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The Primal Rites of Zukalaka

Chapter Text

                                           

The mission sounded simple enough on paper. Save a "princess", one up the boys. Add to that their destination was a tropical island. How could any of the girls pass up a mission like this? The approach to the island was met with the most dreadful storm the genin had ever seen. The blackest sky greeted their tiny boat by hurling bolts of lighting at them like spears. The ocean came alive, furious at being disturbed from its slumber. While hurricane gales battered at the hull, the Skipper wrestled with the wheel urging the girls to take refuge in the cramped cabin below. Shivering with wet and cold, the four girls hugged their knees as the roaring waves had drowned out all other sounds. The last sound they heard was a splintering crack before darkness took hold of them.

The world was wobbling around her as Sakura's eyes fluttered open. The air was heavy with salt as sea gulls cried, circling above like vultures. Her legs and chest were freezing. In a heartbeat Sakura jolted to life, clinging to a piece of driftwood as she drifted among the waves. By some miracle she was not far from a beach. Fearing for her life, she quickly paddled toward the shore. When her feet ran against rocky sand, she screamed with delight. Closer! She was almost there.

"Sakuraaa!" An all too familiar voice cried out to her left. Ino was gonna make it, and Sakura had never been so happy to hear Ino-Pig's voice. Far off already on the sandy dune, Hinata sat on the ground hugging her knees. Meanwhile Ten Ten stood beside her, waving with a relieved smile. When the girls were assembled, they grabbed a hold of each other in massive hug, screaming with joy. When they could have died they lived!

The scene was idyllic, the island was completely unspoiled in its natural splendor. It was almost alien to behold a place so devoid of human life and architecture. The weather was just right, warm but not too hot. Clear blue skies mirrored the ocean all around them. The beach itself was clean of all debris, save for the few pieces of boat that washed up along with the girls.

"What a pity," Ino said wistfully. "We should have brought our swimsuits..." Lady Tsunade had forbidden the girls from bringing anything frivolous, much their collective chagrin. She had expressly forbidden them from bringing swimsuits with scowl that made them shiver. The mission was too crucial to waste time playing around. "Too bad we couldn't get stranded like this with Sasuke-kun." She shot a challenging glance over to Sakura. Hinata was fidgeting, pushing at her fingertips while Ten Ten stretched her arms out.

Sakura knew Ino meant it in jest, given the circumstances, and did her best to play it off that way. "Yeah right! You'd want him all to yourself!"

"Now now, Sasuke-kun is a growing boy," Ino shot back. "I wouldn't be so cruel as to deprive my future husband of his manly needs. Not like some girls." Ino laughed in a haughty way that made Sakura growl and grind her teeth. Even here Ino's arrogance reigned supreme!

"Meh, you can keep brooding boy," Ten Ten interjected. "I already have Neji for that..."

"You like Neji?" Sakura and Ino said in curious unison.

"He does have a certain maturity to him," said Sakura. Ino nodded in agreement.

Ten Ten gave Hinata a sultry wink, a gesture the shy girl didn't understand. "Hyugas are rather handsome, but I much prefer Lee-kun." Ten Ten crossed her arms as if in triumph, which made Sakura and Ino laugh all the harder.

"LEE? Ewww! No way! He's gross." It was inconceivable to either of them that any girl would lower themselves down to such a level. He was such an aggravating, limp wristed weirdo!

"Lee has a way of surprising you. There's more to him than the surface. Even if you have to dig deep to find it."

"Remind me to bring a shovel the next time we meet," Sakura said while sticking her tongue out.

"Or a drill!" Ino added. With everyone laughing Hinata struggled to keep up with forced but well meaning giggles. "What about you Hinata-chan?" Ino asked the shy girl suddenly. "Who do you think is more handsome? Sasuke," Ino spoke his name rather musically. "Or Lee?" She said his name as if spitting out a bug.

"Or Neji?" Ten Ten added, which only caused Hinata to mumble and shuffle her feet ever more nervously.

"I...ah...I am not f-familiar with Uchiha-san or Lee-san so...not that I dislike them! But I don't have those kinds of feelings for them..."

"Hinata's such a good girl," said Sakura. "Being from an important clan, she's probably gonna marry a famous prince or something someday huh?"

Ino clasped her hands together in a most darling fashion. "Ohh! That's so romantic! Are you betrothed Hina-chan?"

Hinata shook her head. "Not exactly, but...I wouldn't mind marrying...someone like the Hokage someday..." Hinata smiled a secret smile as her cheeks flushed. She knew her meaning even if the others didn't.

"Oh ho? Hinata-chan's got a thing for older men huh?" Ino said. Hinata immediately started sputtering and waving her arms around trying to deny it. Ino held up her hands as if trying to mellow out a child. "Hey, hey easy Hina, it's alright. Why don't we change the subject..."

Silence fell over the group and with it a sullen mood. The harshness of their situation was as inescapable as the sun's light. To try and break the mood, Sakura bent down to pull off her sandals and tossed them off to the side. Stepping into the sand with her bare feet she let the warmth of the earth well up and through her. It was little crazy maybe, but by connecting in this way, it helped to ground her. She sauntered forward as the other girls watched. Gazing out into the sea, into the infinite blue, she brushed back her bangs as the breeze caressed her face. She tried to imagine that they were simply at the beach. A desolate beach with no shelter, or access to clean food, water, or people.

"We might be here for awhile." The words bore an uncomfortable weight, but it was not unbearable. Standing as tall and firm as she could manage she turned around to face her team. Ino's eyes were focused on the ground and she hugged herself as if to ward off a chill. Sakura hadn't seen Ino's lower lip quiver like that since they were small children. To think just a few hours ago she and Ino were bickering over who was team leader in this mission. It was all did together anymore. There was a small, secret spot in Sakura's heart that hoped that this mission would be their chance to smooth things out again. How she yearned to laugh and talk with Ino again, just like in the old days. But Ino could be so stubborn.

The threat of never going home again seemed to have sapped her of what stubbornness she had. For Ino sank into the sand and slumped her shoulders.

It was easy to be worried for Hinata, just trying to talk to her seemed to frighten the poor girl. Though she fiddled with her fingers in nervous habit, she remained standing still. Even though her toes seemed to point inward with innocent poise, there was...not a calmness per se, but a sense of conviction. Hinata could be so delicate, and yet she was not down on the ground crying or shaking. She was no leader, but she was still standing. Sakura breathed a sigh of relief. There was more to Hinata that what she appeared to be. That gave Sakura courage. It felt like what few times she had been together with Hinata, she's had to look out for her like a big sister. A random thought occurred to her, didn't Hinata have a little sister? When they made it home, Sakura felt she'd have to get closer to the Hyuga heiress. When.

Ten Ten was even more unfamiliar to her than Hinata was, and taking the situation in her own way. Pacing back and forth, it made Sakura think of a lion in a cage. The two girls exchanged a long glance as if to size each other up. It was Ten Ten who broke away first. The unspoken vote was unanimous. We might be here a while, the words echoed in Sakura's thoughts. Truth be told, there was a part of her that wanted to be furious. To yell and scream in fury and stomp her feet at the unfairness of it all. To fall to her knees and sob until she was dry of tears. This she could not do. Would not. She was a kunoichi, not a helpless little girl. The others were counting on her to see them through this trial. So she gave them all reassuring smile.

"This spot seems as good as any. We'll make our base camp here." Sakura waited to see how the others would react. Ten Ten stood up attentively, while still somber Hinata regarded her with doe eyes. Only Ino remained unshaken from her forlorn stupor.

"How?" She grumbled on the verge of sobbing. "We don't even have any gear!" It was true. Their packs were aboard the boat that had brought them. All of their survival rations, water, rope, all their camping gear was lost in the wreck.

"We'll just have to make do with what we can find," said Sakura. Wilderness survival was just one of the many skills afforded to ninja. If they worked together they should be able to last until help arrived. That didn't make the situation any less scary though. The boat that was bringing them to the island was supposed to be their HQ. They were to retrieve the target, a young noble girl, and smuggle her off the island before the enemy could react. Simple and clean. The only real threat was supposed to be the kidnappers, a motley crew of small time wanna-be thugs playing at being pirates. The storm was an oversight that cost them dearly. The damn thing came out of nowhere when the weather was supposed to be clear for the whole week. Nevertheless it happened. It should have been planned for but wasn't. Now they were stuck on an uncharted island with no way of contacting anyone.

Maybe the Skipper was right about the island being cursed. The thought ran down Sakura's spine like an icy finger. "The Skipper!" Sakura turned and ran back down to the water's edge. The waves rolled in and out, belching out the occasional bit of debris but no sign of the man who brought them here. No order was necessary for the rest of the girls to fan out along the beach, searching for the Skipper. He was not any kind of remarkable man. Just a simple fisherman who had never left the borders of his hometown. Someone who scraped by to provide for his wife and children. He was also the only one who relented when asked for passage to the island. Everyone else they asked shooed them away, telling the same story.

"Those kidnappers are insane," the Skipper had said. "That island is haunted. A terrible evil lurks beneath the surface of that place. No man, or woman for that matter has ever returned from it. Tis especially dangerous for young women, so the stories say." When the girls had prodded him the reasons why it was cursed, he scratched his head and looked over his shoulder. He spoke in a soft whisper that they all had to lean in close. "Tis the island of demon nymphs it is said. A vile Beast lives on the island. It steals the souls of pretty young maidens, not unlike yourselves, and turns them into demons. They go wild and crazy, paint themselves with blood and feast on the flesh of men. Headhunters! But that is not the only danger. Zukalaka Island is vast and full giant beasts. Even the plants are said to have a taste for human blood. No, I won't do it. I cannot in good conscience lead you to your death!" But the man was weak when the girls turned their charms on him. Sakura remembered, acting in accordance with her kunoichi training, there's nothing in this world a good man lives for than to help a pretty young girl in distress. All men yearn for such things, to be protectors. The four of them mewled like kittens, shaming him for his inaction. It was basic human instinct. They assured him that they would succeed in rescuing the "princess", for they were mighty Hidden Leaf ninja. The Skipper went from shaking his head to shaking all over, it was a wonder he didn't fall to his knees and beg to help them out in the end. There was a certain sense of uncleanness that came of manipulating the poor man in such a way. But a wise kunoichi doesn't relent, and uses all the tools she has at her disposal. Being as sweet as could be, the girls rewarded his effort with relieved smiles and compliments. How brave was their mighty captain, to risk such a quest to help four cute ninja out.

He is brave, Sakura insisted. All of them hoped he was ok.

The coastline went on and on for miles and miles in either direction circling a lush jungle. Sakura made the call early that they should stick together no matter what happened. The Skipper had to turn up, if they survived then so should he. The kunoichi broke into a run, their arms flung behind them like wings as they kicked up sand behind them. Ten Ten spotted him first, rolled up in ball and surrounded by timbers. He was hagrid and balding to begin with, dressed in little more than rags which now clung to his skin, the way his skin clung tight to his bones. Lying there un-moving, he could very well have been asleep. No breath passed from his lips, no pulse ran through his wrist. He had since grown pallid and cold as ice in the water's mocking embrace. The girls each shared a held breath, flinching away in terrible awe of the presence of death. Together they buried him further up on the beach, using a piece of splinter to mark the grave.

"S-shouldn't we say something?" Hinata said. The kunoichi circled the grave, their hands solemnly clasped in front of them. Sakura, Ino, and Ten Ten's families were not very pious. Traditional as Hinata's family was, prayer was fit in with the daily routine as a mechanical function. Practiced ritual for its own sake, because that's just what's been done for hundreds of generations. There was little comfort to be had in the grim face of death. But somehow, just posing the question seemed to give the group a sense of direction if not purpose. It wasn't much but it would have to be enough.

Sakura searched for the words to say and spoke slowly. "The Skipper was kind enough to lead us here. He didn't have to but he did. He risked his life for us, knowing..." Her voice broke as tears ran down her cheeks. Ino openly cried into her hands as Hinata hugged her sides looking down between her sandals. Even Ten Ten swallowed hard, doing everything she could to at least look like a tough as nails kunoichi rather than a little girl. "...That there was danger ahead." Despite the idyllic calm from the splash of waves, and the chime of palm leaves as wind passed through them, the girls were far from safe. The kidnappers were still out there somewhere, along with what ever other natural defenses the island had to offer. Sakura clenched her fists as she wiped the tears away. "His sacrifice won't be forgotten and won't be in vain," she vowed. "We will complete our mission. May he rest in peace."

Sakura, acting as she imagined one should, pressed her hands together and bowed her head in prayer. Hoping that whatever kami dwelled on the island, or whatever god the man revered would keep him safe. Ino continued to sob as she imitated her leader. Hinata, more practiced in ritual, fell to her knees to bow in reverence. Ten Ten offered a knowing nod but nothing more.

