My Guardian Wolf, chpt VI

Disclaimer: Okay, so today me and my friend went out for ice cream, right? Because we haven't done that for a very long time. Normally I get chocolate chip cookie dough, but today I got strawberry. My friend got Kona coffee as usual. And yes, that IS a real flavour. Its quite delicious. She almost called it konoha coffee once. But you see, they screwed up my order and gave me two scoops of banana nut. And I do not own Naruto or any of its characters. And I have NO idea why they gave me that, because the word "banana nut" has nothing to do with the word "strawberry". Then the lady gave me a dirty look when I told her she messed up my order. I only own this lame story. So she gave me what I ordered, but then charged an extra dollar. That upset me very much. Steal my story (though I don't know why you'd want to) and I swear I'll send you that nasty ice cream she tried to give me. Only I'm going to smother it in disgusting things like pickle juice, walrus fat, bacon grease, etc. Cha. If you actually read that disclaimer you'd be able to see that I don't own anything.

A/N!: Okay, as you can see, the first bit of this story is basically a rehash of what first happened in the forest of death. I understand that not everyone likes to read stuff that already happened. But I did work really hard to type it all up, and I did add originality to it. The first bit of the chapter especially. If you want to go ahead and skim to the part where they run away from Gaara, and back to my original plot, I won't blame you...but my rehash isn't that bad. I'll leave you to decide. Yes, I'm done talking. Go ahead, read your chapter.


Hinata swallowed nervously and fought the urge to fidget. The forest of death looked terrifying, and Anko wasn't making things any easier. Not to mention the fact that there were plenty of ninja standing around radiating bloodlust. She decided to sit far away from the rest of them to collect her thoughts, and to escape the evil aura they were emitting. Sighing a bit, Hinata looked over the consent form she had received for the third time. Her pale eyes scanned over the paper, but she wasn't taking any of it in. It probably contained depressing information anyway; saying things like Konoha can't be held responsible if any of them ended up fatally wounded or dead.

Dead. The word echoed across Hinata's brain over and over again. Wasn't it all just a little bit too cruel? Of course, being a ninja means risking your life in the future. But they were just barely teenagers. Wasn't this just a little too much? Hinata sighed again. It's not like it mattered. This was her decision. And now she had to follow through with her actions. Before she could think any further on such issues, she was shaken out of her stupor by a warm voice and a gentle pat on the shoulder.

"Lighten up Hinata. I can practically see you shaking all the way from over there."

Hinata looked up, and was immediately greeted by Kiba's deep eyes and his wolfish grin. Yes, he wore that wolfish grin as if nothing in the world was wrong. As if they weren't going to play a life or death version of capture the scroll. Without waiting for any kind of answer, Kiba sat down beside her and took Akamaru off his head.

"Ah, h-hello Kiba." Hinata mumbled, setting down her consent form. "I...I didn't see you coming..." she muttered for a lack of something better to say. Kiba just shrugged and scratched Akamaru behind the ears. Looking to his side, Hinata noticed that Kiba had already signed his consent form with his sloppy, hardly legible signature. Curiously, Kiba looked to his left to see what she was staring at; then peered over at her consent form.

"Eh? You haven't signed it yet?" Kiba asked, sounding genuinely surprised. "Is something wrong?" Hinata furiously shook her head.

" was just thinking. That's all Kiba..." Hinata said quickly, snatching up her consent form. Picking up her pen, she began to scribble her name as tidy as she could with a trembling hand.

"Hinata..." Kiba started, watching her hand shake as she began to spell out her first name. "You're scared." he said casually as if talking about a nearby patch of flowers. Akamaru yipped in agreement. Hinata blushed slightly from embarrassment and shook her head again.

"N-no Kiba. I'm not afraid. Where's Shino kun?" Hinata questioned, trying to change the subject. Kiba quickly recognized her clever little tactic though.

"He's just over there signing his consent form." Kiba stated, not appearing at all interested in Shino at the moment. "Hinata, you're scared." he repeated, refusing to just let the subject die. Hinata finished signing the paper and began fidgeting tentatively.

"A-aren't you...?" she asked in response, still somewhat dodging the subject. Kiba grinned at this and bit back a laugh.

"Nope." He said simply with a dopey smile plastered across his face. Hinata almost dared to crack a smile of her own. Typical Kiba. Arrogant and over confident all around. Almost nothing ever seemed to faze him, a quality Hinata longed to possess. Hinata continued to fidget and watch Kiba anxiously.

"Not...even a little?" she questioned tentatively, furiously fiddling with her hoodie string again.

"No. I don't have any reason to be." he said sounding quite serious. Akamaru barked as if to say, "I'm not scared either!" Hinata stared at him blankly, her eyes wide with disbelief. Did she just hear him correctly?

"N-no reason to be scared...? K-Kiba...a-are you taking this seriously...?"

"Of course I am."

"B-but, you know...we might...die."

Kiba began to laugh again for the second time in five minutes. Hinata sighed, and let her head droop in defeat. Maybe Kiba was just being reckless as opposed to confident...

"The way I see this..." Kiba began, his laughter finally subsiding some. "If they want some of us to actually become chuunin, then they wouldn't put anything in that forest that we couldn't handle. We can't become chuunin if we die." he said, as if it wasn't already obvious. "I think that Anko chick is just trying to scare us. And apparently, it's working." He added, gesturing to a group of nearby waterfall ninjas. They we're huddled up in a group, heads together, and whispering intently. All three of them were pale and shaky. One of them kept furiously shaking his head "no", as if denying his teammates something they wanted. Hinata blinked. Kiba scoffed.

"Honestly, I only think we would die in there if we were complete idiots." Kiba concluded. "And last time I checked, the three of us were geniuses. Right Hinata?" Kiba asked with another wolfish grin, trying to get her to laugh. It worked, sort of. She cracked a little smile. Kiba had a point. While genius might have been an overexaggeration, they weren't exactly near the bottom of their class. They had been clever enough to get past the first exam anyway. Hinata sighed, releasing some of her tension with it.

"...I suppose your right." Hinata said with her tiny shy smile. Akamaru barked happily and scrambled out of Kiba lap. Jumping over to Hinata, he began to eagerly lick her at her face. Hinata giggled a little at this, and began happily stroking Akamaru's white fur.

"Akamaru sure does like you." Kiba observed, watching the pair. Hinata smiled happily again and nodded. She loved Akamaru almost as much as Kiba did. Gently, Hinata picked up Akamaru and cuddled him like a baby. Akamaru didn't much like it, but he decided to tolerate it for the time being. Sighing happily, Hinata buried her face on-top of Akamaru's head and gave him a sweet little kiss. Kiba inwardly chortled. He knew how his little puppy despised being held baby-style, even though he was trying hard to not show it.

"Animal's sure are nice, aren't they...?" Kiba asked absentmindedly, picking at the end of his shoelaces. "I've heard that the moment someone places their hand on an animals fur, their stress level immediately decreases." Hinata's face emerged from the top of Akamaru's head, cheeks tinged pink.

"I agree." Hinata chirped, continuing to snuggle with Akamaru. Her tension had vanished, and she was now paying attention solely to the little puppy laying in her delicate arms.

"So, feeling better then?" Kiba asked, watching Akamaru wriggle out of Hinata's arms and sitting calmly in her lap. Hinata seemed a bit disappointed with the change, but settled for scratching him on the head instead.

"Yes. V-very much so." Hinata replied. Kiba nodded approvingly. The exams would have been a lot more difficult is she was feeling down. Everybody needed to be at the top of their game, and Hinata certainly couldn't be if she was nervous.

"You had nothing to worry about anyway." Kiba added, in an a matter of fact sort of way. Hinata tilted her head to the side curiously. "Cause you know, you're still with me and Shino. And I'll always prot-"

"Did you guys sign your forms yet?"

Hinata and Kiba looked up to see Shino standing there looking cool and aloof, as usual. He had his consent for in his left hand, signed and ready to go. His other hand was in it's usual place, jammed deep into his pocket. Kiba bit back a sigh and nodded his head.

"Ah...y-yes Shino kun." Hinata said, standing up and handing Akamaru back to Kiba. "We're both ready to go." Shino nodded in response.

