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Aqua

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Genin
It was the day after the Mihoko-Sumimoto Capture the Flag game that occurred at the small area in the Land of Fire that they had termed ‘The Battleground’. It had been simply a piece of elevated land with a river flowing past it, ending in a waterfall, and two castles erected on each side of the river, with the geography of the place almost symmetrical across the river. Historically, it was a relic of years past, from whence two clans of warring samurai had begun fighting within the Land of Fire, and Konoha’s ninja had ultimately been the one to end the conflict in a bloody manner, leaving neither from either samurai clan alive at the end of the entire ordeal. It was one of the less known facts about Konoha’s history, but given that it was necessary, considering their conflict was ruining the land’s economy, the governments didn’t try to explicitly hide what they did as criminalistic either.

“We totally kicked ass, didn’t we?” Keishi boasted as he, Aqua, and Matsu walked, arranged in a line in that order, towards the The Battleground. The three of them were currently heading there to adhere with the twelve o’clock deadline that their sensei, Sumimoto Kyudoka, had set for them, as well as their opponent, Serah’s team, or Team Mihoko, in order to brief them as a group about their shortcomings, what they could improve, as well as what they had done perfectly (that last one he had phrased in that exact manner, so they at least believed they had done something that was ‘perfect’ in their sensei’s eyes).

“Oh man, I totally loved the look on Junichi’s face when you and Aqua double-teamed him and knocked him out,” Matsu continued. “Hirotsugu had absolutely no idea that we were triple-teaming him and Junichi, and he was just fighting me and holding me off and trying to stop me from going after Serah and then – bam! – Keishi jumps in and he starts going backwards. I swear, that’s the first time I’ve seen Hirotsugu retreat in a battlefield!”

“Well, he was being overwhelmed by two people,” Aqua pointed out. “He had to regroup and recalculate his odds against the two of you, otherwise you would have taken him out easily as well.”

Keishi slapped her on the back. “I think you’re missing the point, Aqua! We made Hirotsugu flee! The great, mysterious Senju who always plays around with our team with his ‘skill with the forest’ and we made him flee! Oh man, I am never letting that one slide!”

As Matsu snickered, Aqua shot him an encouraging smile. “I’m sure you both mark it as a milestone in your respective books. However, don’t let this get to your heads. I don’t want you to get complacent the next time we fight.”

“Oh come on, we’ll just use a slightly different tactic, and they won’t know what hit them!” Keishi boasted. “Team Sumimoto!” he said, his right hand moving into the air and swiping to the right as if he were smoothening it out against an imaginary, airborne plate bearing their team’s name. “We’re going to be legends some day, you just wait!”

“Yeah, and then my dad will have to acknowledge I’m something special,” Matsu grinned. “That’ll show him! I don’t have to follow him to get strong!”

Aqua watched her teammates interact with each other, the two of them descending into the further details of their fight with Hirotsugu Senju that she had little interest in. She fell out of step with them, walking one step behind them, and the two of them continued chatting. She always did this whenever the two of them began to grow increasingly talkative with one another, and she was somehow caught in the middle – try as she might, she couldn’t bring herself to be as open as they were. Words simply didn’t flow out of her mouth the same way it did theirs. In some aspects, she supposed, it was one part of the Yin and the Yang of their group, just like how Aqua was the brains and they were the brawn.

The three of them arrived at The Battleground earlier than expected, at around ten minutes to twelve, so it was no surprise that the place was still deserted. Upon Aqua’s suggestion, the team walked over to Mihoko’s Castle, where they would wait for Team Mihoko, as well as their teams’ respective senseis.

WC: 768


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Serah

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Chuunin
“I can’t believe we lost that damned game!” Junichi complained. “We had it! I was so sure we had it!”

“Well, maybe if you didn’t let yourself get overwhelmed, I wouldn’t have been stopped from helping Serah fight off Aqua,” Hirotsugu snorted.

“Oh please,” Junichi retorted. “If you had been helping Serah fight off Aqua, you’d have been more of a hindrance anyway. You’d have been too busy staring at her to concentrate!”