Not wanting to linger near the dead, the girls dashed away back to where they had landed. After all, Sakura had left her sandals behind. But when they returned to where they had landed, her sandals were gone. The kunoichi came skidding to a halt and drew their kunai in alarm. For in the place of the sandals a grisly effigy stood. A man's severed head sat atop a three pronged stick. Its eyes and mouth were sewn shut in thick leather x's. Stamped across its face was a bloody red footprint, with a slender wooden barb pierced through his nostril. The ears were also pierced in similar crude fashion, with tuffs of jade feathers dangling like earrings from its lobes. A wreath of still green leaves crowned the head. Its hair went sullied, save for the scalp which had been cut away leaving a terrible red gash. Hinata covered her mouth in horror. Ino wanted to scream but some fearful instinct held her back, less whoever left the gruesome thing hear her. Ten Ten maneuvered herself in such away to watch the kunoichi's flank. Sakura's whole body clenched up as she stared at the thing as if it a thousand miles away.

The kidnappers didn't do this, she quickly realized. The men they were tracking were gang of village layabouts. This, this sacrilege was beyond brutal. Could it be the head of one of the kidnappers? Feathers of every color fluttered in an arc from the two prongs, giving the effigy the semblance of desecrated wings. Whoever was responsible knew they were here. They were out there in jungle, waiting. As if to confirm her suspicions, heavy drums echoed in the distance, blending in with the calls of birds and the howls of various beasts. A cruel melody as natural as any other island beast.

"Talking drums," said Ten Ten as she gripped her kunai even tighter. "I read about it in a book. Primitive tribes would use them to communicate between villages, or to go to war..." Sakura broke from her shock to turn and face the jungle. Compared to the bright and sunny beach, the forest was a titanic mass of thorns and darkness. A beast in of its own right, the palm trees seemed more like fangs awaiting tear them apart like the tender morsels they were. The savage drums thundered on like some terrible heart beat. The kunoichi realized they were standing upon a precipice. Somewhere in that emerald inferno a little girl was lost and alone, at the mercy of only god knows what. Sakura, Hinata, Ten Ten, and Ino were sworn to rescue her. There was no turning back now.

                                       

Chapter Text

The tension in the air did not dissipate with the drums. The belly of the jungle was as monstrous as its maw. A circulatory system of ancient vines ensnared every boulder and tree. Hairy with white strands, they dangled from branches like the coils of green snakes. The jungle's breath smothered the ninja with acrid heat. Rather than provide shade the twisting canopies trapped the cloying moisture, shrouding the forest in a foreboding green miasma. Particles of dust spores hung in the air, glimmering like fireflies. Each of the girls felt their noses rankle and sneezed a few times. The climb was uphill with trees in every direction. Here and there they stopped for breaks and to get their bearings. To avoid getting lost they maintained a forward position, hoping they'd eventually reach the other side of the island. They kept in formation running with supernatural speed, their kunai were drawn in anticipation for battle. Whether it was along the ground or leaping from tree to tree, the kunoichi glided like birds. Let these headhunters just try and keep up with Hidden Leaf genin!

Of all the kinds of wildernesses in the world, a jungle was the epitome of the struggle of life and death. Everything was alive and interconnected to one another's life cycle. Everything was also trying to eat each other.

"Grah! Damn. These. Filthy. Bugs!" Ino swatted again and again at the horde of gnats clouding her face. Each little bastard was no larger that a dust mote, and were drawn in by Ino's perfumed hair and body. The other girls gave her a sharp look and hearty shhh! The lot of them were squatting low in the brush, but Ino sprang upright blustering. "As if anyone could hear me in this noise." The forest was alive with symphony of crickets, cicadas, and who knows what else. One unknown creature was grunting in a soft monotonous rhythm that eerily made Sakura think of an engine. Whatever it was, she just hoped it wasn't hungry. Red blue macaws gladly bobbed their heads to music only they could hear, oblivious to the greedy monkeys creeping up on them. The little devils scrambled to catch one, wrestling the screaming bird as his fellows abandoned him. Together they blugenoned their meal with little fists until it moved no more. The little monkeys gossiped among themselves, watching the invaders with suspicous and narrowed eyes. A black and blue striped frog croaked as he hopped through the leaves, only to be snatched up and spit out again by a foolish snake. A wild boar dashed by the ninja grunting like crazy. The porker could have easily have been a hunter or the hunted. Clinging to the vines was a sort of giant grub, swollen to the size of a green banana. It was suckling a pink-red but clear pulp from the vine it sat on. It was not alone either, similar such grubs slunk their way up trees, excreting a viscous ooze as they moved. The girls each cringed at the bulbous shape of the grub's heads. Sakura and the others hunched their shoulders, trying to ignore the phallic worms. Yet from time to time their eyes nonchalantly "wandered" back over. The tip of the grub's head mouthed with tiny little human like lips, which overflowed with milky white goo. Mother Nature had a perverted sense of humor it seemed.

They decided to stay low, out of sight for the moment; scanning the forest for any sign of pursuers. Sakura half anticipated their unknown enemy to spring out ground. She only hoped her team's bright outfits didn't give away their position. The brush surrounding them could only do so much. A finger brushed against the back of her neck causing her jerk forward, arching her back in alarm. Every hair on her head and neck must have stood on its end. Quickly she spun around, holding up her kunai to face whatever terror was there. It was only a curling little green vine. A totally innocent piece of foliage, nothing more. Ten Ten and Hinata gave her a sheepish look. Irritated, Sakura poked at the stupid thing with her finger before sighing. So silly, getting all jumpy over a stupid plant. Nevertheless she shifted further away from it, suspicious of the way it curled up on itself. With all the growling, hooting, barking and chirping the trees may well have been snickering to one another in some grotesque language.

They can whisper all they like, so long as the big cats don't come out to play, Sakura thought grimly. She snatched Ino by the back of her tunic pulled her back down into the brush. Sighing she waved her comrades to come in closer in a circle.

"The island is bigger than we thought," she started, unsure where to go with it. Indeed, they had been sprinting through the forest for what felt like hours. In that time they found more evidence of the headhunters' presence, yet no sign of either them or their target. Here and there were lone markers: carved poles embellished with feathers and red leather bands. Their sides were sharpened with fanged, serrated edges. Some were wrapped with black and red beaded necklaces. All of the markers were capped with a jawless skull, stamped with a bloody footprint on its forehead. The kunoichi had taken to kicking the fiendish things over where ever they had found them. The last thing they needed was anything else staring at them.

"That much is obvious!" Ino scoffed as she crossed her arms. "We've been wandering around forever! We should have just waited at the beach for rescue."

Hinata stirred, opening her mouth as if to say something supportive but no words came out and she retreated back into herself.

"We should at least build a base camp," Ten Ten said.

"We should try to get a lay of the land first," Sakura replied. "Besides, we're being followed." She substituted followed for 'tracked', to disarm the notion that they were being hunted.

Ten Ten shook her head. "Fine, we should gain some distance and then build a base camp. As rocky as this jungle is there's bound to be a cave somewhere."

"Ugh, don't remind me," Sakura shifted around so she sat on her legs. She grimaced as she massaged her aching feet. Running around in the woods with no shoes on was taking its toll. Luckily, if you could call it luck, even the occasional boulder was immersed in grassy moss, fungus and who knows what else. The filth was soft enough to stand on, but still absolutely revolting to touch. Her soft once dainty soles had been blackened by dirt, and sticky from sap residue. By channeling chakra to her feet as one does when walking up trees or water, helped to keep a buffer between her and the sharper rocks. It prevented deeper cuts, lessening them to scuffs and bruises, but it still hurt!

I hope they choke on them, she thought. Inside her mind she was shaking her fist at the heavens for allowing this travesty to happen. Who steals a shoe? I want names! There will be hell to pay if I get a blister! GRAH!

Sticking to the shadows they crouched along. Slinking forward on their tip toes until they reached a large pond. A crude watch tower stood at the foot of the water. A tripod of bamboo spikes with a long rope dangling from a flat wooden platform. More skulls, animal or otherwise hung from said platform, clinking like some perverse wind chime. No guards sat atop the platform, much to the girls' relief. The towering form was frightful to behold none the less. It stood out from the trees as a spiteful alien monument. An ominous reminder that they were not alone on the island. The water itself was still, a slick black mirror unbroken save for bits of water lilies. Ino was so thirsty her tongue was hanging out. Her face lit up at the prospect of water, any water would do! She moved down to the water's edge to take a small drink, but Ten Ten grabbed her by the arm to stop her.

"Are you crazy?" Ten Ten glared incredulously at Ino for almost making an amateur mistake.

"Would you lay..." Ino started when a crocodile's massive jaws lurched out of the water. With a shriek she was dragged back before the beast could snap its jaw down on her head. The prehistoric lizard hissed at the intruders, before lazily slipping back into the water like a piece of driftwood. No one dared move out of primal fear. Ino gasped for air, still clinging a hold of Ten Ten for dear life. The team slowly made its way backwards, Hinata behind Ten Ten, Ten Ten pulling Ino along. Sakura somehow found herself standing as a buffer between her team and the black pond. All eyes watched for the crocodile's inevitable return. It was several minutes before Ino regained her composure just enough to stand on her own two feet. Still, her teeth were bared and her eyes wide with fear. The crocodile remained still in the water, its only movement was the twitching of its eyes as it glowered at the kunoichi. They did not take their eyes off it until they were far enough away that they couldn't even see the pond or its watch tower.

"You're welcome by the way," Ten Ten folded her arms behind her head as she walked away.

"We'll get water somewhere else," Sakura said as she tried to pat Ino on the shoulder. But her rival jerked away at her touch. Ino stormed off after Ten Ten, to get as far away from the pond and Sakura as possible.

Does she blame me for all of this? she couldn't help but wonder. Ino was so close by and yet was somehow farther away than ever. It seemed like nothing could bridge the gap growing between them. How could she expect to become a great ninja if she can't even manage a working relationship with her old friend? The forlorn daze on Sakura's face drew Hinata over to her side. She didn't say anything at first, standing there awkwardly sucking on one of her knuckles. But then she reached out and took Sakura by the hand.

"You can do it," she said with a voice like the coo of a dove. At first Sakura was dumbfounded, and then she shook her head and smirked. Here she was trying to play it cool and Hinata Hyuga of all people was trying to encourage her. Look at her playing the part of the big sister. She returned the favor with a gentle squeeze.

"Thank you, Hinata," said Sakura. Having done something to help, the shy girl beamed.


 

They came upon a massive tree, so great that even if the girls joined hands and stretched out their arms they would only cover about a quarter way around it. But it was not its size that stood out to them. This giant of a tree had had its bark peeled down to the smooth flat core. Etched upon that core and all around it were hundreds if not thousands of little red footprints, pressed with what the girls hoped was merely paint. Above the foot prints other crude figures stood out in black. Curvaceous and feminine bodies armed with bows or spears. Each girlish figure seemed to have a skirt of grass jutting out from their full hips. Near all of them had their little blobs of red for feet. The figures were not idle either. The pictographs showed them chasing horned deer and wild pigs. Others were dancing while some figures sat cross legged, playing drums or flutes. What looked like little hunch backed dogs ran around at their masters' feet. A distinctive red-pink, yellow, and white sun symbol spiraled in rhombus shape above the figures. Its magenta colored rays shot out in eight directions like arrow heads. To its left a gloomy moon peered down like byakugan eye. At its center was a black dot, cradled over a red three pronged half circle. The little women danced and hunted atop the image of a monster snake, which served as a barrier between the footprints and the pictograph proper. The serpent was so long it coiled around the entire tree. But where the sun and moon shined, the great snake's head sat below, eating its tail and bringing the three symbols together in a savage trinity. Skinny vines had grown over the mural since. Every few inches they bloomed with tiny lavender flowers. Nestling upon said flowers were an flock of iridescent butterflies, whose wings were as purple as a twilit sky. The serene majesty of it all left the kunoichi wide eyed with awe.

"Pretty..." said Hinata as she clasped her hands on her breast with wonder. One of the butterflies fluttered its way around her to land on Hinata's little nose. She giggled with childish delight as it bristled its head against her skin before rejoining its kin. "Like fairy kisses," she mused.

"Have you ever seen anything like it?" Ten Ten posed the question to no one in particular. Ino murmured no as she shook her head in awe. Sakura let herself smile at this near-natural wonder if only for a moment.

Drip. The bittersweet cloy of rot singed their senses, spoiling the mood. Drip. Drip. Drip. There came a buzzing from above, its scraping sound was lost on them in their moment of awe, indistinct of any of the other jungle noises. Now it had the girls attention putting them light on their toes.

Drip. Something wet landed on Ino's cheek, to which she paid no mind wiping away with the back of her cheek. Another few drops fell, plopping into Sakura's palm. One look at the blood was enough to stop her heart. Ino screamed first, long and wailing when she discovered what hung from the branches. Each of them could be forgiven their horror. The emerald canopy contained a grisly trophy rack. Jelly eyed heads gasping for air. Bluish black hands and feet, all cracked and crusty with blood. Who could say what had become of the rest of the abdomens? The canopy could only camouflage so much. Mangled pieces dangled one after the other on single strands of rope. Several strands were lashed to many branches. Many limbs were chewed clean to the bone, blackened more with age and muck than twitching flies. Somewhere in the brush behind them leaves rustled, and an animal was bellowing a wolfish howl. A howl that shuttered like wicked snickering.

Sakura's shoulders were trembling, but said nothing. They ran. They ran and ran and did not stop for sometime.

