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And with that, Aqua was half-awake, staring at the white ceiling of their room. A part of her head ached, calling out to her to fall back asleep and let drowsiness take command of her consciousness once more. Her right hand moved to rub at her eyes, fighting the grogginess that tugged at every one of her senses, before cold, hard discipline kicked in and she lifted herself into a sitting position with her left hand. Her eyes closed, in quick meditation for a twelfth of a minute, before snapping open and taking stock of her surroundings.

White walls. Beige floorboards, polished and laminated. White blankets fashionably designed with the occasional orange, thick but light, over her legs and covering her front as she welcomed the wake. She blinked her eyes twice more to get the sleep out of her system and to focus her sight, adjusting it to the level of light pouring in gradually from the rising sun through the bedroom window, split into sixteen rays by the black plastic frames.

Massaging her forehead once more to force out some of the alcohol from last night, she quietly but smoothly slipped out from underneath the blankets, taking great care to avoid rousing the sleeping form of her younger sister, pink hair untied and splayed over the pillow like a second casing. Aqua’s lips curved up into a gentle smile, affection bubbling in her chest, before standing from the edge of the bed, firmly stretching both arms above her head and hearing the silent snap of her back.

The walk around the bed to their shared bedroom was quick, with her feet making no noise against the floor lest her sister stir from the slightest of sounds, and the blunette went through her daily morning routine, freshening up against the bathroom mirror even if it was the weekend. Stepping out refreshed, she returned to her side of the room and dug underneath the bed, sliding out a drawer containing the few simple wears she kept for herself, each pair washed and dried in quick succession to make up for her lack of an abundance of wear.

Slipping on the form-fitting outfit took her no time at all, and she stepped out of their bathroom into the living room, where she removed the blinds to the balcony. The orange glow of sunrise greeted her over the horizon, creeping up into the blue sky from behind the mountains to the east, amidst a blanket of green trees illuminated by the sun’s warm glow. The morning air, damp from the night with the slightly sweet scent of dew filled her nostrils with each inhale.

She would enjoy the morning air for a slight bit longer, before she left to prepare breakfast for two. As she did so, she walked past Rainfell, leaning against the counter facing the balcony, its sleek appearance memorable of the first time Aqua had held it so naturally in her hand, adapting to its unorthodox appearance as a blade and fending off Matsu’s flames. The sight of it, shining against the sun, reminded her she had an appointment with her team in the morning as well, like she always did.

The girl picked Rainfell up by the handle, holding it point-down as its sharp edge scraped against the marble counter, leaving no marks but creating a half-scrape-half-screech as she did so. Swinging it upright, she admired its beauty in the rays of the sun, before setting it down on the living room table to properly focus on her task of preparing a meal for both her and her sister in preparation of yet another big day.

WC: 620




Serah awoke with a loud yawn, stretching her arms far above her head, hitting the beige cushions that divided her from the headboard and pushing into them with ease, notable of her training but also of the material that fluffed up said cushions, with the surface returning to normal with a rebound when she retracted her arms. She lay in bed lazily as she enjoyed the morning sun flowing into the room from the window on their right, her eyes closing as she succumbed to the pull of grogginess that still dominated her body.

Her left hand swatted down on the area to her left, where her sister normally slept. Any other sister may have been worried, retracting their hand immediately in fear of waking their sister suddenly from their slumber, giving them a rude awakening, but Serah had mistakenly done it enough to know otherwise. Aqua was almost never in her bed when she awoke, even if the two of them almost always threw the covers on together before switching out the lights. And, as she expected, her left hand met with nothing but the soft white sheets of her bed, her fingertips just brushing against the edge of the blankets that she and her sister liked to keep slightly folded up simply because of its size. Her fingers curled up against the blanket as she rolled herself to the left, tangling herself in the remainder of the blanket and feeling it snugly hugging her in her pajamas, before she shimmied out of the small cavern her blankets had made and moving to the washroom to clean up. Five minutes later had the girl coming out look much fresher than she did when her eyes had first opened on the day… or perhaps that was considered last night, as her sister and her had indulged in some alcohol – a rare occurrence – before going to bed, and she dressed herself in her usual Chinese dress, along with her matching pink tight pants, chosen from her large wardrobe that Aqua had deigned to let her have for herself, instead choosing to store the few clothes she kept for practical purposes within their bed’s drawers, allowing Serah to monopolise the entire closet.

