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Fandom Squad Shithead: A Naruto AU

Sub Genres
  1. Action
  2. Adventure
  3. AU
  4. Naruto Universe


Bear With Me Here ?
As Mizu looked away in disgust from Tetsuo's expressions toward her, she was once again caught in disbelief at what Haruki was saying. Only joining because his parents wanted him to? Feeling useless because he froze up? Once again, Mizu found herself pitying Haruki once more. Not because of Tetsuo's bullying, but rather an understanding. When she thought about it, she really didn't have a choice in joining the academy. It was just something she was raised to accept once the nine tails was put inside of her. But even without the nine tails, she had a hard time seeing where her life would go without the academy.

Yet regardless of that, Haruki wasn't useless. Maybe a little bit strange in how he behaved, but not without use or skill. After all, he's the one who freed them from the genjutsu! Without Haruki, Tetsuo and her would be dead! Mizu opened her mouth to try and vocalize this, but Tetsuo cut her off, putting Haruki down once more. Immediately she glared with Tetsuo with a sneer as sharp as a knife.

"Shut the fuck up Tetsuo! I swear, I'm jealous of the people who haven't met you yet." Katsuro snapped out to Tetsuo.

He didn't need this little shit's opinion weighed in right now, especially when the team moral was at a low risk. Leaning back in his seat, Katsuro took one last swig of his flask before he slammed it into the table, rattling all of the plates and silverware. If he didn't have his student's attention, he sure did now. Mizu jumped back, breaking her gaze off of Tetsuo and back onto their instructor. Katsuro then folded up his glasses, and slid them into his flak jacket, not wanting the distraction of them in the already dimmed room.

"I never wanted to be a shinobi either when I joined the academy. My dad forced me to be a ninja." He remarked. "Should I not be here either, Tetsuo?"

As Katsuro sat, staring at the reflection in his flask as he gathered his thoughts, Mizu couldn't believe it. Of all the ninja she had met, and of all the stories she had heard, no one had had the dedication to the village that Katsuro had. The guy practically bled patriotism for Konoha, and he didn't want to be a shinobi growing up? Hard to believe, considering all the stories she'd heard growing up, and that's what made it so shocking to her.

With his thoughts collected, Katsuro continued. "My dad didn't give a shit about me. He put me in the academy because he thought it'd straighten me out. Growing up a spoiled little shit in a big house like this, that was the last thing I wanted. But I went through it anyway, and I hated every fucking minute of it up until my first real mission."

He sighed, wishing he had lit a cigarette to ease his temper. "You graduated from the academy, so you belong here. Gezno's a jonin-level opponent for fuck's sake, stop being so hard on yourself. They can't teach you in the academy what real combat is like, that's something you experience yourself. Plenty of people freeze up their first time in the shit. Eventually, people trying to kill you won't phase you. But killing people -"

Katsuro suddenly stopped himself, not wanting to finish the rest of the sentence. For a moment or so, there was silence. Then, Mizu chimed in, though she was somewhat curious/confused on the last sentence Katsuro cut off.

"Haruki, you saved Tetsuo and I from the Genjutsu, remember? Without you, we'd be dead!"


Tetsuo, like Mizu, jumped to attention when Katsuro slammed his flask on the table. He looked at him with shock. Katsuro getting angry was nothing new, but Tetsuo had thought if there was ever a time that the jounin would've agreed with him, it would've been that time. Instead, he took Tetsuo's perception of him and flipped it completely on its head.

It was nearly unfathomable to him that he, Katsuro, the reputable bulldog-war-hero who could never shut up about the war, had ever been forced into being a shinobi. Tetsuo could hardly imagine a time before their jounin sensei was a shinobi. His whole temperament was violent. He seemed natural at being a shinobi, where he could make take all that anger and put it into something productive. Even if they hadn't all just had their asses saved from Genzo by him, he'd be an idiot to think that Katsuro was anything if not a great fighter.

Not only that, but Katsuro then revealed that he'd grown up spoiled living in a mansion like this. Tetsuo hadn't given any serious thought before to their sensei's upbringing, but he would have never imagined in a million years he'd been raised with such lavish luxuries. Something about the chronic drinking and chain smoking seemed so far away from everything about this place. Katsuro stuck out like a sore thumb in here. They all did.

Tetsuo didn't know what to think. He was completely silent, staring at their teacher and thinking about the question that had been set before him.

Haruki, meanwhile, was awestruck by Katsuro's story. He, too, could hardly believe that there was a time before their sensei was a shinobi. And to think, he'd lived in a house like this!

... But even still, he said he'd hated it until he'd had his first mission. Haruki was doing his first mission right now and, not that he hated it, but he was far from thrilled by the thought of continuing the mission. Could he really become anything like Katsuro? It was difficult for him to imagine.

Haruki looked back at Mizu when she spoke. He didn't think much of the dark turn that Katsuro's talking points would've taken them had he continued. "Yeah... I guess I did do that."

He had completely forgotten he'd done anything to help in that fight. He'd never felt the kind of terror that he had when it was just him, Genzo, and the samurai that were about to be cut loose. Now he felt some butterflies in his stomach from all the warm attention, enough for him to start smiling at Mizu.

After a moment, he looked back towards Katsuro with a big grin. "Okay, I feel better now! Thank you, sensei."

And with his uplifted spirits returned his appetite. He grabbed and snapped the nearest pair of chopsticks and picked at the nearest thing to him that looked like a meat before shoveling it into his mouth.


Bear With Me Here ?
Though Haruki seemed more positive and joyful than before, Katsuro had a hard time buying that this was fully dealt with. Confidence in one's self didn't just appear in the flash of an instant, it's something slowly built up overtime through positive thinking and accomplishment. Unfortunately, looking over at his beat up team, they were lacking in both confidence as well as achievement. The time to fix both of those things had come. First, while they were resting, he'd address the atmosphere of the team. Finishing up a portion of his meal, he neatly wiped off his lip with a napkin.

"I'm tired of having to get on your asses about treating each other better. So I'm just going to tell the situation as it is so we can move forward." Katsuro stated, glaring Tetsuo down in particular. "From everything I've observed, the group is shattered. The only one of you who seem to get along is Haruki and Mizu...and even then that's only sometimes. Tetsuo, you're so hostile that the both of them avoid interaction with you unless absolutely necessary. In combat, you communicate shitty because of this tension, and friendly fire happens."

"That dynamic won't work in the field. You all lost to Genzo the moment we set foot in these woods because you refuse to work together. Team work is vital regardless of your skill level. If you all worked together, I bet my life you'd have faired better against him. Who knows, you may have gotten a few good hits on him."

"Now I want to hear it from all of you that you're going to make an effort to treat each other better, so that we're not pissing into the wind anymore. You can all learn a lot form each other if you actually tried."