“You would do the same thing!” Hirotsugu said, and the two of them butt heads, literally, eyes glaring into each other. It was a comical sight for Serah, who stood three feet away from them, Hirotsugu on her right and Junichi on her left, as she watched them descend into another one of their heated arguments.

Hirotsugu, she knew, was a calm, cool, collected person. He loved to think individual fights through, throwing strategies out as to how to defeat his opponent, although she would admit her sister made the better overall tactician in their small social group of six, thinking not only how to win the fight, but also the war. Junichi, on the other hand, was impulsive, brash, hot-headed… he was in many ways Hirotsugu’s opposite, and she for the how-many-eth time in her life questioned the village’s decision to put the two opposite ends of the spectrum on the same team. Mihoko-sensei had mentioned that it was done to foster a closer bond between the two, as they would be able to learn untold amounts of essentials from each other, but so far, they hadn’t learned it as much as they had influenced each other, and she really had no clue if it was for the better, considering Junichi was the only one who managed to get under Hirotsugu’s skin.

“Come on guys, can we stop fighting over my sister?” she asked playfully, phrasing her question such that it accused the two of them of going after one Aqua Uchiha.

The two of them turned to her with disbelieving looks on their faces, and she couldn’t conceive if it was because she’d interrupted them, accused them of such, or revealed their secret to the world that they looked at her with such open eyes and enlarged nostrils. The two of them did have some sort of a crush on Aqua – Serah sometimes thought that it went far deeper than a simple crush, as she could swear that they went red in the face and slick with sweat whenever they were alone with her – and it was somewhat an unspoken agreement that none of them would breach the topic, since it was the only one that got to both of them. Of course, that was why Serah herself had used it.

“You can’t just go saying things like that!” Hirotsugu said, the three of them once more continuing their walk.

“Yeah! What if someone hears you?” Junichi asked.

“Well then, do you not want Aqua to find out that she’s got two, big, strong men like you pining after her?” Serah teased, both hands behind her back in a ploy of innocence.

“That’s not funny, Serah!” Junichi cried. “You know she could whoop our asses in a fight!”

“Neither of us can even talk to her without getting cold feet,” Hirotsugu admitted with embarrassment. It was one of the few things in life that actually got to him, apart from Junichi, and Serah giggled at his admission.

“And what about if all three of us are there?” she asked, looking at Hirotsugu, but really just directing her question in general as the three of them approached Mihoko Castle.

“Well, we could probably do that,” Junichi shrugged, and Hirotsugu gave the rare nod of his head. Serah giggled. This was the one topic on which they agreed on, alright. One calm and composed, the other hot-headed, but both of their pairs of feet turned to little but jelly when they were talking to Aqua, whether both males were present or not.

Serah was sure that Aqua was either aware of their crushes and chose to ignore them, or completely ignorant of them herself. Either way, it made for a very interesting display whenever the three of them were lumped together, and funnily enough, this was something that helped her bond with both Keishi and Matsu, Aqua’s teammates. All three of them simply loved to watch Aqua absolutely clueless, or just pretending to be so as was according to some of their bets, as Hirotsugu and Junichi struggled to get themselves out of a conversation with her, not that whatever they were ever in could possibly classified as a conversation.

It was hilarious to watch, and Serah swore it wouldn’t be the last time she tricked them into something similar. And with that hilarious thought in mind, she pointed to the entrance of Mihoko Castle, their destination, where three people were already present, standing near the base of the staircases leading to the grounds where Serah and Aqua had clashed just less than twenty four hours ago.

“What are you- f*ck,” Junichi said, stopping in his tracks.

Hirotsugu, while spotting her sister, also slowed, but managed to keep his gait about him as he kept up with Serah’s pace, the pinkette now visibly struggling to control the laughter that threatened to burst forth. Waving to Aqua’s team, so long as they spotted the approaching group, the six of them would likely stand together at the base of Mihoko Castle, waiting for their senseis to arrive to give them the start of their debriefing. Should Aqua’s team attempt small talk, Serah would oblige, though Hirotsugu and Junichi wouldn’t be as cordial as she was trying to be, given that they would be tongue-tied should Aqua attempt conversation (not that Serah believed Aqua would attempt any form of conversation) while they were likely still bitter about getting one-upped the day before. It would not be long, however, before Mihoko-sensei would drop in, appearing behind the three of them and walking up to them from the foyer of the castle named after her. Should Sumimoto-sensei still yet to make his appearance, she would question Aqua’s team, specifically Serah’s sister more so than her teammates, “Where is your sensei? We ought to begin this as soon as we can.”

