From Scholars to Shinobi
Summer comes fast, as music turned up to full volume. The sky blazes blue and the sun is a celebration of yellow, free and bright. For some, the radiating heat and pleasure that sails with summer is a pleasant time, free of stress and worry. However, for the students of Ninja Academy of Konohagakure, the early days of summer were filled with stress and urgency.
The slackers who failed the exam last year and the year before that are destined to repeat; they didn't care though, shinobi life wasn't as cool anymore. For those who come from the clans that hold influence, this test meant the start of fulfilling their destiny, failing wasn't an option; though most will fail. Those with something to prove were the most stressed as they hyped their greatness everyday till now; but now was when it really matter. Pass and Graduate or Fail and Repeat.
The same couldn't be said for the heiress of the Kurama Clan. Since her first day at school, nearly eighteen months ago, Asuna demonstrated prodigious talent and exceptional skill. While some tried to antagonize her greatness by referring to her old moniker, The Witch, it had little effect. Asuna is the popular kid; she has the beauty, the personality, and the grades; she's really the whole package. The teachers knew it too. If it were for the whole, unprecedented era of peace between villages, Asuna could've easily been offered the opportunity to graduate early.
But none of the mattered to Asuna. Sure she maintained her appearance and showed up to class everyday as the go to girl, but the goal wasn't to impress the masses nor was it to graduate with the highest scores; albeit based on her competition, she assumed it'd be the case anyways. Over the course of the past eighteen months, only one thing loomed on her mind, her defeat to her brother. Like a scar, Asuna carried that defeat with shame and disgust. But she knew retribution would come soon enough.
On the morning of the exam, Asuna didn't break routine. Waking up before dawn, she honed her skills and practiced rigorously; her abilities have sharpened dramatically over the last year. Returning home for breakfast, she quickly ate as to avoid her brother; she didn't know where he was nor did she care. Upon arriving at school, arriving just on time as per usual, she was greeted by a group of girls.
"So are you nervous about the exam Asuna???"
"Nervous?!? Asuna doesn't get nervous; she's the best of all time! She'll pass every test with perfects guaranteed!"
"Well she can't be the best ever, a bunch of people have graduated before eight."
"Asuna, did you after your training this morning?"
White noise. Asuna intentionally arrived just on time to avoid answering the fury of questions and statements directed at her. "Let's sit down. Class is about to start." She spoke and like the obedient flock of followers they are, they listened.
Minegumo Kurama was an early riser: half out of habit born from strict teachings. Every day, when the Sun rose, Minegumo woke up early to train with his Mother, Mika Fuyuzuki. Starting with a short set of stretches, followed by a two-lap around the Clan Districts, and then ending with Kenjutsu practice in the clearing behind the Kurama Compound. As promised, Mika had picked up and continued Minegumo's kenjutsu as his new teacher, though she refused to actually teach him much. After the fiasco that was the duel between Minegumo and his sister, she'd put her foot down: while his studies would continue, she wouldn't be teaching him any offensive techniques that Minegumo didn't know already. Which meant, none at all.
Instead, Mika led him through principals of Iaidō: the things he hadn't gotten to learn away from the Land of Iron. That wasn't to say there was no physical training of course; for all that she wouldn't advanced his skill in kenjutsu (now until he was an established Genin), she made sure to help him stay in shape, and also trained with him in his general weapon ability. Though she wasn't familiar to with Shinobi weaponry like kunai and shuriken, she'd been willing to help him begin learning archery; a new territory, and one that Minegumo was embarrassingly lackluster at.
Things were the same way with his Genjutsu studies. AFter what happened with during their first spar, it would be putting things lightly to say that Asuna and Minegumo no longer trained together. With his mornings booked with Mika and his noons filled with school, Minegumo now trained with Sooun exclusively in the late evenings; often right after dinner. And Sooun proved to be every bit like Mika in terms of teaching. Now that Minegumo was older, he'd began learning more advanced Genjutsu of the C-rank variety; which ranged from more powerful illusions, to using his own genjutsu prowess to break out of and even reflect another illusion back onto the caster.
Throughout all of this, he also continued to hone and learn more about Nenmu, his powerful Kekkei Genkai, while also expanding and developing his skill in other areas.
"You'd better hurry if you don't want to be late, Minegumo." Mika's voice snapped him out of his thoughts and he found himself blinking as he came back to reality. Looking up at the Sun and its position, Minegumo paled as he realised that he was once again running late.
"Right," Minegumo groaned; looking down at his bandaged hands and the shinai. With a frown he picked the object up and quickly set it in its case, before throwing it over his shoulder. "See ya, Mama! Tell Papa I'm sorry I can't have breakfast with him!"
And then he was gone: dashing out of the clearing and around the Compound as he rushed to the Academy. And as he ran, Minegumo once again found his mind wandering. He was finally graduating from the Academy; finally getting to start actually going on missions and learning what it meant to be a Shinobi. It was equal parts exciting and anxious: the future was quite literally rapidly approaching, and Minegumo still had no idea of what kind of Ninja he wanted to be
In record time, Minegumo reached the Academy. As he walked in, all eyes in the room turned to him and he felt himself blush as he walked to his seat in the back of the clas; hyper aware of how nearly late he was. Though he'd never been tardy exactly, Minegumo'd had more than a few close calls and at one point had even resorted to going through the window to beat his teacher.
"Good morning, everyone!" Minegumo said brightly as he sat down. Having inherited Sooun's natural charm, Minegumo was well-liked by his peers. While quiet and somewhat awkward, people still liked him; girls thought he was "cute" because of he styled his hair and the other boys in his class always came to him for advice as one of the top students.
Following Minegumo's entrance, Shino Aburame, the class' instructor, entered the classroom with a stack full of paper in hand. "Let's get started..." his voice as buggy as always. The exam took about two hours. Obviously, Asuna and Minegumo were one of the first to finish, falling behind those who didn't care about their scores. The allotted time zoomed by and then shortly after, Shino took his class outside to the training area.
"Now students...we'll be starting the practical exam in a few minutes. In summary, you'll be facing myself and three other Jonin in combat. Your goal, get yourself one of these bells." he raised his hand to show the class the bell. "Each jōnin will hold three bells."
For the brighter bunch of student, they quickly realized the dilemma with the proposed situation. "But if that's the case then only twelve of us will graduate..." one confused soul questioned.
"Only the best and the brightest get to graduate. It's just that simple. Use everything at your disposal as these will be your opponents." Three jōnin spontaneously emerged on the platform in which Shino stood; one of particular noteworthy was the retired Kurenai Yuhi. "For those of you don't know Kurenai was my former sensei. She's also one of the village's most prominent genjutsu users."
Kurenai quickly responded to Shino's praise. "Now now, Shino. My best years as a kunoichi are long behind me but my best years as a mother have yet to come." Kurenai humbly admitted. The only reason she's even participating in this exercise is because Shino asked her. "Nonetheless, even though I'm not at my best, it should be nothing more than an light workout to take on these kids."
Different expressions and reactions came the thirty two students who were allowed to take the practical exam. Some were scarred, others were nervous.
"Four jōnin...there's no way we'll pass" one commented in disbelief.
"Speak for yourself, I'm going for the retired lady. I heard she hasn't seen combat in years." another responded
Asuna overheard her peers discussing the situation. "Those idiots..." Her blue eyes turned pink as she gazed up at Kurenai. She had heard rumors about retired jōnin; her skills in genjutsu were superior to any of the Kurama Clan over decade ago. Even if she was a little rusty, she's definitely not one to underestimate.
Minutes before the exam a group of girls surrounded Asuna; funny how the quick the weak flock to the strong.
"So Asuna what's your plan?" one of the courageously asked.
"Yeah, I don't think any of us can handle a jōnin by ourselves. But with you taking lead maybe you can help us secure a few."
"But who will get the remaining bells?" Arguments between the girls quickly broke out afterwards. "Who ever she likes the most obviously!!!"
Asuna stood silently, her expression, blank. They weren't wrong, the odds of her securing a bell were significantly higher if she had a team on her side. "Two teammates..." she thought, gazing around the training field as she looked for two potential teammates undiscriminately. She quickly noticed her brother. "Fuck him..." she mumbled, unaware that she set that out loud.
"What???" the group of girls questioned, puzzled by Asuna's statement.
Snapping back into reality, Asuna quickly put on the mask of the popular girl. "Ok ladies, we can figure out who gets what bells later. Let's just stay together." While in the eyes of group this was Asuna acknowledging them as useful. But in reality, Asuna was simply planning on using them to create an opening and seize a bell for herself. "Let's do it!"
Minegumo shifted in his seat; staring intently at the gathered Jōnin. So this was the graduation test; taking out a group of experienced senior Ninja? He bit his lip, then found himself blinking and in confusion as the room seemed to dissolve in chaos. In a matter of moment, his peers were running around the room attempted to form teams even as they shouted their plans out. One boy in particular blurted out a plan to take on Kurenai head on. Mingumo's heart went out to him:that boy was never going to be a Ninja.
From their the class slowly seemed to come together in teams. Well, half the class came together in a sense. The girls in the class quickly flocked around to Asuna; crowding her with begs to be on her time no doubt. There was a second where, after Minegumo looked away, he swore that Asuna had looked at him, but when he looked back, she was talking her regular group of admirers.
As his classmates continued to form hastily put together teams, Minegumo could only keep watching. He really didn't know what to do; Minegumo wasn't particularly close to any of his classmates and the last thing he wanted to was force himself on a team. But he also didn't want to fail; he couldn't, no when he'd finally gotten to graduation day. Which meant that for once, he needed to take the dominant stance and form a team of his own. But who to choose?
His gaze swept over the room and rested over the girls flocked around his sister; there were the usual civilian-born kids, but he could also spot some for the more prominent Ninja Clans in Konoha. Then gaze swept to the boys in his class; again civilian-born, but with kids from the other Ninja Clans. He knew the capabilities of the Clan kids in his class of course, but the civilian kids were unknown.
No. That wasn't true. There were a couple kids that had skills that Minegumo could work with. One in particular had caught Minegumo's eyes, if only because of how often the boy was picked on.
The class seemed to freeze when Minegumo shouted, but sure enough, the boy in question appeared; confusion written all over his face. Average height, with green eyes Kinomoto Hirumaru was widely known as the biggest fanboy of the Lord Seventh; to the point of dying his hair blonde and drawing whisker marks on his face with a marker. But for all his ridiculousness, the boy was far from stupid. He was among the top five in the class after Minegumo and Asuna, and had even taught himself Fūinjutsu as part of a failed effort to impress Lord Seventh.
Standing up, aware of all of the eyes once again on him, Minegumo made his way to the front of the class, resting a hand on the other boys shoulder. "Would you like to be on a team with me?" He asked, forcing his voice to stay steady. With direct contact, Minegumo instantly felt the rush of emotions that Hiru was feeling. Ignoring that, he subtly applying a Genjutsu to persuade the boy to agree. And agree Hiru did; following behind Minegumo to the back of the class so they could talk out a plan.
"But what are we going to do about a third person?" Hiru asked once Minegumo finished explaining his plan to him. "Don't we need a third?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," was Minegumo's answer. And he was desperately hoping that bridge wouldn't need to be crossed. "For now, let's just choose which teacher we're going after and get going."
Startled, never have the jonin seen the kids group together so quickly. It was impressive. But whether they'd stick to that strategy once the going gets tough remained to be seen.
"Alright, once that alarm sounds you're free to enter and try to secure one these bells. Good Luck and remember, give it everything you have because we won't hold back." Shino smiled, startling the class as he never show any emotion. Then all of the jonin scattered.
As the clock ran down, the girls flocked behind Asuna. Play times over. The whole little act she'd been developing over the past two years was worthless now. She was becoming a kunoichi. And there was no one or thing that'd prevent her from achieving that. Her pink eyes never shined brighter than today.
