Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me. Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, Shonen Jump, and Viz Media. I don't own any of the characters, concepts, or settings within the story except for Makurayami Lin.
The stress of being a high level ninja will get to anybody. That was what accounted for the remarkable range of eccentric behavior by Konoha's jounin. Chronic tardiness, perversion, an unnatural affection for green spandex, and compulsive gambling were some of the flashier examples.
On the other hand, you had boring people like Sarutobi Asuma, who was merely lazy and smoked a lot. Makurayami Lin was one of the latter group; she just got hammered a bit from time to time.
She leaned forward, her stained maroon shirt brushing aside some of the crumbs on the table, and laughed at her drinking buddy. "-so do you know what he does next?"
"No," Kurenai said. She was somewhat less plastered than her old friend and rival. "What did Sasuke do?"
"He decided to show us his new jutsu," she continued. "A flaming sword jutsu. When he was using a wooden training sword." Kurenai laughed. "Dumbass kid."
"I've got a good one, too, some trouble Kiba got into," Kurenai said, still chuckling, as she poured her friend another drink. "He was showing off how he'd learned the Gatsuuga, when he tried using it on Shino. The only problem was, the Shino he attacked was just a Mushi Bunshin, and when the bugs melted away, he ended up headbutting one of the stone targets."
"Oh, this was training area fifteen?" Lin asked. "You were using seventeen before..."
"Well, that's where your team was spying on us," Kurenai said.
"It was funny seeing Naruto follow Hinata for once. Poor girl, he doesn't even notice."
"You should point it out to him," Kurenai said. "His reaction might be funny."
"Nah, I don't need distractions on my team. Especially now," she said, thinking. She looked into her dish and then held it out for more.
"Geez, thirsty tonight?" Kurenai said. "What do you mean now, anyways? Planning on taking them out of the village?"
"I think so. They seem ready for a C-class mission. Well... I worry about Sakura. She's a bit stressed lately."
"Perhaps getting out of town will help her relax."
"I'm surprised you took another genin team already," Kurenai said, as Lin poured her friend a drink.
"No one should have their chance to be a ninja thrown away by Kakashi," she growled.
"Oh, it was your dislike of Kakashi?" Kurenai wobbled slightly and had a thoughtful look on her face. "I thought you still felt-"
The sound of Lin's sake dish cracking caused her to shut up. Her friend relaxed herself quickly and looked at the broken dish blankly.
"I'm sorry for bringing that up," Kurenai said, eyeing her friend carefully. Alcohol and an angry Lin could be bad news for the bar.
"You don't need to apologize. I shouldn't act like that at my age," Lin said. "We're not children anymore."
"Well, well, well!" A completely drunk Anko poured herself into another seat uninvited. She leaned over and stared at Lin in fascination for a moment. "If it isn't the robot and her therapist!"
"Do me a favor and die, you little bitch," Lin said, not bothering to look at the younger jounin.
"You'll have to kill me yourself, you old lady," Anko shot back happily.
"I just found the perfect C-class mission for my team," Lin stage-whispered to Kurenai, and then they both chuckled.
Kurenai opened her mouth, intending to put an end to her friends' bickering, but Anko beat her to the punch. "You must want to see shome genin die," she slurred, as she reached for the sake.
Kurenai immediately shut up and got out of the line of fire.
Lin intercepted her hand and yanked her over, glaring at her with bloodshot eyes. "That isn't yours, first, and second, if you want to see some genin die, just watch my team's opponents in the exam," she snarled.
Anko frowned at her for a second and then threw up.
Lin shrieked and threw her on the floor.
"Haha," Anko laughed, pointing at Lin's vomit-covered shirt.
"Anko, you're disgusting," she said, once she gathered her composure. She got up to her feet shakily and slapped some money down on the table. Kurenai did likewise and they staggered towards the door together. At the last moment she paused and held her friend back. "A lesson for a new team leader," she said seriously.
"Always henge before leaving the bar, or your students will inevitably see you drunk," Kurenai said, hengeing herself. "You told me that back when we were Academy teachers."
Lin paused. "Oh, yeah." She henged as well. "I forgot." They had one more laugh together before heading out into the night.
