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Cosmos Quest (Naruto/Lupin III)

Discussion in 'Quest Archive' started by FurikoMaru, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] I guess my race is run

    "No."

    "You didn't even let me finish!" you protest.

    Between Menka's aging and your own increased training load, your morning constitutionals are much less about exercise these days and more about seeing your non-teammate friends on a regular basis. At present you, Menka, Sasuke and Hinata are all sitting around enjoying the fresh fruit you snagged from the market earlier.

    "I didn't have to," Sasuke says, "I know you. You think just because people don't bear you ill will they're your friends."

    You frown, stung. "I'm not stupid, Sakkun, I just think it's important to get along well with your teammates."

    "You and everyone else," Sasuke gripes. "How am I supposed to get along with them better if I have to live with them? You and Ami are one thing, and at least with Shikamaru and Chouji around I won't be outnumbered by girls, but Shino can turn any room into a damn prison cell just by walking in."

    Hinata does a spittake, then looks completely mortified that she did so.

    "... Shino?" you ask, eyes bugging. "Shino is more irritating than the guy who put makeup on you while you were sleeping?"

    Sasuke scowls. "Naruto is an idiot, but at least he's not full of shit. When he's mad he's like you; everyone hears about it until someone shuts him up."

    "Remind me again why we're friends?" you ask grumpily.

    "When Shino is mad," he goes on, unrepentant, "or frightened, or anything, it's impossible to tell. More than half his face is covered and the rest always has the exact same expression. He just makes little comments that could be taken one way or another, like I'm supposed to just guess his mood, and if I guess wrong he treats me like I'm a moron. It drives me nuts."

    You and Hinata share a look.

    =

    My dear Chouji,

    I've been a fool. Can you ever forgive me? I can't live without you any longer!

    Ino the Fifth

    "There's no way-"

    "Sasuke-kun will be so heartbroken! That little sl-"

    "- but they're children -"

    "-chaser; who knew?"

    "- probably didn't think about how it sounded before she-"

    You smile and light up a congratulatory smoke as a grumbling genin team yell for everyone to clear the area so they can pop the balloon and bring it down.

    It's only half an hour before Chouji runs in Sasuke's front door, his cheeks as red as ripe tomatoes.

    "Akimichi Chouji," you announce to the genin working on re-tiling the roof, descending onto one knee and holding up a plate of chocolate chip cookies, "would you do me the honour of becoming my roommate?"

    He takes the top cookie off the pile, breaks it in half, and holds it out for you to eat.

    "I missed you," he says, munching his half.

    =

    You're in the middle of a sparring match when someone you haven't seen in years shows up.

    <"Menka, Ino!">

    <"Shirotama?"> You duck under Kiba's arm and head off the training ground. <"What're you-?">

    <"Nii-sama is badly hurt, you've got to come quickly!">

    You're off like a shot, yelling over your shoulder, "Kiba, I've gotta go, it's an emergency."

    Yuji-sensei...

    This time it's a medical tent set up in the lot by the river, and inside it are more injured cats than you ever thought you'd see in one place.

    The stench of viscera and disinfectant permeates the air, and cat medics stalk the tent on their hind legs, seemingly working on multiple patients at once. They snarl orders at equally-busy assistants, who rush around carrying sterilized bandages and bags of morphine.

    Cats of all shapes and sizes lie haphazardly on white sheets. Some of them wail and twitch in pain; one of them is completely silent and apparently unhurt, but trembling uncontrollably from tip to tail.

    <"Menka...">

    The voice is so faint you almost miss it entirely, but as soon as you realize what was said you whip 'round, only to gasp in horror at what you see.

    Yuji's wounds are soaking through his makeshift bandages, and one of his ears has been completely torn off.

    <"Medic!"> you snap. <"We need fresh bandages over here-">

    <"No, Ino-dono..."> your old teacher says weakly, <"... there are too many... to be bothering with an old... like me...">

    <"Brother...?"> Menka sounds as young as the day you met, and looks more frightened than you've ever seen him.

    <"Menka,"> Yuji says, his voice gaining a bit more focus, though no volume, <"look after your brother.">

    <"What're you saying, sensei?"> Gently, you try to laugh it off. <"Menka doesn't have to look after anyone; you're gonna be just-">

    <"Ino-dono,"> Yuji interrupts, pawing lightly at your hand, <"I beg you, continue to look after my brother.">

    You fall silent. After a moment, you nod.

    <"Ino.">

    You turn, and see Miun, flanked by a pink cat you don't know and Indara.

    <"When you've said your goodbyes, please come with me.">

    Said your goodbyes. It hits you like a gust of cold wind.

    Swallowing, you reach out a hand and gently stroke Yuji-sensei's fur.

    <"... thank you.">

    Then, in accordance with tradition older than the Fortress itself, Shirotama and Menka snuggle in close beside their brother, licking his fur comfortingly, and wait for him to die.

    =

    <"What happened?"> you demand as soon as you're out of the tent. <"Did Nekomata-?">

    <"If the Fortress cats had shown up in force, we would all be wiped out,"> Miun says bluntly. <"This was a joyride by some of their teenagers to stave off boredom while waiting for the Autumnal Equinox.">

    You stare at her.

    <"Ino,"> Miun says, <"My father is dead, and Grandmother won't last the night. There's something I need to ask you to do before that happens.">

    "Tora is dead?" you blurt out in shock. A memory of a warm summer day springs to your mind; the wind whistling in your ears as you tore through the forest on the back of a mighty steed, Chouji clinging to you for dear life. Nothing could touch the three of you...

    <"Ino, please,"> she says, the thickness of sorrow threatening to warp her words, <"please don't make me talk about it.">

    <"No, of course not!"> you say sympathetically, scratching her behind her ears. She leans into your hand for a moment, licking your palm. Then she brushes you off with a paw.

    <"Ino,"> she says, all business once again, <"I want you to Reverse-Summon yourself.">

    You blink, confused. <"What...? Why?">

    <"Father didn't want to put pressure on you while you were still so young."> Miun reaches into a bag strapped around the pink cat's midsection and pulls out what for all the world looks like an ordinary scroll container.

    Save for the seal upon it.

    <"He had it drawn up only at Auntie Naru's insistence,"> she continues, opening the lid and tipping out the thick roll of paper. Unwinding it only a few inches, she turns it around so you can confirm it is indeed what you thought it was.

    <"I have no gift for prophesy,"> Miun says, <"and I don't claim to believe or not believe that you are a true Speaker, or just a normal girl with a strange talent. But if it is your destiny to hold a Summoning contract, I want to be sure you go to the one Fate has in mind for you. Whichever contract calls you, if it's ours or..."> She tries to hide her distaste, <"the original... now is the time to settle it."> Her dark eyes bore into yours. <"I won't force you to sign the scroll, but the matter of your true relationship to us needs to be resolved. Please." Her eyes shut. "Give my people peace, of one kind or another."

    [X] You heard the lady. "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"

    [X] A Summoning Contract? But... you barely have enough chakra to pull off ordinary C-rank jutsu! If you end up being taken all the way out to the Fortress or who knows where else, how're you supposed to get back? Beg for the matter to be put off until at least after the chuunin exams.

    [X] Fate? If Fate wants you to end up with Nekomata's bunch she can go straight to hell and bring them with her! Sign the contract without performing the Reverse Summoning.
     
  2. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] And when you're lost, in dire need, who's at your side, at lightning speed?

    After a moment's thought, you swallow your sadness, nod, and reach out with a Shikoku Fuuin to scrawl your name onto the scroll before she can blink.

    <"Ino!"> she says, gasping and pulling back, far too late. She examines the contract worriedly and then stares back at you. <"But... what if... do you know what you've done?">

    <"I know what I didn't do, and that's leave you guys in a lurch after a long friendship,"> you declare. <"Look, Miun-chan, you're a sweet girl, tryin' to think of a way to be fair to me while still bein' fair to your clan, but do you seriously think if I had the choice of all the summon contracts in the world, I wouldn't pick yours?"

    Miun fusses with her whiskers nervously. <"But the Fortress-born-">

    You smile. <"Look at it this way: either I was going to just end up popping up right back here again, so I just saved myself some chakra, or I was going to end up at some unknown location, low on chakra and obligated to sign with some strangers just to get home, or I was going to end up at the Fortress, low on chakra and obligated to sign with some total stiffs who I honestly wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. So really, I'm coming out ahead in this."> Scritching Miun behind the ears, you add cheerfully, <"And so're you, if I was supposed to go to the Fortress. Congratulations on stealing a Speaker out from under those bastards.">

    <"... I don't think you're a Speaker,"> Miun says thoughtfully. <"I think you're something new.">

    <"According to my dad, I'm 'a very particular type of prodigy',"> you say, shrugging. <"So what happens now? Is there a special ceremony, or...?">

    <"There'll be a dinner,"> she affirms. <"In a week, when all this unpleasantness is behind us."> She hops into your rather surprised arms and licks your face. <"Thank you, Ino. You don't know what it means to us.">

    <"All right, she's signed,"> Indara says crankily, <"now can we get back inside?">

    <"And I think that's my cue to leave,"> you say, chuckling.

    <"I think that'd be best,"> Miun says as the three cats head into the tent. <"Don't expect Menka for another day or two; he may need some time alone.">

    "I think we both do," you mutter under your breath.

    =

    At long last, the day to file for the chuunin exams arrives. Ami is almost bouncing off the walls in excitement, and even Kiba looks hyped.

    You felt a little better prepared than you were a month ago, but still nervous as hell, right up until Asuma-sensei said you had the option to not take the test if you really didn't think you could handle it. Whatever suicidal impulse that blatant application of reverse psychology tripped in your head, you're now raring to go as the three of you stalk towards the building where the first exam is to be held.

    Over the past month, Asuma's assignments for each of you targeted your weak points, up to and including your lack of experience fighting as a group; all of you are expected to show up each morning to various training grounds on a rotating schedule, rain or shine, to get used to engaging in combat on a variety of different terrains.

    Ami's chakra control exercises to improve her burning sword technique continued as usual, but now Asuma-sensei has gotten her started on ranged fire attacks, chakra-suppression to escape genjutsu (you helped out with this), and honing her observation and stealth skills.

    Asuma also ordered Kiba to practice throwing off genjutsu, along with some finer points of bookwork and daily hand-to-hand sessions... against you.

    Kiba aside, you had two hours of remedial taijutsu with Asuma, every day. You still aren't as strong as a normal chuunin in that regard, but your general fighting style is starting to take shape, rather than just being a series of stolen moves. You've discovered that a well-delivered kick now and then can make up for the reach your arms lack. You're never going to be the most durable or physically powerful fighter around, but you're more presentable now than you were before.

    In addition, he also traded some favours to Kurenai-san in exchange for a little private tutoring, for which you might just have to name your firstborn after him; that woman is truly something else. You thought Shahera-sensei knew her stuff, but Kurenai blasts her right out of the water. Dozens of things about the nitty-gritty details of genjutsu design that you never knew before are now at your finger tips, and have allowed you to perfect your grasp of Utsusemi no Jutsu (Throw Voice). She's also broadened your knowledge of other genjutsu users from around the Elemental Countries and what the most common illusions are in each nation.

    Besides your mandatory training, you have also:

    [X] Linked your memory palaces, refined your Sasuke-construct, and created a mini Sasuke Army in your head.

    [X] Learned two C-rank elemental jutsu:
    -> [X] Water
    -> [X] Wind
    -> [X] One of each

    [X] Gotten your Shintenshin up and running. It's not perfected, but it's at least combat-viable against chuunin now.

    [X] Greatly increased your Speed, to the point that even Asuma can't keep up with you.

    [X] Improved your tessenjutsu by: (Select one.)
    -> [X] adding a second fan.
    -> [X] learning how to elementally enhance your tessen
    --> [X] with Water.
    --> [X] with Wind.
    --> [X] with Storm. (Warning: takes up two slots rather than one.)

    [X] Completely mastered your mask-making; not even your own father will be able to tell on sight that you aren't who you look like.

    [X] Studied poisons with your Mom. You're now carrying a small arsenal of unpleasant substances to add to exploding tags or coat weapons in.

    [X] Finally produced a fully-functional, if slightly crude, revolver for you and Kiba to share. (Warning: takes up two slots rather than one.)

    [X] Studied up on sealing; you can now disarm exploding tags faster than they can go off.
    -> [X] You've also figured out something else interesting you can do with that Chakra Conduit Technique you invented back in the day... (Write in, subject to GM review)

    [X] Managed to convince Kurenai-san to teach you two new genjutsu. (These can be personal ones she's developed or just ones any Konoha-nin has been shown to use at some point in the anime or manga, excluding filler arcs.)

    [X] Incorporated your koto-playing into your genjutsu-casting.

    [X] Researched who is likely to show up at the exams, and what their rumoured strengths and weaknesses are.

    [X] Practised your summoning, and developed an informal intelligence network among the local members of the Tora clan.

    -----

    You have six timeslots to fill. Choose wisely.
     
  3. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] The Exam Arc's Million-Dollar Debut

    Sasuke is still in a crappy mood about Kakashi's refusal to enter his team in the exams, but he still sees you and Ami off after breakfast and wishes you luck (Chouji's still trying to get Shikamaru out of bed).

    "Don't worry," you assure him, "anyone who sees the inside of my dream complex will leave this exam with a crippling fear of Uchiha Sasuke."

    "And if anyone asks why you aren't entered I'm going to smile superiorly at them and not say anything," Ami declares.

    Something approaching a smile pulls itself into being on Sasuke's face. "Thanks, guys."

    =

    The first exam is being held in a dull-looking administrative building downtown. The crowd in the hallway is already thick by the time you get there, but it's only when you get to the third floor that you realize why.

    "Yo, sempai," you call to Lee, whose teammates are scowling at two older genin guarding the door, "what's the hold up?"

    Lee looks surprised. "Ah? Ino-chan? Ami-chan? You're entering as well?" He bows slightly to Kiba. "I don't believe we've been introduced. Osu! I am Rock Lee. Pleased to-"

    "EYEBROWS!" Kiba blurts out. One or two people in the crowd turn and stare. Akamaru snuffles in discouragement.

    "... pleased to meet you, Eyebrows-kun," Lee says, oblivious.

    "It's good to see you again, Nori-sempai," Ami says, trying to contain her laughter.

    "So what's all the hubbub?" you ask.

    "We're not letting any weaklings get past us," one of the genin by the door says scornfully. "This exam is for people with real skills, not kids who wanna play at being ninja."

    ... okay, this is obviously not the third floor; the False Surroundings they've got up here is pretty competent, but you remember how many damn flights of stairs you climbed. And from their reserves you're guessing these guys are actually chuunin under a henge. What do?

    [X] Tell everyone they're under a genjutsu.

    [X] Tell only your friends that these guys are chuunin and casting a genjutsu, and climb the stairs to the third floor.

    [X] Loudly announce that it's hopeless, tell only your friends that these guys are chuunin and casting a genjutsu, leave the building, and wall-walk up the outside to get to the third floor without tipping off the other candidates.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  4. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Walk This Way

    Pulling Lee by his arm into your group, you whisper, "Talk to me like you're pissed off about something."

    "Why?" Kiba asks, confused.

    "Does this look like the third floor to you? Those guys have a False Surroundings genjutsu going. And from what I can sense, they're probably chuunin under a henge."

    Lee blinks. "Surely we should inform the others!"

    "Tell your teammates, sure," you say 'grouchily', "but if we pretend to give up and go outside, we can wall-walk up to the third floor without letting everyone else through and broadening our field of competition."

    Ami and Kiba nod. "I'll pretend to be annoyed you're giving up so easily," Ami says.

    "Ino-chan!" Lee says, shocked. "This is very poor sportsmanship."

    You nearly facepalm. "Lee-sempai, we're ninja." After a moment's thought, you try another tack: "The proctors probably set this obstacle up to keep people who genuinely aren't qualified to be chuunin safe from the rigours of the exam. If we tell everyone, those people are the ones most likely to get picked off by foreign competitors, and it'll be our fault."

    "... I see your point," Lee says gravely. "Very well, Ino-chan."

    "Screw this, I'm outta here!" you whine petulantly. "I'm gonna find a proctor and complain!" And you turn and stomp back down the stairs, grumbling about nothing in particular.

    "Ino!" Ami 'scolds', following, Kiba in tow.

    "You aren't gonna take that from them, are you?" Kiba says, 'scowling'.

    When you're out of the building the three of you grin at one another.

    "Race you to the third floor."

    Civilians point and stare at you as you run up the side of the exam offices. You wave to them merrily, humming a song whose words you can't quite remember.

    "In the heat~ of night, da-da-daa da-da-da, at the speed~ of light..."

