Han followed behind Benihime as she led the way through the forest. It still all looked the same to him, the moss on every tree blurring them all together into a dizzying blanket of vibrant green. Benihime never got lost, though. Every step she took she took with a purpose, sure of both her origin and destination. He wasn't sure if it was because she actually knew where she was going or if it was due to the literal army of insects buzzing in the air around her, reporting on the whereabouts of the Konoha camps like they were shinobi and she their Kage.
"Come on, Han-chan," she said with a dazzling smile. "We're gonna have fun!"
That was another thing. The longer the Konoha shinobi remained in the forest, the more comfortable Benihime was with…disciplining them. Han would rather not engage with them, at all, really, but she was so adamant in exacting her revenge and he couldn't just let her go alone.
Well, he could, but Roshi would yell at him.
"Look, look, look!" She pulled him close to her, pointing down at the group of Konoha scouts as they passed beneath the branch she and Han were perched on. "It's happening."
Han watched as the group crossed some invisible threshold, going about sixty paces before turning back. Once they came to stand beneath the two jinchuriki children, they once again turned on their heels, going the full sixty paces before, again, turning back. This continued, the shinobi pacing back and forth, becoming visibly more agitated with every pass. Benihime giggled as she watched them, somehow entertained by their anger.
"Isn't this fun?"
He hummed, letting her choose the answer which suited her best. She was going to drag him around with her no matter what, so he may as well resign himself—.
Benihime's pupiless green eyes were suddenly only inches from his own, her rich dark skin and golden hair filling his field of vision. He leaned back, only the chakra in his feet keeping him from falling off the branch they shared.
"You know, Han-chan," she said, uncharacteristically serious. "You don't have to say yes to everything, but, for the love of God, learn to say no. So what if you don't like it? We'll just find something else to do. We're friends. Equals. It's not friendship if only one of us is having fun. Ok?"
Han blinked in the face of her fervor, surprised and confused by her sudden lecture. He must have taken too long to answer, because she took his face between her hands, squishing it.
He nodded and her serious expression dissolved into a bright smile, her nose scrunching with the force of it. She let him go and leaned back on her hands, seemingly content to ignore the people whose suffering had so entertained her.
"Awesome! So, what do you want to do?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "Whatever you want is fine."
The look she gave him was equal parts anger and exasperation. "I," she drawled, long and slow as she pointed one slender finger at the Konoha shinobi below them. "Want to watch these losers make fools of themselves. Something you," she swung her hand up to point at him, the crescent of her nail settling right between his eyes. "Obviously don't like. We need to find something else."
She was right, of course. She often was. It was why Han took little issue following her lead. Every once and while, she did something he couldn't quite wrap his head around, but that was fine. She was kind enough to try and include him, he couldn't just rebuff her generosity.
She sighed, once again correctly interpreting his silence as indecision. "How about this: would you rather go back to the temple? Yes or no?"
He didn't really mind either way. The temple was nice and familiar, but he was glad to be outside, though he couldn't really navigate on his own.
Sudden pain in his forehead had him hissing and he stared at Benihime in disbelief as she held her hand up menacingly, fingers poised to flick him again.
"Yes or no!"
She nodded. "Ok, so we're staying out here. Now, would you rather we avoided the Konoha guys? I know you don't like them, but I figured that might mean you'd enjoy picking on them with me. I should have asked first, I'm sorry."
He opened his mouth to protest but she covered his lips with a hand. Her short eyebrows were furrowed in a mock frown, the corners of her mouth twitching as she fought a smile.
"The only words I want to hear you say are 'yes' or 'no'."
Right. She pulled her hand away, one brow raised as she waited for his answer.
He would rather not engage with Konoha if he could help it. He wasn't as strong as Roshi and he didn't have an army of spies like Benihime. He was just Han. If they caught him, there wasn't much he could do to stop them from ripping Kokuo out of him. That was what the Tsuchikage said the other villages would do with him if they got their hands on him.
She nodded, accepting his answer. "Okie Dokie. We'll go somewhere else. How about—." She cut herself off, focusing on something behind him. "Oh, no, he didn't!"
