Chapter 4: A Challenge (COTK Book 1)

This content rated appropriate for audience: T for Teens

Reading Time: 11 minutes

“I challenge Miyasato Sakamoto,” Rasa announced calmly.

The entirety of the dining hall looked at Miyasato as one, though he didn’t seem to notice. Turning to his father, he waited for him to either deny the request or allow it. Torio looked to be pondering the challenge.

“Against anyone else… I wouldn’t allow this. However, I trust you not to hurt my son, so I’ll allow it.”

Rasa observed Miyasato, but couldn’t see any reaction. The boy was talented in showing nothing in his expression, though having half of it covered helped.

“Will you accept the challenge?” Torio asked, looking over at Miyasato.

The servants and palace guard clapped as Miyasato stood. It took him only a few moments to walk to the sparring platform, effortlessly navigating the table, chairs, and people in the room. Hopping up onto the platform, he walked to the spot in front of Rasa and stopped.

Still, nothing showed on his face or in his posture.

The conversation around the room had risen, and Rasa picked up pieces of it. Questions asked out loud about how skilled Miyasato was, whether or not this was safe, a few even wondering if Miyasato might actually give him a challenge. His own men said nothing, only watching intently.

He wondered if Miyasato would accept the challenge, and so had Torio. As they’d walked to the dining room earlier, Torio had explained his idea. He wanted Rasa to spar against Miyasato and get an idea of his skill. Afterward, they would talk and compare notes, see if they had similar thoughts.

Bowing, Rasa slipped into a primary starter position, which earned him a teasing look from Sasori that he ignored. Miyasato bowed in return and entered a stance Rasa had seen hundreds of times before, the basic academy-level Taijutsu stance.

Looking over Miyasato’s shoulder, he saw Torio about to start the match when Miyasato’s stance changed drastically. Crouching lower to the ground, one hand moved to hold him up from the floor as Miyasato leaned forward. Rasa didn’t recognize the position. He wasn’t sure it belonged to any existing Taijutsu style.

Torio also seemed confused.

Then just as suddenly as before, Miyasato shook his head and shifted back into the original stance.

What is he doing? Rasa wondered, gesturing for Torio to hurry up and start the spar.

“Begin!” Torio shouted. Rasa could hear the uncertainty in his friend’s voice but ignored it. He was also somewhat concerned by Miyasato’s odd behavior. Nonetheless, he felt this was the best way to figure it out. Torio hadn’t said anything about Miyasato doing any extra training of his own.

Rasa darted forward, though it felt more like he was slowly strolling across the platform. Torio had requested he start off at a low speed, and increase if needed. So he’d chosen to move slightly faster than a Genin was capable of. It was somewhat embarrassing. He had more than enough time to observe everyone in the room in detail and noticed Sasori giving him a look. As if he was embarrassed for him.

Upon reaching Miyasato, he swung for the boy’s head with an open palm. Lurching backward, Miyasato moved out of the way and returned to his stance, but his feet were reversed. Rasa deliberately gave him an opening, letting his arm continue to swing around.

He thought Miyasato wasn’t going to take it at first, but the boy darted forward at the last second, attempting to jab him in the neck. Easily dodging out of the way, he put some distance between himself and Miyasato.

Does he know how to use the Gentle Fist? That looked like a Gentle fist move, but it was too violent. It wasn’t smooth like the Hyūga is known for, Rasa wondered as he kept Miyasato in view. Very suddenly, Miyasato dropped back into that weird stance from earlier.

Rasa finally realized where he’d seen it before, in students who didn’t know how to use Taijutsu but were desperate to win anyway. It was crude and inefficient, putting someone at risk of being knocked over.

Launching forward, Miyasato tried to claw at his face. Rasa batted Miyasato’s wrist away and flipped over him. He was surprised at how quickly Miyasato was running now. When they’d started, it was definitely Genin speed, but he was moving at very low-Chūnin now.

Rasa realized he needed to take this spar more seriously as he had to leap back into the air to avoid getting his legs kicked out. He wasn’t sure if Miyasato had enough physical strength to kick his legs out, but there wasn’t any reason to find out the hard way.

He leaned to the side to avoid another swipe toward his face from the blind-folded prince. There was something about his fighting style that was unsettling. It was desperate, hungry, reckless, and erratic. If Rasa were trying to kill Miyasato, he would have succeeded in a dozen different ways by this point, even without superior speed.

Twisting on his foot, he spun around to kick Miyasato in the head with the back of his heel.

Miyasato clearly saw the attack coming, and suddenly everything changed again. Miyasato braced himself against the floor, raising both arms up to his side to block the attack. Rasa still sent him skidding across the platform, but it was the correct way to defend against that attack.

What is going on? Rasa wondered. Miyasato’s fighting style was unpredictable for sure, but Rasa didn’t get the sense that it was intentional. It felt more like Miyasato couldn’t make up his mind about what he wanted to do. It had seemed like the prince had a plan at the beginning, but had quickly abandoned it.

Ramping up his speed, he darted around the edge of the platform, appearing behind Miyasato and pinning his arms behind him, ending the spar. It must be his lack of training in Taijutsu, Torio did mention it was the subject he was least trained in due to lack of a training field. That will have to be dealt with, Rasa thought as they bowed to Torio.

