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tenblades in narukorp

Because Sparring Means You Care [Tentsuke, Nejiko]

((Post-dated to Year 18, February, soon after this log.))


Some people wondered what drove Team Gaia's members to dedicate such ludicrous amounts of their lives to training. Some people maintained that they were using time-space folding jutsus in order to stuff all their training within the hours of a day; others were sure they had discovered some magical energy-giving elixir that eliminated the need for sleep. Many concluded that they were all insane.

Tentsuke couldn't explain entirely what drove him to rise at dawn and meet his teammates in some mud-churned field (churned by their own feet and weapons and movements) in order to put himself through a beating that many civilians would take as sufficient reason to lay down and die, but he could say that the chance to try out new shiny weapons definitely played a role.

Warm-up concluded - a set of calisthenics, acrobatics and stretches that Gaia-sensei had prescribed, and which a professional contortionist had once labeled "madness" - he shucked his shirt off, for both coolness and to avoid staining the fabric. He had new weapons to tend to.

He ran loving hands over his newest acquisition, admiring the shiny steel blades attached. They were custom-designed and built by one of his cousins, Tivo - one of his clan's best (because he was so good at weapon-smithing) and worst (because he sucked at anything else, and also kept blowing up the smithy) - and they'd been his birthday present. (Sent, as usual, five months late - or was it seven months early? - because Tivo's awareness of time was best described as 'loose') They were heavy, and flashy, meant he couldn't use any other weapons or throw anything with accuracy worth a damn, and took a long time to put on - totally impractical to use in a quick-ambush or a fight, but they looked damn cool, and if he knew he was getting into a fight, it might be worth the time to pull them on and intimidate a few enemies....

Tivo called them Iron Reaver Claws, and they were a mix of bracer, with shiny, armor-quality steel laying over his forearms, and a weapon made of curved steel over the back of the gauntlet. Fighting with them would likewise be a mix, combining what he knew of claw and knife-fighting techniques. They were only good for close-range, but they were very good for that, and natural for dual-wielding. He pulled them on, turning his hands this way and that so he could admire the sun glinting off the blades and armor-plates.

Part of the reaver-claws' attraction was how sharp the blades are - better than surgical-grade instruments, and how did Tivo get his blades to have such insanely good edges? He'd need to write, and ask - but for the purpose of today's sparring he fitted wood-and-lead covers over the blade-edges, covers custom-built to the blades, he'd carved them himself. It was a way of training without live steel that he and Nejiko had adopted - more for his sake than Nejiko's. But this time it was different. This time.....

This time he had paint.




As far as Nejiko knew, Tentsuke only wanted to try out some new weapons he had made based off a design of his cousin's. He had promised to take her to visit his family, including his infamous grandmother who was also the matriarch, during the warmer months. That was some months from now, and for right now he just wanted to get one last spar in before his escort mission to Water Country. She certainly didn't mind. She had the opportunity to spend some quality time with him, doing what they did best: tried to beat the other into submission in as quick a time as possible.

Of course, seeing as he had a mission in a few days she had to play nice; the Hokage would not be pleased to find a replacement for him, or to lose money if no replacement could be found and the mission aborted. Therefore at the most Nejiko could do was bruise him. Given that she was bringing her katana to this spar along with plenty of other weapons (past experience taught her to always have something on her), this may prove...interesting.

Habit prompted her to stomp the hard ground once as a warning of her approaching presence to him. What he lacked in sight he more than made for in hearing, and she and Leigh learned to give that warning lest they risk becoming a porcupine.

She wore a coat, unzipped, over long sleeves and long pants, which covered further layers. Cold as it was now, exertion would warm her up, and she would need to be able to remove layers as needed to maintain thermo-regulation. Provided, of course, the spar lasted that long. Usually the only layers doffed were the coat and sweatshirt, leaving the close-fitting long-sleeved shirt beneath still on. Tentsuke, immune to the cold as he was and a practical furnace himself, always had less problems. Unfair, she thought, even as she greeted him with a faint though warm smile. He'd already been at work, she noticed--his shirt was already off. Not that she minded in the least.