    The window locks from the inside, of course, but that's nothing a little jiggling with some wire can't fix, and soon the three of you are climbing in from the ledge. Lee and the others are close behind.

    "You damaged the lock," Tenten says in dismay. "It's not going to shut properly now."

    "I'm sure this place has taken heavier beatings than that and survived," you say with an easy grin. "How ya been, Tenten-sempai?"

    "Well enough, Yamanaka-san," she replies coldly.

    Heh. 'The Professional' hasn't changed. You always kind of suspected she didn't like you, and with the tempering influence of Sagara-sensei gone it's become obvious that suspicion was correct.

    The exam room might as well be a roadside cafe in the moments right before the mysterious scruffily-handsome drifter hands the tightly-wound yakuza their asses; when you open the doors, a surge of killing intent smacks into you like a blast of hot air from a hair dryer. Your team winces as one at the sudden pressure, and Akamaru whimpers under Kiba's hood.

    Then the veteran competitors notice your age and obvious inexperience, and most of them relax a bit. They don't look any friendlier, but they no longer seem to be interested in jumping you.

    "Well, we're about as welcome as a fart at a funeral," you mutter. "Guys? Where do you want to wait?" The room is large and there's no point in hanging around right in front of the doors if more people are coming.

    "Anywhere near the people who won't carve our faces off for looking at them funny," Ami whispers back.

    Well, that narrows it down a bit. Which location will you suggest?

    [X] Close by the door, so you can huddle up with Lee's team, Shika, Chouji and Hinata before the exam.

    [X] Over by the window with that nice squad of Konoha genin office ladies. Hm... that pink hair is familiar...

    [X] Those lookers from Mist! Sure, if you're not careful they'll know as much about Konoha as you do inside thirty minutes, but one thing you can say for Whispering Mist, they don't generally kill people without a reason. (Or maybe they do. Ya never can tell with them. Still, bishie!)
     
  5. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Down the street I'm the girl next door

    "Say, aren't you Sakura?"

    The girl turns in surprise and smiles nervously in polite confusion. "Uh, yes; who are you?"

    "You probably don't remember, but we were in the same class at the Academy in our first year," you say with a grin. "Yamanaka Ino. And this is Inuzuka Kiba and Kuwabara-"

    "-Ami," Sakura says, frowning slightly.

    Ami blinks. "Have we met?"

    Sakura's frown momentarily turns into a look of shock. Then the frown is back, stronger than before. Whatever nervousness she may have had before is now firmly under lock and key.

    Your eyes flick back and forth between them, unsure of what to do. Usually it's you people have a problem with and Ami who looks on in dismay. This is an entirely new and backwards state of affairs.

    "Yes," Sakura says flatly, in the end. She turns back to you and asks, in a much more cordial tone, "Was there something in particular you wanted, Ino-san?"

    "Maa, Sakura-chan," says one of her teammates, a brunette woman in her early thirties from the look of her, "we aren't in the office anymore." She smiles at you. "Ino-chan, was it? I'm Sayuri."

    "Pleased to meet you," you say, grinning. "We were just looking around the room and decided it was better to find a spot near some lovely Konoha kunoichi than to test our luck next to some of the other competitors in here."

    "Well, you're certainly welcome over here," Sayuri says graciously, and gestures at the no-nonsense twentysomething blonde beside her. "This is Sagiso-chan, and you already know Sakura-chan, of course."

    "How do you do?" Sagiso says with a polite nod.

    "Three ladies in full bloom," you say, delighted by their alliterative flower names. "Do you all work together, then?"

    Sayuri nods. "That's right; we're file clerks at the hospital."

    "Really?" Kiba asks, incredulous. "My sister says you guys're indoors all day. When do you have time to train?"

    "Oh, we find ways to stay fit," Sayuri says cheerfully. "I used to be on active duty until I met my husband, and I can still carry him under one arm and our two sons under the other." She pats Sakura on the shoulder. "Sakura-chan here's been taking night classes in iryo-ninjutsu for over a year; she's smart as a whip, so you three better watch out!" She winks at you as Sakura blushes at the praise and stammers out a token protest.

    It's strange, talking so casually with someone who wears a hitai-ate about their personal business; it's like you've wandered into a civilian costume party by accident.

    "If you don't mind my asking," you say, "what made you decide to participate in the exams?" You can get why a teenager or maybe even a young single woman like Sagiso would, but Sayuri has a family and doesn't seem unhappy with her job. She doesn't seem like the type to endanger her life on a whim.

    She sighs. "It's all thanks to the recent budget cuts. The hospital's undergoing a restructuring and they want to put a chuunin in charge of the new merged A&DM department - Archives and Data Management," she explains. "But the only people who're already trained and know the system well enough to run the department are genin, so the girls nominated the three of us to go to the exams and hopefully get certified." She looks slightly embarrassed. "Well, it's not a very interesting story to three clan children, I suppose. Sorry to tell you our troubles."

    "I'm civilian-born, actually, ma'am," Ami says.

    "Are you?" Sayuri looks genuinely surprised, and - interestingly - so does Sakura. "Well, good for you, getting on a proper genin cell! That's no easy feat, from what I hear."

    "Thank you," Ami replies, beaming with pride.

    "I wasn't expecting so many kids to be participating," Sagiso says fretfully, looking out at the Mist boys, the 'Hina-Shika-Cho', the elite squad from Suna, and the half-dozen other unusually young teams competing. "That girl over there can't be older than eight."

    "My mom says it's important to remember as a ninja that there's always someone in the world younger than you who's also stronger than you," Kiba remarks.

    Before you can turn the conversation to a less unsettling topic, Dad's scariest co-worker and a dozen shinobi shunshin into the room.

    "Thank you for waiting," he says, in that voice that could sound menacing ordering a taco. "I am Morino Ibiki, examiner for the first test. Rule one, there is to be no fighting without the permission of the examiner. Rule two, even if permission is granted, killing your opponent will not be tolerated. Any of you who disobey will be immediately disqualified."

    His eyes sweep the room, as if daring any of the assembled hopefuls to snicker at Konoha's softness.

    "Now form an orderly line and come pick up your seating assignments," he says finally, "and we'll hand out the tests."

    Behind you you hear Sakura let out a sigh of relief. It's almost drowned out, however, by the small groan a few of the other people in the room let out upon realizing that no, this is not just a waiting-room and no, you're not going to be led down the hall to an open gymnasium to begin beating the living crap out of each other.

    You pat Ami on the shoulder and wink. "Showtime," you say gleefully.

    You're a lot less chipper when you find your seat.

    It's at the end of a row, and the Kazekage's son has the spot next to it.

    Menka bristles on your shoulder.

    Oh, well, I didn't really wanna pass anyway, you think queasily, shifting from foot to foot, trying to decide whether to run for it or just accept the horrific death that awaits you.

    Up until this point you've been trying, with varying degrees of success, to ignore the boy's chakra. So've a few other people, and you mark them down in your mind as possible sensors. There's nothing physically intimidating about him from looks alone; he's barely taller than you and he's shorter than practically everyone else in the room but the little girl Sagiso pointed out.

    That's what's so creepy. Sabaku no Gaara looks perfectly harmless (aside from the bad eyeliner), but his melody is scary as fuck.

    For one thing, he just has a whole hell of a lot of chakra - far past what you'd expect of most jounin, past the point where you can easily measure it, even. Naruto has something like that going on, but then, Naruto doesn't have chakra that sings in harmony with itself. Seriously, what the fucking fuck is up with that? The closest songs to this you've ever heard came from late-term pregnant women, and no baby in the world has chakra this... well, for lack of a better word, evil. You get the impression if you tapped him on the shoulder his chakra would bite your fingers off just because it could.

    The redhead spots you staring as he leans back in his chair, and smirks.

    "You gonna stand there until you put down roots, or you gonna have a seat?"

    You're so pissed off that you forget entirely about wanting to run, and, gritting your teeth, plop down defiantly into your chair, crossing your arms.

    "Just tryin' to figure out what kind of big bad ninja has to raid his sister's makeup bag for war paint," you shoot back with a smirk of your own.

    For a split-second he looks legitimately shocked, and you wonder if you're about to become the first fatality of the exam.

    Then he drops his head and shakes it, quietly laughing.

    "Shut up," Ibiki tells everyone, and everyone does, including Gaara after a moment. "Don't turn over your test papers yet. We still have to go over the rules before we begin."

    The rules are simple.

    You start with ten points.

    A point gets removed for every wrong answer.

    You pass or fail as a team.

    Every time you get caught cheating you lose two points.

    People who lose all their points will be failed along with their teams.

    When you turn over your paper, you groan inwardly. 'Show your work', 'show your work'... you hate having to show your work. It takes forever! It negates any pride in knowing the answer!

    Thankfully there're some fun questions mixed in, like the cryptogram one. But at least half of these are beyond anything a sane person would expect even a chuunin to know - especially a field-duty one; they don't tend to be too hot with math.

    So. Looks like this is one of those 'exact words' scenarios. Every time you get caught cheating you lose two points. Lose all your points and then you get thrown out. Have some pride in your skills as a ninja.

    Well, now you feel a little better about some of the people in here being stronger than you'd've expected; some of them will be chuunin who've got the answers written down correctly expressly to facilitate cheating. That weird tenth question gives you pause, but knowing Ibiki-san (which you're glad you don't entirely do), it's probably going to be some kind of philosophical dilemma thing, psych you guys out.

    You aren't worried about yourself. Given the time you have left you could handle these problems without too much trouble. And no matter how little love Kiba has for bookwork, Akamaru's got great distance vision; those two'll be all right as long as they're near one of the ringers.

    Mostly, you're worried about Ami. She's certainly not dumb, but neither are you, and you'll have to bust your hump on some of these questions. And she not only lacks any natural cheating advantages, there're decent odds she wouldn't notice the double-talk in the rules unless you pointed it out to her.

    So. What do you do, Yamanaka Ino the Fifth?

    [X] Write in. Go to town.
     
  6. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] A cunning drama with a mysterious plot begins

    Ami squeaks her chair twice to let you know she received your message, and you raise your hand.

    "May I use the restroom?" you ask meekly.

    Ibiki stares balefully at you for a moment, but nods at one of the female proctors, and she steps forward to collect you.

    She's at least six inches taller than you.

    You mentally curse as she snaps the cuffs around your wrists. You thought you were in the zone, what with the nearest proctor being the shortest; Ibiki specifically picked a taller one at the end of the line. You didn't think Ibiki knew about your little mask hobby, but apparently so. Stupid proud-Dad and his stupid friends who can supposedly keep a secret...

    ... huh. Wait a second.

    You glance back over at Ibiki, and he meets your eye for just a moment before looking away again. His expression doesn't change, but that's perhaps the strongest giveaway.

    What's the next exam going to be like that he doesn't want people to know I can steal faces?

    "I'll have to accompany you," the proctor says in a bored tone, and you nod.

    Oh well. Guess I'll find out later. Thanks for the freebie, craterhead.

    You try not to let too much of a spring into your step as you stroll down the hallway, jingling slightly.

    =

    "Was that really necessary? She could have a concussion, man!"

    "She'll be fine," Menka says dismissively, "she just won't be waking up for about an hour. Now quick, get her tied up."

    Doing so and memorizing the answer key, you henge into the woman and Menka follows suit. Having checked each other over for imperfections, you eventually head back to the exam room, passing a couple of dejected washouts on the way.

    Peeking in the window in the door, you hit Ami, Chouji, Lee, and (on a good-natured whim) the SSS squad with a False-Surroundings genjutsu, layering the correct answers over their test papers with a little 'trace away with love from Ino' tag in the upper left corner. You debated whether or not to help Tenten (she's never given you the impression she's much of a book person), but finally decided she'd be just as likely to out you as take the damn favour.

    Only when this is done do you reenter the classroom, leading Menka-as-you by the cuffs back to your seat and unlocking him.

    And now your real exam begins.

    "That's you finished, kid," you tell the Kusa-nin who avoided Gaara, crooking a finger at him. There ain't room for two sensors in this exam, buster.

    "W-wha-?" he stammers, blinking at you.

    You point at the checklist of the proctor next to you. "I got you twice earlier, this guy got you twice while I was out with blondie over there, and just now makes five. You're out."

    He frowns. "But-"

    One of his teammates across the room swears loudly and gets to her feet, grumbling something about wishing she'd partnered with some name you don't quite catch. "C'mon, Pato. I saw a bar on the way in, the trip doesn't have to be a total loss."

    The two are joined by a third boy at the door and depart, Pato throwing one last confused glance in your direction. You wink.

    You aren't a ruthless proctor, but not from lack of trying. The simple fact is that most of these people weren't overconfident in their skills when they signed up for the exam; there are a lot of very competent cheats in this room. The incompetent ones were all filtered out while you were perfecting your henge.

    The Oto trio, for example, haven't lost any points at all. Your pride is injured somewhat that the answers you put elbow grease into stealing are apparently not beyond the ken of an eight-year-old girl, but at least you know those three most definitely are ready for primetime, which is more than you knew about them when you walked in.

    A member of the Suna elite team sticks his hand up. "Can I hit up the bathroom?" he asks.

    The proctor beside you stands, and you realize that it isn't a proctor at all, but a puppet.

    How creepy!

    [X] Sabotage the puppet in some minor but vital way, exposing the whole scheme publicly.

    [X[ Leave a note on the puppet reading "-2 points."

    [X] Leave the puppet be. It's not as clever or audacious as your own plan, of course, but not everyone can be perfect.

    [X] Look to Ibiki to get his wordless input on the matter. There's no way he hasn't spotted an extra proctor.
     
  7. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Ten percent luck, twenty percent skill

    It'd be a shame to knock out someone who is ready to be a chuunin before you get the chance to kick his ass. You're probably not going to get promoted for picking on the office ladies, after all.

    So you leave him a little note and call it good.

    You manage to get a few more teams knocked out, but most of the ones you see, the real proctors catch too. The flow of washouts slows as the minutes roll by, then stops entirely. There are now about 66 people left in the room.

    The boy and his puppet return from the washroom just as Ibiki announces that it's time for the tenth question.

    "Now before we proceed, we have to go over the additional rules for this question."

    Shit! More rules? Oh, please, god, don't make it something to do with proof of identity.

    "These are..." He stares ominously out over the crowd. "... the rules of desperation."

    Wait, is this where we get permission to throw down? Shit, Ibiki-san, you're colder than I thought, lullin' the bookworms into a false sense of security like this.

    "First," Ibiki continues, "you must choose whether or not to attempt to answer the question."

    "Choose?" the Kazekage's daughter asks. "What happens if we choose not to?"

    "Your points will be reduced to zero and you'll fail," he replies. "Along with your teammates."

    "Then it's not really much of a choice, is it?" someone says scornfully. "Of course we'll answer it."

    "And now the other rule," Ibiki says grimly. "Anyone who makes the attempt and answers the question incorrectly will lose the right to take the chuunin exams ever again."

    There is a moment of stunned silence. Then-

    "Bullshit!" Kiba declares. "There are people here who've taken the exam loads of times!"

    A roar of protest bubbles up.

    "You were unlucky this year," Ibiki says with a smirk. "My test, my rules."

    "Wow. What kind of career path do you have to take to get to the point that you can decide whether people who aren't even from your village can get promoted?" Gaara asks, amused. "Just curious."

    "The Kage and other leaders of villages participating in the exams have agreed to abide by the assessment of the proctors," Ibiki counters. "This agreement is renewed every time the exams are held; those who promote genin against the recommendations of the shinobi administering the tests are not invited to the next exam."

    That's the big punishment? you wonder. Well, it's no big deal; even if we answer wrong we can still get field promotions. The exam isn't the only way to climb the ladder.

    Ami looks less optimistic. Sagiso looks downright terrified.

    "Those that do not wish to take the tenth question, raise your hands now. Once you hear your number confirmed, you may leave."

    Your heart skips a beat as you see Ami's shoulder shift and her arm start to come up, when all of a sudden a middle-aged man right in front of her springs to his feet and raises his hand.

    "I resign," he says hastily. "I'm sorry, Yunako-chan, Tori-san, but we can't take a risk like this, not after how hard we worked."

    Ami's hand immediately stops its rise, and she crosses her arms, glaring at the man as he leaves. She glances at Ibiki again for a moment with an expression that makes it clear she wants to cry, but then looks away, hmph'ing and tossing her braided hair.

    You try not to smile. That's my girl.

