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This was was hell, absolute hell...

"Imagine, A World on Fire."

I don't need to imagine it, it's right in front of me! The shops are in flames, the peoples are screaming, and the administration building. Oh god.. please. I can't even see it with all the smoke...!

"Strike Once, so hard that ne'er may you need to attempt a second."

Look around! Everything is gone! The people I knew are dead. Shouto bled out from what left of his ashen body could be recovered. N'Jobu was covered in his own insects, body cut to shreds, while little Joe and the hundred other insects mourned their dead master.

"All the time in the world could not prepare us to lose everything."

Just as things couldn't get any worse, it was there. Amid the smoke and flames, the same man that had slaughtered the Sunagakure, had butchered his brother on B-ordis' video cam, they stood before a bloody and beaten Takao. Then they raised their sword, covered in the entrails of his previous victims. Fear leapt in the back of my throat and I jumped forward screaming out his name, desperately trying to get their in time. Tears blotched my face as I charged forward with everything I had. "TAKAO!!!"

"Kisei stay back!" He called out to me. Then, with a swing of the murderer's blade, the scene faded to black. The last thing I felt were the tears sliding down my face. When I opened my eyes again a whole different world was there.

"Kisei! Wake up, come on stay with me." A voice called above me. "Beloved, awaken!" Another voice to the side. I blinked the blackness of my eyes and settled down against the sheets. Then opened my eyes to see an extremely worried Shouto and a teary eyed Ai, floating as you do; as a hallucination.

"Hey, hey. Are you alright, you were screaming and crying so I came up to check on you-"

"Hey Sumiko, get your ass off Kisei, you're going to suffocate him!" So protested, but as only I could see them, of course, Shouto did not follow their pleas. Even when So very convincingly tried to push the sumiko off of me. It would have been hilarious if I were in any other mood. The heart clenching image of Takao getting offed like that, still had me shaking on the bed. "I-i-i... So... D...t. let... Takao..." I whimpered pathetically. I opened my mouth to weakly protest that I was fine, but I could manage to speak. But it was fine, everything was fine, nightmares were something I've dealt with before.

It wasn't fine.

Slowly, I wrapped my arms around both Shouto and Ai, feeling both of their words and warmth comfort me. Taking whatever support I could while I cried, and sobbed and snotted all over them both.


Episodes like that weren't an uncommon thing with Shinobi it seemed. At least with those in constant warfare and conflict. A good deal of the veterans have therapy to deal with this. Though logically I knew that I needed to talk to someone professional, (Shouto I love you with all my heart, but I do need someone who studies this for a living), I was still too fucking proud for my own good. "If I go one with my life everything will be fine, it will be fine." I lied to myself.

Either way, I didn't have time for break downs or nightmares. Today was a new day. Like my meeting with the late Kazekage Midori, the late Hokage Rippa, I'm spending a little bit of time with the Kage. Though unlike before with Rippa, this was considerably less formal. I've come across Takao a few times in passing since my admission into the village Shinobi forces, as well as Root of course, and he had seemed a bit busy more often than not. So I asked him if I could help him with anything. Obviously, paper work came up, so I decided to meet him early in the morning to spend the day assisting with anything he needed help with. Or taking over his work while he took a break. Whatever really.

Swinging the umbrella open over my shoulders, donned in his traditional black vest and black pants, he headed out to meet... No.. I headed out to meet with Takao. A dizzying feeling swirled around my brain for a bit, making it impossible to concentrate. I shook my head a few times and it cleared. "Hm.. interesting." I shrugged it off and continued towards the Administration building, closing the umbrella as I passed through the doors, and silently made my way to the office. My chest heaved in a deep breath, shaking out any more jitters from this morning. I tapped the door a few times with the steel tip of my second closest companion before returning it to my side.

"Takao, it's me Kisei. Do you mind opening up?"




Call me by your sanded name [Takao / Invite only] D6ehE4O

Morning had come far too quickly and the bliss of slumber was stripped from him by a piercing beep. From his prone position, an arm reluctantly pulled from beneath his pillow and fell palm-down, turning it off. The celestial bodies of a force far more divine than he could imagine aligned in such magnificent perfection to thread a beam of light through the hair's breadth of distance separating his curtains, and land directly on his eyes.