Student rushed in a varying speeds. Asuna's group, consisting of fourteen girls including her, rushed to the front with Asuna leading the pack.
"So who are we going first?" one of the girls questioned, as they leaped from tree to tree several feet above the ground.
But Asuna paid her no mind. A general needn't alert her troops as to what her attentions are, all they must do is follow. Using powers, Asuna surveyed the area for chakra signatures. Combing a radius of two hundred feet, Asuna stopped as she noticed the signature of one of the two shinobi she would've preferred to avoid. "Kurenai..." she thought, standing on a branch with her right hand along the stem of the tree.
A chain of whispers made it's way to Asuna. "Why'd we stop?" "Did you see an jonin?" "Which one is it?"
Her expression didn't change but Asuna realized that she needed to ground her troops. Asuna, for the first and only time, changed her attention to the girls behind her. Without turning around she spoke. "Ladies, can I ask you something..?"
Puzzled by her sudden interest in them, the girls nodded in response.
"Who leads this pack?" Asuna questioned, waiting for the girls to give her the only correct response.
The grouped looked amongst each other each other confused. Obviously Asuna was leading them. But what was the point of them answering. While many wondered why Asuna had even asked such a trivial question, one adequately responded. "You, Asuna?"
Yet to turn, Asuna posed another question. "And why did you follow me into battle, when you had the choice to work with anyone you want..?"
Reality started to sink in for these young girl. The Witch had returned. While the idea of abandoning Asuna was indeed a tempting, they knew their best chance of victory lied with her. With a defeated attitude the same girl responded. "Because you're the best?"
Asuna turned her head so that she could see the girls out of the corner of her left eye. "Exactly...So why don't you focus on how to best not hold me back instead questioning every one of my moves."
Kurenai, wanting to get right into the action, expected the group of girls to come right to her. But alas, it seems they have a sensor on their team. "Seems they've noticed me. I had hoped at least a few of them would have approached me head on but I guess I'll just have to take them all out." Forming the tiger handseal, Kurenai smirked as she caste her technique. "Oh well..."
As Asuna focused her attention back to Kurenai, she noticed an odd sensation emerge; feathers suddenly emerged out of thin air. "Am I getting..." On instinct, Asuna focused on her chakra and then disrupted. "An A-rank technique right from the start, she isn't playing around." The sheer distance the technique covered was sure to effect anyone even remotely close to Asuna and her party. Drawing a kunai from her pouch, Asuna swung it around before gripping it with her left hand. "Alright, on my command sur-"
THUMP THUMP THUMP
Asuna sighed in disbelief. "Fucking useless..." Without even looking back she knew her troops had fallen prey to their teachers attack. Whatever. If they didn't even expect a genjutsu coming from a genjutsu specialist what good would they have been; at best a mediocre distraction. All the same Asuna reached out, "Anyone not knocked out..."
Minegumo was in hell; plain and simple. The moment the test had began, Minegumo had all but yanked Hiru to him and hightailed away from the Academy. From there, Minegumo had expected things to be somewhat simple: they'd find another group or student who hadn't paired up, and they'd help take down one of the Jōnin together. All three would go on to get bells, and all three would get to graduate. It was a nice simple plan.
Until it wasn't.
From the start, Minegumo had allowed his sensing ability to run actively. With it on, he was able to keep track of his peers and the Jōnin, and would know when one of the groups came together. And so, he was able to sense it when his peers began to fall. But that wasn't the worst part of it. No the worst part was the boy who Minegumo had decided to team up with. Hiru was a true Naruto fanboy; though even fanboying was putting it lightly.
"Did you know that Lord Naruto was an orphan? His parents died sacrificing themselves for him."
Minegumo sighed. "You don't say."
Hiru nodded either oblivious or ignoring Minegumo's expression. "I don't blame them. I'd sacrifice myself for Naruto too, but he'd never let me. Can you imagine dying for Naruto?"
Oh Gods, he couldn't take this.
"Hiru," Minegumo spoke up before the other boy could go on another one of his Naruto praises. "I forgot to ask earlier, but you taught yourself Fūinjutsu right? How much do you know?"
Hiru brightened. "Oh I know a lot! I can seal and unseal things," Minegumo nodded; he could the same, but he allowed the other boy to continue. "And I can freeze people! I even know the formula for explosive tags too!"
Minegumo again nodded. "Right. What else?" When Hiru didn't say anything, he found himself frowning. "That's all you know? Seriously?"
"Fūinjutsu is hard!" Hiru retorted, face red with what Minegumo knew was embarrassment. "This stuff takes a while to learn and you have to memorize it, and then there's Chakra cost too! And it isn't like there's a bunch of sealsmasters that I can turn to teach me. I had to beg Iruka Umino to teach me the basics, and that was all he knew!"
Minegumo groaned. "Right. I'm sorry. It's okay." He took a deep breath. "You said you can freeze people? We can work with that."
But it wasn't to be. At that exact moment, he found himself freezing in his tracks as he caught sight of Her: Kurenai Yūhi. She stood alone in a clearing just a few yards away, facing away from Minegumo but he doubted that she hadn't already taken notice of him. Jōnin were hard to creep on: Sooun was a good example of that. And she wasn't as alone as Minegumo had believed either. Not too far away, Minegumo could sense the familiar chakra of Asuna, followed by that of her admirers.
Minegumo watched in confusion Kurenai put her hands together in a seal; Chakra being released in a sharp wave that set of Minegumo's radar like nothing he'd ever felt. He watched in awe as feathers seemed to rain from the sky; easily covering the entire clearing. It took Minegumo only a moment to understand what was happening.
"She's using a Genjutsu," Minegumo whirled to face Hiru, speaking quickly. "Mold your chakra and disrupt it, fast!"
Even as he spoke, Minegumo was already following his own instructions; bringing his hands together and quickly disrupting the technique before the feathers could reach him. Behind him there was a small, sudden, flash of chakra and he allowed himself to breathe out; Hiru had listened to him.
Right. They needed to retreat: Minegumo wasn't ready to take on Kurenai; not when she was throwing around A-rank Genjutsu like it was nothing.
"Hiru," Minegumo spoke softly. "We need to go. Now."
"It's a little too late for that, don't you think?" Minegumo snapped to attention. Looking up, he felt horror dawn on him as he found Kurenai looking directly at him. "I guess the rumors about you and your sister over there are true then."
As Kurenai stood menacingly in the center of the open field, basically daring anyone to come and face her, Asuna assessed the situation. She quickly took note of her brother and his ally; of course they were here. Minegumo always trying to take her spotlight. Two options became glaringly obvious to the Witch. First, she could try and awaken at least two of her unconscious troops to enable a trickle down effect to revert her flock back to full strength. Second, she could cut her losses and try to team up with bubblegum and fanboy. Evidently neither of them were an option Asuna would entertain.
Helping her squad would require Asuna to leave herself open to attack from her teacher; an option Asuna wanted to avoid at all costs. Joining her brother was the best of the two but like she'd ask him for help. He wasn't as useless as those knocked out on the floor but he'd surely find a way to a nuisance.
Thus, that left Asuna with her third option. "Fine, I'll do it myself." Asuna was more than aware she couldn't take down a jonin at her current skill level, especially one so skilled in genjutsu. But that wasn't the objective. Secure the bell. That's all there is to it.
Leaping diagonally, Asuna gracefully maneuvered out of any potential visual angle Kurenai could have seen her from by using the massive trunk of the tree. And like a magic trick, the moment Asuna disappeared, four more suddenly emerged; each coming from a different angle.
The first pierced the skies, knocking leaves off branches as she did. With no wasted movements, she threw three kunai at the retired jonin at considerable speed; though not at her max strength.
The second danced along the outskirts of the open field, remaining in Kurenai's sight but continuously moving left. Her movements were not swift as the sound of her heavy feet stepping on leaves and branches echoed.
The third mirrored the second's actions. Running along the outer layer of the field, they both withdrew three shuriken in each hand, totaling twelve shuriken. Stopping their movements unison, they launched the shuriken at Kurenai, covering all east and west escape alternatives. (Including northeast, southwest and all things similar.)
The fourth Asuna approached Kurenai head on. Her speed was considerably slow given the opponent she was facing. Yet despite this, she progressed onward, slowly closing the gap between them.
Kurenai snickered in response. "Tangible clones. Impressive...I guess, but there's no way you'd think a lackluster attack like this would be enough to get one of these bells." Kurenai was disappointed in Asuna. She had heard she showed great promise. Before any of the assaults directed her made it even half way, Kurenai began to raise her hand in order to weave some hand signs. But...
In that very instance, the moment right before she was going to weave her first handsign, something miraculous happened. The attacks, that were approaching at trivial speeds, were suddenly within a meter of her. The kunai coming from above were slightly arched upwards as to prevented her from leaping backwards or upwards. The shuriken blocked any escape east or west. And the Asuna approaching blocked the front. A perfect ambush.
"What?!" A shocked expression emerged on Kurenai's face. This wasn't the skill of a genin or even a chūnin. The rate in which these attacks suddenly picked up, it damn near instantaneous; easily jōnin level. Kurenai refused to believe it. But as two of her three opponents were Kurama Clan member, she has been constantly fluctuating her chakra flow preventing her from being captured in weak genjutsu. "Am I...this rusty..." With her arms already in front of her torso, she lowered her head and buckled her knees in order to take on the attack. "Damn kid."
But just as quickly as the attacks appeared, they miraculously disappeared. Emerging from thin air thanks to the handy technique she learned from her brother, Asuna blitz Kurenai by focusing her chakra into her feet and kicking off; causing the floor to shatter beneath her. Reaching out her hand, Asuna attempted to steal one of the bells dancing along Kurenai's waist. "Behold, the Glitch Technique..." Asuna thought, pleased that her assault had worked like a charm.
Despite assuming a defensive stance, Kurenai didn't flinch; she watched closely as Asuna's attacks warped away. "Interesting..." Kurenai studied, wondering how Asuna achieved this effect. "So they weren't tangible. But I heard their footsteps, the sound of that one clone piercing through the leaves, the sound the weapons cutting through..." Then she realized it. She didn't hear the kunai and shuriken cutting through the wind nor did she hear the Asuna in front of her making any sounds. "So she knows the Phantom Projection Technique. Now I'm actually impressed."
Asuna's ambush was an impressive one, but it wasn't perfect. Unfortunately, Asuna couldn't cover as much distance as she had hoped before Kurenai weaved a handsign. A while she rushed her teacher like a bullet from a gun, her speed was no where near as impressive as those of her illusions.
Kurenai quickly pivoted her feet as to remove the bells from the linear trajectory Asuna was on. All the while she quickly formed the ram seal in and then submerged into the ground. "Nice try..." she teased, before completely submerging.
Airborne, Asuna followed her trajectory to the opposing end of open area where she used a tree to stop her from going further. "Dammit, I almost had her." She thought, dashing up the tree to retreat temporarily.
Minegumo never thought he would say this, but thank the Gods for Asuna. The moment that Asuna had rushed Kurenai, Minegumo was quick to make his escape. Grabbing ahold of Hiru, he quickly dashed away from the area; desperately throwing his senses out, but it was to no avail. The rest of his peers were either knocked out, or locked in combat against the other assembled Jōnin. Frustrated and not seeing any other option, he pulled Hiru with him into a patch of tallgrass. Then, after thinking about it, Minegumo brought his hands together and quickly put a shroud over he and Hiru.
"What are we supposed to do now?" Hiru asked. He looked at the hand still clutching his, and Minegumo was quick to yank his hand back. "She's not going to come looking for us, is she?!"
"Don't talk so loud!" Minegumo whispered in answer. He racked his brain; trying to find some solution to this dilemma they'd found themselves in. Obviously he didn't want to fight Kurenai; he didn't want to actually fight against any of the assembled Jōnin, but Kurenai was especially someone he was wanting to avoid. She was a legendary Genjutsu user, even by the standards of his clan.
