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Hear the Silence

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It was the first day of the last week of their month.

Kyo arrived a few minutes late to training, because Genma had been a bit of a mess this morning and she'd ended up having to help kaa-san with him.

Walking onto their training grounds, it was to the sight of Taku and Maki in the midst of one of their daily scuffles.

After the morning she'd had, Kyo was pretty done already.

She walked up to Katsurou. “Can I please poison them, sensei?”

“Don't tempt me,” her sensei muttered tiredly, rubbing a hand over his eyes before he strode off towards the two boy. “Alright; enough's enough!” He bit out sharply.

Kyo jumped at the tone he'd taken.

Katsurou-sensei wasn't exactly gentle or anything, but he'd hardly been all that stern with them either, having taken a bit of a distant but helpfully guiding role when teaching them so far.

It'd sort of been clear he'd been trying to make them turn to each other for help and get closer as a team for the last month, but it had obviously backfired between the two boys.

Kyo and Kisaki got along fantastically, though.

Kyo had been teaching the ninken some of her stealth moves in the time they'd gotten somewhat to themselves.

It was pretty interesting to teach some of what she'd learned over the years to someone else. Even if that someone happened to be a dog.

“You two are going to sit your asses down, shut up and listen,” Katsurou-sensei said quietly, looking quite menacing where he stood over the two boys, who had frozen on the spot at his sharp words. “It might not seem like it inside the safety of the village walls, but there is a war out there, and if you two don't get your fucking acts together, you're going to get not just yourselves, but the rest of us killed, too.”

Katsurou eyed them with a deep frown, eyes hard and unamused.

Sensei's patience had run out, it seemed.

“You're all Genin now, but the most mature people on your team are the six year old and the ninken puppy,” the man continued harshly. Uncompromising.

Kyo might've taken it as an insult, if it didn't give such a clear, accurate picture of how sad this scenario really was.

“You are going to sit down like the adults you've been supposed to be since you graduated and talk things out, or Kami help me, I will do something drastic.” Katsurou paused, mouth pulled taunt in a frown. “And you won't like it one bit,” he promised. “Kyo, Kisaki, come over here,” he called over his shoulder.

Doing as told, Kyo soon enough settled down on the ground next to the boys, who looked a bit like they'd been dropped at the deep end with no warning.

“Now,” Katsurou said firmly. “Talk. Why are you fighting like this?”

Taku mutinously clenched his teeth, crossed his arms over his chest and frowned off to the side. The very picture of uncooperative body-language.

Maki scowled stubbornly at the ground.

Katsurou merely sat down in front of them, and it looked like they might end up sitting there for the rest of the day, Kyo mused irritably. Was it so hard to just talk it out?

It wasn't like Katsurou was asking them for classified information!

“He keeps looking down on me because I don't have shinobi parents!” Maki finally burst out angrily, evidently unable to hold his tongue any longer.

Admittedly, he'd lasted almost an hour.

A very boring, long and boring hour.

“I do not!” Taku growled back. “He keeps provoking me!” He spat back, sending Maki a venomous glare before focusing at Katsurou. “The idiot won't get a clue, even when he keeps-” and he clenched his jaw again.

Kyo frowned, trying to figure out what he was talking about.

Yeah, she could get the first part of it. Taku was an Inuzuka, and she'd always gotten the feeling that the dog Clan tended to operate more by... animal standards than human ones. To a certain extent.

Maki wouldn't know that, though, and being a civilian-born, until he acknowledged that, he was quite firmly stuck.

“It's not my fault you can't even read, you utter anima-” Maki began to say, and there was an alarming amount of vindictiveness in his eyes.

Kyo threw a pebble at his face.

Carefully making her way to her feet, Kyo took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself.

Maki looked decidedly wide-eyed and he was cradling his cheek -which was no doubt going to bruise- and staring at her as if he'd never seen her before.

