Title: Dreaming of Sunshine

Summary: Life as a ninja. It starts with confusion and terror and doesn't get any better from there. OC Self-insert.

AN: Totally irrelevant factoid: The original Kunoichi group was going to be named 'the Hokage's Angels' and I'm really sad I never had a chance for them to chorus 'good morning, Hokage-sama' to Tsunade and inspire it. Maybe they can be an elite team, later on.

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Chapter 126

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Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well. ~ George R.R. Martin

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"So, is anyone coming?" Tenten asked, lifting herself up to sit on the table that dominated the meeting room I'd booked. Her legs swung off the edge, aimlessly. She'd agreed to help me with teaching in exchange for sitting in on the rest of the lessons, which was a total no-brainer.

I shuffled my notes, trying not to let the creeping anxiety get to me. "I thought they would?" I said uncertainly. "I'm sure I said the right place and time."

I hadn't exactly gone around telling everyone but … I'd told dad and a handful of people at RnD and they'd all assured me they'd pass the message on to anyone who was interested. And given how gung-ho dad and Kofuku had been, I'd thought someone would have been strong-armed into it at least.

"On the bright side," I added, trying to sound unconcerned. "If they don't that means we don't have to do it."

On second thought, I quite liked that. I could say oh I really tried, it was a pity no one showed up and then not actually have to do any work. Dad got to know I'd tried, I didn't actually have to teach anyone, everyone won. Well. No. Mostly I won.

I was okay with that.

Although that did put us back into square one on the 'have someone else around who knows what's going on' front.

I sighed.

There was a knock on the door. Tenten slipped off the desk and straightened, professionally, but it was just dad so… whatever.

"No one is here," I said, waving at the room to show him the lack of students.

He nodded and patted me on the head. "I booked a different room for you," he said. "Are these all your notes?"

"What's wrong with this one?" I protested. "I already got the whiteboard set up!" It was only a small one on a stand, but totally preferable to chalk on a blackboard and it didn't require me to wall climb just to reach the top.

He gave the whiteboard an experimental push, but the wheels squeaked and didn't want to move in the same direction, so he simply picked the whole thing up instead, carrying it out of the room.

"Dad!" I said, exasperated, grabbing my notes and tagging along after him. "Where are we going?"

It wasn't another room within the research block, that was for sure. I wasn't actually sure where we were going until I got outside and could feel the chakra emanating from the clan meeting house – technically also a shrine, but mostly in the sense that it was where clan events were held, ceremonies and things that needed space for all of us.

"Did you invite the whole clan?" I asked, incredulous, stopping in my tracks.

Dad kept moving, not even looking back over his shoulder at me. "You did say to invite anyone who was interested," he said, mildly. "A larger group gives you greater chance of finding someone with the skills you need, doesn't it?"

I huffed. He wasn't wrong. He probably hadn't actually required anyone to attend, though there might have been some heavy suggesting – probably on the basis that if no one turned up I was going to just blow this whole thing right off.

Which was exactly what I had been contemplating. Checkmate.

Inside it was clear to see that it wasn't the entire clan. Sembei-obaasan wasn't here, for one. Pretty much everyone else over the age of twelve was, though. Or ten. I was pretty sure I saw a few Academy students in the crowd.

Dad set down the whiteboard at the front of the room, then turned me by the shoulders so I was facing him. He took a thin strip of black fabric out of his pocket and secured it snugly around my throat, so that the microphone on it was unobscured. That he plugged into what was effectively a Walkman.

"Just hit record when you're ready to start," he advised.

I didn't even want to know what kind of strings he had pulled for this or why he'd decided it was necessary.

Critically, I eyed the mass of people grouped around the room, Tenten hovering just over my shoulder. I tried not to wilt at the combined weight of so many eyes resting on me.

"Okay," I said, relieved when my voice came out low and steady. "Everyone who is here to actually learn, front and centre. Everyone who is just here to be nosy… whatever." I couldn't get rid of them, so they'd just have to hang around the edges. The two academy students crept forward at the implicit invitation, though I really doubted that they were going to get much out of this.

I mean, they might. Even if I wasn't exactly a typical example, Tenten had clearly mastered at least one branch of sealing well enough to make her own storage seal.

I pressed 'record'.

