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Okay people, so I'm sure you've noticed that my writing/updating has pretty much come to a stand-still. This is because I realized (cough, six or so months ago, COUGH) that Akina is a Mary Sue, or at the VERY VERY least, has her foot on the borderline and is frowning at me for nearly pushing her over said borderline.

Obviously this bugs me on an extreme level. I haven't been able to go on for a while, and I wanted to basically re-write the story to fix this. Those times when I edited...those tiny changes weren't enough.

The major elements and plot-lines will still be there, but in terms of relations between everyone, there's going to be a major overhaul.

I managed to type up some of the next chapter, and as a 'I'm sorry!' present to you all for being there for me, I'm going to let you read what I put anyways, even though it's probably not going to be there when the re-writes get to that stage.

When I get around to typing the re-write, I'm going to post the first chapter here. Depending on how satisfied I am with it, I may or may not post it in its own story and update there, under a different title.

So, I'm going to end this no doubt depressing author's note with my heartfelt thanks to everyone for sticking with me in my stumbles through writer-dom! I really do love you all! And don't worry, I'm going to leave this version up. I can't really bear to just delete this after all the time I put into it. I mean, holy freak. 146,000 words (ish).

"Talking"

Thinking

"Telepathy through mind seal/jutsu"

("Animals talking" / "Telepathy from animals through mind seal/jutsu" )

"Demon Language" / 'Demon talking telepathically with their host'

'Miscellaneous things such as signs, ANBU sign language, letters...'


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::;Seeing the Truth;::

Chapter Eighteen: Stone Diaries

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Even three days after the event, Naruto couldn't help but wince at the mere thought of it.

Sasuke had returned the day after Akina had gone, and upon finding out what had happened since he'd left on his mission, it was very obvious that he was not happy.

It was very obvious to those close to him. It was very obvious to the other rookies. Hell, it was very obvious to some civilians on the other side of the village.

Not. Happy. At all.

Naruto sighed and rubbed the back of his head, staring into Akina's soft green room from his position in the hallway. If Akina had been there, she would have been able to calm the hot-blooded Uchiha down, just with her mere presence. There was just something in her aura...

Sasuke was giving everyone the cold shoulder, and there was this malicious taste in the air around him that made people give him a wide berth. Needless to say, Naruto had gotten very bored, very fast without his rival there to argue with. It wasn't the same with Kouseki, because the youkai would always twist his words until it made things awkward enough for her to laugh at. Loudly.

And now, with Jiraiya's offer to go on a training trip...

("You goin' somewhere?")

Naruto froze, caught red-handed in the process of packing his stuff.

He spun around, spotting the wolf demon sitting in his doorway. Aw, crap. On reflex, he scratched the back of his neck and released some nervous laughter. "Kouseki-chan! I swear I'm not doing anything suspicious!"

("...Right. And I guess you're gonna say that you're not getting ready to leave with the super pervert for two and a half years?")

Double crap. Naruto grinned and nodded.

Kouseki's lips curled back in a wolf smile. ("And you're not going to say good-bye to everyone?")

He shook his head, still grinning. Hey, wait a minute. Was that 'No, I'm not going to say good-bye to everyone' or 'No, you're wrong, I am going to say good-bye to everyone'? Naruto pouted at her.

With a snort, Kouseki padded into the room, nudging the door shut. She curled up in the middle of his room to watch him with her bright golden eyes.

Naruto continued to pack his stuff, ignoring the weight of her gaze. "Of course I'm gonna say good-bye to everyone. Why wouldn't I?"

Another snort. ("Because people are going to smear you into Naruto-toothpaste?")

Naruto dropped his black sleeping cap to whirl around. Kouseki didn't bat an eyelash as his violent expression, a strange light in his eyes.

"So?!" He snapped. Then, regretting his terse action, he lowered his voice and rubbed the back of his neck. Clear blue eyes softened. "I just...I just need to take a break from this place, okay? Clear my head. Train. Get stronger. Akina-chan'll need help with her Shinigami assignment, right? I mean, it's that pedo-snake dude...is everything's deadline in the next few years?!"

He threw up his arms and flopped onto his bed. Then he started ticking off the list of things with his fingers. "Fruity snake dude has to get a new body in three years. Akatsuki'll prolly not want him to get a new body, so they'll get more 'I KILL YOU!'. Akina-chan has to kill Orochimaru by then to not go insane—gah, can you imagine that?! Akina, insane!—and she needs to go through all of her memories and...and go back to Makai to be the Dragon Boss..."

The jinchuuriki wilted a little, sinking more into the bed at that last part—both from stress and from the prospect of the two demons leaving.

