Chapter Four: Bloodied Woods
"For the thousandth time Pitou, I am not cooking you a human brain!"
"But I really want to know how it tastes after being cooked! Please Kurapi?" The chimera ant pleaded from beside Kurapika, who was currently taking part in making the group's food.
"How does an intelligent creature like Pitou with high aptitude for learning never learn how to cook?" Sera asked from her place at a stove, genuinely wondering.
"It's one of the biggest mysteries of our Labyrinth." Nagisa mumbled from next to her.
Emiko's eyes went from the ant and blond to their Captain, also participating in the cooking. It further trailed to the white haired woman sitting across her at the round table, who was currently enjoying a bottle of milk.
The blonde jinchuuriki briefly wondered how she was able to sit so calmly there.
Less than ten minutes ago, Emiko had woken up with Pitou looming over her, gazing down with wide, curious eyes. The hybrid creature had claimed she was simply observing Emiko's enormous chakra reserves, apparently in an attempt to reassure the Konoha girl in case she had any fears of Pitou trying to eat her.
Promptly after, the ant had led Emiko out of the room she was in and over to the kitchen. There she found the four of Sera, Nagisa, Kurapika and Naruto hard at work preparing meals for the house occupants. Upon seeing her, Naruto had quickly spoken up before she could say anything. The red haired Captain had said; 'I know you have a lot of questions. But let's first relax, enjoy a nice meal and have a proper, comfortable talk later.'
And oddly enough, for her at least, she found herself following along with the suggestion, which was how she ended up in her current seat, waiting for Naruto and the others to finish preparing their food.
Of course, before sitting down, she had still insisted on at least knowing what happened to her comrades while she was out. And of course, Naruto had answered that they escaped safe and sound, which would've been his answer regardless of what had actually happened.
As for Shiro, she had come in while she was waiting, kissed Naruto with a 'Good morning', grabbed the milk bottle from the fridge and sat herself down across from her.
"Don't be so stiff Emi-chan, relax." Shiro said, gaining the girl's attention. "No one's going to do anything bad to you."
Even though she didn't really believe her, Emiko still became less tense at the words.
"Ah, well, Naruto's actually done a lot to you already."
"WHAT?!" Emiko jolted up from her seat. "What do you mean?! What did he do to me?!"
"Come on Shiro, don't deliberately put it in such a misleading way!" Naruto said, as he was working within hearing distance of the two.
"Aha~, but she's gotten much livelier now." Shiro said, grinning at the girl.
Emiko was confused as of now. And at that moment, another person appeared in the kitchen.
"Ah, good morning Mor! Now we have the full set here." Shiro said, and Emiko followed her sight to see the redhead at the doorway.
Blue eyes met red ones and froze.
Emiko stared mainly out of an odd curiosity. The red haired girl in front of her, she could recall had stopped Sakura's fist with just her bare hands. That and the subtle air of ferocity that came off the girl pulled at Emiko's interest… and also produced a tint of fear in her.
Morgiana stared back. But unlike Emiko, the opposing observer wasn't her main focus right now. So Morgiana was the one to break the eye contact as she started walking towards the table.
"Good morning Mor! Sleep well?" Naruto asked, stepping away from his work and going to Morgiana before she sat down.
"Yes… good morning." The girl managed to mumble just before Naruto grabbed her by the waist and brought her into a kiss. Morgiana's eyes briefly went to Shiro, who was smiling up at them. The redhead's mind recollected what they'd talked about in bed earlier, and she let herself melt into Naruto's embrace.
Naruto and Morgiana separated with a jolt. They, as well as the rest in the kitchen looked to see Emiko pointing at the redhead pair with her mouth agape.
"Y-Y-You…" Emiko stammered, pointing at Naruto. Her finger then went to Shiro.
"With her…" The finger further trailed to Morgiana. "Now with her…"
"Yeah, what of it?" Naruto asked casually.
"What of it?! You're two-timing!" Emiko said, exasperated.
"No he's not. We have each other's consent." Shiro said.
"You do?" Emiko asked, glancing between Shiro and Morgiana. "You're both okay with him being with the other?"
"Yeah/Yes." Shiro and Morgiana replied.
"…Why?!" Emiko asked, unable to really comprehend the thought.
"'Why'?" Naruto asked. "Because we've already got our hands full with our objectives and it'll be a pain in the ass to further deal with stuff like a dramatic love triangle. So we just said 'fuck it' and fuck each other."
Emiko's mouth opened and closed, no words coming out at the moment.
"You could've explained that a little less vulgarly." Shiro said, glancing up at their Captain.
"What? That's pretty much what we did." Naruto said.
"Morgiana never said 'Fuck it' though." Shiro said.
Naruto turned to the redhead. "You didn't?"
"I didn't." Morgiana said.
Emiko stared with her mouth open once more, at the trio who seems to have now started a discussion over Morgiana's general vocabulary.
