A/N: And now, the FINAL Mudkip story installment... I'm actually quite proud of how this all ends, especially the bit with Neji. Loyal lovers of Lee and Kips of Mud, enjoy the chapter- it's been a blast.
The dust roiled over the top of the hill, even before the first column of Mudkips stormed over it's crest; soon the road was alive with little scrambling blue things, a veritable river of freed Pokemon kicking up clumps of dirt and grass. They were being herded en masse, like cattle through the old West; you could practically hear the Bonanza theme.
"HEE-YAH!" Tenten shouted, clutching the reins of an imaginary, rearing stallion. Adjusting a fake cowboy hat, she galloped along; roundup at the Mudkip corall.
"Head 'em up, move 'em out- keep them doggies rollin', RAWHI-" Gai sang.
"Please, Hoss." Neji pleaded exhaustedly, keeping his post at the rear. A sleepless night could only push him closer to seppuku if everyone kept singing. Luckily, they obliged him and moved on in silence.
Through rain and wind and weather, puddles and rivers and sandbars, the mudkip army advanced; the only sound to color their banner was that of a four hundred marching feet, and the sighs of the stoic Hyuuga when the young mudkiplings began to fall behind and had to be carried. By the time they reached the checkpoint for Konohagakure, Neji had tucked in his shirt in order to haul the multitudes, who peeked out of his sleeves and collar or napped, completely enjoying the ride.
Illegal at best outside of the Fire County's jurisdiction, the mass smuggling of Mudkips would be akin to sneaking emus over the border. They had to get these Kips of Mud to safety, just beyond the towering rashomongate who's carved faces leered down, their final challenge.
It's Team Gai, so you know they're gonna do it big. And oddly.
The high screams of a woman in pain shook the set of young guards at the passage-point; by the time the tall figure of a man had raced up, a burgeoning figure folded in his arms bride-style, they had managed to regain composture.
"You must help us!" Gai cried in a peasant's rough accent, over Neji's wild shouts. It was now clear, even in the dim light of the cresting dawn, that the long-haired form in Gai's arms bore a stomach swollen to the size that it seemed a nine year-old could have been doubled up inside her abdomen.
"My daughter is giving birth to-"
"Septuplets." Tenten whispered.
"SEPTUPLETS!" Gai finished, shaking Neji for emphasis. "We have to get to Konoha Hospital, so the legendary Tsunade-sama can deliver all six of them!"
"Seven." Tenten whispered again.
"All seven of them!" Gai corrected, looking desperate. Latin be damned, if he could read 5,000 kanji.
The guards cast a worried look over the disheveled party following the panicked man, dressed in a most unusual suit of skin-tight, verdant fabric. If he didn't look so suspicious, they would have simply let him wander through, a helpless madman.
"Where are you from? Where are your papers?" the young man asked.
"From Numagakure, please, we're just poor civil servants and we can't have these babies born in our village. The scandal would destroy our whole clan. My daughter Neji-ko here isn't married yet, and you can see-"
"What's in the bags?"
"Oh, birthing things," Tenten answered lightly, smiling. With a hidden hand she pinched sharply on the side of the bag closest to her front, reminding the mud kips to hold still. "You know- forceps, the CD of whale sounds…"
"… Maam, your bags are moving." the uniformed man noted, pointing to the protruding bulge of a kicking Mudkip foot.
"No, they're not." Gai responded immediately.
"…Yes, they are."
"No, I'm sure you are mistaken..."
Rolling his eyes, Neji began a new fit of wailing, clutching his squirmy, pregnant belly and cursing God.
"Please, sir!" Lee stepped in, two more bags heaved upon his shoulders as though he were some sort of mountain pack mule. He was wearing a fisherman's head twist, the disguise clashing with his borderline-tacky Gai imitation. "Let us through, and we will leave some collateral behind to ensure our return! We must get my sister to proper care!"
"What kind of collateral?"
"That was beyond wrong!" Tenten accused of them once the team had discarded their guises and were safely out of earshot.
