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Chiaki

Chiaki


B-rank
Mission things.:
Mission name: The Hunt
Mission rank: C
Objective: Roam around the Fire Country and hunt as much game as possible. Take a set of rope to bring the game back.
Location: Hi no Kuni
Reward: 300
Mission description: Hunt and kill as much game as possible. With each kill, you will call in a pick up for the body, so that it can be taken to the main camp to be broken down into meat and other supplies.
Mission details: Nothing major, just don't hunt anything too rare and avoid dangerous beasts that you cannot handle alone at all costs.


Chiaki awoke that morning, as she did every morning, to the sun peeking in through her window. It burned into her eyelids and she rubbed them, putting a pillow over her face with a groan which turned into a yawn. She looked around her room, which she had just painted a yellow color. It was in her lease that she could change the color of the walls as long as she kept it to a certain hue. The hue of the color had to be approved by a painter, and had to be an ultra light color. She had picked a moonlight cream, which was a bright yellow. She had opted to paint her room’s walls, and needed to do the other rooms. Looking about she found her painting clothes, a pair of over all jeans that she had repurposed for this exact event. She grumbled, tossing the covers off of her twin sized bed and hopped out of her warmth onto the cold vinyl of the morning.

A hiss from the cold was heard from the small kunoichi as she scurried to the shower, dropping her nighty on the way and turned on the tap. She shivvered and rubbed her palms on her upper arms, grumbling about getting a heater sometime this winter. Chiaki had heat, though it came from a smaller heater than she would have liked, and it was electric so the cost of heating her entire apartment was rather large. It wasn’t cutting it either, as the floorboards and cold bathroom air told her, and as soon as she got into the shower, the water to her cold skin felt scalding. She grumbled and clambered into the shower, looking like a beach crab trying to scuttle over a rock.

Scrubbing away the night’s grime came first, that was her morning routine, and anyone living with her could attest that she did it with a thoroughness that was mind numbing. Chiaki loved to be clean, especially in the morning, and would take as many showers as it took throughout the day to maintain that. She hadn’t ever been on a long duration mission before, and she was going to head out and do that after she was done with her painting for the day. It was a hunting mission, and would help feed the great konoha for days to come. She would be hunting not only game, but also fish. So Chiaki would need to at least keep some of her energy for that. As she dried off, her skin took on a pinkish color and she looked up, her reflection looking back at her like some sort of short, furred flamingo. She giggle to herself at the mental image and walked out with little regard to her nakedness in her own home. After all, she was a grown woman, and she kept sheer blinds on all of the windows, so why not live a little and be nude for a bit.

She stepped into a pair of underwear, then into the overalls, not wanting too much in the way of things to get paint on them and then looked about. Where did she put that darned paint from yesterday? She had bought nearly 15 gallons of paint to cover her entire apartment and she wanted to at least get a feel for how much more she would need. Chiaki walked over, tapping the top of the five gallon drum and nodded, this was the one. She pulled out the paint roller, getting a new pad and putting it on the roller itself, then she dragged the entire ensemble into the middle of the kitchen. Sighing she looked about. She would have to at least cover everything with tape first. Taking her time, and making sure to get all of the outlets, cover the cupboards with plastic, the countertops, and the floors, she finally had finished with just the prep work by mid morning. Chiaki poured out the paint, looking like liquid plastic more than anything and dipped her roller in. The special pan for the roller made it so that she could get rid of the excess paint, and in one bold stroke, she covered the green that was her kitchen wall color.

An hour and a half later, her kitchen was done, two coats of paint, three pours, four breaks for water, and countless strokes of her roller later and she had coated the paint over the green and she couldn’t see it anymore. She would have to thank the old man Kusinada for the paint, as she had bought it from his store under his recommendation. She was growing both in prowess, but also in popularity within the village, and her broad strokes at home didn’t permeate to her outside life. She liked to take a small paint brush to the outside world, careful strokes rather than bold ones, and using a muted color much the same as she was doing here. Chiaki didn’t know what to do with herself when it came to social interactions, and she was acutely aware of that fact. It was why she would go around home in a brazen manner, but would dress up, clam up, and observe, mostly, when she was out of her door. She tidied up, making sure that she had a good look at her progress from an outside view before nodding to herself and looking at her reflection in the mirror. She was surprised to see, due to her general lack of care about getting paint on herself and her overalls, that she looked like some sort of tribal princess.

A wild, and voracious grin split her features as she giggled to herself. She looked absolutely ridiculous, or at least to herself, and she loved it. The thing that she didn’t love was the fact that, in under an hour, she was supposed to meet up with the other hunters to help kill game around the city. A groan and a rush to the bathroom, along with a quick spot scrub later and she was out of the door.

She had dressed in her chinese style dress, a dark blue with a red hand emblazoned on the front between her legs. The dress had a yellow trim around the edges, and down the seams. She had it tailor made to withstand the rigors of battle, and after her run in with a baby jaguar, she couldn’t take any chances with her dress today. She tied back her hair and put on her ninja gear. She hadn’t anything else, besides her forehead protector which actually helped last time. She wrapped it around her neck, the metal piece on the back of her neck, one of the most unguarded, unwatched parts of the body, and she had been attacked in it before. A sigh as she cinched it around her neck and drew herself a glass of water. A couple of gulps, a hop out of the door, and a twist of her wrist later and she found herself outside, paintless, and ready to face the day. Having locked the door, gone over her mental checklist, and made sure that she knew where the best spots to hunt in Hi no Kuni, she walked leisurely towards the gates.

Chiaki’s house was in the middle of the Hashi district, and as such was a bit further than the other districts from the gates. Her building was built around the time that the original rebuilding of the entirety of konoha was rebuilt after Pain completely destroyed it. As such, it was older, but sturdier than the other lopsided apartment complexes that dotted the Hashi district, and also as such, she paid more for it and the security it provided. Chiaki didn’t know what to do with the current lull in the day, but she wanted to at least get some supplies for her journey. Things that were small enough to carry with her, but not burdensome or easily heard by the wildlife.

Walking up to a shopkeep that was selling roasted nuts, she perused the wares. He looked up over his great vat cooker and smiled at her, “Can I interest you in some roasted nuts?” He asked. She finally looked up to take in his features, one of her own pastimes was people watching. It was a lot like bird watching, but instead of seeing what kind of birds you could catalogue, she took a mental catalogue of the people she met.

This man was a portly sort with long trunk arms that were stirring the vat of crackling nuts over a low fire. He was barely above five and a half feet, but as he turned the stick that stirred the nuts in the vat, he did so with a grace that a dancer would be deathly jealous of. Finding herself a bit green with envy at the way that he smoothly went through the motions she nodded to his question, “Yeah, uh I think I was wanting some walnuts?” She looked at his wares, seeing what he had. The hanging bags that decorated his hut were filled with the same color as the man’s hair was, and there were so many varieties that she couldn’t pick out a system that he had. Perhaps she could ask?

He proffered the information first, however, which cut out the need for it, “Sure, miss. We’ve got roasted, raw, salted and roasted, salted and raw, and wasabi style walnuts. What’s your fancy?” He looked at her, a nut cracked on the fire and his stirring picked up the pace. He was a master at his craft, and it seemed like he was either getting ready for the nuts to be done, or to change tactics on whatever sweet smelling nut was in his vat. “I would say we have candied nuts, but I am fresh out. Making a new batch right now.” She gave a cursory look to the batches and now, now she had the organization down. She picked up on it when she looked around, and saw that the wasabi nuts were not scattered, but rather gathered.

“I think that I’d like the wasabi, and perhaps a package of the roasted unsalted ones as well.” She dug in her ninja tools for a five ryo bill, hardly thinking that she would have to pay any more than that. She was right as he nodded and took his free arm, twisting the bags with his fingers off of the poles that they were on and handed her the bags with a simple, “That’ll be four fifty ma’am.”

A small smile, exchange of pleasantries, and chewing of nuts later and Chiaki was off towards the gates. She had opted to eat the wasabi nuts first, as she wanted to get a bit of pep in her step, and spicy foods made her feel a greater sense of urgency. She didn’t know what she would encounter next, but she had about a half hour to burn before they started to gather people for the great hunt. So as she wandered her lazy way to the gates, she arrived on time, which apparently was late.

