Chapter 22: Leave Them Alone! (COTK Book 1)

This content rated appropriate for audience: M for Mature Teens

This entry is part 22 of 24 in the series COTK: Book 1: Blind Sight
Reading Time: 18 minutes

Deep Underground, Sunagakure, Land of Wind, EN.

Quickly getting to his feet, Kawaki sat back down just as fast. It was the third time he’d managed to get himself to stand, but he’d never gotten any farther than that in the last ten minutes.

His panic had lasted long enough for him to pack everything important to him into the rucksack sitting on the floor a few feet away, and then he’d made the mistake of sitting down.

What felt like a second later, his dark cave had rocked from some explosion on the surface, and he’d been too terrified to move. In a futile attempt to calm himself, Kawaki ran his fingers through his grimy hair.

Frowning, Kawaki winced as he pulled his hand free of his dreadfully-matted hair. Yanking his goggles off of his head, Kawaki threw them on the sandstone slab he called his bed in frustration.

“Just move!” Kawaki ordered, but his legs refused to work. “You can’t stay here!”

As if to prove his point, the cave shook violently, causing small bits of the ceiling to break free and fall to the ground.

“Damnit!” Kawaki cursed as he hit his knee, suppressing the urge to cry. His instincts, born of years of tunneling, were screaming at him to move. His cave, his home, was going to collapse soon.

However, Kawaki’s obsessive fear of death was preventing him from leaving. He wasn’t a fighter. If he ran into someone on the surface on his way out of Suna, and they attacked him, he’d be toast.

“Why didn’t I just go with them?” Kawaki muttered, shaking his head. Wiping his hand across his face, Kawaki raised his head to once again look at the over-stuffed rucksack a mere six feet away in the darkness. Despite there being no source of light in the cave, Kawaki could see just fine.

Last night, as usual, he’d made his way to the surface to see what food he could steal. The first house he’d visited, no one had been home. Thinking nothing of it, he’d easily broken in and taken a few bits of food from the pantry. Hopefully nothing anyone would notice missing.

However, the next house had been the same. Everything in place, but no one home. Confused, he’d broken into two more houses to find them empty as well.

Without thinking, he’d eaten as much food as he could, and then began throwing everything he could into his bag. Once it was full, he’d started using the bags in the houses to put food in, making several trips back down to his cave.

His stomach had never hurt so much in his life.

Sanity had only finally broken through his food-fueled haze a few hours ago, and he’d panicked.

Then the first explosion rocked his home.

Suna was under attack. No wonder all of the civilians were gone.

“Get up… damnit, get up!” Kawaki shouted at himself and winced at the sound of his voice. He seldom spoke, as there was no one to talk to. Gripping the edge of the sandstone slab, Kawaki tried to stand, but his legs refused to hold his weight.

Come on… what if I tried that tunnel? It leads out of Suna, and I’d never have to go to the surface. Kawaki thought, trying desperately to fight down the fear constricting his throat. Finally able to stand, Kawaki stepped toward the rucksack unsteadily.

He sat back down, defeated.

That tunnel hadn’t been used in years… not since he’d first made it, and he knew for a fact it wasn’t safe. Repairing it would be slow, and dangerous. Using any chakra at all risked someone on the surface noticing and coming down to investigate.

He couldn’t risk that.

“I’ll… I’ll just stay here…” Kawaki muttered as he leaned back and laid down on his bed. Staring up at the ceiling a dozen feet above, Kawaki noted the various cracks that hadn’t been there just a few hours before.

Another explosion. Covering his eyes, Kawaki waited for the sand falling from the ceiling to settle before removing his arm.

Why am I such an idiot? Kawaki thought. I could have followed the civilians and left Suna with them.

Sitting up sharply, Kawaki looked around his cave with wide eyes. He’d spent his entire life underground, most of that in complete darkness, and he’d learned to rely on his ears more than his eyes. He had to, as even the slightest crack could warn him of a cave-in.

Having said that, there was one sound that terrified him more than any other.

