anyone get hurt just because of that. She stepped forward as the blind girl went to attack the boy again.

 

“Huh?” The exile hadn’t been expecting that. Her ‘friend’ now stood in front of the boy, with arms outstretched, as if to block Shino from any more danger.

 

“Pl…ple…ase stop this… Itako-san.” She said weakly, with fear evident in her voice. The blind girl just stood there for a moment, whether she was looking at Hinata in her own way was impossible to tell, then she started to shiver, brimming with anger.

 

“You’re afraid of me…Chibiko?” Itako questioned, rage evident in her voice. “Of me…I thought we were friends?” Hinata could only look on, not knowing what to say.

 

“First, I find you standing with that woman, being a teammate of that woman, betraying me, and now you’re scared of me…it doesn’t make any sense. Were you trying to trick me?” Hinata stuttered, saying nothing in the end. She didn’t know what to make of the older girl in front of her. She was the one not making any sense, yet, she felt like the girl would be crying, if she had the eyes to do so.

 

“Itako…”

 

“Screw you.” The exile went to straight out stab the Hyuuga girl with no warning. The movement was swift, and it was only by Shino taking the weight from under Hinata’s legs that caused her to fall over, away from the attack. It had been a desperation move though, and they were now both on the floor. The girl went to stab them again.

 

“Tsuuga!” Kiba had finally reacted to the idea of both his comrades being dead and moving automatically, allowing his body to spin round at intense speed, covering the distance to his friends and causing Itako to jump out the way at the last moment. As she landed, he stopped his technique just a few feet away from her.

 

“Calm down girl. This is crazy.” Simply asking her to calm down seemed to have a slight affect. “We’re your friends.”

“No you’re not. You can’t be.” She stated. “I realize it now. I was a fool to have tried to be friends with you.” She ran at him again, disappearing at the last second to strike. He blocked her with his arm, and watched as Akamaru tried to ram her in Goyuju form. The dog missed yet again, as the battle continued.

 

“What’s with this girl?” Ino stated, as they found themselves watching from a distance, the girl didn’t know what she could do at the moment, as she watched the one fighting her friends, grabbed one of the Kiba’s and throw him into Shino, who had just gotten back up again. Both fell down unconscious, the dog reverting back to his natural form as he did so. “I can’t believe we’re losing against an angry kid!”

 

“Well, she is older than us.”

 

“That shouldn’t make any difference. We’re more focused at the moment. We should easily be able to take advan…” Tenten pushed her away at the last second, as the naginata went flying in their direction, Kiba having successfully disarmed it.

 

“More focused, huh?” Tenten said smiling as she looked down at the girl. “Doesn’t look that way to me.”

 

“Be more serious.” A voice called out to them from behind. They turned round to find Neji waking up, his wounds not as bad as originally thought. “In this situation, if we are not careful, we might really die.”

 

“Well, what can we do?” Ino cried. “She’s too strong. She’s dealing with all of us easily.”

 

“We need to attack all at once.” Shikamaru said simply.

 

“I don’t think piling on is going to work.” Ino said annoyed at her friend. Shikamaru just closed his eyes, trying hard not to get too annoyed himself. He began to explain further.

 

“She seems to be able to sense our attacks the second we do them. I’m guessing she has a high level of awareness.”

 

“What, but she’s blind.” Ino pointed out untactfully.

“Even so, she has managed to follow you all the way from the Hidden Village of Clouds.” Neji stated. “She was also able to catch Tenten’s shuriken and throw them back at her in an instant. She is more than just blind. It is almost like her lack of eyes make her ‘see’ better.”

 

“So it’ll probably be best to attack all at once and cover more areas than she would be able to handle. It might be time to use that combo we’ve been working on.” Chouji wandered up to them, feeling slightly nauseous.

 

“That will not be necessary.” Neji said, grabbing everyone’s attention. “I shall handle her alone.”

 

“What, you can’t possibly.”

 

“You are all too weak. Six bugs such as yourselves cannot defeat a raging bull.” Shikamaru instinctively raised his hand in front of her to prevent Ino from shouting at the pompous genin. He thought it over. The older boy was right to an extent. Could they defeat something of this level? Did they even need to bother? It was all too troublesome, but they at least had to subdue or escape from her. They might be able to stall until the jounin come back. Their substitute teacher had been able to fight her without problems the last time, but how long was she going to take?

 

He stopped in thought and looked round the area. Chouji was stumbling to where they were standing, Shino and Akamaru were out cold and Kiba was fighting an unarmed Itako and yet still losing. As far as he could tell, the illusion had been dispelled, unless it was exceptionally good and this was all in his mind. Even though it was gone from here, he had a feeling that the jounin were still stuck in it somewhere. For that matter, what broke the illusion anyway? He composed his thoughts, all that didn’t matter unless they beat the girl. He went to complain out loud, when he heard a groan. Tenten was poking her teammate.

 

“You’re still groggy Neji. Rest a moment.” She stated, slightly amused at her friend’s weakness, as the lightest tap brought him to his knees. She turned back to the others.  “Try that combo you were talking about, while he recovers.” They heard a groan behind them. “And do it now, that boy’s unconscious!” They all turned round to where she was looking, finding Kiba slumping to the floor, the only sign of life being a small grumble they could hear. The psychotic teenager turned once again to her target, uncaring as to whether the boy lived or died, still as uninjured as before all her attackers tried to get her.

 

“Crap. Chouji!” He called out to his nakama, who was already way ahead of him. Bulking up with baikan no justu. The boy charged blindly at his opponent. In truth, Chouji was more scared than anyone else here. He didn’t know how he had done so well so far without falling. He thought he was to be the first person to get taken out.

 

“Get lost fatty!” Itako shouted, tapping his side. Despite his extreme anger, the boy could do nothing as he found himself mysteriously propelled across the forest clearing.

 

“Aikijutsu!” Tenten muttered under her breath, as she prepared to run off to protect him. Figuring the girl was going to strike back. She was stopped by a hand in front of her.

 

“Wait.” Shikamaru insisted. “The reason we’re doing so badly is because everyone just keeps charging in. It’s how everyone keeps getting injured, including yourself.” Tenten looked down to her arm, the adrenaline was hiding most of the pain, but it looked a lot worse than it was.

 

“It’s because we don’t have time to do anything else. That girl intends to kill us all.”

 

“Just hold back. When I say, attack with your strongest weapon. You do have one, right?” Tenten just looked at his face, surprised to see it full of conviction, despite having done the least out of all of them so far. She nodded slightly. “Good. Ino?”

 

“Ready.” She said, as she netted her fingers together and joined her thumbs, creating a hole between her hands that lined up with the exile. Itako caught a glance of this, and recognized the move somehow. “Ninpou…”She was too far to do anything though, she started to run at the girl anyway. “Shintenshin no jutsu!”

 

Itako’s body stopped running and cringed slightly, awaiting the inevitable unwillingly. As she stood not knowing what was going to happen next, she heard the girl slump to the floor, before disappearing from her senses, suggesting she was unmoving and unconscious. “She missed?” Itako thought, knowing it shouldn’t have been impossible.

 

In her rage filled mind, she wsung her head round, she sniffed the air ferally, growling to herself where she didn’t get anything. Her ears pricked up, but they heard nothing except the breathing of everyone nearby from the boy on the floor next to her to the birds miles in the distance. Everyone around her was wating for something, but she couldn’t tell what. It was like being at a party with something written on your face. You knew there was something up but couldn’t even begin to tell what. IT was making her angrier, yet her instinct told her moving would be dangerous. The girl had done something, but she needed to know what before she could strike next.

 

Something shifted behind her. She turned round to meet it and found Kiba standing there, about to stab her with a sharp item. She gasped a little, before dropping on her knees, avoiding the unconscious boy’s strike. She slowly began to figure it out, as he swung at her three more times. He wasn’t moving as he had before, resorting to knife attacks and simpler kicks. Before, his fighting style had been more savage, like a brawler mixed with a wolf. This had to be the girl, somehow controlling his body, fighting with her own style. What did it matter? She was still a lot faster than either of them.

 

She grabbed the foot at it swung for her head, and immediately lifted it high, testing the limits on the boy’s flexibility. He gave out s it went past his shoulders, surprising the girl as she fell over with it. As she tried to lift herself off the floor, Ino cursed. Getting used to a new body in combat was too much of a bad idea. Kiba’s natural flexibility was a lot less than hers. She looked up to see the older girl just standing there. She grabbed the boy by the neck and lifted her up, beginning to squeeze the life out of her. Ino panicked, half of her wanted to release the technique and return to her own body, but the other half was concerned for Kiba, who she would leave unconscious to die if she left. The only choice she was left with was to fruitlessly pound against the girl’s arms. Itako responded by squeezing harder, and Ino felt death coming on.

 

Then, everything just seemed to stop.

 

**********************************************

They had gone quiet at the last conversation. Only the birds chirping in the hot sun filled the air. He felt very unsocial, despite the overall danger of what was happening, he felt like he should be talking. This was a brilliant opportunity to get to know the woman he had been obsessing over for so very long. He aimed for some kind of basic conversation.

 

“So, whose this girl then?” He asked simply.

 

“She was my student three years ago.” Sayuki began, clearly waiting for him to ask so she could answer. “I didn’t want children then as much as I didn’t want them now. They were just an annoying burden that Raikage…sama put on me.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“Itako was…it’s kind of hard to describe. She was goofy looking, with these big, thick lensed glasses, yet she was popular with all the kids her age…”

 

“…and bottom of the class. Is that you three?” She looked at the three children in front of her. Forehead protecters tightened securely round their heads, tighter than was needed. A clear sign of a rookie.

 

“Yes miss.” The three children called out. She could tell by their reaction. They were glad to have her as their teacher. She had become known as one of the stronger in the village, and now she was going to lead them. It was the complete opposite for them.

 

“Right. Your first mission begins tomorrow at nine o’clock. Get some sleep and some food and meet me by the Ishida residence. You’re to weed the garden. Dismissed.” Sayuki went for the door, leaving three confused genin.

 

“Excuse me, Sayuki?” She turned round to face the girl positioned at the bottom of the class. She looked as annoyed as the jounin felt.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Is that it? Don’t we like, get to know each other and stuff?” She stared at the thick rims that covered the girl’s eyes for a moment, an expressionless look on her face.

 

“I do not wish to get to know you.” The jounin replied simply. “There is no need.” She turned to walk out of the door, stopping one final time. “And lose those glasses. Things that big will get in the way.”

 

“Ah I can’t.” Itako said, her high pitched voice annoyed the ears of the jounin. “I can’t see a thing without them on. It’s okay, they’re hooked behind, so they won’t fall off.”

 

“Whatever.” Sayuki replied one last time, then disappeared to prevent further conversation. Itako looked pissed, as the two boys behind her seemed to celebrate.

 

“Wow, she’s so cool.” One of them commented. “I can’t believe she’s our teacher.”

 

“She seems a little stuck up though.” The other one stated.

 

“Fool. She’s just being stern. It’s like tough love and all that.” As the two carried on talking, Itako swore under her breath, releasing the humiliation. After a moment, she thought of something, and began to grin.

 

“Looks like we’re going to have to do a little initiation ceremony for our new jounin.” She grinned evily, feeling an incessant need for revenge flow through her. The boys behind her just looked on nervously, as they felt a passion flow through the girl.

 

***********************

 

“What…What is this?” Itako growled as she felt herself no longer able to squeeze against the boy’s throat, her hands released their grip slightly, not dropping the possessed boy, but not killing him either.

 

“Phew, that was close.” Shikamaru sighed in relief, as he get his hands in a particular position. “It looks like I was right.”

 

“Huh?” Tenten looked around, not sure what was going on. “What just happened?”

 

“Heh. It seems she’s brilliant at sensing where people and thing are all around her, and with your speed, you react just as fast, but you’re not like those with Byugugan. You can’t sense chakra, and you can’t sense things without physical form.”

 

“What the fuck?” She struggled futilely, her body wasn’t doing anything she said. She kept trying nonetheless. Why couldn’t she move? She began to scream inside her head, as she pounded upon this invisible cage. The scream manifested itself outside as a loud growl, shocking the two remaining genin. Shikamaru tried to remain focused.

 

“Which means, above all else, it’ll be impossible for you to sense where shadows are.”  He grinned and sat down, and she found herself copying his movement. “The Kagemane no jutsu worked perfectly.”

 

“Kagemane?” Tenten muttered to herself, as she watched the girl continue to struggle as hard as she could, her body listening to nothing her enraged mind was saying. Shikamaru turned to the remaining player on the field.

 

“Use the technique now.”

 

“What? But she’s caught.”

 

“Unfortunately, we can’t just catch her. It’s why I didn’t have Ino just possess her with Shintenshin no jutsu. When this wears off, she’s just going to attack us again. You’ll have to do something to her that mans we can escape.”

 

“Well…fine.” Tenten acquiesced. She pulled the scroll out firmly. She didn’t want to take any chances with this girl. She didn’t really want to have to kill her, but she didn’t want to risk the girl escaping and fighting back. “To think Ino would use the boy as a weapon like that. Impressive.” As if reminding him, Tenten watched as Shikamaru began to make certain motions, positioning himself, and thus Itako, to throw the unconscious Kiba, as well as the unconscious Ino out of the way. She landed about ten feet away.

 

“Is that enough?” He asked the girl beside him.

 

“That’s fine.” She stated. She planted the scroll in the ground, and kneeled down by it. She was a little against doing this. She knew she would need this technique in a month’s time when the chuunin exam took place, but it was unlikely there were any participants here anyway besides herself and her team. She braced herself and formed the seals, observing her target the whole time. The girl was screaming louder and louder, than a cornered wolf that was refusing to admit capture, believing it could escape if it just snarled loud enough.

 

With the first half of the technique complete, Tenten picked up the scroll and jumped high into the air, spinning around her body as she didn’t so before letting it go. The symbols were incoherent, even to her, but she knew enough to start the technique. From the puffs of smoke that began appearing, weapons came. A kunai, a shuriken, a stiletto, bladed nunchaku, needles, then more and more, she couldn’t really count them. They stayed in the air with her until they became uncountable. After three seconds, the summonings stoped, and she braced herself one last time.Would this be the first time she would take a life?

 

“Ninpou: Senbun Ryuu!” The sharpened objects threw towards their target, whom was too busy trying to free herself from her imaginary prison, that she was only just able to notice the swarm of daggers. She struggled harder and harder, growling louder and louder. The first wave of ten approached her and she seemed powerless to stop them.

 

“Zanshin!” Shikamaru retracted in shock as he felt his shadow return to him of it’s own violation, just as the thousand dragons technique found it’s target, slamming into the ground and bringing up dust that soon covered the entire area. Gravity finally noticing her, Tenten fell to the ground, landing safely, before being kneed in the chest by Itako.

 

“What the?” Tenten gasped, as the knee winded her. She looked directly at the girl, now straight in front of her. She had only one small scratch on her bare left shoulder. “Impossible…how did you…” she didn’t get time to finish, as she unhooked from Itako’s flying knee, the girl swung around, using the momentum to crash her fist into the girl’s face. Tenten took the blow full force, and just fell into the ground, totally knocked out. Itako watched her for a few moments, wanting the girl to stand up again. When she didn’t, she started to walk up to her, intending to finish it.

 

“Kagemane no jutsu!” She heard him and stepped to the side, looking in his direction with a stern face. Shikamaru just grinned, having aimed for the direction she was standing in the first place. Then, she stepped to the side again, and he readjusted his shadow to reach her, the he had to do it again, and again. For every direction he went she seemed to respond, avoiding the shadow again and again. She slowly got closer to him and when she was near enough, jumped at him with a flying foot kick. Still stuck in his own technique, Shikamaru couldn’t break away in time, and soon felt her foot connect with his face, slamming him straight into a jutting rock. The boy was instantly knocked cold.

 

As the forest clearing became quiet, Itako looked around at the one person left standing. She was sitting down on the floor, checking over her unconscious friend. She stalked towards her, as Hinata caught sight of her, instinctively whimpering to herself as she did so. As the blind girl approached her, Shino, slightly conscious, went for one last attempt, and tried to grab Itako. It was a pointless action, the girl simply avoiding it and stamping on his arm. Hinata gasped as she heard it break, before her once friend kicked him out of the way.

 

“Why do you make me do this Chibiko?” The girl above her asked. “I didn’t want to.”

 

“I…er I mean…” Itako didn’t give her chance to answer. Grabbing the girl by the collar of her hoodie, she lifted her up and above her, staring at her once again with hollow eyes.

 

“It’s because you had to be placed with that fucker teacher of mine. The stupid bitch who’ll do anything for her country. Even leave her own fuckin’ students to die.”

 

******************************************

 

The man was laughing at her. Her! That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. As she pulled her glasses off, now being unable to see even with them on, she saw the fuzzy outline of her jounin sensei, with what she guessed was an extremely pissed look on her face. Besides her, the man didn’t seem to have any intention to stop laughing.

 

“What was this about, you stupid little girl?” The jounin sensei asked her. Itako looked emotionally wounded as she wiped the gunk off her forehead. It had cost her a fair bit to get this amount of cheap oil, and now she was paying for it again. She started to walk off as the man sighed to himself, his laughing continuing regardless.

 

“Where do you think you are going?” Sayuki called out to her as she tried to leave. Itako froze, an edge in her teachers voice that she had never heard before, grabbed hold of her brain and held it there in fear.

 

“Ah, leave off her Sayuki. She was just trying to play a joke on you. All kids do it, it’s sort of like they’re way of wanting to be friendly with you.” She recognized the man now. How could she not, even without paying him attention a moment ago, he was still famous across the entire country, especially since he ruled around a quarter of it.

 

“But Dejiro-sama…”

 

“Deji-kun!” Dejiro stated, an insistent edge in his voice. She watched as her teacher blushed slightly, his authoritative tone contrasting with the childish request.

 

“Deji…kun.” She cleared her voice and continued as usual. “I have been ordered to protect you at a time when your life is supposedly at risk. Events such as these are dangerous. For all I know, this girl is actually a assassin for somebody and was working on distracting me. She should be glad I didn’t respond by killing her. Instead, she is just covered in oil.” Dejiro looked slightly annoyed now, but not as bad as Itako.

 

“You’d…You’d doubt your own student?” She questioned, trying to hold back the wave of emotion that was pushing into her easily. “I hate you!” The girl screamed loudly, her voice echoing around the village square, before running as fast as she could. Sayuki didn’t seem the least bit concerned. She looked at her lord with a faint smile, which dimmed instantly when she saw his face.

 

“What is it?” She asked confused, as he looked at her with a grimace for the first time.

 

“She is supposed to be your student, Sayuki.” He explained. “One who is meant to learn off you and be respectful of you. Like this, she will only hate you.”

 

“Are you saying I should have let her get away with that?”

 

“Well, not entirely, but you shouldn’t go as far as to say you might have killed her like she was a common enemy. You should go and apologize.”

 

“She’s worse than a common enemy,” Sayuki muttered, “she’s a rookie, and a kid too. She’s even worse. She’s the last of her clan and everything, and she’s supposed to have one of the strongest bloodlines in the village, but she’s the weakest child I’ve ever met.”

 

“We were all weak once Sayuki.”

 

“Not me.”

 

“Sayuki!”

 

“I’m going. I’m going.” Sayuki whined, as she stormed off after the girl. “Take care of things, Yamato.” She said to the invisible entity hiding in the shadows.

 

****************************************

 

“What?” Was the girl speaking nonsense? She couldn’t tell. She couldn’t do anything. She felt so weak, at a time where she had told herself to be strong. Everyone else was down, she needed to be the one to rescue them, but she couldn’t.

 

“I’ll show her. Let’s see if she remains as fucking stoic when she finds a bunch of corpses.” Hinata watched as Itako’s hand was engulfed in smoke, a small knife appearing there slowly afterwards. She shook in fear again, as her eyes were brought up close to the knife.

 

“I’m sorry Chibiko. I truly am.” Chibiko closed her eyes, as her hands dug in deeply to the hand holding her.

 

Neji dove into her, as hard as he could, pushing all of his weight against the older girl, knocking her to the side. She fell, dropping both the knife and Hinata. Hinata fell down, and quickly shuffled to get back up. Neji was standing there, in a stance unique to the gentle fist style, ready to fight.

 

“Hinata-sama. We will have to fight her together if we are to beat her.” Neji stated simply. He was confident of their abilities. As two members of the Hyuuga family, even if they were children, they would be able to handle this raging bull. He waited for her, keeping his eyes on the blind girl as she picked herself up, expecting Hinata to prepare her stance as well. He glanced over when she did nothing, remaining just as apprehensive as before.

 

“What are you doing?” He asked her harshly. “This is a fight.”

 

“I don’t want to fight her Neji-niisan.”

 

“What?”

 

“She’s my friend.” Hinata tried to explain. “She’s just confused, that’s all.” In response to this, Itako got up and launched herself at the shy girl. Neji quickly intervened, batting Itako’s fist out of the way, but missing her foot. It kicked into Hinata’s stomach and knocked her away. The girl’s efforts then refocused onto the boy’s and he had to dodge three attacks from different sides, before finally back flipping out of the way.

 

“Why can’t you just fuck off? Itako screamed, having enough of the boy’s presence. She charged blindly at him again, and he prepared himself to fight her off.

 

“Byagugan!” As she approached him, she disappeared, appearing behind him. His eyes noticed immediately, and turned to block her first kick. She swung through, twisting her body to attack with a back fist, which was subsequently blocked and followed through with a second punch, which Neji harmlessly ducked under. Neji countered, opening both palms and moving to push them into her stomach, assaulting her chakra source. She twisted to the side just as easily as he did a  moment ago, avoiding the first attack and sensing his second attack, a hook kick to her intended destination, she stopped herself mid twist and allowed herself to fall to the floor.

 

“Interesting.” Neji mused quietly, as he realized their Taijutsu skills were equal. Itako didn’t stop to comment and moved towards him again. He decided to opt for something different, and let her get close. Her attack was too simple, but he guessed an effort to avoid it would result in a stalemate again. His Byugugan meant he could now see at her level, thus she wouldn’t be able to counter his counter successfully like the first time. However, it did mean that the way they were continuing, it would be a battle of attrition. As she reached for him, he started it.

 

“Kaiten!” He shouted, as he let his chakra flow from its pores, he knew she couldn’t sense it, since she failed to see Shikamaru’s shadow earlier. He watched as the wave of chakra hit her. It wasn’t as fast as he liked, but he knew enough of the technique to spin a small amount of chakra round his body. It slammed into her again, she stayed standing, and he began to walk forward to allow the wave to hit her again.

 

“Zanshin!” He heard her cry, dodging the wave of chakra almost instantly and stepping through it, kneeing him in the groin as she got close enough. He gasped at this, and felt his knees buckle, feeling an explosion of energy coming from himself as she went for the next blow, a carefully aimed kunai in her hand.

 

“Kaiten!” He shouted again. This time, chakra flowed through every part of his body and he was able to spin it round successfully, much more successful than before. It now no longer left a gap that she could fill but swarmed round him entirely. She jumped out of the way, waiting for him to finish.

 

“I see now.” He said, remaining calm, as the energy disappaited around him. Despite his outward appearance, he was a little confused. In that one second she hit him, he felt like he had grown a little. His chakra could leave more places than just his hand, and he could see her chakra clearly. He had just become stronger somehow and understood clearly. “That Zanshin you shout about. I know what it is.”

 

******************************

 

“So…you guys hated each other.” Danjuro commented, the only real thing he had learnt from the story so far.

 

“Actually, after Dejiro’s little lecture, we started to speak and…well I guess it’s because of Dejiro, he always had a weird effect on me, but we actually became reasonably friendly. I mean I was still her teacher, and she disliked a lot of the things I did.”

 

“Like…” Danjuro was loving this to an extent, pumping information out of somebody who was so willing to talk. All he had to was have her admit a weakness, like being allergic to vinegar or something.

 

“The main thing was that I always followed orders without question and tried to teach them the same thing. It seemed such a necessary thing for a ninja, but she was always questioning it. I suppose I could sympathize some of the time, like when I killed that ten year old sand ninja, but she just hated the following orders in general thing.”

 

“She was probably a girl that liked her freedom and was beginning to realize that she might lose it.”

 

“Ninja’s aren’t free…There is no alternative to that.” Even as she said the words, the jounin found herself doubting them for the first time ever. What Ino had said to her was shaking her up further. She felt her spirit was about to explode from her body and get away.

 

“So, what else happened? It doesn’t seem like the story had a happy ending?” Despite their conversation, Danjuro was still being as alert to his surroundings as always. He had found the kids, and know of them seemed dead. They could wait until he had the full story.

 

“Itako did something unforgivable two years ago. Something that could never be let go.”

 

“What? She run away or something.” Sayuki grimly shook her head.

 

“Much worse. She…killed her two teammates during a mission.”

 

“What!” Danjuro was truly shocked. Despite the world of espionage they lifted in, killing one’s comrade’s was an extremely rare thing, and possibly the most unforgivable thing a ninja could do, especially one’s direct teammates.

 

“I don’t fully know how it happened myself. I wasn’t there at the time.” Sayuki’s voice had lowered in tone, her eyes hidden under her hair. He could tell just by looking. This was her secret shame she was about to tell him.

 

It was a C rank mission. Their first as a team. It was nothing to her, but she had to force herself not to just complete it by herself. These missions were for them. To teach them, whilst she stayed on as supervisor, ready to help if they requested, or stand in if they screwed up.

 

There should have been nothing to it really. They had to retrieve a scroll containing information about supply routes from Rochester to Kabule. The mission effectively had no danger in the slightest, and she wasn’t expecting any. They reached their location without problems. They met their contact perfectly, and got the scroll without any problems She even let the children have the night off when they had successively got what they were looking for. She kept hold of the scroll, just in case.

 

It was nighttime when things started to go less than perfect.

 

She had returned back to their hotel room after training hard and eating her fill. The three genin were currently running round town causing havoc and mischief the way kids do. Maybe she was feeling lazy, but she hadn’t lectured them or told them that their time would be best served training or anything. Maybe she had just wanted to get rid of them for a short while. She may have been on terms of respect with them, but she still couldn’t get rid of her deep-seated feelings about children. She just couldn’t help hating them, even if only a little, even the mature ones, and especially the childish ones.

 

All thoughts of the children disappeared when she opened the door to the room. The place had been ransacked. There was no mess and, to the untrained eye, no real proof to the claim. However, it was simple to tell. One of the curtains had been pulled open. Ginji’s bag was on the floor next to hers when it had been by his bed earlier. The cupboard was open just a little more than it should. It was enough for her to tell somebody had entered to look for something, before fixing it up and leaving quietly.

 

It was all too obvious. They had to be after the scroll, for whatever reasons, and if they weren’t here now, then they must have gone for the second weakest target that might have the scroll. The children. As she rushed out the door, she confirmed that she still had it on her.

 

It took her but moments to rush out into the rain and reach where the kids were. How they had gotten into the forest was a mystery, but she never even asked herself the question as she got there. She found her body skidding to a halt as her eyes and ears took in the information. To her right, she saw the corpses of Ginji and Ban, two rookies, one friendly and one serious, now each nothing, ever again. To her left, a man she didn’t recognize, he was dead on the floor as well. Whether he was the man in question she would never truly know, only circumstantial evidence would be left by the end of the night, and nothing to prove his, or the Hidden Rock villages involvement.

 

And in the middle was Itako, on her knees, as the heavens covered them all with its glory. It took Sayuki a few moments to realize that the girl was bleeding heavily from her face, a large gash, caused from a knife wound, covered both her eyes. The girl was screaming louder than anything she had ever heard, her arms and clothes were covered in blood. The man had no blood on him, his cause of death being a snapped neck, but the boys were covered in it.

 

She stepped towards them, and she saw the blind girl trun towards her.

 

“Keep away!” She screamed. “Before falling down into tears. “Just keep the fuck away.”

 

“So, she killed her partners?”

 

“I didn’t want to believe it, and the obvious thought was that he killed them, but she ran away immediately after…and I was too shocked to follow. After the matter was looked into, it was discovered that the man was the chief of the village that we were staying at, and considered highly respectable. It seemed unlikely that he was responsible, and there was no real proof at the scene either.

 

“Despite it being obvious?”

 

“He was a retired ninja from another country, but that was the only thing. It wasn’t considered enough to prove anything, yet there was plenty against Itako. That night, villagers reported her getting into an argument with the boys. They left, and about fifteen minutes after, she stormed after them with ‘a crazy look in her eyes’.”

 

“But never again afterwards, ey?” Sayuki just stared at him, annoyed.

 

“It was decided that she must have gotten into some childish fight and, ‘in a state of emotional hysteria’, attacked and killed her two teammates. Then the chief, who was supposedly on a nightly walk, must have discovered them, and so she killed him as well, taking him by surprise in some way.”

 

“But surely, if he was a ninja….”

 

“Like I said, I don’t know the full answer myself. I doubt I ever will. But, after that, even if politics did get in the way and they were looking for some way to get him off the hook…” She paused, causing him to look over at her. She clearly blamed herself for the whole ordeal. It wasn’t a case of feeling bad for Itako, but more causing problems for her country. “Itako has since killed everyone that has gone after her, and reported to have killed many others. Seeing her since, it seems like she’s gone insane. She’s also been reported to make friends, and then kill them as well.”

 

“Sounds like a bad girl.”

 

“Please, Danjuro-san. Be serious. If she has gone crazy, like the reports said, then she is more than likely to be feeling extremely offended by the presence of my team. The idea that she has ‘been replaced’ is probably more than enough of a reason to kill them all. Both my team, and yours.”

 

*****************************************

 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” The girl shouted at him, tired from the wave of chakra that had just slammed into her and having to use her secret move in such a confined situation.

 

“Your Zanshin. It increases your awareness. It allows you to see chakra like I can, and it’s also what enabled you to see that boy’s shadows.” Itako looked more annoyed than anything else at his explanation.

 

“I didn’t see them, you whore. I’m blind.”

 

“What?”

 

“For your information, Zanshin raises all my remaining senses to the optimum level. It’s not a case of seeing the shadows. It’s just I could feel the heat, and where it got cool, I guessed there was a shadow.”

 

“You guessed the location of the shadow from the temperature change?” Neji replied in shock.  “Impossible, it must only decrease by the smallest of fractions. To be able to do that must require…”

 

“Shut up already, stop analyzing the fucking situation and deal with it.” He expected her to charge again, instead she stood straight up and brought her hands to get. He only saw one seal, her hands being quicker than his eyes fro the briefest of seconds. “Deal with this! Hijutsu:….”

 

He felt the sensations immediately. His eyes were suddenly assaulted by hundreds of images. Those right next to him, and those ten kilometers away. Five small birds behind her merged with a family of squirrels to his right and the blades of grass beneath him clashed swords as they blew into each other constantly. He threw up. His mouth futilely trying to catch his excretion as it felt to the floor, his body doing the same. “What…What is this?”

 

“This…is what I feel all the time. A small portion of a curse that I bare. The nausea, the sickness, the completeness of vertigo that shouldn’t be there. The only way to escape from it is to rip out your eyes, like I did. The eyes are what make the move deadly.”

 

“My…eyes?”

 

“Eyes are nothing more than electronic sensors. They report the outside world to your brain in the form of electronic impulses. For you, I imagine that the flow is faster, and the sensor more widespread. Hijutsu… disrupts that flow by attacking all of the senses, sending them slightly off balance.” He saw her grin, and he saw her burst into tears. “It fucks with your mind more than any drug could, and it’s what I feel every second of the day.” Was she next to him? He couldn’t tell for a moment. He felt like something was going to explode again. “It must be quite painful for you, especially with your eyes. It affects everyone in the current area. Even those asleep.”

 

The world started to spin and scream around him, with no answer and no questions, a constant drum beat, tap water and shifting sands. None of it made sense. He heard a bird start tweeting in her hand, and the noise of something being summoned in the distance. Then it all stopped.

 

“Don’t worry.” She said mockingly. “It’ll only last a few seconds more.”

 

She swung the knife for his neck, finally glad for it all to be over. He caught it easily.

 

“What?” He disarmed her a second later, before patting both hands into her chest, winding her and knocking her back. He stood up with a malicious grin on his face. “How did you…”

 

“How did I want? Break your childish technique? It’s just a form of genjutsu. An effective one, but useless against me. I can sense all the chakra in my body the way you can sense everything around you. It is a small matter to fix it.”

 

“Mothafucker.” She went to move at him, but her legs gave up on her. He had done something else.

 

“And now you are in the center of my circle.” He brought his arms together in front of him, before rising them above his head, breathing deeply in, than exhaling as he brought them down.

 

“Gentle fist style: 64 hit super combo.” He dove at her paralysed body.

 

“Two!” A strike to the left shoulder. A strike to the right kneecap. His fingers tapping her in places she couldn’t understand.

 

“Four!” Her right temple. Her left shoulder again. Two in her right bicep.

 

“Eight” Three to her chest. One to her right thigh. One to the left ribcage. One directly underneath her solar plexus. One to the right ribcage and one under hear chin.

 

“Sixteen.” He poked her in the right arm, the right shoulder twice, she felt something on her spine and then she couldn’t hear anything. Her chakra was being blocked somehow. Is that what he was doing.

 

“Thirty two!” His hands were becoming a blur now, both in reality and to her senses. She stopped being aware of the things around her, even after her hearing came back, below that of a normal persons.

 

“Sixty-four!” She heard him cry out one last time. As she was struck in innumerable places, the force of all thirty-two strikes caused her to lunge back, before falling over. Neji looked over her as his body calmed down and breathed heavily. The area around him returned to normal, though there was still a metallic taste in his mouth.

 

“Itako!” He heard a cry behind him, as Hinata ran towards the fallen opponent. She knew she was being upset over nothing, the sixty-four hit super combo would only cripple her for a short time, but Itako didn’t know that. She hoped that, during this little time, she could resolve the misunderstanding. Neji grunted in contempt as he went to lie down next to a tree. The fight had taken a lot more out of him than he would like to admit.

 

“Itako!” The blind girl lifted her hand out, trying to find where the voice was coming from. After a few seconds of frantic searching, Hinata grabbed the hand and held it close.

 

“Chibiko?”

 

“Itako.” She began crying for her fallen friend. “I’m sorry Itako. I don’t know why you were angry at me, but I didn’t want you angry at me like this. I want to be your friend Itako, not your enemy. I don’t care what’s gone on between you and….”

 

“Chibiko…” Itako interrupted weakly. “Speak up girl. I can hardly hear you.” Hinata looked at the girl. Her eyes were bleeding heavily, and her lower lip was quibbling. It was like she was crying as well. Neji interrupted.

 

“All her tenkentsu are blocked.” He explained from where he was sitting. “Her senses rely on a steady flow. She should be back to normal in about a day.” He wasn’t entirely relieved that she was still alive, but there had been no real reason to kill her, subduing her would do.

 

“I see.” Hinata said simply, not even aware that she hadn’t stuttered in a while now. “I guess I should check on the others.” She began to stand up. “Wait here, Itako-s…” Itako convulsed, her body acting like it had been stabbed in the back. Her arms and legs began to dance uncontrollably and her head shook around forcibly. “What?”

 

Neji looked up, surprised too at what was happening. He brought his Byagugan back up and scanned the girl. As he saw her chakra dancing around, he understood immediately.

 

“Her chakra is trying to bring itself up to its natural level. However, because of her bloodline, her natural level is beyond the tenketsu and out in the open environment, which is what allows her to sense things so effectively. With the tenketsu sealed…” He stopped, Hinata wasn’t listening to him, she was with the girl again, trying to figure out a way to save her. She watched in horror as the girl’s left shoulder exploded, chakra visibly coming out of it at an extreme rate. Her kneecap did the same.

 

“Itako!” Hinata screamed, as several small explosions started to happen all round her body. Soon there was a fountain of chakra just pouring out of her with no respite. Hinata asked Neji to do something, but they both knew there was nothing to do.

 

Soon, the girl was dead, a bloodied mess of her former self.

 

“Urh…what on earth…” Shikamaru complained as he pulled himself up. Ahead of him, he could see the three ninjas. Only one was standing. Neji began to walk away.

