Nindo: Way of the Twelve
A Naruto Fic
A/N: Both the Aburame Family style and Keitai no Nesshin Shou have been identified, by Hentaifan and a person who whishes for their name not to be revealed, respectively. Shino's clan style is based on the Northern Mantis Fist, while KnNS is based on a combination of Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan. Gryphon Turboclaw also seems to have identified the Mantis Fist, but after Hentaifan. Kiba's comments on 'chakra reserves' are an homage to Edric Loto's The Hyuuga Way. It's a very interesting fic if you're interested in feudal Japan. NaruHina, too. Unfortunately, it seems dead. Shino's choice of weapons is partially inspired by huntsvilletiger's Faith of the Heart, even though it's Naruto who carries them in that story…the other part…well, you'll see.
Naruto was not in a new position. Back in the Academy, he had been pinned to the ground as Kiba straddled him. The difference this time was Kiba wasn't assaulting him, and had a look of pure bliss on his face.
It was a little disturbing, to be honest.
"What the…ack! Stoppit Akamaru!" demanded Naruto as the little white dog licked him, tail wagging. "What the hell, Kiba?"
"We made it, man, we made it! First team to ever get passed by the guy. Team 7 is active!"
Naruto grinned. "Nice! Great job! Now would you get off me?"
Kiba blinked. "Oh yeah, sorry man." He stood, and Naruto sprung to his feet. "So, you guys active?"
Naruto nodded. "We're getting all kitted out."
"I can see," said Kiba, looking over Naruto's new uniform. "Nice threads. Much better than that day-glo orange…oh baby, those are some chakra reserves!" Kiba's attention was fixed on a point behind Naruto's shoulder.
The Inuzuka spun the blonde around, so that he could see Hinata. For a miracle, the girl wasn't poking her fingers together as the two friends' stares made her blush. Of course, that was mostly because she was holding her old hoodie. She had purchased a kunoichi-cut version of recon raider kit much like Naruto's, though in charcoal gray where Naruto's was a dark blue. The jacket also looked to be made of lighter material than Naruto and Shino's. The kunoichi had it open for the moment, affording the boys a view of the Hyuuga heiress's torso, one which was surprisingly well developed under a t-shirt similar to Naruto's. The double shoulder harness for some weapon or another just accented things. Her blush redoubled and he chin sank below the fabric of her neck-worn hitai-ate as she stared at the floor, drawing her hoodie up in front of her body.
"I see you have acquired your recon raider kit," said Shino in a bland tone, breaking the tension.
Kiba turned to Naruto. "I repeat, man. You are one lucky son of a bitch."
Naruto gave Kiba a punch that was a little harder than strictly friendly.
A little while later, Team 8 was leaving the store and heading for the weapons shop. Kiba had decided to tag along and was chatting animatedly about the test that Kakashi had put the cell through.
"He made you wait for HOW long?" asked Naruto, incredulous.
Kiba spat to the side. "Three hours the first day, and it was even worse today. And what's worse, he gives us this obviously fake excuse." The Inuzuka shook his head. "Man, that pisses me off."
"That's rough, man," commiserated Naruto.
"It does seem conduct unbecoming of a jounin," put in Shino.
Naruto could almost hear the needle on Kiba's mental record scratch across the metaphorical grooves as the Inuzuka spun to look at Shino. "Aburame? Did you just say something that wasn't in response to a question?" Kiba shook his head a bit, his jaw loose. "Ow!" Naruto had hit him again. "Would you stop that?"
"Would you rather I rolled up a newspaper and bopped you on the nose?" quipped Naruto. "Anyway, what happened next?"
Kiba looked at his friend strangely, even as Hinata and Kurenai let small smiles spread across their lips. Shino seemed impassive. "Well, he gives us a time limit and tells us that we each need to get a bell from him if we want to pass right? But there's only two bells!"
Kurenai smiled at this, knowing Kakashi's preferred test for genin teams. Naruto winced. "So what'd you do?"
