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Rei Hinode

"Wishing is for those who do not want to rely on work. Working is for those who do not want to rely on wishes."

0 · 738 views · located in Naruto Universe

a character in “Naruto: End of Attrition”, as played by Dynamite

Description




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Nothing, Sunrise
None of this is about who we are, or who we were. It’s about who we could be, and whether we’re brave enough to reach for the truly outlandish possibilities.




|Theme|

Owl City || Shooting Star
Starset || Let It Die
Blaqk Audio || Deconstructing Gods
Blaqk Audio || Faith Healer
Meredith Brooks || Bitch
Rob Thomas || I Am An Illusion




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One life isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. But it's all I have, same as you. Mortality is the great equalizer, for great men die as surely as paltry ones do.




Nickname
[ Occasionally she gets Hino, but really, her given name is short enough as-is. ]

Age
[ 23 ]

Gender
[ Female ]

Village
[ Kumogakure ]

Clan
[ Hinode ]

Kekkei Genkai
[ Unmei Saiken ]

Chakra Nature
[ Lightning ]

Ninja Rank
[ Jōnin ]

Role
[ Medic-Nin ]

Face Claim
[ Yoruichi Shihōin | BLEACH ]




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My history is written all over my skin, and to you, that might be uncomfortable. But me? I kind of like it. It’s better than forgetting.




Hair Color
[ Dark Purple ]

Eye Color
[ Gold ]

Skin Tone
[ Swarthy | Dark ]

Height
[ 5’10” ]

Weight
[ 140 ]

Physical Description
[ Rei is of rather obvious Kumogakure stock—it is, after all, the only ninja village known to have in its population a large concentration of people with dark complexions. Whereas many of her comrades could pass in disguise as someone from another region, she will never be seen as anything other than what she is. Generally, one can deal with a circumstance like this one of two ways: either one can be ashamed of it and try to downplay it anyway, or one can embrace it. While the first approach might be wiser considering the mission, Rei has never been anything other than proud of her lineage and her village, and this shows in her bearing. She makes no attempt to conceal or hide where she is from, and carries herself tall, to the full extent of her not-inconsiderable height.

Her physique is a thing of practicality, and this, she believes, also makes it a thing of beauty. Certainly, it would be hard to look at her and see none—her training has done what it does for many ninja, and given her hard, toned muscles with nothing excess about them. Her natural shape is what one might call generous in terms of curvature, and very feminine in that sense. But what sets Rei apart, really, is that even her imperfections, her scars and blemishes, are worn like things of beauty, marks of honor and courage that she makes no attempt to conceal. If a scar on her arm makes her less appealing to someone, then, well… that’s just how it’s going to be. She will not surround herself with an air of false delicacy. She is strength, she is vibrance, she is life, and there’s no point in pretending to be weak and wilting and delicate instead.

Even her natural coloration is saturated, raw, vital. Her hair is the color of ripened, dark plums, or perhaps aubergine in low light. It falls, if unbound, to around her waist or so, but for the most part, she is practical enough to keep it tied up, so that it remains out of the way of what she’s doing. There are shorter bits in front of her face, often brushed away in gestures of irritation while she waits for them to grow back out. Almond-shaped eyes, set on either side of an arrow-straight nose, are golden in the iris, like the first glow of dawn. A family trait, if anyone should care to know. Of special note are her hands—Rei has what are often termed a musician’s hands—that is, they are slender and the digits long and tapered, elegant, almost. They are also unerringly precise, as they must be for anyone in the business of saving lives that others have tried very hard to take.

Her gait is rolling, almost stalking, like a predatory cat or the first hint of an incoming thunderstorm. It’s almost ironic, all things considered. She seems to possess a higher-than-average number of scars on her person, highly noticeable for being either white or pink against the darkness of her skin. There are none on her face, but several visible on her arms, and, should she have cause to bare them, her legs as well. ]




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I’ve watched love destroy life, and life destroy love. I’m not sure which one’s more worth having, in the end.




Potential Interest
Uhh...: Despite a certain amount of… forwardness in her demeanor, Rei is not usually one for liaisons with others, male or female. Arguably, this stems from the complex web of circumstances surrounding her parents and her Kekkei both, but whatever the case, she is infamously single, and quite practiced at varieties of declination and rejection running from polite ease-down to face-punching. It probably qualifies as an art form.

Skills

    Herbalism || Somewhat lost amongst the flashier ninja arts is knowledge and application (poisonous or medicinal) of various natural plants and herbs. It is not an art that Rei neglected to learn, largely because her path to becoming a kunoichi was not exactly a conventional one. Whatever the case, she can supplement more direct healing with herbal knowledge, and is an expert in poisons and antidotes.
    Poisons/Immunity || It is an arduous process, but the human body can be trained to withstand the effect of toxins of all kinds, from snake venom to nightshade and other deadly concoctions. By ingesting small doses of such substances and riding out the uncomfortable consequences, Rei has gradually developed a tolerance to them, and gained what acts as an effective immunity to being poisoned. The very personal experiences have also given her intimate knowledge of which poisons produce which symptoms, and how to treat them if necessary, meaning that her knowledge does not only benefit herself.
    Intuition || It is nothing so complex as being able to read someone’s mind or pick up consciously on the finest of motor tremors, but historically, Rei’s intuition has been almost uncannily accurate. She seems to be able to get a sense of a person’s character from just observing them, though of course she cannot divine the past or anything so specific as what might have led to a person’s nature. She cannot learn anyone’s secrets through her observations, but she can learn that someone has secrets, and is quite good at knowing whose intentions are hostile.

Medical Ninjutsu

Ninjutsu


Nintaijutsu


Kekkei Genkai
    Unmei Saiken || [Destiny Bond]: Technically a medical ninjutsu technique, Unmei Saiken uses Rei's exceptional chakra control to interweave her chakra pathways with those of another person. The result is that that person's life becomes temporarily bound to hers--as long as she is alive, they are alive, and if she dies, so will they. It is primarily used to keep dying patients from succumbing to their injuries while she works on healing them, for the technique in itself does not heal, only keeps a person bound to life. If they are suffering, then, it could arguably be a fate worse than death. Offensively, it can be used to induce a stalemate condition, in which it is impossible for either Rei or the person she is bonded to to hurt one another, at risk of doing themselves that same damage. It requires no chakra to maintain, only to form.
    Unmei Saiken: Eizoku || [Destiny Bond: Permanence]: The average instance of Unmei Saiken lasts only as long as Rei is conscious and actively maintaining it, and it is a significant drain on her focus. The next level of the technique, however, allows for bonds of any sort of duration, assuming the other party is willing or at the very least, not actively resisting her. Weaving chakras together is a delicate process, after all, and if she encounters resistance, doing it in a long-term manner is impossible. There are some side effects to such a bond--it is, for example, difficult for herself and the subject to be a great distance apart. She has only ever used this for healing that is still in critical stages when she needs to sleep. She breaks the bonds thereafter.
    Unmei Saiken: Eien || [Destiny Bond: Eternity]: Theoretically possible but never actually used, the highest level of the Unmei Saiken is a lifelong binding of two chakras. Still theoretically, it would allow the people involved to utilize one another's chakra elements (though not jutsu, obviously), and bind their lives such that they would both live out the lifespan of the source (in Rei's case, Rei herself), and both die when she died. Apparently, her father and mother were bonded in this way, and were able to sense disturbances in one another's emotions and chakra from great distances. Rei herself can't imagine ever using the technique, but she knows how.




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I suppose I’m what you call a specialist. I do what I do very well, but I don’t even pretend to be able to do everything.




Other
N/A

Habits

    Snacking || Eh, what can she say? She likes to eat. She doesn’t especially have to worry about negative consequences for her fitness considering how active she is. She doesn’t even pack away an especially large amount at mealtimes; it’s just that she’s usually munching on something, usually dango or takoyaki or something of that nature, though she is also fond of hard candies. Rei’s general policy is to do everything in life with gusto and relish—why should eating be any exception?
    Napping || What’s not to like? Luxuriant snoozes in the sun, stolen z’s in trees, hell, she could fall asleep in a pile of snow for all she cares. Rei doesn’t sleep very much or very well at night, and so she tends to have a catnap sleep schedule. This can work in her favor—it means she doesn’t have to get eight hours at once like a lot of people do, and can more easily adjust her patterns for missions.
    Walks || Or runs. Really, she likes to get out and see things—people, places, whatever. It’s nice to be able to remind yourself that you are not the only thing in the world that matters, nor the only person that struggles. She’s learned to take the long view on things, but looking back out every now and again doesn’t hurt her chances of keeping it that way.




Likes
    Children || Rei loves kids, kids love Rei. She’s not sure if there’s something about her that secretly screams “big sister” or “maternal instincts” or what, but there you have it. She gravitates towards the cheeky little bastards, and they to her. It’s a mutually rewarding experience, usually, because she’ll share her hidden hoards of candy with them, and there’s something about seeing a child smile that’s just… nice and uncomplicated.
    Plants || An apothecary’s daughter probably should like them, and she has the green thumb to match. Flowers, vegetables, trees, herbs… she likes them all, and can grow just about anything the climate will permit.
    Snow || There’s not a lot of it on Kumo, so it’s something of a novelty for her. Rei likes rain, too, but snow is her favorite. There’s something… enchanting about it, and she’s not above appreciating the little things in life.

Dislikes
    Boredom || If you have the time and energy to be complaining about how bored you are, you have the time and energy to find something to do. This is something Rei’s father was fond of saying, and it seems to have stuck. She is rarely idle, and even when she is, she’s still doing something, because she hates the feeling of being unable to do anything at all. Part of that’s just her nature, and the other part… well, it comes from something a little… darker. But she doesn’t really like to think about it.
    Violence || In all honesty, Rei is done with wars. The first one took away more comrades and good people (on both sides, she is sure) than she really likes to contemplate, and she herself has never been especially fond of doing harm to another. Strong she may be, but sometimes the greater strength is in laying aside the easy answers, the ones with sharp things and death. She of all people has great reason to bear grudge against the shinobi of the Leaf, but she chooses to set it aside.
    Dreaming || Her dreams are rarely pleasant. It’s why she has so much trouble sleeping at night—the nightmares inevitably wake her, and her rest is never especially restful when taken as other people take theirs. Perhaps that’s why she has gravitated to a catnap schedule.




Strengths
    Chakra Control || Her chakra pool is only above average, not at all incredible or extraordinary, but it’s something she’s working on, and has been since she started training. Considering she started with a level well below average, she’s not doing so bad. But the true strength of someone like Rei is in her fine-tuned control. Use of her Kekkei-Genkai demands it, else she risks crippling or killing both herself and the subject of the jutsu as well.
    Intelligence || Technically, Rei was an apothecary before she was a ninja, and that requires quite a lot of intelligence to pull off. Working with potentially-hazardous plants and materials is not for the stupid, unless perhaps they are also suicidal. More than that, she is sharp in the sense of diplomacy and people skills as well, though she does not always come off as such.
    Flexibilty || People... should probably not be able to bend like that.

Weaknesses
    Compassion || Ninja are supposed to be hard, solitary, tough. And sometimes, occasionally, Rei can mimic being those things well enough to get by. But the truth of the matter is, the violence and the death bothers her. She's a healer, by training and by nature, and she knows what it feels like to be so bound up in another person (literally) that it's hard to tell yourself apart from them. It makes it very difficult for her to choose to end a life, regardless of the circumstances. She won't spout gooey shit about peace and love to you, she just... doesn't like war and hate. That's all. Even that's enough to be a liability sometimes, though.
    Breadth || Not by any means a Jack-of-all-trades. Rei is very much a specialist, and her specialties are healing first and lightning second. She's only barely passable with weaponry. Hand-to-hand? Fine. Shuriken and kunai? Well, good enough to make jōnin, but no better. Swords? No freaking way.
    Scars || The physical ones, numerous though they may be, are fine. Her medical skills ensured that they didn't reach deep tissue. The mental ones, on the other hand? They still give her nightmares, and she sleeps only fitfully a best because of that.




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I’ve got nothing to hide. Hell, if I tried to keep everything a secret like some of these people, it’d just weigh me down too much, you know?




Personality
Willful | Sultry | Good-Hearted | Open | Protective


On the surface of things, Rei Hinode is a very simple person. Quite straightforward, blunt, if a little snarky, and mostly open with her displays of emotion—certainly more so than the average ninja, who is taught to be more reticent for his or her own good. She seems willfully ignorant or oblivious to convention in regards to the ways a kunoichi “should” behave, and flies in the face of most of them by being so noticeable she could never just blend. It isn’t so much her physical features, though the uniqueness of her appearance does help, as it is something about her bearing. She isn’t just living, she’s alive, and seems almost to trails all the colors and music in the world with her when she goes. Against a backdrop of black and white and grey, she’s a bright fucking red, and she’s not going to apologize for that.

One might think her obnoxious or unintelligent to be described in such a way, but in truth, neither adjective applies. She is forthright and without deception, this is true, but she does not flaunt anything about herself. Rather, vibrancy is just her natural mode of existing. Some people want attention—Rei just wants to be herself, the way she really is, and if that means people happen to take notice, well… so be it. She’s actually pretty good at noticing things herself, with an observant aspect that fits her intuitive nature very well. She feels just as much as she thinks, and where some might consider this a shortcoming, she sees it as a strength. There’s no point in trying to reject her feelings—because they aren’t really under her control. So she accepts them as they are, and then if she needs to, she moves on. She doesn’t keep anything bottled up, and though she may not always volunteer her thoughts, she will be very honest if asked for them.

There is, perhaps, a certain charm to that, and it has won her friends in the past, as well as some enemies. She does not tell people what they desire to hear, and that kind of honesty can sometimes fly in the face of established norms of politeness, causing offense. Even so, though, she’s not bad with diplomacy, in the sense that her lack of deception means that most people know they can trust her. Many also believe they can use her, and sometimes, she allows them to believe that. The occasional omission is not beyond her repertoire of skills, after all.

Deep down, she is the kind of person who cares perhaps a little too much, even about people she has never met before. This is not to say she has never killed anyone, only that she generally refrains from doing so. It was a war, she was a ninja, and sometimes, she had to kill the enemy to save a comrade. That much is true, and she will not deny it. She also will not deny that it hurt her, perhaps more than it should have, to do so, and she carries the weights of those deaths even now on her shoulders. Rei may appear to be lighthearted and carefree, but if one looks closely enough, one can see differently.




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No one here is blameless, and I at least don’t intend to cast any more blame. That was what got us into this mess in the first place. I’m willing to lay aside my grudges, even if nobody else is.




History

Rei Hinode was not born a ninja. Actually, her father was an apothecary, and her mother a seamstress. Both lived and worked as tradespeople in Kumogakure, and it was expected that eventually, Rei would probably do the same. They’d been shinobi once, maybe a few generations back, but the old line of warriors was dying out, and in truth, most of the members of the clan seemed to share a temperament somewhat too gentle for the work of killing others. They made much better doctors and healers than anything, and Rei grew up with her father’s medical books and the herbs he grew in the small garden in front of their home. It was neither a grand nor especially hardscrabble existence, and they were moderately successful at what they did. Her mother made and repaired equipment for the ninja, and her father acted to heal them of poison and take care of their relatives when someone caught a disease. That was basically all there was to it.

Rei was training in the same, and was about fourteen when it happened. Her father suffered and accident, trying to give triage care to a ninja he found injured outside of the village, clearly trying to make his way back to the hospital. Unfortunately, the man had been poisoned, and with little natural resistance, Rei’s father was unintentionally infected. His death was quick, but, due to the family’s latent Kekkei Genkai, his death took Rei’s mother along with him, something Rei witnessed. Eventually, the cause of the incident was discovered, and Rei began ritually ingesting poisons thereafter, instructing herself in how to dose them from what was actually a very old ninja technique scroll.

Her apothecary training still incomplete, she started looking for someone to finish her instruction, but there were few people who bothered much with such arts when advanced medical ninjutsu was so readily available. The only things chemists could really do better was treat disease, and that wasn’t nearly as much of a concern in Kumogakure as mission injuries were. If Rei wanted to continue upon the path of healing others, her best option was to get training as a medical ninja.

She was definitely late in starting compared to others, and had to fight quite hard just to get accepted into the academy, where she started her training along with children half her age, many of them from proud lineages and already well-versed in things like chakra pathways and hand seals. Rei knew none of it, and was playing catch-up basically from the very start. Never once, however, did she allow it to get her down, for she believed that, however slow her progress might be, she was doing the right thing. She was finding her purpose, her way to not only continue her family’s legacy of healing the sick and injured, but also finding her personal path through the world, one she felt had no place for her but this.

Though she started at the very bottom, with a paltry chakra pool barely enough to earn her entrance into the Academy with six-year-olds, she worked harder than any of them, her personal discipline matched only by her thirst for knowledge and zest for life, and slowly, but surely, it all paid off. Given her age difference, she was taken on as a special case apprentice by an elderly ninja, well into his octogenarian years when he took her on after her graduation, a feat she did not achieve until she was fifteen. Hibiki was, however, a very good medic-nin, perhaps the best Kumogakure had. You are not talented, he told her, but that’s why I chose you. Talent is a crutch. It is something for the weak-spirited to lean on, to get them through what they cannot work hard enough to achieve. You will achieve everything they do, because you will work for it. And when at last you stand on even ground with those talented people, you will know that, when things get so difficult they seem impossible to bear, you will stand strong while they falter. Because you will already know how to do the impossible.

He was, in his way, exactly right. Hibiki taught her until he had nothing left to teach. Rei achieved Chūnin rank at the ripe old age of seventeen, but made Jōnin only one year later, and was accepted into the medical corps. The training is difficult even for the exceptionally talented, and it was not easy for her, either. But as Hibiki had predicted, she already knew how to deal with that, and when all was said and done, her chakra control and medical ninjutsu were the very pinnacle of what Kumogakure had to offer in the area. She was strong, because she had worked hard for it.

Then the war started.

Most members of the medical corps saw little to no direct frontline action—they were too vital in treating the wounded and saving lives to risk direct combat. Rei was one of the few exceptions. Embedded with an elite Jōnin Lightning Unit, the Kumogakure equivalent of an ANBU squad, she saw more action than she truly lies to think about, but things were not unbearably bad until about a year into the war. Her unit, exhausted from days of relentless guerilla strikes on the Konohagakure ninja, fell into a trap, and were ambushed from all sides. Most were killed, but Rei was captured instead.

She does not speak in great detail about what happened to her, but she spent almost a year of her life in the company only of the Konoha interrogators and her own thoughts. She came out of it with too many scars to count, if only the ones on her body are taken into consideration. It is written on her skin, the story of what happened to her in there, and nobody’s really quite sure how she escaped her torture, but escape she did, and returned to Kumogakure. When the Raikage was killed and Takehiko Yamamoto made the next Raikage, she was asked personally to accompany him to Konoha for the negotiations. She agreed without hesitation, and has resolved to set aside what happened to her there, even if she should meet her interrogator face-to-face.




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I believe they thought they had broken me. And perhaps they had, but all they broke was skin and bone. No man can break your spirit without your permission, and I never gave them that.



So begins...

Rei Hinode's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoko Uzumaki Character Portrait: Takehiko Yamamoto Character Portrait: Katsuro Uchiha Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Ryuu Tsukino Character Portrait: Naomichi Yuhara Character Portrait: Akira Aburame Character Portrait: Rei Hinode Character Portrait: Nariko Kaneshiro Character Portrait: Kiriko Gekkō
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Mizuki Kawagure, Eighth Hokage, surveyed the young shinobi before her with a critical eye. They were Konohagakure’s best and brightest, in one way or another, though to call any of them ideal for this mission was a stretch. She’d had to balance her need to pick the people most likely to be able to handle the Raikage’s party with the competing need to encourage diplomacy rather than violence. The Council was insistent that these peace talks go well, and she knew the newly-minted Raikage had scored himself serious points in the eyes of the rest of the world by being the first to extend his hand in this fashion… and by agreeing to a negotiation scenario that would be against he and his people from the very start. It was on her turf, surrounded by her people, and almost entirely on her terms.

