Kakashi stood over a silent, mourning Tatsumi on the silent, calm day in the grass on the plateau Night Raid's hideout was carved in. He looked out over the cliffside, seeing the crystal clear ocean under the sun just a mile or so away in a small opening between the mountains hiding the forests. Across the waters, he hoped, if he looked hard enough, he could see home. At least he got to go home at the end of all of this with his friends waiting for him. Tatsumi's friends would not. Tatsumi set down two flowers for his comrades found mutilated and burnt inside the workshop, twisted and ravaged in proportions that stained his mind and would forever. Kakashi recognized the gaunt look in his eyes too well. It was past the point of talking to him for reconciliation. The only solution was vengeance, but even then, the pain would never go away. "Sayo, Ieyasu," Tatsumi said loudly, as if hoping to contact them. "My friends, your deaths will not be in vain. I'm going to save our village for all of us."
The Shinobi looked down, seeing Leone's arms around his chest and her buxom chest squished against his upper back. "That's the spirit, Tatsumi!" she exclaimed. "Good morning, Kakashi. Have you decided whether you'll join us yet?"
Leone let him go and turned him around. "Yes," he said, "I can't wait to work with you in slowly taking this Empire down."
Leone laughed and hugged him around the neck, pushing his head into her breasts. "That's the spirit! What about you, Tatsumi?"
Kakashi turned toward the solemn country warrior, waiting to hear his answer. Tatsumi's type wasn't cut out for this, from what the ninja had seen after countless missions. "I don't know," he said, standing up and facing them. "I'm still unsure about the killing. What happened last night was in the heat of the moment, but to just… end someone's life without thinking about it, I don't think-"
"Well come with me, I'll introduce you to the others!" Leone said, grabbing Tatsumi's hand and half dragging him down the hilly path leading to the front of the discrete compound, looking like a small piece of a Medieval fortress was jutting from the rocks. Akame watched them silently from the top window and slowly faded back into the building. They approached a slab of flat rock slightly out of place with the rest of the stone. Leone let go of the boys and walked through the rock.
Tatsumi followed her through the illusion with Kakashi behind them, checking for anyone watching their entrance. They walked down a cold, dark stone path that supposedly led to a dead end, but they knew the way. Leone reached the end of the corridor and looked up, knocking around the top of the rock until she hit a hollow piece.
"I always forget where that is," she grumbled, loudly knocking on it five times. Light pierced a circular path above Leone and Akame's hand pulled her and the boys into the compound through a small trap door. They stood in the center of a dining hall with a long mahogany table, a fireplace at one end and a captain's chair at the other with their banner, a red eagle with yellow eyes clutching a dead snake with the government insignia on its head in its claws turned to the side, draped over the wall between two warm lamplights. The candlelight chandelier above them provided an even classier ambiance. For assassins, they were living well.
"Morning, Akame," Kakashi said to the swordsman wearing a pink apron and cooking gloves with her hair tied back.
"Hello," she said with a small smile, "the others should be coming shortly. I'll need help setting the table."
"I'll be in there soon," Kakashi said, giving her a reassuring smile before turning back to Leone. She sat at the table next to another woman with long, straight purple hair and lavender eyes wearing a light purple dress with a cutout in the chest to display her natural bust. She was curvy like Leone, but seemed a bit more aloof from her blank, almost childish facial expression as she read her book, "100 Ways to Not be an Airhead." He walked up to her and she looked up from her book, examining the latest assassin with little thoroughness. "You must be the latest recruits. My name is Sheele."
"It's a pleasure," Kakashi said, staying cordial in his words.
"I'm still unsure about joining," Tatsumi said, "but I have likewise feelings."
Sheele looked at Tatsumi puzzled. "You know we'll have to kill you if you say no, right?"
Tatsumi's face completely turned around as did his resolve to not get involved. "Well, if you put it that way…"
"What are they doing in the compound, Leone?" a woman's shrill voice asked. The company in the dining hall looked toward the doors leading deeper into the compound and the kitchen, watching a cute and petite young woman with long, pink hair in two pigtails and pink eyes wearing a pink dress and boots stomp into the dining hall. She huffed up to Tatsumi, looking him up and down and grabbing at his hair.
"Mine, they get to be here so we call tell the boss about their decision!" Leone said.
"Hey!" Tatsumi exclaimed, stepping back and attempting to slap her hand away. "What are you-"
"You fail, your hair and face are too soft," she said, quickly walking over to Kakashi and attempting to grab his mask. She couldn't slip out of this grip so easily.
"Don't do that," Kakashi said. He opened his fist and she yanked her arm back.
"You definitely fail." Mine turned away from them with her hands on her hips. "Leone, when they die it's going to be your fault."
Leone ignored Mine's stream of insults, as did Kakashi. Tatsumi looked ready to flip the table. "Don't take it personal. Mine's actually pretty nice when you get to know her."
Mine turned back around, staring daggers at her teammate. "Actually pretty nice?"