1080 words


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Aqua

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Genin
“And that is why I think Sumimoto-sensei has a crush on Aqua,” Keishi finished, folding his arms with smugness creeping onto his features.

Aqua stood to the side, eyes closed and bare back leaning against the outer wall of Mihoko Castle, shaking her head in mirth. Her arms, too, were folded as she endured the chuckles of her two teammates, not ready to give them the satisfaction of getting a rise out of her. Her eyebrows flickered open and cerulean orbs caught sight of three very familiar individuals casually making their way towards the three of them, and Matsu followed her gaze onto his rival on the arriving team, Junichi Sarutobi. Both were hot-headed and primary users of the fire element, and there was almost always competition as to whose flames would fan hotter, even if there was no battle.

With his two teammates already acknowledging Team Mihoko’s arrival, it didn’t take long for Keishi to do the same. Aqua noted in slight humour that it was ironic how a Hyuga was the last to take notice of his surroundings, as Keishi joined Junichi in his stare-off, only his glare was instead directed – or at least Aqua suspected – at Hirotsugu Senju, a member of another major clan in Konoha that had empowered the village since its founding. The Senju were just slightly more prestigious than the Hyuga, according to local hearsay, but it was enough to give Aqua’s teammate a strong dislike of Hyuga, magnified only by the many times Hirotsugu had proven the Wood Release Kekkei Genkai to be superior to his Gentle Fist, by using wood to block off any hope of a physical strike.

Aqua spared her sister a nod when the expected wave came to pass, the only tensionless exchange between the two teams amid the heated glares. “You seem to be on time,” Aqua greeted, her voice a little on the soft side. Keishi and Matsu would only continue giving Serah’s team the cold shoulder, even if it was in good spirit. They got along well with her sister, and the only dispute they held with the rest of her team was just a spillover from anything that transpired on the battlefield. At current, she suspected Keishi and Matsu were just dissatisfied that they together had failed to take down Hirotsugu even after Aqua had claimed victory for their team.

No other words would be said, as the clicking of wedges behind her were only reminiscent of one person who would show up. Mihoko Nara, orange hair falling down the front of either side of her face, while it faded to an onyx black at the top, dressed in tight shinobi clothing that was almost a mirror match of Aqua’s save it somehow appeared much more form-fitting and exposed less of her skin, came strutting down the foyer of Mihoko Castle, one leg crossing over the next with each step. Her eyes were stern and she let them glide from individual to individual, and Aqua felt a stain of disapproval when she asked for Sumimoto-sensei’s location, even if her words had been completely objective.

“I’m not actually sure,” Aqua replied. The staring contest had ended abruptly between the male members of both teams when Mihoko had arrived, bringing with her the presence of the reaper. “He only told us to meet here for a debriefing at twelve.”

“So I did, huh,” a gruff voice came from above them. Aqua looked up and saw her sensei sitting on one of Mihoko Castle’s outer walls, one leg dangling off the edge while the other was bent at the knee, the sole of his right foot resting on the top of the wall. His right hand rested on his right knee, a glass bottle of alcohol swishing in hand, while his left hand supported his frame. Leaving his alcohol atop the wall, he let himself drop, before landing down in front of them in a wash of spiky, dark gray hair, a white shirt, and black pants underneath the standard Konoha Jonin vest that Aqua seldom saw him sport. That was weird. Aqua could have sworn he wasn’t there when they arrived. “Very well then, let’s all get this over with. Fall in line, you kids.”

Aqua and her team would stand in a line facing Mihoko Castle’s main entrance, where the two senseis would be standing. Sumimoto shot Mihoko a look from the corner of his eye, and receiving no response, took it as a sign that he would go first. “So, first off, I want to congratulate my team,” he said with no small amount of pride in his voice. “You know, for winning what’s probably the hundredth Capture the Flag game for me in a row. You three exercised a lot of strategic planning when you decided to play on what Mihoko’s team was most likely to do, and that is a trait that I find important in a ninja: not just looking underneath the underneath like Mihoko here likes to do, but layering everything up so there’s too many ‘underneaths’ for your opponent to see. Good work, you three.”

