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A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Montage Arc, Devil Woman

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!


"A Song for Them"

A/N: So guys, a reminder from me to you! This time of year has it's own set of craziness that sets it apart from the rest and I know how easy it is to get swept away in it all, so I just wanted to remind you guys to take a moment to breathe. When you're weighed down under all the stress and the madness of it all, take a moment alone, close your eyes and breathe. It sound too simple, right? Trust me, it works better than you might think.

Enjoy the chapter.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the cannon characters! They... probably wouldn't survive me if I did. Really.

WARNING! RATED M! Language, language and language. Some foul mouths this time 'round. Oh and some blood and violence with mentions and use of alcohol. Ooh. That's a new one!

Exam Deux Arc,

Chapter Forty-Two: "Devil Woman"

"It's a Scientific Fact: You should never tell a girl she's crazy, unless you want to see crazy." -Anon E. Muss

Sora, June 3rd: Training Grounds Thirty-One (5:48 PM, 9 Hours Later)

Shit. Shit. Shit—Fucking snakes shot out of the foliage, aiming to immobilize my legs—Shit! I cycle even more chakra into my legs. starting to really strain them, and push myself off the tree branch even higher than last time, narrowly avoiding becoming a snake snack. I was really getting tired of this. I was tired of this six hours ago when she first summoned the human-sized blue snake and freaked me the hell out. I mean, Snakes!? Are you fucking kidding me with this, Kakashi?! This had to be some kind of sick joke. Why the hell is there another Snake summoner anyway!? I thought only Orochi-dickhead had the contract!

I know you're freakin' out and all, but even I'm getting a bit shell-shocked by all your language-I mean, you've NEVER monologued like this before! Terra decided to input, because this was such a great time for it! I'm serious. she insisted. Is... this all from The Box? Because that still hasn't shown back up again so we could shove Mz. Crazytown right back in and bury her in the deepest part of our consciousness.

So not what I need right now. Right now I need to focus on my immediate survival. I turned my voice inward, 'Remember that, Terra? Here's your beloved survival instinct you say I'm so lacking in! Trying to survive the crazy person stalking my body, we can deal with the crazy one in my head for later!' I felt her about to add in what I really didn't need to hear and cut myself off, 'And I don't want to hear what in the hell the Snake from the Brand has gotten into either! Just—Handle. It. Please?'

She finally quieted and I focused on the present. I've already had several close calls since Anko started this violent game of cat-and-mouse, it hadn't taken me long at all to realize that she really hadn't been kidding when she said if I survived. I had a really bad feeling that the only reason I haven't been eaten by now was because the chick was really enjoying toying with me like this.

Distantly, I heard an evil woman's cackle echo through the forest in the most eerie way possible, prompting me to run faster.

I'd already been running for hours and I don't think that I can for much longer. Why did this turn out to be one of the biggest goddamned training grounds in the entire goddamned Village!? My eye caught on the orange rays of light streaming through the trees, over the southwest mountain range. The sun is almost set, her damned test was almost officially over. I was dripping with sweat, covered in a layer of filth, had more than a handful of cuts littering my person and my entire body felt like one, big bruise.

I could do this.

I finally put a good amount of distance between me and her chakra and the much fainter chakra signatures of all her damn snakes, I hid behind a very large Hashirama tree and bent over at the waist. I desperately tried to catch my breath, pressing my back against a tree, keeping my balance on the branch and suppressing my chakra like my life depended on it. Which, it kinda did at this point. I heard the sounds of an unstoppable force of nature tearing through the forest behind me. I was reminded that I couldn't stop. If I got caught here and now, I was as good as dead or whatever the Crazy Lady had planned for me. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs, before resuming my pace. I'd seen a good-sized clearing with a water source about an hour-and-a-half ago and I think that I've run all the way back around to it now. It would do for a bit of improvisation.

I leapt through the trees, palms scraping against the bark as I used them to help propel myself across the gaps. Getting a good distance away I decided to glance over at my shoulder and was reminded to run much faster than I already was. Intent spiked behind me, I lurched to the side and felt a displacement of air behind me, a whipping and sudden wind assaulted my back. The creature's head crashed into the tree, the force of which splintered the tree into too many pieces for me to dodge them all. I rolled, barely managing to grab another branch with my chakra before I fell off and to the ground twenty feet below and wound up dead.

Positive thoughts, Sora. Think positive thoughts.

Panting, I slowly pushed myself back up on tired limbs, muscles burning from effort, and my eyes met with slit, reptilian blue eyes. I swallowed thickly, sweat dripping from my face. The person-sized snake reared back, it's tail rat-tat-rattling as it coiled up. I saw fangs as it opened it's maw wide, large enough to show me that it was fully capable of swallowing me whole with ease.

