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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Content Warning: Mature Sexual Themes; Sexual Assault:
Shinako stood in the shady stillness of Senju Haruhi’s bedroom, straddling the space between the bed and the closet. School had let out scarcely forty-five minutes ago, and the two girls had come directly here. Their plan was not one of complexity, though it had been discussed in the giggles and whispers so familiar to sixteen-year-old girls. Haruhi’s parents would not be home for a few more hours yet, and the girls would have the precious private time that the angst of their age so craved. Scarcely anyone had reckoned any danger in it when the girls had disappeared together after the final bell, taking the route through the park home and rushing the whole way. They had even left Hibiki, Haruhi’s fraternal twin brother, behind, dashing ahead of him and losing him in the trees. They often laughed about the brooding boy’s crush on Shinako, and it was that line of thought that had brought the girls together.

On the neatly-made bed lay scarves, socks, a skirt, and the two stood face to face in their pressed-white shirts. Shinako wore her skirt still, ashamed of the thinness of her legs compared to Haruhi’s more feminine build, though her underwear lay discarded at the foot of Haruhi’s bed. The other girl wore only her small-clothes. From this distance, Shinako could taste the sweetness of Haruhi’s cherry-blossom perfume. The bright white highlights in Haruhi’s grey hair complemented the brown of her eyes as the two pressed closer, and Shinako found it more and more difficult to draw breath, as a strange feeling of intimacy compressed her chest. The Senju girl was not a particularly good friend, but they had often spoken about boys, and what kind of men they would ultimately like to marry. Haruhi had seemed to skip her awkward teenage phase, was perennially stylish, and, by personal estimation, far prettier than Shinako. It seemed most improbable to Shinako whenever Haruhi would praise her hair, or say how she coveted Shinako’s hair-comb, or nail-polish. It made the Nara girl feel proud and respected that someone so prominent at school as Senju Haruhi often noticed her. So, when Haruhi had offered to help Shinako practice kissing, she had not hesitated in saying yes.

The whole way home they had talked about their previous encounters with boys at parties, in the youth locker-rooms at the pool, and in the old cabin by the woods. Shinako had been surprised to find that their experience level was roughly similar; both seemed to have a wild-streak that would have sent their classmates running for teacher, and were not exactly shy in telling each other what, and who, and where they had touched and been touched. Both now were caught up in that excitement as Shinako took the initiative, reaching her skinny arms around Haruhi’s waist and latching on to the back of the other girl’s shirt. In an instant they were a tangle of limbs, warm skin, and lips, neither holding back. Haruhi’s arms around her neck drew a high-pitched sound of pleasure from Shinako as they separated for breath, causing the other girl to smile and laugh, an expression that Shinako had studied intensely from time to time and enjoyed immensely. The beloved countenance was broken by a strange look of wide-eyed surprise as Haruhi looked toward the foot of the bed and then back into Shinako’s eyes.

Another arm pressed tightly around the right side of Shinako’s waist, drawing her into a sandwiched embrace between the softness of Haruhi’s chest and something far more solid. The young girl tried to turn, but couldn’t, as a familiar voice, quite similar to Haruhi’s broke over Shinako’s left right shoulder.

“You two ran off so quickly. I thought we had all decided to share.”

Much to Shinako’s confusion, Hibiki stood at her back. A feeling of heat struck her face as a flush came to her cheeks and she searched Haruhi’s eyes for an answer. The grey-haired girl smiled gently in reassurance.

“I know how much you two like each other, so I figured I’d play match-maker.”

Haruhi laughed and planted a firm kiss on Shinako’s mouth. In the same instant, the dark-haired girl felt a hot and explorative hand slide under the hem or her skirt from behind, and then the familiar sensation of fingers inside of her. Shock took hold of her body, as though she had been stricken with a bolt of electricity. Shinako’s left hand gripped the back of Haruhi’s shirt tighter, and her right shot behind her back, diving down between her own legs to find Hibiki’s arm there. She moved to pull his hand away, but found that she could not, as he pressed in closer and intercepted her right hand with his own, wrapping his fingers gently around her wrist and holding her in place. His fingers moved inside of her and she shuddered as the feeling reverberated through her abdomen; this was not the sensation of pleasure she had experienced in the cabin in the woods, or in the dark closet during a party. There was something queer, queasy, and terrifying about it.

“You’re okay. Don’t be nervous.”

The boy did not apply much force, but drew Shinako’s trembling hand away gently. She didn’t fight back, even when he later swept her to the bed. She couldn’t think of what she said when both of the twins had finally had their fill of her; wouldn’t have told anyone even if she had. She didn’t cry about it until her second shower failed to wash her clean.

Shinako drew her eyes away from the fierceness of Kyohei’s Sharingan quickly, and they settled on her left wrist. Kyohei’s long fingers wrapped around her wrist, and she was paralyzed. She didn’t dare to move until he gently nudged her arm back toward his face. Her fingers barely trembled as she wiped the caramel sauce from the corner of his mouth, though she did not look away from the feint white impressions his fingertips left around their spaces on her arm.

It dawned on the Kunoichi that she had made a grave mistake. If anything in her history with Shinobi showed the truth, it was the fact that it was dangerous to think of them as anything more than weapons. Even Lord Shikamaru, who never used a blade or shadow to kill, betrayed his own violent nature in his writings. The way of the Shinobi was one of death, and it would not do to linger too long on life or its merits. Shinobi sat in an immutable darkness, and found it impossible to un-think their thoughts of death. Shinako had wanted to touch something other than steel, and had mistaken Kyohei for that.