Once again Mizu found herself looking down at the table in shame, knowing that she was partly to blame for this. As much as she hated Tetsuo, she certainly wasn't making the effort to try and get on better terms with him. Same thing for Haruki as well, as she recalled taking plesure in watching him fail earlier in the day with the land-mine activity.

"I'll try." Mizu announced for all to hear.


Tetsuo frowned agitatedly at Katsuro. He felt singled out by the jounin, who was sitting glaring right back at him.

He knew their squad's dynamic was bad. There was no denying that. But surely the blame was being disproprtionately levied against him. Did they really only interact with him if necessary? The way Haruki had shoved him aside on the train to sit by Mizu came to mind. But maybe they were just getting friendly with each other. It didn't mean it was all because of his 'hostility' or whatever.

And sure, maybe there had been some communication mishaps and he'd gotten his teammates hurt because of it... But maybe they should've been paying better attention! How much clearer could he have been when he threw that paper bomb?

And anyway, Katsuro hadn't even been there for that! He hadn't seen how he had tried, not just once, but at least twice to patch up his teammates. Katsuro was just pulling all these assumptions out of his ass because he hated him. The jounin had probably hated him from the moment he showed up late to their first meeting.

Haruki had been watching both of his teammates to evaluate their feelings about this. Mizu seemed pensive, then firm that she was willing to try. When he slowed down chewing a strip of beef and looked at his other teammate, Tetsuo was looking about as moody as he always was.

Riding off the high of Mizu's praise, he couldn't think of any way that he and Mizu didn't work well together. She'd helped pull him together in their fight. So probably Katsuro was just warning Tetsuo again, but was including him and Mizu just to make it less obvious.

He could play along. He nodded with some optimism. "Sure, I'll try," he said, mimicking Mizu's own statement of affirmation.

Tetsuo's frown deepened, with both of his teammates agreeing. He felt pressured, being the last person to weigh in. He didn't want to have another blunder like today. Not again. But was this really going to fix it? Weren't his teammates just annoying, irrational and incompetent? Was there really something that needed fixing within himself? Overwhelmed, he bowed his head and grabbed fistfuls of hair and groaned in frustration.
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Bear With Me Here ?
Haruki agreed, and so did Mizu. That was two down, with only one left to agree. Katsuro's eyes beaded over to Tetsuo, as he pulled at his own hair and was groaning in frustration. Tetsuo probably didn't appreciate being singled out, but it was a step that Katsuro was willing to try in order to ensure his compliance. Right now he loathed to current team dynamic. None of them worked together and their battle wounds showed it. If things continued the way they did yesterday, someone could die on this mission. He'd seen it before in war: The teams that don't work together usually don't last.

However, Katsuro had already verbalized these thoughts to his students before. He wasn't about to start repeating himself now. Katsuro continued ot sit there quietly with his attention fixed on Tetsuo, waiting to hear the answer he was looking for.

Meanwhile, Mizu's blue eyes anxiously darted back and fourth between Katsuro and Tetsuo. She would have figured that by now Katsuro would have had some angry outburst, but instead he just sat there silently. It was odd, to say the least. As Tetsuo groaned and pulled at his hair, Katsuro just continued to gaze over him and the tension in the air grew. For a quick moment, she glanced over to Haruki to see what he was thinking before glaring back.


It was a pretty simple thing to say. All Tetsuo had to do to get out of a lecture from their sensei was agree and say he would try. But he had such a tough-mean-guy act to maintain, he was just groaning and wasting his time, which Haruki found very amusing.

Just like Katsuro, he was content with watching Tetsuo in silence. He only looked away when he saw Mizu glancing at him from his periphery. He raised his eyebrows at her in a 'What else would you expect from him?' kind of way, then went back to looking at Tetsuo, no longer groaning but still pulling his hair.

To Tetsuo, now, this was just getting embarrassing. Part of him knew he was just making more of a scene, but God, did he really have to say this out loud? Katsuro said working together as a team makes you stronger, and he was probably right, but he still felt like a sissy for having to say it. Especially with everyone staring at him, he was feeling exposed, and it made his temper spike.

He took his head out of his hands to snap at Haruki. "Stop staring at me!"

Haruki put his palms up defensively, but he had an amused grin as he did so. He did as Tetsuo wished, humming to himself and returning to his food. He only stole small glances now, when he was leaning over to blow on his food.

Tetsuo was tired, just like they all were, but an appetite for taking everything out on his teammate pushed through that weariness and made him double down on his confrontation. Mizu was tense and serious, Katsuro was stony and focused, but Haruki had that stupid, goofy smile on his face. He knew when he was being made fun of. "Is this funny to you?" he demanded.

Haruki swallowed a slice of seared fish. "I didn't say anything."

"You didn't have to say it, you were thinking it," Tetsuo fired back.

Haruki just shook his head. "I wasn't thinking anything."

"You're lying!" Tetsuo's hand smacked the surface of the table, as if he were preparing to launch himself across the table bench any second now.


Bear With Me Here ?
"Everyone shut the fuck up!" Katsuro shouted without warning.

He rubbed his hand across his face, both in disappointment and frustration. Every time Katsuro thought he was making some progress with this team, they always found a way to screw it up. Haruki was inexperienced, and would never admit it to his sensei. Tetsuo was just a little shit, and Mizu was....a different set of stress. Not in behavior, but rather situation.

"Tetsuo, pull your head out of your ass and listen to me or I'm going to slap your ugly face so god-damn hard that not even your family will recognize it!" Katsuro shouted across the table.

"I mean, for fuck's sake! I told you to stop being so hostile to your teammates and what do you do? The same shit I just told you not to!"

An awkward silence filled the air for a brief moment or so. Right now, Katsuro was so frustrated with his team's unwillingness to cooperate that he was almost debating calling the mission right on the spot. However, with the life of an innocent child on the line...that's not something he'd do. Instead he decided to stick to his guns and continue to enforce the lesson onto Tetsuo and his teammates, however unwilling they may be. Katsuro took a deep breathe, and made an effort to look Tetsuo directly in the eyes.

"According to Mizu, Haruki saved you Tetsuo. You should be grateful that your comrades did their job and saved your sorry ass... yet here you are lashing out at them. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? They did their job, and you treat them like shit for it. How long do you expect someone who you treat like that to work with you, or keep sticking their neck out for you?"

Katsuro then leaned back in his chair, before letting out a sigh of frustration.

"Makes me wonder if you'd even do the same for them? Shit, you're too stuck up to say that you'll try and get along with em', how can you expect me to think that you won't abandon them when shit hits the fan?"

He let another moment or so pass, to let his words sink into Tetsuo, as well as the rest of the genin.

"So what's it gonna be? You gonna at least try and treat them better?"


Once again, the gravity of Katsuro's shouting silenced them. It was the sort of tone that warned Tetsuo that if he said one more thing out of line, his throat was going to end up in the angry fists of a drunken war vet.