Fudge. Terra summarized aptly. Fudge, indeed. I cycled chakra through the muscles in my legs and kept leaping through the trees, not daring to turn around again as I heard it pursue.

Snakes! Why did have to be snakes?!

I broke through the tree line into a damned clearing. Not the one I'd been looking for either—just how big was this Training Ground!? And was there really no one around for miles!? I tumbled on the dirt, my knees buckling in an embarrassing manner as I fumbled the landing. The large blue rattlesnake came soaring through the air right after me and I scrambled to my feet again, dirt pressing into the wounds on my hands. It coiled up on the ground before launching at me again like a—holy hell! It's jaw unhinged as it flew towards me and I reacted on instinct, weaving my hands into Tiger, Boar, Ox, Dog, Snake—I latched on with my chakra and pulled. In the next seconds I was ten meters away from my previous position, and feeling like hurling after that sudden displacement in space. I really hated using the Kawarimi, it was a last resort if I could help it. You hardly ever get lucky enough to find a log that could exactly match your weight in the wild. Nothing nicely chopped-up like the anime shown either. Most jonin that use that as an valid technique in a fight have to bring their own and that is just a pai—

—There was a loud 'CRUNCH!' from behind me, I turned ever so slightly to see how my log replacement was shattered in the snake's mouth. Did snakes even have jaw strength like that?! What the hell! I swallowed, my mouth very dry. It began to hack up the splinters of log and sensing Anko was still on route by a good distance -she was being purposely slow. Probably confident in her monster's abilities and decided to let it deal with me while she screwed off- so I took this as my chance to finally strike back. I reached into both my tools bag and my kunai holster, pulling out a smoke bomb and a kunai with a black cloth tied to it along with a tag wrapped around a kunai of it's own. The snake finished and turned it's slit, yellow eyes back to me.

It dashed towards me and I threw the smoke bomb at my feet, it erupted in a grey cloud and I closed my eyes, holding my breath, feeling the snake halt just outside of my shrouded position. I threw the black cloth kunai, pulsing chakra into it as I did. I watched in my minds eye as it's chakra was thrown to the side as my pressurized net released from the storage seal, wrapping it up in a nice little package. I charged the tag of my second kunai and aimed at the corner of the wire net, the second it connected with the very conductible wire that snake lit up like a Christmas tree. The taser was active for about twelve seconds before I felt the snake's chakra disappear along with all the smoke. Not bad tolerance. It was a decently high charge, too.

I allowed myself to smile in vict—Intent spiked—my torso bent as my heart leapt into my throat. Anko was in front of me, kunai in hand as she slashed at me, nearly tearing open my chest and more importantly, my favorite shirt! Damn it! She'd closed the distance way faster than I had been prepared for! I thought I'd at least have a second of breathing room before she caught back up! I quick-stepped backwards to get out of her immediate reach but she was on me again, already bringing her kunai down. I wasn't fast enough to completely dodge the second strike, she cut open my left forearm. My mouth opened in a silent string of curses, she was the one to jump back after that. I clutched my arm, noting how deep of a wound it was though no arteries or major veins were cut. I tried to control my erratic breathing, forcefully blowing my long hair out of my face. I regret not tying it today. I grit my teeth and glared at the woman for all that it was worth.

She grinned sadistically.

"What are you going to do, little girl? Cry? Are you gonna cry?" she asked, a mocking smile on her lips. "Please. Cry for me. That'll just top off my whole damn day."

There was a buzzing in the back of my skull, making my head uncomfortably hot. Anko wasn't toying right now, not anymore. She could have just killed me then! If I had been any slower then she would've-No. No, she wouldn't have. I bit my lip, focusing on that pinch instead of the burning on my arm. Calming myself. I focused on the facts. Fact is; this crazy-ass chick was chosen by Kakashi, and there's no way that Scarecrow would choose someone so bloodthirsty and homicidal to leave his own student in her special care. He wouldn't do that to me. I knew, Anko isn't—wasn't going to kill me. Not today, at least.

I watched with no small amount of alarm as she lifted the end of the bloodied kunai, bringing it to her lips. I watched, frozen in place, as she flattened her tongue against the blade, licking my dripping blood off the edge.

Ugh, that's just nasty.

Right, just because she wouldn't kill me, didn't mean that she wasn't going to make this experience as painful as possible for me. In the back of my mind I began counting possible escape routes -it was nearly sundown. Not long now- and kept a very close eye on the violet-haired woman's every movement. She's a lot faster than she's been leading me to believe, got right in my face instead of ranged so she's probably better than me at Taijutsu. Granted that's not saying much, I suck at Taijutsu in comparison to everyone else around me. If I can distract her though, like with a flashbang or a smoke—

—I can't feel my arm anymore.

