Chapter 76: Kakashi: A Glimpse of Hope

When I woke up, I realized someone was carrying me. From the smell and the short brown hair, I knew it was Tenzō. I was too dizzy to walk. I probably had lost too much blood, or chakra, or both. Since Tenzō was still walking at an average pace, I was guessing that my injuries were probably not serious and that there was no real danger around anymore.

Tenzō noticed I was awake. "Are you ok, Hound?" He had called me Hound, this meant that we were not alone. I looked forward and saw team Gai leading the way. "They shouldn't be with us. We'll draw enemies to them," I remarked. Tenzō chuckled: "Gai followed you and forced himself on us. There was not much I could do..." Gai had decided to check on me. He had been worried. It was both sweet and surprising to know.

Hiroki was walking a bit behind her new sensei. She was fine: no injury, no fatigue. Now that I looked at her, I noticed that she had stopped limping again.

Hound liked this. He liked seeing her alive and well.

I remembered the fight. None of what happened was truly her fault. She had spent so little time in a genin team that she had no time to master the basics. Despite this, she already had several C-rank missions under her belt and was on what was retrospectively turning more and more like a misclassified A-ish, if not S-ranked, mission. This made it easy for whoever was in charge to want to protect her rather than let her test her skills. It was not an ideal situation to teach… or learn. But she had a good team now. She would learn. And Gai would protect her.

That made me realize that, as Hound, I couldn't protect Hiroki as well as before.

I couldn't use electric justsu or anything that looked too much like one of my signature moves, otherwise, she would recognize me in no time — I was surprised she hadn't already. This was also true in front of anyone who was not from team Ro. I had to hide who I was and, if I decided to use a chidori, it meant that all who had seen it had to die. It made work more complicated. With an electric justsu, I could have fought them off easily, but I kept to wind affinities. Of all the elements, it was by far my weakest, but it drove away suspicions. I would have to find better alternatives...

I was glad Hiroki was in good hands, glad I had been able to make sure she was safe on certain missions, but it also crushed me that she had to see me as Hound. All the blood I shed, all the nasty tricks I used, this was a side of me I hid from my students, from my friends too. But ANBU work called for more killing, more ruthlessness. Hound was not someone who deserved forgiveness or sympathy. He was a creature of the shadows in the darkest sense. Despite this, after the fight, Hiroki had looked at him, first with a mix of utter fascination and fear in her eyes, then, with a shy smile. This smile that she refused me whenever we met at the mission room, she gave to Hound freely. It had shaken me to the core. Her smile was like Iruka's, pure and sincere, but at the same time, there was something in it that was uniquely her own. It was strong and was coaxing me into the light. As I looked at her walk in front of me, I knew we were not of the same world... not anymore.

I felt Tenzō's lean muscles working under my body. I knew I was heavy for him, but he had chosen to carry me himself instead of leaving it to Kuma or Gai. This simple gesture showed me that despite the fact that I had been a total pain in the ass on missions, he still cared.

"Tenzō... I am sorry..." I said, almost in a whisper.

I could see his ear move, betraying a smile behind his mask.

"That's all fine. You saved us... but stop calling me that, will you!"