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1 Of Kunai and Coat-tails [Kyohei, private, NK] on Fri Sep 16, 2016 9:58 pm

Shinako

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Special Jounin
The sounds of the street flooded through her window and awoke Shinako with a start. In that fleeting way that dreams have of escaping conscious definition, her latest night-terror slipped from the vision of her mind’s eye. She knew only that there was one constant throughout her nightly torments, and that was the river.

A few moments later her attention was drawn to the open window of her bedroom in her clan’s city enclosure. She stayed here when on working details, rather than at the estate in the forest. The urban compound was used as a barracks of sorts for all of the village’s Nara Shinobi. Its spaces were comfortable, but Shinako did not particularly enjoy being this close to all of the bustle, especially now as all of that noise and motion made something incredibly apparent to her. She was late.

It had only been about ten short hours since she had returned from the border with the Sound Village, and it appeared that she had overslept. She was expected at the administrative building that morning for an assignment after over two weeks of medical leave to allow her injuries from her previous mission to heal. As she attempted to rise from bed and felt sharp pains throughout her muscles, she wished she had taken the time to heal. Her efforts had been fruitless and painful.

Working quickly, Shinako showered and dressed herself. She cleaned with a scentless lye soap and did not wear her normal perfume. There was always a chance she would be sent on a scouting mission, in which case her scent profile needed to be minimal. Her garb for the day consisted of her normal short qipao dress in black. Feeling particularly vulnerable, she replaced her usual leggings with thick, white gi shitabaki, finishing the outfit with her plain black shinobi sandals. She brushed her teeth and rinsed her mouth, spitting the minty paste into the bushes as she rushed out into the daylight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Her Jounin officer at the Administrative building was not pleased to see her, and had informed her immediately that her tardiness had earned her a disciplinary report….something about how unfocused she had been lately. Her Chuunin non-commanding officer had been terse in handing her the next assignment, and both had left for lunch in a huff after dealing with her, leaving her alone amongst the crowded filing cabinets and cluttered desks.

Shinako had taken to the busy streets, feeling the first rumblings of hunger herself, but dared not delay the tasks of the day any longer. Opening her envelope, she had read the assignment in near disbelief. It was a personal detail for one of the village’s Jounin who wasn’t expected to engage in strenuous activities in the near future. The young Kunoichi was not sure if she should be grateful for the light work, insulted at being assigned as a glorified baby-sitter, or worst of all, frightened that she was not being taken seriously as a Shinobi.

The profile of her charge was largely redacted. Only a name, outdated picture, and a rank, with a hastily scrawled note from her NCO about where she might find the man.

“Uchiha Kyohei….”

Now Shinako stood in the market district, waving the picture at strangers and desperately hoping that they had seen the man she was looking for. She had studied the features in the photograph for hours now, and it was approaching 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Her belly and her head ached from hunger, but there was no way that she could report back without finding her target. However, much to her dismay, the streets were beginning to clear as the people of Konoha prepared for the festival activities that late summer nights always brought.

Receiving an unenthusiastic head-shake from a woman about her age, Shinako decided that she would not give up, but that she needed refreshment. She stopped and purchased a bottle of lemonade from a vendor as he whistled and closed up shop. He smiled, removing his apron, and she nodded her thanks. He allowed the weary Shinobi to lean on his cart to rest her throbbing muscles for a while. There was something almost fatherly in the moment. Casting her eyes to the clear, evening sky, she wondered aloud.

“Has anyone seen Uchiha Kyohei?”

720/720


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Location: Konoha Police HQ, Office of the Police Chief
Time: 1200 hours


“I don’t need a babysitter, Chief” Kyohei growled as he crumpled up the correspondence handed to him at the admin building regarding him being assigned a personal detail until the village’s investigation was complete, tossing it into the trash bin beside the desk, “And you know I don’t either. If you thought I was up to something you wouldn’t have made this detail consist of a single chuunin. She isn’t even special operations. What do you expect her to do?”

“I expect her to follow orders,” the police chief replied bluntly, briefly pausing to light a cigarette, “As I do you.” The older man took a drag from his cigarette before exhaling the smoke with a deep sigh, “I’ve already told you that this is out of my hands. This came from the hokage’s office. They want me to ensure that someone is keeping an eye on you until they have looked into the validity of your story and not put you back to work until then. I’m doing you a favor here. If I had left it up to them you probably would have gotten some hard-ass ANBU op breathing over your shoulder 24/7 and watching you sleep. If you would have bothered to look at her profile instead of balling it up in protest you would have seen that I gave you as easy a time as I could. She’s easy on the eyes, from a good family, has a clean record-“

“You’re selling me a shackle, not a date,” the Uchiha snapped back, cutting off the police chief, “Let’s not sit here and pretend that this is something other than what it is. I’ll go along with whatever I have to, but don’t expect me to welcome my prison guard with open arms.”

“Whatever,” the police chief answered as he ashed his cigarette in the tray to his left, “As long as the hokage’s office is off my back, I don’t care what you do until you’re cleared for duty again. Just try not to make them cry this time. I don’t need to remind you of what happened when we tried to give you a partner. That young guy, fresh out of the chunnin exams. I’ve never seen someone quit a job that quickly in my life.”

“I told you that was an accident,” Kyohei replied with an annoyed tone, leaning his head onto his right hand to show his growing boredom, “Can I go now?”

“You set his uniform on fire. With him still in it,” the chief answered back, unamused.

“No one told him to be in the way,”
Kyohei quipped with a smirk.

“You know what? Get out of my office,” moaned the senior officer, rubbing his temple out of frustration.

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Kyohei exclaimed as he raised himself up from his seat and quickly made a turn for the door, hoping to get out before the chief had a chance to change his mind and keep talking. He was known to enjoy the sound of his own voice.

“Uchiha!” the chief yelled out as Kyohei was making his turn out into the hallway, disappearing from sight, “I don’t want to hear a single complaint about the whole ordeal. You’re going to have a detail and you’re going to like it!”

In the hallway Kyohei sighed dramatically at his failure to escape. Without taking another step, the Uchiha leaned backwards, poking his head back into view from the office, “Hey chief, make sure you put out that cigarette. Smoking in administrative buildings is a fire hazard!” he said with a cheeky grin before quickly moving to make his exit.

“Not a single complaint!” the chief yelled in a voice so loud the entire building rang with his words.



Later, at the Market District:


“I don’t know why you’re looking for him, but the fact that you’re searching for him here tells me that you don’t know him very well,” a man’s voice spoke up from the crowd, “He isn’t the kind of guy that likes crowds.”

A younger man, no more than 17 years of age by appearance alone approached the cart where Shinako was resting. “Sarutobi Kai,” he introduced himself with an outstretched hand, “I used to be his cadet back on the police force. He was down at the station a bit earlier. From what I heard he was heading to the gym that we use across the street from there. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t bother. Nothing good can come from associating with that person.”






805 | 805


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako offered a self-deprecating smile to Sarutobi Kai as he approached. She almost flashed him the picture of Uchiha Kyohei, at this point working out of pure habit in her exhaustion. Instead, she tucked the photograph back into her tool satchel and shook his hand. Having no knowledge of the stranger’s rank, she offered a slight bow.

“I must admit, I know very little about him. I have only his name and his rank.”

She listened intently to Kai’s explanation of where she might find Kyohei. She knew the location he described well enough, and drew a mental map just to make sure. The final admonition caught her off-guard, and she turned a quizzical eye for a few moments, unsure of what to make of Kai’s advice. She thought back to the heavily redacted profile she had received, and decided that it might be best to proceed cautiously. At the same time, she knew that she had orders.

“I thank you very much for your care in warning me, Sarutobi-san. However, I must follow my orders without further delay.”

The young Kunoichi performed a lower bow this time, so as not to give offense by leaving so abruptly. Her parting smile was bright, if not exactly genuine; her neck ached, and even the moments of rest and refreshment had not fully dusted the cobwebs away from her cognition. With another short wave back to the shopkeeper, Shinako set off down the road.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If Shinako’s heraldry classes as a girl held true, she detected the influence of the Uchiha clan symbol in the Konoha Military Police emblem. In truth, she had never had much occasion to associate with the police. The only time they had ever visited her family’s woodland estate was when vandals had uprooted her father’s garden. She remembered rough but deferential men who wrote down what her father had reported, doing little else but survey the damage themselves and predict that the misfits would not be caught. Her father had sent them away with a bundle of cookies for their trouble.

Heaving a sigh to center herself, Shinako turned to evaluate the façade of the gym. In a subconscious gesture of security, her shadow rotated on her toe, placing itself between her and the brutish brick building. Throughout the day, the brown-eyed girl had pictured how her first encounter with Uchiha Kyohei would go. In various iterations he was apologetic for having unintentionally eluded her all day. Yet somehow, with the circumstances as they stood now, she doubted that would be the case. It was nearing 5 o’clock pm, and Shinako was tired to the bone. Her eyes were ringed with dark circles, and she was sure that her complexion would suffer for several days after this ordeal.

Ignoring all of that, Shinako straightened her sash, centering her forehead protector just below her belly-button before proceeding toward the darkened glass doors of the gym. As she approached, two men in sweaty work-out clothes, almost certainly Shinobi by the tone of their muscles, opened the door and smiled at her. One of them held the door, and the other bowed as the young Kunoichi passed; too deep a bow for Shinako’s station to solicit. This instantly drew her suspicion, and her paranoia was soon vindicated:

“Yeah, sweet thing….you go keep that nice and tight for me.”