"Then lets go turn in these forms and get our scroll." he said simply, turning around and walking towards the scroll both. Kiba and Hinata looked at each other, shrugged, and began to trail behind Shino.


Cell #8 stood calmly by gate #22, patiently waiting for the second exam to begin. Hinata reached into her pocket to feel their earth scroll for the 4th time, just to assure herself that it really was there. Earlier, Kiba arrogantly stated that he should get to hold the scroll; seeing how he was team leader and all. Shino objected; claiming that Hinata should be the one to hold it. Of course, she didn't want to. But then Shino pointed out that she seemed less likely to be the one holding the scroll; seeing as how Kiba obviously appeared to be the team leader. It would surprise or confuse enemies. Kiba scowled at this, and demanded to know if Shino was being sarcastic when he said that. Before Shino could come up with any kind of come back, their proctor had ushered them out of the scroll booth and to their respective gate.

Upon feeling the scroll, Hinata removed her hand from her pocket and scratched Akamaru on the head. Kiba had insisted that Hinata hold Akamaru until the exams started, seeing as how he calmed her anxieties. Hinata gladly accepted. Akamaru sighed lazily and relaxed in Hinata's arms. Kiba clenched his fists tightly, eager for the exam finally begin. Waiting is the worst part. Even Shino felt somewhat restless. He kept shifting his weight from right leg to the left leg. Sighing, the proctor stared at his watch looking impatient. Kiba could almost hear the proctor saying to himself, "I've got better things to do..."

"Oi. How much longer are you going to make us wait?" Kiba asked the proctor, folding his arms across his chest impatiently. The proctor scowled at Kiba.

"If you ask me that one more time, then you're not going to take the second exam at all." he snapped, losing any patience he had for Kiba. Which wasn't much to begin with.

"About six minutes and thirty five more seconds Kiba." Shino answered, since the proctor was obviously not going to say. Kiba twitched. He forgot that he could have just asked Shino for the tike. He was wearing a watch afterall...

Silence followed Shino's remark, like it usually does. Kiba grumbled impatiently and resisted the urge the start pacing. Absentmindedly, Shino watched one of his bugs crawl around his hand. The little insect skittered around without much of a purpose. Hinata calmly watched her two teammates with her pale, timid eyes. Growing tired of standing, she sat down on the ground and set Akamaru in her lap.

"I'd get up if I we're you." the proctor warned Hinata a few minutes later. "I'm going to be letting you inside in a minute, and you're going to want to run in there as fast as those tiny legs can carry you. I'd give the boy his mutt back while your at it. He'll be needing him right away, I guarantee it." Hinata blinked, and slowly rose to her feet. She wasn't sure if she should say thank you for the advice, or frown upon the man for calling Akamaru a mutt. Kiba was pretty sure on what to say though.

"HEY. Akamaru is not a mutt! And even if he was, it wouldn't change the fact that he's a great partner!" Kiba defended Akamaru, scowling angrily at the proctor. "Besides, who said that y-"

"A-ano, Kiba, please take Akamaru-chan." Hinata dared to cut Kiba off before he had the chance to say anything stupid. Slightly embarrassed for interrupting, she shyly held up Akamaru to Kiba's face. Kiba stared for a moment, then shrugged and put Akamaru back on his head. Shino shook his head at Kiba.

"Nice save, Hinata." Shino silently praised his teammate.

The proctor smirked at the three genin, then removed a thick silver key from his pocket. He shoved it into the lock, (which read "shinobi") and carelessly allowed it to fall to the ground with a dull thunk. The chains soon followed after, crumpling alongside of the lock. Hinata took a deep breath and put a hand over her heart.

"Alright..." the proctor said, staring at his watch intently. "I'm going to open the doors in just a few seconds. Be ready for anything." he warned, not looking up from the watch. Kiba grinned eagerly, ready to run in there and give it his best. Without much more of a warning, the proctor flung the doors open and quickly stepped aside.

"Go!" He bellowed at them, pointing dramatically into the forest. Hinata, Shino, and Kiba all exchanged glances with one another. They smiled at each other, and then nodded their heads. Or in Shino's case, smirked. Without another word, they took their first leap into the forest and out of the proctors site.

For a few seconds, cell #8 raced blindly into the forest without a single clue as to what they were going to do. Trees and other scenery rushed by them. Kiba decided it would be best to find an empty clearing and formulate a plan. Already, a couple of clever schemes were buzzing in his head, and he was eager to put them into action. He was about to stop and suggest this when Shino assumed his role as leader and tore ahead of the group, forcing them to follow.

Scowling slightly from irritation, Hinata and Kiba followed Shino to wherever it was he was leading them. Kiba was careful to not break any branches as he leaped from tree to tree; it would be sure to leave a trail. Hinata vaguely wondered if she should be activating her Byakugan, then decided against it. It was only the first few minutes of the five day exam. Saving chakra was vital. Instead, she tentatively sniffed at the air. People had passed by recently. Kiba noticed this and smirked. He knew those training sessions with Hinata weren't a waste of time.

"And she said she didn't need to learn to use her nose." Kiba thought to himself, feeling smug and amused. She probably wasn't as good as Kiba, but he assumed whatever she smelled was probably a start.

"...I think...three people might have already come this way." Hinata decided, staring directly at Shino. She didn't want to lose sight of him and get separated."That...was kind of quick...we can't have been running for more than a few minutes..." Before Hinata had the chance to ponder this any further, Shino suddenly ceased running and dived into a thick, bushy tree. It would be a good hiding place, as long as they didn't stay too long. Kiba and Hinata soon followed, wondering what Shino had in mind for the two of them.

"Shino, I have an idea." Kiba started to say, but Shino shook his head.

"So do I." He said in an a-matter-of fact sort of way. "Hinata, will you please do me a favor and activate your byakugan?" Hinata thought on this only briefly, then nodded her head and complied.

"What!? Hey wait a minute Shino!" Kiba protested as Hinata focused her chakra to her eyes. "She shouldn't squander all her chakra in the first few minutes, it will-"

"Give us an advantage." Shino finished Kiba's sentence for him. "And I think it would be wise to be quieter Kiba. We don't want to attract attention." Shino added, looking thoughtfully at Hinata. "Hinata, scan the area and tell me what you see." Hinata obliged, gazing around the forest for signs of anything unusual.

"Uh...Shino...? What are you doing...?" Kiba questioned, looking skeptical and curious.

"Formulating a plan."

Kiba sighed in defeat and shook his head. There was no arguing with Shino when he decided to start giving out orders. Besides, he seemed to know what he was doing. The team could always count on Shino in countless ways, and his ability to formulate plans was one of them.

"...Theres a team about seven minutes away. They might be coming this way, but it's difficult to tell..." Hinata reported. Kiba mentally noted that Hinata never seemed to stutter when she had her byakugan activated.

"What can you tell us about the environment? Is there anything we could use to our advantage? Or anything that could endanger us?" Shino questioned, already deciding on a course of action.

"Ano...well...there's a small clearing a little ways east of here. The trees are full of Konoha's flying leeches. But other than that, nothing dangerous, nor useful...not even a stream." Hinata concluded, turning off her Byakugan. Kiba bit his lip at the thought of dealing with a group of flying leeches. If they catch you off your guard, they can be a real problem. Mentally, he thanked Hinata for spotting them before they got to them.

"Alright. then lets use them." Shino decided, sitting down in the tree. "Now you two, I have a plan that I believe will secure us a second scroll in a matter of minutes. But we have to move quickly. So listen closely and do as I say without asking questions. Agreed?" Kiba hesitated only for a moment before nodding. Even if he said no, it probably wouldn't have changed anything. Kiba had long since learned that lesson. Hinata followed suit, patiently listening to Shino speak.


An agonized scream pierced through the air, adding to the disturbing atmosphere quite nicely. Somewhere safely outside the forest of death, Mitarashi Anko smirked and bit down on another kibidango.

"Wow! That didn't take long at all!!" she cackled sadistically, happily chewing on her food and tasting the red bean paste.


