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Night// Land of Fire - Mumi village

From his hiding spot he watched the two genin, forgetting the bear for a moment. It was adorable really, seeing how the taller of the two remembered her fear of heights. His team was good. They all knew things about each other that seemed minor, and likely were, but they took care of each other. He smiled widely at the scene before him, and that smile widened a little bit when he could hear Natsuko laughing. Apparently she was excited about what was unfolding before them. He knew that the girl often did try to get her teammates alone, but honestly both were a little cold and distant so it was always amusing that the plan backfired quite often. Minoru watched, forgetting the mission entirely for a moment, as Koharu seemed to grip onto the boy a little tighter before she regained her footing. At least that was what it looked like to him.
She'd moved back a few steps after that and in the dim lighting Minoru thought he'd seem her smile up at the boy.

He watched their distraction and the way the bear seemed interested in the rustling leaves. He lumbered over, sniffing and grunting.

Team Six

Night || Land of Fire: Konohagakure — Mumi Village

The clone looked at the original, sharing a look of determination. Her embarrassment about how she'd clung to Kazuhiko and Natsuko's question seemed to vanish. Of course they'd been placed on the back burner for now. She'd deal with those things later, Nusu was their priority now. (Of course that didn't mean that her red cheeks had lost their color yet. And really, Koharu was trying her best to forget how Natsuko had stated that she like liked Kazuhiko. Koharu herself didn't have much of an answer but apparently the irritated look of her clone had been enough for the girl to determine something.)

The moment that lightning zipped towards the bear, both Koharu and her clone were heading towards the bear. Her fear of heights made getting down a little slower than she'd have liked but her plan was simple: trap his feet and make it easy for Natsuko to get close.

There was no doubt that Nusu was big. Judging by where his shoulder blades lined up with the tree trunks, he was taller than Kazuhiko, and lengthwise he was almost twice as long. His panting was audible even from the trees, coming in low rasps as he lumbered towards where Natsuko’s breeze had landed. As he approached, his sniffing got louder, and Kazuhiko realized with a jolt that he might smell them before he got in range.

Shooting Koharu a meaningful look, Kazuhiko dashed through the trees towards the one above Nusu, his clone doing the same. His clone, however, was too far away to arrive on a timely manner, so instead he elected to release his jutsu now, finishing his last sign as he came to a stop at his destinated tree. The leaves rustled slightly, giving away his position just as lightning crackled to life in his hands, lighting up his position.

Nusu looked up, his eyes white with the reflection of the arc of lightning Kazuhiko directed at him. His roar died in his throat as the arc of electricity made contact, plateauing into a growl through clenched teeth.

Kazuhiko was already onto signing his next jutsu, not looking to give Nusu a chance to recover. “Koharu, ice him!” he yelled over his shoulder as he directed another arc of electricity down. His clone was now in the tree on Nusu’s other side, ready in case anything unexpected happened. At best, he had a few more charges before he ran out of chakra, so ideally they’d get Nusu pinned down before he ended up channeling all his chakra into electricity.

Unfortunately her ice still took a lot out of her if it needed to cover a larger surface. She had one chance at this before she needed to rest and regain her strength. The clone would help some, being made of ice that she could manipulate. As long as Kazuhiko could keep the bear stunned then she'd do her part just fine. When he yelled at her, both the girl and the clone jumped down from the trees they were in. Koharu wondered if their sensei remembered that all three of them needed to get close to the bear in order to complete their mission. The moment that her hand signs were done, she slapped her hands onto the ground while her clone distracted the bear.

Dispelling the clone caused it to turn to ice shards as her own ice crept from her hands, snaring Nusu's back feet. The moment her ice stretched far enough under Nusu, reaching towards the small pile in front of the bear, it solidified into a solid mass. Koharu had missed one of his front paws but three out of four wasn't bad. "Natsuko!" They had one shot at this. Her ice wouldn't hold forever.

Already she felt drained but she reached for the sword at her side with one hand, the other was pressed to the ground, holding Nusu in place. The village didn't want to actually harm the bear but if Natsuko was in danger then it was likely that force was necessary.

Minoru was watching, waiting for the moment he'd have to step in. They were doing fantastic though and he had to applaud their timing. Now hopefully the last piece, Natsuko, would fall into place.

“Coming!” Natsuko yelled, haphazardly dashing across branches as she signed her jutsu. Her hands darkened with a faint purple when she was done, blending into the shadows around her as she dropped down from the tree, landing in a roll. Leaping to her feet, she rushed towards the ice-coated bear, which growled and huffed in his white-sharded prison.

Having learned from the training session earlier that day, Natsuko made sure she was outside of Nusu’s immediate range in case he broke free. As much as she trusted Koharu, ice was ice, and if Minoru could break free, so could a huge bear.

Raising her hands, she focused, willing the purple haze on her hands forwards. She strained her brain, her eyes, her hands, and… nothing.

Retracting her hands, she looked them over briefly, muttering under her breath. Before she could try again, though, Nusu let out a loud roar, the sound vibrating against Natsuko’s pounding heart, which only pounded harder as the crackling of breaking ice filled the air. Stumbling back, fear drove through her, chilling her before the first few shards of ice bounced off her. Something underfoot tripped her, causing her to fall backwards, and she caught herself with her hands, eyes wide as Nusu bellowed again, towering over her on his hind legs.

Suddenly, something dropped down from above, landing squarely on Nusu’s snout. The bear was left reeling as Kazuhiko grabbed onto the bear’s neck, fixing his eyes on Natsuko. “Natsuko! Run!”

Natsuko scrambled to her feet, charging away from the bear. A second or two of running reminded her that there were trees here, and she quickly made to scale one, jumping up while signing a jutsu. As soon as she was up, she looked back, prepared to loose a Gale Palm, but instead she found a sizzling Nusu facing down Kazuhiko, who charged straight at the bear’s face.