The outfit wasn’t exactly complicated, though she could understand why an outsider would think so. There were a lot of patterns on her dress that one could mistaken for having been separately pinned up or sewn on or patched up as she put it on, but that was only partially true. Yes, the dress she had bought had been fully pink, but she had been the one to alter it bit by bit as the years went by, buying new clothes but rarely throwing out her old ones as she didn’t truly outgrow their size (that would be a nightmare for any girl). She folded the kimono-dress in front of her, the two edges overlapping and the silver linings at the ends almost seemingly fusing together where they met at her collar, revealing only part of the black undershirt she had put on for decency’s sake. She wrapped a tight belt around her waist to keep the dress in place, before decorating it with a red string that blended in with the orange background. Below that, she strapped on her ninja pouch, yellow in colour and dangling at her left hip, before she finished her outfit with a yellow archer’s glove placed on her right hand, even if she currently didn’t own a bow. It was something Mihoko-sensei always told her to do, yet she had never gotten into it simply due to… well, laziness, she supposed. Before she left the room, though, she felt the unfamiliar lack of a tug on the left side of her head, and realised with a start that she’d forgotten to tie up her hair. Grabbing the black hairband from her bedside table, she strung her hair up on the left side of her head, slightly to the back, feeling it drape down her left shoulder and back, while leaving her right relatively free. It was a style she had kept ever since she had graduated, the rebellious nature of her hairstyle eventually evolving into one that made her unique instead of different.

With that last part of her dress code completed, she walked out of the room, knowing that Aqua would already be busy preparing for their individual days.

745 words




It had taken half an hour to finish preparing the meal, and give or take a few minutes due to walking around the house and performing some other small cleanup duties from last night’s mini-party that the two of them had indulged in, and a good three quarters of an hour had passed before Aqua had known it, all dedicated to making their morning, what little of it was spent in the apartment, fresh.

The clock hit six as the girl placed her black tray onto the counter, next to her sister’s, each containing the same dishes: rice, fish, the greens that her sister disliked but had to eat anyway, and warm soup. The dishware were all similar: black on the outside and red on the inside – made of… was that plastic or ceramic? – and the contents they held were equally as appealing. Steaming hot white rice, fresh from the pot, fish fried with sauce poured onto it and pooling beneath it, absorbing through its skin into the fleshy meat beneath, soup heated to the right temperature with enough salt to give it flavour and still not drag their health down too much.

She patted her hands against each other, the wetness from the sink still slightly evident on her palms from when she washed them prior to handling the food. Despite this, she rested both hands on her hips, the water seeping into the two bands of cloth hanging loosely around her waist, serving as accessories and makeshift ninja pouches. She looked up from her handiwork and saw Serah exiting the bedroom, already dressed for the day in her usual attire, one resembling the traditional Chinese qipao, painted a flowery pink with said floral patterns filling up the dress and giving it vibrant variety. Her pink hair fell down her left shoulder, tied at the left of her head in a style unique only to her.

“Good morning,” Aqua greeted, before directing her to the table as she herself took a seat at the marble counter, its pebble-like design a juxtaposition to the smoothness of the actual table, polished as it was when they had purchased it along with the entire apartment. “Breakfast is prepared.”

With those three words, Aqua would dig in, slowly but surely tending to the hunger in her stomach as she waited for Serah to do the same. Normally, their meals would be filled with conversation; however, breakfast was always different. Breakfast was a time for both of them to collect their thoughts about the previous day, as well as to prepare their minds for the upcoming dozen hours with their team before they met back at their apartment for dinner. Perhaps a more accurate statement was that their dinners were filled with conversation, though the occasional supper they reveled in, maybe with a tint of alcohol like they had done the previous night, was also no less lively.

With that, Aqua would remain quiet throughout breakfast, answering Serah only if necessary and otherwise listening to anything the girl may have said, a subtle difference to their other meals where she would actively, but also quietly, chip in her opinion. As she had previously noted, breakfast was the time she used to prepare herself for the day. But, simply because she didn’t feel like speaking her mind openly didn’t mean her mind wasn’t open to listen to, and internalise as well as give feedback where she could, on anything that her sister had to say.

The food was a nice distraction too, though she’d never admit to having such culinary skills.