It was in the long still hours before dawn that Naruto woke and looked over the tall gray walls of Konoha, the walls which had held even the Kyuubi at bay for a time, and he felt excitement, because in his heart he knew that he would soon be on their far side. He showered and washed with unscented soap, so that he left no scent to follow. He ate a good breakfast, because he planned to start fast and not stop until nightfall. His boots had soft, padlike soles, so he broke few branches and crushed few leaves to mark his passage. Every step he took across his apartment was sure and silent, from endless hours of training. And then he ruined all of that by wearing an electric orange jacket, because he was Naruto and was still a loud, orange-obsessed ball of energy despite the best efforts of Konoha's most tireless instructor.
He grabbed his wooden practice sword from its spot next to the door, put it on his back, and gave himself a thumbs up in the dirty reflection of his cracked front window. "Future Hokage Uzumaki Naruto leaves for another successful mission!" he loudly announced, and then left, loudly slamming the door behind him.
Almost immediately after, he opened it again, knocked some of the instant ramen wrappers littering his table onto the floor, and positioned a few of them near his door. It was a neat trick he'd picked up from his sensei, and there was sure as hell someone who'd snuck into his apartment from time to time, which pissed him off. He'd yet to actually catch the bastard, though, although he had set plenty of traps and stuff. Originally he thought it was his sensei doing it as a sort of practice, but she'd denied that outright.
Closing the door much more quietly and carefully this time, he set out to meet his teammates. They'd been genin for five weeks now and had racked up no less than twenty-nine D-class missions to their name, more than either of the other two rookie genin teams.
The orange meteor flew down the streets, headed for its usual morning landing zone. He slowed down and frowned, though, when he saw that his two teammates were already there.
"Hnn," Sasuke said. "What, you decided to sleep in today?" The Uchiha had propped up one of those concrete-filled boxes they'd learned to fear and respect, and sat on the upright box like he was Kage of the training grounds.
"It's a good thing you made it here before Makurayami-sensei," Sakura said, sitting more normally on top of two boxes stacked flat. She leaned forward and propped herself up with her own practice sword. "On the other hand, it would be funny watching you run around town carrying a garbage can full of sand again."
"Hey!" Naruto protested. "There was a reason I was late, my alarm clock was busted!"
"I see you're energetic today," their sensei said, walking into the training area just as dawn broke. The trio of genin had decided that she liked to hide just outside the training grounds and walked in just before dawn. Searching hadn't turned up their sensei's hiding spot, but she was damned hard to find when she didn't want to be found, something they'd had hard experience with when they did training missions. "That's good. We might need that energy today."
"Oh! Are we doing some new training?" Naruto asked eagerly. His teammates just looked at her expectantly. Lin's methods were as effective as they were exhausting, but the sooner they got them done, the longer they could spend dawdling at lunch and on their inevitable D-class mission.
Instead of answering Naruto, their jounin instructor walked around the clearing and looked at the genin and the concrete-filled boxes they were using as seats. After a half minute of silence, and just before Naruto was about to open his mouth, she clapped her hands. "Listen up. Team meeting time," she said. "We've been together five weeks now, and we've been training almost every single day. When we started out, you were academy students. Pathetic, barely able to do the simplest exercises. And now, just think about how well you did last time." She slapped Sakura on the back. "I'm most proud of you, Sakura. You've come a long way."
Sakura nodded, a bit stiffly. Actually, in the opinion of her teammates, she was a bit frazzled and stressed lately, but she'd been working the hardest to catch up, and had the least stamina to try and do it.
"You three have demonstrated in lots of ways that you've taken my lessons to heart over the past five weeks. At any rate, I don't think of you three as being green rookies any more. I'm giving you the next three hours off, then we'll meet for a quick lunch and I'll bring the mission with me." She paused and crossed her arms. "It's time we took a C-class mission."
They cheered. "Yes! A cool mission!" Naruto exclaimed, pumping his fist in the air.
"Finally," Sasuke said, relieved. Finally, a chance to see if he was closing in on - him.
Sakura trembled as Inner Sakura raised her fist triumphantly. A real mission. She'd finally be able to impress Sasuke. "Sasuke! Let's celebrate our first real mission!"
He brushed her off. "We've had plenty of 'real' missions," he said, even though he more or less agreed with her dismissal of the D-class missions. Frankly, if it weren't for the way their sensei turned most of them into additional training, he'd have dismissed them as a total waste of time. "I'm just going to get ready for this mission. You should, too." Sasuke walked away casually, turning his back on his teammates. "I'll see you at lunch."
"Sakura! I'll go with you!"
