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Koharu

Morning // Land of Fire: Konohagakure


Her father's reaction was far more than she'd expected. While it wasn't the same as how Minoru and Azumi had presented gifts and sweets, her father's reaction had been surprising. Osamu was a man who was quite cold, yet she knew he loved her. He wouldn't have invested so many hours training her if he didn't. Osamu had stopped in front of Koharu when she arrived home, hand resting on the kashira, in exactly the same way she did it. They were quiet for a few moments, both looking at each other as if they were having a silent conversation before he reached out and pulled her towards him. His strong arms circled her for a few brief moments. Koharu's eyes went wide and moments later the corners of her lips turned upwards as she returned his hug. Osamu said nothing, and he didn't have to, the simple touch was enough to convey his meaning. Their hug was brief and immediately after they went to eat dinner.

She wondered about her teammates and the reactions of their families to the news. She had a feeling that Kazuhiko had a similar reaction from his parents but Natsuko's family was entirely unknown to her. Would they even be there for her? Koharu blinked and pulled her hands from the teacup she'd been holding. The teacup was frosted over and she sighed softly. She was tired and perhaps a little worried about Natsuko and her family situation. The combination would make her a little careless with her ice so she retired to her room far earlier than was necessary but she wanted to sleep. The next part of the exams was bound to be harder than the first.

Before she fell asleep, the girl looked at the photo on her nightstand. It was a small photo of her and two dark haired teenagers, taken shortly before they'd settled in Konoha. Would they be proud of her, she wondered. They'd had a rocky start to being a family but they were her older brothers and she missed them. Koharu said good night, her nightly ritual, to the photo before rolling over.

In the morning she'd glanced at the photo, knowing that she couldn't take it with her. This would be the first time in four years that she wouldn't be able to tell it good night. Meeting everyone in the academy courtyard, she'd looked at all the people present. She spotted Kouji and the rest of team five. Poor Kage looked about ready to pass out from his nerves and Mariko seemed to be ignoring her teammates. No one was sure what they would be doing, especially when the green haired proctor told everyone to follow her. Koharu liked to think of herself as fast but the green haired woman was leaps and bounds ahead of her. Still the girl followed, keeping pace with her teammates.
"It'll be okay, Susu." She said softly, looking at her teammate. Koharu was hunched over with her hands on her knees. She focused on what their task was and she inwardly groaned. It was creative but was it really necessary?

Nonetheless, the girl followed her teammates into the desert. At least they'd have water covered. Sure chakra based water had a funny taste but it would keep them alive. "The quicker we can find somewhere safe the better off we'll be. I don't suppose any of you have any experience in the desert?" Koharu was a little out of her element, but she held the slight advantage in that she naturally ran a little cooler than others. The heat wouldn't bother her quite so much.

A few hours into their trek, once they found a suitable place to camp, Koharu told her teammates to hold out their hands. Her water release was getting better and she was able to give them some water. They'd need food soon enough but for now the water had to do. They needed to come up with a game plan soon on how to not only get the marks they needed to advance but also how to survive five days in a place that none had seen before.

Tetsu
Two days into second trial/ / Land of Wind: Demon Desert


Shit. How could they have been so careless? They'd been ambushed by Team One, a powerhouse of a team. Even in the academy the other three genin were quite strong. Now all of that strength was condensed into one team and it was frightening, for a lack of better words. They'd been attacked and Haru's character had been stolen by Team one and he'd been injured. It wasn't a serious wound but the boy needed to rest up a little bit. So far they had no luck in finding a place that would allow them to rest. Some teams had carved a little niche for themselves within the few habitable spots there were and others...well they didn't fare well.
He knew of one team that had fallen victim to the poisonous cacti. They were a Konoha team no doubt.

Haru rested against him, taking weight off his injured leg. They'd patched him up as best as they could but he worried it may not have been enough. "Tetsu...look." Haru pointed out a small figure in the distance. They were alone and carrying something over their back. He didn't recognize the pale head of hair and he went on guard. Whatever they had over their back was big and had multiple tails. The genin frowned and looked at his teammates and the person. An idea was forming in his mind and he wondered the odds of it actually succeeding. The figure was alone and clearly part of a team, given that they were here. Their team was likely nearby and it could be disastrous if they encountered them. There was the chance that they might actually win, even with Haruto down.

He shared his plan with the others. Haruto was all for it. They needed food and that person clearly had it. They were all used to life in the desert but sometimes hunting just came down to luck. "I mean we can take that person by surprise and get their food and their character." They did have until the end of the five days to collect their characters but there was no harm in getting ahead, was there?

"Yeah but there's another way than just ambushing them, right?" Aimi spoke up, flipping her light blonde hair over her shoulder.

"You want to go and ask them to give us their things?" Haruto shot back. Despite the high collar and dark glasses he wore, which shrouded his emotions, his voice gave away a lot. Aimi was a good teammate but she was too kind.

"Well yeah. We have a few more days before we have to have all of the characters. There's still time to get them. You're hurt anyways." She pointed out.

