Fire and Ice

Return of the Flame

On the fifth day, the guards came back without the two Uchiha. Haku nearly panicked, and it took Sakura and Kakashi to calm the teen down as they were yanked to their feet, chained together, and led from the cell. Theirs wasn’t the only one, and throngs of other chained together slaves joined them as they went down, further and further. They passed through the upper levels, which joined two or three at a time, to the lower levels, where one prisoner at a time was yanked out of cells by the guards, mostly with some form of modified muzzle on. Civilians, shinobi, Men, women, children, and there were even some people carrying smaller children who were also bound. Haku, though having short relapses in his façade, managed to take everything in stride. He had seen most of it before. However, Sakura, Naruto, and even Sasuke were affected greatly by the sight. Finally, they came to a huge, open arena, and were filed into stands around the upper levels. The group of Konoha ninja could see there were barred doors set in the stone around the edge of the arena. Several of the others were jeering, making catcalls and generally enjoying themselves, while others looked terrified or were hiding their eyes. Some of the younger children were crying silently. Haku whimpered.

“The Coliseum.” He murmured hoarsely, his pale skin going even paler, “Terra told me about this. One of his cellmates before me was taken down here. They take the chakra cuffs off any ninjas and give back weapons to those that had them before hand. It’s an all out, no holds barred free-for-all. The last one standing is taken back to the upper levels and gets put out as the most promising of slaves to be sold.”

“Then it’ll come down between the ninjas.” Kakashi murmured, looking ill.

“Only those that aren’t too weakened.” Haku replied, but he looked grim. None of them had been fed during their holding here. Terra, during one of his lucid moments, had made a wry joke about Sakura’s dieting she’d been complaining about after the Chunin Exam preliminaries, if only in an attempt to lighten the mood. Though he’d tried to hide it, Terra was taking the return to the catacombs worse than Haku. Itachi and Terra were the worst off though. Both were loosing a lot of blood every time they were dragged off, not to mention they were being injected with experimental drugs in crippling intensities. Itachi was usually the more lucid of the two, but there were times when even he was teetering on the edge of delusional.

A bell sounded somewhere, and the doors swung open. Ninety percent of the occupants ran out, some wielding weapons, others forming jutsu, and others just swinging their fists. Some ganged together and began picking off those that stayed in their cells, and a few began to eat their opponents, showing they’d come from the cannibal floors. This made half the crowd roar in approval and the other half look decidedly queasy.

“I forgot to mention that…didn’t I?” Haku said weakly. Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke were all barely holding back from puking. Down in the arena, one of the fighters ran into a cell, only to be thrown right back out again, his chest caved in. In two other cells, the same thing happened, though one was with a severed neck instead.

“How much you want to bet one of those is Itachi, and another is Terra?” Sasuke asked, smirking wryly.

“As they aren't on the field, it’s not a far cry.” Kakashi muttered. When a lance of fire shot from one of the cells, they breathed a sigh of relief.

“That’ll be Terra.” Haku muttered, as another fireball barbequed some unlucky idiots from another of the cells.

“Probably Itachi.” Sasuke murmured. The third cell’s occupant, an absolutely giant man in civilian clothes, ran out and began bodily throwing people around. The spear of flame, which turned out to be half of Terra’s sword, was flying around, changing direction and occasionally would be yanked back into the originating cell before reappearing some seconds later. Unfortunately, one of the others got tangled up by the wire Terra was using to keep ahold of his weapon. The man was burned to a crisp, but was too heavy and fell over on top of the weapon, trapping it. Another came by, grabbed the chakra enhanced wire, and yanked. Terra was pulled out, and was struggling to free his hand from the unexpected problem, mainly by taking his glove off. The Genin nearly retched when they saw that one of Terra’s legs was in the process of regenerating, Haku only looking worried. Blood trailed behind Terra, leaving a steaming residue as the acidic poison that had come to make up most of Terra’s blood began to dissolve the packed dirt. Terra got the glove off, and pulled the other half of his katana out from under him, skewering the brute that had pulled him out as the guy tried to attack him. His eyes flashed red, and he spat a fireball at one unlucky man. Terra then levered himself up with his katana, as his shin started to return, then spread flame up the sword. Itachi darted out then, rushing to stand at Terra’s back, stopping only to pull the other half of the other’s sword out from under the body that trapped it. The two nodded at each other, before focusing on their approaching enemies, Itachi handing Terra his other sword, which was quickly lacquered with fire. The ten or so that had been trying to sneak up on Terra suddenly stiffened, then began screaming, obviously under the effects of a Genjutsu before Itachi sent kunai through each of their heads. Terra started sweeping his swords in careful arcs, sending out blasts of fire that torched everything within five feet of them. Finally, Terra had his whole leg back, though was missing his boot. He took a step forward and breathed out a gout of flames so hot they appeared white. The tidal wave of fire moved over the rest of the arena, wiping out the unfortunate ones caught in it and crashing against the sides, melting some of the stone. The teen took a step forward, only to stumble and grimace, dropping one sword to grip his neck. Itachi finished off the last couple behind him and turned, mouth moving in a concerned question. Terra shook his head, muttering back something. Itachi nodded and extended a hand. Terra took it, and as he stood, a piercing three-note whistle rang through the area.