A shape was squatting like a monkey in the shadows of a neighboring tree. From its position and leafy decoration, it may as well have been just another piece of tree. But this shape could breathe. It squinted at the invaders with slanted green eyes. Pushing its black bangs aside from its bowl cut hair, it licked its lips as it clambered through the intertwined branches above. Its hidden sisters soon followed.

The jagged terrain continued to fight the girls at every step. The downhill slope ended at a wall of dirt, spidery roots and rock. Determined to keep going forward, they vaulted up using the roots and vines as stepping stones. With the power of their ninjustu sticking to the surface was child's play. The wall was not terribly tall, but a fall from that height could have been fatal. Ten Ten had the bright idea to cut a coil of vine down from one of the trees. It was surprising pliant and springy yet tough enough that they each had to hack at it with their kunai. Using that as a rope, they tied a band around each other's waist. Ino made a snarky remark that now if one of them fell they'd all fall.

"What'd you come on this mission for if all you're going to do is complain?!" Sakura's patience was wearing thin. "And you wanted to be team captain, I don't hear you giving any suggestions."

"Oh I dunno, BOSS. I just had to see for myself how far behind you are as a ninja."

"What did you just say?!" Sakura ground her teeth, digging her heels into the ground lest she spring forward and smack that pig across the head. Ino always knew what buttons to push to make Sakura lose her temper.

"We've been following YOUR lead since we've left the village, and its just been one massive fuck up after another. You'd think with massive forehead of yours there'd be some brains in there. You certainly like to act like your hot to trot. Well I got news for you, you're not!" The figurative kunai was being turned in the back. Ha. Ha. Sakura's forehead was everyone's favorite joke. How dare she?! That's the price she paid for trusting Ino with her secrets as a child. 'Words just words. Words can't hurt you.' Such empty platitudes were lost in a seething blaze of rage. The battle rage, it came so easily to Sakura. It was like putting on a pair of gloves. A single spark was all it took for her fists to curl up. She couldn't think, she could only react. Her legs charged forward with a mind of their own, her fist cocked back, ready to launch square into Ino-Pig's stupid jaw.

"Shut up, just shut up!" Sakura meant it a warning. But Ino just kept on pushing at her.

"Make me!" she said as she lunged forward ready to bash her rival's head in.

They only had a split second to react. Hinata and Ten Ten dove in between their two teammates, grappling with them to keep them apart. The terror of the crocodile and the faceless headhunters, were as nothing to the raw hatred that had possesed their comrades.

"That's enough out of the both of you!" Ten Ten held back a snarling Ino. "Geeze I thought you two were friends."

Some vital part of Sakura reminded her that Hinata was an innocent. It took all of that little bit's strength to keep Sakura from striking her by mistake. Perhaps it was the pitiful way the shy Hyuga pleaded. "P-please don't fight any more. Please? I can't stand to watch this..." Sakura roared incoherently through Hinata, as if issuing a challenge to Ino from beyond a gulch.

"We were NEVER friends," Ino said with a venomous glare. "Don't you forget that Sakura. Yeah, I took pity on you. I protected you when everyone was picking on you. I TRUSTED you when no one else would. And look where it got me!" Ino broke away from Ten Ten's grip, turning away from her teammates and sniffling. Acting like she didn't care who saw her cry. "I don't wanna die. I don't want to die here Sakura. Not on this godforsaken rock. T-t-torn apart, or hungry. Never to see my home or family ever again. But most of all... I don't want to die because of you. You... Why couldn't you stop him?! Why couldn't you stop Sasuke?!" And there was the root of it. There at the epicenter, the black hole that ruptured the life they once shared. Sasuke. The reason they starting fighting each other in the first place. Sasuke, the beautiful boy who never once took an interest in either of them. Sasuke. The brooding boy who turned his back on the village, to follow the single most evil shinobi who ever lived. Not even the power of love could sway him, or bring him back. Time and again they had wounded each other over him, and in the end it was all for nothing.

Some much needed silence held the kunoichi for a time, save for the digestive grumblings of the jungle. Ino's sobs subsided and with it all the mad feelings faded away. Sakura looked to see the horror in Hinata's face. What am I doing? I'm acting like some kind of wild animal. The shame of it made Sakura crumple to her knees. Ino mumbled to the others that she was fine now. That she was just frustrated by how hopeless their situation had become.

"It can't be helped now," Ino said bringing an end to her latest fight with Sakura. "I swear, this island is gonna drive us all crazy."


 

Beyond the wall they journeyed across a level section of woods. The long trek had finally begun to wind the girls. They came to a stop upon a massive cliff side overlooking yet more forest below. They had not even reached the middle of the island yet.

Not so far in the distance a lone mountain jutted up from the earth like a fist. Cloud white smoke chugged its way out from the top, marking it as an active volcano and renewing the girls' anxieties. Storm clouds had been gathering before the setting sun, which now set alight the sky with ephemeral gold. The muggy air was hotter than ever. All four of them sat on the ground, their energy nearly spent. Their clothes were soaked with sweat and they were panting for air. Their faces were totally red from the humidity as they tried to fan themselves. Hinata had it the worst of all having brought her jacket with its mink trim. For most of the way she had tied it around her waist and now pulled it off and let it crumple off to the side.

"How are you doing Hinata-chan?" Sakura carefully watched the shy girl's tense reaction. She was always so quiet, but she wasn't by any means dumb. Still, Sakura felt obligated to dote on her. Just what went on inside that pretty head of hers?

"Ah! I'm fine! Really. I just wish that I, had a better outfit." Hinata's simple black t-shirt and capri pants were not only drab, but in this heat had to be unbearable.

"Don't you have anything to wear for warmer weather?" Sakura did her best to try and sound as motherly as possible, lest Hinata clam up from anxiety. "Not to be judgmental or anything! Really. But we are in a jungle and all. Don't you have like some short skirts, or spaghetti straps at home?"

Hinata chewed on her lower lip as she pinched at the hems of her shirt. She hadn't raised her head once while Sakura was talking at her. "I'm...I'm not allowed to have such things. Father feels they are inappropriate. The warmest clothes I do have are yukata, which aren't suited for most missions." Sakura was taken aback. The Hyugas were an extremely traditional bunch, always wearing kimonos and such. But to not even be allowed something as simple as a skirt? Poor Hinata, she wasn't even allowed to express herself like a girl. "Father says being a ninja always comes first. That's why I have to always wear something practical." Part of Sakura wanted to snap and argue with her, but stopped herself. She'd already lost her temper once today, and once was too many. With Hinata's timid temperament she would probably just nodded along with whatever she could say, or worse shut down altogether. It must have been tough to be heir to such an important clan. Sakura couldn't even imagine holding herself back over the whims of her own dad. She realized how lucky she really was. How much freer she was in the way she spent her time. Hinata looked and acted as if she was always locked up in cage.

Sakura was aghast at seeing Hinata curl in on herself even on something as simple as clothes. There was something familiar about the way she hung her head, it was almost like when Ino first befriended her. It was just like looking at her old self again. Before she found her footing. Sakura glanced over at Ino's frowning face and back to Hinata's misery. Despite their rivalry, if Ino had never reached out to Sakura, could she have ended up just like Hina was now? Ever impulsive she soon found herself scooching up closer to her shy teammate. With a soft, "Hey," and a caressing hand she helped Hinata lift her chin. Her eyes were off putting at first glance, but once you got use to them they had a unique beauty to them. Just like Hinata.

"I'll tell you what. Once we get back home, let's go shopping together. I'll help you find something nicer to wear."

Hinata was awestruck at such random kindness. "Eh? B-but! R-really? You really mean it?" The pleading way she asked wrenched Sakura's heart in a knot.

"Uh huh!" she pulled her hand away now, to give Hinata room to breathe.

"But what about..."

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Your papa doesn't need to know everything you do. You're a girl, you're allowed to have a life outside what he wants silly," Sakura compounded her statement by mussing up Hinata's hair. The shy girl didn't seem too flustered over it. "It'll be our secret." The mere mention of the concept of 'our', blew away all of Hinata's anxieties in a single excited gasp.

"Hey, don't make plans without me," Ten Ten was laying on her side and fanning herself with a palm leaf. "I know few cool spots we can hang out, away from prying eyes." She was looking right into Hinata's eyes as she said this. "I'd like to get to know you better. Both of you," she quickly added.

"That's a great idea!" Sakura's mind was popping with the possibilities. Eating ice cream together. Picking out fashionable outfits. Teasing cute guys just to brush them off again... "Doesn't that sound like it could be fun Hinata?"

"Mmm!" she politely nodded in agreement.

"I'll bet there's a fun girl buried deep inside of you that's just dying to bust out and go crazy," said Sakura.

"I'm not so s-sure about all that..." Hinata twiddled her fingers around, as if to ponder the idea.

"Cool. It's a date then," Ten Ten winked at Hinata in an unusual way. One that made Sakura's eyebrow rise up as if to say 'just what are your intentions here young man?' Ten Ten replied with a cool as a cucumber grin. Hinata stared at both her team mates in sheer bewilderment.

Ino said nothing. The rift between her and Sakura was as deep and black as ever. She sat apart from the others while tugging at the collar of her tunic to keep cool; No doubt still lost in the shock of almost being eaten alive. Meanwhile Ten Ten was pulling her shirt over her head, revealing a skin tight sports bra underneath. There was no real shame in it as they were all girls. Nevertheless, Hinata flinched a little at the sudden sight of another girl's near naked skin. "We really should have built a base camp first," Ten Ten said while wiping the sweat from her brow. Night was coming, and all the unseen terrors of the wilderness were coming with it. "What are we going to do about water or food?"

Ugh, not you too. Sakura puffed her cheeks but didn't answer right away. First she underestimated the island and now day was starting to give way. Next she blew up at Ino and nearly hit both her and Hinata over it. Now here she sat with her legs spread open in the dirt with her clothes soaked in perspiration. Probably should have worn her summer suit instead of her usual tunic. The way it showed off her belly button was meant to be more flirty than functional, but it might have helped to keep her cooler. Yet another oversight added to the growing list. Grah! She curled up her fist and smashed the ground. How could she had been so stupid? This mission was supposed to be a test to prove that her team was capable of acting on its own! That they had grown in skill and didn't need any supervision. Finding their target should have been as easy as rushing across the island. Yeah right. The bastards were probably hiding the girl in a cave somewhere. Now what are we gonna do? The doubts just piled on one after another. What if the kidnappers left the island before they caught up with them? Just because their intel suggested they made their base here didn't mean they were going to wait around forever. Then there was that stupid volcano smoking up like a bomb just waiting to go off. Finally there was the hungry wildlife, and the even hungrier headhunters. The thought of them chilled her blood more than anything. The skipper spoke of demon nymphs, and that strange mural only added to the mystery. Then there were the drums. Those vengeful, unrelenting drums echoed now and again as lethal reminders. No matter how far the kunoichi ran, it felt like they were getting closer. Just who were these people chasing them? Sakura scoffed, as if the severed heads weren't clear as crystal. A hellish thought suggested the absolute worst case scenario. What if the headhunters got the girl? What if we're caught? A traitorous thought she quickly squashed down along side a entrepreneurial mosquito that landed on her arm.

"We'll start with a cave. That'll give us a good defensible position and let us start a fire." Fire would keep animals away, but wouldn't necessarily ward off the headhunters (nor the kidnappers for that matter). If anything it would give away their position. "As for water..." They each had a small filtration unit in their packs, packs that were at the bottom of the ocean. If only they had a pot or a kettle then they could just boil the water. "We'll just have to make do until help arrives," the group groaned together. Drinking any untreated water meant risking infection from unknown diseases and parasites. If one of them were to fall ill...

Ino kept her arms crossed while looking anywhere but at Sakura. Hinata hung her head, too worn out to even fidget. Ten Ten let herself fall to the ground and lay in a bed of dead leaves. "What a disaster," she grumbled.

"Hey, I..." Sakura searched for something to say that might be comforting when a light went on in her head. She rummaged through her pockets until she retrieved a single photograph. Curious, her teammates scooched closer. There was the image of a cheerful little girl wearing a soft pink yukata, with a small white kitten cradled in her arms. Hikari Kamiya was daughter of some obscure noble from the Land of Honey. Her short hair and big bright eyes were the color of chestnuts, whose calm demeanor was said to warm even the chilliest disposition. The poor girl was abducted for a pittance of a ransom. Worst still, they very men her father had hired to guard her were now her kidnappers. Fools that believed they could make a lot more money by stealing her away. "She must be so scared," was all Sakura could muster.

"We...we can't let her down!" Hinata stammered out. Having a girl as shy as her show some determination seemed to set a light back into Ten Ten and Ino's eyes. It wasn't much but Sakura would take any scrap of hope they could get. It was a tangible goal for the moment. At this point they could assume nothing about their target. She had to be out there somewhere, and they weren't going to give up till they found her. When Sakura reached forward to grasp Hinata's hand, she didn't even realize she was doing it. The shy girl flinched, unsure at first how to react. She looked up to see Sakura smiling and gave her a smile in return. Their fingers intermingled and both girls squeezed gently, sharing in each other's warm touch and strength. Ten Ten added her hand into the mix, scooting right next to Hinata so that their thighs were touching. Ino gave them all a odd look, a little embarrassed by this sudden burst of team spirit. Still she couldn't help but shrug her shoulders and lay her hand on top of everyone else's. Together they were strong. Bound by their hands and their hearts. For a moment they forgot their troubles and laughed at themselves.

