Naruto: Sekai ni Hi o Tsuketa
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto
A/N: These chapters feel like I'm taking longer and longer to write them. Eh. Oh well. As long as I'm actually writing.
ONWARD! And upward. X)
KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
FOREST OF DEATH, GATE 5
Hanako raced forward at the sound of the alarm, her two team members at her heels. Kiiromaru raced beside her, his paws slapping against the forest floor. Leaves flew behind them, the dark forest encasing them. At her left she could smell pine needles, behind her the familiar musky scent Hikaru always carried with him; and Yasashi's sweet honey suckle scent. His mother always had honey suckle and poppy flowers in their apartment, always burnt candles that smelt like them.
The Inuzuka cast the thought of it away, focusing her scent forward. She was seeking scents of another team - they had decided on finding a team first to follow, to see if other teams had gotten any idea on where the items could be. With an Inuzuka and someone with sensory skills like Hikaru, it would be easy to find people, but it would be difficult to find inanimate objects.
Yasashi called over, "Hey, what do we do once we find a team? I mean, what if they sense us when we sense them?"
Hikaru thought about it, still keeping pace. "We fight and narrow down the competition, I guess."
Their curly-haired team member grew quiet. But it didn't last as long as Hanako had hoped. "What happens if they're stronger than us?"
"We retreat," Hanako retorted, as if it were obvious. Then she smirked, "Or, in Hikaru's case, we advance in the other direction." One of their C-ranks prior to the exam, Shikamaru had made a tactful retreat. Hikaru was so angry about it - there was a certain enemy who was testing his anger, his limits as a Genin. Their client, an old craggy woman, had scoffed at them. "Shinobi," she said. "I thought they were supposed to be brave. And here they are - retreating."
To which Hikaru spat, "Or maybe we're just advancing in the other direction. Ever think of that?"
Hikaru rolled his eyes, smirking. "You'll never let me forget that, will you?"
Yasashi giggled as the three ascended up into the trees, feet tapping against the branches. The red-eyed boy glanced over at Hikaru, "You sounded so confident - and you just left her so confused. I don't think she expected you to say that!"
Hikaru laughed at the comment - and once he did, Hanako wondered if he should have. The test had just begun and the two of them were joking... well, she started it, but that was beside the point. She was just so used to being comfortable in the village; even if the Forest of Death was supposed to be "another world", it still felt like Konoha to her. It didn't help she was with these two. The three were her best friends (whether they knew it or not) and she felt confident around them.
But she had to forget that. They could be attacked at any moment. There could be traps or wildlife in the area. They didn't need to be distracting themselves.
A heavy scent hit her, and she covered her nose and stopped. Kiiromaru whined, shaking his head to get rid of the smell. Hanako nearly gagged at the smell. It was thick and musty, like smoke. But the smell was sweet and sickening. It made her brain foggy.
Yasashi stopped, "Hey, Hana, you okay?"
She growled at the name "Hana". That was her mother's name. Even though her mother was an okay person, she still didn't like being compared to her. You know, typical teen rebellion. "Fine," she seethed. The smell wasn't strong here; it came from ahead. "But we can't go this way. Something smells like chloroform."
Hikaru came close to her. "Chloroform? But how did a team get this close to us so quickly?" He glanced around, activating his Sharingan. His eyes flashed red, making Hanako shudder. Her teammates' red eyes freaked her out. Yasashi she could get used to, because his eyes were red all of the time, no matter what he did. But the Sharingan just seemed so unnatural on Hikaru it unnerved her. She was more accustomed to his black eyes.
Yasashi drew a kunai, his crimson eyes scanning the area. "Maybe they got a head start? They could've jumped the fence before the test started, I guess..."
"Isn't that against the rules?" Hikaru wondered.
Hanako narrowed her eyes. "The rules of this exam is that everything goes, remember? Makko just said to choose a gate and that they'll open in an hour. He never said we had to wait."
Hikaru swore, mumbling, "...stupid implications..." He pulled out a sai. "So, which way should we go?"
Hanako closed her eyes and lifted her head, taking in a huge breath of hair through her nostrils. The foggy smell went straight to her brain, and she groaned. "Ugh. Not east. Let's go west." Hikaru nodded, turning that way. Hanako grabbed to his forearm for support, snapping her fingers for Kiiromaru. The little dog whined in response, following after her.
Yasashi only blinked, "...Wait. But... how did you know which way was east? Or west? You didn't even look at the compass!" They didn't stop for him. "Guys?" The clueless Genin jumped after them.
Over in the shadows, a figure grimaced.