“You do not get to do that,” she told him quietly, a deep frown on her face. “Whether you acknowledge it or not, you're the one on this team that knows the least about shinobi culture and tradition. Kisaki knows more than you do, and she's a puppy,” she said. “You may know more about the civilian way of life, and no one here's trying to tell you otherwise. But if you don't want to die, then you need to shut the hell up and wise up.”

“You're just a kid,” Maki threw back, looking like he was scrambling for something hurtful to verbally hurl in her face.

“Yeah,” Kyo flicked a needle at him, which pinged off his hitai-ate. “But at least I know not to tell a person that should be as close as family, that they don't even deserve to be counted as human because of something as inane as trouble reading!” She hissed.

Giving the boy an utterly derisive look, Kyo turned to Taku.

“Taku, stuff the pride where the sun won't shine; I'm giving you a few pointers for your fire jutsu, that you would have been able to figure out on your own by now if you hadn't been too busy butting heads with the idiot over there,” she declared firmly, took the older boy's hand and dragged him off towards the trees without another look at Maki.

“You can be pretty scary, you know?” Taku blurted awkwardly once they were amongst the trees.

Kyo blinked and gave him a mildly incredulous look. “Thank you?” She offered tentatively, because the way he'd said that it sounded like he'd meant it as a compliment.

Taku nodded. “Where are we even going? I mean, it's pretty stupid to try a katon in here.” He looked around at all the vegetation.

“If you hadn't been so busy with Maki, you would've found out that there's a pond back here. Sensei's been having me practice water walking on it.”

“Water walking?” Taku repeated with interest, a speculative glint in his sharp, rather animalistic eyes.

Kyo nodded. “It's the next step to tree walking, and I figure sensei wants us to get as good at both of them as possible before we have to leave the village.”

For obvious reasons, really.

Taku snorted and Kyo was very pleased by the fact that he hadn't let go of her hand yet.

“Ya wanna show me?” He asked hesitantly after walking a few seconds in silence.

“Sure!” Kyo chirped with a wide smile.

Because, finally!

Instead of pulling out the fire jutsu scroll -which she'd ended up sort of just... keeping- Kyo began to strip out of her gear and clothes.

Taku took one look at her, shrugged, and then followed suit.

Once she was done, Kyo wobbled onto the surface of the pond, pleased at the fact that she didn't have to dedicate her full focus to the task of staying over the treacherous liquid beneath her feet, before she carefully turned around to face Taku, who eyed her with clear interest.

“It's sort of like tree walking,” she began. “But it's always moving and it isn't still, because water,” she sighed exasperatedly. “So you have to compensate for that with your chakra. All the time. Or you get a bath.” She grimaced down at the water.

“Sounds easy enough,” Taku declared and then attempted to jump onto the water, acting like he'd be able to land as expertly as she'd seen Katsurou-sensei do.

Taku disappeared beneath the surface of the water with a splash.

Kyo yelped and had to windmill her arms quickly not to join him, scrambling to adjust to the unsettled water. And she still ended up sinking almost to her knees before she managed to get it under control.

Taku broke the surface with a splutter of laughter.

Kyo sent him what was no doubt a pathetic pout, and he unashamedly splashed her with even more water.

“Hey,” she complained, because she had actually managed to stay sort-of dry this time! “I'm being nice to you, you meanie.”

Taku snorted and swam back to the edge of the pond, where he could comfortably stand with the water reaching no higher than his knees.

“A bit of water can't kill ya,” he returned without a shred of regret.

Kyo mock-frowned at him and then carefully angled one of her feet and sent a strong pulse of chakra down the limb.

The minor explosion of water it resulted in drenched the other boy and though it had made her lose her concentration, which had dropped her into the pond, Kyo couldn't help but snicker amusedly.

Taku wiped the water out of his eyes.

“That's a neat trick,” he observed magnanimously.

“It's what happen when you apply too much chakra. A bit more annoying that just breaking the bark,” she snickered and slowly pulled herself back onto the water's surface. Something Taku watched with clear fascination.