 

“You need to strengthen your heart Hinata-sama…” He told her simply. “You are weak.”

 

End Chapter nine

 

Urgh, this was such an annoying chapter. Making a Taijutsu fighter fight scene is really hard, especially when she doesn’t really have a style. Sorry Rock Lee fans for taking him out so early, but I had to remain in context.

 

TOTR – Chapter Eight

Chapter 8: Where great jounin become exiles, flashbacks return with dreaded italics to accompany them and a slight hint of a yaoi scene for all the fans at home

 

She was behind them again. The whole team, as that is now what they had seemed to have become, flowed ahead of her as fast as they could. They were escaping, through the trees again. She was also bouncing through the trees at some time or another. She couldn’t remember where she was escaping from now, since she still felt quite groggy for some reason. After he had freed her, the jounin had instantly collapsed and had to be supported by two of the kids while the others tore through the guards, even the strongest man there hadn’t been a match for the young genin.

 

“Oi! Where are we heading?” One of the boys shouted ahead of them to the head of the group. He was from Danjuro’s team, and Sayuki realized at that point that she hadn’t learnt any of their names yet. It just hadn’t mattered. For reason it hadn’t dawned on the kids the severity of their situation. Their actions might exile them from their own village.

 

“Erm…good point.” Danjuro said after a few seconds of thinking it over. “I guess we can’t go back to the Village of Cloud, or even mine. The second the news hits that I killed the leader of the country and that Sayuki ran away, we’re both gonna be considered exiled.”

 

The word hit Sayuki like a jackhammer with a spiky tip through her ear. ‘Exile’. It was a word she never thought would be associated with her. She didn’t think it was possible. How could she, Sayuki, one of the greatest jounin of her country, be considered exile? She was too strong for that. She always viewed exiles as weak, for they gave into their desires and fell away from their loyalties. There was no way she could be weak.

 

“You’re far too weak, you know gal?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I said you’re far too weak. And you don’t pay attention either.”

 

“Who…”

 

“Come on Sayuki. Why don’t you try a little harder? You’ll barely graduate at this rate.” She looked up to see Megumi leaning down to face her, the twelve-year-old girl had that serious expression on her face again. It always made Sayuki laugh. “You need to be practicing at least as much as me to get a good mark.”

 

“I don’t want a good mark.” The short girl replied, smiling, as she continued to draw faces in the soil. “I want a bad mark.”

 

“What?” Her neighbour replied, astonished. “You’re crazy girl. Why on earth would you want a bad mark?”

 

“’Cause Megumi-san is in the middle of the class, and Yamato-san is at the top of the class.” She said, giggling as she went over her logic with them. “If I aim to be at the bottom of the class, then we’ll get put in the same team, right?”

 

“Well, I guess so. But that isn’t really the point, is it?” Megumi never understood obvious things back then. Back then, she only ever really understood one thing, or more reasonably, one person.

 

“Hehe, it is for me.” The little teenager continued to amuse herself with the ground, finishing the last of three little heads by giving it squinty eyes and a dour expression.

 

“Leave her Megumi, let her play in the mud if she wants. We need to practice henge no jutsu.” Yamato grumbled. Megumi spun round instantly.

 

“Ah! Coming Yamato-kun” As she ran off to catch up with their neighbour, Sayuki reached for her, wanting to talk some more to her friend.

 

She shook her head. Where had that thought come from? She hadn’t thought about her childhood in so long. She had almost completely forgotten she was like that. It was impossible to imagine now.

 

“Huh, we’re heading back to our village?”

 

“Quit whining.” Danjuro shouted back to the boy. “It’s the only thing I can think of right now.”

 

“I wasn’t whining.”

 

“Yes you were, you just didn’t know it. It’s like how your cat doesn’t know that he’s really a dog, and probably gay too.” Kiba went silent at this, unable to come up with anything in response.

 

“Is it okay to be heading back to our village?” Ino asked the man. As she heard the girl’s voice, Sayuki realized she hadn’t spoken to her since they met again. She almost felt sad about it. The only one that had really seemed to notice her was the little white-eyed girl, who she guessed to be Hyuuga Hinata of the famous Konoha clan. She hadn’t asked though, and she couldn’t bring herself to do so. It just felt wrong doing anything at the moment. The girl seemed to be staying near her, and somehow she could tell it was out of altruistic concern.

 

“You guys should be fine, unfortunately.” Danjuro explained. “When Raikage gave me this mission. He didn’t say anything about having you guys’ help. From what they can tell, you guys have just disappeared. If you get back to your village and nobody sees you with us, you should be fine.”

 

“If you two are considered exiles. Then you do realize we no longer have any obligation to continue this trip with you. In fact, it should be safer to split off.” Shino began to explain. Danjuro responded by aiming to kick the genin, only choosing to miss at the last second.

 

“Wrong!” He buzzed, “if that Takeda-chan is after your girlfriend back there, then it’s safer to stay with us until we get back to your village. We’ll drop you off at the gates and plan our next move from there. As much as I hate to say it, it’s our responsibility to get you back safely.”

 

“Girlfriend?” Shino repeated, quietly to himself.

 

“Why did he kidnap Hinata anyway? He’s a Mist Ninja like you, isn’t he?”

 

“Ya, he’s one of my ex-teammates back when I was a Genin. As for kidnapping the pathologically shy creature back there…To start war, I guess. Half a decade back, the Lightning country attempted to kidnap the runt. I heard that during the Exchange Program, the runt’s father insisted she be swapped from the Cloud village to the Mist village. Clearly, Hyuuga still doubts the Cloud village.”

 

“But, if we were going to the Mist village…”

 

A shot of realization came over Danjuro. “Of course. That’s why I was the only picked for that, specially picked for that. Mizukage-sama must of figured that I’d used this as an excuse to bunk off and sneak to the Lightning Country.”

 

“Not much of a jounin, are you?” Kiba deadpanned.

 

“But why would he want to start a war between two other countries.” Ino asked confused. Danjuro just stared at her, sighing.

 

“Because he’s evil.” The jounin stressed, as if the answer was obvious. “All Kage are, in my opinion. Mizukage, Kazekage, Tsuchikage, even Houkage and Raikage are evil, vindictive bastards, who’ll do anything to cash in on a quick buck.”

 

“I think there’s something wrong with your analysis. Like it sucks.” Ino pointed out crudely.

 

“Yeah right. What would you know? You’re just a kid.” He spun round to face those behind him. “Hey Sayuki, back me up on this.” Her name brought her back to reality. She had phased out again. It was a rare event that was becoming a constant reality.

 

“Huh?” She replied blearily.

 

“The Raikage’s a right bastard isn’t he? I mean, he even ordered me to kill you, just so Niro couldn’t get his filthy paws all over you.” The question washed over her, but it took her a minute to answer.

 

“The last Raikage wasn’t.” She stated. “He was the nicest man I ever knew.”

 

******************************

 

“I see no problem with her.” He stated to the jounin to his left. “She is quite playful for an eight year old girl.”

 

“Eight? Sir, She’s twelve, and a genin. Her behavior should not be playful. It should be serious!”

 

“Twelve..yes. That is a problem…” The old man took a few moments to think it over. “She should be at least two feet taller. It gives her a bad impression.” The man beside him fell over.

 

“Raikage-sama…” He hissed, getting back up. “She clearly has issues that will prevent her from becoming a skilled ninja.”

 

“Well, where did she graduate?”

 

“Dead last.”

 

“And how has she progressed since.”

 

“Nowhere. It’s like she hit her physical and mental peak at eight, and hasn’t done anything since.”

 

“Well, perhaps you can focus on that.”

 

“How do you mean?”

 

“Sometimes, an eight year old girl is a better assassin than an elite ninja of the highest caliber.”

 

“You mean, train her to maintain an innocent façade and then have her strike when the target’s guard is down.” In front of them in the field, they heard one of the girls giggle. She was the only one doing it. The other two were just eating quietly. They were underneath a Sakura tree, enjoying the spring blossom, at least Sayuki was.

 

“Something like that, yes.” Sayuki’s sensei sighed. This man never liked giving a definite answer. It was why he was picked for the position of Raikage.

 

“I’m not sure it is possible, Raikage-sama. She does her best to avoid killing at all times. She won’t even kill a simple rabbit.” The sensei’s voice was flustered now. This request for advice wasn’t being helpful at all. He hated the Raikage at times like this. He couldn’t wait to take the position in a few years. “Even worse, she won’t let the others in her group kill a simple rabbit. She tries her best to stop them.”

 

“Is there anything she is good at?”

 

“No!” The jounin shouted now. It didn’t alarm his leader at all, the older man just chuckled.

 

“Calm down man. Such anger isn’t good for a man your age. Let’s ask her herself shall we, at what she thinks of the whole situation. Sayuki-chan!” The girl turned at hearing her name, before shouting back for them to hold on a moment. She furiously worked at something she was doing on the picnic rug, before smiling and running up to them. The others followed her slowly. As she got up close to them, the Raikage heard the man next to him groan. In her hands were a huge daisy chain that she was making sure wouldn’t break as she ran up to them. She bowed childishly to the lord of their village.

 

“Good morning, Raikage-san.” The Raikage was about to respond, when the jounin corrected her.

 

“It’s –sama, Sayuki. Raikage-sama. He is your lord.”

 

“AH! Sorry, Sensei-san.” She apologized, grinning as she scratched the back of her head. He just groaned again as the Raikage kneeled down to talk to her, an action that he knew annoyed the jounin even more.

 

“Now, Sayuki-chan…” The lord began, before the little girl stopped him as she presented him with something. “What’s this?”

 

“A daisy chain, I made it for you.” The little girl replied happily. Unsure of himself for the first time in decades, the Raikage slowly took it off her and carefully put it around his head. The girl’s smile beamed even greater than before. The smile comforted him somehow, actually taking away any embarrassment he thought he might have.

 

“Thank you, Sayuki-chan. It is very pretty.”

 

“Now you very pretty.” They both laughed. Besides them, the jounin went into shock, as did the genin behind them.

 

“Anyway Sayuki-chan. I wish to ask you something. What techniques are you good at?”

 

“Erm…” she thought it over for a moment, giving it a lot of consideration, “I can do transformations pretty good.”

 

“I do believe Raikage-sama means something besides what you were taught at the academy. Something since the academy.” Her teacher informed her. She thought about it even harder, before responding.

 

“I can do a wind technique. Not very well though.”

 

“Really?” Raikage actually found himself a little surprised. “Could you show us?”

 

“Sure.” She replied simply, looking for somewhere to put her drink down. Around them, her fellow genin and jounin-sensei looked on confused. Evidently, they had no idea about this. Staying where she was, she squatted slightly and formed a few seals loosely.

 

“Kazeton: Cool breeze.” It was the lowest of the wind techniques, Raikage noted, simply designed to get the user used to using them. Even so, it was a technique reserved for Chuunin level. A moment later, the wind felt like it picked up slightly, but only if you were paying attention at the time. It couldn’t even be considered a cool breeze really.

 

“See, see?” She was answered by a light tap on the head.

 

“You moron.” Megumi replied. “That was barely anything. It might not have even been you that caused it.”

 

“Ow, Megumi-san.” She pouted. “That wasn’t nice.” Her friend ignored her.

 

“And you got the name wrong as well. It’s Fuuton, not Kazeton.”

 

“But Kazeton sounds cooler…”

 

“What does that matter? You got to get the technique perfect. That includes the name!” Sayuki pouted even harder than before.

 

“You need to relax a little more Megumi-san.”

 

“What? And become weak like you?” The older girl retorted, grinning to herself a little.

 

“Meanie!” The twelve year old stuck her tongue out at her friend, who just groaned in response.

 

“Grow up! The Chuunin exam is in a few weeks, and you haven’t gotten a chance of passing.” Sayuki appeared hurt by this, and did her best to hold it in. She failed, blurting her response out.

 

“I don’t care about the stupid Chuunin exam.” She started to cry and ran off. The other girl just watched her. “Stupid Megumi-san”

 

“Aw come on, Sayuki. Sayuki!” Now annoyed at how she had upset her friend, she went to chase her, stopping only to bow to the Raikage and her teacher. The boy did the same, remaining as quiet as always. The two remaining men stayed quiet for a moment as they watched them run off.

 

“You see sir? She is almost completely useless as a ninja.”

 

“Hhhmm, Megumi-chan mentioned the Chuunin exam. Do you intend on entering them?” The jounin composed himself on the question.

 

“Ah, yes. So far, the other two have been brilliant genin, especially Yamato. For a peasant boy, he has done far better than anyone else in his year and the two years above him. He is heading for great things,” as he remembered the point of the subject, he became flustered again, “which is why something needs to be done about Sayuki. She will become a hazard at this rate and…”

 

“I get the feeling…” The Raikage interrupted. “I get the feeling that young Sayuki-chan will be fine. She just needs to mature a little.”

 

“Fine? Mature?” The jounin repeated, finding himself falling into madness with those around him. “How could you think something like that?”

 

“Two things…” The Raikage stated, as he pointed towards the picnic, where a child sat, playing happily with her two quiet friends, any sign of tears now completely gone in such a short space of time. “One, the girl’s current enthusiasm and energy. And two,” he turned to walk away, “the tree.”

 

“Excuse me sir?” the jounin asked, confused and annoyed, not receiving an answer from the old man as he walked away. Realizing what he meant, he turned to look at the barren Sakura tree. It now looked like it belonged in autumn rather than the beautiful spring day, it’s leaves scattered around the field like a rug.

 

“You mean…” Raikage had disappeared. “Oi, Raikage-sama? Oi!”

 

“Oi!”

 

“Huh? What?” Sayuki stuttered, as she snapped out of her flashback.

 

“I asked if you were okay?” Danjuro repeated, with a slightly cross look on his face. “What’s with you? You’re being weird.” Somehow, he caused her to laugh.

 

“What’s wrong with me? What’s right with me, you mean?” She answered grimly. “Everything turned around for me in the past month. No, the past two days. Dejiro’s dead. The country is owned by Niro…”

 

“Actually, he’s dead. I killed him.” The news didn’t seem to shock Sayuki at all, despite the huge political consequences it was probably having now.

 

“You say it so easily. You just took a life you know.” She was beginning to speak monotonously again.

 

“Ah, he was probably going to become a pedophile or something.” Sayuki became upset as he said this, and looked down to the ground, disappearing constantly from beneath them.

 

“There…there was a time, where I had never killed anyone, when I never wanted to kill anyone.  It seems so distant now. What’s happened to me?”

 

“Oh, don’t go all angsty on me. We haven’t got the time. Just get over it already and realize you are who you are.” Danjuro groaned heavily. It was the first real groan she had heard all day. It sounded different to those she heard earlier.

 

“Oh shut up. What do you know about me? You’re just this annoyance that haunts me on occasions.”

 

“Something like that. I guess it’s one of the bad points about being your friend.” Sayuki grunted slightly. Ahead of them, all the kids instinctively quickened their pace, in case the woman exploded.

 

“You honestly consider me your friend now? I can’t stand you!”

 

“Ah come on. How long have we known each other?”

 

“Four years.”

 

“Heh. Try fourteen. We met ages ago.”

 

“What?” She looked at him confused, honestly unable to remember.

 

“Yeah, we met back at the beginning of the chuunin exam, remember?” His head fell to one side, as his eyes started to focus on something far away…

 

“But seeeensei. I don’t care about this stupid exam.”

 

“Quiet Dan-kun.” His teacher shouted, full of energy. “If one is to be a man, then one must progress early in life, so that he can achieve many things. He must be a man of constant action, letting no one tell him what to do! And if a man is to progress, then he must pass the chuunin exam first time. Understand?” The man remained still with his already large chest puffed up.

 

“Well, I guess…” Danjuro stuttered. “But can’t we just go hunting again and show them how good I am at that.”

 

“Ha! I cannot decide the requirements of the exam. We must wait for instructions off the head of this village, the very respectable Raikage-sama.”

 

“But surely if you’re a man, then you shouldn’t be waiting for others to tell you what to do.” Danjuro’s sensei responded by kicking him hard in the stomach.

 

“Fool! If one is a man, he should be patient and willing to take orders.”

 

“Sensei, half of what you say contradicts itself.” The girl to their left stated. Danjuro looked to her, then quickly away, blushing slightly as he saw her face.

 

“That is irrelevant. I believe some training is in order!” He exclaimed sharply, standing up fully and pointing to somewhere in the sky. “Give me 100 laps of the village in your current gear. If you become tired before 90 laps, then I will make it 500. Now go!” He disappeared overdramatically.

 

“Yes sir.” The kids groaned as they began to walk off. As Danjuro pulled himself up, he slowly trailed behind his two teammates, the frying pan on his back slowing him down.

 

“Dan.” The girl ahead of him called. “I think you can take off the frying pan.”

 

“But sensei said all our kit. I don’t want him making me do anymore if he catches me without it.” He checked the straps around his chest, to make sure it was firmly in place.

 

“Why do you even have such a heavy thing anyway? I know you’re good at cooking, but you don’t need it that big.”

 

“It’s a good weapon I think. Even better than Sensei’s club.”

 

“…guys.”

 

“But if you’re not going to see the stupidity of your idea, why not start with a lighter one at least?”

 

“No!” He shouted back, determined. “I want to get used to this as soon as possible, so I can use a heavier one later.”

 

“You want a heavier one? You’re insane.”

 

“…guys.”

 

“You’re going to stunt your growth you know.”

 

“Guys!” the voice ahead of them brought them to attention. Their third teammate was looking at them now, waiting for them to listen.

 

“Don’t shout man. Geez, you’re so noisy.” The third teammate looked down slightly.

 

“…sorry….but…” To finish his sentence, he looked in the direction ahead of them. In a small park ahead of them were three kids. They seemed to be training.

 

“Ah…” Danjuro exclaimed, grinning slightly. “Good work, Takeda-chan.”

 

“Please don’t…”

 

“Oi, Dan!” The girl shouted. “We probably don’t want to be starting any trouble now.”

 

“Oh come on Suzuki. Sensei wanted us to train. This’ll be more efficient don’t you think?” He didn’t wait for an answer and went on ahead.

 

“Sigh, we are sooo gonna get into trouble.” Although, even as she said it, she ran after him, Takeda followed behind silently.

 

As they reached the park, they realized it to be more a small patch of grass with a slide on it. On the patch were three children, who, judging by their forehead protectors, were Cloud Genin. Two were standing on their hands, slightly bent, in what was clearly a training exercise. The third had mud in her hair, and was now resting, moaning as she tried to clean herself up.

 

“Yo!” Danjuro said introducing himself directly to the ear of the boy facing away from him. He was suitably impressed where the boy didn’t jump as he planned.

 

“What?” Replied Yamato, swinging around on one hand to look at the person talking to him.

 

“The fuck you saying?” Danjuro said rudely, becoming offended for no reason other than to start a fight.

 

“Excuse me?” Said Yamato sternly, now partially recognizing this boy’s intentions. “Leave now.”

 

“What’s a ‘fuck’?” Sayuki asked anybody who was willing to answer. No one heard her.

 

“Oh no help me.” Danjuro started to say, as if he was the one being threatened. “I must protect myself.” He crashed his foot into Yamato’s ribcage, with enough force to dint sheet metal. Yamato grunted as he received the attack, but remained on his hands.

 

“What do you think of…” Danjuro started to say, but was attacked four times by the same foot halfway through, as it swung round it’s owner repeatedly. He fell backwards, as his lips started to bleed from cuts. The boy had clearly chosen to attack him lightly, rather than cause trouble later. Behind him, Danjuro cursed as he heard Suzuki start to laugh.

 

“Nice one Dan. You sure showed him.” She turned around to walk away. “Come on Takeda, let’s get some food.”

 

“…but.” He failed to finish his sentence. Later on they would pay by having to run 1000 laps. Danjuro got up and pointed.

 

“You fight well, Cloud ninja.” He stated, with an air of pride to his voice that would have impressed most lemmings. “I do believe you are worthy to be my rival. Interesting! I challenge you to a fight!”

 

“I refuse.” Yamato said simply, concentrating his efforts back on his handstand.

 

“What?” Danjuro replied confused. “You can’t refuse. This is a battle between men. A battle of pride. You can’t back out.”

 

“Fight Sayuki. She’s about your level.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Ahhh! Me?” Sayuki replied in shock from where she was sitting. She stood up, not looking nervous, but not looking excited either. Danjuro observed the girl for a moment. She didn’t look physically tough, nor skilled, and judging by her looks and reactions, she didn’t seem mentally prepared in anyway either.

 

“Does she have a hidden power?” Danjuro mumbled, trying to imagine what it could be. Somehow, it got him all excited. “Very well!” He proclaimed. “Let us fight!” He took a moment to reposition himself in the center of the small field as he waited for her to also get into place. In the background, a crash of thunder came from a distant sky. He jumped slightly at it, but also noticed that the girl did not. They both stood, as the rain increased, covering the area in a blanket of liquid.

 

“What are you waiting for? Start!” Megumi announced. She had dropped down from the handstand position to watch them. Yamato remained as still as before. With the announcement, Danjuro pushed himself off, deciding to adopt a boxing guard. Sayuki copied his movements lightly, although her stance was wider and her right hand was up front and pawed. She also didn’t bounce around like he did. He began to move around her, judging her distance, and testing his range with a few feint punches. Sayuki remained still as she watched him, not even blinking as he jabbed at her. Clearly, living in a country where thunder and lightning was a constant had got the girl used to surprises. He decided to test her reactions to an actual attack. He moved in for a simple one, two, feint then jab…

 

Sayuki woke up ten minutes later with Megumi watching over her. She had brought the old slide over to use as cover from the rain. Sayuki got up confused. Her nose had been bleeding.

 

“What the? Where did he go?” She turned to Megumi. She had that look on her face. It didn’t make Sayuki laugh this time.

 

“You got beat in one hit?” Her teammate shouted at her. “I can’t believe it. I thought you’d be able to take a few hits.”

 

“I…lost?” Sayuki whimpered ashamedly. The realization of loss came over her and she started to sniff a few times, before she burst into full-blown tears. Megumi almost stuttered in response to this but held in any emotion as she let her teammate cry.

 

After a few minutes, Sayuki turned to realize that Yamato was still in the handstand position, the other guy had gone somewhere. In his eyes, Sayuki couldn’t tell if it was compassion or annoyance. She looked shamefully at the clouded sky for a few moments, before she turned back to Megumi, a smile bigger than before on her face.

 

“Shall we carry on training?” She asked with a delight that shocked her neighbour and teammate. Megumi could only nod in  reply as the girl rushed up next to Yamato and got into the position, a burning desire that couldn’t be explained driving her. All three students would remain there for the rest of the night, although Sayuki slipped a few times.

 

*************************************

 

In the forest, now thirty kilometers away, the man finally got his arm free of the mud in which it was buried. He found it annoying that he had fallen asleep somehow during all that, but it seemed unavoidable.  Grabbing hold of the ground that his body was encased in, he lifted himself up, pulling all nine feet of his body free from the mud. He turned to see where his target had gone, and disappeared in that direction.

 

***************************************

 

“What are they doing back there?” Ino asked, as the group continued forwards in the direction of the Country of Fire. Behind them, the two jounin were doing nothing except moving forwards.

 

“Flashbacking. Can’t you tell? They keep saying ‘remember?’ and then go quiet for a few minutes.” Shikamaru pointed out, bored as ever, despite the potentially dangerous situation they were currently embroiled with.

 

“What?”

 

“Everyone in the rooms fails.” The booming voice caused Megumi to stop screaming at Sayuki. From the other room, they all heard a loud groan that echoed throughout the building. Sayuki dropped to the floor with a thud as her teammate let her go. There were around forty-two people in the room they were in at the moment, all of them looked more shocked than they had ever been in their lives.

 

“You mean…”

 

“If we stayed, we would have failed anyway?”

 

“Does that mean no one passes this year?”

 

“That’s so unfair.”

 

“Actually…” A man holding a clipboard said, loud enough to grab everyone’s attention in the small room, “it means that only the people in this room have passed.”

 

“What?”

 

“Why?”

 

“Excellent. We made it pass the first test.”

 

As the mumbled confusions and cheered relief continued, Sayuki, Megumi and Yamato just looked on in shock. Somehow, they had made it, and it didn’t make any sense in Megumi’s opinion.

 

“Be thankful to the person in your teams who gave up. If it weren’t for them, you’d be failing right now.”

 

“Sa…Sayuki… passed us?” Megumi stuttered. Even Yamato seemed surprised at this news, they had had to practically guide Sayuki by the hand through this entire exam, now, she had left them through the final gate, it was beyond shocking, the boy just knew that it shouldn’t be allowed. Sayuki was reacting as usual.

 

“Yay! We did it, Megumi-san. Yamato-san. We passed. We’re gonna be Chuunin.” She hugged both her teammates together, and they did nothing to stop her for a change. They were both too thoroughly traumatized.

 

In the far corner, everyone stopped to hear various beating noises. Every group turned round to find a boy and a girl, pounding into another boy as hard they could, as they screamed at him for ruining this opportunity to them. The boy didn’t seem to mind though, being the only one who had heard the assistant. *cut?*

 

*****************************

 

They were getting closer now. They had to be careful so that the group ahead of them wouldn’t notice them until it was too late. The two jounin had grim expressions on their face. They both knew they would be called upon for this sooner or later and they both knew what had to be done. As the sun began to dawn upon them, signifying the start of a new and terrible day, they sighed heavily in unison.

 

“It’s still gonna take five hours.”

 

*****************************

 

It was Capture The Flag. The last part of the exam. Back then, people were promoted to Chuunin as teams. It wasn’t as efficient, but with the constant insurgence of war, it was common practice to get more soldiers promoted and into more dangerous missions where they’d be of more use.

 

There were eight teams left. All of them scattered across the playing field. Some had the advantage of high ground, some of water. Some were hidden in the trees and some were protected by heavy sands. No one team had any clear advantage over any of the others, since they also suffered from an equal amount of disadvantage. The test was simple though. Get another group’s flag over to your base and keep it there for five minutes to eliminate them from the test.

 

Yamato had whispered the obvious point of the exam at the start. It was not so much to try and be the last group standing but to show your strategic capabilities at attacking and defending, as well as the importance of working as a team. From their mountaintop, or hilltop as it more accurately was, the three genin began their plan.

 

“I’m not sure I can do this.” Sayuki said hesitantly.

 

“You’ll be fine.” Yamato reassured her, a rare event, solely necessary for making sure she would have the confidence to do it. “Just aim for the forest over there.” He pointed over to a small clump of trees, where they knew sat a team from Konoha.

 

“But didn’t you just say…”

 

“Just do it, now!” Stalling wasn’t something they could afford at this point, and he was annoyed that she was wasting time like this when they were going to be attacked in two minutes. Gulping loudly to herself, she formed the seals that she was slowly becoming more used to.

 

“Kazeton: Cool Breeze.” Focusing her internal energy, she manipulated the winds, as she desired. By the trees, a young one eyed ninja felt a calm breeze harmlessly pass over his masked face. Even Sayuki was confused at the point of this, until she heard a loud noise to her right. There , from the shifting sands, rose a sandstorm, rising high into the air and blocking the view of the Mist team that was situated there. All members of the Sand village had been eliminated by this time, so the Mist team had been unlucky enough to get placed in an area unlike their home ground. It was the nearest base, so it was logical enough to eliminate it first.

 

“Go! Go now!” Yamato ordered. He didn’t want to shout, but he knew Megumi wouldn’t be paying proper attention at the moment, surprised at what Sayuki had achieved and how he had anticipated it, despite having no coordination at all. She jumped down, allowing gravity to carry her down the steep hillside and allowing the momentum to take her on a full charge through the sandstorm, Yamato directly behind her as back up. In the middle of the grainy haze, she sensed something coming for her, and jumped to the side as she dodged two kunai. Somebody crashed straight into her, the tall guy from a few days ago. He did nothing as she kicked him in the crotch and continued to fall towards her, bringing her to the ground as the young kunoichi continued to struggle. Behind them, Yamato continued, ignoring his teammate’s distress to take the advantage. The two guards met him, the boy he had kicked the other day and a female. The boy went to swing at him, the metal rim of his weapon only just avoided  by the cloud Genin. Bending back to avoid it, he turned it into a full handspring as the girl went for him, an axe kick to his stomach, again narrowly missing. The girl struggled to find his position as he fell through the think layers of sound that were still in the air.

 

“We’re from the hidden Village of Clouds, you know. On the top of the mountain, visibility can be as low as two percent. Navigating this is nothing for us.”

 

Ignoring his taunts, both Genin charged for him again, guessing his position from the sound of his voice. The girl went with two punches and three kicks, followed by four shuriken. The boy, judging the Cloud ninja definite location by where his teammate missed, appeared behind Yamato and deflected the throwing stars right back at him with his large cooking utensil. Yamato merely dodged them again, watching Danjuro as Takeda was thrown into his back and sent flying past them away from both bases, Megumi finally overcoming the large teenager.

 

“Now, Sayuki!”

 

“What?” Suzuki turned to try and look through the sand, a shuffling shadow sped past her. She cursed openly as she began to see their plans. They were using the weakest of their group to do the main task, knowing that she would be ignored to an extent, since she would be expected to stay in defense. Refocusing on the matter at hand, she watched as Yamato went to engage, his punch feinting her and following through, but with no damage. “Genjutsu?” Suzuki muttered, as the illusion continued to fight her to no avail. In front of her, she saw the other girl appear through the sand, just as the other girl ran past them both, holding the flag with the sand symbol on it.

 

“I’m not.” Megumi grinned, striking her fist through the girl’s face. The Cloud genin eyes widened as she saw the Mist ninja stayed standing, unmoving, before disappearing to the sands. Another shadow passed her.

 

“Sayuki, look out!” It was too late, she watched as the foreign girl chopped at her friend, slapping her away. The flag dropped to the floor, and was left there as Yamato rushed to defend his teammate. This time, with both of them real, the fight ensued for three seconds, before Suzuki grabbed Yamato by the neck and tossed him at Megumi. They crashed into each other head on, followed by the Mist girl as she rammed them both with a lifted knee to the peasant boy’s back.

 

“She’s…strong.” Yamato gasped weakly, as he tasted blood on his lips and watched it fall onto Megumi. Looking down at an unconscious genin, he felt something land on his head and slam into him again, and again and again and again. Five, ten times… He knew she wasn’t going to stop, even after he fell unconscious. As he reached the top of the hill, Danjuro observed his friend’s attitude in the battle below.

 

“Shit, she’s gone blood raged.” Danjuro noted as Takeda approached him, holding their flag. “Fool don’t bring it here. Take it back to our side!” With that, he grabbed the Cloud flag out of its post and went to run back alongside his teammate. Doing so, he watched his other teammate continue to viciously attack the downed genin. He wasn’t all that concerned. It certainly wouldn’t result in disqualification if she killed them and to try and stop her would probably get him killed as well. He just knew that their teacher was going to be very angry with them after all this for letting her go nuts like that.

 

Yamato awoke when his head bounced off the kneecap of somebody below him. Somehow her beating had actually managed to rouse him from his enforced slumber. He could still feel the pain she was giving him. Another five cuts… seven more bruises… a tooth was now broken. She seemed to be taking a lifetime’s amount of frustration out on him and she was doing it all with a fixed malice on her face. He stopped seeing anything as a stray punch landed between his eyes, rendering him blind momentarily as she dislocated his jaw. Then…it stopped.

 

Something splashed onto him. It brought his focus back, opening his eyes. The girl had stopped attacking him, and was now looking up to the sky, her eyes wide open as a small kunai stuck out of her throat, tearing her life-force away. She had the scared look of a child on her face, one who had realized that the game they were playing was a lot more serious than she first thought. She tried to look began her, which indicated that she was still alive for the next few seconds she fell onto him. She landed hard on him, he could tell she was dead, the look of absolute fear was imprinted on his mind for eternity. But it was foreshadowed by the expression on the face of the girl standing above him. Her hand frozen where she had stabbed the Mist ninja, her mind just acknowledging what she had done as her face screwed up and tried to collapse in on itself. As Megumi slowly woke up, the blood of the dead girl started to spread on her friend’s clothes, slowly covering the kanji on her *** as the short teenager began to shake in abject terror at what she had just done. Her two teammates looked up at her as she screamed loudly across the battlefield.

 

*************************************

 

She had to know. She just had to, even if she wasn’t going to like the answer. Fuck! They were her friends. What were they doing with that woman? Had she made a mistake? No, she didn’t make any mistakes. Not any more.

 

The tree branch slammed into her path, taking her away from it and dropping her to the ground. As she looked up to the unmoving branch, she swore she heard it snigger at her.

 

“Fucking…fuck.” She got back up, and started to run again.

*************************************

 

“Congratulations on passing. You’ve all done very well.” Their jounin-sensei applauded them. The three teenage chuunin stood to attention in behind him, now wearing the vest that symbolized their promotion.

 

“Yessir.” The three ex-genin replied.

 

“I admit you didn’t do as well I as originally expected, but in today’s world, we need more Chuunin than Genin, so we’ve agreed to promote you to Chuunin status. You should all be honored for this kindness.”

 

“Yessir.” The three chuunin replied. The elite ninja turned to look at them. He scrutinized each of them closely, looking at their eyes.

 

“Especially you Sayuki.” He said pointfully as he stared down hard at her.

 

“Yes sir.” She replied. Her voice stern yet monotonous, her eyes focused yet hollow, her back straight. He looked amused at this for a moment.

 

“I think Raikage was right about you, Sayuki. I think you will make a fine ninja, once you’ve matured.”

 

“Yes sir.” She replied. Her voice stern yet monotonous, her eyes focused yet hollow.

 

“You just need sharpening. And then you’ll make an excellent tool.”

******************************************

 

The past, it stung her memories like a bee, trapped in her clothing for several hours and eventually pulling free before striking back for the time lost. What had made her remember all that? She had the feeling that if she tried to remember this the other day, she wouldn’t have been able to. That was her old life. Her new life started when she became a chuunin, where she became a tool for her superiors to sharpen and use, then put away until needed later.

 

Now that life was over as well, the days of endless playing in the muds and climbing up hills and feeling the beautiful wind that she could never get quite high enough to feel properly. She didn’t miss it in the slightest yesterday. Now, she felt the longing urge to return there forever. To bask in the eternal wonders of childhood. To…

 

“Uhhnn…” Her body gave up on her, missing the next branch and falling. Danjuro, who was still next to her, snapped to attention and dropped down with her, checking the area at the same time in case this was something more than mere fainting. The kids took a few more seconds to notice.

 

“Was she attacked?” Shikamaru called, concerned with getting ready to run away in the opposite direction. He watched as the jounin caught her seconds before she hit the ground before checking her once over for anything deadly sticking out of her.

 

“No, she’s fine. She’s just exhausted.” The group sighed in relief, dropping down to where he was holding her. Her head was slumped back, her arm dangling and drool was dripping from her mouth. She looked so peaceful for the first time ever.

 

“Come to think of it…” Ino pondered. “When was the last time she slept? Travelling to the edge of the country and back non-stop, the fight you two had, then having to prepare to be leave with that guy…”

 

“She’d probably have been fine, if it wasn’t for all the other screwy moments that she’s been happening.” Danjuro sighed and held her head up, almost too carefully. “To see my rival, exhausted like this…I should take advantage…” He pulled a small knife out of his pocket and raised it to her neck as the kids around him started to panic, pulling the weapon away as quickly as they could. “Fine. I guess we’ll rest for a short while.” “

 

“You three! Keep guard.”  He ordered, indicating no one. Team Nine sighed, and started to secure the area.

 

******************************

 

“I can’t believe we lost track of them so quickly.”

 

“It’s your fault. You were supposed to be keeping watch.”

 

“But they just disappeared. How was I suppose to know they were using a summoning scroll.”

 

“Just use your eyes stupid!”

 

“Be quiet, you two. Just be glad we can still track them. It’s going to take several hours to catch up.”

 

“Where are they heading though?”

 

“They’re heading home.”

