Well, seeing as I now have to study for my Bachelor and I've just moved out of my parents house, I'm going to be really, really slow updating stuff. Sorry my dear readers, maintaining a house and studying just takes a lot of time.

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"Asas, what happened? Asas?" Kakashi said. Silence reigned. K.U. decided to check on the opponents progress, activating his radar. The subsequent overload caused a lot of sparks to fly out of his head in a spectacular fashion.

"OW! What the hell?" he exclaimed, losing his balance. The only way that could have happened was if...

"Guys, we're surrounded somehow by that same crystal those other guys were encased in." As an after thought, he added, "Oh, and by the way, that little light show left me blind and deaf, so I can't hear a thing you're saying. Gimme a couple of minutes to fix myself, I'll be alright."

"Defensive formation, Kiba, hide K.U." Kakashi ordered quickly. After stuffing K.U. underneath a nearby bush, Kiba formed a ring with the rest of the team, backs towards each other. Straining their individual senses, the group tried to pick up where their attacker would be coming from.

"Southeast, bearing directly towards us." Kiba whispered as he picked up a scent. Hinata focused her Byakugan.

"It's a seemingly normal woman, with jonin-level chakra reserves. There's something on her wrist, it looks like that crystal we found earlier." she said.

"Oh, let me correct you, dear, it is the crystal you saw earlier. Do you like my work?" a voice rang out. On a tree branch, Guren stood, smiling evilly. "I certainly hope so," she said, a blade formed on her wrist, "because you're about to become part of it." The group jumped apart just in time to avoid a huge crystal sprouting from the ground beneath them. Immediately several copies of Guren came out of hiding, engaging the team members separately and preventing them from regrouping.

Kiba dodged the first few swipes of the blade before capitalizing on an opening. Quickly stepping inside Guren's guard, he landed a devastating uppercut on her jaw, knocking her back and setting her up for the follow up.

"Fang over Fang!"

Guren jumped out of the way of the lethal tornado, only to be taken by surprise by a second tornado catching her in the back. Or so it seemed until she was replaced by a puff of smoke and a wooden log.

"What's the matter, can't hit a girl?" she mocked.

"What, are you a girl then?" Kiba retorted. A rain of hauntingly beautiful yet extremely deadly crystal spikes and a scream of rage were the answer.

"Sheesh, can't take a joke can you?" Kiba muttered as he barely dodged.

Pain. It was all his world existed of at the moment. A red hot iron poker was stuck in his lungs, being twisted around every time he breathed. He was glad for it. The pain meant he was still alive, and as long as he was alive, his comrades would get him. All he had to do in the meantime was just stay alive, put one foot in front of the other and keep breathing.

Step. Breathe. Repeat.

Gradually, he became aware of something else. Noises, sounds of battle coming from somewhere up ahead. Focussing, he could make out moving shapes in the distance. With a supreme effort of will, and using a nearby tree as a support, he sighted up the two combatants. One, he vaguely recognized as friendly and the other as hostile, but his loss of blood made it hard to focus. Breathe in. Breathe out. It appeared as if the friendly had won, but the hostile one had used an escape technique of sorts and was sneaking up from behind. It was a hard shot to make under normal circumstances, with all the objects in the way and the friendly so nearby, but he had to do it. Breathing in one last time, Asas aimed Ripper and squeezed the trigger.

Hinata was proud of herself, she, as chunin, had defeated a jonin level opponent without even a scratch on her person. She was about to confirm the kill when she froze. Standing not thirty meters away from her was Asas, with his strange weapon pointed right at her. Before she could do anything, the front of Ripper exploded sending something whizzing past her ear into a very surprised Guren clone. The thing that really made her freeze though was the fact that sticking out of Asas' side, just below his heart, was a two feet long crystal blade. Weakly, he held up his hand in a v sign, and then collapsed. Scant seconds later she was rushing the mortally wounded soldier to the group when overhead the giant crystal suddenly shattered, and Kakashi called over the radio.

"Relief is here, head count?"

"I am fine, but Asas is with me and heavily wounded!" Hinata replied quickly.

