Disciples of Ryouzanpaku

Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto. Don't own Kenichi, Mightiest Disciple.

Speaking Normally

Thoughts

Enraged/Empowered/Demonic Voices

AN/ I want to say one thing in particular. I got some responses that I made Naruto look a little out of character in the first chapter. So, to sum it up…who the **** wouldn't be scared out of their minds by the masters? But that's beside the point. Naruto isn't one to run from a fight, but you'd have to be retarded to not feel some apprehension at facing the quorum in the previous chapter, deciding his fate for him.

Chapter 2, Hell? Not Yet, But Close (aka Introductions)

The Following Sunday Morning:

Shuffling into the dining area, Kenichi looked like death warmed over.

"I don't know if I can do this," he moaned. "Why do I have to train so early in the morning?"

Every morning, before the sun even glowed on the horizon until school started, and after school and into the night. That was what Akisame-sensei subjected him to. But this was the weekend…meaning it was so much worse. Sixteen to twenty hours of excruciatingly mind wrenching pain. And today's weekend session had only just begun.

"It could be worse."

Kenichi cried a river of tears. "The sad thing is…you're probably right!" Wait. Blinking, he turned around. On the other side of him, a teen around his own age was calmly sipping his tea. Adorned in a simple karate gi, the spiky haired blonde didn't seem anywhere near as flummoxed as he was.

"…" Kenichi blinked in surprise, before "Aaah! Who're you? What're you doing here?"

Lowering the cup, "…Drinking tea?" the blonde proposed jokingly, reflecting confused innocence at the question.

"Yeah, I can see that." Kenichi twitched at the dry sarcasm. "Who are you?" he asked, only slightly less guarded.

"He's your fellow disciple," Akisame announced, entering the room.

Kenichi faltered in surprise. "W-What?" He'd only really just joined the dojo and now there was another apprentice?

"His sensei asked the Elder to aid in his training sometime ago," Akisame explained. "And, as your masters, we agreed that you could use a training partner."

Kenichi, pausing long enough from his gaping to think, couldn't refute the logic in that. Learning forms and exercises was one thing, but, outside of surprise fights by the occasional thugs there wasn't much chance for him to practice against an opponent. Though, Miu did sometimes spar with him. Which only reminded him of what Akisame had shared with him. Sparring, while ideal for learning, was also very dangerous.

Grinning innocently, or obliviously, the blonde extended his hand. "Naruto."


Outside:

Kenichi stood across from the strange teen.

"Now then, I want you two to spar. It will give us an idea of your improvement, Kenichi, and as a test of your skill, Naruto," Akisame announced from the porch, seated with several of the other masters.

'I know less than nothing about this guy,' Kenichi mused. 'So, I've got to start off strong…' He really didn't want to fight, but if Akisame and the others thought he was okay…then it wouldn't be too different than fighting someone like Miu. That is, the blonde wouldn't be overtly trying to harm him. It was just a friendly spar.

Not that his knees didn't tremble a little.

He really didn't like to fight.

"Are you ready?"

"Yeah."

"Yes, sensei."

Akisame's eyes flashed. "Alright…begin!"

What followed was…interesting.

Kenichi displayed his meager skills excellently, taking advantage of the blonde's openings when they presented themselves. But the blonde's reactions to said moves were less than expected. In short, his fighting skills were little more than those of a brawler. His form was shoddy, and he seemed to have little to no knowledge of said forms. Despite the relatively small number of moves they'd taught him so far, Kenichi easily took his attacks and turned them against him. Regardless of that supposed weakness, and the number of hits he took, Kenichi never managed to bring him down.

Despite Kenichi's progress, the blonde was steadily wearing him down with his own incredible stamina and occasional hits.

While the two young students rested from the spar, they conversed, Miu joining them with tea. Something the blonde decided he would no doubt be drinking a lot of in days to come.

Seated on the wooden walkway, Akisame observed them interacting, weighing what he had seen. Kenichi had indeed improved, easier to judge under his scrutiny.