 

*****************************

 

The sun was still out. It shined directly into her eyes the second she opened them, as if to deny her even the few sweet seconds between consciousness and unconsciousness. It was rare, for the Helios to be out this long over this many days in this country. The last time it rained even slightly was just before the Genin exchange program, where she was on top of the mountain, training as hard as ever…

 

The thought brought her out of her daze, and she bolted upright, ready to start her morning exercises. It was only then when she realized she wasn’t where she had woken up the previous morning, or three mornings ago anyway. She was in a forest, a bit too open for her liking, but considering the amount of people she was with, that seemed understandable. Scattered around the clearing, the kids slept peacefully with her. Two were missing, and so was that guy as well. She got up, and opted to take a walk to wake herself up.

 

What was he thinking anyway, that guy? A rival is a friend? It was stupid, she didn’t even view him as a rival. He was just another enemy, one of the many faces that came near her and tried to stop her mission. To be removed as soon as possible so that life can continue without change.

 

Except he wasn’t moving. He stayed in front of her and refused to budge even an inch. For every time she became stronger, so did he, creating a deadlock that could never be broken.

 

She looked at her surroundings. She had reached a small waterfall. It wasn’t uncommon to find such places of beauty, scattered round the country, but this was the first time she had actually approached one in ten years. She loved these as a child as well.

 

There was someone in the pool, whistling peacefully to herself as she lathered the warm water over her glistening body and through her long blond hair. As she became aware of the jounin presence, she turned around to face her.

 

“Ah, Sensei! Come on in, come join us.”

 

“Do you think we have time for this Itako?”

 

“Excuse me?” Ino had gotten closer now, and was looking directly at Sayuki. The jounin shook her head to dispel the memory.

 

“Ino…” The Leaf genin just stared at the woman in front of her, trying to figure out what she was doing. She seemed to figure it out and smiled.

 

“Do you want to join me? I don’t mind.” The young girl offered, jumping back and flowing through the water.

 

“…Sure.” Sayuki eventually said, unsure as to why she was so hesitant. A quick bath would probably be a good thing after a few days of no cleaning whatsoever. She quickly stripped off and went to get in when she saw Ino staring at her.

 

Sayuki might have once been considered to have a beautiful body. However, years of fighting and constant injuries showed up now more than anything else. She usually wore completely covering clothing. A green shirt, a yellow jacket that signified her position, beige combats, and a *** with the word ‘busa?’ on it. Now, as she removed these, Ino was shocked to find hundreds of scars spread round her body. Most were minor, slicing marks from kunai and shuriken that she hadn’t got out the way of in time, whelps from beatings that could never fully heal. The most distinct mark at the moment was the huge burn scar covering her left shoulder, which Ino recognized probably came from the oil attack from yesterday. Ino gasped slightly, trying to hold her reaction, as her ex-teacher stepped into the water and moaned slightly at the nice feeling.

 

“What did you think? That I would have beautiful firm skin like yours.” She almost found asking the inexperienced girl amusing and allowed a slight smile.

 

“I…er…well…” Ino stuttered, more than she had ever in her life. She almost felt envious, her one measly scar from when she cut herself in the kitchen four years ago paling in comparison. “Do they hurt?”

 

“…Sometimes.” Sayuki said sadly. “Some not as much as others. It goes away though, it’s just the mark that remains.” She sat down, allowing the water to cover her up to her neck, involuntarily moaning as she did, at the release of pain. “Although it’s feels real nice when I’m in the water like this.” Ino giggled slightly, causing the jounin to look at her critically. “What?”

 

“Heh, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard sensei sound that honest.”

 

“Huh?” The jounin replied confused.

 

“You never allow yourself to just…well, let your hair down and enjoy yourself.” Ino tried to explain, but the woman’s confused yet stern look made it difficult.

 

“I don’t have long hair.”

 

“It’s an expression.”

 

“Oh.” Sayuki thought about this for a moment, and figured out what the girl was trying to say. “I guess, when you get to jounin level…You never really find the times to enjoy yourself. Any spare time you have is for training, or just resting.”

 

“But surely a ninja needs to play as well…” Ino watched as the jounin started to move around, allowing herself to fully submerge and move to the middle of the pool.

 

“We…You…have plenty of time to play as children. Once childhood is over. You start getting on with your life. That’s what my sensei told me.” Sayuki moved towards the waterfall, allowing the heavy waters to fall on her head as Ino contemplated this.

 

“But what’s the point of life if you’re not happy?”

 

“Your happiness doesn’t matter. As a ninja, our duty is to the happiness of your country, to…” she trailed off in thought. Was she being a hypocrite, saying all this while the Lord of her country laid dead in a field somewhere, dead because of her? Ino seemed to realize this.

 

“Would the country have been happy…under that guys rule?”

 

“I’m not sure.” She turned around to hide her face, and Ino caught sight of the woman’s back. It wasn’t as bad as her front, but the wounds were still pretty heavy. But what really caught her eye was on the elite ninja’s left shoulder. There saw a beautiful tattoo of a large bird. A simple black, inscribed tattoo, but with an immense amount of detail to it. It was the same kind of bird that the kanji on the woman’s (skirt) represented. It didn’t look scarred at all. Sayuki noticed her staring.

 

“Oh this? This was a present from the previous Lord.” She stated, turning slightly to allow the young girl a better look. “He would have made the country happy. He could make anyone happy.” Ino noticed the upset look on the woman’s face, but she couldn’t understand it at all, the torturous feeling of losing somebody, knowing there was no way you could have known or done anything about it, but still, wishing you had been smarter enough to know, and to help them.

 

“Sayuki-sensei…” Ino said quietly. “You said earlier that, as ninjas, our happiness doesn’t matter, but, surely it would matter to our Lords.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Back home, Hokage-sama…Hokage-sama cares for all of us, more than we could ever know. He loves us, more than you think he could. He comes up to me and asks me how my mom’s flower business is going. He asks me if I’m still chasing Sasuke-kun, if…if me and Sakura have become friends again.”

 

“Ino…”

 

“Our Lords and Leaders care about our happiness, even if they don’t look like they do. They worry about us and do what they think they can to help us. Even Raikage was like this, wasn’t he? He was going to have you killed by Danjuro so you wouldn’t be unhappy.”

 

“I think that’s going out on a limb.” Sayuki retorted, as she began to ponder its possibility.

 

“Your happiness does matter to someone. Everyone your friends with, even if you don’t realize it. That’s all friends care about when it comes to being a friend.”

 

“I’m not sure…” Sayuki began to say, when she noticed something, something far too subtle. She stayed still, only trying to discern it, not alert it to her knowing it was there. What was it? Only her instinct said there was something wrong, she couldn’t sense anything suspicious with her other senses.

 

“What is it?” Ino wasn’t stupid. She could tell when a jounin was being serious. She kept still as well, wondering if she should fake the rest a conversation while Sayuki tried to figure out what was wrong.

 

“Get your clothes on. We’re leaving.”

 

“Right.” Ino moved slowly, tactfully, as if she pretending she didn’t know she was being watched by hundred of guards. The two of them quickly slipped everything on, before aiming to walk over to where the group was.

 

They missed somehow.

 

“What?” Ino called out, as the mountainside stretched out around her, taking away the forest that had been there before and replacing it with thin air that fell for miles. Around her, Sayuki had ceased to exist and was replaced with a simple signpost, telling her that Heaven was directly in front of her. She stood confused. “Genjutsu?”

 

“Crud. They’re here.” Sayuki muttered, as the torch besides her gave out, filling the cavern with total darkness. Inside, all sight and sound disappeared, and it was hard to tell if one even existed. She shook her head, focusing on ignoring everything she could see, hear, smell, touch and taste. In this situation they would all be useless, even the wind was telling her lies. She had to trust her instincts

 

“Hhhmm, that’s weird.” Danjuro pondered, as his hand braced itself upon the frying pan. “I could of sworn I wasn’t in Hell a moment ago.” What was this? He was supposed to be one of the best trackers in the world. A genjutsu just couldn’t feel this real to him. Yet everything, the sounds of the wailing and damned, the visions of demons, stalking endless prey in the distance, the intense heat, everything told him that he was in Hell.

 

“I didn’t die, did I?” He had to seriously consider it, but nothing told him otherwise. He looked around and saw Kiba staring directly at him.

 

“Ah!” Kiba called out in shock, more surprised than he should be of the jounin presence right in front of his face. “What the…” He looked around. “What the hell?”

 

“I believe that’s pretty accurate.” Danjuro quipped, as he tried to find the gap in whatever illusion this was.

 

“How on earth did we get here?” Kiba asked, his anger hiding his fear.

 

“Beats me. I never did anything bad all my life.” The jounin said sarcastically, before ceasing to exist. Kiba wasn’t expecting this either, he didn’t fade, or even go ‘pop. He just stopped being there.

 

“What the helllllll?!”

 

“Did you hear that?” Shikamaru asked cautiously.

 

“Yeah, it sounded like Shino.” Shikamaru thought his friend’s comment over seriously. Would Shino ever scream, even in the worst situation? He dismissed it, not wanting to get too caught up in the illusion.

 

“Ey, Shikamaru.” He turned around. It was clear to him a lot of this was a genjutsu. It was troublesome, but he knew he just had to keep focused and not allow anything to catch him up within it. It should be simple enough, but breaking genjutsu was just too much of a hassle. He should probably wait until someone else did it.

 

“What is it, Chouji?” He turned around, swearing he had done it before. It was a girl standing there, with blond hair and pigtails and a goofy face that reminded him of a certain loud mouth. She was only wearing a thong.

 

“Do you like me?” She asked him sweetly, moving to embrace him, as he mind threatened to collapse at the thought of this girl’s… pressing into his chest. “…Because I really like you…” Shikamaru’s body kicked into instinctive mode and tried to pull away. “I know it’s… wrong for two boys to do…that, but if I do this…then we can…” Shikamaru screamed, pushing the girl aside and running away screaming.

 

She woke up.

 

She was in a desert, the white-eyed girl could tell this instantly. Nothing but sand in each direction, for miles around. The shifting winds bore into her, threatening to push her along, to take her away, yet her feet were still stuck to the ground with seaweed.

 

“What is this?” She tried to cover her eyes from the onslaught of desert, but there was too much of it. She tried to move, but the seaweed followed her every step and didn’t let her go. She activated her Byagugan, and could only see herself in the distant. “Is anyone there?”

 

There. Right there, she noted. There was somebody else, the jounin couldn’t tell who it was, whether it was one of her group, the enemy, or even just a large animal. She focused on it as hard as she could, to not allow them to disappear from her.

 

Hinata turned. Did she…just hear somebody? She shook slightly, feeling the fear wash over her like a bucket pretending to be filled with water, the feeling staying, even after it should have gone. She had no way of telling, she normally did, but now there was nowhere for her to focus, and she had no time to try and break the genjutsu.

 

“Chibiko! What are you doing with her?”

 

“What?” She spun round, tying to find her friend’s location, but no one showed. Was this also part of the illusion technique?

 

“I thought you were my friend, but now I find you’re her student. You stupid bitch! You told me you were a Leaf Genin!!!”

 

No…it was gone now. Was it just an illusion within an illusion? The feeling that someone was there, when in fact there was nothing. She shook her head once more, trying not to falling too much into all this. She needed to act now. Choosing a direction and closing her eyes, she ran, as far and as fast as she could. This technique could only cover a limited range after all.

 

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Hinata heard the voice again, but it was distorted, was it who she thought it was, or only another illusion. She heard it grunt to itself. “Guess I’ll deal with you then.” She thought she heard it sniff, but could only guess at it’s location.

 

“Oi! Look at me, all of you.” She heard glass shatter, and reality fall back into her life. Around her, were her teammates and fellow genin. The jounin were missing, although she had a feeling one of them was just here. Shikamaru was exhausted for some reason, and Kiba seemed to be relieved that it was cooler now. Akamaru was just barking everywhere.

 

Itako was standing above them all.

 

“Die.” She screamed and just down, pointing her polearm down at Ino, who was still trying to figure out if they were in the illusion or not. She only noticed the blind exile when Shino jumped to defend her, pushing the girl out of the way.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“I am not aware.” Shino answered, pretty much confirming he was himself by his weird way of talking. They heard someone scream, as Hinata fell over near the point of the naginata.

 

“You fucking betrayed me bitch.” Itako stated, looking squarely at Hinata with hollow eyes. “I thought you were my friend, but you’re with that bitch who left me to die. I’ll kill all of you and teach her a lesson!” Waiting for no response, the young woman swung her weapon around her head a few times, before jumping at Hinata, intending to sever the girl at the neck. Hinata could do nothing but watch. Physically, she was far too slow. Emotionally, she was far too scared. Mentally, she felt lost as to why this girl was attacking her.

 

She stopped at the last second, and jumped away, as fourteen kunai embedded into the ground, cutting through her previous flight path. As she landed, she felt something else rush for her, a foot with orange striped padding came at her, she deflected it, but it’s owner was able to reposition himself and land softly. A final attacker came, trying to hit her with fingers. She evaded the first hand, but the second hand went to strike her eyes, only stopping when they failed to find their target within the empty sockets. She jumped back harshly again, high, landing in the tree where she had started. Three kids were now there, standing looking at her. One had the most amazingly stupid grin that Kiba had ever seen. One was a girl, with dango’s in her hair. The other had eyes as white as the girl behind him.

 

“Hinata-sama.”

 

End chapter 8.

 

Ah, that felt a good chapter to write. Now I have to delete it and never do anything with it again, so the feeling stays with me forever.

 

I definitely feel with that I’ve become a more accomplished writer. The genjutsu trap session will hopefully come out as good as I intended it.

 

The Yaoi scene was instinctive, believe me. I didn’t plan to write it for several months…honest!!!

 

Although now that I’ve written it, I feel no reason to continue.

TOTR – Chapter Seven

Chapter seven: Where rivals are discussed, main characters are zombies and enemies use mushrooms in ways never thought possible

“Chibiko!” Itako shouted, as she ran through the forest. Behind her, Chibiko’s teammates followed as fast as they could. Ahead of her, Chibiko moving forward as fast as her kidnapper could. “Fuck shit.” The exile gritted her teeth as she tried to push her legs harder. She was never any good at tree hopping. She had a lot of experience at it, but the kidnapper ahead of her clearly had a lot more.

 

Whoever it was, they were fast. She only had a ten second gap behind them, yet they were already two kilometers ahead of her, the graceful pressure of their feet gliding across the trees registering as a heavy drumbeat in her ears as she continued along as fast as she could. It wasn’t going to be fast enough, she would just have to hope that she could keep track of them until…

 

“Finally!” She shouted, holding her position on a tiny branch, as she allowed the others to catch up to her. She focused a little harder as Kiba, Akamaru and Shino caught up to her. Kiba was panting.

 

“Why’d you stop?” He asked, more than curious as to why he had been following a blind girl all this time they had been trying to find their friend. The only reason he hadn’t done anything to complain was simply because Akamaru hadn’t. The dog was panting a lot heaver than everyone else, but he seemed sure the girl was heading the right way.

 

“That bastard’s stopped.” Itako replied simply. She was checking carefully now, for something she might have missed, something that might prove it to be a fake of some sort. She found nothing.

 

“Come on.” She shouted to the others as she started off again. Shino was about to protest in favor of a plan, but she gave him no time. Neither did the others as they pounced off as well.

 

What was going on? The insect carrier wondered slightly. Why had all this happened?

 

***********************************

 

L…l…let me go.” Hinata mumbled weakly. It was hard enough for her to speak usually, but at the moment something was flowing through her body that prevented her from even moving. Her mind numbly guessed it must have taken her a full five minutes just to try and say what she had just mumbled.

 

“Sorry.” Her kidnapper replied, although she didn’t hear it. “I… can’t.” He went silent as he dropped her down softly on the ground. Whatever the man was planning, he intended to do it here. Crouching down, an action that still kept him as tall as Hinata standing up, he dropped his large bag down onto the floor and started to rummage through it. As she looked on, Hinata could barely see, the poison flowing through her veins was starting to numb her primary senses. The man looked familiar, his face as impassive as before as he searched through his bag.  One eye hidden by his hair, the other, with scratch marks going through it. Well-muscled cheeks that didn’t suit his dour expression and a missing ear. She knew it, but couldn’t place it.

 

“Please hold still.” He requested politely, as he lifted a pair of succors* out of his pack. Even with the numbing sensation flowing through her body, Hinata understood their purpose immediately. As a member of the oldest clan in Konoha and possessor of a unique bloodline, her and the rest of her siblings* had been constantly warned of such situations. She started to cry, but she was unable to feel the tears as they fell down her numb cheeks. She hated herself for being so stupid as to allow this to happen. For once, she had wanted to show herself strong in one of these situations, and not make a mistake. Now Kiba and Shino would be in trouble because of her. Even worse, a war might start out because of what this man was doing. The thing that she found getting to her the most though was being unable to gain her father’s approval, or never having encouraged Naruto openly. On the outside, the tears flowed like a river.

 

“Um…” Her assailant mumbled as he watched on, preparing to perform the operation. “Don’t…cry.” For some reason, Hinata couldn’t help but find his words reassuring…

 

“W….W….Wh…Who are you?”

 

“…Yatsuhara… Yatsuhara Takeda.”

 

********************************************

 

“Screw this.” Kiba cursed to the world. “This is taking far too long.”

 

“We have no choice if we are to rescue Hinata.” Shino stated. “At least this woman has a stock of their location.” To be honest, he did as well. The female bugs he kept on his nakama at all times were doing their own job of tracking down his companion. They weren’t quite as accurate as Itako was being though. He also knew that both Kiba and Akamaru would have Hinata’s scent. In a way, choosing to kidnap Hinata right near them had been an incredibly stupid thing for the kidnapper to do, giving their specialties in tracking. Regardless, he felt it best to keep his abilities quiet for now. He didn’t fully trust this Itako yet. She could actually be with the kidnapper.

 

“I mean, I got an idea.” Kiba shouted to his teammate, as he noticeably slowed down. “Oi, Itako stop for a moment.”

 

“What?” She said ahead of them, finding herself instinctively obeying as she allowed them to catch up. As he reached her, Kiba pulled out a small bag from his coat.

 

“Those are…”

 

“Right, soldier pills.” Kiba confirmed. “I figure whoever we’re about to meet is probably strong. These should give us the stamina to keep up with him.”

 

“Then shouldn’t we take them right before we get there?” Itako asked, confused.

 

“Well, they also help against extreme motion sickness as well.”

 

“Motion sickness…why would we…”

 

“Just take one and trust me.” She couldn’t see it, but she guessed he had a more than serious look in his eyes.

 

“Well…all right.” She flicked the small black pill into her mouth. She barely felt anything, but she knew that she would have an extreme amount of stamina when the time comes. Shino took one as well, as did Akamaru before Kiba himself finally popped one into his mouth.

 

“Yosh. Everybody hold on tight. I’m about to do something extremely stupid that’ll get us there in no time.” The two other humans grabbed on without thinking, as Akamaru hesitated before finally crawling into the survivalists coat. As Kiba slapped his hands together, Shino finally figured out what he was about to do.

 

“Wait, you do not mean you are going to…” Kiba just grinned at his teammate as Itako hugged them both, extremely confused.

 

“Too late now, Bug otaku…Ninpou…”

 

************************************************

 

“Everything is as you requested Niro-dono.” The Raikage stated, taking a step back to bow as they stood by the gates to the village. Around them were around twenty men, none of them ninja, all servants of the new lord of the country. “Although I would suggest waiting until morning before you leave.”

 

“Your concern is unnecessary, Raikage-dono.” The new lord replied. “If I leave now, I will be able to reach Oyakotsu in two days for the Coronation. I am the guest of honour after all.”

 

“Ho ho ho. I guess you are right.” As the shinobi laughed, he hid his face behind his long sleeve. Niro allowed himself to laugh as well, wincing in pain slightly as he did so. Raikage noted this, the man’s eye was still giving him a little trouble.

 

“So…where is Sayuki-dono?” Niro asked, looking round. “I still haven’t met the girl.”

 

“I asked her to retrieve the sealing scroll before she left. She should be…ah, here she is now.” To his side, the female jounin landed in a crouched bowing position. She had already landed with her hands lifted up, a red scroll on top of them. She kept her eyes to the ground as she did so, saying nothing. Niro was a little shocked, still unused to having people appear in front of him without warning.

 

“That is the scroll, Niro-dono.” The lord collected himself, before clicking his fingers, and a man to his right, of a massive build walked up and retrieved it. He appeared tentative at first, as if fearing the scroll might explode, before walking backwards until he was behind his lord. “It is simple to use, and will activate automatically once opened. Just make sure she is the person nearest to it at the time.”

 

“You mean…make her open it up.”

 

“That is correct.”

 

“So…it’ll be like she’s sealing her own fate.” Niro had an amused expression on his face as punned.

 

“If that is how you wish to phrase it…”

 

“It is. Superb.” He said, as he approached Sayuki and made her stand up. As she did so, he couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were distant, her face expressionless. “Ah, that look of despair, beautiful. I hope that bastard’s crying in hell knowing what’s happening to you.”

 

Sayuki remained still, as if she didn’t hear him. Niro poised himself to remain calm. Were he torturing her, he would perhaps try to shake a response out of her, but to him, she was just an end to a mean.

 

“Have you said your goodbyes?” He asked politely. She didn’t answer him. He looked at her to try and grab her attention, before turning back to the Raikage. “Have you done something to her?”

 

“She is still mourning I believe.” Raikage stated, keeping his head down as he spoke. “She will probably be fine before the sealing.”

 

“Excellent. I want to see her reaction as all of her abilities are taken away.” As the short man let his desires slip, he quickly recomposed himself and faced the Raikage properly. “Well Raikage-dono, with this, I believe the negotiations are complete. Welcome back into the Country of Lightning.”

 

“It is an honour sir,” the Raikage said, bowing completely this time, “to serve a united country. I thank you for giving this old man an opportunity.”

 

“I will call upon you when needed.” With this, Niro turned and walked into the carriage that his entourage surrounded. Sayuki followed, as mindless as before. As they left, he found himself keeping his eye on Sayuki. She stood as straight as always, as tense and alert as always. There was no change in her at all. Why then, did it remind him of another time, before she had changed so much.

 

Finally, after everybody had left and all was silent, he stood back up, and turned to a shadow, who appeared behind him.

 

“Was everything prepared in time dear?” The shadow made no reply, but he seemed pleased about something as they walked away, arm in arm.

 

*********************************

 

As she sat on the rooftop, appreciating the coolness of the night, highlighted by an empty sky with only the moon for company, Ino sighed deeply. She had no idea what her group was supposed to do now. Sayuki had disappeared after she left the group, as had the other jounin and now, Shikamaru and Chouji were sleeping peacefully in the hotel they had rented, leaving her alone. It briefly entered her mind that Kiba and the others had disappeared, but for all she knew they had been thrown out of the village.

 

Her mind strayed to her temporary teacher, as it had several times that night. It still doesn’t seem fair, even when I think about it hard.  Sure, I can understand ninjas having to follow orders and work for anyone who pays them, but to have to work for an ex-enemy, as a servant, for as long as she lived, with her techniques sealed, it’s just stupid. She fell back against the rooftop and stared at the moon.

 

Is that what it means to be a shinobi? Sacrificing everything about yourself just to please your superiors? It’s horrible. I guess that Konoha is a lot calmer than other places, and such dumb missions aren’t always necessary. Well, I guess there’s some, but I’d prefer a mission with death than being made some pervert’s servant all my life.

 

And why is Sayuki-sensei allowing this? She just obeyed without question. I could never do that! Giving up all that I am…it would mean giving up Sasuke-kun. How could that bitch be so passive about this! She appeared so dominant and superior when we had first met, now it’s as if a mirror reflecting perfection had been chipped slightly, distorting the whole image.

 

Her thoughts stopped in place for a moment there, as she was distracted, like they weren’t expecting the girl to use such a metaphor. The moon had disappeared from her view, and she found a shadow standing in front of her, looking up at what she could no longer see.

 

“Yo,” greeted Danjuro.

 

“Oh it’s you.” Ino replied, rude enough to hide the shock of him appearing from nowhere. She didn’t know who this man was really, and although he had provided amusing company earlier on their trip to the village, she just wasn’t in the mood now. “What do you want?”

 

“To look at the moon.” He stated, sitting down next to her, with no real intention of leaving. She wondered if she should. From what she could tell by his earlier, completely irrational kicking of Shino, the man was dangerous to be around, but simply leaving might be enough to set him off.

 

“It just lords above all we who hide in the shadows.” He said quietly. It took her a moment to realize he was still focusing on the moon. “Like the ultimate guard sentry. Just waiting for you to turn round and shout ‘I see you’ before trying to stab you with it’s spear. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s always watching us, the only time we can hide is when the clouds block it.”

 

“Riiight…” It was the only answer Ino could respond with. He almost appeared upset for a moment.

 

“Pfft…no one ever understands me.” Clearly, it was the only answer anybody could ever respond with. She grew annoyed for a moment.

 

“It’s not that I don’t understand you. It’s that I don’t want to.”

 

“Oh.” He went quiet at that, and Ino actually felt herself feeling guilty about it. Clearly, she was the first to go beyond the ‘usual’ answer. She surprised herself as she began to move the conversation on.

 

“I suppose you’ve come to mock someone about Sayuki-sensei.” She wasn’t in a good mood about the teacher herself, she found. Her prior image of her had been scattered to the winds, if there were any today.

 

“Well, that was partially on my mind,” he said, now coming out of his childish sulking, “but actually I’ve come to request your help in something.”

 

“Huh?” She was partially offended by this, but also curious. She gave a look at him, encouraging him to go on. He was about to say something when he stopped. She watched his face as he tried to go over it, clearly having difficulty in asking something of someone else.

 

“I need some advice.” He lied completely. “What do you think a rival is?” His mind screamed at him instantly for chickening out, then stopped as it realized what he had said, and the girl’s reactions.

 

The blond haired beauty instantly found thoughts of a certain wide headed girl spring to her mind. She instantly knew how to answer and quickly stood up to face the jounin.*maybe include something more here to imply a distance in time*

 

“An enemy!” She shouted aloud, full of excitement. “One who you fight against for everything and one who you fight everything for!”

 

“Fight… everything for?” Danjuro looked up at the girl confused.

 

“Of course. Of course, when one has a rival, one has to prove they’re better at her at everything, , but if someone else beats you to it, then you won’t have a chance to, so you have to make sure rhey stays safe.” Danjuro had the strangest feeling that she wasn’t taking his view into account anymore, but still wanted to know. He stood up to continue the talk.

 

“You could beat the person who beat them?” Ino seemed to take a lot of offense to this comment, and kicked the jounin square in the balls for it. As he lunged forward slightly, she grabbed him by the hem of his shirt.

 

“NO, no, no! Are you crazy? If I allow someone to beat her, then what was the point? Sure, I’ll be one step closer to Sasuke-kun, but I’ll never live with myself knowing that it wasn’t me who took her down, that it was some self obsessive bitch that spends all her time, concentrating on her freakin’ make up. I have to be the one that beats her when the time comes. Even though they’re nakama, even though they’re family, even though they’re your bestest friend in the whole world, if they’re your rival, then you have to be the one to defeat them, and when you do, Sasuke-kun will finally admit that it’s you that he likes!!!”

 

“Sasuke-kun will…like me?” Danjuro stuttered, his face becoming sparkly with joy as this revelation. He shook his head to dispel the most unique thought he had ever had and reflected it over for a moment. He let his sadistic grin pop up on his face. “I get it.” He affirmed, standing back up properly. “I know exactly what it is now.”

 

“You…You do?” Ino stuttered back. “Know what?” She asked critically, partially forgetting what she had been shouting about as the adrenaline wore off.

 

“Ya. I understand perfectly.” He turned back up to stare at the moon, as if to say ‘so what?’ and stab it through it’s neck. With more confidence, he asked her, “Can I ask for your help on one more thing, the thing I was gonna ask in the first place?”

 

***************************************************

 

He had waited for her, she wasn’t sure why, but he had waited for her to stop crying. She hadn’t grown used to the numbing sensation at all, and it was still clouding all of her senses, but she knew that’s why he hadn’t done it yet. He simply sat, holding the blank in his hand and watched over her. He even waited a few minutes, as her nose stopped sniffing and her eyes stopped being sore.

 

But now she had stopped, he clearly intended to get on with his original task. He got back up, and walked over to her, holding her by the forehead, as he aimed the blank for her eyes. She could barely see him, and she felt like she might cry again. No…I can’t let myself. She tried at that point with all her might, lifting her right hand up. It moved slightly, bit by bit, but it was getting there. He hadn’t even noticed. As it reached his neck, she felt something on her, and she knew she had failed again. “Sorry.”

 

“So you should be!” A voice echoed through the area, as trees ripped apart and the ground shook. The man stood back up and looked in the direction it was coming from, far too fast for him to notice until it got close, and now far too close that he could properly avoid it without the girl getting harmed. The nine foot tall man pushed Hinata out of the way and tried to move himself. The mini hurricane came through the trees and got him in the back, knocking him over the girl as he dropped the blank.

 

He looked on, slightly confused, as the hurricane turned into three humans. As they stopped, the middle one grinned.

 

“Yeah! Told you I could get us there faster.” He was answered by a punch to the back of the head.

 

“You fuckwit!” Itako shouted, before moving groggily from side to side. “Some proper warning would be nice.”

 

“I gave you the pills. You should be fine.” Itako looked frustrated, and she could tell that her eye sockets were bleeding again.

 

“They hardly helped, shit… fucker. I rely solely on my ears to get around most of the time. I can’t even tell where the enemy is right now.”

 

“Over there.” Shino said simply, who clearly hadn’t been affected at all. By merely stating it, Itako could tell where he meant, and she turned to face him. “He is the one our temporary sensei referred to as Takeda-chan.”

 

“Ah…Chibiko!” She was finally able to sense her new friend and the man standing in her way. “Who are you, you bastard. Give Chibiko back.”

 

“I have been ordered to take her, but…” he said monotonously. The group stared at him as he failed to finish the sentence. It sounded weird, it wasn’t as if he had stuttered more as it someone had lent on the remote control and turn him off without knowing.

 

“Buuut?” Takeda stared off at the space behind them for a moment, like he was unaware of their presence.

 

“I will have to kill you.” Regardless of how he was trying to say it, it came out more as a direct threat than finishing his last sentence, a threat that Kiba instinctively took seriously. He took a quick step back, before charging forwards.

 

“As if we’ll let you.” In just one second, Kiba covered the distance between him and the man, and punched him directly in the jaw with a left hook punch. Takeda didn’t move, and Kiba felt his knuckles crack slightly. “What?” Before the boy could even fall the five feet to the floor, the man had picked him up and threw him into the wall of an old, broken down house that was nearby.

 

“Kiba!” Shino shouted for his friend, as he prepared to issue orders to his soldiers. He didn’t get a chance.

 

“You bastard!” Itako shouted besides him, her nausea now completely gone. Again, the girl screamed, completely forgetting any form of plan as she pulled her naginata out. The bronze shined against Takeda’s eyes, somehow reflecting the moonlight into them and forcing them to close, as he was slightly dazzled. Shino noticed it all as he noted the effectiveness of the girl’s attack. Somehow, the naginata had been able to blind the man, and her screaming voice was knocking his ears off. To top it off, the girl disappeared for a split second, before appearing behind the man. “Eat shit and die, mothafucker!”

 

He did neither.

 

“I see.” Shino said calmly.

 

“That….won’t work.” The man said as he turned to look at her. She was more concerned for where she had struck him. Her naginata hadn’t gone into him. In fact, it had bent. She knew it wasn’t that hard to bend the sheet metal that her weapon’s end was made out of, but she at least figured that he should have been cut before it bent.

 

She didn’t have time to think about it any further than that, and he threw her body against the side of a tree. The air jumped out of her lungs in one fast motion, and she slid down the tree. Convinced that she was no longer a threat, he turned to Shino.

 

“Your muscles have been well trained it seems.” Shino stated simply, as he continued to assess the situation. “However, that will not apply against me.” As he finished speaking, he raised his arms up, and Takeda watched with an emotionless expression as he saw thousands upon thousands of small insects, their loud buzzing filling the air as they flew over to their enemy. The kidnapper made no attempt to move but simply watched the creatures as they swarmed his body. He felt each one land on him in turn, covering his entire body all at once, before going to bite him.

 

They immediately exploded off of him, rising in the air and flying back to Shino as if they were running from the apocalypse. Shino didn’t understand at all as they all flowed back into him. He didn’t get time to either, as the jounin appeared next to him and punched him in the stomach. As he lay across the man’s arm gasping for breath, the insects relayed information to him.

 

“Mushrooms?” He said confusedly. He hadn’t intended for them to attack the muscles. His orders were to pierce the skin and push their way in, attacking him internally Now, they were telling how bad the man tasted, sort of like mushrooms.

 

“The taste… is really bad.”

 

**********************************

 

Sayuki was walking. The three guards behind her couldn’t tell if she had even realized it or not. Knowing that she was to be seen as a mere servant, they had attempted to talk to her. One of them had been kind and polite, intending to make a new friend, and when she didn’t respond, his less than polite friend had tried. This had led to an argument from the polite one, who argued that he shouldn’t approach woman that way. He friend had just laughed this off, before stopping as they realized that she had done nothing still, except walk. Now the third one was trying his charm. Believing himself to be the most handsome of the three, he began the process of trying to seduce her.

 

“Hissatsu: Pretty boy flash.” He said, with the demeanor of a slug who had looked at a flower and believed it to be it’s reflection. Moments later, he found no choice but to step to the side when Sayuki didn’t stop. He felt as if he was being pushed away by her mere presence. His friends stopped arguing to burst into laughter.

 

“Stop!” Ordered a voice from the front of the group, and the three soldiers tried to look as far up the road as they could to see what was wrong. As they did, they saw a man jogging down the side of the road to them.

 

“Oi! What’s up?” The rudest member of the group called out to him as he went past. His destination was clearly the carriage behind them, where their lord sat.

 

“The river’s flooded, and the bridge is out.” The man explained, panting slightly.

 

“What? But it’s been dry for days.”

 

“Even if you say that, it doesn’t change anything. Let me…oi!” They turned to where he was facing. Sayuki had not stopped walking, and appeared to be headed to where a horse was standing. They watched, bewildered as she walked directly into it. The horse clearly took offense and kicked it’s legs back as the men turned their eyes away from what was about to happen.

 

A loud whinny later, before silence, followed by gasps from others nearby that forced them to look in morbid curiosity at what they expected to be a bloodied corpse. The men were amazed to see that the woman was no longer right behind the horse, but on top of it instead, as if the road and the horse’s back were at the same level. She walked as blindly as she did before, falling off the horse like she had just taken another step. She carried on walking, as uneventfully as ever.

 

“What…What was that?” The younger, more polite guard asked aloud. “The horse definitely kicked her…”

 

“What’s going on out here?” Came a voice from the carriage. The guards turned around, doing a mental double take as they saw Sayuki assist Niro out of the carriage. It clearly wasn’t necessary for her to help, but Niro grinned as she did so. “Ah…Thank you servant girl…what did you say your name was?”

 

“Sayuki.” She answered plainly, not even looking at him. The mouths of the guards dropped in shock.

 

“Ah…Sayuki, that isn’t a very entertaining name. Let’s give you another, let’s see…” He seemed to muse it over in his head for a few moments, before clicking his fingers. “Gomi. You’re name is Gomi from now on. Understand Gomi?”

 

Sayuki didn’t respond.

 

“Gomi?” He said, with a fixed grin. “Gomi? Oi, listen to your master.”

 

“Yes sir.” She responded blandly. Niro lifted his hand up, intending to strike her, when the messenger stepped forward, remembering the urgency of his situation.

 

“Niro-sama.” He cringed as his lord struck the woman, before turning to him.

 

“What is it?”

 

“The bridge over the river is out, sir, that is why we have stopped.”

 

“So, just walk through it.”

 

“It is chest deep sir, we would have to secure some of the cargo and your carriage if we were to attempt it.”

 

“Pfft. How annoying.”