"I can't believe that actually worked! How stupid can you get?!" Kiba roared with laughter, watching the net swing back and forth with satisfaction. The net contained three unfortunate leaf ninjas, each covered with Konoha's flying leeches. The leeches eagerly sucked up their blood with loud, disgusting slurping noises.

"...Too easy. It was too easy. doesn't seem right." Shino murmured with disbelief. Not that he expected his plan to fail or anything, but for some reason seeing the three ninjas fall into his trap so easily was...unsettling to say the least. The tallest one in the net grunted in pain. With a shaking hand, he reached into his kunai pouch. Perhaps he was hoping to pull out a kunai and slash the leeches off his body. But he never got the chance. With a groan, his shaking hand fell limp before he could remove it from the pouch. Hinata winced at the site of it.

"K-Kiba...w-we aren't really g-going to just let them die are we...?" Hinata choked, turning away from the site. Kiba's laughter immediately ceased.

"No, of course not. We don't need unnecessary blood shed. " Shino answered the question for him. "We're just going to give the leeches a few minutes to get nice and full. If they don't get enough blood, they would just attack us when we opened the net." he elaborated, patiently waiting for the leeches to do their job. Hinata gulped, the nodded.

"Though at this rate, I don't think they'll have much blood left to suck in a minute." Kiba observed, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a couple of shuriken. "Now Shino?" He questioned, waiting for the ok. Shino paused for a moment to consider, then gave an affirmative nod. Immediately, the silver stars left Kiba's skillful hands and cleanly sliced the net open. The trio fell to the ground with an undignified plop. Hinata immediately dashed over to the fallen squad

"Hey, HEY! Be careful!" Kiba warned, watching the leeches warily. They didn't seem particularly interested in Hinata though. They still clung happily to the three leaf ninjas, filling their fat little bellies to their leechy heart's content. Fumbling a bit, Hinata took her kunai and slashed the first leech under the belly. It gave a strange squelch of pain and died a horrible...squelchy death.

"I'm v-very sorry, but we b-both know you would have h-hurt us if we didn't hurt you first." Hinata stuttered, slashing a second leech off the older boy. The freshly sucked blood poured over the ground. The boy gave a grunt as if to let Hinata know he understood, but it still pissed him off. Kiba held back an amused smile before walking over to help his team mates. In his eyes, it was sweet that Hinata thought she had to explain her actions to the enemy. Yes, very sweet indeed, but completely unnecessary.

"Hey, cheer up! If you're lucky, maybe you'll recover in a few days! Course that only leaves you a day or so to get a set of scrolls, but chin up anyway!" Kiba taunted, sarcasm dripping from every word. Quickly, he gave a careless slice at leech, removing some of the ninja's skin with it.

"Ugh!...gee thanks..." he muttered sarcastically before slipping into oblivion. Kiba shrugged.

"Welcome!" Kiba replied, though he knew he couldn't hear him anymore. Nearby, Shino searched the third ninja for the scroll. Nope, not in the shuriken holder...not in the kunai pouch...ah. There it was. Removing his hand from the strangers pocket, he carefully examined the scroll. The heaven kanji symbol almost seemed too good to be true.

"Its a heaven scroll." Shino made known, carefully tucking it away in his pocket. Kiba looked up from his task and scowled.

"Hey, I want to hold on to it!" Kiba complained, standing up and triying unsuccessfully to wipe some blood off his sleeve.

"No." Shino said simply, patting his pocket with pride. "It was my plan, and now I'm going to hold it."

"I had a plan too you know." Kiba began, folding his arms across his chest.

"A-ano! We should p-probably leave!" Hinata broke in, standing next to Kiba and tugging on his sleeve. "W-we shouldn't stay in the same place for too long...e-especially since we just made su-such a mess..." she mentioned, gesturing to the blood splatters on the ground and the three ninja's she had courteously sat up against the tree. Kiba nodded in agreement, and looked at Shino expectantly.

"...Alright. Lets find a new place to hide and decide on a new course of action." Shino agreed, ready to leap into the tree and lead the way. Kiba frowned, and grabbed the back of his collar to stop him in a very out of character manner. Shino visibly twitched from the unusual contact.

"I want to lead." Kiba said stubbornly, Akamaru barking in agreement. Shino felt a twinge, and looked into the bush behind them. The leaves rustled softy in the slight breeze that had picked up.

"Fine. Just do it, and do it quick." He snapped, not bothering to mention what he had just seen. Kiba frowned a little for being snapped at, but shrugged it off and bolted off into the forest. Shino soon followed, with Hinata taking up the back of the group. She paused for a moment to take one last look at the fallen enemies, then hastily looked away.

A pair of cold, icy blue eyes glared at her from the bushes as she left.


"Ha haaa! This is great!" Kiba exclaimed happily jumping branch to branch. "I had no idea it would be so easy! We'll be at the tower in no time!" he cheered, Akamaru dashing along side him. Shino bit back the urge to sigh and roll his eyes at his teammate. Aburame's do not roll their eyes. Especially since no one would be able to see it anyway.

"Incase you didn't realize Kiba, the exam has just barely begun. Not everyone's been as lucky as us so far. There are still enemies everywhere." Shino warned, not bothering to hide his irritation for a change. Hinata nodded in agreement at Shino's remark.

"S-Shino kun has a point Kiba. We cant afford to be arrogant..." Hinata mumbled, sounding somewhat apologetic. Kiba's expression was changed with what could almost be called a wolfy pout.

"Aw, come on. Don't ruin my good mood." Kiba grumbled. How could they blame him for being so elated? How many other teams could say they got a full set of scrolls within the first hour or so? Not many could, and Kiba was proud; even if the trap wasn't his idea. Now he was content to be leading his group of friends wherever he pleased, perhaps ready to pick a fight or head straight to the tower. The only thing that could have made this day any better would have been if Kiba felt the weight of both scrolls securely in his own pockets. He sighed, then pondered what he could do since he was the team leader at the moment. And that meant they had to listen to him! It didn't take long for a simple and very unoriginal idea to pop into his brain.

"STOP!" Kiba bellowed dramatically, putting his arms out to the side to indicate his desire to stop. Confused, Shino and Hinata obediently stopped and gave Kiba a questioning look.

"Since you both insist there are probably a ton of enemies lurking around, lets find them before they find us!" Kiba declared as if it were the most brilliant scheme in the world. "That responsibility, of course, goes to you Hinata." He added with a smirk. Hinata blinked in slight disbelief, then slowly nodded her head. Shino gave an impatient sigh and put a finger to his temple.

"...Aren't you the one who so adamantly exclaimed she shouldn't squander all her chakra about ten minutes ago...?" Shino questioned, looking at his friend with disbelief. What on earth could he be thinking? Kiba chose to not answer Shino's question.

"Um...theres a fight...just up ahead...but that's all there is..." Hinata sighed, deactivating her byakugan. That's all Kiba wanted to hear.

"Alright then! Let's go check it out!" Kiba exclaimed, excitement gleaming in his wolfy eyes. Shino scoffed, and shook his head with disagreement.

"Kiba, that would do nothing for us..." Shino began, looking tired and irritated. Kiba waved off his comment.

"Yes it would." he argued, getting back on all fours and ready to run towards the fight. "Think about it. If we steal more scrolls than we need, then less teams can pass. Isn't that right? I say go for it." before anyone had the chance to stop him, Kiba immediately bound off towards the direction of the fight. With no choice but to follow, Shino and Hinata were soon leaping after.

Out of all the fights in the forest team #8 could have gotten caught up in, this was probably one of the worst to stumble upon. It was just bad luck, probably to counteract the good luck they had earlier. They had no way of knowing the peril that awaited them because of their curiosity. They had no way of knowing, as they snuggled into that little bush, that they risked their very lives for choosing to witness such a fight. Akamaru knew. But nobody's perfect, and even Kiba can't always understand what he was saying. No matter how much little Akamaru trembled, and no matter how loud he dared to let out those sad little whines, no one paid any attention. After curiously peering out of those bushes, the only desire in their hearts was to turn around and put as much distance between them and Sabaku no Gaara as possible.