And then there was Naruto…

Troublingly, the boy was a mess. He seemed to have no knowledge of any martial arts forms, his movements sloppy and unrefined. In contrast, though his overt skills were lacking, his instincts were exceptional, and his endurance and stamina were absolutely amazing. It had been quite a sight to watch him take all those hits, just to get in one of his own. That took patience and a high pain threshold.

"So, what do you think?" he asked lowly.

The Elder sipped his tea calmly. "Despite the life he has lived, I believe this one can be saved."

"They're all mercenary types then?" asked Sakaki over his beer.

The Elder nodded. "Most. Though I've met a few that were different. From what I've read, and seen just now, Naruto was cut from a different cloth."

"Then why's he so…"

"Sloppy?" Akisame finished, disappointment lacing his voice.

"He lacked the proper training," the Elder informed. "Jiraiya's letter spoke of his training with him consisting primarily of teaching him patience and thinking things through, tactics, areas he was supposedly quite poor in, but that before that he'd never truly received the proper instruction."

"His fighting instincts are top notch though," Akisame brought up.

"Yeah, saw that," Sakaki scoffed. "Kid's skills may stink, but he must've been in a lot of fights to develop those kinda reactions."

"He sleeps…with a weapon," Shigure spoke up with a tone of approval, adding in her bit.

"While not unusual for his people, I think it to be more of a defensive habit," Akisame mused. "His movements, the way he checks his food… I've been wondering if it is not so much due to training as it is from abuse." The jujutsu master looked to the Elder for any sign of confirmation.

"The most Jiraiya alluded to was that he lived a difficult life," the Elder informed. "But that is neither here nor there. The question is: what do you think, masters of Ryozanpaku?"

"He has potential," Kensai conceded with a grunt of agreement from Sakaki, and a rare, solemn nod from Apachai.

"He fights…well." High praise from the usually quiet weapons master.

With a nod from Akisame, the Elder bowed his head. "Then let us train this young man." Those that knew, vowed that they wouldn't lose this one to the darkness, even without knowing they did so.

Naruto shivered inexplicably.


There had been one concession to this, er, "great" opportunity.

High school.

Fiddling with his button down shirt, the blonde had only one thought, centering around a multiple homicide.

Despite all this, he still snickered whenever he thought back to the other day when the masters had confronted Kenichi. Apparently, he'd only been training with the masters part-time. No more. They'd taken him aside and offered to teach him full-time.

He ran pretty fast…for a civilian.

Not fast enough though.

It was with a certain amount of pride that he recalled at least making it out of the compound before being caught.

The principal struck him as a bit of an annoyance. Especially during the half hour audit wherein he was questioned on his past and his intent for the future. Luckily, with the forged papers courtesy of his masters it wasn't too difficult. That, and he was pretty slick when it came to coming up with plausible lies on the spot to any unforeseen questions.

Still, the guy was kind of annoying.

"Class, we have a new student today." She motioned to the door. Taking his cue, Naruto stepped inside, walking across to the teacher. She struck him as oddly strict, utilitarian.

Standing before the room of his peers, he couldn't he couldn't help but feel out of place. Same age, different lives. They seemed so…soft. Had he ever been that innocent? He'd long ago seen pain, death, and hardship. Part of him was envious of their sheltered lives, wishing he could have had the same. Then again, for all that he'd experienced…the good and the bad…it had made him who he was now.

"Why don't you tell us all a little about yourself?" she proposed.

"Uh, well, the name's Naruto Uzumaki," he introduced, one hand in a pocket, and the other scratching the back of his head. "I just moved here. And…really, there's not much else to tell," he finished, smiling crookedly.


"Wait, you're in the class ahead of me?" Kenichi questioned, surprised.