"Mine, you can take Tatsumi to meet the boss, I'll take Kakashi to meet Bulat and Lubbock," Leone said, winking at the Shinobi and taking him down a short corridor that opened up into a grassy backyard area. A muscular mountain at roughly seven feet tall with a black pompadour swung around a long staff that was as thick as a street lamp with little to no effort, sending large gusts of wind in every direction he attacked. He let out a loud battle cry and hit the ground, digging his staff in several feet. He sighed and turned around, smiling at Kakashi.
"That's Bulat," Leone said. Kakashi and Bulat shook hands.
"You know, you're partly the reason I'm out here," Bulat said, "you took me completely off guard."
"He's gay," Leone continued. Bulat blushed and fanned his face.
Kakashi didn't care. "So? He's swinging around a 50 pound pole in my general direction, that's what I'm the most concerned about."
Leone and Bulat laughed. "Good response," Bulat said. "Kakashi, right? Welcome to the team. Leone, Lubbock's waiting for you to take your bath in the hot springs." He chuckled. "Surprise him."
"Leave that to me," Leone said, "Kakashi, follow me."
They left the compound, briefly walking down a forest path leading into a clearing overlooking a circle of hot spring geysers. A slim man of average height with shoulder-length straight hair, green hair and eyes waited with a pair of binoculars. "Come on, Leone, let us see the goods," he chuckled deviously, seeing just a pair of golden eyes in the device. He yelped and scurried back but wasn't fast enough. A swift kick to the chest flattened him, but he didn't look defeated.
"This idiot's Lubbock," Leone said bluntly. "The boss should be back at the base by now, so let's get going."
Lubbock smiled at the Shinobi. "Hey man, you're Kakashi, right? The new guy? Don't do what I did just now, unless you have a thing for pain."
"Thanks for the warning," the Shinobi said, following him and Leone back into the dining hall where a tall, curvy woman in a black suit with an eyepatch and one bright purple eye, a green metallic arm, and short, white hair and pale skin sat in the chair just under the banner. All the women here were attractive, Kakashi thought, but she had a major intimidation factor. All of Night Raid waited in the room as the boss talked to Tatsumi and of the consequences if he chose not to stay.
"The people suffer because the government is venal and self serving, and you're afraid of the morals behind backing a revolutionary army aimed at making sure everyone can live happily on their own lands?" she said with an authoritative tone. Revolutionary army, Kakashi stored that little tidbit of info for his letter to the Hokage. "In any case, you won't be killed, but I'm asking you to consider which option would give you a higher quality of life."
"Boss, meet Kakashi, the other recruit," Lubbock said, pointing to the ninja awkwardly. The boss looked away from the contemplative Tatsumi.
"I'm so glad you chose to work with us," she said, "my name is Najenda, but you will call me 'ma'am' or 'boss' until I say otherwise, is that clear?"
"Yes ma'am," Kakashi said dryly, he'd dealt with this before.
"What is your reason for joining Night Raid?" she asked with a small smirk. He noticed she wasn't looking him in the eyes, rather directly at the eye covered by the mask. "We all have one, and 'job security' isn't a valid answer."
Kakashi had multiple excuses handy. "The Empire's forces are threatening my village. I was going to join the Imperial army and rise through the ranks to influence the Emperor to halt his attacks, but then I found you and figured ending the lives of corruption directly is more efficient."
Najenda smiled with confidence. "Not too different from Tatsumi's story, maybe after hearing that, Tatsumi will join our ultimate mission of toppling this Empire and ending the monarchy's life." More information going in the letter. "Well, Tatsumi, what do you think?"
"So what you're saying is," Tatsumi said, standing next to Kakashi in the circle of assassins. "You kill for truth, honor, and justice!"
The room erupted in heinous laughter, suddenly Tatsumi felt very small.
Kakashi rolled his eyes, leaning up against a wall pillar with his arms crossed.
"This is murder, murder has no moral guidance," Najenda said, "but your enthusiasm is well placed, for someone your age, bouncing back after getting poisoned like that is surprising enough this early in the morning. As members of Night Raid, our ultimate goal is to open the gates for revolution and to take back the country for the people. They are starving, their children dying as grunts on the front line so the bureaucracy's children can stay safe, and with the war declared upon the Land of Fire, this may be our prime opportunity to strike." Kakashi paid extra attention now. "With two new members in our midst, I would like to stress just how important teamwork is and will be. Therefore, you will train every day with each of your six brother and sister assassins for two hours, as for missions they undertake, you will go along with them if they think you're ready."
Tatsumi did the math in his head, and he wasn't very happy. "That's twelve hours of training a day!"
Mine scoffed. "Lubbock, he can do math, I guess he doesn't need to train with you."
"Please, as if shopping doesn't involve racking up price tags until you figure out you can't pay for it," he snapped back.
"I'm not going to be lectured on clothes shopping by a man who wears the same green hoodie every day."
"Enough," Najenda said, silencing them immediately. "Tatsumi, you'll be with Akame for your first session on sword fighting, beginning now."
Akame nodded, gripping Tatsumi's shoulder with unprecedented strength. "If you're too much of a hassle, I will kill you."
Tatsumi grinned like a champion already. "I'm the best sword fighter in all my village. You won't even need to train me in that."
The rest of the team gasped. Akame was silent for a moment. "To the training post," she said quickly, pushing him along.