Everyone assembled there was wound more tight than an alarm clock spring. She tilted her head and looked around, then tilted it to the other side. She had no idea why, but then she spyed it. It was an ANBU captain and it was a female one. She looked the anbu captain up and down, and the animal mask, a racoon, or a fox or something. Chiaki instantly stepped into line and the ANBU captain gave what she could only assume was a cool expression behind the mask, as the mask never changed. That was the creepy part, or at least she found it creepy, the faces of the ANBU were the faces that they wanted you to see, not the faces that they actually had. And that gave some sort of advantage in battle, and Chiaki was too naive to know that it was to keep their intentions from you. The billowing black ANBU cloak and gloves didn’t help their creepy, almost shinigami, style either.

“As I was saying-” The mask turned from her and began to walk towards the opposite end of the line. It seemed like there was a good thirty people that were gathered there, everyone that was gathered had different looks. Different ninja had different ninja styles, and those ninja styles were expressed through their different clothing. There was one person who was completely wrapped, almost looking like a mummy, but they had a distinctive buzzing around them. Probably one of those… insect users. What was their family name? Oh right, pay attention.

“-Bow and a quiver of twenty arrows will be issued to those participating in the hunt today.” The voice was cool, like a winter’s breeze. It came out from a mask that was twice as cold, and had a bite to it. It made Chiaki shiver, it was a voice from a person that had killed before, without remorse, for the hidden leaf. She looked back over the crowd, and Chiaki could swear that some of the other people shiver like she had. At least she wasn’t the only one that noticed the fluctuation in the mood.

“So are there any questions as to what your mission is, or any other questions as to how you are to complete said mission?” The mask asked, staring blankly ahead at all of the people around Chiaki.

One person raised their hand, a boy of roughly sixteen to eighteen years old with ruddy hair and a ruddy voice. “So ah, how much do we get for each confirmed animal that we hunt?” He apparently had come in at the same time as Chiaki, and had missed that bit of information. Chiaki turned her attention from the youth with red hair, who preoccupied his free hand with wiping his nose on the back of it, to the ANBU captain. The mask collected him in one fell swoop, a dip in her chin that took in his age, his size, his apparent lack of experience, and his total prowess in one smooth motion.

Much like a river that recently thawed in spring, her voice came again from under that mask, “You are going to be awarded based on the size and difficulty of the animal. There are animals that we ask you do not kill because they are both dangerous and rare. We will be at a main camp for seven days, a full week for those who are ambitious enough to hunt for this long. The payment will be put into a fund that you will receive for each animal that you hunt, and if it is a delicacy you will be awarded special compensation for the animal. Animals that are too rare to hunt are intelligent animals with the capability of speech, do not hunt these as they are considered guardians of their respective species, and will most likely be too hard to deal with, anything that is a primate, anything poisonous, tigers, and anything that is too rare to be considered a food item. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t hunt it. If you think it would hunt you, it’s probably best not to hunt it. Any further questions?” The mask had stayed relatively still as the woman spoke from behind it, moving up and down the faces and addressing everyone, but once in a while it would linger on an individual, and more than once it would leave the one that it landed on with little energy to speak of.

There had to be a reason that Chiaki had been selected for this mission, and it wasn’t because she was the biggest, or the strongest. It had to be some other reason. She looked around, there was a slew of people, all from different walks of life, all from different districts of konoha, and each with their own unique style of hunting. It would be interesting to see what they would bring back. There were giant men who would probably make use of the terrifying array of weapons they handled, all the way to delicate women who Chiaki was sure would use other ways of bringing down game. She herself, she would go with the bow and quiver of arrows for the main part, unless she absolutely had to use some other way of hunting game. There was nothing wrong with partaking in a bit of the generosity of the village, and she wouldn’t have to use her kunai either, which was a plus. There was only so much gore that a kunai could withstand, after all, before the whole thing would be rendered useless until sharpened.

She nodded along with the others as the ANBU woman spoke up again, “Being that there are no further questions, the hunt shall begin. Please register your name, ninja rank, weaponry used, faction if any, and region you wish to hunt.” Oh, so they were picking regions. Interesting, but probably for the best and to prevent devastating the wildlife over a large area. She looked at the map as she formed a line behind a rather large man in the queue. As the queue wound down, the places that she wanted were picked more than once and she became frustrated with the first come first served way of picking regions.

Apparently the big man in front of her had enough of it too, as the woman in front of him picked the region that he had his eyes set on. The man that was in front of her absolutely reeked of masculine energy, and he had the muscles to back up that bravado. She didn’t want to tangle with him if she had the choice, and as the woman told the ANBU her name and the ANBU captain scrawled it down into the area, the man tapped her on the shoulder and said, “You know there are mean beasties that’re in that area. I wouldn’t pick it if I were a li’l thing like yerself. Why don’t you try, oh, I dunno, how about this region here?” He pointed to a flat region on the map that wasn’t forested, and that one would be able to see game from from far away. A relatively easy region to hunt the bigger game that they had there, like elk and deer. The woman looked at him and opened her mouth, apparently to protest as the ANBU mask looked cooly at them both.

“All I am sayin’ darlin’,” the man cut her off with a hand raised, apparently defending himself, “Is that I would choose something more suited to yourself than trying to impress someone higher up. It’s better to know your limits and not pick a region that you’re not suited for.” He tried to sound like he was a gentleman, and Chiaki absolutely fumed. How dare he tell her what she had a right to pick on the map. Sure, she was frustrated because she wanted that exact position for herself, but that didn’t mean that she was going to just let this man run all over her fellow kunoichi. She opened her own mouth to defend the woman, but the woman spoke first.

“I can handle myself perfectly well. If you believe that that particular region is better suited to easier game, I suggest you take it yourself. I am going for a challenge, and because I am bored.” She looked at the ANBU captain who still held her hand above the paper, pen ready to continue writing, “Rank, Jonin, Weaponry, none, Hyuuga.” She finished off her introduction to the woman who scrawled it down in the same bored fashion as she had before, the mask lowering to allow her to write while she watched her motions.

“I didn’t think t-” The man started, his face growing red as the woman, who was dressed in an elegant white dress, and had the pupilless white eyes of the hyuuga clan to match in turn interrupted him, “No, I suppose not. But that’s alright, I would go with the easier area, after all, there are people who don’t come back from these hunts. They’re all bravado no brains, and that will get you killed out in the wilderness. Mother nature is not so forgiving a mother, and when she bares her fangs grown men piss themselves and run for cover.”

The words carried a latent venom in them, which wasn’t how they were conveyed at all. It was like having a cake that was laced with arsenic. The effects were quick, decisive, and left the man shaking as the small woman moved on towards the gates at her own pace, passing by the booth where they were giving out the bows and arrows. Apparently she was skilled enough to take down anything in that particular region with her bare hands. It was known to have bears in it, and Chiaki wondered if it was for show or if the woman actually was going to hunt the bigger, nastier game with her bare hands. She had heard that some taijutsu users could break solid rock with their fists, but hadn’t ever seen it in action before.

Blinking twice, Chiaki turned back to face the man, who had broken out in a cold sweat by the looks of it, as his dirty blonde hair was darker and matted to his head. His two handed sword, almost as long as he was, clattered in its buttoned sheathe and he took a shaky step towards the desk with the ANBU sitting at it. The woman at the desk raised her head and the mask looked at him with the same non judgemental and lifeless stare that it regarded all others with, but there was something like the venom that the man had tasted behind it that left Chiaki cold.

“Brunnan D’lardinger.” He announced his name, his shirt started to carry some of the sweat that had already matted his hair, and his underarms started to show that he was more than a little bit scared still from the show of power that the small woman had shown him with just her rank and the warning that she carried on his life. “I uh, choose that region.” He pointed to a region that Chiaki knew was not a good one for hunting anything but boars in, a dangerous animal for the amount of meat that they produced, and savage as the day was long. “Weaponry: Sword and ah, a bow an’ arrow.” He pointed to the desk where they were handing out the bows and showing how to string them, “An’ as fer my clan, I have none that I can speak ta’.” The ANBU nodded, slowly and wrote down the information. She didn’t ask any questions but instead just regarded him cooly when he didn’t move as soon as she was done writing. The mask was stone, as was the woman beneath it. There was no breath, to tremor in her hand, nor any mistake that she simply thought him beneath her.

“Rank?” she asked, and the man looked abashed, a slight gulping noise could be heard, as Chiaki couldn’t see his face, but could tell that he was feeling about as tall as she was normally. “Ah, Chuunin.” He said. The mask nodded and looked down, each stroke of the pen deliberate, precise. It reminded her of Akaneya. A blush worked its way up from her sandals to her nose as she moved in to the front of the line, the man looked relieved that the mask turned slowly towards her. The eyes, though they were but holes in the mask, couldn’t be seen through it, and looking into the depths of the blackness that she found there, Chiaki noticed that she grew uneasy about her current position in line. She must have been there for a time because the woman’s voice came from the mask, a hint of frosty annoyance underlying the question, “Name?”

