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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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