Chapter 4-Jumping Canyons
"So how long have you been a ninja?" Kiyoko asked, watching him gut and spear the fish and then set them over the fire he had built. The heat coming off the fire felt good in the waning daylight.
"A long time," he sighed, "we don't really keep track of those things but I think I became a jonin when I was about fourteen. Aren't there ninja in Iwagakure?"
"Not like you. They never talk to civilians and I never trusted them. But I've heard about the Leaf Shinobi."
This was going to be good. "Yeah, what have you heard?"
"Well, I know you can climb cliffs on your feet."
Raido laughed, "Yeah we can do that."
"And I know you can fight well. I heard that there was a ninja from the Leaf village who overpowered ten men, twice his size all by himself!"
Raido wondered where that one had come from, probably Minato showing off. "Well some of us might but we do try to work in pairs or teams."
"And I know you can leap over canyons when you can't even see the other side."
"I think that might be an exaggeration." Even Naruto with his amazing chakra stores couldn't pull that one off, thought Raido. He chuckled quietly and realized too late that she'd heard him laughing.
"You're laughing at me. Why? Do I look like a stupid farm girl to you?"
Raido's face straightened out, "no, not at all. It's just that the stories get wilder and wilder. We do have a few ninja who could probably fight off more than his share of attackers, and we do climb cliffs and trees, I could show you if you wanted. But we don't leap canyons, I'm sorry if you're disappointed."
She was a little hurt but then she realized that she'd just accepted every bit of gossip she heard about them without question. "That was a stupid one wasn't it?" She looked up at him with a grin on her face. "I can't believe I bought it!" And they both started laughing together.
"Can you really show me? How you climb a tree?"
Raido jumped up and walked up to the tree he'd left her in when he'd been fishing and then walked up it and back down. The look on her face was priceless, he thought it was fun showing off such a simple genin skill.
"WOW! I have to admit that I didn't believe you at first. I'm impressed. I wish my brothers could see it." She got quiet again and sighed sadly. "I probably won't ever see them again."
Raido didn't know what to say, he decided it was time to change the subject. "So, we need to sleep soon but I hadn't intended to spend the night out here and I have no gear. We'll have to rough it I'm afraid."
"I can handle that." She smiled. "I have spent two nights out here alone."
He was once again impressed at her tenacity and he set to making spaces for them to sleep near the fire.
"Do you mind if I sleep closer to you? I'm still really scared."
"I think that'd be ok."
"So, what was your original mission? Surely you didn't know I'd be here."
Raido grimaced in the shadows. "Well I was looking for a criminal who's been seen in the area." As soon as he'd said it he realized he'd said the wrong thing.
"A criminal? Did you find him and kill him? Didn't you say you guys worked in pairs or teams?" She was looking like she might try to attach herself to him again.
"It's not what you think. The hokage caught me and my friend goofing off yesterday. This is a mission that the genin could have done. In fact I'm pretty sure the guy we're looking for doesn't even exist."
"Oh. I'm sorry, but then maybe I'm not. If you hadn't gotten in trouble then you wouldn't have been here to rescue me. And I'm glad for that."
As they settled down in the branches he was laying on the forest floor he told her the whole sordid tale of senbon pins and Nemo. They were laughing when he finished.
"So you have a friend out here. Won't he worry?"
Raido shrugged. "I doubt it. I wouldn't make a very good guard for the Hokage if I couldn't even spend a night out in the forest. He'll probably think I just sneaked home to avoid the report."
"Oh." She looked up at him, the firelight was dancing on his face. He had scar that ran from his nose over his cheek and she reached up to touch it without thinking. "How did you get that?"
He was surprised at her boldness, and how she kept catching him off guard. "I was in a fight when I was younger. The guy got me with his kunai and almost took my nose off completely." No one even mentioned it anymore, it was as familiar as a headband in Konoha.
"I bet that hurt."
"It did. A lot. But it was a long time ago."
"Oh." She yawned and put her head down on his chest. "I'm so tired. Thank you, for everything." And with that she was out.
