CH_3.35 (094)
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Takuma swallowed the little saliva left in his dry mouth, trying to focus his fuzzy mind on the field around him. The wounds didn't hurt as much as they should; instead, they sapped his energy, weighing his body down like lead.

He tried to ignore the dead bodies of Yumiko, Dai, and Aya, but they seemed to stare at him as he surveyed the field. Iruka and Raiden were fighting two Hidden Frost shinobi, and the two matchups looked evenly matched. Takuma knew they weren't his battles. He turned to the other genin and noted Susumu fighting one opponent and Yuko taking on two people at once. Susumu was doing fine, but Yuko was clearly struggling— her left leg had a large gash on her that hindered her mobility.

Yuko's hands had turned into something like a demon's— her arm below the elbow had bulging musculature with deep purple flesh and sharp-clawed hands. Dark purple veins covered her visible skin, giving her a menacing look matched by her bloodshot eyes and feral expression.

Onikuma clan's hiden jutsu…. Takuma wasn't aware of the specifics, but he knew the jutsu allowed the clan members to gain enhanced physical capabilities, but they feel prone to an unstable mental state, rendering them to act like feral beasts.

Takuma clicked his tongue as he clenched the kunai until the metal hurt his sliced-up hand— the pain brought clarity. He threw the kunai hard at Susumu's opponent to give him an advantage and charged toward Yuko and her two opponents.

"Hey!" Takuma shouted at Yuko.

The transformed Yuko looked toward Takuma and growled at him. She threateningly stepped toward him, but a volley of shuriken stopped her as Yuko dodged before charging at the Hidden Frost shinobi, who had thrown them, with a vicious roar.

'She can't differentiate between enemy and ally,' Takuma speculated with deep displeasure. He glanced at a dead Hidden Frost shinobi with a gaping hole in his chest and animalistic gashes. It was clear that Yuko had killed him, and she was now handling two more enemies, but with her mental state, she could quickly become a liability— he didn't like this type of jutsu at all.

He made a quick decision and blitzed one of Yuko's opponents and tackled him. They rolled on the ground, exchanging blows, and Takuma kicked the man in the stomach to separate them from Yuko and her opponent.

"You—" the Hidden Frost man looked like he wanted to say something but bit his lip and charged for Takuma.

Prepared for the fight, Takuma chucked an explosive tag tied to a kunai at his opponent. It blew up in the face, punching them to the ground. Takuma slowly stepped towards his opponent while weaving hand seals, and the moment the Hidden Frost shinobi got up in a panic, he nailed him with a Lightning Release: Shock, blasting him to the ground once again.

Takuma readied his kunai and moved in for the kill, only to be blindsided by a kunai digging into his left hip. Perhaps it was because of the adrenaline that the sharp pain didn't kick in immediately, and Takuma knew from experience it would take half a minute before the pain spiked— but he wasn't expecting his leg to fall asleep, go numb and cold— the kunai had likely struck a nerve. His balance crumbled, and Takuma was kneeling on the ground, his face scrunched at the uncomfortable feeling jittering his leg.

He immediately looked to find his assailant and found Raiden kicking the Hidden Frost chunin, which given the angle, could've been the only one to strike him.

"Fuck!" cursed Takuma.

He couldn't take out the kunai because it plugged his wound; nonetheless, he still needed to get his mobility back. He forced himself to stand up and shook his leg to release the pressure on the nerve, but nothing seemed to work. He put the kunai back into the pouch and tugged himself away from the opponent, who had pulled himself up to the knee, staring at Takuma with delirious eyes.

 Takuma bit his tongue as the pain tortured his body. He couldn't afford to get into close range with his opponent as that would most definitely spell trouble and disadvantage for him. So, he began to weave the hand seals for Lightning Release: Shock for another attack.

It was at that moment that every hair on Takuma's body stood up. The sixth sense that only those who practiced chakra screamed at him— he had only felt like this once before when Yoshio had directed his chakra at them. Both he and his opponent turned towards the source and saw Iruka's opponent weaving hand seals.

Even through his hazy consciousness, every fiber in Takuma's body told him this was unlike anything he had ever seen or faced and absolutely not something he could make contact with. If he was ever clear about something in his two lives, it was the following: this would be the end of him if he let the jutsu strike him.

Takuma abandoned the current hand seal chain and switched to a new one. Through his trembling hands, Takuma weaved the signs with Earth alignments. It was a race, and fortunately for Takuma, whatever the Hidden Frost chunin was casting was more complex and longer than a C-rank jutsu.

The air in the clearing whirred with harsh energy as arcs of sharp lightning sprung from the shinobi, going into the ground and air alike. The ground cracked as pure unadulterated lightning screamed out in waves targeting everything in its path with pure malice for everything in its path without bias.

Falling was faster than kneeling for Takuma as he dropped to the ground and pushed his palms against the dirt, and in accordance with the Earth Release: Earthen Dome, the ground arose to form a protective doom around Takuma.

Bang!

Takuma flinched when a lightning arc struck the dome, shaking the structure. But with the jutsu cast, he couldn't do anything but trust his skill, as the only thing between him and the terrifying Lightning Release jutsu was a layer of earth held up with a chakra.

Bang!

