You were right. Training with Jiraiya-sensei is a unique experience.
He doesn't teach like you. I'd say he teaches like Kakashi-sensei, except he doesn't really do that either. Kakashi-sensei would show us a move or technique, explain the basics, and then leave us to our own devices. And that worked, I guess. But Jiraiya-sensei…I'm not even sure what he does can be classified as teaching.
I apologize. I'm struggling to explain the situation well. He's a good teacher, I suppose, it's just…odd. He gives us the finished project, and then expects us to reverse engineer the theory out of that and what we already know. He acts as a sort of guidepost, telling us when we're on the right track, but not much beyond that.
To be honest, he hasn't taught us (or at least me) much yet. I know it's only been two weeks, but it's still frustrating. Naruto and Sasuke are working individually almost nonstop – both of them with some kind of close range finishing technique. Sasuke's requires a lightning affinity and a Sharingan – a weaker version of Kakashi-sensei's Raikiri. It's impressive, but he hasn't really mastered it yet. The Sharingan shows him how to mold chakra, but actually doing it efficiently is a whole different thing. Naruto's new technique, the Rasengan, is in my eyes the more interesting of the two. But he can't seem to get it down. He's frustrated, but I know he just needs time. Naruto's like that.
But back to me (sorry if I still sound like a child, but I feel like this is something I need to get off my chest) Jiraiya-sensei has already told me he can't do much for me in terms of genjutsu, and I've accepted that, (thank you for the scrolls by the way, I'm already finding them useful!) but I'm having trouble deciding where to focus my studies. Jiraiya-sensei seems to know just something about just about everything (except genjutsu, just my luck) and he's having trouble deciding what to teach me. I hope he decides soon – I don't want to get too far behind Naruto and Sasuke.
Say hello to Kiba for me!
^And Hinata and Shino
"I've got it," Jiraiya said, taking a seat on some roots opposite Sakura.
The pink haired Chunin looked up from her scroll, a small scientific journal discussing possible origins of some bloodline limits found in the stone village. "Got what?"
"What I'm going to teach you," Jiraiya said. He had a small, very self-satisfied smile on his face, and held a bright orange scroll in one hand. "You'll love it."
Sakura said nothing for a moment, waiting for him to continue.
"Aren't you…going to ask?" Jiraiya asked, looking slightly confused. "You're ruining the drama."
Sakura rolled her eyes and put her scroll down next to her. "What did you decide to teach me, Jiraiya-sensei?" She asked in a voice that came out a little more sarcastic than she had originally intended.
Jiraiya, however, didn't seem to notice or care. Instead, he drew himself up in a triumphant pose. "I've decided to teach you…sealing!"
"Sealing?" Sakura asked, frowning.
"But…I don't know the first thing about sealing," Sakura said, her frown deepening. "I'd have to start from scratch. I understand that you can't teach me much about genjutsu, but…I thought…"
"Sakura," Jiraiya said, putting a hand on her shoulder, "I don't expect you to abandon your genjutsu training. I'm just saying you'll have to do it mostly on your own. I have some scrolls dealing with theory and some different applications of the art, and I may know some people who can give you more hands on experience, but myself, personally? It's just not my forte. But sealing?" He said, "sealing is my thing. And while a lot of people may believe that you're too young to understand it, I think you're more than intelligent enough to master it."
Sakura felt herself flush, and looked away. "If…if you think so, Jiraiya-sensei."
"Great!" Jiraiya said, grinning in a way that reminded Sakura of Naruto. "But if you could, cut the –sensei shit out. Makes me feel old."
"Good. Now, let's get down to it," Jiraiya said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "Sealing is a lot more theory-intensive than the ninjutsu and taijutsu I'm teaching Naruto and Sasuke, so I'll be spending a bit more time with you in the early stages," he said. "Then, when you understand the basics, I'll back off and let you develop your own style and ideas. Sound good?"
