Summary: Kenobi escapes by jumping into a random simulation. However, things go wrong and he cannot leave. What he needs is an exit strategy... but is he ready to follow it?
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Rated T for some language and violence.
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TEAM 9, TEAM 10
The skies were clear, the forest was peaceful and the walk back to village uneventful. My emotions were far from pristine however.
This was it. Mission over. After the near death experiences, after everyone had pushed him or herself to the limit, we were back at square one with nothing to show for it. Added to that was the feeling of being responsible for the whole mess. Every single bruise and mark on Sakura was my fault. Whatever Kabuto had done, whatever had changed in Naruto, it was because of me. I had been the one to play with their emotions and I had been the one to lure them out of the village to complete my own objectives.
It was probably one of my biggest mistakes. Second only to trusting the people that pushed me into the simulation in the first place.
"Kenobi, are you okay?"
I looked up and forced my fists to unclench. "I-I'm fine Sakura. We'll talk later, okay?"
She nodded with a worried face, and fell in line. The three of us were being shouldered by the ninja brutes Shikamaru was leading. The fourth member, which I assumed was the sensor-type ninja, hadn't shown himself yet.
The Nara genius was probably keeping it as his trump card in case we tried to escape.
I sped up and nudged him with my shoulder. "Hey, how long ago were you sent out?"
"I can't tell you Kenobi." the teenager drawled.
I insisted. "Sell me the information in exchange for... a whole week of Shogi? How about that?"
Shikamaru stopped. I moved around to face him. "How about that...? You want something else?"
The ninja looked up instead with the gravest expression I had ever seen on his face. "I cannot sell information like that. This time, you're in way over your head."
His look made me shudder. I moved back in between Naruto and Sakura.
Just before nightfall, we arrived at an unoccupied outpost. Sakura had hinted that it was a relic from the last Great War, pointing out how far it was from the actual border.
Nontheless, it was fully stocked with supplies, clean water and charcoal for the fireplace. Shikamaru took the time to pin a note on the billboard behind the door. The last one was seven months old.
One of the ninja assigned for the mission cooked. The other stood guard outside and Shikamaru busied himself with writing a report. The three of us were left to dust off the room we were sleeping in and make preparations for the night. I had the distinct impression that Shikamaru wasn't allowing us to actually do anything that could facilitate an escape.
Sakura hummed to herself while reading a book. I left instructions to gather the remaining magnetic relays nearby, and returned to translating the simulation's code. Naruto... should have been outright bored. Instead, he had a faraway look broken by seemingly random twitches and frowns.
We ate dinner in silence, then were sent off to sleep in a separate room. There were no windows, and a guard stood at the door.
They weren't asleep. None of us could.
I fumbled in the dark to find the kunoichi's little oil lamp, and lit it with a spark. A dull orange glow illuminated our sleeping bags placed in a triangle.
"We have to talk." I waited for them to unzip their bags and sit up. Naruto was against the wall. Sakura pulled up her bedsheets and sat on her cushion. I leaned forward. "Naruto, Kabuto kidnapped you."
The blond didn't react.
"We were attacked during the night, and placed under a genjutsu to keep us asleep." I tried to be formal, as if reading a report. "I was unaffected. I then..."
I couldn't continue. My hand went to wipe my face. All the things that had happened that night... I extended my magnetic tough. The metal tube was still in Sakura's neck. I looked up. Sakura was watching me intently.
"Do you remember what happened?" I asked her.
She shook her head sullenly. "Only... parts of it. You were fighting against these... things. Kabuto sent them." She frowned. "You got injured and I healed you."
And you nearly died and I wouldn't have known what to do. I cleared my throat and turned back to Naruto.
"In short, we escaped the monsters in the forest and followed you into the underground lab. We were going to lose..." My eyes flickered over to Sakura.
She continued. "... that's when you appeared. The Kyuubi had... taken over you." The kunoichi raised her fist at Naruto and swiped the air, angry. "Six tails, Naruto. Six. What happened to all the training you did with Kakashi and Yamato?!"
Naruto opened his mouth hesitantly "I...didn't-"
"No." It was hard to glare sternly when I could barely see his face in the shadows. "What we need to know is what Kabuto did to you between the moment he took you and the moment you returned to us." I paused to look at him search for his words. "Was your loss of control over the Demon Fox his doing?"
