Snap Back To Reality 39
~3 years later
I slinked into the camp, brush in mouth, senses overreaching as far as I could go. After a moment of pause I pinged my chakra out and pinpointed 3 seals on the premise, and two guard's underneath. I pulled the black cloth over my face and grimaced. I hated stealth missions because of these stupid masks. How did Kakashi do it? After taking a moment to grieve how itchy my nose was now, I continued on my mission. I dropped a summon snake on the nape of one of the Iwa-nin's neck beneath me before dropping straight on the other.
Form 1- Circle Step: Aerial Style Disarming Whirlwind
Then I twisted my thighs around his neck before a soft crack tore through the silence and the other man dropped down paralysed. I jumped off my unfortunate victim's shoulders before catching his body and dropping him down gently, and then I quickly dispatched of the paralysed man before taking a moment to check my surroundings. No one was coming. After breathing a sigh of relief I pulled out my brush and began on deconstructing the Fuinjutsu seals around the premise. With the last of the triggers to worry about I decided it was time to leave. I looked at the man lying down dead and sighed.
Well fuck, it was time to wear someone's skin again.
I made my way out of the camp easily enough. A few shinobi even afforded me a greeting. It always felt a little bad knowing they were speaking to a dead friend who was being worn by an enemy like a new pair of jeans. Certainly, that would be cause for some therapy in the future for those poor souls. I pulled out my red-taped kunai and began sharpening it, a visual signal I used to identify myself. Anko and Rui were behind me by the brush and I pretended to be guarding the spot in front.
"Was the mission successful?" Rui asked.
"Yes, I swapped the coordinates," I replied.
"Orochimaru-sensei told me he wanted us to implicate the commander with treason," Anko supplied.
"This late into the mission?" I grumbled.
Well this was proving to be as annoying as every other goddamn mission with the Sannin. I missed the good old days of just some simple brutal fighting at the border posts. Here I was playing sabotage and redirecting whole forces of men to the slaughter like it was a fun game of ninja tag. Now I had to wrongly convince someone that their commander was a traitor. Oh, the joy of this fucking job.
"You know sensei, he's smart but he likes to add things at the most annoying times," Anko sighed.
"Troublesome man," I hissed, before my thoughts were startled by a newcomer.
I signalled behind my back and both Anko and Rui slinked back into the shadows. The woman who came up to me looked like she was familiar with this man. She smiled and languidly moved too close, wrapping her arms around his waist and giggling.
"What are you doing out here? Already tired of Takimi's bickering?" she asked.
These kinds of questions were always problematic. I had no idea about this man's life or his relationships but judging from the way she had her hips practically grinding at his, I could make inferences. Still, I made it a habit not to respond verbally to personal questions like that. I had no idea of this man's speech habits or his tone, so I simply snorted before pulling her into a kiss. It was an unpleasant feeling, but I made it a habit to remind myself that this was simply a job and pretending to be passionate was not actually being passionate.
The kiss was abruptly ended by a kunai to my side. I kicked her away before flipping back. Her smile dropped and she scowled.
"Banzan has always refused my advances. You can drop your henge now," she scowled.
I sighed. Well, time to traumatise another poor soul. The man's mouth ripped open and I pulled my body out, feeling the regenerative liquid of the white snake drench me slightly. The woman was openly gawking at me now, her eyes wide, pupils dilated, and breath hitched. She nearly dropped her kunai.
"Y-you wore him," she whispered, before she visibly gagged and promptly swallowed her puke so she could be ready. Her stance hardened and her killing intent was palpable. I looked around and was more than relieved to find that no one else had come outside.
"Rui, Anko go get caught by the patrols up the west wing and meet me at escape point B," I ordered.
The only sound to indicate they left were the rustle of leaves. It meant they caught my plan. Everything had been going fine up until this woman showed up. She would have already alerted the guards to an intruder presence by now. Now all we could do was make it seem like we had failed in our attempts to infiltrate. It would throw suspicion of whether or not their assets had been compromised. They hopefully wouldn't think to double check.
I needed to wrap this up to go and make sure both Anko and Rui were safe. The poor woman didn't last a second against me. I had already summoned a small paralytic snake by her neck when she came in for the kiss. She was fated to die the moment she caught on. She fell to the ground, eyes wide and I stabbed her straight in-between her temple, ending her life quickly. I had no time to risk it in a Taijutsu battle, no matter how fun that sounded.
