Melody of the Wanderers
Two Days later…
Talk about one heck of a cross-country walk.
Finding safe passage across borders into another person's country nowadays seemed to be a lot harder than Sasuke remembered them to be. Maybe that was because he was a missing ninja now with the print 'wanted man' slapped across his forehead like a god damn headlight. This meant that he had to be extra discreet about his actions, no matter where he went.
To be quite frank, his past infiltrations into restricted and well guarded areas have never been this tense, and if he felt troubled from a mere border hopping, then that meant there was definitely something wrong. He actually had to duck and weave quite a high number of surveillance teams on his way into the Land of Hot Water, which was just one step over from the country he was currently residing in.
Even after losing the local guard inside of the thickened forests surrounding the land he still had to contend with the individual patrolmen routinely checking up on the various dead spots outside of the regular scouting routes. He thanked his heightened senses for allowing him to hide out from the random shinobi that just suddenly popped up on his radar.
However, after getting through the borders and past the tree line, the rest of his journey toward Yugakure continued on like it was a mere leisurely stroll through the park. Keeping his head low and attitude cool, he followed the main road leading him into the village, ignoring all of the farmers and tradesmen that passed him by along the way in.
Admittedly, it had been a while since he had last set foot in the popular hot spring town, so it came as a bit of a surprise to him to see just how much development had actually gone on since he was last here. Just from standing within sight of the village and its buildings he was able to see how much had actually changed.
The village as a whole was an amazing thing, especially when you started walking about town and taking in the sights. Being a hot spring village, a place where ordinary people and delegates from all corners of the continent came to cool off after a hard, extended period of work, it was essentially a tourist hot spot. The cultural and ecological diversity was simply astonishing. The number of patrons the place took in was abnormally high so it was a safe bet to say that over half of the actual population of Yugakure was made up of tourists. The rest of the population would have mostly been comprised of shinobi providing security and enforcement to the area.
Since there were so many outsiders coming and going, it only made sense. It wasn't like the town wasn't filled with its own residents born and raised here; it was just that the real number of civilians actually living in this village and claiming it as their home was boosted by the number of visitors.
When it came to supporting the local community, everybody had a part to play. Hotels were packed, hot spring facilities were loaded, and the market places were busy as hell. Amongst the families, couples and groups of indiscernible villagers walking about, you would eventually come across one or two Yugakure shinobi walking about on patrol, on the lookout for any would-be troublemakers. However, as far as order and obedience went, compared to other villages this town was pretty tame.
No wonder it was so popular.
The high attendance rate and peace within Yugakure made Sasuke's job both worry free and troubling at the same time. Even though the town guaranteed an uneventful stopping point for him on this leg of the mission, the number of people walking about did pose a bit of a problem. He realized just looking on from afar that it'd be really difficult to actually make out two particular characters out of the thousands of villagers wandering the streets.
He recognized this 'Where's Wally' factor the moment he found himself standing at the edge of the central marketplace, staring out over the ocean of people crisscrossing the road. Glancing around from stall to stall, above the noise and through the masses, his eyes took careful note of his surroundings.
Let's take a moment for an assessment check. Sasuke wore a white, long-sleeved robe with dark pants, sandals and, just like most of Orochimaru's other subordinates, had a purple rope worn securely around his waist. Now, while this was an unusual outfit easily distinguishable against most other uniforms worn in the shinobi forces, next to the bright and colorful kimonos, ceremonial gowns, and formal dress wear adorned by the multitude of distinguished representatives, suits and villagers walking about, it became quite obvious to the Uchiha…
In this crowd of wild colors and costumes, the young teenager blended in like a leaf in a forest.
By extension, any Akatsuki shinobi wearing their organization's badge of membership would definitely be able to move around this entire village without encountering any problems or attracting any attention to themselves.
Ignoring the people bumping into him and moving aside to make way for a delegate being transported through the crowds in a norimono, Sasuke glared around him a second time. In spite of all his patience, this was surprisingly becoming quite a frustrating chore.
"The information Kabuto provided says that two Akatsuki members are moving down from the Land of Frost and heading towards the Land of Fire… probably on route for Konohagakure or the Daimyo's Palace in the capital," Sasuke thought to himself, reaching into his shirt and unfurling the scroll he was carrying. Taking another glance at the specs, he then turned his gaze to the route ahead of him. "I'm positive that they'll be passing through here before moving on."
The Uchiha chose this village for a reason not just because it was a popular destination for travelers looking to settle down for a breather on long journeys, but it was also swimming with targets. The delegate being moved through the throngs of civilians in his man-powered carriage only moments before proved his point.
There were a lot of high profile heads here, none of them making any real effort to conceal themselves from the public. Based on Akatsuki activities as of late, there has been a consistent streak of attacks focused on village leaders and officers. It was practically a shooting field out here as well as a large vacation resort, since this village was practically playing host to a lot of the above mentioned classes. Though incidents have rarely occurred out here due to the multitude of eyes and the level of protection, Sasuke was betting on his target's boldness to come through.
Kabuto had also kindly provided the hunter with a possible target that Akatsuki was likely to go after out here, one that was currently outside of the safety of his home village. The young Kage from Takigakure, Shibuki, was in town on official business, along with a platoon of shinobi and their village's jinchuriki. If Otogakure was able to get a hold of this information then Sasuke wasn't putting it past Akatsuki to miss out on a glaring opportunity like this either.
Rumor has it that the organization was after jinchuriki, individuals carrying entities with massive amounts of chakra sealed inside of them. So, putting together everything he knew thus far, a jinchuriki and a Kage from the same village, out in the open, under light guard and in a land far beyond their own, was therefore just too good of a target to pass up.
"They must have been outside of the village way before any news of the attacks on the other Kage could have reached them," Sasuke thought, squeezing in between a couple making their way across from one stall to another. "However, if information of Akatsuki was able to make it out here at least, then chances are they've already called for more back up, confined themselves within their quarters or are carrying on with business as usual."
Sasuke remembered helping the Kage of Takigakure out many years ago. Along with his former squad members of Team 7, he, Naruto and Sakura were able to save both him and his entire village from a band of rogue ninja.
It was then after getting over his cowardice, Shibuki took on a lot of Naruto's more praiseworthy characteristics, transforming him from a sniveling wimp into the ideal Kage. If that evolution said anything more about his personality, then it was certain that the current leader of the hidden village possessed the perfect combination of carefulness and bravery, and was bound to be walking about with an eye over his shoulder and extra guards hiding behind every corner.
Without a doubt it was a challenge. But Sasuke wasn't here hunting Kage; he was after prey that was far bigger.
Weighing up his options, it was easy for the raven haired teen to come to a resolution on which course of action to take. All the Uchiha had to do now was look for a young adult bearing the insignia from Takigakure walking around town with a handful of bodyguards. If there were anymore obstacles other than the group that was bound to be flanking him they'd be hiding out in the shadows, on the lookout for anyone approaching their village leader from a distance.
Summing up his analysis he then made it official; Taki's leader and jinchuriki were the Uchiha's new targets.
It was all a matter of finding Shibuki, a face that Sasuke distantly remembered. But as hazy as his memory was he knew that if he could find him, then Akatsuki would not be too far behind.
"Shinobi of the homeland should really be more weary of ninja from other countries entering theirs, even with their consent," Sasuke begrudgingly thought to himself after passing another huge group of travelers making a lot of noise. He cleared his ear after that party had gone, taking a moment to step out of the masses and following a separate footpath down the main road, out of harm's reach. "At least I'd be able to spot two groups of shinobi a lot easier when one is following the other."
It was the simple truth. This crowd was just too damn big.
Stopping in front of a hotel just outside of the markets, Sasuke rubbed his forehead irritably before leaning up against a wall and folding his arms. He glared towards the bazaar, just packed to the rims with laughing civilians. Even standing against this lodge he could see people coming and going endlessly. It was like a thriving metropolis and he was in the middle of rush hour.
"There must be special offers being given out for this season," Sasuke thought, explaining why the place was so full.
Deciding to wait it out for a bit, the Uchiha stayed away from the river of villagers moving around his line of sight. He tried to enjoy whatever pleasantries he could derive from brooding, merely observing and attempting to block out the rest of the world. It was by the time a few reasonable gaps had formed within the ever-changing throngs flowing in both directions he restarted his search, deciding that he'd better not dawdle when there was only such a small window of opportunity open for him to bag the quarry he was aiming for.
With his head held low and making sure to stay out of sight of any of the Yugakure shinobi on patrol, he weaved through the traffic of pushing and shoving. While maneuvering through this exciting environment his eyes panned from stall, to store, to restaurant and to every group of strangers he could get a good glimpse of, keeping an eye open for any Takigakure insignia.
You needed a target that could help lead you to your main objective to make a search like this work out, or you may as well start looking for ghosts in broad daylight. It wasn't like this was a full proof idea no, but what else could he go on other than the information provided by his less than reputable source. He felt like he was partly shooting in the dark right now.
