Finding Your Voice
Chapter Eleven: Finding Your Terrors of the Night
"Oh this is real," said one of the intruders dressed in black and sporting a creepy Sasuke mask. "And your night of horror is only just beginning..." in unison, the attackers pulled out their paintball guns and opened fire on the room.
Red paintballs flew out from their rifles in arcs, spattering against windows, walls and furniture. The girls took cover behind couches and the coffee table, or under blankets, mattresses and pillows set up in a makeshift fort. Shion, Kazuna, Ino and Sakura had ducked down behind the largest couch, covering their heads as a spray of paintballs skimmed the headrest and painted a red line on the wall beside them.
"Kyaaaa! Who are they and why are they doing this?" screamed Sakura, clutching her cheeks in a very cliché 'girl from a horror movie' fashion. The others simply gave the pinkette deadpan stares, even Kazuna (come on, if even Kazuna knew who they were...). "W-What? Why are you looking at me like I'm an idiot?"
"Because you are an idiot." Ino replied bluntly while Shion nodded her agreement. Ino waved her own platinum blonde ponytail at her best friend as Sakura looked down at her lap dejectedly. "And I'm supposed to be the blonde one..." (Kagyuubi means this only as a joke, he is well aware that hair colour is not linked to intelligence... in most cases...).
Suddenly silence rained down on the paint splattered living room. Shion poked her head around the side of the couch just in time to see the shooters reload their guns with fresh clips and take aim... At her head!
Shion jerked back, and was simultaneously pulled back behind the couch by Kazuna as a barrage of balls (no dirty jokes please) sped towards the space where her face had been. They smashed into the wooden floor with loud thuds, exploding on impact and sending red paint everywhere, reminding everyone present how painful paintballs could be.
"It looks like we're trapped here." said Shion, flinching as another spray of paintballs coated the wall next to them.
"O. M. K (Oh My Kami)! My parents are going to kill me!" Ino sniffled. An unusual ping sounded from above their location, making everyone look up. One of Ino's mother's prized crystal vases atop a high shelf had been struck by an errant (or intentionally aimed) paintball. The once clear vase, now covered in red paint, rocked backwards and forwards twice, then fell. It arced downwards gracefully before hitting the floor and smashing itself into glittery shards. As it fell, Ino's look of horror became more and more pronounced, and when it hit the floor the platinum blonde looked as though she'd watched someone murder a cute little animal right in front of her in the vilest and sickest way possible.
"Ino-san?" Shion asked worriedly as Ino began to stand up.
Ino looked like a death row inmate who had accepted their fate as they walked to their execution. "Ha-ha... It's all over now... If I don't die here, my mum will murder me... Better start writing my will..."
Shion grabbed the waistband of her friend's pyjama leggings and pulled her back down behind the couch and out of the line of fire, nearly tugging off her pants in the process. "You can't just accept this Ino-san! Those two monsters broke into your house and destroyed your slumber party! Are you going to just lie down and take whatever they throw at you? Are you going to let those miserable lunatics ruin your... Girly Ultimate Super Funtime Slumberpalooza...?" as much as Shion wanted to slap herself for repeating that ridiculous title, it had the desired effect. A fire seemed to flare up behind Ino's sky blue eyes as her body went rigid with determination.
"You're right! Who the hell do those two bitches think they are?! It's time to fight back!" Ino was so pumped, she didn't even hear Sakura mumbling next to her.
"I still don't know who those two are..." she muttered under her breath. Kazuna took pity on Sakura since she herself was usually the one in Sakura's situation, and it wasn't until she met Shion and Naruto that she finally had someone to explain things to her.
Kazuna poked Sakura's shoulder and whispered "It's Ami-sama... Uh Ami-san and Noriko-san." Realization dawned on Sakura then, and she shot Kazuna a grateful smile. Shion resisted the urge to apply her palm to her forehead with a reasonable degree of force (face-palm!).
"I c-can't t-take it anymore!" the four girls behind the couch heard a voice scream, making them cautiously peek out of their hiding place. The paint splattered pillow and mattress fort exploded as Hinata broke free and stood up, revealing Tenten and the three other girls that had been huddled beneath it.
"No! Hina-chan, come back!" Tenten yelled as Hinata made a mad dash for the corridor entrance on the other side of the room. The three other girls in the fort grabbed Tenten and pulled her down before she could chase after her dark haired friend, rebuilding the fort just as Ami and Noriko pointed their guns at Hinata's back and squeezed the triggers.
To her credit, Hinata managed to avoid the paintballs for quite a while. She leapt from the floor to the coffee table, avoiding the first spray of paintballs, then to the couch where Shion, Kazuna, Ino and Sakura were hiding. But as she was about to leap to the next chair which was the closest one to the door, a carefully aimed paintball, courtesy of Noriko, clipped her foot. "Oww!" yelped Hinata as she fumbled the landing and crashed painfully on the ground near Sakura. The pinkette reached a hand out towards her friend to pull her to safety, and Hinata began extending her own hand to take it.
However, she made the mistake of looking back at her attackers, losing crucial seconds that could have saved her. Ami saw her chance, took careful aim and fired. The single shot sped through the air, quickly closing the distance between it and Hinata.
The paintball hit the dark haired girl square in the middle of her forehead. Her head jerked back from the force as red fluid sprayed from her brow, splashing Sakura's face. Hinata's head hit the floor and her movements ceased. Sakura's pupils contracted with shock as she raised a shaky hand to feel the wet liquid on her cheeks and wide forehead. She opened her mouth to scream and was punched hard on the arm by Ino.