It was a gruesome and cruel thing to behold. At first it seemed as if those creepy amegakure ninja's had the upper hand. Hinata firmly squeezed her eyes shut when the wave of needles came down upon the small red-haired boy. She opened her eyes expecting to see a battered corpse oozing with blood. Instead, the boy was perfectly fine. Not a single needle had the chance to mar his pale skin. A wall of glittering sand had rose up at the last second, completely covering him from harms way. Kiba, or even Shino for that matter, had no idea such a jutsu existed. The wall of sand slowly fell down, the needles soon following. They hit the ground one by one, completely and utterly useless. Gaara didn't even flinch. If anything, he looked deeply annoyed by the rain ninja's petty attack. A few cruel words were exchanged, and the rain ninja furiously dived at the sand trio.

It was over fairly quickly. A few simple hand signs was all it took. Within seconds, the rain ninja was engulfed in a thick wave of sand. It came from all directions, securely trapping the boy in a strong cocoon. Despite his taunts, it was obvious he wasn't going to be freeing himself anytime soon. Before Kiba had the chance to blink, the sand collapsed in on itself and crushed the rain ninja it held. Waves of fresh blood splattered every which way, raining down on the rain ninja's remaining two companions. Parts of his corpse and his weapon smacked into the ground with a sickening plop. A wave of nausea hit Hinata. She closed her eyes and clamped a hand over her mouth in a furious attempt to keep her lunch down.

The smaller of the remaining two ninjas immediately pulled out their scroll. He placed it on the ground with a shaking hand and rolled it over to Gaara with a flick of the wrist. Perhaps he was hoping that a peace offering would spare him his life. But when ichibi gets to see the site of blood, it usually wants more. Not satisfied. Gaara quickly encased the two ninja's in a coffin of their own. Their pitiful cries for mercy fell upon deaf ears. Shino, Kiba, and Hinata stared dumbly, unable to tear their eyes away from the site though they desperately wished to. On an impulse, Kiba grabbed Hinata and forced her head into his chest.

"Don't look." he whispered to her, squeezing her tightly as if in fear of losing her. Trembling, she held on to him tightly in desperate need of the comfort. Shino finally forced himself to tear his eyes away from the scene and fixed his eyes on the ground. He didn't want to watch anymore than Hinata or Kiba did. The screaming was soon cut off and a new wave of blood splattered through the air. A few stray droplets flew over to the bush, hitting them on their backs. Shino flinched upon feeling it and its warmth. A few moments of silence passed, and none of them dared to move. They sat in a silent shock, trying to register what just happened. Hinata didn't want to leave her comfort zone. Kiba didn't want to move. Shino didn't dare to take a peek at the scene. They all kept their eyes squeezed shut, hoping they would wake up from some kind of horrible nightmare.

"...Is it safe?" Kiba uttered in a tone barely audible to his teammates. Shino opened his eyes, but could not will himself to check. Hinata made no efforts to move at all. As if Gaara had heard them, a small stream of sand began to creep its way over to the bush. Hinata and Kiba yelped in unison, clinging tighter to each other. Shino furiously swiped at the sand, as if to knock it to the ground. Obviously, this had no effect. The sand stream slowly became thicker and steadier, circling around the group of terrified genin. A female voice of protest piped up, but none of them registered what she was saying. This was the end. It had to have been. There was no hope. They stuck their nose where it didn't belong, and now they were going to die for it.

And quite suddenly, it all stopped. The sand retreated back to its proper place in Gaara's gourd. Stunned, Shino's head shot up to see what was going on. Maybe that sand was just a warning attack, and now Gaara was going to come at them for real. Kiba slowly looked up, still clinging possessively to his small teammate. He gritted his teeth, waiting to see what would happen next. The sand trio merely exchanged a few bitter words, and began to walk away. Just like that, they sauntered off as if nothing happened. The only sign they had ever come was the putrid stench of blood in the air. As if someone had flipped on a magic switch, Cell #8 immediately bolted off in the complete opposite direction of the site like frightened rabbits.

"What did I tell you?!" Shino hissed, blindly following his teammates with no idea where they were going. "We should have just gone back to the tower when we had the chance! We could have died!"

"How was I supposed to know that was going to happen?!" Kiba shot back, sweat dripping from his face. "I mean YEAH. This place is dangerous, but that was just wrong! This place is crawling with freaks! Those were no genin!" Kiba exclaimed, stumbling on a branch. He quickly regained his footing, and darted after his friends.

"W-we need to g-get out of h-here! Now!" Hinata whimpered, still shaking from the site they had just witnessed. Kiba and Shino feverishly nodded their heads in agreement. "We a-already have the scrolls we need, so let j-just hurry up and get to the tower!"

Without another word, they began to fly towards the tower in a frenzied panic. The recent bloodshed left them shaken to the core, and they wanted to get out of that forest as quick as humanly possible. Blindly, they raced through the forest, not bothering to cover their tracks. They didn't even bother to check for traps. Their minds we're numb from shock. They weren't even thinking about the most basic skills to survive. Breathlessly, they dashed around for several minutes, and it was a wonder they didn't fall into anyone's trap. Heck, they didn't even see any other teams. Maybe they were hiding somewhere. But Kiba didn't care. None of them cared. They only wished to leave. The raw desire to escape blocked out all other thoughts, all other logic.

"I can see the tower!" Kiba panted, pointing a clawed finger at the distance. His teammates gave another feverish nod to indicate they heard him, as they continued their journey to the tower. It continued on like this for several more minutes. No one spoke to each other, each of them preoccupied in their own thoughts.

Nearby, a bush rustled ever so slightly. A pair of cold, piercing eyes peeked through an opening to check up on their latest victims. Yes, they we're still going strong. Perfect.

"A...ano...Kiba...!" Hinata called out to her teammate breathlessly. "How m-much longer do you think...? I...I've got a bad feeling..." she exclaimed, putting a hand over her chest to calm her breathing. It didn't help of course.

A skillful hand snaked its way out of the little bush, kunai in hand. Patiently, he waited for the right opportunity to release the trap.

"Ah geez, I don't know..." Kiba muttered, growing tired from their frantic race to the tower. "Uh...ten minutes? fifteen? What do you think Shino?" Kiba shouted his inquiry to his teammate.

"I don't think you're ever going to find out..." a stranger cackled silently to himself, thoroughly enjoying the task at hand. How could they possibly get any luckier? The poor little genins were too spooked to pay any attention to their surroundings at all!

"...You're probably right." Shino called back, after he gave it some considerate thought. It seemed logical anyway...he didn't really want to bother to form actual thoughts at the moment.

The hand sticking out of the bush twitched eagerly. Jeez, these little brats sure were slow. Could they possibly go any slower?

"D-do you think we have time to take a b-break...?" Hinata said between her gasps for breath. "We've been running like this f-for a long time, I'm sure w-we're...cough...out of danger by now!"

"No no, don't take a break..." the stranger murmured to himself ever so quietly.

"No way Hinata, sorry! We're almost there, just hold on a little longer!" Kiba called back, though he looked like he regretted those words. His chest was on fire. His lungs felt ready to burst.


In a quick motion, the stranger brought his kunai down on the thin line of wire that cell #8 had so carelessly dashed right past earlier. With a loud crunching sound, a thick heavy log came swinging from its hiding place. Quickly gaining momentum, it began falling towards the small group of frazzled genin. Hinata was the first to notice it. Startled, she squeaked with surprise and darted off to the side. Kiba and Shino watched her go, but made no efforts to follow her at all.

"LOG!" she shouted as loud as she could with her quiet voice. Shino and Kiba jolted, as if coming out of a stupor. But strangely enough, they didn't move. Not a single inch. In fact, they stood there calmly in the path of the log, waiting for it to crash into them. They stared at it, as if locked in some kind of trance. Hinata's eyes widened in shock.

"W-what in the world do you think you're doing!? MOVE!" Hinata pleaded, trying hard not to panic. But why didn't they move?! Any second now they were going to be hit by the log! Still, they just stood there, eyes transfixed upon the wood with fascination. With an annoyed grunt, she darted over to her teammates and threw herself into them as hard as she could. She was tiny, not big enough to move them both out of the way completely. Shino got clipped in the side on the way out, knocking the breath out of him.