WC: 604 + 620 = 1224




The first thing to greet Serah’s eyes when she walked out the door and rounded the corner was the sight of Aqua placing her own tray down. While not anything special, the trays themselves did hold some sort of graphic value. The dark brown, almost black or faded gray, trays supported on them four separate dishes, all having come from the same pot.

“Good morning,” Aqua greeted her, and Serah responded with a happy smile and a cock of her head, tilting to her left, where her ponytail grew more visible with the gesture.

She went to sit down on the counter, when her eyes caught something amiss within their living room. Atop the normally empty rubber wood top lay Rainfell, its blue hue almost dancing across its surface as the sun’s rays fell upon it, almost looking as if it were the ocean itself contained within the form of a blade. The name of the blade, its appearance, and Aqua’s ideology everytime she picked it up were so reminiscent of Aqua’s name: Rainfell, water; the blade itself swayed like the ocean even when it was still; and Aqua never used it to debilitate her enemy past what she knew she could, but when she did, it was swift and merciless, just like how the ocean swept away its victims without a second thought even if one would never expect such cruelty from the seas by the gentle waves it sired.

“Are you training with your team again?” Serah asked as she took a seat, pulling out the stool and placing herself upon it.

Aqua had already begun eating by now, and Serah knew how their morning routines went. As talkative as her sister may seem during dinner times, Serah knew Aqua’s routine by heart. Her sister’s personality wasn’t one to indulge in meaningless talking, especially when there were other things she had to do; in the morning, this ‘other thing’ was to prepare herself. In a sense, Aqua meditated in the morning, although to use the word ‘meditate’ may have been exaggerating it a little too much. More likely, it could be said that Aqua zeroed in on her focus in the morning… Or…

Gah, Serah didn’t know. This was all getting too spiritual for her to get into, and if she knew anything, she knew that Aqua was hardly someone spiritual. More likely Aqua just liked her peace and quiet in the morning, she surmised.

As Serah ate, she wondered how hard-working her sister had been. Well, she had always been that hard-working. But, it didn’t change that Aqua’s efforts into being a ninja far surpassed her own, with her seemingly in control of every small aspect of her life, from her time to her emotions to her missions… they were all under Aqua’s thumb, even if she had no direct control over it. Just like how it didn’t change that Aqua was arguably much more well-versed than she was in the ninja arts, even if everyone claimed she had more raw skill than her sister. She supposed… maybe she didn’t know how to use it? Perhaps she had to look within herself?

She mentally shook her head vigorously again. This was way too spiritual for her. Might as well focus on her meal.

Then again, it brought up the question. She had been training more than she used to; was this enough to best Aqua and her team? Taking a gander, she asked, “Here’s an idea! How about our teams meet up again for a friendly spar tomorrow?”

1353 words




“Are you training with your team again?” Serah asked as she sat down.

“Yes I am,” Aqua replied, after swallowing the rice in her mouth.

It was no secret that her team met up nearly everyday now, building up on a family-cum-team mechanic that most other teams lacked, either because their individual members didn’t mesh as well as their sensei would have hoped, or if because they just graduated at such early ages, creating a bond between each member as strong as one’s family. In Aqua’s case, it was a rare, if unheard of occurrence outside of the bond she felt with Serah; Sumimoto, Keishi, and Matsu had expressed their surprise that she hadn’t disappeared outside of compulsory team meetings on almost laughably many occasions.

“As I normally do on weekends,” Aqua continued. On weekends, however, Sumimoto-sensei had all but instructed them to take it easy, compared to their daily training regimen. The comment was directed more so at her than her teammates, who, according to their sensei, ‘at least knew how to have fun’. Aqua didn’t rebut him; she simply had a less… active side that wished to make itself known through social activities. Today, they had managed to rope her into watching a movie, though she admitted she didn’t mind moving her schedule along if her team was the reason – something that in the past was only reserved for Serah. “Although, we may watch a movie after,” she shared.

The two of them ate in silence for a few moments after, and Aqua had the time to decide that she needed to add more salt to the sauce she had added to the fish, or perhaps marinate the dish in a more dilute liquid in the future, when Serah once again spoke up.

“Here’s an idea! How about our teams meet up again for a friendly spar tomorrow?”

