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Natsuko Rinha

Early Morning || Konoha

“Kazu-chan!” Natsuko cried, launching herself onto the unsuspecting boy’s arm.

“Natsuko, let go,” Kazuhiko said, attempting to shake her off, but she clung on with a grin.

“Kazu-chan, tell me you at least talked to Riko-chan,” Natsuko said. “C’mon—I know you two train your nature transformation jutsus under the same instructor.”

Kazuhiko stayed silent, tight-lipped as he looked behind himself. Looking over, Natsuko spotted Minoru and promptly dropped Kazuhiko’s arm, giving the team leader a little wave.

“Hey, Minoru-sensei. Didn’t see you there,” she said with a coy smile. “Me and Kazu-chan were just messing around, right, Kazu-chan?”

Kazuhiko shot her a look but stayed silent.

“See?” Natsuko asked, shrugging.

Kazuhiko Taketori

Early Morning || Konoha

Natsuko always knew how to get under his skin—that much was for sure. Despite having been on the same team for over a year now, he could never get used to the girl’s little plots and spontaneous jibes. Where Koharu and Minoru-sensei were reasonable people, Natsuko was an utter wild card who, though charming in her own way, was a bit too much for him to deal with so early in the morning.

Nodding at Koharu when she arrived, Kazuhiko turned to their sensei. “Should we set out now?”


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Minoru


He hoped that his studentswere excited for this mission. He...well, he was, but he was also a little nervous. They'd been a fantastic team so far, despite a few setbacks. They were growing as shinobi and he knew their families were proud. That didn't stop him from worrying though. Oddly enough this was the first time since they'd been assigned to him that he was actually on time. Along the way he'd met up with Koharu, a tiny but serious faced girl that no doubt would grow to be a wonderful woman. He towered over the girl and often he had to look down to make sure he hadn't lost her in the crowds. Theur walk had been quiet, as most walks with her were. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence. He knew that she was quiet, did quiet things and generally went about her business without a fuss. She was...different than he'd expected. Hearing you were training an heir to a clan wasn't the best news. Most were spoiled and expected for this whole experience to go by as easily as their lives did. But this one, and Kazuhiko, were different. They strived to be the best, to take all of their challenges head on.

"Are you excited, Koharu?"

He glanced down at the small girl agian as they approached te other two genin that were already waiting for them. He didn't miss the way her lips quirked up at the corners as she watched her teammates. The focus was returned to Minoru and she nodded. "Yes. Mother thinks I'm too young but Osamu-san says I need a real mission." She spoke so formally that Minoru gave a small defeated sigh. Well hopefully having Natsuko around would break that shell of hers. And the one around Kazuhiko.
He felt his own lips twitch into a smile and he gave a soft laugh.

"Go easy on them, Natsuko. It's still quite early." Indeed it was early. A good portion of the village wasn't even awake yet. That was fine though, they had a long journey to the Land of Lightning. No doubt his two serious, sticks in the mud would find this to be an adequate challenge. D-rank missions could only hold their interests for so long. No one wanted to be stuck finding lost dogs or delivering packages throughout the village for a year.

Koharu


There was always a bubble of nervousness that welled up in her stomach, settling heavily in the base of her throat, when she had to greet her teammates. During training she could distract herself with sparring or something. There was no buffer during a time like this though. Koharu nodded at each of her teammates briefly before looking at their sensei. She liked Mimoru so far. He'd neen welcoming of her, even after her rough introduction into his group, and she enjoyed that he didn't pester her with questions about why her clan had immigrated. She could no longer remember the land of her birth beyond the cold and snow, and while she knew why they had left in the first place, she didn't know the fine details. Or why so many were suspicious of the Wakahisa clan. They weren't spies. When the question was presented to Minoru, she looked up at him curiously with an obvious desire to start their mission soon.

"I'm having doubts now, Kazuhiko. I think we should head home."

"But sensei! You said that we were ready. Have you ever spent a year doing kiddie missions? They get dull. Fast." Koharu felt a little embarrassed at her minor outburst. Minoru omly smiled at her and reached out and put a large hand on her hair.

"I was joking. We'll leave soon. I promise. We need to stop at an estate close to the border. We should get there by noon."

Koharu scowled up at the mam and batted his hand away from her head. He laughed quite loudly at that. Such a tiny thing with such an impressive amount of courage. Most would have been disappointed and returned home.

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Natsuko Rinha

Early Morning || Konoha

“I’ll try,” Natsuko said with a devious grin. Such went the frequent exchange between Minoru and herself, since both of them knew she would only tone it down a bit after the warning. Of the team, ironically, it was Minoru that was most comfortable around her—something that Natsuko found endlessly funny and exploited on a daily basis. She was on Minoru’s good side, and she knew that. Though she also knew that he did his best to show no favoritism, she was glad that her sensei accepted her antics since the her teammates would need a lot more work before Natsuko got them to where she wanted them to be.

When the group started for the western gate—where they’d arranged to meet the daimyo’s entourage—Natsuko fell into step beside Koharu. In Natsuko’s head, it made sense that Koharu came from the Land of Snow, since the girl quite literally tried to freeze everyone out. Natsuko, though, had never been a one to give up easily, and she’d taken to poking and prying at Koharu’s icy shell whenever possible, hoping to get a glimpse of the personality that appeared when Koharu was overly tired or angry.

“Haru-chan,” Natsuko sang, grinning as she peered at her teammate. “You know, yesterday Kazu-chan was training with Mariko. If you’re not careful, she might steal him away from you,” Natsuko said, stretching her eyes wide with worry. “And star-crossed lovers from enemy families are so last century.”

For Natsuko, it didn’t really matter who Kazuhiko was paired up with, since the boy was too gosh-darned awkward for his own good. While Mariko Hyuuga was a bit less frigid than both her teammates, the possibility of matching them up and allowing them to simultaneously grow out of their shell was too good for Natsuko to pass up—not that such was likely anyway. The first few times she’d brought it up, both her teammates had spluttered with denial, red-faced and adamant in setting the record straight. Nowadays, though, the most she got out of Kazuhiko was an exasperated look, and Koharu was beginning to grow used to the topic as well, sometimes even playing along.

Meaning, really, that Natsuko was making progress.

Kazuhiko Taketori

Early Morning || Konoha

Hearing his name mentioned, Kazuhiko glanced back at his teammates, but—seeing that Natsuko was likely up to something again—quickly looked away, hoping that doing so would spare him her attention for another while. He walked beside Minoru, the jonin a good two heads or so taller than him. Being tall for his age, Kazuhiko was almost level height with some of the shorter adults, but standing next to Minoru always made him feel like a kid again. Though it was usually the jonin that started their conversations—Kazuhiko never understood the nuances of making smalltalk—Kazuhiko felt comfortable in their silence, which was more than he could say about most people.


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Koharu


At first Natsuko used to bother her. She wasn't used to people being so...open around her. Koharu may have spent a majority of life in Konoha but she was still an outsider, even with the village headband secured around her left arm. Now though she was getting used to the other girl and her antics. Koharu would even work up the courage to play along at times. But why did she always insist that Koharu and Kazuhiko would be anything beyond teammates? Sure she respected him and his dedication to his training but that didn't amount to anything more than just reapect. She watched the other girl curiously before sparing a glance ahead at the boy. Hm, "I don't know...they might make a cute couple." Koharu's usually neutral face cracked into an easy grin. It wasn't often she'd smile around anyone but her mother and younger sister. She was too 'important' to be above such things. Koharu wouldn't admit but she did like the rare times that Natsuko's teasing would cause the boy to blush.

Surely if Osamu could see her now he'd have a heart attack. She was raised to be poised and prideful, even if she was just a little kid. Koharu had once heard her mother and Osamu talking about her. Her mother was against the idea that Koharu was essentially acting like a mini version of her adootive father. Osamu had argued back that Koharu was his child now and he'd raise her how he seen fit. She knew her mother and had a fantastic relationship with her younger sister but most of her memories were of Osamu and his sons. The grin was gone just as quick as it came and she adjusted the grip on her traveling backpack.
Ahead of them she could see Minoru trying to talk to Kazuhiko and she didn't think the man was going to get very far.

"Hey Suko-chan...are you nervous to be going so far away from home?"

She didn't remember the long journey across land and sea to get to Konoha. Her family had been powerful in Yukigakure and, fortunately for them, had made many allies in various countries. Koharu had been four when the massacre of Kazahana Castle happened. A four year old wouldn't remember much. What she lacked in memories she made up for in knowledge. She knew that the Wakahisa clan had settled temporarily in the Land of Lightning until housing arrangements could be made in Konoha.

Minoru


The man could hear the girls behind them and he couldn't help but smirk just a little bit at Natsuko's teasing. It seemed that she had an idea to break their shells, even if it was a little over ths top. That's what he liked about the girl: she didn't just do missions with her team, she tried to ve their friend. While it was common for genin to form strong friendships with their teams occasionally you'd get a genin that kept everyone at arm's length. One of his own teammates had been that way. Minoru hoped that none of his students would end up that way. If anything having to quiet kids paired up with loud Natsuko would do them good. Minoru laughed deeply when Koharu joined in on the teasing. Oh boy was Kazuhiko going to have his hands full if Koharu's shell ever broke.