A hand clamped down on her mouth, and Kazuhiko spun her around, a finger pressed against his lips. Then, jumping away, he waved her towards a nearby tree where the team regrouped. A glance back at Nusu showed her what had happened: The bear, who’d by now dispelled the clone, was grunting and growling, trying to catch the new scent trail over the smoke and debris around him. Natsuko wasn’t sure how good bears were at smelling things, but she didn’t really want to find out.

Joining her teammates, she gave them a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of her head. “Sorry, everyone. I thought I’d be able to pull off a short-distance chakra absorption, but I guess I was assuming too much...!”

“It’s fine,” Kazuhiko said quickly, his words rushed. “But we need to figure out a way to beat Nusu. Ideally, we shouldn’t be looking to kill him, just knock him out. I’ve got two or three charges of lightning left, but it’s definitely not enough to knock a bear of that size out. Also, when I was on Nusu, I think saw something stuck in his neck. A kunai. Not sure, but it was weird. Had a strange tag attached.”

“Like a summoning jutsu?” Natsuko asked.

“No, summoning jutsus don’t work like that. They don’t need to stay attached. Only effects that stay active need to stay attached.”

"There are few things in this world that can prevent a summon from returning home. The death of their summoner before the jutsu is released is one of those causes...but that tag sounds like the culprit." Minoru came to rest in the same tree as the rest of his team. They hadn't learned about summons yet, as it was a fairly advanced technique and the kids needed to Pace themselves, despite two believing otherwise. [color=dark gray]"Put your sword away, Koharu. We can't kill the bear."[/color] He looked at the pale-haired genin. She gave him a mildly irritated look in return.

Minoru sighed when she didn't put it away, holding it in front of her. Her fingers traced along the design in an idle fashion. She was thinking and he could see the gears whirling in her mind. Koharu re-sheathed her sword and folded her hands together in front of her as she looked at each of her teammates in turn. Her eyes narrowed in thought as she stared at Kazuhiko. Minoru was proud of all of his students, but he had a feeling that Kazuhiko was the brain of the group. That wasn't to say the girls were dim-witted, they weren't, but Kazuhiko definitely was a strategist.

"We need to get that tag and kunai." Minoru assumed that she was talking to herself at this point because he didn't see how any of her words helped their situation. Koharu looked down at the bear that was still trying to find their scents. Yes, her plan was foolish but if that bear really was a summon then she wanted to send it home. Something told her that the summon wasn't bound by a contract anymore, if only because it was cruel to not help a creature that allied itself with you. "We need to get close to Nusu. Even though we're all used to close quarters Kazu-kun is better skilled than either of us."

Minoru wasn't sure that he liked where this plan was going. Koharu wasn't a reckless person but she definitely was a risk taker compared to her teammates. "We are not going to do something that endangers anyone."

She glared at him. "Then why are we even here? If this plan goes off without a hitch, then we'll be fine. Nusu needs to get that kunai removed and the village needs to be rid of him. We have this one opportunity to make this right for both parties." In that moment he could definitely tell that the girl was indeed related to Osamu. He had to admire her conviction. She really wanted to help. It was also the most he'd heard her talk on a mission. "I have just enough chakra for one more jutsu before I can't use my ice anymore. We have a move at our disposal--"

"You are not throwing Natsuko again!"

"I never said I would throw her. Kazu-kun is who I'll throw. He knows where the kunai is located and he can shock Nusu again to stun him. He'll be safe. Natsuko will make a distraction with her wind, lure him close, he can zap Nusu and then I can launch him." Koharu looked away from their sensei and to her tallest teammate. She gave a faint smile, knowing that he'd object. But really they had no choice. "You trust me, don't you Kazu-kun? This is the only way that we can complete this mission." Koharu hoped that he'd understand that.

“Yeah, I trust you,” Kazuhiko said, meeting Koharu’s eyes briefly before turning to Minoru. “Sensei, throwing me is the safest option, and, as Koharu said, I saw where the kunai was.”

He stared at Minoru, hoping his sensei understood the unspoken reasons why he was volunteering. Besides the fact that he was better suited than Natsuko to take on Nusu, better able to both attack and withstand attacks, he was also able to protect his teammates by volunteering. Both Koharu and Natsuko could support him from a distance, and if it came down to it, he could attempt to use his taijutsu on the bear. Considering how large the bear was, Kazuhiko doubted physical combat would do too much, but his skills were likely flexible enough to ensure he could surprise Nusu a bit.

As soon as he got confirmation from Minoru, Kazuhiko looked to Natsuko, nodding. “I’ll be counting on you to support me.”

“Y-yeah. Yeah, I’ve got your back,” Natsuko said, her voice growing firmer as she spoke. “You can count on me, Kazu-kun.”

Kazuhiko smiled, then turned to Koharu. “Let’s do this.”

Minoru wasn't happy but he let them do as they planned. If Kazuhiko was fine with it, then he'd let them try. He could always step in and finish their mission for them. It wouldn't teach them much but it would keep them a little safer. He looked at the boy as their plan was set into motion. "Good luck." It was easy to see that Kazuhiko was the leader of his group, and he understood the boy's need to keep his teammates safe.
It was rather adorable, and quite admirable.

While Minoru was lost in thought, Koharu studied where the bear was. She wasn't the best with strategies, beyond offering up ideas, but she had a fairly good grasp on projectiles, and in this case that was Kazuhiko. Usually it was her little ice shards shaped like rough birds that she'd use. They were a lot smaller than Kazuhiko, fitting snugly in the palm of her hand, but the concept was the same. "I will count to three. It'll come from below your feet and up at a slight angle. 1...2..." Before she could get to three she'd planted her hands on the tree branch he was standing on and she'd forced her ice to balloon under him. Hopefully he'd actually land on the bear, she thought as she watched Kazuhiko fly through the air. Koharu was exhausted but readied herself if the worst happened.