"Kurenai's no slouch, even now," Minegumo thought aloud. "But that's an Elite Jōnin for you."
"You got that right kid," Kurenai's voice came from directly above him, and Minegumo looked to see her hanging upside down from a tree branch. Minegumo's eyes widened: he'd never even sensed her. "Nice to know there's still some hope for this generation of boys."
Minegumo scrambled to his feet; dropping the cloaking technique in his surprise. Fine then; he was getting tired of hiding anyway. Wasting no time, Minegumo reached into his weapons pouch and pulled out half a dozen kunai. Palming them, he subtly applied chakra to the knives, before launching them at full force toward Kurenai, where they raced through the air in a visible streak of power. But Minegumo was still moving. He followed up with a pair of small Shuriken: applying the same technique his sister did to make them grow he quickly launched those too, though not before stealthily doing the same to a pair of shuriken hidden directly beneath them. He then pulled out another pair of kunai and turned to face Hiru.
"Stay back," he ordered. "Get that seal to freeze ready,"
And then he took off; kunai gripped tightly in each hand as he launched himself at Kurenai. Minegumo wasn't dumb: he knew he wouldn't be able to take down a Jōnin, not by himself and not with his current help, but if he could distract her; get her to lose focus...Well, if everything went well, he'd have two bells and will have passed the test Genin test.
For her part, Kurenai raised her brow at the weapons being launched at her; these Kurama certainly didn't mess around did they? With a smile, she severed her connection with the tree branch and allowed herself to drop; avoiding the hail of weapons even as Minegumo spun in the air and dropped down to meet her. Spinning his kunai in his hands, he once again launched himself at Kurenai and it was an all out assault from there. With his right hand, he aimed high; pointing slashing diagonally, before following up with an underhanded attack.
"Well aren't you quite the fighter?" Kurenai asked. When Minegumo only responded with a job at her head, she simply tilted and spun on her feet; snapping out with a kick toward Minegumo's face. With no other option, he brought his arms over his face in an "X" formation; absorbing the brunt of the attack even as he was knocked off his feet. "I'm curious about where you learned to fight. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you used those kunai like they were swords."
Minegumo groaned; shaking his arms as he forced himself to ignore the pain in them. Without even removing the bandages, he knew there would be a bruise underneath them later. Standing up, attempted to bring his hands together for a seal, but found himself unable to move as vines suddenly appeared; wrapping around his arms and legs as the forest was replaced with familiar bean pods.
"What's going on?" Minegumo looked to his side, and to his lock of surprise, he found Hiru ensnared in the illusion; flailing about. Well then.
Minegumo grit his teeth, attempting to move even as vines continued to ensnare his his body. Blocking out Hiru's cries, he attempted to make sense of what was happening. This was obviously Genjutsu; Minegumo recognized it as such only because it was one of his Clan's Hiden. But how did Kurenai learn it? And when had it been cast? He attempted to calm down and fight through the technique, but the vines suddenly wrapped around his throat and he felt his air channel get cut off.
Taking a deep breath and holding it as the vines tightened around his throat, Minegumo bit down hard on his tongue; using the self-inflicted pain to ground him as he struggled to free his arms from the vines holding them. When that failed, he did the next best thing and curled his body in; pressing his arms together as the vines wrapped around them. With no time to waste, he jerkily brought his hands together in a seal as he forced a pulse of Chakra out of him. At that moment, Minegumo collapsed into a flurry of flower petals that fluttered free from the vines and came together in a whirlwind that instantly overcame the illusion. A moment later and the storm of flower petals pulsed, and Minegumo found himself back on the ground, free with Hiru at his side. He swayed lightly; that technique had cost him a third of his Chakra stores, and that was after he'd used the Cloaking Technique and Acceleration.
"How did you do that?" He asked, awe in his voice. "That was insane!"
"Genjutsu reversal," Minegumo mumbled. He looked up, seeing Kurenai entrapped in the vines in his place as per the reflection technique, but the picture was wrong. Kurenai looked calm; far too calm for someone who'd just been trapped. Looking into her ruby-red eyes, Minegumo felt a chill go down his spine as he failed to read her mind.
"Let's go." Gritting his teeth, he once more grabbed hold Hiru. "Come on, we need to go. Now."
Hiru looked at Minegumo incredulously. "Are you kidding? She's right there, let's just grab the bells now. Naruto wouldn't run away!"
And that was enough.
"Will you shut up about Naruto and use your brain for once?!" Minegumo found himself snapping. "She was going easy on us! She let me reverse that illusion on her! I don't know why, but she did and I'm not gonna stick around to see what kind of obvious trap she has set up for us, not let's go! We need to leave now and come up with an actual strategy before she stops playing around!" Then, before Hiru could argue again, Minegumo once again placed the same suggestive genjutsu from before on the boy. "Let's go, Hiru. We need help."
They needed a lot of help. Minegumo couldn't go up against Kurenai on his own: for all that he was praised as a prodigy, even he knew he wasn't ready to take Kurenai on. They needed an actual team, and there was only one person that Minegumo knew was skilled enough to help him take on an Elite Jōnin
"We need to find my sister."
"That bitch...she really just left me to go fight flavorless bubblegum." Asuna mumbled to herself, though in all honestly, she could use a quick breather to compose herself and come out with a new plan. The projection technique was definitely the optimal move considering the little chakra it required and the effect it had on opponents. But it's doubtful it'd be as effective a second time. "Well if that's the case I guess I'll have to fuck that bitch up."
First thing first though, with her brother occupying Kurenai for the time being, now was the perfect time to revive a few of her fallen minions. Rushing to the scene of the crime, Asuna noticed a sudden spike of chakra coming from grassland less than half a mile away. "Looks like she found them." Asuna snickered, before resuming her brief journey. Upon reaching the sleeping girls, she noticed two signatures approaching her direction rapidly. "Those idiots..."
Once again, leaving the girls behind, Asuna dashed back to the old field. "Get the fuck away from me bubblegum." Asuna communicated to her brother using a particular technique.
"What do we need your sister for?" Hiru questioned. "We could totally take her on our own."
Was he being serious? Minegumo grit his teeth, ignoring Hiru as he tracked down his sisters chakra signature. How had it come to this? He hadn't wanted to take on Kurenai to begin with, and now the senior Kunoichi was apparently tracking him down and he had no help at fighting her off. Well, he had Hiru, but Minegumo wasn't sure if the other boy really counted at all considering how unhelpful he'd been throughout all of this.
Suddenly, he felt the a tingle go through him and a moment later, his sister appeared before him. It wasn't really her of course: she was see through and untouched by the breeze that flowed through the clearing. "Genjutsu Communication?" Minegumo questioned aloud. He supposed he shouldn't be too surprised. Sooun had taught Minegumo the technique as part of his more advanced genjutsu studies: there was no reason to believe that he wouldn't teach Asuna the same.
And then she spoke, and Minegumo felt his eye twitch with irritation. Bubblegum? Bubblegum?! Minegumo sighed, frustration welling through him, before he formed himself to calm down.
"Well hello to you too." Minegumo said pleasantly. Then he sighed again, running a finger through his hair; frowning as he realized his bun had come undone. Yet another thing gone wrong. "We need your help, Asuna."
"Speak for yourself!" Hiru spoke up and Minegumo once again felt something in him snap.
"How many times do I have to tell you to shut up?! With a snarl, he whirled around; summoning his Kekkei Genkai and hitting Hiru with the full force of his suggestion genjutsu. "Do not do anything but breathe and blink until I tell you!"
Taking a deep breath, Minegumo coughed lightly into his hand, returning his attention back to Asuna. "Right. Anyway...I'm pretty sure that Kurenai is hunting us."
And as he said it aloud, Minegumo became sure of it. "Neither of us are at a level where we can take on a former Elite Jōnin, but I'm pretty sure that if we work together...and maybe use Hiru's Seals, we can do this."
"I know you don't like me, but you and I are the best in our year," Minegumo continued. "And its us that she wants. You're my best chance at passing this test, and I know deep down that you know I'm yours. The others are just going to drag us down."
And as much as he hated speaking like Asuna, Minegumo knew it was true. He and Asuna stood the best chance together than they did apart; he hadn't been boasting or exaggerating when he'd said they were the best of their year. It was a cold fact, something he knew would appeal to Asuna's more logical and analytic side.
Asuna continued to move away from the duo of nuisances who trailed behind. "Can't handle an elite jōnin. Watch me.." she thought. Easier said than done though. Before even turning around to face Kurenai, she recalled tales of her opponent's abilities; how she took down her entire clan in one fell swoop. She knew better. Continuing to hear her brother out, it was clear he did know how to please her.
"Well well Bubblegum, looks like you can manipulate people. Can't say I'm surprised though, I've clearly have had some influence over you." Asuna used her hands to quickly wrap herself around a tree to head back in the direction of her new minions. "I don't know what you expect the fanboy to do, but just make sure you guys don't hold me back like those imbeciles from earlier."
As the gap between Asuna and thing one and two shrank, Asuna could sense Kurenai was also on their trail. Before long, Minegumo and Hiru were in eye distance. But rather than slowing down to regroup and formulate a strategy, Asuna pressed onwards; passing by the two who were trying their hardest to get to her. There was no need to for them to talk, Asuna had said everything she needed to. If Minegumo is as good as he thinks he is, then there shouldn't be a need to strategize. It's just that simple.
Asuna quickly withdrew two kunai as she moved in the direction of her opponent. Just outta eye sight, Asuna launched two kunai in Kurenai's path. "Show time."
Kurenai danced through the training grounds like a seasoned veteran. "Looks like I'm getting my legs back..." she noted, as two kunai came flying towards her. Noticing that the three genin had crossed paths, she wondered if they finally decided to team up. "There's no way they formed a plan that quickly..." she thought, as she withdrew her own kunai to deflect. This time she watched the kunai with indescribable focus; no chance Asuna would deceive her again. With no projections interfering, she quickly reverted both of them from their target. "All this running and kunai games is getting boring." she exclaimed, her voice echoing allowing even Minegumo and his tag along to hear her.
"Let's make this interesting then.." The young witch responded, finishing a handsign before rushing towards her Kurenai who had just landed on the ground.
"Taijutsu?" Kurenai wondered, unaware if the girl was any good at it. She recalled Asuna's little stunt from earlier, blitzing at her like a bullet, but she wasn't sure if Asuna really had any skill at it. "Let's dance then." she playfully teased, preparing for Asuna's attack while maintaining her awareness of the rest of the battlefield; in case Minegumo and Hiru had any funny ideas.
Once within striking distance, the dance began. Asuna kicked off the ground to meet Kurenai at eye level. "Detail..." she thought, as she tilted her body horizontally to gather sufficient momentum to land enhance her side kick directed at Kurenai's jaw. As Kurenai prepared to intercept, something odd occurred. Asuna wore an illusion of herself directly on top of her, like a suit of armor. As her kick continued to its predetermined trajectory, a her first suddenly appeared, closing in on Kurenai's gut. "CHAAA!" she exclaimed, her fist infused with chakra in order to amplify the damage.
Kurenai was impressed by the technique's versatility, no, Asuna usage over it, it was considerably more effective close-range than in long range. But, the gap in skill was too great to cover with shaky illusions. Kurenai adjusted her defenses by quickly moving her hands to the exact location Asuna was going to punch and infused chakra into her palms to prevent any true damage. With more chakra focused blocking the attack, Kurenai was pushed back several feet as her legs could lacked their own usual supply. "Is that the best you got kid."
Well, that had happened. Minegumo's eyes trailed after Asuna as she dashed by; she hadn't stopped to say a single word, but, then again, she didn't really need to. It was strange; he couldn't read her thoughts or emotions like he could most others, but Minegumo was pretty sure he had a good idea of what Asuna had planned.
Right then; time to get into action. He quickly pulled his shinai out of its case; along with his remaining shuriken. He then turned to Hiru, snapping his fingers. "Give me all of your explosive tags."
