All things considered, Taka may have acted his part a little too
well, if the sheer terror radiating off Ami-chan was any indication. His mind raced as he considered the last few moments, even as Rashiku-kun prepared to strike, and young Akira's Wood Jutsu stretched his floorboards into thick, protective branches. The test had gone well, that much was for certain.
The first thing he noted was that all three Genin had fallen for his ploy hook, line and sinker. A problem? Yes, certainly. If they were so easily duped, he would need to instil a proper sense of perception in them. The second was that they were all adaptable. The young Senju had impressed the man almost immediately. Despite his youth and seemingly kind temperament, he'd reacted to the man's perceived betrayal almost immediately, and worked fast to ensure the failsafe couldn't be triggered. More importantly, he had trusted Rashiku to do the right thing. He had expressed unconditional faith in his teammate, and that was a quality that couldn't be undersold. Oh, there was a definite naiveté to the boy, undeniably, and that would need to be addressed sooner rather than later, but he showed real promise. Equally, Ami had surprised him. Regardless of the fear she was clearly wracked by, she'd thought fast and acted to restrict his movement. Another point in the team's favour for sure.
Truthfully, however, the target of this test had always been Rashiku. The boy from Mist had worried Taka from the moment he'd read his files. He would readily admit that he was a prejudiced man; un-allied ninja made him anxious at the best of times, and having them in the village had a habit of setting him on edge. It was only natural that a little of that would extend even to a supposed refugee. And despite all the odds being against him, Rashiku was pulling a surprise from under his belt right before Takayuki's eyes. Speaking of which..."Godspeed Flicker!"
He released Ami, hands blurring into seals even as Rashiku hurtled towards him. The electrified Surge Chakra that cloaked his body suddenly pulsed, drawing itself into his body at blinding speed. A piercing wail filled Taka's head as his perception slowed, and he grimaced at the sensation of his every muscle tensing to their limits. With time slowed to a tenth of its usual speed, he grabbed Ami by the hand and pulled her well clear of the charging genin, plopping her onto the sofa and draping one of his couch blankets over her. In the same movement, he surged back to where Rashiku hovered, moving impressively quickly even at this pace. Deftly, and taking care not to damage the boy's hand, he took the sword by the hilt, moved to the scabbard and sheathed it. As the second neared its end, Taka's hand blurred through another set of seals, and he exhaled a small sphere of green flame at the encased vase, which would be incinerated when his perception normalised. Finally, he stepped in front of Rashiku, and as the moment resumed and the boy seemed to lurch forward, he kneeled low and caught him in an easy embrace.
The Godspeed Shroud dissipated with a fizzling crack, and the smile on Takayuki's face was nothing short of blinding. "I am so unbelievably proud of you all!"
He held Rashiku for a moment, before gently setting him down on the floor and handing the sheathed weapon back to him. "I expected good things when I called you here this morning, but this was beyond my wildest hopes!"
He jogged over to the couch and plopped down next to Ami, brimming with wild energy. Still, he offered a kind smile. "I'm so sorry for scaring you like that, Uzumaki-san, truly I am, but you responded brilliantly! I wasn't sure you were cut out for this lifestyle, but you proved me wrong."
His tone had softened for a moment, but brightened again as he addressed Akira."A wonderful display of resourcefulness there, Akira!"
He pointed to the mound of ash where the vase and wooden shell had sat. "The vase was filled with dud tags, so we were in no danger, but you assessed the situation flawlessly and moved to neutralise the threat. Full marks!"
His energy dulled, then, and he looked, with some remorse, to Rashiku."Rashiku, I will admit I didn't trust you when you first arrived. I have something of a problem with foreign nin."
He scratched his head sheepishly. "I decided I needed to be sure that you were who you said you were; that I could let you onto this team, let you into mine and the other's hearts safely."
He levelled an earnest gaze at Rashiku, his smile soft, now. "I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Seeing that sword aimed at my heart made me prouder than I think I've ever been. Welcome home."
He stood, and addressed the team. "As my sudden change in demeanour may have suggested, I wasn't ever planning to kill Ami-chan. Nor was I ever going to blow us all up. This, students, was the true Genin test, and you all aced it with flying colours. There are, however, two lessons I would like you all to remember. Consider them the first thing I'll teach you as your captain: Always look underneath the underneath. Motivations are complex, and no-one's intentions are ever straightforward in this world of ours. Had any of you stopped to think, you may well have realised that things weren't what they seemed to be."
He paused, and regarded each Genin in turn. "Secondly, is that above anyone - your families, your friends, even the Hokage - you must always trust in your teammates. I meant what I said a moment ago. There must not be any secrets between a team for it to function healthily. In combat and in life, you'll be relying on each other to survive, so extend that same trust to each other as the others extend to you."
He sighed, a wistful glimmer in his eyes. "I understand that you all will be hesitant to trust me after what I just put you through, but I hope, dearly, that one day you'll be able to put that very same faith in me as well.
"I have your schedules for the next week ready to go, but before that, if any one of you feels the need to get something off your chest - If you have even the silliest, most inconsequential question, please, please ask me now."
He sat back down in his armchair, then, and reached into the pocket of his uniform jacket, pulling out three wooden medals that he threw to the Genin. Each one was engraved with the kanji of their names. "I engraved those this morning for you as graduation presents. Consider them my first step towards making up to the three of you."
His smile settled, finally: a small, reminiscent, but decidedly hopeful thing.