Shinako had cleared the door, but stopped without turning around. Normally when she was cat-called in the street she ignored it. She remembered many attempts at explaining to her brothers the amount of harassment she faced when they were not around to escort her.

“Excuse me?”

Her voice was low and smooth, even at the best of times, but now it held a hint of threat. With her back turned to the rude men, she formed four hand-seals; dragon, tiger, hare, monkey.

“I just want you to know I appreciate your gym time, baby. You can meet us later if you want.”

The second man spoke now, and the air took on a sweet taste; the kind that stuck to the tongue and flooded the nose with desire. Shinako turned to face the men, her hair swirling in an arc and wafting a wave of mystique towards them. Their faces changed almost instantly to reflect their changes in emotion, seeming excited and confused all at once.

“Does that work for you?”

Their confused looks grew deeper, but they crowded into the frame of the door, bumping shoulders and scrambling for a better vantage point. They spoke in unison.

“Huh?”

“The crass and clumsy pick-up lines? Do they work for you? How many women have dropped their clothes and met you out behind the building?”

Shinako drew close and her voice became lower as she reached out her index finger on either hand, placing them below the chins of the two men. She was certain that her Genjutsu had landed, and her dangerous tone only added to the sensory confusion she had produced. Both men began to laugh nervously as her fingers traced their lips; down to their necks….their chests….their navels.

In a moment of passion, they both reached out to touch their seductive tormentor, and she made them regret it. Shinako’s hands shot downward, grasping each man by the testicles. The motion was accompanied by sharp inhalations and muffled grunts of pain. Expressions of bemusement and betrayal played across the features of the now helpless cat-callers.

Shinako butted her shoulders forward, shoving her unfortunate victims towards the street. The man on her right was shoved violently into the closed side of the double doors, and both were jostled together roughly as the angry woman marched them out onto the side-walk. She squeezed tighter until both men doubled over before abruptly letting go.

“Tight enough for you?”

One of the men fell to his knees and vomited violently into the street, while the other stumbled away down the sidewalk hurling curses back at the fiery-eyed Kunoichi. Once the sickened man was up and moving, Shinako turned back to the gym and opened the door herself to the stunned face of the desk attendant. She leveled a glare at the blonde, tan woman behind the desk and produced the photograph of her next target.

“Uchiha Kyohei….have you seen him?”

The woman pointed, and Shinako headed in that direction without hesitation.

1,050/1,770

Chakra 185/200:

Scent of Heaven Technique: C-Rank, 15 Chakra

Total: -15 Chakra


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
The gym was a necessary evil. Physical fitness and strength building was a critical factor in Kyohei’s occupation, but the egos and characters that gyms tended to attract made it nothing short of troublesome to attend one during the day. Before the accident the Uchiha made it a point to ensure his training was taken care of at the earliest possible opportunity during the morning, typically being at the gym by 0530 hours, before the sun came up and when the less desirable of gym-goers were still soundly asleep in their beds. No doubt sleeping off the few too many drinks they had the night before, knowing full well that they had a job to do the next morning. He had found it quite difficult to sleep since his return, however, necessitating all other aspects of his daily life to adjust to when his current sleep schedule allowed. Which meant for now, he was forced to go mid-day and rub elbows with almost every off-duty officer in the village, most of whom he believed to be morons. Perhaps his penchant for judging other officers in the department was misplaced, but he had seen enough bad apples to dissuade him from the entire batch.

As far as his actual workouts were concerned, Kyohei preferred to spend as little time in the gym as possible. Like a machine a well-oiled machine he would run through his workouts, made easier by his early start times. No waiting for a bench or machine to open up, no one trying to make small talk. Just how he liked it. Such peaceful and efficient workouts were a thing of the past, however. Between waiting in line to do sets, others asking him to spot, and nosy colleagues asking questions about his disappearance, his entire afternoon had slipped through his fingers. Not that it mattered, since he effectively had his hands tied when he was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. Even so, from the time he finished his last set and racked his plates, it took him 35 minutes just to get to the showers with all of the distractions in his way.

By the time he was able to take a shower, after once again being made to wait in line, all he wanted to do was get clean as quickly as possible and move on. Much to his delight, the gym seemed to be clearing out as the afternoon went late. After exiting the shower he found his row in the locker room completely deserted, meaning no men trying to start conversations with him while half naked. Always a good thing. He wore the basic, fitted black tactical pants and black combat boots he had always worn when on duty, a plan white undershirt tank, and slung his green utility jacket over his left shoulder, using his left hand to hold it stead until he exited the building. If he was ever given the opportunity to exit the building, that is.

Seemingly the moment that he exited the locker room and began making his way to the exit, a group of former colleagues waved him down and began asking him about his disappearance. They had told him about all of the rumors they had heard and wanted to know how many of them were true. The rumors and gossip in particular was one of Kyohei’s least favorite things about the Police Force. Considering that the majority of the force consisted of grown men, it should have been almost unimaginable that HQ resembled so closely a gossip mill. Who’s sleeping with who, who’s getting fired, who’s having an affair. They were worse than schoolgirls. Still, in an effort to not delay his re-activation by rocking the boat more than necessary, he humored their nonsense, hoping that deliberately short and blunt answers would convey his disinterest enough to persuade them to make the conversation brief. They did not.

During the conversation, Kyohei could hear a commotion being made all the way towards the entrance, but the machinery and weight racks obstructed his view, leaving him unable to identify the source. He did manage to talk his way out of his current situation, however, giving him all of the incentive in the world to make a beeline for the exit.

The actual gym floor was deceptively large, comparable in size to the rest of the industrial-scale floor layouts common in this district. There was an individual section for each exercise type, the weight training section located all the way to the rear, elevated about five feet and accessible via two small sets of stairs on opposite sides of the floor. Kyohei would take the path down the eastern wall of the building, coming in clear sight of the exit door within moments, but unfortunately would find his path obstructed once more.

“Where is she?!” a voice boomed from just in front of the gym entrance.

“Where the hell did she go?” shouted another.

The two were officers, Kyohei recognized them immediately. Both were of the variety of officers he actively avoided and apparently some unnamed “she” had drawn their ire. Behind them were two more uniformed officers and Sarutobi Kai, Kyohei’s old partner that he made quit after one day on the job. What were the chances of seeing him here only hours after the chief had brought him up? In any case, it looked unlikely that he would be walking through those doors without an issue.






923 | 1728


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako’s angry march took her to the east side of the building, toward the locker rooms. After the tussle at the entrance, several sets of eyes were still on her, and she did not shy away from eye-contact. She stared down a man in a flashy purple shirt, as though daring him to say something to her. The cloud of floral fragrance around her had dissipated, leaving only its sweet aftermath against the stale stench of the sweat soaked into the floor and the equipment.

The young woman had never been in a gym in her life. Even in the academy, Konoha’s noble families had been privileged enough to escape the embarrassment of organized physical education classes. In her preconceived opinion, this was not the type of place that worthwhile people frequented. In fact, her notions about Uchiha Kyohei had become more negative upon simply entering this den of vanity. She could learn more about her body and hone her skills more perfectly in the forest than by pumping iron.

As she passed a man on a bench doing bicep curls, Shinako reached out with her left hand and closed his gaping maw. It was then that she heard the shouting from the entrance, just as she turned the corner toward the locker room and almost ran directly into a person who she immediately recognized. Her eyes became wide with surprise, and she instinctively held the photograph between her chest and his.

“Uchiha Kyohei?”

She asked in the same way a delivery boy would ask, fairly certain of the answer. She didn’t wait for a reply, but shot a glance over her shoulder as the shouting intensified. By the sound of it, the men she had injured had returned with friends, possibly Military Police. She looked back to the man before her, searching his eyes for a hint at his general demeanor and suddenly becoming aware of how tired she was once more. It was like reaching the end of a long road, only to realize that there was still half of a journey left to go.

“I’m Nara Shinako, and I’ve been assigned to tail you and keep you comfortable during your inactive status. Errr….”

Shinako heard a loud crash, perhaps that of one of the heavy machines she had passed on the way in falling over. She was able to make out that the voices were indeed asking after her. Or, at least, she could hardly think of another ‘she’ that they would be searching for. The young Kunoichi looked toward the door that she expected Kyohei had just exited, and without hesitation, she darted for it, angling her body lithely past the tall, fair-haired man, and at the same time waving him in.

“….do you think we could speak in private? It’s getting so crowded out there.”

Even with the acrid, smelly steam of the locker room, Shinako did not have time to regret her decision to retreat to the men’s locker room. Had she not been distracted by the situation at hand, she would have felt violated by the foul smell emanating from the dark, dank hole in the wall. As it stood now, she did not have time to worry about her own comfort. Her senses strained as she made multiple assessments at once.

Her senses were good enough to keep track of the relative position of her pursuers, as they made their way noisily across the main floor of the gym. Her brown eyes also scanned the locker room for possible outlets of escape, finding only a rectangular window set into the far side of the room. Finally, she shifted her attention back to her mission, locating Uchiha Kyohei to see if he was following her.

620/2,390

Chakra 185/200


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Despite bringing his own march towards the exit to a halt, Kyohei would find himself in a near collision as a woman turned the corner beside him, stopping herself just short as she became aware of her surroundings. It seemed like it was just going to be one of those days where trouble was going to keep finding him. He looked down at the dark haired woman to see her face light up in surprise, but far more than the situation should have called for under normal circumstances. He examined her face more closely for a moment and could already guess the reason for such a reaction, she had been looking for him. This was the same woman from the briefing in the chief’s office that morning. He expected to run into her eventually, although part of him hoped he could avoid her all the way through the allotted time.