"Got'cha!" Jinta exclaimed, sending his foot into a giant tiger's head. Aoi drew his Thunder Blades from his back, slashing the at the overgrown animal's head. It roared as blood spewed from its' forehead, throwing one of its paws forward to stop him. Aoi glared at the upcoming claw, and was about to take action when Jinta leaped on the back of the animal.
His Executioner's Blade cut into the tiger's neck, taking it down easily. The body and head fell limp to the ground. Jinta grinned on the animal's back proudly, stamping in foot down. "Your welcome."
Aoi narrowed his eyes. "I did not ask for nor did I need your help." Jinta's grin fell, replaced by a bitter grimace. Aoi turned away and stabbed both of his blades into the forest floor, clearing the blood off. He glanced over where Kiri had been, but blinked when she wasn't there. "Kiri-sama?"
"I'm over here, guys!" They heard her call, but they couldn't see her. Jinta tried to exchange a glance with Aoi, was ignored doing it, so he just rolled his eyes and went after him. Jinta narrowed his eyes, then caught up so he was side by side with the black-haired teen.
He ran a hand back through his fiery hair. "Hey. Uh. Aoi." Aoi kept his gaze straight ahead, revealing no indication that he had even heard him. "Hey. Look. I'm not a Rebel - and I would never hurt Kiri. She's like a cute kindergartener..." Aoi glared at him, but it didn't show as much anger as it showed a "what the fuck" look. Aoi shook his head with disgust and rounded a large tree, where Kiri was kneeling and reaching into a small alcove.
Aoi raised an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"
"Loooooooking." She sang it, digging through the hole.
"For what?" Jinta wondered, squatting down next to her and glancing down into the hole. Aoi stood behind the two of them, arms crossed. His eyebrows knitted together as Kiri dug, making a deeper alcove.
Kiri smiled, "Well, while you guys started being mean to the tiger - by the way, you guys didn't kill it, right?" Both took a worried glance backwards.
"Uh. Sure." Aoi dragged.
Jinta scratched the back of his head. "Yeah. But once it started walking away, this - uh... giant bird just came down and took its head off!"
Kiri glared. "Right. A bird." She rolled her eyes. "You two... anyway, so while you guys were killing poor, defenseless animals, I was looking at the compass. And the tower is - that way." She pointed towards the center of the forest, southeast. "But once I got near this tree, the direction turned. And then I got to thinking. Makko only said there were items, but he didn't say what kind of items. I thought that was kinda weird, but I just figured they would make it obvious." She smiled at them. "So when the compass direction changed, I just thought maybe I was standing somewhere weird. But when I moved in the arrow's direction, it stayed like that. I followed the arrow, and when I stepped in front of this hole, it pointed back at the tower."
Jinta blinked. "Huh. What do'ya know?"
Aoi narrowed his eyes. "Tch. That entire ruling was full of misleading's."
The orange-haired teen grinned. "Well, who cares? We figured it out before it was too late! We're probably the first ones to find an item, so that means you're pretty cool, Kiri." He ruffled said girl's head, making her giggle. She continued to dig through the dirt.
Aoi glanced around. This was too easy. There were only twenty items in this entire forest. Sure, the giant tiger seemed deadly, but was that enough of a trap? He narrowed his eyes. No, this couldn't be it. They would have put more precautions on them. He turned around, surveying the area. ...There weren't any ninjas around, no chakra energies. He couldn't hear the sounds of animals. He clicked his tongue.
Kiri blinked, turning away from the hole. "Mm? Aoi? What's wrong?"
Jinta pulled his dirt-covered hands out. "How can you tell there's something bothering him?"
Kiri shrugged. She whispered to Jinta, "He usually clicks his tongue when he can't figure something out."
"Ah. Well. What's up?"
Aoi narrowed his eyes and drew a sword. He turned back to them. "This is too easy. I think - Kiri-sama! Look out!"
A hand shot out from the hole, grabbing Kiri by the hair. Kiri cried out, being dragged in. Jinta drew a knife and slashed the wrist, making it let go of her. The second it did, Aoi snatched Kiri and pulled her to her feet, holding the girl close to his chest. Aoi put one arm around Kiri and held one of this Thunder Fangs out.
"Who's there?" Jinta shouted, up at his feet.
"Kekeke..." Someone laughed from above. The three shot their heads away from the hole, glancing upwards. Their eyes fell on Kago, her beautiful crimson hair up in a ponytail. She smirked, a malicious glare in her eye, "You fell for it."
Kago raised one hand, lifting her index finger above the rest and pulling her pinky to the side. The hand from before became a wooden body, clacking as it moved its arms. The legs buckled and clattered, long, silky black hair falling over its empty face and draping down the puppet's figure. There was no nose, eyes, or mouth, although a symbol was painted on it in a dark blue paint. Aoi couldn't make out what it said or meant. It wore a white kimono with a black obi, the gown falling down just above its knees. The thing raised both of its hands, revealing senbon hidden in the wrists.