I turned to the sounds of Anko's cursing and sighed. A fucking long mission indeed and I wasn't even allowed to fight anyone properly.
~2 months later
The bath was scalding hot, just how I liked it. I kicked my feet up from under the water and trailed my eyes down to the unmarred skin where there should have been scars. It was baby smooth. A part of me thought it was a little unfair that I had been stabbed multiple times since my transformation, but I couldn't have any cool scars to show for it anymore. The only ones that remained were the major battle wounds and the ones I sustained as an early Genin.
"Hina, you've been in there for 3 hours now!" Taichi called out, annoyed.
I sighed, sinking deeper into the tub, and blowing bubbles out of my nose. I didn't want to come out. I'd spent months, yet again, killing enemy nin in Kiri with Orochimaru. There weren't many opportunities for a proper bath. I had the right to a little self-indulgence. It also helped that I was abusing my skills with fire jutsu to keep the water toasty.
"Coming," I called out reluctantly before emerging out of the water.
I went through a few hand seals and sighed contently as my body heated up, and with a burst of hot wind I was dry. Abusing jutsu for everyday purposes would get me scolded, but what people didn't know wouldn't hurt them, and with how long my hair had become I really couldn't be bothered drying it the traditional way. I tied it up in a ponytail at the base and glanced briefly at my reflection on the foggy mirror by the cabinet. Slitted eyes stared back at me and I pointedly looked away.
I threw on a black tank top and green shorts before making my way back out to the kitchen. After nearly ﬁve years of being a Shinobi, it wasn't so hard to pinpoint a little kid sneaking up on you. I had to hold back a grin and walk a little slower when Tsukiya ambushed me from the side. He jumped on me and I let myself get knocked over.
"Got'ch you!" he giggled.
I put a dramatic hand on my forehead. "Oh no the terrible Tsukiya got me! I am at his mercy."
"That'hs right! Hokage Tsukiya is taking you in now!" he giggled.
"Not so easily, he won't," I grinned back, grabbing him before toppling him over and tickling him like crazy.
"Stoph," he cried, his cute little baby lisp making him even more undeniably adorable.
Tsukiya's laugh would never grow old. His green eyes, a shade brighter than mine were so light and innocent. It made me feel both protective and content. His giggles were to die for. Taichi, who had become a mother hen stepped in to stop the fun.
"Ok, Tsu-chan. I told you not to sneak up on Hina, didn't I?" Taichi chided.
I understood the worry. It was a general rule of thumb never to sneak up on a ninja, least you want an accidental death. We were known for our auspicious trigger ﬁngers. Still, I thought it was a little amusing that Taichi assumed a four-year-old brat like Tsukiya could even sneak up on me in the ﬁrst place. Tsukiya wasn't thinking along the same lines. His cute face was in a pout. Taichi went for a long-suffering sigh as he got no aid from me. In this relationship I was the doting parent. One of us had to be.
"Go put away your toys and come sit down for dinner," Taichi ﬁnally ordered.
"Aww do I have tah?" Tsukiya whined.
"Yes, or no dessert," Taichi reprimanded.
The four-year-old sulked away. I chuckled, feeling immensely relieved that he hadn't been angry or forgotten me for being away for so long. The missions seemed to be getting longer and longer these days. Orochimaru, despite having a Genin team was called onto a lot of more high-risk missions. It would have been terrifying to tag along on such dangerous missions had Orochimaru not been our leader. For all his sadism, he would not let one of us die out there. It was more out of a selﬁsh need to not fail, than any kind of camaraderie or love, but it played in our favour either way.
All this time away wasn't easy though. It was just death after death, and not even the fun kind where you fought a worthy opponent head on in a thrilling battle to the death. Nope… nothing ever epic happened to me. It was always discreet assassinations, and boring sabotage missions. There had been a few key missions in destroying supply lines and breaking down Kumo morale, but things were looking bad now. It felt like the war would never end.
I turned my thoughts to the gyoza on the table. It had Mebuki's signature ﬁngers on it. Her gyoza was the best after all. After months of rations and wild meat, I was ready for some real ﬂavours. I helped Taichi fry it up.
"How much time do you have before your next mission?" he asked, mouth set in a thin line.
