A/N: First off, I am aware that I ought to devote my undivided attention to a particular story I have been sluggish in completing…and I deserve to be flogged, publicly, probably…But if you, reader, were really so upset with my pace then you more than likely would not have stopped by to (have mercy on me) check this new hatchling of a story. Additionally, shame on the canon plot for not involving the Seven Swords actively. The territory is sorely unexplored and thrown in haphazardly to add some Mist Villageflava' to the story.
This is, for all intents and purposes, AU…particularly because most characters included are dead, missing, or for the most part sparsely mentioned in canon. So don't run screaming just yet. Imagine: before your favorite blonde protagonist was but a glimmer in his papa's eye, there was…
an irritable, shrewd, iconoclastic teen Zabuza.
A textbook lay open on the table, battered and coffee-stained from its past users. The text gleamed up in fine black ink:
Section One: Origins of Ninja Villages
One hundred and twenty-three years ago, the word "shinobi" held an underlying reverence that was never spoken lightly. A person was either a warrior of this title or a commoner a laborer, a farmer, or a fisherman who spent his days working while listening to wild tales of combating ninja. They lived vicariously through the experience and woes of wandering shinobi, whose clans battled endlessly for superiority. In a way, their detachment from such a grand lifestyle, though humbling, was greatly appreciated by the proletariat. The old belief was: "be yourself, carry yourself be a shinobi, carry a sword."
That is to say, this was an idea that had been long preserved by the drifting clans. So it was quite a shock to many common folk who learned that the famous Senju clan, renowned for their terrible power, had settled along with a number of allied clans to live in harmony. Such a thing was unheard of, but after the Senju established their home in a vast forest, christening it Konohagakure (see section five), other nomadic tribes of shinobi found it a vain effort to challenge them. By living in one place and pooling their strength, shinobi dwelling in Konohagakure drove back opposing invaders, crushing and humiliating them.
Seeing no other way to rival the power of the Leaf Village, shinobi from hundreds of other clans spread out over the land, gathering into their own veiled communities. Newly organized and tempered for battle, ninja were presented with a new issue providing for themselves.
Commoners were invited to live in the security of shinobi villages, so long as their services and crops were readily available. The symbiotic relationship between assassin and their guarded civilians was not always equitable among the villages. In the Hidden Village of Sand (see section three) for example, shinobi living in the desert relied heavily on the imports from neighboring lands. Not all farmers found the place appealing, but as long as the money was fair they contributed to the desert's inhabitants. In contrast to the movement, there was an eclectic congregation of clans who had migrated away from the mainland to a cluster of islands to the east.
Section Two: Abridged History of Kirigakure
These "off-shore" shinobi valued their independence above all other things. Of course civilian aid had become necessary for their blossoming village as well, but shinobi did well to coldly remind them of their inferiority. Life in the Land of Water was unforgiving, and commoners survived with great difficulty alongside the ninja of what came to be called the Hidden Mist Village.
While ninja settlements in the other five countries invested in the arts and betterment of their village as a whole, Mist was always inclined to dote on its military before other matters. They practiced a type of socialism, or a political system of ownership. Being it was a village hailing from the smallest country it quickly became the most aggressive of all the shinobi provinces. Bloodshed was not an unusual practice for the first leaders of the Mist Village to gain cooperation from another village. By the Second Mizukage's time, however, Mist seemed to withdraw from inter-village squabbles.
Clans of the Water Country were rich and greatly respected. The wandering bands that had once been so volatile preferred to stay in their great estates, waiting for provocation to enter a battle rather than seeking one. Some thirty years after the Mist Village's founding, focus was shifted to the economy, which was suffering considerable dips. Isolation that was practiced during this time consequently made Mist ninja unfamiliar with fighting shinobi from outside villages. The reputation of Kirigakure faltered, struggling to balance its military and economic needs…
Zabuza stopped reading at that point.
It was a foreign text from the mainland; after all, of course the information would be flawed. The genin from Grass who'd had it with him obviously had not taken Mist ninja seriously in the fight that had resulted in his death. His pillaged belongings now sat on a cracked pine table in Zabuza's apartment. The Anbu sifted through the items, stewing over the book's misinformation.
It had not even accurately touched upon the Third's achievements. It skipped right over that period, bursting into present-day Mist that was supposedly led by the "cunning Fourth" who had allegedly "begun dramatic trade efforts with other countries." It was insulting. It made him want to kill the undereducated mainland dolts even more.
