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Hear the Silence

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Kyo was a bit too busy to worry after that.

Lessons with her kaa-san escalated until it was something they spent at least a few hours on every other day, and that included getting her used to the poison of the plant they'd started with.

Kyo was now consuming very small amounts of it daily.

It made her feel a bit queasy at times, but she was honestly used to worse. Accidentally eating gluten in her past life had been about three times worse, and the poison at least hadn't made her puke yet. So there was that.

The marvel of being able to eat whatever she wanted, without having to worry about it making her sick was enough to leave Kyo almost ecstatic whenever she stopped to think about it.

She wasn't quite two and a half years old here, but she was healthier than she'd ever been back Before.

And wasn't that sad?

The lessons didn't stop there; she was still learning how to read and write, which was fun, and tou-san had begun to teach her, too.

“I don't want you coming here without me or kaa-san, understand?” Kou said as he set her down on her feet in front of him.

Kyo blinked around the sunny clearing, taking in the field of bare, packed dirt and gave a distracted nod.

This was somewhere she hadn't been before, and that was interesting enough on its own to entertain her. But she was more curious about what tou-san had planned, though.

“Okay,” she chirped.

When the sun was shining like this, and everything was peaceful and both her parents were home, it was hard to remember that there was a potential war brewing outside the Village walls.

“I'm going to show you something, and I want you to try and copy me as closely as you can,” Kou said, and he smiled briefly when Kyo nodded seriously.

And he then proceeded to show her what she instantly knew were katas.

Katas!

This was something she was purely excited about. Because she'd always wanted to learn martial arts, and the few styles she'd tried back Before had never worked out. The one style she'd found that she'd loved hadn't been possible for her to continue, because she'd had to move away and lessons in that style hadn't been offered anywhere close to her new area.

Kou had to correct an arm here, a foot there, but overall, she didn't do too poorly, if she dared say so herself.

It was hard, though, and her limbs were all but shaking from effort when they were done.

“You did very well, Kyo-chan,” tou-san praised as he helped her back to her feet from the pile she'd collapsed into the moment the man had said they were done. “Now, your kaa-san gave me strict orders to show you how to stretch,” he continued, an amused spark in his eyes.

Kyo giggled and dutifully did exactly as Kou showed her.

Being so young, stretching wasn't much of a chore, but she knew it was in preparation for when she got older; to make sure she'd get in the routine and get used to it.

“Tou-san, I'm hungry,” Kyo informed him when they were walking back towards the town proper, away from the training fields.

Kou glanced down at her, and it was a bit weird to see him in full shinboi gear; he was even wearing the green Chuunin vest, with the hitai-ate proudly displayed on his forehead.

Or was that Jounin vest? What rank did her parents have?

Not that it really mattered, she was just curious.

“I suppose we could get something before going back home,” he mused, as if he hadn't quite decided yet. “What would you like?”

“Dango!” Kyo instantly chirped. She'd wanted to try for years and now that she could actually eat the treats without getting sick... there was no reason to resist.

Kou snorted, held out his hand for her, which she latched onto with both of her own. He sent her an amused look, and then swung her up onto his hip.

“Hold on tight,” he warned.

Kyo wrapped both arms around him and couldn't help but let out a muffled squeal of delighted laughter when he leapt up onto the roof of the closest building.

The effortless manner with which he navigated the roof-tops of Konoha, not to mention the inhuman feat of leaping the distances he did, was something Kyo might have lingered on more if she hadn't loved the thrill of it so much.

It reminded her a bit about the one time her uncle had taken her on a ride on his motorcycle, once upon a time. But ten times better.

When tou-san jumped back down to the ground, Kyo was flushed with laughter and joy, and she couldn't wipe the exhilarated grin from her face if she so tried.

“Again!” She cried before she could stop herself, and it drew the attention of more than one stranger passing them by, which included the occasional shinobi.

Kou gave her a wry, thoroughly amused look. “I thought kids were supposed to scare easily,” he muttered jokingly.

Kyo snickered quietly, pressing her hands to her mouth in an attempt to smother the sound.

“But it's fun,” she told him as seriously as she could manage, despite there still being a wide grin on her face.

Kou shook his head as he walked into what looked like a small restaurant with one wall missing, which left it mostly open out towards the street.

“Sit. Don't move,” her tou-san instructed, gave her a firm look, and then walked over to the counter to order.

Kyo watched him avidly, legs swinging back and forth where they hung suspended in the air between the bench and the ground.

The man who may or may not be the restaurant owner greeted him cheerfully, listened to whatever he said and then whipped together the order with quick efficiency. Which he then handed over to Kou in exchange for a few coins.

“Here you are, princess,” tou-san said when he sat down next to her, placing the paper plate on the table in front of her.

Kyo wrinkled her nose. “'M no princess,” she said firmly. She hadn't even wanted to be a princess the first time she was a child; why would she want to be one now?

“No?” Kou asked, and there was laughter in his voice. “I though all little girls wanted to be a princess.”

“Sounds boring,” Kyo said frankly, peering at the dango with curious interest. It looked good; some sort of fried dough with sauce on top. “And I like me better,” she added, because that was true.