"Welcome to Fuuinjutsu 101," I began and even the quiet murmurs of conversation died away. I tried to focus my eyes on the crowd and eventually settled them on mum and Shikamaru, who totally fell into the category 'just here to be nosy'. "People have been expressing an interest in learning about sealing, so this course is an attempt to impart as much theoretical knowledge to as many people as quickly as possible. We've got a lot to cover, so I'm going to try and get through it all as fast as I can. Class will be same-time-same-place every night for approximately an hour. It'll take us about four weeks to cover everything I have planned, assuming we have no setbacks. If I'm called out on a mission, Tenten will take over."

Tenten waved from beside me, before tucking her hands behind her back. This had to be way more awkward for her, standing here without even having anything to say.

"If Tenten isn't available," I continued. "Class will be suspended until one of us returns. If you can't attend, then notes will be available and Nara-sama has thoughtfully decided to tape them so there will also be an audio recording."

I hoped that was what he intended it for, anyway.

"Wait," someone called out, disrupting me. "You mean there's no test?"

"Please don't interrupt me," I said, as calmly as I could manage. "We're on a tight schedule. If you have questions, I'll answer them at the end. But no, the test is 'do I understand this' and it happens inside your head every minute. I can't decide for you if you understand what I'm teaching, I can only provide the information to you. I know that it's quite difficult to find information on sealing, so I've distilled as much of my own studies as possible." I paused. "If I'm honest, I expect there will only be two or three of you left by the time the course concludes."

I saw more than a few stubborn looks flash at that proclamation. Oops. That wasn't meant to be a challenge. Well. Whatever worked.

"Okay. So, we're going to start with an overview – what is sealing, what do we use it for and how does it work. From there we're going to briefly detour to discuss chakra and its fundamental properties because it's important to have a thorough understanding of what we're manipulating. Then we're going to look at the twelve most popular methods of sealing- "

I was cut off again. I couldn't even see who said it, this time, just the general location it came from. "Aren't you going to teach us how to make seals?"

I didn't appreciate that demanding tone.

"Good luck trying to make one without this," I said dryly. "There's a reason I'm starting with this. But actually, in answer to your question… no." For one, I didn't want to be responsible for this many people fucking around with seals, but I wasn't going to say that. "This is purely theoretical. If there's enough interest after the theory class is over, we'll put together a study group to collaborate. No one can stop you from attempting to experiment on your own but I feel it's important to inform you that using unconfirmed seals on people outside of combat situations is liable to get you into trouble. Check RnD for more information before you do."

Well, that should cover my ass in event of problems.

"And again, please don't interrupt me." I took a deep breath. "Where was I?"

By the time the hour was up, I was strangely exhausted. My throat was incredibly dry and I was glad I'd had my water canteen packed into hammerspace. The question and answer session went on longer than I'd really liked, with some good questions, some bad.

"I'm not actually a trained medical ninja," I said, answering one about why I wasn't covering them. "However, given how many we do have in the clan, I'm sure there's someone that has a greater understanding of how they work."

"Why barrier, storage and exploding seals?" Someone else wanted to know. I was pretty sure it was one of the research ladies. Ryosen? "Will you talk about your chakra measurement seals?"

"In passing," I said. "There are a lot of seals, even basic ones like light or sound creating ones, that I'll just be skimming over. If I wanted to do them in more detail, the course would just get longer and longer and we're all very busy people who can't afford that. I picked those three because they're basic building blocks for a ninja's arsenal, while also exemplifying very different types of seals. They're also very popular, so it's easy to find examples of them in different sealing methods to compare and contrast."

The third time I covered the same point, worded in a slightly different way, I decided we were done and wrapped it all up.

"Same time tomorrow!" I said, carefully turning off the recording device and unhooking it from my neck.

I thought I'd see maybe half of them, at a very optimistic guess. Heck, maybe the numbers would drop enough that I could go back to using the RnD meeting room.

I handed the recording off to dad.

"Good job," he said, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. "That was well done."

The praise was nice but I still grumbled at him. "You didn't have to invite so many of them."

He tugged on a strand of my hair. "I didn't think you were just going to launch right into it," he said, voice terribly dry. "I thought you had some very clever method of testing to see who would be good at it or not."

I made a face. "It's called 'let them try and see if they fail'."