When Hiru did as he commanded, Minegumo was quick to snatch them up and send out a small pulse of chakra to make them shrink down. From there, it was a simple matter of of applying them to his things; wrapping them along the handles of his kunai, sticking them to the blade of his shuriken. He even placed one on his shinai, though he hoped that it wouldn't come to the point that he needed to use that. Then, after thinking about it, he reapplied the cloak onto Hiru.
"Asuna's fighting Kurenai right now," Minegumo thought aloud. "So we need to help finish her off."
With that, Minegumo took off; mentally commanding Hiru to follow right behind him. It took less than a minute for him to reach Asuna and Kurenai, and he watched their battle; waiting for the right moment to strike. And he didn't have to wait long. As soon as Asuna punched out a Kurenai, Minegumo struck. Weaving through handseals, Minegumo quickly hit Kurenai with a layered illusion. And as the illusion took action, he took out his Shuriken and wirestring and began moving.
"Well, well, well," Kurenai commented as she was taken hold of the familiar genjutsu. "So the Witch and the Dark Magician finally teamed up? It's about time."
That was all she could say as vines suddenly wrapped tightly around her throat; giving her the feeling of being choked. Well that wasn't very nice. Closing her eyes, Kurenai bit the inside of her cheek; using the pain to help ground her as she disrupted her flow of Chakra. She then snapped them open; seemingly exploding into a shower of flower petals as she countered and broke through the illusion.
Or believed that she'd countered it. To Kurenai's surprise; she found herself still in the same predicament as last time; only this time, she could feel that she was actually hurt as she saw blotches appear on her body. Had the kid activated his Kekkei Genkai? Kurenai didn't know, but she once again found herself closing her eyes and she reigned in her chakra. At that same instant, she released it in a pulse throughout her entire body.
When she opened her eyes again, she saw that she was in a trapped in a web of wirestring, with Minegumo standing directly before as he held two kunai in an "X" on either side of her.
"Do you really think this will be enough to trap me, kid?" Kurenai asked, raising a brow.
To her surprise, he quirked a smile in response and Kurenai watched as the air behind him rippled as his partner from earlier appeared; eyes glossy. At that same instant, a seal array appeared directly underneath Kurenai and she felt her body truly become immobilize as the Minegumo before her faded away.
"I don't know, Kurenai." Kurenai looked up to see the real Minegumo hanging from a tree directly above her with a small bundle of wire in his hands. "I think this will hold you just fine."
He cocked his head, looking to his sister. "What do you think, Asuna?"
Asuna's face remained blank as she watched her brother take on the jōnin. She had subtly casted a rather useful illusion of her own preceding Gummybear's assault, but it really had no effect on the battle. This troubled her somewhat. She was the opening to Minegumo's finale; the prelude to Minegumo's epilogue; the opening scene to the dramatic conclusion. She quietly sucked her teeth in disgust.
As Minegumo's gaze locked onto her, she made sure to not look his way. Withdrawing one of her kunai, she precisely launched it at Kurenai's waist effectively releasing the three bells from their captivity. As the bounced onto the ground, Asuna did not hesitate to grab one of them. She did not turn back to respond to her brother nor talk to the jonin they took down. She simply kicked off and returned to the entrance of the exam.
"Not one for small talk, is she?" Kurenai asked as Asuna bounded away.
Minegumo scowled, then sighed. It was true, but Kurenai shouldn't have actually said it. Clicking his tongue, he retrieved the remaining pair of bells. Releasing the illusion placed on him, Minegumo gave Hiru one of the bells as the other boy blinked and looked around with bemusement. The last bell, Minegumo wrapped around a piece of thread and put around his neck as a necklace. Taking out his last remaining kunai, he gave Kurenai a wary look.
"You're not going to try and take the bells back from us, are you?" Minegumo asked.
"You got those bells fair and square," was her response. "They're yours for the taking."
Minegumo breathed out; allowing himself to relax. He then nodded, and proceeding to cut the wires connected to his fingers; undoing the cage that Kurenai had been trapped in. A moment later and the seal array beneath her vanished too, as Hiru realized their test was more or less completed.
"You did good, kid," Kurenai said after a moment, rubbing her arms. "The Wire Strings, combined mixed with the layered genjutsu was a good plan. You're not as deceptive or tactical as your sister, but you're definitely creative and quick-thinking. If the two of you had been around back when I went up against your clan, I'd have loved to have had you two as apprentices. The Gods know I was the only Jōnin without a genius or prodigy to work with."
Mingeumo beamed at the praise; allowing himself to stand taller. While Sooun always told him that he rivalled Asuna and the teachers called him bright, this was the first time that someone had outright called him a prodigy like Asuna. Nodding again, he turned on his heel; head held high and smile bright as he made his way back to the exam entrance.
Sweet and Sour
Upon hearing both his kids not only passed the exam but passed with exemplary scores, Sooun decided to host a family dinner with both wives and both children to celebrate the occasion.
"But father, I'm not hungry." Asuna proclaimed, though anyone could tell she was just trying to avoid dinner. She passed the exam with stellar scores sure, but did she didn't pass her way. Not only did she have to team-up with the nitwit Gumbo and his little henchman, but she wasn't even the star of the show.
"Come on now Su." Sooun responded, adopting a new nickname for his now genin daughter. "The Kurama Clan hasn't had this much success in a long time. I should've invited all the families to celebrate but I decided to keep it in house so you and your mother could have some semblance of a good time."
Asuna could tell he was being mendacious; he definitely did invite everyone else but none of the side branches would want to eat here, with the psychotic daughter, lunatic mother along with his baby mama and their child. "I'm actually not feeling well. That exam took a lot out of me."
Sooun noticed that Asuna was without a single bruise on her body; why she lied about something so obviously untrue he didn't know. "How about this, if you come to dinner then I'll teach you a new technique?"
"Bribery isn't going to work father." Asuna responded, turning away as to end this conversation.
"You're not much of a negotiator." Sooun snickered. "Could've gotten something from this dinner but now you'll leave empty handed. Guess this'll be your first lesson as a genin; know how to make the most out of any situation."
She quickly turned around to speak her terms but her father had already vanished. Leaving a little note where he once stood."See you at 7:00 and make sure to wear something nice."
"Congratulation, Minegumo! I knew you could do it!"
Minegumo smiled brightly as Mika enveloped him a hug that lifted him off his feet. Never one to shy away from affection, he happily returned the embrace. He was happy, happier than he could ever remember being. He was a Genin now; a true Ninja, with all of the privileges that came with the new rank.
"Was there ever any doubt?" Sooun's voice came from behind them, and Minegumo ended the embrace to face his father. He pulled Minegumo into a hug of his own, messing with his hair. "Good job, Min."
"Now," Sooun ended the hug and clapped his hands together. "Since both Asuna and Minegumo passed with flying colors, I've decided to host a dinner to celebrate! Me, the kids, and Yuno. I'd love for you to come too, Mika."
Mika shited in place, biting her lip and furrowing her brow in a way that made it all too clear where Minegumo got the habit from.
"...Thank you for the invitation, Sooun," Mika began. "But I'm not sure a dinner with all five of us at a single table would be a good idea."
Mika could already see all the ways that dinner could go wrong; from a fight between her son and his sister, to she and Yuno getting into it. Though she hadn't seen much of the other woman since she came to live in the Kurama Compound, Mika would be lying if she said she was excited to actually sit and eat dinner with the woman face to face. As much as she hated herself for it, Mika couldn't help but feel somewhat envious of Yuno. The woman lived a life of luxury, with a gifted daughter and a husband who seemed to dote on her.
That was the part that well and truly pierced Mika. Even now, after so long, she still carried a flame for Sooun. And every day she hated herself for it. She couldn't get over him: not in the Land of Iron, and most definitely not in Konoha. The man was everywhere: watching over her training sessions with Minegumo, or catching her as she tended to the garden behind the estate. She'd tried so hard to avoid him when they'd first moved in, but like before, he wore her down.
Sooun sighed, grabbing Mika's hands in his. "I want you there, Mika. We're a family: all of us. And I'd like for us all to start spending time together as one."
"Please come, Mama," Minegumo spoke up. "I really want you there."
And he did, desperately so. The thought of having dinner with both of his parents and actually seeing them interact...it was something that Minegumo had been hoping for from the moment he'd arrived in Konoha what seemed like a lifetime ago. Yes, Sooun was married. But did that really matter? He had two kids already; technically speaking, there was no real need for Sooun to stay with his current wife if she was such a ghost. And didn't people always say that true love prevails?
Looking into the eyes of her son and his father, Mika found herself lost for words, before sighing in defeat.
"Alright, alright." She said. "I know when I'm beaten. I'll be there Sooun."
"Perfect!" Sooun clapped his hands. Walking away, he gave Mika and Minegumo two thumbs up and smiled brightly. "Dinner starts at seven! I'll see you both there!"
As Sooun left the room, there was one last stop he needed to make; his joyful expression faded without a trace. Navigating through the compounded, he thought to himself, "Convincing her is going to be hassle."
After about a five minute walk, he made it to his wife's quarters. "Babe, it's me." he spoke softly, opening the door to a room engulfed in darkness.
The last eight years have been anything but easy for Yuno. She's lost her friends, she's lost her glamour, really, she lost her entire life. All because of the parasite Sooun calls their daughter. "What do you want..?" her beautiful voice cracked, after not speaking to anyone for over three months.
Sooun never looked more out of his element. He was tempted to cast genjutsu but then how would he be better than the girl he's trying to teach. "I'm thinking about having a dinner with everyone. I would love for you to come." Usually one for subtle yet manipulative tactics to win people over, his approach with his wife was different. "Asuna and Minegumo made genin today..."
She scuffed at the statement. "What's there to celebrate.." she responded, pausing for a moment before carrying on. "This village praise demons and killers. I'm not surprised she's excelling."
Sooun attempted to walk in but he felt on ominous presence, one that he only felt in the field of battle. "So how did your training go today?" After Asuna unlocked her powers, Yuno went into basic shinobi training, mostly in chakra control, in order to fend off Asuna's invisible strikes. It's been four years since they started.
"Same as yesterday and the day before that..." her monotone pitch carried loads. One word would describe Yuno's attempt to master chakra control: failure. In the past four years she hasn't moved past learning how to mold her chakra. You know what they say, "You either got it or you don't" And she clearly doesn't. "Close the door behind you.
Sooun sighed, "I'll see you tomorrow."
Five minutes before dinner, Sooun was making sure everything was perfect. He wasn't really doing anything, he had chefs and waiters handling most of the heavy lifting but delegating was a tough role. While confident Mika and Minegumo would stay true to their word, he wasn't sure about his daughter. "Five minutes..." he relayed to Asuna, immediately cutting off his transmission afterward. "It smell amazing in here, keep it up." he told the staff, before making his way to the dining hall.
"Mama, come on!" Minegumo's whine could be heard well through the door of Mika's room.
Huffing, Mika ran the brush through her hair a final time, before standing up and fixing her son with a look that was partly annoyed and partly fond. He was active this evening: eyes bright in a way that Mika hadn't seen for a long time. Part of her wondered just what it was that was making him so excited, the rest of her was just happy to see her son so energetic.
"Hold on, Minegumo," Mika replied. "I just need to finish with my hair,"
Looking in the mirror, Mika wondered just what she was doing. Dressing up like she hadn't done for years to have dinner with a man she'd hoped to sever ties with years ago. She'd even allowed to run down and free, something she hadn't done except for her and Sooun's dates years and years ago. She then took in a breath, squaring her shoulders and pushing those thoughts away. This wasn't about her and Sooun; it was about Miengumo and his sister. They'd graduated and were now real Ninja, though Mika still held some reservations about that.
"Hand me the ribbon, Minegumo," Mika ordered lightly as she saw that her son's mop was as messy as always. Pulling out the chair, she motioned for Minegumo to sit down. "Let Mama do your hair."