His search followed a basic pattern, keeping as much to himself as possible while sometimes approaching people with basic questions. He didn't want to arouse any suspicions, but kept his statements short and to the point. When he wasn't pushing through crowds or waiting on the sidelines and watching people go by, he was walking up to stall owners and asking them whether or not they'd served any shinobi that day. He would also ask at the occasional spa about whether they had hosted Takigakure's Kage, but after a couple of hours of searching, all he ever got were head shakes and shrugs.
It almost seemed pointless. Thousands of people were currently on the move and he was only looking for one. If he was able to take to the rooftops it would make his search infinitely simpler, but there was always the risk of getting spotted and pursued. The last thing he wanted to do here was make a scene.
It wasn't in his interests to scare away his targets.
Having walked for over half the day starting from when he first entered the country at sunrise, Sasuke decided that he should sit down for a while and rest. He found a nice quiet bar where he could order some noodles and tea, and enjoyed a nice reprieve from a balcony view.
Whilst he rested his legs, he kept an eye on the crowds, using even his break to try and catch sight of his targets.
The teen had managed to find a good spot overlooking a hot spring resort next to a shrine, with a small stretch of market down below. Though it wasn't as crowded as the main market place, there were still quite a lot of people. At least the noise couldn't reach him up here.
"Hopefully… this area will quiet down into the afternoon," the young man mumbled to himself, fishing around his plate for a chicken and plucking a piece out with his chopsticks. Taking it between his teeth, he smirked to himself in between chews. "It's not like I'm going to stay… but this village is the perfect setup for a personal safe house…"
Who knows? It'd probably be worth it.
Taking his time, Sasuke surveyed the area during sips of his tea. He kept this lighthouse surveillance up throughout his entire meal, and by the time he was down to his last cup and an empty plate, he had eaten his fill and was ready to move out again.
While he was in the process of paying his bill to a very friendly waitress who had become quite taken with him, after hours of searching, finally…there was a break in the case.
Sasuke suddenly double-backed on the balcony when he spotted with his hawk-like eyes a young man with brown hair wrapped in a ponytail, and wearing a headband advertised clear across his forehead with insignia clearly aligning him to the hidden village of Takigakure.
Dressed in blue with light armor consisting of shoulder pauldrons, side guards, and various leather straps with pouches on either side of his belt, the man looked more like an ordinary shinobi than a notorious Kage. But there was no denying it.
On further inspection the Uchiha saw and recognized that the man he was looking at was none other than Shibuki.
One of the reasons the raven haired boy was able to spot the man exiting the store on the other side of the street so easily was that he was being accompanied by a girl wearing a white midriff shirt, apron skirt, armlets, and fishnet top and shorts, and had a mop of short, mint-green hair on top of her head. She also had a cylindrical object strapped to her back in a red bag.
It was like somebody had set off a beacon right in the middle of the street, the area of which had thinned out enough for Sasuke to catch even a single individual's expression out of many. From his position the Uchiha could clearly see that Shibuki was walking about with a smile on his face and the girl accompanying him seemed just as pleased. Were they a couple? Were they good friends? Who knew?
Watching them stroll down the street for a little ways while followed by a couple of tagalongs assumedly their escorts, who were giving them a bit of berth within the crowds of civilians, Sasuke decided right then and there to take action. Leaving the balcony in haste after depositing the funds in the waitress' hands as well as a courteous smile, he dashed down the stairs and onto the road, nudging himself into a group of people moving with the flow.
"Finally," the boy thought, peering around the head of a young couple to see Shibuki and his company up ahead, browsing the stalls at a distance. The Uchiha placed himself at an accurate throwing knife position, just so he wasn't spotted by the Taki shinobi moving with the masses as well.
To him, following a target was routine; basic tracking skills. He got plenty of practice doing these kinds of odd jobs for Orochimaru many times in the past.
Attention set, Sasuke hung back behind a stand and peered through the various displayed goods towards his quarry. Taking this slowly, he kept himself well out of sight, at the same time checking the rooftops and crowds for any eyes weary of his movements.
Over the next few minutes and after trailing them for a couple more blocks, things seemed to be going well.
"Sorry to do this to you Shibuki, but if Akatsuki is really going after village leaders, than I'm going to have to use you as bait to lure them out," the Uchiha thought with a frown.
Of course, there were no hard feelings involved, at least not in this job. This was purely business.
After watching the Kage and his companion browse the fruit stands, they moved on. The crowd crisscrossed, providing cover for their bodyguards and making conditions extremely difficult for any kind of assassination attempt. The festivities also hid the movements of shinobi belonging to Takigakure jumping around in the shadows between buildings, keeping watch of their target as extend. Only Sasuke, who had considered the possibility of that added guard, was aware of their presence.
The Uchiha followed, mouth shut and eyes open, blending into the various patrons and villagers moving with the crowd.
Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, a shinobi dressed in beige, casual clothes, consisting of a buttoned-up tunic, leather trousers and sandals, was keeping both of his eyes glued onto the village leader he was tasked in guarding. He watched intently as both Shibuki and his village's jinchuriki made their way through the small marketplace back to the hotel that they were staying at just several blocks away. He made sure to stay out of sight of the villagers and to take long pauses on his stops at crucial vantage points. Whenever a large crowd of villagers suddenly poured onto the road, he had to be ready to make his move to rescue the leader if necessary.
Dodging clotheslines and hop scotching a power line onto the next roof, the man hid himself behind a water tank sitting high on top of a restaurant. He saw Shibuki and Fu stop just short of a souvenir stall, and started looking over some of the fabrics and towels being sold over the counter. The man hanging onto the side held his post and narrowed his gaze, looking around at the crowd for any suspicious activities.
At first he thought he saw a person about a hundred yards back duck behind a booth and nonchalantly look over some of the braids and jewelry on sale. However, figuring these to be the actions of a customer taking stock of goods, he dispersed his suspicions and went on to his next point of interest. He shifted his gaze from a woman tending to her crying son, to an elderly couple shuffling incredibly close to his targets.
From laughing children, to lovey-dovey couples, to groups of tourists, this man had a right to be suspicious of everyone. It was his job to be sharp and weary, since he was supposed to be the eyes looking down from up high.
His attention occasionally shifted from the pair under his protection to random civilians moving about abnormally. These various activities he clued onto though were mere slips and stumbles, with the occasional clutter of somebody dropping something. There was nothing too drastic.
After a few minutes of holding ground, things seemed to be going well with nothing alarming to report. However, events were about to take a sudden, drastic turn on his end. He was about to get hit by something he never saw coming.
Just as he was about to change posts, he suddenly felt a shadow loom over his shoulder. Since he was standing on a narrow water tower on the very edge of a railing, he first thought it was a bird coming in to roost. But then when the shadow cast over him became heavy and remained, the man's eyes widened in alarm at a warm breath on his neck and the telltale fluttering of long clothes caught in an up draught.
He spun around, kunai drawn!
"Who goes…?" Were the only words he was able to utter before a hand was slapped over his mouth and his knife arm was grabbed! Immediately upon assault his foot was then kicked off of the narrow space it was wedged into and he lost balance, allowing his attacker to take his weight completely and ram him right into the side of the water tower.
The Taki Chunin's eyes widened in horror when he found his air passages cut off and eyes gazing back into the brown, cold irises of his assailant.
A woman with shocking red, goddess like hair, and a black cloak with red clouds on it trailing on the wind, straddled him against the side of the water tank. The position they were in was impossible, since they had no walkway beneath them or fixture to take weight except for the narrow rim, but the fact was that they were up against the water tower using only their chakra to support them.
Well, the kunoichi mostly. She was the only one putting any effort into fixing herself to a surface. With her feet pressed up against the sides of the metal container, if you were to tip the world over by ninety degrees the attacker would be on top of her victim, who was being held up by his face and arm, and being asphyxiated into submission.
The man thrashed against her grip, attempting to free his mouth and arms, but finding his limbs unfortunately locked up by the girl's advantageous grappling position. Eventually, after some useless kicking and turning, the man's eyes eventually rolled into the back of his head and he passed out. The kunoichi released him when it was safe to do so and his body slid down the side of the water cistern, hitting the roof of the building they were on after a two meter drop.
Still crouching against the tower, the woman in the cloak grinned at the success of the ambush. Slipping a new straw hat with papers streams over her head, she then leapt away, disappearing into an alleyway a whole roof across.
With all the bothersome snipers out of the way, she could finally move on to her next and main objective…
"Hey, check this out," Fu exclaimed, jumping over to a beautifully decorated dress hanging from a stall rack and gazing at it with a longing smile. "Wow… it's so pretty."
Shibuki, standing directly behind the girl, chuckled in amusement as he watched the kunoichi fawn over the wide variety of clothing on display in front of them. It was after seeing her take in the marvelous stitch work, color and texture, did the jinchuriki then glance over her shoulder and give her Kage a puppy-dog look.
"If you like anything you see Fu, don't hesitate to get it. There's no need to hold back on my account."
