Chapter 1: I Remember The Rain
I remember the rain. I remember the shouts of my once-superiors, as commanding as they could muster over their fear. I remember the babies crying, the flustered mothers and fathers and their hectic footsteps, never breaking stride as they fled the area. I remember the vivid red of the soldiers as they lay dying, soaked in their own blood, and their screams as they tried—and failed—to fight back.
Above all, I remember the presence. The suffocatingly dense, horribly malevolent presence of the Nine-Tailed Fox.
After facing down jinchuuriki in the third war, I thought I could handle the power a Tailed Beast could unleash. But, jinchuuriki are humans with demons sealed into them. Capable of untold amounts of destruction, yes, but the power is channeled through its container, effectively limiting its strength (unless, of course, the jinchuuriki decided to relinquish its hold on the sealed beast—but I was never a witness of this, even in the heat of combat). This...
This was unrestrained hatred and bloodlust, rolled into a giant package of death and destruction.
And, compared to what I once faced, that fact just made it all the worse.
I remember the chakra lashing out every which way, piercing through hordes of loyal Leaf shinobi—my comrades—as it struck out blindly, destroying building after building. I remember the pain of the chakra tearing, cutting, thrashing into my side, and how easily I flew—how light I was—into a wall, away from the foul beast. I also remember the blinding yellow spark in the distance.
I remember, then, that familiar mop of blond hair, the cheers of the exhausted shinobi—“The Fourth Hokage is here! Long live the Yellow Flash!”—and how, suddenly, the Fox just seemed to shrink in on itself.
I don't remember much else of that day, the throes of unconsciousness welcoming me into its cold grasp soon after.
I was once a jounin, you know; an elite shinobi of the Leaf. I used to be one of the premier assassination specialists, and certainly a respected member of the Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai “Black Ops” program; hell, I was ANBU Commander for a reason. I'm also damn good with a sword, if I do say so myself.
Now I run a little weapons store in an out-of-the-way corner. Ah, well, such is life.
To be honest, I don't mind. Perhaps the trauma of that day damaged my will, perhaps the loss of an arm and eye and the crippling of a leg gave me more of a shock than I can remember, but I'm quite glad to have been removed from the shinobi forces—although I'm certainly not glad in the least about the fact that I needed to be removed in the first place. Indeed, I like to think I put up a pretty good fight about it, but there's only so much a half-blind man with a single arm and a crippled leg can do in the face of a highly-trained medical ninja. (I like to think she cheated.)
It is a hard task indeed to switch from being an elite shinobi to a civilian lifestyle, and like most who switch abruptly, I had—and still have—trouble acclimating to the relatively quieter lifestyle. Thankfully, Keisuke, my spouse, helped me recover enough to partake in a normal, civilian life, even though doing so was detrimental to his fashion career. Bless his heart, I don't think I can re-pay him enough.
For a while after the accident, it was uncomfortable for us, to say the least; with the only income arriving from Keisuke's fledgling fashion business, it was terribly difficult to make ends meet, and I was unused to doing nothing. Fortunately, Kei thought up the idea for opening a small shop, which certainly helped enough to increase our daily budget. Until his career suddenly took off (which was, oddly enough, roughly the time the Princess Gale movies started up), that small shop provided the majority of the income, to the point where I was able to financially support my life-long dream: having a child.
Now, we're both male, so biologically it's completely impossible. Thankfully, that's where adoption comes in.
Yukari was another bright spot in my life. She was three years old when Kei and I adopted her. She was—and still is, to a lesser extent—a quiet girl, unassuming and very ordinary, except for her hair color and skin complexion, which seems more befitting a person from Hidden Cloud than any family in the Land of Fire. She's had troubles with that as a result, but her best friend Akiko helps sort her out when Kei and I can't.
Akiko. A nice brunette girl with an unnatural fondness for the color green, Akiko is almost like our second daughter, considering both she and Yukari grew up in the same orphanage. But where Yukari is legally our child, Akiko is still a ward of the state. Unlike Yukari, who doesn't remember anything about her parents, Akiko is the bastard daughter of an abusive-drunk mother and a gambling-addict father, both of whom I used to work with as a chuunin.
Needless to say, when I pieced that together, “furious” would have been a massive understatement. I used a fair few of my connections to, erm, “remove the hostile threats” from my second daughter.
Which is actually why I can't adopt her. Ah, well, such is life.
Well, anyway. Back to my shop. It's a small shinobi weapons store, although it specializes in general weaponry for all kinds of shinobi. The eccentric jounin Might Guy is a frequent customer of mine; he's rather well-known in many parts of the Leaf, for good reason—he's so damn loud. Eccentricities aside, though, he's an excellent shinobi, and I suppose we all have our faults.
I often try to collect various items for sale; for instance, from merchants, I've purchased a good amount of blades and various weaponry found elsewhere in the world. Very unique. Generally, though, the most often purchased supplies are the more common shinobi utilities, such as wire, throwing stars, and kunai.
"Father. We're leaving."
There's a blacksmith nearby who also manages to forge a very high-quality metal for their swords and knives. I tend to purchase their materials, as well, although I don't manufacture weapons myself, or offer weapon repairs. Hard to do that with one hand, after all.
"Father, I'm leaving and running off with my boyfriend to elope and get pregnant."
I stop my musings and reflexively throw a knife at Yukari, who dodges effortlessly.
"Yukari. Don't you dare. Your dad will be so upset."
"There will be babies everywhere, Father. Hundreds of them. It will be a literal baby shower."
"Yukari. I will shove most of those babies into your mouth, and then keep the rest for...pets or something. When did you even get a boyfriend?"
Yukari crosses her arms and frowns. "I didn't. Still don't. Hopefully never will. But, Father, it's half past six."
I stare at her with a raised eyebrow. "Alright, then. Why should I care?"
Yukari frowns even deeper. Akiko gasps—when did she get here?—and responds, "Father! It's graduation day at the academy! We'll be getting our teams today!"
I look at Yukari, and then to Akiko, then rub my forehead. "My word, when did you two get so old?"
Yukari's frown lessens and Akiko giggles, while holding her hand out—they'd learned long ago not to directly touch me or especially my handless stump. "Silly old man~! C'mon, Father, let's go!"
I stare at Akiko in bewilderment, struggling to recall why I was supposed to go with them to the Academy, before realization hits. "Ah, that's right, I was to treat you to breakfast today, wasn't I?"
Yukari nods. "Yes, Father. You informed us last night, after all." She then looks at me with a lightly concerned expression.
I grimace. Damn perceptive children. "My apologies. I had an unpleasant thought last night that carried over to the present. Very well, let's go." I grunt and stand up. Akiko hands me my cane and I nod lightly towards her, before stepping away from my chair.
"Yukari, be a dear and lock up, would you?" Yukari nods and proceeds to do so, while Akiko goes to assist her. I stretch out my weary limbs and twist my back a bit before sighing and pacing off, cane in hand and children behind.
"So, where would you two like to eat?" I inquire as we walk around the town. Yukari has always had this strange habit of spacing out and faintly touching random items while walking around in the street, and now is no different, as she lightly touches the guard rail. Knowing this, I looked at Akiko while asking, who takes a glimpse at Yukari's face before looking at me.