There was a familiar fog over his mind. Morphine. Why this time again? Oh yeah, freaky crystal bitch. Her clones had the same temperature as their surroundings, and therefore didn't show up on thermal imaging gear. Asas literally got stabbed out of the blue, only realizing what had happened when he switched back to normal vision after a confusing amount of pain pierced his chest. In the shock of getting stabbed, his brain had clung to a vague sense of purpose, namely get help. It was something drilled into him before he even gotten his hands on Ripper. Cracking open one eye, he tried to figure out where he the hell he was. He was on the forest floor, someone with pink hair was floating over his head. He knew that face from somewhere… Asas decided to ask his standard wake-up question.

"Am I-" he stopped in mid-sentence. Suppressed memories of a battlefield long ago came back to him. The girl had noticed he was awake by now, and was checking his pupils.

"Hey." Asas said hoarsely. She didn't return the greeting.

"How are you feeling?" she asked in a clipped tone.

"Okay I guess. Left lung hurts, but I guess that's natural when you get stabbed."

"Hm. Sit up please." she said, preparing a syringe. Asas did so.

"You know, you haven't really changed that much as an angel." he said. She froze mid-action.

"W-What?"

"Mithridates campaign. First deployment over New Colchis." he said, "Come on, you remember right? I remember, clear as yesterday…"

They were assigned to take and hold the industrial sector of the city, and while the former was surprisingly easy, the latter proved to be more of a challenge. Already an entire platoon was en route to just their position alone, and the bravo and gamma positions were facing the same kind of firepower. The preliminary attack consisted of a high precision bombing run by VTOL gunships.

"Cover!" Sgt. Nara shouted. Hurriedly the entire squad did so, the tell-tale shriek of the enemy's engines providing enough motivation for even the lazy officer to hurry up.

"Specialist, can you give me numbers, over?" Shikamaru asked when everyone had bunkered down.

"Going by radio chatter, five. Chance of sixth gunship approaching stealthily: Negligible. Use of Phoenix missiles is not recommended against this number of hostiles, over." responded K.U., dedicated sniper for this mission.

"Copy. Alright boys, you heard the soup can, wait for five of them bug brains to pass, then back to first base." Shikamaru replied, even as the first pair of missiles streaked overhead and wiped out a dummy machine-gun nest. Several decoy drones sped away, simulating wounded or fleeing soldiers. They too vanished in greasy flames. As quickly as it had started, it was over. The gunships passed, sunlight reflecting of their canopies, and then they were gone. Asas released a breath he didn't know he had been holding. Shaking, he stood up from his hiding place, and ran towards his designated foxhole inside an old warehouse. Already Naruto was there setting up the squad's heavy support, and Asas couldn't help but grin: Naruto actually had a lot of skill with the heavy machine-gun when it came down to it, even though he laughed madly and shouted phrases like 'One of these bullets has your name on it, and I'm gonna keep shooting till I find out whichone!' every time he pulled the trigger.

The last of their little team joined them; a pink haired female by the name of Sakura. Asas and Naruto hadn't met her until the briefing, so immediately they reverted to 'professional mode': no need to let her think they were rookies (even though all of them were).

"According to command the enemy should be here in fifteen seconds." she whispered. They tensed; it was to be their first true battle. Soon enough, the low grunts of the aliens could be heard as they checked for opposition. The first rounded the corner; and Hell was unleashed.

"Dakkaaah!" Naruto screamed as he sighted up target after target. Asas and Sakura picked off individual targets he missed, supporting him as best they could. Suddenly, a rocket screamed towards their position. There was no time to react as it slammed into an overhead beam, loosening it and sending it crashing down upon them.

Coughing to clear the dust from his lungs, Asas checked on his teammates.

"Everyone okay?" he called out.

"They killed my gun! My gun!" Naruto shouted as if he'd lost a leg.

"Okay, you're fine. Sakura?" Asas said, looking around for his pink haired teammate.

"This… isn't good right?" said a weak, surprised voice from off the floor. A piece of shrapnel had punctured her vest, and Sakura was staring at the blood on her hand with disbelief.

