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Fight Club [Nejiko, Yuugao]

[Takes place before Tentsuke's return. Will figure out exact timing of this (aside from February) tomorrow. Right now Bel and I are just getting this thing frelling posted. The comment count is why. If anyone wants the Teal Deer quick summary, either poke me or wait until I get around to timelining.]

[Thread-posting still a work-in-progress. Will note when it's complete.]





Nejiko was not a consummate actress. This amongst other things thus generated severe limitations as to the kinds of undercover missions she could participate in, be they ANBU or not. Better, in her opinion, she simply undertake such straightforward missions as 'search' or 'search and destroy'. Best use of her Byakugan and her skills, and more expedient. She liked to undertake a [sufficiently challenging] mission, focus on the objective and how to reach it, and nothing more. Prancing about pretending she was something she was not left a quietly sour taste in her mouth. If she was contracted to protect a person, she would prefer to be allowed her uniform or at least something most decidedly not civilian issue.

But for this mission, however...

In a very prosperous town, it wasn't unusual for fights to happen. Nor was it entirely unheard of for the fighters to organize themselves, giving birth to gangs who staked out territories and mercilessly attacked those who would infringe upon them. Or, alternatively, a different alternative could arise. Underground tournaments, or fight clubs, that could promote the prowess of an individual fighter that would nevertheless have ripples throughout the fighting community. Municipal authorities would do what they could to put down such competitions with varying degrees of success.

This was a little different. In a village named Hijikawa, located a few hundred kilometers inside the southeast border of Earth Country, one fighter was achieving such prominence as to give authorities a reason to worry. Not only was he very good at winning, but from the word of paid informants he was also using the fight club to weed out the good fighters to join his slow-growing but already decent-sized army. Threat of rebellion was very real, and the city officials had pulled their money to hire Konoha ANBU to take down the leader and disband the group "by any means necessary."

Admittedly, Nejiko liked that little clause. What she didn't like was that in order for she and Yuugao-taichou to make entrance into the club to find out just how far-reaching it was, as well as to assess the group as a whole, she needed to dress as a civilian. A civilian not too many steps up from poverty herself, and whose taste in clothing was decidedly nothing like her own.

Here her black shirt was ragged at the ends of the short sleeves and at the bottom hem which exposed her midriff (and the twining trunk of her tattoo), and the low-ride cut-off denim shorts didn't exactly hide the circular scar on her lower right abdomen. She had wanted a judicious addition of fishnet to her ensemble (she had more costumes of a similar vein for this mission) but it was pointed out that she was going in as an experienced fighter, interested in attaining a good position, and that her scars would tell much more about her before even spoke a word.

And she could even tell the mostly-truth about how a crossbow bolt had shot through her, if she needed. (Thankfully, she hadn't.)

The saving grace thus far, if there really was any, was that she wasn't required to curb her temper for this mission. She could be as bitchy as she wanted, which was actually harder than anyone realized given the Hyuuga training to not show emotions. Being encouraged to show them, however, only irritated her more which was probably the intent. Adding to her annoyance was that with the Fate-forsaken contacts in, not only did her eyes itch constantly but people knew when she was looking at them, as it was obvious now. The time their target had caught her giving him an assessing glance to measure his potential skill and ability before seeing him fight, he'd responded with a leering grin. His once-over of her in return had been slow, lingering, and unfortunately not unexpected.

And though he had done a good job of covering it, Yuugao's quiet bristling only made her wish she could get away with smacking him so as to get him to cease behaving as an idiot. She and he would need to have a talk after this--beyond a professional one as her superior and also as a sparring partner or a teacher, he had no claim to her and therefore no business getting upset because (surprise, surprise) another male was interested in her.

Times like this really made her wish she was homely. This sort of attention was quite undesired. She huffed an inaudible sigh and focused on Yuugao's fight.

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Playing the gruff and prickly fighter-type wasn't terribly difficult for most shinobi to do. And if it wasn't for Yuugao's uneasiness about how nervous his mother had been, along with how much stress he'd been under, well...he would've found it difficult to shove his way past other "potential fighters" and scowl at anyone that passed. As it was, he did it with pleasure. Dressed in a ragged t-shirt and cheap track pants, Yuugao felt like he'd become a teenager once more - a sloppily dressed one at that. With his hair dyed again, too, curse it all. At least it was a more attractive shade of brown this time?

He'd already been in one fight, but it had been over in a matter of seconds. Of course, that meant that Yuugao had to do a second preliminary fight. Which he didn't really mind, actually. The first had left him unfulfilled. Aggression that been pent up so long had only one good way of release - violence. And while Yuugao was normally kind and gentle, there was a darker side to him. Why else would he be in ANBU?

This whole mission felt a little strange. Sending Nejiko made sense, it did. She excelled at taijutsu and could even mask what style she used. It was - in the physical requirements - built for her. But him? Sure, he'd improved his taijutsu by leaps and bounds, but...he still relied on shinobi tactics. Little spurts of chakra to strengthen his balance, the power behind a punch or kick, or even just to sharpen his senses. It wasn't to say that he didn't think himself capable of the task, it just...felt like perhaps Fate (or the powers that be) were trying to force Nejiko and himself into talking again. Recently there had been few chances for him to see her and while their training session in civilian clothing had gone fairly well - he'd needed the tips about keeping things more 'natural' looking and how to move better in non-shinobi clothing - it still left him uneasy.

