Ch.48. Improvements and Bonds
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One month has passed since Hii and Akumu have been in the Forest of Death.

Hii was currently hiding as a transformed rock in the forest.

'So far, so good. I should only have to wait a bit longer before he comes.'

Hii had went through a dozens of plans, ending with some success and failures.

Success was another knot on the fence while failure ranged from the scariest chase he'd ever had, the familiar sensation of fangs or claws piercing his skin, or waking up in the tower covered in his own blood and not remembering how he got there at all.

Today would be the first time he tests an idea he had ever since he lost during the first few attempts.

The clones always seemed to catch him off guard everytime he made a attempt on the gate. They seem to move in synch, but that was only once his chances were gone!

Hii began to guess that the real one was the one who set them on certain routes and could possibly control them from far away unlike shadow clones.

His success always seem to be when he finished all the clones off anf had to fight the real Akumu.

He had to test this theory out.

'I figured out the routes they all go down. I just need to surprise him while he patrols.'

Hii hatched this plan and slowly perfected it over time. Today was the day he finally put it into action.

He knew one of the clones would come down this way a little before noon. Akumu let them run on their own, forming their own patterns.

'It's almost time!'

Sure enough, Hii heard the soft steps of a clone coming close to him.

He waited.

'Not yet.'

The sounds of paws hitting the ground came closer.

The clone managed to pick up the scent of Hii nearby and came right above the rock. 

Hii made that scent trail just for him to follow to the trap!

'Now!'

*Poof*

[Ugh!]

Hii struck the clone right in his neck with his sword as soon as he undid his Transformation Jutsu!

*Shhhhhrrk*

The clone dissipated into the ground as Hii headed to his next location.

'Ok! Step one complete!'

Hii prepared to start the next step of his plan.

Shadow Clone Jutsu!

*Poof Poof*

Two clones appeared and started to head toward the gate in two directions.

'Let's see if this works.'

*******

Akumu laid in the shade of a tree near the tower as all this went on.

'Hmm?!'

Akumu's ears twitched as the information from the defeated clone came to him.

[Hehehe! Finally challenging me,huh?]

Akumu lifted himself up slowly, his joints cracking slightly as his limbs extended fully. His face turned in the direction of the last slain clone.

[Let's see how you deal with me this time.]

Akumu had a smile on his face as he looked towards the sun reaching its peak in the sky.

He had rather average expectations for Hii with this training, but this boy splendidly exceeded them. 

Hii used rather interesting methods to get by his clones and Akumu looked forward to the new ways he could come up with.

Akumu's smile began to spread wider as he headed over to the location of his last clone that was just defeated.

*******

*Thwack*

[Uwah!]

The fourth clone was quickly dispatched as Hii moved to the next part of the plan. 

'The clones should be there soon.'

Hii had managed to get only 11 knots on the fence in the month he was in the forest.

His most sucessful venture was using the nearby river as a method to sneak his way to the gate and back. 

Sadly, Akumu managed to figure this out and would personally attack if Hii was in the river.

Hii had one last method he hadn't tried yet. 

He had to try and fight Akumu in the clearing he created.

'He won't have any close shadows to work with there. I should be able to hold him down for a short while.'

Hii made it to the clearing quickly and started to set up his traps. He only had a bit of time before Akumu got to this location.

'There, over there, and here. That should do.'

Hii reached into his bag and pulled out a small scroll.

'Let's hope it works this time.'

Besides completing the training, Hii found that his pool of Jutsus he could use were rather shallow.

He began to look over his techniques to find some that could be improved or adapted. 

He only figured out one such technique, and he would test it out today.

[I see you're challenging me with a new plan.]

Hii turned towards the source of the sound, seeing Akumu come out of the nearby bushes. 

The clearing gave no cover for either of them as Akumu slowly made his way in front of Hii.

"I'm going to win this time."

[Don't forget about your mission.]

"I didn't."

Hii held his sword firmly as he started to circle Akumu. Akumu leisurely circled him as well, grinning at the improvements Hii had shown.

He no longer froze when subjected to Akumu's killing intent.

In reality, Hii had already finished the main goal of Akumu's training, but Akumu admired his will to compete with him.

Akumu didn't think it was wise to try to compare to a Biju, but he admired the resolve all the same.