"It's just paint you idiot!" Sakura blushed and looked away shamefully before getting punched in the arm by Ino once again. "Look, just grab Hinata-chan's body - I have a plan." she said as Sakura rubbed her sore arm. She did as she was told, pulling the dazed Hinata behind the couch as Ino began to relay her plan to the others.
"Okay, our best bet is to run to the corridor that Hinata-chan was heading for. From there, we can head upstairs and to the attic, where my Dad's old paintball gear should be. He never used them so they should be fully loaded. We can use them to fight back!"
"Why does your dad have unused paintball gear?" asked Shion curiously.
Ino's fringe covered her eyes, casting her face in shadow as she spoke. "My parents didn't ask the doctor what gender I was before I was born, to keep it a surprise. My dad really wanted a son though, and bought all these toys and blue blankets and had a big 'It's a boy!' poster strung up over Mum's hospital bed. You should see the pictures of his face when I came out instead..."
"..." Shion really didn't know what to say. She placed a comforting hand on Ino's shoulder and patted it uncomfortably.
"Awkward." Kazuna whispered to Sakura, who nodded her agreement. Ino's head suddenly snapped up, making the two girls flinch. However, her eyes were once again burning with determination as she grabbed Hinata's arm from Sakura and dragged the Hyuuga girl's limp body into her lap.
"Alright, here's what we're going to do. I'll use Hinata-chan as a shield and make a dash for the corridor. Once I'm there, I'll throw the body back and then someone else will use her and make the run. Got it?"
Despite the obvious issues everyone had with the plan, they nodded their agreement. It was a good plan if you, you know, forgot your sense of moral decency and respect for fellow human beings...
Ino hoisted Hinata's body into her arms, holding her in a loose headlock for maximum protection. While that was all well and good, she could have at least turned Hinata around so her face wasn't in the line of fire, but no one felt like pointing that out in light of the current emergency.
Ino stood up and began walking backwards towards the corridor entrance. The shooters immediately aimed their hail of paintballs at the two girls. Hinata's body began to jerk about as it took all of the shots aimed at the pair. A few even hit her face, which were sure to leave a couple of lovely bruises and lumps on her smooth fair skin.
Ino made it to the entrance, waited for the lapse in the shooting as Ami and Noriko reloaded their rifles and tossed the body back towards the couch. Kazuna was waiting to receive the body, but fumbled the catch and winced as Hinata landed face first on the floor. Shion was sure she heard a moan of pain coming from the poor girl on the floor, but didn't have the chance to investigate as a very uneasy Kazuna grabbed Hinata, mimicked Ino's stance, and began walking backwards to the entrance, ducking her head behind Hinata's whenever a shot came too close to their faces.
Soon Kazuna was hidden safely behind the corridor wall after tossing the body of Hinata back to the couch and into Shion's waiting arms. By the time Shion received the body, Hinata's front side was almost completely coated in paint. After Sakura's trip, only the Hyuuga girl's back would be unpainted.
"Sorry about this Hinata-san." Shion whispered guilty as she too began her retreat to the corridor using the human shield. At about the halfway mark between the couch and corridor, Hinata began to stir.
"H-Huh? W-Where am I? W-Why d-does my f-face and b-body h-hurt so m-much?" a flare of irritation washed over Shion and without thinking, she manuvered Hinata's head straight into the line of fire, allowing three or four shots to hit her head and knock her out cold once again.
As cruel as it was, Shion didn't feel bad. She simply couldn't stand that horrible stuttering. What she did was justified. Definitely. Hinata would understand... if she remembered anything that took place tonight...
Shion too made it to the safety of the corridor, tossing Hinata's limp body back to Sakura. Once the pinkette had joined them, the four girls left Hinata's paint coated body seated upright against the wall and ran to the stairs, Ino in the lead and Sakura bringing up the rear.
Inside the living room, Ami was stomping her foot furiously. That Fujimura Shion bitch and the idiotic Vegetable had gotten away! She ground her teeth as she stormed over to a poorly hidden girl near the television, ripped off her thin protective blanket and shot her point blank in her terrified face. As the dazed girl's head was coated in red by a seemingly never-ending stream of paintballs, Noriko took the chance to whisper in her bosses' ear.
After hearing her subordinate's plan, Ami smirked evilly and ceased the relentless shooting on her victim. Ami then straightened up and addressed the room. "All of you idiots have ten seconds to run, hide, pray, arm yourselves or whatever. After that, Noriko and I will come for you. The doors have been glued shut and most of the windows have been sealed off. The ones that haven't will be guarded by us. You can try to escape, but if we capture you, we will shame you on the internet with the full power invested in us as Enforcers of the Sasuke Rules."
A few seconds of uneasy silence passed until a faint voice issued from near Ami's feet. The silver haired girl who had been shot at point blank was wiping the paint from her eyes as she fearfully addressed the leader of the Enforcers. "Uh... Um... Oww... Why are you doing this? None of us broke the rule- Ahh..!"
Ami shot her in the face once again, knocking the girl out and shutting her up. "If one transgresses the very laws that define our great Konoha High society, then all must, and will, suffer." Noriko replied coolly, pushing up her glasses with her finger.
"That's right. The ten seconds start now. Ten... Nine..." at Ami's words, a massive ruckus ensued, with girls leaping from their hiding places and making mad dashes for the living room exits. Soon, all was calm in the room where Ami, Noriko and the unconscious girl still waited. "Ah. This is fun, isn't it?" Ami said cheerfully as she readjusted her mask.
"Yes Ami-sama." Noriko replied promptly. As she was about to say more, the bespectacled girl was cut off by the sound of moaning. The unconscious girl was no longer unconscious. "What shall we do about her Ami-sama?" Noriko asked.