“Alright! Let's do this thing.” He grinned and set to it like the maniac Kyo had sort of figured he was.

An hour later, Kyo couldn't help but stare at him with something akin to petulant incredulousness.

How?” She demanded, staring intently at Taku, who was wobbling around on the water. About as steady on his feet as a newborn foal, but keeping well out of the liquid. Most of the time.

How had he gotten it so quickly!?

“You're way too scared of fallin' in the water, ya know,” Taku told her distractedly as he took another few unsteady, drunken steps.

Kyo scowled.

She didn't particularly enjoy bathing in freshwater. It smelled, was murky and full of mud, not to speak of all the other various kinds of debris and partly decomposed plant-matter, and it was the colour of unhealthy pee.

Nope. Saltwater was far more her kind of jam.

“You're saying I'd be better if I was as enthusiastic about bathing in this soup as you?” She couldn't help but fire back.

At least it made Taku laugh, which dumped him right back into said soup.

The Inuzuka emerged from the water with a gasp for air, still laughing.

“Kyo, Taku!” Katsurou-sensei called from the edge of the water, drawing both of their attention and making them realise how far out onto the pond they'd wandered. He waved a hand for them to come to him, so Kyo waited long enough for Taku to climb back onto the water's surface, and then walked back towards dry land and the rest of her team.

“What is it, sensei?” She asked curiously.

“Maki's got something to say to the both of you,” Katsurou said, giving her a mildly amused look.

Kyo blinked and turned to Maki.

Who was beet red in the face and looking anywhere but at her.

“Is he alright?” She asked, a tad concerned. He hadn't managed to actually stab himself with that needle she'd thrown at him earlier? That had actually been one of her poisoned ones...

Maki shrank back fractionally and raised both hands to cover his eyes. “Why aren't you wearing any clothes?” He asked in a barely audible voice.

Kyo tilted her head. “I'm not actually naked,” she pointed out sensibly. She was still wearing her panties. “And even if I were, it's not like we look different enough you'll die. I'm six; I don't really have anything yet, you know?”

If anything, Maki's face got even brighter red. Something Kyo wouldn't have thought possible a second ago.

She'd never actually seen anyone blush that bright before.

“We don't really look all that different yet,” Taku agreed as he climbed out of the water, having opted to slosh through the liquid the last bit. “Only Kyo hasn't got the dangly bits,” he grinned, showing off his sharp canines.

Maki made a noise like he'd been mortally wounded.

“Can you put on some clothes, please?” He managed after a few seconds.

Kyo shrugged and turned to her pile of clothes and weapons pouches.

Briefly contemplating whether or not to take off her drenched underwear first, she decided not to. To spare Maki the 'horror' if nothing else. The sacrifices she made for her team-mate's delicate sensibilities.

Now her trousers would end up wet. Ah, well. She'd survive.

“You wanted to tell us something, Maki?” Kyo finally asked, turning to look at the boy while she put her collection of holsters and packs back into place around her body.

Taku, the cheat, had just shook himself -like his family namesake- and then pulled his clothes back on and was mostly done.

His shirt was slowly but steadily getting wet from the water dripping from his hair and left-over moisture on his skin, though.

“Sorry,” Maki said, staring intently at the grass at his feet. “For being an ass,” he added, a bit grudgingly, but sincerely enough.

“Okay,” Kyo chirped, giving him a smile when he directed an incredulous glance her way. Her smile faded and she gave him a serious look. “Don't do it again.”

“I'll try not to,” he promised quickly, giving her a slightly nervous look. “Please don't poison me,” he added.

“And you've learned your first unwritten shinobi rule, it seems,” Katsurou-sensei mused, patting the boy in question on the shoulder. “Don't piss off the poison specialist.”

“That's a rule?” Maki asked, looking quietly despaired. As if he had just realised how much he hadn't known he'd hadn't known.