"Two weeks," I replied, feeling the tiredness set in. For all my battle lust when I was there in the moment, I was no good when the high crashed. Shinobi spent 99% of their time on travel, planning, waiting and about 1% of that time in actual combat.
"It feels like your breaks are getting shorter and shorter. How is the war looking? Is it going to end soon?" Taichi asked, a hint of desperation edging his tone.
"Who knows. Sometimes it feels like it never will," I admitted, closing my eyes and yawning. "Suna has ﬁnally decided to provide aid. They have a new Kazekage now."
"What happened to the old one?" Taichi asked alarmed.
"I don't know. Rumour is that he got assassinated. Either way, it's a good thing for us, but not for the war. Now we have more bodies to send out. It's going to drag out longer," I said stretching.
Taichi went silent. He normally did when he was angry. I knew his emotions weren't really directed at me, or I would be feeling it. He had very nearly complained to a ROOT ninja about my growing mission schedule and how taxing it was on me. I had stopped him before he could say anything, or he really wouldn't be alive right now. ROOT had me at their beck and call, but at the end of the day, so did the Hokage. Missions were missions. During war you really didn't have a say what you were assigned to do, you just did it. In that respect, shinobi from the greater village and ROOT were treated very much the same.
Danzo had more important things to do than torment me or any of his current lackeys. The Hokage had personally payed the Foundation a visit and hadn't disbanded it according to my knowledge. At the end of the day my enemy wasn't just the Foundation, it was the system, and maybe even the current Hokage. I couldn't ﬁght it for now, not until I tested something out anyway… and it wasn't immediately threatening anyone I cared about, so all I really had to worry about was the war... and yet it was still incredibly taxing. I felt so tired these days, but there was no time to simply sit back and relax.
The days hanging out by the red bridge river were over. I hardly even saw the kids anymore, besides Kakashi and team Shisui if we encountered each other on missions rarely. Anko and Rui, despite being my Genin team, were too far behind me to accompany me and Orochimaru on our missions and were often left at border posts alongside other Jounin. It had becoming a lonely job without Gaku-sensei by my side.
"You shouldn't encourage Tsukiya to ambush you. He talks too much about Shinobi," Taichi said, changing the subject.
"All kids do," I dismissed.
"No, he has that... look. I know he's only four but he's only a year away from being Academy age. If he— if he wants to be a shinobi, I can't stop him."
I tried desperately to keep my expression schooled. The very idea of my otouto joining the Academy sent my blood running cold. I wouldn't allow it. I wouldn't allow it on my life. I hadn't really given it thought before. All children played with toy kunai. All children dreamt of being shinobi. Tsukiya would grow out of it like all children did... right?
"I will stop him," I frowned.
"You know we can't. It's treason to stop him. If they ﬁnd out they can have you killed," Taichi said, shaking his head. "No, it's better to discourage him now. Then he won't agree when the Chunin come by for his consent."
I didn't want to agree but Taichi was right. The war was dragging, and children were out on the battleﬁeld now. The graduation age had dropped from 12 to 10 early on, but now children were being spurned out at 7, with barely two years of training. Granted they were only assigned to menial tasks at the border post or at the Konoha walls if they were lucky. To add to the already morally dubious nature of sending children out to war, let alone having 12 year olds work in the first place, they had also made it mandatory for all children to be given the right to consent to conscripting as shinobi at the ripe old age of ﬁve. Because of course ﬁve year olds knew exactly what kind of horrors they were signing themselves up for and were mature enough to give consent.
"I will talk to him. I will show him if I have to. Don't worry, he won't ever become one," I said ﬁrmly.
I wouldn't let him go out there, wouldn't let his vibrant green eyes dull with the weight of death like mine had. The smell of burning made me realise I might have forgotten to ﬂip the gyoza and I quickly scrambled to do so.
"I put away the toys!" Tsukiya said, bounding up to me and reaching up to grab my shorts. "Can you hold me upside down again?!"
I was about to eagerly pick him up and walk on the ceiling when Taichi shot me a look. I wilted, trying desperately not to cave to Tsukiya's cuteness.
"How about tomorrow?" I said instead, unable to shatter my otouto's dreams.
"Promise?" he asked with a big smile.
"Oh, look the gyoza's done!" I exclaimed in hopes of dodging a promise.