    Leaning forward to rest your chin on the thumbs of your folded hands, you run through the handseals of Utsusemi, prepare your voice to imitate Gaara, toss in a little creepy breathing-down-your neck supplemental genjutsu, and target the ears of (pick up to seven):

    [X] The Oto-nin
    -> [X] The 8-year-old girl
    -> [X] The teenage girl
    -> [X] The boy in his late teens

    [X] One of the Mist-nin
    -> [X] The girl
    -> [X] The blond apparent-water-user wild-boy
    -> [X] The black-haired apparent-swordsman boy

    [X] Tenten. Hey, you love Lee, but you really don't wanna face him in a fight if you don't have to; you're pretty sure he's as fast as you are with his weights off, and he's way stronger and waaaaaaay better at taijutsu. Nor are you terribly fussed to go up against Neji, seeing as he's the one person your age who's consistently kicked the crap out of you every time you've fought him.

    [X] That Taki-nin. You don't know for sure he's a sensor, but it couldn't hurt to get rid of him, could it?

    [X] A selection of fine mooks for your trolling pleasure.
     
  8. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Me, I'm a part of your circle of friends...

    "I surrender!" Taki-boy says in unison with three other people.

    You grin behind your hands. The Kiri blond looks kind of spooked, looking back and forth between you in disguise, Gaara and the older girl on the Oto team, who has her eyes scrunched shut and her hands wound together tightly in her lap. Well, that's lucky - blondie isn't sure where the prompt came from, and the Sound girl isn't confident she can beat the scary redhead. Though to be honest, you weren't expecting her to be.

    51 people are left.

    A girl in a Suna headband bursts into tears and runs out of the room, her two teammates following with concerned expressions.

    48 people are left.

    "Anyone else?" Ibiki asks blandly, as though bored.

    Tenten slams both hands onto the desk in front of her, and half the proctors jump in surprise. "I'd like to lodge a formal complaint," she says through gritted teeth. "These exams are supposed to determine who's fit to take on the responsibilities of a chuunin! Not to let you get your rocks off picking on genin!"

    Neji's sigh is nearly inaudible over the muffled snickers and gasps of several other people in the room.

    Ibiki shrugs. "You're free to leave at any time."

    "No dice," she proclaims heatedly, sinking back into her chair and crossing her arms. "Not only will I pass this test, I'll pass all the others, too, and once I'm promoted over you I'll dismiss you for negligence and mental cruelty!"

    Your mouth drops open. Whoa... when did the Professional grow a pair? She's never talked to adults like that before!

    Ibiki raises an eyebrow in polite interest. "Negligence?"

    "Chuunin are the backbone of the officer class and of the Hidden Village system itself!" Tenten declares stoutly. "We aren't a bunch of clans running around at constant war with each other any more! Chuunin are in charge of our power plants, our hospitals, our schools, our-" She flounders for a moment, but comes back up swinging: "Any non-classified work that could still be sensitive, we make genin handle it and put chuunin in charge of them. This test is biased in favour of field agents even though we already have another way to get promoted and the white-collar ninja don't!"

    "Candidate 140," Ibiki says flatly, "Minus two points."

    Just as she's opening her mouth to protest again, he adds, with a smile, "And add twelve points to your score, because you just passed the test."

    He turns his attention back to the room at large. "That goes for the rest of you, too; congratulations."

    The room is silent.

    Gaara smiles.

    "... what?" Sakura finally asks. "What about the tenth question?"

    "Oh, yes. Of course. The tenth question is, 'Do you want to pass this test?'" Ibiki says, deadpan.

    Temari looks pissed. "So the other nine questions were completely pointless?!"

    Kankuro sighs. Gaara bites his lip to suppress his laughter.

    Ibiki explains the real point of the test to the room at large, with his favourite visual aid, of course. Most of the people you know personally don't look surprised, though Ami is very obviously relieved at the revelation of the final question.

    Menka's catching your eye. What would you like to do now?

    [X] Drop your two henge dramatically. "Oh, Ibiki-san, put those scars away. Don't you know if you use the same pickup line every time women'll get bored with you?"

    [X] Drop your two henge discreetly and retake your seat next to Gaara.

    [X] Keep your henge up until it's time to leave, then release it and blend quickly into the crowd.
     
  9. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] The coldest blood runs through my veins

    Time to make an entrance.

    "Oh, Ibiki-san, put those scars away," you scold good-naturedly in your own voice. "Don't you know if you use the same pickup line every time women'll get bored with you?"

    There is a small pop of smoke as you and Menka return to your normal selves. As one, the proctors brandish various weapons in your face - all genuinely surprised, if you're any judge, and all, for a brief moment, completely willing and ready to kill you if necessary. A moment later they relax, though a few of them don't look too pleased that you managed to infiltrate them unnoticed.

    If the chuunin were surprised, the vast majority of the genin are dumbstruck. Oh, god damn it, this is probably the only chance you're ever going to get to see three Kiri-nin caught flat-footed and you don't have a camera!

    Tenten has her palms up, her fingers clawed, and her jaw hanging open; small, slightly strangled noises of mixed outrage and confusion are emanating from her throat.

    The flare of annoyance a still-stoic Neji gives off lets you know the only thing he's shocked at is the fact that your desire to show off outweighs your common sense.

    Gaara finally bursts into laughter. "You Konoha girls are really somethin' else," he says.

    Kiba has a shit-eating grin on his face, and Ami seems to be unable to decide between being proud and being, once again, embarrassed by your apparently-uncontrollable compulsion to tease adults. Shikamaru and Chouji just shake their heads at their desks, quietly chuckling.

    Interestingly, the little girl on the Oto team is smiling at you, and from all indications it's genuine. Genuinely happy, and genuinely not 'oh I'm gonna have fun with you~', which Gaara has going full blast.

    You smile back, and wink; she giggles and turns her eyes back to the front of the room. Even prodigies are still kids.

    "Why is a genin allowed to be a proctor?!" Tenten finally manages.

    "Idiot," Temari scowls, "she must have replaced one of the real ones at some point."

    You're about to tease everyone that maybe you did and maybe you didn't, when a gorgeous woman in mesh and not much else crashes in through the window at jounin speed.

    [X] "THANK YOU PÈRE NÖEL I KNEW YOU WERE REAL!" *glomp*

    [X] Aww, she killed the momentum of your big reveal. >: < How inconsiderate of her!

    [X] Write-in
     
  10. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Did you really expect any other outcome?

    [img width=600 height=400]http://i35.tinypic.com/23wjoqs.jpg[/img]

    "Settle down, rugrats!" the woman... nay, the vision shouts dramatically. As you sit up, rubbing your aching jaw and trying to ignore the laughter around you, you see that her name is written on a banner that has unfurled behind her.

    Mitarashi Anko... You smile dreamily. What a delicious handle~!

    "Forty-eight?" she asks Ibiki. "16 teams? You sure?"

    "We've got some exceptional talent this year," he confirms.

    Anko shrugs. "Oh well. The Forest should cut that number in half easy."

    As you follow her out of the room with the rest of the chuunin hopefuls, you hear Gaara's voice in your ear.

    "Hey, henge-girl. Do me a favour, next time use Kankuro's voice, will ya? He's the creepy doll-collector, not me."

    You look behind you, but Gaara isn't there. Turning back towards the exit, you see him further up the line, smirking at you.

    Damn. He's gonna be a heartbreaker when he's older, you can tell.

    [X] Leave it. Apparently good-humoured or not, you don't wanna turn the nice monster-boy's mood sour with an accidental offence.

    [X] Utsusemi him back. "Hey, you should be more supportive of your brother! Whatever a grown shinobi and his fully-articulated wooden wife get up to in the privacy of their own home is entirely their own business. Who're we to judge?" ;)

    =

    Training Ground #44.

    Whelp. There go your chances of having a victory dinner with Sasuke tonight.

    "I know this place," Ami says, looking faintly sick. "Dad's friends have an agreement with the Hokage that lets them dump undesirables in here for a nominal fee."

    "Then I bet they'll piss themselves when they hear you walked out of it without a scratch on ya," Kiba says confidently, slapping her on the back.

    Ami grimaces, but some of the colour and determination comes back into her face.

    "Welcome to Training Ground #44," Anko announces to all and sundry with gleeful morbidity. "Also known as the Forest of Death."

    "Sounds cozy," Gaara remarks.

    "Oh, you have no idea," she replies cheerfully. "You should see it in the spring. The toxic slime on the Madara birch leaves glows really beautifully in the sunset, if you can get to the top branches without going into anaphylactic shock."

    ... how is she so scary and so hot at the same time?! My libido is confused!

    Ami's sharp elbows catch you in the shoulder and Kiba in the chest. "Stop ogling her and listen to what she's saying," she hisses.

    The second test is much more geared toward Kiba and Ami's specialities than the last one; it's a survival game/battle royale over dummy intel, a pair of scrolls. They're to be handed out in private so no one knows which team has which scroll, and then everyone has to go to their assigned gate to wait for permission to enter the training ground. You pass or fail as a team, you're not allowed to look inside the scrolls, and you have to reach the tower in the middle of the Forest within five days.

    You have a little time before Team 5 gets their turn in the scroll-hut. What would you like to do until then?

    [X] Write-in
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  11. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] "Hey, you should be more supportive of your brother! Whatever a grown shinobi and his fully-articulated wooden wife get up to in the privacy of their own home is entirely their own business. Who're we to judge?" ;)

    Gaara's smirk becomes a genuine smile, and he turns back toward the exit.

    His sister beside him sees his expression and looks behind her. Catching sight of you, she rolls her eyes, and gives her brother a look that clearly says, 'Of all the people in this exam...'

    =

    Gaara route unlocked!

    About the Gaara Route:

    Easily unlocked but difficult to maintain. Current compatibility rate estimated at roughly 68%. Sub-paths of Gaara route include but are not limited to the Kankuro route and the Temari route, along with possible sidequests.

    Route(s) currently available:

    Sasuke Route, Kiba Route, Gaara Route
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  12. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] A little less fight and a little more spark

    "Good~ afternoon, Hinata-chan," you say cheerfully, sidling up and wrapping an arm around her shoulder companionably.

    She eeps and tenses before realising that it's you. "Ino-chan..."

    You nod to your other friends with a wink. "What's the good word, Chouji, Shika-chan?"

    "What are you scheming?" Shika asks dryly.

    "Well, if you're gonna be like that, maybe I won't let you in on the fast track to a week of downtime between now and whatever the next test is. More naps for me."

    "... I'm listening."

    =

    "Scroll me," Kiba says, handing in your waivers.

    The man reaches under the desk and hands over a Heaven scroll to Ami, who reaches over her shoulder to stick it in her backpack, only for it to slip through her fingers and roll away.

    (Heaven scroll acquired.)

    Before she can so much as say 'oops', Akamaru jumps off Kiba's head, barking joyfully, and snatches it up.

    "Good boy!" Kiba says encouragingly, "Now bring it back."

    Tail still wagging, Akamaru bounds off with the scroll.

    "Oh, not again..." Ami says, exasperated. "I thought nin-dogs were supposed to be intelligent."

    "Shut up!" Kiba snaps, and runs off after his canine companion.

    "Menka, no!" you say in dismay as your bodyguard darts over the desk. "Crap!"

    "Is it too late for me to switch teams?" Ami asks the proctors as one of them scoops up the kitty and tries to wrest an Earth scroll out of his mouth.

    "I'm sorry," you tell the two chuunin behind the desk sheepishly, taking Menka from them and dislodging the scroll in question to hand back over. "I've trained him to bring me stuff I want and sometimes he gets carried away." You hold the cat up to look him in the eye and say in a syrupy tone, "No, you're not getting a treat this time, mister. You almost made us fail the exam."

    (Earth scroll acquired.)

    "He shredded it," Kiba growls, dragging a whimpering Akamaru back into the hut, the remains of the Heaven scroll in his hand.

    "I don't believe this," Ami says, eyes wide with anxiety as she starts to hyperventilate. "First Ino's stupid ego trip almost gets us thrown out and now your idiot dog gets us disqualified before we even get a chance to really compete!"

    You stroke her on the back comfortingly. "Hey, Ami, it's okay, it's only a six month wait, we can try again next time."

    "Calm down," one of the chuunin scolds, pulling out a fresh Heaven scroll from under the desk. "Have some dignity, will you? You're representing the village here."

    Ami gasps at the new scroll, blinking back tears as she smiles hopefully at the proctor. "W-we can really have another chance?" she asks, biting her lip.

    "W-well, yeah," he says back, suddenly slightly pink around the ears. "You can pay me back by getting to the finals. Konoha's honour is at stake with Suna sending that demon brat here to steamroll the competition."

    (Second Heaven scroll acquired.)

    Ami snatches up the Heaven scroll and clings to it like a drowning woman, beaming at the chuunin and bowing repeatedly. "Thank you, thank you so much!" A thought seems to strike her, and her expression becomes slightly panicked again. "Please, sir, promise me you won't tell any of the other competitors that I cried?"

    "I promise," he says, embarrassed, "just please, move along."

    You do so, Ami still repeating her thank yous as you pull her out the door with a fond roll of your eyes.

    Menka rejoins you, and the genjutsu collapses with a wave of your hand just as a team from Amegakure enters the hut.

    (Third Heaven scroll acquired. Second Earth scroll acquired.)

    "How was that?" Ami asks, wiping her eyes. "Did I match your precious Himekawa-sensei?"

    "You're lucky it was two guys," you say, shaking your head. "No way would a woman have bought it."

    "Why do people think nin-dogs who can't talk are stupid?" Kiba says indignantly. "Have they ever tried to learn to speak Dog? It's way harder than Gyogo!"

    "Really?" you ask, intrigued. "Think I could get some lessons?"

    "Are you starting a zoo?" Shikamaru asks idly.

    You hug him, stuffing a Heaven scroll into the seal you etched into the lining of his shirt.

    He twitches, surprised, but returns the hug.

    "See you in a bit," you say in his ear. "Take it easy on the way in, yeah? If we all show up at once it'll be undeniable."

    "You really are a good friend," he answers, snickering as he pats you on the back.

    Hinata squeezes your hands and tells you to be careful. And Chouji is as always an all-out assault on the forces of respiration.

    "Try not to blow the whole place up," he says when he lets you go. "I'd like to have something for dinner that isn't charbroiled."

    "Team Asuma," a proctor calls, "follow me to your entry gate."

    You slip the spare set of scrolls into a pouch on Sayuri's leg as you pass by her.

    "Hey, it's the Triple S squad," you say brightly, turning back as you go by as if you'd only just noticed them. "Good luck, you three!"

    "Good luck to you too, Ino-chan," Sayuri replies with a smile, unaware for now of the favour you've just done her.

    Sagiso nods, but quickly holds the papers she was just examining to her chest, as though afraid you stopped by to snoop on them,

    "Mm. Good luck, Ino-san," Sakura says, looking up from the blanket she's sitting on, where she's taking inventory of her medical kit and cleaning her instruments. Her long hair is pulled back into a sensible knot now, just like her teammates'. You notice they each have little サ-shaped hairclips for good luck; Sakura's is holding back her bangs while she works. And now you see why she wears them as long as she does; the poor girl could probably pull in some extra cash renting that space out for advertising.

    "Well, yeah," Ami says, grinning when you comment to that effect as your team makes its way to Gate 19, where you'll begin. "Why do you think we used to call her forehead-girl?"

    "Yeesh, you really have no knack for nicknames at all," you say, shaking your head. "And I thought you said you didn't remember her."

    She shrugs. "Give me a break, the last time I saw her she was a mopey little thing with her hair in her eyes. I have to be honest, I assumed she'd dropped out; I remember her kind of sucking at everything but bookwork."

    "Yeah?" You stick out your tongue. "I remember you kind of sucking at everything but Weaponry back then."

    "Wasn't she the one you pushed in the river that one time?" Kiba comments.

    "What?" Ami asks in surprise. "When was this?"

    "Well, was there some other pink-haired girl in our class?" he asks, shrugging. "I remember being on a field trip and seeing you yell something at pinkie-chan, and the next minute the teacher was helping her up out of the stream."

    "She must've fallen," Ami says, frowning. "I can't think why I would've pushed her."

    You and Kiba share a look, and then raise an eyebrow each at Ami.

    "What?" she asks, frown deepening.

    "Ami, it could turn out that you pushed her because she picked a flower you wanted and I'd buy it," you say with a snort. "You were not a happy kid."

    "Yes I was!" Ami says, shocked.

    "You aren't even happy now!" Kiba says incredulously. "Why would it be any different back then?"

    "The test begins..." says your escort, staring at his watch, "... now!"

    "We'll finish this discussion when we get to the tower!" Ami says as the three of you dive into the foliage.

    =

    You make it to the centre of the forest in about an hour - a new record, or so an astounded Iruka-sensei informs you.

    The tower has a couple dozen rooms set aside for chuunin training in the Forest, and since you have first pick you guys choose:

    [X] The one closest to the onsite kitchen.