Sakura just gave Naruto a cold glare. "I don't want to celebrate anything with you," she growled.
"But we're teammates," Naruto whined.
"Yeah, so..." Sakura hung her head. "Sasuke's right. We should get ready."
"It's three hours!" Naruto protested. "I can be ready in three minutes."
"Well, fine, Mr. Future Hokage," Sakura said, pointing at him angrily. "You'd better not screw this mission up. I don't want you holding Sasuke and I back!" Her voice had risen to a screech before she turned and stomped off.
"Geez, Sakura is scary lately," Naruto complained. She'd been getting more short tempered as time went on. "Maybe a trip outside the city will help her calm down," he said, hoping that it was true.
It would suck for the future Hokage to be strangled to death as a genin, after all.
If there was one thing Lin hated about Konoha's market district, it was the throngs of civilians who seemed able to trip over their own feet. It almost made her second guess her decision not to pick up her presents yesterday and stash them at her clan's house.
She rudely shouldered a civilian out of her way and lifted up the curtain covering the doorway of her target. Once inside, the curtain cut out the morning light and left the shop lit only by the dim angry glow of the forge.
"Where are they?" she asked the smith. He gestured absently into the corner, and she picked up three equally nondescript blades. Unlike her sword, they were a bit shorter and had a much sharper edge, being made to the standard ANBU-issue pattern.
She selected one and pushed the guard out with her thumb, revealing a fairly plain blade. The name of the smith was proudly engraved: Tenten. Other than that there was nothing decorative about the swords at all. The girl knew her tastes well.
Lin turned to the smith. "Your apprentice did a fine job on these," she said, smiling. She took out coins and put them on the workbench.
He shrugged. "You requested her to work on them," he pointed out.
"I trust my friend's student," she said, still paying more attention to the swords. Two swords were tucked under her arm; she pulled the third completely out of its scabbard and held it out, judging its balance. "Very good," she said, and returned it to its sheath.
"Could you do me a favor?" the smith asked.
"It depends," she responded. "Who do you need killed?"
He laughed a bit nervously. "Nothing like that. Your sister ordered some spears and hasn't picked them up..."
"I'm not paying for them," Lin replied irritably.
"Oh, I make her pay in advance, nowadays," he said. "I just wanted to know if you could bring them out to her."
She thought it over for a second. "Not possible. Tell you what, I'll ask the Hokage to assign it to a genin team. I'll just charge Akiko the next time I see her."
"Whatever works," he said, shrugging.
She left and headed for Ichiraku's, the inevitable setting for lunches whenever it was Naruto's turn to choose. Wouldn't her genin be happy to get rid of those wooden practice swords?
Naruto was kicking rocks along the street as he walked, making them skip and bounce over the uneven surface. He was bored out of his mind. Almost three whole hours had passed, he thought. Only a few minutes had been spent picking up the basic gear for going outside of Konoha, just as he'd told Sakura. He had loaded with sealed food (mostly ramen, of course) and had packed plenty of extra weapons, tools, and camping gear. If only he'd figured out how to generalize the sealing technique the way his teammates had, he'd have even more weapons, but it wasn't like the weight was that much extra. He barely noticed his backpack as it was.
After he'd gotten ready to go he'd ended up wandering around the village aimlessly. It had been enough to make him thank the kami that Konohamaru wanted to 'play ninja' again.
He slumped into a seat at Ichiraku, noting that his teammates had already arrived. Sakura was talking Sasuke's ears off, and the sulky member of Team 7 was simply sitting there indifferently. Sakura could have been on Saturn for all he apparently cared. Their backpacks laid on the floor next to them, each of them identical to his own. Lin had forced them to buy the standard issue stuff despite having earned significantly more than the other rookie genin, saying they'd want the money when it came time for the chuunin exams.
"I wonder what our mission is," Naruto said. "Hey, old man, make us five bowls of miso ramen, one of whatever Sasuke and Sakura want, and get a beef ramen for our sensei!"
"It's your fault we don't already know what the mission is," Sasuke sniped.
"It was an accident!" Naruto said, exasperated.
"WE didn't have an accident," Sakura retorted. "Only you did."
"To be fair, accidents happen," Lin said, walking up. She waved a scroll at them, and was accompanied by a tired looking old man. "I've got our mission right here." With her left hand, she tossed the scroll to he three genin; as they reached for it, she snagged one of Naruto's miso ramen and handed it to their client.