Walking off the platform behind Miyasato, he asked a question.

“Did you learn anything?”

“You fight like Father,” Miyasato replied simply before splitting off, heading toward the opposite side of the head table. Rasa nodded to Torio before taking his own seat.

“I challenge Kanade!” Sasori shouted from the middle.

Miyasato’s Room, Daimyō’s Palace.

Miyasato returned to his room to find a packed bag and a sealing scroll on his bed. Everything looked the same, but peering into his drawers and wardrobe revealed them to be mostly empty.

Some of the servants must have come and packed for me, he thought, though it was up to him to decide what else to bring. Sitting down on the bed, he looked around his room.

Nothing stood out to him. The lavish decorations of his room looked no different from the plain walls of the upper palace floors.

Does nothing in here really matter to me? Miyasato wondered. Lifting his hand to his face, he ran his fingers over the gift his father had given him. The material was cool and soft to the touch. He’d almost forgotten he was wearing it.

Sighing, he slipped his rings off his fingers and put them on the nightstand. He wasn’t allowed to bring them as they could be used to identify him. Each was, after all, extremely expensive and had the Daimyo’s seal on them.

At least I will finally be able to use my real name, he mused as he checked through the bag, making sure the servants had packed everything he would need. Satisfied, he unrolled the scroll and sealed the bag.

Realizing he needed to change into traveling clothes, he scanned his room.

“Kanade-san, do you want to talk to me?” Miyasato asked the seemingly empty room. Kanade dropped out of the shadows above, landing silently next to the bed.

He waited for her to explain her presence in his room, noticing she was staring at the floor intently. She was chewing her lip, something he’d only seen her do a few times in his life.

“I’m still concerned about this.”

He stood and walked over to his wardrobe, having spotted his traveling clothes on a rack inside. Opening it, he pulled them out and laid them on the bed.

“Don’t ignore me, Miyasato-sama.”

He shrugged, “This is important.”

“I know that.” Kanade returned sharply. “I just…”

“Kanade-san, I need to get changed.” He said, cutting her off. She stopped, nodding before vanishing in a swirl of sand. He could see her outside of his room, but it was good enough. Quickly getting changed, he slipped the scroll into his pocket and grabbed the white cloak next to the door.

Putting it on, he opened the door and stepped outside. Kanade looked like she wanted to say more, but didn’t. He honestly didn’t care what she had to say at this point. This had to happen, it just had to, regardless of the dangers.

As they walked down the hall, two more of the Daimyō’s guards appeared around them. Miyasato’s eyes were always moving as he tried to detect anyone nearby. If the Assassins were present, watching, or were to attack now, then everything would’ve been pointless.

A small group of Shinobi was gathered in a grove of trees in a small clearing. Off to the side, Rasa and Torio were talking. Sasori was conversing with his teams, making sure they had everything ready. Gaara and one of the team members were missing.

“We’ll go along the Great Oniringo Mountains until we reach Nekokami City, then take the Shazo Pass into Ten’inokaze Province. It’s a longer route, but safer, all things considered.” Rasa explained.

Torio nodded, “I trust you took my warning into consideration?”

“Hai,” Rasa replied as he rechecked the edges of the clearing. Everyone present was on guard, prepared for an attack at any moment. “I’m not the least bit comfortable with what we’re going to do, but it’s the best option right now.”

“Good,” Torio said, looking toward the small footpath to the palace. Kanade stepped out of the shadows first, followed by Miyasato. Two more of his guards were flanking Miyasato on both sides. Torio couldn’t see or sense them, but he knew four more of his guards were hidden as they protected his son.

Walking over, he placed his good hand on Miyasato’s shoulder. “Got everything?”

“Hai, Father,” Miyasato replied. Torio looked toward Rasa, expecting him to comment on his son’s bright white cloak, but his friend said nothing.

It was very early in the morning. The sun wouldn’t rise for another few hours. All lights in the garden had been extinguished, and the group had only the fading moon to see by.

“Where is Gaara?” Miyasato asked, unable to locate the Jinchuriki on the palace grounds. His question was answered a second later, the ground in the center of the clearing beginning to move. Peering underground, he spotted Gaara and one of the Suna shinobi rising quickly through the sand and imported dirt. A moment later, they were above ground.

“All clear, Captain.” The Suna shinobi reported, getting a nod from Sasori, who gestured for his team to move. They all gathered in a circle around Gaara, who hadn’t moved since arriving.

“We’re ready to go, Torio,” Rasa said as he to walked up beside Gaara.

Torio took a deep breath and patted Miyasato on the shoulder. He watched gravely as his son walked into the circle and stopped next to Rasa.

“Thank you for doing this, Rasa,” Torio said.

“Of course,” Rasa replied seriously. “Let’s go, Gaara.”

Torio and Kanade backed up as the ground around the shinobi began to shake and then rotate rapidly. Sand leaped up around the edge of the group and formed a dome above them. Nothing happened for a moment. The ground quaked and the dome began rapidly descending. Vanishing beneath the soil a second later, the dirt forming back over it.