It was quite refreshing seeing his companion act this way, since she rarely showed this side to her in such a crowded environment. Though Fu was known to be a really happy-go-lucky sort of person and often lazed about, she mostly kept to herself whilst out in public. However, now that they were all the way out here, away from the confines of their village, she was able to relax and open herself up a little more.
Despite the fact that they were supposed to be here on business to talk trade with the leaders of the Land of Hot Water, they were also given time in between conferences to rest, relax and look around. It wasn't that they were abusing their privileges as diplomats; it was just that they were using the recess periods provided to their fullest to look around and see what there was to see. Heck, the Kage didn't want to keep his friend cooped up inside the entire time. Now that he was able to, he wanted to show her the world outside of their home.
Ecstatic at her boss's words, Fu wasted no time in buying the kimono to try out later tonight. Once it was bagged and slung around her arm, she turned and smiled gleefully in Shibuki's direction. "This is great! You can't usually find stuff like this back home!"
The young man chuckled, placing his hands on his hips, "Wait till our next meetings with the leaders of Konohagakure and Sunagakure, then I'll really show you around town."
Fu blinked, "Oh? Konoha and Suna? Those are some really big villages…"
"Powerful too, but thankfully we're good friends with them," Shibuki exclaimed, scratching the back of his head while briefly looking away in thought. "Man, now that I think about it I haven't heard from Naruto and the others in a long time. I wonder how they're doing."
"Naruto? You mean that blonde haired kid that saved our village from a bunch of rogue ninja all those years ago?" the jinchuriki asked, earning a curious glance from the young Kage. She grinned and shrugged back, "I ran into him on my last mission to one of the border towns a couple of months ago."
"Eh?" Shibuki jumped, having not expected her to mention or even bring up an encounter with his old associate. "Hang on… you mean back then…?"
Fu nodded enthusiastically, "Yeah. He was out of the village on vacation with his girlfriend to meet up with some old friends in Sunagakure… at least that's what he told me." The girl's face turned red with embarrassment and she rubbed the back of her head sheepishly, moving out of the way for a couple of tourists checking out the same stall that they were still standing in front of. "He scared the daylights out of me when he first got my attention out on the street because he was wearing some funny looking mask at the time. Good thing he told me that he knew you and just wanted to talk otherwise I would have cut him to shreds."
"Yeah," Fu giggled, rubbing her arm bashfully. "Still… I thought he was a really nice guy… quite a good looking fellow too. I could see why that girl he was with was so attached to him. Man…" She grinned again and held a fist up to her Kage to showcase her enthusiasm. "I mean, he was so-ooo cool! He told me all about the adventures he'd had and the battles he'd fought a whole other continent away! The guy was just awesome!"
The young village leader stared in astonishment, taking a moment to mentally inquire on Fu's story for himself. He tried to recall some of Naruto's other more notable qualities from what he remembered about the guy, turning away for a brief minute with his hand rubbing his chin.
Sure, a kid who stepped in excrement, made a big deal out of the smallest things, and was loud and wore bright colors. Now, tacking on to what Fu told him in summary, Naruto was now cool, possibly saving other villages from bad guys single-handedly, and had a girlfriend?
That guy who smiled constantly and had excessive amounts of energy actually managed to bag a girlfriend? Really? Something didn't smell right here.
Suspicious, Shibuki gave Fu a disbelieving glance. "What was she like?"
Clearing his throat, the man started making various odd, shapely gestures in the air in front of him. "I mean, was his girlfriend hot? Did she have some sort of complex? What was her hair color? What was her body shape? Size? Come on!" Right around now he started to look desperate as he leaned further towards the green haired girl, who pulled back quite a ways from the intensity of his stare. "Please, tell me!"
"I… I…" Fu gulped, shaking her head. "W-Why do you want to know all that, Shibuki-sama?"
The man took her by the shoulders, "Come on, Fu! We're talking about a guy who wears orange! I need to know what kind of girl can be interested in someone like him?" Sure he was a great kid, but come on. Even he didn't have a girlfriend yet and he was a damn Kage.
Staring into the man's eyes a few seconds longer, the jinchuriki smiled and looked away with a bit of red on her cheeks. She shuffled nervously, her posture and shoulder shrugs being an indication to her actual feelings on the matter, "Well… I thought he was pretty cool. Isn't that good enough of an answer?"
Looking completely shot down, Shibuki released her. Taking on a completely distraught and bewildered expression, the man slapped a hand over his face and ran it down with a dry sigh, "Geez… what on earth is happening to the world. I haven't heard from the guy in ages and he's already made it so far in his career as a shinobi. Was Naruto just born with an insane amount of luck or something?"
While he melted and Fu continued blushing over the image of the guy she had had that little meet up with all that time ago outside of his knowledge, the young Kage made a mental note to pop in one day to see his old friend. He just refused to believe a guy like that could actually get a girlfriend with his odd disposition. Unless something happened to him to change some of his character over the past few years, then he just couldn't see how.
Fu stuck her tongue out at him teasingly, bouncing on her toes in a clear sign that she wanted to keep moving. It was just as things were starting to calm down between them, and Shibuki was regaining his composure that they suddenly heard a strange sound drift in on the wind. Apparently, the crowd around them had also caught onto it, the entire street literally coming to a standstill upon registering to the noise filling their ears. All chatter ceased, allowing everyone within the vicinity to get a bead on its source.
It was the sound of a flute, something that was loud enough to be projected over all of the muttering and excitement of the villagers in the neighborhood. Additionally, people inside of stores and restaurants managed to pick up the abnormality, a waiter stopping short of pouring tea for one of the customers and unintentionally spilling hot water all over the place when the cup overflowed. Heads and eyes whipped left and right, trying to locate the player of the ominous yet beautiful music.
Even Sasuke, hiding amongst a group of people, blinked in surprise and looked around in sheer bewilderment.
"What the heck is that?" the teen mumbled, eyes narrowing on all the alleyways and rooftops in line of his sight. Due to the sheer volume of the track it almost sounded like it was being played off of speakers with incredibly high quality. However, on further investigation, it almost sounded like it was coming off of almost every solid surface.
It felt that way too since the sharp-eyed shinobi could feel the vibrations running up his toes from the ground.
However all of this white noise and background tracks changed in an instant when suddenly the flute music stopped and was replaced with a high-pitched whistle a split second later.
It was almost like the player had purposefully hit the wrong note to the extreme, as every single person in the stretch of market collapsed to their knees or staggered, clutching their ears to block out what could only be described as a sudden pitch in a megaphone exploding right next to them.
People cried out in agony, clutching the sides of their heads and reeling. Sasuke did too, barely able to crack an eye open all account of the air vibrating. Even though his vision wasn't being distorted physically he swore he could literally see sound waves blasting outwards, making everything and everyone look fuzzy.
He fell to his knees after several seconds of an unending chain of sonic waves, a lot of people standing around him doing the same thing. Those excluded from the count that dropped like flies were those with better balance or had managed to grasp the nearest solid fixtures for support.
Eventually, after a full thirty seconds of being overcome by the unbearable, ungodly screech, the whistle just died out. People withering about on the floor groaned out all sorts of nonsense, while at the same time attempting to recover or regain their senses. The world quickly went from unbearable and shaky, to jelly-like and wobbly. Those people still on their feet staggered around like drunks, hands pressed tightly over their ears.
Though the effectiveness of the attack had been wide-range and definitely showed an end result on a massive scale, what people failed to see on a level could definitely be seen from a birds-eye view. The sound waves had actually followed a strict pathway down the road, cutting a gap through the crowds. Those caught up in the center had managed to stumble away, clearing the path for the conjurer and giving her a direct line towards Takigakure's Kage and jinchuriki.
The above two were just like everybody else, coiling in pain and on the ground clutching their ears. It didn't take them too long to readjust though, but when they eventually did and had managed to turn their gazes upwards, they saw a dark, foreboding shadow silhouetted against the sky. Like a stand-off scene with the sunset blazing directly behind the shooter, the perpetrator behind the stunning technique stood directly in the path formed by the parted crowd.
Dressed in a black cloak with red clouds on it, and with a straw hat and strips of paper concealing their identity, the Akatsuki member responsible for harassing Kage and leaders across the entire continent, finally made her appearance.
"It's her!" Sasuke thought, spotting the organization member that was his primary target standing only a few feet away from him. He tried rising to his feet to establish a confrontation, but his legs at this point felt boneless as a result of the sound attack that had rattled his head. As a consequence he collapsed onto all fours when he tried leaping to a stand. "Dammit! I was too close! I got hit by the worst of it!"
Shibuki, having been brought to the awareness of the cult of assassins upon arriving at this village, also tried to get to his feet. He knew from intelligence that the people adorning that particular attire were currently after villagers of high social standing and importance, as well as the jinchuriki.
This scenario that he had so precariously fallen into told him only two things from his now disorientated state: that he was a target and so was Fu. He didn't need this handed to him in writing.
As a Kage, his existence was important amongst his villagers and the person that he could see standing above the whimpering crowd was out to take his life.
