A/N: Some people mentioned that the OCs are making the story darker. This isn't quite true. The story is getting darker, but not because of the OCs. Team Kinishi is just one symptom, not the cause, of the disease. This chapter should prove that, just by what happens to Haku.

Also, I wasn't quite sure how to write Orochimaru, so I just went for patronizing, arrogant, and creepy. And a teensy bit… flamboyant? Fruity, maybe? I'm not really sure, but he ended being a little Camp. Like, with italics. Everywhere.

o.o.o.o.o

Robin was always a strange woman. She was the kind of woman whose actions always reached far, whether she meant for them to do so or not. Even the slightest word to the right person, or the wrong one, from her, tended to have unexpected consequences.

Of course, in this particular case, it was not a word or a similarly small action that caused people to take notice. It was her actions at Nami no Kuni.

Ghost stories were never dismissed out of hand in the world of shinobi. Old ones were used as possible leads on the scavenging of historical jutsu, and new ones were always, always investigated.

And Robin? Well, she had turned into a ghost story for the lower levels of nukenin and mercenaries for a reason, after all.

The Chunin Exams at Konoha had a larger attendance rate than normal. A new high-level shinobi, or even ally, as it were, was not something that was to be taken lightly. The causation of such stories as Robin's was something that information specialists took note of. It's why the villages sent more genin to take the exams. It meant sending more Jounin to investigate this possibly S-rank anomaly. Even smaller villages and non-entities like mercenary organizations had taken the plunge to send a team or two more than they normally would have.

Of course, Robin's presence had other consequences as well, than just the suspicion of other villages.

Haku and Zabuza should have died, but had instead managed to secure the aid of Konoha for the rebellion in Kirigakure.

Sasuke was closer to his teammates, far closer than he would have been, because he had someone nearby that had a similar story as his own, and no tolerance for his bull.

Naruto did not fear the rejection of his friends for the Kyuubi, and was learning, however slowly, to think things through.

Sakura, with a strong female role model to look up to, was taking her training more seriously than she would have otherwise, particularly since Robin was not the kind of woman who gave her approval lightly.

Kakashi had a friend. And lots of rumors surrounding that friend. But let's not get into that.

Of the enemies?

Well, Orochimaru was wondering just what kind of power this woman must have had to inspire such change.

And if it was a Kekkei Genkai?

Heheh.

A penny for your thoughts, darlings?

Kukukukuku…

o.o.o.o.o

Robin wasn't as fast as the shinobi that she surrounded herself with. She knew that, and she also knew that, despite that, she would not be left behind.

Robin was certain of this mostly because she ran into Zabuza quite early on, and was wordlessly picked up and swung around to cling to his back in the manner of a child.

Ah, well. She didn't much mind. Zabuza was not quite as quick as Kakashi, but he was plenty quick despite that.

He was also quite a good ally to have in a fight against a high-level opponent such as this Orochimaru, as was Haku, who followed Zabuza out of principle. Robin didn't know where Kakashi was, and if he wasn't on his way already, almost didn't want to.

She felt cold metal bouncing against her leg, and was reminded that even without her Devil Fruit, she was not without defense.

A good pistol was always handy, in the worlds of ninjas and pirates.

o.o.o.o.o

Sakura bit her lip, tears blurring her eyes as she bandaged her comrades. Dear Kami, that had been terrifying.

Sasuke had been bitten, and there was a strange marking left on his shoulder. Naruto was unconscious, and Sakura had little doubt that it was a result of Orochimaru slamming his hand into his stomach, something that likely had something to do with the Kyuubi. And Karin…

Karin had been the one to warn them in the first place. The girl was terrifyingly sensitive to chakra, and though she had at first been horrified to feel what she had from Naruto—

You're one of the demons that the little girl talked about!

—She had quickly come around and come to the conclusion that family was family, no matter what they held. And once they realized just what she was capable of, they had put her front and center to warn them, promising that if she did so, they would protect her. Karin was far from being an offensive shinobi, but she had her uses despite that. However, her inability to fight very well, as good as she was with sensing and masking chakra signatures, was what led to her being the first to fall.

Of course, she also took the simplest injuries from the snake-obsessed madman, and was thus the first to wake.