Miyasato watched his father’s expression as they descended, seeing the deep sadness in his father’s eyes. He stumbled, their descent stopping suddenly. Looking around, Miyasato saw Gaara raise his hand toward the wall in front of him. He nearly fell again, though Rasa caught him this time as the dome containing them began tunneling through the sand.

Sand suddenly shot upwards beside Gaara, nearly hitting Sasori. Reaching the ceiling, it splayed out, supporting it. He could see the veins in Gaara’s neck tensing as extreme pressure was applied to the roof above. A few seconds later they got out from underneath Kazedama’s rock walls.

Speed picked up as they reached less densely-packed sand. More than three dozen feet underground, it was entirely impossible to see them from above ground. The feat of strength from Gaara was impressive, but Miyasato had to deactivate his Byakugan as his eyes began to burn behind his blindfold. There was an incredible amount of potent chakra flowing through the sand.

The sudden darkness was disconcerting, and he lifted the blindfold slightly. There was no visible difference, so he lowered the blindfold. It had been a long time since he’d deactivated his Byakugan. His father had told him his eyes were different from those in the Land of Fire. When activated, it was incredibly hard to tell the difference from it being deactivated. For the Hyuga, it was evident from the veins rising around their eyes.

Yet another way I’m different from everyone else, Miyasato thought.

Rasa’s firm grip on his shoulder prevented him from stumbling again as the ground shook. Reactivating his Byakugan, he saw they were far away from Kazedama. He could barely see the outer walls of the capital now. The sound of sand rushing against sand had stopped as well.

Gaara grunted and lifted both hands toward the ceiling. Gravity started to weigh on him as they rapidly rose toward the surface. No more than a few seconds later, they broke through, and the dome fell apart. Gaara collapsed to his knees, breathing deeply.

He thought someone would try to help Gaara, but no one did. The Shinobi ignored him entirely. Only himself and Rasa were watching Gaara as he struggled to his feet. When Gaara had returned to his normal, emotionless state, Rasa began to issue orders.

“Let’s move. Sasori, you’re first.” Rasa ordered. Miyasato was confused, then understood when the redheaded captain kneeled in front of him. Climbing up on the Shinobi’s back, he held on tightly as Sasori stood.

Seeing they were ready, Rasa signaled for everyone to move. Instantly, Miyasato lost all ability to see as Sasori leaped forward faster than he’d ever moved in his life. He would have fallen straight away if Sasori hadn’t been holding on to him. He couldn’t see more than a blur of sand and night sky.

Suna City, Land of Wind, EN.

Baki breathed deeply, trying to calm himself down. He so very badly wanted to put his fist through the nearest wall, but the four walls around him didn’t belong to him.

I’ll punch my wall when I get home… whenever that is, Baki thought dryly.

He was still in Rasa’s office and hadn’t slept in the past twenty-four hours. As soon as he’d gotten back from the Kumo Embassy, he’d immediately ordered Suna’s fastest Shinobi, Hamada, to Kumo with a message for the Raikage explaining everything they knew.

Hamada had pointed out it would take a few days to reach Kumo since he had to go through the Land of Fire to get there. It was probably already too late to try to get a jump on the situation, but at the very least, it showed they were trying… hopefully. There were a lot of variables to try to keep track of, and he could feel his mind beginning to slow.

Ochida had stopped by about an hour before to inform him that all the dead Kumo Shinobi’s bodies had been healed and sealed. The place had also been cleaned before the civilians could begin to notice the smell.

Even with his mind spinning, trying to find a way to prevent a war with Kumo, a nagging thought wouldn’t go away. A Shinobi, or multiple Shinobi, had gotten through all of their defenses and taken four highly-skilled Kumo Shinobi unaware, and without a fight.

Such a feat required a massive amount of skill, to the point that it was hard to believe it was even possible. There were no signs that any Jutsu had been used during the attack, which meant the Kumo Shinobi had been entirely unaware.

Baki was pulled out of his thoughts as the office doors opened. They might have knocked, but he hadn’t heard them.

“Reporting for duty, Baki-sama.”

The Kunoichi in front of him was nineteen-years-old and recently promoted to Jounin. He’d never personally met her before, though he’d seen her green hair in Jounin lounges around Suna before. She was the second-fastest in Suna according to the documents, having broken several academy records when she became a Genin. Even Hamada had been impressed.

“Pakura-san, I have a mission for you.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Picking up a scroll from the desk, Baki tossed it to her. She grabbed it in mid-air.

“Deliver that to the Kazekage in Kazedama as fast as possible.”

She bowed before vanishing in a swirl of fire. It looked similar to the Uchiha shunshin style, but it wasn’t the same. Baki had totally forgotten she had a Kekkai Genkai as well.

He remembered that there had been a lot of talk about it when she first discovered it after graduating from the Academy. Nothing had ever been proven though. She had been an orphan before joining the Academy, and her parents weren’t known.

Hopefully, she gets that to him soon. Then he can come to help me figure out this damn mess, Baki thought as he made his way out of the office. He just had to get some sleep.

Total Word Count: 3095 words

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