Yes, an update. After many months. I can't guarantee any kind of regularity in my updating for Twinleaf anymore, since I'm off writing a new Naruto fanfic of mine, Double Trouble - my own take on the old Minato-survives-the-sealing line, but hopefully done in a better, more logical way, no need for the Shinigami to do something unexpected or Naruto somehow travelling back in time.
But I digress. I'm still going to continue this, when I'm not distracted by something else, I appreciate the reviews and keep count of the faves, and I hope you enjoy reading the chapter.
Chapter 13: One Reality To Another
Fū hated losing.
In her onetime position as Takigakure's resident living weapon, being defeated meant she wasn't even useful. As a (former) jinchūriki, defeat was an embarrassment, given the sheer amount of raw power she had to draw upon. And for a person who had grown used to having nobody to rely upon, the very idea that she could not defend herself adequately was abhorrent.
That last reason had been doubly true since Fū had died as a direct result of it.
The girl slid fluidly to one side, trying to circle around her opponent as she launched a series of punches and kicks. The boy ducked and dodged, deflecting her strikes, and spun into a side kick that had Fū dropping right down to the ground to avoid it. She tried to sweep his legs out from under him, but he sprang away, leaping behind her to deal a powerful downward blow. The girl rolled away, only to realise the first attack was a feint, and he had been prepared to follow her evasive move, landing a hit that knocked the breath out of her.
Itachi pulled back, offering his training partner a hand. As always, Fū ignored it, getting to her feet by herself. Tolerating his and Sakumo's presence was one thing; accepting their help, admitting she was in need of assistance at all, however...
"Stupid genii," she muttered.
The other boy looked at her. That was annoying too, the way Itachi said so little, giving her few clues to what he thought when his dark eyes rested on her, with his calm, closed expression and controlled mannerisms. Right now, for example, the unasked question rang clearly in the air between them, but she could discern nothing more. A couple of times, when Fū caught Sakumo still awake and restless at night, he had the same distant look, but Itachi lived his mask.
Fū would ask the white-haired boy about it, but he was in Floaroma Town proper, following up on a couple of the odd job requests they had received – not having to compete with ten other boys for things to do and earnings to divide was great – while she and Itachi had remained at their camp in the woods to get in some early-morning training. Well, there was no good reason why she shouldn't tell weasel-boy just what she thought anyway.
"You're always so perfect," she spat. "Always better at everything, making me feel like a green genin without even trying, I'd ask you to help me improve, but then you'd be all agreeable about it, like all the other Konoha-nin, and I'd feel even more like an idiot."
Itachi raised an eyebrow.
"There it is again! That, that look, how you never seem to show anything, and the little wheels are spinning away in that so-smart head, and I have no idea what you could be thinking, and it pisses me off, but you probably know all about that. I bet everyone loved it, their wonderful genius, their talented ninja, before you went all killer S-ranked missing-nin on them."
Fū paused to draw breath, and in that moment, Itachi spoke. "Yes, they did."
The soft, flat answer was unexpected. She quickly changed her wide-eyed shock into a scowl.
"Such a smart kid; he graduated from the Academy at seven years old, you know. Fugaku-san, you must be so proud of your son; to think that he mastered the clan bloodline power by age eight. Chūnin at ten, and in peacetime too; what a prodigy." Itachi's voice was not quite devoid of emotion; something – anger? Frustration? – quivered faintly in it. "The clan genius. A once-per-generation jewel. My father's son. The kid ANBU captain. He'll do us proud. As though that was all I am, a thing of theirs, to be used as they saw fit."
He looked at her again, this time with the far-off gaze of one who saw his memories instead of the present. Then he barked out a laugh, a short, half-hysterical sound that could scarcely be further from humour. "Genius," he told her with a smile, "is not all it's cracked up to be."
Sakumo followed the well-worn path across the fields of grass, his Shinx bounding around him, yellow eyes wide. He had a heavy package under one arm, to be delivered to the man in charge at the Valley Windworks. The grey-and-red building was already visible in the distance, while the great white windmills – an odd sight, but not entirely unheard of for well-travelled shinobi like him – dotted the landscape. The bright morning sunlight sparkled on the river snaking through the valley.
As he drew closer, Sakumo could see two people apparently waiting outside, and he upped his pace. At closer sight, though, the all-too-familiar feeling of impending danger made itself known.
A man dressed in white, grey and silver stood before the main door, arms crossed, glaring at the newcomer, a Glameow purring beside him. Across from him was a frantic-looking girl, wringing her hands helplessly.
He stopped, equidistant from both of them. "What's happening here?"
"None of your business, boy," the silver-sleeved man growled, prompting an answering snarl from Lightning. The Glameow came to her paws, giving the Shinx a haughty look.
The girl backed away from the man, stepping closer to Sakumo. "They just came out of the blue," she told the white-haired male, pointing nervously. "My father's inside with the others – they threw me out, said they're taking over the Windworks and told me to stay out until they were done. I don't dare leave and call the police – what if they hurt him?" None but the most skilled of deceivers could produce that note of fear and panic in their voice.
So much for leaving the shinobi lifestyle.
"I'll help get your dad out," he whispered to her, even as he mentally reviewed the surroundings, evaluating his opponent and the odds.