"Go easy on him girls." At least this journey wasn't going to be dull. Minoru looked back down at the boy next to him as they walked. "So Kazuhiko...how's training?" There wasn't much that he seemed to be able to teach Kazuhiko or Koharu. Both took their training seriously and he didn't doubt that they didn't train at home. He knew that Koharu did. He'd met her adoptive father once and it had been a...different type of meeting. He'd informed Minoru that it was expected that Koharu would practice better on her own than with a team. It took a while for him to understand it but after seeing the sword strapped to the girl's side he understood.
Kazuhiko seemed to be leaps and bounds beyond others his age. There wasn't much use in Minoru beating a dead horse by going over the basics with the boy.

Natsuko seemed to be the only one he actually had to teach. Minoru contemplated getting Kazuhiko or Koharu to help the girl. Maybe they vould get through to her. The journey to the west gate was relatively short and he could see their guest surrounded by a few guards. Great. This one better not be spoiled.

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Natsuko Rinha

Morning || Konoha

“Cute, but so cliche I might die from retelling their love story,” Natsuko said, stopping to pose, a back of her hand to her forehead as she looked up at the sky. “And then it was like night met day. Mariko and Kazu-chan touched hands, and they knew—just knew—they were meant to be together despite their warring families. ‘To death do us part,” they said to each other.”

Minoru’s gently chiding voice carried over, causing Natsuko to break from her scene and flash the jonin a mischievous grin. “Am doing!” she called. She hadn’t even started grilling anyone yet.

Koharu’s question made her flick her eyes to her teammate, scanning the light-haired girl’s face for clues. Although Koharu had started to let down her walls around her, many of Koharu’s thoughts remained unvoiced, more due to the girl’s personality than her lack of trust in Natsuko. As such, Natsuko had to watch closely, reading in between Koharu’s words and silences to guess what her friend really meant. Right now, it seemed like Koharu had chanced upon some unpleasant thought or memory, which meant it was up to Natsuko to brighten her mood again.

“With you and Kazu-chan watching my back, what do I have to be nervous about?” Natsuko asked, grinning. “We’re going to have so much fun!”

And such was true. At home, Natsuko was a quiet, unnoticed presence with her four older brothers dominating most of the attention. Her parents were always more concerned with this accomplishment and that successful mission, leaving her little time for Natsuko, who didn’t have much to add to the list anyway. Outside her home, though, Natsuko felt liberated—free to be herself, say her mind. So, as a general rule, the farther she got from home, the happier she was. A trip to the Lightning Country? That was an adventure that Natsuko couldn’t wait for.

Kazuhiko Taketori

Morning || Konoha

Kazuhiko didn’t even bother looking over at his teammates. On average, Natsuko liked to bring up the supposed romantic tension between Koharu and him at least three times a day—one of those times being when they first gathered together. Though he’d gotten used to shrugging it off, he was glad for Minoru’s chidings that, while clearly ineffectual, reassured him that he would have a sensible authority figure to turn to if Natsuko got out of hand.

“I’m making progress with taijutsu,” Kazuhiko said in response to Minoru’s question. During the past month or so, he’d had frequent sparring sessions with Mariko Hyuuga in order to practice his Taijutsu. The Hyuuga heiress had more than a leg up over him due to her dojutsu, which alerted her whenever he attempted to use his. However, Kazuhiko had discovered a loophole in this pattern a few sessions ago: If he distracted her—focusing her attention elsewhere with an attack to the side or something similar—he would be able to utilize the Sensaigan to his advantage and turn the tables. Hyuuga were well known for their Taijutsu prowess, but his the Taketori were a close second.

At the west gate, the team was met by the daimyo’s guards. There were six of them altogether, all armed with sheathed katanas, as well as a carriage in which their charge likely sat.

“Minoru Kawaguchi?” one guard asked, stepping forwards to discuss details with the team captain. As they did, Kazuhiko turned his attention to the carriage, which remained silent despite his team’s arrival. He’d heard few details about the figure they were to deliver other than the fact that it was someone with relation to a daimyo currently residing in the Lightning Country. The person they were escorting, therefore, was most likely a family member—the wife or, say, a brother.

“Why’s your hair white?” a voice asked. Kazuhiko snapped around to see a little boy standing next to Koharu and Natsuko, looking at Koharu with puzzlement. “Are you sick?”

“Young master!” a guard said, rushing to the boy’s side. “Please, stay in the carriage!”

“Aw, aren’t you just the cutest,” Natsuko said, bending down to the boy’s height and reaching out to pat the boy’s head.

The boy batted her hand away. “Don’t touch me, ugly,” he said, then glanced between her and Koharu. “Why’re you both so short? Are you really shinobi?”

“Young master, please, this way,” the guard said, guiding the boy back to the carriage as Natsuko stared gape-jawed after him.

“He—he just called me ugly!” she said, eyes wide.

“Forgive the young master. He can be quite… hasty with his words sometimes,” another guard said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been called ugly,” Natsuko whispered, gazing blankly at the carriage into which the boy had disappeared.

“Positions!” the captain that had been speaking to Minoru shouted, evidently having finished discussing plans. The guards immediately flanked the carriage, hoisting it up.

“Natsuko?” Kazuhiko said, walking over to his teammate, who looked up with a tight smile.

“I'm fine!” Natsuko said, smile wider than usual. “But if that twerp gets within three feet of me again, I can’t guarantee the safety of his pretty little head.”


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Koharu


She smiled at Natsuko's enthusiasm. Koharu couldn't deny that having the other girl around was a good thing. She could remind Koharu that they were just twelve year old girls, not adults. At home Koharu was talked to as an adult. She attended the meetings Osamu had with his advisors and she even trained with him. Everything in her life was centered around her status as heir to the clan. She was not a child. She was their future. This sort of stuff, being with her team and being treated like a kid, made it all bearable. If only she wasn't so awkward at trying to be informal. (Hey she could have been as bad as Kazuhiko.)

Koharu was also thankful that Natsuko seemed assured that she and Kazuhiko could keep her safe. So much was piled onto her shoulders, and his. So much was riding on them to be perfect for their clans. It was nice that they had someone around that only expected them to be safe havens rather than cold perfection.

"Why's your hair white?" The question didn't catch her off guard. No, the speaker had caught her off guard. She looked at the little boy and gave a small smile. It wasn't uncommon for people, especially children, to ask about her hair. She was aware that it wasn't exactly common in Konoha and many of her classmates had made fun of her for it. She couldn't ever remember a time when Natsuko or Kazuhiko had made fun of her hair. She'd been about to explain that it was common back in the Land of Snow, and that it was the only good thing she had to remember her father bye, but he'd moved onto Natsuko.

Koharu's snorting laughter was quickly drowned out by her hand as she attempted to smother away the sounds. She had to be dignified and there was nothing noble about snorting. This little boy surely wasn't winning any points with Natsuko. Koharu moved closer to her teammate and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "It's okay, Suko-chan. He isn't winning any beauty contests either." Koharu paused at her awkward wording and quickly withdrew her hand to bow deeply towards Natsuko, muttering out a soft apology. Koharu was used to impassive adults as cold as the ice she could wield, not pretty girls who were insulted.

Minoru


He'd thanked the guard captain and gave assurances that this would go smoothly but when he turned around and seen the wide smile on Natsuko's face and Koharu bowing while apologies streamed from her mouth made him rethink what he'd told the captain. With a defeated sigh he moved closer to his team and put a hand on Natsuko's head and told Koharu that she didn't have to bow anymore.

"I see you've already met our charge. He is Hachiro, the son of the Daimyo of the Land of Lightning." He motioned for his students to follow him as the carriage began moving. The journey would take three days, and that was without any interruptions or mishaps. He had a good team and they'd done good on their other missions and their training. This was their chance for some real world experience. The Land of Fire and the Land of Lightning were on...tense grounds with each other. While they would likely jave a run of the mill escort mission it wouldn't hurt to teach them just how this world really worked. From what he understood and had learned about his students was that Natsuko was saddled with the least burden by her family but the other two were the exact opposite and likey all they knew about the world was how their clans fit into it.

"Are you alright?" Minoru asked as he fell in line with Koharu.

"Yes sir." She kept her gaze on everything but the village gates they'd barely just passed through.

When the Wakahisa clan had been brought to Konoha there were a great many people who didn't care if a new clan would live within the village walls but some of the older and bigger clans had raused concerns, namely the fact that the Wakahisa clan didn't tell anyone, possibly beyond the Hokage and his advisors, shy they'd been exiled from Yukigakure. The people of Konoha were welcoming but could be suspicious. Not that he blamed them, he'd been suspicious at first to but once the shinobi from Yukigakure had shown their talent and desire to protect their new homes people began to change their minds.

"You might want to check on Natsuko. That blow to her ego is hurting her more than she wants to show."

Koharu

Dusk//Land of Fire border


When they finally stopped for the night she could feel a deep ache in her feet and once Minoru gave the word that they were stopping for lunch Koharu stripped her shoes off and tossed them into a small pile. To hell with being dignified when her feet hurt! The day had been largely uneventful aside from Natsuko teasing them and Minoru trying to impart wisdom as they walked.
The guards set the carriage down and Minoru was in the process of already making a fire, showing off his use of fire jutsu to the sppiled brat Daimyo's son.
So far the mission was fun. Being so far from her family was a little odd and it made her nervous but ultimately she was enjoying it. This was their first real mission after all. Maybe in a little while she'd practice her iaido.

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Natsuko Rinha

Morning || Konoha

Koharu’s attempt at reassuring Natsuko made her pause, since her teammate’s words, interpreted another way, contained a thinly-veiled insult. However, given Koharu’s temperament, Natsuko quickly realized that Koharu must have misspoken, but Koharu was already bowing and apologizing profusely.