With a groan and a great deal of perseverance, he managed to lift himself from the bed. His gaze trailed to his left and he stared at the empty spot beside him. A slow exhale left his lips and scarred digits ran down his face and dug into the corners of his eyes, rubbing out the sleep from within.

He sat up and swung his legs over the edge, bare feet hitting the rug. He stood and sleepily trudged to the vanity mirror. Lifeless black eyes stared at the bags that had grown prominent beneath them, painting his sagged freckled countenance with the indication of sleepless nights. His gaze trailed down his bare torso and stared at the jagged scars that marred his skin. They were ugly reminders of mistakes, failures, and memories that he'd rather forget, but fate was not so kind, and he was forced to wear A long breath escaped through clenched teeth as he grabbed a pair of black slacks, a black three-quarter sleeved undershirt to match, and the embroidered Jōnin vest that denoted his numerical position in the village leadership's hierarchy, lucky thirteen.

Takao didn't bother with breakfast, lately he'd lost all semblance of an appetite in the morning and skipped the meal. Instead, he dressed himself in his bathroom after a lengthy, scalding hot shower, fed his household pets, and locked the front door of his house on the way out. The trip to the administration building was as bland as it always was, sans the few pleasantries he paid to familiar faces along the way. A brief stop at his favourite along-the-way coffee shop left him with a piping hot mug of his liquid energy to get him through the morning.

Likewise, when he entered the administration building, his journey toward his office was largely uneventful as well, sans a brief meeting with his assistant who said that a dark-haired teenager had come looking for him. With only a vague idea of who it was, Takao sucked in a breath and took a long drink from his mug. He hadn't expected his day to start so soon but such was his luck. As he trudged closer to his office, he had arrived just in time to hear Kisei knock and request entry.

"I can if you move aside." Takao said, voice deep from onset grogginess, from behind a mug of boiling hot coffee held at his lips, and only tilted once he was through speaking.

He took a slow sip while bottomless pools of dull obsidian glanced over Kisei. Taking a slow step to the side, he reached for the door around Kisei if he didn't move, and if he did, then he merely approached the door and opened it. Regardless, he would gesture inside, allowing Kisei to enter first before he followed.

The room was clean, devoid of the usual clutter of paperwork that plagued the penthouse office. He had begun to use clones to tackle the insurmountable task of keeping up with the administration of the village, but the rings under his eyes showed that the sleepless nights that the clones endured had just as much an effect on him as if he'd done it all himself.

He set the mug down on the desk mat and lowered himself to sit in his chair. He propped his back up against it, using it as a bastion of proper posture amidst his overwhelming desire to return to sleep, and leveled his gaze with Kisei.

"What can I do for you?" He said, a professional cadence forced despite his natural monotone. Scarred digits lightly danced across the handle of his mug, teasing himself with the thought of another drink.




My ears perked up a a foreign voice, and I turned around to apologize for the disturbance, only to find out that it had come from none other than Takao himself. My mind flashed across the last few moments and what, Takao(?), had said. "Oh! Of course." I nodded and stepped to the side, allowing Takao to open the door before following his lead and stepping inside before him. Multiple strings of thought wove through my brain as I approached the Hokage's desk and waited for Takao to come around.

"Was this room ever so spotless?"

"No I don't think it ever was. But I have to say it's nice to see the place clean for once."

"Alright, but has Takao ever looked this tired?"

I didn't have to ponder that last one, as Takao was already taking his seat. My mind froze to a halt as I awaited orders, but was given a 180° turn when Takao instead asked me what I needed help with. Ah, okay? Did I miss something?

"Ah, I think the more appropriate question is for you, "What can I help you with?" Ah, consider me your assistant." I said. "I was thinking to help you with your paperwork, but seems you already have that covered. Though I can do pretty much anything. Organization, filing, refills, meetings, notes, massages, rescheduling. People say I'm pretty good at listening if you just wanna... Talk..." I scratched the back of my head. Well, that went well. The ball was in Takao's court now, I didn't want to overstep my bounds. Especially not now with how tired he seemed. I thought back to the first time we met, and the main reason that he agreed to train me was to escape the office. "Well when it drains this much out of a person no wonder it's such dreaded work. Did Takao have any actual assistants to help him or maybe something like the Red Sands from the fallen Sunagakure?

