Sora caught up with Shiraku in the next trough of snow. She jumped over the crest of the hill just as he shot a bolt of lightning towards her side. Sora dodged it by twisting in the air and landing on the ground a few feet away.
She threw up an earth barrier as soon as she landed, preventing him from landing his next strike. He was using the lightning whips again, pounding against her wall. She had two choices; try and dodge the lightning and get in to attack him close range, or stay out of the range of the lightning bolts and try to attack him with long range jutsus.
The better choice was almost always the one the enemy wouldnt expect. She could hear the sound of the wall cracking around her as the lightning started to tear down her defenses. She had to work fast.
Carefully, she began to gather chakra on the palms of her hands and feet, focusing to spread it over her upper arms and calves. Then she compacted the chakra as tightly as she could, creating a fabric of tiny interconnected loops that flexed and fit her like a second skin.
When the lightning came crashing through the wall, she grabbed it. The force continued to push her through the opposite side of her shelter, her feet skidding across the snow. She looked partially over her shoulder and saw the other lightning bolt coming towards her fast from behind.
She jumped and bent her body in half sideways, placing her feet on top of the lightning bolt. Her weight sent it crashing to the ground, just missing the other bolt as it went zooming by above her.
She pivoted on the lightning bolt and grinned at Shiraku. Its power had come from its speed and flexibility, and now that she had taken away both of those, it wasnt hard to control.
Carefully placing her feet, Sora worked her way up the lighting whip, pinning it to the ground with each step, talking while she walked. You remind me of some dancers I saw once in Shambhala. They had these ribbons on sticks and they kept twirling them around and around making little curly cues in the air. But they wore more clothes than you.
The next swing of the other lighting bolt came down low, aimed at making her jump and release the bolt she had caught. Instead, she reached down with her hands and grabbed the whip and flipped herself over. As she turned upright again, she scissored the second lightning bolt with her feet, wrapped it around one ankle, and hooked herself deep into the ground with chakra. She smiled at Shiraku as he pulled on the lightning bolt twined around her feet, but she didnt fall.
Done yet? You know, these things arent really hard to deal with once you get them stopped. Theres not actually that much power in them, she taunted as Shiraku seethed. If youre what the average Akatsuki is like, I dont see what Obaa-san was so worked up about.
Shiraku took a breath and visibly calmed himself. Ah, but what are you going to do now? Youre all tied up, so to speak.
Sora rolled her eyes. Puns. Ive actually managed to meet up with a bad guy who uses puns.
He grinned. Youre not answering my question, he reminded her.
The one about what am I going to do now? Her eyes darkened behind her sunglasses. She pulled slightly on his ropes and grinned. Whatever I want.
She formed the chakra in her mind into the jutsu she wanted and released it. Fire licked up the lightning ropes and over Shirakus arms. He yelped in surprise as the fire engulfed him. The lightning bolts disintegrated, leaving Sora free to watch him turn in the flames. He twisted in on himself and then exploded outward, sending bits of flame flying everywhere.
Breathing hard, he turned and glared at her.
Sora shrugged. Didnt really think Id be able to get you in one blow, she said in an almost indifferent voice.
How did you do that? Shiraku asked suspiciously.
How did I do what? Sora said, starting to arrange the chakra in her mind for her next attack.
Shiraku gritted his teeth. You didnt use seals, he said with a hiss. The odd thing was that there was a thread of delight in it, as if something was lurking on his horizon that he was going to be very happy to see.
Oh, like this? Sora asked, and hit him with another jutsu. The ice around him melted into water and shot up to wrap around him in large, thick ropes. They were quickly followed by another attack; large metal spikes rose out of the ground to surround him, completely caging him in.
One of the spikes grew up next to Sora and she yanked it up out of the ground. Lifting it up in both hands she walked over to where Shiraku was imprisoned. And so ends the life of one-
She was cut off by the explosion. It was the same method that he had used to get out of her last jutsu, but ten times more powerful. Water, iron, and Sora went flying through the air. She desperately put up shields to deflect the wildly-swinging spikes that threatened to impale her. She landed fifty feet away, panting and disoriented. Looking around, she spotted Shiraku watching her.