The sound of sand hissing across the cave floor.

It was a sound that only one person could create, a sound that followed them wherever they went.

Leaping to his feet, Kawaki backed away from the sound as he fumbled with his pocket. Finally wrenching it free, Kawaki held his chakra-powered crystal high above his head. The darkness vanished instantly as the crystal erupted with light, Kawaki having overloaded it with chakra in his haste.

Gaara didn’t even blink at the bright light, just continuing to walk across the cave. Kawaki took an unconscious step back. Glancing at his rucksack, Kawaki looked at Gaara’s pale-green eyes and his stomach sank.

He wasn’t leaving.

Limiting the flow of his chakra into the crystal, the light dimmed drastically and Kawaki took a deep breath.

“Why are you here, Gaara-sama?” Kawaki asked thickly, being as respectful as he could manage. He even tried bowing. Coughing into his arm, Kawaki tried to clear his throat, realizing he sounded almost sick. He wasn’t used to talking to someone.

Of course, Gaara didn’t answer him.

Unsure what to do, Kawaki forced himself to stay still as Gaara continued to approach him. It was only when Gaara looked at him that Kawaki realized Gaara wanted him to move. He moved.

Stepping to the side, Kawaki realized some of Gaara’s sand was pouring out of the gourd strapped to the redhead’s back as Gaara walked by, heading toward Kawaki’s bed. Following the tendril of sand with his eyes, Kawaki was shocked to see it connected to a bed-like platform of sand, on which laid a pale-skinned boy.

Hold his hand up in front of him, Kawaki compared the boy’s skin to his own.

I don’t understand, Kawaki thought.

For some reason, the boy’s chest slowly rising and falling shocked Kawaki. He realized he had thought the boy was dead. It was Gaara after all.

Gaara stopped a foot away from Kawaki’s bed, but the sand continued to move. Lifting the pale-skinned boy through the air, the sand laid him down on Kawaki’s bed, though it continued to surround him.

As the boy’s body touched the sandstone bed, an ear-piercing scream split the air. Covering his ears, Kawaki tried to find the source of the strange sound and was shocked to realize it was the peculiar boy.

Kawaki watched with wide eyes as the boy thrashed on the sand, punching it with closed fists as he screamed. Glancing at Gaara, Kawaki wasn’t sure what he expected to see, but what he saw wasn’t it.

As Gaara flicked his hand, Kawaki took an unconscious step back. Sand shot out of the gourd on Gaara’s back and wrapped around the pale-skinned boy’s wrists and ankles, holding him still. Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm down, Kawaki moved closer to the sandstone slab, lifting the crystal above his head again.

He’d barely noticed it at first, but the boy’s eyes were covered by what looked to be a blindfold, but yet not. Kawaki knew what a blindfold was supposed to look like. This one seemed to be made of expensive-looking fabric, and he knew it was soft to the touch just by looking at it.

“Gaara-sama?” Kawaki asked tentatively. Fists and eyes closed tight, Kawaki expected to feel a tendril of sand impale him through the chest, but nothing happened. Turning to Gaara, Kawaki saw nothing in the younger boy’s eyes.

Despite every instinct in his body advising against it, Kawaki asked the question filling his mind.

“Who is he?”

Surprisingly, Gaara answered.

“Naruto Sakamoto.”

Naruto screamed again, his tightly-clenched fists slamming against the unyielding sand.

Looking between Naruto and Gaara, Kawaki couldn’t help himself.

“What’s wrong with him?”

Gaara was silent.

Wincing as the screams grew louder, Kawaki realized that Naruto was saying something, barely understandable.

“Leave them alone!”

With a fluidity born of years of practice, Darui sidestepped the Suna Shinobi’s slash to his neck and thrust his sword through the Shinobi’s chest. Lifting his sword, Darui kicked the Shinobi’s limp body off his blade and turned away, scanning the wall for more Shinobi.

Hearing a groan behind him, Darui turned back in mild surprise.

“My apologies.”