"Um...it's your choice, I guess?" She bites her lip as she looks worriedly towards Yukari.
"Yukari?" I ask. "Where would you like to go?"
Yukari jumps and sucks in a breath, and turns her head wide-eyed towards me. "Wha–Father?"
"Where would you like to eat?" I repeat.
Yukari's eyes suddenly focus, and she returns to her normal lethargic pose. "Ah. Well. There's that ramen place at the corner, I'd figure we can eat there."
I grimace. "Ramen for breakfast? Perhaps...ah, very well, I did promise. Let's go." Akiko loves ramen so I knew she wouldn't mind, but Yukari willingly eating ramen is a whole different story. If she suggested to eat there, though, then who was I to deny that? (Well, other than being her father.)
We arrive at Ichiraku's ramen stand, where the owner, Teuchi, seems to have no customers this early.
"Hello, Teuchi. Again," I offer to the owner, who nods and smiles back, then glances at Akiko.
"Ah, Akiko! So, you'd like your usual, then?" asks Teuchi. "And who's your friend?" he lightly asks as he nods towards Yukari.
Yukari introduces herself and I look around the stand. The place really hasn't changed all that much in the few years I've known Mr. Teuchi; the same few chairs, the same background wall design, the same smell of ramen fills the air. I remember this stand vividly from my youth, although I'd never willingly eaten here, until Kei felt like eating ramen that one time. We don't talk about that time.
"Yukarin~! You should try the beef ramen!" Akiko grins. "Uncle Teuchi, I'll take my usual order, please!"
"Coming right up!" Teuchi shouts as he prepares his broth. "Take your time, Ms. Yukari, and just choose whatever you feel like eating."
Yukari grimaces but complies. "I suppose I'll try the beef ramen."
"Right!" responds Teuchi. "And what about you, sir?"
"Miso, please," I reply.
"Yay!" shouts a jubilant Akiko. "That's my favorite!"
"Akiko, shut up, I'm right next to you." hisses Yukari.
"Sorry," replies Akiko in a near-whisper.
We spend a good hour or so in the stand, Akiko and Yukari talking about their expectations and me adding in my two cents. Then, I send them off to their classes and pay for the meal.
Hours later, I hobble over to the Academy; Yukari and Akiko should have finished their testing by now, and I felt the need to pick them up, despite their not needing it. Ah, well, they won't mind.
I wait at the entrance and whistle sharply. Suddenly, I hear two bangs coming from inside the Academy building. Yukari and Akiko appear in front of me not two seconds later.
"Mission status?" I bark out sharply.
"Complete, sir," replies Akiko.
"And the outcome?"
"Acceptable within parameters," answers Yukari, holding up her hitai-ate—forehead protectors, a status symbol in the shinobi world. Akiko holds her own up, as well.
"Very good. Dismissed!" I toss a white smoke bomb to the ground in a poor imitation of the shunshin technique. The smoke fizzles out rather quickly, leaving me to stare at my two children and the blond boy.
"Well," I mutter as I pick up my cane and start hobbling away. "That could've gone better." Akiko snickers loudly and Yukari holds a faint smile on her face, and both of them follow after me.
"So, the graduation went well? You have your assigned teams?" I ask Akiko, who sighs but nods.
"Yukari and I are on different teams. I have the dead-last and the rookie of the year, but she..." and here she grimaces.
I nod. "That unpleasant?"
Her grimace deepens. "Worse."
"Oh dear," I mutter as Yukari comes back into the room. "Yukari, dear, what exactly seems to be the problem with your team?"
Yukari dons a confused look. "As far as I can tell, nothing, but I barely know either of them myself."
"They're jerks," mutters Akiko angrily. "They're rude, mean jerks."
Yukari hands me a cup of tea and I sip it gingerly. "Explain."
"They just are, okay?!" Akiko all but shouts as she tries to run into another room, but Yukari intercepts her, twisting her arm and sitting her back down in the chair. Akiko pouts and crosses her arms over her chest.
I give my best stern expression and keep eye contact with her until she folds. "Fine! So one of the kids is a Hyuuga, you know how they are, and he's so rude! And the other boy is such a misogynistic prick!" Akiko huffs. "And to make matters worse, they don't like Yukari at all, I heard them talking about her once, it...it wasn't nice," she ends in a mutter.
My eyebrows raise at that last statement. "Interesting."
"Indeed," snarks Yukari. "I didn't even think you knew the word 'misogynistic'."
"Oh, shut up," grumbles Akiko.
"But, yes, I'm aware that they don't really like me." Yukari shrugs. "I'll be fine, really; I'm better than both of them."
"Careful, dear, that sounds like overconfidence," I warn.
"Well," replies Akiko. "She actually is better than both of them, all things considered. She was second place in the class, you know."
"Indeed?" I look over to Yukari. "Congratulations!"
Yukari blushes. "It really wasn't that difficult."
"Well, you should know that the rankings mean nothing in the real world," I emphasize to both of them. "Your teachers might try to use your rankings against you, but even a genin can beat a jounin with enough luck. Keep that in mind."
"Actually, now that I think about it, Yukari could handle her own against those two," Akiko mutters in thought, then she brightens. "Besides, I'd love to see Tokuma get his face beaten in!"
"As long as you never let your guard down, I'm sure you can do anything." I'm pretty much lecturing them now, and they both know it, but they listen anyway. Nice kids. "The biggest and most common weaknesses a shinobi can have are overconfidence and underestimating your enemy. Consider both of them a minor enemy at best, then, until you feel like you can get to know them. Even then, never let your guard down." They nod seriously.
"That being said," I add, "The Village Hidden in Leaves prides itself on teamwork. Do not allow yourself to fail the task, even if you have to work alongside your enemies."
"Does this have to do with the post-graduation test?" Yukari suddenly inquires.
"What?" Akiko looks like someone just took all her ramen.
"Close your mouth, dear, you'll catch flies," I reprimand absently. "In some small part, yes, I suppose so."
"I see. Are there any hints you could give us?" Yukari asks. I heave a sigh.
"Unfortunately, no. The Academy frowns upon ninja telling fresh genin about the post-graduation test. How did you come to find out about it?"
Yukari shrugs. "I overheard it from somewhere," she replies, not meeting my eyes.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait," Akiko jumps up and waves her hands in front of us. "What are you talking about? What test?!"
I blink. Yukari blinks. We look at each other, then look back at Akiko. "Never mind."
Akiko grunts and sits down forcefully. "This had better be an easy test," she grumbles.
"As long as you remember what I told you, the test will be easy, yes," I reply. "I suppose there's your hints right there, Yukari."
Yukari's face sets in a grim determination. "I hope my two...teammates would be willing to work with me."
I raise an eyebrow. "From what I've heard of them, I don't think that's an issue, if you force them into submission beforehand. I generally wouldn't suggest that, though." Yukari nods.
After a half hour of family discussion, we notice the time, and after saying good-night to Akiko, Yukari and I head to sleep.
"She's so weird!"
Ah. That would be my new teammates. I walk closer to the building that is conveniently hiding me from view.
"Right? She's weird, right?"
"That doesn't really answer the question!"
"Given that it's an entirely asinine question, I feel no need to answer it."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?!"
I walk around the building and stroll to their spot. "It means that I can hear every word you're saying."