"I'm older than you," Naruto replied. "In more ways than one." Older in age, experience…and with the occasional memories of a centuries old demon. Yeah, complicated was a friend of his. "And what are you complaining about? I've got all this extra stuff to read just to understand what I'm currently taking." He groaned. The only saving grace was his abnormally low need for sleep and his wicked learning curve.

Certain subjects he knew already. Physics, Chemistry, Biology… He'd had to learn subjects of the like back in the academy, meant to make them all better little killers, and the current lessons were little more than reminders. It was classes like Literature, History, and Arithmetic that caused him the most trouble. For obvious reasons. The villages were culturally isolated. He did his math by estimation and guessing. And literature…well, that wasn't too bad. He had some experience from his time with Jiraiya.

He had helped write the lecher's final work. Jiraiya wrote the sex scenes, he wrote the softer stuff. Plot development and relationship growth. The first time Jiraiya'd got him to write some, he'd given it a once over before sending him an odd smirk. "Pretty sappy," he'd retorted.

Initially, he'd tried to beat the crap out of him for that remark. It hadn't been his idea. The pervert had given him an ultimatum: write, or none of his rationed ramen for the week.

Honestly, he'd thought it wasn't half bad.


Every morning, he and his fellow disciple would be forced to exercise and then run laps…dragging weighted objects behind them. He had a tire that Akisame had rigged with a few creepy looking stone statues, while Kenichi got similar but with the addition of their sensei.

"Ahhh! Notthewhip!Notthewhip!Notthewhip!" Kenichi was in tears by this point.

"Then run faster! You're still too slow! Turtles run faster!"

Just a little ahead of them, Naruto snickered. "Why aren't you whipping him?" Kenichi protested shrilly.

Hair ruffling in the wind, Akisame blinked from his perch. "I'd think that was obvious. It's because I'm whipping you." Kenichi whimpered.

"Because I don't need motivation, Kenichi." Naruto laughed mirthfully aloud. "And because I'm smart enough to keep my butt moving away from the man with the whip!" he cackled. In one swift snap, Akisame admonished him and demonstrated the true length of the whip at the same time.

"Less talking! If you've the breath to poke fun at your fellow disciple, then you should use that breath to run faster!" From that point on, Naruto remembered to stay as far ahead as he could. Leaving Kenichi behind…thrown to the wolves.


Afterwards:

"Whew!" Naruto sighed breathily, slumping against the exterior wall of the dojo. "That was a good run." While off to the side, Kenichi was crying anime style tears at the pain he was feeling.

"He's just as nuts as they are," the suffering boy mentally whimpered.

"Oh, c'mon, Kenichi. It's not that bad." Kenichi glared with the eyes of a gaki.

"How would you know?" he snapped.

Naruto grinned toothily in response. "My old sensei? He took me to an onsen in a village of people who practiced martial arts." He scratched his chin. "First, I thought it was to do his "research", the perv, and then I thought just maybe he was being kind and giving me the chance to relax."

Kenichi had the vaguest of feelings about where this was headed. "What happened?"

Brow twitching, "He threw me into the women's side...naked." Kenichi's expression bordered between horrified and jealous. Naruto snorted. "You think this morning was rough? Try spending an entire day outrunning a dozen pissed off women all bearing weapons, and the urge to smite."

"Why are all the best senseis crazy?" Both boys' shoulders drooped, resigning themselves to the fact that neither would have a "normal" teacher.

From across the training yard, "Hurry up you two!" Miu called. "Or we'll be late for school!"


Later At School:

It was kind of nostalgic being back in a "place of learning." First was the Academy, now it was this "school." And by nostalgia he really meant annoying as Hell. But, given his agreement with the Elder and the other masters, there was nothing for it but to grit his teeth, an uncontrollable reaction, and just accept the monotony.

Though, after all the shit that he'd gone through of the last few years, culminating into all that'd happened in this most recent year, he was pretty happy with that.

Classes done, that meant the rest of the day was left to training and whatever homework they had. Fortunately, Naruto had learned right off the bat to do any and all reading during his periods of freedom. That depleted the normal study workload that he would have at Ryozanpaku. So while he still had to do homework, it was substantially reduced by the time classes let out.