He smiled. You have lovely eyes, he said. Soras hand reached up to her face. Shit. Her sunglasses had flown off in the explosion. And from the expression on his face, he knew what family had purple eyes, and what else that family had.
He laughed loud and hard with an edge of delighted mania. I cant believe it! A real live Ranmyaku! You were all supposed to have died in that plague years ago!
Apparently not, she said dryly as she pulled herself to her feet. She wasnt going to tell him he had wrong information about how her clan was destroyed. Plague, poison; let him think what he wanted.
A gleam entered his eye. Ah, but you are the last.
As far as I know. But I suppose if I am alive, there could be another as well. But there wasnt. Her father had been a meticulously thorough man, and when he had destroyed her clan, he had destroyed all except what he thought he could use.
Ah; true, true. These things never seem to work out the way they should.
Soras eyes narrowed. Plagues generally werent things that worked out. Did this man know more than she thought?
Shiraku smiled. But in this case, I have to say Im glad.
Really? she asked dryly.
Oh yes! Now I get a chance to be the one to actually end the bloodline. You will be the last person to bare the taifuugan.
She smiled slightly. Youre right, I will be. But not because Im going to die here.
Really? he asked, drawing out the vowels and arching one eyebrow. You have no idea how many bloodline limits I have destroyed. I have proven myself to be just as capable as all those born with power in their genes already. I have surpassed many who have been given natural gifts of incredible ability.
I dont see what the hell that has to do with this fight.
Dont you? Destroying the last of one of the most powerful bloodline limits in the world, the last daughter of the legendary Ranmyaku clan, is the icing on cake. Ill kill one of legends of the West, half of the dGra Klesha, a prize in and of themselves. Plus, I will be the one who brings the Kyuubi to the Akatsuki, trumping Itachi.
And thats what you really care about, isnt it? Sora said, smiling slightly. You just want to be regarded as the most evil man in the Akatsuki.
Not just in the Akatsuki. The most evil man in the world. Without a bloodline limit, without a clan. Just because Im evil. He gave Sora a sinister smile.
She burst out laughing. He glared as she doubled over, peals of laughter ringing in the air.
Whats so funny? he growled at her.
You! You in your mini-skirt and your tattoos, worrying so much about how evil everyone thinks you are and trying to kill off bloodline limits. Im sorry about that comment I made earlier about you guys not having enough individual personality. I have to say Shiraku, you really take the cake. Do you realize how pathetic you are? My god, how the hell did you get into the Akatsuki anyway?
He looked at her incredulously. How dare she laugh at him!
Ill tell you what, pretty boy. Ill give you the ultimate chance to prove just how skilled you are. Ill fight you without my bloodline limit if youll fight without your tattoos. That way, it will all be our own personal skill and nothing else. You can overwhelm me with just how evil you are. She smiled flirtatiously at him.
Shiraku seethed, but didnt say anything.
Im sorry. Were you so busy trying to invent a bloodline limit for yourself that you forgot to train anything else? I suppose there are limits to what you can do.
He refused to let this woman insult him like this! Hed show her what he was capable of doing!
Shiraku sliced another finger and drew it across the opposite palm before forming a fist. The power gathered in his closed hand, the glowing light of chakra slipping out from between his fingers. He pulled his hand back and held it to the side of his face. Ninpou Kuchiyose: Tian-mu! he yelled, opening his fist and thrusting it out towards Sora.
Lightning cracked in his palm, exploding out into a rolling wave of electricity. Sora watched as the lightning started to shift and change form, turning into the blue glowing figure of a woman. Long robes flowed back from her arms and she screeched with a grimace as she raced across the surface of the snow towards Sora. Her arms stretched out, trying to force Sora into her embrace.
A circular wall of snow came up around Sora, concealing her from sight for a moment. Shiraku smirked. Snow was made of water, and water conducted electricity quite well. Using snow as a shield was pointless. The arms of the woman embraced the walls of snow.
Sora exploded out over the top of the water, followed by a huge flow of mud. The lightning woman looked up as the mud slid down over her face. It flowed over her robes and down onto the snow. It was immediately followed by a wave of fire, baking the mud into hard-packed dirt.