“Damn.” Haku muttered, and the rest of their group instantly noted that ice began spreading over Haku’s clothes. It quickly spread from him to Naruto and Sakura, who were on either side of him. The two shuddered, especially when it began to thicken and expand.

“I know it’s uncomfortable, but it’s better than being fried to a crisp.” Haku said quietly.

“What?” Sasuke asked sharply.

“That is Terra’s signal that he’s about to flood the place with fire. It’s a special type of flame that’ll break whatever jutsu is on the arena that’s keeping the prisoners in and melt the chains and cuffs. We’ll make a run for it once they’re weak enough to break.” Haku explained quickly.

“What about the others. And Itachi?” Sakura asked.

“Itachi will be fine. The powers of the Phoenix Guard can’t harm those of the ruling line, which means that Sasuke will be fine as well. As for the other slaves…I’m a bit more concerned about my friends, they come before innocents.” Naruto and Sakura were almost completely covered by now, and Haku’s mouth had been the last thing to be covered with the thick ice. Sasuke got a thick coating under the cuffs, but was otherwise left alone. Needless to say, this made him more than a little uneasy. However, the ice closed over Kakashi’s head just as a huge explosion of flame washed over the area. Sasuke braced for the pain. He already felt the heat on his skin, but no burning sensation. Opening his eyes, the youngest Uchiha stared as he watched the flame slide over his skin like water. Already the chakra cuffs were melting, as were the chains that tied him to the others, and both were melting through the ice below. However, it melted slower than normal ice. Once the shackles were weak enough, Sasuke pulled, snapping them off and managing to shake them off without burning himself. The flames finally died down, and Haku was in motion, the ice on him moving like armor instead of solid water. He easily pulled the melted metal off the others before making the ice melt in one movement. Everyone that had been encased in the ice, except Haku, shivered as the icy water permeated their clothes.

“No time to warm up, we’ve gotta go.” The ice-user hissed. He leapt over charred bodies, some of which were moaning in pain, and landed on the edge of the arena. The others followed, only for Sakura and Naruto to gasp. Terra was limp as Itachi carried him over, the elder’s dark eyes keeping a wary gaze on the fire-user.

“He just collapsed.” Itachi said as he got near.

“Hurry and get up here before the jutsu rights itself.” Haku hissed. Itachi complied, stumbling only slightly, and Kakashi took the limp teen before they all dashed for the exit, Sasuke supporting his brother. Haku took the lead, not only being the fastest, but also the one that remembered which way to go. He fought off memories of the last time he’d escaped from these halls, skidding to a halt right before an open hallway just before a group of guards rushed past. Naruto nearly cannoned into him, which would have pushed him out into the ranks of guards, but thankfully, Sakura grabbed the blonde’s jacket and pulled back on it. Once the guards passed, Haku ran forward again. They made it to a four way stop, and Kakashi made to turn right.

“No, it’s this way.” Haku murmured.

“But we came from this way.” Kakashi argued.

“That goes right through the main entrance, this is the way that Terra and I escaped last time.” Came the swift argument. Haku wasted no more time, running forward and to the room he remembered clearly. There were still no signs of anyone being there, except faint footprints. Two sets of small feet, children’s feet, one of which seemed to have been stumbling. Haku shoved the memories back and extended his senses, feeling, listening, and smelling for someone besides their group. There was nothing. Silently, the ninjas slid into the storeroom, and Haku forced open the window, which he’d closed when he and Terra left. The cool night air blasted them in the face, but none of them paid any heed as they rushed from the room, landing on the soggy ground.

“Stop right there!” someone yelled.