Thankfully, it worked and Taichi stopped glaring and gave me a look of approval. I shovelled the food onto three plates before setting up the salad. Then we sat down to eat, and I nearly melted at the taste of some real food after months!
"Tsukiya, use your chopsticks. You know how to do it. Mebuki will have your head if you don't know by now," Taichi reprimanded.
"I can do it! It's just so hard. I like my hands more," Tsukiya complained.
"Using chopsticks will make your ﬁngers really fast like mine you know," I said teasingly.
His eyes lit up and he looked down at his chopsticks with a look of determination. Then he picked them up and stuck his tongue up in determined concentration as he began eating. Taichi let out another sigh, shaking his head in disbelief at me. I gave him a weak shrug and chuckled. I looked back at Tsukiya, trying so cutely to use chopsticks and I wondered how kaasan and tousan would say. They would be so proud and doting right now. Tousan would be patient, chuckling a little at his expensive and Kaasan would fret and hover until Tsukiya would complain and do it himself if just to get away from her. That was what should have happened. It never would now.
3 years and it seemed the guilt would never truly leave. I had robbed them of their parents. I didn't think I deserved to ever stop feeling guilty. Now looking at their smiles, I felt oddly out of place.
I visited the Academy again. It was around 12 pm which usually meant I'd catch a glimpse of Guy running around the school doing his laps. He was unrelenting like that. For some reason though, I saw no Guy. It was another 10 minutes before I decided that Guy was in fact not here doing his runs, which was odd in itself considering he was timely if nothing.
I turned around to see Tsyuya-sensei from my time in the Academy. The stern lady didn't look all that much older, like she hadn't aged a day, but the permanent scowl on her face was largely the same. Oddly enough the lack of any change on her part was comforting.
"Tsyuya-sensei," I greeted happily.
"No need to call me sensei anymore," she snorted. "We're both Chunin now."
I nodded, unsure of addressing her as an equal, but unwilling to put up a ﬁght on this. Instead I decided to ask a more pertinent question.
"Do you know where Might Guy is?" I asked.
She blinked before sending me a look. "He graduated last month. Kurenai and Asuma did too, if you're asking," she informed me, before her lips took a rare upward tilt. "I guess you can't be sneaking them out of class again."
I let out a sheepish laugh, although it was a little forced. I was still reeling from the news that they had graduated. That probably meant Rin and Obito had too, and that could only mean one thing... Kakashi was probably stuck doing D ranks again. I couldn't help the evil giggle that escaped my lips before I turned to Tsyuya and bowed a little in thanks.
"Thanks for the info! Do you know where I might be able to ﬁnd them?"
Tsyuya's amusement grew if anything. "It shouldn't be too hard for you considering their sensei is an Inuzuka you might have heard of."
"Gaku-sensei?" I asked in shock.
Her smile said everything. I quickly waved a hasty goodbye before leaving to my old training ground. I dropped onto a tree and I was a little shocked to see Asuma, Guy and Kurenai all training with Gaku. I felt incredibly stupid when a bout of childish jealousy threatened to overtake me. It does as quickly as it came. In the end, I had left him for his own good. Involving himself with me further would have forced Danzo to get rid of him. He liked to have full control of his agents after all.
This was—this was good... Gaku had always wanted kids. I knew he couldn't have them, not with Nami going through miscarriage after miscarriage. This was good. It was what he needed. It was something I couldn't give him.
"Are you going to keep sulking up there?" Gaku called out.
The kids turned their heads up in confusion and I let out a little laugh before landing down and startling them. Gaku snorted, amusement, and... fondness running through his eyes. I relaxed a little at his expression, feeling more than a little guilty for my earlier jealousy. He had new students now, but it was silly of me to assume he cared any less about me, even if our relationship now was a lot more distant than it used to be. I did miss being carried around on his shoulders and training with him. It was a lot more fun and less mentally taxing than dealing with Orochimaru.
Guy took me from my thoughts as he rushed at me to pull me into one of his signature bone crushing hugs. I chuckled as he lifted me up a little in the air. Yama barked in equal joy, jumping onto my side, and licking my face.
"Hina-chan! You're back!"
Then he put me down and squinted his eyes a little before realising he was looking up at me. Yes, looking up because I was not a midget!
"You've become so tall! Truly the spirit of youth is shining on you!"