The contraptions on his arms inevitably drew the greater of her attention. Shinobi first and woman second, new weapons were new threats and she studied them to see what she could infer from them before she saw them in use. They had wooden covers, something she frowned internally at as an automatic reaction. She knew the reason for the covers; if he couldn't work her with a new weapon that was blunted or dulled, he covered them. Less for her safety and more for his own comfort. It still baffled her as she had no qualms about hurting him in a spar (well, almost none) but she accepted it. It made him happy. Still, they looked like what she supposed were blades growing out of the forearms of the metal bracers that curved in a single smooth edge back to the elbow.

She puzzled over them, trying to imagine uses. In a very close-quarters fight, say on a ship or in a crush, she could see how they would be effective as a secondary offense to what the primary weapon would be. They seemed more defensive in that they prevented anyone from grabbing your arm with their hand. Also, if say a chain or wire wrapped around the arm, chances were good that the blade was honed enough to cut through the metal with the help of sawing motions. A similar version with a less-wide blade might actually be useful for ANBU, actually. And if he used whatever metal it was that let her conduct chakra through it with ease...

Hm. That could be very useful.

No, the only real question she had was why the wooden covers were covered with... "Paint, Tentsuke?" she asked, her breath steaming in the cold, still air.



Tentsuke had heard that first deliberate thump of Nejiko's foot on the ground, but he'd had to finish locking the last cover in place. Task done, he looked up at her, beaming. He had to fight off his usual urge to glomp her, (it was unfair someone so deadly-lethal could look so ADORABLE) an urge stronger than usual because, well - he knew now that she liked him! That an immediate dismembering and/or decapitation didn't await him if he did hug her! (A blow to the solar plexus, however, was still within the realm of possibility). She was even smiling - a little - at him, which made his own grin widen to cheek-aching proportions.

He waved at her cheerfully - then spluttered, as the paint he'd carefully applied on the cover splattered across his face, leaving an arc of blue across his the bridge of his nose.




Very wet paint, apparently. She smirked in amusement at him, though she realized she faced getting that stuff on her as well. Hopefully it wouldn't be so bad as that Kiri-muck, but then, this was only paint. And whatever the color, she wasn't planning on getting any on her.




Tentsuke huffed at her, then grinned good-naturedly, using the shiny surface of his blades to admire his reflection. "Cool. Looks kinda like war-paint," he said, admiring himself.

"And it's so I can gauge how well these blades handle - without actually having to cut anything."



"Hn." Simple, but effective. He could see where the blade could hit without worrying about injury. At the worst, she might have to get a new coat. She debated whether or not to use the katana; after all, it was her ANBU weapon and therefore honed sharp. And chose for it. She had enough control of the weapon to not harm him, and while the cutting ability was still better than average (this being one of his weapons, after all) without her conducting chakra through it, the wood covers wouldn't suffer more damage than necessary. The nicks in the wood would also allow him to see what part of his blade contacted hers, as well.

She flexed her gloved fingers. It was cold, she was allowed to have the gloves. Even if they covered her whole hand, and not just the palms. "Goal?" Beating to submission was the typical goal, though sometimes they went only for a set amount of time, or until one was disarmed/disabled.



"Let's say - if I can 'tag' you on kill spots, I win. You, of course, just need to pummel me as usual." He grinned at her. "Half-points if I 'tag' you on non-critical spots." He scratched at his cheek, feeling the wet paint underneath his fingers and smearing it over his skin to look more like real warpaint. "And don't worry - the paint will wash off easy. Do you want a time-limit?"



"You've a mission in a few days. I can't pummel you as usual," she answered with a faint smile. "So a time limit is up to you; you're the one testing the new weapons. I can do what I need to disable you." Meaning use jyuuken to turn his nerves to temporarily senseless fibers.