“Not on your life.” Haku muttered back, and stomped his foot. The water in the ground splashed upwards, forming a circle of ice spikes facing outwards around their group. A wall sprung up, before pushing outwards, a tunnel beginning to form, and Haku took the lead again, holding one arm out in front of him as he manipulated the water to continue forming a tunnel. As soon as Kakashi, the last in the line, entered the tunnel, it closed off with a thick wall of ice.

“Is it just me, or is the ground starting to get steeper?” Naruto yelled.

“I’m burrowing into the ground, otherwise they’d follow us to the shore.” Haku called back.

“What do you plan to do when we get there?” Kakashi asked.

“Your mission was over, right?” when Kakashi made an affirmative noise, Haku continued, “We head back to village and explain Uchiha-san’s position. Lady Tsunade-sama will understand.”

“And how do you plan to cross the ocean?” Itachi asked quietly.

“I’ll freeze enough ice to make a raft that’ll last us to the Land of Waves.” came the simple reply.

“You’ll be exhausted!” Sakura exclaimed. Haku didn't answer, instead focusing on the tunnel around them. He slowed, stopping after a few more feet and raised his hands further. The ice spread out, making a hollow large enough for all of them to sit down comfortably. The icy tunnel they’d used to come down into the earth closed up except for a small dip, indicating which direction they’d come from.

“I won’t be exhausted if we rest now.” Haku said quietly, sitting down on the only slightly damp earth, “Besides, the only ones of us who have weapons now are Terra and Itachi, right?” Kakashi set Terra’s limp body down.

“True. I guess we wait then.” Kakashi sighed, sitting down. The others followed suit, and Haku turned to Terra, his hand glowing green.

“Haku, you know how to do healing jutsu?” Sakura asked. Haku nodded, frowning as he moved

his hand, getting the readings back from the diagnostic jutsu.

“That’s strange…” he murmured, “I…can’t find anything wrong…” the others turned to look at the brown haired teen, “His chakra’s fine, his temperature’s running a little on the cool side, but that’s understandable because of the ice. No Genjutsu, no physical injuries…what is wrong?” this was directed at himself, thinking aloud.

“Could it be the poison?” Kakashi asked. Haku shook his head.

“No, that’s melded almost flawlessly to his blood.” He moved his glowing hand further down, inspecting Terra’s leg that had regrown, “And there’s no poison affecting the wound he received.” Haku sat back on his heels, disengaging the diagnosis jutsu, “It’s like he’s just out of energy. He collapses like this after our training spars, but the adrenaline couldn’t have passed through his system that quickly.”

“When was the last time he ate?” Itachi asked quietly. Haku laughed darkly, shaking his head.

“About seven and a half years ago.” he replied, “One of the first things that madman did to Terra.”

There was a puff of smoke as the small, light brown dog disappeared. He left behind a deafening silence between the two people in the room. For several minutes, neither of the two spoke, until finally, slowly, the one sitting at the desk stood. She moved to the window, looking out over the buildings spread out around them, and rested her hands on the windowsill.

“Those bastards.” The sill crumbled under her hands.

“It’s likely there was only one involved, and you and I both know who.” Jiraiya said as he stepped forward. Tsunade glared out over the Hidden Leaf village, growling under her breath.

“Yes, I know exactly who you mean.” She replied quietly. The Hokage straightened and ran her hands through a series of lightning fast hand signs. Then she bit her thumb and slammed her palm on the open stone window ledge.

“Summoning Jutsu!” Tsunade murmured quietly. Seven small slugs appeared, each about the size of a kitten.

“What do you require of us, my lady?” one of the slugs asked.

“I need you to go and give messages to several people. I need to talk with them, now.” Tsunade said.

Tsunade’s brown eyes surveyed the seven people arrayed before her. Seven of the highest ranking shinobi families in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. This matter would concern them far more than any civilians realized. Tsunade and Jiraiya were determined to keep the council out of this, and had scanned four times for listening jutsu and sensory devices in this room. The blonde Hokage let out a breath, then stood, surveying the six men and one woman before her.

“Itachi Uchiha is returning to the Hidden Leaf village.” She said simply. Several of those before her looked surprised, and Tsunade glanced at Jiraiya, who nodded and began to explain the situation that he knew of and what Kakashi’s ninja hound had told them. The more expressive of the group looked appalled, and even some of the less expressive looked disturbed.