"Meet my marionette; I made him myself. His name is Noppera-bo*." She gave them a toothy grin, her spindrift eyes entrancing. "His face will be the last thing you ever see."
KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
HIZAKU'S DANGO RESTURAUNT
Inuzuka Kiba sighed and pushed a menu away from him, resting his chin on his knuckles. His fingers tapped impatiently on the wooden table. He couldn't believe he was here, ordering a nice little meal, while his students were in a life or death situation. Why he let them do it, he had no idea. He guessed he just bought into Takeshi's begging.
Now, why he was here was a better question.
Akamaru whined and lay down at his master's feet, curling on the floor. He was probably edgy due to Kiba's tapping. Kiba sighed. "Sorry, bud." He reached down and stroked Akamaru's fur, running his hand down the back of his best friend's neck. His finger traced over Akamaru's scar, which was a result from the single-most worst day of Kiba's life. His face contorted, staring at the marred skin beneath Akamaru's fur. The dog looked up at him with a look in his eye Kiba knew all too well.
"Let it go," Akamaru whined, lying his head down. Kiba closed his eyes and pulled his hand from the scar.
"Fancy meeting you here," a voice called to him, a familiar musky scent and a subtle scent hitting Kiba. He raised his eyes, settling them on the tall, lanky Shikamaru and the wrapped up Shino. He gave them a toothy grin, forced, saying,
"Should be. I don't know why but you invited me here." Kiba shrugged and sat back, moving further into the booth so his friend could take a seat next to him. Kiba gave Shino a friendly pat on the back. "Hey, man, haven't seen you around lately."
If Shino could have an expression, Kiba would roll over and die. He stared at Kiba. "I suppose we could see more of one another if you did not have such a busy schedule as you always have nowadays."
Kiba gave him a sour look as Shikamaru sat. "Good to see you too, Shino." Shikamaru rolled his eyes and pulled out a cigarette package. Kiba waved a hand at him, "Can't smoke in here." Again, the pineapple-headed boy rolled his eyes, this time pushing the cigarettes back into his pocket. Kiba was relieved – the stench of smoking was bad to most, but to an Inuzuka? It was just foul.
Shino glanced at Kiba's menu and took it, glancing it over. His voice was soft, "Kurenai-sensei, Hinata and I did not hear about your team until about two weeks ago. Is there a reason you failed to communicate?"
Kiba shrugged, poking at the salt shaker. "Just didn't think you guys wanted to know. The three of them are more like a hobby than anything else."
Shikamaru raised his eyes accusingly. Oops. That was a bad idea. To Kiba's luck, he didn't say anything. He just watched Kiba for a moment, then looked away. Of course, Shikamaru wasn't the type of guy for confrontation. He was too lazy for that.
And even if Shikamaru were to say something, the waitress suddenly popped up, smiling. "Is there anything I can get you?" Good timing.
Shikamaru, who hadn't even looked at the menu, just asked for a green tea, and Shino pointed out an order of denpun dango. She scurried off after making sure of their order.
Shikamaru sighed, looking up at Kiba. "So. How do you think your students will do in the exam?"
There was a moment of silence as Kiba thought over his answer first. "Well. I'm worried about Kagura. Just because she doesn't have many techniques. But I think the other two will do fine." He took a quick sip of his ice water, his throat feeling dry. He glanced up. "What about you?"
For a moment, the Shadow user seemed perplexed. He shrugged. "Dunno. I think they'll be fine, but they're all kind of troublesome. If Yasashi's not being stupid, then Hikaru is diving into any fight he can, and Hanako's scolding them instead of focusing on the mission." He sighed, as if his life was so bad. "It only figures I got an Inuzuka, because I can't stand dogs. And then I got an Uchiha, Sasuke's kid no less, and that was just a bad idea to begin with. I guess Yasashi's not bad, but he has such a horrible case of ADD…" He hung his head, laughing. "Guess I'm worried about 'em. How'd you know my team was in the exam?"
Shino glanced between the two. He kind of wished he had a team. He felt sort of left out…
Kiba stared, "Takeshi told me… about a month ago? Yeah. He wanted to be in the exam with Hikaru."
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. He heard a little about Takeshi… not from his team, but from Naruto. He knew the kid always tended to hang out with the Hokage, but other than that Shikamaru didn't know much about him.
Kiba ran a hand back through his hair. "He said something like… hm. How did it go? Oh, right. He said, "I want to pay back that bloodline-obsessed asshole for cheating. He'll regret the day."" Kiba nodded. "Yeah. Something like that. Couldn't say no to it – some things you just can't tell Takeshi "no" to. He'll fight it until he gets a "yes"."