Something inhuman joined in on their laughter, bringing the kunoichi to attention. Pawing up from the foliage came a pack of mutant looking dogs. Short snouts beguiled snapping jaws. The things hunched over on black claws, rank with mottled fur, smeared over with zig zagging red warpaint. The biggest among them had a red skull painted over its face. All bore woven collars around their necks, embellished with red feathers and fangs.

"Hyenas?!" said Ten Ten. "What the hell are hyenas doing on an island?" The furry devils cackled at her question as they lunged forward. Sakura was the closest, her bare arms looked juicy and sweet as the beast clamped its teeth down on her bones. There was terrible crack and the hound whimpered, heaving the taste of splinters from its jaws. In a puff of smoke Sakura had switched places with a scrap of wood.

Thank you Kakashi-sensei. With their attackers confused, the kunoichi began their counter attack. Sakura spun around with a spinning heel kick, cutting through a hyena's meaty frame with a solid thunk. Coming around she followed it up with a solid punch that landed in the ribs, toppling the beast over.

Ino caught the gaze of one of the hyenas, with a flick of her fingers the beast's mind was captured, cutting their attacker's numbers down from six to five. Ten Ten and Hinata skidded into place covering her flanks. Two hyenas came at them each, while a third was circling around. Ten Ten hissed as she cut at the air with duel kunai. She cursed having lost her weapons scroll along with everything else.

"Heh, I'm always up for a challenge!" As fast as she was the hyena was on par. She drove back its first big bite with a slash across the nose. The beast drew back, changing tactics to a chain of quick nips in every direction. Forced onto defense, Ten Ten found it harder and harder to keep up, as the hyena bobbed it head up and down, in and out, aiming for her forearm only to just barely miss her shin. In close quarters the feral hyenas had the distinct advantage. Just one clean bite and it would be all over. Hinata did not fare much worse than Ten Ten, close quarters being her specialty. Her movements were fluid, leaving the beast unsure from what angle to attack. She matched the hound's snaps beat for beat, stepping in and around it in an almost rhythmic dance. Striking her target not with blades but with well placed finger tips. Barely feeling any real damage, the hyena continued to lash out at the girl mindlessly undeterred. Its jaws oozed from hunger. The sweet fragrance of Hinata's tender legs only made it all the hungrier.

With her opponent stunned, Sakura dashed backwards catching a glimpse of the hyena coming around to take Ino from behind. She did not see the fifth hyena lunge at her until it was right on top of her. The sneaky fiend sprang from the bushes and the two tumbled to the ground like lovers. In the confusion her kunai flew from her hand and beyond her reach. Her grip and her strength was all that came between her face, and the gruesome death kiss of the hyena. Though the size of a dog, the beast felt heavy as horse. It winced as the girl beneath it landed several desperate blows with her knees, but would not relent in its attack. Its hot breath reeked with the stench of the dead as drool poured onto Sakura's face. When it could not reach her face, it took to biting at her fingers. Sakura grit through the pain, refusing to let go with her right hand. She swung her left fist into the horror's head once, twice, three times. Over and over she struck. The beast would not relent. Its jaws clamped down on her palm releasing the flow of blood and searing pain.

With a terrified scream she struck again and again, blind with rage and instinct. If she was going to die here, she'd make the damn thing regret it. But then in an instant the weight was lifted off her chest. With a snarl and a snicker the hyena went tumbling over, with another hyena nipping and biting at its throat! Sakura struggled to bring her senses together, to make sense of what was happening. Of course, Ino! The mind transfer jutsu had taken possession of one of the hyenas. Across the way the hyena that Sakura struck down had regrouped with its kin and was now trying to double team Hinata. Meanwhile Ten Ten had her hands full trying to hold off the other two. Quickly reacting she spotted the fallen kunai, snatching it as she ran forward. Lost in a frenzy against Ten Ten, the hyena did not notice Sakura upon her until her blade was stabbing it over and over. Sakura roared not caring where the blood sprayed. Perhaps shocked by the sheer brutality of the attack, the opposite hyena dashed aside from a counter strike from Ten Ten. It turned tail and fled back into the forest as fast it could, whimpering all the way.

The hyena attacking Hinata was moving slower and slower as each of its limbs went to sleep under the piercing strikes of the Gentle Fist. Seizing the opportunity, the second hyena nipped at Hinata's exposed ankle as she stepped wide in her form stance. Reacting to Hinata's cry, Ten Ten flung a kunai hitting the offending hyena square in the neck for its trouble. Hinata fell to the ground, as did her attacker, still twitching but paralyzed. Blood dribbled out from its wheezing nostrils. The other hyena, blood gushing from its wound, ran in circles hopelessly trying to paw the blade out of its neck. Sakura straddled her hyena. Up and down her killing arm moved with visceral precision, her eyes wide with malice. No matter how many times she pieced the beast's hide her fury was not satisfied. She was grinning, happy to be alive. To be the one doing the killing instead of being killed. The vile things weren't laughing now. Ten Ten was torn on who to rush to aid first, choosing to help Hinata.

"Let me see it, let me see," said Ten Ten.

"It's not bad," Hinata tried to sound reassuring. The gash around her ankle looked angry but there wasn't a flow of blood, the cut was not deep.

"Good thing you brought your jacket after all," Ten Ten said trying to force a smile. They'd need to cut it up for bandages. With Hina's arm around her shoulder, the two girls stood up. Hinata hissed from the pain as a small tear escaped her eye. Ino was still lost in a trance, the sound of the two hyenas scrapping was her entire world at present. The hyena that Sakura killed was long dead, but still she would not relent in her attacks. Kneeling over the animal she continued to bring the kunai down like a sacrificial dagger, cackling as wildly as any hyena. "Sakura? Sakura! What the hell are you doing?!" said Ten Ten. Sakura didn't seem to hear her.

One of the dueling hyenas let out a final gurgling cry, as Ino swayed over clutching her head. The battle was over, and it was the larger of the two, the skull faced one whom bit Sakura, emerged triumphant. The one Ino dominated lay dead with its throat ripped out. The furry devil sneered at its foes growling and barking. It sat on its haunches along the edge of the cliff side, it held its head up high in a parody of a noble lion. The hyena barked again and with a hiss Sakura twisted her head around to match its hate filled glare. Only now did she pull away her kunai from her bruised and minced victim. Not even a twitch was left with in it as its blood pooled all around, staining the earth. The mix of revulsion and relief Ten Ten and Hinata felt at this desperate act of barbarity was confounding. That they would feel sadness and pity for the thing that just seconds ago had tried to slaughter them. They held on to that sadness if only to remind them that they were still human. There was no pity in Sakura's eyes as she stood, with shoulders hunched she brandished her kunai in front of her. With her legs widening into a battle stance, the hyena alpha hopped up on all fours. From the way it started cackling in between its barks, one might think the mindless beast was issuing a challenge.

Sakura bellowed in response as the two charged at one another. In a flicker of gestures one Sakura became three, circling their confused quarry not unlike it and its brethren had done.

"Sakura!" said Ino. The effects of the Mind Transfer jutsu left her disoriented and she struggled to keep her footing. She could but helplessly watch as her teammate continued to struggle against the animal. The hyena lashed out at one of the Sakuras, seeking to overpower her with its massive weight again. But the girl vanished into a puff of smoke, giving the real Sakura her chance to cut a bloody swipe against the beast's side. Yet the hyena yowled more out of wounded pride than of the flesh. Pride that swelled instead in Sakura's breast. The wound was dribbling red, lost in the spiraling war marks on its fur. Surely now it would turn tail and...

In the split seconds it took for her to pull back her blade, the hyena had swung its head around to clamp its jaws right around her kunai. Left and right it tugged and pulled, trying to rip the offending thing away. Sakura dug her heels into the ground, holding on to the blade with both hands in a deadly game of tug of war. Her wounded hand blazed with a bloody fire. The blade was slipping.

"So...you're not as stupid as you look," Sakura clenched her teeth. The coy hyena chuckled at her. "But, you're still gonna lose. Now! While its distracted!" Her inner rage shrilled her voice, to which her teammates responded instantly. Hinata nodded to Ten Ten who set her down to the ground. She and Ino flanked the beast who flailed under the barrage of fists, knees, and elbows. With one last jerk the hyena pulled away with kunai clutched in its teeth, causing Sakura to fall over. An effort that was too little too late. Ten Ten's blade clawed fresh wounds, digging into the beast like a tiger. Dizzy from the loss of blood it tried to stumble away, skirting along the razor's edge of the cliff. Bits of dirt and debris tumbled miles downward into the green inferno below. A sweeping kick from Ino knocked the hyena off its legs. Gasping for air it stood again unwilling to collapse. Rising to one knee Sakura stared down their beastly aggressor. Charging forward's with an athlete's fury, she leapt into the air to deliver a final thrusting kick. She landed with both feet into beast sending it tumbling over the cliff with a long mournful howl.

Victorious at last, Sakura rolled over on her back as her two teammates squatted beside her. All of them were gasping for breath.

"You, you're completely deranged you know that?" said Ten Ten with a smirk. Sakura confirmed her suspicions with a cheeky thumbs up.

"What were you thinking?!" Ino said. "How could you be so reckless? You..." she fidgeted where she sat, glaring this way and that way. "Look I'm sorry for what I said alright? I didn't mean it. So don't go doing anything crazy like that anymore. If you died, it...It would make poor Hinata cry. Hmrph." With that Ino offered her hand to help Sakura up, which didn't come as a surprise to her. Same old Ino. With a happy 'mmm!' Sakura took both Ino and Ten Ten's hands and got up. The team now rushed over to help Hinata. Ten Ten snatched up her own shirt, wiping her forehead with like a towel before putting it back on and retrieving Hinata's jacket.

"Don't think we forgot about you ok?" said Sakura. Hinata just shook her head.

"I am just grateful that everyone is ok," she said.

A dreadful howl, far more menacing and far larger than anything they had ever heard, split the air. The earth itself trembled as it was followed by the pounding of what sounded like hooves.

"Aaargh! Now what?!" said Ino.

"Into the trees!" said Sakura. In flash the kunoichi parkoured up their trees. Hinata winced as she ran, leaning on Ten Ten for support. From the canopy above Sakura and the others took cover behind the main trunk, peeking out to watch as their new predicament unfolded. The thundering steps were followed by the grunting of heavy panting. Three behemoths crashed their way into area snapping, snarling. Cackling. What the hell? What the hell is that?! The girls all shared a lost breath as their mouths hung open in disbelief.

What appeared to be three hyenas came skidding to a halt to sniff over the area. If they were hyenas at all. These warg like giants were as large as destriers. All hulking muscle, war painted fur and claws. These abominations laughed with a crazed humor straight from the blackest pits of hell. Like their dwarfed cousins, there were bound with hemp collars, embellished with spiky teeth and feathers. The sides and their faces were painted with red and black war stripes: Sharp, serpentine zigzags, handprints and eight pointed spiral suns. But the beasts had not come alone, they had riders. Here at last were the architects of the ghastly tree mural, the watch tower and the effigies. The savages rode bareback, nearly naked save for their outlandish feathered masks and bands of bone jewelry. Their cocoa brown skin was marked with same kinds of war stripes befitted to their mounts. Each of their bare feet, up to their ankles, were doused in red. All three warriors wore no covering over their petite breasts. The kunoichi blushed at the sight of such reckless promiscuity. In a mockery of clothing, each girl wore a sort of string that ran down their left shoulder and across their youthful bodies. One could only guess them for a decorative kind of sash, for they were woven in various chevron patterns, and notched with wooden beads, each painted in unique shapes and colors.

Girls. They're all girls, Sakura hugged the tree trunk tighter. Giant beasts and demon nymphs. The skipper's mythical warnings were coming to life. That cannot be. There has to be some kind of rational explanation for this.

The leader carried a feathered stone spear, her sisters each a short bow that looked like they were carved right out of a tree branch. Her compatriots wore carved masks, each representing a different animal: An eagle, and a hyena. Yet both were painted in such a way, that the features eerily merged with that of a human's: with pouting lips, or jutting fangs and fierce battle stripes in red, magenta, and black. Both had slanted slits for eyes, giving their visage a permanent scowl. Their hair was hidden under a wig of long dried grass. Their leader's mask was strangest of all, being a helmet made from the skull of a canine beast. Hyena or jaguar, it mattered little. A mane of green and red feathers flowed from the back of the leader's head. Her red painted jaw could be seen between the under bite of the skull. It too had its jaw painted red. The girl threw her head back to squawk and shriek like some fiendish bird. What few small animals remained in the area fled.

