Title : Find Your Center
Main Characters: Team 8. Hinata-centric.
Summary: For the longest time Hinata had been living on borrowed time as a member of the Main House. Loosing a fated match to her sister thrusts Hinata into a world more dangerous than she could have imagined. The world of the Branch family.
Chapter 1: When Shino became a Jounin
"Uh,oh. It looks like she's at it again." That was Kiba standing somewhere behind me and his companion, Akamaru, uttering a whine in compliance. Though the tone in their voices emitted concern I couldn't help but think they were amused by my efforts. A mix of both good and bad.
I winced only the tiniest bit when my palm connected with the wooden post at the wrong angle. But I held my tongue and let the sensation of fresh blood sliding over my palm and between my fingers motivate me to hit harder, feeling satisfaction when the wood compressed and buckled under my fury of palm strikes and kicks. My pace was set and I couldn't stop.
I had made it a goal to make it through a training log much faster than my usual span. Though the wood was infused with a special chakra to make them ultra resistant to most normal taijutsu, Kiba and Shino could tear one apart in a matter of days while I took a week or more.
I was determined to catch up. Come on, log. I want you to break. I struck harder, belting out Kiai from deep within my diaphragm to replenish the oxygen in my blood and help me to focus. It was therapeutic in a sense. Yelling was something I didn't do much. Ya! Ya! Hya! I need you to break. Kiba and Shino always made it look effortless.
A long time passed though I can't say exactly how much. I assumed Kiba eventually left to spar with Shino, leaving me to myself. I felt my blood sliding between my fingers and smelt the tang of iron in my nose making it itch. My hand couldn't get any traction on the post anymore. And though my self generated anger had been a strong veil to hide the pain it was wearing thin by this point. I could feel the hurt gradually begin to reintroduce itself to my body.
I had barely taken two steps away from the training post toward my supply bag when Kiba was suddenly obstructing my view, my stained hand clenched in his by the wrist. I could hear a growl rumbling at the base of his throat and I knew what I was in for. Ducking my head I tried to look ashamed.
"Dammit, Hinata why do you always do this?" And that was the usual question to start it off. He was always direct and to the point and I would always try to duck and roll from a direct answer.
"A little blood won't kill me, Kiba. I'm fine." I smiled but didn't make eye contact. Something told me my response wouldn't cut it.
"You call this a little blood?" His voice dead panned as he gestured at my own which by now was dripping blood onto his hand and sleeve. It took me a second to see the number I had done to myself. Maybe I was over doing it.
"Seriously, you've been doing this for the past two months. Working yourself till you bleed. I don't even think Lee takes it this far." His voice was raw with exasperation because this wasn't a new conversation. I bit the inside of my cheek when I felt the light flourish of irritation rise up from my belly. Lee doesn't work himself till he bleeds because he doesn't have to. But there used to be a time when he did. And I'm still there. Kiba wasn't about to sway me.
"I'm fine. Really." I smiled sweetly and took my hand away. Thankful that he didn't try to hold me. But there needed to be a shift in conversation quickly.
"Now look, you have blood all over yourself too." I sighed and motioned for him to follow me to my bag. I generally packed more than enough supplies to patch myself up after a days long training. His scowl was still set so I tried my best to placate him with an explanation.
"It was a mistake. My palm hit the post at a bad angle. And it really doesn't feel as bad as it looks..." I pulled out some of my ointments and a fresh cloth for Kiba to clean his hand with. He didn't say anything as he washed himself clean of my blood but I noticed his expression soften and decided I was safe for the time being. The stains of his sleeve urged me to utter an apology still.
"Um...I'm sorry...about that though." For a second he looked as if he didn't know what I was talking about. It was like he'd only just noticed the blood on his clothes and he smiled. "Nah, it's no big deal."
By the time I had finished putting ointment on my wound, wrapping it tight, Shino was walking through the field towards us.