Naruto shook his head slowly. "What I'm trying to say... is that I didn't lose control." He opened and closed his hand in front of him. "It was different this time. You see... everything was clear to me. I saw everything the fox did. I felt everything." His voice cracked. "To be the Kyuubi... I can't really explain it. It felt like... I could do anything. I saw those creatures attacking you. It could feel them through the ground, and so did I." He gave us a lopsided grin. "It was scary... but good. I could tell it what to do."
"Y-you can control the Kyuubi now?" Sakura asked. Disbelief tainted her words.
Naruto's eyes brightened. "No, no it's not exactly like that. It's like..." He frowned to search for his words. "He did what I really wanted."
"So you can control it."
"No, Kenobi, not like that." The blond shook his head. "The Kyuubi doesn't obey when I tell him to do. It's like... he acts out what I want to do. What I really want." His eyes drifted away. "And I really hated those creatures."
Sakura was gripping her bedsheets tightly. Her voice wobbled. "Is that... you told-no, you wanted them to get killed-" crushed, maimed, destroyed "-like that?"
Naruto winced and backed away. His hands closed and opened around an crushing an invisible object. "I didn't know I could do that, Sakura. It didn't even seem like the Kyuubi was doing what I wanted." He blinked and stared at Sakura when she shook her head in confusion. "How can I put it... there's another Naruto that the Kyuubi listens to."
"Naruto... how-how was that not you. What did Kabuto do to you?!"
He sighed and clenched two fists in front of his chest. "There's me... and this other me." He brought them to his heart. "Both are here, but only one is the real me. I'm sorry, but I'm shaken up as well. I'm still trying to figure out what happened."
"The real you?!" Sakura cried. "What's this nonsense-"
The two of them looked at me. I glanced at Sakura then pointed at Naruto.
"We'll continue this later..." I indicated the door with my chin. "What we need to know right now is that you are healthy and that the Kyuubi won't go on a rampage at anytime."
Naruto turned his face away from the door and smiled at us. He raised a thumb. "Don't worry, Kenobi, Sakura. The seal wasn't tampered with. I've got it under control!"
The kunoichi sighed and rolled back into her bag. "Two Narutos, really."
I stared at the blond as he settled down to sleep. My thoughts were running wild with the theories to explain what was happening to Naruto... and more importantly, how it would change my plans. I'd have one day, and one day only to decide on my course of action. A short huff blew out the lamp, and in the darkness, I calculated.
Shikamaru's pencil shifted on his notepad and went to his pocket as he walked away from the door.
The next morning was tense.
The weather was starting to heat up and walking became uncomfortable. Shikamaru kept us on the ground to avoid attracting attention nontheless.
We kept our silence as we walked. None of us mentioned what we had heard last night. Naruto resumed his mute stance, following orders and walking just fast enough to keep up. His face alternated between worry and confusion. Sakura looked even more agitated. She cycled between wanting to walk over to Naruto and speak to him, and nibbling on her nails with a consterned look. It hurt me to have to ignore the sullen look on her face, but it was for the best.
The Nara led the way with a bored look.
I eyed him from behind, weighing my options.
On one hand, I could explain what happened to him, and trust his judgment. It was an attractive choice. He was my friend, and would surely understand the circumstances. On the other hand... he was under orders of the Hokage, and would have to report to her everything he had seen and heard. Plainly put, the facts weren't pretty.
I had convinced the village's Jinchuuriki to leave the village under cover. I had urged them to cover their tracks, and defy a direct order from the Hokage. Then, I had led them directly to Kabuto's hideout, where we were ambushed... and only I had stayed awake during the attack. To top it all off, the traitor had did something to Naruto, and subsequently, the Kyuubi emerged stronger than ever before.
Which ever way I put it, the events put me under a suspicious light. It would be difficult to regain Tsunade's trust after this, and there was no questioning what Danzo would do.
The village walls appeared at ten o'clock. At eleven, a squad of ANBU boxed us in. They escorted us through the gates, then with each of them holding tightly onto us, shunshined towards the Hokage tower.
There were no handcuffs. No disapproving looks or guarded prison cells. It was deemed unnecessary when a raging Sannin stormed down the stairs and blew the door off its hinges.
