Chapter 21: Seira, Seira, Seira of the Forest Watch Out For That . . . Wall

This is going to be interesting. I let out a silent puff of air as I gazed around me. The sun had moved a significant distance since my run in with death and I decided that I should head back and hope for the best. As I began to walk I realized that the noises around me, that had been just wildlife chatter before, now seemed to have a rhythm. I started to walk faster as I looked around uneasily. Every living thing seemed to be making music. I jumped into the trees in an effort to get away from the beat nature was playing. Is this a joke? As I moved faster the tempo of the song increased. A leapt down to the ground and stopped. The music stopped as well.

Oh you have got to be kidding me. It was like being trapped inside a twisted Disney cartoon. If a lobster starting singing under the sea I might have gone postal. I shook my head in resignation before moving as quickly as possible to get to the village. By the time I had reached the entrance of the competition I was feeling a bit . . . well let's just say I wasn't crapping out daisies and sunshine. My mood didn't look up as Suzume approached with a bag in her hand.

"Seira-chan, I picked up a couple of lovely outfits for you to try on for when you sing." I nodded before reaching for a stick. I began writing on the ground quickly. "Seira-chan, why aren't you answering me?" I pointed to the ground where I had written that my voice was gone, but a richly dressed girl came up behind me and pushed my already off balance body out of the way. She then proceeded to walk over the words effectively blurring them into an illegible mess. I would have groaned if any sound would come out. I turned to Suzume and started using exaggerated charades to tell her that I had, literally, lost my voice.

"I think she's trying to say that she lost her voice." I turned to see a girl around my age dressed in simple civilian clothing. She wasn't beautiful, but pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. I nodded turning back to Suzume.

"Oh, Seira-chan, what will you do now?" I shrugged uneasily shifting from foot to foot.

"Can you play an instrument?" The same girl interjected. She blushed as our attention focused on her. "I'm Keiko, Akamori Keiko." She bowed to me politely and I returned the gesture awkwardly.

"My name is Asukai Suzume and the mute one is Seira." Keiko smiled warmly before giving another suggestion.

"Can you dance?" I nodded unsurely. Was cabbage-patching consider dancing here? "Well, why don't you dance instead? At least you could have a chance at being so original that you could place." She had a point. It just might work. I was about to reply when a voice whispered through my mind. I give you the gift of inspiration.

"Seira-chan are you in there?" I blinked before blushing slightly. I nodded before gesturing with my hand to the bag. Clothes always diverted Suzume's attention. "These are outfits for you to choose from, although now you can only use a couple of them." She frowned before plastering a serene smile on her face. "Let's go make you pretty." I opened my mouth in order to retort, but realized that it was a pointless endeavor. I was dragged back stage by a giggling Suzume followed by a bemused Keiko.

"Keiko-san, why are you competing in the contest?" a brief flash of anguish crossed her face before she replaced it with a soft smile.

"My grandfather is very ill and in order to afford his medical care to be cured I need to win the prize money." I shifted uneasily as she snorted quietly. "I doubt that I have a chance though. Do you see that girl over there?" she pointed to the richly dressed young woman I had seen earlier. "That's Yuki-hime, she has won this contest since she was thirteen. Her father is one of the Daimyo's advisors. So she has been trained in music since she was a babe. I doubt that I can beat her, but I'm sure that you can Seira-san."

She smiled at me in a reassuring manner. I returned the smile even though I felt as if I wanted the ground to swallow me whole. I did not do well with hundreds of people staring at me. Before I realized what was happening I was onstage standing in front of a crowd of hundreds if not thousands of people. I blinked dazedly as bright lights blinded me. Music began to assault my ears as fear gripped me. Suddenly an unknown force took hold of me. It's time to dance, Seira-chan.

My fear dissipated as I inhaled deeply as a soft cadence began to play in the background; my foot started to pulse with a hidden rhythm. My body engaged in swaying as I closed my eyes, immersing myself in the music. Slowly I began to move languidly across the stage, the movements were graceful and unconfined. The underlying current of the dance alluded to a greater force barely being held at bay. I spun and twirled as the music carried me further into a fluent current of notes and rhythms. Every movement was accented by a gentle, almost tender elegance that radiated peace and calm. It was ever giving, ever taking.

Suddenly the steady beat began to become erratic, my movements followed morphing from slow and steady to quick and changing. My limbs snapped out in quick succession creating the illusions of flickers. Soft movements turned chaotic as I bended and twisted; always in motion, but never finding a pattern. My breathing became heavy as I pushed my muscles through the highly taxing movements. It was creation, it was destruction.

The pulse quickened as my feet lifted from the ground in jumps, flips, twists, and other acrobatic feats. The dance was pure motion. Grace mixed with chaos. I spent more time flipping through the air than I did on the ground. Sharp staccato notes accenting the undertones of misleadingly calm music. It was creativity, it was deception.

With a loud crash the air vibrated as light flashed across the stage. I moved across the stage in spurts of unparalleled speed never touching the same spot twice. Every thunder of the beat and flash of light found me in a new position in a different area of the stage. My heartbeat quickened as I used all of my speed to jump across the floor in between flashes of light. It was power, it was untamed.