Kiba smirked. Takeshi was a lot like him.
Shikamaru and Shino stared. Oh, god, Takeshi sounded like Sasuke.
The former coughed. "Uh, so should I be worried for Hikaru, or…"
"Er." Kiba managed.
Shikamaru sighed, waving a hand. "Say no more, say no more." Figures.
Kiba sat back, water in hand. The waitress came back and set down their drinks. She smiled at Shino. "Your dango should be finished soon, sir." She began to walk off when she stopped. "Oh." She came back and handed Kiba a piece of paper. "Sorry, a woman came in here and asked me to give this to you. She said her name was Kogu."
Kiba's eyes widened by half and inch, and he took the paper, nodding. "Thank you." Without looking at it he slipped the paper into his pocket, then picked up his water as if it hadn't happened. He glanced up at them and asked, "So why did you two invite me here?"
Shino and Shikamaru traded glances – or, Kiba assumed Shino glanced at Shikamaru – and turned to him. Suddenly the table became serious.
"We wanted to talk to you about something," Shikamaru began.
"Obviously," Kiba hummed, setting the glass down. He fixed his composure as they trained him to do in the ANBU. "What is it?"
Shino pushed his collar down by an inch. He had glanced over the pocket Kiba had tucked the paper into. "There have been rumors, Kiba, that you have been working outside this village on a project that our superiors do not know about."
His face didn't move. He sat forward, sipping his drink. "Hn? A project? What are you talking about?"
Shikamaru leaned forward on the table. "Who would Kogu be, is what I'm asking."
"Kogu is a girl I've been messing around with." Kiba reached back into his pocket and opened the message. "Meet you at ten o'clock tonight is all she said. See?" He held up the paper. "Excuse me for wanting a sex life." He set the paper down.
Shikamaru and Shino glanced over the paper. Right after the words was a little heart, and it even had the vague scent of perfume. Shino lifted his chin. "So why are you passing notes in secret?"
Kiba sighed. "Jeezums." He rolled his eyes. "She isn't the kind of girl to like having flings. She has a huge social life and doesn't want her friends to know she's going around with a shinobi." He shrugged. "I told her I was meeting up with some old friends today so she knew where I was going to be."
A convincing story, Shino thought. But somehow he knew it wasn't the truth. When Kiba told the truth… he would get angry. The Kiba he knew would have jumped up, yelling at them for accusing him of something. Somehow this didn't seem right.
Of course, what would Shino know? He hadn't really talked to Kiba since before Kiba became an ANBU. And even then… something had changed about Kiba after the war. He wasn't quite sure what it was. He should know, because he was Kiba's comrade.
Shikamaru spoke up, his eyes steady. "From the sensory department, there are messages coming in and out of the village that aren't regulated. We've traced them to your apartment."
Kiba raised an eyebrow. "And what does that prove? I'm not some spy, Shikamaru."
The sudden tension in the air could be sliced open with a knife. The two stared Kiba down as he glared right back at them.
"Alright!" The waitress cheered. "One order of denpun dango!"
The table grew silent. They all glanced up at her.
"Er… I can come back…" The waitress took a couple of steps back.
Kiba stood up on the booth and hopped over Shino, landing on the ground next to the waitress. "No, no, you're fine. I'm leaving anyway." He turned to Shikamaru and Shino, feeling as if he should say something. He couldn't find the words. He sighed and snapped his fingers. "Come on, Akamaru."
The dog whined and stood up, following after Kiba. The three still at the table watched; the waitress confused, and his old friends disappointed.
Kiba stuffed his hands into his pockets, sighing. Akamaru glanced up at him, "You should have told them, Kiba. Right?"
"Please, Akamaru." Kiba's voice stressed. He reached over and scratched behind Akamaru's ear.
Akamaru smiled and panted. "But everything will get better. Don't worry about it too much."
A soft smile rested on Kiba's lips. "Yeah. For now everything's fine. I guess I can take this time to worry about those three idiots."
KONOHGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
FOREST OF DEATH
Everything was not going fine.
"Gyaaaaa!" Koushiro shrieked, jumping and just narrowly missing getting pierced by a flying arrow. He stumbled a bit, and would have been stabbed in the heart by another arrow if Takeshi had not jumped in and grabbed the young blonde by the collar. Takeshi dragged him forward, Kagura clinging onto his back fearfully.
They had found a tunnel leading into the ground. It had definitely looked suspicious, it went right under the river, so Kagura supposed maybe something was down there. Which, there was. Just not what they were expecting.
