Hey guys… so I'm really sorry about not updating for a really long time; a new school year started with all new classes, and I just found that I was not able to keep up with both school work and writing, so I put it off. But I'm back with a new chapter, and that's all that matters =) I would just like to say, thank you for all the comments and Story/Author alerts I have gotten! Seeing them in my email finally got me back into finishing this chapter, so thanks a ton :3
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy this chapter, and just for the record, I have no plans of abandoning this fic. Please review – your comments fuel my inspiration and motivation!
It felt as if everything was moving in slow motion, which was weird since that only seems to happen when you were moments away from death. But as I dropped the food I was supposed to be delivering and started to run in a full-out sprint towards the hospital, I can say that's what it honestly felt like. As I ran, the hospital itself seemed to be moving farther and farther away from me, and my efforts seemed to be for nothing as I could never get any closer. And then life had to be fucked up as a pair of men (or ninja, I thought, remembering from my conversation earlier with Kurogane) fell onto the ground in front of me. They seemed to come from nowhere, and as they straightened up and stood, only one word could be heard going on inside of my head.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
My legs seemed to move by themselves as I stupidly tried to run around the two ninja blocking my path, for my mind was only on Sakura-hime and her safety. But the shorter of the two ninja moved to block me with lightning-fast speed that left me stopping in my tracks. The show of that skill made me stop and think at what danger I had gotten myself into, and also brought my full attention to the ninja standing in front of me. As I took a good look at them, I wondered why the heck their appearance hadn't set off warning bells in my head in the first place.
The men were both clad in the same uniform of navy and grey, with arm and chest guards. Various pockets could be seen, and from a sharp point sticking out in one I could only assume they were sporting hidden weapons, for nothing more could be distinguished. Both men also had a katana strapped to their backs that was both slimmer and shorter than the one Kurogane had picked up from previous worlds.
Both men also had pale skin, but that seemed to be the only similarity. The man on the left that had moved to block me had gray-black hair in a ponytail on the left. A mask covered his face and identity, and it was similar to the features of a bird with colorful red marks. The man on the right that was slouching slightly had crazy, messy silver hair, with a mask that looked like a dog. His hands were folded across his chest and seemed to twitch every few seconds to a pocket the was rectangular shaped. Odd.
Bird-mask was watching me intently, and I could just make out something in his palm that I could probably guess was a weapon. Crap, if they deemed me dangerous, both of them could easily take me out.
So, I slowly put my palms up in which I hoped was the universal gesture for surrender. And to be honest, it was true. I had no weapons and wished them no harm.
Bird-mask took a step forward, already reaching for his katana. "Do not move."
I froze and slowly lowered my arms.
The white-haired ninja glanced at something behind me, seemingly bored. I used that as a chance to look at Sakura-hime. It frustrated me that I was so close yet so far. Some sort of medic was attending to her, and she seemed to not be in harm's way, at least for now. I took a deep breath and turned my full attention to the ninjas in front of me.
"Who are you?" I asked bravely, newfound courage in me.
Bird-mask stiffened and was about to reply scathingly when dog-mask cut in, twiddling his thumbs. "We are shinobi in service to the ANBU. We protect and fight for this village, among other things."
Obviously, he didn't find me a threat. Actually, he seemed to be a pretty laid-back guy. But the other shinobi seemed irritated.
"It is not your place to be asking questions, boy." He said sharply. "Please state yourself, or we will have to take action."
I expected as much. "My name is Syaoran."
"You are here with others." It wasn't a question.
"Yes." I answered, but nervously now. I decided it might not be the best idea to lie. "There are four others: Mokona, Fai, Kurogane and Sakura."
"What is your purpose here?" The silver-haired man asked lazily.
"We are searching for an item of great importance."
"Will it endanger the village?"
"No." I tried to put as much truth to my voice as possible, but I had no idea if they believed me or not.
"Where are you staying at?" Bird-mask asked.
"Ichiraku Ramen. We are also working for them at the moment."
This answer seemed to surprise them. "Really now?" I heard one of them murmur. Louder, Fox-mask said, "That is interesting to hear, but nevertheless we have some.. matters of great importance that will need to be discussed. We will come by later to Ichiraku Ramen. Be there."
In a poof! of smoke, they were gone. Once the smoke faded, no footprints or evidence of any sort were left that proved that these shinobi even once stood where they did. I took a deep breath and sighed, running my fingers through my hair. I had apparently managed to get out of that situation, for now at least.
The morning sun glared into my eyes as I squinted, trying to see into the hospital. The medic had apparently left, and Sakura-hime was still sleeping peacefully. I was about to take a step forward when a strong hand grabbed my arm, and pulled me roughly over to a shade made by a couple of trees.
"Wha-" I could only say, before the figure cut me off.
"Who were they?" The curt voice of Kurogane asked me.
"Shinobi from this village. They were wondering who I was."
"Nothing. They seemed very interested in the fact that we were staying at Ichiraku Ramen. They will come for us later."
"We're going to be questioned, and we need to get our answers straight. Did you deliver your package?"
I put a hand behind my head sheepishly. "Well, I kind of saw Sakura-hime and got distracted and then the shinobi came in and then you came to talk to me..."