Then again, she had just recently been put back on active duty. And they had been running missions together before she got...thin. Perhaps that was all. That and nothing else. But that didn't mean he was completely comfortable. No matter to how many fights he watched or participated in, he still felt on edge. Something was wrong at home and he didn't know how to fix it.

Maybe that was what bothered him most.

His opponent began to circle Yuugao and wavered back and forth in what looked like some imitation of a kung fu style - monkey, perhaps? Yuugao had a loose and ready stance, keeping his movements to a minimum. When the younger man finally charged him, a simple side step was all that was necessary to dodge the foolhardy attack. The other man stumbled when he slowed to a stop, whirling back around and charging again.

"Come at me!" the younger man screamed when Yuugao once again avoided letting the other man make contact.

Arching an eyebrow, Yuugao sneered and sank into a more offensive stance. "You asked for it." A few long strides were all it took and Yuugao let the kid catch his punch with his hand. He had intentionally been too slow, smirking before pulling his hand back and throwing the other off balance. As the kid stumbled closer to Yuugao, he jerked his knee up sharply and caught the kid's chin. He, understandably, fell to the ground in a slump.

This time when he got back up, he looked more than a little agitated.
The fight on the sand-floor ring continued; Nejiko momentarily wondered why Yuugao didn't utilize the sand to fling into his opponent, then judged by the way he moved and his focused intent that after the too-swift takedown of the first match that he now wanted a protracted fight to work out whatever else was bothering him. That was fine with her, so long as he didn't overdo it. It helped for this situation that while Yuugao was good, to an experienced eye such as her own he was obviously still a student. He wasn't as perfect or as economic in his movements as he could be, and to guess by the way Takajin was also watching the fight he understood this as well. Made sense, given what information they had. Still, notes were different from seeing a person for herself. More than for the written-down reasons, this man needed watching.

Somehow, she thought, she felt it wouldn't be a problem as he was wandering over to her after pushing one of his human lapdogs away.

The tall man stopped well within her personal space, though his gaze was turned to the ring. She refused to give ground and thus tolerated his nearness. He jerked his chin to indicate Yuugao. "He yours?"

"He is," she replied smoothly.

"Still a bit rough 'bout the edges, no?"

Nejiko waited a heartbeat. "Your point?"

Takajin grinned, looking back at her. She watched him from her peripheral vision. "I want to be sure he can handle being a part of my group, Satori-chan." The grin became a smirk when she slowly turned her head to regard him with frigid courtesy.

"He can handle it, Takajin-san," she responded. "The question is, rather, whether or not your little group can handle him."

"He might prove useful, I don't deny that. But he's still a student. Before I make a judgment, I'd like to see his teacher in action." There was just enough innuendo in his tone that had her mentally slapping a palm to her face. "After all, I need to have a glimpse of what he could be capable of," Takajin continued.

This time she let herself roll her eyes. (One advantage to the hated contacts.) "I could very well say the same for you, leader-san. I need to see what your fighters aspire to be...if they have any ambitions."

A quiet chuckle, more felt than heard given the spectators' yelling and cheering. Rowdy punks, all of them. And yet they were a force to worry about. Ah, irony. "Oh, I would say my subordinates have ambitions. Strong ones, powerful ones." A leer. "Potent ones."

She slammed her forearm against his when he reached for her unbound hair, to which he responded by grabbing the white flesh in his dark hand. Her answer to that was a punch to his gut that curled and snapped into a hard elbow strike when he moved to protect that potentially vulnerable spot. The short scuffle that followed attracted some attention of its own, though no one was interested in interfering, and in any event it ended quickly and in a stalemate that in her succinct opinion was only possible because she didn't use jyuuken.

He looked pleased; she allowed her bored annoyance to show. At an unspoken yet mutual signal, he released her arm while the stiffened fingers she'd had at his underarm lymph nodes drew back.
Nejiko lounged as only a Hyuuga could lounge. That is, self-assured and unafraid despite the general quality of and lack of familiarity with the other guests, and entirely aware of her surroundings while not appearing actively so. And though the dinner was promised as an informal gathering (given what she was seeing, she wondered what qualified as formal) she had still taken some care in how she dressed. Earlier in the day she had worn all black, now she wore a siren-red shirt that while long-sleeved showed off the whole of her back to display the tattoo, except for the thin line of a front-closing bra. (Because like hell she'd give anyone the opportunity to unclasp it, and bindings while preferred were something more attributed to shinobi than the typical civilian.) She'd disliked it when she had found it among her provided provisions, but it could allow for distractions. It did, too. The weight of eyes had decreased once she was lounging, however. She had also taken some care with her hair, leaving it loose except for two medium braids that hung down on either side of face reminiscent of the headdress she had worn as a genin. Not that, of course, she expected anyone to notice. The point was to keep the hair immediately by her eyes from obstructing her vision. In a normal fight with Byakugan her hair wasn't an issue as she could See through it. Not here. The manji-covering headscarf would also help.

