Naruto: Tales of a Ninja Magician by Captain Claymore
Summary: An alternate universe story borrowing just the Universe from the original creator of the series "Naruto" - Masashi Kishimoto and filled with entirely different characters and stories while trying to maintain all the main elements of the genre like overblown larger than life battles, transformations and training montages and all the fan favorite elements.

The story is about Nakotsumi Mana, a very strange young girl who struggled all of her life because she had strange ideas of peace in a world where violence is the norm. Mana saw all of reality as being magical as a child and saw ninjutsu as a magical tool to protect the magic of life. And because of that she became a stage magician as well as ninja, to show people that ninjutsu was not a tool of murder but something that each user define by themselves.

The story follows an entirely different history and has a unique history to itself (the origins of this world might end up entirely different as compared to Naruto manga), also some concepts and techniques might be changed from the original
Categories: OC-centric, Alternate Universe & Crossovers > Minor AU Characters: OC
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: AU, Dark, Death
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 273 Completed: No Word count: 996918 Read: 56480 Published: 23/08/15 Updated: 13/02/17

1. Tale Begins: Enter Nakotsumi Mana! by Captain Claymore

2. Revolt! Hanada Estate Under Attack! by Captain Claymore

3. Big Boss Bakku, Rumble Concludes at Last by Captain Claymore

4. A Gentle Womanizer and an Otaku? by Captain Claymore

5. Ruthless Sannin Tanshu! by Captain Claymore

6. You Lose! Mana VS Tanshu Clash of Ideals by Captain Claymore

7. Who Will Become No 1 At Dishes? by Captain Claymore

8. Misfortune Strikes Low, Bells of War! by Captain Claymore

9. Pain That Bonds a Family! A Real Mission by Captain Claymore

10. I'm gonna be Hokage! Shimo's Decision by Captain Claymore

11. We're no longer children! We are Ninja! by Captain Claymore

12. You're Not Perfect! Hurry to the Rescue. by Captain Claymore

13. The Story of Satsuhimasa the Spruce Princess by Captain Claymore

14. Mysterious Power - Samsara! by Captain Claymore

15. Konoha's Sorceress by Captain Claymore

16. Mana's Bad Day by Captain Claymore

17. Going Underneath the Underneath... by Captain Claymore

18. A Mysterious Tip? Interrupt the Deal! by Captain Claymore

19. Trouble in the Junkyard District! by Captain Claymore

20. Gate of Opening!The enemy is Jounin? by Captain Claymore

21. The Demon of Kirigakure by Captain Claymore

22. Blizzard Cut VS Infernal Chains by Captain Claymore

23. Night of the Demon Ends! Resolution by Captain Claymore

24. Tanshu's Story: Hell is where Katei is! by Captain Claymore

25. Tanshu's Story: He With the Eyes of God by Captain Claymore

26. Tanshu's Story: Red Dog VS Rinnegan! by Captain Claymore

27. Tanshu's Story: Power Born from Pain by Captain Claymore

28. Tanshu's Story: Sannin Enter the Battle by Captain Claymore

29. Tanshu's Story: Battle in Total Darkness by Captain Claymore

30. Tanshu's Story: Howoku's Starlight! by Captain Claymore

31. Tanshu's Story: Another Battle Stolen by Captain Claymore

32. Tanshu's Story: Two Clashes! by Captain Claymore

33. Tanshu's Story: Gentle Hyuuga of Sand by Captain Claymore

34. Tanshu's Story: Tower of Bones Falls! by Captain Claymore

35. Tanshu's Memories End! Kage Summit Ahead by Captain Claymore

36. Kage Summit Begins, Mysterious Mizukage! by Captain Claymore

37. Who is Namikaze Shirona?! by Captain Claymore

38. Mizukage Shirona's Scary Strength by Captain Claymore

39. Chasing Evil by Captain Claymore

40. Ambition by Captain Claymore

41. Starlight Sword - Pleiades! by Captain Claymore

42. Echoes of Day that Will Never Be by Captain Claymore

43. A Village on a Path to Greatness by Captain Claymore

44. Kazekage VS Oni Mask! by Captain Claymore

45. Iron Shogun Hits the Field by Captain Claymore

46. The Modest Supersonic Warrior! by Captain Claymore

47. Imasu's Pinch? Silent Killing Unleashed by Captain Claymore

48. Roar of the Three Tails! by Captain Claymore

49. Kirigakure Military Crushed?! by Captain Claymore

50. "I Can Lift Any Weight" by Captain Claymore

51. Loop Tightens! by Captain Claymore

52. Barrier Buster and the Monkey Woman by Captain Claymore

53. Tanshu's Mysterious Strategy by Captain Claymore

54. Opponents but no longer Enemies by Captain Claymore

55. Final Confrontation Imminent! by Captain Claymore

56. Backstabbed?! by Captain Claymore

57. For Vashia! Roar Sage Mode by Captain Claymore

58. Reality in Shatters? Howoku VS Shirona by Captain Claymore

59. Price of Love, Sage Mode Ends! by Captain Claymore

60. When the Skies Cry Blood by Captain Claymore

61. A New Chapter Begins by Captain Claymore

62. Team Oak's Reunion! by Captain Claymore

63. The Fifth by Captain Claymore

64. Stages of Grief by Captain Claymore

65. Shimo VS Sugemi! by Captain Claymore

66. Whoever Wins, Everyone Loses! by Captain Claymore

67. The Fallout by Captain Claymore

68. Story of a Man Born From an Arm by Captain Claymore

69. Solution to Violence by Captain Claymore

70. A Broken Road Goodbye by Captain Claymore

71. Last Wishes by Captain Claymore

72. Where Magician Babies Come From... by Captain Claymore

73. Psychosis by Captain Claymore

74. Idiocy that'll Change the World by Captain Claymore

75. Of Blue Eyes and Red Eyes by Captain Claymore

76. The Third One by Captain Claymore

77. Sick World for Sick People by Captain Claymore

78. Crossroad Between Order and Chaos by Captain Claymore

79. The End of a Dream?! by Captain Claymore

80. After the Dust Settles by Captain Claymore

81. No Rest for the Kind by Captain Claymore

82. Life-Treasuring Monster by Captain Claymore

83. Kiyomi VS a Cat-Hobo by Captain Claymore

84. I Want to Kill Rogues! by Captain Claymore

85. Long Range Ninja VS Long Range Ninja by Captain Claymore

86. Phantasmal Maturity by Captain Claymore

87. Babies Born and Made by Captain Claymore

88. The Smell of Purple by Captain Claymore

89. Yellow's Cruel Plan by Captain Claymore

90. Moonlight and Roses by Captain Claymore

91. The Lion and the Lamb by Captain Claymore

92. Bell Which No One Heard by Captain Claymore

93. A Wolf That Cried "Boy" by Captain Claymore

94. Memento No More by Captain Claymore

95. Viva le Revelacion by Captain Claymore

96. Crash Course by Captain Claymore

97. Swords and Magic, Literal and Otherwise by Captain Claymore

98. Love and Genocide by Captain Claymore

99. The World of Bastards by Captain Claymore

100. The Obligatory Wonderful Life Episode! by Captain Claymore

101. Equal Exchange by Captain Claymore

102. Broken by Captain Claymore

103. The Evil That Helps Us Grow by Captain Claymore

104. The Violent Warrior Clan of Iwa by Captain Claymore

105. A Prelude to a New Adventure by Captain Claymore

106. Yoruma Treatment by Captain Claymore

107. Shits and Giggles by Captain Claymore

108. Bloom for Bliss by Captain Claymore

109. An Unexpected Return by Captain Claymore

110. Chakra over Matter by Captain Claymore

111. Identity by Captain Claymore

112. Foodfight by Captain Claymore

113. A Silly Question to Begin A Journey by Captain Claymore

114. Unexpected Encounter of the Family Kind by Captain Claymore

115. Cooldown Period by Captain Claymore

116. Redirection by Captain Claymore

117. While You Were Sleeping by Captain Claymore

118. Trouble Stew by Captain Claymore

119. Ninja VS Mafiosi by Captain Claymore

120. Entertainer's Creed by Captain Claymore

121. That Which Glitters May Just be Gold by Captain Claymore

122. Reckless Sacrifices by Captain Claymore

123. The Secret of Katabami Gold Mine by Captain Claymore

124. No Way Out by Captain Claymore

125. What Lies Beneath by Captain Claymore

126. Belly of the Beast by Captain Claymore

127. World's Largest Scavenger Hunt! by Captain Claymore

128. Deal with the Devil by Captain Claymore

129. Conflict at the Entrance by Captain Claymore

130. United We Fall by Captain Claymore

131. Will to Live by Captain Claymore

132. Inquisition of the Wicked by Captain Claymore

133. Getting Up by Captain Claymore

134. Gentleman's Oath by Captain Claymore

135. Crystal Rain by Captain Claymore

136. The Bloody Kaleidoscope by Captain Claymore

137. Boy Meets Girl by Captain Claymore

138. Quest for True Love by Captain Claymore

139. Stars that Died Out by Captain Claymore

140. All Ways Lead to Bliss by Captain Claymore

141. Belated Regret by Captain Claymore

142. Requiem for a Chase by Captain Claymore

143. Separated by Captain Claymore

144. The Ancient Hunters by Captain Claymore

145. New Course by Captain Claymore

146. Locals by Captain Claymore

147. Choices Matter by Captain Claymore

148. Village Hidden by Sand by Captain Claymore

149. Canned Cat Food of Space-Time by Captain Claymore

150. When Gods Arm Wrestle by Captain Claymore

151. Inside the Dark Room by Captain Claymore

152. Towards a Waterfall of Experience by Captain Claymore

153. Explodnado 2: Fiery Boogaloo by Captain Claymore

154. Welcome to Agbarah by Captain Claymore

155. The Story of Sun Disc by Captain Claymore

156. Let the Games Begin by Captain Claymore

157. Mamoru'ing One's Pride by Captain Claymore

158. Fatal Warfare by Captain Claymore

159. Bet on Freedom by Captain Claymore

160. The Gauntlet by Captain Claymore

161. The God of Martial Arts by Captain Claymore

162. Hypocrisy by Captain Claymore

163. I Must Win by Captain Claymore

164. Seven Minutes by Captain Claymore

165. Road to Ascension by Captain Claymore

166. Of Dentons and Doomsdays by Captain Claymore

167. Standoff by Captain Claymore

168. 1 v. ~300 by Captain Claymore

169. Do as Agbarahns Do by Captain Claymore

170. The Hitman Contestant by Captain Claymore

171. True Meaning of Martial Arts by Captain Claymore

172. An Explosive Encounter by Captain Claymore

173. Tales of a Ninja Magician Annual #1 by Captain Claymore

174. Affections and Extinction by Captain Claymore

175. Into the Darkness by Captain Claymore

176. The Tunnels Have Eyes by Captain Claymore

177. Path of the Wolf by Captain Claymore

178. No Holding Back by Captain Claymore

179. Life Shaver by Captain Claymore

180. Stars Gone Cold by Captain Claymore

181. Not Everyone by Captain Claymore

182. All Alone Again by Captain Claymore

183. Rivers of Apathy by Captain Claymore

184. Clef by Captain Claymore

185. Ninja Noir by Captain Claymore

186. Sound Village Stories by Captain Claymore

187. Until Dawn Breaks... by Captain Claymore

188. Things we Have to Lose... by Captain Claymore

189. Things we Seek to Gain by Captain Claymore

190. Love in the Dark City by Captain Claymore

191. Staircase to Inferno by Captain Claymore

192. No Such Thing as Magic by Captain Claymore

193. Freak Like Me by Captain Claymore

194. The Most Electrifying Brawl in History by Captain Claymore

195. The Beacon of Blood by Captain Claymore

196. Demons of Our Own Making by Captain Claymore

197. An Invincible Man VS An Invincible Man by Captain Claymore

198. Cosmic Elegy by Captain Claymore

199. Cadenza by Captain Claymore

200. Leaving Sounds of Silence Behind by Captain Claymore

201. Salt and Quince by Captain Claymore

202. Wounds of Words Made Flesh by Captain Claymore

203. Into the Ocean of Dreams by Captain Claymore

204. Two Questions for Each Answer by Captain Claymore

205. Shattering Wicked by Captain Claymore

206. At the Box's Doorsteps by Captain Claymore

207. Shabby Steel by Captain Claymore

208. Survive! by Captain Claymore

209. The Scared and the Betrayed by Captain Claymore

210. Dancing with Pirates by Captain Claymore

211. Take it Over From Here by Captain Claymore

212. The Devil's Parasite by Captain Claymore

213. Metamorphoses by Captain Claymore

214. Hell Hath the Fury of a Father Scorned by Captain Claymore

215. In a Heartbeat by Captain Claymore

216. Pirate VS Ninja by Captain Claymore

217. Spinach Before Chili by Captain Claymore

218. ... And a Bottle of Rum by Captain Claymore

219. The Drunkard's Comet by Captain Claymore

220. Sobriety at Last! by Captain Claymore

221. Mass Matters by Captain Claymore

222. The Price of Being Whole by Captain Claymore

223. The Bigger They Are... by Captain Claymore

224. Selfishness by Captain Claymore

225. Long Voyage Goodbye by Captain Claymore

226. Love and Obstacles by Captain Claymore

227. Home, Sweet Home by Captain Claymore

228. Until We Meet Again by Captain Claymore

229. Affections by Captain Claymore

230. Golden Child by Captain Claymore

231. Try Not to Die Too Fast by Captain Claymore

232. Autumn Garden by Captain Claymore

233. Gentlemen of Luck by Captain Claymore

234. Two Against the World by Captain Claymore

235. Defining Insanity by Captain Claymore

236. Fears that Keep Us Down by Captain Claymore

237. Mana's New Way by Captain Claymore

238. Predator of One's Superiors by Captain Claymore

239. Kiyomi's Aku-Soku-Zan by Captain Claymore

240. Making Senpai Notice by Captain Claymore

241. Night on the Rooftops by Captain Claymore

242. We Are the Imarizu by Captain Claymore

243. The Girl Who Just Kind of Was There! by Captain Claymore

244. Limits of One's Field of Vision by Captain Claymore

245. Life is but a Wheel of Cheese by Captain Claymore

246. No More Books! by Captain Claymore

247. On the Way to Eden by Captain Claymore

248. This is so Meta! by Captain Claymore

249. Inspiration from Most Unexpected Places by Captain Claymore

250. The Lowest Point by Captain Claymore

251. I'll Have it Three-Way! by Captain Claymore

252. The Great Land of the Waves Wedding by Captain Claymore

253. Appetizer for War by Captain Claymore

254. What was Promised by Captain Claymore

255. Principles by Captain Claymore

256. Live Hatin' or Die Lovin' by Captain Claymore

257. Blood in the Eyes by Captain Claymore

258. Red Pill by Captain Claymore

259. Blood Soaked Tears From Our Fears by Captain Claymore

260. ...Tarry a While, You are So Fair! by Captain Claymore

261. Hands Better Than Mine by Captain Claymore

262. Sensei of the Quantum Variety by Captain Claymore

263. Transistor Mechanics by Captain Claymore

264. Insomnia by Captain Claymore

265. Stars that Come Down by Captain Claymore

266. Slither In by Captain Claymore

267. Into the Rabbit Hole by Captain Claymore

268. Not Like I'm a Friend Or Anything! by Captain Claymore

269. Shadows of Greater Things by Captain Claymore

270. Just Strawberry Jelly by Captain Claymore

271. Trypanophobia by Captain Claymore

272. Blank Sheet by Captain Claymore

273. The Oldest Rock in Wrestling Entertainment by Captain Claymore

Tale Begins: Enter Nakotsumi Mana! by Captain Claymore
Some say that whenever one makes a choice there is another world that coexists where one chooses differently. When one follows this confusing thread, far in the reaches of the void that separates these worlds, one can find a world very different from the one they know. A world which is inhabited with different people, world that is defined by a different history created by countless choices differing from any other world like it. This is a story of such a world!

A young girl was standing on a cardboard box with some trash in it, one not unlike many more that could’ve been found across Konohagakure, especially in the spring season when people were tidying up and throwing out the trash that they had as leftovers from winter. The substance and contents of said box mattered little to the twelve year old girl, only its location in the central district of the village. The actions she performed on said box were quite unlike what any common villagers had seen before causing crowds that couldn’t have been called as small to gather around the child and observe her peculiar behavior.

Konohagakure was a ninja village through and through, people that lived in it may have lived under the illusion that it was no militaristic establishment however they weren’t quite right. The village made its due from ninja performing missions for both its villagers and the village itself, most of the time ninja faced off against other ninja and no place, that benefits from violence and conflict can be called non-militaristic. As many rights these villagers enjoyed, as believable as this illusion of peace was – they lived in the village of hired muscle that did not shy away from killing. Perhaps that was why this girl proved to be so interesting to the audience.

The girl with a slightly tanned skin and dark hair, tied behind her back with a forehead protector with the Leaf’s mark carved into it, wearing a casual flowery black dress similar to what normal girls of her age wore and sandals was performing tricks for the audience’s amusement. Her performance consisted of tricks both simple and utilizing ninjutsu, something that not that many people have seen before. Ninjutsu was made to be a tool of murder and stealth, a tool of accomplishing the task at hand and this child was using it for amusement of the audience, making harmless but highly visually appealing sparks, using her natural affinity for sleight of hand as a kunoichi to quickly hide and reveal objects. The public ate the little girl up…


The girl opened her eyes in the morning as Sun felt its need to blast all of its luminescence into her closed eyes slightly earlier than the young genin would’ve loved it to. She scratched her tired eyes and sat up looking around the bright room, her somewhat annoyed and tired eyes slipped back to the piece of cloth illustrating one of her favorite books that was hanging on her window, acting as a cover, as a mean to protect her from the light. The girl’s hand reached up and tore it off with a quick pull, “Thanks, I’ll remember this, Shikio-kun…” she thought sarcastically thanking the character who was depicted on the cloth. The illustration was one of his iconic battles with the Kirigakure ninja which was currently hard to believe when in reality he failed his duty to protect a young girl from sunlight in the morning. Life was truly unlike fiction…

“Mana, when will you get down!? You don’t want to be late for your “One-Time-Thank-You-Tour”, do you?” father’s voice echoed from below. The man was a chuunin of Konohagakure and had quite the powerful voice, he was more of the intellectual type so he had that certain shade of confidence and strength to his voice without making it sound too husky and dark. He had the perfect voice for a teacher but he used it to berate the opponents that fell into the traps of “Konoha’s Great Trapster”, as he was known, instead. The only reason why Mana knew all of this was because sometimes father’s friends gathered and they kept telling the girl all of the stories, always sounding so proud of all the violence, always making her doubt just how much of content of those stories was true. Surely Hibiki-san couldn’t jump fifteen meters in the air to catch the scroll they were supposed to retrieve, right?

Mana jumped out of the bed and slipped into a white shirt, buttoning it lazily and making the bed. This day was actually a special one and that meant something having in mind the fact that she just graduated from the Ninja Academy three days ago. Today was not supposed to be the day of her life as a ninja however, this was more of a day for magic! The girl had a strange little hobby for a kunoichi, she performed magic tricks on a cardboard box full of trash for everyone to see. It was a strange thing to do for those who did not understand the deep hidden meaning of Mana’s behavior.

This girl with messy dark hair that was all over the place and skin that was several shades short of making everyone think she was from Kumogakure was actually a very peaceful and kind soul, she despised the notion that ninjutsu was an art for killing. To Nakotsumi Mana all life was sacred and magical, ninjutsu was a part of life so it was just a special kind of magic, magic that was meant to protect the source of all magic – life. Because Mana believed that ninjutsu was magic which was meant to protect the stronger magic she had to express that belief, she had to show everyone that ninjutsu was not meant for killing but rather it could be given any number of meanings depending on the person that used it.

The hunched and sleepy figure slothfully stumbled down the stairs from her room into the kitchen where mother had already made her some pancakes, Mana’s mother worked in a café further into the village center called “Nakotsumi Café”, she knew all sorts of weird dishes and beverages. She knew how to make that weird “coffee” drink, a lot of villagers came to her home for a visit just to try it, for some reason mother wanted Mana to keep away from it, maybe it was some sort of alcohol or something? The girl slumped down on the chair and started stuffing her lovely little cheeks with the breakfast. A kitchen knife flew and dug right into the column of pancakes that were stacked in the center of the table.
“I hope you’re not going to thank Mr. Hanada like that, you do realize he sponsored your act, right?” mother spoke, the woman was a kind one but had a rather feisty character, she was also the only one in the family with the darker skin making Mana somehow wonder if she wasn’t the one whom the little ninja-magician inherited it from. “I’m going to dress up and do my hair later, mom, I want to spend as little time in that uniform as possible.” The girl replied after swallowing the breakfast, by now the knife flinging did not bother her one bit. “Excuse me?!” mother yelled out with a smile in a funny tone “We made that uniform together, you know? Put it together from scraps of cloth”. The family shared a laugh.

“Hanada is a crook though.” father spoke, he had his chuunin vest on, most likely he was supposed to run off into an assignment pretty soon. “Yeah, somehow doesn’t feel too great knowing that my daughter’s act took off because of a person with such a reputation…” mother scratched her forehead as she was still working the pan with the reinforcements to the pile that was currently on the table. “Well, he may be a slimy bastard but I guess he’s an admirer of art… Let’s just hope it’s his artistic side that is interested in Mana and not the one I’d be glad to pound.” father concluded the topic and finished his tea. “Well, I’m off, tell me how it went.” he said his farewells and dashed off as Mana and mother waved him away.

One day, not too long ago, Mana was doing her casual thing, working on those little magic tricks she did and a man in a fancy attire approached her and after the little show was over offered to sponsor the first year of her performances in a village hall in the northern district of the village just in case if she was willing to take it further. The hall was mostly used by actors who kept playing the same stories over and over again: “Adventures of Shikio”, “Stories from the Great Shinobi Wars”, “Tales of a Gutsy Ninja” which, to be entirely honest, to Mana looked pretty much like a hentai-story from little she had seen.

Naturally the young magician felt much obliged to return Hanada the favor in some way, she decided to give him a show for free, show him what he was financing, luckily enough his son’s birthday was just around the corner so he felt very happy about all of that. Children did comprise the vast majority of Mana’s audience anyways, they also were quite firm supporters of her craft which in terms made the mature villagers look at her with the “she’s not hurting anyone anyways” stares and smile as they passed by the cardboard box that Mana performed on. That was the plan for today, later she’d have to train for a little bit because father told her that soon she should receive a letter about the meeting of her team. That was just the way things went in the village – genin worked in teams, not that the girl wasn’t excited about meeting them.

After the breakfast the young magician rushed to get a shower and to dress up, the magician uniform did look weird but it was fun in a way – she looked like a little monkey in it and it was tight, not a thing Mana would’ve loved to be caught in a fight wearing but she looked like a fancy lady-man in it which amused her somewhat. The young kunoichi was one of those girls that didn’t mind looking cute, obviously she was instructed about the practical attires in the Academy but during her days off she didn’t mind looking silly just for the sake of it. Her attitude towards outfits matched one towards ninjutsu, if one wanted they could’ve just had some fun with it and not cared about the consequences. Father also looked pretty happy about the uniform, he also gifted the girl with a seal in her round top hat that could’ve been used to seal things into it and unseal them, sadly enough Mana wasn’t skilled enough to use it yet but father said it’s a gift for the future anyways.

After slipping on her magician’s uniform and fitting it with all the card decks and tools she used for simple hide and reveal tricks like spring devices that could’ve been loaded with light objects and then just shoot them out when flicked for a visual effect, the girl admired herself in the mirror for a couple of seconds before giving herself a playful smile and dashing down the stairs and rushing off after waving her mother goodbye. With a slow and confident step Mana was heading off into the large western district of the village which was all just large mansions and big houses that made the small home of Nakotsumi family blush like a schoolgirl being complimented.

Feeling a bit nervous the magician pressed a button which in term made a light flicker making some hired security gather up near the entrance to check her. These men weren’t ninja, they were all mercenaries however a lot of the mercenaries started as ninja before mucking something up or they lived outside the village walls and grew up in an adapt of perish kind of environment making them just as strong as a ninja and much more crafty. Picking a fight with them wouldn’t be good in any way and annoying them would be a poor demonstration of Mana’s manners. The men stared the weird looking kid down and let her through with a smile. They also were kind enough to lead the magician into the mansion and handed her over to Hanada Katsuo himself. The man was a tycoon who built his fortune on combination of “business” and “lucky breaks of right people disappearing at the right time”, being in his presence wasn’t pleasant to the girl in any way but he was her sponsor and she couldn’t help it but accept his small donations just for as long as her shows take off.

The man was a tall and well-built gentleman, he wore a rather fancy attire comprising of a white silk shirt and a vest, his overflowing golden hair and gentle facial features combined with what looked like eyeliner and make up made him look a little too feminine for Mana’s comfort but his strange looks wasn’t the most uncomfortable thing about this man. Being an advocate of justice and peace, and a kunoichi of Konoha, the girl suspected she’d have to take this man down when he becomes too ambitious and makes a mistake but for now she was wise to stay on his right side. “I’m quite glad that you decided to accept my offer to bring your art to the stage instead of… Cardboard boxes… I understand that you may be too young to understand this, Mana-chan, but… Art is a business and your art is so exotic and strange, its meaning is so yet unseen that an artist like me cannot stay neutral in its presence. My son Koji is right there, he and his friends cannot wait to witness what you do. I must compliment your attire, it’s rather classical, as you might see if you look around, I am a man that sees the value in the classical…”

The man made a gesture for Mana to look around and witness the countless statues and art that was everywhere in his home. Somehow this just made the girl feel less comfortable as she felt like she was not unlike this poor busted up statue of a naked lady. Petrified and put on display, her arms broken so she cannot resist because her art somewhat depends on her benefactor…

“No way! Guys, it’s Konoha’s Sorceress!!!” the teenager on the expensive looking armchair yelled out and jumped up pointing at Mana as she and Katsuo entered the room. “Konoha’s Sorceress?” Mana looked at Katsuo, he shrugged and smiled like a litterer would smile being caught red-handed. “I thought of it, has a certain ring to it, all good artists have stage-names, you know… Use it at your discretion, or don’t if you don’t like it.” he laughed out before turning around, wishing Mana good luck and leaving. Mana looked over the kids and teenagers that were staring at her expecting to see a miracle. When she was performing on a cardboard box without a care in the world it felt so different, now she was… Almost stage-frightened. “Okay, you might want to move now!” Mana ordered herself when the pause became a bit too uncomfortably long as the girl extended her arms.

“Alright, who wants to see a magic trick?” Mana smiled through her newly discovered stage-fright she was starting to get used to just for her audience to cheer on. People in a militaristic ninja village rarely got to have some fun, art was supposed to change all of that and Mana’s art was quite unlike anything anyone may have seen. Maybe that was why she was starting to pick up some popularity around the village…
Revolt! Hanada Estate Under Attack! by Captain Claymore
The “stage” magic that Mana performed was unique, it, obviously enough, wasn’t actual magic but it was the closest it got to the real thing. How did one define what is magical? Was it something that could not be explained? Life had many mysteries, probably less was known of it than unknown and people seemed to be strangely more attracted to learning of how to take it away than to understand what it actually was. With that in mind one wouldn’t have to twist their mind around too much to empathize with Mana’s peaceful point of view.

What the young kunoichi did when she performed was a combination of both simple practical magic but she most of all preferred ninjutsu. After all the point of her magic was to show ninjutsu as something other than a tool to claim lives or to ruin them. Instead of cutting people to pieces or burning them alive, Mana preferred that her techniques looked impressive to provide a certain spark of joy for her audience. The girl took great pride in the preparation work she did before each performance, she always grinded her magic to perfection.

For that simple reason the audience of teens and children just couple of years shy from being qualified as teens looked like they were colored impressed. The very first thing that Mana did was weave a single handseal and force a small and harmless current of wind chakra out of her sleeve, then flick the device around her wrist hidden behind her sleeve that shot out the deck of cards she had hidden. The combination was an impressive display of cards twisting around in a horizontal and round twister. With swift movements of hands Mana caught each and every card and started shuffling the deck.

“So does anyone want to volunteer? I promise not to turn you into things or hypnotize you or anything.” Mana smiled when a kid jumped up and ran up to her, his face didn’t look like it belonged to a fan, he looked eager to make a fool out of Mana and to bust her act. Reading faces to some extent was something that was taught in the Academy, for a ninja it was essential to identify the dangerous faces from the harmless ones in a large crowd sometimes, sensei probably had no idea that Mana would use it for magic shows…

“Thank you, now if you could please pick a card we can finally see some magic.” the young ninja magician smiled as she quickly shuffled through the deck gesturing with her chin for the teen who looked like he was just slightly older than her to pick a card. With a rather rude and powerful movement the teen drew a card out of the bunch and the raven haired magician grinned with a half of her mouth – he played right into it. “I think someone has the King of Hearts.” Mana declared as the kid showed it to the audience.

This wasn’t the sort of trick to represent Mana’s arsenal of stage magic, this was just a warm up trick that used a very intricate and psychological tricks rather than sleight of hand. The trick was to remember the card she caught that she wanted the audience member to draw, to know exactly where it was in the deck, and to flick it open to him several times during shuffling. The teen’s mind perceived that card as special and subconsciously chose it most of the time, had he not chosen the card Mana had several backup plans how to develop the trick further but for now this part had to end.

“That’s pretty cheap, show us more tricks like that flying cards bit!” the volunteer decided to heckle for some reason. Mana didn’t really want to overexert herself with chakra usage, she usually did three to four ninjutsu or genjutsu tricks per show and those were the only things she knew. All of her ninjutsu or genjutsu techniques were harmless techniques made for magic shows and all of them were made by Mana herself. Truth be told if she did not possess precise enough chakra control to train genjutsu and the ability to invent her own impressive visually but ultimately harmless techniques she’d have not passed the Academy test.

One thing that was odd about Mana was her refusal to use jutsu that were not invented by her. As an artist she felt very uneasy about ripping off other artists which proved to be difficult in the Academy because it was all centered around learning the generic Academy techniques. By no means were they any easier to learn than Mana’s own techniques, most of them had tricks and practical uses to them unlike the jutsu that Mana used but that was not the obstacle that prevented Mana from using them – it was her hesitance to use the techniques she didn’t invent.

“Shut the hell up, Shinjiro, I’m enjoying the show.” Koji, the son of Mana’s sponsor, replied. The magician was glad to hear that for the time being at least Hanada’s son was entertained. Still, artist’s honor demanded her to step her game up and entertain everyone. “Well, I suppose I could show you a more appealing trick, I always appreciate a demanding audience, keeps me on the top of my game.” Mana smiled gently as she quickly weaved some handseals looking right in the eyes of her volunteer. Suddenly the boy crouched down and started acting like he was a monkey, letting off strange yelling sounds, jumping around on all fours and butting his head into the furniture.

The kids that were circled around couldn’t keep it in, they couldn’t have been any happier than they were at that moment, in a way this was also part a psychological trick combined with some harmless genjutsu. The genjutsu technique in question was one of Mana’s favorite – “Polymorphy Jutsu”, however if it was used on a different audience member it may have annoyed the kids, the exchange of dialogue between Koji and his friend who was now looking in the cupboard for bananas suggested that this Shinjiro kid was the pretentious kind and everyone wanted to see him being taught a lesson.

Without letting the genjutsu eat up too much of her chakra as her reserves were already almost half empty Mana let go of the audience member who instantly started yelling at her, “You promised you won’t hypnotize me!”, Mana made an innocent face and slapped her own cheek, “I did? Oh my, I guess you’d have been wise not to trust a magician. Artists these days do all sorts of things for a cheap laugh…” Mana finished that part of the show and was getting ready to move it to the main part when she realized that her show was all going to blow up in her face.


A loud bang came from behind the magician and loud yelling broke into the room, multiple loud voices started coming in and out of the house, they started spreading to every room and probably even every floor, there must’ve been a party for adults going on as loud shrieks of women came in from the floor above – Hanada Estate was under attack. Before the kids and their entertainer recovered from shock the door that lead to their room burst open and four mercenaries rushed in, seeing how they were all wearing the clothes that Hanada’s guards were wearing. The kids had all calmed down but something was wrong – they rushed up to Shinjiro, who was now back to normal, and Mana and put their hands behind the kids backs and commanded them to kneel down on the floor.

“Wh…What in the world is going on?! Junjo, what are you doing? What’s going on?!” Koji started freaking out as the men he thought were supposed to protect him were now tying up his hands and feet. “Just keep your mouth shut, kid, this doesn’t concern you, it’s between us and your backstabbing father.” one of the muscle-heads replied. The guards offered no more words, they just picked the kids up and started taking them upstairs to a room that reminded Mana of an attic. The kind of an attic rich people have, mind you, but an attic filled with art and expensive furniture was still an attic.

The mercenaries put the kids down and left one of the mercs to watch the kids while the others left the room without even bothering to lock it. After all, the people there were just kids, what could they do against a grown and trained mercenary? This wasn’t a good situation to be in, Mana never thought this day would require combat expertise so she left her ninja tools at home, all she had with her was this quite uncomfortable uniform and all the practical magic tools like fake flowers, decks of cards and the sort. Mana never was any good in the Academy with the physical arts anyways, she lacked any notable skill in weaponry combat, her aim was one of the worst in the class and her taijutsu skills placed her in the one of the lower quarters of the class.

Koji yelled out at the mercenary, “You betrayed my dad! He should’ve never hired a shit-head like you, you mercenaries are just backstabbing snakes!” The man calmly approached Koji and kneeled up so that his blocky head could reach the boy’s level. This was good! Koji was getting the mercenary to keep his eyes away from the kids and focusing on him, he probably didn’t know that Mana was a ninja but this was still better than nothing for a start. The best option would’ve been to just play the scared little girl and let the events go as they did, Mana was under no mission, no orders, no assignment. To sit still while people got hurt was not her style, however.

Mana had the gift of ninjutsu in her, the gift that most people lacked, her magic of life was more powerful than that of everyone else in this house and that gave her the responsibility to use that magic to protect everyone! Even if that meant placing her own life on the line, even if that meant getting hurt and risking this by entering a combat situation clearly unprepared. At least the girl had decency to wear sandals and not those shoes that mom suggested, they looked nice but no fighting ever could be done in them.

“The real snake is your slimy daddy, brat. Do you even know why we’re doing this? Haven’t you ever wondered why so often mercenaries attack the mansion? Well once we did, we didn’t submit one for the Konohagakure Police Force and questioned him ourselves, turns out they worked for your father, just like us. When time to pay up came your father just gave them up for Police Force and paid those dirtbags to stick some crimes up on their files. We decided to teach your daddy a lesson before he screws us over like he did every other mercs he hired.”

So that was it? Finally Hanada’s own greed was catching up to him, on any other day Mana would’ve loved to see his own slimy affairs explode in Hanada Katsuo’s face but… These men meant business, they probably wanted to hurt or kill the man, that’s what mercenaries do, they have little restraint, if any. They follow their own sick and twisted code of honor and if they feel like their payment is threatened they will most likely not stop at just quitting the job, they’ll feel as if they have to pay Katsuo back and that Mana and her own moral code could not allow.

There was an easy way to escape these restraints, this was a simple rope knot so the basic Academy Rope Escape Jutsu would’ve sufficed but that really was not Mana. She never used a technique that she didn’t invent in public, only by herself and only on special occasions, her getting through Academy with this silly rule was a story all of itself, story for another time. “Sir, I don’t know if you know me but I’m a magician, I have bunch of pointy tools on me and the way you put me down made one dig into my side and it really hurts, maybe you could flip me over?” Mana asked attracting the guard’s attention. Before that she used her natural sleight of hand to escape the binds on her arms, being a stage magician offered some more skill in escaping binds as one did that for fun every Tuesday.

The brute approached Mana and bent over to flip her on the other side, “Whatever you say, Konoha’s Sorceress…” the man grunted out using that ridiculous stage name with the most condescending tone imaginable. Swiftly as the man’s arms went under her side to push her the girl shot her elbow straight into the man’s eye and jumped up driving her palm into the man’s face. Mana had a pretty puny punch, just barely strong enough to make her graduate the Academy but the man staggered back and hit the wall making all sorts of statues and ancient clocks fall on his head and knock him out.

The magician proceeded to untie her legs and then went over to Koji’s binds, then everyone else’s. Everyone looked at her funny, they were impressed up to an extent but also they realized they’ve underestimated Mana, that was what they all did, that was why she succeeded when she did. She may not have been the most amazing prodigy or had the most impressive bloodline or come from some ancient clan of ninja but everyone always looked down on her. It was a good decision to leave her headband at home, otherwise these mercenaries would’ve made sure to keep her better contained…

Mana’s eyes slipped up on Koji and saw him lifting a heavy head of some statue above the head of the mercenary, she silently let out an alert for him to stop. “I know you’re angry, I know you feel betrayed but don’t kill them. I saved you, you owe me, if you just look the other way and escape the mansion I’ll consider the debt paid.” Koji looked at her with a berating and enraged look, he probably couldn’t believe it – a ninja that refused to let the enemy die? This must’ve been the dumbest thing the teen had ever heard but Mana considered all life sacred and would have never let anyone die. That was her ninja way.

“Whatever… Go save my dad, I’ll go get some REAL ninja here.” Koji grunted out and gestured for the other teens to follow him as he followed Mana who slowly opened the attic door and looked down. Of course she’ll try her best to save Hanada, she may not have liked the guy at all, the genin may have just a little bit been on the side of the mercenaries but… This wasn’t the way, hurting people and possibly killing them for something they haven’t even done yet. The magician took off the blazer that was obstructing her movements and waved for the kids to move, if they were silent enough they’ll pass right through.

There was some amount of activity, sounds of pounding, painful grunts and women crying, excessive cursing, those were all over the house. The kunoichi wasn’t sure exactly how many mercenaries did Katsuo hire for protection, still, it would’ve been best to not directly fight any of them. Mana’s legs felt tired from all the time they’ve been tied together so the exhaustion made her sit down on the stairs, this was a bad plan, she couldn’t take these men on, not alone. She may have been a kunoichi of Konoha but her arsenal of techniques was just lightshows and useless visual illusions, even more some of her chakra was spent in that magic show previously.

Loud shout of pain, coming without a doubt from Hanada came Mana’s way forcing the girl to jump up. Even if she’s taken out, even if these men beat her, every second she fights them saves Hanada some suffering, she was given the control of ninjutsu and chakra manipulation by fate for a reason, if she just whined over how unfair the world was on the stairs she wouldn’t deserve this gift she was given and if she died fighting these men that meant that she didn’t prove herself worthy of those gifts and wasted them. Mana was burning with fire that made her wish to prove that wasn’t true. A fire that burnt away all the fear, all the stress and all the shock and forced her to go save a life!

“Wait, you shouldn’t be here…” a voice came at Mana’s side as a mercenary was standing on the lower side of the steps, this one looked slimmer, he most likely slacked off his training hours. The mercenary didn’t speak loud enough for the others in the shut room to hear, it took yelling of a man in pain for it to be heard all the way here. Through sheer instinct the kunoichi’s hand reached for whatever she could find, flicking the switch that shot her cards out of the device and making the man flinch in surprise of bunch of cards being shot in his face, as he recovered Mana’s kick had already reached his face, he was stunned and the magician couldn’t stop for a second because that would mean she lost – she had the advantage and the kunoichi couldn’t waste it! One punch after the other from her palm came at the man’s chest and his face before the magician found a hard object – a vase on the table to knock him out with.

She could already hear a commotion and loud yells in the room at the western part of the building, the doors opening and some men confused by all the noise leaving – it had finally begun. It was time for Mana to prove her worth, to prove that the man that signed her Academy graduation papers was right to put the trust of the village on her. The magician glanced behind her only to witness the kids leave through the front door, she quickly jumped to hide behind one of those ancient couches getting ready for her first actual fight.

“Shit, the kids escaped!” one mercenary yelled out as several of them filled the room and started looking around. It was only a manner of time before the kids reach a ninja, a “real” ninja not a newbie disgrace like Mana… She may not have been willing to kill but she was ready to put her life on the line to protect a man she would’ve liked to slap with a wet cloth on a spare day. Life as a ninja was strange…
Big Boss Bakku, Rumble Concludes at Last by Captain Claymore
There were three mercenaries roaming the one of many living rooms of the mansion. This was a problematic situation as the two were back to back and were scanning the area quite thoroughly while heading towards the door. Right as the magician felt like she was getting the basic idea of the situation one of the men separated and went through the door on the northern side of the room – completely in the opposite direction to both the exit where the kids went and the room where Hanada was held in. What could he have been up to? What exactly could’ve been the big plan of these men?

There were so many unknowns in this situation, Mana didn’t know the degree of preparation that these men had, the very fact that they decided to pull something like this inside one of the most powerful ninja villages of the world was mind blowing by itself. They most likely planned to teach Hanada a lesson leaving him dead or heavily injured, rob his home leaving the man without as much as a ryo in his pocket and just disappear in the Fire Country forests, maybe move to another Country to live their days as newly made men.

Even with all the newfound heroism the genin felt quite hesitant to face off against the mercenaries, even one of them proved to be tough enough to barely be hurt by her blows, she needed to utilize heavy objects and play dirty if she was to take them down, fighting against even one of them was a gamble and those guys were as close to each other as husband and wife. If Mana as far as peeked to attack one of them from behind trying to utilize her element of surprise the other one would spot her near instantly.

“What was that sound? Is that Zanmaru? Holy shit, what happened, did ninja already find us out?” one of the mercenaries shouted out finally spotting his knocked out ally for the day. Mercenaries had no sense of loyalty, they weren’t friends, they were just in it for the money and one wouldn’t have been wrong to assume that these men had no sadness to spare for what happened to their friend. Growing up and learning to survive outside the village walls makes one only look out for themselves, adapt and survive, bonds to these men were a weakness, the only occasion for them to work together is when they need to satisfy their hunting instinct by hunting for money in a pack.

“No, no way, Bakku said that unless we make it publically known that shit is going down here no ninja will notice, no one should’ve noticed anything until we set this thing on fire, this has to be one of the kids… Still, how the hell…” the other one still tried to wrap his head around just how some kids managed to knock out a skilled mercenary. “Kids are scared little buggers, they probably ran off the first chance they got after taking out Zan, damn that guy, I’m almost tempted to draw something on his face right now…” the first mercenary replied crouching down to his downed fellow.

Mana slowly creeped around the couch, letting herself remain unseen as she observed the scene, the slim and puny hand of the girl reached up to remove a bust of the owner of the house that was located on the table. It was about time that the self-adoration of Hanada Katsuo finally served a noble purpose… Mana was careful to remain unseen as she tossed the stone head at one of the mercenaries, sadly her horrible aim let itself be known, instead of hitting the man in the head the stone hit him in the upper back making a painful wound but probably not a very effective one. The man cursed and fell on the floor, scratching the aching area and cursing profanities the likes of which the young magician had never heard before.

“You little brat!” the friend of the injured merc shouted out while charging at Mana, this was bad, situation like this called for the genin to use some more chakra because there was no way to get out of this unscathed otherwise. Luckily enough the girl’s hands were quick enough to weave some seals before the brute got too close, she managed to make the seals, the man pulled out a knife. The blade of the damned thing was amazing, possibly large enough to cut entire limbs off with just a swipe, certainly very unlike the light and shallow cutting kunai that ninja used.

Mana struggled to get eye contact with the bandit, she needed that to set off her technique, the man jumped forward thrusting with the knife as if it was a longsword. Honestly he couldn’t be blamed for such a lackluster knife-fighting style, his range was still superior to that of the unarmed girl, he was quite enraged and willing to kill. The man’s knife impaled the young magician and the brute kept running with the powerless body of the girl for a while slamming her lifeless body to the wall. He lost control as he started punching her and laughing to himself.

That was the version of events that the man saw, luckily enough the genin managed to get eye contact with him in time and move to the side, had the man retained all of his awareness he may have tried to swipe sideways but now he just kept running forward believing to have impaled his enemy. “Hey, what the hell are you doing, she’s right behind you, you idiot!” the still incapacitated mercenary yelled out to his friend, to be honest, the two were quite justified in not seeing genjutsu coming – it was a rare craft for someone to wield and even rarer to be inside a genin’s arsenal.

Genjutsu were complicated techniques, they took a lot of chakra and they took the magician her entire, yet at the moment quite short, lifetime to make. Coming up with ideas was difficult enough, researching textbooks about human brain to know the centers which needed to be affected by chakra only added to it. They may have been a surprise weapon, they may have been effective techniques but… A single genjutsu technique drained almost half of the usable chakra that Mana had at that moment, the girl was already breathing heavily and her movements started feeling slower and sloppy, it felt like she just ran several laps in seconds. Single technique giving her just mere moments strained her body so much.

The kunoichi didn’t wait too long for the merc to recover from the illusion, he may have seen what he saw and heard what he heard but he must’ve heard his buddy’s reaction, Mana’s foot was quick enough to target the back of the man’s knee forcing him on the knees and her arms quickly slammed the man’s head into the wall he was so kind to get close to. She tried her best but she wasn’t sure if she knocked the man out – she may have been trained for almost five years to be efficient in combat and stealth but she still was just a teenage girl. Despite the fears of the magician the man looked like he was out cold, Mana looked at the downed mercenary, he struggled to move but it didn’t look like he could – maybe she hit a sensitive spot in his back. The genin almost instantly started to feel bad, she didn’t want to injure these men so much, what if she incapacitated the man for life?

Loud yells of Hanada from the other room signaled to the girl that this was no time at all to wonder about those things. She had to get in there and save Hanada even if she was quite tempted to hit him with something for what he brought on his family. His child, his wife, the friends of his family could’ve been killed because he was too greedy to pay some mercenaries that always took things too seriously. The girl’s chest inflated as she drew a deep breath – she was still afraid and tired but she had to move, she had to go in there, what if the men inside the room had heard what happened here and became desperate to finish their job quickly? Mana had no luxury of time, ironic when luxury was all that surrounded her at that moment…

Slowly, still with shaking hands the kid opened the door and finally got to see the situation in the room. Good news were that Hanada, while messed up and tied to a chair, was alive and in a pretty good condition, there was also just one man inside the room which meant that Mana had to only get lucky one more time, that wasn’t too much to ask for, right? The bad part was that the man who had his foot up on Hanada’s chest as he kicked the chair down and held a knife up in the air was one of the biggest and coolest looking guys that Mana had ever seen. He had short and greasy dark hair that were messy enough to make his gas mask covered face look scary. The man wore a similar vest to that of a Konohagakure ninja but if Mana’s memory from the Academy days served it was that of a Kumogakure ninja but no band suggested that this man looted it off of one or bought it from the black market.

“Well, girl, you have newfound respect from my side, taking on big boys like us requires balls. Now just be a good girl and bugger off.” the man spoke to Mana without bothering to even look at her, he kept his gasmask googles focused on Hanada’s beaten face and kept a firm grip on that knife, ready to plunge it wherever it needed to go to cause the man pain. Once more the girl breathed in and out, not being considered worthy to be even looked at by one’s enemy felt degrading. “I’m about to risk my life to save a man who I shall strangle myself later. Well done, you…” she spoke to herself under her own nose as she took one more step forward.

Almost instantly, the very same moment her foot was set down forward the gigantic leader of the mercenary pack threw the knife at her, he wasn’t fast enough for Mana not to lean to the side but he followed up his throw with a rush at her, the girl had no other option but to jump over some furniture and roll sideways, she wanted to counterattack but the momentum that the man forced her to build up with a double attack didn’t give her that option. The only thing left for Mana to do was to stand back up as the man pulled his knife out of the wall. The blade went in deep, maybe all the way through the wooden wall but the tip looked bent somewhat. That gave Mana an idea about how to bring this goliath down.

“I suppose letting me punch Hanada-san is out of the…” the genin opened her mouth again as the man turned sideways and tossed the knife again, that was what she wanted this time. With full knowledge of the man’s follow up attack and the bent tip of the knife, the girl didn’t follow up the same course of action, she leapt sideways with a small hop and watched as the knife didn’t cut into the wall, but instead bounced off of the small stone surface of the western wall of the room. This time it was Mana’s own hand that caught the knife and swung it at the lower side of the man’s leg as he passed by her, ducking to dodge his punch that would’ve probably killed her outright.

A powerful resistance of the man’s muscular leg suggested that Mana’s attack was successful, some blood shot out as a deep gash opened on the man’s leg however he didn’t even flinch, instead the back of his hand slapped Mana back, the girl was too surprised by lack of reaction from the man’s side to duck, plus the size of the man’s palm was just too big to dodge in such short span of time. The genin’s body was flung backwards by the force, she actually hit a couch and flipped over with it, it somewhat softened the impact, had the kunoichi hit a wall she may have been out and probably would’ve never woken up. Mana’s head lifted up spontaneously to observe the man’s follow up attack.

Instead of rushing at her or trying to toss the knife again he was looking at the crumbling blade of the tool – the force of impact from before as it hit the wall caused the knife a lot of shock and the follow up cut must’ve added up to it, also, who knew what kind of battles the weapon had already been through. The man’s refusal to gloat or speak sort of scared the magician, he tossed the knife aside and instead decided to walk up to the girl and to just punch her out himself. He didn’t take too much time, he obviously was not enjoying this and wanted it over with. Had Mana seen the man’s eyes any better her impression would’ve been strengthened – it was obvious that he had seen many battles and murdering his enemies was a routine to him before he started working as a bodyguard.

The man approached Mana but then stopped in shock – he didn’t notice the katana in the girl’s hand before he already was too close. It was a weapon which was on Hanada’s wall and was forced down by all the ruckus, the genin just happened to find it on accident. The fact that he was so close to being killed forced the mercenary leader to freeze – this was supposed to be it, Mana could’ve just made a strong cutting motion holding the handle and forced the sheathe off, it was just matter of time from there… But that was not Mana’s way. The girl did not remove the sheathe, she just swung the whole thing targeting the injured leg of the mercenary, as the tough oaken sheathe with cold steel inside collided with the man’s bone it wasn’t even close to being a fair match.

The merc yelled out loud as he fell on one knee, Mana quickly jumped up and started hitting him in his mask from both left and right, not stopping because stopping meant dying and letting Hanada die. The hits really let the boss of the mercs feel it, his mask tore, his googles almost exploded from the pressure and for the first time the magician got to see the man’s eyes. Suddenly the worst happened – the sheathe broke revealing the steel inside and Mana hesitated to swing it, just for a mere moment, just long enough for her to turn the blade and to try to continue her onslaught of attacks with the blunt side but… It was all that the mercenary needed, he thrust his palm forward into Mana’s chest pushing her into the wooden wall. The girl grunted out from the pain of hitting the wall as all air she had up to that moment, the little that was from all the exhaustion and swinging the sheathe blindly, went out forcing her to gasp for air, to try and catch any of it just to not let herself pass out because that meant Hanada’s death.

The man picked up the sword, it didn’t look like he had the same amount of hesitation to kill that Mana had, he started to approach her. This was it, Mana’s hand to hand was pathetic, not even enough to outmatch a simple blockhead guy with more muscles than brain. Why didn’t he talk? Why didn’t he gloat? Why didn’t he laugh from her? Did her life not matter to him?! Mana suddenly got furious, her life mattered, she was the only thing right now protecting Hanada so she mattered, she couldn’t let herself die! Quickly the girl made two more handseals and shot her hands forward yelling as she felt the last of her usable chakra leave her hands in the shape of harmless sparks.

“Magical Spark Jutsu” may have been harmless but it was useful because it was visually impressive and the amount of spark in kept bombarding the enemy with was enough for them to be stunned for a brief moment, the man’s arms were occupied with holding the sword so he couldn’t shield his eyes using his hands for a moment, before he started covering them with his arms, lowering the blade and moving back, his eyes that were now exposed as his googles were broken by Mana’s ruthless bashing before. The mercenary was giving in to the pressure, no that wasn’t it, he figured out the weakness of Mana’s jutsu, it had a very short range and the sparks got weaker as they hit him further, the barrage was less intense and it didn’t feel nearly as unpleasant. What he didn’t take into consideration was the couch that he stepped into and fumbled backwards, trying his best not to fall down but stumbling further and further into the room in the process.

Mana’s hands weighed down – she just had barely enough chakra not to pass out but… Her enemy found himself in quite the conundrum – he fumbled back and hit the impressive deer horn that was hung on the wall, probably one hunted by Hanada Katsuo himself. The place where the man was bleeding from, however, made Mana lift her palm through the pain and to grunt out. “Please don’t move, if you do you’ll open the wound and bleed out almost instantly, shoulder is a dangerous place to be impaled in…” Mana huffed out and she was right – the man was only bleeding a little bit right now but he could’ve hit a pretty sensitive spot, had he moved around too much he risked dying in mere seconds from bleeding out if he hit an artery.

The mercenary roared out with voice powerful enough to make Mana pout. She felt a slight relief however as the roar ended abruptly it forced fear to return as she looked at what made the man stop being enraged, she saw his eyes strangely excited… As if he was… Smiling under that mask… Suddenly Mana realized – she missed one mercenary, back when three of them walked out, one of them left through the northern door, he must’ve wandered back having found nothing. However as she realized that it was already too late. The girl heard loud whistling noise in the air, similar to steel cutting through air itself…

A loud crumbling noise of shifting rock and breaking wood came her way instead of pain of being stabbed – confused Mana looked back only to see the mercenary completely pinned down by pillars of rock that closed him by tightly shooting up crushing through the wooden tiles of the floor. “Nice work here, kid, but you missed one.” a friendly voice reached Mana’s ear as she saw a man in a jounin west with a bandana and geeky looking glasses grinning at her as he held a thumb up. “A young man bumped into me and said that a weakling ninja needed help, I suppose you did alright but you were a bit sloppy – you forgot to knock out that guy back there, you forgot this guy behind you… Other than that… Good job” he laughed.

A short while later ninja were swarming the area taking the beaten mercenaries out for questioning in the Konohagakure Police Force HQ. Mana decided that her job here was done, she went upstairs to pick her blazer up and as she went back to the first floor the geeky jounin stopped her. “You’re a genin, right?” he asked and after Mana nodded he grinned “I hope you get assigned to my squad, nice work here.” he finished, the magician thanked him for the praise, this guy happened to be different from all the other jounin she met – he was strangely kind and unaffected by difficult ninja life.

On her way out the Hanada Estate door Mana heard Hanada’s voice directed at her, “So, Mana-chan, the show is Friday, don’t forget…” he said only for the girl to turn around a bow slightly, she had a slightly swollen eye from the powerful slap she got before so she must’ve looked funny, “Right… Friday!” she replied as if nothing had happened here today, explaining her swollen eye to her parents will be a doozy…
A Gentle Womanizer and an Otaku? by Captain Claymore
The week after the event at Hanada Estate was different from the kind of life Mana was used to, despite that it was still relatively peaceful. Parents were quite nervous and worried about the girl’s injury, her eye and the entire right side of her face was pretty swollen and looked funny for a couple of days after. Ninja had unnaturally amazing recovery rates compared to ordinary villagers, chakra manipulation required complete mastery of one’s body which also unlocked new levels of body recovery speed, still, it hurt and Mana was ashamed to look just like she was punched in the face, ironically enough that was pretty much what happened...

Despite that unpleasant experience things went quite smoothly, she got a little closer with her parents, father told Mana the story of his own first mission to oversee a construction being finished and having to protect the object from vandals that kept trying to spray paint on it to leave their mark on the world. One couldn’t really blame people like them, both young and old wanted to be remembered, to feel like their life mattered and in the world where life is thrown away casually such feelings were only multiplied hundredfold.

According to father, one day the construction workers were working on the upper floor and his team had to oversee the work being completed, unfortunately no one noticed the nest of hornets swarming up in the trashed rotten wood that was used for the construction so within seconds the entire floor was flooding with angered hornets. The man claimed to have been stung so many times that he fell down through the unfinished floor right to the first floor and as he tried to stop his fall he cut his arm on a steel beam leaving a giant gash on his arm. He must’ve told the truth because father actually showed Mana the scar.

The point of that story was lost to the young genin, however. Of course there were many thoughts that Mana had about the story, perhaps father wanted that she didn’t feel bad about having been marked in her first real combat encounter, maybe he just wanted her to know that his first job was even worse, maybe he wanted her to know that even the most trivial and simple assignments could go wrong and cause injuries worse than actual fighting scars? Either way, when the time for Mana’s big performance on stage came her face looked pretty much alright, just a slight black mark on her cheek that could’ve been wiped out by make-up. The young magician wanted to look her best for the occasion after all!

Mana’s Friday show went great, the hall wasn’t really full or anything, out of several hundred seats in the great hall about forty were filled and for a first show the manager was impressed. Of course the girl had some prior experience and some people knew her already from the time she performed on cardboard boxes that must’ve been the reason why she attracted some people – they were just people that occasionally checked her out when her shows were free. A part of the girl felt bad for charging money for the shows, her shows started as an idea, idea that ninjutsu was not a tool of death, it was not something that defined a person but rather was defined by the person that used it.

When the young one brought this question up to the manager of the hall he just shrugged, “Don’t worry, kid, money ain’t the problem here. Your prices are half the price of the plays people watch here, I wasn’t sure how to promote your stuff because no one did crazy things like that. That probably was why so few people checked you out the first time – they didn’t know what the hell they were getting into, now that voices will spread people will start to come.” The manager was named Hiro, he was a nice short and elderly fellow, his eyes were always squinted and his hair was already grey, his face was filled with wrinkles and he always wore that weird flowery orange shirt. He couldn’t have been older than late forties, maybe it was what the stress of managing all of Konoha’s artistic and entertainment environment did to people.

Just to feel better Mana asked Mr. Hiro if she could let in people for free some time, the man just waved his hand and laughed. “You’re the boss of your own shows, I just own the hall you’re renting so as long as the rent is paid, do whatever you want. I’m telling you though, you’re gonna be big when people get used to this, don’t waste the chance by giving people free stuff.” Apparently Mr. Hiro had a nasty reputation about him with the common folk, not like they hated him or anything but he had the rep of being quite the old skinflint and made money from everything he had the chance to. It wasn’t the bad kind of rep, more like something people always made fun of and pointed fingers at, but then waved their hands and left the hall with a “Classic Hiro…” in their lips.

Having moderate success with her magic shows made Mana more excited about her ninja life, she started to train more, exercise both her physical state and meditate to improve her mental state and to better understand her body. The magician was a prodigy at meditation, ever since her mind managed to defeat her own sickness from back when Mana was even younger. From what the girl had heard her mother say, mother was not from Konoha originally, so when she settled down with dad and when Mana was born the two were crushed when they found out their baby had a rare mental disorder.

As a young child the Nakotsumi kid had the disorder that prevented her from understanding facts and relating them to a process. She could see the stars in the sky but she could never understand how they worked even if she was directly told that, the kid just couldn’t relate the explanation with the actual process being explained. It was a disorder that made people into outcasts and they lived short lives as they had few friends and failure to understand basic everyday science made them extremely prone to unfortunate accidents. The parents did their best to help Mana, they weren’t too rich or anything so they could only talk to the kid and try to make it easier for her but nothing really worked.

One day the two spat out whatever they were drinking when they heard the girl playing with toys and other children outside, they ran out to ask Mana how was that possible because usually those plagued by the disorder could not play with toys and imitate real life scenarios because they simply lacked understanding how they worked which made it difficult and the girl just told them that she knew how things worked – magic made everything work. As the girl then spoke with her peers she was told of ninja, people that risked their life to protect lives of everyone and someone everyone admired. To the four year old Mana these ninja were champions of magic, enforcers of magical will. Mana herself wanted to be a ninja but her mental disorder made it impossible.

Despite their best attempts to talk Mana out of the idea to be a ninja her parents still enrolled her into the Academy when she was six, they figured that eventually their daughter would quit when she found her dream life to be unattainable. They were right – Mana absolutely bombed every test and failed at everything, her sensei in the Academy however took a liking for her, he wondered if this was Mana’s lack of skill or her disorder that prevented her from succeeding and he taught the kid how to meditate, focus on one’s own mind and work things out when they became too confusing. That was the breakthrough the kid needed, just couple of years later Mana managed to completely overcome her mental disorder and for the first time managed to think like an ordinary kid, she still kept clinging to her ideals of all life being magical but she did finally realize that magic didn’t exist, she made it up to explain things she didn’t understand.

Still, magic made everything so beautiful, so perfect, considering all life magical made the kid appreciate it more, knowing how it worked sort of made Mana feel empty and feel like life was pointless. So just out of respect for her old ways the girl still upheld her beliefs of magic being sacred, chakra being magical in nature and that those with exceptional gift to manipulate chakra were champions of magic with the duty to protect those that could not. After all of that, the young Mana managed to graduate Academy with average grades, the test she took was weird due to her refusing to use any Academy techniques because they “weren’t hers”. That story was for another day as the magician kept pushing those memories away.

Finally after a short while meditating and training every day the moment that the girl waited for came – the Nakotsumi household received a letter which informed Mana that her team was assembled and that all the newly made genin were to be sorted out into teams the next day. The letter had in it the time and place where the girl needed to come, it didn’t really tell her about who exactly were in her team. Not that the girl would’ve known those people if she was told that, she wasn’t too popular in the Academy because most kids considered her “weird” and since she rarely got a perfect grade she wasn’t one of those “cool kids” that aced everything from calculation classes to physical exercises.

Sleeping was hard for the young lady, she kept recalling the events at Hanada Estate as that was her only experience with actual ninja life. Will all missions be crazy like that? She would have died in there if that Jounin didn’t bail her out, what if in the actual battlefield there’ll be no one to watch her back, what if she’ll hesitate to hurt an enemy again and she’ll get killed? Now that she herself was a ninja, now that she had some experience over the whole thing the magician understood her father’s work a lot better, he left to missions all the time and Mana for some reason was rarely worried. Somehow she just always assumed that he’d be back in one place, she took his return for granted. It was decided, tomorrow she’ll smother the life out of her old man, stop taking people she loved for granted, and there was nothing he could have done to help it.


The next morning, after scaring the hell out of her father by hugging him for an extended period of time and having breakfast Mana ran off to the Academy, the sorting process was supposed to take place in the large classroom that could contain all of the students inside. It needed not to be said that the girl was excited and worried at the same time, there was a certain shade of unknown about how things will go, what her teammates will be like and what her sensei will be like and how will she handle life as a ninja. By now the kunoichi had at the very least accepted that she’ll be made fun of for her beliefs and desire to never take a life. That was not a great mindset for a ninja to have after all, even when she told that her Academy sensei he just laughed it off and told her that a lot of kids babble about that but they always “grow out of such nonsense”, according to “real ninja” lives had to be taken, the justifications of their casual murder were quite different, sometimes they killed out of fear, fear that their enemies would hurt their loved ones, sometimes it was just rage, to some it just felt good to show off all of their power and crush their enemies…

The classroom was full when Mana came in and no one really noticed or said anything about her entering and finding a seat in the right side of the classroom, further away from the window. Some kids near to where Mana sat down congratulated her on her shows taking off and told her that they will never miss a single magic show, that made the girl feel a bit better, after all she finally was acknowledged for something she did, her magic and using ninjutsu just for entertainment no longer looked “weird” to some, there were people that actually enjoyed that sort of thing.

One by one each team was picked off, a Jounin entered the classroom and read names off a sheet of paper to pick up their students and upon being called out the kids just stood up and ran towards their sensei, running off to bond and train with their team. After an entire hour of sitting around listening to names of other people and seeing their joy of finally being real ninja, Mana found that she was left sitting with two other boys in the classroom with no one coming in to read their names. What did all of that mean? Did that mean that nobody wanted her and those two other genin? Was she back in the Academy now? The girl’s little heart started jumping despite her desperate attempts to calm down.

“Don’t worry, that bastard is just late…” Mana heard beside her as the boy who said it – one of the two that were left together with Mana in the classroom, placed his hand on her shoulder. His voice was strange, it was already starting to get more mature and strong but it was also pretty soft, most likely because the boy deliberately tried to restrain it and soften it to sound nicer. “I mean we already got our photos taken, graduated the Academy and got all the paperwork done, Hokage would be pissed if he had to do all that paperwork again to write us back into the Academy list…” the boy just smiled with a thumb up. His strange nice and polite behavior made Mana smile a little herself.

The kid was a rather tall individual with crazy white hair, he wore glasses and a rather formal-looking for a ninja attire, the other one sitting in the middle row was the complete opposite – small and slim in build, had black hair and wore some weird earing. “You better be right, future rival, otherwise I’ll be pretty pissed for wasting my time sitting here doing nothing… I’ve got manga to read back home.” the short boy grunted out, his voice was much more husky. “Future rival?” the tall white headed one asked curiously as he didn’t leave Mana’s side. “Yeah, that’s how teams work in all the manga, the guys are always rivals with each other, whether they want it or not…” the boy replied as he relaxed and kicked back pulling out a small magazine out of his book filled with black and white pictures as his eyes started wandering around.

“Huh… He’s a weirdo… Anyways, I’m Shimo, maybe you wanna go somewhere after this meeting is over with?” the boy asked as he leaned curiously by Mana’s side making her feel a bit uncomfortable. The slim one cracked a grin, “I see, so you’re the pervert type, I mean you gotta be the generic manga pervert because you’d have to be one to be in such a rush…” Shimo then dashed up to him and started angrily but without trying to hurt the boy just lightly rub his knuckle into the otaku’s head. “What was that?! You’re calling ME weird!?” this reaction made Mana genuinely amused as she covered her mouth and laughed out a bit. Maybe these two will be fun after all…

Suddenly the door burst open directing everyone’s eyes at it, everyone expected the sensei to finally come pick them up. To everyone’s surprise and much confusion it wasn’t a Jounin that entered but the Fourth Hokage. The man’s white Hokage cloak and the hat that he always wore behind his back hanging around, reminding everyone of his status could not be confused, just like his shoulder length grey hair, it was a very unique color because the man was probably just in his mid-thirties and his head already looked grey. As the man burst into the room he started huffing heavily making everyone even more confused.

“Sorry, guys, your sensei is a real jerk, I just met him hanging out and doing nothing which made me suspicious so I forced him to come pick you guys up, just wanted you to not leave without meeting up with him, jeez that guy… Sorry again, I hope he’ll make it up to you… Though knowing him… Probably not…” the man scratched the side of his hairy head and laughed uncomfortably, he then just turned around and left as if nothing had ever happened. The three genin were pretty confused when they didn’t know anything of the team’s status, they were confused even more when they saw the Fourth, now when they realized that the Hokage just dropped by to tell them to keep waiting it all seemed even weirder.

Mana kept looking at the door, expecting it to open any moment, at some moment she even got over the small brawl and then making up of her teammates as the two were now just slobbering over a dirty manga, apparently dirty manga had something that appealed to both perverts and otaku so their interests finally came to one. These two now seemed pretty tight, the magician wondered if she will ever find something to talk about with those two, she didn’t read manga that much or went on dates. She wasn’t really an unattractive girl, just a little young and her slightly darker skin tone and wild curly dark hair required an observer of much more exotic tastes. Plus she always was a bit weird…

Just as Mana kept wondering if she’ll be getting along with these two goofballs the door burst open and a man in an unzipped jounin vest and black cloak, similar to one Hokage wore just without the village insignia entered. He had shoulder length brownish hair that had some shades of red in them, his eyes were pretty rough looking as they didn’t suggest the man being too nice of a guy. He just opened his eyes forcing Shimo to jump up and the otaku boy to drop his manga on the ground. Mana had to say she was pretty intimidated by the man’s look alone too.

“You guys, come with me…” was all he said as he turned around and started walking into the corridor in quite a pace, without even slowing down to wait for the kids to make it down the classroom and out the door. This was one fellow that didn’t fool around!
Ruthless Sannin Tanshu! by Captain Claymore
The three kids rushed out of the classroom, doing their best so that they didn’t fall behind their sensei. Having his behavior in mind, how he decided to not even show up to pick them up until Hokage himself forced him to, he wasn’t likely to be the nice kind of guy that waits for his team. Something about his intimidating stature and squinting eyes just freaked Mana out and from the looks of her teammates – she wasn’t the only one utterly scared of the man. He just had that certain kind of feeling coming off of him.

Even following him from behind, looking at his flowing dark cape and messy hair from behind him, being too far to even see him in much detail instilled fear, something made the magician wish to stay at such range and not get any closer. Out of nowhere the man stopped and turned sideways at them, his angry and freaky stare made the three almost stop in their tracks. One could’ve only speculated what this incredible energy coming out of the man was, strangely enough Mana was the most bold and came up to speaking distance the first, the boys followed her shortly.

After the team finally gathered in close enough range to each other to be associated with the others the man simply turned around again without any words and started walking, this time a little bit slower. “T…This aura…” Mana wondered looking at the man’s back, strangely enough the magician hadn’t noticed a symbol of some sort on the back of sensei’s cloak. It looked like it meant something, perhaps sort of reminded Mana of a hieroglyph of some sort but it wasn’t any language she could identify. The girl was a self-made prodigy at history as she loved to read historic books and legends as a child and continued to do so throughout her life.

“You’ve got to be kidding me… This is… Uzumaki Tanshu, one of the Konohagakure Sannin…” Shimo, the lady-loving teammate uttered, he obviously attempted to only let the other two teammates know but something told Mana that their sensei must’ve heard it as well. If he was at all the ninja his incredible presence implied him to be, he would’ve been aware of everything going on in the same room as he was, the fact that Shimo could identify the man however was quite interesting. Mana didn’t know about the most famous and the strongest ninja in the village, she wasn’t one that engaged in gossip or dreamed over their pictures in the textbooks, she only could identify some by their key features.

The man then pushed the Academy door and left into the yard, the three quickly rushed after him and left through the door before it closed. After sitting so long in a closed room, waiting for their sensei to come pick them up, Mana appreciated a breath of fresh air and some sunlight. The man then started moving at an incredible pace, as if he wanted to get somewhere in the village but he only moved around the Academy building, then jumped and his feet stuck onto the wall of the Academy building. Shimo jumped quickly to follow him, Mana and the otaku boy who was yet to introduce himself remained on the ground. The boy sighed and jumped onto the wall as well, scaling it as quickly as he could and trying not to fall too far behind.

This situation annoyed Mana because she didn’t want to use the ordinary Tree Climbing Jutsu that the Academy taught the students. It was a basic technique that also served as a tool to train one’s chakra control, it was useful but Mana was not the one to invent it and that was enough of an obstacle to make the girl wonder how she’d scale the wall. The girl ran to the side a little bit further and found a backdoor entrance, she instead decided to use the stairs up to the exit to a balcony. After leaving to the balcony the magician observed her team stopping at an upper balcony as she quickly made some handseals and jumped straight at the wall, then kicking off of it to gain some altitude as a small gust of wind propelled her higher.

The jutsu was a simple invention of Mana’s, the girl called it the “Mystical Wings Technique” despite the fact that it didn’t actually serve the same purpose. It didn’t allow the magician to fly, it just made a single powerful wind current below her and propelled her upwards for just a moment, it barely only made those directly below the current flinch so the only uses there were for such a technique were to get small boosts of altitude or breaking one’s fall quickly. Mana managed to grab the ledge with her arms as she pulled herself up and got into the same balcony that her sensei stopped to wait for his team.

The man’s eyes looked like the man really hated Mana, not in a deep and personal way, she just annoyed him by wasting his time and he obviously didn’t care that much about her to begin with. The man only grunted out a simple but effective “You’re slow” as the only scolding that the girl ever needed. The otaku boy was also annoyed, “Ugh, I guess you’ll be the weak and useless member of the team, every team in manga has one, our enemies will have to take you out fast to establish that threat is serious…” he started his tirade before being interrupted by Shimo’s “You’re amazing, Mana-chan, I remember that technique from your show!” the boy yelled out.

It was quite clear that the only reason why Shimo even liked Mana’s performance was because she was a girl, the technique wasn’t really that impressive visually or efficient. She wasn’t sure which reaction hurt more: the genuine annoyance of her sensei, the deep rooting dislike of all female beings that otaku had and their trait to see everything as one cliché or the other or being praised just because of something that had nothing to do with anything. Now that it was out of the way the previously identified Konoha Sannin spoke up, “I’d like the three of you to tell me something about your personalities, don’t get any ideas, I don’t care too much so don’t go too deep into it. It’s just that I’m unlike my idiot colleagues, I understand that personalities and goals matter because they let me understand how you use your combat abilities.”

He then took out a small file out of his coat’s pocket and flipped it through, “You three were put in team to balance out the grades, the teams were built to have one great student, one with horrible grades and an average one, the Hokage wanted to make all teams balanced and have an equal beginning.” Despite Mana’s genuine hope that the man won’t go too deep into their grades his sharp and long finger shot forward at Shimo, then proceeded to point at her other teammate and then at Mana. “You, white haired boy, your grades were really good, you were the fourth top student in the entire year, you, weasel-looking guy, yours were second worst from everyone that graduated… You, girl, contrary to what your magic shows make people believe your grades didn’t stand out in either direction, you’re average in every way.”

Being average offended Mana the most, she could’ve handled being called the worst because for some reason being worst was still special, being average wasn’t anything, it was just sort of there. “Since in the Ninja World leaders always get all the responsibility and all the fame, the one with the good grades will start.” the man spoke again, his tone was rough and it didn’t look like he was asking them to do something, he was pretty much ordering it. Every moment of his presence radiated that impossibly thick and cold air, only him being there made all three of the kids feel uneasy.

Shimo sat onto the edge of the balcony and began after fixing his glasses. “My name is Yuki Shimo, my parents moved out of Kirigakure several years ago with their business and moved to Konohagakure. They had to do it because the Mizukage was getting crazy according to them and started ordering having his own villagers murdered…” the boy’s head slightly went down, it was a topic that summoned a reaction in him despite the fact that his family avoided the cruelty which was interesting. “I don’t really care about the Mizukage or Kirigakure, honestly, I don’t really remember it and Konoha is my real home, it’s just that I want to make sure that scum that order their own comrades to die would never come to power in Konoha and I’ll fight such a person if I have to!”

After a brief moment of silence the boy sighed and looked at Mana to continue. Him being a descendant of a rich family that had some sort of business inside Konoha would’ve explained his interesting attire, his clan was also quite a rare one and the magician only barely remembered it from being taught about them in the Academy. It was interesting how being both rich, successful and being an heir of a rare ninja clan did not make this youth arrogant and prone to bragging about his life. He was very different to Mana in terms of his origins but he was not so different from her in terms of personality.

Mana got a strand of hair out of her face and moved it past her ear, her hair was curly and rather wild so the girl usually wore a hat, this day was the kind when she really wanted to wear one. “I am Nakotsumi Mana, some people know me as “Konoha’s Sorceress” from all the posters in the northern districts and the magic show that I started recently. It’s not ACTUAL magic, I just use ninjutsu that I learn for different purposes because I believe that lives of every person in this world are magical and sacred and that ninjutsu is a tool to preserve it, not to take it.”

Sensei sighed, he obviously disagreed with that but so far he didn’t let the girl know that, or at least didn’t tell her anything because his face pretty much spoiled it all. It was impressive how much Mana managed to piss him off because usually whatever thoughts he had remained secret as his face was quite strict and static, now his emotions were incredibly clear. Why did he hate her ideals? Will it be a problem? Maybe he was the kind of person who killed a lot and ninjutsu was his tool to accomplish that? The man could’ve felt offended by existence of a youngling like Mana.

It was then that the otaku boy spoke up, still reading his manga and not bothering to put his eyes up. “My name is… Nara Sugemi…” the boy spoke in pauses as his eyes were still running through the letters and pictures of his magazine and his brain was struggling with multi-tasking. “I don’t really know why I became a ninja, I like manga about ninja and I love action, to read about it at least… I want to be able to do cool things like Rock Lee from that manga one day, if I can be as cool as the guys I read about, if I can inspire my own epic manga, that is all I need!” the boy spoke as he flipped the page and finished his introduction at the same time.

Sensei took a deep breath and massaged his tired eyes. “I’d imagine you yelling “Sensei” all the time would be annoying so I’ll introduce myself at least, as rich-boy here got right earlier, I am Uzumaki Tanshu – one of Konohagakure Sannin. You have no business or interest knowing my personality, I am more than capable to handle myself and watch over you guys for as long as we’ll be working together. Now that I got to know the mental part, I’ll need to see your actual abilities, follow me to the Training Grounds, I’ll give my final impressions about you guys after the test. Just know that I am allowed to send the lot of you back to the Academy until we complete our first mission so don’t mess it up!” the man exclaimed after leaping off of the building and starting to slowly walk towards the Training Grounds.

At least this time the kids knew the destination so they didn’t have to keep following their sensei’s back. Also, now sensei’s weird shade of red in his brown hair made sense – Uzumaki were known for their amazing vitality and flowing red hair. The kids rushed up to and descended the stairs, using the more conventional means to gain access to the village streets leading up to the Training Grounds. As they finally accessed the streets Mana asked her teammates something, “Say, guys, sensei seems to be really proud of his rank but I’ve never heard of a rank of “Sannin”, isn’t “Jounin” the highest rank in the village?”

Shimo looked quite happy about his chance to talk to Mana and to show off his brain a bit more, “Yes and no. “Sannin” isn’t an official rank, not really, it is a rank that is passed through word, officially Jounin is still the highest rank but if one becomes so much more powerful than a Jounin, so much so that they surpass any common classifications of ninja they are declared a “Sannin” by the respective Kage. Each village has three of them, they are easily the most powerful ninja in the village, being a Sannin also grants you a certain amount of diplomatic freedom, for example a Jounin being in another village is weird and suspicious but Sannin commonly travel around and they are usually respected everywhere for their power and achievements. Also only the Great Villages are allowed to have Sannin, so there are twelve in total around the world, Sand Village used to have them too but they lack high ranking ninja to select theirs so they haven’t had one for ages…”

Sugemi closed his manga and put it into his small backpack, “Maybe if I become a Sannin by killing sensei one day they’ll make a manga about me…” he wondered out loud scratching his chin as if he was actually considering it. “That’s not how it works, Sugemi, there is no single right way of becoming a Sannin, in a way it is similar as it is with Kage – there needs to be a vacant spot and you need to be way above everyone else in terms of skill and achievements. Sannin have been beaten and killed before but that didn’t really make people rise in ranks, in fact, if rumors are true, Tanshu-sensei once beat a Sannin in his teen years, he didn’t even have a ninja rank, stories say that he may have been a nukenin at some point…”

Finally all the talking had to cease as the three reached the astonishingly beautiful patch of nature surrounded by a fence with a sign “Training Grounds” with a number on them. Teams used “Training Grounds No 3” all the time so that was where the three went, the other grounds had different purposes, No 1 was made for sparring, No 2 was for physical training as it had a lot of dummies to punch, No 3 to 5 were for teams, No 6 to 8 were for ninjutsu training as they were pretty much battlefields, they were always decimated and blown up by one technique or another and had to be fixed all the time. Someone took the time to rebuild the rock formations and plant the trees, a lot of Doton users and Senju must’ve been occupied with keeping those grounds in check. Mana had never visited No 8 to 12, but there were twelve grounds in total.

Sensei was already waiting for the three. His hands went through a couple of handseals and an identical copy appeared out of the lake nearby. The man looked at his clone and grinned with half of his mouth, “This is a clone of mine, he is many times inferior to the original, I’d say my own physical abilities are twice as great as this clone’s and this clone has ten times less chakra than me, if the three of you are able to kill it – I’ll promise you guys that I won’t send you back, if you mess up, I’ll make no such promises. If you annoy me, if one day I’ll feel like you guys aren’t worth the hassle, I’ll just send the three of you back, it could happen at any time so you better win. Don’t worry, I’ll just be standing here.”

As the man signaled the three to begin all three of them did the same thing, dashed towards the nearest bush throwing a barrage of shuriken at the clone, Mana was too busy rushing for a safe hiding spot to see how the clone did with such an overwhelming barrage of shuriken, loud and deafening clanking of steel suggested that he deflected all of them somehow using a weapon of his own. As the darkness of the thick trees planted one by the other surrounded Mana she carefully peeked at the clone – the weapon he used was a katana in its arm, sensei must’ve been a masterful swordsman so it may not have been too hard for him to deal with these shuriken.

Mana started weighing down her options, her ninjutsu was nothing too impressive, mostly they were relatively harmless techniques that looked pretty so that they could be used for her magic shows. She also did not like that she had no contact or mean to communicate with her teammates, there was no way to coordinate their assault, they may have hidden from the clone but they also hid from each other. Both other boys had very effective clans to set up a diversion: Nara had amazing abilities using their shadows and from what the girl could remember they had awesome displacement abilities, Yuki used the Ice Style just like their name suggested. The young kunoichi realized that her best option was to wait for a diversion and then try to follow it up. Maybe eventually the three will get the feel of the abilities of each other and start to work together well!

Either way, when their opponent was a man who was rumored to have beaten a Sannin in his teenage years, likely being just a bit older than Mana was now, nothing could’ve been taken for certain…
You Lose! Mana VS Tanshu Clash of Ideals by Captain Claymore
Mana just kept waiting for Sugemi to make the first move, after all, wasn’t his clan so famous for their ability to make complicated plans and being so incredible at enemy displacement and battlefield control? At least such traits were typically given to Nara as the kunoichi could remember a lot about them being told in the Academy. Shimo must’ve been waiting for Sugemi’s move as well as the boy remained still in hiding and did not take any action, most likely thinking similarly to Mana. Despite that, Sugemi not only didn’t make any moves but he also remained outside everyone’s vision.

That was not what both Mana and Shimo did, the smart boy managed to leave a slightly frosted leaf which alerted the most perceptive ninja to his location, the frosted white leaf could not have been seen from the degree of vision where the clone was situated in however Mana could see it. The magician also left a clue about her location by removing a poster that was on a tree near the bush, also visible only from the side but not from upfront, where sensei’s clone was. This was a rather drastic mean of telling teammate of her location as it could’ve been picked up by the enemy too, Mana could’ve just as easily left a carving on the tree bark but she wasn’t as fast, by the time she got to the location the clone had already dealt with the projectiles so she had to improvise.

The clue that Sugemi left either did not exist or couldn’t be picked up by Mana, whether he forgot to leave one deciding to act solo or made it indistinguishable was equally as bad. Now the two that did have general understanding of each other’s locations had no idea where Sugemi was or what he was going to do. To make matters worse, sensei’s clone started moving rather fast to the thick area full of trees making it only a matter of time when one of the three would have been sighted. The clone was rushing but not in a way that made the impression of it being reckless or using too much effort. Just in case Mana’s grip on a kunai she held tightened as she got tenser in order to better perceive the clone’s movements.

Much to the surprise of the magician, lurking a moderate distance further from the clone’s left side, and most likely, to Shimo’s as well, Sugemi decided to rush at sensei’s clone by jumping out at him after the clone got close. The girl was surprised at how fast the clone moved and how close it got to Sugemi’s actual location, almost as if it could accurately sense where Sugemi was. It wasn’t like the clone showed much effort at telling the exact location, it just started heading at the specific direction and probably pressured the boy into attacking as it got too close.

Right as Sugemi leapt at the clone with a kunai in his arm and swung it to leave a wide gash, aiming at its chest the clone swiftly moved out of harm’s way. He wasted no moves as he positioned himself right behind the boy, quickly grabbing the boy’s wrist with one arm and his head with the other and then lifting his arm in the air applying pressure while slamming the boy’s head to the ground. “Your movements were so loud that I got an audible clue as to where you hid yourself, where your teammates tried to move fast but also silently, you just ran rustling every patch of grass and breaking all the twigs around, you didn’t leave any clues for your team to your location either despite having most time to do so since you didn’t bother about being silent.”

Tanshu-sensei’s voice was angry and annoyed, it wasn’t that Sugemi’s mistake was such a simple one, Mana herself was never a prodigy in stealthy movement and was just as stealthy as anyone else in her class were. It didn’t look like Shimo was any more of a stealthy fellow as his clue was currently quite visible from the clone’s current location so he was likely to be the clone’s second target. Sugemi yelled out in pain as he made a handseal, “Shadow Tendril Technique!” he yelled out as an appendage shot out from under his jacket and went after the clone, this was not a Nara technique that Mana had ever seen before – that shadow didn’t come out from the shadow on the ground but it came from inside his jacket. This was quite a revelation how inventive true masters of clan techniques become compared to common knowledge about them.

Sugemi’s attack was quite effective too, it would’ve forced the clone to let go of the boy buying him time or doing some amount of damage if it hit. Unluckily for him, sensei did not let go of his arm, his clone just leapt sideways doing a flip to the side to avoid the tendril. Sugemi shouted out wildly – clone’s movement must’ve done something with his arm, it could’ve dislocated a shoulder or messed it up pretty bad but the boy was definitely out. This clone was brutal, it barely pulled any punches and it fought to incapacitate, there wasn’t a lesson to be learnt, no hidden point of the training – the clone was just out of their blood.

Mana couldn’t stand around, she threw the kunai at the clone without waiting to see what he’d do with the injured boy, the genin rushed recklessly at the clone trying to get to her enemy faster than the kunai that she threw, obviously unsuccessfully but she didn’t want to waste time. After getting to the man the girl observed him deflect her kunai with the side of his palm - she probably threw it incorrectly due to stress and concern over her teammate’s well-being.

Mana didn’t even attempt to fight the clone up close, back at Hanada estate she struggled to keep up with casual mercenaries that were swarming the woods outside the village walls, there was no way she’d keep up with the clone. The genin simply jumped onto his raised arm and using his wrist as a platform leapt over the man throwing an explosive kunai into his back, one advantage of fighting a clone was that she didn’t have to worry over the clone’s life. The clone caught the kunai, why? Didn’t he see the tag on it? Either way, Mana made the handseal and tried to set it off.

Nothing happened… How? Why? Mana could set off tags easily, it was one of few common techniques that she used, it wasn’t an actual jutsu to Mana, but just a way to use her tools so even to her twisted wish to only use techniques she herself invented it was fair game. The clone looked annoyed, maybe it did something? What sort of a trick could he have pulled? How could he just negate Mana’s technique like that? Even worse, the girl felt that her chakra was reduced, she clearly set it off properly but nothing happened. This clone apparently was strong enough to use techniques, but this was not like any technique that Mana had seen.

At least the magician bought her comrade some time to escape – even with his injured arm, Sugemi was nowhere to be seen. Tanshu grunted out, “Well well, I didn’t really want to use it like that. That’s right, your gut is telling you the truth, I negated your technique. All those stories of me beating a Sannin in my teen years are true and this is how I did it – a seal of my own invention that negates ninjutsu techniques and special abilities by interrupting the user’s chakra flow, it’s sort of a mixture of genjutsu and ninjutsu. You weren’t supposed to see it as I don’t usually honor kids like you by showing it.”

Now it made sense, a lot of things did, the Sannin that Tanshu must’ve faced as a teenager must’ve relied heavily on some sort of ability, sensei must’ve just used his seal and negated it bringing the two ninja to equal ground by forcing them both to fight physically, Tanshu was just a superior kenjutsu or taijutsu user… Still, Mana was just like that Sannin in his past, she relied incredibly on her techniques, genjutsu and ninjutsu. Now like this her only hope of beating the clone was destroyed. Tanshu-sensei’s clone stretched out and pulled out his katana again…

“Truth be told, I expected this, YOU of all people ruining your team’s chances to victory…” the man spoke up as he took a fighting stance. Mana was too intimidated to take a defensive stance or prepare a weapon to try and fight back – this was over, even if he only used the technique out of instinct for that one moment… The fact that such a technique existed at all made the girl lose all her wish to fight, still, she didn’t understand what the man meant so she looked at him with a confused and scared look, the way that a child who doesn’t know any better looks at their parents when they do something stupid and make fools of themselves in public.

“I attacked that idiot-otaku on purpose, don’t you get it yet?” Tanshu smiled as he jumped forward thrusting the handle of his katana hitting Mana in the solar plexus, the girl coughed up and collapsed, the clone was so incredibly fast! And the real sensei claimed that this was only a fraction of his true physical abilities, so that was how Uzumaki Tanshu fought, he negated any special abilities of his enemies and kept the fight purely physical and built his body to be the best physical body of any ninja automatically granting him victory over any kind of opponent.

Even worse – Mana understood now, she understood what he meant and she wanted to yell it out, to alert Shimo but she couldn’t because the attack left her without an ounce of oxygen and she struggled to catch a breath just to keep conscious on the ground. Tanshu attacked Sugemi first because he knew of Mana’s ideals – to protect all life, he knew that if he hurt Sugemi rough enough she’d jump out at him and he also knew somehow of Shimo’s obsession with girls, maybe he observed the kids before Hokage showed up, maybe he read it from Shimo’s Academy reports. Now he had all three kids, all of them attacked him and all he had to do was take them out.

“YOU BASTARD LEAVE MANA-CHAN ALONE!!!” the voice of comrade that anyone would normally be pleased to hear came from the woods as a barrage of shuriken flew Tanshu, the man’s katana swung in a circle to deflect all of them, then the barrage intensified, “Multi-Shuriken Technique!” Shimo yelled out as the shuriken he quickly emptied his pouch by throwing shuriken at incredible rates, still, Tanshu deflected them near effortlessly. A loud “Heh” came from the boy as he made another handseal. “Glaciation Technique!” he yelled out as a small puddle which Tanshu’s leg was in instantly froze leaving his shoe entombed in it.

“Multi-Kunai Technique!” Shimo yelled as he emptied his kunai as well, Mana knew he planned to mix in some explosive ones too and set them off when deflected because it only made sense. Shimo was the smartest kid out of the three, he knew that if shuriken barrage made little difference to Tanshu, so would’ve kunai, even with this small entrapment he devised using his Yuki technique. Either way, the kunai didn’t set off, sensei’s clone must’ve used that chakra disrupting seal again. It was still unclear how it worked but it completely blew into both Mana’s and Shimo’s faces.

Within a fraction of a moment sensei’s clone jumped right up to Shimo’s face, forcing his leg out of the shoe that was frozen in the small puddle, and thrust at his throat using the side of his palm. The boy fell down on the ground struggling with breath, sensei then quickly turned and threw his katana at a tree, a loud thud was heard and Sugemi’s shout of pain came moments later. The boy tried to use the wire to climb up the tree using just one arm that he had working, sensei used the katana to cut that wire and made Sugemi fall down and injure himself even more. The clone stood by the tree and relaxed, locking his arms around his chest as the real sensei walked up to the beaten kids. Out of all people he stood by Mana, he was right, it was all her fault.

“People like you are not suitable to be ninja, ninjutsu is an art to kill, jutsu are tools of death. Using your techniques for laughs and entertainment is pathetic. Going easy on your enemies because you’re afraid to kill them is even more pathetic.” the man spoke in a condescending tone looking at Mana as she struggled to get back at her feet from above. The magician picked herself up and looked sensei in the eyes, with just a short distance separating them. “I don’t care, ninjutsu is a gift that I am given, it is up to me how I use it…” she moaned out through pain. The real sensei punched her in the stomach with his palm making the kid fall down again.

“You should be glad that you’re hearing this from me, I am saving your life by making you quit, most fools hear it from their opponent’s blades as they go through their hearts or even worse – hearts of their comrades. Right now, there is nothing stopping me from killing your friends and it would all be YOUR fault because they lost because of YOUR inability to act calm and rationally.” the man spoke as the clone picked up Shimo’s weightless body and placed a kunai to his throat. “People like you are a danger to themselves and their friends, a danger to loyal and skilled ninja that are an asset of the village, out of all ninja, I hate ninja like you the most. Luckily enough I have the means to stop you from becoming a ninja before you make a mistake like this in the field…”

After letting this be known Tanshu started walking back to the field of grass, most likely intending to head to the village. If the three of them lost, that meant that he had the right to return all three of them to the Academy at any point, meaning even right now if he felt like it! “To be fair, I never intended to stick with you guys, you’re always a pain in my side, you’d always be. I’ll save your lives by returning you back the moment I have the right to, just like I planned to all along.” their sensei said as a final farewell before Mana finally managed to pick herself up on her feet again.

“Stoooop! I’m up! We didn’t lose yet!” she shouted out, “Sure maybe this is my fault, maybe you modeled this fight after focusing on me as the weak link… But if I can get stronger… I can stop this from happening, I can protect my teammates and my enemies, defeat my enemies without killing them, no matter the means…” another painful impulse forced the girl down on her back, she couldn’t open her eyes because they were full of tears. She could feel a sharp kick in her side, then another, sensei wasn’t really trying to hurt her, he was trying to make it so painful that Mana would shut up. Still, he had strong morals and upheld the rules that he made, he didn’t just declare their loss and leave, he wanted to actually win, make his opponents acknowledge it. That in itself was admirable.

“That’s what every stupid brat thinks, that they’re some legendary hero who can make every enemy into their friend, that the world is about holding hands and singing songs but the truth is – world is about killing your enemy before they get the chance to hurt someone you care about, before they burn your village down and kill the people inside. That’s my ninja way, the ONLY ninja way. World out there is kill or be killed, until you don’t accept that I won’t accept you as my student.” the man stopped kicking and turned around again, Mana coughed up some blood and started slowly rising again. This wasn’t a fight, this was sensei trying to test how hard Mana stood by her beliefs, she wasn’t going to stop, she’d rather die!

“I know the enemy wants to kill me, all the time…” sensei kicked her back down again, “But I don’t care… I’ll fight them but won’t kill them…” Mana grunted out through pain as the man kept kicking, he wasn’t using his real strength, the clone stroke much harder than this before. “Wait, you’re fighting Mana-chan, not the clone! That means we won! You said you wouldn’t interfere!!!” Shimo yelled out of the top of his lungs, somehow managing to stand up while this little chat took place. Tanshu slapped his forehead with his palm, “Shit… You got me… Damn, this girl is kinda smart, how much of this did you plan ahead?” the man asked as Shimo smiled and jumped up and down couple of times “I bet Mana-chan was planning it all along, since the “Life is magical” speech!” he added.

Mana stood up and fixed her clothes that were now all dirty and messed up, “I planned none of this, I really meant what I said about life, every word of it and it just sort of happened…” the girl could feel pain all over her back and chest. Tanshu turned around and shouted out in pure misery, “Shit, I’m stuck with you losers… Now I’ll have to torture you guys until you quit yourselves, you just made it worse for yourselves…” the man said as he started heading for the village again. A loud laugh came from somewhere in the bushes, where Sugemi was down for the count.

Mana could barely remember how she got home, the three all helped each other and all three of them needed a checkup, luckily enough Mana’s father was a ninja and knew how to do some basic field treatment. “So Tanshu-san is your sensei?” he asked later that evening as he was patching daughter’s injuries, her whole body was covered with blunt traumas and bruises. “Yeah, you know him?” Mana asked as her father rarely used honorifics especially the respectful ones. “Worked with him couple of times… He’s a piece of work but he always gets his team home, at the very least your mother and I will always know you’ll be back alive.” the man laughed. The magician just sighed, still, she was quite excited about her team – stronger pressure from her superior only means she’ll grow up to be that much stronger!
Who Will Become No 1 At Dishes? by Captain Claymore
A couple of days had passed since the brutal test that the team went through. The time between then and now was not spent in vain, Mana strained herself, while still recovering, to somehow become both a stronger ninja and a better stage magician. The girl kept both training her physical shape, doing so by jogging in the mornings, beating on the dummies in the training grounds, and mental and spiritual side by meditating. To a ninja one's mind and spirit was just as important as muscles. Chakra was just as important and chakra manipulation depended heavily on mastery over emotions, sometimes when Mana was under stress she wasted loads of chakra on techniques that were seemingly simple.

Over time the girl discovered a new trait about herself, more specifically, about the body of a ninja. Whenever a body used chakra it had a tiny fraction of it stuck in the system, normally that wouldn't be worth noticing but apparently body gained certain memory of techniques one used and automatically adjusted one's chakra levels. What this meant was that after one's chakra control improved significantly they had loads of chakra left over in their system being wasted. What the girl imagined was that with enough of a push she could force that chakra out, it would be stressful for her body as it wasn't used to larger than usual amounts of chakra but in time it could be tricked by making it believe that the amount of chakra was natural, achieving higher chakra level as a result.

One day the kunoichi tried this, she sat down and concentrated hard, allowed her mind to slip away into a meditational stage of complete awareness of her own body. That was how the genin managed to overcome her mental condition as a child – by meditating and reaching a stage of complete awareness of her own condition. With a slight nudge and communication with one's own body, a lot of problems could be fixed, obviously the girl's mastery of this sort of meditation was not yet great enough to overcome poisons and diseases, but perhaps one day even such amazing feats would be possible through meditation alone!

The only reason why Mana trained so incredibly hard was because she felt she had the responsibility to do so. She wished to preserve all life, even that of her enemies, because of that she was weaker than her peers, the girl understood that. For that reason she had a disadvantage, to catch up to her peers she had to train harder, to become so much stronger that her kindness doesn't hold her back. To become so strong that next time someone tries to hurt her friends by exploiting that – she'd be able to surprise them. It may have been viewed as a disadvantage in combat but to Mana it was a necessary one, she'll always love life and wish to preserve it, try to avoid violence and fighting when possible.

All that training did not go to waste, the kunoichi could feel that she's gotten stronger, not by a significant margin but if she kept up the pace, one day she'll get there! She may never reach a level of Tanshu-sensei, but she didn't want to, Mana didn't want to be the strongest or the best ninja ever. All that she wanted to do was to preserve life so that maybe one day people around her no longer laughed from this ideal but joined in on it, to do everything so that when Mana died she'd have left a better world than she found, one where people's lives did not go to waste, one where a life meant something.

Over the several days of training Mana learned another thing – Mr. Hiro, the owner of the stage she was renting for her magic shows, was right – once the word of her shows started spreading more and more people started coming, suddenly empty seats no longer poked Mana's eyes so hard and the little money that she charged for entrance started to make more than she needed to pay the rent, the bonus she'd be getting as a ninja would add to it even more… The downside was that for the first time in her life Mana was getting short on time, her life as a ninja and her life as a stage magician did not clash directly just yet, but eventually they might.