She might not know all that had happened to result in her being here, but her life was far from horrible. She had two parents that loved her and did everything they could to take care of her and prepare her for whatever this life might throw her way. She was healthy, hale and relatively happy.

Nothing to complain about.

“Are you going to try the dango or just stare at it until it gets cold?” Kou asked, gently ruffling her short, soft hair.

“I'll take this one,” she decided, picking the closest one and then pushed the plate towards her dad with the remaining two. “Those are yours.”

“Generous, too?” Kou mused teasingly. “I'm gonna have to beat the boys back with a stick when you're older.”

Kyo grimaced, giving her tou-san a sceptical look. Then she finally tasted the dango and was sufficiently distracted.

A few days later, tou-san took her on another excursion.

Katas were something she practised about every other day, it seemed, with at least a day in between for her to rest, recuperate and play in.

Some days, there wasn't anything in particular planned, and other times, Isshun would give her poison lessons or either of her parents would teach her some sort of game.

She'd learned a whole host of them by now, and Kyo was intellectually aware of the fact that they were all, in some form, supposed to prepare her for a life as a shinobi. Kunoichi, whichever.

That didn't stop them from being fun.

Like the game that was like a more complex variation of rock-paper-scissors, which was without a doubt to help her practise her dexterity, for the day when they began to teach her hand seals.

Or the bastardized version of Hide and Seek.

“What are we doing today?” Kyo asked as she slipped her hand into her father's, walking beside him down the street from their apartment.

“We're going on a little trip,” Kou said, which didn't really tell her anything.

That could mean anything from going to the training fields for katas, collecting herbs and plants with Isshun outside the Village walls and anything in between. Her tou-san had even said that when they'd just gone to his parents' house, once.

“To do what?” Kyo pressed, not worried, but definitely curious.

She absently jumped over a small pothole in the road, and then looked up at her tou-san's face.

Kou hummed, eyeing her thoughtfully a moment, before he leaned down to scoop her up with one arm.

“I guess there's only one way to find out,” he said, and jumped up onto the closest roof.

Kyo quickly latched onto her dad's shoulder with both hands and gave him an accusing frown. It was ruined slightly by the wild smile she was also sporting.

“That's not true! You could tell me,” she argued.

“I suppose,” Kou agreed gravely. “But I won't.”

Kyo's pout lasted for all of two seconds, before tou-san make a series of jumps that made her break out in thrilled giggles.

Soon enough, they arrived in a forested area that looked almost like it could have been outside the wall. She didn't think that was the case, though, because they hadn't passed through the massive gates.

“I'm going to show you how to make camp, today,” Kou said once he had put her down on her feet, giving her an intent once-over.

Kyo blinked, but nodded readily enough.

Wasn't this a bit too early? Really, she was just two years old, but... who was she to question the plan her parents had made for her potential shinobi education.

And yes, she did realise that that was what they were doing.

Kyo wasn't sure how she felt about it, but she'd decided not to think too much about it right now, and just enjoy the time she got to spend with both her new parents.

Learning new things had always been something she'd loved, and it hadn't ever mattered all that much what it was she was learning so much as the fact that she soaked up new information like a sponge.

That held true even now.

“Okay,” Kyo said, sitting down on the dry grass to watch.

Kou nodded and then began to gather fallen branches, telling her exactly what he was doing while he was at it, explaining why the branches had to be dead and dry -to avoid smoke- and what to do if dry wood wasn't available.

Then he got out a knife, kunai, and cut out a circle in the grass, pried up the thick top-layer of dirt, grass and grass roots, and then dug what he called a fire-pit. All with the ease of years of practise.

“How deep you make it depends a little, but it's to make sure the light from the fire is harder to spot,” he said seriously, starting to place a few of the smaller branches and a few twigs in the bottom of the hole.

Kyo nodded; it all made perfect sense so far.

She still wasn't quite sure why they were doing this already, when she was so young. Wouldn't it have been better to do this later, when she could actually help dig the fire-pit and everything?

Regardless, she did her best to be an attentive student, listening carefully to her dad's lecture.

“Now,” Kou said once he had set up the fireplace, where flames were eagerly licking at the dry wood. “I need you to keep an eye on the fire for me, Kyo. I'll be back in just a few minutes, okay?” He said, pausing to give her a look she knew meant he was waiting for any potential questions she might have.

Kyo hesitated. “You'll be back quickly?”

“Yes,” Kou said without pause. “I need to go get us something for the next part of our lesson,” he explained.

Feeling sufficiently reassured, Kyo nodded and watched as her tou-san turned around and stalked off without a sound, quickly and efficiently disappearing between the trees far faster than he should have.

Kyo had always liked the forest, Before, but there was just something about this whole situation that made her slightly nervous.

It didn't help that she'd hardly spent more than a handful of minutes alone since she'd 'woken up' after she'd turned one.

Instead of staring out between the trees for her tou-san, who she no doubt wouldn't spot until he stepped back into the small 'camp' they'd made anyway, she settled for staring at the fire.

