These adamantine chains that hold us together, yet keep us so far apart - Chapter 8 - isuckawriting (2024)

Chapter Text

Allegretto II

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A moment of quiet.

Oftentimes, silence is merely the precursor to something much more drastic. Silence and inactivity from the opponent, they seldom portend of anything good.

A brief period of pause in the ocean, a pulling back of the shore, may just be a harbinger of a tidal wave crashing forward with lethal force.

And if one relaxes in that brief repose, then they may just find themselves caught too deep and unable to escape from the cruel, unforgiving clutches of the pelagic abyss.

Hi no Kuni

"Hah!"

Naruto wakes to a fit of heavy breathing and panicked gasps.

Only after a brief moment of silence did he realize those sounds came from him.

The tent is still black with the atrament of night; the sun has yet to rise, and dismal gray clouds rob the majority of the light of the moon and stars, leaving nothing but a dark canvas that reflects just enough light through the tent that Naruto could make out his hand, which has unknowingly curled into a tight fist.

The boy breathes, long and deep and relaxing breaths, but still, the vivid imagery of the nightmare that woke him persists.

Grasping hands. The stench of his breath. The warmth of that man's chest. The ease with which his weapon slipped in and through flesh. That splash of crimson that filled his vision.

Naruto's muscles tense once more, not in fear or alertness, but rather a feeling he cannot quite identify.

It's the same feeling as when he had once sneaked out in the middle of the night, only to find the old man frantically scrambling about, trying to find him without a wink of sleep.

The same feeling as when he was left alone to study, and he played around instead.

That same feeling, only a hundred, a thousand, an innumerable number of times more intense.

Hesitantly, he raises his hand to his forehead. Swiping it, Naruto could feel a thin layer of cold sweat parting.

He lies there, all traces of drowsiness fleeing him, confused, frightened, and lost.

Is this war? Is this what the old man had experienced, and gave him the dream of peace?

(Naruto is unsure if he was thinking of his late father or his grandfather figure who singlehandedly raised him)

"Naruto?"

He recoils from shock and leaps up in wariness before he recognizes the familiar timbre of the voice.

"Sensei?"

"Yes. Come out?"

Naruto stands up slowly and unzips the tent. Cool night air convects around him, and his eyes quickly adjust to the darkness. A lone figure stood there.

Kakashi's singular exposed eye glints under the faint ambient light, and Naruto shivers for no apparent reason. His teacher opens his mouth to speak. "Nightmares?"

Naruto nods deftly. His hitai-ate slips from the motion, and he tries to retie it around his forehead. Oddly enough, he can't. His hands tremble, and he finds the dexterity and strength within his fingers to be insufficient for such a task.

He blinks rapidly as warm hands cup his and relaxes as Kakashi ties it for him. Naruto slowly lets his hands fall back down, and blinks away a tear as he felt the steadfast tension of the insignia around his forehead.

Wait. A tear?

"Kakashi-sensei... what did you feel like when you first did this?"

A soothing hum echoes, and his teacher quietly narrates his experience. "Honestly, not very different from you. I was the first of our team to do it, and afterwards I was in a state of shock. I had nightmares too, you know. One night I awoke, screaming and thrashing, and Minato-sensei had to calm everyone down and comfort me. It was quite embarrassing, to be frank."

He ruffles Naruto's hair in comfort. "I was twelve then, as you are now. I'd say you handled it better than me, wouldn't you say?"

The silent creeks of tears break as Naruto suppresses his giggles. After a few moments of silence, he asks, "Will it always be like this?"

"Hmm... that's a difficult question, you know? After all, it's not as if the more lives you take, the more their value decreases. But to answer your thoughts, yes, it does. After a while, you learn to bear with this feeling, and rather than live every moment grappling with it, you learn to take it with you."

Naruto tilts his head in confusion and apprehension, but resorts to silence. He does not understand what his teacher is saying but is too conflicted and scared to ask more.

"Naruto, for now, the only choice you have is bear with it. I'm sorry, but that's the harsh unfortunate truth."

"Forever?"

"No. One day, you can learn to cope and let go. In the meantime, we must fight so that one day may come."