Sakura carefully watched as the lead savage leapt from her mount, landing in a squat with the grace of cat. The warrior jutted her spear out around her at invisible enemies, before clambering over to the slain hyena on her knuckles and toes. She stared at the pulped corpse for a time before trembling all over. No one dared make a sound, even the warg-hyenas held their breath, as their leader screamed at the sky with unspeakable fury. Her screaming masked as sob, as she ran her hands across the fur of the dead. She tried desperately to rouse the corpse, shaking it as if it were asleep. She scooted around to press her face into its own. All the while her cohorts scanned the area and trees above. Their arrows notched and aimed. It was no use, the jungle girl must of realized as she sprang up in anger. She tossed the spear aside, drawing her stone knife from its holster. Growling all the way, she scampered up the nearest tree to claw and stab at the shadows above. Sniffing at the air like a blood hound does, she could find no trace of the battle that had taken place here.

The kuniochi were gone.

Chapter Text

By night they settled on a cave from which flowed a creek. The gentle trickle of the water brought some relief, replicating the familiar sounds of a garden back home. One almost expected to hear the 'doink' from a deer scarer. It was a friendly noise, if only it could off set the dreadful black of night. The moon shut its eye in a horned crescent, while the stars slept under a blanket of clouds. The kunoichi inched their way through the abyss one foot at a time. Locked hand in hand they traveled along the rock wall deeper into the cave. Sakura led the chain, her unbandaged hand held her kunai at the ready.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. A tiny fire was flickering in an orange dot. The girls could smell the sharp twang of wood as it burned. There was little chance the keeper of the flame would be friendly. For all they knew they could have been walking straight into the savages' encampment. A cave would be fitting lair for those bestial girls. Another calculated risk, Sakura thought to herself sarcastically. Another consequence of the shipwreck was losing matches or even survival flint. Rubbing two sticks together proved futile and the night wasn't going to wait for them. Right now they needed fire, perhaps not for warmth, but to keep the larger beasts away. Sakura swallowed hard at the thought that they may have to fight for the right to the fire. Even kill if necessary.

They're already trying to kill us, she reminded herself. We're fighting in self defense. She stumbled when she went to set her foot down on ground that wasn't there. The chain behind her clung to the wall with a sudden and held breath. The kunoichi grasped for the worst of possibilities. Suppose they came to a bottomless chasm and they all fell in? Tumbling down into the black only to halt in the sudden and violent end. Their bones shattered upon the rocks. Their bodies cleaved through the jagged, fang like stalactites. Sakura probed around with her left foot for anything to step on. Her heart started to settle when she tapped her toes on hard ground again. Turned out that the cave veered off in two directions. One path went uphill from which the flow of water came. The other was steeper, the drop off a mere extra step on the road to the flickering flame.

"We'll be alright," said Sakura, saying so more for herself in addition to her team. "There's a steep drop off, but there's solid ground."

Ino dug her nails into Sakura's injured hand, "There better be!" Sakura winced a little to which Ino panicked and eased up. "Ah! Sorry about that." Hinata followed behind her, as Ten Ten took up the rear.

"How are you holding up Hinata?" said Sakura. Checking on her was becoming a regular ritual, and Sakura hoped her shy teammate wasn't resentful for it. They both sustained some pretty nasty wounds, and Hinata was still limping because of hers. Unfortunately they had to resort to cutting up Hinata's jacket for bandages. She had looked like a child the way she hesitated, clutching the thing to her chest as if it were precious heirloom. Yet she did not even have to be asked, she thrust it in front of her team as an offering. Sakura remembered telling Hinata she help her pick out a new jacket, despite Hinata's embarrassed protests to the contrary.

"I'm alright," she didn't sound faint or exhausted.

Good. Stay that way. Sakura felt her own forehead as if to make sure. No fever. No infections...for now. Whew! A low growl rumbled between them, luckily it was a mostly friendly one.

"I am hungry though."

"Yeah if we could stop for some take out, that'd be great," said Ten Ten. Everyone offered a grave laugh before pressing on.

I won't die here. WE won't die here. I won't allow it!

As fierce as the camp fire burned it was little more than a candle in an ocean of darkness. A ring of stones held the flames in place as shadows danced around them on the floor. The chamber was small room. Cracks in the wall suggested pathways deeper within but they were plugged up with vines turned orange in the flash of the flames. The vine web clung to walls and the ceiling, curling around stalactites as they did with branches outside. A grey brown boulder huddled in the corner. The only life here was a gathering of erectile grubs nestled upon the vines, to which the girls gagged at.

"Be sure to sleep with your legs crossed," said Ten Ten. The team groaned at that one.

Sakura eyed the walls as best she could. She could see no sign of the islanders; no cave paintings and no effigies. Only the fire pit. The quiet convenience of the fire set her instincts on edge. They were boxed in here, could it be some kind of elaborate trap?

"We'll rest here as much as we can. At least until morning," she said. Trap or not, they needed rest. "Ten Ten will take the first watch, then Ino, then me, then Hinata."

"Why do I have to take second watch? And what are we gonna do for food?" said Ino. Hinata sat by the fire and sighed as if to say 'here we go again'.

"Eat a dick," Ten Ten suggested sitting down next to a perutbed Hinata. Her glare told Ten Ten that she didn't want to hear such language.

"We may end up having to do just that," said Sakura as she settled down crosslegged. She scrunched up her face in the direction of one of the vile little things. Its tiny pouting lips blew a kiss at her, to which Sakura gagged on her tongue.

Ino stomped her foot on the ground at that smart mouth comment. Her eyes were flashing with anger, her fists clenched as tight as they could go. She looked like she wanted to yell again but was too exhausted to do. She paced around the room coming to a stop at the boulder in the corner.

"I hate this place! Stupid island! Stupid forest! Stupid rock!" Ino delivered a swift kick against the rock, to punish the island for putting her through such hell.

The boulder screamed. In a chain reaction, so did Ino. Then Sakura, Hinata and Ten Ten. The boulder changed shape bolting up right. The girls were on it in an instant, kicking and stomping the figure before it could scamper away. In the confusion it left behind its grey brown blanket. It fumbled with a gleaming knife that slipped from his hands under the blows.

"Argh! Crap! Just kill me! Just kill me quickly! Aaah!" said a man's voice. It was no boulder at all, just a man hiding under blanket.

"Wait a minute wait a minute!" said Sakura barring her companions' way. The screaming ended as the girls circled around the older man who lay curled up on the ground. The bastard was wreck. His peasant clothes were tattered and browned with mud. The man's head was a tangled bush of black hair. His eyes peeked out from the mess like a pair of beetles.

"Shit shit shit shit..." the man muttered in a raspy voice that had been smoked to oblivion. "Kill me if ya gotta, just don't hurt me no more! Dirty stinking savages. Have pity...!" This must have been the one who set the fire. At least it wasn't a headhunter trap. The kunoichi looked at one another, trying to wordlessly decide how to best approach the situation. Towering over the man, Sakura stepped forward.

"We're not with those...savages," said Sakura. She pondered for a less offensive term for the islanders, before realizing the sheer idiocy of such a thing in their situation. Those freaks were trying to cut her and her friends' heads off after all. And they sicced their hounds on us! Fuck them!

"Heh! A bunch of little girls show up out of no where, and you're not one of them? You think I'm stupid?" His eyes were desperate and afraid. They lit up quick enough at the sight of gleaming steel reflected in the fire light. He lunged forth on his belly in direction of his knife. His hand grasped for the hilt, but Ten Ten's heel came crashing down on it. He whimpered a petty string of 'fuck yous' as she scooped it up.

Sakura was getting impatient again. She got down on one knee to knock some sense into the man's head with her fist. "Cha!"

"Alright alright. Just stop hitting me! Please."

"You must be one of the men we're looking for," Sakura said as she cracked her knuckles.

"I don't know nothing about no kidnapping," the man offered.

"I didn't say anything about a kidnapping."

The oh crap look on the man's face was one for the ages. He shook in fear at the four very angry girls glaring down at his feeble form. With a deep gulp he knew he was screwed, as Sakura's fist came crashing down on his head again.

"You little weasel! You're one of the kidnappers aren't you?!" Sakura threw caution to the wind. She didn't care if any thing (or anyone) heard her. "You're the reason we're stuck here!"

"So what if I am? What the hell does it matter any more? We're all gonna die! Oh gods I don't wanna die." Sakura's fist was pulled back ready to strike again like a piston. Someone was suddenly holding her arm back. She turned to look and saw Hinata there.

"Wait, please stop. That's enough," she said. Sakura flinched trying to punch at the bastard regardless, but Hinata was hanging on to her arm. The girl was stronger than she looked. "Please Sakura. He can't hurt us anymore." Those bewitching eyes of hers were pleading. Sakura looked at the bastard who was sobbing for mercy. She grumbled, and took a deep breath to calm down. Hinata let go looking relieved.

"This is all fucked up..." The kidnapper sat across from the girls behind the fire. With everything calmed down, they were revealed that they were genin from Hidden Leaf; hired to track down and bring Hikari back to home. The man called himself Runi, who's entire life was a series of one horrible decision after another. Out of fear of getting hit again, he relayed his sob story and what led him here. "It was all Lee's fault," he started. He pulled out small lumpy bag, rolling it over in his fingers. "See I had a bar tab to pay. Two tabs really. Ok four, just four! And the races, and the dice hall..."

"So you turned to kidnapping," Sakura, Ino, Ten Ten, and even Hinata glared at him with disbelieving cringe.

"Hey it's not like it was my first career choice! Yeah I owe some money big deal! So does everybody. I messed up real bad, I know it. You don't have to rub it in!"

"I'm about to rub your face against the wall," said Ino through grit teeth.

"Anyway, it was me, Lee, and some other guys we ran with around town. We weren't a gang or nothing, we just liked to get together and drink. Lee thought he was sooo great since he got a job guarding that bra...girl. He's the one you want. Or would have if... Anyway, one night at the docks this stranger met us. Little guy, really deep voice. I don't know how to explain it. It just sounded wrong. Wore a big brown cloak. He had his hood up so we couldn't even see his face. Wasn't wearing any shoes though. I remember that much. Lee did the talking. This guy, super creepy but he had bags like these. Pulls out a nugget, it was pure gold. Gold I tell yah. All we had to do was bring the girl to the island and we'd get gold."

"That's horrible!" Hinata said suddenly. "How could you do such a thing?"

The kidnapper winced, choosing his next words carefully. "I...I went through my bag, and it was gold. Big chunks of it. I swear to you it was really gold! Enough to pay back all those bastards. Or maybe just start over somewheres else. But when we got to the island..." He tossed the pouch across the way and Sakura caught it. She opened it to pour out the contents but there was no gold, just clods of dirt. "It all turned into dirt. Just like everything else in my life."

Sakura held up one of the pieces and it crumbled to dust in her finger tips. "Spare us your sob story," she warned. "What happened to Hikari?"

"We didn't hurt her none! I swears! That asshole Lee, girl really liked Lee for some reason. I dunno. Reminded her of her dead brother or somethin, I dunno. That's how we was able to lure her out to the docks. We we're 'lucky' we didn't get caught. Damn metsuke always giving us shit. Singling us out. Anyway, the girl wouldn't leave without her stupid cat so we had to bring it with us. And the damn thing wouldn't stop making noise. Anyways the island..." Runi stopped in cold reverence. "Nobody believed the stories. I thought it was bunch of bullshit to scare kids from going out at night. We even used to joke about it, 'yeah an island full of naked girls? Sign me up for that!' hee hee."

Sakura threw the pouch right into Runi's stupid face, hitting him square in the eye for his trouble. "We landed on the beach, and that cloaked fella was waiting for us. So were the Redfeet. They were hiding in the sand, sprung right out of the ground they did. That creepy bastard started laughing. She...she was one of them the whole time. Just one big disaster after another."

Sakura frowned, she could almost relate. Almost. It was bad enough to be stranded on a jungle island full of giant beasts and ravenous headhunters. But for such stupid reasons, to boot. If Hinata wasn't there she'd probably have clobbered this Runi by now. "What happened then? What happened to the girl?"

"Whadda think? Those bitches dragged her off when the killing started. Little devils probably cooked up her dinner by now." It was hard to tell what was more shocking. Hikari's potential fate or the callous way Runi described it. Hinata buried her face in her hands while Ten Ten hit the ground with her fist. Ino gasped in horror, as Sakura was taken aback.

"How the hell did you survive?"

"I ran. I ran until I couldn't run no more. They shot arrows and threw spears at me. I caught one in the arm but it wasn't bad." He rubbed his arm where he wrapped the wound up with a rag. "I heard screams that would've chilled your blood. Then there were the drums. Oh god the drums. They'd go on for hours, just to remind you that they were there. Everywhere. No matter which way I went it was like they were getting closer and closer all the time. I ran and and ran till I found this cave. Been living off the worms ever since. They may not look good but they're very juicy. I tried cooking them but they get too rubbery. Still, they're better than nothing. Haven't got sick yet."

To demonstrate his point, he stood upright to pluck the little suckers from the wall. Unfortunately for the girls, they got a full view of a happy tent perched in Runi's pants. The way it twitched and pulsated made the kunoichi gag and groan in disgust.

"Heh heh, sorry bout that. It's probably the worms. I ain't never been this hard up before. It's been like this since I started eating them." Runi bundled as many of the things under his arm as if they were mere bananas.

"Congratulations," Ten Ten said with an incredulous sneer.

"Just sit down you pervert!" said Sakura. Runi ground his teeth with a pout before trying to "adjust" his manhood to a less compromising postion. Hinata shielded her eyes with an arm while the others hurled expletives.

