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Stepping Stones Except There Are Billions of Stepping Stones Going in All Directions Layered on Top of Each Other Going on Forever

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There is a whirl of colors and a change in the air that has his hive more active than it had been in weeks, the smoky air and ash laden clouds were not the ideal environment for them. By the clan elders, what in the hell did Naruto even do? The thought was abruptly cut off by searing pain across his torso. His hive, bless his hive, was busy clotting the wound. What a wound it was, stretching from his left hip to his right shoulder and he really, really wants to know what Naruto did. By the Sage’s hairy balls, that hurt more than a new addition to his hive’s tunnels did. His clothes were torn to shreds and he was embarrassingly thankful that his pants were mostly intact, though his shirt was little more than half of a sleeve with something closely resembling a piece of cloth wrapped around his chest. His collar was gone, he found he didn’t really care.

It was at this moment he became aware of an advancing chakra signature, it was steadily making its way towards him. Three of them, actually, four at most if they had a nin-animal with them and he had long since learned not to count any nin-animal out after one too many spars with Kiba, no matter the type. A slight fluctuation of his chakra had a few Kikaichu from his hive spread out into a loose circle, close enough together to be seen as it was and not making any effort to hide them in the grass or under the ground. A threat but also an invitation, if the incoming shinobi knew how to read it. He really hoped they knew how to read it, he was in no state to be fighting anyone off.

The chakra signatures were coming closer, not making any effort to mask themselves or make themselves any less noticeable. They were very, very stupid or believed him to be an ally. He opened his eyes, the bright blue sky blinding him, the sky shouldn’t be this bright, not unless- His glasses were missing, dammit. He squinted up at the bright white clouds that were lazing across the sky, eyes stinging and watering slighty. The Aburame’s eyes are sensitive to sunlight. Hell, their bodies are sensitive to sunlight in general. He averted his eyes, looking over in the direction the unknowns should be coming from.

The shinobi are closer now, almost into the little clearing he somehow ended up in and he still needed to figure out why the seal had sent him here. He jolted, how could he forget the seal? Naruto had sent him back, right, now he was remembering. There was an attack, the rabbit goddess descending upon them, metal clashing, and then he was pushed into the center of the chakra loaded matrix, they were screaming, at that moment, and it rang in his ears, bouncing around in his mind.

A rustle to his left, the shinobi have arrived. He shifts his head to look at them and is vaguely troubled by what he sees. He was going to strangle Naruto, truly. Shiranui Genma, Namaishi Raidou, and Tatami Iwashi stare down at him.

“Shit, man, what mess did you get into?” Raidou asks, hesitant to step closer than he already had, which is a little more than five feet away from his circle of bugs, that leaves him about eight feet away, and he’s obviously looking at his Kikaichu, knowing there is a message but not knowing how to read it.

That was good, the fact one of them knew there was a hidden message was more than enough for him. A twitch of his hand and his Kikaichu retreated, entering the slits in his skin to rest with the remaining bit of his hive.

Genma stepped forward and narrowed his eyes, “What’s an Aburame doing so far out here in Tsuchi no Kuni?” He knelt down next to him, not yet touching but hands hovering in a silent question. Could Genma bandage him? He winced slightly but nodded his consent.

“What’s your name?” Iwashi asks, always the one to think of what the other two had not, to back them up when they got careless or stupid.

He inhales deeply before answering, “Aburame Shino,” His voice is rusty from disuse and it’s all he can manage before he breaks into a fit of violent coughs that wrack his entire frame, leaves him gasping for air as his hive buzzes beneath his skin in concern. A deep breath in, a deep breath out and he could breathe properly again.

Genma whistles as he finishes up the bandages around Shino’s torso. “Smoke inhalation?” He stands up, “Where in the world did you manage that?”

Raidou steps up behind him, “I second that question. We would have been able to see that much smoke.”

Squinting up at them, Shino has no idea which one of them is talking anymore. “The clouds,” he says, “They are laden with ash and the ground is covered in blood.” Shino knows he should shut up now, he knows he’s said too much. Time to wing it, then. “Genjutsu.” He says simply. “I haven’t the slightest idea where it actually came from.”

He really needs to work on functioning with so little blood, so little chakra despite what his hive is trying it’s best to give him. He hushes them with a simple feeling directed at them. There are voices above him. The three shinobi, he knows, they will take him back to Konoha.

With that, he allows himself to fall unconscious.