Finally after long several days a letter came, it was from the Hokage Administration and it described the four as "Team Oak" and told them to come to the Administration building for a briefing for their mission. This was exciting but also a bit scary, on one hand Mana would get to see Shimo and Sugemi again, on the other the mission might get crazy and all of them may get hurt again. Recovering from those bruises and traumas even with advanced ninja recovery rate wasn't fun. Also, due to her recent success in magic shows people started to recognize her on the streets more. Usually villagers sort of knew each other and a weird girl like Mana was bound to stand out, since lives were lost so often in this world people kept tight bonds with each other, especially if their friend was a ninja because killing another ninja was not only normal but also an honor. This was only one of the things that Mana desired would change over her lifetime…

When the day of briefing came the girl got an unexpected knock on the door, neither father nor mother were home: father was out on a mission and mother was working early in the café. Father used to tell stories to Mana when she was younger about how her mother was from a tribe of wandering ninja that had a knack for entertainment but also making money. Maybe that's why mother was so successful in her small business, maybe some of those genes helped the girl out with her own shows too, maybe it was all her legacy. No! Mana didn't want to only be good because some part of her is a descendant of some weird group of travelers that made money, Mana wanted to earn money and love of the villagers using her own charm and skills. But what really was that? How could she know what was actually her and what's her legacy from that bedtime story group? It was possible that the tribe was made up, father never told Mana much more about it anyways…

Behind the door stood Shimo, he looked alright and pretty happy, had a wide grin on his face and after fixing his glasses he asked Mana for the pleasure to walk her to the Administration building. To some girls such behavior would look weird, it'd raise suspicion that the boy might be into them but Mana saw Shimo for over five years in the Academy, he was like this to most girls all the time. He may have been super weird now, but that was only because he only had one girl around to be weird with. Mana took her jacket with her and rushed out with her teammate to the location. It wouldn't have been decent to be late for their mission briefing even if their sensei would be the one to do the talking.

"I hope you don't feel too bad about that training?" Shimo asked on the way, he was strangely talkative today. "I think sensei was just mean and said what he said because he didn't like you, but I was just as much to blame for our butts being kicked as you were, you may have cared about Sugemi's life but I was too concerned over yours, my love for the ladies is just as bad as your wish to save lives…" it was strange how more excited and even possibly stronger Shimo looked, it was just like several days ago Mana and her teammates were children but now they didn't really look like children. In a world where children were hired to kill other children that got in the way of the mission, they looked like warriors if anything, Mana probably couldn't look like a killer even if she put on a creepy festival mask and wielded a scythe…

"Thanks for the concern but… I'd never blame something for what I did and say. I walked by the path I set for myself as a ninja, I just wish that I would be just the same no matter how rough things got." Mana replied smiling back at her teammate. At that moment she could see it, getting close to these guys, just like her father casually meets his old friends from his old days as a ninja as well as new ones. Drinking and talking about old days… It all seemed like it was going to happen one day and they didn't even start working yet. It was strange thinking of how things would end before they even begun.

Shimo was surprised by how many people recognized Mana, there were even a couple of children that stopped by and spoke to her, cheered her on and asked when the next show would be. "That's really awesome" he said, "but don't you think this will get in the way, I mean if everyone around the village knows your face? Won't it make working as a ninja harder?" Mana thought for a moment, Shimo raised a valid point, ninja were supposed to be stealthy and hidden, having her face known around the place would make it hard to work in Konoha, if her fame ever spread beyond the village it'd be really hard to work outside the village too. People wouldn't take her seriously and think that she's less of a ninja just because she's a little star of the entertainment world…

Before the girl got her chance to answer however the Administration building came into view, Shimo didn't look as interested in getting his answer as he wanted to get inside and he rushed at the building. It didn't need any saying that he had to open the door for Mana and then several more ladies that came after her and hold it for every lady passing through. While it was kind of cute, the two could have been late so the magician gently took Shimo by his elbow and dragged him to the fourth floor where the Hokage's office was. Sugemi was nowhere to be seen but Tanshu-sensei was waiting on a small seat near the office.

"Good, you got here, where's the otaku-guy?" he asked, it was quite likely that he'll never learn their names, but then he nodded at the kunoichi and pointed at her with his chin, "You OK, Mana? You're Tsukumo's kid, aren't you?" after the magician nodded the man scratched his forehead, "Too bad, your father has to be the best Chuunin I know, I thought he deserved a less stubborn and stupid brat." Shimo laughed out, "You must really secretly like her, you just called Mana-chan by her name!" It didn't look like sensei was too pleased by this observation, or to be honest, any observation Shimo had made, as it was because of his observation that he got stuck with them to begin with but the fact that he called the genin by her name suggested that he may have cared enough to memorize their names, he just rarely used them.

Finally Sugemi came, just several minutes late but in no rush whatsoever, still reading his manga but it really was no surprise at this point. His arm was probably stuck in a book holding position as he slept… "Well, time for our grinding chores before we are trusted by the village to do actual missions, can't wait for one of them to go wrong or secretly be a ruse so that we can show the village how cool we are…" Sugemi spoke in a dull tone with a dreamy smile over his manga, he didn't even look at his teammates. Truth be told, he looked pretty good for a guy that had his arm messed up just several days ago. Even for a ninja healing a broken or dislocated bone in several days was quite impressive.

Tanshu grunted something out and entered first, leaving the door open for the rest to come through. Shimo didn't disappoint and gestured that Mana walked in first as he held the door. Had the magician not seen this behavior for years in the Academy it would've been getting annoying at this point. Just as expected – Sugemi didn't even look at the Hokage, he just kept eating up his manga with his eyes. For a moment it seemed like Hokage was confused by it but then he just let go of it, children that are taught to kill silently in their early years often end up a little weird and to be honest this whole team was a team of weirdos…

"I hope you guys aren't expecting to save the world just yet… These will be your jobs for today." Hokage said as he pushed a bunch of files forward on the table. He looked at Tanshu-sensei with a confusing stare as if encouraging him to pick them up but the man instead just walked up to them and read them, he looked annoyed but then again – he always did. "You won't be taking the files with you?" Hokage asked when sensei replied rudely, "I've got better things to do than carry a bunch of papers with chores in them, it's because I owe you that I got into this mess, Howoku." It was really rude to address Hokage by his name, without even a single honorific, his assistant looked really shocked and almost dropped his own share of files and his glasses. Hokage laughed out and let them go, Shimo did pick up the files just in case.

Inside the files were a bunch of chores: gardening, cleaning dishes at Ichiraku Ramen, doing some tax and finance paper work for some shop, sorting out tools and weapons in the weapon shop, filing all the confiscated illegal objects in Police Force building. Sugemi didn't seem too happy about it, he had every reason to, for a boy who put so much love into his manga he even bothered to read the files and didn't see anything to his fancy, "What the hell?! At this rate I'll never have a manga written about me!" he yelled out, "What's the point of those useless missions! No one remembers or cares about people that clean dishes!" he shouted out in a questioning tone at sensei, expecting without a doubt a nugget of wisdom from his superior. Tanshu shrugged.

"No point at all…" Shimo and Mana couldn't hold a laugh inside of them, these jobs really didn't annoy the girl at all, she was used to small errands like this to make her childish money as a kid while she was in the Academy, this was just the same except these will go to her dossier as a ninja. While it didn't help her own dream of making her appreciation of life and love around the world, it was however certainly a useful bunch of errands, helping people was something that the magician was always willing to do. "Come on, Shimo, let's go home! This is stupid!" Sugemi grunted out throwing one of the files on the ground, only for the white haired Yuki boy to pick it up. "Nah, we need to get through those to become real ninja." Shimo answered placing the file in between two others.

"Out of all people I expected the richboy and the starlet to wish to do those jobs the least… This could be pretty interesting." Sensei grinned. He was sort of right, one would think that the son to a rare and powerful clan, an heir to two separate businesses in the village and a girl that was a rising star in village entertainment would be the first ones to complain about washing the damned dishes. At least sensei found his own sick way of enjoying this, if he was happy he was less likely to get into clash of ideals with Mana. Sugemi kicked a can and yelled out, still a bit embarrassed of his words. "All right, new plan! I'll be so good at washing those dishes that they'll make a dish-washing manga about me, then I can realize my nindo first and laugh from you all from the top! Let's go you two, you won't get in the way of my dish-washing manga!" Sugemi yelled out looking back at Mana and Shimo as the two nodded and followed him.

"Wait… You guys can't be serious… Excited over some errands…" Tanshu-sensei laughed out and fastened the pace as Ichiraku Ramen was just by the corner. The owner looked really excited, the place was a famous fast food place in the village and it got a lot of greasy dishes accumulating and the owner's daughter couldn't really handle them alone. Everyone knew that Ichiraku Ramen commonly hired young ninja to do their dishes but this time it was bad – apparently the ninja that were supposed to do these dishes were sent back to Academy so now even more dishes piled up. After seeing the endless columns Sugemi moaned out, "Wow, with that amount of dishes you'd think they'd bump up the rank of the mission! How is this D-Rank?!" Shimo mockingly smiled "What's the matter? I thought you'll have a manga written about your mad dish washing skills, won't work if I wash more! I guess I'll be the one getting manga!"

"Shut up, you womanizing-bastard! Don't you dare take from my pile, mine is this one and that one and that one, all plates on the ground are MINE!" Sugemi yelled out grabbing every plate and swiping it with unseen devotion. Mana had to hand it to Shimo – he really was a genius and he wasn't even the Nara on the team. Tanshu relaxed by the wall and smiled, one wouldn't have believed that he was annoyed at this very moment at all – "Well well, I guess you losers will be pretty fun after all…" he spoke silently.
Misfortune Strikes Low, Bells of War! by Captain Claymore
The three kids were panting, Mana was just barely on her feet, bent over and breathing heavily, still wondering how her feet held her mostly upright. Shimo was sitting by a wall and his head has sunken down, he could’ve passed out from all the pressure for all everyone else knew and Sugemi was just down on a small chair. The team had just finished their last chore of a mission. By the time the kids were done with cleaning the dishes they were already exhausted so it was pretty good that most other jobs were filing or sorting jobs.

“Did I win? What were we competing for anyway?” Sugemi softly let out still trying to sit up straight in the chair. “Well, you did clean most of the dishes, I don’t remember much else of what we did…” Mana replied still huffing and struggling for air. She was yet to make her decision about which was worse: a mission that threatened her life or bunch of simple and non-dangerous missions like this that just drained her life essence completely. Sensei was the only person who looked like he was in any way ready for a walk home.

“You did good today, I’ll do you guys a favor and report to Howoku without you, go hit the beds.” Tanshu-sensei spoke, his voice was a bit different from the usual tone. He still sounded strict and his requests sounded like orders but this time he somehow seemed softer. Maybe watching the guys work on filing and doing the dishes helped him remember something from his past? His own old days? Well if all the rumors were to be believed it was unlikely that sensei was ever on a team, he was supposed to have been a nukenin, his progression through the ranks may have differed from the normal one.

Mana finally could stand up straight, she looked at Sugemi with a begging look and nodded at Shimo who looked like he had passed out. “Can you help me with this?” the kid squirmed for a little but then he helped the magician pick their friend up and walked out of the Police Force building with him. One Police Force lady was really concerned over Shimo but after she checked his condition quickly she said that he’d be OK and let the kids go. “Where does he live anyways?” Sugemi wondered and it was a fair point, neither of the three were too familiar with each other yet anyways. “Let’s bring him to his father’s workplace, maybe there’ll be someone that’ll know.” Mana replied and the two started making their way through the village with their passed out friend.

Konoha was beautiful at night, so quiet but bright, there were several stages of nocturnal Konoha: one was from late evening to early night, when all the lights and lanterns were glowing brightly and people were all over the village, there were plenty of gambling houses and various entertainments for to occupy their free time, but then there was this other stage that started really late at night, one that has not yet come when the village is completely quiet and there’s not a soul to be seen. Night really was an astounding time of day to be outside in Konohagakure. Several times Mana did stay a little bit up late after the shows having to leave the stage as she found it after it and always being the last person leaving the hall.

As usual, people recognized Mana on the streets, they ran up and said hello, they asked questions about what happened with the boy and when they heard that he was OK but he needed rest they left her be. Talking with the villagers was fun, the young genin wished that she had more time for it because she loved her village and its people, she will have to go home right after taking Shimo back and parting with Sugemi, it was getting pretty late. Sensei looked happy about their performance, finishing all the mission in one day was not a necessity but it was the optimal way to do things and they did it, they performed the best that was expected of them. That made all the training worthwhile even if Mana didn’t even get to make a single handseal filing those sheets of paper and washing the dishes.

“This guy… He’s pretty heavy…” Sugemi complained, Shimo was not chubby and while being the tallest of the three, not much taller than the others so it didn’t really make much sense for him to be that heavy. It must’ve been just the tired friend complaining, an elderly man with grey hair was passing by the workplace of Shimo’s father, the place was pretty well known around the village due to how successful it was so it was no surprise that both Mana and Sugemi knew where it was. The man waved at them after noticing Shimo passed out and ran up to them. “Wow, you guys worked hard, Shimo passed out, he’ll be really ashamed…”

Mana smiled and looked at her peaceful friend, handing him to his father. “No surprise, he tried to keep up with Sugemi-kun at washing the most dishes, despite Sugemi-kun being an idiot!” she looked at him trying to get a reaction. She was right to be a little bit angry at him, the boy really took the thing way too seriously and by being so into the dishes he made Shimo try even harder and forced both boys to overexert themselves. Mana wasn’t that physically strong and durable, despite her training so she got tired even doing it at her casual pace. She did catch up to the boys in the end though, after they got tired their pace really slowed down and started crawling, letting Mana who was going at a more stable pace to catch up.

“Whatever… No one writes manga about dish-washers anyway, I’ll try harder tomorrow, maybe we’ll get actual assignments.” the Nara boy shrugged as he walked away after fulfilling his obligation to help his teammate. To be honest, Mana was impressed that he agreed to help, over his obsession with manga one couldn’t have been sure that he’ll really help. Mana watched her teammate and a father carrying her other teammate fade away into the darkness of the night and then turned home herself. This was a tough day and it was just one day of countless more…

After getting home the girl sighed, she was so tired, the kunoichi slowly opened the door and went inside gently flicking the light on. It was strange that it was off, or that no one was home. Usually at this time at least mother is back from her job, father often went on missions for a couple of days but after those harder missions he stayed home longer. Maybe it was just one of those missions and mother was working overtime because it ended up being a busy day… It was still weird, no day was usually this busy, it was way past mother’s working hours. Mana saw a note on the table, it must’ve had an explanation in it why her home was so empty…

After letting her eyes skim through the contents of the note they shot open in shock, Mana would’ve normally been impressed by her body managing to actually be shocked at such a moment, usually being afraid and surprised required a certain amount of energy which currently the magician doubted she had. In a rush the girl ran out again, running towards the western district of the village and finding the Konohagakure Hospital building, usually at this time the patients were given rest but now the building had some lights and the whole ground floor was buzzing.

It didn’t took too long to rush up to the fourth floor and find mother resting in the waiting room. The woman was one of the most energetic people Mana had ever met but was currently completely wrecked by what had happened. When she saw the girl enter she slowly walked up and hugged Mana, the girl could feel her mother’s tears falling down on her head and on her back making her feel uneasy but reminding her that this was no dream. “What happened?” Mana asked knowing well that she’d hate the answer.

“Your father’s squad got ambushed, they say those were Kirigakure ninja but they were acting inside Fire Country. Everyone’s really shaken and the families of everyone in Tsukumo’s squad are here… Out of everyone your father was hurt the least, everyone else are struggling with their lives which is why this gloomy mood is around, your father was just injured on his arms.” as the two sat down in the waiting room and started waiting to hear about how father was doing mother told Mana all about what happened.

Father’s squad was on a mission, there was a small struggle between nukenin and Konohagakure ninja. They say that a squad carrying an important scroll with information was paid off to betray their village by Kirigakure but they were stopped by an early response squad of Konoha. After the fight only corpses remained but the sensitive information within the scroll needed to be brought back to the village, secondary objective was to identify the traitors and attempt to find any proof of Kirigakure’s involvement. That would’ve made it easy to proof that Mizukage was unstable, threatened peace and needed to be removed in a Summit.

Sadly Kirigakure ninja got to the corpses at the same time, they were likely to have already be positioned near the borders to lead the traitors back home, after hearing the news of them being intercepted they dared to enter the Fire Country territory and they clashed with Konoha ninja. Fire Country was Konohagakure’s jurisdiction and foreign ninja could not do their missions here without Hokage’s permission. Because they knew that they were in the wrong the Kirigakure ninja attempted to kill all witnesses and recover the scroll for themselves and another battle ensued. The Kirigakure ninja were all killed but there were a lot of casualties and even more injured on Konoha’s side as well.

Mana really failed to comprehend the meaning of all of those events, this incident may as well have started a war between Konoha and Kirigakure. So many deaths for a piece of information… It was yet to be seen how badly her father was injured. What if another war starts? It will be Mana’s responsibility to stop it as one that has placed the responsibility of protecting innocent lives and changing the world but… What could she do? She was still weak… Mother couldn’t understand the way that her child was feeling, she hugged Mana again and tried to calm her down telling her that it will all be OK, that father will definitely live but that was just a part of the girl’s problems.

She just started out, her team just finished their first missions today and to be involved in a war would be… Not an ideal start for a ninja career and most likely a swift end. There were countless tales of past wars and how many children not unlike Mana and her team died in those wars doing simple dirty work. She couldn’t die trying to dig a trench for a bunker for the intelligence unit to settle in! She had to be strong to stop such wars from happening! Her ninja career had just begun and she was already failing at her nindo. What if father is rendered unable to work as a ninja after all of this? It’d be crushing to see father crippled.

A medical ninja walked out of the ward and gestured for the two females that he could give them some information. The brief opening of the ward allowed smell of burning come out, just what was the extent of father’s injuries? “First of all, we just saved the life of a hero – his device shielded his squad from a huge combined Lightning Release technique. But… His arms are severely burnt, we’ll be able to somewhat salvage them, we’ll heal his arms and we have a plan about getting him a new skin for his arms, he’ll be mostly the same but… It’s really unlikely that he’ll ever be able to work as a ninja, he was called Konoha’s Great Trapster for his precision and amazing tools built to trap his enemies and surprise them, capture them alive. He won’t have any precision with his arms and he’ll be in pain if he strains them. Burns are painful, you may want to consider that we remove his arms just to save him from the pain, you must understand Kei-san, pain changes people.”

Mother tried to walk Mana away from the conversation but the girl slipped out of her grip quickly and looked at mother angrily. The woman wiped her hair off her face and looked with an empty stare at the wall thinking for just a moment before giving an answer. “Save his arms, Tsukumo can handle pain, he lives in the same household as I do and I’ve never seen him complain once about getting hit with a pan for refusing to wash the dishes. If there’s one man that can handle it, it’s my husband!” Mana had never seen mother speak in that firm and strong tone. She was usually easygoing and vibrant, always making jokes and bullying the two around the house with heavy or sharp objects but all for good fun. This Nakotsumi Kei was determined and strong. Mana wanted to be like that some day, to speak in such a tone and look so strong in the face of disaster.

“Very well, it is not a wrong choice by any means, just had to let you know. Now about our plan. Guru Ayushi is coming for his yearly lecture in Konohagakure, you may not know but Ayushi-sama was once a great ninja from the Senju clan, his longevity is a testament of that and his medical skills and the techniques he carries inside that body of his might prove to be the thing that saves your husband’s arms. If we can ask Ayushi-sama to give us a tiny bit of his cells, we can cultivate self-regenerating tissue and apply it on Tsukumo-san’s arms making them look and work just like any other arms, the muscles however will still be damaged so his arms will not be the same, in other words, he’ll have enough functionality to go by in day to day life and perform simple tasks but straining them or trying to be too precise will make the pain return temporarily.”

Mana has heard of this Guru Ayushi person before. Was he really that amazing that only a bit of his cells could actually cure her father’s arms? Well, to some extent at least… Even his cells couldn’t make her father be like he was before. In moments like this childhood ends. When the child realizes that things changed for the worse and that they will never be the same again, no matter how hard you cry. Those moments were the worst, having just experienced one Mana could tell. Mother cracked a knuckle, “The old geezer will give us the cells, I’ll make him bleed if I’ll have to!” Sometimes mother scared Mana…

Finally father’s condition stabilized and the mother and her child were sent home to have some rest. Mana had to get some sleep for the busy and just as tough day coming up tomorrow. Maybe the next day after completing so many chores the Hokage will actually give them a chance at an actual mission. With the color of the sky turning back into its morning colors Mana’s first day as a ninja was ending and what a day it has been: shadows of war, her father’s injury… It was an overwhelming thing to have in one’s life, much more so when one knew that things were only supposed to get harder from this point on.

Despite her genuine efforts Mana had trouble sleeping, she couldn’t get over the things that happened, what if there actually will be a war? How the hell does that work? No. The Fourth was a peaceful man, some of his deeds always were inspiring for Mana as someone who also craved only peace and well-being for everyone, but Hokage was always just and rightful. What if his sense of justice demands for those responsible to pay, Hokage was a man of justice, despite his wish to preserve peace he would go to war if that meant putting those responsible for injustice to right.

The girl also could not stop thinking about what the medical ninja said of her father, that he was a hero. Father was always a notable but average ninja, everyone knew who he was around the ninja circles because he has been working for a long time but he was never quite impactful enough to be promoted to Jounin. He was the best of the average. Now after his heroic deed everyone in the hospital wanted to promote him to Jounin for the heroic deed just symbolically even if he won’t be there to work as a Jounin. Mana decided – people gather around heroes, the only way for her to change the world, to make it a world where life is appreciated and preserved and where there is less violence is by becoming a hero.

That was Mana’s new goal – to become a hero so that people gathered behind her and that her ideals are no longer a joke that older ninja laugh at. When the magician becomes a hero like her father no one will laugh and say that she’ll “grow out of such foolishness” but they will follow her and appreciate life. There will be no violence. Though ultimately… One could not succeed at such a goal, if Mana keeps up such pace of fulfilling this goal she’ll die before it becomes a reality. No! She wanted to face death, only by defying death and laughing it in the face, only by saving everyone from it can she become a hero!

Mana will train even harder, she’ll push her body until it can no longer be pushed, she’ll do all the chores, she’ll gain Hokage’s trust for actual missions. She had no time to rise in ranks together with Sugemi and Shimo, if she was to become a hero and stop this war, if she was to fulfill her nindo she had to blow them away and leave them behind. The girl got out of bed and sat in a meditating position, she had to train her chakra, try that thing she thought of earlier, concentrate and increase her chakra levels. She can sleep all she wants when she fails in her goal and dies, until then – she’ll be training her butt off!
Pain That Bonds a Family! A Real Mission by Captain Claymore
Despite an incredibly difficult and depressing start of her ninja life Mana found the next two weeks to be extremely boring and monotonous. They were filled with one minor errand after the other and only her training allowed the young lady to get some variety, of course there were always her shows to clear out the boredom as those were finally really starting to pick up. Her success with magic shows was so prevalent that Mana was finally moved up to what Mr. Hiro called "prime-time", that wasn't really that much to the magician's liking because while she did get some real attention, after the show and some encores she got back home well past her bed time.

Where initially the girl only feared her life as a magician and her life as a ninja clashing, it was somewhere in the horizon, after those two weeks Mana realized that it was very much a reality. She was commonly found sleepy and tired in her missions from the shows and training taking all of her free time and Hiro always spoke how Mana was not using all of her potential as she could perform multiple times a day or even tour the other countries. Of course he advised to wait until Konoha and Kirigakure settled their recent tension before going to another country.

Mana's suspicion was true, Hokage called for a Kage Summit to be hosted six months later. There was no official reason why it must've happened so late but many people speculated that there were matters where Hokage wanted the three Sannin to look at, gathering enough evidence of Kirigakure's activities so that the Kage Council had no doubt that Mizukage was unstable. Obviously he couldn't be blamed, things like that needed to be done right or not at all. A simple mistake could've ruined a political meeting of such grandeur and it wouldn't have been right. That was one of those reasons why Mana hated politics.

The accident changed father so much, while Guru Ayushi had not yet arrived at the village and had not yet donated his cells for his artificial skin his burns had to be covered with bandages and those had to be changed often. The man tried to appear unchanged but it was obvious that this wasn't even true. Often after trying to lift something heavy or do some house chore the man started grunting in pain and had to sit down. The medical ninja gave him all the painkilling medical herbs but what sort of medicine could ever ease such pain?

On the bright side Mana's training with her chakra was really giving results, the girl found a way to move her chakra levels past that of what a normal genin would have. If every time she used a technique a small fraction of chakra she couldn't properly control was left over in her system she could accelerate that process - every day Mana left to the Training Grounds to fire off her techniques randomly without any target or purpose. She ran out of chakra quickly but the purpose of this training was to gather a lot of leftover chakra in her system, then every week or so the girl just intentionally bombarded the chakra system points that had the masses of chakra lurking in and let the chakra loose. It hurt a little bit and her body acted weird while overflowing with chakra but at some point it learned to adapt and work more intensely, Mana's body was fooled by thinking that this increased level of chakra was actually her natural one and started working overtime to constantly keep this level up. The magician was proud to have invented such an amazing way to train...

Finally one day her exhaustion had caught up with her, while working with sorting out the products into their separate sections at Ichiraku Ramen Mana passed out, just like Shimo had before. From what Sugemi and Shimo told her the next day - Shimo carried her home the whole way and , surprisingly to no one, a lot of time waiting for her to recover. Only when Mana's parents asked him to go home already did he decide to leave. The magician was obviously embarrassed about this event and started acting a bit strange when Shimo was around. At some point his obsession should've started look creepy even for his womanizing ways and for Mana that point was carrying her tired body home and watching her while she's out. Obviously for Sugemi it was a ton of fun, he couldn't help but laugh his butt off every time Mana refused to work at the same room as Shimo did or when she kicked him in the shin when he held door for her or playfully smacked him in the head when he was acting too nice.

"Well... I suppose two weeks of missions are more than enough, you guys each got about forty D rank missions in your record, I suppose giving you something more interesting wouldn't be too bad at this point..." Hokage one day finally got the clue. He passed a single file, Tanshu-sensei didn't look too impressed by it, but then again, he never was. Shimo looked really hyped, "C-Rank?! Hell yeah!" he shouted out loud finally letting the kunoichi read the file. As usual Sugemi never read the files, he was too into his manga. By now the magician had noticed that at times he read the same issues of manga which confused her a bit. Why would he ever read something he's read before?

The mission was quite simple but also pretty difficult for a C rank, it was almost pushing the boundaries of a C-Rank mission. Further from the Training Grounds there was a very special training ground - Forest of Death. It was filled with creatures and dangers that well justified its name. Apparently an archeologist wandering the area once found a hidden archive, he didn't have the proper gear with him to get all the scrolls back home so he just marked the spot on the map, the problem was that he was no explorer so his coordinates were all over the place. The genin squad had to go there and retrieve as many scrolls as possible from the archive before it collapsed, these historic scrolls were pretty useful for the Konohagakure Museum after all!

"This mission ain't like the others... You guys better go home and prepare, we'll meet near the village gate leading to the training grounds at sunrise. In the meanwhile read up on the animals and plants living inside the Forest of Death. It won't be your usual dogs and rodents in there." Sensei instructed the three, as the kids headed home, he stopped Mana and asked about how her father was doing. By now the magician almost forgot these two knew each other, Tanshu-sensei never came to visit like father's other friends, never played with her as a kid and never told stories over beer with other friends. Maybe he was just a loner...

"Well he's in pain but mostly OK, we're still waiting for Guru Ayushi to show to ask him for some cells for the artificial skin." Tanshu looked pretty relieved, which was surprising because he showed genuine interest in someone's wellbeing for the first time in a long while. "Well that's OK, I once had a whole muscle grown from Ayushi-san's cells, he really doesn't like giving his cells, says he left his ninja days behind and now helps through ramblings of peace, you two should talk, you'd find a lot in common, both of you are equally crazy..." he smiled at Mana, this was the first time that sensei let her ideals off as a trait and wasn't offended by them. Not knowing what to respond the girl just smiled for the man and nodded, then ran off home.

"Ahhh... Forest of Death... A pretty nasty place..." father said upon being asked about it, after Mana told him of her first C-Rank mission. "Just stay out of the water, trust me, also keep some of the explosive tags ready at all times. Don't get into sight of anyone bigger than you and don't get your guts eaten. Don't worry, Mana, you'll be fine, you've grown a lot and trained hard, you can handle it." Mana smiled and shook her head, "I'm not worried about that, I'm more worried you'll try to open the pickle jar again..." Father looked at her and it wasn't clear if he was angry at her for reminding of that painful time or if he was keeping laughter in. "Well don't worry about your old man, I served my time, now it's your generation's turn..." the man sighed, he looked really sad...

Mana didn't want to sadden father any more, she went upstairs to train and get ready. She had to pack a backpack with the most essential survival stuff and to fill her ninja tool pouch. She barely even used those in all those chores. There was that one time the team had to catch a prankster that was drawing graffiti around Konoha, cutting up people's laundry and all sorts of weird stuff, she did use a kunai to stick the buster to a wall. To be honest, Mana was more scared than the prankster - her aim was horrible so she could've easily poked an eye, even Tanshu-sensei was surprised and complimented her for not blowing it back then...

"I don't need sake, Kei! I need a medical ninja, I need painkillers!" an incredibly loud shout reached Mana from downstairs - father did something that made his arms hurt again. The girl slowly shoved her unpacked backpack and went down. She looked at mother furiously cutting cucumbers in the kitchen and father angrily wrapping his own bandages - anyone that tried to bandage their own arms with injured arms knew how pathetic it looked. The girl's face twisted with sadness. Her family used to be so happy, of course mother was a constant danger to be around with her vitality and energy and dad was complete opposite of her but...

Slowly the young magician walked down the stairs and went up to father trying to help him with his bandages but he pulled his hands from her. "Don't you have things to pack?!" he cut back at her rudely. "Dad... Stop doing this, let me help." She spoke softly but tried to sound a bit colder so that father knew how dumb he was being by closing all this pain in himself. The man sighed and let her take over, the girl gulped as looking at those burns wasn't an easy thing and she was pretty young, she hasn't seen too much messed up stuff even if she was a ninja and was bound to one day.

"What happened..." she asked as she applied the medicine on the bandages and gently rubbed it on his burnt arms letting the medicine seep in before she started bandaging the limbs. "I tried to read a newspaper... A goddamn newspaper!" father yelled out, it was obvious that pain was hurting him. "It's okay, next time I can help you with that, now sit still." Mana replied trying to focus as hard as she could on bandaging. The man sighed, it would've been a welcome change of pace if he calmed down. He obviously already pissed mother off and when she was angry she always let the person know unless it was her family - then she let the vegetables and the fish know.

"You know... Me and mom are always here, this is as much our injury as it is yours, stop bottling it all inside and then spilling it out, just listen to those slashing noises, mother is murdering the dead fish..." Mana said casually. Father's eyes sparked with anger, angered fueled by pain without a doubt but... They calmed down. "It's just... Just all new to me." Mana smiled a little, "It's okay, you'll get used to it." She tried to calm father down but with every word she said he looked more and more angry. Now he tried to move his arms around and shouted out in pain forcing the magician to remind him that she's not done yet.

"It's not that! It's when I dream I always see my arms being normal, even in my nightmares and then I wake up into an even worse version of my nightmares - my reality is more painful than my worst nightmare." Father grunted out through anger and pain, Mana had to hand it to him, he was quite honest right now, that was what she wanted from him, to share the pain. Mother burst in from the kitchen luckily she didn't have any pans of sharp objects. "So we're just a part of your worst nightmare now!?" she yelled out, father started weeping, at least Mana managed to finish the bandaging before his weeping, if she hadn't he'd be in more pain from all the shaking.

"It's not that... It's just that I don't want to talk to you guys about it, Mana is doing so great, she's pretty famous now and is going to be more famous, she's sweeping one mission after the other... You're gonna beat your old man, kid..." Mana had honestly never seen father crying, he was always her model of masculinity and seeing that model being weak actually made tears gather up in her eyes. "So... I'm to blame for that? Because your pain is growing, because you're bottling it all inside?" she uttered out with her shaking childish voice. Mana felt mother's arms around her neck and then turning her face at mother's, mother's eyes were also teary but strong. She had that certain fire that even tears couldn't remove. "Your father didn't mean it, you know he didn't, he can't think straight with all that pain and once he gets used to it I'm gonna smack him pretty good for what he said."

Father put his hand on Mana's head and stroke her hair gently, his movements were pretty sloppy and limited by what pain let him do, still it meant everything in the world, it was the best hair stroke Mana had ever had. "You know that's not what I meant, it's just that I used to be a ninja, I may not have been that awesome at it but I had fun... Now I'm just a useless loser who has to cheer on you from home, obviously that's not that bad, it's just new for me - feeling useless and broken." Mana stood up and let her father's arm slip from her head, she placed her forehead up to father's and looked him in the eyes.

"You need to find another thing that defines you, you can't live with pain being the new you, it's not who you are, it's just a part of you. You need to find another thing to call your own, something that beats the pain." Father's head started sinking down but Mana tensed her neck to hold the pressure. "And don't say that we are everything you need, that's not even true. You had your family with you this whole time and pain still torments you, you need something else." Father grunted, "I used to tinker pretty damn good... Big fat nothing that's gonna do to me now..." he said. Mana stood up and showed him her arms.

"You still have the brain, I can be your arms. When I get back from the missions you can start tinkering on all sorts of deathtraps and I'll try to escape them on the stage. It'll give you purpose and something to occupy your mind with. It'll also make a... Different part of the show..." Father stood up and hugged Mana, he then gently pushed her away and sat back down, "Alright, now go finish packing your things, you've got a big day tomorrow." Mana didn't need to be told that twice, the girl rushed up the stairs into her room and started packing again. At least for once she acted like a real daughter and helped her father out, of course changing the direction of her shows from using ninjutsu to escaping death traps she herself builds under her father's instructions is going to be weird, maybe she shouldn't change all of it and just use it as a part of her show. After all if she let ninjutsu part slip her magic would lose its point.

Next day came unexpectedly, Mana was woken up by mother gently as the woman was getting ready to go to work herself. Mother was working more hours now that father was injured and won't be working, she just hoped that Mana's double income as well as those few extra customers that visited the café in those extra hours would compensate father's part of the income. Mana didn't really know how well she did, mother kept all of her finances in her own pocket, father always joked how that was for the better - mother's fairytale native tribe was apparently pretty good with the money. That was father's excuse with everything that concerned mother - her heritage.

After the entire tirade of morning activities Mana threw on some simpler clothes, choosing to wear a simple t-shirt and a jacket on top and much more casual jeans, clothes she wasn't afraid to tear or fall in a swamp with but something that allowed her a lot of freedom of movement. The girl rushed out to the gates, luckily there weren't that many people wishing to greet her and cheer on her in the streets yet, that helped the girl get to the gate faster yet still she was the last person to get there. It was quite surprising because this was the first time that Sugemi actually earlier than he had to yet from his appearance it didn't look like he slept at all.

"Wow, all three of you look like you guys are going farming." Tanshu joked as he was wearing the same outfit he always wore. The three finally head out to the Forest of Death - to Team Oak's first C-Rank mission!
I'm gonna be Hokage! Shimo's Decision by Captain Claymore
After a short stroll lasting about a good half an hour Team Oak finally reached the fenced off training grounds with the unfortunate name of "Forest of Death". As far as first impressions were concerned to Mana the name may not have been too far off - the whole place looked like this thick and dark clump with trees growing so large and thick that inside the area there must've been little to no sunlight. There were strange sounds and smells coming off of the place, the whole grounds were surrounded by a large fence with warning signs and Mana could already see guards standing around and protecting the area.

Seeing the Forest of Death made the little magician draw a comparison between the environment found inside and the world outside the village. From what was seen so far Forest of Death was a place where the weak got no sunlight and therefore died, in addition, seeing how only the tallest and the largest got any sunlight at all it forced the trees to either grow in strength and size or perish, just like in the ninja world. The animals inside must've functioned similarly, living in survival of the fittest kind of environment. Out of everything that could've been found inside that iron cage, Mana was afraid of exposure to that sort of life the most.

"Don't worry, Mana-chan, I'll watch your back, just don't move far from me!" Shimo spoke up in a fake heroic tone, the one you heard coming from over glorified patriotic figures in historic plays. Mana's right eye twitched, she wasn't a violent girl but sometimes she just wanted to let her fists loose. She knew that outbursts of this strange gentleman behavior were common to Shimo but she still couldn't help but get annoyed every time he did it. Still, he couldn't really have been blamed - Mana's worry over the kind of harsh rules she'd see inside must've translated to him as overall fear of entry.

As Tanshu-sensei went on to speak with the guard and introduce them to the Hokage order to grant them entry, Mana thought to herself, the conclusion that she's drawn was that she wasn't afraid of entering - quite the opposite. She was excited, excited about getting to show off once in a while, excited about the chance to protect the animals from the rules of nature they lived by. After all, if she can protect a small-scale version of the world as she imagined it, wouldn't that make protecting the actual world much easier? Depending on how this would go Mana would see how she'd fare on the outside world the way she was and that excited her. Even if she failed, knowledge of failure and why it happened to her was better than no knowledge at all.

The guard of the place looked a bit strange, she wore pretty thick glasses, a baggy hat and that strange cloak that covered half of her shoulders. Observing Mana's interest in the guard Shimo once again butted in, "I think that's the protection from insect swarms or something... I guess being so close to the forest in the evenings got to be cruel - mosquitoes are probably everywhere." "Or the weaker species, insects are light and travel in packs, if they get pushed out of their habitat a fence won't stop them from leaving the Forest in search of a new spot to live in, if that happens it would suck to be in their way..." Mana replied. That did help her get to a new question - did the animals ever escape? From all the stories everyone told about this place it seemed weird that just a thick and tall fence was enough to keep them all in...

"Well, I've got entry permission. Let's just hope we don't have to stay overnight, the lady said that mosquitoes are horrible this time of year, specially round those parts." Tanshu-sensei spoke as he came back and showed them a small stamp of approved entry. The four of them all gathered around tightly and entered through the open gate. Almost the instant that the gate closed behind them total darkness enveloped everything. "Dang it, can't read anything like this..." Sugemi said, pulling out a flashlight from his backpack and turning it on in order to read the manga.

Shimo apparently got a peek into the boy's bag, "What the hell, Sugemi!? That bag is filled with manga? You brought a flashlight?! Did you bring water? Clothes? Something to make fire with?!" The Nara kept reading his magazine completely ignoring his friend, responding with ignorance and completely nonchalantly. "Nah, I figured you guys would take care of it, I just brought bunch of manga and a flashlight... I was really smart to take a flashlight, didn't really know I'd need it but I had a feeling, I guess I'm just smart up here..." Sugemi replied tapping his head several times. Mana's puny knuckle smacked him in the head, "The hell you are!" she grunted out.

Tanshu interrupted their small fight, "No, the flashlight is actually great, we can keep track of the map at all times like this." The man slid the old and torn up map onto the upper corner of Sugemi's manga and asked the boy to keep them updated, just in case he showed them where the entrance is and where they are now, right by it. Then Tanshu explained where the archive was supposed to be. "You can read your stupid manga, just keep us updated once in a while." Tanshu instructed, this behavior was strange, Mana would have never taken Tanshu-sensei as the compromising type of person. Why was her ideal the only one he couldn't compromise with?

Sugemi nodded and pointed at the direction they had to go, the three started walking that direction. The forest was incredibly hot, all those trees provided constant shade but somehow they also kept the little warm air it got inside circulating. Within the same hour they entered Mana could already smell their sweat breaking through, the problem was that Mana's nose wasn't really that sharp which meant that the animals definitely could smell it. Be it wolves, snakes, bears or whatever lived here - the four were an open menu for them and with a guide that was interested in his manga more than the marked animal migration and mating zones and river passes they could've been in trouble.

It was incredibly strange that no animals attacked them, as the squad kept walking on there was not a single animal in sight, even more - they actively tried to hide from the squad. Why was this place even called Forest of Death anyways? Once Mana looked straight up and saw a gigantic boa slithering the hell away from the four, one the size easily letting him break the bones of all four of them, the girl finally got the clue. "It's you, Tanshu-sensei, isn't it? We felt that strange killing intent first time we met you but up to now we've been around you for so long that we barely notice it. These animals however are scared of their lives and that's why no one attacks us..."

The man grinned slightly, Shimo looked really amazed, "Wow, how could one get this kind of feeling to their chakra?! I want animals and people to be crapping their pants just out of mere sight of me too, then no one will be oppressing anyone while I'm around!" the boy shot a knuckle into the sky. That was right, Shimo's objective was to become strong, strong enough so that no one oppressed people, like the Mizukage oppressed his family when he was a child, while he was around, he wanted to prevent stories like that of his family where entire families had to flee in fear of their life. In a way his objective was very much like Mana's except his objective actually had a possibility of being achieved...

"There's no way to get it, you just have to be cool, that's it..." Tanshu replied with a cocky look. "I'll let you in on a secret that'll help you get there - you actually have to visualize yourself killing the person that you're looking at, that'll give you the killer's eyes. People think that they only see what they see, but never met a man that doesn't know when I'm not itching to murder him when I am. It'll protect a lot more lives like this than stupid "care for your enemy" attitude." Tanshu also found an opportunity to bite Mana too. From Shimo's weird faces whole way since then, Mana just took that he was actually practicing the killer's stare...

Finally the four reached a pretty wide river, Sugemi barely even noticed it so he just started walking straight into it as Tanshu's strong arm gripped him by his collar and dragged his lazy butt back. The man without saying a word pulled a bag of unprepared meat using his sword and put it into water, removing it within a second only to reveal it being covered with leeches that quickly fell off. "This meat has no blood circulation but those leeches still grab onto it, at this point it's surprising how they haven't leeched off each other. Getting in there is to actively commit suicide, you'd get drained of blood in minutes." Now Mana realized father's advice of keeping out of water.

It took the squad quite some time to find a small pass, the pass in question also was several wooden boards tossed over the river, making the heart of the girl jump in her chest with every step. Tanshu-sensei of course just had to taunt them by jumping over the river. He did it with such ease that to Mana it seemed apparent that he could've simply jumped over several times carrying them on his back with just as little problem. He must've really enjoyed the fear in genin's faces as they crossed the slow streaming river begging whatever forces above that the puny boards don't break.

"We've reached the area." Sugemi unexpectedly declared after walking for just little bit more from the river. The exact location of the archive was not marked which meant that they had to explore the whole area and to find the entrance to the archive, apparently it was supposed to be a small pyramid around two or three meters tall, made from old mossy stone and strange hieroglyphs all over it. Tanshu-sensei scratched his head and had a pretty strange look on his face, "I think it'd be better if we split up, if each of us went to check one quarter of the area we'd find the place faster, I really don't plan of sharing my blood with mosquitoes at night, we'll have to finish our mission before sunset which means we got couple of hours at best."

Mana couldn't believe it, what kind of plan was that? Splitting up in a place like this? That's basically same as suicide! Sensei then made a handseal and made three clones. "These will follow you wherever you go, they'll scare the animals away so you can stop acting like scaredy-cats now." Despite the fact that Tanshu made all of those clones, the idea still seemed incredibly stupid and it appeared like sensei wanted to get them killed. Shimo looked just as displeased, Sugemi was the only one who apparently didn't care but that was most likely because he didn't understand a word sensei said over his manga. The fact that he was slobbering indicated it must've been something dirty.

"No. We can do it." Mana unexpectedly turned around on her thoughts, Shimo looked at her strange, the magician went on to explain. "We've got nothing to lose - if we find the place we find it faster than we'd do moving together, if we don't and get attacked - we'll be out of our comfort zone and have to push our abilities to survive, the thing is that it's the point of those simple missions. We need to be ready for this sort of thing. We need to be strong in order to fulfil our dreams: I need to be able to protect sensei's clone and myself if I can ever hope to protect the whole world and change it for the better, Shimo needs to be at least strong enough to fend off from some animals to see to it that the weak aren't oppressed, Sugemi, what better way is there for your manga to be written than if you tell the tale of a huge scuffle with a gigantic animal in the Forest of Death?"

Shimo grinned with full teeth and raised his fist in the air, "I get it, survival drill!" Sugemi put his manga back to his backpack and nodded. "I'm never gonna stop trying to make my chance at a manga! That is my ninja way!" Shimo turned around and looked at the western part of the forest, "Only now did I realize how dumb my goal is." he said, "If Mana-chan is there to protect the weak, of course they won't be oppressed by the strong... Then again, how can I know for sure that the people won't be oppressed by the strong, unless I'm the strong one handing out justice? From this day on, I declare my dream to be to become Hokage. I won't trust this position to anyone else but myself! Becoming Hokage is the prime way to ensure that the Kage don't oppress the people!" he declared and dashed forward into the western part of the forest after giving his team a huge confident smile with a wink.

Mana giggled, she was glad to see her teammates so inspired. She herself also headed to the one of the two directions left to cover. She wanted this - a chance to show her growth, to prove to sensei that she wasn't just a silly kid, talking about her dreams while having no strength to back it up. Deep inside the magician also knew that her teammates were the same, sure, hearing Shimo deciding to become Hokage was cheesy, every kid in the Academy had that very same dream, Sugemi's quest of getting his own manga was really silly, he kept mentioning characters from manga which Mana didn't even know existed, at least she never found them in the manga shops she checked just out of curiosity. Still, those were her teammates' silly dreams and she was going to stand with them every step of the way!

"You gotta teach me how to do that, make them do things you want them to do..." Tanshu-sensei's clone spoke from behind Mana, having followed her and kept up to her elevated pace. It was quite impressive how even his clones, after splitting sensei's chakra in several parts had that same vibe of absolute death behind them. That told a lot about sensei's strength. Mana grinned back, "It's called motivating people, all you have to do is tell them you believe in them, it helps when you actually believe in their dreams." Tanshu's clone laughed, "I do believe. I believe that Shimo might become Hokage one day, after all I was told that Fourth was just the same kind of snotty brat in the Academy, I believe Sugemi can have his own manga, if he had any actual brain in that Nara head of his he'd write one himself... What I don't believe is your dream, you're going to die or you're going to change."

This personal problem with Mana's dream confused her, why was sensei so obsessed with people that wanted to prevent death and that wanted to make people value life? Why was giving life worth some sort of heresy that needed to be changed with such rage and distrust? Maybe sensei just had someone in his life, someone who was like Mana and died before they could realize their dream. "Say... Tanshu-sensei... Why are you so angry at me? Did you have someone in your life that thought like me? Is it perso..." Mana turned back only to see that sensei was no longer there. "nal..." she finished the word as she realized how screwed she was.

Why would sensei leave her? A loud yell echoed through the forest, it didn't worry Mana because it was an intelligible "Oy" coming from the west - Shimo's location and the sound matched his voice. Sensei must've ordered his clones to abandon them, did he want them to die?! Just as Mana wondered what she was to do she heard a loud rustle, suddenly the ground itself started to bump with the smaller pebbles being thrown up just an inch and the leaves getting picked up. It was a fast and continuous burst of tremors - like a machine-gun. After just a mere moment the nearest young birch broke in half revealing a gigantic centipede behind it, it had to be at least three times Mana's size.

Somewhere west, a loud roar caught Shimo by surprise, the boy pulled a kunai out of his pouch and readied himself for a battle - the future Hokage couldn't be stopped here after all! Luckily the kunai was placed in the boy's hand just in time as a tiger far too large to be your ordinary tiger jumped out. The animal had to be the biggest species of tiger to survive in this environment and soon the big cat would test its mettle against a young ninja of Konohagakure.

To the east of Shimo's location, Sugemi kept frantically turning his flashlight around examining the floor for remnants of stone floor. His quest was cut short by a large tail wrapping around his waist and pulling him up into the tree. The Nara couldn't really tell what it was but that thing was crushing his chest and he had to escape in order to survive. Yes! This animal was just big enough to grant him enough glory for his own personal manga! This was the fight Sugemi wanted. As the large mouth of a boa appeared out of the cover of the leaves it didn't see a scared boy, it saw a genin itching for a fight with a creature that was as large as possible.

Sensei wanted to test them, they wouldn't deserve the rank of a ninja if they let their mission end here! Team Oak got ready to face their challenges!
We're no longer children! We are Ninja! by Captain Claymore
The boa tried to bite Sugemi, it was really strong and without a doubt could've crushed the body of not only a young ninja but also a strong and adult one. Luckily enough this was the kind of constrictor that applied force over time, if the snake had crushed the boy outright it would've spent more energy than he'd have gained eating that boy, surviving in such an environment was all about economy, granted, different kind of economy but pretty important one nonetheless. Being well versed in this economy the snake continued to slowly suffocate the boy instead of instantly killing him.

The boa must've also been quite hungry because it targeted Sugemi with a bite, it wasn't likely that this sort of snake would be poisonous but it wanted to draw blood so that the boy lost energy and stopped resisting faster. It was out of sheer luck that Sugemi had one of his hands free, opposing that, it was talent that had him know the art of single hand handseals. With just few quick motions, predicting the bite, Sugemi managed to pull off his "Shadow Tendrils" technique that tied around the boa's mouth with multiple tendrils while several more pushed its head into the tree.

The shock of having one's head slammed into the tree forced the snake's grip to loosen for just a second, that second however was quite enough for Sugemi to slip out of the snake's grasp. The boy quickly leapt down to the ground level using multiple branches as halfway points down. Sugemi pulled out a kunai and started carefully observing the branches above, it was quite likely that the snake had superior speed and would draw blood or capture him again but he was ready for that, the boy was already calculating his own response to an attack faster than he could see.

To the west of where Sugemi was fighting the snake, Shimo and the great tiger were circling around each other. The beast being lead by instinct and hunger instead of logic made the first leap which Shimo dodged and weaved a handseal. The powerful claws of the great cat left a scratch on Shimo's shoulder and a smaller one on his back, it didn't interrupt Shimo's jutsu however as the muddy sludge where the tiger landed turned into ice making the cat slip around powerless. Shimo leapt back and tossed a couple of kunai, he didn't really want to kill the tiger since he was so majestic and great, the boy figured that a couple of injuries would force it to flee.

As the few knives dug into the tiger's back the beast roared in pain, as it was still unable to deal with the ice it just rolled to the side several times until it got to the solid ground, the dirt and rocks on the surface he was rolling on left some more dirty and bloody marks on the tiger's large and powerful body. Unfortunately it never intended to back up. It stood right where it was, it must've been really hungry and this hunt was do or die for it. The beast had already decided to either die or follow this boy until the end of the Earth and Shimo was just to blame for falling in its sight.

Further on, Mana tossed a couple of knives at the giant centipede, trying to see just how tough its armor was and she was unpleasantly surprised - the projectiles easily bounced off of the centipede's armor and fell down on the ground. The insect started rushing at her, it was surprising how fast it was, its mandibles moved to the side, no doubt it wanted to crush Mana's body at the waist and finish her quick. The girl jumped up and weaved some handseals sending her slightly up in the air using her "Mystical Wings" technique, she landed straight on the insect's forehead and made another combination of handseals trying to send a genjutsu at the centipede's way.

If Mana was to protect her enemy by beating them without killing them she had to start with this centipede. In a path of a hero there was no next time so the girl was genuinely ready to die before killing this thing. That was Mana's way, her conviction. Sadly it appeared that a giant centipede lacked the brain centers needed to be affected by Mana's "Scary Trick Jutsu", the genjutsu in question showed the opponent a different version of events, one where Mana died, allowing the girl a quick counterattack or escape. The centipede simply cocked its head backwards hitting the magician with its horn and sending her back off its head, tumbling back on its body, then on the ground.

Mana recovered just in time to avoid an endless barrage of the centipede's feet. He didn't have a hundred of them like the common myth along children went, still, they were tough enough to leave holes in the ground and were coated with the same material that the centipede's tough skull was, had they hit her they'd have impaled her like a blade which wasn't Mana's plan at all. Despite impending death and having to fight for her life, this mission still beat washing dishes and filing... The magician rolled below the centipede to avoid the endless barrage of feet trying to crush her.

Sugemi meanwhile was getting knocked around by the constrictor, the snake decided to play with its prey and bash it around with its head, trying to knock the boy out instead of both instantly crushing it or trying to constrict him. Sugemi was quite decent at taijutsu, something most of Nara peers of his age lacked. After coughing up some blood after being tossed around the Nara pulled out an explosive note and decided to use a trick that he taught himself, used when confronting a stronger but brutish foe. As the snake's giant forehead closed in on Nara he trust his palm with an explosive note forward, relaxing the arm right at the end and letting the snake's head to transfer its force into his palm and spin him around instead of having his tense palm collide with the superior strike. There was no contest of force, just a complete transfer as the force snake gave the Nara threw him to the side helping him dodge.

Before he even got up, the Nara made a simple handseal detonating the seal. As the smoke cleared the damage became apparent, it wasn't as extensive as the boy had wanted - the snake was just a little smoky and completely dazed and confused, but very much intact. The Nara didn't want to strain his chakra reserves anymore but he had to. Just one last attack, one strong do or die. The Nara made the handseals, building up chakra inside of his body with no visual indication to it. Luckily his opponent was just going to take anything he'd throw head on, the attack wasn't something that was easy to land after all...

Shimo was barely tracking the tiger's leaps, he was using two kunai but he didn't have time to inflict any damage. He had a certain degree of bukijutsu mastery and that helped him to perfectly block every leap and paw strike that the tiger threw, sadly he couldn't counter because his hands were completely full trying to defend himself from any further injuries. There was still much that Shimo could've learned in terms of move economy, he still spent too much breath in his moves, too many unnecessary movements and that showed as he spent all of his effort just to keep himself alive.

As good as the boy was, the tiger still found many gaps in the boy's defenses, Shimo was covered with scratches and very shallow teeth marks where the tiger's bites just almost caught the boy. Any of his teammates in his place would've died but Shimo was relentlessly blocking every attack - his kunai knives were covered with scratches, the tiger was strong enough to leave scratches on steel with repeated slashes. Being so overwhelmed was really not where Shimo wanted to be, it was time that he stopped feeling sorry for this tiger. As much as the boy respected Mana's ideals (and wanted to show off to her just to be on her good side), Tanshu-sensei was right - the enemy won't feel sorry for you, you had to finish them off.

Shimo roared loudly as he allowed the tiger's claws to leave more marks but instead he dug his knives in the side of tiger's head. The spot where the tiger was aiming was non-lethal, Shimo's stabs would've been if only... If only the kunai had more reach, more powerful penetration! Now they were stuck in the muscle and barely reached the tiger's blood vessels needed to be cut. Shimo leapt in the air and performed a dropkick aiming at the kunai, the tiger roared and was sent back, not by force but by pain. Still... The beast was bleeding but it was standing. The desired blood vessels were injured but the knives were blocking the blood, they needed to be pulled out. There was no way with his injuries that Shimo could come up with that amount of strength, it would've needed a superhuman to pull those out of the tiger's steel tough muscle tissue. This was it - time to go all out and take this beast down. Shimo weaved a couple of handseals and shot his arms forward as cold icy wind blew at the tiger's direction...

The centipede was doing its best trying to get Mana out from under it - it was turning around frantically trying to leave her exposed and its fears were well justified. Its bottom spot was the soft one, Mana could already make it out that the bottom part of the centipede was unprotected and if she stabbed it with an explosive kunai she'd leave a gigantic hole in the insect's body for its primitive organs to fall out. That wasn't Mana's style. She'll find another way! With all of her puny strength the girl shot an elbow into the centipede's bottom part, it wriggled around. Strange, in the plays when heroes fought giant instects they always made the insects shriek in pain, roar or make a sound, there was none of that.

Mana quickly dived out from under the insect, threw some explosive notes in the air and made a handseal. "Friendly Gust Jutsu!" she yelled as a gust of wind drove all of the explosive notes at the insect. She activated the tags causing a chain reaction of explosions, each of which left powerful dents in the insect's body, it seemed like an explosion was the only concussive force strong enough to leave a dent in that shell. The centipede's armor cracked in many spots, there was some sort of gooey and disgusting liquid coming out of them. The centipede was wriggling around, still refusing to make a sound, it fell down on one side and wriggled around, writhed on the ground as more gooey liquid shot out. Mana was careful not to touch that, not only did she find that thing to be completely icky, but it also could've been acidic, she's read that some larger insects had acidic blood in them and acid burns were deep down in her list of things she needed in her life.

The girl sat by a tree and breathed in and out. This fight was something, she could've used sensei's help but she was a bit proud of herself. The centipede came back to life again and jumped around, trying desperately to stand up. Mana stood up and looked back at it, a true warrior would've killed it... She was told so many times that she was a disgrace and not true warrior, not a true ninja. Perhaps since she was not given the honor of being called a real ninja, she had no obligation to act like one. The magician simply walked away leaving the creature struggling to contain its own leaking goo.

Sugemi leapt forward, a hardly visible black chakra aura appeared around his body, stemming from his shadow. The technique was supposed to be a transfer of force from his Shadow Tendril technique into his body, focusing it all into a taijutsu attack, it was a bit telegraphed and couldn't be pulled out of nowhere but it pretty much doubled his striking power, it was almost like punching someone and using Shadow Tendril to hit them at the same time. The boy shouted out in pain as the strain on his body from using a large amount of chakra came to him. The Nara thrust his fist forward as it dug deep into the snake's face, stronger even than an explosive tag because the force was concentrated to one point instead of being spread in a shockwave.

The first blow was a rising strike, after the snake's head shot up in the air and started falling down, Sugemi was worried that he may not have delivered enough of a punch, he re-sparked his chakra using the same technique again, when used in combination his technique didn't cost twice that amount of chakra, since his body was still recovering from using it once it came off easier, there were still leftovers from the chakra he used before. Sugemi's fist shot forward, enhanced by his Shadow Tendril Technique. "FOR MY OWN MANGA! SHADOW FIST JUTSU!" he shouted as his last remnant of chakra blew into the snake's sensitive nostril sending it back crashing into the tree. For effect the Nara would've loved the tree to go down but nothing of the sort happened. The snake didn't rise up, the boy rushed back - he failed to find any remnants of the archive and sensei was no longer here, there was no point to hang around here any longer, especially now that his chakra reserves were almost empty.

In Shimo's front the wind circulated and formed a smaller and smaller vortex. The boy struggled to finish building up the technique but his success was moderate - the technique was really difficult as he had to use his clan's signature Ice Release but also manipulate the shape of the vortex. It didn't really work - the technique just tightened into a beam-like vortex that fired right at the tiger. Normally, the way that Shimo's brother did the technique it was supposed to completely freeze the opponent but Shimo's imperfect version only dug multiple large ice shards and either froze them onto their skin or straight out violently drove them into the enemy as knives. "Ice Wolf Technique!" Shimo roared wildly as the vortex left the tiger into an injured and whining shell of the majestic beast it once was.

It probably would've still gotten in a fighting shape. As Shimo's hands lowered he looked at the tiger, he felt really sorry about what he did to such an amazing animal... The boy walked up to it as the tiger looked at him with sorry eyes. Shimo pulled out a kunai and looked back into the tree branches, he wondered if sensei's clone was watching. "You seeing this?! We're no longer kids! We're ninja!" he yelled out and walked away. The animal should've known by the time it recovers that this was one fight that wasn't worth it. The boy just hoped that Mana or the others found the archive because his region appeared to be empty.

Mana was looking around, she had very few chances to properly explore the place since she was too interested in sensei's obsession with hating her ideals and fighting that centipede. It didn't appear like the archive was there, she figured that turning around was her best choice. It was then that she saw it - another centipede's head staring at her from the bush, no way, she had no time nor the means to fight it. She still had some chakra as her extended resources came in handy but she didn't have a technique hitting hard enough. The girl's hands quickly went through handseals forming a mass of crackling lightning above an area in front of her as the centipede tried to crush her like its predecessor lightning rods shot out of the mass and went through the centipede shocking it giving Mana enough time to bolt.

This was bad - Mana's "Magic Skewer Jutsu" was mostly harmless as it only shocked the person causing pain and left them briefly stunned in place out of sheer surprise and pain but she did literally no damage. Even more, she was running the opposite direction to where her team was, the centipede was blocking her off and forcing her to run deeper into the forest. If she kept running she'd get lost, that's even if she's lucky enough to escape this thing! Mana kept running, she heard rumbling sounds, those same almost automated thuds hitting the ground, they were getting closer and closer, that thing was about to hit her, the magician kept running forward, she had to close her eyes and clutch herself to force herself to keep running. She was almost ready for those mandibles to catch her at any moment. Except...

Her sandals met a tough ground, suddenly she heard a deafening thud and some crashing rocks, sand and dust fell on the girl's messy hair as she stroke over it several times to move it aside. Mana's curious eyes turned back only to see the centipede having his its head into an entrance of some sort - she was standing right in the archive she wanted to find! The bug was too into its chase to notice the small building that the girl ended up in and it seemed to have only one entrance which also served as an exit, the only path left not blocked with stone and centipede head was to go deeper into the underground archive. Mana sighed. At least she'll finish her mission by packing the scrolls... She's in an ancient library with all the time in the world, she was fortunate enough to love reading at least...
You're Not Perfect! Hurry to the Rescue. by Captain Claymore
Mana sighed, she was sitting on the stairs leading down to the main hall of the archives. Normally she should've went on down, taken all the scrolls and looked for a way out but she already knew there couldn't have been one. The whole place was simplistic with its architecture and the only entrance, also the only exit, was currently blocked and while she had some more explosive notes left from her last battle, those that she kept in another pouch, those could've actually taken the whole place down on her.

Currently the genin was wondering if sensei was going to help her out, after all, his clone did follow her and most likely had seen the battle. It also could've seen her moving away and then being attacked by another centipede and then entering this archive by accident. Her theory was supported by the fact that "Shadow Clone Jutsu" split ones chakra in parts, it would've been a foolishness to let the clones disappear after making them for show - there had to be another meaning to them. Tanshu-sensei must've been ready to help them out in a pinch but not before he was absolutely sure of their incoming demise. That was just the kind of man Tanshu-sensei was.

Sadly it appeared that no one was coming to rescue her. That didn't make Mana sad, it made her furious that she was about to do all the work for herself, it was a good kind of anger however. The kind of anger when mother and father don't do their own dishes and Mana has to do all of them, on one side it's annoying but on the other hand all the dishes get done anyways. The girl stood up and looked at the gigantic head blocking her exit one last time before heading downstairs into the main hall of the archive.

The stairs were pretty long, they were straight and lead anyone heading straight down, the stairs were just few degrees off of being horizontal so it took some time before they helped the explorer descend to the archive level. The whole place was just how one would imagine an ancient archive or a tomb to look, the stones were mossy and old, many bricks were loose and several fell out from behind Mana's feet when she stepped on the step. The girl was happy that the place was relatively dark, that way she had no chance of seeing the kind of insects that must've loved it here. Being not unlike other girls of her age Mana was not too fond of insects, especially ones that lived in tombs and caves, for now, it was better if they remained unseen.

Why didn't they come for her? Did something happen? What if Shimo and Sugemi got attacked too? What if one of them got hurt? Mana was a little worried about her friends even she was clearly the one in a tighter spot - this place could've been closed out from any air supplies, there was little to eat or drink except the stuff that the magician had with her. No. Mana won't rely on her team to come and bail her out, she'll go and complete her mission and if needed she'll try and blow a hole out somewhere and leave when she gets really desperate and the risk of everything falling on her head is well worth it.

Mana entered the great hall of the archive after a long and boring walk. It looked so forgotten but also so fantastic, it resembled much more of a library but whereas libraries were filled with books, this place was filled with all sorts of colorful scrolls. Some of them had insignia on them, some of the signs looked like animals or drawings or symbols, some of them looked like hieroglyphs or letters of some ancient language. Mana removed all food and water from her backpack and started loading all of the scrolls but then she thought - how does she know which scrolls to load? Normally the four of them would've had enough space to carry all the scrolls, they each had tubes that had incredible amount of space in them and each tube could carry around fifty scrolls, problem was with Mana being here alone with no hope of being saved - she'll need to be picky and pick the most worthy scrolls being moved. Obviously they can return here at any time later with Mana knowing the location but for now she'll have to at least peek into the content of the scrolls.

She had all the time in the world, last she saw the Sun was setting which meant that night was approaching. Nights in the Forest of Death were incredibly dangerous, all ninja, even higher ranking ones were advised to leave the Forest at night, because whatever creatures may have attacked them during the day, at night they were ready to feed, there were more of them and they were more dangerous. Also night wasn't ideal for most people to defend themselves in. It was well within reason that Tanshu-sensei wanted to leave before night comes, now with lower chakra reserves the Jounin will call for the team moving out, leaving Mana behind - that was the most logical solution and sensei wasn't against leaving people behind.

Imagining herself tired and hungry, low on chakra and bit bruised in a forest filled with thing wanting to kill her wasn't fun in the slightest, it may have been a smart idea to sit tight and carefully select the scrolls she'd move over the night, then move in the morning. She could spare one sleepless night... "I always wanted to have a sleepover..." the girl thought to herself ironically since she didn't have too many friends to have a sleepover with. Moving in the morning would've been way better, she may not have had Sugemi's map but finding her way in the morning beat wandering at night without competition. And so as the decision was made the young kunoichi started checking the scrolls one after the other to choose the ones she could seal and ones better left behind for a later pickup. The place could have went down during Mana's escape, if that happened the scrolls she left behind would've been lost so she had to do her best at choosing the most valuable ones. If she succeeded the mission would still be completed, after all the objective did state "as many as possible"...

There was a problem that the kunoichi didn't understand what was written in some of the scrolls, she automatically left some of the ones containing legends behind, she considered actual historic sources more important. It was quite difficult telling history from the legend, often the girl had to sit down and read everything in that scroll to better understand what was written in it. Luckily enough Mana was pretty good with history that was taught in the Academy, she also did some extra reading so placing some of those into history wasn't that hard. Some of those that the magician chose were actually legends, but those she recognized as really important as they were considered lost in time but influential to historic figures and ideas. Mana was the best person that could've possibly wandered into this archive as she was most likely the best out of her squad in history department, of course she didn't know Tanshu's degree of mastery over history but something told her that something as useless practically as history wouldn't have been much to sensei's fancy.

Then an idea came to Mana's mind - her father's top hat... If she wore her magician's uniform she could've used her father's seal to seal some more scrolls. Sadly she chose a more practical attire and while the combat situation proved that to be the right decision, now she sort of wanted to have chosen her fancy attire just so she could have saved some more scrolls. Some of the scrolls had some sort of jutsu formula inside them, they only needed one to have the scroll unsealed and making the handseals with the scroll providing a one-time use of the jutsu. Most of them were high ranking techniques, Mana wouldn't have had any chakra for them anyways even with her larger than usual reserves. "Shadow Clone Jutsu..." Mana ran through one of the scrolls, it described the process of the technique and its different variations, sadly, if the girl used even the most simple version she'd die of exhaustion shortly afterwards...

This was the most painful realization - knowing that not everything could be saved, that Mana wasn't perfect, that somewhere along the road she made the wrong choices and now she had to leave bunch of scrolls to rot here and risk having them permanently lost in time. Maybe... Maybe Tanshu-sensei wanted her here? Wanted her to know how real missions work, that she can't possibly be almighty enough to save everyone, that sometimes people have to be left behind? Except of course, the realization would be made through scrolls...

"NO!" Mana almost broke out with emotions, being closed in a relatively dark space with only her own artificial light stick she took from home to illuminate her surroundings did horrors to one's condition. "I have to... I have to save everything..." Mana grabbed her face to keep herself from crying. She had to do it, she had to at least try to do it perfectly... The magician weaved the handseal and uttered... "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" just as the scroll described. Concentrating an equal part of chakra and splitting it off of her own, making just one clone shouldn't kill her but it'll be close! With a loud poof of smoke a clone appeared, suddenly Mana felt an impulse of pain in her chest as the clone puffed into smoke again, just like it once appeared. The magician fell on the ground, she felt blood pressure around her eyes as her vision blurred and her chest was pounding trying to contain the strain from exploding her chest into a pool of blood. Mana fell on the ground, she tried to reach for the scroll extending her arm towards it, a sad and sorry "No..." came out of her before the girl passed out.

Somewhere farther away, the boys had returned to the rendezvous point and met up with Tanshu-sensei. Shimo was really angry, "What the hell, sensei!? You left us alone! We could've died!" Sugemi grinned "What's wrong? Future Hokage had trouble with some forest animals?" teasing Shimo. Tanshu looked into the leaf layer covering the sky, "It's bad, it's getting late, we got to move back, maybe we'll make it to the exit before nightfall..." Shimo and Sugemi looked around, "Where's Mana-chan? Maybe she got attacked too, maybe she's hurt?" Shimo got worried and looked at the direction where Mana headed off to when they separated. "Nope, she won her fight, she did better than the two of you did, she's actually in the archive right now which is the best place for her to be in, with a little luck she'll seal some of the scrolls and find us in the morning, we are NOT wandering this place looking for her at night." Tanshu decided and pointed at a direction that headed back to where they entered.

"Heroes from manga don't leave their friends behind." Sugemi said as he turned around and started moving towards Mana's direction. A burst of chakra came from Tanshu's direction, suddenly the air became chilling cold, both boys froze in place in fear from the sheer strength and killing intent coming off of the man. "We are heading that way." he said pointing at the entrance once more as the two boys turned around without questions and headed to where Tanshu pointed, "Yes, Sir." Sugemi added. Spirit of manga faded in the cold grip of Tanshu's killing intent.

"Man... This sucks... What if Mana-chan is hurt?" Shimo slightly peeked back at the direction he imagined the girl would be in. "It would be the most gentleman thing to do to help her out..." he added, Sugemi kept rushing through the trees, moving at a speed completely different from one they moved to the location in. Even when the boys were low on chakra sensei's orders didn't let them let up, both of them were sweating heavily and barely keeping up with their sensei and huffing heavily. It seemed that all that Tanshu was worried about was getting out of the forest until the night comes, in the forest it looked like every moment of day was night, that was one of the most scary things about this place - night just crept up on you and all sorts of creatures started hunting on you at night...

"Nah, didn't you hear what sensei said? Mana is in the archive, it's a bit weird that she went in alone but if she was in danger Tanshu-sensei would do something, the Golden Oak of Konoha the Forth Hokage would never be friends with a person who is actually a dick, right? Tanshu-sensei didn't leave us alone, from how certain he was of Mana's location and condition it seemed like he tracked us the whole way, it is possible that his clone is still watching her... Let's just wait till morning, then we can go look for her, if we die now you won't become Hokage and I won't have a manga written of my adventures, even more, Mana will be pissed at us for dying while looking for her. We'll also blow her dream away, have you forgotten? Mana's dream is to protect everyone, always."

Shimo just shut up and kept moving where sensei led the way. It took three times less the time they took to get to the river pass to get back to the entrance. The last kilometer was full of clouds of insects buzzing and trying to feast on the blood of the ninja that were foolish enough to stay in the place for so long. In addition there were strange sounds all over the place, sounds like roaring and whining, sounds of natural fight for survival going on all around them, it was clear that had Tanshu-sensei and his insane killing aura had been around to repel wild animals the boys would've long since been food. It took them their best techniques to defend against a single animal each, more than half of their chakra reserves just to fight a single hungry and desperate animal. One could not begin to imagine fighting multiple or entire packs of animals. There was howling, roaring, trees tumbling down all around the place.

Also, Tanshu's chakra, and his aura, was greatly weakened. Even with his full reserve there must've been animals brave enough to challenge even him, now when he made multiple shadow clones and kept up such inhuman pace of running for so long leading the way his chakra reserves could've been as low as being halved, if that was true that meant even more danger for the kids and himself. It didn't took a genius to realize that sensei's call was actually the right one, Shimo just hoped deep inside that if Mana is alright in there somewhere she also understands the situation and doesn't hold it against them. She was amazing enough to win against the animals of the forest and find the archive, she was smart enough to stay inside and wait overnight. She'll be OK... She must be!

The three ninja approached the exit and Tanshu banged on the gate hard. It took several minutes but finally the gate was open, there were multiple guards watching it so that no beast escaped the area. "You guys were pushing it, several more minutes and I'd have kept the door shut." the lady that let them in initially said, "Weren't there four of you? Did something happen?" she asked signaling the men to wait, "Do you need an extraction squad to go in there?" she added. Tanshu shook his head, "I've got the best man possible watching my student - myself, we'll go back in in the morning, I hope you guys have nothing against us setting up camp here till the morning?" the lady laughed, "How can I refuse you and that crazy feeling you got..." the team started putting up their tents. No one spoke too much, Sugemi and Shimo were working on the map, planning where they'd go so that they waste no time, theorizing where exactly the archive was. After a couple of hours they went to bed, sleep was integral for recovering at least some of their chakra overnight...

Next morning came almost lightning fast, the boys barely had any time to sleep. Tanshu rudely woke them up by knocking on their tents and with extreme force clashing two kunai against one another. The sound of steel clashing forced the boys awake, none of them complained, all of them felt responsible for what happened but more so about extracting their teammate they had to leave behind overnight in one of the most dangerous places in Fire Country. Sugemi whispered "If Mana is OK, I think we're good for the Chuunin exams. I mean, I heard they have a round in here, after missions like this we're ready for everything." Shimo didn't reply, this wasn't time for goofing around or small talk. The three stretched out, wasting no time and bolting forward with all the speed they as ninja could come up with right as the gate opened. Back into the Forest of Death, hoping only that the place didn't live up to its name. Tanshu-sensei looked adamant and relatively calm, the boys were quite surprised how much so.

No one doubted if he wanted to pull Mana out of this at all, both boys understood that sensei held himself responsible for their well-being, he just showed it in unique ways. "Sensei..." Shimo tried to calm him down, "It's not your fault, I know that you just tried to test us, to put us in life-threatening situation to make us grow stronger and learn, you're just that sort of a teacher." Tanshu-sensei looked back at Shimo with a rude and cold look, "Why would I be to blame? Everything is under control, as much of an idiot your teammate was, she lucked out and ended up in the best place for her to be. If she's as smart as she's shown herself to be up to now she'll have finished sealing her share of the scrolls before going to sleep last night and will be waiting for us."

Sensei was moving insanely fast - he knew exactly where the archive was because his clone followed Mana who found it yesterday. It was just as if they were racing with imaginary embodiment of death itself. "Please be OK, Mana-chan." Shimo thought to himself as the three kept moving forward.
The Story of Satsuhimasa the Spruce Princess by Captain Claymore
Small rays of light sparingly entered Mana's field of vision as her eyes slightly opened, the light from the lightstick she borrowed from her father was still barely emanating, the girl wondered just how long she could've been passed out for. This was reckless and irresponsible of her to do - to try and use such an advanced and seemingly impossible technique. Shadow Clone jutsu was classified as a B rank technique, however very few B rank shinobi used it, it simply required too much chakra. For her, a lousy genin with average skills at best to try it... She was an idiot.

Mana stroke her hair and rubbed her aching forehead, her head was pulsing with pain and she could feel exhaustion all over her body. This wasn't good, she didn't know exactly what time it could've been outside, she didn't know exactly how long she'd been passed out for. The kunoichi tried to guess, looking at how traumatized her body was, the fact that she woke up at all suggested that she just approached the limit of usable chakra, she didn't yet cross it. The genin didn't feel like her chakra had increased at all which meant that less than ten hours had passed, usually some of her chakra recovered overnight, she couldn't have been passed out for more than a couple of hours, four at the most.

The magician's hand unwillingly was raised to her mouth to contain her yawn - she was tired, her biological clock must've told her to go to sleep. No. It could've meant a great many things, maybe she's running low on air to breathe and her body was becoming desperate, Mana opened her backpack and cracked another lightstick, she had twelve of those because she assumed she'd be in total darkness in this forest the entire time, one should've worked for three to four hours, the fact that her old one was just now going dim helped the girl time her brief passing out a bit better.

As far as she could remember when she passed out it was the beginning of the night. Nights in the Forest of Death were nasty, she was probably too deep to hear any battles of animals fighting each other from down there. Mana sighed and continued her quest to read over scrolls to better evaluate them. This one looked weird, it was covered with very dull greyish shade of green, the kind of paint used was strange and had an even stranger smell to it - it must've been ancient because the paint used was natural and had a peculiar dung smell to it. Such time placement of the scroll would've proved enough for the magician to automatically consider the scroll worth saving but the girl had other ideas.

She had all the time in the world, she went through almost half of the scrolls of this place in just three to four hours. As the girl munched on a rice cake she took out of the backpack she thought - why doesn't she read anything more accurately, educate herself? After all, the scrolls were meant for the museum so they didn't have any classified information, she could have saved a couple of ryo she'd have spent for the museum ticket if she read some of those right now. She always was into history and lore and legends, maybe this was the time to enjoy this occasion and make it into an actual hobby of hers. When else will she have the time to read up? Back home she had her ninja missions, her magic shows to prepare for, she had training and tinkering with dad so that he had something to distract him from the pain. History and cooking were the two hobbies that Mana had abandoned since she started studying really hard in the Academy.

The genin finished her rice cake and cleaned her hands, she took the ancient scroll she was about to put into the sealing tube and opened it up. The smell of old paper and ink spread throughout the archive, it was amazing how this scroll avoided being munched on by rats or ruined by insects. The story inside the scroll was written very weirdly, it was written in a language that Mana could understand but it used strange endings to words that at times needed to be dropped. It took a little practice to read the story fluently but it was indeed rewarding, after peeking inside the scroll Mana realized that this scroll was from times more ancient than she initially thought - before even formation of ninja villages. With a little practice of reading the strange historic text the girl began to read.

"Back before the times when all Great Tribes united themselves under the Wood Clan's rule, before the formation of the Konohagakure or in fact any other inferior village, there were two Great Clans competing with each other. The historian would like to correct himself, there were great many clans competing but all of them were weaklings and insignificant specks of dust compared to the mighty Senju and the Garuru clans, even the highly praised Uchiha clan did not come into prominence until after Garuru clan was wiped out by the Great Vengeful One's wrath, the Uchiha clan struggled with survival as they were located deep inside Garuru lands, with every step they took the Garuru constantly attacked and raided any settlements that the Uchiha tried to make, keeping the Raven Haired Ones as wandering tribesmen with no place to call home. Had the Garuru not existed, it indeed would have been the Uchiha that would've competed with the unchallenged might of the Wood Users.

As it is known, the times were hard, the ninja preferred to wander the endless forests and wilderness as settling down meant that one was open to their rivals to invade, the clans were constantly on the move, training and honing their skill as skill literally meant survival. Strength was and is everything and the historian would like to remind that strength is still essential even at this time of Great Settlements. It is in such hardship that amazing strength was bred, strength as that of Great Princess Satsuhimasa and her beloved Omaru. Their love was as great as their power as no blade could rival the strength of Great Princess' Spruce Wood Release and Omaru's Black Wood Release.

It is a very well-known fact which the historian would like to hammer home, Princess Satsuhimasa was the most beautiful maiden of all that have been, are and indeed will be. Her beauty made every man lose their cool and, in fact, many clans were tempted to even breed with the Fairest Princess, even if she was not of their blood, just because her beauty and strength was so superior to everything else in comparison that her children were supposed to be children of Gods themselves. Many fools lost their lives trying to prove themselves to the Mighty but Gorgeous Satsuhimasa, many more got lost and died as the Great Princess of the Spruce left her signature Spruce Mokuton that spread illusions of such strength that even men that realized they were being Princess' playthings could not dispel the illusions because they lacked the power to break them, doomed eternally to wander the dreams given to them by the Princess they were instead.

Only one man was powerful enough to avoid being trapped in inescapable illusions of the Amazing Princess. The man was smart for he knew perfectly that if the White Spruce Princess would have wished, that if he fell for her illusions for just a moment he'd be standing there dazed until his demise. He'd have been dead, he knew that she was well aware of his venture and perhaps smitten by his own looks in a moment of weakness or his amazing power that rivaled that of Black Senju Omaru himself. It could've been that the heir of the Garuru clan - Maramo was that powerful as to avoid being charmed by the endless spruce forests, perhaps the Princess was merciful on him herself, and so the heir of the Pitiful Wolves ended up right at Senju tribe's doorstep and in the night kidnapped the Mighty Princess.

Perhaps this historian is foolish to call that kidnapping for the Princess could have hung the Despicable Maramo's guts all over her forest dyeing her spruces blood red had she wanted, it must've been truly a moment of charmed weakness as the Princess did not oppose Maramo's attempts who kidnapped her from Omaru. He brought her to his home - the Garuru caves where the two lived for a while surrounded by the Savage Garuru clansmen. The Gorgeous Sovereign of the Trees decided to build a superior home for the savages and made a gigantic spruce tree that split their cave and formed a fort of wood and stone, a real place that the Garuru could call home. Many rival weakling clans tried to set it ablaze, destroy it with any pitiful means they knew but Satsuhimasa's spruce was inflammable and immune to any sort of known destruction. She truly was the greatest.

It is argued whether Princess was charmed or forced, some say she never loved her cousin Omaru at all and truly loved the Garuru Spawn Maramo those "scholars" this historian would like to put on a pike. The fact was that the Princess lived seemingly happy with the Savage Garuru and helped them grow stronger and wiser, making them for the first time able to truly compete with the Almighty Senju. Their foolish luck however was not infinite as the Just Omaru finally caught up to the Garuru clan and slaughtered every single one of the Great Pathetic Savages Inferior to The Mighty Senju in Every Way Imaginable. The true desires of Satsuhimasa remain unknown for the Princess was under a vow to never harm her own people, for that reason she aided no side in this war, it is unknown which side the Princess considered her people (but this historian is pretty sure it's the Best Ever Senju, for sure!).

What followed next must've been another act of brief madness, as the Mighty and Beautiful Satsuhimasa appeared to be stricken with grief and declared that Senju were no longer her people. Seeing as her sons from living with the Garuru were spared, she ordered her sons to wipe the Earth clean of the tyrannical Senju. Her sons with the aid of her Mightiest mother killed every Senju present in the war, only those weak and sickly left behind survived Satsuhimasa's wrath. The Princess cut off Omaru's head and heads of each of his generals herself, defeating all of them together herself and buried them into the ground, crushing them herself, she then ordered her son to burn this ground until nothing can grow there for a million centuries. It was on that day that the wasteland later to become Lightning Country appeared from the forest that covered the entire land. It seemed as if Earth itself began to cry as around that land it started to snow eternally, this historian is sure that it is snowing even now around the wasteland this transpired in.

The Powerful but Merciful Princess returned to the Senju and gave them a choice - live under her Merciful and Loving wing as her children or to meet the fate of their warriors, Senju demonstrated their eternal wisdom by joining the Princess and becoming her children. Princess continued to make more children by killing any warriors that came to conquer the "weakened" Senju and making them her children as well, it was then that the mighty White Spruce Princess of the World became a Queen. Satsuhimasa began building an actual settlement in a place she found warm and welcoming, murdering any clans that tried to raze that "village" she was building or forcing them to join her as her children. Even the Uchiha and their mightiest Yosuke proved to be no match to the mighty Satsuhimasa and decided to retreat from the Spruce Queen's land and settle in the rocky wasteland on the graves of the old Senju and Garuru."

Mana closed the scroll as that was where it ended. It was apparently describing events transpiring in the pre-village period. It was quite clear that the historian describing the events was a Senju or at least wrote under their command or rule and he did appear a bit biased towards them. The girl couldn't help but admire some of the Princess Satsuhimasa's work and feats, some of the things she did were really cruel though. She must've been a lot like Mana at some point. There was a lot that the kunoichi could take from this historic woman but... If Mana's ideals belonged to Satsuhimasa the girl would've failed - Satsuhimasa dealt with her enemies with cruelty and had her own kind of justice. And yet she was the person that history praised as an icon of strength, beauty and justice. Princess lived in immeasurably more cruel times than Mana did but if she had to resort to such means to achieve peace that meant that Mana really was as foolish as Tanshu made her out to be, her real fate really was to fail... Either by dying while trying to keep peace or by killing someone and forsaking her ideals.

It was clear that this wasn't the end of the story, the story described the end of the Great Wandering Period and the beginning of the Settlement period, the events described could've transpired as much as five hundred if not more years ago, it spoke of clans like the Uchiha who were incredibly rare these days, if they lost the war against Satsuhimasa it'd explain why, and Garuru that were long since dead. The Garuru clan was a clan of wandering warriors that lived by their fists and swords and built their small camps from what they looted and plundered. Had they existed today they'd have been Mana's prime opponents purely due to their ways as compared to her nindo. The magician desperately tried to find the scroll that spoke of later events, she needed to know about Satsuhimasa more, the young one had to know how the Princess lived her later life, if she achieved true eternal peace and if she changed at all after finding the village. The First Hokage was not Satsuhimasa so the magician was very interested to know why and why she was forgotten and no one ever taught about the woman in the Academy.

It took a while to find the right scroll, one that had similar smell and look to it, this one was purple, purple was a regal color. Maybe the scroll was written by the orders of a person in charge. Maybe it was only accessible to noble and rich people, from what the kunoichi knew of history that was and to some extent is the case, only ninja, samurai or Daimyo themselves cared enough to educate themselves of history, ordinary people just tried to get by and cared much more of the world there and then. Mana wondered if the scrolls were maybe fictional, containing a legend or a myth that explained how things came to be but the period described was too recent for it to be a myth. It had to be either true, or at least the version that the officials wanted everyone to know and there was no way to know any other versions form where Mana was stuck in at the moment.

The girl finished sealing the scrolls, keeping that specific scroll on the top of the tube, putting many more inside of her clothes, taking off her jacket and forming an improvised bag to put a lot more scrolls into it. She saved as many as twice the amount one person could save. There were no false hopes - if someone tried to move that centipede near the entrance the chances were that the archive would collapse on itself, it was fragile to begin with and it was a miracle that it didn't collapse when the damned thing headbutted the place to begin with. This was as good as she could save, she'll have to finish reading the story on her way home. The girl's strained and tired eyes were shooting off tears as she yawned and tossed her jacket-bag over her shoulder. She still had to figure out how to get out herself. The rice cakes she ate in the morning over the story were her last. Mana would rather get squished by a rock than eat a giant cockroach or a rat, especially since she had very limited ways of preparing them, she had no way of making a fire so she'd be eating them raw. Even the idea of that almost made the girl puke, in addition to that water was running low after just one night too.

Mana ascended the stairs, she fell down and bumped the knee a couple of times, the scrolls were really heavy and she was really tired from collapsing last night and not getting proper sleep. The kunoichi approached the giant centipede head that was blocking the exit, when she was reading the story an idea kept squirming around her head but the girl was very hesitant to try it, knowing what it was, no one could blame her. Mana took one of the few remaining note tags from her pocket and stuck it on the center of the crack in the centipede's head shell, then another, then the third. This was going to be disgusting... After getting clear and asking whatever supernatural force was watching over her that this whole place didn't go down on her, the girl made a handseal and heard a myriad of sounds: a crack of the armored shell, sound of crumbling rocks and the sound she wanted to hear the most - centipede goo falling on the floor.

Mana raced upstairs with all the additional scrolls on her shoulder, falling once again only to stand up, the whole place was slowly coming down, not the hall but just the entrance and the staircase, so far only few rocks fell down but after it loosened the magician suspected the rest to follow! Without stopping to even question what she was doing the girl leapt inside the hole in the centipede's head. Warm and icky centipede goo greeted her trying to get inside every orifice she had. Mana literally almost swam forward, the goo was too thick to swim in but when she kicked around she could still move forward. The magician tried to dig her way to the right, the centipede fell to the side after bumping so right was where she knew there was a weak spot, with a swift slash with her kunai the spot opened.

Almost instantly the shot of insect guts and goo shot out throwing Mana out through the side on the grass, the girl coughed up and then threw up - this was the worst idea she had ever had. Mana wiped her eyes and peeked over the jacket-bag, her jacket was ruined forever but she was lucky that the goo wasn't acidic as she had suspected before, while her jacket was indeed ruined the scrolls were just barely wet and could've still been saved to be of reading condition. It was only then when Mana noticed three surprised faces staring at her, even Tanshu-sensei who was usually quite composed now couldn't contain his surprise.

"Mana-chan... That... Was... Awesome!" Shimo yelled out overcoming his surprise. Mana stroke her hair removing more goo off of it, "You're not the one stuck with centipede goo all over you with no water source around that isn't filled with life threatening amount of leeches." Mana replied spitting some of the goo out and blowing some out of her nose.
Mysterious Power - Samsara! by Captain Claymore
After catching up with the situation, both briefing her team about what happened and getting briefed by what they were doing it was time to think of what to do further. There were still a lot of scrolls inside the archive, Mana barely moved half of them out and while the mission was completed in theory it would've been nice to salvage everything. Tanshu kneeled on the ground and placed his hand on it, his eyes closed and he concentrated hard. Moments later his eyes shot open and he stood up, "The archive room is blocked off, the whole corridor is covered with stone blocks, if we tried to dig our way into the archive itself we'd risk to cave it in as well, our mission here is done, extracting those other scrolls requires ninja that specialize in salvaging. It might even prove to be a B rank mission... It's above our paygrade, let's go home."

"That was impressive, sensei, how did you do it?" Shimo inquired, Tanshu started slowly moving towards the entrance and at the same time the exit from the forest, "It's an Earth Release technique, I'm sure the specifics would bore you, it's useful when your enemy is hiding underground or looking for bunkers or something." The man's answer was short and swift to cut the chat down as an axe. Mana was really uncomfortable with moving covered with gooey slime and centipede innards, Sugemi giggled into his fist, "Don't worry, you can wash in the training grounds after we leave the forest, getting into the leech infested waters isn't worth it."

It didn't take much time for the team to seal the scrolls Mana salvaged into their own sealing tubes. The magician unsealed some of the tubes she had because she sealed above the recommended limit and didn't want for them to suffer any damage, she also gave her team the gooey scrolls she salvaged from the archive, the three cleaned them up a bit using cloth and their own clothes and then sealed them with the others. It was almost miraculous how well the scrolls took a dip into centipede goo. Finally it was time to move out with their first C-Rank mission being completed. It definitely felt like a real mission, thanks to Tanshu-sensei who decided to test them in the middle of the mission...

Obviously he meant well, a mission such as this one could've been failed, it was just a simple C-Rank mission so he wasn't too wrong to use it as another training drill. It still would've been nice for him to ask for their opinion or warn the three before just leaving them alone in the wild to fight off various creatures that lived here, that was the part of the Chuunin exam, there was a fair chance that they would've failed having just finished Academy weeks ago. The trip back to the entrance was going way faster than the first trip from the entrance to the archive, no one stopped to rest, everyone just kept moving. They must've felt bad for Mana and wanted her to get a chance to wash the goo off as fast as possible.

Mana looked at Tanshu-sensei and caught up to him, doing so was not easy as sensei's speed was incredible. "Sensei... I found a scroll in there, I'd like to finish reading it before I seal it, is that OK?" Tanshu grunted, "Fine, as long as you don't fall behind too much, do whatever you want." It was quite obvious that he didn't care. The girl slowed down a little to remove the scroll she kept under her clothes, as close to her skin as she could because she wanted to save it the goo treatment most of all. It was another scroll, one containing another story of Princess Satsuhimasa, one that let Mana know just how the whole thing went and what kind of life the Princess led later on. The scroll did not follow up on the first one, it took place many years later, right after the village was built so it could've been close to fifty if not a full century later. The magician opened the scroll, reading it was troublesome because she still had to watch out for obstacles with her quick pace, it took a bit longer to read than the other one but at least this time she had a bit more light...

"After the Gigantic Battle against the Moon Clan, the planet itself was injured, eternal rains and meteor showers were constant, it rained acid itself and the sky was black. Princess Satsuhimasa was injured, furthermore, it pained her heart that a simple proposal from King of the Moon devolved to a battle that put the fate of the entire world at risk. Great sickness plagued her heart, seeing the results of her battle, the countless deaths of her people and pain in the hearts of her children poisoned her every day as the Princess' condition deteriorated rapidly. Something had to be done, even the strongest medical ninja, even those tutored by Satsuhimasa herself could not cure her sadness and sickness as it appeared one was the reason of the other. And so the child of Yosuke Uchiha and Satsuhimasa - Satsumaru decided to leave the village and cure his mother's condition.

There were many difficulties in the path of the young one, namely his own youth and inexperience, while Son of the Spruce Queen was one of the most powerful people in the world, truly worth his title of "Demigod of Ninja" he acquired by simply being born, he was silly and naïve. The poor boy did not understand his mother's condition, he did not understand that it was not caused by her injuries fighting the Moon People but instead by the destruction and death of her own children. And so the child left to find "Samsara" - the mystical force of rebirth that could aid his mother and bring her back to life. Knowing little of the true problem that ailed his mother, knowing even less of the fact that "Samsara" was just a tale his mother told him before bed. The boy believed that "Samsara" must've existed and that it was the only thing to help his mother.

The cause of the cataclysms that slowly destroyed the planet was of course the destruction of the Moon People's home. This historian would like to remind the reader that in order to overcome the overwhelming force of the Moon People, Merciful Satsuhimasa had to use her indestructible Spruce Wood Release to shatter the Moon itself to small bits, it appeared that it was the Moon itself that was showering the Earth causing destruction to the world, even more, even in her deathbed Satsuhimasa had gathered many foes, even the Uchiha that fought beside her that governed the Lightning Country, even the Sabaku clan that governed the Wind Country and all the others that fought beside the Merciful one to repel the invasion of the Moon People now craved her death. They took the ailment of the Great One as a chance to finally get rid of one that had beaten every single one of them before as well as with her overwhelming power had achieved World Peace threatening with destruction of the ones that broke it.

Wandering the inhospitable lands of the world Satsumaru survived the meteor showers, the magma gazers and even the poisonous air as he was indeed his mother's son of incredible vitality. Once his journeys brought him to the Lightning Country he overheard the plot to kill his mother and was forced to return back home to Konohagakure without "Samsara", the stress and grief over his mother's illness caused a new power to awaken inside of the boy, one of his father's Crimson Eyes. As much as the boy tried to use this power to save his mother's life, they were only good for destruction, the complete opposite of what his Senju inheritance was.

Enraged by everyone turning on his mother Satsumaru and his father moved the Sick Princess outside the village, wandering the Fire Country trying to figure out just what "Samsara" exactly was. On their way the family wandered into the Fire Temple where the monks resided, the monks were a peaceful kind however they refused to let the family in, claiming instead that it was Satsuhimasa herself who was to blame for this. The monks revealed to the family an ancient pact made by the ancestors of not only all ninja, but all people in general. Pact that was supposed to establish peace between the Sky Clan and the Earth Clan - the descendants of the First People and fathers of all other clans. A whole new place to call home - the Moon was created by the last descendant of the First People. The Sky Clan was given Moon to rule and live on as they please, the Earth Clan was left on Earth and as assurance that the pact was not broken a law was established inside of a seal - ones could not exist without the others, without Earth the Moon would've been flung to oblivion inside Eternal Darkness killing every single one of the Sky Clan, if the Moon was destroyed the World would've been thrown off balance by eliminating seals placed inside the Moon, unsealing the terrifying power of the First People which would eventually kill all Earth Clan people as well.

That revelation was what the family needed, Satsuhimasa rose from her deathbed and raised her hands at the sky. Blood shot out from her eyes - bloody tears of grief of what she had done, blood shot out of her nose - payment for the poisonous air she caused everyone to breathe, blood shot out of her mouth - punishment for the words she spoke when she made the Spruce that split the sky. As the Princess shouted in pain - giant roots reached up to one another and put the shattered Moon together. It seemed that Princess endless lifeforce flowed through the wood of her Spruce creating a new Moon, held together by her grief, by her penance and love. As this final action was over, the hearts of the monks softened - they let the family in. Little too late, sadly, as right after the jutsu ended Satsuhimasa fell down dead in an expression of endless bliss and love - she fixed the mistake her rage and violence caused and saved everyone.

Satsumaru was overcome with rage and grief, the boy fell on his knees yelling in pain as the tension and blood pumping through his steel-hard veins burst not unlike that of his mother's before. However his blood was different, not blood of penance and death but blood of justice and rebirth - Samsara itself flowed through the boy's eyes as by extending his hand over his mother a hellish spawn appeared behind her, a Gate of Samsara itself, opening his mouth and releasing her soul which he had claimed and returning the woman to life. Not only that, as another pact of peace, the son returned to life every Moon Clan who died in the war against the Shinobi Alliance, sadly he could not bring back the people of Earth that died in the war. It was a testament of the Moon Clan respecting and fearing the power of Spruce Queen and her son that they did not invade again up to this day, respecting the terms of Satsumaru's Peace and having been reminded of the meaning behind the pact that the First People made.

Despite a happy ending, Konohagakure did not see it that way, while the people praised Satsuhimasa for her accomplishment in fixing faults her own violence had caused, many people died in the cataclysms that followed the Sky-Land War after Satsuhimasa destroyed the Moon. People also did not understand why the Son of the Queen raised the Moon People back from the dead and not their own. She was not even considered for the title of the First Shadow of the Fire - the First Hokage, also people were angry and afraid that a colossal Spruce Tree still connected Earth and Moon as they were afraid that the Moon Clan will invade again using it as a bridge between worlds. Having been recently revived by the Samsara that flowed through her son's eyes, Satsuhimasa was far too weak to fix the tree so her husband Yosuke decided to seal the tree of pure chakra that connected Moon and Earth into an animal - a protector of this world, inheritor of their will. Sadly the power of the World Spruce was too great for one animal, creating the monstrous Ten Tails as the chakra of the Worlds' tree overtook the beast and shifted it into the twisted form of the Ten Tails, it was said to be so horrible that common people that saw the beast in the distance went blind and that its existence itself was causing the planet as much harm as the cataclysms from breaking the will of the First People caused before.