"Now!" a gruff voice called from a nearby tree. In an instant, a shower of shuriken and kunai rained upon the three fallen genin.

The three yelped in unison as the sharp blades pierced through their skin. Some missed, but most of them landed gracefully upon their marks. They barely had the strength to deflect the ones that threatened their vital spots.s After a few agonized minute, the hower of metal ceased. Kiba groaned, and touched a hand to his forehead. Akamaru whined from underneath Kiba and wriggled to get free. In a last ditch effort to do something, Kiba had(gently) thrown himself over his little pup to shield him from the violent storm of shuriken. Shino tried to sit up. A sharp pain attacked his side from where the log had clipped him. With strong resolution, he forced himself to sit up and breathe. With another whimper, Hinata rolled over to get a better look at her teammates and see the damage.

" the world...were you two...doing...?" Hinata gasped, lying beside her fallen team with blood smeared on her clothes. Shino and Kiba shook their heads furiously, trying to shake away the haze that clouded their heads.

"That log was just...sat there and...hack!" Hinata cut off, spitting some blood out of mouth. Shino and Kiba could provide no answer for her. Instead, they stared dumbly, unwilling to believe what just happened. One minute they were on top of the world, and the next they were lying on ground in shock. Their breaths came in shallow gasps. Blood flowed freely from open wounds. wasn't really happening. They weren't really hacking up blood and struggling to sit up...were they? The stinging pain from the gashes they received didn't really exist...did it? It was some kind of illusion, or maybe a...

"A genjutsu..." A cold voice chuckled darkly from behind a nearby tree. Sensing the danger, cell #8 clumsily rose to their feet and stood in a triangle formation. Their backs faced each other, so each one of them could safely scan a different direction. With shaking hands, they each grabbed onto a kunai and pointed it in the direction they were facing. The dark voice chuckled again, sending jolts of fear down their spines.

"You're friends fell victim to my genjutsu, little one. They didn't move because they couldn't." the voice spoke up again, softer this time. Kiba growled and clutched his kunai tightly. He didn't like the sound of this. The man speaking to them was obviously older than them all, and probably more skilled. Akamaru perched on Kiba's head, shaking with fear but trying to look brave.

"I guess you we're the only one who didn't fall into the illusion. I wonder why..." the stranger spoke the thought out loud, a tinge of amusement playing in his voice. Hinata swallowed nervously, and tried to back up closer into the triangle. Her instincts were positively screaming at her to get the hell away from there. A few tense moments of silence passed. Shino paused, then opened his mouth to form a question.

As if sensing the movement, another four bladed shuriken shot out from the darkness. Shino's instincts told him told him to reach up and deflect it with his kunai, but his actions were dull and clumsy. He ended up missing. The four pointed blade lightly cut across his cheek before smacking into a tree behind him

"Oh, my apologies. I was aiming in between your eyes. I suppose I missed." the man laughed lightly, thoroughly amused with his little game. Shino furiously shook his head, and reached up his hands to perform a hand sign. Obviously, his mind was still partly clouded from the genjutsu.

"Kai!" Shino said quietly, but with strong resolve. Instantly, the haze cleared and he could see freely again. Dimly, Kiba was aware that he should probably do the same thing.

"Kai." Kiba repeated, though he didn't sound as confident as Shino did. Another few moments of silence passed. The group sighed in unison, and wondered if it was safe yet. It wasn't. Growing bored, the stranger casually took a step out from behind his hiding place. Slowly, he came out from the shadows just enough for the team to get a good look at him. Shino stiffened. His amount of chakra was frighteningly huge.

A pair of cold, icy blue eyes scanned over Shino with a calculating gaze. The man wore his hitai-ate slightly off to the side, partly covering his right temple. The sign for Takigakure (waterfall village) was barely visible amidst his shoulder-length midnight blue hair. His outfit was simple; a long black shirt with a single baggy black sleeve that covered his hand. The other sleeve was torn, barely hanging on by a few loose threads. Underneath his shirt, he wore a black netted shirt much like Anko's. His pants were black to match and equally baggy; though they were not too long like his sleeves. His kunai pouch sat comfortably on his side, and his shuriken holster by his left thigh. A katana was held securely on his back. Somehow, his outfit seemed terribly plain and simple for someone possessing such breathtaking beauty. If Hinata wasn't in her current state, she might have even thought the young man was very handsome. But his good looks could not drown out his aura of malice. With a small smirk, he extended a long, pale finger in Kiba's direction. Kiba visibly flinched.

"My my, what a strong looking young man. If I didn't know better, I'd say you we're the leader of this little team here." The man smirked, putting emphasize on the word "leader". Kiba's eyes narrowed at him. Even in a state of shock and fear, he did not like being mocked.

"Well, if I we're you young man, I'd do some leading right now. Incase you didn't realize, you are about to lose much more than those scrolls you've been carrying around..." he chuckled softly, pulling out another shuriken. "Of course, you could always be a good boy and tell your teammates to surrender them right now. If you're lucky, maybe we'll be nice and let you live." he continued, absentmindedly toying with the shuriken. Kiba growled, and tried to take a step towards the man. On instinct, Shino raised his arm and blocked his path.

"Do you want to die...?" Shino muttered to him, lips barely moving at all. The man chuckled again.

"If you don't hurry and comply with my wishes, then you'll be begging for death when I'm through with you." the stranger murmured softly, eyes gleaming brightly. Hinata wished she could positively melt into the ground and disappear from the forest of death. There wasn't even a need to raise his voice; a soft murmur was all it took to send waves of fear over them. As if hearing her thoughts, the man shifted his gaze over to the tiny kunoichi. Hinata temporarily forgot how to breathe.

"Sweet child, I do believe you have an earth scroll for me in your left pocket there, hm?" he asked politely, opening his hand as if to receive the said scroll. Hinata winced, and opened her mouth to speak; but Kiba spoke up first.

"And just how did you know she was the one holding our scroll?!" Kiba demanded; carefully posing the question to make it seem like they only had one scroll. That way, even if he managed to snatch up one, at least they'd still have the other. The man smiled, amused by Kiba's angry little outburst.

"I've been tracking all three of you for quite sometime." he said quite simply, with a casual shrug of the shoulders. "It's not like it was hard. You weren't exactly being careful. Oh, and yes. You boy, with the sunglasses. I'll be wanting that heaven scroll too. One's simply worthless without the other, wouldn't you agree?" the man questioned calmly, though his gaze didn't leave Hinata. In a rare act of aggression, Hinata narrowed her eyes at the man; determined to hide her fear. The man cracked another smile.

"You poor child, I can see you shaking from here. Don't worry, just simply hand over the scroll and I promise I won't hurt a single hair on your precious little head." he said in a sickeningly sweet voice. Hinata said nothing. She merely closed her eyes. When she opened them up again, veins we're running across her pale skin around her iris eyes. If her glare had been even just a little scary before, it was sure to look terrifying now. Even sweet little Hinata can look aggressive if she had to. Timid or not, she was a pure blooded main branch Hyuuga. The man blinked in surprise, and let out a few dark chuckles.

"Such aggression coming from such a timid looking girl." he said lightly, taking a small step towards the group. "Allow me to restate that sentence." he said coldly, suddenly becoming quite serious.

"Give me that scroll right now and I won't kill your precious teammates." he growled, reaching into his shuriken holster again. He now held two or three shuriken in-between each finger. Kiba and Shino stiffened. Hinata's breathe caught short in her throat. The man didn't seem like he was joking. And somehow, she doubted that he lacked the ability to mow them all down quite swiftly and effortlessly. He smiled again, patiently waiting for her answer. He held out his free hand again.

"It's okay, don't be afraid. Just be a good child and hand it to me." he said calmly, though the evil glint in his eyes did not vanish. Hinata choked, but refused to move. She wasn't gullible enough to fall for such a simple trick. Walking over there and handing over the scroll would surely mean her death. When she didn't make a move, the man hurled another shuriken; this time at Kiba. It missed again, but it did tear away some of the fabric from his jacket. Kiba jumped, startled by the attack. It was so quick, he didn't have the chance to see it coming.

