Chapter One Hundred-Nine

The engine room was large and lit by lamps hanging from the ceiling. The engines themselves seemed to be deactivated, but Naomasa could see a lot of glass tubes that he guessed the energy that powered the air ships would flow through when in operation.

Naomasa had not actually been inside one of the airships before. He had stood on the decks of a few of them but he hadn't gone below decks to see its glorious and confusing innards.

"So you can see," Akio was telling them, "just as you have your ways of using the life energy of the world so too do we."

"This is all very fascinating," Shikamaru-sensei told him, "But I was wondering,"

"Why ourselves would have yourselves here to finalize matters and then delay by showing you this ship?" Akio asked, interrupting Shikamaru-sensei but not in an aggressive or overly rude way. The monk just smiled and his bald head seemed to shine in the lamplight of the ship's engine room, "Ah well I'm for confessing this is more for the Guanchayaun's benefit than yours."

"I don't follow." Hitomi sighed. "Are you telling me you're wasting their time because they asked me along?"

"I'm not for knowing, do you feel your time was wasted, Guancha?"

"My name is Hitomi, and I'm getting there." Hitomi said, arms folded over her impressive-

Nao shook his head before he could finish the thought and said, "He's just trying to be friendly, Hitomi-chan."

Hitomi scoffed, "If that's the case then be friendly without wasting our time, I have . . . things to attend to."

She was probably stopping herself from mentioning that she had a child to take care of, as she'd told him on the way over some things would need to be kept from their new friends.

But Akio smiled a friendly enough smile. He said, "Apologies then. But yes, to finalize matters . . . so we have the Genius of Konoha, the Lady of Whirlwinds, and the Son of Light, an impressive negotiation force sure enough."

"Son of Light?" Nao blinked.

"But of course. Were you not knowing that's what our brothers have been knowing you as?" Akio laughed, "Here was myself thinking I'd told you. Apologies again then. But you are very unique, had we known that bloodlines like your own existed in these lands ourselves would have been sending brothers here far sooner."

Nao wasn't so sure what that was supposed to mean but Shikamaru-sensei took what seemed like a protective step between him and Akio.

The priest seemed surprised and said, "Oh I'm not meaning anything menacing, we'd not be snatching Yin Chakra wielders from their beds and off into the Far Lands without so much as a goodbye."

Nao nodded slowly and said, "Well for what it's worth I don't think anyone knew about my family's abilities or anything like that until now, so no one could have told you."

Akio smiled again and said, "Well then, that's good for knowing. As for yourself, Genius of Konoha, I'm for thinking that you've spent enough time with us to know all we want."

Shikamaru-sensei nodded, "Well the treasuries aren't exactly brimming but we can offer to pay you in installments if you'll accept it."

"Payment?" Akio's smile actually wavered and he wrinkled his nose. The Monk said, "Good friend have you not learned a thing from us these few days? We're not for needing any payment other than your gratitude, your good thoughts and good will, and fair treatment."

Shikamaru-sensei bowed slightly, "I'm grateful, and I'm sorry if I offended you then. But that does beg the question . . ."

"Why you asked us here." Temari-sensei said flatly. "And more importantly why Hitomi is so important to you if you didn't know we were bringing her."

"Ah well I myself was hoping to discuss her but not as any form of payment."

Despite the assurance that she wasn't meant to be discussed as payment Hitomi still bristled at the comment. Naomasa wasn't sure what he should do, if he should just ignore it or put a hand on her shoulder or what.

He decided to try putting a hand on her shoulder, he was surprised by how warm she felt, even through her flak jacket. Was she keeping her fiery chakra close to the surface and ready for a fight?

He hoped not.

Still it did stop her from saying anything out of line or aggressive to Akio, though it seemed more like it was from annoyance that he was daring to put a hand on her rather than actually settling down.

She shot him a surprised look but Nao didn't waver.

Though he did think it was nice to see into her eyes for a change, especially since it made it so much easier to read her emotions. She wasn't annoyed with him, she just seemed surprised, even inquisitive.

So he told her, "I'm sure he didn't mean that the way it sounded."

"It's not like he's speaking a foreign language." Hitomi said, but she said it quietly almost privately between them.

"True, but remember their sentence structure is very different." Nao told her.

She sighed and nodded to him slightly.

And Akio for his part clarified, "You must understand she's not for these parts, her blood's not your blood."

"I beg to differ, she was born in this village and her father was a Konoha shinobi." Shikamaru-sensei said.

"True enough I'm sure, but then who would her mother have been?" Akio asked, "Perhaps a girl from another land, perhaps a girl with a strange accent?"

Hitomi's gaze lowered and she said, "My mother's accent was just the sort that comes from the Land of Waterfalls. She and my Grandfather were from there, wherever he and his family hailed from before that I'm from here."

"Ah and surely if I introduced yourself to a man from waterfall your mother's accent would be just like his and not more like mine." Akio smiled but Nao was starting to distrust that smile.

It was just too frequent.

Temari said, "Accents don't account for a lot, and anyway she's her own person. She's a Konoha shinobi now, and we're not interested in letting you abscond with her no matter how much of a help you've been."

Shikamaru-sensei seemed to sense that the situation was rapidly getting out of control and he said, "Um let's all just take a breath and count to ten. No one's suggested that."

"Indeed, myself I'm just saying this isn't where her blood hails from, I'm not saying you owe it all back to us." Akio told them.

"Then what are you saying?" Hitomi asked.