She spoke, politely introducing herself, but not telling the Uchiha anything he didn’t already know. His attention was more focused on the commotion going on over her shoulder. And apparently she was more concerned about it than he was, since she bolted off as the rowdy group approached. He turned in time to see her opening the door to the men’s locker room, waving him in as she requested a private conversation due to the “crowd” before disappearing behind the closing door. With his free hand Kyohei rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration, letting out an annoyed huff before choosing to follow her. His right arm growing tired of its current position, Kyohei adjusted the way he held his jacket before pressing onward into the locker room, now holding it mid-length in a loosely gripped fist.

As he entered Kyohei saw Shinako eye the small window in the back of the locker room used for extra ventilation before turning back to face him. As she turned her gaze his way the Uchiha locked eyes with the woman, eyed the window himself, and them locked eyes with her once more, this time with a look of disapproval. “No.” He didn’t feel the need to explain what he was saying no to. That was the only way ‘out’ from this locker room and the woman didn’t seem to be in a particular rush to run back in the direction of the group that he assumed was after her.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re the ‘she’ that they’re looking for,” said in an unamused tone, tilting his head slightly back towards the gym floor and back as a gesture of acknowledgment for the situation, “So much for your assignment. This situation isn’t exactly what I would consider being kept comfortable.”

Another loud crash of metal plates rang from outside of the locker room, this time closer than before. “What did you do?” the Uchiha said, more of an accusation than a real question, emphasizing the end of each word like a parent coming home to a guilty looking child. “You know what? It doesn’t actually matter. I’m not going to run away or sit here and hide from my subordinate officers. Let’s go.”

Without so much as waiting for the opportunity for her to voice a protest Kyohei turned to the door his back had been facing all along and pushed his way through, coming out on the other side facing down the group of five that had been rampaging through the gym. “Long time no see, kid.” He said with a smirk, his eyes trained directly on his former partner.

“That’s Sergeant Sarutobi to you!” Kai snapped back, pointing his right index finger and outstretched arm at Kyohei, “Things have changed while you were gone. I’m not that greenhorn that took orders from you anymore.”

“Funny, I didn’t know that crying was an essential skill needed to be promoted,” Kyohei mused, openly taunting his former trainee, “But I think you’re forgetting a critical piece of information here. I still outrank you.”

Kai became visibly flustered, clenching his fist at the taunt and raising his voice unconsciously as anger set in. “You’ve been placed on indefinite administrative leave since your return haven’t you?” he replied, “You’re not giving anyone any orders anytime soon, so don’t try to pull rank with me. You’ve got no authority.”

“Is that right?” Kyohei mused, “Is that a bet you’re all willing to take?” The Uchiha took a step forward towards the group before continuing. “You know, part of being a good commanding officer is learning to curb your temper when a group of insolent morons loses their damned minds.” He paused for a moment, taking his time to scan across the group, making eye contact with each one of them before locking gazes with their commanding officer once more. “Back off or I’ll have you all on disciplinaries. I don’t think you can afford another, can you Suzuki?”

Upon hearing the direct threat to his career, one of the men, and unbeknownst to Kyohei, one of the original men responsible for this entire ordeal, took three steps back in surrender. And after exchanging looks, his partner backed off soon after, leaving only Kai and the two beat cops he brought with him.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kai exclaimed in frustration to the two men who abandoned him in the middle of the conflict, “Hurry up and bring out that girl Uchiha! She’s under arrest for assaulting two officers of the law.”

Kyohei considered this option for a moment, intrigued by the possibility of getting out of this babysitting deal with no consequences, but ultimately decided against it. “No, she isn’t,” he answered calmly, offering no explanation or room for negotiation.

“She committed a crime,” Kai rebuffed, “You can’t really be defending her actions.”

“And you? Vandalism, assault, insubordination,” Kyohei listed listlessly, “Do you really want to play this game with me? Frankly, I don’t care what her actions were. Whatever she did to any of you lot was probably well-deserved. And are you all really going to bring her in and write a detailed report about how you tough guys were ‘assaulted’ by a lone woman? The department would have a field day with that. I’m not going to repeat myself again, kid. Back off.”

At that moment the two uniformed officers who had accompanied Kai also backed away from the confrontation, not willing to risk the consequences. That, combined with the personal disdain he felt for the Uchiha welled up inside him, causing him to lash out. “frick you!” the sergeant barked as he drew his baton, “I’m not going to be humiliated by you again!”

A smirk curled at the corner of the Uchiha’s lips, amused by the reaction he was able to provoke out of the Sarutobi. For a moment he stood completely still, watching Kai’s hand gripping so tightly to his baton that it shook. Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Kyohei made his move. He snapped his right arm upwards, sending the jacket in his hand flying towards his target, obstructing his line of sight. Before the jacket even crested and began its descent, Kyohei was already on his former trainee, stranding face to face with him, close enough that he knew Kai could feel his breath. He gripped the baton just above the handle, holding it in place as to not be used against him. “You never were good at following orders. Now are you done putting on your little show or do you need to cry again?”

With each word spoken the air between them grew increasingly torrid, each breath expelling a wave of heat like opening the entrance to an oven, causing the young Sarutobi to begin visibly sweating. Kyohei had a good deal of experience reading people, especially within the department and he knew exactly what buttons to push on Kai. The sweltering heat he was feeling now was the same heat he felt from the flames that sent him running out of Headquarters crying his first day on the job. If the Sarutobi had so clearly forgotten where he stood in this relationship, Kyohei would remind him.

And he would be successful in this endeavor. Between the heat, and the physical intimidation due to the obvious difference in physicality between them, the Sarutobi sergeant froze in place for a moment. His entire body became still in that instant, with the exception of his clenched hand gripping tightly to his baton; still shaking, but now out of fear rather than rage. But it appeared as though he had grown up a bit since their last encounter, as his paralysis would be short-lived. Mustering up the courage to act, Kai would take an audible gulp and grab the baton handle with both hands, attempting to wrest control of the weapon back from his adversary. He did this to no avail, however, as the difference in raw strength between them made painfully clear.

“I’m not afraid of you!” he growled, tears welling up in his eyes as he resorted to a war of words in his last, desperate act of defiance, “And I should have known that any woman that would openly associate herself with you was going to be trouble! So much for her ‘orders’. What is she, some kind of escort? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by someone like you looking for some cheap entertainment while the chief has you riding the bench. Happily taking a client into the men’s locker room of a place of business mid-day, I couldn’t imagine that even you would be able to find such a shameless woman. Bu-”

Kai’s monologue would be cut short by the force of Kyohei’s free hand wrapping forcefully around his throat. “Some things don’t change, kid,” the Uchiha continued, knowing full-well he had robbed the Sarutobi of his ability to speak with his grip, tightening it slowly with each passing moment, “You’re still a crybaby. And you still… talk… too… much.”

The red coloring in Kai’s face caused by the heat now deepened as oxygen deprivation began to set in; first dark red, then purple, then blue. Just as Kyohei felt the Sarutobi’s breathing slow down as if he were about to pass out, however, he released his grip, letting his colleague collapse onto the floor. He paid no mind to the boy as he coughed furiously and gasped for air, instead turning to pick his jacket up off of the floor and dusting it off before making his way to and out the exit of the gym as he had intended to do before that woman dragged these problems into his life. Once outside he turned left and continued walking, not so much as looking back to the scene they had caused. Nothing good would come of sticking around for too long. He glanced over his shoulder for the woman that had caused and no doubt witnessed all of the commotion that he had just partaken in, not sure if she would follow him out. It probably didn’t matter either way.






1900 | 3628


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
The combination of physical weariness, overwhelming emotion, and mental exhaustion turned the entire scene into a blur for Shinako. She registered, quite firmly, the prohibition against escaping through the window, but half expected Uchiha Kyohei to propose a better avenue for evading her pursuers. As a result, she was borderline dumb-struck when the brooding man once again exited the locker-room and returned to the exercise floor. Throwing her hands up in frustrated resignation, the young Kunoichi decided that she had to follow through with her orders, even if it meant being arrested today. She supposed that her brothers would at least pay her bail.

Moving cautiously so as not to startle the angry men and provoke a defensive response, Shinako exited the locker-room to view Kyohei facing down the five police officers. His demeanor was authoritative and threatening, and her mind flew back to images of Uchiha Tenzo, her Jounin sensei. Both she and her good friend Joruri had been terrified of the man. Shinako’s breath became labored with nervousness, and she stayed close to the eastern wall. Her shadow formed an angry, pointed spear, thrusting toward the scene as it unfolded.

She recognized Sarutobi Kai, though he did not seem nearly as helpful or as charismatic as he had earlier in the day, when he had been so nice as to direct her along. In the street, he had seemed charming, and even handsome, a perception that Shinako seldom held of Shinobi in the village. Now, confronted with the figure of Uchiha Kyohei, he seemed small and fragile. He was not unlike a squirrel, cowering from a large snake. Sweat beaded his now unattractive features, and his eyes flitted about, like a horse about to shy and buck its rider. Shinako felt danger hanging in the air, even before Sarutobi Kai asserted himself and drew his baton.