As I expected, the Hyuuga has his Byakugan active. That explains his lack of surprise. Or it could be that he's a Hyuuga? At any rate, when he sees me strolling up to him, he turns it off. Meanwhile, our other teammate jumps probably a foot in the air.
"GAH! What the hell?!"
"How can you expect to be a ninja when you're startled by every little thing?" I snark.
"Well I didn't expect you to do that!" he defends himself.
"Which doesn't answer my question," I retort, because it really doesn't.
"Enough," the Hyuuga stops the third teammate.
"Thank you, Tokuma," I reply blithely. "I appreciate your concern for me."
Tokuma raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't doing it for you."
I roll my eyes. "I know that. I was being sarcastic."
"Of course, because you must have a defense mechanism to hide the fact that you are terrified. It is only logical." the Hyuuga shrugs arrogantly.
"It's not a defense mechanism. I do it because it's funny."
"It is most certainly not."
"Of course it is. I'm a funny girl."
"You are funny, but it isn't because of your sarcasm."
"Oh?" I cross my arms over my chest. "In what other way am I funny?"
"The humor comes in your failure to accept the superiority of those who are obviously your betters."
"I do accept my superiors. I don't know where you got that idea from."
Tokuma raises an eyebrow. "Then why are you mocking me, your better?"
I feel my eyebrows both go up. "In what way are you better than me?" I ask incredulously. I can't think of a single reason that they would even assume that.
"I am a Hyuuga. I am inherently better than you," Tokuma replies in that arrogant Hyuuga manner. I withhold the instinctive urge to punch him in the face. They are very good at that, I admitted to myself.
"We're men and you're just a girl!" their third teammate shouts angrily. "We should've gotten an all-male team, but no, you just had to trick your way onto the team!"
"Zaji," I ask him, as seriously as I can while trying not to laugh. "Are you gay?"
"Now, now, children," a voice interjects. "There are no all-male teams in peace-time. In fact, there are rarely ever any all-male teams; the last one I can recall is the Fourth Hokage's team."
We turn around to see an older woman, wearing the traditional flak jacket of the Leaf, with facial markings. Alongside her is a blue-furred wolfish-looking dog. An Inuzuka, then. I was aware that the Academy teacher mentioned our new teacher, but I hadn't paid any attention then; Akiko was mostly shocked at my choice of teammates and so she missed who my teacher was, as well, but at least she was paying more attention than I was.
"What?!" Zaji explodes. "I am not gay!" He then points accusingly at the new person. "And who the hell are you?!"
"I'm your new teacher. The name's Tsume Inuzuka," she grins, pointed teeth spread wide. "This right here's my partner, Kuromaru."
Kuromaru barks, then he opens his mouth and speaks. "Nice to meet you, kids."
"What?!" Zaji jumps. "That...that dog just talked!"
I roll my eyes. "Yes, Zaji, the dog just talked. Thank you for pointing out the obvious."
"Shut up!" Zaji whirled on me, but before he can talk, Tsume interjects.
"I like my son, Kiba, and my daughter, Hana, and obviously my partner, Kuromaru. I dislike titles, so just call me Tsume, and I dislike people overlooking my partner, so just call him Kuromaru. My hobbies are, well, most of them are too inappropriate for kids like you, but I like to cook sometimes. My dream is to be the strongest Inuzuka."
After a moment's silence, I realized that she wanted us to follow her lead, so I spoke.
"I'm Yukari. I like my sister in all but blood, Akiko, and my parents. I dislike the rest of my family, and...a lot of other things. My hobby is..." and here I think for something I like to do, "stargazing, and watching for lightning during stormy days. My dream...it's private."
"Oh?" Tsume perks up, clearly interested, and I hold back a groan. "You don't have to tell us if you don't want, but you've gotta say something."
"'Something'," I snark.
Tsume laughs, a barking laugh that actually does startle me, but I notice that my teammates also look startled. "Nice try, kid. Gotta say something, though; 'private' doesn't cut it."
Well, there's no way in hell I'm telling her my dream, especially not with these two idiots, so I think about something else.
"My dream...I suppose it would be to make friends."
That...did not garner the reaction I expected. In fact, I'm not sure what I expected, but what I got certainly wasn't it. Kuromaru crawls up to me and I subconsciously pet him, ignoring the glimpse I got from him. Zaji laughs, the Hyuuga sneers, and Tsume...actually looks kind of sad.
"That's weird!" Zaji laughs. "You're weird!"
"Alright," Tsume interrupts, looking very irritated, for which I'm grateful for. "Then you go next, kid."
"I'm Zaji and I'm gonna be the strongest ninja in the world!" I hold back my desire to laugh at him and instead stare at Kuromaru. He twitches his ears and I scratch at them, watching the glimpses that appear. "I like ... and I dislike ... and I guess my hobby would be playing cards." His speech is interrupted by the glimpses.
Tsume nods, but doesn't say anything, instead looking at the Hyuuga expectantly. He sighs but nods.
"My name is Tokuma. I am a Hyuuga. I like ... and I dislike weak fools. My hobby is ... and I don't have a dream, as they are for weak-minded fools who refuse to accept their fate and position in life." He probably pins me with a glare or something, but I'm too busy watching the glimpses I'm receiving to care.
"Excellent! Now that we're all done introducing ourselves, it's time to talk about your genin test."
"What?!" Zaji yells in shock, and even Tokuma looks surprised. I sigh quietly, but even that was enough to make Tsume look at me, eyebrows raised.
"You knew this was going to happen?"
Great. I felt more than saw my teammates' eyes on me. "I don't know what the test is, but I know that there is one, yes." At Tsume's inquisitive stare, I elaborated, "My father told me when he was drunk." God I hope he doesn't kill me for saying that. Thankfully, Tsume nods, accepting this answer, and I mentally sigh in relief.
Zaji grumbles about me cheating my way into the team (or something, I didn't really pay attention) but subsided when Tsume gave him a look.
"Right, well, your task will be to retrieve this package," she lifts up a strangely-aromatic package, "and I will be actively trying to hide it from you. Use as much force as necessary, because you're going to have to aim to kill to get the package."
"But...but what if we hurt you, teacher?" Zaji asks worriedly.
I groan, and Zaji looks at me angrily, so I explain. "She's a jounin, Zaji. We probably won't even be able to touch her, much less hurt her."
"Her?" Zaji looks confused. "Our teacher's a dude." I snicker at our teacher's expression.
"I am most certainly a woman, kid."
Zaji looks dumbfounded and I can't help it anymore; I laugh. Zaji stares at me accusingly. "You knew!"
"That she is female, yes, I knew as soon as she entered the clearing. I could smell the perfume on Kuromaru."
Tsume shot a smug look to Kuromaru, who -- and there's no better word for this -- blushes in embarrassment.
Zaji groaned. "Please don't tell me you're a girl, Tokuma. I don't think I could handle it." Tokuma grunts but doesn't reply. "Oh, God, that better not be a 'yes, I am' grunt..."
"Zaji." Zaji turned to Tokuma. "Shut up."
Kuromaru and even Tsume stare at me, intrigued. "How did you smell the perfume from so far away?"
I grimace. "My dad's a fashion designer. He had me help him a lot as a kid."