He kept his eyes on Haruki who, if he wasn't uncomfortable with confrontation before, was now literally leaning back as far away from Tetsuo as he could manage while still sitting. He gave the smaller boy an uneasy, sheepish grin.

Tetsuo thought about it. He really thought about it.

It was true that when he was under that genjutsu and he felt the very moisture in his mouth boiling out of existence, it was Haruki's hand that had reached in and pulled him out. Just the memory of it, that sensation of drying, made his bones feel brittle and swept a wave of nausea over him.

In his heart, he knew Haruki had been teasing him. Whether Katsuro just didn't notice or didn't care, he knew that trying to argue with him over it would be pointless.

Would he abandon his squad when shit hit the fan? Mizu was more than just Mizu. She had that thing inside of her. The faux-whiskers on her cheeks were a constant reminder of it. Haruki wasn't even originally from their village. He couldn't remember if anyone had said where he was from, but even though he was from another village somewhere, it was a Leaf headband he wore tied to him.

He thought about the kid he hated most in the village. It was some shithead named Kenji. He'd made his life hell when Tetsuo first started interacting with his peers, and it carried over to his first year at the academy. It was Kenji he held responsible for popularizing taunting his stature. At first, fighting back only seemed to encourage him, and the harder he fought the more personal the digs went. He'd crossed a line not meant to be crossed when Kenji had dragged his family into it, laughing and saying that he'd heard his father had chickened out of the war. For that, Tetsuo had broken his nose. This had happened the last day before a school break. It was either the broken nose, or it was the maturity that came with age, but Kenji had given him some space after that. Even still, Tetsuo never forgave for the apology he'd never received. Kenji no longer teased him, but Tetsuo saw the hatred in his eyes every time he slipped up in an exercise. He felt that they were analytical, looking for any weakness in him there was to exploit.

So the question was, if Kenji was trapped in a burning house, would he jump into the fire to save him?

His old squad members crossed his mind too, Makoto and Jakunen, who he felt certain both hated him on some level. They weren't a good point of reference, though, because their lives had never been put in danger on a mission anywhere close to the scale of what had happened today. So it was back to the Kenji-fire metaphor. What would his dad do? He already knew that answer.

By now, Haruki was getting fidgety. He wanted to just return to the buffet, but if he glanced for more than a second from Tetsuo, he thought he might miss it when he inevitably lunged at him.

"No," Tetsuo said. "I would never abandon my comrades."

He sat down heavily, as if from the weight of his assertion. It didn't matter if any of the others knew it, but he was being sincere. It wasn't just something he was saying to get out of trouble. He would really, really have to be thinking about how all his actions would have to back up his words from now on, because it wasn't just a statement he was making. It was a promise.

"I'll try," he said.

When Tetsuo finally turned back to pick at his food, Haruki sighed with visible relief. He was still a little uncomfortable though, because it was weird seeing Tetsuo so serious and calm (if it was even calmness). It was all a bit dramatic for Haruki, calling them 'comrades' and everything. His eyes cut over to Mizu to see if he could read her expression any better.


Bear With Me Here ?
Mizu closed her eyes, and leaned the top of her forehead into her folded hands for a moment or two. The tension in the atmosphere had faded, and it felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted from her shoulders. Now with Tetsuo's cooperation, maybe they could finally learn a thing or two from their sensei instead of constatnly bickering back and forth. She opened them back up, only to meet her gaze on Haruki for a brief moment, before tuning her attention back to Katsuro-Sensei.

"Good." Katsuro said in reply to Tetsuo. "Now that we're all on the same page, we can get serious. Finish up with eating, and then meet me in the garden area. We're going to do some training before sleep tonight."

Katsuro took yet another swig of his flask, and finished his meal rather quickly. Though his students probably already knew this, he wanted to go get a smoke in peace out in the garden before beginning tonight's hard lesson. If these three students were going to get out of this mission in one piece, it could very well depend on tonight's lessons.

Finishing his meal, Katsuro got up and left the room, vanishing down the doorway. Mizu pulled her food in closer, now that the conflict at the table had finally finished. She couldn't believe that they were going to have to get a training session after today. So far, Katsuro had lived up to his lesson as a no-nonsense strict instructor. The pace he was pushing them at today was insane...but the man was a jonin and clearly knew what he was doing. Quietly, she pressed into her side to test the pain. Slightly she winced, but the pain had improved over the last few hours...


The night air was strikingly cooler than the infamously hot day here in the Hand of Birds. Above them lay the stars, and the sound of crickets chirping throughout the night. In the dimly lit garden, illuminated by just a few lamps and the moonlight above, Katsuro lit a fresh cigarette. It's flame illuminated his face, but only for a moment. Much more relaxed than before, Katsuro exhaled the smoke, then addressed his genin.

"Tomorrow we're going into the minefield to follow that scent. It's going to be dangerous, but we can't afford to lose anymore time. So...you're going to have to learn how to walk over landmines."

Without skipping a beat, Katsuro then pulled out his landmine from his pocket, pressed in its trigger, then dropped it on the nearby ground, kicking some dirt over it to hide it like a real mine.

"As we've discussed previously today, the key to not setting off a landmine is to focus chakra in your feet, that'll dampen your step enough to not trigger the detonated."

Katsuro then demonstrated, making a handsign and focusing chakra into his feet. He then walked across the landmine, and the dreaded 'tick' of a mine was not heard.

"This mine doesn't have a charge. All you'll hear is a tick if you set it off."

With that lesson over, Katsuro then approached the shores of the small garden pond.

"If you're struggling with figuiring out the right amount to walk across the water with, then try focusing the chakra in your feet to walk across the water. If you can walk across water, then the same amount of chakra in your feet can can walk across land mines."

"Any questions?"


Tetsuo stood at attention during instruction, clearly displeased by his expression, but suffering a silence. He had to wonder if they were going to have any break from Katsuro's chain-smoking. Wasn't that what he'd left the dining room for? It reeked, and he wanted to complain, but he didn't want an argument, so he just scrunched his nose up.

His eyes cut over to Haruki, who had made sure to stand where Mizu was between them. It took a moment to tell for sure, because he wasn't having the easiest time seeing in the soft garden lighting, but he definitely looked nervous.

Haruki gulped some spit before he raised his hand. "Uh... Katsuro-sensei?" He waited just a bit to know it was his turn to speak. "I- um... kind of lied earlier. I don't know how to stand on water. Or walk on it." Quieter this time, he said, "Or walls."

Tetsuo bit his tongue. If he hadn't, he would've said we know. He just prayed Katsuro forgot he was going to make him and Mizu teach him basics, because he wasn't sure how much more of this getting along thing he could take tonight.


Bear With Me Here ?
After his explanation, Haruki took it upon himself to finally admit to Katsuro that he didn't understand chakra control to the feet. While the honesty was appreciated, it had no effect on Katsuro whatsoever. All Haruki was doing was admitting what Katsuro had been suspecting all of today.