The young genin's head lowers slowly, but just as quickly snaps back up. "I won't let it affect me; I promise!"

"Is that so?" Kakashi glances at him amusingly.

"Yeah, that's a promise from Uzumaki Naruto! And I don't ever go back on my word!"

Kakashi lets out a content sigh as Naruto scurries back to sleep. Though their conversation was fairly short, Naruto seems to be in a much better state of mind. However, he cannot say the same for...

"Sasuke. You can come out now, he's back inside."

The Uchiha quietly steps out from behind a tree. His tent, which he had conveniently constructed in a crook between two elderly trees, faced away from the center of camp, allowing him to silently sneak out with great ease.

"I heard everything."

"You did."

The boy is silent, but only for a moment. "I could've handled it better, and gave him a less painful death."

"You couldn't have."

Angry red eyes, now spinning with a furious veracity, look up in anger and anguish. "What do you mean I couldn't have?"

Sasuke's voice lashes out in a desperate hiss, choking with vehement pathos.

"I mean exactly that. It happened, so it couldn't have gone any other way."

The eyes that had flamed with vermillion slowly dim, and the rotation of pitch-black tomoe fades as well.

"Why?"

Kakashi kneels to match their eye level, and Sasuke shrinks back a bit. "Because there is no use in dwelling on the past. Why think of what 'would've been' when you can prepare for 'what will be'?"

Sasuke sucks in a breath, unsure of how to respond. (Try as he may to deny it, this struck a deeply unpleasant chord within him)

"Think on it, but don't dwell on it." A gentle pat on the shoulder. "And remember, you don't have to bottle everything up. I'm here. We're here."

With that, Kakashi lets the silence sit. And Sasuke cries.

Who were the tears for? Neither Kakashi nor Sasuke know.

Sakura wakes the next morning, bright and early. Despite her brain feeling averse towards all forms of human interaction, her body disagrees, and pulls her out of the sleeping bag and tent with much resistance.

Her hair is a mess, but honestly, she didn't feel like cleaning it up. Instead, Sakura just combs through the ruffled locks with her fingers and calls it a day.

She hisses as her injured arm bumps into her bag. The scrape wound is still fairly fresh and hurts a good bit. As it should, after all; a wound where a decent length of skin was scraped open would not heal overnight. She needs to be mindful and careful going on the rest of the mission; if not taken care of properly the wound can easily worsen the wound through infection and whatnot.

Sakura quietly steps out of her tent. She grimaces as she carefully navigates around a labyrinth of slender twigs and branches. Sasuke had taken the most open and comfortable spot of the camp, so she had to make do with this rougher area. A breathy, quiet harrumph escapes her lips naturally, but she halts it quickly.

"Up already?"

Sakura looks around and spots her teacher sitting upon a rotund wooden branch on a tree, leaning against the trunk. Though he had taken the watch the whole night, she could spot nearly no obvious signs of fatigue. I suppose that's a battle-hardened jōnin for you, she thinks.

She nods in response.

"How's your arm?"

She lightly flexes the injured appendage. "Better," Sakura concludes. "Not healed, but better."

A sigh of relief. "Good. Think you can keep up with standard pace, or should we take one more day easy?"

She thinks. The books had said that standard shinobi pace is around eighty km/hour. In class, they had fitness tests, and her own speed capped out at around ninety, but that would leave her exhausted in a matter of minutes. "I can probably manage with slightly under standard pace," she concludes hesitantly after some thought. "I can keep up with seventy, I think."

Kakashi nods approvingly. "Good. Don't push yourself and be careful. Tell me when you need a break, alright? We don't want your injury to get worse. Though the injury is only skin level, your bones were also shocked by that strike. It may not have been obvious, but those weapons had a small amount of chakra, and that reached inside your arm."

Sakura is slightly shocked by this fact. "Really? They had chakra potential?"

"Not necessarily. Lots of shinobi imbue civilian weapons with chakra and throw them aside after a couple uses. Sometimes they stay lost, sometimes common people like those thugs pick them up."