“Oh, Haru-chan, it’s fine,” Natsuko said, attempting to pat her teammates shoulder and reassure Koharu that everything was forgiven. Koharu, though, didn’t look convinced, but then Minoru stepped in and Koharu found an opening to slip away from Natsuko.

“How about Hachi-NO?” Natsuko said, cracking a weak smile despite the fact that her attention was still on Koharu, who seemed more deeply affected than she was. Had she known it’d be like this, she would have just brushed off the young brat’s comment without another glance. Mean comments? As if she hadn’t gotten her fair share of them from adults and peers alike.

“Are you alright?” Kazuhiko asked once the group started moving again. Minoru, clearly picking up on Koharu’s change in mood, had made a beeline for the girl.

“Yep, fine,” Natsuko said, shooting Koharu one final glance and—finding the situation handled, praise Minoru—turned her attention to Kazuhiko with a devious grin. “So, Kazu-chan. What if I were to tell you that Koharu is a bit in the dumps and in need of a white knight in shining… sandals?”

Kazuhiko sighed. “Nice talking to you, Natsuko.”

Kazuhiko Taketori

Dusk || Land of Fire Border

By the time the guards finally decided to call it a night, a heavy weariness had settled into Kazuhiko’s bones, and the same went for his teammates; Natsuko looked drained, blinking blearily as she sank down onto a log, and Koharu was already stripping off her shoes. Though he’d never say he was tired, Kazuhiko had to admit that now was as good a time as any to stop. The guards were clearly more accustomed to the long distances required for the job than the team of genin to which he belonged.

“What are they doing?” Natsuko asked when she spotted a few guards leaving the caravan.

“Finding firewood and water, probably,” Kazuhiko said, glancing over at the guards. That there was a water source nearby likely factored into the guards’ decision to stop.

“A river?” Natsuko said, perking up as she came to the same conclusion he did. Springing to her feet, she grabbed both Kazuhiko and Koharu by a hand and tugged. “C’mon, let’s go soak our feet!”

“Minoru-sensei,” Kazuhiko tried, quickly looking to the jonin for help.

“Minoru-sensei, ple—ease,” Natsuko said, pouting at the jonin as she continued tugging on her teammates.


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Koharu


Koharu weakly protested being drug around. Had it not have been for the bone deep ache in her feet she would have happily accepted Natsuko's offer to soak her feet. Koharu could endure training with Osamu, with her teammates and Minoru, but she couldn't handle aching feet. Koharu's face twisted into a brief, uncharacteristic pout when Minoru ignored Kazuhiko's pleading. "Hmph. Picking favorites as always." She said, not really catching the hurt that flashed over the jonin's face. Oh she knew that Minoru-sensei favored Natsuko, not that she could blame him. Koharu and Kazuhiko were far too serious while Natsuko and Minoru were loud and boisterous.

"Have fun you three. Be safe!" There was no harm in letting them go soak their feet. They weren't used to these long trips uet and he didn't see a problem in rewarding them. Perhaps it would put the girls into a better mood.

"Hey wait for me!" Koharu looked back at the little boy and sighed. No doubt he'd want to go just to annoy them. Koharu didn't mind, her sister was about the same age as he was and she didn't get to see her often so this would be like having her around. Koharu looked back at Minoru and found him smiling. It was tense, sure, but he seemed to trust them with Hachiro's safety. That was a big responsibility. No doubt it was a test of sorts. If they could do this mission successfully then they could take more than errands in the village.
"Three feet away from him, Suko-chan. Minoru-sensei won't let us take another mission if you beat him up." Koharu gave a soft smirk, despite the desire to protest.

The river was beautiful, reflecting the colors of the setting sun. It wasn't very wide or deep so it was perfect. Koharu wasn't the tallest around, Hachiro wasn't much taller than she was, so deep water intimidated her a little bit. She rolled her pant legs up and settled on the ground, making sure there was at least three feet between Natsuko and Hachiro. She enjoyed the cold against her skin, and if the small yelp that Hachiro gave when he put his feet in the river too was any indication, then she was likely the only one that would. A soft giggle came from the girl and there was a look of mischief in her eyes. It wasn't often that she showed this side of her but she needed to get payback for the brat's earlier comment about Natsuko. Koharu wasn't bothered by the white hair comment, she learned to tune those out long ago.

With a few moments of concentration she focused her wind chakra out through her still submerged feet, causing the water to get colder than it already was. Ah, that was better! Hachiro was screeching, holding onto his cold feet in ab attempt to warm them up. Please, it wasn't as if his feet were going to fall off. "Hey Kazuhiko, how does a bit of friendly competition sound?" She asked the boy. They weren't rivals, well she didn't see him as a rival (she couldn't say how Kazuhiko viewed her). Often, though, she liked training with him because they had about equal skill. She felt he was more skilled at her in many areas, but that was her opinion and every time Minoru was asked who was better he'd never give them an answer.

Minoru


He chuckled as they walked into the trees. The guards wouldn't be happy about letting their young master out of his sight but as far as Minoru was concerned the boy was safe. They were all close enough to jump into action if any of the kids yelled, and he thought of his team as being strong. Even Natsuko, if she'd ever believe in her abilities. Minoru couldn't help but to think back to Koharu's statement about favorites. Had he really been that transparent or was the girl just good at picking up on thongs like that? Minoru didn't have time to dwell on the quesion when the guards came back, the sound of clattering wood announcing their arrival.

"Relax, he's safe with my students. They will not let anything happen to him. They are fully cap--"

"They are genin!" The guard captain, who'd gone to relieve himself in the bushes, interrupted him. Minoru sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"The boy is of the Taketori clan, the auburn haired girl is of the Rinha, and the white haired one is of the Wakahisa." The weight their clan names carried clearly didn't end at the Land of Fire boarders. The guard captain didn't seem so certain but another guard, this one at least a decade younger with a fresh scar on his face, looked up wide eyed. Minoru felt a flash of pride in his students. If just their clan names could make someone look like that them he couldn't wait for the day when their own names would provoke such a reaction.

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Natsuko Rinha

Dusk || Land of Fire Border

“I’m just that much more likable,” Natsuko said with victorious grin as she prepared to drag her teammates off with Minoru’s blessing. A childish call of protest, however, stopped her short, and she immediately let go of her teammates, ducking behind Koharu.

“Keep him away from me,” she hissed, eyes wide as Hachiro neared. When the boy continued walking over, Natsuko was forced to abandon ship and duck behind Kazuhiko.

“I’m trying very hard not to!” she said when Koharu threw a jibe at her.

“I’m in charge of protecting him too, and that means against you if necessary,” Kazuhiko said in his deadpan way, and Natsuko was unable to tell whether or not he was joking.

“Okay, okay, jeez!” she said, stepping away from him. “I’ll walk over here, okay? But I swear, if that brat says one more thing—”

“Why’s she acting like a crazy person?” Hachiro asked, tugging on Koharu’s sleeve.

“Oh, you are so—”

“Natsuko.”

“Alright, fine,” Natsuko said, crossing her arms and pouting. She suffered the rest of the trek in silence as Hachiro remained attached to both her teammates, clearly favoring Koharu’s soft tone and not altogether put off by Kazuhiko’s flat one either. While Natsuko had to admit she was a bit jealous of the kid, she was glad to see her teammates cheering up after the long hike. She herself was exhausted, and being able to relax and dip her feet in the river—despite the cold—sounded like the perfect end to a long day.

Kazuhiko Taketori

Dusk || Land of Fire Border

Kazuhiko tagged along with his teammates, much like he’d always done. While he himself had no intention of soaking anything in the river, he could see the sense in Natsuko’s argument, and Koharu looked like she could use whatever home remedy Natsuko was suggesting. Their young charge tagging along, however, was a bit of a wild card. Though Minoru had trusted them enough to leave Hachiro in their care, Kazuhiko was still a bit perturbed—if not by the newfound responsibility, then by the boy’s presence.

Hachiro conducted himself as any young, spoiled, filterless child would, and while his honesty was refreshing—as was Natsuko and her reactions to it—Kazuhiko was struck by how differently he and Hachiro had turned out. Where he preferred silence and solitude, Hachiro seemed to gravitate towards the center of attention, intent on placing himself near it if not in it. As a son of a daimyo, Hachiro no doubt had expectations piled on his shoulders as well, yet the boy seemed to have little care for any mannerisms or codes of conduct he would no doubt have had drilled into him by numerous tutors. Kazuhiko had learned early on to watch what words left his mouth, since words held much more weight in formal settings where actions numbered few. Hachiro, on the other hand, seemed to have completely abandoned such lessons, suggesting either a lack of care for them or a desire to rebel against them. Both unsettled Kazuhiko, since he could never imagine himself going along with either of those thoughts.

Kazuhiko waited patiently on the riverbank as Hachiro and his teammates sat at the edge of the water and dipped their feet in. While he caught Koharu’s look of mischief, he trusted the her to conduct herself properly. A few moments later, when Hachiro jumped away from the water, screeching, Kazuhiko connected the dots and cracked a smile.

“Hah! Nice one, Koharu!” Natsuko shouted from her spot a few meters down the river bank. “Kid, that’s what you get!”

Hachiro looked between the two girls, confused, then turned to Kazuhiko, who shrugged. “The water’s too cold,” Hachiro said finally, pouting and hugging his legs close to avoid the water, much to Natsuko’s delight.

“What are you suggesting?” Kazuhiko asked, perking up at Koharu’s suggestion of a competition. While he was confident in his skills, he’d never gotten confirmation that he was better than Koharu, since Minoru was a master of non-committal answers. As such, a friendly contest to determine who was better was something he was keenly interested in.