Like in old adventure movies, Koushiro had stepped on a wire and had sprung a trap. The next thing they knew, there was a boulder just behind them and there were arrows flying out of the walls. Luckily, the tunnel went down and then curved up. So they lost the boulder, but now they still had to deal with the arrows.
"I don't like this, I don't like this, I DON'T LIKE THIS!" Kagura shrieked. Right in Takeshi's ear.
"Well, it was your own damn fault!" Takeshi shouted, his temper getting to him. Koushiro had gotten his footing so Takeshi let him go, the boy racing at his side. "I mean, at least this one can run on his own but you're just a damn coward!"
Kagura glared and smacked him on the head. "SHUDDUP! IDIOT!"
"Did you just smack me while I'm saving your life!?" Takeshi yelled.
Koushiro threw a shuriken so that an arrow wouldn't embed itself into Takeshi's temple. "Guys! This isn't the time to fight! Please!"
Takeshi grit his teeth and continued to run, mentally screaming at himself. Oh, why not go in? It can't do us any harm! THE NEXT TIME I LISTEN TO HER I'm GONNA-
"SHUDDUP!" Takeshi roared, earning a smack from Kagura. "AND QUIT SMACKING ME!"
Koushiro sighed, just wishing this stupid tunnel run was over already. They couldn't go back because the boulder was blocking their way… but Koushiro just really, really hoped that there wasn't a dead end ahead of them. If there was…
"Hey, look!" Kagura shouted. "Up there!"
Takeshi and Koushiro both glanced upwards, seeing a hole in the ceiling. "Good enough for me!" Takeshi shouted, jumping to the side and off the wall. He flew up inside of the hole, expecting to having to cling himself to the wall using chakra, but instead landing on a flat surface. "It's safe, Koushiro!"
He didn't even get to finish the sentence before Koushiro landed beside him, falling forward on his face. "Oh, thank goodness, I lived…."
Takeshi sighed, then glared up at Kagura. "Get off. You're heavy." A smack.
"Don't ever say a woman's heavy!"
"I didn't say a woman was heavy…" He seethed, his eyes deadly.
Kagura hopped off of Takeshi's back, patting her outfit to get the dirt off. She glanced around thoughtfully, "So. Where are we?"
Takeshi pat Koushiro on the back and stood, looking around. It was only a little room carved into the ground like the tunnel, and at the very end there was a table. On the table was a green box and two white candles that lit up the room. Koushiro lifted his head. "Oh! An item! YAAAAY-agh."
Takeshi had grabbed the back of his collar. "Sit here. It might be trap and I don't want you setting it off again."
Koushiro laughed nervously, "It's probably a good idea I stay here…"
Takeshi glanced at Kagura as if to say, "Stay here too" and the continued forward carefully. He made it halfway across the room, making sure where he was stepping was safe. He stopped when he saw a square cut out of the floor, replaced with a different colored tile.
Stepping over the tile, Takeshi reached the table. Picking the box up could be a trap… He sighed, and glanced back. "Keep your guard up. Take out your weapons."
The two nodded, doing just that. Takeshi turned back to the box and flipped the lid open. He flinched and glanced around, but nothing happened. He glanced into the box.
Laid on a cushion of velvet were two metal plates, attached together by a thin sheet of paper. Takeshi slowly lifted it, extending the metal. In his hand was a metal Tessen, or a hand fan. The design on it was a beautiful lily flower. Takeshi flipped the Tessen between his fingers. It was certainly odd to have to go to so much trouble to carve a tunnel and set traps and have this box set so neatly in a hidden room just for some random fan. It must have been an item.
Takeshi turned and held it up. He smirked. "We got it."
Kagura and Koushiro blinked. The latter jumped up and held up his arms, "Yay! We did it!" He jumped forward.
"Wait, Koushiro, not there-!"
There was a strange sound of a brick sliding against bricks, and Koushiro's foot sank into the floor on that one tile Takeshi had avoided. Takeshi held the fan close as a faint rumbling came from above.
A crack appeared in the ceiling.
"Run." Takeshi said, staring at the ceiling as more cracks appeared in its wake. "Run!" He shouted, racing forward and grabbing Koushiro's wrist. Kagura immediately turned to the hole in the floor that they had come through. "Go, go, GO!"
Kagura hesitated, the traps below still going. She glanced back at the collapsing ceiling. "But what if-"
Takeshi ran forward and slammed into her, forcing her down the steps. They didn't have time to think. If they stayed here too long the tunnels would collapse as well. Besides, he wouldn't take the chance to listen to her again.
They fell through the floor, Takeshi being careful so that their feet landed on the arrows, smashing them down and landing on the floor. They had no time to sit there, though. Takeshi quickly tucked the fan into his pouch, folded, and raced forward, grabbing both of his teammate's wrists. "Run, run!" He shouted, partially to himself and partially to them. They staggered to keep up with his pace.
