Disclaimer: I do not own Tsubasa, Naruto, or any of the characters, locations, etc. in either series.


This Sword Not for Resale

"This world doesn't have a feather," Mokona proclaimed, "but it does have Kuro-rin's sword!"

In their last world, Yuko had contacted the group and hit them with news that caused Kurogane to growl and throw a bottle of sake at the nearest wall. As she had warned them she might at the beginning of their journey, she had sold Fai's tattoo and Kurogane's sword to customers at her shop. Fai had taken Yuko's impromptu announcement well, in keeping with his determination to get rid of all reminders of his previous life.

Kurogane, on the other hand, had been furious.

After much swearing and many threats, Yuko had finally said, "Well, Kurogane-san, if you want Ginryuu back so badly, you'll just have to persuade the current owner to part with it."

"Well, where is the current owner?" Kurogane had asked through clenched teeth. Yuko had informed the group (for a price, of course) that they would have a chance of encountering the owner in the next world they visited.

Not that it was that simple. Once in the designated world, they had to find a particular city and make sure they were within its walls after sunset on a certain date. Yuko had also refused to give them specific information about Ginryuu's new owner, except to say that Kurogane would recognize her when he saw her. "Well of course I'll recognize her, she'll be carrying my sword!" Kurogane had retorted, and Yuko had graced him with one of her infuriating smiles in response.

So here they were, in the required city on the required day, waiting for sunset. Just to make things more difficult, this world appeared to be in the middle of a major festival, which meant that there were crowds of people everywhere. The festival was similar to one that was celebrated in Kurogane's home world: O-bon, a day to honor one's deceased ancestors. It was a day when far-flung kinsmen congregated in their ancestral home cities, to leave offerrings at the graves of their predecessors and float paper lanterns on rivers to represent the soul's journey to the afterworld. Many believed that the spirits of the honored ancestors also returned to their earthly homes at this time, to look upon their still-living relatives once more.

As the sun set, most of the people made their way outside the walls of the city towards a river that wound through the surrounding forest to participate in the toro nagashi, the lantern-floating ceremony. Yuko had been very specific about the fact that the group must be within the city walls after sunset, so Kurogane and his companions remained behind.

"Look!" Fai exclaimed with his characteristic enthusiasm. "There's some people over there, Kuro-wan! Maybe one of them has your sword!" Without waiting for a response, the mage flounced over to a section of the city that they hadn't yet visited. Sure enough, several dozen people were mingling in a large plaza underneath numerous paper lanterns, all of which had the same fan-shaped emblem emblazoned on them.

Kurogane and the others followed Fai into the plaza, Kurogane scrutinizing every passerby to see if any of them were carrying his prized katana. "Some of these people look like you," Fai whispered to him, presumably commenting on the prevalence of dark hair and red eyes among the group.

At some point, Sakura wandered slowly away from the others to watch people playing a game that involved trying to catch goldfish swimming around in a small pool. Naturally, she caught a small, bright orange goldfish on her first try. The two other participants in the game, a boy and girl of about her own age, clapped and cheered. As the girl turned to congratulate Sakura, Kurogane's breath caught. Not only did she have Ginryuu strapped to one hip, but her face was instantly familiar. Yuko hadn't been lying when she said Kurogane would recognize his sword's new owner when he saw her.

Kurogane shoved people out of his way as he hurried over to Sakura and her new friends. "Tomoyo...hime?" he said, out of breath.

The girl looked confused for a moment, then began to laugh. "My name is Tomoyo, but the only one who calls me 'Princess' is my dad. Do I know you?" Although she was a dead ringer for Kurogane's Tomoyo in terms of physical appearance, her clothing was very different. Like most of the other festival-goers in the plaza, she wore a dark blue cotton yukata with the same symbol on the back that graced the lanterns above. In addition, she wore a headband with a metal plate at the front. The symbol of this city was carved into the metal plate, which marked the girl as a ninja.

"Ah, Kurogane-san," Sakura quickly interjected, "this is Tomoyo-chan and Obito-san. And these are my friends, Fai-san, Kurogane-san, Syaoran-san, and Mokona-kun."

"Pleased to meet you!" Mokona chirped, bouncing onto Obito's head.

"Ah!" Obito cried in surprise, waving his arms around comically while Tomoyo and Sakura giggled.

Kurogane cleared his throat, recapturing everyone's attention. "That sword of yours, where did you get it?"

"Oh, this? My big brother bought it for me when I graduated from the Academy. He got it at some little shop he visited during a mission to the Water Country."