Landing softly on her feet, Sora watched as the dome of dirt finished baking. It had been a tough combination to put together, summoning dirt, water, and fire so soon after one another and weaving them so tightly together.
She had defeated the lightning lady, whatever she had been, and she was fairly sure that she had egged him into using his most powerful jutsu while she was still relatively fresh. The taifuugan was draining to the extreme, and even doing things partially with it and partially with seals, she ran the risk of running out of chakra far before her opponent.
It was why Nanashi had sent her to the Kaze to train. Her father had trained her too heavily on ninjutsu, planning on using his seal on her to increase her chakra stores to incredible levels and then simply letting her loose on a battlefield to destroy all those around her. She would be able to stand perfectly still, no seals, no yelling, no fighting, and create a frenzy of jutsu around her. She would become the taifuugan; the eye of the storm.
But without the seal of her father, there were limits on how large Sora could get her chakra reserves. She had worked hard to make them as big as possible, but they werent anything incredible; certainly nothing like her brothers. So she had to conserve, use strategy, and choose carefully when she was going to strike.
And half of that was manipulating people into doing stupid things. With any luck, she had gotten past the worst of what he could throw at her.
With a painful-sounding crack, the lightning woman burst through the wall of mud and went howling up into the air. Sora started and groaned as she watched the lightning woman crackle and turn angry eyes on her. Okay, so maybe Shirakus best wasnt going to be defeated in one move.
Beyond smothering her, Sora wasnt sure how she could defeat the lightning woman. Her only hope was to somehow take him out and pray that the seemingly-sentient lightning creature he had summoned would follow him to hell.
She leapt off towards her left, heading towards Shiraku as fast as she could, feet barely touching the ground before she pushed off again. The woman screamed behind her, coming up fast. Sora tried to keep her eyes on Shiraku. She watched as he put up another shield of lightning to keep her out.
The three of them converged at the same time. Sora leapt in the air and aimed a spin back kick at Shirakus head just as the woman of lightning overtook her. As Sora tried to encase herself in dirt, the two lightning jutsus met and exploded into a fit of rage.
Her kick never hit. Sora went flying through the sky, the dirt being ripped from her body and the lightning slicing across her skin. She landed a hundred yards away, slightly dazed and confused. She shook her head, trying to clear it, and looked up just in time to see the lighting woman bearing down on her.
Turning her bloodline limit back on, she threw up a shield as quickly as she could. The woman crashed against it and screamed. Drawing herself up, she continued to hit the wall and howl while Sora grit her teeth. It was taking a lot out of her to keep that shield up.
Behind the lightning woman, Sora could hear Shiraku laughing. He stepped out from behind the womans sleeve to smirk down at her.
And look whose laughing now. It must be taking everything you have in order to keep that shield up. In a few more minutes youll have drained the rest of your chakra reserves and youll be dead.
Naruto and Hinata followed the skid marks Nadare had made across the snow, until they reached the edge of a large cliff. Peering over the edge, they could see him standing at the bottom. He was fully upright, but he had apparently not moved from the place where he had landed once Soras jutsu had ended. He was waiting for them.
Naruto looked down at him and then at Hinata, who was crouched down next to him. How did you get away?
She looked into his face and just kept herself from wincing. His face was healing, but she could still make out the burn marks from Shirakus hands. I caught him in Endless Ice Skies. It caught him off guard because it was a one-handed seal. I took out his knees and ran for it, she explained. But I dont know if I could do it again. He was mentally preoccupied at the time and he didnt have his hands completely free because he was holding onto me. He couldnt form any seals.
Of course you can do it again. All we have to do is distract him again. He stood up and crossed his fingers over his chest, getting ready to create more shadow clones.
Youre going to charge in again? she asked quietly, her voice trembling slightly in fear.
He looked down at her, startled. Im not charging in. We have a plan. Im going to distract him and youre going to get him in a genjutsu.
She pushed the butterflies in her stomach down and forced herself to speak. How are you going to distract him?