"Shit!" Shibuki shouted, drawing a kunai and struggling to a stand as quickly as he could.
Fu, still on the ground and holding her ears, followed her village leader's movements with her eyes. She gazed at him when he moved in front of her to block her from view of the assailant, "S-Sir?"
"Stay back, Fu!" the Kage shouted, staggering forward. "I've got this!"
As if the young leader rising to his feet was her cue, the kunoichi sheathed in the cloak threw her arm out. Sword appearing from her sleeve, she sprinted forward in a blur. She covered the distance of a hundred meters in just two seconds, her shadow overcoming the winded Kage by contrast. Shibuki gritted his teeth and stepped into a defensive stance.
The Taki shinobi hiding within the crowd immediately jumped at the sight of the attacker. Though knocked senseless themselves from the music attacks to their ears, they lunged at the charging woman from all sides. A group totaling ten shinobi leapt at the Akatsuki member from her blind spots, striking at her with a variety of weapons from kusarigama to tanto. However, their efforts proved futile when the masked woman, with her curved sword vibrating and producing that loud, metallic hum, cut through them like a tornado through a barn house.
One after another, the defenders were brought down. Their weapons were batted aside effortlessly when they attempted to strike at the individual, the first one being kicked away and back into the crowd. The assailant plowed through three more at once, their weapons shattering and their bodies being thrown all over the place. She carried on without missing a beat, striking down two others and leaping over a seventh, kicking him in the back of the head on her descent and knocking him out. A eighth attempted to subdue her with chains, but she ducked under the whipping weapons and lunged at him from below, coming up under his flailing staff and batting him aside with the backend of her sword, sending him spiraling into the withering and astonished audience.
It was easy to see she wasn't killing them, only removing her attackers from her path. All the same, the remaining two closest to a still recovering Shibuki were met with a roundhouse kick across both their faces when the shockingly quick Akatsuki member spun at them in a twisting motion, and vanquished them with a single hit.
She now had a clear shot at the Taki Kage.
The man bravely held his ground, bringing his kunai into a lowered stance. "You scum! I will not let you harm Fu!" Shibuki roared, charging at the cloaked warrior in spite of his weakened state.
He lashed at the assailant, now completely standing upright, with various strikes from his blade. The man was surprisingly aggressive as well as relentless, his attacks cutting silver arcs through the air from the speed of his lunges. However, as quick and as courageous as his onslaught was, the Akatsuki member merely danced and stepped around his attacks. Using evasive movements that needed no excess bursts whatsoever, the cloaked figure ducked and stepped around each and every strike Shibuki attempted, back-handing him with her sword hand when he overstretched a thrust.
Staggering from the hit, the Kage came back around with another swing, only to be met with a back kick across the face, which sent him spinning to the ground with a heavy thud.
Fu jumped to her feet, her knees buckling and nearly giving way, "Shibuki!"
It was the moment she shouted the Akatsuki member's head snapped in her direction, almost like a velociraptor. The jinchuriki took a stance, facing down the S-Ranked shinobi when she dashed at her instead. With speeds unaccountable, the assassin lunged at the green haired kunoichi with her sword, the blade flashing through the air like lightning.
The biju container responded immediately, lunging back at the girl with an upward strike. Having concealed her hand seconds before, she managed to draw a kunai from her pouch from a dead spot in order to use it to counter against their group's attacker. Her blade cut through the wind in a beautiful arc, intent on slicing through her neck in one go. However, the blade passed right by her intended target when she ducked and instead shredded a portion of her hat, sending splinters flying everywhere.
This gave the Akatsuki member the perfect, split-second window of opportunity to spin in and around her. Fu tried to follow but even with her eyes she was overcome by the person's shunshin like agility. A quick blink later and the girl was grabbed by the throat and thrown off of her feet. The Akatsuki member, with the jinchuriki's throat secured in her vice-like grip, spun her around and slammed her right through the stall behind her and into the wall beyond it, the stand exploding into pieces and sending clothes that were on display all over the floor.
Fu gagged, her airway passage being blocked by her attacker now pinning her against the plaster barrier of a hotel building. Choking and struggling to breathe, she cracked open an eye and looked down at the assailant.
She was completely at her mercy.
"W-Who are you…?" Fu writhed, grabbing the person's arm and kicking at the wall, "What do… you want from…me?"
The Akatsuki member said nothing. Instead, with her free hand, the attacker reached up for her hat and turned the torn side around, enough so that Fu could peer through the gap and see their face, even if it was only a bit of it. The right side of their true identity came into view when light fell upon it, and Fu was able to get a good glimpse of the person hiding behind the strips of paper
Jaw dropping, the green haired girl stopped her thrashing and just stared. "Y-You?"
The woman nodded back, at the same time sheathing her sword up her sleeve, warranting a questioning gaze from her victim. Even with the knowledge of the person's identity in her hands the jinchuriki couldn't help but still feel both terrified and confused.
What the heck was going on?
"W-Why?" Fu choked out.
The Akatsuki member leaned forward, placing their head directly next to the still suspended kunoichi. It was then the person whispered something indistinctly to the jinchuriki, out of earshot of everybody else. Although villagers watching couldn't hear what was being said, they could still see the victim's expression change from confused to almost bewildered, and then, after a full minute of listening to her attacker's whispers, to a look that clearly expressed understanding.
Shibuki, scared for his friend's life, rose to his feet, as did most of his stricken bodyguards, a handful of villagers, and on the sidelines Sasuke, who staggered out of view of the commotion. The Uchiha made sure to conceal himself and watched from behind a still standing stall as the Kage from Takigakure quickly approached the pair over by the wall.
Even though he was completely outclassed, he still wanted to save his friend.
They saw the attacker lean away, and both the jinchuriki and her foe went back to staring at each other. This time Fu was not looking scared, confused or wanting to escape from this person's shadow anymore. Instead, she stared back at the Akatsuki member with a half-smile and gave the person a nod of acknowledgement.
Taking that as acceptance, the masked kunoichi dropped Fu from the wall, grabbed her arm and immediately spun her into an arm lock so that her back was pressed up against her chest. She turned to face the crowd, blocking Shibuki from view, who immediately stopped in his tracks at the sight of his companion being used as a human shield.
When both the Kage and his friend were given a second to look at one another, the masked Akatsuki member brought Fu in close and slammed an elbow into the back of her head and neck, knocking her out instantly. Heaving her up onto her left shoulder, the missing-nin then turned and started walking away.
"NO!" Shibuki shouted, drawing shuriken and tossing them at the person's legs.
Unhampered by the extra wait, the Akatsuki member threw her free hand out and countered the barrage with kunai, the blades clashing at an angle and redirecting all projectiles. It was then when the Kage decided to charge in to make a direct engagement the cloaked figure raised the same arm above her head and threw a cluster of pellets at the ground. A purple cloud of smoke exploded into the air and engulfed them.
The Takigakure leader leapt back, staying out of range of the gas in case it was poison. Desperately, the man watched the clouds lift into the air and remain suspended for several seconds, before fading away and leaving just empty space in front of him. As for the Akatsuki assailant and her quarry, they were nowhere to be seen.
Shocked, Shibuki clenched his fists and marched forward, personally searching the vicinity for any traces of the escapee before rounding on his men. The now recovered Chunin and Jonin scattered around the shaken crowd of villagers stood to attention to their leader's glare, who then pointed at each and every one of them.
"Fan out! Find them! Don't let that person out of this village!"
The group of ten ninja did what was asked of them and immediately leapt off to find the enemy. What they all left behind was a scene of chaos, swaths of disturbed and stricken civilians, and a ruined clothing stand. It was after the three minute clash had ended did shinobi of the home village finally started pouring in to restore order to the scene, and to also provide assistance to the Taki shinobi giving chase to the one responsible for this whole mess.
Meanwhile, Sasuke, having managed to follow the Akatsuki attacker's movements from afar, withdrew into the alleyway to pursue. He was gone in the blink of an eye, just like his Takigakure counterparts.
Managing to throw the village's leader off her trail and evading the shinobi sent after her completely, the masked Akatsuki member took to the alleyways. Hurdling crossroads and darting across streets so fast that passers thought that they were being hit by a gust of wind, the kidnapper carried herself over a dozen blocks away from the scene that she had created, before eventually slowing down. In order to keep pursuers from following any traces she may have been leaving she distorted the direction of her retreat, doubling back a couple of times while also not following too linear a course out of the neighborhood.
Eventually she found herself in a dark, grubby alleyway surrounded by four-story tall apartment buildings, brick walls and trash cans. The water towers around her also provided some dead spots for her to conduct whatever plans she had next on her list. When she hit the darkest part of the route she was following and had managed to drown out the sounds of any crowds or marketplaces nearby, her sprint slowed to a jog, before eventually slowing to a dead stop.
The cloaked figure peered over her shoulder. Stretching her senses out, she confirmed she was no longer being followed. People tended to make a lot of noise when in a rush or were panicking, and if there was anyone suspicious close by she would have picked up on the acoustics within this narrow corridor of constructs. But after a couple of minutes of listening and searching out for any anomalous vibrations, all she was able to detect was the dripping of water from pipes and the whistling of trains in the station a couple of blocks away.