"That's unfair," Asuma said, measuring the distance between the top of his head and mine with his hands.
Kurenai just chuckled at their antics. I laughed too. Gone were the days of being a midget. I was still pretty short, as all kids were, but I was actually quite tall for a ten-year-old, being more the height of a twelve to thirteen-year-old now. Orochimaru hadn't been pumping me full of chemicals for me to stay a stunted shorty forever. I could exercise to my heart's content now and not have to worry about lasting damage to my body. With the added growth hormones and the strict nutritional diet I was put on by the Sannin, I had become quite tall and rather healthy too. It helped that I needed less food and only about 5 hours of sleep now to maintain my health.
Body modiﬁcation had its perks. Unfortunately, it had its downsides too, and the extra hours at night weren't allowed to go to waste. Orochimaru had me cramming in research and studies at every given opportunity, and I was ﬁnding it easy to contribute now rather than to just learn. For all intents and purposes I had become a legitimate assistant.
"I can't believe you guys became Genin, and you also happened to get the best ever sensei," I added with a grin.
"Laying it on a little thick there Hina-chan. It won't be getting any brownie points with me," Gaku chuckled.
"Oh well, I tried," I shrugged.
"Still no shame," he said amused, shaking his head.
I kissed the heavens for having Gaku as my old sensei. The Inuzuka's—praise their clan—were easy to forgive and forget. I was sure any other sensei would not be talking to me right now, not after leaving them as abruptly as I did. Gaku truly was a saint. I was just glad that he hadn't turned his back on me, even if I had to pretend to turn my back on him. At least now my friends would have the best sensei ever.
"Well since you're here, how about a spar?" Gaku asked, shocking me out of my thoughts.
"A spar?" I asked, curiosity peaked and a grin taking my face.
Even after all this war and bloodshed, my love for sparring hadn't died down. It was rare these days to simply have a good, harmless challenge with no consequences of death or punishment hanging in the air. Just a good friendly spar.
"You always look so scary when people ask you that," Asuma snorted in amusement. "That's why no one ever offers."
"Hey!" I said a little indignantly before grinning. "I just can't help it. I love a good challenge, and it's been so long since I sparred with sen— with Gaku-san. I want to see how far I've come."
"Don't be too eager. I'm going to beat you into the dirt," Gaku grinned.
"Yosh, this will be interesting! Good luck Hina-chan, sensei!" Guy said moving back.
"I don't know who to cheer on," Kurenai lamented.
Both Gaku and I stood opposite each other, taking a moment to appraise the other before bowing. Asuma said a subdued 'begin' before we both jumped into action. I went into my Tiger Palm and Circle Walk combined style. I had nicknamed the combination of the two the Tiger Wind style. It was almost instantly that we both engaged in hand to hand, and I found myself quickly on the defensive. Gaku was a Jounin, and he had deﬁnitely earnt that title.
"You've gotten quick kiddo," he said grinning.
He called me kiddo. My heart ﬂuttered a little and I had to chuckle to calm myself down. How did this man always manage to make me act like my physical age? I was 45 mentally now for all I cared. I wasn't going to be distracted by his damned fatherly presence.
"But not quick enough right?" I asked, deﬂecting another blow.
"I know you can do better. Don't hold back. Give me all you've got!"
"You asked for it!"
Then I jumped back and went through my hand signs with practised ease it rivalled a seasoned Jounin. I had done this technique so many times it was damn near well perfect now. The air ﬁlled my lungs and I superheated my bloodstream, pumping the blood to my heart at twice the speed.
Total Concentration Breathing: Walking in Winds!
I shot forward in blinding speeds, my palms out, and Gaku's eyes widened in shock before he hastily moved out of the way. I spun the wind around me expertly, using the wind cutter like a true professional before twisting my body in sharp to the right. Sensei jumped back before looking down at his ripped shirt. His wide-eyed expression slowly turned into a feral smile. I got into the Inuzuka beast style and gave him a coy smile.
"You certainly did learn," he grinned.
"Of course I did. I learnt from the best after all," I replied.
"What exactly are you buttering me up for kiddo?" Gaku asked amusedly.
"For the sake of it," I replied easily. "Now less talking, more ﬁghting!"
I didn't know when this became a solely taijutsu based spar, but I thought it was ﬁtting considering that was what he had predominantly taught me, whereas Orochimaru had focused on increasing my jutsu repertoire, and my general knowledge.