Once he sat down, Mika immediately got to work; carefully brushing hir hair, before gathering it in her hands and using the ribbon to tie it back. As she did his hair, Mika absentmindedly looked in the mirror once again. Minegumo did not look much like her; he had Sooun's dark hair, smooth and unmarred, as well as his black hair. He did, however, inherit Mika's eyes. Gold and bright, they were the eyes passed down through all members of the Fuyuzaki Family. If nothing else, she was glad she was able to pass that one trait to her son.
"There was go," Mika said with a smile. "All done."
"Finally!" Minegumo lept to his feet from his chair. "Can we go now? I don't want to be late."
Without waiting for his Mother's answer, Minegumo grabbed her hand and all but rushed out the door. It took only a moment for Minegumo to lock on to his Father's chakra signature and he followed it to the special dining hall. As he made his way, he passed by the various branch members of the clan and forced himself to meet their eyes; for once not backing away from their sneers and icy expressions. With the weight of his new headband tied around his neck, he felt proud and strong, like he could take on the world.
In only a couple of minutes, he'd found his way to the dining area. Taking a breath, and feeling his Mother do the same behind him, he fixed another smile on his face as he opened the door.
"We're here, Papa!" Minegumo happily announced.
"Right in the nick of time too!" Sooun greeted the two of them with a warm smile. There was no doubt in his mind that these two would show up; they never disappoint. But even as the two people who wanted to show up were standing right in front of him, he couldn't help but think about the two who weren't here. "But where is Asuna?"
Heavy on her feet, Asuna made her presence known. "No need to get loud, I'm here, I'm here." Unfortunately, Asuna went out of her way to make this situation more troublesome than it had to be. Despite being told to where her best formal attire, she came down in her kunoichi get-up; proudly flaunting the village's emblem on her forehead as to commemorate the the occasion. "Thought since we're celebrating my graduating, I'd where the clothes to match the rank." Asuna knew her Dad wouldn't appreciate her playful act. Best case he'd ask her to leave and not comeback.
Although Asuna was being intentionally defiant, she still managed to show up and that was more than enough for Sooun. In all honestly, he believed that she wouldn't make an appearance; her being here soothed his heart. "No it fine!" he announced, maintaining the warm smile he greeted Mika and Minegumo with. "It's just too bad Minegumo you didn't inform Minegumo to do the same. Both you guys make this family proud." he meant this with all sincerity, however, he knew the mere mentioning of Minegumo would rub Asuna the wrong way; he was willing to play this game.
Asuna quietly sucked her teeth. Her father was being more positive than usual. That's fine, the harder the work the more enjoyable the reward. She strut her head side to side as if she were looking for someone. "But father, I thought this was a family dinner. Where's mother?"
But before Sooun could even process what Asuna was asking, light footsteps echoed in the hallway leading to this room. "As snarky as ever I see." Yuno appeared in the room with essence and look Sooun hadn't seen in years. Her tall frame and slender body were like of a model. Her dazzling blue eyes, like the sea, were calm and emotionless. Long, wavy white hair, so smooth and silky, almost as if it was tailored from silk fabric. But she wasn't perfect. She had pale white skin and a scar on her left arm that stretched almost to her shoulder. However, somehow, her imperfections made her perfect. There was a shyness to her, hesitation in her body movements and a softness in her voice. Sooun knew how to pick'em.
Sooun was speechless for a moment. It wasn't just her being here, nor was it her undeniable beauty, it was the radiance she was releasing. "You look as good as the day I met you..." was the first thing that came too mind, plain but genuine. He rushed over to go give her some love, no more like get some. Out of everyone here, he could honestly say he was happiest to see her.
Asuna yet again sucked her teeth. "Didn't think you'd make it here." she commented, walking to the table as her under-table-duel with her father ended. "Finally decided to come out of your little cave. A little sunlight would do you some good."
"As-" Sooun almost yelled at his daughter until Yuno stopped him.
"I know it's must of been hard on you Suna. Life without the embrace of a mother can leave you dwarfed emotionally. But as I'm slowly regaining my strength from this plague of a disease, I'll make sure to be more active in your life." she spoke so gracefully, so calm.
Not knowing what to say, he once again said the first thing on his mind. "Let's eat!" He rushed over to help his wife with her seat before sitting down ate head of the table.
When Yuno walked into the room, Minegumo wasn't sure what he felt. Or what he was supposed to feel. Surprised was one; Minegumo hadn't seen so much a trace of the woman since the day he'd arrived in Konoha and now here she was. Then came awe; Yuno was truly beautiful and wasn't hard to see just where Asuna got her good looks from. From awe came concern as Minegumo took in how pale Yuno was; how haggard yet relaxed she was. It was like she'd been carrying some massive weight that she'd only just now let go of.
And lastly came dislike. It rose in Minegumo like an avalanche; starting so small, but growing so large that he had no idea what to do with it. As he took his seat, Minegumo realized that he was clenching his hands so tightly that he was going to tear his new outfit. He quickly forced himself to relax before anyone could notice. Taking a deep breath, he steeled his nerves calmed his heart.
"It's nice to finally see you, Miss Yuno," Mingumo spoke up. Looking first to his father, he gave Yuno a small smile that he hoped appeared more sincere than he felt. "I'm Minegumo, and this is my Mama; Mika. I don't think we got the chance to really meet."
"...Right, Minegumo. My Sooun's surprise son," Yuno spoke smoothly as Sooun choked on his drink. For a moment, the table was silent as the one thing that'd never really gotten discussed was breached upon ever so softly. "I do apologize for not being there to greet you and your Mother as I should have. I hope you can forgive me for rudeness."
"No, no!" Mika rushed to placate the other woman. "If anything, we're sorry for not giving better notice than we'd had. It was all pretty abrupt for everyone, I'm sure."
To say that was putting it lightly was an understatement. Sooun had been beyond surprised to have found out that his old flame had given birth to a son, especially a son that had manifested Nenmu. He'd, of course, welcomed to the clan with open arms, but breaking the news to Yuno, especially while she was still being tormented by their daughter, had been hard.
"No less abrupt than what we were already used to," Yuno said, shaking her head. She glanced ever slightly to her daughter, before looking away just as fast. "In fact, from what I hear; young Minegumo here has been quite the breath of fresh air for the Kurama Clan."
Minegumo felt his face warm, and he looked down; feeling pleased from the praise, and then guilty for the rush of dislike he still felt. Yuno was a nice woman, Minegumo decided. But even as he thought this, he wasn't able to muster any affection for his Stepmother.
"Oh yes, he has been," Sooun spoke up, seeing a good time to join the conversation and steer it in a direction that he preferred it. This dinner was about his children and their successful promotion to Genin.
"His teachers have nothing but good things to say about him," He continued. "Not to mention his performance in the Genin exam; passed with the best score they'd gotten since they'd introduced the new system."
"I wasn't able to do it on my own," Minegumo mumbled with embarrassment. Rubbing the back of his neck, he motioned to his sister. "Asuna was the one who'd gotten her ready for me. And even then, it took Hiru's seal to really get her."
Being bested by her mother, even once, is unacceptable. Something's different. Something's off. But unlike her younger self who would've asserted her dominance through violence and a random fit rage, she controlled her temper and surveyed the room meticulously. Firstly she noticed her brother's fluctuating realizations. They were short-lived and happened in quick succession, but she noticed every one. Next was his mother, Mika. Asuna had always considered her a non-factor, but it seems she did have some value. Next was her father; he's vulnerable. It's rare to see him act this way; he's usually a man with everything under control, it was something she honestly admired. But today, right now, he's a little off and she's going to exploit that.
Upon finalizing her assessment of the everyone else, she focused her attention to her mother, Yuno. She was snappy; she's never snappy. Unlike Sooun who's always in control, Yuno is the exact opposite. She's easily manipulated and quick to throw a fit. Her gentle kind nature and positive outlook of the world made it easy for Asuna to crush her soul. But today she is resilient, today she's exerting her influence.
Completely lost in her thoughts Asuna abruptly laughed; unfortunate for her, now she's in the awkward situation of explaining her tittering. "Aren't we the hero today." Asuna locked her attention to her brother first. "But why don't make your mama proud and tell her how you swayed that poor boy Hiru to do your bidding. A real tactician I must say. I guess we are related." she snickered.
Upon sensing her father coming to his defense, Asuna directed her assault to the next target. "So Mika, when exactly did you and father do the deed." she intentionally left it ambiguous but everyone knew what she was referring to. "Honestly though, I have a lot of respect for you. I could never live in the same household as the woman who stole the love of my life. But here you are sitting at the same dinner table, sharing pleasantries like it's all swell."
With anger fueling his actions, Sooun precipitously rose from his seat. As he opened his mouth in order to reprimand his daughter, she saw the opening she needed. "Why so upset father. You told me lying is bad and we shouldn't try to manipulate others and yet everyone at this table is doing it." she began, she took a deep breath and stared intently into his eyes with her pink daggers. "You can justify trying to control me. Hell, I'm a little monster. Everyone knows it. But where do you get off telling me what do when all you do is play god in here."
Sooun was at a lost for words. He thought she had made progress, actual legitimate progress. Nearly two years without an incident. For god's sake, she just graduated top of her class and was popular. But now he can see it. How wrong he's been. How fucked up Asuna is. Chakra began to ooze from his body...
Noticing the spike in her father chakra, she knew what was coming. "This is it..." she thought, preparing herself for her father's illusion, the real test. But so focused on the technique her father was about to do, she didn't notice the attack that already here. SMACK. A red palm mark emerged on her smooth black skin.
"You disgust me..." Yuno announced, retrieving her hand and while standing tall to her daughter. Asuna wasn't going to seize control, she wouldn't let it happen. "You apologize to everyone right now, you ungrateful little bitch or I swear to Kami, I'll make it my solemn duty to make sure you never get to wear that headband again."
Asuna's mind drew a blank...
The staff nearly dropped the food due to the whole spectacle. "Holy shit..." they whispered in unison, retreating to the kitchen until instructed to return.
It would have been an understatement to say that Minegumo was surprised. Though it had gotten off to...tense start, it had been going well. Or, he'd thought it had been. Asuna had been quiet, but his Mother and Miss Yuno were actually talking, and his Father had been complimenting him. So what had gone wrong? Minegumo's mind drew a blank as Asuna fired shot after shot after shot at everyone at the table.
"What is she talking about, Minegumo?" Mika's voice snapped him back to reality. Looking to his mother, he opened his mouth, but found him shutting it closed as speech seemed to elude him.
"It's nothing," He said after a moment, looking away. "It wasn't that bad."
"And what does that mean?" She questioned, a familiar edge to her voice. "What haven't you been telling me, Minegumo?"
"I put a Genjutsu on Hiru!" Minegumo blurted out. "But all I did was tell him to be quiet and listen."
"And that makes it okay?" Mika demanded. "Do you hear yourself?
She looked at Minegumo like she didn't recognize him, and he felt tears come to his eyes. This was the one thing he'd wanted to avoid, the one thing he'd never wanted to happen: have his mother look at him the way that everyone looked at Asuna; as if he were a monster.
She took a deep breath. "Where did you learn this technique from?"
He looked away, looking around the room and could sense the various members of the branch house that'd been serving them. Their emotions all gave out a sensation of graveness and unsurprisedness as if they'd been expecting this. And maybe they'd had: after dealing with his sister for so long, a bitter part of Minegumo thought. No wonder they looked at him like they did: they probably thought he was another Asuna in the making.
"Mika," Sooun attempted to interject. "Maybe we should talk about this later?"
She whirled on him with sharp eyes and for a second, she looked startlingly like the samurai she'd been years ago that Sooun couldn't help but freeze. Then her eyes went wide, and she looked away; shame filling her feature even as a broken laugh escaped her.
"This was a mistake," She said softly. Lifting her head, she squared her shoulders as she faced Sooun again. "I'm leaving."