She nods, carefully noting to herself to never leave her weapons behind if possible. Her distraction was short-lived, however, as Kakashi interjects her thoughts. "Are you angry at Sasuke?"

The words push Sakura out of her own bubble, startling her in a way she never expected.

"N-no, why?"

The words sound fake and insincere. A tightening of her jaws, rapid heartbeat, and an irritating nag in her chest support this thesis.

Kakashi said nothing. He merely co*cks his head, and Sakura gives.

"I-I don't know."

She hears a sigh. "I'll let you be for now. We can talk about this later."

Sakura stands there. Though he has already left, the poignant effect of his words remains thick and palpable in the air.

Her head shakes, and the troubling thoughts are temporarily buried behind her hunger. Sakura reaches for a ration bar; though it may taste bad, it isfoodafter all.Foodthat will distract her for the time being.

Hatake Kakashi sighs. This team is a mess.

He lightly dusts his hands off. They had all finished eating, and he is now cleaning the remnants of yesterday's fire.

I suppose it's no worse than my team, he muses amusingly. Him, Rin, and Obito were a chaotic mess no better than this team.

(He ignores the pangs of agony in his heart as his tongue mimicked pronouncing those names once more, knowing that they will never be directed at their owners ever again.)

He blinks rapidly and suppresses the thoughts under his consciousness. He can deal with them later. For now, there is a team for him to take care of.

Kakashi claps his hands, using more force than necessary to combat the dampening of the sound by his fingerless gloves. A dull yet loud boom reverberates throughout the small clearing, and three heads simultaneously rise with stout attention.

Kakashi internally smiles. Good, his training has already taken some effect. They are now treating him like a legitimate leader who demands respect, and that can only help.

"All done with cleaning?" Kakashi waits, and once a chorus of affirmation passes, he clears his throat. "Then let's get going. Remember what I taught you about the shunshin yesterday? Well, you'll be testing it today. Try and keep up!"

And with that, he leaps away, chuckling at the indignation of his cute little students.

Kakashi pushes off the ground with great force and velocity, flattening the grass within a meter of him from the sheer speed of his take-off. He soars through the air, landing on a tree branch with the gracefulness of a bird, and watches. He crosses his fingers, forming a hand seal and in a puff of smoke, a carbon copy of himself appears.

Making sure his signature is completely hidden, Kakashi lets his clone continue on forward, and observes as his students chase after it through the foliage, following closely behind.

Sasuke is in the front, with Naruto immediately behind, and Sakura a few paces after both. None of them are consistently using the Shunshin, only once every in a while, and even then, it would do more harm than good, sending them crashing into a tree or tripping over a branch. However, as they progress, Kakashi can see solid improvement.

With a quick seal in hand, Sasuke flicks over the length of half a dozen trees in a burst of speed, leaving the other two behind in the dust. His feet grapple to stay on top, and triumph shines from his face as he succeeds.

A cry of outrage sounds, and Naruto flickers as well. Except, his is far more violent than the previous. Kakashi winces slightly as the blond boy fully collides with a tree, intimately hugging the rough bark that stopped his trajectory. However, it did propel him very far; Naruto was now in front by a generous number of meters.

And then there is Sakura. Her eyes scour the area in a way that Naruto and Sasuke's do not and take in every detail. She uses the technique far more often than the other two, but each flicker barely brings her much farther ahead.

However, Kakashi's eyes capture something else. Each flicker was bringing her farther than the last.

One flicker. Three meters.

The next, three and a half.

Nearly a dozen later, and each is pushing the girl forward by over six meters. She's not only gaining, but even to the point where she is nearly completely caught up with the other two.

Kakashi grins a bit under his mask. Though Sasuke has a once-a-generation kind of raw instinctual talent for chakra, Sakura's pure intellect is formidable in its own right. They'll be good challenges for each other.

He quickly checks the sun. It is almost noon. Eh, they can take a few more hours withoutfood.

The foliage slowly becomes more and more sparse, as the soil beneath their feet lightens in color and density.

Soon, they were out of the lush, verdant forests of Hi no Kuni, and the three panting, tired genin and their amused sensei stood on an open desolate landscape. A vast open land of gravelly sand, populated by sparse shrubs and withered grass.