Ami grabbed the girl by the collar of her cotton shirt and pulled her up. The poor victim's head lolled from side to side as she tried to focus her blurred vision on her assailant. Ami smirked as an idea surfaced in her sadistic and devious mind. "You know what? I have a special job for this one. Come on, let's get her cleaned up..."
Upstairs in the attic, the girls were gearing up. Ino handed out paintball rifles and clips of ammunition, taking a big belt fed machine gun for herself. Wrapping the paintball belt around her waist and shoulder, tying a bandanna around her head and smearing lines of dark green zinc on her cheeks, she looked just like a cheap action hero from a Saturday morning anime (albeit one in their pyjamas).
"Alright girls, this is it." Ino began. At her words, Kazuna and Sakura snapped to attention, holding their rifles parallel to their sides. Shion on the other hand was struggling to hide her amusement. Hanging out with her idiotic friends was far from unentertaining. Ino continued on, blissfully unaware of Shion's thoughts. "Right now it's do or die. If we submit to the enemy, we die. If we don't fight back, we die. If we cower here and hide, they will find us and we will die."
'They're not leaving us with many options, are they? I wonder if they'll cover the funeral costs for us if we 'die'.' thought Shion sarcastically. She glanced over at Kazuna, who was lapping up all the war talk with awestruck eyes. 'As happy as I am to see her finally being included in the group, this is far from what I had in mind...'
Ino was on a roll now. "So with our backs against the wall, the only choice we have left..."
'...Is to fight.' Shion finished her fellow blonde's sentence in a mental monotone, rolling her eyes as she did so.
"...Is to FIGHT!" Ino roared.
"Yes Ma'am!" replied Kazuna and Sakura, raising their rifles above their heads in perfect synchrony.
Shion half-heartedly waved her hand. "Yeah. Fight. Woo. Go team." she uttered in a bored tone that went unnoticed by everyone present.
"I'll take point. Kazuna-san, you watch the right side. Sakura, eyes on the left. Shion-san will bring up the rear. Stay alert and keep a look out for any signs of movement. Especially you," Ino pointed dramatically at Shion, who simply gazed back with a mixture of disinterest and amusement. Surely there was a limit to taking things too far? "You need to keep a sharp eye out for those two bitches in case they try to sneak up on us. We're all trusting our backs to you. Don't let us down!"
The Yamanaka girl then shot Shion a look like she expected a salute or a "Yes Ma'am!". Instead, Shion lazily held up her hand and touched her index finger and thumb together to make a circle - the universal sign for 'OK'.
Apparently that was good enough for Ino as she lead the way to the retractable staircase that served as the exit from the attic. She went down first, and then motioned for the other three girls to follow one by one. Once everyone was in the first floor corridor, Ino pushed the staircase back into the ceiling, moving slowly and quietly.
After ensuring that everyone was in formation, Ino ducked down low and began crouch-walking to the end of the corridor, Kazuna and Sakura following suit. Shion on the other hand sauntered along leisurely behind them, dragging her rifle along the ground and quietly humming her current favourite song, the only sound to pierce the eerie silence.
Ino reached the end of the corridor and held up a closed fist, signalling the others to stop. Kazuna and Sakura came to an immediate halt, crouching down low behind their leader and readying their paintball guns. Shion chose to take a seat on Kazuna's back, still humming quietly to herself.
Ino slowly peered around the corner to check the next corridor. After watching carefully for any signs of movement, she glanced back at Kazuna and motioned for her to move ahead. The brunette nodded once, and then crept forwards, carrying a surprised Shion with her. Despite her tiny stature, the One Vegetable (Kazuna) was strong!
Kazuna crouch walked up to Ino's side, Shion riding on her back side-saddle (minus the saddle of course), and waited for Shion to hop off before sprinting down the corridor and dive rolling into one of the rooms further down. Ino then nudged Shion and motioned for her to do the same.
Shion slowly meandered down the well-lit corridor with considerably less energy than her brunette friend. She too arrived at the room that Kazuna had hidden herself in just in time to see the girl searching every nook and cranny of the room with her rifle at the ready, looking like a cop searching a criminal's hideout.
As soon as she was satisfied, Kazuna turned to face Shion, who was still standing by the doorway, shooting the blonde girl an uncharacteristically serious look as she mouthed the word "Clear!". Shion chuckled and moved out of the way as Ino and Sakura snuck into the room in turn and hunkered down behind a large padlocked chest. Shion took a quick glance around the room before joining her friends. They seemed to be in an unused room filled with boxes and crates. Had Ino's family moved into this house recently? If so, her parents wouldn't be happy to find their beautiful new house coated in cheap red paint.
"Permission to speak Ma'am?" Sakura asked Ino. Shion carefully concealed an incredulous look. Weren't they taking this commando thing too far?
"Permission granted soldier." Ino replied, further cementing in the feeling that the three girls were lost in a scary delusion.
"I was just thinking that we needed a name for our unit." Sakura said in a no-nonsense tone of voice.
"Hmm," Ino said thoughtfully. Shion was beyond the point of disbelief at that moment. Surely Ino wasn't going to go along with this? "You're right. Any suggestions?" the Yamamaka girl asked, dashing Shion's hopes that at least the host of the party had regained some of her sanity.
"Well, we are commandos under your leadership so... how about 'The ComIno Unit'?" Kazuna suggested, forcing Shion to once again resist the urge to face-palm (Commando + Ino = ComIno).