She fully planned on taking advantage of that.

But in order to make sure things went as they needed to, his people would have to be watched without being caged, and for that, she needed these personnel. Kiyoko Uzumaki was the youngest, but also the most likely to succeed at being diplomatic and controlling herself, so she was nominally in charge of the team. The rest were there because they were either exceptionally talented or else because they had some ability that would be advantageous in such a scenario as this one. The Aburame’s bugs, the Tsukino’s eyes… and well, to be honest Yuhara was there because he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them if he needed to and the Uchiha present because the Hokage took great pleasure in watching him squirm… and because the Raikage was a Jinchūriki.

Folding her hands behind her back, the Hokage tossed back her rose-colored ponytail and stared them down silently for a moment. “I trust,” she said slowly, her voice on a lower register for a woman, so calm it could only be the kind of thing that masked something else. “That I do not have to remind you that the future of your village rests on this.” And because of how important their village was, the future of much of the world, not just its ninja. There was no overestimating the importance of it. “You are to be as hospitable as you possibly know how,” the sardonic inflection, ever so slight, gave away that she knew some of them weren’t capable of much in that department. “And as polite as you can pretend. Until such time as any of them act untowardly, they are honored guests. If they make trouble, you are authorized to use exactly as much force as is necessary to stop that trouble. You will meet them outside the gates, escort them to the guest facility, and see that they eat. Then, you will bring them here. Other than that, do as Uzumaki tells you. Am I understood?”

She wouldn’t usually be so stern about it, but she had a reputation for not suffering fools lightly, and she certainly would not tolerate any foolishness here. These shinobi were ANBU, medics, members of village nobility, and sometimes even teachers. Now, they would have to be diplomats. Difficult as it may be for some of them, it was imperative. Obtaining what she deemed to be the required amount of assent, the Hokage nodded. “Then you are dismissed.”

Kiyoko stood before the eight Hokage, her lips pursed deeply together as the older woman surveyed the team. Being the youngest of the group, would have normally caused her to be a little more temperamental, however; this mission required her to be at her utmost behavoir. She was to lead one of the best teams at the moment, to ensure that everything went as smoothly as it could possibly go. She wasn't sure she was exactly the best person to handle the situation, but then again, it might as well be her. Naruto was, after all, her grandfather, and that alone should have stripped her from even leading this team. But a part of her was glad that she was being given that chance to do something good, something he would have wanted.

She remained quiet as Mizuki spoke, her eyes focused on the Hokage. She absorbed the information, sorting it out into the proper order before she nodded her head. They were going to escort the Kumogakure shinobi to their facilities, feed them, and then bring them here to her. Seemed simple enough, however; she glanced over the group that was under her guidance. Akira, Ryuu, Naomichi, and Katsuro. She almost snorted at the last face she landed on. Katsuro didn't seem too pleased to be here, but she was glad he was, in a weird sort of way. She focused her attention back to Mizuki and saluted the Hokage, a grin settling on her lips.

"Leave it to us, Mizu," she replied, standing out in front of her team before folding her arms against her chest. "You heard the woman. Everything and anything I say, goes, and if any of you have anything to say about that, well," she spoke, her head tilting to the side as a bright smile crossed her face. "You are free to express it, but I don't guarantee I'll take it into consideration," she stated, the smile never fading from her face. If they had anything to say about her and her leadership, they were free to state as such, however; it didn't mean she had to listen to it. For all she cared, they could take it and shove it, even if they were all on good terms. Or at least somewhat on good terms as far as she could tell.

"Unless Mizu here has anything else to say, shall we go meet our new friends?" she questioned, taking a glance over her shoulder towards Mizuki before turning her attention back to her comrades, her eyes lingering just a moment longer on Katsuro with evident amusement.

The Hokage rolled her eyes, but waved a hand anyway. Uzumaki was like that—and probably the only person who could get away with calling her Mizu. Probably because her grandfather had been Mizuki’s teacher and so she’d been around a lot when Kiyoko was growing up. The nickname was an old one. “I already told you to leave, Uzumaki. Don’t be late—we could hardly make a bad first impression on our guests. That she was not especially happy that the Raikage and four of his best would be in the middle of her village for an unknown period of time should have surprised no one.




In sharp contrast to his counterpart on Konohagakure, the Raikage wore a big smile on his face. In all fairness, pretty much everything about him was big, and so his smiles should probably be no exception. The journey here from Kumo had taken the better part of a week, even moving at the pace of very highly-trained, very fast shinobi. It was, after all, quite a distance from one country to the other. He didn’t mind the inconvenience, though—the people he was travelling with were among his closest friends and strongest allies, and that made the distance seem shorter, at least to his mind. Perhaps some would say that mind was just simple, and in truth, perhaps Takehiko would even agree. He didn’t really see a problem with simple, after all.

“What do you think, Rei?” he asked the kunoichi immediately behind him, tilting his head back over his shoulder to glance at her from the corner of his uncovered eye. The smile didn’t disappear, even if it might have been a shade unnerving, given the fact that his eyeteeth were slightly larger than normal, and pointed. It was all Mata’s fault anyhow.

“We’re close,” the medic-nin replied, flexing one of her hands. The thin white scars on the back of her hand pulled taut, then eased when she relaxed her fingers. She was the one who had most recently been to the place, and the only one who would remember its exact location. None of the fighting had ever quite reached either village. “I don’t expect they’ll just let us walk in through the front gate, though… not by ourselves.”

“Mm… probably not,” Takko consented easily enough. “But you never know… we might just make ourselves some friends out of the deal, hm?” His grin widened, and that was how she knew there was more to what he said than a simple, naively-optimistic sentiment. Simple he might be, but Rei knew very well that he was a far cry short of stupid.

"Yeah, well you guys have your work cut out for you then. I don't need to make friends, I already have friends," Nariko replied, shoving her hands behind her head as she stared up at the sky. Her mother was related to the Nara of the Konohagakure village, however; give that she was his grandchild, she might not be as welcomed as she thought she might be. She, after all, did fight in the war too. She killed her fair share of shinobi from Konoha, and she wouldn't be able to wash that away. "Oh look, here's the welcome party now," she stated, lowering her gaze to spot the gates of Konoha in the distance. She could see the outline of five people, and one in particular caused her to grin.

Kiyoko stared at the group coming into view, standing with her arms crossed against her chest. She narrowed her eyes slightly to get a better look, and sighed. She could make the faint outline of something large, and human. If she had to guess, he was either a body guard, or he was the actual Raikage of Kumo. She was going to go with body guard. That left one of the others to be the Raikage, though it ruled out the three kunoichi. If she remembered correctly, the brief said he, not she. That left the shorter, less large male of the group. Sighing, she waited for the group to approach, glancing back towards Nariko and frowned. It had been a while since she'd seen the Kaneshiro, but now was not the time fore reminiscing.

"Alright guys, you know the drill. Be nice, introduce yourselves, and be nice," Kiyoko stated. She shifted so that her arms were at her sides now, and waited for the shinobi from Kumogakure to approach. Once they did, she remained silent for a moment, tilting her head as she regarded the large one, almost tempted to ask about the eye, however; it would be unprofessional and she couldn't exactly just ask. Instead, she cleared her throat and placed a hand on her hip. "Welcome to Konoha. I trust that your trip was pleasant," she started, putting an emphasis on the last word before glancing over her shoulder.

"Kiyoko Uzumaki, at your service. This is my team," she stated, jabbing her thumb in the direction of the others. "We are here to accompany you into the village," and in some way, babysit them, though she wasn't going to say that. She glanced back at her team, waiting for them to introduce themselves. It would be good to know everyones names first, rather than just saying hey you all the time.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoko Uzumaki Character Portrait: Takehiko Yamamoto Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Rei Hinode Character Portrait: Nariko Kaneshiro Character Portrait: Kiriko Gekkō
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For all the failures and faults of Konohagakure that Kosan was able to drag forth from his bitter memory, there was one thing he could not fault them. Their land was beautiful. It was almost mockingly so as Kumogakure was a pale comparison to the magnificent forest and green grass that swept the landscape as far as his sharp blue eyes could see. It was almost as if the land itself were mocking him as they were walking through it, the grass bending and sweeping under their feet, carrying them towards their destination, to talk of peace in their enemies' village. Kosan did not consider himself to be an expert in diplomacy, but he understood that meeting someone in their power base instead of a neutral location was a clear sign of dominance.

They were asking for a peace treaty from Konohagakure, and it revolted him. But there was nothing he could, or would, do to stop the talks. If Takehiko desired peace then he would do his best to see it done, but there was something far more important waiting in that village. Every footstep brought him one step closer to where the being that had haunted his dreams for years lived. Whenever he pondered on it, it brought upon a odd mixture of emotions from rage to anticipation and even fear of the confrontation.

Kosan snapped out of his thoughts when Takko spoke to Rei. He hadn't caught what, only her name and his voice had reached him from the dark corners of his mind. From their small interaction, he was able to hear the words he had been anticipating and dreading in equal measures to hear, they were close. Turning his blue eyes forward, he chose to ignore Takko's comment on making friends as he had no desire to make friends, if he had it his way, the city would be burning and the skies filled with the screams of newly created orphans, but perhaps that is why Takehiko was his Raikage, he was strong, but he had a good heart.

Turning his eyes to the left, he glanced at Rei for a second briefly wondering what she was thinking at this moment. How did she feel as they got closer? He knew a little of what she went through at the place, and Kosan felt remiss that he had not given her the attention he should have had as she must have felt something at returning to a place and people that had tortured her, but even if he had, what could he have given her save for empty words? The sudden spike of chakra nearly had Kosan reaching for his hilt, but he stayed his hand as he was on a mission for peace. He ran his blue eyes over the group before him, a few stood out instantly, one with an eyepatch that almost made him want to see him and Takko get in a staring contest, a red headed woman who, given her speech, was obviously the leader, and a very large blond man. Without measuring, it seemed he was a few inches taller then he was. Kosan turned his head to look at his Raikage, waiting for him to give his own introduction.




While the main pack continued their descent on the forest like nation that was the Hidden Leaf Village, Kiriko brought up the rear for obvious reasons: as a sensor, she could tell when others were approaching from behind. As the ‘Guardian’ of the Raikage, it was her duty to make sure that all sections were protected; even if she knew well enough that not many of those selected would need it. Nevertheless, she continued her duties correctly and without hesitation - especially since she had been assigned it by Hiko himself. It was probably to make sure she didn’t start a conversation with one of the others and start an inner war with those that she didn’t know entirely. Her kimono flowed with the wind as her head continued to swerve and observe the landscape - she had initially refused to care about its beauty, but ultimately had to give the place some credit.

The mission gave her much time to ponder her worries, but mostly attempt to figure out just why this mission existed. Why bother attempt a peace treaty, when it was obvious that the Leaf would attempt something shifty? Hiko had gone out of his way to make sure that it looked one sided, and Kiri knew that if she were the Leaf, she would take advantage of that power instantly. Granted, she wasn’t one to really talk: she cared for no village. Villages were simply a collection of people with the same ideals under a ruler that was deemed strongest. The idea that they would fight against another village simply because the leaders have different symbols on their foreheads was absurd. Yet she knew that patriotism was a thing amongst others, so she would have to factor it in if a blood bath was destined to occur.

Of course, Kiriko heard what Hiko and Rei spoke of, and focused on the arrival that was deemed imminent. There was only a sliver of nervousness, simply because she had been told strictly by Hiko to ‘keep her mouth closed and not stare at like you want to kill them so often’. She could even hear the hint of laughter in his voice, which had made her nostalgic. The fact that Hiko was so carefree and full of life made her envious of him, but she knew that he didn’t have it any better than she: the only difference was that she was labeled a monster, and he a hero. However, her thoughts were torn as the chakra she had sensed a while away finally came into focus, and she began the chakra signatures. For a supposed welcome party, the amount of raw power that emanated from their beings did not make her feel any more welcome than when she tried killing them in the war.

They arrived in front of the Leaf nin quite rapidly, and then she began to profile them from the back, and already deemed herself to be the smallest one of them all. Not that it bothered her, as being the smallest always had perks in the ninja world: fitting through small spaces, lighter footprints, hacking at their ankles. Yet despite this, she couldn’t help but shrink at the size of them, even their one woman was massive. Nevertheless, the one named Uzumaki - most likely the descendent of the deceased - addressed the Raikage. Only she addressed Kosan, the swordsman, instead. Kiriko couldn’t help it as she snaked her way beside Hiko to stare the woman straight in the eye and speak - breaking the rule she was supposed to keep. At least she tried her hardest not to harden her eyes - but that didn't stop her voice from sounding a little dead.

”It would be wise for you to address the right person as Raikage if you wish to discuss a peace treaty, don’t you think?”




From the way Uzumaki-san was positioned just slightly oriented towards Kosan, Takehiko suspected that she might have come to the conclusion that he was the Raikage. He did look more the part, perhaps, with a bit of refinement to him, like an actual leader was probably supposed to have. Takko… well, he looked more like someone’s hired muscle, really, and it was perhaps just one more sign that he wasn’t really suited to this job. But… nevertheless, it was his and he had to do it properly, so he would.

His thoughts were interrupted by movement from behind him, and for a moment, he just blinked down at Kiriko next to him, and down was the operative word, considering the difference in height between them. He’d half-jokingly asked her not to say much, if only because he was afraid that she might be a little too… forthright and get herself in trouble, but he wasn’t upset with her, not in the slightest. Instead, he smiled, and reached up a hand to lay on her head, an old gesture from their shared youth. “It’s all right, Kiriko,” he said mildly, directing his attention to the redheaded woman who had spoken first. “I’m still quite new, after all.”

Clearing his throat, he raised his other hand to about shoulder level and waved it almost sheepishly. “Nice to meet you, Uzumaki-san. I would be Takehiko Yamamoto.” The emphasis was only very slight, indicating a lack of offense. Perhaps his name had made it into whatever briefing they’d been given. Then again… perhaps not. He supposed the Hokage must have no great like of any of them. But this was exactly what he was here to fix, and so he wasn’t here to let it bother him. “These are my very best ninja, and I’m pleased to be here.”

From the opposite side of him to Kiriko, Rei spoke up, inclining her head slightly. She was… not disposed to bow, even if it might have been a little more polite. There was still a little too much tension for her to dare taking her eyes off anyone for that long. “Rei Hinode.” She decided against saying anything else, and instead simply adjusted the sleeves of her uniform.




Nariko kept a clamped hand over her mouth, trying to stifle a laugh at the misconception of who was Raikage. Really, it wasn't Takehiko's fault he was so damn huge, but she couldn't really put it past her friend for the mistaken identity. If he wasn't so large, maybe it wouldn't have happened. She blinked, instead, when Kiriko spoke, and raised an eyebrow. Still the ever mouth on her. Nariko shrugged her shoulders lightly, and waited for everyone to speak. It wasn't as if she needed an introduction though. She knew Kiyoko, slightly knew the Uchiha (if barely), but the others, she didn't know. She rolled her shoulders slightly and mimicked the Konoha kunoichi by placing her own hand on her hip.

"Nariko Kaneshiro, but you already knew that," she stated, folding her arms behind her back and rocked on the heels of her feet. "Though, I really wouldn't say the best," she muttered beneath her breath. They were all good, granted, but she wouldn't go so far as to say the were the best. Takehiko was nice like that, she supposed. But to say they were the best? Now that was just being modest. She'd let it go for now, though. It wasn't worth her thoughts. "It's been awhile, Koko," she stated, smirking just lightly at the old nickname she'd given the redhead years ago. She could almost see the scowl on Kiyoko's face, but had turned her attention towards Kosan.

"Silent beauty over there," she stated, jabbing her thumb towards Kosan, who had remained silent through most of the talking, "is Zetsubo, or Kosan, whichever you prefer." Might as well introduce him now. Still, one of these days, her mouth was going to get her into trouble. She knew she shouldn't just speak for people, but an old habit was hard to kill.




Kosan was able to pierce together that Uzumaki seemed to think he was the Raikage, he was by no means a fool, but he didn't wish to draw attention to it as the thought of him being the Raikage was a terrifying enough proposal enough. He never fancied himself being anything more then he was now, he had no desire nor inklings for more responsibilities when he could barely keep up with the ones he had. He was going to let Takehiko vanish that idea as it only seemed, but it seemed someone else had other plans. He couldn't help the slight tug at the corner of his lips as his blue eyes watched Kiriko step forward to correct the mistake. Her stern words made Kosan's hand twitch expecting it to cause some trouble, but he wasn't sure what he had been expecting from Kiriko. He did not know her very well, but he had high regards for her abilities which was often enough.

He would be lying if he said he did not feel disappointment when Takko answered Uzumaki, Kosan had been hoping this would cause a tension that would have ended in a fight. He knew his mission, and he would do his best to help his Raikage complete his mission, but he wasn't opposed to shedding some blood with the Konohagakure, in fact, quite the opposite. It seemed Rei was on board as well as she spoke her name. He wasn't sure what he felt at Rei bowing her head slightly to the Shin, he knew it was more of out social courtesy then anything else but even that felt like too much. Kosan turned his eyes back to the red head and opened his mouth to give his own introduction when Nariko stepped forward, and it seemed the two had met before, well, wasn't that information that would have been nice to know before hand? In fact, it seemed Nariko went the extra step and introduced him... for him?

"At least I am beautiful. Whatever would I do if I was hideous? I wouldn't be half as interesting and no one would bother with learning my name," Kosan said raising an eyebrow at his 'companion'. He always enjoyed straight-forward and brash natures like hers. It was always refreshing to not have to worry about secret thoughts and agendas, half truths and lies, while the truth could be a cool breeze on a summer day, it could also be a knife in the heart, but he preferred both so long as the person plunging the knife into his heart looked him in the eyes.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoko Uzumaki Character Portrait: Takehiko Yamamoto Character Portrait: Katsuro Uchiha Character Portrait: Ryuu Tsukino Character Portrait: Naomichi Yuhara Character Portrait: Akira Aburame Character Portrait: Rei Hinode Character Portrait: Ayaka Satomi Character Portrait: Nariko Kaneshiro Character Portrait: Kiriko Gekkō
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A blonde figure towered over most of the current shinobi present. Only two were taller than her, one significantly and one just barely. Of course, the only person in the entire world she would expect to tower over her was in fact that man, the Raikage himself. Contrary to many others around her, she was not dressed like a ninja. She wore a black suit adorned with white pin-stripes. The white shirt underneath was untouched in color, save for the red tie right down the center. Across her forehead was a string that tied down her otherwise messy blonde hair. That string tied to a mask in the shape of a fox, clearly identifiable as an ANBU Black Ops mask. Eyes of red looked over everyone arriving from Kumogakure. Her look was not one of malice, but not one of trust either. Even if she was not under orders, she would not have outright attacked them. They were here to create peace, end the killing of each other's comrades. For that reason alone, she would be civil.

Anyone standing near the blonde giant would faintly smell strawberry. It was from the strawberry brandy she had sampled from the night before that helped her keep a smile plastered on her face. A fake smile, and one certainly not caused by her visitors... but a smile nonetheless. A couple of introductions went over Akira's head as she wasn't quite paying perfect attention until someone from Kumogakure had spoken up and told the Uzumaki girl to address the proper guy. Her eyes focused around those talking as she would finally begin paying attention. First to Takehiko Yamamoto, the Raikage. It seemed like she chose the right time to pay attention. Then came the introduction of Nariko Kaneshiro, who in turn introduced Kosan. She wasn't quite sure how she felt about any of them thus far, but at least the Raikage seemed charismatic.

