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This was just about the scariest thing I had ever done in my life. I was using a sealing technique that I had only just learned, with no summoning contract, no idea where I’d end up, and no guarantee that I’d even learned it correctly. I could end up surrounded by giant eagles, huge octopi…I could even end up in some mythical place I’ve never heard about before.

But I didn’t learn this jutsu for nothing. I need to be stronger so that I can help Iro find his dad. And this will help me achieve that. I’ve memorized the sealing formula and the order of the hand seals. I’ve practiced them so much I could do them in my sleep.

Now that’s a scary thought. What if I accidentally did use it in my sleep one day in the future when I have a summoning contract and whatever I summon just crushes me to death?

I realized that I was just looking for an excuse to worry at that point. I had come this far, and I wasn’t going to stop now. I steadied my nerves.

Boar, Dog, Bird, Monkey, Ram.


I felt a pull on the entirety of my body, a bone-chilling wind, and my stomach twisting as I hurtled through a sudden darkness. I would have been terrified if it didn’t end too quickly for me to even register the rush of feeling.

Suddenly, I was in a dark place. A dark, damp place.

Have I accidentally just sealed myself or something?

I felt around.

It feels like pretty tightly packed dirt. Am I underground, or in some kind of dirt construction?

I didn’t have any concept of what “forwards” or “backwards” would be since I was just dropped in an unfamiliar location, so I just went a direction.

Did I…did I mess up the jutsu?

After just a short while longer of crawling, I began to hear what sounded like running water. Deciding that any sound was better then nothing, I decided to head towards it. It was possible that the water would lead to a river or stream on the surface, so I might as well have checked it out, just in case it could help. And my eyes were slowly adjusting to the darkness, so there must’ve been a little light, just barely any, coming from somewhere. As I approached the noise, I began to hear the faintest sounds of movement from the direction of the water.

A bit creepy, but okay. There aren’t many things that move underground, I wonder what it could be?

Suddenly, my curiosity was quenched when a giant claw burst out of the ground in front of me, inches from my face. I stumbled backwards in fear and surprise, only to be constricted by something large and heavy, and be pulled down through the ground. After a few terrifying seconds of struggling to get out of the hold of whatever this thing was, I found myself in an open space that had been dug out of the dirt. I was flung against the wall, unable to see anything, as the light could not reach down this far. At least, not enough light that my eyes could use. As I sat, squinting to try and find any hope for my vision down here, I felt and heard a claw slowly make its way across my headband. Not in a way that felt like the claw was trying to scratch it, but almost like it was trying to figure out what it was.

I heard a scratchy voice in front of me ask, “What are you doing in one of our tunnels, human?”

THAT IS TERRIFYING! WHY WOULD IT CALL ME HUMAN? IS IT NOT…oh, right. I used the summoning jutsu. This is an animal summon. Duh.

Slightly calmed by the realization, yet still very much frightened of the situation, I slowly reached into my pocket and pulled out a scroll.

“My name is Nobuya Yomechiro, and I used the summoning jutsu to get here. I was hoping that I could enter into a contract with your group so that we could help each other out when we needed to. I’m a ninja from Kirigakure, and I thought you might want the…uh, ability to reverse-summon a shinobi like me if you ever got in trouble or anything.”

“Do you think us incapable of defending ourselves? We have resided under here safely without the need for human shinobi, why would we compromise the secret of our village’s location in order to call on a weakling such as you?”

A village? So that’s how these animals organize themselves too?

“Um, no…Sorry, I didn’t mean anything like that. I’m sure you could take care of yourselves just fine. And the truth is, I probably won’t be a whole lot of use to you, but I do know a lot of sealing jutsu, and…”

Think, think, think! What would these creatures…wow, I don’t even know what these are. They have claws, and that’s about all I know. Right now, I’m just talking to a void, asking it to enter into a contract. This is weird, but I’ve certainly heard of weirder things.

Something popped into my head.

“And you said that humans haven’t been to your village, right? Well if you were willing to work with me, I could act as your liaison if you ever wanted anything from the humans. Or I could just get you information on the things you wanted, or something.”

“Or something? How confident an answer.”

I heard another voice, a smoother yet more fierce voice, which was a shock to me as I thought there was only one other creature in this small hole with me.

“We should bring him to King Arutota, let His Kingship decide the fate of the young human.”

“Very well.”

With that, I was grabbed again and brought up to where they had captured me, but instead of dropping me off where they had picked me up, they continued quickly down the tunnel in the direction I had been heading. Soon, I began to see the faintest glimmer of light distorted by something I couldn’t make out. As we approached, I realized that it was a sheet of water.

As soon as we broke through the water, I was bombarded by a cacophony of smells, sounds, and even a bit of light as I found myself on some sort of cliff overlooking a compact underground village. Most of the light seemed to be coming from bioluminescent crystals scattered around the walls of the hollowed-out underground, shining off of a river coming from the waterfall on the cliff I was on, passing through the village, leading up to a great cave in which no light shone.

This is beautiful.

“What is this place?” I asked, my face and voice full of awe at this new wonder before my eyes.

“Human, you have reached Suanagakure, the Village Hidden in the Burrow.”