"Perfect. Alright ComIno Unit, move out!" The leader of the squad barked, taking point once again as she lead the charge down the corridor. Kazuna and Sakura followed her closely with their rifles at the ready while Shion lagged behind, shaking her head sadly. When could she get off the crazy train before she was infected too?
At the end of the hallway was the second entertainment room, and beyond that, the stairs leading back down to the ground floor. As soon as they reached the end of the hallway, Ino, Kazuna and Sakura ducked down behind a large three seater couch. When Kazuna noticed Shion still standing and humming away without a care in the world, she reached out and grabbed her sleeve, yanking the blonde down beside her. Kazuna then took a little time to study her friend's face, obviously confused by Shion's nonchalant behaviour. After a few long minutes, the brunette seemed to come to a conclusion, leaning in close so she could whisper in Shion's ear. "I know you must be in shock and it's understandable, but if you don't take cover and hide yourself properly, you'll become an easy target."
Shion shook her hands in front of her, trying to brush away the misunderstanding. "Ah, no. See, you've got it all wrong..."
Kazuna carried on, disregarding Shion's response. "And so, I shall protect you!" she jabbed her thumb into her left breast and shot her friend a heroic grin, silencing Shion's objections. "Just leave it to me and follow my lead! I'll get us out of this mess without a scratch!"
Shion faltered under Kazuna's piercing gaze. She smiled helplessly and decided to play along. It was a pleasant surprise to see this side of Kazuna; one wouldn't normally think that she was a reliable person deep down. "My hero!" Shion swooned in a sultry voice, holding her clasped hands against her cheek like a stereotypical damsel in distress.
"Shut it you two!" Ino hissed. When Shion and Kazuna looked at her, shooting her indignant and meek apologetic looks respectively, the platinum blonde motioned to a slightly ajar door on the right side of the entertainment room, from which slight shuffling sounds could be heard.
Ino motioned to Sakura and then directed her to circle around the room to the other side of the open door. She crept up silently to the wall near the door and leaned against it, with Ino taking up a similar position on the other side. Kazuna grabbed Shion's wrist and pulled her friend behind her. She glanced back at Shion and gave her that heroic grin once again. "Stay behind me and follow me closely; I'll protect you!"
Shion smiled. "Roger."
Kazuna shot her a puzzled look. "Who's Roger?"
This time Shion face-palmed with moderate force. Just when she had been thinking the brunette had been acting really cool... "Never mind. Let's go!"
Kazuna nodded and looked to Ino for the signal. The Yamanaka girl held up her fist as she listened for the sounds of shuffling. Since they hadn't ceased or changed in tempo, the unknown person within probably hadn't realized they were out there yet. Ino then pointed to the door with her index and middle fingers, prompting Kazuna to make the breach.
Kazuna ran forward, Shion tailing her closely, and kicked the door in like a badass action hero. "Reach for the sky!" yelled Kazuna, channelling her inner Sheriff Woody as Ino and Sakura burst into the room and took up positions on either side of the room.
They seemed to be in a study room. A very messy study room at that. Papers were strewn about, various cabinets and even a small bookshelf had been toppled over and the curtains had been yanked down from the window and were lying on the desk, draped over the widescreen computer monitor.
"Oh man, Dad's going to be so mad!" Ino sobbed, breaking character for a brief moment. She then cleared her throat and announced "Come out slowly with your hands up. We are armed and will shoot if necessary."
"Wait! Don't hurt me!" a high pitched voice yelled from within the shadows under the desk. Sakura reached back and flipped on the light, revealing a girl with black hair wearing a bright pink pair of pyjamas. She was shielding her face from the light and the imminent threat of being shot, but Ino recognized her right away.
"Yumi-chan!" she cried, lowering her weapon. "Are you okay? How did you get away from those two bitches?"
"T-They let us go, saying that all of the doors and most of the windows have been sealed shut. They told us that we can try to escape, but if they catch us, then they'll ruin us by posting horrible things about us on the internet!"
"So that's why you were in here? You were checking the window?" Shion asked.
"Yeah! This one's been glued shut though." Yumi said sadly.
"Damn them," Ino growled. "This is just inhumane!"
Sakura stepped closer Yumi, still pointing her gun at the terrified girl. "Where are they?" she asked, scowling ferociously.
"I-I don't know! They could be anywhere! Please don't shoot me!" Yumi cried, pleading for her life.
"Oi, Sakura-san. Stop it, you're scaring her." Shion said. "She's unarmed; hurting her now would be cowar-"
Bang! The sound of a paintball gun firing filled the room, and Yumi collapsed onto her side, her temple and the right side of her head now coated in purple paint. 'Huh. Doesn't look as shocking when it's purple.' thought Shion, before shaking her head to rid herself of such inappropriate thoughts. What was she thinking at a time like this?
"Hey! What the hell is wrong with you?! She didn't even move!" Shion yelled at the pink haired girl. Sakura turned to face Shion, and the look of surprise on her face was quite surprising, surprisingly enough.
"I-It just went off; I didn't mean to shoot her..." Sakura stammered. She looked to her leader helplessly.
"It's fine. Casualty of war." Ino said bluntly, now back in mercenary mode. Shion shot her an indignant glare. Wasn't this Yumi girl her friend?
"Are you seriou-" Shion began to speak but was cut off by Sakura.
"Yes Ma'am!" Sakura said sharply.
"Alright then. The enemy will have heard the gun going off, so we need to get the hell out of here. ComIno Unit, move out!"
Ino once again led the charge out of the room, pausing only to switch off the room lights without looking back at Yumi's body. She led the way through the entertainment room and took a left into another doorway rather than approaching the staircase that led to the ground floor. The ComIno Unit then followed the same room clearing procedure as before, only with Sakura taking point instead of Kazuna.