Pointing at their forehead, Darui let the chakra build in his fingertip. A tight, refined beam of lightning chakra burnt a hole through the dying Shinobi’s forehead a split second later, killing them.

Casually twirling his sword through the air, Darui flicked it to the side, folding it closed before sheathing it on his back. Turning around once more, Darui double-checked the wall for any last defenders. Finding none, he cracked his neck before sprinting down the side of the wall toward the now-fallen gate.

Looking to his right, Darui scanned across Suna’s unique defense. Due to the extraordinary height of the city’s walls, Suna had created what could only be described as massive staircases to the left and right of their front gate. This allowed Suna Shinobi to be close enough to attackers to aim their Jutsu, while not being so close that they were in immediate danger.

The stairs were at such an angle that Suna Shinobi could simply peek over the edge and rain down attacks on invaders, but hitting them from below was nearly impossible.

It had certainly provided an interesting challenge for him and his men, but they’d eventually overcome the defenders with sheer numbers. The only way to reach the defenders was simply to launch an uphill battle as the Suna Shinobi above rained down Jutsu.

He’d lost more men than he would have liked.

Reaching the sudden drop-off the top step to the passageway entrance some fifty feet below, Darui crouched as he watched his men sprint into Suna. Sighing, Darui sniffed and fell forward. The wind roared in his ears as he dropped like a rock.

Twisting through the air, Darui landed on his feet with a thud, his knees bending ever so slightly from the impact. Joining the flow of Kumo Shinobi into the dark corridor carved out of the thick mountain walls, Darui noticed the numerous bodies littered around the ground.

Darui slowed to a stop after exiting out of the shadowy passage a moment later and observed the new frontlines of the battle. He’d expected Suna Shinobi to hold his men’s advance in the inner courtyard, as it was a perfect choke point. However, the gate had already fallen.

Instead, Suna Shinobi were holding his men in the plaza just beyond the gate.

“Darui-sama!”

Turning toward the voice calling his name, Darui was pleasantly surprised to see Ashito standing next to a wall, flanked on each side by a masked RAIKOU.

Casually making his way over as Jutsu roared overhead, the flow of Kumo Shinobi diverted around him like a river against a boulder.

“Ashito-san.” Darui greeted with a nod of his head. “Good work with the gate, it was perfectly timed.”

Ashito bowed.

“Thank you, Darui-sama,” Ashito replied, pausing as a wind sphere crashed into the wall from the other side. “As planned, we felled the gate before reinforcements arrived, but just barely. The reinforcements are mostly Puppeteers, but Suna Shinobi arrive at the battle constantly. We are not being forced back, but we are struggling to gain ground, Sir.”

“I see,” Darui replied distractedly as he took a few steps back and peered around the edge of the wall at the battlefield. He’d known the Puppeteers would be a devastating force. Having created a defensive perimeter around the battlefield, the Puppeteers were keeping any of his men from getting by.

Darui raised an eyebrow as he noticed a Puppeteer take on six of his men at one time, seemingly with ease. Turning away Darui walked back behind the wall.

“Has the Kazekage been spotted?”

Ashito shook his head, “I do not believe the Kazekage is in Sunagakure. We would surely have seen him by now.”

Darui scoffed. “Stay on guard. I don’t believe for a second that we’re that lucky.”

“Of course, Darui-sama.”

Both Darui and Ashito took a step back, avoiding a large spear of wind as it pierced through the wall. Unbothered by the close call, Darui looked through the newly created hole, whistling in surprise as he saw it had traveled through three different walls before crashing into mountain-rock.

Spotting someone through the gap, Darui realized it was Sasori of the Red Sands. The famous redhead was standing motionless at the foot of the First Kazekage statue. Darui watched with interest as one of his men fired a thunderbolt at the Puppet Master.

Curious to see how Sasori would handle it, Darui was disappointed when the Jutsu was deflected by a different Shinobi.

Baki, the Kazekage’s second-in-command. Interesting.

“How much farther until Lord Bee can begin?” Darui asked as he watched Baki dart around at high speed, deflecting Jutsu after Jutsu as they were flung at the redhead.

