Sasuke stared at his hand. It was bandaged, fingers themselves still visible though the rest of the hand all the way up to his elbow was wrapped in rather foul-smelling cloth. They were treated bandages, designed to help augment chakra flow to the area to assist in healing.
It was good, too, because without them it would have taken months to repair the fracture in his right arm. He'd slammed his fist into Kiba's face so hard that the blow-back broke his arm in two places and tore much of the skin off his knuckles. The blow had thrown Kiba into the wall and secured his victory.
From what was said, Kiba was going to be fine; the medical-nin weren't slouches, and such minor reconstructive work was simple. The blow sounded far worse than it actually was; Sasuke had thrown chakra to enhance it, but that was only because he was so exhausted physically that without it his fist would have done next to nothing, and he hadn't even had enough left to reinforce his arm from the blow, hence the damage to himself.
He had stared at Kiba's crumpled body for a moment, arm outstretched. Silence had fallen over the room; even his cheering fangirls seemed to have stopped. Sasuke looked up, over to where his brother, his hokage, was watching. Vision fading, he struggled to see the expression on Itachi's face. Did he do well? Did he prove he wasn't just second-rate?
Sasuke was rushed to the infirmary alongside his opponent. That was hours ago now; he hadn't seen anyone since he'd woken up. The young Uchiha felt so drained; he could barely feel the chakra flowing through his arm. He fell back, head slumping against the pillow. He stared at the unfamiliar ceiling, smelled the clean, antiseptic air, and sighed.
"I wonder if that counted as a win..."
It was to Sasuke's credit that he didn't shoot out of his bed in surprise. Indeed, he was so tired that all he could really muster was to turn his head. Naruto was crouching on the dresser. The various accouterments that had once been on top of it where a scattered mess, but his blond-hair teacher seemed rather unperturbed by this fact.
"You're going on to the finals, against one of the foreign ninja. The chick, from the Waterfall village. Very kicky," he said hopping down. He opened his mouth again, but Sasuke cut him off.
"How is Kiba?"
That, it seemed, caught Naruto slightly off guard, but he smiled nevertheless.
"And here I was about to lecture you... he's fine. He refused to have his face completely repaired, too; he says it looks more 'rugged now,' and he's already saying how he's going to demand a rematch."
Naruto's smile fell slightly as he continued to speak.
"I spoke with his sensei, as well. Another rookie, like me. Kurenai was understanding, though. One of her other students... Ino, I think it is? She seems quite taken with you," Naruto said, grinning lecherously at the end. Sasuke groaned, but that just made Naruto cackle.
"Yeah, well, what about Hinata?"
Naruto nearly choked on his laughter at that, "W-what do you mean?"
"How is she?" Sasuke said, choosing to ignore the other response. The last thing he needed was to imagine any more awkwardness out of his teacher or teammate. It was just... weird.
"Oh! Yeah, she's fine. Had a chat, much better now." Naruto scratched the back of his head and laughed, "She won too! Took on some other Konoha guy, older class than you. Nasty stuff, chakra drainer. She was amazing, though! The way she moved, wouldn't let him touch her at all! Watch out, you might have a rival in the finals, I think!"
Sasuke turned back to stare at the ceiling, wondering if perhaps wishing for company was the wrong thing to do; he'd forgotten how exhausting his sensei's exuberance could be. "And Shikamaru?"
"He's good too. Got a bye, can you believe that? He just called it troublesome anyway, though, big surprise there. Well, you seem tired, so I'm gonna head out, see ya!"
He was gone before Sasuke could even respond.
Amongst the dark night of the village, three figures stood and spoke in hushed tones. Most foreign visitors were either invited to stay with a clan or family for the duration. The few that weren't, for one reason or another, were lodged in one of the more prestigious areas of the village. There was much security, and yet for this reason, the three elite jounin found it all the easier to slip away to conduct their covert meeting.
"One of your students did not pass into the finals. Will you still be able to hold up your end of the bargin?"
Ji tapped his cane against the ground and huffed softly; he did not care for these Hidden Void Village types. They had power; they'd shown that quite readily, which is why the Hidden Waterfall Village had agreed to join them in their otherwise suicidal action against the Hidden Leaf Village. Ji wasn't really sure he entirely agreed even now; but the Jounin Council had been swayed, and that was that.
It was Ji's place to facilitate the actual execution of the plans with them, and he would follow his orders. That was his place, as a shinobi. He didn't, however, have to like it. As fate would have it, he didn't. At all.
"Seok's loss was not unexpected, nor unacceptable. Indeed, I think it serves as a useful distraction; I don't think I need to remind you that our actions here will secure our place in the world; this test, it is irrelevant."