On the horizon is an endless sea of sand, dunes upon dunes of sand.

They had reached the border of Wind and Fire Country (Kaze & Hi no Kuni).

Their mission begins now.

Kakashi stares at his team; the three children nervously glance back.

"Our goal is Sunagakure; the forces there need assistance. From here on out, there's a chance of encountering enemy teams. Are you ready?"

"Yes!"- "Yes!"- "Yes!"

"Well then, let's go. We have until sunset to reach the village."

Three collective pairs of eyes widen. "Why? Can't we just stop in a civilian village?"

Kakashi shakes his head. "No. They're all on lockdown with the war going on, with each major region guarded by civilian soldiers and a handful of shinobi. Unfortunately, we're travelling across an area bordering foreign-controlled land in Kaze no Kuni. A few months ago, they were able to push into the region west of here, through their expansion of influence and power over all these years."

"Expansion of influence and power?"

Kakashi silently notes the odd attentiveness of Naruto at this particular moment. "Yes. The Raikage was likely wary of Konoha and our Sandaime Hokage, as despite being at our weakest when the war began, there was no major direct assault. Rather, his village and allies opted to slowly increase their influence over the land through taking control of neutral countries and regions either through negotiations or force. The only true neutral place is Mizu no Kuni now, as they are still in the middle of a bloody civil war."

Naruto nods slowly, as if contemplating something. "Well, then wouldn't that mean we're losing right now?"

Sasuke and Sakura both let out a small gasp at this observation, and Kakashi smiles mentally. It seems Naruto inherited more from his father than just the hair and looks.

Kakashi seals his lips in silence, and merely sends a smile their way. "Head straight north. Let's go."

He keeps his distance behind the three of them; now that they are in potentially dangerous territory, he could no longer afford to keep ahead as training for his students. Their lives take precedence over all else, and Kakashi unveils his (friend's) eye.

No foreign chakra signatures. Good.

And for the next few hours, nothing could be heard save for the kicking of sand and dust by three panting children.

The sun slowly dipped, and soon, it was nearing night.

The village was on the horizon, its familiar outline casting a distorted, lucent shadow unto the ever-changing sea of sand.

"You can slow down now," Kakashi calls. Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke grind their feet down to a halt, and they stand there panting, sweating, and struggling to stand upright.

Kakashi secretly smirks. The first of many lessons to come.

"Well, then," he concedes. "Let's get you inside a house, shall we?"

With that, their spirits flare up once more, and they trudge onward to the Village Hidden in the Sand.

The village was dry. Very, very dry.

Sasuke, Sakura and Naruto cough through the trails and clouds of dust left behind by busy feet; the town is bustling with life, yet everyone is quiet.

Despite the sea of peoples: civilians, soldiers, shinobi alike, there is no casual conversation, no chattering, no laughing...

The atmosphere is eerily tense, and the unease in the town is palpable.

"What happened here?" Naruto whispers in inquiry.

Kakashi replies in a hushed tone, as he steers his team towards their area of residence with decisive, confident steps. "Recently they suffered a loss. Remember how I said that the region we traversed to get here was dangerous?"

They turn a corner, and Kakashi takes a key from a side pocket and inserts it into one of many doorways in a broad street. With a quiet click and turn, the door swung open, and Team 7 entered an earthen home. A central fireplace sits cold and empty. A singular hallway reveals two bedrooms, a bathroom, and what appears to be a kitchen.

"Well," Kakashi continues, as he gestures for them to set down their packs. "A few months ago, the border to the west of here fell under Kumo and Iwa control, and we haven't been able to recover it."

Sakura hesitantly intervenes. "Why... why now of all times? I mean, we've been at war for almost a decade now, right? Why have we only been breached now, when we should've been able to consolidate over the years and strengthen?"

Kakashi claps. "Good question. Well, that's exactly why everyone is so afraid. Initially, when no frontal assault was launched, everyone assumed it was due to inexperienced leaders. The Raikage is infamously brash, after all, and is not known for his intelligence unlike our Sandaime. Everyone labelled him as a fool, and that the Tsuchikage Ōnoki is using him to potentially wrest control at the last moment."

