The Chuunin Exams took place in four separate locations. The first of those locations was a building that managed to be extremely intimidating despite looking like nothing more than a regular academic building. It probably had a lot to do with the strangers surrounding them on all sides, or the fact that it was, well, the Chuunin Exams.
Kaisuki more or less had an idea of what she was walking into, but it didn’t make it any less nerve-wracking. Sakura had told her about the four stages of the exams, and she had told her about the kind of people they might encounter, and Kaisuki was relatively sure that everything she’d said had been precisely what Iruka-sensei had said.
Currently, the hundred or so genin were milling around an enormous atrium, waiting for some adult or another to come down the corridor and tell them it was time to become extremely stressed out. Kaisuki had been doing her best all morning to remain calm, but it was surprisingly difficult. She was usually easily able to keep a level head, but today it was nearly impossible.
She looked up from her hands, glancing around the area. Team 7 was sitting and standing on and around a windowsill that had a pretty great view of the room. It was at the top of a short flight of stairs that led only to a set of three large windows. There were many faces in the atrium, some of them appearing to be fairly harmless, others looking as though they had killed a great many people already. She chewed her lip, eyes drifting over the many persons around the room, before her gaze settled on a relatively nearby trio from Sunagakure.
They all looked to be different ages, which Kaisuki found a little odd. Normally, teams were comprised of peers of the same age. The blonde girl looked to be close to eighteen, while the boy wearing face paint looked around fifteen. Finally, her eyes settled on the redhead. He looked around her age, and there was something about him that felt… familiar, almost. She knew she didn’t know him. She’d never seen anyone even remotely similar to him in her life. She’d never even been to Sunagakure. But there was something about him…
“Attention!” Someone hollered, and everyone looked in the direction of voice, all the whipsering that had been filling the huge room silencing immediately. Standing on a loft above them that had been closed off to them was a man. Kaisuki vaguely recognized him, but she didn’t have a name to match his face.
He chewed on what looked like a senbon needle for a moment, before speaking again, “The exam is ready to start. Your teams were all given a number. If the number for your team is odd and under twenty-five you’ll be going down that hallway, first door on the right,” he pointed down at one of the two doors beneath the atrium, more specifically the one on the left. “If your number is odd and over twenty-five, same hallway, second door on the right. If your number is even and under twenty-five, go through the other door, and it’ll be the first door on the left. Over twenty-five and even, you go down the same hallway and it’ll be – you guessed it – the second door on the left.”
“You’ll receive further instruction at the end of this section, assuming you and your team get through it.” He concluded, “So, please recall the number your team received and proceed in an orderly fashion down the halls. Each individual person will receive another number upon entering their exam room. That’ll be where you sit, and you’ll be expected to sit down as soon as you walk in the door. Don’t dawdle or wander around the room. Thank you for your time.” He gave them a curt nod, gesturing widely to the doors below him, before turning away and heading back from where he had apparently come.
There was a brief pause, as if everyone was waiting for further directions, before the sound of two locks clicking reached out through the room. The doors were pushed open, and two chuunin (or perhaps jounin, it was impossible to tell) stood by the doors and held them open.
“What was our number?” Naruto suddenly asked, turning around to face them with wide, mildly panicked eyes. He had to think that the rest of them had forgotten.
“Twenty-six.” Sakura supplied in exasperation, “Jeez, Naruto, pay attention.”
He grinned sheepishly at her, “S-sorry, Sakura-chan.”
“Let’s go, then?” Kaisuki offered as she stood up, pressing her sweating hands against her pants. She hoped she hadn’t missed too much of the academy to flunk the exam portion. She’d gotten Sakura to tutor her on some of the harder subjects, but she had missed the last four years of school, and she hadn’t taken any remedial classes before joining Team 7. The Hokage seemed to believe in learning on the job, which was great and all, but if she was going to pass this test she was going to need more than real-world experience.
“Yea,” Sasuke agreed, and they started towards the door on the right. It took nearly twenty minutes to actually get to the door of the exam room, as a line had formed and everyone was taking forever, even though getting a number and sitting down ought to not take very long.