Chakra 235/250:
Summoning Technique:
Name: Kuchiyose no Jutsu {口寄せの術 ~ Summoning Technique}
Canon/Custom: Canon
Rank: C
Type: Supplementary
Element: n/a
Range: Touch
Specialty: Ninjutsu/Fuuinjutsu
Duration: Instant.
Cooldown: None.
Description: The user draws some of their own blood upon one of their hands. After which they perform the seals Boar, Dog, Bird, Monkey, Ram before placing their hand onto the ground. A formula appears underneath the hand from which one or more summons belonging to the users contract may appear.

WC: 1202



Stunned by the unexpected sight, I paid little attention to the fact that I could now see the ninja animals that had captured me. They were black, or maybe dark brown, with scales along their backs and the tops of their heads, adorned on their back with the marking of a white triangle. They had tails about half the size of their body, which is what they were using to carry me, and their front two legs had three claws each, with the middle claw being noticeably longer than the rest. I had been staring at the crystals as they half-climbed, half-burrowed down the cliff. For some reason, the crystals seemed somewhat familiar. I didn’t necessarily think I recalled those particular crystals from anyplace, but staring at them made me feel as if I had a long-forgotten memory just waiting to return,

How peculiar.

Finally, I looked down to see the three mammals beneath me. It was a surprise to see three, but maybe the third joined us along the way. Or maybe I should just be a bit more perceptive. Still, I was able to recognize the three as having the appearance of armadillos, but larger.

Probably shouldn’t mention that I didn’t know they were armadillos until just now. Doesn’t exactly sound the best if I’m asking for a contract with them and didn’t know who they were.

As we approached the village proper, a relatively small, but still quite large, armadillo came scampering up to us.

In a very excited and joyous tone, he quickly asked, “Big Brother Aruide, who is this? Is this a human? How’d he get down here? Is he going to be staying with us? For how long? Where does he come from?”

While I was stunned by the rapid bombardment of queries, the armadillo with the smoother, fiercer voice authoritatively ordered, “Quiet Arusuno, we are taking the human to King Arutota now. If you desire to know more, follow us to his court, but keep a distance.”

“Yes sir!”

The armadillo apparently named Arusuno then decided to tail us, staying a bit closer than Aruide probably intended, but not so close that Aruide said anything.

Eventually, we reached the mouth of the great dark cave. I wondered who this King Arutota was, if he was just another armadillo, or something else? Something that could control these armadillos enough that they would call it their king, perhaps.

I also wonder what the heck is going to happen to me, but right now I’m a little too overwhelmed to worry about that right now. Hopefully, I can convince them to at least not kill me if they don’t want to enter a contract. That being said, my instructors at the ninja academy did teach us how to use the Body Flicker Technique for a reason.

We slowly proceeded into the darkness, my only guide being a claw that was itself slowly digging into my back. Soon, I began to sense a massive amount of chakra. I had never really been super good at sensing it, but this chakra was extremely hard to miss. It didn’t feel malicious or even benevolent, just overwhelmingly powerful. A second more walking and I felt the pressure behind me rapidly decrease. I came to a stop.

“King Arutota. We have brought this human who has come from the surface. He claims that his name is Nobuya Yomechiro, a  ninja from the human Village Hidden in the Mist, and he seeks a contract with Suanagakure.”

A moment of silence before a loud, powerful voice seemed to come from all around me at once, the cave creating an echo chamber that amplified and obfuscated the origin of the sound.

“Very well. State your case.”

I faltered for a moment in my response, afraid of both the powerful voice in front of me, and the fact that I was essentially speaking to just an absolute darkness.

“…My name is Nobuya Yomechiro, uh, as has already been said, and I indeed do come from Kirigakure and am looking for a summoning contract with you and your village. My reasons for doing this are that I could use the help in battle and in reconnaissance, but I also thought that you might have a use for me down here, in some capacity. You see, I am relatively skilled in sealing techniques, and could be of some use to you if any of you ever get into any…umm…fights.”

Despite how the temperature was pretty cool, I could feel sweat running along my entire body, chilling me.

“Additionally, I was informed by one of the armadillos who brought me here --- I’m sorry, but I don’t know their name, --- that this is a relatively isolated village, and I was thinking that if you ever needed or wanted anything from the humans or just the surface world in general, I could act as your liaison and information-gatherer. And!”

I perked up as I thought of another use a contract could have for them, recalling the very enthusiastically curious armadillo I met earlier.

“And if there are any armadillos who wanted to see more of the world, I could act as protection to them as well!”

There was a deafening silence, one that seemed to last for an eternity as I waited for any kind of response. Just when I thought that maybe they had silently left for some reason, I heard King Arutota’s voice once more.

“Aruide, gather the other members of the advisory council. We will discuss the merits and drawbacks of such a contract as a group. I will not make this decision alone.”

“Very well, my lord,” Aruide responded.

I once again felt a claw at my back, turning me around and escorting me out of the cave. As soon as I exited, I gasped for air. I hadn’t even been realizing it, but on the way out I had apparently forgotten to breathe.

“You will wait here with me,” the armadillo that had been guiding me stated. The armadillo named Aruide went off apparently in search of other ‘advisory council’ members, while I stood admiring the landscape around me. It really was a quaint little village, full of hustle and bustle but still with an aura of peace around it. Like the armadillos here weren’t worried about anything, just happy to live their lives. It was a nice feeling, totally distinct from Kirigakure’s hustle and bustle, which always had this underlying feeling of hurrying for necessity’s sake.