Suddenly, he was next to him, running alongside him. "Gotta run, Takeshi! Otherwise you die!"
Don't you think I know that?! Takeshi shouted at him mentally, then shouted back, "Koushiro! Get on my back!"
"Just do it!"
Koushiro sighed and jumped on his back as they ran. He could see cracks forming in the tunnels too.
Takeshi glanced up at Koushiro, "Take control of Kagura!"
Kagura ran a little faster so she was at Takeshi's pace, "What? Why?" Koushiro seemed perplexed.
"Because you're better at running but Koushiro is better at deflecting arrows! I can't have him tripping and I can't have you getting stabbed so just do it!"
Koushiro shrugged, making his clan's infamous hand sign and directing it at Kagura. Kagura did her best to keep in his line of sight. "Mind-Body Transfer!" Koushiro shouted, and as he did Takeshi grabbed Kagura's wrist. Her body stumbled for a moment, but immediately began running again. On his back, Takeshi felt Koushiro's head fall limp.
"Okay!" Koushiro shouted in Kagura's voice. He reached back and drew a kunai from her pouch. "I'll cover you!"
Takeshi gave a nod, but the ceiling was giving in.
"If you let me take this over I could get you out so much faster~!"
Takeshi ignored him, focusing ahead. Koushiro continued to block the oncoming darts.
A portion of the ceiling began to crack of, falling on top of them. "Evasive maneuvers!" Takeshi shouted. He felt stupid suddenly, realizing that Koushiro was exposed on his back. He moved Koushiro's body from his back and into his arms bridal-style.
"Light ahead!" Kagura's voice shouted, pointing forward. Takeshi could make it out, fortunately, and suddenly felt so tired. But he couldn't give up yet. They were almost there.
The ceiling gave in completely, letting go. Kagura gave a shriek that sounded more like Koushiro than anything else. Takeshi threw Koushiro's body forward, out of the tunnel, then grabbed Kagura's and did the same. As he threw Kagura's body, Koushiro shouted something at him he couldn't hear.
They were both out. They were out. Now all he had to do was-
Takeshi leaped as far as his legs would carry him, as far as his strength could. He reached for Koushiro – who was back in his body as he'd dispelled the technique – and his hands fell into the light – and then –
Hikaru stopped. Something didn't feel right.
Hanako stared at him. "Are you okay?"
He blinked. "Huh? Oh. Yeah. I just thought I sensed something. It's nothing but a gut feeling."
She stared at him for a moment, waiting for him to tell her something. When he didn't, she took a deep breath and rested a hand on his shoulder. He smiled at her reassuringly, and they kept forward.
Yasashi glanced back. He'd felt it too. Only, it wasn't really a gut feeling. It felt like someone had been following them. He glanced over at the other two, who were acting like they hadn't felt a thing. He glanced into the forest. Should he say something? They were the sensory ninja, so why should he interject?
So he shrugged and went after them, unaware that the enemy was closing in.
Aoi felt so defenseless. He didn't know what to do. If they retreated, which they could easily do, Kiri would die. But if they stayed here, there was a chance that he would die. He had no problem laying his life down for Kiri, but leaving her with Jinta and having her go back to a war by herself was something he never wanted to do. He would always protect her.
Kago crossed her arms, a triumphant smile on her face. Noppera-bo hung just in front of her, her two teammates sitting in the tree behind her casually. The girl was strong and she didn't need them to help her. She had the three of them.
Jinta cast a glance at Aoi. "Aoi?"
Kiri was in his arms, face flushed and barely awake due to the toxins in her system. Back when Noppera-bo had first grabbed her, it had injected her with poison. Aoi nearly cursed himself for being so stupid. How could he not see it was a trap?
Kiri glanced up, "S'okay, Aoi, I'm fine, you guys –" She broke into a coughing fit, holding tightly to Aoi's shirt. He gasped and held onto her, glaring up at Kago.
"Fine. We'll do what you want. But in return you have to give her the antidote."
Jinta knitted his eyebrows in confusion. "Aoi-"
"Aoi, no, don't-" Kiri managed, but had to stop due to her lack of breath.
Kago rested her hands on her hips. "Cool beans. Alright. Well, to be frank." She thought about it for a moment, one of the boys above snickering. "We want you to strip."
Jinta blinked. "…I'm… sorry?"
"You want us to… strip?"
"Yup. Not your clothes, of course, but strip yourself of any weapon or valuable you possess."
Aoi glanced down. His Thunder Blades. He couldn't give her those. He had them for as long as he could remember. Since the Red Street Massacre. And Jinta Executioner's Blade wasn't just something you could trade over.