This was exactly where she wanted to be; closed off and within running distance of the locomotives.
It was the transportation she was most concerned with at the moment, for should her situation suddenly change she needed to know exactly when and where she needed to go in order to make a clean escape.
But of course she had to take care of her extra baggage first.
Gently sitting the unconscious Fu up against a wall, the Akatsuki member pulled her ruined hat off and dumped it in the nearest trash can. After which she then unbuttoned the collar of her cloak, reached in and pulled out a large scroll, which, judging from its size, was wide and lengthy enough to lay an entire person over it.
It was an act that she would perform next upon unfurling it on the damp floor.
Revealing an array of complicated seals inscribed upon the sheet of paper, the red haired assailant then collected the jinchuriki, laid her across and, after making sure she was in the right position and facing the correct nodes, prepared for the final stages of the ritual. Kneeling down on the ground, she held both hands out in front, flipped through several unorthodox hand signs that were not amongst the standard shinobi practices, and finished with both palms hovering open over the body. It almost looked as though she was about to start a healing jutsu.
But instead of healing wounds, the sealing patterns on the scroll fanned out across the ground, activating instantly after the seal pattern was completed.
The ink marks started to glow hot red, lighting up the narrow alleyway and causing an eerie light to engulf everything in sight. It was a good thing she had chosen this spot to go through with this ceremony; otherwise the light would have been spotted an entire block away.
This was her chance.
"You're mine now," Tayuya exclaimed with a smirk, "Reverse Summoning Technique!"
And that was all that was needed.
Fu's body rose a few inches off of the ground like a puppet on strings, almost like she was being drawn into some heavenly light from above. However, after hovering over the glowing seal patterns for several seconds, her body was then enveloped in a blast of hot, white smoke that seemed to come out of nowhere. The cloud burst out over the entire area and covered the ground in thick fog, before fading away on the wind, revealing nothing but empty air and zero traces of the unconscious victim.
At the conclusion of the technique the seals faded back to their original color and receded, returning to its previous neutral state of safety.
The ritual over, Tayuya rose to her feet and breathed out a sigh of relief. As tiring as it had been, she was ultimately pleased with the results and assured that she had gotten everything she had came to this village to get.
With her job done she flicked her wrist, four kunai flying into her grip and in a single, decisive swipe, tossed them down at the open scroll. The blades impaled and shredded the paper, ensuring that nobody would be able to reclaim the jinchuriki and guaranteeing the success of her mission.
Tayuya grinned, "We will be sure to make some good use of you."
Tugging on her collar, the red haired kunoichi prepared to vacate the scene of the crime. However, just as she was turning heel to make a quick getaway she came to an abrupt and unexpected stop when she picked up something on her radar. Though initially surprised at the detection, she then grinned when she recognized the signature hanging in the air and turned around completely.
Facing the direction of the alleyway she had been following, she found her path blocked by an opposing shadow.
Dressed in white and purple, with his black hair framing his face and hand draped over the sword sheathed behind him, Tayuya found herself confronted by the self-proclaimed avenger Sasuke Uchiha, or otherwise known as Orochimaru's other errand boy.
The red head smirked to herself when her eyes fell upon the familiar face, "Well… isn't this a pleasant surprise."
The young man glared back, attempting to intimidate the kunoichi with his glare and killing intent. Of course, while this would have normally worked against other opponents weak in will and generic in terms of skill, this one didn't even flinch. In fact, she seemed to laugh in the face of his Sharingan when his tomoes spun into view. His blood red eyes narrowed in the dark when both sides faced each other down.
Tayuya didn't back down, choosing to remain where she was in a non-aggressive stance and chuckling to herself when his glare failed to falter. "Geez, exactly how big was the stick that got shoved up your ass? Did I do something wrong to warrant such an unpleasant stare?" She pointed in his direction with a smirk. "If it's a basement problem I strongly recommend Hemorrhoid cream; it'll clear that right up."
Oh, a funny?
The man's eyes twitched at the woman's sarcasm as he stepped forward, not even making the kunoichi twitch in the slightest.
"Intelligence reports says that you guys travel in pairs," Sasuke began, eyes glancing around the shadows. "Where's your partner?"
Straight to the point? The guy was all business and not one for useless banter after all. To be honest, it was quite a refreshing change of pace.
Now, while Tayuya was more than happy to answer his questions, she couldn't help but wonder to herself if maybe she should spout a little bit more fiction with her mouth to keep him entertained? Not only would it make things more interesting, but it could also buy her a little bit more time till her train was scheduled to leave the station.
"He's taken a leave of absence," the red head exclaimed, bringing her hands back down to her sides, "Sandcastle building competition in Sunagakure. You should have seen his Hokage Monument presentation." She whistled with a shake of her head, "Damn that end result was spectacular."
The raven haired teen huffed, adjusting his hand position of draping to gripping his sword's handle. "You're a really funny woman. Though I won't penalize you on that, it looks as though I'll need to change my approach if I'm going to start getting any serious answers from you." His gaze hardened as his sword clicked out of its sheath, the base of the blade flashing into view. "Next question; where's Itachi Uchiha?"
Tayuya shrugged, "I'm sorry to say that the two of us don't get along very well. We have a very… tense working relationship, so communication is sort of strained." She tilted her head in the boy's direction, still wearing that teasing smirk and sporting an inquisitive, raised eyebrow. "Although… I might happen to know where you can find him, and I'll be more than happy to tell you… for the right price."
No fooling around on her part. She made a cash gesture by rubbing her fingers together in front of her. "A girl's got to make a living, yah know?"
"Irrelevant," Sasuke replied sharply. His pupils dilated and the tomoes circling them spun like a saw blade, indicating the activation of his doejutsu technique. His killing intent skyrocketed in one second flat, "I won't ask you again. Tell me where I can find Itachi Uchiha." The volume in his voice escalated along with his aggression, his manner switching instantly from cool and collected, to impatient and demanding.
Tayuya felt herself get hit by the genjutsu hurled from the boy's eyes. She reeled back in shock, a sight that told the Uchiha that his casting and aim was spot on as usual. He relaxed his shoulders and his stance with the knowledge that he'd gotten her, and had a good enough hold over her. Any information he wanted to know was now bound to come spewing out of her mouth.
He'd planned it all out in his head; after he got what he wanted, he could then complete his mission, kill her, and head off to find his next target.
However, much to his utter astonishment, the girl whose head had snapped straight into the air after getting hit dead on by his most potent genjutsu had started to shake with laughter. That chuckling only continued on when the caster backed down in surprise, turning a very worrisome scene into an intense one. Eventually, seconds of amused hollering later, the kunoichi returned to staring at him with a hard, unblinking gaze.
What the hell? She got hit by a jutsu that should have brought her mentality to a stop. Technically she shouldn't even be conscious right now, but there she was, smirking as though she had just sold something that was essentially nothing for a high price.
Feeling his technique fail outright and dissipate with the return of her smile, the Uchiha tried again. However, the moment his chakra passed through the air and hit the girl or attempted to anyway, it bounced off of her in the form of a tangible ripple cutting through the air, like a pebble was dropped from an elevated position into still water. The barrier looked like fog parting in a gust of wind, which was the main visual affect of his doejutsu's illusion being completely nullified.
The teen blinked in surprise, "That's new…"
Tayuya grinned at him, "Fundamental Resonance 30. Fascinating."
Now either Sasuke was getting drunk off of an inconceivable pheromone hanging in the air or his opponent was starting to visibly glow through his abnormally sharp eyes. This mild illumination however wasn't chakra becoming visible, which would have been impossible unless she had an unimaginable well of it on her person. It was in fact the surface of her body vibrating on account of her metaphysical prowess. Regrettably, the teenager was unable to see the flow of chakra through her body due to the invisible barrier she had erected, which was currently distorting the visual capabilities of his Sharingan.
Tayuya giggled, flipping her hair over her shoulder, "Using my chakra I can emit low to high level acoustic frequencies from my body in a form of sonar. By adjusting the resonance value I can dispel any environmental changes. Hence, genjutsu is rendered useless against me."
This information had Sasuke frown and quickly shift to Option C without a second thought, completely drawing his sword from his sheath. Spinning it, he caught it in a forward-facing grip and tightened his glare for engagement. If he couldn't get her to answer through a conventional, verbal approach, intimidate her with killing intent or shake her down with illusions, then he was just going to have to force her to talk by way of physical negotiations. It was one other skill he was extremely confident about.
However, before he could move forward with his next plan he was suddenly let on to another interesting fact, which only occurred to him when he was able to get a better look at her face. Having not focused on this from the get-go, figuring her to be simple canon-fodder within one of the most powerful groups in the shinobi world and dismissing her completely because of that thought, he was now starting to take in his opponent from different angles more considerably.