"Oh my. I've missed again." the man said dully, patience leaving his voice. "How utterly clumsy of me. How much longer will I continue to miss my mark...?" he questioned in a dark tone, slowly walking towards the group. "There's no reason to be so scared child. If you really don't want to hand it to me, then put it on the ground and psuh it over. Just a tiny little kick is all it would take." he said, stopping about ten paces from the group. When the group made no efforts to move, he smiled at them again. "I'm waiting..." he murmured softly, staring at them expectantly and waiting for his mind games to take effect.

Hinata forced herself to breathe calmly, and reached a hand to her pocket. Would he really kill them...? Hinata pondered for a moment; and concluded that he can, could, and would. Forget the scroll! This man was crazy! He would kill her precious teammates without batting an eyelash. Then what would she do? Her life would be over! How could she live without Kiba and Shino there to brighten her life? If she handed over the scroll now, at least she could live to see tomorrow with everyone! Kiba, seeing the motion, reached out and gently grabbed Hinata's shaking hand.

"Don't." Kiba murmured, squeezing her hand tightly. "You can't trust what he says. He's the enemy. He may very well just kill Shino and I anyway. And you too for that matter." Kiba said softly, trying to keep the fear out of his voice. Hinata gulped, looked into his deep brown eyes, and slowly nodded her hand. Kiba was right. The man sighed and folded his hands across his chest.

"And here I was hoping to get through this without any bloodshed. Oh well. I don't mind. It's been awhile since I've seen fresh blood." the man said maliciously, hand twitching like it wanted to throw the shuriken it held. "Your fate's decided. You'll all be dead in just a few moments now." he said simply, as if he wasn't talking about ending human life.

Kiba snapped. He had enough.

"You're so arrogant it makes me sick!" Kiba spat at him bitterly, releasing Hinata's hand to grab another kunai. "What makes you think your so damned special anyway?! Even if you attack us, its not like we're going down without a fight! Who the hell do you think you are anyway?!" Kiba snarled, Akamaru barking furiously on top of his head.

He had no reaction for Kiba's outburst. He didn't flinch, didn't smirk, didn't raise an eyebrow.

"That's a rather pointless question to ask for someone about to die." he said flatly without a hint of emotion. In an instant, the man dived for Kiba.

"He's fast..." was the only thought Kiba had the chance to formulate before a strong kick was delivered to his head. Hinata and Shino barely had the chance to leap out of the way and not get caught in the cross fire. Kiba's head throbbed painfully as the man threw back his arm to throw a punch. Dazed, Kiba clumsily reached up to catch his fist. He pushed against the stranger's hand in an attempt to shove him away. The other man was obviously much stronger though; he didn't give in an inch.

Desperately, Kiba swooped his leg underneath the stranger in attempts to trip him. The man stumbled, but quickly regained his footing. In a swift motion, he stomped down on Kiba's foot. Kiba yelped in pain.

The man didn't give him a chance to react. In a swift and graceful motion, he jammed his fist deeply into Kiba's solar plexus. Breath immediately escaped Kiba's lungs. He doubled over in pain, unable to defend himself. Akamaru barked furiously, but refused to leave the spot on his master's head. If he attacked without orders, chances are he'd get in the way rather than help. A barrage of punches followed the first, and the man ended the combo with a strong kick to the side. Kiba went flying a few feet before landing painfully on the ground. Grunting in obvious pain, he fought to sit up. He had to do something, or he was going to die.

In a few quick strides, the man met up with Kiba again. Smirking, he lifted his foot up and smashed it hard into Kiba's soft stomach. The bitter taste of copper arose in his mouth. Choking, he rolled over and curled into a tight ball in attempts to shield himself. The stranger kicked him in the side again, forcing Kiba to lay on his stomach. One last time, the taki nin lifted his foot and brought it down on Kiba's back. Kiba yelped, blood splattering out of his mouth. The man ground his foot in to Kiba's back, refusing to let him up.

Akamaru growled furiously, and sank his fangs into the man's ankle, orders be damned. Cursing, the man lifted his foot and shook it around wildly, but Akamaru refused to let go. Snarling, the man reached down and smacked Akamaru on the head. Hard, but not hard enough to crush his tiny skull or knock him out. Dizzy, Akamaru let out a small whine and released the man's ankle and stumbled backwards. Hearing his tiny pup yelp, Kiba immediately fought to sit up.

"Akama-!" Kiba's cry was cut short as the man stomped down on his back again. Grinning sadistically, the man reached into his pouch and pulled out a kunai. The man raised it high over his head, an insane look in his eyes.

"My name is Seidou of Takigakure. Though I doubt you need to remember it seeing as how you're about to die." Seidou hissed, ready to bring the blade down on Kiba's vulnerable neck. Kiba grunted, and squeezed his eyes shut tightly.

Hinata was the first to jolt out of her shocked stupor.

"Don't you dare do a thing to him!" Hinata shouted as loud as she could, dashing over to Seidou at full speed; Byakugan activated, and kunai's in hand. Amused, Seidou turned to face the furious girl. Hearing Hinata's voice, Shino also jolted back to reality.

"Hinata, wait a second! HINATA!" Shino called after her, unsure of what to do. Hesitating, he summoned up a storm of bugs and began to formulate a plan. If he didn't do something, he was sure they we're all doomed.

Furiously, Hinata kicked at Seidou's left side, hoping to knock him off Kiba. Arrogantly, Seidou started to dodge, then froze. It was a feint. Instead, Hinata reached up her right hand and dug her kunai in his shoulder as hard as she was able to. Seidou gritted his teeth, and pulled back. Snarling, he glared at the defiant kunoichi. Hinata was immediately at Kiba's side.

"Kiba! Say something! Are you conscious?!" Hinata pleaded, rolling him onto his back and shaking him slightly. Kiba groaned, and gave a small nod of the head. Relieved, Hinata attempted to help him sit up.

"Hinata, what are you doing?! Pay attention!" Kiba yelled, grabbing her by the wrists and yanking her down the ground. Kiba grunted in pain upon the collision of Hinata's body against his own. The kunai that Seidou had thrown flew harmlessly over Hinata's head and planted itself into a nearby bush. Not missing a beat, Hinata was back on her feet and turned to face Seidou. He had pulled the sharp blade out of his shoulder, and had his hand planted over the wound. If he was in pain though, he didn't show it. A small smirk played upon his lips.

"Such a sweet girl. You obviously care very much for that boy. I wonder how you would react if I really did kill him...?" he questioned smoothly, trying to get a rise out of Hinata. It worked. Glaring angrily, she ran up to Seidou again and resumed the heated battle.

Though Seidou attacked furiously, hand to hand combat was Hinata's forte. She easily blocked all his punches and quickly retaliated with her own. But Seidou was no pushover either, and was able to deflect most of Hinata's jyuuken attacks. They seemed to be locked in a standstill; neither were able to land a punch or throw a kick. Sweat poured over Hinata's face. Her breathing became shorter and faster. Seidou blocked another attack and tried to land in a hit of his own. Hinata dodged it, though she did it clumsily.

"Poor sweet child." Seidou sneered, effortlessly blocking another barrage of punches from Hinata. "You fight so very hard, and you do possess some skill. However..." he continued, grabbing her wrists and pulling them out to the side. Hinata gasped. "I have much more stamina than you. Looks like this will be your grave too." without another moments hesitation, he kneed her swiftly in the gut. Shuddering from the pain, Hinata stumbled backwards and fell to the ground. Seidou was about to go in for another attack, when Shino finally decided to put his plan into action.

"You won't hurt her like this." Shino said in a voice of deadly calm, finally regaining enough of his composure to battle. Seidou smirked, obviously amused by Shino's defiance.

"And you obviously care very much for thisgirl. What an intresting situation."

Before he had the chance to make another snide remark, Shino closed in and delivered a palm strike to Seidou's throat. Shino's speed had caught him off guard, and he barely managed to pull back in time to make the blow less fatal. It still hurt though, and the man doubled over to regain his breathe. He thought he felt his esophagus crack a little, and breath was harder to draw. His head was spinning a little bit. Yet strangely enough, Shino was not coming in for another attack. After a few moments, Seidou stood up, shook his head, and was shocked by the site that greeted him.