Sooun furrowed his brow. "I'll walk you to your quarters. Just let me—"
"I'll walk myself," Mika said forcefully. "For now, you have a situation with your wife and daughter to take care of."
She motioned with her arm, to where Yuno had just slapped Asuna across the face. Shaking her head with disgust, she quickly walked to the exit and looked back to her son. "You and I will talk more tomorrow, Minegumo."
And then she was gone, leaving father and soon to watch after her. And just like that, Minegumo felt something within him pull and break.
Still trying to pick up her scrambled thoughts, Asuna found consistency in the disarray. Unknowingly holding her breath due to the undeniable shock, she finally remembered to breathe. Outside of how her mother reacted, as blasphemous and outrageous that was, everything was falling together as she anticipated. She focused on that. She needed to ground herself. Upon hearing Mika's comments about her son, Asuna was read to pull that to gain control. "Don't w-"
"I'm pretty sure sorry or my apologies doesn't begin with D." Yuno confidently spoke, cutting off Asuna with a slap before she could regain control. Yuno has sat quietly, taking the brunt of Asuna terror for years now. She knew Asuna better than anyone, she knew how she thought, what she wanted. Her next move was so obvious it was like reading the next word in a children's book.
"Yuno..." Sooun spoke under his breath, struggling to understand how the dinner divulged into this. Despite coming to realization of Asuna's true nature, he couldn't stand seeing her beat like a dog. "I think she's had..."
Asuna cut off her father who was so far out of the picture at the moment, she didn't even consider him. "Listen here you little..."
"Try again!" Yuno demanded, clearly not backing down. Her hand was throbbing from the slaps but she tried her best to hide it.
Once again Asuna was at a lost for words. The entire power dynamic had shifted. She couldn't understand how her mother managed to muster the courage to do this. Did she not fear her? Were the years of torture not enough to shut her up like the inferior she is. The idea of retaliating physically was so foreign to her, she didn't even consider it.
Before her mother had a chance to even raise her hand again, Asuna left her seat and walked out. She lost this battle and if she continued she'd only suffer greater loss.
Sooun rushed to his wife's side who fell to her knees with her left hand attempting to sooth her right. Tears fell down her face. "It's alright Yuno...It's alright...."
For a moment it was just them two. But he suddenly came to the realization his son was still here. "Why don't you excuse yourself for now Minegumo. We can discuss all of this tomorrow." Sooun stated, before lifting his wife up and carrying her to her quarters. Before leaving, he instructed the staff in an all too serious serious tone. "Clean everything up and get out!"
Minegumo's head was pounding, but he nodded absentmindedly as his father spoke. Then he felt himself frown as he caught up with what Sooun had said. Tomorrow? No, that was too late; there was far too much that'd happened in the last few minutes for things to wait until tomorrow. As he watched Sooun carry Miss Yuno away, he felt another piece of something pull and break as the wave of dislike came upon him once again.
Balling his fists, he stalked out the room; eyes unseeing as anger welled up within him.
This wasn't fair, Minegumo couldn't help but think. This wasn't how the night was supposed to go. They were supposed to sit down like a family; he, his mother, and his father, with Asuna and Miss Yuno. They were supposed to eat and talk about how good they'd done in the test, but of course, Asuna had to ruin it. But why? Just because she could? Because she was bored? Minegumo didn't know, and for once, he couldn't bring himself to try and understand his sister.
And then there was Miss Yuno, his sister's mother. Why had she come, after vanishing for so long?
So lost in his thoughts, Minegumo was startled when his feet hit something solid and unmovable. Looking up, he realized he was in front of a familiar door, where an all too familiar chakra signature resided. Without even thinking about, he shoved the door open and barged in.
"Are you happy now, Asuna?" He demanded as he walked into her room. "Do you feel better for making everyone else feel worse?"
Asuna glared at her brother who was clearly distraught from the events that had just occurred. "You look upset Gumbo. Why don't you sit down?" Asuna was seemingly composed for someone who just had just gotten her world rocked. Was she still processing the fact she really made a mess of things or was she contemplating the extent of the punishment she was going to receive. Either way, her trademark blank expression was all Minegumo was going to get.
Sitting on the window sill, she broke eye contact with her brother to peak through the window. "I gotta say I couldn't imagine dinner going any better." she began, returning his eyes those of her sibling. "I not only discovered father is weak but that mother is stronger than I imagined. Funny how the power dynamic shifts just like...that"
Staring at his sister's calm face, he once again felt the anger within him rise and he wanted yell at her. But like he'd done earlier, Minegumo forced the feeling down; he wouldn't give Asuna the satisfaction of knowing just how upset he truly was.
And that was it, wasn't it? Asuna well and truly did everything because she could; because she liked to see how everyone around her would react to her schemes. The brought a clarity unto him and a plan came to his mind; why not turn the tables and give Asuna a taste of her own medicine? Let her feel what its like on the otherside.
Minegumo took a seat on her bed; looking around the room with semi-curious eyes, before putting his attention back on his sister.
"It's really beautiful," He said, motioning to the scene outside her window. "I guess you're getting used to it now, huh? Since your career as a kunoichi is pretty much over."
"Stick to swordsplay Gumbo, manipulation isn't your strong suit." She commented, easily noticing Minegumo's change in pace. Outside of her father, Minegumo was probably the one she knew best; it's not like he was ever trying to hide it though. Even without ever peeping into his mind, she knew him. Disciplined, Proud, Sympathetic, Assiduous. In a vacuum, this is how Asuna viewed her brother. Manipulative was not a trait he had or at least, not yet. Sure when the time called for it, he was willing to do what needed to be done to succeed, as seen by the stunt he pulled against her or influencing Hiru during the exam, but never has he ever intends to truly manipulate people.
Leaping down from the window sill, she began to close the distance between them although she wasn't walking towards him exactly. "Bleakness doesn't really fit your whole, I drew the short straw vibe." intentionally doing a tasteful Minegumo impression as she said it. Making her way to the door, she left her brother with the following statement. "And remember this, even though father knows I'm beyond a pain to deal with, he'll always choose me over you."
In a very Sooun-like fashion, Asuna vacated her room before Minegumo responded. Uninterested in staying home, Asuna made her way to the location she was eyeing through her window; the leaf training grounds. Unlike in her childhood, where the twenty four hour guard watched her every move, no such detail existed now. With her father so occupied with handling Yuno, there no chance he'd notice either. It almost like the whole night was planned.
Like hell, Minegumo was just going to just let her leave like that. She didn't deserve to just walk away with her head held high, like she was the winner; like everything was just fine and it was just another day. Like everything was okay. It wasn't okay! Not even close. She always did this: hurt people and strutted around like it was normal; like it was to be expected. And Gods damnit, Minegumo was tired of no one ever being willing to do something about it. Today had been the first time Minegumo had ever seen someone put Asuna in her place: on the same level as the rest of them.
Miss Yuno had begun to, and Minegumo swore he would finish it.
With that in mind, Minegumo snapped to attention. Taking note of his sister's chakra signature, it didn't take being a genius to guess where she was going. First making a pitstop to his own room, Minegumo then rushed to his windowsill and gripped it tightly before unhesitatingly jumping through. And then he took off toward the training grounds; leaping through the branches of the trees and allowing himself to drop as he felt his sister's chakra signature close in.
"We weren't done talking Asuna," Minegumo said as she appeared.
"Come to play the hero Gumbo." Asuna quickly responded, not surprised to see her brother. She left the conversation on a cliff-hanger after dealing significant blow to his pride. It doesn't take a ninja-tool scientist to reach the conclusion that the diligent Minegumo would pursue her. "I guess we're all feeling a little bit rebellious tonight."
Clearly, Minegumo wasn't leveled headed. The fact he was here pursuing like some vigilante was more than enough evidence to prove that much. "So what's the plan? You're going to beat me and drag me home like some noble warrior who had just slain a beast." She snickered at the prospect. Honestly, she was legitimately curious as to what her brother's plan was. "Or maybe you'll win me over with words and force me to apologize to everyone; try to win MY father over by changing me?"
"He's my father too, Asuna," Minegumo pointed out. He didn't bother responding to her previous questions; he didn't even know himself what he wanted to do, not really. "Not that you have the right to even call him that."
He didn't like her, Minegumo realized. No, it was more than just not liking her or disliking her. Minegumo well and truly loathed his sister with an iciness that surprised even himself. Looking at her, part of him couldn't help but wonder how came to be the way she was. The rest of him just couldn't bring himself to care.
"No don't worry about me trying to win you over or anything like that." He said. "I'm done trying to understand you; it doesn't take a genius to know you're just a monster. No wonder Papa likes me more."
The fact that he didn't answer her question regarding his actions made her chuckle but what he said in substitute made her laugh boisterously. She only dropped the my father as an under the table shot but didn't think it'd pay off so quickly. A cynical smile remained as she ceased laughing to speak. "Who cares what Papa thinks. The fact that you're so dependent on him and his approval is pathetic. But I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree since you're side piece of a mother is struggling to get his approval to this day."
Minegumo's eyes flashed; and he balled his hands into fists as he felt his anger once again rise in him and found himself unwittingly summoning his Kekkei Genkai as the world around him seemed to sharpen.
"At least my Mother can actually fight," Minegumo said as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "That's more than yours can say. But I guess you have that in common with her, don't you? Being a weakling." He smirked, referring to their battle almost two years ago that he'd beaten her in. No matter what, he knew that would get to her. Asuna couldn't stand being second best after all; she just needed to be better than everyone around her, even when she couldn't be.
He then yanked his hands out of his pockets; releasing a pair of kunai at his sister that he enhanced with Chakra to double their speed and power. He was done talking to her; she obviously wanted to fight, and Minegumo wanted the same.
A puzzled look emerged on Asuna's face. "What you are talking about?" she questioned curiously, attempting to discern the nature of Minegumo's comments. Being weak? He couldn't be referring to her. The concept itself, weakness, had never been associated with her. And then he brought up her mother; the epitome of it, at least she was. But, she didn't get the connection. Her mother wasn't even a kunoichi, so what was the purpose of the statement. If anything it just added more color to her previous declaration; even as the "stronger" of the two women she was delegated to the shadows.
Whether Asuna was being intentionally oblivious or not, Gumbo's statement didn't strike the nerve he was hoping to hit. She watched him withdraw his weapons, not missing a single detail. Once her brother released the blade Asuna smirked. "You know it's rude to just start fighting while we're still talking" With undeniable swiftness and precision, Asuna caught the blades using her two index fingers; by placing them through the circular end of the kunai. The feat was not easy, especially with Minegumo enhancing the force of his weapons. But then again, it was a linear shot, clearly targeted directly at her. All it took was a little focus and chakra.
But Asuna knew better than to just take Minegumo's attacks at face value. The moment her fingers made contact with tail-end of the blade, she surged her chakra through them; disconnecting any chakra-based connection Minegumo had with blade. If he managed to attach paper-bombs, which she surely would have noticed even if they were shrunk, the her action would stall the effect; preventing them from detonating in her face.
Not noticing any wires connected to the kunai as well she carried on with her previous sentiment. "It's like you didn't even pay attention in class. In Konohagakure, it's an offense to start a battle without administering the Seal of Confrontation. But I guess your small Land of Iron brain wouldn't get that." she continued, spinning the kunai in her left along her finger while throwing the other to the ground about four inches in front of her. Asuna herself hand't raised the half-tiger seal yet so she didn't retaliate, but she was curious to see if Minegumo would carry on despite it.
"I'm talking about you, obviously," Minegumo asnwered. He wasn't too surprised to see that she'd caught his kunai, though he couldn't help but be slightly miffed in the pettiest sense. Trust Asuna not to make things simple and just let him kill her. "Aren't you supposed to be a genius? But I guess even that little fact about you is fake too."
At her next statement, he snorted and resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
"In Konoha its also considered an offense to disrupt everyone else's night just because you're in a mood," He pointed out. "But I'll go ahead if it means so much to you."