“However,” he continued, his voice always in a drawl, noting Keishi and Matsu’s grins, “The two males on my team seem to not understand the meaning of urgency. Where Aqua focused on getting the objective and getting out of there – yes I was watching – Keishi and Matsu, you two only thought about beating Hirotsugu. Now, I encourage a little friendly competition every once in awhile, but when it gets to this point, I have to say that you need to reign in your rivalry. Hirotsugu was drawing you a little too close to the forests for my liking. Had Aqua not gotten the flags back to Sumimoto Castle – heh, I love that name – you two would probably have been taken in as equivalents of prisoners of war. Not really anything considering Aqua would have still won us the game, but come on, I trained you better than that! I was pretty impressed with the plan, but I thought the idea was to beat Hirotsugu with a double-team, not wall him off! Aqua ended up fighting Serah in a one-on-one again, so it really wasn’t any different than Matsu just taking on Junichi and Keishi just walling himself off from Hirotsugu. No difference at all!”

“And here is where I’m disappointed with the only female and the only strategist and the only thinker in my team. Aqua, I’m really guessing it was your idea to wall off Hirotsugu while you took on Serah. The only reason I can think of for this is that you wanted to have a small spar with your sister, and respectable as it may, we made it a Capture the Flag for a reason. If you want a one-on-one spar, we can just hold those instead, if you want to limit how much you can grow and adapt,” he snapped, which was rather entertaining with that lazy tone of his. “Aqua, next time, I expect you to reduce casualties, and in this scenario, I’m going to consider Keishi and Matsu both casualties, since it was just a matter of time before Hirotsugu beat them. We only accepted the flag on a technicality since it really was the cloth that we needed. Lost any more than you have and the match would’ve been decided with a final brawl, and you would’ve lost against both Serah and Hirotsugu.”

He scanned his three students again, and Aqua in particular had her eyes narrowed somber, berating herself for allowing such little emotions tweak her plan in such an obvious way, even to her now that it was pointed out.

“Anything else to add, Mihoko?” Sumimoto-sensei would ask, though it was likely just to turn the time over to her for her own team’s scolding, which Aqua guessed would be harsher than theirs.

WC: 1350 + 768 = 2118


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Serah

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Chuunin
Serah’s team had fallen in line as well when Sumimoto-sensei had all but commanded them to, forming a straight line with Aqua’s team. Serah found herself sandwiched between Hirotsugu and Matsu, though the pressure she felt on both sides was nothing compared to the authority that she felt radiating off of Sumimoto Kyudoka. The man’s gruff voice, small stubbles growing on his chin and eyes glazed over, hair slightly wet as if he’d just walked out of the shower but still pointing up and behind him, seemed to just command her attention. Beads of sweat began to form on her forehead as Sumimoto monologued over his own team’s successes and shortcomings. His voice was especially stern when addresing her sister, and Serah felt a sting in her heart registering the strict tone he all but shot in her face. She could feel a slight rumble to her left, and could tell that Matsu was stifling a laugh. Hirotsugu, while restraining himself far better, also sported a small upwards tug on the right side of his lip, as Serah saw from the left corner of her eyes. Cerulean orbs flickered to Mihoko, and she could see the slight narrowing of her eyes directed at the three of them, though Serah didn’t know what she was doing wrong.

When Sumimoto-sensei’s merciless evaluation of his own team had been completed, he passed the time over to Mihoko, who accepted it with a nod. She stepped forward from her position to Sumimoto’s right, to better address her team, but Serah was sure that with the frown that marred her face and the furrow of her brows that their evaluation was likely just as, if not even more, stern than her sister’s team had received. “Alright, let me begin by expressing my utmost disappointment in my team,” Mihoko began. Ouch. It stung, right off the bat. “I’ve lost count simply how many times you’ve lost to Team Sumimoto in a row, and it likely reflects on my shortcomings as a sensei that I’ve been unable to direct you otherwise.”

