Snap Back To Reality 64
I sipped my tea and sighed. Hiroto put down his research papers and looked up at me from beyond his too big glasses. Silence was nice… usually. Right now it just made my head spin with a multitude of worries.
"You know you don't have to continue helping me with my chakra pills," Hiroto said awkwardly.
"No, no I enjoy the distraction," I replied quickly.
"I'm sure Orochimaru-sama provides you with enough experimental materials," Hiroto said with a wistful look.
I sipped my drink in amusement. No, he really didn't. He preferred a more hands-on method and using animals didn't give him the same advancement that humans did, especially not when the subject of his inquiry was on the human tenketsu system and its ability to draw upon natural ambient chakra. All we did these days was get onto nice, safe, boring work that didn't involve human experimentation, and had more to do with animal DNA crossover. For once Orochimaru was actually teaching me instead of going on his mad scientist rampage. It was nice… but that wasn't the issue. It was like I was living with a ticking time bomb, and any moment this façade of peace would crumble, and I'd be back in ROOT, with a noose around my neck. As impossible as that sounded, it was exactly how I felt. The war may have ended, but it didn't feel like it.
"He's been keeping me busy. I admit, I'm learning a lot, but I want to enquire into fields I care about too, not just the ones he wants me to look into," I settled on saying.
"You'll certainly make your own path in the scientific world. I'm sure of it!"
"Thanks Hiroto-sensei, your faith in me is refreshing," Hina grinned back before she put down her finished tea. "But I really mean it. I think what you're doing is almost as impressive as Orochimaru's research."
Hiroto blushed at the praise, curling a little into himself abashedly as he wiped his glasses looking entirely like the poster boy for flustered nerds around the world. It was adorable in its own way. I resolved that if I ever had the chance, I'd set him up with a date one day and get rid of this awkwardness. As endearing as it was, I didn't want him to be a lonely nervous social wreck forever.
"No one ever expected me to get anywhere with this research," he admitted a little dejectedly. "They said it was too ambitious."
"It is," I agreed grinning, "which is what makes it perfect. You have to set yourself a challenging goal or what's the point?"
"I really wish I had your confidence," he said scratching his head sheepishly.
"You do… but you're just too anxious. We can change that. Come with me today. You haven't met my Sensei, have you?" Hina asked.
"Your Sensei!" Hiroto replied his eyes widening with excitement.
I grinned a little evilly. I nodded, letting him get excited. "Come on let's go. I was meant to meet up with him and his team for a little while. For training that is."
"It would be my pleasure!"
I took the poor unsuspecting man with her to the designated training field she was meant to go to today. Hiroto was practically vibrating with excitement, eager to meet Orochimaru, but I had never intended for him to meet Orochimaru. I led him into the field where Gaku jumped from a tree, startling Hiroto behind her. Before the man could ask about what was going on, a large dog the size of a bear jumped him, pinning him to the ground before licking his face all over. I laughed besides Gaku and turned to see Kurenai and Guy stop their sparring to come over.
"What's going on?!" Hiroto asked.
"Stand down Yama," I chuckled as I dragged the dog back by his collar. "This is my Sensei. Inuzuka Gaku."
Hiroto sat up and fixed his glasses with a look of mild disappointment on his face. He shot me a weak glare, and I chuckled back a little mischievously.
"It's nice to meet you Gaku-san. I'm Hina-senpai's supervisor," he introduced himself nervously as Gaku helped him up. "Though I have no idea why she took me here today."
"Why did you?" Gaku asked me, raising a brow in question.
I grinned a little evilly. "Well I thought, my two sensei should meet, and also Hiroto-sensei is rather weak. A strong body means a strong mind, and I thought it was exactly what he needed to further his scientific career."
Gaku gave me a look that practically screamed 'what kind of bullshit are you spouting' but before he could even give an exasperated sarcastic reply, Guy practically shot from the ground in excitement at the mere idea of imparting his youthful training to someone who needed it. My plan was going smoothly.
"Hiroto-san, what a truly IMPRESSIVE endeavour! There is never an age limit to start experiencing the springtime of YOUTH! WE MUST TRAIN TOGETHER! Yosh, come with me!"
Hiroto shot me a pleading look of distress before he was dragged away by the exuberant green beast. Asuma shared in my sense of humour and we discreetly fist-bumped each other, but Kurenai was frowning as she shot me a disapproving look.