Najenda turned again toward Kakashi. "Head to the training post with Bulat, he'll teach you hand to hand combat that the best Imperial soldiers won't be able to counter. Our recruits generally find his training to be the hardest, so pay close attention."
"Yikes," Leone cringed, "Bulat first? Boss, are you sure?"
Najenda gave a knowing smirk to Kakashi and the ninja picked up on it. He gave her a coy smile, although it dawned on him that under his mask they all looked the same. Kakashi and Bulat looked at each other, with Bulat sending a wink his way before walking to the training post.
"Excuse me, boss," Kakashi said, "I'm just curious- what do we know about the Land of Fire? Do they know what they're up against?"
Najenda smirked. "We know absolutely nothing, not of the people, not of their military capabilities, nothing," she said, "from Leone's recent intel excursions, they're relying on their top general to take the entire country within one year."
All of it? Kakashi decided this general must be extremely powerful, or their leadership extremely stupid, if they're blindly sending ships across the ocean. "That sounds unlikely, blundering into enemy territory usually involves a lot of luck and wishful thinking."
"General Esdeath feels like she doesn't need it, just hope that you're not around when she decides to prove it. Meeting adjourned," Najenda said, standing up from her chair and stretching her legs. "Wish them luck, at least Kakashi knows when not to talk." She walked toward the trap exit. "Leone, supervise the training. Make sure it doesn't get too far."
Leone smiled, walking toward the corridor connecting to the training post. "You can count on me. Sheele, wanna watch the new bloods get whipped?"
Mine shrugged. "They're going to die."
Lubbock yawned. "I guess I'll go back to my 'research.'"
"Sure, I'll watch," Sheele said, standing from the table and hitting her knee on the table. She yelped in pain and leaped back, tripping over the chair. She blushed and looked up at her understanding comrade. "I'll be there in a minute."
"I'll save you a seat," she said, walking onto the porch of the training yard, a freshly cut grass field made wide enclosure under the cliffside with several rows of thick evergreens creating obstacles the farther they went into the grounds. Kakashi recognized the firing targets and training dummies standard in any practice grounds, but all of them had pictures of a grimy, sweaty old man with pebbly eyes, a fat nose, and a wide mouth on his fat head with scrawly gray hair in a scraggly beard all sitting upon a tree trunk neck and a round, pumpin of a body. Bulat and Akame led their pupils to opposite sides of the field and started their lesson.
"Who is that?" Tatsumi asked, pointing at the slug of a man on the training dummies.
"It is the Prime Minister, Honest," Bulat said, reaching for his polearm leaning against the railing to the porch. "As soon as he got promoted, things went to shit. Given the opportunity, I'd crush his head under this pole." He spun it over his head, landing into a wide stance with the pole facing his pupil. He stuck it into the ground and took off his black shirt, revealing an Olympian physique that would make Guy's face turn the color of the rest of his suit. Akame and Tatsumi were off to the side, clashing wooden swords and practicing how to block. "Take it easy on him, Akame!"
Tatsumi ducked a slash and moved in for a thrust, but she expertly parried it and drew her blade across his neck. "You lose," she said stoically. Tatsumi hopped back and growled with anger.
"Let's go again!" he exclaimed, drawing his sword to his side. "You won't get rid of me that easy!"
"But your enemies will!" Leone exclaimed from her lawn chair, watching with Sheele. "Bulat, don't kill this one, please?"
Bulat laughed and turned back to the Shinobi, putting his fists up. "Hey, Kakashi," he said, stepping forward, "your first lesson will be a bit of a diagnostics test, just to see where I can place you. It's obvious you and Tatsumi have some prior knowledge, but don't let it go to your head."
Kakashi drew his right hand up to the center of his chest and pushed it outward, taking a deep breath. Bulat didn't recognize that stance at all. "I would never underestimate you," he said, "after our last bout, I woke up this morning and had to check if my head was still on my shoulders."
"Charismatic. It'll get you far." Bulat shuffled to the center of their side of the training yard, with Kakashi standing in the middle of a cluster of trees. "I used to be the Imperial Army's master of combat, weapons master, and the quartermaster," he said, "unfortunately, many of the people you'll kill working for the puppet Empire could've been my students and former colleagues." His smile went away for a moment and his stance loosened.
Kakashi empathized, but still retained his stance. He knew how that felt to the point he had to leave home to leave that behind.
Stern determination replaced Bulat's solemn expression. "But with me training you, you'll know exactly how to take them down! Now, come at me! Don't hold back!"
Kakashi waited a moment to charge, letting the wind blow a few leaves off the trees. He knew better than to charge as some leaves fell down on his shoulders and he looked up, seeing a flash of gold in the trees. His eyes widened and he looked forward, seeing Bulat rush toward him with his polearm in hand and a long, black Claymore strapped to his back. Kakashi jumped over the polearm's sweep and landed on the tip, crouching on its toes at the end. "Lesson one, never trust your opponent?" Kakashi asked, flipping back with surprising agility and bouncing between the trees. He scaled one of the evergreens and held onto one branch, looking down to see the polearm sailing toward him. He leaned back just in time for the weapon to clip his chin, knocking him higher into the air. "Ouch!" He rubbed his chin and figured it would have fractured it if he hadn't moved fast enough.
