The next day I was picked up by Naruto in the early morning. I was so excited about the Forest of Death that I didn’t oversleep this time. Instead I was completely ready as Naruto knocked on my door. I had my weapons (kunai and shuriken) in my black weapon pouch, my new Konoha headband was tied around my head, I spent ten minutes in the bathroom to undo the knots in my hair, and I was dressed in one of my new outfits. I hope that I truly was wearing brown pants in the moment, and a green shirt. My feet were bare of course, because shoes only made it more difficult to see. I just had finished my breakfast – bred and milk – when Naruto arrived.
Now we were on our way to the main gates of the Forest of Death and were discussing what big scary animals were already waiting for us or what dangerous traps were set.
“Don’t worry Tora” Naruto said as we almost reached our goal “Now that I can do the Rasengan I can defeat everyone.”
“Pf, only if they are still standing after I knocked them down. That of course won’t be the case.”
Finally we reached the mysterious forest outside the village. As we arrived at the high fence that surrounded the area, there was a person – I would guess it was this woman Anko – who was sitting on a branch. I thought I heard her munching on something.
“You must be those kids that Jiraya wants to send into the forest, right?” she asked while she probably ate something. “I’m Anko, what did you do to the old man that he wants to get rid of you?”
“He doesn’t want to get rid of us” Naruto yelled. “He sent us here for training so that we’ll become stronger, believe it!”
Anko only laughed. “Yeah, sure kid. Just let me finish my delicious dango and I’ll explain everything to you.” So we stood there, probably completely stupid-looking, while that woman finished her breakfast. She had something slight sadistic, humorous, confident in her voice and I already liked her.
As soon as she was finished Anko hopped down from the tree branch she was sitting on.
“Alright kids, this isn’t just a lazy daily trip. The Forest of Death is deadly, filled with creatures that even I don’t know of. I prepared several traps for you and you won’t carry anything but your weapons, which means no food and no water. You have to take care of yourself, like a real shinobi. I give you this map. If you survive the trip meet me until sunset at the west gate here. If something happens and you’re in danger, that’s your problem because I won’t watch over you like your baby sitter but sit at the west gate eating some dangos. Kids like you get their blood all over this forest. Dozens of fools who thought they could easily walk into that area are rotting now in the earth or in the stomachs of the creatures.
This is your last chance to quit kids before I’ll open the gate for you.”
I felt her questioning stare on us but only shook my head. This woman could talk all she wanted, I wasn’t scared and I won’t run.
“I won’t give up, believe it!”
Anko only chuckled. She went over to the fence and opened the door. “Alright have fun in the Forest of Death. Oh and one advice” she added as we already were past the door “just don’t die.”
Several hours had passed and I was sure by now that Anko overdramatized to scare the crap out of us. Of course we already had run into some big monsters, but they were totally stupid and it was more or less easy to knock them down once you had gotten past your fears from facing an endless long and huge snake. Though I had to admit that Naruto would be helpless without me because he already had been trapped in several traps and I had to free him every time after I was laughing at him for a couple of minutes of course. Other than that it was a normal forest. Maybe a little bit darker and more mysterious like Naruto explained to me, but hey in the moment everything was for me dark and mysterious so it didn’t scare me.
The only problems we had were the map and the non-existent food and water. Naruto wasn’t so well in reading maps. I doubted slightly if he was even holding it right after he guided us directly into the arms of a huge millipede instead of a river. I really wished that I could have taken a look on the map but being blind didn’t help. So I just hoped that we were on the right way.
The other problem was that this stupid Anko didn’t allow us to have some food or water. My stomach and dry throat were killing me right now! We found neither a source of water nor some food to eat. Although there were some fruits on the bushes, we had no idea if they were poisoned. Naruto suggested we could try to burn and eat one of the giant millipedes, but I refused to do this.
“Hey there’s some food!” Naruto suddenly called out and ran to the trunk of a tree.
“Haha after all it just lies here on the ground!”
“Naruto wait!” I tried to stop him. Food didn’t just lie on the ground without a purpose, especially not in a deathly forest. “It could be a-“
“- trap. Would you listen to me once?!” I yelled at him while Naruto dangled in the middle of the air. A rope was bound around his ankle.
“Sorry Tora, but look I found food, believe it!”
“Yep, but you walked straight into that obvious trap. So while you’re swinging in the air, I’ll sit here and eat those berries after of course you ate one just to make sure that they’re okay.”
“That’s not fair, believe it!”
I only rolled my eyes and tried one of the berries. It tasted sweet, and even after a couple of minutes of waiting and listening to a yelling Naruto nothing changed instead of my stomach rumouring louder.
As I thought, no one would set up a trap with poisoned berries.
“Hey Naruto” I interrupted him, “these ones are food, so you could make yourself helpful for once and walk around a little to search for bushes or trees with those berries and collect them.”