Her seat number, once she got it, was thirteen. Second row down on the left end of the table on the right side of the room. She sat down and looked around the room. It was already mostly full, so there probably wouldn’t be much more time before the exam began. Sasuke was sitting two rows in front of her on the opposite side of the table. Sakura had been placed in the middle of the left side of the room. Naruto had been put on the first row of the left side.
She hoped Naruto would be alright. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a smart person. That had never been the problem. He had just never had the attention span to get through a day of school without getting into some kind of trouble, or falling asleep, or straight up disappearing during lunch time or recess. He had missed a lot of schooling as well, and what he had been around for he probably hadn’t retained. Naruto was kinesthetic learner – he had to be doing what he was taught. He couldn’t just read it or see it or hear it. He had to do it.
A few minutes after the last seat had been taken, the door to the room opened abruptly. A heavily scarred man stepped into the room, looking very intimidating as his beady eyes scanned the room. He was scowling at them as if they had already done something terribly wrong. It wasn’t ten seconds into the stare-down before Kaisuki realized she had started glaring back at him. This guy seemed to be under the impression that his grim appearance and expression would scare them off. Clearly, he had never encountered Saeka when she was in a bad mood.
“My name is Morino Ibiki,” he said in a gravelly voice. “I’m going to be the moderator for this portion of the Chuunin Exams. Before we begin, I will explain the rules of this exam.”
He glowered at them all for a moment before continuing, “You’ll note that there are a number of jounin sitting against the wall around the room. Their job is to look for those of you who are cheating. If you are caught cheating on this exam, you and your entire team will forfeit automatically.” He frowned darkly. “You will have two and a half hours to complete this test. If you can’t handle the pressure, leave. There’s no room for weakness in these exams.”
There was a stiffness that spread through the room. Several of the attendees seemed to have already gotten the jitters. There was a pit of anger settled in her gut. This guy was literally just trying to scare as many people out of the exam as he could, and before it even started. They had picked the scariest looking jounin they could find to use as a scare tactic.
“Before we begin, is there anyone who’d like to forfeit now?” Morino-san asked bluntly. The tone of his voice was clear – are there any cowards sitting in this room right now? He may as well have just come through and said it. Morino-san was a jerk, needless to say. She hadn’t been expecting anyone to be kind to them during these exams, but the unnecessary awfulness of this guy was infuriating. She felt like she was being severely underestimated.
Someone in the middle of the room stood up. Kaisuki couldn’t have denied that she was a little astounded. Were there really going to be people who couldn’t handle intimidation of that level? If that was the case, maybe they were right to start with scare tactics. She frowned, watching as the person’s team members also stood up, all of them looking like they were happy to be getting out of there, even with the mild public humiliation.
Two more teams vacated the room before things settled back down. “Is that all?” Morino-san asked, raising an eyebrow. “Good. Then, we’ll pass out the exams now. Don’t turn your paper over until you’re told.”
Someone stood up from the line of jounin against the wall stood up, a stack of paper in his hands. As he walked around the room and set sheets of paper down in front of the test takers, Kaisuki spent a moment sizing up her competition. The team with that boy with the gourd were in the same exam room as her. They didn’t look like much, but she had a feeling they were extremely dangerous, simply by virtue of the fact that they were from Sunagakure.
Sunagakure took their genin much more seriously than Konohagakure. They occasionally wiggled around as though they were about to start a war with their neighbors, but they always drew back when they were reminded of Hi no Kuni’s many, many allies. Kaze no Kuni had fewer allies than Hi no Kuni, and so they had to make up for it by keeping their shinobi at a much higher skill level than other countries would expect from their shinobi. Because of that, the people of Sunagakure likely assumed that Konohagakure was made up of unskilled softies.
Obviously, they didn’t know much about Konohagakure, but they were right about one thing: the village Kaisuki called home did not expect as much from their genin now that the wars had ended. Kakashi-sensei had told them that much already. When their instructor had been a child, genin were expected to be able to kill efficiently, conduct reconnaissance missions alone, interrogate enemies on the battlefield, and preform many more jutsus than Kaisuki’s peers had learned in the academy. Sunagakure hadn’t changed their expectations after the wars had ended. They still liked their genin to be as skilled as the chuunin from Konohagakure, if not more so.