At this point, nobody but Kiyoko from Konoha had introduced themselves. It would seem that this would be up to her. Stepping forward, she puffed out her (regretfully small) chest and adjust her tie. With a clear of her throat, she spoke up. "My name is Akira Aburame, next in line for head of the noble Aburame Clan. I am..." She could not think of a polite and honest adjective to describe it, so she would lie. "I am absolutely happy to have you in our village. In my home." She seemed to assert that point. "Me casa es su casa. If you need anything, do not hesitate to ask. It is my job after all to make sure that you are all well-taken care of." She also seemed to assert that it was her job, and that she took little pleasure in it. Looking to the sky, a purple-winged butterfly fluttered by and down. She held out her finger for a perch for the beautiful insect. Smiling at it, she let the genuine smile from the bug carry over to the Raikage specifically. "Welcome to Konohagakure."

As Naomichi approached the designated meeting place for the meeting of the peace treaty, his mind began to wander as the cool breeze blew past the relatively plain looking shinobi. How was he selected to go on such an important mission when he himself was only good at slaughter? Could it be for protection if things turned sour? It couldn't be since he clearly expressed his distaste for anymore violence than is necessary. And he wasn't the brightest or the most socially adept of anyone in the village - in fact he was one of the worst. I guess they only wanted me for killing then... Naomichi quietly thought to himself as he heaved a light sigh and lowered his head in a sorrowful manor.

By the time he reached the Kumogakure shinobi he regained a professional look about him. Despite being a top assassin for ANBU, he didn't really look the part. His black, tattered trench coat sat open on his defined muscles, and his eye-patch didn't serve him any better to look more normal. He looked more like a street thug than anything, and the only thing that defined him from being one was the white wolf mask resting on his belt loop, the eye slits giving an intimidating glare towards the others. He felt gross compared to how nice his companions looked around him.

As he scanned the the Kumo shinobi, he found relief that there was another man with an eye-patch like him. Phew, I don't look like a crazy freak now! Thank you Mr. Patchy! Despite his relatively innocent thoughts, Naomichi looked serious and threatening like he would be ready to take on anyone that even stepped out of place. All he was doing was staring down the man with the eye-patch, giving off a vibe that he really wasn't comfortable with the guy. Unfortunately for Naomichi, all he was doing was trying to have a staring contest with him - which he wasn't noticing.

When the man stepped forward though, Naomichi snapped from his trance and listened to what he had to say. Takehiko the Raikage huh? The man definitely matched his predecessors before him in every sense of appearance. He couldn't see anything wrong with him. In fact, there seemed to be nothing wrong with any of them. They all seemed perfectly nice, despite some obvious hostile looks. They probably were not as bad as Naomichi, and if he wanted to be forgiven of his past actions, he must treat them with the kindness and respect he feels they deserve. He even chuckled quietly at their jabs at one another. He felt that they all were just a happy family... something he always wanted.

When Akira introduced himself, Naomichi felt comfort that the only person who he had any relations with was first; Plus he wasn't first to begin with anyway - that would have just been weird with him. He knew that because of their solid teamwork he would be able to springboard off his introduction with enough grace to earn him a perfect score from the Kumo shinobi. After his sincere greeting to Kohana, Naomichi felt it was time for him to step in. He was proud, strong, and ready for anything. He raised his right hand to give a polite wave to the Kumo shinobi as he stepped forward. "Yo..." And then he choked for a moment. He hadn't planned beyond that. He was sweating bullets and he knew it. "I'm... Naomichi Yuhara?" His lip began to twitch at this moment. He wanted to be strong but he didn't even know what to do. "Welcome to our humble village where we plan to have peace one way or another..." And after saying that he just clammed up and slowly slid back into the line to drift back into obscurity.

Akira noticed the partner of many of her missions step forward and introduce himself. In this moment he said more than she had probably heard him speak in her entire time with him. Countless missions he generally remained silent and distant, listening to her plans and generally only confirming them with a nod. Smirking, she gave him a firm pat on his left shoulder as a way to commend him. Naomichi let a soft sigh come out as Akira patted him on his shoulder, slumping his shoulders down and letting his head hang for his failure.

A stretch to the right. A stretch to the left. A shake to the legs. A big yawn to finish it all up. Yes, that is what the infamous Jōnin known to many as Ryuu Tsukino was doing as Mizuki (never the kind to do with titles and honorifics) was explaining why he and the quadro-muppets (likes giving nicknames) were there right before her or even why they were gathered as a team. Really, he could care less about the details or the pleasantries which are needed to be abide. Furthermore, this was a repetitive scene to him. It was like a broken skit which played over and over again until the audience could not bear it anymore. So, do expect some tomatoes to be thrown. That was probably the only reason he had come at all to catch the tomatoes and make some nice ketchup for his omurice. Ah... this was making him hungry.

"I have something to say teacher!" Ryuu eagerly raised his hand with the accompaniment of a broad smile. It only made his handsome face be a bit more than ever. Kiyoko did after all say they can speak freely, so he will take the opportunity to do so. He even waved his hand in the air vigorously akin to a child and he was far from that. Whether he was fully aware or ignoring the the mission they were being entrusted with, no one can tell for certain. "Can I be excused? I'm hungry..." There it is... His fickle sickness known as laziness. This was one of the primary reasons he had not been designated to be an ANBU despite his skill sets being viable for such an occupation. He was also too unpredictable and has a clear disregard for authority even towards their own Hokage which causes her no ends of grief.

"You can handle those Kumo guys by yourselves... So, too--" He was immediately cut off as someone grabbed his ear and literally dragged him away. There were even a few reprimands along the way. Technically, that is how he had come to be in front of the one called Raikage and his entourage. Well, he could also say groupies. They were also told to be nice. Come now, nice was overrated in his personal opinion. However, he did not voice that out and instead held the ear which was still red. As he stood there, he released yet another yawn, clearly uncaring about the significance of this endeavor. In truth, he was already aware what this would entail. So, why not play along in his own way.

Kiyoko stepped up to the plate by introducing herself first. He shrugged his shoulders at this. This is why he called her Teacher. It reminded him of classroom introductions. More than that, he has no need for such things really. He already knew who the Raikage and Kumogakure ninjas are which was not shared by their esteemed redhead leader. As a result, there were a few chuckles on both sides, on their part? It came from him with a smirk on his face. Anyway, their visitors introduced themselves matched with a comedy routine. Well if the peace treaty does not work, they could always find work in entertainment. That's an upside, less death, more money too.

Anyways, it was their turn as Akira started it off with a lie. Then, it was followed by the socially-awkward Naomichi. For now, he still needed those training wheels in conversing. Still, not bad at all. Ryuu then noticed the eyes of his teammates on him. His turn, huh? Among them, he was the tallest and was not hard to spot with his mismatched colored eyes of blue and gold. He wore the standard Jōnin uniform but even then, it fitted him in a way a model would. After all, he is one of the pretty boys. Taking a step forward, he gave a smile. This one rather than a lie or an empty one. It held a blurry meaning. "Tsukino Ryuu. We're here to babysit you guys. Because let's face it, scars will always be scars."

Unlike Kiyoko who would withhold her tongue under the pressure of professionalism, Ryuu was not that kind. He had always pushed the borders and that would not change anytime soon. But then again, things had already been decided as far as he is concerned.

“Tch,”the scoff at Ryuu’s words came from the Konoha ninja furthest away from him, also in the ANBU uniform, a hawklike mask attached to his belt. Katsuro didn’t like standing anywhere near that guy, because he creeped him out, mostly. There was something off about him, like all that careless laziness was some kind of sickly saccharine illusion over something else. Personally, Katsu thought the Tsukino was just as much of an asshole as he was, but covered it up with that act of his. It was stupid. At least Uzumaki was really like that, annoying as it may be. Crossing his arms over his chest, he flicked a grey-eyed glance over the assembled nin. The eyes narrowed and he tilted his head slightly to the side.

Eventually, he shrugged. It was pointless trying to form opinions on someone from just an introduction, anyway. What kind of idiot would only rely on the first impression of someone to reach a conclusion? People were certainly more complicated than that. Of course, he’d seldom met one that he didn’t hate, but he supposed even that didn’t mean he never would. “Uchiha,” was all he gave by way of introduction, and then he threw an aside glance to Uzumaki. Standing out here making awkward small talk wasn’t going to help them any.

As all of the members of her team introduced themselves, Kiyoko could feel a light twitch on her eyebrow. She turned, slowly, to stare at Ryuu, her eyes narrowing just slightly. One of these days... just one of these days she was going to break something. Shaking her head, she sighed softly and turned back to the group, and raised a brow at the kunoichi who had spoken before the actual Raikage spoke. She made to shrug her shoulders, but caught herself, and instead, rolled them back. Couldn't be too disrespectful, not yet at least. She did, however, roll her eyes at the nickname, Nariko produced. She would not fall for that, she had to keep telling herself. Once everyone was finished with their introductions, Kiyoko cleared her throat once more and glanced, properly this time, at the Raikage.

"Now that everyone is formally introduced, I think it's time we show you to where you will all be staying. After that, you, I assume, may be hungry. We will show you to the cafeteria where you and your team may get something to eat, and for the record, Kiriko," she stated, turning her attention towards the dark-haired kunoichi. "I am not the one discussing the peace treaty. That would be your Raikage, and the Hokage, so no, I do not think I should have to do either of that," she replied, a bright smile lingering on her face. Not exactly the most ideal thing to say to the Kumogakure shinobi, but it was true. She wasn't the one going to discuss anything; that was the Raikage and Hokage.

"If there is nothing else to be said," she paused and glared at Ryuu, "then if you follow us, we shall show you the way."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoko Uzumaki Character Portrait: Takehiko Yamamoto Character Portrait: Katsuro Uchiha Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Ryuu Tsukino Character Portrait: Naomichi Yuhara Character Portrait: Akira Aburame Character Portrait: Rei Hinode Character Portrait: Nariko Kaneshiro Character Portrait: Kiriko Gekkō
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For the most part, Takehiko absorbed what was said without much discernible reaction. He was not a man who prided himself on being unreadable, as there honestly wasn’t much of a point to subtlety and dissembling when you were made like a sledgehammer anyway. But just because he didn’t make a point of showing off how clever he was didn’t mean he couldn’t see the implications behind some of the words, read a little into the way people stood or talked. He wasn’t the best at it, but his position would soon demand that he became very good. It was something he liked to think the others might help him with a little, or at least the ones any better off than he was. He couldn’t say he was especially pleased with their reception, but it was better than he was expecting. He knew he should be grateful it hadn’t already ended in bloodshed, though that was not to say it wouldn’t.

Choosing to ignore the varying implications, including the one that they needed babysitters, of all things, Takko smiled affably and nodded. “Well, now that we’re all introduced, some food sounds excellent. Lead on, Uzumaki-san, and we shall follow.” The kunoichi did just that, though the route took them through a good portion of the village itself. He had to admit, it was a very beautiful place. The homes were built almost exclusively from wood, which he supposed must be in abundance, given the natural forest surrounding them with all its resources and greenery. Kumogakure was by contrast very austere, the facades carved mainly into the stone of the mountain that kept them so high up in the air. What forest they had was much sparser and more hardscrabble, and the colors of his youth were more grey and bleached-out red than all this green and rich mahogany.

He had the thought that this village would burn much more easily than his own, but he was not sure how it made him feel. It was a fact, he’d been taught, that the things that were nicest to look at were often the most fragile. Not always, but often. Austerity, by the philosophy of the first Raikage, was a form of strength. Have no more than you need to survive, and all living will eventually become living well. Or something like that. But… the people here wore softer faces than those he had seen around his own village. Many of them, he suspected, had never needed to worry where their next meal was going to come from. He doubted the Hokage ever had to send her people on resource retrieval missions when trade became too slow. Takko’s jaw tightened, but he shook himself out of it. Envy didn’t become him, and he didn’t like it, besides. He was here for peace, because more than anything, that was what his people needed now, and as their Raikage, it was his duty to put them first, to provide for that need.

“It’s as nice as I’d heard,” he remarked to the kunoichi leading the procession. He found himself strangely glad it had not been destroyed in the course of the war, despite his jealousy of its abundance. After all… the people here would not wear such content expressions if the war had reached their doorsteps.

Kiyoko nodded her head and led the Kumogakure team through the village. It had been a relatively silent leading, something she was a little grateful for. She knew Katsuro would remain silent, and Naomichi wasn't exactly talkative. Akira could be a little talkative when she needed to be, but Ryuu... Ryuu was a different story, and she had to keep checking over her shoulder to ensure the Shinobi wasn't causing any trouble. Satisfied, she blinked slowly when Takehiko's voice brought her out of her stupor. She raised an eyebrow, her lips pursing into a fine line, and tried to decide how to respond to it. As nice as he'd heard? How was anything as nice as he'd heard? Instead of asking that, though, she sighed softly and slowed her steps so that she was walking beside him. It was a little odd, really, standing next to someone who was almost twice her size.

"It's Konoha, I don't see what's so nice about it," she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. She didn't see it as he did, perhaps because she'd never actually seen other villages. The only village she could recall ever seeing, was Sunagakure when her grandfather used to take her to visit his old friend. Even on missions, it hardly required going to another village. It was more of going to towns to do their business than the actual village itself. "Once everyone is fed, we will be escorting you and your team to the Hokage's office," she stated, instead, resisting the urge to stare at the eye patch. One, it was rude, and two, it would not go over well with the Hokage if she knew that Kiyoko poked at it.

"Before that, though, you will be shown your living quarters for the remainder of your stay," she stated, stopping momentarily to gaze down the streets, before taking a left. "Once everyone is shown, the eating area will be next. It's not quite that large, so I'd advise telling your team of seating arrangements. Sounds odd, but," she stated, shrugging her shoulders in the process. They weren't children, they could sit wherever they wanted, however; they wouldn't all be able to sit together. Konohagakure wasn't built for large people, after all.

The quarters they were staying in turned out to be in what was apparently formerly the Uchiha compound, or so Takko assumed based on the fact that the crest on the gates matched the one the self-proclaimed Uchiha wore on the sleeve of his uniform. The buildings were quite well-crafted, as far as he knew of such architectural details, but he guessed it had been chosen mostly for the fact that it was relatively apart from the main part of the village, presumably to contain their damage if they caused any. He wondered how the man whose home they were invading felt about that, but decided not to ask. Everyone in his party received a room in the same hallway, though none of them were forced to stay in the same one. It was a small courtesy, but one he appreciated all the same.

Once they’d had a chance to stow their unnecessary belongings, they were led to a mess hall, whereupon food was laid out on a long table, still hot enough to consume. There was, despite Uzumaki-san’s worries, plenty of room for everyone, and Takko did not bother to legislate where his people chose to sit—he was not a micromanager in that sense. They were all smart enough to decide what to do for themselves. He personally bypassed the head of the table and sat to the right of it. The extraneous trappings of his authority had never sat well with him, after all.

When everyone was situated, he took note of the fact that the Konohagakure shinobi still stood, loosely arranged around the room in a way that could only be described as “awkward.” Frowning to himself, the Raikage tipped his head slightly to one side, declining for the moment to pick up his chopsticks. “I’m, uh… not really sure what rumors you heard about us,” he started, looking at the truly massive quantity of food before them, “but we certainly won’t be eating this much. Now, if I have my guess here, your mission is to make sure we don’t do anything… rash, and I’m guessing you can do that just as easily if you’re sitting here eating with us instead of standing there making things feel awkward as all get-out.” He shrugged, half smiling. “So… eat. Drink. Try not to kill each other for a few more minutes. I figure we can manage it if you can.”

"Depends exactly on what you mean heard. I, for one, have head a lot, but that doesn't play into this, now does it?" Kiyoko started, allowing a small tilt of her lips to grace her face. It wasn't a smirk, and yet it wasn't a complete smile. She glanced at her team, noticing what Takehiko seemed to have, and sighed. This was supposed to be as smooth as possible. If tensions were already rising, then she would have failed her mission. And if there was one thing Kiyoko Uzumaki didn't like, it was failing. It was a trait, perhaps, inherited by all Uzumaki, or from what she heard of her grandfather's clan. Stubborn? Not so much. Resilient? Maybe. "Well, you heard the Takko," she replied, staring at her group with her head lightly tilted to the side. She wasn't going to say no, she loved food. She could eat almost as much as the Raikage looked like he ate, if she were to be honest. Food now would be, perhaps, a good thing. Wouldn't want to take on shinobi on an empty stomach, now would she?

"Go eat."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoko Uzumaki Character Portrait: Takehiko Yamamoto Character Portrait: Katsuro Uchiha Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Ryuu Tsukino Character Portrait: Naomichi Yuhara Character Portrait: Akira Aburame Character Portrait: Rei Hinode Character Portrait: Nariko Kaneshiro Character Portrait: Kiriko Gekkō
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Former enemies or not, Akira was not one to turn down an offer when the word "drink" was used. Without hesitation, she shrugged and sat right down in a rather sloppy motion that looked more like falling straight to her bottom. Sitting across from her was the woman named Rei. Dark skin was not something she had seen too often, save for her spy missions near Kumogakure. She thought to herself that it was honestly rather pleasant to look at as she poured herself some of whatever alcohol was in front of her, she cared not what it was. "There's a goddamn elephant in this room. Maybe some of this will help clear it out..." She said this loud enough for those around her to hear as she finished pouring. To anyone who would hold out their cup to her, she also poured it for them, Kumo or Konoha alike. It was only after that she quickly downed the contents of her own cup and begin pouring another. It wasn't sweet, and burned a little bit going down. But at this point, if it helped her loosen up a bit, she didn't care if she was drinking acid. "Thank you for complimenting my village, by the way. It's the same as complimenting my home. I work hard to preserve it how it is..." That was a decent enough attempt at initiating some small talk, right?

Naomichi's only orders from the Hokage were to fight back if they were to strike, not to go and interact with the Kumo shinobi. So when he was told to go and join them for dinner, he was really unsure how to handle himself in such a situation. He had never really had dinner with anyone else before, so he followed Akira like a frightened child clings their parent on the first day of school. While he may not have shown it in the way he walked to the table, strong and unashamed, he was terrified inside. With a comfortable thump onto the cushion, Naomichi crossed his legs and immediately grabbed his cup and took whatever Akira was offering to the group. Alcohol would calm his nerves and at least make him a bit more manageable if anything. He immediately downed his first cup, grabbing the bottle and quickly refilling it again. With his second cup, he was willing to take his time with it as he listened to the Kumo kunoichi's analysis of who they were.

Heard the Takko. He wasn't sure why, but Kosan found that remark oddly amusing. It wasn't incredibly clever nor did it hold a large amount of wit, but he couldn't help the small tug at the corner of his lip, at least the red headed Uzumaki seemed to have a sense of humor. Of course, the entire situation was almost laughable. As far as he was concerned, they were wasting their time; he had never desired to see their village in any shape save for in flames. The people had looked so.. content, as if the war was some far distant thought to them that it had been a harsh blow. Kosan wasn't sure what he had expected during the walk. Stifling silence, perhaps, but the odd looks he was given from the villagers was not what he expected. Having things thrown at him, being called a monster, those were things he expected and could handle, but indifference was something else entirely. Almost as if the people were doing their best to not stare at him. It was disconcerting if nothing else.

The building, itself, was large, if he had to guess, it seemed nearly six times as large as his own small, modest home that he shared with Seiko. If it weren't for the Raikage's bulk, it would, indeed, be very roomy, but one couldn't demand so much when sitting next to a mountain of muscle except to not be crushed when they feel the urge to move. Kosan didn't consider himself a small man, but the Raikage had a way of making everyone small and this did include the two Konoha Shinobi who had more then a few inches on him as well.