"You might have seen Leone and it's good that you already have that suspicion," Bulat said, "but in doing so, you took your eye off of me! That's the lesson, never take your eye off your opponent!" Kakashi flipped back again, landing on a thick branch and throwing a kick back at the dextrous master that prepared to take him down from behind. Bulat blocked the kick with one arm and caught the punch with the other, pushing him to the edge of the branch. Bulat stepped forward, taking the brute force of Kakashi's attacks as if they belonged to a child. "You hit pretty hard, but it's useless if you don't land anything!"
Kakashi chuckled. "I'd make sure there is something to land on first," he said, kicking the branch and spinning toward the other tree. Bulat looked down, seeing a chunk of wood ripped out from where Kakashi originally landed. He gasped as it snapped and grabbed the polearm, forming a triangle between it and the trunk.
"Nice one, but you've forgotten your own rule," Bulat chuckled.
He jumped across the trees and Leone shot from the foliage from the opposite evergreen with blinding speed in a lunge. Kakashi whipped around, cutting her airtime short with a heel kick blocked by arm guard. She smirked and darted forward. "Gotcha now!" she proclaimed, but the ninja slipped out from underneath and Leone's momentum propelled her into Bulat. Kakashi ran down the tree while his training partners looked down, amazed and a little angry.
"Or maybe you have a better eye for these things than you let on," Bulat said. He nodded to Leone and the two assassins dropped on either side of the determined Shinobi. Kakashi took his original stance and this time charged Bulat. He ducked a sweeping backhand strike and stepped into Bulat's shin to stunt the man of stone. He rolled between his legs and lunged upward, pelting the man's kidneys and lumbar with punches, elbow strikes, palm strikes, and precise finger jabs.
"Good work on the speed, but don't forget who you're dealing with!" Bulat said. He whipped around, catching Kakashi's face in his hand and literally throwing him into Leone.
Leone cocked her fist back at the sailing Shinobi. "Sorry about this!"
Kakashi caught her punch and rolled off her arm, sweeping her off her feet with a kick and coming down on her stomach with an elbow strike. "No offense taken."
Leone laughed but also winced in pain at the second strike. "I'm going to kill you for that pun," she said, catching a punch and rolling Kakashi into an armbar in the grass. Bulat leaped into the air again with his heel high, ready to bring it down between the recruit's legs.
"I feel like when I die, those are going to be the last words I'm going to hear," Kakashi said, pulling himself onto Leone and rolling out of the way as the explosive heel kick landed, splashing dirt and grass everywhere. Kakashi spun to his feet and tagged Bulat in the face with a kick of his own, creating a resonating impact that made the compound hold its breath.
Bulat stumbled back and Leone hopped to her feet, standing by Bulat's side to continue the training. Kakashi's face turned red at the grimacing Bulat, feeling his bruised cheek with great shock. Akame and Tatsumi watched in fear as well, hoping Kakashi would live in the next minute. Sheele watched closely as well, waiting for Bulat's response to the blow in anticipation. No one had ever hit his face before during the first day of training. Bulat stood up to his full height, looming over the young Shinobi and his face was shadowed by the sun. He smiled brightly. "Lucky shot!" he said, falling into stance again. "Don't rely on those in the field," he winked, "or else you'll be subdued! Leone, are you ready?"
Leone stared at the Shinobi hungrily and Kakashi watched as black claws curled off her fingers. Bulat changed as well, this time gripping the hilt of his sword. His hand shot into his thigh pouch and pulled out two kunai, spinning them by their looped handles on his fingers. He took one in each hand and bent into a far more guarded stance. "You wouldn't tell me where you were from," Leone said, "at the restaurant back in the Capitol."
Kakashi had to divert that topic. "And you wouldn't come back after leaving me to take care of the bill."
Tatsumi laughed from across the field but got smacked across the face by a wooden stick for not paying attention. However, Akame herself kept an eye on the other recruit. He was good, far too good for a country boy trying to hit it big in the city.
"Where he's from isn't important," Bulat said, "I have 90 minutes to teach him how to fight like he's from here, because as of now-" He drew his blade and charged, swinging down and slicing a foot deep hole into the ground. "-I'm not impressed!"
Kakashi braced himself by scraping the kunai together, engaging in another hour and a half of full-on sparring against an increasingly difficult set of opponents. Bulat seemed to grow more and more durable, and by the hour's end he stopped landing hits on Leone entirely. Their last match was cut short by Akame, throwing Tatsumi into the fray and pulling Kakashi toward the other side of the field with Leone following them. Sheele took her place with Bulat, wielding a man-sized pair of glowing cleaving scissors that nearly took off Tatsumi's head more than once. "What are we doing?" Kakashi asked. "Weapons training?"
Akame led him up a small, hidden path into the forest while Leone stayed behind to watch the others. They broke into a clearing on a cliff, this one overlooking a freshwater lake. She carefully placed her sheathed, steel blade on the ground and loosened her red tie on her black button-up vest. "Take your clothes off," she said bluntly.
Kakashi's eyes widened and he took a small step toward her, maybe he didn't hear correctly. "Excuse me?"