Their sensei watched, dark eyes a little wide, as the pale-haired girl launched Kazuhiko into the air with her ice. It remained as a shiny clear blue sphere where he'd been standing moments prior before she dispelled the jutsu and it crumbled in on itself.

Standing where Koharu directed him, Kazuhiko waited for her countdown, ignoring his audibly pounding heart in favor of staring at Nusu. The bear was approximately twenty-five meters away, give or take a few meters for height. Considering the major dangers—Nusu’s jaws and paws, both of which tapped into the bear’s enormous musculature, would easily crush through skin and bone—Kazuhiko figured the safest place to land would be squarely around Nusu’s shoulder or scruff area. Aside from momentarily knocking the wind out of the bear, landing in that area seemed to be his best bet at trying to get a grip on the bear without it throwing him off.

This all, though, came second to pulling out the kunai embedded in Nusu’s left shoulder, which would hopefully dispel him. That Nusu was a summon and not a normal bear was obvious now that Minoru had pointed it out, and it explained the bear’s massive size.

Koharu started the countdown, and Kazuhiko braced himself, signing his jutsu. On two, Ice blossomed beneath his feet, and he was launched into the air at the silent three. He repositioned himself in the air, stretching his hands forward so that he was falling headfirst as his momentum started to arc downward. Waiting until he was right on above Nusu, he finished his signing, electricity crackling to life just as he stretched both hands forwards to deliver the shock. Nusu’s snarl was cut short as he landed on the bear, gripping at the fur on Nusu’s back as he searched the silvery-black fur for the hilt of the kunai he’d seen earlier. He had a few seconds to blindly feel through Nusu’s fur before the bear recovered from the shock, so time was of the essence, but how quickly the bear would shrug it off depended on—

With a roar, Nusu rose onto his haunches, reaching his arms backwards to paw at his head. As he did, though, a strong blow of wind batted against him, pushing both he and the bear forwards and forcing Nusu to plant his arms to prevent himself from smacking into the ground. Kazuhiko, though, took the opportunity Natsuko granted him to renew his efforts with searching for the kunai. The fur around Nusu’s scruff was longer than it was around the rest of his body, but his hands managed to knock against something hard underneath all the hair.

“Hey you, you want another blast?” came a yell from the trees, drawing Nusu’s attention briefly as Kazuhiko managed to wrap a hand around the kunai. Tugging, he freed the small blade, jumping free as Nusu reared back again with a roar.

Mid-roar, though, the bear disappeared, silenced with a smoky ‘pop,’ the leaves around where he stood flattened but no longer covered. Landing a few feet away, Kazuhiko straightened, giving it another second or so before he relaxed, the kunai in his hands still warm.

“Yes, we did it!” Natsuko yelled, tackling him from behind with a hug.

“Yeah, we did,” he said after he regained his balance, managing a smile. He had a little too much adrenaline in his system for the current hour, and though he knew sleep was buzzing at the edges, he still felt a thrill of accomplishment at the fact that the team had managed to work as a unit and pull off the plan, even if it was the second iteration. How far would they be able to go once they started tapping into the full well of their skills, only time would tell, but Kazuhiko was looking forward to seeing it.

“Ooo, is this the kunai?” Natsuko asked, bending down to peer at the blade in his hands.

“Yeah,” he said, handing it to her. As soon as he let go of the handle, though, he fell silent, his eyes fixed on the blade’s handle.

“Is that?”


Engraved on the blade’s handle was the symbol of a flower—one that was familiar enough that it brought back memories of the windswept landscape of Kazegakure and a strange man in white.

To say that he was proud of his kids was an understatement. They'd shown good team work and a great deal of trust between them. Minoru doubted that there were many willing to let their teammates throw them into the face of danger. Minoru and Koharu were a little slow in getting from the trees. He'd congratulated Kazuhiko by ruffling his hair before stepping aside so Koharu could congratulate him as well. Her small arms locked around him in a hesitant hug before she quickly pulled away to check him over for injuries before doing the same to Natsuko.

When all was said and done, he'd pulled them into a group hug, his long arms wrapping around all three of them. He grinned widely down at them, forgetting the kunai temporarily. He promised them that they'd look into it back in the village, but for now they were going to celebrate their success. They deserved this. There weren't going to be as many successful, happy missions in their future.

"Very well. We all have our own ways of handling things." Sadie said as she stood to her full height. She brushed her skirts free of wrinkles. "However, if you find yourself to be wrong, just stop by the bakery. We welcome anyone with open arms. Good luck out there." Sadie said before she left the office. It wasn't wise to try and make someone believe that they needed some form of help. The hunters would come if he was certainly their own and she knew if that happened then it wouldn't be just the hunters after Kathryn. She met back with Charlie, who was frowning. Sadie simply shrugged at him. "It happens. Don't let it get to you." She oat his arm as she walked by to collect their son.
Together the trio returned to the bakery. Wesley was allowed to play with the other children just out front. There were three other kids, with Wes being the youngest.

Inside they could hear Arthur barking orders on how to properly bake a loaf of bread. He was always a little animated, often times coming across as obnoxious. He was a good man though. He paused when he caught Sadie and Charlie giggling at him. "What?" He asked, brows furrowing.

"Calm down, it's just bread."

"It's our livelihood!"

Charlie sighed. Arthur did have a point. "Fine. Just don't tell at everyone. We don't have nearly enough people if you make everyone quit to work the fields instead." They shooed everyone out of the room, letting them get in an early break. "She's a lone wolf, seems to think that she's fine."

"She says that until she kills someone else. Ow! That's it, I've got a damaged brain!" Arthur rubbed the back of his head where Sadie had smacked him. Again. "But it's true. Even if she isn't so far gone at the moment she sounds unstable." Arthur had a valid point. They'd not really considered the idea of her being unstable in addition to being a lone wolf.

"So you're suggesting that we wait another month in order to see if she kills someone again?" Charlie didn't like that idea. It was dangerous and he didn't want anyone to get hurt.