We engaged once more in a ﬂurry of blows, each attack blocked just as quickly as the other. I concentrated on keeping my breathing even, keeping my tenketsu ﬂared and aware at all times. Total Concentration Breathing was essentially a way of increasing your blood flow and accelerating your heart rate. It spiked my chakra as the tenketsu system was intrinsically tied to the flow of one's blood. I had spent these years increasing my lung capacity, training with a seal that essentially caused oxygen deprivation in controlled levels. It also helped me keep my thoughts focused entirely on one task. I only had what I could see in front of me to worry about and reacting when we were both at Jounin level speeds was manageable.
It wasn't until I went for a cheap shot, using what was essentially a self-taught fire bending technique with my feet, that Gaku became serious. He parried my palm before grabbing me by my stomach and twisting me in the air and throwing me down. I hit the ground with a painful thud, caught off guard by his sudden change of speed and precision. Had he been holding back? The breath left my lungs and my concentration breathing was broken. I tapped the ground to signal giving up and found myself being helped up by Gaku. We did a quick seal of reconciliation before I heaved a sigh.
"You've improved," he said grinning. "But speed isn't enough. When caught in enemy hands, it's best to use that head of yours to get out."
"I thought we were just going for a Taijutsu match," I said huﬃng a little.
"It was never speciﬁed, and a shinobi always looks—"
"—Underneath the underneath. Yeah I know."
"Wow Hina-chan that was amazing! You nearly kicked sensei's butt!" Kurenai chuckled teasingly.
"Kids these days, no respect for their elders," Gaku sighed, shaking his head before a smile took his face. "While I would love to continue training, how about we go get some dessert instead?"
I looked up at him with wide eyes and nodded eagerly. It had been quite some time, years in fact since we sparred and went for dessert after. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. It was odd to think that there had been a time when work was simple, when really, I only had to worry outside the walls of Konoha, when I was still a Genin under Gaku. Now it felt almost like Konoha was a death trap and the war outside of all things was safer.
Yama licked my face and I chuckled. I gave the dog some quick scratches around the ear and he yipped happily. I really did miss him.
"Will you be ordering chocolate nama cakes again?" Guy asked.
There was always an odd disconnect to my thoughts inside Konoha's walls. It spoke of family, imprisonment, happy times, and painful experiences all at once. When I remembered back to my first days in this world, trapped in a small body, unable to see or move, I remembered what it felt like to be truly helpless. It was an ugly feeling, a feeling I hoped I'd never face again, but standing admits a crowd of belligerent people, reminded me that I was simply one in a many, a leaf in a tree.
It was with these thoughts that I allowed myself back into my frequented bookstore. I gravitated towards the romance section and waved towards the receptionist. Ayama-san as I had come to know her, was a woman with very peculiar tastes. Mostly it involved domineering women who had a penchant for punishing their male vic… erm—lovers. I myself tended to gravitate more towards raunchy lesbian romance, but I wasn't really here for myself, I was here for Kusari. That meant smut free, pure hetero romance that didn't quite push the bounds of anything. I always vetted it of course. I had to ensure that the romance wasn't sending an unhealthy message because Kusari tended to take these things too literally.
"Good to see you've stopped buying that trash Icha Icha," she said, her lips dropping in disgust.
"I—it's not so bad," I mumbled, blushing, and looking away.
"It's indulgent porn, that's what it is. It has no heart," she said shaking her head.
I wanted to point out that the porn was actually very well written, and that once my body matured enough it would most certainly elicit a response from me, but I was not so open about my perverted tendencies as someone was. I had no idea how Jiraiya got around declaring his love for porn without being thrown out of decent society. It probably had something to do with being a Sannin. That had to be it.
"Actually, I heard Make Out Tactics is the next in line," I said, tugging at my collar and feeling my face heat up even more.
Ayama snorted, turning her nose up at the very idea, but she always took orders even if she was a book puritan.
"I've ordered several copies for you lower life-forms who have no taste," she said harshly.
"That's going a little too far, isn't it? Anyway, I'll take that and the new Suna Suna romance too," I said quickly, my eye flicking to the exit.