"Why would you do that to that poor man?" she asked.
"Are you bullying your sensei?" Gaku asked mildly disapproving too, although it was clear he was trying to hold back his laughter.
"Bullying?" I gasped in mock hurt. "Why, I'm just trying to impart Guy's youthful attitude to Hiroto-sensei… but no, seriously, I really am trying to do that. He needs to grow a little more confident, and who better to teach him confidence than Guy himself?"
"Can't argue with that logic. Hopefully, he isn't mentally scarred for the rest of his introverted life though," Asuma snorted.
I laughed along with the team before turning to Gaku-sensei with an expectant look. "So why did you invite me over for training today?" I asked.
Normally Gaku didn't involve me in his team training. Now that he had three crazy Genin to deal with, I only ever visited him and Nami casually. It was a rare thing for a Jounin sensei to invite another Shinobi of higher rank into training with Genin. Considering I was his rank now, it was an odd thing for sure. But I'd never stop being able to see him as anything other than my sensei.
"Today I was going to get everyone introduced to a weapon… although it seems Guy has run off," Gaku noted mildly amused. "Well, it wouldn't have been his style either way."
"It really isn't mine either you know?" I pointed out.
"Yeah, aren't kunai enough?" Kurenai asked.
"They can be, but it's also good to explore a range of weapons to see if any calls to you," Gaku explained.
I hummed in agreement. I pulled out a scroll on me and unsealed the large Fūma Shuriken on me. The team looked at it in interest as I handed it over to Gaku.
"It's of Kumo make. Lightning chakra metal. Where did you get it?" he asked.
"Killed a dude and thought it looked pretty good… what?" I asked as Kurenai shot me a disgusted look.
"It is fair to take resources of our enemies Kurenai-chan," Gaku chided his student, before he levelled me a disapproving look too. "… Although there is a level more respect towards those you take a weapon from.
"Sorry," we both mumbled, deflating a little.
Gaku turned his attention back to the weapon in his hands and weighed it in his hands with a curious look. "It's lighter and smaller than most Fūma Shuriken," he noted. "A traditional Fūma Shuriken is worn on your back, and takes up a lot of space, hence why it isn't often used. How did the Shinobi you fought use this?"
"He threw it, but he could control the trajectory with this string he held in his hands. I thought it was a good weapon since the Shuriken would be out of my hands most of the time."
"It's a good fit for aerial manoeuvres," Gaku agreed before he turned to his two Genin students. "Hina's done something good here. She's considered that her main fighting style is Taijutsu and found a weapon that she can use when Taijutsu isn't ideal that compliments her Aerial manoeuvres. That's what we're going to do today. Even if you don't use it all the time, a weapon can come in handy for certain situations."
I tried not to beam at the praise, but it was hard to do when Gaku was talking me up like this. I sealed away the Fūma Shuriken and went along with the team to look for potential weapons. It felt almost like a field trip considering I was hanging out with Asuma and Kurenai along with a sensei to keep watch.
"What should I get?" Kurenai asked, looking hopelessly lost.
"No idea. Guess we'll just see when we get there," Asuma said,
"You don't have to find something. There's no pressure. It would just be useful if you did," Gaku said, easing the nervousness the two felt.
I jumped up to my old sensei curiously. "Ne Gaku-sensei, who should I go for to study with this weapon?"
He rubbed his goatee for a second before humming to himself. "It's not a common variant of the weapon, but a Fūma Shuriken is pretty common in and of itself. I assume the throwing techniques will be much the same, except controlling it mid-air might require some other method. Best bet would be to use the library. You have about as close to full access as you can get now, remember."
I felt a little stupid for forgetting that minor fact. I had Orochimaru's personal archive to myself, which was fascinating in a morbid way, so I'd never bothered to go to the public archives. I nodded in agreement before losing myself in thought. There was a lot I had to do. I needed to improve my ninjutsu, work on a way to compound my chakra, decode a cursed seal so it won't be a future issue, and research the Shinigami. The list of things to do seemed to only be growing.
Eventually we got to the store and began perusing the catalogue. There were a few in-house orders that required some time, an up-keep section, a place for customisation offers and a bunch of little weapon add-ons like grip support and metallic holsters.