She turned to him quickly and stared him in the eyes, slowly unbuttoning her vest. She threw it to the ground, revealing the white bikini underneath and athletic, slim figure with a considerable bust. "Take. Your. Clothes. Off." She turned back around and took off her short black skirt. "We're going fishing."
The Shinobi sighed in relief. "I apologize, I didn't hear you the first time."
Akame turned to him with a small frown, backing up toward the edge. "Yes you did," she said with the smallest hint of irritation. "This is to teach you a lesson in patience when in pursuit of your opponent. You may find fishing this way to be harder than letting them come to you." She folded her arms impatiently. "And why are your clothes still on?"
Kakashi looked down and blushed. "Oh, right." He disrobed down to his facemask and underwear, wrapping any valuables on him in his pants.
Akame looked up, using his usage of a mask as an excuse to stare at his tight abs and chest. He had a lean, athletic build and multiple faded scars across his chest and stomach, pronounced biceps and broad shoulders that lined his body in a tight "V" that was completely hidden by his clothing. "Take that mask off too, you can keep the under-" She dived as he jumped into the water, but she didn't feel or hear the impact of the splash. She could have sworn he landed on top of it as if it was covered by glass. She surfaced again with two fish in each hand. "I told you to take off the mask, I'm sure there's nothing bad looking underneath."
Kakashi chuckled. "Well, thank you for that, but-"
"Now," Akame stressed, making the Shinobi sigh.
Kakashi slowly stretched the fabric from his face and lifted it over his head. The femme fatale watched closely in anticipation, wondering what secrets hide underneath. Her jaw slowly dropped at the realization. "It's out, I guess."
"Another mask?!" she exclaimed, seeing a copy of the mask he had on and the original in his hand. She tossed the fish she caught onto the grass and pointed into the water, moving on with the lesson. "There are three types of fish in this lake, one with gray scales and blue eyes, and another with gray scales and red eyes. Your target is the fish that is neither. I will be collecting dinner, and in an hour, you will help me cook it, okay?"
"Count that fish caught," Kakashi said.
"Arrogance will only lead to your downfall, be warned," Akame said, "or you're just hungry, but that's not the point." She let her long, black hair fan out on the surface of the calm waves as she slowly descended into the water.
Kakashi dived deep into the blue lake, calmly following the frantic fishes trying to run away from him in a glorified bowl. He rose again for a final time when she called him back, thanking god he kept his mask on to cover the nosebleed. He wasn't a pervert, he thought, despite the literature he read, but she was a bombshell. "There was no 'third fish,'" Kakashi said, tossing several medium to large fish onto the shores. "And if there was, one of the other two ate it."
Akame's lips curled upward in a cute grin. "Why would I send you looking for a fish that isn't there?"
The ninja wasn't new to this. "To teach me a lesson," he said, "everyone has a dark side."
Akame piled the fish into four baskets hooked onto a long, wooden rod and capped them. Kakashi hefted the rods onto his shoulders and stood up. Akame wouldn't let him see it, but she took in the glory of watching everything flex with little effort but with impressive results. "Any one of those fish could end up on our chopping block, any person out there could be on our hit list, so we give them the benefit of the doubt."
Kakashi followed her back up the hill to the cliff. "While retaining the resolve to end their lives once they sort themselves out." Akame redressed herself but took Kakashi's outfit too.
"I left the Imperial army's special forces unit with Najenda and Bulat when I was younger, then I thought there was a binary in the duties we fulfill, but quickly did I learn how blurry that line really is," Akame said, carefully picking up her sword once again. "When the time comes, you will be expected to kill anyone and anything that stands in your path. Can you handle that?" They returned to the training grounds, finding a battered but not broken Tatsumi still standing against Bulat while Leone watched and Sheele had disappeared into the compound. Tatsumi seemed built as well, but Kakashi's upper body indicated an intense regimen that took years to develop.
"I will do what I must," Kakashi said with determination.
"Even if it was me?" Akame asked, turning to him and drawing her sword, pointing it at the tip of his nose. "Think carefully about your answer."
Kakashi couldn't quite place it, but he could have sworn the smell of wax paper and gunpowder lingered in the area. "I would make it painless," he assured her, "and expect you to do the same for me."
Akame and Kakashi looked each other in the eyes for a moment, forming an unspoken promise between them. She sheathed her blade once again. "Good. Come with me. We're having fish for dinner, in case you didn't know."
Kakashi continued behind her. "As if the overwhelming stench wasn't a big enough reminder," he said, reaching the porch. "And can I get my clothes back?"
"No way," Leone said playfully, "hey Akame, what happened to Kakashi? Where did you find this guy?"
"Can I at least get my pants?" the Shinobi said, admitting defeat. It happened after puberty had passed and from hanging out with Guy for this long. Fighting for your life every day as your job required peak physical condition.
"He smells like fish," Akame said quietly, giggling to herself.
"No!" Bulat exclaimed from the field.
"Yes!" Tatsumi vouched for his friend's request.
"No," Sheele said, walking back out from the inside of the compound with a small slip of paper and a bag of gold. "Bulat! We have an assignment!"
Bulat held back a punch that might have flattened the boy he was training and instead patted him on the shoulder. "Go get some food, you can't be a good fighter on an empty stomach."