My eyes widened and snapped to my bleeding arm. I couldn't feel it anymore! Hold crap, why couldn't I feel my arm anymore? I heard laughter. I looked up to see Anko pressing the back of her hand to her mouth as she snickered.

"Having trouble over there? Heh, I bet you are." she taunted. I scowled. I released my grip on my quickly numbing arm, raising my other hand to ask just what in the hell did she do to me when my eyes supplied the answer for me, stopping my very ability to breathe. One, small glimpse of skin answered all my questions about Mitarashi Anko and gave me a shit-ton more.

I saw the Cursed Mark of Heaven on her neck.

She belongs to Orochimaru.

She has a Brand.

She can summon Snakes.

Snakes have poison—she poisoned me. Orochimar—I was-am poisoned. FocusFocusFocus—Currently being poisoned. HisHandOnMyCheekOrochiFuCkinGMaru—ExpeRImEnTtSheIsHis-



Poison. Imminent Death. Threat? No. Kakashi-chosen. Trust.

…trust her?

Breathe. Deep Breaths.

"The fuck are you lookin' at?" she asked tightly.


I haven't stopped staring at the Cursed Mark.

Anko's eyelids drooped low and her smile fell away. Her brown eyes were cold as she looked at me, her Suffocating chakra burning with anger and pain. I tightened my jaw, unease filling every bone. I could see the small markings of the Fuinjutsu from the Evil Sealing Method around her own Mark, the same as the one on mine. That was moderately reassuring. That and I couldn't sense any actual Killing Intent from her but with all this pain from my arm disrupting my focus I can't really rely on it as I'm doing my best right now not to have a breakdown. This just comes back to trusting Kakashi's decision because I... I didn't know Anko. I only remember brief, fleeting, fuzzy images of the woman from Before. I didn't know who she was, what her role was in the story or anything like that. Mitarashi Anko was unknown to me and I had no idea what her real motivations are and I had no idea why the hell she was so angry with me for! I... I...

I need distance. More distance gives me more time to think. She let me reach for a kunai, one with a white cloth tied to the handle. I charged the tag on the handle and threw it at the ground between us, the flashbang went off and I ran, feeling the briefest of surprise from her chakra as I planted my foot on the side of the tree and ran up the side. I made the first leap through the trees and stumbled, legs trembling underneath me. I also noticed with rising alarm that I've lost all feeling in my left arm and it was creeping along my shoulder now. Shit. I sensed her begin to pursue again, even faster than she has all day.

I heard her voice call after me, "You can keep running, maggot, but you can't get away from me!"

Let... Me... Out...

I tripped, nearly falling off the tree and plummeting twenty-feet to the ground. I couldn't feel my toes anymore and it was very alarming how my calves and thighs were fucking tingling now. This was bad. If it's traveled to my extremities then how long until I can't move anymore? It's has a fast-acting paralytic agent but I can only guess at how strong it is-what about my organs? Will it stop my heart? BadBadBadBad—I closed my eyes tightly, feeling the buzzing grow louder and louder... I heard a sweet, calm whispering at the edge of my mind. My hands gripped the bark of the tree. Vaguely, I could sense Anko quickly approaching. Hell, I could hear her. She's stopped with all semblance of stealth as she tears through the trees behind me, snapping the branches from the force in her steps.

I turned around to face her head-on. Forty meters. Pressing my back against the tree in the only way I could remain standing, I couldn't get any farther away than this. Desperate times. Twenty-eight meters. I reached a tingling hand into my tools bag as I sensed her ten meters away. I tightened my grip on the handle of my Storage kunai, ready to launch the net. No choice but to do the same trick twice. I was out of time and out of room. I could see her now, leaping across the branches, I just needed to wait until she was within range. Eight... five... here she comes!

Anko's sandal pushed off the branch hard, nearly snapping it with the force of her jump. Then she was in the air, a wild grin on her face and in her eyes as I felt a sickening pressure weigh on my chest from the—Choking-KillingIntent—hitting my every sense like a hammer. Shit. Two meters. I gasped for air that would not stay, pulsing chakra into the tag and unsealing the pressurized net. The wire net appeared with a 'poof!' and shot out, snaring Anko in it's length and her body went flying backwards as—


My stomach dropped.

A log was in the net.


My head snapped up from the substitution to see Anko jumping down from above, through the tree canopy, bringing her kunai down towards my head. I couldn't move, frozen in place. My blood ran cold as my mind supplied images of another predator, in a situation all too familiar to this. My back against the tree, paralyzed. -ATooWideSmileStretchedHisFace- The sound of my heart pounding in my ears was the only thing I could hear. -HeWasTwistedAndDarkLikeANightmare- It was happening all over again. I... I... -Can't BREATH—Can'tSCREAM-

The Snake was coming for me.