The bags under his eyes were, concerning. I could remember finding a similar look on me when I first came to the Sunagakure, and then when I found out that Alfa had died. While I've been waiting a while to confront Takao about it... Right now didn't seem like a good time. If Takao couldn't come up with anything I would absentmindedly suggest that we take an off day, to rest. Though it was more for Takao's sake than my own.. really, the poor guy looked sleep deprived as hell.

434 | 1279



Call me by your sanded name [Takao / Invite only] D6ehE4O

Kisei presented a broad spectrum of options for him to choose to be helped in, however, most things had been done the night prior. There was sure to be a new swathe of busy work to preoccupy him to the brink of insanity, but this early in the morning, most people hadn't bothered with their problems just yet.

"My assistant." Takao repeated groggily, gingerly sipping from his drink as tired eyes blinked without a semblance of urgency. He reclined once more against the back of his chair and cast his gaze down into the dark liquid contents of his drink, staring at his distorted reflection amidst the ripples. Dark pools caught sight of the bags beneath his eyes and the especially tired expression that he wore, though it was hardly anything new to him. He sighed.

"Do I really look that helpless?.." It was a rhetorical question meant more for his own inward consideration but spoken aloud for Kisei to hear. A few individuals had approached to express their desire for the position and he'd never thought it to be an especially sought after seat. The only reasonable explanation was that he looked so helpless that they couldn't stand to see him bumble his way through the facets of administration he was utterly clueless about. Perhaps Kisei saw him in the same light, incapable of maintaining the upkeep required for the village to operate. Maybe he wasn't wrong to think so either, Takao himself hardly thought that his current momentum had any semblance of longevity.

Sucking in a breath, Takao's gaze shifted from his drink to the desk. A few papers remained, some scrolls sat untouched in their stand, but nothing had arisen yet that required his attention. He exhaled, sipped at scalding coffee then set his drink down, and finally clicked his tongue.

"I appreciate the offer, but I'm caught up today, for the most part." For now, anyway, but he left that much out. There was always more work to be had.

"Sorry to waste your time. Was there anything else you needed?"




I was slightly hopeful when Takao looked like he was considering a few of his options. What came out of his mouth made my eyes widen. "Ah... What? No, no that's not it at all. I mean, I just know how it feels with adminstrative life and how boring and long the hours are, it also doesn't really get better when I look at some of the projects I'm doing right now- and I'm gonna stop talking right now." I blushed, cutting off my rambling before mentally cursing myself out. I didn't even realize that it was just a rhetorical question until midway. It was probably just late night, early morning brain. But before I could examine my behavior Takao's voice caught my attention and I drew my head back up to look at him.

The answer was a little bit less than satisfactory. Seems they had everything covered, and that they weren't of need of my services. Good thing though, they were more or less cleared for today. So there is a little bit of leeway going on here. My brain worked a mile a second formulating different outcomes and scenarios, so when Takao asked if there was anything else that I needed I was prepared with any answer.

Faking a defeated sigh I answered fluidly, "well. There are two things. One I didn't want to tell you because it was a bit embarrassing... The other one is a bit more standard. But.. both require your assistance..." Pulling up a chair from the sidelines I planted myself into the ornate wooden creation, legs parted and spread while I leaned on my umbrella. "We have a bit of monster problem in one of the lakes near the Konohagakure. One of the faculty staff at the academy mentioned something about it the other day and since it was a popular place for our students to train and relax I decided to check it out." I grimaced. "So when I came to the lake and didn't see anything I shot a few umbrella rounds into the water. Some of the parts are deceptively deep.. I'll admit. Then just as I was about to leave a giant water snake thing with dozens of fangs erupted out of the water! I tried everything, my puppet, pinwheel, even umbrella, but nothing worked. In the end I had to retreat. So.. yeah.. if you'd kindly, we could you head over there to kill it so that the academy students can train there again. Physical tests are coming up and the students are anxious since their favorite training grounds are home to some giant serpent."

Then I flipped my hand, switching to the other story.

"This other one doesn't require fighting monsters, but another demon entirely." I paused for suspense, but also to check on Takao. "The academy is formally asking for you to give a short presentation to the student body. Bolster student activity, give them a chance to meet you, ask questions. It's a bit more stressful than the monster I know, but I'll treat to you wherever you want to go to for a week to make it up to you." I smiled.