And when he got back...

Akisame's training really scared him. It was freaky and made little sense.

On the upside, he had gleaned a little from him. While he was behind Kenichi in learning forms and kata, he was physically a more advanced than him. Not that that stopped their sensei from starting him from scratch with his muscle building program, much like he'd done with Kenichi. And while he did join in the runs, he only participated in the endurance training half of the time. Considering his already outstanding stamina and endurance, Akisame and the Elder had both agreed that half of that time they would beat kata into him.

Most of the time, they would each spar, very lightly, with the masters, and once in a while they would be pitted against one another as a test of progress. The everyday training spars under the masters were almost debilitating. They were simply so strong that, even holding back, their blows were incredibly powerful.

Fortunately, both boys were pretty good at taking beatings.

Observing the pair of teens doing strenuous one-armed pushups on the poles, Akisame took random shots at them with a cane rod. They were each into their high fifties on their second arms, but there was a significant difference in the two. Naruto's strength was a little lower than that of Kenichi, mostly due to the "starting from scratch" plan. In order to prepare him for the training ahead, he and the Elder had come to the conclusion that the simplest method would be to break him down and remake him.

But, at the moment, while Kenichi was showing greater progress, the blonde's stamina was proving itself once again. Kenichi was groaning and sweating profusely, shaking from fatigue, but his fellow disciple, was showing only moderate strain. He'd factored that though. That was why their underlying purpose was to keep going until they couldn't any longer.

With a lightspeed swish, the willowy rod came down hard on the blonde's hand when he was too slow to react. "...81…82…83…" By this point, even Naruto was showing decent strain, sweat beading on his forehead as he now seemed to force his arm to extend, and Kenichi was just about to fall out. Their primary sensei put down his cane whip.

"Alright, that's enough for now," he announced, standing. Arm freezing, Kenichi fell chin-first to the ground.

"Oh, thank Goooddddd," the brunette moaned.

Stroking his well-trimmed mustache, "What say we go for a run before dinner?" Akisame suggested. Kenichi sobbed, but stood. "Naruto, you'll stay here and work on your Muay Thai with Apachai. Kenichi, the tire." Any other time, he might have complained, but, considering who the blonde would be training alongside, it was possible that he, about to go on his torturous run, was getting the easy task.


With Apachai:

The tanned giant bopped his gloves together excitedly. "Apapa! Okay then! Time for Apachai to teach again!" And for the next hour, he was instructed on the basic moves at his disposal. Well, for complete accuracy, that only took ten to twenty minutes. The other forty or so was spent surviving Apachai's near lethal "easy" punches and kicks.

He could take a hit and keep going. He'd been famous for that…but damn. Half the time he thought his head would fly right off his shoulders.

Turns out his never erring instincts had been spot on that first day. He had nothing against getting stronger, and he knew that it was paid for in blood, sweat, and pain…but these people scared him. It was like taking Tsunade's lazy, super-powered hits on a daily basis.

A rock-like knee buried itself in his cheek and he rocketed backward, right into the outlying wall.

No wonder his instincts had told him to run like a little bitch.


Dinner Afterwards:

Seated at the long table, the students of Ryozanpaku defended their meals. Though Naruto was doing so with far greater success. A kunai appeared right in front of Kensai's hand, embedding in the table. "No touchie my food!" Jiraiya'd beat that little game into him years ago, and he was damn sure not going to just let them take his food!

"Naruto!" Miu barked. "No kunai at the table!" To the side, Shigure subtly hid the weapon she'd been playing with, the picture of nonchalance.

"Let the boys eat," Hayato chided jovially. "They'll need the energy for tomorrow's training."

The spiky-haired blonde leant over, covertly mumbling to his comrade in arms. "How many laps?" As had become his standard mode of reaction…Kenichi whimpered.