    [X] The one close to the library.

    [X] The one with the ensuite bathroom.

    The Hina-Shika-Cho show up around four in the afternoon (whereupon Shikamaru falls into the first bed he finds and refuses to leave until supper), but by nightfall the office ladies still haven't shown up. You wonder if they ran into trouble (with a capital G), or if Sayuri just hasn't checked her pouches lately.

    Well, at any rate, you have a lot of free time to fill in the next few days. (Pick two.)

    [X] You have this idea about converting storage seals to hold chakra in reserve until you need it. Let's see if that's feasible...

    [X] Shintenshin. Hey, are you the clan heir or not? Get it up and running.

    [X] Work on your Sasuke army. (Choose up to two.)

    -> [X] What's say you add some more... 'exotic' predators to the mix? (Multiple incarnations of any one of the Fab Four, or one construct of each.)
    -> [X] Figure out if you can leak your mental static into a memory palace and subject people to it intentionally.
    -> [X] Write in?

    [X] Make a genjutsu of your own, you lazy brat. (Write in subject to GM approval.)
     
  13. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    Furiko's Omake Theatre~!

    Scroll Heist in High Def

    "There's a large tub of them under the table," Hinata says. "I suppose they wanted to be sure they had enough. They might not even notice some extras are gone until they pack up to go home, if you're lucky."

    You smirk. "When am I not?"

    =

    At the door to the hut, you pop off a quick False Surroundings genjutsu, making the primary a simple hallucination of the movements of a white cat with black facial markings, and adding in the necessary tactile element to be activated later.

    "Scroll me," Kiba says, handing in your waivers.

    The man reaches under the desk and hands over a Heaven scroll to Ami, who reaches over her shoulder to stick it in her backpack. As it slips into the unzipped section, an empty storage scroll with Heaven written on the outside falls out of your sleeve.

    Before Ami can so much as say 'oops', Akamaru jumps off Kiba's head, barking joyfully, and snatches it up. Menka follows, and shimmies under the desk to grab an Earth scroll.

    "Good boy!" Kiba says encouragingly, "Now bring it back."

    Tail still wagging, Akamaru bounds off with the scroll.

    "Oh, not again..." Ami says, exasperated. "I thought nin-dogs were supposed to be intelligent."

    "Shut up!" Kiba snaps, and runs off after his canine companion.

    "Menka, no!" you say in dismay as an illusion of your bodyguard darts over the desk. "Crap!"

    "Is it too late for me to switch teams?" Ami asks the proctors as one of them scoops up the kitty and tries to wrest an Earth scroll out of his mouth.

    "I'm sorry," you tell the two chuunin behind the desk sheepishly, taking Menka from them and dislodging the scroll to slip up your sleeve. You hand the cat back, activating the touch-genjutsu as you do so. "I've trained him to bring me stuff I want and sometimes he gets carried away." You hold empty air in the shape of a cat up and say in a syrupy tone, "No, you're not getting a treat this time, mister. You almost made us fail the exam."

    The proctor drops Menka into the tub of scrolls, where he proceeds to grab the two scrolls for Team Office Lady.

    "He shredded it," Kiba growls, dragging a whimpering Akamaru back into the hut, the remains of the fake Heaven scroll in his hand.

    "I don't believe this," Ami says, eyes wide with anxiety as she starts to hyperventilate. "First Ino's stupid ego trip almost gets us thrown out and now your idiot dog gets us disqualified before we even get a chance to really compete!"

    You stroke her on the back comfortingly. "Hey, Ami, it's okay, it's only a six month wait, we can try again next time."

    "Calm down," one of the chuunin scolds, pulling out a fresh Heaven scroll from under the desk. "Have some dignity, will you? You're representing the village here."

    Ami gasps at the new scroll, blinking back tears as she smiles hopefully at the proctor. "W-we can really have another chance?" she asks, biting her lip.

    "W-well, yeah," he says back, suddenly slightly pink around the ears. "You can pay me back by getting to the finals. Konoha's honour is at stake with Suna sending that demon brat here to steamroll the competition."

    Ami snatches up the Heaven scroll and clings to it like a drowning woman, beaming at the chuunin and bowing repeatedly. "Thank you, thank you so much!" A thought seems to strike her, and her expression becomes slightly panicked again. "Please, sir, promise me you won't tell any of the other competitors that I cried?"

    "I promise," he says, embarrassed, "just please, move along."

    You do so, Ami still repeating her thank yous as you pull her out the door with a fond roll of your eyes.

    Menka rejoins you, and the genjutsu collapses with a wave of your hand just as a team from Amegakure enters the hut.

    =

    The two chuunin don't see the last portion of the tape, because they spend it glaring at each other.

    The assistant hits the eject button.

    "I hope you know you aren't getting paid," Anko says flatly.

    ~owari~
     
  14. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Things they would not teach me of in college

    You did consider the room next to the library (the vault with its rare books backs onto one of the walls of the room), but when you saw the view over the forest and that private bathroom, you knew Room 88 was the one you wanted.

    And how lucky you did, because to your delight, your neighbour across the hall is none other than-

    "Anko-chan! Good to see you again!" You grin and blush uncontrollably.

    "What the hell do you think you're doing in the jounin quarters?" Anko demands, crossing her arms.

    "Mou~ Anko-chan, you can't blame us for taking the best room when Iruka-sensei said we got first pick!"

    "He meant first pick of the chuunin rooms downstairs, brat," she says, "and where do you get off calling a superior officer -chan?"

    You wave away her offence. "Oh, -san is too cold and formal to use on a lovely young lady like yourself! You're still in the springti- ararararara that's a snake!" D :

    "I would not suggest finishing that sentence," Anko advises with a twitchy grimace, hand and reptilian partner entwined upon themselves.

    "Fine, fine," you say weakly, inching away from the flicking tongue. Shit that's a mamushi she's actually threatening to kill me holy god her eyes are beautiful what the hell is wrong with me?! "Can we at least keep the room? Y-you're the only jounin here, after all, the space is just going to waste."

    "You're lucky I don't throw you out of the tower right now," the woman hisses softly, closing the gap between you again. "Did you think no one would notice your little scroll-snatch?"

    Don'tlookatherchestdon'tlookatherchestdon'tlookatherchest...

    [X] ._.; "... um, yeah, a-actually. I mean, officially, no one noticed when my best friend's brother killed his whole family in one night and ran off with the corpses, so I tend to assume 'security' is kind of an optional feature in this town."

    [X] "J-j-j-just a second, Anko-chan, I promise I'll be a good girl and keep my hands to myself from now on, so please let us stay~!"

    [X] Appeal to her sense of patriotism. "Maa, would you rather the Suna and Kiri teams were the only ones in the finals?"
     
  15. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    ... hell with it. You have the full attention of a beautiful woman and whether she decides to kill you or not, the most important thing is to make an impression! Cool, Ino; think cool! The nervous smile drops off your face.

    [X] "... yeah, actually."

    Ami lets out a choked squeak behind you. Kiba and Akamaru share an audible facepalm.

    Before she can reply, you add, "I mean, officially, no one noticed when my best friend's brother killed his whole family in one night and ran off with the corpses, so I tend to assume 'security' is kind of an optional feature in this town."

    "You-!"

    You hold your breath, and wait for her little pet to latch onto your nose like a vice.

    Menka stares unblinking at the Mamushi from his perch on your shoulder, as if daring it to try something. The snake is almost certainly faster than he is, but you appreciate the thought.

    "... hmph. No denying you've got balls," Anko says, lowering her arm. "But a smart mouth and some parlour tricks aren't going to be worth jack in the finals. You're not going to defeat that Oto crumbsnatcher with a little quip and a smile."

    "Maybe not," you reply, "but you have to admit it'd be damn impressive if I did."

    "The key word in that sentence is 'if', half-pint." She puts her hands on her hips. "Your file says your taijutsu is pathetic and your ninjutsu is bog-standard. I don't know what Asuma was thinking sending you into the exams this early - you've been a genin what, five months?"

    "Yeah, and we've already had a B-rank mission," Kiba points out, crossing his arms.

    "Whoa-ho, looks like we've got a badass over here," Anko says, raising her hands in a mock-defensive position. "A single B-rank fighting bandits and redneck-nin with your jounin-sensei and a half-dozen taijutsu masters on hand? That's what you point to? Go tell Sabaku no Gaara that and watch his sister blow you into the stratosphere because you aren't worth his time to fight."

    Kiba scowls. "Listen, lady-"

    "Excuse me," Ami blurts out. Her cheeks pinken lightly as the rest of you look over at her, and she awkwardly puts down the toiletry bag she'd been in the process of unpacking when the tokubetsu jounin showed up.

    "Before this conversation goes any further... can you prove you're actually Anko-san?"

    Anko's expression takes on a peculiar, measuring aspect. "And the moon-faced fake-crier joins the fray. You're the big kenjutsu prodigy, yeah?"
    Suigetsu
    "Please answer my question," Ami says politely, but with a hint of her usual heat.

    Anko nods, pulling out and unrolling a small mission scroll with the Hokage's seal stamped at the bottom. "There. My orders to serve as examiner. That a bright enough lantern for you?"
    Hozuki
    Ami looks slightly distressed. "... no," she says finally, "I'm sorry, but can we see your ID and a snipping from your hair as well?"

    Anko lets out a bark of laughter. "Are you serious?"

    "Ami, c'mon," you say, "you think I wouldn't check? Her chakra sounds exactly like Anko's."

    "And you think someone who could take out a special jounin couldn't possibly have some way to fake that?" Ami retorts, trembling slightly as she slips into a battojutsu stance. "I reiterate, 'Anko-san'-"

    "Ami," you say quietly, your eyes flicking in the direction of the woman's neck for just a fraction of a second, "I can tell it's her."

    That gets you a sharp look from Anko as she hands over her ID and reaches for her hair.

    "Wait." You hold up a hand, and pull a pair of sewing scissors out of your pocket. "If we're doing this, we're doing it right." Reaching upon tip-toe, you snip a few short strands from the tip of Anko's elaborate ponytail. She raises an eyebrow, but makes no move to stop you.

    So it is a seal. An old one, too; she's had it a long time. But... it doesn't seem to be doing anything. It's like it's just a tattoo. What's that about?

    "God, you're worse than the Kiri kids," the snake mistress grumbles as you pull back, heart still pounding. "Have you settled your doubts yet, or do you want a blood sample, too?"
    kekkei genkai
    "Ino? Kiba?" Ami asks, not taking her eyes off Anko.

    "The scent adds up, but I could have told you that before," Kiba says, slightly off-put by where this conversation has ended up. "Akamaru?" The dog snuffles in confirmation.

    You sigh, and smile fondly at your friend. "I just said, I know it's her. If she were wearing a mask I'd have smelt the spirit gum, if she were henge'd that haircut would've dispelled it, and she's a jounin - if she were under involuntary Shintenshin she'd look like she has to pee really bad. The only other possibility I can think of is that she's a zombie." You turn your grin on Anko. "You're not, right?"

    "If I were I could've eaten your brains in the time the three of you stood around chatting about this instead of attacking me," she retorts.

    "Not if you were a genius-zombie," Kiba points out, with the authority of a man who has seen Impure Resurrection ten times in the theatre. "Then waiting us out and gaining our trust would've been exactly your MO."

    "I'm not a damn zombie!" :mad:

    "Well, that's good to hear!" you say brightly.

    "I'm truly sorry, Anko-san," Ami says, bowing. "But I've been friends with Ino for eight years, and after a while... it just makes more sense to assume that everyone's in disguise."

    "Well it's nice to know she doesn't own the only brain on your team," Anko says dryly, tucking her mission scroll and ID back into her pockets. "After that totally transparent helpless-princess act back there I wondered."

    Ami sets her jaw defiantly. "Transparent to a jounin, sure. But I wasn't facing a jounin. If it works, it isn't transparent."

    Your eyes bug.

    ... did someone forget to mark Good Girls Find Their Backbone Day on my calendar or something? What's next, is Hinata going to introduce Lee-sempai to her father?

    Anko snorts. "More tough talk. Don't tell me you haven't got anything else to offer." She holds out her hand for the hairclippings, which you give back. It's just good manners, after all.

    "So if you aren't some other contestant in disguise fishing for intel on us, why are you asking about what we can do?" Kiba asks, frowning. "It should all be in our files, right?"

    "Oh, paperwork tells such an impersonal story," Anko says airily. "I prefer the hands-on touch you only get from goading people into taking a swing atcha."

    "What a coincidence!" you say cheerfully, pirouetting behind her. "So do I."

    *vwoop!*

    *taptaptaptaptap*

    The hairpins holding Anko's updo in place fall to the floor with a clatter. Her dark hair tumbles loose down her back.

    "Ah, I thought so!" You complete your turn, in front of her once again, and gesticulate in what you believe to be a suave and romantic manner. "You look even more radiant with it down."

    Anko appears to be in shock. This is handy, as you aren't sure you can survive a snakebite even with all the medicines Kiba's carrying, whereas you're confident that if Ami hasn't killed you yet, she's not likely to now.

    "Are! you! com! plete! ly! in! sane!" she hollers in your face, shaking you backwards and forwards on each syllable. "I'm sorry, Anko-san, I promise she isn't insubordinate; she's just an idiot."

    "... heh."

    Oooooooh, that's a dark sound.

    "Maybe you aren't a complete waste after all," Anko says, with a smirk that is half a glare. She turns and walks down the hall. "Keep the room. And while you're here, don't get your blood on my nice clean tower; the colour will be richer if you fall in the arena."

    "... tsundere are so magical," you say, starry-eyed.

    "Ugh, will you make up your mind already?" Ami says, shaking her head. "Boys or girls, whatever, just pick a side and stick with it."

    "Impossible!" you declare jubilantly, snapping open your fan dramatically. "I must have them both!"

    "... what the fuck is a tsundere?" Kiba asks.

    =

    In light of the intel Anko (and that one loose-lipped chuunin) have handed you, how will you help your fellow Konoha-nin prepare for the finals?*

    [X] Write-in. You'll likely only be able to significantly help two people, but your overall rep and capacity to work with your comrades as a whole will go up if you help more than two. The Hina-Shika-Cho are downstairs by the kitchen, and Team Office Lady will be here tomorrow morning, giving them four days to prepare. The Mist Pretty Boys will be here tomorrow afternoon, and Gaara and co. should be here in about five hours.

    Ha, I had a French Immersion moment writing this; for a second I almost thought fixant was an English word. :D

    * Remember that at present Ino has no way of knowing how many people are going to get through the forest, so she doesn't yet know there'll be a preliminary bout.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  16. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Seen a lot of things in this ol' world

    As far as you can figure it, your big disadvantage - which you're sure the Kiri-nin will notice even if Temari doesn't - is your chakra deficiency.

    It's a minor medical conundrum that no one's really been able to work out; you have stamina way beyond anyone you know short of Chouji's dad, and even entering puberty and sleeping for longer hours (mostly in the morning, to your mother and Ami's mutual chagrin), you aren't terribly clumsy or easily fatigued... and yet, you have no more chakra than a normal genin without your stamina. You're like a house without insulation; you only retain the excess chakra you produce half or a quarter as efficiently as a normal person.

    Dad has head-guy-related theories that you've been given natural limits so that you don't get too strong too quickly and accidentally blow yourself up, but the fact is particularly large chakra reserves weren't in the cards even for a normal Yamanaka. Dad certainly doesn't have them.

    The only reason it's noteworthy in your case is that you have an elemental kekkei genkai. Normally that by itself would make you a ninjutsu-focused fighter; there are ninja parents who would sacrifice an eye to get their children a force-multiplier like that. It's arguably only because you're a Yamanaka - and the heiress at that - that you've been permitted to pursue your more subtle interests this long.

    If you could find a way to get some 'insulation', you could have jounin-tier Ranton ninjutsu within three years at the outside. You may like infiltration better, but raw combat ability like that is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

    In the meantime, you have a summoning contract that you need a serious boost to make the best use of.

    One thing's for sure, you aren't working for it. Just the time you and Lee spent training up each other's speed this month has taught you that much; hard work sucks. You need a shortcut, and you need it now.

    The library in the tower doesn't have any books on biological seals for use on living beings, and most of the books you find there tend to imply the practice is semi-illegal (in that 'if you get caught before you make it work in a non-fatal way we will fuck your shit up' kind of way) for anyone under the rank of jounin. Well, no matter; that's unexplored territory for you for now, there's no way you'd be able to rig something up in the next four days without examining Anko, and to be honest, the day you'd rather examine a curse mark on a gorgeous young woman than her other qualities is the day you lie down and die.