“Ah, Chiaki Guanyin.” She proffered with a smile and a slight nod, “Genin for my rank, and er… I choose that region.” She pointed to a region that was roughly 10 or so square miles, and nodded to herself, mainly. She was going to hunt all sorts of things there, and with the right lu-.

Her thoughts were cut short by the mask snapping back up and the voice becoming frigid, “That area is off limits to Genin, choose another.” The hiss of the softer consonants chilled her blood, and her finger wiggled in front of her mouth. “That one then.” She pointed to an area that had less mountains, but more tree cover. She could easily find game there.

“That is more like it.” The woman said, putting her pen to paper, the mask lowered to continue to scrawl in the same manner that it had for all of the previous ninja that were partaking in this particular hunt.

“Weaponry: Bow and arrow, and clan is Guanyin.” She nodded and smiled. The fox mask did not stir from its resting place as the pen moved in slow meticulous strokes. A heartbeat, and then another and then a voice came from behind the mask, a formal and bored tone.

“That will be all Guanyin-san.” The ANBU woman said formally. The pen stopped moving, and as it did so, Chiaki started to move again. The permafrost of being the center of the ANBU’s attention was nerve wracking, and Chiaki could tell why the man had a hard time keeping his cool with her looking directly at him. She could hardly take a look like that and she knew that she hadn’t had nearly the ire pointed at her. Making her way mechanically over to the nearest person who was handing out bows, as there were five in total, she smiled and waved a bit.

He smiled, waved at her and sized her up as she walked over. He had sandy blonde hair, a crooked smile, and hazed blue eyes. They were hazed, probably from the long day that he had put in working with others, but there was a kindness behind them. She had seen these kinds of eyes with nurses, with school teachers, and with doctors. It was the kind of eyes that one had when dealing with people for a very long time, and when your patience was wearing thin but you couldn’t do anything about it.

“Ah, miss.” He said, taking a small bow, and then a small bow out from the rack, “I believe that you are our shortest one yet. No offense meant.” He sized her up.

“I imagine so, it looks like there aren’t many fresh from the academy here, and that you are quite busy yourself." She smiled to him, the same smile that she would give to the nurses, CNA’s and doctors when she was in the hospital. It was a comradery smile, and it was meant to be sympathetic. A bit of a flicker of hope, or was it snark lit up his gaze. A smile blossomed on his lips, pulling them back to reveal a good and strong set of teeth. His strong jaw kept them in place as he lifted the bow up, over the table and set it, end in the ground, in front of her.

“I’ll show you how to string it miss, if I am not overstepping myself.” He looked between her and the others for a moment, and he was obviously waiting for a negative reply. The thing is, Chiaki had only used bows that her teachers had given her at the academy, and really could use a refresher on how to string, unstring, and take care of a longbow.

“I ah, I would like to have a demonstration as to how to use it, if it is all the same to you mister-” She fished for his name, keeping her lips pursed, and then using a half smile to try to coax it out of him. She had practiced the face many times in the mirror, and it screamed, ‘i like to have fun, but I also know we’re doing business here.’

He gave her a grateful smile back and he took out a bow, roughly his height, which was a good foot or so taller than her and planted it in the ground next to him. “Well, the first thing is first. Put your leg through the hole made by the string and the bow like so.” He stepped through the string, the bow stave was against his strong calf, and he waited for her to do so as well.

She had only seen it once, so she didn’t really get it, and what was the harm anyhow in stepping through with both legs. She remembered something like this in class, and she was wanting to show off that she wasn’t quite as green as she remembered being.

“Ah, no miss, not with both legs, just one will do for now.” A smile, a polite one that had a dash of apologeticness in it sprinkled across his face before she stepped out and took the bow in her left hand, her left leg resting through the bow. “That’s right, but you have the bow backwards, do you see how the stave is against my calf, rather than my shin?” She looked at him, and then at her bow and blushed a bit, She twisted the bow around her leg twice, and then stepped out, flipped it over, and put her leg through hastily. By the time that she had done all of this, she was a beet red.

“That’s right, but there’s no need to be embarrassed.” He took his foot and planted it behind the stave now and took his opposite hand, his right one, and placed it at the very tip top of the bow, “Now you’re going to have to… oh wait, you have your foot through the wrong side of the bow. That slackened end?” he pointed to the loop that was currently trying to hike her dress up, “That is supposed to be near your hand.” He demonstrated and Chiaki took her foot out, flipped over the bow and repeated the steps she knew.

“Right, now you’re going to bend the bow, using your back and shoulder muscles until the bow string, which is in front of you, see?” He demonstrated, “is nice and snug in that little notch up there.” She looked up at her own bow and missed the demonstration.

“Uh” Another blush crept up her neck and into her cheeks, “Could you please show me again, I missed that part with the notch.” The man nodded and bent the bow easily, the veins showing in his arm as he did so in one fluid motion. She wondered how many times he had to do this in any given day, and then he did the process in reverse, effectively stringing his bow.

Chiaki followed suit, taking her bow by the closest to the end she could and bringing it over her shoulder. She could feel the wood give, and as she hooked the string in, she let it out cautiously. “Does it ever break?” She looked back at the bow, now facing the wrong way, with a small five foot nothing blue haired girl in it. The bow was made out of some sort of darker wood with a lighter wood on the inside of the staff. She wondered why different woods but the thought was interrupted by the man speaking up.

“Sometimes the staff of the bow breaks, but not normally, and not on these so far as I have used them.” He seemed proud to talk about the bow and workmanship for them. “I also check to make sure that there aren’t any knots or blemishes in the wood at the tips, as they are more likely to break that way, and check for fissures or cracks along the whole staff to make sure that they don’t accidentally shatter into splinters when they’re being used.”

He looked her up and down and smiled, nodding, “So do you want to have a go at a target before you start your hunt? It seems like you might be a bit of a green horn when it comes to this whole business and I would be remiss to not offer you an opportunity to try out the best bow that Konoha has to offer.” Alright, now he was just flirting, but Chiaki nodded. She, after all, was a greenhorn in using a bow and arrows, and she didn’t want to hurt something and have to chase it down for a couple of days just to have it die of infection later on. Better to have someone to teach her before it got to that point.

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to let you show me a bit of the ropes, and gauge how well I shoot before setting out. It wouldn’t do to hurt the wildlife rather than helping the village.” A smile bloomed on her lips, and he turned a bit pink before moving to the side. There was a target behind him. It had been freshly painted that morning, or so it looked, as had her kitchen, and it was completely unblemished. Upon further inspection it was a simple set up. The target was made of canvas that was lain over straw. Banded to the back was a wooden board. The whole ensemble was on a tripod. It sat there like a fat toad, waiting to be pierced by the first shinobi of the day.

Another passer by looked over her shoulder and stopped for a split second, trying to gauge what she was doing. She shrugged off their gaze and notched an arrow. There was a bit of sinew that was wrapped around the string to hold the arrow in the proper place, it was a bright green color, and the arrows that she was given were tipped for practice rather than for hunting. The blunt tip was enough to pierce the canvas, but if she botched her shot weren’t enough to kill someone passing by. She drew the bow back to her ear and closed her left eye, looking down the arrow before firing.

The string snapped, she felt a stinging sensation and the arrow sailed far to the right of where she wanted, clattering and skidding against the ground before catching on one of the many cobbles, twisting and sputtering in the morning air. It would be enough to kill an animal, but she had missed by such a large margin, that she was more likely to startle whatever she was up against rather than damaging it. A dangerous aspect if she was to be hunting where she was. There were bears in that area, and those were a pretty sum when they were hunted. The list of all creatures was behind the ANBU when she was doing the roster, and she remembered that bears were almost at the top of that. A shot like what she had just loosed could end up costing her more than her tidy sum too.

She looked down, and her dress had been ruffled in the front, her right breast felt like someone had punched it, and her left wrist stung from the impact of the string on it as well. A hiss of an intake later she looked over at the man, he was nodding and chewed his bottom lip. “Right I think that I know what happened there. Since you’re holding your chest like that and your wrist has obviously been abused. Let me show you before you shoot another arrow.”