He turns to look his students square in the eyes. "Pride comes before the fall, they say. Our forces became complacent in the past few years slowly, despite being in a dire situation, and this is the price paid. Years ago, we had captured two jinchūriki, one from Iwa, one from Kumo. It was a massive victory, and created the foundation for the complacency in recent times. Recently, they were being transported to Sunagakure, and the prisoners were lost."

"Why would they do something like that? It feels like a very witless move, moving around high priority prisoners like that."

"I wouldn't know. We just have to put our faith in the Hokage; he shouldered the village through two Great Shinobi Wars already, and I have no doubt this was in his calculations. We just need to make sure that our roles are fulfilled."

His hand points down the hallway. "Naruto and Sasuke, you sleep in the far room, Sakura, in the other one. I'll be out; unpack your belongings and organize everything, and sleep as soon as possible."

Without further explanation, Kakashi flickers away, and his team sighs and does as told.

Uchiha Itachi is preparing to sleep when a knock sounds on his window.

He sighs, and reluctantly walks over. "Who?" he asks out of custom, though he already knows there is only one person who would enter like this.

"Maa, Itachi. Haven't you been practicing your sensory abilities?"

"I'm not a natural sensor like you, Hatake-san," Itachi quietly replies. The window swings open, and Hatake Kakashi softly lands inside. "What is it? Is your team here on a mission?"

"Yeah." Kakashi's tone suddenly becomes softer, and far more subdued. "And two of them, your brother and the jinchūriki, had their first kill."

Itachi nods slowly and deliberately. "I see. And you are here to ask about how it was for me?"

Kakashi gives him a wry smile. "Sharp as always."

"Why not your own?"

"I already gave them what I could, but I fear it's not enough. I mean, one cannot look at me and speak as if I am a perfect role model, can they? Unbroken and sane?"

Itachi rebuts quickly. "Can they with me?"

Kakashi smiles sadly. "I suppose not, but at least you're closer to their age, right?"

Itachi sighs. "I suppose, but even then... Can this be saved until later? There are some concerning issues that we should discuss now that you're here."

"I'm listening."

Itachi flares his chakra, and a small stream of fire from his parched lips lights a candle, casting an eerie warm glow unto their faces. "The hostage incident three months ago. They only took one of them."

"I see. This was intentional, then? We no longer have any enemy jinchūriki captured?"

"No. But, hopefully, no one realizes."

Kakashi nods. "Hopefully. Will this bring trouble?"

"Potentially. I believe that Kumogakure would want the Nibi host to remain under wraps, since whether we know of her position or not is blind information to them. Thus, they will at least make a show of trying to recover her."

"I see. Well," Kakashi quickly lights all the candles in the room, turning the eerie glow into a bright warm light. "Come, we'll be discussing things for a long night."

A rooster crows in the distance as early rays of sunlight peek through the dark curtain of night.

A loud clap thunders the residence, and all of Team 7 jolt awake.

Kakashi greets the drowsy children cheerfully. "Wakey wakey! It's time to rise, kids! We're here for a mission, not vacation; cook somefoodand we're leaving at six-hundred sharp."

"C-cook?" Sakura yawns as she rubs the sleep from her eyes.

"Yes. I only cooked during the trip because you were learning you know? Chop chop, time is a-ticking."

With that, he swirls out, and leaves three sleepy genin to themselves to eat and leave.

"I'll cook," Naruto offers. He is met with no opposition, so he deftly commandeers the small kitchen. "Where are the ingredients again?"

Sakura lugs over the pack offoodthey brough. "Here're the MREs, we can save the ration bars for field work later. Is that a gas stove?"

"Nope, an electric one." Naruto waves a hand at the crackling iron coils. "Don't know how they're making electricity without chakra, but it's an electric one."

Sakura backs off, allowing the blond boy to cook, and sits down on a wooden chair with a creak. Sasuke slowly sits down as well, though making a point to leave fair distance between them. "It's civilian tech. Through harnessing the wind and water to create motion, they can generate electricity somehow. Never really studied it, but it's honestly quite amazing."