It didn’t mean for a second that her home had become soft, or that they were vulnerable. They made up for their lack of highly skilled genin with jounin and chuunin that could compensate for more than five times the skill level of the genin from even Sunagakure. Konohagakure was home to some of the most incredible shinobi, such as the first Hokage, Senju Hashirama; the prodigy from the once great clan, Uchiha Itachi; and the legendary Sannin. They housed ANBU, a force rivaled by no organization in the entire Shinobi Nations. Konohagakure would likely be underestimated for the rest of eternity, simply because they were taught kindness and empathy before they were taught how to kill.
The redhead she’d been watching was one row ahead of her on the opposite side of the room, on the end of the table closest to the middle aisle. He had taken off his gourd and set it beside him, but the way he slouched forward was enough to tell her that he pretty much never took it off. The way he sat looked uncomfortable to her. She slouched when she sat down as well, but not that bad. He probably had all kinds of back problems.
He must’ve been able to sense that she was watching him, because he shifted in his seat slightly and looked over his shoulder. She didn’t take her eyes off him, instead choosing to make eye contact. His eyes were hostile, and icy, but it wasn’t like she’d never seen that before. Just a glare wasn’t enough to scare her. Not after Saeka. She didn’t think anything would be able to scare her after Saeka.
He seemed to be sizing her up, and she was perfectly fine with it. She’d spent the past five minutes sizing him up, so allowing him to do the same was really only fair. She still felt like she knew him somehow. Or that there was something about him that reminded her of someone. She just didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t even like it felt like positive “memory.” It was as though she’d met him before in battle and had simply forgotten his name, or something. It was really weird.
“He’s an insomniac.” At first, Kaisuki didn’t even recognize the voice, because she heard it so infrequently. But after a split second, she recognized the voice as Izumi’s, and listened to her carefully. “He’s been an insomniac for a long, long time.”
She schooled her expression so that it didn’t betray her emotions. An insomniac, huh? She knew how that was. He probably wasn’t sleeping for a very different reason than her’s, but she knew how painful it could get to be unable to sleep at night. She could relate to him on that level, and she supposed perhaps that was what she was finding so familiar about the haunted look in his eyes, but that just didn’t feel like the right answer.
“You should get his name later,” Izumi spoke again after a couple of seconds. “He probably doesn’t have many allies, with a face like that.”
“I’m not sure he’s looking for friends.” Kaisuki replied, but she silently promised to try and get the boy’s name later, assuming she got a chance. She blinked, pulling herself back to reality. The jounin that had been handing out the tests had gotten to the redhead’s row, and he was staring at her with an odd look in his eyes. Wondering if Izumi was right, Kaisuki allowed herself to relax enough to offer a warm, friendly smile. The boy didn’t move for a moment. Then, he glared at her. His shoulders had stiffened, and as she watched him, she noticed his eyes glaze over for a second before he finally nodded curtly at her, and then turned back around to face the front of the room.
She didn’t quite know what she thought about him. For a moment, it’d seemed like he would stand up from his seat and eviscerate her. He seemed hard to read beyond what Izumi had told her, and she wasn’t exactly sure how interested she was in befriending him. He seemed pretty angry and distrusting, and she didn’t think she’d be able to break the ice before he left Konohagakure, possibly to never return again.
“Now that you’ve all received your tests,” Morino-san said loudly, attracting the wandering attention of the test takers. “You may begin.”
Kaisuki flipped over her test, looking over the list of questions. There wasn’t a single one that a genin would know the answer to. They were questions that a chuunin or a jounin might know, but certainly not a genin. She raised her head, glancing at her teammates. Sakura had gotten right to work – she was probably one of the few people in the room who could honestly answer the questions without even thinking of cheating. Sasuke hadn’t started writing yet, but it looked from where she sat as though he were scanning the room.
Naruto, on the other hand, was panicking. She could tell by the way he kept adjusting his hitai-ate, and the hunch of his shoulders, and the slight tremor in his dominant hand. She hoped he wouldn’t do anything stupid. If this test was panning out the way she was expecting, he might be able to get away with guessing on all of the questions, or not answering any of them at all.
Deciding to act under the assumption that the purpose of the test was to see how well they could gather information without getting caught, she spent a moment looking around the room. She didn’t have a whole lot of resources at her disposal. She was either going to have to go ahead and not bother answering any of questions (or outright guessing) or she was going to have to get really creative.