If they even knew the first thing about Mist, they would know the biggest issue was civil war, and not the economy. Arguably the two could go hand in hand, but it all fell to who was in power and whoever was in power was never popular. The Mizukages tended to follow a pattern of management, the first being aggressive, and the successor being a shirker. The First and Third Mizukages had probably been the most assertive and valuable to the village, while the other two had been loud-mouths blowing a lot of hot air.
Zabuza kept some of the weaponry that was in better shape. He shoved the textbook, the souring rations, and the outdated scrolls back into the satchel. He crossed over to the window of the kitchenette, throwing up the shutter, and then tossed the pack outside. It fell two stories down into the street below. Curses drifted up from the road, and Zabuza shut the window ritually. He was a polluting, conniving, nineteen-year-old who was sick of being in the Anbu. Sick of it because he'd already had a taste of something better a squadron of unmatched skill.
It had been nearly a year since the Seven Shinobi Swordsman of the Mist had been dissolved. The Third Mizukage had been the visionary who had organized the splinter cell. The faction had consisted of all types, young and old, clan-bred and mixed, wild and composed. They had all been fixated with bewitched swords, or derivatives of such blades. They answered to the Third without question, accomplishing mind-bending tasks, and prevailed over any and every enemy. They had privileges other shinobi did not. Zabuza had been skilled for his age, but today he agonized over the memories, 'If I had known then what I know now…I wouldn't be one of the Fourth's goddamn lapdogs.'
When the Third had died the Seven simultaneously fell from grace. The new Mizukage did not see a practical use for them with his new reforms in place. Many in the village had been glad the Third perished abruptly. His training methods for gennin were considered cruel, and he had often been called a "child-murderer." Without him, though, the village suffered. The Fourth was foolish and impulsive.
Zabuza took the last of the chicken and rice from the refrigerator. He was losing his appetite just thinking about the Fourth. He took grudging bites from the bowl, aware of how by this time tomorrow he would be on another mission. It was the Fourth Mizukage, Miura Kyonjin, who was actually responsible for the current civil war Mist was embroiled in.
The long and short of it had to do with control. Once in office the Yondaime had started reforms, modifying the gennin training program to be less…bloody. Ninja were almost always preoccupied on missions, or rather, fighting skirmishes in the countryside. The goal Kyonjin had pursued relentlessly since the start was the complete unification of the Water Country's clans. They were not all, in fact, allied with Mist, since they usually possessed enough power to protect themselves separately.
Kyonjin's insistence that they unite for one cause (Mist) was overly radical, often offensive to the ancient families. He yearned for the day they would all be under his power, creating one of the most formidable militaries of all the five countries. It had never been done before, and with reason. What he had overlooked was that once the clans finally did unify (after his molestations) it was not something he could order executively.
In Leaf, clans had joined forces willingly, if not eagerly, after seeing its advantages. The loose connections between clans in Mist were deliberate, due to the fact that they took pride in their independence. The way the Mizukage had so brashly approached the matter had insulted the major clans of the Water Country, and when a compromise could not be reached, turmoil erupted.
War had been declared on Mist, or on Kyonjin, more specifically. Zabuza snorted at the thought of the idiot's political blunder. Unintentionally, the Fourth had succeeded in unifying the clans in the Land of Water, though they were all totally opposed to him.
The classic irony of greed had bowled him over, and still, Kyonjin was fighting the good fight for the sake of his pride. He would not back down or apologize or compensate in any way. He might have regretted disbanding the Seven Swords, by then, but remained silent on the matter. He stood by and watched his shinobi suffer in battles that were pointless. Infighting. All oblivious to the possible threat of outside countries.
Nothing would delight Zabuza more than gutting the spineless fish himself.
Kyonjin sat at his desk, which had recently been relocated to a higher office in the administrative building. Some filing cabinets still sat empty on the side of the room, waiting to be of use. He balanced a cigarette holder near his mouth with a long-fingered hand, taking a drag now and then while he read another furious threat that had been sent from the Yuki clan. He was forty-nine but he looked sixty. He had smoked all his life, and it was a habit he could not shake, especially during such stressful times.