"Thanks bro," Tatsumi said between heavy breaths. "Same time tomorrow?"
"You know it," Bulat chuckled, "keep up that enthusiasm!"
The assassins returned inside, Bulat and Sheele leaving through the trap hatch in the front immediately afterwards. Akame and Kakashi reserved themselves to the small but stocked kitchen while Tatsumi and Leone went about their business until they smelled the cooking fish. The two fully clothed assassin cooks set the table, Akame setting a plate aside at the head of the table for a sweaty Najenda back from a job herself. Leone and Tatsumi waited for Kakashi and Akame to sit down before eating. "Where are Mine and Lubbock?" Tatsumi asked.
"Out on a mission," Najenda said, "which reminds me, Leone, you confirmed your targets, yes?"
Leone's usual playful expression went away, telling Kakashi the gravity of the situation at hand. "First, my target, Gamal the Merchant," she said, "he doubles as a tax deliverer and coast informant. He has knowledge regarding the war against the Land of Fire, but the reason we were hired to kill him is to avenge our client's family." Leone scowled and looked away, hating this part of the story the most. "Gamal had them slaughtered by Imperial soldier working for our next target, Ogre. He took the place of Bulat's direct underling and now serves as the weapon master of their army. We have until midnight to complete the job, 5500 gold is up for grabs, and I'm in the mood for some homicide. Kakashi, you'll come with me to take out the merchant."
"Then Akame and Tatsumi can defeat Ogre," Najenda said.
"Shouldn't we wait for the others to come back?" Akame asked.
"No way, not as long as people are getting killed," Tatsumi said, "I'll kill him myself if needed."
Najenda didn't find his arrogance humorous. "Tatsumi will defeat Ogre, stand by your words."
Tatsumi grinned widely. "If that's what it takes to prove myself to you, then I won't come back until he's dead."
"Akame, you will accompany him to supervise his first job," Najenda said, "do not intervene unless absolutely necessary. Good luck."
"Yes, boss!" the four assassins said, leaving for the Capitol once again. They stopped at a fountain in the center of a small but busy shopping center. "They leave from the barracks across Main Street together at five, so in three minutes that door will swing open and they'll go their separate ways," Leone said. "Akame, keep Tatsumi safe, will you?"
Akame nodded and pulled Tatsumi into a vein of the passing crowd. "That's our cue," Kakashi said. "Let's do this."
She and Kakashi slipped into the crowd crossing the street and splitting up on either side of the block, coming together as the double doors protecting their targets from the inevitable swung open. Ogre came out first, an eight foot tall boulder built like Bulat, covered head to toe in gray steel plated armor and missing one eye, instead having a smooth, pink scab over it. Behind him was a stout, round, frog-like man with beady eyes and wearing an orange kimono that only covered one half of his chest. Leone bumped into Ogre seemingly on accident, but Kakashi was watching fairly closely. Upon impact she lightly scratched an "X" into the back of his chestplate. Ogre laughed and flirted with the hot blonde for a moment before passing. Gamal moved in the opposite direction, passing by the Shinobi and spitting at his feet. "Kuso! Outta my way!" he snapped, pushing past Kakashi and waddling on his way. Leone watched the toad man walk at his pace.
"We're going to be at this for awhile," Leone said, but her hopes changed as he stopped and flagged down a cart to take him home. "Or maybe not, what fortune!" She turned to the ANBU operative. "You'll need something to hide the rest of your face, maybe that mask you always keep in your thigh pouch?"
"My what?" Kakashi said, once again hoping he was hearing things correctly. They followed the vehicle from the rooftops as nightfall shrouded them in darkness.
Leone winked at him. "It fell out when Akame handed me your clothes."
Kakashi felt that wasn't it. They approached the gates to an old mansion with three stories and guards posted along the entrance. One in particular caught his eye, a young woman with brown hair, brown eyes and standing next to a white dog with brown ears glowing with energy. They looked innocent, but something about them radiated caution. "It's a symbol of my village. A good luck token."
"Aww, how sweet," Leone said, scaling a tree to take a look. "Having a wolf as your guiding animal is pretty cool, although I am more of a cat person, dogs can be pretty cute too. Put it on!"
Kakashi put on the ANBU mask and turned to Leone crouched on the tree brance. "Well?" They scaled the tree and leapt across the gate, landing in the shrubbery and silently darting toward the house. Leone watched Gamal's silhouette pass on the second floor.
"Ooh, so mysterious," Leone said, "but can it get the job done?"
Kakashi scoffed and ran straight up the wall, silently opening the window and allowing Leone to leap through. "What?" Gamal said, seeing the masked ANBU agent glaring at him with a lifeless stare through the mask. "How'd you get past the guards? What do you want, cash, pussy, power-" Before Leone could even land, Gamal had three Shuriken in his head, one in each eye and one down his throat. Kakashi took them out and stepped back, looking over the kill as blood slowly oozed onto the floor.
"Impressive," Leone said, "I thought you said you've never done this before."
Kakashi shrugged. "Beginner's luck, let's get out of here."