"Well the suns setting. I guess we'll call it quits for now. The weather should be fare tomorrow and we can resume our training in the afternoon." Although Shino didn't phrase this as a question we knew he was actually waiting for our consent. Though we'd rarely disagree on the matter it was always best to make sure we all agreed on where and when we trained.
Kiba stretched and stood from his place next to me, flashing his canines briefly. "Sure, sounds like a plan to me. Now I can sleep in a little later than usual."
"Um, Shino... we usually start our training in the morning. Why are we suddenly changing the time."
Kiba shot me a side long glance. "Ey don't look a gift horse in the mouth, Hinata. A break is a break. Especially from ole 'Iron Sides Shino' here."
I smiled to myself. That was Kiba's newest nickname for Shino among the many he had collected over the years. Some of them a lot more trying on the Aburame's ability to tolerate Kiba's colorful words of self expression. In its own way it was fitting since Shino was now a Jounin. A fresh one but a Jounin none the less. It was a proud position to hold ,being the second of our generation to gain the title.
I remember the day he won his match, a low overcast day with gray clouds threatening an onslaught of rain. Kiba was literally hanging off the guard rails somehow managing to not fall into the arena, howling obscenities and encouragement at the same time. I noted with some amusement that not one syllable of those insults were aimed at Shino's opponent.
Akamaru lay on the concrete floor with his head between the bars were we stood up in the balcony. At a quick glance I thought he might have been a sleep because of how still he was. But then a well aimed fist connected with Shino's jaw and all three of us flinched. All of us were absorbed completely into this battle.
I stood next to Kiba with my hand clenched to my chest in worry. Shino was down with an injury I couldn't see under his heavy coat but it looked like the Cloud-nin had him pinned. My team mate slowly stood in the center of the arena, his stance rigid in determination his left arm coming up briefly to wipe the blood pouring from his bottom lip. Our ever confident Shino. Silent yet always self assured. Watching him down there, I couldn't help but wonder if I could be just like that.
It had been a brutal proceeding that seemed to last into infinity. But an infinity where I could remember nearly every last detail. It started off light. A deadly spar between two fighters who knew nothing about the others style save what scarce knowledge they could uncover about their clans. Kunai were thrown to see how well the other could dodge.
A brief yet painful flurry of taijutsu proved that the Cloud-nin excelled in that aspect, but Shino managed to be slightly faster as he dodged a particularly nasty looking attack that would have lacerated his face.
He released his insects to do battle or use them as a distraction or shield to get in close and do damage before retreating a safe distance. The Cloud would perform a similar tactic using lighting and electricity based techniques that would light up the sides of the arena and obscure every ones view of the field. An impressive display of power that had me worried. This was a strong ninja just as motivated as any Chunin who had come this far. To shine in front of their village and Hokage. To prove just how much they were worth. To win. And to kill if necessary.
They collided in a spark of metal against metal. The beautifully glinting Kumo sword ground against the tried and true kunai blade of the Leaf, then dart away again. Over and over challenging limitations. This was the long stretch and I could feel Kiba fidget in irritation next to me.
"C'mon bug boy, don't let this cloud bastard do you in." He said that to himself before leaning forward again to shout. "Dammit Shino I would have taken this guy down twenty minutes ago. Stop with this spectator shit, get your act together and floor the bastard!" His words echoed in my ears and while I would have phrased that one hundred times less rudely my emotions were in sync with Kiba's. I didn't know how much longer I could watch this. I wanted the match to end, and soon.
Time seemed to slow for us under the massing clouds above. When the first roll of thunder drummed the sky, that was when the Cloud-nin made his move. All that build up for a particularly frightful yet brief end would have seemed like a bit of an anti climax to those who didn't have respect for strategy or only wanted a show and nothing else. If I didn't know my team mate so well even I wouldn't have understood what I had seen that day.
In the tradition of Kumogakure's legendary skill the sword turned into a channel for the Cloud-nin's lightning release technique. Spars of electricity filled the air, crackling and almost singing victory for the shinobi as he rushed forward, leaping into the air and bringing his sword down for all he was worth towards Shino.