The guard at the door hadn't heard him, but was suspicious anyway. "Don't get any ideas, little b-"
"Shinx! Spark!" Sakumo commanded, even as he closed the distance near-instantly, cutting off the man's words with a punch to the face, then following up with a blow that dropped his opponent unconscious to the ground with barely a sound. Lightning's electrified attack crackled as he collided with the Glameow, which got out half a screech before the Shinx grabbed it by the scruff and shook it hard. The dazed grey cat sprawled in the dirt, the smell of burnt fur hanging in the air.
"The door's locked," the girl informed him timidly, eyes wide with shock. Sakumo flipped the guard over with a grunt, planning to search him, but she shook her head. "One of the others headed into town, he was holding the spare-"
He spun and kicked the door, putting a little chakra into it. The door, lock smashed, swung open, and he dashed in, Shinx at his side.
Itachi finished clearing away all traces of their presence, while Fū ensured they had remembered to pack everything. Thunder sat watching them quietly – she had sprained a leg while working on combining fire with her tackles – as did the still-unnamed Golduck, on his Trainer's instruction. They pulled their packs onto their shoulders, Fū persuaded her Growlithe to go back into her Pokéball, Itachi carried Sakumo's bag, and the two shinobi left the forest clearing that had housed them for the past week.
"I still can't believe it's so peaceful," Fū murmured, breaking the near-total silence that had lain between the Konoha-nin and her since their practice session. "One would think, given a world filled with creatures easily as powerful as any ninja, the region would be..."
"More chaotic?" Itachi suggested softly. They walked through Floaroma Town's streets, heading for an eatery the trio had regularly visited over the past days. Golduck's beady red eyes flicked between the interesting sights and his Trainer, who similarly kept an eye on him. "More prone to bloodshed and power struggles, the way our world was?"
The girl shrugged. "This" she swept an arm out to indicate the general area and beyond "is, while pleasant, downright unreal."
"No threat of danger," the boy agreed. "No political intrigue."
"No powerful established, professional law-keeping or military force."
"An entire town, and all they have are a handful of rookie Pokémon Trainers, one police officer and her Growlithe."
A girl hurried past them, heading for the police post. "Officer!" the girl cried, evidently worried about something. "Come quickly!"
It was laughably easy, even for a shinobi-turned-boy who was out of practice. The intruders had not expected resistance to come so quickly, were not familiar with combat that did not involve their Pokémon doing all the work, and apparently had not trained said Pokémon as well as Sakumo had his Lightning. A second Glameow was quickly zapped into submission, the pink caterpillar's shot of sticky strands was side-stepped and the creature itself batted away impatiently, one man's head was introduced to the wall, another to Sakumo's foot, while the third simply backed away, one hand raised in surrender; his other arm was carrying his only Pokémon, a pale purple cocoon-like beast with mean scarlet eyes.
The boy glared, but moved warily past him to the control room, pushing the door open. Inside, a harried-seeming man tweaked and adjusted knobs and dials under the supervision of a redheaded woman, dressed in the same outlandish metallic white-and-grey style as her lackeys. A fat grey-striped cat sat at her feet, and it snarled as Sakumo came in.
The woman looked at him appraisingly. She had to have heard the commotion outside, but appeared unconcerned, merely raising her eyebrows questioningly.
He went straight to the point. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"I'm one of Team Galactic's three Commanders," she replied promptly. Sakumo almost did a double-take at the direct answer. "We've been trying to create a new world that's better than this one... But people have shown little understanding about what we do."
There was not much of an answer the shinobi could give to that, which was due in large part to the fact that her words did not make much sense to him. Apparently she was a key figure of this organisation, but he failed to see what taking control of a power generation plant had to do with making a better world. The woman, also, spoke as though he should already know of her organisation, which he most certainly did not.
"You don't understand either, do you? It's a little saddening... So, let's have a battle to decide what we should do next. If I win, you leave. If you win, we, Team Galactic, will leave!" The fat cat got up and swaggered forward, even as its owner backpedalled, pulling the Windworks worker with her in order to clear the space. Sakumo shrugged, glancing down at Lightning, who moved up too.
By the time Officer Jenny got there, the excitement was all over. Itachi and Fū were mildly surprised to see Sakumo there, and equally vaguely surprised to hear of the strange intruders.
"...I lacked the means to detain them, so I allowed them to leave, and they did so, as she agreed," Sakumo finished. The policewoman seemed rather taken aback; it was unclear whether this was because of how a ten-year-old had driven off several adult representatives of a shady organisation, or due to the calm, matter-of-fact way in which the ten-year-old reported what had happened.
"Well, you did what you could," she eventually said. "Do please be careful and not charge in like that next time; you could have been hurt. I'll need to investigate..." The officer left, and the trio exchanged amused looks.
The man who ran the Windworks was very grateful, as was his daughter, who was the one who had fetched the police. "We'll be happy to put you youngsters up for a couple of days," the man insisted. "Aspiring Trainers, are you? There are some very interesting Pokémon about here – you must stay till Friday, at least, the Drifloon flock only come by once a week."
They had little reason to disagree with the suggestion, and Fū wanted to see the pack of Electrike that were rumoured to live in the valley, so they politely accepted.
"So, we need to find out about this Team Galactic," Itachi stated plainly. It was late in the afternoon, and they were alone by the river.
"Whatever for?" Fū said. "Are we heroes now, going around protecting the defenceless?"
"It's the right thing to do, as stupid as that sounds," Sakumo pointed out. Was that reluctance she heard in his voice?
"Fine, fine," she muttered grumpily. "Since we can, we should, and all that jazz."