Sakura's head whipped over as she heard a groan from the redheaded girl, who sat up slowly, one hand pressed to her head.

"Karin-chan!" It hadn't taken long for Sakura to decide on how to treat Karin, and the two had grown strangely close in those few hours before…

"Karin, are you hurt anywhere that I can't see?" Sakura opened up her first aid pack, measly as it now was after being used on the boys, and started fussing over Karin.

"No, I'm… I'm fine. How are…" Her eyes landed on the boys and her face paled. "No. No, no, no…"

Her voice grew faster with every word, and Sakura grabbed Karin's shoulders before she got too worked up. "Hey, hey, look at me. They're fine. I… I'm not sure if they're fine right now, but they will be. Okay?"

Karin took deep, gasping breaths, trying to not hyperventilate, and nodded. There was a look in her eyes that showed just how desperate she was to believe Sakura. Her cousin and her savior… no, she didn't want to see a scratch on either one of them.

Karin turned her head and allowed her eyes to rake over Sakura, noting the injuries, minor as they were, that the pink-haired kunoichi had suffered herself and apparently had yet to treat.

"Bite me."

Sakura blinked at Karin, not quite believing her ears. "What? No! That's completely—!"

"My blood has healing properties. Better that I lose some, and you be ready to fight off anyone that tries to attack while we're down, than both of us to stay exhausted, injured, and half-dead." Karin's words had an air to them, business-like and detached, as though this was not the first time she had said these words, and that she suspected it would not be the last.

Sakura stared for a few seconds, and then rushed forward as Karin took out a kunai and held it to her forearm, high enough to bleed and not be fatal. "What do you think you're doing?" She squealed the words, almost panicked.

"Making the process faster. Kunai scars are easier to explain than bite scars, anyway." Karin pushed one sleeve up, and Sakura watched in horror as bite marks, half a dozen in total, were unveiled on Karin's arm. The kunai came down lightly, hardly biting into the skin before Karin took it away. "Go ahead, just a little will be enough for what happened to you. The boys…"

Sakura weighed the odds, and eventually decided to go along with Karin's plan. It was so wrong… but she knew that, as a team, she and her boys needed every advantage they could get.

And Karin, for all her ineptitude in battle, was definitely proving to be an advantage.

o.o.o.o.o

Well, this was going… badly.

Robin had tried to end the battle quickly when she first ran into Orochimaru, wanting to help the young woman that was trying to kill the man herself. Unfortunately, snapping his neck had not been possible, as he apparently had a technique that could increase the number of vertebrae in his neck, forcing it to grow and bend as unnaturally as a snake's. It certainly fit his theme, Robin admitted, but it would make the fight that much more difficult.

(Futile as the attempt was, Anko was thankful for the distraction that it had provided for her to slip away and plan her next attack.)

Robin's attack had been the first of the arriving forces sent to back up Mitarashi Anko, but not the last.

Haku's icy senbon were quite effective when sent out in a spray, particularly when he and Zabuza worked in tandem to send the senbon in the right direction through mist. However, this technique seemed to work even better when one last variable was added:

Many, many heads sprouting from trees and singing a pirate song, disorienting and more than a little creepy.

The senbon seemed to hit, but then Orochimaru did something quite unexpected. He unhinged his jaw, as unhinged as his own sanity was, and vomited out a rather interesting thing: himself.

"Oh my, a Yuki? I thought they'd all died out in the Kiri bloodline purges!" Orochimaru gave a small clap, balancing somewhere on a line between genuinely delighted and extremely sarcastic. "I would love to have you for an experiment or three. Well? Or, if you're willing to procreate on demand, I have quite a few nubile young kunoichi under my command that would be quite happy to help you in that endeavor. What do you say, eh?"

Robin couldn't see him through the mist, not yet, but she could imagine the look on Haku's face at that suggestion. She frowned and closed her eyes (she would have to work on that. Closed eyes in the middle of battle were a liability), growing a clone of herself where she knew Zabuza and Haku to be, and dispersed her original body.

She had been right. Haku didn't look happy at all, and seemed rather sickened. Zabuza, next to him, gripped his sword with white knuckles. He was angry, and even through his bandages, the clenched jaw was visible.