Yosuke then split the Ten Tails into nine beasts, something that proved to be just as wrong as the beasts started rampaging over the ninja villages. It took the combined might of all three: resurrected Satsuhimasa, Yosuke Uchiha and Satsumaru to defeat all nine and seal them into people they deemed powerful enough to restrain the powers of the beasts but also righteous enough to resist their tempting influence as the beasts wished every moment to break loose and rampage. It is unknown why the Tailed Beasts are so violent, maybe they are sad that they no longer connect Moon and Earth, being confined to only one and long the other, maybe Yosuke's seal instilled inside of them some of the disgusting Uchiha malice. This historian cannot tell, but this is the nature upon which the beasts and their carriers, the Jinchuuriki came to be. Satsuhimasa and her family left the village after seeing the villagers treat the Jinchuuriki, the bridges that connect Earth and Moon, the will of their son Satsumaru of the Samsara, with fear, disrespect and spite, as if they embodied the destruction which the Moon Clan brought upon this world, as if they caused the cataclysms that claimed millions of lives, as if they embodied the rampages and destruction caused by the Juubi and the Tailed Beasts. It is unknown what happened to the Spruce Queen and her family, where they went or what they did, soon enough history forgot them which was why this scroll was written, so that their story is never forgotten."

And so the story ended, the last and final scroll of the Satsuhimasa and her family. There were so many new things which Mana did not understand: the eyes of Uchiha clan, the mysterious Samsara, the Tailed Beasts and the Jinchuuriki that carried them inside of them. The team finally arrived near the exit from the Forest of Death and as the gates opened letting the team through Mana handed the scroll silently to Tanshu. The man gently pushed it against the open tube as the chakra consumed and sealed it inside just like the other scrolls. "Oh, thank God you are OK!" the woman guard rejoiced seeing Mana, the woman then looked at the goo which the girl was soaking with and pinched her nose.

As the girl rushed to the training grounds it was revealed that they were all occupied making it impossible for Mana to bathe in there. Tanshu grunted and took a towel out of his backpack surprising all of the team. "You had a towel? All this time?!" Shimo yelled out, "I didn't want it messed up by the goo if Mana could bathe after leaving the Forest, I took it because I was certain that Sugemi would jump in the water and get leeched out in which case I'd need to carry him around but also he'd need a towel..." the man shrugged. Sugemi looked almost offended for a moment but then looking at his teammates he realized that Tanshu's prediction wasn't that far off.

With all being said, Mana took the towel and wiped as much goo as she could, Tanshu-sensei refused to have the towel back. It was understandable. "Consider it a gift, if you can wash it afterwards that is..." the man grunted. After the problem of Mana's condition was dealt with the team headed towards the village gate, the guards smiled looking at Mana still smelly and looking pretty funny, the girl had to note that usually people came to talk to her because of her fame as a magician, speak to her or cheer on her, now they clearly wanted to but then reconsidered halfway and turned around. The girl just sighed, it couldn't be helped really having her smell and funny look in mind, one couldn't just wash swimming in centipede guts away. Knowing her mother she'll be laughed at whole week...

"I'm going to give the debriefing to the Hokage, you guys can run off home, it was a pretty crazy couple of days." Tanshu spoke as Shimo and Sugemi said their "See you tomorrows" and ran off. As Mana turned around to head home she felt Tanshu's hand on her shoulder. "Your will to stand by your nindo is strong. I'll give you a chance and cut you some slack, I've told you many times that you'll fail, I'll just leave it up to you to realize it yourself one day, hopefully not before your untimely death, you're a good kid." The man spoke after turning around and heading home, after a couple of steps the man raised two fingers into the sky "You see what you three are doing? Making me soft here... Whatever." He said as the man slowly walked away and disappeared into the crowd. Mana's shocked face quickly changed into a smile that kept growing wider and wider and wider and then burst into a soft and gentle laughter before the girl also turned around and ran off home.

The very first moment she entered home she heard her parents rushing to welcome her before her mother got to see her. The woman's cheeks inflated as she tried to contain laughter, Mana's mood quickly turned sour, "Centipede goo?" her father asked while smiling, Mana nodded feeling a bit confused, Mana's mother finally couldn't help it and burst into a fit of laughter, just after finally regaining control of herself the woman added, "Like father, like daughter..." implying that father also had something similar happen to him. That was a story for another time however as Mana had to hurry up to finally get a bath. That was the most refreshing and pleasing baths the girl has ever had. After she washed the smell of the forest away and changed clothes the magician rushed to the living room and dropped onto the couch,

"So what was that with father and centipede goo?!"
Konoha's Sorceress by Captain Claymore
The first week after the mission was completely free of missions, not even the usual D-rank chore-missions were anywhere to be heard of. It seemed as if like the Hokage gave the team some time to recover from the mission and to train a little bit. Given the mission debriefing it wasn't too tough to see why, all three of the genin had some minor scratches and injuries from fighting off animals that were meant to test genin worth becoming chūnin, obviously those guys fought the animals off in greater quantities but Team Oak lacked the battlefield experience that their examined counterparts had.

One morning Mana received a letter, one that she simply assumed that her teammates also got at about the same time as she did. It was from Tanshu-sensei and it instructed that they met up that very same day, it was strange that the meeting time was so late, luckily the magician had her magic show last night so entertaining time won't clash with her training. She did promise father to finish working on that spiked coffin device that day, that'd have had to wait until at least later that evening. It was alright, father wasn't the type of man that went to bed early. Mana had been doing plenty of her own training as well, she kept meditating and trying to improve her chakra levels, she kept trying to improve her physical condition and become more agile as well.

One thing that the genin tried to achieve with her training was to become more nimble and to improve her reaction time. Being able to be in complete control of the attacks of her enemies and to be able to dodge them since she served the role of a glass cannon in her team. She was supposed to be the main secret weapon using genjutsu and ninjutsu of not one but two elemental natures which was rare among genin, that being said, it wasn't like her ninjutsu was particularly powerful either... There were so many things to improve and Tanshu-sensei was going to notice all of them in the evening. He most likely was going to ask Hokage for another C-rank mission which was why he wanted to meet up and train the team a bit more.

The last mission to find the hidden ancient archive helped Mana to remind herself of her passion for history and lore. The magician started reading out in the Konohagakure Library every week, finding time between training and magic shows was not easy but once in a while an occasion revealed itself and Mana could enjoy a couple of hours reading about history. There were a lot of interesting things to be discovered, names and the abilities of all the past Hokage, tales of mystical ancient items that were hidden all around the world, stories of legendary ninja and their mythical deeds and achievements. Mana was too shy to even dream of ever being described in books and scrolls similar to those she read...

The magician spent the entire first half of the day training, focusing her chakra control and meditating, also working out. She knew it was hopeless having her goal to impress sensei in mind, Tanshu was a strict teacher, despite how much she would train he'd still find things of hers to exploit and scold her for, even if he did promise to give her a shot with her nindo and stopped trying to change it so actively. Her performance in the last mission must've convinced the man that she was every bit an equal of her two teammates, even Shimo who received astounding grades and recommendations in the Academy despite looking or acting nothing like the typical perfect grader. Shimo wasn't arrogant or even that awkward socially, quite the opposite he was pretty energetic and headstrong, it took a headstrong person to declare that he'd become Hokage one day.

Sugemi also proved to be different than the first impressions would make one believe, he was goofy and kept messing around with his manga, talking some strange nonsensical things about everything being manga clichés and even referencing manga that Mana was sure didn't even exist. But when he stopped loafing around he was a pretty strong and kind fellow with a big dream, in a way his dream could be described as a wish of being acknowledged, the desire to be noted as important, to prove one's existence and earn respect. This was a noble dream, one Mana was ready to support, in a world where people's lives were considered expendable.

As the evening approached, Mana head out to the Academy, sensei asked the team to meet by the entrance to the Academy which was an odd spot to ask for a meeting. Maybe he wanted to do some more bonding exercises? Ask some questions or something? Maybe he got fond of the three brats and decided to tell them something about his past? Who was Mana kidding, that'd never happen, Tanshu was secretly a good-willed person but he never showed that side of him because that side was irrelevant to him, all he wanted himself and everyone else to see was the ninja, the undefeatable warrior that could take lives faster and more efficiently than everybody around him. That was who he was, Tanshu, or as father at times called him "Red Dog Tanshu", Mana wasn't sure where that nickname came from, must've been something from when her father worked with the man...

People spotted her from over the other side of the path and walked up to greet her, must've been because of her attire, having once found herself without her hat which had her father's seal in it, Mana tried to incorporate it into even her combat attire. She didn't have to try too hard, just modify the materials of her magician's uniform to make it a bit less stretchy and more comfortable, she was in luck that mother was such a good sewing teacher. That way she could have one super uncomfortable but fancy looking version and one more simple and less impressive albeit much more stretchy. It was obvious that she was overdressing but Mana was that kind of person, it was important for her to look good as often as she could because she was an artist and had to uphold an image of an artist, it was really shameful for her to run around covered with centipede goo for that very reason. Even the final result was not as good of an attire as an actually comfortable combat attire would've been, that was irrelevant, in terms of physical combat Mana was already barely keeping up with her peers, if fighting ever got up close she'd go down even with the most comfortable clothes in the known universe if she barely had enough skills to keep up with genin level taijutsu. At least next time she'll need to seal something into her hat or keep some item safe she'll have the solution on her head. Father's seal cost a lot of chakra to use but it was better than having nothing at all.

Tanshu sensei was waiting alone, it proved pretty weird to Mana as she was late over all the people that came up to talk to her and ask when the next show was going to be. She really had to reserve some more time, stage magic was an unusual thing in Konoha and the Shinobi World, there were more and more people that got charmed by how silly and unusual using ninjutsu for stage magic and cheap tricks was. Mana was growing in popularity, she was probably the first ninja in the world whose face was known, the young kunoichi was also the first that didn't kill. Most people just took it as something proving the girl's lack of skill or her childish naivete. No one yet saw it as evolution of what being ninja truly meant, that was something Mana had to change in people, to prove her own point.

"Good evening, where is everybody? Am I THAT late that everyone went home already?" Mana asked trying to alleviate her terrible sense of time with an even more terrible joke, Tanshu sighed and shook his head. "Nope, I gave each of you different times because I wanted to work with each of you individually. I'll be leaving pretty soon and you guys will have a C-Rank mission on your hands without my supervision, it'll be a chance to truly prove yourselves and if you do I'll recommend you guys for Chuunin exams, you'll have your butts kicked but it'll be a good experience, losing always teaches a lot of things." Mana smiled, "Have you ever lost, sensei?" Tanshu pouted almost like a child but then looked up into the sky, as if remembering good times of his past, "Yeah, once, it was the thing that taught me the most in my life and I've been through some crazy things." he answered and then stood up from the stairs he'd been sitting on. "Let's move to the training grounds then..." he said calmly.

Walking through the village with Tanshu-sensei was weird, true, significantly less now that he didn't act like he would've liked to strangle her with her own guts but still, pretty weird. He was a very chill and anti-social kind of person, he constantly looked angry and disappointed in everything, always bored by everything that surrounded him and had that unimpressed look on his face so it was hard to talk to him about anything. Mana was a kind girl so she would still always try... "So... Is it OK if I asked where you'll be leaving? Is it some high ranking mission?" she asked with some amount of fear behind her voice, she expected Tanshu to rudely beat her down vocally saying it was none of her business or something like that but he sighed and scratched the back of his head. "Five Kage Summit. It's about that Kirigakure situation, about all those ninja of ours that disappeared around Kirigakure borders and the ambush of the squad your father was in near our own borders. Howoku rushed the process and called everyone early - he'll ask the Five Kage Council to remove the Mizukage and change him with a successor."

Mana stayed silent for a while, she expected the Summit to come in six months, just like the rumors said but it seemed like the Hokage was in a mood to get his justice done faster. Hokage Howoku was well known throughout the world, he was just a middle aged man but he managed to gain trust of the entire village and even the entire Konohagakure council, he was young for a leader and had new and revolutionary ideas of peace and lived under the ideal that the Ninja Countries could live in harmony and maintain peace. He was not entirely a pacifist, he was quite energetic and in a hurry to punish any wrongdoings of any missing ninja or other ninja villages. Once he himself left to pursue a missing ninja that killed a genin just outside the village borders, it was said that the Fourth killed the missing ninja himself. He had many titles but one that Mana liked the most was the White Star of Konoha. She didn't know what it meant but names like that had different meanings to everyone that heard it. To Mana it meant just what it sounded like - a star in the sky, an obelisk of light to look up to and a powerful source of light and justice that incinerates any evil.

After Mana and Tanshu arrived to the training ground the man took a couple of steps back and placed his hand on the handle of his katana, a sword that Mana had not yet even seen sensei draw despite having it most of the time with him. "Attack me, know that I will defend myself and punish foolishness." Sensei said, Mana was not sure what it meant. If he was going to leave soon then why was he so desperate to train her? Was he going to train her overnight? Why would he choose such a light training routine, it was the sort of training one would choose if they had plenty of time. Mana's hands went through handseals, her familiarity with handseals over the magic shows where she used ninjutsu allowed the speed of her hands to transcend any genin and rival even that of ninja from higher ranks, Mana's sleight of hand was an advantage when things came down to handseal speed. The girl opened her eyes and looked right at sensei's eyes... He wasn't there.

Suddenly sharp pain pulsed all through Mana's body as she saw sensei standing right in front of her with his fist having already punched her in the gut. The magician fell down. "That wasn't bad, you knew of my superior physical and every other kind of strength, knowing of my superior skill you chose the path that granted you advantage if it connected - genjutsu. Genjutsu is the perfect tool to use if you're unlucky enough to fight a superior opponent. You knew that I had the mean to interrupt your genjutsu with my signature seal however you trained your speed and had a mean of surprising me with the speed at which you performed the technique, that also was pretty impressive. I'd like you to train the speed of your hands even further, you've got a talent for it..."

As the girl tried desperately to pick herself up Tanshu jumped couple of dashes backward. "However... Your genjutsu is flawed, all of your techniques were made by you, that is both good and bad. You will always surprise your opponent with jutsu you yourself invented unless they fight you for the second time. The problem is that it's clear you invented these techniques as a child reading a genjutsu textbook, they are all pretty much the same: make handseals, achieve eye contact, fool your opponent with a visual illusion. That is just a scratch of the surface of what genjutsu can do, you've got a knack for it which is a reason enough even I can be jealous of you for. Genjutsu can play with sense of balance, smell, hearing, it can do wonders with the body of your opponent, branch out, stop sleeping on the same techniques you invented as a child and make up some new ones!"

Mana picked herself up, her hat was on the ground and her wild hair were all over the place, she charged forward with a punch, "Useless..." Tanshu replied catching it with the least amount of effort a ninja would ever have to use, "What are you going to do with that? You suck at weapons and taijutsu, stop using it!" sensei yelled out as he noticed Mana's hand in the weapon's pouch and punched her in the cheek drawing blood. The girl turned back with a smile. Obviously if Tanshu meant it with the punch she'd be knocked out dead but he didn't and now he was hers! "How?!" Tanshu jumped back, Mana's illusion was broken but her sensei had to use his seal which was his signature ability, one he liked bragging about never having to use.

Mana pulled out her arm from the pouch, still stuck in the same handseal position. "You... Learned to do handseals with one hand by seeing Sugemi do it?" Tanshu looked impressed. "Only the seals I saw him do, I had to read up on the others... They're a bit different from the casual handseals" Mana replied by wiping blood from her lip, sensei's punch forced her teeth right into her cheek making blood run pretty wild from her mouth. Her head also felt dizzy. Tanshu laughed out, "Now I see why they call you Konoha's Sorceress, you're just as crafty on the Field as you are on the stage, pulling illusions out of illusions, you made an impression of attacking me physically forcing me to lower my guard, forcing me to underestimate you and then you placed your hand into the pouch and made the handseals inside of it, I looked you right in the eyes because I never expected an illusion, if you were fighting anyone without my ability you would've had them..."

After finishing those words Tanshu-sensei stood normally, moving himself out of his fighting stance and removing his hand from the handle of his blade. "The purpose of this training was to give you three assignments, things to work on while I'm gone and also something that would define your fighting styles, I think I like your decision to utilize the skillset of a stage magician, to use cheap tricks and play with your opponent's mind as a tool in setting your illusions off, however I'd recommend you work on things I told you to work on. I'm afraid genjutsu is an area you are entirely alone in, I know very little about the subject and there are even fewer masters of the Field in this village, you may ask around however... Well, see you after I'm back, Mana." Tanshu spoke and then disappeared in a poof leaving only a large cloud of smoke. The genin sighed, her head was dizzy and she was still bleeding a bit from her cheek but it felt great - for the first time someone acknowledged her skill as a ninja. That never happened...

Ever since she started training in ninjutsu she was always underestimated because she wasn't from some fancy clan, told she was a loser because of her silly and naïve nindo, made fun of and told to quit the path of a ninja before it was too late. Even after she graduated people always only noted her skills as a magician on the stage, they always viewed Mana as a magician first and those that knew she was also a ninja saw it as some sort of publicity stuff, almost like a celebrity entering a ring to fight a big time champion of taijutsu who was paid off to fight like a wimp. All those words affected Mana, they were painful blows but none of them kept her down, they only made her work harder because she was that kind of an idiot. And it all lead up to this moment - a man called by some the most powerful shinobi in the world recognized that she had talent, that she was on the right path. Even if she didn't even land a blow, even if she couldn't have been further away from it - Mana was happy!

The girl couldn't help but run back home with a smile and tears of joy in her face. Acknowledgment would only make her work even harder!
Mana's Bad Day by Captain Claymore
Sometimes, when a very special event is transpiring before one's eyes, one often knows that things won't be the same as they were anymore. Such was the feeling when the village saw the Fourth Hokage surrounded by four of his most trusted and most powerful ninja in the village head out. Surely something revolutionary was going to happen, a historic flip-the-table moment which would change everything, allies and enemies will be made and a clash was unavoidable now. Some people fooled themselves thinking that this was going to be just another Five Kage Summit but one should've known better.

To Mana it was almost apparent that something bad will happen, there will be no peaceful resolution to this, otherwise why would Hokage choose to take four of the most amazing ninja with him? He only took two of the Sannin though, the third Sannin was away on another mission. From the rumors that were going around it seemed like she was in Kirigakure which put her life in extreme danger. If something awful transpires at the Kage Summit she will suddenly find herself to be the most wanted dead person around. Maybe it was for that reason that Hokage took so many not only strong but wise people, trying to solve any possible conflicts through intimidation of power and inevitable destruction if someone decides to become an enemy of Konohagakure.

Seeing Hokage and his four guards leave through the village gate made that sad and depressing atmosphere, the feeling of uncertainty was everywhere, the eternal and immovable peace that the Fourth had achieved was now trembling like a wobbly leg of a kitchen table. Just one wrong rude move will send all of the food crumbling down on the floor, reverting the families sitting around it to savages that either eat off of the floor or go to bed hungry. That was not even the worst part, the worst part was that everyone accepted it, just sighed and went back home, such wide accepting of the fact that conflict and war was almost inevitable was what made Mana's heart hurt the most.

These couple of days from her training with Tanshu-sensei and the day when she received the letter to come pick up a mission Mana did her best to buff up the amount of magic shows she did. The people of Konohagakure could've used some entertainment to turn their minds away from war. Some could've said that Mana was an awful girl for making double the amounts of shows, after all people were shaken by the events and very unsure of their futures. All she had to do was show off and she'd have swayed them to her side, that was true, she saw a lot of new faces coming at her shows, far more matured people and far less children. Slowly she would become Konohagakure's mainstream source of entertainment, perhaps that was her calling, not being a ninja?

After all, Mana was not part of a clan, not some super amazing genius ninja that had mad skills and always made perfect choices, she often failed and struggled immensely in her ninja work, working out her physical shape felt like literally killing herself. Still, she was thinking a lot on what Tanshu-sensei told her – she had an entirely different mindset from a common ninja. Her unique ideals combined with her background and experience of being a stage magician – prodigy at creating illusions and playing with audience's mind made her a very different kind of ninja. All those shows could've just been viewed as Mana's own kind of training, she was sharpening her mind and making new ways to deceive her opponent in the battlefield, after all, having no set of fancy eyes, no special unbeatable techniques made her have to rely on her skill in deceit and lies. Was that the skillset of a true hero? Probably not… Just one more thing to make the girl feel like she's failing her dream, as small as insignificant as such thoughts were.

Finally the magician got another letter instructing that she had to come to the Konohagakure Administration with her team and that they would be getting a mission assigned. No Hokage, no sensei. Somehow it felt like they were just playing ninja at this point and with no figures of authority in the village it seemed like nothing was right anymore, everything just invited more and more questions. Nights of peaceful and long refreshing sleep were few and getting even fewer, training was the thing that often helped exhausting both Mana's body and her spirit. Still, often the girl found herself waking up and wandering around the house, looking at the dark night sky and thinking what's ahead. Things like war and changing the world were not something a twelve year old girl should worry herself about but it was too late. She entered the ranks of people considered murderers and tools, thinking of anything less than that would've been a mistake.

Mana was surprised to see her teammates the next morning, she met them by the entrance to the Konohagakure Administration. Shimo wore a small blade behind his back, Sugemi wore a different attire choosing to wear more flexible and fitting for taijutsu attire, both of the boys also allowed their hair to grow messier longer which signaled that they may have been training pretty intensely since graduating. Did Mana fall behind after devoting most of her time to shows? Was she ever on their level to begin with? Just how well did they do in their training? Maybe the two actually gave sensei trouble and Mana just got special treatment from him because she was just a puny kid with pink cotton candy on her mind? No. Tanshu-sensei was not the kind of person to smile and say that everything was alright when it wasn't, that was one of the reasons why he was a person whom Mana respected a lot. If she would've been a useless link of the team he'd have told her that.

Shimo looked confident, he smiled with a full teeth smile and ran up to Mana first. "Hey, Mana-chan, don't really see what sensei told you during the training. I suppose you won't tell me how you did either?" Sugemi grunted, Mana was genuinely surprised he was not consumed by his manga and acted so smug, almost like Tanshu-sensei. "It's her attire, Shimo, she tried to dress more comfortably for missions but it seems like now she doesn't care about it anymore, whatever sensei told Mana, it helped her gain confidence and realize her role in the team. Then again, judging from the number of shows she had this week I'd say she is planning to quit being a ninja…" Mana walked past the two without saying a word. She just slowly turned back with a slight smile and looked at them rushing them to come with her. The boys picked themselves up and entered the building with her.

Differently from before, the missions were being handed out in four separate offices by one of Hokage's assistants. Assistants were mostly lower ranking ninja anyways that excelled in office duties, they were not the first choice to protect the Hokage but they were more than competent to fulfil his duties of administration work during his absence. In fact, there were less people around the offices which suggested that the four of them were doing way better than Hokage was doing alone with their aid. One of the assistants invited the four into his office and handed the file forward, he waited for a moment as there was no leader to come pick the file up, sensei was gone…

Mana looked around with a bored look as her two teammates kept stepping forward slightly but after seeing the other trying to take a step stopped and backed down from taking the leadership. "Oh for God's sake!" she laughed out and stepped forward to take the file. There was tension between the two boys for some reason, it was quite natural, this was the first time they had the chance to butt heads, they had to choose a leader and that made the wonder about who was stronger, more competent to take temporary command. They both trained incredibly hard, they each were the strongest people in the world in their own minds right now because that was often the case after training. Training required challenge to follow just so one had a clear image of where they were on the feeding chain.

"What's the mission?" Shimo asked curiously leaning over Mana's shoulder as she opened the file after leaving the office. It was a relatively simple C-Rank job for a team of genin but the administration had to hand them one – their team was incomplete. While normally sensei did nothing anyways but his presence was the greatest asset the three could have, just the thought that at any time he could be turned at for help or an advice was the best thing ever. Now he was away and they had to handle it for themselves. It would've been better if Shimo and Sugemi didn't act so weird with each other and didn't want to show off each other's fruits of training and just what sensei told them.

The mission was to scare off or beat up some thugs that were bullying people around the entertainment hall where Mana hosted magic shows. Apparently the group of bandits targeted villagers that came to see shows and plays and they were quite bold. Such boldness inside one of the most powerful ninja villages could only be described as stupidity and the three genin would've easily handled a couple of untrained bandits, even if they weren't at the moment the most functional team ever. Shimo and Sugemi barely even spoke, not only to each other but also with Mana, the girl had plenty of possible ideas what could've caused this but… She had to know!

"Okay, what the hell is this? Why aren't we talking?" she asked, this wasn't the usual soft and kind tone she used, Mana was really quite annoyed by this situation as the two boys were her friends, probably some of her only relevant friends at the moment as she had no other friends just fans of her shows. Sugemi pouted and turned away, Shimo looked annoyed but at least he spoke up, "We're just… A bit tense that's all." Mana kept looking him in the eyes, almost forcing him to continue. The fact that he spoke up at all signaled to her that Shimo was at least willing to talk about what was going on, was it something sensei told them? Was it something they told each other while waiting for Mana? Was it something she did?

"Well… You did most of the work last time, we were just there, sure we got to fight some animals but you saved all of the scrolls. Tanshu-sensei told both of us that, that we fought pretty good but fighting isn't what it's all about and that you were right in that mission to put the objective first. That doesn't bother us but… Both me and Sugemi trained hard because we don't want to fall behind, we want to be strong and able to complete the mission by ourselves too if it came to us." Mana shook her head, she still couldn't understand what the hell this was about, "So what? It's my fault that I happened to stumble into the archive and got stuck in there because that stupid bug had the whole place fall down on him?" Shimo looked away, "So are you really quitting being a ninja like Sugemi said?" Mana almost yelled out "No! Sugemi is an otaku, he keeps talking about manga characters or events that probably don't even exist and he thinks everything around him is just a manga story waiting to be written. He's my friend but he's the last person I'd trust to make deductions like that." Sugemi's voice broke out "I'm… Right here… Guys."

At least talking about it for a little helped the boys ease up a bit and they started talking to each other again. It must've been nothing else but a strong sense of responsibility, they had mistaken Mana's luck for skill and wanted to keep ahead, truth was that luck was a skill which couldn't be matched. It wasn't even good luck to be honest, how can one possibly call getting chased by a hungry centipede and getting stuck in an ancient unstable library and then having to escape its fall by digging through centipede guts good luck? It wasn't skill, it wasn't luck, it just happened… At least the magician knew that the boys trained hard, she still felt guilty for taking sensei's word for granted and working on her mindset the most instead of training her body or trying to learn new techniques.

"We can wait here" Mana said "Usually there's this group of actors doing historic plays until about midday." Sugemi and Shimo nodded, "It's good to have someone who knows the place and what's going on here." Shimo said. "We can wait in the alleyway and take those guys down quick and pretty after they show themselves. If it's just a small group we can handle them, I trained my taijutsu so I can do it alone, they'll make a manga about it and call it "World's Most Handsome Crimefighter and the other guys"" the Nara exclaimed as he rushed to the alleyway. Despite hating conflict in general Mana had to admit – she was quite curious to see how much stronger her friends had gotten. She only worked on her chakra and only kept up her physical condition, most work went into her magic shows and mastering sleight of hand.

This was going too easy, just as people started to leave the three noticed a group of four following a pair of young men. Shimo and Sugemi took double time to get into positions – they wanted to show off and take those guys out in one swoop which pissed the magician off. Safety of the villagers was all that mattered! Mana shouted "Get away!" and charged forward. One of the bandits didn't have enough time to react and the girl simply leapt past him leaving a slash in his chest using her kunai, the man fell down on the floor yelling in pain and shock of it. Mana tried her best to take on all three of the bandits but the best option would've been to be defensive – that was not an option, she had to get in between the victims and the bandits so she leapt forward and while dodging two blows and kicking one of the bandits aside leapt forward placing her kunai up to the other's throat. She turned her eyes away instructing the victims to leave. That was her mistake.

As her attention returned Mana felt a sharp blow in her cheek and her light body got thrown back, just barely the magician held her balance. "Just great, another bruise…" she thought as suddenly the bandit's face got twisted in pain. Shimo was on the ground right behind him – he flashed behind his back so fast! The bandit fell down on the floor, the two others tried to run but Sugemi's body landed right on top of one and hit the other. The body of one of the bandits made a lot of scary cracking sounds and the man yelled out quite loud. He must've been in pain. Shimo approached the magician and looked at the bruise on her cheek and her cut lip. "You OK?" he asked gently as she turned around and kneeled by the injured bandit.

"You two… I can't believe it! Can you stop doing this bullshit and focus for one moment?! While you were aligning yourselves for a "cool strike" these people could've been injured! I don't care which one of you is stronger, you can play Rock-Paper-Scissors to settle it for all I care… These are actual people at stake!" she kept complaining while she improvised a tourniquet for the man's open fractured leg. Sugemi's attack looked cool but he was way too rough. Their objective was to intimidate the thugs if possible, while they did not back off after Mana's warning that was no excuse to cause that sort of injury just to look cool. "You mean like Kakashi and Guy from that manga?" Sugemi smiled arrogantly, he still thought that he was right and proud of his awesome jump.

"None of those are a) real people, b) fictional characters, at this point I'm sure you're making up names!" Shimo yelled out, he knew manga better than Mana so he could at least argue with him about those things, none of that mattered to the magician. She breathed out lightly as she managed to somehow control the man's bleeding, at least until medical ninja would show up. Mana stood up and looked at the villagers that were still waiting around the corner just to see how it'd play out. "Could you please find some ninja patrolling and see to it that these men get help? We have a mission debriefing to do." she tried to ask softly. "Wait… You're Konoha's Sorceress right? Are you working with ninja now?" one of them asked, "I am a ninja. I am both a ninja and I do magic shows." Mana replied. "No offense, but you're not that good, you should ask your friends to teach you how to fight…" the other one butt in.

Mana got annoyed and backed off, she sat by the wall and gently stroke her forehead with her fingers, trying to calm down. This day was annoying her immensely with her friends acting like bunch of brats that wanted only to look cool and didn't care about people and the people she was supposed to be helping valued their violence over her worries over their safety. "Whatever, I'm off…" Mana thought standing up and heading towards the Administration building when Sugemi stopped her. "Hey… Ummm… I was thinking. These men… They had to work for someone right? Like… A big bad crime guy right? Like in all the manga all criminals work for bad people that have bunch of art and cats and stroke the cats while looking at art. How about we beat that guy up and take him in too?" the boy came open with his idea making the magician suddenly prefer silent treatment over his ideas getting vocalized.
Going Underneath the Underneath... by Captain Claymore
Mana was absolutely stumped after hearing Sugemi's suggestion. Was he actually suggesting going above and beyond their mission and taking down some bigshot crime lord that may not even exist? How would they go on and do it, by trashing through the village and then attacking the man they pinned down as being guilty? That's how ninja became nukenin. The magician wanted nothing to do with that, Mana started walking away at a faster pace but she heard Sugemi coming after her. "And how would you begin your "investigation", where would you start?" Mana asked trying to make Sugemi bug off, she spent some time with the two boys and she knew a lot about them. Sugemi often had grand ideas but always got hesitant when people started asking about how he'd go on with realizing them.

"Well… We could interrogate the guy with the broken leg." The boy scratched the back of his head, the fact that he didn't back down after Mana asked him about him realizing his idea was bad – he really believed in what he said. Shimo crept up to Mana and placed his hand on her shoulder, gently stopping her. His face looked kind and soft – he really wanted to get Mana along with the ride but how on Earth did he and Sugemi manage to agree on an idea? "I think it's a good idea, Mana-chan." Shimo said slowly and quietly, as if he felt that what he was saying was stupid.

"Think about it, a shinobi is supposed to be the person that goes underneath the underneath, that's what they tried to bash into our heads in the Academy, right? Well isn't this going underneath our mission? Isn't this actually making a difference? Sugemi wants to get a manga written about him, well if he does heroic things like this he'll have it, I want to become Hokage and the first step is to go beyond my mission objective and make a difference. I know you want to become a hero – to protect the people around you and change the world… Well after we did what we did just now nothing changed – tomorrow there'll be other bandits taking money from the same people. If we took down the whole thing it'd be much more of a protection, don't you think? You'd protect the people that come to see your shows, you OWE them this much, Mana-chan."

Sugemi butt in, he saw Mana's eyes change, he saw hesitation and he decided to exploit it. "We need this, guys, I want to become strong, that's the only way to become strong. Taking down crime rings is what higher ranking ninja do: chuunin and even jounin… I want to see how well I rank against that. I know that Shimo wants that too but you Mana… I know you're different, you don't care about measuring your strength but the thing is that… You want to protect everyone, right? Well there's a war about to break out, we're just kids, there's no way they'll let ordinary kids on the battlefield which means you'll be unable to even try and fulfil your goal. You need to hurry up, you need big feats like this to get your promotion in time, if they see how cool we are, maybe the Administration will finally stop looking at us as if we're children, maybe we'll be given a shot at the Chuunin Exams even this year, think about it…"

Mana stopped and clenched her fists. She knew that she wanted to do that, she didn't care about authority, she couldn't have cared less if she'd be branded a nukenin or given some sort of dishonorable mention on her bio. She didn't care if she got hurt or even died, all she wanted to do was to change the world, to make life valuable and not some dirty cloth to be tossed around freely. Ideally she would've liked to do something like this by herself, this was her dream, her nindo and Sugemi with Shimo had nothing to do with it. They didn't need to get into trouble for this or get hurt in a battle. Mana sighed, "Fine, but if I see as much as a wink to torture that guy I'll make you two think you're worms and wriggle in the dirt for an hour. We'll do this peacefully, no torture, if we find out that there's something big in play we try and solve it nicely and only take them down hard if they resist. And for God's sake let's not blow anything up, we'll get in trouble for this as it is…" Mana gave in.

Shimo raised his palm to his head and saluted her, "Yes, ma'am!" he yelled out before winking at her. Sugemi shrugged, "You took the file, I suppose me and Shimo would keep stepping on each other's toes if we were allowed to take charge so… Lead on…" Truth be told the magician didn't really know that much about criminal investigations, her first idea would've been to question the guy that Sugemi hurt too. Thing was that she knew perfectly how it'd go: Mana was a twelve year old girl who was known around the village as a stage magician – it doesn't get any less intimidating than that, the guy would say something rude to her, Shimo and Sugemi would only get annoyed and resort to torture ignoring what she said. They were eager to prove themselves now and Mana wouldn't have been able to stop them, she had to play them differently, try and avoid any sort of opportunity for them to want to show off.

Sadly that meant that she would have to approach and ask for a favor of a man she really didn't want to see in her life any more than was necessary. She already was indebted to the man, he paid the rent for her shoes until the end of the year. He was pretty much the most influential "thief within law" in Konohagakure, Mana was absolutely sure that if he was not behind this scheme he at the very least knew the name, address and shoe size of the man who was. He was the end of every conspiracy theory in the village, nothing transpired here where he wouldn't have had something to gain from it. Truth be told, Mana wasn't really sure how this would work out…

She lead the way to the Hanada Estate, walking this path made her feel quite nostalgic for the days when she started out even if they weren't that long ago. What happened in that mansion was her personal cold shower baptism into the ninja world. How would Hanada even look at her? Would he feel indebted that she saved his life, his and his family's or would he just let it down as her paying the debt for him sponsoring her magic shows? If she will be indebted to the man just what sort of price will he name? Mana would've rather died than dishonored herself and become his mercenary, then again, the man had a talent at making things look different than they were. He'd make her feel like anything but his own personal toy, he'd word it quite differently and make it look like she was actually protecting him or something…

When the kids approached the gate the two guards looked at them with condescending looks, one of them gestured for them to turn around and go away, "I think you kids are lost." he said. It was sheer luck that the second guy was one that Mana knew quite well. "Hey… You're… Sorceress-chan!" the man said, he was one of the mercenaries that betrayed Hanada before, it seemed like he was allowed to work for the man after all was over. "Hello, I see you were allowed to stay… Good to see." The girl twisted her heel at the ground with her eyes shyly looking down, she was quite embarrassed to be talking to the man she beat up, he probably didn't like her too much…

"Yep, I'm pretty glad you beat me up, if you hadn't we'd have hurt Hanada-san and I'd still be a mercenary doing whatever people pay me for, killing, stealing and bringing shame to myself but now… I acted nice for a while and they let me go, Hanada-san even forgave me, he pays me less than the other guys but I get along, I'm even starting a family, c'mon let them in. Sorceress-chan is welcome in Hanada-san's home any time. Forgive him, he started working last week…" the mercenary laughed out, Mana didn't quite get his fond behavior but she was a bit happy that he ended up alright after the pretty nasty battle that happened here. "Well, I don't know… He was pretty rude… Not letting Mana in…" Sugemi pouted making an aristocratic and smug face, Mana couldn't help but chuckle before gesturing that it was alright.

The mercenary left his colleague standing watching the gate while he lead Mana and the others to the mansion. He asked them to wait in the waiting room while he went to tell Hanada that he was here. Shimo looked surprised, "You know Hanada Katsuo, Mana-chan? That's… Something…" he looked like he just exposed the girl for being a criminal herself, Sugemi looked impressed by entirely different things, "You had missions before we were a team?! How come?" Mana shrugged, "It wasn't a mission, Hanada is paying for my rent because he likes my magic shows and I wanted to thank him with a show, things just happened pretty fast and I had to fight his mercs… Well… Word "fight" is a bit wrong in this context, more like "lucked out consecutively"…"

Before Mana could explain Hanada Katsuo walked out in a fancy and without a doubt expensive pearl color suit and even more expensive hairdo for his knee long blonde hair. The man looked like an actor and his emotions really did seem acted, "Mana-chan, I'm so glad to see you! I only wonder what made you and… Your friends come here? Is there a problem with our business proposition, do you wish to discuss my sponsorship or something? Oh, this boy, you're Shimo, right? Your father and I had business when you were younger…" Mana was glad that Shimo didn't reply, it was quite clear from Shimo's eyes that he was not fond of the man as he must've clearly known Hanada's reputation.

"Hanada-san, I am very thankful for your sponsorship and I intend to allow you to finish your part of the deal, I was just wondering if you could help us out with something, seeing how I well…" Hanada smiled, Mana knew that he instantly realized what was her deal was. "Saved my life, there is no shame in admitting that, quite the honor honestly… Anyways, I suppose you need a consultation of some sort? What area, art, perhaps?" Hanada spoke, the magician stood there silent. How was she supposed to tell him that she wanted his criminal experience? She was just so bad at that sort of conversations! Shimo spoke up, Mana wanted to smother the guts out of him for saving her honor, "No, Hanada-san, BUSSINESS, we believe that we are after some of your competitors so it would be beneficial of you to help us by letting us know just who exactly is controlling the… Public relations… In the area around Hiro's hall."

Hanada turned around and stroke his chin, he understood what Shimo meant, Mana was surprised that he knew the "thief within law" jargon to be honest. Maybe his father was like Katsuo? No, that couldn't have been the case, it was much more likely that Shimo's father interacted with the likes of Hanada Katsuo often so both the father and the son knew their manners of speech, "public relations" must've meant whatever those bandits were doing. Hanada turned around and sighed, "My, my… What a conundrum I have here… I usually don't discuss business with children but I suppose in Mana-chan's case I can make an exception… I suppose you are here with official Konohagakure administration business? A mission?" Sugemi shook his head, "Let's call it "private investigation"." Hanada looked really pleased with that revelation, Mana didn't really know why the Nara chose to come into the clear with that information though.

"Ahhh… Well then… I suppose "private investigations" have the advantage of not restricting one's actions, I should point more young "private investigators" towards my competitors, that way I'd have less problems. Well then… This is business and I'm afraid, Mana-chan, this isn't how this kind of business is done. You see what you are asking of me is to snitch a man like me, that could potentially expose me as an honorless businessman if this conversation ever went public. This kind of risk requires a proper deal, quid pro quo… You understand?" Mana instantly started regretting this conversation but she had no choice, she couldn't let Sugemi and Shimo torture a man, she was ready to at least hear Hanada out, there could've been no harm in that, right?

"I don't think I have much to offer, Hanada-san, if there is a particular thing you want, I'm afraid you'll have to make it clear, this is the first and the last talk of this nature we will have." Mana tried to be brave but her voice was shaking a bit, she knew the kind of deals that Hanada usually made. Shimo looked annoyed, his gentleman side was offended by how uncomfortable this conversation made Mana feel, he must've realized that she never wanted this and must've started to put together her reasons for choosing this deal over interrogation. He was one of the smartest ninja of his generation after all. "Wait, Katsuo-san, are you sure you're being reasonable here? Mana-chan saved your life, yours and that of your family from what I've heard, surely that amounts to some sort of leniency towards business?"

Hanada fixed his tie, "Yes, Mana-chan saved lives of me and my family, she also helped capture and put most of those responsible for threatening it to Konoha Strict Correctional Facility. That is what amounts to you even being let into my home and for me having this conversation with bunch of children that have no official reason to be here or talk to me about business at all, truth be told, it takes a bit more than saving my life to be shown this much sympathy, boy. As of what I would suggest you give, Mana-chan, is your magic. Give me the ownership of Konoha's Sorceress as a brand, allow me to manage your shows and get the same amount of profit that I get now until you decide you no longer want to do this. That is my deal, information for Konoha's Sorceress, I'll give in someone else's business and get a business in return, only seems fair…"

Mana almost started trembling, her mind screamed into her ear that she couldn't do this! She knew quite well of Hanada's interest in buying up most of Konohagakure's entertainment industry as well as art. He knew the power of entertainment, he knew how much people were into plays, music and things like Mana's magic shows but she also has heard stories of what that sort of life was like. She'd basically be his minion, perform whenever Hanada tells her, wherever he tells her and charge however much he asks her to, he'd be in complete creative control of her shows. If he tells her that her father's tools and her escape tricks are not profitable he'd be in the right to order her to remove that. What he was asking for didn't sound like much to anyone else but to Mana it was surrendering half of her life. Suddenly she had to weigh what she was fighting for, was the information worth it?

Hanada smiled, he felt Mana's weakness and decided to exploit it, "Well, I suppose if you add ten percent extra of all that you earn I can send my own men to take them out, I can see from your cheek that you have still things to learn in terms of dealing with that kind of men and it is in my best interests as your sponsor to see to it that my little magician girl looks the best she can, you take pride in that don't you? You're the esthetic kind of artist after all…" Hanada's speech was cut short, Shimo's short blade was pointed right at his face. "If you ever talk to Mana like that again I will attack you! Attack you like I should've when you asked my father to convince mother to sell her gallery to you!" Hanada shrugged "I am well within my bounds to speak to Mana-chan however I want, I am her sponsor after all, I own Konoha's Sorceress for one more yea…" Hanada stopped in his tracks and started shaking, trembling not unlike Mana has been before. Mana didn't notice her hand weaving the handseal in rage, she didn't notice casting that genjutsu as anger blinded her and she released it that same instant.

"I'm sorry, Hanada-san… But you do not own me, I am quite capable of paying my rent right now without your help, if you feel like cutting this deal off I'll understand. To tell you my answer – I will never be a bird you can lock in a cage and show your guests, that's not what Konoha's Sorceress stands for, if I sold that symbol to you I'd be forced to stop doing magic altogether and I won't sell my magic to you." Hanada stood right back up and fixed his suit from the mess that he made trying to shake off the genjutsu that he saw. "Hmm… I wonder, Mana-chan, I wonder if you can pay your rent with the state that your father is in… I'm not sure if disabled people make the same wage if anything at…" Sugemi's punch aimed at the gut silenced the man.

"I don't like you, I didn't like you to begin with but at this point you're useless to us which means you're standing in the way of me getting my manga done, furthermore, you're pissing off my friends which means they won't be at their best when time to work for what makes up my manga comes." Sugemi turned around and left, Mana and Shimo followed – this was major! Hanada was an incredibly dangerous man, how could this go wrong so fast!? Mana placed him in a genjutsu and Sugemi punched him! He had people disappear for less, after the man straightened out he smiled, he managed to deliver his final words before the three left the room. "I am sad that we couldn't come to a deal. Perhaps another time…" his polite end to the conversation made Mana even less certain of what future had. Now with the master of entire criminal world of Konoha after the three it would this mission only got more difficult instead of this talk helping them find the man responsible for robbing people.
A Mysterious Tip? Interrupt the Deal! by Captain Claymore
A tall man in shades and a dark long coat walked up to Hanada as the man observed the kids leaving. This visit was not a pleasant one for the man, his displeasure with it and anger should've been postponed until after no one saw him however. The magician kid made him money, supporting and sponsoring her as well as some other acts in the village opened doors to Katsuo, he could speak to any partners in Kirigakure and Kumogakure or any other village and reference his sponsored acts as a symbol of his influence and success expecting to be taken more seriously as a result. Him having the Sorceress under his wing would help both promoting the kid worldwide and using her fame to find more partners and spread his influence where her fame makes its steps.

"These kids are looking for Ooguchi's crew right? They'll wonder around through a lot of alleyways, probably until late time at night, that's a dangerous time for kids to be out at…" the tall man fixed his shades as he leaned over his boss' shoulder to affirm that was what boss had in mind. Hanada lowered his head, "No, these guys are just kids, I don't like holding grudges against kids, they'll have to grow a bit older until they learn that actions have consequences but this will not go forgotten… I'd like for Ooguchi to receive a "tip" from a "kind willed colleague" about them, make sure the girl lives and is able to perform, don't let them harm her face and hands. She may not pay me herself but her name alone is bringing me increasing amounts of benefit. Soon she may actually be worth keeping around paying for with no obligations from her part."

The man in shades nodded and disappeared. He was a professional and his efficiency was needed, it was not known what exactly the plans of the children were, if they had any tips. Boss' orders required of him to tip Ooguchi faster than he would know of the kids himself which was not that easy. More so, Ooguchi was an idiot, he was the first man to send his men out to the open to take out his competitors so Hanada-san didn't predict a long and prosperous future for him. The idiot was already making deals with some people from Kirigakure. Everyone knew Kirigakure was bad business, if they didn't kill you themselves they were still the enemy of the village so any ties with that village was punished with utmost severity by the Fourth's administration. Regardless of the difficulty of the orders or stupidity of the recipient, the man in shades will complete his assignment…

Mana sighed, "Sorry guys, I thought that we could've figured something out without torture and interrogation…" Shimo tried to smile but it was clear that his mood was spoiled by the encounter with a man he was not fond of. "You don't need to apologize, just… Don't go to that man for help again, Mana-san, don't give him the satisfaction of having you in debt to him." It wasn't that hard to understand Shimo's hatred towards Hanada – the man was everything that Shimo hated after all: rich, powerful and influential and acquired his wealth by oppressing those weaker than him. Perhaps Hanada most clearly illustrated the kind of man that the Mizukage that Shimo's family fled from was like…

"Seriously? Torture? Did you really think that we couldn't keep our cools? Hotheaded people are always secondary characters and comic relief and I must be the protagonist of my manga!" Sugemi exclaimed raising his fist in the air with certain dedication and strength to his words and the tone upon which they were spoken. Shimo sighed, "Oh well, I guess we should apologize to you, Mana-chan… Our stupid tenseness and rivalry made you plan around us and forced you to go to that man, I guess we should've been better than that." After apologizing for something he probably had no reason to apologize for, the young Yuki raised a fist and gave it for Sugemi to bump, the Nara raised his and the two bumped their fists. "We can stop being rivals if you agree to be the supporting protagonist in my manga, I guess…" Sugemi smiled. "Eh, good enough…" Shimo replied to that. For once this day started looking like less of a trainwreck.

"So… What now? We have absolutely no leads on the mystery crime man." Sugemi scratched the back of his head, "Maybe we should find that guy in Konohagakure hospital and ask him who is in charge?" the Nara boy raised a good point. By choosing one source of information over the other they lost the one they did not choose. It was most likely that the man Sugemi injured was already in hospital by now and his fracture was being looked at. Mana honestly had no idea about what to do, Hanada's behavior however seemed to lean towards there being some sort of "business" partner behind it so now she herself had a direct passion to solve this. "Do not turn around…" the three heard a voice behind them, it was a silent but clear voice, almost instantly cold air filled their lungs. It was a similar killing intent to Tanshu-sensei's but it felt so very different, Tanshu's was more searing hot burning all the air from one's lungs making one struggle to breathe, so hot it was cold… This one felt cold and damp, just this man being around them made one feel like drowning.

"I noticed that you are interested in the man behind the muggings near the Hiro's hall, correct? I see you three are ninja so the information I can provide would be in good hands. This isn't just common mugging, it's much worse, it's a racketeering scheme – people pay additional "safety tax" to these men in order to walk around that area. The man behind this is known to his partners only as "Ooguchi". You will find him in the southern district of the village where the warehouses are, there will be a small district of homes, rotten and ruined pissholes. Ooguchi owns them all and that is where you'll find him. I'd suggest moving fast, something interesting will be going on there today…" And just like that the cold atmosphere around this mystery informant disappeared as if it was never even there. The three genin simultaneously turned around but there was nothing there.

"Well… That was convenient…" Sugemi mumbled out, he looked so innocent and so unsuspecting of how dirty all of this sounded. Shimo looked completely different – he looked angry, this kind of thing like the trick that this Ooguchi has been pulling pissed him off. That was why he was blind about how suspicious it all was. Mana's head sunk down, this was so weird and… She didn't like it. At all. But she had no proof and couldn't even begin to solve this knot of people and who stood where in all this. Hanada wanted this Ooguchi safe but was willing to sell him out, this Ooguchi guy was some sort of fool that was trying to establish a racketeering scheme in a ninja village using the opportunity that the village is occupied with larger problems, a short sighted idea at best… Who was this mysterious informant, what side was he on? Why did he gave them this information instead of taking action himself? He did feel like an incredibly strong fellow, maybe not on Tanshu's level but his strength could have been felt by three inexperienced ninja, not just strength, his killing intent itself. That man was trouble, must've been!

"I don't know guys, this man… This information is just too suspicious." Mana voiced her concern, she didn't like how her voice sounded weak and unsure but to be honest it mirrored how she felt about all of this. They got into something they shouldn't have. "Yeah, I hear you. But what other options do we have? I guess we could just report this to the Administration…" Shimo hesitated himself for a moment. "Wait, you don't think on bailing out right? I mean, my manga is on the balance! This is just huge enough to make the first chapter!" Sugemi got pretty enraged by the hesitance of the two. Mana turned her eyes to the side, she didn't want this, any of this but… "We have to go…" she spoke without even believing the fact she said it and genuinely felt like it.

"If we don't go and report this, it's fine. But people will get hurt in the meantime. Tomorrow and the day after, all the way until they are taken down people will suffer and be threatened by this Ooguchi's men. If there's any chance of stopping that I'm willing to risk my life, plus, the informant did say that there's something going on there today. If it's useful to Ooguchi it is trouble for everyone else, we must at the very least stop that." the magician explained trying to voice her feelings clearly, as a hero that she wanted to be she had to go and would go even if Shimo and Sugemi didn't. She owed it to the people of the village that lacked the power to manipulate chakra, that had their magic of life treated as dirt by those men every day, to people that loved her magic shows and believed in ninjutsu being more than a tool of murder!

"Well what kind of gentleman would let Mana-chan go there alone, or with an idiot like Sugemi at that…" Shimo sighed and stroke his neck, it was clear that he didn't like it, it must've been his logical side that finally overcame his first reaction of rage. His rage worked differently from any other form of rage the girl has ever seen, he was angry so he wanted Ooguchi to be stopped but he wanted it to be done right – his rage justified reporting it to the authorities and leaving it up to them. Mana's feelings were different, she had to put a stop to it because she had a responsibility to act, she couldn't trust other ninja to not kill anyone. If the administration sends out stronger ninja they will without a doubt make a bloodbath out of scumbags that dared to pull this on Konohagakure soil…

"YES! Let's go!" Sugemi yelled out, "Wait what did you just say!?" his slower brain finally got the clue of Shimo's previous words. Mana sometimes couldn't understand how Sugemi's mind worked, he lived in a world where only his manga mattered, he never weighed pros and cons of anything, he just did whatever could grant him the fame to have his manga written about him and that was so incredibly weird. He never looked deeper, never analyzed anything just asked the question if it helped his cause. Being the kind of person to tolerate and consider any points of view Mana started to empathize a little with that sort of mindset. Perhaps if she adopted a little more of it she'd be more efficient in saving people, less concerned of the fallout and more reckless, less analyzing what something meant and only caring about if it helped her cause of changing the world, of proving that ninjutsu was something that each wielder defined and not something that defined its wielder.

The three rushed off into the distance observing the day reaching its peak, if they were lucky they'd arrive at early evening hours. That would be beneficial in scoping the area and at least trying to spot the trap if there was one. Just like expected the three arrived at about the beginning of the later hours of the day, the Sun was just about starting to set Mana crouched down and hid behind a wall, behind that wall was a large complex of multiple homes built of scrap and what almost looked like cardboard, almost like the entire homes were built from what these men found in the scrapyard. "Ewww… What kind of crime lord is this Ooguchi guy? I bet he doesn't even own a cat! Can we beat up that Hanada guy again instead? He makes for a much better villain!"

Shimo shushed the boy down and Mana angrily whispered back, "When your manga is being written just ask the editor to change some things up, you already made enough trouble with Hanada-san as it is… We're punishing only the guy that's to blame for all this mess." Shimo nodded, "I've got a plan, wait here…" he said and bolted off, Mana couldn't believe this, obviously she couldn't object since she wasn't officially the team's leader but she sort of expected being allowed to lead this little "private investigation", everyone acting for themselves was a dangerous thing to do in this kind of assignment. Shimo returned shortly with a guy that had ice around his mouth and arms and had blood on his forehead. The boy dragged the man up to the fence and rest him towards the fence.

"Talk, where's Ooguchi, what's going on here?" Shimo spoke after making a handseal and letting the ice dissolve into a small puddle. Mana had to hand it to the boy, it was a simplistic technique but it was an efficient one, Shimo's clan was truly spectacular and she wished to see some more of his Ice Release. "Forget it, brats, I ain't talking!" the man mumbled out, Mana's nightmare scenario was playing out in front of her, Shimo kicked the man but he only laughed, "That all you got?" Shimo moved to the side and looked at Sugemi, "You kick him, you're stronger, make sure it hurts!" The man laughed and reached for his rags, he lifted them up and showed a wound to the three kids.

"Forget it, brats, look at these burns. I'm used to pain, there's nothing your kiddy minds can do to me that I ain't seen before. Got this in a fire when Ooguchi-sama's previous boss kidnapped this murderous bitch kunoichi, she blew the whole warehouse district and gave most of us a beating of our lives and we got burns from that fire. What can the three of you do to that? I was tortured by a Yoruma once…" the man laughed out spitting some blood out of his mouth. Shimo looked really taken back by this, Mana got interested, "Yoruma?" "It's a clan of messed up assassins, they're bloodthirsty and they're some of the best swordfighters and torturers in the village, if even an infant Yoruma sadist couldn't get this guy to talk we may as well not bother and go in blind…"

Mana leant up to the man and placed her hand on his shoulder, "Please, sir, can you help us by telling us the information we need? Ooguchi is making a lot of people fear and suffer, he's also clearly doing something shady too… A lot of people will get hurt." The man spat at Mana's face but surprisingly enough missed. "What the fuck do I care?! Those people don't care about us! They're paying you ninja lot all the good money leaving all the nasty dirt work to us, normal folk who can't spit fucking fireballs out of their mouths. How the hell is a weak guy supposed to make money to feed his family if not by crime? Your kind MADE Ooguchi and our crew so it's time you got the credit for it…" Mana's arms weaved an illusion by themselves, this man was so angry and spiteful but she had no time to deal with his hatred and his feeling of being wronged right now, she had to know whatever Ooguchi had planned first.

The man looked around his body identifying Mana's "Scary Trick Jutsu", "Cockroaches? Really? Do you think someone who lives in the goddamn junkyard has never slept covered in all pathetic kind of parasite there is!?" the man raged out, the genjutsu was completely ineffective against him. "Wait… Those tricks, you're… Konoha's Sorceress? That magician girl that's doing her shows in the Hiro's hall, right?" the man suddenly recognized Mana forcing her to rub her eyes in annoyance.

"Yes." She admitted, the man's face changed, within just a mere second his face changed from that of an angered and hurt man to that of a man that is asking for his life. "My little girl she's… She wanted a long time to see your show and… I don't make enough money to… Maybe if you let her see it, I'd tell a thing or two…" he started almost begging Mana, "Also, please make sure she's not around when you take Ooguchi down." Mana stood up, "Fine, I'll get her here before we go talk to Ooguchi, and I'll let her see all the shows she wants, just please help us." the girl almost begged, it was a unique talent to beg while standing tall and looking person in the eyes, luckily over her career as a stage magician Mana gathered some acting skills. She wasn't lying about her promise though…

The man sighed, "Well, Ooguchi is in the house with that milk ad poster stuck on the roof, he's meeting this guy from Kirigakure today to exchange something but he's too much of a scaredy cat to meet the man himself, don't know what that deal is but boss says it's huge. That exchange will happen in the smaller house built out of cardboard entirely, the one that looks like a large farm toilet to the left of boss' place, there's one house with the working chimney, the one that's smoking, that's where you'll find the thing that the Kirigakure guy wants, Ooguchi's making a fool of him and will try to kill the bastard, he's got the goods in that smoking house. My house is the third house on the left right after entering the district."

Shimo stood up and looked at Mana and then at the guy that spilled the beans. "Alright you two, I'll bust the deal and prevent the Kirigakure guy from getting murdered, he may be a Kirigakure bastard but if he gets killed here it means war for sure. Sugemi go and take the goods, it might be something of value to help village compensate the people robbed by these people, it doesn't belong to these men anyways. Mana, you go get the girl to safety, I know you want to, then you have one shot to work your magic with this Ooguchi guy, if he doesn't listen we're kicking his butt and taking him in."

Mana fixed her gloves, "If he doesn't listen I'll make him try to make a wormhole through the floor with his face myself". Shimo nodded with a smile "Don't play heroes, if you're having trouble retreat and go right to the Konohagakure Police Force and the Administration." he added. The three nodded to each other in agreement, Mana looked at the bleeding man for the last time before heading out. "Sir, it'd be best if you stayed here, if we get caught act like we took you out and you didn't tell us anything, we'll act the same."

The three genin dashed through over the wall, scaling it up in just moments and then leaping over it and heading towards the direction of their objectives.
Trouble in the Junkyard District! by Captain Claymore
Mana carefully navigated the poor district. To be entirely honest she had never even seen it being built here. This whole district of warehouses and storage places was supposed to be more of an industrial place, how in the world these people moved in here was beyond her. A man wondered down the alley, clearly drunk, Mana let him pass without showing herself to him, someone looking like her would've stood out in the district plus she couldn't risk being recognized. The kunoichi had to move fast if she was to make it to both lead the girl to safety and confront this Ooguchi guy.

Something worried Mana as she kept moving, slowly but silently and still unnoticed, the man she let pass kept stumbling forward and dived nose first into a bunch of trash cans – he was drunker than anyone could describe. The girl wanted to help him but she couldn't afford a distraction, it was quite likely that this soft and warm sleeping place was the safest place in the district for a while. What kept that small amount of fear rustling in her heart like a little tongue of flame was Ooguchi himself.

These people that gathered here were not a clan, they were not friends, they were a community, one with incredibly powerful bonds that no amount of torture could break. Mana had not yet seen the might of this Yoruma torture herself but if it was enough to make Shimo instantly dismiss torture as a viable option it must've been impressive. What kind of man gathers such amount of loyalty, even more so, does so doing crazy things like occupying a village district and doing crimes right under Hokage's nose, working with Kirigakure that had less of an approval rating in Konoha than Death God himself. He must've been a man of ideals, almost a cult-like leader, an icon to these people…

"Your mother wasn't from Konoha…" father's voice echoed in Mana's ear. She tried to resist the urge to sink in the memories of her father describing the wandering tribe that he met Mana's mother in, she had no time for that now. Either way, was her mother's tribe of people wandering from village to village similar to Ooguchi's crew? Mana didn't want to make any judgments before she met the man but what if they were the villains here by separating a community of poor people that have nowhere to go and no ideal to live up to, people that literally have nothing, people that were risking their lives and betraying their ideals just to make sure that their children are happy for one moment in their lives… That kind of person cannot possibly be bad. Inevitably Mana, Shimo and Sugemi will not face off against bandits or animals trying to kill them but people, people with families that want their families to live in happiness…

Mana banged loud on the scrap door, a lady opened it – she wore rags and stank worse than Mana did when she was covered with centipede innards. "Excuse me, your husband sent me, he wanted to make sure you leave this district, it's going to go down today." the woman didn't look that sad or didn't even question Mana's words, she seemed to have a pack already ready to go, she gestured for the visitor magician to walk in and went to call her little girl. Mere moments later the little kid ran up to Mana with an actual piece of clothing which was a rarity – a raincoat and still held some sewn dolls. "Hey… You're…" Mana smiled and kneeled up to the kid so that she didn't have to look up all the time, "I'm Konoha's Sorceress and your daddy and I made a deal – you can see my show anytime you want and you won't have to pay anything, you can even bring your mom and dad if you want. Just please let's hurry…"

The kid looked ecstatic, this was probably the first time Mana saw someone love her shows that much, usually the public enjoyment was there but she never saw someone's eyes literally light up as if they were specks of stardust fallen to Earth. "Yay, I knew you're a nice person, Sorceress, when I find my third job I promise I'll buy my tickets like everyone else!" the kid shouted out. Mana's mouth opened to reply to that peculiar sentence and the horrible implications it had but she realized that she was literally wasting time here. "We'll talk later, please move to the gate, your husband is there waiting for you." Mana took some of her allowance money and handed it to the woman, "Rent a room in the village, sleep it over, we'll see how this goes. It'd be great if you went to the Administration and told them about this place and your situation in the morning."

Mana rushed out of the house with the woman following shortly and moving the opposite direction. This meeting made everything even more confusing, so people knew that their leader will eventually cause a downfall of this whole district they built here? Of course they should've known, this whole idea of building a community inside a ninja village and living their own lives and expecting it all to be swell was stupid. Of course the woman was smart and probably not even the only person here with a packed bag… This place started to make Mana sick, a place where even children had to work in several jobs and still didn't make enough money for basic survival needs. Just what kind of community this Ooguchi guy had here? Mana wasn't so sure she even wanted to resolve this peacefully anymore, she wanted that guy to say something, she was begging him to give her the option of fighting him and bringing him down. The genin quickly made way for the home where the man told her that Ooguchi was in.

Shimo tried to hold back a little bit, he needed to compensate for the time that Mana would take to move the kid out of the district. It was likely that no danger would even come to her but if such was the will of the man and that was the deal that Mana made with him… It was important to Mana that everyone was safe, she was lucky to have Shimo as her teammate. Most ninja would find such desire for heroism and making sure that absolutely everyone from common villagers to even the enemies were alright absolutely annoying. Sugemi didn't care about anything but getting a manga made about him so… She'd be lucky to stay in team with them forever, otherwise she'd have more conflict on her hands than she deserves.

The boy moved in and stood back to the wall of the house he needed to enter. His was probably the most dangerous of the tasks – it was likely that the Kirigakure man was a ninja and a skilled one. Usually only mercenaries, ninja or people employing mercs or ninja moved from one village to another. If that man was here it meant he knew how to defend himself or run away when things got hot. It was unfortunate that the Hokage had already left, if this man was captured he'd be a good proof of Kirigakure's dark involvement in Konoha's criminal underworld. Then again, the only reason why this deal was taking place at all was because the Hokage and "Red Dog" Tanshu and "Vapor" Miso were no longer here. It might have been a good idea to set up a diversion in this situation, make those guys believe that things were worse than they actually were… Either way, he won't achieve anything in here. Shimo moved in to a side "window", silently tapping the surfaces and checking which layer was supposed to be removed and worked as a window space.

Shimo gently removed the large piece of cardboard and placed it on the floor inside, he leapt inside and rolled to stand up – he couldn't waste time being seen between the house and interior. As Shimo's head lifted off the ground his eye almost got a senbon lodged into it – a tall woman was standing with her hand pointed at him with four senbons between her fingers, Shimo almost rolled into her taunting stance. "What do you know… The anonymous tip was right, Konohagakure actually does know about the deal." the woman spoke with an arrogant tone using her other hand to stroke her shoulder long dark hair. Her eyes met with those of the boy, "You messed up, this is how little ninja die…" the woman said and thrust her arm forward…

Sugemi kept running on forward to the place he was assigned to, why the hell did he listen to Shimo anyways? That idiot was in the way of his manga, what was his assignment anyways? To move the luggage with the money that Ooguchi was supposed to pay? That's repossession man's work, repossession men didn't get their own stories, no one wants to read about a repossession man. That asshole Shimo must want to interrupt the deal and get his own manga first, he just says that Hokage bullshit to others, just to move their attention away from the real goal. Even Mana got two jobs, how come she always got to do most of all in the missions? Just like in the Forest of Death when she got to do all of the actual work…

Then again, this wasn't a mission, money was important for the village, maybe he actually will get a pretty good word from the village to his manga publisher when he'll pitch the idea. After all, he will be the guy that recovers all of the money stolen from the people, he will be as much of a hero as it gets, he may even give everyone's money back to them personally! This was awesome! Shimo may have been trying to snag his dream but he'll end up snagging Mana's to fulfil his, that didn't really feel right, Mana was a pretty nice person, she didn't really deserve to get this shit pulled on her but it's all Shimo's fault anyways! Sugemi giggled to his own palm as he thought about it, the boy didn't bother to be too discrete – Sugemi thrust his punch to the scrap layer that served as a door.

"Ohhh, a little powerhouse… Isn't that cute?" Sugemi jumped backwards to avoid a pillar of solid rock shooting out of the ground, the amount of force behind that thing shook the whole scrap house. A man with rugged cape and a bandana and shades was inside with a cocky smile, what did this mean, no one was supposed to be inside! Did the guard play a trick with Mana? Did he lie about the actual locations? Mana was such a stupid idiot! She and her stupid belief that everyone was her friend, it'll get her killed one day and even worse – it'll get HIM killed once, maybe it's even in the process of getting him killed right goddamn now!

"Splitting your efforts to accomplish most assignments possible, or at least taking the money was a smart idea, we were fortunate to receive the anonymous tip…" the man spoke and made a handseal that made the rock structure disappear. Slowly, one step after another the man walked outside. "Oh no you won't!" Sugemi shouted leaping forward with a handseal charging up chakra and wrapping his Shadow Tendrils around his fist "Shadow Fist Technique!" Sugemi shouted leaping forward as fast as he could and punching the man right to the face. The force of his blow sent the man backwards right through multiple layers of scrap – Sugemi had to keep it contained, the man had some sort of Earth Release style that was dangerous to use inside such a house, by keeping it contained Sugemi might stand more of a chance and keep it more quiet.

The man's forehead cracked, then his entire body started to crack as if it was just a cocoon. The entire body crumbled revealing an identical copy inside. Sugemi's eyes were open wide – he had never seen anything like that, this was not someone of his level would use, his technique had the serious ability to break some bones, to soak all of it up was some pretty nice defensive armor. The layer of the man's armor that collapsed changed into dirt, the man smiled, "Nice technique, as you can see I have some of my own…" His half-exposed grin made Sugemi sick, he wanted to keep punching this guy but he shouldn't overdo it, one Shadow Fist used to take a lot of his chakra and while he has refined his mastery over the technique somewhat it still was easily his most costly jutsu. It'd be nice to finish it soon and without having to use it again, maybe two or three times if need be…

Mana opened the door, slowly she proceeded to walk inside, this house was by far the largest. Even if they didn't get their tip from the gate guard they'd have still been able to somehow figure out that the largest house made entirely of large ad posters stuck onto the usual junk materials was the most important place in here. It was strange to not be able to hear anything. One step after another Mana kept walking forward, gently peeking after the corner and doing her best to spot the danger before it spotted her. The rooms were pretty dark – there was little to no sunlight getting in there from the outside seeing how it was covered blind. One room however had light coming from there, Mana bet that would be where this Ooguchi guy was.

The girl tossed a smoke bomb into the room. She leapt at the first person that was closest to her having pinpointed his location almost instantly before using her tool. Using her kunai Mana smacked him at the back of his neck. She then acted through hearing and seeing mere shadows of the people inside the smoke alone, Mana lunged forward and rolled to avoid the blow of a man targeting her as his friends were still trying to understand what happened. The magician cut the man at the back of his leg and punched him with her palm. Mana knew perfectly how long her smokebombs lasted, she used plenty of those on stage, usually to announce her arrival. By then it was clear that these men were no mercenaries and definitely no ninja, they were just poor people to whom guarding Ooguchi was just one of their numerous jobs. That made the magician even more sick of it all so she started weaving handseals near instantly after taking out the last guy.

Mana pointed forward with two of her fingers sending a long string of channeled beam of wind chakra, it worked similarly to a blade, it was just much less piercing and efficient so it had no way of killing her enemy. Violence was a perfectly acceptable last resort kind of mean of achieving her ends but killing was out of the question for Mana. The sharp gust dug deep into the man's knee and he fell on the ground yelling, Mana tried to kick him in the face to finish him but he caught her leg and lifted it sending her down. He tried to crawl onto her but the kunoichi kicked him in the face. This was the second time that day she didn't perform as well as she could've in taijutsu – she needed to brush it up a bit, maybe invent her own style or something.

Mana's head turned up, her rough head count when she moved out to use the smoke bomb suggested that there was supposed to be another man there but no one tried to take her out while she was down. The wandering eyes caught a quite grotesque sight to behold, a morbidly obese man sitting on a collection of large pillows. He had an extremely overweight body but his arms looked pretty muscular and quite able to do some damage, his legs however looked miniscule and definitely undersized for the man. His head was the worst, it was easily the largest part of his body with his chin being almost half the size of his entire torso. Someone like that had to be the most important guy in the room. Mana rolled onto her chest and stood up, fixing her hair. "I can't goddamn believe it, Sugemi was right, this does feel like a goddamn manga at this point…" she thought as her eyes met those of Ooguchi.

"We need to talk, about all of this." she calmly stated as the man flapped his lips and licked them with his tongue, his miniscule legs moved just slightly pushing his body forward as he fell down on all fours with his bulky hands keeping up the weight. "I'd have liked to see your show, you're that magician right? That or you just dress like a magician which would be quite retarded… I just don't leave the district too much, people tend to point fingers and laugh at me all the time." the man spoke as he flicked his head to the side to get his dreadlocks off of his face. "You are insufferable, Ooguchi-san… You found those poor people and gave them hope gathered them together into a solid community, then you made them build you a home, not just a house but a whole village inside of a village and then you made them work for you, employing them into multiple "jobs", even children, using them like nothing else but a cheap workforce… I wanted to talk to you initially, see if we could find a compromise, maybe you could have still called off your men from their "jobs" and cancelled this deal… I'm sorry, Ooguchi-san, there is nothing to talk about with a person like you. This district will go down, its people will be free and will join the other villagers in an actual community, they will not be fueled by need to survive but need to live better than they already do. And most definitely, YOU will go down and into Correctional Facility" Mana said with her anger coming up inside of her, her heart slowly growing hotter and hotter before her entire body was tensed and ready to take this man down, him and his entire… Whatever this madness was.

Ooguchi's body shook as the man laughed, then all of a sudden his hands tensed up, the immense arms pushed the large corpus of the man off the ground lunging into Mana, Ooguchi's mouth opened revealing blunt teeth – what a peculiar method of attack… The girl tried to make handseals but it was too late – the man's teeth drove into her body causing grievous injuries, her head was barely even hanging on a small thread of muscle that the man's teeth did not tear apart, her body was almost cut in half from the lower jaw slamming into her gut… Or at least that was what Ooguchi saw as Mana's illusion connected first and she managed to roll under the man's colossal figure. Mana thrust her palms repeatedly, slapping Ooguchi again and again, driving her palms into his back, making her rage drive her strikes, punching again and again using her palms until she was too tired and stumbled back. "Is that it, magician girl? I didn't feel any of it, I'm a pretty thick man you see…" Ooguchi mumbled as he turned around with a despicable smile that would make the devil himself claw his eyes out. Mana's face twisted in disgust as she lifted two fingers into the air and made a handseal moving it up to her chest, "You WILL feel this though…" Mana spoke as the man noticed his back and shoulders being full of explosive tags.

"I don't think I can punch you out, I'm not the kind of girl that would kill either but this would not kill you, as you said, you're a thick man, you have a layer of both fat and muscle that my punches sized up quite well, this wouldn't kill you but your life would not be comfortable from that point on… Seeing how we're sort of stuck in a deadlocke, Ooguchi-san, let's talk…" Mana explained her intentions calmly, Ooguchi would have never listened to her before, now that she had his utmost attention and controlled the situation he'd be more talkative and willing to reach a consensus.
Gate of Opening!The enemy is Jounin? by Captain Claymore
For a moment there Shimo just stood there, stood there watching and sizing his opponent up. She was a relatively short and not by any means a muscularly built lady, she had well shortened hair so trying to exploit that wouldn't have been a viable option. She used senbon, that much was for sure which meant she knew the anatomy of the body and had a pretty good aim. Wherever she planned to hit the genin, she'd hit him if given the chance, she wore a long black dress, an outfit very unlike the people living in the area. This would be an exchange of decisions, if Shimo lost the battle would've been over, if he won he'd be able to fight her for a bit longer – options weren't too much in his favor.

There it was, woman's arm twitched, her exposed shoulder muscles tensed up telegraphing her next attack. Shimo used a short blade – as a close range shinobi he must've had a certain degree of perception and ability to properly anticipate his opponent's moves and respond with optimal response from himself. The boy dashed back weaving handseals using his hands, his handseals were nowhere near the speed that Mana had, a strange thing having his amazing bloodline ability in mind… One would think he'd be a bit faster at that but with little luck the seals might just come out fast enough.

"Ice Plate Jutsu!" Shimo yelled out, he would've preferred to have some sort of water source to use in conjunction but unfortunately he had to settle for freezing air vapor for his techniques for now, at least until he gets smart enough to carry some water around or use a water technique to set his battles up. His female opponent used senbon, she tossed them forward with a straightforward attack but her tools bounced off of Shimo's defensive plates of ice – the two plates of ice that the boy created weren't large, but the size of a buckler but they were enough to deflect the senbon aimed at his gut. "She's aiming to incapacitate?" Shimo thought as he heard the needles clinging down onto the floor.

"An impressive display" the woman complimented, "An Ice Release technique, huh? You're skilled enough to freeze the water particles in air too but it doesn't seem too strong. Just how strong is it? As strong as glass?" the woman taunted Shimo. The genin was alarmed at how much she knew of his techniques, she either was a good warrior who had fought Yuki clansmen in the past or she knew about Water Release and its variations which meant she was a ninja and didn't just use tools. "She knew where she was targeting but she didn't want to kill me because if she did she'd have aimed elsewhere – senbon in the gut would've made it excruciatingly painful to move so I'd be down but not out… What is her goal here? Who even is this woman?" Shimo wondered as his opponent reached for her senbon, now that she knew the strength of his Ice Release she'd not play around. A ninja of her level would simply attack strong enough to both break his ice and take the opponent down.

The woman breathed in, the boy kept on guard but he knew that a ninjutsu technique was coming, so she was actually a ninja! The kunoichi of the Junk District quickly went through couple of handseals and spat a bunch of water out, Shimo leapt sideways to avoid it – that was good, she just made a source of water for him to work with! The woman breathed in again, proceeding to spit another mass of water right at Shimo, the boy slapped his hands together forming a handseal as the water she spat out before formed a flat and strong ice wall. This one was strong enough to withstand ninjutsu up to certain rank, Shimo kept it relatively small though – just large enough to block the assault with no damage to it but also left some space up and to the sides for him to pass.

He was surprised to be greeted not by shouts of frustration but… Laughter! The water that slammed into his ice wall didn't fall to the ground, it splashed up making bunch of smaller masses of water that stayed in the air shortly, they then transformed into needles, needles as large as senbon. "Water Senbon Technique!" Shimo heard the woman yell as the water needles bombarded the genin's body inflicting multiple cuts, moving in through the several spaces he had left for his own attack. The pain was unlike anything that the young shinobi has ever experienced, the pain of small pieces of water drilling through his flesh up to bone and then dissolving as it left marks on his bones in so many places at once – it felt like being shredded to bits!

The boy's injured body was drawn down to the ground, Shimo's hand shot forward to keep his body from slamming the floor like a sack of potatoes. "Are you… The Kirigakure ninja?" Shimo uttered some words, trying desperately to make the woman talk, just give him some time to get his pathetic ass off the ground and back into fighting shape. Shimo knew he could take this, all of what this woman had and more. All he needed was just a short break, just catch his breath and keep swinging back. She was clearly more skilled at ninjutsu, there was no use fighting her that way – anyone with the ability to shape elemental chakra into such complex shapes and at such numbers should've been beyond even Chuunin level.

Shimo's wall melted into a large puddle of water, the woman must've hit his chakra point which forced him to release any active techniques like this ice wall. The woman looked at the side, she was concerned about something, what could've been so important to her?! Never mind her concerns, Shimo got his chance to attack, gathering what he still had of his strength the boy leapt forward charging at the woman using all of his speed, that was what he trained all this time – his speed. That was what Tanshu-sensei told him, he spoke in what sounded like a riddle, he said that Shimo had the lock to his power-up already in his palm and that speed was the key. The genin figured that sensei meant that his body had the speed needed to impress sensei but he still needed to train it to achieve that speed so he spent those days running and pushing his body and ability to spend a great amount of force into quick leaps. Just focusing his chakra into the right muscles, making it work for him to transcend what even peak human condition could offer, all ninja were at peak human condition, it took a very special one to break that wall!

Shimo slipped and fell on the ground, that was impossible, his feet weren't even touching the ground! As the boy looked at what happened he saw water wrapping around his leg as if it was some kind of a whip or something. "Enough of this, kid, I'm not your enemy." The woman spoke, she was still looking at some point at the wall, her full attention was still somewhere else and she managed to counter Shimo's last resort attack? Just how strong was this woman? Finally her cold gaze returned to the genin laying on the ground, breathing heavily as the hard fall reminded him of all of his injuries from before. He quickly started forcing his body to lift off of the wet floor – she completely embarrassed him but he won't give this woman the satisfaction, he won't follow his own advice, he won't run! This woman must've had her eyes set on Mana's or Sugemi's location, she must've been a sensor and wanted to go. Shimo will keep her here, she won't get to where she wants to nor will she get the pleasure of dominating him, he will fight her as an equal to the end!

"I said enough, I'm a jounin of Konohagakure…" she nonchalantly added as the woman's eyes returned to wherever they were before. "W-What?" Shimo grunted out, still affected by the pain. How could this make any sense? Why would she be fighting him in that case, did she know about the Kirigakure deal? What was going on? "Me and my partner were both undercover here, we were on a mission to find out just what and how much of it was this district pulling in terms of criminal activities. Today was when we decided to blow our cover and take it all down – we couldn't allow this Kirigakure deal to go as planned but the man was close, I didn't want to tip him off and so me and my partner volunteered to keep you guys occupied and act like we're killing you when we got the tip from Hanada that you'd be coming. Going to that guy for help was a REALLY bad idea…"

Finally all of this started to make a little bit more sense to the genin. So this woman and whoever she was working with were already on Ooguchi's track and working on taking him down. Team Oak was given the low ranking mission of busting one crime, to just win a battle while this squad was working with winning the whole war! They really must've made all of this difficult for the two by getting involved… Shimo looked away, he was really ashamed of himself and that he got involved, also disappointed that he was so weak and didn't give this woman a good fight at the very least, he wasn't an asset in this mission of these two high ranking ninja at all, just a kid that was in the way… "I'm… Sorry…" he uttered, the woman tsked with her tongue.

"It's alright, I couldn't tip off the Kiri guy so that he doesn't get away, I had to play tough. He was in this house but when the end of the fight was clear he left, I can sense him moving to Ooguchi's place. He was a weird guy, wanted to make the deal only with the fat guy himself. I can sense that there's a friend of yours there, a small chakra signature, larger than yours." Shimo nodded, "Mana-chan…" he uttered, "We've got to go, if this Kirigakure ninja gets there Mana-chan will be in danger!" The woman scratched her head, "Yeah, the chakra of that Kirigakure guy is crazy, he'd probably give both me and my partner trouble, sadly Ooguchi's house isn't our first stop, we need to let my partner know that the rules changed too – without him we won't beat the Kiri ninja if he starts fighting us and he'd kill your other friend fighting him in the meantime. I just hope your friend can stall for time."

Shimo grunted and punched the ground, he was torn as both of his teammates needed help. "How about if I went to help Mana hold the guy off and you went to pick your partner up and then rejoined us. I'm sort of a gentleman, I can't leave Mana-chan in danger again, she always tends to get in trouble and do things by herself, I want to be with her this time!" the woman shrugged "Do what you want, I'm going to pick Dorimi up." she replied without a care in the world and dashed to the side, kicking out a cardboard layer while not losing pace and moving to the eastern side of the district – where both Mana and Sugemi were.

"I'm coming, Mana-chan!" Shimo uttered to himself as he jumped out the same hole and forced his body to move the best he could towards the place where Ooguchi's house was supposed to be.

Sugemi kept throwing punches at the man's general direction, they've been exchanging blows for a while now and he was holding the genin off, even more – he was returning more than he was taking. So far, for entire couple of minutes of non-stop exchanges of blows Sugemi managed to resist the temptation to use any ninjutsu but he had to. This guy already gave him a swollen black eye that will probably look like a second face in the morning, he also must've broken some ribs at least. At the current pace Sugemi might stall the guy but not knock him out. His dream of manga was floating away slowly and this was was all that stood in the way!

"You're pretty impressive, you're a genin right and yet you're giving me trouble at taijutsu. Granted it was never a field I excelled at or trained. I hope you understand that I'm beating you at the game rules of which you set up… That is unfortunate but the difference in strength is apparent!" the man shrugged, his voice, the words he spoke, it all made Sugemi more and more angry. Sugemi crouched up and started yelling loud, he was doing just like sensei showed him, letting his anger flow through his body while his motivation of manga was threatened, it was now that Sugemi was at his angriest and at his strongest, just like sensei said, however, anger made him slower and reckless so his strength was worth nothing!

"First Gate: Gate of Opening… OPEN!" Sugemi yelled as chakra burst out of his body for a brief moment. This was not something he did in battle, only something he trained with. So far Sugemi had never used this in combat but when he was training this technique let him train at least five times more efficiently which meant five times more gain for same amount of training. Still, the technique was not something he could allow to last, it also wore down his own body and his body wasn't tough enough to stand even one gate for too long. "Eight Gates?!" his opponent exclaimed surprised as Sugemi used all of his briefly unlocked speed and the strength of his rage and desire to destroy this man, he slapped his hands together to form a handseal and yelled out in pain and rage, "Shadow Tendril Barrage!" as tendrils of chakra shot out of multiple pockets of his own body – Sugemi's own Nara technique tied around his body, striking his opponent repeatedly from any source of shadow in his body.

The technique connected, the surprise of seeing the Eight Gates being used by his opponent seemed to open up the man's guard and allow Sugemi to catch him unprepared, the fists pummeled his opponent and the Nara gave him no chance to recover, he went all out allowing his chakra to continuously burst prolonging both his One Gate and his Shadow Tendril variant. It was such an exhausting technique that Sugemi needed mastery over his own body to perform it and not collapse, only while using the First Gate could the boy manage to pull Shadow Tendril Barrage off even if theoretically it was just multiple quick succession strikes of a Shadow Tendril technique that he used quite casually.

"No!" Sugemi shouted in his own mind, he could feel pain and exhaustion in his arms, his actual body was crumbling on using so much chakra and the strain of the gates. Sugemi's body was still quite puny, he wasn't used to it being pushed too far so even the First Gate was straining enough to be the boy's limit. No! No more limits! Just one more! "Shadow FIIIIST!" Sugemi yelled as the multiple Shadow Tendrils quickly wrapped around his arm forming a bigger version of his fist. His punch hit the man in the jaw, the boy felt a rush, he felt like he still had something in him and that if he didn't use that last amount of force his opponent will stand up, him standing meant Sugemi's defeat and death, death meant no manga for him, that was unacceptable! The boy roared as he pushed his fist to fling his opponent back using all of his force.

Just as the woman in a black dress settled on a small wall, built entirely out of discarded household things like ovens and washing machines she looked at the home – she still couldn't quite understand what was going on, her partner was in there, right? Why did he make that boy's chakra dip so much? It was like he was getting closer and closer to death but at the same time – Dorimi was struggling as well, his chakra took some dips too meaning he must've used a technique of some sort to defend but… His flow was calmer which meant he was in no danger of…

The entire damn scrap house collapsed as the side wall burst open with her partner flying out through it! The woman even jumped out of surprise, what kind of force can cause something like that? That wasn't the amount of force a genin should be capable of putting out. A boy walked out through the hole just before the whole thing went down, no, he just barely stumbled out – his body was strained, just like his teammate this kid was giving his all, did he even know he was fighting a Jounin? Then again, it didn't seem like Dorimi was doing much more than defending… The man that was flung out by something the genin did stood up, his Earth Armor collapsed! No. That wasn't even it, the man wiped blood coming out of his lip that was open, he spat some to the side – this kid caused Dorimi damage!

The kid fell down, just like that other one that faced the woman, he used all of his remaining force to keep his body at least on his knees with just one arm to keep him from kissing dirt. He was huffing heavily and sweating profusely – he was in no fighting condition but… This kid… He'd go places if he didn't die a youngling. "Hey! Stop playing, let's go, the cover's blown, let's proceed with takedown." the woman yelled from atop a barrier of junk.

"I see…" Dorimi spoke, he then quickly stomped the ground shooting multiple rock pillars that surrounded Sugemi and pressed against his body – an efficient way to keep him from making more trouble. Now that the man could safely use his Earth Release he settled this in just an instant! "You're a fool, stay here so that you don't hurt yourself any more than you already have. You pack a punch though, well done." the man replied as he picked up his bandana off the ground and tossed his broken shades away revealing warm and funny green eyes. "Let's go, Shibari-chan…" the man addressed the woman on the fence, "I assume you will now put on your glasses in that case? Your aim is horrible without them?" he smiled as the woman pulled out a pair from behind and put them on. "Yes, sadly it is, barely can see a thing without them, having to aim using sensory alone is weird, fighting genin like that doesn't bother me but that Kirigakure ninja will be trouble."

The two ninja head out their way, leaving Sugemi struggle and kick around trying to break out of the improvised prison he was left in. The head was the only thing he could use so the Nara kept trying to break the stone with it, however nothing was achieved but drawing his own blood. Sadly using the gates made his body more vulnerable after use too…
The Demon of Kirigakure by Captain Claymore
By the time that the brief scuffle in Ooguchi's house resolved and the magician got the man where she wanted him to be the Sun had already almost set. There were only the small light sources that were coming from the room – small candle like lights placed in various spots of the room. They were artificial, mechanical but they tried to imitate the real thing and only glowed like the real thing, dimly as no doubt was the intention of their maker. Mana had never seen such objects, people in Ooguchi's little "community" were amazing and crafty people, they had to be to survive…

"So… What do you want to talk about then?" the man asked the young kunoichi finally breaking the silence. Mana's eyes switched back to those filled with spite and rage, she usually was a peaceful soul but right now she was blazing inside and had no tolerance for men like Ooguchi. There was a part of her that wanted to activate the tags on his back and make him suffer. She extended her hand forward, still holding her hand in the handseal position as if to remind him that she has Ooguchi in her complete control. "There is not that much that I want you to do. We will be taking these people over from you, if you have any wisdom in there at all you'll leave this country and will never be seen again."

Ooguchi's fat body twitched, Mana knew what that meant, she did not activate the tags though, this was an attack made out of desperation and it posed no danger to her. The young genin lifted her leg up with a kick to meet the man's face, the silly chubby tried to literally bite the girl's arm off but Mana's arm was not where his oversized jaw chomped, instead her boot kicked right into the outside of the man's jaw. Ooguchi rolled back on the floor, whining in pain, the man spat out two gigantic for a human being teeth, they looked like they were tools of death, they had to be at least the size of a brick. "Did you just try to bite my arm off?" Mana asked completely confused? Why would anyone do that? That was not an attempt to kill, that was an attempt to injure her – even if Ooguchi had succeeded Mana would've still been able to activate the tags with just one arm. He was just insane…

"You can forget it…" a loud, artificial voice echoed throughout the room Mana was in making both the girl and the man she was fighting jump up in surprise. The voice had no man to claim ownership of it, it was just a sound that came from one of the multiple areas in the room that were pitch black from the absolute darkness and as the Sun went down and the artificial lights were not powered up the darkness was slowly increasing in size. Within just ten minutes of the magician being in the room the area corrupted by complete darkness grew from nothingness to at least one fifth of the total size of the room.

"After all, Ooguchi is a slimy snake, if you let him go he'd just climb back to where he is now." the almost cybernetic in nature voice came from the darkness again, this time followed by a loud whistling noise. Mana's hand shot forward to try and intercept it but… A blade hooked to a chain dug deep into Ooguchi's flesh. The man seemed to barely even notice it until he turned around and saw it, then he started shouting into the darkness completely ignoring Mana. "No… Wait… I'll, I'll pay… Come on… It was a joke…" he then turned to Mana and started crawling towards her with teary eyes. "Come on… Girl… He's lying, you're kind, you'll help me, right? I'll disappear just like you told me to…" the second blade on a chain dug into the man's back, completely ignored by the large figure of Ooguchi.

"Begging her will do you no good. She'll be dead too by the time you'll be found. She and her stupid friends actually served me well. I was wondering how to pull off this perfect crime – kill a Konohagakure businessman and disappear without a trace… Just like sensei taught me." Two more blades flew at the colossal man and wrapped around him instead of having the blades dig into his body. The chains were then pulled back resulting in Ooguchi being completely bound by the steel chains. "Did you know, girl, that tags can be set off not only by the user's chakra but also by any source of fire chakra?" the creepy voice came again as flames erupted briefly illuminating a man standing in one of the corners, hiding on a wooden beam right near the roof.

Mana knew what he meant by that, right after his words reached her she dashed back – she wanted to save Ooguchi but… She wouldn't have even gotten to the chains before the whole place would've went up in flames. A gigantic explosion went off, Ooguchi's tags were detonated by the man's Fire Release technique, Mana didn't make it in time – the explosion caught her and tossed her right through the scrap door, she was supposed to feel lucky. The crippling pain reminded her that she was still alive and the crumbling noise of falling debris suggested that the entire house was blown the hell up. Mana felt pain everywhere, she felt warm streams of blood going down her back, some areas of her body that were cut by the scrap wall she flew through. Her entire face was burning – it must've been cut in multiple places… So much for her performances for a couple of months…

Hair… So much hair was in her way… Mana peeled her head off the ground and looked at what used to be Ooguchi's home. No trace of it remained, no trace of Ooguchi himself, no trace of his assassin. That person, who was it? The guard mentioned that Ooguchi was having some sort of a deal with someone from Kiri, someone who obviously should've been a pretty powerful guy to move between villages with less than stellar relationship and working so deep underground. So maybe this assassin was him? The Kirigakure ninja that was having the deal with Ooguchi, and since Shimo went to intercept the deal… Oh God! Did that mean that Shimo died!? No… That couldn't have been true! Mana shouted out in pain as her entire body felt like it was covered with fire as it stood up. She tore off what little remained of her jacket, her uniform was completely messed up, just enough remained to keep her dignity intact…

Such powerful devastation, the man must've killed himself too, what the hell was that all about? He couldn't possibly have ran away, he had to hold the chains… A figure walked through the flames, since the house was mostly built out of junk and scrap it must've been Ooguchi's gigantic carcass that was fueling the flame. "Just a clone, magician girl, I very much plan to live through this." the artificial voice spoke again. Only now the magician had a brief chance to get a look at the man, he was dressed just like a ninja that clung to shadows would've been dressed like – a black but slick armor. It must've been made from some sort of cloth but some areas like the face and chest had tougher protection, made from steel or other protective layer. The armor was decorated, the whole cloth part looked like the skin, the protective parts tried to emulate human skeleton with his face being most over the top of all – even with miniature couple of fingers sized demon horns at the end. His whole body was wrapped in chains, those were without a doubt his main long range weapon.

"You may want me to kill you and be over with it. That'll have to wait for one second. I sadly have a fatal flaw, I really love to tell people things, sensei says one day that'll kill me so he keeps beating me half to death every time I try to explain my victim how I got them and how I'll kill them. Sensei tells me I am a prodigy, a genius even and as such I want my mind to be understood, I want my victims to know just how good their killer is." He started talking with that annoying voice again. Mana wasn't sure if it was something that he needed to breathe, like a breathing apparatus inside that ridiculous outfit of his or maybe just so his voice isn't recognized, he pressed something at the side of his neck and the artificial voice stopped. When he spoke Mana's body shook in anger and shock.

"You may recognize my voice. Yes, I am the guy that gave you the tip in the first place. You see this mission is sort of an initiation ritual, initiation into being an elite assassin. I was given the task to kill a man in Konohagakure, an influential man no less. Assassins always have to raise as little noise as possible, then again, I am also a perfectionist so I wanted my presence to not even be known. Then I heard you three talking about Ooguchi's thing, imagine my surprise, three young weakling ninja looking for the man I am trying to find ways of killing silently… Your expression betrays you, girl. You get it, don't you?" the man spoke with pride behind his voice, he was PROUD of having just killed a man, he was proud of what he was about to do too. He was proud of it all.

He was right, Mana knew what he did, he planted them, played them so that they got to Ooguchi so that then this guy kills them and Ooguchi and puts it on their heads. He framed their names, he was going to kill Mana, Shimo and Sugemi, no, he was doing more than that. On top of their deaths he will also mix their memories with dirt, their names will go down in history as names of murderers, ninja that one day just decided to kill a man inside their own village. Man loved by the people that the same man secretly enslaved… Mana was so stupid, why did she get involved? Now she brought shame to her entire family, she burned down every bit of fame her father worked for, she would be the person that ruins the family name that father made from nothing. All that her father did, she would undo… Mana's merciful heart filled with rage once again. She couldn't keep it in anymore, if she would die today she'd go fighting.

Mana shouted out, that was her roar of pride and rage, she charged forward at the man who obviously was not expecting it, probably wasn't even done talking yet. Her first kick surprised the assailant and it landed right onto his cheek just like the girl had intended it to go. Mana always wanted to make an improvised style of martial arts, one focused on kicking just so she could reach further, keep people away for her actual strategy to be used on them more efficiently. She may as well play with what she'll never get to anyways… Mana's kick seemed to hurt the man, what the magician girl perceived as armor barely absorbed the shock and it cocked the man's head to the side. This was her chance, she got the hit in, she dazed the man, she may as well make him work for that kill! Mana's legs danced gracefully as she kicked wherever she could find an opening in, the head, the chest, wherever she saw none of that ridiculous skeleton-like protection of armor her feet went for. As one leg got tired of attacking, the kunoichi switched to the other. She must've kicked him so many times but the man just stood there and took it, he didn't stumble back, he didn't fall… This was bad.

Both of her legs got tired, Mana was grunting and huffing openly as her relentless barrage of kicks made her defeat herself by exhausting her. NO! This was absolutely not the time to give up, she would fight with all she had, if she would die in the end she'd make the man lose more than couple of teeth from getting kicked in the jaw. The young genin dashed backwards tossing explosive tags in the air, just in time as the man had planned to counter her kick with a punch of his own which would've sent Mana down, kicking made one only have one leg of footing which was not a solid ground, one simple hit would've sent her down. Now the assassin dove right into the cloud of papers, the last of Mana's explosive tags went into the air. The magician made handseals and shouted out proudly "Friendly Gust Jutsu!" usually the technique was used to deliver the tags from one point to the other with a gust of wind – this time it was just to faze her opponent so that he stood still while she detonated the tags.

Mana made the seal, at that moment she did not think if the tags would kill the man or not, she just went all out, ridding herself of both most of her chakra and all of her regrets. As the chain of explosions riddled the area Mana's hands weighed down and her body hunched a little. Never has the dirt looked more comfortable and cozy than at that moment. Mana felt pulsing around her eyes and in her head, she knew this feeling, the feeling of being almost out of chakra. Her recent experience with this helped her better understand her limits, had she not spent too much in the archive in Forest of Death she may have spent too much here, tried to follow up this technique with something else… No, her "Magical Explosive Combo" was complete. As Mana breathed more and more heavily she wondered if the man had died.

Sharp pain – her opponent flashed out of nowhere with the kind of speed that would've probably made Tanshu-sensei proud. He dodged that combination with so little time to react! And yet… This was not the speed of a Jounin, in fact Mana saw that same kind of speed from Shimo. Could this man have been a genin?! A genin trained by the elite assassins so much that he transcended the lines of ranks? His body was trained just as much as Shimo's he must've been of around the same age. Mana's body stumbled backwards, at this point the girl almost felt no pain, adrenalin flooded all over her body. She heard the man's cloth rustle in the cold night's wind, "MOVE!" she ordered herself inside of her mind but her body froze. The man's arms worked like a machinegun, he attacked using his palms, just like Mana used to, the difference was that this man was much stronger and much better trained. He punched so fast, just as pain of one strike reached the magician's brain he was hitting in multiple other areas. And yet… He was not perfect, all this disguise of him being a Demon of Kirigakure and he still was breathing heavily.

The man jumped backwards flipping his legs and finishing his combination of blows with a backflip kick right in Mana's chin. The magician could've sworn that she lifted off the ground. Everything was white, was she dead? No… There were some loud voices all around her, buzzing inside of her head and then they all went away just as spontaneously as they came to be… She was alive. Mana could feel the pain of being alive, the reality that felt worse than dying at that moment. Pain all over, the bleeding cuts all over her body made her hair that were all over the ground feel sticky. She heard the man huffing! He was getting tired of annihilating Mana. That was just what the girl needed, a sign that all of this struggling was not in vain… What was she talking about? Of course it was not in vain, she was Nakotsumi Mana, the young woman that one day would change the world! Make human life be worth of something, this goal could not possibly be a vain one! Mana's eyes turned at her opponent, he jerked his hands to the side as blade claws shot out of his fingertips. "Don't worry, magician girl…" the man said while huffing, he finally then realized his mistake, revealing to his victim that he too was human, the assassin quickly flicked his cyber voice back on.