Though his back was to her, Shinako imagined Kyohei’s stare falling upon her. The Hidden Leaf Village had traditional stories of the Uchiha and their uncomfortable eyes. Uchiha Itachi had been able to defeat even the world’s most powerful Shinobi with a glance. She wondered now if Sarutobi Kai might not be experiencing the foundations of those legends first-hand. Every person in the gym observed with bated breath as the pale-haired man, seeming to tower over his subordinate, took hold of the quivering baton, holding its forced paralyzed; indeed, appearing to hold Sarutobi Kai’s very fate in his hands with the gesture.

It was then that Kai’s manner completely broke. He began hurling insults, like a child on the playground might as a bully sat on his chest. Of course, he reached for the low-hanging fruit. As a woman, Shinako had often been insulted with attacks on her modesty and sexuality. Slut, whore, bitch….all of these had been both said and implied before, and they did not sting coming from this stranger. However, if someone had told Shinako scarcely an hour ago that this man might be saying these things about her in public, she would have laughed and called them a liar. She seldom judged others, but Sarutobi Kai’s file in her mind was instantly transported into a column reserved for the weakest and most deplorable elements in society. If she never had to speak another word to him, it would be no loss.

Then, in a flash of aggression that drew an audible grasp from Shinako’s parted lips, Kyohei’s hand was around the other man’s throat. She took several steps forward as the Uchiha all but lifted the sniveling officer from the ground. In the moment, the young woman did not quite hear what Kyohei said, but assumed that it could not have been anything flattering. The other four rabble-rousers stared in wide-eyed fear….and then it was over.

As Kyohei let go of the sputtering man, Shinako thought it might have been more merciful to have killed him. She remembered her family’s policy on lamed deer; they were put down whenever they were discovered, for their own comfort and for the good of the herd. Though the impact of such a public embarrassment on Sarutobi Kai’s psyche was not truly accessible to her, she imagined that the damage was extensive. At least twenty people in the village would tell this story, and his reputation would suffer greatly.

In this moment of sympathy, Shinako almost missed Kyohei’s abrupt exit. She didn’t realize how flushed her face had become, or that her own hands had clinched into tight fists until she herself cleared the door. Her head whipped around, flinging her hair in an arc as she located Uchiha Kyohei’s departing back. Breaking into a half jog to recover the distance between them, she silently took up a flanking position to his left. She wasn’t sure whether she avoided his line of sight out of a sense of duty, shame, or fear. Maybe it was a combination of the three. She kept her gaze low and fixed on the road ahead of them, and after several long moments of silence, felt compelled to speak.

“Thanks for that….”

845/3,235

Chakra 185/200


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
As Kyohei cleared distance from the entrance to the gym, he replayed the events that had just passed in his mind, focusing on the details of the confrontation that he was sure he would be explaining to the chief the next day. In that moment a breeze blew by, redirecting his focus back to the present time and making him aware of his surroundings once more. As he walked he would begin putting on his jacket, sleeve by sleeve, deciding it better to cover up now that he was no longer in the gym, but walking the streets of Konohagakure. Undershirts were meant to be worn underneath other clothing, after all.

Kyohei’s ears perked up slightly at the sound of the gym door opening and closing behind him, possibly signaling a pursuer. There was a moment of silence followed by the hurried tapping of feet, becoming a bit louder each moment as the source of the sound drew closer. Too light and graceful to be the clumsy stomping of police boots, the Uchiha took a guess as to who was coming his way; Nara Shinako. He hoped he had been wrong, but after she caught up to him and began matching his pace right at his left side, he could see that things just weren’t going to go smoothly for him today.

Truthfully he would have preferred it be more of Kai’s little friends looking for trouble. For the most part beat cops were predictable. They would approach him, puff out their chests, make some empty threats, and then fall back once they realized they had no authority over him. If not, even animals without the cognitive ability to form rational thoughts could have sense beaten into them. She, on the other hand, was a problem he couldn’t just impose his will on to solve. He had already tried that this morning in the chief’s office when he expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation, only to have it fall on deaf ears. He couldn’t force her to leave, no matter how much of an inconvenience she had already proven to be.

They walked silently together for a moment, Kyohei preoccupied with devising a way to get rid of the woman and Shinako… well, he had no idea why she hadn’t said anything, but he wasn’t going to complain about it. The Nara would be the first to break the silence, as well as Kyohei’s train of thought, forcing a feeble apology through her lips. He glanced at her from the corner of his eye for a moment, but never turned his head to face any way but forward, continuing to walk at the same brisk pace.

“Thanks for what?”






458 | 4086


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako didn’t quite know how to answer the question. In her life she had constant trouble with the vestigial platitudes left over from her time as a socialite. Unlike the cultured and well-bred young men who had been eager to make her a bride, her Chuunin Sergeants and Jounin Officers were not impressed by her subtle placements of compliments and apologies. Shinobi cared very little for the niceties of high-society. When she felt a heat growing in her belly these days, it was not from warming stones placed in her sash to curb her hunger. Instead, it was the complex feelings of stimulation and awareness she felt now, walking beside Uchiha Kyohei. Sequences of Kaiseki had been replaced with sequences of hand signs.

The young Kunoichi continued to hang her head for a few moments, certain that she would be in handcuffs right now were it not for the peculiar and surly subject of her assignment. She shot a clandestine glance in his direction, and decided that she would have to project at least a modicum of gratitude and grace.

“For shutting him up.”

Shinako’s voice regained its normal, sweltering tone. Even since girlhood, the dulcet quality of her voice had been one of her defining qualities.

“I met Sarutobi Kai earlier. In fact, he was the one who told me where I might find you.”

Thinking back on it now, Shinako was unsure if Sarutobi Kai had not followed her from the cart in the market district to the gym. The idea bounced from the front to the back of her mind for several long moments before she dismissed it as ridiculous. It was more likely that he had been returning to the Police Headquarters than it was that he had been stalking her. However, she could not quite escape the slimy feeling she got from seeing and hearing the man’s actions and words in the gym. The foul scent of the place still lingered in her nostrils.

“Speaking of which, it’s getting quite late….”

The statement was only relatively true. The day stood at the nexus of afternoon and evening. An idea came to Shinako as she groped for appropriate conversation.

“….perhaps you’re hungry after your workout, Kyohei-san? I could buy you a meal and we could get to know each other.”

In her time as a Shinobi she had learned that very few of them ate at home. The only Clans she knew of that still held midday meals were the Yamanaka and the Hyuuga. Even the more traditional Nara families could be found immersed in their working lunches during week-days. If her calculations were correct, the restaurants would be filling up soon, and she could think of nothing that would be more pleasant than a cup of warm saké.

465/3,700

Chakra 185/200


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei continued to walk at his same brisk pace, not so much as throwing a glance his companion’s way as she continued to speak. The first sentence would have sufficed as an answer and Kai was the last person the Uchiha wanted to talk or think about right now. It was a name that he was sure he would be hearing again fairly soon. He wasn’t sure whether he should be amused or disappointed that Shinako found herself reaching with the mention of time in order to find some kind of common ground to have a conversation. What he did know was that for whatever reason this woman seemed set on being a bother. Immediately after she proposed going for a meal together, he would stop abruptly, turning his body to stand face to face with Shinako. He stood silently for a brief moment, allowing her to take in his scowl before his words.

“I didn’t do it for you,” Kyohei spoke, not with anger, but with disappointment for the situation, “I did it because he stepped out of line and I wasn’t going to run away from an insolent brat. I don’t know what they told you about me, but I had your file pulled when they told me who would be assigned to me. You’re a chuunin, and a new one at that. You’ve been doing real shinobi work for what, a year? Why do you think that the village’s upper-brass feels that I need to be kept an eye on? The nature of my work has made me plenty of enemies and necessitated involvement with all kinds of questionable people, most of them far more dangerous than that academy student ‘playing shinobi’, Kai, from whom you ran away. You’re in over your head. If you’re so hungry, go home. I’ve had enough of your brand of ‘comfort’ for one day.”

Perhaps harsh and condescending in tone, but Kyohei’s words were not without merit and certainly not without purpose. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea of having to be followed around to begin with on top of not being allowed to work to begin with, but so far Shinako’s first impressions had only served to bring him unwanted trouble and attention when he was instructed to lay low. He had already made peace with the fact that he wasn’t getting out of this, but he had little faith in her abilities at the moment.

While the Uchiha may have embellished the threat of imminent danger slightly, (He doubted that his enemies would openly attack him in the middle of the village. Amongst the people who might want him dead, only Hataro could pull something like that off) the fact still remained that Shinako had yet to show him anything of significance that might change his mind. This was as much a test as it was a lecture, perhaps more so. So far she had proven nothing except that she was ladylike and had the discipline to be courteous even under duress. All admirable qualities in isolation. Now he wanted to see if she could defend herself. If only that was enough to banish her, she was wasting his time to begin with.






550 | 4636


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
In proper decorating and decluttering, Shinako had learned to put her hand on every object in a home, and if touching it did not give her joy, to get rid of it. Feeling the small scroll containing her orders for the day in her pocket, she desperately wanted to get rid of this situation; to declutter her mind and her life.

“You’re right.”

The words were curt and honest. His appraisal of her skill as a Shinobi was not wrong by any stretch of the word. Most competent Ninja started their time in the academy before they turned ten, making Genin in a few short years, and Chuunin before adulthood. With all of the facts as they were, Shinako would be lying if she didn’t admit that she was years behind her peers. To make Jounin after such a late start was almost unheard of, and she had only been promoted to Chuunin on the strength of her family’s name, after having failed resoundingly at the Chuunin exams in Kirigakure.