She was livid. Her cheeks were as red as her lipstick, and her eyes threw lightning.
"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?!"
I audibly heard Naruto's and Sakura's teeth chatter. I glanced at them placidly and went back to contemplating Tsunade. She had to be in her sixties, and yet she expended chakra to maintain the appearance of a woman half her age.
"DON'T YOU REALIZE THE SHIT-STORM YOU LEFT BEHIND FOR ME TO CLEAN UP?!"
"Y-yes we do." whimpered Sakura. Naruto pistoned his head up and down. "Very much so." I added.
"DON'T GET COCKY WITH ME!"
The pencil she held crumbled into dust. Tsunade threw the remains on the ground. The tiles broke. With her other hand, she rubbed her forehead, half turned towards a pale Shizune behind her.
"What am I ever going to do with a Jinchuuriki this stupid?" She looked up at the kunoichi of the team, her voice suddenly weary. "You're supposed to keep your head on your shoulders when the boys start pulling you into idiocies like this! What did I teach you all these years, Sakura?"
Sakura crumpled upon herself from her Sensei's disappointment. "I'm really s-sorry." She began to cry silently.
I glared at the Hokage.
"Put those eyes down, boy!" the Hokage snapped. Her glare swept the three of us. "Do you need medical attention?"
Naruto shook his head. "No, esteemed Hokage, we are-"
"Shut up." Tsunade snapped her fingers, calling forth two medics in white robes. "You're getting it."
The two medics gripped each of the blond's arms and manhandled him away. The Hokage's entourage breathed again. It seemed like the worst was over.
Her rage was replaced by razor-sharp efficiency.
"Hai! What can I do-"
"Get Jiraiya to inspect Naruto's seal now."
"Understood. He is on a mission outside the vill-" I watched the assistant squirm as she was silenced with a finger. "Now, okay."
The Hokage returned her full attention to us. The temperature in the small waiting room dropped several degrees. I tried not to show it, but it was harder to ignore a cold, piercing stare than a hot-blooded one.
"Yes. Chakra burn. Fatigue. Umm..." Her fingers fumbled for the scrolls in her pouch. "I-we gathered... I wrote a report on what we-"
"Enough." The Hokage sighed and rested a hand on the kunoichi's shoulder. "Get the necessary treatment for yourself, and let debriefing deal with the rest."
Sakura nodded and walked away with Shizune.
I was alone now. All of the Hokage's wrath was concentrated on my being, and the though of Sakura's hidden injuries did little to distract me. I forced my muscles not to react to her eyes carving my body into slices with their gaze.
Slowly, she raised a hand... her fingers darted forward and grabbed my hair. Tsunade yanked on it and pulled me down to her side.
"Kenobi, we're going to have a real long chat, you and I, and you better not believe I'm as easily fooled as those knuckleheads."
I gritted my teeth and nodded against the pull on my scalp. She snorted and kicked down the recently installed door, dragging me behind.
By the time I was dismissed from the Hokage's office, it was dark already.
I trudged out onto the roads of Konoha. Straight ahead was the busy main street. To the right were two benches. I trudged over to them and sighed as my spine relaxed on the backrest.
Tsunade's little talk had been no less than an informal torture and interrogation session. Since they could use chakra-based techniques on my mind, she had opted for a more muscular approach. The amount of glaring had frankly become annoying by the end.
'Well, that's over' I wanted to say, but I knew I couldn't. The Hokage had coerced every bit of information about our little adventure that she could. I had initially planned to deflect her investigations away from moments such Sakura's near-death and the Kyuubi's disturbing massacre, but she beat me with experience somehow.
Our team's relationships and conflicts had been laid bare. It was... I shuddered at the memory. The feeling of nakedness as you were forced to explain why I felt this way about Sakura, and how I came to trust Naruto reduced my defenses to nothing. There was no way to know how much I had revealed under such pressure.
I scowled and stood up, kicking the dust. A stone skipped down the road. Hmm. I looked down at my sandals and trousers. A change of clothes was in order.
My foot landed and pulled my body forward, then the other followed. Well, I rationalized, at least Tsunade believed my story enough to let me go. My feet paused momentarily before reprising their walk.
