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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.


The next morning // Land of Fire: Konohagakure - Training grounds

Reiko watched the genin, all six of them, as they fought. Kage was holding his own against Natsuko and she was proud of him. He'd been a bit of a sad sack, never getting the hang of a particular technique and often being bullied into submission by Kouji. At the thought of the blond boy, she looked over at him and the smaller genin. They fought fiercely although the girl was fast enough to leave him few opportunities to perform hand signs. When it came to power Kouji had the girl beat but she had him on speed. It was interesting to see how Minoru had trained his students. Even if Natsuko wasn't winning against Kage she was able to told her own and use skills that she'd been taught.

When the Taketori boy arrived, Reiko had no objections to him sparring with Mariko. It was an interesting match up and they were able to matc each other blow for blow. She had to be careful though, in allowing them to spar. They could easily end up hurting each other due to the long standing rivalry of theur clans. She'd been so caught up in the match between Kazuhiko and Mariko that she'd missed seeing the Wakahisa girl beat Kouji.

Koharu stood with her katana drawn and pointed at Kouji, resting the tip just below his chin. He was sitting on his behind, legs sprawled out and arms were holding up his upper body. His lips were set into a scowl as he looked up at the girl, who's own expression was cocky. "You lost." With those simple words she moved her sword back and sheathed it before turning her attention to the other matches. Kage and Natsuko's match ended quickly when they'd both managed to knock each other backwards, although Kage clearly could keep going if he wished. Kage landed roughly on his own hind end, looking sheepish for a few moments before he got up, helping Natsuko to her feet shortly after. His dark eyes narrowed on Kouji, seeing the small scrapes and a few bruises on his arms. Koharu's eyes widened when Kage grabbed Kouji by the shirt and made him look up so he could check the wound on his cheek.

He set the work, grumbling softly about Kouji being reckless. The only time the boy was confident in any way was patching up his teammates after practice. When he grumbled about needing water to clean up Kouji, Koharu quietly approached and cupped her hands together, forming ice cold water in her palms. Kage looked up at her with a startled expression. "Th-thank you." He dipped some gauze into the cold water and wiped away the blood, wondering if Koharu minded the way the water clouded pink in her hands. He applied some strong smelling ointment to the cut before smoothing a bandage over it. She'd noticed the way that Natsuko seened drawn in by what Kage was doing and she smiled a bit. Perhaps they'd find something that Natsuko could do that she or Kazuhiko couldn't.

The girl had since discarded the water in favor of watching Kazuhiko and Mariko fight. She was always impressed by what the other heirs could do. They had to work harder and train better because of the weight they had on their shoulders. Just because her clan wasn't as big as the Taketori or the Hyuuga didn't mean that she couldn't sympathize with them. It wasn't much longer until Rieko stepped in, forming a large earth wall between the two sparring genin and telling them their match was over. They'd done good, even if it ended in a tie. She gathered up her genin and left quickly so Kazuhiko and Mariko wouldn't try to fight again. That left the girls to usher Kazuhiko back to Minoru's house in time to help with dinner.

The sparring had lasted a lot longer than expected but they'd had fun. Koharu finally got to beat up Kouji without it reflecting badly upon her clan, Natsuko seemed interested in how Kage had patched up Kouji and Kazuhiko actually got to fight Mariko without their families looming over them. When they'd told Minoru he'd seemed proud and he'd gathered all three of them into a group hug, causing Koharu's cheeks to heat and turn a bright red. In celebration, rather than cook, he and Azumi decided to take them out for ramen. The rest of the evening had passed nicely. The kids were lavished attention and treated like kids and spoiled by their sensei and his wife. Soon they'd have more low rank missions and more training and in a few years they'd be ready for the Chunin exams.


