Forty-seven seconds. That was the amount of time it took the other Konoha ninja to reach Hari and Keika's position. In that time, Hari had managed to flex his fingers a bit. A step forward but it wouldn't be enough. "Who has medic training?" He snapped at his comrades as soon as he saw them. His heart sank when he saw them shrug and shake their heads in response.
He was the best medic in their group. That was not saying much.
"Iruka, the tool pouch on my leg. In the storage scroll I need the contents of the fifth seal."
Iruka was confused but complied anyway. Only when he was close enough did he realise Keika's condition. "Hari-"
"Iruka, you get it done or so help me-"
"Okay, okay!" The scarred Genin acquiesced, unfurling the scroll and unsealing the fifth item. "Soldier pills?" He asked, surprised at seeing a Genin with the little black pills.
Hari simply opened his mouth as wide as he could in response. The wordless message backed up with a glare was clear enough for Iruka to understand, dropping the pill in Hari's mouth without thinking about it. Hari barely managed to swallow without choking on it.
Iruka was mistaken in his assumption that the tiny black pill was a soldier pill. It was similar, no question. Hari did actually have one (and only one) in his storage scroll for emergency use. However, the Nara being one of the premier authorities in Konoha when it comes to medicinal substances, they were involved with the production of soldier pills and were able to tweak the formula and create some specialised versions. Most well known were the Three Coloured Pills the Akimichi used.
On the other hand, entirely unknown were the Nara 'Oikaze' or 'Tailwind' pills. Unknown almost entirely because on the surface they are indistinguishable from a regular soldier pill. The effects, however, were quite different. A regular soldier pill could keep someone fighting for three days straight (length of time and subsequent backlash varying based on quality and recipe). The Oikaze pill, on the other hand, refills chakra. Once. That's all.
There are two reasons the Oikaze was developed. First, soldier pills have a significant backlash once the effects wear off, the shortest duration on record being four days. The most common reason for using soldier pills being running low on chakra, in a prolonged conflict the Nara clan members would end up eating them like candy, killing themselves in the process. The Oikaze on the other hand has very little backlash. If the user was near exhaustion they would still feel it but they would be able to keep going until the pill's effects ran out. The recovery period would be longer than if they had recovered normally but not remarkably so. The Nara clan mostly consisting of strategists and tacticians, the Oikaze were a passable solution when they had no choice but to enter combat. They could go an extra round without depriving their squad of a tactician afterwards.
And therein was the reason Hari chose it over using the soldier pill. It seemed likely that even after they saved Keika (and they would. He refused to believe otherwise), she would be out of commission for the rest of the exam. Taking a soldier pill would guarantee he would be dead to the world for the last two days of the exam. Lose another fighter just as the others started to get desperate? Not a good plan.
The instant Hari felt his renewed chakra flood through his system, he flipped himself over and performed a diagnostic jutsu on Keika; the only medical jutsu he could perform. The ones that might be able to do something required more fine control than he had. The results of the scan were... not promising.
Hari grimaced as he explained the situation to the others. "One of her bugs exploded inside her. Right under her lung. She's bleeding internally. We need a real medic or she won't last an hour." he stated clinically, shutting out his feelings on the situation so that he could better fix it.
"An hour?!" Iruka asked incredulously. "Hari, bleeding into her lungs she won't last five minutes-"
"Quiet!" Hari snapped before reining himself in again. "The bugs are helping but they weren't bred for this kind of thing. Especially hers. So we have a little time but we need a real medic now."
"Oh, yeah? So which do you think will be feeling more charitable? The guys who killed half the people in the exam or the guys who hate our village more than anything else?" Teruko asked sarcastically.
"Well when you put it like that, it's clear who's the better option." Iruka reasoned, deciding to ignore the sarcasm.
"Yeah. The Rock might let us talk before they kill us." Kotetsu agreed lightly.
Teruko for her part was horrified. "Are you people insane?! You're going to march up to people from a village that wants to slaughter every man, woman and child in Konoha in the hope that they have some miracle worker medic who can heal her?! She's half-dead as it is! Better if we just cut our losses and-"
Hari's sword was at her throat. It was the first time he had drawn it since his first real mission. It still bore the stains and a coat of rust had started to develop. "Her name is Keika." He hissed at her. "And if she dies, she will have given her life to save mine. That is a gift I will never accept. I refuse to let anyone else die for my sake!" He yelled at her, not even knowing why anymore.
Hari shook away the angry defiance Teruko had unknowingly drawn out of him as he moved his sword away from her. Though he did not move to sheathe it. "If you are unwilling to take risks, you do not belong in this exam. If you are unwilling to take risks for your comrades then you do not belong in Konoha."
Teruko flinched as if struck. To hear a Genin say she didn't belong in the exam was a blow to her pride, no question. The tone underscoring the point as though it were a clear unassailable fact.
But to say she didn't belong in Konoha... There was a moment she considered attacking him. Then she saw the look on Iruka's face like he was expecting her to do that. And it was clear there was a reason Hari had not sheathed his sword yet. She could see the logic. If she would abandon a comrade for her own sake, she would attack a comrade for her own sake.