A friendly spar? Aqua rose one eyebrow slightly at the suggestion. Why would her sister ask for a friendly spar out of the blue? She recalled the last one they had. The two teams had clashed fiercely, and she was proud to say, and proud to receive from her peers, the decisive victory her team held during the capture the flag game was almost entirely due to her apt use of strategy to lure Serah’s team out into the open, or into traps if she were to recall that one moment in the forest, allowing Team Sumimoto to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. ‘Defeat’ because she had to admit that going one-on-one against Team Mihoko, Serah’s team’s colloquial nickname rather than some arbitrary number, was a poor move. While she could take Serah without losing too much ground, Keishi and Matsu were no good matchups against Hirotsugu or Junichi, however you switched it around; Hirotsugu’s Wood Release stopped Keishi’s Gentle Fist from even making contact, while he grew too many for Matsu to burn, while Junichi’s fiery prowess surprisingly helped him hold his own against even Matsu’s Kimura flames, while fighting fire with fists didn’t prove well for Keishi. Ironic, as Keishi was arguably the best fighter in their team, if he got close.

But, to spar, she would need to ask Sumimoto-sensei. They didn’t just come out and spar just like that; sensei supervision was almost always compulsory so neither side injured the other too much. Genin killing Genin was the worst nightmare a village could have: if they couldn’t assure the safety of even their weakest of ninja, how could they do so at the higher stages of the power chain?

“I can talk to Sumimoto-sensei about the spar,” Aqua replied after a quick thought. “It has been several months since our teams last clashed. Although, I suspect he’ll have to speak to Mihoko-sensei in private before anything is confirmed.”

WC: 660 + 1224 = 1884




“Although, we may watch a movie after,” Aqua had said, before returning to her meal.

A movie? That interested Serah. She was always into movies! She, Junichi, and Hirotsugu almost always went for movies whenever they were free! It was one of their many team bonding activities. She could remember the first time they had gone, after they had passed Mihoko-sensei’s test. Soon after, it had been one of the many activities, but always the main one, that they as a team would go for after their training sessions. Her only disappointment with the activity was that Mihoko-sensei was almost barely there. Despite their best efforts, Junichi, Hirotsugu, and herself had never been able to outdo Mihoko-sensei in a battle of wits of why she should accompany them, especially whenever she presented her own arguments – well, she was a Nara – leaving the team almost but not quite all there. Although, that left her with another thought…

“Speaking of a movie,” she began as a reply to Aqua’s statement, “I wonder if Junichi and Hirotsugu want to watch a movie today. It’s going to be more expensive than it normally is, being a Saturday.”

Regardless, it wasn’t anything that would put too significant of a dent in their pockets. They knew how to save, and their sensei was also oddly generous with her funds, something that went against the cold, dark, reserved nature that Mihoko-sensei liked to portray to other people. It was almost like Aqua’s personality, only somehow Mihoko managed to be even more reserved, even more cut off, yet still as caring as Aqua was to Serah as she was to her students.

“I can talk to Sumimoto-sensei about the spar,” Aqua said in response to her question about the spar. “It has been several months since our teams last clashed. Although, I suspect he’ll have to speak to Mihoko-sensei in private before anything is confirmed.”

At this, Serah giggled. She’d always suspected that Sumimoto and Mihoko-sensei were more than they appeared. There was always that bit of tension that bordered on romantic or sexual whenever the two were seen together (which wasn’t often, mind you) that she believed the two were either a couple in secret, were going to be a couple in secret, or used to be a couple in secret. Sumimoto always did have those flirtatious one-liners he reserved for Mihoko-sensei, and he did a better job than their entire team, who had been under her for nearly eight years, at riling her up and getting a response out of her that wasn’t controlled, nor was it less than five words.

“I’m sure Sumimoto-sensei and Mihoko-sensei will be meeting in private anyway,” she responded with another giggle. “I think something’s up with them.”

With this, she recalled a previous moment their two teams had met. While it had been months since their last encounter on the battlefield as friendly peers, the two teams bumped into each other more often than one would think, especially with the close relationship between Serah and Aqua, as well as the budding rivalry between the two teams in matters off the battlefield, such as competition for Aqua’s attention (even she couldn’t believe how smitten her team could be with her sister; it was almost heartbreaking if it weren’t so hilarious!). Aqua’s reaction to their advances were almost parallel with Mihoko’s response to Sumimoto - it was almost always either ignorance or outright rejection, not that the parties were discouraged.

