Tesseract @time_parad0x
Chapter 09 - Fight to Survive

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

This chapter was edited by PraetorXyn, Illuminated and, Issexwithyourcloneincest.

Chapter 09: Interlude — Fight to Survive (15.10.36 AfoK)

I gave this supposed sensei a once over. I wasn't impressed. Who would wear a long black coat over his shinobi attire? It was a hindrance that could get one entangled or tripped, and thus served no purpose.

"My name is Naruto Uzumaki- ... " he said.

An Uzumaki hmm? He must be related to Kushina. If he was similar to her, then he was probably the worst possible jōnin-sensei I could have gotten. All power with no finesse to his name; a blunt instrument who probably lived by the principle `if force can't settle your problem, you are simply not using enough.´

He at least looked that way, with his untamed yellow hair.

...

Kushina had already demonstrated a worrying lack of self-control, but to hit a teammate was unexpected. She was a wildcard, which meant being paired with her just reduced the chances of reaching adulthood significantly.

"Mikoto-san, you are up."

Oh, I guessed it was my turn — the others had already wasted enough of my time disclosing that worthless information about themselves. What use was it to know someone's favorite food if you did not intend to poison them?

"My name is Mikoto Uchiha. I am the heiress of the Uchiha clan," I said as I smiled at Akiko. According to my father, needling the one closest in skill in one's genin cell can bring out their competitive behavior, and in the case, it was already present, heighten it. This would result in better training results, if done in moderation.

With Kushina on my team, every little bit of improving my skills and those of my teammates would be needed to ensure my continued survival.

"My dream is to earn the title of the best genjutsu user in the elemental nations." Who wouldn't want to be able to control the sensory perception of those around them? If a certain level of mastery was reached in that field, enemies could be disposed of with minimal use of chakra, prolonging the duration could remain fighting.

It was well known after all that chakra exhaustion or being outlasted by an opponent were chief among the reasons for a shinobi dying.

"My favorite food is dashiki," I said. It was not exactly true; food was food, and should be rated by their nutritional value. For some reason, I doubted just saying rice was going to be accepted, so I said dashiki. It was the food I had eaten the most since I can remember, and a qualifying factor to determining someone favorite food was the regularity of ingestion.

"What about your dislikes?" Uzumaki-sensei asked. What was with this question? Did I say something wrong? Probably just interest, since I was unlikely to have raised his suspicion this soon. No one could reasonably notice during our thus far limited interaction.

"I do not have any," I said to him.

"None whatsoever? a particular kind of food, an action a person perhaps?" Why did he continue this line of questioning? Did he think I did not want to share, or keep it a secret? I probably should have come up with a dislike. Naming Kushina as such might have worked since her presence in this team represented a danger to our very lives.

I would be better off not changing my answer; doing so could be interpreted the wrong way. Even if he assumed I was holding back something, telling him now after he applied soft pressure could be seen as an indicator that I am easy to break. I thought it better to not give him that impression, and stuck with my chosen course of action.

"No, I do not."

He seemed satisfied with that, but despite that fact, he gave nothing away in the form of suspicion towards me, so why was there this sense of unease?

...

"Oh and by the way, If I wasn't clear by now. If you ever betray me or the village, I will personally end you!"

I was hit by something, and my body stopped obeying the commands my mind gave it. I was paralyzed my body shuddered, my heart rate was elevated and there was this unexplained urge to slit my own throat. I think I felt something when I looked at my new sensei. At least I think it was a feeling. I tried listening to it and it told me to run as fast and far away from him as possible.

As quickly as I was overcome with that effect it was gone, and the little blotch of color in my trite world with it.

My curiosity was peaked. I did not get most of what he told us before. Chasing after a traitor didn't seem like a worthwhile pastime after all upon his return he would have faced the consequences of his actions and I have yet to be told about an instance where betrayal did not mean death or life-long imprisonment.

From that moment on I experienced what I could only assume those controlled by their emotions would call `a gut feeling´. I paid rapt attention to what he said, since even before that it was not useless drivel like what we were told in the academy and had to memorize for no apparent reason most of the time.

I went so far as to humor him by answering his questions. Although I was already aware that clan children had many advantages ranging from tutors to access to clan-specific jutsu and anything in between. It was not a fair contest to compare clan children with non-clan children. The game was rigged in their - our - favor.

"So it is just politics, and nobody is judged by their own merits?" I wondered, was that all, or were there other hidden advantages? What about the jō ? By which criteria were those selected? Did we profit from being allocated to the most elite jōnint-sensei o enhance in order to enhance our prospects of development and chances of survival?

Logically speaking it would make sense - it would not be in the interest of the Hokage to risk the children of people with power. With the only Uzumaki in the village and two high-ranking bloodline-possessing daughters of two of Konoha's most powerful and prestigious clans being assigned to this jōnin, what did that say about him?

He clearly wasn't a Hatake Sakumo, with him being years younger and me having never heard of him. This in itself was strange, since Father had his eyes on the village's best as a simple matter of principle.

No Moniker usually meant one of two things; someone was either barely making the cut and not worth mentioning, or so dangerous that there was never anyone left to tell the tale.

I had to admit, the limited information I had pointed toward the latter case, which made him most likely an ANBU operative. This also meant I had to redact my earlier impression of him. ANBU do not employ blunt instruments; not that he had no potential to be one if Kushina's stamina was anything to go by, and in fact was a hereditary trait of all Uzumaki. It was not just a rumor with her being an exception, but that also meant he just became so much more dangerous in my mind.

