Chapter 23

Two months have passed since Sumi and Tsunade left the village to train. Though initial progress was slow, Sumi has proven to be a quick learner and is picking up well on her new skills,

"Ryouko!" Sumi shouted, and suddenly where one tiger once stood, there were now two.

"Very good." Tsunade smiled proudly. "I think you're ready for a sparring partner."

"I don't know." She replied cautiously. "Are you sure?"

"You really need to work on your confidence." The older woman told her. There's only one month left before I have to return and I will not have the time to further train you. I was hoping to have you ready to go up against Naruto by then."

"Well, if you think I'm ready." Sumi steeled her nerves. "Then I'm ready."

"Good, they should be arriving anytime now." Tsunade said.

"What?" Sumi's eyes grew wide. "Who is it?"

"If I told you, how would you be able to practice the techniques you've learned.?" Tsunade smiled. "Technically, you can consider this your first test. I'll be leaving you for now. Good luck"
Suddenly, Tsunade was nowhere to be seen.

"Oh, great." She looked at the forest around her. Knowing that she would need to take cover there. "Being out in the open only makes it easier to find you." She whispered under her breath before calling back the tigers and heading into the forest.


Naruto had spent the last two months bugging Jiraiya to teach him a new move.

"You perverted hermit! I've done what you asked!" He whined and held up his hand to show the man the glowing ball. "See?"

"So you have." He replied without breaking his meditative pose, or even opening his eyes.

"Grr Perverted hermit! Why won't you teach me anything!" Naruto shouted and stomped his foot in anger.

"If you keep up that attitude, I won't teach you the kitsunetsuki." The hermit never flinched as he spoke.

"What? That sounds like a kids trick." The boy whined.

"On the contrary, only a few people have the ability to do that move. You could almost say it was made for you.."

"Made for me how?" Naruto drew out.

"You've obviously made some sort of deal with the fox spirit, am I right?" The older man opened one eye to peer down at him.

"Yes, I have." Naruto steeled his glare. "Now teach me"

Sumi crouched low on a branch. Certain she sensed a pursuer.

"Believe it or not, I'm ready for you." she whispered. "Kyaa!" She jumped off the branch and landed in front of a very surprised and frightened squirrel. "Damn." she whispered as it skittered away, then she suddenly threw herself against a nearby tree trunk.

The burst of wind would have knocked her on her feet if she had not used the tree for support.

"Seems you're still just as blind as when we last fought." A voice taunted. "Only this time, I know not to hold back." Temari dove from the branch with her fist out. Ready to punch.

"Kuroninku!" Sumi shouted at the top her lungs, and Temari was suddenly suspended in mid air.

"Wha? How did you?" Temari attempted to struggle, but couldn't budge. Sumi grinned darkly.

"If I told you, then the other one would know my trick." Then, she took to the tree branches.

Temari was left in her position., motionless.

"Don't think he'll be so easy to beat." Muttered. Suddenly, she fell to the ground with a loud thud. "Ow."

"Don't worry." Tsunade said. I wasn't going to let you hang there all day, but it's probably best it happened this way."

"Why do you say that?" Temari asked.

"If she wants to fight at the same level as Naruto, what better way than to train with a rival"

"Now, to master the kitsunetsuki, you must be able to communicate with your fox spirit on a more personal level. Not just when you need power." Jiraya stated.

"I know, and I've already gotten that far." Naruto grumbled.

"How many times have you let him walk around in your body?"

"None." Naruto said, crestfallen.

"Then let him. That's the first part, you have to be able to let him walk around as you, without controlling you, so for the next week. You are going to allow the fox spirit to walk."

88888888 Sumi kneeled on the ground, watching, waiting.

"Do not think I will fall into your trap so easily." A cool voice echoed through the trees. "I have seen the ink you so carefully put into the cracks of the bark. Clever, but not enough."

Sumi suddenly felt the ground underneath her grow soft and start to shift. She tried to jump, but the sand flew up and held her in place. In front of her, a pillar of sand began to rise. Struggle all you want, I command the sand in much the same way you command the ink." She had yet to see who was behind that flowing wall of sand, but she knew that she was already at an advantage.

"That would be nice." she stated. "If it were the ink I had control over. Ketsukijunkan!"

A strange sensation suddenly came over Gaara. It caused him to stumble a bit, but he still held her firm with the sand. A sudden thought occurred to him.

"Blood." was all he stated.

"You figured it out." Sumi laughed. "That move alters your circulation system and since the blood flow and chakra are so closely tied together both get interrupted."

"You haven't won yet." Gaara stated and used the sand to squeeze her a bit tighter.

"I didn't want to use this." Sumi squeezed her eyes shut in concentration. "Chimome!" Suddenly, Gaara felt as though his body was covered in small pricks of pain.. He knew that nothing had made it through the sand shield, but when he looked at his arms he noticed small red dots appearing on his skin. As they began to grow, they became more and more painful.

Suddenly, a pain so sharp, it caused him to fall backwards and loose his concentration, thus dropping the shields and Sumi.

As soon as she was free, she tore off her arm warmers and released the vines to bind Gaara in place.

"That will be quite enough." Tsunade jumped down from the trees. "Gaara, you have qualified for the mission. Do you accept?"

"Gaara? Mission?" Sumi suddenly released the vines in surprise. "Oh my! You're Gaara?" She ran over and put her arms on his shoulders and began rambling. "I'm so sorry! From what I understand, I should be thanking you! Tsunade told me you kept me from doing something very bad, even though I don't know what. Are you OK?"

Gaara saw the look of concern in her eyes, and before he even realized he was speaking, he heard his own voice answer.

"Yes. I accept the mission."


Short after such a long delay, I know, but I've been spending the time researching and coming up with new moves. I've got about 25 so far to work with.

Thank you to everyone for their reviews. You guys keep me inspired!

Hope you enjoy the update.