“That’s why you called us here, isn’t it?” Shikaku Nara asked, “You want the shinobi leaders to make this decision on what to do with him, after we’ve being informed of the truth. Not the civilians or the council.” Tsunade nodded.

“Yes. The council has done enough in the way of interfering with that family. And not to mention that there’s another one floating around right now. The three of them can begin rebuilding what couldn’t be saved before, and it will strengthen their ties with the village, if not all the people in it. Two out of the three living Uchiha have people they care for in this village. With a little bit of luck, they will become great ninja in their own rights to protect the village because of those precious to them.”

“So, you want our opinion on letting him come back to the village?” Tsume Inuzuka asked, Tsunade nodded, “Let him.”

“Indeed, he can prove through actions if he is sincere or not.” Hiashi Hyūga said quietly.

“It would probably be best not to announce his return though.” Inoichi Yamanaka added, “The two boys of Team Twelve, he could live with them couldn’t he?” Tsunade nodded again.

“I was thinking that as well and have already begun to make arrangements.” Jiraiya snorted

“I’m sure Terra will be thrilled.” he grinned, “That kid’s always got a smart comeback.”

A few hours later, Haku continued his tunnel to the beach. Upon reaching it, the ice-user stayed true to his word and froze enough ice to make a fair sized raft. They made good time, but it still took three days to cross the ocean between the Land of Water to the island that made up the Land of Waves. Naruto wanted to stop in and see Inari and his grandfather, but Haku was worried, as were Kakashi and Itachi, because Terra had yet to wake up. He didn’t even really stir in his sleep. They did stop at Zabuza’s grave however. Haku kneeled to the left of his mentor’s grave and ran one hand over the metal that made up the giant executioner’s blade.

“Hello Zabuza.” He murmured. Thankfully, the others were waiting back at the road, not too far away, but enough to give the ice-user some privacy.

“I’m sorry we haven’t come by to visit, but…I think…what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, would make you proud.” Haku straightened and hurried back to the others, hopefully they’d get back to Konoha soon.

Otherwise they bypassed the village and took straight to the road that would take them back to Konoha. Kakashi, once they had made it to land, had sent one of his ninja hounds ahead with a letter to Tsunade, warning her of their coming and who was with them. With their speed, they made it in two days, arriving at the gates of Konoha in the middle of the night. Surprisingly, Tsunade and Jiraiya were waiting for them.

“We’ll deal with you later,” Tsunade said briskly, “where is Terra?”

“Here.” Kakashi moved forward. They had been rotating who carried Terra since they’d made it to the Land of Waves. At Tsunade’s gesture, Kakashi and the others followed the Hokage to the hospital.

“Huh,” Tsunade murmured, “That’s…strange.”

“What?” Haku asked, worried for his friend.

“His temperature is very high, but his body shows no signs of fighting of disease or having a fever.” Haku sighed.

“That’s normal. He’s actually running a little cold. His normal internal body temperature is far above what would kill most people. He also has an overly high energy rate per cell, and overly high cell division rate.” Tsunade nodded.

“Yes, I’d noticed that as well. Otherwise, besides some food, which is the most immediate issue I can see, he’s perfectly healthy.” Haku frowned.

“But, Terra can’t eat. He survives on chakra. The cells and organs that would usually be used were…changed…a long time ago.” the Hokage frowned.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Those organs are completely normal.” Haku blinked, then stepped forward, his hand glowing the same green that Tsunade’s had been just a moment ago. After a moment, he staggered back, eyes wide.

“W-what! He…that…” Naruto grinned and clapped a hand on Haku’s shoulder.

“That means that Terra can have ramen now!” the blonde exclaimed. Haku was still staring at Terra, but he was smiling faintly.

“So, something good did come from that madman.” He murmured.

Terra was put on a liquid food diet, to slowly reintroduce his system to taking in food. Haku had explained in depth to Tsunade about what Terra and himself had learned about the pyromancer’s augmented abilities. Itachi had not fared so well in his own examination, several toxins and experimental drugs were left in his system, not to mention that Tsunade had found a fairly rare and dangerous disease wracking the eighteen year old’s body. After a few solid hours of research, she found a cure. It meant that Itachi was bedridden for several weeks after arriving, though that was shared by the rest of the group as well. All of them were suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and chakra exhaustion. Tsunade and Jiraiya had come into the rooms they’d all been housed in, and had gotten the mission briefing from them directly about a week after they’d arrived. Itachi, Terra, and Haku were all in the same room. Kakashi was with his team.