Someone capable of throwing around jutsu like candy, but also capable of deadly efficiency; it seemed as if I would not die an early death, he would easily be able to make up for every ineptitude Kushina might possess aside from those I already noticed her having.

"Why don't you deactivate your dōjutsu for a while until I'm done explaining? You might need the chakra you are burning through right now." his words startled me.

"Sharingan?! What?" I exclaimed in surprise.

I chastised myself for sinking so deep into my own thoughts I did not even notice that everything seemed to move a little slower, and taking a glance at Akiko and Kushina I could see a vague hue surrounding them. Kushina dwarfing what I could see from Akiko by several magnitudes, a hue which was completely absent on sensei. Looking closer that was not true it just blended into him to near invisibility; I had to strain my eyes to make it out, but it was there.

What was he?

I had no time to ponder this question; I was broken out of my pondering as a liquid was sprinkled onto me and running down my face. A hand coated in lighting was run through his torso, right through the point at which his heart should be located. My sensei managed to look down at his chest, his eyes already becoming glassy while the whole scene burned itself into my mind with the absolute clarity only the Sharingan could provide.

The hand protruding from his torso was removed a moment later, and the body of Uzumaki-sensei collapsed to the ground leaving a still heap of flesh behind. For the first time, I got a glance at our attacker who disposed of our sensei - the person tasked with protecting and guiding us - like yesterday's trash.

I wasted no time and went for the kunai strapped to my thigh. Before my hand was halfway there, the attacker stepped around the tree - which now sported a tangerine sized hole - and ran at me. I was barely able to track him with my newly awakened eyes, and only managed to form an incomplete block against his knee which easily broke through my guard with devastating force. I was hit right in the solar plexus.

Every bit of air was expelled from my lungs, and my body was flung away. Unable to reorient myself midair, I landed hard in the grass. My thorax constricted painfully, and despite the need for air along with my mind trying to force my lungs to resume working, my lungs remained painfully empty.

With tear-filled eyes, I lay on the ground curled into a ball, and I could only watch how Kushina just stood there paralyzed as our attacker dismantled Akiko.

She must have used the time it took him to take care of me to get the semblance of a defense up. Nom that was not it; she immediately fell back to using her Jūken in this stressful environment, making it clear that her trainers at least managed to instill a great deal of muscle memory into her. She was only on the defense, reacting and not attacking, completely taken off guard. Even her unrestricted skill in her clan's brand of talents, far above anything I had seen her use, would not be enough to come out on top.

She was already falling behind, losing space. There was no bite to her defense; every time a Hyūga blocked or deflected an attack, it also presented them with an opportunity to strike at the appendage within their reach; a single touch with one of their fingers was enough to take away limbs, enough to kill. This made it so vastly unpredictable there were no exaggerated movements necessary to build up momentum in order to make an attack hurt.

Akiko did not capitalize on those opportunities she was presented with, holding herself back, but that was not all.

I could already see it. Her mind was slowly catching up with her body. She started to think, to second guess herself, and in the process was getting slower, sloppier. It was only a matter of time until she lost, and I lay here unable to help, unable to breathe. If this continued, we were as good as dead.

As I had formed that realization Akiko was an instant too slow moving her head out of the way of a punch; it clipped her chin, disrupting her carefully maintained balance, and she had to readjust her center of gravity, shifting her weight on the balls of her feet- to rebalance herself.

She mistimed her jump backward to avoid the middle kick. Instead of barely dodging as she intended, it connected perfectly, the full force of the kick striking her thigh a short distance below her pelvis. She was swung halfway around her axis as her other leg buckled, her unprotected side exposed to her attacker.

This presented a golden opportunity of which he took immediate advantage. The first punch hit her head and dazed her, as she staggered, he closed in reached and grabbing her arm, and with a sickening crunch dislocated her shoulder. A kick to her ribs and she was eating a mouthful of dirt and grass.

Her attacker jumped on her back drew a kunai and with two precise cuts severed her Achilles tendons.

Captured then; I figured as much, as he could have killed me just as easily with a kunai instead of disabling me with his knee.

I lay where I fell, still gasping for breath. I knew with this it was practically over. I would not recover fast enough, and he was already making his way over to me, only a few meters separating us. He was just a few steps away from completing our defeat. My gaze swept over to Kushina; she was exactly what I expected her to be, a liability.

I just needed a little more time.

A primal scream echoed throughout the clearing. It originated from Kushina. There was something wild and untamed in her warped visage. I could see her chakra spike, taking form, and suddenly finely linked chains emerged from her body, and like whips lashed out in an incredible display of speed against our enemy.

His initial surprise did not last more than a fraction of a second, not even remotely long enough for Kushina to get a hit in before he weaved out of the way of the chains trying to sever him in half.

Judging by what happened to the ground every time a chain made contact with it, our attacker could count himself lucky if being severed or cut apart into bite-sized pieces was all that happened to him should the chains connect. It could probably be considered a mercy given how Kushina was going at him while screaming like a maniac.

I needed to move, this might be our one and only chance to turn this whole battle around. He was wary of the chains, keeping his distance.

I needed time; if she could keep this up, she might buy enough time for me to recover and join her; unfortunately, seeing her fight dissuaded me from that notion.

She was reckless with every attack; our enemy had an easier time avoiding the chains and with every failed attack, Kushina put more power into them sacrificing precision, and dexterity for increasingly excessive attacks.