She retracted her hand placidly, though she laid the handkerchief absentmindedly on the seat. Having lost her appetite, Shinako placed the Dango back into the paper bag, and then turned to face forward in the cart, assuming as natural a position as she could while putting her shoulder between herself and Kyohei. She pretended to take in the scenery on her side of the cart, deliberately ignoring the tightness in her throat. It was legend in the Hidden Leaf Village that the Sharigan showed its user reality, cutting through illusion like a knife. Shinako was hyperaware of Kyohei’s eyes as they landed on her. His gaze felt like a violation, and she felt as fragile as glass.

Back then, she had managed to convince herself that it was not her fault; nobody’s fault, really. She had simply removed the Senju twins from her life. This was not that. She felt silly for reacting this way, and hoped that Kyohei had not, could not have, seen what had occurred in the instant just before. If there was an eye that could see into the mind, she doubted it would understand….she didn’t even understand. Even the well-meaning people of Konoha could spend their lives huddled behind their paper walls, knowing that, if the evils of the world did not happen to them, they did not happen at all.

Shinako had never felt more like an impostor. In the back of the cart, sitting next to a real Shinobi whose very gaze might murder, she was a silly girl playing with knives. Little did Shinako know that the ability of the Sharingan to see chakra would show her shadow stretched across the seat, laying across Kyohei’s chest like a black sword. She had forgotten the shadow, and only her subconscious urge for distance placed it between them. Even such an extension of her own body was a betrayal in the world of Shinobi. She rubbed her shoulders as though she was cold.

“We should be there soon.”

Her voice, of all things, did not prove treacherous. It did not crack or waiver. Often in her life, when Shinako had lost her faith in the world, she had placed her faith in language. This moment might not have been any different from those moments, were it not for her heart threatening to pound through her chest.

1,515/16,020


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei’s apology fell on deaf ears, as Shinako withdrew from him almost immediately. Despite his actions treating her like she was the one betraying him, it was he that had betrayed whatever trust had been built between them so far. Shinako who had previously emitted a comforting warmth had been turned cold on him like everyone else, and he had only himself to blame. He pondered making another apology, but couldn’t imagine that it would be effective, at least not yet. He had already apologized and it had yielded no returns. He would have to try something different, something unusual for him.

“I envy you… Shinako, being able to reach out to people. For all of my training, I can’t even imagine being able to acquire such a talent.”

Kyohei touched his right hand to his chest, over his heart, where her shadow laid, his fingers outstretched before slowly balling into a fist. That shadow was the only means he had of reaching out and attempting to connect with her as she did with him. He didn’t know if she could feel his action. He knew that their shadow was an extension of the Nara, far beyond what it was for everyone else. But this was all that he could do, unable to bring himself to reach out to her the way he wanted to. He imagined that any desire or acceptance she might have previously had was now as intangible as the shadow that laid across him.

Kyohei thought back to the moments leading up to this situation, where he was the one that had recoiled, putting up walls to keep Shinako away over a misstep. During that time he had no intention himself of reconnecting, but her words had compelled him back towards her. He began to wonder if perhaps he might be able to do the same. The way she spoke… Shinako came off as the type of person who appreciated elegantly crafted lines with deep meaning. The Uchiha felt slightly self-conscious about his own limited experience with books or poetry that he did not encounter in his line of work in the face of someone who was likely infinitely more well-read than he. While unsure of whether he possessed the eloquence that might move her, he knew he could find words with meaning, even if they could only be his own.

“Kindness is… foreign to me. They don’t teach understanding at the academy. Uchiha aren’t raised to be compassionate shinobi, we’re raised to be effective shinobi and we’re told that those two things rarely overlap. We’re told that those who die young are heroes and the ones who live long enough to have children of their own are to perpetuate those same ideals. I once believed the same, or at least I said I did. That’s all my father wanted to hear on the subject. My mother was different, though.

She told me there was more to life than being a shinobi and I desperately wanted that to be true. I suppose I still do. But somewhere along this path I lost my way and I became everything that I swore I wouldn’t be. When I realized it, all of those old ideals flooded my head again and I struggled to separate that from my work. I was a fraud. At least that’s how I felt. I had betrayed my promises to myself and at the same time I still held firmly to the idea that my beliefs made me weak. I felt unworthy of standing beside shinobi who would scoff at my inner conflict, like I didn’t belong. Then one night something more important arrived at my doorstep and it quieted any indecision about what I needed to be. I’m usually not good with this kind of thing, but I remember coming across a quote that sums up how I feel now.

Even shinobi are human. No matter how hard we try to escape that fact... we always fail.”


His final words were not his own, but a passage passed down by Naruto Uzumako, the man widely regarded as the village’s greatest Hokage who himself inherited those words from one of his earliest adversaries, Zabuza Momochi. The epitome of the long-held social undercurrent that a shinobi could not truly be a shinobi without suppressing their humanity, Zabuza was more closely associated with the moniker “The Demon” than his own surname. The stuff of legends at this point, the Swordsman of the Mist was attributed with the slaughter of his entire graduating class back in the days where the graduation requirement for Kirigakure genin was taking the life of a classmate. Even a hardened shinobi like Kyohei shuddered to imagine himself being required to do the same in this day and age. Zabuza was said to have singlehandedly forced that barbarous tradition out of existence with the dread he filled all who witnessed it with.

At what would be the end of his life, Zabuza was pitted against the now legendary Team 7 consisting of two future Hokages. It was then that he would witness the death of his companion Haku of the Ice and, even if only for the few moments before throwing himself into the jaws of death, The Demon would prove himself human and even shed tears. The idea that even a man like Zabuza could find redemption gave Kyohei hope that he was not too far gone. And he hoped that his distrust had not pushed Shinako away to the point where she was too far gone as well.

Kyohei’s eyes were all the proof anyone would ever need that he was not simply a weapon or tool to be used and discarded, cold and without feeling. Each black tomoe in his Sharingan told a story of emotion, one of pain and ultimately humanity. How great the performers of the Uchiha clan had become. They had the entire world fooled, including themselves, believing the lie that was perhaps older than their name itself. They were more actors than soldiers.