Rustling from behind Kazuhiko diverted his attention, and he turned halfway, then turned back when the rustling ceased completely. They weren’t alone on the riverbank.

“How about ‘who takes down more targets?’” he asked, activating his Sensaigan.

Natsuko was quick on the uptake, quickly moving to Hachiro’s side. “Go for it, you two. I’ll watch him,” she said, giving Hachiro’s cheek a pinch. “Let’s call a truce until you’re safe again.”

Kazuhiko nodded, turning as a row of black-swathed figures emerged from the forest edge, katanas gleaming in the last rays of the setting sun. Taking up stance, he shared a glance at Koharu before they both rushed the swordsmen.


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Koharu


They weren't shinobi, that much was clear. It was likely they were just bandits that saw them as an easy target, or they seen the intricately stitched silk robes that Hachiro wore and assumed they'd get a heafty ransom for the boy. It was common knowledge that genin weren't highly trained or deadly. They were still learning to be shinobi after all. Koharu could feel the blood pumping inher veins, hearing it loud in her ears, as she rushed at the men. This was her first encounter like this, and she knew that it wouldn't be the last. In the back if her mind she could hear Osamu scolding her for being scared. Those katana were almost as big as she was, of course she'd be scared.

The weight of her own sword on her hip didn't stand out to her until she remembered her iaido. It had helped her, even what little she knew of it, gain confidence in her movements and how to handle a katana. She didn't practice with a bamboo sword, no it was a real sword she used that had been dulled down. Remembering her training helped rein in her fear. She ducked out of the way of a katana blade and rolled a few feet away, taking a breath before doing a single hand sign and slapping her small hand onto the ground. "Ice Style: Frozen Capturing Field!" Ice bloomed from her palm, extending forward and out to cover the man's feet, trapping him. The girl wasn't as proficient in her ice release as she would have liked but she wasn't helpless. The man was trying to pull his feet from the ice, yelling in frustration when his feet wouldn't budge.

A good thing about using this sort of nature transformation was it was a little different than manipulating preexisting ice. First: it was stronger, second: she had better control of it, and third: she could use it whenever she wanted to and wasn't restricted if she didn't have any preexisting snow. Koharu smirked in triumph that she was getting better with it. When she first learned the jutsu she lacked the proper balance of wind and water so her attempts often turned to slush. Needless to say, Osamu hadn't been happy that she'd ruined three pairs of his shoes. The man still had his katana and she grew amused when he began hacking at the ice with it when he realized that the ice prevented him from slipping put of his shoes. With that man busy she focused on the others.

There were six in all, counting the man in the ice, and they seemed focused now on Kazuhiko and Koharu more than they were Natsuko and Hachiro. She knew the boy was in safe hands. Just because he'd annoyed Natsuko didn't mean she'd offer him up on a silver platter to those men. She could remember Minoru's lessons on sparing lives whenever possible. The man had said that knowing when to spare a life was a true measure of one's heart. Koharu had taken those lessons in and made them her own. She wouldn't kill these men - couldn't kill them - but she'd make sure they wouldn't hurt Natsuko and Hachiro.
Her small size was both a blessing and a curse. She was quicker than the men but they were bigger and could easily over power her so she focused on dodging their attacks and waiting for the opportunity to use her jutsu again. One by one she picked off two other men in a similar fashion, sealing their feet up in ice before delivering a harsh blow to their stomachs with the sheath of her sword.

At the end of the small scuffle, she was left exhausted. Three consecutive uses of her chakra was...well, draining for lack of a better word. Not only was she a genin using a jutsu she was still learning, but she also had to balance two different types of chakra to make a whole new one. Koharu doubled over with her hands on her knees and caught her breath. To her astonishment she noticed that she and Kazuhiko took down the same number of men.

"That's not fair." She grumbled between breaths. "But good job, Kazu-chan." Koharu didn't call him that often, usually preferring to call him by his name.

Minoru


They'd been gone for far longer than he would have liked. Already the guards were preparing dinner, giving Minoru time to check on the kids. He expected them to be playing in the water (well Natsuko and their charge Hachiro at least). The sight that greeted him was anything but expected. Six men, all in various states of consciousness, were strewn about it what obviously was a small skirmish. Hachiro had latched onto both Kazuhiko and Koharu's hands and was crying. Minoru could see the large tears and globs of snot from where he'd broken through the trees.

Koharu was the first to speak, even if her voice was tired and unsteady. "We're fine, Minoru-sensei." She planted a hand on Hachiro's dark hair and smiled at the boy, trying to calm him down.

He was having a hard time wrapping his head around the scene. They were just genin, kids of twelve, and they'd managed to take down six men by themselves and their charge was unharmed. He was impressed. Not many their age, and even older, could accomplish that. "Good job you three. Now quickly return Hachiro to the guards." He'd deal with the men. They could just pack up and find a new spot but the kids looked tired. Hachiro took to leaning against Kazuhiko and Koharu looked about ready to flop onto the ground.

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Kazuhiko Taketori

Dusk || Land of Fire Border

Signing quickly, Kazuhiko jumped out of the way of a katana’s arc, swinging his hand at the attacker as he did so. Lightning Release: Thunder—arcs of lightning leapt out from his hands, latching onto the attacker’s katana and travelling down the length of the steel. The shock caused the man to drop his katana with a cry, palms stretched wide with pain, as Kazuhiko landed a kick to his face to knock him out.

Whipping out a kunai to clash against the next katana that came his way, Kazuhiko pushed the attacker back before quickly jumping back, retreating to a short distance away. As he did, the two remaining attackers charged at him, katanas raised. When they were close enough, Kazuhiko rapidly signed his next jutsu—Lightning Release: Thunderbolt—sending out multiple thin arcs of lightning that sought out the attackers’ katanas. One of the attackers was repelled, dropping his katana in alarm. The other grit his teeth, pushing through the pain to complete his swing, which Kazuhiko parried with a kunai, kicking the man’s legs out from under him. As the man fell, Kazuhiko took the chance to knock out both him and his comrade, who was in the middle of attempting to retrieve his smoldering katana.

After checking all three of his targets, Kazuhiko straightened, glancing at his teammates. Natsuko and Hachiro were unharmed, a kunai in Natsuko’s grip, and Koharu seemed to have taken down three attackers as well. That made six attackers in all and an exact tie between them.

“Good job too,” Kazuhiko said, rejoining Koharu as they walked over to Natsuko. From her pants, it was clear that the jutsu she’d used had put a strain on her. While he wasn’t as tired as his teammate, he’d been sorely disappointed by his rendition of his Lightning Release: Thunderbolt; where his Thunder version had produced a satisfactorily strong arc of lightning, his Thunderbolt rendition—perhaps on account of the number of arcs produced—had been disappointingly weak in comparison. His chakra control needed some work, he figured, and he likely needed to grind and raise his base chakra levels as well.

“Now he’s your problem again,” Natsuko said, gently but firmly pushing Hachiro towards Kazuhiko and Koharu. The boy was quick on the uptake, grabbing Kazuhiko’s hand.

“You’re really strong,” he said, eyes wide as he stared at Kazuhiko, who was, after an initial second of confusion, starting to feel immensely awkward.

“Koharu is also very capable,” he said at last, but Hachiro was not so easily dissuaded, even after Natsuko inserted herself into the dialogue on Koharu’s behalf. During the walk back, Hachiro’s attention was fixed firmly on Kazuhiko, forcing the genin to remain sheepishly awkward and short-spoken.



Natsuko Rinha

Early Morning || Land of Lightning Outskirts

Natsuko woke abruptly, snapping up to a sitting position and glancing around in alarm. She’d felt something—a push, maybe. Something a small distance off that had suddenly flared up. Trial and error during the past, however, told Natsuko that this ‘something’ wasn’t as mysterious as it felt; it was simply someone using a large amount of chakra. Her senses—however they worked—would pick up on concentrated chakra use. This uncanny intuition was helpful in cases when someone wanted to sneak up on her, like some pranksters back home who thought using simple jutsu to deliver nasty shocks or dump icy water down her back was fun. In this case, Natsuko had a feeling she knew what was going on.

A glance at Koharu, who was sleeping peacefully next to her, made Natsuko hold back from rousing her teammate. Rising carefully, she made sure to stay as silent as possible as she left the tent, but her foot caught on the tent as she stepped out, causing her to almost trip—saved by a hand that caught on the opening of the tent, which, though prevented her from tripping, definitely made enough noise to wake her teammate.

“Sorry Koharu,” Natsuko whispered as her teammate shifted. “Kazuhiko’s out and about at these hours, so I thought I might go find him. Want to come?”

Kazuhiko Taketori

Early Morning || Land of Lightning Outskirts

“Kazu-chan!”

Kazuhiko straightened, panting as he turned. Natsuko and Koharu had arrived at the little clearing he’d found a little ways away from camp—just so far so that the sound didn’t travel. Though he had no idea why his teammates had awoken, especially since he knew for a fact that Natsuko adored her sleep to the point of missing meetings at times, they were awake now, so his individual training session was over.

“Kazu-chan, you can’t just sneak off and train alone,” Natsuko said, pouting. “We’re a team. We need to improve together! Or just you and Koharu—you two should try training together. Who knows where that might lead?” she said, nudging Koharu.

“I’m just about finished anyway,” Kazuhiko said, his breaths slowing. And he was: As he was used to training alone, the arrival of his teammates meant his session was up.

“Aw, don’t leave just yet,” Natsuko whined, tugging Koharu over to the boy. “Let’s all train together then. I won’t tease anymore.”

Kazuhiko hesitated. The offer was tempting, but usually, their training was supervised by Minoru.