Deep lines of concentration were etched on his face, and his gray side burns reached down his jaw-line in a dramatic sweep that made his frown look permanent. His skin was ashy and unhealthy looking; eyes dark and swollen from reading the endless documents that demanded his surrender to the clans who despised him. These days he replied to them with self-assured insults, knowing that no amount of sweet-talking would get him on their good sides again. It would not be long, he noted, before he would have to send his Black Ops back out again.
The Mizukage was aware of how it would be an inconvenience to the Anbu unit he was dispatching to the outskirts. Several of his warriors were part of a generation he and his advisors had come to call "The Stains." It was a reference to their bloody childhoods, which were all a direct result of the quarrelling aristocracy of Mist. The Mizukage had found that the altered graduation exam, seven years earlier, had produced few but exceptional shinobi. It was that exam that had many critics.
Most had labeled the Third a heartless tyrant for sanctioning the graduation requirements proposed. After all, more children had died in that era than in any other time in Mist's recorded history. Some blamed the decision on the weakened state of the village. Kyonjin was taking a more modern approach to enhance Mist's forces, compared to the Third. Some still agreed with the old training, but the majority supported the Fourth's reforms. Once the killing requirements of the exam had been revoked, more shinobi had joined the ranks of Mist's military, but none were as effective or respected, Kyonjin conceded, as stained generations.
The Mizukage's stained Anbu, after he had summoned them that afternoon, were clearly in no condition to fight. Three of the eight were still stinking drunk, one suffering from a knee injury not yet healed, two with pressing family duties, and another who must have been under the influence of some tranquilizer. Kyonjin accepted their weakened states in good humor, but the eighth member of the squadron, not in the slightest impaired, had bothered him most of all.
He was the youngest of the group, still a teen, and very egotistical. Eyes like black steel cut across the room towards him, and the Mizukage was too proud of a man to admit his anxiety. This was the last child who had made an example of the famed graduation test since it had been revised. Seven years and four ranks later he was a lean, disciplined shinobi, and a supreme example of everything the Mizukage expected of one of his elite. Faultless, did not speak unless spoken to, and a highly effective killer.
Kyonjin leaned back in his desk chair, taking a puff on his cigarette, 'No…I can hardly stand this one.'
Personal prejudice counted for little. He hardly had a reason to expunge the man beyond sensing his negative aura. The Mizukage noted that this one was the reason why all Anbu were required to remove their masks in the private council of their village leader. A standard of protocol had been set, simply because Momochi Zabuza intimidated the Mizukage.
No one was privy to this knowledge, thankfully, because it would have quickly been acted upon. In war time Kyonjin took no risks. The Mizukage had already weathered two failed assassination attempts, and his trust, in his Anbu guards and his pig-headed diplomats, had dissolved significantly. In fact, he was so desperately concerned with his own well-being that his own village was crumbling around him. Mist was war-torn, starved, thirsty (in the Water Country,) filthy, demoralized, and ridden with poverty.
Kyonjin's movement for unification throughout the Land of Water had slashed funds that had been going to the larger clans. The clans retaliated with such devastating force the uttering of Kekkei Genkai could send crowds scattering. Mist shinobi battled exhaustingly, nearly half a year running, against the clan revolutionaries. As far as the Mizukage was concerned, the clans' defeat was imminent. Outnumbered, ill-supplied, and deprived of rights, they would all be erased by the time he was through with them.
That was another reason, he thought: Zabuza did not support the campaign.
"Pointless," Zabuza had called it "wasteful." The Mizukage did not trust him, even when he had proven to be totally obedient. What had Momochi said? 'The clans don't need to be unified so long as they contribute to the interests of Mist.' Killing was a complete waste of resources, breeding, and bloodline limit.
In one respect, Kyonjin reluctantly agreed with the idea. He had his own collection of gifted ninja. Loyalists who possessed Kekkei Genkai, who held the Mist Village in higher esteem than their own families. They were useful weapons against their own kind. No reason to fight fair, the Yondaime thought, which brought him back to why he had assembled the team.
Another raid had erupted in a neighboring village. No one there was actually with a clan, but the people who lived there had been sending complaints. Their town was being sapped of food and supplies, allegedly, by active ninja who were resting there. After many weeks of hateful toleration the villagers had easily chased out the tired chunin and jounin with pitch forks and bricks.
'Unacceptable.' The Mizukage thought. Who were they to interfere with the war? Had their self-sufficiency disappeared? To demand aid from a parenting village at such times was unthinkable. Battles were raging, and they deserved no more comfort than that of their combating brethren.