He huffed. "I am surprised you're willing to teach them all," he admitted. "Aren't you worried about information security?"

"Ah," I acknowledged. Ninja were pretty cagey about their techniques. "But it's a clan technique now. Information security is your problem."

I rose up on my tippy toes to kiss his cheek, then sauntered on past him.

Behind me, I heard Kofuku-oba's very dry voice. "Well, I'm glad it's not just me that has problems with her."

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The sealing lessons seemed to go reasonably smoothly. True to my predictions, the class size dropped pretty dramatically when it turned out that it really was just all theory. There were more left than I'd thought – mostly the researchers, and I guessed that 'huge amounts of information' wasn't as off putting to them.

Kofuku-oba talked about getting the audio transcripts and my notes written up into a reference textbook, which I agreed to on the basis that less people would ask me questions if they had a way to go and look it up instead. My original sealing styles notebook got included into the bargain, because it really was more detailed than I was going into in the lectures.

Shortly afterwards Shikamaru was dispatched with Team 10 on a C-rank mission to escort a bunch of merchants. It was probably total overkill to send a team of Chunin and a Jounin but the point was to ease them back into taking missions and not to throw something sudden and challenging at them.

Shikamaru didn't seem totally thrilled to go, but when I asked, it seemed to be more about the timing than the mission itself - it was only supposed to be a week, but there was always the chance that it would extend or that mom would go into labour prematurely.

"I'm sure she would forgive you," I said, bracingly, patting him on the shoulder. "Maybe get some gifts while you're there, just in case."

He didn't seem too impressed with my idea of consolation.

I, myself, settled into a rhythm of training and studying, and only took short one day or overnighter missions when I started to get too bored and itchy. There were a couple of Intel pickups that were mostly straightforward and a handful of sensory squad missions – including a bizarre one for Anbu where a group in masks took me to an apparently random section of the Konoha wall and told me to describe the jutsu that had been used on it recently. They gave no indication of whether or not anything I told them was expected, or why, and whisked me back to the tower and left me standing blinking and bewildered in the sunshine.

I mean, stranger things had happened to me. But usually with some context.

I also managed to make it to a kunoichi meeting, which had been a while. It was nice.

Anko plopped down next to me on the grass, offering me dango. "I've been meaning to talk to you."

I took a skewer, automatically flicking through any possible reasons she could have. I … couldn't see much, if I was honest. "Sure," I agreed, neutrally. "How can I help?"

She waved the point of her skewer, as though to take in the meeting around us. "You intending on making this official? The kunoichi club."

I bit down and chewed slowly to cover the pause while I thought. "Not especially," I said, slowly. "It was originally just a way to catch up with friends. Then we kept making more."

She snorted. "Whatever the reason was, it's caught on," she said dismissively. "And it's reached a critical mass now – people are starting to take notice."

"I see," I said and the trouble was I did see. I just didn't want to.

"So," she went on, "if you don't have any plans on stepping up and making it official, then I want to."

"Why?" I asked, more curious than objecting.

Anko leant back, onto one elbow, legs stretching out in front of her. "I'm making a push for Jounin," she said in a tone that was layers of resignation trying and failing to cover a spark of pride. "Someone made Maito Gai think that I was stepping up my training, and when Gai thinks you're training more… apparently you are."

I moved away slightly as she tried to stab me in the thigh with her dango skewer.

"You're welcome," I said serenely. "So, this is your… innovation?" That wasn't really the right word for it.

The thing was, there wasn't really a test to become a Jounin. By that point, everyone either knew you were (or not).

Combat ability was a big part of it. You had to be strong. That was mostly measured by missions taken (and hearsay and bingo book evaluations probably) because by the time you reached that level no one really wanted to reveal their best techniques, certainly not to a crowd like in the Chunin exams. And it was really hard to host an out-and-out fight at Jounin level while ensuring no one actually got hurt.

But, these days, no one was really promoted on combat ability alone. Maybe in the war that had been the case but it wasn't enough anymore. Jounin weren't just one man wrecking balls – they were leaders.

Not just mission leaders but… leaders of the village. The people who looked at the systems in place and didn't just meet them but improved them. Who contributed to the village, not just through mission performance but by challenging it. By finding gaps in the workings and fixing them. Who stepped up and said 'you need a leader here – let me be it'.