    Luckily, there are a few books on regular storage seals and the ways they can be adapted to hold elemental chakra. Seems the usual way is to draw up the seal and then fire a jutsu into it, to be released at some later date. Either that or just fill the seal with a huge amount of generic elemental chakra and release it as 'fuck everyone in general' bomb. That method has its charms, no question, but that kind of attack is just begging for your opponent to turn it back on you.

    On the subject of raw chakra storage, the books are strangely silent. Which you choose to take as a good sign; if it were expressly forbidden it would at least be mentioned. And it can't be that it's so high-tier that it's entered the realm of genuinely secret stuff - you've only been thinking about this for a couple weeks and you've already thought of a couple of methods to try that won't hurt anyone. Probably.

    Some of the stuff said about people who make seals expressly to reflect enemies' jutsu onto the caster gives you the idea that the simplest way to store your chakra for later moulding and use would be to have Shikamaru draw up the seal; if you make a standard seal yourself it'll just interpret you depositing your chakra as you telling it to dump its nonexistent contents.

    Voluntelling Shikamaru to do the actual seal-work also frees up some more time to help the others and work on your other preparations. Of course, that does mean you're dependent on the single laziest person you know; he'll probably make two and then call you greedy for asking for more. Granted, those two will probably also be of really good quality, meaning you'll be able to vary the amount of chakra you want to draw out at a time, but if you make the seals yourself by other methods, you're pretty sure you can crank out at least half a dozen of medium-to-good quality, giving you access to more chakra spaced out over time anyway.

    The specific method you have in mind for this is mid-way between the difficult option and the easy route. Basically, you get Menka, Tsumuji-san, Miun and several other cats of a combative cast of mind to mix their chakra with yours so that the seal will accept the energy you want to store, and then later, when you cast Kuchiyose, it'll take less chakra overall to bring them to you, because part of their own chakra will already be onsite and set to help them get to wherever you happen to be. This does have the drawback that you can only use the seal for summoning, but really, it's not like you're going to learn a Water or Wind technique in the next three days; that's ridiculous.

    Finally, the difficult-and-impressive option is to design your own seal, one that'll only accept your Chakra Conduit Technique as the signal to loose the goods. You'll probably only have one scroll in the end, what with how long it's likely to take you to get the coding right, but when you're finished you'll have a source of fuel, stored in a good-quality seal like the ones Shika-chan would have made, that no one can steal. The thought definitely appeals to the miser in you. Plus you know you're not likely to make the best showing in the outright fisticuffs department, so any extra nods you can pick up will be worth their weight in gold.

    Which option do you go with?

    [X] Go bug Shika-chan to make you some seals. Bribe him with intel, threaten to sic his mom on him, but get those scrolls.

    [X] Hey, Miun-chan, can I ask you a favour?

    [X] Her mind is made out of keys...

    =

    [X] I spend all my time chasin' you around

    If little miss Oto really is some kind of genjutsu phenom, a tune-up for the Throne is definitely in order.

    You've thought about mental security before, obviously, but it's kind of a leap from a few hundred Sasukes poised to go sickhouse on some dudes to an actual hunter-nin construct.

    Initially you went for a traditional hunter-nin look; mask, body armour, the usual. But there was something about it that creeped you out too much. Maybe it's just you're not used to the featurelessness of the faceguard - Konoha doesn't have a hunter-nin corps of its own, so it's not out of the question that you subconsciously associate swirly masks with 'the enemy'.

    Or maybe it's just too close to an ANBU captain's uniform for you to be comfortable with it.

    Whatever the reason, you scrap the concept pretty quick.

    So, barefaced, then. Hm. Actually, now that you think of it, maybe 'nonthreatening' is the way to go here. Silly, even. The false-Sasukes are pretty gloomy company, all things considered. They may have more personality now that you've gone back and edited them, but they're still the result of your work as an immature Throne user, and it makes conversation pointless, if not depressing. You can still see the seams; you can tell which parts were the original construct and which parts were added later.

    You want something a little... fancier, this time. Something that was made correctly from the start. A construct you could actually talk to.

    Someone who's competent enough, but who's good for a laugh.

    Grinning, you add eyelashes like Lee's to the face.

    Yeah, like Lee. Someone who doesn't give up.

    =

    "Hey, Ami? If I go rogue-"

    "Sasuke-kun and I will retrieve you before we notify the Hokage, don't worry."

    o_O "... why do you have a plan for if I become a nuke-nin?"

    "I don't. I have a general-purpose Ino Has A Terrible Idea She Thinks Is Brilliant plan. Why, what was your question?"

    "... never mind." ^_^;

    =

    Someone who knows you well. And trusts you anyway, against their better judgement.

    =

    Neji's expression doesn't vary much (not that you're complaining; there isn't enough frown in the world to ruin that face, meow), but this particular shade of 'why are you talking to me' is a new one.

    "'If you became Hokage'? Is that your ambition, then?"

    "Pfft, hell no!" You lean against the wall of the gym. "It's just a hypothetical. What would you do? How would you react if after the chuunin exams it turned out I performed so well that Sandaime-sama went into semi-retirement and designated me his heir?"

    "I would endeavour to determine if he and his advisers had been placed under a genjutsu."

    You blink, and smile. "Really? You think that much of my skill, that I could take out the Professor?"

    His eyes widen, and he lets out the small grunt of someone who's just given an accidental compliment. Heh. He's cute when he's startled.

    "Say rather that I think that little of your scruples." He coughs. "If I've answered your question to your satisfaction, please leave me to my exercises."

    =

    But never quite admits it.

    =

    "No," Tenten says flatly, "I will not help you with your exam preparations. If you weren't ready to compete you shouldn't have entered."

    "Mou, but sempai-"

    "And another thing," she says, poking a kunai in your face, "I'm not your damn sempai. We were in the same taijutsu class at the Academy for one year, that's all. Neji and Lee might have to put up with you but not me, got that?"

    "This really is my day for beautiful women threatening me, I guess," you comment with a nervous giggle. "No problem. I'll come back when you're not busy."

    "I'll stop being busy," Tenten shouts, flinging the kunai at you just as you manage to close the door, "when I'm dead!"

    =

    And who might actually hate you a little bit. ^_^; Keeps ya honest, y'know?

    "MATTE, INO!"

    Now you just need someone for him to chase so he isn't always after you.

    =

    [X] But even still I can't say much, because I know we're all the same; oh yes, we all seek out to satisfy those thrills

    His voice is right in your ear.

    "Evenin’, cutie."

    "WAH!"

    “Wah!”

    He hops out of the way of your fan with a noise of surprise that mirrors your own. "Oi oi oi, I surrender! It's just me."

    “Wh-what the hell is that supposed to mean, ‘just you’?” you ask, flailing your tessen at him in disbelief. “How do you even have a concept of ‘you’? The Sasukes don’t know that they’re Sasuke and even the old fella doesn't have real self-awareness yet, so what the hell are you?!”

    ... okay, you have to admit, it’s harder to be frightened of him when he pouts. “Aw, don’t be so cold, Ino-chan. Isn’t this what you were trying to do anyway?”

    You don’t let your guard down (in fact you kai twice, just to be sure), but you do take a moment to calm your nerves and centre yourself a bit. You’re the Queen that sits on the Throne at the Heart of the Mountain, ruler of the World Inside the Gourd.

    “... well, yeah, I guess,” you say finally, still perplexed, “but I only started a day ago! How are you already...?”

    He grins. “Maa, sorry about that; I got impatient. Once you got going on this little project I just knew I had to move house, so to speak.” He stretches. “You had a good start, but you were takin’ too long, so I filled in the details myself.”

    “‘Move house’? Wait a second, if you’re really..." You aren't going to say the name; you aren't going to hope that much. "Then you came here from where? The past? Another world? Which is it?”

    “Nah, nowhere that far away; just down the block," he says cheerfully, taking a seat on your windowsill. "I would've been here sooner, but you really took your sweet time taking full advantage of this RPG Maker setup you've got here."

    "Down the block?"

    "Metal Gear?"

    "Ninja Info Cards?" you ask before you can stop yourself. You pull back, blinking as the man in the red jacket starts to laugh. "Okay, seriously, why does that always happen? Why do I know what a Metal Gear is, why do I know what Ninja Info Cards are, and what the hell are you doing in my head?!"

    "I live here," he says, shrugging. "Call it a shark-jumping moment for this whole memory palace deal if you want, but despite appearances, I'm you and you're me."

    You...

    He's...




    "... bullshit," you say flatly. "There is no way I'm secretly a hairy middle-aged guy who always needs Goemon-san to rescue him."

    "Urk-! M-middle-aged?!" He jumps to his feet and his hands ball into fists at his side. "I'm eternally young, I'll have you know! You're not in any position to be taking potshots at people's age, you brat!"

    "I notice you don't argue about the hairiness," you snicker.

    He smirks. "Pardon me for bein' a grown man! I guess I shouldn't expect some flatchested midget chasin' prissy bishounen to understand the appeal of maturity."

    "I'm not a midget! Just 'cause I'm not all gangly like Ami..."

    "I notice you don't argue about the flatchestedness," he echoes you with a catty sidelong glance.

    Something inside you flickers.

    "... I need to stop doing this to myself," you say under your breath, and turn to go.

    "Oh?" he asks. "Still not convinced, then? All right. How about some proof?"

    You look back to ask what he's doing, but he's gone.

    =

    You wake up in the bathroom, leaning against the wall, and for a moment you don't know what the hell is going on.

    I've never sleep-walked before...

    Cracking your neck, you go over to the sink to splash some water on your face.

    It's only when you see the pink smudges coming off on your hands that you look in the mirror.

    A curly moustache, a cartoon tongue, and little horns, all done in dark pink.

    Your eyes are wide.

    ... Lupin?

    How's Annie? he asks impishly.

    Tears roll hot and heavy down your face.

    Constructs are a fraction of the mind, you recall Dad dad's introductory lecture when you first showed him the prototype inner-Sasuke. They cannot simulate a whole mind and direct the body.

    Which means...

    You wrap your arms around yourself and sink to the floor.

    Welcome home, kid.

    "Heh. I guess I am, aren't I?"

    "Ino, have you seen my lipstick?" Ami asks from out in the room. "It's a little black cylinder about two and a half inches long, with the Hatsumomo logo on the side and Strawberry Pie written on one end?"

    ... did you think to grab the makeup remover before you locked us in here?

    You can always blame it on your imaginary friend.

    Fuck you.

    You really think this is the right time to rub one out?

    "Ino?" Ami knocks on the door. "You okay in there?"

    "I'm fine," you say, "just trying to drown myself in the toilet is all..."

    [X] Got any questions for the guy?
     
  17. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] All his life has been one roller-coaster ride of dreams

    Ne, Lupin, you think, frowning with the strain of moulding the extracted chakra. It's simultaneously more tangible coming out of the seal and harder to keep a grip on to work with; if you weren't a sensor and someone with excellent chakra control you're pretty sure you'd be stuck here empty-handed while your energy just drifts away and evaporates. Or blows something up.

    Mm?

    You form the handseals, and six bunshin pop into being around you. Hm. You were trying for eight. What happened to you, and the others? Did you really stay together all those years?

    You don't remember the times we'd split up?

    No, I mean... in the end.

    We lived happily ever after.

    I'm thirteen, not three. -__- Eight pops, but only seven bunshin. Damn.

    Serves you right, askin' such a gloomy question. It should be obvious what happened at the end.

    Well, yeah, but before that. You have the full set of memories and I only have a few; I still know so little about them, compared to you.

    ... maybe that's for the best, y'know? No sense missing what you can't have.

    Eight fully-functional bunshin. You smile. Look, you don't have to be embarrassed - you keep saying I'm you. Well if I'm you I have the right to know some stuff. And I want to know what happened to our friends. You add an extra sigil to the array at three points to make a shortcut.

    Well, join the club, we've got jackets.

    You pause, concerned. You've never heard him sound so bitter. ... does that mean...?

    The last thing I remember is shoving Fujiko out of the way of some old man's dematerialization ray. Next thing I know I wake up in a baby's body.

    You sigh. Thank heaven for that. I was worried you were gonna say they were all murdered or something.

    How do we know they weren't five minutes after I died?

    You flinch. Lupin...

    And now I can't even look it up because either none of the books from the 20th century survived whatever catastrophe you poor bastards went through that brought you to this state, or I'm not even in the same world as before!

    Tears well up in your left eye and only your left eye. Your lips shake.

    Damn it.... I should have been there. I should have had more time. I was such an idiot, I thought we were all gonna live forever. I should have been there to-

    You get to your feet and drop into bed, burying your face in your pillow.

    You're right, you think, we should have had more time. All the time in the world wouldn't have been enough with those guys, and the fact that they got taken away means that if we ever get back where we came from, heads are gonna fucking roll. You sniffle, and wipe your eyes. But hey. We saved Fujiko. That oughta mean something.

    You... think he might be calming down now.

    ... you're a good kid, Ino.

    Ya done makin' half my face cry, then? you ask, patting yourself on the cheek for lack of anything better to do.

    Yeah... sorry I scared ya. I just... hadn't had the chance to say that yet.

    Geez, yeah, you think, thirteen years is a long time to be carryin' that around. I'm surprised you didn't go nuts.

    He laughs under what would be his breath. I'm still not completely sure I didn't. I'm not an expert, but I doubt reincarnation is supposed to work like this.

    You shrug. Probably has somethin' to do with bein' a Yamanaka.

    Maa, ne. You get the distinct impression of a leer. I guess there are worse afterlives than being inside a cute blonde all day long.

    Wow. Ami's right, I am revolting.

    =

    "Basically you've brought us all together to brag about how good you are at taking rumours seriously," Tenten says with a snort.

    "Don't talk like that to someone who's trying to help you," Sagiso scolds from the bed. They've let her out of the infirmary, but it doesn't look like she'll be moving on to the finals; that cast on her leg has to stay on for another three weeks at least.

    "Well how do we know she isn't going to feed us a load of nothing to sabotage us?" the bun-headed girl interrupts. "She's at a disadvantage against half the people in this room in a straight-up fight; it's in her interests to knock some of us out of the competition."

    "If you don't find Ino-chan trustworthy," Hinata says, simmering a tad below the calm surface, "then you are not obligated to share what you know. She invited us to this meeting as a courtesy; she would have been well within her rights to keep the information she's gathered for herself and her teammates."

    "At least put the damn cigarette out," Tenten grumbles, settling down.

    "Seconded," Ami says, wrinkling her nose.

    "It truly is terrible for your lungs, Ino-chan," Lee says worriedly.

    Kiba doesn't have to say anything, he's been sitting under the open window since you first lit up.

    "It helps me concentrate!" you protest.

    They're not wrong, y'know.

    I don't need to hear that from you!

    "Fiii~ine," you whine, stubbing it out in the ashtray.

    The office ladies are collectively shocked to hear that the little redhaired boy is one of the most dangerous people in the exam; Sayuri looks particularly troubled. Team Gai and the Hina-Shika-Cho are unfazed, no surprises there, but Neji's eyes widen when you mention Houzuki Suigetsu's name.

    "That person..." he says, "... he's an apprentice of Zabuza."

    "What? You're positive?" you ask, reaching into your bags for your Bingo book. The old one Menka gave you fell apart ages agp; this is a fresh one Dad bought you for your birthday last month.

    "There's no mistake," Neji says. "Gai-sensei had a solo mission in Water three months ago and encountered the pair of them."

    You swear. "Well, better we know now than later."

    "Um, who is Zabuza?" Sakura asks timidly.

    "He's one of the Seven Swordsmen of Mist," you explain. "It's difficult to say how many of the stories about him are true, but one thing that is certain, you don't want to be on the receiving end of the Kubikiribocho. It's a six-foot-long butcher knife, and he swings it like it's made of papier mâché. Hell," you add, a thought striking you, "of course a kenjutsu prodigy with a hydrafication bloodline would get put under Zabuza; anyone who's going to inherit the Kubikiribocho needs to be crazy-strong."

    "... s-so what can we do to beat him?" Sakura asks.

    "Nothing," Neji says flatly. "If any of you find yourselves opposite him in the arena, you should forfeit immediately."

    "What on earth is that supposed to mean?" Ami scowls. "Even if my Katon jutsu won't work, I still-"

    "Is becoming a chuunin worth your life?" Neji demands. "Don't tempt fate."

    "Which one of them is Suigetsu?" you ask. "I didn't hear anything out of the ordinary from the three of them, aside from their strength. Do kekkei genkai show up on the Byakugan?"

    "If it is indeed Suigetsu, he's the dark-haired one dressed as a girl."

    "That's a guy?!" you and Kiba ask in unison.

    "You couldn't tell?" Ami shakes her head in disappointment. "Even I could tell that turtleneck was hiding an Adam's apple."