Tetsu sighed. She had a valid point. They had time but he doubted that the other team would just welcome them with open arms. Besides he was pretty sure that it was a genin from Konoha. No doubt they wouldn't trust them. This was a competition, not a field trip. Was it naive to think they could be peaceful? Yes. The real world wouldn't let them be peaceful. Sure there were no big wars but that didn't stop people from trying to kill each other. "You know that won't work Aimi. They won't trust us and could just as easily lead us into a trap." Tetsu shifted his weight. "We can ransom them to their team. It could give us an advantage if we have one of them."

"Exactly! They won't leave their team behind because the only way to move on is if they all have the characters. We would have the upperhand." Haruto said, turning towards the figure. They were walking at a quick enough pace to give them an idea that they were trying to hurry. They had to have a camp nearby. No genin would be dumb enough to walk halfway across the arena on their own for food. "And you said that I'm injured. If we take one of them hostage then the playing field is leveled." Haruto really wanted to ambush that genin. It would make everything so much easier on them.

Aimi frowned and glanced towards the figure once more. She would cave, just because it was two against one. Haruto and Tetsu seemed to feed off of each other but she was the voice of reason.

"We'll have to fight soon enough, the more we can see the skills of the other genin, the better off we'll be in the long run. It isn't like we're going to hurt them, we'll give them back once we have what we want."

In the end they decided to go with Tetsu's plan. He just hoped that it would work. Aimi would cut off the genin and Tetsu would engage them while Haruto would provide support and a means to make his fires that much more effective. They snuck closer, up until Aimi was able to get a good start on cutting the genin off.
Tetsu noticed that it was a girl in a white shirt and black pants. Her hair was white and was pinned up onto her head. His eyes focused on the sword at her hip. He'd given the signal to Aimi and she was off.

Koharu

Morning // Land of Wind: Demon Desert


She'd volunteered to go hunt their breakfast and rather than trying for rabbits, which had proven to be more of a hassle than a help, she wanted to go for something bigger. Scorpions wouldn't be the weirdest food she ate before, she had eaten seals and whales in her early childhood, and they were bigger than the rabbits. They'd had to ward off a few at night and she wondered where they'd hide during the day.
The answer lay in a small outcropping of rocks that formed a sort of shelf. The scorpions were half buried in the sand in the shade of the shelf. Koharu needed just one. It was impractical to kill more than they needed to.
The approach was a little awkward, as she could easily fall victim to a swarm of them. In the end she decided to use a bit of her ice to lure them out.

Some of them were the size of her hands and a pale yellow color. There were few that were about two hand lengths but she caught sight of one as long as her leg. It's three tails were poised and ready to sting, jabbing at the air when her ice would dart out of the way. Koharu didn't feel so bad about killing a giant scorpion like she did a rabbit. A single large ice shard was tossed at the biggest of the scorpions and it struck into its side. It struggled before falling limp a few moments later while the smaller ones scattered.
Koharu waited a few more before she grabbed the creature. She snapped the icicle off before discarding it and hefting the scorpion over her shoulder. Koharu carried it by a pincher with the three tails pointing towards the ground behind her.

She followed her steps back, glancing around as she did so. It was quiet and kind of nice despite the heat but she didn't dare let her guard down. Midway back to the small clay hut they had taken up residence in, a blur of light pink cane racing in front of her before stopping abruptly. A girl stood there with her arms crossed over her chest and a small smile on her face.

Koharu dropped the scorpion and grabbed her katana, unsheathing it and falling into a stance. If there was one, there were two more not far behind. It really was just a matter of trying to find them. A noise, sort of like a whooshing, came from behind her and she glanced back to see a boy with dark glasses and orange hair landing behind her. She wasn't sure how'd he got behind her without running but now wasn't the time for such thoughts. The boy behind her seemed to stumble to the side once his feet were on the ground and she decided to capitalize on that. Koharu closed the distance between them quickly, although not as quick as the pink clad girl, and she brought her sword in a downward arch, trying to get the boy to back up. He stumbled in the sand and covered his face and neck with his arms. The blow never came as another boy stopped her sword with a kunai. Her arms shook with the effort to not let him overpower her.

The black haired boy was physically stronger than she was but Koharu didn't let that deter her. She tried to sweep his feet from under him but he lept backwards, giving her a slight opening. Thankfully the most basic of the Wakahisa jutsu used two hand signs only--the dog and the bird. Ice shards formed in front of her hands before extending out and forming small little crude birds. The two boys seemed surprised when the little ice birds began to race towards them. She gripped her sword, picking it up from the sand.

The pink clad girl was temporarily forgotten as she focused on the boys. The boy with black hair was the one that she worried about. Some of thenie birds had cut his cheeks, opening thin lines on his face. The other boy was--wait where was he? Koharu could have sworn that he was right there.