“Lord Bee can start immediately, if you wish, Darui-sama. He will need to climb the wall inside the passageway, and use the top of the wall to circle the battle before meeting up with Squad Dorai.” Ashito replied.

“I will have Lord Bee begin immediately then,” Darui decided. Drawing a Kunai, Darui poured lightning-chakra into the blade before throwing it. The Kunai abruptly found its mark a second later and a Suna Shinobi toppled over, his Jutsu unfinished.

“Darui-sama,” Ashito began. “The One-Tails Jinchuriki has not been spotted either. Until he is located, I advise that you do not enter the front lines.”

“Acknowledged,” Darui replied distractedly as he finished a complicated set of seals.

Darui smirked, his hands enveloped in black lightning.

“And ignored. Lightning Release: Black Panther!

He’d never admit it, but Baki lived for this moment. The coldness of war, the methodical nature of it. Both simple and complicated at the same time.

Ducking under a Kunai, Baki leaped into the air, his invisible Blade of Wind Jutsu screaming through the air. Slicing through a spear of pure lightning, Baki didn’t flinch as the Jutsu exploded from the point of impact.

Landing smoothly on his feet, Baki tilted his head to the side avoiding the shuriken as it whizzed past his ear.

Seeing a Kumo Shinobi descending on him from above, Baki leaped back, passing through Sasori’s defensive wall of puppets unharmed. Trying to keep up the pressure, the Kumo Shinobi leaped after him. Baki watched them try to follow through the rapidly closing gap in the puppets, only to be stopped as a puppet robed in red drove its short-sword through their neck.

Jumping over his motionless friend, Baki landed on one knee, driving his sword deep into the ground and into the head of a hidden Kumo Shinobi. Getting to his feet, Baki scanned the battlefield. He needed to be able to predict a Jutsu before it was cast if he was going to be able to stop it.

Hearing the ever-present sound of crackling electricity to his left, Baki turned to see a Kumo Shinobi pointing both hands at Sasori through the veil of puppets. The Shinobi’s mouth moved as they called out their Jutsu. Baki couldn’t hear them, but he didn’t need too.

Darting toward the Shinobi, the puppets moved to the side as he shot past.

Leaping over a Suna Shinobi’s head, Baki poured more chakra into his wind blade as he twisted through the air, narrowly avoiding a Fuma Shuriken as it passed underneath him.

Seeing him approaching, the Kumo Shinobi changed targets at the last second and released a tightly condensed ball of electricity at him.

Baki didn’t flinch. Slicing through the Jutsu with a coolness born of thousands of battles, Baki landed on the ground with a thud. Pretending to have fumbled his landing, Baki rolled across the ground and thrust his sword upward.

Not bothering to watch the Kumo Shinobi tumble over, Baki turned toward Sasori, searching for another attack.

That was when he saw the black panther. Tearing across the battlefield unimpeded, it was heading directly for Sasori.

I’m not going to make it! Baki thought, already sprinting across the battlefield.

“Sasori! Look out!” Baki shouted and immediately ducked, barely evading a Kumo Shinobi’s katana as they attempted to decapitate him.

Having heard Baki’s warning, Sasori manipulated puppets into the panther’s path, but it tore right through them, unbothered. Gritting his teeth as he tried to think of something, Sasori struggled to focus. Not only was he watching the panther sprinting across the battlefield, but he was also trying to keep all hundred of his puppets intact as he held off the Kumo Shinobi.

His fingers were a blur. Each finger connecting to a chakra thread floating in the air, manipulating the puppet attached to it, and disconnecting before repeating the process with a different thread. Quite literally switching between hundreds of threads a second, Sasori could barely focus on the Jutsu heading toward him.

Seeing a Jutsu head toward a dozen of his puppets, Sasori connected to their threads and hauled them out of the lightning ball’s path. Commanding three of the puppets to fire Senbon at the Shinobi, Sasori ordered another four puppets to assist a team of Suna Shinobi.