He took his own bow into his hand and drew it back to his right ear, saying, “Right, so do you see my arm?” He looked down at his own wrist, the sinewy muscles pulsing with the weight of the draw. At the peak of the draw with a longbow was the hardest point to hold it, and he almost made it look effortless. “Now if I were to shoot this, I would not only hit my chest, but also my arm or wrist like you did, my arm is completely extended, but my inner elbow is in the way." He rolled his left shoulder and nodded, “Now you should be able to see a difference in my arm.” She looked and indeed she did. He had not only rolled his shoulder outward a bit, but his arm was straight, the inside of his elbow was no longer in the way, but was flat against the trajectory of the arrow, of the string. He loosed the arrow, both eyes open and it sank into the middle of the bullseye with a dull thud. He looked over to Chiaki and gave a big smile.

“I also suspect that you are left eye dominant. Try shooting left handed.” He nodded to her as she changed her stance, bringing her right foot forward and gripping the staff of the bow with her right hand, “I have a couple of friends that are left handed but right eye dominant. It is hard for them to switch. But seeing that this is your first time shooting a bow, let’s try the proper way.”

“Actually.” Chiaki smiled, “I am left handed and must be left eye dominant. How lucky for me!” she tested the bow again, stretching the string back a little bit and letting it go. The man flinched as if he had been struck a physical blow and opened his eyes wide.

“No no no no no!” He reached out instinctively towards the bow and yanked it from a surprised Chiaki’s hand. She blinked in shock that he would yank it out of her hand and looked up at him with an open mouth. He wasn’t paying any attention to her, but instead was looking at the entirety of the bow and checked over not only the wood, but the sinew that made the string. A relieved sigh came from him as he nodded and looked back to her, a stern look marring his features.

“Never dry fire your bow ever again.” He scolded, his tone as harsh as his gaze. A couple of steely moments and he proffered her the bow again, “Dry firing?” She looked confused, “What is dry firing?”

The man exhaled in a short manner and clutched the bridge of his nose, setting the bow down in the ground. She felt bad that she didn’t know what this term in archery was, but she hadn’t actually picked up a bow and fired it, unless it was when she was a little girl and she was doing the archery contests during the festivals. He leveled a look at her and nodded, “I can see you are in need of some more training with the bow, but let’s just say this, there are a couple of rules when it comes to using a bow. Rule one, never dry fire it.” He pointed to the string and gave it a good thrum like a guitarist would his favorite instrument, “It will damage the bow because the weight behind the arrow, no matter how small actually adds resistance to the string and the snapback from the bow will shatter the staff if it is dry fired too much.” He pointed to the tips of the bow, “You can also have your tip snap off and it, while being painful, can also be very dangerous, sending your arrow towards gods know where and not only that but putting your eyes and ears in danger of being cut off by the releasing of all of the tension of the bowstring.”

She nodded, having turned from whimsical firing mode to attentive in a second, “Second.” He held up a hand, symbolizing the number two, “Never let your bow stay strung, it is a bow that needs to be taken care of, and as such if you let it remain bowed it will warp it and it will lose not only functionality, but also integrity.” He was sure passionate about all of this. “If you warp it, it will misfire, and what happened to your first shot will happen every shot, not only that but you will lose power in your shots, and your bow will also fail, like I said for the first rule.”

She nodded hurriedly after this second point was made. She didn’t realize how passionate he was about all of this, but she wanted to make sure that he understood that she grasped the severity of the words that he was saying, she said, “I understand, don’t dry fire it, don’t keep it strung.”

A nod and he continued, “And don’t forget to oil your bow every time you get done using it, it will keep it so that it can be used the next time. That also goes for leaving it out in the rain or anything that would harm regular wood, if you wouldn’t do it to your kitchen table don’t do it to your bow.” He looked her up and down and she gave a hasty nod in response to the words again, she was wanting to get back to firing her bow and she gave a weak smile to let him know that as well.

He shook his head as if he forgot himself and rolled his shoulders slightly, “Right,” Clearing his throat he took up a position to her left and put out his hand in a ‘go ahead’ motion. He watched as she notched the arrow and drew it back to her ear quickly, the bow shook, her mind wavered a bit and then she exhaled, the motion let her relax her mind and she loosed the arrow. The hum of the feathers past her left ear and the flicking noise of the arrow through the air was punctuated by a dull ‘thump!’ and her arrow lodged itself to the right of the bullseye. Much better.

She checked her right arm, her chest didn’t hurt and she beamed at the man who mirrored the expression. She asked, “So can I continue then?” He nodded and watched her silently for the next couple of draws. Each arrow became more accurate the more she drew it back, but the arrows started to penetrate less and less, and Chiaki felt herself start to sweat. So this was what archers did all the time? It was tiring, and required more energy than throwing her senbon, or her kunai. But that power was traded for power of the projectile. She couldn’t have punctured this as far as the arrows had with kunai, nor with senbon and she knew it.

“I think you have the hang of it,” He said, as her fifth arrow hit the bullseye in a row. “Now, the lesson that I wanted to teach you as a parting gift. This is not a melee weapon.” He pulled out his own bow and made a couple of swipes, “Off limits if you want to ever use your bow as it is intended again. It is not a walking stick, nor is it a crutch unless you’re in very dire circumstances. I would like to not retire every bow I lend this year, but-” He trailed off and shrugged, a smile on his face, “I am sure that I am going to at least get back your bow.”

“Of course!” Chiaki beamed and nodded, “So uhm, where do I store it if it starts to rain?” He gave her a sleeve and she felt the fabric, it was coarse, but slick, thick but tightly woven. “This?” She ran her fingers over it and felt no blemishes in the quality of the stitching, it must have been made of some sort of silk, or masterfully woven by some clothier.

“It has been treated with water proof… er… stuff?” He shrugged, “I don’t know exactly how waterproof it is, but let’s assume it’s not submersible and leave it at that.” A friendly smile and a nod.


“Ah, right, thank you!” She bowed and slipped her foot into her bow. As he taught her she unstrung her bow and slipped it into the cloth sheath. Chiaki shouldered the whole ensemble and strapped her quiver to her waist.

“I expect that we will see each other again soon.” He smiled, “even if it is just after you have hunted. Stay safe.”

“You too!” She gave a small smile and bounded off towards the gates.


____


"Let me take away your pain, Guest"

Chiaki

Chiaki


B-rank
Chiaki was stopped along the way and given a couple of automatically firing flares, they activated with a seal and a “katsu” hand seal, along with a bit of chakra, and they explained that if she wished they would come and grab her latest kill for her and she could continue on with hunting. She would get all of the proceeds and she smiled and thanked the offerers.

It was a good thing that she had picked an area that was bigger than most on the map, as she figured that there would be some poaching and overextending of others. She was the last to leave the village, and felt a bit guilty that she didn’t have anything to take with her of her own, besides her senbon and her kunai. Shrugging the bow further up her back, she tied a knot in the string and took to the path that would take her, eventually, to the area she was hunting.

A quick jog was the pace that she kept and a good hour and a half later she stopped, sticky from sweat with a band of wetness around her right shoulder, extending to her left thigh on her back and making a band of sorts around where the band was around her. She took off the bow and surveyed where she had picked. There was a good seven square miles of mountains in her area, two miles of plains, and rolling hills besides in her territory, the further north she went, the more trees there were and her area ended in two miles of heavily wooded forest, dense enough that her bow would be completely useless against anything lurking there.

The first thing that she spotted was some spotted deer that were grazing in the middle of the hills far to the north. She looked around, the sun was setting and she hadn’t hunted anything at all. Taking her bow out of the sheathe, she slid the cloth around her waist and tied it like a belt, cinching it in a square knot and tied her hair back. She didn’t want a stray hair to get tangled in the bow or the string as it fired.

She stepped through the wood and it creaked happily, seemingly wanting to be stretched and used, though it was far from the oak, or… whatever that made it. She would have to ask the bowyer what it was made out of when she got back. A snick of the string and the sinew sat in the notch at the top, the bow looking impressively deadly now that it was strung. She took an arrow and flicked it between her forefinger and the bow, carrying it like one would carry a pencil that was not in use.

This next part would require stealth.

Chiaki thought she was stealthy, but was about ten years out of practice. She had hunted before, and as she approached she tripped, fell and made a nice splut noise in the mud. Unburying her arms from the mud and flicking it to the ground, she found herself the only thing in the meadow and grumbled. Well that wasn’t a good thing, if she wasn’t able to sneak up on them, how was she supposed to hunt?