I'd never heard Asuma sound so interested in anything in his life before and turned to see him pick up a trench-knife. It wrapped over his hand like brass knuckles, and the jagged blade stretched further down. I whistled impressed. That really was a good weapon for a Taijutsu specialist like Asuma. In what was the quickest transaction in history, Asuma put down a wad of cash on the cashier's desk.
"I'll buy it!"
"Wait, maybe you should look around mo—" Gaku began, caught off guard.
"Sold!" the store owner said quickly taking the money.
"Thanks. I'm going to go now," he said waving at us.
"Kurenai hasn't picked out a weapon yet," Gaku said, crossing his arms with a frown.
"Exactly," was all the boy said before he left even quicker.
As it turned out Asuma had a point, because Kurenai went through each and every weapon, weighing it, checking for the smallest of details, asking for a history on its make, and overall taking too long. She perused through the entire store before buying the nicest quality chakra-wire she could find, and that was two hours in. Yama and I had gotten into a paw hitting contest for heaven's sake.
"Are you finally done?" I asked, whining along with Yama.
"Yes," Kurenai replied, rolling her eyes. "One should never rush a Kunoichi in a store."
Gaku rubbed his temple and mumbled under his breath, "I wish I'd left with Asuma," before he clapped his hands, looking eagerly out the door. "Well this was a… fun event, come back to me tomorrow with scrolls on basic weapon forms from the library. I think it's about time I teach you lot how to plan training routines on your own. It's an important part of growing up. You can't expect a teacher around when you become Jounin."
"I'm a Genin," Kurenai pointed out with a raised brow before her eyes widened in realisation. "Sensei, did you do this whole day for Hina-chan?"
Gaku was caught red-handed. I watched awkwardly as Kurenai looked indignant for a moment before frowning and storming out the store without another word. I looked out the door and then back at Gaku in alarm.
"Uh… Gaku-sensei, that was a tad bit insensitive… they are your real students you know," I said, scratching my neck nervously, although I was a little flattered.
Gaku put a hand on my head and sighed. He looked troubled. "That was wrong of me. I shouldn't play favourites," he winced, but his eyes turned to me, and he looked unsure. "But you're still young, and despite your power there's a lot more to being a Shinobi than protocol and becoming stronger. There's things that take time to learn and Orochimaru certainly isn't teaching you it. If he had his way, he'd mould you entirely instead of letting you take your own path. I've seen sensei's like that, and it always ends in disaster… I was just trying to help."
I put a comforting hand on Gaku-sensei's arm and smiled at him. I really was honoured, and in a way, he was right, and his concerns were legitimate, but I was worried he was wasting his time on me. Someone as genuinely kind-hearted, concerned, and caring as him was best deserved for people like Guy and Kurenai rather than me.
"I appreciate the concern, but you know how old I am—I can take care of myself. Kurenai though—she might be feeling a little betrayed right now."
"Sometimes I forget about your… age," he muttered, looking entirely out of his element suddenly. "Come by tomorrow if you can. You don't have to do the task. You're not my student anymore, but—"
"You'll always be my sensei," I cut him off.
He smiled at me, nodding his head before he turned to leave. Yama bumped against my chest, getting one last pat before he too left. I looked down, rubbing my arm a little off kilter. Something about what he said worried me… maybe it was the fact that it rung true. I thought Orochimaru was going to make me stronger, but maybe he wasn't. Maybe… maybe he was just ruining me in a different way.
Shikaku found me soon after, or rather he invited me out for ice-cream, which hadn't happened in quite a while. He was a busy man after all. I was too. There wasn't enough time in the world to meet up with everyone I wanted to. But I knew this wasn't a casual call. Shikaku didn't have the time for that. So I turned up in my kimono lab coat, with my Shinobi gear underneath, terribly unsure what the purpose of the call was for. I figured that wearing both set-ups could help if he wanted my skills one way or the other.
"It's good to see you again Hina-san," he replied.
Hina-san. Yeah, I had told him never to call me 'chan' again. After his betrayal it felt almost insulting to treat me so casually. I still didn't hate the man as much as I was entirely betrayed. So I inclined my head politely before ordering some chocolate ice-cream and then taking my place in the booth up the back. Shikaku must really like this quiet ice-cream store considering how often I found him here. I looked around discreetly, as did he, before he placed a silencing seal on the bottom of the table. We chatted amiably until the ice-cream came and then it was business… which looked rather hilarious considering we were talking about serious matters while licking ice-cream like little kids.