"Guy tells us that we'll need to come at him with an intent to kill if we want a chance of getting the bells, then tells us to start. So the other two hide and everything, and I send Akamaru off to get out of the way and find the others. Then it's Shikyaku no jutsu and I see if I can get em, right?" Naruto nodded. "He kicked my ass. Felt like I was up against Suteru-sensei." At this Naruto winced. The old man liked him but he had never 'gone easy' in training. Sure, he didn't use lethal moves, but he didn't let someone win. You had to work to even clip him. "Though he never tried to poke me in the ass. Sennen Goroshi my…"
"I think that's enough of that rant," put in Kurenai. "There are ladies present."
Kiba of course, did not have the decency to look abashed. He was smart enough to keep the "And how" on the tip of his tongue to himself. "So once I get myself out of the river I had to jump in to dodge that…" He bit his tongue to hold back what he wanted to say. "…Yeah. I set off an obvious trap with a shuriken, but he's already got the bell he left as bait by the time I could get there and I didn't want another one of those…" he shuddered. "So I go to meet up with Akamaru, and we watch sensei put the fangirl under a genjutsu." The little dog barked and Kiba rolled his eyes. "I tell you, it was pathetic." He adopted a falsetto. "Sasuke, Sasuke! No!" The back of his hand slapped into his other palm as he went back to his normal voice. "Faint."
Hinata looked away and towards the ground, pushing her fingers together. Kurenai frowned. "There are some pretty horrifying genjutsu, Kiba. It's not hard to drive someone catatonic with skill and a little creativity."
Kiba shrugged. "I guess it could have been a really bad one. I think he called it Magen Narakumi no jutsu."
"Never mind," muttered Kurenai, half-closing her eyes in mental pain. Despite the jutsu's nasty name, it wasn't much of anything, so far as genjutsu went. "Go on."
"So I grab Pinky…couldn't just leave her there. Then I watch duck-butt head take on sensei. Got taken with a Kawarimi no jutsu when he opened with thrown weapons, just straight up logged. Then he tried taijutsu. He was alright, I guess, but sensei was a lot better. Must've pissed him off, 'cause then he tries to torch sensei." Kiba chuckled. "Course, that's no good, and sensei just pulls him underground with something called Shinjuu Zanshu no jutsu." Kiba and Akamaru quite literally barked with laughter. "Emo boy's head is sticking out of the ground, helpless. I tell you, it was hard to resist having Akamaru go over and do a little marking, you know?"
Naruto gave a devilish grin. "You should have. You soooo should have."
"Kinda wish I did. So I wake up Pinky, then I go and tell him what's up. You know, that Kakashi-sensei's way out of any of our reaches, and that we need to work together if we want to get the bells. Pinky's going on about how there's only two, and emo-boy's going on about he's an Uchiha…and I'm about ready to knock Pinky back out and do Akamaru's job on duck-butt myself. I mean, yeah, there's only two bells but we might as well get them as a group and figure out who deserves them after the fact."
Kurenai frowned. It seemed like Kiba had grasped part of Kakashi's test, but his solution for what to do with the bells wasn't exactly perfect. Though if one extrapolated…work together as a team to accomplish a mission, then figure out how the credit is divided upon getting back. That was pretty much how things went in the real world.
It wasn't the ideal though.
She tuned back in to Kiba's story. "…so sensei ties them to the posts and tells us that I'm the only one who should go back to the Academy. Tells the other two that they should give up on being shinobi altogether."
Naruto laughed out loud. "Bet the bastard loved hearing that."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he got rope burn trying to get loose. Think I heard a molar snap too. Way he was clenching his jaw, it wouldn't shock me."
"A molar?" asked Shino with almost an air of curiosity.
"Yeah, it has a pretty distinctive sound," said Kiba off-handedly. "Anyway, he tells us that we'd end up on the KIA monument without a doubt if he took us on as we were now, no matter how much potential Sasuke and I showed in the test."
"I thought you passed," said Naruto, confused.
"We did," returned Kiba with a bit of heat. "Anyway, he tells us that apparently my performance had a hint of what he was looking for, so he was going to give us a second chance. Talks to us about the fact that people are put on three man teams for a reason…I tell ya, Akamaru and I were rolling our eyes at this. I can't believe that no one before us got the point. Work together, see past yourself…ugh. Basic shit."
Kurenai covered her smile with a hand. Indeed, to an Inuzuka, who worked with a partner as a matter of course, and who lived in a clan that was more of a pack, it was basic principles. That being said, few ninja had that upbringing. The red-eyed jounin would have bet that if Kiba had been raised in another clan, he would have had just as much trouble as any other. That being said, she didn't think she would have minded teaching the Inuzuka boy, had things gone differently.