Sighing, she shouldered her bow and pressed on, coming to the place that the deer had been and crouched low, they either went one way or the other. Looking closer, the grass that pervaded the valley and was roughly chest high for Chiaki was bent in a southwesterly direction. That was probably the direction that she would have to go in order to find the deer. She had missed where they had all gone, bounding over or around one of the many hills that were in the area. On the one hand, if she went to the top of the hill, she would be able to see where the herd went, on the other, if she went to the top of the hill, she would be seen by the herd and the herd would probably move on. She was, after all a predator.

The distinction does not come from the ability to eat meat, as some meat eaters actually do not hunt their own food, but scavenge from the meals of other animals. The true tell tale sign of a predator is the eyes, bifocal and facing forward. Able to judge distance, speed, and make a split second decision on where to hunt next. It is a forward facing world for a predator, only able to see the world through what others call tunnel vision. Chiaki herself was a predator, and predators needed to be wary, especially when they were as small as Chiaki, of other predators. She looked around, trying to see whether there were any bigger, nastier predators around her. In the tall grass, it was hard to tell, there could be anything under all of that grass.

She moved swiftly and silently, or as she thought, silently. A movement here, a scurry there and she was finally within range of the herd. A good thirty or so paces away from them. Chiaki held her breath and let it out slowly. Feeling the wind come out and settle on the grass blooms, which were in high bloom at the time. She crouched low, sweeping her hand to and fro to get the grass out of the way of the trajectory of where she was going to put the bow. Notching an arrow she pulled it back and the entire herd looked her way, their ears waggling in the windy area. One or two chewed in the silence that pervaded the valley. Her arrow was at her ear, she exhaled silently and aimed at a large buck. The arrow sang through the air, and caught him right behind his heart. As soon as the arrow snapped out of the bow he sprang, and she knocked another arrow, pulling it back.

She swore as she loosed another arrow and it sprang from her bow, burying itself, this time, in his heart. Finally, he went down, blood running from the two punctures, but he took two of her arrows with him, snapping him under his immense weight. A couple of his labored breaths later and Chiaki was upon him. He looked up at her with panicked eyes but was too weak from blood loss to do anything but snort at her. She nodded and took out a kunai, a faint wheeze came out from his windpipe as she sunk the kunai into the base of his neck. The great beast deflated, froze, and was dead. She tugged on the Kunai and the blade came out.

Gore splattered the ground where the Kunai dripped and she saw not only blood but fat and other tissue clung to the blade. She wiped it on the grass, but the gore wouldn’t come off all the way. A grumble and she reached inside of her ninja tools, it was a wonder, she didn’t bring a kerchief. She looked at the, now still, animal and wiped the blood on his fur, going with the grain. There was little resistance, but there was also little in the way of good that it did either. She tried it against the grain and found that the fur on the buck was coarse, and almost prickled her skin as she dragged the blade across his neck. It did little good there too. Growling she resigned to being covered in gore and dug in her ninja tools. She took out a firecracker, stuck it in the ground gently beside her, lit it and it shot into the air, making a crackling noise and then a loud Boom with green billowing smoke trailing the cinders all the way back to where she was, or at least a couple of yards off.

She sat there, the dead eyes of the deer staring at the ceiling of her world, as she stared at the peeking of the stars that would spatter the night sky. Chiaki sighed, and looked up at the stars that winked in the dying light. A rustle in the grass and she opened her eyes wide, taking out an unbloodied kunai, facing the movement. A ninja crawled out of the grass that was around a hill with a cool look to the kunai and a faint smile, she would hold up a hand.

“Hello! I ah, I am here to retrieve your kill?”
The kunoichi was dressed in dark green clothing, a sort of pattern that she couldn’t really make out in the dying light, perhaps floral, perhaps kanji was on it in a darker green.

“Hello,” Chiaki said, stowing the weapon and smiling at the woman. “I ah, forgive me, I didn’t know that you would be along so soon. You must have sprinted to get here.”

“Well, fortunately for you,” The woman made her way to the deer and started to tie its hind legs together, wiping a stray strand of her long black hair which had somehow escaped her ponytail out of the way, and pausing to do this activity. She grunted and continued, “You are close to the camp that we set up in. We are only maybe a kilometer and a half away. And also for your information, in the future you don’t have to stick around, we will handle the prey that you hunt. So don’t worry about it. Ah, unless there is a predator around, then we will let them have it and award you the points anyhow. They are here just the same as us, and we would rather not tangle with the bigger of the animals.”

Chiaki nodded, “Good to know.” She watched as the Kunoichi lashed the rope around herself, creating a sort of harness and looked at Chiaki.

“Well, I better be off, I will see you again, if you should choose to stick around for the next kill.”

“How are the others doing?” Chiaki asked as the woman took her first step, causing the woman to pause and look back.

“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much over the others, you have enough to deal with here on your own. You can trade stories with them tonight when you come back to camp, if you should like to come back to camp. Some of the best prey is hunted at night. But also remember, if you should like to change your location at any time, come back and we have 10 open spots for anyone at any given time. There was a sign up and only 18 participants, there are 28 sanction areas for hunting.” The woman paused at the end of her speech, tilting her head and looking plaintive, almost asking Chiaki if there was anything else that she could do for her before continuing on.

Chiaki nodded and broke the half second of silence with, “Good to know, I will make sure to come back if I need to, or if I want to change areas. It is a good thing that we have somewhere safe to sleep too.” A grin split her face and she nodded to the Kunoichi in farewell. She picked up her bow, unstrung and in its cloth carrier she put it over her shoulder carefully. When she looked up, she was alone.

She looked up and then shouted, “Oh shoot! I forgot to ask for a cleaning cloth!” Stupid stupid stupid. She kicked at one of the rocks that was nearby, a good head-sized rock and grimaced. Well, that kunai would have to be the finishing kunai for a while. If she didn’t take care of it, it would dull though, so she would have to return to camp eventually.

She looked around and sighed, she had no way of locating things in the dark, no illumination, and truth be told, there were things that had better vision than her in the dark. There was no guarantee that she would be able to fight off a predator with the current state she was in, nor was there a guarantee that she would be able to find anything to hunt in the dark. She plodded along in the direction that the Kunoichi went before, feeling that, eventually she would find it.

As the sun sat on the mountains, blending into them as if it were sitting after a long day of work, she neared the hilltop of the first hill and took a look around. There were plenty of things to hunt, she realized as she watched the wildlife start to settle into their nightly routine. Along with the deer there was elk, a far bigger animal that had a rack that was more impressive, and was probably more aggressive. She enjoyed the taste of Elk more as well, and thought that others probably felt the same way as she did. Little dartings of brown fur went hither and thither and bounced across the landscape, weasels as she found them to be, which were gathering things to bring back to the den for the night. The pheasants she didn’t see until a weasel bounded on one and then in a torrent of wings and whooping noises they took to the sky, landing a good half mile away in another hidden spot. A couple of Tanuki were tussling in one of the downlopes of a hill nearby, and a herd of wild boar could be heard grunting and squealing off in the distance. There were plenty of things to hunt. She would probably want to go for the boars or the elk later on, as their meat was the more popular in Konohagakure, rather than going for the deer. Or perhaps should she go for the more rare?

Chiaki scratched her head and yawned, stretching and looking ahead of her, finally. There seemed to be light coming from up ahead, somewhere hidden by the hills she still had to cross. It wasn’t from the dying light of the sun now, either, which cast its last golden rays between the hills and gave them long overlapping shadows. Chiaki made her way down the hill as the last golden ray bounced off the hill in front of her, and the world started to descend into the night light. Gold faded to grey, which faded to a lavender, then purple, and by the time that she crested the next hill, all was starting to fade into a darker purple and even some hints of dark blue. She looked up, the star-spattered sky staring back into her and her breath caught in her throat. She hadn’t realized how beautiful it was here. Perhaps she could just stay the night on top of one of the hills, surely?

She shook her head and looked around. There were still tigers, bears, and wolves in her area. While she might be able to use jutsu on the first two if they were alone, wolves would easily outnumber her and she would be made into a late night dinner if she wasn’t careful. Not only that, but each of these was quite stealthy, while she blundered around like a badger in the brush.


Chiaki rounded the next hill and came upon the camp which was already a bustle. The honeyed light spilled to the hills around it, making the huge shadows dance like giants on the other hills. The campfire flames made the hills dance as the waves did upon the open ocean, constantly roiling, disappearing and reappearing in the same place. It was almost dizzying, but as Chiaki neared the camp, the perspective changed to that of a rocking cradle, lulling it, lulling the kunoichi to sleep.