After a quick look over and a photo lineup of her face against people he had met before in the past, the Uchiha then recoiled in shock when her face finally registered to him, "Y-You… aren't you…?"
Tayuya chuckled, "Figured it out?"
Sasuke's frown deepened and his blade flashed when he flexed his wrist, "You're supposed to be dead."
"Ugh… don't remind me. That was the worst escort job I ever had to take part in and… hell, I didn't even get paid for it," the girl complained, shaking her head. She placed her hands on her hips and allowed a sigh to escape her lips, "It wasn't like we were going to get rewarded for it anyway. The four of us had a really stingy boss after all." Letting the bad memories float right on by, the girl smirked back up at the raven haired teen. "What about you? Is your life insurance covered? And how are my old pals the pedophile and the bitch doing, it's been years since I last saw either one of them. I bet they've worn each other's assholes raw… and yours too if you were unlucky enough." She then snapped her fingers and grinned in his direction. "Hey! That explains that stick up your ass."
God did it feel good to bash on her former managers.
Not letting her cleverly orchestrated words get to him, the boy began walking toward her straight down the alleyway. His blade scraped against the wall and caused sparks to sprinkle along the ground, marking his path. "I can see your vulgar mouth hasn't changed one bit. Perhaps I can alter its tone to a more satisfying level once I begin questioning you on the whereabouts of my brother more thoroughly."
His pace picked up, a sight that had the kunoichi return her hands to her sides. "Unfortunately I don't have time to be playing paddy cake with you today, Tinker Bell. I have a schedule to keep and I don't like being late," Tayuya exclaimed, taking a step back.
The raven haired teen saw her back down and, knowing she was going to try another escape, exploded into a dash. His bolting speed matched that of his current opponent's from her earlier assault on Taki's troop, "Book your times an hour earlier!"
Tayuya didn't need telling twice. This space was her advantage and she was going to use it to her utmost.
Her right hand shot out of her sleeve and began vibrating an abnormal glow again. In a swift, backhanded motion a shockwave with no human audible recognition exploded off of her palm and rippled down the alleyway. The invisible wave hit Sasuke head long and, though it shouldn't have had any physical repercussions, it did manage to stagger him backwards. A split second later his body registered to the effects of the technique and he shuddered to a complete stop.
Dropping his sword with a clatter, the boy slapped his hands over his ears and cried out in pain. His eyes widening considerably and sweat almost instantaneously beginning to pour from his brow he collapsed to his knees in anguish. His groans matched his actions as his world visibly distorted from vibrations that simply engulfed the surrounding area.
The main effect however was, not the physical trauma his muscles were experiencing or the fact that a high, piercing screech was invading his ear passages, but it was the attack to his mentality. His mind was spinning inside of a vortex filled with feelings of sorrow. He was literally convulsing with an overflow of angst, traumatic memories being brought up of his family being slaughtered by his brother, his first time facing killing intent from both Zabuza and Orochimaru, his near death experience against Haku, and his entire time spent bound inside of Tsukuyomi. They were all coming back to him all at once and amplified by the technique being used against him.
"W-What…" He tried to speak up above the screeching and chaos invading his head. In spite of his efforts to regain control though, he still fell forward onto hands and knees, and puked his guts out. It was a humiliating sight yes, but he couldn't help it. He was in so much pain that he lost all control over his bodily functions. "What the hell is this?"
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Tayuya exclaimed, watching the boy writhe several feet away from her. "Humans perceive sound only within twenty kilohertz and twenty hertz frequencies. However, I can manipulate both ultrasonic and infrasonic sounds that are outside the audible range, levels that ordinary people cannot hear or recognize but their bodies are compelled to react, no matter the circumstances."
Sasuke glared up, drool running down from the corner of his lip as he quivered. Through a blurry vision, he locked onto his target standing a safe distance away, wanting nothing more than to stop this godforsaken jutsu racking his body. With a shaky hand he reached out and grabbed the handle of his sword, tightening his grip around it as he pulled it back towards him.
When Tayuya saw his Sharingan fade in and out of activation, she smirked. She knew that the boy was now having insane amounts of trouble stabilizing his chakra circulation, a side effect of a direct assault to his ears using sound waves. As long as she kept him within range his eye jutsu won't be able to affect her, not that it would work on her in the first place. It was just one of the many fail safes she had developed when creating her unorthodox techniques for infiltration and combat.
"The Sharingan cannot break this technique because it directly attacks the human temperament," Tayuya explained, running a hand through her hair and placing it behind her ear, as if listening out for a sound that wasn't there. "I did heaps of research on this over the years in my efforts to develop an adequate countermeasure against jutsu that rely on direct force and subtlety by producing an attack that was both invisible and indirect. What do you suppose happens to somebody who hears this type of music? It's actually quite marvelous. The ultrasonic sounds promote anger, whereas subsonic sounds cause anxiety. Only people with a flexible character can withstand this kind of assault, but I've accounted for that weakness as well. It's all a part of the musical piece I've been composing called The Silent Song of Nightmare."
"Y-You bitch!" Sasuke spat, rising to his knees despite the surface he was on being all wobbly.
It was like music to her ears. This was exactly what the kunoichi wanted to hear from her opponent. The information she was able to absorb from him was all that she needed to ascertain the theories she had collected and summarize her findings perfectly. "Even the most steadfast of shinobi are affected by these sounds. Good. That means my song has finally been completed." Flicking her right hand out her sword flew into her grip. Blade flashing into view, she dropped into a crouching stance. "Now, it's time for me to go. You'd best stay out of my way."
"N-No!" Sasuke shouted, rising to his feet shakily. "Not until you've answered my questions!"
The red head was done talking. Rushing forward with great speed, she was soon upon the disoriented teenager, her blade carving impressive hooks through the air. Evading and dodging inside of the limited space, the Uchiha attempted to keep pace of her in his vibrating environment, but because he was hampered by anxiety aftereffects shaking him down, he wasn't able to keep up his retreat for long.
Dropping back several feet, he brought his sword up and blocked a strike, sparks flying as a result. He then ducked in with a swing to throw her off, but she nailed his forward leg with a roundhouse kick, followed by one aimed high, smacking him in the side of the face. The boy slammed into the wall next to him, using it as support before leaping off of it. Gritting his teeth, he lunged in a stabbing motion with his blade in a two-handed grip, but the kunoichi spun on the spot and kicked across his face, sending him tumbling back and rolling across the ground.
Blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, Sasuke leapt onto all fours, sliding as his momentum from taking the kick receded. Once he grounded himself to a stop, he quickly formed hand seals for his next technique and slammed both hands into the wall next to him. He gritted his teeth as he took aim, electricity beginning to shoot down his arms.
"Chidori Nagashi!" (Chidori Stream)
Lightning exploded from his palms, a massive, crackling current streaming down the wall and cutting its way towards the red haired assailant. Rubble burst outwards as the surface splintered and blasted outwards, electricity jumping across to the other side as it traveled down his line of intent at incredible speed.
Of course, Tayuya had anticipated a move to be executed from mid-range. Slapping both hands together, she then slammed them into the wall just as her opponent did, a ripple exploding outwards from where she hit.
"Shōgekiha!" (Shock Wave)
Her attack ripped through the wall and caused a multitude of debris explosions as the ripples fanned out. The attack ran head long into the Chidori Stream coming straight for her, the two colliding and causing an even bigger explosion right in the center of the battle zone. Fire and rubble blasted outwards, sending hot wind down the alleyway toward both ends and scolding the two shinobi. Tayuya shielded herself from the aftershock as it reverberated in all directions, glaring through the thick of it to where she knew her opponent was also taking punishment.
However, the moment the winds and shock waves died down, Tayuya's eyes suddenly shot upwards when she saw her opponent leap out of the cloud of hot dust.
Leaping across from windowsill to windowsill as he ascended, the Uchiha acted quickly to get away from the confined space that was their battleground. Deciding that a higher elevation was his best bet and that he could get a better angle over his opponent, the young man stopped at the third story window and swung around, extending his right hand and taking aim at the Akatsuki member down below.
"Her sound techniques are amplified in a narrow corridor! She has an advantage in this space," Sasuke thought, electricity beginning to crackle around his fingers. "I'll have a much better chance of taking her on in open space!" Intense energy beginning to course along his arm, he threw his hand forward and shouted, "Chidori Nagashi!"
Lightning shot out of his hand and rained down on top of the kunoichi. Bolts struck the surrounding walls on all sides, tearing through bricks, and sending rubble and debris cascading down on top of the woman.
Though surprised that the boy was able to execute two lightning techniques in such a short amount of time, Tayuya maintained her cool as well as her position. It wasn't like she'd never seen stamina or faced down raw power like his before. On the contrary, she's been living with it for around three years now.
Grinning widely, the girl dropped into a crouching stance as lightning shot down towards her. Spinning her blade, she held it out and took aim.
The neighborhood near the train station quickly erupted into pandemonium when the alleyway where Sasuke and Tayuya were fighting went up in smoke, literally. A fiery explosion rocketed into the air, blanketing the area with soot and debris. The cause of the blast followed seconds afterwards and landed on a rooftop several meters away from the bellowing causeway.