To an observer, Sasori was completely motionless, seeming to just be staring at the Jutsu plowing through Shinobi and Puppet alike as it sprinted toward him.

Sasori strained to move as the panther broke through his defensive ring of puppets, but couldn’t.

The panther exploded a mere couple feet away, and Sasori was forced to close his eyes or risk going blind from the sudden flash of light and heat.

“Keep your head in the game, Sasori!” Baki shouted. Switching his wind blade to his other hand, Baki twisted around and used his sword like a baseball bat, slicing an incoming lightning-infused Fuma Shuriken in half.

Blinking rapidly, Sasori refocused.

Even though he’d only lost concentration for a split second, he’d lost almost fifty of his puppets. Annoyed, Sasori once again began manipulating his puppets. Thankfully, his fellow Puppeteers had been able to pick up the slack in the line, preventing any Kumo Shinobi from getting by during his brief lapse of focus.

Holding the Kumo invasion here was paramount.

They could not risk the battle spreading across Suna. The destruction of the city would be catastrophic. Already the plaza was destroyed, the nearby buildings crumbling to the ground as stray Jutsu slammed into them.

Lifting four of his puppets into the air, Sasori forced a team of Kumo Shinobi to reverse course or be impaled. Seeing the Kumo Shinobi dealt with by a Wind Mistress as they fell back to the ground, Sasori shifted his attention once again.

Though his eyes were motionless, locked open, and forward, Sasori’s attention was constantly shifting.

Sensing someone in the sand beneath his feet. Sasori caught the threads of his Salamander Puppet and ordered it out of its hiding place deep beneath the sand. Burrowing through the sand with ease, the Puppet intercepted the hidden Kumo Shinobi and sank its sharp teeth into the Shinobi. Sasori barely heard the screams.

“Fill the gap!” Sasori shouted. Releasing the threads of his Salamander Puppet, Sasori caught all of the threads of his remaining puppets with both hands and flung them all into the air. In the same motion, dozens of puppets not under his control flooded in, holding the line.

Finishing seals, Sasori took a deep breath.

“Poison Mist Hell: Hundred Continuous Firing!”

The Jutsu was less effective with only fifty or so puppets, but it was still devastating. Almost instantly, thousands of senbon rained down on the Kumo Shinobi from above. While many of them were able to form defensive barriers in time, most were turned into human porcupines.

Screams of agony filled the battlefield.

Sasori had been prepared for this battle. Having switched the poison on his senbon from his usual concoction to a fast-acting one, the Kumo Shinobi would be dead in minutes.

“Sasori!”

Glancing toward Baki, Sasori saw him grab a Kumo Shinobi by the head and slam their forehead into his knee. Stunned, the Kumo Shinobi couldn’t defend themselves as Baki kicked them into the rain of senbon. Seeing Baki point across the battlefield, Sasori followed it to find Darui on the other side, staring at him.

He’d met Darui, the Raikage’s second-in-command, once before, on a diplomatic mission.

Darui looked as bored as he had the last time Sasori had seen him.

“Can you make me a path?” Baki shouted, struggling to be heard over the din.

Flicking his wrists upward, Sasori released all of his threads and attached them to his forearms. His hands now free, Sasori flew through seals. His chakra already strained from the Mist Hell, Sasori grunted from the effort of activating another chakra-exhaustive Jutsu so soon.

“Puppet Performance: Skillful Achievement with the Human Body!”

Every chakra point in Sasori’s hand was overloaded with chakra. Threads flew through the air, latching onto the bodies of the fallen Shinobi littering the battlefield.

“Rise,” Sasori muttered under his breath, and as one, over a hundred corpses got to their feet, both Suna and Kumo. Acting quickly, Sasori began attacking the Kumo Shinobi with the human puppets behind them. As was to be expected, the Kumo Shinobi were unprepared for their comrades to rise against them with such reckless abandon.

With no concern for the safety of the human puppets, Sasori didn’t bother with trying to keep them unharmed. They were already dead.