It didn't mean you'd get promoted for it. But it put your name out there. Let the higher ups know that you were the kind of person they wanted in charge.

"Have you asked the others?" I asked. In some ways this group would probably be a perfect example of demonstrating leadership abilities. Or mentorship, anyway.

"They wanted to let their Chunin ranks settle in first," she said, flicking a look over my vest. "But since you're tearing up the ranks, I thought you might be considering it."

I shook my head. "No, you should go for it."

It wasn't that I was against making it official. It was just that, if I put myself in charge, then I would be responsible for it. There would be work associated with it – probably a lot, if I were honest. There would probably have to be rules and teaching plans and progress reports…

And honestly, I barely even made it to these meetings these days. Trying to run them would be a headache and a half.

Anko smiled, genuinely. "Neat. I mean, I was going to do it anyway. But I've heard what happens to people who get on your bad side."

I rolled my eyes at her. "Aoba has been telling stories."

"You bet your ass he has."

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Team 10 came home with all pieces present and accounted for.

"Don't act like it's a big deal," Shikamaru grumbled, rubbing the back of his neck with his good hand.

"I didn't say anything," I denied, smiling. "Here I am, just enjoying this nice sunshine and I get so unjustly accused-"

He reached out and shoved me in the shoulder. "Alright, alright," he said, but there was a matching grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I get it."

I swayed with the motion, easy and bright. "Good."

Shikamaru being back meant that Ino was also back, a whirl of colour and life that I didn't realise how badly I'd missed.

"Do you ever wish things could just… last?" she asked, tucking her arm into mine and dragging me through Konoha's shopping district. I went with her easily, keeping an idle eye out for any new equipment.

"Yes," I answered quietly. "Or stop. Or turn back. But we can't do any of that."

"Oh, I know," she agreed, thoughtlessly picking through racks of field gear, always homing in on the purple. "It was just good to take a mission with the whole team again, you know? But it was over so fast."

"There'll be more," I said. "Maybe not the same, maybe not everyone but… there'll be more."

She looked at me, something critical passing over her face. "What a depressing topic," she said, shaking it off instead. "What do you think, this one or this one?" she held up two shirts in different cuts, but the same shade.

"The purple one," I deadpanned. "You ever consider other colours?"

She waggled a finger at me. "It's all about creating an image. Purple stands out. People will know me when they see me."

"And it's easy to take off," I said thoughtfully. "If all your field gear is one colour…" When you weren't wearing it, you were off duty. Compartmentalisation.

"You should consider it," Ino said, elbowing past me to browse another rack. "You know, actually buy civilian clothes."

I let out a laugh. "When am I off duty?" I asked. "You aren't tricking me into more shopping, Ino Yamanaka. I know your wiles."

She stuck her tongue out at me, playfully. "Foiled again."

I did want to pick up some glasses for my seal microscope project and I'd intended on just getting some sunglasses to experiment with. I didn't need the lenses per se, just something to look through.

Of course, being Ino, we ended up in a novelty store trying on tacky plastic frames.

"What do you think?" Ino asked, with a pair of ridiculous hearts perched on her face. "Is it me?"

"Absolutely," I said, trading a pair of shutter shades for a pair that looked like stars. "How professional do I look?"

"Very!" she cackled. "No, wait!" She reached over and unearthed a gift. "Look, the Konoha leaf."

"Perfect," I said. They were utterly ridiculous, but spirals worked well for seals. It would do. "These are about to become super high tech ninja weaponry."

Ino kept laughing. "I hope so," she wheezed. "I really, really hope so. I want you to wear them into battle one day. Just for the … the looks on everyone's faces…"

I laughed too. "Can you even imagine?"

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"How are you feeling, Sensei?" I asked, casually.

He flicked his book shut. "Is this my follow up appointment?" He asked, wryly.

I shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "Just wanting to know if we had to pull another miracle out of our hats," I claimed. "I figured that since Tsunade-sama hadn't knocked my door down, it must have been okay."

He huffed. "Lucky you."

"Just think of how many future hospital visits you don't have," I pointed out. "That's gotta be something."

He ruffled my hair. "It is nice not to be exhausted all the time," he mused, which was probably as close as I was going to get to an answer.