Once the room, which appeared to be a spare bedroom, was deemed safe, Ino closed the door and ran to the large cupboard. "Boss! Why aren't we going downstairs?" Kazuna asked.
"Help me with this." Ino grunted as she started pushing the cupboard. Kazuna and Sakura ran to help her, while Shion was ordered to watch the door. After much tugging, pushing and the occasional swear word, the cupboard was pushed to the side, revealing a window covered by a large piece of cardboard affixed with masking tape. "They're probably watching the stairs since they know we're up here. If we go down there, we'll be easy targets."
"Good thinking Ma'am!" Sakura uttered, eyes filled with awe. "You're always thinking two steps ahead of the enemy!"
'Suck up.' Shion thought, smirking mockingly.
Ino disregarded her subordinate's complements. "Alright, this window should be unsealed since it was hidden. We'll use this to sneak along the edge of the house and enter the ground floor through the skylight in the kitchen."
"There was a skylight in the kitchen?" Kazuna asked Shion. Thinking back, Shion honestly couldn't remember seeing one, but then again, she had been too occupied with looking after Kazuna to check the roof, and it was pretty dark outside with no moon or stars to shine down through the skylight. Shion shook her head in response, saying she had not noticed.
Ino tore off the cardboard and slid the window open. "I'll go first. Then Shion-san will follow, then Kazuna-san and Sakura will bring up the rear."
"Wait, you're seriously planning to climb out the window?" Shion asked. Surely Ino hadn't become this deluded about the whole ComIno Unit thing? The honey blonde girl's jaw dropped as the platinum blonde girl climbed out of the window. Shion slowly walked up to the window and peeked out. The ledge that Ino was shuffling along wasn't even wide enough to support a whole foot with the heel pressed against the wall. Below them was darkness; Shion couldn't even see the ground. Just how high up was the first floor?!
"Are you crazy?! Are you trying to die?" Shion yelled. Ino turned her head back, wobbling precariously and making Shion's heart jolt with panic.
"No. I'm trying to survive." she uttered in a cool and steady voice. The effect was ruined however, by the very girly "Kya!" that escaped Ino's lips when she very nearly lost her footing. A sweat drop ran down Shion's cheek, followed by a thousand more as Kazuna began pushing Shion towards the window.
"Come on Shion-chan. You can do it! You're one of the strongest people I know!" Kazuna whispered in her friend's ear, trying to encourage her.
"Strong as I may be, my legs are still going to snap like twigs if I fall from this height!" Shion retorted. Kazuna giggled and laced her fingers together, giving Shion a step so she could get out the window a little easier. Shion sighed exasperatedly and pushed away the offered help. For Kami's sake, Kazuna was the one who would need a hand getting out the window - she was shorter than Shion!
Shion slowly clambered out of the window and stood pressed against the wall as tightly as she could. Her weight was resting solely on the heels of her bare feet, while her toes and the majority of her two feet stood on thin air, above the murky blackness that was Ino's back-garden. She took a deep calming breath and began to shuffle along, making space for Kazuna.
After a minute of slow and steady shuffling, the end didn't seem to be getting any closer. Still, Shion was doing pretty well, having not even wobbled once. That's when Ino's house decided to throw a monkey wrench in the works, in the form of a large pipe running down the wall and through the ledge the ComIno Unit was walking along.
Ino didn't even blink, placing her hand on the pipe and swinging around it, ending up on the other side still with her back to the wall. Shion blinked a few times, stunned at the disregard for her own life that Ino had, or rather, the overconfidence in her own abilities that were probably going to get the platinum blonde girl killed.
Shion's turn came to get past the pipe, and she did it with far more care than Ino. It took a little bit of time, but she managed to get to the other side, only now she was facing the wall with her weight now resting on her toes. While it was easier in some regards, and she no longer had to stare into the black abyss and be stared back at by it, she now had to lean back a bit to stop herself from grinding her breasts against the rough brick wall. While Shion didn't really care about breast size like other girls, and was quite content with what she had, she didn't want to feel the sensation of her boobs being ground to powder like cheese on a grater (dat analogy).
Aside from Sakura nearly slipping off the ledge at the pipe part, the four girls, with great sighs of relief, made it to the flat roof above the kitchen. Shion made the effort to lean against the wall, rather than sit on the moss coated roof like Sakura and suffer the cold and unpleasant feeling of wet slime soaking into one's pants and panties. Kazuna was leaning over with her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath and unintentionally giving Shion a fantastic view of her rear. Shion sighed as she noticed that Kazuna hadn't been too careful when walking along the ledge and had worn away the back of her silk pyjama pants, revealing the soft yellow cotton panties she had on.
Shion opened her mouth to tell her friend, then changed her mind and passed off the movement as a yawn. It didn't really matter did it? Everyone present were all girls and there weren't any boys trying to peep on them, oddly enough. In all the manga that Shion had read and the anime that she'd watched, the males characters always tried to peek on girls when they used open air baths or listen in on girl talk during sleepovers. She stifled a chuckle as the thought of Naruto trying to peek on them crossed her mind. As if he'd do that! (This version of Naruto maybe... Can't say the same for Cannon Naruto...)
After the short break, Ino was ready to roll. She got the other members of the ComIno Unit to surround the skylight as she used a loose brick covered with the thin jacket she'd been wearing to mask the noise as she broke the flimsy latch. Luckily the hinges were well oiled, preventing any unwanted squeaking noises and allowing the girls to drop in silently, literally in Kazuna's case as she fell into the hole when it was her turn to jump in and tumbled ungracefully to the kitchen floor.