And the most galling part: They were right! She wanted him to suffer for the statement that had cut her so deeply. Partially because she was proud to be a kunoichi of Konoha and the idea that she wasn't worthy was like ripping out the core of her being. The greater part though, was that that simple statement was one hundred percent accurate. Heat of the moment or no. High-stress situation or no. When the chips were down, the first thing she wanted to do was get rid of what she saw as dead weight. Her first priority was herself. Her second priority was those who were worth something to her. And that was it. Nothing else was important enough in her eyes. She tried desperately to remember when she had gotten so self-centred.
She needed to think. That decision made, she was gone. Replaced in an eye blink with a rotting tree branch.
It wouldn't be until late that night that she realised by leaving then, she was doing the same thing again. Abandoning people in need to see to her own wants.
In shame, she cried herself to sleep that night.
"Wow. Okay. Finals or not, she isn't getting a promotion." Shisui observed.
"Konoha always did hate pragmatism." Ao snorted, rolling his visible eye. "I'm more interested in your thoughts on what your golden boy said. No one dies for his sake? Even for a Nara he'll make a shitty tactician with thinking like that."
"He isn't your traditional Nara." Shisui non-answered, wondering on it himself for different reasons.
'No one else.' Who died for him? He wasn't talking about Keika. There was no way he was when he so steadfastly refused to give up on her. Shisui had seen the boy's history. His mother was injured when he was a toddler but she was alive and well. As far as Shisui was aware, no one of particular note had died around him, let alone for him.
So who was he talking about?
Four ninja were standing on the water but no one believed they were the only ones present. Two leaf ninja - one with a pineapple haircut and glasses and the other with bandages over his nose for some reason – stood on one side. On the other stood two rock ninja, a rocky island behind them where their compatriots were laying in wait.
The rock ninja were greatly different in appearance. One was a very tall man in cumbersome looking red armour and a matching red straw hat. The other was a short, tomboyish looking girl with dark hair and vibrant pink eyes.
'Pretty...' Was the only thought that flashed through Hari's mind before he recognised the thought and squished it under mental foot.
"Allow me to test my understanding of your proposition." The big guy rumbled. "A member of your group has been gravely wounded. And your best chance for help was to ask Rock ninja."
"They really must be desperate." The girl observed, smirking predatorially. "So we lend you a medic and you give us..."
"Two tokens." Kotetsu picked up. "It's what we've collected so far."
"Sounds cheap for putting one of our own in the hands of the enemy." the big guy observed.
"You have my word no harm will come to them. It would not benefit us in the slightest." Hari reasoned.
"Four tokens." Han bartered.
"Done." Hari said immediately. That was the price they had hoped for. They could have gone higher but it would mean losing their real valuable tokens.
"Oi! We're not done! I won't accept just that! It's like you're cheating me- I mean us!" The girl interrupted, locking eyes with Hari.
Who then immediately focused all of his attention on her forehead to avoid looking into her eyes.
… Her mesmerising eyes...
"Which one of you is stronger?" The girl asked.
The two Leaf shinobi looked at one another. Hari was doing a good job of hiding it but he was running on fumes as far as his body was concerned. His chakra levels were okay-ish but he wouldn't be as strong as he normally could be. Kotetsu on the other hand, while he had just a few minutes before been on the ropes against a Mist swordsman, once he got his breath back he was good to go.
So Hari pointed at Kotetsu who answered honestly. "Me."
"Okay, Scissor-boy. You're gonna fight me." She stated, not giving him a choice in the matter.
"Wait, you want to fight for the tokens? Look, we already said we'll give them to you. We don't have time for-" Hari ranted but was interrupted.
"I wanted in on this exam for one thing and one thing only. To test myself against the best of my 'level'. There is no way in hell I'm gonna let some sissypants 'deal' steal my chance for a good fight! We'll take your tokens and we'll lend you our medic. But Scissor-boy and I are gonna throw down, first! What's your name, Captain Snip-Snip?!"
"Uh, Kotetsu Hagane?" Kotetsu half asked, genuinely a bit freaked out at that moment.
"I'm Kurotsuchi of Iwa! And before we save your sorry asses I'm gonna beat you bloody, Kotetsu Hagane!"
A/N: Okay, so I realised something.
… What? Oh, yeah. Months of no updates yadda yadda yadda I realised something.
I am a complete hypocrite.
People who listen to the Fandom Flux Podcast (link on my profile, obligatory plug) have probably noticed I tend to rant about there being so few strong female characters in shonen and the ones that do exist are there so they can be shown up by stronger male characters (or be in designated girl fights). Meanwhile in my story so far we have:
Hana, who stepped aside for Hari's sake.
Keika, who near died for Hari's sake.
Chiko, who (if you don't remember) died 20 seconds after her introduction.
And Teruko, who as we see here is willing to abandon a wounded comrade for her own sake.
So... I'm sorry about that. I could make excuses but they'd be just that. Excuses. I'm doing exactly what I complain about. These characters are strong but are being swept aside for the sake of the male characters. So I need to stop doing that. I'm not sure how at the moment considering as soon as the arc is done we're moving on to Britain for a little while. But I'll find a way. Teruko's growth and development in this chapter is inspired specifically because of this realisation.
So again. Sorry about that. I'll try to do better in future.
Thanks for reading.