Having de-activated his Sharingan after she had pulled away, Kyohei no longer had vision of Shinako’s shadow, leaving him wondering whether or not she had pulled it away to distance herself from him further. He let his right hand fall from his chest down to his side, resting both of his hands on the edge of the bench, fingers wrapping over the edge. Fatigued by this emotional turmoil that was so uncommon to him and unaware of whether his final attempt to reach her was effective, the Uchiha leaned forward, using his arms to prop himself up and sighed.

“I can leave if you want. You can tell whoever you need to that I broke away from you and you couldn’t track me.”





1152 | 19360


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako kept her eyes focused on the level grasslands surrounding her family’s estate as Kyohei dove into the emotional hang-ups so common to Shinobi. It was nothing that the young woman had not heard before, though she supposed there was some comfort in him saying it; maybe if not for her then for himself. Naruto had often written on the subject of friendship, and its importance to Shinobi. However, he had always done so in one context, and with one goal in mind; becoming Hokage. Naruto was the perfect metaphor for Shinobi. He often meant well, but he had a monster inside of him.

After Kyohei had finished, Shinako thought back to a conversation with her Jounin sensei in a dark cave, about not letting the world of Shinobi consume him. Those words had, ultimately, proven meaningless. Both of them had only traveled even further down the path of deceit and destruction that was this wretched profession. That might have been the moment when Shinako had stopped truly believing that the future deserved her faith; the benefit of all her doubts. The image of the Nine-tailed Fox from the museum in the village flashed through her mind.

“Uzumaki Naruto was right. We are all human….Human monsters. We’re all poised on the edge of a knife, waiting for our strings to break, or for our boats to sink, or our….handkerchiefs.”

Somewhere in the haze of the moment, between her head and her mouth, Shinako’s idea had gotten jumbled. She was tired, and perhaps it was best for her to speak plainly. Perhaps it had been the ethereal sensation of Kyohei’s hand on her shadow.

“We don’t suffer for lack of metaphors, is what I mean, and we have to be careful which metaphors we choose, because they matter. Naruto viewed us all as leaves of one great tree: None of us could die so long as one of us lived on. But what does that mean for the leaf that is discarded as soon as autumn comes?”

Shinako imagined herself swirling through the air, floating like a leaf; spiraling toward the ground. She imagined that in the moments leaves fell, adorned with shades of yellow, orange, and red, they felt free. They never thought in those moments about how short the fall would be, and that they would soon lose their vibrant colors, mixing with the detritus to be buried under snow, or washed away by rain in the next season. She didn’t like the metaphor of leaves, and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. When she turned back to Kyohei it was with steel in her gaze, as though she might as soon kill him as touch him again.

“I have a job to do, so your leaving won’t be necessary.”

She was almost insulted by the insinuation that he would lie to a superior about how weak and ineffective she had been. Then again, it was not far from the truth. In that moment, she decided that if Kyohei attempted to escape she would have to stop him. The sentiment had occurred to her earlier, but the challenge was a welcomed one now.

525/16,545


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Shinako’s eyes were cold as ice, so much so that they were unfamiliar to Kyohei. When she stood up to him outside of the gym there was determination and strength in her eyes, but this was completely different. This was the first time she had looked at him as the enemy. That was the only appropriate description he could muster for that kind of glare. He had received harsher looks from more dangerous people, but her gaze cut deeper than most. The reason was that he had ventured outside of his own comfort zone in an attempt to connect with her on her playing field, going so far as to reveal personal information to dispel any concerns of inauthenticity, but his attempts hit a wall. Just as when he had faked an injury earlier only to have his attempt at kindness taken advantage of, he had allowed a moment of vulnerability and had been punished for it. He, however, didn’t blame Shinako for how the rapport between them had broken down. He was to blame for even putting himself in the position to be wounded in the first place. This entire night had been a mistake.

“Right.”

Kyohei’s voice no longer resonated with any desire to connect or sympathize. He no longer had the desire or the energy to make an effort. He had tried and failed, leading him to resort to what came easiest to him, emptiness and apathy. He turned back to face the road in front of them, knowing that locking gazes with Shinako while her eyes were like that would only serve to anger him. The Uchiha calmly reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, retrieving a few bills which he knew would have easily covered the cost of this cart ride and placing them on the seat between them. It was too much for fare, but money was the last thing on his mind. She could consider it as reimbursement for dinner for all he cared. All he wanted now was to bring this night to an end.

“Thanks for dinner.”

Without another word Kyohei would rise from his seat and hope over the side of the still moving cart, pivoting on his left arm to turn himself around using the rickshaw. His boots hit the ground with a loud thud, a sound indicating a lack of delicacy unfitting of a shinobi, but it didn’t matter. Never looking back, he buried his hands into his pockets and began his march back towards the village’s metropolitan area.






428 | 19788


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
The Kunoichi did not so much as glance at the money that Kyohei had placed on the seat. There was a matter at hand of much more importance. The file she had been given that morning had indicated Kyohei’s rank as a Special Jounin, but all portions concerning his actual abilities had been redacted. This unfortunate fact put her in the unenviable position of potentially having to chase down a Jounin essentially blind. Even without the dull ache in her legs, this would not have been a fun task. Shinako blew the bangs out of her eyes with a huff and leapt from the cart in a manner mirroring Kyohei’s though much more gracefully.

The fair-haired man had about a fifteen meter head-start on her, so she broke into a brisk trot, closing the distance to about 5 meters. The moonlight broke over their right shoulders, but Shinako’s shadow did not fall to the left. Instead, it snaked forward, bridging the gap between them by about 2 meters.