She was just swinging them around; every swing gave her opponent more space to maneuver instead of doing the opposite - herding him and controlling what space he could occupy, eventually putting him into a corner bereft of anywhere to turn to, so the chains could take him out.

She was wasting the best chance we had to secure victory since this fight began. At least she was good for something; I finally managed to take a small breath of air, and from there it got easier, as with every intake the constraints of my lungs lessened.

I would have preferred to wait a few moments longer in order to get my lungs into a state in which they did not hurt, but with me no longer feeling like I was close to suffocating, I could not afford to wait any longer.

Kushina could not be allowed to fall too, and the openings she currently had were wide enough that with the speed this guy displayed earlier he would have an easy time closing the distance to her; for now, he was only biding his time to be absolutely certain he did not miss anything, not trusting the whole thing - probably thinking it was too easy - that she was baiting him in.

Wait a minute, something did not feel right.

I discarded the thought immediately; there was no time to ponder, I had to act. I molded my chakra in my lungs and with the practiced ease of having done this hundreds of times before I went through my hand seals, already knowing it would be murder on my lungs, but we needed an opening, immediately. When I exhaled a fiery death in the form of a fireball two meters in diameter racing toward our opponent.

I did not expect it to hit; despite the deadliness of the fireball it was relatively slow-moving and therefore a seasoned jōnin should easily

evade it even if attacked from behind. The sizzling sound of the jutsu as it traversed the air was enough to alert them of its approach. This was the very reason it was usually used as either a diversion or for herding the opponents; because they can not afford to be hit, and the large diameter of the jutsu ensures that you can move them exactly where you want them to be.

Now Kushina only needed to take advantage of it. One of her chains moved to swipe him at his knee while another came from the high right straight for his head while the fireball neared and with one simple flip over the chain going for his legs, he evaded all three attacks.

The fireball made contact with the ground right next to him, exploding in a wave of heat and fire, flinging debris through the air.

Another coughing fit, as I knew would afflict me, not only prevented me from following it up with a few kunai and shuriken, but also threatened to overwhelm me. I did not know for how long my eyes were closed in the process, certainly no longer than it took me to cough four to five times, but when I opened them again, he had already bridged the distance between us. I had barely enough time to register that fact when my feet were kicked from under me, and while I was in flight my body horizontally aligned for another punch to hit me hard.

This time my flight was not stopped by the soft ground, but by a hard tree I was flung against. If I would have had any air left in my lungs, the hard impact would have driven it out of my body. The moment I made contact with the ground, a sharp pain erupted along my torso in addition to the already excruciating one my rib cage emitted; I roared out an anguished cry, but it came out as nothing more than a hiss from my empty lungs.

I was not given any reprieve as he was immediately onto me again. He grabbed my hair, and with a fluid motion bashed my head against the tree; my vision swam for a moment. Confused, disoriented, in pain, and without air. I only noticed my hands were folded above my head against the tree when another sharp pain went through my body, this time brought about by a kunai stabbed through them and sunk to the hilt into the tree, shackling me to it in the process.

He did not waste another second on me, and through my tearing eyes, I saw him turn around, allowing me a glimpse of what occurred behind his back.

I expected to see a Kushina lying face down in the dirt, taken down in the mere moments I was unable to see because I could not picture another scenario in which she would have aborted her attack. Especially after I split his focus. Instead, I saw her bent over Akiko yelling something at her that my jumbled brain pieced together as "Bite me, do it!" which did not make any sense.

Why would she command Akiko to injure her in the middle of a fight? I must have been suffering the effects of a heavy concussion, or perhaps I was already hallucinating due to oxygen deprivation.

I stopped that train of thought, as I had more pressing matters requiring my attention. Air didn't seem to be as hard to come by the second time. It took me only a few tries to get a wisp of air into my lungs enough, that I no longer had to fear suffocating like a fish on dry land.

My being nailed to a tree was however a persistent problem. With my hands in this awkward position, I had no leverage or any wiggle room to loosen the kunai, and ripping my hands-free would only injure them in such a way that they would both be worthless for the remainder of the fight. No more hand seals, now more grabbing anything let alone throwing it, would be impossible.

I was stuck, sentenced to watch as the opponent sprinted at the other two; Kushina trying to get Akiko to follow her orders was so transfixed on her that she did not notice his approach, and I was in no condition to speak to warn her. The kick to her head hit her unprepared, her chains without direction just swinging around uselessly in the wind.

Her body landed hard a few meters away, and she lay there motionless, knocked out or dead. Her chains simply vanished, and Akiko being held in the arms of Kushina when she was hit was rotated twice around her own axis as she once more came to a stop lying on the ground, just as helpless as myself.

Logic dictated to accept our loss, to acknowledge that we were being outclassed, and that any struggle was futile in the face of such overwhelming odds. Still, I was not ready to die, and no matter how minuscule the chance, the chance remained.

As I mentally prepared myself for the pain of freeing myself with one strong yank, a kunai embedded itself right next to my head in the trunk, cutting my cheek in the process.

"Don´t" was the order the enemy ninja standing between me and my fellow genin gave me with his empty hand outstretched in a completed throwing motion.

The message was clear; I would be dead long before I could get my hands free. For the first time since the start of the battle, I had nothing better to do than take in the appearance of the enemy.

He was wearing black trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, with a purple short-sleeved surcoat on top of it, which went down to his knees, and was slit along the sides. His face was hidden by a mask covering his whole head, leaving only two small holes for the eyes.

He still had his guard up, for some reason, and was eyeing all three of us, as if expecting one of us getting our second wind; when he was convinced we were no longer a threat he relaxed.