"You're telling me," 'Neji-ko' murmured, twisting his girlish hair back into a manly-man style. His stomach was still full, however, as most of the little Mudkips had fallen asleep from the sway of his gait.
"I'm an unwed mother of septuplets and about twenty little Mudkips…"
"Now, now- let's buck up." Gai commented, striding at the head of the herd. "We'll buy Tenten a new pack of underthings when we get back to the village, and Neji- you'd better tell me who the father is before we get to the gates!"
The original Mudkip tucked safely under his arm, Lee glanced down and exchanged a smile with his little companion; they were home free, now.
"Let 'er rip, Tenzou…"
"Kakashi-senpai…" Yamato wept, massaging his forehead. "You're not supposed to call me by my real name…"
"Whatever. Just do it." the grey-haired Jonin spat back, never looking up from his book.
With a zen sigh, the poor abused Yamato raised both hands skyward and collected the powers of the earth therein; when he slammed the left fist against the ground, the earth sunk into pools and shot up at once, for a distance that made even Tsunade whistle under her breath.
Eyes closed, Yamato then brought the right fist downwards, slamming the ground and then lifting clenched fingers back behind his head. Great spurts of groundwater exploded from the earth, jetting fountains high into the air to rain back down in spectrum-colored sheets; the depths began to fill with this, and after some time Yamato let the hand that wielded earth close slowly, cutting off the flow from the inside of the ground. With a great exhalation, the ANBU general slapped his hands together; green chakra buzzed to life between those palms, and with the slightest touch up roared protective trees and shelters; the seedlings of underground plants, soon to sprout into a jungle of bliss for knee-high creatures. Climbing areas, small bridges were carefully placed, overhangs and warm winter dens, all at Yamato's perfectionist whims. The final touch demanded that he stomp the ground with one foot, sending the huge pylons of an impenetrable wall all around this new natural development. When the earth finally stopped rumbling from the massive changes wrought, Yamato fell squarely on his butt to the ground, sighing with exhaustion.
"They better be some special bastards…" he rumbled. "That was a lot of chakra."
"They are, I promise." Tsunade said smilingly, dropping a hand on his broad shoulder. "And don't worry, you'll be amply rewarded for this."
"Does that mean a date with Shizune?" he inquired.
"Don't push your luck. Now open a gate for them."
Turning around, the Godaime swept her arms in a come-forth gesture; instantly poured forth the jovial group of mudkip refugees, who roared into their new, safe home with animal shrieks of joy.
"I hereby declare the Konohagakure Mudkip Sanctuary open and functional!" she cried, to which generalized delight was expressed by the picnicking crowd who had turned out to see the beginnings of a new zoo enclosure. At the front of the crowd, however, stood one boy smiling so brightly that it seemed almost impossible to make a sound.
Mudkip and his family were some of the last to pass through the doorway; Mudkip's mate and the little kiplings cavorted happily inside with hardly a glance behind. But just short of strolling in, the Mudkip who'd started it all rotated slowly, scanning the high array of faces for one in particular.
When they met eyes, Lee dipped his head in a light bow, thanking Mudkip for the adventure and his companionship. And Mudkip imitated him, lowering his bucket head in recognition of all Lee had done for him and his relatives.
And so went the story of Mudkip and Team Gai, who were given free passes to the Mudkip Zoo for the rest of their lives; the place became a real draw for the Land of Fire, and Naruto would spend nearly every summer confined there, grumbling and watching over the motley little gift-shop. Just so that no one would forget the heroic story, the village elders paid for a small concrete statue to be cast, with a respectful plaque at it's feet. It began as a likeness of Lee beside one of the Pokemon, but Gai talked them into making a gravid replica of Hyuuga Neji instead, looking heavily prenatal as he timelessly bore the burden of a shirt full of little mud kips. The statue was vandalized four times by the Hyuuga in question, who had his pass revoked.
And Lee and Mudkip remained the best of friends, visiting over the years as they aged and expanded their families.
A/N: Don't forget to review!
A/N: Don't forget to review!