"Yes. Will you please stop hitting me?!"

"Stop being an idiot then. The more people that are in danger the more we have to worry about the hunters. They will track any lead, no matter how faint. One disappearance is enough to get them intereste, two leads to an investigation." Sadie growled.

"But there haven't been murders least ones not caused by our pack." Charlie pointed out. "Something changed for her. We need to figure out what it was and quickly. After work you and Sadie will head out to investigate. I will take the kids to pick up some supplies and we'll ready the pack just in case something else happens." His word was law. Arthur didn't want to go with Sadie (partially because it didn't matter what form she took, she'd still lash out at him when he was being dumb.)
This was a delicate subject and they needed to approach it carefully or else they'd end up with a bigger problem on their hands. They'd probably try to identify the man later and give him a proper burial. Charlie followed them into her office, ducking his head in order to get through the door frame without injury.
Once they were settled in, with Wesley sitting on his mother's lap instead of her hip, both looked at Kathryn.

"So how long have you been a wolf?" Now that they were in the small room with her, the smell of wolf became stronger. It had to have been her. Charlie leaned against the far wall, arms crossed over his chest. "I don't think you've been one all that long. Lone wolves tend to go crazy after their isolation. Can't figure pack from prey and attack everything." It was something that Sadie had told him. She'd dealt with lone wolves in the past, something that he hadn't done.

"Be gentle, Charlie. She is a lone wolf, judging by her scent being the only one here." Sadie scolded, her arms tightening slightly around the boy in her lap. "But do not worry, we are werewolves too."

"I'm not." Wesley pouted.

"In time my boy, in time." Charlie smiled at his son. Werewolves weren't born, they were made. Wesley was human. Sadie had been human, and Charlie had been human. "But back to the matter at hand. We seen the kill and we'll help you."

"Yes. If word gets out then we'll have hunters to deal with. A...persistent bunch bent on wiping werewolves out. They won't stop at just you." Sadie said, gesturing down to her son. He was in as much danger as anyone, despite not being a werewolf himself. For female werewolves, carrying a child was hard. They didn't change with their mother's moons. They stayed human. To compensate for this, any pregnant werewolf was locked away to protect the baby growing within her. "The man wasn't from town. We don't recognize his scent." Sadie passed her son to Charlie, who took the boy outside. He was the alpha but right now what the woman needed was someone with the experience of both worlds.

"That either means he's a stranger or he could even be a hunter. We all have markings." She said, bearing her wrist to the woman where her family's symbol had been branded into the tender flesh their. "I'm not with them anymore, in case you were wondering. But I know how they operate. We'll scan the forest and see if perhaps he'd been traveling along the road when he was pulled into the woods. If no sign is found then we'll assume he's a hunter."

She sighed, rubbing her temples. "And please, if you have loved ones we need to know. The pack can and will help protect them. If he was indeed a hunter they will most likely be targets." Taking out a werewolf's support meant they didn't have people to hide behind and could be dealt with easier.
They'd walked for a while until Wesley spotted his mother speaking with three other women. He wiggled out of his father's grasp and ran at her once he was on his feet. "Mama!"

"Wes? Where's your--Charlie!"

Charlie looked startled for a moment at the tone of her voice. "We were just speaking about you." He didn't like the way that Sadie seemed a little too thrilled to have him there.

"Mama, papa and I came looking for you!" Wesley said, tugging at her skirts. She smiled down at the boy and picked him up, settling him on her hip.

"Oh...that was the little one..." The woman said, looking at Wesley with wide eyes. "I-I didn't mean to upset them." Her voice was quaking. Her apology quickly caught both Sadie and Charlie off guard.

"No, ma'am, it's fine. The children were gone by then." Charlie said, stepping into the conversation. He towered over the women, and he'd ducked a little to hide his true height. Charlie was always a little self-conscious about his height. He hoped that his son wouldn't grow to be as tall as he was. He watched the two women walk away, the arm of the more composed one around the young one's shoulders.

"She's pretty, mama." Wesley, being six, was still learning how to whisper so he wasn't very good at it yet. His words made both of his parents smile. Charlie looked at Kathryn and had to silently agree.
Sadie smiled at the boy in her arms, finding the shy way in which he hid his face away in the crook of her neck to be adorable. Often she wondered if people could tell that he was their son. He did look like a decent mix of his features and hers.

"Ah, forgive me. You've introduced yourself but I forgot my introductions." Sadie looked back at Kathryn. "My name is Sadie Rothschild, and this is my son, Wesley."

The little boy looked up at the sound of his name. "You forgot papa." A chubby fingers was pointed in Charlie's direction.

"And this is Charlie Rhodes. Now we don't have to go all the way to the bakery." Despite having the past six years to try to explain their situation, it was still a little awkward. Society frowned upon women like her. Unmarried and a mother. Her only saving grace was that Charlie wanted anything to do with Wesley. He was such a good father.

Charlie caught the scent of wolf and a few things fell into place in that moment. This was a wolf unaffiliated with their pack and a scent they'd all faintly caught around town before. "Giving a statement, Sadie?" He smiled at her. "About that deer, right?" Anytime there was a werewolf related kill the default was to claim it was a deer. It seemed to have worked well for them in the past to claim such.
When the other woman approached them, Sadie caught the scent of the forest and something that was unmistakably werewolf. It was veiled under the smell of lye soap but it was still there. She sized up the other woman, hunter background coming in to play. She tore her eyes away from the other woman, Kathryn, and looked back towards the panicked woman. "There were no monsters." She said. "I went to check with my friend. We have children on our farm and we want to keep them safe." Sadie remained calm, knowing that her anger could trigger a transformation. It helped to soothe the other woman as well, although it seemed to be rapidly backfiring. "There was no monster nor was there any human body. We searched. It was a deer."