Still, all his pondering could not stop him from his current problem, where in the world was he to sit? His blue eyes ran over the forming groups until they landed on Rei. Although he was not close enough to truly see, his mind instantly placed the small scars on her body that she had gotten during the war marring her once flawless skin, but the scars suited her. His kimono moved around his legs as he made his way over to Rei's table, barely taking note of the tall blond man and other man with the eye-patch, his reasoning for coming over purely selfish. If he was forced to 'indulge' himself with these Konoha shinobi then he would do so with Rei nearby. He trusted himself more in her presence.

‘Elephant’ might well have been the correct word, but Rei at least was not comfortable enough to imbibe, though she appreciated the gesture, insofar as she could. It was easy to forget that it was not these people who had wronged her—or insofar as it was, they had been acting in a time of war. Just as she and her comrades had been. So she told herself—but nevertheless, the instinct to distrust was a difficult one to tamp down on. Even so, she managed something polite by way of declination, and did not glower at the Konoha shinobi as they settled themselves across the table from herself and Kosan, who was on her left.

The girl - possibly named Rei - looked... cute to Naomichi? She definitely was an attractive woman and her forwardness was definitely a good quality too. He had no idea why she was with the Raikage on this mission though. He never heard a single thing about her during the war - like she never existed.

As for the man, Kosan, Naomichi recognized him instantly. The Blood Lotus was someone he observed when sent out on recon and he would need to be someone that was watched. He wanted to put faith into everyone around him, but this man was just... unstable. Naomichi was more than intimidated by his presence since he knew the man wouldn't hold back on him even if he tried to talk him back down.

The topic of the village itself did seem to be innocuous enough, and Rei supposed that going with it would be better than eating in oppressive silence, so she raised an eyebrow slightly. “You said your name was Aburame, right? I suppose that would make you kind of a custodian of the place.” She referred, of course, to the fact that the Aburame were one of the four noble lineages in Konoha, a fact that any half-educated Kumo shinobi would know by this point. “Come to think of it, I’ve heard the name Yuhara somewhere, too…” Not in the same context though. Perhaps it was a battlefield reputation rather than a family one.

Akira seemed to be in thought a moment when asked the question, but eventually nodded. "I suppose that is one way to call it. Not the term I would use, but it's not entirely inaccurate."

Naomichi was snapped back into the dinner when Rei brought up his name. "My name is fairly common lady, It could be someone else that was a demon or somethin" The thought of someone knowing how cruel he could be made him down another glass. He didn't want to be known as a monster or anything.

Kosan waved off the offered drink, he was not one for alcohol. While he would drink under special circumstances, he did not consider this a special circumstance. Any one of them could be the ones he was looking for and, more so, he did not have a desire to drink in the midst of his enemies' seat of power. Reaching out he brought a small cup to himself and poured some of the heated water conventionally placed at the center of the table, in an unassuming little pot, into it before lowing a bag of tea leaves into it. He gently tugged on the small string, lifting it out of the darkening water just to slowly lower it back in.

He looked up from his work, his blue eyes watching the eye-patched shinobi, Yuhara as Rei so helpfully supplied, just finish watching him. Kosan had a few ideas as to why, although Yuhara did not look like someone he knew or heard about, given his job in the ANBU it fit that he would not be aware of the man's history as it would defeat the purpose of being in ANBU if everyone knew of their exploits, or at least, it would render the mask pointless. Kosan, on the other hand, as the 'Blood Lotus' wasn't someone who could be so unassuming.

On reflex, his eyes followed Yuhara's one to Rei, running over her body as he did. Rei was attractive, to deny they was to be blind, and at this distance, he could see the scars, both large and small, that marked her skin, each holding a story of their own, each adding just another interesting piece of the puzzle that made Rei who she was.

The clan name of Aburame caught his attention, and Kosan snapped his blue eyes to the tall, thin blond man that was seated and away from Rei's figure, "Aburame? I have heard of your clan's abilities, and they have always sounded impressive. I do not believe I ever met with an Aburame during the war, but I must admit I have always been rather curious as to how their abilities truly look," Leaning forward over the table, Kosan pushed his tea out of the way, forgotten for the moment in the pursuit for an interesting subject for his next tale, not even his distaste for the village in the leafs could stand in the way of a good story. "Would you be willing to give a small demonstration?"

When Naomichi heard Kosan's request, he set his drink down and repositioned himself to watch his partner at work. If it was one thing he was good at, it was working with bugs. He was proud to be his partner and wasn't ashamed to hide it.

Rei sighed softly, having a feeling she knew where this was going, and judiciously set down her bowl and chopsticks, covering the first with an upside-down plate and the second with a cloth napkin. She really didn’t want any stray insects in her food.

Akira looked up at Kosan as he addressed her, only to meet his conversation with a smirk. "Of course you didn't meet any Aburame, doll. Like our insectoid friends, we try not to make ourselves known too much... In fact, many of my clansmen complain that they never get noticed. Even by their own teammates. My great-uncle Shino Aburame especially..." She said the name and immediately realized right after that doing so had absolutely no point to it. But she shrugged, leaned back and cracked her fingers all at once after weaving them together and pushing out her wrists. "Of course, I do this for the sake of improving relations. And not showing off or anything."

"Of course," Kosan said almost on reflex as his blue eyes watched her movements, his attention hers to command.

She sat up on her knees and unbutton the pin-striped suit jacket, then unbuttoned the lower buttons on the white dressy shirt beneath it. Lifting up the left side revealed several holes on flat, smooth skin. Four bugs crawled out of four different holes and climbed onto her finger. "Meet the Bikochu, Kidaichu, Kikaichu, and the Nano-sized Venomous Insect. Not proper names, but the names of the kinds of bugs. They all feed off of my chakra and obey my whims in return. Pretty sweet, huh?" The bugs returned through the holes, though Akira kept the shirt lifted up. Looking to her partner, Naomichi, she gave a playful wink before making one more command to the bugs. From the revealed holes, and many hidden holes all over her body, masses of insects began flying out, coagulating into a purple-colored cloud along the ceiling. Buzzing of all sorts of kinds would fill the room, replacing any lingering silence before they would fly behind Akira.

"Incredibly so," he replied unsure of how to respond to something said being 'sweet', but it was fascinating. He was a little disappointed that the holes were not on her arm or some other less personal area as he would have liked to feel them.

The purple cloud of insects began taking a shape behind her, at first a purple silhouette. Quickly, details would be added as the Insect Clone took the appearance of Kosan himself. Nodding, she would speak. "Check this out, though." She stood up with a soft grunt and turned to face the clone. Clenching her right hand into a fist, she shot it straight through the clone's head. She pulled her hand away and watched the detailed head turn into a purple coagulation again before reforming to mimic Kosan again. Turning around once more, she smirked and held up her hand to the clone, which slapped hers back. Akira sat back down as sloppy as she had the first time and let her insects return to a cloud and begin filing back into her body. She also decided to leave her pin-striped jacket off as well. Her tie became looser as well as she tugged on it and poured another drink. "Enjoy your demonstration?"

Both of Rei’s eyebrows ascended her forehead as she watched the Kosan-shaped mass of insects reform itself after being damaged. “Interesting. But… wouldn’t they be very susceptible to ninjutsu? Fire and water and all that?” It was asked with a tone of genuine curiosity, academic and pragmatic more than anything. There was, indeed, no hint of a threat in it at all.

"It's a clone, you know? They're not exactly built to be sturdy. Losing them is not a big deal... Bugs don't live long and they reproduce more than rabbits." She let out a laugh with this explanation. "They don't like water at all, and they do like fire. Not that it's particularly good for them..."

Rei actually managed a small smile at that, then shrugged. “Fair enough."

"And that's what makes Akira such a good partner. Kickass bugs with a brain to boot. What's not to like?" Naomichi sat smugly with one arm propping him up. With a few drinks in him at this point he was allowing himself to become looser and more talkative with the group. He was slightly worried with the person who the bugs took the form of, but he knew Akira had reasons for doing it so he wouldn't object.

"I did, I truly enjoyed the way you hit me in the face, very good form," Kosan said leaning back once more to lift his once forgotten tea to his lips, pausing only for a moment to check the contents to ensure no stray bug had 'accidentally' been left in his cup. He wasn't quite sure what to make of the clone having been made to his likeness. A statement or was he the choice because he was the one who asked the question? Well, it didn't truly matter, his curiosity was somewhat sated for the moment.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Katsuro Uchiha Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Rei Hinode
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And as that evening ended, so would the next several days pass. Perhaps it was the Raikage’s initial invitation that had made the difference, perhaps not, but either way, mealtimes consisted of all ten of them eating together in the large dining room in the compound, unbothered by the few other Uchiha who nominally inhabited the location. Outside of that, the ninja from Kumogakure were allowed to move about the village as they wished—so long as they were accompanied by an equal number of their guards. Takehiko was kept from morning to evening with meetings, and despite his complaints—something he usually only voiced to Kiri or perhaps Rei—he felt like he was getting somewhere, if not especially quickly.

Regardless of the relative uneventfulness of the peace talks so far, ninja were not the kind of people who tended to appreciate standing idle, those with grudges least of all…


The days that had passed would have been pleasant if not for his inaction weighing on his mind. Every hour that passed with him in the compound was another hour that he was not out looking for clues and for the person who murdered his wife. Every day that passed, a reminder that he was sitting idle as they continued to draw breath, but the shinobi of Konoha were not fools and wouldn't let them leave without guard, and Kosan did not trust any of them enough to reveal anything. Yes, they ate together, but that did not absolve them of suspicion. So far, only Akira Aburame was someone he doubted heavily was the murderer as his skills did not match up, but he did not trust the tall blond man enough to tell him anything. The man was still a shinobi of Konohagakure.

His patience, he hoped, would pay off. By waiting a few days, Kosan was betting that their fellow Konoha shinobi were becoming lax as he had not given them any reasons to be suspicious of him besides his status and reputation which was a hurdle all on its own. It was at breakfast, when his Raikage was going to yet another meeting that he decided today was the day. Well, if he were to be honest with himself, he wasn't sure he could bear waiting yet another day. He had almost spoken to Rei about his plans, to give her a warning, but he decided against it. Rei could try to stop him in order to protect their village and himself, but this was something he had to do. He doubted her or anyone could ever understand, not unless they held someone they loved in their arms... what was left of their loved ones and watched the tortured light fade from their eyes.

Kosan looked up at the dark night sky, the moonlight, oblivious to the whims of mortals, casting its soft light over the peaceful village and the Uchiha compound, more importantly, its tall walls that created the sensation of imprisonment and segregation rather then protection. Taking a breath, he closed his eyes and stretched out his awareness trying to pick up any fellow shinobi nearby, but he couldn't sense any, but sensory was never his strong suit, if the alarm was raised, it would become apparent that he was discovered. If it did not then he had a short amount of time to find the information he needed. Set on his decision, he bent his legs and shot off into the night sky, moving from rooftop to rooftop until he came to crouch upon a small water tower as he overlooked the village. The obvious place to look was the Hokage's compound as he was betting they kept a record there, but how he was supposed to sneak in was something he would need to plan out and observe the compound and what guards were there, he would have to wait and time the guard shifts which could take.. time, but he had no other choice. Much like everything in his life, it was do or die.

It wasn’t too long afterwards that another presence did appear behind Kosan, but it was a familiar rather than foreign one. A heavy sigh accompanied the near-soundless impact of a second pair of feet on the top of the water tower. Rei kept herself low, not desirous of casting a perceptible shadow over someone on accident, and moved up in a crouch so that she was directly beside her friend, looking out at the same view of the village he saw.

She wondered, for just a moment, what it looked like to him. Was it simply an enemy fortress, to be infiltrated? Did he see the people moving around as though they were automata, incapable of their own thoughts and feelings, as one must sometimes make one’s enemies so as to be capable of killing them? She was willing to bet that whatever he saw, it did not elicit in him the same reaction it did in her—an old thing, an insidious and cold thing, creeping under her marred skin and threatening to lock her muscles in place. It was dark and foreboding and alive, somehow, palpable and tangible, but untouchable all the same. No jutsu would banish it, no trick of mental discipline. It could not be destroyed, only managed.

She was ashamed to realize that when she looked at this place, she was still afraid. The fear was easier to ignore, in the light of day and surrounded by people she could really see as people, who gave odd demonstrations of insect jutsu and praised their partners and fought each other over food and bantered back and forth with real expressions on their faces. It was harder now, when night was at hand, and the scant illumination in the sky could not suppress the reminder of utter oblivion, of sitting on a cold, damp stone floor for days she lost count of, trying not to wonder when next the pain would come. When next she would see the ones with no faces, with no words, only lashes and knives and chemicals she was thankfully not nearly so susceptible to as they had hoped.

“You could have told me,” she said, her voice scarcely more than a murmur. It carried less than whispering, that way. “You know I won’t stop you.” It was true that she did not approve of his quest to utterly destroy the person who had taken Shizu from the world. Partly, that was her own instinct, not out of mercy for the killer but out of the desire to keep her friend from succumbing to the darkness that would surely consume him if he continued on his path. But part of it was also for the memory of her friend: Shizu would not have wanted this, either. Even despite her reasons for wanting to stop him, though, she never would. That was not her right. She was not him, she was not Shizu, and she was not that murderer. This was a matter between only those three people, and her right to interfere was nonexistent.

“I’ll help you, though. With this part. You know that, right?” She glanced to the side, golden eyes flashing slightly under the irregular lighting conditions. She’d help him figure things out, and then if he went through with it when he knew the answer, well… she’d be there to patch him up afterwards. That was what friends were for. Even when they disagreed. Besides… she knew a little girl who’d be stricken by grief if she lost her father, too. And it was a feeling Rei knew all too well.

Kosan did not turn around when he heard that all too familiar sigh, when her presence washed over him. Rei. He almost felt a tug on the corner of his lips, how foolish he was to think he could have done anything without her notice. Rei had always been too clever for her own good, or perhaps, he had always been too easy to read for his. Either way, it seemed he had failed in sneaking out undetected, but a part of him was glad for her presence; it was soothing to be near something familiar when he was looking at the unknown that awaited before him, but that unknown held the answers he had been longing for.

He kept his blue eyes on the compound, his eyes scanning each floor, every window, for any sign of the guards as well as the shift change that had to happen at sometime or another. If he missed it he would have to start all over again, and Kosan highly doubted he would get more then one chance at this for the night, and he had no desire to try it again in the coming nights as it increased the chance of further detection.

Kosan turned his head slowly turned his head to face her, yes, a part of him knew she would not try to stop him. He had been trying to justify why he did not tell her, but it would not have been fair. To force her to pick between himself and the village, even if the decision would be an easy one for her. It was his burden to bear, and she did not deserve to have him lean on her anymore then he already had.

Her golden eyes seemed to shine with her declaration, and he knew he could not dissuade her once she set her mind on something, turning his head back to the front, all he could think to do was whisper back one simple phrase, "Thank you." He saw a few shinobi enter and leave and looked up to the moon once more, "They seem to change every three hours for five minutes, at most, that is not a large window."

“No,” Rei agreed. “It’s not.” She chewed her lip thoughtfully for a moment, casting her senses out over a wider range. She wasn’t a sensor either, but she was fairly decent at reading the fine details of chakra networks. Like the one that had just revealed itself—suppressed, but now detectable—a short distance behind them. “Damn.” She whirled around, her stance low and guarded, and found herself looking into a pair of eerily red eyes. These weren’t like Akira’s, something the color or rose petals. They were rubies and blood, some kind of black shape identifiable in them.

For a moment, she recalled what little she knew of the Sharingan, and wondered if she might not already be caught in some exceedingly subtle genjutsu. Was that why she’d not sensed him until now? It was hard to say. But the eyes faded back to their light grey color thereafter, and the Uchiha shoved his hands into his pockets. “Don’t stop on my account. I’m only here to make sure you don’t kill anyone… tonight. She didn’t say anything about stopping you from doing recon.” His indifference was obvious, and indeed, he seemed to dismiss them from his immediate attention thereafter, glancing down and away at something on the other side of the tower.

Rei raised a brow, and looked skeptically at Zetsu, as if to ask him what he wanted to do now.

Five minutes to infiltrate a place neither of them have ever seen, slip through whatever security measures they have in place, locate their mission reports, pray they did not black them out, and get out before the shift change is completed. It was near impossible, but it was something he had to do. If he had to pick, the room they wanted was going to be on the top floor or underneath the building for security purposes, even with their paltry five minutes, they would only have time to search one of those, if they looked at the wrong one, or worse, he was incorrect about its location then all of it would have been for nothing, and he would have to try again and try to keep his Raikage here if needed. They could split up, but he wasn't going to leave Rei alone in there.

Lost in his observation, he did not feel the Konoha shinobi sneaking up on them, his instincts instantly trusting Rei, who was superior at him in that field, to keep a watch out, but her muttered curse was enough to make him spring into action, turning on his heel remaining low to the ground, he placed his hand on the hilt of his rapier prepared to draw it, but he stopped when he noticed who it was, Katsu Uchiha. If it had been another shinobi, a chunin or a lesser jonin, Kosan would have taken the chance and tried to kill them before they could raise the alarm, but while he had never seen the Uchiha in action, the fact they chose him as one of those to keep watch over them meant he was far from a normal shinobi, and he very much doubted Katsu would go down before he raised an alarm, or at the very least, caused a ruckus which would prompt someone to investigate. It was a no win situation.

Kosan raised a dark eyebrow as his blue eyes scanned the Uchiha's face, his eyes having reverted back to normal from the fabled Sharingan and his odd... comment. Kosan turned his head to Rei who seemed to be waiting for his decision on the matter, "It seems we do not have a choice in this matter," He said turning back around to face the compound. He did not trust the Uchiha, but he had little choice in the matter, "Katsuro Uchiha," He said keeping his voice low as his blue eyes scanned the compound, "You are an odd man Uchiha, but you wouldn't happen to know where they keep mission reports would you? There is someone I must find."

It was a gamble as the Uchiha could betray them, but he could do that anyways, and he could lie to throw them off, but the chances of this succeeding was very low as it was and if there was even a tiny chance he could increase those odds; he would take it.

Mission reports? Well, Katsuro really hadn’t gone into this with any particular expectations about what they might be looking for, but he was still a bit surprised to hear that was all they wanted. Not that he thought they’d been planning to assassinate the Hokage or anything so stupid as that—one thing he could say for a majority of these Kumogakure ninja that he could unfortunately not say for many of his own comrades was that they rather lacked a certain element of stupidity. Thought the intelligence of attempting even this much was debatable. Blinking owlishly, he thought for a moment, then shrugged. “Depends on what kind of mission you’re talking about. Most of the lower-level stuff is filed in the archives below the Hokage’s office, the war stuff is kept underground. Most of the top-secret documents are kept in her office itself, when they’re kept at all. What kind of report are you looking for?”

Rei was almost incredulous. Was this guy for real? A Konohagakure shinobi, just telling people—with the stated intention to go through things they shouldn’t be able to see—where to find mission reports? He hadn’t seemed especially dedicated to his Hokage or his village, but he’d certainly been doing his actual job thus far without complaining, unlike that Tsukino guy. “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth here,” she said, pronouncing her words deliberately, almost as though she were still trying to get used to the idea that she even needed to use these particular ones, “but why the hell would you tell us that? You have no idea what we’re looking for.” He could, of course, simply be lying, but it didn’t really feel that way to her. Her intuition didn’t have a very logical basis most of the time, but that didn’t stop her from being right, and she had the feeling tha he was being perfectly truthful right now.

Katsu removed one of his hands from his pocket, but did nothing more aggressive with it than scratch an itch on the bridge of his nose. “Does it matter?”