Leone walked back toward the window. "That's bullshit and you know it." She looked out the window and a hunted expression slapped her in the face. Kakashi joined her at the window, gaining the same expression at the woman guard and her dog hailing down the other guards by the window. "Out the other window?"
"Great idea," Kakashi said worriedly, racing down the hallway and quietly opening the window. They crawled out of the mansion and climbed down by sliding down the gutter shaft into the bushes, but upon touching the ground the dog barked and the duo was surrounded in moments.
"Your turn," Leone said, Kakashi noticed her appearance become more feline again, with longer, wilder hair, golden cat ears and long black claws on her hands and feet. That's why she always wore sandals, he thought. "But personally, I'm not against showing these people a good time."
Kakashi pulled out a single kunai this time. "I like your style, although it could get messy."
The brunette dog owner with a crazed look on her pretty face cackled, pointing at the two assassins. "I recognize that Teigu anywhere," she said, her voice piercing and fierce. "Lionelle, the Golden Claw?" She laughed giddily and grinned with her dog, her smile nearly taking the razor sharp form of her canine companion. "You have no idea how long I've waited just to meet you, let alone kill you!"
Kakashi slowly pulled at his facemask, uncovering both eyes under the ANBU mask. "You do see there are two of us, yes?"
"There are ten of us right now with another 40 coming in less than five minutes, what's your point?" she said.
"Well, not to put it lightly," Kakashi said, tying a white and red tag to the kunai and whipping it into the air, "but this isn't a fair fight." Kakashi formed a single hand sign and slammed his fist into the ground. "Earth Release: Earth Wave Technique," he said under his mask quietly so that only Leone could hear. He took Leone by the hand and jumped twenty feet as the result of whatever he did was supposed to take effect.
"What did you do?" Leone asked.
"You have super speed," Kakashi said, "I have this." The woman and her underlings laughed for a moment, but it ended with the burst of mud that followed all around them. She hopped to her feet and her mood definitely changed.
Leone gasped. "Wait, what the hell?"
"Koro! Bulk up!" the leader of the dazed military squad ordered, and the dog followed perfectly, growing ten times the size and his white fur turning gray. Their opponent laughed. "You fool! Anything you throw at it, it can take!"
Kakashi caught the kunai and tore the tag off as it started to glow. He flipped back onto the rooftops and handed it to Leone as the dog-owner combo jumped onto the roof as well. "Tag whoever comes first, we have to go through them."
"I agree with that last part, but what is this?" she asked, charging them as a single golden streak with Kakashi already lagging behind. He was fast, but she was supernatural. He rolled between the beast's legs and saw the tag slapped onto its back. Leone added a few minor wounds, but they healed as soon as they were opened. Kakashi and the owner clashed in furious hand to hand combat, and although the woman was good, ninjitsu took this brief bout. Kakashi clocked her in the chin with a palm strike and locked her arm. He threw her over his shoulder at the dog and raced toward the edge of the mansion. "We have four seconds!" he warned, but the Lioness was already ahead of him.
"Four seconds to what-"
Kakashi lunged to the side, catching her around the waist as Koro barreled toward them with his mouth wide open in a chomp that would have swallowed Leone whole. Kakashi covered her eyes as the tag on its back burst into a white flash brighter than any sun. Anyone unfortunate to have their eyes open during that time sorely regretted it. Kakashi landed in the trees just over the gate and set Leone down, hearing the frustrated screams of the elite guard from Gamal's property. "Are you alright?" he asked, storing his mask in his thigh pouch. Leone looked up and noticed his red eye through the silver hair he used to cover it, specifically the three black tomoe slowly spinning within the redness around the black pupil. It was strange but she wouldn't say anything now, not with the guards preparing to sweep the area.
"Never better," Leone said with a blushing smile, "don't let it get to your head." She stood up and turned around to look at the devastation. "Not bad, not bad, you definitely have the element of surprise down pat. What was that final attack? Your Teigu? You made the mud move!"
"I've always been able to do that," he said, technically he wasn't lying. "I had a knack for it since I was a child, my Sensei taught me to focus it into multiple forms. That bright flash was simply a flash bomb tag, I brought some with me from home in case I needed a quick getaway."
Leone laughed as they bounced from tree to tree. "I guess you never knew how literally you'd need it."
Kakashi took out a small roll of them from his pouch. "Cut the side, place the bomb, temporary blindness and it's all silent."
Leone pondered the possibilities with an entire shelf of those back at the compound. "That and my Teigu could be pretty useful."
"What is a Teigu?" Kakashi asked.
"To put it simply," she said, "it's any magical item that selects its user, sometimes they can take the form of a weapon, like Sheele's giant hedge trimmers, or a biological form, like that bitch's dog. Others, like mine, fuse with their user, sometimes changing their appearance even without activating its abilities." Kakashi looked over at his partner, seeing her normal appearance once again. "Pretty hot, right?"
Kakashi blushed. "I was… simply looking to see if there was any change."
Leone laughed and hopped on the same branch as he did, stopping him in his tracks and literally licking his ear. "It's alright. I think you're pretty cute too, playing superhero back there. Don't think I didn't see what you were doing."
Kakashi nearly fainted.
"I marked you," she said with a slight growl, "when I decide to take you, you're mine."