Sasuke lightly scoffs. Sakura turns to look at him, but the boy pointedly averts his eyes in a dismissive manner. The girl's lips purse, and she huffs and turns as well.

Naruto, having missed all of that, hums as he rehydrates some of the MREs they had packed. The hot water, fresh off the stove, hisses as it soaks into the dryfood. "It should be done in three minutes," he sighs.

Silence. Utter silence permeates the tense air, and all that remains is the ostinato of fingers tapping on the table.

"Ahem," Naruto pointedly coughs. "Food's ready."

Sasuke and Sakura silently accept the packets of re-hydratedfoodNaruto hands them. The meal passes in what seems to have become the norm for the team: total quietude.

Sakura glances at the clock, ticking incessantly. "We have two minutes."

Sasuke quickly stands up, pushes his chair in, and walks away. Naruto and Sakura share a silent look, one of exasperation, and leave as well.

The arid climate of Sunagakure hits the children in the face; the air is clogged with particles of sand and dust. Each open deep breath fills their lungs with irritants, leaving them in coughing fits. Each genin then feels a light weight on their heads, and looks up to see their sensei, smiling through that piece of dark fabric. He had given each of them a face mask, not unlike his.

"Now we can truly be a team, hmm?" He is clearly amused by the team's now-matching facial accessories. "It's the dry season in Suna right now, so the dust in the air is especially heavy. Wear these for now, you can remove them inside."

At their sensei's beckon, Team 7 shuffles through the streets of the Village Hidden in the Sand. It is still early in the morning; dawn had just broken not long ago, and the roads are mostly empty, save for a few early vendors setting up and bureaucratic officers leaving for work. The village, built in what seemed like a natural basin, is cluttered with earthen buildings, so much so that despite the number of people on the roads being very low, walking through the streets still gives them a feeling of clutter.

"What are we supposed to help with?" Sakura quietly asks Kakashi. "The mission stated that we are to provide 'assistance as necessary,' but what does that entail?"

"Exactly what it sounds like. You'll be going around, offering help wherever and whenever needed, and the duration is two weeks." Kakashi smiles at her. "It won't be too harsh, so try not to worry so much."

Sakura loosens her eyebrows, not realizing her face had scrunched up in nervousness unknowingly. "O-ok."

Naruto sucks in a breath. "So it's kinda like D-ranks?"

Their sensei tilts his head in amusem*nt. "Yes, indeed. Now where did you hear about those? I never mentioned them, did I?"

The blond boy shudders. "The old man used to tell me stories of how annoying and dull those were, and then threaten me with a truckload of 'em once I graduated if I didn't listen to anything he said."

Kakashi lightly laughs. "Don't worry, you'll probably never get to do them. We're in wartime after all. For now, think of these as placeholders for the D-ranks you never got to do."

"D-ranks?" Sakura questions. Sasuke also appears to be intrigued, though he omitted any indication as to if that really is the case.

"Basically," Naruto narrates in a hushed tone, as if telling a ghost story. "Ranked missions for freshie genins that are basically menial labor tasks, like weeding gardens and painting walls and carrying boxes. And we'd have to fulfill like an ungodly quota before starting any real missions!"

Sakura and Sasuke both inadvertently shudder a bit at the thought of doing such tasks during wartime, even though the opposite is Kakashi pushing them to their physical and mental limits.

Ok, maybe the alternative isn't too bad.

They are shaken out of their thoughts by Kakashi. "We're here," he says, sweeping an arm at the large construct they stopped before. It was the northern border of Sunagakure, armed with countless battlements along the mile-long, thick, brick-and-mortar wall that holds the enemies at bay.

"Since the enemy has become increasingly aggressive, you're here to help patch up the wall. It's been under attack for years now, and certain parts are weaker than the rest."

The four shinobi from Konoha walk up the wall, through a dark tunnel and a winding staircase, and come out on top of the nearly dekameter-tall wall. "Baki-san?" Kakashi calls.

"Huh? Oh, Hatake." A jōnin with a white headcloth covering his scalp and half his face, with a distinct red facial mark peeking out replies. "Your team's here?"