“More like common sense,” Kyo returned cheerfully. “Ryota-oji always complain about that one time kaa-san made him sick for a whole day for 'being an insensitive prick',” she informed him sagely.

It was a great story, actually, and one of tou-san's favourites to tell, because it led up to the moment he realised he was in love with kaa-san.

Much to Ryota's disgruntled exasperation.

“Ya gonna stop challenging me now?” Taku asked idly, watching Maki with thinly veiled dislike.

“Yeah. Sorry,” Maki said again, back to looking apologetic. “I don't- I mean, I'm not sure about everything, so, can you just tell me if I do something wrong?” He asked miserably, giving both Kyo and Taku an uncertain look.

Taku glanced at Kyo and then shrugged. “Sure.”

“Okay,” Kyo smiled, “we can do that.”

“Excellent, because I'm going to drill you on teamwork exercises for the rest of the week,” Katsurou-sensei said. “In addition to everything else we've got planned.”

Kyo felt her smile become fixed on her face, while Taku outright groaned.

Maki silently accepted his fate.

They were already having long days filled with nothing but training!

“Let me just tell kaa-san not to expect me back home until the end of the week.” Kyo sighed. “And grab a few changes of clothes,” she added, because that just made sense. She should probably grab her 'camping' gear, too.

“You've got an hour,” Katsurou said with the air of a truly generous man. “Scram.”

All four of them ran off, Kisaki hot on Taku's heels when he turned down in the direction of the Inuzuka compound.

.

At the end of their month, after a long week of having spent both days and nights in each other's company, Katsurou brought them to the Hokage tower.

Because he was secretly evil, he brought them there first thing in the morning, before Kyo or Taku had been able to catch breakfast.

Which meant that all four of them were tired, a bit on the dirty side and very hungry, in addition to feeling generally disgruntled with life at large and with sensei in particular.

“Kyo!” A semi-familiar voice called, making Kyo blink and scan the people around them again, this time to look specifically for anyone she might know.

Tou-san and his team hadn't been supposed to come back to the village quite yet, so it couldn't be any one of them.

Kaa-san would be home with Genma and that left the people she was already standing with.

“Ah, Inoichi,” Kyo muttered when her gaze landed on the Yamanaka in question and his team. “Been a while,” she added after a pause that was perhaps a second too long to be polite.

“Wow, you look like crap,” Inoichi observed with a small smile. “Hi, Katsurou-oji!”

“Inoichi,” Katsurou returned evenly, barely looking away from the boy's sensei.

Hadn't he been a Sarutobi? Kyo wondered sluggishly.

She was just six; she needed her sleep, damn it!

“How've you been?” Kyo asked as their teams moved towards the mission room together.

“Okay.” The boy shrugged, eyeing Taku and Maki curiously a moment, before turning back to Kyo. “Been running a few in-village missions, but mostly training.”

Only training,” Kyo returned in what was almost a grunt. “This'll be our first mission.”

“Huh.” Inoichi blinked. “Good luck, then, I suppose? We should totally meet up when you've got the time, though, Kyo.”

“Hm?” Kyo tilted her head and eyed the boy curiously.

They'd talked a few times, but it wasn't like they were actual friends. Inoichi had been one of the few children in her class that'd been... tolerable. Which meant he at least wasn't a whiny, rude brat.

“You like plants, right?” Inoichi asked eagerly. “My clan's got large green-houses where we grow things for the hospital. I can show them to you if you'd like?”

Kyo peered at the older boy.

Okay, he was friendly, extroverted and definitely a social butterfly, but that didn't justify the offer. Kyo was well aware that she was a six year old girl, he a ten year old boy and there really shouldn't be any appeal for him to spend time together.

What was his angle? Was he fishing for some kind of information?

“Okay,” Kyo finally agreed, because at least it sounded interesting and was something to focus on that wasn't either training or worrying about eventual missions outside of Konoha. “I don't know when I'll have the time, though.”

“Yeah, me neither.” Inoichi grinned, carefree in a way Kyo wished she could be, too. “Just keep an eye out for me, okay? Bye!”