"That was a rather pathetic showing, wouldn't you agree?" I heard being said right next to my ear. I tried to twist my neck in such a way that I could look past the tree I was nailed against to see the speaker expecting the worst, another enemy. However, for some reason the voice was familiar.

I managed to catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye which explained this familiarity rather clearly, because I happened to have listened to this voice in the last few minutes. Standing behind me was none other than my jōnin-sensei Uzumaki Naruto, without a scratch on his person leaning against the tree I was nailed to.

He raised his eyebrows at me as if expecting an answer. Meanwhile, I recalled the last few seconds; no wonder I had this nagging feeling that something was not right. An attack in the heart of Konoha, by a shinobi good enough to take sensei unaware in the first move, taking his time with the rest of us.

That could not be explained away with him trying to capture us, a few clones some jutsu, and he could have done it in a fraction of the time without giving us the chance to regroup or alert anybody.

It was clear that we had been tested.

Uzumaki-sensei moved away from the tree "Good job; I have seen what I wanted to see," and with that, the enemy shinobi vanished in a cloud of smoke. A Bunshin, most likely in a henge able to trick the Sharingan and the Byakugan at the same time. Who was this guy?

My eyes moved to the place I saw his "dead"-body fall to the ground, and found nothing there.

"I know that expression; you have questions you want answered," he said as my eyes moved back to him. "Wait a moment until the others are back with us." Three Bunshin materialized right next to him without him performing any hand seals nor my Sharingan noticing any spike in his chakra that should accompany the use of jutsu.

The Bunshin split up, one for each of us. Meanwhile, the original walked back to the tree he or was it a Bunshin was impaled through and returned to his original position leaning casually against it.

The Bunshin of sensei who came to me, took a knee and placed a hand on the handle of the kunai that went through my hands, and the other near the wound. "Seems like I got you good. I would offer something for the pain, but I doubt it would make a good first impression to your clan if you come home drugged. Unfortunately, I can't numb your pain receptors, since I need them as an indicator to make certain that there is no nerve damage left. Wouldn't want for you to be handicapped in our first training exercise."

"Do it..." I pressed out.

"Okay... " He said "I'm going to slowly remove the kunai while I heal it at the same time. Bear with it; this is gonna hurt."

I just nodded and steeled myself for the pain. He was not kidding, it was excruciating. It took some effort to keep myself from screaming. If I would have been less familiar with pain, one of the few sensations I was actually able to experience I doubted I would have managed to hold the scream back.

"Good; they should be as good as new, if not better," Uzumaki-sensei proclaimed after he had finally removed the kunai.

"Are you hurting anywhere else?" He asked, "those body shots must have cracked some of your ribs." I wanted to tell him that all was well, denying him to heal them and remove the pain - The only thing reminding me I was still alive — but as I leaned forward to cradle my now healed hands in order to check for any lasting effects, a sharp stabbing pain centered on my torso went through my body and I could not stop myself from flinching, which did not escape the notice of my sensei.

Every objection I might have had died on my lips. I knew better than to try my luck pressing this agenda. At best, I would end up in therapy with a Yamanaka at worst I would be removed from the shinobi program. Especially if they took a closer look at my body and the easy to notice self-inflicted wounds hidden underneath my clothes.

The moment his hands came to a stop hovering an inch over my torso, his lips curled and his facial expression changed. The subtle smile he wore most of the time disappeared from his face and it settled into a neutral demeanor.

Not the first time I wished to know what it meant to feel, since it could have provided me with some insight into deciphering what Uzumaki-sensei was feeling. They were a significant driving force behind human actions, and all but the most obvious display of them eluded my notice - not that I could understand them.

A tingling feeling spread throughout my body. It was especially noticeable around my ribs, the pain of the kunai removal must have distracted me from noticing it earlier due to the pain in my hands.

When the feeling subsided Uzumaki-sensei wordlessly stood up and offered me his hand. I reached for it, and with his help got back on my feet. "Eyes," he said and then dispelled himself in a cloud of smoke.

That was when I noticed I still had my Sharingan activated. I cut the chakra to my eyes, and took in the scene in front of me. Kushina was already up, and what little I could make out as far off as I stood berating Naruto for something if her wildly moving hands were any indicator.

Akiko was sitting in the grass with her left ankle exposed, and lying in one Uzumaki-sensei's Bunshins's hands surrounded by the same green hue.

Another glance at the original, and I found myself held in place by the intense stare of his eyes. He was only half listening to Kushina at that point. Something she not only noticed, but with which she clearly took exception, as she strongly tugged at his sleeves to regain his undivided attention.

I could finally exhale the breath I did not even notice I was holding. What was wrong with me? Those reactions were more than uncommon for me. Why did he hold my interest above what should be normal for a stranger, even if he was to be my sensei, and why was I concerning myself with him?

I shook off that train of thought just in time to see Akiko lifted up to her feet. Leaning on Uzumaki-sensei she was slowly shifting weight on her feet and testing the resilience of her freshly healed feet. After she repeatedly shifted the weight on the ball of her foot around she released her hold on sensei and went through a short kata. Obviously satisfied with the results she bowed to him and after the Bunshin dissolved walked towards the original.

I fell in step with her as we returned to our original seating arrangement. As Kushina noticed our approach she stopped her admonition with a pout, and I only caught the tail end from their conversation as Kushina promised "This is not over," and sat down herself.

Uzumaki-sensei looked right at me again pondering only to drop his gaze and addressed us all.