There was a small noise on the other side of Orochimaru, or where he had been when Robin had last checked, and then there was the chirping of birds.

Ah. So Kakashi was here. That was a load off of her mind.

The chirping of birds was quickly followed by a loud shout of "DYNAMIC ENTRY!" This particular attack ended in the noise of splintering, shattering, nearly exploding wood.

A fireball raced its way through the mist, burning it off like the sun's rays did the morning fog. Zabuza frowned to see his technique so easily gone, but shrugged it off when he realized that the fireball, one of Sarutobi Asuma's, had actually clipped Orochimaru's arm. The limb in question was hanging slightly limp, but Orochimaru didn't seem very dissuaded. In fact, he was grinning at them. "Oh, you are fun. To think that sensei thought so highly of me as to send his best to fight me? Anko was a bit of a wild cannon, though. Tell me, dear, did you ever get a decent promotion under your belt?"

The kunoichi did not reply verbally, preferring to send a spread of kunai in her former teacher's direction instead.

The man waved a finger at her as he dodged a swing of the Kubikiri Hochou. "Now, now, dear. Didn't I ever teach you manners?!"

The last words were a scream as Kakashi connected a Chidori to Orochimaru's chest, only to find mud collapsing over his arm. All this time, they had been fighting an earth clone.

"You know," Orochimaru's voice came from above them, and there was a smile in his tone. "A medical specialist of mine developed a special poison for me a while ago, and a few of my snakes have it in their fangs as well. Would you like to know what it does?"

Gai sent a kick through another tree, shaking Orochimaru out of its branches. Robin drew her pistol silently, surreptitiously, and held it poised to bring up into position.

"It rots the area around the bite, rendering it completely useless," He ducked a snake, one of the few that were loyal to Anko, and spun around to parry a swing from Zabuza. "Then, it spreads to the rest of the body, paralyzing it. The subject would die of complete paralysis, organs and all, within a week without the antidote or a sufficiently talented medic. Thankfully, it leaves most tissue samples other than those around the entry site unharmed."

Orochimaru landed lightly on the branch next to Haku, a snake slithering out of his collar and towards the youngest person in the clearing. He smiled even as Haku let out a scream, continuing on as though he hadn't just caused a highly venomous snake to bite the boy. "That way, even if you resist, I'll still be able to take a few sperm samples from your borrowed corpse to, shall we say, repopulate the Yuki clan."

Robin shot.

Now, the funny thing about pistol was that they were generally quite a bit faster than kunai and senbon, even those that came from a launcher. A pistol from Robin's era may not have been very advanced compared to what many in our day and age would consider worthwhile, but it was still quite a bit faster than most weapons that shinobi encountered without Raiton enhancement. It also had a rather good aim, or at least better than most human hands.

Thus, you can imagine poor Orochimaru's surprise when he felt a small metal ball tear its way into his abdomen, and out his belly. And then there was another, this time stopping against his shoulder blade with a sickening crack. By the time the third one came, he had already spun around to intercept it with a small kunai.

He smiled at her. "What an interesting weapon, and no chakra either! Why, even a civilian could use it, it appears!"

And then he was shooting across the clearing, snakes slipping out of his sleeves, straight towards Robin. "I'd like a sample for myself, if you don't mind."

"Oh, but I do mind, Orochimaru-dono."

And then there were arms.

Everywhere.

Hand after hand reached out to snag at Orochimaru's clothing, though he managed to slip through quite a few. However, he was still unable to avoid them all, and was soon held in place by Robin's many arms.

He still just laughed. "Oh, that is a lovely power. Is it a Kekkei Genkai? A kinjutsu? Oh, never mind, I'll find out eventually anyway. I suppose I should get out of this predicament first, though."

He snapped his head back, and Robin prepared to catch the slimy body that would no doubt slither its way out, ignoring, with great difficulty, the screams still coming from Haku.

"Cut it off!"

But it wasn't a body that came out of Orochimaru's mouth. It was a snake.

The snake opened its mouth as well, but it didn't bite anyway. Oh, no, no, no. It spewed something out as well.

Namely, a sword.

"Kusanagi…" Zabuza's voice was breathless, as though he couldn't quite believe his eyes. Haku's screams had quieted, but Robin didn't dare look yet, fearing the worst. And Robin was very good at coming up with the worst.