[Here I come!]

Akumu charged towards Hii while Hii's body instantly coated itself in lightning!

The two crossed by each other multiple times, neither getting an advantage.

At least, that's until Akumu raises his level of participation.

[Here I come!]

'Ok! The plan starts now!'

Akumu raised clones from his shadow. Only two could come out since the only shadow he could draw from was his own. The time of day seemed to also affect his ability.

This was the moment Hii was waiting for!

'Now!!'

Hii pulled out a shuriken and threw it between some nearby trees!

*Snap*

A set of wires were cut by the shuriken, sending a multitude of them towards the center of the clearing!

Hii ducked down and avoided the passing shurikens.

Akumu avoided it as well as he sank into his shadow. His clones however...

[Ugh!]

[Agh!]

Both were caught off guard and riddled with shurikens as they slowly sank down back into the shadows.

Akumu cautiously rose back up from the ground, staring at Hii with a sharp glint in his eyes.

[Not bad.]

"Thanks."

The two didn't say much as they once again clashed into each other!

*Clang Clang*

The two went at it for a while, but Hii had long discovered another problem with his young age.

His stamina was nowhere near enough to keep up.

'It's time to try it!'

Hii reached for the small scroll and opened it. 

Akumu stopped in his tracks and observed the scroll, noticing the kanji inside the seal.

[Water?]  

*Poof*

*Shuuuu*

A large amount of water was released from the scroll, spreading out all over the ground.

Hii put his sword on the ground and weaved handsigns near the water!

Water Style: Water Wolf Armor Jutsu!

The water formed around Hii's body quickly and took the form of a large wolf on all fours!

It was almost as big as Akumu's clones in size with a rather crude appearance of a wolf.

[Oooh! That's new!]

Akumu' s tail couldn't stop wagging as he watched the new technique with interest. 

His eyes naturally opened as his bizarre Sharingan eyed the changes in Hii's body.

"Awwooooo!"

Hii howled fiercely and picked up his practice sword with his newly formed teeth.

"Grrrr!"

[Hoho! Bring it then!]

Akumu licked his mouth as he took his stance in anticipation!

"Graah!"

Hii shot towards Akumu and the two clashed once again!

Claws, fangs, and a sword repeatedly struck each other as the two fought circles around each other.

It was a feral battle!

The only problem was Hii's chakra capacity wasn't much higher than his stamina.

"Haaa haaa haaa."

[Heh! Tired already?!]

"Grrr!"

Hii clenched his teeth tightly as he tried another technique he wanted to try!

*Chi chi chi*

His sword began to crackle with lightning as the flowing water of the wolf began to speed up!

[Hooo!]

Akumu's tail was wagging fiercely as he waited for the technique to finish!

As the water and the lightning began to crackle, the jutsu suddenly stopped completely!

*Shaaaa*

The sword fell to the ground along with the water forming the wolf, leaving only an exhausted Hii laying on the floor.

Akumu's tail hung sadly as he sighed.

[ Dammit! It was getting fun too.]

Hii couldn't even raise his head as he laid spread out on the ground.

'Chakra exhaustion! This is my limit for now.'

He tried to lift himself off the ground, but his body could only helplessly struggle.

"Haaa. It almost worked."

[Well, that wasn't a bad attempt at all! I really enjoyed that fight.]

Hii could see Akumu's shadow slowly hovering over him as he came closer.

[Too bad you don't have enough control to complete that move for now. I'll help you get back to the tower.]

Akumu didn't wait for Hii to respond as he picked him off the ground and flung him onto his back.

[Water wolf armor, huh? How did you think of that?]

"I thought of it when I tried to traverse the river. It eventual came to a wolf like form."

Hii laid powerlessly on Akumu's back as Akumu swiftly went back to the tower.

Hii suddenly felt memories of his clones coming to him as a smile came over his face.

"Akumu."

[Hmm?]

"I did it!"

[You did it?]

"I got the 15 knots on the fence."

Akumu looked surprised, but his face slowly changed into a sly grin.

[You sent shadow clones to tie the rest while we fought, eh?]

"Yeah. I knew if I challenged you, you wouldn't pay attention to the fence too much as long as I made it challenging for you."

Akumu couldn't help, but laugh as they arrived at the tower.

[You figured me out. That's amazing for someone so small.]