“Oh c’mon,” Natsuko whined again.

“Fine. But I’m holding you to that,” he said. Natsuko pouted but quickly broke into a grin.

“Cool! I’ll leave you two to it then,” she said jokingly, to which both her teammates immediately protested.
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Koharu

Early morning / Land of Lighting outskirts


Koharu was a light sleeper so the noise caused by Natsuko moving around in their tent caused her to wake up. By no means did she enjoy waking up early but she was used to it now and wouldn't complain openly. She rubbed her eyes and nodded at Natsuko. There was no way Koharu was getting back to sleep so she might as well go with her teammate. The attack by the bandits the other day was still fresh in her mind. She crawled out if the tent behind Natsuko and found one of the guards on duty. Minoru-sensei was likely sleeping in the tent he shared with Kazuhiko, or was supposed to be sharing. Koharu couldn't fault the boy, she trained by herself a lot as well. There was something calming about it. Perhaps it was because she could go her own pace rather than being hurried along or slowed down by someone else.

She grabbed Natsuko by the collar of her shirt as she protested. Oh no, she wasn't going to pull this stunt again. The first time she had tried it ended in them just trying to ignore each other in favor of training by themselves. "If you leave I'll put ice down your shirt." Koharu warned. No one enjoyed ice in their shirt. She'd only done that once to a boy in their class before they graduated. He'd been wary around her since. It wasn't that he'd been hurt or that she had put a lot, just enough to make him a bit miserable.

Koharu released the back of Natsuko's shirt, dropping her hand to her side. She'd never tested if her ice was strong or weak against any elements other than fire. Osamu had said it would get stronger with added chakra. At this point she didn't have much, she was still a genin after all. It hadn't even been a full year since they left the academy. "Did you want to have two against one, or free for all?" While her words were directed at both of them, she looked at Kazuhiko. Part of her was a little irritated that Hachiro was worshipping the ground Kazuhiko walked on despite them both taking down the same number of men but she tried to let it go. Kids were impressed by flashy moves. Well, at least the lightning had been flashy. She pushed a hand through her hair, pushing away stray strands as she waited for an answer. She'd left her faithful sword back in their tent and she felt bare without it. Koharu wasn't the best at kenjutsu, she still had a ways to go, but she felt comfortable with a sword in her hands. Minoru never let her train with it though, which was understandable - someone could get hurt - but it didn't stop her from wanting to go get it.

Minoru

Early morning / Land of Lighting outskirts


Minoru was a heavy sleeper, which contradicted his nature as a shinobi. You couldn't afford to be a heavy sleeper while on a mission. He'd given specific instructions to the guards to watch his pupils while he got a bit of sleep. He'd assured them that the kids would behave...Well two of them anyways and they could keep Natsuko under control. Kazuhiko's deadpan look usually did the trick.
He trusted them to behave and stay in the camp. He was spawled out on his bedroll, half covered by a thin blanket and snoring loudly.

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Natsuko Rinha

Early Morning || Land of Lightning Outskirts

“Kidding!” Natsuko said, grinning and raising her hands in surrender when Koharu grabbed her collar. She’d seen enough reactions to her teammate’s ice control to know that she’d do well to heed Koharu’s threat.

“Free-for-all,” Kazuhiko said when Koharu asked. Natsuko nodded, figuring two against one was overkill for a practice session. Besides, that Koharu was rearing to have a go at Kazuhiko was plain. If the two focused their attacks on each other, Natsuko could hope to pick them off slowly and possibly bring down the weakened victor.

“So, should we just… start?” As soon as the words left Natsuko’s mouth, her teammates were at it, ice, lighting, and kunai flying through the air. Leaping back to give them some room and decide her first course of action. She found, however, that her teammates were matching each other blow for blow, so the only course of action open was to attack both at the same time.

Wind Release: Gale Palm—compressing the air between her palms, Natsuko charged forwards, placing herself between her clashing teammates in time to knock both of them off their feet. Before she could congratulate herself on a job well done, however, she realized the flaw of her plans: attacking both her teammates would cause them both to attack her, thus teaming up against her.

“Wait, whoa, wait!” she said, barely dodging a kunai, “Can we talk about it?”

Her pleas, of course, went unanswered, and she was quickly forced to surrender or face a barrage of ice and lightning. A pout hung on her face as she watched her teammates from the sidelines of defeat, muttering under her breath about how neither was making any progress towards victory. At the rate they were going, she reckoned, they’d both collapse of exhaustion before they admitted defeat, so it was just a matter of endurance.

A pitchy yelp, then a prolonged scream, emanated from the direction of their campsite, causing Natsuko to freeze and snap in the direction of the sound. Then, after a sharp, shared glance with her teammates, she took off in the camp’s direction, her teammates at her side.




Kazuhiko Taketori

Early Morning || Land of Lightning Outskirts

When Kazuhiko entered the campsite, he fully expected to find the camp overrun with masked assassins or bladed bandits. Instead, though, he found a smattering of exasperated-looking guards and a very shaken-looking Minoru.

“Sensei?” Kazuhiko asked, approaching the jonin, who was standing outside his tent rather than snuggled inside it.

“He doesn’t like beetles.”

Looking to his right, Kazuhiko found Hachiro, an amused look on his face as he shifted a largish beetle from one hand to the other.

“They don’t even bite.” His eyes had dropped to the beetle on the back of his hand, which was making a valiant effort to reach the boy’s elbow before it was shifted back to the other hand.

“Oh my.” Natsuko barely smothered a laugh, likely connecting the dots as Kazuhiko had done.

“I even took the time to find three,” Hachiro said, mock-sadness oozing from his voice. He paused. “Actually, I found four. I wonder where’s the fourth?”

Kazuhiko’s eyes flicked warily to the black bump on Minoru’s shoulder.




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Minoru




He was met with the unimpressed faces of his students, feeling more than silly for freaking out about a beetle. His skin crawled as he watched the one the boy was casually playing with. Minoru had never liked beetles or any kind of bug for that matter. They didn't scare him they totally did...it was just that they were gross. His eyes followed Kazuhiko's gaze and his eyes widened and his mouth opened to scream.

"Don't scream sensei. Just bend down, I'll save you." He could hear the smirk in the genin's voice. She held her hands out, as if he was some sort of wild animal that she was trying to tame. He did as she said, squealing when he could feel the beetle moving on his shoulder. When he bent at the waist, fighting the natural urge to swat the big away, she plucked it off of his shoulder and held it in her cupped hands. Koharu looked up at the konin with a wry grin. He wasn't used to seeing the girl smile much. She - and Kazukiko - were much too serious.

"Thank you." The joning said, head hanging in shame. His eues widened when the girl took a step closer, grin widening as he took a step back. She snorted softly before looking down at the beetle in her hands. Minoru watched as she carried it to a nearby bush and set it on one of the branches. He wondered what they were all doing up so early as they weren't going to leave for another two hours. He could see little wet spots on Kazuhiko's and Natsuko's clothes, knowing the only source of the spots was the pale haired girl still standing at the bush. When she returned to them, he could see thather hand was balled. She tossed something at him, and Minoru was man enough to admit that he screamed.

Koharu laughed at him. It wasn't a dignified laugh like she'd likely been taught to have. It was a laugh full of snorts and soft giggles, sounds that didn't fit the girl.

Koharu


She couldn't believe that their sensei was afraid of bugs. She'd tossed a lead at him, finding his reaction hilarious. She didn't laugh often but when she did she seemed to act her age rather than behave like an adult. Once her laughter died down, ahe wiped her cheeks and gave Minoru a grin before heading over to her tent to grab something.

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Natsuko Rinha

Early Morning || Land of Lightning Outskirts

Stifling her giggles with a hand so Hachiro wouldn’t get the wrong idea—which was that Natsuko loved every bit of this prank—she watched as Koharu tried to calm and help the wild animal that was Minoru. “Be brave, Sensei!” she called before covering her mouth so that the giggles wouldn’t escape.

Beside her, Hachiro, who’d picked up on the trio’s lack of disapproval, seemed to be basking in pride, probably congratulating himself on a job well done. While Natsuko knew she shouldn’t encourage this kind of behaviour since it’d be to the detriment of Minoru, she also figured that if Kazuhiko wasn’t telling Hachiro off, then there was no reason she should.

Speaking of Kazuhiko, the boy looked more amused than he’d been all morning, which was slightly insulting since Natsuko thought she was pretty funny—or, at least, funnier than Hachiro. But, she supposed she was giving Hachiro undue credit since in this case it was Minoru who was cracking both Koharu and Kazuhiko up.

When Koharu faked the toss, Natsuko burst out laughing as well, quieting when she noticed how freely, how openly Koharu had laughed. It was precisely the type of laugh Natsuko had been trying to get out of her teammate this whole time, yet Hachiro was the one who’d done so first?

Oh, it was on, little man.




Kazuhiko Taketori

Early Morning || Land of Lightning Outskirts

Kazuhiko chuckled when Minoru screamed, the jonin’s whole body flinching back as he tried to distance himself from the nonexistent beetle Koharu had thrown. Surprisingly, though, it was Natsuko who’d calmed down first this time, and Kazuhiko looked over to see her glaring at Hachiro.

“Everything okay?” he asked, glancing at Hachiro, who had doubled over with laughter, clutching his stomach as the beetle he’d been holding crawled away on the floor. It wasn’t like Natsuko to be angry about a prank, especially not one that incited laughter.

“Perfectly.” Natsuko tone didn’t leave room for argument, and neither did the too-wide grin she gave Kazuhiko.