"Alright. Now before we even touch the idea of sealing, you need to understand one thing," Jiraiya started. "During the chunin exams, you learned the motto of the Chunin, right? Do you remember what it was?"
"If you lack heaven, seek wisdom, be prepared," Sakura said immediately. "If you lack earth, run in the fields, seek advantages. And if you have both heaven and earth, you can succeed in even the most dangerous missions." She must've said that a million times during her Chunin initiation – backwards, with all the vowels removed, hanging upside down – she knew the hell out of that motto.
"Exactly," Jiraiya said, and Sakura smiled at the praise. "Now, the basis for that motto – the idea of "heaven" and "earth" representing mind and body respectively. And this idea goes way beyond Konoha, back to the times of the warring clans, or maybe even before. Do you understand?"
"Good. So the basic theory of sealing revolves around that idea. Imagine two cliffs connected by a bridge. One cliff is "heaven" represented by chakra. One cliff is "earth" represented by blood. And the bridge between the two is ink."
"But Jiraiya," Sakura cut in, "Isn't chakra a mixture of both spiritual and bodily energy? So referring to chakra as heaven is kind of inaccurate…"
"You're right," Jiraiya said, "you're right. But discussing why exactly chakra is classified as "heaven" is going into the classifications of different kinds of chakra, and that's something that, while not above you, would sidetrack us for a while. So for now, just trust me."
Sakura nodded. "Ok."
"Now, for the beginner," Jiraiya continued, "all three aspects are needed for sealing. You need blood to form the structure of the seal, chakra to imbue the seal with intent, and ink to keep it all cohesive. For the expert however, ink is an optional component. Master sealers with a firm enough grip on the concepts of "heaven" and "earth" can forgo the bridge and place a seal on the fly."
"Like Orochimaru!" Sakura exclaimed suddenly. "When he gave Sasuke the cursed seal in the forest of death, he didn't use any ink, he just bit him."
"Exactly," Jiraiya said. "Orochimaru has spent years perfecting the cursed seal, and knows it inside and out – he can hold the image and chakra flow in his mind, and then use his chakra and Sasuke's blood to create the seal without needing ink."
"So if that's the basics," Sakura said, "how do I apply them?"
"That's for you to decide," Jiraiya said with a grin. "But so you don't end up limiting yourself unnecessarily, remember this: the "bridge" does not literally have to be ink – it's simply any medium that can hold a shape. Its purpose is to allow your mind to better picture the form the seal should take. You can use blood, though this isn't advisable for a number of reasons, water, dirt, ash, anything that can form a shape. And the last thing you need to remember, before you start reading this at least," he said, tossing her the bright orange scroll, "is that a seal, no matter what other purpose it may have, has one primary function – to hold something back."
"So what you're trying to tell me," the Hokage said, his face completely devoid of emotion, "is that the cursed seal is alive."
Kohinata Koyaiba, Chunin of the Hidden Leaf Village and recent escapee of the inescapable prison Yomi, shrugged. "More or less. Sir."
Hiashi rubbed his temples with his pointer and middle fingers. "And you couldn't have told me this sooner because…"
"I told you all the most important stuff first!" Koyaiba protested. "The stuff about Orochimaru, and Fourteen, and Taki keeping secrets from us. And I've been dodging Taki patrols for the past two weeks – when I got here, I wasn't exactly in any condition to give a full report." He sighed. "I'm sorry sir. I don't mean to be rude. I'm just tired."
"Well, the information you've given us has helped immensely," the Hokage said, "and for that, I'm grateful. We've officially detained Taki's representative in Konoha and are mobilizing advance troops to their outposts already. I hope to shut down this war before it has the chance to begin.
"And Blessed Seal," he continued, "will be instrumental in that. I need to know your opinions on this new development, and I need to know them as soon as possible."
Koyaiba nodded. He had spent the past two weeks doing nothing but thinking – he had had very limited interaction with civilians, and to occupy his mind during the long walks across Fire Country countryside, he had devoted his thoughts to cracking Dayase's words.