Kuromaru nods. Tsume's eyes widen. "He couldn't be..." I turn to her. "Fashions of Spring?" I nod, and our fully-adult, very androgynous teacher squeals.
"Sorry," she blushes as she sees our horrified reactions. Even Kuromaru moved backwards in horror. "It's just that I really love that brand." She coughs. "Don't think that that would give you brownie points, though; you'll still have to try hard to get the package." I nod, determined to become a shinobi.
I pretty much give up all hope on becoming a shinobi as I lay down, filthy and sweating heavily. Beside me, Zaji isn't looking so well, either; the only one with any semblance of poise is Tokuma, and I have a feeling that it's a Hyuuga thing. In fact, I'm fairly certain of that.
"You all suck," Tsume says flatly. I wince at the blunt remark, but I can't refute it, since she's right: we were terrible. Maybe I should have gone with my father's plan of getting them to submit to me, but I shake it off. No point in dwelling on what could have been, his words echo in my head. Besides, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a terrible idea, anyway.
"Not only did you fail to retrieve the package," she says as she paces around us, "you didn't even use teamwork until it was too late. Pathetic," she spits on Zaji's forehead protector. "You should all quit being shinobi."
"Never! I'll be the best shinobi in the Leaf! You'll see!" Zaji's voice suddenly cuts off as a dagger is pressed into his neck.
"Do you think this is a fucking joke, boy?" Tsume's voice gets terrifyingly deep, and I realize that it's not coming from her, but from her dog, who suddenly looks a thousand times more frightening. "This isn't the Academy anymore. This isn't some game where you can pussy-foot around and expect to magically win."
"Tokuma!" Tsume barks, and I jump, trying and failing to get up from the ground. "Kill Yukari or Zaji dies!" Tokuma's eyes widen in horror and he gulps, but pulls out a knife and prepares to do the deed, inching closer. He is nearly right on top of me, at this point, but falters.
"N-no." Tokuma's unflappable Hyuuga façade breaks and he stares at Zaji in bewilderment, but Zaji's face is resolute. I'm faintly impressed. "If you're going to kill me, then kill me, but don't bring anyone else into this. I'm not afraid." Tsume narrows her eyes.
"Bullshit," she says bluntly. "You reek of fear." But as she says this, she puts her knife away, and Zaji rubs his neck, disbelievingly. I finally manage to sit up.
"Thanks for the show of support, Tokuma," I try to snark, but I'm still shaken from the experience, so it comes out a bit wobbly. Damn my body.
"Shut up," Tokuma hisses. "What the hell was that?" That confirmed it: he was absolutely terrified. I wasn't going to mock him, though, because I was, too.
"Sorry," I mutter quietly. Tokuma stares at me, wide-eyed, so I try to elaborate. "For being so damn useless. If we were in a fight--"
"If we were in a fight, I would have to protect you," Tokuma said, sounding annoyed. "I know that, and you know that, and that would be fine. You're a lot better than I thought you were. A lot better. Don't give yourself such impossible expectations."
"They aren't high," I say. "I'm better than this, I know it." I looked down. "Right now, that was just terrible."
Tsume and Zaji also stare at me with disbelieving eyes. What? I did terribly. Why are they so surprised?
"Yukari." Tsume speaks up. I turn to face her. "You nearly killed me. I have decades of experience over you and I still nearly died."
"I know," I say, annoyed now. "You don't have to rub it in. I failed to retrieve the box, I failed to neutralize the threats, and I failed to protect my teammates. I know."
"Right." Tsume has a strange expression on her face. "You know what? What the hell, I'll pass you all. You sucked shit, but I see promise in there. We'll meet tomorrow at 7 in the morning; don't be late." With that, she Body Flickered away. I stand up shakily and walk away, thinking about the day's events.
"Yukari," Zaji calls. I stop and turn around to a bewildered-looking Tokuma and a pale and sweaty Zaji. "What the hell was that?"
"That!" He waves his hand vaguely in the direction of the field. "That...that was amazing!"
I frown. "Really," I ask sarcastically, but they both nod furiously and earnestly.
"You nearly got her in that trap!" Zaji exclaims, excitedly. "She managed to switch out at the last moment but it nearly got her, we could see the expression on her face!"
"And I'm sorry I couldn't get you in the plan, but there wasn't enough time, and I can't believe you managed to read us as well as you did," Tokuma added.
I furrow my brow. "You don't have to repeat what happened. I know, I was there."
"Obviously you weren't!" Zaji yelled, looking angry. Wow, mood swings. "What do you mean, 'that was terrible'? That was the best thing I've ever seen! You were so awesome!"
I blink, absolutely confused. "I thought you said I was useless?"
They look at each other. "Well, obviously, we were wrong," Zaji says. "But, um, we'd like to work together more. If that's okay with you, I mean." Tokuma nods.
"I..." These two guys, who apparently hated me for a long while, wanted to finally work as a team? Perhaps there was something to my father's suggestion, after all. "Okay." I nod. "I don't know what to do, but okay."
Zaji grins. "It'll be great, trust me! We'll be the best team in all the village, and everyone will know the name of Team 5!"
A year later, Yukari and Akiko are chuunin working on gate security, being the only two of nine rookies of the Leaf to be promoted in the Chuunin Exams hosted in the Village Hidden in the Sand six months previous. Akiko constantly wakes up in the middle of the night crying from the pain of losing her two teammates, forcing Yukari to be her pillar of strength, but they're remarkably stable in terms of sanity.
And, of course, I still run a little weapons store in an out-of-the-way corner. Business is picking up, though, so there's that.
I tally up the remainder of the sales and leave a little note about cleaning the floor the next morning, before packing up and heading home. When I arrive to the front of the house, I notice movement in the windows and quicken my pace, taking off my sandals as quickly as I can, and heading into the kitchen.
To find my husband, clad in nothing but an apron, making rice balls.
He stops rolling the ball in his hand and smiles at me. "Hello, dear, I'm home."
"Ah," I stutter. "Welcome...welcome home." My lips are awfully dry...
He looks down and his smile grows wider. "Well, someone's glad to see me."
I fidget in place as he saunters over, a saucy smirk on his face. As he gets closer to me, he cups my cheek with his hand. "Hello, dearest," he whispers, and I can feel my body temperature skyrocket.
Suddenly, the door slams open, and Yukari and Akiko come barreling in, dirty and exhausted. Kei and I jump and he swivels his head to the direction of the two children, eyes narrowing.
"Welcome home, you two. Here, have a rice ball," he says, as he throws a rice ball at Yukari's face. She opens her mouth and eats the rice ball whole.
"Thanks, dad," she says after swallowing enough of it to speak. "You have the best balls."
"You two are filthy. Take a bath, now," I state firmly, before either of them can continue. Akiko untangles herself from Yukari. "How did you two even get this filthy? You had gate duty."
"Gate duty sucks and is boring," replies Yukari, as she slowly gets up and dusts herself off. "Akiko and I had a spar after gate duty and, well, I won, but she drenched me in the lake."
I hum. "And does this have anything to do with the Chuunin Exams taking place here?"
Yukari and Akiko shift their eyes towards each other. Yukari speaks up. "...Maybe?" Akiko runs off to the bath, probably to avoid answering.
I roll my eyes. "You're going to be proctoring a test. You won't be in a spar of any kind."