"I'm not crazy! There really was a man with his f-face scratched off. H-his blood was everywhere ." The other woman began crying, hiding her face under her hands. Sadie felt horrible for pushing her towards that state but she needed to deflect this somehow.

"It was a deer, I seen it. They get away from hunters all the time and then the little creatures of the forest eat them." Sadie said gently. She laid a hand on the woman's shoulder, fully expecting her to brush her off. Instead she leaned into the touch and Sadie realized that the woman could barely call herself such. She looked to be fresh out of her girlhood. A youngster like her being so spooked made her maternal instincts kick in and she pulled her into an embrace despite being total strangers. Hopefully the women would take the girl's age into account. It'd only help Sadie's story more if they realized that the girl had probably never been in the forest alone before today. "I'll talk to you. Give you all the information on what I saw." Sadie's words were directed as Kathryn. There was a reason why she wanted to talk to her specifically.

"My friend is Charlie Rhodes. He owns the bakery. Should be there by now if you want to talk to him too."

He'd searched for a while, following the scent of stale blood mixed among the decaying undergrowth. It ended abruptly and he'd been forced to give up his search for now. He'd come back later with several others in the pack. Charlie had redressed at home and was headed towards the bakery. Sadie was probably there already since dealing with the woman wasn't a difficult task. To his surprise she wasn't there. Arthur confirmed that he hadn't seen her yet and Charlie wondered where she was at. It wasn't like her to be gone for a long time when there was work to be done.

"Papa!" Charlie opened his arms as his son ran towards him. He scooped the boy up and smiled.

"Let's go check town for your mother." He said, wanting to find Sadie quickly. They needed to plan their next move since the blabbering woman could spill enough to warrant a visit from the hunters. Wesley cheered as his father carried him in his arms. He was a little small for his age but he fit comfortably in the arms of most adults. Charlie remembered when Sadie had told him that she was with child. It hadn't come as a shock, not really. They'd lain together and had been foolish, and he'd had a feeling that just to spite them for their 'sin' God had given them a child. The day that Wesley had been born was one of the most exciting and terrifying days of his life. Thankfully he hadn't lost both of them during the birthing process. The first time he'd held Wes had been magical. Charlie was pretty sure the first time he'd seen Sadie hold their son he'd cried. Even if they weren't together, she was still his family.
His day had started just as any other. His son, six year old Wesley, cane barreling into his room at the crack of dawn to wake him up. The child had a particular love of jumping up and down on his father's bed until the man was fully awake. His child had been born out of wedlock but Charlie had never shunned him or followed social norms and loved him from arm's length. No, he'd been born out of love but not the type of love that made a marriage work. It had been for the best, really, that he and Wesley's mother, Sadie, hadn't tied the knot.
They remained good friends though, often able to confide in each other with no fear of judgement. Charlie cracked open his eyes and looked at the little boy. His light hair and eyes came from Charlie himself; reddish-blond hair and light blue-green eyes. That alone had confirmed that he was the boy's father. His son had the rounded features of his mother and the same mischievous grin.

"Papa!" Wesley cheered, seeing that he'd succeeded in waking the man. "Mama says that breakfast is almost ready." Because of the nature of werewolves and the comfort they gained from pack life, they lived communally. Hatchetfield was small but they'd carved out a living by farming wheat and using it for their own breads, pies and cakes. Charlie was a damn good baker but Sadie made a mean mincemeat pie.

"Okay, Wes. I'm up." Charlie said, sitting up in bed. His son was already dressed for the day, no doubt his mother's doing. The pack lived on Charlie's small farm just outside of Hatchetfield. There was a large farm house and a few small cabins strewn about the property. Most of the pack lived in the farmhouse but a few with families of their own occupied the cabins. They still ate meals together despite their living quarters. Sadie was usually in charge of cooking breakfast and dinner. Lunch duties were passed off to whoever was around while Sadie was helping in the bakery.

He greeted his pack once he was dressed for the day and downstairs. Arthur, his second-in-command and annoying adopted brother, waved. Half a piece of fresh bread smothered in jam was hanging out of his mouth. Sadie swatted the back of Arthur's head and scolded him for his poor table manners. Arthur held the back of his head and whined. "Oh hush up. I didn't hit you that hard." Sadie rolled her eyes as she helped Wes into his chair.

"Yes you did. Now I'm going to go loony." Arthur said before shoving some fried ham into his mouth once he'd swallowed his bread.

Their breakfast had been pleasant, as it usually was, but once a majority of the pack was done and they'd gone to work in the fields or the bakery in town, there came a knock at the door and the frantic, near incoherent shouting of a woman. Charlie opened the door to see a woman with wide fright filled eyes. "There's a monster!" She cried, pointing back towards the forest. Charlie recognized her from town and assumed that she must have been in the forest gathering up herbs or something similar when she'd come across…whatever she was babbling about.

"Calm down, miss. Tell me what you saw." They had a few unstable werewolves but none had gone out by themselves to the forest recently, even last night. They'd all roamed on the farm rather than in the forest because of the children. The woman described finding a body, mutilated beyond recognition. Hatchetfield was on the small side and most people knew each other but she said that there was nothing familiar about the man, even in his current state.

"S-something ripped out his innards...scratched his face and the earth...oh Heavens there's a monster!" Charlie paled. Her description fit what was typical of a werewolf killing but his pack was innocent. That left only one option and it wasn't a good one. He called for Sophia, one of his calmer werewolves, and told her to escort the woman back into town. Charlie was going to have a look at the scene to determine if it really was a werewolf.

"I'm coming." The sound of Sadie's voice caught his attention and he turned back to look at her. She was already pulling a shawl over her shoulders. "You forgot that I was a hunter, once." Her lips quirked into a small smile. She'd been raised to hunt the very things that she'd become. Her parents had taught her every trick to tracking the beasts and learning their ways of killing.

"What about Wes?"