It felt like a switch flipping on.

One second I was overcome with pure, animalistic fear at the oh-so very familiar situation and then, like a switch being flipped, there was chakra burning through my skull and into my eye-sockets. My vision bled. A warmth slid down my cheeks and I watched the reD reflect in her eyes, turning them from dusky brown to a glowing red. Her mouth opened slightly in a gape as her body went slack, feet sliding as she lost her footing and falling—falling—falling—My mouth opened in a silent scream as I lurched forwards and reached out, fingers brushing against her jacket sleeve. My fingers wouldn't—couldn't bend to grip the fabric. No—she slipped out my grasp. I watched as Anko fell through the air.

I couldn't move my arms or legs anymore, the poison has spread throughout my entire body now. Below me, I heard as her body hit the ground with sickeningly solid 'THUD!'

I... couldn't feel any chakra from her anymore.

Her body was sprawled out on the forest floor, she wasn't moving. Her head was facing the wrong direction, bent wrongly with wide, unseeing brown eyes.

A chill began to seep into my bones, turning my blood cold.

She was dead. I stared, unable to look away. She was dead because of me. Dead—She was dead—It can't—I can't—Anko, she-my tears mixed with the blood, running down my face-NonoNOnonono-What have I doneWhywhywhyWHYwhy-Anko, she... Oh, God. What have I done? I-I—Her body dissolved into a pile of writhing grey snakes.

I choked on my sob. Relief filling my every limb as the woman I thought I'd just killed jumped down from the tree canopy, landing on the same branch as me. She was staring down at me, an apathetic look on her face and in her eyes. My mouth twisted into a snarl, anger flooding my senses as I realized what just happened.

She did that on purpose! She let me think that I killed her! She—she-Fucking, shit-shitty, mind-screwing, shitty person! Who fucking even does this kind of shit!? Mitarashi Anko, that's fucking who! She reached a hand down and grabbed my chin firmly. I recoiled, turning my head to try and wrench it from her grasp. In her other hand was a flask of a yellow-tinted substance and I was still pissed as hell to do anything she wanted right now. I struggled harder against her.

Her face twisted into a snarl and she barked at me, "Stop fighting, you brat! It's the goddamned antidote!"

I was still struggling as she used her other hand to pry open my mouth and dump the liquid in, before I could get the chance to spit it back into her face she forced my jaw shut, holding my nose so that I had no choice but to swallow the foul liquid. It burned my throat on the wall down. She let go and I gasped for air. Panting, I looked up at her from under my eyelashes and glared with all the anger and pain that was still left inside me. She 'hmph'd' at my expression before crouching low in front of my still-numb form, wrapping her arm around my back before lifting. I felt the intense and sudden urge to throw-up as she adjusted me over her shoulder and shunshin'd us out and away from the training grounds.

By the time I was recovering moderate feeling in my legs the sun had fully set and the sky had turned into a pleasant shade of plum, a splattering of bright stars finally beginning to peek out. It really was pretty. Too bad I couldn't get a chance to actually enjoy it as I was currently being blinding by all the glaring neon signs of the Red Light District. Personally, I've spent a number of days here on my own over the years simply because the clothing and other living necessities were cheaper than the rest of the stores around the Village. The people here were a lot less judgmental, too. But that wasn't the point, I was an unusual case due to extenuating circumstances. The point was that one Mitarashi Anko didn't seem to have any damn scruples about parading a fourteen-year-old minor through these streets in a seemingly aimless fashion! Yes, yes, technically I'm considered a legal adult by the Village's standards because I have a hitai-ate but that's only by the military's regulations. I can go fight and die in any wars like any fully-grown adult, yippee. But in the civilian populace's eyes? I was still a fourteen-year-old street rat and under the drinking age set by the domestic portion of the Village leadership.

Another Onee-san giggled at the sight of us while her... companion tried not to stare and be overtly rude. I had my arms crossed petulantly over one another as Anko shamelessly marched through the middle of the stone street, my still-tingling body slung over her shoulder like a fresh kill. I somehow felt like that was a very accurate description of my situation right now, doubly so when you take note of the reddened bandage tied haphazardly around the gash on my arm. It was very close to being mortifying. Close only because I knew that if I tried to walk on my own right now, I'd end up doing a spectacular impression of a newborn fawn, with my face on the ground and my ass in the air as my legs wouldn't cooperate.

So, I sulked.

More than once as we passed alleys where questionable deeds were going on, I was tempted to try and make my escape but then completely threw out that idea because I think it would only serve to amuse my captor even more. I took this time to think and wonder instead. To think about the many ways I will take my revenge on my dear silver-haired sensei for his questionable choice in substitute teachers. To wonder what exactly this Devil Woman was going to do to me and if it was going to be emotional or physical torture? And to wonder why it was that I kept ending up slung over people's shoulders? I mean, really? This happens way too often to me.