"'One cannot be too careful.' That's something you taught us," Yukari points out.
"There's a difference between carefulness and pointless paranoia," I reply. "It's fruitless to prepare for something with a relatively low chance of happening."
Yukari rolls her eyes. "That didn't seem to help you, you know."
Judging from her horrified face, she knew she made a misstep with her words, but I clench my eyes shut anyway and hiss lowly.
"Father, I'm sorry, that came out wrong, I--"
"Yukari. Shut up," I hiss out, pained. I take a moment to organize my thoughts; Yukari's subtle reminder of that night made my worst memories come into the forefront of my mind. I try to shut them out, as Yukari breathes sadly.
"Father, I...I'm sorry. I didn't..."
"It's...fine," I breathe out. "You're right, you know. You should prepare for any eventuality, no matter the probability. I apologize. Please leave me be," I finish, hobbling to my room.
"F-father...?" Yukari sounds worried, but I ignore her and keep walking.
I arrive in my room and shut the door as softly as I can, which ended up still being rather loud. I sigh audibly and wince at phantom pains.
I turn to the cabinet and stare at myself in the mirror on the cabinet door. I use my good arm to touch the scars on my face, tracing around the hole that used to be an eye.
I'm sorry, I hear the head doctor's voice in my head. Your arm was torn clean off, and your leg could not be healed. You can never be a shinobi again.
I smash my hand against the cabinet door angrily and scream at the pain from the glass piercing my hand. I hear footsteps running into my room but decide not to look towards them as I rip out the shards embedded in my hand, willing my tears back.
I feel soft hands on my shoulders and look up at Kei's worried face. "Are you alright, dear?"
All of the training in the world couldn't have stopped my emotions from leaking to the surface. I cry long and hard, weeping about things that could no longer be, hugging my husband of thirteen years. He holds me tightly and weeps with me.
"Shh, shh," Kei soothes me, gently kissing my head. "I know, I forgive you, I love you, I know." I'm vaguely aware that I'm apologizing over and over again, but I can't really control myself right now.
I stare vacantly at the door that Father slammed shut. Dad yelled at me, but I wasn't listening, being deep in my own thoughts.
I hear a crash and look towards the room that Dad just ran into. Shortly after, I hear sobbing; I peek into the room to see both of my parents huddled against each other.
"Yukari," Dad whispers. "Get the first-aid kit." I nod and run back into the kitchen.
The thing about my family is that we all have experience in shinobi affairs, so there are a lot of first-aid kits. I reach in the kitchen cupboards, behind the teacups, and pull out one of the first-aid kits, then hike it back to my parents' room.
I open the kit in the middle of the floor and pull out disinfectant, ointment, and gauze. Passing the gauze to Dad, I whip out the ointment and lightly dab Father's hand, being careful to not actually touch him. He flinches but doesn't otherwise react. Dad's eyes soften as he looks at Father's hand, and I feel relieved that the damage to his hand wasn't more severe; minor cuts and a bit of bruising, but nothing serious.
"I...Dad, I'm sorry," I whisper. "I didn't think."
"No, you didn't," Dad hisses back to me. I flinch but nod. Suddenly, Father trembles and pushes me away.
"Father?" I lightly pat Father's shoulder. "Father, it's me." His one eye stares unfocused towards my general direction; I reach towards his hand to add more ointment but he pushes me away again. "Father?" He is obviously seeing something that isn't actually there. I'm sitting there, completely lost, not knowing what to do, so I grab his hand.
Please, there has to be something you can do! I see my father yelling at what looks like a doctor. I refuse to be useless! I refuse!
I'm sorry, sir, but there is nothing I can do, the doctor replies, sternly but not unkindly.
I see the tears in my father's eyes. No! I can't accept this! You don't understand! I have to be a shinobi!
I'm sorry. Your arm was torn clean off, and your leg could not be healed. You can never be a shinobi again.
My father cries loudly, the tears flowing freely as he sobs. Oh, God, why? The doctor looks away.
I gasp. Dad looks at me, then at Father's hand, then at me, confused.
"What's wrong, dear?" Dad asks quietly. I shake my head.
"No, nothing, sorry." I wince at how pathetic it sounds, but Dad nods. "Actually..."
"What is it?" Dad's looking at me, concerned. My first reaction is to wave it off, but I hesitate. Then,
"I...when I touch people, I can see glimpses of their past." I've never told my parents this, in fear that they would disown me for being, well, too strange. I avoid Dad's eyes, and continue talking. "I...I saw the day that Father lost his pride as a shinobi."
"My baby," Dad reaches out and grabs my shoulder. I catch a glimpse but firmly try my best to ignore it as my Dad continues talking. "Why didn't you tell us this before?"
"Because it means I'm a freak," I reply honestly. I feel pressure in the back of my eyes, but ignore it. "I thought...I thought you wouldn't love me anymore."
Dad starts crying. "Why...why would you think that? Your father and I, of course we'd still love you, silly! We'll always love you."
"You don't understand!" I shout, angry and sad and fearful at the same time, the words coming out non-stop. "Nobody understands, not even Akiko! It's fucking terrifying! Every time I touch someone, even the lightest contact with my skin, I can see their deepest, darkest moments of their past! Nothing is private!" I scream out. "I see everything, and I fucking hate it, and I don't, I don't..." I completely break down at this point. My Dad shifts to accommodate more room and I oblige, crawling into the little gap he makes, as I bawl my eyes out.
"We're one weird, messed up family, aren't we?" Akiko asks rhetorically from the doorway, and I can't help but agree.
"How long?" Father asks quietly, once the tears subside for a bit.
I think for a bit, but Akiko answers. "She told me about five years ago. I think she's had the ability for eight, now." She crouches down next to Father, and gently wraps his hand with gauze.
Father shifts so I can see his visible eye. "How long...?" I see his face straining, and I realize the question he's trying to ask.
I shut my eyes firmly, guiltily. "Years. Decades. Centuries. I don't know." Dad gasps. Father...looks resigned? I open my eyes and stare at him.
"I suspected," Father admits. "I suspected, but had no proof. There was something special about you, something that drew me to you." He looked at me with his one eye, as if he were looking into my soul. "After I adopted you, that birthday you had, it awakened, didn't it? Your ability."
I shut my eyes and grit my teeth, trying to block out the memory. My first kill. "Yeah."
Father leans forward and kisses me on the forehead. "I'm sorry, my child."
Akiko crouches down by Dad, and leans into me. It's OK, I feel what she's trying to say silently. We all love you, and everything is OK. I finally let out the pent-up tears of anger, fear, envy and sadness that I'd had to hide for so long. Dad pats me on the back, being careful not to touch my exposed skin, for which I'm silently grateful. After a while, Father grunts and stands up shakily.
"Curse you, Yukari," he grumbles jokingly. "These old bones can't stay down there for that long." Akiko and Dad laugh, even if it's a bit light, and I realize that everything really is OK.
"If you're old, then what about Dad?" I joke back.
"I'm pleasantly aged, dear," Dad replies with a smile. "Like fine wine."
"I'll drink to that," Father says, with a rare smile of his own. Dad winks.
"I'll hold you to that."
Akiko and I gag openly, because ew, they're our parents, it's gross seeing them flirt. Dad and Father just laugh. Akiko and I leave the room as it looks like they were actually preparing to do that.