In short, there was absolutely no reason that a seasoned Shinobi like Uchiha Kyohei should respect her at face-value. To them, she was little more than a pampered princess playing with Kunai.

“I’m not a genius, or a prodigy. There are girls and boys of 15 in this village who know more about life with a sword in their hand than I ever will….”

Shinako stepped forward, nearly chest to chest with the much taller man. She looked up into his eyes so that he could see the steel in hers. At the same time, she untied her forehead protector from its customary position around her waist in one fluid motion. Without breaking her hard glare, she tied the symbol of the village in its proper place, around her brow.

“….but those ‘real’ Shinobi aren’t here right now. I’m what you have, and you’re what I have, no matter how much either of us might dislike it.”

The Kunoichi shot two mocking glances around the scene, one over each shoulder, before fixing her deep-brown eyes on Kyohei again.

“In this street, I see only Uchiha Kyohei and Nara Shinako, both having bad days, and both honor-bound to see this assignment through to its conclusion. There’s no reason we should do so hungry.”

Feeling the muscles in her neck cramping from craning to look the man in the face, Shinako heaved a heavy sigh and backed up a step. She rubbed her neck in a tired gesture and shook her head in resignation to the fact that she had to plunge forward, no matter how disagreeable she might find all of this.

“Listen….if by the end of a meal you still don’t like me, I’ll be quiet for the rest of the night and request a transfer first thing tomorrow morning.”

The next dawn, to someone as weary as Shinako, seemed impossibly far away. In the space of a few moments, the painted face that she normally presented to the world had faded away, and she stood purely as a plaintiff before an obstinate judge. Neither the socialites or the Shinobi would have recognized Nara Shinako in that moment.

530/4,230

Chakra 185/200


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Although he had grown up apart from the traditional Uchiha upbringing and therefore not indoctrinated with the values and beliefs typical of his peers, Kyohei could not help but feel a certain attraction to the allure of the eye. Aesthetically, he had always placed value in what could be perceived as uncommon or exotic eyes, perhaps feeling a sort of kinship with those who possessed them, as if there was some unspoken common ground to tread on. A person’s eyes were their most important facial feature as far as he was concerned. It was how they communicated on an almost primal level, often revealing more than the words they spoke. It was how people would often remember him and others like him. A face, a name… all forgettable, but when others saw his gaze take on that infamous shade of crimson red, they would never forget.

On the surface, Shinako’s eyes were unremarkable. A deep brown, not unattractive, but the color common in every sense of the word and lacking any outstanding qualities of note. That much the Uchiha could tell with a simple glance, but that wasn’t what he was looking for. The true value in locking gazes with another was not in aesthetics, but in truth. Words were notoriously false. Kyohei had learned early on in life never to take the words that came out of another’s mouth at face value. Her display with the forehead protector as if it somehow made her more of a shinobi was adorable, like a kitten trying to walk upright, but ultimately proved nothing. When the Nara looked up into his eyes, however, everything else became a side note. Despite her feminine & delicate appearance, her inexperience, and his attempts at dissuading her, Shinako held firm. In her eyes he saw resolve, which is more than he could say for most of the “real shinobi” she was referring to. At the very least, she had refused to wilt in front of him, even after him making it so easy and so tempting to do so.

Her display of defiance was short lived, Shinako seemingly giving into fatigue and taking a step back to await the Uchiha’s reply to her offer. “So, you’re telling me that all I have to do is find a reason not to like you by the end of the night and you’ll be off my back?” Kyohei inquired, his facial expression blank, but his vocal tone displaying slight amusement at the proposition, just short of sneering, “Fine, we’ll do things your way this time. But do me a favor and try to keep the locker rooms, window-escape strategies, and me having to deal with whatever little boys you have following you around like lost puppies to a minimum. And by a minimum, I mean zero.”

“So,” he continued as he turned his back to her once more, peering back at her from over his shoulder, and making a slight nodding gesture urging her to come forward, “Lead the way.”






509 | 5,145


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Had the situation not been so unpleasant, Shinako would have smiled at the small measure of victory Kyohei had just given her. At the very least, she would be able to report back to her Chuunin NCO that she had lasted out twenty-four hours. Perhaps by then a more suitable and capable Shinobi would be up for assignment. The rotation was constantly shifting, and the possibility that she would be reassigned was high to begin with. With the reputation she was building, she was sure that there were some papers that needed to be pushed around a desk for a few days. In her state of physical pain, the idea was not altogether unwelcome.

For a few long moments, she stared almost gratefully at the man’s back for this act of mercy when he had her against the ropes. Coming back to her senses, Shinako brushed past the brooding man, keeping her eyes forward and assuming the lead. The street was completely empty, and if she had to guess she would have said that the police from earlier were still squaring up the damage they had caused with the owner of the gym. Karma never disappointed.

Moving once again, Shinako was grateful for the cool evening air that removed the flush from her cheeks and offered a little bit of energy if not the complete reinvigoration she needed. She was glad that she would soon be seated on a soft mat, with the buzz of exuberant diners to match the fuzziness of her thoughts. The act of eating had always been cathartic for her, and it would probably quell the inexplicable urge she had to explain the events of the last few days to someone….to anyone.

“Very good. Let’s have at it.”

Her voice didn’t quite do ‘plucky,’ but she came close and was satisfied with her effort. Even though a lone strand of hair fell uncomfortably across her eyes, Shinako fought the urge to readjust her forehead protector. It had just won her first tick in the win-column for the day, and she didn’t want to ruin it. In that moment she felt like a circus performer, suspended high above a crowd on a tight-rope. The performer was always afraid of falling; the audience, though, always observed, at least in some small part, in anticipation that the performer would fail.

As they moved toward downtown in silence, Shinako almost asked what Kyohei would like to eat. After only a moment of mulling the question around in her head she decided it was a bad idea. She wanted to seem as decisive as she possibly could, and besides, her stomach had already given her some notion of what she wanted. The scent of grilled fish wafted through the air, and she recognized the subtle bouquet of spices as a relatively inexpensive restaurant nearby.

The Kunoichi kept her pace deliberate, and was sure to signal her direction adequately with body-language as the streets became busier. Her senses were relatively good, but she had not yet perfected the art of tracking an unseen target through a crowd. In a way, she supposed that she was simply trusting that Uchiha Kyohei would not evade her as she led the way.

After roughly six blocks, the familiar storefront of Takashi’s Teppanyaki came into view, and Shinako settled under the awning, turning back to see if she was still the luckiest Shinobi in the entire village.

570/4,800

Chakra 185/200


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
For someone who was dangling “I’ll be quiet” as an incentive for Kyohei to cooperate with her, Shinako was decidedly silent as the duo traversed the streets of Konohagakure. He wondered if perhaps she was trying to be particularly careful with the words she chose or how often she chose them as to not find herself on the losing end of her own proposition. Any way one was to look at it, that was the most likely case. He observed her closely as the made their way through the empty streets, carefully matching her pace as to not pass her by.

It was not atypical for the streets directly surrounding the Military Police Headquarters to be free of civilian pedestrians. For security purposes, it only stands to reason that a military building containing highly-classified documents, dangerous criminals awaiting processing, and an armory to be set some distance away from commercial districts. The foot traffic surrounding Kyohei and Shinako as they moved closer to their destination would quickly increase, however. She was taking him downtown, which at this hour was bound to be filled with people getting off of a typical work schedule, looking to feed themselves or drown their frustrations in alcohol. It was Happy Hour, after all.

As the streets became more densely packed, however, Kyohei found himself losing Shinako in the crowd. While she seemed to lithely maneuver her way around the crowd, Kyohei found himself having to squeeze awkwardly through the gaps if he wished to avoid forcibly moving people out of his way. And considering he was already likely on his way to getting chewed out by the chief the next morning, he didn’t need any more problems to arise. For the most part, despite the crowds, he was able to keep pace with his companion, which he intended to do regardless of his dislike for crowds. He had conceded the evening’s next activity to Shinako and was not one to go back on his word so casually.

Eventually, however, Kyohei would lose sight of Shinako. By this point they were on their sixth block, and found themselves in the middle of a popular restaurant hub in the village, as well as all of the inconsiderate people standing around obstructing the Uchiha’s path. He sucked his teeth in frustration before deciding on a course of action to locate Shinako. In an instant, his eyes took on a crimson glow, the bright red hue of his Sharingan appearing like a beacon against the otherwise dim setting as dusk approached. He scanned the area, using the visual prowess of his eyes to cut through the fading light and bodies surrounding him, focusing only on locating chakra signatures. She had not gone far, and it would only take him a few moments to locate Shinako, standing still on the other side of this wall of people. She seemed to be waiting, perhaps having already arrived at their destination.

Thoroughly annoyed, and unwilling to try to squeeze his way through another crowd, Kyohei deactivated his Sharingan, her location already committed to memory. Bringing his hands together in a tiger seal he performed the Body Flicker Technique, in the blink of an eye vanishing from the center of the crowd and re-appearing a moment later, standing beside Shinako and looking out into the crowd. He looked up for a moment, finding himself beneath the awning of what he could only assume was a restaurant from the image of an iron griddle that adorned it.

“So this is the place?”





594 | 5739


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako was slightly startled by Kyohei’s sudden appearance, but she didn’t let it show on her face. Her relief in finding that the man had not taken the opportunity to elude her while her back was turned might have been the more apparent emotion. She nodded in response to his question and pushed aside the silk curtain that covered the entryway, flooding the space beneath the awning with the mouth-watering aroma of the food being prepared inside. The temperature of the restaurant was slightly steamy from the heat of the grills.