"Yeah, no shit." Katsuro muttered out sarcastically.

It didn't make any difference to Katsuro just how much Haruki didn't know. He was his student, and it was his job to teach him. The only issue was that these were unfavorable conditions. Had it been the grizzled veteran's way, he would have started this training the day after their introduction. That wasn't able to happen, for obvious reasons. Too much risks in the Land of Fire with the Akatsuki sighted. He'd have to train them on the road, which was much more difficult.

"You won't grow stronger as a shinobi if you don't learn to overcome hardship and struggle. I'm not lying when I say this is gonna be a pain in the ass to learn. But, I'm not asking for you to cross a lake. So long as you can stay stable on the water for about a minute, you'll be able to cross over the explosives."

"Now, to make sure that you all get used to working together, you're going to each each other this technique. I'll check back in occasionally, but right now I have an important phone call to make...."

Katsuro then began to walk out of the garden, but stopped suddenly.

"Oh, and don't try bailing on training. I'll know."

He then left the area, dialing a number on his cell phone.

Mizu's stomach filled with dread. They had done the first step in admitting they'd try to work together...but now they had to make good on that promise. That would likely be easier said than done, especially without Katsuro around to enforce cooperation between the three. She had a feeling that this was going to be a long night...but an important one never-the-less.

Mizu looked around awkwardly through the awkward silence for a moment or two.

"So...I can walk up walls, and run across water for a few seconds. Tetsuo, what can you do? I think it'll be more time efficient for us to divide what we teach Haruki between the two of us."


Tetsuo followed Katsuro's retreating back with his eyes. His chest pumped with the impulse to tail him and find out what exact important phone call the jounin was leaving the garden to make. It wasn't like yesterday where Katsuro was distracted by a woman with a sword trying to slice him in half. If he followed, he would know for sure.

His ears strained to listen, but he could hear nothing from inside the manor walls. The late-night song of birds and chirping of bugs in the garden drowned it all out.

He turned to Mizu when she started talking about their actual assignment.

It was his opinion that the most efficient method was making her do all the teaching, because at least she might not spend all her time wanting to snap Haruki's neck. He dreaded all the stupid questions he was going to have to answer before Haruki got anything.

"I can do walls but I can still just stand on water for a few seconds," he replied, sounding impatient because he felt like he'd said this already, and even more because he grudged to admit she was further ahead than he was.


Bear With Me Here ?
Mizu was surprised to hear that Tetsuo had not yet learned how to walk on water. She'd figured with the way he carried himself, as well as his experience, that he surely would have had the technique down by now. Perhaps her self-proclaimed rival wasn't as far along as she thought? If that were really the case, they were probably neck and neck in their abilities, with Tetsuo having more experience in Ninjutsu and Mizu having more experience in Taijutsu. It gave her a small feeling of triumph, now being able to view Tetsuo as more of equal now.

Mizu then stood for a moment, thinking on what the best course of action. Tetsuo was going to get annoyed with Haruki no matter what. Perhaps it would be best just to get it out of the way. That way they could end the night with a little less conflict.

"Would you be willing to start, while I go and practice on the water? Then we can just keeping switching teaching him on and off while trying to learn the technique."


For a second, he came close, very close to just telling her no. When he looked past her at Haruki, the boy was looking awkward, fidgeting with his fingers and looking at the back of Mizu's head with silent pleas.

Tetsuo scratched his cheek and relented. "Yeah, sure."

If they were going to split up the work, which he knew he needed to, it only made sense for him to handle the basics. That was exactly what he would have suggested. However, that didn't mean he was dreading this work any less.

He sighed, deeply. "Come on, Haruki." He motioned for the other boy to follow him closer toward the eastern end of the garden.

Haruki followed, dragging his feet like a captive being led to the chopping block.

Tetsuo stopped by a tree he hoped was far enough from Mizu she might ignore them. He didn't need her butting in and thinking she could do a better job than him.

"Okay," he said after Haruki stood next to him before the block-shaped tree. Because of its superfluous design, Haruki would have much less room to run up the standard trunk for this kind of training. Tetsuo figured, though, their employer would be much more forgiving of a scuffed up tree than he would any damages to the manor itself. "What do you know about this so far?"

Haruki was both nervous and embarrassed. Embarrassed because Katsuro, once again, seemed to just expect ineptitude from him. Nervous because if he didn't get this right, either Tetsuo or a mine was going to blow his head off, whichever got to him first. As he'd told Mizu earlier in the day, it wasn't that he was scared of shortstack, but he didn't like being yelled at.

"Well, you can walk or run up walls and trees, hang upside-d-"

Tetsuo cut him off. "I mean how to do it."

"Oh, um..." Here Haruki frowned and looked at his sandals. He thought for a while, but couldn't remember the methods ever being discussed in the academy. "Is it... kind of like... in Trouble at the Castle?"

Tetsuo stared at him. "What?"

"You know, when Ryouchi saves Princess Tomomi? He has to walk to the island to rescue her?"

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Like, he had to learn to walk on water, and Ryouchi concentrated all his love into his feet. It's the same with trees, right?"

"Who is Ryouchi?"

Haruki's jaw dropped. "You haven't seen any of the Strike movies?"

Tetsuo felt his temples start to pound. "I don't watch movies."

Haruki covered his mouth when he gasped. "No way!" No wonder he was so crabby all the time! Haruki dropped his hands and looked at him with the empathy he'd feel for the pictures sometimes shown in magazines, of orphan boys standing on the battleground where their parents died in battle. "Well, in the first movie, Ryouchi is Princess Tomomi's servant-"

"Haruki, I don't give a shit about the movie. None of this has to do with love, or any of that other girly, fantasy shit."

Haruki looked at him as if he'd been wounded. It was enough to make Tetsuo realize he was letting his temper slip. Was this him being "hostile" again?

He closed his eyes and sighed. "Look... I'll just explain. You have to build up and control chakra in your feet, just like you would for a jutsu. You do know how to do that, don't you?"

Now it was Haruki's turn to look annoyed. "Yes, I learned those in the academy."

Tetsuo looked unfazed by his tone and nodded. "Yeah, so just do that in your feet."


"Yeah, right now."

Haruki made a face, but turned away to concentrate. Just like a jutsu, huh? He shut his eyes, signed the transformation jutsu with his hands, then brought the last sign to his chest. He felt the familiar warmth of chakra pulsing in him, like a the laps of an ocean's tongue begging to spill onto the sand. He stopped the release, letting the chakra continue to surge inside of him.

He had the buildup, now how did he move it to his feet? Haruki thought about feet. He imagined the slope of its underside, the callouses on the heel, the smell of feet (which he regretted immediately after).

He stopped and looked at Tetsuo. "Does it need to be in your toes too?"

"What?" Then before Haruki had the chance to actually answer, "Yeah, sure." Tetsuo wasn't actually sure, but it wasn't something he wanted to be thinking about.