"Tetsu'll take care of her." The voice of the other girl caught her ear. How had she saved the boy so fast? The girl couldn't focus on them because the boy began attacking her with a kunai. She blocked it with her sword and scowled. The boy didn't betray anything on his face, even as he grabbed her forearm and knocked her off balance.
The boy suddenly jumped back, putting more space between them, and began to sign.

Koharu had a short window to get some sort of defense up. However, her ice was weak to his fire and it melted the defense she'd put up. Koharu swore loudly as the fire licked her forearms, burning a four inch long patch on each limb. A line was pressed into her neck from behind and she knew that she was done.

Her cheeks burned in humiliation at the thought that she'd been beaten so easily. Her arms burned badly and the black haired boy picked up her discarded katana. "On your feet. You'll take us to your camp and give us that seal on you-"

The boy didn't get to finish his sentence because she'd whipped around and hit him square in the gut, grabbing her sword from the sand before bolting. Koharu didn't get very far before the orange haired boy landed on her, quite literally. She was sprawled out on the ground, pissed as hell.
Oh she was going to get them all for this.

Tetsu
Mid morning/ / Land of Wind: Demon Desert


The girl had put up a good fight, he'd give her that much. She'd hit him good but he'd burnt her arms. She'd refused to tell them the location of her camp so they'd found a small place to rest until they could figure out what to do with her. Any time he or Haru got close, she'd try to lash out. Tetsu had learned that taking away her katana had only infuriated her more and she'd create a dagger sized spike of ice in its place.
He was grateful that she knew that she was defeated.

The only one who had any luck in getting her to talk was Aimi, but that wasn't a surprise since his teammate was a friendly girl with a sweet disposition. Tetsu was working on getting the scorpion that they'd taken from her, cut open.

"That's for my team." The girl glared at him but he returned the ict look with one of his own.

"You lost. You don't get to keep it. Just like you didn't get to keep your character." The girl looked like she wanted to throttle him.

Aimi stepped in and stopped them before they could fight again. "How's your arms?" The girl looked down at her burned arms. She couldn't put ice on them nor did they have anything for her to use to soothe the burns.
They weren't bad but he wasn't sure if they'd blister or not.

The girl shrugged but remained quiet. Kazuhiko and Natsuko would come looking for her soon enough but she was nervous of them finding out that not only had she been beaten easily but her character had been stolen as well. "Maybe we can talk to your team and come to some type of deal. There's still a few more days for you to reclaim it." Aimi said, hoping to make the girl get into a better mood.

@Typical







Team Six

Late morning || Land of Fire: Konohagakure

"Beyond the fact that we're horribly out matched?" The girl wasn't happy about being in the spotlight one bit and she didn't hesitate to make it known through a glare that wasn't as icy as it typically was. "The puppeteer could be the scout rather than the Kumo nin. They do excell in long range combat more so than most. Which is something that as a team and as individuals we do lack." Koharu didn't mean to be such a downer but she had to state the obvious. Against a puppeteer, who could keep them all at a distance, they held the disadvantage. Hell even some of the lightning based just could be used to keep enemies at bay. She was still trying to get her ice to cooperate enough to do long ranged attacks to make up for their disadvantage, but it was a little out of her scope.

And a puppeteer also holds the advantage of the possibility of having more than one puppet. You've heard the stories of some being able to use two or more at the same time. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that rather than three against two, three with a puppet, we could become out numbered quickly So we'd need something that can take down or incapacitate a large number quickly." Koharu was not one for strategy despite the movements of her kata. Fighting against invisible enemies was just a means of meditation and focus rather than teaching her the skills required for strategy. The girl relied on her own skills and self-awareness over anticipating movements and trying to outsmart an enemy. ]"The only clear advantage we have is the fact that we do have combo moves with each other. They likely have wind and lighting chakra, respectively. Those two elements don't mesh well enough for them to attack as one or at once...and they'd lack the same type of team work that we are used to. Although she wasn't one for strategy and luring the enemy into various traps and choke points, Koharu liked to think that she was able to mesh well enough with others in order to accomplish a goal. Her father often drilled it into her head that cooperation was key. It had become their family motto in a way and it was easy to link that cooperation back to their kekkei genkai. Without the cooperation of water and air they would be unable to use their ice.
The girl bit the inside of her cheek, looking slightly uncomfortable as the moments ticked on. All they could cling to was their joint attacks. But sometimes it was strong arming opponents that worked far better than strategy.

The girl shifted in her seat, green gray eyes flicking between her teammates. "While the mission is to only retrieve the scroll, it would also be highly beneficial to get answers out of the jonin as well. They clearly are a threat to the village. So if we can think of a strategy that allows us to retrieve the scroll as well as a reliable source of information to keep the village safe as a whole…." The girl waved her hand around, not sure how to accurately finish that thought. Due to the nature of her clan being transplants, their clan had sought to prove their value to the village. Koharu was no different than her father or the craftsmen or other Wakahisa shinobi who aided the village in any way possible.