 

“The navigator at the front has suggested that we use the ninja lady…” He looked towards her. She was as she was before Niro had slapped her, a red whelp was across her face. It was really beginning to freak him out.

 

“Well then I suggest you secure the valuables as you said.”

 

“But sir.” The man stuttered. It was a weird night already, and thing were beginning to feel weirder.

 

“Secure the valuables, soldier.” Niro repeated, intentionally showing anger.

 

“Yes sir.” The man saluted and ran off to the front, passing the order around as he did so.

 

“Hmph. Imagine it, using a servant for something more than her basic duties. It is being mean to the servant, forcing them to do something they can’t. Isn’t that right girl?”

 

“Yes sir,” she said. He grimaced slightly. Somehow, the girl was getting to him. He pulled himself back into his carriage.

 

“Stand there until the group starts moving again.” He ordered.

 

She would do so, and react to nothing for the next two hours.

 

*****************************************

 

“Fuck you!” It was her forth charge now. At this point her naginata had been uselessly tossed to the side, as her rage took over for the broken weapon. Yatsuhara Takeda responded in the same way he had for the last five minutes now, letting her attack connect, this time a kick to the groin, followed by grabbing her and throwing her away. He didn’t seem at all concerned with ending the fight.

 

“What’s…what’s with this guy?” Kiba asked, panting away, as Akamaru barked angrily at their opponent. “He doesn’t do anything. Wait…could he be?”

 

“He is not a bushin. You do not need to worry about that.” Shino stated. If it was a bushin, it was an extremely elaborate one, but his soldiers had already detected a blood flow within the man in the moment they landed on him, which was enough for Shino to consider him a threat. Despite this, he had no idea how to combat him. By staying on the defensive, the kidnapper made most offensives seem futile. Kiba had already tried to attack with Akamaru three times already, and he simply caught the both of them. His bugs also proved incapable of attacking him, whatever his body was covered with was apparently toxic to the bugs, and already half of them had crawled into his deepest recesses to heal from the small amount they ingested.

 

Itako wasn’t proving much help either.

 

“You bastard!” She shouted again, charging as blindly as the last time. He didn’t get this girl. Was she a ninja from the Cloud Village? He couldn’t determine her level at all. By her age, she was probably genin, but by her level of awareness, especially without her eyes, he figured her to be chuunin, yet her level of skill showed less than an academy student, which was it?

 

She went for him again, this time changing the pattern by leaping for his face. Swinging her legs over the rest of her body, she landed with one hand on his head and the rest of her held up in the air. “Got you!” She stated, as she swung her free hand down towards his face. He caught it, but then visibly lurched back on reflex. In the girl’s hand, a kunai had appeared, seemingly from nowhere, aimed straight for his eye, he had no choice but to stop it.

 

Seconds later, he had grabbed her other arm, before swinging round and tossing her in the direction of Kiba, who tried to catch her, only to get slammed back into the tree himself.

 

“You dumb idiot!” He called out to her as she got up to face her opponent again. “We’re all gonna get killed if we keep charging him. We gotta come up with a plan.”

 

“Be quiet.” She commanded, stopping him from talking for a second.

 

“No, we can’t just keep on charging. I say if we attack all at…”

 

“Quiet Kiba.” Shino stated, walking up to them, with his back to the opponent. He faced Itako straight on. “Do you have a plan?”

 

“Heh. Something like that.” She said, grinning to herself. “I need you three to distract him at the same time. Do whatever you can. Then I’ll take him down.”

 

“That’s your plan?” Kiba questioned her. “It sucks!” Itako turned to face him, eyeballing him with a blind face.

 

“Just do it.” She commanded, her face freaking him out now that he knew she had no eyes, yet still feeling like she was staring into his soul. He calmed down for a moment.

 

“All right, all right, but I’m gonna haunt you when we all die.” Before Shino could say anything, Kiba stood in position ready to attack. “Let’s go, Akamaru.” He called out to the canine, who barked in response. Kiba brought his hands together and formed four seals. “Gojyu Ninpou!”

 

This technique was never for him, Shino knew that, and could instantly figure his friend’s strategy, however Itako cooed in appreciation as Akamaru disappeared and was replaced with another Kiba. To her, it was still clear which was the real Kiba, even with their smells being similar, the look on Akamaru’s face still seemed to be that of a dog, even on a human face. Suddenly, the two started running.

 

“Ninpou:Tsuuga!” With that, the two beast fighters started to spin. It was the same technique he had used earlier, Itako noted as he spun like a drill, ripping chunks out of the ground as he span towards his enemy, the Akamaru-Kiba close behind him. She observed as they went to attack from both sides, narrowly missing the opponent as little as they could without touching him.

 

“Seems they noticed it too.” She stated calmly.

 

“Right, he only attacks the second he is touched, unless it is of a definite threat.” Shino assessed. It seemed true to this point. “He keeps his calm to a point, assessing the enemy as it comes at him.” The kidnapper was still just standing there, looking forward. It was like he hadn’t even noticed Kiba, like he had no reason to. As the two spun around him however, his field of view got cut off more and more. It was getting hard to see.

 

He went to grab one, right as it skimmed his cheek. It probably wasn’t intentional, but keeping control for that long of such a chaotic technique wasn’t entirely possible for the small dog. As Takeda squeezed, Akamaru let out a loud whine, before turning back into his dog form.

 

“Akamaru!” Kiba shouted out, concerned for his life long buddy. He didn’t get time to do anything else, as Shino appeared in front of the distracted jounin and fell on top of him, disintegrating into a thousand bugs. Not being one to shout out techniques, Shino merely faded away, but it was enough to finally knock the jounin down to the floor and it was all Itako needed as she finished her technique.

 

“…no jutsu!” As she cried out her attack, everything froze. Kiba felt like he was being suspended in mid air. Around him, the air felt like it was turning blue and white and pink and purple and green and black all at the same time, yet he couldn’t distinguish if anything had changed or not. He felt the urge to vomit, brought on by both the hairs on his nose feeling like they had all been pulled out at once, and needles being shoved through his eardrums. He started to feel an uncontrollable urge to sneeze, a sneeze that would never come.

 

“What…is this?” The kidnapper asked aloud, as he felt the same sensations that Kiba was going through. It was like nothing he had ever felt before, the world had been turned upside down but everything was still the same. He was grounded, yet felt like he was going to rocket into space any moment now. He couldn’t understand it at all. At that moment, although he couldn’t tell when, he heard a scream that penetrated his eardrums yet refused to vibrate them. The girl was coming at him again.


”Got you!” She shouted, as she went to land on top of him. Despite whatever was going on, he was still focused enough to react. He lifted his arm up and depressed something on his palm. Itako sensed in horror as a stiletto appeared from within his forearm, sticking out to land where she was. With her current trajectory, they both knew there was no way she was going to move. “Shi…”

 

The hidden spike moved out of the way at the last second, a sixth body getting in it’s way, allowing Itako to strike as intended. Without missing a beat, the girl landed on top of him, kunai appearing from her hands at the last moment to strike him, both under his left armpit and right hip. She slammed them in all the way, intending to cause as deep a wound as possible in the little area she had to go in. Before she would finish, both weapons wouldn’t be seeable from the outside of his body. The grown man opened his mouth to cry out, but nothing came. He slumped down on the floor, apparently dead.

 

“Kawarimi?” Kiba shouted, expecting to see the man disappear in a puff of smoke to be replaced by potentially anything.

 

“No… he won’t.” Itako said simply. “We both knew that wouldn’t work, so he didn’t try it.” As he finally landed, Kiba noticed that whatever feeling he had felt earlier was completely gone. Just what did she do?

 

“Chibiko!” Itako called out, snapping Kiba back to reality. He finally saw where his friend had been during all of this. Somehow, the girl had managed to grab the man’s arm, just before he had struck Itako, possibly saving them all. The older girl placed Hinata in her lap, as she checked her friend over.

 

“How is she?” Shino asked, appearing from nowhere.

 

“Just unconscious. Seems he did something to her, the bastard.” Itako sat quietly for a second, as she nursed her friend. The others got up and stood over her, Kiba holding a bruised Akamaru. A moment later, Hinata woke up and groaned a little, getting up.

 

“What…what happened?” She mumbled weakly, before noticing everyone was around her. She squeaked a little, and blushed slightly.

 

“Hey kid, you saved me.” Itako announced, hugging her new friend. Hinata squirmed slightly in her grip, not used to being hugged.

 

“I…i saved you?” Everything slowly came back to her, she was still numb but she could remember most things, even the man’s apparent kindness. At least, it felt like kindness. Could it not be seen as sadistic to let someone cry for so long, yet still intend to kill them? She whimpered a little at this thought, before tears started to flow again. Itako brought her friend in for a closer hug.

 

“Oh come on kid, what’s wrong now?” Hinata actually felt entrapped by her friend’s caring hold. She usually cried on her own, away from others. She wanted to push away, break free and just get away from them all.

 

“I…I put you all…in danger. The guy kidnapped me so he…so he could take my eyes.”

 

“What?” This caught Kiba’s attention too strongly. For a while now, he and Shino had been secretly warned by their real sensei, of the possible problems that working with Hinata might have, but he never figured it might happen. Itako didn’t understand fully, not knowing anything of the Hyuuga legend except the important bits. She was about to suggest something when she noticed a presence behind them.

 

“Look out!” She tried to warn again. The genin turned round as the man stood there again, still clearly bleeding from where he had been stabbed. He groaned loudly, almost zombie like as he took another step towards them.

 

Behind him, they saw another figure.

 

An extremely loud ‘clang’ later, and the kidnapper had been replaced with a giant frying pan. Standing in front of them was their temporary jounin-sensei, looking slightly amused with himself. “This moron’s pretty much invincible. You wanna do it like this.” With that, he lifted the frying pan over his head again, revealing the head of Yatsuhara Takeda sticking out of the ground, still conscious and still expressionless. A second later, Danjuro brought the pan down heavily again, and didn’t bother to lift it up.

 

    “His body’s worse than a rock you see. So it’s better to attack the weaker surface, and trap him in it, in this case, the ground.”

 

“You. What are you doing here?” Kiba asked confused.

 

“D’uh. You’re my precious students, I can’t let anything happen to you, plus I still haven’t cooked your little dog.” Kiba’s face went white at the prospect. “Oh, poor little Akamaru-chan looks injured. Shall i…”

 

“No!” Shouted Kiba, pulling the dog away from Danjuro’s evil clutches. As he turned around to keep his best friend away from the enemy, he noticed Itako had disappeared. Hinata seemed to have dropped back into unconsciousness.

 

“Huh? Where did she go?” Shino spun round at this comment and appeared shocked. The entire area felt like she had never been there. Even in the distance, Shino could feel no trace of the girl.

 

Who was she? She seemed to fit in the group so quickly. It almost felt like she was one of us. And her abilities…she was strong, yet weak. That technique as well, and how she did she managed to stab him. Did she figure out his weak points, or get lucky.

 

“Where did who go?” Danjuro asked confused, looking around to see if he could figure out whom they meant. “Well, never mind. Listen, I got a favour to ask of you all. If you help me, I promise not to saw your legs off tonight like I originally planned…”

 

Kiba groaned. He was never going to like this guy.

 

Two and a half miles away, a girl sat in a tree, panting with exhaustion. Something had gripped her heart, and she had done her best to pull away from it, traveling as far as she could. She dropped her body loosely from the tree, landing in the shrubs to fall asleep. As she fell unconscious, the question that had been entering her head for the past minute entered her again.

 

“He has her smell all over him. What’s with that, and he’s friends with Chibiko. I don’t understand.”

 

******************************************

They had stopped for a while, the prospect of walking another twenty miles soaking wet with no sunlight to dry them out had proved too daunting for Niro’s walkers, and his advisor had suggested a short break before anyone had started to complain, but then Niro had another idea.

 

She still hadn’t done anything that didn’t otherwise suggest her to be a puppet. Other servants had tried to speak to her, guards had tried to come on to her and a dog had tried to play with her, all with no effect. It had caught the attention of some of the higher ups within Niro’s traveling party, but even they were currently engaging in hushed whispers as to whether it meant she was being disrespectful or if it was just her way of performing duties. So far, she hadn’t actually done anything wrong, just been unsociable to the point of creepy.

 

“Niro-sama.” His second advisor called out, as the overweight man pulled himself out of his carriage. He had a large grin on his face and seemed much more relaxed than those around him.

 

“Yes, my dear fellow,” he said with enthusiasm, “what can I do for you?”

 

“It is about the new servant, m’lord.” The advisor began, somehow gaining a bigger smile from the new sovereign by merely mentioning her. “Her current…attitude is beginning to upset people it seems.” Niro looked over to the shinobi, who was standing straight, as she had done most of that night.

 

“I see no problem with her. Servant girl! Come over here a moment.” Sayuki moved to him instantly, the advisor gasped a little in shock, as his eyes failed to register her speed. “Now, girl. The advisor here has spoken that your attitude has been upsetting others.”

 

“Yes sir.” Sayuki replied monotonously.

 

“You wouldn’t be…trying to annoy your superiors would you?”

 

“No sir.” Sayuki replied monotonously. During this time, the advisor seemed a little panicked. He pulled Niro to the side for one second, as far away without upsetting the lord himself.

 

“Your usual act aside m’lord, myself and the other advisors believe that it is a risk to have someone who was close to the previous lord running lose like this.”

 

“B’ah. She is a ninja. She will do her job as told. It doesn’t matter at all that I killed Dejiro. Raikage-dono had guaranteed her cooperation.” The three of them failed to notice Sayuki’s finger twitch slightly at this comment.

“Regardless m’lord. It is felt by myself and the other advisors and even the other ministers, that perhaps we should use…the insurance that we have now, before problems arise later.” Niro appeared to take a moment to consider this.

 

“Yes. Yes, I don’t see why not. Best to be safe, although I can’t imagine her doing anything any time soon. Yes, let us perform the sealing.” The advisor showed clear signs of relief.

 

“Also m’lord. It has been brought to our attention that the sealing requires a few moments. During this time, the woman might become… less compliant with our intentions.”

 

“Are you saying we hold her down while we do this? Surely that will make things worse.”

 

“I’m saying that perhaps we should bound her down.” He moved closer to his lord to whisper. “Now, we have some chains.”

 

“Chains? Why do we have chains?” The advisor looked confused about this for a moment.

 

“They’re your chains, sir. Remember?” Niro thought about this for a moment.

 

“Oh yes, of course. Well, do whatever you think is necessary advisor. To be honest, I’m a little tired. Call me just before you start. I shall be resting. Big day when we get back.” He symbolized this with a yawn, before moving back towards his carriage.

 

“Of course m’lord.” The minister quickly hurried off to get the chains. Within the next ten minutes, the woman would be no threat at all to them, and he could finally relax. He didn’t know what it was, but something about her told him that he was going to die at any moment.

 

They’re going to do it you know. They’re going to use the sealing scroll.

 

I know.

 

Doesn’t it bother you, the years of training, all that hard work? Gone. Forever. Sealed in a piece of paper that will be thrown to the fires as soon as possible.

 

It is as the mission states. I will follow orders.

 

That’s not what I ask you. I said, does it bother you?

 

There is nothing to bother.

 

Well, if you insist. And just when you were starting to enjoy yourself again, playing with the kids. Maybe after this, they’ll let you play in the mud as well. That was what you always liked to do.

 

 

Is this really the best way for you kiddo? Dejiro may be gone, but you’re still alive. There’s no need to kill your spirit now that he’s gone.

 

I have no spirit. I am just a tool.

 

Oh? What’s a tool doing with a rival? Aren’t you going to miss fighting him again?

 

That idiot? He’s the one thing I won’t miss.

 

Or is he the thing you’ll miss the most? Admit it, you loved those fights. Acting like you were superior, laughing when he did something stupid. The times you spent with him are almost exactly like the times you spent with Dejiro.

 

What? No, they’re not!

 

Really. I seem to recall every time you squared off against him, after you healed, you would run off to the mountains to try and improve yourself. Make yourself stronger, so you could beat him. Every time, ever since the beginning.

 

Who are you anyway?

 

And yet, even now, you never have, and he’s never beaten you either. Because each and every time you try and get stronger, he’s doing the exact same. That sounds like a rival to me. That sounds like spirit to me.

 

Shut up!

 

And yet you’re throwing that away, just to try and prove a point that you don’t really believe in. That you’re a tool, who just exists to do jobs and look strong, who’ll just follow its owners orders mindlessly.

 

Shut up!

 

You’re not a tool. You’re just a little girl, hiding behind an excuse.

 

“Shut up!”

 

Around her, all heads turned to face her, shocked at her outburst. The one she recognized most was Niro’s. She went to step forward, and instantly followed with a struggle. Something was holding her legs and arms down. She pulled on them heavily, but found herself unable to break away. A few feet away, she heard an old man whisper something to Niro about being right.

 

Looking down, she heard a rattle. Chains surrounded her, and she found a wooden block between her legs, trapping them together. She nearly fell over just looking at them. There was another block trapping her arms as well, secured behind her back. A few feet away from her feet, she saw a man, holding a red scroll. Her eyes became large as she realized what it all meant.

 

“No!” She screamed out, struggling futilely against her bonds. “No!”

 

The people around her looked fearful. They knew she was a ninja. They feared her escaping from the bonds and killing them all, as the myths suggested. Niro stepped forward.

 

“Do not be alarmed men.” He warned them. “Ninja’s require their arms near each other for their techniques to work. There is nothing she can do to harm us.”

 

She wanted to shout something, to prove him wrong, to show him that she could perform seals with one hand and rips them all to shreds with winds that could cut through oak, but nothing came out. There was nothing to come out. For the first time in years, she felt inferior and for the second time ever, she felt bad about it.

 

“Perform the sealing soldier.” Niro commanded. She watched as one of his many soldiers stood up and walked over to the scroll. Despite the warnings, the man was still too apprehensive to get near, and took a few seconds to grab the scroll. She hung her head loosely in defeat. She couldn’t think of anything, if only she had more time to prepare, but unfortunately she knew how that scroll work. It would happen automatically. All he would have to do was open it.

 

The man showed a little more confidence now. Her giving up providing him with the he needed to start. He got closer to her, until he was right by her feet, and placed the scroll down. Cutting the small seal, he whipped it open instantly and looked on astonished at the strange markings within the paper that he had never seen before. He marveled as he witnessed ninjutsu technology for the first and only time, before his chakra was ripped away from him, providing the energy necessary to perform the summoning technique.

 

“What the…” Niro cried out, as the area was engulfed in smoke, clouding the vision of every man in the air. Several of the men coughed and passed out, the poison absorbing some of their energy as well, although not as much as the man whose life was just taken. Stepping back as necessary, Niro peered through the dust and smoke to try and keep an eye on Sayuki. Instead he saw chubbiness, and shiny hair, and white eyes, and sunglasses, and a dog, and a bored expression. In the middle of them was a man with well-defined muscles and a frying pan.

 

“D…Danjuro-san?” Sayuki croaked, as her body resisted the toxins in the air.

 

“-San? You haven’t called me that in decades!”

 

“What? Who are you? What’s going on?” The ninja ignored all of Niro’s blabberings as she looked around. There, close together, huddled up for whatever reasons, were the six kids, all along for the trip.

 

“Sayuki.” Danjuro said, looking in front of them to keep an eye on the guards. “I have figured it out, what a rival is.”

 

“Huh?” She murmured. She was feeling woozy. The smoke clearly had a lot of other toxins in it. She heard a man scream, and jump forward. Danjuro slammed his frying pan into the man, sending him flying.

 

“A rival…is someone who you can call a friend.”

 

End chapter seven.

TOTR – Chapter Six

Her head was pounding, the woodpecker going off in her head again, slamming against the base of her skull in a futile effort to break free and fly away.

 

She couldn’t think, with the noise going on inside her head she couldn’t tell if it was because of the woodpecker or the man in front of her or something else entirely. It was annoying.

 

“No matter. None of your current missions matter now. There is a time for change coming in both our village and our country. All you really need to know is that Dejiro is dead, and that Niro-dono here is now the leader of the entire country. As the leader of the Hidden Village of Clouds, I have decided that we shall support him.”

 

Did she hear that?  Or remember it? It was so hard to tell. There was only one man here. He seemed familiar, a source of amusement and infuriation, of laughter and irritation. Dejiro? No, he was dead, now. His mouth was moving, so he couldn’t be. What he said zoned out and was replaced with something else. The pain was still slamming into her skull like a jackhammer. It was more than annoying.

 

“As of now, your participation in the exchange program is over. There is no need for you to continue. You see, we have more important plans for you now Sayuki.”

 

“Niro-dono here has told me all about Dejiro’s last stand against him and how the man was defeated. However, it appears that as he died, he did something of incredible shame to Niro-dono. Sayuki? Sayuki, are you listening?”

 

“Yea.” She said out loud, confusing Danjuro after him saying something incredibly inappropriate for her to answer yes to. He knelt down to get a better look in her eyes. They were staring at him, and even focused to look him directly in the eye though. Even so, he could tell that she wasn’t paying him the single bit of her mind.

 

“Now, Niro-dono said he will accept our request for a fixed alliance, which is extremely fortunate for us, seeing as he now holds the entire country in his sway. However, it appears he wants something in return.”

 

She was remembering? That was it, this all happened just a little while ago, but she hadn’t been paying attention for some reason. It carried on flashing through her mind, the woodpecker proving to be as much of an annoyance as someone talking in the seat behind her at the cinema. The person in front of her was getting in the way as well.

 

“The main thing Niro-dono wants now, is revenge on Dejiro. Dejiro removed his ultimate hawk’s eye as he was defeated, a most cowardly act from what I have hea…” The voice died out again. The world came back into focus as she saw Danjuro standing in front of her. Part of her told her she would need to fix herself if she was going to carry on being a tool. It was the only part of her that seemed comforting at the moment. It was repressing the bad memory. She understood what she needed to do to feel better and, without restraint, slammed her knee into Danjuro’s chest. He had been expecting it more this time, and he blocked easily, but she didn’t hesitate to carry on attacking. Two punches from the left, before swinging behind him and executing a fast uppercut to his spine. Danjuro seemed too strong for them to have any effect, and allowed all to hit him with a grin. She may have been faster than in their last encounter, but he had gotten stronger, her Taijutsu would definitely not work against him. She didn’t seem to care.

 

“Oi oi gal. What’s wrong here? You look…” He stopped dead, something in his head told him that for one time in his life, he should be as quiet as possible, that his voice was making things worse in a way that even he didn’t want. He had been standing still while he said this, allowing her to continue pounding her fists effortlessly into his back, the tenth punch being just as ineffective as the first. It was frustration that he felt in each of them, a feeling of weakness desperately trying to make itself stronger, so that it could escape it’s situation, but with each attack, only finding itself more and more trapped in the predicament it was in, yet lacking the sense to stop and try something else.

 

“What is with this girl?” Danjuro mumbled, as he finally turned around and caught her punches. She was on her knees now, face staring at the ground, even as he held them steady, he could feel her shoulders trying to move. In her mind, she was still executing punches. It took her a long moment to finally stop, before she stared up at him.

 

“It appears that, as he died, Dejiro mentioned your name. Niro-dono has been curious as to your relationship with our former leader, and I have not neglected to tell him.”

 

Former leader, nonsense. She never, ever viewed him as her leader. It was always friend, her only, real friend, the type of friendship she had never had with anyone, not even Megumi or Yamato. For Raikage-sama to disrespect him in such a way… she wanted to vomit. The movement of her fists came to her attention, and she found hands gripping them. She followed the well-defined muscles that held her all the way up to their owner. As she looked as his face, the pounding increased.

 

“After he learnt of this, he has decided that his revenge shall be you, Sayuki.”

 

She screamed for a brief second, the pain getting too much for her to bear. In response, her legs tensed up, and lifted over her, swinging at maximum velocity almost instantly, before slamming into Danjuro’s chin. He had only had partial time to notice, and the impact was only softened slightly, but enough for him to release his grip on her. Her body used the momentum brought on by the kick to flip back a few feet. As she landed, she crouched down, her hand grabbing a clump of grass as she did so.

 

“In order to get his revenge on the late Dejiro, he has decided to take everything that was his.”

 

She was seeing nothing now, everything around her had gone blindingly white in the sun’s haze. All that was seeable now, was the man that only served to increase the pounding in her head. For a second, she felt comfortable. She didn’t know what to do as a human being, but she knew what she had to do as a tool. Looking straight at him for the first time, the fog in her head cleared, the woodpecker taking a break, she said.

 

“I need to kill you, and make this pounding in my head disappear.”

 

“He has decided to take you…”

 

“Bring it.” Danjuro said simply, too lost in his own wish for the fight to be concerned for what was actually wrong with her. From the sidelines, Ino went to stand up, intending to stop this in some way, Kiba held her down without a word. He felt it. If they attempted anything now, they would probably die within seconds.

 

As the male jounin watched, Sayuki seemed composed all of a sudden, as she stood straight up and started forming seals. Danjuro neglected to wait for her, as he unhooked his frying pan and slammed it into the ground, the resulting force lifting him backwards into the air as he observed his opponent. He formed a few quick seals of his own, as he watched the woman just stand there. Releasing the pan to the ground, he slammed his fists onto his own stomach, and a torrent of fluids came pouring out, covering the rock that was supposed to be the kunoichi.

 

“Kawarimi!” Ino said in shock, as she watched the shinobi transform into a slab of rock. Seconds later, the original jounin reappeared back on top of the rock, her hands having finished creating a new seal. As she lifted up to start her attacks, she finally noticed what the liquid was.

 

“Cooking oil?” she mumbled, somehow able to speak, despite the fire raging within her brain. It took her a second to figure out the point of the attack, and looking towards Danjuro’s pan, which was now sticking out from the earth, she noticed the tag.

 

“Shit, get back!” Kiba warned the two females, as the three of them dived into the bushes. The light explosion that came next quickly engulfed the surrounding area in flames. Danjuro landed on the handle of his pan as the inferno continued. The entire pan had been specially treated to resist extreme temperatures, so he found it perfectly safe to land there.

 

Unfortunately, by setting the entire area on fire, he had limited his range of mobility. He didn’t think it mattered at the time, the surprise of using such a unique attack coupled along with her current emotional state, whatever it was, should have been sufficient to get her caught up in the fire. Now that he couldn’t see her, at all, he could tell the next moment was going to hurt.

 

“Kazeton: Steel slicing feathers!” He looked up, the only direction she could have been at the moment that would favor a wind technique. She was there, her left arm was currently on fire, but didn’t seem to bother her, even as it hung limp slightly. Her right hand was in front of her mouth, and it looked like she had just blown something out of it, but he couldn’t see anything.

 

Left shoulder. Right leg. Right hand. Left ear. Solar plexus. Something hit him in these places less than a second later. Whatever it had been had gone all the way and caused him to fall off the frying pan. Falling in the fire, he instinctively rolled to the area underneath his pan, where he was sheltered from the flames. Coming up with a brainwave as he heard a large ‘clunk’ on his pan, he quickly formed a seal.

 

“Suiton: Suikoden no jutsu! Shoshite: Hono no chippu pan” It was intentionally lighter than his usual water dragon technique, but it served it’s point. The small amount of water hit the ground in front of him at an angle, extinguishing a part of the fire and causing the oil to splash up into the air at the same time. The oil immediately reignited over the handle of the pan, and he heard a light cry of surprise as it did so.

 

The pan seemed lighter now, and the fire would soon become hazardous for him anyway, so not wasting any time he grabbed for the handle, the bandages around his hands protecting him from any burns, and swung it over and around his shoulder, the huge updraft quickly extinguishing the entire blaze in moments. Turning around, he observed his opponent, just about all of her clothing now had been burnt in some way, and if she didn’t have short hair, then it would probably be on fire as well.

 

“Seems you have quite the resistance to flame attacks gal.” He taunted for half a second, before several sharp items passed through him again. He fell back through the sharp pain, and watched this time, as she blew something from her hand again. They appeared as a blur that were near impossible to see. He blindly went to catch one and cried out in agony as it passed through his thumbnail and lodged itself there. The numbing pain caused him to hop around, muttering his pain as the nerve endings screamed at him for being so stupid as for trying to catch a weapon there. The pain didn’t subside as he ripped whatever it was out, for half of it was still trapped in there. He brought the part he had ripped out to his eyes and stared at it in confusion.

 

“Grass?” He mumbled, as he observed the terrifying new weapon he was holding. “You’re hurting me with grass?”

 

“A hurricane can take a straw all the way through a solid oak tree and out the other side.” She muttered emotionlessly, as if her higher brain functions were nowhere in this fight. “It’s not so surprising is it?”

 

At this point, something clicked inside the both of them, and they both started to charge at each other, each pulling a weapon out as they clashed with each other, wooden kunai against metal frying pan, a much smaller one this time. The force brought on by her speed and his own immense strength matched each other pound for pound as they pushed into each other, teeth gritting and muscles tensing as it continued. Their eyes stared into each other with no love nor hatred, just the pure desire to fight, reasons forgotten, as if all emotions were being exerted through their efforts.

 

Finally though, Sayuki’s force diminished, clearly mainly from her amazing speed, it could not match up to the strength of Danjuro’s wall. She eventually stepped back, and Danjuro took advantage to slam his foot into her stomach, knocking her all the way back. As she landed on her back, she looked up to see him diving on top of her, frying pan outstretched and ready to strike.

 

A blur between them prevented him from killing her.

 

Danjuro exploded, apparently meaninglessly, as if some outside force had interfered with the fight simply by clicking their fingers. He fell back onto the ground, as unconscious as Sayuki was feeling, the kids looked on in complete incomprehension as to what had just happened.

 

“Hinata, did you see…anything?” Kiba mumbled to his partner. Hinata looked just as confused as Ino did, but for different reasons.

 

“That speed…” She stuttered. She had barely picked it up, but it had to be several times faster than how the female jounin had moved. It was a miracle that she had noticed.

 

A figure appeared between the two unconscious jounin, with short blond hair and a feminine body. The person appeared completely weaponless, and was only wearing enough clothing to be considered decent enough to be outside. She had her head resting against one of her hands and a bothered look on her face.

 

“Why did you have to come back early, Sayuki-han?” the girl grumbled to herself as she walked up to the female jounin. Sayuki seemed to answer with a groan, as the other female checked her over. “I planned to wait for you tomorrow, to warn you.” Whoever it was, seemed concerned at least. Kiba tried to sneak a better look at her.

 

“Come out and help me you three.” The woman called out. “Don’t worry. I’m a teammate of Sayuki’s.”

 

Annoyed that he had been spotted with no effort whatsoever, the male genin quickly stood up and came out of the bushes, the two girls following behind him.

 

“Who are you?” He asked, forgetting his manners for a moment. The woman didn’t seem to mind.

 

“Megumi.” The woman replied, paying him only partial mind as she checked her friend over. The female jounin had multiple burns all over her body. “What on earth were you thinking, Sayuki?” As she looked her over, she realized that her nakama was awake, physically anyway. She slapped the woman’s face a few times. After the forth, Sayuki’s hand went up to grab her.

 

“Let me out.” She whispered, with an ache in her voice. Megumi looked concerned for a long moment. It almost didn’t sound like her friend. As she noticed the genin looking over her, she got up and turned to them.

 

“Are you Shikamaru-han or Chouji-han?” She asked the boy in front of her, unsure as to why there were two females standing behind the boy.

 

“Neither, I’m Kiba. Is she okay?”

 

“You’re with the Mist ninja then.” Megumi mused to herself, before answering, “She’s fine, physically. However, she’s entering a really screwy time for herself.”

 

“What? What do you mean?” Ino asked, confused at the woman’s choice of words.

 

“It’s not for me to say.” She mumbled under her breath as she pulled her jacket off, placing it over her ally’s remaining, burnt clothes. “Are you aright over there.” She called out without turning around.

 

“Yeah.” Danjuro growled. “I guess I’m fine.” Despite saying this, the mere movement of sitting up caused various wounds to reopen. Blood started to pour down his arms and chest.

 

“You’re bleeding.” Hinata called out, surprising Kiba. She rushed over to the jounin without thought and pulled out a small wooden box. As she did, she realized her own movements and stopped, blushing beet red as she did so. Danjuro eyed her heavily for a few moments, then sighed.

 

“Is that a healing ointment?” He asked, she looked away briefly for a moment, and brought her arms down with a slow, nervous twitch.

 

“Y…ye…yes.” She replied. Danjuro snarled, he hated dealing with shy people. It always seemed to him that they were wasting everyone’s time. He lifted his hand out.

 

“Thank you.” He replied, as he waited for her to give it to him. The girl said nothing, but fidgeted for a moment, before placing it in his palm. As he began healing himself, Sayuki sat up. Her ally immediately coming to her aid as she did so.

 

“Are you okay, Sayuki?” The jounin didn’t respond. She looked at her with half open eyes, as if she had woken up to find everyone in her bedroom. She looked around at all the people, taking an extra long look at Danjuro, as well as Ino, who was kneeling by her side. Eventually, she grabbed Ino’s shoulder, and used the girl for support to stand up. Ino followed her, and allowed herself to be used as a crutch for her temporary teacher.

 

“Sorry.” Sayuki muttered, apparently half conscious. Ino merely shook her head in forgiveness, before turning to the newcomer.

 

“Are we heading back to the village?” She asked, trying to maintain a smile to make everything positive.

 

“Hhhmm, I guess that’s the best option.” Megumi commented. “Yes, let’s head back.” She extended a hand to the Mist ninja sitting down. “You can come too. You’ve been given special permission to enter the village. Just don’t do anything stupid. We’ll be on you like a rockslide if you do.”

 

“Heh, you guys couldn’t beat me.” Danjuro joked, as he lifted himself up, without the woman’s help. He noticed how he felt better already. The shy girl’s ointment seemed to act both as a healing aid and a muscle relaxant. Of course, it probably meant he shouldn’t start anything until he was ready. He decided to give the girl a reward for helping him.

 

“You guys bring my stuff.” He ordered the two remaining genin, following the three females as they walked back towards the village. Kiba’s cheek twitched, as his body became frozen. Hinata just sighed in relief.

 

Back with the females, Ino remained quiet. She wanted to say something, whether it be to tell her it was all alright or to pry into whatever the situation was that made Sayuki like this. Her replacement sensei looked like she was in another world, one that was constantly dishing out pain for her. Ino tried to think of something amusing to say, but was put off when she noticed the shoulder that Sayuki was using to lean on her was bleeding quite heavily.

 

“Ino.” Sayuki called out suddenly, grabbing the attention of the girl. “My apologies, but it looks like I’m not going to be part of the exchange program anymore.”

 

“What? You’re not? But there’s only two weeks left anyway.” This upset Ino greatly. Despite Sayuki’s unusual character points, such as extreme changes in her personality within seconds, she had had a good time over the past week. She figured that it was probably going to get even better as time went on and she got to understand the woman better.

 

“I’ve been given a permanent assignment it seems.” Her words croaked as she said them. Megumi moved on a few steps ahead, purposely quickening her pace as much as she could. “In response to the war. I am needed to secure an alliance that will truly unite the country.” Ino watched as Megumi went to running speed, and was soon out of sight. Behind them, Danjuro was listening as intently as ever.

 

“What are you talking about, Sayuki-sensei? This is all…”

 

“In order so that Niro will accept a fixed alliance with the hidden Village of Clouds, I am to become his personal servant, for as long as I live, out of revenge for Dejiro-san taking his eye.”

 

Everyone stopped moving. Even ahead, Megumi stopped in a treetop, having slammed her fist through its side.

 

The sun shone brighter than ever, encompassing them all in it’s light.

 

*******************************************

 

“Man, what was that moron of a ninja thinking?” Kiba exclaimed out loud, as the two remaining genin stared at the problem in front of them. “How did someone as stupid as him become a jounin anyway? He’s worse than Naruto.”

 

Hinata shook slightly. She had gotten use to the usual torrent of insults that the other kids would have thrown at Naruto over the years, both behind his back and directly in front of him, but it still always installed a twinge of guilt within her when she never found herself saying anything in his defense. Indeed, she knew it was better to say quiet, less any comment on her behalf caused the person to continue insulting the boy she admired.