    "I couldn't smell anything but the damn water!" Kiba says, looking slightly disturbed.

    "I just never bothered to learn how to sense sexes," you say sheepishly. "Is it really that important?"

    What're you talking about? Of course it's important! If it's a guy we can really let loose.

    And we can't if it's a chick?

    Call me old-fashioned; I don't much like hurting women.

    The bedroom's an exception, apparently...

    Oi! Stay out of those memories, those're for grownups!

    "Anyone have anything on the Sound kids besides the little girl?" Kiba asks, obviously trying to change the subject.

    "The older girl uses a lot of Earth techniques and exploding tags, supposedly," Shikamaru says. "But if you're asking where the hell Sound came from and who those guys really are, all I have are my own theories based on what little I do know."

    "Well, fess up!" you say eagerly, leaning forward. Can't get the intel from Chouji in a room full of outsiders, natch. "Whacha got?"

    "The first possibility is that missing-nin and other refugees of various villages have banded together under one S-rank nuke-nin," he begins. "The second is that one of the preexisting villages, possibly Iwa or Kumo, are using Oto as a front for operations they can't openly perform themselves and are now joining the Konoha-Suna-Kusa chuunin exams to further those ambitions and gain legitimacy. And the third is that they're a bunch of nobodies with a good hype machine at their disposal."

    That sound about right to you? you ask.

    As expected of Shika-chan; too clever by half, and too cautious to mention the last possibility.

    What's that?

    That Otogakure is a front for Konoha, not one of its enemies.

    What? No way. What would we want with something like that?

    Well, you have to admit it's a little strange the Hokage'd let ninja from a village no one seems to know anything about into Konoha - Whispering Mist is one thing, but no info at all, from the Akimichi spy ring? Someone's helping them keep themselves under wraps, I guarantee it.

    Well it can't be us, you've seen what we're like. Even our enemies call us soft!

    ... well, keep it in mind, anyway.

    The roundtable goes on. No one reports knowing anything about that Shigure guy you thought might show up, but given Gaara strolled into the tower twirling a bloodstained umbrella, you're guessing the point is moot. One less nasty opponent to worry about, you suppose.

    Sayuri and Sakura are both set as far as defending against genjutsu goes; illusions are Sagiso's speciality, so they learned chakra suppression from her in the leadup to the exams. You suggest to Kiba that maybe he might be able to help them out with their taijutsu, seeing as Sayuri's build is similar to a lot of his female relatives and he might have some pointers. He isn't too fussed about the idea, but Akamaru seems to take a shine to Sakura and wheedles him into saying yes.

    Chouji and Hinata are already sparring every day in preparation for the finals, but you have an idea or two that might improve their chances if they get matched up against one of the heavy hitters.

    [X] Write in. Bear in mind the kind of opponents I'm throwing at you here.
     
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  18. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] It's that girl, she's tinsel on a tree~

    "Are you sure you want to do this?" you ask, rolling up the one-use Chouji-summoning scroll for later. "I only mentioned it 'cause I couldn't think of anything else that'd give you a boost quick enough."

    "I can't just make Hinata do it alone," he says, crosslegged on the floor, counting his kunai for about the fifth time in the past twenty minutes.

    "... but you're both gonna be alone anyway once you get where you're going," you point out, eyebrow raised. "Besides, it's Hinata; she'll be fine. She's always been strong."

    Chouji shakes his head. "Ino... Hinata's not like you, you know?"

    You frown. "What's that supposed to mean?"

    "The way she acts when she's around people, that isn't how she is all the time," he says. "When she's just with us, she's... she talks less. She gets really worried about how what she does or says might make us feel, and on missions she never wants Shikamaru or I to do anything dangerous. She's a really gentle person."

    "Well, yeah," you say, deciding to ignore the accidental insults for now. "You think a gentle person can't be strong?"

    Chouji huffs. "She says the reason she's always taking risks on missions and leading from the front is because you asked her to look after us. She said she didn't want to let you down. She wouldn't do all that stuff if you hadn't asked, just like I bet she wouldn't have said yes to this summoning thing if you hadn't been the one to suggest it."

    You blink.

    "But that doesn't matter," Chouji declares, tucking his weapons away again, "because even if Hinata doesn't know it, I know. She's not a loser or a coward like she thinks; to do what I've seen her do takes bravery. A lot of it. Where it came from isn't important." He stares at the floor. "So... it shouldn't hurt to borrow a little of her courage, if she's already borrowing yours, right?"

    Where the hell are your friends' parents? Lupin asks flatly. Chouji isn't even old enough to shave yet, he shouldn't have to worry about this kind of thing. And Hinata-chan! Who lets a sweet little girl like that go around thinking she's a loser?

    Before you can reply, to either of them, Hinata comes back from the bathroom.

    "Is everything arranged?" she asks.

    "Yep!" you chirp. "If you're ready, we can get you guys on your way right now."

    She smiles, and goes to kneel beside Chouji.

    "Remember to set your watches so the alarm goes off five minutes before the 24-hour mark," you warn. "We don't want you losing track of time."

    "Got it," Chouji says with a nod.

    "Good luck to both of you," you say, and you mean it. "Be yourselves - that's what this whole thing is about, after all, so it'll probably help."

    "See you in a day," Hinata says, and gives you one of Shika's and your half-waves. You grin and return it.

    Two voices cry "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" and the pair of them are gone.

    "... so what do we tell the proctors if they check to make sure no one left the tower?" Menka asks.

    "Vision quest! Y'know, like in Ninja Princess Kurogiku when Shinpei was in Crane Country to assassinate the ambassador and Kaede had to keep their house sealed off so no one would know he wasn't home."

    Menka brightens up with a twitch of his tail. "That was a great arc! Man, she does so much for him. I wish he'd stop chasing Kurogiku and realize what's right in front of him."

    Oh, please! What do cats know about romance? Kaede/Kurogiku is the only pairing that makes any sense!

    No dice. Mikage-sensei hates girls'-love; it's never going to happen.

    Screw canon! Back in my day we shipped Lt Emma/Kamille and that's how we liked it!

    =

    If you were paranoid, you would think Hinata timed her walk into the kitchen the next morning to perfectly coincide with you taking a drink of milk.

    "Wh- how did-?"

    Her grin is brighter than you've ever seen it, and her cheeks are glowing rose. "Mushi-san was kind enough to drop me and Mokona-sama off. Ah!" She holds out the cushion in her arms, which turns out to be alive. "Mokona-sama, this is Ino-chan, my friend I was telling you about!"

    [​IMG]

    "Puu~!" the creature says perkily.

    ... dear god it's cute!

    Almost sickeningly so. Er, let the voice of experience guide you on this, don't laugh at it. It'll probably suck you into that gem on its forehead or something if you do.

    "Pleased t'meetcha," you say, shaking one of its paws with your fingertips. You glance up at Hinata. "So I guess it went well?"

    "Bunnies," she says simply, still beaming. "Bunnies everywhere. I can't wait to tell Hanabi. Between this and the special exploding tags you made me I think I might have a real chance."

    "Rabbits? Hm." Thinking about it, it certainly fits her temperament. "That ought to sort out your speed problem. What kind of stuff can Rabbit summons do, uh, Mokona... -san?"

    "Puupupu pyuu bunyu!"

    "You'll see in the finals, I expect," Hinata says. "Um, I kind of want it to be a surprise."

    You grin. "Heh. Fair enough."

    ... wait, bunnies? 'Mushi-san'? Ohohohohoho, ask her. Ask her! ;D

    ... no fucking way.

    Ask her!

    "And... this Mushi-san who dropped you off?" you ask weakly. "Is there a rabbit with space-time jutsu or something?"

    "... I suppose it must have been, now that you mention it," she says, sounding like the thought genuinely hadn't crossed her mind til then. "A friendly person, but he isn't on the contract; he said he prefers not to be tied down. He only brought us this far because it was on his way to another place." She looks a bit anxious. "Although on reflection I think he might have been mistaken. Oh, dear, I hope he isn't lost - none of the place-names he mentioned were familiar. Do you know of a town called Albuquerque, Ino-chan?"

    ...

    .....

    ... Hinata is officially the scariest person I know.

    You have a really funny way of pronouncing 'coolest', you know that?
     
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  19. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Remember, you're the one who can fill the world with sunshine

    Some consequences can be planned for. Others can escape one's sight entirely until it's too late.

    Akimichi Chouji is not visibly winded, injured or even particularly dirty. He is, however, noticeably exhausted; he appears to be having difficulty staying on his feet.

    "Like I keep telling you," the boy says in exhasperation, "my team isn't with me because we already came through here three days ago! You took our scrolls, remember?"

    "If that's true, what were you doing back out in the Forest?" one of the proctors demands.

    Chouji turns red. "I already said! I went for a walk!"

    You consider this as you pass by at the back of the crowd. True, your intelligence on the Akimichi heir suggests he's gotten to this point in the exams only by virtue of his friendship with her, but neither she nor the boy's teammates are anywhere in sight. This requires further thought and investigation.

    It is only hours later, when the hall has cleared and Akimichi Chouji is in bed along with most of the rest of the tower, that you return, and scour the area.

    At first nothing appears to be out of place, and you worry someone will come by and ask what you're doing before you've found what you're looking for. But then, by the door, you see it.

    A single strand of horsehair. Rust-coloured, and long.

    You frown.

    Assessment revised.

    You pick up the hair with a set of tweezers and seal it in a small bag, then head back to your room to share your discovery with your teammates.

    You are an instrument of Kirigakure's will, Zabuza-sama's right hand, and a loyal friend to Taketori-chan and Suigetsu-kun. You will not permit Konoha to get the drop on any of them.

    Though you have to admit, you're really glad it isn't your turn to practice crossplaying. This village does have a reputation, after all.

    =

    The Hokage himself shows up to wish you all luck and give a lecture on the true nature of the chuunin exams.

    It's kind of elegant, isn't it? Limiting the bloodshed to volunteers in a sporting event.

    ... sure. Let's go with 'elegant'.

    You pout in your head. You fought people to the death when you were a teenager too.

    That's different! I was a marked man after Grandpère died.

    Yeah, 'cause no one wants to kill the future leader of the mind-reading clan before she grows up to jack all their stuff. C'mon, you know people are always gonna be after us. You grin. And we're gonna be ready for 'em. Today and tomorrow and the next day.

    Lupin is about to reply when the first match comes up on the computer:

    Akimichi Chouji vs. Kaguya Taketori

    The words are barely out of Hayate's mouth before the bad boy blond raises a hand and says, "I concede."

    There is a collective "EHH?!"

    Chouji looks like someone just pantsed him on his birthday. The Kiri-nin (and if their sensei over there isn't Zabuza himself you'll eat Menka) are the only ones unmoved by their teammate's withdrawal.

    "... I... guess they heard about your little constitutional?" you ask, still reeling.

    "I- I guess," Chouji stammers.

    Think they want to get more data on him in the lag between the prelims and the finals, see what they might have to lose by fighting him?

    No question. We ought to stick Indara on him to distract any foreign tails, if we can.

    "Next match," comes the announcement, "Yamanaka Ino vs Tenten."

    [X] Go on the offensive the second the proctor says the word.

    [X] Play defence and stay well back and away.

    [X] Straight-up Throne her so you don't have to hurt her or get hurt.
     
  20. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Say it's me that you want to dismember

    You consider bringing Menka with you to aid in your initial strategy, but decide against it. At the moment the Mist boys only have enough data to suspect he's a summon creature; use him for something like this and you'll confirm their suspicions. You hand him over to Ami instead. "Wish me luck."

    "Don't play around," Ami warns. "If half the bruises you ended up getting last month were from training with Nori-sempai, I don't want you teasing the girl who goes up against him every day."

    "Both of you, do your best!" Lee calls energetically as you and Tenten hop the railing and shunshin down.

    "This is perfect," Tenten says, a satisfied smile on her face. "I didn't think I'd get the chance to face you again so soon. It's a shame there isn't a bigger audience, but it's no big deal. Either way-" she points at you dramatically. "Prepare yourself, Yamanaka Ino! This day I won't lose!"

    "UOOH! VERY NICELY SAID, TENTEN-CHAN!"

    "So, he's infected both of them."

    "Oh~?" You grin. "I admire your spirit. C'mon, then; let's see you prove it."

    "Begin!"

    *vwoopvwoopvwooptocktocktock!*

    -BOOM!-

    Your throwing skills are still only lukewarm, but smoke bombs just need to land vaguely close to their target.

    Bunshin no Jutsu!

    Two dozen Inos, including you, leap through the smoke to surround Tenten and start dancing around her, only to get dispersed like a mirage by a swing of a chain she pulls out of her sleeve. Having long since moved around behind her, you jump it like a skipping rope, and toss off a False Surroundings of you getting knocked away in front of her. Eagerly she moves in, leaving her back completely open. You rush forward quietly to grab what you came for; her storage scrolls of weapons-

    A long strand of ninja wire wraps itself around your wrists.

    "I gotcha, ya little bastard," Tenten growls, turning around and holding up the other end in her left hand, "let's see you try to hop around now."

    [X] Headbutt her.

    [X] Move closer to slacken the line a bit and wriggle out.

    [X] Your hands are at the right height to Shintenshin her. Worth a shot; it only has to be for a second or two to let you untie yourself with your enemy's hands.

    [X] Ha! Your fingers are free to make handsigns!
    -> [X] Hell Viewing
    -> [X] Heaven Viewing
    -> [X] Shisetsu Josuichi/Private Reservoir/Water Purification on her mouth as she speaks; some of her saliva should change in chemistry to be more like water and her mouth'll dry out, making her cough and maybe let go of the wire.
    -> [X] Chakra Conduit Technique to the head? You don't know what it'll do, exactly, but you do know it'll probably hurt.

    [X] Kiss her, you fool, there will never be a better opportunity!
     
  21. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] *chuu~!*

    Her lips are certainly an inviting target, but you think it's a little early in the fight to be that blatant. Ladies take time to warm up, after all.

    "Hey, you've got a stray eyelash on your cheek," you remark mildly, and plant a kiss right under her eye.

    Her eyes go wide, her cheeks go pink, and her grip on the wire slackens as she turns to paste you one. But you're already leaping away, the wire now up your sleeve, along with the weapons scrolls.

    "You...!" she grinds out from between her teeth. She launches into the handseals that produce

    Doton: Moguragakure no Jutsu: Hiding Like A Mole Technique!

    And suddenly she's gone, under the floor.

    [X] Toss an array of minor exploding tags all around you, jump for the ceiling, and detonate them.

    [X] Hop up onto the handseal statue against the far wall and suppress your chakra. She's got to come back up sometime.

    [X] Write in?
     
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  22. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] The Cosmos Blooms

    You have an amazing idea.

    Well, what are we waiting for? It's showtime.

    Dashing backward, preceding Tenten's crawlspace rush, fingers scraping the ground before you, working in tandem, you etch the first line into the ground in hasty but legible calligraphy.

    Hanano ame

    You leap to the ceiling.

    -BOOM-

    The dust and shrapnel rises in curls just to the feet of the observers on the catwalks. Sayuri and Sakura skitter back a step, but the field shinobi recognize that the force of the explosion isn't sufficient to do them any harm.

    Tenten is tossed up to you like a ragdoll, a small squawk escaping her, but you're done the next line before she's even halfway up, and you move on.

    Haretsu issui

    -BOOM-

    Below, you complete the poem, and dance out of the way of the falling ceiling tiles.

    Amenogawa

    The word glows to life.

    "Lee-sempai!" you call cheerfully as Tenten flails, dropping like a wet rock, "catch!"

    -BOOM-

    You hear a voice yell "Woo!", and you aren't sure if it's Gaara or Kiba.

    Tenten goes flying again at just the right angle to pass over the handrail. Lee hops and scoops her out of the air. He frowns at you, but his attention turns back to Tenten when she scrambles unsteadily out of his arms.

    "Tenten, are you-"

    "Ino!" She climbs shakily over the railing and drops back down again, gasping in pain as she lands on what has to be a twisted ankle.

    "Wah! Wait," you say, waving your hands, all pretence of coolness forgotten. How is she still conscious? "You look like you're about to keel over; I don't want to hurt-"

    "Shut. Up." Tenten bends over, wobbling a little. There is a crackling sound, like fat frying, and just like that she's popped her ankle back into place. "It's not for you to decide who gets hurt! I said I would defeat you and that's what I'm going to do!"

    She charges.

    [X] Welp, time to do some hopping. Just like back at the Academy. She has to drop sometime.

    [X] Genjutsu-time!
    -> [X] False Surroundings (what of?), then nick her with a kunai on the back of the neck to both release her from the genjutsu and win the match
    -> [X] Double-False Surroundings (what of?), etc.
    -> [X] Paradise-Viewing, etc.
    -> [X] Hell-Viewing, etc.
    -> [X] Bringer of Darkness, etc.