Her footfalls fell heavier and heavier throughout the walk to the camp, each one sinking further into the loamy soil it seemed until she was drowning in it, sleeping finally. But she woke from her waking dream and as soon as she headed into the camp the merriment of the ninja that were gathered there boosted her morale and her energy for a time. She watched as some of them laughed, danced, sang some drinking songs, ate and generally made merry.

Here there were a couple of shinobi that were flirting openly with one another in hushed tones. Chiaki slumped down next to a fire and a shinobi appeared next to her with a bowl of piping hot stew. She sniffed it, and the fragrance of herbs, probably sage and lavender mixed with what smelled of pork. She blew on the soup and tasted it. It was bland, but good and settled in her stomach lightly. A young man that looked much worse for the wear as she did sat down next to her and gave her a small grin. The same shinobi that fed Chiaki brought him a blanket, and she realized that he was wet and shivering. She hadn’t noticed before. Only when his shaking calmed did he get his own bowl of soup.

“Where did you choose?” Chiaki asked, “And did you get anything?” She slurped her own soup out of her spoon loudly. Blushing she wiped her mouth on a cloth that she found on her lap.

“I chose a riperian area, where I thought I would be able to get some cranes, but they were too fast, and I fell into the river and was swept a couple of miles down. I finally came back to the sore and got turned around. I am quitting after today. They’ve already tendered my resignation from the hunt. I didn’t even get one single thing for the hidden leaf.” He bit back bitter tears and turned away from her, shuffling and turning his back to her as soft sobs racked his body.

So this was the real test of their skill, not something to be taken lightly.

Chiaki slurped up the rest of her soup until it was a temperature that she could gulp it down using only the bowl and her mouth as utensils. She set it down next to her and made her weary way over to a woman who was passing out bedrolls and letting people know where to sleep. She was passed a fluffy bedroll which she hugged tightly to her chest, was instructed to a tent that smelled of pressed leather and fell into a dead sleep.

That night, she had a dream of moving fast along a river, she was diving, scooting around,  fishing, flitting between the rocks playfully. With a gasp of air she descended deeper and deeper, finding a clam she grasped it in her hand and made towards the surface and just as she breached, she found herself breaching from her napsack.

Clearing her throat she looked around, it was first light, time to go and do more hunting. Her body hurt from yesterday, but moving around would help that. Chiaki scooped up her bag, and held it out for a rushing shinobi to push down into a laundry basket. It seemed like the others had gotten an early start as well. Stretching in the glowing light of day she rubbed her left eye with her hand and blinked to focus her weary eyes. She should have undressed and redressed but being too tired last night, she slept in the same clothing. Scratching herself in a place that was very unladylike she made her way over to what she deemed the war desk in her mind. As she walked up there was a flash of sunlight reflected off of the mask there that made Chiaki squint and look away.

It was the same woman that she had encountered before. That self-same woman that Chiaki didn’t know but made a chill run up her spine.

“Guanyin Chiaki, Genin, do you wish to revise your area, or do you wish to submit yourself for examination and payment?” The woman in the mask was still, more still than the ice of a frozen lake in the middle of winter, and it made Chiaki shiver uncomfortably. Why did it make her do that?

She gulped down some of the anxiety and nodded to herself to reassure herself that all was well, “I wish to take the riparian area.” She stated, the one that the boy had failed in yesterday. The anbu looked down and then back up, “This is a chuunin’s level I canno-” Then the mask flitted to someone behind her, a man that crossed his arms, the leather bracers on them creaking under the pressure of his musculature. His eyes squinted at the shinobi in front of him and he grit his teeth in disgust. The masked figure paused for another moment and then scribbled Chiaki’s name down on the map, “You may have the riparian area. But be warned, we will not be responsible for any deaths on a mission. You are a kunoichi, should you be in any danger use one of your flares and we will find you. But if you do not have a kill, I am pulling you from the mission.”

Wait, was this woman, was she worried about Chiaki? The man behind her smiled and she moved to the side, “I’d like the top of that mountain over there.” He said.

The mask dipped in reverence and the woman behind it nodded, “Of course.”

The man gave Chiaki a little wave, almost a kawaii wave back to her and a nice smile and started to lumber towards the mountains, or what Chiaki assumed to be lumbering until she looked at his footsteps. They were confident, but also light, he would probably be able to move almost lightning fast and that sword at his hip was not just for show. He was a mountain of a man, if mountains moved as fast as lightning. She gulped.

The will of fire would have to be strong with her today.

Chiaki gulped down some coffee and miso soup before setting out, the liquid making an uncomfortable sloshing noise as she walked towards the riparian area. Her sandals sloshed in the loamy ground as she moved over hills, under trees, and finally made it to her designated area. Weaving hand seals, she thought better of using the water walking jutsu, it would only tire her unnecessarily, and the water wasn’t that deep here anyhow.

Chiaki made her way through the mud and muck of the swamp, or riparian area if someone wanted a fancy word for it, it was more of a swamp than anything else. Chiaki had long ago abandoned any sense of decency and hiked up her skirt so that her panties were clearly visible and out of the muck of the swamp. Her sandals were tied to her sash along with any of her dignity that she had left. She was sweaty, covered in swamp muck and looking for cranes. They were a high priority target and shooting just one would afford her a lot of Ryo after this was all done.

Sighing and coming through the thicket of yet another grove of brambles she spotted her quarry. Looking around she groaned internally, where was some land that wouldn’t sink into the swamp? She looked around, not knowing where to go with this before she remembered, she was a Kunoichi of the hidden leaf. Her senbon pouch was on her hip and as she reached for it, she found they were gone. Another, more audible groan came from her this time. No senbon in her pouch. She reached into her hair and pulled out the one hidden there, the one that she always kept there in case of an emergency. This would have to do. No using chakra at a place like this, not only that, but her only long ranged one would zap not only her quarry, everything around it, but also herself.

Chiaki looked at the cranes in the sunlight, their red crests displaying their status out of the swamp triumphantly, their necks bending gracefully down into the swamp, almost nonchalantly picking up fish. She waited, a poised look, a determined grit of her teeth and a tightening of her fingers on the senbon were the only things that gave her presence away. She realized that as they swallowed the luminescent silver fish they would close their eyes for a couple seconds. Too long to defend themselves. Another dipped its head and threw it back. The fish curled and flipped in the air, its own eye terrified as it headed down into the gullet of the crane.

A silver streak struck out like a lightning bolt to avenge the fish’s attempts at escape. It was headfirst in the crane’s neck and the senbon lodged itself between into where the bulge was in the crane’s neck.

It let out a guttural choking noise as it tried to vomit the fish back up, but in futility, as the Senbon held true. Chiaki started to make her way towards the dying bird, and it looked  around and started to gag again, its eyes bulging and becoming bloodshot. It took off in an erratic flight pattern before plunging into a tree, knocking its head against the wood with a sickening thwack!

Chiaki cringed and sent up a flare from her own Katsu release, and its dull red glow illuminated the sky for a while before it snuffed out right above its peak. She made her way towards the bird and opened its stomach with her kunai, gutting the bird so that the meat wouldn’t spoil and sat down on a rock that jutted from the swamp, the blood running down her hand and pooling on the tip of the kunai came off in a slow drip.

She wiped her brow with her untainted hand and looked towards the sky. The clouds there did a lazy dance and swirled in unknown patterns as she watched them play. Almost like- A sudden pain in her arm and being submerged in the swamp. Mud and debris blinded her almost before the water did and she hadn’t been able to take a proper breath, the gasp for air and in pain filled her lungs with water instead and she beat at what was holding her. It was scaly, long and had claws. It started to twist underneath the water and Chiaki had a sudden and dreadful thought run through her. This was an alligator. These were the death of all to whom fell prey to their jaws. She had just been caught by death incarnate and she would soon be like the crane that she had just mercilessly killed.

She should have payed more attention to what was going on around her, this was a chuunin area after all. Struggling, she wove a couple of hand seals and pressed a finger against the side of the alligator’s side, trying to aim for the tendon that was on its mouth. Red sutures illuminated the water and zigzagged all the way to its jaws and it let go of her for a split moment, enough for her to get her head out of the water, enough for one deep raspy breath and a quick shout of “Help!” before the beast again bit into her lower leg, this time it did so and she felt a snap. It broke her leg in one bite, and then the twisting started again, around and around she went, this time she would be unable to fight back. This time the world swam with colors, darkness started to settle in and Chiaki started to go limp.

What would they say about her when they found her body, mostly eaten beside the crane? Would the ryo go to her parents rather than her? Would she even be missed back at the village or would she just be another casualty in the missions thread for Konoha? She wouldn’t know, death was going to envelop her soon. She took one more breath, this time she knew it was all water and the world started to fade into a grey tone. Someone else’s body was being dragged up to the surface. Darkness was all she knew.