Noon // Land of Fire: Konohagakure - Training grounds

The white haired genin had been standing patiently with her hands laced behind her back. Her katana had been strapped to her obi again and she looked around the training grounds with a rather blank look. Part of her was trying to not draw attention to herself. Among the genin that had been training was Kouji Tataki, a boy who'd picked on her in the Academy, calling her hair weird and telling her that her ice didn't belong. She hadn't seen the boy since graduation. He'd pushed her into a wall, although she understood that it had been entirely an accident. He'd tripped and well, she'd been standing in the way. Still, she doubted that Kouji had matured at all since then. Her attention was snagged away by the pretty Hyuuga heiress approaching them. So she noticed that Kazuhiko had sent a clone with them. That spelled trouble for Koharu, as she'd be the one putting up with Natsuko's ranting over the matter.

There wouldn't be any way to make te situation better. Natsuko was a little oblivious to social cues but she knew the girl was far from stupid. It wasn't the first time one of the heirs had sent a clone out instead of going, although most of the time they'd done it due to needing to tend to their clan business rather than staying away from Natsuko. "Sorry Kazu-kun." Koharu took a few steps closer to the clone and punched him in the stomach. He disappeared with a brief blue spark. It had been better to come clean rather than lie to her. "He probably needed to talk to Minoru-sensei. Please don't be upset. He at least made an attempt to include himself." If Koharu condemned him then she'd be a hypocrite. Her green-gray eyes shifted to the other genin and she sighed softly.

"You're a cruel traitor, Wakahisa." Kouji said, coming up from behind Mariko. He was taller than any of the girls before him but he was still shorter than the silver haired boy who was looking at the ground a few feet behind them. "Selling out Taketori like that. Some teammate you are."

"T-that isnt fair, Kou!" The other boy piped up. Despite his intimidating size, his face was bright red and he stuttered his words. Black eyes flicked quickly to the girls and his face grew into a darker shade. He looked uncomfortable standing there and he fiddled with his fingers. He was impressed that the short girl hadn't started to tell at Kouji or anything. Kage didn't think she'd cry like he did when he was teased; if anything she looked pissed.

Kouji snorted. "Whatever Kage. You can't even look at them without blushing!" He jabbed a finger at the other boy. Their sensei was watching from a few dozen feet away so he wasn't as mean to Kage as he normally was. He turned back to scowl at the girls, folding his arms over his chest. Kouji tried to ignore the glare the white haired girl was giving him. It was concerning just how much she looked like she wanted to kill him. Kouji tried to glare back but his wasn't as cold as hers. It didn't help that the air around her cooled rapidly and frost formed below her feet. The ice crept closer towards Kouji's feet the longer their staring contest went on.

Kage looked like he was going to cry, although he usually looked like that anyways. "Hey please d-don't fight! Come on you guys!" Kage wasn't a total chicken, he knew he could use his size to break up most fights. He wormed his way between them, pushing Kouji back slightly. He would have pushed Koharu back too but she was just so small compared to him.

"Let them fight, Kage. It'll do Kouji some good and the girl needs to calm down." Their sensei, Reiko, approached them, long hair swaying in the breeze. She folded her hands in front of herself, hiding them within her long sleeves.

"But sensei!-"

"You can handle insulting the girl, who'd done nothing to you...but you can't handle trying to fight her." Reiko watched as the small genin unsheathed her katana and lashed out at him. She noticed that the girl used controlled moves, as if she'd done them a thousand times in the exact same way. Reiko knew of the Wakahisa and their reputation for being excellent swordsmen. Perhaps this child would live up to that. "You there, girl, that little one is of the Wakahisa clan, is she not?" She asked Natsuko. Reiko wrapped an arm around Kage, who looked dangerously close to crying. He wasn't a fighter, she'd learned that quickly. He was a little too gentle for this world and she's asked hm many times why he wanted to be a shinobi in the first place if he was afraid to fight. Kage had told her that he wanted to save people as a medic.

Reiko didn't bat an eye at the fight that she'd allowed. The short girl wasn't letting up on Kouji, who only had kunai to defend hmself with. Koharu was taunting him softly as they fought and she used a combination of her sword and her ice to keep him moving. He'd been able to land a few good hits, seeing that her moves largely followed a pattern but it was easy to tell who had the advantage. Kouji hadn't been expecting her to use her saya in the fight--most didn't. It was a good way to momentarily stun someone. Koharu hit him in the stomach with it, making the boy double over and gasp for air.