With an exaggerated sway to her hips, brought on by her boost in confidence and proximity to her goal of filling her belly, Shinako led the way into the restaurant. She offered a bow to the hostess, careful not to stare at the girl’s bright blue highlights.

“A table for two, please.”

The hostess gave an exaggerated bow to both Shinako and Kyohei in turn before grabbing two menus and leading the way to the back of the restaurant to the quieter tables. Shinako had been on a date here once, and the eager young man had insisted on sitting side by side. She had politely ended the evening upon finding that her date could not keep his hands off of her legs. As they approached the low tables, surrounded by lively diners seated on deep purple cushions. Most of them appeared to be around their mid-twenties, and were likely out enjoying romantic evenings. The connotations for her own situation only bothered Shinako a little bit.

Giving another deferential bow, the hostess indicated a relatively isolated table, and Shinako promptly took a seat, adopting a perfectly practiced yokozuwari posture. She sighed in relief, still reserving her words in hopes that Kyohei might feel inclined to break the silence.

“Your waiter will be right with you, babes!”

The hostess was a teenager and spoke with the trendy inflected accent that Shinako had always viewed as slightly below her class. However, something about it was endearing in the moment, and Shinako even smiled as she dismissed the girl with a nod. In the intervening time, Shinako allowed her gaze to wander freely, and found that she had to stop herself from humming along with the canned music. She almost subconsciously picked out the few Shinobi in the crowd, identifying them either by their forehead protectors or their tool-belts. She counted six in addition to herself and Kyohei.

After a few moments the waiter came around with a tray of hot tea, miso soup, and cold water. Shinako nodded her thanks and the young man asked if they would like to hear the night’s specials.

“I already know what I’d like, but thank you.”

Shinako almost always ordered a light salad, or a delicate dumpling dish, but tonight she was not trying to impress anyone, or to hide her hunger. The usual small acts of romantic warfare in a setting like this held no appeal in the moment, and she ordered a proper meal.

“I’ll have the Yakizakana and a bottle of warm saké.”

The waiter leaned forward for a moment as though hearing her incorrectly. The grilled seasonal fish was usually the largest dish on the menu, especially when rockfish was in season, as it was now. Shinako smiled politely back at the waiter, as though casually daring him to challenge her. Eventually, the man relented and dutifully wrote down her order.

570/5,370


____


Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei’s gaze could not help but fall to Shinako’s hips swaying side to side in front of him as they entered the restaurant, raising an eyebrow in the sudden change in demeanor. His curiosity ended soon, however, as they met the hostess just a few paces away. The young girl led them through the busy dining area and to a more secluded section of the restaurant to a small table with round, purple cushions on the floor to act as seats. “Oh, this is going to be one of those places then,” he thought to himself as he watched Shinako take a seated posture, so smoothly that one would think she had practiced it a thousand times. The Uchiha never did enjoy the pretentiousness of traditional seating arrangements and postures, but he had enough experience, at least, to be seated with minimal discomfort. While perhaps less gracefully than his counterpart, Kyohei assumed the agura position in the seat directly across the table from her.

It wouldn’t take long for Kyohei to decide on what to order. All that was left was to give the laminated sheet a quick glance to confirm that they carried the brand of whiskey he was looking for. The answer was no, which he somewhat expected given the kind of restaurant he found himself in. A seemingly popular, middling restaurant like this one would surely cater their alcoholic beverage selection to casting as wide a net as possible to extract the most value from their investment. The Uchiha let out a disappointed sigh, now slightly regretting allowing her to choose the venue for their meal. His favorite bar always carried a selection in line with his tastes. Wasting no more time he closed his menu back up and slid the drink menu inside the fold, holding it out for the waiter to take as a signal of the completion of his order.

“I’ll have one of whatever she ordered.”

The truth was that Kyohei was not particularly hungry, nor had he had much of an appetite for anything since his return just a few days earlier. As much as he hated to admit it, getting re-acclimated to his normal life after such a long absence was more difficult than he had anticipated. It was not so much that the tasks were difficult, but everything felt… empty. Upon his return, the only thing he had wanted was to see Risu again. During the interviews conducted by the interrogation squad, however, he was informed that shortly after his own disappearance, she herself had vanished. What then followed was a series of question revolving around their relationship and any information he had as to her whereabouts. He had none. And when they released him he returned to a village that no longer felt like home and an apartment filled with reminders of a person that was no longer there.

Upon returning to his home he found that his bed had been slept in after the mission that led to his disappearance, with only the left side of the covers and pillows where Risu once slept beside him disturbed. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to lay in that bed since that night and had henceforth resorted to sleeping on the couch in the living room with a single decorative pillow and a thin blanket. Needless to say, his sleep had been inadequate. He had taken to consuming military ration pills to sustain him in lieu of sufficient sleep and as a replacement for meals to counteract his non-existent appetite.

Despite not having a particular desire to eat anything, Kyohei felt it in poor taste to order nothing and leave Shinako in the awkward position of eating alone in this crowded restaurant. He may have been irritable and aggressive, but he wasn’t inconsiderate. With a nod he signaled to the waiter that he was finished and watched as the young man scurried off to put in the order to the kitchen, leaving only he and Shinako alone at the table once more.

There had seemed to be an improvement in Shinako’s mood since they had entered the restaurant. She appeared to be more sociable and magnanimous with the servers and employees at the establishment. In fact, the only person she seemed to be avoiding speaking too since they set off from the gym was Kyohei, no doubt hoping to avoid a misstep. He supposed he should not complain, considering how he had wanted her to disappear just a short while ago, but he was even less enthused by the prospect of sitting there and watching her eat in complete silence. Since he had agreed to this he might as well have made the best of it.

“So, your tastes seem very… traditional.”






802 | 6541


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
“He speaks!”

Shinako feigned surprise with her eyebrows and clutched her hands to her chest before releasing a laugh. It was a smooth, throaty sound that threatened to break into a bell-like tinkle but never did. Her smile reached her eyes as she cast them once again about the restaurant before settling on Kyohei. She wondered what type of place the fair-haired man usually frequented if he thought that this one was traditional. She imagined him slurping ramen and scarfing down burgers, and it brought a certain human quality to him.

“This is hardly traditional, but you say it like it’s a bad thing.”

The history of the village and its culture was one of Shinako’s favorite topics. Her passion was shared throughout her family, and she could only attribute it to her father’s enthusiasm. He had always used a particularly appropriate proverb when discussing the topic. As she recited it, a very soft and wistful look crossed her features, and her heart hurt not a little bit.

“If we don’t remember where we’re coming from, how can we know where we’re going?”

She heaved a slight sigh before taking a gentle sip of water. Her manners almost instinctively came back to her when she remembered her father. Setting her glass down, she removed her napkin from the table and laid it across her lap neatly, smoothing it with her palms in one fluid motion.

“When we work as doctors, or shop-keepers, or florists….when we fight as Shinobi….”

The last words had an almost indecipherable bitter bite to them.

“….we carry in us the Will of Fire, and every tradition that our ancestors cherished and worked so hard to preserve.”

As she spoke, Shinako finally decided that she had an opportunity to make herself more comfortable. Reaching up, her soft fingers deftly untied the knot in her forehead protector, catching it around its tails as it fell and presenting it. It gleamed in the low light of the restaurant.

“When the tree leaves dance, one shall find flames. The fire’s shadow will illuminate the village, and once again, tree leaves shall bud anew.”

They were only the latest generation of tree leaves, and there was certainly enough fire to go around. That fire only burned for the good of the village, though Shinako could not help but think back to a young man slipping silently beneath the surface of the Naka river. A line of poetry from Nara Shikamatsu crossed her thoughts as well, and she felt just a little bit better. Every living thing has some notion of emptiness, and yet the flowers don’t stop opening.

It felt good to be able to indulge in a bit of conversation, even if she still wasn’t quite at ease with Kyohei. The Kunoichi folded her forehead protector delicately and placed it just above her plate as sort of a centerpiece for the table. Still, something in her would not allow her to enjoy the moment. She rubbed her arms for a few moments as though cold.

505/5,875


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
“The last words of The Third. Outside of the Sarutobi clan you don’t hear many talking about the Will of Fire these days. That brat Kai told me all about how he joined the Military Police Force in order to carry on the Will of Fire by protecting the village and upholding his family’s name. He seems hesitant to talk to me about anything fire-related nowadays, though. It may have something to do with me ‘accidentally’ torching the seat of his pants with him still in them, but it’s hard to tell for sure with that boy.”

Kyohei’s words came out as straightforward as ever, leaving little room for interpretation or emotional appeal. The last bit, however, was also his attempt at reciprocating Shinako’s efforts to ease the tension between them with her own joke, easing his tone just enough to convey the intended humor. His lips even curled ever so slightly into the faintest hints of a smile. It was the best offering he could muster at the present moment and it made him slightly uncomfortable. Going out of his way to attempt to be amicable with a total stranger had never been his modus operandi, but here he was, attempting to meet her halfway despite the simpler path of finishing the meal with as little interaction as possible and letting her write her own resignation from this assignment still being on the table. He wondered if perhaps he was getting soft after going for so long with minimal human interaction during the period of his disappearance.