“Please don’t make this difficult for me. We only have to be together for about three more hours.”

Her voice was not plaintive or soft, but kept the hard tone she had used in the cart. She let out her breath sharply through her nose, and it felt hot as her heart continued to pound against the inside of her chest; more than hot. Shinako kept her eyes trained on the back of Kyohei’s neck, remembering that the last person to cross him had apparently been set on fire. After the display in the cart, she did not trust the more placid nature he had shown throughout the day. In her mind, he was the exact same man who had lifted Sarutobi Kai off of the ground by the neck. In her darkening mental state, Shinako thought back to the black fingers of her shadow wrapped around a scared Sound Shinobi’s neck, and her shadow almost pulled at the tip of her toe with anticipation.

The sound of the rickshaw continued to pull away from them as they walked in the opposite direction, toward the village. As the grinding of its wheels faded, nothing broke the silence but their soft footsteps and the sound of a frog in a puddle somewhere beyond the tree-line. Shinako decided that she would not warn Kyohei again. There was no reasoning with Shinobi. A part of her realized that it was silly to insist on her mission to the point of danger, but another part of her was ready to lie dead on the road before she allowed Kyohei to escape. He moved slowly enough, and kept his hands in his pockets, neither of which indicated to Shinako that he was making an earnest attempt to escape. Maybe it was another form of the odd play they had been developing. At any rate, Shinako was not in the mood for any more games. She had a duty to uphold, and was determined that she would do it.

500/17,045


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
It was faint, but the familiar sounds of rustling within the rickshaw’s cabin Kyohei rolled his eyes at the sound of hurried footsteps behind him, dreading the fact that Shinako refused to just let him go quietly. He had figured that she would say something in protest, but to jump out of the cart and follow him? There came a point where stubbornness just became foolishness and he felt Shinako treading that line disturbingly closely. He would maintain the same pace in his stride as before, offering no physical acknowledgment of her pursuit, continuing on as if she wasn’t even there. That would continue on for several paces until she spoke to him, having closed enough distance between them that she felt comfortable to do so.

Kyohei continued to march forward as she spoke to him, not halting his gait until a moment after she had finished, at which point he stopped abruptly. The Uchiha let out a frustrated sigh, partially driven by the events that had transpired that effectively ended his night, but largely because Shinako just couldn’t seem to just leave him be. She was clearly having as little or less fun at this point than he himself was, and he had already provided the explanation she could provide that laid all responsibility and blame at his feet. She had an out but insisted on wasting his time, likely the result of some amateurish sense of duty or obligation.

“Just go home Shinako. I’m trying to make this easy for you. I’m giving you three hours of your night back. We’ve clearly passed the point where we’re enjoying each other’s company and that was the only reason I stuck around this long. We tried, it didn’t work out. I already told you I’d deal with whatever fallout there is in the morning, so just leave.”





317 | 20105


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
“I think we’re both learning that nothing in this life is easy, Kyohei-san.”

Her voice betrayed a hint of wistfulness, a melancholy that tinged her tone, but didn’t quite overtake it. Kyohei hadn’t turned to face her, which she took as a bad sign. At the very least he wouldn’t expect her to take this detail again tomorrow morning.

“That ‘fallout’ you’re talking about is my career, which, despite apperances, I do take seriously.”

A stiff breeze blew through the area, scattering leaves across the narrow dirt road. Shinako turned her left shoulder toward Kyohei slightly, preparing for the event that she might have to make herself a smaller profile against ranged attacks. The Kunoichi fell oddly silent as she prepared to subdue the much larger and better trained Shinobi. Her throat ached with the tightness of the past few minutes, and her mouth went dry.

If her studies were correct, she was already at an even greater disadvantage than that of size or skill. Kyohei’s eyes would cut right through her Genjutsu, so some of her most clever techniques for subverting her opponent’s strength would be useless against him. She would have to rely on the power of her shadow. Having no idea of his speed, she was glad for the shortness of the distance between them, as she could not stretch the penumbral agent very far.

In her reckoning of the situation, she would hold him in the middle of the road until her replacement came looking for them if that was what it took. She scarcely stopped to think of how unrealistic that goal was. Shinako’s eyes scanned his person, looking for any signs of concealed weapons. In her academy days the Kunoichi had been stabbed in the ribs with a Kunai knife, and never wanted to repeat the unpleasant experience. In fact, that unfortunate event was one of the reasons she had allowed her combat training to fall so far by the wayside. Subconsciously, the dark-haired woman curled her right hand into a fist, while her left twitched in anticipation of having to form seals or grasp a Kunai knife. A few blinks cleared the stress of strain from her eyes, and she became aware that she was breaking into a cold sweat.

In her current emotional state there was little chance for de-escalation. In her mind it was either her way or the highway.

400/17,445


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei rolled his eyes at the sound of Shinako’s proclamation of concern over the negative repercussions this might have on her career. She had no issues fraternizing with him or even drinking on the job, but all of the sudden she’s dedicated to her career? Even when he’d gone out of his way to assure her that he would accept responsibility and any negative consequences of his cutting out early? Some people just wouldn’t be satisfied, no matter how good the deal was.

“I’m not going to fight you Shinako. Despite what you think of me, I’m not a monster. You were kind to me, at least for a time, so I have no interest in hurting you or your career.”

Kyohei would attempt to move his legs forward, but would suddenly feel a sharp pain in his head, followed by a brief period of double vision. The feeling would cause him to stagger in his stance for a moment, shuffling his feet desperately to keep himself upright. His left hand would swing upward to clutch the left source of the pain, palming his left brow, fingertips pressing forcefully into his scalp in an attempt to dull the pain. Immediately he knew what caused this episode, although slightly surprised that the side effects kicked in so quickly. He figured he would have at least another day before the negative effects of continuous military ration pill consumption began to kick in.