“Okay,” Kazuhiko said hesitantly. While Natsuko wasn’t exactly vengeful, she could be petty at times, and Kazuhiko already hated to be at the receiving end of her antics. Still, it was better Hachiro than him, he figured; the kid needed to be taken down a few notches, and he didn’t want to put himself in the line of fire unless necessary.

After the guards cleaned up the campsite, the group was on their way again. The guard captain flagged the shinobi down to talk to them about a possible threat: a rogue faction in the Lightning Country that had been vying for the daimyo’s demise. Word is that they’d hired some shinobi of their own to kidnap Hachiro—or worse. The assassins from earlier were likely hired by that faction, and there would likely be more.

Kazuhiko, while not happy to hear of the bigger threat, was not completely dismayed; the long string of menial missions Minoru had led them on before this one had been drawn on for too long, and he was glad that he would finally be offered a chance to test his skills as a full-fledged genin.



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Mid day // Land of Lightning


They had been travelling for a few days at this point. With the terrain getting rougher the deeper they headed into the country, they had to take it slow. Koharu was walking alongside Hachiro, his small, chubby hand in hers. He was a brat but she'd miss him. He reminded Koharu of her sister, even moreso with his neverending questions. The boy was a bit more attatched to Kazuhiko but liked walking with Koharu because if her shorter strides. He didn't have to work so hard to keep up with her. The little boy asked about her ice and why her hands were always cold. Koharu wasn't used to talking about it. Her clan never needed to and villagers generally didn't ask. As a result she'd been awkward, hastily explaining that she had a kekkei genkai, although it wasn't anything fancy.

It was odd to see the panic on her face as she tried to explain that it wasn't something cool like those that her teammates had. Koharu was usually a calm girl who was far too serious for her twelve years. Hachiro hadn't understood half of what she'd said but he'd stopped her with small hands on her cheeks. He'd told her to take a deep breath. Hachiro was still a little shit but he was a good boy who did genuinely cone to like all of the genin. Although he was a little afraid of Natsuko after he'd put a worm down the back of her shirt.

They'd arrived at the Diamyo's estate by noon. Hachiro took off upon seeing his father, leaving Koharu's hand empty. The little boy embraced his father's legs and started crying. That little scene left Koharu's heart aching. She'd been a toddler when her father died but she still remembered him. She did have his hair after all. His had been a stark white and shaggy, falling along his forehead and shoulders. His eyes had been gray, not unlike the green-gray of her own and he'd had thick white lashes and a single mole right below his left eye. Still, knowing that he was never coming back weighed heavily upon her at times. He wouldn't have allowed his daughter to be raised by her uncle nor would he have allowed her to become so cold. Sure she'd opened up a little bit on this mission, teasing her teammates lightly and laughing more than they'd ever heard, but she still had a long ways to go before she was anywhere as near as outgoing as she'd been at four.

A hand on her shoulder startled her and she looked at Minoru. He was giving her a worried look and he pointed to the ground where ice had formed. "Sorry Minoru-sensei." She said sheepishly. Strong emotions often wreaked havoc on her ice, letting it grow on its own.

"Don't worry. We'll be staying here tonight before heading out in the morning. For now, while our rooms are arranged we'll go do some trainin." Minoru told his genin.

Koharu nodded, dropping her anxious expression for a more serious one. It was easier to have that serious scowl rather than show how she really felt.



Sometimes he really worried about his genin. Especially Koharu and Kazuhiko. They acted more like adults than the kids they were and he knew it wasn't healthy. They said their goodbyes to Hachiro and recived the voucher for their payment. Minoru tucked it into his kunai pouch and motioned for the genin to follow him. He noticed that Koharu walked with her head down and at the very back of their group. He wouldn't push for answers. She'd give them in time if he was patient enough.

They headed into the forest, taking the road before sharply veering off to climb along side a path cut into the cliffs. Minoru was aware that the path was frightening, but he'd heard about this place from the guards and he wanted his genin to see it. He stopped at the top of the path where it leveled out a little. Koharu was pressed against the cliff face, fi ng ers digging into the stone behind her. He never would have guessed the ever calm girl had been afraid of heights. Actually, come to think of it, she'd done okay with climbing trees or jumping from the branches. Eventually she moved when she realized that her team was far ahead of her. He smiled when she did catch up. He pat her on the head, ruffling her pale hair as she hastily tried to slap away his hand.

"We're almost there, kids. I heard the views are worth it."

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Kazuhiko Taketori

Midday || Land of Lightning

Escorting Hachiro home was a rather dull affair, if Kazuhiko was honest. It entailed a lot of slow walking, unnecessary pit stops, and just overall free time that he was running out of ideas on how to fill by the time they were nearing the Daimyo’s estate. At first the trio had kept up their training in the mornings and evenings, with Minoru joining them intermittently, or whenever he could wake up early enough. These training sessions were the same as usual, sometimes productive and sometimes not, but because of time constraints and the varying landscape. Though the group was making progress, becoming more familiar with the jutsu they had at their disposal, the training sessions still tended towards the unproductive side, usually with Natsuko becoming distracted and leading the session to a slow but eventual end.

Inefficiency aside, though, the journey was fine: mundane, boring at times, but okay. A few more skirmishes were dealt with, each of them similar to the last, as if some unknown enemy thought they’d matched the group’s level with weak, hired thugs. Otherwise, the road was calm and almost relaxing, if a mission could be termed as such. For the first time in a while, he felt himself truly relax, have a second of space to stop worrying about his priorities. Back in Konoha, he saw constant reminders that he needed to keep pushing, keep achieving. From the ranked shinobi running the genin school to his fellow genin peers, there were constantly people to keep ahead of, to match and exceed so his family could continue being proud of him.

This was a pressure he saw partially mirrored in Koharu, and it was perhaps seeing her relax a bit that he too was able to let go of what might usually keep him on his feet at home. Where Natsuko was in a constant state of relaxation, driven by whim both on the road and at home, Koharu was similar in that she was also the heir of her family. Natsuko had her siblings and cousins to fall back on, but Koharu and Kazuhiko had nothing of the sort. They were the pride and future of their households, and their failure would translate over directly.

That all said, Kazuhiko supposed there was one more individual to thank on the part of promoting a carefree environment: Hachiro. Whether it was his natural penchant for innocent yet brutal honesty or a byproduct of his young age and childish antics, he helped lighten the mood whenever he was around, and that became quite often as the journey progressed. Though he’d first taken interest in Kazuhiko, something that Kazuhiko was pretty neutral to as long as it didn’t devolve into a meaningless stream of questions like it usually did after giving the boy too much time to pester him, Hachiro had quickly realized that Koharu was a better target. Well, perhaps Kazuhiko wasn’t giving him enough credit; he meant well, and Koharu liked having him around, slipping into the role of an older sister like she would a second skin.

Still, Kazuhiko couldn’t help but remain a little cynical and attentive of Natsuko’s opinions about the boy, which often accused Hachiro of being manipulative, acting like he couldn’t open this bottle or hadn’t noticed that rock he’d tripped overnight . It didn’t help his case that Kazuhiko caught the dirty looks he shot at Natsuko once in a while. They’d been mutual, yes, but they also spoke of some intelligence if Hachiro had been smart enough to peg Natsuko as trouble and Koharu, the least assertive of the group, as his favorite.

When they finally reached the Daimyo’s residence, however, where Hachiro readily ran away from the genin to his father, Kazuhiko realized that perhaps he hadn’t relaxed enough. Even outside of Konoha, he couldn’t avoid thinking about shady dealings and ulterior motives, couldn’t help but see the worst of a situation and try and keep himself above that. It was how he was raised, he supposed, and even if he went digging, he couldn’t find any reason why he should change.

A slight cold near his feet brought Koharu’s frost growth to Kazuhiko’s attention, and he wondered whether he should say something. Personally, he would prefer to mull over his own emotions alone, but he’d learned that not everyone was the same as him. Natsuko was a prime example, in this case, and she didn’t hesitate to wrap Koharu into a hug after Koharu made her unnecessary apology.

“Aw, did someone hurt my poor Haru baby? Point them out—I’ll see that they face the wrath of Natsuko!”

She pumped an arm, clenching the fist dramatically as she kept her other arm around Koharu’s shoulders, and Kazuhiko cracked a grin. Meeting Koharu’s eyes, he mouthed his question: ‘Haru baby?’

Of course, this would probably embarrass the quieter girl further—that much he knew. But, all things aside, Natsuko had the right idea here, distracting Koharu. The ice nin was too hesitant for her own good mostly, and a little too easy to needle. He’d lay off later, but hey, they weren’t back in Konoha yet, were they?



Natsuko Rinha

Midday || Land of Lightning Outskirts

Minoru interrupted Natsuko’s cooing just when she was getting on a roll, and Natsuko would have been annoyed if it weren’t for the news he’d delivered.

“We’re staying here? Then, as the saviours of the Daimyo’s kid, we get VIP treatment, right?”

She grinned, rubbing her hands together as she took another gander at the Daimyo’s residence.

“Feasts and expensive sheets, come to momma. After she gets some training in.”


Afternoon || Land of Lightning

“This is not what I signed up for!” Natsuko yelled for not the first time that day, pressing into the rock face for dear life as some more loose rocks fell into the abyss below her.

For reasons that escaped her, Minoru had thought it a good idea to take them cliff climbing, and when Natsuko said ‘cliff,’ she meant ‘sheer face of rock with too few footholds and too many crumbly cracks to be human-friendly.’ She was keenly aware of the open sky above her which offered no relief from the dead drop below her, which disappeared into clouds when she looked down. Okay, so maybe it was fog, or mist, or whatever people wanted to call it, but if it looked like there were literal clouds under her feet, Natsuko called that a bad situation.