He looked at her as if he didnt quite get what he she was asking. I dont know exactly what he can do yet, so I dont know what Im going to do. Im going to attack, figure out exactly what he can do, and then wing it.
Okay, so that was reckless, but not completely illogical. But Naruto-kun, this is the Akatsuki! Theyre some of the most powerful ninja in the world! Were good and we can defeat a lot of people. The Chuunin test would be easy now, and Im pretty sure that were at the same level as many of the Jounins back in Konoha, but what were dealing with is on a completely different level! You cant just wing it!
Well, do you have any better ideas? he asked, more sharply than he intended. If we dont do something, Soras going to be left trying to deal with both of them alone! Shes not strong enough to do that!
Youre right, said a deep rumble off to their right.
Startled, they launched themselves to their feet and into a fighting stance as soon as they heard the voice. Nadare stood a few yards away from them, wrapped up in his great black cloak.
Hinata gulped. There were no footprints leading to where he was standing. How did such a large man manage that?
The man continued, face completely blank. She wouldnt be able to take on both of us. But she might be able to defeat Shiraku. He is the weakest out of all of us.
Naruto stood tensed, ready to see what Nadare was going to throw next. But the man just seemed to stand there, observing and waiting. The silence went on and on, thickening the air and making it difficult to breathe.
The thoughts in Narutos head were going every which way, trying to figure out what the hell Nadare was doing and how he was going to distract the man long enough for Hinata to catch him in the genjutsu. But he seemed determined to simply stare at the pair with an indifference that sent shivers up Narutos spine.
Im not going to try to capture you, Nadare finally rumbled.
Naruto looked shocked and then outraged. What the hell do you mean? he asked angrily.
Thats not my part of the plan. I have other things I am supposed to be doing. Unlike Shiraku, I know better than to foolishly disobey the wishes of those more powerful than myself.
Itachi? Naruto asked through his teeth.
Among others. Shiraku is committing an act of desperation. Power in the Akatsuki is a delicate balance, but never has it swung in his favor. Capturing you would not have changed that as much as he thinks.
So what are you going to do then? Naruto asked angrily. Hinata watched the man carefully from slightly behind Narutos shoulder. She couldnt figure out what in the world was going on.
Im waiting to see if Sora of the dGra Klesha is able to kill Shiraku. If she can, then this little bump in the plan will have been overcome, and things will return to their correct path. All will fall into our hands.
Naruto balanced his weight and prepared to attack. Like Im going to let that happen! he yelled and covered the hillside with shadow clones.
Nadare simply raised his hand and there was a pulse. It knocked Naruto and Hinata completely to the ground and eliminated all of the clones.
Dont be foolish. You cannot hope to stop me.
Naruto struggled to his feet again only to be knocked down by another pulse. Damn it! he whispered fiercely into the snow. The pressure pulsed again, but this time it didnt stop. It pressed him down, deeper and deeper into the snow. He was completely helpless.
And then it stopped. Naruto raised his head to see his enemy staring off towards where Shiraku and Sora were fighting. He frowned and then turned his back on Naruto and started to walk away.
Where the hell are you going? Naruto yelled.
Slowly the huge man turned back to look. Shiraku is beating Sora. You should go help her, unless you want her to die.
Naruto glared at him as he struggled to his feet. You want me to go help kill him? Arent you two partners?
Nadare stared down at the boy with reproach. He was never strong enough to be one of us. He has to be disposed of. That was what I was asked to do, and I am not foolish enough to go against the will of the Akatsuki.
You dont feel any guilt for what you are about to do to him?
He would do the same to me. Nadare turned to go.
Hinata walked over to her boyfriend, who was staring at Nadares retreating form as if trying to burn a hole in the mans back.
Naruto? she asked quietly.
He grunted, indicating he could hear her.
I dont understand, she said.
You had better hurry, Nadare called back to them. Unless you want your sister to be dead.
Naruto grit his teeth. He wanted to go after him. He wanted to beat him into a pulp. But he couldnt risk that what Nadare said was true.
Come on, he said to Hinata, turning to go back the way they came.