“The first one is ‘D.’” Izumi said out of nowhere. Kaisuki blinked, looking down at the test. She stared at it hard, wishing there was some way for her to proof Izumi’s answers. “I’m a thirty-four year-old jounin, Kaisuki. The answer is ‘D.’”
She couldn’t really argue with that, and it wasn’t like she had any better answers to offer up, so she went ahead and circled the one Izumi had told her to circle. She would simply have to trust that the irou-nin wouldn’t lie to her. It wasn’t like Izumi had any reason to be malicious in this situation.
So, that was how she answered the rest of the questions. After the second question, Izumi started explaining the questions and their answers to her, and Kaisuki paid close attention to her words as she wrote in her answers.
She hadn’t interacted with Izumi that much before. The woman was very quiet, and rarely spoke up for anything that wasn’t related to something medical. She had noticed a few weeks ago when Sasuke had started showing the earliest signs of falling ill and had helped Kaisuki put together a concoction for him to put into a cup of tea every night before bed. Sure enough, Sasuke didn’t get as sick as he had been looking he would, and was back to normal within forty-eight hours.
So far, she had been extremely helpful, but Kaisuki would’ve liked to have more personable conversations with her. She didn’t seem inclined to want to have much in the way of those, though, and Kaisuki wasn’t one to push at something like that. Izumi would come around in her own time. Or she wouldn’t. There wasn’t anything Kaisuki could really do to influence it.
All around her, during the course of the test, numbers were called out and teams were forfeited. She didn’t pay any attention. She knew the numbers of her teammates, and she kept an ear out for those numbers, but that was the extent of the attention she paid to her surroundings. She was the second person to finish the test – the first being Sakura, of course.
“Thank you, Izumi.” She offered hopefully.
She hadn’t been expecting an answer, as Izumi didn’t usually respond to thank-yous, so when the woman spoke up, she was a bit surprised, but very pleased. “I’m happy to help.” It wasn’t much, but it was more than she’d ever given before. It was progress, in Kaisuki’s eyes.
“If you see Saeka, can you tell her I’m a little worried?” Kaisuki requested, and she felt the woman hesitate for a moment.
“If I see her, yes.” Izumi promised, and Kaisuki had to work extremely hard to not grin happily. Being on friendly terms with her spirits was actually fairly uplifting, especially after all the trouble Saeka had given her for such a long time. Now that they were all friends – or at least, approaching friends, she could rest easier. She didn’t feel a rush of anxiety whenever she saw Sasuke or Kakashi-sensei.
She hadn’t had a nightmare since they’d gotten back from Nami no Kuni. And that was a major accomplishment.
“Put down your pencils and turn over your exams.” Morino-san said a good five minutes early. There was a moment in which everyone in the room stared at him, and Kaisuki thought that perhaps there would be a riot right there in the exam room. But after a few seconds of stillness and silence, everyone obediently laid their pencils down to rest and flipped their exams over.
“You should all already know the perils that you’re going to face after this part of the exam is over. Over half of you will be dead by the time the Forest of Death is through with you. After that, only half of that number will go on to the final matches.” Morino-san said, eying them all with distaste and boredom. Kaisuki wanted to shove a handful of kunai down his throat. “If you’re afraid of dying, you should leave now. Fear of death will only ensure that you will be killed, and there’s no room for hesitation and weakness in these exams.”
A lot of people had already left or been kicked out. Anyone who remained ought to already have known what lay ahead, but Kaisuki could see a lot of people shifting around uncomfortably in their seats, considering the option of leaving. It was a little amazing to her that they could’ve come this far and there were still people being intimidated out of the room by Morino-san.
“Cut the bullshit!” She flinched at the loudness of the sudden voice, immediately recognizing it as Naruto. She stared at him from where she sat in the back of the room, eyes wide. He had slammed a fist down on the table in front of him, and he spoke indignantly, “All you’re trying to do is scare me off! You couldn’t possibly know if even a fourth of us will die, and you’re not going to make me give up! So blow it out your ass and stop acting like you’ve got a clue how this’ll turn out!”