“Bye,” Kyo returned bemusedly, watching Inoichi, Shikaku and Chouza all wander off with their sensei, who'd gathered their mission scroll. And then turned back to her team, which was ready to accept their own mission now.

Kyo eyed the mission desk, took in the handful of stressed-looking shinobi manning it and mused that the Hokage must be far too busy to deal with things like this himself in the middle of a war.

She couldn't help but be curious about Sarutobi Hiruzen.

He'd been a major part not only in the Naruto story, but also in the shaping of this entire world.

Seriously, the guy had survived three wars, and Kyo was worried to hell and back about surviving just the one.

She very much ignored the potential of her having to fight in another one, if she actually did survive this one.

Kyo seriously didn't think the odds were in her favour.

“In-village mission for Team Six,” Katsurou-sensei requested blandly to the ninja sitting behind the table.

“If you're sure,” the man muttered distractedly, “I think there was one- ah, yes. Here you go,” and he tossed a scroll at Katsurou, who caught it and gave a short nod, before turning around and herding them away from the table.

“That was a bit rude, wasn't it?” Maki asked quietly, sending Kyo a vaguely uncertain look.

“No.” She shook her head. “Everyone here's either injured or over-worked, or both, and it's polite to take up as little time as possible,” she explained, keeping her voice just as quiet.

Maki had made good on his promise to try and do better, and Kyo was perfectly willing to explain things to him when she could, with Taku picking up the slack when he asked about subjects she wasn't entirely sure of herself.

It'd just happened twice so far, but they were making progress!

“So what sort of mission do we have, sensei?” Kyo asked once they'd left the building behind and were quite obviously heading in a certain direction. Where that would lead them, she wasn't at all sure, because the village was a bit too wide-spread for her to guess.

“Your first D-rank,” Katsurou said, holding the scroll up for them to see, “is running missives between Intel and the Archives.”

Kyo felt her eyebrows pull together in a small frown as she readjusted her expectations. No missions weeding and re-painting fences for her, she supposed, a bit resignedly.

Civilians were no doubt less likely to commission Genin teams for things like that in war-times, and it wasn't like Konoha had the man-power to spare, anyway, if what she'd taken away from tou-san talking to kaa-san about it had been anywhere near correct.

Officially, the war had been going on for four years, now. And Konoha was starting to feel it.

“I'm going to show you the way for the first run, but after that, I will hang back and observe,” sensei warned, and they all nodded.

What followed was a long day where Kyo and her team ran back and forth between Intel and the Archives, which, just so happened, lay on completely opposite ends of the village. Probably for a good reason, but Kyo's legs didn't appreciate it.

The fact that they hadn't gotten to eat breakfast made it all all the more fun, and when Katsurou-sensei finally informed them they'd stop for lunch, Kyo almost hugged him.

Maki looked like he was about to collapse from hunger, while Taku had grown exceedingly more grumpy as the day progressed, snapping and snarling at anyone who dared try to talk to him.

Kyo made a mental note to make sure she always had a lot of either ration bars -she could ask kaa-san for a few- or various other energy bars on her person in the future.

Katsurou took them to a restaurant sporting the Akimichi Clan mark on the sign over the door and ordered them all plenty of food.

Then it was back to running missives.

Kyo understood that what they were doing was important, that the village couldn't function without this small contribution; the different departments couldn't function to their full extent if they weren't communicating with each other.

It just felt like a lot of missives.

“See you four first thing tomorrow morning,” Katsurou-sensei declared after they had run their last message for the day.

Even Kisaki looked beat, and she'd been getting a ride via Taku's shoulders for the last hour.

Kyo, and her fellow team-members, all wandered off without so much as a word of goodbye.

When she finally got home -for the first time in a week-, Kyo ate the meal Isshun had prepared for her, took a shower, and then collapsed into bed, dead to the world before she even hit the mattress.

-x-x-x-