____________________________________________________________________________

Chiaki awoke with a start as something prodded her broken leg. She screamed and there was a noise like a hundred shrill squeaks and clicks that permeated the area around her. She was covered in something furry, and it scurried to the water, sploshing and splashing around as she looked up, banged her head on the low ceiling and turned over, only to have an electric jolt of pain jut through her leg and into her head again.

Moaning from the pain she felt a wet and fuzzy muzzle nuzzle its way between her arms and up to her face, rubbing its soft, oily wet fur all over her face and then a loud yip or bark resounded through the walls. Opening her eyes, she found an otter facing her, though this otter was about twice her size, its padded fur snuggled against her and it almost crushed her under its weight again. She wheezed and it made some chittering noises before it cuddled against her.

She felt, for the first time since waking up, the feeling of the cold cloth against her skin. This creature had dragged her into gods knew where and she was now in the home of an otter. Or what seemed to be an otter. Though this otter was bigger than ones she had seen before. They were at the far end of a rather expansive cave, and she could hear scurrying and cries of many other different creatures, but couldn’t see anything. Exhausted and cold, she started to shiver her breaths coming out in raspy and rattled breaths. She cuddled closer to the otter, who nuzzled against her and then another, bigger otter, she didn’t know how it could be bigger, but it was, nuzzled against her back, bringing some warmth. A couple of smaller otters piled on her with yips of their own and Chiaki soon found herself under a warm, albeit wet, blanket. A couple of pained, and shuttered breaths later she fell into a fitful sleep. The many warm bodies around her melded into her dreams, making them better this time, but they were amorphous, and fitful none the less.


NUDITY AHEAD!!!!!!

When Chiaki awoke, she found herself uncovered by the otters with a feeling of loss. The otter that had cuddled with her when she awoke before was gone, and all that was there was darkness, darkness and on the edge of her vision a great lake. She knew that the cave was vast, it had to be to support this life, and it had to have some sort of light for her to even see. Weaving hand seals she wanted to see for herself, and the only thing she knew to illuminate the area was make a chakra senbon. One of her guanyin ones. It would help with the pain in her shoulder afterwards as well, which she hoped wasn’t infected by this time. How many days had gone by in her time in the cave, what happened to her bow? What happened to her other things?

A teal light erupted in the cave and illuminated its entirety. There, sitting on an island about fifty feet in diameter was a creature as long as it was wide. An otter the size of a condo complex with fur slicked over with oil, eyes open and looking at her with an innocent and playful look on its face. What she saw there though, was something much deeper than that. An animal that had in its eyes a deep wisdom, the understanding of a thousand ages past, and that understanding of her innermost thoughts, desires, and ambitions. It seemed to look right through her and as it opened its mouth, a smell of freshly caught fish filled the air. It didn’t smell too bad, just caught her off guard was all.

“Our sisters brought you here, to this place, to recover. You were badly injured by a scaled-one on your plane of existence.” She spoke, it was a she, but she had a deep voice, sonorous as the sea, and twice as deep. Chiaki’s chest thrummed with its reverberations, and it seemed to come from the walls around her, rather than the animal itself. The mouth moved like it was speaking her language though. Chiaki opened her mouth, her voice hoarse from underuse in what seemed to be months.

“I-I-” She was cut off by the otter’s gaze and another opening of the great fanged maw.

“Our sisters do not make mistakes, they brought you here, speak with confidence.” The Otter queen, or so Chiaki called her, demanded. She commanded respect, love, reverence, and as the walls stopped shaking from her voice again, Chiaki stilled her fast beating heart.

“My name is Guanyin, Chiaki and I thank you for your hospitality great otter-queen.” She bowed her head in reverence only to look up again in surprise as the cave started to shake around her, the queen was rolling over, exposing her soft underbelly and making chittering noises much like any other otter was liable to do.

“My you are a funny one, where do you get the formality from?” The otter queen asked, clearly amused by the smile on her face and the light and jovial tone of her voice.

“I get it from my parents probably.” She shrugged, which elicited more rolling and laughter from the great otter. There were other otters who were starting to emerge to see what was going on, and some even joined in the laughter.

“Well, you don’t have to be so formal here, let your hair down, it’s not like you’re dressed for an occasion anyhow.” The otters eyes rolled down Chiaki’s form and Chiaki looked down herself. The dress she had tailor made was in tatters, hanging loosely around her body, “You should undress yourself, they’re just keeping the cold in.” The otter said frankly.

“But then I’d-” She was cut off by another laughter fest from the otters, she reddened and her cheeks puffed out with haughtiness.

“You’d be nude like us?” The otter rolled to show her exposed underside unshameful of what she was showing, “It’s not like we wear clothing, so you shouldn’t either while you are here. In the human world…” A roll of her shoulders was all she could muster before turning her great eyes to Chiaki once more.

Chiaki sighed and tried to remove the dress, but ended up ripping it off of her body and sat up in the nude, a defiant glare on her face, defying the otter to laugh.

“There, better?” the otter queen asked, not laughing in the slightest, but the smug tone and look on her face didn’t help the situation either.

“So what now?” Chiaki asked, looking around and seeing all of the otters that had gathered, some were as big as her outstretched hand and some were as big as cars. There were one or two as big as houses, but they stayed back mostly, and there was a din of low and soft chittering between all of the animals.

“Now you can rest as long as you would like, but beware, this plane makes some of the humans that come to it not unlike we are. So you will want to leave when you can. Exit through the tunnels, some of our sisters will help you with that should you so choose.” The queen smiled at her, rows and rows of sharp teeth showing as she did so.

“I uh, where are all the males?” She asked, looking around.

“They have their own cave, an offshoot of this one, we only mingle when it is mating time, so you are safe here.” The queen said as if it were a completely ordinary question, “We sometimes will see the lesser otters of your plane mingling in family groups, but we don’t like to be promiscuous, and so we have formed a sort of coalition of sorts, with its own bylaws and… I see I am boring you young one.”

Chiaki was listening to the queen, but the strain of the chakra, keeping it going, was enough to make her feel weak, especially with her broken leg. She nodded, “I am not bored, I am just tired, thoroughly to my marrow.”

“Then sleep young one, when you awake, we will carry you back to your world.”

“How will I ever get back here?” She asked, looking around her in a daze, fighting to stay awake through the pain, and the exertion of her chakra on her body.

“You will be able to get back when you are needed, or when your need is dire.” The otter queen smiled, “And you’ll probably need to be next to water for it to happen, we hobble along on land.” This was met by an uproar of laughter from the otter community, Chiaki’s light died out and so did her consciousness, but not before she heard, “Sweet dreams Guanyin Chiaki, Otter-sage apprentice.”



Chiaki awoke to a fur blanket of otters, this time, they were all snoring along with her, she snuggled up against the belly of one who made a happy chittering noise and nuzzled her right back. She giggled and nuzzled once more, just to fall into another sleep.

When she awoke the next time, she looked about, the otters were still with her and she could see more clearly in the cave this time. She scooted out from under the otters and dragged her belly across the smooth mud floor, otterlike in her own regards. Her useless leg dragged behind her, still stinging, but less so as she scooted and planted her front in the mud. She bent low and pulled her bangs back to get a drink of water, then floated into the water and flipped herself over to get a better look at her leg. It needed to be set as soon as possible, to prevent more damage, and she didn’t see anything she could set it with in this cave.

Looking around and letting out a rather heavy sigh she called over one of the otters that she was in a cuddle-party with and whispered in her ear, “Can you take me back to where I belong?”

It chirped and there was a bunch of chirping noises as the pack of the otters all came and scooted towards her, along with all of the other otters making splashing noises around her. She was surprised, but she was part of a cuddle fest for about a good minute, so many different but familiar smells came to her as she greeted each otter as she came up and nuzzled her in goodbye. Then as suddenly as the cuddle attack started, it ended.

“Fare well Guanyin Chiaki.” A deep and friendly voice came from the middle of the cave, “We’ll meet again, fret not. Let your heart not be heavy. Let your belly always be full and your coat always be wet.” She smirked, of course that would be an otter’s goodbye.

“And you the same.” She called out in the darkness, to which there was a deep chuckle.

Chiaki clung to the nape of the otter’s neck in front of her as she took a deep breath and plunged into darkness. She swam, swam until she could no longer tell where they were going, how fast underwater, or what direction they were headed. Up was down, right was left, and her lungs were crashing in around her. She started to choke on her own breath, trying to make it last longer, desperately trying.