Kazuhiko listened intently as Koharu spoke, trying his best to focus on her words instead of the glare she’d directed at him seconds before. While harsh and piercing, it lacked the usual edge that tipped him, even when he thought himself prepared, into the realm of unease, and for that Kazuhiko was slightly glad. As for the points Koharu brought up, Kazuhiko agreed wholeheartedly, nodding when she finished.

“True. And if the puppeteer uses multiple puppets, chances are they’d rely on summoning scrolls instead, which would be an even more convenient way to carry the jutsu scroll,” he said. “But they hold the advantage in both skill and in ranged battle. So, we need to avoid letting the fight drag on or happen at a distance.”

“Ugh this is all so complicated,” Natsuko said, groaning. “Can’t we just steal the scroll and call it a day?”

Kazuhiko stared at Natsuko for a second. As a rash and rather carefree person, Natsuko tended not to like getting caught up in the technicalities, and it was showing. It was something she shared with Koharu, but not for the same reasons. Where Natsuko clearly hated discussing strategy because she hated sitting around in general, Koharu was more complex. If Kazuhiko had to guess, he’d say it was a combination of impatience, self-confidence, and a belief that there was no experience like firsthand experience. Some of those, he wanted to put down as part of her uncle’s beliefs rubbing off on her, at least in part. Though he figured Osamu to be someone better-versed in strategy than himself, there was a certain edge to the whole Wakahisa mentality that argued that although plans changed, strength didn’t. At the end of the day, perhaps, he could agree with that assessment since plans, especially battle plans, did have a high chance of falling through. For this exercise, though, he felt it necessary to strong-arm his teammates into discussing details. This was an exam, after all, and as far as he could see, details were the only thing separating the qualified and the underqualified.

Most of the strong-arming, then, would have to be directed at Natsuko. This was normal; though Koharu sometimes didn’t agree with him completely, she was willing to work to find and reach a compromise. Natsuko, on the other hand, was the type to want to ditch the project completely and let her emotions get the best of her. That this was an exam was likely one of the main reasons why she’d been staying in line, trying her best to understand the ongoing discussion, and Kazuhiko supposed he’d have to be happy with that much.

“In order to steal the scroll, we have to first do two things: Figure where the scroll is and which missing-nin is carrying it, and get close enough to steal it,” he said. “Both of these are hard, and if the Suna nin really is the one carrying the scroll, a simple skirmish, even if by surprise, wouldn’t be enough. If he doesn’t reveal where the scroll is, we might even have to knock him out and bring him back with us.”

Kazuhiko knit his fingers together, his eyes on the table. The task seemed impossible, but it was an exam question tailored for his team, so there had to be some way of it being possible. A risky move? A requirement that someone sacrifice themselves for the greater good? Neither of those things seemed to fit the tone of the Chunin Exam, but there was something to be said about wanting selflessness in a chunin. If that was the case, though, would he be willing to sacrifice himself?

“Looks like Kazu-kun’s off in his own world again.”

Kazuhiko blinked, looking up at Natsuko, who met his eyes with a grin. “Hey, at least Koharu and I agree you look good brooding over… and not a good time, got it.”

“Well. I got a little caught up in the details, but I don’t think it’s important right now.” He glanced down at his packet, then looked to Koharu. “Getting information out of the missing-nin would definitely be preferable, but my main concern is that we might not have enough firepower to take one of the missing-nin down, much less try and capture or interrogate one of them. If we knew who their allies are, we might have a chance of fooling them into giving something up, but we don’t have much of that. All we have is a simple dossier of their skills and known history, which starts and ends with their crimes. As for our teamwork being our advantage, though,” he said, looking to Koharu, “I agree with that. None of our individual jutsus are strong enough to faze them for long. Our team strategies would probably be the same, but they won’t be expecting it. So if we surprise them with the jutsu and tactics we worked on as a team, we might just be able to get the upper hand.”

He finished the sentence with a small thrill in his head, his thoughts finally falling into place. Flipping rapidly through the packet to the page with the map, he pointed again at the Valley of the End. “Here. It’s a waterfall with a cliff and a river in the forest. We can use the waterfall to our advantage. If we can get them into the water, I’ll be able to target them more easily with my lightning jutsu, and Koharu will be able to use her ice techniques more easily. I know you’ve been working on the amount of ice you can produce on command, but how about freezing water? It’d be an easy way to slow them down, or even capture them. And would you be able to freeze the water more efficiently with Natsuko’s help?” he asked, looking between them. As far as he knew, ice techniques were mostly built on water techniques, and something about the addition of wind to water helped freeze the water. He’d been interested in learning some water jutsu to help set up for his other jutsu, but so far it’d stayed only as interest.

“I, um, I think I’d be able to help,” Natsuko said, looking between him and Koharu. “But freezing the river entirely sounds a little… like, it’s a big river, you know?”

“I can buy you time. How much, I’m not sure, and I might need help getting them into the water. But, we have the advantage of knowing that they’ll cross the river, so we can figure out where might be best to engage them,” Kazuhiko said.