In turn, the shrimpy brunette asked his own question. "How was training with Apachai?" Naruto groaned. His ribs, healing as fast as ever, still ached like nothing else.

Leaving the dining area, he barely made it out the door when Shigure sidled up right behind him. Jeez, she was silent even by ninja standards. Tapping him on the shoulder, "Come with me…Naruto." It was a minute of silence as she led him to the masters' dorms. It was the main house where the Elder, the other masters, and Miu lived. He and Kenichi, as of late, were stuck in the students' dormitory.

Confused, he still followed.

Stopping in front of a pair of sliding doors, she turned to him, her lazy expression as unreadable as ever. Years in the academy, more with Jiraiya, yet, a week and some change here, and he still couldn't get a read on her. "This is…my room," she explained lowly. "I invite you…in," ushering him inside. Dumbfounded at the sudden invitation, he hesitated at the threshold, noticing the traps. Turning back to her, she gave a slow, curt nod for him to proceed. Trusting her, he stepped forward, but still avoided the traps to his best effort.

Again, like the other masters, Shigure noticed his ingrained awareness towards his environment. She approved of it. Subtle twitches and concealed caution apparent in his movements. While often considered paranoid, a healthy amount of such usually kept someone alive.

The room, like most of the compound, was heavily indicative of older Japanese style. Just in the door was a wooden floor, about four meters by five meters. To his right upon entering, the floor ended after a little over a meter, dropping down onto a stone floor. And in that depression was a surprising work area with all the tools she would need to maintain or even repair her weapons should they need it. While there were several cupboard-like shelves in the walls, in more than one location weapons of various design were arranged openly, including a pair of complete samurai armor in amazing condition. In regards to the weapons, he may not know how to use them, but he did at least recognize a few. Katana, ninjato, tanto, shuriken of varying sizes and styles, and so many more he had no clue about. Seeing the chips in the timbers of the walls and rafters, he guessed that they served as targets when she felt like it. Not that the few kunai still embedded in said surfaces didn't already sell that fact.

Sliding the door closed behind her, she swayed past his tentative position. "Sit…please," motioning to a mat. Informal as he was, he would've dropped onto the mat, but, given that his sensei had invited him in, he eased himself down into a loose cross-legged position. He knew Shigure was one of the looser sensei in regards to formality, but he still felt like showing a little respect. They'd done right by him. Admittedly, they scared the Hell out of him, but it was to help him. So he would honor their investment. Just a little.

As he'd more or less expected of her though, she slumped down onto the mat opposite him. Resting on her left hip, she sat with her left leg curled under her and her right up and bent at the knee. Her exceedingly undersized kimono pulled up but still managed to hide anything more interesting than her obvious curves. To most, it could be considered a rather provocative position, but to her it was simply what was comfortable, not really caring about any outside opinion. And he'd learned long ago, after losing the ignorance, the importance of not staring. Her little mouse, Tochomaru, appeared from above, dropping from the rafters and onto her head.

He'd learned fairly quickly that Shigure did not normally eat meals with the masters. He assumed that the mouse came from where she and it had been dining.

"I wanted to talk with you…about your training," she began in her dusky voice before attention fell on him fully. "If you agree, you will…start lessons under me."

Thoroughly stunned, he sat there dumbfounded.

A solitary brow arching, "You do not wish for me to teach you?" she asked, managing an entire sentence without a pause.

"No, I mean yes," he floundered. "I mean, that'd be great, Shigure-sensei."

"Good. Though I was going to teach you…regardless." He repressed the twitch. The masters were so very blasé when it came to their pupils' choices. They were going to be taught whether they wanted to learn or not. "I know you have kunai… What weapons do you use?"