"Please tell me this call isn't for Orochimaru," I grumbled.
"It is," Shikaku sighed.
"Ok, give it to me. How bad do you want me to fuck him over?" I asked.
Because honestly, I hadn't really got any explicit instructions regarding this mission, which was stressful in and of itself. Maybe Shikaku would finally end this torture by helping a girl out. I was relieved when he handed me a missions file. Definitely the kind one would burn after memorising its contents, rather than a mission scroll you kept to file away.
"There are things out there beyond Orochimaru," Shikaku said after licking his strawberry ice-cream.
I opened the file and as I skimmed through it, I felt my heart stutter. So Akatsuki was already a thing? I struggled to remember when exactly they'd come to power. I had written down as much as I could in Hindi and English respectively on the canon events. Those notes could never be decoded so I didn't have to worry, but I hardly looked over it because my memory, all things considered, was pretty good. It didn't help that me from my past life didn't really care to remember Naruto and its plot points in its entirety. I could recite the entire plot down to its details of Full Metal Alchemist… which was super useless as of now. So I forgot exactly what Pein could do, and who he hired besides Itachi, Hidan, Sasori, and Kisame. I remembered Zetsu and Madara and Kaguya… and something about chakra fruit and the ten tails being related. It was all a jumbled mess in my mind even when I'd first come into this world.
"There's an outside group you think will take Orochimaru in?" I asked.
Shikaku nodded. "He's a likely candidate. It's within your mission parameters to stay until contact with said group is initiated. If it takes more than a year, we will retract the contract, and take you back. Once contact is instigated then you will stay with Orochimaru and gain as much intel as you can into this organisation and its agenda."
"How long?" I asked.
"Three months," he replied.
I hummed and nodded. It didn't feel so terrifying when we were discussing it like any other mission. It was also more than a little comforting to know I would be extracted if things went wrong. This kind of safety blanket didn't exist when I worked undercover as a double agent with Danzo and Shikaku. The safety now was thin, but it still existed, which was a lot more than I expected.
"I only have one request," I said, catching his attention. "I'm working on a way to break Orochimaru's cursed seal. I have no intention of letting myself be under his grasp forever. I'm close to finishing it, but I have something that I want you to keep on hand."
I unsealed one of my scrolls, looking around for extra precaution before I handed it over to Shikaku. He looked at the notes in his hands and his eyebrows shot up for a brief second.
"You're wasted on field missions," he snorted.
I smiled, feeling prideful again. Yes, I was smart. It was one of my redeeming qualities. I took to fuinjutsu like Kiri-nin to slaughter. It also helped that I'd just handed Shikaku a roundabout way to ensure anyone with a cursed seal could be broken from it. This was the basic blueprint to a finer seal. It was flexible and adjustable to someone adapt in Fuinjutsu to take down any kind of cursed seal. It wasn't just for the one Orochimaru made.
"This is the kind of information that could get you killed within your own village," he warned me.
"Yeah, I know. It'll be fun to have some prissy Hyuuga come for my ass in the future, but for now I'm tied down to a snake, so can you possibly fuck them over later?"
Shikaku looked like he was warring between amusement, agreement, and disapproval. He had an irritating habit of mixing business with feelings that hit too close to home for me. I took a longer moment after that to gather up words that would express how truly worried I was, without sounding too emotional.
"Orochimaru is… he's well, a lot of things, but he doesn't quit on things. He keeps going until he gets results, and he never puts time into a fruitless project."
"And you're saying?" Shikaku asked curiously.
"That he doesn't care about Anko and Rui, or even me, besides what he can make of us. We're projects of his, and so his attachment to us lies in the fruits of his own labour. As long as we improve and grow, he will have us around. I have no doubt he will place the cursed mark on us soon, and I will not have my team die."
Even just the idea of Orochimaru sinking his teeth into Anko and Rui made me cold with anger. It took everything within me not to just crush the ice-cream cone in my hand. I was happy the expression on my face was smooth and my breathing was calm. I turned that anger into determination.
"You wish for me to administer these seals on them should they be marked?" Shikaku asked for confirmation.
"Yes. Right now it only weakens the seals hold on the subject, but soon I'll have cracked it entirely. My field in Fuinjutsu was never about creating seals as much as it was breaking them apart."