It made her happy that there was someone on their team who cared for strategies as much as Kazuhiko did. Koharu wouldn't put that sort of pressure on Natsuko, at least not at their current skill levels. As he began to lay down their strategy she couldn't help but smile a little. Her teammates were truly amazing. While Kazuhiko held the title of prodigy, she was wholeheartedly thrilled that Natsuko was willing to try, even in this mock fight. It showed how much the other girl had grown since they'd first been assigned to this team. Her smile widened into a small grin as Kazuhiko finished talking. While smiles from her were often shy little things that came about occasionally, her grins were even more rare. "That's doable. Maybe not the entire river, but a good portion of it. And you can do this, Natsuko." It was rare for her to call the other girl by her name anymore. For Koharu, Susu was an endearing name to call her friend by. The tone in which she spoke was warm, and she hoped the girl believed in herself as much as Koharu believed in her.
"Having a pre-existing water source to freeze is easier than pp it myself," She admitted, "but having Natsuko there to help freeze even more of it is beneficial. That would leave me some extra chakra to use other techniques if required."

She fell quiet as she thought through all of their techniques and fighting styles. All three were geared towards close quarters, with Natsuko and Kazuhiko needing to have direct contact with a target to use some of their jutsu. As far as a way to lure the enemies into an area where they could trap them in ice, or provide a distraction while they created the ice, she was drawing a bit of a blank. Green gray eyes stayed fixed on the information packet for a few moments longer. Would Kazuhiko be able to fight them off long enough for her and Natsuko to freeze the river? Even if this was just all ideas that they'd later present, placing one of her teammates in harm's way in an out matched fight was something she'd try to avoid.
"Or if we can't get them in the river quick enough, we can take the river to them. Otou-san agrees that my water release is better than my wind when I use them independently. And then Natsuko can apply her wind to the water and we can catch them that way?"
Weighing the pros and cons of each idea in her head, she wondered if the enemies would be able to avoid the ice underfoot if the river was frozen before they got into it or if they'd fall victim to the ice if they waited until they were on the water. Not many had that nature release so it was undoubtedly something that they hadn't encountered enough before to know how to stop it.

"Ice that's even just an inch or two thick is heavy. If they can somehow evade getting their feet or hands trapped they will be slowed down if they have ice on their clothes. The cold will also cause issues with their movement and if exposed long enough to it, hypothermia can set in."



Natsuko held Koharu’s gaze for a moment, surprised but grateful for the girl’s words, and for Kazuhiko’s nod after. At times, it seemed like her team believed in her skills more than she did, which was a depressing observation. Though it made her wonder whether she’d be able to live up to their expectations of her, it was still reassuring since her teammates weren’t the type of people to throw around words they didn’t mean. She was usually the one dishing out encouragement, not the one receiving it, and the ego boost was nice.

“Thanks, Haru-chan,” she said, giving Koharu a smile before looking back at Kazuhiko. “Yeah, bringing the river to them could work. My wind release helps freeze the water a lot quicker. Or we can just push them into the water. Maybe?”

“That’s an option. Plan A, then. And plan B is bringing the water to them,” Kazuhiko said, looking between her and Koharu. “I’ll focus on keeping the missing-nin occupied. Try and talk to them, and maybe even get some information out of them,” he said, glancing at Koharu, “while you prep your water jutsu. And Natsuko can help me drive them towards the river. I doubt we’ll be able to get them into the water, but we’ll do our best.”

Natsuko nodded as he finished, feeling a thrill of nervousness. Would she really be able to help Kazuhiko drive the missing-nin towards the river? They were jonin-level shinobi, primed to kill at a moment’s notice. But then again, this was just a presentation. They were answering a prompt, not putting their lives at stake.

“Sounds good to me. Either way, Haru-chan moves the water, I’ll help her with freezing it. Which probably won’t take much longer since I’m going to be using my wind jutsu either way.” Natsuko pursed her lips, then looked back up at her teammates. “Would my dark release be useful at all here? Like, maybe, after we trap the missing-nin in ice?”

“I’m not sure whether we can count on trapping them in ice, but if we do, we’ll definitely need you to use your dark release to help us keep them in there,” Kazuhiko said. “I doubt I’ll be able to do much in terms of actually stunning them, but I’ll do my best to keep them occupied until it’s too late for them to move.”

He looked between them again, then dropped his eyes to his packet. “We also need to decide who might be the best choice to escape with the scroll. I… I was thinking Koharu.”

Natsuko opened her mouth, but no words came out. And they needn’t have; Kazuhiko continued on immediately, not allowing for interruption.

“My sensaigan could serve as a last resort if both the ice and Natsuko’s dark release are unable to hold them. I don’t know how well I can use it to hold off two jonin-level shinobi, but I’d wager that I’d at least last a few minutes,” he said. “And I’m not saying that we should plan to do this, because we shouldn’t. Ideally, we’ll aim to trap them, grab the scroll, and all take off running. Split multiple clones if we need to. But we also need to be prepared if our plan fails. If we got faulty intel, or if the time doesn’t line up. If our plan fails and we are unable to make a proper retreat, I will engage them and make more time. Allow for both of you to escape, or just one of you, if it comes to that.” He looked back up at them, his eyes flat, intense, and unreadable, as they often got when he went into ‘leader mode’. “Does that make sense to you both?”