"Kill them all," Kyonjin told the team, "Silence their whining. They aren't worth the meager taxes they generate as it is."
They still looked a bit unsettled, but his Anbu understood the command and agreed to see it done. One of the drunken ninja was adamant in destroying the ineffectual peasants, "We'll stomp them out, Kyonjin-sama, like insects!"
The Mizukage regarded him for a moment, and then advised, "Sober up, why don't you?
You may go at dusk." With their departure pushed back the Yondaime hoped they could get a grip on themselves.
He dismissed them and the Anbu filed out of the office, some replacing their masks and others too stressed to bother. The Mizukage stood, glancing out of the tower window, somewhat dissatisfied with the view. The hair on the back of his neck was on end, and he realized after a moment he was not alone.
Zabuza had lingered after the others had gone. Kyonjin adjusted his robe before facing him, a tendril of cigarette smoke rising as he exhaled, "Can I help you, Momochi-san?"
"It seemed like you had something more to say, Mizukage-sama." He pointed out, his tone emotionless.
"Oh, it's nothing that concerns you, my friend." Kyonjin chuckled, taking another drag, "Dismissed."
Zabuza left without any further delay, and the Yondaime returned to his spot in front of the window.
On the off chance that the Momochi brat was not a calculating bastard, he was no doubt an obsessed murderer. He would not be able to contribute to society beyond eliminating unfit members from it. Kyonjin had faith his war-dogs would crush the clan opposition, but when they were through, he wondered if they would be tempted to attack their own master.
Most of the Anbu had just gone back to the bar after the meeting. A few had gone home to check up on their families, and as they disappeared from the street with thoughtless ease, Zabuza had found a perch on top of an industrial building.
The fading summer heat created a disgusting haze that blanketed the lower half of the village. The war had not helped seasonal damages, drought and epidemic included. Rooftops provided an escape from the merciless heat, with the occasional breeze as an added comfort.
Zabuza stared out back towards the tower. It was only in the past year he had begun to notice Kyonjin's nervous behavior. 'He's afraid of me for some reason.' He thought to himself, 'I guess that means he's not a total moron.'
By evening they had already reached the outskirts. The Anbu fanned out across the town, and positive cheers from the villagers expecting aid shifted to shrieks of terror.
People scattered as a storm of metal rained down; many dropped lifelessly with knives lodged in their backs. Those that fled were caught quickly, finished by a jab to the neck or a rake of a sword. Many retreated indoors and had their homes ransacked by fire jutsu. It was perfect, glorious chaos and screams grew fewer as the dead piled up in the streets.
Zabuza had come across a young girl in muddied clothes, taking refuge behind her mother's body. For a moment he studied the cowering child. She would die anyway, incapable of surviving without a parent. "Come here." He said roughly.
She shrank back, clinging to her mother's blood-stained yukata. It would be easier just to swipe her with his Seversword, he thought, noting the meter gap between them. Then again, it would be a pointless expenditure of energy. He stepped over her mother, kneeling down, "Come here." He managed to speak more softly.
The girl edged nearer, eyes watery. She stared at the white and red mask obscuring Zabuza's face. "Will you take me away from here?" She asked in a squeak.
"Yes." He said, letting her take her time to creep forward into his waiting arms. She had relaxed. It was better that way. Zabuza snapped the child's neck swiftly, instantly killing her, and laid her down beside her mother. He hated children, because killing them always reminded him of how short a time ago they had been born.
Back out in the square a ring of buildings and huts glowed in the dim evening light. Anbu strolled in and out of the fire, bringing with them pilfered goods and food.
"Eh, lookee here." A less-than-sober squadron member was covered head to toe in blood. He held up a large porcelain jug for Zabuza to see, "I saved some of the sake. I'll share it with you later, Zabu-kun."
"I wouldn't trust the piss they keep in those urns." He retorted moodily. He could understand that some needed to be drunk to commit such atrocities like the one at hand, but Zabuza preferred a clear mind while he worked.
Silence settled in. People and livestock alike laid pitifully in the streets. The Anbu left after twilight, letting the town smolder away and reduce the defenseless victims to cinders.
Kyonjin was impressed with their good work, and paid them for their trouble. No doubt the funds would be used to pay rent and get drunk.