"Arthur has him and the other kids. They're going to the bakery." She said, looking up at him. "Please, Charlie, let me help." Sadie pat his chest before walking by him, not really giving him the option to say no. With a sigh he stripped down and allowed the transformation to take hold. He was a lighter colored wolf, being more red tones than anything else. Blue-green gave way to gold and his bones snapped and shifted into place. Where the tall man once stood was now an even taller beast. "Come along, Charlie. We'll need your nose." He followed along behind Sadie, eventually scooping the woman up so they'd move faster.

When they found the kill both confirmed that it was a werewolf. "We'll need to hide this." Sadie said, toeing the deadman with her foot. "We should go stop that woman as well. Once word gets out that a werewolf, or even suspected werewolf, is around it'll only be a matter of time before the hunters come." Their pack wouldn't be safe then. Wesley was in danger, even though he was fully human despite being born of werewolves. They disposed of the body in an old hollowed log. It wouldn't be a permanent resting place but it was better than the open.

Charlie carried her again as they headed towards Hatchetfield. He returned to the crime scene to find any clues of who could have done this while Sadie did a bit of damage control.

She'd caught up to the woman, who was banging on the door of the detective's office, screaming and hollering about what she'd seen in the forest. Sadie was trying her best to silence her.

Evening | Land of Fire - Mumi village

Their little game earlier had been entertaining, even if he'd ultimately been bested by one of his genin. His back was a little sore but he knew that it'd be gone by the morning. When they were invited for dinner he was quite happy. His own upbringing had been similar. His home village was far to the east of here, on the coast. It was, for lack of a better word, a Kawaguchi village. It was heavily populated by his small clan, with only a few of them actually settling elsewhere. Because it was predominantly one clan that lived there, communal dinners were not uncommon. He'd observed his genin, taking in their reactions.

Koharu didn't seem to show much reaction to the communal meal and it made him curious. She came from a small clan as well so he assumed that communal meals weren't uncommon either. When they'd sat down to eat, he'd voiced his question. She gave a faint smile, pushing away her plate briefly so she could talk to him without being rude. Koharu explained that because they'd been without a home for a while, her clan had communal dinners. It was easier to feed everyone at once rather than allow for individual families within the clan to cook their respective meals. They didn't have a lot of supplies either, so sharing helped a great deal.
She'd also told him that because she was so young, only four, when it happened, she couldn't remember the fine details.

He asked about the types of foods they ate in their homeland and she seemed to fall quiet and it took him a while to notice that she was indeed drooling slightly. "Roasted seals were common. It was a land of snow and ice so we didn't get fresh vegetables often." Indeed a glance at her plate had shown that most of what was there were vegetables. They talked quietly, with her asking him about his home. It made pride well that the genin seemed to be genuinely interested in asking.

As dinner wound down and people began to get desserts, Minoru laughed as Koharu marvelled at the apple pies as they were being scooped out of the pie pans. If the thought of roasted seals had her drooling, the freshly baked apple pies did as well. It was a little unusual to see the girl being so animated but he came to understand that she'd had a much more worldly experience than her teammates. This sort of thing, learning about new places and people, was a genuine interest for her.

"Alright kids, after this we need to come up with a plan and get Nusu out of the village. But first I would like to talk to Koharu and Natsuko."

Minoru had gestured for the girls to follow him a short distance away. He wanted to make sure they wouldn't do anything stupid like they had on their last. There was no easy way to say this so he decided to rip of the metaphorical bandaid. "Don't throw your teammates at the bear." He warned Koharu, giving her a pointed look.

"I'm not that irresponsible, sensei." Koharu said, usually impassive face breaking into a pout. The air around them cooled rapidly to temperatures unusual for this time of year. "I only tossed her because there was no other option." Minoru was suddenly reminded of the girl's uncle in that moment.

"I know, but this is-" Minoru shrunk under the glare the small girl was giving him. And with that the topic was dropped. It was more unnerving like anything else but he couldn't help but assume that in time she'd be able to out glare men much bigger than her and win.

Night | Land of Fire - Mumi village

Why had Natsuko insisted that the real Koharu go with the real Kazuhiko? Koharu didn't mind the teasing, it made things a little lively but at times it was a little awkward. Of course she'd done the opposite and gone with the clone. Or at least the one that she assumed was a clone. There'd been too many poofs and clouds of smoke for her to see and they hadn't exactly stopped to ask who was what. Her own clone had gone with Natsuko to ensure that the girl was going to behave and because her clones couldn't perform the same jutsu that she could. Minoru telling her that throwing Natsuko at the bear had stung a little. She wouldn't risk her teammates like that, not with a bear that they couldn't stop like they could a human.

The thing about clones that the Wakahisa used were ice based and a little more tangible than most other clones. As a drawback, they used a larger amount of chakra but to compensate for the chakra use, younger Wakahisa who didn't have the same chakra levels as adults relied on making their clones a little more incorporeal. They'd still explode into little showers of ice shards, capable of inflicting damage just as the ones the adults used. It wasn't uncommon for adults to use their clones as suicide bombers on the battlefield. It was a trick taught to her by her uncle and she was still learning to get the hang of it.

"Natsuko you need to wake up or I'll put ice in your shirt." The clone warned. It was a little bit harder to tell Koharu apart from a clone because both ran a little cold. This knowledge was something that she used well when she did manage to use clones. No one liked ice down their shirts, period.

Back with the real Koharu, the girl was watching her clone briefly before scanning the rest of the orchard for Nusu. Minoru-sensei was off doing his own recon with a clone of one of them. He reminded them that this was their mission so they'd do a bulk of the work. He was just there to make sure they didn't get killed. A breeze picked up, causing the tree they were in to shake. Despite being a shinobi who frequently needed to climb or jump to get to destinations, she was still afraid of heights. Out of instinct when the tree branche swayed beneath them she reached out for Kazuhiko, which was a slightly stupid thing to do considering that his clone couldn't do anything to save her. But she'd been scared and misjudged the length of her reach...and had basically fallen against the boy.