"And the …. technique thing?" I asked, wiggling my fingers in a way that probably communicated nothing except weirdness. Weirdness was a good descriptor.

He shifted, just a little. "Working on it," he said.

Which meant. Yeah. It was in progress. Hopefully.

"Well," I said, and twisted a scroll out of hammerspace to give to him. "I don't know if it actually was a black hole, or whatever, or if this'll help but…"

Kakashi-sensei frowned slightly, unrolling the first few inches to read the notes I had painstakingly copied over from the Book of Gelel. The thing that had had an actual seal for the making of black holes. I hadn't… put the actual seal on it for him, but the science behind it might help. I didn't actually know if Kamui had anything in common with that seal, or if it was closer to storage scrolls in function. If it was that later, he probably knew enough to work it out himself.

"I'm not sure I want to ask," he said contemplatively, rerolling it and tucking it carefully into an inside pocket on his vest. "I don't know if there's an answer that will make me less concerned."

"Probably not," I admitted. "I'm not sure I could tell you, anyway. So. Best not."

He started to walk, and I fell into step beside him.

"It was definitely not that answer," he decided out loud.

Sasuke was waiting for us at the training field, which was proof that running into Kakashi-sensei hadn't been coincidence. Not that I'd needed proof, but still.

"It's been such a long time since my cute little genin trained with me," Kakashi-sensei said, so much put-upon sorrow in his voice. "So, I've decided on a team bonding exercise!"

"Okay?" I agreed, looking at Sasuke, who shrugged. It wasn't like I objected to team training. It wasn't like Sasuke objected to training, ever.

Kakashi-sensei hustled us another training field over. I felt the waiting chakra, and started to get just a little concerned.

"Gai and I decided on a little challenge," Sensei said happily. "Team verses team combat!"

"I didn't agree to that," I objected immediately, balking. There was nothing at stake here – not even a competition, just Kakashi and Gai being themselves.

Because Lee and Neji? We were going to get stomped. Utterly.

"The teams are uneven," Sasuke pointed out. "That's an unfair advantage." He sounded like he knew it wasn't going to work, but it was a last-ditch effort to salvage the situation.

"Indeed!" Gai boomed, suddenly much closer than he had been even half a second ago. "It compensates nicely for the higher ranking of your team!"

Sasuke contemplated that. Then turned and slugged me squarely in the arm.

I yelped. "What was that for?!"

"It's your fault," he said, crossing his arms. "Special Jounin."

I glowered at him. I couldn't exactly throw his own status back in his face.

Across the clearing, Neji and Tenten were practically smirking. Lee only looked incredibly happy to be training, but I had no doubt that everyone had drawn the same conclusion we had.

Stomped. Utterly. Individually Team Gai were stupid powerhouses and together they were an unbreakable defensive formation. Ambushing them was only slightly less stupid than picking a fight when they knew they were about to be fighting.

Okay, fuck that. That defeatist attitude could go directly to hell. This was going to suck and it was going to hurt and they would definitely have to fight for every inch they gained.

I shifted onto the balls of my feet and quirked an eyebrow at Sasuke. Very slowly, he nodded in response.

"Okay," I said, stretching my arms and dropping my resistance seals. I pulled my chakra up to readiness, prepping my muscles. I checked the surroundings more thoroughly with my senses – no traps set up, no surprises waiting for us, just the ceaseless determination of training pounded into the ground and trees.

Team Gai's training field was mostly just open, empty space. There was a forest at one end, littered with practice targets, but they were probably just as comfortable in the trees as we were so it wouldn't give us that much of an advantage.

"Well, then," Kakashi-sensei said, and twitched his headband up.

Gai-sensei dropped his gaze down to the ground, watching his feet.

"Go!" They said in unison, and vanished, moving fast enough and with enough intent that it was immediately, obviously clear that a fight between two Jounin was not something any of us should be in the middle of. They went for the trees, which at least meant we wouldn't accidentally be crossing attacks.

I pooled my shadow, circling it around both of us instantly in a defensive effort to stave off an inevitable Taijutsu attack. If they couldn't cross it, they couldn't touch us. Game, set, match. (If only.)

Beside me, Sasuke's chakra flared twice, once to activate his sharingan, and once to cast a genjutsu that settled heavily over Tenten and Lee.

Neji – Byakugan blazing – had a choice of which teammate to try and free.