Knowing better than to skimp on calories, she took a good amount of food when offered it and managed to be not quite dainty as she ate it. She kept an eye on the servers as much as she could (she didn't trust anyone here besides Yuugao) while also watching the fighters warm up. And as far as 'demonstrations' went, she wouldn't put it beyond Takajin to somehow get her into the ring. Not that she'd terribly mind. While it appeared that for the most part the fights weren't lethal, just extremely painful, she certainly wasn't going to be so kind. Their mission was to eliminate the group. Being forced to a challenge would make it easier.

And besides. Takajin did want to know what she's capable of, did he not? Whyfor then should she hold back?

She smiled faintly, her eyes half-closing. It had been such a long time since she had been able to go all out. She'd enjoy the chance if given.
For all intents and purposes, Yuugao was watching Ichita and Nobu fight. As it was, he was watching the room nearly as well as Nejiko. She, as a Hyuuga, had the advantage of the Byakugan, and even though she wasn't able to utilize it here, Yuugao didn't doubt that she was better at watching several people at once. He ate his fair share, of course making sure that the servers that gave Nejiko and himself food were intermingled with those who fed the others. If they were poisoning them then they had a system so intricate he didn't know what it was. More likely...Takajin was seriously considering having them join his ranks.

Yuugao would've rather chopped the guy's head off with a wire.

A single clap of the hands was all Takajin had to do to stop the fight - something that unnerved Yuugao. He hadn't expected riffraffs like those reported about to have so much discipline. The more he saw, the more he disliked this setup. The loyalty to this single man had warning signs flashing all over in Yuugao's mind.
Were Yuugao at home in Konoha, he would've stared - and let his jaw drop. As it was, he let himself focus entirely on the fight, sharp eyes taking in every move. He knew that his defenses were down -- but if anyone in the room could keep their eyes off the fight they deserved to stab him in the back. Besides, Nejiko could take out the entire room if this was what she could do (perhaps not even the fullest) without chakra or weaponry.

The idea that Yuugao seriously needed to improve his taijutsu was further imprinted on his memory and he momentarily flinched as she threw the sand. The message was obvious: that was something he should have done. Well, at least he was still in the student role? Continuing to watch her toy with the poor man left Yuugao's stomach tensing up. He had known that most ANBU had a darker side - even he had one - but he had not expected to see one quite like this from Nejiko. If she ever went rogue, Yuugao would pity whoever chased her. Perhaps it made sense, with the little tidbits he knew about how the Hyuuga worked and the fate of her mother. He certainly didn't have all the details, but she must have had some serious anger issues as a child if she was this good about controlling her dark side.

He was very glad that he was on her side - and unlikely to ever be her enemy. He rather wanted to keep it that way, too. If it ever happened...he wouldn't mind having a wife who could beat the crap out of him if it was Nejiko. It would be a badge of honor, instead.

When the man fell and the fight was over, Yuugao leaned back into his cushioned seat and glanced over at Takajin. The sparkle in the man's eyes made Yuugao feel that jealous emotion come back, even without a good reason. It was more than obvious that Takajin wanted Nejiko. And most were ways that Yuugao didn't want Takajin even considering.

"I can see you weren't exaggerating, Satori-chan. I might have to request a private performance," Takajin smirked.

He'd have to find a special way to kill that man - if Nejiko didn't get to him first.
Nejiko's glance to him was lazy yet piercing. "You wouldn't survive," she promised with a hint of a smile. Resettling herself on the chaise lounge, she drank deeply of her water, and closed her eyes. As pleasurable and relaxing as the fight had been, she needed to focus now.

I hate the cold I hate the cold I hate the cold---have I mentioned how much I hate the cold?


"Hn." That fit with her own suppositions after his handsign to her. Certainly wasn't going to make their contracted objective any easier to accomplish with a missing-nin thrown into the mess. "So what's the plan?" In their roles with this group she may be the 'teacher', but he was still her captain and the one actually in charge of the mission.

(And in an entirely different train of thought, she was sure she could count the goosebumps on her legs. Individually.)

The cold has no existance in my rage

He did one more visual sweep of the area in his lingering paranoia and ran a hand through his hair. As he watched his breath condense before his eyes, Yuugao began to feel the cold sink in and regretted that he had led her out here in the first place. She was much more scantily clad than him and even he was starting to get cold. "Tonight seems too risky to me. We'd have to scour the squatter houses outside and the chance that they'd get away is high. What do you think of our chances of eliminating them all in the main arena room tomorrow? That's the idea that suits me, but then again, I'm still getting flashbacks of the hellish chase after the bastard."

Yuugao met her eyes and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Cold or no, they couldn't rush this planning.
"Back from a midnight stroll?" Takajin stepped out of the shadows and gave Nejiko a voracious grin. His gaze didn't bother to shift to Yuugao and if he had bothered, he would have seen a twitch on the other man's face. He had ditched his shirt somewhere and must have done a work out of his own to have the fine sheen of sweat on his skin.
Nejiko looked Takajin over from head to toe then back, and gave a slight shrug of her shoulders. "A nice walk clears the mind, and in this weather helps one to appreciate a warm bed," she responded smoothly, an almost imperceptible pause between 'warm' and 'bed'. Enough of one for someone in a certain frame of mind to insert their own noun before she continued her thought. Perhaps tomorrow she would wear her hair completely down. Having to constantly push it back away from her face would draw a fair amount of attention to it, and it was her one real vanity to go by how much attention she would pay to it.