The Uchiha's glare fixed on the gap where he figured his opponent was deep fried. However, with the skills she'd already displayed to him, he highly doubted that the kunoichi would simply roll over and die from an attack like that.
His hunch was right on the mark.
Upon rising to his feet, he saw a shadow stroll out of the pillar of smoke. Dusting crumbs of brick off of her shoulders, Tayuya made her casual, dramatic appearance from the heart of the storm, tossing her head around and throwing dust out of her hair. She smirked when her eyes fell back onto her opponent.
"That was good. You've definitely gotten stronger over these past few years, brat," Tayuya stated, grinning widely at her stone-faced attacker. "In terms of decisiveness and jutsu, factoring out my ability to neutralize opponents' chakra, you and I may be exactly the same strength. However, at this point in time, I'm afraid you wouldn't be able to last even five minutes against my partner, let alone Itachi."
"That much is clear," Sasuke acknowledged, watching the kunoichi begin circling around on the building, moving to his left. "However, there are no 'what ifs' in battle. It's either kill or be killed. I'm not going to fall for any more of your tricks."
Tayuya chuckled, "True enough. But even if you knew all of my secrets you still wouldn't be able to beat me. My teammates and I have been training our asses off to kill shinobi, particularly those with optical capabilities above our own." She stopped, holding her curved sword out and leveling it with her shoulder. Her grin disappeared and her eyebrows narrowed, transforming her once conniving looking expression into a serious one. "As much as I'd like to beat you down myself, I'm afraid I made a promise to my partner to keep you around. It's a promise I intend to keep."
"Like I'm going to give you a chance to get away from me," Sasuke stated, drawing his own sword and bringing his Sharingan to bear on his opponent. Though he couldn't see past the field of chakra she had floating around her, he knew he would still be able to follow her, no matter how fast she went. "You have answers I want. So before completing my mission, I'm going to get you to sing for me."
Tayuya sighed, shaking her head, "You two are exactly the same, stubborn like mules."
Sasuke exploded into action, sprinting down the roof and charging at his opponent. He lunged with his blade first, the flashing streak through the air advertising his movements. Tayuya dodged around his attack, slicing out with her own blade and meeting his in a deadly clash.
Redirecting his first few strikes, the kunoichi danced around him gracefully, having to put more effort into her movements due to them being roughly about the same speed and agility. However, while Sasuke was more direct and precise, Tayuya was more graceful and fluent.
Much like her absent partner, she chose to use more flourishing techniques through superior movement, spinning and flipping when she fought. This was exactly what she did when she met the more kenjutsu disciplined blade of Sasuke's, who kept his movements confined to basic slashing and striking attacks from a firm stance.
Sparks flew as the opponents clashed, circling each other on the roof, retreating and attacking whenever openings presented themselves. However, no matter how hard they tried, they either couldn't break their target's defenses or touch them due to their evasive behavior.
Using acrobatics Sasuke had never seen before, Tayuya flipped over her opponent, striking downwards in a spinning motion at the same time. The Uchiha brought his sword up and blocked, his Sharingan working their magic and keeping him in tune with his opponents maneuvers. He still had to work even harder to keep up with her, since she was much faster than any shinobi he'd ever faced before. The girl was just all over the place.
Landing behind the raven haired boy, Tayuya circled him, changing directions sharply and coming at him from his right with a backhanded slash. Sasuke met her blade with a forward slash in a reverse grip, their blades intercepting and sparking when they slammed into one another. Using his momentum to her advantage, the kunoichi barrel rolled under his blade when it passed over as their swords crossed, coming to crouch behind him. She then lunged with the back of her right shoulder into his.
Sasuke turned to his right to meet her, but their backs ended up crashing into each other and they span in the same clockwise direction.
Managing to get behind her opponent, Tayuya pushed off of him when the Uchiha spun to face her on a reverse, slashing out diagonally. His blade missed, and the kunoichi tumbled across the ground away from him. When she got onto all fours and faced him down like a cat ready to pounce, Sasuke lunged at her with a conventional upward slashing motion. The girl leapt off of the floor at the same time, spinning through the air over his left shoulder and following the path ahead of his blade. She slashed at him when she spun, the boy ducking just in time to avoid but getting a grazed haircut in the process.
He spun and she twirled when she landed on tiptoes, their blades slashing across and intercepting once again. Sparks flew when swords crossed, and the two began lashing out at each other with their particular styles. Eventually, after parrying each other and throwing themselves back, the two circled in an anti-clockwise motion, coming back in with another slash. Their blades met and sparks exploded, the two grappling with one another and putting the full weight of their bodies behind their weapons.
Sasuke and Tayuya clenched their teeth and locked eyes, frustration and sheer grit pushing them on.
Both hands on his chokuto, one on the handle and one on the back of his blade, the Uchiha's eyes narrowed, at the same time as he focused his chakra. Almost instantaneously, lightning began coursing up and down his blade, enhancing its cutting power and the force being put behind it. The katana pressed into the curved sword of his opponent, intent on slicing through it to finish his foe in one go.
Tayuya smirked, feeling her foothold slide back several feet before bumping up her own swordsmanship abilities. The situation was getting hairy. She needed to shift the fight back in her favor before Sasuke sliced through her sword and through her.
Applying her chakra to her sword just as he did, her blade began vibrating at an intense rate, a metallic hum filling the air and drowning out the thousand chirping birds made by the Chidori enhanced katana. Both their energy sheathed weapons ground against one another, with the atmosphere soon starting to burn at the friction being produced by the two shinobi grappling dangerously.
"Kyōmei fifuti," (Resonance Value 50) Tayuya shouted, the hum of her blade suddenly increasing in volume before exploding outwards in the form of an invisible ripple that encompassed the entire area. Sasuke was hit by the wave head first, but when it seemed to have no physical affects other than making him flinch, his lightning covered blade suddenly dissipated.
Seconds later, his chakra failed him completely.
Jumping in shock, the Uchiha leapt away just as the girl's vibrating blade cut through the air after forcing itself through his now deteriorated guard, nearly slicing his katana into two. Taking up position several meters away, the boy stared through widened eyes at his opponent, who continued to hold her ground unhampered.
The boy was shocked for two reasons. One was that the moment he was hit by what he felt and first thought of as wind, he felt his chakra levels fluctuate before plummeting. The other sensation he felt was his Sharingan lose their focus before going out altogether, his eyes turning back to their usual shade of charcoal. He physically rubbed them with his fingers when he could no longer see chakra in colors, and shook his head to try and clear his mentality.
The damn ringing noise in his ears was starting to give him a headache.
Opening them up and blinking away the blur, he tried to activate his Sharingan for a second time. However, the moment his eyes flashed red and his tomoe reappeared, they faded back to black. His inability to muster his signature doejutsu stunned the boy beyond belief and he looked down at his hands in a panic.
"What's going on?"
Tayuya backed off, smirking as she watched her opponent wallow about in confusion a safe distance away. Though she could take advantage of his anxiety, she thought it best not to. The boy was as alert as she was in situations like this, even when emotionally stricken. This she learned after watching him shrug off her Silent Song of Nightmare composition only minutes before.
"I used that technique to mess with the Raikage's head," Tayuya exclaimed, seeing the Uchiha turn to face her. Confusion continued to plague his expression as she went on with her explanations, "Sound is generated through vibrations. By using my chakra, I can emit varying levels of ultrasonic and subsonic ambiance from my body, and not just through my weapons and musical instruments. Like I said before, by adjusting the resonance value I can effectively dispel any environmental abnormalities."
Sasuke gritted his teeth, "Dammit… I've never even heard of this stuff before, not even after years of being in that shithole of a village. Where in the hell did she learn to manipulate chakra like that?" The boy brought his sword back up and took it in a two-handed grip, his blade clicking as he adjusted the position next to him. "We may be equals in terms of taijutsu and ninjutsu prowess, but with those damned techniques of hers she has an instant advantage over any opponent she encounters."
She definitely was an Akatsuki member. Her skills were otherworldly.
The kunoichi turned heel, facing the boy side-on. "You'd better call it quits here, brat. I've been training for years for the ability to beat opponents much stronger than you. I'm going to say this right now, you're not going to like where I'm heading next…" She turned her back on him, a sight that stunned the Uchiha.
Nobody, not even high ranking shinobi he'd faced in the past had the guts or even the disrespect to turn their back on him. However, this girl had enough confidence in her ability to handle him to disregard him so completely.
She smirked at the boy over her shoulder, "Of course, you're welcome to follow me at your own risk."
The teen remained silent, choosing to glare at his target who stared back unafraid and unmoving. Eventually, after several seconds of glaring at one another, the sound of a locomotive and its carriages leaving the station echoed throughout the neighborhood in the form of a whistle. That whistle and the series following after that was the signal the kunoichi was waiting for, and with a final grin directed at her opponent, sprinted off across the rooftops.