"Yep! Where do they go, and what do they do?"

"Here," the man grumbles, gesturing to a pile of buckets of mortar and stacks of bricks. "Just go along the entire wall. If there's any cracks, fill it with mortar. If there's a large hole, patch it with bricks as well. Normally this would be a job for the civilian workers, but there's been a shortage of them lately; something about a disease after one of them died."

The genin nod, and each takes a bucket of mortar, with scrapers sticking out of them. Kakashi coughs, "Well, I'll be going, so have fun!"

"We need bricks, don't we? So why aren't we grabbing a sack of those?" Naruto questions as he gestures to a pile of empty burlap sacks.

Sasuke grunts lightly as he hoists his bucket into the air. "We can just come back and get them if we need them. No need to carry them all around with us."

The three kids begrudgingly clutter onwards, and sigh at the sight of the mile-long wall ahead of them.

*Scrape* *Scrape* *Scrape*

Sasuke wipes a drop of sweat that had run down his face, all the way from his forehead to his chin. Laboring under a hot desert sun is no fun, especially when you're dressed for a temperate climate like that of Hi no Kuni.

They are just about done. After initially trudging along, fixing holes and gaps, his team had settled into a rhythm, one that carried all the way until now. With only a single battlement left, the breath they had unknowingly been stifling for hours loosens, and their heavy breaths became more and more discernable.

*Scrape*

"We're finally done!" Naruto exclaims through his ragged breaths. "So what do we do now?"

Sasuke groans. "We leave, dolt. Hatake's probably waiting for us down there or something."

Sakura abstains from talking, since her lungs and vocal chords were busy circulating air through her body rather than communicating her fatigue. Though the labor was menial, the harsh sun accelerated their perspiration several fold, and in hindsight they should have brought water, because all three of them are very parched.

"Let's go, then," Naruto grumbles out. The trio of Konoha genin plod down the stairs of the wall, and after a short walk, emerge into the blissful shadow under the wall.

They had worked for hours out under the scorching sun; even something so small as a shadow feels heavenly on their skin.

With a faint thud, their teacher falls from seemingly nowhere and lands in front of them. "Well," he chortles amusedly. "How was brick laying and wall repairs?"

Three deathly glares point towards him, and Kakashi just waves his hands uncaringly. "I see, I see. Well," he hoists a bag in his hand, with bulging boxes inside. "Food?"

The next day, they are handed the job of weapon sharpening. The genin are taken to a large military tent, full of shuriken, kunai, and the likes, and handed a few sharpening stones and towels. The trio emerged with dirty, blackened and tired hands.

The day after that, they receive the task of stitching ripped tents. Each of the genin have experience in stitching and darning, so the needlework was no trouble. They were released an hour early that day.

Then, again, they receive more labor and tasks to do during the day.

And after a week, they finally burst.

"When are we going to get a real job?" Sasuke snarls, with far more emotion than he'd ever shown in Sunagakure. "We're just running around doing these pointless tasks. Shouldn't these be handed off to civilians?"

Naruto chimes in. "Yeah, it's like we went through those years of training at the academy for no reason! We graduated to just do normal labor?"

Sakura remains silent, but adds her pleading gaze into the mix.

Kakashi sighs. Their quick recovery after that first encounter in the forests of Hi no Kuni is both a blessing and a curse; they overcame their fear, but in doing so, they also shelved the terror that should remain in their hearts. The terror of death, of war.

It seems that the only way to engrave that lesson into their hearts is through natural means, unfortunately.

"Fine," he relents. "I'll see what I can do. No promises, but I can try to convince the superiors here in Suna to give us a field mission."

Kakashi sighs. His students cheer in varying volumes, and he can do nothing but sigh in pain and foreboding.

Perhaps this'll be a good opportunity to start hammering in the lessons on survival,he muses, trying to look on the bright side. Because heaven knows how high the chances of something going wrong here are.

Well, as long as they don't encounter any hosts or high-level shinobi, it should all work out, right?

These adamantine chains that hold us together, yet keep us so far apart - Chapter 8 - isuckawriting (2024)
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