"Oy! Keep it down would ya? You want the Redfeet to hear yah?" Now that he comfortable he sat back on the ground and bit into the "head" of the worm with a sickening crunch. Ino and Sakura alike went green in the face. They might have hurled if they had anything at all in their stomachs.

"Just who are the Redfeet?" said Sakura hoping to distract herself with conversation.

"You don't know either eh?" Runi said inbetween munches. "Beats me."

"You're from around here and don't you know anything?"

"Eh? I've only been on the island for like a week!"

Sakura hit her face with her palm. "That's not what I meant..."

"As far as I knew, the nymphs of the island were a myth. All things considered you probably don't wanna hear about it. Its not a very happy story."

"Try us," said Ten Ten. "Why call them Redfeet?"

"What else would they be? Bunch of little assholes is what they are. But any where they've been they like to leave little red foot prints on everything." Crunch. "Marking their turf I guess, hell knows why." Runi sucked the guts out of the worm in a tremendous slurp. "I knows they paint their feet all red. Like they stomped some poor fool's guts out or something. They're weird. What's even weirder is they all so young. Some of em as young as you. Almost thought you were them." Sakura frowned as she leaned back against rock wall. Still stumbling around in the dark it seems.

"There was one thing," said Runi wiping his mouth with his sleeve. "I mean, people disappear all the time right? Kids run away and stuff..."

"Or get kidnapped," Ino gave Runi a foul look.

"...You figure people make stuff up to explain when shit goes wrong. It's said the demons; the nymphs. Would come from the island. Some said they flew on broomsticks like witches. Others say they'd paddle out in canoes. Some even said they saw em swoop down from the sky. Turned theyselves into big black birds with nets. Snatch up anyone wandering after dark."

A laugh escaped from Ten Ten. "Was that before or after the flying saucers?" Runi just stared at her confused. "How many of them are there?" she asked more seriously.

"They're everywhere," was all Runi could think to say. The kunoichi found themselves huddling up a little closer together.

Runi rocked back and forth now, entirely spent. He muttered they should probably eat something before passing out against the wall. The girls shared a sigh of relief. Hopeless as he was, they felt safer now that Runi was asleep.

"What should we do?" Ino started. "Those...animals got her."

"Things didn't turn out as expected, for any of us," said Ten Ten. "I say we focus on staying alive until help arrives."

"You mean give up and go home," said Sakura. Assuming that was even an option.

"We barely managed to hold our own against their hounds. What happens when the rest of them show up on those big monsters? This wasn't supposed to be a death or glory mission Sakura. They wouldn't have sent us otherwise."

Death or glory, now there was a concept Sakura had never dreamed of emulating. That apocalyptic notion of Bushido. It always seemed so far away, something that wasn't going to happen for a long long time. With her training it was easy to forget how fragile she had once been, and still was. Being a ninja didn't make her invincible. It made her a target.

"Let's just sleep on it," Sakura's eyes were heavy from carrying the burden of the world. No one questioned that at least. The plan to keep watch slipped away however, as the girls huddled side by side and fell into sleep.


 

Rubbing the dust from her eyes Sakura awoke to near blackness. All but a few orange embers survived from the fire. Far off in the distance was the glimmer of daylight. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom she felt something heavy resting on her thighs. Something with long blonde hair and fountain of drool hanging off her lip. At the very least Ino wasn't too proud to sleep near her. Sakura eyed Runi, his dark shape still huddled across from them. How much of a hindrance he'd be remained to be seen. Hinata was clinging to Ten Ten, snug with her arms around her waist, and her head pressed deep into Ten Ten's chest. From the way Ten Ten's head was tilted away, she was probably unaware that Hina had glomped her. Sakura let out a quiet chuckle at the silliness of it all. The shy Hyuga resembled a little girl holding onto her big sister. In that way, Hinata reminded her of Naruto for some reason.

I wonder how he's doing, Sakura never thought she'd live to see the day she'd miss that little dork. Ahh, but he wasn't as useless as he appeared was he? He could be such a child, yet he had a funny way of surprising you his talents. Just like Hinata did. A ridiculous thought occurred to her that almost made her burst out laughing. Maybe Naruto should ask Hinata out instead of dogging her all the time. Ha! Fat chance of that ever working out. She could just picture it, poor Hinata, would probably die of embarrassment. The sheer shame of getting approached by goof like that! Add to that Naruto would have to contend with the disapproval of the entire Hyuga clan. She could almost see him running for his life, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, scores of angry Hyugas in hot pursuit; Neji and Hinata's father at the head of the pack with steely faces and knives drawn! Run knucklehead! Run! Silly old Naruto, he really would have to become Hokage to even think of having a chance with a girl at Hinata's level.

"Who knows?" she said to herself wistfully. After everything they'd had been through together, sometimes even she believed he could do it. Everyone should have the chance to chase their dreams and be happy after all. Shouldn't they?

The night had passed without incident, but their stone bed did them no favors. The girls shambled up slowly, stretching out their arms and yawning like cats. Every muscle was sore, when Sakura turned to stretch she felt a stab of pain in her back. Blasted island was eating them alive. All at once the girls' bellies rumbled followed by a collective grunt.

"Hey," Ten Ten gave Hinata a gentle poke in the forehead. "Good morning." It took a full ten seconds for Hinata's senses to realign before she recognized the akward situation she was in. With a yelp and roll she was beside herself sputtering.

"S-s-sorry! So sorry!" Hinata bobbed her head up and down in an exaggerated kowtow. Her eyes were spinning with anxious embarrassment. "It's just that...when I sleep I have a tendency to cling to...things."

Ten Ten held up her hands to making a soothing gesture. "Easy easy now. Don't over do it," she winced from a little back pain. "I'm just glad it was mutual."

Ino shrieked bringing everyone to attention. "Get it off! Get it off get it off get it off!" Sakura took hold of Ino's shoulders trying to keep her under control. All the while Ino's shirt was wriggling. She whimpered as the erect grub popped its head out from her collar. The tiny lips on its tip mouthed the air, yearning for a kiss. Ino and Sakura both shared a fed up scream that shook the whole cave.

Several crushed grubs and a less than desirable breakfast later, Sakura gathered the group to perform morning exercises. Runi hunched over moodily in the corner. "You're not thinking of going out there are you? With those things out there?" His eyes skittered across their young bodies as the girls stretched out their limbs in various poses. They were all too aware of the hunger in his eyes, and shunned him by looking anywhere but in his direction. They needed to be limber for the day ahead.

"Yes we are," said Sakura. "And you're leading the way."

"What?! Me? What did I do?"

"You've done enough! Besides I'm not leaving this island empty handed. You're sticking around till help arrives got it? After that we're turning you over to the authorities." She jabbed an accusing finger at Runi which he tried to brush off with a wave. "Unless you'd rather deal with the headhunters." That knocked all the color out the man's face. He stood up to shuffle in place anxiously, muttering to himself about his lot in life and his lack of smokes.

Sakura sat down, spreading her legs wide open as Hinata did the same. She put out her hands inviting Hina to come stretch with her. The shy girl murmured passively and nodded, taking her place on the other side while Sakura pressed the soles of her feet into Hinata's ankles. They gently pulled each other back and forth, taking turns bending over and back. No words were necessary, just a soft smile and little giggles. It felt good to work together, sharing in each other's time and company. Hinata's arms were as soft and smooth as a baby's. Not single patch of hair. Sakura compared her own grubby arms, feeling like a gorilla. The warmth from her hands mixed with Hinata's own. She could almost feel the bond between them spreading outward across their bodies. Could Hinata feel it too? Their linked arms were a bridge, as was the link between Sakura's feet and Hina's legs. The energy being shared between them was weaving together, and with it, Sakura had the sudden desire to see Hinata's bare feet. Her heart skipped a beat, excited at the speculation of looking them. Would they be as small and clean as the rest of Hinata seemed to be? Another alien thought pondered what it would be like to touch them. To hold them. To play with her little toes and tickle her until she wet herself. Sakura tried to catch Hinata's attention by looking her in the eyes as they went back and forth. But Hinata's eyes always shyly darted away. Physical intimacy was not enough to bridge the distance Hinata had between herself and the rest of the world. Sakura wanted to, no, needed to bridge that gap.

As she was pulling Hinata back up, Sakura cheekily let her hands slip into Hinata's, holding on now by the fingers. This wasn't planned on, yet Sakura suddenly wanted to see how Hinata would react. It wasn't Sakura's touch that made Hina jump, but Ten Ten coming around behind to push on the small of Hinata's back. For reasons she couldn't find, that disappointed Sakura.

"Ah it's alright," said Ten Ten to Hinata. "Come on, push a little further. I'll help. Streeetch..." Hinata grunted with cheerful encouragement, sucking air in to push herself farther.

"You can do it," Sakura found herself saying. "Almost there..." She squeezed Hina's fingers a little tighter, feeling little goose prickles run up her arms when Hinata squeezed back. With a sigh of contentment she wished they could just stay like this. It was almost like holding hands with...

Sasuke? Sakura's dreamy thoughts froze in place, something was amiss here. A light went on in her head, as if she had forgotten something, and the dream shattered. She became self-conscious of the mysterious surge of affections that had come over her. The longing she was feeling for another girl.

Take it easy. I'm just looking out for her. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. As if she needed to be convinced other wise. Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of thing! But... Sakura eyed Ten Ten who caught her gaze. She retorted with that signature smug and knowing smile that Sakura resented. That's not me, Sakura insisted to herself. Hinata said she liked the Hokage anyway. The two girls sat up and Sakura looked straight into Hinata's eyes. The shy girl regarded her with a look of confusion. The image of Naruto's idiot face under hat and cowl of the Kage popped into Sakura's head again, and she laughed out loud. The weird looks she got aside, it seemed to dispel her delinquent fervor for Hinata.


 

Stepping out of the cool damp of the cave was like stepping into an oven. It was back into the belly of the beast, and everyone was on the alert. Especially Runi, who twitched at every invisible insect croak. Somewhere in the canopy a bird was caw cawing to its sisters. A striped creature, that looked like a cross between a deer and goat, trotted into the area. Its horns spiraled upwards as it bent to drink from the cave's stream. It froze at the sight of the troop before fleeing for its life. The kunoichi scanned the trees for anything remotely human or out of the ordinary. No effigies had magically appeared in the night. Nor could they hear the cackle of hyenas, great or small. The sun lit the sky in an ordinary blue, but still hung in a morning lull.

Sakura stood ahead of the group with her hands on her hips, the rest waited. "Our first priority will be to gather more wood for the fire." A nearby bird cawed to its mate, who cawed back in response. Sakura turned to face the group. "If we could figure out a way to leave a marking. Something Hidden Leaf ninja would recognize but the headhunters wouldn't, then we..."

Doom doom doom doom... The kunoichi froze not unlike the doe from before. The dark drum beat began slowly from the right, keeping soft rhythm. It was joined by another drum from the left brush. Then another and another. With each drum the tempo increased, announcing the doom closing in on them on all sides. The cawing from before became piercing whoops, like the howling of pups. The snickering whines of hyenas followed soon after. Yet there remained not a single sign of the Redfeet, nor their pet hounds.

The drums stopped. All was still. Ten Ten and Ino had to grab a hold of Runi's shoulders to keep him from bolting back into the cave. Hinata slid in closer behind Sakura's flank. The shy girl had already drawn her kunai, and regarded Sakura with that notorious stone cold look of the Hyuga clan. Sakura nodded in response, steeling herself with her own kunai. The two girls slid into battle stances awaiting an onslaught. The canopy above swayed in the breeze but nothing more came of it.

"Lemmie go!" said Runi. "They found us. Damn ninja. You little brats led them right here! You led them righ..." The twang of a bow string hummed somewhere above, and from that the sharp thwip of bone studded arrow. The arrow gutted Runi right through the throat who gurgled hopelessly as his knees buckled.

"Cover!" cried Sakura as she and Ten Ten rolled out of the way. Four more arrows struck into Runi, putting an end to him. It was not birds cowering in the tree tops, but wild Redfeet cloaked in leaves and feathers. Elfin barbarians hissed and shrieked in fearsome mockery of predatory birds, loosing more arrows into the air. With their feathered tips they may well have unleashed a flock of hungry hatchlings. The arrows were swift but the kunoichi were swifter. By channeling their chakra the ninja's speed and reaction time was enhanced. Together they zigzagged away from the projectiles. The Redfeet tried to keep up their aim. When they couldn't they shot in random directions trying to pinpoint where the ninja might dodge next. Faster and faster their prey began to move until only their silhouettes could be seen, dodging the arrows in a frenzied dance. The Redfeet had hidden their faces behind carved round masks. They each shared the same elongated and ghoulish look, with razor filled mouths and narrowed slits for eyes. Painted with swirls and stripes of black and red, these girls were ready for war. Perched atop the branches their attacks became more desperate.

A preening Redfoot, whose mask had its lips and cheeks puffed out as if blow gusts of wind, set her sights upon Sakura. With careful aim she raised her bow. Waiting...waiting for the moment her prey would stall, an instant was all she needed. She drew back her string as Sakura stood diffidently in the field below. The savage grinned to herself as set let loose a stone tipped arrow, which thudded square into Sakura's left shoulder!