She jumped to her feet quickly, trying to play it cool but faltered and blushed under the gazes of the other three girls that clearly said "We saw that." Shion glanced around and spotted the still damp hand towel she had used to ice Kazuna's head injury in the sink. She also noticed that the kitchen window was open, that it was one of the windows that had been left unsealed. Strange that it would be unguarded... As Shion opened her mouth to mention the window, Ino began to speak. Shion fell silent and decided to mention it later.
"Alright. Now we're in enemy territory. We have no idea where they are or where the next attack will come from. There could be any number of traps waiting for us to walk blindly into and we can't rule out the possibility that there may be more than two enemies..."
"You mean..." Sakura said fearfully.
"That's right," Ino replied, gritting her teeth. "We have no allies here until we are sure they're not working with Ami and Noriko, by force or voluntarily..."
Kazuna gulped audibly, and Shion had to catch her hand with the other before it flew up and face-palmed her forehead.
Ino continued on. "From here, we can either go right and enter the living room, or go left and head to the rumpus room, where there's another hidden window. If we can get to the room and defend it, we can use it as a base, and later an escape route once we flush out the enemy and save the other girls. It'll be dangerous though, since the rumpus room is at the end of the corridor, and there are a bunch of rooms in-between where they could ambush us. Two rooms are even in line with each other on opposite sides of the corridor, so they could get us in a crossfire. I want to go left, since the living room is probably being watched and windows are probably sealed. Any objections?"
No one had any, so Ino stood up and began walking towards the kitchen entrance. Just as she was about to step out, Shion remembered the open window and quickly leapt forward, pulling her fellow blonde back. Just in time too, as a hail of red paintballs whizzed past the entryway to the kitchen, hitting the wall with deep reverberating thuds.
Ino gasped, and then grabbed at Shion. "You saved me! But how did you know?"
Shion chuckled awkwardly, sliding out of Ino's vice-like grip. Shion didn't know how Ino would react when she told her about the window, which she had failed to mention before. "I noticed the kitchen window was open and I was wondering why there weren't any guards in here..."
"Good work but next time, tell me about something important like that!" Ino barked, waving her paintball gun around dangerously. Shion nodded, and then flinched as another spray of paintballs painted the wall red.
"You two! Give Sakura some cover fire," Ino gestured to Shion and Kazuna, and then pointed to Sakura. "You need to get to the other side of the corridor. If you can get into the closet opposite the kitchen entrance, we'll have more of a tactical advantage. Can you do it?"
"Yes Ma'am! But what will you do?" asked Sakura.
"Once you're in position, you three will cover me as I sprint up the corridor and try to get the jump on the shooter."
"That's suised!" Kazuna yelled.
All three girls stopped and stared at the brunette. "What?" they asked collectively.
Kazuna was struggling to think of the right word. "Uh, sluiced! Sawcider? Sweet seed? Um..."
Shion jumped in to save her friend. "She's trying to say "That's suicide!" I think."
Kazuna nodded gratefully to her friend, shooting her a relieved smile. Ino simply smiled grimly. "This is war; sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Even if I go down here, keep fighting the good fight. This is a battle that will be immortalized in the books of history and the hearts of the people we protect! Justice will prevail! The ComIno Unit will not fall here!"
Kazuna and Sakura had tears streaming down their cheeks. "Boss/Ma'am!" they said in unison respectively. Even Shion felt hot tears pricking at the backs of her eyes as she watched Ino walk towards the door, getting ready for the suicide run. Then Shion caught herself and furiously berated herself mentally. 'Idiot! What are you doing tearing up for? It's just paint!' She had to admit though; Ino played the self-sacrificing hero well.
"Shion-san! Kazuna-san! Flank the doorway! Sakura, move on my mark!" Ino ordered. Shion and Kazuna quickly did as they were told, while Sakura crouched down by the door. Shion reached around the door and blind-fired while Kazuna leaned out and sent sprays of paintballs down the corridor, ducking back inside whenever return fire flew towards her, peppering the walls. "Now Sakura!" Ino yelled. Sakura leapt forward in a cat-like pounce, combat rolling into the closet opposite the kitchen. Red paintballs barely missed her, colouring the beige carpet scarlet. She entered the closet unharmed, landing in a crouch. She nodded to Ino, leaned around the closet door and began firing back, adding to the cover fire.
Time seemed to slow down. If epic, dramatic operatic music had played at that moment, it would not have been out of place. Ino began sprinting; paintballs were flying around her in both directions. Shion, Kazuna and Sakura were trying their best to aim at the unknown shooter without hitting their leader or getting hit. The ComIno Unit side of the corridor was coated in red while the opposition's side was being painted in hues of blue and green, purple and yellow, orange and red.
Ino began to duck and weave, sliding and jumping over sprays of red pellets, making it harder for the enemy to strike her and harder for her teammates to avoid shooting her in the back. Still, it was effective, and Ino covered the final few metres by diving sideways past one of the open doors (think Max Payne's shoot-dodge manuver), firing at the shooter and then combat rolling into cover inside the rumpus room.
Ino started firing into the room the shooter was hidden in, emptying belt after belt of paintballs. The unknown assailant was unable to shoot back, allowing time for the rest of the ComIno Unit to traverse the length of the corridor and regroup with their leader. Taking cover outside the doorway, Kazuna and Sakura were about to burst into the room when a voice called out to them from within the room.
"Stop! Cease your assault; I have a hostage." said the voice in an instantly recognizable clipped tone.