"You know, that whole time, I was really craving yakiniku barbecue," Akiko admits.
I groan. "That is the least relevant thing you've ever said." But I grin anyway, because I can always trust Akiko to make me laugh.
"I can't help it!" Akiko wails. "I'm hungry~, Yukarin! I didn't even get Dad's rice balls..."
She pats her belly, making sad eyes at the grumbling in her stomach. I outright laugh at that. "All right, let's go eat yakiniku."
And so we walk, shoulder to shoulder, down to Yakiniku Q, as my parents stay in their room and do parent-related things.
Chapter 2: Shinobi in the Rivers
Author’s Note: This chapter will pretty much prove that I have no idea what I’m doing. Also, last chapter was a first-person POV from two different people using, for the most part, present tense. I’m not sure if I want to change that to past tense; as it is now, it makes my other stories that much harder to write, but I’ve already gotten into the habit, however poor it is. It’s not really important, but it’ll make it awkward to read and I’m not going to sift through thousands of words to change their tenses.
Honorifics are a point of contention to me. In this story. the Japanese honorifics (“-san”, “-sama”, “-dono”) will be changed to an appropriate English prefix (“Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Lord”) to match the way I translate stuff in this story (that is, completely, and with as little Japanese as possible, including jutsu — for those, it will usually line up with either literal translations or Viz, depending on what I think works better). In other stories, I don’t even bother with honorific translation. Regardless, Yukari doesn’t call her teacher “Tsume-sensei” or a variation of that because Tsume herself doesn’t like being called ‘sensei’, despite her teammates calling her ‘teacher’ often enough.
This is pretty much the only story where I actually care to translate the language properly, without resorting to gratuitous Japanese. My other Naruto stories are where I give zero shits.
Now that I’m obsessed with the Touhou Project, the character of Yukari is throwing me off. For any other reader also thrown off, no, my Yukari has nothing to do with borders.
I was going to artificially stretch out the story even longer, but I haven’t updated in about a year, so I figured it was about time to post it regardless.
I gasp, sweating, as I jolt from my bed. That…has never happened. I have never had nightmares in my life, due to the quirk that gave me my special power. Sometimes, that is a blessing; other times, it is a curse. Since I knew it had to be someone’s memories, I idly tried to sort my mind, albeit unsuccessfully. I noticed I couldn’t remember the memory at all as I got out of bed.
I run to the bathroom. Thankfully, it’s still early, so I don’t have to wait for anyone to leave. I scrub my hands and splash water on my face, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. What the hell was that?! I mentally ask, as I stare into my own eyes, reflected by a mirror. I can see the tired lines around my eyes.
“Yukari? Are you ill?” my father asks from the doorway, knocking. I mentally berate myself for not paying more attention to my surroundings.
“Sorry, Father. I apologize for waking you.” I open the door and smile at him as best I can, which comes out more like a grimace so early in the morning, but is still somewhat better than my usual attempts.
“It is fine, Yukari. You look tired; are you alright?” My father always knew when something was wrong, even when I tried to mask it, so I didn’t even try.
“I…” I hesitate. It is still difficult to remember that I had already told my father about my ability, despite my father’s reassurance that it changes nothing. “It was a nightmare.”
My father’s eyes soften, and I mentally berate myself for not explaining. My father tries to reassure me, “Nightmares are common for every ninja, Yukari. Just remember that they are not real.”
“Not for me.” I close my eyes, agonized, and my father makes a noise of understanding. “I…I’ve never had nightmares.”
My father embraces me suddenly. I realize that he smells like Dad as much as himself. I mentally force myself to not go down that road. “I’m sorry, my dear. I forget that your ability is unique. I’m afraid I cannot help you as much as I would like.”
“I wish it wasn’t.” I can feel the tears in my eyes, but Father merely pats me on the head. “I wish you could.”
“Believe me, if there were any way I could help you, I would.” My father smiles at me. I try to smile back, and probably fail miserably, completely distracted by a stray glimpse. “Shall we drink tea? It helps with my nightmares, and I realize that it may not have been a nightmare for you, but I think that it would help.”
“You have nightmares?” I ask, and curse my timid voice. We walk towards the kitchen, and my father speaks.
“Of course. I was once a powerful shinobi, you know. I had seen my fair share of death, and it is not good for the psyche.” He smirks suddenly. “I used to, ah, get a ‘massage’ from your dad, but I can’t exactly do that for you, now can I?”
“Are you telling me to have sex?” I ask. “Because I can just go get Akiko and we’ll have so much sex.”
My father, to my eternal mortification, actually thinks about it. “If it helps, then you should do it.”
“Oh, God.” I try not to hurl at the thought of having sex with any girl, much less my own sister.
“Well, I’m sure there are nice boys that can take care of the urge,” my father continues, ignoring my obvious discomfort. “Just remember to share.”
“Father. Stop.” I’m pretty sure my brain just shut itself down.
My father chuckles. “You will never best the master, my dear.”
“I should really stop trying, I know.” I turn on the teapot. We don’t really have any of those special tea ceremony stuff, because we’re ninja and usually just desire a quick fix, so instant tea bags adorns our shelves, even if it’s crappy compared to the good stuff. None of us really mind, though. “I can’t help it, though; it’s always so much fun.”
“Especially when other people try to listen into our conversations and get horribly confused,” my father nods with a smile. “It is always amusing. Right, Akiko?” he asks suddenly, and I curse my situational awareness failure. Akiko is sitting there with a smile, waggling her eyebrows.
“So! Sex, huh?” She wiggles her fingers and I grimace. “Wanna try?”
“No.” She giggles and I glare at her.
“I never get to rile you up like this,” she defends herself. I smirk and start tickling her; she squeaks and squirms in my grip.
“What interesting foreplay,” my father comments, drinking tea idly, and both Akiko and I stop instantly. “Perhaps your dad and I can do that next time.”
“How are you two even sexually active, still?” I ask, actually genuinely curious. “You’re like, sixty, each.”
“Men don’t go through the menopause phase that women go through, so we can actually be sexually active all our lives,” my father lectures. I don’t think he’s ever actually aware that he lectures. “Although some men do go through a hormonal imbalance phase, it’s not quite the same.”
A thought occurs to me. “Why don’t you become a teacher?” I ask suddenly.
He grimaces, thinks visibly about what to say, then shakes his head and grabs my hand. I get a glimpse of kids laughing cruelly, and small, grubby hands.
“Oh,” I mutter in a small voice. “I didn’t…”
“I do not like children,” he says. “Your dad doesn’t, either, but we don’t like children for different reasons. That is why I am grateful that you two grew up so quickly.” He feels around the hole his eye used to be in. “I am aware that I look like a spectacle. Kids tend not to realize that I do not like the attention.” I grimace as the glimpse finally makes sense.
“I apologize again, father.” He waves me off, then bops me in the head.
“I’m forty-five, you ignoramus,” he rants with a smile. “And your father’s thirty-eight. Where did you get the idea that we were sixty?”
“Well, you’re still freaking old, I was just off by a few years.” I turn to Akiko, who looks ridiculously tired. I’m surprised I didn’t notice it before. “Are you alright, Akiko?”