A swarm of bugs skittered on the ground, forming a small circle around him. Slowly, gradually, they inched in closer and closer to Seidou's feet. Hinata, Shino, and Kiba stood proudly on the outskirts of the circle with weapons in hand. Each of them had a small grin of their own playing upon their lips. True, they were bloody and tired, but now they had the upper hand. Shino was especially pleased with the with the outcome of the battle.

"They aren't just any bugs you know." Shino said in an a-matter-of-fact sort of way. Seidou raised his eyebrows, looking genuinely curious. "They'll swarm over you and drain you dry of your chakra." Shino elaborated. Kiba nodded smugly with agreement. "And while their doing that, the three of us will be making quite a mess out of you." Shino smirked, thoroughly satisfied with the blank look on Seidou's face.

"Heh. Who's grave did you say this was again...?" Kiba asked coolly, playing with the kunai in his hands. "Ours you said...?" Seidou didn't reply. He merely stared at the bugs with a blank expression. "Looks like you're the one about to die. Well that's just too bad for you."

"Who's the poor child now...?" Hinata said in the most serious voice she could conjure. Kiba almost sniggered at her idea of a threat. It wasn't very menacing, but it was definitely a start for her. The bugs were almost upon Seidou now, hissing and clicking with anticipation. Seidou looked first at the bugs, then to Shino, to Kiba, and finally Hinata. At first, his face held very little expression. But gradually, a sadistic smirk broke across his face.

After a few seconds, he began to chuckle.

It gradually got louder, and Seidou began to shake his head in amusement. He doubled over clutching his stomach; trying very hard to cease his laughing fit. Kiba's expression immediately dropped, and was replaced with a grim look.

"I fail to see the humor in this situation." Kiba growled, glaring at Seidou warily. Seidou laughed again, put a hand to his temple, and managed to compose himself enough to form actual words and sentences.

"You children are the humor." he chuckled darkly, bringing his hands up in front of him to make a simple hand sign. Tori. Sign of the bird. Completely and utterly basic, and yet...

"You're finished."

In that simple gesture, Seidou confirmed the end of the battle. Focusing intently, a huge wave of bright blue chakra emitted from his feet. It was a frighteningly strong amount, just as Shino had sensed earlier. It easily swept the bugs far back into the forest, taking team #8 with it. With a sickening crack, each respective genin collided hard into a tree of their own. Waves of pain swept up their spines, causing them to cry out in alarm and agony. A stunned expression remained plastered on Kiba's face. How could he have knocked them back with such a simple attack...? Was this man even really a genin...?

"Are you guys...hack!" Kiba choked on his words, spitting up a fresh wave of blood from his mouth. Head swimming with confusion, Hinata looked up to her friends. She tried to nod her head affirmatively, but could not find the strength to do so. She tried her voice. It was frozen. Shino managed to wave a hand, but god only knows if he was indicating his well-being or his pain. Kiba gritted his teeth and prepared to sit up. Shino and Hinata looked like they had enough. He had to do something, he had to-

In an instant, two large forms dropped from nearby trees and landed with a loud thunk. Despite their size, they were quick. Before anyone had the chance to react, Seidou's teammates were immediately upon Kiba and Shino. With grim smiles on their faces, their strong hands clamped around their delicate throats and pinned them firmly to the tree. Hinata jolted out of her haze and fought against the pain.

"L-leave them alone...!" she sputtered, struggling to rise to her feet. Her legs convulsed violently, and she fell back down to her knees. Kiba bit his lip so hard it drew blood. Hinata tried again, and managed to get on her feet this time. Seidou grinned sadistically at the small girl whom could barely stand up. So she really wanted to save her teammates. How utterly precious.

"Did you honestly think you could win..?" Seidou questioned in a poisoned voice, slowly approaching the trembling kunoichi. Despite her shaking, Hinata's eyes flared with anger. Her teammates were being choked, and she couldn't do a thing. She could hardly stand. A quick tussle, a careless toss into a tree, and now she was spitting up blood while fighting to remain conscious. What was left to do...? What could possibly be done to make it better?

"Mmm. You do have my sympathy you poor children. It was just bad luck you ended up fighting us." Seidou shrugged casually, watching his two teammates. The one holding Shino had abandoned the grip on his neck. Instead, one hand was ensnared in his hair and yanking his head backwards. The other hand was rummaging around in his deep pockets in search of the scroll.

"Found it Seidou." the man said gruffly, holding out the first scroll to show his prize. Seidou snerked with obvious satisfaction.

"Good. Hang on to it for me, will you Zangai?" Seidou asked politely as he refocused his attention to Hinata. Zangai shrugged, nodded his head, then casually threw Shino off to the side. He let out a soft grunt upon hitting the hard ground for the third time that day. He rolled over as if hoping to get up, but Zangai firmly planted his foot into Shino's back.

In desperate need of oxygen, Kiba had dug his sharp claws deep into the third man's wrist. It drew a steady stream of blood, and did cause the man to relent his grip. However, it also earned Kiba a swift kick to the gut. Too weary to fight back, he allowed himself to be picked up by his collar and tossed off to the side like Shino; only he was sent flying a lot farther. Hinata winced and closed her eyes upon seeing her battered teammate. She probably didn't look much better than they did. She did not open her eyes until she felt a cold hand brush under her chin.

Reluctantly, she opened her eyes to come face to face with Seidou. He had a curious expression on his face. A grin twisted with malice and pity. It was not a good combination, and ended up looking like a confused sort of scowl. No matter. In a desperate attempt to do something, Hinata reached a hand into her kunai pouch. seeing the action, Seidou easily snatched up her wrist with his free hand. He dug in his fingernails. Hard, but not hard enough to draw blood.

"Child, I do believe it's quite obvious you have all lost." he breathed softly, giving her a taunting grin. "Your teammates are beaten and have lost a lot of blood. You've already lost your first scroll. I'll offer this one last time: Hand over the scroll and I won't lay a finger on you." he said in a tone that Hinata almost dared to believe.

But she was no fool. She was not going to get out of this without harm. If she was going to go down, it might as well be with a fight. A pitiful one maybe. Just a simple tug of war with a scroll. But a fight none the less. At least she could now say she fought until the end. Seidou understood the look of resolve in Hinata's eyes.

"Alright then. Tetsu? Kill the one with the sunglasses." Seidou ordered without any remorse. Hinata drew in a sharp intake of breath. He wouldn't. Slowly, Tetsu pulled a simple knife and yanked Shino's head back by his hair again. Shino grimaced and fought the urge to elbow the man in the gut. He would only be bringing his own demise upon himself sooner. In a delicate motion, Tetsu brought the blade to Shino's exposed skin and cut a small line. It was shallow, just deep enough to let a few drops of crimson trickle out. It was merely a simple warning cut. And Hinata took it.

These men we're serious.

A scroll was definitely not worth Shino's life.

"STOP!" Hinata shrieked, terrified that they would end his life any moment. Blinded by tears of sorrow and frustration, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her scroll. "Don't do it! You can have the scroll! It's not worth it! Just take it!" Hinata pleaded, pushing the scroll in Seidou's face. Tetsu immediately ceased. With a malicious grin, Seidou's hand reached up greedily and snatched up the scroll. Inwardly, all three of the genin winced. They had now lost their scrolls...

And at this rate, they were going to lose much more.

"Thank you sweet child. As promised, we'll leave you with your lives." Seidou said in a calm voice, patting Hinata gently on the head. Swiftly, he stood up and turned to face teammates. His sickeningly sweet nature was quickly replaced by an aura of malice.

"Make sure they don't follow us. And meet me in base #3." Seidou said simply in a formal and business like tone. With one last sadistic grin, he darted off into the thickets of the forest leaving his teammates behind.

"...Dammit." was the last word Kiba had the chance to utter before a kick was delivered to his gut.

It wasn't even a fight. It was more like a beating. A cruel, vicious, and unnecessary beating. Like lion upon their prey, Zangai and Tetsu showed team #8 no mercy. None of the genin were able to fight back. They could do nothing but lay quietly and try to keep drawing in breath. In, out. In, out. Stand the pain. Live. Keep breathing.

