CH_3.34 (093)
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A heartbeat's worth of time was all it took for everything to unravel.

It was so quick that Takuma could barely spot the kunai before it stabbed Raiden. But the lightning streak that shot from the trees was enough to send all of his alarms blaring.


Takuma's kunai were ready in his hands before the warning shout left Iruka's mouth. He felt his muscles taut, nerves flare, and his heart pounded in his chest as his eyes darted around the clearing and the forest to catch four more lightning streaks zap out of the shadows, one of them flying toward Dai.

Takuma felt jarred as though he was a machine infected with rust while he stepped forward in the path and parried the lightning-coated kunai headed towards his teammate.


"Gah," Takuma grunted as the parry felt closer to deflecting a heavier sword blade. Whatever jutsu, it packed a rocket punch behind the light kunai.

Takuma couldn't take a moment's rest as shadows moved in the forest and—



It was just on the edge of his peripheral vision, faint enough that he didn't register the image, but the sound made him look…. Takuma turned to see that while he had obstructed the kunai coming for Dai— it was only one of four.

Two others had found their mark.

Yumiko and Aya were no longer standing.

Blood sputtered out of Yumiko's mouth as she reached for the kunai sticking out of her throat. The girl trembled like a newborn thing. Their eyes met, and Takuma came face-to-face with despair, disbelief, pain, and a deep begging for help in her eyes… before all the turmoil of emotion vanished and the gaze turned dull along with Yumiko's efforts. Her hand fell to the side as her body went limp.

Yumiko was no more…

All thought left Takuma's mind; his eyes couldn't leave Yumiko's body despite the sight in front of him being the most gruesome he had seen in both his lives.

A sense of panic grabbed Takuma's heart as he gripped the kunai about to fall from his hands, and looked around wildly just in time to see four figures jump out from the trees. They wore Hidden Frost shinobi gear with half-masks obstructing the bottom half of their faces.

"Frost has betrayed us!" Raiden yelled, and despite having a kunai sticking out from his abdomen, he charged at the Hidden Frost leading man in front of him, and within a snap, Raiden and the man were engaged in combat with sparks from blades flying into the air.

Before Takuma could get a hold of himself, he was already in a nightmare of metal and blood. Weapons flashed in and out of Takuma's sight; he fought wildly, he didn't remember yelling, but his throat was hoarse. It was a shallow but biting cut to the leg and a pull by Iruka that snapped him out of the rampant confusion.

Takuma tried to thank him, but the chunin had moved on, his kunai swinging at the Hidden Frost shinobi that had emerged from the forest. Both of them seemed to be an equal match, just like Raiden and the Hidden Frost shinobi he was fighting.

'I'm going to die here,' he thought.

Takuma pivoted to the side on instinct to dodge a sword strike from a Hidden Frost kunoichi, and on further instinct, he stabbed and swung at her limbs and face. He saw an opening in her stance and jammed a foot into her knee, forcing her to kneel, and thrusted a kunai down for her shoulder, only for her to receive it into her arm with a scream.

The Hidden Frost kunoichi tried to stab Takuma in the chest with her sword from the kneeling position, but Takuma parried it and took the chance to jump away from her.

The thoughts of death swarmed Takuma's mind as he looked at the shinobi fighting around him.

'I need to hide,' Takuma's hand rose, and the hand seals for Water Release: Hidden Mist Jutsu began to form. The thick mist would hide him.

'You can't do that,' a cold voice spoke in his mind. 'It'll hide you from them, but it'll also turn your allies blind. You'll die here if they're not alive to protect you.'

The chakra in Takuma's tenketsu system dissipated as Takuma's hands jolted to a stop. He couldn't do that.

'I can't die here,' Takuma thought again— he wasn't ready to go yet. He had spent two years in this world— one of them was utterly miserable, and the other wasn't particularly enjoyable; he had worked hard every single day to be where he was currently. He had lost one good life, and he wasn't going to let this one go before at least he got to a point where he could enjoy this messed up life.

'I'm not going to die here.'

Takuma pushed his panic down; it numbed down but still bubbled underneath the surface. That was enough.

His opponent had gotten up and pulled the kunai out of her arm. Takuma clicked his tongue. He had made a mistake by backing away when he had her on her knees with a kunai inside her arm— he could have finished the fight at that moment.

'No matter,' thought Takuma.

He pushed the ground and closed the distance. The kunoichi tried to stab him, but he parried it swiftly— despite not having learnt the sword, with his experience against swords, he could tell that she was a relative beginner. He grabbed her other hand with his free hand and disrupted her body balance with a sharp tug before elbowing her in the face. She made an errant but weak swing that Takuma received with her arm guard. The blade dug into the leather but didn't reach the flesh.

Takuma still had the kunoichi's wrist in his hand and was about to kick her feet out so he could pull her shoulder out of the socket— but before he could do so, his senses blared, and he jumped back just in time to avoid a sword thrust that would've pierced his heart.

The Hidden Frost shinobi held his sword vertically while he checked on the kunoichi. She nodded to him, and he faced Takuma. Just from the looks of it, Takuma could tell that this man was much more experienced. He equipped himself with another kunai.

The man and Takuma pushed toward each other, and metal screeched as the blades met. Takuma tried to push the sword away, but the man was quick to disengage and thrust a riposte for the chest. Takuma redirected the sword blade up, but it grazed his shoulder, drawing blood.