From his position, Kurapika lightly chuckled over the scene. "Emiko might need some time getting used to us."
"I'd assume she could get along well with Naruto considering the data we have of her personality." Nagisa said.
"That would be the case… if their loyalties and ideals didn't clash so much." Sera said.
"True." Nagisa agreed.
Among them, while also watching the four on the opposite side, Pitou's ears suddenly twitched and her head rose a bit. Nagisa and Sera didn't miss this as the ant was right in front of them.
"Intruders?" Nagisa asked quietly.
Pitou made a low sound confirming he was right.
Kurapika also turned to them upon the new topic.
"Should I go?" Nagisa asked.
"Depends on who and how many there are." Kurapika said. "Pitou?"
The ant in turn looked at one of the three at a distance. "I think Shiro will be the best choice here. Well, outside of Naruto at least."
"Alright, then brief her and send her to take care of it." Kurapika said.
Pitou nodded and started walking.
The white haired girl looked at Pitou, who kept walking and went into the living room. Understanding it was something to be said in secret, more specifically away from their new guest, Shiro got up and followed the ant out of the kitchen.
Emiko gave the two a curious glance but didn't give it much thought. Partially because her attention was still mainly on the two redheads before her, and partially because she realized that even if she tried to eavesdrop on whatever was going on, they wouldn't let her.
Now well out of Emiko's earshot, Neferpitou turned to Shiro and got straight to the point.
"Intruders, two of the Konoha ninja from earlier."
Shiro's expression turned serious. "Which ones?"
"The Wood Release user and the pale boy." Pitou said. "They're in front of the front entrance."
Shiro paused, glanced at the kitchen and then back at Pitou. "You want either one alive?"
Pitou's mouth formed into an eager smile. "The Wood user if possible. He likely has the most information and the Wood Release intrigues me."
Shiro also smiled. "Alright, I'll see what I can do."
Yamato and Sai stopped at the end of the woods they had been threading through. The final tree lines lead to a small clearing, and on the opposite side was a tall, vertical cliff. At the bottom of the cliff there was a giant boulder.
"The trail ends here, meaning Emiko was most likely taken in there." Yamato said, referring to the cliff. "The boulder is probably the entrance. As Kakashi-san said, we won't be going further than this. Let's fall back and send our report back to Konoha."
"I don't think so."
Both Yamato and Sai froze at the voice. They looked at the top of the boulder to see a white haired woman wearing a white strap dress standing there.
How did they find out about us so quickly?! We literally just got here! Yamato thought, gazing with wide eyes at the person who had probably made the biggest impression in their recent meeting.
Shiro bit her thumb, making it bleed. The blood seem to defy gravity, in fact, moving on its own, and suddenly lashed at her forearms. The slashes bled more profusely, and the red liquid danced in the air without taking any real form.
"I've been asked to take one of you alive if possible." Shiro said and pointed at Yamato. "You, the wood user, come quietly so that I don't have to slice off any limbs and take you by force."
Both Yamato and Sai realized what her words meant. She was intending to kill Sai and capture Yamato for information.
With the power she showed back then, she may be the most dangerous of them all! Yamato thought before glancing at Sai. But at the moment, she's by herself. Our mission here was to gather information in the first place. Even if we can't defeat her…
Sai met Yamato's eyes just before he looked back at Shiro. The ROOT member understood his intentions.
"If you're taking this long, I will take your answer as a no and—"
"Wait!" Yamato called out, interrupting Shiro. "I have a question before we go any further."
Shiro narrowed her eyes. "What?"
"How did you find us out so quickly?" Yamato asked, with the slimmest of hopes of gaining any more information out of her before going through what he had in mind.
Shiro stayed quiet for a moment. She then suddenly leapt off the boulder, heading down at them. "That's a stupid question. Of course I won't tell you."
"I figured as much. Sai, go!"
Sai quickly unraveled his Super Beast scroll at the same instance Yamato clamped his hands together.
"Mokuton: Great Forest!"
Yamato directed his right arm towards Shiro. Thick, wooden branches emerged from the limb and sped at the woman. Though Shiro swiftly formed a blade of blood and slashed at the branches, both slicing the parts coming at her and thrusting her body upward.
Shiro landed on the bundle of brunches to see Sai getting on an ink bird and taking off. A small branch from beneath her feet suddenly coiled around her ankle. More branches extended out around her, but she formed a second blade and cut them all off.
Tch, she'll be hard to even slow down, much more to hold back while Sai escapes! Yamato though and pushed more chakra into the branches to try and catch the enemy. But what he saw next from the woman shocked him even more. What? She's… floating?!
"So that's the course of action you chose." Shiro spoke, now floating in the air high above Yamato's technique. From her new position, she could easily see the fleeing Sai above the trees. "One stays to distract me while the other escapes to provide information back to your village. But let me tell you…"
Blood suddenly gushed in abundance from her forearms and merged below her. It molded and took a humanoid shape, until an exact clone of Shiro was formed.