"Damn it, it's that sadistic Noriko-san!" Sakura growled. Kazuna had started shivering when she recognized Noriko's voice and flinched when Sakura said her name. Shion watched her friend's behaviour and scowled. Kazuna was still afraid of her former friends; Ami and Noriko had bullied her too much and it pissed Shion off to see the results of it.
"Noriko-san, I want to tell you something about me, since you and your idiot boss have been out to get me since my first week in Konoha High!" Shion snarled. "I don't know what your problem with me is and frankly I don't care. Since it's you two I bet it's something stupid. In fact, I couldn't care less about what you do to me because I can and will handle it. But I do care about my friends. I know about the horrible stuff you used to make Kazuna-san do and I've seen how badly you treated her when she was part of your stupid cult/club thing. I've also seen how you control Class 2-B through fear and blackmail. Some people in our class, like Uzumaki Naruto, cannot handle your sadistic crap and are unable or will not deal with it. I will not let you hurt him or anyone else like him, including that girl you're holding hostage. And if I find out you've done anything to harm Kazuna and Naruto, then mark my words - both of you will suffer in the most painful ways I can imagine! And believe me; I've seen a thousand horror movies… I'll have plenty of ideas." The temperature seemed to drop in the corridor and everyone present had to fight the instinctive feeling to step away from the girl from Oni no Kuni. She had some seriously scary killer intent locked away.
"I-I have a gun pressed to this girl's head, and if you don't let me go, I'll blow her brains out." Noriko's voice shook slightly when she began speaking and the rest of her threat carried little of the bite her words usually held. Shion had clearly shaken her up, and Ino saw that as a chance.
The squad leader left the safety of the rumpus room and entered the room Noriko was in (the laundry room). True to her word, Noriko had her rifle pressed against a girl's head, holding the silver-haired victim close to her body by wrapping her arm around her throat. Ino pointed her own rifle at Noriko's head. "Let her go. There's nowhere to run, and we aren't going to bargain with you."
Shion and Kazuna entered the room, aiming their own weapons at Ami's subordinate. The bespectacled girl tilted her head, so the lenses of her glasses caught the light and flashed, giving her that classic creepy glasses character look by obscuring her eyes. "You think I'll go down without a fight? Ami-sama and I are the only ones standing for justice. We are the defenders of the Sasuke Rules. Without us, the whole school would descend into chaos!" a little emotion entered Noriko's voice as she ended her little tirade. It was clear she actually believed what she was saying made sense. As if the entire social structure of Konoha High revolved around Uchiha Sasuke!
"You two are freaking crazy. Go do something useful with your time and see a psychologist." Shion called out in an exhausted sounding voice. Understandably, the poor blonde girl was too tired to be dealing with such nonsense at this point, considering how the ComIno Unit had been running and gunning and sneaking along ledges and engaging in shootouts and dealing with lunatics for quite a while now.
Noriko began to speak. "I will not be defeated here. Ami-sama is depending on me to ensure that justice will-"
"F(bleep) that!" Sakura growled, shooting at Noriko and her hostage. Red paintballs closed the distance between the gun that they were shot from and Noriko's torso and head in the blink of an eye. In one second Noriko was standing and prattling on about 'justice' while tightening her grip on her hostage's neck, the next she was falling backwards, dragging the silver-haired girl with her as she collapsed against the washing machine and lay still. The girl she was using as a shield tumbled to the ground, clutching her shoulder where a pair of stray paintballs had struck her.
Ino immediately smacked Sakura on the back of her head. "Idiot! You needlessly put the hostage in danger! But I would have done the same." Sakura looked rather abashed, and then grinned as she rubbed the back of her head.
"Sorry Ma'am! Won't happen again!" the pinkette replied earnestly as Shion and Kazuna drew nearer to Noriko and the other girl with their guns aimed at the bespectacled girl's paint splattered body. Kazuna nodded to Shion, who aimed her gun straight at Noriko's forehead while the brunette crouched down to checked the fallen girl's pulse.
"Well?" Shion asked. Kazuna squatted next to the body in silence for a few seconds before looking back at Shion with a sheepish look on her face.
"I, uh... don't know what I'm supposed to do..." Shion made a sound that was halfway between a chuckle and a sigh, then swapped roles with Kazuna, crouching down by Noriko and placing her index and middle fingers against her neck, over her carotid artery. The lub-dub beat of the pulse was slow and even. Shion then bent low over Noriko's face, listening to her breathing. Out of the corner of her eye, Shion noticed Kazuna's grip tightening on her paintball gun. The blonde girls' attention diverted as she puzzled out Kazuna's behaviour, causing her to miss the quick shallow breaths of someone trying to hastily cover regular heavy breathing.
"Kazuna-san," Shion said as she stood up. "You just didn't want to touch her did you? You're still scared of her."
Kazuna shifted from foot to foot, not looking Shion in the eyes. "Well I actually don't know how to do what you did... but yeah... that too. I'm not brave like you Shion-chan."
Shion was taken aback by Kazuna's words. "You think I'm brave?"
Kazuna looked Shion in the eye, smiling earnestly. "Yeah! Nothing ever gets to you! You just say whatever you want, and you make such cool speeches!"
Shion was feeling a little self-conscious now but brushed it off. "Well I wouldn't say nothing fazes me, and the only time I can make 'cool' speeches is when I'm defending my friends. You and Naruto-san are important to me, so I want to stand up for you two. It's only natural."
Kazuna had stars in her eyes and her awestruck look was making Shion feel a little uncomfortable. Thankfully, Ino broke into their conversation at that moment. "Hey! Stop jabbering and assess the situation! Has the enemy been taken care of? Is the hostage injured?"