Instead of Kazuhiko vanishing into a puff of sparks, her hands gripped onto a warm shirt. "K-Kazu-kun?" Koharu looked up at him, cheeks warm and red at how close together they were. The branches stopped swaying when the wind died down and she was able to stand on her own two feet again. Still, standing to her full height didn't lessen the rapid pace of her heart nor did it take the color from her cheeks.

Night | Land of Fire - Mumi village

He was with a clone of Natsuko or had been at least until it vanished. He didn't think that anything had happened to her because his own clone, which oddly enough was with Kazuhiko's clone, had been stationed close enough to keep an eye on the kids. Minoru had smiled at the knowledge that Kazuhiko and Koharu had gone scouting together. From where his clone was he could see the two genin and he'd definitely seen the way the branches had swayed and the two found out they were with the real deal.

A rustling from below caught his attention and he looked down to see a large shiny black object lumbering towards the orchard. Nusu was massive, as were other boars, and such a shiny black that Minoru thought for a moment he had frost clinging to the very tips of his fur.


Team Six

Afternoon || Land of Fire: Konohagakure — Mumi Village

Kazuhiko waited, peeking out from behind a tree. He’d been elected as lookout due to the fact that his hair was darkest and therefore the most inconspicuous. Well, that and because he was the most ‘reliable’ team member, but that part was implied because no one would trust Natsuko for timing, and Koharu had already done her part getting their sensei's attention. Now, he played the waiting game.

Minoru had been left sitting alone in the tree as his laughter died down to small giggles. It was nice seeing the kids act like kids. He looked around, trying to find any source of the kids. They could hide decently well, far better than the last time they tried this. He'd wanted to make their training fun and hide and seek was a rather good way to have them learn the skills they needed to survive on missions. Of course he smeared them into the ground.

He was on the lookout for pale hair, since poor Koharu was at a major disadvantage. Natsuko probably would be easier to find as well. He didn't doubt that she could hide, but he knew that out of all his genin she was the one most likely to yell at him if he got too close. "Alright kids. Just remember to not complain too much if I win. Again." He teased. The teasing was bait for Natsuko. He knew that she'd give in easily to his challenge.

Natsuko’s eye twitched. She does not, did not complain too much last time! A fierce glance from Kazuhiko, though, reminded her of the task at hand, and she set about trying to calm down and focus again. It was obvious from the way that Kazuhiko had instantly looked at her that Minoru’s jibe had been for her, and she didn’t like it one bit. Dirty tactics from the jonin with the upper hand were never appreciated, however much he was outnumbered.

Biting her lip, she focused on looking at Kazuhiko, intent on carrying out the plan.

He hadn't seen any sign of the genin so he assumed that they were a little deeper into the orchard. He jumped from tree to tree looking for signs. He thought he'd seen Koharu amongst the branches but it turned out to be a reflection on the tree branches. Minoru wondered if they were waiting for him to get closer, or if the small genin had been joking with him. That was something he highly doubted but he had learned that his kids were full of surprises.

Minoru paused on a sturdy branch, listening to the sounds of the orchard. He could hear birds and the rustling of leaves that he'd assumed was a breeze until he realized that there wasn't a breeze or anything to move the branches. It could have been birds nestled in the branches but he had a feeling it was his genin.
He caught a flash of something pale and headed towards it, unknowingly entering into a trap set by the very genin he was searching for.

‘Now!’ Kazuhiko mouthed, signing his lightning release. The goal was to hit fast and hard since they likely wouldn’t get a second chance without someone being tagged. From his hands came an arc of lightning that stretched and widened before shooting towards Minoru.

Beside him, a single clone from Natsuko popped forth to charge at the jonin.

“You’re going down, Sensei!” her clone shouted, signing her Gale Palm technique. Her real form, though, stayed behind to start signing her dark release, as they’d planned. As it went, the plan was as follows: Kazuhiko would stun Minoru enough for Koharu to trap him with an ice technique, which would then allow Natsuko to utilize her dark release to sap his energy and keep him trapped. Whether it would all come together remained to be seen, but as of this moment, the plan was working.

Minoru had known that it was silly to stop and stare instead of moving but it filled him with pride to see them working together. Although there was no realistic way to have dodged lightning, he still could have attempted to instead of standing there like an idiot. The pride didn't last long once the lightning made it's contact. His muscles in his arms and legs spasmed and he was stunned.
He'd never get used to it, and he'd been Kazuhiko's sensei for a while now. In the aftermath of the lightning he was a sitting duck.

Something cold crept up his legs and held firmly. Ice encased his feet and up towards his knees. The cold feeling grounded himself and he turned his head to see the smallest genin, hands pressed firmly against the tree trunk above him. "Get him Susu!"
She was close enough for him to reach out and tag, but she'd scampered up the tree trunk just barely out of reach. His arms were a little sluggish from the lightning and he'd flailed as he tried to tag her.

Minoru heard her little whine of fright and remembered that she'd been terrified of heights at one point. He didn't get to mull over things though, because the kids had a plan and they did it perfectly.

“Oh no you don’t!” Natsuko yelled, dispelling her clone and launching herself at Minoru in one motion, her hands giving off the faint purple glow of her dark release technique, Kusunemasu. Coming to a stop before him so that she was just out of reach, she held her hands out in front of her, white wisps starting to come off from Minoru and float towards her glowing hands.

“I’m doing it! It’s working!” she shouted excitedly as she felt the first wisps float into her hands, a faint euphoric feeling energizing her as she absorbed the chakra. Despite the number of practice sessions and failed attempts in training, this was the first time she’d been able to call up the technique on the field.

“Are you seeing this, Kazu-kun, Haru-chan?” she called, grinning up at her teammates. Kazuhiko was standing on the branch beside Koharu, likely having helped her out earlier when Minoru tried to tag her. While Natsuko usually would have teased them about it, she didn’t care right now. She’d finally pulled off her dark release technique!