"Okay." Haruki wove the signs, and once again felt his chakra build, this time a little less intensely. He concentrated, willing the chakra into his feet, imagining rolling it up into a ball and rolling it down. He thought he felt his legs start to warm.

Nearly a minute passed. Just when Tetsuo was starting to grow impatient, Haruki looked at him again.

"How do I know when it's in my feet?"

Tetsuo squinted at him. "I don't know. You'll just feel it."

"But I'm not sure if I'm feeling it or if my feet just hurt." They were a little sweaty, too. They'd been standing and walking for a month now, it felt.

"You're overthinking it. Just run up the tree."

"What, seriously? I'll hit my face!" he said, gesturing at the low-hanging branches.

"You won't get that far."

Haruki twitched an eyebrow. "Thanks for the pep talk," he muttered, then signed for his transformation jutsu once again, since he lost his buildup when his hands came apart.

Tetsuo ignored him, patting his pants pockets for his phone. "Oh, and you can just use the Ram sign."

Another eyebrow twitch. "You could've said that before."

Tetsuo grimaced, finding nothing in his pockets. He must've left his phone with the rest of his stuff. One babysitting job for another. "Yeah, well," he said, turning his head to glare in some vague direction inside the manor walls. After a few seconds, he looked back at Haruki. "What are you doing?"

Haruki was just standing there, holding the Ram seal still. "Trying to concentrate my chakra in my feet."

"Just do it it already."

"How am I gonna' know I'm doing it right?"

"You won't!" Tetsuo shouted back at him. "Not until you try. Look."

He marched up to Haruki, who could only protest, "Hey!" as Tetsuo clamped a vise grip on Haruki's elbow and kicked at his foot until the sandal slipped off.

Haruki yanked his elbow out of his grip and danced his feet away. He exchanged a scowl with Tetsuo, then kicked his other shoe off.

"There," Tetsuo said, gesturing at the other boy's feet then slapping his hand back at his side. "You feeling everything better now?"

Haruki gave him a look that said he didn't appreciate being manhandled.

Tetsuo pinched his lips together. He took a moment to calm himself again, or at least tried. "It's not exactly going to feel comfortable running up a tree barefoot, but if you build your chakra in your feet, maybe you'll feel the grass reacting to you. I don't know."

Haruki's face turned to suspicion, but he wasn't about to argue with him. He brought his hands together in a seal, then tapped into his chakra reserve. He drew it out once again, then tried directing it into his feet. He stood like this for a beat. Then another. Then another, when suddenly, he noticed the wind shift the blades of grass, pulsing in rhythm with eb and flow of chakra inside him.

He smiled, then started walking up to the tree. Just as he was about to put his foot to the bark-

"I said run at it."

Haruki looked back to grimace at him. "Why?" He was almost certain now Tetsuo just wanted to see him hurt himself.

"Because you're going to need the speed to carry yourself up the trunk," Tetsuo explained.

"But if I twist my ankle-"

"Do you want my help or not?" he snapped.

Haruki thought about reminding him that he never asked for his help, and in fact they were both being forced into this situation together, but he held his tongue. Haruki drudged back to where he'd been standing before, took a deep break, then ran at the trunk.

He felt his foot snap onto the trunk, pulled his other foot up to it in another step, but when he took his first leg off for the next step, the pull broke off. The ground rushed up and his head was thrown back into the earth.

"Ouuuuuuch!" Haruki whined, holding the back of his head as he kicked his feet and rocked on his sides.

"You didn't use enough chakra," Tetsuo said to him, still standing at the starting point. "You need to build up more, or you'll just pop off like that again."

Haruki whipped around onto his stomach and beat his fist into the ground. "Stop waiting to tell me these things after I've already done them!"

"It should've been common sense," Tetsuo retorted, glaring back at him. "Do it again. More chakra this time."

Haruki groaned but did as he said. He built up his chakra, ran at the trunk, then popped off again at the same point. This happened six more times, seemingly making no progress at all.

When Haruki laid on his back holding onto his feet for longer, Tetsuo once again started getting impatient. "Come on, get up."

"Ugh, get off my back already!" Haruki, hours before, would not have been challenging Tetsuo in this way. However, the other boy's constant nagging, completely useless guidance, and just the fact that he wanted some shuteye after all day of just doing things, he had lost all patience. He even thought about pushing him, but Tetsuo was standing all the way over there, and he was lying under a decorative tree what felt like a mile away from the jerk.

He was still scowling when he got back to his feet. "Just let me do this my way," Haruki said, then pressed his foot against the trunk.

It took all of watching him stand there for three solid seconds for Tetsuo to throw his arms up in frustration. "This is a waste of time." He all but stomped back towards the pond by Mizu. It was all he could do if he wanted to "keep the peace."

Behind him, Haruki built and broke down the chakra in his foot, trying to feel what was right. The wood splintered once, then he eased up, and he felt his foot lock. "Whoa," he said, under his breath. It felt... right, now.

He closed his eyes, pushing and pulling the energy in his other foot. After a moment, he pulled up using his first foot. Before his foot fully lifted, he hesitated and touched it back down. Haruki took a second to recompose himself, then with more confidence lifted and planted his second foot up to the trunk. Almost immediately, he start wobbling, his bond to the tree weakening. He flailed his arms wildly before he pushed back down, anchoring his feet to the tree. His arms stilled, spread wide, but he stood there.

He was standing on the trunk, paralleling the ground.
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Bear With Me Here ?
With a slight hesitation, Mizu dipped her feet onto the water. As the cool water touched the soles of her bare feet, Mizu focused her chakra into her feet. One minute, that's all she had to do according to Katsuro-Sensei. To someone who had never done this before, that would seem like a short amount of time. However, to a genin like Mizu it seemed like a steep challenge. She had done this type of training before, learning how to control her chakra release under her uncle. However, the longest she could ever do it was a few seconds while running. She'd never practiced to do it for long-term like this.

Placing her feet onto the surface of the water, its cool liquid sensation not going past her toes. For a moment or so Mizu stood perfectly still on the water. With all of her focus she tried to remain calm, keeping just the right amount of chakra. In the moment, all she could focus on was counting in her head.

One-thousand one

One-thousand two

One-thousand three

One-thousand four

One-thousand five

One-thousand si-

Her thoughts were interrupted, as the tension on the water broke, and Mizu's feet sunk straight into the sand below. Luckily the water was only up to about the top of her shins. Five seconds, she thought to herself. That was a bit longer than she thought she could do it, but that still wouldn't do. If she was going to make it, she needed 55 more seconds. Looking at her face through the moon-illuminated reflection, she frowned. This wasn't going to be easy. Getting the right amount of chakra to her feet wasn't the issue, it was maintaining it.