He went for Lee.

Not a bad choice. He was objectively the stronger fighter – the one Sasuke and I would have the most trouble with. Tenten was probably more likely to be able to free herself.

Which just meant we had to get her out of the fight first.

Sasuke sprang sideways, putting space between us and pulling shuriken and ninja wire from his pouch and linking them together in a smooth easy movement. The wires trailed in the air as they looped around, circling Tenten and pulling tight in a rudimentary restraint.

Meanwhile, I sent my shadow racing for Neji and Lee, hoping that I could catch them in Shadow Possession Jutsu. It wasn't so far away that I worried about running out of shadows to use but they were faster than I was, even with having to shake off Lee's genjutsu.

They went backwards, retreating until I had to stop, range limit reached.

And then I was reminded that, oh yeah, Neji had distance attacks in his Jyuuken. The Vacuum Palm blasted across the clearing and I dodged, barely, the wave of chakra clipping my side and spinning me into the ground like a ragdoll.

I gasped, rolling to my feet and checking my chakra system for any damaging intrusion – but unlike the close quarters attacks, the Vacuum Palm didn't penetrate and block. It was far more like a wind technique, a forceful outside push of chakra.

Still, it stung like being scalded with too hot water.

While I was down Lee burst into motion, so goddam fast, just appearing next to Sasuke and kicking him in the air. It was a technique I'd seen him use – use on Sasuke even – before, but apparently that didn't make it any more avoidable. "Leaf Hurricane!"

Or-

I flashed through the handseals. Replacement.

"Shadow-"

"-of the Dancing Leaf," I finished, coyly, spinning in mid-air and grinning down at Lee. His eyes widened, apparently not having realised that naming a technique 'shadow' in a fight with a Nara was just asking for it.

I floated in the air, primed my shadow beneath me, and caught him in its grip easily. The thing about being in mid-air was that it made manoeuvrability difficult – that had probably been a benefit to this technique, to keep his opponent from being able to escape or strike back, but it affected him just as much.

Sasuke was busy, down below, keeping Neji at bay. He was… on fire? Well I guessed that was one way of keeping a Taijutsu user from engaging up close. Neji's sleeves were smouldering but it seemed like his Jyuuken was protecting his hands enough that it didn't bother him a whole lot.

Sasuke's chakra sabre being put to use as well, trying to fend off attacks when they came too close. A sword didn't have tenketsu to close, but I could feel a wavering in his chakra that meant that at least a few hits had gotten past it.

I landed, rolling us both with Shadow Possession, and then raced through handseals, being very, very careful not to lose control of him. One slip and I wouldn't even have time to notice having screwed up, because I would be done for.

"Infinite Pocket!" Tenten shouted, and yeah, we'd had a good few seconds of having her out of the fight. "Pinpoint Barrage!" There was a yelp from Sasuke and the sound of metal on metal as he deflected whatever obscene amount of weaponry she threw at him.

Better him than me.

I finished my jutsu. "Earth Release: Earth-Style Wall!" I built it up around Lee, caging him up over his shoulders. Trapped. Without leverage he – hopefully – shouldn't be able to escape.

And not a fraction of a second too soon, because Neji – free of fighting Sasuke for a brief moment while Tenten distracted him – was bearing down on me with all the inevitability of an avalanche.

Too close!

I needed distance. Fighting a Hyuuga at close range was the height of foolishness, especially for me. Hinata wrecked me badly enough at Taijutsu that I didn't need to see how a fight with Neji would end. I needed to stall him for a second, to get some range, to regroup with Sasuke.

I didn't have time for a jutsu. Instead I grabbed a seal tag out of my pouch and thrust it into the air.

"Barrier Seal!" A square of light erupted out of it, translucent but solid, hovering in the air like a wall.

Neji hesitated, fractionally, eyes sweeping over it with the intensity of the Byakugan.

Then he struck it, glowing hands slamming into it, three times in quick succession.

It shattered.

"Well fuck," I said.

I wheeled backwards, feet scrambling, trying for distance even as I could calculate that it was never going to work. Neji was faster than me. I'd never get far enough.

"You are within the range of my divination," he said, sliding into a low stance that, honestly, looked like it promised a lot of pain coming my way. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Change of plans.