"So?" asked Naruto impatiently.
"So he cuts down Sasuke, and gives the two of us food. Tells the two of us not to feed Pinky or we fail the second chance."
"You fed her, didn't you?" asked Naruto. "That's how you passed."
Kiba nodded. "Yup. I'll give Pinky this much, though. She wouldn't accept the food until we told her she'd be worse than useless if she didn't get some food in her. Anyway, so Kakashi-sensei tells us that we pass after trying to scare us with a bunch of smoke and killer intent."
"He was looking for a display of teamwork after explicitly stating that teamwork was the point? I find it hard to believe that there was not a team that passed before yours."
Kiba shrugged. "Eh, I don't get it either, but there you have it. So what'd…" He gestured towards their jounin instructor.
"Kurenai-sensei," filled in Hinata shyly.
"Yeah. What'd she put you through?"
"I gave them a basic skills evaluation," said Kurenai. "I am walking right here, you know."
Kiba blinked. "No test?"
"Not the same type, no. I was looking for potential and seeing what I would need to teach. No genin squad comes out of the Academy ready for duty as a recon raider squad. And I'm of the opinion that teamwork needs to be built, not simply tested for. But Kakashi and I had different teachers and different specialties." She looked at her genin, who seemed a bit lost, and perhaps a bit annoyed…or in Shino's case, stoic. "It doesn't mean that I wasn't testing you three, just that it was a different way of testing, and for a different thing."
Shino gave a bit of a nod, Hinata looked thoughtful, and Naruto pursed his lips for a few seconds. "I think I understand. But sensei, how much further is it to the weapons store? We've been walking for a while now."
Kurenai smiled. "Oh, just around the corner."
Naruto's face lit up. He couldn't help but like weapon shops. Honestly, what ninja couldn't?
Hinata was a bit surprised at the quality of the goods offered in the weapons shop. It was much smaller than the forges normally frequented by Hyuuga members, and the maker's mark visible on some of the blades was unfamiliar to her, though some part of her mind nagged that she had seen it before…somewhere.
Her fingers brushed over a number of hilts absent-mindedly as she watched her teammates test the stock. Naruto seemed a little put out by Kurenai telling him that he would be getting his dedicated close-combat weapon later, but seemed to be drowning his sorrows in playing with a pair of long and unusually slender kunai, which seemed to be somewhat of a specialty of this shop. She had never seen them before…no, that wasn't right. One Branch House member had used them in the past, hadn't they? Well, certainly in no other shop.
Naruto, still spinning a kunai in each hand, turned to Shino, who had been testing out a number of paired weapons since they had entered the shop, including some very odd ones, such as the strange swords with hooked heads. If she wasn't mistaken, Shino had actually seemed disappointed that he didn't find a pair of those weapons that fit him. "Oi, Shino, you found something yet?"
"Perhaps," allowed the boy, putting yet another set of paired weapons through a series of cuts and parries. This choice almost seemed plain, a pair of single-edged blades roughly the same length of Shino's forearms. The blades were straight, though the upper third had a rounded curve on one side, giving the blades a tip. The handles were fully enclosed by a simple bar, which curved up against the blade's spine. "Yes. These will do perfectly."
Kurenai chuckled. "Choosing one of Yoen's weapons, Shino?"
The stoic boy was unphased by what seemed like gentle teasing on Kurenai's part. "My clan has adopted this weapon into our taijutsu style. They are extremely useful weapons for a ninja, especially with the modification of leaving only the bottom third of the blade unsharpened."
Naruto looked at the weapons. Nothing flashy, but they looked like they would get the job done…much like Shino. "So what are they called?"
"Yoen practitioners refer to them as Baat Jaam Do," said Kurenai.
Hinata looked up at their teacher. "That isn't in Nihongou, is it sensei?"
Kurenai smiled kindly at Hinata. "I should have expected that you'd catch that. No, that's in either Hanyu or Zhongwen. I'm afraid I can't remember which one right now."
"What's it mean?" asked Naruto.
"Depending on who you're asking, either Eight Chopping or Eight Slashing Knives."