It meant I didn't have the explosive arsenal a seal's master could have. I'd sacrificed the time I could have had making truly dangerous seals, to break them instead. I didn't regret it one bit. There was strength in defence as there was in offence. Sometimes breaking the hold over something on you was better than throwing one while still being held down.
Going back to Orochimaru was a mission. It made me feel the inching of the terror that came with powerlessness… the kind of terror of being under a heartless man who'd use your loved ones against you in the blink of an eye. It was a gnawing, edging anxiety. But it was different this time because I had chosen this—it wasn't done against my will, even though I knew in the coming months I would feel like I had no choice. It was impossible to be under men like Danzo and Orochimaru and to believe you were truly free, but I resolved I would remind myself now, so I wouldn't lose hope in the future. Things would get bleak and I told myself I would get through it with a sturdy heart and even tougher actions.
"You have fire in your eyes," Shikaku noted approvingly.
I nodded in agreement. "I have a job to do after all."
I was dreaming of a world that was beautiful. All the people I'd come to know and love were before me, and as I went about my day, riding a bike I'd been fond of in my first childhood, I could see them all waving at me, greeting me with loving smiles. I would get out of my bike, park it by my work, and go to my research lab. There Hiroto would wait for me and we would talk science and Hanami would drop by with some donated organs and we'd work on curing lung cancer. I told my first mother I would cure it after all. Such an impossible dream that we both loved to dream.
Then I would finish work and go to challenge Kakashi and Guy to some ridiculous challenges until Gaku strangled us to finish with stretches, then Anko, Rui, Kusari and Shisui would wait for me with a tonne fuck of dango. We would eat until we vomited, then I'd go back home to see Yua and Noritake babying Tsukiya, while Taichi and Matsu fought over vegetable vs meat dishes, and then just end up settling on bread rolls. I would go into the embrace of a warm family and then fall asleep to the sounds of their heartbeats from the rooms across, knowing they were safe and happy.
That world would be peaceful. We would spar and fight, and I'd be challenged at work, but in a good way helping people that needed it, and then the day would end with me sleeping. But it wasn't the truth, and I would wake up feeling sick and terrible, as if witnessing a nightmare… because that dream was a nightmare in the guise of a fantasy… because it wasn't real, and the very existence of something that good left me feeling angry and empty.
I ended up waking silently after that and stared at the ceiling in a kind of dazed horror. I slowly propped myself up and put my face into my knees and calmed my breathing. It was a nightmare. The worst kind were the good ones, where everything was perfect, and then you felt like you couldn't ever have that. That lack of control left a bitter aftertaste. Though I would normally forget it in a few hours, the feeling of disquiet would linger. I told myself that it was just a dream, and so it didn't really matter in the long run, but some dreams stuck with me—the ones I dreamt of my mother, of storms and darkened oceans, when I was fever stuck or in a time of desperation. But still it reminded me of little things I'd forgotten with the long decay of time.
"I wanted to cure cancer?" I mumbled, closing my eyes, and chuckling a little. Focusing on the good helped me forget the bad.
Even now looking back at my first mother felt like only good memories, but I knew back then it was hard, hard to watch her struggle to breathe as her own body ate away at her lungs, definitely hard to understand a concept like death. 'Breathe Joanne' she would say, as if it was me who needed help breathing, but even back then she knew I panicked too quickly. I smiled forlornly at the memory of her chastising me. Those had been easier days. Before I'd been bullied and lost all my self-worth, before I turned to anime and manga and junk food to solve my issues, before Josh came into my life and flipped it over. I'd dreamt of being something amazing and good. What kid didn't? I would become a scientist and cure cancer, so then mommy would be fine, and people would call me a hero. That rubbed the smile off my face.
Childhood seemed to always look bright to an adult, because children were simply ignorant, and ignorance was bliss. There was never an easy time, never when someone was alive. That innate goodness children believed they possessed, didn't exist. I didn't cure cancer, instead I went to a pharmaceutical and helped a company inflate prices on a monopolised drug, keeping thousands of poor people away from medication that could have helped them. I was just a cog in the machine—or that was what I told myself, to justify the large house, and beautiful wife I went back to while others suffered directly or indirectly from something I helped do. And now I was a shinobi, the farthest thing from the eager college student who'd begun her dreams of entering medicine to help people.