“Huh?” Akiko shakes her head. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Just…” she yawns. “Just a bit sleepy, is all.”
“Go to sleep.” I nudge her. “You can use my bed; I’ll sleep on the couch.” Akiko looks at me blearily and smiles gratefully, then gets up and leaves, probably to go to my room.
“So. You two going to go at it?” my father asks. “Because, I mean, now would be a great time.”
“I will crush you like an insignificant bug,” I hiss out, completely embarrassed.
“I’m sure the Aburame would be pleased with that sentiment.”
“Their bugs are significant, though.”
“Hm.” My father has nothing to add, so we both fall silent.
“But, what if…” My father looks at me questioningly, and I respond. “What if I was actually attracted to her?”
“Are you?” my father asks.
“What? No!” I reply. “She’s my sister!” I pause, blinking in confusion. “Wow, déjà vu. That was weird.”
My father merely hums. “I wouldn’t know what I’d do,” he finally says. “I can’t really answer that question.”
“Wow, you’ve just been ridiculously useless recently, Father,” I snark.
“Oh shut up,” my father grumbles, but his lips twitch upwards. “You and your crazy time travel, makes you think you’re better than us common folk.”
I laugh. (If Father notices it’s tinged in hysteria, well, he makes no mention of it either way.)
“All right, pups,” Tsume starts, grinning.
“Sensei, we’re not your pups,” Zaji whines. Tokuma slaps him across the back of his head, rolling his eyes in that manner that only a Hyuuga can perfect.
“We’ve been her students for two years,” Tokuma says stoically. “You’d think you’d be used to it by now.”
“What was that?!” Zaji glares at Tokuma, overexaggeratedly shaking his fist. “You wanna fight? Huh?!”
“No, because we’re still waiting on Sensei to talk,” Tokuma sighs, exasperated. “Why can’t you be quiet like Yukari?”
I blink, and turn to my team. “Huh?”
Zaji laughs. “She wasn’t even paying attention! That’s why she was so quiet!”
Tokuma facepalms, and Tsume’s partner Kuromaru laughs, an odd sound coming from a dog. I (literally) shake my head to (metaphorically) clear out the stray thoughts.
“…Right.” Tsume continues, no longer grinning. “Anyway. We have a mission.”
“A-rank, right?” I ask, and I already regret the words coming out of my mouth. “A mission to the outskirts, checking on a village that has problems?”
“Well, yes,” Tsume blinks. “That’s…exactly our mission. How did you know?”
I shrug. “Just a guess.”
Tsume doesn’t buy it for a second, and my teammates don’t seem to, either, but Zaji’s impatience wins out. “So what are we doing standing around here? Let’s go!”
I sigh at his antics, as he hops up and down like a hyperactive bee. Tokuma whacks him on the back of the head, and he stops.
“Oh, come on! I can’t be the only one excited!” Zaji whines.
“You pretty much are,” I grimace. “I have to stop by my house to pick up supplies, but I’ll be ready soon.”
“Yeah, you go get ready,” Tsume agrees, with a calculating expression on her face. “It’ll be about eight days. Meet back here in half an hour.”
Tokuma and Zaji nod, but I’m already walking back to my house. A mission to the outskirts of the Land of Fire can only mean that there’s something suspicious going on over there, and the fact that it’s an A-rank means it’s probably the work of other shinobi. I mentally brace myself for the prospect of a fight, even as I walk into my home.
My parents are having sex on the kitchen counter. I gag.
“Oh, hello, Yukari,” my father says, over my dad’s moans. “What are you doing back so quickly?”
“I’M NOT LISTENING,” I cry out, running away from this scene before I can vomit.
“Embrace the love, child!” my dad cries out, voice fading as I run faster to my room. “EMBRACE THE LOVE!”
“Oh my god,” I mutter. “Right there.”
I wipe my forehead, and get to packing materials needed for the mission.
“You’d think she’d be able to detect genjutsu by now,” I mutter to my love as I sip a glass of tea. We’re sitting at the kitchen table, true, but we are certainly not having any sort of carnal escapades on the table.
Kei stirs his drink. “Maybe,” he says. “But, really, whose fault is that for focusing on the more physical aspects of being a ninja?”
“Entirely yours,” I coolly deflect the blame. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Kei laughs, and I smile at his happiness. “I wanted her to specialize in genjutsu, just like dear old Dad, but I guess it just wasn’t to be, huh?”
“Perhaps,” I say, sipping at my tea. “But this way she can defend herself more adequately. I’m very proud of her despite her inability to detect genjutsu.” I say the last part louder than the rest of the sentence, and I can hear Yukari’s outraged scream from her room. I grin and Kei just outright laughs.
Yukari comes down from her room, grimaces, shuts her eyes, and dispels the genjutsu on the table. Kei continues to laugh, while I try my best to look stern for her sake.
“Yukari,” I admonish her. “Why didn’t you check for genjutsu first?”
“Sorry, father, I was sidetracked,” Yukari apologizes, bowing low. “My team and I have an A-rank mission, and I had that in mind walking in. I was ill-equipped to notice the illusion.”
“An A-rank mission…?” I rub my chin, and idly realize I definitely need to shave. Or I could just let it continue to grow out. I’ll have to ask Kei for his opinion. “Hm. I’ll see you safe and sound at the end, of course?”
Yukari nods, a bit relieved I’m not making a big fuss about this. Then again, with my experience, and the confidence that I’ve taught her everything I know, I don’t have a reason to be upset. Kei, on the other hand, desperately hugs Yukari, and although I completely understand the sentiment, not wanting to risk my own daughter’s well-being, I also disapprove of his suppressive tendencies; our children are old enough and don’t need to be coddled.
Then again, I bought Yukari and Akiko ninja training sets when they were barely old enough to crawl. I guess both of our parenting techniques are flawed. It’s a miracle Yukari turned out the way she did, dry, sarcastic wit notwithstanding.
“Please be safe,” Kei pleads, and Yukari awkwardly shifts in his grasp. “I know you’re a good ninja, but I can’t help but worry.”
“Don’t worry, Dad,” Yukari smiles a rare smile. “I’ll be fine. I have an amazing team.”
Kei sniffs loudly, but relents and lets her go. Yukari runs up to her room, presumably to finish packing, and he sits back down, albeit hesitantly.
I merely sip at my tea before asking, “Do you think I should shave?”
Kei snorts in mirth, before quickly covering it. “No, I actually like your beard. Makes you look scruffy.”
I grimace. “Not sure that’s a good thing.”
Kei turns to me, and his eyes sparkle. “Oh, trust me, it is.”
Meeting up with my team again, I take pause and mentally run through the list of supplies I have. Finding it adequate, I nod to Tokuma, who returns it.
Ten minutes later, Zaji runs towards us, panting and sweating. “You guys suck, you know that?” he whined. “I live so far away from this gate it isn’t even funny.”
“Are you or are you not a shinobi?” I ask him, and carefully modulate my voice so it doesn’t have that cynical biting edge I usually use. Because, I’m actually pretty curious, did he run here like a civilian the whole time?
Apparently, yes, as Zaji slaps himself in the face and mutters about ninja skills. I roll my eyes and I hear Tokuma’s faint scoff.
“Alright, team, you’re all here,” Tsume says cheerfully, as she strolls to the meeting point. “Our mission takes place inside River Country’s borders, but not too deep inside.”