The pain revealed itself to be fleeting, leaving as quickly as it came, although the dizziness and lightheadedness was not so merciful. Even so, Kyohei would begin to walk forward once more, determined to not allow frivolous concerns like concern or pity interject themselves into the exchange.






293 | 20398


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
For an instant Shinako was confused about the swaying in Kyohei’s posture. It looked for a while as though he might fall, and he clutched his head as though in pain. The young woman’s right eyebrow arched slightly as she took in the scene. He didn’t make an audible sound of discomfort, but even the brief moment was enough to indicate that he was not well. Perhaps it had been the drinking. Almost instinctually, Shinako raised her left hand toward his back in an attempt to comfort him. However, halfway through the motion she thought better of it.

At any rate, Kyohei soon righted himself, and much to Shinako’s chagrin, began walking again. Her eyes, which had widened at the alarming sight of Kyohei stumbling, now narrowed. Like all of the other patronizing men in town, he was presuming to know what was best for her and for her career. Sure, he would ‘take all the blame,’ but the negative reflection on her and her abilities would reverberate for months; possibly even following her for years afterward. She would be the babysitter who let her charge get away. That, she could not abide. Instead of following him any further, she allowed him to reach a distance of about ten meters.

An imbalance of Yin chakra felt almost like emptiness. There was a certain stillness in it that other types of chakra could never quite produce. Even when Shinako moulded her chakra to produce a genjutsu, leaning heavily towards Yin release, the placid and imperturbable feeling did not come close to the mixture required for Inton. Shadow techniques were Yin chakra’s purest form; shape out of nothingness, paralysis and force all at once, like the slow reach of a numb hand, leaving only an indescribable feeling of motion. Subtler, even, than fingers wrapped gently around a wrist, a sort of compulsion without physical feeling. Nothingness was the essence of the shadow.

A thin tendril of shadow snaked forward, moving silently against the ground with but one purpose. It took all of Shinako’s control to stop the wisp from jumping forward and leaping from the ground itself. The Kunoichi had never stopped to consider whether her shadow possessed a personality. It was too much of an extension of herself for that. However, it flowed from a distinct and dark part of her being that she did not quite understand. She knew not if she ever would. Shinako had not yet developed a technique for sensing the shadows of others, but her eyes located Kyohei’s easily enough in the definition of the moonlight. It lay long and black, out to his left side, and her own gloomy agent reached right for the middle of it, in case the man should suddenly dart right or left. This left about a meter in either direction for error, a window which, at this distance, was very wide.

If her shadow connected, Kyohei would find himself rooted in place, with no choice but to see things her way.

500/17,945

Chakra 170/200:

Shadow Paralysis Technique: C-Rank, 15 chakra.


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei’s struggle to push through this bout of dizziness and blurred vision would end far more abruptly than he had anticipated, finding himself completely unable to move just a few moments after stabilizing himself. He took a moment to process the situation, admittedly slowed by the ailment that was currently plaguing his body and causing the aforementioned discomfort. His eyes peered downwards towards his body, scanning his person for any ropes, chains, or bindings that might be used to hold him in place. He imagined it was unlikely, as surely he would have felt his body being caught, and simple bindings would not cause this feeling of total paralysis. As far as he could tell, nobody else had entered the area to spring a trap or an attack either. He and Shinako were still alone.

Once Kyohei was able to process the sensory stimuli he took in, it was not difficult to deduce the what had happened. Shinako was a Nara, a manipulator of shadows, and in his insistence on not treating her as an enemy, he had left his own exposed. He had made no threats to her person, nor had he acted in a way that would have indicated the intent of aggression and yet she had decided that this was the path she wanted to take. The Uchiha found himself deeply disappointed and to a lesser degree, angered. He knew that he had upset her and that she was not a fan of his idea of leaving, but he didn’t expect her to attack him while his back was turned.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

His voice no longer betrayed fatigue, exhaustion, or frustration, but instead a stern and serious tone, like a parent scolding a child. While he awaited an answer, he began discreetly attempting to move with brute force despite knowing the kind of technique he was trapped in. This was not his first run in with a Nara. He was fully aware of the flaws in their shadow binding techniques when aimed to immobilize or manipulate a target. The time that a Nara could hold a target was finite and considering the fact that Shinako appeared to be worn down before she even arrived, he wondered if he couldn’t hasten the process by chipping away at her strength. The Uchiha doubted her ability to immobilize a target for hours at a time even without taking her condition into account. It would only be a matter of time before her grip began to loosen.





424 | 20822


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako felt the initial struggle common to everyone trapped by the Shadow Paralysis technique; the twitch of muscles, the slight pause, and then the fullness of struggle. As her shadow pulled taut, she felt her own feet cemented in place. Kyohei was stronger than anything she had felt before, and she knew that she had not put enough chakra into her shadow to hold him for long. Her reserves were low to begin with, and she had not yet perfected the skill of gauging her opponent’s strength. He would be free soon. By her calculations, she had only a matter of minutes to turn the situation around.

“It’s the only choice you’ve left me, Kyohei-san.”

Her voice was more than apologetic, betraying a deep sadness. Mental depression was often a side-effect of such a use of Yin chakra. Uchiha Itachi had often written in his journal about the slump he felt after heavy use of genjutsu. This was widely thought to be the underlying reason for the taciturn demeanor of the majority of Nara Shinobi. In their writings, it was always easy for Shinako to tell when Shikamaru and Shikamatsu had been practicing their Inton before putting brush to paper. Lord Shikashige’s writing was permanently colored with the dark hues of shadow release. Even as her shadow’s grip turned into an iron trap, the Kunoichi felt her mood drop, and a distinct sadness overtake her. Her eyes filled with tears, stemming from her frustration and exhaustion.