Sora glared at the Shiraku, wincing as she fought to keep the shield up. Between her attempt to seal the woman in mud, and now trying to keep her at bay, her chakra reserves were going to be gone soon. This had to be the most powerful summoning she had ever seen.
She had exactly one shot at getting the man or she was going to die, and if she died
She took in a deep breath and let it out. If she died it was going to be Hinata and Naruto up against two Akatsuki members all by themselves.
But unless the woman let up somewhat, there was nothing she was could do. Everything she had was going into keeping herself alive. She couldnt afford to turn anything towards the woman and attack.
Just when she was running out of ideas, Shiraku turned to look away and the power of the lightning woman diminished slightly. Peering around her sleeve, Sora could see why.
The basin was filled with Narutos. They grinned and then faded away. Hinata was using some sort of genjutsu to hide them.
Shiraku pulled his hands together in order to release the genjutsu, only to find himself clobbered by a small army of invisible Naruto shadow clones.
It would only take him seconds to destroy all of them, even concealed as they were. But seconds were all that Sora needed.
Crouching under her shield, Sora focused her chakra inwards, and thought back to the memory of a jutsu shed used once long before. It had been years since shed used it, but the memory was there, buried in the recesses of her brain.
She latched onto the memory and shaped her chakra into the form of the jutsu. Turning her head away from the lightning woman, she glared at Shiraku.
Cold Hell no Jutsu, she whispered mentally, and released the jutsu onto Shiraku.
Instantly the air around Shiraku started to fall rapidly. Aided by the already cold temperatures, Shirakus skin began to chill as the temperature plummeted below what was naturally possible.
It was so cold that the blood in Shirakus hands started to freeze. He was unable to move his hands in order to make any seals. His skin was rapidly approaching the same color as his tattoos, drying out and becoming scaly. Sora continued to pump as much chakra as she could into the jutsu, driving the temperature lower and lower.
The pain kept moving in deeper. Just as all the nerve endings in one layer of his skin would be frozen, the cold would reach an even deeper layer that would make him want to scream. He tried to make a seal, to move his body to try to get away from the blistering cold, but he couldnt seem to do it.
Finally, he couldnt take it any longer. He fell screaming to his knees, his skin cracking and tearing. Unable to maintain the thin ropes of control he had over the lightning goddess, she lost interest in Sora and fled back up into the sky.
Sora dropped her shield and gasped for air, carefully keeping her eyes on the man lying in a heap on the ground. Lurching to her feet, she summoned the strength to walk over to him.
He turned his head to one side to look up at her. She smirked. You know that there are doctors in the West using extreme cold to freeze tattoos off of people?
Standing up on the bank where they had been hiding, Naruto and Hinatas eyes went wide. Even from this distance they could see that Soras eyes had turned a deep and vibrant purple.
In all of their travels around the West, they had never seen her use her bloodline limit in a fight. She used it casually when it was just the three of them, using it to silence Naruto or pull small pranks, but never in combat.
And now she stood in ready stance, feet firmly planted in the snow, hands out in front of her, and her eyes seemed to almost glow purple. And the man in front of her was on his knees, blood dripping down one side of his mouth.
He struggled to his feet again only to have Sora smash him back down into the snow with a garass kick, hooking her heel into the side of his head. She stood there for a second, pushing his face into the snow.
Dont fuck around with me, pretty boy, she said, lifting her foot off of his face. He pulled his face out of the snow only to have Sora grab him by his hair and haul him up off of his feet. You may be some hot-head who likes to prance around, pretending to be some sort of evil genius, and as long as you stay out of my way, Im willing to let your do just that. But fuck with me or fuck with my family, and Ill kill you.
She slammed him back down into the snow. His skin was white and blistered all over his body and he lay in an awkward heap on the ground. Sora stared at him for a second, then looked up at where Naruto and Hinata were standing on the crest of a small hill a few feet behind her.
Hinata shivered unconsciously. Soras eyes seemed endlessly deep in their altered state, diving back into a history full of regret. The look stayed there as she sighed and glanced back down at Shiraku, struggling for breath at her feet. It would take a miracle for him to rise again, and the adrenaline was gradually draining out of her system, leaving an emptiness inside her.