"Then no time-limit, and paintblade it is! Thanks," he told her, his voice more sincere now, a little more serious. "For helping me test these new weapons out." He held his arms up, testing the weight and heft of them - carefully, so the paint he'd applied didn't spatter on him again. There was blue for the left hand and red for the right, so he could keep track of which side was landing hits. Gaia-sensei had trained all her students to ambidexterity, a boon for physical-based fighters such as Nejiko, Leigh and Tentsuke, and he was careful to avoid favoring one hand.

(Ambidexterity meant dual-wielding. Dual-wielding meant looking BAD-ASS, and he knew it)

He stood up, reaching automatically for his shirt - bare skin meant he was just a little bit more vulnerable to Nejiko's jyuuken strikes, and every extra layer between his skin and hers was for now, anyway welcome, but stopped dead as he realized that pulling the shirt back on - if he could - meant cutting it up and slopping it with paint. He paused. Right. Do the things requiring deft hand-use - like putting on his clothes - BEFORE putting reaver-claws on his hands.

"I'll need to remember things like that if I want to use these," he muttered to himself, then kicked his discarded shirt to hang neatly over a low-lying branch - it'd be safe enough there until the sparring was through. He turned to face Nejiko. "Do you want to warm up first?"




"Hn. I'm already warmed up," she returned. She had made sure to do the proper exercises before heading out, and it was good she had. If they waited for her to stretch now, his paint would dry up. She did take the opportunity to shed her coat, having worn the harness supporting her scabbard beneath it. The coat she placed on the same branch as his shirt. Then she turned to face him, a hand reaching back to undo the catch holding her sword in the sheath. Smoothly slid the fine blade from its home, Nejiko holding it in a one-handed grip as she assumed a stance. Her long hair was tied in the low ponytail she wore less and less nowadays. An easy, casual spin of the sword in her hand signaled her readiness.




Tentsuke held back a shudder. If she knew what the sight of her wielding a sword so casually - so easily - did to him...Oh man, Hyuuga Nejiko and pretty weaponry, together. He acknowledged that 'dangerous kunoichi using swords' was a weird fetish, but at least it was one he could mask. He forced himself to focus on Nejiko as an opponent - to look at her limbs in order to gauge her next move, not because she had legs that went on forever, to remind himself her hands were weapons as deadly as his worst, to look in her eyes and remind himself of the dangers her doujutsu, once activated, posed - to him. (Or at least his ego.)

He settled into a low stance, emphasizing defense and stability over the ability to spring into the offensive - he wanted her to come near, not try and close with her. His advantage of reach wasn't enough to overcome her greater speed - especially not with two heavy, and new, reaver-claws on his arms. Arms raised so the blades faced outwards, ready to 'cut' if she struck at his face or torso, he watched, waited for her move.



She circled him, slowly, watching how he carried himself, how he held his arms and balanced his weight. Getting behind him would be the easiest way. Her sword could swat aside any attacks, though advancing herself would require a bit more work. Hm. She made a few feints, testing with her sword to force him to react so she could see how he responded with the blades.



He shifted balance to the balls of his feet, circling as she circled. He couldn't let her get behind him - reaver-claws had little reach and would be trickier than most to deploy in odd positions - like, say, deflecting weapons from behind. He had to keep facing her - he began to step backwards, towards the tree, so she couldn't get behind him.



He didn't really think a tree would prove to be much hindrance, did he? A faint and momentary smile before she darted in again. She held the sword in a strong two-handed grip, coming up from below in a diagonal slashing motion aimed to cut across his chest.



He crossed his arms and blocked her sword, admiring the way the reavers were built - the vibration caused by the blades' impacts didn't transmit down to the armor, and he could hold the block easily. Red and blue paint from the blade-covers dripped onto Nejiko's sword.



Cleaning her sword after this was not going to be fun, not with paint cold-drying on it. She kept trying to muscle her way past his block, to see how far to challenge it, before suddenly spinning a full circle in the opposite direction, the blade aimed for his shins.



Tentsuke, with his innate love for katanas - especially any katana wielded by Nejiko - was already mentally wincing at the paint on the blade. He'd offer to polish her sword for her. He'd use that new oil ......and a new chamois cloth.... whoops! He jumped, his feet tucking in under him, hearing the whistle of the blade as it passed beneath.