"These claws going through your neck will not hurt one bit, it'll end it all fast, you've fought valiantly, maybe even valiantly enough for me to care to get your name before I end this." the self-appointed demon spoke. The girl closed her eyes, the man took it as a sign she was giving up, truth be told – Mana was ordering her body one last move. The man's arm shot forward, his claws dug deep into the girl's neck, but something was wrong, in a poof of smoke her body disappeared and a piece of scrap iron was there in her place. "Substitution?" the cybernetic voice spoke to himself, a punch to the jaw silenced him. "My name… Is Nakotsumi Mana!" Mana shouted out as she started punching wildly, she was just as skilled at close range combat as a genin that did not specialize in it, that often got underrated, she certainly enough was no match for this man but… She'd make him sweat for his victory!

The two opponents started exchanging blows, Mana kept striking but her attacks were blocked one after the other. This man felt like he was impossible to hit, her every punch, every kick he pushed away with a simple flick of his wrist, it looked almost like he was resting throughout this entire struggle! His move economy was impossible, not a single movement was unnecessary. Mana had had enough of that brief exchange of blows to know where this struggle would lead her, she needed a ninjutsu technique but could she afford it? At her current exhausted state she'd have to be pretty cheap and use some of her weaker ones and that was never something the kunoichi liked to do. The young one kicked the man with all her might as he effortlessly blocked it with both of his hands, slightly slipping backwards, giving Mana that distance she so desperately needed as the girl weaved the handseals and…

The Demon's elbow dug deep into her gut. Mana just let out a single gasp of pain and surprise. Her mind turned off… She couldn't remember anything from that point as everything blurred and went white. There was just her weightlessness and her body hitting the ground but it no longer mattered… The assassin flicked his hand again getting his claws out, his last set was discarded as they were bent up and dulled from hitting solid scrap. "And that is how the magician dies…" he spoke thrusting his arm aiming at the girl's neck!

A loud clang broke the assassin out of his ecstasy – Shimo's wakizashi clashed with the man's claws sending a barrage of sparks out in the air! Mana was lucky not to have seen the face of her friend, this Shimo was smiling and enjoying the fact that he was about to be in a fight for his life. How could he not? He was looking for a chance like this whole day! "Who on Earth are you!?" the Demon grunted, trying to win the clash against Shimo's blade and cut Mana's arteries open, but Shimo's wicked bloodthirsty smile only grew wider. "Mana-chan is out, good, means I don't have to hold back, she won't be mad at me for kicking your butt with all I've got!" he grunted back at the assassin.
Blizzard Cut VS Infernal Chains by Captain Claymore
Shimo and the assassin struggled with their clash, each trying to push the other away with the assassin still trying to dig his claws into Mana's neck. Shimo smiled, something that the man facing off against him found annoying, "What's so funny?" he asked, "You need a break? You look like you're just coming from a beating of your life…" the assassin tried to regain his intimidation factor by noting the injuries all over Shimo's body from his encounter with the jounin earlier. "It's funny…" Shimo spoke still holding the clash of his blade with the assassin's claws firmly, "Mana-chan always believed that no person is ever unnecessary, that all life is sacred… I think right now I am bound to agree with her." Shimo spoke.

"What the hell are you on about? She got beaten by her own idiocy, she was so careful and foolish to try and set a trap for Ooguchi that she did most damage to herself when it blew into her face. She is a failure and she deserves the shame her death will bring to her." the Demon pushed his claws, trying to win the clash but unsuccessfully. Shimo just chuckled and shouted out loud as he shoved his blade with the last of his strength, the assassin's claws broke off of the device that held them to his fingertips, using this victory to its fullest the Yuki kicked right into the assassin's armor sending him sliding through the mud several feet back. Loud cracks started erupting all over the protective surface of the man's fancy outfit as the night-black protection of the tough material that absorbed blows to his chest and head crumbled. Suddenly the Demon of Kirigakure found himself standing with just a black jumpsuit and a simple black cloth mask covering his face.

"You had a pretty fancy outfit, protected in several areas making it hard to near impossible for a blade to land a solid hit. I'm not sure what Mana-chan's intentions were fighting you, she's a peaceful girl that hates fighting but… It's entirely possible that she wanted to make it easy for me and Sugemi to take you out by leaving you exposed. Cloth offers less resistance to cold steel than whatever you had on there, also now that stupid voice of yours shuts up!" Shimo swung his wakizashi to the side and stood back into the fighting stance, spreading his legs wide to have better solid footing, lifting his blade into the air and ready to strike. "Plus, it looks like she gave you some trouble, even if she didn't want to fight you to begin with…" Shimo never dropped his wicked smile for a bit, it felt great finally facing an opponent closer to his level, whatever that jounin meant by this guy being troublesome, he had this in the bag!

"I see… You believe that you are in some sort of advantage over me because your friend who is unconscious in the mud just waiting to be finished off removed my armor and made me huff a bit? My skin may be exposed now…" the assassin's body suddenly disappeared, within just a blink of an eye he closed the distance to Shimo, the boy swung his blade trying to hit the man's eyes with a slash, blinding him for life, it took the Demon a simple ducking motion to avoid the blade as his palm was thrusted right into the boy's body – opening it up for a combination of blows. "But feeling cloth rubbing against my skin…" punch to the gut, "Or cold night's breeze sending chills through it…" diagonal upwards blow to the jaw, "Or there being no protection on my chest making it hard to breathe…" downwards kick to the side of the neck with the shin, "No tough plastic to get in the way of my muscles tensing…" double punch to the nose, "It only makes my body more primal… Faster, stronger…" a combination of crushing blows to the chest leaving no air in the boy's lungs, "More ruthless" a blow from the side of his arm covering all the way from his chest to the face, sending the boy down to the dirt with his friend, where he belongs.

The Demon was surprised to see that his relentless combination of blows did not keep the already beaten up boy down, instead of staying down the little swordsman used the momentum from him being blown back to roll back right on his feet and stay on his knees at the very least. Shimo clenched his nose, it spat out some blood, he could taste blood in his mouth and breathing hurt just the same as getting punched. This man seemed to favor quantity of blows over strength, he attacked a lot of times, covered many areas but he never really packed a lot of force behind single blow. Still, if Shimo lets him up close again and wastes his reach advantage that the wakizashi grants him he's as good as done. Nothing would stop the man from snapping his neck if he wanted to… Shit. This had to be it – Shimo had to go all out but could he? Could he use THAT in his current condition? Could he be fast enough? There was only one way to find out, the boy smiled and laughed out raising his blade up and taking a defensive fighting stance.

"You know… Not long ago, before leaving, sensei gave each of us a training session, one on one, told us bunch of stuff, where we were strong, where we needed training, mostly how stupid and hopeless we were…" Shimo spoke as he threw his wakizashi into the air with all of his might and made some handseals. "I am Shimo Yuki, of the Yuki clan, I can use the famous Ice Release and am the only active ninja in Konoha with this ability." The boy kept speaking, his opponent did not attack, he was now on the defense, it was obvious that he didn't want to be up close to the boy when he uses his ace technique. Shimo's wakizashi slammed into the mud and stayed driven into the ground handle up. "Do you know what the most astounding advantage for a swordsman is? Speed. Good old raw speed… Do you know how to achieve speed? Speed is very relative, you can become faster… Or you can make your opponent slower… Do you know what cold does to your body?" Shimo smiled as a powerful chilling gust rose up making it impossible for anyone to move around.

The boy's technique drew water out of the air and froze it, he created a small artificial blizzard around the area making it hard to see, hard to move around and for those that did not share his bloodline and weren't used to this technique it slowed down their reaction time and their movement. Shimo smiled as he reduced the blizzard to one compact twister around his opponent, it did no damage to the enemy and barely threatened his life, but it weakened his body which in terms made Shimo look fast. "Blizzard Cut – Two Slashes!" Shimo whispered to himself as he dashed forward with all of his speed that training bukijutsu helped him gain. "Too slow!" the assassin shouted out trying to outshout the howling gale of a blizzard but he felt sharp pain and warm stream of blood shooting out. A tap of Shimo's foot alarmed him that the child swordsman was already behind him, the assassin tried to turn around but he dashed through again. The blizzard stopped after the second slash as Shimo sheathed his short blade.

"Sure to you I seemed slow…" Shimo spoke with certain spark of arrogance in his voice, this was something sensei had told him back then that helped him make this technique, no this style – using Yuki Ice Release to make his enemies slower, to distract them and ruin their chances to dodge or counter. "Your trained eyes saw me move from a mile away, ordering your trained body to counter but the problem was you were in shock, you were freezing, your trained body was just too slow to respond." Blood shot out of the assassin's body as Shimo's blade cut his flesh and left cuts in his clothes and his body instead of damaging his Demon's armor. The man was breathing heavily on his knees, he was injured and bleeding, he was moderately tired. "You little pests!" he yelled out from sheer rage, his body disappeared again, only to reappear right in front of Shimo.

The man's elbow quickly dug right into the boy's cheek, this attack was different, he put actual effort behind this one hit, he was slower but stronger! "Why do you stupid kids have to make this all so difficult!?" he yelled while kicking Shimo in the chest and reaching behind his back. "Weapon?" the genin instantly recognized the danger and tensed his body for a response. "Just stop trying to cause me trouble and die like good little Konoha weaklings!" the assassin shouted out grabbing two of his chain blades and using them like swords, Shimo's wakizashi just barely got in time to block them. The Demon's knee pushed the boy away, he already knew enough of the boy's physical strength not to contend with him in a clash. Seeing how the chains were already in his hands the Demon tossed both of the blades right at the boy. "Shit!" Shimo cursed swinging his blade to deflect the projectiles. Sharp pain came from his side as well as a warm torrent of blood went down and started dropping on the dirt.

Shimo managed to deflect one of the two chain-blades but one of them went right into his side. They weren't too large, just about as large as a small knife so they posed no immediate threat from a single stab but it was what the assassin was going to do with this successful hit that intimidated Shimo. "One, huh?" the opponent grunted with certain amount of disappointment and grabbed the chain that held the blade with his arm, pulling Shimo in at close distance. The chain blade ripped out of the boy's body but the force still pulled him in, the boy already knew he'd be dead if the man got his hands on him, he wasn't going to give him the chance, this was his fight! He was going to win! Shimo didn't resist the pull and the momentum, he used it by jumping into the air and dropkicking the man making his wound shoot blood like crazy. The boy loudly grunted from the pain but quickly jumped back on his feet and swung his wakizashi aiming at the man's throat. As much as Shimo wanted to respect Mana's beliefs, the girl was goddamn crazy if she wanted to take this guy in alive…

A loud clang echoed throughout the alleyway that the genin was fighting in as another set of Demon's claws blocked the swing. Shimo yelled out from pure rage and turned around kicking right to the assassin's chin sending him down on the ground. He was injured, he was tired, his reaction time wasn't that great. The fact that the Demon took this kick made Shimo believe in his victory again. The boy dashed backwards clenching to the wound that the chain-blade left on his side, a hand proved to be a poor barrier for blood, Shimo felt the weakness all over his body already. He had to end this soon or he risked just collapsing from his bleeding. The boy made some handseals again, "Ice Wolf Jutsu!" he yelled out making a cold gust of wind, unlike the one he used in the Forest of Death this one was twisting around himself with a head of the wolf shaping just couple of feet above Shimo's head. The boy's feet kicked his body out forward in a dash, it was pretty lucky that he could use a wakizashi with just one hand while clenching his wound with the other.

The boy dashed right through his opponent slashing him with the blade, a loud clang echoed as his blade was blocked with the claws again but this was not just another slash. Shimo finally recovered from his dash and sheathed his blade again with a smile just barely distinguishable from the pain. "White Wolf Slash" Shimo whispered under his own nose as blood shot out of the Demon's shoulders. This was Shimo's strongest combination, if this didn't keep the Demon down he'd be left with very few options. Shimo's brother who used to be a ninja in Kirigakure but was not allowed to be one in Konoha used "Ice Wolf" as a projectile of Ice Release, Shimo made the technique his. If his opponent blocks Shimo's swing, there was still the gust above his head cutting with multiple shards of ice to deal with, eight gashes to deal with – it was almost like an actual wolf was on the boy's back attacking his enemy together.

"A sneaky technique…" the voice of his rising enemy made Shimo afraid, "But the slash of the icy slicing winds is much less dangerous than your blade, the icicles were not as sharp, not as strong. Your exhaustion betrays you." The Demon definitely looked more demonic with each injury he received, his top was torn up by cuts and gashes, his mask had small holes and was covered with blood but… Somehow revelation of his humanity behind this nameless symbol of a demon only made him look that more supernatural. "He's just a man, you just messed up your cut… It's you… Not him…" Shimo tried desperately to convince himself this was his fault, that he just slipped up because no one had the strength to take his "White Wolf Slash", only Tanshu sensei withstood it but only with a kenjutsu technique of his own – "Red Cerberus Draw" a triple cut technique that makes the user draw and sheathe in rapid succession three times, doing it so incredibly fast that it looks like one slash from different angles. Even against such a technique… "White Wolf" cut through one of Tanshu-sensei's draws, Tanshu-sensei only won the clash because his technique was composed of three strikes so the two other strikes hit the boy knocking him out…

"Now it's just a matter of time…" the Demon lifted his body up, his hands were still weighed down and he was breathing heavily but he was clearly doing better than Shimo who probably was about to go down any time soon. The two charged at each other, it was blades against claws again as each one of the two swung their weapon trying to cut the other, the assassin's moves were predictable, had they not been, Shimo may have skipped a couple of strikes but the way things went – the two were absolutely equal. They clashed with every strike, it seemed like the man's injuries compensated Shimo's own exhaustion. The two kept trying to find openings, switching their attacking sides, attacking high and low, left and right, diagonally, upwards and downwards and nothing worked, every time one cut, the other blocked it and responded with a thrust or slash of their own. Obviously the Kirigakure Demon was the more masterful combatant – his weapon had a couple of times shorter range compared to Shimo's blade but mastery and skill had no role to play here, this was a brutal exchange of blows, mastery and precision was long since forgotten, this was just two young men trying to kill each other.

Shimo roared loud trying to lob his opponent's head off or just open his throat but the Demon thrust both his hands forward launching a flock of sparks and pushing both men down on the dirt. The two crawled backwards and stood back up, both of them were struggling to breathe, desperately trying not to collapse. Shimo's wound was still spitting up blood in weak but relentless torrents but the Kirigakure assassin must've had more wounds to worry about. The assassin laughed and clenched his ribs that may have been injured. Blood was hard to see in all of that black cloth. "You know… My official rank is… Genin!" the man kept on laughing. "That is the difference between our villages, in my village a prodigy genin is capable of passing through your stupid defenses, one of me is enough to kill all of your stupid generation… Come, send all of your genin my way, send chuunin or jounin… You will only honor me more! There is no greater honor for a Kirigakure assassin than to die against many more skilled opponents after a successful kill!" Shimo slapped his dizzy head with his palm, "Gosh you sound like the darn Yoruma so much… I hate those guys…"

"I may be from the Yoruma clan, a clan of proud and unstoppable assassins or I may not be – you will never know because I have no history, no name, no face… I am a mystery to you and your pathetic village." the demon removed his mask and showed his true face – a face of a young man, perhaps sixteen years of age, not more, covered with scars and one that clearly has taken a beating or two in his life, his black messy and greasy hair went all over his pale face, he reminded a madman, a berserker much more than a Demon now. "Even when you see my face, even if you have my body you'd see but a void, there is no name to tag to that face, no meaning, no man. What is a letter to a man who cannot read?!" Both of the men simultaneously made handseals, the assassin spat out a small fireball, Shimo rolled out of its way and set out another small blizzard – this was the last of his chakra. This had to do! Both the assassin and Shimo dashed at each other, "Blizzard Cut!" Shimo shouted out loud aiming at the assassin's body that was shivering from the sudden cold around him as the Demon of Kirigakure swung at Shimo with two more chain-blades in his hand, using them as knives. Unfortunately the blades of the two clashed, the clash shot out such blinding sparks and the noise was so loud that the two youths were temporarily deafened and blinded, or maybe that was not the bright sparks, but a figment of their burning souls, maybe it was not the deafening clang of steel clashing, but a small demonstration of their prideful roars of rage, but their own exhaustion…

The two ran past each other, the Demon dashed out of the small area of the artificial blizzard and Shimo's body slid through the mud. Both of the men fell down on their knees. Tearing sounds came from the assassin's side, the man straightened his body out and tore his cloth off, revealing his bare cut up muscular chest, it was hard to tell which of his scars he earned this day, which ones were from his gruesome training. Shimo coughed up, he fell on the ground. The Demon looked at his enemy, "You cut me first, my blade barely scrapped you and yet you collapsed… It seems that Galateia, the Goddess of War is in my favor." The assassin spoke to an empty street, he wanted to peel his body off of his knees, lift his chain-blades, walk up to Shimo and kill him, then proceed with his magician friend… He couldn't… He was just too tired. The man closed his eyes and put his black dirty mask back on, the mask that only showed his brown eyes. "Sensei… I will not fail you, I will not shame you any more than I've shamed you while fighting enemies of my rank and not finishing them off immediately." The Demon mumbled under his nose and stood up, creeping up to Shimo. The chains were too heavy, he let them slip off of his body and down to the dirt. He'll do it the old fashion way – with his own shaking exhausted and bleeding hands.

His hands wrapped around the magician girl's neck, she passed out first – she'd come back first as well. The man applied pressure, strangling an unconscious body was weird, it offered no resistance, how was he supposed to know when she was dead? Suddenly a loud rumbling noise alerted the young man making him jump backwards from the girl's body and just in time to dodge a giant rock flying his way. The rock flew past into the distance and took down a small scrap iron home. The boy's tired half naked and bleeding body turned at his new opponent's – a man with a bandana and a pair of shades and a woman with a black dress and glasses. "Is this a bad time?" the lady asked, mocking him. "Come! I am the Demon of Kirigakure, I will tear you down with my bare hands!" the young man's body tensed up as he shouted loud at the duo.

"Well then… Shall we?" the man fixed his shades.
Night of the Demon Ends! Resolution by Captain Claymore
Without hesitation, the young now unmasked and injured assassin charged at his two opponents. Dorimi, the male jounin with shades weaved a single handseal and slammed his foot to the ground, a large pillar of rock shot up blocking the assassin's path. However the Demon of Kirigakure was nimble, his foot quickly rose as he stood on his toes and his entire body twisted around the rising pillar. He thought to continue his charge but then froze and his body was thrown backwards as Shibari's senbon hit him right in the chest and his shoulders. The young man rolled on the dirt and grunted in pain before slowly getting up and removing them.

"We weren't done talking yet." Dorimi remarked nonchalantly, "What did you mean before, saying this little brat could give us trouble, Shibari-chan?" The woman's eyes closed, judging from the assassin's eyes he would've loved to exploit this opportunity but with all of his injuries and exhaustion he was now almost glued low to the dirt. "The Sorceress kid is alive, her chakra is slowly going down which means she's in danger of dying eventually. Strangely enough the Yuki swordsman's chakra is on the verge of death but it is not too excited over crossing this boundary, he is in much worse condition than his teammate but she is in more danger as her condition worsens slowly while that of the Yuki does not. I'd say we have five to ten minutes to deal with this, the girl might slip into coma within half an hour or so with the rate her chakra is dropping. Be careful, your body seems hurt too, your chakra has taken a large dip too, fighting that youngster tired you out, close range combatants naturally trouble me so… We'll win, for sure, but this won't be pretty."

The young man rose from the dirt and wiped the mud off of his bleeding wounds. He laughed maniacally before his face froze in cold expression. "I've never killed jounin before but I enjoy when my opponents act cocky, I love to see that cockiness leave their face, is that the expression you will make?" he asked looking at the two jounin. He was confused that the woman in the black dress did not attempt to hide that her partner was injured and tired, why would she not be afraid to expose the weakness of her team? If such was the extent of the Konoha jounin stupidity, the Demon will grant them their deaths by rubbing that very same idiocy into their faces. He's beaten two genin already, they were pitiful and weak, how much stronger can jounin of such weak village be? Zero multiplied by any number is still zero. The young assassin believed in his training that his sensei granted him, this knowledge, this skill, this abuse and pain that made him grow strong. It will not bring shame to his village!

Dorimi made one more handseal raising four more pillars from the ground. "I don't believe you know who you are facing off against. I am Dorimi – the jounin of Konoha. My ability to manipulate the battlefield is without equal as I believe that battlefield advantage makes a won battle." Shibari fixed her glasses, she was annoyed by her partner's theatrics, "For example, my partner Shibari is one of the best Water Release users in the village but Water Release users are weaker without a source of water, sure, they can usually use the water from their own bodies or the air but their potency with an active water source nearby is multiplied tenfold." Dorimi leapt back onto one of his pillars as the four rock formations started to spin around and close in on each other, quickly grinding an open hole into the ground. Dorimi leapt into the air and weaved more handseals, "Water Style: Great Waterfall!" he yelled out spitting a large amount of water from his mouth onto the newly generated hole creating a pool of water.

"These so called jounin are fools! They give me intel on their abilities. Normally I'd be honored to die fighting them after a completed job but… This information would be useful for Mizukage-sama and more importantly – sensei!" the assassin thought to himself. The body of the young man rose up, he overpowered his own bodily limits. How could he not? He now got another purpose, another assignment – survive and deliver this intelligence to sensei. Dorimi – the battlefield ninja who can shape the battlefield for a strategic advantage and Shibari, a mysterious woman with Water Release techniques said to be the strongest of her elemental affinity. It'd have been even more ideal if the young man scoped their abilities, found weaknesses, all of this was going to be integral during the war!

Suddenly Dorimi's hands were slammed together as the rock he was standing on disappeared in the mud. The demon closed his eyes and reached for the ground, he was trained to fight after losing all of his senses, most genjutsu users were frail and weak when their opponent closed their eyes and shut off their vision. The young assassin felt the vibrations of the dirt and jumped sideways to avoid each of the rock pillars. "Such weakness… It would be a sin to let them…" unfortunately the boy did not finish his thoughts as a sharp kick hit him in the back sending him slamming right into the rock, breaking it into pieces. "Don't get cocky boy." Shibari spoke. The rock pillars were weak, most likely because the ground was so soft, they crumbled after just one hit but the young man felt the impact all over his body – his body had taken so much punishment and was literally breaking, collapsing after being able to take no more. Luckily the Demon knew how to fight with his bones broken, all he needed was to adapt, stop using movements that hurt the bones that were broken!

The assassin of the Mist removed his boots and closed his eyes. He needed to feel the movement of the earth while listening to the best of his abilities for the attacks of the woman – these two jounin worked quite well in tandem, they must've been a team that went through many hardships. That gave him an idea. What if the two were bonded? What if they were friends? Naturally working alone the Demon had no friends and no bonds but he knew that such a thing existed, despite being located in the body of his enemy these feelings were his friends, no, his tools to exploit. The Demon lunged forward, he heard rumbling of the ground and the man's fist hitting the rock, he was throwing a rocky projectile at the Demon, the young man rolled forward right under the rock, no, a small edge of the rock cut the assassin bruising his back, it hurt, pain did not matter. In the middle of his role the assassin pushed his body up using his arms and spread his legs wide spinning using his arms and kicking the Battlefield Ninja using his feet and knees repeatedly. The youth could hear the body of the man cracking, he could hear him grunting – the man really was injured and tired!

The Demon thrust his arm forward, aiming a rock-hard punch right to the man's neck, his fist would've broken the man's throat, made him unable to breathe and incapacitated, the Demon would then kill his first jounin and bring his head to his sensei! "No!" the mind of the assassin yelled inside his own head and stopped his arm in mid-air, sensing something around the man, something like an armor, something that'd hurt his arm without a doubt if struck the wrong way. It was then that the boy heard something, a rising gurgling sound – the woman in black! The youth rolled to the side as he heard sounds of crashing water. "Your Water Spout Jutsu missed? I thought your aim was spot-on?" Dorimi asked confused. Shibari fixed her glasses, "I wasn't aiming, I was watching your back." "I see…" the other jounin smiled as took off his shades and threw them away. Shibari laughed, "So you finally removed them? Gonna fight seriously?" Dorimi smiled "You do realize shades don't help you see in the dark, right? Actually they hinder my vision quite a bit…"

The Demon could not believe this, were these people making jokes? What was this? Were they not serious? Their lives were on the line! Not that the lives of the Battlefield Ninja and the woman in black mattered in the grand scale but to them it must've. The assassin lunged forward again, rising up from the dirt trying to attack the man with a combination of taijutsu blows. This time he decided to use his palms, thrust them to make impulses and shockwaves through the man's armor of dirt and shatter it, then finish it! Sharp strikes were the way against meat and bones, blunt blows and throws helped against armor and barriers. The man didn't even protect himself, not until the first blow of the Demon shattered the armor, strangely enough the woman did not aid the Battlefield Ninja, she just stood calmly and kept breathing calm, the assassin could've sworn that she even laughed out at some point. Were these two not friends and comrades, not even a bit in love perhaps? Had they no bonds like the Demon thought previously?

With a lock around the man's throat the young man drove the jounin to the ground and started suffocating him. The woman still did not interfere. Suddenly the boy felt his body being lifted off by something – a rocky platform? How could he not hear it? Then the young assassin's eyes shot wide open, only to see the Battlefield ninja wearing rock like a glove, trying to slam the assassin between the two rocks. A crushing shockwave emanated through the district as the assassin's body was crushed and then poofed into smoke, the youth managed to replace his body using "Substitution" with a scrap piece of junk at the last moment and was breathing heavily further away. This jounin was smart, he moved the pillar incredibly slow, so slow that it only sent such small shocks to the ground around it that even with his entire body on the dirt the young man couldn't feel it. Had he not moved fast enough he'd be crushed by two rocks, even he couldn't have survived that impact, these jounin fought to kill…

"Is this hatchling giving you trouble?" the woman mocked her colleague, something that the man found annoying, "I let him get to me, I wanted him to grab me!" he yelled waving his arms like an idiot. These "jounin" of Konoha were pathetic, they did not behave like killers at all, it appeared that they were just playing a game. Such lightheadedness pissed the Demon off most of all. The youth weaved handseals and yelled out "Fire Style: Rooster's Tongue!" as he spat a giant spreading wave of flames. There it was! The two idiots were dead, they had to have been, the man was too busy bickering with his wench partner, both of them were deader than dead! The roar of flames was soon overcome by the roar of crashing water and the boy was washed back away by the flood. He slammed into the rumble of Ooguchi's house as the whole thing was washed away. It was that woman…

Pain was all over the assassin's body, the water he coughed up came together with pools of blood and his whole body was cracking and twisting as he tried to stand up. He was close to dying, this was his cue to try to escape. Make the two fools believe that the water killed him and just get away with the intel. These jounin were fools but they were still jounin and certainly too powerful for the young assassin in his current state. The youth started to crawl away, slowly and quietly, the woman may have been a sensor but she had to concentrate to sense chakra, plus his body was so mangled and beaten that she may not have even picked up his signature at all. That was the first thing sensei taught him, to only lose when he died. Keep moving, stay conscious unless he was dead. That took years of beatings and injuries and experiences to learn. "Oh shit…" was all that the Demon had the chance to think as the water wrapped around his leg and lifted him up into the air and slammed down into the dirt on the other side where he was trying to crawl. The heel of the woman called Shibari then dug sharp into his forehead, yet the assassin did not shame his sensei and his peers, he did not scream in pain!

It seemed like the water itself wrapped around the body of the assassin and the woman's fist then closed, "Water Bondage Jutsu!" she uttered as the pressure of the water pressed tight and broke his body. The assassin could not remember anything past that point. Dorimi scratched his head and looked at his partner, "Did you kill him?" Shibari coughed and then took off her glasses, "Don't joke around, he's a little bag of intelligence gold. I look forward to seeing how he responds to water filling his lungs only to retreat and then fill them again… His dark purplish hair… Might be a Yoruma, it'll be fun to torture the torturer for once." The woman winked at her partner. "Jeez you are cruel though, Shibari-chan, that technique was a bit too much for the boy." The woman turned around and formed a rope of water that she wrapped around her arm and the other end around the unconscious assassin, as she walked backwards the body of her prisoner got dragged together with her. "You're carrying Sorceress, Yuki and the Nara we left behind…" she casually finished the talk.

Mana's eyes slowly peeled open. Just as they opened to a certain degree sunlight instantly burst into her eyes. The girl tried to roll to the side but pain took over her body stopping that from happening. Her muscles felt like they were completely disabled and unused for days if not weeks. It took some getting used to, slowly, one by one the magician got the feel of her every limb. What happened? Was she still alive? The pain all over suggested that this couldn't have been the Afterlife, plus what did she do to deserve it yet? The growing feeling that she was alive begged another question – how did she survive? Did Shimo or Sugemi help her? That had to be it. The girl sat back up letting her feet dangle just an inch from the mat on the floor. Then came the painful part of standing up and stretching out.

Mana descended down the stairs, mother was busy in the kitchen, father was toying around looking over the death traps that the two were building before that last mission. Father looked at Mana with angry eyes, "Morning." he said and kept on looking at the trap, his movements were rough, but also precise, it took precision to know just how precise his movements could be before pain took over his arms. Mother didn't say anything, the chopping of the octopus in the kitchen intensified hundredfold though – it was obvious that the woman was angry. There was a huge "talk" brewing in the future, Mana's head dipped down, she messed up big time. Something wrapped around her, the girl lifted her head letting her dark locks slip to the side as she saw mother's arms around her.

"You could've died…" was all that she said. "Your mother's right, what you and your teammates did was irresponsible and stupid, you're lucky that Hokage-sama is away, he'd have taken your licenses away and you would've never went on another mission for a hundred years. The guy's an icon of peace but he's strict on stupid suicidal genin." Father was still angry, angrier than he could successfuly try to hide, he let the anger take him over completely but he couldn't have been blamed – he had his own pain to deal with as well of stupidity of his own daughter. "I'm sorry." Mana said, her eyes lifted to meet those of mother's "But… We had to do what we did, we didn't know that Ooguchi-san was being investigated when we started, we had to take him down, he was forcing people to work while keeping them in poverty."

Mother's eyes changed, she turned around and walked to the kitchen to continue chopping that octopus with as much force as her body could handle. "Well, you'd be glad to know that the district was completely taken down and reshaped by Dorimi-senpai, the people in the district will be given temporary places to live until they decide what they want to do – move or start making a living here. From what I've heard most of them were people from other villages and countries. There was this family that came to see you, wanted to let you know they're alright but… You were out at the time, apparently being able to manage three jobs made the family a lot of money and they've bought their first small home from their first pay. All of Ooguchi's wealth was also split for the people he kept under his watch so that'll help them settle in too." Father spoke while trying to do his thing adding up to the device. Mana smiled, she looked outside through the window and saw the Sun shining brightly. This was great, things worked out well, she was glad to hear that the family she went out of her way to help was OK.

"So… The secretary at the Administration was at your ward when we picked you up from the Hospital, she said your team won't be given missions until Hokage returns from the Summit, what'll you do in the meantime?" Father asked. Mana sat down near him, "Help you finish this, then I've got to learn how to throw a kick." The magician looked at the metal contraption of death and spikes, she had so much training to do. Fighting that assassin helped her understand just how much she still had to learn and just how powerless she was. That man was the exact antithesis of what she stood for – man that used ninjutsu for killing, a man who held life at no regard and threw it away casually for his own ends. Next time she meets a man like that, Mana needs to be able to fight them, to defend and stand up for her own beliefs even if she doesn't want to fight or hurt anyone. She needs to become strong, to become able to crush her opponents that wish to discard innocent lives with overwhelming force so that she can show them that their way is evening Mana started training using her father's dummies. "Okay, I dunno how to actually train my taijutsu, I guess I'll start by just kicking this thing until I can't kick anymore, then in the morning I'll find someone to teach me… I'll also need to keep meditating and performing… Vacation has never felt more busy." Mana thought as her leg lifted into the air and slammed into the dummy making it shake. Noises of thumping and crashing could've been heard from the magician's room throughout the night.
Tanshu's Story: Hell is where Katei is! by Captain Claymore
A small boy, couldn't have been more than six years of age, was observing his parents that were preparing for leaving. The boy's feelings were mixed, there was a certain amount of pride in his eyes but his face was as long as that of a horse. Despite being proud of his parents – the brave and strong Konohagakure chuunin little Tanshu could not stop crying. The sides of the boy's eyes started bleeding when the boy instinctually wiped his tears with the rough sleeve of his pajamas, the boy's mother saw the boy and slowly walked up to the little one sitting on top of the stairs and watching his parents through the space between the handle bars.

"Hey, what are you doing there? Go to bed you little rascal. Grandma said she'll be here in the morning so you won't be feeling lonely while we're gone." Mother said while wrapping her headband around her hair, letting just one lock fall over it so that they are not tied too tight. Father came up to the mother calming down her young boy and silently wrapped his arms around his wife. "Don't worry, son, it's just another big brawl, mother and I will be back in no time. We've got three candidates for the Sannin spot coming with us, they'll be eager to show themselves off for that title so they probably won't even leave any action for us. I'm actually jealous of you, your week with grandparents will at least be somewhat exciting, your mother and I will be stuck watching those guys plowing through the bad guys."

Little Tanshu smiled a little, father was always such a goofball saying the dumbest things. How could his parents have a boring time? They were going to war after all, just a battle of a war but it was a long and dragged out war with many battles like this and his parents were in multiple already. Tanshu read all about war, that glorious place where strong ninja earn their name by killing the other bad ninja. It was the direct path to respect and adoration, other kids in the Academy keep looking at Tanshu with those jealous eyes because his parents are fighting in the war together with the likes of Misu of the Vapor and Chestnut Hanasaku and Howoku the Star of Hope – the three Konohagakure's top ninja that were told to soon succeed their elders in taking the title of Sannin. Tanshu didn't want that honor, he didn't want sensei in the Academy praising his family just if father and mother wouldn't have to leave.

Tanshu was a smart boy, he was able to see through what sensei and the books and every grownup told him. He knew what war was – father and mother would be fighting the bad ninja from the other villages. Even worse, ninja of the whole world were involved in the war. From what grandpa spoke last week the village of Sunagakure was sacked and torn down to the ground, now it's just a large sack of tents in the endless desert. The Kazekage was killed, most of Sunagakure ninja died in the battle as well, all four other ninja villages just attacked Sunagakure and tore the village down. Everyone said it was a great victory but truth be told it was just a bunch of vultures descending on the weak. Three villages against one. Sunagakure against all the other villages that at the same time were fighting each other as well because with every ninja of another village they kill they withhold more loot from falling into the hands of that village. After that battle Sunagakure was completely ruined and had to withdraw from the war, it was lucky that they were still allowed to exist. Sensei was confident that Iwagakure will be the next one to go through this scenario. What if soon comes Konoha's turn?

No! Father and mother were heroes, they left and fought for their country, they were ninja of Konoha, Konoha may have fought alongside Kirigakure and Kumogakure and Iwagakure to tear Sunagakure down but… They were different, they had to be! Konoha couldn't have been just a vulture feasting on the dying weak village, they were different, they had to be, they were… Konoha was Tanshu's home, they couldn't have been bad. Mother and father were supposed to be the heroes, fighting against the other villages defending Konoha so that Konoha is not the one to fall. As mother and father finally prepared themselves Tanshu thought he finally understood. Konoha had to be ruthless, had to be cruel, had to be evil and tear Sunagakure down together with their enemies but only to defend themselves. In order to avoid dying they had to kill, in order not to burn they had to burn down the others. That was how life truly worked. Strongest survive, no, not really, strength alerted the prey and made them gang up on you, strength was irrelevant, only the cold calculating mind mattered.

Tanshu knew what had to happen in order for his parents to return to him, they had to slay the wicked by being more wicked than those they were slaying. Such was the natural order, the boy looked his father in the eyes, the boy's eyes were cold, exploding with rage and desire to kill those that would soon wish harm upon his parents whom he loved the most. "Father, I will pray that you slay everyone, that there is not a single enemy alive to cause harm to you or mother!" he yelled out through tears and anger. Mother's face was pale, she wrapped her hands and pressed little Tanshu against her body hard, the boy could feel tears falling down on his little head and going down his hair onto his back, then the warm teardrops disappeared somewhere below. Why was mother crying? Was she that proud of him?! She had to be! Tanshu made mother proud! Tanshu's head looked at his mother, he tried to catch her eyes that were filled with sadness but he saw father standing behind her looking right at Tanshu down her shoulder.

"It's not about just killing the others, Tanshu. That's not what Konoha fights for, that's not why we are leaving to battle." Father spoke, his voice was strict, little Tanshu shook and forcefully escaped his mother's grasp, he was confused. How could his father possibly have been mad at him, now of all times, now that he understood what it all meant? Fighting was necessary to prevent fighting, it made no sense but it was the natural order. "Then why?! Why are you leaving me!" Tanshu yelled out right into father's face, he saw mother's arm lifting to smack him but father caught it and shook his head, he kneeled down and looked his child into the eyes. "It's about protecting your home, protecting your "katei"." Father's voice spoke softly, now he wasn't really angry, didn't sound like he was. Mother wiped her tears too.

"Katei?" Tanshu repeated the word, he knew what it meant, it was pretty simply but why did his father make it sound like it had some other meaning? "Katei isn't just home, this house isn't your "katei", Tanshu. Katei is where your family is, where the people you love are, where happiness and serenity is, where you feel calm and bliss and as long as you're there you'll never feel differently. Katei of your mother's and mine is this place, where you are and we go to war not to kill the people we are told to kill but to protect our "katei". Promise me you'll protect your "katei" while we are gone." Tanshu's head sunk down, so this word did have a special meaning, this "katei" he had to protect wasn't just "home" but it was where Tanshu is the happiest. The boy's hands clenched a knife in his hands, "I can't fulfil that duty, father, wherever you two are is my "katei", that means I must go to war with you two!" the boy yelled out with anger and certain bravery in his voice.

Father laughed, "Your moment for war will come, there will be wars as long as we live but this one is not yours. You need to trust this war to me and your mother. You can protect your "katei" after the battle is over but while you are, do not go to battle, that's your father's word." Mother kneeled down and hugged Tanshu gently and softly stroking his wild reddishly-brown hair. "That's right, Tanshu, you must protect your "katei", but you are grounded until the war is over for talking like you spoke before, that's the word of your parents." Tanshu nodded and hugged his mother back. After that father gently flicked him on the head and hugged him, before stroking his hair and leaving. The two just walked out into the rainy night, disappearing and giving birth to that certain feeling inside Tanshu's heart, that feeling that life just won't be the same anymore…

The battle that little Tanshu's parents left for was for a small speck of land inside the Fire Country. It was right past the neutral port that set sail ships that went to the Water Country, it was right in the middle between the access to the port and to the Snow Country – the road to Kumogakure to the north and to the Kirigakure. It was important because it provided access to all three currently relevant warring countries. Now that Iwagakure was less relevant, growing weaker and weaker with every battle yet, continuing to strain itself to try and fight with the stronger rivals, and Sunagakure had dropped out of the equation whoever controlled this invaluable land had access to the other countries. If the controller wanted they could easily assault Snow Village and block off Kumogakure from the rest of the world or they could take over the neutral port and block off Kirigakure from anything but what the ocean provides. Ocean's provisions would've also been contended for by the other island villages and countries around Kirigakure like the other islands in Land of Water. It might have caused a small Civil War inside the Water Country if so the controller of those lands pleased.

Seeing how Kirigakure wasn't pleased with this possible scenario as the Mizukage had plenty of reasons to fear the uprising of the smaller isles he desperately wanted to keep the land out of the grasp of his opponents. Even more, the man would've loved to make the land Kirigakure's bridge on land, from there his mighty village may have started to take over smaller lands and transcended its island roots, perhaps move into the Land of Waves which Kirigakure so desperately wanted for itself, the small neutral village would've made a wondrous industrial district for the Kirigakure so that those hideous industrial districts could've been moved from the main island and stopped making the environment so bleak and depressing. Mizukage was an oppressive fellow so he needed some desperate "happiness points" to keep his island village and the smaller islands around it from getting any bright ideas of change. His predecessor was assassinated by some rebellious black ops after all…

Kumogakure wanted it mostly to ensure safety for Snow Village, the small village was a neutral shopping and rest town that had all sorts of winter resort activities in it, plus the vast white hills of Snow Country land were filled with natural resources and made plenty of money for the Snow Village that was an ally of Kumogakure. In order to maintain the steady and generous flow of natural resources like minerals and metals used for military purposes Kumogakure had to assure Snow Village safety and keep those bleak allies happy to the best of their ability as they were an invaluable ally. It was understandable that one of the warring Countries having the land in their control would threaten Snow Village's safety which the Cloud Village could simply never allow.

Most importantly of all, this was Fire Country land from the time that the Great Satsuhimasa won them over, all the way back from the days when the Garuru clan was still a thing, from the Heaven-Earth war days. Such land was a part of Fire Country's cultural legacy, it was a beautiful and warm forest land with lakes and rivers that had plenty of small settlements of farmers all around it. To Konoha it was all about protecting their land, their interest, that which had belonged to them since times unknown, since before people counted time even, since before there were actual countries and villages, since the clans of descendants of the First People roamed the Earth looking for a better life. Konoha could not afford to lose this lovely and integral piece of land… Needless to say, all the countries went all-in to claim this land!

The battle waged for many days, entire two weeks passed before word of the results of the battle came back. The battle was won by Konohagakure but by a very small margin and as the result of the battle the land became useless. Every side lost pretty much all of their ninja, one Kirigakure Sannin died in the battle and two of Kumogakure Sannin had perished as well. Just like that two of Konohagakure Sannin perished too with the third wishing to leave her title behind and pass it over. To make the victory even more Pyrrhic, the land that everyone was contending for became tainted by the dead bodies and covered with dust of bones and ashes of the dead, it became a wasteland of death, it constantly emitted noxious fumes making the stench almost too difficult to take for any human being, the land transformed into a wicked swamp that would've swallowed any attempt to use the land for industrial or military uses or transferring any goods, moving ninja through there would've been impossible! Everyone died and did so for absolutely nothing.

The village was completely crushed, in just several days they lost all of their strongest ninja with the young-bloods being injured and unable to assist them in multiple future battles to follow. The land was claimed by no one. All three countries exchanged letters of apology, grief and sorrow with every other country admitting that this war was looking more and more pointless. Even more, every other warring country promised to never threaten this land again with the bones and ash of their dead as well as their unburied bodies around the dark swamp to remind them of the worst of days. The day when everyone lost their heads out of fear that the enemy would threaten them making them do the things they were afraid the enemy would do. Even Kirigakure promised to never contend for that land again and Konoha answered with a promise to never use that land for any strategic war-related purposes. That land was sacred sanctuary for those that died for this country and fighting in this war.

Little Tanshu was playing with his friends in the house, training and sparring with them for tomorrow's test in the Academy that would determine if he finally became a true ninja like his parents. It was then that grandpa entered his room and asked for his friends to leave. The kids' heads were down to the ground, the room was suddenly surrounded by this dark gloom that would never leave it. The old man looked at Tanshu, breathed in and out, in and out again trying to make it easier for himself to say those words. "Little Tanshu… Mother and father won't be back… Ever…" he said, he was a veteran ninja so he knew little of how to comfortably deliver such news, he was rude and just said things like they were.

Tears filled little Tanshu's eyes as he shook his head. He roared out in pain and grief, charging for the door and pushing his grandfather away violently, the old man fell down on the floor and grunted in pain, yelling for the little boy to wait. It was to no avail, the young one kept running and running, past these endless houses this wretched village of liars and murderers that mother and father died fighting for, NO! They didn't die fighting for this village, Tanshu refused to believe it, they died protecting their "katei", just like father had told him before leaving! The child ran past the gate guards that didn't even notice the child running outside the village walls. Tanshu just kept running, into the wild, past the trees. He knew where he wanted to be – where his mother and father laid down their lives because without them his home was not his "katei". His "katei" was now that battlefield, where his mother and father were laying dead. That was where his "katei" was.

The boy kept running until he just got exhausted and collapsed. Initially he thought that his life now had no point, what did he have to look forward to? What did he possibly had there to comfort him? Was he supposed to look forward to becoming a ninja too, perhaps fighting in these stupid wars for nothing?! For some stupid land that would switch its owner after the next battle only to be regained and then lost again later. No! To Hell with that bullshit! As the boy woke up the next morning, hungry, cold and exhausted, he thought long and hard about his life and what it even meant anymore. His life was meaningless and he was the only one left to give it meaning anymore. Slowly, one step at a time, through pain, hunger and exhaustion, covered with bruises and blunt traumas and his own blood from continuously tripping over and wounding himself little Tanshu kept walking forward.

He was a different young boy now, he killed small and large animals to survive, he kept training for hours on end during the night. He would find his "katei" again and he would protect it until the end just like he promised his father! That was the new purpose of his life that the boy had given to himself. Tanshu would wage war against anyone that threatened his "katei". Finally the ground become black and sticky, filled with bodies and bones and ashes of dead people. The boy leaned over a rock and threw up, so that was the smell of death? It did not matter! It was the smell of his new "katei", his happiness and bliss. The boy kept walking forward, trying to find his father and mother or at least some sign that they were there before they died. He would protect his "katei" and he swore it to his father and mother, now he had to swear it to their graves as well. The boy kept drinking just to have some liquid to throw up, he had to get used to this putrid smell of guts and death, this smell of burning and no one knew what else. If there was Hell, Tanshu was there, not only that, Hell was where he wanted to be, Hell was his only and true "katei"…
Tanshu's Story: He With the Eyes of God by Captain Claymore
A band of men was marching through a nasty landscape filled with downed and rotten trees and skeletons all around them. While skeletons were certainly a poor company for traveling group of moderately armed men that was not what intimidated the group – that would have been the ground in the swampy wasteland of death. The ground everywhere was black like the eternal void of death that the place reeked off. One could not know when the ground would open, when the black dirt would become a pure sludge of lethal stench that eats one up in seconds and when it would be sharpened coal-like surface that is able to cut through shoes and legs like sandals.

Many people disappeared around those parts, no one ever went to that place which was why this ragtag team of bandits had decided to settle down there and make that place their headquarters, the place where they return to after every big job to settle for their share of the loot and party until the morning. Morning of course was a relative term there, the clouds were always gloomy and the Sun never showed its face, sometimes the marshlands and the swamps ignited and started flaming and that made even the late nights bright but gloomy – it was literally impossible to tell when it was night and when it was day in this cruel birthplace of death itself.

The criminals advanced slowly, helping out their friend that got into trouble by getting into the black sludge up to his knees or fending off the few animals that wandered to those parts. The stench here was impossible to stand, every couple of minutes one of the bandits threw up on the black gooey dirt surface, the men literally had to keep drinking so that their constant vomiting from the stench and lack of fresh air did not kill them. This place reeked of sulfur and despite this place having its battle concluded three years ago, it still reeked of rotting human waste. Perhaps it was the flesh and bones of the curious or daring travelers that passed through this place that still kept the stench going?

"This is a bad fucking idea…" one of the men spoke up finally as he waved the stick to hit a vulture spinning around his head as his body dug deep into sludge again. He was pulled out by his friends, one of them spoke up as well, "Everything's a bad fucking idea with you. Remember when we wanted to raid that caravan near the Konohagakure gate? You said that was a bad fucking idea too." The man took off his boots and shook black slimy dirt off of his shoe, then cursed and yelled out loud as the ground cut his feet opening up a gruesome wound. It was almost like he stepped on edges of multiple blades. "That was the WORST fucking idea, Higumo, Shoji, Mangoku and Okumo died!" the man replied and bandaged his foot. "Details… We escaped with plenty of food and loot" someone from the group replied.

"May I remind you gents that it is because of that fucking raid that we are here to begin with!?" the bandit spoke up as he approached the man leading the party. "Had we not raided that caravan and didn't attract attention of ninja we wouldn't have needed to hide here, just when we took those damn bags from the cart those fuckers just started chasing us like crazy!" The man in front kept walking forward silently, he was a nasty looking fellow with a certain "cool" charm to him, he looked just like one would've imagined a bandit to look like – rag clothes, a dirty cape that looked like somebody's curtain or dirty sheet stolen from the laundry bag, a giant scar all over his face as well as an eyepatch. The man's eyes were always angry and looking cruel, always ready to incinerate anyone he sees with his eyesight alone.

The man turned around and slapped his comrade, the man fell onto the ground and screamed in pain as more wounds opened up on his body after getting cut by the now rock solid ground. "Shut the fuck up, you loser! Konoha ninja ran like dirty dogs because they follow an agreement to not have any military forces in this ground ever, a group of five or more qualifies as "military force" in the agreement and they didn't want to send less than five ninja of average rank into this place. It's perfect for bandits to hide, I've no idea why no other bands ever grouped up here. This place is amazing!" the man shouted out, his voice echoed through the wasteland of death. Some people who have visited this place and lived to tell the tale had described it as "Hell on Earth" and it was quite apparent that they weren't too far off.

"Jeez, it's getting dark here!" another bandit shouted out, "It's always fucking dark and gloomy here, on top of it all it stinks like your dead mother's diaper!" yet another replied. The group kept walking, they weren't yet sure where exactly they were heading, they had to find some materials for their base, all they had were some clothes and bunch of bones lying around. It didn't quite make good bunch of things to build a solid base from. "Why didn't we stop, yet, boss? What are we waiting for?" one of the closer to their leader bandits asked, the man grunted and grumbled under his nose but didn't reply a thing. "We need to walk far away from the border of this place, I'm worried that entire armies of bandits might come here and realize just how perfect this place is for hideouts." the man then replied after a long enough pause to make no one expect a reply any longer.

A loud shout of pain came up as a man disappeared from the group, only his closest comrade saw him fly off into the darkness. He shouted out some unintelligible babbling, then just pointed at the direction he disappeared in. "We keep going" the leader ordered with an angry tone. "I've heard there was a battle here three years ago, I bet that the spirits are still goddamn furious that they died so they killed your pal" one of the dumber sounding bandits laughed out holding his stomach as he laughed. "Have some shame, fucker, Chucho saved your ass today, did you forget how he deflected that arrow for you?" the bandit that saw his friend fly off into the dark gloomy shade yelled out. A loud scream of a man dying interrupted the bandit group, that convinced the leader to keep moving faster, he ordered the men to keep watch. "Yeah, cause that idiot found a coin and ducked to pick it up, when he stood back up the arrow hit his damn helm… AAAAAGH!" the bandit tried to reply but was interrupted by an unseen force that dragged him outside the perimeter into the gloomy darkness.

The men started losing their cool and freaking out, losing and meeting new people of their crew was nothing new to them, comrades died and new friends were made each day. What worried the men was that they did not see their slayer and were worried that they'd be next. Usually any danger can be evaded by just running really damned fast – now there was nowhere to run. For kilometers around this place there was only deadly Hell of a battlefield surrounding them, hungry for victims to swallow whole or bloodthirsty and wishing to cut them as deep and as many times as humanly possible. Then again, even if they did run and get lucky, what would've stopped this demon of the gloomy night from catching them completely off guard? The men were absolutely terrified.

Suddenly the leader stopped in his feet making the men behind him bump into the back of their leader. A dark and short figure stood in the gloomy shadows, completely invisible beyond just recognizing the basic humanoid shape, this could've been a spirit, a mad psycho killer or a demon of this swampy gooey Hell for all they knew. "You are in my katei, leave now and you'll be spared, continue to desecrate it and I will kill you" a grumpy yet almost childish voice came their way. A bandit yelled out and gasped in fear, "It's a demonic spirit of the child that had his parents sneak him into a battlefield and then he died!", his friend to the side slapped the back of his head, "You dumbass, who'd sneak their child into a battlefield, parents keep children away from battle!"

The leader of the bandits drew his curved sword and took a step forward. "I am the new owner of this wasteland and I claim it as my home! Be you just a child, a spirit or a demon, I spit at you and I will be the one killing you…" suddenly the man stopped in his tracks, only then did the bandits notice a young child behind him with an exposed blade. It was a short blade, the likes of which inexperienced ninja carried, the blade was cracked and chipped in multiple places. The boy himself was short and looked like a little jungle boy with his reddish brown hair flowing freely over his shoulders and his face being completely pummeled and bandaged and his body covered with scars. "You're in my katei, leave now!" the child spoke again as the boss of the bandits collapsed having blood spray from his chest. The black slimy ground started to slowly consume the man's body. The bandits all drew their swords and took their staffs and improvised weaponry. The boy yelled out loud to express his discontent at this decision and charged forward at the group of bandits.

It would've been an incredibly odd sight to behold to see this battle transpire from the side, one would've had to come extremely close through the noxious gases that erupted from the ground and through all the perils that the place had. The boy's cracked blade continued to dance over the bodies of the men that have entered his sacred space, the boy was not a demon, just a young man and he constantly slipped up and got punched or struck with a weapon opening up wounds. Not that it mattered for this boy truly acted like a demon, his endless dance with his blade continued and would've never stopped until he or the men he was facing off against had died. To this boy this space was sacred and no other man or woman or child had the right to be present in his "katei" or else they be killed. Many times Senju shinobi from the Leaf have come to this place to try and fix it, make a forest of trees using their Wood Release and then use Earth Release and Water Release to fix this landscape but… All of them caught only their deaths, all of them died and while each of them injured young Tanshu, each injury taught him yet another lesson. Made him stronger and faster and smarter and the fact that in order to honor their agreement with the other countries only less than five ninja could've entered this ground at once helped him not to get overwhelmed and captured throughout the three years he lived here.

Tanshu's sword went through the throat of the last bandit. The man coughed up and fell having been cut down by the rampaging demon of this hellhole, no, Tanshu was no demon, not yet, he still felt pain, he still got hit, a demon was perfect, a demon made no mistakes and killed without any warnings, a true demon craved death and bloodshed which Tanshu did not. A fighting dog was what Tanshu was, fighting when his bowl of food is threatened. He warned these men, he wanted them to leave but they didn't, so he killed them just like his parents would've in order to protect their katei. Parents would've been so proud of him if they saw him! Tanshu wanted to believe that there was an Otherworld where they saw him from but… Seeing what he had seen through these three years, the worst that this world has to offer, bandits, thieves, murderers, arsonists and rapists fleeing to this ground to hide from justice. They were not welcome here! If someone wanted to take Tanshu's katei they were welcome to come and claim it.

As the boy tried to pull the blade out of the man's throat it broke off, it was inevitable that it would happen, the boy looted this sword from the first man he had killed in this place. He cursed as he looked around, he found the loot of these men and looked into the bags, they were full of food and medicine, bandages and the things that he so desperately needed. The boy sat down and started bandaging himself, all those endless gashes where he was cut by either the bandits or the ground he was sleeping on, he then ate and drank from those bags and took what was left with him, all that he could carry and what he couldn't the boy tipped with his foot into the sludge that soon devoured all of it. This loot was not his, he felt bad that he claimed it but… In order for the rightful owner to claim this loot they would've had to come into his katei and claim it, if that happened Tanshu would kill them defending his katei. He did not wish to do that, it would've been better off if there was no loot to begin with…

As the boy passed through the corpses he noticed that the bandit leader was carrying a larger katana, the boy dropped the loot down and bent down to see what it was about. As the young kid picked the sword up and checked its blade he cursed, the blade was dull as a chunk of steel – must've been one of those "non-lethal" sword junk. These were quite common, slave traders used those, people that just wandered the out of village areas that belonged to no country claiming villagers and travelers as well as other bandits as their slaves, "pacifistic" travelers also had those, Tanshu hated all of them. One group were just human filth that had it coming when the boy cut them down, the other were just fools that were lying to themselves. There was no place for not killing when wielding a sword, there was no other option than to kill when fighting. These fools were just easy food for slave traders and then to Tanshu – slave traders had a nasty habit to command all of their slaves to fight the boy before they themselves tried to. Because of that all peaceful idiots that refused to kill automatically associated with enemies to Tanshu, potential enemy was an enemy regardless. In the wild a potential enemy was even more dangerous as current enemy is fighting you right now while a potential enemy might attack you when you're unprepared.

Those were the times that Tanshu lived in, times where he killed whoever wandered into his katei with no mercy or reason other than that they were where they shouldn't have been. It all changed however, all changed just couple of weeks later from the day that Tanshu killed those bandits and changed his blade. Despite that the blade was dull, the boy still preferred longer reaching blades than the curved trash that those fools had, at least with the dull sword he could still thrust and stab someone, the boy already lacked range because of his short arms anyways, he couldn't afford to fight with a curved short sword. Still, the boy had decided to sharpen his sword one day as poking things he hunted or wanted to kill was just too difficult for him. Tanshu always preferred slashing over thrusting and he didn't feel like adapting his style. It was then that he heard a bunch of people walking up to him, how could they do that? Tanshu learned to feel the vibrations of the ground, he had traps and all sorts of alerts and impeccable hearing that alerted him when something was going on nearby. He controlled an area at least three kilometers in radius and only missed out on two or so by the edges of the wasteland, those that passed through there either got scared by the view of the place and the deadly stench and left, or went in deeper to where Tanshu saw them.

The boy didn't bother to lift his eyes at the passing by people, he kept sharpening his blade, only nonchalantly adding "You're in my katei, leave now or I will kill you." Someone of that group laughed out, a woman stepped out in front, she had creamy pink hair and deep green eyes, her voice was annoying as hell though. She was dressed pretty weird for such a place too, her white clothes would've gotten dirty with black goo from the dirt or her own blood when she cut herself on the rocks. Only her boots were pretty cool, they were large and thick, maybe Tanshu should loot them off of her body? He wouldn't have to worry about getting cut in his feet ever again! "So what if we're in your home, brat, scram out of here and maybe WE won't kill YOU!" she spat out with her stupid annoying whiny voice. That voice pissed Tanshu off and he stood up, the boy easily swung the sword around his head and then put it into his sheathe and then stood into a drawing stance.

A man with a black round hat stepped in, he had his entire face and body covered with a huge coat and the lower part of his face as well as everything below wrapped in bandages. "Halt, Hana" he lifted his eyes at the boy, his eyes were so strange, they looked like pure silver but had strange circles all around it, only looking at them was scary! "It appears like this boy is a swordsman, he may be worth his words and if he is he'd be worth to be my beloved apostle, if he is not… Well… A swordsman should always die by the hand of another swordsman, isn't that right?" the man looked at Tanshu and slammed his staff into the ground, drawing an oodachi from it, revealing the gigantic staff to be just a sheathe for his blade.

"Let us fight, if you impress that with the eyes of God, he will allow you to join his ranks. If not, you will get an honorable death as one who is smitten by that with eyes of God has no place in Hell!" the man spoke. His weird manner of speaking addressing himself in the third person annoyed Tanshu even more than his female friend. His voice sounded cool but a bit forced as he clearly had to use moderate effort to lift his own sword.

"You refused to leave my katei, all four of you will now die!" Tanshu replied looking angrily at the man and his three companions. The man traveled with the strangest of companies: besides the bubble gum color haired girl with the white dress there was a man in a completely black jumpsuit with chains around his body and with a blue oni mask and a swordswoman with a kimono and strangely large white irides with no pupils. Tanshu tied his sword to his belt and stood in a taijutsu stance, changing his stance and weapon of choice was a good idea – the man's blade was impossibly large so it must've been troublesome for him to keep up with a fast fighter, hand to hand will destroy this man and when he can't lift his sword at all because of his broken ribs – one quick strike would finish it all!

One with the eyes of God was about to close those eyes forever…
Tanshu's Story: Red Dog VS Rinnegan! by Captain Claymore
The face of little Tanshu twisted with anger, it was a clear telegraph of his attack but it mattered little to the boy. He would unleash all of his anger at this man and destroy him! The boy's foot just gently tapped at the ground after a small hop tossing him forward, his fist tightened and his arm went back, Tanshu's foot shot forward right onto the closest solid piece of dirt he could see and within an instant a full powered punch using not only his natural strength but also the ground itself as a balance point. Sadly Tanshu's opponent was no longer where the boy saw him just mere moments prior to his attack, Tanshu was fast, this man was even faster!

"Was that supposed to hit One with Eyes of God?" the man asked mockingly as his own arm blurred. Tanshu wasn't going to take this simple attack standing up, within an instant the boy repositioned his balance and leaped into the air, as the man's arm appeared at a downwards diagonal position after the blow was completed, Tanshu was already rolling over the man's shoulder and back to get behind his opponent. That darned bandaged man! Right as Tanshu's feet landed solidly on the ground the boy heard a whistling noise – it was slow but that was what scared him. Just barely Tanshu managed to duck and avoid having his body cut in half by the man's colossal blade. This won't work, the man was too fast, the young warrior drew his own blade and met the top-hat swordsman's force with that of his own. Obviously Tanshu was not stupid enough to clash with him, the boy simply pointed and gently poked the giant blade to push and mislead it away from where the boy's flesh was.

This impressive and lightning fast dance continued for quite a while, the man with the weird silver circled eyes kept slashing and thrusting only for Tanshu's own blade to gently push the sword to the other side using the man's own strength. Sometimes the man's effort was great enough to overcome Tanshu's speed of redirection but the boy was always in time to duck, at times the boy found himself in a favorable position for a quick thrust or a slash but the man avoided it as well. This was a match of two incredibly skilled nukenin, had Tanshu had the time to be impressed he most certainly would've been. This man was by far the closest one to become one to survive an encounter with the Black Fighting Dog of the battlefield. The man swung aiming at Tanshu's neck – there it was, the boy's chance!

Tanshu's blade drilled through the air decimating its puny resistance, this had to be it! This had to hit, Tanshu just knew it! With a loud scratch and a nasty sound of blade piercing flesh the boy realized he was right – a small squirt of blood landed on his face as the man's belly was slightly scratched, sadly he moved almost in time and only received a minimal injury, one only potent enough to annoy him with a sting and small bleeding wound. A powerful kick followed, landing right onto Tanshu's face and sending the boy rolling away. It didn't matter – Tanshu drew the first blood, that meant he had not only the advantage in this battle but also in a one on one swordfight he could've overpowered the man. It was unfortunate that once the black goo started enveloping the boy's body he realized just how screwed he may have been – he fell into the liquid gooey peril, quickly the boy flipped his body on his belly and swam onto solid ground, tumbling to stand back up onto the sharp black coal surface and cutting himself multiple times.

The boy roared out into the air as he leaped forward, the man did not expect such aggression, such amazing skill of recovering from a kick to the face and the boy's recovery from the black goo pit. What did he expect? Tanshu lived there for years, he fell into this stupid annoying trap millions of times and almost died several times but after all those terrifying experiences he learned to quickly swim out of the goo. The goo was stupid, weak, it was literally impossible to drown in it unless one struggled for too long and kicked themselves into a grave of their own foolish making, if one just calmly swam out they could've gotten out no problem and Tanshu was the world's best conqueror of this barren wasteland's petty traps!

Tanshu's fast swipe cut the man's bandages on his face, revealing skin under them. The man managed to twist his face in time to avoid severe disfigurement or having Tanshu's blade pierce his forehead. The boy didn't want to lose his advantage, he kept cutting and cutting, attacking relentlessly with slashes, cuts, thrusts, spins and flips giving the man absolutely no time to respond. The injuries of this God-Eyed man were numerous but none of them were solid, they were just scratches and cuts as the man avoided everything or blocked it, still – Tanshu was slowly dictating his dominance over the man. "You're… In… My… Katei!" the boy whom some currently dead bandit named the "Black Fighting Dog" yelled out as he landed a solid cut onto the man's chest and face. Tanshu then leaped forward with a downward diagonal slash, "GET OUT!" he shouted after flashing down and rolling further away from the man. A loud clang of the last cut, the one that was supposed to be lethal, signaled that the man survived this combination.

Tanshu was breathing heavily, huffing and panting, down on his knees as he turned at his opponent. One with Eyes of a God was holding the bandages on his face – his clothes were cut up into pieces and his hat had fallen off, the bandages on his chest and all over his body had scratches and damage that would've made it get in his way. Tanshu was getting tired sure but this man was about to start tripping on his own bandages. "What?" Tanshu's eyes shot open as he saw the skin and face of the man as he straightened out. The man's skin was not burned or injured or had at least a single scar on it in fact – the bandages were just for show! What was the meaning of this? The man with those weird eyes stood straight and his head was up high, was he not afraid of death at all?

"Having trouble, God-Eyes?" the other guy with the oni mask and the black jumpsuit asked mockingly. Was this man not the boss of the group? Why was this man so indifferent and mocking towards his leader? "I see… You are indeed a talented young man, normally One with Eyes of God would have invited you to his ranks after this clash. Think carefully, you've now seen the skin and the face of a God, if you refuse One with Eyes of God will have to kill you! One cannot have people walking around telling other people how beautiful and divine One with Eyes of God is… Divine beauty and absolute awesomeness is not for the eyes of mere mortals, for that reason, so that your puny mortal eyes are not bothered by my divine appearance He wears these bandages and these excessive black clothes." The more this "God-Eyes" spoke, the more Tanshu despised him, why was he still so cocky? Did he not realize that Tanshu was more skilled yet? Surely he had to!

"Go eat donkey droppings, then again, you won't have the chance, I'll kill you here and now…" Tanshu replied standing back up and standing back in dueling stance. Tanshu was an aggressive swordsman and his style relied on overwhelming his opponent and his stance would've shown it. There was no chance in hell some half-baked cocky fool like this guy stood a chance! Even without his sword, Tanshu was just as skilled with just his fists and feet. Killing people with fists just felt… Odd and somehow uncivilized… God-Eyes looked pretty annoyed by the boy's display of rudeness. He grabbed his own face with his palm and squeezed it hard trying to hide his displeasure as his crazy silver circle eyes pulsed. What was this chakra right now? It felt like… Something that invited fear even in Tanshu's brave heart. "That is unfortunate, One with Eyes of God will have to kill you in that case…" God-Eyes shouted out in an angry and insane voice.

The bubble gum hair lady that the weird swordsman was traveling with turned at the Demon with the oni mask. "Hey… Achima, maybe we should go, I mean this kid does look like he's stronger than One with Eyes of God", the man called Achima laughed out openly and loudly. "Truly you do not believe that was all of God-Eyes' power? Trust me, he might be a punk born from the right loins and too lucky with the eyes he was given but… If that would've been all the power he had I'd have killed him when we first met in Kirigakure… Just shut up and watch, the show is about to get really interesting." As the two spoke, Tanshu being the sensory prodigy that he was could hear everything. What did this mean? Did this "God-Eyes" have some amazing ability? What was this "born from the right loins" thing this oni mask man was talking about?

Suddenly God-Eyes' arm shot forward revealing an open palm. A powerful force hit Tanshu from behind taking the young swordsman by surprise and throwing him towards his enemy. No! He was pulled by some amazing force towards his enemy, what the hell was this? Some sort of bloodline, Tanshu had never heard of such bloodline in the Academy. "Attraction Cut!" God-Eyes shouted out as he slashed with his blade in a wide arc, Tanshu managed to thrust his blade into the dirt, pushing him up and helping him fly over the man instead of right into his lethal slash. Tanshu tried to cut back, counterattack and then get some distance but God-Eyes leaned back and shot his hand up to his face again. "Universal Push!" he shouted but Tanshu was no longer there. The jutsu that the man just used was incredible, it lifted bunch of sludge and rocks and dirt and tossed it forward… No. It pushed and repelled everything in front of the man and behind him, forming a bubble of gravity around him… What sort of technique was that?!

Tanshu grunted angrily, he was still trying to understand what kind of technique he was attacked with but this didn't look good. If the man used this "Attraction Blade" or "Universal Pull" during their first clash Tanshu would've been in trouble. The realization that his enemy was holding back made Tanshu even angrier, it was like his entire body was flaming up from sheer anger. Tanshu shouted out in pure rage as his sword ignited, this was the first time that this had happened and Tanshu was just as surprised as his opponent and his henchmen. "A chakra conductive blade… Hmmm, you were lucky to stumble into someone with such an expensive treasure, a Fire Release ninja, huh? The folk call you Black Fighting Dog outside this place for your ferocity but… The name Red Dog describes you better now…" God-Eyes spoke with a playful smile, the bastard was excited about this new ability of his opponent. Very well, if he enjoyed being cut to pieces Tanshu would give him something to be happy about!

The boy leaped forward, he didn't care if his opponent would hit him with his stupid gravity manipulation, all that Tanshu wanted was to cut this man down! The speed of the boy was incredible, he made all this distance within mere moments and made the first fiery cut with no effort at all. God-Eyes grunted in pain as a new wound opened on his chest, he responded to the following outrage of the boy, the two continued to clash with their blades. "Amazing, utterly astonishing! Your Fire Release cauterizes the wound it opens but the pain it causes by opening it is like Hellfire itself! Show One more, Red Dog, show One with Eyes of God more!" God-Eyes shouted as the two continued to try and land a cut on the other. Tanshu tried to remove the filthy head of the man but he leaned back and thrust his hand forward, the boy tossed his sword forward and made a handseal…

"Universal Push!"

A giant lump of coal was broken into small pieces and pushed away at least two hundred meters – Tanshu's opponent had such amazing force of gravity under his command. Luckily enough the young swordsman managed to substitute himself with the giant rock in time. It was good that he knew his environment and remembered the location of the big lump. The two leaped at each other again, slashing swords and clashing several more times, Tanshu pushed the giant blade to the side using his full force – it was apparent that God-Eyes was getting tired swinging it, the force of impact was just a small piece of what it was before. Using the momentum of spinning his own body like the spinning toys that the kids used Tanshu tried to leave a giant gash at the man's side, God-Eyes tried to jump back but was still cut. The boy spat to the side, he was pissed that he didn't finish sharpening his blade before, had he finished it this cut may have been more dangerous than it ended up to be!

"Well, this was fun, but I'm afraid a God can only afford a useless pawn that does not intend to serve him only so much time…" God-Eyes sighed, still clenching his side, he suddenly thrust his bloody arm forward as Tanshu felt the attraction force hitting him again. The boy cursed as he didn't have any other objects to substitute with or any other hidden tricks, he had to think of something! Tanshu's handle of his giant sword drove right into the boy's stomach, the boy could've sworn that he blacked out for a moment there, driven by instinct alone he blocked the downwards slash, the weight of the giant sword drove Tanshu to his knees and his blade started cracking. Once again God-Eyes charged in close and drove his handle into Tanshu's chin sending him upwards, as the boy's body landed on the floor it was stopped by God-Eyes' knee, sharp pain to the back alerted the boy that an elbow sent him down.

Tanshu's eyes were closed. He couldn't believe that this was it, that he would die right there against a man of no skill, just some stupid set of eyes. What was the point of this fight? What was the point of his life if he died like this?! The little Tanshu cursed as his eyes were forced open by him just in time to see his opponent effortlessly floating in the air. His sword was sheathed, it seemed like they both knew this fight was over. Tanshu had no more strength to move, he had some chakra but his body felt broken. Thinking back on all the fighting, all the bloodshed, what did his lifelong goal of protecting his katei amount to? He killed bunch of people, defended his home which would now fall into the hands of this man who will kill him… His life was pointless, his death was made pointless and by itself made lives of all those he had killed pointless… Maybe there's no point to anything anyway? Tanshu relaxed and accepted his punishment.

"UNIVERSAL PUSH!"

An awesome force hit Tanshu's body, he felt pain just for a mere moment before blacking out. God-Eyes slowly landed on the ground, huffing heavily. He had no more force left to execute this cocky youngling, the man kneeled and picked up Tanshu's own sword, it was cracked and damaged beyond being useful but maybe it had one more cut in it. "Stop!" a loud voice stopped Tanshu as his arm met strong resistance before it could do its swinging motion. "What is the meaning of this!? You stop the hand of God, Demon? After he intentionally holds back so that One does not injure his followers?!" God-Eyes asked looking straight into the black void where the holes in the oni mask for eyes were. "Don't make me into a fool! I know that after using a push of this power you lose the gravitational ability for at least three minutes so for three minutes I am your God. I could snap your neck with one quick motion before you could possibly respond." God-Eyes appeared annoyed by the insubordination of his henchman but he tossed the cracked blade away and turned at him.

"Speak your mind, One with Eyes of God shall decide how to deal with this insolence later." It was impossible to say just exactly what sort of history these two had, how come Demon had the guts to talk like this to the one possessing the divine Rinnegan or why One with Eyes of God did not execute him right after getting his ability back. "Let's take this kid with us. I always wanted to open a school, breed Demonlings that would make not only this generation of ninja afraid of Demons but also the next. I shall make him into an assassin, just imagine a young swordsman with a Fire Release to enforce his image of a Demon! I could not ask for a better pupil. I shall make him void of emotion, void of sympathy, desiring only happiness for his head Demon, I will be the Devil and this boy and his peers will be my Demons… And of course we will serve the One with Eyes of God, without question."

The swordsman scratched his chin, his eyes closed and he sunk deep in thought, after a mere moment his eyes opened again. "Very well, One with Eyes of God shall allow this Red Dog to live, make him into your infernal subordinate, but know that you are responsible for him. That includes carrying him. One with Eyes of God has spoken!" the oni masked man calling himself "Demon" picked Tanshu's unconscious broken body and put it onto his shoulder. "I have an idea, this boy is a great defender of this place, let us build our temple of bones here and we will not have to do anything to brainwash this boy, he will work for us without question because he will still be watching his katei." God-Eyes nodded and pointed at the pink haired girl, "Heal him, I shall begin building our temple of bones once he wakes and I get my ability back…"

The pink haired lady bowed and dragged the boy further, tearing his clothes off and placing her arms on his chest. Emerald green light started emanating from her hands, the only beacon of light in the gloom of this cursed swamp.
Tanshu's Story: Power Born from Pain by Captain Claymore
Tanshu woke up in a dark room, to be entirely honest, it was quite difficult for the boy to even properly identify that he had even woken up since the room was so incredibly dark that he barely saw his own body. The feeling of waking up inside a pitch black room was weird, the boy was obviously confused. How could he have ended up here? What was going on? For a moment Tanshu had settled on the thought that his opponent had crushed his body so hard with his repulsion jutsu that he had destroyed the boy's eyes. Still, weak and lingering reflections of his own body somewhat ruined that theory.

"Is someone here?" the boy murmured under his own nose, then after he braved up a bit once again. Out of nowhere a blue oni mask lit up in the corner, maybe it was just the distinctive color of the mask combined with the fact that the boy's eyes were getting quite used to the darkness that this mask could even be identified. It was the same mask of that man who was with the God-Eyed swordsman, it made Tanshu even more confused as to why he was kept alive. His enemy was not supposed to show him mercy. "What is this? Why am I here? Where are we?" questions spilled like beans from a bucket.

"As far as you need to know… You're still protecting your katei, boy." oni mask replied, it was incredible how the man's dark jumpsuit completely made his entire body disappear in the darkness, only his mask was left visible which would've been quite frightening had Tanshu not seen the man in the gloom of the wasteland. The young swordsman stood up and felt his sword being hung by his side, why would the man leave his sword just hanging? Within an instant the boy rushed towards the masked man drawing his sword and slashing the mask in two. The mask fell on the floor as it was split in two, eight more lit up taking its place. This had to be an illusion of some sort! Tanshu turned back and grunted angrily. He may have lost against the leader but there was no way in Hell a mere henchman will best him.

"If I were you I'd hear me out, I'm the sole reason you are alive after all…" oni-mask's voice echoed throughout the room again. Tanshu lunged forward cutting all of the masks in pieces with multiple slashes. Right after he did so, dozens of strikes hit him in his back in multiple areas. Tanshu roared in pain as he collapsed onto the soft wooden floor. "As you are right now you are too weak to protect your katei, there are people in this world that are both stronger than God-Eyes and wish your capture. If God-Eyes was to clash with any of the higher ranking Konoha ninja, most of whom still are looking for you because you're a nukenin, he'd die. He may not admit it but that's the reason why he had aligned himself with a still active Kirigakure jounin and two Sunagakure ninja."

Tanshu's sword slashed backwards, the mask collapsed revealing behind it a busted and disfigured face, it was hard to tell this in the dark but its general shape made it look like it had melted off its owner's facial area at some point but instead of falling off it just stuck and kept looking like mashed fruits. "I warn you boy, your next strike will be your last." The voice came right from the fact as its lips moved slightly, the fact that this figure even had lips that could even move was miraculous by itself. The face slowly disappeared in the shadows and the entire room sank into darkness, now there wasn't even a single mask or any clue that anyone was even there. "I asked God-Eyes to leave you alive because you can be helpful to him, despite what that arrogant brat might think, and he may be beneficial to you. What I offer you is power, the only thing that matters, the strength to crush those that threaten your katei and all I ask in return is that you allow us to help you protect it."

Tanshu scratched his head, he had never considered if he wanted another family after the death of his parents. "That being said… I know it's hard, but remember what went through your head at the moment when you were down, I'm no psychic but I've seen that face before, the "my life was useless and I'm about to die and it won't matter for shit" face. Well, with us by your side you can make your life and your death amount to something. With us you could be a part of a bigger achievement without having to do anything you wouldn't normally do." Tanshu looked somewhere off into the darkness, "OK, even if I'm interested, I'd like to know my new "family" better."

Suddenly a wire tightly constricted around little Tanshu's neck and someone pulled it dropping the boy on the ground. The little nukenin felt his neck bleed, had the man wanted he could've beheaded him like this, this man had more physical strength than Tanshu and despite the boy being just a bratty kid this was still a feat he had never seen during his days in the wasteland. "Don't get cocky, kid, call us a family and I'll kill you right then and there. I will train you but there will be none of that fucking marshmallow nonsense. I am the Devil and you will be my Demon, in order for a Demon to be born, a man must be broken down and burnt in the flame the Demon comes from. Plus, God-Eyes has problems with his daddy and mommy despite his eyes being entirely the result of who those two were, I wouldn't mention "family" around him anytime soon." Tanshu breathed out and pulled on the newly formed space of the wire getting out of it, the boy then stood up still clenching his neck where the blood was coming from.

"God-Eyes is a renegade, he comes from a faraway place you need not care about built long ago by you don't need to care who. He spits some bullshit about reincarnation or something like that, wouldn't listen too close to what he spouts out of that cocky mouth of his. His goal is to take over the world – all of the villages because his grand…grand…grand… whatever once controlled it. Then at some point he just lost it and started talking of himself as God and now having the world is his right as a God… Anyways, he is an idiot and he'll catch his death one day by a ninja that is actually worth his mettle." Tanshu sat down and felt his neck again, he tore off the sleeve of kimono he was wearing and tightly tied it around his neck. It didn't look like any vitals were cut, had it been so he'd have died momentarily.

"He established his "temple" here, calls it Tower of Bones or whatever because he believes that his grand…grand… whatever once knew how to manipulate her bones or something. He likes symbolism, that God-Eyes… Either way, once he fails and is killed I'll kill his other "apostles" and grant you his eyes, then you will become the true Demon, ironically enough you will be the angel of a God that has fallen, doesn't get any more demonic, don't you think?" the man laughed out somewhere in the darkness. Tanshu stood up and tightened his look trying to see the figure of the man with the oni mask somewhere, spotting his humanoid twisted and slim figure in a faraway corner of the room. "So you are the one secretly calling the shots?" Tanshu asked, a powerful laugh met his question. "No, not really, even if God-Eyes fought me here, where I'm strongest, he'd probably win. I'm just one of the apostles with the weakest link to God-Eyes, you see, unlike Vashia and Hana I am still an active ninja, I am here with the mission from Kirigakure to train an order of young assassins, a brood of demons if you will. That is why I am mostly on your side and if God-Eyes died I wouldn't shed a single tear about it. So, what do you think? Are you ready to let the Red Dog die and be reborn into the Red Demon?"

The rest of the four years, after he had accepted the deal, were difficult for Tanshu to remember clearly. After his small talk with the Oni mask man, who surprisingly didn't go by any names, everyone just referred to him as they pleased, he was introduced to the rest of the apostles. Each of the apostles had a room assigned to them, so that in case of attack each of them fought the ninja one on one until one reached the final floor. Each of the rooms were quite compact making a larger brawl impossible, it was simply most efficient to fight each apostle one on one and the groups of ninja that came only came in groups of five at best. As the apostles would've been beaten the attackers would've advanced one floor further until they reached God-Eyes at the final floor. In order to advance a floor the attacker needed to get a key from the apostle inside that floor, they could've tried to use ninjutsu on those bones but apparently Hana, one of God-Eyes' apostles, was some sort of sealing prodigy and left protection seals all over them.

Strangely throughout all of the four years of Tanshu's demonic training the tower was only attacked once by Konoha, by a party of Chuunin that were scouting the area looking for Tanshu who was still regarded as a nukenin. The four had found the tower and decided to investigate, they never advanced further first floor where the man with the oni mask lurked. After that day many more bandits came trying to take the tower for themselves but none of them ever even left a scratch on the man with oni mask. Strangely enough only the bandits attacked all at once and got in each other's way, from what the man had told Tanshu during training the ninja actually followed his advice to fight him one on one with the rest waiting outside. They still would've needed the key to the other floor anyways.

The apostles themselves were all quite strange people, throughout his four years of training with them Tanshu rarely ever met with God-Eyes again and when he did the man didn't even bother to talk to him or even acknowledge his existence. He was still acting high and mighty and in control when often it was the Demon actually calling the shots and giving the best advice. It was clear that without support of Kirigakure this man wouldn't have advanced too far with his plot to take over the world. Why would Kirigakure even support such a man was a question to Tanshu and one that Demon never answered to him, it must've been the fact that God-Eyes was targeting Konoha first, after all, Kirigakure had significant influence over God-Eyes through Demon anyways.

The girl called Vashia was a kind and a nice girl, that being said she was always very shut in her own inner world and rarely left her floor. It was said by the Demon that her floor was modeled after a typical dojo, one that her family had and where she was raised as a child which made the boy believe that Vashia actually was longing for her previous life in Sunagakure. The girl had raven dark hair and always wore a sword by her side, actually that was all that Tanshu even knew about her, whenever he tried to ask her something or talk to her she politely and very directly answered his question leaving him no openings to know anything more. She was really skilled in avoiding all conversation and stroke the boy as a somewhat shy girl. Why such a person was on the group trying to take down all of the ninja villages and take over the world was beyond Tanshu, she acted and looked most like an actual honorable kunoichi out of the entire group.

On the other hand, the girl called Hana was really just as spoiled as God-Eyes was, sure, she never spoke of herself in third person or called herself a God but she was arrogant and bratty in her own way. Her floor was located right after Demon's but she always tried to get a higher floor for herself since she disliked fighting. From what Tanshu gathered about her she wasn't even that much of a fighter, more of a supportive role that could do anything anyone wanted her to: she was a sensor, she knew how to heal people using ninjutsu and she was a great cook, she was one of the best seal users in Sunagakure according to the Demon. Still, she always enforced her image of bubble-gum haired diva, she always dressed too pompously for a kunoichi and always ate only candy, popcorn and fries as far as Tanshu could remember. She also always acted most childish out of the group making God-Eyes often quite annoyed by her but he had a sweet spot for her so he more often submitted to her will and gave her the final chip in the bag or the bigger ryo split or that lovely puppy left over by the Inuzuka who had died fighting Demon whenever she threw a fit.

The training that Demon was giving Tanshu was odd, the oni mask man always asked Tanshu to take some pills, from what the boy understood they messed with his mind for the duration of the training. That meant both good and bad things – for one the boy lost his sense of pain which was for the best, oni mask often beat Tanshu down beyond recognition during training, also his fatigue was always absent when Tanshu woke up making the boy ready for more training next day even if his body was pushed to its limits. On the other hand it made the boy's body and mind function on sort of an auto-pilot mode, also it made him completely forget anything that happened during the training sessions when under influence of the pills. From what oni mask man told him, it was because Demon didn't want Tanshu training people the same way when one day Tanshu becomes the strongest Demon there was. Apparently despite Tanshu being a nukenin and his apprentice the Demon still treated him as Konoha ninja as opposed to him being from Kirigakure.

God-Eyes found quite the army of bandits and thugs during the four years, just the promise to freely hide in the wasteland and the fact that Konoha could not legally pursue them in there was all that entire bands needed to swear allegiance to One with Eyes of God, apparently Demon called those eyes "Rinnegan", Tanshu liked that name better than "Eyes of God". Also he started referring to God-Eyes as God-Eyes which somewhat irritated the man, he always forced his underling bandits address him as "One with Eyes of God" instead of the more rude "God-Eyes", even Vashia and Hana did not address him as Demon and Tanshu did but since Tanshu was Demon's little protégé something let the boy get away with it. Still, the young nukenin had to respect the amount of power that God-Eyes had gathered in only four years, he was almost ready to attack Konoha with that amount of bandits as far as Tanshu's perception was concerned but Demon desperately tried to talk God-Eyes out of it.

"Konoha has bunch of seals on its gates those cheap tricks will shave off a fair amount of those losers. While you might beat them with sheer numbers and these men are thousands of times the killers that the people in the Leaf Village are but… Sannin alone could blow your army away in just five minutes, we need more ninja that are on their level, even if you…" that was the only moment when Tanshu saw God-Eyes lash out and blow Demon away with his repulsion technique. It didn't even seem like the man had a good reason to, he just hated to be reminded that he lacked the ways to deal with the Sannin of Konohagakure and the Hokage if he needed to. It was true, as numerous as his numbers were, God-Eyes still lacked the appropriate ninja of high level to deal with the Sannin. His four apostles according to Demon only could hold the Sannin back and prove a worthy distraction to them. It was then that Tanshu started to develop a technique in secret to his sensei. Demon-sensei taught him many things, he taught him every little thing that a powerful ninja needed to know about how chakra worked and how appropriate techniques worked, he gave Tanshu many tools but he never asked the boy to use those tools. Demon only wanted to shape the boy the way he saw him fit but Tanshu wanted to be his own man.

For a moment, right before the end of those four years of his training, right before Tanshu started feeling like a challenge to any powerful ninja he saw, before he started appreciating this power he had gained and these new people he had met… This life started to feel good. The boy started to actually feel somewhat happy – the feeling that he had thought he'd never feel and he'd forgotten since his parents had died. Still, something was missing, while Tanshu viewed these people as his family they never really shared his belief. Every time Tanshu wanted to talk to any of the apostles they shunned him: Vashia despite obviously hating her own approach turned away and walked to her own floor, Demon-sensei always tried to kill Tanshu when he tried to even address him as Demon-sensei but times when Demon could even do that had long since passed and Tanshu always survived, Hana always felt like an older sister to Tanshu. The two always fought each other and bickered like two siblings and it appeared that inside only Tanshu really cared for the other where Hana actually may have hated him.

It was that one day that everything changed and Tanshu was finally shaped into the man he had finally become. That time when four shadows appeared in the distance on the top of the crater that God-Eyes built his tower in one that served as a testament of the power inside his eyes but one that did not intimidate the two men and two women on that slope one little bit. For they were the Sannin: Misu of the Vapor, Howoku the Star of Hope, Chestnut Hanasaku and the transcended Sannin of the past generation, survivor of the great battle that gave birth to this wasteland – Sorano the Raijin's Prophet!
Tanshu's Story: Sannin Enter the Battle by Captain Claymore
The four people standing on top of the edge of a gigantic crater continued to look down on the Tower of Bones that was just standing there – a giant obstacle in the path of the village they all came from. These bandits were a threat to not only the world peace that finally settled down after the Second Great Shinobi War ended but they also had the guts to kill Konoha ninja. Exploit Konoha's international promises as if making fun of the Great Village. It was as if the bandits openly taunted the Leaf village by posing a question: asking which was more precious to it, the village's honor and its promises or their own well-being and the short term peace they've established.

"Let us not be hasty, Howoku-chan has a lot at stake here. After the Third had passed he is one of the names thrown around by the council after all, a success of such level would basically guarantee him the spot" an elderly lady spoke up. The violent wasteland winds picked up and thrown her silver hair around forcing the lady to restrain them. The Sannin of the last generation and the sole survivor of the great battle that made this wasteland it was difficult to understand what drove the retired lady ninja to return to active duty. She was known as Raijin's Prophet – Sorano, her name coming from the great staff hanging on her back which was said to have been one of the legendary weapons of Gods themselves. Right now the woman struggled to hide from the chill of the place in her blue coat, tightening up the belt and buttoning the top two buttons.

"I could not care any less about the title of Hokage. These criminals threaten the peace your generation fought so hard to bring, Sorano-san, that is a transgression I cannot allow to go unpunished!" one of the three current Sannin, Star of Hope – Howoku spoke. He was the man who would soon become the Fourth Hokage but at that moment in time he was but a young shinobi who was in his early twenties but already a jounin declared a Sannin by the village. He was known around the world as one of the greatest defenders of peace and a great orator as well as an amazing ninja who has never taken a life in battle, his blunt-edged sword on his back was the greatest testament of that achievement. Having all that in mind, to a neutral eye Howoku may have looked like a rather puny and geeky man, being quite tall but slim and having curly and messy hair and still needing his glasses. This goofy exterior hid inside a powerhouse for the village like none other, underestimating the Star of Hope would've been a fatal and the last mistake one could make.

"Eh, who the Hell are you kidding, you and your softcore ways… Howoku. Either way, it was pretty cool of the village to authorize this mission. These limitations with them being unable to send more than five people made this really interesting, eh?" the third ninja asked, standing tall and proud over the horizon and observing the tower from the perfect place to sightsee. It was Misu of the Vapor, the past teammate of Howoku and the third Sannin – Hanasaku. The man renowned for his tricky fighting style, unmatched speed and a strategy of fighting that made him one of the least likely people to get hurt, seeing Misu being tagged or injured was indeed a rarity on the battlefield and he was also one of the best swordsmen shinobi that Konohagakure had, a man whom many placed on the level of the Kumogakure swordsmen or even the Iron Country samurai who were previously considered dominant in this area. Misu was a quite attractive young man, often he showed off his bare chest by thrusting it forward and letting his kimono slip off of his shoulders or stroking his wild hair. That being said Misu's vanity was vain by itself, there was no single woman he tried to impress, he just liked showing off.

"I'm really glad you let me tag along! I can't believe the village wanted to keep me contained, it makes me pretty angry, when are we gonna get to fight someone already!" the third Sannin – Hanasaku shouted out. The woman was by far the most tomboyish of the group often seen in male clothes she was also a halfway decent medical ninja and surprisingly enough the physically strongest and most durable ninja of the village. Normally lethal injuries like getting impaled many times over barely seemed to bother Hanasaku to the point where many may have suggested she's enjoying getting injured. Either way, out of the three Sannin even as children she was often put in tongue and cheek as compared to more gentle and soft Howoku, many spoke how the personalities of the two should've been reversed as Hanasaku often acted most macho out of the three. Konoha's "Gentle" Chestnut as she was called came both from her "tough as nuts" attitude and her chestnut colored wild hair. When Hanasaku rampaged through the battlefield often chestnut brown flash of her hair was all that her enemies saw before being brutally taken down.

"Patience, my dear." Sorano uttered before letting her voice suddenly turn wild, "Is what I'd normally say, but an occasion like this: a retired Sannin of the past and all three of the current Sannin is not something that should be put to waste. Allow me to smite those scum using the chakra I've stored up in Raijin's staff during all those years!" the old lady yelled out loud and swung her staff sending a wild gust of wind. For a brief moment there was absolutely nothing, a silence that suggested that there was nothing to the staff but then a gigantic thunderbolt split the sky in two, cutting through the impossibly thick dark clouds of the location as if it was butter giving in to a hot knife. The bolt of lightning was as wide as a vortex of pure lightning, the sound and the amount of light it made forced everyone, even the great Sannin to turn back and cover their eyes. Such power would've truly only been accessible to those wielding the power of Raijin himself as this lightning bolt could've easily caused yet another crater of same magnitude if not greater.

"DAMN IT, OLD LADY! SHOULD'VE WARNED US!" Hanasaku yelled out as her ears were still overwhelmed by the impossible amount of noise coming from the lightning bolt. Howoku removed his glasses and blew into them, "Well now you've done it, Sorano-san, I've finally gone completely blind…" he joked as he scratched his eyes massaging them carefully and waiting for his eyesight to return. It must not have been the first time that Sorano's lightning prowess caused this much displeasure for the young man as he was reacting to this loss of sight quite calmly. It appeared that Misu was the only one barely affected by the lightning. Then again, the man was quite indifferent even to opponent's attacks so something like excessive sound and light would've barely proved to be an annoyance to the Sannin. "That was amazing, Sorano-san! It seems that you've still got it!" he shouted as the staff of the old woman hit the back of his head. Strangely enough this weak attack actually hurt the man and he started scratching the aching spot and whining.

As the smoke and the leftovers of light from the lightning strike cleared and everyone affected by it regained their sight an incredible sight greet their eyes – the Tower of Bones was not damaged by the slightest. Sorano looked at a point somewhere on the roof of the tower spotting a single man, "Damn that Rinnegan user, he has already learned to absorb ninjutsu then… It is good we've come for him now before he had mastered Samsara as well." Right after Sorano's statement, noting that God-Eyes somehow managed to absorb the entirety of Raijin's fury charged for seven years straight, men started flooding from the tower filling up the battlefield in the crater, the four Sannin all shared a collective smile and jumped off of the edge right into the fray of the battle.

Raijin's Prophet Sorano danced across the battlefield like a Goddess of war, suddenly the memories of the Second Great Shinobi War made the old lady to feel right at home as she effortlessly wielded her Raijin's staff just efficiently enough to deflect all of incoming attacks. Sometimes it had appeared like she would be hit, but some astonishing chakra would leak out from the Staff expelling powerful and violent gusts of wind and pushing all the attackers away. When things got particularly difficult Sorano just pointed her staff at the enemies she wanted gone shooting off lightning bolts from her staff without ever needing to use handseals. Sorano's mastery over this lightning was unlike anything anyone had seen, not only she didn't need handseals to use Lightning Release but also the jutsu she used with the staff's aid appeared to come out effortlessly and in many various shapes: channeled beams of lightning, chains of lightning dancing and passing through all the enemies in the line, powerful lightning bolts coming from the sky or even lightning pulses running through the ground or barrage of small lightning spheres. Sorano truly earned her name as Raijin's Prophet and hundreds of bandits fell under her feet burnt and defeated by this incredible woman. Bandits that were supposed to be able to lay siege on Konohagakure itself were rendered powerless against a single woman just like the man with the oni mask had predicted.

Needless to say, other Sannin did not stand around doing nothing. Howoku graciously fought using his sword, he was more than a match for any casual swordsman so he was right at home fighting bunch of ragtag self-trained criminals. To tell the truth Howoku struggled much more than Sorano but his blunt sword found its target and the few injuries that the young man had sustained were not threatening to neither his life nor his future fighting potential. If anything else the pain had drawn out Howoku's anger, hidden will and power to fight like the man named by the council as prime candidate to become Hokage. Strangely enough just swinging his blunt sword was all that Howoku seemed to show these bandits keeping his true power to himself, whenever the situation got too difficult Howoku simply took couple of steps back letting Hanasaku or Misu take care of the situation instead of revealing all of his cards. One wouldn't have been wrong to say that the Star of Hope Howoku did not enjoy battling but still, his reluctance to fight at full strength did not mean weakness by any means.

Where Howoku held back against mere bandits worth the attention of average chuunin, Misu of the Vapor was scooting all around the battlefield. It looked like his legs had blurred and become a stream of vapor and when he got hit the man's body simply dissolved into vapor that then heated up and punished the aggressive attacker with Misu appearing behind them and cutting them down. This was the only way of fighting that the man was known to use – Vapor Mode, the mysterious and unstoppable strategy that no other ninja ever seemed to understand. Whenever the man got hit he simply dissolved into vapor like a clone, becoming just a cloud of heated vapor with the real Misu striking from an open spot. Often Misu used this quick one slash kills even without his Vapor Mode, he called the style "Deceitful Blade" with his body avoiding a strike and counterattacking quickly and pinpoint to the enemy's opening. The combination of his mysterious vapor clone technique and "Deceitful Blade" was the fantastic and awesome "Vapor Mode" that has never found a situation it could not overcome. It was said that no one had ever figured out Misu's weakness ever since he invented this "Vapor Mode"

Where her teammates were subtle, striking like scalpel or a gentle fish gutting knife, Hanasaku was like a rocket launcher. The wild woman leapt around the battlefield wildly throwing mad combinations of blows or simply leapt hundreds of feet into the air and creating mad earthquakes after landing. Out of the four Hanasaku took the most damage as she barely bothered to defend herself, the woman was not distracted by an enemy striking from behind, she always just kept punching and dashing around forward destroying the enemy ranks effortlessly. Her single punch was enough to destroy any man, even the largest ones that probably ate elephants for breakfast fell like autumnal leaves after just a single flick of the woman. Once Hanasaku bet against the village's strongest taijutsu ninja that no amount of Inner Gates would keep up with her, it was unknown how that bet went but from the tales of the ninja himself the woman could easily keep up with first four gates and to bump it up was useless because the technique actually hurt him more than a successful blow to Hanasaku seemed to do as nothing kept her down for long. After the battle was over the woman was covered with bruises and blunt traumas and had multiple swords stuck in her front and back to the point where she looked like a pin cushion. Just another mission for Hanasaku the Chestnut. That being said, the woman had the largest pile of broken bandits beneath her feet, even if she did cry like a little girl on a dentist's chair when Howoku angrily pulled out all the weapons stuck in her body and scolded her.