I told you two to go hide, she said, sounding worn down.
Blinking himself out of his trace, Naruto snorted. Like we would let you fight these guys on your own!
Normally, this was the point when Sora would start yelling at him, complaining about how reckless and unthinking he was. But today, she just sighed again and shook her head, as if acknowledging something she should have accepted a long time ago. Wheres Nadare? she asked.
Naruto stuck his hand behind his head. Well, he left, he said almost sheepishly.
Sora snapped her head back up to look at them. Left! she yelled. What do you mean left?
He said it wasnt his job to take Naruto; that he had other things he was supposed to be doing, Hinata said quietly. And that you killing Shiraku was of use to them, and that you were getting killed.
Three sets of eyes drifted to stare at the broken man at Soras feet. His skin had taken on a bizarre, dry, brittle quality. Blood pooled at the side of his head through his hair and into the white snow. It was hard for them to imagine that someone would be able to look more pathetic or downtrodden.
He chuckled disparagingly to himself. So Nadare betrayed me? To think, all this time he was playing me for a fool, pretending to follow my lead. He closed his eyes. I suppose I must bow to your superiority, Nadare. You had me fooled, he whispered.
And as much as she hated him for trying to take her Naruto away, Hinata couldnt help but feel a sorry for Shiraku, stripped of his power and now nothing more than a joke. She turned her face into Narutos shoulder and he brought his hand up to lay against her hair.
Sora knelt down and put her hand on Shirakus throat. What do you know? she said.
He chuckled. Why should I tell you? Youve already as good as killed me.
They betrayed you. Dont you want to betray them back? she asked, raising one eyebrow.
He chuckled. Why bother to betray them? It was a truly evil thing to do. For that, I must say I admire them.
Sora gave a frustrated snort and stood up, kicking Shiraku in the ribs.
Naruto looked over at his sister. Her face was drawn and slightly pale. Her eyes had faded back into their normal pale violet as she continued to stare at Shiraku. She slouched slightly, as if it would be too much effort to stand up completely.
Nee-chan? You okay? he asked
She looked up at him as if slightly startled, and then gave him a half smile. Yeah, Im fine. A bit battered and tired, but none the worse for wear.
Youre completely exhausted! Shiraku laughed, as he lay prone on the ground with his eyes closed, the last of his life seeping red into the snow. Using the taifuugan is far more exhausting than performing the jutsus with seals. Youre probably down to the very last of your charka reserves.
Perhaps, but youre certainly not going anywhere. Youre partner abandoned you and youll be dead in a few minutes. Weve won.
You only think youve won. Its too late Ranmyaku, Shiraku breathed. You have stopped us, but thats not the end of it.
Its the end of this, she said, waving her hand at the destruction around them. Were still here and you and your partner are gone. Weve won the battle.
He smiled. No, not really. You were careless. You practically fell into our laps. There are those in the Akatsuki more powerful than me. What will you do when they come?
The same thing I did to you. Kick their sorry asses.
Yes, but now you are drained, and the next battle is closer than you think.
I thought you were going to prove yourself to the rest of the Akatsuki by killing me and bringing in Naruto. Wouldnt you keep our location to yourself?
He laughed harshly, spitting blood up on the snow. I completed the scrolls needed to execute the plan months ago and theyve been waiting to get rid of me for almost as long. Nadare has abandoned me. He will tell the others where to find you. But I dont think theyre going to need it.
What do you mean?
I stopped you here in order to prevent you getting to the others first. But even if Itachi doesnt know where you are, that doesnt mean he doesnt know how to find you.
Sora jammed one boot into his chest and glared down at him. What the hell does that mean?
He laughed softly. Lets just hope that the dGra Klesha are as powerful as everyone seems to think they are.
What sort of answer- Naruto started, but then it hit him. Shock and horror spread over his face as he looked over at Sora, only to find her staring off into the mountains in the east.
No! Yasu! she whispered in horror.
All Im saying is that the Kaze are part of Mikis heritage, and she should have the chance to get to know them. Yasu handed another breakfast dish to her husband, who proceeded to dry it. Miki ran around the kitchen table, singing at the top of her lungs and banging a spoon against the bottom of a pot, Dango barking happily at her heels.