Seduction wasn't one of her strongest skills; it was one of her poorest, really. But subtlety and manipulation, ah, those she could do.

>__<

Nejiko pretended to have an interest in how Takajin looked, though it was tinged with reservation. "I appreciate your attention," she smirked again, "though I'm quite fine to spend my night with Eisuke."

[Yuugao silently screams.]

"Oh?" Takajin quirked an eyebrow and straightened his posture a little at the chaffing implication. That scrawny excuse for a fighter had more of her attention than him? No, Eisuke couldn't be real competition. She likely just felt responsible for him. That was it.

"I wouldn't think that he could provide very much body heat, what with that small frame of his."

Thankfully Takajin was too preoccupied to hear the muted sound of Yuugao's hand hitting his forehead.

Is blanket pre-warmed?

She looked at her roll as she adjusted it. "I need your body heat," she said in the same quiet tone. "We're sharing the blankets tonight." Cold and Nejiko had never gotten along as a downside of her lean frame. She had strength and power but very little in the way of body fat, absent what gave her curves. She could and would withstand the cold if she needed it, but when another source of heat was right there it was stupid to waste energy on shivering. Tentsuke and she and Leigh had done it a number of times, usually with her sandwiched in the middle because of her lower tolerance for cold and despite her protests.

And while she couldn't say she was comfortable with sharing blankets with Yuugao, this was a mission and they had a job to do. Thus, they could both deal with it out of necessity.

Does a few minutes worth count?

He was glad for the lack of lighting in the room as he felt the faint blush on his cheeks. This was not a situation he would have asked for - though his libido disagreed. Of course, he wasn't going to listen to that part of his mind for a long, long time.

"Only if you're sure." When she didn't retreat, he moved onto his knees and pulled the blanket out from underneath himself, laying down and pulling part of the blanket over himself. He stretched out on his side and held up the blanket, smiling softly. "I can put my back to you if you prefer?"

*wishes he wasn't so attracted to her*

Yuugao was frantically trying not to think about the particularly lovely fragrance coming from Nejiko's hair. Beneath the faint taint of sweat his exhausted mind kept thinking of a bowl of strawberries. And milk. Maybe it was supposed to be cream. Mmm, either way, it was making him hungry.

He pushed it aside from his thoughts, tilted his head up a little more to take in less of what must be her shampoo, and let himself drift to sleep. It all felt...so right. And yet he couldn't feel good about it. She wasn't his - as far as he could tell, she never would be. The agony that thought caused was enough for him to bite his lip and refocus himself on the boarded up window that was across from them.

He needed to sleep and stop thinking. Just sleep. With a few more assertions of his will power, sleep won the battle and he slipped into unconsciousness.

*wishes the same*

Shift, tense, then slowly relax. A good ten minutes after Yuugao fell asleep Nejiko only then could feel her own tension begin to slowly bleed away. Unfunny was the last time she'd been this close to him, it had been in the hospital on the 'movie night' before he'd been called away to team matters. Things had been a little better then, for all she was recovering.

Finally, after an hour's worth of rather depressing thoughts involving Tentsuke and how much she missed him and how much Yuugao wasn't him, she too fell asleep.

XD So he is.

She was certainly not going to argue, for once. So she thanked him, and waited until he was out of the covers before she began. There really was something of an art form to getting undressed then redressed under blankets without pulling them too far in any one direction. It involved a lot of wriggling and precision timing and some mental swearing when she managed to pin her hair, thus hindering movement.

Just another embarrassment, she thought sourly.

When she finished dressing, she got out from under the covers and quickly wrapped herself in the robe that had doubled as a blanket overnight. As a bonus it had absorbed some of their body heat so it was a little warm. Not very, but enough to know it wasn't cold.

The now COLD courteous monster

Despite being a very good heater at night underneath a blanket, Yuugao was finding it difficult not to hunch up and rub his arms vigorously over by the window. Cold morning air was leaking through and he was still feeling the contrast between warm sheets - plus Nejiko's body heat - and the window. He rubbed his arms a few times and flinched at the pinch mark he'd left on his left shoulder. At least it had kept him sane last night - even if it might make for a very odd mark to explain away.

And it felt like Nejiko was taking forever to get dressed. Then again, dealing with clothes under the covers never had been very easy for him and Hayako... He flinched and shook his head free of the thought. Now was not the time to even think anything remotely close to the topic of Hayako. He needed to be focused, harsh, and...Eisuke. A stupid amateur fighter training to become better under Satori-sensei.

"Let me know when you're done," he said, glancing back without a thought as he heard her throw back the covers. He caught himself just in time, snapping his eyes shut and jerking his head back. "Sorry. I didn't see anything."

Shhh. -- Happy now?

And the food had been wonderful. Yuugao wasn't much thinking of that at the moment though. No, he was far too busy trying to keep his opponent from knocking the wind out of him. Or jogging his brain so hard that he passed out. Back in the sand pit, Yuugao tried not to think of how hard both of them were breathing. Of course, he was faking some of his exhaustion - but not all of it. This man really was keeping him on his toes.