“I keep thinking that one of us will be different….that I’ll meet a Shinobi that’s something more than our profession’s limitations. We’re like blood, hiding in a wine barrel.”

The metaphor brought a vision of a viscous liquid in a dark cellar, ringed by the loving work of a cooper. There were places in this world that should be sweet, which had been turned into viper pits by the Shinobi that inhabited them. Shinako could not help but think back to the stories told by her stepmother; how the older woman had lured men into her bed and then slit their throats, allowing their blood and passion to spill out onto the matress. Surely those men had died with the taste of wine still lingering on their lips.

She watched the back of Kyohei’s neck as he strained against her shadow; felt her shadow’s grip slipping as his arms began to move sluggishly. Under his pale hair, his skin looked as blue as a body made of snow, and Shinako could still feel his fingers wrapped around her wrist. Looking down, she almost pictured a spectral hand resting on her arm, but dismissed the thought, knowing some way that it was a suggestion from the deeper parts of her mind about the action she could possibly take. The eyes of a Sound Shinobi flashed through her mind, and she knew that she could never do that to another human being, let alone someone like Kyohei, who had at least attempted to show her kindness.

500/18,445

Chakra 165/200:

Shadow Paralysis Technique: C-Rank maintenance, 5 chakra


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
“Enough with the metaphors. Don’t speak to me about one of ‘us’ being different as if you know the first about me. We are not the same. No one forced you to take the actions you’re taking now. There is always a choice. You chose to attack me while my back was turned and after I had offered you a peaceful alternative multiple times. You chose this.”

Kyohei’s voice only grew harsher and more stained with anger as their conversation progressed, in stark contrast to the softening that had seemed to take hold of Shinako’s. Disappointment was the most prevalent feeling ringing out from his words, drowning out the anger he had felt towards her. He had no interest in apologies or sympathy. Since the restaurant he had attempted to answer her expressions with matching, suitable expressions of his own and that only served to lead him to where he was right now. She had done little to warrant being given the benefit of the doubt yet again, so instead he would call her out.

“My reaction in the cart was not agreeable to you, that’s fine. I also didn’t hurt you and apologized immediately after realizing what I had done reflexively. But you weren’t trying to hear any of that. In that one moment you had already decided that I was a monster and projected all of your pre-conceived notions of what a shinobi was onto me. And once things didn’t go your way you turned on me. I was right at the beginning, you’re exactly the kind of person I thought they would assign to me.”

With his focus shifted towards scolding Shinako for her actions, however, Kyohei would cease his struggle against the shadow’s hold, at least for the moment. Just from his initial feeling out of her technique, he concluded that her mastery of the technique was not yet as advanced as other Nara he had encountered, including the ones who served alongside him in the Military Police. The circumstances surrounding the situation the duo found themselves in made this a poor measure of her actual capabilities, but that was of little consequence in this moment. All he needed to know was that the tether would, eventually, break.

“You had me fooled.”

Once again his inability to remain angry betrayed him, with the weariness of the day and his health concerns assisting in the ordeal. Kyohei’s rage rapidly subsided, but his disappointment did not, instead becoming even more prevalent when the fire drained from his words. He spoke as a man too tired to continue wallowing in his anger, one whose words expressed regret for ever having allowed himself to believe Shinako in the first place. Mistakes were commonplace for Kyohei in social settings, but he deemed trusting her, even for a moment, to be his worst. Silently he chided himself for his childish demeanor that night. Perhaps it was loneliness that had caused him to allow himself to behave so casually. Whatever it was, the only thing that was certain was that he needed to put it down.





525 | 21347


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako’s shadow weakened with every word that Kyohei spoke, until only a single wisp, the width of a finger, kept the man in place. Normally she would form the sign of the rat to extend the duration of the jutsu, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so after Kyohei had characterized the impromptu move as an attack. He was right about a few things. She did not know him, and there was always a choice. He was very wrong about another.

“You hurt me more than you know….”

The comment was almost a whisper, and as she uttered it the last connection of the shadows slipped away. The moment was one of her lowest, and she was glad that she was not far away from home. It would be a few hours still until her relief was dispatched from headquarters, and she would have to explain her failure, and that Kyohei had escaped. At the very least, now she would not be telling a lie. She wondered how often she had told a lie about herself, only to find out later that it was true.

The pale-haired man was also wrong about one more thing. When she had said ‘us’ she had meant it. She was not so different from him; so different from Maigo. The very act of attacking while Kyohei’s back was turned had proven that. The problem was already inside of her, and she could feel it almost as clearly as she could feel her own stomach; churning, bubbling and threatening to double her over. She imagined that this was exactly what her father’s cancer had felt like, living, and preying on him in the last months of his life. At the thought of that her lungs burned, but she was too physically and emotionally drained to let out the sob that stuck in her throat. It appeared that she had gained all the vice of the Shinobi with none of the accompanying strength.

Shinako’s shoulders slumped as her shadow returned to its natural size and shape, though it still lay in a dark pool between the two Shinobi, as though it longed to connect them once again. The woman looked down into it, perhaps hoping that her eyes would be able to penetrate the darkness in the same way that it had penetrated her. She wondered, for an instant, if the shadow could see her; if it could see what everyone else could not. Somewhere in the distance a wild cat yowled and hissed, followed by the soft hoot of an owl. The sounds barely registered on the Kunoichi’s keen senses.

Shinako did not notice that her shadow had not quite retaken its natural shape. The hair was too short, and the shoulders a bit too round and wide. In a subconscious gesture she squinted slightly, almost catching it, before her eyes relaxed again. With her chakra now dormant, her heart and breathing finally had a chance to settle into their normal, peaceful rhythms.