Her parents simply tuned her out.
And all Im saying is that we should wait until the new government is firmly established and there is no chance that anyone is going to try and make us into the head family again, Nori said. It was an argument that was starting to wear on both of them. As soon as Yasu had heard about the instatement of Raoul as the Lord of the Wind, she had been on his case to take them all back for a visit. The farm was nice and all, and she didnt regret anything she had given up for her family, but she missed some parts of the West. She wanted to eat the food and wear a saree rather than a kimono. She wanted to show her daughter some of the amazing cities and peoples that she simply wouldnt be able to see in the East. She wanted to see if she was still able to sneak into the private libraries of wealthy citizens to use their books.
Sora says everything is fine. Theyve learned their lesson and most people are happy with Raoul as the Lord of the Wind. He has been in power for a year now, she said rather coldly, and with the air of delivering an unopposable argument.
He smiled at her. Sure youre thinking about Miki and not anxious to go yourself?
She tried to shrug nonchalantly, and failed miserably. We havent been back to the West since we got married. Its been six years.
Getting a little anxious living here on the farm day after day? he asked, flicking water at her face.
She glowered at him, which made him laugh. Im fine. I was just thinking a vacation might be nice.
He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her back against his chest, rocking them both back and forth. You and Miki are welcome to go visit the Kaze. But I dont want to run the risk of having anyone think about a coup, so Im going to wait until I feel things are a little more established than one year can provide.
She sighed. I dont want to go without you. I can wait a few more years, I suppose.
You sure? After six years, I would imagine you would be getting bored.
Youre my family; how could I get bored? And it was true, she wasnt bored. She was simply a little restless.
Well, I was thinking; perhaps we could make things a little more interesting around here.
More interesting? she asked suspiciously.
He pulled her to him tighter and pressed a kiss to her temple. Mikis almost five, and were not getting any younger. Didnt we say we wanted more than one?
She pulled back in shock to look at him over her shoulder. What?
I think its time to have another baby. The first one came out so well after all. He grinned and jerked his head towards his daughter, who had put the pot on her head and was trying to get the dog to fetch the spoon.
You want to have another baby? she asked, still dumfounded.
He squeezed her again. Just think about it. Its not like Im suggesting we start trying right this very second. Mikis here after all.
She blushed and slapped his arm indignantly. He laughed again and let her go. He turned and scooped his daughter up off the floor. She giggled and grabbed a hold of his hair. Hey, Miki-chan. What do you say we get you out of those pajamas and into real clothes?
Yasu smiled as her husband carried their daughter out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He was so wonderful with her, always playing stilly games and acting like a big kid himself.
She frowned slightly and put her hand up to the neck of her kimono. Reaching inside, she pulled out a chain and held it up to her face. There, threaded onto the gold braid, was the ring that her husband had cut off the hand of the last man she had assassinated. The big emerald glittered in the sun from the window.
Their only job together; the only time that their lives together had inhabited the dark recesses of the underworld. She smiled at the ring. The man who had courted her and won her heart had been an assassin like her who accepted who she was. She treasured that; the fact that he knew who she had been and who she had become, and loved them both. With every year they had together, she loved him more, and the man she loved now was the sort who helped her dry the breakfast dishes and tossed their daughter up in the air. She had a man and a daughter she loved, and all the rest didnt matter. She could skip going back to the West for a few more years.
Even if she really would love to take a crack at some of those libraries again.
She smiled again and slipped the ring back inside her robe. Maybe he was right. Maybe another child was a good idea. Miki would probably love the idea of being a big sister, and by the time the next baby was old enough to travel across the mountains, things would be established politically in the Kaze.
Shed talk about it with him tonight, she decided. She didnt like to rush into things, but this was starting to seem like a better and better-
She stopped as a strip of paper nailed to the cabinet started to turn black. She watched as the color traveled from the top of the strip down to the edge. Her heart started to race in her chest.
Someone had just crossed onto their lands. Someone with immense chakra.
Nori! she yelled.