I huffed out a shaky breath. Why did it always feel like danger was around the corner? Why couldn't I simply sleep without always being half-awake and alert. I could feel the eyes on me at all times, the breath on my neck, the glint of steel in the distance. With those depressing thoughts I got out of bed and walked towards the kitchen, intent on finding something sweet to calm my nerves. I didn't expect Tsukiya to be there.
"Nee-chan?" he squeaked in surprise, before turning to me with an embarrassed expression.
I noted he was holding his favourite toy. It was a terrible looking dog ninken plushie. He normally tried to act mature for his age by rejecting toys and proclaiming loudly that it was for kids. We liked to pretend he didn't sleep with it. He must have been mortified to be caught cuddling it.
"Are you ok, Tsu-kun? You should be in bed," I asked.
"I'm fine. I was hungry," he said hesitantly.
"You're not eating anything… did you have a nightmare?" I asked, as I took a seat next to him.
"No," he muttered into his dog plushie.
I sighed. Why did he have to take after me and think hiding his emotions was cool? Seeing him do it made me understand how stupid it looked when I did it to everyone else.
"I had a nightmare as well," I settled on saying.
"Really… but you aren't scared of anything… except cockroaches," he said, sticking out his tongue in disgust, to which I followed suite as we gave each other looks of exaggerated disgust. I chuckled lightly with him after that before I quieted down thoughtfully.
"Your nee-chan is afraid of a lot of things. She's afraid of Taichi when he's mad—"
"—That doesn't count. Even kami would be afraid of Tai-nii when he's mad!" Tsukiya muttered.
"But she's also afraid of other things too."
Tsukiya gave me a look of disbelief, crinkling his nose up as if I was patronising him. I laughed a little nervously, a tad bit lost on how to give advice to a child. I grimaced a little. I wasn't much better than him, bottling up all my fears and insecurities. Maybe I was setting the wrong example. I sighed and decided maybe now was a good time to open up a little and teach him it was ok to feel afraid.
"I'm not kidding Tsu-kun. I was always afraid out there."
"In war?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's scary out in a fight. You could die at any moment, and all your friends could as well," I said softly.
"Have they?" Tsukiya asked curiously.
I choked up a little. "Yes… yes they have."
Tsukiya looked a little terrified at that. "I-I don't want my friends to die… it's really scary. I… I thought kaasan and tousan were somewhere far away, but Hiro told me that if someone dies, they can't come back, because they're asleep forever. I dreamt that you and Tai-nii and Matsu fell asleep forever to," he whimpered.
Tsukiya finally dropped himself into my lap, practically leaping at me for an embrace. I hugged him back slowly, running my hand through his hair gently. His head was so small, I felt almost like one wrong stroke and it would crack under my fingers. With the highest care, I gently pressed a kiss to his forehead and held him tight against me. I could feel his fear all too well, and while he was young, and barely growing out of that childish ignorance, he understood it all on some instinctive level.
"Your nee-chan will never allow Taichi and Matsu to die. I'd slap them right awake," I said, coaxing him out of his tears.
"Promise?" he asked.
"Promise," I replied, my voice cracking uncertainly. "That's why I'm a Shinobi Tsu-kun… and one day if you ever become a Shinobi too, I'd protect you."
"Cause you're the strongest," he mumbled into my chest, all love, and trust.
I trembled in uncertainty, weakness held my being in its firm grip, failure like a yolk around my neck. I pressed my face into his small shoulder and tried to ignore the feeling of danger around me, stalking me like its prey. Even in this time of peace, like a looming predator biding its time, its eyes held me in sight. I could hear in my peripheral, the sounds of battle, the clash of steel, the last gasps of air. In the face of such adversary, Tsukiya was right, there was only one thing to be—and that was the strongest.
Hina be getting a little paranoid now XD The aftereffects of trauma and war aren't something that'll let its grip on you go. Hence why these last few chapters even when the war's over she's been acting more on edge than ever.
Also if you like this story, go check out my other SI/OC story Good Ol' Fashioned Razzmatazz. Shameless advertising here XD It's a more light-hearted story, with a crack-head protagonist whose best friends with a racist snake, and is making her way through the Harry Potter universe as the harbinger of hijinks. If Hina is the serious duty-bound character, then Arete is definitely the free-spirited vagabond. Also their worlds may or may not be connected :P