Kago hummed, "Huh? What's wrong?"
Jinta held onto his blade's handle. "They're sacred treasures of our village."
"Oh." Kago stopped. "Damn. Well, I can't ask you to disgrace your village. That'd be cruel. So. OKAY! New plan. Stick with us. First item you get, its ours."
Aoi's eyes widened. "Then when does Kiri get the antidote? You said she would be dead within the hour."
"Don't worry." The girl shrugged and flipped her ponytail. "I can give it to her now. But I hope you know that if I give her the antidote, you're indebted to me. First item you get, its mine." She reached back into her pouch. "But I should warn you the poison won't just come out right away. She'll need more than one dose for her to get back to normal. So you'll have to stick with us and do what I say. Got it?"
Aoi and Jinta traded glances. Neither seemed too thrilled, but after looking over Kiri, they didn't have the choice.
"Fine," they both seethed. They were glaring at her. Aoi figured she must have been the devil.
Kago tossed the antidote forward. "You can administer it to her. Now we have an idea where an item could be, but we need some help with it. Whichever one of you can stay back with her, but we sort of need a long-range fighter."
Long-range. They would need Aoi.
"Can you give us a moment?" Jinta spat.
Kago shrugged. "Yeah. That's cool." She turned away and the two boys jumped down from the tree.
Jinta turned to him, "Are you kidding? You just so readily trusted the enemy!"
"I don't trust them," Aoi seethed. "But what else am I supposed to do? Kiri is dying." The anger from Jinta's face fell and he sighed, crawling forward and pushing Kiri's bangs from her face. She looked so horrible. Her face was pale, her cheeks flushed. She gulped, shivering. Aoi pulled the cover off of the antidote, holding it to his nose and smelling it. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Jinta took it and did the same, checking the color over. Aoi let him do so, because the Rebels were experts with poison, each and every one of them. Jinta nodded, "It's alright." Aoi reached over and pulled at Kiri's chin, and Jinta poured in the antidote between her lips. She coughed for a moment, but settled down and curled into Aoi's torso.
Aoi's face fell. Kiri was hurt. What was he going to do now? The only thing he could do was listen to whatever that witch said.
Jinta stared at Aoi. The boy really did care about her. He looked so lost right now. Jinta almost scoffed at himself – what was a dog without its master? – but he held it in. This would not be the time to laugh. Well, not when he was trying to convince Aoi he wasn't a Rebel.
"I'll go with them," Jinta told Aoi. "I have some long-range attacks. You stay back with Kiri. Alright?"
Aoi glanced up at him, his eyes puzzled. After a moment, the boy nodded, holding Kiri bridal style. He mumbled a soft, "Thanks." Somehow it still sounded hostile, but not as hostile as before.
That was enough for now.
When he opened his eyes, the world was dark. He stirred, alive, groaning. His eyes came into focus and he could see firelight at his left, and above the stars were blazing through the trees. He blinked, closing his eyes harshly. His head felt like someone took a pillowcase full of bricks and smacked him over the head with them.
"Kagura! Takeshi's awake!"
…Ow. Okay, that voice was annoyingly familiar.
Takeshi fluttered his eyes open again, rolling over onto his side. Koushiro and Kagura were before him, both with worried expressions on their faces. He blinked. "Who… are you?"
They were silent for a moment. Then, Koushiro screamed.
"NOOOOOO! He's broken! I knew it, I knew going in that cave was a bad idea! No, no, no, nooooo." Koushiro rolled over and fell into a heap. Takeshi was about to throw his hands up and say, "just kidding", but Kagura gasped and took his head into her lap.
"Takeshi, Takeshi? Don't you remember us? Remember? It's me. Kagura."
Oh, this was too good.
He blinked, as if trying to figure her out. He reached up and touched her face, "…Kagu-rawr?"
Her eyes widened, a tear in one eye. She pursed her lips, "Oh, Takeshi, I-"
He couldn't hold it anymore. He broke into a fit of laughter, making the two stop whatever it was they were doing. "I- I can't-" he managed through his laugh. "Too- too easy. You're – you're so dumb!"
He had to stop laughing when Kagura just continued to slap him over and over again. Between slaps she would scream, "YOU – GOD-DAMN – FUCKING – IDIOT! I WAS WORRIED ABOUT YOU!"
Koushiro came over and shielded Takeshi from Kagura by hugging him. "Oh, thank goodness! I thought you were really gone!"
Takeshi snorted and sat up, patting Koushiro on the head while pushing him off. "Sorry. Too easy." He snickered. "But, where are we?"