As she reflected on what went wrong, in the distance she could hear the usual bickering between Tetsuo and Haruki. Glancing over, Tetsuo was walking her way. His face bore the usual irritated look. Judging from this, she at first assumed things weren't going well with Haruki. That was until she looked over and saw Haruki staying perfectly horizontal on the tree trunk, parallel to the ground. Upon seeing this, her eyes jolted open in shock, before her face lit up with a smile in a surprising joy. Haruki was making good progress, especially given his inexperience.

"Keep doing that Haruki!" Mizu shouted over. She then trudged through the water, and ran past Tetsuo to go help Haruki further.

"Keep that focus, but start walking up the tree!"


Meanwhile, Katsuro sat atop the roof overseeing the main gate, far enough away from his students to get some privacy. With just enough connection to make a phone call, he dialed in the number of Kaito, and patiently waited. As the phone began to ring in, he peered over his shoulder to make sure that he wasn't followed by anyone. Privacy was of the utmost concern at the moment. The phone continued to ring in, and just at the last ring the phone was answered. A familiar voice rang through.

"Katsuro?" Kaito's voice inquired.

"Yes." Katsuro replied simply.

"Give me a status report, both on your mission and current state. Do not give any hint of where you are, for this conversation could be listened in on for all we know."

"Well, it's kind of a fuckin' mess right now, not gonna lie." Katsuro stated in an irritated voice.


"We're not the only ones looking for the girl. Genzo Yoshikazu and the Shiba Inu are also trying to find her. Got into a nasty scrap with him...he nearly wiped out my team."

"Are they all alright? What's the state of Mizu."

"They're all fine. Mizu got the worst of it, but she's already back on her feet. It's crazy how fast she heals, even without adequate rest."

"I see."

There was a pause at Kaito's end of the phone.

"Did we have to use our ace in the hole?"

"No. Thought we might, but the ace didn't show."

"Well, then you're going to have to continue on. The land of fire isn't safe. There's been reports of Akatsuki at the border. I'll make some calls to try and get another team dispatched, since Genzo is a wanted criminal. That's going to take a while though."

Katsuro sighed, once again checking his surroundings.

"Anything else?" Kaito asked.


"Then I expect another update tomorrow night."

Katsuro hung up, and sneaked his way across the roof over to where his students were. Still keeping his presence a secret, he sat himself down and began to watch their progress.


Tetsuo lifted his eyes to follow Mizu as she ran past him, shouting encouragement for Haruki. Confused, he looked over his shoulder back at their teammate, only to see him standing perfectly off the ground.

Haruki couldn't keep a smile off his face. He heard Mizu from across the garden, cheering him on, and his energy surged with his giddiness. He tried to take the next step, but he popped off the trunk and hit his back before he could even lift his foot off.

But it only took him a second to recover. Then he was back on his feet, jumping up to Mizu with an enormous grin on his face. "I'm doing it, Mizu!" he said with thrill, still bouncing on his feet. "You saw that, right? I think I can do this! Watch."

He jogged back to the tree and took a second to compose himself. It was possibly the hardest part of this training now. With the Ram sign, he took a second to build his chakra back up, roughly estimating where it had been before, then put his foot up to the bark. When he thought he felt it latch on, he took another wobbling, but confident step. Haruki swayed a little, then focused on his left foot anchoring him down, just enough to keep him grounded as he lifted and planted his right foot for his third step. He was starting to get up to his fourth, when a spike of feeling splintered his third step and sent him falling back to the ground.

He just giggled gleefully.

Meanwhile, Tetsuo had turned in anger to soldier his way up to the pond. He had tried helping Haruki and that seemed to do shit-all for him. He'd yelled at him, but now that Mizu was rushing over there, they were both having a fucking party.

Tetsuo scuffed his foot against the pond's lip, kicking dirt onto its surface. Mizu probably suggested he start Haruki off, just so she could swoop in and get Haruki running in half the time. They obviously got along better and they'd both get a laugh out of humiliating him. He glared at the water's ripples, the same water she could already run across.

He knew he was getting worked up, and this kind of training was no good if he was thinking about how hated he was and how much he hated. Tetsuo closed his eyes and tried to empty his mind.


Bear With Me Here ?

For someone who never knew how to do this just a few hours ago, Haruki was making extraordinary progress. This was going fantastic. At this rate, Haruki would have this down in less than an hour. As Haruki giggled to himself at his progress, a smile grew across Mizu's face. Maybe they would get this down in just one night...

"You're doing great, Haruki! Keep at it. Remember, just focus on proper chakra placement. Speed and proper foot placement will follow with that!"

For a moment Mizu turned to see how Tetsuo was doing over at the pond. Currently he was just standing there. It was too far to tell if he was doing anything else, but Mizu just assumed he was doing nothing. She rolled her eyes, turning her attention back to Haruki. She wasn't going to let herself get frustrated at Tetsuo, there was just too much to do.

Reaching into her knife pouch, Mizu pulled out a Kunai-knife. "Here, try this game my uncle showed me when I learned how to do this."

She began walking up the base of the tree, and stopped right at the last point Haruki fell off at. Taking a moment to learn forward, she stabbed the knife into the bark right above where she stood. Mizu then hopped off of the tree, and pointed her hand to the knife.

"That knife marks the highest point you've made it so far. Try moving it higher your next attempt at the tree."

Meanwhile, somewhere hidden in the Land of Birds...

"You're telling me a couple of Genin stopped you?"

Genzo folded his feet and leaned back in his wooden chair, causing it to creak against the old wooden floor of the room he currently resided in. He sparked up a match, and used it to light a freshly rolled cigarrete in his mouth. As its flame caught hold of the tobacco, it illuminated some of the bandages he'd draped over his wounds. Today didn't go as planned...but sometimes that's just how things went. Tomorrow would bring a new day, and another chance to find the brat and finish the contract.

"DON'T JUST SIT THERE, I WANT AN ANSWER DAMMIT! HOW DID GENIN STOP YOU FROM FINISHING UP THE CONTRACT?" A loud voice rang out from the speaker of a phone set on the table in front of him.

Across from it, sat the two swordsmen who accompanied him earlier that day. Both sat in a guarded manner, looking down at the phone then back up at Genzo. Another moment of silence passed before Genzo exhaled smoke, and lifted his eyes out from beneath the brim of his hat. The light of the phone's screen illuminated his cold blue stare.

"Those kids didn't stop me," Genzo called out toward the phone. "They stopped the new swordmen you hired."

"Is that so?" The speaker rang out. "And how come you couldn't kill them?"

"Almost did, but their Jonin got in the way...Katsuro Katashi."

Genzo immediately looked back at their battle. Though it had only been hours since their meeting, Genzo had walked through the battle over a hundred times in his head. The speed and ferocity at which Katsuro fought with, let alone the constant pressure. He had lived up to every story he'd heard about the Bulldog of Konoha. Furthermore, Katsuro caught him off guard. That Jinchuriki girl was a clear sign that some high level shinobi would be around...he just didn't think it would him. Now that he knew though, their next time would go much different.