Kurogane cursed under his breath, knowing full well who ran that little shop. "Listen, that sword used to be mine. I sold it to the owner of the shop, but I thought the sale was temporary. The old hag went and sold it to someone else without even telling me! It wasn't your brother's fault," he added hastily. "It's just that that woman is deceptive and dishonest and completely improper and..." he trailed off, unable to think of any more insulting adjectives he could use to describe Yuko. "Anyway, will you sell it back to me?"

Tomoyo stood, and Kurogane couldn't help thinking that such a small person looked a bit ridiculous carrying around a huge sword like Ginryuu. He used it as a katana, but for someone so short, it would function as a much longer sword--a nodachi, perhaps. She had obviously taken good care of it, though--the scabbard was spotless, and the dragon-shaped hilt gleamed. The tiny emeralds that served as the dragon's eyes glimmered in the lantern-light. "You're a ninja, right?" Kurogane asked. "Can you actually use that thing?"

"Of course," Tomoyo said. "Watch, if you want." She stepped back, and the surrounding people quickly cleared out of her way, obviously sensing that some sort of demonstration was in the offing. Tomoyo expertly drew the sword and began to run through a series of moves with it. As Kurogane had thought, she handled Ginryuu the way he would have handled a nodachi. For someone so young, he had to admit that she was fairly skillful. She moved efficiently, wasting as little energy as possible. She knew strikes designed to combat opponents attacking from the front, sides, or rear, with superior or inferior reach to her own weapon. When she sheathed Ginryuu, Obito cheered enthusiastically, while the other onlookers contented themselves with polite applause.

"That wasn't bad," Kurogane said, which Syaoran knew was high praise coming from him. "Look, if you give Ginryuu back to me, I'll pay you enough money to buy yourself another sword. One that's actually designed for someone your size."

"Money?" Tomoyo asked, looking confused. "What makes you think I'd need money?"

Kurogane blinked. "Doesn't everyone?"

"Kurogane-san..." Sakura piped up tentatively. "I thought you knew. These people...they're..."

What they were, Kurogane didn't get to hear, because at that moment, a clock in some distant corner of the city began to chime. Twelve bells that sounded somehow melancholy. It was midnight--the official beginning to a new day, and the end of O-bon.

To Kurogane's surprise, everyone around him reacted instantly to the ringing of the clock. Still chatting amongst themselves, they began to file away towards the opposite end of the plaza.

"Look!" Syaoran cried, pointing at the retreating crowd. To Kurogane's amazement, the people seemed to be fading away as they retreated, growing steadily more translucent until they finally seemed to disappear completely as they reached the other side of the plaza.

"What's going on?" he growled, and then realized that the two young people still standing in front of him were fading away too.

"We can't stay here much longer," Tomoyo said. She unstrapped Ginryuu from her belt and held it out to him. "You can have this back, if you want." Seeing Kurogane's hesitation, she added, "I honestly don't mind--you need it a lot more than I do, now. And you mustn't feel bad that your sword wasn't able to protect me. Gai-sensei always said that a weapon is only as strong as the warrior who wields it, and I was only a genin. Besides, it did the best it could. I felt that. This weapon...it truly wants to help its master protect the people they care about."

Kurogane smiled slightly. "Yeah, it does," he replied as he took Ginryuu back.

"Bye, Sakura-chan!" Obito waved cheerily as he and Tomoyo faded away, leaving the travelers alone. The plaza looked very different now. It was dark and deserted, with no trace of the bright lanterns or colorful paper streamers that had adorned it only a few minutes before.

Kurogane stared thoughtfully at Ginryuu for a few moments before attaching it to his belt. We'll get stronger, he promised himself, as Mokona prepared to whisk them away to the next world. Ginryuu and I will train together, and next time Tomoyo-hime--any Tomoyo-hime--is in danger, we will be able to save her.

Then Mokona's transportation ability activated, and the group of wanderers disappeared from the world of Konoha as if they, too, were ghosts.


A/N: And so, we have a nice little ghost story for the Halloween season. I suppose you could call it slightly AU, since Kurogane gets Ginryuu back...

A nodachi is a type of Japanese sword that's even longer than a katana. A yukata is a light cotton garment meant to be worn when the weather is very hot (O-Bon is typically held at the height of summer).

For anyone who's awaiting the next chapter of "A Rain of Endless Leaves," don't worry, I haven't abandoned it. I'm actually halfway through writing the next chapter--I just wanted to finish this first so that I could get it posted before Halloween. I was intending for it to be a surprise that Tomoyo and the others were ghosts--I was hoping to present the impression at first that the Tsubasa group had arrived in the Narutoverse's past, when Obito and the other Uchiha were still alive. I don't know if the revelation actually came as a surprise like I meant it to.

I seem to be doing a lot of crossover fics lately...

Happy (early) Halloween, everyone!