“Hey, don’t get so serious, Kazu-kun. It’s just a presentation. Our lives aren’t actually on the line,” Natsuko said, but she trailed off because even she knew what he was saying. He was willing to lay his life down for them, if needed. Willing to fight the impossible just so they could have a few more minutes to get away. And she… could she say the same?



The girl sat in stunned silence, openly staring at her teammate. While she was surprised, her expression was blank. Koharu wanted to keep her teammates safe, able to return home and live happy, full lives, but unfortunately this was their lot in life. It was highly likely that they'd die young, and even if they lived to an old-ish age it still wouldn't be old enough. It was something that every shinobi knew yet never spoke of. It seemed odd to have an heir to an entire clan and put them in such danger but the village expected clan leaders to serve it and many started out as shinobi before branching into politics.
She'd lost both of her brothers in service to the village. She understood that anyone of them could die at any time. Beyond that the girl had seen conflict at a young age. She could remember the heat of the fire and the young lives lost trying to put it out. Such an event colored one's entire outlook.
"Yes, I understand."

Without much warning the small girl grabbed her teammates, although it entailed her crawling halfway onto the table, even if she couldn't reach them all that well. Koharu pulled them in for a group hug, hoping that her actions spoke louder than words because at the moment she didn't think that she could say much. Her small arms held tight, perhaps even a little on the painful side. She let go moments later and took up her seat once more.
The jonin overseeing them all said they had five minutes left before they would be called up to present.

"There is no more time for pretend after this. We won't be genin anymore with Minoru-sensei to look out for us." Koharu looked down at her hands, picking nervously at her nails. "There is a big chance that we will need to make such a choice in the future. I don't like the idea of one of us being a sacrifice to allow the others to live, but...that is what needs to be done as a last resort. We won't be individuals after this exam. We'll be just one of the masses who can be expendable. We have a duty to our families and our village, even if it means dying for them." Maybe it was all that she'd seen in her life that made her fear losing her teammates in such a manner but she could rationalize it by saying that ultimately it was for the good of the village. Nori had given his life for his squad. Nobuyuki had gone missing while infiltrating enemy lines in order to do reconnaissance. Nori was buried in the Konoha cemetery. Nobuyuki wasn't buried, they had nothing of him to bury. It wasn't until a year after his death that the village had declared him dead. Their deaths had impacted Koharu in ways not known at the time.

"But we are a team. We'll protect each other whenever possible. You both are important to me. I don't think I could ever forgive myself if I left you to die if there was another option."

Across the room where the other exam proctors had gathered to watch the genin a stern faced man stood with his arms held at his sides. Dark eyes trailed over the genin groups and he kept an ear on what they were all saying. The man, Takeshi Suzuki was an ANBU recruiter. While some came to the attention of the ANBU before graduating the academy most were found as genin or chunin. His job beyond helping to give the exam was to keep an eye out for anyone who may have the aptitude for his line of work.
Some did not make the cut given their rather outspoken natures, others would require a more thorough examination but a few stood out as candidates to be. Takeshi couldn't approach them yet but he remembered their faces and would scour village records later. Just because they matched what they wanted through this test did not entirely qualify them. He'd need to see them fight before they could join his ranks.

Soon time was called and one by one the teams were called into a room off to the side of the one they were in. It was a little nerve wracking to be sitting there and waiting. They didn't even know which teams had made it through the presentation and which ones were disqualified. Koharu didn't think she'd been so nervous in all of her life. Even her first day at the academy hadn't been as nerve wracking, and back in those days she was new to the village and struggling to understand her new place in the world. Finally, when there was only them and two other teams left, they were called up.

"Team six."



The room they were led to seemed to be a smaller classroom. Instead of desks, though, there was a single table set up in the center of the room, long enough to accommodate the three people seated there. Nearest to the door was Arinaga, his arms crossed and his face impassive. Beside him was one of the proctors in the larger room, distinguishable by his scar and his inscrutable gaze. To the right of him, however, was a face Kazuhiko would have never expected to see today, and which kept his eyes as he filed into the room, coming to a stop in front of it.

“Please state your name and team,” the shinobi who’d escorted them in said.

“Team six. Taketori Kazuhiko,” Kazuhiko said, maintaining eye contact with the woman nearest to the wall.

“Rinha Natsuko,” Natsuko said, her voice bright but still betraying a note of nervousness.