The armadillo had remained silent while I took in the environment around me.

"So,...may I ask your name?"

“If you must, you may call me Left.”

“Left? Like the direction?”

“If you choose to think of it that way, then yes.”

I didn’t quite understand what he meant by that completely, but it wasn’t long after that that an armadillo came to fetch me back into the cave. It sounded like Aruide, but I really wasn’t sure. I hadn’t seen enough armadillos to be able to identify them by their visual appearance alone.

I entered the cave and heard the booming voice once more.

“We, the council, have decided to test your worthiness to be a contract holder. If you are going to be calling on us and fighting alongside us, we need to know that you can fight and survive both like us and without us. Therefore, we have decided that in order to obtain a contract with us, you must pass the graduation exam that all ninja animals of our village must pass as well. If you cannot do this, you shall not get a contract. Aruide will train you and prepare you for the exam.”

YES! I could actually do this. I could actually be a contract holder! This is amazing! This is incredible! I have to do my best to not screw it up.

“Good luck to you, Nobuya Yomechiro. I look forward to hearing of your progress.”

WC: 1352
Total WC: 2554



“Before we allow you to take our graduation exam, there are a few things you need to learn down here that you wouldn’t have learned from human ninja. First and foremost, Machidō, our burrow’s preferred taijutsu style. Machidō focuses largely on blocking and being able to mitigate your opponent’s strength. So for the first part of your training, you must withstand several of my attacks without fighting back.”

Aruide and I were standing in what seemed to effectively function as a training ground for the armadillos. They required that I be trained like an armadillo of their village, and this was apparently the place to do it.

Ok, this is good. I fight defensively anyways, so this part should be no problem!

I quickly learned how wrong I was. While my defensive fighting had been about dodging and redirecting blows, Machidō was apparently much more about just taking straight-up hits and dealing with it. And Aruide was holding back just enough to keep me conscious, or at least so it seemed. He was definitely holding back though, I could see him slow himself down before he hit me, and he (very thankfully) wasn't even using his massive claws, which I would think might be useful in taijutsu. For training purposes, though, I could see why Aruide would focus on more blunt attacks. I could tell that this was going to be some very painful training, but I had to endure it if I wanted to enter into a contract with them.

“Don’t flinch!” Aruide shouted as he slammed his tail into my side, “You must learn how to fight past the pain. Train yourself to separate the feeling of the body from the machinations of the mind.”

“Isolate your mind!” he yelled as he slammed his claw into me, not cutting, but definitely bruising. At this point, we had been training for what felt like hours, though being underground I had no solid basis on which to judge the passage of time. What I did know was that it was getting harder and harder to get up, and I could barely catch my breath.

Isolate my mind. Separate the-

His tail hit me once again while my guard was down and I flew backwards into a dirt wall. When I woke up, I found a strange sight enter my mind as my eyes groggily opened. I was staring up at a giant armadillo standing over me on its hind legs, clearly channeling chakra through its front leg’s claws. I panicked for a moment, as I was not accustomed to giant armadillos being able to perform jutsu (or even being this giant), but I quickly remembered where I was, how I got here, and that I got knocked out.

I’m starting to think that Aruide just wanted an excuse to beat me up. Still, I feel remarkably better. This must be a…medical armadillo, I guess? I don’t really know a lot about how their teachings must be so different from Kiri’s. I mean, obviously there’s the biological factor, but I wonder if they even have the same specializations? I could see them not really ever using something like puppets, but I wonder what other specializations they might have that human shinobi don’t? After all, they’ve been pretty isolated for a long time, though they did mention the thing about some armadillo going to get news from the surface.

It was then that I thought of the armadillo I had encountered while out on patrol for the village. The one the big cat had cornered.

I wonder if that was a scout for Suana?

The armadillo seemed to be finishing up, so I decided to express my gratitude. It probably wasn’t every day that this armadillo was asked to perform on a human patient, and I was amazed at just how much better I had started to feel.

“Thank you so much, doctor, I really appreciate…”

I stopped when I saw the doctor had jumped in surprise. Luckily, they had already stopped using a jutsu and was just cleaning up, so I wasn’t suddenly sliced in half or anything.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I…I thought you saw my eyes open, so you would know I was awake. Guess I wasn’t thinking on how much you would need to be concentrating. Must be weird to use medical ninjutsu on a human,” I laughed.

“No, no worries. It was somewhat strange to perform on a member of a species other than my own, but we have researched enough so that we know how to heal most creatures of the region. As to seeing your eyes, well, we don’t use our eyes or sight in general nearly as much as humans. No, our biology lends itself instead to using our senses of smell to identify, distinguish, and classify the different parts of the world.”

That makes so much sense actually, with why most of Suana was so dark. I thought it was just a technique to hide from others, but it’s just that they don’t really need the light as much. Still, parts had been lit, so I guess they still can use their eyes even if their visual acuity isn’t very sharp.

“Huh, neat. That must make you pretty good at moving around at night, then.”

“As a matter of fact, that’s when we do most of our moving. We as a species are actually nocturnal.”

So if I do make a contract with them, they’d probably prefer if I mainly called on them for night missions, I guess.

I winced as I brought myself to a sitting position, The pain wasn’t completely gone, but it was subsiding.