A chunk of earth was blasted off the dome, letting the evening light in. Takuma huddled into a fetal position on the ground, minimizing his surface area to protect himself.

Bang!

Another chunk blew off.

Bang!

Then another… and another… and another… until Takuma was practically lying under the open sky.

Earth Release jutsu were weak to Lightning Release jutsu, but Earth Release: Earthen Dome had done its job of protecting, and Takuma was infinitely glad for it. Takuma lay there shivering, scared that the jutsu wasn't over. He wanted to get up, but he had no energy left; his body felt cold, and parts of his body hurt worse every passing second as though someone had stuck ice cubes on his skin— if it was the Ring, he would've already called it quits.

'You have to get up.'

Takuma coughed up blood as he struggled to his feet— one good and one numb— and looked around with a swimming vision. He weakly pulled out a kunai and faced his opponent, only to find a partially burning corpse. He turned his sight away to the other side to find Yuko and her opponent on the ground, with the opponent stabbing her repeatedly while screaming.

For a moment, he stared at them with a dull gaze. A hundred thoughts packed in his head, ninety-nine of them told him that it was okay to lay down, that he had done enough, and that everything would be fine.

He momentarily stared at the kunai in his hand before dragging himself toward Yuko.

———

.

Iruka pulled the short blade from the Hidden Frost shinobi's chest and pushed the dead body to the ground. He felt exhausted— physically, mentally, and chakra-wise. He was about to fall on his knee, but a heat cut through the Land of Frost's cold and snapped him out of his daze. He jumped away to avoid the fire from touching him. He looked at Raiden, who was spitting out flames at his opponent from his mouth.

Iruka could tell from the flaming man that the battle was over on Raiden's end. He turned his attention to the other side of the clearing to see Takuma slicing his kunai across the neck of another Hidden Frost man kneeling over Onikuma Yuko, who was already dead.

Gazing at his favorite genin, Iruka knew this experience would affect Takuma— death always did. He didn't need to look around to know that only four of the sixteen people involved were alive. He, Takuma, Raiden, and Susumu, with a swarm of bugs buzzing around him.

The next second, Susumu dropped to the ground. Iruka ran towards him; fortunately, the bugs didn't obstruct him. Iruka examined Susumu— there were injuries, blood loss, and signs of chakra exhaustion.

He glanced at the bugs buzzing around Susumu and recalled what he knew about Aburame. At birth, clan members are offered their bodies to several special breeds of insects as a nest, residing just under their host's skin. The insects would then live in symbiosis with their host from that point on. In return for using insects as weapons, the host provided the insects with nutrients and chakra.

'They'll continue to draw chakra from him,' Iruka felt cold. Right now, Susumu was low on chakra, and if the insects in his body continued to draw on the remaining amount, the reserves would dry up, leading to Susumu's death. If it was an experienced Aburame, Iruka wouldn't have worried, but Susumu wasn't that— he needed help from his clan, or else he would die.

"Iruka," Raiden's voice croaked.

"Hey, how are you feeling?" Iruka asked, observing Raiden's body. The chunin he had fought had done a number on Raiden.

"Patch me up," Raiden wheezed. "W-We have to get out of… here."

"You're in no condition to go anywhere," Iruka grimaced at the large cut in the lower abdomen infected with some form of poison— he had no idea how Raiden had managed to remain standing, much less win the fight.

'I'll have to carry him,' thought Iruka.

"Wait here."

Iruka rushed to the last person alive and found Takuma weaving hand seals before pressing his hand to the ground.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"… Earth Release: Earth Tremor Sense Jutsu," Takuma barely whispered. "There's no one within a kilometer but us… I-I should've done it before this happened."

Iruka pursed his lips. That wasn't Takuma's responsibility. He knew that Takuma could perform that jutsu, and it had slipped his mind— it was his fault for not ordering Takuma to check their surroundings for an ambush.

Iruka checked for the wounds on Takuma. Except for the kunai in the hip, and a few shallow cuts, Takuma didn't seem to be in danger. He had a decision to make.... Iruka bit the inside of his cheek, knowing that there was only one choice, which wasn't good for Takuma.

"Takuma… I'm afraid I have to leave," said Iruka.

Takuma looked up at Iruka, confusion peeking through the exhaustion. "What do you mean?"

"Raiden and Susumu are in grave condition; they need medical attention. I can carry them both across the border, but I'll need to be alone to travel faster," said Iruka. If Takuma traveled with him, he would need to slow down to match Takuma's pace, extending their time on the road, thus decreasing the chances of Raiden and Susumu's survival. "You'll need to travel home back alone, Takuma…"

It was unfair for Takuma to be left alone, but if he was to increase the chance of Raiden and Susumu's survival, this was the only way. Iruka realized he wasn't giving a choice to Takuma, but they had already lost four Leaf shinobi today, and Iruka didn't want to lose the rest of them. As long as Takuma traveled under the radar, he could cross the border without any problems.

"… I understand," said Takuma after a long pause. He looked up at Iruka and nodded with a tired yet firm expression. "I don't have much of a choice, do I…"

Iruka put on an apologetic face, but Takuma waved him off.

"I'll patch up Susumu; you should get Raiden ready. I want to leave here as soon as possible," as he said that, Takuma pulled the kunai out of his hip.

 

 


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