She paused to let him regain his breath. This was training, not a real fight, so she had to play fair. Kouji was a lot stronger than she was and his hits had hurt. If she hadn't gone at him with little room for him to breathe then she'd likely be on her ass in the dirt right now.

"You kids can spar too." Reiko would probably end Kouji and Koharu's fight soon. She was sure the boy had learned his lesson.

Afternoon // Land of Fire: Konohagakure - Kawaguchi Household

Minoru hadn't been surprised when Kazuhiko stepped out of the bathroom once the girls were gone. He'd been acting a little odd, like there was a weight on his chest that he couldn't wait to get off. Minoru had been doing the dishes while Azumi packed away any of their left overs. They paused what they were doing as the boy apologized for his father's behavior. He gestured to his wife to take the lead. It was clear that he was apologizing to her more than to him. Minoru knew that his wife had a soft spot for both of his quiet genin and he loved her for that. She was such a kind woman.

"Kazuhiko," Azumi stepped closer to the boy, "it is okay." She gently pushed him to stand to his full height. They were rougly the same size, so she could look in his eyes. "You have been raised one way, with one frame of mind. You do not need to apologize for anything." She said, pulling the boy into a hug. The slight swell of her stomach was a little more pronounced when she hugged people. "You are one of our first children, you know? We love you, Kazuhiko. You never have to feel bad around us."

"Yes. You are our first son. We will always love you, and you being able to apologize for...something that isn't your fault is admirable." Minoru joined their hug, standing on te other side of the boy. "We want you to be a big brother to our child. You are a good kid and one day you will be a great man. Minoru smiled at the genin. He really did think of his genin as his kids. He'd been their sensei for a year. He'd trained them and learned from them.


Mid morning // Land of Fire: Konohagakure - Kawaguchi household

"In a little while, kids. Why don't you just sit down and talk?" Azumi said as she hugged both Natsuko and Kazuhiko in turn. She ruffled Kazuhiko's hair when she pulled away from him before returning to the kitchen.

Koharu had been excited to see her teammates, but her reaction was much more subdued than Azumi's had been. It was just a simple wave and slight smile. She didn't miss the gentle giggle that Azami gave when she started to talk to Kazuhiko about her new sword. She kept it sheathed out of respect for her sensei and his wife, but the sageo, the braided rope that looped around her obi, was tied around the saya and into her clan's preferred knot. This katana was slightly different than her other one but she didn't know if her teammates would see the differences. The tsuka-ito was a pale blue that matched her clan symbol and a standard of all Wakahisa swords. The Tsuba, the small metal piece that prevented her hands from sliding onto the blade during combat, was stamped with her clan symbol. Her last sword had been plain. It was the little differences that made it truly special. She loved the saya the most. It was all black except for her clan symbol that was stamped on the outside edge in the sane pale blue of the silk wrapping of the tsuka-ito.

"Both, actually. My other sword actually belonged to ny Uncle Osamu when he was a boy." she said, cheeks coloring slightly at his words. Koharu had never talked to her teammates about such things. "My clan has roots as samurai in our homeland so proper techniques and good swords are our customs. We learn with real swords until our training with ice release has progressed enough and then we train with ice swords. We use both in combat." Koharu felt that it was important to tell her teammates such things now that she had the opportunity. They'd seen her train and fight primarily with a sword, using her ninjutsu as supplementary elements. She wasn't the fastest or physically strongest so she primarily used her ice to snare feet and catch enemies off guard. But they'd also seen her practicing a lot on her own, going through the motions of combat with invisible enemies.

"That's why I practice my kata. They do have some practical uses in combat, but ultimately they are a form of meditation. You both have seen my ice...act out. My clan isn't unstable by any means but when we're young we can't control it as well as the adults can. The kata help by giving us something to focus on." Koharu trusted them greatly. They were her team and she'd grown used to their fighting styles. Her kata also helped to strengthen her spirituality and mental resolve. It gave her time, while cutting down invisible enemies, to think over why she was making each cut and what it meant to take a life.