"Well, hurry the hell up."
I nodded, and ran back to where the package of food was placed by the door, and after a quick inspection I noted in relief that everything was still intact. I picked up the food and attempted yet again to knock on the door, but it seemed like no one was home. I contemplated what to do; I didn't really want to leave the food out as it will get cold or somebody could take it, but what other option is there...
'HEY! You there!' A sharp voice cried. I jumped and looked around, startled. As I turned around, I saw a women with short, black hair marching towards me.
'Are you talking to me?' I asked her, confused.
'Yes, you. I don't see anyone else standing by my home; what exactly are you doing here?' She replied, crossing her arms and looking at me expectantly.
I fumbled as I tried to explain myself. 'No! I was just delivering you something!'
Now her eyes narrowed. 'And what exactly would that be? I've never seen you around Konoha.'
Konoha?! I thought excitedly. Is this what this place is called? Interesting... I'll be sure to tell Kurogane later. I cleared my throat and tried to put her at ease - no need for her to call someone from suspicion! "That is true ma'am, we are not from here. My companions and I are currently working at Ichiraku Ramen, and I was told to bring a delivery here. If this is the wrong place then I sincerely apologize."
I held my breath as the women in front of me comprehended my words. A couple of seconds passed before she smiled. "I welcome you to Konoha than!" She said. "Teuchi and Ayame are certainly busy, so I'm sure a couple of extra hands will alleviate some of their workload."
I nodded my agreement, thankful that she believed me. But I noticed that even though there was a smile on her face and she held a friendly, carefree tone, her eyes still appraised me thoughtfully.
I then passed her the package of ramen that I had come to deliver, and she sniffed appreciatively at the warm aroma that it emitted. She laughed as her stomach grumbled. "Thanks again! It was nice to meet you, …?"
"Well Syaoran, thank you for the ramen – it smells delicious! Anyway, I'm Shizune, medic and personal assistant to our Hokage. I work at the hospital here, so if you need anything, that's where you can find me."
At the mention of the hospital, I grew excited. "You say you work at the hospital?"
"That is correct. I'm on a short lunch break, at the moment."
I couldn't believe my luck. "Say, Shizune, do you know of anyone named 'Sakura' there?"
Surprise flitted across the shinobi's face. "Sakura?" She asked, looking upon the boy's determined, but worried face. "…Yes, there is a Sakura at the hospital, what-"
"Please, Shizune, is there any way that I could see her?" I asked, almost begging.
"Thank you. Thank you ever so much. I can't right now, as I have to go back to Ichiraku Ramen, but I'll come by later." I said in a grateful tone, already retreating. Kurogane waited for me by the road. With one last grateful glance at Shizune, I was off, on my way back to Ichiraku, to get back to work. I would have to make it up to Ayame somehow; I was very grateful to her for giving me that hour that I needed to find Sakura.
As I chatted with Kurogane about the day's events, the shinobi, Shizune, stared at my retreating figure - I could feel her gaze upon my back. As I sneaked a glance back to have a look at her expression, she was gone along with the food. Gazing at it now, it looked as if our meeting had never taken place.
As I turned my face back to the road, Kurogane was watching me intently. "What is it?" He asked, already looking around for trouble. I shook my head.
"No, it's nothing like that... I was just thinking about the speed that the people in this town of Konoha seem to have." I said, the town name unfamiliar on my lips. "I could feel that lady, Shizune, watching me as we were walking, but as I turned my head to look at her, she was gone."
Kurogane snorted. "If that's all you were wondering about, you could have just asked me in the first place, kid. By now you should have accepted the fact that wherever we go, there are bound to be individuals with powers we have never even dreamed of - and from what I picked up about this place so far, speed isn't the only thing they have."
"I wonder what other powers they have, then."
Kurogane shrugged. "I don't know, and frankly, I don't want to find out. The best thing we can do is just find the feather and get the hell outta here before they have a chance to show us."
I nodded my agreement, and it was silent for a couple of minutes as we both were in our own separate trains of thought. The only sound that could be heard was the scraping of our boots along the dirt road.
I took this moment to take a quick glance around at the surroundings around me. I could smell the delicious aroma of fresh baked loaves, the sound of children playing, the tinkering of coins as customers purchased goods - if I closed my eyes, for a moment, it felt like home. Home... that's a place that has almost lost meaning to me, and ever since Sakura lost her memories, nothing has ever been the same. Now as we go from world to world, I feel like I don't have a place to call home anymore. The only thing left to do is to save Sakura, and-
"We're almost there." Kurogane noted, startling me out of my reverie. I blinked, confused for a couple of seconds before I understood what he was saying.
"Ah, yes we are!" I finally noticed the familiar trees, and as we turned the corner, the now-familiar banner greeted us. Thankfully, those shinobi that had promised to meet us later were there yet, so we still had time to plan our story. I had hoped that by working at this ramen hut, we might be able to get a look at some of the town's inhabitants and try to figure out what we were up against. I mentioned this to Kurogane, who gave me a rare look of approval.