She'd just put another piece of wood in the fire-pit when Kou jumped down from a tree, landing two metres away from her with nary a sound, making her jump.

“Tou-san!” Kyo smiled, jumping to her feet and bouncing over to him to wrap her arms around one of his legs in a semblance of a hug. He hadn't been gone long, but it was nice to see him!

“You kept a close eye on the fire?” He confirmed warmly, smoothing back her hair with one calloused hand. Kyo nodded. “Good job,” he praised, smiling faintly and guiding her back to the fire, where they sat down. “I've gotten us lunch.”

Kyo blinked and finally noticed what he was holding in his other hand.

A pair of rabbits dangled from his fingers, held by the ears and- they were trembling with fear, blinking dark, shiny eyes at her.

Still very much alive.

Kyo watched the two small animals solemnly, feeling like she knew where this was going now.

Kou gave her a considering look, before he tucked one of the petrified bunnies under one of his thighs and put the other one on the grass in front of him, effortlessly pinning it in place with one hand.

“Come here, Kyo,” he said, nodding down at his lap.

Kyo quickly crawled over her tou-san's thigh to settle in his lap, staring down at the bunny with clear curiosity and almost-fascination.

She was well aware of where her food came from, whether that was vegetables or meat, and she had never understood people who proclaimed to love animals, were particularly squeamish about slaughter and then still gorged themselves on meat.

Kyo preferred to know exactly what she ate, and it may have something to do with the food allergy she'd had Before, but she felt it was just common sense. If you ate something, you should know and acknowledge where that food came from.

Doing otherwise was rather insulting to the animal that gave its life to feed you.

You should at least acknowledge that it was a formerly living being you were consuming.

“Hold it down for me a moment,” Kou told her, and his voice was soothing, as if he was expecting a tearful tantrum any second now.

“Okay,” Kyo said seriously, burying her fingers in the soft, brown fur on the bunny's neck, pressing down.

She could feel the frantic pulse fluttering under her fingers, and the bunny's chest rose and fell rapidly, over and over again as it panted in clear terror.

“Hold with the other hand,” Kou instructed softly, waiting until Kyo had done as told. “Good, girl. Now take hold of the handle of the kunai, Kyo-chan.”

Kyo did so, feeling reassured when tou-san's large, warm hand closed around it over her small fingers, guiding the knife until the tip was resting over the bunny's throat.

“We cut the throat quickly and smoothly, Kyo,” he said, holding the little animal firmly in place with the hand not helping her hold the knife. “That way, it dies quickly and with as little pain as possible.”

“Okay,” Kyo said again, feeling a bit out of her depth but perfectly willing to learn.

She'd contemplated gaining a hunter's license back in the Before, but her health had gotten in the way and this was something she would have had to learn back then if she'd gone through with it. This was part of life, really.

With no further delay or fuss, Kou brought the knife down on the bunny's throat, slicing through it with hardly any resistance.

It was easier than cutting up a half-frozen chicken fillet, though the bunny did twitch a few times as it bled out.

Kyo would like to think it was a pretty peaceful way to die; far better than being transported for miles and miles to a slaughter house by car and then killed that way.

“Is it dead now?” Kyo asked quietly, staring at the bunny's unmoving form.

“Yes,” Kou wrapped an arm around her in a half-hug. “You did very well, Kyo.”

“What about the other one?” She asked, overly aware of the second bunny caught under her tou-san's thigh.

Kou eyed her a moment, taking in whatever expression she was currently wearing. “We could either do the same thing, killing it together, or you can try to do it by yourself.”

Kyo blinked, turned the offer over in her head and then glanced down at the dead rabbit, then the still alive one she could barely see from her position.

“You'll help me if I can't do it, right?” She asked. She didn't want to hurt the animal and then not be able to go through with it; the bunny would be their lunch, but that didn't mean it had to suffer needlessly.

“Of course.” Kou smiled, though there was a look in his eyes she couldn't quite name.

He ruffled her hair with one hand and then moved the dead rabbit to the side to replace it with its' still-living companion.

Like chopping chicken, Kyo thought determinedly, taking hold of the kunai.

It was awkward, because it had clearly been intended for an adult's use and it was heavy, but with both hands, she could make it work on her own.

Leaning forward, Kyo placed the wickedly sharp tip over the bunny's throat and then pushed down.

She may have ended up pushing the tip of the knife into the ground under the rabbit, but at least it got the job done.

When the bunny stopped twitching, Kyo leaned back with a relieved sigh.

That hadn't been too bad, she told herself, ignoring the way her fingers trembled ever so slightly. Which was most likely because of adrenaline, she realised.

“Very well done, Kyo,” tou-san praised kindly, rubbing a hand up and down her upper arm, before he pulled up the kunai and slit the bunny's throat properly. “Now watch while I skin them and prepare the meat, okay? What do you say about stew for lunch?”

“We can bring the leftovers home to kaa-san,” she offered with a somewhat weak, but sincere smile.

Kou smiled back and nodded. “That sounds like a great idea.”

-x-x-x-