"Covering for your student?" Riko said. She drew out the words, tone almost playful. Or it would be if it didn't make the older man's skin crawl. Too experienced to let it show, though he suspected she did it on purpose, Ji simply tapped his cane again. However, it was the woman's erstwhile companion who responded first.
"No, he is correct," Katio said, "Though our own were never intended to last, one of theirs failing out serves to deflect further suspicion. Do not forget, only the one need be in the arena."
"The Waterfall risks much in this; I question if you can deliver upon your promises." Ji tapped his cane again, eyes darting between the two. The woman, she was slippery, rarely seeming to say much of importance. Her male companion, on the other hand, spoke more clearly. Ji had learned to pay attention to the by play between the two, however, as the real flow of the conversation.
"Aren't you a cheeky one." Riko shifted up next to him. He remained still, a remarkable show of self-restraint. He spoke to Kaito, ignoring his repulsive companion.
"Are your operatives in place, then?"
"Of course." Kaito folded his arm across his chest. "The Elemental Five are our finest field agents; they'll be in place when..."
He stopped suddenly, face turning off into the darkness.
"Spooked, my dear Ito?" Riko cooed, hiding their own worries behind a playful tone; Kaito Ito was nothing if not precise and ordered. He did not spook, period.
Kaito waited a moment, expression remaining the same throughout despite his movement.
"No," he said finally, turning back, "It was nothing."
Kakashi appeared mostly suddenly, stepping out from the reality-defying swirl one moment and placing a hand on the shoulder of Itachi the next.
"Sorry, I need to borrow him for a moment," he said to the hokage's dark-haired female companion. Itachi's long-suffering lover didn't even bat an eyelash; this wasn't the first time Kakashi had entered this way, nor would it be the last. She simply sighed as the ANBU Captain and Itachi disappeared in yet another swirl.
No rest for the wicked, it would seem.
I'm easily distracted and finding time to finish things out is hard. I've had most of this sitting on my hard drive for a few months, but my issue is always FINISHING it. I figured a better way is to just post what I have to make it clear it ain't dead.
Small bites, I'd say, will become the name of the game.
Also, for those interested, I have a thread for this up on the SpaceBattles forums. Google it. Its in the Creative Writing section, might be a few posts back. Expect snips and chapter bits there before its updated here, likely.
Nothing to say about this, it was simple enough and I barely had anything to correct. Coincidentally, though, I just updated my Digimon fic yesterday!
Probably there's no crossover of interest here, but hey, I'm proud of this chapter and it's worth a shot!
Land of Lightning
Conventional Leadership: 3.5
Unconventional Leadership: 4.5
Conventional Military: 4
Unconventional Military: 4.5
The Land of Lightning was the second of the elemental countries to form and the second to have a Hidden Shinobi Village. Due to mountainous terrain that makes it hard to maintain large farming industry, the Land of Lighting is unsuitable for large populations, but makes up for this by producing a hardy, prosperous people who have thrived in otherwise quite verdant lands. Lightning Country is flush with natural resources, particularly ore and stone for obvious reasons, but also has a surprisingly large fishing industry due to a number of large lakes that make the mountainous country ironically highly dependent on fishing as a source of food. Although the Land of Lightning does not have the greatest quantities of raw metals and precious stones, they do have the mines that produce it with the greatest quality. Lightning Steel is synonymous with quality.
This concept of quality over quantity makes the Land of Lightning the closest to the Land of Fire in modus operandi, though the Land of Lightning takes it one step further in some cases, mostly due to necessity. Unable to maintain the population or economy of the Land of Fire, the Land of Lightning instead has invested even more in infrastructure to more efficiently use the materials they do have at hand. Their relative proximity and more open nature also means that they have prospered militarily, with a number of ronin samurai from the Land of Iron having made their homes in the Land of Lightning hundreds of years ago. This cross-pollination has led to a unique trend amongst both the conventional and unconventional military forces of the country.
Augmented by their easy access to extremely high quality metal and the mix of samurai and shinobi traditions, kenjutsu is elevated to an almost universal art amongst the warriors of the Land of Lightning. Swordsmen make up a large bulk of their conventional forces, and even the pikemen and archers employed always carry a sword, likely one of their personal ownership as well, unlike the loanswords that the ashigaru of other nations are known for. Shinobi are almost universally trained in the use of the sword in one form or another, even if they choose not to follow it as a dedicated discipline.
