Arc VIII Chapter 13
Yuki panted. Her throat was drier than Sunagakure. Her feet hurt. The endless marching killed. Yuki marched, and marched, and marched as far her weak feet carried her, but the gruesome hill didn't end.
The innocuous hill turned into a veritable mountain, into a peak clad in eternal snow and ice high above the pristine clouds. The hilltop proved beyond her reach.
Yuki collapsed in a state of complete exhaustion. Her forces were depleted. She needed a pause. A little nap in a cosy fluffy bed.
Yuki complaint, but nee-san disregarded her. Nee-san insisted in her wisdom on "speed", "speed", "stamina", "endurance". Yuki had none of those.
Nee-san was right, but her training was still brutal. Her training was a death march.
Her backpack was stuffed with nee-san's love, and lead. The weight suffocated her. Nee-san was trying to kill her. Once again, she exhibited her sadistic streak
Yuki pouted. Nee-san was definitely a sadist ...
An insidious pebble interrupted her thoughts. Yuki stumbled and fell.
"Ouch." Yuki rubbed her butt. At least, the marching had finally ceased.
Yuki rested on the ground and enjoyed her peace. The rocky, arid earth provided her with a hard bed, bur Yuki was too exhausted to care.
Yuki hoisted the white flag and capitulated. The ground welcomed her.
Yuki heard her name loud and clear, but she continued to playing dead.
"Yuki-chan?" Asami poked her face with her scabbard.
Yuki didn't approve. "Nee-san, please stop."
Nee-san didn't stop. Instead, her poking intensified. “Thought so, you were pretending.“
Nee-san accompanied her and enjoyed Amegakure's nature. Nee-san packed light. Her umbrella protected her from the relentless sun while Yuki fought the hill with her backpack on her shoulders.
Yuki narrowed her eyes. "Nee-shan, pleashe shtop!"
Asami ignored her pleas and kept pinching her cheeks. "Time to soldier on. We still have a long way to go."
Yuki's despaired. "What? No, no, no, I am going nowhere. I am tired!"
"You mean tired like the two times before? Are we simulating again?"
Yuki averted her eyes. Nee-san was mean.
"Good girl, and now get up. Pain is educational!" Asami was proud of her little sister.
Yuki didn't share nee-san's enthusiasm. She despised physical exercises. "But ... But ... I can't anymore, nee-san. I don't want anymore."
"Why do I need to suffer? Why do I need to train?" Yuki protested. Her training was pure torture.
Asami titled her head. "I guess you have a point.“
Asami clapped her hands. “In that case, I have good news for you."
Yuki had a bad feeling. Goods news. The words carried an ominous connotation.
Asami beamed. "I have a little present for you. I decided you are going to become a kunoichi just like your nee-san, so I enrolled you at the ninja academy."
Yuki blinked. Her mind took time to catch up.
"You did what?“
“I never signed up for the academy! I never asked to be a kunoichi!" Yuki panicked. This was a joke. Nee-san couldn't be serious.
Asami nodded. "Indeed, you never asked, but I enrolled you nevertheless. I even shortened your curriculum considerably. Thanks to my connections, you will skip the lower classes."
"But in exchange, you need to train. My cute little sister can't be outdone by some common academy students."
Yuki fell silent. A bottomless blank stare was her answer. "Why?"
Asami leaned down and patted Yuki. The girl gave her almost a bad conscience, but only almost.
"Yuki, you won't understand now, but you will understand one day. I only want the best for you.“
Yuki blushed. Nee-san cared about her in her own twisted way.
“You need to grow stronger, Yuki considerably so. Not today, not tomorrow, but the day will come you must rely on your own strength."
Pain also exempted her from further assignments, effectively confining her to Amegakure for the foreseeable future, but Yuki didn't need to know.
Yuki fidgeted. "But I am not made to be kunoichi ..."
Asami interrupted her. "Yuki, strength is not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity."
"We live in a cruel world where strength reigns supreme. Humans are pitiful creatures exposed to the vagaries of fate. I hope you realise such sooner than later."
Should Yuki chose to walk down her path, such was her destiny.
Yuki merely nodded.
Asami beamed. Yuki would understand one day. "I think you earned a little pause, Yuki. You have suffered enough. For today."
Yuki mustered a weak smile despite her desolate state.
Asami opened her pouch and presented Yuki a mysterious scroll. "Do you remember the scroll?" The scroll looked ancient, and familiar.
Yuki's eyes fell on the timeworn seal. The cat paw caught her attention. Yuki remembered. "This scroll ...“
“It's the one we found.“ Asami unraveled her find. The scroll contained nothing but nonsensical gibberish, completely unreadable. Deciphering the glyphs was a fool's errand. Their meaning had long since been lost to the sands of time.
A white circle adorned the paper surrounded by paws and numerous depictions of kittens. Her hunch told her the scroll was related to cats.
Asami studied the kittens. They were ... cute. "Is your family in any way connected to cats?"
Yuki contemplated. Hr head was thinking. "Not that I know of, but oka-san loved cats, and cats loved her."
Asami declined to comment. This wasn't the information she desired. "Interesting, but I was thinking more along the lines of legends, myths, tales. Don't hesitate, any information can be useful."
Yuki rubbed her chin.“Oka-san told me once a bedtime story. Apparently, our family signed in ancient times a pact with cats. They acted as our guardians and companions, but the pact had long since faded into obscurity ...“
Asami unholstered her kunai and grinned. Her suspicions were correct. Blood was demanded, her blood.
Yuki's eyes widened. "Nee-san, what are you doing?"
Asami gripped her kunai and smirked. "Watch and learn."