While Kazuhiko was perhaps a little more focused than normal, he still moved along the cliff after Minoru at a steady pace, easily staying ahead of Natsuko and Koharu. To her credit, Natsuko had managed, for once, to outpace Koharu, but it was hardly a victory when she looked behind her to see a nervous, wide-eyed mess.

When they finally reached solid ground—a stone hallway of sorts, carved out of the weathered rock face—Natsuko took a moment to breathe, hands on her knees as she glared at her sensei, who was patting a flustered Koharu on her head.

“How much longer?” she asked, rushing to Koharu’s side to loop her arm around her teammate’s. “Another cliff face and Koharu and I are heading back.”

But, as it turns out, she needn’t have worried; the rest of the trek was through the cliff structure itself. Consisting of a lot of narrow stairwells and shaded hallways, the structure was surprisingly expansive on the inside, and its architecture allowed natural light to seep into the rooms through a constant stream of balconies and windows. When they finally reached their destination, the largest room in the structure, which Natsuko was now able to identify as a temple, judging by the carvings in the ceiling and the scrolls adorning the walls, they’d also reached the biggest balcony in the building.

Jutting out of the cliff and into the air, the balcony offered a beautiful vantage point of the natural wonders of the Land of Lightning from high above the low forests and crags below. In every direction were cliff formations similar to the one they’d climbed up earlier, some taller and some shorter, but mostly of a uniform size.

A fresh breeze ruffled through Natsuko’s hair as she peered over the balcony fence, and she exhaled loudly, sighing.

“This is amazing.”

Then, remembering why she’d come on this excursion in the first place, she frowned, looking to Minoru.

“Wait, Sensei, are we training here?”



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Afternoon // Land of Lightning


With her feet back on ground that wasn't crumbling away, she felt much better. Unfortunately the fear had exhaustd her but she didn't want to voice it. It simply wasnt dignified if she complained. Even if they were dozens and dozens of miles away from Konoha, sge couldn't help but to be bound by the lessons her Uncle had taught her. The one trait that he had actively encouraged that hadn't warped her personality was the desire for knowledge. She hadn't paid any attention to was Minoru-sensei was saying about the temple. Instead the small pale haired girl wandered around the room, gray-green eyes wide as she took in the rolls of scrolls and carvings that she could scarcely make out. "We're really going to train here?" She asked. Where Natsuko was irritated by the change of their training grounds, she was pleased. The large room filled with natural light tugged on a long forgotten memory. There were no snapshots in her mind of what this reminded her of, only feelings of longing and of long days spent playing within safe walls. Koharu twisted her fingers behind her back, rocking back onto her heels a little bit.

"Yes. I feel like the peace and quiet would help. I also think we should stay here if you three are comfortable with it." Their sensei told them. Koharu smiled, although it was small and hesitant. This would be the perfect place to practice her kata without any interruptions, save for Natsuko. She still wanted to ask about the new embarrassing nickname that she'd been given. Haru baby, ha! That nickname would have her Uncle dying.

"I'd like to stay as long as possible, please." This place was calm and beautiful and her fingers itched to peel open the scrolls one by one to find out what was written there.


Afternoon // Land of Lightning


Wheb he managed to finally coax Koharu into the balcony with rhe rest of them, Minoru beamed at the surprised sound that left her lips. He'd brought them here in an attempt to pull the two quiet genin out of their shells. The peaceful atmosphere and secluded location, where it was only the four of them, would hopefully put the genin at ease. "For now I want you three to explore this place. Think of it was your training. Just please don't do anything stupid. I'll set us up some lunch." He told them. Minoru smiled at them. If they explored then he could have enough time for a nap. As much as he loved his team, he really couldn't handle the differences in personality between tge three of them. Two were serious with the weight of the world on their small shoulders and the other was carefree and giddy.

He chuckled when Koharu lit up at the idea of exploring and she hastily toed off her sandals before setting them near Minoru's backpack. "Be safe. If any of you run into trouble then call for help." But knowing Kazuhiko and Koharu they wouldn't call for help. He watched Koharu leave. She'd practically left the other two genin in her dust. Minoru caught a flash of pale hair rounding the corner before she was gone. He was ignoring any arguments from her teammates--Natsuko in particular--but still giving a gentle reminder that they needed to follow her.

In the silence that followed after the echoes of their footsteps had vanished, he withdrew their lunches. They'd passed through a village earlier that morning and had stocked up on hearty food for the return trip. He laid out the food, keeping it in the containers before making himself comfortable on the sunny balcony by using his backpack as a pillow. Minoru closed his eyes and hoped his quick nap would be wonderful and undisturbed.

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Kazuhiko Taketori

Afternoon || Land of Lightning

The temple was impressive in a rustic sort of way. Carved out of a cliff, it offered both physical and mental solace through its lonely placement and offered scenery. On the wall were scrolls that indicated the temple’s purpose, and from the few characters Kazuhiko could vaguely recognize, mostly through familiar shapes or brushstrokes, the temple seemed to be one worshipping lightning or something relating to it. Seeing as they were in the Land of Lightning, this made perfect sense, and for the rest of the walk through the temple Kazuhiko focused his attention on these intricate carvings lining the columns and walls, trying to piece together scraps of knowledge to better understand what the temple stood for.

Soon enough, when they reached the center room, which had a roof of faded colors, Natsuko bounded out to the balcony, admiring the view as Kazuhiko and Koharu stood back, admiring the structure’s histories. With Natsuko occupied by the sights and sounds, no longer prattling away, the structure was almost soothing in its lost lore and purpose, offering a sort of comforting mystery that didn’t push Kazuhiko to decode it. Rather, it let him do as he pleased, waiting for him to progress at his own pace, be that a fast or slow one.

Walking over to a wall on which a scroll hung, brandishing fading characters like works of art for appreciation, Kazuhiko was aware of Koharu beside him, who was equally if not more appreciative of the temple’s internal significance. It was comforting that at least one of his teammates was as pensive as him, though he knew from experience that Koharu had moments to her when she could match Natsuko’s craziness. While he preferred to remain calm, grounded and in control of his actions and emotions, Natsuko had a way of throwing her emotions around like some mental weight, hefting it to strengthen her actions and thought processes. Many people seemed to prefer speaking to her because of it, perhaps because she could be more interesting, more unpredictable because of it, or because she became predictable as a result, freely allowing people to influence her. While to Kazuhiko this was a childish and rather careless way to live, he could understand why many people choose to live and think as such, and he sometimes wondered if he was too accepting of his lack of youthful energy. He could see that Koharu, for example, was drawn to Natsuko by her energy, was interested in casting off her mental wariness in favor of Natsuko’s bright whimsicalness, but unlike her, he wasn’t drawn to it. He understood it as a concept, understood why he could indulge, but he felt more comfortable abstaining, more secure in maintaining a tight grip on his situation. Maybe it was this difference that separated them, and while Kazuhiko knew Minoru wanted him to open up and act like Natsuko, he couldn’t see why it would benefit him to do so.

When Minoru told them to go off and explore, the group had a variety of reactions. Where Koharu lit up, clearly interested by the possibility of seeing more of the temple, Natsuko shrugged, probably due to her losing interest in the general situation. Given her penchant for human interaction over inhuman ones, her focus on the here and now rather than the past or future, she was bound to get bored sometime during this excursion. That said, she’d still tag along with Koharu and him, and he was similarly interested in the temple, though more so in the possibility of lost jutsu or relics. Just like in villages when families perfected jutsus, factions and organizations were always developing jutsu, and though they might have been strong or even applicable to the present, with so many different justu to compete with, lost jutsu were always interesting. Someone somewhere had thought something useful, and they’d invented that something. Applicable to the present or not, forgotten jutsu were a part of history, and no history was worth nothing.

“Will do, sensei,” Kazuhiko said, turning to head away with his teammates, but he found Koharu already turning the corner and Natsuko getting ready to sit down and wait for lunch.

Meeting his eyes, Natsuko groaned, standing up again.

“Okay, fine, I’ll come!”

“No one’s forcing you,” he said, walking down the hallway Koharu disappeared through.

“Yeah, sure. Totally. Some real hard training we’re doing here, Sensei!”

Looking back to see Minoru busying himself with the lunch, clearly ignoring Natsuko, Kazuhiko hid a smirk.



Natsuko Rinha

Afternoon || Land of Lightning

Natsuko trudged down the hallway, a little behind Kazuhiko and a lot less content. After all, it was hardly her idea to scale a mountain to train, then be told that actually no, it wasn’t training that they were going to do, it was exploring and eating. So what if she didn’t like training either? She could still be upset, and she would maintain that she had every right to be upset precisely because she could. Cliffs, old ruins, smelly scrolls were the only things around, yet for some reason Kazuhiko and Koharu were interested! Trying to understand why her two pent-up teammates were interested in an abandoned building from decades ago was like trying to understand why a turtle like cabbage over carrots: she didn’t have enough patience, and she might not even care all that much. Okay, so it might offer her some insight into their character, but she could find other ways to get the same information, maybe even for less. Boring herself over this all simply wasn’t worth it, and she did her best to make her dissatisfaction known, keenly aware that everyone else was either ignoring her or too interested in the place to notice, as in Koharu’s case.