Rei’s jaw tightened for a moment, but in the end, she sighed through her nose. Technically… no, it didn’t. She supposed she could respect his desire not to spill his motives… for now. “It’s probably going to be with the stuff about the war.” She couldn’t imagine that Shizu’s death had been a mission on its own. Rei’s best friend had been a skilled medic-nin, but she would not have been a high-priority target, not when the battlefield was filled with people like Takehiko, Kiriko, Kosan and other damage-dealers on a similar scale. Therefore it probably wouldn’t be the subject of a file so important the Hokage needed to keep it in her actual office. Which was a good thing, because a simple shift change wouldn’t help them much if that was where they wanted to go.

The Uchiha considered this fact for a moment, tipping his head a bit to the side, then nodded slightly. “In that case, you’ll want to follow me.” With no more than that, he leaped off the water tower and onto a nearby rooftop, already gathering his legs underneath him for the next jump before Rei made the decision to follow. For better or worse, this was probably their best chance.

Kosan looked back and forth between the two. While he was also interested in the Uchiha's motivations; it truly made little difference. His motivation could have been something as simple as he felt like he wished to and that would have been more then enough for him. He was committed to his current course of action, and the situation and odds were never in his favor, this was no different. The only other purpose he could have would be to lead them into a trap so they could be caught red-handed, but that would not stop him. They could not reject his companionship even if they wished, and even if they were to return, the Uchiha would keep a closer eye on them from now on.

While trust had nothing to do with it, Kosan did not trust the Uchiha, in fact, his seemingly non-existent loyalty to his village only made Kosan distrust him further. How could someone trust a man who was not loyal to his own people? But when walking into hell, did it matter whose hand one held?

Kosan nodded his head forward slightly acknowledging that he too believed the information would be with the rest of the war reports. Shizu was not a critical target or someone that would have been a assassination target or someone whom had valuable intel would be worth keeping. It was a harsh reality, but in their files, he expected nothing more then a brief description of a dead medical-nin on the date and location where she was, the most he could hope for was that he would find a name that wasn't blacked out, and he could continue his search from there.

Casting his blue eyes once more at the large hokage building, he followed Rei and Katsuro onto the next building. If the Uchiha knew another way in that worked for him as waiting three hours for the guard change would have been taxing as they would have had to move to avoid detection. Kosan could not stop the feeling of anticipation that was filling his heart, he was getting closer. Finally, after all these years, he was finally getting closer to his goal.

It turned out that the Uchiha’s plan wasn’t especially complicated; all he did was lead them to a concealed entrance. Considering the point of something like this was rather defeated if it was guarded, there was nobody near. “This doesn’t connect to the Hokage’s building, if you were wondering,” he explained, gesturing for Kosan to hop down first. He went in the middle, and Rei followed behind, closing the entrance behind her. He wasn’t especially fond of this place, but he wasn’t stupid, either, and he wasn’t going to give potential assassins a route into the most important building in town. If only because it would be inconvenient to himself.

“This is the underground portion of the archives.” It was naturally cool and dry down here, which helped preserve the documentation not important enough to get its own sealing jutsu. “The war reports are the whole room to your left.” Three years only it might have been, but it was a busy three years for Konohagakure ninja. “It’d take you a long time to go though all of that, though. What are you looking for?” He could at least point them to the right section. It wasn’t like he wanted to spend the whole damn night under here, after all.

Kosan did not hesitate, entering the dark portal and down in the dimly lit archives. The cool, dry air was a shade colder then the night air above, but besides that, there was not much of a notable difference. He knew that if there were traps, he would be the one running into them, but it was a small price to pay and so far this was working far better then his original plan as looking for secret entrances like this would not have been possible as it would have taken too much time, and he doubted he could convince the other Konoha Shinobi that he just enjoyed pressing his ear to every odd shaped stone and wall he came across.

His blue eyes traced the surroundings, the flickering candle lights offering very little illumination to the rest of the dark hallway that stretched out before him. Kosan glanced over his shoulder and nodded before moving to the left door and pushing it open slowly, listening for the slightest tick or jerk as he had no desire to have gotten so close only to be foiled by a single trap. Satisfied, he pushed open the door which gave off a small creak echoing in the large expansive of the archives and ominous greeting to the small group.

"So it would seem," Kosan said his eyes scanning the shelves stacked high with scrolls, while he could not say he often visited the archives in Kumo, there was certainly a large assortment of scrolls gathered. If he spent all night, he would barely get through a quarter of them. For the first time since deciding to accept the Uchiha's help, Kosan hesitated, he had no desire to talk of it to an outsider, but he had brought them this far, "In the beginning of the war, barely months in, a medical-nin was killed, she had small holes in her neck and her body," He kept his back turned to them, but his blue eyes were glazing over as his mind called up the memory perfectly as he saw it nearly every night, "Her body was shriveled up. Almost as if the moisture had been drained from her body," She was so fragile, his mind continued recalling how he could barely grasp her for fear of her falling apart in his arms, yet he still could not stop her from dying, slowly and painfully.

"These scrolls are ordered by dates, yes?" Kosan asked half turning to face them, it would speed up the process greatly if the Uchiha happened to know where the scrolls began as picking a shelf at random did not seem to be a very quick route.

Katsuro had heard such a thing mentioned once or twice, but he’d never seen it in person, so it stood to reason that the jutsu was one only one or a few people knew. He didn’t know it himself, nor did he know what might. “My guess would be some kind of water release, but I couldn’t say for sure. The dates you want are right around here.” He led them slightly inwards, to a few shelves of scrolls, though he let them do the searching themselves. It had the flavor of something personal to it, and he wasn’t the sort to get involved in anyone’s grudges but his own. Too exhausting.

It was Rei who found the document most likely to correspond to Shizu, and she tapped Zetsu on the shoulder after reading over it. “Hey. I think I found her.” The mission report was brief, and there were multiple names indicated for the Leaf shinobi that had been involved, though a few were redacted with black bars as well. Some, however, were not. “Who’s Heisuke Takarada?” she asked, giving the first name listed on the document to the Uchiha on the off-chance that he would answer.

His brows furrowed together. “Let me see that.” She handed over the scroll willingly enough, and he scanned it quickly, his frown growing more pronounced. “I have no idea who the redacted parties are, but the rest of these people are missing-nin now. They were thrown out of the village by the Hokage for their actions during the war. Officially, they were allowed to leave because nobody could amass enough evidence of their guilt for war crimes, but if they had, we probably would have executed them. The rumors were heinous.” He didn’t sound especially disgusted, but then, most shinobi were trained not to express their emotions overmuch, so who could say how he felt? Whatever the case, she took it to be true that he was unfond of Takarada at least.

“None of these ninja reside in this village anymore, unless one of these two redacted names does.”

It took everything he had to not rip the scroll from Rei's hands; he had to be content with reading over her shoulder, he committed each to memory as each name could be the one to put to the phantom face that haunted him, but all of the names on paper had become the most important men in his world. It was a grim satisfaction, but it wasn't enough. It was a drop of water for a dying man.

Kosan lifted his head up to watch the Uchiha as he looked over the scroll, Missing-nins. It had to be missing-nins. While it did help ensure he did not put the peace talks into jeopardy, it made finding them nearly impossible as they could be in any nation using any name and that was assuming they stuck together which was doubtful. The last two names were blacked out which did not help him in the least. There was the off-chance that he could look through other scrolls for the same names and try and see if the squads matched up to find the missing names, but he doubted it would be so easy, and he doubted he had the time to pour over them and find a pattern.

It would take time, but Kosan would send out some feelers for now, and see what he could find about the names. Heisuke Takarada was the first on the list, so he would be the one he would concentrate the most on finding. In the morning, he may try to wander the village with one of the Konoha Shinobi and investigate more about the names at various locations, but for now he wanted to know something,"Rumors? What exactly did these rumors imply?" The medical shinobi had been vague with him when he asked them what, if anything, had been done to Shizu prior to her death.

Katsu locked eyes with Kosan for a moment, silver meeting blue, then shook his head slowly. “Postmortem mutilation, mostly. Experimentation with corpse reanimation. Vivisection. Illegal medical ninjustsu. Whomever you’re doing this for… there are worse things than just being dead, that’s all I can say.” He didn’t say it out loud, but frankly, if the worst this man had seen was the dead or dying body of someone he cared about, then he was fairly lucky, as far as Takarada’s bereaved victims were concerned. It could have been much worse than that.

They were out of time though. “There will be a patrol through here in a few minutes. If you have what you came for, let’s go. I really don’t want the Hokage chewing me out over this, thanks.”

Kosan met his gaze until he was finished, only then did he allow his shoulders to fall and his eyes to close. She had been tortured. He had thought.. hoped that they had gone for the kill, and it was only her knowledge in medical-ninjutsu that kept her alive that long, but they had wanted to keep her alive, and it was Heisuke Takarada who had done it to her. Kosan wasn't sure if he was the one who killed her or took her down, but Heisuke Takarada tortured her and the others had let it happen or even watched. He would find them and get what he wanted to know from them, and he would kill them. Every single one of them, and he would drag out the information of the blacked out names from their dying breaths.

"Very well," Kosan said, his blue eyes snapping open, "Thank you for your assistance," Kosan stepped around him and towards the door. While he wished to stay longer even if the chances of him finding anything were nonexistent, he had gained enough for now. It was time to go.

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Character Portrait: Ryuu Tsukino Character Portrait: Rei Hinode
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It was a peaceful night or so. Ryuu did not want to bother with their guests for now. They do need to get acquainted with each other because those bonds will be required of them in the long run. So, let them mingle and enjoy it. As for him, he preferred to be alone at the moment. Finding a rather remote place, there he took interest on a lone apricot tree. He climbed and rested himself on one of its branches as its pink blossoms wavered around him like silken curtains. The wind blew scattering the drops of carnation across the blank canvass of the night. Some fell on him, but it was fine. Actually, it created an enrapturing picture.

This was indeed comforting in a sense as he leaned back on the trunk. His mismatched eyes gazed into the evening sky. There were no clouds in sight allowing the moon and stars to shine brightly. "It would have been perfect if there is a storm." He muttered under his breath. It had been one of the things which he shows adoration towards without the affect of a mask. An unclouded smile was present upon his lips as he allowed the lullaby of the night soothe him. However at the middle of his relaxation, he felt the ever-familiar nauseous feeling coming over him. His eyes of gold and blue glowed eerily and soon meshed into a unified white hue. The irises were changed into a glowing golden insignia as his body entered into a stiffen stupor as images only visible to him flashed.

Soon enough, it was done as he lowered his head and covered his eyes with one hand. His breathing was ragged and his body was wracked in a series of phantom pains. Another series of images which sapped another portion of his life. It was his so-called fate as the one entitled to be Time's Vessel. The mere thought made him smile with such dejection. Sensing his body had become stable, he took a deep breath and eased himself. He allowed his hand to fall to his side. "Might as well draw it." With that decided, he procured a sketch book and began to flip through the pages. There were some incomplete sketches of people, scenery, and other things. Finding a blank page, he began drawing what he had seen. It started as a mere gray-scale, but then, he stopped midway. He tore it, crumpled it and threw it away. "Hideous... Truly Hideous."

Rei sighed slightly and lifted her arms over her head, stretching them out. In the week and a half or so since they’d come here, Takehiko had apparently handled himself well enough that the Leaf shinobi were not immediately convinced that her team was actually there to burn the whole village down, and so it was no longer necessary to go absolutely everywhere with an escort. She was taking the opportunity to have a walk, reclaiming the comfort of solitude as much as one could in a place like this. There was a sense of proximity here that she hadn’t always felt in the more sparsely-populated Kumogakure, but then it was entirely possible that she was just the slightest bit homesick. Not that she was overwhelmed by the feeling—in all honesty, she’d brought most of the important parts of home here with her. Her best friend, her only other close one (who also happened to be her commanding officer)… and even though she couldn’t claim especially significant friendships with Nari or Kiriko, she liked both of them quite a bit, and respected them, so there was that.

Really, there was only one other significant person in her life, and one did not bring small children to places like this. So while it was definitely false to say that she was relaxed—she doubted she ever could be, here—she was at least not taking her second visit as poorly as she could have, given the circumstances of the first. The night air smelled nice, at least, and was cool on the scant bare skin that her uniform allowed, which really wasn’t a whole lot more than her hands and face.

She was perfectly content to ignore the ambient chakra signatures around her, as there were several, at least until one of them started fluctuating strangely. Pausing midstep, Rei cocked her head to the side, spilling the dark purple strands of her ponytail over one shoulder. That was… irregular. At first she thought it might just be someone practicing a jutsu or something, but it seemed… stranger than that. Different in a way she could not quite explain. Being very familiar with chakra networks, she was immediately suspicious of it, though whether because she thought it dangerous of someone or to someone was not something she could quite pinpoint. Either way, her instincts as a medic-nin kicked in, and she redirected her steps in that direction, when the fluctuations abruptly stopped.

Now thoroughly convinced that something weird was going on, she continued in the same direction, albeit with less urgency. Until, as luck would have it, she caught the sound of someone disparaging something, and then the crumpled up paper that the breeze was carrying towards her face. Vaguely recognizing the ninja in the tree as the one who’d thrown a knife at the Raikage, she considered just leaving him to whatever problem he had, because she didn’t generally take well to people aiming pointy things at her friends. That said… she could almost hear Takko in her head, urging her to be kind even when the same was not received in turn. She wasn’t sure even she was capable of that in the same way he was, but she figured she could at least make the attempt, as a favor to him. She owed the big lug a lot, after all.

“Hideous, huh? I’m not gonna find a naked picture of the Hokage if I open this, am I? I mean, she looks pretty good for her age, and if you’re into that, I won’t judge you. It’s just not for me.” She was almost one-hundred percent certain that was not whatever was on the paper ball, but she’d been wrong before. “Seriously, though… something bothering you, Tsukino-san? I’m not much of an art critic, but I can take a look if you want.”

And here she is, Ryuu would have laughed at the irony of his situation right now. Here he was desiring to be in solitude. It was to give himself a release even for a moment. However, it was not permitted so. Really, he would have liked to kill the ones responsible for such events in his life. Still, he knew best that it would be futile. In any case, he did not want this one person, this kunoichi, her to see him. It was due to the threads which had been revealed to him. At the very least, he wanted to be spared from this fate. Yet again, useless, huh... He has no choice as the path had been prepared no matter what.

"A nice offer Hinode-san." He noted as his eyes were now fixed upon her form. Not a bad sight at all. "Why not take a look?" There was a small smile on his lips as his words were wrapped in ambiguity. After all, the image drawn upon was incomplete but one could see that it is a depiction of a bloody field due to its aesthetics. "Perhaps, I need a new inspiration." He added as he closed his eyes and the images he had received earlier played once more in his head. It irritated him but, it never showed on his face as it remained placid and whimsical in a sense of a word. "Do you have any suggestions?"

Dark hands, nicked with pale scars, unfolded the crumpled paper, studying the subject matter with a raised eyebrow. It could have been any battlefield she’d ever been on, really, blood and gore smeared over the ground like that. She could almost smell the blood and death just by looking at it. Technically, the art was very accomplished—she doubted anyone she knew could draw this well, actually. But there was definitely something unfortunate about what it portrayed, she would agree with that much. Shrugging her shoulders slightly, she tipped her head to the side and flashed a white grin up at the man in the tree.

“Maybe don’t draw something so familiar? I mean, at this point blood and death is probably getting a bit old, ne? Pick something that… doesn’t remind you of this.” She captured the paper between the sides of her index and middle finger and waved it lazily back and forth. “Pretty obvious advice here, but… draw something that makes you happy. There’s something like that in the world, no?”

The advice was at best common. It was as common as dust being blown by the wind. However, he could not help but lightly chuckle at that. "What makes me happy, huh?" It was more of a question to himself than anything else. He looked at the night sky and contemplated on anything which would be label as such. Unfortunately, there were none... or specifically, he wanted to have none, because he knew well the repercussions of such things. "If I do that then I will have to take the future of this world including yours, of course." He stated with a chesire cat-like smile upon his lips. Those eyes of gold and blue gazed at her as if engulfing anyone into the unknown.

"Would that be fine?" After adding that, Ryuu jumped down from the tree with a grace much like that of a feline. He walked towards her and took the paper she was waving back and forth. It was a vision which will come true. This is something he must assure to be of reality. He took back the sketch she was waving back and forth. Once, he did. The paper was rippped into shreds by a sharp passing breeze. "Thank you for the advice, Hinode-san." He smiled at her endearingly as if to shift the vague meanings of his words. Of course, another mask set in motion. A hand reached out towards her as he flicked her ear playfully. "A question, would you mind if I draw you?"

“The future of the world?” Rei echoed, huffing an amused breath. “A little dramatic, aren’t we?” Then again, quite a number of the people she lived with were fairly dramatic themselves, if in different ways and with varying degrees of seriousness or farce. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. She relinquished he sketch willingly, inwardly shrugging when it was shredded. Maybe the artsy types were really as eccentric as she’d always heard, who could say?

“The future, huh?” she repeated, slightly softer this time. “Can’t say I have much use for it.” Her life had, in some ways, been a slow process of learning to live only in the now. Dwelling on the past tended to hurt too much for comfort most days, and the future, well… that was nothing more than the consequences of the present anyway, so why bother thinking about it too much? It was the kind of thing that leaders and prophets had to do, and Rei, happily enough, was neither of those things. She rolled her eyes when he flicked her ear, but his question produced a short, light laugh.

“Draw me? You must be more starved for happiness than I expected, ne?” She kept her tone light, but there was some truth to the words. “I’ve never been a muse before; it could be fun. Sure, draw me if you want to; I don’t care.” It wasn’t like she was self-conscious or anything; what was there to be embarrassed about? Artists practiced drawing on all kinds of things, people included, and she didn’t really look like anyone from around here, so it might even be a half-decent exercise, she didn’t claim to know differently. Her lips pulled back into a catlike grin. “Just don’t go falling in love with me pretty boy; I’ll only make you cry.” Her amusement with the situation was rather obvious—she’d been asked a lot of strange questions in her lifetime, but never that one. So her choices were really either make light of it or ask intrusive questions, and she wasn’t usually one for the latter. It kind of went hand-in-hand with living in the present, after all.

It should be like that. The future should be left in the category of the unknown. If it was like that for him, then he would not have to abide by invisible strings wrapped around him like unbreakable chains. However, it is what it is. He would not complain about something which is already done. After all, he had already decided to walk this path. With that, he would have to bear everything and happiness was always as synonymous as a burden to him. Although, her point of view was at best enticing and at the same time, he had been viewed as dramatic. Well, that would be good. Life does need flair once in awhile to make things interesting.

Speaking of which, she seemed amused by his question and retorted with a comment about him being starved. Oh, how right she was at that point. "You have no idea." He noted as a glimmer within his mismatched eyes showed the intense desire he has. Of course, it was much akin to a hallucination as it ceased to exist replaced by a trivial matter known as mischief along with that vague smile of his. He nodded with approval as she was fine with the idea of being a muse. She then added much like an afterthought, a warning of not falling in love with her. Now, there is another twist with that. "That could go both ways my sun-kissed muse." He stated as he leaned closely towards her as if he has an intent to kiss her.

"But then again, this is as close we are going to get." His words were wrapped in an air of ambiguous mystery and undetermined intent. It was like he had already know what was going to happen, but then again, he acts as if it was nothing more a but a whim. "Thank you for your acceptance, Hinode-san." He pulled away as an apricot pink blossom could be seen in his possession. It was something he had taken from her hair. Now standing at an acceptable distance, he winked at her and released the blossom into the night. "A gift to commemorate." He said as he opened his sketch book and tore another paper which was notable found at the beginning which is an odd thing. Why? "Here." He handed her another sketch but this time it was a complete one, a drawing of her with a beautiful smile at Kumogakure.