("And what about me and the gaki? What are we gonna do all alone?") The grin widened. ("You know that he won't survive without one of you guys here, right? I've been told that it's not good to spend extended amounts of time alone with me, huahahaha! I wonder why?! HAHAHA!")

Laying on the bed, he turned his head towards the wolf on his carpet. That strange light was still there in his eyes, except now it was brighter. Absentmindedly, Kouseki wondered just what it was, but then she realized that Naruto was still talking to her.

"—a way to get out of the village every once in a while." He didn't seem to notice her brief lapse in attention and continued on, energy recharging itself as he talked. "Maybe if you two can get out together, so that you can watch over each other or somethin'...hey, how far does this telepathic connection thing reach anyways?"

Ha! Didn't miss the question! "Depends on how hard you concentrate on it and how mentally powerful you are, I guess. And the content of the message."

"Gotta test that...," he mumbled, squinting at the ceiling.

Kouseki now recognized that strange shine in his eyes as his creative ingenuity kicking in. Oh...?

"Oi, Kouseki-chan...how do you think we'll be able to get you an' Sasuke-teme out of the village?" Oh, that's what he was talking about, thought Kouseki. "Because that bastard'll wanna take breaks from the village too for sure, right? Yeah, I'm sure of it," he nodded to himself and kept on mumbling to himself.

A bushy black tail wagged as Kouseki settled in for the brainstorming night. And the King of Pranks re-surfaces once again!

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Akina was completely unaware of the stress back in Konoha. She was heading in the vague direction of Tea Country. Vague meaning she kept on taking detours to interact with some of the beasts.

Now that she was free of the constraints of Konoha, she was free to do what she wanted, when she wanted to.

Ryuu, Okami, and Akina had come into agreement that it would be extremely suspicious if she just disappeared off the surface of the planet right after the banishment and the Ryuuki came back after.

Which was why she sent ahead her 'wind sprite sempai' to one of the five elemental temples—the one nearest to the Wave Country—to act as the Ryuuki in her stead. Apparently elemental sprites were assigned to demons once they got approved, to become their lifelong 'sempai' in manipulating the elements. The wind sprite wouldn't say anything more than that, opting more to do donut-holes around the girl for a few minutes before agreeing to leave her side for a week.

'Are you sure we should leave Kaze-sempai alone?' remarked Ryuu, thoughts still on the delighted laughter of the sprite before the departure. They haven't even been given its/her/his name, how could they believe with certainty that Ryuuki's name wouldn't be tainted?

We'll just have to trust Kaze-sempai...

'Trust...,' murmured the little wolf pup.

Both Akina and Ryuu didn't say anything to that melancholy statement. Mood swings were starting to become a common thing with her, and it left Akina questioning to herself when the insanity would spread to Ryuu as well. In the end, she'd have to deal with her mind's problems all alone.

A few miles away, she sensed an ANBU platoon leaving on a mission. And she had no doubt that they were able to sense her (which is what she wanted) and would put her location in their report.

One week. She'd let herself be kept track of for one week, then she'd let 'Akina' vanish until the one year was up.

Until then, she'd just wander around like she said she would.

'And when we're Ryuuki again, try not to scare too many people...,' added Ryuu in a dry tone. They needed to check the rumor mills sometime soon. There was no telling how many people would be after the Shishou no Ryuuki now that she had killed the Setting Sun leader. That was the problem with crime rings—everything was connected, and when you tried to cut off a link it regrew faster than you could blink. That's what she needed to watch for.

Normally, Akina wouldn't have cared how many people wanted to kill her. Or hated her. Or felt uncomfortable around her. Really, as long as they didn't actively try to restrict her freedom or stalk her (successfully), she didn't really care. Which frustrated Ryuu, because when they got their memories back and returned to Makai (when, not if—all three refused to, or simply didn't, think about failing the Shinigami and going completely insane), Akina would immediately be immersed in the thick of demon politics.

Sighing silently, Akina stopped on a high branch. That's out of my control...

Ryuu sighed too, though a slight rumbling growl was laced in it. 'Think of it as practice, Akina. From Kouseki's behavior, we will most likely not be getting a warm welcome back into Makai, at least from the majority of the population. We—you—need to learn to deal with these negative reactions and disperse them.'

I know, but we don't have time right now. Earth and water manipulation were no longer possible for her. Akina hadn't expected these abilities to disappear so quickly, but at least she could still sense her surroundings through the water—just not with the earth.

Suddenly Akina was forced to repress a full-body shiver. And as quick at it had come, it went away.