"You're underestimating me too much."
Shiro's clone fell towards Yamato while her real body zoomed forth, flying at high speeds in pursuit of Sai.
The pale ROOT member looked back and saw the white figure speeding towards him. Even through the shock of seeing she had the ability of flight, Sai realized she would catch up soon and turned around on his bird. He unrolled his Super Beast scroll again and sent two more large birds to attack the oncoming enemy.
In response, Shiro put both of her arms forward. Blood gathered in front of her palms before shooting as twin projectiles. Because of the incredible speeds the bullets travelled at, the drawn bird couldn't dodge them and got dispersed by just those single shots.
Seeing his technique so easily decimated, Sai went for a different approach. His hand blurred above the scroll as he started sending waves of smaller birds at Shiro.
The albino was now faced with a gigantic wall of chakra powered ink birds, closing in on her from all directions as she proceeded forward. Sai watched as the 'wall' bent into a sphere and imploded with force onto the target inside.
Sai wondered if he had succeeded in bringing down the enemy. But any such thoughts were quickly stomped down when the ball of ink formed from his attack burst and Shiro once again came rocketing at him.
Only now, 'Shiro' was not white. She was completely red, dress, hair and all, courtesy of a hardened sheath of blood covering her in a protective layer.
"That was annoying. You almost ruined my dress." Shiro said and put her arms forward again. "This game of preying birds is getting tiresome."
The blood covering her once again started gathering at her palms. But this time, instead of one from each, several dozens of red bullets began shooting in quick succession.
Sai saw the rapid-fire of blood and, in a split second where time seemed to slow down, his brain thought of what he could do. Intercepting them was immediately out the window. As seen earlier, the speed and strength of the projectiles well exceeded his drawings. Trying to deflect them with his blade was also a no, as he was certain he wouldn't nearly be fast enough.
Trying to dodge each one separately would be stupid as well. And so, Sai's bird bent down and dived as fast as it could. Shiro followed and descended while Sai disappeared into the trees.
Though, just a few seconds later, Sai reappeared over the tree line. Shiro figured it was because it'd be hard to maneuver the bird among the trees. She resumed her attack and this time, due to the closer proximity and her changing the angle of each shot, Shiro managed to get her targets quite easily.
However, she was taken by surprise when, along with the bird, 'Sai' also dispersed as a black substance.
An… Ink clone? Shiro thought and looked down at the green roof of leaves bellow. A sigh escaped her mouth.
"Maybe I should've asked Pitou to come with me… Oh well." Shiro mumbled, shrugged and descended further down.
Meanwhile, the real Sai was travelling along the leafy branches, trying to stay hidden the best he could while escaping.
When he had sent the clone with his bird as a distraction, he had been unsure of the idea as this woman could be a sensor, since she confronted him and Yamato first after they were so quickly found out. Though the doubts relaxed a bit when she attacked the clone immediately after it came into her vision, implying she didn't realize it was a clone and the real him had hidden among the trees.
Though, it also could've simply been because she wanted to swiftly destroy his clone before getting to him. So Sai had wasted no time and was moving as fast as he could while not indicating the woman of his location.
Landing amongst the leaves of a branch, the pale boy quickly leapt at another tree. However, the target platform in his sight suddenly seemed like it was starting to lean sideways. In fact, every tree around him started leaning as they all were falling to the ground at the same time.
Sai did his best, watching his step, avoiding and maneuvering around the falling woods until he was above it all. When he landed on a fallen tree, he saw that the ground was now littered with tree trunks, branches and leaves as a huge circular section of the woods seem to have been cut down at once.
A chill ran down his spine. But Sai only felt it for just a fraction of a second. Because he wasn't given the time to feel it further, as a bullet of blood shot in and out of his skull instantaneously.
The ROOT member's body went limp and it fell sideways from the force of the shot. While the boy lay unmoving on the tree trunk, Shiro calmly walked towards him until she was standing over the dead body.
"Making me release a Root, you're not too bad… at least not while trying to escape." Shiro said and put out an arm so that her palm was over his head.
"Though overall, you were still pretty weak. Your technique was interesting I guess, though that was also negated by how you seem to lack personality…"
Blood gathered under her palm before proceeding to flow down. Shiro stared at the dead boy's face as her blood started covering it in red.
"Are you perhaps… one of those shinobi who're trained to kill off their emotions and be nothing but living weapons?" Shiro asked, shifting in her position slowly to cover the rest of his body with her blood. "If so, I suppose I can somewhat sympathize with you. If you are indeed one of those, then being used simply as a weapon by our… creators is something we've both experienced. But unlike you, my emotions and feelings never vanished, I never completely became their weapon, and…"
The boy's body was now mostly coated in red. And as she turned to leave, Shiro flicked two fingers together, making the blood, and the corpse, light up in a fierce fire.
"I am not weak."