Zabuza had left with the money in a foul mood. He had changed into normal jounin attire, all the while disgusted by how his position only warranted him the right to cater to the Mizukage's every whim. The tasks had become so mundane and routine it was nearly a waste of time.
The Anbu units, the way Zabuza viewed it, were only positions for shinobi with considerable power. The teams served as a cage a constructive outlet for those who had become too strong for the Mizukage to monitor. As if their power was not being squandered enough, Kyonjin was now using the Anbu to fight the war for him.
While platoons of jounin and chunin fought on the front lines, Anbu attacked the homesteads of each clan; methodically killing and kidnapping unsuspecting family members until the rebellion leaders surrendered. It was a brutally effective strategy, although some clans continued fighting, disregarding the threats.
Zabuza's main quandary was that most of the people he fought against were (or had been) his allies. The Hoshigaki and the Abe families, for example, housed two former teammates from the Seven Swords. He had not yet come across his old friends, but when he did, blood would be inevitable. It could even be his, since he was stuck in the Mizukage's top Anbu squadron…not necessarily by choice.
He cut through the lower district, wondering if he might find a cheap whore somewhere. His search was interrupted by a familiar face. A young man with silvery-blue hair and violet eyes had skirted the corner to keep out of sight. Zabuza followed half-thinkingly, still unclear about the sneak's identity. 'Definitely a shinobi.' He reasoned. It was hard to miss how the kid had disappeared on the spot.
Zabuza came up from the opposite side of the street, avoiding the crowd, and again spotted the slinking nin. He was at a roadside vender, quickly picking things from a food stand. Zabuza came up beside him, finally remembering him from two years before, "Try not to look so damn conspicuous, Mangetsu."
Mangetsu's eyes skirted over to Zabuza, and he sighed with relief, "Whew…just you, Zabuza. We just needed things to eat since you can't buy a thing outside Mist. I almost got toasted earlier this place is fucking crawling with mercenaries."
"No more so than usual." Zabuza pointed out.
"Yeah, but they're…they're after us now, aren't they?" Mangetsu lowered his eyes, "They want to kill everyone who's from a clan…my brother's got to stay shut up at home all the time because they'll rip our heads off if we go outside."
"You are going to get hit if you stay here much longer. Not everyone's on duty now, but with the way you try to sneak around like an elephant they'll spot you in a second." The older shinobi smirked, "You should take your groceries and run."
"I'm sick of running. Sick of hiding. This persecution bullshit has got to fucking stop." Mangetsu muttered, "My dad is drowning himself in alcohol, you know. That's why I'm here. If I don't find food he sure as shit won't because he sits around and drinks like a fish." He laughed bitterly at the idea, "A fish…"
"You should leave."
Mangetsu sighed, and then tossed money at the shopkeeper for the foodstuffs. "I…I really don't think I can go on like this. I'm gonna lose my mind if I stay in this fucking country much longer…" He looked sidelong to Zabuza, "Hey…do you think you know? The gang will be back? If the Swords join up again we can stop this political shit-toss, I know it's "
"They're not coming back. Half of you have blood limits anyway." Zabuza dismissed the idea, although he himself ached for it, "You'd be wasting your time fighting for the opposite cause."
"Your cause is mine, though." Mangetsu told him, "That's not gonna change." He took his shopping bag, slung it over his shoulder, and bolted to return home undetected. The next time he was in Mist he would probably be killed on sight. There probably wasn't going to be a next time, come to think of it.
Zabuza returned to his apartment, realizing that he was on the wrong side. The only saving grace he had was his lack of a Kekkei Genkai.
Yuki Kamisori was a patient man. He prided himself on his level-headedness in battle and life in general. He also felt that he gave off a much-too-approachable vibe to people sometimes. He was handsome, slender, and well-dressed obviously clan-bred. These outwardly visible traits attracted trouble.
The sun was setting on the horizon, shimmering shades of fire, and he had thought it to be a very pleasant evening before he'd heard a snide comment from somewhere. Kamisori had been minding his own business on his way to the club, but a fat, unshaven mechanic wolf-whistled from inside a window. He then called out, addressing the obvious, "Well look there! A pretty clan-boy on his way to the disco to pick up some girls…or some other pretty boys!" His guffaws trailed after. Kamisori ignored the comments.
