Late into the night, Koichi, Koji and Ryoko return to Sunagakure and immediately they head over to the hospital for Koji's sake. Upon entering the hospital, they see Kankuro, exiting one of the wings in the hospital.
“You guys just getting back?” Kankuro says. At that moment he notices their exhaustion and sees blood seeping through Koji's robe. “Say, what the hell happened to you three? There shouldn't have been that much trouble dealing with a few dozen bandits, not with a convoy of soldiers with you.”
“There was more then just a couple dozen bandits sensei.” Koji says. “There were two shinobi as well, they wore Kusagakure headbands and were pretty strong—”
“Wait, there were shinobi among them as well?!” Kankuro says with shock in his voice.
The three look at Kankuro with confusion at his reaction. “But sensei...why is this surprising, you even said the guy was very wealthy, why couldn't he afford rouge shinobi?” Ryoko asks.
“I never expected him to have shinobi under his belt, especially not shinobi from a village like Kusagakure.” Kankuro calls a nurse over to check out the three, “What happened?!” Kankuro says with worry in his voice. “Who were they, and what happened on the mission?”
“Kankuro-sama, please keep your voice down and you can ask them all the questions you want later, we need to get them check out right away.” The nurse says, calling over a few others.
“Kankuro-sensei, there's nothing to worry about really, Soto is in the Land of Bears and is going to be executed, and the two shinobi are dead.” Koichi says with reassurance. The three genin are escorted into the ER while Kankuro stands and watches as they go.
The three are thoroughly examined and all three are admitted overnight. Koichi and Ryoko are to be discharged in the morning, however Koji is hospital ridden until his wounds heal properly. After the examinations, Kankuro enters Koji's private room and asks for the report of the mission.
“Koji-kun, I want to know more about those shinobi you fought and what happened.”
“They ambushed us on the path we were taking. I had a feeling that something was going to happen and expected the attack but I didn't expect the shinobi we fought to be so strong.”
“Who were they? Did you catch their names?”
“No, but I knew they were watching us. One of them used a genjutsu, which I noticed a little while into our travels. I kept it a secret because I didn't want to alarm everybody but I know that was a mistake. They were both strong fighters, they were faster then both Koichi and myself and they had strong earth techniques.”
“Strong Earth techniques, from Kusagakure...they had to have been the Mangetsu and Kuroiga.” Kankuro says.
“Who are they?”
“They're jounin level defects from Kusagakure. There aren't too many rouges from that village so that means those who do break away are well known simply for that. They're cousins and they've been noted to be exceptional in earth based techniques.”
“They were, I got my wound from one of them, when Koichi's taijutsu failed.”
*A side affect of suppressing the Shukaku's chakra, his ability to control his chakra precisely has diminished. *
“We barely made it away from the avalanche they caused, and it killed all but 4 of the Bear Country soldiers. Koichi, Ryoko and myself could only play defense but we couldn't manage successfully. I put myself between Koichi and Ryoko and the two shinobi and made sure they got away and I was captured. I managed to tag both Soto and one of the shinobi without them noticing though. I was hoping that Koichi and Ryoko would just run away and had they been pursued I could've stopped the shinobi. But they made a plan to defeat them.”
“Did it work?”
“Yes, they let themselves into the open and lured the shinobi into a trap, knowing all the chaos they would cause around him would be too much even for him to evade. However they had only managed to get one, as the other one wasn't around. As a fail safe, I used the escape jutsu when they had him preoccupied and set up an illusion for the other one in case he came. All and all, it worked and Ryoko and Koichi took down one of them and I detonated the explosive on the other one.”
Kankuro is in pure shock at the situation, he can clearly see Koji's exhaustion from his entire ordeal, as Koji struggles to stay awake in the presence of his sensei. “Koji, I apologize for putting you and the others in this situation without knowing. If I had known, I would've never allowed you to go on this mission. However, the fact that it doesn't seem you were lucky but actually held your own ground against opponents of my level, makes me very proud to be your sensei.”
“To be honest Kankuro-sensei, I count ourselves very lucky, if I had been killed and those shinobi had made sure the other soldiers were killed, we would've all died right then and there.” Koji confesses. “I also lost my puppets, one was destroyed in the avalanche and the scroll I had sealed the other one in was lost as well.”