He'd tried to throw sand - and missed. He'd tried to use fancy footwork and found himself in too small of a space. And the blood he'd spit out from a punch taken to the jaw stained the sand below him right now. It was not a comforting thought. Of course, his opponent - Ou-something - was bleeding more profusely, but he seemed far more used to getting the snot beaten out of him. By this point in a fight Yuugao would normally have the air filled with wires and would be throwing explosives. But neither of those options were allowed.

And he really, really hated that.

Were he able to enhance his moves with chakra he'd have lived up to more of Nejiko's expectations, but...he was certainly missing that little tool. Another enormous fist came his way and Yuugao dodged it with flair, elbowing Ou in his now exposed shoulder. Unfortunately, Yuugao had not put quite enough momentum into it. Because he got an elbow to the face.

:D

Nejiko watched from the 'gallery', hands crossed over her chest. When they got back home, she was going to work with him to get past the flaws she was seeing. She could guess the reasoning behind the problems that showed here and not there. Mostly it had to do with his dependence on chakra to help him. A spar with Leigh while Nejiko observed might be good for him.

Her peripheral vision, meanwhile, was watching the area around her. Keeping an eye on Takajin and the people she and Yuugao presumed to be Takajin's lieutenants would be much easier if she had use of her Byakugan. It would also allow her to lip-read any important conversations they may or may not be having. Well, if she couldn't see what they were saying, perhaps she could hear. Moving casually around the viewing area and always mindful of keeping an eye on her 'student', she placed herself within probable earshot of Takajin and listened.
"Why?" She smoothed the sleeve of her robe. "Because I have taught him all I care to. He would better continue his advancement on the actual battlefield."
Satori didn't quite make sense to him. Why wouldn't she want to build up a force of fighters like Eisuke? Even just two men of the caliber Eisuke seemed to be would be formidable if used right. "And you would rather go your own way? There could be a place for you here, you know."

3 NPCs for the price of 1?

Yes, this was indeed going to be a very, very good day. "Well, being the Mighty Takajin does have its advantage....so that would be a 'know so'." He only just resisted shivering at the whisper of a touch from her lips on his ear. He could already imagine the fun they were going to have tonight.

"And with that being the case, I should go about making it a fact." He continued to grin and traced a finger from her shoulder to her hip, his touch lingering there before he stepped back to find where his lieutenants had dragged off Eisuke with the offer.


~


"So. Eisuke." The large man with scars peeping out from under his shirt, also known as Jun, spun a chair around so he could straddle it, using the back as a resting spot for his arms. His eyes were bright and alert, and cautious of this new guy. He disliked the guy's teacher, in only that she was too much a wild card. And because Takajin-sama favored her much too much to be thinking straight. "Got a family name?"

Yuugao didn't even like one of them

"Tanaka," he said, looking over Jun just as he was being examined. He'd toned down the cocky act once he'd gotten out of the ring, but that didn't mean that he let himself slump into the more hesitant persona he'd worn when first arriving. The whispers he'd heard and the four fights that he had won hands down, well, they were certainly something solid to gauge his observations and assumptions on.

Yuugao sat comfortably in his own chair, using it properly instead of spun around like Jun. Sure, the latter looked more impressive and intimidating, but it kept you from being able to flee or fight without a second-long delay. Possibly more for a civilian like Jun. Yuugao wouldn't allow that kind of a weakness in himself - especially with how battered he looked. And felt.

My mother taught me well.

"Seven months," he growled, matching the nasty temper with his own. "And I'm a wolf tired of running alone." He wouldn't regard the 'uke' comment with any kind of response, only making a mental note to make their deaths a little more grisly than the other underlings.

He would've growled more, but he heard heavy footsteps approach and looked over at the door. Takajin opened it and nodded to his two lieutenants before giving Yuugao a sharp gaze. "You're in."

"Really?" Yuugao couldn't help how he blinked in surprise. He had been so sure that these two here would be too suspcious, but...wait. Nejiko had been working on Takajin and if he really was as distracted by women as the report said... Huh. It certainly explained the quick turn around.

...Now I've got the Outback Steakhouse "Mum" song in my head.


"Takajin-sama?" Jun questioned even as he quickly got to his feet and Fumito straightened to attention. Jun may've been focused on Takajin, but Fumito slipped Eisuke a nasty glare.

Okay.

"Mm, in a day or so," she replied, eyes half-closing. "For my immediate future, things are looking fun."

Yuugao says NO.

Even with all of his undercover work, Yuugao couldn't stop himself. He gave a visible jerk. "Fun?" he hissed. Oh no, no, no. She was not....no. Not even for a distraction or chance to wait things out.

Just NO. Sure, he was playing the subordinate but there was no way he was going to let her go alone in a room with that man. Never. No. The flashback of blood and his teammate's scream was enough for his gaze to darken to something murderous.
He'd had some awful dinner parties before, but this was just about the worst yet. Sure, for all the discomfort and frowns from Hayako's parents, he hadn't been fighting back killing intent. This time, he was. Nejiko was fully within her character's rights to be lounging by Takajin and letting him nearly fondle her. And thankfully the rumors had spread about how Satori-sensei and her student Eisuke had spent spare time, so his simmering temper made sense. He even got encouraging comments from his new 'companions'. About how the serving girls were pretty hot and would put out, too. You just had to pay them with the right things. Yuugao appeared to take the compliments and advice in stride, he even acted thankful.