Four masses of kunai and eight sets of armor plating followed me on the rooftops to each side. Tsk. Briefly, I wondered if I should point them out and hide from them, but guessed that I was in no position to cause any more trouble.
Maybe they were enough to prevent another attack by Danzo's agents.
I took the last step on the staircase and moved in front of the door.
The ventilation shaft's fan was spinning, and a light was visible beneath the thick curtains. He was here.
I knocked on Naruto's door-
I would have, if a hand hadn't caught my wrist. I jumped back, pulling my arm from the grip. My eyes widened when Shikamaru stepped out of the shadows.
My pounding heart calmed down a little. I frowned nonetheless. How could I have not noticed him so close to me?
The Nara's eyes were pools of shadows, but still I felt their gaze.
"It's best that you do this later." he uttered in a low tone.
I looked from him to the door and back. Come on! Genius or not, how could he have known?! I rubbed my temples.
"Really, Shika? You were waiting for me?"
No answer, just a near-invisible smirk.
"And stop with the cool act, you're not on a mission anymore." I added with a scowl.
I raised an eyebrow, stepping forward.
"It's very effective." Shikamaru grabbed my outstretched hand and shook it with a grin. "Come over to my place, we'll sort things out over there."
I sighed, and dropped my head, nodding.
The sigh became much longer when I sunk into his sofa, with fresh clothes and a towel holding back my hair.
"Is that all you offer people these days?"
Shikamaru pulled back with an expression of mock offense. He offered his potato chip again.
"No, no thanks." My eyes wandered around his room. "Thanks again."
"Don't mention it." he said.
A comfortable silence settled in the room. Mist escaped from the bathroom door. The same books lay strewn on the floor, but on different pages.
I blinked and returned to the Nara. He gazed at me coolly.
"Where shall I start?"
His mother came and went twice, loaded with trays of tea and biscuits.
I recounted everything I could think of, but unlike in Tsunade's office, I could give my personal thoughts on the matter. That was how I managed to speak out my worries about Naruto. The blond now had complete control over the Kyuubi's powers, but even he doubted whether it really was him who was in control.
"This second personality theory... it sounds like a Yin counterpart." Shikamaru resumed. He was slouched on a seat at the other end of the table.
"Or not." I said. "You see, Naruto is a good person. He believes himself to be good, so when he gains access to the power of the Kyuubi..." I waved my hands. "His superego can't withhold his id from committing morally questionable acts. This 'dark Naruto' might just be an invention to separate himself from his actions. I mean, he attacked us. Broke my leg."
Shikamaru rubbed his chin. "So it's guilt then."
"This is Naruto we're talking about. He probably doesn't even understand that he is capable of such thoughts." I went for my cup and sipped a bit of tea. It was much too sweet. "The Kyuubi, if Naruto was controlling it, displayed all the characteristics of a subconscious level of thought. Primal urges, but unable to satisfy most of them in that form." Shikamaru closed his eyes. "He cannot satisfy the human desires for food, sex or shelter... so he compensates with what he and the Kyuubi have in common."
The shadow-user opened his eyes again. He had pulled a potato chip bag from under the table with his feet. "Violence, you mean."
I winced. "Of the extreme sort. Those creatures-Kabuto's experiments, it's like he just couldn't do enough to them. And then... just like an id-ridden child, he got bored."
"And the needs were satisfied!" Shikamaru completed with a dramatic voice. He munched on a chip. "Mmmmm. Crunchy."
"Come on! Be serious." I rubbed my throat. "I've been talking for hours now."
His eyes immediately hardened. "I am serious. This is my friend we're talking about."
I gazed back at him. He tipped his bag over to me.
"Choji and Ino are sleeping over." I raised an eyebrow. "Wanna stay? We can get Ino to talk to her father about Naruto."
Well, it was this or the sleeping bag again. I needed to wash and let it dry.
I woke up first the next morning.
Sleeping was actually pretty relaxing when everything did the same. I tiptoed across the smooth wooden floor, past the closed guest rooms, to the bathroom. Knowing Shikamaru's mother, breakfast was already waiting in the kitchen.
I wondered what I would do today. Maybe I-
Shikamaru's teammate was brushing her teeth in nothing more than a purple t-shirt and the brightest pink boxers I had ever laid my eyes on. They shone. Currently, she was bent over the sink, with the reflection of her unkept blond hair in the mirror.