"Tch! I'll get bigger soon!"

[Hahaha! Don't worry about that too much. Nothing time can't fix.]

Akumu used his shadow to open the door and bring Hii inside.

[Well, get some rest for now. We'll head back tomorrow.]

Hii barely managed to nod his head as sleep overtook him.

Akumu chuckled lightly as he placed Hii on one of the beds.

Akumu curled up next to his bed as he also decided to nap for a little while. His grin didn't fade as he slowly drifted off.

*****

"H-Huh?"

Hii woke up groggily from his bed as he finally recovered from overdrawing his chakra.

'Ugh, I used too much chakra.'

Hii felt his body was pretty sore, but not as bad as Guy's training. 

Hii got out of the bed and headed out of his room to see where Akumu was.

"Akumu?! Where are you?!"

[Outside!]

Hii walked out of the tower and found Akumu wrestling with food he found in the forest. He had a giant snake on his mouth as he happily dragged it over.

"Snake again?!"

[Hey! It's pretty tasty! Get it ready.]

"Aaaah fine!"

Hii was adverse to eating snake meat in the beginning, but he slowly got used to the taste. This was further enhanced with Akumu finding some herbs that made it taste better.

Hii sighed as he sliced pieces of the snake to put on skewers.

Akumu had dug a pit to put the fire as he and his clones gathered branches of wood.

The wood he drained of Yang chakra became really good firewood so Hii was happy Akumu always went to get it.

Once the fire was going, Hii placed the skewers carefully along the outside of the flame and waited.

The two of them looked into the fire in silence, patiently waiting for the snake to finish cooking.

"Akumu?"

[Hm?]

"Do you really have to go?"

Akumu glanced at Hii, then continued  stare at the fire.

[Yep. It's my duty to keep whatever happens from now on in line. I have to keep everyone in Konoha on their toes.]

Hii buried his face in his knees as he thought it was unfair.

He wanted to help, but he was too small to do much of anything for Akumu.

Hii felt a weight behind him as he raised his head. Akumu stood over him and prodded him with his nose.

[If you miss me, just call out to me like wolves do.]

"Huh?"

Akumu looked up into the night sky and Hii followed along with him. A crescent moon hung above the night sky amidst countless stars.

[Just howl to the moon. I'll probably hear it.]

Hii chuckled as he couldn't believe that would work.

"I wonder will the village get concerned with me howling every now and then?"

[Probably. Just run away if Anbu come you.]

"Hahahahaha!!"

Hii wouldn't believe it if they seriously had to send Anbu to find the source of howling in the village. 

[They'd probably have to send Inazuka clan members first. You'd probably be a living nightmare for them! Who can track clean water with no scent?]

"Hahahaha! Stop!"

Akumu smiled as he saw Hii laughing.

[Hey. Show me that form again.]

"Ok!"

Hii wiped his tears and went over to the nearby stream.

He weaved handsigns for his Jutsu and focused.

Water Style: Water Wolf Armor Jutsu!

Water from the stream formed around Hii as his wolf armor manifested.

Akumu saw the smaller wolf coming towards him and observed it in detail.

The fur around the wolf was formed up of rushing water in set patterns and flows. It's color fluctuated from deep blue to white and back.

It's eyes were a glassy blue, similar to Hii's. 

 Akumu nodded his head as he saw this Jutsu.

[This is definitely a unique Jutsu. I hope you make this even better the next time I see you, ok?]

Hii nodded his head as Akumu chuckled.

[Also learn how to speak in this form. You'll scare your teammates if you can't warn them of this move. Now follow my lead.]

Akumu looked back up at the sky.

[Awoooooooo!!!]

A sinister howl echoed through the forest, scaring nearby animals.

Akumu stopped and looked at Hii, who nodded his head.

"Awooooo!!!"

A immature,serene howl sounded through the forest with a relaxing ring to its tone.

Akumu nodded with a smile and howled once more while Hii followed behind him.

[ "Awoooooo!!!!!"]

The two howled, their distinct sounds synchronizing to a strange, ephemeral ring.

The two forgot about covering their skewers, however, and had to deal with a roaming bear afterwards. The two laughed at their own silliness as they worked together to push the bear back.

Their final night of training was a rather fun night of laughter and fun under the stars.

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