I mentally review a map of the Elemental Nations. River Country is the country between Wind and Fire, which makes it an allied country by default, it being the trade route between the two great countries. Their ninja force, located in the Village Hidden in Valleys, is completely subpar compared to either of the forces in the two sandwiching countries, and despite the abundance of rivers, there’s also a plethora of caves. Moist, damp caves.
It’s a good thing I’m lightning-natured, then.
Tsume sends Zaji and Tokuma out in front and we head out towards River Country. Not five minutes later, I yawn as Zaji and Tokuma bicker about the upcoming mission, and Tsume gets irritated at their antics (although mostly amused) so I get sent to replace Zaji.
Tokuma just scoffs. I roll my eyes. “Yeah, I didn’t want to be in this position either.”
“At least Zaji has a modicum of sensory ability,” Tokuma sneers. I roll my eyes again but stay silent.
After a few empty taunts from Tokuma that I easily ignore, he gives up with a huff and activates his Byakugan, scanning the path ahead of us. He deactivates it a few minutes later and shakes his head slightly.
We spend a good eight hours running along the trees to get to River Country, with Tokuma activating his Byakugan every so often, and occasionally Kuromaru heads to our position to check the scents before going back to Tsume. We end up arriving at River’s border patrol without any problems.
As we all wait in silence, I hear Zaji’s shuffling and Kuromaru’s low whine as the papers get passed around and cross-verified. Which is a good security measure, I guess, but still.
“I must be a very good scout,” I mutter apropos of nothing. Tokuma (and, probably, the others, but I couldn’t tell in my position) looks at me with a perplexed look. “We had absolutely no problems getting here. I must be the best scout.”
Tokuma’s perplexed look grows. “I’m the one that did the scouting.”
“Bah,” I wave the statement off. “It was obviously me and my super-powerful whatever it is I did. I’m the one, it’s me, I’m the super star.” I strike a little pose. “You may now bask in my glory.”
Tokuma scoffs and rolls his eyes at the same time. I’m vaguely impressed. But I see a hint of a smile from my silly joke, so I consider it a successful effort. Despite his constant, persistent needling of Zaji and I, we’ve all spent enough time in each other’s presence to know each other’s habits.
Despite his Hyuuga-based reclusiveness and standoffish nature, Tokuma has one of the strangest senses of humor I’ve ever seen, and that includes myself. His general prickliness appears to be the only way he knows how to express himself. And although Zaji is naturally exuberant, he also gets a kick out of irritating everyone. He isn’t normally anywhere near as excited as he acts on mission. Likewise, they know my habits just as well as I know theirs, although I’m not quite at the level to get an accurate self-judgment yet.
We head into the country proper once the papers check is finished, and hightail it to the nearest village, which happens to be the village that assigned the mission.
The clattering of steel against steel permeates throughout the area. I have no time to think more on the state of the situation before I’m suddenly thrust into the middle of it.
Jumping backwards to avoid a particularly nasty kunai, I am instantly on the defensive as a group of unknown but low-ranked shinobi rushes towards me. I take another quick moment to bemoan the lack of capable kunoichi on their side, which would have been fun, damn it, before retaliating in full force.
Two shinobi try to attack me, probably expecting me to have flinched from the kunai on the ground. I take the one on the left, subtly electrocuting him with a jab to the chest, effectively paralyzing him, before throwing him bodily towards the one on the right. They obviously didn’t expect that, judging from their poor reaction time.
People tend to be confused about how our team works. Our team is mostly a scouting and retrieval team, with emphasis on the former, thanks to the presence of two sensors and an Inuzuka jounin teacher. People see Tokuma’s white eyes and assume that he’s the primary threat because of the Gentle Fist, and while, yeah, he knows some of the steps in the Gentle Fist, he’s also a branch member of the clan, sealed and everything that implies. Since the strongest moves in the Hyuuga clan are only learned by the main house, the branch houses have to be content with what they have, which isn’t much. Tokuma’s Byakugan, coupled with Zaji’s perception senses that I still don’t understand, make up the core of the sensing aspect of the team.
I’m the one they need to bail their asses out. Even though I’m skinnier than a twig and refused to wear my chuunin vest on this mission, I’m still a chuunin-level combat specialist.
After punching another shinobi in the face, coating my arm with electric chakra for maximum effect, I weave my hands through handseals, even while avoiding the kunai thrown at me by the other shinobi.
“Zaji!” I bark out an order, considering of the three of us I’m the only chuunin. “Check on the client! Tokuma, on me! Lightning Style: False Darkness!”
I open my mouth and fire a spear of lightning into the nearest shinobi’s chest, before ducking and punching in the direction of the attack targeted at my head.
I feel a light tap behind me, and swiftly turn around in time to see Tokuma deliver a palm strike to the person behind me. I quickly form handseals as Tokuma uses the first few steps in the Gentle Step.
“Lightning Style: Earth Flash!” I thrust my hands towards the ground. Lightning sparks across my fingers and across the earth. Three other shinobi are quickly paralyzed by the sparks, and Tokuma knocks them out.
I prepare to do another jutsu but I hear Zaji shout, “Shit, Yukari!”.
Before the person behind me can hurt me, though, Tsume barrels into him, killing him quickly. I take a quick moment to check on how many opponents are left.
Are they all…clustering together? Wait, I have an idea.
“Teacher, ears!” I warn quickly, before I grab a bundle of explosive tags from my pocket, activate them, tie them all together around a rock with some ninja wire, then toss it as fast as I can into the nearest enemy.
“…why would you carry something like that?” Tsume finally asks as the shower of guts and blood dies down.
I shrug. “My father runs a shop.”
Tsume still looks perplexed. “What does fashion have to do with…that?”
“Not my dad,” I reply. “My father. He runs a general shinobi store.” I shrug, feeling embarrassed at their perplexed stares. “…It’s doing pretty well.”
“…Right,” Tokuma sighs. “Whatever.”
I arm myself with ninja wire, and tie up the survivors of my impromptu blood-grenade. Zaji heals them just enough to survive their wounds, while forcing them into unconsciousness, which gives us an easier time of transporting them.
We come back, triumphant but fatigued. Tsume goes and hands in a mission report; none of us are necessary for that at the moment, and I was looking forward to sleep, so we all head our respective ways home. It’s a pretty quiet village we come home to, but it is pretty early in the day, so I supposed that they were just now waking up.
I arrive to a surprisingly quiet house.
I check my surroundings, and finding nothing out of place, I quietly enter the house. There’s sobbing in the house and — oh, shit, Akiko. I rush into the living room, the source of the sobs, and dad and Akiko are hugging each other and crying; even my father looks incredibly solemn, although he actually turns to look at me. I’m surprised by the depth of sadness in his eyes.
I blink; nobody’s bleeding, nobody looks hurt, I’m not sure what’s going on. “What’s going on?” My father takes a sip of his tea, and I’m shocked at how much his arms are shaking from the ordeal. “Nobody’s hurt, right?”
“Yukari,” father says, and I glance at him. His eyes, normally stern and firm like a stone, begin to water, and he shudders.
“Seriously, what happened? I just got back from my mission and —”
“Yukari,” my father interrupts. “The Uchiha Clan was massacred last night.”