ok sorry this is a couple days late, but things've finally settled down a bit at work, so I'm gonna try and catch up a little before next week's madness starts, a bit on the short side, but I'm still happy with how this one turned out!

now hERE'S TO THE BOI!


Day 1 - Master of Puppets


Fingers burn with the urge to move, but his control over twitching muscles is iron-strong, has been ever since he first learned what happened when a puppet-master loses focus.

Temari hid the fine scar well, but he could still picture it, fresh and raw and dripping a thin trickle of blood into her eye, even behind her hitai-ate. One of two lessons learned that day; never let your body move without careful thought and always, always carry the antidote with you.

A voice travels to him on a soft breeze – it is unnatural, travelling against the wind currents, forcing its way through them despite its apparent gentleness – he smirks and lets his left ring finger drop three degrees at the second knuckle joint. Hidden away in a half-destroyed building, he can't see Karasu's arm lift by just a hair, but the tension on an invisible string pulls at his skin and he trusts that sense more than any other.

He keeps his body utterly still as he focuses on the words drifting towards him, not close enough to make out, but it doesn't particularly matter, Temari's the one keeping a record of their target's conversation, all he has to do is wait.

He is good at waiting; patience is one of the core tenets of the puppetry core, instilled into each of its members at an early age. Kankuro remembers how frustrating it had once been, forced to remain quiet and unmoving for hours on end, a single tilt of his head enough to bring his tutor's wrath down upon him, all the lectures and harsh training, the times he was told to sit perfectly still, surrounded by razor-sharp wires that would cut his skin to ribbons should he fail.

But, stillness was necessary, he understood that now.

The puppeteer's strength was not in direct combat, but in stealth, in manipulation, in the performance.

For the jutsu to truly succeed, the master and the puppet must switch their very natures; the puppet dancing with life, fluid and effortless, until it becomes a living being as natural and unpredictable as the master, all while the master remains still and dead as wood and metal, undetectable, unseen, controlling the play from afar, only the careful, precise twisting of fingers and hands left to betray the act.

And he loved that, loved the artistry in it, loved the creativity he could bring to the battlefield. In a life where he'd had little control over anything, this was an area that was his and his alone, no one could beat him at this game, not anymore.

It wasn't a tactic that brought much glory or prestige in the shinobi world, he'd never be looked upon with the same awe that his siblings could garner with their flashy, powerful jutsu, but that didn't matter, because he was the master of puppets and everyone had a role in his performance, whether they realised it or not.

Just behind the crumbling stone wall, Kankuro heard the crunching of sand under foot.

He smiled and flicked a finger, searing fire of chakra threads bursting up his entire arm. Time to put on a show.