Suddenly Anko stopped in her tracks, turning and walking towards a building that was the very definition of 'shady' from what I could make out. Grey, cracked and dirty walls with darkened windows, no sign or flag with the name of the building that I could see. From outside I could barely hear the faint sounds of voices and music streaming from it, much quieter than the rest of the establishments here. My interest was piqued when I was able to sense a number of refined chakra signatures inside. She stepped down a few stairs to a archway that was out of sightline of the street and walked us under a red curtain, the volume of the chatter and music increased dramatically and I was suddenly surrounded by the distinct smell of alcohol. That's right ladies and gentlemen, Mitarashi Anko kidnaps minors and takes them to a bar! I resisted a sigh. I really shouldn't be so surprised by much she does from this point. Anko leaned forward, roughly setting me back on my feet.

"Go see Gobe at the bar, he'll get'cha what you need for that arm." the Devil Woman said before turning and leaving me standing in the middle of a goddamned bar.

I raised a hand and pinched the bridge of my nose, feeling the effects of a massive headache that the chatter around me did not help to ease. Patience, I reminded myself. There was -hopefully- a purpose behind her dragging me here after our nightmare game of tag. Glancing around the large wood-paneled room and at the faces of it's patrons, I quickly realized a few things. The abnormal amount of refined chakra was because just about everyone in here was a shinobi. My eyes darted from the round wooden tables to the booths lining the room, recognizing a fair few faces from regulars at the Mission Assignment Desk to some teachers from the Academy!

The restaurant had no name out front because it was a ninja bar.

…well, okay then.

I kept track of where Anko went to sit -booth, corner of the room, already had a drink in her hand- and decided to do as she suggested and take care of the wound she caused me. Finding the actual bar counter was a simple matter. It was the centerpiece of the bordering-on-crowded room with all the tables arranged around it in a way I assume was easiest for the waiters and waitresses to move about. The large, muscled man with the surprisingly military-styled buzz-cut behind the bar whom I could only assume was 'Gobe' took one, scrutinizing look at me as I walked up.

"Shit." he evaluated.

I nodded in agreement, leaning my non-bloodied arm on the bar counter. That about summed up how I felt in one word.

"Mitarashi?" he asked, like this was an expected result. Did he see her drop me off with all these other people in the way?

I nodded again. His onyx eyes landed on the part of my face that felt like it was swelling up very nicely and he nodded to himself, turning his head and shouting over the many other voices present. "Ume! Need some first-aid at the bar!"

I followed his line of sight and saw caramel hair, a shapely and fit form disappearing into a side room for only a moment before reappearing with a tray of what I hoped to be medical supplies. Ume, was wearing an apron so I assume that she worked here but she... oh. I blinked as she approached closer and I could see her arms. Her arms were made of wood. She had two prosthetic arms, puppet arms if I'm not mistaken, the kind that can be operated with chakra strings. I'd heard about those before but I've never actually seen them. I also noticed that she was pretty, a natural stunner that walked with a decidedly unnatural grace and an air that just oozed 'Professional Killer'. A definite Kunoichi and she wasn't afraid to flaunt it, funny, most prefer to keep it on the demure side when out amongst the civilians.

The woman, Ume, who I was sure was a Kunoichi now, set down a tray with all necessary first-aid supplies on the counter and aimed a dangerous smile at me. A different kind of dangerous that wasn't obvious, the kind that you'd walked towards willingly.

"There you go, hun." she said too sweetly. She also gave a little frown -fake, a mask. I could tell she was wearing a mask- as her brown eyes took in my filthy and bruised form. "Anko-chan put 'ya through the ringer tonight, huh?"

Kami, they notice everything. The bartender seeing Anko drop me at the door was believable but a woman who I was sure was on the other side of the room waitressing knew that it was Anko that kicked my ass.

Damn ninjas.

Ume, the deadly waitress, winked at me as she pushed the first-aid towards me and gently pat my shoulder. I withheld a grimace at the physical contact. I've already been touched way too much today. I was at my limit for social graces. "Don't let her push you around, kay? She likes the ones with some backbone best!"

What? Likes to eat them? Because that I'll believe.

"Alright, I'll just put it on Mitarashi's tab then." Gobe, the bartender said, mostly to himself as he scribbled something on a notepad he had on hand. I found I was entirely okay with the Devil Woman footing the bill. It was her fault, after all.