Sasuke won the struggle for the mission scroll, shoving Naruto's face back with one hand while quickly reading the scroll. "We have to protect this guy from bandits, huh?"
The second Sasuke's attention drifted from the scroll, Naruto grabbed it. "Wave country! Yeah!" he said. You usually didn't get a mission out of the country on the first shot.
"Naruto! Don't just grab things like that!" Sakura scolded, and grabbed the scroll right back.
"Are these three really reliable?" Tazuna said in between spoonfuls of ramen. "They don't seem to be, especially the short one."
"Don't worry about that, sir," Lin said. She glared at the genin. "You three! Knock it off!" The three twelve year olds straightened up immediately and practically snapped to attention in their seats.
"We're sorry, sensei," they chorused, realizing how immature they'd just looked to their first C-rank client.
"Enough of that," she said. "Since we're heading out of the village, I got you three presents." Their sensei unslung a long package wrapped in burlap and untied the knot holding it closed. Three brand new swords were revealed as the rough cloth fell away.
They inspected their new swords with smiles and curiosity, taking out the swords and holding them up to the light, letting the sun glint off the shiny new edges. For once Naruto had completely forgotten the fresh hot ramen cooling in its bowls. This was only the third real present he'd ever gotten, after the goggles and his forehead protector. Quickly he stuffed the scabbard through his belt and slid the sword home, then bowed to his teacher. "Thank you, sensei," he said, meaning it.
His teammates replaced their wooden swords with steel in the same spot - Sasuke at his belt, and Sakura's sword on her back. They bowed briefly to Lin. "So, when do we leave for Wave?" Sasuke asked.
"As soon as we're done here," Lin said. "The sooner we get to our destination, the better. It's always worse to be attacked in transit than at a defensible location." They nodded. Their teachers at the Academy had said that, too, although with some slow civilian along, they didn't see how much more they could do.
It took a lot of effort, but Naruto had firmly resisted the urge to chatter as they walked towards their goal.
Well, for a while, anyways.
"Hey, mister," he said suddenly, breaking the silence. "Why doesn't Wave country have a ninja village?"
Tazuna looked at him and frowned. "Supporting a village is expensive, and we don't have the money to do it, not with Gatou keeping a stranglehold on our economy."
"So these bandits we're supposed to fight, they're probably going to be hired by Gatou?" Sakura asked.
"Yeah, most likely," Tazuna said. "He's tried to interfere before."
"Hmm..." Lin looked off into the distance as the group skirted a particularly large puddle in their path. "He's not willing to hire foreign ninja himself, however, right?" she asked.
"No, of course not!" he said, sweating a bit. "He's too cheap."
"So we won't be facing any other ninja," Sasuke said, frowning. He caught Sakura's eye and watched her fidget. Then he sighed and glanced at Naruto, catching a tiny nod, almost lost in Naruto's over-enthusiastic mannerisms. Good. They'd noticed it as well.
Lin ran her hand through her hair idly. So she wants us to act casual, but why? Sasuke wondered.
The genin, fully on alert, felt the tiny, almost unnoticeable spill of chakra being released from behind them. Instincts from long training kicked in as Lin seemed to vanish and Naruto instantly formed two shadow clones that shoved Tazuna out of the line of fire.
Seeing that the biggest threat and their target were both out of the way, the two enemy nins switched gears and attacked Sasuke, extending a long bladed chain which looped past the Uchiha and then quickly drew taut, slicing the genin into chunks
"SASUKE!" Sakura screamed shrilly, drawing her blade and stepping into her enemy with smoothness born of training and speed born of sheer panic and anger. The missing nin stared at her in horror, not having expected such a young genin to react so swiftly, and clutched with an already weakening hand at the sword run under his ribcage.
"You killed him!" his partner said, enraged, before leaping out of the way of a fireball, as Sasuke darted out from behind a tree, his own sword stabbing downward in one motion to pin the chain to the ground. Then their instructor reappeared, suddenly, with a thunderous kick to the man's back. He dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, instantly paralyzed.
"Sasuke! You're still alive!" Sakura said, with great relief. Then she remembered where her sword had gone.
"Naruto! Send the clones out to scout around!" Lin snapped, as her sword rasped home. He nodded and sent them off, and helped Tazuna to his feet.