"Una! Moooona!" was the Redfoots' collective cheer. But the image of Sakura broke into a puff of smoke. An illusion! With a thundering roar Sakura was charging her way up the trunk of the tree. The jungle girl fumbled with her tasseled quiver to produce another arrow, but Sakura's fist came down with the force of a hammer. Her mask was little protection, the jungle girl was stunned by the blow. Sakura followed up with an uppercut, launching the screaming savage out of the tree and into her doom below. The villain collapsed on the ground with a bone crunching thud.

"Yes!" Sakura pumped her fist in the air with pride. Runi's death would not go un-answered! The barbarians hissed at their comrade's fall, turning all their bows onto Sakura. With a glib look and a yelp of "Oh crap!" Sakura dashed away again as the Redfoot arrows pincusioned the tree trunk. "Time to get out of here!"

"Una moona moona moona!" The Redfeet cried out, scrambling through the canopy in hot pursuit. They clambered over branches on all fours, leaping from canopy to canopy with a practiced ease. The kunoichi rushed along the ground with what they thought gave them the clear advantage. The jungle girls swang from vines, gleefully cackling at the thrill of the hunt. Sakura's team fell into formation, as slippery rocks and brambles began to bar their way. Tall grass hid the path ahead, buying the Redfeet more and more distance. The forest was their home, their ally, its natural features obstructed the kunoichi's way, but cut a clear path for the wild Redfeet.

Hinata tripped on root, fell on her palms, got up and kept going. Sakura looked back once to ensure she wasn't lost. Though Hinata kept up with the others, yet more Redfeet were swarming up the path behind them like army ants. Brandishing their spears, hooting, trilling, and banging away on their little funnel drums.

"Where do we go now?" said Ino.

"Anywhere but here," said Sakura. Plans were useless now, where could they go? They couldn't just keep running forever. Hither came the thundering footfalls of a warg-hyena, its jaws slavering. It was a ghostly albino of its breed, with beady, blood glass eyes. Its white paws were stained with blood; its coat matched its rider with zigzagging war stripes. This Redfoot bore a headdress made from a jaguar pelt, her head was enclosed in its jaws. She wore no mask, but her face was hidden in shadow. Atop her head was plum of long streaming jade feathers, the rest of her pelt flowed like a small cape behind her. In one hand she brandished a notched bone club which she swung around her head as she whooped into the fray.

The Jaguar was closing in from the right, so the kunoichi veered off to the left. They skidded to a halt in front of a pair of snapping warg riders. It was two of the three riders that hunted them yesterday! Sakura turned on her heel to lead her team in the other direction. Gasping for air, there was no time for focus. All she could think was run. Run they did down a narrow and bramble laden path when the first dart struck. They did not hear the dart, but Hinata's cry of pain as she fell again. The three warg riders became four, stomping up from behind, joined by the skull capped jungle girl from yesterday. Ten Ten wheeled about to help Hinata back to her feet. Poking out of her thigh was needle barb, tipped with tuffs of fur like cotton.

"I can't...I can't feel my leg," Hinata clung onto Ten Ten's shoulder who shushed her. Another dart whizzed through the air, but Ten Ten saw it first, moving back as it flew pass the tip of her nose.

"They're in the trees!" said Ino. So they were. Smaller Redfeet in fact. Skinny little jungle brats taking pot shots at the ninja with blowguns. They squat or sat with their feet dangling down from branches, giggling at their victims as if this were all some game. More darts flew but none made their mark...yet.

"This way!" Sakura pointed, the others followed in whatever random direction she was leading. Can't let them box us in. If we're caught we're finished. A dart pierced Sakura's shoulder, sending an electrified prickle through her spine. There was no shadow clone to protect her this time. In truth, with all the running around and lack of proper food all the ninja were running out of energy. Her shoulder grew cold and heavy as a prickling sensation spread across her back and arm. Hinata was groaning all the way now, with each step agitating her previous injury. Yet still she would not give up trying to move forward.

The riders broke formation, coming in on both sides. The white warg and The Jaguar snapped at the ninjas' backs. The Redfeet swung bolas over their heads, making ready to bring this chase to an end. The skull capped rider's bola flew at Ino's legs, wrapping uselessly around a tree. Seething with hate and frustration she screeched, taking up her spear again, ready to pierce. The Jaguar's bola connected with Ten Ten, bringing her down and Hinata with her. Sakura and Ino had no choice but to turn and face their pursuers. The Jaguar took up her club again, raising it in triumph. The four wargs ran in circles around the kunoichi before slowing to a trot, snarling and hissing in their direction, laughing like devils. Drums were tapping their way closer, and with them the rest of the swarm.

Cornered. Sakura raised her kunai despite the pain in her off hand and shoulder. Ino made ready a mystical hand gesture. Ten Ten tore at the bindings around her calves with her fingernails, while Hinata held herself up on one arm, brandishing a kunai in the other hand. The huntress with the hyena skull cap didn't even wait for the order. Eager to avenge her slain pets, she leapt from her mount. Tumbling to the ground she sprung into a charge swinging her spear with reckless abandon. Sakura smirked at this. This one was all fury. She ran out to meet Skull Bitch catching her stick in her palms.

The Jaguar held up a fist and the incoming Redfeet stood down to watch. From the canopy jungle girls big and small chattered like monkeys. Even the drums halted at the Jaguar's command. Sakura matched Skull Bitch's angry shrieking with a bellow of her own. The two girls struggled over control of the spear, pulling this way and that to pull it out of the other's hands. The tribal peanut gallery began to grunt in a rhythmic chant, stamping their feet or the butt of their weapons against the ground or the trees. Were they trying to cheer on their warrior? Or merely for the sake of battle itself?

With so many eyes on them, Ino looked lost as she searched for a target for her mind transfer spell. At least twenty Redfeet had gathered, maybe more if one included the little ones. Those who were not masked all shared the same haircut: smooth black hair cropped to frame their fierce painted faces. Their dark slanted eyes followed the battle, sunken as if dazed or drunk. Something about the absolute uniformity of the tribe's matching gestures unnerved her. Perhaps it was a trick of the sun, but their eyes seemed to glow with fiery light.

When Hinata moved to try and cut Ten Ten's bindings, The Jaguar shouted an order. The islanders eyes lit up and several darts rained down upon the two girls. Their eyes grew heavy as they struggled to stay awake. A futile gesture as they fell to the ground unmoving.

"No!" Ino cried out in terror, before baring her teeth in the direction of the Jaguar, whom sat smugly atop her hyena-warg mount. It appeared that she was the leader of this little warband. Ino worked her fingers as fast as she could to catch her in the Mind Transfer, but The Jaguar's fingers were quicker. Slamming her fist into her palm, she made her own style of seals. Serpentine vines sprang from the dirt, catching Ino by the wrists and pulling them apart. "No! Nooo..." More vines sprouted from under her feet, wrapping up her calves, then her thighs. They whipped their way around her waist, then her breast. The damn things may have been thin as string, but were stronger than steel, aglow with the faintest magenta aura on the edges of perception. The Jaguar cut the air horizontally with her fist, and the bindings closed in on Ino, slamming her flat against the ground. "Sakuraaa..." was the last word she managed as a dart landed right in Ino's neck, sweeping her off into unconciousness.

The Skull Bitch would not give up her damn stick, but a few swift kicks to the shins made her wobble. Sakura swung her blade at her opponent's gut, but the nimble Redfoot retreated, tepidly holding her spear point in Sakura's direction. The two girls danced around in a circle. Sakura was still smiling, she could see the fearful tears welling up in the enemy's eyes.

"All fury. No skill..." she managed to pant out. Even winded and out numbered she felt like she could take on the world. Skull Bitch's stance was sloppy before, and grew worse from pain in her shins. Her eyes darted about for reenforcements but her fellows just sneered. She glared at Sakura with all the venom that she could muster. Even if the jungle girl didn't understand her words, she knew well Sakura's meaning.

"K-k-k..." said Skull Bitch, mouthing out a familar word. "KILL!" She tossed her spear aside and drew a stone dagger, mimicking Sakura's trained battle stance, while snapping her jaws. The warriors' grunt chant intensified as a drum beat was added to the rhythm. Faster and faster it beat like a taiko drum from a period picture. Sakura couldn't help but imagine herself as a noble samurai about to cut down a filthy ronin turned bandit. For a still moment they watched each other. Then the two girls charged, hard black steel clashed with sharpened stone. Each combatant swung their knife so quick it was hard to tell who was attacking and who was defending. Their weapons crackled as they struck one another. Skull Bitch swiped at Sakura with her free hand as if her nails were claws. Indeed, in the split seconds between swipes Sakura saw they were as sharp as Kiba's. The kunoichi bobbed and weaved out of the way of each swipe before returning a solid shot in the gut. With the wind knocked out of her, Skull Bitch toppled over, and the crowd cooed in awe. This was her only chance to gain the advantage. Sakura let go of her kunai to reach for Skull Bitch's helm of bone, if she could follow up with a few shots to the head she could finish her.

But Sakura's palms only slammed into Skull Bitch's. With shoulders squared they pushed at one another like wrestlers. The cold numb of the dart had crept up to Sakura's elbow, that whole section of arm may well have been air. If the enemy caught her breath she could quickly overpower Sakura. The ninja slammed her knee inbetween her opponent's legs, not quite as effective when done against a male, but still worth it. The bitch dug her claws into Sakura's hair, still maintaining her footing. Sakura risked a sweep of the leg, causing them both tumble down. Skull Bitch raised her knife on high bringing the point down at Sakura's face. The savage clambered on top of the ninja, bearing down on her with her full weight. Sakura couldn't worm away. The knife plunged into dirt, missing where Sakura's head had been just a hair of a second ago. When the Skull Bitch raised the knife again Sakura caught her by the wrist. With her free fist she struck the side of the enemy's skull helm, over and over. She could feel her cut hand grow wet again. The Skull Bitch hissed as her other hand went for Sakura's throat.

"Enough!" said The Jaguar, and all noise stopped, save for the struggling girls. In the strangest occurrence Sakura had even seen, the Skull Bitch's eyes began to glow pink-red. Her whole body twitched as if she was trying to jerk her knife down again but her body wouldn't obey. Some unseen force was coming over her. She roared and pouted, trying to break free until her voice faded away. She groaned with a slack jaw and drooled. Her eyes were dulled by a hellish magenta light. She didn't, or couldn't attack Sakura anymore. The savage arose puppet like, compelled to just stand there at attention. Instinct told Sakura to scurry as far away from Skull Bitch as she could, as if her zombified condition was contagious. The savage's eyes still tracked Sakura's movements, just as the rest of the tribe's did.

With a wave of the Jaguar's hand, the Skull Bitch retreated to her hyena mount. The evil glow receded from her eyes and she grunted as she crossed her arms. Some Redfeet laughed at her. Sakura sat stupified for a moment or two, turning her head to see the Jaguar standing atop her mount. With a leap she landed cat like into a crouch. With panic Sakura scrambled to get her kunai back. The same vines that ensnared Ino, burst from the ground, seizing her by the ankles and wrists. Two more vines wrapped around her neck and waist, and yanked her flat against the ground. Sakura uselessly tried to flail and pull up the vines, but for what ones she managed to break, four more would sprout and take her place. It was futile, she lay sprawled out on her back in a x. Before long the Jaguar was circling her, twirling Sakura's own kunai on her finger.

I'm gonna die... Sakura felt her throat clench up. I'm going to die here. The Jaguar was wolf lean with a kingly grace in her near womanhood. A narrow thong loincloth dangled between her legs, with a belt fringed with tiny animal skulls and a pair of shrunken heads the size of lemons. A fierce looking bone dagger hung off of her hip. Like the other Redfeet, she wore a string beaded sash across her left breast. But across her right breast was a far grander sash, fashioned from the unmistakable golden fur of a tiger. The baldric was wreathed with leafy vines, an affirmation of the Jaguar's communion with nature. The sash attached to a leather shoulder pad, spiked with what could only bones from a tiger, and edged with tuffs of white fur.

The Jaguar's headdress loomed over Sakura like a reaper's hood. Two glowing pink-red eyes were all that she could see of the Jaguar's face. The kunai was clenched tight in her fist, and slowly being pulled upwards. The Jaguar held the point out in preperation for stabbing. Sakura swallowed hard, preparing for her imminent death. With a flick of the wrist, the kunai was flung, and landed square in the ground just above Sakura's head. The ninja let out a scream regardless, to which the tribe snickered at.

"I thought you were a warrior," The Jaguar's voice was forlorn but soft and musical. She pulled away her hood revealing a beautiful girl beneath. A red bar was painted across her harsh green eyes, locked between a black line and a row of black dots. A single black dot marked her forehead, cradled by a red half circle rising up underneith. Three sharp points jutted out from the curve, to the left, the right, the final pointing down. A thin stick pierced through her nostrils, adding to the ferocity of her appearance. Framing her unblemished cheeks were black claws curling inward, while a red bar ran down her lower lip, and all the way to her chin. The bangs on her left cheek were slightly longer than the ones on her right, and braided together by two woven bands forming an x. The smugness in her smile made Sakura want to kick her. "At least you seem to be a girl."