The grub added onto his insults, "You're all the same pricks from those clans. They should all be ground up into fish-paste, that's what! Won't be long now before Kyonjin-sama sends his dogs after you…lets them rape you and hang your head up on a wall!"
Kamisori had disappeared from the sidewalk. The man had a moment to blink stupidly before a hand fisted around his shirt collar and pulled him bodily out of the window and into the street. Kamisori threw him to the pavement roughly, listening to the thud of meat, and stomped hard on the worm's gut. His mismatched eyes glared sharply at the big-mouth.
"Your opinion of me is…so very high…" Kamisori spat, "Tell me, what do you make of yourself? Think yourself a prince? A gem? You're a scab who freeloads off the system…" He crushed the fat man's gut beneath his boot, hearing the resulting wheeze.
"I d-didn't…I-I " He couldn't respond adequately after spying the kunai spinning in the ninja's palm.
"You don't know me." Kamisori's voice was icy, "As it so happens, I am one of Kyonjin-sama's proponents…he actually likes shinobi with Kekkei Genkai in his service, contrary to your misconceptions."
"P-puh-please…d-don't hurt me…" The grub pleaded, his eyes fixed on the twirling knife.
Kamisori knelt down, hooking the kunai's ring with his finger. "You know, it's people like you who make me sorry I fight this war in the first place." He told the man, "Do you want me to show you what I do to my enemies?"
"I think I will."
Kamisori pressed the kunai against the man's cheek, and rather harmlessly scraped the blade upward. Some of the grub's whiskers floated down to the pavement.
"Good day, cretin." The shinobi told him. He tossed the knife carelessly and it thunked into the wood of a telephone pole. The grub stared upwards, his eyes unseeing with fear.
Kamisori gave one last stomp on the grub before backing off, and continued down the street without so much as drawing a glance from passers-by. The grub began to sob on the concrete.
A short while later Kamisori was seated at a bar, his thoughts slightly drowned out by the outrageously loud music. He wished there was a place where he could enjoy a drink in silence, these days. A plain bottle of warm amakuchi sake rested in front of him. He sat with his elbow propped up on the bar, his chin cradled in the palm of his hand. Kamisori brought the porcelain cup up to his lips with a sort of propriety not associated with his look of boredom.
The barkeep scuttled around washing out glasses, muttering to himself. Only one customer tonight. Most others were out on the dance floor, probably searching for a one-night stand. Then in the dim light, out of the shuffle of socializing and stepping, one lone soul parted for the bar.
Kamisori vaguely thought he had seen her in the village once or twice. He sipped his wine appreciatively, not minding the woman who was a seat over from him.
"Some snacks please," She said in a charming voice, "And whiskey."
"Fine, but we only serve Hakushu here."
"I'll have that, thanks."
The bartender turned around to his shelves of endless glass and set to work. The young woman sat with her back straight, eyes focused on the many-colored bottles in front of her. Kamisori looked at the girl, understanding how she wasn't in attendance for social matters. It was pretty easy to spot a kunoichi who had finished a day of hard work.
That was one thing he was very picky about. He did not look too often for women in the bar, because for the most part they were already breathing down the pants of two or three other men. Kunoichi, on the other hand, were a separate commodity. Preferable, in his opinion. They had dignity, and most often, intelligence that most females of Mist were so painfully lacking. The downside was that there were approximately seven remaining kunoichi in all of Kirigakure. Three of which were jounin, and the rest novices. They were a rare sight indeed.
Kamisori eyed her up and down. It was difficult to tell what she specialized in. She was fair-skinned, with indigo hair framing her face down to her shoulders. Her dark eyes stayed respectfully on the bottles across the way, although he was certain she was considering him as well. She sighed, uncomfortable with the heat of the place, and stripped off her jacket. There was a modest black halter underneath. He was almost disappointed it was not more revealing.
The barkeep returned with a glass and pushed it in front of her. "What kind of snack?" He asked.
He departed again. The woman touched the glass to her lips and sputtered. For a moment he thought she couldn't hold the drink she had ordered.
"Ugh." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, "That idiot…why did he heat this up? It's not sake…" He was getting older, she could credit his tiny attention span to that. She gingerly placed her whiskey back down, wondering if she could order another without having to pay for it.
Kamisori watched her fold her arms on the side of the counter. Something about her was decidedly virtuous. Maybe in the way she comported herself, or the way she tucked loose strands of hair behind her ear. This was a kunoichi, it was clear, who had not had a man in a long time. He chose to be helpful.