"Is it OK to go on? Hanasaku-chan seems injured." Sorano asked looking questioningly at Misu, the man just shrugged. "I dunno, she's always like that. Just give her five to ten minutes of rest and she'll heal herself up no problem." Howoku still did not look happy, "You'll exhaust your chakra fighting these goons, who are you trying to show up getting hurt so much?!" he yelled at the silly young woman, "That's right!" Sorano got surprised as if she just remembered something, "Every supernatural physical feat uses chakra manipulation, right? Won't Hanasaku-chan tire out?" The brown haired wonder looked at the old lady and gave her a thumb up, "Don't worry, I'm not like the other ninja, my body doesn't use chakra to maintain superhuman strength, I'm just strong cause I train a lot!" while the old lady didn't buy this Misu waved at her to let it go.

"Howoku was not referring to chakra used with physical prowess but her mediocre healing skills. Hanasaku isn't like the other physical ninja, usually there are two ways to become like her. One is to make up some sort of jutsu like imbue your entire body with chakra and give it some sort of supernatural feature native to that Elemental Release, like lightning fast reflexes using Lightning Release etc. The other is to train one's body to become strong, to find the bodily limit and keep training to break it. The problem with this method is that it'll never give you the amount of strength that the first method gives, the user of the second method will always be weaker than a user of a jutsu that enhances strength. Strangely enough Hanasaku is an exception to that rule, she trains not her body itself but her overall chakra level, seeing how physical energy of our body is an element of chakra her physical prowess seems to increase together with her chakra level. That being said, it is only because she's a silly idiot that this even worked, I don't think anyone else could pull such ridiculous concept off like increasing one's physical strength by only increasing one's chakra level. If any of us were sensors Hanasaku's chakra would feel like a Sun compared to small fires of normal ninja that is why she's such a freak." Misu explained observing the tower for any surprise developments.

As Howoku was carefully tending to Hanasaku's wounds, removing any weapons stuck in her or giving the woman a description which wounds she'll have to heal up with her mediocre medical ninjutsu skills, there was something that bothered the man. "Sorano-san, how about you? You've blasted so many people with your staff, surely wielding it tires you out, right? Lightning Release is quite a difficult Elemental Release on chakra control seeing how unstable it is. Are you going to be OK?" the young man inquired, he obviously intended to add her age into the mix but remembering how violently the woman lashed out on Misu before the clever Sannin kept it inside, just letting it float in the air and letting the woman catch the idea if she was perceptive enough but without proof of Howoku's intention of bringing it up.

"My staff of Raijin works differently. It costs chakra to use, yes, but it is a steady flow of chakra, it tires me consistently to use it unsealed, not to use techniques. Its concept is very peculiar and difficult to understand and use efficiently which is why it is likely that there will be no one to use it after my passing… Which will be in a million years! Anyways, whenever I swing my staff it generates charges of electricity somewhere inside of it, the stronger and faster the swing – the more it builds up, if it comes into contact with another body or weapon it builds up even more. It is that built up charge that is used in staff's Lightning and Wind Releases." Howoku sighed, "In other words, you do not use Lightning Release at all, you use the force built up inside of the staff but it feeds off of your chakra. Interesting. Wait… Wind Release?" the young man got curious when the woman nodded, "Yes, I can also generate weaker gusts using the same energy built up inside it, but same energy charges are used in both lightning and wind releases so it is often a strategic decision how to use the staff. It takes much more time to learn to properly use it than it takes to gain enough chakra to use it…" the old lady laughed.

With the last knife being pulled out of Hanasaku's shoulder, Howoku stood up and sighed, turning at the Tower of Bones and tightening his gloves. "Well, I think if we let Hanasaku-chan rest for the first couple of fights we can go in!" Misu and Sorano joined Howoku and once the chestnut color haired woman joined the squad of past and present Sannin the four all collectively entered the building. The figures of the four disappeared in the darkness of the Tower of Bones that no one has ever conquered before. The fight was about to get started for real with One's with the Eyes of God apostles facing off against the Sannin!
Tanshu's Story: Battle in Total Darkness by Captain Claymore
Darkness was the first thing that greet the Sannin as they entered the Tower of Bones. The whole place was very briefly lit by torches but those only demonstrated where the walls that they were hung on were. It was not easy finding the staircase, it only took a couple of minutes of wandering before Hanasaku got a bit impatient. "This is stupid, let's just bust through!" the woman yelled out. Sorano's lifted up palm stopped the impatient Sannin in her path. "Even if we tried it'd be of no use, if the protective seals that protect this thing can make it withstand my strongest lightning bolt I've ever cast it can without a doubt take anything we throw – playing by the rules is the only way we'll get anywhere."

"Stop, you've wandered enough, Sannin, please follow me!" Tanshu shouted to direct the attention of his guests at him. "Finally, some direction, some thugs these days can't even be bothered to show us around…" Misu shrugged with a smug face. Howoku however was much more dumbfounded, "You're… Black Dog Tanshu, the boy that ran away from the village seven years ago, so you survived this long by joining with One with the Eyes of God?" he asked. Howoku's tone was quite interesting, usually when a high ranking ninja addressed a nukenin they had a certain shade of disrespect, resentment towards the peer that dared to betray the village, Howoku had none of that. He was respectful to the end.

"Well, boy, the man with Rinnegan is going down today, it's still not too late to switch sides. We can write your nukenin story down to you escaping when you were far too young to understand your actions. We've done something similar before." Sorano spoke softly trying to lure the boy back to Konoha's side but Tanshu's face did not falter for a moment. These were the people that got his parents involved in a useless war, this very old lady was a survivor of the war where his parents died. She, an old hag who survived while young parents died, has no right to speak to him. "The purpose of my life no longer lies with that place, it is where my katei is. Make no mistake, you are standing in my katei and disgracing it with your filth, if Oni Mask sensei doesn't kill you I will do it myself. By the way, I go by Red Dog now… Follow me." Tanshu's voice was full of anger and rage towards these ninja, all of them were in the war and yet none of them did anything to save his parents, they all looked like they lost nothing in that war at all. They were just in it for the glory, they didn't care about who lived or died out there and such filthy humans had no right to draw breath, not in his katei!

"Awww… He's so cuuute! Can we keep him?" Hanasaku shrieked as she ran up to Tanshu pinching his cheeks, for a moment the boy could not believe what this woman was doing. She crossed all the lines, he'd kill her right then and there, who cared what Demon sensei and God-Eyes told him?! Tanshu's arm caught the woman's and pressed it hard. Usually that'd be enough to break anyone's arm and the woman's bone cracked but… She didn't even flinch, Tanshu threw an elbow at her face to break her nose but she simply clashed with the elbow of her own sending a gust of wind through the room as the two powerhouses hit each other. "You can be my little brother!" Hanasaku smiled as she didn't care about the injury to her arm at all.

Tanshu released the clash and turned around, all he had to do was to lead these idiots to sensei's room. Then again, the woman was supposed to be the strongest of all the ninja, Tanshu felt like if that strike of hers was all she had he could've given her a good fight, were these Sannin really that strong? There it was, oni-mask's room, Tanshu stopped by the room and turned back at the Sannin explaining the rules to them. Misu cracked a grin after the boy finished his speech, "So… What's stopping us from attacking the guy in full force and killing him together?" he asked, Tanshu shook his head and opened the door revealing sensei's dark room, the one where Tanshu woke up in after his fight with God-Eyes. "If you feel that's what you want to do, by all means, attack Oni Mask sensei all at once…" Howoku seemed to be the smarter one, he instantly understood the condition of the room they entered. "No, we will follow the rules and fight one on one, these rooms don't look like they'd let us let loose, plus our abilities are wide scale, we'd risk hitting each other if we fought here and would constantly get in each other's way."

Sensei's mask lit up and appeared out of the absolute darkness of the room. "Hello there, Konohagakure Sannin and retired Sannin, my name is… Well, Demons don't go by names, you can call me whatever you like. Which one of you will go first? I warn you, I am going to definitely kill the first one to fight me, my odds will of course decrease once the fights stack up, but the first one to fight me has 0% odds to survive. I'd suggest the old lady, she must have already finished all her things she wanted to do in life…" Hanasaku cracked her fists and entered, yelling out "I'll fight!" but then Sorano's gentle hand pushed her back softly. "No, dear, you've still not recovered from your reckless battle outside, let this be your lesson to be more careful next time." Just like that the first battle for the key to the next floor begun – Sorano the Raijin's Prophet, retired Sannin against the man with no name, Oni Mask!

Out of nowhere the oni mask started moving up closer to the woman, she slammed her staff to the ground lighting the room up for a mere moment and then blocking the strike the of the man. The man with oni mask continued to strike but Sorano's strategy of using one end of the stick to spark some light and using the other to deflect assassin's lethal blows seemed to work perfectly as all of Oni Mask's blows were deflected or blocked by the staff. The man pulled some impressive moves, jumping around and kicking, flipping and vaulting around, using both floor and ceiling for footing and using ground and aerial as well as low attacks but using her staff Sorano always knew they were coming and was in time to react to them despite being an old lady.

"Impressive, Old Hag's amazing!" Hanasaku yelled out loud impressed by how fast the old lady managed to respond to the attacks, Howoku nodded, "The man has a very interesting approach to fighting – he lives in a very dark room with the room being tuned to his outfit which makes his attire invisible, it is impossible to tell if he is coming and where from, what kind of attack he is using without a source of light. Actually, out of us all only Sorano-san and I could beat him." Misu looked displeased by this conclusion, probably because he wasn't included in the list of names. Tanshu barely managed to contain his laughter, how did these fools plan to beat sensei? The Red Dog himself could beat sensei in theory but not in this room, in this room, sensei was God, not God-Eyes.

Suddenly Oni Mask's speed picked up, he landed a couple of nicks on Sorano and what was even more impressive – his blows were cutting like knives, the scratches that Oni Mask's strikes left on the old lady were like she was cut by blades. It was becoming apparent that the lady could not keep up with the same two point strategy she was using before with this increase of speed and Tanshu could tell – sensei was not fighting at his top speed. As expected, even the mighty Sannin could not keep up with sensei in this room. Vashia and Hana and even Oni Mask himself were not up to Sannin level but in this room, right here, they could win! A loud grunt echoed, one coming from Oni Mask as a loud flesh cutting sound echoed. Tanshu could see it – the old lady's heart was pierced with sensei's hand – it was over! The quickest Sannin death ever. As always sensei's strength that helped him hit like a sharp weapon was impressive! A loud poof echoed through the dark room and a sound of wood hitting the ground came – it appeared that the woman managed to substitute herself with a wooden floor tile at the last second.

"As expected from a retired Sannin, to make a fool of me with such a basic technique…" Oni Mask applauded the old woman, Sorano however did not return the honor of talking to her opponent. She was focused completely on the battle as she just witnessed how making a single mistake may have caused the ex-Sannin her life. Then the woman shouted out as she forced her body to swing the staff around her body and then drove it into the ground. The entire room lit up with lightning as impulses of electricity went through the floor and erupted violently focusing on the man that the woman was fighting. The amount of Lightning Release that the woman could whip up impressed Tanshu, judging from how stressed out Oni Mask was to pull off his quick side vault dodges it could've been told that he did not expect such violent attack as well. "Wow. Old Lady gathered so much charge into her staff from such a brief exchange of blows?! That staff is impressive" Hanasaku once more shrieked out like a little girl.

Oni Mask was panting pretty hard, he clearly did have to use a moderate amount of effort to dodge that attack, but now this stupid young woman with chestnut colored hair told him the secret of the old woman – the staff was what used the lightning techniques and not the lady herself. The Oni Mask charged at the woman with all of his speed that he could muster up in his tired state, if what this silly young woman said was true, it meant that the old woman had no more juice in her staff which meant he had to exploit the opportunity! Right as the man closed up with his thrust of the palm aiming to once again impale the woman, the old lady drove her staff into the ground and leaped over her opponent, then she proceeded to avoid his attacks using the same strategy as before. Oni Mask may have had the advantage of speed before but his current worn out state quickly wasted that advantage. Sorano quickly thrust her staff forward shooting off a bolt of lightning but Oni Mask leaned to the side avoiding it. Minor branches of electricity gently separated from the bolt burning the man up a bit and revealing some of his skin. Now Oni Mask was not completely invisible in the darkness as some of his burnt flesh was well visible.

Tanshu was surprised by how well his mentor took those lightning burns, it was no secret that his sensei's body under those clothes was covered with burns, for a burned skin to be hit by more minor lightning branches and to keep its owner completely unfazed was impressive. Sensei must've had tremendous pain tolerance, had he not drugged Tanshu when training him the boy suspected he'd have just the same kind of tolerance too. The ex-Sannin and the Oni Mask clashed again, as much as the man tried to break the staff using his near superhuman strength he could not do it, as much as the woman tried to land a single blow on the man using her staff she also couldn't do it. It was evident by now that the battle would be decided not by who was more skilled but who could catch their opponent off guard with a more powerful technique. Having realized this both fighters leaped back.

"This fight sucks, I can't see a thing." Misu sniffed angrily, Howoku did not move his eyes from the battle. "That's because you do not use perception in your battles, your Vapor Mode protects you from every attack your opponent makes which makes you careless. If you knew how to pick up and interpret sounds, if you could see the entire situation in those brief moments of light that Sorano-san gives herself, if you had any imagination and perception skills at all you'd be able to see it." Hanasaku showed Misu her tongue and pointed at the boy, "Look, even my little brother can follow the battle clearly, jeez you're such a loser, Misu!" she laughed out. Misu sniffed again and looked at his friend, "You're as careless as I am if not more, I bet you can't follow it either…" Hanasaku's head dipped to the ground, she looked like she was about to cry, "I can pick up bits and pieces… I'm missing so much of such an awesome battle!"

"Well then, we've danced long enough, lady, let us proceed to finishing touches then." Oni Mask huffed out, without replying a single word Sorano swung her staff and pointed it at her opponent shooting off a bolt of lightning. The lightning bolt seemed to keep going and the wall behind Oni Mask. Sorano was thrown off guard by the fact that the glowing in the dark oni mask at that moment wasn't even on the face of her opponent but actually on something else. It was too late however as every observer could hear only loud thuds and the grunt of the woman before Oni Mask's demonic voice returned. "Demon Kenpo" he said naming his style of quick succession strikes that hit the woman's body. In some ways Oni Mask was the perfect ninja as he represented all that ninja stood for, he deceived his opponent, threw them off guard and then took them out quickly while being completely invisible to his victim. Even the mighty retired Sannin was now dead laying on the floor…

"Not bad, for the both of us to use the same technique to trick their opponent." Sorano's voice echoed from some other corner of the room. "String Reeling technique to hang the most visible object in front, making the enemy believe that their opponent was standing still. It seems I've gotten used to the dark already just as you are." Oni Mask lifted off the coat of Sorano that he tore up using his quick thrusts strong enough to stab a human being with his own hand before laughing out and tossing it aside. "It is true, I suppose I am as blind in this darkness as you are, Sorano-san" Oni Mask nodded as he turned around to face the old woman in the corner where she has hidden. Tanshu was completely confused, when did this woman pull this trick off? When did she have the time to do that? He had to hand it to this woman, even if he did hate her, she was resourceful. How in the world could she and sensei have the same idea at the same time to trick their opponent?! Tanshu refused to place this woman on sensei's level of smarts, that was impossible.

The two leaped at each other, exchanging blows with each powerful strike being blocked by the other. Oni Mask's thrusts managed to deflect Sorano's staff just as easily as her staff deflected his fists and thrusts. Knowing that Oni Mask trained his fists punching steel and stone it was to no surprise. Then something happened, the whole room illuminated as Sorano just became lightning shaped and dissolved appearing behind her opponent, Oni Mask tried to react but quick and precise blows from her staff stopped him in his tracks. The woman worked the staff very well, spinning it around to confuse the man and charging it up with lightning chakra to make a stronger blow. She tore up the man's jumpsuit even more making it even harder for him to properly conceal his body in the dark as his purplish dark burnt skin was quite standing out compared to the darkness around him to a trained eye. The woman tried to finish it all by driving her staff to Oni Mask's head, an impact like that would've knocked him out for sure. With a loud clang the staff shot up in the air as the Demon deflected it with his arm thrust.

Having found his new opening the man did not hesitate, his balance and speed was thrown off, he kept punching the old lady but his strikes did not kill her, just open cuts and bruises, broke her teeth and cut her lip, made her body swell but did not outright impale her. It was apparent that sensei's "Demon Kenpo" needed some preparation and concentration time but it didn't matter – sensei was fighting a Sannin one on one, he was returning her the blows he took and that was satisfactory. Even if the idea of a Sannin matching sensei in his dark room was scary, at least it provided some comfort as sensei was not entirely over his head. Sensei's arms weighed down, he was breathing heavily, the woman took this time to recover and started striking back herself, charging her staff up even more, giving the man no time to respond or defend. This was no longer perfect chain of blocks or a match of skill, this was two people desperately trying to kill each other! Sorano slammed her staff right into Oni Mask's head, sensei's head let out a disgusting and alarming sound – something told Tanshu that it'd be a very disgusting display if this darkness wasn't here to conceal it.

"Demon Kenpo!" Oni Mask yelled out of nowhere right as a combination of stabbing-like sounds broke to Tanshu's ears. He got her! Tanshu could smell the blood, he could feel it that both combatants were injured but did sensei hit the woman in her vitals? He could have hit her many times but if no vitals were hit any ninja could keep going even after being impaled by his strikes multiple times. Tanshu was hit by that many times when sensei wasn't planning to kill him and he always could take multiple of those. The woman grunted in pain but kept swinging her staff. Suddenly her staff lit up with sheer lightning chakra, she was going to use all that she had accumulated revealing just how much damage each fighter has taken with the light from the charging up lightning. Sensei's head was split open, it was hard to determine just how much damage he had taken since his face was disfigured but it was bleeding quite heavily, the woman also was bleeding out as she evidently took multiple stabs from sensei's strikes. A powerful beam illuminated the room making each ninja inside cover their eyes and ears from the deafening sound. A powerful lightning wave blew covering most of the room as the woman yelled out "Heavenly Punishment Jutsu!"

It would not have taken a genius to know that if that technique had landed on sensei he would've been disintegrated… Tanshu couldn't see how things happened but he knew that this was the woman's plan all along – to quickly gather up charges in ugly one on one clashes and use this. All of this darkness worked in her favor, contrast of absolute light breaking absolute darkness forced even the other Sannin to flinch in place. Nothing could have survived this inhuman jutsu. And yet… Tanshu knew not to count sensei as being dead before he saw the pile of his ashes. All the ninja in this room, both the fighting ones and the ones waiting for their turn stood silently waiting for the conclusion to this battle in darkness that was approaching and seemed to be getting closer and closer every second! Every blow could've concluded the battle now.
Tanshu's Story: Howoku's Starlight! by Captain Claymore
After the aftermath of Sorano's technique there was a brief moment of illumination even after it had resolved, such "afterlight" effect was not something that was common to many techniques. Also there were countless of lightning sparks crackling in the air, even the aftermath of the technique was violent enough. The retired Sannin was breathing heavily and clenching one of many wounds inflicted by her opponent with small drops of blood ticking down on the floor once in a while. As the afterlight cleared the result of her technique was apparent, then slowly the surrounding dimmed away into gloom. Loud grunts and whining could've been heard in the darkness.

"Your leg is quite messed up, perhaps it'd be for the best to grant us passage and let us go?" Sorano taunted the opponent whom she saw to be alive. "You've got to be kidding…" Tanshu thought, he noticed from sensei's stance that he used his "Demon Kick" technique charging his body with Lightning Release chakra and kicking transferring all of the force into this one kick, such kick was swift, silent and was strong enough to cut people in two, even more, the Lightning Release nature of the technique would've been enough to absorb the technique while sensei's other leg would've grounded it. And yet… Oni Mask's leg looked like a lump of coal, it was black and barely resembled a human appendage, just how powerful was this technique that this retired Sannin used? This strength was beginning to defy even the ninja limits, these Sannin were not superhuman, they were superninja.

Sorano grunted again as she spun her staff and pointed it to where Oni Mask last was when light illuminated the room, a powerful and unstable lightning bolt shot out, as the room was lit up it revealed Oni Mask standing right up to Sorano and having ducked right to the ground. "Demon Kenpo" he shouted thrusting his hand right to the woman's heart, as the body was penetrated it dissolved into pure lightning chakra and lit the room again revealing Oni Mask grunting and falling to his knees, "Lightning Clone!?" he shouted out in frustration. A loud thud echoed, then the thud repeated, then again, and again, and again, and again. The thuds started echoing around like a machinegun, it was tough for Tanshu to keep his ears open – the two were exchanging blows again in total darkness, using just perception and imagination of their opponent's position and predicting their movements with complete precision, as Sorano's staff grinded against the floor it shot out lightning sparks that briefly lit the room. It was a glorious dance of light and violence. It made Tanshu almost beg for another peek just to see these two amazing ninja clash again.

A flash of light lit the next exchange, the woman's palm was shooting straight at the mess that was Oni Mask's face, there it was – the opening. The arms of the assassin shot backwards like he was winding up to push the woman away, he then just shot them both forward at the same time. "Twin Demon Kenpo!" he grunted as another flesh tearing sound reached everyone's ears. Then it started sounding like someone was spilling a bucket of water on the floor, as the lightning lit everything up again it was revealed that one palm penetrated Sorano's gut, this was major, with so many injuries and her elderly body there was only that much that the woman could do, this battle was wrapping up. Sorano tried to use her chance to hit Oni Mask's exposed head but she couldn't, pain made her slower, exhaustion made her even slower. She shot all of her lightning out already from her staff, if she hadn't she'd have used staff's own abilities and not her own "Lightning Clone Jutsu" moments before to avoid death.

Once again loud clangs echoed through the room, again and again, Tanshu could not believe for how long these two were dancing together, for how long they could keep this race of mind, will and determination up, for how long they could both fight to the best of their abilities without slowing down. Sensei was being pushed, according to Tanshu's calculations he only had one last technique and no chance to use it – the All Speed. As the name suggests it is the entirety of sensei's potential speed and strength but… It couldn't just have been thrown out like that, especially not when sensei was this hurt, his eyes were flooding with blood coming from his forehead and his body was tired at this point of the fight, Tanshu had expected the jutsu to come in early to gain advantage but why was sensei keeping it for last? Having its drawbacks in mind…

A loud clang, louder than the thousands before interrupted the boy's thoughts as a powerful gust of wind made him cover his face. For the first time the room lit up not because of the lightning but because of the actual sparks from sensei's "Demon Kenpo" clashing with Raijin's staff. The woman's staff was first to attack, Oni Mask could not react in time and got a couple of blows, the woman aimed for the head – she knew that if she hit hard enough she'd break the man's skull at some point, if it wasn't broken yet… Oni Mask was flung around mercilessly as Sorano's staff hit him again and again, the man tried to block using just his arms but without chakra enhancements of "Demon Kenpo" he was unable to keep up with the staff's strength, it was simply flesh against ancient steel.

With a powerful swing hitting Oni Mask's cheek and lighting it up just for that extra strength and flare, sending most of his teeth to the floor, Sorano sent the man down. Her staff started crackling with lightning – she was charging up another attack! She probably had enough for a lethal thunderbolt strike which made Tanshu worried – sensei just kept twitching on his knees, was he down and out? Sorano pointed her staff right at his bleeding head, at this rate… Wait… What if he wasn't still affected by the blows, what if he was… For the last time Sorano's staff lit up with powerful impulses of electricity as a ball formed on the tip. The room lit up, so brightly that everyone had to cover their eyes. It was over, but the sight that greet everyone when they turned back surprised everyone.

The spot where Sorano aimed her lightning bolt was flaming, her lightning bolt had missed and hit the floor! Oni Mask was right below the woman, his legs were stretched out to the human limit as he ducked his frontal body to avoid the blast, his back was still smoking from the side burns of the bolt of electricity. Sorano's body twitched a couple of times – Oni Mask's arm was dug right through her chest. There it was, All Speed. Oni Mask channelled all of his remaining chakra into lightning impulses that enhanced his bodily reaction time and movements to superhuman levels. However using his All Speed required charge up time, appropriate to how exhausted the user's body was, also it fatigued the body and basically burned the muscles up. Tanshu understood what this meant, both short term and long term implications. Oni Mask straightened out as he held the old lady's body, gently placing it on the ground and closing her eyes with his soft stroke of hand.

"You BASTARD!" Howoku yelled out, at that same moment his body lit up, it was like chakra was simply leaking out of his pores, like some sort of white divine-like light was leaking from his body. The man charged forward, Tanshu could follow the man's movement but it was incredibly fast, just how could this wimp have pulled this off? Oni Mask obviously could not move in time, Tanshu had already predicted that using All Speed so late in the fight would pretty much kill his chances of movement afterwards. A sphere of light of the same nature shaped itself in the palm of Howoku's hand as his arm shot forward hitting Oni Mask's chest. "Starlight Sphere!" Howoku yelled out thrusting his hand forward and throwing his opponent back like a ragdoll as the sphere of light violently dissolved. Oni Mask yelled out loudly, flying backwards and hitting the wall, after Oni Mask's body hit the wall behind him it collapsed with the lifeless body flying right out. Light seeped through into the room, it was symbolic that as Oni Mask died so did the darkness in the room… Tanshu blinked and it was over – to think that the power of this wimp could break even Hana's seal, sure, it was weakened by the old lady's most powerful lightning bolt but the boy had to know.

"This light… This chakra, it's a Kekkei Genkai, correct? May I know what kind?" Tanshu asked looking at Howoku, the man's eyes changed, this was no longer the stare of a noble and kind soul, this was a stare of a bloodthirsty fighter. "This man was your sensei, correct? Don't you wish revenge for his death?" the man replied, his voice was rude and strong, no longer the gentle and soft tone he had when he came. Tanshu looked down, "To tell you the truth I think sensei wanted me to kill him at some point, just to finish his training. I did like him as a mentor but in this world people die, I've already lost any grip with reality, death of people dear to me no longer bring up any emotion. Neither this floor, nor the one above it is my floor to fight. Now answer my question, Star of Hope, Howoku!"

Howoku turned around and drew his blunt blade, slowly the man stroke his hand by the blade, normally it would've opened up a grievous wound but the blunt steel was made more for bashing than slashing. With a swift and precise movement of his hand Howoku threw the blunt sword like a spear aiming at Oni Mask's body lying outside on the black rough ground. Just mere moments before the sword went on its trajectory outside and impaled the body of his sensei Tanshu's wrist wrapped around its handle catching it in mid-air. "I no longer want that title or this blade that cannot take lives!" Howoku yelled out in rage, "I held myself back, restrained my Starlight Release and used a blunt blade, I believed that if I fought with peaceful intentions in heart that the world would change, that it'd pull its punches on me as well! Curse you, Red Dog Tanshu, go to Hell for catching this blade, from now on I live by a new ideal – evil people that threaten peace deserve absolute death, Iron Country samurai call it "Aku-Soku-Zan!" Tanshu threw the useless junk weapon to the side, this blunt sword that could not kill anyone did not deserve to be held by him.

"Starlight Release… Huh?" Tanshu spoke under his own nose as he boldly stepped forward walking up to Howoku who seemed to be going through a crisis of ideals. After the young ninja passed by the saddened Sannin he turned to the side, "There is no need to attack corpses, even for one who follows "Aku-Soku-Zan", I'm not nearly patient enough to check if sensei is dead or not, all I know that no one can live through a battle like this, even if Sorano-san had survived this battle she'd have collapsed not too long afterwards, sensei cannot be beaten one on one in this room and his purpose to God-Eyes is now fulfilled, I no longer care what happens to him and if you do you're just an angry child fixed on revenge. If you keep me waiting and standing here wasting time I'll kill all three of you, now let's move to the next floor." he said showing to Howoku the key. Hanasaku jumped up, "Wait, did you have all the keys this whole time!?" Tanshu kept on walking, he just waved his arm and carelessly replied "You did not bother to properly answer my question, I don't owe you the explanation of this situation as well."

As the boy started walking up the stairs he heard the Sannin catching up, Howoku then spoke. "Starlight Release is a Kekkei Genkai I awakened during my teenage years, I have no idea where it comes from or why I have it but I'm the only person in the world with it. It's a form of combination of Fire and Lightning Releases, it creates a plasma-like substance that is said to be as hot in its core as the surface of the Sun. I didn't like to use it because it usually either hurts people very badly or outright disintegrates them if I hit them head-on, such extraordinary power needs to be restrained, used carefully… Or so I thought, now I don't care about the lives of scum that threaten peace. Please tell me about the keys now, Tanshu." For a moment Tanshu just kept walking up the stairs contemplating on what Howoku just said, "Starlight Release", so that was the kind of ability that the Sannin used, superheated gas that can be used to absolutely decimate even Hana's seals. Even God-Eyes' most powerful Universal Push lacked the strength to do that, that was how this crater was formed this deep in the first place, the one God-Eyes made when fighting Tanshu wasn't even one tenth the strength of this one.

"Well, I guess now I can tell you the truth, now that you broke Hana's seal there is no use in this whole key thing, this key doesn't unlock anything, it's my key from my floor. You can just bust the door down, there are no longer any protections to this tower, you can even go as far as to break the rules and attack God-Eyes right now." After Tanshu finished talking Howoku nodded angrily, his cold and scary look started giving even Tanshu the creeps. And yet… A man who cared so deeply about his comrades, a man who was able to change his entire life worth of beliefs to better respect the memory of a dead comrade. The boy felt it inside – he wanted to be this man's comrade now, if he died while being Howoku's friend this man would avenge Tanshu and protect his katei for him even if someone powerful killed the young man… His life would finally have meaning.

"Nah, screw that, let's play by the rules. I'm really getting into this." Misu spoke as Tanshu's fist flew straight into the man's face sending him tumbling couple of steps backward. Apparently even the Sannin did not expect this blow as his face did not dissolve into vapour after getting hit. "You bastard, Sorano-san died! How can you just play by the scumbag's rules after he had Sorano-san killed! How can we return to the village having lost someone like Sorano-san! The village will never wipe away the tears!" the man was literally shaking as he yelled it out. Hanasaku's hand reached over Howoku's shoulder. "No, I believe what Misu said is what is best" for the first time in a while the young woman spoke in a very calm and assured tone, "Didn't you see it yet? These nukenin are able to kill us, they're just as strong as we are and when I clashed with Little Bro here I felt it – he'd kick me in the butt a couple of times and it'd definitely be tough to fight him. If we split up and fight everyone at once we won't be able to assist each other if needed assistance. What if you or Misu or me needs help and the others are fighting somewhere else? More people will die and you will blame yourself even more, Howoku-kun. Please stop and calm down, we'll play this how Little Bro wants."

Tanshu was truly annoyed by being called "Little Bro", who did this lady think she was? If memory served well the next in line would be Vashia… It was really hard for Tanshu to kick down the door, not because it was hard, the door itself was just a wooden construction and a simple shoulder push could've taken it out when the seal was broken. The hard part was the emotional part. Vashia was a nice girl, Tanshu knew it. She was silent, closed in and didn't wish harm upon anyone else. But if she was told to fight she would fight until the end because she was devoted to the cause, deep inside the Red Dog knew that she thought of them like a little family, just like he did. "Is something wrong, Little Bro?" Hanasaku laughed out and tried to stroke his hair, with a rough blow Tanshu pushed her hand away. "Shut up, I'm just thinking…" As the door fell out and the Red Dog started leading the three he noticed something wrong, this was not Vashia's floor, it couldn't have been. Hana and Vashia must've switched floors, it was most likely God-Eyes who ordered this – still, the purpose of this switch remained known only to him. In the manner of a true God he was unpredictable till the end. The walls were covered with some stupid graffiti-like paintings done with simple red and purple paint. The whole place was well lit and had multiple cushions thrown around randomly on the floor. As the boy opened the door he already knew the face that'd greet them inside. "This is Hana, she's the one that placed all those seals on the Tower. Please gang up on her and kill her quickly before she speaks." Tanshu facepalmed.

"Shut up you loser! Why didn't you help Oni Mask fight?! Maybe you sided with the Konoha trash then? Come on, I'll take you on too you twerp!" the lady broke out spitting filth. The young nukenin sighed in frustration and stood to a wall gesturing that it was now OK to challenge her. Hanasaku jumped forward and cracked her knuckles, "OK, my turn!" she shouted out but Howoku was already standing in front of the young woman. "HOWOKU-KUN!" she whined out comically but it appeared like the Sannin couldn't hear the voice of his companion anymore. He just pointed his fist at the young lady, "Your boss is threatening the peace and is responsible for the death of a retired Sannin, give your key up and I will let you live." His voice sounded husky and angry but Hana didn't get the clue. She just made a comic grimace and showed her tongue and her middle finger. "You'll get rabbit poop, ya loser!" the girl removed a small piece of bubble gum from her purse and put it into her mouth.

"She had bubble gum in her ninja tool pouch?" Hanasaku's mouth opened in shock, "Shit, how come I didn't think of that!? I can carry food in there!" Howoku's head sunk down and then lifted back up as the man fixed his glasses. "Then I shall remove you from the equation, as a threat to peace you must be destroyed!" the man shouted out, despite the fact that he looked calmed down after the death of his comrade he still acted like this new "Aku-Soku-Zan" version of the man he once was. Tanshu didn't complain, at least he'd use his Starlight Release and shut that annoying mouth of Hana's up. Meanwhile he could think of some way to prevent Vashia's death, maybe he could somehow lead them over her floor right to God-Eyes! No. That wouldn't work, the construction of the floor was pretty simplistic and it only had one pathway, from down to up. Maybe he could talk to the girl? No, Vashia had a strong sense of honor, she wouldn't budge even if the enemy is a Sannin. Stupid God-Eyes, he should've fought these people himself, now he's counting on his apostles to wear them out so that he can finish them himself. What a despicable guy!

Hana and Howoku leaped at each other, preparing for a clash. The fight on the second floor was about to begin!
Tanshu's Story: Another Battle Stolen by Captain Claymore
The two opponents just continued to stare each other down. Tanshu knew that making a move first and taking the offensive approach was simply not Hana's style, especially when taking on a Konohagakure Sannin like Howoku. On the other hand, Tanshu was afraid of Howoku's silent and cool stare, while he may have spoken a lot of trash about Hana he still sort of cared about her. He was like an older abusive sister to him, on a day to day basis he may have hated the girl's guts but when the choice of life and death was given, it wasn't truly a choice at all.

Chestnut Hanasaku looked at Tanshu curiously, "Say, Little Bro, what's this Hana chick like anyways?" Tanshu pouted angrily and yelled back in a rude manner, "I told you to stop calling me that! It ain't any of your business, Sannin!" Hanasaku just smiled and then looked back at the two opponents that just kept looking at each other. Hana shot her palm forward as if she was a queen issuing an order to her subordinates. "Don't you dare say another word, loser! Your tongue won't do me justice! I am Hana of the Sand Village, the most handy right hand person to have by one's side!" the girl spoke in a rather arrogant tone. It was obvious that the young lady had great pride in her abilities. All of a sudden Howoku's body started leaking Stardust Release chakra as the man disappeared from where he was standing.

An elbow strike connected to Hana's face almost instantly after everyone noticed that the man disappeared, then another blow to her middle body area, Howoku punched and kicked again and again in a combination before finishing his ruthless attack with a knee to the girl's stomach and a finishing downward strike from his elbow. Hanasaku yelled out in frustration, "Oy, Howoku, that's rude to do to a lady! You should stop playing around and just take her out quick!" Tanshu's face did not flinch, actually Howoku's approach was the right one – hit Hana fast and take her out, don't give her a chance to do anything before she uses one of her crazy tricks. His only mistake was to stop hitting her once she was down. Howoku's ruthless eyes looked back at his two teammates, "I don't care if she's male or female, she became an enemy to be taken down the moment she acted against us. She chose this world of violence and death and brought this onto herself. She or anyone else in that matter has no right to complain about any of this!" he grunted out angrily starting to leak Starlight Release chakra from his body.

This attack was different! The amount of chakra that Howoku sent out was insane! Why would any technique make one leak such overwhelming amounts of chakra, maybe this was a proof of this man's lack of chakra control, he must've been so hesitant to use these destructive Starlight techniques that he had no control over them. Howoku's arms shot forward as he roared loudly in pain and effort that it took to keep this impressive display up. All of the star-white chakra gathered outside of his body and just started making the man glow and shimmer. "Starlight Bridge Jutsu!" Howoku shouted out as the chakra violently shot forward in a powerful slightly arching beam shaped right like the user's body. This was without a doubt an attack to completely disintegrate the opponent.

As the overflowing light of Howoku's Starlight Release filled the room everyone had to cover their eyes. Tanshu tried to duck and bolt out of the room as a technique of such caliber expelling so much heat would've completely eradicated the entire room making the whole building collapse in the process. "This is useless, I won't move in time… This intense heat!" Tanshu thought to himself feeling just how hot it was being in the same room where Howoku used his Starlight Release. Hana would've been dead in moments… Then suddenly a realization hit the young boy – this wasn't so bad. For a technique that was as hot as the surface of the Sun this wasn't half bad… Stumped Tanshu opened his eyes and saw Hana standing still with her own hands thrust forward with a big black insignia formed from her chakra in the air. The girl grinned with a cocky and mocking smile and then made a nasty grimace, showing the Sannin her middle finger.

"I told you loser, I'm the handiest ninja in the world! I possess the power to use amazing sealing techniques like this "Black Hieroglyph Seal" I used to seal away your "Starlight Bridge Jutsu". Also I am a sensor so I can feel just how much your chakra levels dropped. Come on, big man, fire some more of those, I'll just drain you out in seconds. Or maybe you want to punch me some more? Well you should know that I'm a medical ninja too so whatever punch you throw I'll return with six times your strength – you have no options against me!" Hana spread her arms opening up her body as if taunting Howoku to try his best shot. The man's cold and ruthless eyes did not falter for a moment, he didn't even look surprised that his powerful Starlight Bridge Jutsu was absorbed.

"You cocky little brat…" Howoku spoke lunging forward with an onslaught of taijutsu techniques. The man just punched again and again, kicked and flipped to punch from the other side while Hana effortlessly dodged or blocked his attacks. Medical ninja were hard to hit in close distance because they trained day and night to properly evade and Hana was just like that. She was training to dodge, sometimes when Tanshu came to Oni Mask's room in the morning for training he found Hana training to dodge Oni Mask's attacks in absolute darkness using just her sensory alone. This woman was impossible to land a solid hit on when she was pumped up. Tanshu observed carefully to see how this Sannin would deal with the situation, it may have been that in the end he'd see another Sannin die that day. Before he hit her when using his Starlight chakra boost and while Hana wasn't expecting it, now he couldn't even land a single blow on her.

With a powerful clash of kunai the two leaped off of one another making some distance, both of them were huffing a little bit, Howoku was obviously the worst of the two tired combatants – that Starlight Release he used on Oni Mask and right here was already catching up with him and here he was fighting a perfect evader up close where, Tanshu could easily tell, he did not exceed in. "He should not have dropped his sword, I can see from his style that he has only above average skills with taijutsu, I assume that he was a better swordsman?" the boy asked looking at Howoku's fellow Sannin. Misu of the Vapor cracked an evil grin, "Nah, he sucked at it, the idiot just fought with a dull blade because he considered fist-fighting "uncivilized"." Tanshu's eyes shot wide open, these Sannin were weird people. They purposefully restricted their abilities in battle to have a more satisfying fight? What crazy fools!

Hana once again shot her finger forward with a cocky smile, "So, what's it gonna be? Ready to surrender? Maybe if you say "Hana-sama, you're so amazing and beautiful and all-around a perfect lady I'll let you go… If you also give me something nice to hang on those walls… And maybe kiss my ring while kneeling in front of me!" Howoku smiled as his eyes calmed down, Tanshu was starting to get scared by the man's ruthless eyes but now that they returned to calmness they also seemed to calm him down. This man had a weird feeling to him. The boy was starting to somewhat understand why Oni Mask said he was called "Star of Hope", whatever he felt, the people around him felt too. When he was grieving everyone else couldn't help but feel sad just looking at him, when he was feeling hopeful he also brought hope in the eyes of others.

"Girl, you're truly a remarkable ninja. I must say, however, I figured out your thing so if you continue fighting me I'll have to show you just what the true difference between a remarkable ninja and a Sannin is. Please turn back and leave this tower, go back to your village. Abandon this hopeless man who uses his friends like pawns just to keep the enemy away from him." Hana yelled out in frustration some unintelligible nonsense and leapt forward with a chakra enhanced punch, throwing it straight at Howoku's face. Before it landed, Howoku's body lit up with Starlight chakra and with a tap he gently pushed the woman's punch away and gave her one of his own, with overwhelming force he pushed the young lady back crashing into the bone wall, he did not stop however as Howoku jumped right next to her and started punching her again, now that the first impact fazed her Hana was not nearly as good at evading the strikes. "This Starlight Release chakra seems to enhance his physical abilities somewhat…" Tanshu noted to himself but overall even in this shining new mode Howoku was not too impressive of a physical force for the young boy.

With a powerful finishing blow Howoku sent Hana to the ground and turned around, nonchalantly walking away from her without looking back at her. As far as he was concerned the battle was over. Howoku did not see Hana get up from the ground, trembling and covered with slight burns and bruises from his barrage of blows, spitting out blood but with a powerful glow of green chakra she started wiping all of those injuries away. "Don't you dare walk away! You cocky shining bastard!" she yelled out at Howoku stopping the man in his tracks. Howoku turned his head back at her halfway and mumbled in a cold and careless manner. "You're a sensor ninja, no, you're what we call "an Advanced Sensor", normal sensors can sense chakra from certain distance, sense as if in they can confirm the presence of chakra. They are incapable of telling that much about the details of the chakra, their use of sensory is also a bit limited in battle."

After a brief pause Howoku turned back from Hana and took several more steps back towards the exit from the room. "What we call "Advanced Sensors" use some sort of sensory enhancement, like Earth Release users sensing vibrations coming off of the ground or in your case… Lightning Release users sensing nerve signals and being able to use it in tandem with your normal sensory. With enough training you learn to react to sensing the signal incredibly fast and you make your opponent believe that you predicted their moves because of how effortlessly you evade their attack. That being said, I've shown to you that this ability won't change the outcome of this battle, you are simply outmatched here and even your Advanced Sensory won't make the difference between us stop mattering. In ten or so years you may have beaten me easily but you lack training and discipline, now get out of my sight. You keep calling people "cocky" when in fact you yourself are nothing but that. I have no time for talented people that get in over their heads thinking they don't need to work hard as well…" Howoku grunted.

It appeared that the man's words have broken Hana down. She dropped down on her knees and started pounding the ground and shouting in rage and frustration, Tanshu had never seen the young woman so psyched out, she was really unstable now and could've lashed out pretty quickly. Had he cared at all if any of these Sannin lived or died he'd have warned them, his predictions just happened to be correct, Hana roared out into the air for one more time before slamming a smoke bomb into the ground with all of her strength. The smoke filled the room making it impossible to see a thing inside.

"Disappear without a trace, you filthy Sannin! Oracle Shot Jutsu!" Hana shouted out with a very uncommon for her enraged tone as she shot her hands forward firing off a wild bolt of lightning at a random direction. Tanshu knew this technique, it once hit him when he pissed Hana off and burned him severely as well as stopped his heart, it took Oni Mask to threaten to kill Hana for hurting his only apprentice for her to heal him. She popped the smoke bomb to reduce the visibility to zero, she then used her "Advanced Sensory" as Howoku called it to take proper aim at her target leaving them no chance or time to properly respond as they didn't know what was coming at them.

As the smoke cleared Tanshu couldn't see Howoku anywhere, only a black burning spot where Hana's "Oracle Shot" hit the ground. Only in several moments could he locate Howoku hanging on the ceiling of the small room looking at his opponent with already finished handseals. Hana's eyes and mouth shot open in surprise as she took a couple of steps backwards in fear. Howoku angrily taunted her, "What's wrong? You're a medical ninja, right? You can take it and get yourself back to fighting shape in no time… For your sake though… Don't." the mad leaking Starlight Release chakra formed four basketball sized spheres of Starlight chakra, Howoku thrust his arms forward shouting "Star Chart Strike!" as the four spheres went on to strike the area where Hana was erupting in a powerful and wild explosion as all four spheres violently exploded upon impact with the floor or the walls.

When the destructive explosion resolved Tanshu saw the extent of the damage, nearly half of the Tower of Bones was blown to bits. It was really unstable now and it couldn't have taken much more to make the whole roof just slide down to the ground below. Hana was down on her knees with her white dress torn up and burnt and her pink hair now flowing wildly instead of being set in her stupid girly hairdo of twisted braids. "Im…Possible… I absorbed it… I had to…" she uttered coughing up blood and dust. Howoku landed back down on the floor and breathed out, he obviously strained himself more than he needed to in this battle but that was how one had to fight a medical ninja, explode quickly right into their faces with all or nothing assaults because medical ninja would eventually heal back from any weaker attacks and simply outlast even much stronger opponents.

The girl once again started healing herself when Howoku turned around and returned to his friends, turning at Hana for one more time. "Your absorption seal doesn't seem to handle barrage techniques that well, you only absorbed some of my technique, maybe one third of it at least… You should invent a new seal for continuous or barrage ninjutsu techniques, there are plenty of ninja in the world that use those kind of techniques, if your will to become a powerful ninja one day isn't broken, that is…" Howoku smiled back at Hana. Tanshu could not believe, was this really the same man that broke down in rage over the death of his comrade not too long ago? Did he forget his oath to kill anyone that threatened peace? Or maybe in his eyes this girl was no longer a threat to peace, it was God-Eyes that was the big threat…

Tears burst from Hana's eyes as she rushed forward, Howoku leaned back and forth to evade her blind chakra enhanced strikes. This time even the girl's own tears of shame seemed to prevent her from punching straight. Howoku thrust his knee into Hana's central body area and as she staggered back he dashed right behind her and punched her in the back of her neck with a powerful but restrained blow. Hana's eyes rolled back as she tried desperately to catch some air and to retain her consciousness but she collapsed on the floor powerless and defeated. Tanshu sighed, "You should take away any sharp tools from her, she will most likely just commit seppuku once she wakes up. Old sis doesn't handle shame that well…"

Howoku looked back at the unconscious girl and picked her up into his arms. "There's no shame in losing to a Sannin, she had the potential of surpassing me but she wasted it by treating her amazing talents at ninjutsu and sealing techniques as if they compensate hard work. She's a lot like Misu that way… Anyways, I'll go take her outside, if this tower collapses she'll die in the rubble, I'll go find a safe place for her where the ground is more stable." Misu was really annoyed by Howoku's expression but then his friend just played it as a joke and went off to find a safe place for Hana. Chestnut Sannin smiled ironically at Tanshu, "What did you just called her? "Old sis"?" the young woman burst into laughter as Tanshu desperately tried to shut her up. "Anyways, I won't let you stall this and give that Starlight guy time to recover, let's move on without him." Tanshu said quickly dashing up the stairs into the next room. The young man stopped and looked down shyly when he approached the door, he stepped back for one of the Sannin to break down the door.

Hanasaku stepped forward and flicked the door making a powerful shockwave emanate making the door crumble down in multiple pieces. Tanshu looked back and then to the side, "Ummm… Maybe… You could not kill the next opponent? She's a really nice girl but she is really loyal to God-Eyes so she'll say anything to make you believe otherwise…" Hanasaku cracked her knuckles and nodded energetically, giving Tanshu a powerful thumb up right after. "Sure! I won't hurt her too bad, don't worry!" Hanasaku smiled. "Wait… Where's Misu? THAT BASTARD! HE BETTER NOT BE TAKING MY FIGHT!" Hanasaku yelled out as she started dashing up the stairs. Tanshu only then realized what was going on – this Misu guy disappeared while Tanshu was acting the shy little brother to fight Vashia and that dumb idiot Hanasaku was dashing right towards God-Eyes' room! Talk about a conundrum! "Ugh, I'll just have to trust that Misu guy's integrity to not kill Vashia-chan… WAIT UP YOU STUPID IDIOT! That's the wrong way!" he followed the incredibly fast Sannin that was bolting upstairs right to his room!
Tanshu's Story: Two Clashes! by Captain Claymore
With a silent tap of his feet to the stone hard and edgy floor Howoku landed onto the wasteland ground. It'd have been problematic had the man landed on the mushy slime and started sinking, he'd have had to use more of Starlight Burst to escape by simply dashing out of the sinking death. Gently Howoku placed the pink haired girl onto the ground and looked at her. Since she had no life-threatening injuries the man followed Tanshu's advice and removed her pouch, placing it around his other leg which didn't have a ninja kit on it. Then Howoku's attention turned at the half busted tower. For how long would this shaky construction hold? If the battles turned too hectic it'd inevitably go down...

Misu was not the one that worried Howoku, the man was incredibly powerful but his fighting style was very small scale and self-contained. He knew quite well how not to make a fuss out of things and was the last one to leave a blazing trail of destruction behind. Hanasaku on the other hand... She's a rampaging beast of destruction, if she got into her fight she'd take the tower down with a single blow. That much was for certain. Howoku closed his eyes, breathed in and out, trying to balance his tired body out, regain at least some stamina so that his body calmed down. He would need some more strength in the future, he'd be the one fighting One with the Eyes of God, that much Howoku knew for certain. With a slow and confident step the Star of Hope went up to the entrance of the tower, he still had to carry out Sorano's body and bring her back home as well...

Tanshu rushed desperately trying to catch up to the stupid young woman that was running ahead of him. Her speed was ridiculous, everything about this woman defied logic: her mindset, her abilities and the extent of them. It was like the world itself had gone insane to match the insanity of this woman. "Wait up, you stupid broad!" Tanshu yelled out in frustration but a powerful blow shook the tower. The young man struggled to keep his balance on the steps as he reached for the wall. It was of no use, the walls themselves trembled and for a moment it appeared that even the bone walls were crumbling down but somehow they held it together. This woman was a walking calamity. "Damn you!" he yelled as Tanshu charged forward dashing into the room which the woman broke into.

Inside was a room of black tiles on the floor, walls and the ceiling. The room was not completely dark like the one where Oni Mask always fought, this one was quite well illuminated, it was just covered with black accessories and had one red hieroglyphic symbol on each of the walls, the ceiling and the floor. The symbols were pulsing with chakra, with each pulse the symbol started glowing even more intensely as Tanshu entered the room the glow went insane. Within that same instant the boy felt his chakra leaving his body - his seals started working. The woman's eyes and mouth shot open, it was like she couldn't believe her feeling, with a look of surprise, fear and desperation she turned at Tanshu. "W...What is this room?" she uttered as Tanshu's eyes closed and his face turned away.

"This is the room where Red Dog Tanshu fights people that invade his katei - the Demonic Pentalimbo" the boy replied drawing out his sword from behind him. The woman started shaking, she must've felt the effect of this room, the effect of the seal which Tanshu had invented as an ultimate fruit of his training. "You... What have you done?" her eyes looked like those of a cornered animal. "Oni Mask-sensei taught me many things, he taught me how to be a true demon. He however did not notice just how strong I've become, even more, he constantly tried to deceive me about the level of my abilities. His silly attempts were to no avail, I've discovered a hidden talent inside of me, I've drawn out this power and created bunch of seals. I've finally created an ultimate technique and sealed it within the very walls of this room, it is set in motion and the seals are undone the moment I step inside, it is active as long as I'm here to feed it chakra and it is automatically sealed inside again when I leave. You feel it, don't you?" Tanshu took a step towards the woman and pointed his blade at her. "Demonic Pentalimbo Seal is a perfect version of my technique, a seal that allows me to reduce chakra of a person I am fighting to the level of an ordinary human, normally I can place the seal into people as a genjutsu but in this room... I don't have to, I don't have to touch them, I don't have to place the seal into their chakra system as a genjutsu, I just have to be inside..."

Tanshu's eyes opened, they were burning with incredible passion and desire to kill this woman, then her friends after they come inside. Howoku's Starlight Release wouldn't work here, Misu's ability would not work here. In this room Tanshu could have killed God-Eyes himself, then again, God-Eyes stopped being an obstacle long ago, in his eyes God-Eyes was just a pesky roommate that lived in the same tower as Tanshu did, he provided a roof over the youth's head and for that he was allowed to draw breath inside Tanshu's katei, everyone else had to die! "Konohagakure Sannin, Chestnut Hanasaku, you have entered my katei. Leave it or I will kill you!" Tanshu shouted angrily, he still had hope that this woman would see how outmatched she is here, honestly though, who did he think Chestnut was? "I can't do that, I need to pass this room to get to that God-Eyed guy. Once I punch him in the face a couple of times we can leave... As sister and her silly little brother." Hanasaku broke through the fear of losing her chakra control. She stood into a fighting pose. Was this woman not intimidated she just lost most of her chakra? Was this woman not afraid to die? Was this woman an idiot!?

One floor below a sliding door opened and a young swordsman entered a dojo-like room. A young lady was sitting in a meditating position facing the wall. "Please take off your shoes, Sir." she asked with a gentle but strong tone. Misu kicked his sandals off and continued to stare at the young lady. She turned around, "I apologize I greeted you with my back turned" the young lady bowed gently putting her head to the ground, she then stood up and looked the man straight into his eyes. "My name is Hyuuga Vashia of the Sand Village, however now I am in debt to One with the Eyes of God, the descendant of both that of the Moon and that of Earth. Please state your business but now that I am ready to fight for my master until my debt is paid." Misu stared the young lady down. She was young, probably in her late teens or early twenties, she looked frail but had a katana by her side and wore a flowery kimono, strong suggestions of the classical style of swordsmanship, that combined with her Byakugan eyes could be troublesome...

"I am Misu of the Vapor, Konohagakure Sannin and before this turns unpleasant, I wouldn't mind to hear just what you owe this "One with Eyes of God"." Misu spoke, still standing firm on his two feet and not even hinting at reaching for his own sword. This would be a battle of swordsmen but the man felt confident in his victory, he was simply lead by curiosity in his inquiry. Vashia smiled gently and closed her eyes lowering her head and letting strands of hair fall on her face. "Right now! This is my chance, cut her down... Damn... I really want to know though..." Misu wandered as his eyes switched from those of a manslayer to those of a gentle visitor of this young lady's abode within mere moments, switching between light and shadow came particularly easy for Misu of the Vapor. "I do not wish to burden you with my story, Sir, let us just say that God-Eyes saved me from a situation where my village condemned me to death, now until I save his life by beating someone aiming at his life I am in his debt. Sadly I have never had my chance to repay my debt, the Sir with the Oni Mask killed everyone before they got to my room."

Misu took a sword drawing stance by reaching behind his back and slightly ducking his legs to increase the strength of his balance. "I apologize in that case, you must feel quite excited about an opportunity to repay your debt and you will fail the one and only chance you get. Sadly I am but a lowly ninja, I have no honor and won't be bothered by ruining a lady's debt. I will only do what I have to and not bother my head with the alternatives." Misu smiled. Vashia also took a fighting stance and gently nodded, "That is a pity but I understand. Let us settle this then..." she said. While the young woman did her best to act indifferent her eyes were shining with happiness, she was so excited to finally be able to repay her debt, to finally be free to live her life and abandon the path of a mercenary, to finally stop bringing shame to her family and her clan, not to mention her own lowly self.

With his right arm Misu made a handseal and felt chakra seeping slowly from his body, evaporating just like he would if he gets hit. Then with a powerful pulse of chakra, completely invisible to the enemy unless she was a sensor his flawless "Vapor Mode" was set up. Just as the handseal was completed the woman's eyes shot open, the blood vessels around her eyes stretched and her Byakugan became apparent - she activated her bloodline! A smile covered her face, she must've seen it through! Misu's Vapor! Within the same moment the man stopped his Vapor Mode. The young lady spoke, "What is the matter, Sir, do you not wish to settle this anymore?" the man shook his head, "No, by all means, please, ladies first, I just reconsidered my strategy..." Right after those words Vashia charged forward drawing her blade and slashing with a straight cut. Evading such a simple attack was as simple as leaping backwards.

"Curse this young brat and her stupid eyes!" Misu thought "Misu of the Vapor didn't have to dodge for quite a while, I can't use my Vapor Mode because she'll see through it and then my secret will stop being a secret... Unless..." the man desperately tried to figure his actions out as his opponent stopped in her tracks again. "Please, Sir, do not shame me by being elsewhere in your mind, would you please fight me seriously." she asked with a soft but demanding tone breaking her stance. This was just another chance for Misu and this time he would exploit it, with a downward slashing motion the man drew his sword cutting through the young woman's kimono and leaving a very small slash on her bandaged chest, just deep enough to get through her skin and bandages. Obviously he had to follow up such a good and early first blood attack, the man slashed again and again, the woman happened to be more skilled than he thought before as she evaded his attacks with some effort. This was strange, Misu was barely holding back at all...

A powerful shout coming out of the depth on the young lady's lungs alerted of an incoming attack, Misu turned sideways to avoid her thrust. He responded by cutting, striking faster and stronger than the last time and landing a couple of cuts onto the young warrior's body. She was indeed a worthy opponent but when Misu used all of his speed and ingenuity, all of his experience as a swordsman he outmatched her and landed a new cut on her with each couple of strikes she managed to block or evade. He was a better basic swordsman, no, they were equal in sheer skill, he just had more experience with pressuring and killing people that were just as good as he was. Misu's sword style was fluid, like the water, it adapted perfectly and slashed calmly, actually he was quite slow, but that lack of speed was something the enemy couldn't predict. Vashia saw his attacks from a mile away, then she predicted his next one and moved her blade from the block of the first, but as that rhythm was set into motion, Misu's first attack only landed at the moment when she was readying for the next attack - his style was a very nasty one to face.

Misu's arm made the handseal again, he acted out of sheer instinct using his "Vapor Mode" again as white blinding water vapor covered the room. This was different from the technique Misu ordinarily used but this would prove great against this young woman - the vapor was chakra, every water particle inside that cloud was controlled by chakra so it's pretty much a Byakugan smokescreen. Just as expected the young woman was completely overwhelmed by the technique and dashed back, too late. Misu appeared from the vapor cutting her in the arm, then quickly dashing to the other side shooting off streams of vapor from his feet to propel him like a jet as he spun his body around slashing continuously with the sword. As the Sannin passed through the woman's body spinning with his sword and stopped he sheathed his sword again. "Vapor Cut - Double Strike!" he uttered under his own nose as blood shot out of the young lady's body. She was in over her head, she wasn't like that previous brat, this one was just a naïve young girl who believed in a code of honor, that there was some debt she had to pay. Misu hated fools like that most of all, this young lady had to be taught a lesson...

The woman coughed up some blood as she was just barely standing on her knee by using her sword as a support. Blood slowly leaked from multiple cuts over her body and she without a doubt was in quite a lot of pain. Misu grinned, "Do you know why they call me Misu of the Vapor? Not just because I use the Vapor Release Bloodline, the combination of Water and Fire Releases, it is because I am slippy and fluid like the water vapor. I am everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I can cut you from all the angles, my reach is as wide as that of the expanding gas whereas you cannot hit me because vapor also protects me. The young lady jumped forward, without any warning of words offered clenching her blade. Misu grinned with arrogance, did this youth get that desperate? To charge at him so blindly... The Sannin drew his blade slashing downwards and crushing the wooden tiles beneath him but... The blade just passed through the young woman as she disappeared. It was some sort of afterimage attack. Misu knew where she'd be, she dashed forward leaving an afterimage so she had to be behind him, such a simplistic technique if only he could get there in time... He didn't

A powerful thrust of two fingers hit him in the center of his skull sending him back a couple of steps and the woman then tried to cut him right after. Luckily Misu recovered in time to jump back and only get a small scratch on his chest. This was the first scratch he got in forever, this was all because he was too careless and worried to reveal his cards to this girl! He didn't set up his Vapor Clone and replace himself with it in time... No more, the kid gloves were off. Misu then stumbled back and coughed - something was wrong with his body, he couldn't feel his chakra flow like usual. "Wh...What did you do?" he shouted. Vashia moved her blade onto her shoulder and looked at him with careless eyes of a true swordswoman. "Hyuuga are famous for their Gentle Fist style, I put my own spin to it - I use it with my katana creating my own style - thrusting my sword at a chakra point closing it forever - the Gentle Sword Style"

Misu smiled as blood broke out from his nose, leaking up from somewhere this woman had struck - she was too slow to swing a sword at him but she wasn't too slow to strike his head with her darned Gentle Fist that all Hyuuga used then. This young woman was quite skilled. Misu sheathed his sword and prepared to draw again, "Show it to me then, your Gentle Sword Style..." he said as he weaved a handseal activating his Vapor Mode combination of jutsu. He did not care if the young lady would see his hidden style, even if she would, she deserved it. Vashia dashed forward with her Byakugan open slashing at Misu but his Vapor Clone dissolved. The girl knew it wasn't real, she had to see the clone through, still, she may have seen real Misu coming out of nowhere but she wasn't fast enough to respond. Another crimson gash covered the young woman's chest as she stumbled back and coughed blood up. "Vapor Cut" Misu uttered sheathing his sword again. Vashia leaped at him again, cutting through Misu's clone and the man appeared behind her back, he knew she'd just be moments late to turn around and block - instead she reached with her sword over her back and blocked his slash!

"Rotation!" she shouted as she spun incredibly fast striking Misu with a blast of chakra and knocking him back, the young lady then thrusted her sword as if it was an automated rifle piercing through the man's body in several spots and landing a couple of shallow stabs before he replaced himself with a clone as he usually did and dashed backwards. This girl was learning as she fought him - one could not use the same technique against her and now she closed multiple of his chakra points, if her statement was correct his chakra was decreased forever! This girl just made him weaker permanently! She had the ability to completely normalize one's chakra, make someone's chakra manipulation ability null! That Misu could not allow, she had no right to take his power away from him. He sheathed his blade.

"I will show you something interesting. You've seen through my Vapor Mode and now know its secret. I shall show you my Secret Technique!" Misu lightly jumped up, tapping his foot as he propelled his body forward, shooting off a stream of vapor to propel his body forward even faster. He appeared close to the young lady almost instantly. There came his secret ingredient! His sword was actually chakra conductive, the Sannin shot his strongest stream of vapor that added to his natural strength and speed of the draw propelling the sword from his sheathe!

"Vapor Style Secret Technique: Misty Flash Murder!" the man uttered.

A powerful impact emanated throughout the entire tower shaking it from its basis to the roof, the pointy classical roof of the tower collapsed in on itself falling down onto roof before being propelled out by a bubble of gravitational push. Howoku looked up - that was where God-Eyes was and there was no better time to confront the man than now! The man's body stuck onto the wall and the Sannin started his wild dash to the exposed final floor. The man only took a moment to wander just what caused this mad shockwave...
Tanshu's Story: Gentle Hyuuga of Sand by Captain Claymore
The blinding combination of smoke and vapor cleared from the air. Misu grunted clenching aching spots on his arm, as the smoke cleared he finally saw just what the sword landed on as a powerful rotating shield of chakra was where Vashia was before. Right below the sword there was a large hole that went down a couple of floors right to the first floor. It seemed that Misu's sword was deflected by the rotating chakra shield and redirected at a different spot causing shockwaves and cracks on the tiles and the walls. The tower was in a critical condition, Misu would've appreciated if this scuffle ended before the whole construction collapsed, then again, if God-Eyes was the one who built it he must've had some sort of tricks to keep it standing…

The rotation of the young woman stopped as Vashia's injured and bleeding, breathing heavily body appeared from the fading shield of chakra. "You can use your rotation technique with a sword too then? It'd be certain death of anyone caught in it…" Misu grunted lifting his arm and sheathing his sword, then gently massaging the aching parts. That deflection and the force of his Secret Technique clashing with this rotating Hyuuga jutsu really injured his arm a lot, there were most likely numerous bone fractures as only thinking about moving that arm hurt. Vashia straightened her body, taking tremendous effort to stand tall and proud against her opponent. "I would've loved to pull this as an ace in the end. Sadly that technique was simply too much for me, I could not allow you use it again. I apologize if my defense caused any long term damage to your arm…" the young lady replied with a slight bow of her head.

The young swordswoman drew her blade and stood in a thrusting position, her blood vessels around the woman's eyes tensed again as she activated her "Byakugan", something very interesting was coming and Misu knew it. "When this battle started the difference between us was too much to ignore, I took many injuries that would without a doubt lower my lifespan even if I healed them. Even now they hurt so much and tempt my body to fall down and to not get up. However I have greatly reduced your chakra as well, also I've disabled your drawing arm decreasing your potency, right now you are less than one fourth of the man that started fighting me like this – I CAN WIN!" Vashia exclaimed charging forward as intense chakra formed around her katana while she thrust it forward. "Chakra Dragon!" she shouted but Misu managed to leap sideways. What the Sannin did not expect was such quick recovery from Vashia's jutsu, she cancelled this "Chakra Dragon" almost instantly swiping sideways. With his weaker right arm Misu managed to block her slash and use the momentum from her force to let himself get pushed further back from her.

The woman leapt forward, striking with her "Chakra Dragon" again but Misu just jumped in the air and pushed his blade horizontally against the katana's tip sending the thrust down to the floor that let out a shockwave that crumbled bunch of more floor tiles. Misu's body split into vapor and as the cloud passed through the young lady two more gashes appeared on her back. She admitted that these small injuries were taking a toll on her. Misu was confident that he would win and he just wanted to see how strong the will of this young swordswoman was. That Tanshu boy wouldn't have liked his torturous approach, he appeared to be very fond of this girl but… That brat wasn't here, was he? Misu was free to win this fight the way he wanted it to be won. With a powerful shout of anger and rage Vashia lunged forward, "Gentle Sword Style!" she shouted thrusting again and again at what her Byakugan showed as Misu's vital chakra points but even at his weakened state the Sannin managed to deflect the attacks.

Something was wrong, the young lady thrust her foot forward far too much – something big was coming and Misu prepared to block it. The man opened his eyes and watched the girl's movements carefully. Suddenly two thrusts hit him, one went right after the other and one hit Misu right in his chakra point. "Two Thrusts!" Vashia yelled as she turned around and thrusted her katana in impossible to defend against speed again. This time Misu was ready as he had already activated his Vapor Mode. "Four Thrusts – Eight Thrusts – Sixteen Thrusts – Thirty Two Thrusts – Gentle Fist Style – Sixty Four Thrusts!" Vashia kept bombarding Misu's Vapor version with thrusts that were impossible to defend against. Had Misu not escaped his condition would've been pathetic – with sixty four holes to bleed from and most of his chakra points completely closed.

"You were very skillful to manage to use your Vapor Mode in time, Sir. This technique is special, each thrust hitting a chakra node closes it forever, combined with injuries from this technique as well as shock of getting this many chakra points closed – the body gets overly protective of one's chakra, as one's life directly depends on it, and seals itself from using it ever again subconsciously. You'd be just as strong, just as fast as any normal civilian and unable to manipulate your chakra." Vashia explained as she sheathed her sword and stood in a drawing position again. This young girl drew her katana from the side where Misu drew it from up on his shoulder, swinging his way down. He actually had an advantage, the girl was faster but she was faster to reach his non-vital spots whereas Misu would reach straight her head. It was get maimed but kill your opponent type of situation, obviously that'd have been if only their drawing potentials were compared…

The two charged at each other, drawing their katana together. Misu almost expected this girl to make the mistake that he had predicted but… His clash was greeted by her block. She sacrificed her speed but managed to block his draw in time, when she was using casual swordfighting before she was not able to properly intercept him in time but when she added the speed of sword drawing she managed that just fine… Or maybe it was just those hits she landed earlier with her "Gentle Fist Style" kicking in already. One's physical and spiritual abilities directly depended on one's chakra level, when one's chakra level was decreased forever so did their abilities, their natural speed and strength. This was not good. The two clashed their swords a couple more times, jumping around and sensing just where their opponent was at that point of battle. Vashia was slowly bleeding out, at this time it was only her willpower that kept her standing, Misu was now unable to dominate her like before – his chakra got slightly decreased, his right arm got injured so that he was unable to use it efficiently. They were almost on equal grounds now…

As the two finished their clash and backed up Vashia sheathed her blade and moved it back on her kimono belt. It was obvious that she wanted a time out of sorts – maybe she had something to say? "I've figured out your Vapor Mode, Sir, if I figured it out correctly and you use it again I'd kill you, if I was wrong you'd kill me. Such fifty-fifty outcome is not fitting for a swordfight of skill, perhaps we can make a deal, I describe it to you and if I'm right you promise me not to use it anymore and if I'm wrong you can use it all you like. This way it will be our perception and skill that decides the battle, not random chance." She spoke looking at Misu with those same soft and childish yet also determined and ridden by pain eyes. This young lady wanted to return her debt but she wanted to do it with her own strength and skill, not out of luck. Misu nodded.

"So to begin with you create a small cloud of Vapor Release so that it would be harder to spot your trick, that was why it took me a bit longer than usual to spot it. You then create a version of Shadow Clone using your Vapor Release, a Vapor Clone that stays behind you and hides, once you are about to get injured you simply replace yourself with it and then use a ninjutsu that reflects all light falling onto you and you make yourself invisible. Your clone fights in your place and when it'd be beaten you simply add in chakra and do not disperse it. It is costly in terms of chakra but effective. You can cancel your invisibility technique and appear behind me at any point, you can do it even easier if I am engaged in one on one combat with your clone and am distracted. Well, was I right?" Misu smiled and closed his eyes, he looked down and shook his head. "No." he exclaimed.

"I see… Well then, feel free to use your Vapor Mode." Vashia looked disappointed as she looked at the decimated dojo room around her. "Just how stupid is this kid? She hit the nail on the head but she is ready to believe me if I tell her she's wrong?" Misu wondered as he also took a fighting stance. Still, he decided not to use his Vapor Mode, after all, if she saw it again she may have seen it through. There was only one outcome to this battle. He had to go all out and attack her with his second most powerful technique right now and end it. "Since I agreed to your deal I'll ask you to do the same, come at me with your most powerful technique right now and I will clash at it with my own. Let us use our strongest kenjutsu techniques to decide this." Misu spoke as he drew his sword and took it into his right arm. Ironically his right arm was the only arm capable of using this technique, it required certain amount of control and his left arm was only able to exert violent outbursts of force… The Sannin ducked down pointing the blade of his sword at Vashia while his left arm remained down like a sack of dead weight. Misu's right arm tensed up, the muscles blew up like balloons as he prepared to lunge forward. His entire katana got covered in a twisting vortex of vapor. It was as if steel itself was evaporating instead of air particles around him.

Vashia straightened her body, placing her right and left legs parallel, then she stretched them further one to another while placing none of them forward. The young lady bent her body forward placing the hand with the katana forward while she raised the other in the air behind her. This was such an incredibly odd stance but it did intimidate the Sannin a bit, this young lady has proven herself to be capable so this unusual stance may just have been a sign of another incredible technique. A tile loosened up and fell from the ceiling, just as it hit the ground both swordfighters leaped forward. Each of them ready to use their most powerful techniques. Suddenly Vashia's position changed, she stood just like she did when using her "64 Thrusts" jutsu but… She changed stance so incredibly far away from Misu…

The man suddenly thrust his vaporing sword forward shooting off a rotating dragon shaped whirlwind at Vashia, its point had incredible concussive force and when the man added the speed of his sword thrusting to the speed of the technique's natural speed the force became impossible to overcome by any sword technique. It was a sword shattering technique, even if Vashia used chakra to enhance her blade it'd shatter without failure. Still, Misu sort of cheated as this wasn't really a kenjutsu technique, more like combination of kenjutsu and ninjutsu but honor had no place in a battle where ninja fought. The dragon shaped whirlwind rushed forward opening its jaws to crush the young lady. Her own technique was just as surprising.

Just as the dragon came to the middle of the total distance the girl thrust twice with her blade creating two dragon shaped beams of chakra – she literally combined her "Chakra Dragon technique" with "Gentle Fist Style: Sixty Four Thrusts". So she was also not entirely honest about kenjutsu, she also used a combination of ninjutsu and kenjutsu even if her technique was much closer to ordinary kenjutsu than Misu's. "Vapor Style: Vapor Dragon Jutsu" Misu shouted out right as his opponent yelled "Two Chakra Dragons!" The two techniques clashed in mid distance. Vashia's "Chakra Dragons" held Misu's dragon in its path, the girl continued to send more forward, with each dragon fading more heads joined its place! "Four Dragons – Eight Dragons – Sixteen Dragons – Thirty Two Dragons – Gentle Sword Style: Sixty Four Chakra Dragons!" This technique would've completely obliterated Misu if not for the hidden factor of his Vapor Dragon – it was supposed to take everything that the opponent threw at it, it was the perfect clashing technique. As Vashia's strikes hammered at the dragon slightly budging it back at Misu, it ended right before it could completely overpower him and the dragon simply shot forward hitting the young lady tearing her kimono apart and damaging her bandages that covered most of her body as well as opening new wounds all over the body, her body was pushed forward and slammed violently at the back wall.

It was over… Misu walked up to the young lady and observed pool of blood gathering around her heavily breathing body. She's reached the point where her body simply could no longer move. She was lucky that the dragon was a concussive and not a piercing technique or she'd have been dead for sure. The girl coughed up blood and raised her head looking at the feet of her opponent. "To think that you had such a technique… Even if I'd have used my "Rotation: Sword Variant" it'd have waited out until it was over and then finished me off… That was a perfect clashing technique so your deal was with a hundred percent success rate." Misu raised his sword and placed it on his shoulder. The muscles on his right arm were pulsing intensely and he'd have been unable to fight back if the girl had survived this shock. "So it's that phase, huh? It'll be you telling me how dirty I played? Grow up, kid, in the world of ninja there is no honor or "foul-play". All that matters is who lives and who dies. By the way, you were also spot on with my "Vapor Mode", I lied…" the man spoke up as he raised his sword into the air.

"One young boy asked me really nicely not to hurt you, sadly I cannot allow a person that knows my Vapor Mode live, if that information fell into the hands of the enemy it would be a risk to the village's safety, as the Sannin of Konoha I'd be unable to defend my home anymore so I must kill you." Misu grunted out, his voice didn't tremble one little bit. Suddenly his young opponent surprised Misu as through pain and sheer willpower Vashia got up on her knees and looked to the side to see the shattered pieces of her katana. She looked Misu in the eyes and smiled, "I see… That is too bad. I did know that Tanshu-kun liked me for some reason but even so such a request was awfully nice of him, it's a shame I won't be able to thank him… Showing you how an honorable woman dies is the best I can do now." Vashia spoke as her eyes teared up, still, even through tears she was crying as she spread her arms to the side. Inside the girl understood why it had to be done, she understood the Sannin's logic, if she was captured or tortured out of this information it would fall into very wrong arms and God-Eyes' organization was already too much involved with Kirigakure…

Misu wandered through the floor, walking up and down various staircases and trying to discover just which one lead to the floor above. Judging from the number of floors that Tanshu guy and the God-Eyes guy were the only guys left. Killing that girl felt really strange, truth be told Misu always intended to not leave her alive, she was a criminal but she also was one of those "honor-bound" people that kept pissing him off with talks about lines that ninja must not cross and how he should behave. Ninja were tools, they did the job that was assigned and there were no lines, there were just two separate ends to it: success or failure. People that went on about lines and morals and ethics of killing other people were idiots, honestly they were tainting this world. The kid realizing the secret behind "Vapor Mode" was just something he used for the victim herself to justify why she had to die. Everyone tend to misunderstand him all the time and explaining it to that kid would've been incredibly difficult and Misu had neither the time nor the patience.

A ray of light came from one of the staircases, Misu looked up and started rushing up. That had to be the floor where Hanasaku was, only then it occurred to him. Why was he so into it, this foolish search? Misu turned around and rushed back to the room with the hole in the wall, then leaped outside. Strangely he could not see Howoku, only the body of the other girl. This one was useful, he wanted to kill her too but her skillset may have proved useful, maybe ANBU could brainwash her and use her for the sake of the village like God-Eyes brainwashed her and took her in from the Sand Village. How did Sunagakure even produce such a handy and rare talented kunoichi in the first place? Any chick could learn to swing a sword but someone with both potential for seals and medical ninjutsu as well as sensory… Maybe Sunagakure was regaining its military potential, in that case ANBU definitely needed to know. Several subtle political assassinations may have been in order to keen Sunagakure in check… Misu looked at the crumbled rooftop and realized that was where Howoku would be, without rushing too much the Sannin stepped onto the wall and started slowly scaling it up to the top.
Tanshu's Story: Tower of Bones Falls! by Captain Claymore
Tanshu had never seen similar behavior to that of Hanasaku, most people when confronted with his "leave my katei or die" proposition either left because they were afraid of the general concept of their own death or fought him because they believed they could beat him. This woman was afraid, her eyes revealed her to be almost crippled with fear but… She did not move a single inch backwards. She was petrified by the power of Demonic Pentalimbo seals but she did not let this fear make her move back. Tanshu sheathed his blade and prepared to strike, he took the woman's refusal to move as a sign that she won't.

With a single powerful leap Tanshu closed the distance and slashed at the woman, channeling his fiery chakra through the blade. The woman did not attempt to defend or block it, she just took the slash as it went – straight through half of her face and her chest. Luckily for her, her body was strong enough to prevent Tanshu's blade digging deep enough to cut through something vital and his Fire Chakra cauterized her cut. Despite the fact that the cut was not dangerous fire amplified the pain tenfold, and yet this woman did not whimper or moan, it was like the pain did not affect her at all. Tanshu leaped backwards. "Are you not afraid of death at all!? Don't you get it yet? In this room you cannot heal yourself! These injuries will kill you!" he shouted at the woman but she just stood like she was standing this whole time, no, her eyes changed.

Hanasaku's eyes became different, she was not afraid anymore but she was just looking at Tanshu as if she was sorry for him. "You don't have a sword, cutting you to pieces won't feel fair…" Tanshu murmured to himself as he tossed the seal straight into the wall. The katana bounced off the wall and landed somewhere further in the room. The young man raised his fists. "So… You want to fight me? You'd honestly kill your Older Sis?" Hanasaku spoke as her eyes became the combination of her previous expression and the changed one. "Don't joke with me! As if that's what was scaring you! This room bumps your chakra down to the level you need to survive, in here you are literally just another person, there is no need for your idiotic act! It's OK to fear for your life now!" Tanshu shouted out. Hanasaku kept looking at him with those same eyes, it was obvious that losing all that made her special did not matter to her. Perhaps it wasn't her abilities that made her special but her personality and her mind!?

"So… Your parents died in the war and you decided to forever protect their graves?" Hanasaku spoke up again. Did this woman not intend to fight him? Was she stupid? Of course she was, she was Chestnut Hanasaku after all… "Yes, I must protect the place where I am the happiest, my katei. The place where my happiness and those dear to me are…" Tanshu replied. "I know you love those people, that pink haired girl, that other one you spoke of to Misu, but we will catch them and move them to Konoha, they will be put in prison for their crimes. Unlike you they have a history of some pretty nasty crimes. How will you protect Hana-chan and that girl you asked Misu not to hurt from here?" Hanasaku asked. "My bonds with Konoha died the day when my parents were sent to war to die, my purpose now lies with protecting my katei – their resting place!" Tanshu repeated. Hanasaku raised her fist and tightened her glove.

"You retarded brat! What kind of nonsense is that!? Your parents would be ashamed of you knowing that you have thrown your life away to watch over the place where they died. This place means nothing, they've moved on to the Afterlife by now, this is just a dirty wasteland and a young man throwing his life away for it. There is no greater shame for a parent to see than their child being miserable. I shall bring you back to Konoha as my Little Bro, I shall bring smile back to your family's face!" Hanasaku yelled out loud with so much conviction and volume that Tanshu's body almost trembled. The woman then lunged forward, did she intend to actually fight? How? Tanshu reduced all of his opponents to just their physical bodies and he trained his body to be naturally superior to any people that enhanced their bodies using chakra. Where most people worked to increase their chakra level to increase physical strength which was the element of chakra Tanshu just trained his physical strength, completely ignoring his spiritual side and therefore not increasing his chakra. Without their chakra control most ninja were average physical combatants, Tanshu was peak human condition one. With a thrust of his palm Tanshu pushed Hanasaku's fist away and headbutted her back.

"You have no right to talk of my parents!" Tanshu shouted leaping forward and starting to pummel Hanasaku, throwing his fists out of instinct, rage and frustration just like Oni Mask sensei taught him. This woman was on that battlefield, she deserved having Tanshu's rage directed at her! The young man shouted that out as he pummeled the woman with his combination of punches, the force behind them made it feel like the woman's body broke with each punch, each strike blew her body away, throwing it up or further where he tried to push her. And yet not a single sound of pain came out from the woman's lips. A powerful thrust of her elbow sent Tanshu back, stumbling into the wall. This woman was fighting back, it was true – losing her abilities did not trouble her at all, she did not hesitate, it was like power to her was not a factor, as if she was too dumb to consider strengths of her own and her opponent before fighting.

"No, Little Bro, I deserve to take all of your rage not because I was on the battlefield that day. I shall take your every blow, I shall shoulder all of your rage because I am your older sister and that's what family does. I am happy that you took my healing away, now I can truly earn your trust and love and crush your rage and darkness with my body alone. So come at me! Attack me with every bad emotion in mind, show me what troubles my little brother!" Hanasaku yelled out again as Tanshu's mouth opened. This stupid lady really believed that he was her family despite meeting him just recently, just couple of hours ago. This woman was unbelievable. "No! Don't just take my punches, punch back… I lost many friends today, it might be that I will lose Vashia and God-Eyes too just like I've lost my parents. While I do want to punch something because I'm angry…" Hanasaku leaped towards Tanshu and punched him in the face, stepping forward and pushing her fist towards his face, throwing Tanshu like a ragdoll. This was taijutsu prowess, she was a good martial artist and wasn't just insanely strong, she could compete with a stronger and faster opponent using just her skill and experience alone just like Sorano did with Oni Mask, just like Howoku did with Hana, just like Misu would have to do if he was to beat Vashia… These Sannin did not fight with power, they fought with their experiences and their emotions. That was what made them so strong!

Tanshu recovered throwing punches at Hanasaku wildly, he was by no means a lousy taijutsu user, Oni Mask perfected Tanshu's taijutsu but Hanasaku blew both of them away, she dodged those blows almost effortlessly and tried to return some. She moved without wasting a single movement, without any difficulty, her body was her best friend, her strongest tool, not an obstacle. Hanasaku's foot rose to the position of an upward kick, Tanshu leaned under it and quickly moved to the other side, kicking the woman as a counterattack while she was open. The impossibly powerful kick made Hanasaku's face swell and made her bleed from her lips and nose. Tanshu did not stop, but not because he wanted to kill this woman, he believed she could and wanted to take it all, he trusted her as his Older Sis. He decided to return her feelings for once. With a combination of blows Tanshu sent the woman down again. Without a doubt these blows would've broken some bones…

Bleeding and broken Hanasaku rose on her feet, she didn't do it effortlessly, she huffed and struggled, she did not moan out of pain but out of sheer force to keep her body up. "I can only promise you one thing. If you die here with that God-Eyed guy, your life will feel pointless. You will die thinking that you have thrown your life away watching a bunch of rocks. If you return with your sister home… You will be like me, like Sorano-san, you won't be afraid to lose your life because you will know one thing – you did not live in vain. Instead of regret your mind will be full of joyful memories of times with those you love, those very same memories will help you stand when some punk takes you down, those memories will help you bust through the wall of any amount of pain!" the woman muffled out through her swollen face. The two jumped forward and started exchanging blows again. The woman was incredible at redirecting Tanshu's nearly superhuman amount of strength to the side while attacking and not opening herself up too much. She was the best taijutsu user in Konoha, she had to be! Better expertise in the field could simply not exist, her movements were already flawless and not a single move was wasted. Did she fight like that when she had her full strength too or was this her Plan B?

Tanshu leaped forward, thrusting his foot and aiming at Hanasaku's chest. This kick was able to stop one's heart but inside of his own heart the boy knew that his "sister" could take it, no… He believed she could. She wanted him to express all of his darkness, all of his anger and he'd be damned if he didn't. Hanasaku moved to the side and tipped her foot to break Tanshu's balance in the air. With a powerful thrust, moving his imbalanced body with her arms straight into her own knee with a powerful grab she roared out expressing rage of her own. Tanshu yelled out, he felt great shock going through his spine but miraculously it held. For a moment he envisioned his spine snapping, him dying in the arms of this woman and it didn't scare him! He'd die having discovered the true way of life – moving past all the darkness and enjoying life with those one loved, letting those wonderful memories guide him happily to the Afterlife when the time came.

Tanshu struggled to get up, "Leaf Whirlwind!" Hanasaku shouted out with three powerful twisting kicks pummeling Tanshu's chest, the boy flew back into the wall with so much force that he bounced off of it. "Sis… I'm finally… I think… I'm finally… Almost rid of it! My darkness!" he grunted as through willpower he forced his body back up, huffing and grunting in pain and due to the tremendous effort spent to get up. The woman smiled, or at least tried – her face looked like she went on a date with a bee hive. "Let it all out – now!" she yelled out as Tanshu leaped forward, he stretched his fingers and then bent them bursting his body with violent flames that burned his torn top off. Roaring from chest the boy thrust his palm forward, striking the woman three times while doing it so fast that it appeared he had only punched once – this was his Secret Sword Technique re-enacted with a palm.

"Fire Style: Red Cerberus Bite!" Tanshu yelled as the force and flame tossed the woman's body back through the entrance door smashing out of the Pentalimbo room. Tanshu collapsed on his knees, smiled and laughed out. He won! He wasn't exactly fighting Chestnut Hanasaku, he was fighting his own inner darkness and his own despair but… He obliterated it, he could feel it! The boy fell down on his back and breathed heavily. Suddenly he heard Hanasaku standing up. He lifted his head and looked at her, green light started emanating from outside the Pentalimbo room. "Are we done yet?" he asked, "Yeah, there's no reason for us to fight now, I give up…" Hanasaku mumbled out in a much better sounding voice – slowly she was putting her body back into shape. "Thing is, I wanted to fight whole day but those douchebags didn't let me! Thanks, Tanshu!" she smiled at him as the green light illuminated the most beautiful smile of anyone Tanshu had ever seen. Most beautiful not because this woman was incredibly beautiful, but because his sister was smiling, she was happy! "So, did you find your new katei?" she asked, Tanshu lifted his fist into the air. "Screw that, now I'll fight for whatever I want to fight for, there will be no person or place that binds me to fight. If I don't like someone I'll deck them in the face, it's as simple as that…" Tanshu replied. Silence dominated the room from that point on up until Hanasaku finally stood on her legs and entered the room again, she helped Tanshu get up and hugged him. "That being said… There's one guy I wanna deck right now." Hanasaku spoke, Tanshu nodded and the two bumped their fists and left the room.

Howoku was huffing as he made his way up to the top floor of the tower. With a powerful leap he jumped up to the final floor that had the roof tiles still all over it with one man sitting bored in a giant throne-like chair. "One with the Eyes of God?" Howoku asked looking him right in the eyes before pointing at him with a finger. The man stood up and tossed his coat aside revealing a muscular, bandaged up to his nose build. God-Eyes took his great sword from the side of his throne and tossed it onto his shoulder bringing his palm up forward to face Howoku and prepare an immediate "Universal Push" if this Sannin decided to attack him too fast. "You have done well, Sannin of Konoha, bringing my plans back at least several more years but now that you stand against He who possesses the eyes of a God… You stand bare and naked, not a Sannin but a mere man for One with the Eyes of God to do as He pleases with."

Howoku breathed out, he was a bit tired from his previous two encounters and it was quite likely that Misu and Hanasaku may not have been in much better condition. This man however was not only completely fresh but also had those troublesome eyes – the Rinnegan. "You are not a God, God-Eyes. You are just a fruit of a forbidden union of two people who should not have been together, your very existence would threaten all of our villages if your ancestors knew that you are alive. You are also a terrorist plotting to overthrow Konoha and later other Ninja Villages, as a threat to peace I shall kill you." Howoku said with a calm tone. He had a little bit of rest and caught his breath but he was far from fresh entering this fight, still he was probably the most lucky one with the injuries he had sustained, or rather, not sustained.

"To address me thusly… For that I shall destroy you!" God-Eyes shouted visibly getting angry and attacking Howoku with a swing of his giant sword, slamming it into the ground. The tower shook from the weight of the sword and the force with which it was slammed into the ground but only because of how damaged it already was. Howoku punched, successfully, the man continued to strike again and again, the man's blade was too heavy to defend in time and Howoku's punches were too powerful to give the man breathing room and readjust his stance. The Sannin kicked at God-Eyes' chest and leaped backwards, bursting with Starlight Release chakra his hands started glowing. The man thrust his palms forward sending a barrage of small spheres of chakra bombarding the ruined tower. "Starbright Jutsu!" Howoku yelled. The man could not see what was happening, suddenly everything shook and a loud popping sound emanated. Something cracked incredibly loud – as if the ground itself was opening and the tower started to sink down.

Howoku started descending as well but he would've died had he fallen right down, he had to burst his body with Starlight chakra at the last moment and spend some of it to kick off of air itself breaking his fall. That was easier said than done… "You heathen!" Howoku heard a voice behind him as a powerful kick made him grunt in pain. God-Eyes bombarded Howoku with kicks, sending his crashing down with a final finishing kick. Howoku felt so weightless as he went down… He couldn't even begin to think about activating his Starlight right now, he was too hurt and couldn't concentrate properly. "Darn it! The Sannin of Konoha cannot die falling down from a tower he himself finished off!" Howoku cursed as he felt something bump into him hard. As Howoku snapped out of it he saw the face of Misu holding him. "Well well… Brought the whole damned tower down, didn't you… I was running on it you know…" he spoke up. Misu looked really injured. "Where's Hanasaku?" Howoku grunted looking at the rubble of the tower still falling down while the whole construction sank into the goo of the wasteland leaving just oversized blocks of bone structure around the place.

God-Eyes descended slowly – using his weird gravitational jutsu. "Your fellow Sannin are dead… And soon I shall finish you two off as well!" God-Eyes spoke pointing his sword at Misu and Howoku, Misu placed Howoku on his own feet and shrugged. "Nah, I'll pass, I'm pretty cut up, you can have him, Howoku, I'll let you be the next Hokage in return." Misu laughed out. A loud and powerful bang shocked the earth behind God-Eyes as the bony rubble shot up into the sky, flung by a powerful force of nature. "GOD-EYEEEEES!" Hanasaku roared out as she leaped out from under the goo, holding Tanshu by the boy's collar. She looked banged up too – she must've been hit by some of the rubble on her way out but she looked pissed and ready to pound someone. Even One with the Eyes of God looked quite worried and just for a moment – fear found its way in the heart of a God.
Tanshu's Memories End! Kage Summit Ahead by Captain Claymore
For a brief moment all three Sannin proceeded to stare God-Eyes down. Despite the fact that Vapor Misu had already declared his decision to let Howoku, Hanasaku and Tanshu handle it, he was still not out of the equation and looked quite capable to still at least fend off for himself. Hanasaku and Tanshu looked pretty banged up, it was still a mystery as to why those two took so long to leave the tower or what exactly had happened between them to the other Sannin but God-Eyes must've known he was betrayed by the last of his apostles. His condescending sight betrayed that. He simply extended his arm forward, "Come then, I shall destroy all of you for you are just speck of dust against a God!" he spoke.

All three: Tanshu, Hanasaku and Howoku leaped forward, surprisingly enough Misu also dashed towards the man. Tanshu and Hanasaku threw their most powerful punches, Howoku tried to kick the man in the face after jumping up, Misu tried one of his simpler sword drawing slashes. It was almost like time itself had stopped around God-Eyes as two words were muttered from his lips, escaping them just mere parts of a second before the group collided with him mashing him into dirt. "Universal Push!" he mumbled as an incredible and awesomely powerful bubble of gravitational force formed around the criminal swordsman sending his opponents crashing back into rocks or debris of the tower of bones. This shockwave was so powerful! After hitting the bones Tanshu didn't feel like he had what it took to stand up, even below the man there was a crater that he made around himself, grinding and crushing the bones beneath him.

Howoku flipped onto his belly and his arms shoved his body onto his knees. Hanasaku just grunted and rolled around, still trying to overcome her injuries and pain. That falling tower did a number on both Hanasaku and Tanshu as the two had to not only escape the tower by Hanasaku busting through one of the walls, but also escape the Pentalimbo walls that sealed Hanasaku's power. That extra time caused them to get hit by quite some rubble and in terms made them less effective in this scuffle. Misu also looked pretty banged up, Tanshu yelled out directing it at Misu, "You! Vapor guy! What happened between you and Vashia, you're pretty banged up so there was a fight, right?" Tanshu's voice sounded pretty desperate and quivering from the pain and exhaustion. "Yeah… Kinda… She flew out through the wall, I think she may have escaped before the tower went down, spoke something about some debt being returned or something too." Misu lied. God-Eyes was breathing heavily and did not move out of his crater to finish his opponents off. It was clear that the repulsion technique of this calibre tired him out greatly.

Howoku stood up, he was still staggering, the man tore off his orange jumpsuit and slipped his green coat back to remind more of a cape so that it didn't restrict his movements. "Howoku…" Hanasaku grunted as she reached towards her wounds, a strong green light started bursting from her hands as she started treating her own injuries, Howoku thrust his palm at her signalling her to stay down. "Sorry, Hana-chan, this is something I have to do as the one who will become the next Hokage!" the green light coming off of her hands stopped as the woman just laid down and relaxed. "Do what you want, I won't heal myself because if I'd be up and in fighting shape I'd kick that guy's butt without being able to control myself. I'll just play too weak to stand up. Kick his butt Older Bro!" she yelled lifting her fist into the air. Howoku laughed briefly as God-Eyes levitated out of the crater landing gently nearby. "Hokage? So that's how hopeless fools croak before I squash them with my divine power…" he spoke with a strong and confident tone.

"Yes. Before I didn't really want the big chair, nor did Hanasaku-chan or Misu… That made a big power vacuum causing the poor Sandaime-san stay in the big chair for longer than he had to… Now I think the title of Hokage is the best for a man like me: it is a title of hope for world peace that I shall establish, it is also a title of despair for those that wish to threaten that peace. Those like you, One with Eyes of God! I shall crush you and demonstrate that I am capable of carrying the responsibility of crushing all that oppose my peaceful ideals!" Howoku yelled out. The man with the Rinnegan extended his arms towards Howoku and pressed one of them into a fist. "Come for me then, pathetic man! Struggle before you start boring me and I decide to crush you." He arrogantly replied.

Howoku leaped forward, he did not enhance his body with Starlight Release, he had used it so much already so he must've been saving his strength. Howoku's roaring fist hit right into God-Eyes's jaw and the man placed his foot forward using it as a balance point to shove his fist so hard that he threw his opponent forward. God-Eyes must've overestimated his own power, after using his "Universal Push" before he must've still been unable to use it, that jutsu had a great cooldown period and now Howoku saw that. With a relentless barrage of punches Howoku kept throwing the man off his feet, God-Eyes drew his great sword swinging it around but the one that declared to be the next Hokage avoided the colossal tool of murder without much trouble. Howoku tried to throw another punch to take his opponent down off of his feet but God-Eyes' slash opened a gash on his arm. The Star of Hope shouted in pain and dashed back to recover.

Starlight chakra started bursting from Howoku's body, God-Eyes leaped forward driving his sword where the man was standing but Howoku was no longer there. The Rinnegan user thrust his arm forward, ready to use his powerful version of "Universal Push" to grind Howoku's bones to dust which was right what the future Hokage was waiting for. Howoku's shine became brighter and brighter before it exploded in a violent beam that collided with the gravitational force bubble. With a powerful roar, naming his technique – "Starlight Bridge Jutsu", Howoku's Starlight Beam burst through "Universal Push" pushing and burning One with the Eyes of God up, sending him almost tumbling down back into the crater of his own making. The man's body after the collision of techniques was burnt up and shaking, the color of his skin was much redder as if he spent long time burning up under intensive sunlight and multiple spots of his body were bleeding – his own Rinnegan technique held off a significant portion of Howoku's Starlight. Shaking, cursing and spitting out blood God-Eyes stood up.

"Impossible… Only a Rinnegan technique can match Rinnegan techniques, you cannot be of Godly Origins!" he coughed and cursed at Howoku again and again. Misu grinned, "Actually I was always wondering about that, I think this numbwit actually has some Moon people blood somewhere in him, Starlight Release was described being used in the War of the Moon and the Earth. That'd explain why it can match up to Rinnegan's stupid ninjutsu absorption and "Universal Push"." Tanshu looked at stumbling and panting Howoku confused. This man had some remnants of Moon people blood in him? That is to say a distant relative of his must've been one of the people that were later settled on Moon which meant that during War of the Moon and the Earth Moon Clan procreated with the Earth Clan, giving birth to both abominations of sheer luck like God-Eyes but also people that used their power to inspire hope. People like Howoku.

"I couldn't care less who my distant relatives were, maybe my grand grand grandpa was of the Moon Clan or whatever… All I care about is killing those that threaten my vision of peace!" Howoku shouted putting a stop to this discussion of his origins. But then if Howoku was a descendant of both Moon and Earth Clans, did that not mean he also had to have the Rinnegan like God-Eyes? Maybe Rinnegan was obtained differently then… Tanshu wanted to ask around these Sannin for what exactly God-Eyes was so that a man like him never again appeared. Then again, killing such men when they raised their heads had to do for the teenager. "So what if you can clash with my Rinnegan with that ability of yours!?" God-Eyes yelled out charging forward with a powerful swing of his blade, with a stumble to the side Howoku's tired body avoided it. God-Eyes' sword kept swinging around, Howoku's arms deflected each slash, thrusting his palms at the blunt side of the blade, sometimes receiving minor cuts, also the fists of the future Hokage found their way through the defences of the Rinnegan user as well landing on his face and beaten up and sensitive body. With a powerful clash of their elbows the two separated dashing to the sides.