“Natsuko!” Kazuhiko yelled, his eyes wide. “Watch out!”

But she’d been a beat to slow in realizing what she should be watching for. Her excitement had distracted her, and she’d looked away from her target: her sensei who, while proud, was clearly not enjoying the treatment.

He'd praise her later for actually getting her dark release to work, but right now they were still playing their game and he could still win. Minoru was feeling even more sluggish as his chakra was slowly drained from his body. He trained with Natsuko enough to know what was happening and how it felt. In all honesty it was exhausting, even in little amounts.

With a smirk he reached out, taking advantage of Natsuko looking up at the other two genin. He tapped her lightly on the forehead with the pads of his fingers. The angle was awkward as his feet were still trapped in ice, but he supported his weight by pressing his free hand against the tree trunk. "Tag. Good job, Natsuko, but I win. Never let your guard down." Poor Minoru didn't get very long to savor his victory.
Koharu, who'd been watching everything unfold, forced the ice that was surrounding their sensei's feet off the tree branch and it knocked Minoru off his feet.

He landed on the ground below with a dull thud. They hadn't been up high enough for him to get injured but it still hurt a little bit. With a groan he rolled over, shaking the last remnants of ice off of his legs. He could hear Koharu talking to Natsuko.

"Good job Natsuko. We lost but you did well." The girl had left Kazuhiko's side (and she'd deny that she'd been holding onto his shirt for balance) and stood where Minoru once did. She was smiling up at the other girl. "Isn't that right, Kazu-kun? She's making leaps and bounds." Encouragement was a powerful thing, especially for one like Natsuko. She had to work hard, possibly harder than Koharu and Kazuhiko. She didn't have the same pressures they did, but she had her own. Koharu wondered how it was to be the technical weak link for your team. They couldn't protect Natsuko forever. But she was proud of her, and she hoped the other girl knew that.
She pulled the other girl into a brief but tight hug.


Afternoon // Land of Fire: Mumi village

The idea of exploring the village made her excited and she couldn't wait. The same excitement that had shown itself in the temple in the Land of Lightning now bubbled beneath her skin. She looked over at Natsuko when their arms were linked together and she smiled. "This place is beautiful. It's going to be fun exploring it." Although she'd lived a majority of her life within Konoha, she still faintly remembered her homeland. Sparse trees grew but beyond that there was little plant life, or so she'd been told. To see this much life and to smell the damp dirt and blooming flowers awakened something in the girl.
Minoru had told them that he'd stay behind to learn more from the villagers. The kids would probably learn things on their explorations so he wasn't all that worried. Plus, like this there wasn't any danger of them coming across the bear. He hadn't forgotten the trouble they'd gotten into in the Land of Lightning. She'd said goodbye to their sensei before she looped her free arm around Kazuhiko's. Usually it was Natsuko who pulled the boy into things, not Koharu.

She have the tall boy a small smile before she practically pulled her teammates along by their linked arms. Their first stop was the orchard. She'd tucked away the apple she'd been gifted, fully intending to eat it later after their mission ended. Koharu let go of the other genin before she tucked her arms behind her back. She was itching to climb the trees. It seemed fun and while she could climb them through the use of chakra, climbing them in a much simpler way was so much more appealing right now. "Let's explore! We might end up finding out more about the bears if we can see where they've been." Koharu was a little nervous about this mission. Bears were big and she was the smallest on the team. She didn't give her teammates much time to decide on anything before she was heading further into the orchard, green-gray eyes scanning the trees as if she'd find a bear hiding in one.

Afternoon // Land of Fire: Mumi village

He'd asked around about the bears, gathering enough information to get descriptions of the two boars, the sow and the cubs. With all that information stored away in a scroll he'd decided tk find his team. It'd been a good hour or two since he'd seen them and part of him feared the trouble they could get into. Natsuko and Koharu in particular seemed to get into situations a lot. He asked around again, this time asking about his team. An elderly woman with a bent back told him that they'd been in the orchard the last time she'd seen them. He thanked her with soft words and a bow before jogging over to the orchard. Minoru didn't see the kids but he did find Koharu's shawl. The white fabric was a bit dirty along the edges, stained a rich brown from the soil. There were a few stray leaves and some small twigs stuck to it. In a fashion that he'd come to associate with the quiet girl, the shawl had been slung over a small fence that ran halfway across the orchard. A few ladders were propped on either side of the fence.

Minoru picked up the shawl, dusting it off and slinging it over his shoulder. "Kids! Where are you three?" Minoru called as he looked around the trees. He caught sight of pale hair among dark green leaves and he knew it was Koharu. When he ventured closer to the girl, she climbed higher. Was she...playing with him? A smile came to his face when he realized it. He was thrilled that she was acting like a kid for once.

What he didn't know was that he was now part of their game. It was a simple game of tag, which sounded like something a toddler would enjoy, but they had to stay within the trees and they couldn't use anything but their own physical skills. It was training made fun. Ninjutsu was outlawed in this game, making it quite an interesting challenge.
"Sensei I'm stuck! I-I need some help!" Koharu's warbling voice made him sigh softly. She was a little bit fearful of heights, despite her urge to climb the trees. He began to climb up the tree and spotted her among the branches, higher than he thought she'd enjoy being.

"Hold still, Koharu. I'm almost there." The trees were sturdy and he was thankful that he found one that would support his weight without worrying if it'd break. "What are you doing up in a tree?"

"Playing tag. You're it, Minoru-sensei." Koharu poked him on the cheek before she vanished into a small shower of ice shards that sprinkled to the ground. He sat in the tree for several moments before he began to laugh. Oh so they wanted to play then. He knew that the girl needed to be close because she wasn't quite so skilled with long distance use of her ice aside from small projectiles. Or perhaps Natsuko would be the easier of the targets.

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