"Ah!" -splutter- "Wha-YOU!" She sprayed frothy toothpaste all over the mirror as the gripped the sink's edge tightly. She spat again and span to face me. "What are you doingeeEEEEEEK!"
The girl frantically pulled her t-shirt down, pushing out her breasts, which she rushed to hide in turn. The flimsy shirt ripped from being pulled in both directions. The girl froze, turned a beetroot red and rushed out of the bathroom screaming, toothbrush in hand.
Once she had dissapeared down the corridor, I scratched my hair with a grin. I wouldn't had to wait for the bathroom to be free! My mood darkened when I saw the hairy mess she had left on the counter. Now I had to clean it up before the next person woke up.
An hour later, we were seated around low table in one of the un-used guest rooms, eating breakfast.
"So, we don't eat in the kitchen?"
"No." Shikamaru answered. "That's my mother's territory."
"Is she really that scary?" I rubbed my chin, and glanced at Ino. She squirmed at the opposite side of the table. "I don't know. Some of us feel just like at home."
The kunoichi's cheeks turned red, but she didn't look away. "Hey! You... Kenobi, yeah. What were you doing up so early?"
"I was looking for these really pink-"
"Ah that's it!" Ino threw her fork down and wiped her sweaty cheeks. "I've had enough! Can't a girl-"
"-brush her teeth in her underwear?!" I matched Ino's outraged expression, hand movements and all. Shikamaru's eyes popped wide open. "Seriously, there's no privacy in here!" My fingers pointed at Shikamaru. "This is your house, do something about it!"
The Nara frightened me instead. His face was ghostly white and his eyes had a look of complete distress. Ino leaned over to his side.
"Are you... okay?"
"Kenobi!" I jumped at Shikamaru's hallowed voice. "D-did my mother s-see her?"
I frowned and turned to Ino. "Did his mom see you prancing about in your underwear?"
"Why you little-" The girl seethed with rage but was interrupted by Shikamaru's deathly stare. "Umm, no."
Shikamaru's teeth stopped chattering and he hid his face in his hands. "A-are you sure?"
"Yeah, I am. Come on Shika!" She slapped his back lightly. "What's gotten into you?"
The Nara brought his hands over his head, brushing his hair. His gaze was distant as he barely whispered.
"I-I don't want to get m-married... yet."
Ino's eyes met mine. I winked. The heat in her cheeks spread to the rest of her face and she immediately became busy with clearing the table.
"Uhhh... Shikamaru." The Nara looked up at me. "Let's... go outside."
Of course, he didn't get up despite nodding. I pulled him to his feet and dragged him out to the garden.
"You were serious, back there?" Shikamaru trod sadly down the gravel path. "Hey, you listening?"
I opened my mouth by was stopped by a discrete wiggle of his fingers. Frowning, I followed him past a grove of pine trees.
"Kenobi." I halted and faced him. He bore a serious expression. "We've only known each other for a few 're my friend now, and you saved my life-" his hand rose to interrupt me "-and I am thankful, but there's still a lot you don't know about team 10."
His eyes focused on something past my shoulder. I turned to see a blonde ponytail peeking from behind the sliding door that gave to the garden. Shikamaru sighed and resumed his walk.
"Are you dressed to go out?"
"Huh?" I thought for a second. "You're leaving Ino and Choji?"
The Nara smiled. "They're supposed to have already returned to their homes, but Ino will use my bathroom for a few hours and Choji sleeps until midday."
"Really?" I remarked. My feet sank into the soft soil bordering the gravel path. "Why'd they even come over?"
"I have a really cool bathroom that girls would die for." I raised an eyebrow, looking towards his neatly drawn back hair. "Her words, not mine. I've also got a well stocked cellar."
Shikamaru halted next to the low wall that bordered the Nara compound. His thumb motioned upwards.
"Front door is off limits, understood. You do this often?" The ninja launched himself over the wall instead of answering. He avoided his mother when leaving the compound by taking the ninja way out.
We landed on an empty street that ran alongside the wall. Soon we strolling towards the village center, with the sun to our backs.
I cleared my throat before putting my hands in my pockets like he did, just to annoy him. "So... you were saying?"
Shikamaru yawned. "Later."