 

“Yo?” Kiba called out, surprising the girl back to attention. “You got all the other stuff?” He was friendly with her, she noticed. Kiba was actually friendly to pretty much everyone. Even as he spoke in a way that might imply he was treating her like a lesser, his face conveyed no malicious intentions. That being said, why was it that he, and almost everybody else, was always nasty to Naruto. She could never begin to understand it. Naruto may have been the lowest in the class, and always messing stuff up, but…but. “You listening girl?”

 

“Y…yes!” She finally replied, almost shouting her answer. She lifted up the bag that held all of their temporary jounin stuff in it. She couldn’t find anything else.

 

“Nice one. Now…” the boy started, as he turned around to face their current dilemma, “how do you suppose we get this out of the ground?”

 

The two meter diameter frying pan, with a non-stick base and a special coating that meant it could even survive in lava for a brief second longer than if the solid steel cooking utensil was dipped in on it’s own, was the object of Kiba’s attention. The reason behind the dilemma was that the 400lb frying pan, Danjuro’s main weapon which he was constantly carrying around on his back, was currently wedged three quarters of the way through the earth beneath them. Even with the handle sticking out, there seemed no real way to get it out.

 

“It took us a whole two minutes to get it off the fire yesterday, now two of us have to yank it out of the ground? What’s he thinking?”

 

“Maybe it’s some kind of test?” Hinata offered weakly, though she was just as clueless.

 

“I hope not. I can’t think of a single thing either of us could do to get it out.” The survivalist genin pondered over it for a few moments, before his brain held his upper brain functions to random and demanded that he go to the toilet first. It had been an hour already, and the Yakiniku was starting to take effect in the usual way.

 

“I’ll be back in a moment, Hinata. Just gotta take…” He saw her blush profusely. “I’ll just be back.” He stumbled into the undergrowth of the woods as quick as possible. That girl, she was far too naïve. Even though her eyes could see almost everything, she still couldn’t see humans properly. Was it because she had been isolated within the Hyuuga household all this time? He didn’t understand it at all. Finally finding a place to get to business, he got on with it, when he heard a light cry behind him, followed by the sound of something falling.

 

He spun round, pulling his trousers up quickly whilst doing so. In the bushes ahead of him, something rustled. He approached it carefully, unsure of what to suspect. Was it a kid, a stupid ninja, Hinata finally growing a sense of humor or curiosity? As he reached his destination, a mere four feet from where he was originally standing, the answer seemed to be both the first and second ones.

 

“Fuck.” The girl whined to herself, rubbing her forehead under her bandana. Kiba looked on in astonishment, as a beautiful young girl was presented in front of him. He stepped back slightly in shock, before finally regaining his bearings.

 

“Oi, are you okay?” He asked simply. The question seemed to snap the girl back to reality, and she stood up tall, to face him. Kiba looked back at the girl as confused as before. It looked like she was staring him eye to eye, but her eyes were hidden under the bandana. His sensitive nose sniffed the air slightly. He could smell blood somewhere.

“That could have gone better.” She mumbled to herself. “Still, no sense talking to the target…” As she phrased her words, the girl pulled out a large spear weapon. The boy recognized it as a bronze naginata. Kiba stepped back, worried slightly at the tone of her words. Did she intend to attack him? As he moved back, he noticed her head lift slightly, as if she had become aware of something.

 

“Who are you?” She asked simply. Kiba stood there for a second, too uncertain of the situation to do anything. “You’re not from this country. Your legs, they’ve never climbed a mountain in their lives.”

 

This sentence snapped Kiba back to reality at it’s complete irrelevance. “What on…How could you tell…” He found himself stuttering more than Hinata as he looked at the girl. He caught his bearings, as he saw her forehead protector, hanging loosely from her belt buckle. With that, he understood the situation instantly and composed himself as such. “I’m a genin from the Leaf Village, Inuzuka Kiba. Erm…pleased to meet you.”

 

“A leaf ninja?” The girl seemed to be talking more to herself than to him at the moment. “Shit. Good job I didn’t kill you then.” She relaxed her blade slightly, almost too lightly. Kiba examined her carefully. She was beautiful, more beautiful than a guy like him could find the words for. Even without seeing her eyes, he could guess that were probably as magnificent as the rest of her. If it wasn’t for…

 

“Blood?” Hinata called out, grabbing the attention of the both of them. Kiba and the newcomer turned around to focus on the female genin, who had a worried look in her eyes as she stared at the new girl. “Are you okay, you’re bleeding.” The girl called out, sincerely worried. Kiba began mentally cursing. The girl clearly had no idea what was going on, this girl could have been an enemy. He wasn’t even sure if she was an enemy or not. Yet there she was, pulling bandages out of her bag without any hesitation. She stepped up to the newcomer, just as Kiba began to wonder where exactly the girl was bleeding.

 

“Bandages won’t help, Chibiko.” The older girl stated as she slammed her naginata into the ground, causing it to stick there. “Nothing helps except this bandana.” Her hands went up to pull the red stained cloth off the top of her head. “It’s my sockets you see,” she pulled it off and turned to leer at them, “they’re missing their eyes!”

 

Kiba screamed.

 

******************************************************

 

Back in the Cloud Village, Akamaru jumped to attention, before yapping at the three boys in front of him.

 

“Huh?” Mumbled Shikamaru, who was half way through leaving the toil of consciousness. “What do you want?” Akamaru yapped at him, as meaninglessly as before, talking in a language that very few understood. “I don’t understand.” Shikamaru complained, before listening intensely one last time, to see if all of a sudden he could become fluent in pointless yapping. “Never mind.” He muttered, before leaning back against the wall again and dozing off.

 

“Maybe he wants to be eaten?” Chouji suggested, more than willing to volunteer if that was the case. Akamaru growled heavily, before sniffing and turning in the opposite direction, running off to the villages main entrance. As he left, Shino made a point of watching the dog run off. The bugs that he had left on his nakama hadn’t had anything bad happen to them, so he knew nothing was wrong. If that was the case, he would prefer to just sit in the shade, this country was a lot hotter than he expected it to be.

 

Before the dog had gone out of sight, it stopped at a corner, and the genin watched as it barked at an older female. From what he could hear of the conversation, the woman actually replied to the dog, and told it of Kiba’s location. The canine seemed pleased, before running off in the direction she pointed.

 

From behind the woman, came Ino, carrying the jounin that Shino recognized to be the one who had picked them up earlier that day. Their own temporary jounin was right behind the two women. All were being quiet.

 

“Oh, it’s Ino.” Chouji pointed out, although Shikamaru made no real effort to respond.

 

“It looks like there has been a fight of some description.” Shino mentioned, before standing up to meet with the people.

 

“Is everyone still alive?” Shikamaru asked, not opening his eyes to look for himself.

 

“Kiba and Hinata are not there.” Shino stated, as monotonous as ever. Shikamaru responded to this with a non-descript mumble of some sort, which neither of the boys could understand. “I will have to inquire about my teammates.” The boy, whose body stood as a home for thousands upon thousands of insects, stood up and silently walked over to the passing group. The remaining two watched as he started to speak with a female they didn’t recognize, before being kicked by the male jounin. Not responding to this at all, Shino walked off in the direction they had come from. As the two boys stared in shock at this action, the group eventually reached them.

 

“What are you guys doing? Get over here and help!” Ino shouted to them, the bossiness in her voice coming to assault Shikamaru’s ears. The organs did their best to avoid the vibrations, but in the end he was forced to answer her.

 

“Okay, okay.” He said, making it look like every ounce of his resolve was needed to stand. “What happened?” Ino looked at him, annoyed for a second, before a cruel look appeared on her face.

 

“It’s too troublesome to explain it to you.” She said ironically. “Just help us get Sayuki-sensei to the doctor. As the youngest female there said this, the jounin lifted herself up and away from the girl. Opening her eyes, the genin saw an empty look to them.

 

“I am a tool, that is all I am.” She muttered, an impoverished whisper that rasped from her throat. With that, she began to walk away on her own.

 

“Heh. You being that guys servant. It’s quite amusing.” Danjuro commented with a grin as she tried to leave.

 

“Oi. Shut up!” Megumi warned him. The jounin took no notice, and took a few steps forward.

 

“Is he going to make you wear a maid’s uniform? I’ll bet you’ll finally look cute.” The Mist shinobi started laughing to himself, the mocking noises causing Sayuki to turn around and stare at him. He braced himself in a fighting stance, ready to assume their eternal conflict at a moment’s notice, but she did nothing. After a few moments, she turned around and continued to walk away, slowly, slouching slightly from her wounds.

 

“Man, wish I could get to see…” Danjuro never got the time to finish his sentence. An elbow slammed into the back of his head, and actually causing the base of his skull to crack slightly. He heard the genin around him gasp, as he fell to the floor. He opened his eyes, and he could tell from the wind shift that he had blacked out for at least a few seconds. He swung around, intending to focus on his opponent. A hand was already around his neck squeezing, before he had even registered it was there.

 

“Wish you could see what?” The man in front of him was tall, with black hair like himself and squinted eyes. He was smoking a cigarette. Danjuro didn’t recognize him at all, but the forehead protector indicated that he was from this village. The man squeezed harder. “Answer me!” It seemed like a polite request, but Danjuro couldn’t tell. Something had gripped his body besides the man, but he couldn’t tell what it was for a moment, then he realized. It had been a long time since he felt fear,  but the grip on his throat was now causing it to run rabid through his body. This man, whoever he was…the mist ninja could sense it, he was a predator, much larger than he could ever hope to be. Even with his entire body free, Danjuro couldn’t do a thing, the intent to kill in the man’s eyes had blinded him cold. The man shook Danjuro as he squeezed again, as easily as a rag doll. “I’m not letting go until you finish what you were going to say. Say it!”

 

This was surprising for the jounin, even if his stricken state, he realized that it wasn’t exactly regular for someone to insist that a person finish his or her insult. Usually such words were to scare. “I…i…” Danjuro coughed, despite being given enough space to talk, he found he couldn’t, he simply had no air left.

 

“Put him down, Yamato-kun!” Megumi called out. “If you kill him, we’ll have a whole world of crap in our hands!” Yamato responded instantly, dropping his prey. Danjuro gasped for air, and started to cough up, in a reflexive urge to vomit. He held it back.

 

“Ah sorry, sorry.” The big man replied, scratching the back of his head. “I should of guessed by the fact that he was Mist.” The man known as Yamato started to laugh the whole situation off, as his female companion just sighed.

 

“What!” Danjuro muttered under his breath. The feeling of death from this man, the desire to escape and the regret of helplessness. All these feelings that the man had caused him were completely gone. Was he really looking at the same guy who had just nearly killed him in a whim just a second ago? For some reason it felt impossible. There was no way.

 

“So, Sayuki knows.” Yamato grumbled, finally calming down himself. “Was it too much of a problem?”

 

“She took it quite well I think.” Megumi answered. “All she did was try to kill this guy. Oh, and she’s currently in ‘trance mode’.” As she said this, the kunoichi lifted the fingers on both hands to indicate speech brackets. “She’ll probably stay like that until ‘that time’.”

 

“It’s gonna come a lot sooner than we thought, isn’t it.”

 

“Ya, we should start to make preparations tomorrow.” Yamato stretched, and sighed to himself. “You wanna go to Yakiniku tonight.” Megumi just laughed.

 

“Sure, why not. I have nothing else left to do. I’ll see you later.” The woman turned around to walk off. She was stopped by a shout.

 

“Oi!” Ino called out, stopping Megumi from moving away. “Sayuki-sensei…” For once, Ino found herself stuttering. “Is Sayuki-sensei really going to be turned into a servant for some guy?” Megumi turned to face her fully.

 

“That guy is now the reigning sovereign of this country,” Megumi explained, “and Sayuki won’t actually mind. To us three, serving the country is all that matters, and that girl follows it the most.”

 

“But why?” Ino shouted out in adolescent anger. “Why Sayuki-sensei?” This caught Megumi by the tongue for a moment. The jounin looked down to the ground, hiding her eyes from all in sight.

 

“That Niro. He believes that it is best to torture the soul.” Ino felt pain in the woman’s voice as she spoke. She couldn’t tell if it was out of regret or experience. “He believes that, even after death, one can torture the soul. He intends to do that with Dejiro-sama. He intends to do that through that girl. Even in this, she is just a tool.”

 

“That’s just stupid!” Ino called out, the words causing tears to trail down her face. She wiped her face clean. “That’s really just stupid!” She stormed off, with only Chouji trying to follow her. Shikamaru stopped him.

 

“Leave her for now. Women are dangerous when they’re upset.” Whilst Chouji didn’t agree with this completely, he nodded. A curious thought struck the genius after his friend stopped. He turned to the jounin, who had just remained standing, with a look of annoyance on her face, latched onto Shikamaru’s last comments. “Isn’t it a bad thing to send her off like this, the jounin that is? Someone as skilled as her…I mean, I’ve seen better, but she’s got a lot of experience, and the fact that she was able to cut through him with grass.”

 

Megumi said nothing at this comment, more surprised with how Shikamaru would know one of Sayuki’s secret techniques than anything else. Yamato answered for her.

 

“It doesn’t matter. An orders an order. It’s the way of the ninja.” As he let this thought hang in the air for a moment, depressing everyone, he added. “Besides, Niro will have her stripped of her techniques anyway. I heard he’s making Raikage-sama perform a sealing of some sorts on her.

 

“What?” Danjuro said aloud one last time. For some reason, this news hit him worse than anything he had felt today, the pit of his stomach howled with emptiness. He stayed standing there, as everyone else slowly walked off.

 

He would only move later, when the intensity of the sun’s heat would start to irritate his back.

 

**********************************************

 

(Next Itako scene, this will continue into the next chapter, this one will end with Danjuro just meeting with Raikage. At the end of the Itako scene, Takeda will kidna Hinata and run off with her)

(Raikage’s feelings to these events. Calls upon Danjuro “We are all trapped Danjuro-san. In all our roles. Even with the ability to track cross country in a day and ascend the highest mountain with one hand, we are still all trapped. Trapped by roles, trapped by culture, trapped by life”)

 

“Haha, come on, admit it. You pissed your pants.” Itako exclaimed, as they all sat around the fire. All around him, Kiba felt bitter humiliation as even Akamaru mocked him with harsh banter. Hinata had conserved herself to a light smile.

 

“Well what do you expect,” Kiba retaliated, in an attempt to retrieve his manhood, “you have no eyes. Of course I was gonna freak out!”

 

“Chibiko didn’t freak out. Her response was at least slightly understandably. You were just a girl.”

 

“Um…” The good mood had made Hinata slightly more confident to talk than usual, and she was actually talking semi-regularly. “Are you sure it’s okay.” Itako took a sip of her juice, before shaking her head at the girl in an erratic motion.

 

“Don’t worry about it at all.” She insisted, with a voice that implied it happened all the time. “It happens all the time. It was just because I bumped my head, set them off again. This bandana soaks it all up, and nobodies really notices.”

 

“How could they not notice?” Kiba mumbled, the red stains on the white bandana stood out clearly, and he finally understood what the initial smell was.

 

“Should we not be returning soon?” Shino asked. They had been having this party for an hour now, and he viewed it a waste of others time if someone got concerned about them.

 

“Ah relax.” Itako insisted, clearly wishing the company of others for as long as possible. “You’re so fucking stuck up, right Chibiko.” Hinata just smiled a little more, not wishing to offend either her comrade or her new friend. She wasn’t used to the girl’s language, but Naruto swore a lot of the time as well, as did Kiba, but never as much as the girl had been doing. Itako seemed to sense wish not to join her in bashing Shino, despite being blind and found it hilarious.

 

“Ey girl, one question?” She asked after calming down, clearly high on her own excitement. “How the fuck did you know I was bleeding? It doesn’t show at all. You got a special technique or something?”

 

Hinata remained apprehensive for a moment. To speak of her bloodline trait was an area she remained unsure of at times. On one hand, her family was the oldest and proudest in Konoha, and most knew of it anyway, just not how it worked, but on the other hand, to tell a stranger…

 

“Come on gal. If you show me yours I’ll show you mine.” Hinata fidgeted and looked away slightly, still unsure.

 

“Ooh, go on Hinata.” Kiba called out, apparently unaware of her feelings for once. “I wanna know what it is.” The shy girl weighed the options in her head a little, before finally nodding to agreement. She was a little curious as well after all. She stood up and stepped back, bracing herself for a moment as she formed six seals, ending with the unique seal that left one finger sticking in the air.

 

“Byagugan!” She called out, her vision increasing by a full ninety degrees as blood flowed faster around her eyes. She made her vision not go into far range focus, just to prevent her from getting dizzy trying to look through trees. Itako stared at her direction somewhere, clearly impressed, despite seeing nothing.

 

“Whoa, the Byugagan ey?” She cooed. “I should have guessed. You did say your name was Hyuuga after all. So, can you like, see behind you and stuff.” Hinata let her eyes calm down, not wanting to waste her chakra too much, especially after the day’s excitement.

 

“Not quite. I’m still working on it.” She turned away and blushed for a moment, embarrassed at her own lack of progress.

 

“Hey, don’t sweat it gal. People have their own pace. Look at me, I only discovered I even had a bloodline trait last year. The girl waved her hand to brush it off, as she took a moment to stand up straight.

 

“You have a bloodline trait as well?” Kiba asked, surprised. Itako clapped her hands together, keeping them in place as she did so.

 

“Well duh. How do you think I can tell you have red stripes on your face?” The others gasped at this, as everyone, even Kiba, found themselves instinctively looking to see if it was true. “Anyway, don’t talk much while I’ll show you. It gets really annoying.” The girl braced herself as Hinata did, ready to show off as she did best. After the fourth seal, she glanced upwards out of shock. “Look out!” She shouted, catching the attention of everybody as they all turned around.

 

Smoke filled the area, blocking everyone’s field of view. If that wasn’t enough, the genin noticed traces of poison in the air, and started to cough in response. Kiba, Akamaru and Itako were clearly the most effected, their sensitive noses reacting badly. Shino heard Hinata scream, and rushed to reach her. It was too late. The smoke disappeared as if it had never been there, so had Hinata. In her place were…

 

“Mushrooms?” Shino stated, recalling something.

(personal note: has he taken her to coerce Danjruo back, or to kill her and frame Cloud (bloodlinelimit). They think the first at first, but really the second)

********************************

 

Five hours later

 

At the top floor of the mansion that stood in his name, Raikage stood. He had left his ceremonial headgear and robe on only for one more reason tonight, and he sensed it coming now. He hadn’t moved at all for the last hour, but he head was full of thoughts. Thoughts of what was to come, and what had been. Both inside and outside, he was calm, he knew what he had to do.

 

He looked to his left as a sudden noise caught his attention. His left hand had stabbed itself into the wall, leaving a fine gap as he pulled it out. Looking, he was shocked to find himself bleeding, as wood chippings cut into him.

 

“How long has it been…” he wondered out loud to himself, “since I have bled?” The line amused him. “How long will it be…until I make this country bleed again?” He paused for a few moments when he sensed something approach. “Come in Danjuro-san.”

 

From the window, Danjuro stood up, with a pissed look in his face. Grumbling, he crawled in. Approaching the man with politeness, rather than respect.

 

“Look, thanks for letting me stop in the village for the night, even though it wasn’t necessary. I guess if you want some kind of payment…”

 

“Please stop Danjuro-san.” Raikage commanded calmly. “That is not why I have called you. I have called you to ask a favour.”

 

“A favour?” Danjuro repeated, not suspecting this to be what he wanted. He suddenly had a rather bad image of chains. Raikage simply turned away from him to look through the window.

 

“Do you know Danjuro-san? If there is one thing I have learnt over the years, it is that we are all trapped. Trapped in all our roles. Even with the ability to track cross-country in a day and ascend the highest mountain with one hand and fight the gods, we are still all trapped. Trapped by roles, trapped by culture, trapped by life”

 

“Eh…what?” Danjuro responded, definitely not expecting this.

 

“The thing is, we are always trapped by other people (personal note, we are trapped by ourselves, others are only a convenient excuse(this is what I intend to have the characters discover)). I, for example am always trapped by the political concerns of this country. I do not care much for them, but I have to do whatever is best for the village. If Dejiro is the best choice, I will follow him. If it is Niro, I will follow him.” Danjuro was just staring into the honorable man in front of him now, even minor philosophy couldn’t penetrate his skull. “Sayuki, on the other hand, is trapped by me. She is a tool of the Hidden Village of Clouds. In other words, she is a tool of mine. I know this. She knows this. There is no hatred on either side. As a craftsmen, I cannot abide someone taking my tools away from me, especially one of my best ones. I would rather have the tool destroyed than give it away in a charity.” (make it sound more regalish)

 

With this, Danjuro snapped to attention. The man was now talking in a language he could understand.

 

“You mean?”

 

“Yes, Danjuro-san. As you are probably aware, I want you to kill Sayuki-san. For her sake as well as mine.”

 

End chapter six

 

Next: Itako rescues and Danjuro angsts

 

And what of Sayuki, who is a complete idiot.

 

Find out on the next Power Rangers…hang on, that’s wrong.

 

TOTR – Chapter Five

Chapter Five

 

Ahead of her, the group laughed.

 

She didn’t know exactly what about. The Cloud ninja hadn’t exactly been paying attention as they hopped through the trees on the way back to her village. She had decided to skip the whole Kabule thing, the town may have been closer, but the detour it meant she have to take would be pointless, especially when she could report the mission details by the end of the day, especially since she now had the intruder.

 

The intruder was known as Itame Danjuro, and was said to be one of the best trackers of the Hidden Mist Village. Despite this prodigious title, he had someone gotten three hundred and forty miles away from his intended destination, an impressive feat, since he did it on foot. It was him the group was laughing at, she couldn’t tell if it was with him or at him.

 

It was still bothering her, even now. The whole interlude with meeting him and fighting a little had distracted her, but the fact still remained that there were too many contradictions in the mission. Why her? Why so far away? Why Kabule? The most logical reason she could come up with was that it would be a pit stop for the genin, since they would be traveling most of the time on their way south, but they all still seemed okay, as did their new associates. The results took away the need to stop at the town, at least. That part would have to remain senseless and ignored.

 

The rest was stuck in her mind though, and for once she found she couldn’t get it out. Not caring about the details usually came with the job. As a tool for whoever was hiring, the shinobi couldn’t take the risk of knowing everything. Certain facts were hidden from their knowledge, their client would remain unknown unless absolutely necessary, the reason why they were attacking something would not matter in the slightest. All as preventative measures against interrogation. It had been a part of her life for all of her life and she had never had many problems with it, and the only times were when she was young and still learning not to care.

 

But even as they came to the final stretch before reaching the villages outer defenses, the now completed mission was in her head like a jackhammer connected to a dynamo. Her mind pounded with information that tried to rationalize the mission’s planning, and yet only served to contradict it. There were other ninja’s free. There were closer ninja’s free. There was no real reason to go to Kabule.

 

She almost forgot to acknowledge their location. Before they reached the first wave of traps. She clapped her hands lightly. Luckily, it was a quiet moment in the conversation the group seemed to be having and they heard the signal, stopping immediately and dropping to the ground. The female jounin approached the group with a stern look.

 

“We’ll continue the rest of the way on foot to the main path. If my village’s guards sense a group this large trying to sneak in the usual way, they’ll probably end up setting off a false alarm.” One or two of the genin nodded in understanding, as well as Danjuro. Ino looked a little worried and raised her hand. Sayuki looked on confused, not fully sure what the girl was trying to imply for a moment.

 

“Erm…sensei. Won’t it be bad for team 9 if they just try and walk through the village? You said that the guards were keeping strict checks during the exchange period.”

 

“Huh?” Sayuki replied, as she remembered what she had said back in chapter one. “Oh, that. That was a lie.”

 

“What?” Replied Ino, shocked.

 

“Wanted to freak you out for discipline’s sake.” As Ino gasped in astonishment, Sayuki noticed Danjuro jumping a little, excitedly.

 

“I’ve never been to the Cloud Village before. I’m getting excited, I get to look at all the strong fighters.”

 

“Actually, Itame-san…”

 

“Call me Dan-kun. We’re so close after all.” Dan-kun felt a gush of wind, before his cheek started to bleed. He went quiet as she continued.

 

“Actually, I..ta..me-san.” She repeated with stress. “It’s probably best if you stay out for now, until I’ve told my lord about the situation.”

 

“What? Why?” Danjuro whined.

 

“Why do you think? Security risk, plus you’re annoying.”

 

“Aw.” He whined with tear-soaked eyes. “You’re so mean, Sayuki-chan.” His other cheek started to bleed slightly. He pouted loudly, before sitting down on the floor. “Fine.”

 

“Good, come on you br…lot. We’ll see if we can get you some food after I report in.”

 

“Actually, I’m kind of not hungry. That guy put me off eating for a while.” Kiba complained, as four unmoving marsupials came to mind.

 

“Whatever.” Sayuki replied, not interested.

 

“See you later, Dan-kun.” Kiba shouted to his sensei as they began to walk off. Without warning, a kunai snagged into the boy’s hood and propelled into a tree. He looked at the knife, and then at Danjuro.

 

“No male can dare call me that. Only girls, you hear me?” He shouted the last bit with falsified anger, signified by a growl. As the boy pulled the knife out, he became as quiet as Hinata and wandered behind the rest of the group.

 

********************************

 

need to include something here

 

********************************

 

The guard had been surprised to see her, probably for the two obvious reasons, she never tended to use the main gate and because she wasn’t expected back until at least tomorrow. However, he had clearly stalled her for as long as possible in both checking the genin and poor conversation. For what reasons, she was unsure.

 

As they strolled down the main street, the reasons were becoming confusingly hazy. There had been a party here. Almost like an entire village festival that had taken place in the last two days, whilst she had been gone, but what for? She had heard nothing about this and surely everyone would have been told at least a week in advance. There were also no customs of any kind to happen in the next few weeks. As the kids chatted to themselves and searched for a Yakiniku Bar, she continued to figure it out. Surely, the people setting it up would need at least a day to set it up, unless it was done on the spur of the moment. As she thought this, it seemed more likely, there were no banners or major decorations up, the only signs of anything being a lot of rubbish and the odd drunk or two still around. Other than this, the streets were isolated. Most were sleeping off a party in some way, which was obvious by almost all shops being closed for the day.

 

IT was wrong. It was as wrong as what the past three days had been shouting to her almost non-stop, as if time itself was warning her of an upcoming change. Had something bad happened? No, that was stupid, it had clearly been something good, but what could be good enough to merit a sudden village wide party and the closing of business the next day?

 

They took a turn in the street and reached the Korean BBQ bar. Kiba, Ino and most especially Chouji screamed with joy as they ran up to the all you can eat meat parlor before disappearing through the swinging doors. The remainder of the group followed quietly behind, not too fussed to be eating for the moment. Sayuki decided to go in with them for the moment. The owner was a friend of a neighbor and she though of asking her what was going on.

 

As she entered last, the bar was just as empty as the street had been. The only occupants besides her group were the owner and her father, who was currently slumped unconscious at the far table, the smell of liquor everywhere around him. As Chouji kept demanding food joyfully, the owner looked annoyed, clearly not expecting any customers today and not wishing for any either. Sayuki coughed to get her attention.

 

“Sayuki-san?” the owner called out, with a look of surprise beneath her short cut black hair. Sayuki watched as her hand went under the table, and brought up a tumbler. Realizing the girl’s intentions, she shook her head.

 

“Actually Tatsuki-san. I just came to drop these kids off. I need to go report back to Raikage-sama as soon as possible.”

 

“Oh…I see.” Tatsuki said slowly, looking hard at Sayuki’s face as she did so. The jounin easily noticed the girl’s attempts to read her facial expressions. She ignored it for the moment and waited until the girl put her hands back up before walking closer. “Aren’t you supposed to be on a mission?”

 

“I finished early. Turned out it was just some moron. I figured there was no need to stay at Kabule, so I came home.”

 

“With guests, I see.” Tatsuki commented, as Chouji started banging the table.

 

“Ah, well some of them are…” She stopped. It was happening again. People, even those she was close too, didn’t really bother conversing with her. People were being nervous around her for some reason. She focused on it fully now and turned to face the owner full in the face.

 

“What is going on around here, Tatsuki-san? It seems like everyone’s had some kind of festival. She withheld the urge to whine that she wasn’t invited. She got the feeling that she wasn’t going to like the answer. The bar owner seemed to calm down at this.

 

“I thought you hadn’t heard, judging by the way you were acting. That’s a reli…” She stopped in mid sentence. It made the jounin irritated.

 

“What’s a relief? Haven’t heard what?” Her tone insisted on an answer. Tatsuki provided it nervously.

 

“It’s over Sayuki-san. The civil war is finally over.” Sayuki stared in bewilderment for a few moments, watching her friend’s calm smile as they looked at each other. A few seconds later, all the genin were looking on in confusion. Their confusion turned to astonishment as they saw Sayuki’s face beam a smile full blast in the owner’s face.

 

“Really?” She said, almost like a giddy schoolgirl. “Dejiro-sama finally won? I don’t believe it.” Without hesitating, she ran to the exit, before leaving she turned to face the girl again. “Thanks for telling me. Thank you so very much.” She then simply disappeared from the door, her speed proving too much for anyone inside to track.

 

“Wait, Sayuki-san!” Tatsuki screamed one last time.

 

“Hang on?” Mumbled Kiba. “Who’s paying?”

 

In the streets, Sayuki was practically bouncing everywhere, her excitement adding a spring to her step that chakra could never do. Turning corner after corning, bouncing from rooftop to fence wall, nothing stopped her, not even running into Megumi. She ignored her friend other than a quick ‘hi’ before continuing. In one final effort, she slammed chakra into her feet and made a thirty-foot jump over the municipal building, lading on the steps to the Raikage manor, where her best friend awaited.

 

It took an instant to reach the top, the ninety steps proving nothing for her in her jovious display of happiness and the two guards barely registered her as she flew past them. As they took chase, Sayuki ignored them. For once, she just simply didn’t care, as they would be dismissed in a moment anyway. The possibilities of allowing this lax in defense evaded the mind of this security conscious woman for just a moment as she continued down the hallway. She would just have to explain to Raikage-sama why she was back early, and then she could enjoy herself with…

 

“Niro?!” The girl exclaimed in shock, as she observed the man in front of her. Standing at just five foot, the man regarded her with curiously for a moment, as if trying to remember her. Sayuki, on the other hand, could never forget. ‘Why was he here?’ She thought for just a second before realizing that she didn’t care. Actually ripping the kunai out of pouch, allowing the rest to drop to the floor, she pushed herself in the direction of the horrible creature in front of her, screaming the antithesis of everything she had felt just a moment ago.

 

**********************************************

 

“Niro?” Ino asked, as the boys guzzled a vast a mount of food next to her. “Who’s he?”

 

The owner of the Yakiniku bar glanced at her for a moment at this question. “You’re not from this country are you?”

 

“We’re part of the exchange program.” Ino answered simply, believing that revealing her actual town was not a smart move.

 

“I thought as much. If you’re from the country of Lightening and don’t know of Niro or Dejiro, then you have to be an outbacker. The term went over everybody’s heads as the woman continued talking. “Niro is, simply put, now the new ruler of the country of Lightening. As of four days ago. Although, they only told us all last night, hence the party.”

 

“Ah, so you won.” Ino commented. “Congratulations, we haven’t a war for years in our country but…”

 

“Actually, we sort of lost.” The owner interrupted as she started to laugh nervously. It was as if she was still trying to rationalize it herself.

 

“What? Then why are you celebrating?” In her mind, the spy in training asked why were they even still around. She would imagine the village destroyed if it had lost.

 

“Apparently, the higher ups negotiated.” Tatsuki began to explain. “It’s a little complicated, so I’ll explain from the beginning. There were basically five different major groups fighting for power over the entire country. There were others, but they often started and disappeared just as fast, bit like May bugs and there would be stupid internal disputes that got nowhere. Anyway, out of the main five, the two most powerful were Niro and Dejiro’s forces, whom together held the majority of the country. However, they were both always at each others throats for political reasons, of which, most of us didn’t keep up with.”

 

“Sounds lazy.” Shikamaru said contradictorily.

 

“Sort of, it’s hard to keep track of news in this country because most of it is mountain. We don’t have direct communication and messages can take a few weeks between towns. Most of the ninjas here are usually considered more postmen than fighters and spys.”

 

“Anyway, we were basically sided with Dejiro. He simply wanted to unite the country and improve communications and relations with the other countries. It’s not too bad now, but it could be a lot better, like I said.” During the conversation, she had started adding more meat on Chouji’s side of the barbeque. It was getting scary how much he was having. She broke herself out of staring to continue.

 

“We had been with Dejiro-sam… Dejiro for many years now and had maintained relative piece. With our help, Dejiro went so far as to remove two of the other big powers, integrating them both under his army. However, Niro-sama had done the same with the other nation and most of the minor nations.

 

“Which made them equal?”

 

“Almost, after all, Dejiro had the village under his command. Practically all of our jobs came from his army. The others had to rely on ninja from other villages. Apparently there was a recent big battle that Sayuki-san got involved in with Mist ninja’s because of the way this was all going. She barely made it out alive.”

 

“So wait. “ Ino said, getting into the story, almost forgetting it was reality, as children often did with wars. “Dejiro had most of the country, the village and pretty much everything under his power. What happened?”

 

Tatsuki appeared very nervous for a sudden, clearly the concept of telling stranger such stories had just entered her mind. “Well…i…er.”

 

“Dejiro-sama got his head chopped off, that’s what!” The voice came from a table at the back of the bar. Everyone turned to face the now-conscious, still clearly drunk man, as he stood up a little and spat out nothing.

 

“Father?” Tatsuki complained a little. “Should we be telling them?”

 

“Bah. They’ll find out regardless. The news and rumors are probably going to spread around the world by the end of the day.”

 

Shikamaru leaned over to get a better view of who was talking. He wasn’t too old, around forty and well built. He had probably been a ninja at one point and if he weren’t missing one of his arms, probably still would be.

 

“What happened old man?” Shikamaru asked politely, as if he was speaking on someone of his own age.

 

“Nothing more to it than that.” The man spat out as he downed another sake cup. “Niro planned a sneak attack, and got fifty of his best inside Dejiro’s main camp. Slaughtered the lot of them, including Dejiro.

 

“But even if you just take the leader. It’s unlikely that no one else wouldn’t step in.”

 

“Ah, you would think. But Dejiro’s ambition was so big, that nobody could even begin to fill his shoes. A few have tried already. Most of them have already been executed. In fact, out of all of Dejiro’s commanders and advisors, there’s only one left.”

 

******************************************

 

She was being held down, hard. The force laying on top of her was actually preventing her left lung from collecting air as it pressed down onto her. Other than flailing her legs helplessly, the only other part of her body she could move were her eyes. She had never felt so helpless before, as the man she hated more than anybody else stood before her with a grin on his fat face.

 

“Calm yourself Sayuki. There is no reason for you to fight.” The old voice above her stated. It felt calm and reassuring, however for the first time, she felt a sinister edge beneath it. She grasped at a few words.

 

“Raikage-sama? What… are you talk…ing about sir? He’s the enemy!” Sayuki screamed her last words, as she found herself trying to pull away for a moment, anxious t ripping the little man apart.

 

“I admire your zeal to carry out your orders Sayuki.” The old man above her began to explain. “But those orders have changed. Niro-dono here is no longer our enemy. In fact, he is now the new Shogun of the country of Lightening, and as such, an honored guest.”

 

“Sir, but what…how…” She stuttered incomprehensibly for a moment. “I’m confused.” She said finally calming down. The Raikage waited a moment, before getting off her. She took a huge breath of air, to make up for her collapsing left lung, and slowly got back up.

 

“Is this the girl you have been telling me about, Raikage-dono?” The short, fat man in front of her asked. She took his appearance in for a moment. It was nothing like she imagined it. He was actually quite strong in comparison, and the fat toad who slaughtered children in her mind had a regal and respectable air to him.