The cursed seal…itself…is alive.
"The best I can tell," Koyaiba said, "is that there's some form of artificial personality present in the cursed seal. And as crazy as it sounds, it actually sort of makes sense. It makes a lot of other things add up."
Hiashi nodded slowly. "Explain."
"Well," Koyaiba said, trying to figure out where to begin, "one of the basic ideas behind psychology is that chakra somehow reflects the mental state of the user. It's why Jinchuuriki become unbalanced when receiving a lot of demonic chakra – their psychological state gets overwritten by the bijuu's."
"Yes, yes," the Hokage said, "but we've known this for a long time. The question is, what does this have to do with the cursed seal?"
"Well, it's complicated," Koyaiba said, running his hand over his head. "Chakra's always only carried a psychological imprint. It's not a full personality - it's just sort of a sketch of one, capable of basic emotions but not sophisticated thought. The idea of transmitting an entire mind through a seal has never been attempted before."
"And why not?"
"Because it's impossible!" Koyaiba said. "Permanently transmitting a personality to a seal would require massive amounts of chakra, more than even a bijuu. It's just not something a human could accomplish."
"What if Orochimaru wasn't transmitting the personality?" the Hokage asked. "What if he was building the personality in the seal and then channeling chakra through it?"
Koyaiba stared at the Hokage, his mouth slack. "That's...just insane enough to work," he said finally. "The seal would have to be ridiculously complicated, but Dayase did say that it was a masterpiece…You'd need to build a shell within the seal and then fill it with chakra, but theoretically it could work."
"Excellent," the Hokage said. "Take your findings to Kumotora immediately. I'm assigning you to project Blessed Seal in your spare time – your job is to help Kumotora with any of the psychological aspects of building the Blessed Seal."
Koyaiba snapped off a salute, swinging his feet over the edge of the bed and standing up. "Yes sir."
"You're dismissed," the Hokage said. Koyaiba nodded and pushed open the heavy door. It swung shut with a heavy thump, and Koyaiba rounded a corner, heading towards the exit.
He opened the front door only to find himself face to face with an old man with half of his face wrapped in bandages – Shimura Danzo, village elder.
Koyaiba took an involuntary step back, as Danzo looked him up and down with a critical eye. "You are Kohinata Koyaiba, correct?" He asked. His voice was stern and demanding – he didn't ask a question, he demanded an answer.
"Yes Danzo-sama," Koyaiba said, bowing quickly.
"I've heard much about you," Danzo said, brushing past him and walking down the hall towards the Hokage's office. "I look forward to working with you in the future."
That did not sound good.
The coins spilled from the machine like a dam had burst, sending shining gold and silver coins tumbling into the bucket below.
Tsunade watched them fall for a minute, and then became very nervous.
"Ah! Tsunade-sama! You won!" Shizune said, clapping to herself as she bent down to run her fingers through the silver coins. "Maybe your luck is finally turning around?"
"I don't like this," Tsunade said, standing up suddenly. She scanned the area carefully; all her senses on high alert, but nothing unusual came up.
So why couldn't she shake the feeling that something was wrong?
To her left, Shizune bent down and picked up the bucket full of coins. "Tsunade-sama," she said, her voice carrying the slight whine it got when she was annoyed. "You finally won something. Why can't you just enjoy it?"
"Because something here isn't right," Tsunade insisted. She began walking briskly towards the exit, Shizune struggling with the bucket behind her, and Tonton bringing up the rear. "We need to leave now," Tsunade continued, pushing through the door and heading towards the village exit.
"What? Leave? But we only just got here!" Shizune protested. "Can we at least see the castle? It's supposed to be so pretty this time of year."
Tsunade opened her mouth to respond, but before she could, she was cut off by an elegant, almost feminine drawl. "Oh believe me, it is. The falling leaves really bring out the color of the roof…at least in my opinion."