I hadn't realized I was screaming until the dust settled down. The Cloud-nin was aiming to kill. Dodge Shino! Dodge it! But he didn't. Instead he raised his arm high the tips of his fingers pointing upwards at his assailant's torso. Then I heard him shout.
"Insect Chakra Reversal Technique! Release!" Then the Cloud-nin's body twisted in mid air, his back arching in a way that it shouldn't have as a sharp scream of pain tore from his lungs. The lighting left the blade and had instead surrounded him as if wanting to consume everything. Shino couldn't move in time and his opponent crashed down sword and all. The force of impact and momentum still left in the attack brought them both tumbling across the court for several yards, extinguishing the lightning and the screams at once. Then silence. Both lay still. We waited for Shino to shake the extra weight off and stand up.
The storm gale was picking up, whipping dust around the arena and obscuring our view. Stillness and silence.
Both Kiba and I were over the balcony railing before the proctor of the match could make his way out to see who had survived. He couldn't have stopped us even if he tried.
"Shino! Get up!" Kiba had skid to the side of the two fallen combatants and knelt down, his brow creased with worry. Akamaru paced in a tight circle around the two ninja, his head tilted to the side as if confused about something. I was just behind him but it wasn't until I was close enough to notice the sword embedded deep into my friend's chest.
Any words I had inside me at that moment threatened to choke me, reverting my speech back to a shocked stutter. "Sh-Sh-Shino!"
Then I felt the hand of the proctor on my shoulder gently trying to pull me away. All of this happened in a matter of seconds and then Shino's body dissolved into hundreds of buzzing kikaichu.
"Uh...what?" I heard Kiba's confused mutter as the insects brushed past his nose and flitted calmly past my ears. Akamaru barked once, tail wagging as we all turned to follow with our eyes, over the field towards the small clump of trees and bushes that served as the only layer of cover in the arena.
The real Shino shifted into view as his bugs reclaimed their space inside his chakra veins. The air filled with the feverish buzz of the crowd at the new revelation. The Aburame tricked the Cloud-nin with an insect clone, turned his own jutsu against him, and nobody had seen a thing! What a display! Shino fully emerged from the trees and turned to face us. On one finger perched one of his kikaichu which he examined thoughtfully.
"Hmmm. It looks like my time training with Kakashi-sensei really paid off. I had a feeling this shinobi's flashier lightning jutsu would be his eventual down fall." We stood still, completely dumbfounded until the proctor coughed to get our attention.
"I suggest the two of you stand aside before you get your friend disqualified." He sounded deadpan and dead serious. We immediately took the hint and pressed ourselves against farthest wall as he knelt down to check the fallen ninja's pulse.
"He's still breathing. But he ain't getting up anytime soon. Alright then!"
He stood tall and shouted to the rafters. The crowd's voice swelled in anticipation of his judgment.
"The match has been decided. Godo Yuudai is no longer able to continue this match. Winner by a knock out, Aburame Shino!" Then the stadium exploded in rocketed cheers as we gleefully ran towards our teammate.
Kiba nearly side tackled Shino off his feet in excitement. "Hell yeah you did it, Shino! You creepy bug bastard I knew you would." I smiled. Months ago he had been brazen with jealousy at Shino's appointment for Jounin examination. But here he was grinning from ear to ear with a strong arm wrapped around Shino's shoulders that, with his slight height advantage, caused him to sag a little. But the bug-nin didn't encourage or dissuade, which was probably a good thing. Considering their track record of friendly gestures toward each other since...well..the day we became Team 8, this was a beautiful scene.
"Congratulations." I should have spoken louder since I was sure my voice was muted by the crowd and the rain. But Shino gave a thankful nod. I couldn't have felt happier for him.
A/N: And there you have chapter 1, folks. Check back soon for updates. Until then reviews are welcome. Thankyou for Reading!
This is my first time writing in the first person perspective. It's an experiment and I do hope I can keep everybody in character. You know the drill. These characters belong to Kishimoto and I'm broke as a joke! Please enjoy!