"I'm a business man, not a shinobi. Who the fuck is Katsuro Katashi?"

"One of Konoha's finest Jonin, and well above the skill level of these sell-swords...no...if you want this job done you'll dispatch better men to me. Take these fools off the contract."

"Hey now!" The bald ronin bashed his head against the table. "Just what do you think you're doi-"

Before he could finish Genzo's sword was already drawn, and sitting at the tip of his throat.

"Getting rid of you." Genzo said calmly, pressing the tip of his blade slightly into his throat. "This is your once chance to forfeit the contract."

The man quivered, and backed away from the blade. "You're a real bastard, you know that?"

"I just want my money." Genzo replied simply.

Both swordsmen quickly left the room, knowing very well their fate if they stayed.

"Mind telling me what's going on there?" The phone rang out.

Genzo sheathed his blade, and picked up the phone. Slowly he opened a curtain by the window just slightly, and watched the two henchmen walk off into the forest.

"The other two have forfeited the contract. I'm in need of 4-5 competent replacements. Preferably a mixture of swordsmen and shinobi."

"Hmmm...." The phone rang out. Silence proceeded for about a minute before he finally continued. "I can get you one shinobi, and a couple of more experienced swordsmen. But that's it, nothing else! The terms of the contract stay. You find the girl, and absolutely no harm comes to her or her father. His cooperation is priceless to me."

"Very well. Have them all here by tomorrow afternoon."

He then hung up, and vanished into the shadows of his room.


Haruki stood fast, clapped his hands together and grinned following Mizu's demonstration. "That's smart! It's kinda' like when you mark your height on your birthday. Like I'm five foot two, so it's like that." He nodded to himself in self-understanding.

"Okay." He dusted some loose dirt off his rear. "Chakra placement. Chakra placement."

He signed and thought about that, but quickly realized he had no idea what that meant. How could he think about chakra placement without thinking about where his feet went?

He started up the tree, but this time, fell back on his feet before he could place his second step.

Haruki gave Mizu a sheepish grin. "Uhh, let me try that again."

When he did, Haruki focused on the magnetic pull that snapped his foot to the trunk. He got up to his second step before plopping back down.

In quicker succession than before, he tried three more times before he was standing at his highest placement. He gave a toothy grin, confident in his next step.

Haruki bent to yank the kunai out of the trunk, but when he did, he offset his balance, and before his fingertip could touch the ringed end, he was falling on his back with an "Ooph!"

He rolled on his side to get to his feet and frowned. "Uh, when exactly am I supposed to move kunai?"


Bear With Me Here ?
Mizu couldn't help but wince as Haruki fell on his back. She resisted the urge to let out a sigh, yet was still somewhat disappointed. He had been making so much progress...yet at the same way he was finding new ways to screw up. If this didn't improve sooner they very well may be here all night. For a moment she glanced back at Tetsuo, wondering how far along he was getting the water-walking technique. Of everyone here, he should be having the least amount of trouble with it.

She then shifted her attention back to Haruki.

"Move the Kunai at the top of your lunge; the exact moment that you feel you're about to go back down to the ground. Ideally you'll be going higher with each attempt."


When Tetsuo opened his eyes again, his eyebrows were tight, but he was no longer thinking about his teammates. He was thinking back to where he had last left off on the walking-on-water technique. It had been a while since he had last practiced, and it had been even longer since his father had demonstrated it for him.

If he could master the uneven tension of a pool's tides tonight, then facing the uneven terrain of a minefield would be a breeze. This was crucial if he wanted to finish this mission with both of his legs.

Tetsuo took his first couple of steps onto the water then started counting.

One thousand one... one thousand t-

The ripple from stepping onto the pond bounced back and bumped up his heel. When his foot sank, it felt like someone tripping him.

"Shit!" he hissed under his breath.

Grimacing, he dragged himself back up to the land. Tetsuo knelt down to squeeze the water out of his pants, then rolled the ends halfway up his shins.

With a sigh, he got back up and tried again.

One thousand one... one thousand two... one thousand three... one-

The water and sand swallowed his feet.

Tetsuo gritted his teeth. He didn't have time for these errors. The longer this took, the less rest he would get.

This time, he pulled his foot up to step up on the water and try again.

- - - - -

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh-huh," Haruki replied in not-understanding. Wasn't the 'top' of the lunge when he first got his feet up? But then she said to wait until he felt like he was going to go down. This whole going-up-a-tree business happened so fast every time it all just rushed together.

He dusted his clothes off. He might just need to figure out how to do this on his own again. All he could do was try.

Haruki heaved himself up the trunk. On the third step, he bent to yank the kunai out of the trunk. With force, the knife loosened, but so did his footing on the tree. Haruki clumsily dropped the knife on the ground and fumbled a landing on his feet.

He sighed, then grinned at Mizu. "Sorry, I'm not very good at this. You shouldn't be wasting your time on me."


Bear With Me Here ?

This time a sigh escaped a frustrated Mizu, as she watched Haruki drop to the ground yet again. It was hard watching all of his progress seemingly slip away with each ill-fated attempt Haruki made at getting up the tree. Yet this alone wasn't what was frustrating ot Mizu: It was Haruki's attitude. After listening to Katsuro-Sensei blabber on for hours about how shitty all of their attitudes were she was beginning to see why. Haruki would accomplish nothing with this lack of spirit.

Mizu closed her eyes for a moment, taking the time to compose herself. She then knelt down, pulling Haruki back to his feet by his shoulders. She dusted off his shoulders, and gripped his right shoulder with her left hand for reassurance.

"Come on." She said, looking into Haruki's eyes with a warm smile. "Nobody gets these techniques down their first try. Keep trying."

She pushed her hand off his should, motioning him toward the tree to try at the task once again.
Stupid rich brat lost in the minefield day 2


Haruki would try many more times that night. More times than he had ever wanted to try. The more he tried, the worse it seemed he got. He would take one step forward, then three steps back. Mizu and Tetsuo traded off trying to coach him, but every session with Tetsuo got shorter and shorter. Finally the last time, Haruki was felt so tired, beaten, and frustrated that he refused to work with Tetsuo before they could even begin.

This was, of course, when Katsuro returned, just as the two boys were on the brink of getting into a fight with each other. Needless to say, their sensei was not pleased. When he finally dismissed them at around midnight, he did so very clearly feeling exacerbated.

Sando, given the size of the estate, easily accommodated each of them with their own bedroom.

Haruki was unusually agitated for his disposition, so he didn't even have it in him to admire the inifite-thread silk sheets that he found himself snuggled in. At the moment, in spite of his exhaustion, he felt like he was trying to sleep in wrapping paper. He kicked the blanket, thinking about how he wished it was Tetsuo's shins for putting him down the entire evening. It was somehow even more infuriating knowing that this happened while his teammate was genuinely making an effort to be companionable. Haruki tossed over, pulling sheets with him, thinking about how he couldn't even get all the way up the tree trunk, yet he was expected to traverse a minefield the next morning.