Being a medic-nin left one with little option to be uncomfortable with proximity, and she wasn’t. Mostly because she knew what it looked like when someone actually intended to kiss a person, and this was not it. She tipped her head slightly to the side at his words. It seemed he was categorically incapable of just saying what he meant, without obscuring his meaning. Well, it wasn’t like that bothered her—she was just the opposite. One thing he certainly didn’t have to worry about, however, was her romantic affections. That was a road she stayed well away from, and with good reason. You don’t watch what happens to your best friend after he loses the most precious person in his life (your other best friend) and think it’s a good idea to risk that. Especially not after what happened to her parents. Fact.

She watched curiously as he tore the first page out of his sketch book, and the content actually, truly surprised her. It was her face, to be sure, but in a setting he should never have been able to see. “I don’t understand,” she admitted honestly, torn between being simply curious and the faintest bit disturbed. “You’ve… you’ve never been to this place, have you? Is this some kind of jutsu?” Her brows furrowed, and she glanced up at him, perplexed. She wasn’t accusing him of anything, it was just… very strange.

Yes, this would be the normal reaction to such an illustration done by him. Others who had been given such a duty similar to his would write the dictated timeline which will be presented as history when it has been accomplished. For him, it is done through a series of drawings which he had opted to keep himself. It was not something he had conjured through the means of a mere imagination, an imitation, or even a dream. Her visage was imprinted in a vision which made his life inexplicably short. Well, it has become something he had grown accustomed to. After all, it was his fate to see, to preserve, to ensure it all until he is able to.

"To answer your question..." He kept his sketch book and then looked at the evening sky instead. The apricot blossoms waved through the air like glimmering stars. "Nope." It was stated without a hint of insincerity, but with a rather superficial joyous tone which seemed to say otherwise. He looked at her with those mysterious blue-gold eyes of his. This woman from Kumogakure had a significant role to play. It was something he was certain of. But at the same time, she also has a part in his brief existence. "I could tell you, but..." He took a step back. "I will die." There was a bright smile on his face as he stated that as if it was not important anyway. "Well, then I will see you around." He then turned his back at her.

Looking over his shoulder, he gave her a wave. "Let's hold that modelling session for some other time." His eyes softened a bit before returning to its vague density. "Good night, Hinode-san." With those words, he walked on and soon vanished with only a swirl of pink, apricot blossoms left in his wake.

“What a weirdo," she murmured to herself after he'd left, glancing back down at the drawing in her hand. Shaking her head slightly, Rei folded it up neatly and slid it into a pocket. There was something... sad about that guy. Or at least, that was the feeling she was getting, and her intuitions were rarely wrong, even if she only infrequently understood them. Still, it wasn't like it was any of her business, so she shrugged to herself and continued on her walk.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Rei Hinode
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As a frequent sparring partner of Zetsu, Rei was rather accustomed to him being up at a certain time in the morning, ready for training. As his best friend, she felt no qualms whatsoever in simply walking into his room when he was considerably later than usual. She found him still passed out on his futon, clearly having only gotten halfway through the process of disrobing to sleep. To say that this was funny to her would be an understatement. For most of the time she’d known, him, he’d been a soul that nobody would hesitate to call fastidious, but from the look of things, he’d definitely participated in last night’s debauchery. She’d found Takko nursing a hangover earlier and gotten the story out of him. Well, she wasn’t using her medical jutsu to help. They could suck it up and get out of their own messes.

Zetsu, though… this wasn’t like him at all, and it amused her to no end. Leaning back on his doorframe for a moment, she tilted her head to the side and crossed her arms over her chest, a slow grin spreading over her face. Might as well have some fun at his expense, ne? Tugging at the tie that held her ponytail in place, Rei shook out the locks then ran her hands through them a couple of times, mussing them up. Peeling off the outermost layers of her uniform, she deposited them on the floor, not too far from his. Decency was preserved, but it might take him a while to notice. It wasn’t too hard to find a spot on the futon, laying her head close to his such that their noses were almost touching.

This was going to be fun.

“Zetsu,” she intoned in a slight sing-song. “Rise and shine sleeping beauty.” She shook his shoulder slightly and plastered a half-asleep look on her own face. Now she just had to wait a bit.




He was used to sleeping with others from his marriage with Shizu to the few nights that Seiko wanted to sleep in the same bed due to nightmares, either hers or his own, and so he did not instinctively feel any difference when a presence he was comfortable with had slipped into the bed, in fact, subconsciously, the second he felt a warm body next to him, he moved closer to the source and sought to wrap his arms around his new bedfellow.

Kosan's eyes flicked behind his eyelids as a voice, a soft voice, called out to him. His mind, still groggy from the night before, was not yet ready to force him awake, his shinobi training utterly failing him compared to the warm bed and whatever he had in his arms, but that soft voice spoke again, and his mind wasn't quite able to comprehend what was said, but it was enough for him to open his eyes. His bright blue eyes met ones of gold, half-lidded with sleep and... something else.

His blue eyes traced her face from her gold eyes, to her wild onyx hair, to her dark skin, and finally down to her lips which he traced with his mind... until his mind realized who he was looking at and his eyes snapped open, his brain jolting him awake, Rei.

Kosan blinked a few times, his body frozen solid, trying to remember anything from last night, but all he could remember was Nari sleeping in his lap, and after that, nothing. His eyes traced down her neck to where the rest of her body was being obscured by his blanket, from the feel of the blanket on his bare chest... well, he was tired not stupid. They had... Kosan closed his eyes for a second before opening them to meet her bright gold ones, his mind running a thousand miles a minute trying to sort through his turbulent thoughts and emotions, all he could do was give out a meek and mumbled, "Rei.."




It took pretty much everything she had to maintain her face instead of cracking up right then and there. Oh, that face! The bewilderment and faint traces of burgeoning guilt… poor, poor Zetsu. He had to have a terrible best friend like her. Time to see just how badly she could fluster the guy. He needed a little more levity in his life, after all, and she wouldn’t deny that it was also true of her. “I was just about to say good morning,” she murmured, reaching forward to curl a strand of his hair around her finger. Huh, it was as soft as it looked. She’d have to tease him about that later, ask him how much time he spent taking care of it. “But you don’t look too pleased to see me here.”

Her pout was only slight, but definitely present. The coup de grâce, however, was the motion she used to bring her hand, his lock of hair still gently held, to her lips, brushing them softly over it before she let the strands slide through her fingers and away. “Should I go?”




Kosan wasn't sure what to do or say as he was so far out of his depth in this situation that he had never dreamed would happen. Much to his embarrassment and shame, he had nearly leaned into her touch when she snagged a strand of his hair, but she also snagged his attention. It was hard to imagine himself as anything more then a shambling teenager that just received his first kiss, a far cry from the grizzled widower he was.

Was he pleased to see her? There? In his bed, in his arms... He didn't know. A part of him.. a part him he had thought forgotten thought it felt right, to have a woman, to have Rei, in his arms when he woke up, but the rest of him was in turmoil. He felt he betrayed Shizu. That he betrayed Rei by, somehow, convincing her to join him when he wouldn't even remember it and that burned him as well, that he didn't even remember being with her. Was he pleased to see her? He... didn't know.

"No," Kosan was surprised with himself as the word escaped him instantly, "Don't leave.."

Rolling to his side, he pushed himself up on his elbow, as he pushed his thoughts aside to face her,"Rei, I didn't," He paused, "I don't think I am ready to move on."

Reaching, he gently stroked a strand of loose hair back behind her ear, "But I.. With you," Closing his eyes, Kosan tried to think about her again, of Rei, she was beautiful. She always had been, but he... Seiko loved Rei, and he did too, but did he love her? The sudden image of Shizu dying in his arms flashed through his eyes, "Rei, I... do not want to lose you. I cannot lose you too. No matter what I feel about you, it cannot be you. It just... "

Kosan let his blue eyes fall from her face to the bed, it couldn't be her. Not Rei. She was like a sister to Shizu, and in some way, he felt it would be betraying her. Trying to replace her with Rei even though the two were very little alike. Or perhaps he was simply a coward looking for a way out of happiness that could threaten his self-imposed obsession?




Well, that had escalated quickly. It hadn’t been completely lost on her that this sort of reaction was a possibility, but she had been hoping it wouldn’t happen. Not for any especially deep reason—she just knew that her friend was still in mourning in some ways, and had hoped that someday, perhaps today, that sadness would not be the first thing he thought about when waking and the last thing he thought about before he went to sleep. Apparently, however, it was still too soon for such hopes to come to fruition.

This time, the melancholy on her face was genuine, and with a little half-smile, she reached up and ruffled his hair, nothing of the implied intimacy left in the gesture. Well… perhaps that was not quite true. It took a certain level of intimacy to be this close to a man like Zetsu and not have him inclined to kill you. Personal space was an issue for people like them, in different ways. But that aside, it was a touch neither romantic nor sexual. Nor was the butterfly kiss she feathered over his forehead. “I wouldn’t want to lose you either, Zetsu,” she told him quietly, as though it were some kind of secret. Perhaps it was—to feel that anyone in your life was irreplaceable was a weakness for a ninja. As far as that was concerned, Rei had always been weaker than just about anyone, given her tendency to form attachments to others.

Her eyes softened—in one sense, she supposed she couldn’t fault him for mourning still. Shizu had been an amazing person, and the love between them had been obvious. The other kunoichi had been one of the people Rei admired most, almost a surrogate sibling in truth, for she’d had so few close people in her life after her parents. She still mourned her too, though in a very different way. “But come on, now.” She sat up, the blanket falling away and making evident the fact that she was, indeed, still very much clothed. Her smile grew, the spark of life flaring back to vibrancy in her bright eyes.

“You can’t possibly believe you’d ever forget a night with me.” Her grin crinkled her nose slightly, and she raised a brow at him. “I just came to get you because you were late for training, you silly man.”




Kosan was rendered speechless when she ruffled his hair like he was a child. The intimacy and tension that filled the air was washed away almost instantaneously, and he could not remember the last time anyone had just ruffled his hair like that. Still, that was not the reaction he had been expecting.

His eyes closed as she got closer, and a shiver went down his spine at the feather light brush of her lips. Well, that was closer to the reaction he had been expecting. It was an oddity. When someone says something personal that they already knew, like telling someone they loved them or liked being near them, it was obvious from actions, but for some reason, once said, it was touching.

Kosan craned his head back, his eyes mesmerized by the cascade of falling blankets and then... he almost coughed when he saw her clothes. It would be a little unbecoming to admit, but he was disappointed at not seeing her body. Then there were a surprising mix of emotions that he was surprised he felt. He was relieved that they hadn't slept together, but at the same time, he was disappointed they hadn't. It was... and odd mixture that he had no desire to examine further.

"No, I suppose not," Kosan said trying to regain a sense on his sanity and other parts of his being, "I would acquire a lovely set of scratches and scars, we would make a lovely matching pair," he said pushing away the blanket and sitting up, letting the cold air touch his naked chest.

He felt he should say something about what just happened... but he couldn't, so he closed his eyes, his body soaking in the ray of light coming from the nearby window. He could tell it was going to be a very long day.

Something that was only confirmed when a raucous, rolling boom reached their ears.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoko Uzumaki Character Portrait: Takehiko Yamamoto Character Portrait: Zetsubō Kosan Character Portrait: Rei Hinode
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Kiyoko was not so graceful as Katsuro had been, however; she had managed to land on her feet, stumbling only slightly. Shaking the initial confusion off, she turned her attention to Katsuro, nodding her head in a hesitant manner. "Right," was the only response she gave before she left, taking off as quickly as her legs could carry her. She, on the other hand, trusted a little easier than Katsuro did, and trusted that he would be okay. He was, after all, her friend even if he didn't regard her the same. The explosion, however, took over her thoughts. Who would attack Konoha, and in the middle of the day? Sure, day attacks weren't unheard of, and villages didn't really pay attention to time unless it was necessary with their plans.

She found herself in the Uchiha compound as quickly as she had left Katsuro's side, and immediately scanned the area. It seemed untouched for the most part, and she walked briskly into it. How hard could it be to find one Raikage, especially one of his size? He was like a giant! She inwardly groaned when she found no trace of Takehiko and pursed her lips in frustration. Now was not the time to lose her cool. She had to find someone from Kumogakure. This attack, it couldn't have been planned from them, could it have? There was only one way to find out, and so far she wasn't having any luck. It wasn't until she spotted a particular set of white spikes (almost mistook it for Hatake) and released a breath of relief.

"Takko!" she called out, perhaps not the best way to begin a conversation, but that wasn't the priority of her thoughts. "Where's the rest of your group?" she questioned, tension building in the air. It wasn't that she suspected them, of anything; she just didn't like the slight chill that was going down her back. Something just felt off.

Takehiko was attempting to nurse a cup of tea; after Rei had refused to assuage his massive headache with her medical ninjutsu, he’d turned to more traditional remedies, and after too much water, he was now trying to soothe the ache with something gentler on the system than sake. It was sort of working, but mostly it would just take time. Time that, it would seem, he did not have.

The urgent tone of Yoko-chan’s voice drew his attention immediately, and Takehiko stood, setting aside the tea he’d been drinking. “Nari-chan went to see the Hokage, and Kiri-chan is out,” he said, “but Kosan and Rei-chan are still here. What happened, Yoko-chan? What was that explosion just now?”

“The least of your concerns, Raikage.” The voice that answered was feminine, but it was not Kiyoko’s. Rather, it came from a woman cloaked all in white, a hood drawn up over her features. She was flanked by six other people, all wearing some combination of blue, green, and gold. The woman threw back her hood, revealing hair that was an unusual shade of pale green. She had a very pretty face, Takko supposed, but he wasn’t exactly happy to see her.

“Oh look. An assassination attempt.”

Of course, the universe would deem it fit to act upon his feelings as it would hate do disappoint him so. The loud explosion caught Kosan by surprise and made him spring out of his bed, the blanket flung from his body. It was a shame the universe did not see fit to do this after he had gotten dressed, but he was wearing pants which it seemed was going to be the furthest courtesy the universe would allow him.

Moving to the side of his bed, he reached down and gripped the sheathed rapier that lay beside him as he was loath to leave it behind for any reason. His mind was racing with the implications of the explosion, had Konoha betrayed them? Was it another party attacking? Who was being attacked? Where were Nari and Takko? A small part of him was almost thankful for the attack as it allowed him the opportunity for much needed bloodshed and a way to vent his frustration over his wife as well as provide a wonderful distraction from Rei and the... tense atmosphere. Despite his rather poor jest, Kosan could not shake the oppressive weight that had been weighing on his chest.

Blade in hand, Kosan turned his head, his wild hair spilling over his bare shoulder, "Where are the others?" he asked, his fierce blue eyes holding a feral gleam that was not there moments ago, he was assuming and hoping that she had an idea where some of them were. Considering the situation they would need to regroup, preferably with their Raikage, so they could do their job. Keeping him alive.

“Follow me,” Rei replied immediately, scooping up her uniform vest as she ran from the room. Sliding it on while moving was not the easiest procedure, but she managed it fine, using her limited chakra sensing abilities to find Takehiko and what seemed to be Kiyoko. They stood out like bright stars amongst the other chakra signatures, likely because of the biju that resided sealed in their bodies. They weren’t too far away—still within the compound, actually, though in the courtyard, where the gardens were.

She felt bad now, for not taking care of the Raikage’s hangover. Even a small distraction in a fight was a disadvantage they did not need, but if anyone could handle himself whatever was thrown at him, she had confidence that Takko could. He was practically a force of nature when he needed to be, and that was why he got to be in charge. Even so… the chakra she could feel now from the others in the area was not inconsiderable, though something about some of them seemed… off, somehow. There was hardly any time to think about it, however, because she and Zetsu burst into the courtyard thereafter, Rei immediately stepping in front of Takehiko.

“Another one?” she replied to his quip, but though her lips tilted into a dry smile, her eyes did not leave the array of would-be killers.

“What can I say?” Takko replied, lowering himself into a stance she and Zetsu would both recognize—he was going to use his Lightning Release Armor. “I’m a popular man.”

Kosan was a step behind Rei, the scabbard of his blade still held in his right hand as he tried not to shiver as the cold air ran past his skin and the annoyance of strands of his long hair that occasionally blew across his face obscuring his vision and tickling his skin. It took a bit as he was not as good as Rei at sensing, but finally, he could feel their presence and sense their Chakra. It seemed they made no effort to hide it anymore which was odd. It was almost like they were declaring where they were for the rest of the world. Either they were bold and powerful or rather foolhardy.

He slid to a halt in the courtyard, coming to a stop off to the side to guard the right flank as it appeared they were outnumbered. He noted the woman in white with the odd pale green hair, the way she stood at the center, showing her face in a display of arrogance and confidence told him that she was the leader of this colorful group of assassins. Still, he could not help but feel this was odd. In the war, he was not one to ponder on the situation too much, preferring to jump in and slice into flesh and pierce bone, to feel the warm blood wash over his hands as the smell of death hit his nose and the light drained from their eyes, but he was not the Chihasu anymore, or at least, that is what he told himself.

Why had they waited? It would have been better to attack the Raikage all together and attempt to overwhelm him before reinforcements could arrive... Kosan was drawn back to his earlier though either they were bold and powerful or foolhardy. Looking to his left, he saw his Raikage about to enter his lightning armor, a technique he had seen him use during the war and against him during spars, so they were jumping in head first? Kosan assumed he would be fighting the leader which meant it was his duty to keep the others off of his Raikage, he was tempted to go all out, but he could not afford to use up all his Chakra should the worst happen. The only other wild card in the fight was Kiyoko, it was time to see if she could keep up with the rest of them.

Kosan moved his blue eyes back to the group and drew his rapier tossing the scabbard aside. Holding the blade loosely in his right hand, he left it hanging by his right leg. From a casual observation, he looked at ease almost unprepared, but his body was taut and ready, his knees slightly bent, and his arm ready to flick the blade at anyone that got too close. "Dead or Alive, Raikage?" Kosan asked, his blue eyes switching from one colorful assassin to the next trying to catch a hint of their ability from their appearance.

Kiyoko had to resist the urge to roll her eyes at Takehiko's statement, however; her focus was on the would-be assassins. Of all the times they picked to attack, it had to be during peace negotiations. "Talk about the irony," she muttered quietly to herself. Still, she positioned herself in a stance, choosing not to use her Jūken quite yet. Instead, she released a bit of her chakra, summoning it to her hands as she sized up her opponents. She may not have been as proficient at sensing chakra, however; every hair on her neck stood on end, and it was a feeling she did not like. She waited, glancing once at Takehiko as he took a stance as well. Rei and Kosan both took one as well, and it was apparent this fight was going to be a little challenging. Either these people knew exactly what they were doing, or they were just plain ignorant. She was going to bet on the former despite their appearance.

"At this point, Kosan-san," she mentally laughed at that, "If they try to kill you, should you not return the courtesy?" she simply stated, answering instead though it wasn't her place to do so. Instead of waiting for her opponent to strike first, Kiyoko made the first move, charging one of the would-be assassins, and throwing a chakra-filled fist in their direction. They managed to dodge, and her fist collided with empty air, pushing her right leg in front of her to twist herself around. The man (could have been a woman, she didn't know), caught her elbow, and flipped her over his shoulder, kicking her away from him in the process. The other would-be assassins each followed suit, going after Kosan and Rei while Kiyoko dealt with hers.

Kiyoko, however, had winced when her arm was grabbed. It was no longer broken from her spar with Kiriko, something her own healing abilities had taken care of, not to mention a Jinchūriki's ability to heal. But it was still sore, and part of her wished she had fully healed it. She should have known better, however; she twisted herself in order to catch herself, and landed on her hands and feet. Her fingers dug into the earth to keep herself from falling further back, and she glanced back up at her opponent, who had taken the liberty to charge as she fell. She brought her arms up in an attempt to block his kick, however; her hand collided with the back of his foot, and she smirked. She grabbed it and twisted it, bringing her elbow down on his calf in an attempt to sever his foot.