"Yeah, that's good thinking kid - I like that." He praised me. "Now all we have left to do is to get the story out to Fai and manjuu bun, and dammit, they better have not screwed up anything while we were gone."
I sighed as we were walking closer. "Come on, give Fai some credit – he's got a pretty good instinct for staying out of trouble."
Kurogane simply shrugged in response, and at that moment, Teuchi noticed us.
"Ahoy there!" The old man yelled, waving us over. "How did the deliveries go? No trouble?"
I nodded. "Everything went fine, but I couldn't find Shizune at first, and everything went smoothly for Kurogane." Kurogane gave a tch! of annoyance for speaking for him, but I knew he wasn't really mad as we had to inform Fai and Mokona about our situation as soon as possible.
"That is great to hear! Fai and Mokona have been a great help to us, but business is booming! Ayame will have your next deliveries ready soon, so why don't you two rest up for a bit while she gets them ready? Get to it!"
"Thank you sir, we will." I said to Teuchi, who went back to work. Kurogane and I proceeded inside to the kitchen, where a flurry of activity was taking place. Fai was in the corner, preparing noodles for the ramen, while Ayame worked on the other side of the small room, her hands expertly packing the boxes. Mokona sat next to Fai, stirring a medium sized pot, and occasionally tasting the substance that it was cooking.
At the sound of our arrival, Ayame whipped her head back to greet us. "Oh! You're back! This is great; I have more deliveries for you. I'll have them ready in a sec."
I nodded my thanks but she didn't see as she went back straight to her work. Shrugging, I stepped over to Fai, with Kurogane following reluctantly behind me.
"Hey Fai," I greeted him. He turned around.
"Syaoran! Kuro-pippi! Mokona and I missed you! Isn't that right, Mokona?"
"The creature paused from its work to reply. "Yes," It said mournfully. "Mokona really missed Kuro-tan. It not fun without youuuu~!"
Kurogane's hand twitched. Fai laughed.
"Aww, look Mokona-chan! I think he wants to hug you!"
"Kuro-chan wants to hug me?!"
"No!" The black-haired man growled.
"I can't hear you!" Mokona sang. More quickly than I would have thought possible, Mokona dropped the spoon and catapulted off the counter landing on Kurogane's face, and a commotion ensued between the two.
I sidled over closer to Fai. "Mokona seems to enjoy being a distraction."
Fai nodded, draining noodles from the boiling water. "They sure know how to make sure someone isn't overheard. Now what was it that you wanted to tell me?"
The story spilled out from my lips like a waterfall. I was rushing to get all the important details in during the small amount of time we had, as Kurogane and Mokona couldn't go on forever.
Fair listened intently during my story, and his carefree expression faded to one of seriousness.
"So these 'ninja men'" Fai quoted, while getting the water ready for the next batch of noodles, "Are coming to see us later, yes?"
"Yep. They didn't say when though, but I could hazard a guess that it would be sometime in the evening, but we need to get our story straight.
"That we do." Fai said, tapping a finger on his chin, thinking. From his stance, he looked to be the epitome of thoughtfulness.
As he reached onto an upper shelve to grab a box of noodles, he finally spoke. "It's bad timing that they happened to come to you today, and their visit makes things a little bit difficult."
"I know. Do you think there is any chance we could all slip away at one point today?"
"There will be a lunch break, but that's later in the day. I'm sure we can pull off offering to get more supplies from the house, but that will be maybe another hour or two away – I don't know. So just get the deliveries done and-
"Syaoran! Kurogane! The packages are ready!" Ayame called, abruptly ending our conversation. It was our time to go.
Mokona seemed to appear out of nowhere as it climbed back onto the counter, and returned to stirring it's soup – and it was wearing a cheeky smile. Kurogane stalked out of the room, grabbing the package Ayame held out to him. I grabbed my own, and listened to her directions.
"Now Syaoran, both of your packages will be going to the Aburame Clan, which is just straight down the road – you can't miss it. Meanwhile, Kurogane's package shall be going to the Yamanaka Clan, and to get there you would cross over to the road closest to the hospital, and continue straight down that main road. Again, it's not that hard to find. Now be off with you, and be sure to tell Kurogane the instructions! I'm sure he's a little bit sulky after that scuffle with Mokona-chan." Mokona giggled from the counter, while Ayame blew the creature a kiss, and sighed. "I do love that Mokona, it's so adorable! Anyway, good luck!"
"Thank you, Ayame!" I gave a small bow and walked over to Kurogane, who waited on the road. Teuchi gave us a wave.
"Well?" He demanded, with his arms crossed, leaning against a tree. I relayed the instructions that Ayame had given me.
"Road closest to the hospital, and continue straight down." He repeated. "Alright, I got it. I'll stop by any shops to see if I can find anything else out. Later, kid."
"Later." I said, and started walking down the seemingly endless road in which my destination lay.
Well, that's that! Probably not the most exciting way to leave off, but I promise you, there will be more surprises :D So, it's 11:30pm, I'm tired, and I wanted to have this chapter out tonight so I completely forgot what I was going to say here, oh well.
Anyway, as usual, comments are loved, critiques are welcome, and flames are not wanted. Thanks again!