 

“She is one of my best shinobi sir, please do not refer to her as just a girl.”

 

“Ah, ah, of course, of course. Excuse me.” The man said, with a clearly mocking tone directed at Sayuki. She kept herself frozen. Raikage could kill her in an instant and if he was willing to defend this man…

 

“Raikage-sama.” She said, focusing on her initial plans, to get away from the pain of confusion that was hammering her brain, her hand going up to rub it as she talked. “My apologies sir, I completed my prior mission as I asked, but the details of the mission brought up a priority on coming back as early as possible.

 

“I thought it might have been something like that.” Raikage said expressionlessly. “No matter. None of your current missions matter now. There is a time for change coming in both our village and our country. All you really need to know is that Dejiro is dead, and that Niro-dono here is now the leader of the entire country. As the leader of the Hidden Village of Clouds, I have decided that we shall support him.”

 

Sayuki said nothing, did nothing, she even stopped breathing, her eyes stared at the ground as her pulse rate doubled in speed and her teeth bit her cheek. Raikage kept on talking, as did the new leader. She heard it all, but couldn’t grasp what the words meant. They were just sounds now, waves, vibrations. They passed through her as if she were a sheet of paper, effortlessly, without meaning.

 

A few minutes later, her honorable lord dismissed her. She walked out of the building without a sound.

 

***********************************

 

“Thanks, come again.” Tatsuki called out as the kids left the Korean barbeque bar. She loved euthiastic customers most of the time, but that boy had devoured half of the next weeks supply/ It just didn’t seemed logically possible. Now he was more full of energy that before. It didn’t help that she gave them a discount in the end either, since Hinata and Ino hadn’t ate all that much and Ino had been an excellent haggler.

 

“So, where now, the blond haired girl asked loudly as they began to walk through the streets of the Hidden Cloud Village. The sun was still shining as heavily as it had over the past few days and showed no signs of letting up. Shino seemed uncomfortable about it, as did the pale Hyuuga girl.

 

“We could play a game of something,” Kiba mused. “What time is your jounin expected to come back?”

 

“She didn’t say, thinking about it. Did she?” She turned to Shikamaru to ask this. He was being harassed by Chouji who was still hoping around in an energetic manner.

 

“We should probably go find her.” Hinata said weakly, going unnoticed by Ino, who carried on talking over her.

 

“It’s been about an hour now, thanks to Chouji.” She grumbled this last bit. “So she’s probably done with reporting the mission. Where would she go, she just ran out afterwards.”

 

“I get the feeling she won’t exactly be in a good mood when she finds out the truth of what’s happened here.” Kiba mused out loud. He wasn’t really talking to anyone as he walked on, It was more a case of whoever answers would answer.

 

“Huh? What do you mean?”

 

“Well, she seemed really hyped that this ‘Dejiro’ guy had won. When she finds out that he hasn’t.”

 

“We probably should avoid her for a while.” Shikamaru butted in. “Women tend to be a hassle when they’re in a bad mood. Especially when they get like you.” Ino turned to face him.

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She shouted, forcing him to stop walking. The inability to stop moving forwards was as tiring for Shikamaru as it would be to start up again. He groaned at this.

 

“Every time Sasuke ignores you or refuses you in whatever way, it ends up in you screaming or shouting or mourning as if your mom had died. If she’s had a friend die, she’s probably going to be the same.”

 

“Here is your chance to discover for yourself.” Shino said sternly, as monotonous as ever. Shikamaru looked at him confused for a moment before following the boy’s near non-existent gaze to a woman walking down the path.

 

“Hey Sayuki-sensei!” Ino called out as she realized who it was and ran towards her. Taking chase, the genin followed, reaching her in a moment and standing in front of her to greet her. She disappeared.

 

As the kids looked in front of them in shock, they heard light steps behind them. Turning, they saw the jounin walking, as slowly as before, her arms hung, her neck down.

 

“Sayuki-sensei?” Ino called, loud enough to hopefully bring the jounin out of whatever trance she was in. It failed to work as the woman just pressed on. Confused, the kids just followed, Hinata, Shino and Chouji trailing behind as his brain finally told him that he has more than had his fair share.

 

Following her was slow, almost as slow as if they were tracking a snail that was on horseback, galloping back to his hometown. Further attempts at communication failed except to cause her to disappear again. From what the genin could tell, it had to be extreme speed, but even Hinata couldn’t pick it up. She just appeared a second later in front of herself, before pacing along, as slow as ever.

 

What had to be a full twenty minutes later, with Shikamaru finally giving up and going to rest against the side of a building with Chouji and Shino, who was clearly disliking the intense heat, the jounin finally left the village and headed into the undergrowth of the trees surrounding her home. Despite the thick, almost tropical conditions of the area, the woman never slowed down nor sped up, even through areas that the others had difficulty getting through.

 

“Where’s she going?” whispered Ino, who for some reason had convinced herself it was taboo to talk.

 

“No idea.” Said Kiba, also in a hushed voice. “I just hope she isn’t going to go jump off the side of the mountain or something.”

 

“Eh? Suicide? Sayuki sensei would never do something like that.” Despite her distress, the girl was still able to keep her voice down.

 

“How do you know? You’ve only known her a few days. Besides she apparently just received very bad news.”

 

“Sayuki-sensei isn’t he type to kill herself, for whatever reason.” Ino was hissing now. She had taken quite a shine to the new jounin-sensei and, like Sasuke, she was prepared to defend her idol at any cost, regardless of what the idol themselves wanted.

 

“We should just follow for now.” Hinata pointed out, strangely loud, considering the others were whispering. The other two nodded and carried on walking after the high level shinobi. Wherever she was going, she seemed to have a definite destination, her twists and turns appeared definite, although she still hadn’t lifted her head up.

 

It would be another ten minutes, before the woman finally stopped in her tracks. Her lack of movement actually surprised the children as much as her previous actions were doing.. She had stopped in a clearing. The kids instantly knew where they were.

 

“This is?”

 

“Where is he?” The more talkative genin asked out aloud. It took a few seconds for their questions to be answered as the man known as Danjuro jumped down from the trees, stupidly large frying pan in tow.

 

“Yo.” He greeted them simply, as he stood up from the crouching position where he landed. Not entirely sure what to expect when everyone came back, he certainly wasn’t expecting nothing. The kids wandered through, believing everything to be safe. Sure, some of it wasn’t making sense, but one of the jounin would have said something by now if there was something wrong.

 

“So what’s up gal. Am I allowed in your house yet or do I have to…” Hinata saw Sayuki’s fist shudder at the word ‘gal’, as Danjuro got close up to the jounin. She had the feeling he was going to try something unnecessarily weird again to Sayuki. He didn’t get the chance, the woman’s fist slammed into his jawbone with an incredibly intensity, brought on by the high speeds behind it. He felt the entire jaw fracture in three different places, before flying back against a tree. He stood up almost instantly, fists now clenched, unsure to expect nothing except the clash of her thunder.

 

She wasn’t even looking at him.

 

Her eyes were still facing the ground, neck bent, arms slouched, no other real movement. Danjuro had to actually question whether he had just actually been hit or not. Judging by the faces of the genin, he had. His blood also gave him a huge hint. He turned to face his opponent again.

 

“You want to fight then huh?” He challenged her more strongly than he had before. For once, her personality seemed more serious than it had been before. Was this the serious fighter he saw before him, or something else?

 

Finally, the woman moved, slowly. Her head lifted up as if several men were pushing it up like a boulder, it creaked slowly to face him, her eyes were half close and she was barely looking at him. She appeared sick with a fever and her hair had become mangled. He watched as her mouth slowly opened and spoke calmly.

 

“I’m going to kill you.”

 

End chapter five

 

(a main point of this fight will be the grass)

 

(Nature doesn’t conform to your wishes, you conform to natures wishes)

 

TOTR – Chapter Four

Part the four

Where you plan to have an intermission chapter, where theoretically nothing should happen, but instead you introduce two important characters, start the premise for the main part of the story and have all the characters meet up and chat about irrelevant things. Some things don’t go my way at times.

 

Something wasn’t right.

 

Actually, there were many things that were not right. This exchange program for one, it came to her like three thorns in her backside that would follow her everywhere she went, disrupting her schedule and upsetting her balance. Yamato’s attitude was disturbing her as well, but with a little focus that was easy to ignore. The next thing that wasn’t right was Danjuro, but she had been using an effigy of him for target practice recently, so he didn’t matter. Shikamaru wasn’t right either, he was the dangerous type of intelligence, where he’s so smart that things became too easy for him. If it wasn’t for his lazy attitude, he might be a major threat one day. Even with it, he was still a force to consider.

 

But the main thing that wasn’t right at the moment was them sending her away.

 

Not on her own, of course. She still had to attend to these little genin. Chouji, Ino and the confusing Shikamaru was following fast behind her. She had assessed that all three were reasonably talented, in their own way, as shown by last nights exercise and now, as they skimmed through the branches heading south, they showed no sign of having any trouble keeping up, which was good, since she had no intention of waiting for them.

 

”There’s been word of a disturbance, on the beaches to the south. Our agents have seen signs of unwelcome visitors. We wish for you to check it out.”

 

‘A disturbance to the south, what on earth?’ Sayuki thought to herself as she bounced effortlessly off each tree in front of her, leaving not a single trace of her presence as she did. It was obvious what he meant by unwelcome visitors. Foreign shinobi had been sighted and, naturally without permits, they were to be removed as soon as possible. Something still wasn’t right though.

 

“But, Raikage-sama, you have assigned me to the genin exchange program. While I am not happy with my current assignment, you should not be removing me from it just because I ask.”

 

She had figured that the advisor had informed her master of her outburst the previous night. There was a possibility that her blowing her top and running down to the Raikage residence might have been seen as a sign of failure.

 

“You are to continue your current assignment as well, Sayuki. It is merely a scouting mission and you are one of our fastest agents. You are to take your new associates down to the beach as well.”

 

There was just one huge contradiction in that sentence that she noticed immediately. Taking the kids had slowed her down. She didn’t want to stop for them, but she was moving slower than usual, so they wouldn’t get left behind. Why were they sending her down here if time was an issue and then adding weights to her legs? It would have been better to leave them at home. It had taken her an extra day to get here now. The trail would be getting cold.

 

“Scout the area, see who is there, and then visit Kabule and report your findings there to the one waiting for you, then stay the night there. Only approach who is it if you are sure you can handle it without damaging the children. This is important. Do you accept your new orders?”

 

She may be facing a dangerous enemy. An adversary wouldn’t just send genin across the ocean. It may have just been smugglers, but even then there was always a chance of something happening along the way. Sending her across the country, putting her in a dangerous situation she could handle, but giving her a further disadvantage by bringing the kids along, whilst stating that they shouldn’t be put in too much danger. Why was this happening? It didn’t upset her as much as confuse her. There were too many things wrong. She was already in a mission. There should be agents closer to the beach than she was. To give her good reason to why she was being sent and then contradict it. To make her go to one of the nearby villages to report before returning home and spend the night. Why bother when she could just return home straight away? It sounds like they were trying to get rid of her for a short while. It’s exactly what they were doing.

 

“Yes sir!”

 

But still, she would go. She had always gone, she probably always would.

 

**********************************

 

Ino started pushing her feet harder. She panted the first few times, but then got into the habit. Her new teacher was just a foot ahead of her and she didn’t want to slow the older woman down, but she had to ask something.

 

“Sayuki-sensei?” she called out, the mere act of talking breaking her rhythm. Ino felt slightly annoyed when she didn’t receive a response.

 

“Sayuki-sensei?” she practically whined this time, as she finally caught up with the jounin now skimming to the side of her. She got a slight feeling that the older woman had slowed down for her.

 

“I heard you, be quiet,” the jounin commanded rudely. Ino almost stopped her movement as she heard this, her body kept itself in automatic for the next few seconds before Sayuki glanced at her slightly.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Where are we going? We’ve been moving a whole day now and you’ve barely said a word. Is this our next exercise?” The jounin was silent for a few seconds, as if contemplating something that came out of Ino’s words. She looked back for just another second.

 

“No, it’s mine,” she replied briefly. “I think. We’ll find out when we get there. We’ll be at the shore in fifteen minutes.” As she heard Shikamaru mumble something about her last sentence, she saw Ino’s look of worry reflect what she was feeling inside. It felt like the worse was going to happen, that everything was about to go wrong. Even the sunshine and birds chirping seemed out of place. She hoped for it to crack and thunder and pour and gale as soon as possible, just to put her feelings to rest, the wind would take them all away, it always did. She glanced back over and realized that the girl had overtaken her, the same look of worry still on her face.

 

“Relax. Whatever happens, I’ll protect you all. It’s my duty.”

 

****************************************************

 

“Screw you guys,” Danjuro shouted, as he held the giant frying pan over the small stack of wood, the weapons special properties stealing all the heat coming from it and keeping the three children as wet as when they had pulled themselves out of the ocean. “Make your own fire. This one is necessary for me to get my pan nice and warm. It doesn’t want you dripping on it!”

 

“But our clothes are soaking wet, as is all our gear,” Kiba complained angrily. Besides him, both Hinata and Akamaru whimpered in unison, the dog had been spinning itself dry for ages, but the wet sand was still stuck to his fur, preventing him from getting warm. A few feet away, Shino just sat, drenched.

 

“It is reasonably hot,” he stated. “We should dry quickly.”

 

“Speak for yourself man. I’m freezing here.” He shook his arms to show how much water was coming off of his vest.

 

“Then remove the rest of your clothes,” Shino stated as Danjuro began humming a tune, placing bacon on the frying pan as he did so. Hinata was still shaking slightly as she looked at the body of the dead animal, its little forehead protector still hanging around its neck.

 

“What? You gay or something? No way man.” He would have normally had no problem stripping off fully, but he didn’t want Hinata to bust a blood vessel blushing. He had made a joke about the differences between male and female chests the other day, and she didn’t move from her seat for twenty minutes; he didn’t want to risk going any further. She too, was currently under the same, shivering conditions, her jacket was hanging off a tree, but her embarrassment from being able to see her undergarments through her netted top was clear. Shino had remained fully clothed and didn’t seem at all bothered.

 

“Do not call me that, you ignorant dog boy.” Kiba grinned slightly at this, excited in his own way by annoying his fellow genin. He began to walk towards Shino.

 

“What? Aren’t there homosexual bugs or something? Come on, you can admit it, we’re all friends here.”

 

“Kiba-kun,” Hinata whispered to her team-mate. It went unnoticed.

 

“You don’t seem at all interested in girls, you just play with your little bugs all the time.” Shino could see what he was doing. The training had frustrated him and he wanted to blow off stream and get warm in the process. He might just oblige.

 

“What about you? Your partnership with that dog seems a little beyond friendship.”

 

“What did you say?” Kiba shouted, as Akamaru growled loudly to back up his partner, his plan of annoying Shino rebounding as he became angry.

 

“Kiba-kun.”

 

“I’m gonna rip a hole in you so big, that your queen bug would take ten years to fill it with eggs.” He stretched into his stance, bringing his hands together to form a seal.

 

“You’re referring to wasps, fool,” Shino replied, raising his arms to each side.

 

“Shut up, you freak!” As Kiba dropped his hands and jumped towards the insect carrier, his fist pulling behind him to strike.

 

“Kiba-kun!” Hinata finally shouted. Her voice was followed by a clanging sound.

 

“Would you guys shut up and eat,” Danjuro shouted, dropping the pan next to the two boys, as Kiba’s punch stopped just short of Shino’s face. “You’ve got to learn to keep your voice down, little girl.”

 

“Hey, she didn’t do anything, don’t shout at her.” Kiba turned around to defend his pathologically shy companion, knowing full well that she wouldn’t do it herself. The jounin response seemed to be a full on punch to the stomach, which completely took the boy for surprise. The boy gasped, as air left his body, before dropping to his knees.

 

“I told you all to shut up and eat. Now do it while I investigate that sound.” The three of them perked their ears to this, having heard nothing and still unable to even now. Hinata thought of asking if he wanted help, but couldn’t bring herself to do so. As the other two sat down, Kiba limping to a spare rock, she simply joined them.

 

‘Why am I so uptight?’ he asked himself as he moved silently through the undergrowth. He was nicer to Kouji and Tomo than he was being to these kids. He mildly wondered to himself whether or not he should threaten to fire his two waiters and replacing them with cattle when he got back. He always loved doing that. The bright thoughts pulled away the frustrating ones as he moved along, but they still bothered him. How could he make such a huge error? He was too busy trying to intimidate the new flesh so that he could have an easy month that he completely missed the fact that they had started moving in the wrong direction. After they had disappeared, he just followed their trail, too intent to catching up as quickly as possible that he hadn’t even noticed that they had gone the wrong way. They had clearly been using the moon as a reference point, somehow forgetting that the giant piece of rock tended to move, or was it them moving, what did it matter? He found it all very frustrating. Hopefully, whatever animal was nearby would satisfy him in someway. This country had excellent food stocks in their small forests.

 

It was just around this corner. He stood waiting.

 

*****************************************

 

“Stop,” Sayuki commanded in a hushed voice. “There’s something here.” As the three genin finally had chance to stop, Sayuki noted what she could from the noise.

 

“One creature, human, not moving,” she mumbled to herself, her voice monotonous. “No obvious associates, no hiding associates, no noticeable cargo, around five and a half foot.” She felt it move slightly. “We’re hiding,” she said instinctively, and the genin followed suit, even Chouji was quick to get in a position that was hard to spot. Focusing on the fat boy a second too long, fearing that he might not have been paying attention, she almost lost track of Shikamaru and Ino. This alone impressed her, to most they probably would have disappeared from the senses, she could see how they got so far the previous night.

 

Turning her attention forward, the human still hadn’t moved much. It was leaning against a tree, she could sense that much. She raised her hand and tilted it slightly, before she began slowly moving herself. Careful of being detected in any way, unsure of what may be around the area and somewhat surprised to have found it so easily, she practically merged through the bushes and approached her target.

*******************************************

 

He was grinning now, it was the part of his life that he loved the most. He was the hunter, one of the best, nothing could hide from him. Not even Mizukage-sama could fully hide for him. It’s why he was so valued in the village. He could find any animal, any ninja, he even found that hidden arms factory in another country in just the space of a week. And when he often tracked it, found it, whatever, he knew with a warm feeling in his heart that it would always end up in his frying pan. Although that was why he tended to be feared in the village as well.

 

It was coming closer; it was, surprisingly, moving on two legs, and had others with it, three small ones. Were they human? Their movement suggested shinobi. He pulled out a shuriken, intending to use it for an initial decoy if that was the case. He stayed his ground.

 

*******************************************

 

It shuffled slightly, Sayuki noted, and she raised her hand for the others to stop, not wanting to risk them if it had discovered their presence somehow. She had to take into account that it wasn’t entirely impossible for whoever it was to sense her. A few weeks ago, there had been reports of one of the legendary exiles in the country, although if that were the case, they would probably all be dead by now, if it had wanted to kill them.

 

She decided to go further on her own. Turning to signal this to the kids, she went on.

 

*******************************************

 

It would have been boring in any other case, Danjuro noted, but being in foreign lands seemed to excite him a little more. He had no idea what was coming, but it now seemed a little more aware of him. The smaller ones had apparently stopped as well, and he could sense them shuffling slightly in apprehension. Should he get them too, or just let them go? It’s not like they would survive anyway without a mother.

 

Five more meters. He still couldn’t see anything.

 

*******************************************

 

Two more meters. Behind the tree. If this were just an animal, she would probably scream. It had to be human though; it would have been shorter otherwise.

 

She was close enough. She brought out a wooden kunai and jumped up into the air, grabbing the trunk of the tree and wrapping around it, as she sighted the target, she threw her weapon.

 

***************************************

One more meter, Danjuro thought, getting himself braced. Suddenly, he sensed that the opponent was in the air. He looked up in shock to see a large figure attack him.

 

**************************************

 

Sayuki glared as she saw the human effortlessly block her wooden knife, but didn’t stop. Using her initial momentum, as well as the blind spot her first attack would have caused, she came down hard, striking the opponent with her foot. With amazing reflexes, her unknown target blocked as effortlessly as before, and easily countered the next three kicks, before delivering an attack of his own. The large weapon swung around without warning, and Sayuki back flipped out of the way, grabbing grass in her hands as she moved over her own body.

 

As she up righted herself, she caught sight of her opponent for the first time, although there wasn’t much to see for the large cloak. It didn’t matter; this had to be the illegal immigrant. She formed four seals in a blur, before holding the strands of grass to her mouth.

 

“Kazeton: Steel slicing…”

 

“Sayuki-sensei?”

 

The adolescent voice stopped her technique and her eyes stretched, the wind blowing the pasture in her hands into itself. She felt her body freeze as emotions tried to rock it. As she fought them off, the girl, apparently looked on, clearly as surprised as her ‘teacher’ was.

 

“Itako-chan?”

 

“I thought it was you, sensei,” the newcomer stated. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.” She pulled her weapon out from under her cloak. Sayuki recognized it to be a large bronze naginata, the pole made out of oak, and the blade poorly sharpened, but still razor thin. She almost laughed. It was clear why the girl had chosen that particular weapon. Her technical thoughts disappeared under the weight of the situation. Itako was trouble. The girl swung her weapon around to get her bearings, before bearing the weapon at her former master.

 

“You don’t have to do this, Itako,” Sayuki warned the girl, her open hand filling the space between them.

 

“Why not? We both know that that stupid village isn’t going to let me back and you, you stupid fuck, would be more than willing to bring me in.”

 

“I let you go the first time, didn’t I?” Sayuki replied weakly, she froze, the kids were moving forward. They must have heard their voices and assumed the situation was safe. It was very bad, considering Itako’s special ability.

 

“You only let me go because I wasn’t considered exiled then. You think I don’t know you? You’d become a whore if that fuckface told you to.” Itako stopped in mid sentence, as she noticed other presences around them. “You bitch,” she screamed at Sayuki, as she pulled out a small round ball.

 

“Itako, no!” It was too late, the grenade went flying towards where Chouji was now screaming. Ino was fortunately focused enough to grab him, pulling him out of the initial explosion and both of them getting caught in the shockwave. Ino screamed in protest to the pain, as they were both thrown straight into a tree. Sayuki turned to attack her student, when Itako started screaming at her again.

 

“You got new students?” she screamed. “You bitch, you think we’re just dogs to be replaced or something?”

 

“You know that’s not…”

 

“Shut the fuck up,” Itako interrupted, now charging, spinning the large, spear like weapon around her head. Her emotion now replaced by a sense of duty, to protect the kids and possibly to capture the exile, Sayuki didn’t hold back. She grabbed the naginata easily, before kicking the girl in her stomach. Itako’s cloak got caught in the jounin foot, and Sayuki quickly used this to her advantage, pulling at the garment to spin her opponent around, removing the disguise in the process.

 

Shikamaru looked on, surprised at what he saw. In front of him must have been a girl only a little older than himself. She was wearing a white tank top and blue demin shorts that covered her ivory white skin. It was hard to tell if she wore them out of necessity or choice, but they were covered in small rips and looked like they had been washed in a river. She wasn’t wearing any shoes. The girl didn’t look that strong, she looked under nourished and it looked wrong that she was taking on the jounin without being instantly defeated. The weirdest thing about her was her red and white bandana. It looked poorly dyed, as if it had fell in a pool of paint. It gave Shikamaru an odd feeling, like his stomach was bleeding. It covered her long, blond hair as well as her eyes. It was clearly a thick fabric, he wondered how she could see through it.

 

Ino’s groan brought him out of his transfixed state. Both she and Chouji were clearly injured, but they were on the other side of the two fighting. If he stood up, this girl was probably going to get angry with him as well.

 

“Damn women,” he muttered, as he looked for a gap.

 

Back in the battle, Itako had recovered from the first attack, but had not done any good in avoiding the rest. Sayuki launched kick after kick at the exiled girl, the speed of the jounin proving to be too much for her. With a final knee to the stomach, Itako fell to the floor. Sayuki stood, not entirely sure what to do next. She watched over her ex-pupil as Shikamaru took the moment to run across to his teammates. He seemed more annoyed than concerned. Beneath her, Itako choked a little as the she tried to lift herself up.

 

“Itako…i…”

 

“Shut up,” the girl screamed. “Just shut the fuck up!” Swinging her weapon blindly as she unleashed her rage. Sayuki easily jumped out of the way, before reacting to the explosive powder covering the girl’s weapon. The bronze hit a large rock embedded in the ground, and Sayuki began to jump further away just as she saw the spark.

 

The area exploded, filling it with smoke and various pieces of debris. The jounin avoided all and stood patiently for the smoke to clear. Whatever Itako would do, she knew that she wouldn’t have to put much effort into getting around it.

 

It took her only another moment to realize that the girl had gone, now running at least six hundred meters from their current position. Deep down, the jounin was glad. She didn’t entirely want to capture the girl, yet knew she would if it came down to it. Orders were orders, after all. On the other hand, she would still have to report it when she got back. With an accurate position on the girl, it would probably only be a matter of days before she was finally caught.

 

Chouji’s light cry turned her around, when she saw Shikamaru pick him up and drag him into the clearing. It reasserted her. There were other things to think about for now. For one, if Itako wasn’t the immigrant , who was, and where were they?

 

***************************************

 

“Who wants Kangaroo meat?” Danjuro shouted, announcing his presence to the three genin that sat round his fire as he returned to them. In one hand, he held a large white marsupial. In the other were three smaller ones. The genin looked on in a mixture of shock and absolute terror, both at the vast strength showed by their new teacher but also the nauseating feeling rippling over their stomachs.

 

“Kangaroos?” Kiba said, with as much shock as if Danjuro had walked by holding his slaughtered family instead.

 

“Would you believe it?” the jounin said with an adolescent excitement. “I had no idea they had kangaroos here. I mean it just isn’t the climate y’know. They must have been imported or something and escaped into the forest.” He threw the dead animals on the ground next to the children, practically causing Hinata to scream as he knelt down to examine them.

 

“Look at their fur, it’s white. They’ll probably be extra tender after they get fried. Isn’t it beautiful?” He held the head of one of the children up for Kiba to see. The boy nearly answered by projectile vomit.

 

“Errr…. No.” Danjuro looked confused for a moment, as if he couldn’t guess why Kiba was horrified.

 

“Wh…why…?” Hinata began.

 

“Why? Well, I guess it’s how glossy their coats off. I mean…come on, come feel it. Come on.”

 

“N…!” Hinata weakly shouted, the syllable turning into silence before it had even finished. Nobody said anything as they all turned to face Hinata. She stayed quiet for a moment, not wanting to continue, trying to shrink into her own coat and actually considering running, ashamed at her failed outburst. She thought of Naruto for a moment. She couldn’t say why.

 

“Why did you kill them?”

 

Danjuro took a few seconds to answer. He was about to state how the mother attacked him first and how he was defending himself. This was the excuse he usually had to tell his fellow ninja, usually when he had compromised a mission to go fishing. However, this excuse would then be met up by the fact he didn’t actually have a reason as to why he killed the children, or even pursued one of them, pretending to give up and attaching an exploding note to it’s leg as he did so. Before he had a chance to say anything, he heard a rustle behind them.

 

“This is such a hassle. Why do we have to carry them?” one of the voices whined out. The ears of the genin picked up as they vaguely recognized the voice.

 

“It’s just to the beach, and you have the light one, so don’t complain. There’s a camp here, we’ll see if we can get help,” another voice said. The ears of the jounin burning as he instantly distinguished the woman it belonged to.

 

“How troublesome.”

 

“Is that…?” Kiba asked confused, as he recognized the male voice.

 

“Ah, it’s her,” Danjuro replied, every cell in his body preparing for what was about to come.

 

“Her?” They all turned as the four figures pulled themselves out of the bushes, two of them being carried. They lifted their heads out of curiosity as they saw who it was.

 

“Shikamaru?”

 

“Huh? Kiba? What are you doing here?”

 

“You! I guess I should be meeting you. It’s finally time to finish this!”

 

“Huh? Who are you guys?” Sayuki asked with eyes half open, like she had found someone waiting by her front door.

 

“What? How could you…?” He grinned. “Oh I get it, messing with me huh. Well i…” He stopped in mid sentence when he realized she wasn’t looking at him. “Pay attention!” he screeched.

 

“Leaf genin?” Sayuki said in confusion, as she saw their headbands. “How’d you get here?” As Danjuro jumped to attack her, she stepped to the side, making him miss her completely. For some reason the kids couldn’t help but feel that it had been intentional on both sides.

 

“I’m finishing this today,” he stated boldly. “We’re equal in so many ways, my eternal rival, and the amount of times we’ve fought, people would think there was no end, but today will be the day, no, the hour, the one precious moment where I shall finally defeat you and then, then, I shall steal your panties.”

 

“Steal your panties!”

 

“Steal your panties!”

 

“Steal your panties!”

 

Everyone observing the scene froze, this being the last thing they were expecting from a fully grow male who carried around an obscure phallic symbol everywhere he went. Sayuki, as if she had recognized him from the moment they met, started to stutter as she turned to him. For the first time in years, she could be compared to a broken record.

 

“That’s…that’s why you’ve been harassing me all these years? For my underwear?”

 

“Why else?” Danjuro shouted, as if it was the only valid reason. “I am the hunter, I track down my prey and when I’ve done so, I take an item off of their possession as proof that I’ve found them. Nothing will stop me, woman. Even if you escape now, I will track you down to the ends of the earth and take what is rightfully mine.”

 

“How…how are they rightfully his?” Ino mumbled in confusion, having been awoken by the mere stupidity of the situation.

 

“Fight me, woman!” Danjuro requested. “And the winner shall take the underwear of the loser. Our years old feud, our eternal rivalry, will be answered today.”

 

“No,” Sayuki answered simply without anger or malice, and turned around to start checking up on the wounds of her genin. Danjuro stood in a dramatic pose as his temporary genin continued to watch, unsure of what to do next. Kiba was biting deeply into his left hand, an alternative to committing suicide, he told himself.

 

“No?” Danjuro repeated. “No? We are eternal rivals. We are supposed to fight forever.” Sayuki stood back up and jumped right in his face.

 

“First, how the hell are we eternal rivals? I’ve known you for four years, and in that time, I’ve met you six or seven times. Two, you’re doing nothing but contradict yourself here. You’re talking about fighting forever and ending it all today. How the hell does that make sense? And three you’re… you’re just…just annoying me.” She turned back around, walking to the kids again. Chouji was still out of it, but Ino was okay, if not mildly traumatised. Danjuro was speechless.

 

“You…you don’t see it the same way I do?” he , feeling his energy drop. “But it’s a huge story in my village. Danjuro vs. Sayuki, forever and ever.”

 

“Danjuro? Is that your name?” she asked politely, as she was bandaging Chouji’s wounds, not even looking at the jounin anymore. She spent a few minutes more on Chouji as Danjuro remained motionless, his arms had gone limp, and his body weight was resting on the giant frying pan’s handle. Eventually, Sayuki stood back up. “So what the hell are you doing in my country anyway?”

 

“We’re invading,” Danjuro mumbled, not really caring anymore.

 

“What?” Sayuki gasped, paying more attention now.

 

“We took a wrong turn,” stated Kiba, with more truth than his jounin had wished for.

 

“And ended up in a different country?” Sayuki commented.

 

“Is that so hard for you to comprehend, woman?” Danjuro stated.

 

“I guess so. I’m not an idiot, so I’m not prone to those type of things.”

 

“I’m no idiot.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Sayuki replied grinning with a superior tone. “Mind telling me how you missed your own country by a full two hundred and seventy degrees.”

 

“Don’t make it sound big. It was only ninety.”

 

“Doesn’t hide the fact you’re missed a whole country and hit another one. Most jounin have a ninety nine percent hit rate. You don’t even appear to have even one.”

 

“Damn you woman!” He had lost it, and Sayuki clearly didn’t care as he charged blindly towards her. She jumped out of the way, barely making any motion.

 

“I’m not some brute who’ll fight for the sake of it. If I don’t have my orders, I’m not going to fight you.”

 

“Fine, then I’ll make you fight me.” He raised his hands, and formed what had to be fifteen seals in a blur. When he finished, he took a step back.

 

“Hissatsu:Pantsutake!” He charged towards her, and Sayuki remained as still as before, intending only to move at the last second. As he reached her, he increased his speed slightly, distracting her with the burst as he got near.

 

“Got you!” he screamed as his right hand darted out, brushing her every so slightly. She got away at the last moment, able to pass by him with him barely scratching her. She turned her head slightly, allowing herself to grin a little.

 

“I don’t know what that was supposed to do, but it clearly faile…!” Her eyes opened wide in shock, as she caught a glimpse of what he was now holding in his right hand. He looked as shocked as she was.

 

“Boxer…. shorts?” he said, scratching his head, as he dangled the garment out in front of him.

 

“When did you…?” She patted her hips quickly. They were clearly gone, but he had barely touched her. She looked round as the genin had mixed looks of confusion and bewilderment on their faces. Ino looked deeply mortified.

 

“Boxer… shorts?” It seemed to be the word on everybody’s mind. Sayuki felt her legs go weak as the blood left them and went to her cheeks, her arms began to flail aimlessly as she poorly attempted to explain the situation..

 

“It’s not like I…. I mean I don’t….it’s not a regular….” The Konoha genin remained as nonplussed as before as the respectful Lightning ninja turned into a jibbering wreck before them. “They’re just more comfortable, that’s all.”

 

Her confession was interrupted by a burst of laughter behind her. She turned to see the Mist ninja in hysterics. “Well, that’s certainly interesting,” he replied. “But I don’t want boxer shorts.” For a second, Sayuki thought that he was going to toss them in some stupid attempt to have them land on her face. Instead, she watched in horror as he pulled out some cooking matches and set alight to them, her final shred of dignity for the moment disappearing in a sea of flames. “Woah, strangely flammable.” He dropped them onto the floor and Sayuki watched as they floated to the ground. As they did so, she had the strangest, most sorrowful music play in her head, as images of her and the great times she had had with her underwear floated through her head, dancing through the fields, eating dinner together, the day she lost her umbrella and they gave her theirs. She was pretty sure that at least half of it was real.

 

Like the handkerchief in a men’s duel, the second the burning mass touched the floor, Sayuki charged towards Danjuro, now more than willing to take up his previous request. Seeing this himself, he stepped back, and grabbed the handle of his pan, ready to swing or defend, based on her actions. As was her style, he saw her forming seals, but instinctively knew that she was using it as a decoy, intending to tackle him when she got close. Neither had a chance.

 

As they approached each other, they immediately became aware of another presence, resting in the trees above them. Any attacks were called off as the two jounin looked in the direction of the newcomer. Despite being a mist ninja, he made no attempt to hide himself. Danjuro recognized him instantly.

 

“Takeda-chan?” the jounin said as he acknowledged his fellow ninja. The man stared at him for a moment, his dark, red eyes observing the scene around him.

 

“Please don’t call me that, Danjuro-san,” he asked respectfully, as stepped forward and landed on the ground twenty feet below him like he had just walked down a step. Sayuki immediately noticed his height, having to crane her neck up to meet his face, a full three feet higher than hers. The man seemed to be a wall of muscle, with a relaxed expression on his face. He looked around once more, before saying nothing.

 

There was silence in the forest for a moment, and several of the genin felt they should say something to fill the silence. Danjuro beat them to it.

 

“What are you doing here?” The tanned jounin sounded very annoyed by the man’s presence, Sayuki noted. He clearly didn’t like this man.

 

“Mizukage-sama…” The tall man fell silent again, as if he was thinking of nothing. “I am to check on you.”

 

“You’re being lazy again. Give me your full mission.” Danjuro practically growled as he commanded his nakama. The one known as Takeda seemed to ignore this, feeling that talking was too awkward. He looked around for a few moments, it looked like he was hoping someone else would talk. When no one did, he rubbed the back of his head.

 

“He wants you back in the country. He’s not going to like this. Please come back as soon as possible.” With that, the eight footer turned around to leave, disappearing in a puff of smoke, leaving only…

 

“Mushrooms?” Kiba noted. That particular type didn’t grow on the ground, which meant that the jounin made them appear there.