Shino nodded. "Yes. But my clan refers to them as butterfly swords."
Naruto fell to the ground laughing. Kiba followed.
Shino still seemed a little miffed when Kiba waved good-bye to Naruto and trotted off towards the Inuzuka clan compound with Akamaru riding his head. "I do not see why you were laughing at the blades' name."
"Impossible not to, man," chuckled Naruto as he spun one of the long kunai about by the ring pommel. "Butterfly swords…priceless."
Hinata walked behind the other two, clutching her new weapon to her chest. In the confusion of Naruto and Kiba laughing at Shino, Kurenai had handed an odd rope-dart to her, one with chakra-conductive wire embedded in the rope and a blue horsehair tassel in place of the normal flag placed after the dart. At her inquiring look, Kurenai had just smiled gently and informed her that she had known a person who had used one. That had made her feel a little better, but not much. Hyuuga clan members shunned the use of weapons outside of kunai for deflection and explosive tag delivery along with sparing use of shuriken for misdirection. In some ways the Hyuuga were positively samurai-esque, with their straightforward taijutsu style. She knew that her teacher wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, but her father might not like it. Absorbed in thought, she didn't notice that they had come to a stop and bumped into Naruto's back.
Amazing how she could never leap back quite that fast from a strike in practice. Her fingers tightened around the rope as she looked down at the ground, blushing and stuttering out an apology.
"That's okay, Hinata-chan," said Naruto, shrugging.
Kurenai's voice cut through her blush. "Well, you're all looking like recon raiders now, so it's time to start training like one, and that's a full-time thing. I'll be honest with you, most teams will only be assigning training to time when they're together." She held up a hand to forestall the question that Naruto seemed ready to ask. "That's not to say that other ninja don't train on their own time, possibly with their families. But that's their choice. As recon raiders, you don't have the choice of slacking off and ignoring personal training time. All of our assigned time will be spent with team exercises, and you will need to train on your own time to be good enough to be considered a member of the community." The genin looked up at her, silent. "Now, Shino, your clan is one of the backbones of the community, so I'd like you to not change your current training plans, unless it is to up their intensity. Your father knows much about what you are about to go through." She turned to her blonde haired student. "Naruto, I've arranged for you to continue your training with Suteru-sensei for Sessen and he has further agreed to teach you a close-combat weapon. He's agreed to meet you early mornings, at the Academy for your first lesson, at least. When not working with him, you are to visit the Konoha ninja library and find jutsu to work on. Vet each one with me before attempting them." Naruto nodded, grimacing a bit. "Hinata, you are to continue work on Jyuuken, but extra work on improving your eyes should be a part of your training. I'd like you to come with me as well, after I dismiss the boys. I have a trainer I'd like you to talk to. Understood?" She got nods from each of her genin. "Very well. Dismissed. I'll meet you at the same time and place tomorrow."
Hinata was more than a little surprised when Kurenai ended up taking her to ANBU's public headquarters. As was she when her new sensei strode right up to the desk, bold as one could please in the lizard-masked face of the ANBU that sat there.
"Jounin Yuuhi Kurenai, in command of Genin Team 8, Reconnaissance Raider. I'd like to talk with Altair, if possible."
The ANBU nodded, face unreadable behind the mask. "Eagle-Hunter-8 is practicing with Cat-Operations-2 at the moment. I will escort you to the training field." With that, the ANBU stood and led them on a confusing course that seemed designed to confuse them as to where they were headed, and surely must have doubled the time it took them to reach the sparsely wooded training field. On it two ANBU members were battling. One, a kunoichi with a cat mask and long purple hair, was wielding what looked like a standard ANBU straight-bladed sword. The other was male, and had an eagle mask. Jet-black hair was gathered into a short queue, visible behind the mask, and they were fighting with the same sort of weapon that Hinata had bought. It was certainly interesting to watch as the rope wrapped and unwrapped about the black-haired ANBU's limbs and torso, sending the dart flying at the other, sometimes in an arc, sometimes in a stab.
Hinata watched, transfixed as the black-haired ANBU kept his sparring partner at long range, not giving them a chance to close and pit the simple sword against the more complex rope dart. Then a masterful deflection, flat of blade to base of dart, let the kunoichi rush forward and strike at the male with her sword, a blow which was caught by a taut rope, held stretched between two hands. The fibers parted under the blade's keen edge, exposing the chakra-conductive wire underneath that had stopped the blade.