500/18,945


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei’s ears perked up to just barely catch Shinako’s words, as faint as a whisper, in the relative silence that had surrounded them. Without thinking, his head turned over his left shoulder, turning his ear towards her to listen more intently. It was only then that he realized his mobility had returned to him much sooner than it should have. Even while tired she should have been able to hold a non-struggling Kyohei for longer than she did. She released him of her own volition. The Uchiha turned towards his companion in order to question her intentions, but froze once his eyes fell upon her.

Standing there, Shinako reminded Kyohei of Risu back when they were young and little more than individuals who had just so happened to wind up on the same assignment. Even the way she stood, staring at the ground, shoulders slumped resembled how Risu had once stood before him. The similarity irked him, but for that same reason he could not turn away from Shinako and simply leave now that the jutsu had been dispelled. Despite the confidence that she seemed to project earlier in the night, while they were out in public, it was clear that there was conflict beneath the surface. He remembered how cold and antagonistic he was to Risu in their initial meetings and the guilt he felt for it after she revealed herself to be something more than just another shinobi to be tossed aside when their usefulness had been expended. He couldn’t help but wonder if he would feel the same way if he chose to be so cold to the Nara.

Kyohei looked at Shinako and frowned for a moment before stepping towards her. His footsteps were far more graceful and measured now than the thundering stomps when he walked away in anger, as if trying not to disturb the silence that hung between them. A certain annoyance pulled at him, both for his inability to hold on to anger and how much Shinako made him think of Risu in this moment, but it did not stop his stride. The sight of her, head hung and body slumped over in defeat was unbecoming of the woman he had met earlier that night. As he came within a few steps he wondered how he could possibly comfort her, a woman who had just minutes before behaved as if she wanted nothing to do with him.

The only solution that entered Kyohei’s mind was the same gesture he used to make to attempt to comfort Risu when all else had failed. When he stopped directly in front of Shinako, now standing in her shadow voluntarily and within arm’s reach, Kyohei raised his left arm and gently placed his hand atop her head. One of the few vestiges of being cared for as a child that remained within Kyohei was this gesture, not a patronizing pat on the head that an adult might give a child they aren’t taking seriously, but a prolonged connection to someone that was losing their way, as if to remind them that they weren’t alone. His mother used to perform this gesture on him when he was little more than a spoiled child pouting that he didn’t get his way or when he had been injured. After she passed his sister continued the tradition. He didn’t know when exactly he picked it up for use himself, but it was the only thing he could think to provide in situations like these.

“Sorry…”

The release of Shinako’s paralysis jutsu had also released a great deal of the tension between them, freeing up Kyohei’s emotional state to project more than anger or disappointment towards her. He was not particularly gifted in the art of empathy, but maybe being an active participant in the situation made it a bit easier for him to produce genuine concern, rather than an imitation. Despite his usual intensity, there was a softness to his words that he could only produce when he was personally invested in a situation. They had both spent the entire afternoon and evening dancing around their problems and projecting their issues onto each other. He hoped that this, the most genuinely personal gesture he could muster, was a step in the right direction.

“What you just said… explain it. No more brushing it off or deflecting the conversation. That hasn’t made the night go the way either of us wanted. If you want me to… I’ll stick around, but you need to talk to me.”







769 | 22116


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
“I just wasn’t expecting that sort of violent reaction….”

It was half true. The suddenness had exacerbated the injury of her recollection in a way that the simple reemergence of the unpleasant physical contact would not have. Shinako at first felt patronized by the hand on top of her head, but something about the earnest nature of Kyohei’s demeanor made the gesture far more tolerable.

“….and….”

As in so many other moments in her life as of late, Shinako found herself lingering on the edge of the truth, wondering if it wouldn’t feel better to either run away or dive in. It was the constant state of waiting to know if she’d be able to speak honestly that killed her. The word hung in the air with a hint of promise, threatening to pull the rest of her thought from her lungs; but her lungs no longer burned.

“….I’m very tired. I feel silly for over-reacting.”

The last part was true as well. She had spent years trying to put the Senju twins and that particular day behind her. She raised her left hand and entwined her fingers through the front of Kyohei’s shirt, tugging gently and reciprocating the physical contact. The act also had an air of finality, indicating that she had had enough touching for one night. Shinako took a step back, gently breaking away from the tall man’s hand and looking off down the road. The rickshaw was now out of sight, and had probably made it to the house by now. The Shinobi had not been terribly subtle in their exit from the cart, so Shinako had no doubt that the driver would not be surprised to find them gone. She felt a certain sympathy for the man, dragging an empty cart down the road, though the notion of blind duty was incredibly distasteful to her in the moment.

“Sometimes you can spend so much time gazing off into the sky that, when you look down, you find that you’ve floated away too.”

She realized that she was using another flowery metaphor, and that Kyohei might not understand exactly what she was getting at. Translating the associations in her own head into a readily accessible format was often difficult. She often felt like she was being too much of a Shinobi whenever she spoke directly.

“It’s easy to become over-exhausted, is what I mean. I was out on maneuvers the day before yesterday, and I haven’t had much time to recover yet.”

The final sentence escaped her tongue before she could stop herself. There was something in her that wanted to tell someone else about why she had traveled so far into the forest. Then again, perhaps there was some part of her that knew she would have to die with that secret. The technical essence of her actions had been desertion, and Shinako knew that she could not report such an act to a higher-ranking Shinobi, let alone a distinguished detective like Uchiha Kyohei.

500/19,445


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
“That wasn’t so bad, now was it?”

Kyohei teased Shinako slightly as she stepped away from him and stared out at the road on which the cart had left them behind. He suspected that she still wasn’t telling him the whole story, nor did he really expect her to, but at the very least the duo had reconciled on some level. They both had their secrets, everyone did. If he was not willing to disclose his past, he had no grounds on which to expect her to disclose hers. They weren’t exactly friends yet, either, but maybe they had moved a bit beyond being outright strangers, a better result than he had expected, at least.