Instead of making contact with the leg, however; the man twisted, jumping so that his free foot was in the air and aiming for Kiyoko's head. She released his leg to protect her head, listening as her arm gave another cracking noise, and she winced. He'd kicked her pretty hard, and in the same arm Kiriko had broken not too long ago. That wasn't good. Ignoring the pain, she summoned chakra to her hands, molding it so that it took on a particular property. When the assassin attacked again, she managed to strike him, flooding his system with her chakra. "Ranshinshō," she spoke, smirking as the assassin writhed on the floor, trying to take control of his body. "It's a pain isn't it?" she stated, completely caught off guard when another body flew into hers.

Takehiko turned his head just slightly to the side, such that he was looking at Kosan with his one good eye. “Do what you have to,” he said solemnly. “I’ll take responsibility if it comes to that.” That was part of being Raikage, after all; all of the actions his people took were his actions by extension, and he was the place where responsibility stopped moving down the chain. He was accountable for everything they did, in the end, but he believed in them. He believed that when it really came down to it, they wouldn’t do anything that he could not accept the consequences for with his head held high. And if they did, well… he wasn’t just their Raikage, he was their friend and their brother. So he would carry that weight anyway.

The air around him shifted, taking on the scent of ozone, and his already unruly hair rose slowly to stand on end, sticking out in silvery tufts in all directions from his scalp. With a crackling sound, several tongues of lightning flickered around him, bursting at last into the full Lightning Release armor. The area it occupied was wider than average for such a jutsu, and he had to be careful not to put too much chakra into it, else it would expand too far and injure his allies as well as his foes. That was why it built slowly rather than simply appearing. He could feel Mata stirring, her interest piqued by the taste of the chakra outside his perception, but not hers. For the moment, however, he ignored her. They were not on the best of terms, to say the least.

Rei, meanwhile, sized up the situation and clucked her tongue. Though her teamwork would be better with Zetsu most and Takko after, she could see that the intent of the leader was obviously to take on the Raikage herself, and she could sense a dangerous amount of chakra in the woman, cool like water, but in constant flux, like the air. The others were formidable, but not nearly as much as that woman was. “Zetsu—I’ll help Uzumaki.” The implied end of the sentence was clear enough: so you protect the Raikage.

There were four other ninja besides the woman, two of whom were clearly going after Kiyoko, probably to keep her busy. Rei supposed that meant two for her—but only if she played fair, which she did not intend to. “Uzumaki-san. I like two on four much better than one on two." It might divide up evenly, but there were definite advantages to fighting with a partner, including the ability to cover the other when they really needed it. Such as now, when the second fighter crashed into Kiyoko, carrying her to the ground in a reckless taijutsu move that obviously meant to take advantage of the fact that the woman was small.

Rei wasn’t going to allow that. Sketching out a quick series of signs, she generated several lightning release clones, and one planted its foot in the side of the ninja trying to keep Kiyoko down, pushing him off enough to allow the other woman to regain her feet. Two of them drew over the remaining assassins, though they were cut down nearly immediately, the bursts of lightning backlashing into the faces of those who eliminated them, to only minimal effect, it would seem. “What have you got in your repertoire, because I’m not liking the looks of this,” she admitted.

Point. Clever. At least she didn't make a, 'it must be chilly' joke as he wasn't sure how he would respond to that one. Perhaps, under a different circumstance, he would comment on her clever choice of words, but his attention was taken up by the group in front of him as his mind ran through its options. He could take the two on the left leaving Rei behind in support while Takko handled the center, but there was the off chance that these colorful assassins weren't foolish and had a reason to be confident.

Kosan opened his mouth to voice his idea when the fiery red head proved true to her nature charging off to face them head on, well, it seemed like they were roughly on the same page. But, since Takko gave the go ahead-- dead it was. It was far easier to simply kill them then try to take them alive, he would try to take one alive for questioning.

He had nearly took off himself when Rei caught him by surprise, Kosan knew her well enough, fought beside her long enough, to understand her meaning. He would be looking after their Raikage then who had already activated his lightning armor which slowly grew larger until Takko had it of suitable size. He was sorely tempted to activate his Tempest, but this early would only hinder him if these people were half as good as they pretended to be. He needed to feel them out first.

Flicking his rapier, Kosan rushed forward, covering the ground between him and the green haired woman near instantaneously as he let out a barrage of thrusts from his rapier, stabbing at her shoulders and hips to try and box her in, to feel out her movements and speed, perhaps give an opening to Takko should they be lucky enough.

"Well, there is the Rairyū no Tatsumaki, but," she stated, dusting the debris off of herself when she was given the chance to stand. Kiyoko didn't have very many jutsu's in her book, and a majority of them were either medical ninjutsu, or a fūinjutsu of some sort. Still, she could make due with her taijutsu if need be, and then there was the Chidori. The technique she learned when she found out the nature of her chakra wasn't exactly the most desirable to use at the moment. It had a major drawback for her as she did not have a Sharingan like some jerk she knew. She would have to make it count for her, and if she didn't, it would not be a good outcome. "But I could use this instead," she stated. She would have to make it work for now.

She summoned her chakra to her hand, wincing slightly as the pain shot through her broken arm. She would have to fortify the strength of her arms if she didn't want them to break so easily, again. The sound of birds filled the area as the chakra kneaded into the palm of her hand, her eyes fixed on one of the assassins. She had to get this right, there were no failures. Taking a deep breath, she charged the assassin, running as fast as she could with an extra burst of chakra to her legs, however; the assassin was a smidgen faster, and dodged her attack, causing her eyes to widen in slight surprise. The assassin took the opportunity at the opening and attacked. Could this day get any better? First her arm was broken, again, and now she was getting her ass handed to her. She grit her teeth together as she managed to collect herself.

There was only one person she ever lost to, (though technically there were now two people) and she didn't like losing to people who were not him. Even with Rei's help, it didn't seem like they were making much progress through the assassins. "You know, I don't remember assassins being this... difficult," she spoke. Most assassinations were not well coordinated as this one seemed to be, and perhaps most assassins were just testing the water so to speak. Send in the grunts to do all the heavy work before sending in the hard-hitters. A flawless strategy, no? That, or these were the grunts, and the hard-hitters would be coming in soon. "Well... crap."

“They’d better be damn good, to be confronting us in the open like this,” Rei replied, but she took the cue from Kiyoko and let off her own Lightning Release armor, and her clones did the same, such that it was impossible to tell which of the three Reis was the real one. Flowing in when Kiyoko got knocked back, she aimed a roundhouse kick for the side of that assailant’s head, only for the hit to be caught in midair and her ankle twisted—hard. She felt several of the bones in it snap before she managed to wrench it out of the man’s grip and backspring, one-handed, into a crouch, careful not to place any weight on the leg he’d broken. Her kick had been fast and aggressive—to just be able to stop it with a hand was no mean feat at all.

Her clones engaged the other three, but there was little hope for them, and another bit the dust, though the resulting explosion caught a robed woman in the face. Gritting her teeth and rising into a standing position, Rei made a series of handsigns, readying the jutsu to follow. This was going to hurt, but if she could just succeed in doing it, then they might be able to drop at least one of these people. Ram, boar, dog, bird, hare—and then she smacked the ground with her palm, a pillar of earth erupting from the ground right beneath her. Pushing up off that one she landed hard, only to repeat the motion, in a rough square around where Kiyoko was going at two of them with Taijutsu. “Move!” Rei called, and as soon as the Uzumaki’s feet cleared the affected area, lightning lanced between all four pillars, trapping the two ninja within, even as her last clone was brought down by a third. “Four Pillar Bind.”

“I don’t know how long that will hold. We have to get rid of the others, as soon as we can.” Golden eyes flickered to Kiyoko, indicating that she’d follow her lead.

Takko, meanwhile, started moving, trying to flank the woman Kosan was engaging. She didn’t seem inclined to play his game, however, smacking aside his rapier with more force than would be expected of someone of her size, even a ninja. The rapier sliced into her sleeve when she did, but drew no blood, and Takko could just barely make out that the skin beneath the robe seemed to have turned green and shiny, as though scaled, for just a moment before it reverted back into pale flesh. Her counterattack was just as physical, and just as brutal, a step forward in one smooth motion, carrying her knee into Kosan’s stomach. Before she could make the natural follow up blow of her elbow to the back of his head, however, Takehiko intervened, a fist crackling with electricity driving with great speed for her head.

She bent backwards with flexibility almost on par with Rei’s, his fist whistling by just over the tip of her nose, and fluidly, she turned that into a back handspring, getting clear of the radius of his damage.

Kosan's sharp blue eyes did not miss the odd way her skin seemed to change before his eyes as his rapier did nothing to her skin. That wasn't too odd in itself as his rapier was not the most suited to cutting, and he had met other Shinobi during the war who could harden their bodies enough where a slice would not hurt, but he could not recall ever seeing scales... that was new.

The green haired woman's knee lashed out faster then Kosan could react, smashing into his stomach and knocking the air out of him. Instinct forced his body to bend down with the blow, and while he was a trained enough shinobi in close combat, he was not going to be able to dodge the follow up attack that he knew was coming. Luckily, it seemed Takko picked that time to make his entrance, Kosan fell to his knee to catch his breath, the air filling his lungs in large gulps, "Faster then I imagined," Kosan admitted.

Kosan looked up at the woman who had managed to dodge most of his attacks and Takko's attack; if they were going to take her down then they had to do so fast, otherwise she could escape and leave them with nothing. It seemed like he did not have a choice, feeling her out any further would waste what little time they had left, and he was beginning to doubt he could do much without tapping into his more draining abilities. Moving his rapier in front of his face getting ready to use his Tenpesuto, he could only assume Takko would cover him until he gathered the Chakra. He did not have the massive amount that Takko had at his disposal, it took him a little more time to gather it.

Kiyoko nodded in agreement. If they didn't finish this soon, they would be out of options, and they wouldn't last much longer. She clenched her fists together and inhaled softly. Her arm was still throbbing lightly from where it was currently broken, again, and she had to shake of the feeling. She didn't have much of an option if she wanted to help end this. With that in mind, she took off after one of the other assassins, refusing to use anything but her taijutsu for now. She missed, was kicked a few times, punched a few times, and almost stabbed. She was pretty sure she was stabbed, actually, however; she shook the pain from her mind. She managed to knead a good amount of chakra in her body before amassing it to her fist, a small smirk covering her face in the process.

"Let's finish this, shall we?" she stated towards Rei. She turned back to her target and charged one of the assassins, unmindful of the one that was charging her. It was a moment too late that she had noticed that one, and she had to stop herself, but it wasn't quick enough. The blade they had slipped in between the juncture of her collar bone and shoulder. It slipped clean through, and was protruding through her shoulder. Wincing, she grabbed hold of the blade and swung her hand around as best as she could, the one that had the chakra kneaded in it. The Ōkashō wasn't a friendly attack, and could likely kill the assassin if it landed. But as they were, the assassin was quick, and jumped away, the resulting attack landing on the ground where he once was, and splitting the earth in small pieces of debris as they scattered.

Their attempts to finish anything were going extremely poorly, to say the least. With Kiyoko temporarily down, Rei found herself facing down two by herself. They initially came in fast with taijutsu, and while she was able to avoid most of the hits by dint of reflex and flexibility, contorting around blows in ways that most people were simply not capable of, one good hit did eventually take her off her feet, and she landed hard on the ground, lashing up by instinct and catching one of her assailants in the jaw with her good foot—at least before the other one stepped right on her broken leg.

She couldn’t help it—she cried out, a hoarse yell more than a scream, equal parts pained and frustrated. Her lightning armor, while surely doing them some damage, was apparently not enough of a deterrent, and she lost a hold on it anyway when the man standing on her leg ground his heel down into it. The scraping of her bones against one another was clearly audible, and she gritted her teeth to keep from biting her tongue on accident. Reaching for her chakra, she tried to focus on the man for long enough to weave her chakra with his in an instance of Unmei Saiken, but the concentration required was simply not possible with the pain ricocheting up her entire body this way.

She jerked to the side in just enough time to avoid the Shuriken that would have taken out her left eye, but the kunai that stabbed through her hand and into the dirt of the courtyard was impossible to avoid. Rei hissed, pouring more chakra into the Raiton no Yoroi in hopes of repelling them with the sheer force of it, though given their tolerance to pain there seemed to be little chance of that. Well, she was tolerant to it as well, which was probably the only reason she wasn’t screaming bloody murder right now. Instead, she glared up at them both. “Is that really all you’ve got?” spat. “Konoha interrogators are worse than this.”

Takko, meanwhile, was doing his best to give Kosan a chance to build up his chakra, most likely for his signature technique, the Tempest. For the most part, he and the woman were exchanging chakra-infused nintaijutsu, but that scale trick of hers, now coating most of her skin as far as he could tell—made her very durable, moreso than even he was, perhaps. Or at least, more durable than he was, until he invoked his kekkei genkai and his arms, legs, and torso were covered in what looked to be granite. It crept up his neck as well, in overlapping plates, just reaching his jawline before it faded back into flesh.

Her next punch, thrown right for his abdomen, broke her knuckles. Apparently completely incapable of being totally serious in any given situation, Takko barked a sort laugh at the surprise on her face. “What? Nobody ever told you about the Raikage’s rock-hard abs? What good is a reputation, then?”

Kosan could hear and sense the fighting going on around him, feel the sudden flare of chakra from his Raikage as he gathered his own chakra. He could do this and still fight, but it would take him some time. Normally, he would do so after opening a few gates in order to have a larger amount of chakra at hand, but using gates would drain him further, and he would need to save as much chakra as possible.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he gathered the amount and reflexively mixed the nature chakra to the perfect ratio and flared it to life, his body seeming to explode as could feel the lightning surging down his spine, and the sudden torrent of wind that swirled around him throwing his loose strands of hair into the air around him.

His blue eyes snapped open to see the assassin and Takko exchanging blows as well as the chakra that moved to cover his rapier, the lightning dancing along the surface and ripples within the chakra as the wind moved through the energy. With his technique finally unleashed, Kosan shot off, the ground cracking beneath his legs, as he joined Takko in the offensive, utilizing his quick thrust and timing them with Takko's blows, moving almost in a dance next to the large granite Raikage, two different fighting styles suited to one purpose, to destroy the Assassin.

Kiyoko pursed her lips together when both assassins went after Rei. She picked herself up from the ground, breathing a little heavier than normal and frowned. There was no way she was going to let this go. She's said it once before, and she'll continue to say it. She doesn't lose, to no one but her friend. And though they were probably stronger than him, she wasn't going to just lose without more of a fight. Gritting her teeth together, she forced herself to move closer to Rei and the two assassins, holding her broken arm in the process. It still throbbed with pain, but she'd deal with it later. With her the way it was, what she was about to do would only last a few seconds. She wouldn't be able to keep it for long, but it would give Rei a chance she would need.

"Rei! You've only got once chance!" she shouted to the Kumogakure kunoichi, hoping she would catch on quickly. "Fūinjutsu: Seidō Fūjin!" she shouted, allowing her technique to be released. She managed to seal the chakra of the two assassins, but time was passing rapidly, and she could feel her injuries creeping up on her. Odd, she didn't remember being kicked around so much, why was her body aching like it had been?

The assassin moved as fluidly as water, keeping herself well out of the way of both men and focusing her aggression on Kosan, as the Raikage was going to require more creative maneuvers to injure, ones that may not be possible while two people were after her at once. So mostly, she just ducked and twisted around Takehiko, dancing just at the edge of the range of Tempest, and making mid-ranged attacks against Kosan, mostly consisting of earth-based maneuvers that sought to throw both men off-balance and damage them with blunt impact. Her scales inched up her neck, coming to the bottom of her jaw, a strange mirror of the Raikage’s granite, and they seemed to stave off the worst of the damage from those few times Kosan got close enough to damage her with the unique release.

She was distracted enough by this exercise that Takko managed to get a few good hits in, succeeding in breaking one of her wrists with a shattering, chakra-infused punch, but thankfully his follow-up lariat missed by a few inches as she slid by underneath the trajectory, stabbing the kodachi she carried towards his face, since it was the only unprotected part of him that she knew about. The blade passed close enough to catch in the tie of his eyepatch, and it fluttered to the ground, blown away soon enough on Kosan’s wind, and suddenly the was looking at the most curious case of heterochomia she had ever seen. His other eye was a peculiar gold-green, but the pupil was slitted, like one would see in the eye of a cat or reptile. The grin stretching across his face, however, was entirely feline, pointed incisors and all.

“Bit of a secret: Mata and I don’t always get along so well,” he confessed, though it was more in a tone of dark amusement than anything, and when he next swiped for her, he did it with claws. Midori leaped back just in time, but this time right into the rapier-blow Kosan was aiming for her. At the last second, she twisted, and it only just scraped her side rather than piercing her abdomen, as it had doubtless been aimed to do.

Rei, meanwhile, had taken advantage of the opening provided by Kiyoko as much as she could, though that was admittedly not much. At least the managed to get out of the way of the two ninja while they were struggling to free their chakra, though, and it gave her the opportunity to use her Kekkei Genkai, which she did. It was a subtle thing, and not at all flashy. In fact, unless a person was sensing chakra at the time, it was impossible for anyone but the other party to tell that she was using it at all. It was considerably more interesting for someone who was, however, because it was the process of two chakra systems becoming meshed, something which was not usually possible for even a medic-nin.

It activated just as the two broke free of Kiyoko’s fūinjutsu, leach leaping to the side. Rei allowed the one that rushed her in the aftermath to hit her full in the stomach, because the unpleasant realization that he himself had just felt the same pain was a little amusing. It was an unfortunate side-effect of the damn technique when she used it to heal, because she could then feel the pain of the person she was tethering to life, but fortunately, her pain tolerance was high enough to still be effective. She’d been good at resisting torture long before she’d actually been tortured, after all. As it turned out, however, there was little chance to capitalize further on what might have become an advantage.

Time to go. The words were as clear to Midori as if she had thought them herself, and in the end, it was basically equivalent anyway. Jumping further away, she slammed a fist into the barrier Rei had used to hold two of her soldiers, and it shattered on impact releasing them. They and their fellows moved with her, and only she glanced back for even a moment. “You may tell your friends that this is not over,” she informed them, the first time she had spoken during the entire fight. Her voice was musical, but held a low note of something melancholy in it. What that meant, it was impossible to say, but the warning was delivered with neither arrogance nor relish—simply stated, as though it were fact.

Moments later, they vanished.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Katsuro Uchiha Character Portrait: Ryuu Tsukino Character Portrait: Rei Hinode Character Portrait: Kiriko Gekkō
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Kiriko revelled in the connection between her fist and the other nin: it was something she was missing, the ability to literally rip apart her opponent, even if her opponent was still in one piece. Panting more heavily than she was used to, Kiriko gave one last smile before taking an attempt to walk forward, only to collapse. Her eyes wide, Kiriko barely got her hands down in time in an attempt to catch herself, but ultimately just fell down. What... What's going on? That was her last thought before the feeling in her legs disappeared completely, only to be replaced by an intense buring sensation. Another muffled scream was emitted as it felt like her legs simply had erupted in flames; or more specifically, the chakra of her legs was replaced with fire. Kiriko could feel the fire slowly creep past her legs and slowly make it to the torso, all the while her body was slowly losing motor function.