"Oh shit. Um, we need help. Relax, it'll be fine. Medic!" Naruto shouted the last word over his radio.

"Busy but on the way! Can you send backup to Bravo in the meantime?" came the reply. Asas and Naruto looked at one another for a second.

"I'll go." said Naruto, and he sprinted out. Asas smiled at Sakura.

"Hang on in there eh? We'll get out of here together alright." he said more confidently than he felt.

"Promise?" she asked wide eyed.

"Promise." he replied. Their radios crackled to life.

"Shit! Sasuke, inbound at your position, at least a dozen of 'em!" said Naruto's voice.

"I got them!" Asas replied, readying himself. He was surprised when another barrel appeared next to his own. Hoisting herself up onto the ruined machine-gun platform Sakura positioned herself so that she could easily duck in and out of cover without irritating her wound.

"You sure you want to do that?" asked Asas. She gave him a weak but determined nod.

"So… who gets most of 'em buys the other a drink?" Asas said, electing a smile from her.

The enemy came, and the fight was on. Every now and again, Asas called out to his teammate, shouting encouragements, battle-cries, tactics and whatnot. Eventually the battlefield quieted. Looking through the fog of war, Asas spied no more movement. He turned to Sakura.

"There. Told you we'd be okay." he said smiling. "Got six of the bastards. And you?"

"A-Also six." was the weak reply, but she smiled as she said it. Shuffling a little, she cringed as the steel shard moved around inside her.

"Wow, careful, careful. Medics will be here soon, relax now." Asas said quickly moving to support her.

"Okay." she said. All of a sudden her eyes widened, and with a speed that belied her injuries she raised her rifle and shot the alien about to ambush them. It looked surprised at the large hole were it's chest used to be a second earlier before dropping down dead.

"What the! Thanks Sakura…! Sakura?" Asas said. She was lying on the ground in a pool of her life fluids, the sudden movement having ripped her wound open further. Too far open, even Asas' layman's eyes could see that.

"Got seven… Guess… I win. Bye… Sasuke…" she said, a slight smile on her face. Her rifle clattered to the ground and her eyes started glazing over.

"I… feel cold… so… cold…" she whispered.

"No. God no. Don't-Don't do this, don't die on me! Come on! SAKURA!"

"Had a nasty case of shell-shock then, it was the first time I ever had someone on my squad die. But I guess… I got a second chance now, to keep you safe. I'll try not to mess up this time." Asas finished. Sakura remained silent.

"So… everything is fine now?" she asked quietly after a while.

"Beg pardon?" Asas said confused.

"You just barge in here like nothing happened and pretend that just because you knew her for a bit automatically means I feel the same way? That I should be happy?"

"You're losing me here…"

"You… You asshole!"

"Say what? What's going on, what am I missing?" Asas said, propping himself up on one elbow and trying to look at Sakura's face. She backed away.

"DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE?" She shrieked all of a sudden, angry and crying. "You tossed me away, like a nobody. You called me annoying, useless, a piece of trash! You expect me to forget that? To forgive all those things you did to me?"

"That wasn't me!"

"You wear the same face! You have the same voice!" she screamed, and added in a whisper, "You even evoke the same feelings…"

"I-"

"What? What do you want to do? What can you do? What can you possibly say to make up for everything you did?" Sakura was truly hysterical now.

"Sakura, I'm sorry." Asas said softly.

She looked up with teary eyes, trying to find any traces of a lie in his eyes. She found none. After a short silence he looked away, shifting uncomfortably under her gaze.

"You really aren't him, are you?" she asked quietly, no longer feeling the need nor the energy to shout.

"No, I'm not." he replied. She shifted to a different position, wrapping her arms around her knees as she leaned against a tree.

"I'm just so confused. You are the same on the outside, but on the inside you're completely different. Even in my dreams, I just don't know if I want you, the other, or a mix of you two…" her voice trailed off.

"Well, one is impossible, the other is a maybe, but the first is willing." Asas said. She looked up in surprise, and he blushed a bit as he smiled.

"If you'll have me." he added. It happened so fast he only registered what happened after she was on top of him mashing her lips against his.

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