The tiniest shock of chakra was all he needed. He frosted her glass for her. "Are you going to drink that?" He asked innocuously.
She raised her eyebrows, and then looked down. She tried the beverage and was surprised. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully, "Did you just…?"
He said nothing and took another sip of wine.
"Thank you…I didn't realize you were a…" She lowered her voice, "Aren't you worried someone will find you here?"
"I work for the Mizukage."
"Oh! Sorry." She apologized, "I was kind of worried for a second there. That looked like…the Hyoton, or something."
"So you really are a ?"
"I'm a loyalist. We serve only the Mist Village." He told her shortly. He sipped his wine, but was fighting a smirk. She was cute. She wasn't prejudiced against clan-shinobi.
"Thank you." She said again, sipping her drink, "It's funny that I don't see you much, since I work directly under Kyonjin-sama too."
"Strange, yes, but you haven't asked me my name yet." He pointed out.
"Oh…well," She smiled faintly, "I'll introduce myself first. My name is Arashino Kuina."
"Yuki Kamisori." He told her. She held out her hand and he was highly amused when he shook it.
"Yuki that's right." She nodded, recognizing the clan, "I've never met any of them personally…"
"You really don't want to." He assured her, "Nasty, self-righteous people."
"You don't live with them?"
Kamisori looked affronted. Didn't he say he was a loyalist? But some people just couldn't figure it… "No, I don't." He told her.
There was a beat of silence and the barkeep stopped by, setting a bowl of peanuts between them. "Enjoy that." He said, bustling on his way.
Kuina looked down at the peanuts, thoughtful, and then snatched one up. Kamisori watched her crack through the shell deftly with her nails. "You can have some if you want." She offered.
"No thank you."
Kuina popped the small hearts into her mouth. "I know they don't seem like much, but these little babies are first-rate antioxidant bullets."
He looked at her over his cup of wine, having never heard such a thing.
"They do all sorts of stuff. Prevent heart disease, gallstones, protect against Alzheimer's, slow down weight gain…" She paused, realizing what she'd said, "Not that you have to worry about that!"
For the hell of it he cracked two shells and helped himself. If she made such a fuss about it, he figured it was worth it. It complemented the wine nicely anyway.
Her eidetic knowledge was also unusual, he thought, maybe even for a Mist kunoichi. Kamisori decided he liked it. Her intelligence, at least respected it. Maybe he would not get laid tonight.
"Kuina." Her name rolled off his tongue and it sounded like a song. She looked over to him expectantly, picking at the peanuts again.
"You're a medic-nin, aren't you?" He observed.
She didn't want to brag, but she was a lot more than just a medic-nin, "Yes, jounin-level, that's right. Kind of easy to tell, isn't it?"
She smiled again. Charming as she was, he was getting frustrated. Sex suddenly seemed so much more plausible with this woman than with any of the others inhabiting Kirigakure. It probably wasn't going to happen, though.
"What are you going to do tonight?" It was a very searching question.
Kuina finished the last of her drink, "Work. All I do as work, it's more than I can stand." A somber smile, "This war keeps my salary healthy though, with all the patients that come in."
He finally did smirk. She stared at his mouth for a few seconds, sharing a brainwave with him for a moment. His lips must have been the center of the sexual universe, because it took everything she had to stop herself from inviting him home (forget work!) and doing certain things she had not done in over a year (curse my nonexistent dating-life!)
"W-Well, nice to meet you, Kamisori-san." She stood, folding her jacket over her arm, "I'll see you around sometime."
"Goodnight." He was polite, in spite of the missed opportunity.
Kamisori tipped more sake into his cup. The medic-nin slipped back through the crowd to the exit and disappeared into the muggy night. Suddenly he found his standards had gone up drastically. Kunoichi only: which was altogether seven options. Then jounin: that left about three. Lastly, a requirement for a medic: that left one.
"Well, this is problematic." He sipped his wine, and then scooped up some more peanuts.
A/N: There. A quick setup. There's more to it obviously, but if you could pick up the subtle clues in this one you get a mental pat on the head. It is an AU, by the way, so things are going to happen a bit skewed. That's the beauty of it though. Hurray for Zabuza he's just too much fun to write! Kamisori's name means "razor."