 

“Teh, what a nuisance,” Danjuro complained, turning back to face his opponent. “Of all the times to interrupt….OI!”

 

Sayuki wasn’t paying direct attention to him anymore. He turned to face her as she walked over to a fat kid and knelt by him.

 

“I’ll deal with you later,” she stated, as she looked over the boys injuries. “I have bigger concerns right now.” The majority of the genin wandered over to Chouji’s unconscious body. He was mumbling slightly due to the pain, and Ino swore she heard him mention food.

 

“Is he alright?” Kiba asked, with a half smile on his face. To him, it was partially amusing that it was Chouji who had got like this.

 

“Yes, he is fine. Just took the shockwave of an explosion.” Next to her, Hinata quickly rummaged through her bag, pulling out a small little pot.

 

“He…here, u…se thi…”

 

“I have some ointment,” Sayuki spoke to herself, as she got out a small jar and began lathering it on the boy’s chakra pores. “His burns should be healed in the hour at this rate.” Hinata shuffled back as she realized she wasn’t needed. As the jounin finished up, she turned back around to face the other jounin and sat down.

 

“I don’t really care what you’re doing here or how you got here, even though I already know the answer to both,” she began, as she glanced at the sun to figure out the time. “But I was given a mission to investigate the disturbance that either you or your friend just caused.”

 

“He’s not exactly…”

 

“Anyway. Now that you’re here, you’re coming back to my village.”

 

“What?” Danjuro’s exclamation of shock was echoed by three of the genin.

 

“Don’t complain. I have to show Raikage-sama some kind of proof of what I found. Your body should be enough, and then I can continue with my prior assignment.”

 

“Oh, so you want my body now? Well, you’re going to have to fight me for it,” Danjuro quipped to the woman in front of him, but she was no longer there. He looked at her in shock as she jumped to the trees behind him. It wasn’t just his imagination. She was now faster than last time. Before, he was definitely faster, but now, they were at least equal, and his eyes hadn’t been ready to keep up.

 

“Let ‘s go. All of you.” No one had really noticed, but Chouji had already gotten up and was halfway through a packet of crisps. Sayuki’s three genin looked at each other, before jumping after her. Shino walked over to his teacher.

 

“Are we going as well? We don’t hold any obligation.” Danjuro thought about it for a whole of five seconds, before unleashing his trademark grin.

 

“Ah, why not,” he decided. “As far am I’m concerned, I got nothing to do this month anyway. We’ll oblige for now.” With that, he also pushed himself into the trees, leaving the three genin slightly bewildered in his wake.

 

“Is this a good idea?” Hinata asked, failing to notice she didn’t stutter.

 

“Probably not,” Kiba thought aloud. “But what’s the worst that can happen? Her village is part of the program too. We just have to be a little careful.” With that, Kiba jumped off, followed by Akamaru and then the other two. Unaware that a certain jounin was still watching them, deep in the forest.

 

Even deeper in the forest, a young girl lay down tending a bruised arm whilst moaning to herself. The backfire of her naginata had cost her a little pain, but that was nothing to the pain she felt of betrayal. She felt nothing but hatred for that bitch. As she grunted, wiping the blood with a patch of dried leaves, she heard the footsteps of eight people and an animal. Leaving herself to haemorrhage, she grabbed her weapon and jumped off after them.

 

**********************************

 

Woo, part four done. These are kind of getting too long. Although, in the same way, they’re about the size as most book chapters, so no complaints.

 

All characters have pretty much been introduced now and there’s even been much character development and relations, as well as a few fights, so plot can finally be allowed to properly develop. Yay for me

 

************************************

 

TOTR – Chapter Three

Chapter Three: Infiltration: Where training and tests begin, and even old warhorses find they can be surprised by newborn ponies.

As she stood in the middle of the empty room, Sayuki lifted her arms to her sides. Breathing heavily for just a second, her hands quickly blurred in front of her face before stopping dead just as fast.

 

“Bushin no jutsu!” She commanded to herself and waited as she felt the many clones of herself appear at various places around the mansion. After all, what was a heavily guarded fortress if not without guards? She knew it would be unfair to make them contend with too much, so fifteen guards, excluding herself, would be reasonable. Over the number of floors that there were and all the traps included, it was more than enough.

 

It would just be a case now of waiting. In her mind, she tried to view what the situation was meant to be like, if she were an actual army general. It was harder than she imagined, as she tended to look at this from the other side of the mission, being an infiltrator rather than a guard, but she would just have to look at it logically. More than likely, the general of the fortress would just be relaxing in some manner at this moment, not exactly expecting anything to happen. It would just be another night, waiting for orders off the lord. In that sense, it would be just like normal for her. She would mould some chakra as a warming down exercise and go to sleep for the night.

 

But that was too boring. She was half tempted just to run up to them now, screaming her head off about how she had found them and maybe kicked the black haired one a few times. She held the thought, it would be wrong to cheat like that. In such circumstances, she wouldn’t know that anyone was coming tonight, even though she did and she should act like someone that wasn’t prepared for an attack, even though she was.

 

In the end, she guessed it was too hard to fully role-play this scenario she had planned. Both teams knew that each was there, and any motion would make be instantly noticed and recognized as coming from the other team. The main problem she could think of is that it was be impossible to use henge or henso style techniques, since to change form or employ disguises would be seen through instantly, in view of the fact that she would know they were not one of her clones. They would have to solely rely on sneaking around and hiding whenever one of her ‘guards’ got too close to them. Even then, since they weren’t as skilled as she was, she was probably more likely to sense them.

 

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

 

******************************************************

 

“Oh come on,” Kiba complained, as he felt his heavy coat weighing him down in the water, “we’re making some progress, aren’t we?”

 

He was answered with a quiet squeal from Hinata’s direction as the shy girl fell through the surface of the water yet again before popping up yet again and exhaling yet again. Danjuro was getting annoyed to say the least. Wishing to have a campfire and a bucket of cooking oil so he could cook the three of them to say the most.

 

“Some progress, yes.” Danjuro said, with a hint of irritation. “You’ve gotten to the bit where you can imagine yourselves as stones, and then fall into the water. Now if you can just master turning your vertical momentum into horizontal, then we might get back to my country before the exchange program is over.”

 

As Kiba felt Akamaru shake himself dry all over the boy, he realized just how dark it was getting. The moon was now beautifully pitched over the sea, lighting the area up quite effectively, the large range circle actually providing them with a constant direction to follow in order to get back to the Water country. At that moment in time, the four ninja were in or around a small wooden boat. Making it and getting out to sea had been quite easy and the survivalist specialist in training was beginning to wonder if they should have just kept rowing.

 

“The skim stone technique is dead simple, dammit.” Danjuro now shouted as he watched the girl brace herself for another shot at it. “It’s just chakra control and a basic abuse of scientific physics. Let me explain it to you all again, just so you’ve got it.”

 

Hinata stopped at this and sat down to listen, slightly relived at getting a chance to rest after an hour of this exercise. Shino pulled himself back into the boat as well. The calm and collected Genin didn’t seem eager to go into the water at first, it was almost like he was afraid. He must have waited about ten minutes before allowing himself to fall in. He sucked at the technique, Danjuro noticed. He was the worst of the three. It was like he was concentrating on something else. Even now.

 

“Right, first I assumed you would have practiced the Leaf Village’s tree climbing exercise, but since you haven’t I now have another reason to cook you while you sleep. You’ve basically got to concentrate your chakra to your feet. You should all know how to do this, so I won’t bother with the details. Then, the rest is like this.” He stopped talking and grabbed a flat stone from a pile he had brought with him onto the boat. Standing up casually, he held it above his head and swung it from the side, causing the rock to start bouncing over the top of the ocean. The kids watched as it slowly disappear out of sight to everyone except Hinata, before turning back to their instructor.

 

“You just have to do what that rock did, skim.” He explained. “Toss yourselves off the boat and use the chakra surrounding your feet to skim across the water. When you’re feeling you’re running out of stream, just push the chakra slightly to give yourself a boost, not too much though, or you’ll start hitting the water harder and lose control. We all got that?” He shouted the last bit like a commanding offer, the troops replied accordingly.

 

“Urgh, swimming sounds like a better option.” Kiba complained as he stood himself up again.

 

“Impossible. There is no island in sight.” Shino stated. “We could not take the risk of not finding any land.”

 

“But if we master this technique…” Hinata started and faded out halfway through.

 

“Right. We should give ourselves a faster, non-exhausting way back to the Water country. Once we have the knack, it should be easy.”

 

“So we just have to get the knack, ey?” Kiba mused loudly. Thoughts popping into his head, he turned to the jounin who was laying back. “Oi, do all students really have to learn this technique in your country?”

 

“It’s not that weird is it?” Danjuro asked mildly, opening one eye to look at the boy as they spoke. “Don’t you have to learn the tree hopping technique in your village before you can graduate.”

 

“I guess when you put it like that…” Kiba stopped talking to think. He hadn’t thought of it that way before. He had learned the ability to bounce from tree to tree with relative ease when he was five. It was so simple a trick that even Akamaru soon caught on and simply did it by imitating his partner. This was the Water Country’s alternative then, was it? He stood up tall on the boat, making sure not to rock it.

 

“I think I got it guys. Just stand back and watch.” The other genin turned in mild surprise at their partner’s claim. Kiba grinned and concentrated. Logically speaking, the tree hopping technique was very similar to a flat stone bouncing off of the top of the water, so all he really had to do was the same thing, yet take into mind that it’s more of a flat surface, rather than the rounded branches of the trees. “Here goes.” He shouted, and threw himself towards the ocean, placing his feet on the surface, he began to thrust forward for the next step.

 

Needless to say, he fell through solid illusion of the dark ocean and plunged eight feet before he even started to try and bring himself back up. Danjuro just burst into laughter.

 

*******************************************

 

Had long had it been now?

 

Half an hour, an hour, two? She laughed to herself groggily, as she found herself becoming tired. In truth she already knew that, since the exercise began, precisely thirty-four minutes had gone past. Regardless, it felt that an eternity had past, liked a chewed up tape had played out the last five minutes and stretched it to four hours.

 

She quickly got out of the chair she was sitting on, to prevent herself dropping off completely. The last thing she wanted to do now was fall asleep, the exercise would be ruined, all her clones would disappear and the group could just walk up to the scroll and walk out with it.

 

Where were they anyway? They were doing an amazingly good job of remaining undetected. So far, none of her guards had detected anything. She briefly wondered if she had maybe dimmed the clones senses a bit too much. She had given all but one of them the senses of a normal human, in regard to a more realistic exercise. She had the last one remain as a total copy of herself in every way, to add a bit of spice to the exercise. The genin would have no clue as to which one it was. Indeed, they wouldn’t even be looking for one. In a real situation, they would have to achknowledge the different awareness levels of all the guards and not just get into a set pattern.

 

She became half tempted to cheat again and just scan for them immediately. It wouldn’t be impossible for her if not for her conscience. That would just ruin the exercise. She needed to be as ignorant to them as they were to her. They were just genin after all. They should have little to no special abilities yet.

 

She turned around, unexpectedly even to her. It took her a full half second to realize that her body had picked up the sound of a piece of grit getting kicked and a few milliseconds longer to notice that it had only happened 10.5 meters away. She let a grin appear on her face and jumped up to the ceiling. She was nearer than any of her clones. She decided to check it out for herself.

 

The hallway was as barren as it had been left about five months ago, when it had last been used for an exercise of the same manner. The wood of the floors was slowly rotting and every single nail in the place was rusted. A little longer and some of the workers would have to come and tear it down. The atmosphere felt very isolating. That didn’t matter to Sayuki, the only thing that mattered to her at that moment was the few pieces of wood about three meters away from her, for some reason they had grown about half a meter longer than all the other planks on that floor. She walked forward another two meters, before bringing a knife to the neck of nothing that was in front of her.

 

“Come on out!” She barked. “The exercise is over.” She could hear two feet step back and a gasp of surprise as a boy of around fourteen years of age faded out of nowhere in front of her. He had black hair tied up in a ponytail and a bright blue bomber jacket. On his face was a small bandage, covering up a slightly larger knife wound.

 

“How did you know I was there?” He gasped fearfully, scared at getting caught. Sayuki glared at him, not expecting the presence of the fifth ninja.

 

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” She asked simply. She recognized him vaguely. Judging by the headband, he was probably from the village. A genin too and, judging by his crappy illusion, just out of the academy.

 

“Hiretani Takashi.” He blurted out, trying to eye the knife that was just inches away from his neck. “I was scouting the place out on request.”

 

“On request?” She said confusingly. “On request of whom. I checked that nobody else was going to be using this place.” The boy’s eyes stretched in surprise at this as the small wooden blade bore down further on his neck, forcing him to step back to avoid death. He cursed himself inside for believing that no one would keep a check of the place. “Who sent you?” She asked again, losing patience with the knowledge that this was just the lax in security that the others needed to break past her.

 

“Hiretani Kousuke. Look, I’m sorry Sayuki-sama. We were just…”

 

“Your sister?” That name she did recognize. Also a Genin, the girl had a reputation for holding far too many parties. With that, the answer became clear. She picked him up and lifted him above her, then threw him to the floor. “Get out of here.”

 

“Ye…yes mam.” He responded quickly, before turning tailing and running away.

 

“And if I catch you holding drug parties at this sacred place, I’ll wipe out your entire clan, boy.” She sighed to herself and rushed back to the scroll room. Immediately getting there, she checked the scroll to see if it had been touched. The small lock of brown hair she had left there told her it hadn’t. Afterwards, she fully scanned the room in all possible places to place an ambush, but nothing had shown up. She was almost…disappointed.

 

She still didn’t know where they were, and this was beginning to get boring. She knew they could have at least chosen to do something then and, unless they were really good at infiltration, which she doubted, they had so far done nothing worth detecting.

 

Were they waiting for her to fall asleep or something?

 

********************************************

 

The winds blew strong. Nothing could be seen. The hurricane blocked the senses of even the most acute mind. It was exactly how Sayuki had planned it. As much as she hated to admit it, the last fight with ‘frying pan moron of the Shinobi katana’ had been tough and with no real victor. As a result she had planned possible strategies against him in her spare time. She had anticipated his intentions of throwing the giant pan like a kunai, although not it returning to him, as well as the need to start collecting a load of debris for her newest attack.

 

She had pegged him for a short-range fighter when it came down to it, relying on Taijutsu and weapons rather than sneaking and illusion techniques, but still taking into account that he could use them. She figured he wouldn’t start using any Suiton until it was necessary, especially due to a lack of water in the surrounding area.

 

Now he was trapped, the ‘formless prison span furiously around him, trapping the jounin in the centre of it. By now, he had probably figured that any attempt to traverse through the gales would result in being ripped apart by the debris that had been picked up and was being kept inside the hurricane by the girl’s chakra. Escape from the side was currently impossible.

 

“Ouch!” Danjuro whined, as he quickly pulled his hand away from the sandstorm going around him, four cuts and a small bruise appearing instantly, with the promise that more was to come. He sighed out of annoyance and glared around. He was guessing that getting out through the side was going to be impossible for a short while. He would need something else.

 

There was, simply put, no way to move without causing himself near fatal damage, which prevented the obvious answer of digging a tunnel to freedom out of the formless prison, since he wouldn’t even be able to crouch down, without the risk of having his kneecaps ripped off. A chakra jump might be possible, using his internal energy to rocket into the air, hopefully being able to reach the top and come back out again on the other side.

 

“No…she would have seen through that idea. Probably waiting to attack if I do come out. I’ll be a sitting duck. Plus, if I don’t get enough bounce, I’ll probably won’t land back here or outside.” His voice was difficult to hear, even for himself, as the haling winds raged around him, absorbing any and all vibrations. He had to hand it to the girl. It was a pretty nifty technique. It was like the ultimate prison. A wall that is not a wall, both unbreakable and impassable. A door that is not a door, empty space in front of him, yet certain doom if he tries to enter it. No view of the outside world, no view of escape, no view over whose watching you, no view of the outside full stop. It was near perfect, the only thing he could think of off hand was that it was all too short term, since the girl had to have tremendous concentration to maintain the elemental balance for the technique.

 

That, and of course, that there was no view of the inside either.

 

****************************************

 

She woke up with a stifled yawn, shifting herself slightly as she did so. The girl immediately felt herself being pushed down and held in place, causing her to wake up faster. Her assailant seemed chubby and green all over. Her reaction was as fast as it was expected.

 

“Chouji!” Ino shouted, the genin struggling pointlessly. “Get off me.”

 

“Quiet Ino!” A voice came to the left of her, forcing her to calm down. “Did you forget what we were doing?” The calm forced itself over her as she took stock of the situation again. She looked up to see her two teammates watching over her. Well, Shikamaru was keeping an eye through the bushes. “Okay, nothing’s happened. Did you get anything good woman?”

 

The girl didn’t answer, but simply grabbed the pencil lying on the floor and began to draw, reciting everything from memory as quickly as she could. Despite not being as smart as her rival, Dekorine-chan, Ino knew the ninja technique for blind memorization, used for obtaining secret plans of the enemy without actually directly remembering anything. It enabled her to relay everything instinctively in a trance. Within a few minutes, Ino had everything she had seen about the mansion whilst she had been in the body of the boy who had been unlucky enough to walk past them down on the paper. A quick interrogation of some personal information and the boy had been possessed before he could comprehend what was going on. Shikamaru stopped lookout to see what the girl had written as she pulled herself out of the trance. The three genin now looked at the information in front of them, showing maps, guards posted and traps as well as the location of the real jounin.

 

“She’s using clones for guards. Fifteen of them.” Ino began to explain, pointing to the various little dots that spread out across the map. “They don’t appear to be armed, but it’s impossible to tell without getting too close.”

 

“You did do it as I told you right?” Shikamaru asked cautiously. The girl just smiled as she nodded her head.

 

“Yup. I snuck in and took stock of the traps, then, on the top floor, I let myself get caught. As you predicted, she put me in a position that I could run out, feigning fear. As I did, I took the longest route possible so I could take stock of the guards.”

 

“Good, that should do it. She’ll probably change the guard pattern out of superstition.” Shikamaru mused, “but otherwise, she’ll probably be getting annoyed and bored at the fact we aren’t doing anything.”

 

“So let’s just sneak in and starting knocking out guards.” Chouji stated, getting a little bored himself.

 

“Moooron.” Shikamaru chimed. “We can’t approach a single guard during the time we actually sneak in, whether we knock them out or not.”

 

“What? Why?” Ino asked. “…how?”

 

“Weren’t you listening earlier?” He asked rhetorically. “In an infiltration situation, if the general of the opposing forces has any reason to believed there have been any enemies in his camp, then he has reason to believe that they might have spied upon the plans. So he can’t risk the information getting away. In a real situation, we would be hunted down and killed. In this situation, we’ll fail the exercise. But even in reality, if we got away, the mission would still be a failure.”

 

“Because they would change their plans if they knew the enemy might have got a look right?”

 

“Ya. Anyway, lets start.”

 

******************************************************

 

The clone had no mind. Nothing real enough to call a mind anyway. It was nothing more than chakra flowing around a small piece of rock. It would have been content with this position, if it even had the ability to feel content.

 

It was mindless, a machine made out of spiritualistic energies, set on a predetermined course through life. A computer program with a starting command, a main program and a self-destruction command for the end. It was brought into existence, told what it was supposed to do and then to just disappear without a second thought when it’s task was done.

 

In a way, exactly like the one who had created it.

 

This current clone had been given the task of just standing still at a specific point and raise the alarm if it detected something of interest. It had been allowed to turn, but never to walk about. It was told its job was reasonably important, since the elevated surface behind it was the main means of mobility around the place under its protection. It didn’t feel a need to do its job well, or even do it badly, it simply knew that it would do it.

 

The program within had noted something earlier, rushing past at high speeds, but it was told to ignore it by something. It didn’t feel a need to complain when the object detected went through its field of detection several times and even once stared at it for a short period. It had been told to ignore it. It did its job.

 

Now it was walking forward, slowly and quietly, without making a sound. The clone continued to check if anything was within any of it’s six senses, but nothing new continued to show up. As it continued moving forward, it noticed a small creak. Its womanly figure tried to turn it’s head to observe the direction of the sound, but found it couldn’t. Since it was not part of the program to find this strange, it did nothing and carried on walking forwards, outside of the main door and into the garden.

 

****************************************

 

The partnership is bound. Our mind is doing its part to prevent the water entering this body through our pores for the rest of us. We do not have to worry about being drowned. In return, it asks us to push the flow of our food source so that it conjugates around this body’s feet. We have done this, yet still we all fall into the liquid blue. We ask the mind to figure out the best course of options in order to prevent this.

 

It states that the dog boy has partly figured out the nature of this test. It is similar to when we hop through the trees of the Konohagakure. However, to hop on wood and hop on water are clearly different. The task is to compose a method so that we do not fall through the liquid blue. We must also be fast, as the body may run out of energy before the task is done and our tunnels through the body will be flooded.

 

A minor problem has occurred. This body has been pushed into the water by the present jounin. The walls of the food source are stable and so the fluids cannot enter. We have no reason to fear. The mind has assessed that we should not be on the water long enough to sink. Thus, the symbolism of the stone has a possibility of being useful. For the tree hopping exercise, we are usually asked to make the food source jagged, in order to increase grip upon the target. The threat is over, the body has pulled itself out of the water and is negotiating with the jounin that it not push the body in again while it thinks of a solution. By remaining jagged, the food source can successfully grab any part of the target it needs to latch onto and then the legs can apply force to remove the feet from the tree and go along to the next target.

 

This will be efficient in this context though. The jagged shape of the food source has nothing solid enough to grip onto. The thrusting of the legs also pushes one into the water. This explains why dog boy failed.

 

In order to bring solution to this problem, we must first start by preventing the legs from moving during travel over the liquid blue. This will prevent the food source going underwater and causing the body to sink. The second part will require the reshaping of the food source as it is brought to the feet. The symbolism of the ‘flat stone’ will probably be efficient to secure safe travel across the water. To keep momentum, more of the food source should be dispersed along the way, every few hops.

 

Initial momentum is another factor that the mind must consider. It has suggested that we start with a jump step forward, and land on the liquid with one foot first. It then states we must ‘skim’ onto the second foot. After this, the technique must change and both feet must come together, so that they can ‘skim’ along the top of the surface with no physical effort required. This is efficient, as it allows the kikai and the body to focus solely on the movement of the food source.

 

It has been stated that we will take a short break, while the mind informs it’s other partners of what it has discovered. It is insisting on waiting until the dog boy has fallen in once more though.

***************************************

 

The clone turned suddenly, swearing it heard the voice of a boy somewhere. It stayed alert for a moment, it’s senses stronger than those of the clones around it, to see if it could hear anything else. Nothing came for two minutes, and it was told to drop it as a false alarm. It carried on it’s walking pattern, changing systematically every x number of paces to create a variety in its step. After four steps, it turned round pointlessly, before turning back to where it was facing and continually moving on. After another fifteen paces, it stopped again before raising its arms and yawning.

 

“Nice night.” It said to the darkness of the mansion, not expecting an answer, nor having the capacity of expecting to receive one. It continued its fruitless journey to the end of the corridor before turning around again.*

 

As it did, it began to hear a large rumbling noise that shook the second floor of the building. It sounded like something large was rolling down the corridor of the west wing. Its program told it that that area was important and should be guarded carefully, so it went up to full search status and ran out to see what the noise was.

 

It only took it fifteen seconds to get to where the noise had been detected and it sensed multiple intruders there. About eight of them, all identical. The female clone’s instructions told it to go to full alert status after one final check, but the final check told it to stay in search mode. The search revealed nothing, whatever the noise was didn’t class as a full alert. After another minute of checking, the clone was told to return to its original location. It did so without question, as was its nature. It passed the old broken gap where a window once stood and moved back to its primary location before taking six steps forward, and yawning again.

 

******************************************

 

Sayuki was starting to feel the sweat pour down her face more clearly now. How long had it been? She had lost count after around six minutes as exhaustion had begun to overcome her. The intense technique was taking more than her share out of her. Her chakra was nearly gone and her stamina was gasping, the latter being needed to prevent herself being sucked into the tornado vacuum in front of her. Her leg muscles were tense, trying their hardest to keep their grip within the ground she was pushing herself into.

 

She had been stupid, now that she had thought about it, every time she had tested this technique, she had focused far too much on picking up the rocks with chakra and discarding them to the winds, but she had taken her time doing it. In this scenario, she couldn’t risk getting lax and allowing a gap to develop. As a result, she had been pushing herself more than she should have. This was bad enough for the fight. After defeating this guy, she would have to carry on the mission, but she couldn’t have afforded to underestimate him.

 

She also, ironically, had far too much control over the formless prison. She had the entire four hundred mile per hour winds trapped within her chakra field, as well as around half a ton of rock and other assorted artefacts in there. None of them could move outside the field until she allowed it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t remove the chakra field either. This much control was too much of a strain, she would have to allow holes to move the field, and doing so might cause various boulders to ricochet out. It was far too much of a risk and it meant leaving the target of the technique a two-foot diameter to just stand on. If the target was smart, they could just stand there. Why was she only thinking of this stuff now? This also meant they could figure out a way around the technique, especially since…

 

“Bet you didn’t see me there, did you?” His voice snapped her out of her thoughts, she had kept her eyes at the top of the hurricane, but her other senses were dulled by the technique itself. She could hear him, but she couldn’t place his exact location. Was he right behind her, possibly holding a weapon to her neck? Her eyes tried their best to stretch around without twisting her neck, the control needed for the technique keeping her practically immobile. She had no choice but to see what would happen next.

 

“Interesting technique you have. You’re pretty cool.” He said, almost gloatingly,  as his voice moved around her. “You use your chakra to first increase air pressure and speed, until you can form the gale force 10 hurricane. Then, to make it even more impressive, you use your chakra to contain, preventing it from going out of control. You even go one step further and use your chakra to pick up the rocks and throw them into the hurricane, increasing their speed.” As he said this, she swore she felt the air on her neck get brushed slightly, as if something was breathing on it.

 

“One problem though,” he stated mockingly. “I said the word chakra three times in that sentence. You must be pretty tired.”

 

“You think… i’m that…stupid.” She blurted out, the simple movement of talking revealing her current weakness. “You’re just a…damn illusion.” She imagined the voice leaning back in curiosity to this comment, before she heard a laugh.

 

“Oh really,” the voice of Danjuro continued. “Yes… I guess that would make sense. It is after all, the main weakness of your technique. It may have blinded me but at the same time it blinds you. You couldn’t have possibly seen that I had burned a hole through the ground with my chakra.”

 

“I…also couldn’t have not seen it,” she interrupted, practically wheezing by now. “You’re…just…a…bluff and I am the Cloud village’s best tool. I will not falter.” Even though she was saying it, she didn’t know whether to believe it or not. He could have honestly found a way out that she hadn’t thought of. He was capable of it, but he was also likely to do this as well, pretending he had escaped so she would drop the technique to fight him. It was powerfully pressuring. Was this actually the ninja of the hidden village of mist, preparing some kind of attack while she was powerless, or was it just loose chakra, forming an image to bait her to drop the hurricane?

 

“It was fun in the end, my eternal rival.”

 

*********************************************

“Great, it’s clear.” The girl announced in a hushed whisper. She waved over her companion who moved all the way up to the doorway. A fire had already ripped the door off its hinges in the past, presumably long ago. As he stepped in, he glanced in every direction he could think of. If there was a trap, besides the tripwire, it was too hard for a genin to find. And if it was too hard for a lower rank ninja to find, then he just couldn’t be bothered.

 

“She’s not here?” He said to his companion as she stepped over the tripwire. “I thought she would be guarding the scroll herself.”

 

“From what I could tell,” Ino began to explain, “she had integrated herself with the clones on the second floor. She left a simple guard here.” Shikamaru held up a hand and she stopped talking, realizing that they were on a time limit. The simple guard would be back after it realized that there was nothing to find. She hoped Chouji had done his job right. Now it was time for her job, she stepped up in front of the green scroll that was on display and began to fish about in her bag, pulling out a plain white scroll with no markings. She set it on the floor and crouched down. As she drew her breath, she noticed her companion staring at the scroll with a pissed off look in his face.

 

“What wrong?” She whispered, hoping there was nothing wrong.

 

“Screw it, it doesn’t matter.” Shikamaru replied. “Hurry up and do the technique, this exercise is getting too troublesome.”

 

Ino looked at him with heavy concern. It was still weird to her how lazy he was and yet so casually came up with all these plans. She shook the thoughts off and began forming her seals. When she finished, she grabbed the plain scroll with her left hand and raised her right hand in the direction of the green one.

 

“Ninpou: Makimono mane no jutsu!”

 

Slowly, but surely, the plain white scroll started to turn green, until it was an exact replica of the one that had been left on the stand. When she was finished, she picked it up and left without a word to her teammate. They began to head for the doorway when they noticed a shadow appear. Instinctively, they both launched themselves back and jumped into a alcove inside the room, just as the clone that was guarding this area walked into the room.

 

Ino felt perspiration start to slide down her face. In the midst of the exercise, her body had started to forget that this was all but an exercise and now the fear of getting caught had started to set in, she wanted to just run, as if a thousand kunai were reigning down upon her, but with the knowledge that if she did move, the ones throwing the small knives would sense her and strike her down as she fled, as if punishing her cowardice.

 

Luckily, Shikamaru felt nothing more than the urge to rest and didn’t hesitate to start up with shadow copying technique. As the guard stopped moving, it didn’t even try to figure out why it was no longer it control of its body. As it started to walk forward, it failed to notice that it was almost creeping forward slowly, it then failed to notice as its arm reach out and seemed to grab something, although there was nothing to grab. It even failed to notice that it had started to walk into the wall in front of it. Then it just stopped, and continued its detection program, keeping track of any intruders on the wall directly in front of it.

 

****************************************

 

“Woah! He’s doing it,” Kiba shouted out, as the other male member of their group started to skim over the water. The others watched as Shino paced across the water successfully for around ten steps, before disappearing, as if he had just jumped into a swimming pool. Kiba laughed.

 

“Shino-kun was right.” Hinata whispered, excited enough to forget her own stutter for a moment. “If we do it as he says…”

 

“Ya, my go next.” Kiba announced, at first bracing himself to jump in before remembering what his partner had told him and repositioning himself, so that his first leg would skim instead of hop. “Here I go.”

 

Akamaru watched his assistant as he went over the ocean, bracing himself to hide behind the girl for when things went wrong. Instead, he found himself observing Kiba’s successful application of the technique. Watching his assistant, it made a lot more sense than when he just threw himself into the water. The dog studied the use of chakra that the boy had just used, and realized that it was all very simple. Without hesitating, he jumped onto the edge of the water as well and began to fly after his partner. Hinata watched on in awe, a little too nervous to follow just yet, she decided to wait for them to return.

 

Kiba, meanwhile, was far too wrapped up in enjoying the new feeling of the water rushing below his feet to realize what was happening behind him. There was no physical feeling to it, as he never felt himself touch the water, but that concept was enough to elate him, it was a lot like ice-skating. Ahead of him, he saw Shino, slowly swimming back to the boat. He was half tempted to soak him, but felt it would be better if he could get further that the insect box, to show he was better in the first run. As he went to skim past him, he plunged into the murky depths, Shino’s hand doing an impressive job of stopping his leg from moving.

 

Seconds later, Kiba came up to the top, spitting water out as he did so. “What the hell did you do that for?” He got halfway through saying, before a small piece of white fur landed in his face, knocking him back. Shino grabbed hold of Akamaru, before the runt could drown in the deep waters and waited for Kiba to resurface.

 

“We need to head back first. We all understand the technique now, we need to know which direction to go.” Kiba’s eyes brightened up to this. It was very dark now, the moon shining brightly in the sky, and they had lost sight of the direction they were going. The jounin was also fast asleep, and he didn’t feel like waking that guy up.

 

They headed back and slowly, quietly got back on the boat, hushing to Hinata as they did so. This seemed to make the girl twitch slightly as she didn’t know what they were up too.

 

“We need you to find which way we’re meant to go.” Kiba whispered to her, hoping that the mere act of secrecy wouldn’t wake the mad cook up. Hinata nearly cried out at this, startled by the request, Kiba pout his hand over her mouth as she did though. “It might be dangerous if you do it whilst he’s awake though. Keep quiet and scout for his country, he can catch us up when he wakes up.

 

Hinata, finally understanding, stood up and looked around. She had no real clue where to start, there was no land in proper sight now, and with the amount of times the boat had rotated and with her falling into the water she had become disorientated. She guessed the land she could partly see to her left was the Country of Fire, since it was the only she could still see. Aiming with her hand, she guessed the general direction of the Country of Water and, as she did so, started to form several seals, initiating the powerful technique of the Hyuuga family.

 

“Byagugan!” She whispered forcefully, causing the boat to rock slightly by the mere action. Pure power flooded into her eyes, and she felt her veins bulge in their usual manner around her forehead. Suddenly, her short-range sight disappeared and became her long range, images up to 20km away suddenly appeared in full focus. Long-range tracking was hard even for her though, and she had to make sure she kept aware of her nearby surroundings as she did so. Looking down at the boat now would probably overload her brain with an in depth focus of the wood.

 

She saw nothing but ocean at first, the clear sky allowing the stars to illuminate the whole area perfectly, changing the focus in little bits as she tiled her head left and right allowed her to finally discover the country she was looking for. She pointed to the others in the direction where the full moon was shining as her blood circulation was allowed to return to normal.

 

“So we just have to follow the moon.” Kiba commented. “How far is it?”

 

“Fo..forty kilometers.” Hinata answered. “It would probably take us two hours.”

 

“Great, let’s go.” Kiba cried out, not waiting for the others to follow as he jumped out onto the vast ocean. Akamaru was soon behind him, although Shino waited for Hinata to start before going himself, intending to help the girl if she slipped at any point.

 

They were soon out of eyeshot, and Danjuro mumbled in his sleep something about shrimp mixed in with bean sprouts. He woke slightly and knew that they had gone. He figured that the scent that he had left on them would allow him to trace them in the morning. He glanced up at the moon. He was amazed at how fast it seemed to move sometimes, he wondered which one of them were truly moving. It was over his country now, but in a short while it would already be over the Country of Lightening. Something rang in his brain as he thought about this, but he decided it was better to ignore it and fall unconscious. The kids should be fine for the next few hours. They were ninja after all.

 

***********************************

 

The klaxon sounded, and fifteen stray pieces of chakra disembodied themselves from the rocks they had been assigned to and returned to their original owner. Sighing, Sayuki put the horn down and stretched a little. Sitting around for two hours had been tiring, especially since nothing important seemed to have happened. The woman took her time walking out of the building, wondering partly to herself what she expected to find. Were they stuck in the mansion somewhere, waiting patiently to try and bypass some guards, now finding it futile to do so? Were they still outside, taking far too long to plan their entry and escape route? She had been aware of being unfair in the time limit, but it was mainly to see how they would improvise.

 

She jokingly thought that they might have succeeded long ago, and had spent an hour, waiting outside for her. It seemed unlikely, and as she passed the scroll room, she found it untouched. Then, with horror, it came across her, that they might have fallen victim to one of the more deadly traps and had been dead now for some time. The Raikage would have her head if something like that had happened, but only a complete amateur would fall for the fatal traps, the rest were merely designed to contain.

 

She cast all such thoughts aside as she left the building through the main entrance. She always found it a little strange herself that this point of access had the least traps to it. By the tree where she had started the exercise, she saw three children, one of which was asleep, and another eating. The third ran up to her as they saw each other.

 

“Sayuki-san.” The girl cried out to her. “We did it. We completed your exercise.” Sayuki stopped in shock as she saw the girl wave the scroll over her head. It looked unopened, thus ruining her chance to tell them they had failed for that reason. A flash of amazement came through her, before calming down. What did she have to be concerned about? This is exactly what she had been expecting of them.

 

“Very good girl.” The high rank ninja replied as they met each other. “Would you like to tell me how you got the scroll? According to my results, there were only two suspicions of intruders and one false alarm.”