Kiriko was finally able to tilt her head enough to see her opponent, who instead of finishing her off like any normal person would, instead grabbed his partner and vanished. His face was still ingrained in her mind as she swore at him profusely; she had dragged her limp body towards where he had taken off before her arms simply refused their master, and she was stopped. All she could do now was muffle her screams with the ground itself while the poison continued its conquest of her body, seemingly setting her insides on fire while disabling her ability to move. She simply laid there now, unable to writhe in pain, unable to see anything as she was only able to stare at the unchanging dirt.

As her vision blurred and her speech began to slur, all she could think of was Takko and her failure. Was there any real point in continuing now that she had failed? Was this an attack on the two Kages to remove the talks of peace? Kiriko didn't really care what their motives were; it didn't matter now anyway. She was no longer fit to be the partner of the Raikage: she was supposed to be his protector and partner, his eyes where he could not see. If she could not beat rogue ninjas that threatened his life, what good was she? As the poison overtook her once again, she couldn't muffle her scream this time as her jaw no longer completely followed her directions. Her mind was cleared, as if the poison burned her thoughts away, and left her with only two words which she struggled to say. "End.... Me...."

“Not today.” The voice, as it turned out, belonged to Rei. Her team had suffered damage, certainly, including impressive cracks to the Raikage’s granite armor and her own broken leg, but a quick application of healing chakra and she was at least functional enough to go check on the other members of her team, leaving Takko and Kosan in care of Kiyoko’s abilities. But she wasn’t taking the chance that some Leaf medics would arrive and not prioritize the treatment of Kiriko or Nari, wherever they were, and let them die for that reason.

As it happened, she’d found Kiriko first, and from the state of her, that was a good thing—she didn’t look to be in good shape, and someone with as much willpower as she had wouldn’t be down like this unless there was just no way she could possibly stand again. Her pride wouldn’t allow for it, or at least that was how Rei saw things. The cause of this state was evident enough when she saw the bite wound on Kiriko’s ankle, and the medic-nin grimaced. A quick scan of the area revealed that Katsuro was unconscious—she’d have to check on him next. He had helped Zetsu out in his information hunt, after all. Ryuu was also there, but considering that he was conscious and not facedown in the dirt, she’d have to wait on asking after him either.

“Takko’s fine,” she said, knowing that Kiri’s first priority would likely be the Raikage. That was as it should be, and Rei understood it perfectly. “So is Zetsubō, but I’m not sure where Nariko is. She may have gotten caught up somewhere in the fighting.” Never one to waste time, Rei worked as she talked, reaching into the pouch tied to her thigh and drawing out a small vial of a dark fluid. Usually, this technique required that someone be restrained, because of the pain of it, but judging from the way Kiri wasn’t moving anyway, thrashing was not going to be an issue.

“Sorry, Gekkō, but this is going to hurt,” Rei informed her calmly, using a chakra scalpel to open the bite wound wider, connecting the two points of entry on her teammate’s ankle. The painful part, though, was when she had to force the fluid into Kiri’s bloodstream, using it to draw and suspend all of the poison in her arteries and veins. It was not a nice process, not in the slightest, but it did draw out the remainder of the toxin, and Rei ushered it back into the vial, which she corked. The whole thing took extreme precision even for a medic, but it worked. “I’ll have a proper antidote in a few hours tops, so take it easy until then.” Most of Kiri’s motor function would be back already, but for full recovery, the antidote was advised, but she’d need time to make it, even after she’d finished checking over everyone else.

Kiriko was genuinely surprised when she heard a voice from overhead, especially one that she recognized. She would have moved her head to acknowledge the voice, but it didn't matter even if she could: Kiriko recognized Rei's voice even if she couldn't see her. Kiriko didn't know how to respond to Rei's counteractive statement to her own -she remained motionless as Rei continued to work, unable to really focus on the words that Rei really spoke besides the fact that Takko was alive and well. While the feeling of relief washed over her, guilt instantly replaced it as she realized that she had been useless to him; her job was as his protector, and if she couldn't manage that task, what good was she? Kiri's whole life had been dedicated to finishing missions flawlessly to protect those she cared for, and yet here she was: basically a dead weight.

Kiriko heard another mumble from Rei - the word 'hurt' was used, if she heard correctly - before a dull pain ripped through her ankle near the cut. What happened next, Kiriko could not aptly describe with words: all she felt was searing pain, as if her insides were being forced out of her body through a narrow tube. The pain instantly caught her off guard, and her screams pierced the previously still air until she was able to muffle them. The next few moments of searing pain were in muffled silence as Kiri's body writhed weakly in distress, until it suddenly stopped. Panting, Kiri heard words in the distance, as each word became more and more clear; something about a proper antidote and taking it easy if she recalled correctly. Slowly, her body began to revitalize itself, and the feeling that she was actually alive began to creep its way back.

Not one for taking advice from others, as soon as Kiri felt she was strong enough to raise herself, she struggled to prop her head up from the ground so that she could see the world, and Rei as she left. Before she was out of earshot, however, Kiriko mumbled out a few coherent words: "I.... Thank you, Rei." It sounded much more bashful than she had anticipated, but it mattered not; she could always use the excuse that she had just been poisoned. Nevertheless, she wanted to get to Hiko as fast as she could - then again, it was hard to do so when your legs felt weaker than the leaves of the trees in autumn. She would have to wait, no matter how hard she pushed herself.

Rei, sensitive to Kiriko’s attitude towards such things, didn’t make a big deal out of her tone, nor of the circumstances under which she’d found her. “Not a problem, Kiriko.” At this point, she figured the other woman was best left to decide how she wanted to handle the situation herself, though Rei was sure that Takko would be glad to see her. Rather than saying this directly, however, she simply moved onto the next patient—the Uchiha.

He was in shit shape, to be completely honest, and she could hardly fault him for the fact that he was barely conscious. Kiriko’s screaming had produced some kind of instinctive reaction in him from the look of things, as he seemed to have been trying to orient himself in that direction, as if to help. Of course, there was nothing to help with, but he was hardly in a position to know that. Still, looking at him now, half-curled in on himself, bleeding from no fewer than two dozen wounds, unfocused eyes still locked in the direction from which he’d heard the pained cries of another human being… she wondered if he was really so cold as he wanted everyone else to think. Well, perhaps it wasn’t any of her business in the first place, but she couldn’t help but feel that it was when people were really trodden down that they showed you their true colors, and his just looked more red than black to her.

She put the thought from her mind, though, as she knelt at his side, talking even though she was uncertain whether he’d even be able to process her words. A voice in the proximity, lacking panic, was sometimes enough to be of assistance. “Hang in there, Uchiha, I’ve got you.” She wondered where his own village’s triage teams were, though honestly they were probably overtaxed, working from the inside out, and wouldn’t be this far to the edge of the village for a while yet.

She didn’t want to risk moving him too much, for fear of aggravating his injuries, but she did need to get a look at them. The uniform shirt he was wearing came off easily enough under the edge of a chakra scalpel, and the fact that she had to peel it off his skin was not a good sign. She heard him make a sound, something like a hiss, when she removed it as efficiently as possible, and she winced at the crosshatched wounds. Whomever he’d been against had not been kind to him—this looked more like ritualized torture than a real fight, and Rei swallowed thickly. She knew the difference better than most people would ever have to. “I’ve got you,” she repeated, the words Shizu had once spoken to her the only ones easy to her lips in this particular moment.

Putting him back together as well as she could wasn’t quite the advanced process that poison extraction was, but she had no doubt that it was taking a lot out of her. She’d used a considerable amount of chakra already today, and while she was always working on increasing her reserves of it, she was only a bit better than the average ninja in that area at the moment. By the time the worst of Katsu’s wounds—the largest slashes and the most shattered of the breakages—were done, she’d had to use her chakra to empty his lungs of blood three times, and that took a bit more than healing the average cut.

He was out cold by then, the strain no doubt more than his body could really take at present, and she was just glad he had so much chakra of his own to work with—almost as much as Takko had, actually, when he claimed Matatabi was being a bit more cooperative than she usually was. That much meant that however brutal the battle, it had not been all used up, and she could put some of it to work helping heal his body.

Rei sat back, exhaling in a sigh and wiping the back of a hand across her head, turning to the last of the shinobi still present. “Anything I can do for you, Tsukino?” she asked, though she was showing signs that her fatigue was catching up with her. Her breaths were steady, but abnormally deep, and she’d forgone the crouch to sit seiza, so as to conserve energy.

Ryuu looked towards the voice who addressed him. His mismatched eyes were glazed with something. However, it quickly dissipated and reflected the visage of someone he knew well about. It was none other than her. He noticed that she was not exhausted by physical effort, but of tending to the wounded shinobi present in the area. She apparently used her chakra intensely and judging by that, it only meant those two suffered heavy injuries. In any case, his answer to the question did not come easily as he prioritized looking at the others who had been treated already. Uchiha was still alive as well as Gekkō. Of course, they should be. It was expected on his part.

"I'm fine."It was a short answer as he turned his back on her and began to walk away. Right now, he would like to be alone and get some sleep which had been unceremoniously disturbed. Yet, he ignored the fact that he has some internal bleeding and more importantly, his hand and arm were now sporting cellular damages from the jutsu he was about to use earlier. It was a backlash he had expected when it was not thrown away or even stabilized. That is why he had concluded before that there would be a furious scolding from that person. Well, he would accept that.

Midway in his walk, he stopped as blood came out of his mouth. He covered with his other hand as the other was now unusable until proper treatment had been done to it. If not, he would probably be maimed but that was not his concern at all. "Tsk." He clicked his tongue as he wiped his mouth with the back of his uninjured arm and continued to walk on. It would seem that he needed some medical assistance, but, he would not be seeking the one who had offered if she can do anything for him. Instead, he would be seeking the help of another. That should not be difficult, however; the question is if he will reach there with enough provisions of his present condition.

He was simply being stubborn at the wrong time. It seemed his bad mood was still a continuing process.

Rei didn’t miss the faint splash that accompanied a few drops of blood hitting the ground, nor could she mistake the sound for anything else. Sighing, she glanced down at Katsuro. “Are all of you Konoha shinobi this stubborn, or did I just get stuck dealing with the proud fools?” Being unconscious, there was of course no way he could answer her, and she sighed again, knowing this was going to be murder on her still-tender foot. But it wasn’t like anyone else was in a fit state to do it. So it was with some difficulty that she lifted the taller—though not much taller, thankfully—Uchiha, slinging him over her back and leaning forward slightly so that gravity would do some of her work for her.

Glancing over at Kiriko, she pressed her lips into a grim line. “I’ve got to get this one to the hospital for more treatment. Do you think you can go check on Takko?” She expected that the Raikage would be fine, in all honesty, but Kiri really needed to see that for herself, if Rei’s intuition about her current mental state was anywhere near correct.

Fortunately, the hospital, located near to the Hokage’s building, seemed to be the general direction in which Ryuu was heading as well. Birds, meet stone. Jogging a bit so as to catch up, she tried not to wince when the pressure on her foot sent little needles of pain up from her ankle. They really hadn’t been kind with that one, had they? “Oh for goodness’ sake,” she groused, shaking her head upon observing the blood streaking across the back of his one arm and how the other hung uselessly at his side. “It’s fine if you trust one of your own village’s medics more than me. I won’t be offended. But at least let me stabilize you so you can make it to one of them.”

Kiriko did not acknowledge Rei's first comment as she went to help out the other fighters that were just as unlucky as Kiriko, but in a completely different manner. Kiriko struggled to keep her head up as she watched Rei walk over to the absolutely battered Uchiha, and studied the reclusive man. He reminded her of herself, really - only with a chakra that was so potent with potential it was sickening. The fact that she was able to sense his chakra once again meant that she was regaining a lot of her cognitive abilities as well, even if the sense was somewhat dull for the amount of chakra she had read off of him earlier. Kiriko used that as a marker that she should be able to move soon, and made the mistake of attempting to prop up to a possible standing position. Instead, her body collapsed on her, and she was instead on her elbows, panting. Seemed as if the poison's effects felt like holding on for the fun of it, and weren't the speediest to give her back the strength to get up yet.

As she struggled to get to a standing position, her mind wandered into some seriously dangerous territory - almost as dangerous as after the war. The faces of her new enemies kept going through her head as she finally made it to a sitting position. Their every feature would be engrained into her mind as she knew she would hunt them to the ends of the earth. She had no other purpose if she didn't; Hiko would find somebody more suitable to guard him, seeing as how she failed miserably at performing a simple task, and she would devote her life to the extermination of those that dared to ruin her reputation. Kiriko's mind continued to dwell as she finall pushed herself up into a shakey standing position as she began to envision how she would find them, what she would do to them: she could even taste the blood that they would gush after she was done-

Rei's comment took Kiriko out of her dark corner, to which she was silently grateful for. That was a place in which she rarely came out of, for it required Hiko to make a comment, her mother scolded her for brooding or some sheer willpower, which she had none currently. Kiriko made a stern nod in Rei's direction - as stern as one coming off of the effects of a neurotoxin could, anyway - and watched as Rei hobbled off with the Uchiha. With her sensory ability limited, Kiriko had to guess that Hiko was still in the Compound, and began the slow walk over. For onlookers, Kiriko probably looked like a frail old woman with little to no ability to walk; her head was only tilted up enough to make sure she didn't run into things, her back hunched over, her pace slow and jagged. Each step was exhausting, but at least her legs were obeying her and moving at a pace, instead of lying limp beside her. Count the small blessings, she guessed. Her train of thought began to wander a bit as the walk painfully continued forward, as she mulled over how horrid her kimono must look from the outside, with its new stains and tears as well as her missing sandals.

When Kiriko thought that she would have been out of the village by now, she looked up a little more to realize she almost ran into the pole to the Uchiha Compound, and gave a ragged sigh of relief. Putting up a hand on the pole to stabalize herself, Kiriko caught her breath before moving towards the building she had been sleeping in for a while now. She couldn't really see the destruction that had been caused, nor did she care. Her thoughts became narrow as she reached the door and nearly collapsed in exhaustion, panting profusely as she thought of only one thing: finding Hiko.

There it was again, the persistence which Ryuu currently does not appreciate at the moment. If it has been any other day or perhaps even time, he would have taken such a trait as an interesting note. Unfortunately, he was not in the mood to say at the very least. His wounds? Injuries? They were inconsequential to him. Really, they were. He was not going to die from them. That fact was pretty much he was certain of. So to effect, there was really no need for her pestering. Yes, he was starting to see her as a pest. "Should you not treat yourself first?" He stated with a tone wrapped in concession without even looking at her direction as he continued with his pace. It would appear that he had noticed her condition even if it had appeared that he did not care about anything around him right now.

His two-colored eyes reflected the visage of the hospital which meant that they were near. All he had to do was to endure a bit more and soon enough, this will be over. However, his body failed him a bit as he made a sudden stop. With his available hand, he covered his mouth as blood spilled forth much like a riveting fountain. As it would appear, the internal damage caused by getting hit directly by that lightning jutsu did more than he had anticipated. Really, he would like nothing more but to crush those attackers until there would be no traces of them even bones. Yes, that would be fun. Yet, there was a different intended course for them to take and he must allow them.

There was another fit of vomiting blood as he ultimately sat on the ground unceremoniously. He was getting tired from such actions and soon enough made himself comfortable by lying down. Closing his eyes, he felt the aches, pain, and the tiredness engulfing his entire body. It was probably due to the adrenaline pumping within him earlier had already dissipated. "Hinode-san." He stated with a voice akin to that of child with a dislike of waking up early. "You shouldn't force yourself too much." There was once again his mask put into place that even beyond those fictitious smile provided a tint of concern. "I just need rest." He decided on that as his breathing seemed to endure a normal pace. However, his wounds would not heal without the needed stimulation by the medics. "So do you."

She wasn’t sure what was the cause of this stubborn insistence on being fine. Sometimes it was a pride thing, usually a male pride thing, though women could have it too. Sometimes, other shinobi considered the skills of medical nin to be somehow inferior, because their skills were not the flashiest or most straightforwardly combative, and apparently some people took that to mean they were less respectable. Still others had a paranoia about others interfering with their own bodies. While this might just be some kind of pride, she was pretty sure it had nothing to do with the other possibilities, leaving the other option to be that he just had some personal issue with her.

Well, fine, but whatever it was, it wasn’t a good reason to refuse help, and she shook her head. They were both heading to the hospital anyway, and she just decided that if something happened on the way, she’d address it, and if not, she’d let him have his way. Shifting the Uchiha slightly on her back, she responded with the sort of calm straightforwardness that characterized her medical training. “I have treated myself. My leg’s a bit tender, but if you’d seen it before, you’d understand.” She left it at that—there was no need to whine or waste too much breath. It would probably only annoy them both at this point.

She drew the line, however, when he collapsed into a seated position on the ground. Lowering herself a little more carefully, mindful of her passenger, she eased Katsuro onto the ground so that she could move a little more freely. “Sure we do,” she agreed readily enough. “And we’ll both get it—when we walk into the hospital under our own steam. I can’t carry two of you.” She raised an eyebrow and half-smiled, but it was pretty clear that she was entertaining exactly no objections about whether or not she was allowed to stem that internal bleeding. Her hands were already encased in the needed chakra, and she splayed her fingers over his back, where his lungs were located, such that her hand was lodged against the ground, and her other hand mirrored the positioning in front.

It wasn’t a full heal by any means, just enough to stem the flow of his internal lacerations. She could not help but notice, however, the extensive cellular damage he’d undergone, and traces of scarring from the same, over an extended period of time, as though he repeatedly did something that caused him serious internal injury. It was similar in principle almost to a technique she knew for rapid cellular regeneration, one that called on the body’s ability to replace all of its cells early. There were a finite number of such things in any person’s lifetime, just like there was a finite number of times he’d be able to do… whatever it was, before he expired.

He had to know. There was no way you could do that to your body and not be aware that something was terribly wrong. She could only assume it was the side effect of some jutsu or another, but it seemed a steep price to pay. Her lips pressed together, but she remained silent on the matter. It wasn’t really any of her business—he owed her no explanations. So once she was sure he’d stopped bleeding and could breathe more easily, she withdrew her hands. “There. Wasn’t so terrible, I hope?”

That was pretty much useless for having his bravado about not receiving any kind of her aid. There are certain reasons in which he did not like her to help him. Of course, he could not say that outright to her. Which would be odd if one is judging of his persona, well, it was just temporary. Eventually, he will be able to say it or she would find out. But, it was not now. In any case, he could not help but sigh in light irritation as he closed his eyes. This time, he did not resist nor say anything against her initiative to stop his internal bleeding. Actually, it truly helped as his body felt a bit better. He could not deny her an answer as she asked about his opinion in regards to her assistance. "You just can't keep your hands off me, can you?" There was a smile filled with mischief upon his face and a tone which insinuated a certain matter.

Regardless, he stood from his position. It is true that she stabilized his condition. So, he was not a person without manners. Actually, he really was as it is more fun. But then again, he is aware of his responsibility. Instead, he looked at the unconscious Uchiha. The prodigy was beaten rather badly. There was no doubt in his mind that Katsuro's pride had been damaged. Anyone will suffer the same outcome as the enemy group left them in a complete bind. It seemed like they were nothing more, but a toy when they are bored. Well, it was fine. The people will rebuild what was lost. So, there should be no problems. For now...

"I will be taking him." With one arm, he heaved Katsuro to his shoulder without even an ounce of delicacy. Well, he was knew that Uchicha was tough. So, that should be no problem. In addition, he would not be taking any complaints from her, this is simply how it is needed to be done. His mismatched eyes glanced at her form. He knew that she had been presented with something odd about his personal health. But, this would remain a secret and he does not owe her anything to explain. Moreover, he has no intentions for anyone to know about his odd condition. So, it will remain the same. Although, there will be something he will do. "Thanks." Without much warning, he placed a kiss on her forehead and then fluidly went on his way to the hospital.

Rei sighed, bringing a hand to her forehead for a moment before she dropped it again. “Weirdo."