Sasuke flicked his wrist, shuriken shooting into his fingers. He dropped into a stance and aimed to take the woman down now that her back was turned to him.
Of course, while he normally would have taken advantage of an opportunity like this any other day, he quickly thought against that idea and lowered his hand, watching as the woman disappeared over the horizon. It would be a full minute later till she arrived at the train station, in which the Uchiha gambled that she would jump aboard the train now departing for wherever it was she was going.
Sheathing his throwing weapons and his sword, the raven haired teen reassumed a normal stance. Glaring across the village towards the train yard where the main boarding facility could be seen standing over all the hotels in sight, Sasuke weighed up the options laid out before him.
Considering he had yet to complete the mission Orochimaru had set out for him on account that he had underestimated that woman's abilities and that they were far more different than he had earlier anticipated, he felt that he should follow after her just so that he could keep an eye out for an opening to take her down. On the other hand, another part told him that he should probably just follow, and wait and see if she would lead him to any other members of Akatsuki, and maybe even Itachi.
She did seem to know about him and there was also a good chance that she might genuinely answer his questions. However, this was in doubt since she was not only fast, confident and enigmatic, but she was also stubborn. Sasuke never expected that a former subordinate of Orochimaru could get so powerful in the same amount of time he'd had to substantially increase his own abilities.
And that was another thing. After the seemingly one-sided fight he'd just had, counting up the score, the teen began wondering whether or not he was actually strong enough to tackle Itachi and carry out his ultimate goal.
Would he be able to beat his brother with his now accumulated skills, or would he fail like last time and end up stomping around in yet another pit of despair and disappointment.
These were questions that had doors to infinite possibilities, yet were also incredibly daunting and bleak, no matter which way he chose to approach it.
Upon reflection, with his eyes darting left and right trying to decide on an appropriate course of action, Sasuke than glared back towards the train station. The reason he'd been able to progress so far was because he persevered, using whatever resources he had at his disposal, including Orochimaru, drugs and grit to get where he was going. Sure, most of these were cheat codes to more power, but all of that was necessary from him in the long run. He also knew that collaboration opened up more doors for continued improvement, and this girl was strong… really strong.
As expected of a member of Akatsuki, she was unbelievably powerful. Perhaps if he followed her he would be able to think up a strategy to beat Itachi. Then again… there was the chance she could kill him before he even had a chance to approach her and interrogate her again. It was within her power after all.
"Hmph… screw it," Sasuke mumbled, sprinting off after the kunoichi.
The train may have already left the station and the village, but he was going after her all the same. No way in hell was he going to let this retreat lie. He was going to settle the score, but only after he found out where she was going.
Back in the marketplace…
A crowd had formed up around the disaster zone where the fight between Taki forces and an Akatsuki assailant had occurred not too long ago. Shinobi belonging to Yugakure kept the villagers back as they searched the area and questioned Takigakure's leader and witnesses on what had transpired. Shibuki was impatient and stressed out, routinely conferring with his associates coming in and out of the area on the progress of their search for Fu and her kidnapper.
It took a while, but eventually shinobi from Taki reported back that they had just watched a kunoichi wearing the garb that Shibuki had described boarding a train for the countries to the west. Not knowing where she was going, the Kage then ordered the bodyguards he had on hand to send out notices to be on the lookout for Akatsuki members traveling by train, and to search for one possibly carrying a girl with green hair with her.
He only hoped that Fu was alright.
It truly was a hairy situation and one that was drawing a lot of attention. The sight definitely caught the eyes of a particular team of Kumogakure ninja that were currently out of their village on a mission to the boarder countries to the south.
Karui grumbled impatiently as she and Omoi stood outside of the rabble surrounding the crime scene, tapping her foot to physically convey her annoyance. "Damn Akatsuki… they're really starting to get on my nerves."
"Even though this was their first successful annexation of a jinchuriki and shouldn't be something for you in particular to be worrying about?" Omoi asked, giving the girl a skeptical look. However, he then looked ahead of him with worry, taking his chin between his finger and thumb, "But then again… what if this isn't their first successful catch? What if they've already gone and captured Yugito and Bee-sama while we were out of the village? W-What if more jinchuriki have been captured, and the hidden villages are now declaring war on each other? Kami… think of the consequences that will befall Kumo if…"
"Oh, SHUT UP ALREADY!" Karui shouted, grabbing the boy by the collar, lifting him off of his feet and shaking him like a ragdoll. "I'm so sick of listening to you bitch, Omoi!"
"Knock it off you two," a new voice spoke up, silencing the bickering pair. Karui released her partner, the two of them looking towards the crowd to see their blonde haired, well-endowed teammate Samui marching toward them. With her stoic, collected expression in play, she frowned in her teammate's direction. "If you haven't already forgotten, we're still on a mission to catch the Akatsuki member that attacked A-sama. Try to keep the noise level to a minimum."
Karui huffed and looked away, folding her arms. Her teammate however, in spite of the brain rattling, managed to hold himself up and acknowledge his team leader with a nod, "Well… what have we got?"
The blonde haired kunoichi looked off down the road, eyes glaring towards the district where the train yard was located. "The shinobi in the area are saying that the offender has fled onboard a train bound for Sunagakure. My guess is that she'll jump ship somewhere along the tracks to throw people off her scent, most likely at a point where the train will have to slow down to make a difficult climb or turn."
Taking in this information, Karui sighed and glanced round at her comrades, "So… based on what you're saying to us…"
"Yeah," Samui answered, bringing her hand up and rubbing her neck, "Pack your bags guys; we're going on a train ride. Damn… what a pain." Her shoulders and muscles were killing her from traveling all day. She was hoping to catch some relaxation time while they were still here in the most popular hot spring village in all the shinobi nations. Unfortunately, missions came first, and their mission was taking them out of the village and most likely out of the country.
If they were lucky, they'd be able to stop by here on the way back home after their job was done.
Figuring it was healthier to not dawn over the cons and to focus on the pros, Samui took the initiative and began leading her team away from the scene. Following the road towards the train station, the team from Kumo began making plans on where they should proceed from here, as well as a strategy if they were to come across their troublesome target. After all, they were dealing with a person who could subdue an entire neighborhood using music.
Now while this sounded kind of farfetched, it wasn't exactly how this group saw it as. Upon listening to their leader's details of the attack, this opponent they were going after was no amateur. She was dangerous.
"When I catch that girl," Karui growled, slamming her fists together, "I'm going to turn her into mincemeat."
"Well… let's just hope she'll go easy on us," Omoi commented, looking ahead with a thoughtful gaze. "There's a good chance she might if she underestimates us. Then again… maybe she won't give us that chance. Perhaps she'll catch wind of our intent and kill us on the spot. Could we try and snuff her out in her sleep instead of trying to catch her… I mean, we are dealing with an S-Class opponent after all. Things might get hairy if we find out where she's…"
"Omoi, I swear if you don't shut up right now, I will beat you to within an inch of your life!" Karui growled.
The passive individual with the lollypop in his mouth leaned away from her extended fist. "Come on, it's not like things are going to work out perfectly. Shit like this happens all the time. It's better to keep an open mind when out on missions rather than staying fixed on a narrow…"
"…track. A good shinobi is a flexible shinobi, that's what mum always used to say. Leave no stone unturned. You have to take everything into account, since everything is essential, like where the enemy could be hiding, the condition of the intelligence being retrieved, weighing the value of the mission with the lives of your comrades. All of that makes you think, like, for example, if you were put into the shoes of your targets…"
"THAT'S IT!" Smack!
Samui sighed when her squad mates threw themselves into another spat. From that point onwards, for the team leader, it was all a matter of trying to block out the unwanted noises and focusing on staying the course.
While they passed through the markets en route for their next destination the kunoichi couldn't help but think to herself how she ever wound up on a team with the most impossible and intolerable pair in the world. What kind of sane person allowed these two ridiculous opposites to graduate?
If things kept on going the way they were she was sure to be getting severe back problems in sight of the following year.
"Geez… why me?"
TO BE CONTINUED…
Author's Note: Damn this took a while. Anyway, Tayuya has captured Fu, is off on some quest, and both Sasuke and Team Samui are following her.
Now, a couple of points. Tayuya and Sasuke are the same strength, with Sasuke not quite yet at the level as he was in canon, this being several months too early. Their fight basically showcased their current level of skills, and Tayuya's ability to use sound to effectively cancel out chakra is what makes her strong.
Tayuya is not God-like or overpowered because of incredibly destructive jutsu, she's got an advantage over others because she uses smart, subtle jutsu that takes out everybody's else's' advantages. I was inspired to create these techniques for her from watching Read or Die The TV when the Paper Sisters were invading that castle. She's gotten really skilled at using music.
She's obviously strong in taijutsu from learning from Naruto.
At this point, Tayuya and Sasuke are the same strength as Asuma, Yamato or Kakashi. I'm not sure about Naruto. I think he's just below Guren's or Bee's level, and below Jiraiya and Tsunade's.
Well, things are starting to heat up, and I'm looking forward to the next chapters.