God-Eyes' arm unexpectedly shot forward attracting Howoku to him, the man had never yet encountered this attraction technique so he fell right for it! "Attraction Cut!" God-Eyes shouted as his body left a powerful gash on Howoku's body. Because of the extensive damage on God-Eyes' body however the sword swing was half-baked and only capable of dealing intensive injury but not completely severing the man's body in two. Howoku huffed on his knees clenching for his spilling blood. God-Eyes lifted his blade to smash Howoku when Tanshu's arms caught it in mid-air, getting only minor cuts on his palms with the blood gently tapping on the black wasteland dirt. "Shut up about this macho-Hokage bullshit! You've got me and Sis-chan here to help, don't be an idiot, no one wants to have to elect the Fifth Hokage right after the Fourth!" Tanshu grunted as Hanasaku's tired body dragged Howoku away and started treating his gut injury. The Rinnegan user swung his sword around with Tanshu easily dodging his swipes. Fire chakra blazed on the teen's palm as he thrust it towards God-Eyes' blade breaking it in two. "Fire Style: Red Dog's Bite!" he yelled as steel bent and broke from his force and blazing chakra.

God-Eyes pulled a kunai out, swiping right at Tanshu and opening up a painful and deep wound on the boy's chest but he kept on clashing with the man. Pulling out a kunai of his own the two clashed for the second time, again and again this new and trained Tanshu cut open God-Eyes' body but this incredibly arrogant fool did not surrender. "Give up, Blood Zebra…" Tanshu grunted making fun of his cut up opponent, pointing the blade of his kunai right at God-Eyes' face, he's bested the One with Eyes of God in sheer swordsmanship even before Demon's training, now he completely dwarfed God-Eyes in that department! God-Eyes' body lifted into the air as he extended his arms and legs to the sides, as if reaching for the whole world. "You fools! You stupid worms squirming under the boot of a God!" he shouted like a madman as powerful and tense chakra erupted from his body, one did not have to be a sensor to feel it! "After this I may not be able to use my gravity controlling jutsu for a while… But if that is the cost of smiting you heathens that will be fine! Ultimate Universal Push!" a loud screech echoed through the location. Complete silence… And then… Destruction.

Tanshu couldn't understand what had happened, he was certain he was supposed to die but… He felt someone holding him in his arms gently. When Tanshu's eyes finally understood what he was seeing his mouth opened wide. "What's this?" he wondered out loud, Hanasaku was holding both him and Howoku in her arms, she was in terms covered by gooey and dripping body of Misu of the Vapor. "Do you know what happens when you exert great pressure on vapor? It becomes water." Misu spoke as his vapor clone collapsed into a puddle of water running down Hanasaku's shoulders and hair and head, dripping all over Howoku and Tanshu too. This… This was how quick on their feet and amazing Konoha Sannin were… God-Eyes slowly descended from the sky, he was breathing heavily and had large black bags under his eyes, his muscles were twitching and his body was no longer straight but instead hunched from the exhaustion.

Howoku stood up and gently pushed Hanasaku away, "Thanks, Hanasaku-chan and thanks to you too, Tanshu, for occupying One with Eyes of God while I was out. I do believe that this match is mine though." He spoke in that heroic and confident tone. "You pathetic, insignificant scum! I keep showing how insignificant you are and yet you still struggle!" God-Eyes roared out of sheer rage dashing forward and thrusting his kunai forward at Howoku which the man dodged, throwing a kick into the opponent's gut making God-Eyes throw up blood – it appeared like the body of "God" was finally broken. The two exchanged fists again, with Howoku blocking God-Eyes' arms from bending in a way that'd have made him cut Howoku with his kunai. Both were injured and exhausted, it was an exchange of willpower, not fists! With a powerful kick God-Eyes sent Howoku backwards a great distance and thrust his arm forward.

"What? But…" Howoku couldn't believe the attraction force that was pulling him in again, how was this possible? Was God-Eyes unwillingly breaking the limits of his own body? Just to kill him? It didn't matter! Howoku's arm pressed hard into a fist, then opened up as a powerful burst of Starlight chakra formed a small sphere in Howoku's arm. Using the attracting force of God-Eyes' "Attraction Blade" technique to his advantage Howoku leaped in with his sphere and drove it right into God-Eyes' gut, the sphere went all the way in and expanded making Starlight chakra burst from God-Eyes' wounds and his orifices. "Starlight Sphere… Into… OVERHOPE!" he yelled changing the intensity of his technique and shoving God-Eyes' powerless body with a powerful wave right into the crater where his "Starlight Sphere jutsu" expanded fiftyfold into a gigantic sphere making the crater twice the original size as the "Overhope" sphere completely destroyed God-Eyes.

Howoku fell on his back and huffed heavily into the air – the fight finally was over… To think that this man and his followers prove themselves capable enough to pose such a challenge for Konohagakure Sannin… "Well, I suppose this may as well be your field promotion to Hokage… You do need to rename that big sphere, no way you're gonna use "Overhope" as the official name…" Misu said smugly as he looked at Howoku from a sitting position from somewhere further away. Hanasaku crept up to Howoku and started healing his injuries, "You guys owe me… You snagged all of my fights…" she grunted before turning her smile at Tanshu. "This guy is Little Bro by the way, he beat me up so I guess it's OK if we take him back to the village… I think he's gonna make a fine Sannin sometime soon! With Howoku-kun becoming Hokage and the spot being vacant and all…" Misu and Howoku smiled too. "Welcome to the "Familia" kid. For the record, don't feel bad because you got into it against your will – we pretty much all did…" Misu spoke at Tanshu as the teen laughed out.

"Vashia…" he thought looking at the distance… "I wonder where you went, what you're doing and what you plan to do… I wish we could've went to Konoha together, got to know each other…" he thought before falling down on his back and stretching out. He looked into the clouds that were starting to part away – could it have been due to the colossal battle that transpired here? Then again, Tanshu himself was so similar to this place – he too once was full of despair and darkness but got all of it cleansed away by someone much dumber but stronger and a more amazing person than him. "So… Uhm… I guess since I ran away right after Academy…" Tanshu opened up the speech before Howoku nodded, "Yeah, you'll have to go the distance all the way, don't worry, with your power you'll climb it in no time… It's a pretty sweet deal if you can handle most of your peers being chuunin already."

Many years later, even more miles further from the wasteland where Tanshu returned back to his life as a Konoha ninja, Howoku the Fourth Hokage with Misu of the Vapor and Red Dog Tanshu by his side looked at a giant system of buildings. This was the building where the Kage Summit was supposed to take place and it was in neutral territory, set in an ancient system of temples of people that worshipped a mystical being that was told to be sealed in the moon. This cult was long extinct and the location was mostly used for political meetings of international scale just like this Kage Summit. Misu looked at Tanshu, "What the hell were you thinking about all this time? It was like you were somewhere else entirely…" he asked his friend, Tanshu's head sunk down letting his shoulder length hair flow over his eyes, only his nostalgic smile was visible. "It doesn't matter… I was just thinking of an old friend and where she's now…" the man replied.

Howoku turned her head, "Don't worry, she wouldn't be ashamed of you knowing you're protecting the Fourth Hokage and are standing by his side as his trusted advisor in a Kage Summit…" Tanshu laughed out loud, "I don't know, that's just the sort of thing she hated – politics, I tried everything from politics to fighting but she just wasn't interested in anything… "Politics has no honor in it, it's not up to my tastes" she used to say…" Misu looked confused, "You look strangely cheerful today, everything's alright with you?" he inquired and right after Tanshu's eyes returned back to their ordinary state – cold and careless with his insane killing intent filling the air. The bunch of samurai that let the Konoha delegation of Hokage, his two advisors and bunch of bodyguards through shook in fear of it, making the iron constructions of their armor clang out loud. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna go soft on those Kirigakure scum, they'll answer for every bullshit thing they've pulled, one magician in Konoha wouldn't forgive us if we screwed up and they were left without a punishment for what they did to her father…" he angrily replied looking at the open doors leading to a hall that lead to a chain of halls leading to other halls, somewhere down the line there was the place where the Summit was to be hosted. This was going to be big!

NEXT: KAGE SUMMIT BEGINS!
Kage Summit Begins, Mysterious Mizukage! by Captain Claymore
The group comprised of Howoku – the Fourth Hokage and his two Sannin: Tanshu and Misu advanced through the countless large halls. Howoku occasionally turned and commanded some of his men to guard the halls, it appeared like this decision was by no means a unique one as many more ninja were standing around watching the halls as well as the samurai of the Iron Country. "What are the samurai doing here?" Misu asked silently so that only the trio from Konoha would hear it. "I asked Haoru-san to moderate the Kage Summit" Howoku replied, Misu's eyes shot wide open in surprise, then he adjusted his shocked expression so that he didn't appear caught out of his comfort zone to the ninja around.

"I guess there is no better man than one of the legendary samurai wielding one of the God Sword techniques to observe the order and protect us…" he added his conclusion when Howoku gently shook his head. "No. That is not why I invited Haoru-san, I am well aware that he and his insane kenjutsu prowess can best any ninja on the battlefield but I am more interested in his personality. He hates all ninja and thinks them arrogant of their own power and irrelevant, he believes that they are a sick mutation of noble warriors like the samurai and that they not only have outlived their purpose, they never had one in his eyes to begin with." Tanshu scratched his wild brown hair and looked at Howoku questioningly, "I haven't seen that guy but… Is he really that strong? He doesn't really sound like the guy that'd be fitting to moderate ninja villages' petty squabbles." Howoku smiled, "Exactly, he won't tolerate Mizukage's dragging political bullshit, he'll force us to go straight to the point, he won't be afraid to ask the tough questions and offend us on a deeply personal level and people like the Mizukage cannot stand that, they'll be exposed, they'll be stripped and if we're lucky… Removed from their post…" Both Sannin following the Hokage looked at each other, none of them really thought it was a good idea to invite such a man to see over this event.

As the group entered to the second hall leading up to the hall surrounding the main meeting hall Tanshu looked around. Something looked very suspicious to him and he just couldn't understand it. "What's with all those men in hoods? Those steel masks on their faces, who are they?" he grunted as he felt a bit on edge around people concealing their bodies and faces. He wouldn't have minded if they pulled something funny, that'd have given him the excuse to take them out. "They're Kirigakure Barrier Corps, they serve a similar function to Konoha's Barrier Corps – they're the protection team whose main purpose is to create and observe the village protection system, notice barrier breaches, close the threat inside and take it out." Misu replied. "You know a lot about Kirigakure to identify those guys from their uniforms…" Tanshu looked at his comrade with surprise. Misu smiled "I've been to Kirigakure many times on missions, so has Hanasaku, you're the only one who avoids missions there." Howoku scratched his chin, the fact that there were so many Barrier corps ninja in here alerted him.

"I feel you, Howoku, it's unusual for Barrier ninja to even leave their own village. Once they complete their exams they stay inside their village and protect it from threats, their presence in such numbers is something to bring up during the Summit, huh?" Tanshu spoke out nervously reacting to nervousness of Howoku. The Hokage ordered all of his remaining men to stay in that hall, a secretary bowed and gestured that the men entered the main hall and took their seats. As Howoku and Misu entered Tanshu looked back and observed all the ninja he could identify before turning back and following Howoku and Misu inside. "I don't like this, I would have thought that Mizukage would bring his dogs but… I see none of them." Howoku nodded as he moved his large chair and sat down, Tanshu and Misu followed sitting down on smaller chairs from both sides of Hokage. "Yeah, the fact that the one being blamed does not bring the men whose actions he is blamed for… It's either very arrogant or very ignorant, either way it's suspicious…" Howoku closed his eyes and looked at the other end of the long oval table.

Door at the other end of the hall opened and a bunch of samurai clanged inside running in a slow jog, a bulky but short figure entered, a man with messy dark hair and a ponytail, face covered with scars and several small patches of burns and wearing a rugged brown coat. The coated man removed his cloak revealing his muscular build, wearing a white kimono that had its sleeves removed just to expose the man's incredibly thick and strong arms, this was not just any samurai, someone with this muscular structure could cut just about anything given a proper blade. The man opened his eyes and stared at the Hokage sitting at the other end of the table, Howoku slightly nodded his head, "Hello, Haoru-san" he dropped with a small smile. The man's eyes shot open and his grin turned sideways, "Yo, Howoku-ninja!" he replied with a strange manner of speech for a samurai, especially as respected as the famed God Sword user Haoru.

"The others appear to be late then?" Howoku asked cutting it right to the point, Haoru didn't drop his smile, he stared down at the doors and empty seats and squinted a bit. "I thought they'd be late too, they all arrived at the same time which seemed odd to me, Howoku-ninja, I swear to God if those disgraceful ninja plan something I'll cut all of them down!" the man grunted while still not shaking his smile off, the prospect of killing all of the Kage as they gathered in the same room must've really appealed to him. Howoku just laughed it off and looked at each of the doors, "Indeed, all of the Kage arriving at the same time appears to be odd… I don't believe that has happened in the history of Kage Summits." All of those signs being present just rubbed Tanshu off in the wrong way, something was bound to go wrong but to do something stupid in such a place was to court war with all of the other countries.

One may have assumed that peace worked well with all the Great Ninja Countries that was not entirely right. They were all just acting according to the deals they've made in many conflicts in the past. Some countries hated war, Tsuchigakure and Sunagakure wanted nothing more but to prove to the other countries that they've recovered from the conflicts that have almost eradicated them in the past, they wanted to prove that they were now an economic and political and military force to be reckoned with and deserved to be dealt with under equal terms with the other villages. Now the big three that have signed the peace treaty of the Second Great Ninja War: Kumogakure, Kirigakure and Konoha were the "Great Ninja Villages" that got more liberties and overall better rep in all the relationship with the other villages. That was something the smaller villages couldn't have despised more.

That being said, some if not most villages actually wanted war, they were living in peaceful times when in reality they were all breeding soldiers. Soldiers all needed action. Most villages lived on a standby mode, ready to charge at the first village that broke the international treaties. To do something stupid in such an event would've justified all military action to be taken against the village and with the bloodthirst of about twenty years in the stomachs of each village a conflict would very unlikely stop at just beating a village. The scapegoat would be decimated like numerous others. Third Great Ninja War would be the most devastating and claiming most lives of them all, everyone knew it and for that reason even the most tyrannical Kage upheld the international law. As powerful as the greater villages were, none were strong enough to withstand even a single battle against the rest of the world. It was act civilized or be destroyed – a world that Howoku the Star of Hope helped create, he was a coauthor of many of the treaties in question and always strived to create such status quo.

The door busted open, then another, all of them opened within a short period of time from each other and four people walked inside, surrounded by several guards. As the participants of this Kage Summit looked at each other they noticed something wrong with Kirigakure party. Instead of the Mizukage some strange blonde woman in a black dress entered, surrounded by Barrier Corps ninja that Tanshu saw before. All of the Kage sat down and stared down at each other, as the awkward pause continued Haoru slammed his palm into the oval table. "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BULLSHIT!" he yelled angrily grasping the sheath of his sword with one hand while his other one was shaking on the table. "Where is Mizukage-ninja!? Is he too important to attend the Kage Summit!? Shall I tell the other Kage-ninja to just march into Kirigakure and burn it down! They'd have the full support of the Iron Country samurai, that I can assure you!"

The woman opened her seductive eyes and placed her finger up on her blood red lips, silencing the samurai and then she placed the hand on her chest, making a very sorry face. "I apologize, everybody, it appears that the news didn't reach every corner of the world yet… I assumed that your intelligence was better than this and that your spies would whisper all about this situation so I didn't even bother to send a proper declaration…" the woman spoke in a very strange, almost acted apologetic tone. She was incredibly attractive and her voice just added to that image. Haoru was still shaking in rage as the woman spoke, "Will you get to the point, woman-ninja! Where is Mizukage-ninja!?" he yelled as the woman smiled and moved her finger shyly to her lips. "I am the new Mizukage, we've removed Daikon-san from the big chair. I believe you are all well familiar with my predecessor and do not need any reasons as to why a coup was necessary? As the leader of the Barrier Corps and the woman who has protected the village many times while our leader sat in his room munching his steaks while his people were slaughtered, often observing said slaughter from his balcony, I Namikaze Shirona have been elected by the council to succeed my incapable predecessor."

"Namikaze?" Tanshu whispered at his party when Misu replied, "Yeah, a branch family of the Senju, they don't really possess the Senju bloodline or any other exceptional abilities, except of their elite heritage they aren't really that interesting…" Howoku jumped up from his seat. "How could the other Kage sit so calm!?" Howoku shouted. "What is this game, Mizukage? The purpose of this Summit is to punish the Mizukage for his deeds and questionable decisions, his continuous abuse of both his own people and his power and complete disregard of other villages. I have plenty of proof against Daikon, the previous Mizukage. It is clear that this move is just a cheap shot at avoiding responsibility. The other Kage, that were still wearing their signature cloaks and hats just nodded and mumbled something inconclusively making Tanshu even more suspicious of what was going on. Haoru slammed his sheathed sword on the table and relaxed into his chair, breathing out and sighing, trying to calm down. "Fine, it is decided, I am not a man who likes to have his time wasted. Let us carry on with the Summit and if the charges brought by Hokage-ninja are sufficient we can make Mizukage-ninja responsible for her predecessor's actions. Her irresponsible behavior and failure to inform us of these developments in the already extremely secretive village serve as a weighty stone on the scale supporting my decision."

Haoru then angrily glared at the other Kage and grunted, "What kind of man sits near a table and discusses business with a hat!? Remove your hats, Kage-ninja!" he instructed angrily as the three reached for their hats. A young woman, in her early forties removed her hat revealing bright murky cerulean hair, she had peculiar eyelashes that matched her hair, also her skin was of much darker shade than that of the rest, even darker than Mana's by many shades to the point where Mana looked like she had a permanent tan where this woman looked like she was from an exotic faraway land. Her strange looks had some mystic charm to it. This woman was Samaya Imasu – the Fifth Raikage.

A tall man in his middle forties removed his hat and placed it on the oval table as well. He sighed shaking his wild long white hair. His face made the man instantly identifiable as one of the Kaguya clan as he had all the traits of the typical Kaguya: his flowing white hair, the red line below his eyes and the typical Kaguya marking on his forehead. After placing his hat on the table the man did not utter a word, just like his fellow Kage to the right, it was quite strange as the Tsuchikage – Kaguya Yaban was not one to stay silent for too long. Another man, by far the tallest out of all in the room as he may have been more than two meters tall removed his hat putting it onto the table. He had relatively casual dark red hair that had two extremely long braids going down his shoulders almost reaching his belt. The Kazekage was a strange looking fellow, no one who has ever seen Akasuna Mugao would have thought he looked any odder than the time they have seen him.

Haoru sighed and then sat straight, gesturing at Howoku, "Now that Kirigakure's pathetic attempt to hinder or postpone this meeting is dealt with, please, Howoku-ninja, bring up your accusations and state your facts and proof. The council of Five Kage will decide how to deal with the Mizukage, having in mind that she is merely a successor of the man responsible. Just for clarity sake… I'll assume you've disposed of Daikon-ninja, as is the Bloody Mist's way?" Shirona – the Mizukage smiled with a pleasant but having the context in mind somewhat scary smile. "But of course, it was fitting to allow the villagers that he had oppressed and tortured with his bloody ways for so long to finally have their justice with the man…" Judging from the smile of the attractive blonde it remained completely clear that she did not regret anything that had transpired that day. Perhaps it was for the better that Konoha and the other villages did not know of this for the details may have been too shocking and disgusting even for those who've seen their fair share of revolutions to hear. What was even more troubling to hear was that the woman did not even react to her village being called "Bloody Mist", which was an ancient nickname given to it. Even more, judging from the crimson crescent of her smile – she took pride in it…

Howoku stood up and cleaned his throat. "I need no proof for the first accusation – it is something that every of you know about – Kirigakure had ninja acting in Konohagakure soil, ninja that interrupted a mission transpiring in Konohagakure's jurisdiction and took over a scroll from the team sent to take the scroll over by a client that asked Konohagakure to have the scroll taken. By interrupting with this mission and slaughtering the squad sent to take the scroll you have brought shame to the Fire Lord in the name of Water Lord, also, you have killed Konohagakure ninja on neutral soil, not only that, it was the soil in which the climactic battle of Second Great Ninja War occurred over twenty years ago, one that signaled the nations to end the war. That land was sacred and no village had the right to move military force comprising of more than five individuals inside of it. It is a land that reminds us all of how greedy and bloodthirsty we can get during times of war, it reminds us of the worst in us all. It appears that your predecessor had not learned his lesson and broke multiple treaties he himself has signed. He is responsible for breaking multiple peace treaties and deaths of many Konoha ninja, also his orders cost the career of some very prized and important ninja to the village like Konoha's Great Trapster - Tsukumo Nakotsumi who assisted all of the villages by dismantling the wandering showman ninja clan early in his career. Such losses are not the kind of accusation just switching the person in charge fixes, Konohagakure will need some serious satisfaction for the damage caused and the lives lost, needless to say, our diplomatic ties will suffer either way, no amount of money or other political settlement can replace the value of human lives."

Howoku sat down, Misu remained cold and static, staring at the blonde woman who has remained completely still and cool throughout the entire speech. Haoru grinned and pointed at the Mizukage, "Those are some serious claims and accusations. The incident brought up is indeed public enough to need no further proof and its details are well known even to a politically neutral country like the Iron Country. What will you have to say for yourself, Mizukage-ninja?" Haoru asked looking curiously at the woman. Misu couldn't help but whisper to Howoku, "Something about her strikes me as odd… I'm gonna return in a moment" he said as he lifted his hand "I'm going to excuse myself for a moment, I need to issue orders for some ninja waiting outside, Hokage-sama forgot to tell them to take relaxed positions and they may be taking it the wrong way. May I temporarily leave to clear it out for the ninja outside?" Misu made up a ridiculous excuse, Haoru lifted his arm and waved it ignorantly, "Your presence here isn't needed unless you are a witness, Sannin-ninja, you can come and go as you please if your Hokage is not inconvenienced." he replied. Howoku looked confused but Misu rushed out of the room.

"Now, let us return to the matters at hand, Mizukage-ninja, may you address Hokage-ninja's accusations or do you admit having broken the mentioned treaties?" Haoru asked looking at the still calm and scarily smiling Mizukage.
Who is Namikaze Shirona?! by Captain Claymore
The woman who had declared herself as the new Mizukage closed her eyes and grinned with a cruel smile, it was quite clear that she was just hardly restraining a full on fit of laughter. She then once again switched into her acting mode, placing her hand on her chest and looking almost like she was about to cry. "Honestly, I don't really see your point. I agree with all of the charges and admit that Daikon did all of that, I cannot prove that he did it, most of his documents were burnt during the coup so it will be years before we finally untangle all that he had done throughout the years as the Third Mizukage but…"

Tsuchikage interrupted the woman. The Kaguya shook his head and replied in an annoyed mood, "While it is unfortunate that you did not inform us of this change as it starts feeling like we are just chasing shadows here… Judging from what Fourth has said… The thing is that all of those charges only improve her position. You've brought up the charges against Daikon-san but he has already been removed. This meeting has no point anymore and I cannot believe that a respectable man like Haoru-san is still taking this matter further." Haoru stood up, "What are you implying, Tsuchikage-ninja?! That I am in kahoots with the Hokage-ninja?! My job is to make sure that justice is done in this meeting of liars and murderers, truth be told all of you are despicable to me and I'd rather see all of you executed than listen to one minute more of your intrigues and lies. I am well aware of Mizukage-ninja's point but I see her own political game in that and letting it pass is something I'd never allow as a man and as a samurai. Mark my words, ninja snakes, justice will be done here today and none of you will leave until you all put all of your cards on the table and all matters are resolved."

Tanshu grunted, "Now I see why you chose this guy… He's something else, it'd all fall flat, of course, if he couldn't back his talk up…" Howoku shook his head, "Konoha withdraws all charges brought up and agrees that justice has been done to Daikon-san even if it was rude and abrupt and secretive justice…" he said quickly sitting down. Tanshu shook his shoulder angrily, "Hey, what the hell?" he whispered to the man right at his ear, the man had absolutely no respect of boundaries as Tanshu treated his Hokage just like he'd treat an old friend. "What the hell did you just do? How am I supposed to look my student in the eye and tell that her father's injury…" "Stop, Tanshu-san!" Howoku raised his voice, even the other Kage sitting around the table could hear it. After the Kage settled down and silence once again took the room over Howoku turned at Tanshu angrily.

"Our charges have been turned against us… I can't believe I'm saying this but our work is all burnt down to nothingness… This woman…" Howoku grunted looking at Shirona – the Fourth Mizukage angrily. "The more we blame Daikon, the more she benefits from our charges – she's the one who removed him after all. As his successor she benefits from all filth we spill on the state of her village in the past. We've got nothing to bring on her and even Haoru-san sees this. This meeting is as good as pointless, she's won. Our attempts to beat her by bringing up the sins of her village's past only makes her look that much stronger in the eyes of the other Kage." Shirona finally saw that she was in the right and her face took the triumphant look, it was then that Howoku stood up again.

"That matter being settled, we've still got the glaring issue at hand – Lady Fourth has not informed the others of the sweeping changes in her village that has slipped the rug from under the entire meeting. She's done so during the interval that was given to us as preparation as the letter sent as agreement to attend the Summit came from Daikon-san, which means that Lady Shirona must've known of the incoming Summit as his successor and purposefully withheld this information during preparation period. This still is a serious issue which is a big stain on Lady Shirona's sheet, enough of a stain to maybe consider her removal from the chair as well." Howoku's speech surprised all of the Kage. His quick adaptation to the surprising changes in situation must've pleasantly surprised even Haoru as well who openly expressed his disgust for the filthy politics going on in this meeting.

Haoru cleared his throat and looked at Mizukage who was unpleasantly squirming in her chair. "That is true, if Hokage-ninja wants to abandon the previous charge and focus on this one that is fine, what do you have to say for yourself, Mizukage-ninja, I have here Daikon-ninja's letter of agreeing to participate in the Summit so which was it: did you purposefully withheld information of Daikon's change during the preparation period, knowing of the Summit as it was public news to every common villager reading the papers or did you fake Daikon-ninja's credentials?" both of the answers would've meant pretty much the same – either a very big stain on the Fourth's reputation or her removal from the post depending on the strictness of the judgment.

"Well, well… I suppose you got me, I did withhold information. I am a woman raised in the world of intrigue and political moves, Kirigakure under Daikon's rule was a cruel place and my mind genuinely thought that the other villages had enough spies in our rotten Daikon's dumphole of a village that they'd know all about the change. I did withhold the information on purpose, I suppose but only as a result of my own origins and mindset." The woman bowed her head to the other Kage, "For that I beg your consideration and hopefully forgiveness!" she added. Haoru scratched his oversized chin. "That is a serious offense, Mizukage-ninja, even if your confession does make me rather hesitant to remove you from the post… What say you, Kage-ninja?" Howoku nodded angrily, "True, Lady Shirona's removal would serve no good for her violence ridden and broken village, her people need a leader, a good one, that can bring their village back from the image of the "Bloody Mist" and yet I doubt if Lady Shirona is the person willing to do so… I say that each other ninja village are allowed to have a member in Kirigakure council to regulate and oversee its matters for three years. This punishment seems fitting enough to Konoha…"

"Well, I really don't care, doesn't seem like much of a crime to me…" Tsuchikage shrugged, "Even if Kirigakure has demonstrated extreme cruelty in their dealings with enemy spies… We must admit our intelligence in this matter was also lackluster…" Raikage spoke up. "I personally do not see the point of pursuing punishment." Kazekage added. Haoru grunted, "Seriously sometimes I don't get you ninja, a woman plays all of you for fools and you just shrug her off…" his eyes shot open and he jumped up leaping quickly on the table and swinging his sheathed sword at Raikage, the young lady jumped back out of fear and fell down off of her chair. Haoru grinned and laughed arrogantly.

"I don't know who this young chick is, but she is most certainly not Samaya Imasu, I myself taught the young girl swordsmanship and I know her speech mannerism too well. This person is a fraud which makes me assume the rest of you runts are too…" Haoru said out loud still standing on the table and pointing his sheathed katana straight at the nose of the young Raikage who was angrily shooting stares back at him. Within a single moment Raikage, Tsuchikage and Kazekage leaped out of their seats rushing at Haoru, the man drew his sword from his sheathe making a powerful and violent gale that blew the Kage back crashing into the stone wall. In a loud poof the "Kage" de-transformed back into ninja with Kirigakure headbands.

"Executioner of the Clouds, Wakashi Moya and his Executioner Blade and the rest of Kirigakure Sannin… I'd have imagined you to pose more of a challenge!" Haoru grinned and laughed out madly, enjoying his brief chance to fight a ninja and get back at them. "Oni Mask-sensei!?" Tanshu suddenly shouted out having recognized one of the men transformed into Kage to sabotage the Kage Summit. The man wore a different shaded Oni Mask and the same sleeveless kimono outfit, one of his legs looked like it was just a piece of iron and plastic – this would've fit Oni Mask's injury in the battle against Sorano twenty years ago… Then again, Kirigakure had numerous Demon assassins of varied strength, it could've just as easily been just a diversion.

Howoku jumped out of his chair and slammed the table, shouting loudly at the Mizukage, "Shirona, what is the meaning of this!? What have you done with the other Kage?!" for a moment there the man started to believe that the others may have been dead by now. Shirona giggled into her palm and made an arrogant and victorious face, "Who knows… Maybe they're all dead, maybe they're still fending off the entire Kirigakure military force that I've mobilized for this "peaceful" meeting…" the woman replied mocking the word "peaceful" as much as humanly possible. So this was her game? Mobilize all of her forces, drain her village of resources and manpower right after it has rid of the worst Kage in history… All just to mess with Konoha?! This woman was mad. Just as mad as Daikon… No. Even Daikon wasn't dumb enough to attack the Kage by himself. Even if it was the entire military force the Kage likely moved with sufficient support that they would be able to fend off, they were the three most powerful ninja in the world after all.

"Why? Why would you hurt your village and rob your people of peace?" Howoku grunted out, at this moment he hated this woman most of all in the world. He wanted to strike her, to beat her until she was one with the dirt but even dirt was not worth of accepting her corpse. Shirona stood up, she leapt on the table and charged right at Howoku, in mid charge she was interrupted by Haoru who blocked her attack, his sword clashed with an orange chakra barrier similar to that which Barrier Corps used. The barrier that Shirona used was covered with hieroglyphs of unknown origin or meaning. It must've been a higher tier jutsu compared to the casual barriers to successfully clash with Haoru and withstand the clash without the barrier shattering. The woman withdrew and dashed back as her barrier stayed until she dashed back and then disintegrated into small cubes that dispersed into smaller particles and disappeared in thin air.

"Because… You spoke of reputation of ninja in general. What is that reputation worth when weakling scum like you are in charge? How is a client to ask a slothful imbecile who rambles about peace to assassinate someone? What do you know of war, of combat? Peace has made your mind narrow, you and your pathetic peers didn't even consider the possibility of being attacked with full military force – your time slobbering over peace and political alliances made you drop your guard too often. Your predecessors would have never allowed another village to intercept their mission because they were powerful men of war. They were men that were worthy of being rivals to Kirigakure but people like you make me sick. Within just one day I will take everything from you and the other Kage, I will kill them and then manipulate my way onto ruling everything just like I manipulated you shallow minded fools in this Summit. There will be no more villages, just ninja and a single Queen of all ninja, the mightiest and most cunning of them all. That is what Daikon wanted to achieve but he was too scared to ever set any of his plans in motion, instead he got his kicks out of torturing common villagers. I on the other hand am a youthful woman full of youthful enthusiasm and ready to act upon my desires, take what I want. That makes me different and superior to Daikon, the true successor of his title! Now just…"

Before she could finish her title Haoru charged forward thrusting with his katana to impale the woman. He was a man that hated ninja after all and he had heard enough of this woman's ramblings for a decade. All that the man's impressive charge met was another barrier that was as large as the hall room, effectively splitting the room in two. Shirona waved for her henchmen that have impersonated the Kage to follow her as she turned around and started making her way towards the door that Haoru has entered through. "Now that this part of the plan is complete, set out and assist the squads, make sure that the other Kage are dead and under no circumstances let them come here…" she commanded them as the team disappeared in the darkness of the corridor. Haoru started striking the barrier madly, again and again and initially it seemed like his attacks only damaged his own blade.

"You arrogant youthful ninja bitch!" Haoru yelled out, however he was not angry, he was excited. His entire life this samurai just wanted to kill ninja, he despised them but as one of the four best swordsmen who wielded the Four God Sword techniques he had to behave and submit to the world order. No more, this young and ambitious woman stepped out of the world order and entered the pecking order the caliber of which she could not possibly imagine, Haoru stood leaps above all else in that order. "You just made this Summit really damn interestin', I'm gonna love to cut you and your lackeys down! Stop hiding!" Haoru roared as he wildly cut at the barrier that was starting to crack. Tanshu looked at Howoku, "This guy is starting to scare me a bit…" Howoku looked back, "Good, if Haoru the God Sword does not scare you, you've no idea of the battle you've gotten into. It is said that ninja cannot beat samurai in an open field on a one on one match… Well Haoru is a monster that surpasses even the level of samurai. He genuinely hates ninja too… Lady Shirona was more foolish to piss him off than to make enemies of all of the ninja villages." After replying Howoku tried to desperately decide on what to do.

Leaving right now would've proved to be quite counterproductive, going around the room would've taken enough time for the woman to make her escape – if that was her intention to begin with… If she wanted Howoku's death why did she wish to leave the building so much? Perhaps Howoku was supposed to die with the building, she probably had something very destructive in mind… "Tanshu, that man might be your sensei, you sure I can count on you with this?" Howoku asked looking at his old friend Sannin, Tanshu nodded, "Oh yeah, let's rampage like old times. She's probably brought everyone here, the jounin, the Water Temple monks, her own henchmen – the Barrier Corps. Let's kill them all." The barrier shattered and only Haoru's afterimage remained as the man had long since disappeared and was dashing right at the Mizukage. Howoku pointed back, "Let's regroup with our men, Haoru will cause enough of a destructive diversion for us to regroup and then attack Shirona's whole group with our whole group, that way we'll stand more of a chance at survival." Tanshu grinned and turned around, "The lady was right, you are pretty soft, we could take care of the situation solo but you just want to make sure no one of your men dies… Nothing wrong with that I suppose. Lead on." Tanshu smiled with an angry look on his face.

This Summit actually turned out just the way that Tanshu wanted it – he was sure that if he returned and told Mana that her father was avenged by imposing some political sanction upon the nation, as peaceful as she was Tanshu would've felt sick and as if he's betrayed himself saying it. Now he could really dish out a form of justice he could understand and it still will be right, technically he was doing it defending his Hokage and himself, defending his comrades when in reality he'll be killing these Kirigakure scum not because of that, not primarily, he'll do it because they are insanely cocky bastards and he wanted to teach them a lesson. After pulling a dick move like this they really deserved to be burnt down and beaten to the level of just primal existence just like Sunagakure was during the Second Great Ninja War.

Mizukage Shirona and her three assistants that were impersonating the Kage were fleeing through the hall. "Mizukage-sama? Why must we fight someone like the Kage? Can we really do it?" one of her assistants asked, the woman gently stroke his cheek and slowed her pace. "Of course, they are currently facing military force, they will be tired, weakened, do you not wish the title of the man who has killed a Kage? That'd bring you straight up to the ranks of Sannin and not only Sannin of Kirigakure like you are now, you'd be a Sannin of the entire world!" The man with the Executioner's blade looked back, "I sense someone coming, he's pretty loud, are you sure you're OK, Lady Shirona? What do you plan to do?" he asked her. The woman just smiled, "I'm alright, you guys go, I'll handle this joker and then I'll disintegrate this whole building with the Hokage and his Sannin inside. I've got many aces in my sleeves, even if THAT doesn't work, I still have some nasty tricks for that man. I am completely certain that he will not survive this day." The Sannin with the Oni Mask lowered his head and turned around, "Lady Mizukage, please be careful, do not underestimate Red Dog Tanshu, he is considered one of the strongest ninja alive for a reason." The woman turned around to look at the empty darkness of the corridor behind her. "I am well aware, I have plans to deal with him as well, now go." Her Sannin disappeared in a loud poof of air as instructed.

Moments later with a loud tap of wooden sandals hitting the floor a short but muscular samurai descended to face the Mizukage, he drew his sword and leaned back into two hands thrusting position. His smile betrayed how much he enjoyed the prospect of killing a ninja. "My my how I love killing young ninja who underestimate me…" Haoru said in an excited and upbeat tone. The woman lifted her arm into the air and placed it in front, letting her relaxed palm form a round imaginary circle in the air. "To face a Kage is to court one's own destruction, even for you…" Shirona replied "I have no time for you, I have everything to destroy, so I shall kill you quickly."
Mizukage Shirona's Scary Strength by Captain Claymore
Haoru stood still in his battle stance. This ducking and widespread balance point position was perfect for him, within an instant he could throw a quick thrust of his blade at any point, even more, he could enhance his blade with his Wind Release chakra making it able to shoot near invisible cutting and piercing currents of wind. However the man called the world's strongest samurai remained still, his style depended on his opponent making a mistake and she's made plenty: pissing Haoru of the Iron Country off, fighting him one on one on a battlefield. Such a narrow walled corridor would've served perfectly to Haoru's thrusting techniques. Surely this woman should've been worth her mettle, she's seen him effortlessly toy around with her trusted Sannin did she not?

Shirona's face pouted, this obstacle in her path was clearly annoying her, she slipped her palm through the air as a round barrier, similar to a small buckler, covered with hieroglyphs and ancient symbols formed around her palm. The woman threw the barrier as a disc, spinning right at Haoru but the man's katana blade thrust forward busting it into pieces. The Mizukage was not where he last saw her after Haoru recovered however – she was right in his face with similar cutting barriers around her palms. The woman thrust them forward, trying to slam them into the man's body again and again but Haoru just moved to the side and backwards repeatedly, dodging her assaults almost effortlessly. Why did this woman struggle? Against the man called the strongest samurai she could only accept her own destruction… Shirona's arms shot forward forming a combined shield-like round barrier and thrusting it right at Haoru. It merely hit an afterimage. Shirona's eyes were shocked, instinctively, just following her intuition she formed a barrier above her head and made it as strong as she could.

A powerful clang echoed sending gusts of winds as shockwaves as the barrier and Haoru's katana collided. The man grunted as he pressed the blade forward, breaking Shirona's barrier and thrusting it forward using gravity and his own weight to cut the woman in two. That was not what happened, however, the blade just got stuck on the woman's dress and tore a piece of cloth which remained hanging on the big golden rings holding the shoulder pieces of her dress together and preventing the dress from falling off. Haoru was confused for a moment, he looked at his katana which was cracked and completely unusable. "Those barriers… How tough are they? I have no problem cutting steel but these barriers ruined my Yama no Perun – a blade that has been by my side since I was a young man…" the samurai asked spitting to the side.

Shirona formed more round barriers around her palms and stood in a defensive stance showing off her glowing and colorful orange barriers and the impressive markings on them. "Before I became the Fourth Mizukage I was the head of Kirigakure Barrier Corps. Limits and barriers, whatever concerns these two things - I can do it. While my good looks has aided me plenty in my quest to obtain everything imaginable, my ability to do with barrier ninjutsu what no one has ever seen before helped with those persistent men that were impossible to reach a compromise with. Now without your sword you are nothing, bow before me, lowly samurai and swear allegiance or get swept aside by my crashing wave of change!" the woman ordered lifting her chin up arrogantly. Haoru laughed out, his laugh was deep and genuine, not an acted one – almost like the man has not had that much fun in ages. "You seem to believe that my sword is unusable now? As expected, a woman knows nothing of a fine blade, even if my edge is cracked all I need is to focus my Wind chakra more and make the blade even sharper. Still, I haven't done this in a long time, not since the war I was challenged to channel my chakra this intensely and cut this deep…"

With a smile just as smug as that of the woman's opposing him Haoru's blade lit up with greyish chakra which soon turned cerulean blue, before the chakra around the blade looked more like an aura, now it was basically a raging wildfire, ready to cut through and destroy anything in its path. Haoru lunged forward in his thrusting stance and thrust his blade, Shirona clashed her own barriers together to form a triple large shielding wall of barriers. She was lucky to instinctively move out of the way – Haoru's sword went through the barriers with moderate difficulty. The Mizukage was surprised, this man was proving to be quite the challenge for her for a samurai, granted, samurai were told to be superior to ninja in pure one on one battle, only in tricks, stealth and assassination could a ninja best a samurai but Shirona Namikaze was no ordinary ninja. The woman made couple of handseals making countless barriers around her. "Barrier Ninjutsu: Guanyin's Protection!" she chanted as seemingly hundreds if not a whole thousand of similar barrier bucklers started floating like satellites around their planet which, in this case, was Shirona.

Numerous barriers cut Haoru, they were as sharp as disc saws and upon cutting the man they also inflicted some sort of chakra burns. Not that Haoru could not handle pain, only the initial performance of the technique even fazed him as he quickly started wildly slashing and thrusting, destroying each and every barrier while Shirona jumped on a larger platforming round barrier and floated back. The Mizukage was in awe of Haoru's speed and strength, his hands and blade were but a blur as he cut through each and every of her thousand disc barriers. After the first couple of scratches not a single barrier even touched Haoru, now she was starting to understand the danger this man posed to her plans – he was certainly the most skilled, swift and strong swordsmen that Shirona has seen. If such a man was not hers to play with, he was to be no one's.

"What a woman… Beautiful, smart, ambitious and strong…" Haoru sighed as he swiped his sword to the side as if he was shaking off blood off of it and stood in his signature stance with the same confident smile. "Oh, I had forgotten, you have your women stay at home, maybe that is why Iron Country is such an irrelevant little dump in the world's grand plan…" Shirona replied forming two more barriers around her palms. Haoru laughed out loud deeply again, "I'm almost tempted to let you cut me down so that you may know my wife's wrath. Iron Country men are so strong and able that women need not concern with their lowly matters." Haoru replied as both combatants charged at each other. Shirona grunted throwing her barriers forward, "Barrier Ninjutsu: Barrier Multiplication!" she yelled as the two barriers she had around her arms became eight, all of them stacked on each other to form a stronger protective wall. "Windcutter Style: Power Cut!" Haoru yelled out striking with both his arms from above down. A powerful flash of light blinded both competitors as the barriers and Haoru's strength guided sword clashed. As Shirona struggled with her blindness Haoru's blade cut her figure in two, his blade pierced her flesh as if it was as easy as cutting air. After the swing was made Shirona's body became as thin as paper and a transparent barrier shined around the deceptive figure as the barrier's upper side slid down being cut in two.

"Barrier Style: Barrier Mirror Mirage!" Shirona chanted from further away, forming more barriers around her palms again. Haoru was open – this was her chance! "Barrier Style: Koho!" she fired the barrier hitting Haoru straight in his bulky and muscular chest, the man staggered back as the barrier shattered on impact from the force it packed. "Barrier Style: Baikoho!" she shouted sending two more barriers crashing and shattering into the man's body. Haoru kept stumbling back and grunting from the force, "Now get out of my way!" Shirona ordered sending the final small barrier hitting straight into Haoru's jaw from the side sending him crashing into the wall and leaving a small crack in it. "Insects need to be stepped on with force…" the woman mumbled arrogantly to herself looking at the man's body on the ground – an impact like that third one would've been more than enough to break a man's neck and the barrier's speed hitting from the side would've been enough to snap it as well. "Agreed… Wait, are we discussing insects now?" a grumpy voice of the samurai reached Shirona's ears as the woman took a couple of steps backwards in surprise.

"I've grown bored discussing your ogre wife." Shirona cursed angered by the man's persistence. It appeared like he barely took any damage at all, the man nonchalantly spat out several teeth to the side and smiled with his disgusting half-complete smile. "Shouldn't have played that card, lady-ninja…" Haoru cracked a somewhat annoyed grin as he sheathed his sword, a weak current of air started twisting around the man's frame lifting off dust and small pebbles alerting Shirona of his concentration of chakra, could Haoru only have been playing up to then? With a single handseal the woman's arms shot forward, four square barriers formed into a cube. Mizukage mumbled "Barrier Style:…", as the samurai leaped at her the woman thrust her barrier cube forward. Haoru's foot thumped right before Shirona's feet breaking the stone below it as the man's voice roared loud enough for the Gods themselves to hear. "Windcutter Style Secret Technique: Zephirus Dragon Draw!" he spoke right at the same time as Shirona thrust her cube to block Haoru's blade, finishing the name of her technique – "Shibaikoho Cube!"

A powerful current of wind rose, roaring in the air as the wind howled, it was coming from Haoru's blade. While Shirona's technique managed to block most of the force and prevent the woman's death, the sheer power of Haoru's blade tossed her backwards while the dragon shaped projectile coming out of all the Wind Release chakra stored in Haoru's katana surrounded the woman's body cutting it up as her body was thrown around by the violent twister as she hit the wall, the violent winds then seemingly crushed her body with absolute force drilling it into the wall. Haoru looked at his bare blade, now absent of any chakra enhancements and sheathed it. "You've done good over the years, Yama no Perun-chan… But now, against this woman-ninja, you've done goofed…" he mumbled in a comedic tone to himself.

"The insolence…" Shirona's hurt and angered tone echoed through the corridor. Haoru looked at her body curiously as the woman's body stood up, covered with small cuts that looked like they were made with tree branches not a cutting gale of wind, her black intricate and expensive silk dress was all cut up and her hairdo was messed up to the point where her wild blonde hair now flowed everywhere as the woman's scorned and injured body pushed itself off the ground. "Those barriers' o yours are somethin' else, Mizukage-ninja. You've made so many around you – shielded yourself from most of the damage and prevented your body from being cut up and drilled into stone." As Haoru spoke Shirona's crimson red lips twisted into a sick smile as she predicted a compliment coming her way. Haoru drew his katana and tapped its blunt side on his shoulder as he looked at her with an unimpressed face, "Truth be told it just tells me your body is as fragile as a daisy, I for one wouldn't have bothered shielding my body' cause I ain't afraid of such injuries…" the man replied sending Shirona into a mad fit of rage.

"Barrier Style…" the woman mumbled as Haoru comically reached for his ear, "What was that, you said something? That wind was really loud ya know…" The woman's palms were raised forward as countless small round barriers shot out of her hands. "Guanyin's Thousand Arms of Judgment!" the woman straight out screamed in frustration and rage as the barriers started flying at Haoru like machine-guns, the swordsman leaped backwards shouting "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" in shock and seemingly childish fear as his hands blurred with his sword deflecting all of the barriers flung his way, every single barrier was deflected and kept flying further past Haoru slamming through to the main Summit hall where it crashed randomly leaving a hole in stone. Haoru leaped forward deflecting some more barriers right at the same moment as Shirona's technique ended. The samurai placed his blade in a thrusting pose, aiming to pierce the woman's stomach so that she bled out on the stone cold floor thinking about the foolishness she'd pulled.

"Koho!" Shirona shouted as her raging barrage of barriers continued, a powerful rectangular wall slammed into Haoru's face and sent him tumbling backwards, slowly the woman started walking forward, "Koho!" she chanted again sending another barrier right into the man's face and making him tumble backwards, then again and again! "Make a joke out of me, will you!" she shouted angrily as she sent another "Koho" barrier wall the samurai's way as the orange wall sent the man slamming right into the heavy gate that separated the corridor from the main hall. The woman's palms shot forward, "Barrier Style: Shibaikoho!" she chanted sending four simultaneous walls of barriers slamming and stacking one on another and pressing Haoru's body into the steel gate, crushing it like an insect between a foot and pavement. The man's body fell onto his knees, his face was swollen like he had hit a mountain flying at the speed of sound. "Jokers like you are not even worth licking dirt off my sandals, Koho!" she shouted sending one final Koho barrier that hit Haoru so hard that he crashed through the steel gate busting it down as the man's heavy and bulky body rolled into the busted up hall.

Shirona looked at the man's body for a moment before turning around, then as she finally congratulated herself on an obstacle removed… Some stones shifted and something cracked in the main hall. Horrified Shirona turned around and witnessed Haoru standing up from under the stone table, pushing the stone off of himself and dusting the half of his kimono that wasn't ripped. "Darn, Rudoviga-chan cleaned these trousers for me this morning… Now they're all ripped up and… Oh well, serves me right for making fun of a lady, I s'pose…" Haoru examined his torn up white trousers as his attention turned back at the woman who beat him around for a while.

"Well, Mizukage-ninja, that was fun, but now I'll have to kill you…" he smiled with a certain shade of confidence as his red swollen face started to regain the normal color. This samurai was hit in the face so much that torn blood vessels stopped leaking almost instantly now, that being said his face still looked rather funny… "You… Insolent… Old Geezer!" Shirona roared into the hall making her feminine powerful shout of rage echo through the room as she put her palms together in front of her chest. "I have no time to beat you around, I've no time to play ragdoll with a lowly samurai! I've got to destroy this whole building and the darned Hokage with it!" she shouted out as another cube of barriers shaped around her arms. Haoru looked around searching for his sword, he dug around the pile of table rubbles and removed the sheath and unsheathed it taking his defensive stance. "I mean, your plan sounds alright for a twisted lady… If you want to kill Hokage that works but you'd be killing your own men in this building too, even if you do have the jutsu to tear it down." Haoru spoke getting ready, he knew how to kill this woman – he'd see her technique and wait for an opening when she uses it – all ninjutsu have openings. Then his blurring blade will find her heart before she can as much as take a breath. He killed countless ninja this way and had he not enjoyed this brawl with the Mizukage so much he'd have done so to her as well. "Ninja are but tools, if the owner wishes they are free to throw them away." The blonde replied with a dark and husky tone.

Shirona shot her palms forward letting the cube of barriers fly slowly forward, Haoru broke his stance as he took one of his hands off the handle of his katana to scratch his head. "Ain't this a bit slow, Mizukage-ninja? I think Hokage-ninja will kill all of your guys and get here before this gets to me…" he taunted her as Shirona swiftly made a handseal. "Barrier Style: Barrier Multiplication Jutsu!" she said as the cube started glowing faintly with the shade of mixture of azure blue and white light. Haoru stepped back a bit as he didn't quite understand it, now the cube was standing completely still! "Do you know what my Barrier Multiplication technique does? Even your small samurai brain should comprehend the concept… Do you know my barriers have a certain amount of mass, yes, they weight approximately sixteen kilograms each, without the aid of my chakra to move them they'd be quite a shield… Do you know that when an object of certain mass multiplies, their total mass increases accordingly?" Haoru started frantically scratching his head. "Darn it, Mizukage-ninja, are you pulling some of your stupid ninja witchcraft again?"

Shirona smiled as her wild hair covered her eyes that were emanating certain triumphant glow from them. "You fool, how many times do you think I must multiply my barriers before they become too much for the fabric of reality itself to handle?" she mumbled as suddenly the barrier started quaking from pressure and sending ripples through the walls and the floor of the room, the ceiling and the entire roof of the temple started to collapse on the room's walls and floating to the barrier combination, Shirona made a handseal. "Barrier Style Combo Technique: Infinite Mass Configuration!" she uttered as a loud shriek coming from the barriers took the hall over, overwhelming all of the sound anywhere close. Haoru grunted as the immensely powerful gravity started attracting him to the technique, his own body started to crack and stretch from the pressure as he could swear his bones broke in multiple places and his muscles and joints were torn apart by the immense pressure of gravity. An incredible amount of debris also gathered around the cube making a large mess out of the hall. The whole main hall formed a sphere of debris around where the cube was.

Shirona was huffing heavily, still in the corridor behind the hall, she could not believe she was pushed to this, no way she can use the larger version she intended to use to destroy the temple now… Plan A was ruined now, she had nowhere to rush. "Well…" the woman panted, "I suppose now I'll have to kill Howoku myself…" she finished her own sentence barely as the woman spat up some blood on the cracked stone floor observing the destruction in the main hall. This insolent man and his refusal to just bend over and die made her plans more difficult, she could use her "Infinite Mass Configuration" multiple times if it was just room scale but expanding the scale of her combination required immensely greater proportions of chakra, one temple sized configuration would've taken everything she's had and she's spent so much already that there was no doubt – she'd have to rest and kill Howoku herself by other means.
Chasing Evil by Captain Claymore
Tanshu and Howoku rushed one hall back from the main hall where the Kage Summit was taking place. The two ninja looked around witnessing a gruesome sight – the Kirigakure Barrier Corps were nowhere to be seen while their own ninja laid there knocked out without any signs of life. "No blood, no signs of battle… These men were some of my most trusted ones, they also were quite high ranked… They must've been taken down in a sneak attack." The Hokage uttered confirming what both men already knew inside. They were now on their own. There was no more reason looking for their men as the cunning Mizukage had made sure that they'd be all alone. She's thought of everything. It was a good thing that Howoku picked up those extra men from outside the village after leaving and didn't arrive with just the few guards he left with, otherwise those barrier ninja may have caught him and Tanshu unprepared.

Tanshu cursed, "Damn that Misu, didn't he leave the room to make sure that everything's OK with the men? Where the hell did he go off to?" Howoku looked at the Sannin questioningly, "Do you think Misu's out too?" he asked as his tone descended. Tanshu kicked down a chair and flipped a wooden table over just trying to let all of his anger out, "Nah, that bastard's too tough even for Kirigakure sneak attacks, he spent entire year in that pisshole, if there's anyone knowing a Kiri scheme coming, it's him." Howoku turned around looking at the main hall. "We've got to go back, maybe we can still catch Mizukage and have her answer for all of this?" "Too late for that, Haoru probably already caught up to her and he didn't strike me as a guy who would've appreciated the help of ninja, we turned back to find our men, may as well look for Misu or confirm that there are no more surprises coming our way." Tanshu replied. Howoku nodded, "True, Haoru-san is not the kind of man who likes ninja butting into his fights." The two men started moving towards the exit from the temple they entered through.

As they entered the next room the trio saw bunch of Konoha ninja on the ground just like in the last room, this time however their assassins actually were present in the room. Within an instant Tanshu's body instinctively dashed towards one of the barrier ninja driving his elbow into the ninja's gut and then again into his neck. The barrier ninja fell lifeless. "T… This is Red Dog Tanshu… Fall back!" the barrier ninja yelled as several of them fired moving barrier walls at Tanshu as the man tried to strike them down as well, the barriers pushed Tanshu back to the other end of the room. Tanshu made several handseals and charged towards the barrier, thrusting his palms at them as they flamed up, "Fire Style: Red Cerberus Rampage!" Tanshu shouted out as his palms started shooting wildly busting through the barriers near effortlessly with his flaming barrage of blows, the man then proceeded to jump amongst the enemy ranks and take them all out with quick and precise blows and kicks. It only took one blow to their necks for the ninja to fall, it only took mere kicks from Tanshu to break their bodies and cripple them for life or outright kill them. It was quite a while before Tanshu got serious…

"Die, Hokage!" bunch of barrier ninja yelled leaping from a balcony and shooting off some walls of barriers trying to crush Howoku from below, after weaving just a single handseal Howoku's arm lit up with bright light that was his Starlight Release and the man swiped it sideways sending a powerful scythe-like projectile incinerating all of the barrier ninja assailants while cutting right through their barriers as if they weren't even an obstacle. The man fighting now was not the young and hopeful Howoku but the one that followed the belief that all that stepped out of line had to be destroyed and Kirigakure had long since threw rotten fruits at Konoha from over the line. Just about long enough… More Barrier Corps ninja flowed the halls, Tanshu and Howoku leaped at them, carefully dodging their assaults and offensive use of barriers by maneuvering around them and striking all of them down. After the last of the Barrier ninja fell the two once again reunited.

"I think wearing us down is Mizukage's intention, I certainly hope that you're not feeling worn out just yet, Tanshu." Howoku said as Tanshu showed the man his fist, "Not even close, I could beat losers like this around whole day" he replied confidently. As the exchange of lines went the ground rumbled. Deafening quakes echoed all through the temple as the sound of debris and shrieking of some sort of supernatural origin made Tanshu and Howoku cover their ears and fall on their knees, they had to find cover for support as the roof in their room also dropped several fist sized stones. This entire place was very ancient and even more unstable, just what kind of nonsense were the Mizukage and Haoru engaged in? As the sound stopped Tanshu looked at Howoku questioningly and the two took off and dashed back to the main hall. All this time they assumed that Mizukage had already taken off but this sound suggested she may have been closer than they've imagined. If these barrier ninja were all that Misu had to look out for he was safe.

"Haoru, one of the four God Sword Jutsu wielders… I thought he had an advantage against any ninja, he usually cut the enemy down before they could weave a single handseal." Howoku grunted as he was genuinely worried about what exactly had transpired in the main hall. Tanshu coughed up as clouds of dust cleared up, "Not necessarily, a very skilled barrier ninja could excel at keeping a distance or protecting themselves as the enemy tried to take them out with their half-baked attempts to intercept their seals." Either way, these were just speculations, finally the main hall was in sight. As the two men entered the destroyed landscape they couldn't stop themselves from looking around in awe – the entire room was disassembled and it appeared like all of that part of the building had centered and piled up on one place – the center. "That's… Like… God-Eyes' power…" Tanshu grunted, he had already seen Oni Mask that day, was it possible that God-Eyes was also alive?! "No, that cannot be, we've all seen him disintegrate after being hit by my Starlight Release jutsu, he cannot possibly be alive nor can there be another Rinnegan user. Someone did this without Rinnegan and that is possibly even more scary…"

At that moment the gigantic pile of rubble shook and rumbled, loud muffled grunts came from under and then a great gale of wind gusts blew all of the destroyed hall off of the central area where it had formed a crushing sphere. "DON'T BURY ME YET, DAMN IT!" Haoru shouted as he burst from the rubble. His kimono and trousers were torn up and covered with his own blood, his body was covered with bruises and injuries and his hair was set loose and was flowing wildly as some superhuman chakra pulsing off of him floated it in the air. Haoru pulled cuts of his kimono from under the rubble and tied his hair back into the ponytail, he then started wildly throwing the smaller rocks aside while pushing the larger ones with his unnatural strength. Howoku and Tanshu were both astounded and couldn't believe. "You were… Under that pile?" Howoku spoke first. Haoru looked back at the man for a brief moment and showed him a thumb up before continuing to dig around for something. "This is nothing, I've fought in several wars, a moment of larger than life injury cannot bring down a man who has been cut up by swords for entire days on end…" he grunted as with a powerful push he flipped over what looked like a rumbled pillar that held the roof. "There you are, honey!" he shrieked like a little girl and pulled his sheathed sword from under the rubble, checking on it for damage and then tying it up to his belt.

"Well, I'm set to go! Let's get that woman!" he energetically raised his fist into the sky. Tanshu scratched his head, "Wait a moment, old timer, first you should tell us what the hell happened here, I think we need to know just what kind of ability this woman used because we're sure if we'd get hit by something strong enough to do this – we'd die instantly…" Haoru laughed up and then comically grabbed his injured ribs, they must've been broken but it didn't seem to bother the man except the occasional fits of pain. "Well, she can make pretty tough barriers, she can also multiply them seemingly infinitely to where they weigh enough to rip holes in reality leaving a dent in it that causes everything in that place to be sucked into the rip. Luckily I used my Hurricane Draw jutsu to not get made into a spaghetti and keep myself far away from the tear by giving him my wind to eat up instead of me. All I had to do was survive the hall crushing me into a big pancake!" the man laughed at it as if it was something funny.

Howoku sighed as he looked on ahead, the spring breeze picked up and rustled his hair. "If Mizukage can use that kind of jutsu it's troubling, I've never heard of a ninja who could legitimately kick your butt, Haoru-san. Still, to make a barrier so heavy it'd tear away reality surely sounds like a tiring concept, she must've used her barrier multiplication technique many times in rapid succession and that's something that tires a person out. Good to know we are not the only ones to get chips on our armor…" Howoku said. Tanshu curiously stared Haoru down, "Can you go on ahead, old timer?" he asked, "Sure, I may have bunch of my bones broken but when you've been battered, burnt and zapped as many times as I have it stops bothering you until you die. I may move slower but I'm sure I'll still beat you shadow humpers…" Howoko smiled, "If you can still make fun of ninja you'll be fine, let's catch Mizukage and take her out." The three men dashed with all of their speed onward, entering through a hole left in the temple when the main hall was disassembled and mushed up on one place.

As the three were rushing past the corridor Howoku pouted and turned his head at Haoru, "Haoru-san, did Mizukage tell you what her actual plan is? I mean she told us that she's planning to crush all the Kage and take everything over, that much is for certain, she believes that she's the only competent enough person to control the entire ninja population, that being said, what was her plan here?" Haoru grinned, "She planned to leave the building and then use a larger scale of that thing she used against me on the whole building killing everyone inside. I think now she's unable to do so, if pulling those glowing cubes came easy to her she'd just have done so from the start, it was more of a last resort to her so now she'll try to take you guys by other means. I'm wondering just how well her effort to hold the other Kage off with her military is going, surely Kage is a ninja much stronger than any number of usual ninja?" Tanshu nodded, "True, at some point, when talking about Sannin and Kage, the number of opponents is irrelevant, someone like the Mizukage could take out an entire army by just using that reality tearing jutsu on them. The highest ranked ninja need to be taken out by equally high ranking ninja, no number of chuunin or genin can outmatch them…"

The three ninja dashed out of the overly drawn out short corridor into a cage-like hall. The structure had rotating staircase with countless openings where windows were supposed to be, instead of glass there were bars for protection. This location must've been built way before glass was even a thing. "Where to now?" Howoku wondered, Haoru pointed right in front at a door that must've lead onwards. "If we are to assume that she still wants to leave, there, that way is the straightest path outside while the staircases lead to various other corridors to other halls." Two figures landed right in front of the trio – both of the men looked very similar yet each looked also different from the other. "Water Temple monks." Haoru smiled as he drew his blade, "What did that lady do to make you guys sell out and join her pack?" he taunted the duo. One of the monks got visibly annoyed and outraged, he almost charged at the swordsman when the smaller one held him. Both men were wearing the typical black and white rag monk attire, they each had some strange face paintings, the larger one was bald and the smaller one had excessive dark facial hair and wore a bandana which barely helped contain his long hair.

"Mizukage-sama did nothing, we've joined her cause by our own choosing, the Water Temple agrees with her ideas, each temples worship different divinities, they each are lead by different ideals and the world needs not such confusion. There must be one temple, one ninja establishment so that there is no conflict to be made. Such eternal lasting peace and prosperity justifies one giant slaughter to end all slaughters" the smaller one replied as he moved his hand away from his bigger friend's chest and took a fighting stance. Howoku turned to the side and looked at Haoru. "Haoru-san, please remain uninvolved. You need to gather your strength and let your body recover somewhat, we cannot afford letting you die in a middle of battle unaware of how critical your condition is, even if you have overcome your bodily limits, that does not make you immortal." Haoru was very visibly not pleased with this suggestion but he stepped back and sat down to the wall. "Fine, don't like killing monks anyways, would much rather cut down ninja…" he grumped out crossing his arms on his chest. Tanshu tossed him a small bag, "Take care of your bruises and injuries while we fight, these men are pretty tough if they are monks but it shouldn't take too long…" he confidently declared. He then jumped up grabbing onto the second floor staircase and pulled his body up, dashing madly to the upper floors, the larger monk followed. Tanshu's goal was to separate the two monks, it was likely that the monks were trained to work together and while they normally could've both ganged up on Howoku their goal to keep the two away from Mizukage made it difficult to ignore Tanshu's movement.

The monk appeared right in front of Tanshu, dashing several floors up and then making a mad rush downstairs, throwing a wild punch at Tanshu's face. The Sannin ducked under it only to receive a kick into his chest that sent him tumbling one floor down before he pushed his body up with his hand and backflipped into a balanced stance. Tanshu was impressed by the speed, strength and precision of the man's moves – he was very clearly a taijutsu user so he may have been troublesome to someone who specialized in negating opponent's ninjutsu and genjutsu, either way it made no difference, whatever the playing field was - Sannin surpassed all ninja.

The smaller monk dashed and threw a punch at Howoku as well, the Hokage leaned his head to the side and tried throwing a punch of his own only for the man's other hand to catch it, the two kicked their knees forward at the same time only for them to clash, the two exchanged several blows and then dashed back to get some distance. At this point they were just checking each other out but Howoku was feeling the pain where he clashed or blocked the monk's blows but it didn't look like it bothered the monk that much – his face remained stone cold. Howoku clenched his fist as it lit up with Starlight Release chakra, the Hokage leaped forward throwing a fist charged up with enough chakra to disintegrate the area it connected to, the monk leaned out of its way as the punch dispersed, the heat from the punch did seem to bother him as he lost his footing for a moment. Howoku tried to throw a combination of blows to the man's abdomen and his face but the monk managed to respond in time by blocking all of the blows and tapping his foot at Howoku's chest and pushing his own body away instead of using it to kick. The Hokage had never seen such strange taijutsu moves before, it made a lot of sense – the monks had very secretive and amazing taijutsu styles of their own with each temple developing their techniques incredibly differently from the other.

Many floors higher Tanshu's fist finally connected to the larger monk's face, the large man stumbled back, tripping on the stairs and having to use one hand for support, as Tanshu prepared to exploit this opening the man shifted his balance using the hand as balance point and pushing his body into the air while kicking the air wildly using his long legs. Tanshu leaped into the air and stuck to the wall just in time to not get kicked down the stairs again. The Red Dog quickly made some handseals breathing in deep and then releasing all of that air at once – "Fire Style: Red Dog Bark!" he shouted spitting out a mass of flames at the monk who just covered up as they devoured his body. The technique wasn't lethal as it sacrificed density and power for speed and versatility but any damage he could land could still quickly establish his dominance. As the monk moved his smoking and damaged by slight burns hands to the side his monk attire was scorched off and his whole body was smoking and covered with small patches of burns. He cursed loud as the monk got up from the staircase and finally got on his feet, taking a fighting stance and readied himself to keep fighting. He needed to hold this man here for as long as he could, every second he struggled Mizukage regained her strength and the Water Temple monks were not the kind to let down the Mizukage!
Ambition by Captain Claymore
ONE MONTH AGO:

A cold evening breeze blew rustling the numerous small ponds in the Water Temple yard. Usually during the mornings the monks exercised together in a coordinated fashion, honing their fluid and fast movements, striking hard and moving fluently like the water itself. The Temple was on a small island, in fact there was a beach nearby the temple and elder monks often ran to dip their bodies into cold ocean waves in the early morning. This was no small feat as there have been accounts of people actually dying of hypothermia trying to reach the Temple from a neighboring island. Then there was the matter of elderly hearts, monks were men who have pushed their bodies to the limits their entire life, a simple dip in cold foams of the crashing ocean waves could've easily stopped their hearts. There were many who also fell victim to the water taking them down their feet and dragging them further into the ocean, taking all air out of their chests and leaving them unable to swim back. Even such primitive training routines were incredibly dangerous.

Of course, there was no training exercise more dangerous and perilous than the body strengthening training of standing in front of violent crashing waves during a storm. Each and every monk hardened their body by allowing powerful force of water bash mercilessly at their mere human flesh and bones. None withstood the wave their first time, very few could even stand up after their first time training. Youngsters have had their ribs and even skulls broken by the violent movement of water, crashing waves were not a thing to be taken lightly after all. The results of this training however couldn't be argued against – a monk's body became as tough as a rock, no – tougher! Even rocks were susceptible to being broken off of their formations, shattered and washed away, men of the Water Temple stood still and took everything the cruel ocean had to throw at them. As much as they trained their martial arts and strength, water was their greatest tool of training.

This cold breeze of salty oceanic air was different from yesterday's however as a woman in a black coat had landed on the shores of the Island of Isolation, where the Water Temple was. There were women amongst the monks, very few as their bodies were much tougher to get past the initial training stages, women had a much steeper curve and often gave up on their choice of isolation and firm suffering in order to strengthen their bodies. Because of their initial frailty it took them much more pain and willpower to match their peers, not that it never happened – it did, but it wasn't as common as it was with men. This lady was not interested in joining the temple however – she came her with far more destructive motives and a suggestion that was, to be entirely honest, crazy. Even with Mizukage Daikon in power, such suggestion would've been ridiculous, even merciless and crazy Daikon didn't have the guts to talk to Water Temple monks this way! This woman was evidently more ambitious than her predecessor, much more willing. This woman's willpower and ambition surpassed that of all those that have died trying to become monks.

"Return in the morning, this is time of peace and head monk is resting after his training." A young monk spoke up pointing at the woman ordering her to return to the small boat that has carried her there. "I insist that I must talk to him. If I put matters bluntly I am sure even you would see the mutual benefit in my suggestion, boy." The woman spoke up taunting the young monk for his youth at the end. It was not just a matter of age, this hooded lady couldn't have been a decade older than this youth but it was experience and mindset that set them so much apart. "Oh yeah, and what is that offer, lady? Before I bother head monk I must know if it's worth it!?" the young monk yelled back at the woman clearly annoyed by her insolence. The long sleeve of the woman's coat raised up in the air and gently slipped off revealing her crimson red dyed nails and two fingers being shown, the top of her hood slipped up gently revealing her blood red lips smiling and moving softly. "I need two monks, give me the support of the Water Temple and two monks in my guard as a testament of your support and I will not sink this salt-stinking island beneath not only the waves but the scorching magma beneath the bottom of the ocean itself. I can't stand salty smell…" she said as the boy was starting to annoy her too.

The inexperienced monk leaped right at the woman, his body flowed like the water, he did not tense his body but moved relaxed – perfectly managing the sensitive balance between strict tenseness of the body that hardened it and the relaxation that made it move more swiftly and fluently. One of the woman's companions just blurred as a moment later he was already standing five meters further with the unconscious monk helplessly collapsed on his firm arm. The man swiped his palm to the side as brief sparks of lightning chakra ran down his arm and the blood of the monks faintly colored the salty and mossed rocks near the beach. "Big mistake, kid." the man said with his husky and low pitched voice, it was unknown who he was talking to as it most certainly was not the unconscious monk who had his eyes rolled up to the point where his pupils weren't even visible. He may even have been dead but none of the hooded figures really cared too much. Suddenly black flashes danced lit only by the pale moonlight, all of them trying to impale one of the figures with at least eight men devoted to a single figure.

The one who had knocked the young monk out responded in time, carefully his body deflected every blade pushing every one handed sabre away from his body while his leg blocked the swipes completely. However as the sabre hit the man's appendage it did not spill blood – a loud clang echoed as half of the blade was sent flying off into the distance and etched into the beach sand. The man's cloak hood slipped off revealing a blue oni mask on the man's face. He looked around staring each of the monks down, even if his eyes were not really visible over the oni mask it was evident that he was sizing each man up for their coffins. He just had that feeling of a merciless killer around him and it was apparent to absolutely everyone that this man had killed countless people in his days, even before his leg became this strange metallic abomination of nature.

Another figure just moved their arm to the back of their heads, reaching up for a handle. The motion happened so incredibly fast that his hood slipped off revealing large and spiky golden hairdo. The man did something, in the darkness of the forest it was absolutely invisible but all of the monks screamed out in pain and fell on the sand as blood shot from their gruesome wounds. As grievous as the men's wounds were, they were still non-lethal and it was clear such was the man's intention. After all of his opponents were cut down the man kept his arm on the oversized sword handle which hid some sort of a weapon under his cloak. Judging from how totally deep and battle ending the wounds on the men's bodies were it was clear that the blonde swordsman had quite the oversized tool on his back!

Powerful streams of water shot breaking through the ground of the third figure, each of the aquatic appendages grabbed hold of the attacking monk's faces and held them up in the air forming a large sphere of water around them. Each of the monks were tied up and could only struggle trying to break free from their terrible fate of drowning in a beach surrounded by nothing but sand for about three hundred square meters. The man released his hand seal at the same time as he leaped on his arm and kicked around, spinning on his arm to deliver a spinning kick to the gut of each monk which caused every single one of the locked down monks to grunt out and start drowning right before being released. As the attacking monks fell powerless on the ground coughing the man looked at each of them from above, as if judging the monks who had fell victim to his superior talent and skill.

The monks attacking the crimson lipped lady did not get too far, each of them slammed into an invisible wall and dashed backwards, cursing and swiping their blades, then tossing them at the woman in frustration. Nothing even left the faintest of marks on the woman or even got through her invisible walls. The monks then stopped their completely fruitless attempts at attacking these cloaked figures and just helped their injured ones get back at their feet as reinforcements gathered on top of the hill. The hooded figure who almost drowned his opponents smiled and spoke up, trying to act intimidated even deep in his heart he was impressed. "Hoh, these fellows are different from those youngster monks. If they all attack we may be in trouble, Lady Mizukage. I sense their chakra signatures to be at least Special Jounin level each."

"Enough!" an elder man shouted out and landed in front of all four cloaked figures with the fifth still watching from the boat. The head monk was tall and had that strange shaped round head, his facial features were not attractive as it just happened that the man was not overly gifted by nature, he did not have any facial hair which was odd for a head monk, however. "May I know what your business is, mysterious visitors?" he spoke up, the man was taller than all but the Water Release ninja with whom the monk was equal in height. As the cloaked lady walked up in front and removed her hood revealing her flowing tied up blond hair the man crossed his frail elderly arms on his chest. Water Temple monks practiced fluidity and endurance, strong defense over everything else in their fighting styles. It was uncommon for them to have too bulky builds even with their barbaric training methods. It only made sense for the head monk to follow this mantra to the extremes.

"Nothing much. Before I state my business I'd like you to welcome us like proper guests. I believe that the Mizukage deserves a proper welcome, no?" the woman asked with a playful tone. The old man mumbled something under his own nose and turned around, nervously shooting his palm up in the air, the monks turned around. The cloaked figures heard bunch of clinging noises which were revealed to be monks hiding in bushes with bows and arrows. "I was almost excited to see the infamous "Water Temple archery", it is said that a monk archer's arrow can pierce the ocean all the way to its bottom…" the blonde with an oversized sword politely joked, the monks did not honor the man with a response. The head monk lead the entire party of monks and the cloaked figures into the shrine where the head monk sat on one side of an altar with an ancient scroll placed on it and gestured the woman to sit on the other as the monks made several circles around them. The lady nodded and kneeled by the altar, sitting on her knees and getting to an eye-to-eye level with the head monk.

"So… What business brought our late night guests at such a time of night in a matter of utmost importance which could not wait until the morning?" the head monk asked. A loud laughter pierced the silence that dominated afterwards as the monks all stopped rustling and talking. "Well… Not that it's that urgent, there is still a month till the Kage Summit, I am a woman who likes to do all her work upfront and rest after, anyways." The head monk scratched his head, it was clear that he wanted to ask a question but was too shy to do so. "Ummm, please do not get offended but… Who exactly… Are you?" he uttered at last as Shirona started giggling from top of her lungs. "It's too bad that I don't carry Daikon's head around, that thing started to smell so awfully after the first couple of days. People don't take "I'm the Mizukage" as seriously as they used to these days… How could I ever convince you…" the woman acted as if she was genuinely troubled by her own thoughts but the head monk just waved his arms. "No no no, it is just fine… Any woman who would enlist all three Kirigakure Sannin to her side is either a very good courtesan or a woman of very high political power." "Or both…" Shirona giggled, then angrily looked at the monk who at first did not follow her joke, the man nervously faked a laugh.

"Anyways, here I was wandering around my land, informing all those who were troubled by Daikon's rule and I thought for a moment… Why don't I fix the relationship with all of those little insolent countries: Land of Waves, Island of Isolation, all those other islands of varied importance. So here I am… Interested in forming a pact with the Water Temple, decided to fix our relationship, so to speak, I'm sure Daikon did his best to piss you people off…" the head monk scratched his head, obviously he and the past Mizukage had a history that was not entirely pleasant. "Anyways, whatever taxes you paid Daikon so that he did not tear this place down are no longer imposed, feel free to practice your thing here freely… In fact, I'd love to hear all about your religion and your interpretations of it, I've heard that all temples worship different divinities and that somehow influences the art they create, both martial and the exquisite kind of art."

The head monk looked back at his fellow monks, to the man it became obvious that they were just as troubled by this woman and, in a way, afraid of her as he was. "Well… We technically do not worship a divinity, our martial art is based on a legend and we craft our faith and model our lives around the ideals it represents. According to the said legend there is a being so powerful and large sleeping deep in the oceans in between Kirigakure and the other islands that even a sight of it would drive a man mad. If the legend is true, when this beast awakens it will inevitably destroy all that we know – sink all of our islands and return back to sleep. It does not necessarily mean that we are living in fear of a giant monster wiping us from existence, what is to be taken from this story is that our lives are temporary. We must all strive to be as kind to those in our lives as we can, we must constantly strive to improve ourselves because we are remembered for the people that we were in our lives that could end at any time."

"Just lovely… Well, if our ultimate fate is to be decimated by some sleeping ocean monster, may as well do the most of it – I'll get to business. I'd love to set my sympathy for this little island in stone, it will only take two of your best men to aid me in the Kage Summit." Head monk was visibly intimidated now that he saw Mizukage's political play being very much involved with this visit. "What exactly do you have in mind, Lady?" the man asked carefully. "Well, I sort of wondered just how successful your existence was? I mean your ideals and morals and lessons sound great, your men are powerful because they follow those beliefs faithfully but… I can't help but feel that other Temples are in your way, I mean Fire Temple and their thousand armed Gods of murder… It's boring… I plan to wipe all other villages off the map and make all of the world into my own empire, then there will be no competition between ninja and all clients and all of the Lords will only hire one village, there'll be no bloodshed, no wars for dominance, only… Ninja. Cold, efficient and simple. In return for helping me realize this dream I'd be willing to give Water Temple the chance to make more temples worldwide, exclusive right in fact. Think about it, you could tell the tale of your scary sea God for all to hear and then if it actually awakens – survive his rampage somewhere deep in the oasis of the Land of Lightning's deserts."

"With all due respect, Lady Mizukage… That sounds terrible, you're asking us to be a part of your suicidal attempt to slaughter countless people just to satisfy lust for power. It has nothing to do with anything that Water Temple stands for, no temple in the world has ever involved itself with ninja affairs and we will not become the first, especially not over such pitiful motive as one woman's ambition." The monks all looked petrified, they were literally shaking in their boots because they knew that when you refused someone who wielded infinite power over an entire village with only a slothful and incompetent Lord to answer to… Saying they don't usually take it well would have been an understatement. "Oh well… That's too bad…" Mizukage shrugged as she stood up, the monks couldn't believe it she'd let it go so easily, didn't this woman just declared war on all the ninja villages? Was unifying all the villages under her rule as Ninja Empress not her ambition?

As she passed by the monks, Shirona slowly walked up through all of them, giving each of them those playful glares, checking their eyes out, looking for that particular emotion. There it was… Ambition… One young monk lowered his head in shyness, he wanted power, he wanted to fight for a chance to be someone more than just a monk, he didn't want to die with lungs full of sea water in his late nineties unable to withstand crushing ocean wave pressure. He did not want to be a statistical victim of the current Mizukage's crazy regime, he didn't want to be part of a temple washed away on a mad woman's whim. He had the eyes of a King, more importantly he had the eyes of a traitor! Gracefully the woman stroke his cheek and looked him deep in the eyes, gently she moved her finger from his cheek to his lips and then walked away as if nothing had happened. "Oh… I sense a storm incoming, would it be fine for me and my Sannin to stay camped in your beach for the night? Perhaps you will still reconsider my offer?" the Mizukage asked curiously looking at the head monk. With his head as heavy as ever the man nodded, of course he agreed, when refusing the most powerful woman in this part of the world and having been granted forgiveness, one did not refuse her second request. This man was too easy to play with.

"There will be no storm, Mizukage-sama, why are we staying?" one of the Sannin asked while the woman smiled, "I feel the wind picking up, trust me, my dear, there will be storm. A storm of changes… Now if one of you would be so lovely as to build us all a camp…" the woman playfully spoke. It felt so great to be right, it felt so great when one set up all of her pieces of the board perfectly for a winning move. That feeling when you are just superior to everyone else was unmatched by anything else in the world… Surprisingly enough, an actual storm came, right out of the blue clear sky suddenly storm clouds gathered and it started pouring as if the hungry sea God of destruction had woken up just as those monks fear. Soon. Soon it will rain blood.

The woman never went to sleep that night, she sat waiting, waiting for that sound of betrayal and lo and behold! Screams and shouts and lonely lights lit up the bland stormy night sky.

Once the woman and her party got to the Temple grounds they were stopped, as the Sannin stared the monks that dared stand in their way down and they moved aside the woman finally saw what she came here to see – a trial in process. "Mizukage-sama, please, this is internal Water Temple matter, this man killed our head monk in his sleep, he said he wanted to bring you his head and be one of the two monks to accompany you!" the monk giving the trial speech shouted right as he saw the woman. Shirona grinned, "This man is the new head monk. That's how the world works now, that's how it will work when my new ninja establishment is complete – he killed a man therefore he gains all that his inferior had in his life, namely his title."

The monks stepped up and started making a noise. "IF NOT!" Mizukage's voice outshouted all of their voices. "I will kill as many monks as it is needed for this man to be the most viable contender for the spot. I am a very favorable woman to those that seek my approval, my allies will always get what they want as long as they are my allies, this man seeks my favor and he is the new head monk." The traitor stood from his knees, struggling out of the hold that his peers had him in as they cursed out loud into the sky. "For my first decision as head monk – two of our top monks will join her guard and follow her to the Kage Summit, disobedience means expulsion from the temple!" he ordered with his still childish voice. As two monks stepped up to the Mizukage's party and joined her cloaked men the woman nodded and thanked her "ally", she then turned around and stated to be busy and left for the boat. "So… What does this mean? Do you think this boy will hold power for long?" one of the Sannin asked.

"God no! He will get murdered on this same night, his is an empty title, without me here to uphold my own law it is but a word. These monks are all idealistic fools but their purpose is served. I don't care about the chaos that will take this place over now." Shirona turned at the two monks behind her, "Mark my words, you two will still thank me for removing you from this island. The previous head monk should've known that even his temple order was temporary, had he learned nothing from his tales of slumbering ocean Gods?" The lonely boat set out into the nightly stormy sky, somewhere further in the horizon lightning cracked temporarily lighting the sky up and then letting it sink back into darkness.
Starlight Sword - Pleiades! by Captain Claymore
Tanshu let out a sound of frustration as he lunged forward to once again try and land a blow on the injured monk. Even with burns covering his skin this man did not show any amount of pain after clashing with Tanshu which was something that the Red Dog has never seen before. He was supposed to be second best ninja in terms of pure physical prowess, second only to Chestnut Hanasaku who was a monster to whom rules of nature apparently did not apply. It appeared that the legends about the bodies of monks from Water Temple were not exaggerated. People spoke of how apparently they trained by allowing crashing waves of stormy nights hammering their bodies and after seeing the amount of toughness and willpower that these men showed Tanshu was not feeling any doubt in those tales. Truth be told they'd explain just how in the world these men managed to become so durable.

Tanshu desperately tried to find an opening in his opponent's defenses, he attacked high and low with both direct strikes and fluid but misleading thrusts of his palm trying both striking with fists, tips of his fingers and his palms to see what sort of impact would do the most damage to these immovable monsters. It appeared that all of it was in vain. The few blows that the monk's martial art prowess did not block or deflect just hit the man's body with a thud but not even an eye twitch came from the man to suggest a painful reaction. The Sannin was certain he was doing damage but his opponent just did not show it, he did not waver of flinch. That worked as both strength and a weakness. Carefully Tanshu retreated some distance back, blocking the blows and kicks that the monk decided to return after Tanshu's offensive ended. "This is really embarrassing…" Tanshu panted out as he needed to make some things clear to his opponent while catching his breath. His opponent remained still and just observed his opponent with a blank stare.

"Monks working with ninja, men of faith and discipline working side by side with a tyrant to reach the goal of an over-glorified assassin." The Sannin spoke with appropriate amount of discontent for the matter he spoke of. The monk jumped forward swiping his fist to the side, using more his strength but not his skill. "So you believe Fire Temple's approach is better?" he yelled as his fist dug into the brick wall sending dust and specks of stone into Tanshu's eye. "Completely isolating oneself from world's problems, caring only for one's own?!" he shouted as Tanshu leaned backwards and jumped back to avoid being struck, his speed gave him enough distance to dodge even with his troubled eyes as the Sannin carefully removed all the dust within mere moments. The monk was gone! "Sitting still and doing nothing while people die and then acting high and mighty because you were not the one who made mistakes!" a loud shout came from Tanshu's back as the man felt tremendous force hitting him and sending him crashing into the stone stairs. With a forceful push from his arms Tanshu avoided breaking his bones into the stairs and leapt up higher.

"Whenever a schism occurs one must make a decision, place themselves on one of the two sides." The monk tried to catch Tanshu from behind again but the Jounin was smarter this time. The Uzumaki leapt backwards with a backflip letting the monk charge through him while Tanshu got behind the monk. A loud crashing wave of air emanated through the higher floors of the hall as Tanshu's elbow clashed with that of the monk's. "And if you remain indifferent!" the monk shouted punching Tanshu in the face from the left, "You dismiss both sides!" he punched his enemy from the right, "And if anyone dies you are to blame for all of the deaths!" the man punched from the left again, "And you are to blame for everything bad that the conflict brings because you deemed yourself too good to get your hands dirty, you were above all that!" the monk outright roared as his punch flew directly to the center of Tanshu's face where it stopped with a deafening thud.

The monk's will shook for a moment as the Red Dog's body did not fall nor did it move, the Sannin just stood there as his face barely moved back after getting hit by the oversized punch this time. "You're right." Tanshu said nonchalantly before thrusting his face forward and pushing the monk's entire punching arm backwards making himself an opening. The man's arms blurred in the air, his opponent could barely discern what was happening, it was a combination of his opponent's natural speed and his skill in taijutsu. With a powerful elbow strike to the face the Sannin sent the monk rolling down the stairs down. "But if you intentionally choose the side of the killers just for the sake of choosing a side you lose the right to use this argument. You're just as much of a trash as one who chooses no sides." the Sannin spoke staring at his opponent struggling to get off the stairs and wiping the blood leaking from their broken nose.

Below Howoku attacked his opponent with a flurry of hits, one just as impressive as Tanshu did in the upper floors. The fist of the Fourth Hokage burst with Starlight chakra as the man thrust it forward but he only managed to hit a head of a statue placed in an occasional hole in a wall which the monk substituted himself with. As the small gargoyle stone piece of art disintegrated into dust the monk's figure appeared out of the dust trying to pummel his opponent into dust that matched the kind made by his own jutsu. "Lightning Style: Safety Fuse!" Howoku yelled spreading his arms to the sides and shooting off miniature strings of lightning chakra in a small radius around himself, the monk got in too close, invested too much into his attack. The attire of the monk Howoku was fighting was set ablaze from the immense heat and strength of the Hokage's lightning technique so the holy man tore it off taking a fighting stance again. Then the monk suddenly changed his stance, standing up straight and placing his arms to his belly and raising one above his head as if he was praying. "Ninja Monk Style: Inshirrinbu Seal!" the monk shouted out as bright blueish glow shot out from somewhere behind him. It was almost mystical in nature as it appeared like the monk was standing in front of a light source. As Howoku clutched to keep as much of his ability to perceive the battlefield as he could, he had to step back and cover his eyes. Suddenly he felt a powerful clutch and as he opened his eyes he realized to his horror that he was trapped!

From whatever the source of the monk's mystical lightshow was hailed transparent blue constructs of chakra shaped almost like tentacles of an octopus, some of them were humongous and barely fit in the room but the ones that tied Howoku were significantly smaller. "Ninja Monk Style: Inshirrinbu's Wrath" the monk chanted out as if he was praying, the tightly tied chakra tentacles dragged Howoku towards the monk who delivered a crushing blow to Howoku's abdomen. The Hokage felt the taste of blood in his mouth and whited out for a moment before the whistling wind awakened him – he was flying backwards out of the hall the two were fighting in and he was about to crash into a stone wall. "Starlight Style: Bright Wing!" Howoku shouted as he swiped his arm to the side and made a crescent projectile just in time – the monk leaped behind him attempting to punch Howoku's back and break the man's spine instead of letting him crash into the wall. The monk's fist struggled with Howoku's quick and unfocused Starlight technique before it violently dissolved in a blaze of blinding white flames sending Howoku backwards and crushing the monk between the eruption of the jutsu's inner heat and the stone wall.

Howoku coughed up blood and breathed in – it hurt him to do so as the punch he had taken was quite a powerful one, nevertheless, his opponent must've taken some damage as well. The monk's burnt up and ravaged figure appeared from the smoke, the arm which collided with Howoku's Starlight jutsu looked charred up and had excessive amounts of blood on the floor below, luckily for the man the immense heat burnt every injury that it caused as well or he'd be dead, either way, even with his strange ninja monk style jutsu he took much more damage in that clash than Howoku did. He probably intended it to be that way and that was what intimidated the Hokage – by now it was clear that Tanshu and Howoku would come out on top, the thing was that these monks tried their hardest to inflict excessive damage on the both of them so that Howoku could not compete with Mizukage later if that clash ever occurred. Howoku could not allow that, he had to end it quicker than he sustains any more damage but it'd be better if he also didn't overuse his Starlight Release since it did exhaust him more than any other technique he may have used.

The monk dashed up right to Howoku, "Water Temple Taijutsu Combo: Rising Tide!" he yelled as the man punched from below aiming to land an uppercut at Howoku's chin, the technique was fast but the man only had one arm to perform it with, had he had both, he may have been significantly more dangerous even to Howoku. The Fourth Hokage leaned back and avoided the blow, the arm then descended as an elbow strike only to be blocked by Howoku's own elbow. The Hokage let out a grunt in pain as it hurt his flesh and bones to clash with such tremendous amount of physical force but it appeared like once again, even with his injuries, the monk did not even flinch. The monk tried to drive a knee into Howoku's abdomen and the Hokage decided to take that trade – he had more usable limbs and was in a hurry after all! Howoku took the knee but traded that blow for a free elbow strike to his opponent's face at the same time as he got hit, both men stumbled backwards clenching their injuries.

"You do not have to fight for Mizukage with such devotion, if she has you here by force then just let us pass and we'll tell her we beat you. This does not have to end in death…" Howoku tried to both reason and confirm one thing. It was not when the monk told Howoku his answer that it became clear but when he moved his healthy arm away from clutching his charred one and took a one-armed version of his fighting stance. "I apologize but I believe in what Mizukage is trying to accomplish, I did not do so from the beginning, I must admit but… There is truth in the words that she speaks – ninja kill each other and each other's children because they compete for territory and jurisdiction like children. If a singular entity of ninja would be established, a ninja empire… Then such petty squabbles for meaningless things would stop, after this bloodshed there'd be none more and no more blood of children being spilled… That is a cause worth dying for." Howoku's face twisted in anger. Mizukage Shirona must've been a master of manipulation to have even ninja monks twisted around her ideals like this.

"In that case…" tiny shining sparks, reminding of miniature glittering stars broke off of Tanshu's golden aura as a gigantic blade of pure Starlight Release chakra formed in his hand which the man gripped and swiped to the side leaving a trail of shining falling little stars of light. Almost like snowflakes, like little souls falling down from the heavenly shine above. "As an opponent of peace I worked so hard to establish over the years, I shall destroy you!" Howoku yelled out, he saw already that this man was beyond saving, this manipulation of men to do her bidding was Shirona's greatest sin, not murder. A murderer leaves only bodies whereas a manipulating monster like Shirona only twists one's friends forcing friends to kill each other instead. In the end she kills not only the victim of her manipulations but also she kills the person who sees their friend being played like a card in a game and then has to kill that friend. Any man who must kill their friend out of mercy of what he had become dies inside every time it happens. Even if Shirona would not achieve her goal that day and did succeed with killing Howoku, she'd have killed a part of him either way…

The monk shouted out charging at Howoku but with a slow and painful swipe the man's body lit up with Starlight chakra bursting out of the gash left by the man's technique. "Starlight Release: Pleiades" he whispered quietly as Howoku's arm swiped again and again, the blade never really made contact with the monk's body but the pulsing heat from it cut the man's body open as if it had with chakra bursting from each gash until the man had been cut seven times. Howoku's sword of Starlight chakra burst into small shining sparks and fell to the stone floor. There was no blood, the monk's body was slowly falling apart, burning up like a piece of paper with the burnt parts flying off in glittering shimmer mist. And yet… The monk was still standing. "I used to be a fool like you, monk-san…" Howoku spoke up as two little stars lit up under his own eyes, no, just small tears that reflected the pain and sadness that the man's shimmering body emanated. "I believed that maybe this one more bloodshed could end all bloodsheds, that maybe one day the killing would stop. Then one day my eyes opened. That is impossible, even if ninja will not kill each other for one reason – they'll find another. In the end there'll be just you and the deeds that you've done to get to that point, you'll be just a manslayer who has created a world that changed nothing from the world he tried to change, in other words… Just a manslayer."

A powerful sphere of chakra lit up in Howoku's arm as he pushed it into monk's body, the sphere carried monk's unconscious body away before expanding and disintegrating the man's body in a giant sphere of bursting light. "Overhope…" Howoku uttered silently as he turned away and started walking back to the hall where he originally started fighting. What Mizukage has done with the lives of the people she played with casually was unforgivable, she preyed on their dreams for peace to achieve her own ends. She was far worse than the likes of Daikon – the Third Mizukage. Daikon was a tyrant, plain and simple, he killed people because he was a sick individual who enjoyed that sort of thing, he tortured and killed people from other villages and when he got bored – those of his own. It mattered not to him who he was torturing as long as his sick ears heard the screams he yearned for so much. Shirona on the other hand… She had her own goals but she went around achieving them by using other people like tools, to her it meant nothing to make fun of people and make them only a mean to her end. What a despicable existence, Daikon was despicable but Shirona… This woman wasn't satisfied with just that, she decided to ruin lives of honorable people by making them just as despicable as she was.

This woman decided that it was up to her to completely ruin everything that the people that fought for her lived for. She just made their entire lives mean nothing by making them commit atrocities for her under the illusion of peace. She made them believe that they were achieving the ultimate goal but really they were just destroying and burning up their own legacies. Haoru peeked from the hole in stone and then looked at the busted out door, then stared Howoku down. "Now who needs some rest and medical assistance, Howoku-ninja? You ain't beatin' Mizukage-ninja with those injuries, here, this ointment helps internal injuries a lot, I wonder where Tanshu got it…" the samurai handed a small bag to Howoku who looked at it with nostalgic eyes. "A young Hyuuga woman he loved as a young man gave it to him, he never got injured enough in a battle to ever use it but he figured that young Vashia's will would've been to save lives, to make him happy so he gives this bag to his friends so that our injuries do not keep him down. If his friends die, Tanshu would fret, drink and beat himself over it and young Vashia's memory would be tarnished. That is the story of this bag."

Haoru looked up where Tanshu must've been fighting with the monk. He breathed in and out and stretched his body out, he moved with no stuttering, no obstacles – he felt no more pain. "Well, young Vashia-ninja has my gratitude, wherever she is…" Haoru leaped up and down quickly to feel his regenerated body. The medicine was no miracle but it helped as much as it was possible. It healed no bones but at least it made it easier for them to heal in the future while removing the pain from moving with broken bones. "I've no idea, all I know is that he talks about her every time he gets drunk…" Howoku smiled as he gently applied some ointment to his abdomen where he was struck, then wrapped the bandage around the spot. Haoru grinned as if he had not a care in the world and kept staring up to the staircase as loud crashes and thuds kept echoing and reaching their ears. "What a drunk man speaks of is what truly is in his heart. That is why young samurai feel so compelled to drink – they need aid to learn the ways of truthfulness, a lying sword will always be shattered by an honest one!" the man laughed out.
Echoes of Day that Will Never Be by Captain Claymore
Tanshu and the monk huffed heavily, both men had their upper bodies dragged to the ground but only through sheer willpower did they resist the temptation to fall down and pass out. Tanshu's face was red in multiple spots, beaten and bruised and the monk's body was covered with burns and black marks. The Red Dog took a brief moment to look down the stairs to multiple floors below witnessing Howoku and Haoru standing around and treating each other's injuries. His comrades were safe, they'll get to return to their katei, Tanshu will defend his own, baby gloves could've been taken off, there were no more concerns in Tanshu's mind. The monk leaped forward, he smelled blood and knew that there was a chance that he'd be the one to outlast his opponent. A direct blow right to the monk's face sending him crashing into the staircase and making bricks and stone fly out of the construction convinced him otherwise.

"Your speed picked up…" the monk huffed out spitting several teeth out and wiping blood from his broken face, after getting pounded again and again this man's balanced flow of chakra was interrupted. His mastery over chakra control to enhance his physical abilities now mattered less than it did ever before as it now didn't feel like Tanshu was punching a steel barrier covering a stone wall – it felt like a mace hammering away at soft flesh and bone. "Hokage finished his fight, I've no more concerns over anyone else, nothing on my mind to keep me away from this battle." "You mean you didn't mean this whole fight?! You were somewhere else in your mind the entire time?" the monk shouted out in frustration, Tanshu's arm disappeared in his messy brown hair as he scratched the back of his head. "Kind of… That's why I didn't use my sword, if I swung it when I don't look at what I'm doing I can cut my own limb off by accident, I'm really clumsy when I'm thinking about something else entirely…" the Sannin laughed out admitting to his opponent that he never had any hopes of winning to begin with.

"So you're a swordsman then?" the monk asked, Tanshu took a taijutsu stance and shook his head. "My sensei taught me how to use a sword in my childhood but… I wouldn't say that I am." Tanshu replied. The monk charged forward, with near perfect precision the Sannin leaned out of every blow, effortlessly pushed away every kick, ducked and leaped over every attack before moving away untouched. The monk fell on his knees. He had trouble breathing, it was more than likely that broken ribs added to the shortage of air by making inhalation painful. "I'd give you five minutes to recover normally but… We sort of are in a rush, if you'd feel better I can think about something else again so we can fight as somewhat equals again. Make your last fight an honorable and good one. No one will notice my own wandering thoughts anyways…" Tanshu spoke, he really wanted to be done with this and go after the Mizukage but this man was a strong and disciplined one, he deserved an honorable warrior's death in combat, not to get completely trashed around by an opponent who wouldn't even break a sweat against him.