"We just met," the flustered Shinobi said. "I don't think-"
"Let a girl have some fun, okay?" she giggled sultrily. "No need to be so serious, but if you don't want to play-" She leaned into his ear. "Stop staring so much."
Kakashi couldn't wrap his head around it. "What the-"
"We're back," she said, cutting his confusion short, "Tell the boss what happened."
They rushed over the cliffs and down the forest paths and through the compound back doors. Akame and Tatsumi had already returned, Tatsumi beaming with pride and blood splattered across his shirt. Akame seemed proud as well, although her sentiment treated it in a more serious and professional manner. Najenda welcomed Gamal's executioners back.
"I assume he's taken care of?" Najenda said with a triumphant smile. "Our Tatsumi here defeated Ogre entirely on his own."
Kakashi punched Tatsumi in the shoulder. "Good going, Tatsumi! Tell me about it!"
"Well," Tatsumi said, taking a deep breath and regaling the hour long escapade ending in a brutal battle to the death in the dead of night. "But enough about me," Tatsumi said, still shaking from the fight. "How was the merchant?"
The ninja said little. "We got the job done with some minor hiccups, but no one knows what we really look like, although a guard knows Leone's Teigu is on the loose."
"Very good, minimal casualties?" Najenda asked.
The Shinobi knew the damage he caused. "I seriously messed up their front lawn."
Leone rolled her eyes amidst the laughing. "Let me tell it," she said, giving them the drawn out, dramatic and badass Shinobi the man himself kept downplaying. The others were most certainly intrigued to the very end.
"Congratulations to both of you on a job well done, if we had the rest of the team with us, we'd toast to your success," Najenda said.
Tatsumi held up an empty hand shaped as if it was holding a cup. "To Night Raid!"
The rest of the group laughed and raised their "glasses." "To Night Raid!" they exclaimed.
"Meeting adjourned," Najenda said, "get some sleep before your next mission." She crossed the room and opened the exit doors. "You'll never know when that will be."
"Yes boss," the four assassins said in unison as she left.
Tatsumi yawned. "Well in that case," he said, "goodnight everyone. I'm sad I couldn't train with the others today as well."
"Eh, Akame and I are the best anyway," Leone shrugged.
Tatsumi left and the girls turned their attention onto Kakashi. He felt like he needed to say something. "Can I help you?"
"Were you hurt?" Akame asked.
"Well no, I don't think- I mean I'd have to check-"
"Hold him down," she ordered.
Leone held him in a half-nelson as Akame took off his tee shirt underneath his flak jacket, looking for any new wounds on his chest and back. She forced his pants off him as well and checked his legs carefully. She put a wandering hand on his boxer briefs.
"Okay that's enough!" Kakashi exclaimed.
"I once had a partner who died from an infection because he was too proud to say he got hurt," she said, moving away from his boxers. Leone let him go and Kakashi redressed for the second time that day. She looked him in the eyes again, forming another unspoken bond. "Just keep coming back alive, okay?"
Despite the way she exhibited it, Kakashi was glad she cared about her teammates more than the mission as well. "Anything you want."
Leone looked at the strapping Shinobi with a smirk. "Tell him to get naked again."
"But not that!" he shouted, to the girls' humor.
"Tomorrow you will train with Sheele first, then Lubbock," Akame said, walking toward the exit corridor with them and walking through a series of long, winding, stone hallways with wooden floors. Akame and Leone stopped at their room just before the staircase leading up into more rooms. "Goodnight, Kakashi."
"Sleep well," Kakashi said, receiving a wink from Leone as she closed her door. Kakashi tiptoed off to his room and closed the door, practically throwing his jacket and pants off into the desk chair on the other side of the room as he collapsed on the bed. He slipped off his facemask and rubbed his smooth chin and cheeks. It felt good to let the skin breathe, he thought, sliding under the covers of his bed in just his tee shirt and boxers. He lit the lantern next to his bed on the bedside table and sat up with his pillow against the wall, repressing his urges to sleep. He yawned but cut himself off. "No, you're not going to be a wuss and fall asleep." He took Icha Icha from the table and cracked it open from where he left off. "I'll just read for a few minutes, find a good stopping point, close it. That's how people read books, right?"
Kakashi only looked away when the door opened on its own, and Leone stood at the edge of his bed. Kakashi didn't sense her come in and quickly covered his face. She smiled at him, slowly closing the door and locking it. Her expression seemed far more dangerous and her eyes starry and dreamy. "Leone, is everything okay?" he asked, setting his book down.
The lioness tapped her chin a few times and tilted her head, dancing about the question. "You could say that," she said, "you see, I have an itch," she said, keeping her devious face as her hands went toward her black tube top. "You scratch skulls with knives so well, I thought you could help me out. It's bothering me a lot and I think you could have the tools I need to fix it."
"You don't look bothered," Kakashi said, feeling like he was being stared at like he was a midnight snack.
Leone giggled again, crossing over to his bedside table and setting his book down. "I'm very bothered, let me show you."
I BET Y'ALL CAN GUESS WHAT CHAPTER 3 WILL START OUT WITH
THOUGHTS ON CHAPTER 2?
LET ME HEAR YOUR TOP KAKASHI PAIRINGS