I took the tray of supplies gratefully and walked to the back to where my poor-excuse for a substitute teacher was already drinking and chatting it up with some chuunin I didn't recognize. I narrowed my eyes at her in annoyed glare that went completely unnoticed as I took the seat across from her, beginning to clean myself up. I laid a towel over the spot of table I was going to be using and took a clean piece of bandage, dousing it with disinfectant to wipe away the dirt covering most of my smaller wounds, the scratches and such. Doing the cuts on my hands was bitch. Splinters everywhere! I cleaned and bandaged those first. I silently blessed Ume's soul for the small jar of ointment and generously dabbed it over the bigger bruises, I was also thanking my lucky stars I didn't end up with any fractured ribs or something. Anko preferred to stab and slash and scare the shit outta me instead of break anything I might need.

I finally pulled up my sleeve, grimacing at the fresh bloodstain on the blue fabric. Damn it. Didn't she know how hard it was to get bloodstains out of light colored fabrics?! My nose wrinkled as I carefully peeled off the sticky bandage, glad that the bleeding had stopped a while ago. I felt my lips twitch into something that was in between a wry smile and a grimace as I noted a slat of wood on the tray next to the suture needle and thread. I stuck the slat of wood firmly between my teeth and braced myself, pouring disinfectant over the gash and tried not to dig my nails into my freshly bandaged palms because that HURT! The chuunin was gone and Anko watched all this with suspiciously sharp brown eyes as she sipped her alcohol, not bothering to offer to help at all I might add. Not that I would've let her come anywhere near me with a needle in hand. I wasn't stupid. With a shaky hand I picked the suture needle up and let out an exhausted exhale through my nose.

Today has been a long day.

I threaded the needle and mentally prepared myself, this was the undoubtedly the worst part. From the dried bloodstains I could spot on the table I was convinced that this place was insane and that all it's inhabitants were, too. I wondered what that said about me as my own blood slid down my arm to create a new stain on the wood. Okay. Enough stalling. I took a deep, deep breath and stuck the needle inSHIIIIT!

"You do this often?" the Devil Woman asked suddenly.

I ignored her, blinking rapidly to clear the stars that popped up in my vision. Once gone, I kept my hand as steady as I could as I continued sewing up the wound. I didn't do this often but I have done this before. I felt the bones in my hands ache slightly and I pushed it away, focusing. I can't stand going to the hospital so whenever I'd get a cut or a wound when I was in the Academy, I'd take care of it myself. It doesn't happen nearly as often now that I'm a genin but I do occasionally need a couple stitches for a nic or something I'd gotten on a mission. But this... this is the worst wound I've gotten in quite a while, I usually get beat up not cut up. I honestly don't know which I prefer, broken bones or open wounds.

Such a exciting life we live. Terra drawled, I bet most people don't have'ta wonder about these things.

True. Yet, I'm not going to focus on all that. Also not focusing on the trembling in my fingers. I blew my orange-pink hair out of my face to see, almost regretting not tying it up today. I'm focusing on the needle in my flesh and that's all I need to be thinking about right now. Not other, distracting, things.

"You don't really like people, do you?" she asked, continuing to talk to me. I stopped in the very painful process of stitching a wound without local anesthesia to glare at her. She shrugged uncaringly, resuming her one-sided conversation. "That's fine, I don't either. But that's because most of 'em are raging dickheads with inferiority complexes—and they can't take a damn joke!" She shouted that last bit to the side and I was pretty sure wasn't aimed toward me. Because if she was implying that what she did earlier -making me think I'd killed her- was a joke... then we were going to have a serious problem. I'd finished about half-way and she was on her third cup of what I assumed was sake when a underlining of Intent rose in her chakra.

I knew I wasn't going to like this.

"So..." I met her eyes again, her gaze was cool and steady. A stark difference from earlier today. "You cry blood."

Fuck you, Anko.

It was on an ill-advised impulse that I stopped in my sewing long enough to raise my good hand and flip her off. Anko was unfazed, I even think I saw the corner of her lips twitch up. She lifted another filled cup to her lips and mumbled into it. "He always did like the weird ones..."

I stilled, my sore body going uncomfortably rigid.

Did she mean...?

She leaned forward, sliding the placing her arms on the table as she reached up a hand to pull down on the collar of her jacket, revealing her Cursed Mark. Shit. She did mean him.

"You saw this, right? You must have a question or two burning you up inside." She smiled humorlessly. "Like, how we match?"

I swallowed thickly, reaching up my right hand to grab my arm. It wasn't burning but... I could swear that I could feel the heat from it in that moment. I could remember the feeling of the fire under my skin-Quickly, I glanced at our surroundings, unsure if we were really supposed to be talking about this here of all places? She smirked, apparently picking up on my hesitation.

"Don't worry too much about eavesdroppers, brat. People know to keep their shit to themselves in here." she then leaned back and lifted her head, shouting. "ISN'T THAT RIGHT, YOU ASSHOLES!?"