“Aruide can be a bit rough sometimes, but he’s not just hurting you for the sake of hurting you. He genuinely wants you to get stronger, you know.”

“Sometimes it’s a bit hard to tell. Seemed like he was just trying to see how many bones of mine he could break before I hit the ground.”

“Don’t give up on him, and he won’t give up on you, Nobuya.”

Huh, I wonder if Aruide told him my name. Maybe he does care a bit after all. In his own, painful-to-me way, I guess.

WC: 1072
Total WC: 3626



After getting directions from the doctor armadillo, I made my way back to the training grounds, where Aruide himself was practicing swordplay on a stuffed canvas dummy. He didn't seem super familiar with the weapon, but he seemed to be pretty happy with himself for some reason. After performing a decently complex maneuver, he turned to face me.

“So, finally decided to wake up? Are you good to go for some more?”

Maybe? I certainly can’t handle another round of that without blacking out again, but I can’t just give up either. The whole point of Machidō is enduring pain, right? If I give up now, I’ll never be able to learn it well enough that I can pass the graduation exam. What will the exam for that portion even be? Just hitting you a bunch until you black out and see how much you can take? Still, I really do want to enter into a contract with Suanagakure, even if it’s more painful than ay other training I’ve ever done. I don’t like pain, but a ninja can hardly escape it, though they may run from it. These ninja would help me grow, help me be stronger, help me achieve my nindo. If I wanted to inflict as little pain as possible, I must be willing to take that pain myself.

I looked at Aruide, a new determination shining in my eyes.

“You know it. But step it up a notch, your training was so boring last time I fell asleep during it!”

Aruide laughed, or at least did the armadillo equivalent, looking slightly surprised by my newfound eagerness and general change in disposition.

“Very well, get ready.”

Aruide and I spent the next couple of weeks continuing our training, teaching me effective blocks and devastating counterattacks between my trips back to Kirigakure proper. Once he was satisfied that I’d been hit enough times in one set without blacking out, he moved on to teaching me how Machidō used its superior defense to ignore weaker offenses of the enemy, allowing for more direct attacks on both sides, with the Machidō user theoretically being able to just outlast the opponent by merit of their built-up stamina. We moved on to sparring each other, and although I was nowhere near a match for him physically, he went easy on me just to show me proper technique.

As much as I might have hated to admit it at the start, Aruide is actually a pretty good teacher, and he’s REALLY good at fighting this way. When we’re sparring against each other, it’s like he’s just on autopilot, making his moves absentmindedly while scrutinizing my own technique.

“Alright, once more for today.”

“What,” I panted, “Getting tired already?”

The line’s cheesy, but it gets the point across.

Without another word, Aruide and I squared off. I was starting to understand and see through Aruide’s movements. He was just using basic positions and strikes, but he was still a master at them, never wasting even a single movement. And I too was beginning to appreciate the efficiency of Machidō’s absolute offense and defense. It could be dangerous when facing a physically stronger opponent, but more time in battle allows more time to devise tactics and find weaknesses. I really began to enjoy Machidō much more than I ever enjoyed taijutsu at the Academy. In school, I got beat up in spars in between learning. Here, I was learning by getting beaten up, and I was getting better at shrugging off the incoming damage.

I rushed in to attack, landing a kick on his left side while he grabbed my leg. He twisted it around and threw me to the ground, but I quickly curled into a ball and rolled away. Next, he came at me with his claws, and I did all I could to mitigate the damage, blocking and dodging so that I was never hit too badly. I saw my opportunity to counterattack, and did it. He had gotten  into a position such that it wouldn’t make any sense to do anything other than attack with his left claw, so I took the hit where I knew I could and, stepping closer to get past his defenses, hit him in the chest and hooked my leg around his, trying to trip him. He used his tail to keep balance, and took it a step further by using his superior weight to try and crush me. He tensed his tail, but I had trained with him enough at this point that I expected his next move, so I quickly jumped back, earning a graze from his right claw but avoiding Aruide’s tackle. Now Aruide was on all four legs, but that wasn’t exactly a problem for him. In fact, he had a lot more mobility on four legs than two, but it was harder for him to attack with his front claws.

I was completely focused on the battle, ignoring my own pain to give myself space to think about how best to defeat Aruide. This battle was the most I’d ever been able to focus on anything in my life. Even with creating sealing formulae, which I definitely put a lot of concentration towards, it wasn’t exactly focus unless I was absolutely stumped. While experimenting or daydreaming new jutsu, I would often have thoughts of other things transiently passing through my mind, giving me new ideas for different things. It was concentration, but not focus. This was focus.

The problem is, I can barely see him, while he knows exactly where I am because of that nose of his! If only I had some way of lighting this place up. All I need is a bit of light, just for a moment. A flash to illuminate.

Suddenly, an image of the bioluminescent crystals I had seen earlier flashed in my mind, I could feel a slight burning in my eyes, and a flash of light came from nowhere. In that split second, I could clearly see Aruide looking slightly stunned, so I took the chance and dashed forward, landing an uppercut that knocked him on his back.

“Woohoo! You gotta admit, that was good. Aruide? What’s the matter? What…what happened?”

Aruide took a moment to collect himself, turning himself over and standing himself up, lowered his arms and looked me straight in the eyes.

“Nobuya, do you know what that was?”

“What what was? The flash of light?”