This old tradition of martial prowess has also led to a remarkably large standing army. Land of Lightning caravans are well guarded, shipping high-quality metals and stones all across the world under the best swords money can buy, and often then some. Unlike the Land of Fire, the Land of Lightning has not backed down from their standing forces in the wake of the forced cease-fire and ostensible peace, very much seeing the war as still active, even as their traders now return to the Land of Fire to do business. Both the Daiymo and Raikage see this as a necessary evil, and are willing to exploit it for the intelligence opportunities it presents rather than trying to hinder it, something that would only cause long term pain for the nation as a whole.
Both the Raikage and the Daimyo greatly distrust each other, but work together based upon the greater external threat. However, much like the trade that has returned to the world, the distrust and enmity between the two has returned even if they try to pretend the war is still ready to break out any day, and it is only a mix of decent and mutually assured destruction that prevents the two leaders of the country from going to war. The Grand Master of the Lightning Temple, second largest monk temple and order in the world, stays out of such things, and is less inclined to join the forces of the Land of Lightning on the battlefield, though these warrior-monks are hardly ready to let a foreign power sink their teeth into their ancestral home.
The Village Hidden in the Clouds is incontrovertibly the second greatest of the shinobi villages, and they know it. They greatly envy the first place spot, however, and have sent many attempts to steal the bloodlines from Konoha they think will be enough to push their village over the top. They possess two jinchuuriki, both skilled with their beast though the youngest of these is only just beginning to learn. She was an emergency sealing more than anything, protected only because she has the strange favor of some very powerful forces as well as the patronage of the Raikage's 'brother', the other Jinchuuriki and an easy rival for the spot of most powerful extant one at that. Although it is a 'lesser beast' (itself a concept not entirely known to be true or false), the jinchuuriki of the Eight-Tailed Bull Octopus is in full partnership with his beast in contrast to the barely acknowledged nature of the Nine-Tails in its own host, who utilizes the bijuu's power only very reluctantly. This could have dire consequences should war return.
Nominally, the Land of Lightning is currently at war with both the Land of Fire and the Land of Earth. Realistically, they haven't had a true battle in years, though skirmishes break out from time to time. Likewise, while never official, the Land of Water was often at odds with the Land of Lightning.
Land of Earth
Conventional Leadership: 3
Unconventional Leadership: 4
Conventional Military: 5
Unconventional Military: 3.5
The Land of Earth is a brutal and harsh place, rich in mineral wealth but yet unable to match other nations, despite their attempts. Similar to the Land of Lightning, the Land of Earth is filled with rugged terrain that is hardly suitable for agriculture, but its sheer size makes its population far larger than the other nations, combined with the fact that they have adapted to the lifestyle well. However, they are also a brutal people; the moment one outgrows their usefulness they are unlikely to live much longer. This had led to a combination of low life expectancies, and a small group of extremely skilled older population that endure despite their age. Case in point, the current Tsuchikage is the oldest of the kage, and yet is also easily amongst the most powerful in that he possesses the rare gift of a kekkei touta. Moreover, his experience is beyond that of any of the other kage, though in his old age he has grown stubborn and belligerent, even more so as the Third Great Shinobi World War turned against him.
Near opposite of both the Land of Lightning and the Land of Fire's methods, the Land of Earth employs a massive army that stresses quantity to overwhelm an enemy. However, their mountainous, rocky home has led to a uniquely mobile force. The Land of Earth is the master of the maneuver, capable of manipulating massive forces in ways that defy even the smaller forces of other nations. Indeed, only the forces of the Land of Wind who move very much like their namesake tend to be able to out maneuver the Land of Earth forces, and even then only in friendly terrain. Of course, once battle is fully met the Land of Earth often finds itself outmatched; often, morale is low and the maneuvers and brutality of the commanders will be forgotten in the face of enemy spears.
While the Land of Earth boasts the largest army, this is only because, in theory, each adult male, starting at the age of around fourteen, is considered to be a member of the army, and given basic training in one role or another. These peasant conscripts don't even match up to the basic ashigaru used by the other nations, many of which have become de facto professional soldiers, even if the samurai and shinobi remain the de jure exclusive hold on that title. As a result of this system, the Land of Earth tends to suffer from attrition far more than other nations; their entire workforce is often drained by war, and and their costly and brutal choices tend to waste lives.
The Land of Earth is also unique that its daimyo holds comparatively little power compared to the kage. The tsuchikage's age and ability means that he holds de facto control over the entirety of the nation, though he tends to leave the daimyo to himself, and in turn the daimyo does his best to respond to whatever the tsuchikage decides. The Land of Earth exports a number of materials, though their metal and other ore exports are not of the quality of Lightning material, but they are in greater bulk, and as a result, they actually tend to monopolize the market in some regions. Additionally, when not at war, they produce a massive surplus of agricultural produce as well, serving to feed a large portion of the world as a result.