She leapt over his head, launching herself at whatever had offended her. Han turned around in time to see her clap her hands over something on one of the trees. She crouched sideways on the trunk, her chakra holding her up as she held whatever it was in her hands. Han jumped over to join her and she held her hands out to him.
"Look! That slimeball filled my forest with vermin!"
Cupped in her palms was a bright red frog wearing a blue, sleeveless haori. It was glaring fiercely at its captor, anger clear in its amphibian eyes.
"How dare you!" It yelled, red body puffed up with indignation. "I am not vermin!"
"You're an invasive species," Benihime hissed, face twisted with more anger than Han had ever seen. "Completely nonnative. Tell me, little toad, what have you been eating while gathering information for that disgusting pervert you call a summoner?"
Oh. Oh no.
Han inched away, his fight or flight activating as rage emanated from his friend's cruel smile.
"I know for a fact that Jiraiya knows which god my temple is dedicated to," she continued, malice dripping off every word. "Sending insectivores to do his dirty work—is he asking me to kill you?" A look of sudden realization crossed her face. "Oh. Oh. He is, isn't he? I hurt one of his precious little swamp babies and he has all the reason he needs to launch full scale campaign against me. I bet your Boss will even come out to avenge you, huh?" She chuckled darkly. "As if he'd be so lucky."
The frog said nothing. Han wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but he did know one thing. Frogs ate bugs. Choumei was a bug. Mushi, too. It was only natural that Benihime be upset about someone eating her friends.
"Here's what's gonna happen," she told her captive. "You're gonna go back to Mount Myoboku. You're gonna tell the boss that your stupid human has finally gone senile and sent you into Choumei's domain. For every beetle you little fucks eat, we will kill one of you. Eye for an eye. You guys like that kind of shit, right? You'll see exactly how far I'm willing to take it! Now get!"
The red frog disappeared in a puff of white smoke.
"What was that?" Han asked. "I've never seen frogs around here, before."
Benihime scoffed. "It's a toad, and that's because this forest doesn't have any. Konoha's sent their spy master to try and ferret me out. He's no doubt trying to use his summons to circumnavigate the genjutsus littered throughout the forest, but not even the Boss Toad himself can escape the traps laid by the Sage of Six Paths. These little shits are trapped here and they're eating my bugs!"
Her green eyes flashed gold and Han knew Choumei was simmering close to the surface, his outrage at his mortal counterparts' deaths fueling his host's. Benihime's seal was weaker than either Han's or Roshi's, girl and beetle in constant mental contact. He couldn't imagine living like that with Kokuo, but the Nanabi duo seemed to manage just fine.
Until something like this happened.
Han watched as his friend was wreathed in red bijuu chakra, two long tendrils reaching out from her back like wings. She closed her glowing eyes and exhaled. A pulse of tangible power radiated out from her, washing over Han like a jolt of energy. Inside his own seal, he could feel Kokuo stirring in response. Back at the temple, Roshi was probably feeling the same thing. On the ground beneath them, the Konoha shinobi—still walking in circles, heedless of the drama acting out above their heads—let out shouts of surprise, rushing back the way they came and slipping free of the genjutsu which contained them.
Benihime took a moment to calm herself, taking deep breaths and patting her chest with a hand. When she opened her eyes, they were their natural green and Choumei's chakra had receded.
"Ok. Ok, we're ok. Han-chan," she turned to him and he sat a little straighter where he knelt sideways on the tree. "I'm going to make a suggestion, and I want you to say either yes or no. Ok?"
He nodded, already somewhat anticipating where she was going with this.
"Alrighty. So, as of two seconds ago, over four hundred beetles have been eaten by foreign amphibians. I am going to avenge them. I said I would and I meant it. Now, I think hunting down every member of an invasive species before it can completely eradicate the local fauna sounds like amazing fun, but, as we established earlier, your idea of fun and mine are actually quite different. So, if you want, I can take you back to the temple."
After that display? Nu uh.
Benihime continued as he shook his head adamantly, a small smile on her face. "I can give you your own beetle buddy and we can have ourselves a little competition to see who can avenge the most beetles by the time the sun goes down. Does that sound like fun?"