Koharu sounded off too, but Kazuhiko was still fixated on the woman, whose face remained as blank as Arinaga’s, her elegant features unblemished by emotion. Of all the people who might judge the first stage of the chunin exams, the Hokage would’ve been Kazuhiko’s last guess. Surely the leader of their village had better things to do than help weed out weak among the many, many candidates who’d signed up? Some teams had signed up simply to get a taste of the exams, had penned their names down with no intention of passing. They’d be gone by the second stage, if they even made it there, but even then, important figures tended not to attend until the final stage, when only the most promising candidates were left. Yet here she was, Chisato Yanase, her piercing yellow eyes leaving no room for doubt. If there had been any stakes for the first stage, they’d just been raised, and Kazuhiko could feel his heart pounding, even if he refused to acknowledge his nervousness.

“Okay. Team Six, welcome to the first stage of your exam,” Arinaga said, uncrossing his arms and placing them on the table before him. “Here with me to judge your presentation are Takeshi Suzuki and the Hokage. You will have five minutes to present, after which we will ask you questions about your presentation. Please begin.”

“Right,” Kazuhiko said, directing a single nod at the police chief. Suddenly, he was no longer the most intimidating person in the room. “Our team was given the task of retrieving a jutsu scroll from two missing-nin passing through Konoha territory. Given what we know of their path so far, it appears that they will be passing through the Valley of the End, and we plan to intercept them there.” He met each of the judges’ eyes in turn, focusing on his words rather than their eyes as he spoke. “The presence of a river will give us an advantage since the missing-nin are Suna and Kumo nin and neither of those landscapes have many forests bordering rivers, and we plan to build upon this advantage by using the river as the basis for our plan,” he said, vaguely registering that none of the judges were writing anything down. “Before engaging them, we will attempt to determine the location of the stolen jutsu scroll and whether the missing-nin have roles within their group. Given the Suna nin’s face paint, we suspect he is a puppeteer, which would make him more likely to be carrying the scroll either on his person or within another scroll.”

Finishing, he looked to Natsuko, who cleared her throat, straightening even more.

“Our plan is to try and drive them into the river. Kazuhiko will lead this effort with his lightning jutsu, and I will support him with my wind jutsu. During our fight, we plan to try and talk to them to see whether we will be able to get some information out of them, like why they stole the scroll or where it is,” Natsuko said, her voice growing steadier as she spoke despite her hands trembling behind her back. “We will also try to move the fight towards the river, with the goal of bringing it into the river itself. If we cannot, we will focus on serving as a distraction to buy time for Koharu to use her water jutsu to move the river to them.”



Takeshi watched the genin before them with a passive expression. He was curious about this team. He'd seen the brief hug the shorter genin had pulled the other two into. Although they did their best to hide their fear, he had seen hints of it. When the other two had finished talking it was the turn of the pale haired genin. She seemed unsure of herself for a few moments before she settled her hand into the pommel of her sword. It seemed to give her the courage she needed to speak.

"While they are pushing the missing nin close to the river I will be preparing to trap them in ice." Koharu spared a glance at her teammates from the corner of her eyes. "Natsuko's wind jutsu will help me cool a larger portion of the river than I would be able to on my own. Once we have identified the scroll carrier and have retrieved it, I was chosen to carry it back to the village. And if the worst case scenario were to happen then Kazuhiko will provide a momentary distraction in order for myself and Natsuko to escape."

Takeshi had to commend the girl for being able to say such a thing with a straight face. When it was clear that she was done speaking he took the opportunity to ask a question. "If the worst case happens and you are forced to leave your teammate behind to escape, would you sacrifice the safety of the village for one life?" He had asked all of the other teams this same question and it had made them pause. Not many truly understood what their lives would be like once they were chunin. They only heard stories of those feared in other nations, not those who gave their lives for the village.

"No. As regrettable as it would be--and we would exhaust any other options before leaving one of us behind--we know it is our duty to complete the mission no matter what the cost." Koharu spoke truthfully. She wouldn't risk the life of a teammate unnecessarily but she wouldn't jeopardize the mission to save just one person. It seemed cruel but that was the point of asking such a question.
You couldn't save everybody.
Takeshi knew that, and it was something that they would have to learn. That didn't mean they needed to be heartless, though. He looked at the others to see if they had any questions of their own. The strategy was rather straightforward but it played into all of them equally. He was impressed.



Natsuko watched Koharu speak with a touch of awe, impressed by her teammate’s composure. While they’d gone over that and more during the planning phase, Natsuko still couldn’t see herself saying it without hesitation. Sacrifice her teammates, her friends, for the good of the village? Perhaps it was a selfish thought, and perhaps she was just being immature, but she didn’t want to ever leave anyone behind on a possibility that it was for “the greater good”. She’d rather pass on the mission itself than be put in that sort of situation.

“And what if your plan falls apart from the beginning? If the jonin prove too strong to be distracted by one or two of you?” Arinaga asked, his fingers knit on the desk in front of him. Though his face was relatively free of emotion, his frown lines helped give the impression of permanent disapproval, giving a harsh edge to the interest in his eyes.