Kyohei’s eyes would look down towards the symbol of Konohagakure engraved on the steel plate which had found its way from her forehead down to the center of their table. He often forgot that there were still people, like her, that saw that carving of a leaf as a symbol of hope and strength. It inspired courage and belief in them, making them feel a part of something bigger than themselves. He felt none of these things when he looked at that symbol. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time, even before his return, that he had worn that piece of equipment given to all Konoha shinobi without being required to for ceremonial purposes. It had not even occurred to him to locate it in his closet since his return. The metal was likely buried in dust from its prolonged unused status by now.

There was a part of Kyohei, somewhere deep down, tugging at his soul, that could not help but admire people who were still capable of such blind faith. To be able to believe whole heartedly in some greater good or purpose despite everything in the world around you doing its damnedest to break that faith was a privilege that he was not fortunate enough to possess. At the same time as his admiration, Kyohei also felt a tinge of envy for those possessing something he felt had been stolen from him. This feeling of scorn, however, did not extend to the woman sitting across from him. Despite the positive and uplifting meaning of the words she spoke, everything else about her seemed to act in contrast just moments before. Those were not the words of someone who’s faith was unshakeable. They were more akin to the words of a woman who found herself conflicted, struggling to hold on to the beliefs she still wished to have faith in. It was familiar territory for the Uchiha.

As she pulled back to her side of the table Kyohei noticed Shinako rub her arms as if she were cold. However, the temperature of the restaurant was not particularly chilly. It seemed more a defense mechanism, crossing one’s arms as a way to close oneself off in order to feel protected from discomfort. It seemed he had inadvertently led her to a touchy subject, but he had no intention of prying, instead proceeding as if he had deduced nothing.

“Hm? Is it too cold for you? I could flag down one of the servers and ask them to adjust the heat if you’d like.”






694 | 7,235


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
It took a while for Shinako to discern the root of his question. She had not realized that she had been exhibiting a nervous tick. In an attempt to save some face she smiled and shook her head no.

“No, no. I’ll be quite fine. You know us girls….we’re always a little bit chilly.”

A slight blush came to her cheeks, painting them a pink, rosy color to match her lips. He hastily took another sip of water and was about to change the subject when the waiter reappeared. This time the young man held a tray with two rather large bottles of saké. It was only then that Shinako realized that the waiter had interpreted Kyohei’s order as an exact mirror of her own. It crossed her mind what stereotype now led to her surprise. Looking at the man, and assessing his stoic demeanor, it was difficult for Shinako to believe that he was a drinker.

Of course, growing up, Shinako never drank alcohol outside of rituals which required it. It was considered unladylike. However, her stepmother often talked about nights spent in bars with strangers, lovers, and assassination targets, using drink to ply them for any number of unsavory reasaons. Shinako even remembered reading somewhere that Lady Tsunade, the first woman to be Hokage, quite enjoyed her drinks. At any rate, the brown-eyed girl was becoming more and more familiar with the stuff.

Takashi’s Teppanyaki only served one variety of saké, and it was home-brewed. It achieved a sweet, herbal flavor that reminded Shinako of the scent of her mother’s perfume, some time long before the rest of her was forming conscious memories. It had just enough dryness to give the impression of maturity. The Kunoichi gratefully accepted the wooden bottle and porcelain cup, filling the smaller vessel almost to the rim. She raised her glass to honor her dinner partner, and then took a long, sustained sip, draining half of the cup and allowing the warm, comforting liquid to remain on her tongue for a few long, well-needed moments before swallowing. It settled in her stomach like a soft, snug embrace.

In lieu of what she had been about to say (something about how she liked the warm weather, she supposed), Shinako released a contented sigh. Not wishing to appear to eager, and remembering the last time she had imbibed the strong, clear stuff around a stranger, she placed her class pristinely on the small coaster which had been provided and slid it a little bit out of her way, as though in preparation for her plate. She knew that the fish would take several minutes more, but did not want Kyohei to think her uncouth. After what seemed like an eternity, really only the span of a few seconds, Shinako’s curiosity returned.

“You seem to have a history with Sarutobi Kai. He was very kind to me earlier, and even told me where I might find you when I was running late. However, I don’t get the impression that he is an honorable man after what happened back in the gym.”

She supposed she might be understating the bad blood between the two men. Even when she practiced her Jujitsu she could not bring herself to choke a person as easily as Kyohei had handled Kai. However, as she told herself this white lie, her shadow shifted beneath the table coiling around her legs as if to remind her. She saw its hands constricting the neck of a scared boy in the woods, just before the early light of dawn, and held back a shudder. She bit her lower lip nervously and took another sip of water to steady her nerves.

615/6,490


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
She didn’t want to talk about it, so he dropped the issue, figuring it was none of his business anyway. Fortunately the waiter arrived with their sake soon after, sparing both sides the awkwardness of silence and struggling to find common ground given the bizarre set of circumstances that led them here. Once the waiter had returned to his duties tending other customers, Shinako and Kyohei once again found themselves alone, but this time in possession of the almighty social lubricant, alcohol. Neither wasted any time in reaching for their respective bottles to fill their cups, but Shinako seemed to beat him to the punch, raising her glass before he had even set his bottle back on the table. Maybe she really did have a rough day, he mused.

Kyohei took a sip along with Shinako, managing to catch up in the span of her long sip, but immediately swallowed the liquid, allowing no time for his tongue to savor the taste. Instead he would watch her clear the table in front of her, grateful when she decided to break the silence once again, sparing him the trouble. Once again his eyes took notice of her unusual behavior, this time in the form of a nervous lip bite.

“A history? Yeah, you could say that. He was assigned to work under me when he was fresh out of basic training. He didn’t last a day. That’s how we know each other.”

Kyohei swirled the drink in his glass gently as he spoke, giving his hands something to do as he collected his thoughts. Sake was not typically his drink of choice, but at this point it wasn’t all that important. The man paused briefly before raising the glass to his lips, taking a moment to return Shinako’s gesture by raising his glass in turn, tilting his head back slightly, and taking a sip. As he suspected, the flavor wasn’t exactly ideal to his tastes, preferring richer or smokier flavors to his drinks that sake rarely provided. Since it was what he had at the moment, however, he continued drinking until the glass was completely empty (not a difficult feat given the volume of liquid such small glasses could hold). Upon finishing his drink, he placed the glass back on the table, using his thumb to wipe the faint traces of liquid that remained from his lower lip.

“I don’t necessarily believe that he’s a bad kid. But he’s just that, a kid. If I were to say what my read on him was then and now, I think that his intentions are good. He’s just easily led astray.

That clan of his, they take a great deal of pride in talking about their Will of Fire. They consider themselves guardians of Konohagakure and the torchbearers of the will of its founders. Or at least, that’s what they want everyone else to think about them. I doubt that most of them nowadays actually believe that propaganda, but Kai does. He grew up being told he was destined to be a great shinobi, that because of the name he carries that he can and should do more. He becomes easily frustrated when he can’t. Not everyone is a Sarutobi Hiruzen and that’s okay, but in his mind anything short of that is failure and it hurts him.

I apologize for what he said about you earlier. He was out of line, but I don’t think he meant any of those words. He sees me as a wall to overcome and in that moment he saw the only way to do that was to try and hurt me with words. You weren’t the object of his scorn, but he thought he might be able to get to me through you, I’m guessing. You don’t have to worry about getting tied up in anything from earlier. I’ll take responsibility for him.”





665 | 7900


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
In Kyohei’s description of Sarutobi Kai, it was difficult for Shinako not to hear a description of herself. She knew that she still had a lot of growing up to do, both as a person and as a Shinobi. She had seen and done very little, though what she had done haunted her. She could imagine being in the exact same position as Sarutobi Kai. To feel like one had not done enough was a terrible thing.

The Sarutobi clan had always been rather close with her own, descended from the legendary founders of the Hidden Leaf Village, the Senju. Though she had seen and heard everything that Kai had done in the past few hours, the Kunoichi could not help but feel that the opinion of an Uchiha on the Will of Fire might be a little bit prejudiced. She kept this feeling to herself, however, as she was not familiar enough with the facts to make an informed remark.

At any rate, it was a comfort to her that Kyohei would attempt to shield her from further involvement in the situation by taking responsibility. The Military Police seldom ceased to pursue warrants or released claims unless ordered to do so by the Hokage or a magistrate. However, if this could all be cleared up with Kyohei’s explanation, she would not have to worry about The Law beating down her door in the middle of the night.

“Thank you for your kind words, and I’m sorry he dislikes you so much. If it’s any consolation, I’m coming to like you quite a bit.”

She gave her most cynical laugh, to indicate that she may have been indulging in the unladylike art of sarcasm.

“Granted, you haven’t set me aflame yet.”

Shinako didn’t have much personal experience in the area, but she knew that men often liked to engage in jocular ribbing and insults. She had heard her brothers and their friends deprecate each other many times in ways that would have been the cause of social schisms in her own peer groups. The danger at attempting this new and unexplored method of conversation only made Shinako’s peevish smile intensify. She sipped her sake in an attempt to hide her grin, but only succeeded in allowing her next laugh to reverberate through the cup as she drank.

A twiggy girl at the nearest table, having apparently seen the exchange, looked at Shinako as if she had gone mad. Shinobi and soldiers were often seen about the village acting like ruffians, but it was a novel sight to witness a Kunoichi joining in. The female ninja were few in number and tended to adopt dignified and feminine mannerisms in order to distance themselves from the baser aspects of the profession. Historically, this measure of self-sacrifice had been required in order to gain respect. However, Shinako assumed that, no matter how genteel she pretended to be, she would never climb so high in the meritocracy as to impress someone like Kyohei.