She looked at both of them, green-gray eyes flicking back and forth. Koharu noted that Natsuko was staring and her cheeks flared pink. "I know that right now my skills aren't much and I practice by myself a lot...but I hope to make you two proud!" They were her only friends. Koharu was a little too awkward to have made friends in the academy and if she was honest her days in the academy had been rough. Kids had learned early on to not tease her about the ice or her hair. If they did then they'd usually suffer ice down their clothes or trapping their feet. "And Kazu-kun? When you and I become heads of our respective clans, I hope we can be allies. You too, Susu-chan." She grinned slyly at the girl, using the cutesy nickname she'd given her when tossing her in that temple. "Even if you aren't the heiress of your clan, you'll always find an ally in mine."

Mid morning // Land of Fire: Konohagakure - Kawaguchi household

Azumi was listening quietly to the genin. She liked that Koharu and Kazuhiko had some common ground. She'd noticed that Koharu was hesitant but just under the surface she was like Natsuko. She worried for Kazuhiko, who was much more serious than either of his teammates. "I don't think I've ever heard her talk so much." She told her husband, gesturing to the pale haired genin.

He smiled and looped his arms around his wife's hips, pressing his chest against her back and resting his chin on her shoulder. "That's a good sign. See how she went from excited to serious though? I think she's been wanting to tell them this for a long time." Minoru had talked with Osamu extensively over Koharu and the expectations the clan had for her. It mirrored the conversations with Kazuhiko's parents. It was nice to see his genin all getting along. Here they could just be kids, not two heirs and the last child. "Kazuhiko and Koharu have so much piled on them. Their shoulders are so small." Despite Kazuhiko being tall for his age, he wasn't as broad shouldered as Minoru thought he would be as an adult. In stark contrast Koharu was petite. How anyone could expect someone so small to be the heir to a clan was beyond him.

"I know, honey. All we can do is support them and give them some relief from all that stress and pressure." Azumi said, checking on the rice she was making. "But they have you and they have Natsuko-chan to help them."

Minoru hummed, thinking on her words. He wondered what they'd be like as adults. "The day when I realize they aren't kids anymore is going to be hard." The kids--their kids--were important parts of their lives. He'd been their sensei for a year already and he knew that eventually they'd all go their own ways. Minoru wasn't sure about how far their paths would take them and he worried. Listening to Koharu offer to be their ally when they were older warmed his heart. He remembered when her clan had come to the village, seeking asylum. They'd been welcomed but villagers loved their gossip. He wasn't sure if that gossip had colored Natsuko or Kazuhiko's views of the Wakahisa or not, or if Koharu being on their team was something that had pulled them above such talk.

"Isn't that just cute?" His wife giggled again, covering her smile. "We probably won't have to worry too much about them. She is offering to be their ally. Yes, things might change in ten years but if I know anything of that child, she cares for them. I doubt Koharu would let them stray too far from the right path."

"You've got that right. She'll glare them into submission." Minoru laughed. Koharu already had a wicked glare that he'd seen mirrored in her uncle. He feared that when she was an adult, it would only grow even more wicked. "Lunch is done kids. Natsuko, leave the mochi alone. Koharu, you can put your katana in the living room on my stand."

The genin nodded and disappeared into the living room with her katana, coming back empty handed after a minute or two. Minoru helped his wife take the food to the table. Lunch or dinner at their house wasn't uncommon so they flowed quite smoothly.


Afternoon // Land of Fire: Konohagakure main gates

Minoru was happy that his genin were surprised and excited by the news. He was happy as well. Azumi had given him the opportunity to be a father. They'd been together for a long time, since they had been chunin. Although it hadn't been love when they were that young, just a simple and innocent crush that persisted despite being on different teams. After they'd both passed the chunin exams and had been placed on a mission during which she'd saved his life, did that little crush turn to something more. At Natsuko's pleading, he chuckled. "It's okay, Natsuko. We want all three of you in the baby's life. You three are our first children, after all." That's how he viewed them. They just weren't genin that he had to train. They were his kids and he loved them. A few seconds later her scooped up his smallest genin when she started to sniffle. No tears fell, although he could see them welling up. He held onto Koharu tightly. It was odd that she was crying so much but he didn't question it. Perhaps she was finally learning that it was okay to be a child around them. Azumi pat the girl's pale hair, smiling gently. Minoru set Koharu back on the ground when the sniffling stopped and she quietly asked if they could all go over tomorrow.