“So, you don’t think they’ll move?” Tsunade asked after Haku finished telling their trip back. Haku and Terra shook their heads.

“If they didn’t move after we escaped, I highly doubt they will now.” Terra said quietly. He was still rather beat up, one of the drugs Tsunade had extracted from his system was a restrictor that kept his injuries healing as quickly as usual, and the effects were taking time to wash from his system.

“Good.” The blonde woman said with a nod. She straightened, turning to Itachi, who had just finished speaking with Jiraiya.

“Lady Tsunade.” Itachi said quietly, bowing his head.

“I’ve informed the other clan heads about the new knowledge concerning the Uchiha clan.” Tsunade said briskly, “They’ve agreed to allow you back into the Konoha shinobi ranks. However, you are on a probationary period, to appease the citizen side of the council when I decide to inform them.” From the frown on the fifth Hokage’s face, that day would take quite a while to arrive, “In following that thought, you’ve been added to a two-man team of recently promoted Chunin.” Terra and Haku looked up from their, quiet, pillow fight, “As this is a probationary position, you have been demoted to Chunin status. You’ll have to take the Jonin exam on your own time, after the probation has lifted, but in all likelihood it will be impossible to restore your rank as ANBU.” Itachi nodded, it was more than he’d ever expected and he didn’t particularly want to re-engage in the ANBU Black-Ops.

“Thank you, lady Hokage.” He said quietly. Tsunade turned to Haku and Terra.

“Team Twelve, you now have a third member.” She said, smiling slightly. The two teens grinned in tandem.

“Goody, someone else to spar with besides Jack Frost over here.” Terra said, earning him a heavy swat to the head with Haku’s free pillow. Tsunade turned away from the two, shaking her head.

“I don't know whether to tell you to not be so childish, or to let some of that rub off on your cousins.” Terra, who’d been reaching across the gap between his and Haku’s beds in an attempt to hit the other teen, lost his grip on the mattress and fell to the ground with a crash. Almost immediately, he was back on his feet and staring open mouthed at the Hokage.

“W-what?” the pyromancer breathed, voice barely loud enough to hear.

“I guess they never had a chance before,” Tsunade turned to Itachi, who nodded slightly, and she turned back to the other eighteen year old, “but yes, you are one of the Uchiha clan.” Terra continued to stare at her, but slowly, he sank to the floor, knees no longer able to support his weight.

“Terra?” Haku swung his legs out of bed and slid to his feet, but stopped shy of touching the older teen when he spoke.

“This…this whole time, I actually had a family?” Terra’s voice was barely a whisper, “I had a family. I have a family!” the pyromancer surged to his feet, staring now at Itachi, “I’ve got you and Sasuke! I may not have parents or siblings, but I’ve got you two! And all the people who’ve meant something in my life.” He glanced at Haku, who nodded slowly. Terra faced forwards again, eyes watering and steaming slightly.

“I’ve got…a home…for the first time in my life…I’m home.”

It was dark when the balcony door slid open. The three entered, closing it silently behind them. The figure in the lead ran a hand over the wall beside the glass door, as the second walked into the room, only to trip and fall heavily onto the ground. The lights flicked on.

“Honestly Terra, you couldn’t have waited another five seconds?” Haku sighed. Terra ignored him in favor of swearing heatedly and nursing his bashed shin, which had caught on the coffee table. The cryomancer sighed, turning his attention to the third member of the group.

“Is he always like this?” Itachi asked, blinking in surprise at his cousin’s antics.

“Unfortunately.” Haku drawled, “Come on, the guest bedroom’s this way. Though, I guess we’ll be considering it your room from now on.” The two left Terra in the living room, making their way down the short hallway.

“You have three bedrooms?” the Uchiha asked. Haku nodded.

“I didn’t understand why Terra got a three bedroom apartment, but when I asked, he said he’d had a lapse of memory. We used to live with our sensei, Zabuza, and I guess Terra was used to getting everything in sets of three. When we got this apartment, his death was still very sharp in our memory.” The ice-user explained.

“You trained under one of the Seven Swordsmen?” Itachi queried.

“Well, we did. That’s why we stopped at Zabuza’s grave in the Land of Waves, but he never really expected us to inherit his position. We both lean more towards speed fighting, and Terra’s the only one who learned how to wield an actual blade.” Haku stopped in front of the second door on the right, “Here we go, haven't done much more than furnish this room since we moved in though. It’ll be up to you to decorate.” Itachi nodded, looking around the mostly barren room. There was a bed, a desk with a chair, a bookshelf, and a closet door.