Tsk. Lazy bum. "Aha! So your mother did try and get you married to your teamma-"
Shikamaru missed a step. "Not so loud!" he hissed.
I smiled and urged him to continue. He sighed, admitting defeat.
"Team 10... is a tradition in Konoha. It's been around for decades. Every generation, there's a Nara, a Yamanaka and an Akimichi, and they get placed in team. The great Ino-Shika-Cho formation is what it's all about. Our fathers... they were terribly effective on the battlefield, so I think you understand how much prestige Team 10 had gained." He paused as a villager with her son walked by. "It doesn't work every time. They've tried to push us together and hope a magical reaction turns us into some badass strike unit."
He shook his head slightly. I had noticed by now that Shikamaru didn't talk with his hands. In fact, he did the bare minimum of motions to express himself. Probably out of laziness. I shrugged and continued to listen.
"Choji cares only about eating, and only fights if someone calls him fat. Ino... she's glamour and gossip and not much else-" I courteously opened my hand towards him. "-and I just want to be left alone. Don't get me wrong. I love them. They're family to me, and I'd die for them..." Shikamaru caught my expectant expression. "... if I had to. The point is, we're not battlefield material."
"How troublesome." I concluded. A flock of young genin had giggled and screamed their way down the street.
. "Oh shut it." Shikamaru kicked the dust "What I'm trying to say is that my mother wants me to be the great and heroic shadow-manipulator from generation past."
"I see." I said with a hum. "Great expectations."
"No." We walked past the tofu shop Ino had dragged me away from for her shopping spree. "If only it was just that. My mother expects me to die young, fighting in some foreign land, so she wants me to marry early."
"Now early. I've managed to discourage all the candidates she's picked for me, and now there's just one more girl I have to put up with. In my mother's eyes, it's the last resort." The boy shuddered. "She's very insistent."
"Need help?" I raised my eyebrow and quickly counted on my fingers. "There's all sorts of things you can do. Move out, get assigned to a faraway country, fake date-"
"How troublesome. She'll get Dad on her side and turn the fake date into a real engagement." Shikamaru shook his head and continued with a nervous tone. "I can't risk that. She'll make me pay hell for it."
I scratched my chin. This was pretty amusing, and had lots of leverage value when it came to buying and selling information from him. "Have you tried talking to her about it?"
"She won't listen!"
"No, no, I meant Ino."
He scowled. "Well, I tried." He paused at my disapproving look. "She probably knows from Mother already."
I shrugged and muttered a 'good luck to you'. Our walk was taking us through the busiest parts of the village, and thus is was unlikely that the conversation would continue.
Twenty minutes later, I had enough of watching business fronts clean their displays and stack groceries. The silence that had settled been us had been drawn out long enough.
"Hey Shika." The Nara groaned in response. "Any reason why you want to walk us through the village? Usually, walking and wanting never come together when it's you who's concerned."
The Number One Lazy Ninja smirked. "This time, I'm under orders."
"Just follow me. I'm tired."
With my friend, we traced an arc across the northern half of the village. We didn't speak, but I occupied myself by trying to track the movements of the ninja following us.
It was enlightening. There were two groups, identified by the different metal weaponry they carried. They both followed me, and avoided each other.
"This is it?"
A training ground lay before us. It was pitted and scarred and resembled more of a battlefield. Smoke still billowed out of craters. A series of explosions crackled as the Nara unlocked the gate and beckoned for me to get in.
"Are you sure?"
I stepped inside. A fiery blastwave swept over the clearing and shook the trees. The ninja that had launched the bomb landed on her feet, scrolls raining around her. Shikamaru smiled and waved. I just frowned and looked around for more explosives.
"Hi Tenten!" Shikamaru cried. The kunoichi looked up, panting with exertion but sporting a smile nonetheless.
"Good morning!" she cried back. She pointed at me. "Who's this?"
"This here is Kenobi."
Tenten tucked the scroll she was holding into her armpit and fished in her pouch for another, much smaller one. "The Maki Kenobi?"
Shikamaru nodded again.
"Fine." I watched the kunoichi reach for a bottle of water, rinse her mouth and spit. She waved with the bottle at a wooden stump at the edge of the clearing. "Put him over there. I'll keep an eye on him."
I looked at her, then at Shikamaru. "What's the meaning of this?" I asked coolly.