"Of course. You kids are always welcome in our home!" It wasn't much longer after that before Koharu had to leave. She gave them all an awkward wave before heading off to her clan's small compound. He quickly lost sight of the girl anong the crowd. When he finally said goodbye to Kazuhiko, he ruffled the boy's hair and pulled him into a hug. Azumi hugged him too, although it was a brief embrace. They both escorted Natsuko home. He was disappointed that her parents hadn't been there. It hadn't been fair to her. They hugged the girl and promised that they'd have something fun planned for tomorrow.

The next morning // Wakahisa compound

She awoke to the sun cutting through the darkness of her bedroom. It was odd that she wasn't up before the sun and that could only mean that her uncle had allowed her to sleep in. Their meeting yesterday been run of the mill and as boring as ever. That was, up until her Uncle had congratulated her on her first mission and surprised her with a new sword. Osamu was not an affectionate man, but he did care for his niece a great deal. She had been using an old hand-me-down of a katana, so it was time for one that she could call her own. The new sword was resting on a wooden rack on the other side of the room. She mechanically got ready for the day, opting to leave her shawl home. It was a little too hot to be wearing it anyways. She slipped on a clean short sleeved shirt that had her clan symbol embroidered on the back. The Wakahisa clan symbol was circular with geometric designs along the inside that mimicked the designs sometimes seen in snowflakes. It was, as far as clan symbols go, quite intricate with varying shades of blue, with the center being a dark blue.

She brushed out her hair before putting it into her usual style. When training, she'd pin her braids up so they couldn't get in the way. She could remember her cousins tugging the ends of her braids whenever she slacked off when they trained her. Koharu missed them despite the tendion her being named heir caused. She'd always looked up to them. Nobuyuki had been her favorite because before the attack on Kazahana castle he used to give her piggy back rides. After a quick breakfast she practiced her kata with her uncle before he turned her looe. They always practiced for a few hours, going through the movements with slow and deliberate swings of their swords.

Koharu knew the way to her sensei's house quite well, taking short cuts through alleys or over low walls to cut the time down. Minoru had a simple single story home with a nice front yard. It was located in a busier part of the village. The closer she got, the quicker her feet carried her. She wanted to show Minoru her new sword and she was a bit excited to spend time with Azumi and her teammates. Minoru was already waiting for his genin when she arrived, normally pale cheeks flushed from running.

"What's the rush, Koharu?" Minoru laughed. She just gave him a small smile and excitedly gestured down to her sword. "Oh? What happened to the other one?"

"My uncle felt I'd earned a new one!" Koharu was normally quiet but he knew one thing that could make the girl shed her quiet demeanor for an excitable and eager one: swords. He didn't understand half of what she said when she'd babble about swords, but it was cute when she'd talk so much. He hoped that his own child would find something to be passionate about like Koharu had.

"Head inside. We're still waiting on Natsuko and Kazuhiko." He smiled at the girl as she bowed in thanks before heading inside. She removed her sandals before heading into the kitchen where she could hear Azumi bustling around. Koharu greeted her with a small smile and a bow. The woman smiled and pulled Koharu into a hug. The genin froze up at the contact but soon melted into the embrace, returning it after a few beats.


Afternoon // Land of Lightning:Daimyo's residence

Her patience for the child was greater than what her teammates had for the boy. She was just as tired as they were. Koharu was not as physically strong as she could have been, although both her Uncle and her teammates were helping her along the road to becoming physically stronger. For all her skills in ninjutsu and kenjutsu, she was weak in taijutsu. That wasn't to say that she was hopeless. No, Koharu tired easily and lacked some of the oomph behind her hits to make a difference. She took in the excited tour, nodding when appropriate. Although when Hachiro insulted Natsuko, she'd swatted the back of his head. Before she could scold him, he was skipping away.