“Thank you for this.” Itachi said quietly. Haku shook his head.

“No problem at all. Like Terra said last week, we’re a family.” He rested a hand on Itachi’s shoulder, “Family looks out for one another.”

The pounding sound of footsteps echoed through the cool morning air, resounding over the rooftops as the source advanced at a dizzying speed. The sun had cleared the horizon, and the mist had just been burned away by it’s weakening warmth.

“Terra!” Terra looked up, blinking slightly in surprise as a familiar form leapt from the rooftops and landed before him.

“Oh, hi Tenten.” He said with a grin, removing a hand from his pocket to wave slightly. Tenten smiled and fell into step beside the older teen.

“So, what had you out of bed so early in the morning?” the weapons mistress asked. Terra sighed, his head falling forward.

“I had my last check-up at the hospital. Haku, the evil frost monster, set it for seven in the morning. Gah! He knows I hate getting up early in the morning!” Tenten smothered a laugh at the black haired teen’s bemoaning. Unlike his cousins, Terra was quite expressive, especially when he was with someone he trusted. Tenten had worked her way very diligently into that small circle.

“So, are you going tonight?” Terra shrugged at the brunette’s question.

“Dunno, I might. I’m not big on parties.” He sighed, looking at the sky, “But, it would be worth it to see Haku fending off advances from other guys.” The pyromancer huffed in amusement, and Tenten smiled, “What ‘bout you? Are you going?” Tenten nodded.

“Yes, me and some of the other girls are going to be getting ready sometime around three. If you do come, do you want to meet up somewhere?” Terra shrugged.

“How about the food stands? There’re supposed to be setting up in the park. It’ll be nice to get away from ramen. Naruto’s been dragging me out for it every other day or so since I was cleared for solid foods.” He grinned, closing his eyes as he continued to walk, looking like a sunflower trying to soak up the rays, “There’s so much to try! I never had a chance after we got free the first time, and all we ever had in the catacombs was tasteless, cold broth. I really don’t mind that all I’ve really been able to try is ramen and rice balls, but I’m excited about trying something else.”

“You’ll have to remind me to let you try some of my special brownies. None of the girls besides Hinata will eat them because they’re too concerned about gaining pounds. Ino swears that she added five to her waist just looking at them.” Terra smiled, looking at Tenten.

“Must be really good then. They only complain if it’s something that is really good but they won’t chance because of their ‘diets’.” The pyromancer laughed and Tenten smiled.

“Okay, well, I hope I see you later!” she called as she leapt up onto a rooftop. Terra waved, disappearing down a side street towards the apartment he shared with Haku and his cousin.

Lights and music flooded the air, intertwined around the smells and sounds of cooking food. There were pops and hisses as balloons were burst and blown up from the different games, tinkles of glass as bottles were knocked over and so on.

“Are you sure they’re gonna come?” Tenten turned to survey Ino, hands on her hips. The three rookie teams, plus Team Gai, were all milling around the festival grounds in the park. All of them were wearing kimonos or yukatas.

“He said he might, I want to wait a few more minutes.” Ino sighed and shook her head. She looked longingly at Sasuke, who was in a contest with Naruto to see who could win at one particular game. Despite what she would wish to see, they were about even. What the blonde konoichi couldn't see, was that Sasuke was grinning slightly as he played against his teammate and rival.

“Look out!” the shout preceded a dust cloud into their midst. Tenten, Neji, Shikamaru, and Kiba, who’d all barely made it out of the way, stared as a young man staggered to his feet, sending fearful glances back the way he came. After getting his bearings, the man sped off, looking like he’d seen a ghost. Loud laughter echoed through the area, and Terra could be seen doubled over with mirth some paces away from a fuming Haku.

“Ha, ha! You should have seen the look on your face! Oh, that was one of the best yet! Ha, ha, ha!” the Uchiha managed around laughter.

“Terra, I’m gonna murder you…slowly.” Haku hissed, ice forming slowly in the air around him. Terra darted away, just in time to escape a pair of ice senbon.

“You’ve gotta catch me first, ‘lovely lady.’” Terra ducked to avoid a punch to the head, darting forward and scurrying behind Tenten, “Hide me!” Tenten hastily stepped to the side.

“No way, you asked for it.” She said firmly.