"Let's talk about what you did wrong and what you could have done better."

Neither Akiko nor Kushina said anything to his prompt. Instead, they avoided looking at him. Whereas I thought about his words when he asked "Why wasn't the first thing you did to create more of you?" directed at Kushina.

Her response consisted of a surprised "Huh?"

"Kage-Bunshin - why didn't you create any?" He pressed, "the action economy alone would have given you the advantage, not considering you could have sent at least one to get some help. Instead, you relied upon an untested, and achieved only seconds ago, bloodline jutsu, which was a stupid thing to do; you neither knew the limits, strengths, or weaknesses of your adamantine sealing chains. Never use jutsu in a battle when you don't fully understand them."

"Action economy?" Kushina questioned, and I was at a loss too as to what he meant by that.

"Do you understand Kushina?" He asked with more emphasis.

"Yeah... -" came Kushina's reluctant response.

"I hope the others also take that lesson to heart." He added. I had to admit he was right; Using an unfamiliar jutsu bore a lot of risk, and I had to wonder if I was included in his reprimand because I was using the Sharingan.

"I understand sensei - as much as it pains me to admit - could you please explain what you mean with action economy? I might have an idea, but a confirmation would be appreciated," Akiko said.

"I was coming to that... - " He said and shot me another glance when he sighed.

"Don't you learn anything in the academy nowadays?"

"Told you the academy is stupid," Kushina interjected.

He just rolled his eyes and then started to explain," - Imagine you are fighting an opponent at your exact same level; the same strength and the same speed. This essentially means, if we exclude factors like terrain and jutsu for a moment, that every attack by you can be met with an equal one performed by your enemy. If, on the other hand, your opponent is, let's say, twice as fast, and we say for simplicity's sake that he can make two attacks for every one you make. You will find yourself easily overwhelmed and beaten."

"Because he has a greater action economy," Akiko said.

"Exactly - now consider you are facing such a superior opponent alone. Like I just said you are gonna lose, but what if he has to face two of you? Three, five, or even ten? What then?"

"The outcome becomes more uncertain the more enemies he has to face, despite possessing inferior power," I said.

"This is one of the reasons Konoha puts such a strong emphasis on teamwork, a fact that I was certain we established not so long ago." Indeed, we did, as we discussed the hidden meaning of the Bell Test. "What you probably don't fully grasp at this point, is that a team isn't necessarily required to create a situation in which your own action economy can threaten to overcome an opponent. Since you have just graduated from the academy, you are yet to be introduced to tangible clones. Those Bunshin or Clone jutsu were created with the idea in mind to substitute for the role of disposable teammates in a battle. There is a reason so many variants of them exist, their usefulness can't be rated highly enough."

"You don't seem convinced Akiko" Uzumaki-sensei wondered.

"Actually I'm not. I agree on paper your allegation makes sense, but in a real fight the one who has the greater skill wins. I'm also not sure what this has to do with us? None of us can ..." Akiko started as realization set in, and she turned her head Kushina way "You!" she raised her voice glaring "You know another Bunshin jutsu." she accused.

Kushina complexion reddened, and she rubbed the back of her head.

"Yes, she does. I taught her a few days ago." Uzumaki-sensei confirmed, "and if she would have used the jutsu this whole battle could have turned out differently. The possibilities to use the Kage-Bunshin with their ability to use jutsu are near endless. You could have sent a few against the enemy to buy time for the rest of you to fall back and regroup. You were off-balance shaken, and surprised and worst of all separated from each other."

"I thought the Bunshin wouldn't do much good in a fight. They get destroyed by one clean hit after all." Kushina defended her actions.

Uzumaki-sensei just raised his eyebrows.

"Wait a minute - those Bunshin disappear with one solid hit? Are they even useful in battle ssensei?" Akiko asked and sensei's eyebrows went even higher.

"How many hits does it take for you using the lethal variant of your gentle fist to take someone out of a fight, how many to kill?" He wanted to know.

"One," she begrudgingly replied, realizing the point he was making.

"So I really don't see what difference it would make against a Jūken user, and most other accomplished shinobi are also able at least to disable a limb - if not outright kill - an enemy with one of their attacks, not unlike the Jūken," Uzumaki-sensei said.

"Still skeptical?" He asked Akiko. "Why don't we put it to the test. If I remember right you were pretty much tied with Mikoto in taijutsu right?"

"Yes," she pressed out, clearly still irritated about the fact that I bested her.

"So we could say you both are on roughly the same level," Akiko and I nodded "Good - Mikoto, Kushina you both are gonna spar against Akiko. A taijutsu match; no weapons, ninjutsu or genjutsu; just your good old fashioned brawl," he said grinning.

"Akiko-san, you are allowed to use your disabling Jūken. That should give you the edge above Mikoto, and since you don't think the concept of clones or action economy makes a difference, adding Kushina shouldn't bother you. After all, both of you regularly beat her with little trouble."

"Moah, so mean, onii-chan." Kushina moaned.

Uzumaki-sensei just laughed, walked over to her and whispered something into her ear. I could not hear what was being said, and the way Akiko tried to move her head closer suggested she did not either. But whatever it was Kushina grinned at Uzumaki-sensei and showed him a thumbs up. He retreaded shortly after back to lean on his tree and asked.

"Are you ready?" he looked at each of us and waited for us to nod before he said, "Begin."

I immediately noticed that Kushina moved to a position to my left a step behind. As I inched closer to Akiko Kushina followed me every step of the way, throughout the whole way she was mindful to keep the exact same distance from me.