"I cannot ask you that. You have your goals, I have mine. Asking for you to hold back would be selfish." the monk sighed and stood back on his feet. Tanshu smiled for a second, he couldn't actually satisfy his opponent's desire. When he remembered the story of his own swordsmanship memories flooded back by themselves and the Red Dog found his own mind wandering again. "I'm sorry, monk, I won't be fighting you at full strength for just a little while longer." He thought to himself as the two clashed again. His opponent must've felt this, Tanshu's strength reducing, his speed dropping, the man's breathing becoming irregular and amateurish at best. It couldn't be helped, a man with such painful and long history of countless battles like Tanshu had many memories that flooded back once in a while…

Little Tanshu approached Oni Mask, he was hesitant to ask his sensei about something, usually the boy had no fear to ask anything but… This topic was different, it concerned feelings and communication - social skills. Something that sensei told him was irrelevant for a ninja and even more so for a demon. After all – a demon is what Oni Mask trained Tanshu to become. Had little Tanshu been a bad student perhaps Oni Mask wouldn't have tried so hard but Tanshu was a talented and incredibly powerful student, the best one that the old wolf could've wanted. The old man had said many times that he'd train legions of demons and yet both he and Tanshu knew that none would surpass his original student.

"Speak up, boy. If you won't it'll keep you back in training and this day will be wasted, even more, I may end up killing you and wasting my precious little demon. I wouldn't want that…" Oni Mask grunted out angrily after noticing the boy's distress. At that point he must've already analyzed the boy's feelings: Tanshu had no reservations about anything, he shared everything with his sensei and so it had to have been something that Oni Mask had forbidden him to talk about. The boy wanted to talk about "family" of "feelings" of some sort and while Oni Mask hated those things – if he didn't help boy out he would not be the best little demon he could be that day and the training would have been useless. If you're not risking your own body and life when training then may as well not train at all…

"Well…" young Tanshu stuttered, "My katei is my best motivator, when I fight to protect it I am at my strongest. You once said that if you faced someone in this room of darkness you'd be able to kill anyone, when I fight to protect my katei I feel the same way and… I know that you told me to abandon those feelings but… That would mean spitting at what makes me the strongest." The shining Oni Mask twisted around ninety degrees, after several creepy moments it returned back to its original state. "No… That is good. If you just did what I told you you'd never surpass me, you'd just be a slightly inferior version of me. That's no good at all. To ever surpass the devil a demon needs his own source of power, he needs to fly with his own set of wings and not use those given to him by his overlord." Sensei's voice sounded strangely dull and uninterested, usually he kicked Tanshu's butt whenever the boy brought family and friends up. "Go on…" he added.

"Well, I spoke with Hanasaku and Vashia… I thought that maybe we could be comrades, maybe we could develop some sort of stronger bonds with each other so that my feelings for my katei are stronger and I can fight to protect it even harder but…" Tanshu's head sunk down, his tone of voice shifted to incredibly sad. "Bubblegum-head keeps cursing me and punching and kicking me when I try to talk to her, Vashia won't even talk to me at all. Why is that? Why am I the one no one talks to? Why am I the untouchable one!?" Tanshu yelled the last sentences out in pure rage. Oni Mask moved up, the lights coming off of the mask's eyes just made a path of light rays where the little points went as the mask flipped over and went up to the ceiling. Suddenly the mask appeared right in front of Tanshu's face and the boy felt sharp pain in his gut – it felt almost like sensei's leg dug deep enough to bypass his innards and reach the boy's spine. The boy fell down on the floor and writhed around for a while. Sensei spoke up again.

"Forget talking to Hanasaku. She is a hopeless person who has nothing for her in this world – she is an arrogant person, the worst kind in fact. Under normal circumstances she always deems herself correct and the strongest, most beautiful and most talented out of all the people in the room. I'm sure that deep in her heart she even thinks herself superior to God-Eyes…" sensei's attacks kept coming but Tanshu leapt back up, following the sound of his rustling fabric he avoided his sensei's lethal blows while still getting hit a couple of times – in that room such injuries were unavoidable. "The only way to get to her is to beat her – prove that she is not better than you but… If you did that the little brat would kill herself – it is imperative for her to be the best in this world, else why bother breathing? That is why she is the absolute worst person with no hope to improve – she never assumes "what if I'm wrong", she'd rather die than be wrong and that's why she'll never grow. She'll always remain the "bubblegum girl"… Give up on her."

Tanshu and Oni Mask exchanged blows again. The boy landed several blows on his sensei by imagining his sensei's body based on the picture provided by his other senses – his hearing, his smell and touch, by seeing his sensei's mask and its position he could better draw an outline of where his sensei was and what the position of his body was. "As far as Vashia goes… Well… She's different. She grew up in a family of samurai, the only speech she understands is that of swordsmanship, you cannot bond with her with your tongue, you need to clash swords with her in order to reach out to her." Tanshu leaped backwards and wiped blood off of his lips. That night he thought a lot about what his sensei had told him, it wasn't common that sensei even spoke to him about such things so every word he was told was precious. Next morning Tanshu showed a sword to Oni Mask sensei, not the one he used to have but another one he claimed from God-Eyes' bandit he had beaten down earlier that day. "Teach me swordsmanship, Demon-sensei, so that I could reach out to Vashia and understand her heart, so that I would think of her as my friend and think more of my katei… So that I would fight more ruthlessly to defend it and become a true demon!" he grunted out. A sound of sword being drawn from the sheath lit up the total darkness. "Defend yourself" was all that Tanshu heard before getting cut. It did not matter – he was learning swordsmanship, one day he would become better than Vashia and clash with her to understand her heart. After that day maybe he'll have family again, maybe his katei will grow, as will his strength!

Tanshu's mind returned back to his body, right on time to deliver a powerful kick to the monk's chest and end their overdrawn clash of fists and kicks. Tanshu's thoughts were now crystal clear and even if he was still waiting for the day when he'd clash with Vashia, now was not the time to think about that day. Remembering that he still had that on the schedule helped him clear his thoughts though, a flurry of punches and kicks sent the monk down again only for him to crawl a bit higher up and stand back up after taking a brief moment to recover. Tanshu bit his finger and slammed his hand to the staircase "Summoning Jutsu: Fighting Dog Pack!" he chanted as three average sized dogs appeared in a cloud of smoke. Tanshu never wasted chakra on summoning dogs unless he planned using THAT later on that day so his companions knew perfectly what to do. Tanshu slammed his hands together as if he was praying, the dogs leaned forward shouted out in unison – "Fire Style: Dog Pack Bark!" letting out three conjoined heat waves at the monk.

Monk slammed his fist to the floor. His body lit up with blue light emanating from behind him "Ninja Monk Style: Ishirrinbu Defense!" powerful tentacle shaped constructs of chakra surrounded the monk in a cocoon like construction as the triple Fire Style hit him blowing the part of staircase up. After a moment the monk's body flew out of the smoke cloud heading head first to the ground floor – his impressive ninja monk technique blocked most of the damage but he still took some as his body was now burned up even more and the force that destroyed the staircase beneath his feet sent him crashing down. The dogs leaped after the monk, the unconscious monk got back into consciousness at the last moment. "Ninja Monk Style: Ishirrinbu Offense!" he chanted as his body lit up again and the same gigantic tentacle constructs pushed his body upward from the ground he would've snapped his neck crashing into. "Water Temple Taijutsu Combo: Rising Tide!" the monk shouted out as his fists dug into the bodies of the dogs and sent the canines flying up in the air where the monk's onslaught of punching the ninja animals continued. After the monk's beatdown reached its highest point the monk his elbows into two of the dogs sending them crashing down instead. The two dogs that slammed into the ground disappeared in a poof of smoke leaving only one dog that landed to Tanshu's side. The man stopped standing in his peculiar stance, his partner turned back and barked out "Already finished?" Tanshu shook his head "No problem, I will need it later on anyways, I wouldn't use that on someone like this monk." Red Dog replied.

The dog barked out and disappeared in a poof of smoke and Tanshu's body lit up in a brief flash of red light. The monk landed on the continuation of the staircase that was not broken, "What did that dog give to you?" he asked before charging forward. "That does not concern you…" Tanshu replied casually and leaped up to clash his own elbow with that of the oversized monk's. The two exchanged some blows before both of them landed on their respective platforms of the staircase that were still hanging and not blown down. The monk slapped his arms together "Ninja Monk Style: Ishirrinbu Onslaught!" he shouted out as his body bulked up, his blood vessels shot out and some must've ruptured – this technique strained his body immensely and Tanshu decided not to risk getting hit by it. An endless swarm of tentacle constructs of chakra rushed at where Tanshu was slamming into the staircase blowing it down, the monk did not end his rampage as more and more tentacles shot out from behind him and blew more and more platforms of the staircase until none of it was intact, only the couple more platforms that lead to the top floor with no way to get to them from below. And yet… Tanshu's body was nowhere to be seen.

"Fire Style: Two Headed Dog Red Bark!" Tanshu chanted shooting off double version of his Red Dog Bark jutsu of Fire Release towards his monk opponent. The ninja monk leaped up dodging it by moving in between the two masses of fire and then sticking to the wall using his ninjutsu and chakra control. Tanshu did the same. The monk roared out and lunged forward slamming his arms together "Ninja Monk Style: Ishirrinbu Drill!" he shouted out thrusting his head together as a shape of a gigantic squid construct formed around him. Tanshu leaped forward to meet the force of his opponent – this fight had gone for long enough and the Red Dog wanted to end it. A silent sound of steel rubbing against Tanshu's sheathe reached the monk's ears and as crimson red flashed in the monk's eyes he knew it was all over! Tanshu's sword re-entered the sheath as the Sannin finished his technique. "Red Dog Twin Slash!" he whispered to himself as an "X" shaped gash opened on the monk's chest and his lifeless body fell to the ground. Tanshu leaped off the wall and landed on what little remained of the staircase sliding down the stone remains and then the wall down to the ground floor.

Howoku had already finished with his wounds, Haoru looked like had done it long ago. The Fourth pouted a little, "You took extra time and you're almost without a scratch, if you had no trouble why did you take so long?" he complained after Tanshu stretched out. "I remembered something I still have to do…" the Sannin replied. Haoru and Howoku stood up from the stone floor and the three picked up their pace heading towards the next hallway. It was entirely possible that this was not the last obstacle that the Mizukage had in their way. They were lucky to avoid significant injuries even if Howoku didn't look like he escaped the battle unscathed, his breathing was more intense. Tanshu considered stopping for some more rest he remembered that he had already given him enough time by taking extra time to dispose of that monk.

Many kilometers away from the temple an intense battle was taking place. One similar to two more battles further to the south. A white haired woman was dashing around the battlefield and cutting cloaked men down, ninja with black shirts and white vests, wearing Kumogakure headbands were accompanying her by facing off against the cloaked men. Many of the ordinary ninja fell, even if the Kirigakure demons were completely out of their comfort zone in an open battlefield they still managed to draw blood from both the Raikage and her most trusted ninja. The woman's body was riddled with small scratches and cuts but it was to be expected when fighting an army of elite assassins. It appeared like the battle was just about reaching its peak though.

To the south a giant set of armor similar to that worn by samurai generals was swinging his gigantic blade around swatting endless hordes of cloaked assassins like insects. It would've been unknown to any ordinary passer by just who this colossal figure of cold steel was and where exactly the Kazekage was hidden seeing how his own men were fighting alongside this giant walking set of armor. The desert warriors of Sunagakure were not entirely in their native field as they were fighting in a rocky wasteland but these assassins they were fighting against weren't even native to any battlefield. Their hands were swift to cut, precise to aim for the vital blood vessels but still they lacked sheer force and battlefield experience. Also the Sunagakure legion had that giant set of armor laying rampage across the unarmored forces of the Kirigakure demons. In addition it had to be noted that Sunagakure forces were excited – they wanted to prove to both Kirigakure and other "Great" ninja villages that the Sand was now back and recovered after the extensive damage done to it after the Second War. Sunagakure wanted to yell out their claim to be declared the next "Great Ninja Village" and no army of cloaked Kirigakure elites was going to stop them!

Further to the south giant earthquakes flipped the tables of the battlefield, the Kirigakure demons were all running for their lives as loud cracks and rumbles intimidated even the most devoted to their cause. Giant boulders were flying around, some white flashes of light lit up and in its wake followed destruction. It was like a God of War had entered the Iwagakure's ranks and assisted the Tsuchikage as that battlefield was an absolute curbstomp. Not even a single scratch was placed on Tsuchikage's bare chest, his white hair flowed like those of a silver haired banshee devouring its victims as none squad of assassins he had set his eyes on survived even a single moment of his rampage. At some point his entire army just stood back as none in their ranks could even properly support such an invulnerable powerhouse monster that was Kaguya Yaban.

The other Kage were just about to begin their final marathon towards the Kage Summit!
A Village on a Path to Greatness by Captain Claymore
A desert lizard crawled by a desolated rocky wasteland path. The little creature sensed loud and strong vibrations of the ground so it decided to get to a cover of some rocky structures on the other side while the large group that was incoming passed by. The creatures that appeared from the horizon and soon flooded the place were ones that the lizard only saw rarely in these parts, they were people. To a more intelligent observer this large party of men may not have appeared to be dressed accordingly to the climate – the men wore long sleeved black tops and wide and loose trousers, they also wore head gears that looked like turbans and some sort of flak jackets. Truly these people with peculiar headbands on their foreheads must've been sweating profusely. Little would the observer have known that these men were quite adapted to desert-like conditions as this party marching on was none other but the Sunagakure delegation moving to the Kage Summit.

It has been a while since Sunagakure took part in any political meeting. The village has been looked down on for a while and no one really bothered to invite their parties to the Kage Summits that had taken place between this one and after the Second Great Ninja War. Naturally as one appointed as the Wind Shadow the Kazekage had the right to appear in the Kage Summits even uninvited, still, since no one ever would have listened to the opinion of a leader of an unimportant in the grand political scheme village the Kazekage did not even bother with it. This time however was different – Hokage Howoku invited leaders of every village and since Howoku was a man who had protected all peace – the state of Sunagakure included, the Kazekage decided to respond in kind. Had it not been for Howoku's excessive worries of countless peace treaties between all of the villages Sunagakure would've been erased from the map, his peaceful lockdown status quo had helped the village recover and regain power which made it much more of a player on the map. Kazekage headed to the Summit to make a statement – he was sick of Kirigakure and their arrogant and elitist behavior for a long time, it was time that those cocky bastards saw that Sunagakure was back in power and was powerful enough to judge the Mist as equals.

A man walked up to the hulking figure of Kazekage, most Sunagakure ninja were rather short, Kazekage was well over two meters tall so the natural shortage of his men stood out in comparison even more. "Kazekage-sama, there are people ahead, I sense a large concentration of humidity increase in the air up ahead." Kazekage stopped and looked up ahead, "You are an Advanced Sensor, correct?" he asked his man, Kazekage already knew the answer but he wanted to be sure. "Yes, Sir!" the man nodded, "I am a sensor with the additional advanced ability to sense humidity of air and sense its alterations – that makes my sensory more acute and lengthens its range!" Kazekage scratched his chin and ordered his men to take a round defensive formation placing his Wind Release users on the outside where they could've crafted powerful gusts to defend everyone on the inside. Sunagakure had very few types of ninja: Wind Release users, Puppet users, Weaponry jutsu users and Sealing jutsu users and Sand Release users. While such unimpressive assortment of skillsets may have made Sunagakure military predictable, it also helped each leader craft battlefield strategies much more successfully and easily.

The party advanced forward, there was no way that the Kazekage would allow an opportunity to declare the rising back of their village be burnt down to nothingness just because he got afraid of an ambush. He'd crush those insolent fools who thought they could bully the Sunagakure around, these fools apparently forgot the times they lived in and had to be educated that this was no longer the post-Second Great War period. Iwagakure and Sunagakure were powerful villages to be placed among the Great Ninja Villages – Kirigakure, Kumogakure and Konohagakure. The Great Three had to move aside and make place for the returning villages or be swept aside by the winds of change. The Kazekage very much planned to make an example out of those men planning to assault him and his men.

"Akasuna Mugao, by the orders of the Mizukage Namikaze Shirona I sentence you to death." a voice spoke right behind the Kazekage. "Shit… How did he get there!?" the large man wondered right before his throat was opened by the assassin. However it was not blood that shot out of his neck – it was sand as the Kazekage's bulking figure collapsed into a vortex of sand that surrounded the assassin. A young man stepped up and thrust his fist forward. "Sand Coffin! Sand Funeral!" the young man chanted energetically as the assassin's body was crushed by the sand and collapsed lifelessly onto the ground in the shape of water. "A water clone trying to assassinate a sand clone… Interesting!" a cloaked figure further back declared out loud as the real Kazekage removed his cloak and threw it aside. "Well done, Guuma, I'll take it from here." The Kazekage observed his attackers – up on the twin rocky fields up ahead stood two squads of cloaked men with blue Oni Masks – the Kirigakure Demon Corps. Most elite assassins throughout the entire Ninja World and yet… The size of the squad suggested to the Kazekage that these men must've not been the most elite Demons, they were but trainees, even more – an assassin had no chance against a warrior on the battlefield. These men came to this wasteland to die!

"Men! What we have here is a free chance to kick some Great Ninja Village butt and be in the right, let us not waste this chance!" the Kazekage shouted out vibrantly as his voice let the men know just how excited their leader was to kill some Kirigakure Demons. Kazekage Mugao removed a large staff from behind his back as the Demons jumped down and attacked his men. The large hulking brute swung it around swatting several men aside – the Demons stood back up and continued attacking him and his men. With a simple flick of his finger the Kazekage transformed his staff into a scythe. Now these Demons would not just ignore his blows, the Kazekage clashed with one of the Demons, the brute just thrust and pulled the scythe to him disarming the assassin and swung his scythe around. The man that Mugao was attacking leaped back into the fray of his folk with a powerful backflip but several more Demons found the battlefield to be too stuffed with men to dodge the wide reaching weapon and fell to the rocky ground to never stand up again.

A painful sensation alerted the Kazekage of an attacker from behind. Several swipes of a knife opened some painful wounds – the assassin then tried to stab the kunai right into the man's neck but the knife got stuck into something metal. Kazekage turned around only for his body to be met by kicks and a backflip hiding the Demon once again in the fray of battle. The man grunted as he felt warm streams of blood run down his back and softly tapping onto the rocky wasteland – these Demons meant business, they were silent, quick and agile. Trained in arts of wielding a kunai and how to remain silent and unnoticed until the knife was already plunged. If Mugao held back or underestimated these men he'd really die in here. "Kazekage-sama!" someone alerted the man of another assassin, Kazekage ducked and saw a knife flash above him aiming for the man's neck. The giant turned around and swiped his scythe upwards cutting one assassin down, another one jumped in out of nowhere and cut Mugao in the leg, slowing the man down. These men were so numerous and so fast that they easily compensated their lack of high hitting destructive power potential. They fought like bees against a hornet – all swarmed up on one, everyone died but left their impact. Kazekage slammed his scythe down and grabbed one man who had injured him by his face, "If you're trying to kill a man, at least have the decency to look him in the eyes, Demon!" he roared as Mugao slammed the man's puny head against his own shattering the demon mask and spilling excessive amounts of assassin blood on his face.

The man then lifted the unconscious but very much alive Demon and showed him to his men. "See, men?! These are not Demons, these are boys who have peed in their beds until yesterday! Let's send them back home to their mothers and their cups of milk!" The Kazekage picked his scythe back up and swung it around, clashing with the demon's knives, defending against the endless onslaughts of the enemy and drastically reducing their rank with each swipe. "This is stupid…" the brute wondered to himself "I only took five hundred men, just enough to demonstrate Sunagakure's rising military potential but… This is a full military squad, Kirigakure intends to destroy us! This is one fourth of an actual army… Wait a second… No… They wouldn't do something like that…" Kazekage wondered to himself as he sent more and more assassins down on the rocky dirt. Two assassins swiped at the Kazekage's eyes trying to blind the man, Mugao dashed by them avoiding the attack and gently tapped their backs. "Human Puppet Jutsu!" he shouted controlling the assassins like his own puppets and sending them after their own.

The Kazekage's puppets cut down several more assassins, someone tried to cut the strings much to the Mugao's enjoyment. One could not cut a puppeteer's strings without a chakra conductive weapon of certain controlled flow. These boys clearly had never faced a puppeteer, it took several dozens of men to finally stop their own human puppets and even then – they only struck down their own comrades! Kazekage tossed his scythe forward and his fingers twitched revealing a slight chakra glow on strings attached to the scythe. "Puppetry Style: Phantom Weapon Jutsu!" he yelled out controlling his scythe as if an invisible ghost was wielding it, as if the scythe had a mind of its own cutting down countless assassins and troubling countless more. Still, this battle was not going well – Mugao kept hearing desperate cries of pain from his own men behind him, occasionally his own body lit up with pain as more of his blood colored the rocks of this cursed wasteland. If he did not end this quick it'd be ended for them! Furiously the giant roared with a battle cry slashing wildly, taking on many assassins and angrily trying to compensate the extreme difference in numbers. He clashed with tens of assassins at the same time by himself, trying desperately to keep these men focused on cutting him down, getting hit many times in the process but saving many times more lives. Mugao's men saw the devotion of their leader and it inspired them to fight that much harder, faced with overwhelming military power they fought back like beasts, no, like true Demons educating these fakes of the true meaning of the word. Even when they fell, each Sunagakure ninja took ten if not more assassins with them. These kids cut to maim – Suna ninja cut to kill.

"End this now!" someone commanded the army as the assassins dashed back forming a large circle and started madly weaving seals. The Sunagakure ninja tried to intercept but as they dropped their guards heading for the distraction they were cut down. The ranks of Mugao's men were now incredibly rare. "DARN IT, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!" Mugao roared leaping towards one part of the circle aiming to cut them all down but being confronted by the assassins protecting the circle ninja. "Water Style: Water Dragon Jutsu!" each and every assassin in the circle chanted spitting out masses of water that took the shape of dragons and lunged towards Mugao – such an overwhelming combination of Water Dragons would've crushed the man's body and stripped his flesh from bone from the sheer pressure.

The loud roaring water dragons all slammed where Mugao stood forming a powerful flood, violent crashing waves flushed Sungakure ninja away momentarily but the violent water didn't let the Kirigakure Demons proceed to go for the kill, they'd have to pick out the remaining ninja after the water calmed down. Finally the water settled down and ran into fissures and small holes everywhere in the wasteland, washing the bodies of the fallen away. As the battlefield was cleaned up the Demons tried to confirm the death of Akasuna Mugao – the Fourth Kazekage but… There was no body! Where Mugao stood and was supposed to be crushed by the water stood only a giant set of armor – one reminding the samurai of the past, no, reminding a general of those samurai. There was one man in the Iron Country who was like the Kage of the samurai called Iron Shogun. This fancy and edgy colossus of steel reminded most of the armor that the Iron Shogun wore. From inside the puppet a cybernetic voice came, similar to the voice enhancers that the Demons themselves used – maybe even taken from a dead Demon Corps member infiltrating Sunagakure when the armor was built.

"Puppetry Style: Iron Shogun!" the cyber voice of Mugao declared reaching for his back and pulling a giant sword and swinging it around swiping the worn out bodies of the assassins aside. The Kirigakure Demon circle of Water Dragons was no more with a single swipe of Iron Shogun's blade! This was the true power of Akasuna Mugao, the inheritor of the ancient art of puppetry and master of the little known internal puppetry. The art where instead exposing themselves the puppetmaster was hiding inside the puppet they were controlling and so to get to the puppeteer one must have penetrated the alloy of the puppet. Seeing how the Iron Shogun was barely bent by the onslaught of the Water Dragon techniques such penetration was highly unlikely. The assassins all charged at the Iron Shogun at the same time, thrusting their knives and trying to find gaps in the armor but even as they found them their blades could not reach the soft skin of the man inside. With a powerful shake the puppet armor shook all of the assassins aside and with a swipe of his blade finished them off while they were down.

With an excessive attack the likes of which no one had ever seen before the Shogun dashed forward as his feet shot out flames moving the whole giant structure forward. With powerful and fast swings of his sword the shogun finished off the last of the Kirigakure military force sent to dispose of the Kazekage. After the last assassin hit the ground the Iron Shogun's chest opened up and Mugao leaped out of the armor with it transforming into an exoskeleton like construction which the giant put on like a backpack. The man's tired and sad face turned at his men – observing only less than twenty survivors and a clean battlefield. It is unknown where the tide had washed away both the Demons that were treated like throwaway tools and those unfortunate enough to get killed as a result of an order made by a sick tyrant. "Aaaaaaaargh!" Mugao shouted out angrily as he punched the rocky ground opening up wounds in his knuckles. Just like that his country was reminded of the times when they were ravaged down to near-extinction by war.

"I'm sorry, men…" Mugao spoke up to the survivors, "I wanted so hard to enter that league of champions again, to have our village be placed among the Greats but… I think I may have forgotten what that meant. Before we had the benefit of their pity, we were not attacked from behind, we were always protected by those stronger than us but the moment we walked out of Konohagakure's shadow we must fend off by ourselves. You must understand that this will be the norm now, we'll have to fight every enemy dumb enough to wish to bring us down by ourselves with no one to help us." "Kazekage-sama…" some surviving men tried to calm the grieving man down but the giant just looked at them. "You know what? Fuck their pity, they can pity the men we send to the Afterlife and pity their own filthy selves for ever daring to pull sick shit like this. Now let's go to the Summit and kick Mizukage's ass!" the brute yelled out inspiring courage into the hearts of his devoted surviving men.

"Well… I wouldn't be in such a rush, Kazekage." a low pitched husky voice spoke up from the same rock where armies of assassins were located previously, the Kazekage and his men looked up in horror and saw a man in a black jumpsuit and a blue sleeveless ninja outfit like those worn by Kirigakure ninja. And yet the most scary accessory of them all was his white with blue strips Oni Mask. The man jumped down and stared at the Kazekage, only when the hulking brute returned the Demon's stare did he notice the steel leg appendage that the man wore – this must've been a much older and much more experienced Demon. While the Kazekage wondered just how much functionality did the man have with that metallic leg something suggested that he shouldn't have underestimated the man – he must've seen the Iron Shogun and still revealed himself after all. Either this Oni Mask man believed that he could take the Iron Shogun out or he was just devoted to his Mizukage until the end.

"Back up, I have lost enough men today as it is and I am not losing anyone else, if I fall that means I was unworthy of the title of Kazekage – retreat and elect a new one! Remember the meaning of our actions, bring our village forward to the ranks of the Greats!" Kazekage ordered and his men obediently backed up. "Kazekage-sama…" they almost teared up by the devotion to the village that this large man had. "You do not need to bother, Mizukage Shirona will take over as the Ninja Empress, there will be no more meaning to the useless title of Kage." The man wearing the Oni Mask put a lot of faith in his master. Kazekage broke out a grin – "So old man Daikon finally lost his grip, huh? New butt on the chair, same bullshit…" he cursed at the Oni Mask as the men prepared for an inevitable fight that would break out.
Kazekage VS Oni Mask! by Captain Claymore
The two men continued to stare each other down. Each of them was competent in close range fighting techniques so it was important for them to properly assess the situation, observe the opponent's stance and find any openings they could exploit. A weak breeze sent tumbleweed rolling around but the wandering plant did not distract the two shinobi who continued to stare each other down. Kazekage's eyes were full of determination to destroy this high ranking member of the Kirigakure Demon Corps, a man who was in high position of the order that killed so many of his trusted men that day. It was impossible to clearly say what exactly Oni Mask's eyes looked like, his demonic mask removed any signs of the man being human and with each battle and lost limb he reminded less and less of a man and became much more of a demonic ideal he strived to be.

"I wonder…" one of the ninja who survived the scuffle with the assassins mumbled but only his closest friends heard him. They curiously looked at their troubled comrade with questioning glares.

"This man, he clearly is a high ranking Demon… What if he is THE Demon? Kirigakure's Legendary Demon who survived a battle with Star of Hope Howoku and killed Raijin's Prophet Sorano twenty years ago." The shinobi finished his chain of thought as his comrades looked at the assailant with newly found fear in their eyes.

"You mean the man who then got promoted to Kirigakure Sannin by the Water Lord after a suggestion from Third Mizukage, tyrant Daikon himself?" someone in the group of survivors shouted out in surprise. The fact that all Demons concealed most of their bodies: their faces and every trace of their skin made identifying the specific Demon near impossible. This man could've been whichever one of the Demons, he could've been THE Demon and no one would have known. In some ways the Kirigakure Demons were perfect ninja as no one knew their identities, no one could even pin a specific person to a battle or event because of how secretive and utterly badass these men were.

"Yeah… Rumor says that the particular Demon can only be identified by one feature – he is missing a leg. This man seems to wear some sort of metallic leg which makes one wonder: is he the real deal or if he is just messing with everyone taking other Demons' names…" the Sunagakure ninja concluded as the group continued to stare the nameless Demon down. This man definitely did his homework if he was impersonating the real Oni Mask as his body build and height was identical, he was missing the same leg that Raijin's Prophet Sorano annihilated. It would've taken some effort to properly identify and confirm the man's identity but it didn't appear like the Kazekage even cared about that.

Suddenly the Demon just dashed forward leaning his head up front and shooting at the speed of an arrow cutting through the air. His arm lit up with lightning sparks as the man thrust it forward cutting through air, the Kazekage leaned to the side avoiding the thrust. Oni Mask leaped into the air swinging his metallic leg in an impressive jump kick but Mugao once again outmatched his opponent by leaning below the kick and avoiding it. Utilizing the momentum of his jump kick Oni Mask spun around and thrust his other leg down in a vertical kick. Mugao's iron staff blocked the strike, the man flicked a switch on the weapon and blades shot out of the scythe. A silver flash lit the air up and the Demon leaped backwards covering a wide gash on his chest, Mugao decided to keep going he tossed the scythe forward twitching his fingers to activate his puppetry technique. "Puppetry Style: Phantom Weapon Jutsu!" he chanted sending the scythe cutting like a disc saw. The Demon's speed was impressive as he quickly avoided certain death ranging the puppet strings out but he still got cut in his mask, he had to thrust his metallic leg forward and damage it as well so that his fleshy bits didn't get amputated in an instant.

"Look at his chest! It's burnt up, he has to be THE Demon from twenty years ago! So this bastard survived!" the Sunagakure ninja shouted out having witnessed the man's uniform tear up and reveal his burnt skin underneath.

"So this is the man who worked with two infamous Sunagakure nukenin: Hana and Vashia…" his comrade exclaimed angrily to himself before raising his voice, "Kazekage-sama, let's retreat! Fighting such a man after a lengthy battle may be dangerous, we have no reason to fight a man who has already killed one Sannin and survived the fury of another!"

"Don't make me laugh!" Mugao shouted back at his subordinate. "What we have here is a chance for me to prove to these people that Sunagakure is powerful once again, what is a Kage worth if he cannot best a Sannin?" the puppeteer lashed out.

A loud laughter echoed through the wasteland, one that reached even the dead or still dying bodies washed away from Kirigakure's previous assault. Not that they even understood the significance of this laughter. "It is you who makes me laugh, Kazekage, how dare you even wear that name when Sunagakure had not had a Sannin level ninja recognized by all countries in over twenty years? Yours is an empty title, only a Sannin is worthy of ascending to Kage and you're just mocking your title, you just sit in the big chair because you are the strongest in a country of barely breathing weaklings. You're the strongest of "get-byers", master of the average league." Oni Mask spoke up at last "Shirona-sama is right to eliminate shameful jokers like you."

After finishing his speech Oni Mask once again tensed his muscles up and leaned back making his body shoot forward at incredibly speed, his muscles lit up with passing through lightning sparks and the man thrust his arm forward impaling Mugao through the chest. "Even in her late passing years, way past her prime, Lady Sorano gave me more of a challenge than you, pathetic!" the Demon declared after his eyes opening up wider under the mask in shock. A part of Kazekage's face fell off and slammed onto the rocky floor making a wooden sound, as the impaled man's head lifted up making his black long locks move out of the way of his face the Oni Mask was revealed cartoonish round eyes and a wide clown-like smile on the face of the man he just "killed". A loud wind cutting swipe whistled in the air, blood covered the rocks as the Demon stumbled forward and fell on his knees with another gash on his back.

"It's a shame that my scythe seems to have gotten dull after cutting down so many of you Demons…" Kazekage Mugao taunted his injured opponent from behind. The man replaced his body with one of his puppets and did it so incredibly skillfully and fast that even the extremely powerful and experienced opponent like Oni Mask was fooled by it. "Had it not dulled so much it'd have cut you right in two…" the man finished his thought, however he did not count on his opponent to retaliate so fast.

With a loud deafening roar of anger the Demon jumped up and turned around, it was like pain and bleeding did not even matter to this man. "I seem to have underestimated you, Mugao!" Oni Mask shouted out as his kick from his metallic leg connected to Kazekage's chest making the man spit up blood from somewhere in his chest. A powerful punch dug deep into the Kazekage's face sending the man stumbling back, as large as Mugao was even he felt the damage that Demon's inhuman strength did, or perhaps it was callback from his endless previous battle with the young Demons? No, it was the combination of the two, this strongest of Demons was smart, he purposefully planned all of this, he must've known Mugao's personality and that proving the worth of his village was more important to him than anything.

"Then again… You know as they say, the sharpness of one's weapon only depends on the spirit of the user!" the Demon taunted his opponent as lightning emanated through his body and the man thrust his elbow forward right into Mugao's chest. "Demon Kenpo!" Oni Mask chanted as his gigantic opponent gurgled up blood and fell onto the ground with a giant gaping wound on his chest.

"You bastard!" two Sunagakure ninja shouted out as they charged at the Demon angered by the fact that their opponent held his own against the Kazekage himself. With a simple and effortless move Demon opened up the weapon user's defense and with a pinch at the man's throat the brave Sunagakure shinobi fell down on the floor lifeless. The Demon then leaned to the sides avoiding the onslaught of Sand Release techniques as if they were nothing, as hard as the young Jounin tried to tag the Demon he had no luck.

"Ahh, the famous Sand Release, a combination of Wind and Earth Releases only found in Sunagakure… What a pathetic piece of junk." Oni Mask taunted his younger and inexperienced opponent by thrusting his elbow covered with lightning chakra right through the tightest sand defense that the young Jounin could put up. "Taste the strike that killed your master! Demon Kenpo!" Oni Mask spoke driving his elbow into the young man's chest and almost cutting him in two as well. The arrogant Demon's head cocked back and twisted to the side creepily, the effect and creepiness of the man's twitching motion was only made stronger by his lifeless and scary mask that he wore. The infamous Oni Mask Demon was tough enough to instill fear even in the middle of the day outside his room of darkness.

"Well… Aren't you a medical ninja?" the man addressed a young woman with a ribbon on her right arm. "Go ahead, help your friends. Or do your best trying to avenge them… It'll be fun seeing which one is more important to…"

The man's speech was cut short by a headbutt that sent him flying back, with a powerful roar and a burst of chakra that made the smaller pebbles around the Kazekage spin around in a mad twister Akasuna Mugao was back on his feet ready to rampage again. "I already did help Kazekage-sama!" the lady medical ninja shouted out in desperation hoping her hardest that the flying Demon heard her. Oni Mask's sight quickly focused on the shining trail of sand that the young Sand Release user had set up previously and its slight greenish glow. "So the woman transferred her chakra through the sand that the young Sand Release user missed… No, he was targeting the Kazekage the entire time… I was played." Oni Mask realized as his body hit the ground breaking something out loud.

Demon's body twitched and the man shouted out in pain, but he was still moving, it was only a matter of time before he stood again and killed every single one of these Sunagakure ninja! "Hmph!" the Kazekage grunted arrogantly as he tossed his giant scythe forward. "Puppetry Style: Fisher Combo!" he shouted as the scythe dug deep into Demon's metallic leg, with a powerful pull the Kazekage dragged the Demon up close to him again and then dashed forward pushing his shoulder forward and clotheslining the man right back down.

"Kazekage-sama is winning!" the Sungakure ninja cheered on their leader but Mugao's face remained calm and observed his seemingly lifeless opponent who didn't even more for some time.

"I don't get it, why isn't Kazekage-sama finishing that bastard off? Just stomp his head and crush him into the rocks! He and his men killed so many of ours, he deserves no mercy!" the medical ninja shouted before she herself heard her own words, gently shutting her own mouth and covering it with her palm.

"It isn't that easy…" a fellow Sunagakure ninja spoke occupying the young lady's attention. "You see the Fourth knows that his opponent is still alive and conscious, in fact, it's entirely possible that the Demon is ready to counter attack the moment that Kazekage opens his guard for a finishing blow. Since Mugao-sama is well educated in close range fighting he can see that if he opens up he's as good as dead so he is waiting for his opponent to make a mistake again instead. In this situation being patient is the way to survive." the man explained to his comrade. Mugao's eyes did not move from the seemingly lifeless body of the Demon, desperately waiting for the man's counter attack so that he can drop him again, hopefully this time for good!

Suddenly blinding light flashed making the Kazekage cover his eyes, the unexpected flashbang even forced the Sunagakure ninja cover their eyes as well. "Flashing Demon Kenpo!" a loud triumphant shout reached the ears of all who were covering in fear of the Demon. A terrifying flesh cutting sound alerted everyone that once they opened their eyes a very cruel slap from reality will bring them back from an idealistic dream to the cruel world that they lived in. Kazekage opened his eyes first, he looked at his own bare bulky chest and was surprised that he was OK, the man then turned to his right witnessing the cruel twist – the Demon chose to kill the young medic instead of him.

"W-Why?!" Mugao shouted out, his voice twisted by pain of endless loss and grief. These people here were his most trusted men and women and most of them won't be coming back home. That was the reality of war, no, reality of peace. How could the reality be so cruel when the countries were no longer in war? What was the point of all this meaningless murder in that case? Was this their own fault for dealing peacefully with cruel madmen who only wanted the world to turn back into the primal warring state it was in since its conception? Oni Mask pulled his arm out of the medic's chest as the woman collapsed lifeless. It was clear that she died before realizing what had happened.

"What do you mean? If I chose to kill you she'd have brought you back again, when you punch a barrier and it doesn't break, it's just plain stupid to punch it again, you just kill the person holding the barrier. That is the path of a Demon, the path of an assassin. Shinobi are assassins so if you cannot handle these truths you have no place in this world. The fact that you weep over loss of one ninja just proves to me that Shirona-sama was right, the current generation of Kage have all forgotten the ninja way." Oni Mask spoke as the Sunagakure ninja around him cowered and fell back on their backs, crawling back like worms running for their life. Hiding and squirming so that this man, no, this Demon didn't choose their own life to claim next.

"See? They're all running away. This is the reality that you and Fourth Hokage cannot grasp, no matter how they all talk, no matter what ideals you put in their heads, inside their feeble hearts people will remain people. They will praise and cheer you when you are succeeding but the moment you get stabbed they'll just drive another knife into your back and twist it to stay alive. That is the cruel reality. Peace cannot exist in a world of violence, the very idea of peace is sick in itself. You believe me to be insane? No. It is you who is insane, Kazekage Mugao, you and the other Kage are the real madmen. We are ninja, our function is to kill the people the Lords point at, we have no morals and no place in our hearts for humanity. No. There can be no place for humanity in hearts of killers and deceivers. Humanity needs to be abandoned to leave only a Demon inside. That is how true ninja are made, that is how Demons of the Demon Corps are made."

A man crawled out from the safety of a rock and stood up, his hands were down and his face was covered with tears. "Kazekage-sama!" he cheered out.

A woman walked out from under a rock that was on another rock covering her position and providing shade, she was holding another injured man who thrust his fist into the sky. "Kazekage-sama!" they both cheered at the same time.

A man who remained crying over the young medic's body lifted his bloody forehead, covered with the blood of the young woman who was struck down, the man wiped the blood off his eyes and glared angrily at the Demon, then turned at Kazekage Mugao. "Kazekage-sama!" he spoke quietly with only his shaking pale lips to help put his words together from unintelligible banter of a man taken over by sadness and grief.

"Hm…" the Demon almost broke into a brief laugh as he looked at the injured and saddened ninja who all walked out of their covers and stood back on their feet, no matter in how much pain they were, no matter how injured they were. "KAZEKAGE-SAMA!" they all shouted into the air deafening all other sounds in the wasteland, even the vultures waiting on top of a big rocky mountain until the scuffle ends and their endless feast begins leaped off and flew away. The prophets of death and the cruel reality of a battlefield were scared away by the determination and will of the brave Sunagakure ninja.

"You seem to believe me to be wrong?" the Demon concluded looking at Kazekage's furious and cold eyes. "The truth is that people like these fools exist but they are not an exception to the cruel reality of life. That is because…" another flash blinded the people as the Demon repeated his murderous offense aiming at another brave ninja. "They all die in the end so they cannot be counted as true reflection of people!" the Demon concluded thrusting his arm towards another ninja.

A powerful clang echoed through the wasteland and a shockwave shook the ground below the ground of all the temporarily blinded ninja. After the flash bomb's effect cleared the Oni Mask stood clashing against the Kazekage's scythe, the man's eyes were closed – he moved following his other senses and intercepted Oni Mask's lethal thrust in time with his scythe.

"There are no fools among the people I care about!" Kazekage replied with a cold and angry voice.
Iron Shogun Hits the Field by Captain Claymore
The two men continued to push their weapons at each other, it was surprising to see Oni Mask's body holding completely still against a physically superior opponent. Kazekage was a towering and bulky man. He completely blew away the image of all puppet users being puny and having to use puppets to protect themselves. Even so Oni Mask managed to hold his own and not get completely blown away in a struggle of physical strength, this spoke volumes of the physical prowess of Tanshu's sensei. Finally Mugao decided to end this struggle, quickly he cancelled all of his efforts to push the clash of the weapons back at his opponent making Oni Mask slightly stumble forward losing his balance.

The brute then leaped into the air flipping over as if air itself was a surface for him to roll around, his scythe extended forward held by the man's puppet strings and spinning forward in a mad vertical spin. Oni Mask had little time or ability to evade the technique. The man turned around and raised his metallic leg to his chest to block the scythe. Blood shot out of Oni Mask's body covering the cut up rocky floor which now had a giant fissure right in its center where Mugao's spinning technique cut the rock in two. "Puppetry Style: Desert Wind" Kazekage exclaimed calmly pulling his scythe back to his hand. The great weapon had penetrated right through the artificial leg and dug deep into Oni Mask's chest, it didn't seem to have hit any vitals but the man was still kept on his knees and didn't look in much of fighting condition.

"He's won!" someone in the ranks of the Sunagakure ninja cheered out and someone else raised their hand to calm them down.

"It ain't that simple, we've seen this Demon act like dying and counterattack like crazy before. The vitality of those Demons is incredible, unless he quite literally stops breathing it is useless to call it a fight…" the ninja said angrily. He was right, the Demon was halfway down but he was still huffing and if anything his life threatening injury just seemed to piss him off more.

"Give up." Mugao asked his opponent, "This is pointless, even if you do kill me you'll never beat my men in this condition, whatever the outcome of our battle is – it's over for you with that injury." Kazekage grunted out, anger did cloud his judgment, he wanted to just skip the reasoning part and keep pounding the face of this man until that fancy mask he wore was in pieces but… Reason was what made him different from the people he fought, he wasn't a blind murderer who killed everyone in sight. He was not above killing and was capable of murder but that didn't mean that such punishment needed to be abused without reason.

Demon stood back up, he no longer laughed or threatened, he just stood back up and took a fighting stance – now it was serious for him. "Don't joke with me, killing you was always my intention and my orders, even if I kill you and your men kill me afterwards my orders will be fulfilled and that is all that matters." Oni Mask replied. He was quite obviously lying, dying while following orders was never his intention and while he knew that even if he beat the Kazekage he'd never beat the rest of his men afterwards he was confident that he'd manage to escape them. What was another diversion or a smoke bomb if it meant his own escape. They would just all clutch and protect each other and gather around watching the backs of each other, too busy to be worried over their own throats to chase him.

Oni Mask leaped forward, so did Mugao. The Demon put both of his palms together and shaped his hands as if they were a jaw, running lightning chakra through it. Mugao slashed from the side when the Kirigakure Sannin thrust his hands forward. "Demon Kenpo: Nasty Bite!" he named his technique as it clashed with Mugao's long end of the scythe. This did not end this exchange of attacks however as Oni kept pressing harder and pushing his hands forward further. Loud cracks came from the center of Mugao's scythe as the thrust cut it in two leaving the shattered chunks of steel all over the rocky wasteland. His arms also hit Mugao's chest but the Lightning Release chakra had already went out by that time and it barely even affected the Kazekage.

The hulking puppeteer swung both his scythe and its other broken end of it as a blunt weapon, with a leap clenching his bleeding chest wound Oni Mask flipped over his opponent avoiding this attack. Oni Mask then thrust his arms backwards to his sides, "Demon Kenpo Secret Technique…" he chanted striking his opponent in the back as his arms pierced through his opponent's body like butter. "Demon Claw!" the Demon finished naming and casting his technique as the lightning chakra around his body calmed down and settled. Kazekage's body collapsed into wooden pieces and parts, Demon quickly leaped backwards hearing some sort of sizzling sound before the entire puppet replacement exploded with dozens of more explosive tags spilling into the air and exploding in a chain reaction. It was only due to his agility and natural speed that Oni Mask managed to get back. His wound spat up more blood.

"You don't have much time…" Mugao stated standing at the side and declaring his observation nonchalantly. The arms of the Demon once again lit up with Lightning Release chakra. "Demon Kenpo: Nasty Bite" he shouted out thrusting his palms into his own chest. Mugao jumped up and shouted in shock – within moments the bleeding wound cauterized itself even if Demon's body twitched and shook violently – it was clear that such treatment of one's own injuries was painful. An elderly woman shook her head in disbelief, a young man close to her looked at his fellow comrade and asked her what was wrong. The elderly woman pointed at the Demon, her eyes were sad and depressed as if she was… Pitying the man.

"Can't you see it now? The origins of all those burns? His body is the way it is now because he kept cauterizing it himself this same way… With the extent of them he must've been cut and stabbed in every part of his body at some point." The woman explained.

"That's right…" Oni Mask exclaimed grunting out in pain, his voice was twisted and in much higher tone. The pain clearly was too much for him to completely ignore and block out as he was cauterizing an already burnt area of his body. "I was the very first Demon that Kirigakure created. The original program that was supposed to create a Demon was so intense that I needed a technique like this or I would have died instantly, even up to today I am the only survivor of that program and it was heavily modified after that generation all died out. Whatever injuries you inflict on me, I took ten times that during my first day of training… There is nothing you can do to a Demon's body that scares him. After becoming a Demon one is completely immune to torture or fear of injury and death because they've been through it countless times already and left unimpressed."

Mugao's eyes squinted as he looked at the Demon with eyes of sadness and pity as well. "After we take your master out… We'll fix that hellhole of a village, I promise you that much, Demon. No other child will have to go through what you went through." The man spoke in a tone that infuriate Oni Mask. Without replying a word the man jumped forward thrusting his palms behind and getting ready to strike his opponent. This was a total offensive stance – it was near impossible to counter or defend in that manner of attack so his attack must've been something to leave the enemy no chance at striking back, Mugao prepared his response, he thrust his now significantly shorter scythe forward slashing downwards trying to cut the Demon down, timing the attack just right. In an impressive leap over the scythe and his tall opponent Oni Mask landed behind Mugao.

Oni Mask's fingers twitched revealing string wrapped around them, the man violently jerked his hands forward stretching the strings out and revealing a loop on Mugao's neck that now cut tight into it and was strangling the man. Mugao tried to pull the steel string more at his side so that Oni Mask moved in closer and the grip of the wire loosened up a bit, it would've been quite useful in keeping his head on his shoulders too as the steel wire pulled at the extent of strength that Oni Mask did was quite capable of taking an entire limb off – luckily enough Mugao had the strength to keep that from happening.

"What speed… What variety of attacks and ways to kill an opponent. Kirigakure may have created the most dangerous human weapon alive…" the Sunagakure ninja wanted to step in to help but Kazekage's arm shot up to stop them. They were an absolute non-factor in this battle. All the more experienced ninja stood down, a single youngster turned around and started scolding his superiors.

"What are you doing? We must help Kazekage-sama! For how long you think he can keep this up!?" he shouted out when another Sunagakure ninja appeared behind him and placed him in an arm lock.

"It is true that we are all strong ninja, however at some point in one's experience it stops mattering just how many less skilled opponents come at you – it makes no difference. There is a level of experience when only a superior opponent can beat you and no number of even slightly weaker opponents can overcome. Even if we fought together with Kazekage we'd just get in his way – he'd have to incorporate us into his plans and strategies, inform us and coordinate his actions with ours – that'd keep him back. We've trusted Fourth to get this far, let's trust him to finish what he started as well." The shinobi said and released the youngster who looked at the battle taking place.

Blades shot out from under Kazekage's cloak, the blades wrapped around his chest making a skeletal structure – almost like a ribcage, then more and more shot out when one pair of blades cut the steel wire. Oni Mask instantly dashed back making some space. More and more constructions appeared from under Kazekage's cloak, it was like all of his puppets were now disassembled and being reassembled into a combined armor structure. One puppet became sort of like a puppet control panel and stuck onto the front, some more formed platforms that reminded of legs, some more formed into arms, other stretched out into a gigantic sword. With one last puppet forming into a helmet the entire armor construction was complete – a puppet fusion Iron Shogun was once again rebuilt.

"You must've really gotten desperate to use this." Oni Mask spoke up.

"What makes you think I didn't just now stop underestimating you, maybe I could've used this the entire time?" Kazekage taunted his opponent from inside the colossal Iron Shogun that was at least six times the size of the Demon.

"I was wondering why you didn't pull this out from the get-go, I think now that I've seen how it is built I understand…" Oni Mask smiled under his mask making it slightly shift forward and almost slip off by stretching out the rubber that held it tightly on the face.

The Iron Shogun didn't let Oni Mask talk, the giant armor lifted the sword up and thrust it forward cutting into the rock and opening up another fissure, also sending a crashing gust of wind at his opponent that cut through the rocky floor it passed and even cut every rock it passed through, with a roll to the side the Demon avoided it.

"A puppeteer uses chakra to control their puppets, more accurately – controlling each puppet is like a continuous technique of its own. When I saw the sheer number of puppets it took to build this… I'd say you have to strain yourself quite extensively to keep it up, manipulating such a complex structure must be difficult too, it must be a pain in the butt to use. It's not hard to put together that I just have to keep dodging your attacks and eventually you'd die of your own exhaustion, shall we try it, slowpoke?" Oni Mask taunted the giant set of armor, Iron Shogun leaped forward as flames shot out its feet propelling it like small rockets, Oni Mask rolled below the sideways slash of the giant blade and then unleashed his counter attack.

Lightning chakra passed through the man's palms as he bombarded the structure with strikes, using just his two fingers to penetrate the steel armor, the Demon leaped onto the construction and ran up it using chakra to keep his feet stuck on it. The Iron Shogun tried to catch the man but his speed by far surpassed it, Oni Mask got to the helmet, leaped into the air and stomped it a couple of times before landing behind the armor after kicking off of its head. The Demon then backflipped a couple of times in rapid succession to safe distance from the colossal set of moving armor.

"It is true that normally no blunt force could penetrate this chakra infused alloy of yours but… That's how force works – if I hit you strong enough covering a precise small area and don't let the force evenly distribute throughout your armor I can easily cut inside it, too bad my fingers aren't long enough to reach you in there…" Oni Mask spoke up as he stood back up. Iron Shogun also stretched out and took fighting stance. It was quite obvious that the large hulking armor was at a disadvantage – Oni Mask was fast enough to keep the armor in a safe range and just poke it away until he hit something that caused it to stop functioning or Mugao timed out and died of exhaustion.

The Iron Shogun turned his sword around and cut air again sending a projectile of cutting wind, Oni Mask once again avoided it and leaped forward. "Demon Kenpo!" he shouted striking the armor several more times but not even leaving a dent in it. Iron Shogun tried to swat the Demon aside but the Sannin just ran up the Demon's arm and leaped down on the other side over his shoulder within just couple of seconds. "It seems he can reinforce his armor with some additional puppets…" Oni Mask thought to himself leaping back a couple of more meters just to get some more safe distance from the Iron Shogun whom he had clearly underestimated.

A loud clanging echoed through the wasteland as the armor's gears turned again as it slashed to the side once again, this time however some more puppets shot out from the Shogun's back forming into spear-like projectiles handled by bunch of steel wire. Oni Mask was already in the air avoiding the wind projectile, once again having underestimated the Iron Shogun's offensive capabilities. The spears penetrated Oni Mask's body right through and tied him up after leaving it, the Iron Shogun swung his opponent around before slamming him into the rocky ground head first. The body that hit the floor dispersed into a puddle of water making the Iron Shogun angrily trample the ground in frustration.

"I don't think this armor is effective against me, it is a tool of outlasting your opponent, tanking any blow they throw but you are the one short on time. Leave this armor at once and give me an honorable victory, it's not as fun seeing you die slowly of exhaustion nor is it as easy for you as I can make it." Oni Mask suggested but he just heard a brief laughter that sounded so strange coming through the cybernetic voice amplifier. All of a sudden the rock beneath Oni Mask started feeling so light – the man's body started sinking in it as if it was…

"Sand?!" the Demon shouted out in surprise as his body sunk deeper and deeper underground.

"I may have anger issues but I wouldn't have stomped the ground unless I wanted to grind the rock into dust using the pulsing shockwave puppet units in my feet. They generate a chakra shield-like pulse within anything I stomp and utterly crush it, when they are not part of my feet I use them as shields as they can deflect a lot of attacks and break most weapons. If it can smite steel rock is a poor comparison…" the cybernetic voice coming from the Iron Shogun explained as the man once again stomped the ground sending another powerful pulsing shockwave through the rocks turning it into dust and putting tremendous kinetic shock on Oni Mask's body. "If he's hit by it most of his bones should be broken. Capturing someone like him would be pretty cool, I bet no other village has captured a Kirigakure Demon alive yet…" Mugao thought to himself.

All of a sudden an arm burst out of the grinded to dust stone. The Iron Shogun took a couple of steps back in shock. The arm then started digging the dust away and made the body almost swim out of the dust. The Demon couldn't stop shouting as his body stood – he was experiencing immense pain by using bones that were broken and that was pretty much all of them.

"This man can move even with most of his bones broken!? Can nothing stop him!?" one Sunagakure ninja shouted out in fear as he stepped back several steps.

Oni Mask collapsed onto his knees, then hit the ground. His pain ended just as suddenly as it erupted from the ground. Mugao kicked the chest of Iron Shogun out and leaped out from the puppet. He looked at the few of his ninja, one of them closed their eyes and concentrated on the collapsed man. "His chakra is… Weak… He's alive but he's shaving at the edge, if he'd be able to throw a punch at this state I'll eat my own tool pouch" the sensor replied.

Mugao fell onto his back, breathed in and out, he had never believed he'd met an opponent like this. He somehow thought so highly of himself this whole time that he believed that his own power placed Sunagakure among the other villages, after all – how could one best HIM? This fight showed him that the ninja world was vast and that it had all kinds of people. But most of all it made him love his fellow ninja even more. Mugao felt a cold refreshing wave of chakra pass through his body, there was still someone with the ability to heal among the survivors… Good.

"What will we do after this?" the man heard a voice of a friend, "Head straight for the Kage Summit, I want to see the face of this "Shirona" when she sees me bust down the door." Mugao laughed out before clenching to his painful ribs. It'll take an hour or two for this inexperienced medic to heal him at this rate but even the fact that he had someone like that in the first rate made him appreciate his people even more. They trusted him and they assisted him every step of the way – placing their lives on the line when needed, bringing him back from the jaws of death when they were needed, helping him right now. He was the leader of the best village in the world with the kindest and the strongest ninja, no young brat Mizukage has the right to try to take that away from him!

A crushed and grinded in the dust Oni Mask was blown away by a gust of wind, spinning around as the wind carried the dust away and spread it around.
The Modest Supersonic Warrior! by Captain Claymore
A cold howling breeze picked up a bunch of snowflakes from the ground and mixed them up into the fray of those that were already coming down. The clouds in the sky made the edge of the Land of Snow where the Kumogakure delegation was coming from extremely gloomy and dark. It almost looked like the place was on a completely different time zone, as if it was early morning hours in the Land of Snow where it was actually slightly past the midday. The constant blizzards and snowing that have pelted relentlessly at the faces and the very souls of the travelers have calmed way down compared to the degree they were terrorizing the delegation in the Land of Snow before. Still, the fact that snow was endlessly shaving off the last remnants of the shinobi patience made them happy to finally be close to leaving the accursed desert of endless snow and ice.

It was hard to tell clearly one ninja from another – all of them wore ponchos or hooded cloaks to shield them from both the cold and the snow. One of the hooded figures turned at another – a short feminine figure whose murky blue hair were visible even from the large hood she was wearing. "Raikage-sama, it seems like the worst is over. I still do not understand why we had to travel on foot? Locals make insane profits from caravanning people from one side of the Land of Snow to another. That's pretty much their most profitable profession…"

The woman's fingers emerged from under her poncho and she reached for the veil that protected her face from snow bashing into it. With a graceful movement the woman removed it and took in some fresh winter air and sighed. "Unfortunately you chose to accompany this lowly swordswoman to her goal, that you did. The likes of this lowly swordswoman do not deserve to traverse using the aid of caravans, that they don't. Disgraced swordsmen like this lowly one must walk their own cold broken roads with their own bleeding feet, I am very sorry that you had no choice but to follow me on that journey, that you did." Samaya Imasu was a very attractive young woman, possibly the youngest of all the Raikage and maybe even all Kage in general.

"I still don't quite understand what is so lowly about you, my lady, you are a great hero who was chosen by our people to lead after you took out a truly disgraced and lowly Raikage. Truly you should have more faith in yourself…" the cloaked bodyguard shrugged still looking curiously at Imasu. The woman was only the Raikage for over three months and she already made vast improvements to the way that the previous Raikage ruled. The Fourth Raikage – Afolabi Kimya was a promising leader. The boy was a ninja who basically raced through the ranks and entered the Kumogakure Spec Ops by the time he reached fifteen years of age. However when he was given absolute power he sort of caved in on the pressure and constantly abused his power, Afolabi constantly disappeared from the meetings and Summits only to be found ordering his villagers and entertainers around to "dance" for him or "give him all the food" off of their stalls. He was a boy that had far too much power and thought himself above everyone else because of it. For that reason when he discredited Kumogakure during the greatest Summit of all in recent times, after a blunder that nearly cost the peace of the entire Shinobi World and the unique relationship between Kumo and Land of Snow, Imasu herself drove her blade through the boy's heart.

Many people still felt like Imasu was a very controversial figure to be placed in the big chair but she was the best candidate. Afolabi almost cost the Country their peace openly offending every other Kage in the Summit and he played a dangerous game by outright demanding the friendly objects of peaceful offerings that Kumogakure and Land of Snow exchanged for generations as part of their numerous gentlemen agreements. Behavior like that could've cost far too much, the moment when Mizukage stood up to declare war Imasu plunged her blade through the boy's heart and fell to the ground begging the tyrant of the Mist to reconsider. It was only through sheer luck that blood of Afolabi pleased the tyrannical Daikon and a war was avoided… After that followed multiple years of trying to find the right candidate, while Imasu did the right thing ultimately in the eyes of the world she was very affected by the fact that she betrayed the man she swore to protect by killing him from behind. Her personality would've never allowed herself to become the next Raikage and it took long years of convincing for it to happen. So far the woman had been performing exceptionally well.

"Don't even bother… It's said that Lady Imasu has been raised and trained by Haoru-san of the Iron Country samurai – one of the swordsmen who wield the impossible God Sword jutsu. It is said that the man's training was so rough on the little girl that she grew up into the woman she is today… Just go with it." A man from the side spoke out loud, even Raikage herself heard it and she just giggled to her palm before gently rubbing her hands at each other to warm them up a bit.

"True… Master Haoru was a rather strict man but one has to be strict to educate a lowly loser like this one, that one does." Imasu replied looking at her men that surrounded her shielding the woman with their bodies just in case something went wrong.

Expected by no one white figures burst from the hiding of snow that perfectly concealed their white cloaks, men tossed a flock of kunai at every figure in the delegation which only had about fifty men plus the Raikage herself. Some of the men made it in time to react, some only blinked witnessing the kunai pop right before their faces before the assumed end. A couple of them didn't even notice the attack to begin with but this did not speak of their inexperience – all of these were most trusted men and some of Kumogakure's strongest ninja. If anything it spoke to the credit of the swift and stealthy Kirigakure Demons. They dove out of their holes and fired with pinpoint precision all at the same time – it was a perfect ambush, the infamous Blitzkrieg Assassination plan.

A loud chain of clangs echoed through the fields, then a sound of flapping poncho and light footsteps reaching the ground reached everyone's ears.

"My my… What a lowly failure, that I am…" Raikage spoke up spinning multiple kunai at her fingertips right in front of her men. "This lowly self only managed to pin some of the kunai and had to deflect the others, that she did… To think that this one had a whole second to react, that she had… Master Haoru would hit this lowly swordswoman's head into a tree stump and stomp it a couple of times, that he would." Imasu mumbled out in a tone only intelligible to herself and couple of men close to her. A younger ninja shook so hard in her shoes that her cloak slipped off of her shoulders.

"She caught most of the kunai and deflected all of the others using just her bare hands… I didn't even see her move!" the youngling kept shaking. Another Kumogakure jounin close to her laughed out and gave the young woman a thumb up.

"Never worked with Raikage-sama? This is her not even being serious… I don't know who these guys are but they are in a world of trouble." the man couldn't hide his own excitement. It was almost like he desired to see Raikage fight because it was a sight to behold.

The white cloaked and white masked assassins pulled out their kunai and took an offensive stance. "Fifth Raikage – Samaya Imasu, by the orders of Mizukage Shirona-sama you are to be executed. You may choose to surrender and have your men be spared if they swear loyalty to Shirona-sama – the soon to be Ninja Empress." One of the Demon's spoke up in a cybernetic altered voice which was supposed to further dehumanize the human weapons. The Raikage took several graceful steps forward and pulled her blade out showing her sheathed katana to her enemies by lifting her hand holding it to the eye level.

"There it is, Raikage's true strength!" one of the Kumogakure ninja shook with excitement and tried his best to keep his eyes on his idol, he knew it'd be to no avail – no one could ever see Imasu move, it was said by drunk story weavers that even Haoru blocked her attacks only by predicting them and not actually seeing them coming. Her speed surpassed even the eyes of world's strongest swordsmen. She was the pride of ninja – a kunoichi trained by samurai who surpassed her mentors even though her pride and ambition still needed work. At times it appeared like Imasu couldn't fathom her own strength herself.

Suddenly the woman plunged to the ground dropping her sword in front of her and pounding her head to the snow. "This lowly one surrenders, this one knows the Fourth Raikage had offended Kirigakure and if this lousy loser's life is the price we must pay for peace this one shall gladly surrender it but spare my men, that please do!" the woman kept bashing her head at the snow and ice beneath so strong that blood broke through and covered her lovely face. Ashamed and blushed her guard walked up to her and forcefully put Imaya on her legs and pointed at the assassins

"They're not here for that, Lady Raikage! They are here because Mizukage Daikon was succeeded by some other crazy tyrant! Please defeat them and let us move on to the Summit, Raikage-sama, we're already late because you decided to walk the whole time!" the shinobi pleaded, however as their attention turned to Imaya's blade it was no longer there, the back rows of the Demons were already passing it around. All of a sudden the Demons just leaped forward dashing towards the Raikage and her men. The Kumogakure ninja engaged the Demons and a violent clash erupted. Kumogakure was known for the strongest military in the ninja world but they were severely outnumbered in there. Even if the Kumogakure ninja were all experienced warriors fighting bunch of assassins on a battlefield of warriors, even if a single Kumo jounin surpassed a single Demon in sheer fighting prowess it did not matter having the difference of numbers in mind as none of the Kumo jounin had yet reached the stage where mere numbers didn't matter.

"Keep the sword away from the Raikage – she is a famed swordswoman so she must not get her blade!" the altered voices of the Demons spread throughout the bloody battlefield as the sword was passed backwards again and again.

"I see… So that is your plan then…" Imaya jumped around in place a couple of times as her katana was once again in her hands despite her not even appearing to have moved at all.

The Demons were absolutely stunned and overwhelmed by the woman's speed, "H-How fast… Is she?" one Demon stuttered before being cut down with a powerful gash opening up on his chest. Then another. All of this happened while the Raikage was absolutely invisible, this time it didn't look like she was standing still – she simply disappeared momentarily before a single Demon was effortlessly cut down and colored the snow with their blood.

"All Demons, focus on the Raikage, at this rate she'll pick us off in seconds!" a Demon commanded as all of the men started retreating from their murderous rampage slaughtering the Kumogakure men and all lunged at the Raikage at the same time. A powerful shockwave erupted as a deafening sound of steel clashing took the hearing away from every ninja on the field. Most of the Demons were shouting into their speakers asking what had happened but none of them could hear it. After a brief moment and more cloaked Demons joining the ranks of the beaten down on the snow with a strong beeping noise everyone's hearing returned.

"Was that some sort of a jutsu?!" a shinobi asked his comrade who looked at the cerulean haired swordswoman in a poncho and shook his head.

"No… Imaya-sama just clashed with every single Demon who attacked her and blocked the blows of all of them at the same time…" it looked like his friend struggled with believing such a statement but then after being reminded of just how fast the Raikage leaped around the battlefield dispatching of numerous assassins suddenly he found her clashing with each assassin momentarily after another much easier to believe. The assassins once again switched their targets and tried to cut down as many of the Kumogakure men as possible but… Somehow each time they tried to backstab the ninja their blade just hit an invisible wall – the Raikage made it in time to protect every single one of her subordinates in time. It was like she was omni-present and omniscient. It was like when the Raikage moved the time around her stopped.

That being said – this sort of fighting had its toll on the Raikage as she was seen breathing heavily and barely even lifting her sword off the ground for moments after moving. She barely had the time to counterattack the assassin's advances and only defended her own men. Raikage herself was supporting her men and not taking the center stage which was slowly becoming troublesome as none of her men managed to openly compete with the highly trained elite Demon Corps.

"Damn it, Raikage-sama! Stop protecting us and start cutting those bastards down!" one of the ninja yelled out after seeing what his leader was doing.

"But… This lowly self must protect those that she holds dear, that she does!" Imaya huffed out.

"Then cut all of them down so fast that we don't have time to get hurt!" another jounin challenged the woman, "If you cannot then you are a loser unworthy of your title!" it appeared like the man knew of the woman's personality and played his cards right. It was almost like at the very same moment three streaks of light lit up and set several assassins on fire on their bodies. As the Raikage's figure appeared behind the entire squad of assassins many of them fell down to the ground bleeding and covered with some sort of white fire that was crackling like lightning taking them over. "Light Step Style: Thunder Cat Paw!" Raikage mumbled to herself as she sheathed her sword and turned back seeing a significant majority of the men fall down on the floor covered with glowing white crackling light cuts that burned out like flame without air and left just the cut on the body of the men cut down.

"S-She's moving at lightspeed?" one of the Demon grunted out intimidated by the name of the technique.

"Don't fool around, no ninja can possibly be THAT fast. That is impossible! She's just really damn fast…" another assassin shouted out so most of his comrades could hear.

Imasu smiled, her body flashed almost instantly to the bodies of other Demons and she only appeared for a brief moment before drawing her sword and cutting them down so fast that it was questionable if by the time she appeared she was even there. More and more Demons fell down. "It's true! She does move at lightspeed!" as the ranks of the white cloaked assassins reduced they became visibly more intimidated.

"This? This isn't "Light Step Style", this is just "Quickdraw", this lowly self just runs really fast for a moment, that she does…" Raikage smiled more Demons tried to attack her but only hit an afterimage as the real Raikage barely even had to spend any effort to avoid the attackers' techniques. One by one more Demons fell as Imasu kept showing off what she called her "Quickdraw". Then suddenly she stopped.

"You see, this one trained with Master Haoru her entire life and only managed to master "The Three Steps", that she did. Step one is – Quickdraw Step, that it is." Raikage disappeared again appearing before an assassin momentarily before her hand blurred and the assassin fell down, this repeated in rapid succession multiple times as when the assassins tried to counterattack the woman simply wasn't there anymore. Then the Raikage reappeared where she stood when she explained her First Step.

"When this lowly swordswoman uses the Quickdraw Step, she moves so fast that while most trained ninja can follow her movement no body with some special technique can respond in time, that they cannot. In other words, you see this one but cannot respond. Then, there is Third Step, strangely enough while this one learned last, it is less useful than Second Step – Sound Step, that it is"

After the woman finished her speech the Demons weren't about to take the woman's assault, they quickly formed into a wall and made handseals in fast coordinated fashion "Water Style: Water Dragon Jutsu!" all of them shouted out in synchronized fashion sending countless dragon shaped waves of water towards where the Raikage was. The projectiles slammed into the spot completely decimating it and drilling through. All of a sudden the water that was made by the technique froze almost instantly. The assassins believing in their success just stood there and continued to wait to see Raikage's crushed body, their eyes could only feast on an empty decimated block of unsteady ice however.

"At this step as you probably have guessed – this one moves at the speed of light, that she does." A voice reached the Demon Corps as they turned around and it appeared like the embodiments of fear – the Demons were starting to understand fear themselves. Blood freezing screams of pain echoed through the field as numerous assassins fell down on the ground having been cut down in pretty much no time at all.

"It's a very flawed Step, that it is. The way Master Haoru sees it – this lowly loser moves so fast that for a brief moment – time stops, making this one move instantly. However when someone is as lowly as me and moves so fast, they are affected by very large increase of their own body mass which I have to compensate for by spending monstrous amount of chakra to keep my body moving. Also... I just like Second Step better, that I do." The woman kept talking, explaining her entire skillset to bunch of dead men, or at least so the Demons had thought. Imasu was not a woman who cared too greatly of the secret of her ability, she had no problem just telling people how it worked.

"Why! Why would you tell us all this!?" a Demon shouted out angrily, at this point he felt like a cornered animal who was ready to do something stupid because of how hopeless his situation was. Imasu smiled.

"It is simple, this lowly swordswoman has no problem about letting people know of her ability, that she does not. This one feels so miserable for killing one she swore to protect that this one deserves death, please! This one wishes you to challenge me and kill me so this one can die in peace and be redeemed of what this one did, that she does!" Raikage bowed her head slightly as her subordinates started yelling at her that this was not the time for that sort of sentiment.

"Flee!" the Demon grunted out angrily "We did not expect Raikage to be this powerful, if we keep fighting here we'll just die needlessly and if we join Mizukage-sama we can assist her in bringing this woman down!" the man ordered as the squad of Demons started to slowly retreat. Imasu took a Battojutsu stance and dashed forward. "Sound Step Style: Supersonic Draw!" she uttered under her own nose.

A powerful round burst of air roared and exploded violently sending the snow, ice and several trees forward at immense speed and grinding them into dust as the woman's impressive charge and drawing of her blade broke the sound barrier wiping not only the remainder of the Demon Corps out but also decimating the battlefield. Imasu breathed out heavily as she sheathed her blade. "W-What… The…" one Demon was still breathing and talking but it came out of immense effort and willpower. The cerulean haired beauty turned at the man.

"This is the Second Step – Sound Step, that it is!" Imasu smiled.

"She… Moved… At the speed of sound as if it was nothing!" a Kumogakure ninja shouted out in disbelief, another ninja shook his head.

"No. Her body only moved at half the speed of sound, she then suddenly stopped and transferred her force into her dominant drawing hand. It was the speed of her drawing the blade that broke the sound barrier which she further enhanced using chakra – she used a natural occurrence and kicked it up to a different level. It's easy to see why Raikage-sama favors this step – it makes her move much slower but it annihilates everything in her way, she doesn't even have to cut anyone, it's just the sound barrier being busted that crushes everyone close to her. That is the scary woman that is Amaya Imasu, the Fifth Raikage!"

Further away a blond man admired the destruction from afar. He reached for the blade on his back – the Executioner blade and looked at it. "Yes… This woman will do fine, she's just right to challenge us, under this kind of pressure we shall excel!" the man shouted out in excitement. Another Sannin was about to challenge a Kage!
Imasu's Pinch? Silent Killing Unleashed by Captain Claymore
The Fifth Raikage looked around examining the losses. Having the might and numbers of the attacking force in mind they were few, there were several casualties and multiple more injured but the injured ones were being taken care of. From the process of healing it appeared that the medical ninja had started treatment well during the battle – their trust for their Lady Raikage was that great that they were willing to leave their backs exposed. Imasu drew her katana and drove it to the ground kneeling by it as it tore through into the snow and ice. Wet and cold chills passed down the woman's body as the water soaked through her trousers and her poncho.

"This lowly swordswoman is sorry for all the casualties, that she is!" Imasu shouted out. Her heart was quite literally eating itself over every life lost. She was trained by some of the world's most potent masters and there she was letting someone die. That was unacceptable, how could these people even tolerate a woman like her as their leader was a complete mystery for the Raikage. A Kumogakure ninja stood up and walked up to the kneeling woman and patted her on the shoulder, "We'll forgive you this but just this once, now get up and do your job, Raikage-sama!" he gently replied. The man knew well that this woman needed to be spoken with differently, she always degraded herself and needed to be berated even more to get anything done. Such was the trauma on her feeble mind that training with Haoru – one of the four swordsmen wielding the God Sword techniques forged. A lifetime of traumatic experiences was not easily broken, still, seeing how she was the Raikage even as one handled Imasu the way she needed to be handled she still had to be respected which constantly made insults sound rather weird.

"Water Style: Water Trinity Jutsu!" a loud and low pitched strong male voice reached everyone's ears. Those that had enough time to look up and notice a bulky male in the sky falling down with his hands raised and a gigantic sphere of water above his head would've seen one of the three Kirigakure Sannin – Wakashi Moya also known as "Executioner of the Clouds". The man was called that because of his strong lower body and his style of combat which involved high and powerful leaps, acrobatic flips and having his gigantic Executioner's Sword in mind – he always cut people down from high above. The man was a handsome and well-built one – his body perfectly suited his great blade and he was a bit taller than the average individual which helped his muscle even up throughout his body. He had wild blonde hair and wore strange ragged clothes that gave him that certain "bad boy" vibe that most women loved, still, only the dumber and inexperienced ladies messed with this man when they saw him at the bar due to his wild reputation.

As the water sphere slammed into the area it exploded into countless bursting streams of water that soon formed crashing waves and flushed every tree and everything that wasn't deeply rooted into the ground. After the destruction ended the entire battlefield was covered with an even thicker surface of ice once again, this one by far surpassed the previous one that covered the ground due to the collective Water Dragon jutsu hitting the field. Strangely enough not a single person was hurt. All of them were tossed down rather rudely onto a higher hill where the destruction was less severe. It seemed that even the impossibly fast Raikage had trouble this time – while she didn't leave anyone behind she lost her poncho, the people were scattered around suggesting extreme haste and she was not even able to stand tall and was on her knees breathing heavily in front of the attacker.

"Samaya Imasu, I am the Kirigakure Sannin – Wakashi Moya and I intend to destroy you!" the man spoke with serious eyes but his lips couldn't help but twist slightly suggesting that the man was a bit excited.

"Is it because of this woman's – Shirona's orders? May this one perhaps at least know what this one had done to her to deserve her hatred? This one would like to know if there is something this one could do to perhaps fix that, that she would." Imasu asked before she finally broke through the fatigue and stood up clenching the handle of her katana and taking a fighting stance preparing to fight this man.

"Initially my orders were to kill you but even Shirona-sama seemed to have miscalculated your abilities. None of our soldiers even came remotely close to matching you and so the best course of action, having my orders in mind, would've been to rejoin with the Mizukage-sama and assist her in taking you down instead. However after seeing your power, Samaya Imasu… I see that you are an amazing woman and I am one who wanders through the bars every night looking for a good brawl. Not to fight you would be completely dismissing my ideals and that I could not forgive myself, your men can stay calm, I don't give a shit about weaklings like they are, you are all I want and I want you to just focus on me and not bother defending them!" Moya shouted out removing his Executioner's Blade and taking an offensive stance.

"You bastard, you keep talking about pride and wanting to challenge our Raikage but she just fought an entire army of elite Demon assassins!" one of the Kumogakure ninja shouted out waving their fist at the Sannin.

"You retards, those trash weren't the real Demon Corps. Had they been you'd all have been dead, they were normal soldiers dressed as the assassins in order to properly utilize their reputation, to instill fear into your hearts. Kirigakure doesn't throw their Demons around, you know, a single operative is worth more than an entire squad of ordinary ninja." the Executioner replied with a cruel smile.

"This one sees, that she does. Then it is alright. This one shall fight you, that she will!" Imasu responded.

Right as the words left her mouth the Executioner of the Clouds charged forward, swinging his gigantic blade. As fast and powerful as he was, by the time his swing was completed the Raikage was right below him having ducked under his blade and drew her sword cutting deep into the man's flesh and sending him upwards into the air. Just before the man fell down the Raikage sheathed her blade and drew once again from an upwards position slashing in an arc-like motion to crush her opponent's body into the ground. With a powerful shockwave emanating through the ice and the ice shattering making cold water cover the battlefield the Executioner was sent underwater. This must've been some cold shower for the man in both literal and figurative of meanings.

With a wild roar the man burst from the ice and charged at the Raikage kicking off of one of the floating ice platforms – he was incredibly fast for a man wielding the blade of that size. Imasu was completely caught by surprise by how fast the man had recovered and she used some of her speed to try and dodge the attacks but she slipped and fell into the water just barely avoiding getting hit. Moya laughed out and jumped back onto his platform.

"Be careful, Raikage-sama! Your speed might not be suitable for slippy surfaces like solid ice!" he shouted into the depths of cold water. The woman's hand shot out of the water and caught onto the icy platform dragging her tired and freezing body onto the surface. The woman removed her poncho as it slightly got in her way.

"Your skin… What was that when this one cut you? It was like it turned black and spikes emerged from it, that it did?" Imasu asked reminiscing a moment just before when two of her cuts hit the man but his skin hardened making him avoid getting cut and just getting thrown around by the force of the swing.

Moya turned his head to the side and spat out some cold water and then smiled at the Raikage, "That's for you to find out" he added as he leaped at the woman again. This time the Raikage had learned her lesson and didn't use any of her steps, she simply twisted her body sideways to avoid the crashing of the sword and while using the momentum of her movement drew her blade jumping up and cutting all the way from the man's groin through his stomach and deep into his chin. Only sparks flew out as the Kirigakure Sannin's skin once again dyed black and some weird spikes shot out from it, the sheer force of the blow still tossed the man's body up into the air.

The man recovered from the hit faster than the Raikage could follow her attack up as he swung his blade diagonally, the Raikage just barely avoided getting cleaved in half by flipping her body sideways. Then Moya slammed his sword downwards as if he was crushing the woman with a heavy object, while the Raikage's blade lit up with chakra and managed not to break her body was once again sent violently crashing through the ice into the manmade icy lake below. The water started washing the icy platforms away and they started crashing into the shores. The Raikage once again barely dragged her beaten and tired body onto the icy platform and started crawling further where there was no water. She was freezing and was beaten around so hard that it reminded her of the times when she trained with Haoru. While she was fast it didn't matter if she couldn't properly use that speed on ice, while her speed was an amazing way to easily cut people it didn't matter if her cuts didn't count and just slammed into whatever armor that man had on him.

"Step of Sound: Sonic Boom!" the woman shouted out as her voice revealed to anyone that heard it just how hurt and afraid she was. It took her only one strong and impossibly fast step, accelerating from nothing to half the speed of sound and then drawing the blade transferring the force. This technique was different than "Supersonic Draw", it did not involve the breaking of the sound barrier and enhancing that shockwave, instead it focused drawing the sword so fast that the air particles were pushed to fly faster than the speed of sound forming an actual sonic boom projectile – it traveled far and hit hard. The cannon of air shot forward violently tearing through the ice and throwing the water to the side splitting the whole lake and making the water leak outside its borders. Now the whole place again reminded of the desolated wasteland of ice and snow – the water and the solid ice surface was now gone!

Moya covered his body and bent his knees, his body once again dyed black but as the cannon wave of air hit him he realized that it won't help – his armor started cracking, as the air became so think that the armor couldn't even keep him on his feet the man's body was tossed around like a ragdoll and shot into a small hill and bashed into the rock. Any man would've been killed by such brute force, their skin and flesh would've been torn off from their bodies from the intense air pressure and yet… When the smoke and the whirlwinds of snow cleaned up a giant sphere reminding Imasu of a turtle being wrapped in its shell was etched into the icy hill. The woman slowly made her way forward – the strenuous workout from using her technique heated up her muscles a little bit and she could at least act like she's ignoring the effects of the cold.

A large armored tentacle shot out from the armored sphere and bashed into the hill sending the shell forward, in mid-air the shell reformed into the man that made it and that man mercilessly swung his sword – the woman tried to step backwards but the sheer size of the sword left its mark as a giant scratch from her left shoulder to her hip made her white out for a moment. Warm blood shot out from the wound but it somehow felt good, the pain didn't feel nearly as bad as it normally would have but to Imasu… It all just felt nostalgic! The man tried to follow up his attack by swinging again and again but the woman's incredibly agility made her body blur even in his eyes as she near effortlessly evaded every strike while looking the man right into his eyes angrily. Her stare secretly made Moya's heart freeze, it couldn't just have been the cold. Such terrifying killing intent!? Where could this woman have learned something like that?! What sort of monstrous power could those eyes restrain?

The man spun around quickly trying to cut the woman in half at her torso but her blade clashed with that of his own! How was this possible?! How could she so easily compensate the immense strength and size difference? "She leaped back and then charged forward converting her speed into force!" the Sannin realized thinking to himself of the woman's secret as his body was pushed back with immense force and his balance broke, the man's body once again turned into a giant rolling black turtle shell and rolled backwards before another tentacle shot out stopping it instantly in its path further from the woman. The shell reformed into a man and he charged to cut her again but then suddenly the man just stopped and dashed back as his heart filled with doubt – he didn't feel like his full potential was behind that strike! This killing intent of Imasu Samaya was inhuman!

"What's the matter? This one was preparing to respond, that she was, you broke this one's rhythm, that you did." Imasu's cold and bland voice reached the man's ears, it wasn't like before, it now reminded him of THAT man. Haoru of the Iron Country samurai who without breaking a sweat fought off all of the Kirigakure Sannin and proceeded to challenge the Mizukage! What could the Raikage have in common with that man? Wait… He said something back then…

"I don't know who this young chick is, but she is most certainly not Samaya Imasu, I myself taught the young girl swordsmanship and I know her speech mannerism too well. This person is a fraud which makes me assume the rest of you runts are too…"

Moya's memory flashed back to the Kage Summit hall. So this woman was taught by him, he was her sensei? How that possible? Didn't samurai hate ninja and refuse to involve themselves into ninja matters? Why would someone like Haoru even teach this woman? Moya had to know that, he sheathed his sword and straightened his body. "Hey! Please reveal to me why Haoru of the Iron Country samurai trained you? I can see a lot of his dark deadly feeling inside of you. You reek of the same sort of killing intent as he did."

Imasu stood into a drawing stance, her cold eyes looked into those of the Kirigakure Sannin's. "Your power brought back the memories of those days to this lowly swordswoman, that they did! I cannot allow those precious days to sink away so I'll be short. This one's parents died during the Second Great Ninja War, this one left the village to find a death of her own and this one would have since she wondered into the Iron Country by accident, that she did. Master Haoru thought that "this one had balls to waltz into this country" and said that "this one's hairy eyelashes amused him" so Master Haoru took this one under his wing as a student, that he did. This one was an experiment if a ninja could be taught the Bushido ways, that she was. This one has told you all there is to tell, that she has, let us finish this so that this one can settle matters with Shirona-sama and crush her hatred for this one. This one wants to fight her the most, that she does, so draw your sword!" Imasu shouted out.

The tone of this Imasu was different, it was not confident but it was loud, while she still spoke with the same tone and had the same strange speech pattern she had a certain shade of imposed aggression in her voice. Moya smiled and weaved multiple handseals. Suddenly a thick mist started to cover the surrounding. "Hidden Mist Jutsu!" the man's voice reached every ear in the surrounding area. The man's figure completely disappeared into the mist, not even his footsteps could have been heard and having the man's speed in mind he could close distance incredibly fast. A wild swing of the blade appeared right in front of Imasu's eyes but it only hit the mist and then the ground making icy rubble shoot out from where she stood moments ago. The Raikage had dodged the stealthy assault even if she had mere moments to react.

"This is the ancient secret art, a style of combat only taught in Kirigakure called "Silent Killing". It involves the hidden technique of "Hidden Mist Jutsu" as well as strenuous training to make one's footsteps completely disappear into the mist, you cannot hear me, you cannot see me, you cannot feel me or taste me – as far as your perception is concerned I do not exist until I wish for me to exist!" a voice with only an implied owner and no clear direction as to where it came from echoed through the mist inspiring fear in many hearts.

"But you can't see this one either, that you cannot!" Imasu responded to which only a laughter came as a response. The woman instinctively jumped forward avoiding getting cut in two but a wide cut opened in her back tearing through her leather jacket. It appeared that the woman's reaction allowed her to react and dodge while she was hit – the moment that the opponent's blade touched her skin cutting into it she dashed away drastically reducing the degree of injury. This was impossibly not only for ninja, parents never dared even weave stories of such reaction time in their tales but it didn't came easy for the Raikage – she had to stand still and concentrate into her perception completely, center around a single sense of touch and react to the slightest impulse of pain.

"While I do not exist to you, your existence is as clear as if it'd have been mapped out to me: your heartbeats, your breathing, the mist that you disrupt when you move around – a master of "Silent Killing" senses ALL of those things. They manage to focus on the other senses just as you've felt with your skin that my sword was coming from behind. That being said, for how long can you keep yourself from dying, avoiding my blows in the nick of time? Let us see how many times you must be cut before you break!" Moya shouted out, each sentence came from a different place in the mist making Imasu more and more desperate and confused. If she didn't come up with a solution fast she may actually have died in that mist!
Roar of the Three Tails! by Captain Claymore
The cold winter breeze that was around to deepen the cold and send it seemingly straight into one's soul was no longer around. The nature itself appeared to favor the Silent Killing user by making everything around the battlefield completely calm, not even a single breeze blew their way to assist by dispelling the fog. Imasu however actually preferred the calmer weather – she was soaked right down to her boots in chilling icy water and every breeze only reminded her that she desperately needs to push her muscles to their limits so that the risk of losing her limbs decreased.

"Did you know that one's speed and reaction time decreases when one is freezing? Do you feel it yet? How long do you think it's gonna be until the cold sets in?" Moya taunted the Raikage, the woman tensed her entire body to make the muscles keep the bloodflow going and shouted into the cold winter air. "Shut up and fight, that you must!" Right after loudly exclaiming her anger the woman dashed forward and drew her blade cutting into the fog only to hit absolutely nothing, the only thing that she cut was the mist itself disturbing the air. A loud laughter echoed from the mist.

"This is bad, speed is Raikage-sama's forte, without it she doesn't have much, her body is rather frail for a ninja of her level so if pressed hard she might just go down…" a Kumogakure ninja grunted out preparing a blade.

"Don't" another placed a hand on the shoulder of the other. "This man seems to value his one on one fair matchup, he believes that Raikage-sama can challenge him and he even holds himself back from attacking us so that Raikage-sama focuses on fighting him. If we attack and most likely fail to find him in all that mist… There's no telling what this man will think of, he may start cutting us down, he may feel cheated and just proceed to kill all of us. Let us trust Lady Imasu and stand down until we know that her loss is certain."

The other ninja looked angry that he was calmed down but it was quite apparent that he could see the reasoning behind the man's words and agreed to stand down. The ninja who were moved out of harm's way before and saved many times during the battle against the Kirigakure military force by the Raikage herself decided to place all of their trust in their leader. They knew that she had the means to beat this gust of wind. "What are you waiting for, Raikage-sama!? You're disgracing all of us, step up your lowly swordsmanship at once!" several ninja started hurling insulting cheers but everyone knew that this was the way to inspire their leader.

"This is bad, that it is… I could blow this gust away using the Step of Sound under normal circumstances but my muscles feel stiff from the cold and I'm not sure I can even pull it off…" Imasu thought to herself, suddenly she felt pain in her side, her reaction time and movement speed slowed down, she could no longer avoid strikes while taking minimal damage by moving away when the sword breaks her skin using her Steps. This was different, Raikage drew her blade and tried to push it into the way of the Executioner's blade. While she did take another nasty wound that spilled blood from her back, it also slightly warmed up the area that her blood bathed in. For just a moment Imasu could feel the muscles in her back – this was a chance. The woman dashed forward sheathing her blade and grabbing the handle strongly.

"Quickdraw Step!"

The woman dashed to the place she imagined the Sannin to be right after the strike had concluded, she even saw his figure, his shadow shining through the white mist. Using all of her momentary speed recovery that her own warm blood granted her the woman drew her sword using all of her strength and speed trying to cut the man down. Her body blurred and it would've been impossible for the man to respond even having his own impressive speed and abilities in mind. Useless… Only mist was cut and the smoky gas passed through the woman's katana getting sliced like a piece of paper. Another painful gash, this time in the front of her body – the man's figure was manipulated by the mist. What Imasu saw was just an optical illusion and when she missed her cut the man decided to use all of his power to quickly respond. Injured and breathing heavily Imasu staggered back, the woman moaned in pain and fell onto her knees with only her sword driven into snow holding her frame from falling down.

The young woman desperately clung to the gash that spat out more blood all over her body, her vision was starting to blur but… For this moment she felt warmer than ever before, she had only a couple of seconds before her blood cooled down and started feeling just as freezing as the air around her. She had to utilize it, she had no time to bleed out down on her knees while this man cut her down. Master Haoru would have never accepted such a disgraceful end for his only student. Imasu's leg shot forward, breaking through the snow and ice in sheer force and speed of her step, the woman's brave and powerful voice cut through the mist and reached even the ninja cheering on her from the sidelines.

"Sound Step Style: Supersonic Draw!"

A powerful shockwave blasted through the fog, like a much tinier scaled planetary bubble with lightning crackling all over it as it burst. A grunting shout followed right after the sound barrier was shattered and electrified as a male figure flew out of the mist and slammed into another icy hill busting it down and equaling it to the ground, then flying through multiple other hills. The Raikage sheathed her sword and breathed out, she looked at the man and tried to determine just how far he had been tossed away, she looked back at her comrades.

"This lowly one… Needs help… That she does…" she mumbled out and then fell on her knees, then face into the snow. Multiple medical ninja rushed to the young woman and started treating the cuts on her body. She had lost a lot of blood and had quite nasty injuries.

"Wow… Those wounds aren't even… What are those other scars!? They're horrible!" a medical ninja shouted as his colleague silenced him

"Focus, we may not have much time until that man recovers! The sensor said she could still sense his chakra!" she yelled out.

"Yes, ma'am." The younger medical ninja nodded and his glow intensified. "We need to do something about her hypothermia."

"Please do not bother, that you don't" Raikage grunted out through pain, "This one channeled Lightning Release chakra into that last technique, the sheer intensity of that technique will have to keep this one going for a while, that it will. This one plans to finish it soon before the cold kicks in, that she does. Please be fast and then move away from danger, that please do!" the woman ordered, no, her tone sounded more like a request than an order. Samaya Imasu's ordering tone still needed work. Loud footsteps through cracking ice alerted the medical squad of the Sannin making his way back to the battlefield, each of them reported when they finished their work and bolted before the fight reignited again.

The woman stood up and sheathed her blade, she was far from being completely patched up, this was just the essential field medical work that was needed so that she did not die in the middle of the battle. Imasu had already started to feel her life slowly fading away after that last charge, after her training days with Haoru she had never used so many of her "Steps" in such rapid and constant succession. She was really exhausting herself here, just how much more her body had was unknown. The Raikage pressed harder a black round pill in her hand and tossed it into her mouth chewing it quickly, the bitter and pepper-like taste made her frown but she felt some of her chakra bumping up. The medical ninja used these food pills, apparently a body never used all of the chakra it potentially could, some was still left over in one's system but it was essentially useless. With a little push it could have been expelled to temporarily boost one's chakra reserves. This pill that one of the medical ninja slipped into her palm was a life saver, she could now use her "Steps" several more times and be confident that she won't pass out.

"I see, you're using emergency tactics, medical ninja and food pills…" Moya noted swinging his giant Executioner's blade around his head and placing it on his shoulder.

"You've used help of another this whole fight, this one did nothing that dishonored her, that she did not!" the woman responded by standing in an offensive battojutsu stance.

A loud almost manic laughter echoed through the icy ruined battlefield. "I see, so you've figured me out, huh? Perhaps I shouldn't hold it back in that case?"

Imasu's hand shot forward, her eyes were filled with panic fear, "You fool, stop, that you must! You'll kill everyone, that you will!" she yelled out at Moya who just laughed out.

"Don't worry, I'm not that stupid, although if you kill me you do know what'll happen, right? Even if you knock me unconscious… That thing starts acting up on its own, I swear to God…" Moya laughed out again. He seemed to enjoy the fact that the swordswoman had figured out what he had inside of his body this entire time.

"That is good for this one, that it is. After this one killed the Young Lord this one doesn't like killing all that much, that she does not. This one will just have to take the risk and knock you out, that she will!" Raikage shouted out as she charged forward. "Quickdraw Step!" she chanted out as her sword clashed with that of Moya's but her sheer speed that transferred into the katana at the point of impact made a powerful shockwave that pushed the gigantic blade back, unable to keep its weight the Sannin had to let go of it as his own body slammed into the blunt side of his Executioner's Blade.

"Light Step Style: Instant Murder!" Imasu shouted out as time itself froze for a moment. Moya had nowhere to go – his back was against his blade that was etched into ice and he was open for striking. After just a moment of frozen time the man just coughed up as seven deep gashes opened on his body, his eyes rolled back and the force of Imasu's seven light fast battojutsu slashes, that all happened in an instant while to everyone else the time appeared to have frozen still, sent the Sannin crashing through his own blade that got cut in two. As the man's body lifelessly hit the snow the steel of the blade clung together and repaired his blade.

"S-She… Killed the Sannin…" Kumogakure ninja started mumbling around as Imasu sheathed her sword. "No! Lady Raikage only kills when there is no other choice, I don't really know what they were talking about previously but she clearly didn't want to kill him, she struck all non-vital areas but she still knocked the man out…" another Kumogakure ninja replied as he kept his eyes peeled and watching the battlefield since he himself still could not believe in what was happening.

All of a sudden crimson bubbling chakra started erupting from the man's body, the man's fingers elongated and his skin started darkening, spikes started growing in random spots of his body – the Three Tails inside of him was starting to take control of the man's unconscious body!

"So you decided to come, that you did…" Imasu sighed as she prepared to attempt to fight off the awakened Jinchuuriki who was completely taken over by his beast. "The Three Tailed Turtle... Come." she finished her taunt as the man's long fingers started clawing at his own stomach tearing his leathery outfit apart and leaving the man topless. The red chakra cloak formed into the shape of a round sphere that was surrounded by tentacles, it appeared that despite using partial transformation in a midst of battle this man had not yet mastered his relationship with the beast and after his defeat the beast only awakened halfway.

"This is… An awakened Jinchuuriki!" everyone started panicking and everyone started looking for safe spots, only few remained where they stood and continued to observe the battle below – against a man carrying a Tailed Beast inside of him there was no safe place to hide oneself in. The man roared loudly into the air with a demonic and beastly voice as tight aerial shockwaves ruptured the ice and made the Raikage slide and stumble back shocked by the sheer pressure of the air around the awakened Jinchuuriki. The beast's lifeless white eyes looked at the woman in front of him and… It disappeared.

Within less than a second the Jinchuuriki reappeared right in front of Raikage's face clashing its chakra tentacle with her blade. Had the Raikage not covered her blade with thick and controlled stream of chakra with every cut her katana would've shattered without any contest. This chakra was immense! The awakened cloaked Jinchuuriki disappeared again, with a loud roar it appeared right behind the woman making a giant aerial shockwave that combined the force of its movement after instantly stopping and the force of its roar sending the woman flying. Suddenly the chakra tentacle flew right at Imasu, with a draw of her blade the woman deflected it and pushed it to the side. Then the tentacle hit again, and again, more and more of chakra appendages started erupting from the Jinchuuriki's cloak as they continued to try and break the Raikage's guard and overwhelm her with these intense blasts that started to approach the speed and intensity of an automated weapon.

The woman's hands blurred as well, she was deflecting each and every blow and doing so successfully, skipping none of them because skipping even one may have meant death. The cloaked enemy tired itself out just as suddenly as it exploded into its rampage and the barrage of chakra tentacles stopped, Raikage's body landed on the ice and her hands instantly dropped the blade and weighed her body down. The woman was breathing heavily. The beast roared loudly into the air, now the Raikage's figure completely vanished into thin air and reappeared several meters further from the Jinchuuriki. The woman sheathed her naked blade and turned around, "Light Step Style: Lightray" she chanted right at the same time as the Jinchuuriki's cloak lit up with a powerful shockwave and blood shot out from the Jinchuuriki's body and the entire body got sent down.