Tsunade whirled around, her heart pounding in her chest, because it was him, that was his voice…
"Don't look so surprised, Tsunade," Orochimaru said with a sardonic smile. He stood on the side of the road a few feet behind her, leaning casually against the heavy stone wall that separated the road from the local hot springs. A straw hat was pulled over his face, and his body was wrapped in a light purple and grey cloak. His hair was pulled into a utilitarian ponytail, his ears covered by two small hoop earrings – he looked eerily feminine like that, much more so than when they had last seen each other.
"What," Tsunade said through gritted teeth, "are you doing here."
Orochimaru pressed a hand to his heart as though in pain. "You wound me. That kind of tone…is it at all appropriate for the student that has finally surpassed the master?"
Tsunade's eyes widened, and behind her Shizune cursed softly.
"Come now," Orochimaru said, his voice full of arrogant satisfaction. "You knew it was only a matter of time before I killed the old bastard. Besides, it's not like you still cared about what happened to him. Or any of that village."
"Cut the shit," Tsunade said, refusing to take his bait. "You didn't just come to me to brag. What happened, did the old man give you a boo-boo you couldn't fix by yourself?"
Orochimaru snorted. "Hardly. I'm here Tsunade, because my medic was killed by a few uppity genin and I need a new one. And you know me…never settle for second best." He shrugged. "And maybe I'm here to brag a little. You always did think the old man was invincible. You never realized that even gods can die."
"Get out," Tsunade said, her face pulled into a snarl. "Get out of here right now and never approach me again, or I swear it will be the last thing you do."
"Look who's making threats," Orochimaru said with a chuckle. "It's amusing, coming from the girl who can't even stand the sight of blood." Tsunade took a step forward, clenching her fists threateningly, but Orochimaru just smirked. "Well, you know how it is old friend. I have big plans now, plans you might just be able to disrupt if that white haired lump gets to you. Fourteen, kill her."
Time seemed to slow down, and Tsunade realized that for the first time in a long, long time, her old battle reflexes were kicking in.
Something – a white and brown blur – disconnected itself from a tree high above Tsunade's head, streaking towards her unnaturally quickly. She leapt to the side, and there was a bone jarring crash as the blur slammed into the ground where the sanin had been standing not a half-moment ago.
Tsunade leaned forward, ready to leap at whoever was attacking them, but Shizune hadn't been thrown of balance like she had, and the raven haired assistant got the first move. She charged the crater with a high-pitched yell, both feet leaving the ground before lashing out at whatever had dented the road.
She wasn't quite fast enough however, and an armored forearm deflected her kick, sending her flying through the air. Fourteen emerged from the dust and debris – a huge mountain of a man, clad in white and brown samurai armor with a blank mask covering his face. He roared, an inhuman noise that sounded like it was tearing his throat apart and charged Tsunade, an armored fist swinging at her head.
He was fast – but Tsunade was faster, and she blocked the punch without much difficulty. What did surprise her however, was the strength behind it. It was easily the strongest non-chakra-enhanced punch she had ever taken, and she felt herself slide back a few feet from the force of it. Shrugging it off, she brought one fist back and retaliated, her own punch throwing Fourteen through the air and down the street.
He was back up in an instant, a feral growl coming from his throat as he raised one hand. An explosion rocked the air, and Tsunade was forced to throw herself backwards to avoid the attack.
Explosion Release? What the hell?
She didn't have time to think too hard about it though, because Fourteen was on her again. She dodged the first punch and was about to block another when Shizune came darting out of nowhere and sunk a kunai into the back of Fourteen's neck.
Fourteen roared in pain, stumbling backwards and yanking the bloody kunai out of his neck. Shizune simply smirked and crossed her arms over her chest in a very self satisfied manner.
"Poison?" Tsunade asked, careful to avoid looking at Fourteen and any blood he might've had on him.
"White Orchid extract from the last time we were in Iwa. He's done for," Shizune replied.