Brow furrowing just a little, he mulled that over. He had no delusions about being a weapons aficionado. In fact, "Well, I'd say I'm okay with kunai," he offered with a shrug. "I can use shuriken, and wire, but…I've never really had any teachers who've been heavy into weapons before." Iruka and the academy instructions had been little more than introduction to basic ninja weapons like shuriken and kunai. More advanced weapons and techniques came outside of the academy, either from Jonin sensei, extracurricular study, or familial teachings. Kakashi may not have taught him all that much, but none of it had really been about weapons. Jiraiya had tried to beat into him the reliance on all the tools he had on him. Fukasaku, well, he really only had time to teach him the sage techniques and Kaza Kumite (Frog Style). And B, similarly, stuck on teaching him how to handle Kyubi.

So, really, he'd never had any teacher that pushed weapon usage.

"It's a start," Shigure sighed deceptively apathetic. "Tomorrow…we will begin your weapons training."


The Following Morning:

"Here's this month's due," Kenichi sighed, handing over the bills. He paid, monthly, to get beaten up over and over. It was almost enough to make him cry. Smiling, the kenpo master tidily shuffled the paper bills, discreetly counting them.

Noticing this all going on, he only thought it fair that he pitch in as well. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet as he reached his master and fellow disciple. "Ah, Naruto, I've been meaning to broach the subject of dojo tuition with you." That is, he was hoping to eke out a little more money if possible, even if the Elder had made no mention of charging the blonde teen.

Naruto laid down a small stack of money alongside Kenichi's installment. From a distance, he'd seen how much Kenichi'd dropped, so he'd matched it. "I can cover my end," he said simply enough.

"Remember, you never paid your entry fee, and with a penalty tax, your current payment is…double," Kensai piped in. Naruto groaned, but pulled out a few more bits of paper.

"Hey, where'd you get that?" Kenichi asked innocently. He'd become readily aware of the fact that Naruto had no family. So that had left the question of how he was affording schooling, and now this. "You get a job or something?" Unlikely from the sizeable stack of bills. That was easily twice what he had to pay. Hm, maybe Ma-sensei had gotten better at negotiating the dojo's fee than he had with him.

"Wrote a book," Naruto explained, shrugging, trying not to make a big deal of it.

Kenichi's eyes bugged. "What?" There was no freakin' way. Someone barely older than him had written a book…successfully at that judging by how easily he threw the money down.

Naruto shrugged. "My sensei was a successful author. I helped him with his last book."

Kensai's eyes glimmered. "Yes," he said with a small smile. "Jiraiya's books have always been an inspiration to me."

Scratching his nose at the teen's wide-eyed expression, "I'm even thinking about continuing the series." Counting the bills laid out in front of him, Kensai's hands clenched, the paper crumpling in his grip. He had noticed the subtle changes in Jiraiya's writings, and, while not a bad change, did not make the books any less compelling. It was all the known pervert could do to not openly beg the boy to do just that.

"What kind of books?" Kenichi asked, suspicious of the light in his sensei's eyes.

Taking the initiative to answer, Kensai's chest swelled. "Books to inspire the-"

"Dirty romance novels," Naruto concluded. Kensai's bravado was crushed. "Though I got him to tone it down in the last one." Kenichi's left eye twitched. Of course Kensai would be a follower of such novels. "Though I'd like to point out that with the switch from hardcore porn to romance with the occasional sex scene…sales doubled," he added smugly. That'd been his contribution.

"So you're really loaded?"

"Money's not everything, Kenichi," he lectured sagely, patting his fellow disciple on the head like a little child. Okay, so maybe he was pretty well off. When Jiraiya had conspired with him for the latest novel, making him his business partner, he'd signed him on as a joint account holder.

Tsunade'd taken him aside and told him that Jiraiya would've wanted it that way, but… Until now, he hadn't touched the money. Some part of him still considered the money to be Jiraiya's, and his alone.

At that time…she'd even tried convincing him to lend her some money. Something about a diplomatic mission…to the gambling capital of the Elemental nations. Right, he'd buy that one.

But if there was one thing Jiraiya had taught him, it was necessity. To survive, he had to do what needed to be done, so long as he could live with his decision. He constantly got lectures from the old lady, telling him to not be stupid. And, from what he knew, Jiraiya would consider him not using the money to survive as being stupid.