“First off,” Mihoko’s tongue lashed, “How could you two be revelling in Team Sumimoto’s flaws when it’s apparent that, even with those flaws, they are still in a league your better? Have you no shame, Hirotsugu, Matsu, that you would take pride in their lecture even if the same – no, worse – could be applied to you? You are in the presence of allies, comrades, your friends, and you remain sour from your defeat and stubbornly refusing to glean anything from it. That is the attitude which cost you this Capture The Flag, especially as teamwork was also what hindered you from seizing victory at the last Capture The Flag session. Within the hour you were given, the three of you spent your time dilly-dallying, not forming a coherent plan to tackle the objective. In short, you treated the game like a game, and not a mission, despite being excited to finally clench a victory.” With that out of the way, Mihoko turned her attention to Serah, “And I’m curious why you would have proceeded to the objective when Keishi and Junichi had rushed up to take on your teammates. Had it not occurred to you that Aqua was in the vicinity? Did you really think that she would have used her teammates as bait to delay yours? As possible as the option may have been, it goes against everything Konoha has ever tried to instil in its ninja – teamwork, camaraderie, lives. We are not other villages. We prioritise the mission by prioritising the people. Nothing is ever above this, for the people are always the ones that make up villages, clients, missions, ideas.”

She then turned to regard the person standing at the leftmost corner of the line, Hirotsugu Senju, and regarded him with a small smile, laced with pride. “Hirotsugu. Congratulations on holding off both Junichi and Keishi at the same time. Your focus on the defense was very remarkable. I personally counted thirteen times a slip-up could have cost you the entire fight, and you avoiding all of them speaks only of the skill you possess and enforces only of the faith that your parents placed in you. Keep up the good work. I only have one last advice for you three: learn from this encounter. Forget about winning the next Capture The Flag, but do better. That is all.”

As if a final nail on the coffin of disappointment, Mihoko turned around and vanished in a swirl of leaves, leaving her students stunned at her sudden disappearance, not so much in the how, but more so in the why, though they all knew intrinsically – it was them.

1884 words


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Aqua

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Genin
Aqua and her teammates continued standing at attention, stiff and frozen on the spot, as Mihoko-sensei delivered to her team their evaluation. She wondered how the two senseis kept an eye on their teams. After all, they’d been rather split, and the battles hadn’t taken place in an isolated area, so keeping an eye on all six students, or maybe just on two fronts, was going to be challenging, especially since the senseis weren’t doing an evaluation of the fight they witnessed, but rather an evaluation of each person. She understood that Mihoko-sensei would be able to keep an eye on all three of her students simultaneously with her summoning partners, but as far as she knew, Sumimoto-sensei hadn’t demonstrated- Wait, clones?

That was most likely it, she surmised. They were both Jonin, and it was almost a rumoured fact that the Shadow Clone jutsu was a rite of passage for anyone becoming a newly-minted Jonin. The Shadow Clone jutsu, unlike the more basic Clone Jutsu that any ninja worth their salt was able to perform on a whim, created solid clones that could aid one in combat for defensive or offensive purposes, as well as the all-too-well known supplementary purpose of information gathering. Aqua remembered the first time she’d come into contact with a shadow clone: Sumimoto-sensei had attempted to spar with her, and when she’d landed one lucky hit, he’d disappeared in a puff of smoke. The real Sumimoto had then stepped out from behind a tree, revealing that her last ten-minute-spar had been mostly done against a Shadow Clone he had switched with himself almost at the start of the fight, sending red flushing to her cheeks.

If she had thought Sumimoto strict with her team, she’d retracted the statement when she saw Mihoko all but explode at hers. She inwardly regretted having tricked her sister’s team, playing mind games with them and effectively dividing the group enough for hers to overwhelm them. In the heat of the battle, she, Keishi, and Matsu had been intent on winning the game – which was exactly what they ended up doing, to their pride – but in the aftermath of everything, Aqua really hadn’t expected such a strict response from the normally calm and composed Mihoko-sensei. Nara weren’t known for their open display of emotions, and Mihoko-sensei took that to an extreme with her near emotionless facade donned almost every time she wasn’t alone, and her strict lecture had revealed underneath it something Aqua had never seen before. A kind, loving woman who only wanted the best for her team. In retrospect, it was obvious, but again, it wasn’t so; she supposed facades like those were why Jonin were on a completely different playing ground than Genin like herself.