Another customer was sending me odd looks, and I cursed kami for not giving me doton as my elemental affinity. I wanted to be an ostrich and just dig my face into the ground and never resurface. Why couldn't people have a discreet back section in these kind of stores like they did in my old world? I took a young adult book from the more smut-free section for Kusari too. I reminded myself I was here for him—definitely not for the new Make Out Tactics. Definitely not…
"That will be—"
I twisted around and threw a kunai at the bookshelf at the back, startling the customer and Ayama. I hissed a threatening growl.
"Whoever you are, come out or there will be trouble," I hissed.
I was surprised when familiar dark purple and light blue tufts of hair poked out from behind the shelf. What was Anko and Rui doing here? Anko snickered, and Rui was a bright red, looking pointedly away from my hands. I looked down and I felt like my face was so hot it was steaming.
"Who knew our beloved senpai was such a pervert," Anko snickered, wrapping a hand around my neck.
"I-I… please don't tell anyone," I groaned, holding my hands to my face.
"It's a natural reaction of the growing body to explore themes of sexuality and romance. It is a vital stage in the human reproduction process after all. It's only natural to b-be curious," Rui said, looking more flustered than I'd ever seen him.
"Pfft you two are so lame. There's nothing wrong with some nice gratuitous sex. You guys are such losers. At least if you like it, admit it," she snorted.
"As if. I don't need people thinking I'm some kind of mini pervert," I said pushing her off me. "P-plus I read for the plot."
"Sure you do~"
"I do!" I insisted.
"Anyway, at least now we know where she runs of to in secret," Rui said changing the subject.
"Is that why you followed me? You did a good job by the way. I can't even smell you right now."
Anko looked way too proud as she pulled out a large bottle with some clear liquid in it. Rui took a step back and turned a little green.
"We asked Orochimaru-sensei to give us scent diffusers. It's made from the entrails of those dropoda snakes," she grinned.
"You… doused yourself in that just to track me," I said in disbelief.
"Want to try it on?" Anko asked.
"No thanks, I think I'll pass."
"Well your loss. More for me later anyway," she shrugged.
I sighed. I thought Orochimaru would drop their asses after a months' worth of hard training. He didn't like children all that much. Turns out I was wrong. For some reason he didn't ever let up on Anko and Rui's training, and he even humoured their little prank requests every once in a while, like a very distant uncle who occasionally decided to humour his nephews. My personal theory was that he wanted them to become Chunin as quickly as possible so he could get out of baby-sitting duties. As it stood both Anko and Rui were definitely going to be Chunin level this year.
Of course at the end of the day, I ended up with first dibs on the Sannin. Orochimaru was grooming me to be Kabuto 2.0, which was definitely a little aggravating, because I didn't want to be anyone's lackey, but it was the best I could go for now. In the event that I became stronger, I'd just pull a Sasuke on him, and become my own independent person after. For now I would very much like to keep my Danzo buffer, even if he was a sadistic fucker.
"Now that you caught me, why not just do our customary dinner now?" I asked.
"Well it's more like customary brunch at this stage, but whatever," Anko shrugged.
"There has been word of something, I would like to discuss with you two," Rui said, his seriousness once again dampening the mood a little.
"What is it now. We've only been back a day," Anko groaned.
"I'll tell you over some ice-cream. You'll be needing it," he sighed, shaking his head.
That didn't sound too good…
We walked towards the Akimichi district out of habit. People congregated there for the great food, but it was also a hub for shinobi. The bars, the barbeques, and the restaurants there were a great place to bump into people you normally wouldn't see. I had caught up with a few people from missions after running into them there. Safe to say ninja didn't have the time for relationships, let alone friendships, so even the odd friendly acquaintance and a quick catch up was enough. Unfortunately for me, Rui was like a walking talking human stink bomb. He dropped his very awkward self on people the moment they came by to talk and they went running in the other direction. The poor boy was genuinely a good person at heart, but he was awkward at socialising.
We sat down with an assortment of sweets. As far as we were considered anything was food, even if it was junk food. With all the energy we spent daily, and all the healthy, stringent meals we ate on the regular, it wasn't too unhealthy for us to binge on junk food one day after months out on missions, eating nothing but protein bars, cured animals and wild plants. I had ordered more than a dozen chocolate nama cakes, an ice-cream sundae and some mochi.
"So what's this serious thing you needed to tell us about?" Anko asked.