Akiko was standing in place hands raised in the traditional Jūken stance, knees slightly bent, one leg facing towards the opponent with an open palm aligned in the same direction, and the other leg oriented seventy degrees to the first. The remaining hand was kept slightly above the waist, close to her body awaiting the right opportunity to strike.

I could see the bulging blood vessels around her eyes, an indicator of her activated Byakugan.

This really was a strange behavior coming from Kushina. In the academy, she was the first to charge at someone with mixed results.

She had little formal technique going for her but when she managed to hit, you really really felt it. This might be one of the reasons she was rated so low when it came to taijutsu; it was clear from our test that she was a heavy hitter who won every time she managed to get her hands on someone, and with her stamina, it was only a matter of time until it happened.

Contrast the fight with the format of duels in the academy, didn't allow for her strength to show - time-limited matches with a strong emphasis on technique, along with the compulsion not to hit an opponent with full-force - were all in essence restrictions which probably affected her and that Akimichi boy in our class the most; now that I think about it, wasn't he rated at the bottom of the class too?

I stopped that train of thought and concentrated on Akiko. I got close enough unopposed that a step forward would bring me into range to attack her.

She was just standing there content to defend, which suited me just fine. I made a large step forward, and my right fist darted toward her face. She saw it coming, and her left arm moved sideways to deflect it.

Despite my one-tomoe Sharingan, enhanced vision I couldn't do anything to prevent it from happening; my momentum was carrying me forward, right into the palm strike she aimed at my torso.

However, before she could launch it from the left corner of my eyes came a fist, followed by a redheaded girl, who hit Akiko right in the jaw. It definitely was an impactful hit; Akiko's left foot buckled for an instant, and she had to shift her weight to prevent herself from falling.

She refocused her attention on the second attacker, but barely managed to get her defense against the second fist thrown her way up in time. She managed to deflect that strike, but to do so she half-turned her upper body, which left her side open to me.

Akiko's parry was sloppy, owed to the fact that she could not fully make the turn to face her. I did not hesitate a moment, and if not for her 360-degree vision she neither would have seen my attack, nor been able to avoid it. This was such a situation in which the Byakugan provided clear advantages, and was clearly superior to the Sharingan — fighting against multiple attackers.

Instead, she moved her head out of the way and was about to attack me when Kushina kicked her knee.

This time her feet buckled under her, out of balance, and on her way to falling onto her knee she could do nothing against my fist hitting her face which knocked her onto her ass.

This was easy, too easy. I have fought a good dozen times against her this year alone, and even with her being restricted to the academy style I have never won this fast and decisive.

A grinning Kushina stood over her,

"Who's the loser now, b..."

She could not finish what she wanted to say as a hand cupped itself around her mouth. Behind her stood our sensei.

There was a short mumbling of sounds to hear from her as Uzumaki sensei said.

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Kushina nodded at that reprimand, and Uzumaki-sensei slowly removed his hand, as if he didn't fully trust her compliance, and was ready to reapply her muzzle should she step out of line a second time.

After nothing happened for a few seconds he allowed the hand to fall to his side, and then knelt next to Akiko who was still working her jaw. Green chakra surrounded his hands as laid them on her face. Was Akiko leaning into them? Why was Kushina balling her fists?

"Do you now believe that clones can have some impact in a fight?" He asked her "It took only two halfway cooperating enemies you could easily defeat separately to take you out. This is a far more difficult achievement than say, two of you going against Kushina or Mikoto, because they can't see what is happening behind them. So to beat them it should suffice to strike one in her blind spot, and then it's game over."

"Is there a way to combat this?" Akiko wanted to know.

"You could start using clones yourself," I suggested. "If you have superior skill it should translate to them. Area of effect attacks might work too under certain circumstances."

"Good analysis, Mikoto-san," Uzumaki-sensei said.

"Does that mean you are gonna teach them the Kage Bunshin too?" Kushina suddenly interjected.

"No - at least not now," he said. "Their chakra reserves are currently too small to get anything useful out of that jutsu. There is a difference between being able to perform a jutsu and it making a difference in a fight. We are gonna revisit that in due time."

"What about other clone jutsu?" I asked.

"They are usually inferior to the one I taught Kushina. They don't allow for the transfer of memories which makes them rather useless for scouting purposes and neither can they use jutsu meaning their use in combat is also limited to taijutsu diversion and multi-pronged attacks. Most of them are even restricted on how far a distance they can move away from their creator without dissolving. Furthermore, most other Bunshin are directly tied to an element. While those usually have a lesser chakra cost which is an advantage in itself, teaching you an elemental clone before any elemental training is done is a tedious and time-intensive endeavor - time that would be better used doing something more worthwhile."

He was right. While it was not impossible to learn and master an elemental jutsu without the respective elemental affinity and training, it took a lot more time and effort, which is exactly why it should not be done.

"So I'm unable to beat the Dead Last of our class the moment she uses clones. That is unacceptable." Akiko said and I could not help but agree.

"That is not what I said," Uzumaki-sensei clarified.

"But you ..." Akiko started when she was commanded by Uzumaki-sensei.

"Don't move or this is gonna take forever," and fixed her head in place with his hand. A short moment later he released her and stood up.

"Why don't we try this again?" He asked.

"I'm not their punching bag." Akiko huffed, and crossed her arms in front of her chest dejectedly.

"No, you are not, which is why this time you are going to win. Or have you already accepted defeat without even trying?" he wondered.