Takuma ignored the pain, and let go of the kunai in his right hand as chakra flowed through his arm. But as he was about to cock his arm back for the augmented punch, the kunoichi emerged from within the shadow of the shinobi with her sword heading towards his throat. Takuma's free hand gripped the sharp blade before it could skewer his throat. The sharp edge sliced his naked palm, triggering another bout of pain. Takuma cursed as he jumped back to make the distance.

The Hidden Frost duo weren't keen to give him space and gave pursuit.

'Shit!' Takuma had close to zero experience fighting multiple opponents. He leaped further back, dipped into his weapons pouch, took out a kunai with an explosive tag, and threw it toward them.


The Hidden Frost duo dug their feet into the ground and jumped to the side just when the tag exploded. It took them a couple seconds to collect themselves and get back on Takuma's tail. They sprang out of the dust cloud only to find themselves facing a group of black-clad Takuma clones running toward them. The Hidden Frost duo glanced down at the clones' feet and saw shadows.

They froze up for a second, but they couldn't dawdle when they were suddenly outnumbered 5-to-1 and took defensive stances. Their swords began to hum a shrill yet soft noise. The woman stepped forward and swung her sword in a wide, swift arc— but when her sword mowed down the four clones in a single strike, the clone bodies turned into a mist as they stalled for a moment before putting themselves back together.

Immediately, both Hidden Frost shinobi fell back a step while continuing to cut down the clone, but no matter how many swings, the clones would turn into mist before they were all good again. Their two-on-one advantage was turned on its head, and they were now on the back foot. In the rush of the battle, they didn't notice how the clones weren't trying to actually hit them— that they were the only ones making contact with the clones and not the other way around.

The Hidden Frost man swung his sword straight down with a powerful yell, but the clone stepped back to successfully dodge the reckless strike. However, the next second, the clone turned into mist as a kunai emerged from the clone's stomach and struck the unprepared man in the same place.

"Roshi!" the kunoichi yelled for her companion. She cut down another two clones before rushing for him, only to get nailed down by six shuriken that came from within the clones.

Takuma emerged from within the clones made from Genjutsu: Mist Servant Jutsu with a kunai held in both hands that he sheathed into the man's body before throwing it into the woman's clavicle; he avoided the heart but made sure she stayed down. 

They were done, Takuma judged his two enemies. But then—

'This isn't in the Ring,' said the same cold voice. 'The fight isn't over when the opponent no longer wants to fight. It's over when they're dead…'

Takuma shook his head. These shinobi should be kept alive for interrogation so that they can find out the reason for the betrayal. They were in a foreign land, and the Hidden Frost shinobi could provide all sorts of information they could use to safely return home.

Yes, keeping them alive would do more good—

The Hidden Frost man suddenly thrust a gleaming kunai for Takuma, who saw it coming and firmly grasped the offending arm before snapping the wrist and confiscating the kunai. Takuma raised the same kunai and aimed it for the man's shoulder...

'This isn't the Ring…'

In the last second, he redirected the kunai, and instead of stabbing the shoulder, he struck a little to the right… for the neck. The spluttered blood out of the mouth, the blood soaked Takuma's hand through the wound, and slowly, the light left the man's eye.

Takuma stood up, still holding the man's kunai, and walked to the woman, who was trying to reach for the man with a trembling hand, weakly calling for the man. He kicked her shoulder to make her face upward, stepped on her wrist that held the sword before squatting down… and stabbed her in the heart…

He watched life leave her eyes with a myriad of emotions flashing in her eyes that remained affixed on her dead companion.

Takuma stood up and felt his feet lose strength, making him stagger before catching himself. He stared at the two enemies— two people— that he had just killed. There they laid, murdered on the field by him. They were trying to kill him but got killed instead. At that moment, only three things existed in the world— Takuma himself and those dead bodies that just a few moments ago were breathing, living individuals. He looked at his hands dripping in blood— it wasn't a new sight, he had blood on his hands at least once a week… but today, blood on his hands had a different meaning.

He felt…

"Takuma!" came Iruka's yell.

Takuma snapped out of the vacuum he had secluded himself in, and before he could look, he felt a heat on his cheek. He finally turned to see a giant fireball heading for him. His eyes widened as he immediately jumped out of the way, but not in time to completely avoid the raging fire.

"Fuck!" Takuma patted the clothes, skin, and hair that had caught fire. Flames that used chakra as fuel were hotter and stuck to things they wanted to burn, like a lite version of napalm. He knew that and so tried his darndest to get rid of the flames that could seriously burn him. He stumbled on something that tripped him to the ground. Takuma immediately rolled on the wet ground and finally snuffed the flames.

He scrambled to his feet and glanced down at what had made him fall.

It was Dai, his head crushed.

Takuma's stomach lurched, and he stumbled away from the body, bumping into Susumu, who sliced him across the arm with an errant swing. The cut was not a bad one, but Takuma's arm lit up in a line of pain. He hissed at the sting, and when he glared at Susumu, the Aburame had left his side and was fighting his Hidden Frost opponent.

 Takuma swallowed the anger, knowing it was an instinctual attack— an accident. He felt tired and so much more, but still equipped another kunai…

The fight wasn't over.


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