No, actually, now that I think about it, it just came out of nowhere. I was just lucky that it was pretty much exactly what I needed.

But the look on Aruide’s face was worrying me. Armadillos obviously didn’t have the same expressions humans had, but I could tell that Aruide was pretty shocked and maybe even worried about whatever he just saw. I lowered my voice, afraid of the answer to the question I was going to ask.

“I…I don’t know. What…why, is it bad? What happened? I just thought a light would be useful, and one kinda just appeared. I didn’t really think anything of it. Did I…make that light somehow?”

“Nobuya, I believe that you possess a dojutsu known as the ‘Stunning Eyes.’ It is a highly regarded and much sought-after dojutsu scattered around the world. It allows the user to flood the person whom they are looking at’s brain with chemicals that distract them from the battle at hand, stunning them with a wave of euphoria. On top of that, the user’s eyes shine with a beauty that few natural things can rival. Even now, my mind is still reeling slightly from the experience, longing to see those eyes again. And that is why, until you can find someone with the same eyes as yours willing to teach you how to properly control them, you must keep your eyes a secret. Misuse of them could seriously harm not only yourself, but could have dangerous consequences for the minds of your opponents, and possibly even your friends.”

I was speechless. This was a lot to take in.

So not only do I have a kekkei genkai, but apparently it’s a dojutsu, and a pretty potent one at that. So potent that I have to keep it a secret even from my comrades until I can find someone willing to teach me how to actually use it properly. But how would I find such a person? It’s not like I can go around asking: Who has ‘The Stunning Eyes?’ First of all, that would make me look super suspicious, and second, it would take way too long and be way too cumbersome. I’d have to do research on my own, in secret, until I could find a suitable master.

“Why? I mean, I’ve never had this happen before. Why’d it activate now?”

“I’m not sure. It could be that we were engaged in a heated battle, it could be the fact that we’re underground, it could be that passing through our waterfall had something to do with it, or it could be a combination of all of those things. Who knows? I myself only have a passing familiarity with the subject.”

Picking up on an oddity in the list he just gave, I asked, “Why would the waterfall be the thing you think might have caused it?”

“Oh, I guess no one’s really had the chance to tell you about it, but that waterfall you passed through earlier actually has some pretty special properties. It’s one of the main reasons Arutota was so successful in recruiting armadillos into the Village Hidden in the Burrow. It actually has the ability to naturally absorb and incorporate chakra from its surroundings into its flow. Most of the time it doesn’t drain chakra right out of people, but it can shift it around a bit. I was thinking that maybe the water could’ve shifted your chakra in just the right way as to allow you to access what you couldn’t before.”

Thinking back, I did have that weird feeling when staring at those crystals, and I thought of a crystal when the dojutsu actually appeared. Maybe it was just a simple case of misattribution, and it was really just the feeling of my chakra shifting around to allow my kekkei genkai to manifest, and later me just remembering that feeling.

It was at that moment that the shock wore off and the realization really hit me.

I have a kekkei genkai. After so much time reading about them and thinking that mine must have something to do with sealing jutsu, it turns out to be something like this.


WC: 1819
Total WC: 5445



I was back in Suana, and ready to take on some more training, trying to clear the thoughts of what happened last time and just focus on whatever the graduation exam would require of me. I’d come to really love this village, and really wanted to protect them and be their comrade in battles. Everything was just happening a bit too quickly for me, so it was nice to be down here with just Aruide training me.

“Despite the shock at our discovery last time, I’m still happy with how you’ve progressed so far. And now that you’ve mastered the basics of Machidō, the primary defensive fighting style of our village, we must move on to kusarigamajutsu, our village’s primary offense. It’s a mouthful, but essentially, it’s just using these:”

Aruide set down a large chest between us, opening it to reveal a chain and a kusarigama. Aruide picked up the chain.

“When we choose to use weapons to defend ourselves, most armadillo down here prefer using a weighted chain to ensnare the enemy before using our own claws to attack. You, however, obviously lack the claws needed for this and must attach a kama to the chain instead. While you may lack this natural advantage, if you expect us to fight for you, we expect you to learn this way of fighting. And while you may have the ability to be disarmed while we can not, you also have a greater range, being able to throw either end of the kusarigama for binding or for slashing. Go ahead and pick up your weapon, and we’ll get started.”

I looked down at the blade, weight, and chain in front of me. It wasn’t the best quality of weapon that I’d ever seen, but I guessed that this would have been the first time they would have a reason to bring it out in a long time.

I wonder why they even have it in the first place? Maybe they didn’t always like using their claws as weapons, or maybe everyone is trained using one of these, armadillo or not.

I noticed a white triangle on the weight of the kusarigama and asked, “I saw this white triangle on your backs too. Is it a symbol of Suanagakure or something?”

“Somewhat,” Aruide responded, “For us, that symbol is more akin to your designation for ANBU Black Ops squads, though we do not claim to be as skilled as many of them. As proficient with jutsu as we are, we have always been better at hiding than at fighting, and we’re content staying down here and only going to the surface occasionally at night, so we never really needed to be as good at fighting as humans. Plus, we’re pretty solitary creatures, so we aren’t prone to fighting each other. It’s actually amazing in that way that King Arutota was able to unite so many of us in one burrow, given our proclivity to isolating ourselves. The triangle represents our division of Defender Armadillos, armadillos that patrol the tunnels surrounding the burrows so that we can catch scum like you.”