"Of course not," was Akiko's predictable response.

"Good - then get back to your positions," Uzumaki-sensei ordered.

Kushina and I moved away. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Uzumaki-sensei bend down slightly and whisper something into Akiko's ear. Unfortunately, his back was turned to us, so I couldn't read his lips with my Sharingan.

Whatever instructions he gave her must have been more extensive than what he gave Kushina since he was still in the middle of it when we reached our positions. I saw Akiko give him a determined nod. He then retreated to the side.

Akiko went back into her stance and Uzumaki-sensei after he once more made sure we were all ready called for the start of the match.

Kushina and I made our way toward Akiko, mirroring what we did the last time, with Kushina staying in my wake, Akiko on the other hand switched tactics. She retreated further and further back until she stood with her back to the tree, with the hole in it. She seemed content with the position she now found herself in because she stopped fleeing from us.

I approached her, but a step before she was within my reach, she made a step to the side and backward. The tree was now to her left, and she was now closer to both me and Kushina. I stepped up, and she repeated the movement, slowly circling clockwise around the tree.

Now I saw what she intended. With the tree as a hard obstacle right next to her all she had to do was take a step back, and the avenue of attacks I had open was severely limited since her left side was guarded by the tree, only allowing straight attacks from me. If she then moved another step around the tree she could cut me off completely, forcing me to either circle the tree the other way around or follow behind, and therefore forcing Kushina out of the way back into my wake and therefore just out of reach and unable to attack.

Clever - but it would not work if we ... I could not end my thought when Kushina made two fast steps forward, and engaged Akiko who at the same time moved backward around the tree. Suddenly I was cut off, unable to interfere with the tree in my way.

The first punch Kushina threw was deflected and instead of trying to get in between them, I rounded the tree in order to flank Akiko. When I rounded it and had Akiko again in my view Kushina was already lying on the ground, unmoving and groaning. Since Akiko's back was still turned I attacked her. She easily ducked under my punch, and with one smooth motion slipped to my side. I only managed half a turn when I felt a stinging sensation in my leg followed directly by a stinging sensation in my arm. I immediately lost all feeling and control in those limbs. My foot buckled and I sank against the tree when a palm strike stopped short of my chest.

Clapping from the side had us all turn our heads towards Uzumaki-sensei.

"An excellent implementation of my suggestion Akiko-san," he said, "Would you be so kind and reopen their tenketsu?"

"Of course, sensei," she responded while there was a noticeable grin on her face.

After another two small stings delivered by Akiko's hands, the feeling in my limbs slowly started to return. She walked over to Kushina, and poked her a few times as well.

Uzumaki-sensei waited until she was back on her feet as he asked.

"So can you two tell me why Akiko was suddenly able to defeat you?"

"She used the terrain to her advantage and in so doing prevented us from taking advantage of our greater numbers," I offered as an explanation.

"A good analysis Mikoto," he praised "This is exactly what you should do when you are faced with more than one enemy. Don't fight them on their terms; one vs five, ten, or by however many they outnumber you. Instead, find a way to make the engagement into five or ten one versus one fights. You need to separate them, or limit their ability to work together, by any means necessary. This is in most cases the only chance you have to win in such situations."

"What if I'm the one with the greater numbers?" Kushina wondered.

"Obviously you don't allow them to use such strategies against you." Akiko provided.

"Akiko is right - such engagements quite regularly turn into battles of wits. Don't worry hime we are gonna train on this a lot. When we are done, you will work as a well oiled one-woman-army, there will be no fleeing from you," he promised.

"You better onii-chan," she exclaimed with a laugh.

"Well with that out of the way. As I remember we were discussing what you could have done better. We now know what Kushina did wrong, but what about you?" He pointed at myself and Akiko. "What was it you did wrong?"

Both of us put on the spot looked at each other but ultimately I came up with nothing and seeing Akiko shrug her shoulders the same was true for her.

"Nothing? Not even an idea?" Uzumaki-sensei probed.

I shook my head. At that, he reached into one of his pockets and threw something at me. I instinctively caught it. I looked at the spherical object in my hand. I had no problems identifying it as a smoke bomb.

Of course — how could I not have seen that. I looked up, and with a wave of his hand, Uzumaki-sensei made it clear he wanted me to share my epiphany.

"Akiko as a Byakugan wielder can ignore any form of sight obstruction. If she would have used a smoke bomb, she could have easily robbed her enemy of his sight and created an advantage for her. This could have even been enough to defeat him, as even seasoned jōnin have trouble overcoming the loss of their most dominant sense, which happens to be sight."

My gaze fell on Akiko who seemed to ponder my words, "she is right you know," Uzumaki-sensei said to her. "Your clan is far too reliant on your special brand of taijutsu; while I give you that the Jūken is quite effective, it isn't all-powerful. Any long-range fighter who manages to stay out of close combat against members of your family could overcome the best of you.

Meanwhile, your eyes provide you with so much more than just the ability to see tenketsu. They can penetrate anything and that at incredible ranges. For your clan to only use them as a means to perform Jūken is such a waste; I shudder at the thought of a long-range fighter with your eyes. I'm sure your teammates would also welcome it if you wouldn't hamstring yourself."

I nodded at his words.

He then threw a palm-sized piece of paper on the ground in front of Akiko. There were some symbols written on it, "channel a bit of chakra through that Akiko-san."

She did as asked, and crouched down. She moved her fingers to the edge of the paper and channeled a little chakra into it.