Honestly, if Takao bought this story I'd convert to whatever local religion was prominent right now and praise their savior. (Metaphorically of course.) I could see the holes in the stories and worked some counter arguments in case they were questioned. In the end, so long as I could get Takao out and enjoying a day away from work, I'd consider it a mission success. Let's just hope it goes as smoothly as I'm praying for.




Call me by your sanded name [Takao / Invite only] D6ehE4O

Takao's gaze leveled with Kisei as he spoke and his expression remained wholly unchanged, unreadable and unresponsive to what he heard. He sat perfectly still, eyebrows tilted downward as pools of lifeless obsidian bore habitual daggers into Kisei's countenance.

At first, he tested a silence between them, staring Kisei down with a growing, glowering intensity. Then, his breath escaped through his nostrils and he released the tension held in his body. Takao sank into the back of the chair before he spoke again.

"I thought I'd escaped the Academy when I took up the mantle again, but it seems like no matter what I do, I always end up back there." He spoke with even cadence in his monotone what was an attempt at humour, but he was not so transparent in his attempt.

"As for a monster in the lake..." He repeated in perfect monotone.

"I was a member of the interrogations division of the ANBU for nearly ten years while I taught in the academy." Takao said, seemingly unrelated to the conversation at hand, but quickly brought back to relevancy when he continued. His eyebrows furrowed just slightly, his done dug into a deeper bass, and his head tilted.

"That means I'm good at seeing through lies." His right hand shifted on the arm of his chair and he leaned his head onto his hand, his unwavering gaze not once faltering from Kisei for even a second. He knew that he wasn't easily approachable or easily spoken to, despite his best efforts, so perhaps that was the reason. Or perhaps there was something else, but assumptions were meaningless in the pursuit of the truth.

"I would have hoped that our stations demanded enough respect that we might have a mutual honesty between us. Is there a particular reason that this might not be the case?"




“Heh. Well, you really are famous.” I laughed, slightly tense. The way that Takao was staring was unnerving to say the least. Nervousness wasn’t a unfamiliar feeling, but the waves of unease that were coursing through me were. My palms were coated in a light layer of sweat, waiting for his response; but the monotone when spoke and mentioned the interrogation unit, I knew my lie seen through. A shattered facsimile of a smile was plastered on my face, every word was like a punch in the gut. Ah! My mind was so confused now, was I breathing? Did I die? At this point I didn’t even know, until I coughed; a lack of air forcing my body to automatically react. “Takao…” I whispered lowly.

“No you’re right. I should be honest. Although I could go on about my personal issues, let’s skip that. Takao... “ I bit my lip, “Look, I’m new to all this “socializing” and “coping”. I’m not exactly the most stable ninja around, ah, that isn’t what I meant to say..” Instinctively a hand slapped the side of my right cheek. Get it in gear. “Every day when I look in the mirror I see the same face you got right now, and I’m a wreck. Exhaustion and luggage and all that depressing stuff. You know what helped? You. Takao you’re an amazing person and a great leader. Brave, strong, determined; Everyone in this village adores, acknowledges and respects you. You do good by us, so please take care of yourself. We want to see you sleep enough, eat enough, and just be happy. For if there’s anyone in this building who deserves happiness, no one deserves it more than you.” I leaned in and pressed both my palms on his desk, my eyes softly returning Takao’s look while a slight smile pulled at my lips.

“So please, take a day off, and relax. Take some time to rediscover yourself. You’ve got people who can cover for you, everyone here is jumping at the chance to help you. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, if you don’t I’ll kidnap you and take you out to relax myself. Ah! Less forceful though. I was thinking like dinner, or maybe the Onsen? There’s a few around that are really nice.” Wait, did I ask him for dinner? Then, like a flood, everything that I said came rushing forth and spraying all over my brain. Immediately my face flushed with warmth and my eyes widened with embarrassment. “Mm! Ah, I spoke out of line. Apologies Takao, I should have had more tact with my words.” My feet shuffled backwards and I quickly got into a deep bow.

“Please excuse my outburst. However what I said is my true feelings and how we all should feel for… those who are close to us. I’m not accepting no as an answer. Please consider my words, and I will help anyway I can.”

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