Speaking of Koharu, though Natsuko was a teensy, weensy bit peeved that the girl hadn’t noticed her annoyance, she still appreciated Koharu much more than the other two members of Team Six. Minoru was the one responsible for dragging them up to this god-forsaken place, and she’d caught that sly smirk Kazuhiko had done his best to cover, which she definitely wouldn’t have caught if he’d put actual effort into hiding it. At least Koharu was ignoring her for genuine reasons, even if Natsuko couldn’t understand those reasons.

Glancing out the window as she trekked along behind Kazuhiko, Natsuko wondered whether Hachiro had settled down at home okay. Admittedly she hadn’t gotten along great with the boy, but she liked to think that there was some sort of vague rivalry between them, a bond born of a love of mischief and competition and a mutual agreement to never let the other person hog the spotlight for too long. Though this ‘rivalry’ may all have been in her head, she didn’t mind having him around too much, especially now that she was thinking about it. He was another kindred soul, of sorts, who helped liven up the group, and he brought out a gentleness in Koharu and Kazuhiko that she herself envied. That was, perhaps, what she envied most about him.

Turning back to the stone hallway, Natsuko glanced at Kazuhiko out of the corner of her eye, racking her brain for something to take her mind off the little boy who wasn’t present. And, stumbling upon an idea, she grinned.

“Race ‘ya there!”

He whipped around to look at her, eyes widening ever so slightly with surprise as she took off down the hallway ahead of him, a wide grin on her face.




Kazuhiko Taketori

Afternoon || Land of Lightning

In all honesty, the polite thing to do was to allow Natsuko her victory, because yeah, she did catch Kazuhiko by surprise, whether he wanted to admit it or not. For that, she deserved a little glee, but because he couldn’t guarantee that she wasn’t going to hold a footrace victory over his head as well, and because Kazuhiko didn’t exactly want to deal with her needling him for the rest of his time here, he decided not to let her win. And, well, the rest was easy, unfortunately; speed had never been Natsuko’s strong suit.

“Damn you, Kazu!” she yelled after him as he sped ahead, breaking an amused grin. It’d been her idea and therefore her fault that he was winning—or, at least, that’s what he’d tell her when she caught up to him.

Rounding the corner, Kazuhiko caught sight of Koharu in what seemed to be a rudimentary library of sorts, complete with shelves and benches carved out of wood. The few rows of shelves there were contained a sparse collection of scrolls, some unwrapped and some not, and as he got closer he realized that scrolls had been scattered around the room as well, over both the benches and the ground, some even torn. There was no doubt in his mind that Koharu had nothing to do with it all, since she was hardly the type to leave a mess, and that alarmed him

“Koharu, what happened?” he asked, coming to a sliding stop beside Koharu, but before he could say anything else, the cliff wall of bookshelves slid back with a heavy thunk.

“Now, see, this is what I’m talking about. Actual tips—good tips. Tips I can genuinely cash in on. Do you know how much this is worth?”

A man stepped out of the new doorway, completely white from his pale hair and skin to his clean tunic and cloth sandals, which were so immaculately white that they looked like they hadn’t even touched the floor. His eyes, a pale yellow, snapped up from the scroll he was carrying—the only non-white part of him, being a dull tan instead—and seized on the two genin in the room.

“Oh, what do we have here? Some Konohagakure ninja here to intercept me? Or two unlucky children playing in the wrong place, at the wrong time?”

He tipped his head, stepping into the room. Behind him, a trio of black-clothed men filed out, drawing their katanas.

“Tell me, children, are you genin or chunin?”

He smiled, showing a mouth of perfectly white teeth just as—

“Damn it, you coward! Die!”

Kazuhiko barely resisted a flinch, whipping around to see Natsuko charging at him with such fervor that it wasn’t until she almost got her hands on him that she saw the other four residents of the room.

“Oh. Um,” Natsuko said, glancing at her teammates. “Who—”

“Tsk. What a waste of time.”

The man in white turned to leave, and Kazuhiko was very alarmed to note Natsuko’s eyes widening beside him.

“Excuse me, what’d you call me, chalkhead?”

The man froze, and Kazuhiko resisted the urge to groan, instead reaching behind him and retrieving three kunai from his pockets as he sized the katana-wielding men up.

“Oops.”


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Afternoon // Land of Lightning


Koharu wondered if her teammates understood that her clan had come from a different country. Of course they'd heard about it, the whole village had, but they couldn't possibly know that she'd forgotten about her homeland and had researched it in an attempt to regain long lost memories. Probably not, but thar was attributed to Koharu being quiet and limiting her words about her homeland to the bare essentials. Natsuko, on their first day as a team, had asked about it. All Koharu remembered beyond the hazy face of her father and the snow and ice was the heat of the castle as it burned around them. She had a few scars, small ones along her legs and her ankles from the firs licking at exposed skin. But these walls called forth other memories that she wanted to uncover. As she walked through the stone corridors, she kept one hand pressed to the stone wall and occasionally she'd mark their path with a thin layer of frost that stood out from the muddy yellow-brown of the stone walls.

The sound of bare feet hitting the stone floor and the end of her sheathed katana occasionally hitting the stones were the only sounds she made. The small girl had her hands laced together behind her back, posture straight. She'd parted from Natsuko and Kazuhiko briefly. The hint of sunlight splashing against stones caught her eye and she could hear the others talking behind her. The corridor ended in a library of sorts but it was out of order. Every other room they'd come across so far was been tidy, as if the monks that once called his place home had cleaned up before walking out and never returning. Koharu's small hand came to rest on the hilt of her katana and her eyes narrowed as she looked around the room. There were a few windows, spaced far apart and high up on the walls to let in the light and breeze. The girl had barely registered that Kazuhiko had stopped beside her, and only when she spoke did she turn to face him. "Kazu-" She was cut off by the thunk of the shelf and the sound of a voice.

When the pale man stepped out of the hidden room, her eyes zeroed in on his hair. It was as white as hers and it put her on edge. White wasn't a hair color she had seen often. Her mother, sister and Uncle all had hair as dark as the night. Her cousins had light brown hair and black hair. The sound of Natsuko's voice and rapidly approaching footsteps made her snap out of her daze. Everything happened quickly after that. While she did care for Natsuko, considering the girl one of her only friends (Kazuhiko was another she considered her friend) there were times thar she had the urge to just grab the girl by the shoulders so she could shake her silly. This just so happened to be one of those times.

As Kazuhiko withdrew kunai from his pouch, she drew her sword and settled into a familiar stance. The Wakahisa clan had their origins as a samurai family within Yukigakure although the emercence of a kekkei genkai within some of the clan members had allowed them more flexibility. They were able to combine ninjutsu with their pre-existing kenjutsu to become a formidable force. They had protected the Land of Snow and the Daimyo for generations until their betrayal. The survivors retained their skills and traditions as they fled.

With her status as a legitimate clan heir, Koharu was trained personally by her Uncle Osamu in the traditional kenjutsu techniques of her clan. She had to carry on the traditions. It was something that she loved. Stepping into the familiar kata and going through the motions gave her a sort if self-awareness that she didn't think she'd have otherwise. But at this stage in her life, Koharu still relied heavily on her ninjutsu to make up for her lack of raw strength and height. She was small for her age, easily being mistaken for an academy student still. It irritated the girl that the men clad in black didn't have any technique. They were all raw power and blind chopping.

"Oi if you bastards are going to have swords, actually learn how to use them!" To say she was pissed was an understatement. Koharu had spent all of her life watching the adults of her clan performing their katas and using their swords. She knew what good swordsmanship was, and this wasn't it.

Koharu fell into a block as her opponent came at her with a wildly swinging sword. He was stronger than she was and her arms shook from the effort of keeping his blade away from her body. He laughed at her, calling her a little girl. It wasn't until he insulted her skills with her sword - having the balls to say that she sucked at not getting a swing in - that she gave an uncharacteristic growl. She lept away, using her speed to aid her where her strength and height failed her. With the small amount of distance between them, her opponent came at her with an overhead strike. Koharu blocked again, this time going with the block. She kept her right foot forward and used her left to propel her once she redirected his sword down towards the floor.

Koharu fell into the next step of the kata by slashing at his face. She missed as he moved to the side but she kept pushing forward and moving into the next step. This time she managed to cut him from his right shoulder to his solar plexus. The man stumbled, mond reeling from the adrenaline that blocked out the pain and the way his clothes began to soak through. It wasn't a deep cut, but it bought her enough time to use her jutsu. A tiny palm to the ground caused ice to race outward, capturing feet and the scrolls they'd discarded to the ground.

Only now she could see what was going on with her teammates. The pale man with the scroll was standing there with a smug look on his face. Clearly he expected his men to win. They were only genin after all. She snared one of the men on black with her ice and it was around then that the man in white seemed to grow bored and he simply just started to walk out of the room. Koharu made a split second decision and she only hoped to hell that it would work. Natsuko was the closest to the retreating man and all it took as a bit more chakra to extend her ice to under her teammate. "Fly, Susu, fly!" She yelled before making the ice baloon below Natsuko's feet rapidly. The sudden force was enough to propel the other genin forward and towards the man in white. She only hoped that Natsuko would be unharmed.




Afternoon // Land of Lightning


The sounds of fighting and of yelling woke him up. At first his sleepy mind assumed that Koharu and Kazuhiko were sparring. It wasn't uncommon for those two to test each other but when he realized that one of the yelling voices was Koharu, he realized that there was a problem. The girl never yelled, ever. He'd been her sensei for a year and the only time she'd raised her voice was...well, never. He couldn't make out what was being said or who she was yelling at but he only hoped that it wasn't one of her teammates. He rushed down the halls, trying to follow the sounds but the echoing made it difficult to pinpoint theit exact location.

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