In response there was a chorus of 'yeah, whatever!'s' or a inebriated 'Fuck off!'. It was really like I've been dropped in another world, one that I had been completely unaware of before this moment. It was surreal. A place like this actually existed?

Anko's head rolled back around so that she could look me in the eye, "If you want the good gossip spot then you head to the damned teahouse off of the Market District, the one with all the ribbons hanging from the table lights? That's where most go to catch up on the rumor mill."

Mariko's? Is she being serious right now? I gave her a disbelieving look, my lips pressed into a firm line.

She rolled her eyes at me, "Alright then, if you're that worried about it then here..." her hand slid over to the edge of the table, pushing the condiments out of the way so she could—What the fucking hell?! Was that a Silencing Seal inked into the wood!? I felt her chakra pulse into the seal, lighting it up, and immediately all the chatter from the bar became muffled like an invisible wall was placed around us.

What is this place?!

"Better for you?" she asked with mockingly. I scowled at her, going back to stitching up my arm. If she wanted to talk then she could talk. Like hell if I was going to enter into this topic without being trashed myself. I lifted a hand and tucked my hair behind my ear and went back to work. In the time it took me to finish stitching my arm and properly bandage it Anko had downed another two cups in a simmering silence. Her frustration and anger was back. The same kind she had in the Training Ground when we met. I placed the first-aid off to the side of the table and watched the woman carefully as she seemed to have an internal battle with herself.

"...shit." she cursed under her breath, lifting a hand up and running it through her bangs. When she looked back up at me I could see the dark rings under her eyes. How did I not notice them before? "Look, I've no idea what the hell was going through Hatake's head when he asked me to teach you. Maybe he'd thought—or hoped, more like, that I'd help you cope or some shit with that brand on your arm." she groaned, loudly, raking her hand over her scalp. "I don't know... some mentor crap or something like that! It's not Hatake's style but who really knows what the hell that one-eyed bastard cooks up in his head half the time!"

I snorted, a humorless smile on my lips.

Brand, huh?

"So, basically what I'm trying to say is... ah..." she trailed off awkwardly.

I had my own sort of amusment watching her mentally flail. A petty and vindictive sort. But... as pissed at her as I still was, it wasn't like I didn't understand what she was trying to say. I could sense her emotions clearly on the subject. Anger directed at someone not present, the Snake, I assume. Frustration with herself, that was obvious by how she kept biting the inside of her cheek, and now there was a dash-a tiny, little inkling of genuine apology under it all.

Anko… wants to help me, but she doesn't know how.

I leaned back in the booth seat, trying to unwind the tension in my shoulders and relax for the first time in... well, days. Here, in the center of all this life and loyal Leaf ninja I could relax in this seat and not look over my shoulder for fear of seeing golden eyes looking at me. I didn't have to worry about a brazen spy walking in and disrupting my fragile peace of mind or sense of safety. Outside the bubble of Fuinjutsu I could feel a headache's amount of emotions and chakra, I could hear fragments of a dozen different conversations and the faint sounds of a koto playing on an old, crackling radio.

It felt... nice.

I let out a sigh, relaxing.

I heard the sound of a cup sliding. I opened an eye that slid shut at some point and looked down at the saucer filled with rice wine placed in front of me. I then looked up at the troubling grin on the Devil Woman across from me. I scoffed, my lips twitching at the absurdity. This was ridiculous. Complete and utter ridiculousness.

I picked up the cup and downed it in one go.

Sake tasted... sweeter than I'd expected. Usually only have ever drank beer or whiskey Before. Tried moonshine once, nearly died. Wine never did it for me last time around, but Sake? I think I could get used to some Rice wine.

"Atta' girl!" the poison-mistress encouraged, seeing me join in with her debauchery. She lifted her own refilled up in the air. "Kanpai!"

Five more cups later Anko's sight was beginning to fail her and I was starting to suspect that there was something wrong with my drink. Though I didn't have a problem with slurring I distinctly remember that you were supposed to at least get a buzzed feeling after you've consumed enough. Either Anko was a total lightweight or I had an unusual tolerance for alcohol, I was doubting the former and the later explanation unfortunately meant utter balls for any potential future trips here which was rapidly becoming a possible reality considering who I was here with. Damn, with my luck, I probably couldn't get drunk if I tried. That was just the kind of life I lived. I did feel a bit sick though. Life threatening situations plus sake on a near-empty stomach didn't add up well, I noted.

"Your Taijutsu is crap." Anko blurted after emptying another cup.

I paused a moment before nodding in agreement. It really was in comparison to my former classmates. I mean, not to put myself down or anything but I'm pretty good for average. It's just too bad that I'm surrounded by very un-average trainoholics.