After Mihoko had made her graceful exit, Sumimoto trudged after her, mumbling something about ‘Genin making Jonin angry’. Keishi and Matsu seemed to ride the wave their sensei had started, probing tauntingly at Hirotsugu and Junichi for having scared even their sensei off, before Keishi suggested that her team go out for a quick dinner to celebrate. ‘To celebrate’ had been heavily emphasised in his words, and she was sure he’d even thrown a nasty look at Hirotsugu while he was at it, something that she decided was far too sensitive for the Senju at the moment for her to not do anything about it. Encouragingly placing a hand on Keishi’s shoulder, she would nudge him away from Mihoko Castle to quickly grab their meal, while motioning for Matsu to follow, hoping to minimise any interaction between her team and Serah’s. She shot her sister an apologetic look as she walked away, knowing her team’s fault in the entire exchange.

WC: 646 + 2118 = 2764

[Exit thread]

Strength from E-0 to D-1: 1075 words and 25 ryo
Perception from E-3 to D-3: 1475 words and 150 ryo
Endurance from E-0 to E-1: 75 words and 0 ryo


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Serah

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Chuunin
“Come on you two, we should go too,” Serah urged her two teammates, who were practically fuming. It didn’t take a genius to tell that they hadn’t taken to Mihoko’s words too kindly, and Serah, having known them for so long, also knew why.

In all the years that Mihoko had spent tutoring them, never once had they seen her as disappointed as this. She’d always give them the small jab to improve, to use their brains, to think before they acted, but never once had she gotten so close to losing her cool in front of them that she’d… Well, Serah was just not used to her showing them the same type of affectionate emotion she did at the end of her lecture, and it was especially so in the presence of other people. However, Mihoko had just done that, exactly that, when in front of her sister’s team, and while under any other circumstances she may have noted that Sumimoto was breaking down the ice that she put up as a barrier in between everyone else, this case she knew better than to make such a joke. They had been performing less than what she’d expected, far from it, and she knew that she felt embarrassed by what she’d done. Or, more accurately, by what she’d failed to do – plan ahead. And, she could tell part of the anger that her teammates were feeling – most of it, actually, if she had to place a bet – was on themselves for having failed to do exactly that as well.

To a Nara, that was probably disgraceful that they couldn’t teach people to do what came so naturally to them – think.

“Come on, let’s go get a movie. That should cheer you two up,” Serah offered, placing both her arms over Junichi and Hirotsugu’s necks and trying to tug them to move. Her nudges were all but ignored as they both stood, still as statues, staring at the spot where Mihoko had stood prior to her sudden and abrupt departure. She looked at the Senju, whose eyes were narrowed in barely controlled rage, and Junichi’s balled up fists by his sides told her that he was faring barely better than his Senju counterpart. “Come on,” she nudged again, pushing (or pulling) with more force, but being the weakest on the team didn’t allow her much in that regard, much less being two years younger than both of them.

In the end, Hirotsugu’s shoulders sagged as he seemingly gave in to his disappointment, the tensing of his shoulders relieving and him sighing aloud. Putting one foot in front of the other, he walked silently out of her reach, though she noted with at least some compensation that it was in the general direction of the village, specifically the gate they normally used whenever they were going for the movie, given its propensity to be used by tourists streaming into Konoha’s attractions.

“Come on, Junichi,” she coaxed the only other guy on her team, and she could see a small wet glint in his eye. Junichi never cried. He hated showing his emotions almost as much as losing out to Hirotsugu, and when he noticed that she caught on, likely from her sudden silence, he shook his head vigorously and ran off after Hirotsugu, leaving the young Uchiha to contemplate the state of her team.

It had been their fault that they’d lost this time, but coupled with Mihoko’s stern talking to, it was likely too much for her team to bear. Sighing herself, she walked after them, wondering what she could do to change her team dynamic, and whether she could do it quickly enough for it to matter.

2519 words

–EXIT–


Perception
Reaction Time
E-1 to D-1
E-3 to D-3
1000
1475


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