He looked down and turned his head in what I’m guessing from his tone was kind of a cheeky, teasing gesture.

“So do you have a symbol like the Hidden Mist’s?” I asked, pointing to my headband.

“Not really, the triangle is mostly just an internal designation and honor, and we don’t really need to identify ourselves outside of Suana, not with visual markers at least. There aren’t too many of us giant armadillo ninja villages around that we would ever need distinction. There might be others, but again, we’re solitary creatures, so we’ve never really wanted to find out. Well, except for Arusuno, but he’s curious about everything on the surface. You saw him when you first saw Suanagakure, if you remember.”

I thought back to my first amazement at the magnificent sight I saw on the cliffs, traveling down, entering the city, and...

“Oh yeah! I remember him! He did seem really excited when you guys came back with me, now that I think about it.”

“Well, let’s quit stalling and get on with the training.”

I picked up the weapon, fumbling with the chain a bit as I got a hang of the feel of it in my hand. The kama was lighter than I expected, but still had enough weight that I felt it could block an opponent’s weapon strikes, if only for a bit.

I suppose dealing with the weapon is what the chain is for. I thought, glancing at the hand in which I held the weight and most of the chain.

“Go on , try swinging the weighted end around, get a feel for it. Just make sure not to let go of the kama for now or you could seriously injure yourself.”

I began playing around with it in my hands, swinging it conservatively at first, then faster and with a larger radius as I grew more and more confident. I never really liked weapons too much; even the bow that Kenshin had taught me how to use felt a little weird with the arrow. And as much as I tried, I never really got a solid understanding of how to use a spear. But this, this felt smooth and natural, constantly using momentum and centripetal force to produce powerful movements and deliver decisive strikes. And it was almost all due to the velocity, not the mass, so it allowed for a lot more versatility, but required more dexterity. And the inherent ability to bind opponents without harming them too much just pushed my opinion over the edge.

It’s love at first scythe. Except it’s a kama. A scythe has a much longer handle and a larger blade. So close to being a good pun.

“This feels pretty good, actually. I love the distribution of weight; it really makes it feel powerful when it’s going so quickly.”

“Well, this style of fighting is not about power, Nobuya, it’s about cunning. The kusarigama is an incredibly versatile weapon. It is able to cut, bludgeon, bind, block, pull enemies closer, or keep them at bay. The utility of this weapon is entirely dependent not on strength or speed, but on the individual skill of the user.”

For this style of fighting too, we dedicated several weeks to training at least a semi-decent proficiency with the odd weapon. Aruide initially just wanted to teach me the basics, but I enjoyed fighting and grappling with the kusarigama so much that it didn’t take long for us to move on to more advanced techniques. I learned how to deflect projectiles (rather than just absorb them with a seal, like I was used to) with the kama, grab the enemies weapon with the weight and chain, and throw the weight itself accurately enough that it could be used as a blunt retractable projectile. I learned how to grip either end in order to swing the free end around, creating a deadly bladed barrier when swinging the kama, or an instantly-entangling defense when swinging the weight. I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed using it more than sealing, but it was a close second favorite. Aruide was a great teacher, but I admit that he was a bit spotty when it came down to using the kama at range, due to his use of his large claw as the blade of the kusarigama.

I've certainly learned a lot about how to handle this weapon, but I haven't really learned a fighting style so much as a series of disconnected moves for distinct situations. I wonder if I could find a master in Kiri willing to help me continue my training? Someone more accustomed to the kama part, as I've got the weighted moves down pretty well.

Finally, after a training session with Aruide in which I managed to somehow grapple HIS chain out of his hands and make him concede the match, this time without the use of a hidden kekkei genkai, he proudly stated, “I think it’s time you took the graduation exam.”

WC: 1387
Total WC: 6832



We headed to King Arutota’s cave, and I started feeling just as nervous as I was when I first came down here. Then I was nervous because I didn’t know what dangers the armadillos might pose to me, whether I would live to make it out of this strange new land with an unseen king. Now, I was nervous that I would disappoint them. This had been the hardest I had ever trained in my life, and I had formed a strong bond with Aruide and the rest of the villagers. I know it wouldn’t be fair to say that I was part of the village since I had only been training off-and-on for a little over a month, but I really felt that I would do anything to protect Suanagakure.

It was time to enter the great dark cave opposite the waterfall. Once again, I heard the booming, powerful voice of King Arutota.

“Child, have you come to take our graduation exam, having dedicated yourself to learning our ways?”

“Yes, King Arutota.”

“Aruide, is the boy to a standard you are satisfied with?”

“Yes, my king. He has learned the fundamentals of both Machidō and kusarigamajutsu, and I believe he is proficient enough in both to serve as a reliable ally should we ever have need to reverse summon him to our defense.”

“Very well. Nobuya, step forward.”

This wasn’t the first time he had said my name, but chills ran down me as I took a cautious step forward. Suddenly, a spark appeared in front of me, lighting a torch, illuminating the cave. For the first time, I saw King Arutota’s actual body. The face behind the voice. And he was massive. And when I say the face behind the voice, I literally mean that I really couldn’t see much of him because his face was so huge that it was blocking the light from reaching any other part of him.