"Otou-sama informed me of some unrest in Kiri. Intel has it that there are rumours of a brewing civil war," Rui said.
It took a moment for my thoughts to settle before it came to me. Kiri, or Mist, had been the birthplace of both Haku and Zabuza. They were both ninja I remembered vividly from the old story I read in my previous life. I had lost many details, and I tried not to dwell on the speciﬁcs, but I still made sure to remember the key story points just in case it applied in this world. So far, the story was accurate, which had startling implications in its own right, although I didn't remember being one of the 'characters' in said story. I was a little confused though. If my memory served correctly, the Mizukage only went insane after Tobi began feeding him genjutsu via his Sharingan and aggravating his paranoia and hatred towards bloodline holders. Currently Obito was still Obito, which I very much intended to keep that way, and yet there were already rumours of civil war? What was going on?
"Yeah we all kind of expected that. Kiri is a shithole full of crazy murderous fuckers," Anko replied with a snort.
It said something when a whole village of hired killers thought another village were 'crazy murderous fuckers'. Kiri certainly had a bad reputation of violent unpleasant bloodlust. Not even Iwa and Kumo had such a brutal reputation. The only village that followed in the same brutality had been Ame's Hanzo, but he had reportedly been killed. Most likely by Pein. I really never wanted to meet that emo fucker ever in this lifetime. Hopefully, Naruto would just talk it out like he did in the story and things would be ok.
"Hina, you there? You're spacing out," Anko said, waving her hands in front of my face.
"I'm here. Sorry I was just thinking. So why exactly did you need to tell us this Rui-kun?" I asked.
"My otou-sama does not speculate often, but he is part of the Merchants Council. Kiri has closed its borders for trade, and it is affecting our already damaged economy. In addition to the diminishing trade, Suna has expressed anger towards Konoha for taking more of their jobs. They are in economic straights right now after another drought and their Daimyo is outsourcing much needed missions to us. We aren't in the ﬁnancial position to reject those. Konoha can't afford another enemy and now Kiri is on the list of potential aggressors in addition to Suna. They will be sending a team in soon, and Orochimaru-sensei is supposedly a contender for the role."
I melted into my seat and groaned. Anko cursed out a very angry 'Fuck' before she too pouted. I rubbed my nose and picked at my cake in irritation.
"This is too troublesome," I groaned, running a hand through my face.
"For once I agree. I've been on 4 long term missions! We were just out for 7 months. I want a fucking break," Anko grumbled before she screamed into her hands.
"This is the fate of being the students of one of the last remaining Sannin during a war of attrition," Rui agreed tiredly.
"If I ever get my hands on Tsunade and Jiraiya for running away with their tail between their asses, I'm going to perform a well-deserved technique on them," I grumbled.
"What technique would be effective against a Sannin?" Anko asked.
"A thousand years of death. It hasn't been made yet, but I promise you I will do it," I hissed.
"I doubt you will ever land a hit on a legendary Sannin, no matter how ominous your technique sounds. In addition to that unsanctioned ﬁghts against a fellow Shinobi outside of a training ground, especially a high ranking oﬃcer can be considered treason," Rui informed me.
I pouted. "Just let me have this you spoil sport."
"Well that ruined the mood. I was planning on teasing Vege-senpai for being a pervert all day, but now I don't even feel like it," Anko sighed dramatically.
"I'll consider that a win," I replied dryly.
"You really weren't kidding when you said we would need some ice-cream with this news," Anko told Rui.
We all took a big bite and died a little inside at the news. Ah shit, here we go again.
Wuuuuut! Did I do a time skip :0 YES! Was that a JoJo's reference? YES! I really didn't want to explore three years of what was essentially filler with Hina going on ROOT assigned missions with Orochimaru and her team, learning some fuinjutsu, and getting pumped full of chemicals in her downtime. The real story starts soon, or at least the beginning of the end of canon events, because Hina's going to be changing the timeline. Things will begin snowballing into the butterfly effect soon. I'll try and keep the changes logical, but say goodbye to canon Naruto.
Also prepare for a lot less angst ridden Hina. She's had three years to grieve… erm… compartmentalise. What you've seen before was a few months right after her literally murdering her parents. She's back to her 'old self' or at least she pretends to be, so basically back to her fun yet professional self. There will be more melancholic moments though. The failure of her parents still weighs a heavy shame on her shoulder :'((