Just the look on Morino-san’s face was enough to make Kaisuki think that maybe they were about to get thrown out of the Chuunin Exams because Naruto had decided to explode at the exam moderator. But then she saw the way the man’s eyes swept over the room, and she noticed that those who had been looking doubtful about the future were looking more optimistic. They were looking more sure of themselves, more determined. She smiled slightly at the back of Naruto’s head. He really was something.
The silence stretched on for a good minute and a half, no one moving from their seats. Then, Morino-san chuckled to himself, shaking his head in disbelief. When he looked back at them, his eyes held a certain amount of respect that hadn’t been there before. He looked directly at Naruto for a moment, before returning his attention to the rest of the faces around the room.
“Congratulations,” he finally said, and Kaisuki’s smile broadened just a little. She watched Naruto as he withdrew his hand from the table, where his fist had been resting the whole time. He was probably confused out of his mind. “You’ve passed the first section of the Chuunin Exams.”
Naruto slumped back in his seat at that. His body language looked both relieved and confused. “This first section was to gauge your information gathering skills and mental fortitude while under stress. You’ve done well to make it through this section, but don’t let it get to your heads.” Morino-san continued, looking very pleased. Kaisuki wasn’t sure if she wanted to hit him or thank him. “If you head back out to the atrium, there will be someone there to take you to the forty-fourth training grounds for the next section. Best of luck to you all.”
Immediately, everyone started moving about to leave the room. Kaisuki stood at the end of the aisle she was in, waiting for her team to arrive on her side of the room. She looked over towards the redhead she’d been eying earlier, watching him as he lifted his gourd up and slung it over his shoulder. It certainly didn’t help his posture any. He turned in her direction, evidently planning to meet his team in the atrium, when he caught her staring again.
Kaisuki knew she ought to feel abashed for staring at this poor fellow so much, but she really didn’t. She wasn’t known for being easily embarrassed. Their eyes met again, and he glared at her. She smiled back at him, and his eyes glazed over again. There was a beat where he simply stared at her with glassy eyes, and then a moment later he was glaring murderously at her before turning his attention away so he could follow the throng of genin walking out the door.
She didn’t know what it was, but she could’ve sworn she knew him from somewhere.
The Hokage was talking to their new moderator when they arrived at the Forest of Death. As Team 7 was walking at the front of the group (at Naruto’s insistence), they had a front row seat of the forest, their moderator, and the Hokage who wasn’t really supposed to be there.
Their moderator was a young, wild-looking woman with a lively spark in her eyes. As they approached, she turned towards them and grinned, looking very excited. Kaisuki felt a stab of anger that didn’t belong to her as they drew closer, and she felt her hands spasm in her pockets. She blinked, confused. That had felt like Saeka, but she didn’t really feel present. She cast the thoughts from her mind for the time being.
They came to a stop a few yards away from her, and the man who had led them there walked right past her, making a beeline for the Hokage. The two of them spoke for a moment, before the Hokage walked up beside the new moderator.
“I’m Mitarashi Anko. I’m the moderator for this section of the Chuunin Exams,” the woman told them. Then, with an amused look in her eyes, she added, “There’s a lot more of you than I was expecting. No matter, half of you will be gone by day three anyway.”
“Before you get to that, Anko: Tsubaki Kaisuki, may I have a word?” He said. She stiffened, unsure of what she had done to warrant the attention of the Hokage during the Chuunin Exams. They weren’t supposed to see him until the preliminaries, which came after the Forest of Death.
She hesitated momentarily before striding forward. The Hokage smiled at her, beckoning her as he turned and started walking further away from the genin and their instructor. She could hear the woman talking to everyone else as the two of them walked away. She waited patiently, knowing that the Hokage (much like Kakashi-sensei) enjoyed making people wait. He liked surprised people, and so he would drag out a story, or wait to offer up an explanation, or pause dramatically mid-sentence. It was incredibly annoying.
“What did you want to see me about, Hokage-sama?” She asked once they were out of earshot. They were walking around the front of the forest, coming around a bend in the fencing.
“As you know,” he began. “Team 7 has one more person than they’re supposed to.”
Kaisuki nodded, “Yea, I know.” She said slowly, unsure of what lay in store for her. The two of them were coming up on a small tent with a table underneath it. On the table, she could see a stack of papers, a pile of pencils, and a brown satchel. None of the things there looked particularly special, but the Hokage led her right over to it.