I shifted my weight back onto the ball of my foot, charging chakra into my necklace and going from 'flight' to 'fight'.

Neji's eyes widened as I met the first palm of his thirty-two, not with any attack of my own but with my whole body, pushing forward into it. The chakra of his Jyuuken blew the shadows out of my torso, his arm suspended in empty air, and I collapsed my shape into nothingness, into a pool of darkness.

Right on top of his face.

Now he was the one trying to wheel backwards, a muffled shout rising in his throat. Muffled because I was muffling it, my not-body as physical as a Shadow Neckbind Jutsu.

This wasn't exactly a jutsu I'd planned to use in sparring, but enough people had probably seen it by now that it was only 'mostly' secret.

Can he see? I wondered, somewhat abstractly, as I pinched his nose closed and wormed tendrils down his neck to press down on his carotid artery in a move that was so nicely called a 'blood choke'. Pressing the artery briefly blocked blood flow to the brain, inducing a very efficient loss of consciousness. Suffocation was markedly less efficient but I could attest to it being really fucking distracting.

His hands clawed through my Shadow State, but there was nothing for them to grab. I was pressure without mass, force without substance.

His chakra surged and flared as he tried to throw me off, a full body Jyuuken strike that probably would have managed if my choke-hold hadn't kicked in.

I pulled off, forming back into a me shape, and then slapped an actual Knockout Tag on him to keep him unconscious because I didn't want to do that again. Fuck no, that had been close.

In the time I'd been fighting Neji, Sasuke had covered the entire area in Mist and that and his Anbu trained stealth were probably the only reasons he'd been able to hold off Lee -shit when did he get free - and Tenten at the same time.

Well.

I considered and then threw a transformation jutsu over myself, taking to the mist as a perfect replica of Neji. I doubted it would last for very long, but all I needed was to get close enough to get an opening.

Easier said than done. But with some tricky shadow work, a pair of Sasuke's shadow clones and a frankly over powered lightning jutsu conducted along Tenten's far-too-many metallic weapons… we ended up victorious.

Huh.

"Should we go and back up Sensei?" Sasuke asked, staring thoughtfully in the direction of the Jounin fight.

I considered. Deeply. For about a millisecond. "Nah. This was his idea, he can suffer."

I set Lee down gently on the ground and took the Knockout Tag off of Neji. Lee was definitely out of it – which was the only way to ever get him to stop fighting, and even then… - but Tenten was only trembling faintly and occasionally giving off random static shocks.

Which was honestly one of the funniest side effects of being hit with lightning jutsu that I'd ever seen.

"Point," Sasuke agreed.

I sighed and flopped down on the ground, resentfully pulling out my sealing notebook to try and re-jig my barrier seal.

I hadn't considered Jyuuken. Which wasn't a massive oversight in itself, but if Jyuuken could do it then chances were that there were other chakra based attacks that could as well. And that wasn't a thing that was nice to find out in the middle of combat.

Speaking of the devil – he blinked awake. Clearly disorientated, but not really surprised to find himself surrounded by his team. Given that Lee was still out of it, he probably didn't need to ask how the fight had ended, either.

"So, did you overload it, short circuit it or was there a fault in the chakra matrix?" I asked, not really bothering to segue into it.

Neji blinked. "The repeating pattern wasn't stable," he said, pushing himself into a sitting position.

A fault, probably, then. I groaned and dropped my forehead to the ground. This was why people didn't make single tag barrier seals. They were the worst.

The silence as we waited for Kakashi-sensei and Gai to finish fighting was awkward at best and tense at worst. Even after Lee woke up. Maybe especially after Lee woke up, because he wasn't exactly upset about losing but he was immediately determined to improve.

"Kakashi-sensei," I said, severely, when they limped back into the clearing looking a little rough around the edges. "You owe us lunch."

He looked immediately delighted. "Did you win?"

"Hey," Sasuke objected. "Why do you sound surprised?! You're the one that told us to fight."

"I had nothing but faith in you," Kakashi-sensei said, curling his visible eye in to an exaggerated smile. "My genin team is the best genin team."

"Not genin," I pointed out, futilely. That was a losing battle if ever there was one. "No one in this training field is a genin."

.


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AN: Me: You know, it's been a while since I've written a fight scene, maybe- nope. Nope, still hate them. Confirmed.