Mercifully they breached, Chiaki looked around. It was night in the swamp, and the crickets were singing their song, the brilliant sky was illuminated by the graceful light of the moon. This was the same place that they had been before. The crane was gone, the alligator was as well, or she thought. Chiaki looked back at the otter, “Can I get some assistance over to that tree?” She asked and it chirped at her and muttered an otter ‘yes’.

She smiled and patted the otter on the head as it swam her over. It turned around and nuzzled her face. She had not received any such attention from anything before, and when it dropped her off it barked a goodbye and swam off. She waved long after it was gone with a beam on her face. Hobbling to her good leg, she grabbed one of the low-hanging branches and wove a hand-seal, a scalpel erupted from her fingers and she used it to cut through a branch slowly. It dropped and she took a good half hour to snap off the smaller twigs, making a make-shift crutch. She would have to walk if she was to be on land.

Dragging her useless leg behind her she made her way back to the water, where she found swimming easier than walking or trudging. She let the current take her where it willed and when she stepped out of the river, she found the ground was harder than in the swampy area she arrived in. She was further from her destination, the camp, but she knew that she would return at least and wouldn’t be pronounced dead.

It took a good two days, sleeping under the stars one night, to return to where she had been for the camp. The medical ninjas were on the scene in a flash, one covering her nude body with a cloth, which felt foreign to her after two days in the nude, and one looking at her leg with a tutting noise.

“It’s broken in a compound fracture. It’ll take at least a week in the hospital to get this sorted, and that is only if you have good insurance.”
The masked figure said.

“I’m the Hokage’s assistant, I should hope that I have good insurance.”
She laughed and grit her teeth as they prodded her wounds on her arm.

“These are not infected, for some odd reason, but still need to be taken care of.” The masked figure said, wove some hand seals and held their hand over the wounds as they closed unmercifully slowly. She grit her teeth against the pain and took a hissed intake of breath through the clenched jaw.

“Well, I would thank my new friends for that, but they’ve all but gone.” Chiaki said, and the two figures looked at each other in what she assumed was a confused manner, “Please send word to Takao for me, I will be in the office tomorrow, but I need to know if I can work on the first floor of the office. Stairs are not a good thing for me right now.”

“I don’t think that’d be a good idea, good hospital bedrest would be better.” The medical ninja assessed.

Chiaki sighed and leaned more heavily on her makeshift crutch, “Alright alright, then at least tell him where I’ll be.”

____________________________________________________________________________

Chiaki was carted to Konoha’s hospital for multiple fractures, not only her leg, but also her ribs had been broken by the ordeal she soon found out, and after hours of poking and prodding they set her leg in a cast and wrapped her ribs, her body lay in the hospital bed, but her mind dwelled in the cave she had found herself in with the otters. What an odd meeting. She owed them her life. Perhaps she was an otter sage after all?

Shaking her head and laughing at herself, she looked to the ceiling, no she was anything but, and this mission proved that. Hopefully the letter letting Takao know where she was and why she wasn’t going to be in to work would reach  him, and she would have the proper chance to explain her predicament.



WC: 14942


____


"Let me take away your pain, Guest"

Akaneya




D-rank
Having heard what had happened, it caught Akaneya off-guard certainly. She'd never imagined Chiaki as the type to go hunting, nor did she anticipate her getting herself into so much trouble. What was she doing out there, what had she managed to do to herself? The questions built up as Akaneya walked down the hallway, ending at the door. She checked the number. Yep, this was it. She took a deep sigh, grabbed the handle, and gently opened the door. Stepping through, she looked at the bandaged woman on the bed - that was her. Akaneya stepped through and closed it shut behind her, gracefully moving to take a seat by her bedside.

She pulled out her flute. Why? "Chiaki, I am going to put you under a genjutsu. You will not be able to see or feel your leg soon. I want you to understand this, and not to panic when it happens. It should help with the pain." Just like that, she placed the flute to her lips and played a brief, simple song, lasting no more than a handful of seconds. The notes seemed to ring for a moment, and as promised Chiaki might see her leg disappear before her very eyes - and with it, the pain it bore. This was all she had needed to do, so Akaneya put her flute away and looked over the wounded form once more.

"You've gotten yourself into quite some trouble," she stated as bluntly and with the same monotone as Chiaki might expect by now. "But you pulled through. I have heard that you managed to drag yourself back to the medics, and now here you are." Was it her fault for encouraging 'the hunt'? When they met, not too long ago now, she had let Chiaki follow along, pointed out a trail where animals had passed. Was she responsible, even in part? "I cannot imagine what you must've done to get this injured. Would you like to enlighten me as to the story?"


____

Unused WC: 11,947

Takao

Takao


S-rank
The hunt: Discovering Chiaki's Spirit Animal!? (Open, Monster thread) D6ehE4O

There weren't many people in the Hidden Leaf that Takao cared about on an intimate level, be it romantic or platonic, outside of his own family. He loved everybody in his village but he did not interact with them on an especially intimate level, thus when word reached him of such a rare anomaly among the population being admitted to the hospital, he felt it was more than an adequate reason to drop what he was doing to pay them a visit.

One such person's admission to the hospital had reached his ears by way of messenger sent on her behalf, informing him that she would not be coming in to the office while she recovered. He had thought to inquire but reconsidered, determining it was a matter best discussed directly with her in person.

He left the Administration Building early, informed the downstairs receptionist of his unexpected absence, and made a few brief stops at a coffee shop and a florist before he'd made his way to the hospital. With a small bouquet of chrysanthemums and carnations in tow, flowers that lacked exposed pollen picked specifically for the visit, Takao was pointed in the right direction by familiar hospital staff. He'd spent plenty of time there himself, both as a patient and as a visitor, primarily due to the prominence of his family in the industry.

When he arrived at the door, he transferred a covered cup of coffee to the same hand that held the vase of flowers and the freed hand rose knuckles-out. He rapped thrice on the door then lowered his hand, splitting the contents of his overburdened hand once more. He didn't voice his identity nor did he say anything at all, merely letting the knock announce his presence.

300/300

Chiaki

Chiaki


B-rank
Chaiki watched as the door opened to reveal a quick movement of blood red. Ah, Akaneya, how could it be anyone else? She chuckled inwardly to herself a bit as the girl stepped through the door with precision and caution, as she did in all things. The grace of the movements were those of an artist, and Chiaki knew them well, even though they hadn't been together very long. Together? That was something else entirely. She gulped once, a blush rising to her cheeks as she had thought they were together. Friends? Perhaps?

She stowed those emotions as the look of concern made Chiaki's brows knit together in a tight weave of creases on her forehead. The pain was dull, but bearable. She looked to Akaneya, then to her flute, then back to Akaneya. Perhaps she would be playing her a tune to soothe her. As she opened her mouth to speak, Akaneya explained herself. Closing it again, she nodded. Best not make waves, she was in pain, yes, but that pain would help her grow, help her be stronger. It would help her not do this again, not be stupid enough to bite off more than she could chew. Or perhaps she had just been careless. Perhaps it wasn't her strength but her lack of vigilance. How else could a lowly crocodile? Alligator? whichever, get a hold of her leg.

Chiaki twitched as the genjutsu hit her, she shook her head and had a feeling akin to sleeping on her leg for too long. When she looked down, she noticed that the leg was gone, all traces of it. When she wiggled her hips, the tear in her deep tissue around where her leg should have been still hurt, but she was able to sit up and regained some of her color. "Thanks hun." She smiled a little smile before scooting her shoulders back into the bed, bringing up the pillow so she could sit upright more, rather than laying down looking at the ceiling.

"I did indeed. I actually had a bit of help getting back to the medics." She replied to the first part of the story and then nodded twice, "I'll regale you with the story then shall I?" She grinned, opening her mouth as she started to go into the story she was cut off by a light tapping on the door. It was polite, friendly, and not quick enough to be anyone in a big hurry. Another visitor then, as Chiaki was comfortable, her call light wasn't going off, and she wasn't due for another dose of pain killers for... Checking the clock Chiaki nodded... another two and a half hours.

"Come in!" Chiaki called, her voice a bit muted due to her position, but clarion nonetheless. Her voice would carry outside of the door, she hoped, if not she would call it out again, waiting for the person behind the door to announce themselves and come in. What a bother to be in the hospital. She chewed on her bottom lip, grumbling to herself. But then again, it did make her feel loved in the deepest parts of her hesitant and reluctant heart.

WC: 15,478


____


"Let me take away your pain, Guest"

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