"That obviously we're for knowing where it does come from. Aren't you feeling anything in this ship, Guan—that is, Hitomi? Doesn't it feel like the call home?"

"No." Hitomi said, sounding almost confused. "Why would it? Konoha is my home and we finally have it back . . . I'm grateful that you and yours helped us to get it but I'm still a part of it, I still belong to it."

Akio nodded solemnly and said, "Then that's all there is to that."

"How troublesome, you ask us here to discuss that?" Shikamaru-sensei asked.

"Oh don't be misunderstanding, we've got matters of where our ships are going, what you want them to do with the prisoners they'll be returning with, but I confess especially with the loss of Keika rescuing this new Guanchayaun has pressed heavily on this one's mind, I'm for telling you! And I'm knowing her cousins would have been eager to see her."

"Well as much as I hate to disappoint family," Hitomi said, "how about we finalize things here and now so I can return to my master and tell him the good news?"

"For you, Guancha, of course." Akio said, then corrected himself, "That is, Hitomi-san."

Hitomi nodded to him and Temari smirked. She said, "So about the destinations for your ships, about how long do you think it'll take to reach the Serpent Shrines?"

"We're sure to be there sooner than warning can travel but even if we aren't my brothers are adept at hunting the darkness. We'll be gone from your lands before the snows arrive, but myself is hoping we'll be returning come the spring in far less martial setting."

"Do you mean establishing trade?" Shikamaru-sensei asked.

"To be sure I do." Akio nodded. "To be sure many elders more senior than me will be wanting to come as well to see such a miraculous land, so different from what we imagined."

"I'm sure that'd be fine, I think we'd like that." Shikamaru-sensei said.

Akio nodded vigorously and smiled, he made a motion with his hands and several people who had vacated the engine room so that Akio could show it to them returned. Two monks came in as well with a tray of green tea which they offered to everyone as they exited the room.

Hitomi and Shikamaru-sensei didn't have any, but Naomasa accepted some gratefully. He was thirsty, and actually rather liked their green tea.

Akio smiled and said to him, "So Son of Light, I'm for wondering, since I'm not for being able to take the Guanchayaun back to her blood with me what of yourself and your blood? Are you for feeling like you might want to come to the Far Lands? Perhaps yourselves are having some long lost relatives of your own in my lands."

Naomasa had to admit he hadn't really thought about it. He hadn't known it was an option.

But it'd be a nice idea, and if that was where Hitomi's family hailed from—albeit a generation or two down the line—maybe he could learn something he could bring back to her that'd really help her out, or help her feel more . . . well, normal.

"Nao's not going anywhere." Hitomi answered for him, "He's a Konoha shinobi the same as me."

He raised an irritated eyebrow. Hitomi gave him a surprised look.

"What?" She asked, "You're not thinking of going are you?"

Nao shrugged. It was funny, he'd been thinking just a moment ago that he didn't quite trust Akio's smile but things had deescalated rather nicely and he had to admit the chance to see the world . . . well . . .

He said, "My father wanted an Ishida in every Land, well I could be the first Ishida in the Far Lands."

Hitomi's beautiful eyes widened and she said, "Um . . . you're staying here though, right?"

"Why?" Naomasa asked as politely as he could, though it was a challenge.

Why did she think she could order him around?

Hitomi grabbed his hand and she said, "You can't go because you've got to show me how to use that Jutsu, remember? I swore to you I'd never use it my way again if you could fix it so if you go you're making me a liar."

"I'm not making you anything." Naomasa shrugged again and pulled his hand away.

Hitomi looked even more surprised, she whispered, "Nao after everything I told you-"

"After everything." He confirmed. "I just want to make my own decisions, thanks. Don't you agree, Sensei? I mean I got thrown from an airship on a collision course with a pair of giant demon-monsters just a few days ago shouldn't I get a bit of R and R?"

Shikamaru-sensei said, "I think that's a great idea when the trade ships arrive. There could be a real future in tourism, but maybe you should let Akio set things up first."

"He won't be any trouble, Genius of Konoha." Akio said with a smile. "I could take him this very night."

"Hmm. Well it might be a bit of a drag for him but he should really discuss it with his parents and siblings first. He should also discuss it with Hitomi-san here."

"What?" Nao blinked. "Sensei please . . . there's nothing there." He grumbled.

"That's an awfully cold thing to say in front of your fiancée, Ishida but in any case I'll let her be the one to handle you. Not a word of argument, do you hear me?" Shikamaru-sensei ordered, giving Nao a look that after years together he knew to obey.

"Ah, you and her? I had no idea." Akio said, bowing slightly, "How rude of me."

"Well no harm done, right?" Shikamaru-sensei said.

Temari-sensei gave her husband an odd look but Shikamaru-sensei just gently lifted the cup of tea from her hand and then Naomasa's as well and handed them both to Akio.

"I think we'll go now. Thank you for everything, Akio. I'll see you in the morning after we've all had time to think on tonight's events. If anything else needs to be discussed we can discuss it then, along with Nartuo-sama, and maybe Gaara-san."

"Of course. I'll look forward to it." Akio smiled.

He had a very honest smile, Naomasa thought.

To Be Continued . . .

Note: Sorry these updates haven't been on time, it's been crazy at work and I haven't had time to write anything. COED only gets updates because those chapters were written months ago in advance, if schadenfreude helps they're getting close to knowing your pain then I'll be disappointing even more people than I am now! But I wanted to put something out today, sorry if it's a bit shorter than you might otherwise like.