Dinner was a nice affair, if a little slow. All she wanted to do was crawl into bed after kicking off her sandals and shawl. The Lightning Daimyo was a long winded man, giving speech after speech to thank the genin and their sensei for delivering his son unharmed. Hachiro sat between her and Kazuhiko, hastily stuffing his face with rice and dumplings. He choked once or twice, coughing and sputtering with Koharu patting his back until he was done. He'd excitedly told her about some of the new toys that his father had given him earlier, rambling on long enough to miss the way she fell asleep at the table. She'd come to rest against Natsuko's shoulder and when Minoru had seen, he gently scooped up the small girl. She shared a room with Natsuko while Kazuhiko and Minoru shared the one across the hallway. Hachiro, not liking that one of his guests was being taken away, demanded to do with Minoru. His face was dull of dessert but he still followed behind the jonin, who was slightly annoyed that the boy seemedlike he'd wake Koharu. The girl was a light sleeper but now as she was nestled against his chest with her small fingers knotted into his shirt, she stayed asleep.

In the morning, Koharu awoke to a sliver of sunlight shining in her eyes. It was annoying but she guessed that it was better to be woken up by the sun than her sensei or Hachiro. She adored the little boy, as annoying as he could be. He reminded her so much of her little sister. Despite living in the same compound as her, Koharu rarely spent time with the girl. Most of her free time was spent studying or training with their Uncle. After she dressed for the day she brushed out her hair before retying it into its usual style. Koharu's arms were a little sore but she'd power through it. In the hallway she met up with a watery eyed Hachiro, who clung to her middle tightly with small arms. She wasn't that much taller than he was, so the angle of his hug was a little off. He wailed about not wanting any of them - Natsuko included - to leave. He repeated the words and gesture with Kazuhiko when the boy emerged from his room.

Breakfast was just as quiet as dinner had been. Hachiro had cakmed down a little and they were able to fill their bellies well. When it came time for them to officially say their goodbyes, it was Koharu who cried this time. She didn't sob, nor did she make many sounds. Only the occasional sniffle or shaking of her shoulders let them know that she was crying. Minoru had scooped her up and settled his smallest genin onto his back so they could get moving. Minoru made sure to turn Natsuko around the moment she tried to glare at Hachiro one last time.

Afternoon // Land of Fire: Konohagakure main gates

Their trip back had been much faster without the wagon or guards to slow them down. Along the way they came across few obstacles and Minoru asked them more about what had happened at the abandoned temple. They'd practiced a lot on the way back, using the opportunity of seclusion for him to see what they were truly made of. As happy as he was to have the chance to train them, he was equally excited about returning to the village. He missed his wife, Azumi, they'd only been married for a year, having their ceremony a few weeks before he'd been assigned Team Six. He'd be finding out an important bit of information upon his return to the village and they'd planned it so the kids could also receive the news. Azumi adored the genin, taking a shine to both Kazuhiko and Koharu. She tried her best to get them out of their shells whenever she was around them. It was easier said then done but she'd made progress. As they passed through the gates they were welcomed back by two chunin on guard duty. Minoru nodded at them, ushering the children forward.

"Welcome back you four!" The sound of his wife's voice caught his ear and he steered the children towards her. He noticed that standing with her was Kazuhiko's parents as well as Koharu's uncle. He noted that Natsuko's parents weren't present and he decided that taking them out for lunch later would be best. Azumi smiled at them, stepping forward to lace her thin hands with his. She was a Hyuuga, which had likely been an awkward point between her and Kazuhiko's parents. Her typical lilac colored kimono had been replaced with a white short sleeved shirt under a simple lilac colored dress that fit loosely around her middle. Her kong raven colored hair was left free flowing and he itched to run his fingers through it.