All the while, he kept his long sleeves down and mentally went over the best way to dispatch Takajin. He wanted it to be fast and yet as painful as he could make it.

Congratulations on posting the 100th comment for this thread, Bel!

When she'd whispered to Takajin, he apparently decided to take advantage of her proximity by quickly turning his head to capture her mouth with his, the hand that had been stroking her back suddenly around her waist, holding her in place. The blow that would've stopped his heart became a steadying hand on his chest as she closed her eyes so she wouldn't need to look at him. He pulled her in a little closer and she forced herself to be relaxed and pliant. Couldn't kill him now, too many people around and Yuugao lacked a weapon.

*grinds teeth*

Smirking impishly, she took it and was hauled up into another kiss. When he broke it off he slipped his arm around her waist to keep her against his side. She held onto him, too, to keep her own balance as they walked. Not too much longer...

*follows*

Before Takajin and Nejiko could get fully out of the room, Yuugao was following them. Of course, so did Jun and Fumito. Yuugao had gotten part way down the hall before they caught up to him. At the latter's hand on his shoulder, Yuugao stopped and looked up at him. "What?"
Yuugao followed afterwards, keeping himself wired under a facade of calmness. This would be just like any other assassination. He could worry about how it was too personal to be normal for later. He stayed two paces behind and waited until Takajin had Nejiko pinned under him on the bed. Pushing aside how much it should disgust him, Yuugao came up behind the man and slid his hand underneath Takajin's shirt, stopping directly over his spine with his fingers spread wide.

Takajin glanced up in curiosity and Yuugao only leaned closer, grinning. He kept his voice low and tinged with the same dark sensuality Nejiko had been calling on. "This is how Satori-sensei and I like it." One simple spark of chakra began the beginning of the end.

The wire around his wrist uncoiled at his command in a split second and shot into Takajin's back - severing the spinal cord. It moved rapidly up the man's body, paralleling the now useless line of bones. At the gasp of recognition and the paralysis that followed, Yuugao's grin widened.

He lowered his voice into the rasping tone he'd suffered through most of the mission chasing the man. "Remember me now, Tarou?"

There was definite recognition behind the missing-nin's eyes. "ANBU." He began to choke on his own blood and his arms trembled with the pain that coursed through his body.

Yuugao's wire continued upwards and by the time it reached Takajin's shoulders, Yuugao hurried it upwards, piercing the brain and then snapping the wire where it entered the man's body with a small surge of chakra.

Takajin was dead.

Get it off me! D:

As well as about two hundred pounds of dead weight. "Oof," Nejiko grunted when it fell on her. Sneering, she braced her hands against him before shoving the body off. Yuugao helped, too. "Really, I was expecting a simple garroting." Adrenaline of her own was still singing in her blood, and she closed her eyes a moment to get herself to calm down. The flash of Yuugao's own dark side was intriguing. She hadn't really had opportunity to see it before now.

She got up and dusted herself off before going to the trophy wall. There were two Leaf symbols there, and she had to be sure. Studying them she then breathed a quiet sigh of relief that one of them wasn't Tentsuke's.

I wonder when we'll get to page 2...

"We can," she agreed quietly. She didn't want to say what she was about to say, but she was a Hyuuga. Duty always came first. "Taichou--Yuugao-san, we can't take the hitae-ate with us. We can't leave any signs that may point back home."

I'm surprised we haven't hit it yet.

For a split second all he felt was rage. She wasn't going to let him take back the last piece of Nariaki to his family? How dare she? He'd already given her a vicious glare before he calmed it and kept his hand over the hitae-ite in his pocket. Logic was sinking back in and they agreed with her. But he still...didn't want to let it go. He was so close to giving that family closure, a knowledge of what happened to their only son...

There had to be something to bend the rule the way he wanted. There had to be. If they couldn't leave any sign that it had been Konoha that had done this then...

They would simply leave no sign either way.

"And if we burn the building?"
He'd have to get himself one of those sometime. Yuugao watched in admiration, giving her a nod when the act was complete. Picking a sword off of Takajin's wall, he signed begin and then opened the door. No longer holding back with his chakra, he sprinted down the hallway to the West. The first ten were dead as soon as he reached them, either with a chakra enhanced sword or a wire through the skull.

As he was about to leave the tenth room, Yuugao froze as familiar foosteps approached. Of course, it was Fumito. Making the nightly rounds, Yuugao assumed.

"Uke?" Fumito asked, sneering. "What the hell are you doing in Nami's room?"

Sensing only the solitary man and sure that the other bedrooms were far enough away that they likely wouldn't hear, Yuugao twisted to look back at Fumito. He didn't bother to dampen the rage still running thorugh his body.

"What-" he choked on his next word as Yuugao's wire pierced his throat. Fumito, for all of his prowess, could only choke as the blood pooled and stare at his killer.