It took the beast a couple of moments to stand up and after it did the Raikage witnessed that the giant cut mark that she left on the man's stomach was completely healed up. The healing looked strange, it appeared like the man's injury got burned up as his skin tore off and it looked like it got healed with heat of some sort since the edges of the wound looked burnt up. The cloaked monster roared loud into the air and started thrusting its tentacles once more at the same speed as it did before, now as the tentacles passed through the ground they left awesome craters and completely demolished the icy hills that they hit, however with a flash of bright light the woman avoided each strike, it seemed like the beast was only cutting at an illusion, a figure that burst into blinding light after getting struck. Not a single tentacle once again touched the Raikage. The woman's figure appeared in the air, the beast cocked its hand backwards to crush the woman with another chakra tentacle.

"Light Step Style: Lightray Crash!" the woman's voice shouted out as her body was already behind the monster as another injury lit up and spat out more blood, the force of the impact of the blade passing through was so intense that it not only cut through the chakra cloak and opened a giant gash but also turned the body of the awakened Jinchuuriki around, the beast raised two tentacles and their chakra conjoined together forming a giant mace-like structure of crimson chakra that hit the ground, still it only crushed ice sending shards of ice around but the woman was too fast for the enraged and mindless beast to even land a blow on.

"Light Step Style: Lightray Flicker!" another sword technique came at the Jinchuuriki as the Raikage's body flashed through it flying incredibly low and almost touching the snow on the ground, the intense speed of her movement sent the snow to the sides as the woman dashed through leaving a giant wound in the back of both of the Jinchuuriki's legs. The sheer power of the fast movement also made the beast lift up into the air and spin fast in place. Imasu's body appeared right in front of it in an instant, "Quickdraw!" she chanted again by drawing her blade and crushing the Jinchuuriki's body right back into the snow. The beast only roared out a pitiful cough of pain as blood shot from its mouth and its opened wounds.

The crimson chakra cloak withdrew inside of the Jinchuuriki's body, that must've been all of the power that the Three Tails would bother to lend him in the man's weakened state. Imasu sighed and sheathed her blade collapsing on her back, "That food pill saved my life…" she thought to herself as medical ninja once again flocked around her and started healing her up.

"This one must have words with this Lady Shirona, that she does!" Imasu spoke with a painful tone, several younger ninja laughed out. The incredible strength of this woman prevented many casualties and only several ninja died while facing an entire squad of Kirigakure military. Such outcome was nothing short of miraculous and the amazing skills of this woman were to thank for this miracle!
Kirigakure Military Crushed?! by Captain Claymore
Powerful and confident steps tore through the overgrown parts of the Kusagakure forests. Men and women of Iwagakure were quite firm, strict and always to the point. Usually they took no luxury of enjoying their surrounding especially now that the surrounding was so completely different from their home. Iwagakure was a place where winds from the mountains carried rains of small rocks, a rocky country founded in a sweet spot surrounded by mountain ranges that provided natural protection. This ancient strategy of finding a safe place to live in an eye of stormy and sky high mountains worked – even the Lightning Lord found his safe-house in the surroundings of the Inari mountain range in the Lightning Country desert.

The lands of the Grass village were completely overgrown, once in a while the thick and endless forests ended but only to reveal a giant ravine. For a first time traveler the entire landscape would've probably started to remind more of "land of ravines" or "land of bridges" as grass was a rather unimpressive detail to make a name out of. The dense forests that one wouldn't have been wrong to call a jungle were unrivaled by any other country. Still, the bare-chested figure of a middle aged man with overflowing white hair and blood red facial tattoos encouraged his men to walk faster and make wider and more confident steps the more the jungles of Kusagakure resisted. It seemed like no tree branches and no insects even hurt the man or bothered him at the very least. His step remained firm and strong no matter for how long he walked.

That would've been the man's downfall as with one loud slurping and breaking sound he stepped into some strange stony construction built from rotten wood. The Kaguya man curiously stared at the round hive that he had stepped into as his men lost all of their cool.

"Oh no, run, Tsuchikage-sama! These are the infamous Kusagakure killer hornets!" the men started shouting as swarms of the insects covered the already brief patches of visible sky and made the entire forest area black. Their buzzing sounded almost like some sort of intricate machinery working at full power. These were the killer insects that a clan of insect using mercenaries had discovered and used to their full extent during the war. While their usage of these hornets was relatively successful the insects were rather uncontrollable even using their own pheromones and were known to rebel and attack even their own masters. Iwagakure had enough trouble in the war as it was, the last thing they needed was a clan of idiots sending hornets that were just as likely to attack their own men as it attacked the enemy… That period was shameful to Iwagakure history as it was back then during the warring days that the country slipped into hardships.

The hornets kept trying to sting the Tsuchikage, thousands of the hand sized insects trying to penetrate his skin. None of them prevailed, with each bite the insect just fell powerless to the ground as their own mandibles gave in and shattered. The man known as the Tsuchikage just arrogantly watched as the problem of the overly aggressive swarm of killer hornets just killed themselves trying to leave a dent in the man's skin. While his clothes did give in and the insects left many holes not even a scratch remained on his skin, it was almost like an autumn leaf had fell on the man's skin – it felt like a tickle if anything else. "Well… I guess the stories of these insects were widely exaggerated, let's go men, it's safe now." the Kaguya turned back at his men who kept staring at the man.

Despite the men having endless opportunities to know the man's seemingly infinite strength and durability they ended up surprised each time. In so many years of this man's presence in the leading position not a single time he felt challenged by anything – the knives of the assassins broke when plunged into his chest, the man won every wrestling tournament of many that he himself organized to improve the bombing Iwagakure economy. At some point those tournaments just ended up being "who can last the longest against the Tsuchikage" sort of competitions as no wanderer from any country managed to challenge the man properly.

Kaguya Yaban seemed to be the perfect leader for the sinking ninja village. During the war Iwagakure initially seemed as sort of a top dog, over the times of peace they have assembled a powerful military and kept sending overpowering numbers of ninja into each battle. They also did not lack skill – their men were toughened by living in the mountains where the air was scarce and rains of rocks were constant. Even the housewives of Iwagakure could've won some of the battles. The problems started when Iwagakure sensed their success – they started overextending and abusing their early successes. The overzealous country sent immense military force to compete for even the least important patches of territory and least strategically important military objects. While Iwagakure scored many successes, the Third Tsuchikage did not put into consideration what toll his extensive military exploits had on the economy.

Iwagakure was a country that lived off of natural resources as the mountains were not the best soil for farming. Their entire income came from what they could find in numerous mines and what they won in the war, also tributes from weaker villages nearby like the Kusagakure where the delegation was now travelling to the Kage Summit. When Iwagakure started to feel arrogant and wanting to feel the thrill of victory in every battle they managed to piss off every country, suddenly Iwagakure troops started appearing even in petty battles against two other villages. The villages started increasing their production of military technology as well and then Iwagakure started struggling to keep up. They also overextended and exhausted their mines draining them empty of iron and other minerals, even more, Iwagakure's infinite supply of gold no longer mattered because no country felt like trading with the arrogant war dog that felt obliged to involve themselves in every battle.

As the war progressed Iwagakure found itself more and more reliant on the gold they mined from their mines, countless accidents made even that exploit increasingly difficult – cave ins happened day after day as with the increasing digging quotas came lack of basic carefulness, endless gas leaks happened choking down every miner in the section, as quotas increased explosives started getting used for mining gold and sadly greedy ninja were not the best handlers of hazardous and subtle tools like explosives. Soon Iwagakure closed off their last veins of gold under endless rocky chambers of gas and vast layers of varied minerals and rocks piled on them. It would've taken too much to dig the obstacles out of the way and Iwagakure lacked both the manpower and resources to fund such a project – the war started choking the village and soon the entire Earth Country down. Not to mention that when devoting one's entire manpower to war not that many miners remained, while Iwagakure treated every loss of countless miners in careless accidents as "nothing to worry about" they started running out of human resources very soon. Luckily the Earth Lord withdrew from the war before the Tsuchikage would employ children and women in the mines. The terms of peace treaties were even crueler, like countless daggers all striking at one's side at once, bleeding the arrogant country out.

After the death of the Third Tsuchikage the current one stepped into his place – a confident young ninja who was too young as a chuunin to be employed in the war so he lead the mines. As the incredibly strong ninja and a great patriot Kaguya Yaban saved many ordinary men from the mines and earned the love and adoration of all: men for being such a great symbol of manliness, women for being such a model beefcake and bringing their husbands home, children for being an icon of heroism and being the man who brought their fathers back home and also worked his oversized muscles off to gather enough gold so that their parents had enough to buy bread for dinner. He was the hero of the people so if the already hated Ninja Council decided to elect another there'd have undoubtedly had been a revolution. Unlike Kumogakure, Iwagakure never had to regret such a hasty decision to choose a young and powerful ninja as the successor of leadership – Kaguya Yaban was the perfect Kage.

"I don't get it… Why didncha cut those buggies down with yer bones, Tsuchikage-sama!?" a chuunin scratched his head making his bandana slip off, the man just cursed and picked it up carelessly slapping it back onto his head.

Yaban started sulking and turned away curling close to the nearby tree. A fellow ninja that knew the Tsuchikage since the mining days punched the back of the chuunin's head making his bandana slip off again and forcing the ninja pick it up and put it on again. "Ye fool, Tsuchikage-sama may be a Kaguya but he doesn't possess the Shikotsumyaku bloodline, that's like… Most of the clan's members that don't, why did you think he had that ability anyways?" the man asked his comrade who just laughed out and scratched the back of his head.

"Oh… Sorry, sorry… I just… You know… Thought since Yaban-sama is the Raikage… And a Kaguya… Well…" the white haired hunk stood up and looked back at his subordinate, he no longer looked that depressed after being reminded that he did not possess the bloodline, he just gestured that the men kept on moving.

"Tsuchikage is a bit depressed about subject, he always felt like he was a loser for not inheriting the bloodline. That's why he worked extra hard, that's why the guys back during the mining days during the Second Great War looked up to him – he had the ancient heritage of the Moon People but he was just the same as you and I and he achieved everything he did not because of some bones shooting outta his body but because he just worked the hardest out of all."

The Tsuchikage looked back angrily and once again encouraged his men to keep on walking. Right after that another ravine opened up – larger than the others before this one. The men couldn't help but sigh as walking over those ancient bridges every time felt like they were gambling with their lives. The men stepped onto the bridge and kept walking – this bridge was also the firmest of all they stepped onto before, probably because it covered the longest ravine so it had to be the greatest and the best in terms of construction. As the men made their way to the halfway of the bridge a loud blast echoed, the ninja looked back to the beginning of the bridge, then to the end and witnessed the most horrific thing – the start and the end of the bridge blew up, with an immense shaking the bridge started plummeting down to the abyssal ravine the end of which was completely invisible from the top.

As the bridge disappeared down into the endless hole, ninja gathered around the each end of the bridge, they wore camouflaging cloaks and Kirigakure headbands and looked down. One of them reached to his ear and contacted someone using his earset, "Please tell Mizukage-sama that it is done – Tsuchikage and his delegation are disposed of! So strange, this was just too easy… Wait a sec." he spoke as a loud rumble alerted the ninja, they looked down into the bottom of the abyss and noticed an unintelligible shadow below that was quickly approaching them. As it quickly dashed through them the men all stumbled backwards, what appeared from the end of the abyssal fall was… The entire bridge that had plummeted down with one man seemingly levitating and holding the bridge with the men from below. "Weightless Boulder Jutsu…" the Tsuchikage spoke as it didn't seem like this bridge at all troubled him, the men all leaped from the bridge to confront their attackers to the other side where the end of the bridge was. As the Iwagakure delegation engaged one half of the military force the Tsuchikage just tossed the entire bridge at the other crushing that entire part and making large chunks of the entire rocky forest to plummet down below. He then turned around and focused his attention on the Kirigakure military.

"Men, scatter! I'll take care of them all." he said as the men all dashed backwards concealing themselves in the forest. The Tsuchikage kicked his body off of the air and dashed forward diving into the entire squad of ninja. One brave Kirigakure shinobi jumped off and decided to punch the Tsuchikage right in the face as he dashed at them seeing how the Kaguya was wide open. As the man's fist collided with the Tsuchikage's face a loud cracking sound made everyone around that area pout in disgust, the man screamed pathetically as he fell to the ground clutching his shattered arm. The Kaguya stomped the ground sending powerful shockwave and making the entire area start slide to the abyss below. Quite a lot of Kirigakure ninja fell to the ground crying out in pain as their leg bones were busted by the impulse that passed through the dirt being transferred into their lower bodies as it passed through. Those ninja all started falling into the abyss below, many others retreated further into the forest.

The Tsuchikage moved incredibly fast dashing through the forest and appearing near several ninja running in pairs and knocking them out just by slamming into them. Then the white haired hero slammed the ground a couple of more times sending shockwaves and opening up fissures that swallowed smaller squads whole and knocked even more ninja down busting their legs. Two powerhouses of the Kirigakure military dashed up to the Kaguya who avoided their punches and then grabbed their arms lifting the men into the air as if they weighed nothing, he then swung them around as he jumped up and drove his knees into both of their backs finishing the men off instantly as they fell lifeless to the ground.

"What incredible strength!" a Tsuchigakure ninja gulped in awe, "So this is the strength that Tsuchikage acquired mining in the great gold mines?" he asked a fellow shinobi who just shook his head.

"What you see here isn't just physical strength. Yaban-sama was not only missing his clan's signature bloodline, he was also very bad at ninjutsu. That did not stop him though, he trained hard and increased his chakra pushing his body and powering his physical state as well." The man began explaining, as he did the Tsuchikage kept flashing through the battlefield knocking out one small squad of Kirigakure ninja after the other without even breaking a sweat just by dashing into them.

"So Tsuchikage-sama is like Chestnut Hanasaku of Konoha then? Has he somehow figured out her secret? After all even if one enhances one's physical attributes by just increasing their chakra level there's a heavy limit to everything, one that uses a jutsu to enhance their physical abilities will always best one that strengthened them naturally by increasing their overall chakra levels, right?" the first one asked still cheering on his Kage who got hit to the face with a katana only for the chakra enhanced blade to shatter into smallest bits. Many more ninja tried to punch and kick Yaban but all of them collapsed to the ground rolling on the floor with broken bones. Even those that became powerful taijutsu specialists by training their chakra and increasing their physical limits to new heights couldn't handle hitting Yaban, leave alone being hit by him.

"No… Yaban-sama realized that this method that is common among taijutsu users will only take him this far. He went against his genes and started busting his body by training the secret Tsuchikage technique of boulder weight manipulation. All the leaders of the village were masters of this technique, all of them brought something new to the mix, Yaban-sama didn't want to become the leader – he just wanted to master the technique because it was in his way. After all, if he mastered what he was born without the ability to use that meant he could also break the known limits of the primitive strength boosting methods… While he did not realize his goals and break the chakra level strength boosting limits, he did raise the Weightless Boulder Technique to new heights. What you see before you is… A man who had combined natural strength and the ability to change an object's mass in mere moments. He can fly by making himself weightless, he can lift a mountain if he wants to by making the mountain weigh nothing and then undo his own technique after tossing it. It is safe to say that Kaguya Yaban became the strongest man alive…"

As the two ninja exchanged their admiration for the Tsuchikage the man just about finished up with the entire squadron of Kirigakure shinobi. The man dashed around the battlefield beating the men up, sending them flying with mere flicks and sometimes restraining his punches and just unleashing flurries of blurring punching combinations onto one man completely overwhelming them. The man's strength was not what was impressive, it was his perfect absolute control over his ability – one moment he could punch as strong as a hammer, the next one he could punch the man so high that he reached the sky and disappeared in the clouds. The Kirigakure ninja started retreating but none of them really stood a chance, Kaguya Yaban was just faster, stronger and in control of the battle the entire time. Had Mizukage Shirona decided to send the entire Kirigakure military at him he'd have likely destroyed it all. And yet still, as completely overwhelming as Kaguya Yaban was… He was holding back and it was evident.

Finally with the final dash close to the last enemy shinobi the Kaguya left the man spinning around from the intense speed that the Tsuchikage used to fly past him. Then the man simply landed from above pounding the man into the head and driving him deep into the Kusagakure soil leaving just a black hole as no one really knew where the shinobi ended up in. The entire Kirigakure military force sent after the Tsuchikage was destroyed! Suddenly a brown and golden flash blurred through the dark thickness of the Kusagakure forests. A man in a brown trenchcoat and shoulderlength golden hair appeared right in front of Kaguya Yaban cocking his hand backwards for a punch.

"I've got you, Tsuchikage bastard!" the man with a black watch cap yelled out enthusiastically thrusting his powerful hand forward aiming right at Tsuchikage's face.
"I Can Lift Any Weight" by Captain Claymore
As fist of the mysterious attacked collided with Yaban’s forehead a powerful shockwave made the grass bend down and tore leaves off of the trees around, any Iwagakure ninja that were close to the vicinity of the impact were tossed backwards from the sheer force of impact. The others nearby just stood there shocked and overtaken by awe, both feeling threatened by the unexpected appearance and incredible power of this man and also shocked that the Tsuchikage was hit point blank with such an impact. This was no sword or an assassin’s knife, this hit would’ve made a small mountain crumble, it was enough to crush rocks with.

The man who threw the awesome punch just stood there and laughed at himself, his strange cocky facial expression combined with his somewhat rugged and bratty attire and haircut as well as his lazy stubble made the man look like some sort of village drunkard. As the man opened his mouth it still sort of reeked of alcohol but it felt more like an after effect which only made it smell a thousand times worse. Only after a couple of moments did the man’s coat finally catch up to his static state and the back end of it finally touched the ground. The blond haired assailant just kept staring at the Tsuchikage waiting for the man to flip over and die from getting his by his fist right at the center of his skull.

“Well…” suddenly the Tsuchikage spoke up, his tone implied that he was questioning the man’s actions, “I keep waiting for you to finish your attack but you’re just standing there and laughing like an idiot… Am I to take this is it then?” Yaban asked politely wiping the cocky smile off of the assailant’s face as he dashed backwards and cracked his knuckles.

“Darn it! I thought I had you this time…” the Kirigakure attacked smiled and wiped his nose playfully with his thumb.

“I must say your punch improved in those four years, perhaps now I can attack you without feeling bad. You look like you’ve toughened up, I’m sure you can take it…” Yaban replied straightening his body up and answering the assailant’s cocky stare with a cold one of his own.

“This will be nothing like back then during my Ninja Tribunal! This time I’ll leave you beaten up and bruised in a pool of your own slobber!” the man shouted out thrusting his fist at the Tsuchikage who did not even honor this claim with a reply.

“Am I missing something? Who is this man?” an Iwagakure ninja asked his colleague who just raised his finger up to his lips and silenced his friend whispering back his answer.

“This is Namikaze Joki, a Kirigakure Sannin, the only Sannin in the history to have a Ninja Tribunal case against him during his time as a Sannin and the only one to have spent time in prison. Tsuchikage-sama took part in his Tribunal session himself and Joki tried to escape the Tribunal by attacking the Council of Ninja that were judging him, Tsuchikage-sama brutally beat the man down and left him completely broken. Still, for someone to survive being punched and tossed around by Tsuchikage is an impressive feat.”

A black flash blurred as the Tsuchikage lunged forward at his opponent having decreased his weight to make it easier for him to move faster. The man threw a punch only for the Sannin to dodge it completely, then the Tsuchikage followed up with another blurred combination of punches and kicks, each of them packed so much force that even as they missed the air that Yaban’s attacks split hit the Sannin’s clothes and pushed him backwards, only because of his strong body did the blonde manage to stay on his feet during this attack. Joki never even tried to block a single hit, he knew better than that, must’ve been experience speaking.

“You picked up your speed as well old man… Gonna teach me how to do that?” Joki taunted his opponent as he threw another powerful and focused punch. Tsuchikage did not even try to move out of its way and let it just hit his nose. The man’s feet dug deep into the dirt as Yaban’s body got buried into the soil halfway throwing dirt and tree roots away as rubble. A slight stream of blood ran down Yaban’s nose – this man managed to somehow pass through Tsuchikage’s impenetrable body. The white haired powerhouse just grinned with half of his lips.

“It’s simple, speed increases your weight – the faster you move the more your body technically weighs, some ninja compensate this by intensifying the flow of their chakra to “armor up” their bodies and protect their bones from being crushed, I just decrease my own weight using the “Lightweight Boulder Technique”.” Tsuchikage’s legs burst out of the dirt as the man dragged himself out from the ground and landed further away. He still had that confident smile that his opponent had as well, at that early point of their meeting both combatants equally believed in their chances of success.

“Quid pro quo, could you tell me how exactly you’ve powered up this much? Last time we “fought” you were just slightly stronger than your usual Jounin and to top it off you had no ninjutsu potential whatsoever. Now you’re like a completely different person, I actually felt that punch, then again, I only barely boosted my own weight.” Tsuchikage asked. His opponent took off his cap and tossed it aside letting his shoulder-length golden hair flow freely.

“When you left me I was battered and broken, I had more bones that were grinded to dust than solid ones and that was just from one thrust of your palm. Naturally that was not a good state to be sent to prison in… You’ve no idea how much I suffered. I was beaten and kicked around many more times in there. I saw the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst and had to get my feet deep into shit to finally kick myself off and start swimming up. You ask me how I managed this? Simple. Kirigakure Correctional Facility is called “The Zone”, it has that certain tradition – inmates fight until the warden says he’s satisfied. For exchange they lose some time off of their punishments.”

Tsuchikage closed his eyes and turned away, then breathed in heavily and opened his eyes, “Don’t they seal your chakra in prisons?” he asked. Joki’s fist shot out in front of the man’s ripped black shirt.

“That’s right, they do. That’s the catch – no one can keep a streak going, the one who loses gets the years that are “shaved off” of the winner. Since no one can use chakra it’s just pure fisticuffs where only talent and skill matters.”

“In other words, not a world you would do well in…” Tsuchikage smiled.

“Yeah, that’s right, laugh it up! Then again, you’re right. I got my butt kicked over and over again, I got sent into that joint for four years and I ended up accumulating sixteen hundred years in total. I couldn’t believe it, I was a shinobi, a Sannin! And there they were, those mercenaries and bandits were constantly kicking my butt… Do you know why? Because they live like that, that’s just the way they fight in freedom as well! They’re trained to fight ninja using just their bare hands and they can take a ninja without chakra manipulation ability down easily. It’s incredible how rusty chakra makes one in hand to hand, who cares if you’re a master martial artist if your punch can bust mountains, right? Well in “The Zone” no one can punch through mountains, it took me weeks to learn how to punch a man and not break my own hand.”

Tsuchikage looked around, “That is something that your comrades here could’ve benefited from, so were you able to master it?”

Joki nodded “Yeah, after every battle I trained, studied how to fight from my cellmates in exchange for my food, when I won I lifted my weights five hundred times, when I lost I lifted them five thousand times. I became stronger than I have ever been and beat every dog in the house using my own prowess. Then the warden gave me an offer I could not refuse – fight him in exchange for complete freedom, if I lost I would’ve stayed there forever – become the “Scapegoat”. Scapegoats get half of the punishments of every loser, if a loser gets two extra years, he actually gets one while his scapegoat gets one. I would’ve been the Scapegoat not of one person but of the entire prison… It’s basically life sentence with no hope for escape. Warden was actually a ninja, a Special Jounin, he also tried to cheat by bringing weapons into the fight but I busted his face in. Left him for the other inmates to deal with like they deal with all cheaters while I walked out through the gates. I thought that I’d never get work but things changed – Shirona-sama took me in, unlocked my chakra again and made me more powerful than I’ve ever been, she also returned my position back. All just for killing you… I told her… “Lady, I’d do it for fun.”…”

After Joki finished his story and awkward silence set in. Every Iwagakure ninja looked at him with different eyes – they felt bad for the man. This young man was not a villain, he was a victim of the village that gave birth to him. A baby born in the family of killers and deceivers who was told that killing and deceiving was a way to be successful. A boy who rose through the ranks by killing those that thought similarly to him but were slightly weaker, slower, less intelligent or even a bit less lucky. A ninja who followed every dirty order he was given to the final letter and got in trouble because of it taking the arrow for his village and being the scapegoat of the tyrannical Daikon’s reputation. A Sannin who lose his entire lifetime of achievements and was continuously beaten and kicked around by everyone else. A free man who was given a chance to redeem himself and stay relevant in his shithole of a village if he agreed to fight Kaguya Yaban, one of the strongest ninja alive. Namikaze Joki was just a plaything of his superiors, always a scapegoat his entire life…

“Well, I’m glad it all worked out for you in the end… Anyways, if this is your solution you stand no chance at all, leave and become a Missing Nin or just disappear and return once I kick your Lady out of her seat and reform her village with my own bare hands. Kirigakure is crying the same bloody tears that my own village once shed, if you stand in my way I shall crush you with my full force and flush you aside, the way you are you cannot beat me…” Yaban finally spoke after the long silence and started calmly walking forward. The ground beneath his feet and the light footsteps suggested that he didn’t even bump up his weight and just decided to ignore and pass through Joki.

“DON’T IGNORE ME AGAIN, YABAAAAAN!!!” Joki shouted out like a lunatic into the sky raising his fists up and tensing his body up, his pupils completely faded and slobber started shooting out from the man’s mouth as four years of channeled rage and suffering converted into strength made its release making a powerful crater and pushing the Tsuchikage back with just the force of Joki’s chakra bursting from his body. Whoever this man standing against the Tsuchikage was it was no longer a man who listened to reason or could properly evaluate difference in strength, the man jumped forward and threw a fist right into Yaban’s face, as hard as the Tsuchikage tensed his jaw his head was still turned to the side but quickly recovered.

Joki threw a punch after another with each punch making thundering and deafening boom and sending blasts of air from the point of impact but they barely even hurt the Tsuchikage. “You were just a man who brawled your entire life, you just fought everyone all the time and increased your physical strength that way – by increasing your chakra level and becoming strong. Eventually you hit the same limit everyone else hits and you thought that was it, then your chakra was taken away and you felt again what it meant to be weak. You worked hard to regain that power and in the end your power doubled with the power of your suffering adding to that of your success… But Joki-san… MY HARD WORK EXCEEDS YOURS!” Tsuchikage shouted throwing a powerful punch right into the young man’s chest and sending him up into the sky crashing through the thick tree branches above.

Yaban released his weight and jumped up soaring through the sky, as he dashed up to his insane opponent he once again bumped up his weight at the last second before his fist collided with the man’s chest sending him further up, then he lightened himself and dashed to the man again, punch from the side sending him soaring forward through the sky. Tsuchikage kept dashing to his helpless opponent and kept punching him sending him flying beyond his vision again and again with every punch Joki screamed and spat out blood – his defenses were destroyed after the first punch thrown. After one dash up to the golden haired rebel Tsuchikage concentrated even more into his fist and dug it deep into the man’s back sending him all the way back, right to where he weightlessly dashed through the air and hit the flying by figure of the Sannin with his elbow sending him crashing down into the forest ground shattering it and sending the entire forest platform down into the abyss that ended with a river below. Just barely did the Iwagakure ninja manage to avoid this absolute destruction by dashing through the trees further away than the destruction could reach.

Yaban breathed out and descended onto the edge of the stable platform. He felt sorry for this man, he was just a puppet of all the right emotions and feelings who was used by the world’s craftiest puppet master. The Kaguya had never met this woman, this Shirona but… He already didn’t like her at all. He intended to kick her butt and demote her from her position as Mizukage, then reform her village himself. Luckily enough a Kage Summit was already called – a perfect opportunity for this decision and now he will have proof to the other Kage that this needs to be done.

Joki’s mad face appeared again in front of Yaban, a powerful fist hit the Tsuchikage into his chest when the man was unprepared busting some ribs. Luckily enough the man managed to harden up just in time for the following combination. “Kirigakure Taijutsu Style: Jailbreaker!” the man yelled out sending sixteen full powered fists right into Tsuchikage’s chest. Yaban lifted off the ground and fell onto the ground, this was the first time that his men saw their leader get knocked off his feet. Joki’s face was bleeding, it was cracked open in multiple places, his chest was torn as well, his coat was torn off and now his injured chest and arms were revealed, his jeans were ripped up from falling down and hitting the rocks as he was going down. His nails were bleeding from climbing all the way back up through solid rock. Yaban stood back on his feet and wiped the blood from his nose and his mouth.

Yaban charged up to his opponent to finish this, just stop holding back and start taking it easy on his opponent. First punch missed, Joki just leaned out of it and followed it up with a blow of his own that Yaban caught. With a confident smile Yaban crushed the man’s fist and pushed his opponent onto his knees. The loud cracking sound of the man’s knuckle and splashing blood from his bones emerging from under the skin made the ninja observing the battle clench and turn away from the cruel sight of the battle. Tsuchikage threw another punch at his kneeling opponent but Yaban jumped backwards kicking out of the Kaguya’s hold of his fist. Then the golden haired brawler dove forward trying to tackle the Tsuchikage with his shoulder and send him down, the Kaguya remained standing still, the shoulder that dug into his stomach barely even pushed him back.

“Weightless Boulder Style: Stratosphere Punch!” Kaguya yelled throwing an upwards fist, Joki responded with two handed slam that clashed with the Tsuchikage’s fist and was blown backwards from the force of impact. Tsuchikage charged up to his opponent and started punching again and again, shoving his opponent through the soil, the rocky lower layers of dirt, at some point the Kaguya punched his opponent through into the water below and continued to punch sending Joki further and deeper until he hit the bottom, even then the Kaguya continued to punch again and again digging his mad opponent even deeper into the dirt until something hot shot out at which point the Kaguya dashed madly up to his platform. At this point he had widened the ravine several tens of times over its previous state.

Joki’s arm burst through and grabbed onto the edge of the dirty platform and dragged his tired burnt up body that still had leaking masses of hot red mass on his shoulders. The man’s chakra burst tossing the heated red mass aside, after this however his defense lowered. It was evident that the man was at his last breaths. Yaban crossed his hands on his chest.

“You’ve done well to use your chakra to avoid significant injury this far, intensifying your flow to harden your body and all that but to withstand my punches takes a lot more chakra than you can spend. You’re just about to bleed dry out of it. Accept the truth, I am the strongest ninja alive, Raikage Imasu is the fastest ninja alive, Kazekage Mugao is the craftiest, Hokage Howoku is the smartest and the best diplomat. We are the Strongest Generation of Ninja and all of us are in our prime. With us training and working as hard as we can you will never catch up.”

“Shut uuuup!” Joki yelled out charging up to Yaban and punching him in the face with the punch bouncing off, the man continued to punch again and again until both of his knuckles dyed red and started pulsing with pain and spitting out blood. “Your chakra is at its lowest, your punches no longer bother me, if I hit you you’d probably explode. Surrender now, please, return and challenge me again when you grow even stronger. This is over…” the Tsuchikage repeated again. “The man who… Lifted a mountain… My ass…” Joki started spitting out some mad words in a creepy tone and ran away, for a moment there the Tsuchikage thought this was over, the man relaxed and turned back but then he saw…

Joki leaped over the divide and grabbed hold of the entire forest island that was floating on the ocean below, trying to rip it all out of the water and fling it at the Tsuchikage. The man wanted to prove to Yaban that he could lift something greater than a mountain but… The man’s nails started to bleed, the blood vessels in Joki’s eyes burst as he desperately tried to lift the island but it didn’t even budge, he just ripped chunks of rocks and dirt. It was then that the Tsuchikage realized – this man was manipulated to such extent that he would never stop! He was torturing and injuring himself trying to match to an unmatchable ideal. He wasn’t like Yaban, he didn’t just work hard, he tossed himself at the hardest challenges hoping to survive them and when he lost he kept killing himself trying to do it again. The Mizukage implanted the belief that this man could win and by doing that with such success she destined this man to suffering and death.

“Give up!” Yaban yelled out and without waiting for an answer jumped down into the abyss below. The Iwagakure shinobi continued to watch and wait, did the Tsuchikage kill himself? Did he realize that his opponent would never give up until he was dead and wanted to finish this by committing suicide? That was impossible, that was not the kind of man that Tsuchikage was…

Suddenly Joki shook in his boots, he fell onto the ground and grabbed hold to a barely intact tree. The entire island shot up into the air right in front of the unbelieving eyes of the Iwagakure ninja.

“I can lift… Any weight… I need to… To help my people… I can make any hardship weigh nothing.”

With those words the Tsuchikage hurled the island to the side having it slam into the abyss of water below upside down. It wouldn’t have taken long before the island crushed Joki to the bottom of the ocean. Yaban descended onto the ground and started walking to the Summit again. Everyone knew even someone as tenacious as Joki would never return after having an entire island thrown at them…

“Are you alright, Tsuchikage-sama?” one ninja asked rushing up closer to his leader.

“Let’s just get to the Summit, there are words I need to have with this new Mizukage…” Yaban replied.
Loop Tightens! by Captain Claymore
Tanshu, Howoku and Haoru were dashing through numerous halls trying to catch up with the Mizukage who had gained significant distance over them. Each of them had different thoughts on the matter, each of them harboured quite different feelings but were somewhat unified with the desire to stop that woman and while none of them exactly knew what she had planned, having her goals in mind it couldn't have been good. A hall just like countless others flashed through the eyes of the rushing men, they took no time to examine those halls or marvel at their well-preserved beauty having the age of the structure in mind.

Howoku was kept moving just by his desire to eliminate Mizukage Shirona. She was a woman who not only threatened his established status quo of peace between the five villages but also she loved the idea that she did. She was a woman who thought that nations were supposed to be fighting and that such was their natural state as villages training ninja. Howoku had met many people like that, people who thought that the only way for ninja villages to stay relevant was to stay in warring state with all the other villages. Those people had an ounce of truth in their beliefs, ninja were warriors, assassins who should have always stayed ready for combat. Still, these people sentenced many young and unprepared ninja to death, ninja who could've grown up and excelled in their fields. Flowers that had not yet bloomed had no meaning in their wilting.

Tanshu wanted to stop Shirona but he had quite different much more simpler motives. She was a woman who stepped out of line, she dragged all of the other ninja villages by their hair and pissed them off. If she did not bite the dust that meant that any arrogant idiot with followers could do as they pleased. Shirona was a lot like God-Eyes, a figure from his past. A person who had a lot of influence and power that they couldn't really back up, pathetic figures of war who were just icons and had no purpose or right to exist. Even more, she had indirectly hurt his friend who was also a parent of his student's. Tanshu owed it to Mana and her father to stick it to the lady. Also he had to admit, he was a bit worried for the well-being of Misu. He just upped and disappeared in the middle of the Summit, guys like him couldn't have died against just Barrier Corps, what was he doing? Where was he?

To Haoru this was as simple as it ever got – he just had a justification to break lose and kill some ninja and be in the right. The old man never really liked the kind, they acted like they were all that just because they had no moral codes and because the Lords liked them more. Of course Lords would have preferred ninja over samurai, samurai had rules, they had standards and principles. Samurai would've never stricken down a child, an unarmed person or a woman who was not a warrior, they would've never raised their swords against anyone who was not a threat to their Lord. Ninja were beyond all that and Shirona of all people was a living embodiment of that. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and had the nerve to step over everyone else and reach out for it. Warriors had no right to be ambitious, they surrendered their ambition to their Lords after accepting servitude. Haoru just wanted to cut that bitch down. It may have been a brutal and rude way of saying it but that was the kind of man Haoru was – primal and rude but to the point.

Finally they entered the hall where on a platform on the third floor stood their blond, well-endowed nemesis. The woman spread her arms and smiled arrogantly, her face did not twitch nor did it display any emotion or fear. She just merely welcomed them in catching up to her.

"Let's get her talking, catch our breaths before we engage her, survey our surroundings. She lured us into here so she has an ace she is willing to throw down at the last second." Tanshu whispered and the two men to the side nodded.

"We're here, Shirona-san, there's no need to run, there's no need for any more words. We shall settle it all here but before we do I want to know… What did you do it for and was it worth it? You killed many men in preparation for this, you had to piss all of us off to have this Summit called, you played all of us making us think we were in control, you killed even more in this Summit, good men and women and good ninja. Good and loyal ninja you as potential Ninja Empress lost. So I ask you, Shirona, was it worth it?" Howoku started his attempt to get Shirona talking. The woman crossed her arms around her chest.

"Was it worth it…?" as she opened her mouth to speak Haoru was already up in her face with a wide smile that almost looked like it was about to tear his face apart. He thrusted his sword forward only for it to freeze up and slam into a barrier halfway. Haoru's eyes twitched in surprise as a large man appeared in front of him and drove his palm right into Haoru, a palm that managed to cover the entire body of the samurai and send him crashing back into the mossy rock below. Four ninja stood nearby Shirona, four ninja with Kirigakure headbands and vests. The Mizukage laughed out and spread her arms wide again as if showing her men off.

"These are the four currently active Jounin of Kirigakure, the strongest I must add. Once you die here or beat them while barely breathing you can advance, I shall be waiting." Shirona spoke with an arrogant tone and turned around, Howoku yelled out in frustration.

"Damn it, Shirona! How many people will have to fight and spill their blood for you? How many lives will we have to end? Just come and fight us now yourself! Spare yourself and your men the trouble!" he shouted out. Tanshu looked at his friend and he started to feel a bit worried. Howoku was getting emotional, he was ready to break loose and wasn't completely objective in this situation. He was more likely to make a mistake – overuse his Starlight release and exhaust himself, kill people he didn't have to kill or the other way around – leave alive and kicking people that were indoctrinated too deeply. Shirona just turned her head back and glanced at the Hokage for just a second, just enough to reply and then left as the rocky door slammed behind her.

"Make no mistake, Howoku, my game is to kill you and I will use as many loyal ninja as it takes to kill you or wear you out and then I'll finish you myself."

"SHIRONA!" Howoku yelled out with his powerful enraged voice penetrating the rocky door and briefly making the Mizukage glance at the door and shiver. The woman had to double check that it closed and that she was alone in the corridor. With a loud clacking of her sandals the blonde quickly made her way along the corridor as a blue shining oni mask appeared out of nowhere and the blue on the mask lit up. The mask was busted up, cracked and dirtied. From the looks of it the Sunagakure front didn't go too well.

"I'm sorry, Mizukage-sama, Kazekage beat through our troops and beat me. I managed to give him the slip though at the last moment using Demon Body Replacement Jutsu." The man reported, small torrents of blood flooded from the location of the mask and dripping noises suggested that he just barely escaped with his life and yet he was reporting it like it was just another day on the watch. Shirona's face disappeared in her wild blond hair, the woman was thinking, Kazekage's survival was unexpected and very troublesome. Based on her information Mugao was the weakest of the Kage who was famous not for his strength but his craftiness, if he survived it was likely that the others would too.

"I'd appreciate if you did not kill me for my failure. I believe I can still be of use." Oni Mask added as the emotional weight of the operation on the woman's shoulders became apparent.

"Just because I am Daikon's successor does not mean I use his idiotic methods. I am glad that you survived, please return to the village and recover, before that, however I'd like to know a couple of things: who did you use as your replacement, what state is the Kazekage in, have you any news from the other battlefields, how long until Kazekage delegation gets here?" she replied with a shaking tone. This was the first sign of things not going as planned and having the grandeur of the operation it was of no surprise. Oni Mask would hate it to be in this woman's shoes, she now had the crosshairs of the entire world aimed at her head after the brave actions she pulled off and all with "patriotism" in mind. Oni Mask himself did not believe in those pathetic things, that was why he was still alive and he suspected that these feelings for her village may just end up being Shirona's downfall.

"My substitute is of no importance, just a victim on the battlefield though I believe they may be onto me at the moment. I placed a Transformation Seal on him, I didn't have too much chakra to use so it lasted about an hour. I moved using a Transportation Jutsu used by someone from Barrier Corps here who got my message, I'd say the delegation is about an hour and a bit away from here. So far I've got no messages from the other Sannin, they are all likely either still fighting or all dead. Kazekage is injured and exhausted, the military force managed to kill off majority of his men and injure him, I put even more work on him. If you fought him it'd take you approximately four to six minutes to finish the job. He uses Puppetry techniques on his scythe and then has some sort of "puppet armor", I poked it for weak spots, the only ones I could find are around the shoulders, still, it'd be best to time it out as using that armor costs Mugao chakra. That is all I discovered." Oni Mask concluded his report.

"Thank you, you are the best subordinate one could have," Shirona gently stroke Oni Mask's mask telling him to stand up as the mask's glowing eyes evened up with those of the woman. "Now, please come with me so that I can have one of my Barrier Corps transport you home and you can recover. It goes without saying that once our plan is completed I'll give you full control over the Water Lord's region, you'll have all the children for your "Demon Programme" you'll want."

Oni Mask did not say anything, just bowed his head and followed Lady Mizukage to where she meant to go. He could've sworn that he heard loud incomprehensible sounds from the room behind blocked by thick stone blocks that were supposed to act as door.

Inside a wild battle was raging. A silver haired woman threw a punch aiming at Haoru's chest, her hand had that strange near invisible mist like aura around it. Right at the same moment that Haoru dodged the first blow an obese ninja appeared behind him with the speed matching that of a significantly more athletic ninja. The man thrust his arm forward slamming it into the rock making the rocky floor crumble and shoot out debris of rocks to the side. Haoru took couple of faster than eye can follow swings of his katana to block each and every stone tossed at him, differently from most swordsmen of his level he did not rely so much on drawing techniques but instead chose the "naked blade" approach where his blade usually only entered the sheath when he meant to use a drawing technique or when the battle was over.

The obese Kirigakure ninja leaped forward thrusting his palms in a mad flurry of strikes reminding of a sumo wrestler, Haoru leaped backwards just the right length to avoid his strikes but also just close enough to make the sumo ninja believe that he was going to hit the man. Suddenly water shot out from two smaller gourds around the sumo ninja's side and coated his palms as upon touching the ninja's palms the water expanded in size as well. "Water Style: Ogre Push!" the man chanted driving his watery palm forward and shooting a mad vortex of water as the masses of water around his palms exploded into wild whirlwinds. After the water calmed down the sumo ninja took a moment to locate Haoru sticking himself onto the ceiling and the other two jumping onto walls.

"I shall take the silver haired Yuki lady and the Onimoui sumo-bastard, split the others and move them away from here, I'm gonna break loose and I don't wanna cut you hatchlings!" Haorus laughed out madly as he took his wide spread legs and sword over his head stance while upside down and prepared to attack. The silver haired woman toyed with her hair.

"Oh, impressive, you analysed our clans and abilities with just one attack." the Yuki woman commended the elder samurai who just spat to the side forgetting that he was hanging upside down which caused a very strange trajectory of his spit making him have to lean his own head to avoid spitting on his own head. The sumo ninja rubbed the back of his head with his finger.

"Is this guy really the Haoru with the God Sword technique?" he mumbled out.

Without replying Haoru jumped down appearing close to the sumo ninja and slashing at his general direction. The sword just bounced off of the man's skin as the samurai laughed out even louder from the depth of his lungs and then took his defensive stance again. "Just as I suspected - an Onimoui, most of your kin wear thick armor to strengthen their natural impenetrable skin, you on the other hand wear nothing but your trousers."

The sumo ninja slapped his cheeks making his tattooed face flab around for a moment before the flesh settled down. "Yes, my weakling kin wear armor on top of their stone hard skins, I however chose to abandon armor, I trained at the Water Temple, slapping tsunami waves to the side like water spouts, toughening my skin to the point where armor is of no use to me – the person with chakra control and precision to enhance their weapon to be sharp enough to cut me will never be born. Even the great God Sword Jutsu users cannot cut my skin!" the sumo chubby slapped his belly again making it flab around for a while. Haoru laughed out from the depth of his lungs. This elder was having a time of his life.

"I dunno, chubby, with my last cut I haven't enhanced my blade with chakra at all…" he added ominously. The Onimoui clansman swiped his arm to the side and shouted out "Liar, no one can cut that strong and deep without any chakra at all." Haoru's blade flashed through the air, the chubby ninja stumbled back a couple of steps and clenched a shallow cut on the thickest spot of his belly. He was too surprised to even talk properly. "T-This is… It… Can't… Be… What kind… of a… Monster… Are you?!" the chubby yelled out, his partner clenched her fists tighter making small blinking snowflakes fly out.

"Don't underestimate your enemy, you fool" she taunted her partner who got back up on his feet. "Right" the sumo ninja just added and wiped his running nose and stood back into an offensive stance.

"Don't feel discouraged, I aimed to cut you in two…" Haoru laughed with a demonic look in his eyes that made the two Jounin sweat. Such was the intimidation and power of presence of one of the most powerful samurai in the world. This man wasn't the one overestimating himself when he took on two of the Kirigakure jounin, it was them who were unlucky to face off against him. The woman leapt forward, Haoru's blade didn't even more, or at least it didn't appear to move but her body separated into two parts and fell to the floor. Instead of blood however water burst out as her water clone collapsed.

The silver haired Yuki appeared from behind the swordsman thrusting her palms with sharp icicles on her lower parts of the palms. Blood squirt out but the samurai barely even let the woman know that he felt the hit, her body just split into twelve parts again as if it went through some shredding machine but it once again collapsed into a dissolving water clone. The woman was just poking at him, seeing the way he fought and how he dealt with attackers. So far the results were scary – he was able to cut anything or anyone into dozens of pieces without even a sign that his blade moved. It would've taken the eye of a master swordsman to properly even see the blur, it would've taken an equally as skilled swordsman to be able to block these attacks, not by reaction but by instinct – the only way to defend against such an offensive.

From nowhere combinations of blows pummelled Haoru and with a crushing strike of water enhanced palm strike he was sent back and slammed into the rocky walls, bouncing off of the first and hitting the wall on the other side. Anyone would have long since died after being hit by such an attack but Haoru stood up and dusted off his torn trousers and his muscular chest and once again took his famous defensive stance. This was Haoru – the user of one of the four God Sword techniques, a man whom even a battlefield of the war could not claim, how were young children of peaceful times ever hope to step up to the challenge?

Further away, one hall back Howoku was fighting his opponent on one side of the hall and Tanshu was facing off against his on the other. Such splitting of the teams was so that neither of the trio got into the way of the other, apparently the Kirigakure jounin did not care how they would fight – all that mattered to them was that they killed or wore out their opponents for their beloved Mizukage Shirona – the mistress of manipulation and intrigue to take down. The two halls were divided into three battlefields and a fierce scuffle was about to begin, the last obstacle in the way of the trio before they face Shirona, the penultimate step of the ladder!

P.S: Credit for the Onimoui clan goes to Jordan Patterson, a reader who was kind enough to give some suggestions and ideas about characters and clans I can use in future stories.
Barrier Buster and the Monkey Woman by Captain Claymore
The man in front of Tanshu wore a dark cloak and a white mask with black lenses. It reminded the Sannin a lot of the attire that the Kirigakure Barrier Corps wore but this mask looked a bit fancier, this man must’ve been a captain of a Barrier Corps squad or something like that, Jounin usually didn’t make commanders of the entire Corps, that seat was usually reserved for Sannin or Kage themselves. Tanshu pulled out a kunai and twisted it around his finger then snapped his hand lock shut and placed the kunai in front of his body raising it up to the face level, he was ready to defend himself against this man.

The cloaked figure leaped forward throwing a fist with glowing yellow chakra emanating faintly around it. Tanshu swiped his kunai at the man’s mask but he did not move. The kunai made sparks burst as it collided with the steel mask and sent it off of the man’s face clanging further to the side into the darker areas of the room. The man’s fist hit Tanshu right into the chest knocking the Sannin back. Grunting from the pain the Red Dog quickly got back on his feet coughing up blood. The taste of blood in his mouth was something that brought the mindless instinctual fighter in him but it was something he didn’t want right now. Howoku was going to make a mistake, Shirona was working her magic on him and Tanshu needed to be there and make sure that his Hokage didn’t mess up, he needed all of his brain in the game.

The cloaked figure quickly advanced to press his advantage, the cloak rustled as the man moved revealing his rather ordinary looking face, if it wasn’t for the diagonal scar spanning from forehead to chin, that is. The yellow chakra started glowing yet again from the man’s arms as he slammed both of them from the side trying to crush Tanshu’s skull but the Sannin ducked under it and with the aid of his arm pushed his body off of the ground thrusting both of his feet into the man’s body, sending him tumbling back and shouting in pain. Tanshu straightened out and spat some blood out, the fact that a punch from a ninja made him bleed that badly alerted him, it was certainly unusual as he trained his body to the peak that training one’s chakra might result in. He was at the peak ninja limit of physicality and no Barrier Corps punch could bust through his tough muscles that easily.

“What the hell was that?” Tanshu asked observing his opponent as he stood up, it was obvious that his opponent had taken some damage as it took him some time to get back on his feet. “I thought you Barrier Corps folk actually bothered to block attacks, I wasn’t really hitting you at my top speed and yet you took it. Are you just a weakling or was there a reason for that?”

“I’m not a Barrier Ninja.” The scarred man replied with a low and husky voice. Judging from how growling he sounded it was quite obvious that he did not speak often, when people don’t speak a lot their voices grow husky and they need to clean their throats to speak more clearly. Tanshu’s eyebrow shot up, this man clearly wore a Barrier Corps outfit, why would he do so if he wasn’t a barrier ninja? Even more, Tanshu clearly saw the man conjuring a barrier to protect the Mizukage before. Truth be told, Haoru’s sword was frozen before it was blocked which meant that the barrier wouldn’t have blocked it as it was coated with chakra. That Yuki woman coated Haoru’s blade in Ice Release chakra so that the basic barrier could block it as the ice reduced its sharpness and focus of the chakra. That meant that the man’s barriers were not all that much more than those of normal Barrier Corps ninja.

“I am a Barrier Buster” the man concluded as his fist lit up with yellow chakra again. So that was it? In the Barrier Corps there were not only ninja that could create barrier using barrier ninjutsu but also ninja who could break through most common barriers by using some sort of special combination of ninjutsu and taijutsu. Barrier ninja would’ve worked well as a defensive force while Barrier Busters would’ve fit for the offensive – just to break the defensive of the enemy. Konohagakure didn’t really have an official Barrier Corps for a while, most of their ninja capable of barrier ninjutsu just worked in the village’s Protective Service which was an order of ninja loyal only to the Hokage who did their best to contain, dismantle and crush any threats to the village with little to no villager casualties. Tanshu took his offensive stance again and prepared an attack.

The man’s body just leaned forward with all of his muscles tensing before it lost balance and slammed into the ground like a bag of potatoes. This was an impressive display of muscle mastery with the ninja being able to relax and tense their muscles with great ease making them incredibly aware of their body and able to utilize their own natural speed and strength perfectly. Tanshu covered the small distance between the fighters within mere moments throwing multiple punches, the man shot his hands forward with the yellow glow of his chakra forming an improvised barrier but Tanshu’s strength tore right through them. The first batch of blows stopped right after breaking the barrier but the Red Dog soon adjusted to the strength and kept on his barrage of blows breaking more and more of the man’s bones. After his hands grew weaker, the Sannin switched to his legs but that let the Barrier Buster adjust his strategy and strengthen his barriers – it was like Tanshu hit rocky walls as his legs busted through the strengthened barriers but stopped right afterwards.

Tanshu breathed in and out heavily as he used a couple of back handspring jumps to gain some distance. His maximum force could bust this man’s barriers but did nothing more, he needed more than just brute force to get him out of that one…

*******

Howoku continued to stare at the middle aged woman he was supposed to beat to advance to where the Mizukage decided to hide. This woman wore several steel belts wrapped around her body as armor and had flexible shoulder armor. Such protective attire was not really common for ninja as they strived to be as quick and as stealthy as possible. Even more, the woman’s goofy smile continued to throw Howoku a bit off balance as she seemed to be enjoying the fact that she’ll be fighting against the Fourth Hokage. All of her armor mostly appeared to protect her upper body as she wore baggy trousers with knee pads below so Howoku questioned the effectiveness of half-baked armor approach.

Such goofiness and carefree approach annoyed him, Howoku had no time to waste on henchmen! The man shot forward with a charge, he did not even use his Starlight Release as he intended to save his chakra for when he needed it – against Shirona. The woman leaned backwards and jumped back, using her hands to spring her body back forward and thrusting her legs into Howoku’s chest making the man tumble back, she then bit her finger and made a couple of handseals summoning a large iron staff. “Tee hee…” she laughed out goofily making Howoku even more annoyed. He was not a taijutsu prodigy and this woman seemed to be quite flexible and strong, from her choice of weapon one would’ve assumed she knew how to handle her staff too. It couldn’t have been helped – Howoku needed his Starlight Release to win.

“May I ask you to step aside, there is no need for us to fight, you are in the way of me taking out a threat to my village and that is something I punish with death. I know Shirona indoctrinated you deep and that you are most likely not a bad person, please reconsider this fight, lady.” Howoku angrily spoke up to which the woman just smiled and rubbed her nose.

“Ease up a bit, stiffypants. I just wanna fight, I don’t care bout that politics thing. That’s what Shirona told me she’d give and that’s what she gave me so let’s not bother about our villages and just fight.” The woman spoke in a very strange manner and she used no honorifics when talking about her Kage. This one seemed much more like the “Hanasaku-type” to Howoku, a lovable idiot who only had their own motivations and were mostly harmless.

“I’m sorry, I cannot do that when people I strive to protect are in danger. I see now that you wish my village no ill and are just acting upon your instinct to fight, I shall not kill you but I will not hold back.” Howoku replied.

Suddenly the woman appeared right behind him with a crazy smile, “Why would you do THAT, silly?” was all that Howoku heard before her heavy staff drove into his back sending forward. Had Howoku not broken his flight by thrusting his arms to the floor and flipping himself on his feet he’d have slammed into the wall. That impact… Howoku felt his chakra straining and fading inside. Chakra worked in a rotation-like process – like a high intensity engine. It flowed inside one’s body and could be borrowed for various techniques and ways of use. Most skilled ninja however could manipulate not only chakra itself but its flow process, make it more intense to withstand blows that would kill normal people, temporarily increase their strength to punch out trained warriors with one blow. The likes of Tanshu could intensify it to such extent that it made his chakra leak out creating that “killing intent-like” aura around him sensible even to non-sensor ninja.

Such use of chakra was dangerous – there was a reason why a body had a slow and steady chakra flow. Intensifying it just for a moment would’ve meant that for that brief moment one stressed their body out making it use up much more chakra. Normally just going around normal everyday activities cost inconsequential amounts of chakra but boosting the flow to extreme extents like needed in order not to die after being hit like that made that inconsequential amount feel almost like one used a jutsu of some sort. The body just burned up chakra for that one moment and the natural loss of chakra from the chakra flow going its way had to be readjusted in time, messing with the body’s natural processes was not something one should have abused. Howoku decided to try and avoid getting hit by such an impact again and not lose such amounts of chakra and stress his body out too much.

The woman appeared behind him again but this time Howoku predicted her attack, his body dropped down to the floor and flipped over on his back. The Hokage’s hands stretched to the side of his head and thrust his feet up shooting his body upwards and kicking the woman in the chin. Howoku made a handseal and made a shadow clone that leaped up and stroke her in the chin again before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Howoku tossed a couple of kunai at the woman trying to utilize that brief instant of smoke cloud, he heard a couple of clangs and saw the kunai fall down. Howoku cursed, that armor deflected basic ninja tools apparently. Finally the woman landed from the cloud and laughed out with a wild grin.

“I initially thought you were just a weakling, I guess a Hokage can’t really be a weakling, huh? Sorry for looking down on you.” Her laugh and mannerism seemed almost monkey-like. The woman’s eyes blinked and when they opened again her pupils had changed into a much more wild state. It was then that Howoku realized what was going on – this woman was the Four Tails Jinchuuriki. Seeing how she was a Jounin it was quite likely that she was able to use Chakra Cloak Awakening if needed and that was something that Howoku didn’t really need. The decision to not kill her was also the correct one – the thing he needed the least was a Tailed Beast rampaging in this place.

*****

Haoru’s wild smile intimidated the Onimoui sumo ninja, the silver haired Yuki seemed to be quite content and cool with her approach to the battle. The elder samurai himself decided to finally show these ninja just a tiny fraction of his strength. He leaned on his right leg harder and twisted his left foot to the side as the grip around his sword visibly hardened. Suddenly the chakra and air pressure around him became more intense and even the non-sensor ninja could see the fluctuations of transparent air around him. The man’s right foot lifted off as he thrust his sword cutting down through the air.

“Windcutter Style: Sword Gust Jutsu”

He chanted sending an invisible vortex of air that quickly gathered dust and became a larger and grey twister. The Yuki woman disappeared in an icy mist while the chubby ninja leaped to the side at the last moment avoiding the wild gust of wind. The icy mist intensified at a certain area from which the Ice Release user appeared again, “For a moment there I thought we were screwed…” she mumbled to herself.

“A sword slash so intense and powerful that it can create small vortexes of air. Impressive, samurai!” the Onimoui laughed out. The Yuki lunged at him with icicles once again shooting out from her palm trying to slash at Haoru’s eyes, the samurai leaned backwards, a crimson stream of blood shot out of the woman’s chest and she quickly dashed back clenching the open wound on her chest.

“What the hell was that!?” the sumo ninja shouted out at his partner. “I thought we already established that this guy’s sword moves faster than we can see!? Did you really expect to get him with a simple attack like that?” he scolded the woman.

“I tried to use my Frost Armor Jutsu to protect myself, I thought I could initiate it in an instant so his sword would’ve slid away from my body and crashed into the floor instead but… He cut even faster than that…” she explained her mistake.

“You’re next, Sumo-Ninja!” Haoru laughed out and charged at the obese Onimoui slashing his sword upwards while leaping into the air himself. The sumo couldn’t react in time, he just stepped backwards as another shallow cut appeared on his body, it was strange how the Onimoui skin which was one of the toughest defenses in the Shinobi World was penetrated by Haoru’s near lethal slashes even if the cuts he left were quite shallow and unimpressive. The samurai quickly followed up on his slash by cutting from the air at the tumbling giant chubby hitting various areas of his body and opening more and more shallow cuts all over. The samurai sheathed his blade and then drew it all in one instant, by that time he was way too high in the air to even hit the sumo ninja with his drawing slash which confused the chubby shinobi.

“Windcutter Style: Heavenly Wind Draw!” Haoru chanted as he drew his blade and stopped it dead center aiming at the chubby, there were good two or three meters between the two. All of the sudden three vortexes of air shout out of the man’s blade and collided into one large one that crashed into the sumo ninja driving him into the ground as the super vortex mercilessly kept drilling through the sumo’s body. For a moment it appeared like that would have been enough to kill the man outright. The Yuki woman leaped back in time to avoid being too close to the impact point, by that point she must’ve already seen just how hard they would have to work to win this battle.

Surprisingly enough the Onimoui chubby leaped up quite fast and jumped into the air to hit his opponent before he could even land. The sumo ninja launched a flurry of hand thrusts “Water Thrust Barrage!” he yelled out as his palms got covered in water that gathered from the previous water that he had used around his palms in small tunnel-like streams. One could not even see Haoru’s blade move as it near effortlessly kept up with the strikes of the sumo ninja however with each deflected thrust slowed down a little to the point where his defenses became blurry but visible at the end. “Water Shotgun Thrust!” the sumo ninja shouted thrusting both of his palms coated with water forward, however as he cocked his hands back to prepare the thrust Haoru was already behind him and landed on the ground taking his defensive stance. “Windcutter Style: Spring Breeze Cut!” he mumbled as sumo ninja’s offensive was broken and the chubby’s body flipped over in the air several times before slamming hard into the rocky floor.

This time the large frame of the Kirigakure Jounin took significantly longer to stand up – his body was covered with shallow cuts as if he ran through a very thick spiky bush and cut himself all over with the spikes. He was breathing heavily and it barely looked like Haoru even broke a sweat while taking on two of the Jounin.

“This is ridiculous… We can’t possibly win against this guy…” the Onimoui grunted out rudely looking at his injured partner who shook her head.

“No. He is definitely tired and injured, his body just does not show it. He is the kind of ninja who just goes at full strength and then when his body hits the limit he just dies. I’ve seen many ninja like that, most of them are old timers of war. They don’t really communicate with their bodies, they have no alarm signals that they are injured which works both to their favor and their disadvantage. I think if we press him hard enough he’ll fold with time.” The woman concluded, the sumo just slammed his fist into his other hand and then raised it to his face yelling at Haoru.

“Alright you samurai-bastard, here we come then!” Haoru just leaned back harder, never dropping his smile of excitement.

“Well, come at me then!” he replied vibrantly.
Tanshu's Mysterious Strategy by Captain Claymore
Tanshu stayed still, analyzing his situation and the possible options he had. Truth be told, this battle didn't really trouble or confuse him. The Red Dog was quite certain that if he stopped holding back for just a moment he'd destroy this Barrier Buster in one attack, the problem was the future battles. If he used too much chakra in this battle can he be counted on in the future, for example if Howoku lost to Shirona? Tanshu was certain he had seen Oni Mask previously, what if Tanshu had to fight his old sensei at some point? There were just too many questions, too many dangers in the future and all of those factors needed to be considered and properly analyzed. The Barrier Buster had no such problem, sadly.

The man lunged forward, Tanshu tried to intercept the lackluster offensive with a straight punch but the man flipped over and rolled on the Sannin's arm, kicking off in the air with another flip and driving his glowing with golden chakra arms right into Tanshu's skull. The man's reddish brown hair flowed wildly all over Sannin's face covering up the blood that shot out from Tanshu's nose and mouth from the sheer pressure his skull was hit by. Barrier Buster's legs locked onto Tanshu's neck and slammed the man into the ground, the jounin stood up and examined the Sannin's neck. The Kirigakure jounin had snapped many necks with this drop, there was no way that the famous Konoha's Red Dog – Uzumaki Tanshu was still alive. He turned around and started walking at his female partner, who was busy with the Fourth Hokage, with the intention of supporting her.

"Is that it? Are you giving up already?"

The Barrier Buster shinobi stopped in his tracks as a creepy but firm and manly voice alerted him of his opponent's survival. Tanshu stood back on his feet wiping his hair to the side and the blood off of his nose and his mouth. The Barrier Ninja shook once in a wild uncontrollable signal of fear. "I have to say, your Barrier Busting Jutsu packs a punch, then again, that's the only way for me to even feel your puny blows. If you don't want to embarrass yourself I suggest you keep em coming…" Tanshu grunted out with a rough tone, almost like a bulldog intimidating a traveler who was passing by his master's yard with a bark.

"Who do you think you're kidding? You're intensifying your chakra flow for just a second when you're hit, that's why your body manages to withstand these blows, it's a textbook technique. You're wasting your chakra, when do you think you'll run out of steam, Konoha's Red Dog?" Tanshu's opponent taunted to which only a calm laugh intimidated the man even more. Tanshu's finger rose up to the man's mouth and the Sannin sunk his teeth into his own finger, then he flashed some hand seals and slammed his palm into the ground making a wild circle of seals appear and a powerful cloud of smoke appear with a loud poof.

"Summoning Jutsu: Red Poochy"

A small dog with red colored fur, not taller than one's knees as hard as it tried to stand on two appeared in front of the man as the smoke cleared. The little dog barked up with a high pitched bark more common among the younger dogs. "I've got no need to preserve chakra, I've got another trick up my sleeve for your mistress, not that it's any business of a pitiful lapdog like you." Tanshu replied pointing at the man with his arm as the dog leaped at his opponent with a violent growl and a very underwhelming bark of a young small dog. The Barrier Buster's leg shot up into the air kicking the dog away and preventing it from biting him. The dog lit up with reddish chakra as it landed on its feet and shook on its tiny little legs to recover itself from the impact.

"You know what to do, Poochy" Tanshu mumbled silently so that only the dog and he could hear it. The young dog nodded and the red glow of chakra around him intensified. This barely visible red glow interested the Barrier Buster ninja, most of all it intimidated him because he had no idea what sort of technique it was. From the report of the Barrier Corps ninja that placed special recording barriers in the room where Tanshu fought the monks the Sannin also used something similar letting his dogs charge some sort of mysterious chakra and then disappear transferring it all to Tanshu. Just what sort of technique was it? As famous as the Red Dog was he had never demonstrated this technique before in any high profile battles which meant that either it was something he kept at great secrecy or it killed literally everyone who saw the technique, leaving no one to tell the tale.

The Barrier Ninja bit his finger and made some handseals swinging his bleeding finger around in the air and leaving a small trail of blood from the squirt of blood that came out. It appeared that the Barrier Buster's technique kept it afloat and stuck in the air. "There is a downside to any technique, no matter how powerful. One of the more popular downsides is that it is very easily avoidable, after all – most jutsu are just projectiles of chakra that can be leaped over or stepped aside from. That is why the most elite Barrier Ninja and Barrier Busters can do this!" the Barrier Buster slammed his hands together forming transparent barriers around Tanshu. They formed and stuck together so that they formed a tunnel-like structure.

"Now you can't avoid my technique! Lightning Style: Restriction Beam Jutsu!" the Barrier Ninja shouted out as a powerful and incredibly loud beam of lightning chakra erupted from his handseal filling the entire barrier tunnel and slamming into Tanshu. Only as the technique exploded did the tunnel of barriers break. The explosion and the intensity of the beam looked like it was a thousand times hotter and more intense than a bolt of lightning, there would have been absolutely no way for a normal man or even a normal ninja to survive. The Barrier Buster breathed heavily with his hands weighed down and shaking from the strain that the technique placed on his body, the Red Poochy stood calmly besides the barrier as he was not included in the narrow target zone of the barrier tunnel.

"Why on Earth would anyone waste their time dodging this?" a loud and rudely toned reply came from still clearing smoke and rubble. The Barrier Ninja jumped up and rubbed his eyes, he started grinding his teeth in frustration. He knew of two ways for a ninja to survive a hit like that, one was to use the textbook technique of spending immense amounts of chakra and interrupting one's own natural flow by kickstarting it and intensifying it to incredible rate – such technique would've provided a natural "armor" for the user but in cost of a disrupted chakra flow until the natural flow returned. One would've only used anything like that in an emergency, when no other way to survive was possible. Especially someone like Red Dog Tanshu – someone who took great pride in their physical strength which, if it was achieved with chakra level being increased would've made his physical stats plummet.

The other way was to counteract it with a Lightning Release technique of same or greater strength. This was a common way for one Lightning Release user to counteract and redirect powerful Lightning Release jutsu by grounding them, because one's own body was using the technique and immune from being shocked one could easily have absorbed the weaker charge and redirected it to the ground or even back at the opponent. Thing was that based on the information that floated around it was unlikely that Tanshu was a Lightning Release user. Based on the most common information Tanshu only used Fire Release and while a previously undiscovered secondary nature was possible something made the Barrier Buster suspect that the Red Dog actually used the first way.

"What's your game, Red Dog? Why are you interrupting your own chakra flow so wildly? Why do you care so little of your own chakra right after telling me how important the future battles are for you?" the Barrier Ninja yelled out thrusting his fist at Tanshu and waving it wildly to which the Sannin only laughed. The man enjoyed seeing his opponent grind their teeth in frustration as they struggled to wrap their heads around his plans that weren't even meant for them anyways. With a careless glance Tanshu looked at his summoned partner who looked back at Tanshu and nodded. The dog then wildly charged forward, as the dog jumped up to dig its teeth into the Barrier Buster's face the jounin tried to move back.

The image of the dog that leaped for the face blurred and disappeared, the Barrier Buster felt sharp pain in his leg as he saw the little dog digging his teeth into the lower parts of his leg with blood squirting out from the pressure that the little bugger managed to put out. The jounin tried to shake the little pest off but then an elbow dug deep into his chest breaking multiple ribs in the process. The little dog working together with his owner leaped and dug its fangs deep into the Barrier Buster's face and while the jounin tried shaking it off Tanshu's strike hit him deep into his solar plexus making the jounin drop like a sack. With his face and his leg bleeding the Barrier Buster rolled around on the floor writhing in pain before standing up. He then charged with a kunai at the little dog before stopping in mid charge – the little pet was no longer glowing, it was just a little dog with a red fur and no more chakra glow… What did that mean? Did Tanshu cancel his strange technique? The man restarted his assault and lunged at the little dog kicking him up to stab it but after a single kick it poofed into smoke.

The Barrier Buster was absolutely stunned. Nothing annoyed him more than his opponent being steps ahead of him and him being absolutely oblivious to it with no way of pinning down just what the hell it was.

Not too further away Haoru was still entertaining himself with two Kirigakure jounin. The enraged but re-inspired with fake hope sumo ninja leaped at him, coating his palms with water that seeped up to his hand off of the floor and formed a water padding the man started thrusting his palms fast and strong. The impact of the thrusts must've been immense as only thrusting the palms above the rocky floor made the rocks below crumble and rise up being flung in the general direction of the sumo ninja's attack with each thrust making that cruel water splashing sound, sort of like that when one jumps off of a bridge into the water landing on their belly just multiplied numerous times. Both Haoru's chakra coated blade and the Onimoui's palm thrusts clashed with each other and while the sumo ninja appeared to have some trouble keeping his attacks up, Haoru's smile made it look all too easy.

All of a sudden the silver haired Yuki woman appeared behind Haoru driving her leg right into the elder samurai's back. Haoru stumbled forward but still kept up with his clash with the woman's partner. In fact, the sumo gave in first as his hands just weighed down pulsing with blood passing through the vessels inside his palms as if he was slapping a brick wall for the past minute. The Yuki woman kept kicking the stumbling samurai's back, she had caught him unprepared and his blade was busy elsewhere, now she had to exploit the advantage! Suddenly after a combination of kicks the woman's body split in two and collapsed in pieces onto the ground only for it to dissolve into snow. With a wild breeze the woman's remains were carried in front of the samurai and she thrust two spikes of ice right into Haoru's shoulders. Then with she planted the heel of her sandal right into the man's face making him tumble back.

The woman laughed out triumphantly and her partner joined her after a brief moment of heavy panting. Much to their surprise Haoru rose from the floor momentarily. "I see, so this was all a genjutsu, huh? You activated it and then leaped onto your partner's back, the genjutsu rendered the real you invisible replacing you with a snow clone of sorts while my body believed me to be hit from behind…" The Yuki woman thrust her index finger forward arrogantly as if signaling the samurai to bow to her to earn her mercy.

"That's right, samurai, and now as you have these icicles in your shoulder blood vessels you need my mercy to keep them from melting and opening the blood flow. If those blood vessels open up – you'll die in seconds!" the woman replied with a high and mighty tone to which she was only replied with laughter.

"Well… I would've been done in, had I not tensed my muscles up and blocked your stab." the samurai laughed out, the Yuki woman squinted in suspicion, "What do you mean? I stabbed you in the shoulders, I know my anatomy just fine, don't play games with me, old man!"

The samurai laughed again, "Go ahead then, young lady, melt your ice toothpicks, the moment that you do, however, my arms are free to move three hundred and sixty degrees, you better believe I'll be hungry for blood!" the man shouted out swinging his sword and then comically jumping up in pain as with the icicles stuck in his body the man had trouble properly moving his hand around. The sumo ninja looked at his partner with a worried look.

"Umm… Maybe you should… You know… Keep the icicles solid… I mean… Just in case…" he started uttering words one after another trying to calm his partner down. The woman started grinding her teeth heavily trying to decide on her course of actions. Seeing his partner's hesitation and realizing the fact that it meant great restriction of movement to his opponent the sumo ninja leaped forward grabbing the samurai by the face and slamming him into the floor and then leaping up and landing with his bottom straight onto the man's face. As blood started leaking from the cracked forehead of the elder samurai the woman finally braved up and made a handseal dissolving the icicles.

That same moment that the icicles disappeared a powerful shock hit the sumo ninja right into the center of his belly sending the chubby shinobi rolling back. Just like that Haoru was back onto his feet with his sword raised above his head. "I must thank you for calling my bluff, the cold from your ice allowed my injured blood vessels to heal up. After a lifetime of battlefield experience one finds their body healing up quite fast and if you'd have dissolved them earlier I'd have been in quite some trouble." Haoru smiled with a cruel twist of his lips.

The Yuki woman pouted as her body started sweating in fear – she wasted her chance to kill this man and this was all because of this godly intimidation that this man kept up. She believed his every lie just because he threatened her life and with that impossibly thick murdering atmosphere coming off of the samurai warrior she had no choice but to let him control the battlefield. To think that the man played her like that – made her make her icicles freeze the same wounds that she opened while his body's own natural freak battlefield regeneration ability allowed his vessels to heal within just several minutes. Even with his life in danger this man's face did not change, so this was what it meant to be a veteran of countless wars and claiming the heads of many times more ninja.

The woman just let her intimidated and afraid voice run wild. "Aren't you at all worried if you live or die? I could've easily killed you then and there!" she yelled out, her voice was flooded with fear over her own life and regret that she let him recover. Haoru's sword swung through the empty air, cutting so fast that one moment it was above his head while another it was already touching the floor. "Windcutter Style: Sword Gust Jutsu!" the samurai chanted as a powerful vortex of wind from the air literally being cut apart picked the giant sumo ninja up and tossed him around in the air leaving countless scratches and cuts as well. Within literally moments after the previous technique concluded Haoru appeared in front of the man jumping into the air with an upwards slash making the sumo ninja's body fly up stuck onto the blade that cut him. After reaching the highest point up in the air the samurai slashed downwards sending the chubby's body slamming into the ground while he himself landed gracefully nearby. The Onimoui ninja just laid there with his eyes rolled back with no signs of life.

"It is the first lesson a samurai learns during their young days: "Go to a battle afraid of dying and definitely you will die, go there with a clear mind and maybe you will live!" that is how a true samurai fights, that is why a samurai will always best a ninja in a fight!" Haoru shouted out madly finally dropping his smile. As the woman stumbled back, trying her best to fight the instinct to run for her life the samurai slowly walked towards her. The eyes of the Yuki that previously were so cold and analytical and so recently had the shade of victory and arrogance were now terrified of the concept of her own death. The woman stepped back and tripped over a rock, she fell onto the ground and tore her dress. As the pain revived her brain reminding it that this was real and actually happening she jumped up. "Stay back!" she screamed out.

Haoru didn't even stop for a moment, his pace didn't even slow down. The Yuki thrust her palms forward as cold winter winds howled around her picking up snow "I said stay back! Icicle Barrage Jutsu!" she screamed out again shooting a mad flurry of icicle projectiles all of which bounced off Haoru's blade that moved in a blur deflecting each and every projectile. It was like this samurai didn't even try to deflect the projectiles of such speed, his hand worked almost entirely out of instinct and muscle memory. Such was the strength of one possessing a God Sword technique in their arsenal. The Yuki woman's hands shot forward as the winds howled again. "STAY BAAAACK!" she screamed as Haoru's chest thumped right into her thrust forward hands that finished their handseals just at the same moment.

"Ice Style: Absolute Zero Storm Jutsu!" the woman screamed in panic as the winds focused into a single direction blowing straight into Haoru and pelting him with snow at such speed that the snowflakes managed to cut into his skin and leave cuts. Within mere moments the man disappeared in a wild and uncontrollable mess of snow, howling winter winds and ice. The technique was so immense that Howoku and Tanshu stopped for a moment to look at it and even had to evaluate if it won't be a threat to them. Fortunately for them the technique was very contained, that was why it was so powerful. The Yuki woman dashed back, her shaking knees finally gave in as the woman collapsed onto the ground and grabbed her head with her shaking hands. "I hit him… I hit him head on… He's got to be dead… Frozen still and torn apart… One with the snowflakes… He is now just a bunch of snowflakes… Then why… WHY DO I STILL FEEL THIS PRESSURE!?" she screamed out into the air absolutely terrified of the terrible atmosphere around the samurai that didn't waver for a moment.

"That was some technique, Yuki-ninja." The voice echoed from the large pillar of freezing and rampaging blizzard. "Had I not used my sword to make a vortex of wind equally as strong to contain the blizzard within it I would've actually died…" a wild laughter came out of the tornado of blizzard that then wildly split in half at the center and ended just as suddenly as it started, the wild but static snowflakes now fell from the air as it started to snow around the area where Haoru, the one with God Sword, stood. He was no longer smiling however, maybe because he felt the strain on his body from all this mad fighting he had done that day, maybe because he stopped enjoying himself and grew bored, wishing instead to end it all with one strike!
Opponents but no longer Enemies by Captain Claymore
Howoku tried to come up with a proper plan to respond to pretty much any attack, any possible outcome. The Four Tails Jinchuuriki were known for their Lava Release ability, Howoku already knew that his Starlight Release could most likely properly counteract it, then again, he still didn’t know the amount of mastery that this woman had over her beast. Was she able to awaken it? Was she able to use the chakra cloak at the very least? So far she barely even mentioned it, it was only due to the immense chakra burst and the wild change in her eyes that Howoku even got the clue of her ability.

The woman leaped forward with a wild slam of her iron staff, Howoku stepped to the side but the rubble that the slam raised hit him in the face opening minor bruises and making him flinch. The woman flipped back with a kick at Howoku’s chest, after landing on her feet she charged forward with her staff resting on her back, the woman’s fists hurt immensely. Howoku was forced to once again interrupt and boost his chakra flow just so she didn’t do too much damage on him. Fighting with the idea of an upcoming much larger fight was troublesome indeed. The woman’s elbow sent Howoku flying a couple of meters forward. There was no grace or fanciness in him getting up, just a man picking his injured body and peeling it off the floor.

“My name is Howoku, the Fourth Hokage, may I know your name and also just how much mastery you have over the Four Tails? Do you plan on bringing it out at any point?” Howoku roughed out after picking himself up and wiping the blood off of his nose. The woman just smiled back playfully, while her eyes still looked like those of a mad wild monkey and her chakra leaked so intensely that the red glow was visible even to the human eye she appeared to be in complete control.

“Why would I let Son Goku have all the fun? We had a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide who would get this fight, he looked a bit upset that he won’t have a go so I let him boost my abilities but if he ever tried to slip out he’d be grounded for a year! This is my fight, Goku doesn’t interrupt my fights, I don’t interrupt his. Also, my name is Surawu” the woman explained calmly, Howoku looked surprised. This Jinchuuriki was in complete control of her Tailed Beast! She could even keep it down and restrained if she needed to and gambled by playing games with it, games rules of which the beast upheld. This woman was dangerous!

The extensive mastery over her beast brought another problem to Howoku, he had to decide if he wanted to let the woman live. She was a dangerous asset for Kirigakure and if he was to take Shirona down and place a replacement in her place, the loyalists of the woman could always use this Jinchuuriki by tricking her and promising her awesome fights. Someone with so much power but little restraint of her actions had no place in a world of intrigue, if one was stupid enough to become this strong they had to have the brain to use that power responsibly and at the very least the judgment who to lend it to. It would not have been too tough for Howoku to defeat a Tailed Beast if he just let all of his power out in one burst, he’d be exhausted but… Tanshu could beat Shirona, could he not? There were so many questions that kept the Hokage from fighting at full strength.

“No! If I let this continue I’ll get killed, I need to beat this woman first, then to consider all the moral implications!” Howoku thought to himself as he charged forward, kicking with a spinning kick right into the woman’s block, then repositioning his weight and leaping up to kick with the other foot pushing her block away. Howoku’s punches then had an open hunting season all over the woman’s dropped defenses and he decided to exploit it. He was not the best of taijutsu users but he knew enough. He just kept punching with the hope that one of those punches would take her down, he did not stop for a moment because stopping would have meant her having a chance to respond. Howoku leaped onto her shoulders, then over her and kicked off the back of her head. The man slammed his hands forward shooting off shimmering Starlight Release chakra out of his body.

“Starlight Style: Nova Rush!” Howoku shouted leaping with a tackle at the woman as the chakra around his body expanded into an ellipse making Howoku’s body appear like a comet shooting horizontally right at his target. A deafening explosion echoed and wild shrapnel of heated and molten rock from both the collapsing roof and the floor started shooting off at random directions making everyone put a temporary stop in their fights and worry about avoiding this immense backlash of a jutsu. The area where the explosion went off around the centre was completely obliterated, there was a huge crater that reached well into the soil completely disintegrating even the ancient mossy rock that covered the floor, the entire roof construction was completely blown off and disintegrated into dust. Only Howoku stood in the centre of the explosion right in the crater breathing heavily standing by the unconscious body of Surawu – the Four Tails Jinchuuriki.

“Now… I can think what to do…” he thought to himself stroking his own hair to put out a small tongue of flame on his head. This was a bit excessive, he once destroyed an entire assaulting party that tried to invade his village with this technique and he held it back a bit this time, he was using it on a single target in an area where his allies still were after all. Still, Howoku was a bit surprised that the woman only suffered slight burns in some areas and while her armor got completely annihilated, she was supposed to be disintegrated but the Hokage knew that the woman would’ve done something to survive. He actually counted on her tagging out and letting the Tailed Beast take the blast, in that case he would’ve let it have it all and taken it down. Nova Rush Jutsu was powerful enough to severely kick the Tailed Beast in the teeth, it was made for inhuman encounters, those like ones with a Tailed Beast or a Lesser Demon.

A powerful shock caught Howoku unprepared, something steel hard drove into his face in an instant – it was the woman’s staff! The woman’s injured body leaped up so fast that he couldn’t even track her movements, she spun the staff around wildly letting its weight pummel Howoku, the hits were not as focused and crushing as single strikes but the numbers of impacts let her really get into it. Howoku was completely at her mercy for those several combinations of blows. She hit with spins, both left and right, lower and higher areas finishing the combination with a powerful slam into his face sending Howoku out of the crater and onto the floor. The man’s glasses were shattered all over the area from the damage they took.

Clumsily the woman climbed out of the crater, huffing and panting, murmuring something under her own nose. “Wow that attack was amazing! I really felt that!” she complimented the downed opponent of hers by patting her torn up clothes and examining the burns all over her body. Howoku raised his head and started slowly getting up, his vision was blurry and the sides of his body started aching, this degree of damage was something that even Vashia’s ointment would not have completely helped with. He sustained permanent damage in this battle, something he wouldn’t be able to completely heal even in the future, and that was something that severely lowered his chances against Shirona. Howoku felt warm torrents of blood running down all over his body in multiple areas. If this woman focused her strength into a single strike she may even have killed him!

“You mean… You took all of it?!” Howoku asked wiping the blood out of his eyes and tearing off the sleeve of his jumpsuit. The man tied it onto his forehead to stop the bleeding all over his face, that would have gotten into his way. “I actually counted that you would bring your Beast out, I planned for it to take the blast and get taken out…” the man admitted to which Surawu really got mad.

“I told you this was MY fight! Don’t fight Son Goku you stupid twit! Fight ME! Get serious or I’ll pummel you real bad! Well… Then again, we sort of shared chakra in that moment, I wouldn’t have taken the blast if he didn’t help me, heh heh…” her emotions switched completely erratically. One moment this woman was furious that she was not the main target, the next she laughed herself off just because she used the chakra of the Tailed Beast to survive the impact. So these two had perfect coordination – the beast could lend his chakra instantly without questioning his Jinchuuriki’s judgment, she could incorporate the Beast’s chakra into her flow and use it as her own effortlessly. These two worked in perfect sync.

Howoku had to stall, he needed time to start regaining full control of his body as his ribs and his chest hurt too much to keep fighting. He coughed heavily from some sort of liquid in his lungs – he may have been bleeding internally. “This sync… You also named your Tailed Beast… Just what sort of relationship do the two of you have with each other?” Howoku wondered out loud. Surawu stood straight, her eyes changed into more serious eyes and they wondered down onto the ravaged rocky floor.

“I didn’t name Son Goku, that’s his real name. That’s what he told me when we became good friends. That wasn’t the case initially. When I was a little girl I hated him, he made me stronger, more durable and he indirectly helped me to train harder. The stamina of a Jinchuuriki is fifty times that of a ninja without one, even when the two have had no contact with each other. I always thought I was some sort of a freak – I could’ve trained for weeks without rest and so I’ve become really strong unaware of his existence. Other kids thought of me as a freak, so did the grown-ups but they didn’t hate me because of Son Goku, they hated me because I was strong, because I made it all look too easy and because that made them look bad. When a kid appears to barely be trying to complete the tasks that they would fail at even if they trained for a hundred years… People say “Thank you” but they actually hate you deep inside because you illustrate their flaws, you remind them that they are flawed themselves. They think that you’re full of yourself even if you never take pride in your strength. Honestly they didn’t really care about Son Goku, they only hated me because I was better than them while still being innocent and stupid – they thought it all came on a platter for me and that became my curse. I dealt with that hate and cruelty by transferring all of it on Son Goku…”

The woman’s eyes suddenly became sad as she looked down. Howoku’s body started feeling better, he once again felt his arms and legs, some of his wounds didn’t appear to bleed remotely as profusely as he applied other pieces of his jumpsuit as bandage on the wounds that needed attention. All of a sudden Howoku didn’t want to kill this woman at all, even more, he could identify some of himself in her, empathize with her. He knew the social rejection of a genius, he knew all too well of the hatred that people had for people that were inherently better than them. They never even bothered to see these geniuses being arrogant, they never bothered to even question if their skill was even the point of the conversation – a genius was better than them, he illustrated all the flaws they had by contrast and so they had to disappear. They had to be punished for being so good at something somehow, by rejecting a genius people executed their own “social justice”.

Howoku’s eyes raised up and met those of the monkey woman. He saw from her own eyes that she noticed Howoku’s own experience being related to hers, she knew that he understood her own pain perfectly.

“It’s funny, usually the one who doesn’t want to communicate is the Tailed Beast, I’ve met some other Jinchuuriki as they were supposed to tutor me of the easier ways to master one’s abilities as well as teach me responsibility of having a Tailed Beast inside. Son Goku wanted to play with me and talk from the very beginning, it was my own hatred that rejected him. Son Goku kept asking me to play with him, talk to him and I yelled at him that I hated him. Told him that if I ever played with him I’d vomit until I died and if I died I’d be happy because I would no longer have to share a body with him, Goku was really crushed by those words. He stopped talking to me, stopped lending me his chakra. I was happy for a year or two, tried to gain friends, I thought that if I changed for my friends that they’d accept me but while I changed for them they couldn’t have cared less. It’s actually ironic that I wanted recognition, I wanted friends when I had one all along and I pushed him away by being mean to him for people who weren’t even friendly but recognition of which I craved most of all… It was then that I felt truly alone for the first time.”

The story of the woman he never asked for but just couldn’t force himself to tell her to stop reminded Howoku of his own past. With him bearing the heritage of the Moon People, being a descendant of a descendant of some other line of descendants, and possessing their unparalleled power he also was rejected as a child. He was smart because he worked hard, he was strong because he obliterated every obstacle in his way by disintegrating them, he possessed Fire and Lightning Releases from his earliest days surpassing the other genin who barely could use one. To him things always came easy but he never wanted strength, he never wanted to beat his enemies – he wanted to make them understand him, he wanted for everyone in the world to just get along. Ironically enough no one ever bothered to empathize with him or get along with him so how could a man with no friends or empathizers make the entire world feel for itself? It only changed for the better after he met Misu and Hanasaku, Hanasaku was a bit like him – she was crazy strong and always took all the punches smiling but she didn’t care about anything. She taught him that ignorance was bliss, she taught him that the last thing he should cry about was how everyone else perceived him, that he shouldn’t change for their approval, he should reveal his true colours and have people either approve of him or go to hell. Misu showed Howoku that peace and friendship wasn’t always going to cut it, that sometimes one needed to get their hands into the mess, that turning the other cheek after getting slapped only lead to being slapped again, sometimes peace needed to be forced… The three of them were the best of friends and nothing else mattered, meeting them helped Howoku bloom into the man he was today – the Fourth Hokage!

“So how did you two make up?” Howoku asked Surawu encouraging her to finish the story. This was a unique experience, two opponents of each other feeling for one another, being opponents but not enemies. Fighting only because they ended up on the two sides of the same bridge and one of them had to get wet so that the other could pass.

“I always thought that Son Goku was angry at me and that he hated me after I lashed out at him. Turns out that was not the case – he was just hiding because he wanted me to be happy. He thought that maybe once I was happy that I would stop being so angry and hating the world and him by extension. He is a weird creature, he isn’t violent or inherently evil like people portray the Tailed Beasts to be. He’s actually a lot like me – simple minded. He just wants to play around but sometimes he gets a bit destructive with his games so over the years he started to feel really happy being sealed into a human – where his games hurt no one else, there are no villages to destroy in one’s body, no volcanoes there to erupt, just a black void to play with one’s friend until one gets bored. I confronted him after realizing that, it took me some time but… When I did, I’ve never seen anyone be as happy as Son Goku was at that moment. My inhuman strength and endurance returned after he started sharing chakra again but it didn’t matter, instead of supressing myself I let myself bloom and I couldn’t have cared less about what other people thought, I had the only friend I would ever need inside my own body, as close as close gets…”

Surawu gently touched her exposed belly where a complicated sign of a seal was. That gentle touch must’ve meant a lot, it communicated so many feelings at once. While Howoku was not a Jinchuuriki but he could understand the woman perfectly. “Very well, Surawu-san. I shall honor you by going all out and fighting you without thinking of Fou… Son Goku, or the Mizukage. Initially I was afraid of your mastery and coordination with Son Goku but… I guess I’m getting old and soft, I really have no wish to kill you now so you better find an answer to every attack I throw because if you die on me I won’t forgive you!” Howoku explained taking an offensive stance. The two charged at each other and Howoku’s body lit up with Starlight Release chakra as the two started exchanging punches. Even without using the Tailed Beast chakra Surawu was incredibly strong and fast and a very skilled taijutsu user. If it was not for Howoku’s Starlight chakra that made his body much hotter leaving severe burns on any area he touched and burning the fist or knee that hit him slightly, this woman wouldn’t have fought him on such equal scales as she did now.

The two leaped around each other, Surawu avoided every blow, she couldn’t block any attacks without taking some damage and now her body was already battered by Howoku’s previous explosion of excess. The woman made quick and lacking force strikes to hit the man, just land a quick jab, just to leave a mark but not put too much force so that she didn’t contact the heated up chakra for too long. The man’s glowing bursts of chakra were so hot that they didn’t even feel hot – they just burned whatever they touched so Surawu had additional trouble avoiding taking more damage than she would have liked taking. Eventually the woman just flipped over Howoku and kicked off of his shoulders to make some distance between the two – fighting him up close was too much trouble for her.

“Not that I’m complaining but… Aren’t Son Goku’s Jinchuuriki supposed to be able to use Lava Release? Why aren’t you using it?” Howoku asked politely panting after this intense exchange of blows with the woman.

“Well, technically Son Goku can teach you that and while one has him in them they have the capacity but… I’m sort of really bad at it so I stopped bothering with it, is there a problem with that?” Surawu replied.

Howoku laughed out loud from the bottom of his heart. “No. Your reply reminds me of a friend I know though.”

The two prepared to settle their fight finally.
Final Confrontation Imminent! by Captain Claymore
Surawu leaped forward winding up with her staff for a hit. Howoku swiped both of his hands to the side forming a rod out of Starlight chakra that blocked the blow. The slam of her staff only seemed to be the distraction for her main attack as the Jinchuuriki of the Four Tails backflipped and drove her fingers together into a clone technique seal.

“Shadow Clone Jutsu!” she said as a loud poof with a cloud of smoke silenced any words she may have said afterwards. Five clones of the woman leaped out of the smoke cloud, Howoku stepped to the side to avoid the blow aimed by one of them and thrust his knee into her stomach making the clone poof away. The second clone’s staff drove into Howoku’s back but it didn’t hurt like the real thing, the Hokage soon recovered from the shock and the pain and thrust his right leg backwards into the clone’s chest dispelling it as well. Noticing the black staff of the third clone Howoku rolled forward stopping his body with his arm and pushing it off the ground while thrusting both of his feet at the clone kicking her in the chin and sending her into the air where it dispelled as well.

With a powerful swing of his elbow Howoku dispatched of the other clone and then leaped into the air and dispelled the last one with his kick. All of this seemed weird, Shadow Clone technique was an incredibly costly technique, a young genin in Tanshu’s team was mentioned to have used the technique and passed out, this woman split her chakra into five parts essentially. Only then did the Fourth notice Surawu rapidly spinning her staff around her head and standing further away. “Sorry, Fourth, this is my special technique and it needs time to charge up, I had to throw those weaklings at you…” the woman giggled with a weird smile reminding that of a playful monkey.

The staff started glowing with reddish glow before red lightning started bursting out of it covering the entire staff in a cloak of red chakra that shot off violent lightning-like bursts. Surawu then placed the staff in front of her holding it on one end while she pointed the other end at Howoku as if she was wielding a katana. The chakra around the staff intensified and the strain on the woman’s body was evident as she started shouting out of pain and exhaustion, “Monkey Destruction Cannon Jutsu!” she yelled out as the violent burst of chakra separated into a wide and swift beam of destructive chakra attack. Just barely did Howoku manage to leap to the side and avoid the beam, Surawu tried to hit him with it again by adjusting her staff and turning herself with the beam around but Howoku managed to vault over the beam every time. It was unfortunate that this frantic dodging tired him out too much to exploit the moment of weakness after the woman’s technique ended.

“Wow… You’re pretty good, from the rumors people say that physical stuff comes hard for you but you matched me hand to hand and managed to dodge my beam as well as kept up with my clones, even if they were severely weaker versions of me… I’m really impressed.” Surawu showed Howoku her tongue and laughed out like a monkey again, it seemed like the beast that she carried within somewhat affected her personality and mannerisms.

Howoku wanted to adjust his glasses that he still believed to be there but then his fingers only touched thin air and his own nose, his vision blurred again for a moment as he remembered losing them. “Truth be told, Surawu-san, it is my weakest side by far. That is simply the real difference between us, the wedge between a Jounin and a Hokage that separates us. I felt like I really connected with you, now I cannot kill you even if I wanted to. That being said I have responsibilities and I can entertain you and Son Goku no longer. I shall end it all with this final attack, when you train and grow stronger and when your connection with Son Goku grows to be even more powerful I’d gladly fight you again…”

Surawu furiously shook her head. “What are you talking about!? Do you mean you’ve been holding back this whole time!? Well… That makes me really pissed, you know! Stop playing around and show me this “wedge” of which you speak of!” the woman shouted out and leaped forward with a strike of her staff that burst with the reddish lightning chakra. It appeared that Son Goku was lending the woman chakra which she used to enhance her strength and endurance by injecting it forcefully into her chakra flow and accelerating it. While Howoku understood the basic concept because of his vast experience on the battlefield he could not understand why would the woman have chosen to do so – it basically had the same effects as the casual textbook chakra flow manipulation.

The staff, bursting with crackling red lightning chakra, flew through the air cutting through it but then it stopped after hitting something really hard and strong. Surawu’s head peeked to the side and then her mouth shot open in surprise as well as her eyes that widened to almost comedic extent. Howoku had raised his hand into the air and held it as if he had a sword in his hand and then a burst of Starlight Release formed a blade in his hands that was several times larger than her staff.

“Starlight Release: Pleiades!” he mumbled under his own nose as he pushed her staff back effortlessly by swinging his Starlight blade of chakra. Two wide slashes that formed an X shape covered Surawu’s body before her gentle and swift feet even touched the ground making the woman lose her balance and stagger back, wild bursts of burning-like reaction to the chakra cut was glowing out of her wounds. On one hand it cauterized all of her burns but it also incinerated the areas around the cuts as well as deeper inside her body, Surawu coughed up blood but then regained her balance, her wild monkey-like eyes returned and dyed red, they were now enraged to the point where she now reminded more of a monkey than a human.

The Jinchuuriki’s fist tightened as she cocked it back preparing a powerful punch, a cloak of red chakra covered her entire body with three tails growing out of her bottom shaped out of chakra. She was letting Son Goku give her more and more chakra to the point where his chakra dwarfed that of her own. Suddenly the woman’s fist shot out that very same crimson lightning that her staff was emanating before, just incalculably more dense and concentrated and supersized, her fist reminded more of a large ball similar to those that children played on the streets. Howoku’s hand changed from a clenched hand that held his Starlight Blade to an open palm as the Starlight Chakra got reabsorbed into his body – while the man could not refund his own chakra that he had spent on his Starlight techniques he could change one to another quickly if he needed to. The concept was similar to reaching for water from a pond – one reached down and took some water in their hands and then raised it intending to wash their face. In the middle of that action they may have realized they were pretty thirsty so they completed the action by drinking the water instead of washing their face, that being said the amount of water in the pond was still reduced.

As Surawu prepared to charge at Howoku the gigantic ball of chakra around her arm that was an even more intense shade of crimson red that the cloak of chakra around her shaped into a gigantic fist. The Jinchuuriki roared wildly, reminding more of a roar of a wild ape than a roar of a furious woman which was troubling to hear. A powerful light emanated from Howoku’s chest as he leaped forward to meet the woman’s attack. Surawu roared again after thrusting her wild construct of crimson lightning chakra forward.

“Monkey Fist Jutsu!” she shouted out in a voice that barely reminded that of her own, all of a sudden, before the fist construct collided with his body Howoku’s lips moved just barely – “Starlight Nova!” he uttered as the small ball of Starlight glow in his chest expanded into a gigantic all covering sphere that disintegrated the entire half of the room that those two were, deepening the crater that his previous outburst of power had made. Now the wing of the temple that the Hokage’s group was in was no longer even connected to the main building. Howoku looked into the sky only to see wild raindrops falling onto his face, the man observed the dark clouds in the sky before his eyes briefly slipped onto burnt up and unconscious young woman beside him. The Fourth took a couple of deep breaths before falling onto his knees and having to stop for a moment. This was getting out of control, he was tired and wanted to stop all this fighting.

“Just one more fight… One more fight to end them all.” Howoku whispered to himself as he decided to get out of the crater where the water was filling up moving his beaten opponent out of the crater as well.


*****

Meanwhile slightly further down the room in the part that was yet undestroyed by Howoku’s Starlight techniques Tanshu continuously tried to break through the barriers of the Barrier Buster of the Kirigakure Barrier Corps. Breaking a barrier was simple, the Sannin could bust a barrier with a single punch but his opponent kept crafting more and more endlessly, with each swipe of his arm while his other arm held the hand seal another barrier rose up.

“Your punches are weaker, you’