Oh, and robbing "ATMs", as he'd learned they were called, was decidedly more difficult in a big city.

And the Elder had given him a stern talking to, despite his necessity.

Guess which one made up his mind?

Hint: the Elder was really scary when he wanted to be.

Looking across the table at his, as it seemed would always be the case, perverted sensei, "I could probably use someone to go over the rough manuscript." Kensai looked about ready to burst into tears of happiness. Scratch that. Tears streamed down the mustached Chinaman's cheeks.


Training:

Kenichi went off with Apachai, something that had fast become solo lessons with the Muay Thai practitioner. Kensai and Akisame had both agreed that it was more practical to have one student still conscious while the other was recovering. So, as far as Muay Thai was concerned, he would teach them one at a time.

Ignoring the background screams of "Save me!" he tuned out his fellow disciple and concentrated back on Shigure as she demonstrated the more esoteric uses of small arms. At the moment, she was showing him how to use the chain sickle.

Her method of starting the session was…heart stopping.

Finished with Akisame, he'd been sitting under the tree in a stolen moment of freedom when… All he had was the sing of metal before he was wrapped to the tree by a chain, but the end was still flying. Blue eyes reflected unadulterated horror as the attached sickle flashed into his vision, coming closer….sinking into the tree just shy of his face.

Fortunately, he was good at bouncing back. Stubbornly resilient, that was what Tsunade'd called him.

Regardless, it was still a quick reminder of two things. First, he had been careless to let down his guard in…this place. And second, Shigure'd told him she'd be starting his lessons today.

"You're form is still…rigid," she chided, stuffing her own weapon in her belt. Stepping over to him, adjusting his hold for him, she came up right behind him. Firm grip around his arms, "It's not just from the elbow. You need…to feel the flow of…the weapon." She coaxed his arm into slowly twirling the chain. "Feel it as it swings. The chain is an extension of yourself… Reach out with it."

Okay, he was an idiot about girls, for the most part, a result of such underexposure for so many years, but her closeness was difficult for him. For one, even he could see she was beautiful, added to it that he liked the masters. They were all good people in his book.

Not that the feel of her pressing against his back didn't send his heart racing. She wasn't all that tall either, actually standing an inch below him.

You'd think that three years with Jiraiya would've tainted him, corrupting his innocence.

No such luck.

But he forced himself to stay on track, following her instructions. No matter how her dulcet, murmured instructions threatened to fluster him.

Twirling the chain, but keeping it loose in his grip, her guiding him, he snapped out with it. The weighted end shot forward, swinging around the chosen post, encircling it before tangling with itself and clanging rapping harshly against the painted target.

"…Good." Walking over to the post together, he undid the locked chain. "The chain is meant to bind, making it easier…to get to your opponent," she reminded as they stepped back. Removing her own, she started swinging it in a tight orbit. "But that is not its only use…" The chain in her grasp sang before rocketing forward. The weight shot directly at the post before socking the top of the post with a sickening thunk, embedding into it. Jerking on the line, the weight shot back to her, plucking it out of the air as easily as if it had been tossed.

She went on to demonstrate some of the more advanced moves. Controlling the chains direction during its flight. Flinging the sickle end in much the same way as the weight, and getting it to embed exactly where you want it to. Using the chain to defend against, deflect, and lock the attacks of one's opponents. And those were just the ones she felt he was adept enough that he could wrap his mind around.

All things considered, he emerged from the lesson far less…damaged…than he'd expected. He'd suspected that she'd cut him to pieces, a theory reinforced by the sickle-in-the-face event. He was sans all the cuts and slashes that he'd been expected.

AN/ End chapter. I hope this doesn't come off as too rough. It's been the kind of week where you simply want to look up to the heavens and say "Finish me already." Grooooooaaaaan. Also, by this point I've fixed the "Yamato/Hayato" error in the first chapter.