Exhaustion eventually won, and he was finally able to slip into the sleep he so desperately needed to carry him through the night.

Tetsuo, on the other hand, had barely managed to change into his pajamas before he passed out on the mattress.

In his dream, he was visited by the sun. It shone too close by, engulfing the sky. The moisture in his body had completely vaporized, until his lips had turned to dust he choked on in his mouth.

Tetsuo jerked awake in a coughing fit. He was bowed over, as if he could cough the itchiness right out of his throat. It took him a moment to realize there was no itchiness in his throat, at least not as he'd imagined it. His mouth tasted tacky, but it was just from the usual morning breath.

He sighed and sank back into the pillow. His eyes stung both to have open or closed, but soon he fell back asleep. Tetsuo would have yet another dream reminiscent of the genjutsu that had tormented him earlier that day before it was finally time to rise.

Just like in Tetsuo's room, housekeeping staff had come into Haruki's room and threw the curtains open. Haruki only cocooned himself further in his sheets, which had completely been displaced from any position on the bed normally expected of bed sheets to be. The servant had to be very insistent in order to get him out of bed, some of which had included wrestling with the sheets Haruki held tight to himself.

In spite of the difficulties had by that poor worker, Haruki did eventually join the rest of his squad at the dining table, sliding on the bench right next to Mizu.

Tetsuo sat across by Katsuro (in spite of the smell). An entire buffet of omelettes and pancakes was set in front of them before anyone had even got there. Still, the staff seemed to find an inexhaustible number of tiny details to adjust for the setup that kept them buzzing around like a fly infestation.

Tetsuo eventually caught one of them. "Bring me a black coffee, please."

The servant paused, looking at the small boy, then looking at the gruff man sitting next to him uncertainly, as though to ask, 'Is that allowed?'

Haruki nursed an apple juice before slicing into an okonomiyaki.


Bear With Me Here ?
Mizu did her best to coach Haruki through the rest of the night until it was called off. However, she wasn't sure just how much progress they had really made. For every step forward in technique they got with Haruki, he immediately plunged two steps backwards. The flaring tempers didn't help either. Even with Mizu's own training, she didn't make as much progress as she would have liked. In the best case scenarios she was staying above the water for a total of 10 or more seconds. Not exactly the way she wanted to end the night, but there was nothing more that she could do.

By the time midnight rolled around, and Katsuro dismissed them, she was spent. Clutching her side, she made her way into her assigned quarters and collapsed into bed. She couldn't recall a time she was this exhausted, or this beat up. Mizu tried to sleep, but it took longer than she would have liked. Alone with her thoughts, all she could think about was the clash they had with Genzo and the samurai earlier that day. The intensity, the confusion, the speed, and the utter relentlessness. Even now, hours later, she could still feel how her bones rattle as she parried away the sword strikes. Eventually though, she did manage to fall alseep.

Katsuro, aided by alcohol, managed to fall asleep easier than the rest of his students. Not the healthiest of habits, but it got the job done. He'd rather pay the cost of a poor night's rest than staying up all night worrying about the situation. As soon as his head hit the pillow and he closed his eyes, he was out. Hours passed in what he percieved as moments, and before he knew it he was disgruntled by the morning light being shined into his eyes.

"Alright, alright!! Fuck..." He waved the servants out of his quarters as rubbed his hungover red eyes. Mouth dried like sandpaper, and with a raging headache, Katsuro threw his gear on and marched down the hall. Mizu emerged from her quarters as well, freezing up for a moment at the sight of her instructor's blood-shot eyes. "M-Morning Sensei!"

"Morning." He replied, before he threw his sunglasses over his eyes.

Just like mom...Mizu thought to herself, knowing all to well what red eyes in the morning meant. Without another word spoken to each other, both walked into the dining area to meet the rest of the team. Haruki plopped down on the bench right next to Mizu. The impact made her wince slightly from the pain in her side.

Katsuro sat down, and composed himself for a moment. He began sipping water as he gazed across the table at the buffet before him. This all seemed a little excessive, especially given how they'd be marching through the woods again in just a few hours. Perhaps Sando was trying to make up for the day before, but a buffet wouldn't be enough. Tetsuo then told one of the staff he wanted coffee, only for the server to look to Katsuro for permission. He nodded in agreement, before he began drinking the water set out before him.

When his thirst was quenched, he looked to each of his students and began to speak. "We got a big day ahead of us. I'd like us to talk about what's going to happen today while we eat."

"We're heading back into woods, together. This time we head out to the minefield and pick up the trail. I don't know if we'll run into Genzo or not, so keep your guard up."

He reached out across the table and grabbed a couple of eggs, as well as a few pieces of meat. It wasn't surprising to Mizu that a man of his size ate so much, even for breakfast.

"If Genzo does come out...you all need to be ready to fight him. I've said this already before, but if we all work like a unit he can be beat."


The servant Katsuro nodded to frowned at him, even though it was obvious she was trying not to. Nevertheless, she dipped her head to acknowledge him, then scuttled back to where the kitchen must be.

When their instructor began listing today's agenda, Haruki got a sullen look on his face. He reached over and slid a plate of omelette closer to him. As if he didn't already have a minefield to worry about, they might run into Genzo too. The thought made his stomach flip.

Tetsuo sat up straight on the bench. "How are we getting through the minefield?" he asked. "None of us got the walking on water technique right last night. Haruki can't even get up a tree."

In response, Haruki furrowed his brow and slumped in his seat. He sliced a segment of his omelette. From beneath his drooped brow, he glanced at Tetsuo, then muttered to the piece of egg, "Maybe if you didn't stink at teaching."

Tetsuo's face took on its usual, irritable glower. "What did you say?"

"Nothing," Haruki replied, looking away as he took his bite.

If it weren't for the fact they were seated diagonally across from each other and the table separating them was so damn wide, Tetsuo would've kicked him in the shins right then. He didn't hear what he said, but he knew he didn't like it. He had to settle for glaring at him instead, willing his eyes to do the ass kicking for him.


Bear With Me Here ?
Katsuro took a long drink of his water as he thought about how to answer his students. He didn't bother to scold them over their usual banter. For once, they were being logical. They definitely didn't have the technique down. However, that didn't mean they couldn't be of use. After downing his entire glass of water, he rubbed his mouth dry and addressed his students.

"We'll skirt around the minefield until we have to go in. Maybe she just ran through it, and came out the other side. If we have to go in, I'll make a path."

He rubbed his finger against his left temple, trying to ease the sting of the hangover in his head.

"I know none of you want to do it, but we can't waste anymore time. If that girl is still out there in the woods another night she'll die from the conditions...We can't split up out there either, or else Genzo will try to pick us off."

"So eat up now, because we will be out there until we find something."

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