A cold, sharp kunai pierced through skin and shed waves of crimson.

A well placed kick was delivered swiftly and shattered ribs.

Shuriken tore through flesh.

This wasn't really happening, was it? It was all just a dream right? A terrible, terrible dream that Kiba wanted to wake up from. Another shuriken planted itself into his arm, sending up sharp pangs of pain. You can feel pain in dreams, right...? Or was it the other way around, Shino wondered, as he felt his injuries swelling rapidly. Hinata could have sworn she felt pain in a dream once as she collided with the tree again. So they we're obviously dreaming.

It was simply impossible. One minute, they we're riding on cloud nine with two scrolls tucked securely into their pockets. And the next minute, they were being tossed about with the taste of copper and dirt fresh in their mouths. How can such a transition take place? Isn't that the kind of thing that only happened in anime?

Hinata cried out as the same spot from earlier was hit again. It was a tender spot, a spot where muscle connected. Wincing, she raised up her hands to soften whatever blow was coming next. Eyes squeezed shut, she prayed it would be over soon.

Dimly, Shino was aware that the barrage of attacks had ceased. What was happening now...? There was a kind of...murmuring noise. Oh, right. Talking. Tetsu and Zangai were talking about something. And that meant they weren't attacking them. Shino sighed and closed his eyes, hoping that it was finally done.

Grunting, Kiba rolled over and allowed Akamaru to crawl out from underneath him. Like last time, Kiba had used his body to shield his little dog, though he did not come out unscathed. Akamaru whined, licking sadly at his injured leg. So, what was happening now...? Tetsu and Zangai had stopped talking and were...walking away.

A few moments of silence passed. No one dared to moved. Pain did not allow them to. It tore though their bodies, keeping them pinned firmly to the ground. Tentatively, Hinata opened her pale eyes to see what was going on.

Tetsu and Zangai had left. They were alone now.

Slowly, Shino tried to get to his feet. He was dismayed to find out he couldn't even kneel. He could hardly lift his head. Miserable looks were etched into the faces of cell #8, giving them a haunted look. Still in disbelief, they all merely stared at each other with blank eyes.

What were they going to do now...? Here they lay, bloody and beaten whilst struggling to breathe properly. Slowly, the state of shock shattered. Team #8 realized the hopelessness of their situation. Not only could they not move, their scrolls were gone. They continued to stare at each other with unreadable faces.

A plan. They needed to formulate a plan. They needed to regroup and keep trying. But how..? How was anything possible now..? With a deep, shuddering breathe, Kiba tried to call out to his teammates. He could only let out a pathetic croak. Hinata's eyes welled up with tears at the sound of it. She had never heard Kiba sound so utterly helpless.

As if someone flipped a switch, team #8 began to move. Weakly, they summoned their last amounts of strength they possessed to crawl towards each other. Their bodies burned with the effort. Though they were only a few feet away from each other, it felt as if they had to crawl miles to meet each other. Kiba grunted and forced himself to kick his legs forward. It was working...sort of. They were making progress.

Halfway there. Blood dripped from their injures and mixed in with the earth. Shino tried hard to focus. His mind was rapidly sliding in and out of consciousness and he found it hard to stay awake. But he simply had to finish his journey. He had to get to his friends. Hinata carelessly crawled over a small stone. It dug itself into one of her injuries, but she paid no attention to it.

Almost there now. Just a little bit closer and they would be in the comfort of each other's company. Kiba paused for a moment to take in some deep, ragged breaths. Akamaru whined in sympathy, willing his master to keep fighting. So close now. They could almost touch each others hands if they wanted. Just one more good push forward and they could make it. Shino's legs shook violently and almost refused to propel him forward any longer. But he couldn't stop now, it was so damned close. Just a bit more...

And in unison, they all flopped down beside each other in a straight little row. Shino on the left, Hinata in the middle, and Kiba on the right. Panting with exhaustion, they all reached out to touch each other. Everyone was there right..? They may have been severely injured, but at least they were by each others sides now. With a shaking hand, Kiba reached up and gently pulled a shuriken out of Hinata's shoulders. It hurt, but what did she care? She was throbbing all over.

Everything hurt. They had never been so completely aware of pain before in their life. Mourning in silent sorrow, they reached out to each other and removed the various shuriken and kunai. Seeing the weapons be removed from their flesh was a sad sort of comfort. Once they had removed every last weapon, the reached out to grab each other's hands. Hinata held Shino's left hand with her right, and her left held clenched Kiba's clawed one tightly. Shino and Kiba obviously could not reach out to each other seeing as how Hinata lay in the middle, but they were comforted by the fact that they were nearby. They squeezed each other's hands tightly, as if to assure themselves that it was all over now and they were together.

Sad, bitter tears stung at Hinata's eyes. This wasn't fair. It wasn't supposed to be like this. They we're supposed to be at the tower right now, celebrating the first part of their success. Kiba was supposed to be cheering and ranting on arrogantly; while Shino was supposed to be trying to hide his obvious pleasure. Hinata was supposed to be relieved and cuddling Akamaru tightly. But they were not at the tower. They lay on the cold, hard ground with various wounds and injuries. Kiba hadn't the strength to cheer. Shino had no pleasure to hide. Hinata could not reach out to cuddle Akamaru.

Feeling blank and emotionless, cell #8 found themselves staring up at the clouds much like Shikamaru always did. In that moment, they kind of understood why he always did. The clouds really did look free and comforting. How they longed to be back on their little cloud nines instead of lying in the dirt. Now, they had no idea what to do except squeeze each others hands tightly and pray. A heavy haze had slowly made its way upon the three little genin, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to stay awake.

They knew they would soon fall asleep. True, they were actually going to pass out, but it was more comforting to think they were just going to sleep. Hinata dearly wished she could say something; anything. She wanted to make everyone feel better. Wanted to wipe away their pain and injuries. But now, she couldn't even swallow the lump in her throat to call out their names. Shino took in a deep breath and sighed, releasing some of his tension with it. His eyelids were becoming quite heavy, and he wanted to close them now. Kiba reached out with his free hand and struggled to pull Akamaru closer. It pained him greatly, but he wanted to do it. With one injured hand, he lifted him up and put him on Hinata's chest. Akamaru whined with sympathy and nuzzled at Hinata's battered face. Hinata dared to let out a small, sad smile.

"Animal's sure are nice, aren't they...?" Kiba asked absentmindedly, picking at the end of his shoelaces. "I've heard that the moment someone places their hand on an animals fur, their stress level immediately decreases." Hinata's face emerged from the top of Akamaru's head, cheeks tinged pink.

"I agree." Hinata chirped, continuing to snuggle with Akamaru.

Hinata chuckled a little at the memory from earlier. Even in her battered state, it was still true. The weight of Akamaru on her bosom comforted her and made her feel more reassured. Sighing deeply, she closed her pale eyes and didn't open them again. In one last ditch effort before falling unconscious, she managed to call out to her teammates. The sound of her voice gave them strength, and they managed to call back softly. Then one by one, they slipped into a black oblivion.



Completey and utterly defeated.


A/N: ...Well I never said it was going to be a nice story. I'm sorry for the crappy ending. I never was really good at emotionally moving scenes. But I tried. It's not too bad. Okay, okay, I know. I owe you guys a huge apology. Not only did I torture poor little group 8 this chapter, I haven't updated in...what...two months? Three months? Maybe even more? I don't know. I'm sorry. I have no excuses. Granted, my life has been kind of hectic lately, but I guess it's no excuse. Hopefully I'll never take this long to update again.

Okay, ya. You don't need to say it. I know the ending was disappointing and utterly depressing. But don't worry! When cell #8 is knocked down, they bounce back twice as hard, right?! Next chapter they're going to make a glorious come back, and everything will be happy again. So please don't worry. Argh, now I need to go type up chapter two of my other story. Sorry guys, gotta get that chappie out of the way until I can start working on Chapter VII. I hope this chapter wasn't too disappointing for you guys. Just don't send me tons of hate mail, kay? It upsets me so. So...jya! See you all in chapter VII! If you decide to keep reading that is.