"Good, you already know that. Saves me the trouble of pointing out everything you did wrong. You'll work on that along with your stamina and endurance, you only ran for a couple hours today before getting worn out. That's shitty. During missions you might have to end up running for days at a time so that needs to change. You seem to have a pretty high pain-tolerance for a brat so I'm going to take full advantage of that and work you till you can't move... and then have you do even more."

I stared, hoping against hope she wasn't saying what I think she was saying. Please, don't be saying what I think you're saying.

She scowled at me, suddenly not nearly as drunk as she was a moment ago. "What the hell's that look for? I'm suppose to be your teacher, ain't I?"

Dear Lord. I raised my hands and signed, 'You're joking.'

"What makes you think that!? I just spent my whole goddamned day running after you in the woods—you think I was doing that for shits and giggles?!"

Yes! That is exactly what I thought she was doing! I'd given up on learning anything from her crazy ass after she tried to have me eaten by her summons! I gave up drinking and leaned back, folding my arms over my chest and closing my eyes, trying to will away the headache of the day's events.

I had not opened my eyes when I sensed her get up and sit next to me. I probably should've. She was drunk and of questionable character, and so far from what I've figured out about Mitarashi Anko, her sense of personal boundaries was definitely skewed. I really shouldn't have been so surprised when a hand ended up on my breast. My eyes snapped open in shock, looking at the older woman in mortification.

"Huh, you're bigger than I thought." she announced. Tilting her head up at me with a considering look. "For a brat."

My face lit up red, all the blood rushing to it. God damn... This woman-This is Kakashi's fault, I decided resolutely. This is his fault and he will take responsibility.

Wooow… Terra said, sounding annoyingly awed. Scarecrow actually found someone more inappropriate than us!

I slapped her hand away. She snickered, her cheeks flushed with drunkenness. I actually didn't know if she was really this drunk or if she was majorly screwing with me. Either was a real possibility. "Y'know kid..." the violet-haired woman slurred, slinging an arm around my shoulders and successfully invading my personal space. I didn't bother to hide my scowl at the action. "I think we might just get along after all!"

Oh joy.

I hope Kakashi is enjoying himself wherever he is right now, because my revenge for sticking me with this? Is justified. And I will not show any mercy on him. I swear it.


My eyes snapped up at my name, towards someone dressed in Konoha blues and—Oh, shit! It's Neko! Irrationally, I tried to duck under the table on instinct and completely failed as Anko was still attached to my neck. She started cackling with unbidden glee as a very angry/concerned/completely fucking confused Neko approached our table. He frowned heavily and I lowered my head meekly under his gaze. Damn Anko. Getting me in trouble with Neko! I never get in trouble with Neko!

"Sora, why are you here, at a bar? You are fourteen!" he scolded, using that stern 'Capitan's voice' of his that he never uses on me. His dark eyes landed on the bloodied rags still on the table and I offered him a weak smile as his face darkened. I didn't get to actually respond as I was thusly smushed against a toned yet curvy body. The Devil Woman had begun to climb over me to leer at Neko, slinging her arm around my neck and basically shoved her chest in my face as she completely ignored how very alarmed my poor ANBU friend looked now. Absently I noticed she smelt like leather and polishing oils.

"Well, hellooo…" Anko purred, treating me as an inanimate object to get a unfocused look at my poor Neko. There was that predatory grin of hers again. Neko looked rightfully wary as he beheld my new teacher. I allowed my head to hit the back of the booth seat to get some fresh air as I resigned myself to my new fate.

Kami, spare me now.

Exam Deux Arc,

Chapter Forty-Two: "Devil Woman"


A/N: IMPORTANT NOTE: I DO NOT condone underage drinking in any shape or form! Most adults can't handle their alcohol so I do not approve of anyone underaged even lookin' at a bottle/cup/dish/barrel/vat/chocolate-filling/keg of spirits whatsoever! Sora is no exception. Bad Anko! Side note, I have absolutely no idea if I've blown Anko's character out of proportion but I'm kind of in love with her after this. She was so much frickin' fun! And don't you agree that Sora needs someone like Anko in her life right now? Proper-Role-Model, HO! …hah. Kakashi is gonna regret this forever.

So? What do you guys think of Sora's teacher? Is she a nice fit? Sora is finally going to get some serious training and just wait! We've got some more surprises to come yet! This month-long training time before the Third round is going to be packed with stuff! I can't wait to show all of you!

Author Question!

"What is your favorite word right now?"

Schadenfreude. It means 'harm-joy' and it basically means someone is feeling pleasure when seeing the misfortune of others. I never have actually felt a very Schadenfreude mood but it's SO much fun to say! You could even say that Anko experiences Schadenfreude.

Happy Holidays, all! Stay warm and safe! I wuv yew~


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