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, failing to hide a smirk. "She's your chuunin guard for the day. Stay with her and do what she says."
"What about you?"
The Nara whistled and looked away. "A series of unfortunate circumstances happened yesterday, involving missing documents, spilled sake-"
"Get to it." I snapped. Damn the boy.
"Well...I've been exempted from village duties for a while." Shikamaru sighed dramatically. "This village's administration really does have-"
"I don't want to hear it."
The Nara grinned and shook my hand. I waited until he had opened the gate to the training ground.
"Pass by, will you?"
Shikamaru shrugged. "I've got a very important job, lots of of very important things to attend to..." My glare silenced him. "Will do."
With a light smile, I turned and walked into Tenten's battlefield.
The shout's strength made me jump. The brown-haired girl glared at me, swinging a kunai on a chain. She pointed a finger at me.
"While you're here, I don't want a word from you. Don't interrupt my training, and stay where I can see you."
I gulped. She wasn't as scary as Sakura, but the swinging metal seemed to have its effect. Quietly, I sat on the tree stump and shut down. The teams around me settled in the forest and waited.
My stomach rumbled.
I reconnected and blinked my eyes open. Dust clouds rose to the sky, and the training ground seemed worse off than before, if that was possible.
Dozens of weapons puffed into existence. The kunoichi twirled in the air, sending them rushing at the targets. Those that hit, sunk into the wood. Those that didn't, joined the carpet of jagged metal around her. I watched as Tenten completed her roll and landed squarely on her feet, scrolls trailing behind her.
I was hungry and bored. Decoding was tiresome, unrewarding work, and a yearned for someone to speak to. The person in front of me should suffice.
Tenten smiled and bowed. I grinned back at her. Then, she started to pick up her weapons. I looked around. There wasn't an inch of the training ground that hadn't been pierced or crushed in one way or another. A magnetic field has protected me while I was away, and now there was a neat ring of sharp somethings around where I sat. It wouldn't do to mention it.
Tenten's hands were full now. She crouched and placed them on a blank scroll, then began sealing them in one by one. I cleared my throat.
"Need help with that?" I cried over.
The kunoichi scowled. "I don't need any help!"
I sighed and sat back down. It was going to take hours for her to pick everything up. In fact... did she train so long because the effective amount of time actually doing something was eaten by menial tasks like this? My magnetic senses extended outwards. The same ninja were hiding in the trees, in the same positions. Did they get hungry too?
My hands traced a few circles in the air, snapped my fingers a few times and with the final motion, all the weapons rose and fell into a pile in front of the kunoichi.
She stepped back, astounded.
"What, no applause?"
"I..I-" The girl bowed. "Thank you, Kenobi."
I waved at her dismissively and started walking towards her. "It's nothing. I just want to spar."
"You do?" She looked away, pensive. "Well, okay. Lee and Neji aren't coming any time soon." The kunoichi bent down for a scroll. "Let me seal these away fir-"
Tenten frowned and crossed her arms. "I have to. I'm a weapons user, and I need them to spar."
I stopped a good ten meters away from her and thought for a few seconds. The information I had on her gave me something to work on with this character.
"You're a strong kunoichi, aren't you?"
Tenten's fist rose, clenched tight. "The hell I am!"
"You're in a team of close-quarters combatants, right?"
"And I'm the long-range support." she answered, her smile turning smug. At least she was proud of her team, unlike a certain Nara.
"So..." I raised my arms. The mass of metal in front of her levitated slowly. "You're not defenseless without your weapons?"
I caught the kunoichi's glare. She kicked up a sword and caught it. Carefully, I moved the rest of the weapons away, forming a clearing. The ninja in the forest shifted positions. I crouched lower and lifted my arms in front of me, palms open and wires magnetized.
"Let's bet!" I shouted.
Tenten twirled the sword in her hand. I decided to let her keep it. "On what?"
"Lunch." I deadpanned. "Your lunch."
"I'm not sharing my lunch with a bo- you!" she stammered, visibly flustered.
I simply grinned and invited her to attack.
The tip of the sword slashed upwards.
I hopped backwards. Tenten foot shot forwards and slammed into my knee. I staggered and retreated further. The kunoichi brought her sword up to her side and paused. I watched her. We were both panting, and I bled from cuts on my arms and chest. She wiped her cheeks with her sleeve, then returned to her fighting stance.