Back to the topic matter at hand, though, Serah was excited when Aqua had almost surely backed up her desire to hold a spar between their teams. It was always exciting for Serah whenever their two teams were together, and this excitement was only ramped up whenever they prepared to fight one another. Fortunately, their senseis were aware that a fair fight on the battlefield was unlikely, especially when they ventured out of the villages, so it was unlikely a ‘fair fight’ where they went one-on-one from the get-go was likely. Rather, it was probably going to be like a capture the flag game that they had done all those months ago.

“And I think my team has grown a lot more since we last fought!”
Serah stated, full confidence in her team. “We’ll win this time for sure!”

2100 words




“We’ll see about that, Serah,” Aqua replied, the memory of the last fight their teams shared ringing clearly in her head, especially with the flowing waters down the creeks and the trees proving almost unfairly advantageous to her, with her preference of Genjutsu and deception.

The entire fight had begun between the two sides at two ends of a forest, with a small red flag twice each of their height’s placed into a tree trunk, its pole dangling horizontally and parallel to the ground, with the red, rectangular flag pointing down ala gravity, flapping only very slightly in the small breeze that made it past all the shrubbery. Serah’s team had gotten to it first. Aqua and Matsu were able to contest the flag, but Keishi’s job of striking quick and hard at the flag as were all his Hyuga jabs spectacularly failed when he couldn’t get close to Hirotsugu or Junichi, who used the Wood Release and Fire Release to keep him at bay, effectively trapping him.

Team Mihoko had been winning, and Team Sumimoto had been dealt a morale blow from the quick and brutal defeat they had seemingly suffered at the former’s hands… Or so they thought, until Aqua all but dragged them onto their feet and the three began to pick off at Serah’s unit, using scare tactics and psychological warfare to split them apart, under the guise of ‘checking it out’ before taking them out. All in all, Sumimoto-sensei’s advice on thinking before they struck had once again been the key to their victory, and her teammates had been a little too hard-headed to keep that godsend in mind when they had first engaged Serah’s team.

With that thought in mind, Aqua finished the last of her breakfast and picked up the tray before depositing it within the sink on the other side of the counter and beginning the quick scrub to get rid of any stains that remained. The sponge felt soft and familiar in her hand, and the tray in her other as she quietly but quickly finished her dishwashing and placed them to dry. A quick towel wipe to dry her own hands as the plates were being done in the automated machine and she was in the living room, picking up Rainfell with her right hand and inspecting the handiwork done, as she always loved to do. Rainfell was a custom weapon, after all, and she carefully fastened it to her hip and waved her sister goodbye on her way to the front door.

“I’ll be heading off first,” she said, more out of habit than practicality, as she only could be heading off first if she was leaving so soon, and ended the conversation with, “I’ll remember to bring up the issue with Sumimoto-sensei,” before shutting the door, en route to meeting her team.

WC: 488 + 1884 = 2372

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Serah continued at her slower pace as her sister finished up the dishes, not really rushing to meet her team unlike her sister. Mihoko-sensei, while a Nara, wasn’t someone who liked to lounge about the day, wasting it away with a lack of productivity, but with how carefree her team liked to take it, with the exception of Hirotsugu, who arguably was way more carefree than Mihoko-sensei liked, even if he was the most disciplined out of all of them, even Mihoko-sensei had decided to cut them some slack with team meetings, on or off the official schedule.

Not that she didn’t chew their head when they were far too late though.

“I’ll be heading off first,” her sister said, more of a customary statement than anything, as it was obvious from her picking up Rainfell that she was going to be leaving ahead of Serah. Not that the younger sister minded. She nodded her head with some rice in her mouth and a smile on her lips, eyes closed. They liked to walk to their training grounds together, since it was in the same general direction, but on the off chance they didn’t get to, it didn’t irk them nearly as much as one would think. “I’ll remember to bring up the issue with Summoto-sensei.”

“Yes, and I’ll talk to Mihoko-sensei about it when I meet my team!” Serah responded after a careful swallow.

Aqua left the house, closing the door behind her and leaving Serah to her devices. She quickly, but at her own pace, finished up her meal before near drowning her dishware in water and throwing it in the dryer after Aqua’s own cutlery. While she could take it easy, she also had no reason to; she was never not excited for team practice, or team meetings, especially with how close she’d become with Junichi and Hirotsugu, as well as Mihoko-sensei, who in many cases had doubled as the mother that she never had.

However close they were though, Serah was sure they weren’t, and wouldn’t be, nearly as close as Aqua was with her. That was the thought she left the house with, locking the door behind her.

2480 words


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