Naruto: Tetsuden - 021
And so, we’re back to the main characters, after three or four chapters of absence This may end up just being filler material, but I think this chapter should also give a bit of insight into just what kind of rivalry Naruto and Sasuke’s grandchildren have. Quite different from their canon counterparts, needless to say (they’re from an era of uninterrupted peace, after all). Please enjoy
Here’s my previous chapters, for those who missed any:
Chapter 021: The Prodigies Cross Paths
Kei: Manako!? You gotta be…Airon, seriously! We don’t have time for this!
Taigen: He’s right, Airon. If you start this now, the record’s as good as lost.
Airon: What’re you talking about? We’ve got almost twenty minutes and under two kilometers to go.
Inase: And you’re acting as though you and Manako’s frame of mind doesn’t make the two of you wanna drag fights on rather than end them quickly. Airon, believe it or not, I actually know you better than Grandpa, Minto, and Manako combined. I have to. …You wanna beat the Kazekage’s record, a fight with Manako is the LAST thing you need to get mixed up in.
Airon: (Their arguments against his intentions having been rather weak until now, he cringed a little in irritation, though he wasn’t entirely surprised that his sister would be the one to force him to reconsider his actions.) …Regardless, I still have a few things I’d rather discuss with him before we reach the tower, so no matter what comes of it, we’re stopping. Alright?
Nakama: Why would they have to be discussed out here? Wouldn’t it be easier to hold off until we’ve completed this phase of the exam?
Airon: (…Dang it, Nakama. You can be even worse than them sometimes.) Just…stop, alright? A few minutes isn’t gonna kill us OR our chances.
Seeing no end to this debate, the others eventually complied with Airon’s wishes and retreated to a small vacant area of the forest floor, in order to allow Manako and his cousins time to catch up to them. The wait had hardly surpassed ten seconds when the trio finally came into view, neither side saying a word to the other. After a few more seconds passed, Manako finally broke the silence.
Manako: Fancy meeting you all the way out here, Airon.
Airon: Hmhmhm, couldn’t wait for round three, could you?
Manako: (True as his words were, he knew all too well that he wasn’t the only one eagerly awaiting their showdown and quickly addressed this.) Hmph, and you can?
Airon didn’t respond verbally, but rather allowed a large smirk to creep up onto his face, letting his rival know that he was correct. Looking on either side of him, he quickly adopted an expression which signaled to his comrades that he wished to speak with him alone, waiting until all five of them nodded in agreement before walking forward. Taking the hint, Manako promptly turned to his cousins.
Manako: Just keep out of this. …This shouldn’t take too long.
Katsuto: (Having been expecting a fight ever since they found out Airon’s group was nearby, he didn’t hesitate to protest Manako’s orders.) And why the heck would we do tha-?
Before he could even finish, he received a sharp blow to the back of his head, the product of which was a rather large bump. To his surprise, though, the only one close enough to deliver the hit was Akame, whose outstretched hand was proof enough that she was the one who did. He gazed up at her with a look of detestation on his face, unaware that her reasoning for doing so was to save him from the embarrassment that was to follow.
Manako: You think that you can take on Nakama without my help, be my guest.
Looking back over at his cousin with fury in his eyes, he eventually regained control over his emotions and directed his gaze towards the young kunoichi in question, of whom the thought alone was enough revitalize his anger. Her appearance was anything but menacing, quite the opposite in comparison to Airon and Manako, and yet she had enough power to clash with both of them, perhaps even simultaneously. Although he was too proud to admit superiority in anyone outside of his clan, his mind could not deny this truth, no matter how much he hoped to contradict it. The thought still clinging to the forefront of his mind, he held his tongue from this point onward, thus allowing Manako to turn away in satisfaction and refocus all his attention on Airon. At the same time, the two stepped forward, walking in unison towards the center of their meeting point until they were standing side-by-side, then taking one more step forward so that they bypassed one another. Waiting for Manako to speak first, Airon eventually did so in his stead upon realizing he wouldn’t.
Airon: So, did you find out anything about that genin from the Stone village?