Raido considered the situation. He could gently move her off him but if she woke up it would frighten her and he'd taken a liking to this girl. She was tough and had gone through more adversity in the last week then he liked to think about. He didn't mind being her safety net for the night. He leaned back a little more, shifting her so her head stayed on his chest and stared up at the stars in the sky.
He must have drifted off because when he woke up it was very dark, the fire had gone out and he was on his side with Kiyoko behind him. She was holding him firmly with her arm over his side in a death grip and she was pressed up tight behind him. He assessed the area for noises and drifted back to sleep.
He was suddenly woken up by her screams. "No! NO! Stop it! Leave me alone! You can't do this! There are laws against it!"
It only took him a moment to get his bearings and then he was on his feet, kunai in hand in seconds. When he realized she was dreaming he put his kunai away and knelt next to her. "Kiyoko. Wake up." He shook her gently. "You're having a nightmare. Wake up."
She opened her eyes and looked at him. Then she burst into tears and threw herself into his arms. "Why? Why did they have to be like that? I would have been fine with being a slave on some old couples farm, working for them. Why?" She sobbed into his shoulder.
"Do you want to talk about it? I'll listen."
"I don't want to embarrass you."
Raido smiled at the irony, she'd stood in front of him naked but she didn't want to tell him what Fumio and Kin had done to her. "It probably won't embarrass me but I understand if you don't want to." He wrapped his arms around her, he was feeling very protective of her, skunk smell and all. "You're safe now. I won't let them get you back."
"Thank you." Her sobs had slowed to a few sniffles, he figured he was going to have to have his flack jacket cleaned anyway, as long as his scrolls stayed dry it was all cool.
"Why don't you try to sleep some more?"
"I'm not sure I can. Do you know what time it is?"
"Sorry. I left my watch home by accident yesterday. I imagine it's about 2 am."
"Oh. Too early to set off?" She really didn't want to sleep anymore right now.
"Yeah, it would be hard to travel in the dark. And you'll need to eat breakfast."
"I'll be fine."
"No. The trip back to Konoha would take me at least two hours at top speed. Walking, with you barefoot, it'll be half a day if we're lucky."
"Oh." She rested her head on his chest again. "I guess I could try." And she was out.
Raido shook his head, she really was trying to be stronger than she was but he knew she needed her rest for the trip.
When the sun started to rise up over the horizon he shook her awake. She hadn't had another nightmare and had slept peacefully while he watched over her.
"Kiyoko. It's morning."
She opened her eyes and looked up at him. Smiling in the morning sunlight. "Good morning. When do we leave?"
"Well, you need to eat, there's a bit of fish left and I have some emergency rations here in my bag. They should do. We should also drink some water and then fill my canteen before we leave. It'll be a few hours before we get to water again."
She did as she was told, eating the fish and a food pellet. And after they had both had a drink she took the canteen and went down to the water to refill it. Then they set off for the village.
They walked through the forest quietly for an hour or two. Both of them thinking about the past few days and listening to the sounds around them. Raido in particular was listening for the sounds of approaching people but he didn't hear any.
After a while she said, "So, can you tell me about Konoha? What kind of village is it?"
Raido spent the next hour telling her about Konoha. The restaurants, the people, and a little of the history. She asked him a few questions but mostly just listened.
Then she said "what's that? In the distance?"
Raido looked up thankfully. "That's the gates to Konoha. We're almost there."
Kiyoko wasn't sure if she was happy about that. She had just gotten comfortable with Raido's presence. And, she realized with a sinking heart, she probably looked like a mess. Her clothes were stiff as a board and filthy from the mud she'd rolled in and she stunk to high heaven. Oh well. Hopefully what they said about first impressions wasn't true.
They came up to the gate and three men ran out to meet them. "Raido!" Said the one in the front, with something hanging out of his mouth. "What happened?" But as they got close to him he sniffed and backed off. "Man alive Raido! Did you sleep with a skunk?" Then he noticed Kiyoko.