“Nobuya, in order to obtain a contract with us, you must…”

My heart was beating like crazy.

What could the test be? Will I have to be hit until I black out? Or maybe grapple a target from a distance? Both? Would I have to fight someone? Aruide, maybe? Oh no, what if I had to fight King Arutota? What if that was the graduation exam all along? Would that even be possible?

“Take this scroll, and leave imprints of your fingertips in one of the sections. You must use your own blood for this to work.”

Aruide rolled out a giant scroll on the ground in front of us.

“Wait…what? Is this part of the exam? I thought that that was part of forming the actual contract itself? I’m confused.”

“The truth is, Nobuya, we don’t have a graduation exam. Really, the Defender Armadillos are the only ones trained in any kind of combat down here. Most of the people just like living their lives in peace. But I always love a good battle, and when we sniffed you out, crawling through the tunnels, I couldn’t resist. I didn’t know what a human like you was doing lost down here, but I convinced King Arutota here to hold off on giving you a contract until I could make sure you were up to snuff. I was pretty sure you were, given your stunt in the mine, but it’s always nice to have a sparring partner. Plus, it gave you more time in Suanagakure to know us and our styles of fighting. To be honest, King Arutota loved the idea of you being in a contract with us as soon as you mentioned it.”

“I can tell that you share the qualities of a good armadillo.”

“Wait, hold on a second. Your majesty, how could you know that you could trust me?”

“Hehe…Well, truth be told, I’ve actually been tracking you for some time. I don’t know if it was a certain connection that made you wind up here, or if it was just amazing coincidence, but when I recognized your scent, I really hoped that we could be working together soon.”

I thought back.

When could he have smelled me? When I saw that other armadillo? When I was just walking outside the village gates? When I was-

I remembered my first mission. The mine. The large, shadowy figure. The suspiciously well-crafted tunnel appearing from nowhere.

“You! You were that shadowy figure that put the boulder there to stop me from getting out of the mine!”


Aruide smiled his armadillo smile.

“I wanted to see if you were strong enough or clever enough to get past it. You seemed interesting, and no one had really gone to that part of the mine before, so I took an interest. Whenever I could smell that you were outside the village, I kept track of you. And I decided that you’re pretty good for a human.”

I smiled back, saying, “Well, it’s a bit creepy that you were stalking me…”

Aruide’s mouth moved like he was rushing to explain himself, but I continued before he had a chance.

“But I think you’re pretty good for an armadillo.”

WC: 881
Total WC: 7713



"I'm glad that you two have grown a camaraderie. If you are ready, Nobuya, I believe that the first armadillo to enter the contract with you is ready."

The first armadillo to enter the contract?

I turned from looking up at King Arutota to the only other armadillo in the cave I could see in the dim torchlight.


"As much as I would love to fight alongside you, no. You have certainly grown in strength, but you must grow even more before I can feel secure in being temporarily called away from my guard duties here. No, there is another who was jumping at the opportunity anyways, one who wanted to enter into the contract before anyone else."

I heard the scampering of small armadillo feet, and emerging from the shadows was a friendly, familiar face.


"If you wouldn't mind having me as a companion, Nobuya sir, I would love to be the first to enter into the contract with you. I really love learning about the world outside the burrow, and I think that this would be a really cool way to go to interesting places and do stuff I've never done before! And! And you wouldn't have to worry about me, sir. I look just like a regular giant armadillo, so I'd be hard to notice, and I can just transport myself back to the village anytime I wanted! Please sir, I'd be a great companion for things like scouting ahead to find out information and stuff. Or I could act as a messenger between you and your allies. Or I could be a lookout while you sleep, or..."

He continued listing possible uses for a summoned companion such as himself. It was clear that Arusuno had been thinking a lot about this, clearly very excited at the prospect of entering into a contract with me. And honestly, I was pretty excited about entering into a contract with him. He seemed like a really fun armadillo, and I was sure that we could help each other out.

I wonder how long he'd been thinking of ways he could help? Maybe Aruide told him when I was getting close to completing my training? Maybe he found out himself? Maybe he had started way back when I first met him! Even then, he did seem super excited about an outsider human ninja in the village, and though Aruide explained it as him having interest in me since I was from outside the Burrow, it could be that his interests ran deeper. Whichever way, he began planning early enough to come up with a really impressive list.

"But, uh, sir..."

The entirety of my attention snapped back to Arusuno. I had been listening, but now I was focused.

"I'm afraid that...well, I'm afraid that I'm too afraid to ever do anything like fight in a battle. And I know that ninja are supposed to battle, and that I'd be considered an animal-nin, but I really don't like fighting. And if you don't want me because of that...I...I understand."

He looked up at me with his body lowered in what I could only assume was some negative emotion. Perhaps fear, nervousness, shame, or something else. I didn't like seeing him looking like that.

Remembering how Arusuno addressed Aruide, which stuck in my head because I thought it was pretty funny and cute, I said, "Don't worry, I wouldn't want you getting hurt, we're meant to help each other shore up each other's weaknesses. And plus, you already mentioned so many other amazing possibilities for ways you could help me, with you by my side, defeating people who would want to hurt us would be way to easy. Especially with all the cool stuff that Big Brother Aruide taught me about fighting..."

It was then that a realization dawned on me. I turned to Aruide, and he simply gave a small nod and armadillo smile of confirmation.