As the eagle-masked ANBU crossed his arms over to make a loop and trap the blade, his sparring partner drew her blade back, only to thrust it back forward into a stab. The rope-dart wielder sprang backwards, pulling the dart along with him. The kunoichi dropped her blade's tip towards the ground and turned as she raised her right elbow, knocking the dart off of the grazing strike it would have made at her flank. Recovering her original facing, she moved forward in a rising diagonal strike, which was deflected by a slap from what appeared to be a spear haft formed by the rope, as the dart functioned as the head. A stab transferred to a spinning slash as the kunoichi retreated before the spear, then moved in behind the arc of the slash, blocking a strike to the side of her head by the spear butt. She pushed out, to clear the male's weapon, then ducked under the turning kick he launched and rolled to avoid the overhand slash with the spear.
Rising, she moved forward into a cut at the spear wielder's shoulder, only to have her blade knocked out of line as he laid the haft of the spear across her forearms and smashed his body into her in an explosive motion. She skidded back, still on her feet, noting a shallow scratch across the eagle-masked ANBU's chest armor. With proper use of Hien, the blow could have laid the other ninja open. Of course, the full-body check she had taken contained its own killing properties that were pulled from training. "We have visitors, Eagle-Hunter-8. And I believe that we have both ended up dead again. I will see you next time." At a nod from the masked man, the purple-haired kunoichi sheathed her blade and vanished in a Shunshin.
Kurenai let a small smile cross her lips. "Impressive as always, Altair."
The eagle-masked ANBU inclined his head slightly. "Many thanks, jounin, but I fear Cat-Operations-2 is far better than I. It is rare for me to manage better than a draw, and my weapon holds many advantages over the sword." The spear relaxed back into a rope dart, almost seeming to lengthen back to it's full…no it did lengthen. Hinata suspected some sealing work. The ANBU wound the weapon about his torso with easy movements. "May I inquire as to your purpose here?"
Kurenai nodded and put one hand on Hinata's shoulder, gently pushing her forward. "I've just taken on a fresh recon raider team, and I thought Hinata here would be suited to the chakra-conductive rope dart. I was hoping that you might be able to teach her."
The ANBU seemed almost uneasy. "My assignments might mean that her training would be compromised by long periods of time without direct instruction." His mask turned towards Hinata, who was looking at the ground. "Please understand, Hyuuga-sama, I have no qualms about the idea of teaching you, it is only the fact that my duties for ANBU come first."
"I understand," murmured Hinata.
"There isn't another ninja qualified to teach the weapon available, Altair," pointed out Kurenai. "I know this is a bit unusual, but…"
"I know," responded 'Altair'. "And I will teach you, Hyuuga-sama. Just know the best I can may be limited."
Hinata nodded. "Thank you, ANBU-sensei."
"You are welcome. Now, since Lizard-Interrogation-5 seems to have left, I will escort you back to the exit." He led them on a completely different path than the one that they had taken to get there.
"Thanks, Altair," said Kurenai, as they entered the lobby. "It was good to see you again."
There was a moment of silence before Kurenai turned to look the ANBU directly in the mask, almost as if she could peer past the ceramic to the eyes behind them. "You could hang up the mask, you know…" she breathed.
"Doubtful," he murmured, before turning back towards the entrance to ANBU HQ's depths. "Hyuuga-sama. Keep your weapon on you at all times. I will appear when it is time for a lesson, and you do not want to waste valuable time." With that, he walked off.
Hinata wanted to ask her jounin-sensei what was going on behind the scenes of that conversation, but a lifetime of Hyuuga etiquette and manners stilled her tongue. Kurenai turned to her. "Well, you had better get going. I'll see you tomorrow." Hinata nodded and headed towards her clan's compound. Life seemed so different after the last few days.
A/N: Well, there we go. This story isn't dead after all. My thanks as always to KrillinFan, my ridiculously fast beta, and you readers. I had a lot of fun with a couple of scenes in the chapter, and I hope that you enjoy reading them. As always, please share your opinions through the wonderful medium known as a review. Till next time.