It was her imagination, or was he a little distracted? He wasn't going to have even a chance at winning if he kept that up. Maybe she was going too easy on him; just because they were dating (she wouldn't stop the small smile at the thought) didn't mean that changed anything in a spar. And if he wasn't going to go on the offensive, then she'd just continue.

Her blade whistled as she attacked in a flurry, careful that if she got through she would only scratch him and not anything worse.



The first few blocks were a bit clumsy by their standards, but they worked. And as Tentsuke got the hang of it, figured out the weight and heft and what styles would work with the reavers and what moves wouldn't, his movements improved. He lost himself in the rhythm of block and counter, dodge and parry, his mind spiraling inwards into a tight coil. He thought of it, once, as being analogous to sharpening a blade - his mind being scraped free of all impurities and extraneous thoughts, honed into a single edge turned to battle.

His motions became easy, then fluid, and he moved from defense to testing Nejiko, seeking an opening in which to strike. When he did, he would launch into the offensive.



He was hitting his stride, she noted with approval. And despite her seriousness and her concentration, the smile remained in the back of her mind while she couldn't avoid drops of paint that flew up every time her sword clashed with his reavers. She worked to keep any openings in her attack at bay, but in comparison to him the katana was still a 'new' weapon for her and once he had his stride, he found his opening and she found herself on the defensive. Blocking and parrying she was forced to give ground, her white eyes flashing (not literally) in concentration as she searched for a crack to exploit.



Tentsuke advanced on her, driving her back, gaining more space for large, sweeping movements as they moved towards open ground. He switched gears abruptly, dropping down and trying to leg-sweep her, forced to put one hand down for balance and making a mental note that he'd have to compensate for all the extra weight on his arms when engaging in such maneuvers.



She did a neat little in-place backflip to avoid the sweep before taking advantage of the time given while he tried to get back up. At the last moment he managed to avoid getting pinned by her blade. The paint wasn't flying off the wood anymore, which was nice. She was already a bit speckled from wayward drops. So far she had managed to avoid getting any in her eyes but she would need to wash her face when she got home.

They began to kind of trade blows with their weapons. She needed to be careful to not get her blade trapped in the wooden covers in addition to everything else.



Tentsuke scrambled to his feet, a little less graceful than usual (and he'd have to remember how odd it was to move with such heavy things on his arms), contorting and dodging Nejiko's strikes by a miracle. He winced as the flat of her blade impacted against his ribcage - hard. He moved with the blow, though, not letting it knock him back down. He took one step back, straightening as he did so, ending in a defensive stance, arms up to block. He deftly fended off her blows, recognizing his own training in her moves, and then shifted abruptly into offense, leaning back a little and letting her get in close before snapping into a flurry of attacks.

She blocked his first slash, which left her open for his second blade - what would have been a intestines-spilling belly slash had his blades not been covered. As it was, she ended up with a bright red streak of paint over her shirt.



That right there should have ended the spar. In a real fight--in a real fight, well, she'd've had a chakra-sheath to help mitigate the damage--she would have been done for. But much like when Tentsuke began teaching her broadsword and she had gotten in close enough to tag his elbow and shoulder, she continued regardless of the paint-wound. She would recall for their next spar what he did here, and be able to avoid it. Mostly in checking how much power she used to knock a reaver aside. She had used too much and now paid the price for it.

He kept pushing the offensive, forcing her to give ground. He was also using more strength in his blows, power she could feel shivering down the blade and up her arms. (Part of her hoped the blade wouldn't get broken, but that was a stupid thought--Tentsuke had made this sword for her; it could withstand more than most anyone would think.) She defended valiantly, but once again he proved who was the better with weapons when a particularly harsh blow knocked her sword from her hand.