“Because of that, you will not be accompanying Natruto, Sasuke, and Sakura into the Forest of Death.” The Hokage stated, and Kaisuki opened her mouth immediately to argue, but he held up a hand to silence her. “Hear me out. We’ve figured out a way to let you go in alone without necessarily signing your death certificate.”
“I’d like to hear that.” She muttered under her breath, and he smiled at her.
“You will go into the forest an hour before everyone else, after being introduced to everyone. You will take this bag,” he picked up the satchel that had been sitting on the table and handed it to her. “It has six scrolls in it. In this part of the exams, each team will be given one scroll – an earth scroll or a heaven scroll – and they will have to acquire the other. You get six scrolls, three earth and three heaven. You must bring back at least one of each no earlier than the evening of the second day. Also, you aren’t allowed to do give one of your scrolls to your team. Everything else is permissible.”
“So, I get a head start, but everyone and their mother is going to be looking for me.” Kaisuki replied slowly. Out of everyone on her team, she had the highest likelihood of survival, even on her own, because of Izumi and Saeka (if she was willing to be helpful).
“Yes,” The Hokage replied, smiling knowingly at her. “I’m sure you’ll do fine, Kaisuki.”
“He didn’t say you couldn’t find your team and help them so they can help you.” Izumi spoke up suddenly, and Kaisuki could feel that she was smiling. She seemed to be getting into the groove of the Chuunin Exams and enjoying herself at this point. She held back the urge to grin.
“Yea, exactly,” Kaisuki agreed enthusiastically. Then, after a beat, she added suddenly, “Hey, how is Saeka?”
She felt Izumi hesitate, before she replied, “She’s angry. She won’t tell me why. And she doesn’t like that Mitarashi Anko woman.” She sighed, and continued, “You should probably talk to her yourself.”
“She won’t talk to me, though,” Kaisuki mumbled in response. Izumi didn’t answer her right away, and after about thirty seconds had passed, Kaisuki figured she wasn’t planning to reply at all. She sighed aloud, blinking rapidly to clear the haze from her vision. The Hokage was scrutinizing her carefully.
“Talking to someone?” He asked, raising an eyebrow. She hesitated briefly before nodding.
“Izumi,” she replied easily. Then, she added hesitantly. “Saeka’s… well… I mean, I dunno… I guess I … I shouldn’t really talk to you about it without her permission. Sorry.”
He nodded understandingly, “Of course, Kaisuki. I respect their privacy as much as you do.” He looked over her shoulder at something, before looking back at her. “They’re coming over now. I’m going to head off, then. I hope to see you at the preliminaries.”
Kaisuki smiled wryly at him, “Me too.”
She turned around to face the mob of people walking towards her. She could see her team still walking at the front of the group. As they drew closer, Kaisuki noticed that Naruto looked a little pale. She wondered briefly what she’d missed. Probably more intimidating, if she had to guess. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her imagined scenario, instead smiling and waving at her team.
“Hey, Kaisuki, right?” Mitarashi-san greeted, walking over to her. Kaisuki nodded, and was guided over to stand before the mob of people. “This is Kaisuki,” she introduced the Tsubaki with a smirk on her face. She seemed very amused by everything. “Her team is made up of four people, so she’s going to be going into the forest alone. She will have on her person three earth scrolls and three heaven scrolls. The only people she can’t give scrolls to, and the only people who can’t take her scrolls, are her teammates.”
Naruto’s eyes widened in horror, and Sakura paled considerably. Sasuke raised an eyebrow, though he didn’t look like he was worried about her getting herself killed. She didn’t know if that was because he thought she could handle herself or if he didn’t care. They hadn’t been on the friendliest terms since their last fight in Nami no Kuni. He hadn’t gone back to ignoring her, but the two of them weren’t being nice to each other any more than they absolutely had to.
She smiled at Sakura and Naruto reassuringly. They didn’t seem convinced, but there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about that. Sasuke glanced at Naruto and Sakura briefly before rolling his eyes.
“She’s going to be entering the forest right now, while the rest of you are doing paperwork.” Mitarashi-san stated. Naruto and Sakura exchanged a glance, looking like they wanted to step in. Kaisuki hoped they decided against it. “There are things for you to sign and fill out on this table, and there are writing implements as well, so get to it.”