Kyohei raised an eyebrow at the last sentence Shinako spoke, but didn’t press the issue. He doubted that either of them had the mental or emotional stamina remaining to delve deeper into what was likely an entirely different issue that was clearly significant to her. Besides, he was technically still bound to her by his defeat back at the restaurant. He did say he was all hers until midnight. At the very least, now that they had re-established some level of civility between them, he could do his best to make the night run smoothly for her. With that thought in mind he would walk up beside her, gazing down the road ahead of them in tandem with Shinako.

“So I guess I should take you home to rest up then. It’s too bad that we didn’t get sake to go instead of those sweets. I think we could both use something a little stronger than tea right about now.”

His words were only half joking, as a hard drink sounded pretty good right about then. He hoped that changing the topic to something more light and less mentally taxing would boost the mood even a little bit. Midnight was still a few hours out, after all, and although he was fine with silence, he didn’t necessarily look forward to the idea of an awkward tension hanging over them constantly until the clock struck twelve. After gauging her reaction he would turn his head to face her and offer a solution to one of their problems.

“Hey, I know that you’re pretty tired and I kind of lost us our ride. Long distances are pretty draining solo, let alone taking someone else along for the ride, but I still have most of my chakra left. I doubt I’ll be needing much of it deer-watching at the Nara estate. If you want to hold on, I can Body Flicker us there. I can’t have you running yourself ragged in one night. Otherwise I’ll be wheeling you around tomorrow on a stretcher.”






468 | 22584


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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Shinako looked to her left at the man who now stood level with her. He was feeling generous indeed. The body flicker technique did not consume a large amount of chakra, but was physically taxing. The distance between their current location and her ancestral home was not far, but she had certainly never covered that much distance using the body flicker technique. The idea was intriguing, and she was tired.

“I think I’d like that.”

Her voice had returned to its normal, rich timbre. When she smiled, the gesture reached her eyes. Kyohei was full of surprises. She was still quite wary of him, but that was a worry for another time. Her issues with the Shinobi world would not be figured out in one night, after all. At the very least, she was not uncomfortable about inviting him back to her home now, as they had reached at least the same level of understanding that they had had back in the restaurant.

“There’s one thing you need to know about a Nara household, however….”

A hint of play had returned to her voice. It was a comfort to her that Kyohei was not trying to escape, and that he was finished pressing her for answers on her whirlwind mood changes. Her eyes narrowed with a hint of mystery at what she was saying as Shinako took two steps toward her companion and wrapped her left arm around his waist, giving him non-verbal permission to transport her in whatever way he saw fit.

“When an outsider comes under the dark eaves of a Nara household….”

Her voice had the air of telling a ghost story, becoming low, as a child’s might before the final, jumping scare. She leaned in close, but the startling announcement never quite came. Instead, she laid her head on Kyohei’s shoulder and gave a polite yawn, covering the pearls of her teeth with her right hand.

“….they never have to worry about bringing sake.”

375/19,820

~~~~~~~~~~Exit Thread~~~~~~~~~~

Training:

Stats:
Strength: D-3 to C-3, 2400 Words (475 Ryo)
Speed: C-Rank to C-3, 1875 Words (375 Ryo)
Endurance: D-3 to C-3, 2400 Words (475 Ryo)
Reaction time: C-2 to C-3, 700 Words (150 Ryo)

Jutsu:
String of Transformations: C-Rank, 900 Words (1,000 Words minus 10% reduction for Quick Learner Trait)

Wild Lion's Mane: B-Rank, 1,350 Words (1,500 Words minus 10% reduction for Quick Learner Trait)

Shadow Style Barricade: B-A, 1,750 Words (2500 Words minus 10% reduction for Quick Learner Trait and 20% Reduction for Nara Learning Inton)

Shadow Clone: B-Rank, 1,350 Words (1,500 Words minus 10% reduction for Quick Learner Trait)

Old Master's Awakening: C-S, 3,150 (3,500 Words minus 10% reduction for Quick Learner Trait)

Total Words: 19,820
Words Used: 15,875
Words Banked: 3,945


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

Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Kyohei found himself surprised when Shinako approached him once more, wrapping her arm around his waist. After what could only be classified as a roller coaster ride in regards to her level of comfort with him throughout the night, he had believed her still rather upset with him about some previous transgression. He had fully expected her to turn down his offer, citing what was likely another half-truth about how she was more than physically capable and had no need for his assistance. Not only had she not done that, but she had drawn closer to his person and attached herself to him of her own accord. Maybe she wasn’t as unreasonable as he had previously believed.

“Well, that makes your job much easier from here on out, then.”

Kyohei smiled at her mention of sake and returned Shinako’s playful demeanor with his own. In response to her resting her head on his shoulder, the Uchiha relaxed his otherwise stiff and rigid posture, allowing her to sink slightly into the side of his torso. This freed up his right arm to wrap around her waist in turn, using the bend of his elbow to secure her against him while leaving his hand free to perform the necessary Tiger hand sign. There would be no smoke or theatrics to mask their movements as was typical of variations of the Body Flicker technique. A moment after his hands came together, one would see nothing but a blur dart out of their line of site, causing the leaves on the ground around them to blow upwards, peaking a few feet off of the group before slowly rocking back and forth towards the ground, now with no Uchiha or Nara in sight.





291 | 22875



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Kyohei

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Special Jounin
Thread Wrap-up:

Total Word Count: 22,875

Words Used for Training:

  • 500 Words - Sexy Technique (E)
  • 1500 Words - Shadow Clone Technique (B)



Words Remaining: 20,875


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