“Go!” Sasori shouted, and Baki nodded before disappearing in a burst of speed. Sasori’s fingers were a blur as he forced the Kumo Shinobi to give up ground, creating a small path across the battlefield. Seeing Baki reach the end of the passageway of human puppets, Sasori turned his attention to bringing more bodies under his control.

He couldn’t use this Jutsu for long without collapsing from Chakra exhaustion, so he had to make the most of it.

Kumo Embassy, Sunagakure, Land of Wind, EN.

Slapping her knee, Iwata stood.

“Let’s go.”

Her teammates in tow, Iwata made her way into the hallway and quickly exited the embassy. Once they’d all stepped outside, Fujino closed the door.

Iwata turned toward the familiar sound of Jutsu roaring in the distance, but couldn’t see the battle from this distance. Walking down the short paved pathway to the gate leading to the street, Iwata wasn’t surprised to see the usually busy street empty.

Having been the one on guard, Iwata had seen Suna Shinobi evacuating civilians out of the city in the middle of the night. It seemed that Suna had known an attack was coming after all.

Not bothering to open the metal bar gate, Iwata instead hopped over it. With her teammates in close pursuit, Iwata sprinted down the street to the left. Their destination was the abandoned training field where she’d first located the Prince.

Their orders were to meet up with Lord Bee there and assist him in finding and securing the Prince. It didn’t need to be explained, but they all knew there was a good chance that none of them were going to survive this mission.

If the Prince was being guarded by the One-Tails Jinchuriki, as she suspected he was, then Killer Bee would have to engage the Jinchuriki.

Which meant that obtaining the Prince would be up to her squad, and Iwata doubted that the only guard the Prince had was the Jinchuriki.

As Iwata reached the end of the street, she crouched slightly mid-run and jumped. Landing smoothly on the roof a dozen feet above, Iwata didn’t slow down.

Scanning the nearby rooftops for Suna Shinobi, Iwata was relieved to see no one. All of the Suna Shinobi were fighting at the gate, which would hopefully give them enough time to secure the prince and get out of Suna.

Seeing Taguchi run up beside her on the roof, matching her speed, Iwata started to speak before changing her mind.

Squad Dorai had been given this mission as her punishment for endangering the entire operation. This was Darui giving her a chance to redeem herself, supposedly. In reality, he was disposing of her. If her squad failed in their mission, nothing would be lost. Killer Bee would beat the One-Tails Jinchuriki, there was no doubt of that, and would secure the Prince himself.

No, it’s far more likely we’re going to die a pointless death, Iwata thought, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. I’ve wanted to die ever since I learned that Katai was dead.

“Duck!” Fujino shouted. Iwata hit the ground immediately.

Skidding across the rough sandstone roof, Iwata ignored the pain as her palms tore horribly.

Getting to her feet, Iwata froze, her eyes wide as she met Taguchi’s blank stare. Mouth agape, Taguchi’s eyes slowly rolled back in his head.

Iwata lowered her gaze slowly, stopping at the flame-covered fist protruding out of Taguchi’s chest.

The fist vanished, and Taguchi fell forward, revealing a Suna Kunoichi with green hair standing behind him.

“I don’t know how you got this far into Suna, but you’re not getting any farther than this,” Pakura warned as fireballs sprang to life in each hand.

Drawing her katana, Iwata held it in front of her defensively as she watched the Suna Kunoichi cautiously. Fujino and Taisho drew their weapons, each slowly moving to the Kunoichi’s left and right.

Seeing Fujino make a handsign behind his back out of the corner of her eye, Iwata crouched and darted forward, her katana held at the ready.

At the same time, Fujino leaped back, already racing through hand seals.

Ducking under the fireball the Kunoichi chucked at her, Iwata swung for the Kunoichi’s head with as much force as she could.

Iwata winced as her arm shook from the impact of her sword hitting the chain in the Kunoichi’s hands. Seeing the Kunoichi grin, Iwata leaped back just as the chain burst into flame. Fujino’s Jutsu roared across the roof a fraction of a second later.