“Ah, shit!” Terra dodged, managing to yank the sleeve of his green yukata from the path of the senbon that had been launched at him, “Hey! I was only quoting that last guy! No need to get so defensive!” Haku charged, throwing kicks and punches with an ease that belied the heavy, blue green fabric of his attire. He finally caught Terra a blow to the face with his wooden sandal, sending the other teen flipping back into a tree.

“I wasn’t defensive. I was very much on the offensive.” The ice-user said, crossing his arms and stalking towards one of the food stands. Terra got to his feet with a grin, dusting off his clothes.

“Was that really necessary?” Tenten asked, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow. Terra smiled, rubbing one shoulder with his hand.

“Ah, well…probably not. But he’ll be fine. Besides, it’s payback for saying they could just throw me into the sky instead of the fireworks.” Tenten facepalmed.

“You two.” She murmured, “How is it that you get along so well? You’re like…like…”

“Fire and ice?” Terra supplied.

“Exactly! Wait, oh you…” Terra laughed as Tenten swatted him over the head with her sleeve.

“Well, we are! Quite literally! How many times do you get to say that and mean it in a lifetime?”

“Every time you and Haku have a fight.” Tenten deadpanned. She shook her head, then moved forward and hooked her arm around Terra’s, “Come on, let’s go get something to eat.” Terra blinked, before shrugging and complying. The two turned their conversation to weapons, and were discussing the effects location of smithing had on the finished product as they walked out of hearing range. Ino shared a wide-eyed gaze with Sakura.

“Was Tenten…flirting?” the blonde asked.

“I think she was!” Sakura murmured, staring after the weapons mistress.

“That…was definitely strange.” Lee muttered under his breath, also staring at Tenten’s back, “Quite peculiar.”

Tenten studied the young man sitting beside her as they ate. She had raised an eyebrow when he’d ordered an amount of food that was enough for an Akimichi, but he was scarfing it down at an alarming rate. Thankfully, his table manners were rather well maintained apparently, so he at least appeared neat while doing so. The weapons mistress smiled as Terra lost his grip with the chopsticks, only catching his bite of food with his teeth before it slipped back onto his plate.

“Nice catch.” Terra grinned, waving away the complement. Tenten noticed that his yukata wasn’t a plain dark green like she’d thought, but had undertones of red when the light hit it.

“Nothing like catching kunai out of the air, Zabuza had a habit of playing dodge kunai with us when we were kids. Now that was interesting.” Terra glanced out of the corner of his eye at her, “By the way, you look nice. You should let your hair down more often Tenten.” The weapons mistress couldn’t stop the blush that washed over her face, and she turned away to let her hair, which she’d let loose except for the bangs around her face, which were pulled back with a dragonfly shaped clip, hide her face. Her red and aquamarine kimono had large koi fish swimming over it, outlined in silver thread.

“Thanks.” Tenten murmured, going back to her food.

‘Why am I blushing? Lee said much the same earlier, why did I do it when Terra said so?’ the brunette shoved the thoughts away, and instead focused on the sky as the first of the fireworks lit up the night.

“Wow, never been this close to fireworks before.” Terra said quietly, and Tenten looked over to see him staring at the sky, eyes and face washed with color as the explosions broke over the darkness.

“Never?”

“Nope, first festival I’ve been to as a guest. Usually when we go to festivals, it’s to catch a target and we’re hanging out in the shadows, waiting for a chance to take ‘em down.” Terra crossed his arms and leaned back slightly, “Just another thing we’ve gained since coming to Konoha.”

“Good. You guys seemed to need a break.” Tenten finally said, smiling up at the fireworks.

It was dark, damp, and cold. Dripping water could be heard, but the source was nowhere in sight. A candle flared into life, the small flame hissing as the dampness in the air attempted to smother it.

“So, he is a full blooded Uchiha?” Orochimaru hissed. Kabuto nodded from where he was kneeling on the ground.

“Yes, Lord Orochimaru. He also appears to be one of the Phoenix Guard.” The snake Sannin chuckled lightly, a grin spreading over his face.

“Then, it’s a good thing that I already marked him. Keep an eye on this boy, and Sasuke as well. With any luck, I’ll have two bodies ready for me when next I need one.” Orochimaru grimaced as another wave of pain washed over him, “Unfortunately, that seems to be sooner than later.”

“I’ll take my leave, Lord Orochimaru.” Kabuto said, glasses reflecting the light as he stood and vanished.
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