Manako: (Thinking this an odd question, Manako tilted his head slightly and gazed out of the corner of his right eye at his rival, a smirk emerging on his face.) Asking first now, are we?
Airon: …Hmhm, just thought it’d be a nice change of pace.
When Manako said nothing in response and returned his gaze to what stood before him, Airon continued.
Airon: Besides, judging from the look in your eyes, you saw something that I’m better off not knowing about.
Manako: (Taking a deep breath, he began gathering all his memories of Asuka and the terrible things he has seen him do, most of which he’d rather keep from Airon’s knowledge, and all of which he'd rather forget having witnessed.) …Irezumi was right to fear this genin, Airon. …He’s a demon.
Airon: (Having never heard such a remark from Manako before, he was forced to turn his head so that their right eyes met.) …What did you see?
The private discussion that followed carried on for nearly four minutes on end, the entire duration of which Airon’s astonishment only continued to grow, …as did his anger.
Airon: (And you stood by and watched this massacre take place!?)
Manako: (What choice did I have, Airon? I knew nothing about this genin-)
Airon: (And you honestly think that whatever dōjutsu he has stands a chance against yours? Far as I can tell, this technique of his is a genjutsu, so what could’ve possibly made you think that you, out of all people, were better off not confronting him?)
Manako made no attempt to defend his actions, but in the end, how could he? At this point, the only thing that might convince Airon otherwise was firsthand confrontation with Asuka which, at this point, would prove virtually impossible unless they chose to give up their chance at beating Gaara’s record, something he absolutely did not want to do. Closing his eyes and letting out a deep sigh in aggravation, Airon shook his head in discontent before facing forward once more.
Airon: I’m disappointed in you, Manako. …Now, draw your sword.
Manako: (Not expecting such a request from Airon, he turned his head again and gazed at him wonderingly.) …Excuse me?
Airon: I need a strong opponent to help me let off some steam before I go any further…and I’m not gonna waste my energy against Nakama unless I have to. Now, draw your sword.
Manako: You really wanna do this here? During the second phase of the exams?
Airon: (Finding humor in the latter part of the question, he turned his head to meet Manako’s gaze, a confident smirk now stretched across his face.) Manako, I would’ve fought you in the FIRST phase had the instructors allowed it. …I’d never turn down an opportunity to spar with you, you know that.
Recognizing this to be true for both of them, Manako faced forward again, a smirk now present on his face, as well. It seemed that no matter the time or the occasion, regardless of who their audience was, …the two rivals couldn’t deny just how fun it was fighting against one another.
Airon: …Now, draw it.
Manako: …You first.
Airon: You honestly wanna take that risk, Manako?
Manako: Airon, we both know that your feet are faster than mine, …but we also know that it’s vice-versa when it comes to our hands. …Now draw.
Amused by this shift in dynamic, Airon chuckled softly before wrapping his left hand around the handle of his sword, keeping his right hand positioned on the sheath so that it would not get in his way as he drew it out. Manako copied these movements seconds later, bringing eager expressions to both of his cousins’ faces. Needless to say, they realized this moment was inevitable ever since their Sharingan caught sight of Airon’s chakra, and decided to take this opportunity to enjoy the spectacle that was to follow. Team Suzaku and Airon’s siblings, despite their previous objections, ultimately decided to do the same, with Inase’s obvious exception.
Kei: Game time.
Inase: I told him. I told him. Why does he never listen to me?
Minto: Because he’s still right more often than he isn’t?
Taigen: He IS the smartest one here.
Inase: Stop justifying this, both of you!
Nakama: Wow, Inase. You make it sound as though you want to reach the tower in time more than your brothers do.
Inase: (Unable to escape the near truth of her words, she discontinued all further complaints, proving once again that Airon wasn’t the only one who Nakama could easily make a fool of.) Uhh…never mind. (How the heck does she do that!?)
Catching wind of this exchange, Airon chuckled softly to himself as he drew his katana from its sheath and began walking forward, prompting Manako to do the same. Every movement that followed that was made by the former was made shortly thereafter by the latter, until at last, they turned to face each other and charged forward, the sound echoing across the nearby landscape as their blades collided for the first time.
The two strongest genin in the competition face off earlier than expected!!!