“Don't worry about it. Even without those puppets, you have the most versatile skills in the group. Your sentence in this horrible place is a month correct? That doesn't mean we still can't do some training while we're here.” Kankuro says.
“What do you mean?”
“The fact that you've managed to learn the Puppet Technique all on your own based on observing my own is impressive, however you're still raw as to what a true puppeteer is capable of. This hospital is full of opportunities, that I'm going to introduce you to.” Koji nods and Kankuro puts his hand on his shoulder. Kankuro leaves the room and Koji collapses unconscious, finally falls asleep.
Koichi and Ryoko are discharged from the hospital at the same time and both head out together.
“I didn't forget what I promised, Ryoko.” Koichi says reassuringly. His face saddens and becomes slightly fearful for what he's about to reveal to his teammate. “Where do I start?”
Ryoko looks at Koichi with a look of concern *He's actually trusting me, * and she lets out a soft sigh. “It doesn't matter, I really don't care.” She says in her normal uncaring tone.
“What?!” Koichi says with annoyance and slight rage.
“Yeah, I don't really care now, I just didn't want it to affect the team and get in the way of my goals, but since you and Koji are alright now I don't really have that interest.”
“You little. I was willing to confess something this serious to you and you—”
“That's right, you were willing and I know you would tell me if I asked.” Ryoko's tone is soft and soothing as she says those words. They both stop and Koichi turns to Ryoko and looks at her. She doesn't face Koichi; she simply faces straight with a gentle uncharacteristic femininity in her expression. “And that's good enough for me Koichi.” Koichi stands and stares at her for a moment. “Don't get any wrong ideas though, you're still the most annoying person I know but...think of this as me being able to trust you just a little more.” She says moderate tone. Ryoko continues on her way walking and Koichi just stares at her as she walks away. At first his expression is somewhat surprised, but after a small while he cracks a smile.
Koichi continues his path home, however on his way he overhears two shinobi, speaking as they head towards the Kazekage residence.
“The Kazekage has returned already?” One of the shinobi says to his comrade.
“Yeah, a little while ago, it’s odd though, I though he was supposed to be in Konoha for a few days talking to the Hokage, but they must have settled things quickly.”
Koichi’s eyes widen as he hears the news. His head begins to fill with the horribly agonizing memory of the Shukaku sealing once again. He relives the entire ordeal in the blink of an eye however the pain returns to him and he begins to shiver with the memories. He remembers what the Anbu shinobi said to him “This is an official decree from the Kazekage…” Koichi clinches his fist as his expression turns into confused aggravation. He stands motionless for a few seconds and then suddenly he darts out towards the Kazekage residence. He brushes past the two shinobi hard, running with the same confused expression on his face.
*What am I going to say to him? * He continues to run *Damn it what am I going to say?! * He eventually makes his way into the sand constructed building, rushing through the corridors to make it to Gaara. As he makes his way to just outside the Kazekage’s office he’s stopped by two-masked shinobi, baring full Anbu gear.
“Nobody’s permitted to see the Kazekage right now, he’s busy.” One of the shinobi dictates.
“I need to talk to him now!” Koichi exclaims franticly with agitation.
“Like I said nobody is to see Gaara-sama right now, you’re just going to have to wait.”
“I’ll kick both your asses if I have to.” Koichi says with seriousness. Both shinobi then place their hands on the handle of their blades and suddenly the door opens and Gaara steps and places his hand on both shinobi’s arms. They release their blades and return to the statuesque postures. Gaara looks down at Koichi, who looks back at him with tense seriousness.
“Koichi-kun…come with me.” Gaara says walking back into his office. Koichi follows him and Gaara stands looking outside the window, his back to Gaara. “I imagine you have a few choice words you’d like to get off your chest with me don’t you?” Gaara says. The room remains in utter silence for a few minutes, however it feels as if time itself is standing still within the room. The few short minutes feel like decades that plague both Gaara and Koichi the same. “Well?” Gaara finally says, breaking the silence.
“To be honest I thought I knew what I was going to say to you just before I got here.” Koichi says in a low tone. “I was confused at first, I didn’t know what I was going to say but I thought at that time I wanted to yell at you, even try to kill you for ordering this thing put inside me.”
“Then why aren’t you?”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to say exactly, but I knew I wanted what I did say to be along those lines, right up until I saw you…then I became confused again.”
“I see.” Gaara says unexpressed in his tone.