    [X] You are now watchin' the Throne, don't let me into my zone...
    -> [X] Sasuke?
    -> [X] Lupin?

    [X] Tessen-time!

    [X] Write-in?

    -----

    Rain over a blooming field

    Explosive flood

    The Milky Way
     
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  23. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Cops and Robbers

    That's it. This fight just turned from 'fun' to 'holy shit she legitimately hates me and wanted to get revenge today, what the hell?'

    That's the only way to explain why she didn't just take the loss. It can't be that she thinks she's going to make chuunin pulling shit like this. You knew she didn't have much of a sense of humour where you're concerned, but you figured it was just her finding you annoying. You thought maybe you could immunize her by being even more annoying, but apparently the patient is refusing treatment on that one.

    How can she not like you? You're the only one who made Taijutsu any fun for her!

    You really don't want to hurt a Konoha shinobi, especially not one you rather like, so the obvious solution is a Double-False Surroundings while you circle behind with your tessen. These fights are supposed to simulate actual combat, after all, and that's probably how you would nonlethally take someone down.

    You leap as Tenten charges, throwing out the genjutsu in mid-air and landing silently behind her. The first wave of nausea hits her so hard she drops to her knees and vomits right then and there; the acrid stench fills the room as she pulls herself back to her feet and manages to kai. Spotting the illusory Ino charging toward her, she brings up a kunai to hastily deflect, and begins dancing with a phantom.

    You notice to your dismay that her taijutsu has gotten even better - no surprise there, considering the team she's on - and that those throws she's always favoured have gotten really aggressive. Definitely glad you decided to go for genjutsu, if this is what she can do on a busted ankle.

    There's your opening! Tessen drawn, you run over to her and-

    -clang!-

    The jitte in her other hand meets your fan so quick you almost gasp.

    "My lucky kunai," Tenten says, twirling the one she used on the fake Ino. "It cuts through bullshit. Its core is made of mahogany, so it sounds different from normal throwing knives when it strikes. If it hits something and sounds like it's pure metal, I know I'm in a genjutsu."

    And she launches into a whirling dervish of dual-wielding death. You're on the defensive, now, ducking and deflecting and by all means switching it up to keep from being herded over to that floor-to-ceiling web of sticky wires she somehow had time to set up while she was bouncing around.

    What the hell is she?!

    An actual opponent, that's what! It's about time.

    Got any advice?

    Nope. Figure it out your own damn self. It builds character.

    :mad: If I lack character it's completely your fault!

    And now I'm takin' steps to correct it. Enjoy. 8)

    "Gotta say, this is much more fun than I thought I was going to have," you admit aloud, smiling. "I'm really starting to like you, Tenten."

    "'Fun'?!" You take the opportunity to drop and swing at her legs while she's seemingly off guard, but down comes the jitte to hook your collar and haul you back up. "You're just playing?!" she spits in your face.

    "Well, yeah," you say. "I don't want you to die."

    -kung!-

    =

    You are Arsène Lupin III (cue saxophone solo), and you've decided your little protégée needs to go bye-bye for a minute or two to recover from that nasty knockout blow.

    You retreat, rubbing your aching skull. Examining your fingers, you determine that, while you're bleeding, there's no lasting damage. Ino should be in a state to wake up in the next two minutes. Which is handy, since you're not sure you can maintain control of her body much longer than that.

    Tenten frowns. "How are you still conscious?!"

    "That's my line!" you say. "Those seals back then should have had you out like a light."

    She grins fiercely. "I'd never be able to face my mother and grandfather in the afterlife if I fell to such a weaksauce assault. Especially from someone like you."

    You blink. Well, knowledge is power; let's see what she has to say. "'Like me'?"

    "Parasites," Tenten says vehemently, "people who coast through life like nothing can touch them just because they have enough power to push everyone else around. It isn't right!" Her grip on the jitte tightens so much it trembles in her hand. "I'll bet the only reason you're even still on your feet right now is because of some secret Yamanaka technique!"

    Wow. She really has your number.

    "You really think a room full of assassins is the right place to take a moral stand?" you ask, a bit embarrassed on her behalf. "I mean, props for being a good guy and everything, but the timing is a little..."

    "Funny you should mention timing." She snaps her fingers.

    And four sets of honest-to-god Chubb Custom Long-Range Detainer cuffs punch through the floor tiles to clamp around your wrists and ankles.

    You're so shocked to see them you don't even try to dodge.

    "Did you think you were going to just step over me on the way to the dangerous opponents?" Tenten demands, pulling out two more weapons scrolls from a pouch on her leg. "Well guess what, clan heiress? You're facing one of them right now."

    Laying the scrolls upright, she launches herself into the air. The scrolls follow, twining around her rapidly-spinning form.

    "I won't let you look down on me!" she roars. "I’m not Tenten the Orphan! I’m not ‘just Tenten’ or ‘Uzumaki Tenten’; I have a family! I have a name! I am Zenigata Tenten, and clan techniques or no clan techniques, you are under arrest!”

    Soushouryuu - Twin Rising Dragons!

    [X] Take the loss. Ino's head needs a bit of deflating and Tenten needs some closure.

    [X] Okay, that settles it. No Lupin, not even one that's technically a Yamanaka, is publicly losing to a Zenigata, not even an unprecedentedly pretty one.
    -> [X] Slip the cuffs.
    --> [X] Write in.
     
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  24. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    Furiko's Omake Theatre~!

    Warning: Sappy pointless crap.

    The Tale of the Wandering Investigators

    The lab is collapsing around you, but for some reason your legs won't work. You're stuck there, staring at the spot where he just disappeared.

    Jigen ricochets a bullet into the booth that takes Dr Crab in the eye. Goemon finally finds the weak point of the laser and reduces it to scrap.

    It's only you and Fujiko who've frozen in time.

    "... Lupin..."

    For once, she actually looks her age.

    There's a hand on your arm.

    "Oi, tottsan, we've got to go."

    ... you're not fooled for a minute!

    "Getcher hands offa me, you lug! Where'd Lupin go?"

    Jigen manages to get you in a full nelson and starts hauling you toward the exit. "This whole place is about to go up. We need t-"

    You throw him - though not without a wheeze; you hate getting old. "LUPIN!"

    "Zenigata-no-tottsan!"

    "Didn't you hear what that old buzzard said?" You point at the glowing archway at the back of the mad scientist's office. "The laser uses the same energy as that damned portal! Dematerialized? Bull! Why have a door of the stuff right at your desk if all it does is kill people?" You jump up to the ledge and scramble around to the sidedoor, forcing it open with a kick. "He was gonna use it to escape! To wherever he sent Lupin!"

    "Pops, you can't!"

    You swallow your fear, and, clear-eyed, rush through the portal. "MATTE, LUPIN!"

    You are Zenigata Koichi, and you are in hot pursuit.

    =

    "It's not worthless junk! It's the symbol of an officer of the law!"

    "Then why are you selling it? Take the money and get outta here before I call the watch, ya rummy."

    You are Zenigata Koichi, and you are officially on your last ryo in a country where law-enforcement is handled primarily by magic assassins, snooty court officials, and chop-sockey protagonists.

    Not that different from home, except now you have no job and you're down to your last four bullets. You almost wish you had been disintegrated.

    "Lupin, you monkey-faced bastard... when I find you I'm gonna..."

    Do what, exactly? Breathe on him and expect him to pass out from the fumes?

    You're a joke.

    =

    She is six years old and much thinner than she should be.

    "Don't make a fuss now, missy; we're here to help. We run a rest home for little ladies like you - ya get to wear pretty clothes, learn a trade, and work with lots of important people."

    "Hey, it beats sleeping out here in the open, right? Why, some ruffian could just come along and-"

    "Oof!"

    Your gun has long since run out of bullets, but a jitte never needs reloading.

    "Let the girl go."

    "Fuckin' cocksucker-!"

    Slow. They're both too slow. But then, after all this time, so are you. You come away from the fight the victor, but with a large gash in your arm. Cursing, you take a seat to clean up the wound. Removing your coat, you offer it to the young girl with the wide grey eyes. She takes it, but doesn't put it on. She looks almost as frightened of you as she did of those two little gangbangers - and you can't really blame her; the windows in the high street have shown you what you look like these days. You wouldn't trust you either.

    "... are you a shinobi, mister?" she asks.

    You scoff. "Nope. I'm something better." You try to smile reassuringly. "A policeman."

    She looks confused. "... is that like a spy?"

    "What? No!" You hiss as you dab at the cut with think about how to explain it to her. Saying 'it's like being part of the watch' is not going to be reassuring to anyone who has actually met a member of Tanzaku Gai's watch.

    "... I find bad people so that they can be punished," you finally settle on.

    "Is the pay any good?"

    The question blindsides you completely. "Pay?"

    "I need to get a job so those guys don't come back," the girl says matter-of-factly. "Yaya-nee said if I have a pimp or a connection to one of the families the small fry will leave me alone. I thought I could work at the messenger service with her, but the Kurioka family blew it up last week. So do you have to be an adult to be a policeman?"

    =

    You are Kiki, and you are resolved to be the best damn assistant policeman in the world.

    But that doesn't mean you don't want a bedtime story.

    "Maa, Kiki-chan, I'm not very good at making up stories."

    "Just tell me a true one, then."

    So he does.

    A half-hour ticks by. You're all snuggled down in the ratty blanket, struggling to stay awake. You know you want to hear the end.

    "... but the brave policeman told the princess, 'No. He stole something very special indeed - your heart.'"

    "... 'nd then what happened?" you mumble.

    Heh. He makes silly hand-gestures when he gets into it. "And then the policeman chased off after the naughty thief!"

    "Did he catch him?"

    The old man looks sad. "No. He never did manage it."

    "Poor policeman..." You yawn, and roll over. "'nks for the story, pops."

    =

    You are Zenigata Koichi, and you hate being called a bounty hunter.

    There may not be an INTERPOL outpost anywhere in this miserable world, and you may not have your badge anymore, but it makes no difference. Now more than ever, you need to remember who you are.

    "No, stop, Kiki!" You wrench the sword out of your assistant's hands. "We're bringing him in. That's final."

    "You saw what he did!" she screams.

    "And that's why we have to take him in," you reply sternly. "If we shoot him down like a dog, we won't be anything other than a stronger pack of dogs muscling in. A police officer upholds the law and enforces it, but only the people can decide who lives and who dies."

    "What 'people', Dad?" Kiki demands. "Take a look at the world around you and tell me where these wise, wise people supposedly are."

    You can't forget where you came from. But your daughter can't ignore where you are now.

    Not one of the criminals you capture have seen a dark-haired foreigner in a Water Country-yakuza jacket with an obnoxious giggle doing impossible things.

    Eventually you stop asking. It hurts not to know, but it hurts more to hope.

    =

    It springs from small things.

    "Excuse me, ma'am? You dropped this back there."

    "Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much, young lady."

    "Not at all!"

    It isn't constant; in all honesty, there are times when you just want to shake her. Especially lately - Kiki makes a very flighty teenager, perhaps to make up for her serious-faced childhood.

    "Hey, don't worry about it, Raiko-chan! If he wants to sit and simmer like a big baby because you aren't ready to give it up yet, let him! A woman's gotta have her pride, you know! If he really cares about you he'll understand."

    There were days, early on, when you'd try to leave her behind. You'd meet someone with a good steady business and a friendly family, or that martial artist couple with the dojo, or even that one old woman with a house the size of an airport, who needed some child, any child to inherit her money so it didn't revert to her brother. True, that last one turned out to be some kind of ghost looking for a new body to possess, but on the surface the offer had sounded pretty good.

    "Holy shit, she just took out Pacchi and Kucchi at once! Get her!"

    She always caught up with you. Always said the same thing: "Man, you must be getting old. How could you forget your assistant?"

    There are so many things you know you can't give her.

    "HALT! In the name of the law!"

    So many things you wish you could give her.

    "Aw, Dad. You know you've already given me everything important."

    You are Zenigata Koichi, and you are so proud of her.

    =

    "I don't like him."

    "Well it's a good thing you're not dating him, then." :p

    You never like them. Kiki's boyfriends are all cut from the same cloth; new money, usually friends of whoever's hired you, almost offensively handsome, smooth in their speech, and always dumping her for the next pretty face to come along. A pack of male Mine Fujikos, all of 'em.

    You are Zenigata Koichi, and you'd probably be an overprotective father if your little girl didn't have you wrapped around her finger.

    =

    "She's beautiful," you say, tears welling up.

    "You really think so?" Kiki asks, looking the baby over with a wrinkled nose. "I think she looks sort of like a squashed melon with hair."

    You are Zenigata Koichi, and you are a grandfather.

    =

    It was a cheap funeral. You and your dad were never exactly high-rollers.

    "It's a civilian position, officially, but we always prefer it to go to someone at least competent."

    A desk job is the last thing you want. You remember the times you had to go undercover as an office lady to get the necessary intel and try not to gag.

    "It should provide you with more stability than you've had up 'til now," he continues. "You'd be assured your daughter would be getting the best education possible, as well."

    The man's words are kind, but he couldn't sound more bored by them if he had the hiring script right in front of him.

    "I accept," you say, because with a three-year-old in your arms and empty pockets what else can you say?

    You are Zenigata Kiki, and you are the Konoha Military Police's new civilian mediator.

    =

    You are Zenigata Kiki, and your daughter is very upset.

    "Tenten," you say with a sigh, propping yourself up in your hospital bed, "there's nothing to do about it. We don't have a family registry, so we don't have any legal claim to the name Zenigata."

    "Then can we get a family registry?" she asks. "Please, Mom? It can be my birthday and New Year's present!"

    There haven't been many of those lately. With the dissolution of the Keimu Butai, you've been forced to take a position as a file clerk at the library. It paid less, but with Tenten still on a scholarship it wouldn't have been too bad, until you got sick.

    "It isn't that simple," you say. "Grandpa didn't have any family members except for us, and we aren't even blood-related to him."

    "You always said that didn't matter," your daughter says, wilting visibly.

    "It shouldn't," you say, rolling your eyes. "It didn't before we came to Konoha. But ninja like to keep accurate records, and just going by the records, you and I don't have a last name and that's that."

    She looks completely crushed.

    "Oh, Tenten, the records don't mean anything." You wipe her eyes. "No one calls the Sandaime Hokage by his name, do they? It's always 'the Sandaime' or 'Hokage-sama'. Just because you have to start out with one name, that doesn't mean you can't earn another one."

    "Like you?" she asks.

    "... yeah," you say, a small smile on your face. "At least, I hope I earned it."

    =

    "Yosh! We shall begin with self-introductions! Will it be ladies first, then?"

    "My name is Tenten! I enjoy fortune telling, practising fuuinjutsu, instant ramen with the blue label, and visiting my mother's grave! I dislike instant ramen with the red label, criminals, and people who look down on me. My dream is to make Konoha a safe and happy place for everyone who lives here, to re-establish the Konoha Military Police, and to become worthy of my family name."
     
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  25. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Somebody that I used to know

    Well, you're officially through throwing underhand. A normal teenage girl who bit off more than she can chew is one thing; tottsan's damn granddaughter is quite another.

    You're almost giddy with nostalgia.

    The lady wants to play at the Olympic level? Show her what a gold medallist can do.

    You jump out of your sandals and shimmy both hands out of the cuffs, and dive for the spiralling scrolls on the ground. You aren't as good with practical sealwork as Ino, but for this you don't need to be.

    With a flick of your wrists, the scrolls switch position.

    The spiral disappears. The scrolls tumble to the ground.

    You leap, scoop Tenten into your arms, and land, laying her on the floor with one of her own kunai at her throat.

    Her eyes are huge in shock.

    "Welcome to the big leagues, Zenigata-nee-chan," you say with a grin.

    And they close in shame.

    "Winner, Yamanaka Ino."

    "Hey," you say as the medics come in to look her over, "about the haiku-"

    "What about it, Ms Milky Way?" she says sullenly.

    "Oh, is that how you took it~?" you ask airily, mockery as light as a feather duster. "Nee-chan! I expect more of you! You can't expect to beat me without looking underneath the underneath."

    Despite the circumstances, she looks curious, if in kind of a frowny way. "Underneath what?"

    "How to put it~?" You pause, partly for effect, and partly to think of bullshit. "I guess the main theme is... an explosive meeting, and a change of position."

    "... a change?"

    "Of course!" You're on a roll now. "The simple way to read the poem is that the stars destroy the flowers that're trying to imitate them, but that's amateur hour compared to what it really says." You cough self-importantly and adopt a lecturing pose.