“Why should I do that?” he asked sulking.
I grinned. “Well I could also let you hang here for the rest of the day and walk out of the forest on my own.”
“I won’t let you do that! Untie me!”
“Promise me to look after the berries…” I smiled. This was so fun.
Naruto grumbled a yes and I freed him out of the trap and gave him the berries.
“Don’t eat them!” I punched him as he wanted to eat one of them. Man, I started acting like Sakura. I really had to be careful.
“What are you going to do?”
“I think I sensed something like a river a little bit far away. I’ll check it out.”
So we split up and I made my way through the forest to the line where my sensing skills stopped. I only could see the earth; on the water I literally was blind.
As I thought it was a streaming river with cold pure water. Sighing in bliss I drank some of the delicious and tasty fresh water to wet my dry throat. I just wanted to fill some of it into my water canteen that Anko luckily allowed me to keep, when I felt someone coming closer. It wasn’t Naruto, this person was heavier, probably a man.
The person tried to hide behind a tree. I only grinned.
Quickly I whirled around and slammed my right foot into the ground. A rock dug itself out in front of the stranger and it hit him right in the face. I heard a groan as he fell to the ground.
“Who’s there?” I commanded to know as I went into battle stance, ready to strike. The stranger didn’t response, but suddenly I heard water splashing behind me. I created three rocks in front of me and kicked them toward the person who was running to me. The stranger dodged them all and I had to jump back as the figure left the river. As soon as his feet made contact with the earth I recognised him. It was this irritating insulting huge person from the bridge, who called me little and blind.
“Are you here for a rematch?” I asked grinning. I know Tsunade said that we had to run when we made contact with those Akatsuki and I would do that, but he owed me one.
The guy called Kisame just chuckled. “Are you really sure you want to fight against me little blind kid?”
I spat out. “Are you afraid of me rowdy?” I asked him mockingly.
He laughed. “You surely have some guts. Though leader said we should capture you alive, he didn’t say anything about not cutting your legs off.” His weird thing with which he dodged my attacks made suddenly a noise and he let it crash into the earth.
I moved slightly my feet to have a better stance. Then Kisame attacked. He was heavy and loud, that’s why I had no problem in sensing his attack and always knew what he was going to do. I let pillars appear in front of Kisame as he run to me, but he crashed them with his weird thing or avoided them. I already had anticipated his moves though and when he was busy destroying one of my pillars I let three of them come out of the ground on his left side and made them crash into him. It was too fast for him to dodge all three of them and so he went flying a few feet away.
I grinned winningly and almost pumped my fist into the air.
But then I felt that the first stranger that had hid behind the tree suddenly moved. From his foot stance I would say that he was about to throw something, but it was neither a kunai nor a shuriken.
“I’ll show you my art, hmm!” he yelled and I had a feeling that I had to avoid that thing whatever it was.
So I created a little stone tent around me that should protect me. Not a second later I heard a loud “Katsu!” and my protection shook as something exploded outside. Was that a bomb?!
A few cracks appeared in the earth but I was fine.
“Damn you Deidara!” I heard Kisame yelling. “We should bring her to Leader alive, stop trying to blow her off!”
“Don’t tell me what I should do, hmm, my art is fleeting, it needs to explode to show its beauty.”
“You’re fighting a blind girl; she sees nothing of your so called art, so stop it!”
I only shook my head. Those guys were weird.
“Let’s crash this stone shield and finish her, without blowing her off. Itachi should already have trapped the Jinchuriki brat into his genjutsu.”
Naruto! I thought. Damn, I had to help him.
I felt Kisame coming closer, but before he could destroy my shield I created a deep tunnel in front of me, jumped in, closed it and came out a kilometre away from those guys.
Without wasting any moment I ran back to the spot where I had seen Naruto the last time. Please be okay, please be okay, I repeated again and again. Maybe I shouldn’t have complained about the forest for not being so scary; because those guys were definitely something different than some stupid huge animals, although I had to admit that I was a bit excited and proud about fighting and beating this Kisame.
As I reached the place Naruto was nowhere in sight. Damn it! Where was this stupid knucklehead? Probably he was hanging again in one of these traps. I had to find him before those guys would…
I managed to raise a shield in front of me just before some needles made contact with it.
“Not bad brat”, a deep menacing voice said from above me. Damn those ninjas, couldn’t they face me on the ground where I could see instead of water or tree branches?
It seemed like the person had heard my thoughts because he hopped down onto the ground. It was a strange person. Heavy, wide, he didn’t stand on two legs but it felt like he was crawling.
“But you’re still weak and you are definitely out of your league” the person continued with its deep voice. “So just surrender and let us kidnap you so that we won’t waste any time. Because I hate it to let others wait.”