Then the dance and music began to hammer out a solid, unchanging tempo. My feet were now resting firmly on the ground, periodically sweeping into new positions. My arms became stiff, my movements subtle and firm. The beat had become strong and pounding. It echoed into the night, piercing my soul in a steady unchanging pulse. It was stability, it was stubbornness.

The music drew to a close as I returned to my starting position. I took deep breaths to steady myself. In. Out. The force from before let me go and I regained control of my limbs.

I was startled as applause met my ears. I allowed a tired grin to grace my face as I saw several of my friends cheering wildly. Anko and Kotetsu were standing on their chairs whooping and hollering, while Gai, Kakashi, Izumo, and several shinobi I was acquaintances with were clapping enthusiastically. Even Ryuu-shishou was there. I scanned the crowd again and I was gifted the sight of Iruka standing with Naruto. My grin widened as I nodded slightly to them. I bowed before making my way to the wing that Suzume was standing in. She pulled me into a hug and I leaned back to swing her around. It helped that I was somewhat taller than her. Keiko came over and congratulated my performance. I was so happy and proud of myself, until I heard it.

Her voice was incredible. Smooth and rich, each word rang beautifully. With a cringe I looked over to see Yuki standing on the stage, her singing sounded as if she were an angel. I gaped at her in shock. I would need divine intervention if I was going to come even close to winning.

Soon it was Keiko's turn to sing and it was just as beautiful as Yuki's if not better. I cringed again. I couldn't begrudge my new friend the win if she did gain the first place prize. I looked out one of the windows as I saw the sun had set. Startled I glanced at a clock and found that the time was 10:30. I bit my lip nervously as all of the contestants were called out onto the stage for the results.

Yuki seemed smug and confident that she would win even though she did not need the money. Keiko twisted her skirt nervously, but she kept a serene smile on her face that spoke of her confidence in her abilities. I however was close to hyperventilating. Somebody give me a paper bag. My lip was probably a mutilated mess by now from chewing on it. I was going to need divine intervention. Always happy to help Seira-chan.

"The winner of the Annual Benzaiten festival is . . . Seira." Applause filled the air along with an undignified squawk of protest. Yuki stomped over to the judges as I ran forward and grabbed the bag of money. Yoink. There was a murmur of confusion as I raced out the side door into the streets of Konoha. Anko was immediately at my side as I raced to my house.

"We gotta hurry, there's only twenty minutes until midnight." I raced into the house and turned sharply into the room with the safe. Well I would have turned sharply if I hadn't slid straight into a wall. I rubbed my head while simultaneously throwing a glare at a snickering Anko. I grabbed the scroll holding the sealed money as we raced out into the night. Now would be a really bad time to time to trip.

I dashed across the rooftops as the tower came into sight. I glanced at my watch to see that there were five minutes left until midnight. I looked up to see a whole lot of red invading my vision. Instinct to over as I jumped back away from the flames that cooked the roof I was just on. In seconds I was on guard looking for the perpetrator. I shivered slightly as ghost pains danced across my skin. Memories of a woman's screams, my screams flickered across my mind. I quickly realize that a ring of fire surrounded me.

Flames lashed out from the circle, trying to grab me with burning arms. I blanched; fear began to grip me as a cold sweat broke out across my body. Just as I felt my knees go weak I heard that stupid beat again. Music played through my head as my foot began to tap. Suddenly I was no longer in control of my body as I began to dance. I evaded the closing flames until I was able to leap out of the circle, spinning through the air silently. That's right, I danced my way out of danger. Aren't I special? Insert sarcasm. Once out it was a mad dash to the Hokage tower. Anko played interference with our assailant as I focused on pushing my speed to the limit. With a minute to spare a sailed through the Hokage's window and hit the wall with a thud. Again. I shook to rid myself of the tweety birds circling it. I grinned up at the Hokage and his advisors.

"I assume that by your grin you have the money?" I nodded happily pulling out the scroll and the bag of prize money. I handed them straight to the Hokage who watched me with amusement in his eyes. I looked up to see Koharu gazing down at me, both literally and figuratively. I waggled my fingers at her from my position on the floor. She looked away sharply, this cause a smile to grace my face. A looked out the window in search of Anko in time to see a dark shape hurtling at us. With a crash the body flew through the glass, sprinkling the carpet with ice-like shards. Anko quickly followed the body, a sadistic grin on her face.

"What is the meaning of this" Koharu shrieked as she looked from the body to Anko. Anko grinned sheepishly.

"Sorry Hokage-sama, I was just taking care of so trash." Having worked with Anko since she was young the Hokage understood the message she was trying to give. He gave a slight nod and she flashed away with the bundle of black at her side.

"Seira-san, it's late and I'm sure that you're tired. Tomorrow morning I'm sure you can stop by and pick up Kimimaro and Sasuke. How does that sound?" I smiled and nodded happily before jumping out the broken windowpane. As I left I heard a muttered, "Why doesn't anybody in this village use the door?" I landed at the base of the tower with a chuckle.

I was walking down the empty street when a pair of arms locked around my waist.

"What do we have here?" Sonovabitch.

A/N: I'm so sorry for the late update. I honestly had a huge writer's block. To be honest I'm not too happy with this chapter, but eh what are you going to do. I'll most likely revise it later when Benzaiten decides to give ME some inspiration. Please review, it makes my day so much better!