He wasn't training me just so that I could protect myself, or fight alongside Suanagakure, though those probably were components. He knew that Arusuno would be jumping at the opportunity to join me. He made me get stronger so that he'd be sure I could protect him.

I smiled back.

"I'm sure that we'll make an awesome team. Let's make the contract together."

With that, Aruide rolled out the contract in front of us. Using one of my kunai and one of his claws, we each gave ourselves small cuts so that we could access some of our own blood. On the leftmost end of the scroll, I wetted my fingertips with the blood and pressed my hand onto the giant scroll. At the same time, Arusuno had wetted his his claws with his blood, although it was a lot more awkward since his front legs were a lot shorter relative to his body. Eventually, though he managed to get enough blood on his claws, and taking care not to rip the scroll, he placed his claws down in the section next to mine.

"Congratulations, Nobuya and Aruide. You two are the first in our new village's history to make a summoning contract. This is a historic day. Nobuya, I officially consider you equivalent to a full member of Suanagakure."

WC: 904
Total WC: 8617



I rested in my bed back in Kiri, holding the giant scroll that now held the summoning contract above my head. My eyes wandered down to my arms, uncovered by my sleeves as gravity had pulled them down. They were covered in bruises, scratches, and maybe even a scar or two that had accumulated over the weeks I spent going back and forth between here and Suana.

After so long, I can’t believe I’ve actually done it. It was more work than I’d ever done in my life before, but I’m glad I did it.

I sat up, setting the scroll beside me.

Man, it’s going to be so cool to show the squad! Arusuno definitely seems like the type that would be pretty friendly with them, so maybe I’ll summon him the next time we meet as a team. If anything, it’d be really helpful for Arusuno to learn their scents. In case I summon him in a situation in which I wouldn’t be able to quickly distinguish for him friend from foe, it would be much better for him to learn their scents early. Plus, he seemed really excited about scouting and relaying messages, so this would help him identify the recipients if Team Kenshin was spread out.

But now that I had successfully obtained a summoning contract, I had one more thing that I wanted to take care of before the day was done. It was time to ask my parents about my family’s history, and why Aruide told me that I have something called the “Stunning Eyes.”

“Hey mom, I was training underground with the armadillo summons I told you about, and thinking about some bioluminescent crystals activated something that Aruide called the ‘Stunning Eyes.’ Do you know what he meant by that? Is that our family’s kekkei genkai?”

I was playing a little dumb at that point, but I wanted her to tell me everything. My mother closed her eyes, collected her thoughts, and opened her eyes with an expression of weariness, of sorrow. It was not an expression I ever liked to see, especially not on my mother.

“Yes, Nobuya, that is our family’s kekkei genkai, and that is our family’s secret. Long ago, your father’s ancestors had worked to cultivate a vast wealth by selling members of their own families into slavery. You see, your father’s ancestors had a narrow and unforgiving view of the world and the people in it, holding one particular standard of beauty above all others. It’s really horrible, but anytime a child of the clan would be born looking less naturally gifted than the other members, they would be sold off into slavery. Eventually, this obsession with beauty grew to such an extent that they modified their own eyes, irreversibly changing their DNA, to meet their whackjob standards. Your great-grandfather possessed these special eyes, and was sold into slavery at a very young age because he received a scar along his forehead. He managed to escape, and spent the rest of his life at sea, meeting your great-grandmother and becoming nomads. They travelled from island to island, raising their family and passing on the genetics of the dojutsu, but never awakening it for fear of being targeted and forced back into slavery. After a while, even the method of awakening it was forgotten. This was our family’s way of life until…until…”

I could see tears start to well up in her eyes, her voice cracks betraying her inner feelings. She wiped away the tears and continued the story.

“This continued until the day your sister died. We don’t know if it was for her bloodline or just by random chance that we were targeted, but we didn’t want to take that chance. We decided that it would be safest for you to live in the nearby ninja village of Kirigakure, so that you could become a strong ninja.”

At this point, she was openly bawling.

“And you have, Nobuya, you’ve become such a great ninja already. And you’re going to get even stronger, I know it. You’ll be able to do whatever you think is best to make the world a better place, and I know you’ll do a great job.
Protect those eyes, Nobuya. They will make you a target, which is why we changed our family name, becoming the branch family Yomechiro. In reality, we descend from the clan formerly positioned in Sunagakure, known as the Karisuma.”

WC: 766
Total WC: 9383

4500/4500-Discovery of Clan (Karisuma) (Described by the following:)
-3000/3000 Base cost for discovery (WC also going towards forming a contract 3000/5000, as allowed by Undiscovered rules)
-1200/1200 from 20% WC increase for training 8 tiers of D-rank stats
-200/200 from 20% WC increase for training 1 C-rank jutsu (Summoning Technique)
-100/100 from 20% WC increase for training 1 E-rank jutsu (Mercy Seal)

-3000(from discovery)+2000/5000 Contract Acquisition

-900/900 E-rank Summon Arusuno (20% WC increase from Clan)
-825/825 D-rank jutsu Armadillo Burrowing Jutsu (10% decrease from Quick Learner, 20% increase from Clan)
-1100/1100 C-rank jutsu Armadillo Sensory Jutsu (10% decrease from Quick Learner, 20% increase from Clan)

WC Remaining: 58


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