Yuugao allowed himself a moment to smirk. "See now, you may be good with your fists, but give me a little wire...and I'd be calling you 'uke'. Don't bother yelling for Jun, he's already dead and I just ripped your vocal cords to shreds." He shrugged and then curled the wire up to press against the base of Fumito's skull. "Night." With that he burrowed the wire far into Fumito's brain to finish him off and then retracted the wire, flicking it clean as his victim fell limply to the floor.
Nejiko moved quickly and quietly. No longer required to not use her chakra, she relished the feel of it actively moving inside her skin. The katana she held in a reverse grip as the little fighting she did do was a bit too close-quarters and she couldn't put it back into the 'weapons scroll' even if she had wanted to. Jyuuken was her primary weapon, the katana reserved for if her first blow missed. The favored method was heart-strikes. If the receiver didn't die, they at least collapsed, making them easy targets for the sword. A bit of chakra constantly conducted along and through the blade ensured she did not get the sword caught on an inconvenient piece of hard bone. Instead, she sliced through it as the weapon was intended.

That she didn't encounter too many made her wonder how many people were still eating and drinking in the main hall, oblivious to the death toll rising. She smiled faintly to herself as she crushed a throat with a well-placed, stiff-fingered jab. It didn't much matter, so long as there were no survivors.
Nejiko wiped her blade on a dead man's shirt. As good as she was, as successful as she was, she didn't get through completely unscathed. Some bruises; nothing serious enough provide an impediment.

She turned her gaze to him, pinning him with a stare that was actually inconsequential as far as expressions went. Reason being if she was going to extend her Vision to her full radius - one kilometer - she needed a focus-object so she didn't become disoriented. And by 'alive' she presumed he meant 'those who aren't servants' as they were alive, groaning where they lay. One hundred meters. Several people some floors up who looked to have slept through everything. Two hundred. Nothing new. Three hundred. She could See the outsides of surrounding buildings. Four hundred. Southeast of her, a group of four friendly fellows were engaged in some serious dice gaming. West, sleepers. Five hundred. Nothing new. Six hundred. Nothing new. Seven hundred. Sleepers north, northeast, and northwest; and what looked to be a very energetic threesome to the east. Eight hundred. Nothing new. Nine hundred. Nothing new. One thousand. Nothing new.

Exhaling softly as she reduced her radial Vision to fifty meters, she then informed him of what she'd Seen.
For a moment he was worried that he'd asked the wrong question. Part of him was too tired to really care and he was still too revved up from the massacre to show anything but anticipation on his face. At her report, he let himself begin to take the steps towards his normal state of being. A whimper from one of the servers caught his attention and for a moment he could picture her burning alive.

Why had he thought they would be better off alive?

...perhaps it might be best to kill them now. There were only five of them conscious, or at least making noise, and it would be the work of a moment. He closed his eyes and breathed out slowly. Finish off the servers he signed and quickly eliminated those nearest himself. That left only two for Nejiko.

They were dealt with swiftly.

Sure that everyone nearby was dealt with, Yuugao fully retracted his wires and rubbed at his forehead. "Would you like to start the fire or the fake looting?"

His orders were feeling more stiff and he hated that. He might as well give her the option, right?
Looting was simple enough, perhaps even a little gratifying as he tore apart Takajin's beloved belongings. Yuugao took notes about the specifics of the hitae-ate the missing-nin had gathered, if only to provide it for ANBU's personal files. Or perhaps for the Bingo Book. He had set up several piles of broken up furniture and even some wood that had been set aside for what Yuugao assumed had been a bonfire.

By the time Nejiko returned, Yuugao had sat staring at the largest pile of kindling for far too long. Was he getting too old for this? Was he past his prime? Or had this just been a very demanding mission? Granted, getting beat up twice a day for two days in a row was tough for most shinobi. But still... his emotions had distracted him too much. He would need to find out what was bothering his mother and sort it out. There was no room for personal drama to trickle into the rest of his life.

"Welcome back," he said softly, still gazing at the pile of kindling.
Another assessing look. If nothing else, he looked worse. "Thank you," she replied before running through the handseals. "Katon: kakyuu no jutsu!" she said. A moderate-sized fireball passed from her lips - in here, there was no need for a giant one. The flames caught the prepared piles easily, and she did the same for the other two piles.

After that, she herded Yuugao out before blurring through the handseals for a wind-jutsu that would oxygenate the fires to make them burn faster and hotter. Soon a nice conflagration was crackling out the windows and through the stairwells until within minutes, the building was black against the fiery glow. Nejiko eyed her handiwork, nodded, and turned to Yuugao. "We should leave now."

If this is still on the first page, I will laugh.

All told it took about half an hour to get what she needed and also not leave tracks leading back to their camp. Yuugao had everything set up; good. Food would be better right now, but it would take longer to hunt something down and a source of heat was more important. A small-fireball jutsu lit the wood she arranged into a neat point, and soon a fire crackled with small cheer. While Yuugao warmed himself, she took his offered wires and began laying a series of linked traps around the perimeter. Nothing terribly elaborate - she wasn't as skilled as Tentsuke and she lacked better tools - but something that would warn them enough to buy a few seconds to get to their feet. Her sword, sheathed after cleaning with a cloth, stuck to her hip with chakra. Better to look odd if spotted (unlikely) than to need it and not have it.

When she finished, she poked at her bedroll, situated next to Yuugao's, before sitting next to him. "How are you, taichou?" she asked quietly. As she stared into the fire and the heat pressed against her face, she was reminded that she still wore the contacts. She dearly wished to remove them, but if they were to overnight in a hotel or inn somewhere, her Hyuuga's-eyes would identify her immediately. No, the damn things needed to remain in place until they reached Konoha.