Sasuke walked over and looked enviously at the dead chuunin Sakura had run though. "So you're the first on the team to make a kill," he said thoughtfully. Maybe she wasn't such a drag on the team after all. Although she seemed a bit shook up about it... it was only a little blood.
"I killed him," she said, horrified.
"Yeah, good job," Sasuke said, and patted her on the shoulder before turning to Naruto. "Not like you, you didn't do anything!"
"I was guarding the client! That's everything!" Naruto replied angrily, and gave Sasuke the finger.
Noticing Sakura's distress, Lin walked over to her, put her hand over hers, and pulled the sword free. Then she wiped it off with a piece of cloth and returned it to its scabbard. "We'll talk about this when we make camp," she said gently. "But for now, you need to follow along with the team."
Numbly, the girl nodded and followed her sensei.
"Don't worry about this fool," Lin said, indicating the injured ninja. "A patrol will pick him up. Let's keep moving like we've got a mission, people."
The mood in camp was significantly more somber that night. Tazuna sat, his face revealing his dread of the upcoming discussion of their under-ranked mission that Lin had promised. Naruto seemed irritated at having been left out of the action, and Sasuke... well, he was usually sulking and mooding, so there was nothing unusual from that quarter.
Sakura, though, was visibly shaken. Her teammates seemed oblivious to her problem; Naruto had said she'd looked cool, and Sasuke kept looking at her with contempt, as if she couldn't handle a little thing like killing a man.
She wanted to scream that that wasn't the problem; at least, not the whole problem. Sure, the memory of her sword sliding into the man's chest and deflecting off his ribs would give her nightmares for a week, because she could all too vividly imagine the same happening to her. But they'd almost died out there! Enemy ninja were out there, and they were trying to kill them...
The memory of Sasuke being ripped to shreds by the bladed chain kept looping in her mind. Blood, everywhere blood, raining down on her. Just a bit slow, just a bit weak, and only Sasuke's quickness had saved him.
"Sakura," her sensei said, breaking the loop. She looked up to see the jounin looking intently at her. After a moment she glanced away to her teammates. "Naruto, Sasuke, you guard the camp. Sakura, come with me. I'd like to talk to you for a minute."
The pink haired girl looked up blankly and slowly got to her feet, trailing behind her instructor as they headed for the edge of the fire's light. Lin dropped into a crouch, and Sakura plopped gracelessly against the base of a tree, drawing her legs towards her loosely.
"We don't really need to talk, sensei," she mumbled. "I'll be fine."
Lin rolled her eyes. "Yeah, you'll be fine. But we need to talk, because, if you haven't noticed, we're on a mission slightly more difficult than C-rank, now. So we don't have the time for you to mope about how terrible it is to kill someone."
"Yeah, I'm always the weak one, always holding everyone else back..." Sakura said.
There was a resounding crack as her sensei slapped her. "Don't pull this feeling sorry for yourself bullshit, Sakura. You just killed a chuunin, idiot, how does that make you weak."
"I didn't mean to kill him!" Sakura yelled angrily, getting another slap.
"Do you want to announce to the whole world where we are? Keep your voice down!" Lin told her. "Listen, that's a lie, a big fat lie, and you know it, I know it, and Sasuke knows it. He meant to kill Sasuke, you thought he'd killed Sasuke, he meant to kill you, and you knew you had to kill him first."
Sakura's head bobbed lower, hiding her eyes. "I thought Sasuke was dead. I thought-" She looked up at Lin, and then started crying.
'Teenage girls. Spare me,' Lin thought. She gathered up her student in a hug. Out loud, she said, "You were worried for your teammate and yourself. That's all right, Sakura, that's good. Listen, there is nothing wrong with killing someone when it's warranted. OK? He would have killed us all, if he could."
"Have you lost any teammates?" Sakura said, still shaking slightly.
Lin stiffened up. "Yes."
"How did you get over it?" Sakura asked.
'With time and alcohol,' she thought. But that wasn't an appropriate answer for someone Sakura's age. "It's hard, very hard, to lose friends and comrades. But missions are dangerous... after a while, you grow to accept it." She tousled Sakura's hair. "So just cool down. Sasuke's not going to die so easily, and neither is Naruto. OK?"
"But that Mist-nin died, and he was a chuunin-"
"He made a stupid mistake. He underestimated you, and it was fatal," Lin said. She looked at the pink-haired genin and stood up, staring her in the eye. "Don't make the same mistake. Even a civilian can kill you, or C-ranks wouldn't be C-ranks." She slapped her student on the arm. "But enough about your first kill. Congratulations, and let's get dinner."