"I trust the mission went well? Come, Koharu. There is a family matter that we need to discuss." The deep voice of Koharu's uncle cut those thoughts and desires short. Minoru turned to look at the other man, meeting stormy green-gray eyes in a harsh glare. Osamu Wakahisa was a tall man, even taller than Minoru. Where Minoru was lean, Osamu had a thick build. It was a miracle that his yakuta could hold such bulky arms without splitting apart every time the man flexed. His waist length hair, which was the color of ink, was pulled into a ponytail and secured with a piece of brown twine. Overall he didn't look much like his niece aside from the shape of their noses. The man had an odachi strapped to his side and his hand rested on the hilt. Minoru knew that the gesture was nothing more than the man simply seeking comfort. Koharu had the same habit when idle. The small genin obeyed and began to follow him. It was sad to see her retreat back into her shell at his presence.

"Yes Otousan."

"Hold up! Can't we just borrow her for a little while? She only just got back from a mission and-" His words made Osamu pause and Koharu had nearly run into his back. Minoru knew that she had been studying the other adults out of curiosity. It occured to him that his team had never met each other's families before. He wondered if they'd question why Natsuko's weren't waiting for her.

Osamu glared at Minoru. The air grew colder around them to the point that their breaths came out in small white puffs"Do not tell me what to do with my daughter, Kawaguchi-san. There are matters that Koharu must attend to."

"Ah...Wakahisa-san? This will only take a little while and then we can escort Koharu home. It's very important." Azumi cut in, shyly smiling at Osamu. She has assumed right in that he was cold natured. He hadn't been one for conversation either although he'd ensured that no trouble started between her and the Taketori. He regarded her for a bit, glare still on his face before he turned to his adoptive daughter.


"Yes?" She looked up at him curiously.

"You have fifteen minutes before I expect you home."

"Thank you Otousan." She gave a small nod with her words. As much as she wanted to return with him to see what was going on with their clan, she wanted to hear what Minoru-sensei and Azumi-san had to say.

""Does he always have to be so serious? Fifteen minutes is hardly enough time to talk."

"I'm afraid so. But it's better than nothing. Sorry for that...scene."Azumi wasn't haopy that her plans had to be condensed. She'd prepared a whole speech and everything! Ah well, her husband was right. Osamu could have spirited her away without hearing any of them out. She watched her husband bow to Kazuhiko's parents, apologizing for what they'd seen. He wasn't surprised to see white hair and snall sandals in his peripheral as Koharu apologized along with him. Sometimes it was hard to remember that she, like Kazuhiko, did represent their respective clans. He tried his best to treat then like normal kids. "Would you mind if we borrowed Kazuhiko for a moment? My wife and I have a special announcement. Hopefully." Minoru gave his wife a hesitant smile. She gave him a wide grin in return and it soothed him.

Afternoon // Land of Fire: Konohagakure main gates

She felt a little awkward without her uncle beside her. Despite how much he demanded of her, she loved him. He'd taught her everything she knew and had provided for her. As she watched him leave, quickly blending into the crowd of civilian and shinobi alike, her attention turned back to her teammates and the parents. Well, she assumed that Natsuko's parents weren't there because no one cane to greet the brown haired girl. This was the first time she'd seen any of her teammates's parents and it made her nervous. The Taketori were a well known clan and she didn't know if her own clan had dealings with then or not. While she was included in many clan meetings, negotiations were another thing.

Koharu moved back to be closer to her teammates and she gently poked Natsuko and Kazuhiko in turn to get their attention. Her heart was beating rapidly and her pale cheeks had colored pink. "Maybe later or tomorrow we can all....hang out? If you guys want to, I mean?" She asked awkwardly as the adults talked. Usually it was Natsuko who'd invite them to do things. Koharu had fun on their mission, opening up a little bit to then despite her hesitance.

When Minoru-sensei and his wife turned back to them, she noticed the curious way that Azumi pressed a hand to her clothed belly. The gesture confused Koharu until Azumi broke the news. "We're going to have a baby, you three!" She grinned widely at the three genin. Beside her, her husband was whooping.
Koharu brightened, letting a wide grin come to her face at the news.


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.


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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