Laugh away, then.

He could have just shrugged and that would have been a fair answer in his mind. He really was feeling kind of 'meh'. But words would be better, as would honesty. If he was going to be a risk in the escape from the mission, Nejiko needed to know. And now was a good as time as any.

"Tired," he said without preamble, staring blankly at the fire and rubbing his hands in the ambient heat. "I think...I'm verging on a burn out. And I just got over one recently, too." He frowned and closed his eyes. "How about you?"

Aye, aye, Ma'am.

Yuugao barely reacted. At least not vocally. He shifted to let her in and once she was under the covers, he scooted so that they touched, his stomach to her back. His exhaustion was enough to get him to ignore his previous hesitance to get too close to her physically.

And now the fun begins.

For a long time Nejiko lay there, head turned at enough of an angle so that when she did a twenty-five-meter radial check with Byakugan every seven minutes her blind spot was angled to be below the ground. Snow was still little more than flurries than thick flakes; good, as getting buried overnight while insulating would be unpleasant in other ways. Like if they were completely buried, without air.

She endured Yuugao's nearness as a matter of course, but as he settled into a deeper sleep he not only dreamed to judge by the movement beneath the lids but he also kept his arms securely around her. A flush of embarrassment enveloped her before she could rightly be rid of it. She would be happy to be home, happy to not be in such close proximity to him. She didn't mind the warmth - she was quite grateful for it. No, the problem wasn't so much him but it was him.

Had it really been almost a year since Tentsuke left? ...Yes, it had. It was February now, and he had left at the end of the month, last year.

How time flies while at the same time it crawls.

She shook her head a little at herself; really, what was she doing, worrying about personal matters when still on a mission? Before she could answer that question, her slight though definite movement only caused Yuugao to curl around her more.

Sigh.

A final check before of their surroundings before she, too, fell asleep.

~

To judge by the steady, spaced drafts of warm air on her scalp and the top of her ear when she awoke from an internal alarm clock, Yuugao was still asleep and being snuggly to the point she felt something like the giant plush bear Tentsuke had won Leigh during one summer festival. And he held on tighter when she tried to disentangle herself from him. A spark of temper; she didn't appreciate being clung to so. But short of injury or Jyuuken she was quite stuck.

Fingers lightly touched the muscle of his arm as she seriously contemplated the ramifications of a sharp chakra-pinch into the tendons holding his arms in place around her. He had been exhausted the night before, had mentioned being on the verge of a burn out, and was obviously still sleeping and dreaming hard. No doubt working through whatever was stressing him. And if he was anything like had been when he had visited her in the hospital in uniform, it might take him a few moments too long to recognize her.

She made a mental note to thrash him soundly in their next sparring session, as punishment for her needing to choose to not use the chakra. For now, she'd simply see about getting enough leverage that she could use plain old muscle. He was asleep. How hard could it be?

*(annoyed) sigh*

"Take note of your limbs," Nejiko returned coldly.

...oh crap.

His limbs? Yuugao blinked again and mentally ran over all of their positions and physical states. One arm was propping him up on his elbow (and partially underneath Nejiko), the other was still over her but not touching her anymore. His legs were...

Oh. Oh dear.

"Oh," he gently removed his leg from trapping hers and slid out his pinned arm with a little help from her. "I honestly don't remember doing any of this." Yuugao kept his voice at little more than a whisper. Partially because they were close together and there was no need to speak louder. Besides, it felt more penitent.
"Huh?" He glanced up at his hair. "No, it would be too obvious for the innkeeper. I've got something for removal back at home."
Another nod, this of understanding. She thanked her capricious goddess for her thick black hair, instead of something that would stand out and thus need to be dyed. Or worse: bleached. "I'll go first, then." Taking her bag with her, she disappeared into the small bathroom.

Peeling out of the clothes in a place actually heated was wonderful. Pity this town didn't have an onsen; she would have loved a good, cleansing soak. She turned on the faucet to get the hot water flowing while she arranged her clothes. The ones she had been wearing would be the same she would continue to wear until she got home. Those she draped where she could, then arranged her personal shampoo and conditioner where they would be in easy reach once she was in the shower. Unlike in other missions, these had a scent of strawberries and cream. Faint, so that one had to be very close in order to smell it and thus mostly suffice if ninja-stealth was needed. She was supposed to have been enticing, after all. A quick shiver of disgust before she stepped under the gloriously hot spray and let it pound first her head and then her scalp.

As she felt the water sluice down her face and body, she thought of her contacts and how she wished she might take them out. The damn things itched, and she would need to clean them, too. Perhaps someday Research & Development would come up with something better that could be worn for over a week, continuously, without causing irritation. How amazing it was her eyes weren't bloodshot.

Five minutes later, she ceased her mindwandering and washed herself as quickly as she was able. Her hair took time, owing to the attention she afforded it on a regular basis compounded with not having had washed it for the past few days. Still out of consideration for Yuugao she tried not to take so long as to use up all the hot water.

She succeeded, too.

Toweling herself and her hair dry took another fair portion of time. Her clothes had been warmed by the steam choking the bathroom. She dressed quickly, checking her eyes and that her curse seal was covered before heading out into the room, hair still wrapped in one of the towels. Air-drying would take a long while. She could wait to eat.
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