Shion glanced down at the silver haired girl laying a little ways away from Noriko. She was rubbing her sore paint splattered shoulder but otherwise seemed fine. She did have signs of fresh bruising beginning to form over the left side of her face, but that couldn't have been caused by Sakura's reckless shooting. There also appeared to be flecks of red paint in her slightly damp hair, but that could have been the result of splashing paint during the living room shooting and a shower before the two Sasuke Rules Enforcers first appeared in the living room and decided to ruin the party. Deciding to shelve those observations for the moment, Shion offered the girl a hand, asking "Are you okay?"
The girl took Shion's hand and was pulled to her feet. "I'm fine. My right arm's gone all numb though. Those paintballs hurt."
"Yeah, I can imagine," said Shion. "Noriko-san is out cold and the girl is fine!" Shion said to Ino. The leader of the squad nodded and motioned for everyone to head to the rumpus room. As they began to file out of the room, Shion spoke to the silver haired girl. "So what's your name? I'm Fujimura Shion."
"My name is Shirayuki Saika. But everyone calls me Silvia, since I have silver hair."
Shion's eyebrow rose sceptically. "Well that's... a very creative nickname..."
"Not really, but I like it." Silvia responded. She had a rather blunt way of speaking, which was somewhat disconcerting, but at the same time refreshing, since it felt like Silvia had nothing to hide, secrets to keep or hidden agendas and preconceptions like most girls their age. She seemed like the kind of person who'd say what was on their mind, much like Shion. However, one should never judge a book by its cover...
"I liked what you said to your friend Kazuna-san over there." Silvia said to Shion, motioning with her head towards the brunette girl bringing up the rear as they entered the corridor.
"Really?" Shion said, keeping half her attention on the surroundings and the other half on the conversation.
"Yeah. You seem like a good person. You look out for your friends. I like people like you." came the blunt reply.
"Ah..." Shion murmured, not entirely sure how to reply to such a bluntly worded compliment (more like a statement actually). Maybe there was such a thing as being too open...
The laundry room was quiet after the ComIno Unit moved on, leaving the body of Noriko leaning against the washing machine where she had fallen. After waiting a few seconds, she opened her eyes, checked that she was alone and quietly drew out a walkie talkie from her pocket. Pressing a button on the side of the device, she began to speak, wiping away paint from her glasses as she did so. "Ami-sama, they took the bait."
There was a burst of static, followed by the voice of Ami "Excellent! Fujimura Shion and her group won't know what hit them!"
"They formed some sort of unit or team and they attacked and subdued me with tactical precision. They are being led by Yamanaka Ino, who has taken up the role of commander. Be careful Ami-sama."
"Don't worry about it Noriko! If the plan works, I might not even have to fight them! Now, where are you and where are they going?"
"I'm in the laundry room on the ground floor and they are heading further down the corridor to the rumpus room." Noriko whispered.
"Perfect! Keep track of them but don't let them know you're following them. That's a good place for the final stand... against whoever survives the surprise attack! "Ami finished with a cheesy evil chuckle that complete ruined the effect of her villainous words.
"Yes Ami-sama." Noriko replied in her usual clipped tone.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring to you the largest chapter in Finding Your Voice so far! I didn't mean for it to get so wordy, but I doubt anyone's complaining, right? It's pretty much twice the length of a normal chapter. I decided to go over the usual limit to try and finish off the paintball battle in this chapter, but when I reached the end of this chapter and realized I'd have to take the length of another chapter to wrap it up, I decided to stop writing and upload it. Oh well, I guarantee that the battle ends next chapter, even if that means the next chapter will be shorter than normal. I intend to start the return to normal high school life in a fresh chapter since that's when the next arc begins!
Did you know that the previous chapter (and as a result this one) were going to be entirely different? Of course you didn't, why the hell am I asking? Point is, when I'm writing, I get caught up in the flow and sometimes what I end up writing becomes completely different from what I'd roughly planned for that chapter (which is why I never bother planning out stories, especially this one). When I started the last chapter, I had a rough plan of having Shion confront the girls of Class 2-B after they have a gossip session over the boys in their class and completely skip Naruto. It was going to be this big moment where she forces everyone to acknowledge Naruto as a person. However, things happened and now Shion and the girls had an epic horror movie style battle against Ami and Noriko and Kazuna's character was developed more too. From the reviews I've been getting, it seems that it was a good move - I'm always worried that people don't give a s(bleep) about Kazuna and want me to get back to the 'NarutoxShionxyadayada' stuff or that the story gets too serious and depressing and that I should be injecting more comedy. But you gotta have a good balance right? You need to have multiple aspects to a story, not just romance and comedy. Especially with a high school fic since I don't want it to devolve into a stock standard 'Ohmahgerd, I think he, like, totes likes me!' type affair full of betrayal and bitchy cat-fighting over Naruto and Sasuke or overly angsty 'Can almost feel the hormones dripping off the screen/page' teen drama (I don't know if that's the majority of Konoha High fics, but most of what I read were like that).
Also, in this chapter, Hinata and Sakura got abused quite a fair bit. Please do not think of this as Hinata/Sakura bashing. I love them both, I used to be a NaruSaku shipper, then a NaruHina shipper, then I made like the honey badger and stopped giving a s(bleep)... But seriously, at this point I'm just happy if Naruto ends up with any girl from the series, even some of the filler ones, as long as he gets a happy ending. Either that, or he goes on rampage and gets back at everyone who dared to mess with him… that includes Sakura and her hundred metre punches (again, not hating, just saying Naruto puts up with a lot of abuse!).