500/6,990


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei raised an eyebrow skeptically at the woman across from him, answering her sarcasm and grin with only a stern, unamused expression. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but Shinako seemed to have loosened up quite a bit in just a few short minutes, now feeling so comfortable that she was willing to jest so casually with a complete stranger. A stranger, at least, by Kyohei’s standards. The Uchiha was not one to engage in casual relationships and dispense trust so easily. In his mind there was no mistake, this was still primarily a situation brought on by professional obligation. Since he was obligated, however, he figured that he might as well make her sweat a little bit. He couldn’t simply allow her to get too comfortable, after all.

“I see that you’re committed to holding up your side of our arrangement, then. I suppose I should be grateful to you for making my decision so easy.”

Kyohei’s words were curt and direct, alluding to her promise to stay quiet and resign after dinner should he be given a reason to dislike her. He assumed she was sharp enough to deduce what he was talking about quickly, especially since they only had one such arrangement. There was no need to scold her for being so casual or to remind her of their positions and relative rank. This should have been enough to get his point across. The man’s stone face remained unwavering, his intention to purposefully keep the pressure on until the grin disappeared from her face.

Despite his extensive training in subterfuge, the casual nature of the whole ordeal made it challenging even for Kyohei to remain stoic for long. Despite how adamantly he had denied the insistence of his superiors to assign him someone to “observe him”, perhaps it was nice to have some company after all. In order to maintain his composure, Kyohei filled his own glass once again and moved to drink out of it, using the moment of movement it allowed to rid his lips of the tension that had been threatening to curl into a smile. All that was left was to await her response.

His earlier skepticism of Shinako having been selected for this assignment crossed his mind once more. The chief, even if he was receiving this directive from the administration, would have had some say in who was assigned. Even if he believed Kyohei to be rusty after being away for so long, he couldn’t actually have believed his skills had dropped so precipitously that she alone would be able to subdue him if they indeed believed him to be a threat. He also picked up no signs of them being followed, so it wasn’t as if she had backup imminent. If the chief had allowed her to be “responsible” for him, there had to have been another purpose in mind. “Don’t tell me this is one of that idiot’s plans to get me to be more sociable,” Kyohei thought to himself silently, remembering all of the large Akimichi man's speeches about how he should stop wasting his youth obsessing with work and focus on human connections, “What a bother.”

That did raise an interesting thought, however. Even if the chief had approved her being assigned to him, whoever the commanding officer on her side was also had to agree to put an inexperienced chuunin on a detail that might involve having to subdue an enemy above her in rank and expertise. Would she not be better served out in the field obtaining as much experience and knowledge as she could? Her record had showed no red flags for disciplinary action that would have her purposely kept out of the field. Perhaps something had happened recently enough that the Military Police’s files had not yet been updated. Or perhaps her own commanding officer had some ulterior motive or idea of what she might stand to gain from this assignment.






664 | 8564


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako’s eye for social graces was a bit too refined for Kyohei’s act. Something about him reminded her of the large apes in the daimyo’s zoo. There was something savage about them, and the thick iron bars separated their red-haired frustrations from the rest of the world. However, occasionally they would toss a child a ball, or laugh at one of their group that had fallen into their water tray. Even through the thick fog of captivity, in their palpable milieu of stifled anger, they could not help but experience some form of playfulness. The same feeling was not foreign to Shinobi, she supposed.

She plumped and pouted her lips, feigning insult at his words.

“You should be grateful, Kyohei-san. I rarely make anything easy.”

The Kunoichi filled her cup and smiled again, confident that he was coming around to her charms despite his glowering gaze. Situations like this came easily to Shinako. Perhaps that was why her commanding officer had chosen her for this detail. The man was boorish, but not entirely lacking in perception. He knew, no doubt, that she was more adept at picking her way through even the most brambly of conversations than she was at patrolling, or surveillance. At her last physical fitness test the man had laughed at her.

“Besides, you broke the silence first. Isn’t that against the first rule of mysterious ninja club?”

Shinako squinted her eyes and tilted her chin towards Kyohei as she said ‘mysterious ninja club.’ The three words were thick enough with mystique that, were he sitting closer to Shinako’s lips as she spoke, he might have been able to take a bite out of them. The young woman tilted her head back slightly and appraised her dinner partner’s inscrutable features.

Her lips parted slightly in thought, and for the space of a few breaths it seemed inevitable that she would speak again. However, watching his face, she decided that the silence was more delicious. Shinako shook her head as if dismissing something from the front of her mind, relegating whatever had sat at the tip of her tongue to that unknown place where the world’s most ineffable sentiments go. She waved her hand in front of her face and broke eye contact, sipping at her sake again.

A few moments later, Shinako realized that they had been sitting in relative silence. In the way that often happens when the music in a restaurant stops, the whole place had experienced a lull in conversation. The music floated back in just in time enough to save them from falling into the precipice of awkward that stretched before them. She had felt in the moments just before as if they lay together on the edge of that broad expanse, and that there was no place else worth being at that moment. For now, it was a subject best avoided.

Shinako had never been shy, but there was something about Kyohei, perhaps his rank, or the intensity of his eyes, that stopped her from diving into conversation as she normally did.

510/7,500


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Shinako’s resilience was impressive. A great deal of men and women, larger & more accomplished than she had wilted before the pressure Kyohei exerted in any attempts at conversation with him in both professional and casual settings. If he was not so engrossed in their ongoing bouts of social fencing, he might even begin to admire her wit. Currently, however, this was not possible as both sides found themselves too preoccupied in a game of cat and mouse, allowing banter to flow progressively more free, just as the house sake did.

The sudden lull in the music and chatter of the restaurant made Kyohei realize, however, that they had still been playing with kids gloves on, relying on the ambient noise of the restaurant to space their verbal jabs. During the transition between songs that followed Shinako’s quip, the two of them danced dangerously close to the malaise of stalled conversation, both sides preferring to engage in witty banter than addressing the awkwardness of the situation they found themselves in. Kyohei emptied his cup, swallowing another serving of liquid courage as he swept the looming awkwardness aside.

“And what exactly do you know about the rules of ‘Mysterious Ninja Club’? I don’t know that you’re member material. You don’t exactly exude the air of mystery that is typically required for membership. Intriguing maybe… but maybe a bit too transparent. You don’t seem so chilly anymore. Have I set you aflame yet or is it just the alcohol?”

A parry followed by a lunge, Kyohei’s riposte was sharp and intentional. His words dripped with an almost caustic amount of sarcasm, partnered with a haughty smirk that made no effort to mask his intentions of subverting Shinako’s poise. Banter was a rare treat for the Uchiha, most often facing his opponents with fire and steel, but more than glad to partake in the guilty pleasure under the right circumstances. The fact that she had witnessed firsthand the consequences of one whose words strayed too far in Kai Sarutobi’s dealings with the Uchiha and still seemed to relish teasing and testing how far she could push only made her a better sparring partner. From the corner of his eye, however, he was able to discern that the momentum of their duel would soon be halted as their server seemed to be exiting the kitchen, plated meals in hand in his periphery.






406 | 8970


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako leaned forward, her chest almost resting on the table. It was an almost lewd gesture that she hoped to play off with an innocent raising of her eyebrows, to convey surprise. For a short while, the window of her dress was angled directly toward her intrepid conversational partner.

“Set me aflame?”

She asked with a mocking air of bemusement. Her voice was low and smooth, the words tumbling through it like wood caught in the cycle of a wave threatening to break.

“If I had to describe our conversation to a stranger I might use cooler terms. Perhaps I’d say that you left me feeling just the opposite of aflame.”

Shinako leaned back to a decent posture just as the waiter arrived with their platters. She smiled at the man and nodded as he asked if they were finding everything okay so far. What was, in her mind, a clever sexual innuendo might have thrown Kyohei off-balance, but if it hadn’t she had a few moments of the stranger’s intervention to gauge his reaction and recover, if need be. As she once again smoothed the napkin in her lap, she looked up furtively from behind her long eye-lashes to see if she had gotten a rile out of him.

The fish was fresh and still steaming, the scent of the grill still clinging to it as it sizzled. The Kunoichi’s lips curled upwards slightly at the thought of satiating her hunger. She was not an extrovert by any means, but the round of conversation had been oddly energizing. The fatigue that had bogged her down all day and clouded her mind had dissipated for the time being. The waiter set down their utensils and offered the hot, steamed towel to Shinako first. She used it to clean her hands, leaving them with a soft, pure feeling. She bowed as she returned it to the server.

“Itadakimasu.”

The man seemed quite surprised by her formality, but returned her bow with a broad smile. Shinako waited for several moments until Kyohei had been properly served, and then dug in, peeling the skin of the fish back and exposing the succulent meat around the ribs. As she took her first bite, the young woman gave an almost indecent moan of pleasure, closing her eyes to the world and allowing the food to sit on her tongue. She sighed and let the fresh, citrus flavor of the marinade fill the cavern of her nose and throat before swallowing.

When she finally opened her eyes, it was to see the waiter and a bespectacled young man from an adjoining table reaching up to cover their noses. The waiter bowed once again and sped off to the kitchens, while a coy smile toward the other young man led him to excuse himself from his company in search of the restrooms. Turning her attention back to Kyhohei, Shinako pretended she had no idea how suggestive she had been in the past minute or so.

“At any rate, I’m sure there are many mysteries about me that the people of the Hidden Leaf would be scandalized to know.”

520/8,020


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

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