Quite literally biting his tongue, he moved his hands within the seal. At the same time, he shifted one foot behid the other as he focused his chakra. "Are you ready now?"
Asuna didn't lose her smile. "No, I don't think I am.." she responded, slowly approaching him. "So what's the move now, are you gonna break the rules and attack me. Or will you just let me attack you." She walked, slowly as to adapt to situation if he did attack but not slow enough where little progress was made. If he didn't attack, well, she wouldn't hesitate to punish him for that.
"I did the seal; not exactly breaking the rules," Minegumo retorted, eyeing his sister warily.
If Asuna truly believed that Minegumo was just going to stand and let her attack, then she was sorely mistaken. Whipping his hands into his pockets, he withdrew a couple of pallets that he unhesitatingly threw to the down. In an instant, smoke poured through the area and Minegumo allowed himself to vanish.
Jumping quietly onto a tree branch and being careful not to land too hard to move the branch or disturb the leaves, Minegumo quietly pulled out another pair of shrunken kunai that he turned over in his palm as he waited to see what his sister would do.
"Option C it is then." she thought to herself as her brother withdrew the pair of smoke bombs; for someone who came in to fight for the honor of the whole household, he sure was acting cowardly. Attacking her without initiating the sign of combat, mocking her like some degenerate, preparing to hide as to attack when she was most vulnerable, if she had to guess this whole tactic was reminiscent to her own actions; cheap imitations of course but flattering none the less.
As the bombs hit the floor, Asuna allowed the kunai circling around her finger to take off in Minegumo's original location. Of course, it wouldn't intercept him but nor did she intend for it too. As the smoke began to spread, Asuna sealed her eyes and began to hold her breath as a precaution; she didn't think Minegumo was the type to utilize corrosives but there always a first. She didn't care to try and track him, there was no need. The advantage was her's.
As the smoke cleared, it became glaringly obvious that Asuna hadn't yet to move. Once she was certain, the smoke could no longer have an effect against, she freed her lungs and opened her lids. "Surprise surprise, your completely hiding yourself from my sensing..." she commented aloud, more than familiar with the technique he's using. But despite her words, Asuna had a pretty good idea on where her brother was hiding. Sure he took the necessary precautions to try to avoid this but he clearly underestimated her abilities. Asuna heighten senses were beyond just general "chakra infused" capabilities. Through supplementary genjutsu, she could not only enhance but adjust how her prosencephalon structure interacted with received stimuli.
Through this technique, Asuna could not only hear thing with from vast distances but also narrow her focus; blocking out other sounds that would impede her from hearing what she desired. From the moment, the smoke bombs made contact with the ground she focused on her brother's breathing. There was no way he could cautiously navigate through the branches and leaves without properly breathing; precision required focus and focus requires stability. Following his breaths to the trees, upon his landing, she broaden her range to all his actions rather than just his breath.
Continuing with from her previous statement, "Yet, I know exactly where you are with that kunai and shuriken in your hand." Based on the objects' density, shape and mass, each weapon emitted a distinct sound and Asuna could easily note the difference. She raised her right arm and pointed in the direction of her brother with her hand shape like a pistol. "Bang.." she exclaimed, hoping to startle her brother as nothing manifested from the shot. Letting her arm drop back down, she began to whistle a sweet sweet melody.
Minegumo rolled his eyes. Did Asuna enjoy the sound of her own voice? He hadn't been too sure before, but Minegumo was more than willing to bet that the answer was yes; knowing Asuna, it was probably the only sound she genuinely enjoyed. Still, Minegumo also kept an ear out and listened closely. Not quite to what she was saying, but more for any hidden meanings to her words. Asuna was a bit like a villain in one of the old Princess Fūn movies in the way she spoke sometimes.
What to do? Minegumo wondered. He didn't want to use Genjutsu quite yet; while his chakra control was more than good, chakra cost was still chakra cost. His Kekkei Genkai was still on from when he'd activated it without meaning to; restricted to a basic level that allowed Minegeumo to know when Genjutsu was being used on him so it cost as little chakra as possible. Maybe he was being paranoid, but when it came to Asuna, he liked to expect the unexpected. And he really wanted to remain in top form for when the battle actually started.
So again; what to do?
Do what he did best, obviously; go with the flow and plan as the battle went along.
Right then; Minegumo nodded to himself as he got into action. At the same time that Asuna made to move, he dropped from the tree and let his cloak fall as he landed on the ground. He gave her a wary look when she suddenly shouted, but otherwise didn't react. Instead, he threw away his shrunken kunai and pulled a pair of regular-sized ones out; giving them a spin before he rushed toward Asuna in a burst of pure speed. At the last moment, he raised his arm up and lashed out with a vertical strike.
"Scaredy cat..." she noted, as her brother's fled for the safety of his tree. Asuna couldn't help but think the lessons of Sooun were really ingrained in Minegumo; "Always be skeptical of everything in a battle especially when fighting an illusionist" is the particular lesson that comes to mind; in all honesty, they were edged into her own mind as well. Though while a healthy amount of skepticism is good, Asuna was pleased to see, more so hear, that she had this amount of control over her brother's actions.
Once he relieved his invisible cloak, Asuna focused less into her hearing and allowed the other senses to support her as well. "I guess the Kurama Clan Masked Hero is finally deciding to attack..." she mumbled, stopping her whistling temporarily before resuming, making sure her chakra flow hand't been compromised in anyway upon the his big reveal; a healthy amount of skepticism. Despite watching him switch weapons and tense his muscles to blitz her with impressive speeds, Asuna remained steady, watching him from the corner of her eye and only putting up a minimal defensive response. It was only in that very last instance, once Minegumo decided to lower his blade, that Asuna made her counter attack.
Once Minegumo's weight would carry him downward, Asuna shifted her body toward him with impeccable agility, her feet barely dragging against the ground and wind barely impeding her movements. Instead of trying to avoid the attack, Asuna swiftly raised both her hands upward in order to apprehend his wrists. However, with Minegumo's ferocious speed it became glaringly obvious that she wasn't going to be able to intercept him in time. No that it mattered...
While her brother obviously dropped the smoke bombs for his own advantage, Asuna made the most of the blinding effect. Once the white covered the area, Asuna conjured an indistinguishable illusion of herself; outside of the fact that that it wasn't tangible of course; although the clone bared the all visual, scent, and auditory quality as if it were. However, unlike the clone technique which spawned an illusion of herself a notable distance away, Asuna conjured the mirage exactly on top of her as to not arouse suspicion; though it's not like it would have mattered as the cloaking technique prevents the users from moulding their chakra just as the Chakra Suppression Technique which would prevent him from accessing his sensing powers.
Using the illusion like a suit of armor, Asuna would keep herself within the confines of the mirage until the moment Minegumo revealed himself. Although appearing to remain almost stationary, as he attacked, the real Asuna moved ever so slightly backwards while utilizing her brother's infamous technique. Now within less than a foot of her brother and free of any immediate danger, Asuna stopped surprising her chakra, but unlike her brother didn't remove the invisible shroud masking her physical appearance.
With her chakra freed, Asuna pooled a significant amount of energy into her right fist which was directed towards her brother's ribcage with incredible form speed and precision. With her left, Asuna's fingers danced ever so slightly. "Can't have you running off now..." she thought, as Minegumo's kunai that she shoved into the ground right in front of her relieved itself from his hold. Only within inches of Minegumo, the blade turned and shot towards his achilles in order to cut through his tendon.
It was only as he struck out that Minegumo realized something was wrong. As his kunai went cleanly through what was obviously an illusion, Minegumo had a second to feel surprised before he felt his sister's chakra suddenly spike and come to him faster than he could make a counter-attack. And it wasn't just that either; with his chakra sensing ability, he was able to sense it when as his sister suddenly had his own kunai rocket towards him. Minegumo grit his teeth, racking his brain before the answer came to him.
He didn't know if he could dodge both attacks; Asuna's super powered punch was the one he wanted to avoid if only because it was the one he could truly sense coming at him, but he also didn't know what she was attempting to do with his kunai. But knowing Asuna, it was nothing good. Which left only one option.
Closing his eyes, Minegumo tensed his muscles and forced his Chakra into a dense layer over his skin at the same time that Asuna's punch made contact. As the two techniques met; a ripple effect was created, and Minegumo felt himself being launched back and slammed into a tree with enough force that it was well and truly shuddered. With a pain-filled groan, Minegumo slowly got to his feet. Once aright, Minegumo let the technique fall and winced as he felt a sharp pain coming from his sides. Looking down, he saw a large bruise had swiftly formed on his black skin and when he pressed a hand to them, he gasped as pain assaulted him.
Minegumo looked at his bruised ribs, then to spot that he could sense his sister's chakra as the reality of it hit him. A blow that strong could have maimed him and ended his career as a Ninja. Maybe even killed him.
He blinked, before slowly nodding. So that's the way she wanted to play it then?
He couldn't see her, though his Chakra sensing allowed him to at least know if she used a technique and his Kekkei Genkai let him know if she were going to use an illusion on him. He needed to draw her out, or at the very least, become aware of when Asuna was moving. And he knew just the way to do that.
Reaching into his pockets, he grasped a pair of Senbon and a pair of shrunken Fūma Shuriken with each hand, and with a careful burst of controlled chakra, he enlraged the shuriken while simultaneously applying a cloak onto the Senbon as he pulled them out. With strings and bells attached to each weapon, he threw them out in a wide arc; using chakra to Ninja Art: Spider Web move them into a formation that turned the clearing into a spiderweb of wiring string.
From there, Minegumo activated the disruptive illusion from the bells on the shuriken; creating a soundwave that echoed through the clearing. Simple but effective; it would cause Asuna to lose her motor function and start hallucinating as the technique went on. But even that was more of an intro. No, the real illusion was the one that would come from his cloaked needles.
Cast at the same time as the first, the the second illusion was one that would create a soundwave that would shut down her nervous system; weighing her down until she was either knocked unconscious or the bells themselves were stopped. Even if she were to hide, the sound of the bells still rang throughout the clearing, making it impossible to escape from.
As Asuna's fist connected with her brother's rib section, she noticed a significant amount of resistance coming from him. "Chakra armor?" she thought as he was sent flying backwards. Despite dealing a significant blow to her enemy, she wasn't satisfied with the outcome of her assault; job not done. Thus instead of counting her eggs, she carried on with the next part of her plan.
At the start of the battle, when Minegumo dropped the smoke bombs, Asuna launched the kunai she caught with her left toward her brother's original position; obviously missing him as he moved to the tree. But rarely does Asuna have a wasted movement. With her brother launched in that same direction as that kunai several minutes before, it was time to collect. Similar to the kunai that could not end Minegumo's mobility, a singular chakra thread was connected to the blade; conventional chakra sensing methods wouldn't be able to notice this as the minimal chakra the technique requires wouldn't be enough to spawn a signature; albeit dōjutsu like the Sharingan or advanced sensing like Mind's Eye of the Kagura would obviously be the exception.
Just as her brother launched his assault, the kunai that was attached to a tree flung towards Minegumo's back. "Now!" she thought, commencing the effect of the genjutsu she left on her brother upon punching him. She was confident, no, certain, he would easily dispel the basic illusion. However, he'd first have to suffer the effects of the illusion in order to break free; Asuna timed this opening with that of her kunai in order to punish him once again.
While she was focused on landing her own attack, Asuna didn't discount that of her brother. Due to the basic nature of the attack, two expanded shuriken, she suspected a layered assault. Rather than jumping or dodging, she quickly formed two hand signs to summon a rotating shield of wind. Unbeknownst to her, this was probably the best deterrent to the hidden attack. As the shuriken and invisible needles rotated around her, the bells attached rang loudly. Fortunately, sound waves travel the worst through air; and by surrounding herself a constantly rotating field of it, the sound barely managed to make it through minimizing the effects of the first illusion to nearly nothing.