Tsunade nodded. "You didn't get any of it on yourself did you? That stuff is-"
"Acidic, I know. I was careful. At least he's not getting up from…" she trailed off, staring at Fourteen with wide eyes. "What is he doing?"
With another roar, Fourteen dug his fingers into the wound and ripped a good portion of his neck away from his body.
Tsunade and Shizune stared in open-mouthed shock as he tossed aside the bloody flesh, shuddering in pain but still working his way to his feet. His blood covered the ground around him, portions of it burning away the road with a slight sizzle.
So much blood.
Fourteen charged, one fist back.
Shizune moved to intercept. There was a horrible squelching sound, and suddenly Tsunade was covered in blood.
Tsunade tried not to scream as she saw Fourteen's fist go through her apprentice, showering her in blood.
There was a long pause. Fourteen removed his hand from Shizune's chest, calmly licking at the blood that covered it, and Tsunade stood stock-still, only slight quivers proving she wasn't just an incredibly life like statue. Fourteen's neck was already healing, fresh skin growing to cover the gaping wound he had given his own body.
Shizune's body dropped limply to the ground, the last traces of life vanishing before Tsunade's eyes.
Fourteen turned towards Tsunade, his breathing ragged, and something inside her just snapped.
Suddenly, it didn't seem to matter that she was covered in blood – it didn't matter that she was terrified, it didn't matter that the last time she had been like this was when Dan had died. None of it mattered to her. Nothing mattered except Shizune's lifeless corpse and the beast in front of her.
Chakra exploded out of her fist as she made contact with Fourteen's block, the force of the blow knocking out windows twenty feet away and throwing Orochimaru's hat off into the horizon. Fourteen was blasted backwards, but Tsunade didn't let him catch his breath. She shunshined, the world around her blurring, and slammed another fist into a recovering Fourteen's gut.
Fourteen roared in pain, and there was something extra in this roar – a dose of chakra, powerful enough to throw her off her feet and into the air. She whipped her legs up and rebounded off a sturdy branch, intending to liquefy his bowels with her next blow, but she was intercepted by a grey-purple blur with a ponytail and hoop earrings.
"Come now, Tsunade," Orochimaru said with breezy confidence. "I've invested quite a bit of time and energy into Fourteen here. You killing him would be…an incredible inconvenience."
"Bastard!" Tsunade shouted, lashing out at Orochimaru. Her former teammate however, simple smirked and twisted out of the way of the attack, drawing a wicked looking katana with one fluid motion.
He twirled it in his hand once and lunged at her, but Tsunade was a medic, and an expert at predicting and dodging attacks. She ducked gracefully under this one, grabbing Orochimaru's wrist and pressing down hard on a pressure point. The snake sannin's face flashed with pain and his grip loosened – just enough for Tsunade to snatch the sword from his hand.
Orochimaru took a step back, his expression shifting into a snarl, but he had never been Tsunade's target. She stepped past him, bringing the sword down in a brutal two handed chop – it cut through Fourteen's armor like butter and continued through the rest of him, severing his shoulder, arm, and a good portion of his side from the rest of his body. She raised her arms for the finishing slice, but before she could the sword lurched out of her hands and sailed into Orochimaru's mouth.
"Well, well, well," Orochimaru said, appearing beside the dying Fourteen faster than Tsunade's eyes could follow. "I underestimated you. He might actually die from this…I'll have to move fast if I want to save him."
"I'm not going to give you that chance," Tsunade growled, but before she could attack again, Orochimaru had waved goodbye and vanished, along with Fourteen, in a puff of smoke. A small string of seals were now present on the spot he had been standing.
"Reverse summoning," Tsunade said, shaking her head. The adrenaline started to fade from her system, leaving her a jittery, exhausted mess. The only things to do now…were bury Shizune, and try to gather together the remaining pieces of her shattered life.
And then, she would make Orochimaru scream.
AN: Thoughts are on my livejournal (link is in my profile, as always) Hope you enjoy the story to come!