"Thanks," Sakura said, and walked behind her, still a bit shaky but with more energy.
The two kunoichi sat down around the fire, Lin across from Tazuna and Sakura as close to Sasuke as she dared get. Their teacher stared at the bridge builder with a dead expression throughout the meal, as they ate their freshly unsealed meals.
Tazuna got more and more fidgety as the meal went on, as Lin's creepy robot-like stare was more unnerving than anger after a good half hour of not changing. Finally, he broke. "Look, I'm sorry I lied about the mission. Gato'us putting such a squeeze on our economy... everyone is broke... he killed my son-in-law..."
The bridge builder babbled on for a while more, then stopped. She still hadn't changed her expression. "I'm sorry," he repeated, and hung his head.
"You could have gotten my soldiers killed," Lin said, her voice perfectly neutral. "This mission is far above what a genin should take on. It is at least a B-ranked mission now."
"I'll understand if you abandon the mission," Tazuna said. "I'll certainly die... and my wife and grandson would hate the Leaf forever-"
"We're not abandoning this mission," Naruto said, slamming a fist on the section of downed tree he was using as a seat. "We should kick this Gatou guy's ass!" he continued, facing his sensei.
"Why?" she asked, her expression lightening a bit at Naruto's gung-ho attitude.
"We took this mission and promised to see it through, that's why," Naruto said, his eyes blazing with determination. "And I won't take my words back!"
"I agree," Sasuke said, deciding to add his opinion. "I don't like the idea of hidden Mist-nins getting based right next to Fire country, even if they did abandon their village. That's just asking for trouble."
"I suppose you're right," Lin decided with finality. She turned to Tazuna. "You will, however, be making up the difference to Konoha with tolls on your bridge. Do you agree that this is reasonable?" Her expression - formerly neutral, if a bit creepy - grew very harsh at the end.
Tazuna flinched back. "More than reasonable. It's the least Wave could do to make up for our deception."
Lin smiled. "I'm glad that's settled, then. Naruto, you have first watch, then Sasuke. I'll handle the dead shift, and Sakura will handle early morning." A few hand signs, and water doused the fire, so that no light or glow betrayed their location, just the lingering smell of smoke. "Everyone get some sleep."
The next morning, they reached the sea, and crossed it in the lee of the fog-shrouded dreamlike bulk of the unfinished bridge.
"That's one hell of a lot of smashed rocks and dead trees," Naruto had said, upon first seeing it.
"Bigger than I expected," Sasuke added.
"And you thought I was just some bum," Tazuna said smugly. "I'm a skilled engineer."
They'd passed the rest of the trip in silence, until the boat came to rest on the muddy shore of Wave country. "Here we are," Lin said. "We're on the enemy's home ground, now. We may be under attack at any time. Be alert."
Tenseness overtook the team, as they walked through the forest quietly, with only Tazuna's feet giving away their position, as his sandals stuck slightly to the gloppy, muddy forest floor. The ninja had spread their chakra under their feet, moving silently and with less telltale crushed vegetation. The thick fog blanketed the forest and seemed to deaden the sound slightly; they could be walking into an ambush and had less chance of discovering it.
Suddenly Naruto turned left and snap-threw a kunai into the underbrush. Three swords hissed out of their sheaths even before his hand finished its motion, and the genin stood alert.
A kage bunshin was dispatched into the woods to investigate. It held up a dead white rabbit, the victim of Naruto's throw.
"White rabbit-" Sasuke started.
"-not winter-" Naruto muttered, catching the train of thought.
"-Kawarimi!" Sakura finished.
"DOWN!" Lin commanded, as she ducked. Something huge whirred over their heads, spinning wildly as it flew through the air. It passed over them and chopped into the side of a tree, just as a man landed on its handle.
The genin stepped forward, ready to fight. Their instructor held up a hand. "This one... let me handle him. He's one of the Hidden Mist's Seven Swordsmen - Momochi Zabuza."
Their enemy looked down at them critically. "So... Konoha's infamous Bloody Bitch," he said thoughtfully. "You're a lot like myself..."
A feral grin spread over the face of Makurayami Lin. "Is that so, Momochi? Then come down and prove it, because I'm going to rip you apart!"
Yeah, yeah, it's been a while. No, Fate's not dead, either. Just stalled.