Unfortunately, that's all the second illusion needed to apprehend her; Asuna's cloak of invisibility suddenly dropped as petals surrounded her. "Genjutsu..." she thought as her body, resisting the effects of the illusion. She noticed the effects of the illusion were considerably weak given Minegumo's proficiency in the field; could it have been something she had done. As the wind barrier began to fade, the effect against began to overwhelm her. "Soun...." she realized, falling to the ground. Her chakra spiked before her face kissed the floor and seemingly falling unconscious.
With his Kekkei Genkai still active, albeit restricted to a basic level, Minegumo was able to sense when Asuna activated her own illusion to use on him. Closing his eyes tight, he bit down hard on his teeth; gasping when the world seemed to shift beneath him. But even as the illusion took effect, Minegumo was already moving to free himself from it. With the pain from his tongue serving as an anchor, Minegumo put his hands together in released a pulse of chakra to break out of the illusion. But rather than simply dispel the illusion, Minegumo instead reversed it back onto his sister.
On his own, he would have broken out of the illusion in a matter of moments, but his bloodline sped the process up just a few seconds faster. And those extra few seconds probably saved him from a world of pain. As Asuna deflected his barrage of weaponry with her wind-shield, Minegumo moved to dash towards her, only to hear a strange sound coming from behind him.
Whirling around, he found a kunai coming for him; aimed directly at his chest. Eyes wide, Minegumo forced his hands into a seal; once again utilizing the same Chakra Armor he'd used to withstand Asuna's empowered punch just minutes ago. Bouncing harmlessly off his skin, the kunai dropped the ground and Minegumo quickly picked it up and turned it back around. Studying it; Minegumo looked to Asuna, who was knocked out on the clearing floor, then back to the blade, wondering exactly what'd happened.
He couldn't see any type of wire connected to the blade, nor could he sense a chakra thread of any kind. But Asuna had obviously manipulated the kunai to launch at him. To launch at him, and slash at his back. Was Asuna really just taking this serious like he'd thought, or was she taking this as an opportunity to get rid of him?
That thought made Minegumo feel strange, and he balled his fists as his jaw clenched.
He looked once again to his sister and felt wary as the ball of anger unfurled in his stomach. Gripping the kunai tightly, Minegumo forced a pulse of Chakra into the kunai; forcibly causing it rust and fall apart into dust. From there, Minegumo once again got moving. Looking directly at his sister, Minegumo waved his hand and summoned all of his tools back to him; sending the sounds of whistling weapons and jingling bells echoing through clearing. Taking out his explosive tags, he wrapped them around his tools and took a pair of kunai in his hands; using his fists to block out the sight of them.
He then mentally commanded his visible weapons into a formation around him; having them circle around him like his own personal asteroid belt. At the same time, his cloaked tool raced to Asuna; stopping when they were less than two feet from her.
"Get up, Asuna."
Minegumo all but spat out the command; walking to her and stopping until he was just behind his cloaked tools. Gripping his kunai tightly, he readied his weapons to strike out at her as he waited to see what she would do. If she so much as twitched, then Minegumo was more than prepared to have his senbon bury themselves into her hands.
One...two...three...the count began, rising significantly since its commencement. Eleven...twelve...thirteen. Thirteen. Thirteen to six. The former doubling the latter and then some. The battle couldn't have been more than seven minutes and yet the difference was this drastic; a testament to different mindsets. Seven minutes was more than enough. This battle's climax has been since passed and it is time to wrap up.
As Minegumo stood menacingly over Asuna's lifeless body, two figures walked into the battlefield with expression of fear and disgust. "Minegumo...why..." Mika muttered, falling to her knees at the horrendous scene. Sooun, who was directly beside her, struggled to keep his hand along Mika's shoulder to protect her from the captivating effects of the genjutsu. "You said, it wasn't that bad. That it was nothing." She visibly tried to muster up the anger to scold him but the disbelief was too much. It was worst than she imagined.
Sooun tried to remain the strong, not only for Mika but also himself. "Is this my fault..." he mumbled, realizing that one of the few consistent elements both of them shared was him. He was not only their father, but their teacher. If there was somebody responsible for this it was him. "Did I do this to you..." a tear fell down his face.
This dreadful scene continued to hold a level of detail inimitable to anything before. Asuna had outdone herself. Through the Demonic Illusion: Hell Viewing Technique, she depicted as scene so real, so possible, so accurate that it was basically reality itself. Unlike two years ago, when she first casted this technique on her brother, there was a certain element missing. Asuna knew how to play-off reality to better enhance the effect of illusions but there were unknowns that allowed Minegumo to break free that time. Two in particular were detrimental to her success; how his mother would react and Minegumo's response based on the reaction.
Fortunately, Asuna got a live view of the two's dynamic through her little stunt at dinner. The sense of emotion, passion and disappointment that both of them felt when she revealed Minegumo's misgivings; it was something she had to have seen to understand. And now that she has, she could properly exploit it.
But Asuna didn't leave her victory up to chance. No, she was going to win. For the first time in the battle, Asuna utilized her own Kekkei Genkai to support her attack. Like any other jutsu, by increasing the amount of chakra used for the technique the effects can be enhanced. In the case of genjutsu, numerous augmentations are employed. Firstly, the level of detail improves considerably; giving Sooun and Mika chakra networks as well as a mental framework while also making it appear Minegumo's own chakra isn't distorted. Secondly, the mental effects, in this case the inducement of fear, is increased drastically. And finally, the difficulty to break free; simply inducing a disfluctuation or a slightly painful wound would not compromise the illusion; if he even managed to get that far.
Asuna used nearly half her chakra conjure this illusion, a decision she based on the events of this battle. Thirteen to six, the difference of techniques used by Minegumo to Asuna. Having not only used more attacks than her, Minegumo used his Kekkei Genkai along with chakra armor that coursed through his entire body - strong enough to allow sharp metal to bounce off and withstand a fatal blow. Asuna on the other hand was being rather conservative with with her own chakra as the punch was the only relatively taxing ability she used. Due to these facts, she was confident that he had to be at least halfway through his reserves; slightly over worst case. And now that she knew of his effective genjutsu counter ability, one he wasted on a trivial illusion, she planned on finishing him here by overwhelming him with more chakra than he had available.
How Asuna managed to break free of Minegumo's well planned assault was simple but impressive nonetheless. Upon discerning the illusion was sound based through the enhancement of the effects following the drop of the her wind shield, she took swift action before the technique rendered her useless. Dropping her two defenses, the invisibility cloak and the wind shield, Asuna focused on slowing chakra down to a complete standstill. While increasing the output of chakra to disrupt the flow is one way to cancel illusions, another is stop the flow entirely; a realization she came to after contemplating how to minimize chakra usage to break free; something not easily determined but knew before the fight. Starting up her chakra flow once again, essentially rebooting her system, granted her a moment of freedom before the sounds would capture her again; which is why it seemed her chakra spiked.
In that moment, Asuna modified the effects of Genjutsu Sense Enhancement, a technique that rebooted once her system did. Rather than enhancing the effects of her hearing, she diminished them, effectively making her deaf. In doing so, she protected herself from falling prey to the illusion again. Unnecessary at that point but unable to prevent it, Asuna had a fail safe in which when hit the floor she tucked her hand in front of her chest; causing her wrist to break upon collapsing.
Despite her liberated state, Asuna decided to bide her time and play dead. As Minegumo dashed towards, her kunai bought her the opening she needed. Conjuring identical clone, she simultaneously hid her appearance, though she did not move as to not arouse suspicion; which was fortunate as he revealed a rather surprising technique that directed the illusion back at her; useless though as it had no effect on someone who wasn't moving or standing. Using the clone as the visual medium and she formed the required handsign, thus casting the improved version of the basic illusion.
Upon capturing Minegumo within the trans, Asuna did not hesitate. Releasing herself from illusion redirected at her, she left the clone of herself active. Asuna maneuvered out of the path of the many weapons, including the invisible ones as the chakra cloak that surrounded them, due to Minegumo's manipulating blade technique, made them detectable. After but a moment, creating a significant gap between them, she employed the full effects of the cloaking technique and then weaved a single handsign to activate the several paper bombs that remained hidden under her illusion. Unlike her brother, she wasn't going to wait to see if he'd make it out of the illusion; she was going to win.
Minegumo froze, shock-still, as he heard the voices of his Mother and Father behind him. He turned slowly, every part of him screaming not to, as he found himself face-to-face with Mika and Sooun.
"Mama?" Minegumo hesitantly called out, shock racing through him. "Papa?"
What were they doing here? Minegumo's mind was a storm. Staring at the two people he'd never wanted to disappoint, and the expressions on their faces, he felt his chest constrict. When Mika dropped to the floor, that was enough to snap him into action; racing his to his mother, he stopped just before her.
"Mama, its okay," Minegumo attempted to reach out to her, only to freeze once more when Mika flinched away from him. Forcing himself to breathe, he turned to Sooun. "Papa?"
Sooun raised a hand, and Minegumo fell silent.
"Why, Minegumo?" He asked. Sooun's eyes were bright and glossy with unshed tears; confusion and disappointment clear on his face. The look he gave Minegumo was one of clear heartbreak; of a father who'd seen the worst of his son and didn't know how to continued on. "You were such a good boy. What happened? Is this because of me?"
"No papa!" Minegumo shook his head violently, feeling something in him pull. When his Mika flinched at his shouts, Minegumo quieted himself. "This isn't because of you, Papa!"
"Is it my fault then?" Mika asked, drawing Minegumo's attention back to her. "Am I so terrible of a mother that I raised my own son to be a monster?"
At that, it was Minegmo's turn to flinch: tears flowing freely down his face as the tight feeling in his chest continued to grow until he was having trouble breathing. He attempted to speak, to find some way to reassure his mother and father, but found that he couldn't: his breath caught in his throat, and all he could do was gape like a caught fish. It was well and truly the one thing he'd never wanted to happen: to be a burden on his mother and add to her problems.
To have them look at him as if he was Asuna.
That thought brought a tingling in the back of his mind, but Minegumo never even got the chance to explore it. At that same moment, there was a sudden explosion: intense heat and fire that slammed into him like a superheated strike. The blast engulfed him and Minegumo let out a painfilled shout as he was sent off his feet and slammed him into a tree yards away. A moment later, and he fell to the ground; eyes fluttering shut as pain overwashed him.
Captivated by the destruction, Asuna let off a sinister smirk as her brother hurdled away; his scream was like music to her ears. "I couldn't hear you, who's weak again?" she laughed at her brother's own expense. She'd be lying if the loss to Minegumo two years ago didn't bother her. But now balance has been restored.
"Well I guess that battle qualifies as a late night training session." She flicked her hair backwards as she turned away from he battlefield. She gave little mind to Minegumo's injured state; he's the one who challenged her so he should go deal with himself. As she walked back to the estate, she realize true balance hasn't been attained yet. "Oh right, that whore had the audacity to slap me earlier. I guess I'll plague her dreams tonight..." Asuna snickered, revenge never tasted so sweet.
Upon returning to the estate, Asuna could sense overwhelming gloom. She wasn't unconsciously tapping into her Kekkei Genkai, no this was different. It was like, she could sense hatred, killing intent almost. "Is that...father.." Captivated by this newfound ability, she followed it, dropping her incognito entrance.
Following the hate like a bloodhound, she made her way to her mother's quarters. "Father...?" she questioned, slowly approaching the door.
"Stay the fuck away you evil witch!" Sooun spoke sorrowfully.
Surrounded by darkness, Asuna couldn't make out what her father was doing but the intense feeling of hatred felt stronger. "What's wrong?"
"You killed her...she stood up to you and you killed her..." Sooun mumbled, tears flowing down from his eyes.
Asuna could finally make out the scene. Yuno's corpse laid lifeless in the arms of her lover. "Huh.." she panted, trying to hide the smile as best she could. "I guess nature has a habit of balancing itself.." she thought, before leaving her her father to mourn his wife.