"Well," Koushiro started as Kagura stomped away from them, sitting as far away from Takeshi as she could but not so far as to lose the fire's warmth. "You just barely made it out. You did a barrel-role kind of thing so your legs were okay but your head was hit. I was so afraid because you were out of it and Kagura was out of it and I…" Koushiro sighed. "Anyway. We still have the fan and that's what counts. Oh!"
Koushiro reached into his back pocket and pulled out the Tessen. He smiled as he handed it to Takeshi, "I figured it would be easier to protect if I had it."
Takeshi nodded and took the Tessen. "Yeah. Sorry."
"No, no, it was my fault… After all, I was the one who set the trap off."
Oh. Right. Takeshi sighed and sat back. "Almost forgot about that. How long was I out?"
Kagura crossed her arms and huffed, "We got a nice eight hours of silence without you." She turned away angrily.
Takeshi shrugged, reverting back to his usual demeanor. "And nothing happened?"
Koushiro shook his head. "No. Well, a team walked by earlier. But there was only two of them – they were those Kusa ninja from earlier."
Takeshi raised his eyes. His mind went back to Yasuo. "Was-"
"No. That one guy wasn't there. It was the girl – Ritsu – and the guy with the mask. What was his name… uh, Mikaki…"
"Miyazaki," Kagura offered.
"Oh, right! Those two. They were all by themselves."
Takeshi knit his eyebrows together. If Ritsu and Miyazaki were by themselves, then where was Yasuo?
"No luck today," Hikaru sighed, falling back onto his rear. He ran a hand back through his hair, but smiled. "But we still have the rest of the week."
"Oh, yeah," Hanako droned. "The rest of the week to wander around aimlessly." She finished setting the wood into a pyramid, and Hikaru set it ablaze with his fire jutsu. The fire lit up the clearing, made Kiiromaru's golden fur flash as he scurried into Hanako's arms. Hanako smiled and gave him a little kiss on the brow.
Hikaru smiled, reaching up and pulling his headband off. He wiped away the sweat, sighing contently. But he stopped when he noticed Yasashi wasn't sitting down. The curly-haired boy was standing off in the shadows, surveying the area.
"Yasashi?" Hikaru wondered. The boy blinked and turned towards them with a hum. "Are you okay?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Something just… doesn't feel right."
Hanako held Kiiromaru close, "What do you mean?"
Yasashi came over and sat down, still seeming uncomfortable. "I… dunno. I just feel…" He glanced around. "I don't know. Just weird." The boy shook his head then grinned. "But oh well!" He stretched and fell back, "I'm ready to sleep."
Hanako rolled her eyes and sat against a tree, closing her eyes. "We should probably rest."
"I can take first watch," Hikaru offered. The other two mumbled their agreements, having no problem catching some sleep. Judging by the moon's position, it was either nine or ten o'clock at night. Hikaru couldn't tell exactly when. He supposed nothing big happened today, but they had gone through an entire exam and had been shuffling through the forest all day. It was sort of a tiresome thing to do.
He sat back. He wondered how the other contestants were doing. He wondered if anyone had found an item yet. That girl from earlier, Kisa. He wondered how she was. She seemed cute and a little helpless. He felt weird, someone as young as that going into an exam like this.
Oh, well. If her village thought she was alright, she must have been. It was the same for him. Technically, twelve years olds shouldn't really be trying to kill each other, but here he was.
He whispered just under his breath, "Guess that's just how it is, huh…"
"I suppose that's true."
Hikaru's eyes widened. A voice had come from behind. He started to jump up, but hands slapped over his mouth. He struggled and managed a scream. Hanako and Kiiromaru were up in an instant, and Yasashi was reaching for a weapon. Hikaru's hand flew back and caught the person in the face. The hands were off of him, and as soon as they were, Hikaru jumped forward.
Yasashi knelt by him while Hanako and Kiiromaru stood in front of them on all fours. Hanako growled menacingly, "Who are you?"
The figure stepped out of the shadows, a boy younger than them standing. He was small, with black hair and a Kusa headband fallen over one eye. The child grinned.
"I found you, Hikaru-kun."
*- Noppera-bo is a Japanese folktale. It's a faceless ghost. So Kago designed her puppet after it.
A/N: Dun, dun, duuuun! I had so much fun with this chapter. I love having so many things going on at once. Takeshi is amazing, Hikaru is adorable, Kiba is AMAZINGLY mysterious. And of course you've got to love Yasuo. I wanted to show more of Takeshi's team so I did just that.
Did I do okay on the Forest of Death so far? Sorry for the late update, but it was hard to figure out how I would incorporate all of the characters into it. Plus, with the holidays… it was just difficult. But its here now after two months (?), so I hope you all enjoyed it! Also, I wrote over 7000 words. BOOYAH! Long chapteeer. Haha.
Read it? Love it? Review it!
Until next time,