"Tell me, do you think you can fight a legendary sword such as this?" Orochimaru tilted his head as the snake retreated back into his mouth, and the sword stayed where it was in the air, floating, as though held up in the air by an invisible knight.

"Chidori!" Kakashi rushed forward, hand sparking, but only hit air as Robin's hands disappeared in a puff of smoke. Not true Hana Hana no Mi arms, then, but the Kage Bunshin mods that had disappeared with the first strike of the Kusanagi.

Zabuza rushed forward with a raw yell, bandages covered in blood, no doubt incensed at what had happened to Haku. Unfortunately for him, his only reward was to find his sword cut cleanly in two by Orochimaru's blade.

"Oh? Getting angry, are we? But we were having so much fun."

Zabuza swung back around with the shortened blade, and managed to cut a long gash in the side of Orochimaru's face. An brief flicker of irritation crossed the snake Sannin's face, but it disappeared in favor of interest when he noticed the great Kiri-forged blade rebuilding itself.

"What an intriguing sword! You know, I had the pleasure of speaking with an old comrade of yours a while ago. I'm sure you remember him. Hoshigaki Kisame? His sword had a rather special little ability as well."

"Don't mention that traitor's name around me." Zabuza growled, flinging himself forward once more.

Orochimaru danced out of the way, straight into the path of about a dozen daggers being swung by his target spot at once. He disappeared in a poof of smoke, revealing a log to be destroyed in his place. "Oh, getting creative with our teamwork now, are we?"

He grinned down at them, easily avoiding an ash cloud from Asuma, and then waved in Haku's direction almost coquettishly, though there was a scary dearth of anything sexual in the motion. "Goodbye, little Yuki. I'll come by for you later."

And then he was gone.

Zabuza cursed and ran back to Haku's prone form. He gathered up the young boy in his arms as Kakashi approached Robin to offer a ride back to the Tower.

Robin was used to seeing injuries. Knowing the people she did, it was hard not to.

But it was still hard to keep her eyes off of the stump that was once Haku's left arm.

o.o.o.o.o

Gaara frowned. He could smell blood, the scent of it driving Shukaku to screams.

The problem was, he couldn't tell where the blood was coming from. His eyes scanned the room, ignoring the hushed, whispered argument that his siblings were holding only a few feet away, and snapped his head to the side when the smell of it became sharper.

It was the woman. The one that had spoken to him that day after Kankuro had made a fool of himself. The pirate woman.

There were others with her, one man with white hair and two with black, all three of whom Gaara thought were Jounin-sensei to some of the Konoha teams. They were approached by two other figures, a woman and a man. The woman had red eyes, and was one of the only Konoha Jounin that had stayed after a strange event had drawn the rest out. Presumably as a last line of defense of some sort. The man had a scar across his nose, and didn't seem as experienced as the rest. Perhaps he was a chunin? One of the black-haired Jounin, the spiky-haired one with a cigarette in his mouth, shook his head and said something that caused the two that had stayed in the tower to pale.

"Aw, did the little ice man get a boo-boo?" The high-pitched, sweetly condescending voice startled Gaara slightly, but he had gotten used to it over the past several days, as the voice's owner seemed to have held a strange obsession with him over that time.

Ketsueki Daiya, surprisingly enough, had her eyes trained on the talking group, not on Gaara. She was grinning again, and Gaara found it strange that she would hold such an expression so constantly. He gave a couple seconds' thought to where her sensei and teammates might be, as they were normally following her around to keep her under control, but then dismissed the thought. It didn't matter.

"Ice man?"

Daiya turned to him, head canted just so. Her pigtails fell behind her, almost tangling with one another from the angle as she looked up at him. "You can smell the blood, right? It's a Kekkei Genkai, a strong one. And it isn't a silly eye-thingy, or something. It's the girly ice man, boy, that I saw in the town."

"Ice man?" Gaara repeated, as though to make sure.

Daiya shrugged. "Yuki clan, Kiri, they had Hyoton. They got wiped out a couple years after the Ketsueki, I think. I got a taste of some stored blood as a kid, and by gods was it amazing."