She saw Sakura’s hand move to raise up, but Sasuke grabbed her wrist and prevented her from lifting her arm up, before leaning over and muttering something to her. She looked at him, distressed, before looking back to Kaisuki, who only smiled at her again. Then, she bit her lip and leaned over to pass the message to Naruto. He looked disbelieving, and then looked at Kaisuki again. She smiled at him as well. His shoulders drooped in defeat.
“Let’s get going, shall we, Kaisuki?” Mitarashi-san said, leading her over to a nearby gate. “You’re going in right here. Everyone else will be entering the forest in an hour. I advise you don’t wait around.”
“Of course,” Kaisuki replied, holding back the urge to comment scathingly on Mitarashi-san’s presumption that she was an idiot. The woman unlocked the gate and wrenched it open. The metal joints squealed loudly, and Kaisuki gritted her teeth to make them stop aching.
“Good luck, kid.” The smirking woman said. Kaisuki didn’t reply, stepping into the forest and looking around herself briefly. Then, she took off at a dead run, concealing herself in the shrubbery and darkness. She moved forward for about two minutes before running up a tree. The higher up she could get, the better she’d be able to survey the area.
She was going to have to try and cover a lot of distance in a fairly short amount of time. Everyone was going to make their own guesses as to how far she could get in an hour. She was going to have to outdo the furthest possible distance they might assume she would travel.
“Be careful,” Saeka’s voice floated up from the back of Kaisuki’s head. She continued forward, wondering if it would be safe to respond when she was moving. She was going to have to learn how to talk to them without spacing out somehow.
No better time to start than now. She thought to herself. “I will, Saeka. Are you alright?”
“He’s here.” Was the immediate reply, and Saeka sounded furious. Kaisuki wasn’t sure if she should be wary or not. Who was “he?” For the first time since the Chuunin Exams had started, Saeka had come back to the forefront of Kaisuki’s mind, and the first thing she’d gotten from the dead girl was the sense that there was someone she wanted to kill.
“Who’s “he?”” Kaisuki wanted to know, but Saeka didn’t reply. She wasn’t sure why she was reacting with anxiety. It couldn’t be Sasuke. If it was Sasuke, Saeka would’ve addressed him as such. She seemed to be concealing both the identity and her ties to whoever it was that she was so angry at. Kaisuki couldn’t help but wonder if this man was the one behind all of Saeka’s anger. She’d certainly sounded murderous, and in a way Kaisuki had never heard before. Saeka’s anger towards Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei had been explosive and violent. Her anger now seemed nothing of the sort. She definitely sounded like she was planning to butcher someone alive, but the concept of her planning to kill someone was a new thing all by itself. Normally, she’d just take over and at least attempt to slaughter the person her anger was directed at.
Though, since her fight with Sasuke in Nami no Kuni, it seemed as though Saeka had gotten past the days of tantrums and explosive rage. She had been angry enough to skin Sasuke alive, but she hadn’t so much as tried. She had scared him half to death, but she hadn’t hurt him. It was a far cry from the last time Sasuke infuriated her, that was for sure.
It seemed like every time she turned around, something had changed with Saeka for the better, and Kaisuki didn’t know why. She wasn’t the one causing it, she was relatively sure, but Izumi had said that her and Saeka weren’t really friends (yet). Was it just that she had gotten better control over herself as time went on? Even her chakra felt reduced in terms of how unpredictable and chaotic it was.
Kaisuki had no idea what was going on. She didn’t know enough about spirits and Yurei. She couldn’t even make an educated guess because she was grossly uninformed. Eventually, she was going to have to find out where her origins lay.
She came to a stop, glancing up at the sky. She’d been moving for about two hours. She had no idea where her team was, and Saeka seemed to have disappeared again. She dropped down to the lower branches, keeping her eyes peeled and her ears open. There were a lot of sounds coming from every direction, but none of it sounded like battle yet. She continued forward, hopping through the branches a little more slowly as she tried to listen for any signs of human life, but there were none. She must’ve gotten further ahead than she’d thought she would.
For now, she thought to herself. I’ll keep moving. If Saeka comes back, I’ll see about getting her to help me catch up with Naruto and the others.