Was this weird guy really asking me to give up?!
“If you want me you have to catch me first” I answered him while going into battle stance.
“This is such a waste of time” he grumbled before taking a step forward.
I smiled slightly, waited for the right moment to strike and sent a line of twisting columns toward his feet, Of course he jumped out of its way but before he reached the ground I let a pile appear out of the ground and rammed it into the figure. The attacker crashed into a tree, but then he disappeared into sand. This was a clone! Shit, he only did it to distract me!
“Fire style: Fireball jutsu.” Double shit!
Quickly I covered myself in stones as the fireball hit me. I could feel the enormous heat, but the stones protected me luckily. I knew by now who had appeared out of nowhere a few meters away from me. It was Itachi, the brother of my teammate emo-kid.
As soon as the fireball disappeared I undid my shield and waited for him to make the next move.
Surprisingly my heart was beating slowly and steadily and I wasn’t afraid or in panic like I had been on the bridge. I knew what I was capable of by now and I knew that I could defeat them.
Suddenly the guy disappeared. I narrowed my eyes, concentrated my senses on every sudden movement.
“Where are you?” I mumbled silently to myself. This man was light on his feet and really hard to sense. But I still felt him as he reappeared right in front of me. In a blink of an eye my hand was covered in a shield of stones as I tried to punch him, but he dodged my stone fist with a kunai and grabbed my shirt so that I couldn’t get away. Before I knew what was going on I heard a clicking noise and a moment later something flew toward me. I wanted to dodge it but the emo-kid-brother blocked me and so I couldn’t prevent the needle from flying into my neck.
Itachi let go of me and hopped backwards. I wanted to pull his feet away with a line of rocks but suddenly I couldn’t move. My hands fell limply to the side; I lost the control of the earth. In the next moment my legs started to shake and I fell on the ground face-first.
What was going on?!
I tried to come back on my feet, but not even my little finger wanted to move! I had no feeling, no control over my body.
Suddenly it felt like a fist tightened its grip around my heart and squeezed it.
I started to panic. I coughed and something hot and metallic-tasting came out of my mouth. Blood!
The two Akatsuki attackers moved to my side, while I groaned in pain. My vision through my feet was dizzy and I could barely sense any movements.
“This poison” the deep voice from the first attacker started speaking although I could barely understand him “lames your muscles. First it just pretended you from moving, but now it attacks your organs. In a couple of minutes your heart, lungs and other vital organs are squished and you’ll die” he said calmly but fascinated.
I wanted to yell at him, spit at him, punch him, and bury him! But instead of that I just coughed up more blood. I had problems breathing, my lungs just wouldn’t accept the fresh air and my heart started to beat irregular.
“Sweet dreams” a voice said near to my ear. In the next moment I was knocked out unconsciousness. I just hoped that Naruto was safe.
With his usual blank expression Itachi watched as Sasori gave the girl the antidote as soon as she was out cold. The girl sopped shivering and just lay motionless on the ground.
In that moment Kisame and Deidara appeared through the trees and jumped down to their partners.
“So you managed to defeat her, Sasori my man?” Deidara more stated than asked as he saw the limp figure.
Sasori who was of course inside his favourite puppet Hiruko glanced at his annoying partner. “Of course we did, after you have failed!”
Kisame only shrugged, his toothy grin never leaving his face. “Itachi, what’s with the Jinchuriki?” he asked his younger partner.
“He’s trapped in a genjutsu, but it will stop soon. We should leave now.”
“Why don’t we catch him too, hm?” Deidara asked.
“Brat, he has the nine tails inside of him” Sasori explained impatiently. “He is the last we have to seal, not the first. It would be a risk to kidnap him now, the leaf won’t stop searching him and he won’t give up that easily. The danger is too great that he would destroy the base in the end.”
“I could just blow him off with my art, hmm.”
Sasori sent him a glare as sharp as daggers. “Your little pitiful explosions are no art, brat. Fine art is something wonderful that's left long into the future, eternal beauty.”
“No Sasori my man you’re wrong,fine art is the beauty of that single fleeting moment of explosion.”
Kisame sighed. “Here we go again.”
Itachi just picked up the girl and slung her unconsciousness body over his shoulder. “We should head back now before anyone will sense us.”
The art duo stopped arguing immediately and jumped up into the trees, followed by Kisame and Itachi.
A few minutes later Naruto stumbled on the small clearing. He found many of the bushes with those sweet berries, but the weird thing was that it always seemed to be the same bush. And regardless of how many berries he ate, he was as hungry as before.
Shrugging it off Naruto looked around, but Tora was nowhere in sight. For a moment he really thought that she left him behind to pass the gate first, but then he remembered that she had said something about a river. While eating the berries that were originally in the trap, he ran off to search his teammate.