"Had enough?" I asked, grinning.
She looked up from my feet. "You're the one who's bleeding." A slight smile broke through her concentration. "Want me to end this now? My lunch is spoiling."
My magnetic senses scanned her body. I found only one piece of metal, and it wasn't a weapon, so she wasn't going to try and surprise me that way.
I breathed in, and out, slowly. "I'm waiting."
Tenten shot forward in a cloud of dust. I raised my arm to parry her sword with the plates in my forearm. My eyes widened. She jumped and spun for a kick that smashed through my defenses.
Wincing, I caught her leg and pulled it under my arm. The sword flashed. I let go and twisted to the side. The second sword strike sliced where my head was. She moved in closer.
One second. Her attacks had a frequency of one per second. I braced myself for her next strike. The blade was pulled closer towards her. A split second before she stabbed it forward, I looked to the left and tilted that way. Subconsciously, her eyes followed what I was looking at, and her attack went where I wanted it to.
I rotated away to the right, reached for her outstretched hand and stepped in to elbow her chin. The kunoichi, unphased, parried and tore her arm out of my grip. Her shoulder drove into my chest.
My mind scrambled for an answer to her attack. I saw her sword return to her hip, then thrust forward. I stumble backwards before he landed a hit.
Tenten forcefully pushed forwards and raised her sword above her head. Her lips were pressed tightly together, and her eyes darting to focus at every move I made. Her fingers gripped the blade tightly, never opening. The beautiful chinese blade caught the midday sun and shone.
Her amrs came down. I dropped to the ground and extended my legs. The blade whistled through the air. I closed my ankles around her foot and rolled to the side.
The tip of the sword dug into the ground. The kunoichi's leg were twisted from under her and she tumbled the the ground, face forward. Seizing my chance, I sat up, brought my legs under me and plunged for her right arm. The hold was easy to complete from there.
In an instant, Tenten found herself facedown on the dirt, with one arm twisted behind her back and the other under my foot. My knee pinned her back to the ground.
It had been a difficult fight. I wasn't familiar with the way she used her sword, and I had received several nicks and cuts at first. She was strong too, and didn't flinch from my hits.
"Do... you concede?" I said between breaths.
The kunoichi squirmed. My knee dug into her back. I really was the best at holds.
"Get off me!" she spat. Her teeth were bared and eyes wide in a mixture of rage and distress.
I frowned. "Tap out first!"
Her sword arm jerked under my foot. I couldn't hold her much longer.
"GET OFF ME!" Tenten cried. There were tears in the corners of her eyes. Just what had gotten into her?
Two pairs of sandals landed behind me. I ducked under their kicks. Tenten freed her sword and pushed off the ground. It tumbled out of the way of her sword.
An orange leg warmer crushed the spot next to me. A deadly charge of chakra trailed behind. I quickly identified them and adapted my fighting style.
Metal pooled under my feet and pushed me into the air. Tenten's weapons swarmed to form a wall between me and my assailants.
Moments later, a flash of chakra tore through the wall. Neji Hyuuga ended his rotation and glared at me. With those eyes, you could never tell. Rock Lee rushed through the gap and sprang into the air.
I hiccuped at the height he achieved. Magnetic fields squashed some metal into a shield and intercepted the taijutsu user. His fists ripped the metal like paper. By then though, I had landed on the other edge of the clearing.
"LEAVE HER ALONE!"
Lee's cry pierced the forest, scaring off a flock of birds.
"I... We were just-"
"Lee!" Neji's stern voice carried equally well. "He will have to answer to me! BYAKUGAN!"
Lee landed next to his teammate, his eyes on fire. Soft Fist and Hard First. Whatever happened to Think before you Fist? My gaze drifted to Tenten. She was pounding Lee's back and screaming something. He gently moved her away, impervious to her calls.
Two ninja dissapeared as blurs.
I gathered metal and sharpened it. Not too sharp though. Just enough to look scary. I sighed to myself. All I had wanted was a free lunch.
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And there's your chapter 27!
Sorry for the wait, sorry for the talking, but I hope this part 8 will bring all the drama and plot twists you ever wished for!
PS: Sorry, not much spellcheck here.