 

“Two?” Shikamaru yawned. “I thought we got three. Better than I hoped.” He then seemed to fall back asleep, but she sensed he was still awake.

 

“It was all Shikamaru’s plan really.” Ino stated, with an excited buzz. “But it took all of us to implement it. Shikamaru suggested that the best way of getting a look at the place was if we didn’t go in ourselves. He figured you would use clones as guard and employ particular traps. Because of that, he said we couldn’t use any illusions or disguises and sneaking in without a map would be too risky, so we got someone else to do it.”

 

“Someone….else?” Sayuki asked surprised, remembering a certain little boy she found a while back.

 

“Yeah, we waited back at the mountain path for someone young to come up. Then this boy came up, so Chouji pounced on him and we interrogated him for personal information. Then I used my shintenshin no jutsu and…”

 

“I think she can figure out the rest Ino.” Shikamaru piped in. “You did say you met each other right?”

 

Sayuki didn’t say anything at this. She never suspected. She allowed herself to be tricked by an incredibly lazy genin and some hyperactive blond ditz. What the hell was wrong with her? It was too perfect really. He simply eliminated what could enter the building. He knew that the three of them couldn’t enter directly, and then he figured that any attempt at impersonating the guard wouldn’t work. She expected them to fall at that point, under the belief that, in a real life situation, all the guards wouldn’t know each other and so it would be all right to use transformation techniques. Instead, he had used the one thing that would make her drop her guard, an innocent bystander to the situation, who could just waltz in, find that an exercise was going on and politely excuse themselves. Meanwhile, checking the locations of all the guards and the layout of the place.

 

“Okay, that was quite lucky of you all.” Sayuki said calmly, eliciting a cry of anguish from the girl.

 

“Lucky? That was…”

 

“Tell me what the loud rumble was. I assume it had something to do with you.” She said this last part to Chouji, who seemed to be in a world of his own at that moment. When he caught sight of her, he just grunted, showing he hadn’t been listening.

 

“Looking at you, I’d say you were probably part of the hidden leaf villages school of multi size taijutsu techniques. You probably rolled up into a ball and sped across the empty corridor, distracting the attention of my guards.”

 

“They weren’t that hard to fool.” Shikamaru sarcastically shouted. “Setting them up to operate on their own puts them at a huge disadvantage. They ignore everything under the right amount of influence.”

 

He was smart, she noted, beyond basic ‘I study far too much’ smart. His talent for strategy went beyond anything she had ever seen before. In the two hours provided for him, he had taken everything into account. Not just how to obtain the layout of the mansion and the guard patterns as well as the location of the scroll but also how she would think, both role play ‘general’ wise and ‘ninja doing an exercise’ wise. Figuring out the strength and weakness of the use of clones, bypassing the disadvantage of not being able to use henge and utilizing the potential of their limited awareness. Not to mention all the traps that they avoided. While, overall, she had gone easy on them, he had shown remarkable talent. She almost felt bad for having to say this.

 

“Well, taking everything into account and your great performance tonight. For the stealth and infiltration exercise…” Both boys graced her with their eyes at this point, as she stood with hands on hips, “for the mission of obtaining the scroll, I congratulate you on failing miserably.”

 

“What?” Ino shouted out, immediately charging at the woman and getting stopped by a single hand. “How the hell did we fail? We snuck in, we got the damn scroll.” Sayuki watched as stream shot out of the small girl head in an amusing manner, she let her superiority wash over her again. It felt good to have it back after it had gone missing for the last two minutes.

 

“Shikamaru-kun.” She called out, causing the rampage of the thirteen year old to stop. “Tell your friend why you have failed. I know you know.” Shikamaru just looked towards her as if every move was a constant struggle.

 

“You wanted brown scroll, we have green scroll.” He said simply, before going silent with laziness again.

 

“So you did know. Why didn’t you try to get the brown scroll then?” The jounin asked out of simple curiosity. Shikamaru looked at her liked she had asked why he didn’t put his head through the lion’s anus.”

 

“Too damn troublesome.” He stated simply. “You only expected us to get the green scroll anyway. I couldn’t be bothered to make us do anymore.”

 

“What?” Ino screamed again, before charging towards her nakama. The boy stopped her with his hand as she tried to push against it to get at him. “You knew we had fail and yet you let us just sit out here for forty five minutes, watching me celebrate and everything. I even hugged Chouji. HUGGED CHOUJI! Do you realize how excited I have to be to want to hug someone?”

 

“Yeah, yeah I hear you woman.”

 

“Don’t you usually always try to hug Sasuke though?” Chouji asked as he looked up from his crisps.

 

“That’s different though. He and I are soul mates.”

 

“I doubt he thinks that.” Shikamaru stated.

 

“You dare?” Ino continued the futile rushing towards Shikamaru’s hand as Sayuki stared on in bewilderment. They were quite an interesting team. The fat kid seemed just as concerned with losing as Shikamaru was. It was as if the girl was more than making up for the lack of positive energy the others didn’t have. They were also closer than they let on, this seemed to be more an ‘inside joke’ thing between the three of them, especially since the girl was making no effort to get past the boy’s hand. Sayuki found herself chuckling at the events before her, before someone said behind her.

 

“Enjoying yourself?”

 

She stopped all thought and turned around. Only the empty forest seemed to be there, going over deep into the mountainside, promising nothing but death to all those who enter without any guide. The voice seemed to wake her up, how could she be having fun with these little shits? She shook off the effect the scene before her had on her before shouting at the group.

 

“That’s enough. Meet me in the square tomorrow at nine am sharp. If you’re late, you won’t get lunch. You’re already missing breakfast.” She disappeared before the sound limit could even get the words to the others. They stopped what they were doing and look at where she had been standing, the hollowness of her voice echoing throughout the mountaintop.

 

****************************************

 

All rational thought left her body at this comment, and a small growl might have left her lips if someone could hear it. Her hands fell apart from each other and the left curled into a fist and spun behind her, slamming into the neck of ‘cook’ Danjuro. It instantly went through, and Sayuki cursed herself inside as she realized what her reflexes had allowed her to screw up on. Her hand became drenched with water as the mizubushin disappeared around it, the liquid blue serving as the ignition for an adrenaline rush.

 

Without hesitating, she aimed her right hand towards where the tornado was quickly falling apart. A few of the larger rocks were already rupturing the ground around her and she knew she would have to be quick about this. Concentrating all of her remaining energy she formed a loose wall of chakra in front of her, far weaker than the one she had up a moment ago but enough to serve the kunoichi effect. She felt the remaining debris slam into her wall and forced them towards the ground, where she knew the real Danjuro would still be stuck.

 

She could only guess when the rocks hit him, and she was far too out of it now to care. She felt oblivion try to claim her and for a few sweet moments she welcomed it, the bliss of unconsciousness surrounding her. She awoke an unknown amount of time later to feel a searing pain in her left arm. Several small needles had been pierced through her skin and a large amount of blood was pouring out. Her eyes widened in horror as they tried to focus on the small projectiles, in her current weakened state, she had no real idea if they were poisonous or not. Finding it near impossible to move, her arm slowly crawled along the ground, and she realized it to have four fractures about it. Determined, she struggled to move it to a hidden pouch under her vest, where she pulled out a small bottle. She flexed her back, allowing her to quickly roll over, using the momentum to pull the bottle to her mouth. She pulled the top off with her teeth and drank the contents quickly, hoping it was a simple poison, if there even was one.

 

As she lay there, hoping she could be allowed a minutes before she had to get back up, but knowing that she wouldn’t allow it herself anyway. She became aware of a loud groan, as something tried to get up.  She recognized it as her opponent, laying on front of her, in a similar state. The man had cuts and gashes everywhere, and his leg was clearly as broken as her hand. It looked like he had stayed in the middle of the technique all the way through. It was impressive that he was still alive. She wanted to grin inside, but could do no more than rest her chin on the earth.

 

“Danjuro-sencho!” A voice from around her cried out. She saw something land by the jounin and smash a rock that was covering his leg. She saw the blur check over the fallen ninja, checking the extent of his injuries. Her eyes, there were something wrong with them, she could barely see.

 

“Danjuro-sencho, the mission is a success sir. All targets have been destroyed sir.” The trooper ninja had to wait a moment before it received an answer. The voice sounded very pissed off.

 

“Fine,” Danjuro said. “Let’s get out of here. Get any wounded dead and let’s go.” He laughed to himself, coughing out blood as he did so. Hadn’t the last fight ended up like this as well, one of them being dragged away by one of their subordinates, whilst the other one lay, just as defeated on the floor? It was a shame really, she had done so well because she had been expecting him, whilst he had no idea of her presence until she showed herself. Had wold it have gone if they were both expecting each other.

 

“Sir. What about the woman.” Sayuki would have frozen if she weren’t already practically paralysed. She had no idea where any of her nakama were. Her companions could have all died by now if the plan had gone wrong. Even if it had gone right, none would come for her now. She had specifically ordered it.

 

“Leave her. She’s my rival. I’ll kill her when I’m ready.”

 

“Sir.” Her vision disappeared behind her eyelids as they faded out to wherever they intended to go. Within a few moments, everything was unexpectedly quiet, the explosions died down to their last few embers, before cutting off, like somebody had ripped the tape out. She enjoyed the peace, as she felt satisfied to the success of her mission. As she felt ready to move again, she whispered to herself.

 

“Your plan is safe, Dejiro-kun. I’ll leave the rest to you.”

 

End chapter 3

 

Yay, it finished. I hope someone enjoyed that. Now if you could just provide me with a vast amount of wealth, then I’ll be happy to do the next chapter.

 

*This moment was brought to you by the guards of Tenchu. Ah, how stupid they were.

 

Glossary for chapter 3

 

Bushin no jutsu: Replication technique: Create an intangible copy/clone/bunshin of the user

 

Henge: Short for henge no jutsu: Transformation technique: Allows the user to give off the appearance of someone or something else

 

Henso: Short for henso no jutsu: Disguise and impersonation technique: A non-chakra technique. The user simply dresses up and acts the part of something else.

 

Taijutsu: Hand techniques: In other words, basic fighting techniques in hand-to-hand combat. Uses no chakra, but stamina instead

 

Suiton: Water techniques. Normally said before one gets used

 

Shichinin no Shinobi katana: The seven Sword shinobi/ninja: A group of seven ninja’s residing from the Hidden village of mist that specialize in using large swords. Zabuza and Kisame are technically part of the group (although both are outcasts now). Danjuro isn’t officially part of the group, even in this storyline.

 

Dekorine-chan: Ino’s pet name for Sakura: The translation is loose, but it pretty much means Forehead-girl

 

Konohagakure: The long name of The Hidden Village of Leaves, normally shortened to ‘Konoha’

 

Byagugan: White eye: The bloodline limit of the Hyuuga family: Awakens the ultimate potential of the eyes, allowing them to see everything physical

 

Ninpou: Makimonomane no jutsu: Ninja skill: Scroll copy technique: A made up technique by myself. Copys a scroll exactly by using chakra to seep into the parchement and feel the imprint of the ink. A special blank scroll is used to copy the imprints.

 

Shintenshin no jutsu: Mind exchange technique: Ino’s primary skill, allows her to switch her body with that of the opponents. The opponent falls asleep in the user’s original body for the duration of the technique (I think). Can only be used in a straight line  though, if it misses, the spirit has to get back to it’s original body by itself. This can take a few minutes and leave the body undefended. Used for spying.

 

Mizubushin: Water replication/ clone: A more tangible form of the bushin. Made of water. When the illusion is shattered, the water just drops out.

 

Kunoichi: A slang term for a female ninja

 

Danjuro-senchou: A Japanese ranking term for a superior officer. Not sure what the western equivalent would be

 

Nakama: Comrade, companion, teammates (take your pick)

TOTR – Chapter Two

 

Chapter two: Where people’s positions are told, tools are sharpened and flashbacks are done in italics to make them harder to read.

 

Notes: An apparent problem with mediaminer is that it doesn’t seem to like long winded sections of italics. The flashback scenes are meant to be done in italics, but they currently aren’t. I’ll try and fix this asap

 

Flashback: One month prior

 

He flinched as soon as he heard her comment. How could she not know him, this was to be their fifth fight? Who else carries a frying pan on their back? Was she trying to take him for a fool? He stopped himself with that thought. That was exactly what she was trying to do. She showed up the second he spotted the shinobi performing the genjutsu, which alone was irregular for a ninja to do, but his prior experience against her showed that she never let herself get spotted, unless she had to. She was trying to distract him and he had to remove her as soon as possible and get to the one she was protecting; whatever that genjutsu was supposed to be, it was probably going to get in the way.

 

“Nice try girl, but how could you forget my handsome face?” he taunted as he threw three shuriken at her. From above, the Hidden Cloud ninja snorted to herself as her arm barely flickered, throwing four wooden kunai back at the direction of the mist ninja’s projectiles. As six countered each other, the seventh hurtled towards Danjuro, only to be stopped by another well aimed shuriken, thrown by another Danjuro ten feet away.  The counter caused the last kunai to ricochet and fly towards the chuunin who was standing out in the open, performing his genjutsu, exactly as the real Danjuro intended.

 

It went right through him.

 

“What?” exclaimed Danjuro, as it dawned on him the nature of the chuunin tactics. The bushin was too open to be real, even for a chuunin, there was no way that a ninja would allow themselves to be that exposed. In the distance he heard a loud explosion, the forth truck had probably just been destroyed, two more should be scrap in just a moment. Nevertheless, he should make it a priority to remove the current opposition from the game. He was distracted by a laugh from above.

 

“I guess you are pretty cute,” the woman stated from above, ripe with sarcasm, “I probably should do something about that.” With this, she threw her next kunai, clearly aimed for his face. Danjuro paused for a moment as it dawned on him how much more effective wooden kunai were as opposed to metal ones. Why hadn’t he thought of that? They were lighter and probably just as sharp. Responding, he simply turned around and allowed the small knives to splinter against his giant frying pan. Even if they were metal, there was no way they were going to pierce through that.

 

“Kazeton:” he heard the woman shout, freezing slightly, “Oak cutting gusts!” The man cursed slightly to himself as he was forced to quickly react. Unhooking the belt that extended around his chest and onto his back, he grabbed the handle to the large cooking accessory on his back and propped it against his shoulder. As he looked behind his other shoulder, he saw nothing, but the sound was enough to imply the razor winds now heading towards him. He timed his distance just right in order to prevent the flight path interacting with the woman’s attack. At the right moment he stepped to the side and putting all his body into the movement, tossed the giant frying pan into the sky and at the woman.

 

He saw her eyes go wide with alarm, as the winds brushed slightly against his arm. He grinned, despite the pain, as his unique weapon of choice slammed underneath he. It removed a large chunk of the factory with enough force to propel her off of the building.. As she descended, she assumed a crash position, placing her arms in front of her head. Allowing his grin to take control of his face, he grabbed his last two shuriken from his holster and threw them at her. One thudded loudly into her arm, before the other one secured a position in her forehead. The kunoichi’s skull visibly lurched back, before the entire body disappeared in a puff of smoke.

 

“Kawarimi?!” Danjuro exclaimed loudly to himself, as the woman disappeared to be replaced with an object. Unfortunately for Danjuro, the replacement art of the Hidden Cloud Village was arguably the most effective variation of the technique, since the natural replacement for the clan was a large piece of rock. Danjuro looked on in horror as a 250lb slab of granite impeccably headed towards his location. How she had managed to aim such a large rock directly at him was beyond the jounin for the moment. As his legs finally registered what his brain was screaming at them, and thanking fate that he was not wearing his heavy weapon at that particular moment, he slammed his feet into the ground, releasing chakra from them and allowing his body to cross the distance required to prevent being crushed. He sighed heavily with relief as he heard someone step up about ten meters away from him. He cursed again as he discovered that she had never been on top of the building in the first place.

 

“That’s two.” She said mockingly, as she kept her arms folded, waiting for him to get up, “When you hit three, it’s over.” Danjuro just tutted as he raised his hand, from inside the debris of the building, his frying pan trembled slightly before returning to him in a straight line. “Interesting.” Sayuki smiled.

 

“I’m more interesting than you realize, babe.” The water ninja said, causing the woman to burst out into hysterics.

 

************************************

 

“Raikage-sama? Raikage-sama!” It was out of mere formality that she hadn’t kicked down the door of her noble lord. Instead she had chosen to do everything listed underneath destruction of property in order to get the man’s attention. She couldn’t understand what had been going on recently, had it been something to do with the prior mission? Or had the Raikage simply been unable to assign her with adult genin like he had originally intended to?

 

After a few more moments of banging, the door opened slightly. Sayuki recognized the eyeball of the Raikage’s first minister, peering out in front of her. “Sayuki-dono? What is it, it is late enough as it is.”

“Where’s Raikage-sama? I wish to speak with him.” Her voice was urgent, her position tense. If he wasn’t under orders to ‘not let that woman in when she comes to complain’, he might have willingly opened the door to her.

 

“Raikage-sama is currently away on official business. He has no time to cater to your pathetic desires.”

 

“What? You mean he knew I was going to get stuck with little brats? You knew?” Anger appeared on her face for a second, and the minister considered migrating that very instant. Hell seemed like a good place to visit all of a sudden. He reaffirmed his position and closed the door slightly.

 

“Listen, woman!” he barked, gritting his teeth, “Raikage-sama simply doesn’t wish to see you, alright? Leave now before you cause further disgrace to yourself.” Sayuki paused for a second, as she realized she let herself out of control for a moment. She took a step back and bowed slightly.

 

“I… apologies minister, it’s a bit late and I…”

 

“Now you’re making excuses, get out of my sight and deal with whatever minor transactions you may have, in your own way. Some of us are trying to sleep.” The door slammed with a loud thud, preventing anyone in the area who was sleeping, from continuing his or her intended task.

 

“Damn women.” the Minster muttered under his breath as he headed back to his bed, “give them even a little status and they expect the world. It’s only because of Yamato-sama that those two got this far. She ought to have a man put her in her place.” The fully grown man giggled like a schoolboy to himself as he walked back to his quarters imagining what he would do if he was designated as the man to put her in her place.  

 

Back outside, Sayuki rested on the base of the doorframe for a few moments, cursing her own stupidity. As she grumbled to herself, she began to figure out her next move. The Raikage seemed to be angry with her for some reason. Had he found her little outburst a couple of days ago offending in some manner? He didn’t seem to show it at the time. She paused as she realized the severity of this action.

 

“Of course, he didn’t show it. He specifically hides it when he’s offended. Damn it all.” He had clearly lied to her to teach her a lesson in humility over her refusal to join up with a team. She felt like destroying the village, probably could get away with half of it. No, it was better that she learnt her lesson, shinobi were supposed to be tools. She supported that more than anyone else. Most hid away from this fact while she supported it with most of her heart, the better a ninja she was, the more meaning she felt she had in her life.

 

She turned to the three genin who had been standing behind her this entire time with fixed looks on their faces, implying a feeling of nausea, and smiled. She thought to herself ‘and if a tool is ever broken or has some problem with it, the best thing to do is get it fixed as soon as possible’. Trying to cheer herself up, the kunoichi vowed to herself that this month wouldn’t be a waste. She decided that she would learn more from this experience than anything she had learnt recently. She convinced herself she would fix the problems that this tool was suffering from. She declared to herself that she would make herself like children!!

 

She just had to figure why they were looking at her like that.

 

“Br…brats???” Ino stuttered to herself as all respect for her new jounin went out of her window. As she observed this, Sayuki’s burning passion died down into a small pile of ashes.

 

“I hate children,” she stated loudly, not caring who was nearby.

 

****************************************************

 

“Are you absolutely sure….” Danjuro asked to the four small creatures in front of him, “that you can absolutely not walk on water?”

 

“Positive.” Kiba answered, without hesitation. It wasn’t really that difficult a question. It was like asking a rock if it could turn itself into spaghetti.

 

“Not even a little?”  He asked once again.

 

“Not even a little.” Kiba confirmed, staring back at the man in front of him, beginning to wonder if the man had a brain and if he did, being nice enough to confirm it by ripping his own skull apart..

 

“You…can swim, can’t you?” the jounin felt that he had to ask this, just to make sure.

 

“Of course we can, we’re not babies.” Kiba almost shouted at this insult.

 

“Okay then, how about swimming to the water country?”

 

“Sounds fair, how far is it?” Kiba asked.

 

“About 500 miles, should take five hours.”

 

“What?” Kiba blurted with growing alarm, “that’s impossible, we can’t swim that much.”

 

“I see.” Danjuro said, more to himself than the three genin that stood in front of him, this was getting tricky, “How about you swim 100 miles and then take a break, then keep doing it like that?”

 

“If I may sir.” Shino interrupted. “We would drown after about sixty miles.”

 

“Oh I see, I’m not supposed to let you die am I?” He paused for a few seconds as he actually waited for an answer. “Man, you guys suck.” The remark wounded the pride of all three recipients of the insult. So far, to them, this program hadn’t been going very well. Hinata dimly wondered how any of the others were faring at this point. This new jounin seemed a little weird, to say the least. He had been rude to them in such a way that it seemed to be a polite introduction, as if it was totally natural for him to introduce himself in the way that he did. He stayed in a position that implied he was thinking, although Kiba seriously doubted it. After a few moments, the jounin brought his head up and looked back at his new students.

 

“I guess there’s no choice then.” he said clearly, “I’ll have to teach you the Skim Stone Technique.”

 

“What?” Kiba said in excitement. “You’re going to teach us an advanced technique?”

 

“Ya, sure, I’m a nice guy.” Danjuro said, laughing loudly. “And you are supposed to be learning from this whole situation.” Inside, the jounin cook grinned guiltily. The Skim Stone Technique was one of the weakest techniques taught back at the academy. It was simply designed to move fast across the water and traverse long distances, an essential ability to have as a ninja living in a country that was more water than land. “Although, this will be the only technique I’ll be teaching you. Can’t show you too much, you understand?” Inside, Danjuro laughed his guts out.

 

“Yeah, I get it.” Kiba commented, burning with passion at the ability to learn a new technique, especially one with such use. As an animal survivalist, he had as much a dislike to water as his canine partner did.  “Isn’t this great Hinata?” he asked his female companion, swatting her lightly on the back.

 

“Ye… yes Kiba-kun,” the shy girl replied, causing Danjuro to stare at her. Seeing his stare, she blushed and looked away, tapping her fingers. He shook his mind and moved on.

 

“Okay, to help you with this technique, we’ll need something for you to stay afloat in.” He pointed to the trees that led off from the beach. “Your first task is to make a boat for us. Get some wood and whatever and make a boat.”

 

“Sensei?” Shino called out while raising his hand. “Why do we need a boat when we are learning a technique that prevents the need for a boat?”

 

“Ah a good question. Thank you for asking that, Shino.” Danjuro said before he stopping talking.

 

There was an audible silence as Danjuro just kept looking forward.

 

The silence continued on for a few moments, becoming quite loud.

 

Eventually, Danjuro squinted, as if he was checking his own existence.

 

“Get to work then.” He said finally, causing the genin to flinch harshly.

 

“You’re not going to answer?” Kiba shouted harshly.

 

“Huh? Answer what?” Danjuro asked, clearly confused.  “Never mind, go make me a boat.” He ordered once again, pointing in a random direction as he turned around. “I’ll wait here until you’re done.” With that, the water ninja flopped onto the sand and lay back, getting himself comfortable.

 

“You’re not going to help?” Kiba shouted once again, getting sand on the jounin as he slid towards him. “What kind of ninja are you?” The boy looked down at the man before him. Rage filled him for a moment as he realized that his new teacher had already fallen asleep. “And what were you saying before about not being cautious?” he shouted loudly, in the jounin’s eardrum.  As it reverberated through the cook’s body, it somehow translated itself into a lullaby, which only helped the man fall further into unconsciousness. Kiba grunted at this and went to kick the man.  

 

“Ki… Kiba-kun!” Hinata blurted out, stopping him. He stared at the small, black haired girl. “I…I think….i.” Kiba raised his eyebrow at this, before sighing. It was obvious what she was going to say.

 

“Yeah I know, no use trying too hard.” He walked forward towards his nakama and carried on walking past them into the forest where boat-making trees could be found.  “Come on guys. Let’s get to it already.”

 

****************************************

 

As they walked up the steps that had been carved into the side of the mountain, Ino sighed realizing they had finally reached their destination. Her moaning was cut short as she took into account her surroundings.  

 

“Here’s where we’re going to do our first piece of training.” Sayuki said simply, with a smile. Her initial emotions had finally disappeared with the joyful step climbing exercises that she so thoroughly enjoyed. She now tried to stick to her original plan of getting on with the children and work well with them. So far she had figured that the best way to do this was to boss them around and not actually pay attention to them. Something else in the back of her head told her that this type of view suffered many problems, but she was sure she would figure it out on the way.

 

“What?” Shikamaru groaned with annoyance. “It’s just a large mansion.” This was, indeed, the truth. It was a large mansion. It appeared to have five visible floors, with an attic and a door leading  underground confirming the existence of a basement. The walls of the house appeared to have been originally white, but they had decayed over time, giving them a bleached impression. From what could be seen inside the mansion, it had been stripped bare and nothing but simple, dark brown wood remained, slowly fraying, slowly falling apart. Even the windowsill had been ruined and in some places  also, the place showed signs of being burnt.

 

“Yes.” replied Sayuki. “It is the mansion that belonged to the old Raikage-sama, about twenty years ago. Our village is very traditional. We believed the mansion should be as high as possible to signify Raikage-sama’s strength and determination. However, in twisted irony, a lightning bolt struck it one night. Unfortunately, there was a large library at in the attic. The whole place caught fire very quickly. Still, out of general respect we’ve kept it standing although it’s long since been abandoned. Anyway, onto the training. First off, tell me. What are the three basic missions that a ninja is given?”

 

“What?” replied Ino, “you mean like D rank, C rank, B rank and so on? That’s five.”

 

“You’re thinking about it the wrong way girl. Anybody else?” She was becoming amazed about how teacher-like she was sounding. Maybe she had a natural talent for this? One more and then she would say the answer and impress them all, winning respect.

 

“The three basic mission types are usually espionage and information gathering, as in discovering and understanding the enemy plans, sabotage as in delaying the enemy’s plans in some manner, and assassination as in eliminating those who appear as a threat to you. There are also dumb ass minor jobs, which they give us as genin. These are often stupid and troublesome.” The boy to the left said all this without a pause, yet gave the distinct impression that he was about to drop dead halfway through the sentence. Sayuki fumed with anger and jumped at him.

 

“Curse you boy,” she shouted angrily, “upstage me will you?” She stopped before she leveled her fist at him, realizing that she might be losing her temper. She stopped and coughed to herself. “That’s right Shikamaru….-kun. That’s one point to you.” The three genin stared in what was either an appalled, confused manner or outright terror. “A lot of groups tend to focus on fighting skills, sabotage, finding the weak link in the enemy plans, but ultimately one of the most major jobs of a ninja is to obtain information, often with the enemy not noticing this. Now, can anyone tell me why it is important for the enemy not to notice?” She paused her monologue, waiting for an answer.

 

“Because if the…”

 

“Because if the enemy notices you,” she continued, not allowing the black haired boy to interrupt her again, “if the enemy notices that you have entered their building in any way, be it through mild suspicion, directly seeing you or you leaving a trail behind, then it is more than likely that the enemy will change their plans. Thus, the information you steal will have been useless, and all that pain will have been for nothing. Understand?”

 

“Yes, miss.” all three students groaned annoyingly, having heard all of this in the academy.

 

“Good, tonight’s mission should be obvious then.” She began as she pulled out a small scroll from her lower left pocket. It was a simple brown scroll and didn’t appear to have any particular markings on it. “We’re going to role play.”

 

“Role play?” asked Ino.

 

“That’s right. Let’s say you three are ninjas, say from the Hidden Leaf Village, and I’m a high-ranking general, say from the Hidden Cloud Village. You three have been told to obtained my secrets, and you have been told that they’re in a brown scroll that looks like this one.” She held the scroll behind her head and threw it far, through the second floor, right hand side window of the mansion. There was no windowpane there. “Simply put, go get!!! Failure results in no food tomorrow!!”

 

Before anyone had time to say anything, Sayuki disappeared in a puff of smoke, which slowly trailed into the mist that was covering the general area, making it hard to say whether or not it truly disappeared.

 

There was silence for a few moments, as the three lower shinobi just stood there. The silence was finally broken by Ino.

 

“Geez, what’s her problem,” she complained, “it feels like her minds changed five times on us since we met her.”

 

“Just ignore it, Ino.” Shikamaru muttered. “Let’s get going.” He began to walk a few steps but was stopped again by the complaining girl.

 

“Go? Go where,” the girl continued, as Shikamaru wished her own hair would drown her.  “In case you haven’t noticed she hadn’t told us anything.” With hands in his pockets, Shikamaru stared back at her, his left eyebrow shaking slightly.

 

“Isn’t that the point?”

 

“What? How can we do anything if all we know is ‘go get’? We don’t know how dangerous that old place is or anything. It looks like it’s falling apart.” The girl was close to screaming at this point; her point was accompanied with the frantic waving and pointing of her arms, followed by her placing her hands on her hips.

 

“Of course we know nothing, Ino. We’re meant to be in enemy territory, with little information, little advantage and a limited time frame. We’ve got to turn the first two around in the space that the third one gives us. Just because we get told enemy numbers and get given full diagrams in previous training exercises doesn’t mean we get given them here.”

 

“Oh.” replied Ino, surprised at Shikamaru’s outburst. As Shikamaru became surprised as well, he let out a huge sigh and fell to the floor for a moment.

 

“Ah, this is going to be too much of a hassle. This sucks.”

 

Inside the mansion, on the top of an open brown scroll, stood the cloud jounin, listening intently to the conversation below. Looks like things were already going badly, but at least she was right in her assumption about the one called Shikamaru. He had already figured out the basics to this exercise. Of course, most could do that. What mattered next was how he went about the whole situation, planning out a strategy for infiltration should come next, followed by an assessment of the face value of the location, to see if there were any discernible traps or areas they could use to their advantage. Afterwards would come….she stopped in mid thought as she caught a glance out of the window. Had he fallen asleep? What a lazy bum…..

 

She stopped herself and grinned, in a way, it reminded her of that man.

 

***************************************

 

Flashback: :two weeks sometime or other.

 

She couldn’t believe how hard she was laughing, she rarely, if ever engaged in fits of hysterics, yet this man had nearly brought her to tears with his pathetic macho attitude. Maybe it was because he was weak compared to her, or simply because it felt like he was actually trying to make her laugh. Reasserting herself, she reminded herself that it didn’t matter. She moved her mind back to the mission and playfully scolded herself on her attitude.

 

“Moving on…” she said casually, as her hands became a blur of animal seals. She could see him staring at them, in order to guess what she was going to do next. In truth she had already done it, she just had to wait for the air pressure to build up. She hoped silently that he wouldn’t hear the rumble.

 

“What on earth are you doing, woman?” the man asked, as he stood prepared. He cursed himself for not taking advantage when she was laughing her head off. In truth, he was insulted at her reactions. How could she resist his charms? Why was he even trying to charm her? She watched him carefully as he looked around, hearing the whistling wind above them. She figured that he knew by now that she was stalling. It was an unfortunate liability that this particular technique took so long, but just another moment and he should

 

“Shit,” he shouted loudly as he finally caught a glance upwards. She grunted without looking, already knowing what was there. Above them both were a large batch of rocks, brick and various other materials that had been on the top of the roof. He had probably realized that they came as a result of his attack on the roof earlier, which had knocked many pieces aside. Now, being kept in the air by the Kazeton: Whistling Winds technique, was a huge assortment of debris. She swore, as she realized that he had finally noticed.

 

“Release!” she shouted as she formed the last seal and began to jump out of the way. The water ninja copied her movements and did the same, getting as much distance from her as possible. using chakra to speed up his movements as the extremely heavy rain fell down around them. He had noticed far too fast for her technique to be of any affect, which she found unpleasantly annoying. Still, it did not matter as far as she was concerned. Her mission was simply to stall. If she killed him, then there’d be many a bonus, but she needed to wait about three more minutes, if any of the tactical artillery weapons were going to survive. The man finally stopped moving, seeming to believe that the worst of it was over, which amused Sayuki because of the large rock directly above him. She watched, grinning as it slammed into the jounin, crushing him underneath it. She blocked to her left immediately, as he jumped her with a small frying pan. He stared back in confusion, amazed she had spotted him.

 

“What?” he said, surprised, “how did you…?

 

“Oh come on,” she commented, “you just made it stand still, of course it was a water…” she didn’t have time to finish the sentence. His speed was faster than her eyes for a second, and before she knew it, she was flying across the field of rock and debris with a painful wound in her left side. As she looked, she was amazed to see him at the end of a swing with the large frying pan. She felt her insides begin to bleed as she landed.  She turned to inspect her wound and went white as she saw the note with kanji attached to where the pan had hit her.

 

From this came a loud explosion, covering at least a three-meter radius and covering the man with rubble. The inferno pursued its rampage upon the ground where the woman was standing for a few seconds before eventually dying down. The water ninja looked sad for a moment as he observed the battered remains of her clothes. He made a point not to let himself relax. A dead corpse didn’t mean anything to a ninja, especially when it wasn’t necessarily a dead corpse. He spun round to find no one standing there. Had he really just blown her up? It didn’t feel right, the silence echoed across the green outside the factory and the only thing making a noise was the small battle to his right. For a second, he wondered if she had taken that moment to actually participate in this small war and was just about to turn to look in that direction when he had no choice but to freeze in place. He felt the wires, thin yet just as deadly as the explosion he had just incurred upon her clothes . He twisted his neck slightly, as he finally picked up upon her location. Judging by her heavy breathing, the explosion note hadn’t been a total waste, at least he got to see her half naked.

 

“You bastard!” she commented out loud as she stepped into view, wearing nothing more than a slightly embarrassing sports bra and multiple bruises scattered around her body. He couldn’t tell what was further down than that due to a rock she was conveniently standing behind.

 

“Woohoo.” He shouted mockingly. “Take it off, take it all off.” She flinched hard at this. Having finally had enough, she pulled out what had to be an endless reserve of wooden throwing weapons and aimed them towards him. Her hand flickered, and so did he. “Too slow” he shouted at her as he back-flipped into the air, going as high as possible, the wires that once surrounded him having already been cut. As he flew, he started to perform his own seal technique, finishing the monkey seal as he landed on the largest rock of them all.

 

“Suiton: Suikoden no…” He never got time to finish it, as something grabbed his legs and tripped him up. It got on top of him and appeared to smile at the turn of events.

 

“I love it when a trap comes together.” The rock bushin said, weighing around three hundred pounds at the moment, trapping him underneath. “It took long enough to get you to stand in the center of my symbol” Reacting to this, he glanced around, to find the many rocks, forming some kind of alchemy pattern. He didn’t know too much of the subject himself, since it was mainly myth. His mind   stopped and focused on the ragged ninja, kneeling upon the ground and forming yet another set of seals. “See how you like this,” one of the two Sayuki’s said, he wasn’t sure which. The one not on top of planted her hands firmly onto the ground. As if responding to the impact, the rocks and bricks and debris bounced slightly into the air and refused to come down, as if transparent pillars were supporting them. It took but a moment for them to all but disappear, as they spun round the water ninja and the stone bushin at an accelerating speed. Soon, grass and mud was picked up. Everything in the area now levitated except for the cloud ninja, but she was out of sight, only her voice remained, its echo mocking his defeat as it whispered in the wind.

 

“Kazeton: Formless Prisons!

 

End chapter 2

 

Why do I get the feeling no ones read this far? Maybe it’s because the chapter manager said that only two people got to chapter 1, maybe it’s paranoia. Maybe it’s because I haven’t put in any stupid couples. Okay kiddies, next week it’ll be Hinatax erm…..Haku yaoi. Yeah…figure that one out….I’ll certainly be trying.

 

I haven’t really included a glossary in this one, as you should know most of the terms by now if you’ve read the last few glossaries. I’ll probably include one later.

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