Gaara nodded, not finding any of this strange. This wasn't the first time the girl had talked about the taste of blood (apparently, civilian blood was alright, shinobi blood was better, Kekkei Genkai blood was fine dining, and Jinchuuriki blood was a delicacy), and he doubted it would be the last.

"D'you think I should tell them that Kinishi-sensei's an iryou-nin?" Daiya's head was tilted to the side again.

"Would the 'ice boy' be a good opponent?" Gaara decided that the "ice man" sounded a little too young, going by Daiya's words.

"Mm… probably." Daiya shrugged.

"Then yes." Gaara was silent for several more moments, and then finally voiced a question he'd had for several days. "What does your sensei do?"

"Eh?"

Gaara shook his head, reminding himself of the fellow redhead's easily distracted nature. "You just said that she is a medic, and yet you also speak as though she is a fighter. There is also the fact that I have not yet heard you speak a word regarding her teaching ability."

"She sucks at taijutsu and genjutsu. She's good with kunai and naginata. She really good with ninjutsu and sealing. And she's awesome at healing. Oh, and scolding people, usually me." Daiya rattled it off without a care in the world.

"I… see." Gaara nodded. At least the answer existed.

Daiya grinned at him and skipped away.

Gaara stared after her.

She was… strange.

But in a good way.

o.o.o.o.o

A/N: This is not going to be Gaara/Daiya. Just putting that out there, before you all start thinking. They get along better than I planned, but there won't be a romance. Mostly because of Yagira, for reasons I'll explain during Daiya's fight in the prelims. Most of the fights will be chosen via random number generator, but Daiya and Gaara's opponents are already picked out. And no, they aren't fighting each other.
Also, that last sentence? Only crazy-Gaara's perspective. No one else's.
And there were a few strange discrepancies in her talk with Gaara. Anyone think they can point them out?

I honestly think I might have made Orochimaru a little too overpowered/OOC, but I'll leave it as-is for now.

By the way: I'm pretty sure any of the four Konoha Jounin could kick Kinishi's a** as I've written her. Maybe not Asuma, but Gai and Kakashi are too fast for her, while Kurenai specializes in her weakness.

So, I'm BACK! Why was I gone? Well, uh…

There was a point at which I didn't go home at a reasonable time in over two weeks. I was teching at the school play, and it's all I could do to stay awake. Particularly since any mistake I made could end with someone getting brained by a sewage pipe. It's over, now, but there was a while where I was spending an average of fifteen hours a day at school.

My Spanish grade isn't very good, so I need to fix that up soon. Sorry, but school comes first.

There's a choir thing that I can't explain to you at the moment, but it eats away at my free time.

Oh, and I went to the kinesiologist, got some blood work done, and found out the following:

I'm anemic (iron anemia, in particular).
I have a severe Vitamin D deficiency, more than most people.
I have hypothyroidism, secondary to a hypopituitary issue (makes me tired, makes me lose my hair, makes me forgetful, may be affecting my adrenal glands).
I'm hypoglycemic (low blood sugar; makes me tired).
I've got hypochlorhydria (low gastric acid, which means food is just sitting in my lower intestine and putrefying instead of being digested; so even if I eat enough, I can't digest it. Probably why I'm so skinny).
I'm on the verge of being pre-diabetic (this is my fault. I eat a lot of candy because I'm always tired, supposedly due to the hypoglycemia, and that apparently caused my chances of contracting diabetes to go up).
The joint pains might be caused by gout.
I may have a chronic viral infection (which would explain why I always feel like my nose is stuffy in the winter).
There are weird imbalances in my nutrient levels.

So, please… don't blame me too much for my recent problems, okay? I'm dealing. Or, at least, trying to deal. Cut me some slack, okay?

I actually finished a multi-chapter story. Dead Men Tell No Tales, a collaborative fic with Dark-heika, recently finished up part one (only six chapters long, but the next two will be longer), and the sequel will be posted in about a month. It's not a very popular one for some reason, but I enjoyed writing it, so go look at it.

StrongGuy159: You've been blocked. I've given multiple requests without naming people, but you seem determined to ignore me. If you feel like enabling your PM system to talk, fine, but I don't want you reviewing again. Every time I see one of your reviews, I get writer's block.

Ja ne,

Phoenix.