“We will persevere. Attempting to retreat or regroup will be as risky as continuing the fight, in that case, and we likely won’t have a second chance at securing the scroll,” Kazuhiko said, his voice clear. Honestly, what did Natsuko do to deserve such teammates? “In the case that they prove to be stronger than expected, I will switch to utilizing my skills and energy to the fullest, without regard as to whether I will be able to sustain such tactics later on in the plan.” his eyes flicked between the trio at the table, his gaze sharp. “At the very least, I will ensure that Koharu has enough time to attempt her ice jutsu. If even that does not work, then we will have to chance escape, during which I will again act as the distraction.”

There was a moment of silence as Arinaga and Kazuhiko stared at each other. The seconds ticked by, and Natsuko started to get anxious, her eyes darting between Takeshi, who looked too calm, and the Hokage, who looked almost out of place in the genin classroom. Just as her nervousness peaked, though, Arinaga unknit his fingers, straightening.

“And what if new intel arrives saying that the missing-nin are much stronger than we originally thought? What will you do then?” he asked.

Natsuko saw Kazuhiko take these words in, saw his jaw clench as the gears in his brain whirred away, saw Koharu’s own gears turning, saw Arinaga, Takeshi, and the Hokage sitting there in their chairs silent, waiting for an answer, and…

“Can’t the Hokage just give the mission to someone else, then?” Natsuko blurted. As eyes turned to her, she put her palms up, glancing between everyone with a sheepish grin. “I mean, no offense, Hokaga-sama, but why’re you even asking chunin to take on jonin-level missing-nin? Aren’t there stronger people around?”

She met the Hokage’s eyes with some amount of trepidation. Sitting there was the most powerful shinobi in the village, and Natsuko just looked at her, doing her very best not to show how scared she was, one hand clutched on the wrist of the other behind her back. Yellow eyes and an emotionless face, her signature spell tag on one ear as she stared back at Natsuko with no semblance of acknowledgement. Everyone knew of Yanase-sama, respected her and adored her, but Natsuko wasn’t about to take her question back. She had a right to ask, didn’t she? Even if it were a test question and not the real thing. Even if it meant she might get disqualified. Because if it were the real thing, Natsuko would ask the same question in a heartbeat.

And then, the Hokage smiled. Grinned, actually, and with a poof of smoke, she disappeared. In her place sat Shikano Nara, the Jonin commander of the village, who looked quite amused about the whole thing.

“You should probably phrase it better, if you ever find yourself in this sort of situation. Yanase-sama probably wouldn’t take that kind of suggestion well, especially if you word it like that.” Shikano said, glancing to her right to Arinaga. “Well?”

The police chief looked the team over once again, then gave another nod. “That will be all for this stage. Please leave through the door to your right. The time and place of the next stage is posted outside.”

Natsuko blinked. “Wait, does—”

“Thank you,” Kazuhiko said, bowing with Koharu, and Natsuko quickly joined in before filing out behind Kazuhiko.

“What was that? Did we pass?” she asked once they were finally outside.

“Yeah, we passed,” Kazuhiko said, cracking a smile and looking to Koharu, then back at her. “The answer really was just turning down the mission. I… I actually feel kind of dumb.”




Koharu was so thankful to have someone like Natsuko in her life. The other girl was a breath of fresh air. Koharu knew that her and Kazuhiko would have come to the same conclusion if they'd been given the chance to answer the question: keep fighting. They were heirs and so much was expected of them. Duty bound to be the best and show no signs of weakness, lest someone think if their clans as weak due to a weak leader. She grinned widely once they were on the other side of the door. "Even if the answer was just that simple, they asked valid questions." She said, "Asking if we could sacrifice a teammate for the village, if our strategies are ineffective or if we are given a mission where it'll be suicide to take it at this time are all valid. They will happen to us in some way eventually. This part of the test wasn't about strength or bravado, but bravery, I think." Koharu was just speaking her mind now, which she did on the rare occasions. "Are we brave enough to lose someone we care for, are we brave enough to keep fighting when the odds are stacked against ua, and are we brave enough to know our limits."

"You three are plenty brave."

"Sensei!"

Minoru was standing just a few feet away, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his cargo pants. The sensei had been allowed to watch their team give their answers through the use of a small one way mirror hidden under the guise of it being the chalkboard. Of course they had passed, he knew that they would. Was it a surprise that Natsuko passed? Not really. The girl didn't seem to know how good she really was.

"There's different types of bravery. Anyway, congratulations are in order. I am very proud of the three of you. Now before you go home and celebrate with your families, Azumi and I have a surprise for you." But first he needed to pull them into a group hug. Minoru was so very proud of his children but at the same time he was saddened. They had been asked questions that no one should ever have to answer. He held them all tightly, trying his best to blink the tears from his eyes.

Finally, when he did pull away, he looked at them all with a small grin. "Your next phase is tomorrow, so we better hurry." Azumi, Minoru and the kids had prepared a small celebration for the genin. Azumi and Kazuha had made them a cake while Minoru had wrapped a gift for each of them while Haru "supervised". Sure they could still fail the exam, being jinxed by this little party, but they deserved a celebration. He'd seen how devastated the teams that didn't pass had been.

@Typical
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