Weaponless, she was not defenseless. She was just at a supreme disadvantage. And when he attacked again, his arms almost too quick to be see, it was all she could do to simply dodge them. He had learned Gaia-sensei's lessons well and managed to create an opening in which a foot hooked her ankle enough to unsteady her. The bodyslam did the rest and knocked them both over, he recovering first to rest the wooden cover on her collarbone.

The spar was most assuredly over.



He quickly moved to pin her properly - Hyuuga Nejiko, downed and weaponless, was still quite able to turn things around and kick your ass unless you were very, very careful - using one hand to keep her wrists together and above her head, sitting on her legs so she couldn't get the leverage to move them, and leaning forward, torso to torso, so she couldn't buck and so he could press the edge of his right reaver to her throat.

"Yield?"



She had to give him credit as he was getting much better at successfully pinning her. And while yes, there was a flash of prideful temper, she wasn't in any particular hurry for him to get up. Even if the ground was very cold. "I yield," she answered with some reluctance.

If nothing else, this was a good reminder that she needed to work more on pure kenjutsu. Though the spar had allowed for jyuuken, at some point she had decided to not use it. (Was she getting too dependent on it?)



Tentsuke beamed at that, unable to help himself. Winning over Nejiko wasn't quite a once-in-a-blue-moon event, but it was unusual enough to make him giddy whenever it did happen. He acknowledged that restricting her to kenjutsu, rather than the Jyuuken that was her main style, didn't put them quite at equal footing, but still....

He grinned down at her and, on impulse, sat up, undid the quick-release latch on the right reaver so it fell off his arm and to the ground beside them, (the reavers were easy to take off, in case he needed to switch weapons - they were just very hard to put ON) swiped a finger on the pain still wet on the reaver's blade, and used it to fingerpaint a smiley-face on one smooth, fair cheek.




She saw the hand approaching and gave it (and him) a questioning look, one that changed to puzzlement at poke, poke, smeeeeear. Was he drawing on her face?

An elegant eyebrow rose, silently demanding an explanation for this.




Tentsuke only grinned wider and admired his handiwork, brushing the knuckles of his hand against her unpainted cheek. "I always enjoy putting a smile on your face."




A quiet snort of amusement interrupted the moment, though she leaned a little against his hand. "That was bad," she informed him, even as it coaxed a slight smile from her.



"Whaaaaaaaaaaat? It's nothing but the truth," he protested, still grinning, the hand against her face becoming something like a caress.



Nejiko leaned into the caress and let her eyes close. "It's still a pun," her chiding having no power to it at all.



Tentsuke leaned down to nuzzle her gently, more rubbing noses in an Eskimo kiss. Since there was a broad streak of blue paint across his nose, it meant some rubbed off too. "Sorry," he said, voice softer, affectionate in a new tone - well, not exactly new, but one he'd always tried to suppress before - and a tone he only took with Nejiko. "But I'm still sufficiently juvenile to find puns hilarious."



She made a quiet sound, one both of them were coming to associate with her being happy. "What would I do without you, Tentsuke," she murmured. Her nose twitched from the paint. She still leaned her head against his.



When she made that sound - the wordless, happy sound - he melted - absolutely melted. Tentsuke had to nuzzle her again, using his nose to deliberately trace a smudgy blue line down one cheek and into the side of her neck. "You'd have a lot less fun, probably, since that's my mission in life - to make sure you have some," he told her, relaxing his hold on her wrists and shifting slightly so she could move if she liked. "Eat less cake, and fudge, without me to help convince Leigh to make you some....oh! And you'd suffer more from curry. I mean, who's your official drink-bringer when you have spicy foods?"

He was a ninja, and she was a kunoichi. Their lives were not stable, safe things. He knew better than to promise her a forever he couldn't guarantee - a forever which, even without battle and danger, and just considering the machinations of her clan, was uncertain. But he wished he could.

He sighed next her ear. "I don't intend on letting you find out, anyway," he promised her, which was both more and less than he should have.



Good, she thought, bringing a hand up to place it on the side of his face. The nuzzling prompted her to blush, try as she might to not. "See that you don't, Tentsuke. Or I'll never forgive you."


 

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