    "Naturally, the poet first emphasizes the fragility of the flowers, their delicacy, and contrasts it with the burning power of the distant stars. However! The thematic associations are wrong for the flowers to represent the opponent and stars to represent the poet. Firstly, do flowers and stars literally encounter one another? An absurd notion! And the two of us! Am I not Yamanaka Ino, of the Yamanaka Flower Shop? And are you not Zenigata Tenten, a heavenly girl with a heavenly name?" You wink.

    "Get to the point," Tenten growls, staring in concern at her ankle as woman in white works on it.

    Good idea. Ino'll have to re-emerge soon.

    "My point is this." You cross your arms, and lean against the wall. "Stars are explosions that give life to flowers, and flowers in turn give that life back, when they die, to continue to fuel the universe. The universe then uses that energy to make new stars." You let a small smile creep across your face, and you close your eyes; gotta play up the mysterious angle. "So, what the poem means by stars and flowers 'meeting', is that in a nebula, a celestial cradle for all life, that which was once a flower achieves its true beauty." Aaaand now for a hit of intensity; eyes open, looking softly into hers. "Nee-chan... no, Tenten. There can be no mistake. Through collision, by countering one another as do the energies of the nebula, we two flowers shall achieve our full bloom in the sky. Forever."

    You could fry an egg on her face.

    God bless you, Carl Sagan.

    "... w-why do you always have to be so damn hip?!" she demands, jabbing a finger at you, still blushing. "It gives me the creeps, the way you smooth-talk everyone!"

    "Maa, perhaps I was mistaken then," you say, strolling over to the staircase. "Get well soon, nee-chan."

    Gained: Eternal Rival: Tenten

    =

    You come to on the way up a staircase, and almost lose your footing as a result. You grip the railing hard.

    What the hell...? Did we win?

    Oh, did we ever. Guess who her grandfather was?

    Before you can reply, you notice the two female Oto-nin waiting for you at the top of the stairs.

    "Incredible!" the kid gushes, hopping up and down. "That was so cool, Konoha-nee-chan! You're almost as badass as Karin-nee!"

    The older girl is in tears as you reach the landing.

    "Ino-sensei," she says passionately, grabbing your hand and holding it in both of yours, "words cannot... you... such a beauteous proposal, so moving...! You must meet Sensei immediately!"

    ... what the fuck did you do?! D :

    Set the world back on its proper course, of course. >:D

    [X] Meet their sensei. It'll just take a sec.

    [X] Uh, with what you know about their sensei? No. How about no? Does no work for them?
     
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  26. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] A familiar Zero

    "Of course," you say. "I've heard a lot of interesting things about him."

    Like the fact that someone thought it was safe to entrust their children to him, apparently.

    "Sensei!" the girl says, dragging you by the hand over to a blond, smiling young man who doesn't look that much older than she is. "I've brought her."

    You notice the Konoha jounin-sensei turn en masse to stare at the pair of you.

    "... wow. Ino has a nuke-nin older brother, too? She and Sasuke are more alike than I thought."

    Ami cuffs Kiba in the head without a word.

    "Sensei is not a missing-nin!" The teenage Sound girl looks scandalized.

    "Anymore," the boy on the team mutters.

    "He's a jounin of Otogakure," the girl continues, glaring at her teammate.

    "And we're probably not siblings," you add, "unless those pupils are a henge."

    "Oh, but we are siblings."

    Deidara of the Bakuton isn't a bad-looking boy, but his looks would be greatly improved if he lost that "Get In The Bag, I'm Taking You Home With Me" grin.

    "All artists are brothers in spirit," he says, in what he probably hopes is a cool and aloof manner. "Ojou-chan, you have a rare potential for true artistry!"

    "Oh yeah? Thanks," you say mildly, wondering if it's really a good thing that a freaking terrorist admires your work.

    No, trust me, it isn't. You might want to let Gai know that Tenten's at risk for being kidnapped; that's usually how this kind of thing goes.

    Seriously, what did you say to her?

    Tell you later. He's still talking.

    "Have to tell ya, I was worried this exam would be a complete drag. But ya really livened things up, mn!" He lays a hand on the older girl's shoulder. "I look forward to seeing you fight Kuyo in the finals."

    The girl nearly swoons. Total sensei-crush, there.

    "Ah, Kuyo-chan is it? Pleased to meetcha." You cock an eye at the littlest Oto-nin. "And who might you be?"

    "You can call me Kibi, Konoha-nee-chan!" She waves to the boy leaning on the railing. "Onii-chan! Come say hello!"

    "I'm Ira," he says, then turns back around to watch the fight. "Nice to meet you."

    "Next match," the proctor calls, "Sabaku no Gaara vs Inuzuka Kiba."

    Oh, shit, Kiba, forfeit! Forfeit forfeit forfeit! You turn to head back over to your team.

    "Wait!"

    A hand frantically grabs your arm, and you feel warm lips on its palm. Suddenly the three Konoha jounin are not-at-all casually standing around the two of you.

    Deidara lets you go, embarrassed, but asks urgently, "Tell me, Yamanaka Ino: what is best in art?"

    And despite the fear you feel for your teammate, you pause.

    Man, you seriously wanna talk aesthetics with a nitro fetishist? Are you my reincarnation or Goemon's?

    [X] "Art is all about the looks on their faces when you pull it off."

    [X] "Maa, it's not really about what's best, y'know? I think art exists wherever people want to acknowledge it. Without an intelligent audience, it just isn't art."

    [X] "What's most important is not that people be able to say, 'That's a real artist'. What matters is that people can say with confidence, 'That is a true work of art'."

    [X] Lupin's right; piss on this guy, Kiba's about to get himself killed!

    [X] Write in
     
  27. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] It is not art, but heart, that wins the wide world over

    "Oh, that's simple," you say with a grin. "Art is all about the looks on their faces when you pull it off."

    Deidara is stunned. Kuyo blinks, and looks back and forth between the two of you, frowning.

    And you join Ami at the railing.

    "Why didn't you stop him?" you demand.

    "He was already over the side before I realized he was actually that big an idiot!" She looks even more worried than you feel. "What does he think is going to happen here?"

    "Kiba, what the hell?!" you call down to him.

    "Well, I can't let you hog all the fun, can I?" he calls back up.

    Holy shit, there is no way he's this stupid! What the hell is he planning?

    Aw, hell. He's trying to take one for the team.

    What? What for? Shit, if I meet Gaara in the finals I'm resigning!

    Not Team 5, Konoha in general. He thinks he has a shot at crippling Gaara enough that someone will be able to defeat him later on.

    ... oh, shit, this is about what I said about the sand, isn't it?

    =

    "It's like he has no weaknesses," Ami says with a frown, examining your intel on the Kazekage's youngest child.

    "Well, that unconscious sand-shield of his only moves at jounin-standard speed, and I'm betting it's where these rumours of 'speed-healing' are coming from; second skin of hardened sand, he can just shrug injuries off." You shrug. "Still, who cares if the sand isn't faster than us? He still is, and so is the sand when he's actually manipulating it."

    "Not you," Kiba points out. "Or Neji and Lee, maybe."

    Tenten frowns, but doesn't bother arguing.

    "Look, Kiba, we don't know that for sure. If it were an ambush with all of us, then
    maybe we could pull something off," you say with a sigh. "But no one's going to surprise him in an open arena without one of those underground Doton techniques, so unless you can pull an Earth affinity out of your ass in the next three days, we're SOL."

    =

    ... that dumb bastard.

    Lupin catches the drift of your thoughts and facepalms. If it doesn't work, there goes any chance of us pulling the same surprise.

    What about the consequences if it does work? Suna will go ballistic. And Gaara could die! I mean, for some kind of sand-monster he seems like a pretty all right guy.

    Well, go ahead and tell Kiba all that, as long as you don't mind telling Gaara too and ruining any chance of it working.

    You grit your teeth.

    "Cute dog," Gaara says.

    Akamaru whimpers.

    Kiba just stares, hard-eyed, waiting.

    "Begin!"

    -BANGBANG-

    The shots come hot on each other's heels.

    Kiba screams in pain, clutching his right thigh, and drops to the ground. Akamaru barks in distress, hopping around him and sniffing.

    "Huh," you hear Gaara say over Lupin swearing violently in your head, "wasn't expecting that. Excellent strategy, kid; if I were anyone else that would almost definitely have worked."

    Kiba's bullet pops out of the gash it tore in Gaara's gut, and falls to the floor.

    "It's just your bad luck that I'm me."

    Whispers, everywhere at once. The fear rolling off of everyone in this room almost makes you want to throw up.

    "What does he mean?" you hear Kuyo say. "Sensei, what just happened?"

    Where the flying fuck did Suna get a customized M1911?!

    The sand, you think numbly. He made it out of the sand.

    Sure enough, the gun dissolves out of the boy's hand and arcs over his shoulder, into the gourd on his back.

    "... winner, Sabaku no Gaara," the proctor says belatedly, still staring.

    "Kiba!"

    You all rush down to your teammate's side.

    "I'll be fine!" he hollers, gasping for breath. "I can feel it, it went right through, I'll be fine."

    "He's right," the chief medic just arriving says, lifting Kiba's thigh to examine it. "He won't be getting out of bed for a while, though."

    "You dumbass!" you and Ami declare in unison.

    Kiba grits his teeth, and intentionally lowers his voice. "Worth. it. Ino, find the bullet."

    "Excuse me," one of the other medics says, pushing you aside to get your friend on the stretcher.

    [X] Follow the medics so he doesn't have to be alone. Gunshot wounds are in no way fun.

    [X] Look for the bullet that hit Kiba.

    [X] Ask Gaara for the bullet that hit him.

    [X] Go back up to the catwalk and wait until the fights are over to look for both bullets.
     
    Tranquil Zebra and assana73 like this.
  28. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Don't Take Your Guns To Town

    You give Menka a look, and he winks. Sniffing around, he begins the search as you follow the stretcher to the exit. "Make sure he gets a cute nurse, guys!"

    "And keep Akamaru from licking the wound!" Ami adds.

    "Your boyfriend's smarter than he looks," Gaara comments, strolling on over as though he doesn't have bloodstains down his shirt and the front of his pants. "Shame it's that special kind of smart that you get from being stupid most of the time."

    "He's not my boyfriend," Ami says coldly.

    The corners of his mouth twitch. "Gotcha." He looks back to watch Menka grab the bullet that hit him, and glances at you. "Man, for bein' stealth-girl you really aren't great at subtlety, are you?"

    You wink. "C'mon, man, you're a ninja celebrity; I thought you'd be used to girls wanting samples of your blood to sigh over."

    -_- And I thought the groupies back home were creepy for wanting locks of hair.

    Gaara smirks. "Call it a hunch, but I really doubt you'll leave it at sighing."

    It's then that Ami displaces Kiba as the biggest suicidal idiot on your team and steps between the two of you.

    "How about you shove your hunches right up your ass and get back to your team, prettyboy?"

    "Ami..." you say, offput, as Menka returns to your side.

    [X] Let her be a big ol' hypocrite and use this time to examine the bullets before stowing them away.

    [X] Tug on her braid. "Hey, ya mind? We're tryin' to foster intervillage relations, here."

    [X] Laugh it off. "Ami... can it be that you're... jealous?" *hug from behind* "Oh, I knew you'd fall for me sooner or later! But what are we going to tell Sakkun?"
     
  29. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Laugh it off. "Ami... can it be that you're... jealous?" *hug from behind* "Oh, I knew you'd fall for me sooner or later! But what are we going to tell Sakkun?"

    Gaara grins.

    Ami shoves your arms away, glares at you, and stalks off for the stairs.

    Ouch.

    "Damn," Gaara says, shaking his head, "you better hope meatball-head doesn't find out you're hitting on other women."

    Temari's eyes are closed when the two of you get back onto the catwalk.

    "Hey, sis. I won," Gaara says, giving her a peck on the cheek.

    "What do I tell you guys every time we leave Suna?" she asks calmly.

    "... try not to shoot people?" Gaara asks, wincing.

    "Try not to shoot people. That's correct."

    "He shot me first! Hell, I let him shoot me first so it would be fair!"

    She takes a deep breath, and finally opens her eyes. Ignoring her brother, she turns to you.

    "I'm sorry about him," she says. "Usually he's a better listener. Is your friend going to be okay?"

    "Yeah," you say, "the bullet missed everything important."

    "Of course it did! What, you thought I was gonna kill a kid?"

    "Until five minutes ago I thought you wouldn't shoot a kid," Kankuro says coldly, without even looking at him, "so yeah, you can forgive us for wanting to see what else we were wrong about."

    Gaara sticks his hands in his pockets. "Heh. What's the matter? Pissed off 'cause I knocked out the only other gunman in the exams before you got a chance to tangle with 'im?"

    "Gaara?" Temari asks, glaring. "What's the other thing I tell you every time we leave Suna?"

    "Oops." He grins. "Guess the cat's out of the bag, now."

    "So is this what you guys do in Suna instead of apologizing?" you ask, amused. "Give people free intel?"

    Before Temari can reply, the next match is announced.

    Yuki Haku vs Rock Lee

    [X] Focus on the fight.

    [X] Chat up one of the Sand kids about non-fight-related stuff.
    -> [X] Gaara
    -> [X] Temari
    -> [X] Kankuro

    [X] Talk to someone else (Write in).
     
  30. FurikoMaru

    FurikoMaru Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] Down in the hollow

    "My apologies," Haku says as Lee joins him on the floor. "My sources suggest that you are indeed a very capable fighter. Had you been assigned a weaker opponent, you could have proceeded to the finals."

    You suppress a grin. Oh, someone is terrified as shit. As expected of a Kiri-nin, he isn't letting it show on his face, but his chakra tells the whole story; he's barely holding it together. Even if you weren't a sensor, he's obviously trying to goad Lee into showing off as much as possible - salvaging a bad match up by getting more data out of it.

    If you had to guess at why, it's probably the same reason you're scared of fighting Lee - Haku's got the physical build of a ranged fighter (along with what you think might be seal-pockets like yours in his sleeves, if you're hearing that right), and Lee is notoriously fast and skilled at close-range combat among those who keep their ears to the ground. Add to that the stuff he's been learning from Gai's summons lately, and the fact that Gai has apparently given Lee permission to go into the fight without his weights, and there's not a doubt in your mind - barring this kid actually being a legit Yuki clan member, he's done like dinner.

    "Please, Haku-san," Lee replies with a smile, either not noticing the intentionally provocative phrasing or not caring (your money is on the latter, knowing Lee), "there is nothing to apologize for. I entered these exams specifically to test myself against strong opponents."

    "I see..." The smile is returned. "I'm sure you will be satisfied, Lee-kun."

    "Begin!"

    Suiton: Kirigakure no Jutsu - Hiding In Mist Technique!

    Abruptly, the bottom half of the arena fills with mist, obscuring the combatants and proctor completely.

    "Damn it," Kankuro grumbles.

    You tune him out along with everything else, and focus your sensing on finding the boys. You let out a few grumbles of your own when you realize the fog is so laden with Haku's chakra that you can't get an exact read on his location (it's like the whole fighting floor is suffused in the sound of him going ohshitohshitohshitohshit), but you find Lee quickly enough - and unless you're very much mistaken, he's preparing one of his trump cards.

    Oh, they've engaged, now -

    "KONOHA SENPUU!"

    Yep, same ol' Lee, always callin' his attacks.

    You hear a body hit the far wall and sigh.

    Yep. Same ol' Lee. Manages to get the drop on a much stealthier opponent and then ruins it by letting them get away from him again.

    ... okay, you have fun here. I'm gonna go see if I can teach the Sasukes poker.

    You do that.

    "OSU! I've found you again, Haku-san!" There is the sound of a loud impact, and one of the giant hands at the back wall shakes violently and makes the crumbling sound usually associated with children knocking over massive block-towers.

    "I'm sorry!" comes the immediate apology. "Gai-sensei, please take it out of my mission pay!"

    "Very well, Lee!"

    "Idiot," Temari snickers. "He's giving away his position every time he opens his yap."

    "Wake me when we can actually see what's going on," Shikamaru grumbles, taking a seat with his back to the wall.

    Hinata, meanwhile, has her Byakugan going, and is in murmured conversation with Chouji and - apparently - Mokona. The three of them seem to be shocked about something, and you can't quite hide your grin. Seems you were right - Lee's actually managed it, if only in part.

    "Hey," Gaara says, nudging you (and almost giving you a heart attack), "you're a sensor, right? Give us the low-down; what's happening?"

    [X] Hey, they're allies, and at this point in the exam your sensing isn't really something to keep secret anymore. Tell them everything you can hear.

    [X] Tell them only as much as a normal sensor would be able to hear.