For a moment, Iwata thought the tightly condensed ball of lightning had found its mark. The air drastically became hotter, and Iwata was forced to protect her face with her arm as the heat threatened to dry out her eyes.

Landing, Iwata wiped the sudden surge of sweat from her face and bit her lip as she stared at the raging wall of flame surrounding the Suna Kunoichi.

What the fuck is she? Iwata cursed in her mind. The flames didn’t look like normal Fire Release Jutsu, which meant that the Kunoichi probably had some sort of Kekkai Genkai.

Seeing Taisho sneaking up on the Kunoichi from behind, Iwata quickly drew a Kunai and chucked it at the green-haired Kunoichi’s head. Unsurprisingly, the Kunai melted on contact with the wall of flame, but it served its purpose.

As the Kunoichi dropped her flames, Taisho darted forward, tanto in hand, and thrust for the Kunoichi’s heart. Iwata watched as the Kunoichi twisted in place, seemingly in slow motion, narrowly avoiding the sword as she seemed to float above it.

Darting toward them, Iwata called out a warning as she saw the Kunoichi’s foot ignite into flames, but she was too late.

Swinging her foot through the air, the Suna Kunoichi buried her heel in Taisho’s head.

Iwata skidded to a stop, horrified.

Taisho didn’t even have time to scream.

Landing on her feet, Pakura casually shook her still flame-wrapped foot, knocking the ashes of the Kumo Shinobi free. Releasing the coiled up ball and chain in her hand, only keeping hold of the handle, Pakura turned to the last two Kumo Shinobi.

The heavy metal ball hit the roof with a solid thud.

“Lightning Release: Thunderbolt!”

Jumping into the air, Pakura let the lightning bolt pass harmlessly beneath her and crash into the next roof. Hauling the chain into the air after her, Pakura felt it snap taut, and the spiked ball shot into the air. Flicking her wrist, Pakura redirected the force behind the ball and sent it flying toward the Kumo Kunoichi.

Rolling to the side, Iwata immediately leaped back, at the same time signaling to Fujino.

Understanding her order, Fujino drew a Kunai and chucked it at the Suna Kunoichi before following Iwata to the next roof over. Activating the sealing tag attached to the Kunai, Fujino lifted his arms as the roof exploded.

Landing hard, Iwata tried to locate the Kunoichi in the smoke. That explosion wouldn’t have gotten her.

“Look out!” Iwata cried as she saw a line of flame appear in the smoke, lashing back and forth rapidly. Almost immediately, the flame changed directions, and a metal spiked ball, wrapped in scorching flames, shot out of the smoke cloud.

Fujino was unable to dodge the attack in the air, only able to block with his arms. The metal ball crashed into him half a second later, and he yelled in pain.

Iwata watched as flames spread across Fujino’s body almost instantly, wrapping him in fire. His screams ended as quickly as they had begun, and what remained of her comrade crashed to the roof a dozen feet away a second later.

Struggling to remain calm, Iwata sped through hand seals.

“Lightning Release: Thunderclap Arrow!”

Catching the spear of pure lightning that had appeared in midair above her, Iwata took a step forward and threw the spear at the Suna Kunoichi.

Seeing her vanish before the spear even reached the roof, Iwata whirled around, katana in hand, and tried to hew the Kunoichi in two.

Twisting to the side, Pakura watched the sharp blade narrowly pass by before she straightened. Stepping into the Kumo Kunoichi’s open guard, Pakura punched her in the chest.

Letting her katana slip from her fingers, Iwata looked down at the flame-covered fist buried in her chest and frowned.

Kicking the Kumo Kunoichi’s limp corpse off her arm, Pakura watched it roll down the roof and off the edge. Hearing the body hit the street below, Pakura turned toward the battle raging in the distance and vanished.

Chapter Navigation<< Chapter 21: It Begins (COTK Book 1)
Chapter 23: World Method (COTK Book 1) >>
Total Word Count: 5249 words

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