Suddenly a small bright ball of fire escaped the seal and soared rapidly towards the sky. It created a fiery tail through its ascent and as it reached its peak more than a few hundred feet in the air, it slowly descended towards the ground. All the while glowing brightly with a tail that was easy to see far and wide.

"So pretty," I heard Kushina mumble under her breath.

"Something to say, Akiko-san?" he inquired.

"Mikoto's Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu — she should have aimed it in the sky. We are in Konoha surrounded by allies. After we thought we were attacked by an enemy within the confines of the village, we should have alerted someone, and a fireball straight up would be seen for a dozen of kilometers in every direction; within seconds an ANBU or Uchiha police force squad could have arrived and dispatched the enemy."

"Yep - here" he handed each of us a stack of the seal he had Akiko activate. "For those of you who can't use fire jutsu. This way you can all alert your allies. Just keep in mind, not only your allies can see the fireball in the sky. So you should refrain from using it in enemy territory if you can help it, but I'm sure you figured that out."

"Onii-chan won't we get in trouble for this," Kushina asked pointing at the still descending fireball.

She was right, we were in the village. Surely the Uchiha police force must already be on their way. They won't take kindly to a false alarm.

"Don't worry — I went ahead and warned the ANBU and the Uchiha we would do this as part of a training exercise," he reassured her.

"I think that was enough for today — I want every one of you to take the rest of the day, and think long and hard about everything that happened here today. Perhaps you might find some other mistakes you made," he said. "Starting tomorrow, we will meet at the small bridge spanning over the sidearm of the Naka river near the Hokage tower, two hours after sunrise. We will then take a D-rank mission, which should at most last until midday, and then proceed to this training ground, where I'm gonna start teaching you in how to survive an encounter like the one you had today."

"Isn't that a bit presumptuous Sensei?" Akiko wondered "We are after all only genin, why would the first thing you teach us how to survive going against a jōnin?"

"Simple really - because of what happened today. The scenario I presented you with is something that can happen at any time after our team left the safe confines of the village. Just because our first mission outside of the village is supposed to be a C-rank doesn't mean it actually is one. The outside is unpredictable; anything can happen, and the better prepared you are the more likely you will return alive and whole. Furthermore, it wouldn't be the first time other villages put a bounty upon the heads of a genin or a genin team, either in the hopes of killing an outstanding and talented shinobi before he or she could fully realize their potential and become a threat down the line, or to abduct them. All three of you are the future of your respective clans, and bearers of a bloodline, which means our team is a tempting target."

He was right - we were not a tempting target, but the most tempting one of this year's graduating class. No other team had three bloodline wielders, two heiresses, and the family member of an Elder of a major Konoha clan. Abducting us could serve a multitude of purposes, from blackmail to ransom demands, or even breeding purposes.

"Hey, what is with those glum faces? The shinobi profession is dangerous; you already knew that going in. So don't sweat it. I'm gonna make sure by the time we leave the village for the first time no pesky jōnin will manage to beat you three. I promise. So how about you go home and rest. You will need it then come tomorrow I'm gonna put you through your paces."

I could not help but shudder at hearing him say that with that ominous glint in his eyes.

Authors Note:

Okay — In this chapter, my main goal was to give an insight into Mikoto's inner workings, and last chapter's interaction gave me a good starting point to do just that. I'm not usually a fan of describing a single scene or interaction from multiple points of view.

It can feel redundant; I tried by skipping over the parts that would just be a repeat of what you read last chapter to reduce that effect, and used the few speech lines to give Mikoto's thoughts some points of reference. I hope this wasn't too much of a drag to read for you. (I don't plan on doing such a thing again by the way — like I said I'm not a fan)

As you might have noticed, she is pretty much a sociopath (lacking the ability to reflect and to feel emotions) who had to learn to mimic standard social behavior, and how to read emotions (with considerable trouble) in others because with lacking them herself it is nearly impossible to achieve and understanding of those "feelings". (Similar to a blind person being told what the world looks like — she can learn to navigate this world but never "see" it.)

Her feelings are from a solely technical standpoint just "muted" to such a degree that it doesn't make a real difference to not being able to feel.

I got the idea of such a Mikoto by reading "A Dark Obsession" by Sabaku Ookami. I found it a really nice take on a character we know next to nothing about, and what little we know (via Sasuke's memories) at least to me makes her look like a Yamato Nadeshiko, and that is something that could be learned even with a disposition like the one I gave her here.

Her being this way makes it rather easy to explain why if canon had happened, she would give up her clan leader position.

A nice bonus of this is; it allows me to further set apart the personality of the girls in his team.

In regard to the so dubbed "disabling" and "deadly" Jūken. The thing is I find the Jūken and what it can do a joke in Naruto. It is pretty much said it is the best and most superior form of taijutsu there is ... and all it can do is pretty much hit some nerve cluster and slowly disable an opponent.

Sorry but that doesn't cut it for me. If the Jūken is to be feared there has to be more to it. So in this story, there are two variants; the not deadly disabling style that is taught to their kids to teach them precision and how to use the basics ... which is not really accident prone since all the damage can easily be reversed, and a deadly style which follows the same but advanced principles.

This style does not necessarily need to hit a tenketsu but has properties similar to poison or acid ... if introduced into a body eating away at the flesh rotting it away in short order and spreading ... not too dissimilar to the effects of Torune's micro-bugs ... a one-hit lose a limb permanent, or kill taijutsu. IMO something needed to explain the reputation the Hyūga-clan receives in canon.

(I'm gonna add this to my profile page one of these days)

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