“I was silent because I was thinking about something, I was thinking about the mission I just returned from.” Gaara remains silent, listening to the words of the young subordinate. “My brother, you had him help seal the Shukaku within me and I hated him for it.”
“What?!” Gaara says with a shocked tone in his voice, turning his head slightly to face Koichi. Before Koichi could pick up on his shock, Gaara quickly regains his composure, as to hide his ignorance of Koji’s involvement with the situation. “You blamed him as well as me for this too I see.”
“Yeah, I did. I actually blamed him most of all since we were twins. I couldn’t understand how he could help do this kind of thing to me, however on this mission I figured it out.” Gaara turns to Koichi and the two look each other in the eyes. “Koichi almost died trying to save Ryoko and myself. He said to us that we were too important to him for us to die and he made sure we got away from the enemy. It was because of that, and the fact that I thought I had lost my brother that I began to think about everything in a much more rational mind.”
“And what did you come up with…that made you change your mind about what you were going to do when you saw me?”
“Even with the Shukaku inside of me, I wasn’t an outcaste, not by my brother and not by Ryoko. He didn’t see me as a monster, he didn’t treat me different, he’s still the same as he’s ever been towards me and he’d die for me, not for the vessel of the Shukaku. Even if I’m hated by everybody else who comes to know of me I have my brother to care for me.”
Gaara sinks into his own mind and begins to think of Kankuro and Temari, all the times they’ve risked their lives for him, the affection they showed to him despite their mother’s death, and the fact that he was a Jinchuuriki. Gaara closed his eyes and opened up a small smile. “Koichi, I’m going to train you to use the Shukaku’s powers.” Koichi looks up at him wide eyed and shocked. “If you learn how to control these powers, you’ll be able to protect the village and your brother and Ryoko, that is what’s on your mind right?”
“Wait, how did you—”
“Because, I was once just like you, I blamed everybody and isolated myself from everything and I found my own resolve for the pain. I was truly lost, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be beaten out of me.” Gaara says with slight laughter.
“Really? Who had what it took to knock some sense into you?” Koichi asked with curious surprise.
“A very hyperactive knuckle headed ninja.” Gaara says, turning his head to the window looking into the sun. “It worked though and I began to realize, those who were there for me. My new resolve was just like yours, to protect the people who cared for me and those I cared about. It was that drive that allowed me to become strong enough to become Kazekage. That’s why I’m going to train you, you have the same drive I had back then and with that power alone, you have the potential to become Kazekage yourself one day.”
“Really?” Koichi says, his face lighting up like a child with a new toy. Gaara nods his head and Koichi hits his fist into his hand and smiles. “Then in that case, I’ll make your proud Gaara-sama.”
Koichi is dismissed and he walks out of the room with a smile on his face. He stops in the middle of the hallway pondering something. “Hyperactive…knuckle head…” He gets the image of Naruto in his head and immediately shakes his head, “Couldn’t be.” He says shaking his head mockingly.
The very next day, Gaara and Koichi stand outside the village confines in the vast desert of the Land of Wind, the wind is heavy, blowing a huge amount of sand and dust all over the field, and the two-shinobi face each other preparing for their training expedition…
In the hospital of Suna, Koji walks down a long empty hallway he passes a sign that says “Training Wing” and he pushes open two large doors, which opens up to a long dark hall with a light at the end of it. As Koji continues to walk down the hall the light becomes bigger and brighter and he eventually comes to see Kankuro standing against the hall.
“Welcome Koji-kun.” Kankuro says with smile on his face. As Koji and Kankuro exit the dark hall, they enter a large section filled with several doors, each having a label over them. “This one’s our stop.” Kankuro says, pointing to the door on the far right which has the label “Poison Unit” The student and teacher pair head through the doors and begin down their path of training as well.
Alright so I decided to not use the italics for quotes anymore, just the thoughts of the characters, which are also accompanied by the stars * to distinquish them. I'm sorry I haven't released any chapters in about two weeks, school work and recent activities on the base have hindered me to some extent however after reading the Fanfictions for the contest this month, I regained my spark and I've started writting again. I just finished this chapter and I'm working on chapter 20 so I should have that to you all by next week. There's no archives this week sorry, but still I feel this was a good, inhibiting chapter meaning not a lot of action but a very good set up to what else is to come. Anyway to those of you who read/comment/rep this post I thank you, hope you all enjoy