Sakura continued to strain against her bindings, as the Jaguar stood over her. The Redfeet were creeping in closer, shimming down from the trees and strutting across the jungle floor. The Jaguar lifted her foot to plant it square onto Sakura's face. The ninja girl cried out in revulsion, struggling to turn her face aside. But the Warchief would not let her escape. She dabbed her captive's forehead with her toes, forcing her to get a full wiff of the sweaty smell. Sakura could only whimper her despair. All around her were rows of painted legs and girl feet. Each of them no doubt itching to do the same to her. Seemingly satisfied the Jaguar lifted her femur club overhead in triumph.

"Una! Moona," she declared with authoritative ceremony.

"Uuuna! Mooona!" The Redfeet chirped. Out of the rows of feet a familiar pair of blue sandals stood out. The feet that wore them bounded up to genuflect by her Warchief's side.

"Line up the captives side by side," said the Warchief. "Leaping Feather, you may have first claim, which ever one you desire most. This victory belongs to clan Jaguar." A statement that drew a hiss from Skull Bitch's direction, and a haughty giggle from all others. The Jaguar's minion was a dainty thing, close to size and shape as Sakura was. She wore a head band with a white-black feather jutting straight up from the back of her hair.

"Thank you sempai! Eek! Imeanwarchief!" The feathered minion bowed up and down with over eager reverence. Sakura turned up her nose at such blatant brown nosing, as best she could manage with a foot squished in her face anyhow.

The warchief pressed deeper into Sakura's cheeks, pushing her head into the dirt before pulling her foot back. The kunoichi glared up at her with a vengeance. The Jaguar retorted with a bemused expression, completely ignoring her clingy minion. She sat down atop Sakura's waist, to run her hands across Sakura's belly, and then her breasts.

"S-s-stop!" Sakura said feeling ever so much more smaller. The tribe hooted and howled with wolfish mirth. The Jaguar gave her captive's budding breasts a little squeeze, delighted in the way it made her wince. On her right wrist, the Warchief bore many woven hemp bracelets. Be they bands of friendship or if they served some darker purpose was unknowable. But it was her left hand that caused Sakura to tremble all the more. The Jaguar wore a single bracer, a fingerless glove of jaguar fur. The bracer was reinforced with chutes of bone, that ended in the very fangs of a jaguar mounted to the Jaguar's fist. The bitch caressed her way up Sakura's arms, taking hold of her hands. She brought her head low, her necklace of fang rattling, and rested her face onto Sakura's hyperventilating chest.

"A good heartbeat," said the Warchief.

"Let go of me you pervert!" The islanders were all closing in around Sakura. Each of them laughing at her weakness and babbling, probed the full length of her body with their bare feet. Her exposed skin recoiled with each set of little toes that fondled her. "N-no! Nooo..." The Redfeet maneuvered in turns, so that each of them got the chance to squish Sakura's face. The Warchief nestled her face unto Sakura's chest, purring as she did.

Ten Ten and Ino were laid out on Sakura's right, Hinata on her left. How lucky were they to be unconscious through out this nightmare. Like their leader, warriors pressed a foot on their faces and shouted "Una Moona!", claiming the defeated as their own. Leaping Feather slipped off one of Sakura's sandals to "conquer" Hinata. Sakura felt a new surge of defiance boil up inside her, as the savage teased the sleeping Hyuga's lips with her filthy toes.

"Leave her alone you bitch!" This time the Redfeet all cackled maniacally. Mad, they were all raving mad! To spite their captive they turned their attentions over to the sleeping Hyuga. They tugged at the ninja girls clothes and hair, taking turns pushing their feet into the Hyuga girl's solemn face. Having done that, they went to trample the other two kunoichi before returning to torment Sakura. Her desperate screams only added to the savage's fervor.

The Jaguar arose slowly arching her back like a cat. She slid down to sit atop of Sakura's thighs, lifting up her captive's tunic as she did. Lecherous fingers pushed through the hem of Sakura's shorts, and under her panties. The final and furthest of violations made the ninja's blood run cold. All the strength of her outrage fled from her, as Sakura wished she could just crawl into a ball. The Jaguar dipped her finger within, exhaling with mischievous ecstasy. Sakura's eyes went wide as she clenched her teeth in sensual agony. She could feel the savage's finger tip rummaging inside her. It ran up and down her clitoris, making Sakura twitch her hips and her nipples stiffen. Overwhelmed by unwanted stimulation, Sakura felt herself edging to bliss as her loins loosened and grew wet. That's when Jaguar recalled her hand in an abrupt motion, ending the torture. She sat up to lick the sticky sweet residue left behind. By now Sakura's expression was one of supplication. The Jaguar had no mercy for her, and ran her dirty finger down the tip of Sakura's nose, stopping at her lips in a coy shushing gesture. Such "examinations" of all the kunoichi were repeated, until the Redfeet's barbaric curiosity was satisfied. Sakura gagged for air as the Redfeet retreated into a circle, ready for whatever crime came next.

"They are all girls, just as Needle Teeth predicted," said Leaping Feather who squat on her toes beside her leader.

"I some what expected more from warriors," said Jaguar Fist still straddling Sakura. "But then they have not yet been Purified." She reached out to stroke Sakura's cheek with the back of her right hand, to which Sakura lashed out biting her captor's palm. But she missed by a hair's length. "Almost..." the Warchief teased. Her bladed fist now grasped the handle of her club, bringing it high over her head. Sakura waited in wide eyed terror for the inevitable moment."Welcome home...little sister," and with that Jaguar Fist stuck Sakura in the head. Everything went black with single crack.

Chapter Text

Sakura faded in and out of consciousness, her body felt limp but heavy. Her ankles and wrists were forced to carry her full weight, as she hung from a pole. Quartets of tall amazons carried the pole on their shoulders; each had a kunoichi bound like deer freshly killed from the hunt. They were still alive...but why? Sakura's vision was fuzzy and her ears were still ringing from when the Warchief struck her in the face.

Damn it, damn it all to hell! A few tears wormed their way free. All of Sakura's efforts proved to be useless in the end. All across her body bruises ached, and the side of her head throbbed. Useless. She wasn't able to do anything, again. Now everyone would have to pay for her weakness. Ino at least must have come around by then as she could hear her wailing. With any luck Ten Ten and Hinata were only knocked out. Sakura shook her head to clear her vision. The Redfeet had gathered in a troop, marching single file through the forest. The great white warg-hyena led the way, as the Jaguar sat crosslegged atop it, with her arms folded and her club resting in her lap. The other wargs flanked either side of line, ensuring nothing could break their ranks.

As the procession marched the drummers tap tap tapped a victorious melody. Leaping Feather, led the polyphonic choir. Jaguar Fist kept her stoicism, looking forward and watching for predators. Skull Bitch had her arms crossed, too busy grinding her teeth and feeling sorry for herself. Though the jungle girls' song was gibberish to the ninja, their feelings of triumph and the collective joy of conquest was unmistakable. Their little voices spoke as one, giving praise to themselves and perhaps their deeds. The song was strangely calming and reverent. A savage's prayer, seeking blessings from the trees and the creatures therein. A cherubic harmony to praise the earth beneath their naked feet. Sakura did not know or care to understand them. As they sang on, some howled like wolves in tune with the witchy beat, while others squawked like birds. This was their world, a dark Eden where beasts reigned in divine anarchy. No foolish trespassers would be suffered lightly, indeed it seemed like such intrusions were welcomed. The Redfeet lived for the thrill of the hunt. The song ended with a jubilant cheer, followed by laughter and loose chatter, before The Jaguar grunted out an order, snapping the savages back into formation.

"Aye!" The girls exclaimed at once. The Jaguar grumbled a bit, embarrassed by her "warriors" happy go lucky attitude. She peeked over her shoulder at Sakura, catching her with a somber look. The ninja paused, staring back at the Warchief's curious frown. It matched Sakura's own as the two girls eyes lingered on one another. What did this wild huntress have to be worried about? Perhaps in this glum exchange a sort of understanding was trying to be communicated, about the sheer absurdity the two girls were both part of. But why bother reaching out to Sakura in such a manner at all? The ninja girl narrowed her brows to reinforce just how she felt about the Warchief and her sniveling pack hounds. The Jaguar turned away and didn't look back again.

The war party reached a vast open field, the last stretch before they reached the mountain ahead. Lines of white smoke trailed up from a hunk of forest along the foot of the mountain. Soon the kunoichi would arrive at the Redfoot village, and be delivered to their untold doom. Sakura spied a pair of gaping tiki faces. Both were towering monuments carved down from trees, with round hips and generous bosoms both. Like sentinels the idols squatted parallel from another, their thick legs brazenly spread open. A long loincloth was carved into each image, which somehow only served to accentuate their feminine allure. An allure that was off put by each of their elongated scowls. The idols barred their massive tusks in perpetual hostility. Each of their foreheads were stamped with a bloody footprint. An inquisitive thought occurred to Sakura, if the Redfeet were the masters of the island, for what purpose did they construct these tokens? Some kind of barbaric art? She eyed the necklaces of skulls and rainbow of feathers that decorated each idol's neck. Alien terror swept through her, as they were not skulls of human origin surely, but were avian. The skulls of giant birds? No, something about their shape was eerily familiar. Like the familial connection one finds when comparing a chimpanzee's skeleton to a human's. A stark reminder of just how close to animals people really were, yet these were just...wrong. The skeletal features were impossible, there was no common relation to man and bird, not to this extent.

A shadow flew by over head and a deadly silence came over the jungle girls. Arrows were notched and aimed upwards, as the shadow split into two. Sakura scrambled her brains trying to find a rational explanation for what she was seeing. It was just a pair of hawks circling overhead. Right? If only it were so. The twin figures were humanoid in shape. Any relation to humanity quickly ended there. The shadows drew closer to which the Redfeet fired off warning shots. These new beasts had the strapping muscle of young men, but the heads of eagles. Crow black feathers covered their bodies, from their massive heads down to the misshapen talons they had for feet. With their great wings and a spear in their fists, they were a gruesome parody of avenging angels. The Redfeet were not alone on the island it seemed.

Closer and closer the feathered fiends swooped in, silently taunting their amazon rivals with their presence. Like the Redfeet, the only garb the things saw fit to wear were a simple thong. A Redfoot arrow struck the shoulder of one of the birdmen who bellowed back with unholy hatred, before scampering back into the further reaches of the sky. His comrade soon followed. Sakura was left wide eyed, shocked to the core at the eldritch sights and sounds. Every hair on her body stood on ends and a few surely turned white. The unknown, the hostile gruesomely hungry unknown. With those horrid talons Sakura could easily see a score of those things tearing her and the warrior Redfeet to pieces.

"Scouts," someone muttered plaintively.

"Cowards," another snorted.

"Quicken pace," The Warchief ordered. The Redfeet broke into a trot, uncaring at the discomfort it caused their captives as they bounced around in their bindings. Sakura grit her teeth and bore through it, her thoughts full of worry for her comrades. Anxious though these fears were, they were far more comforting than the surreal abominations now terrorizing the sky. She was trapped in some horrible waking nightmare, and could only hope it would all be over soon.


 

The village sat atop a plateau, ringed by a crude palisade wall. To cement their natural place as part of the forest, the mysterious green vines clung to the walls like fingers. Ringed around that was a forest of stakes, effigies to match the ones they found through out the jungle. Most of the heads had been picked clean of their flesh, leaving behind grinning skulls that were either carved or painted with tribal designs. Others had a pickled look to them and did not suffer the wrath of flies. These ones eyes and mouths were sewn shut. The blackened head of pig stuck out from the crowd as it was alive with legions of little winged terrors. Sakura decided that the swarm's insufferable buzzing was not so far removed from her captors' babbling. A pair of watch towers stood over the log wall, their archers shifted restlessly from where they sat. One of them blew upon a conch horn, whose mournful cry caused the ramshackle gate to lift. With its jagged bottom, Sakura was again reminded of a great beast opening wide its jaws to swallow her whole. Masked warriors patrolled the parapets armed with javelins, atlatls and bows in case those dreadful birdmen were to attack. The war party was greeted by a naturalist tide of cocoa skinned nymphs, all mewling like school girls.

We never stood a chance, Sakura realized, growing ever more abashed at the sight of so much naked flesh. These daughters of the wild were all black bobs and smug painted faces. Dainty feet dipped in red up to their ankles, carried on skinny legs and smooth bellies. All of them exposed their budding breasts and tiny nipples with alien pride. Their only dress was the odd anklet, necklace, woven belt, bracelet, armlet, or headdress brightly afeathered and fanged. Every girl wore a narrow loincloth; a flap across the butt and the crotch, strung up at their luscious hips like string bikinis. With such maidenly bodies the scant garments complemented their exotic glamour. There had to be hundreds of them at the very least! The tall and the small savages regarded the captives with gleeful oddity. Hundreds of little hands reached out touch their warriors as they passed, as if to receive a portion of their glory through osmosis. But for Sakura and her friends, the savages were far more ruthless. They tugged at the kunoichi's hair and clothes, laughing and raving at the captives' predicament. A few spat at the ninja. One jungle girl rushed the procession to try and pry off a screaming Ino's sandals. A guard snapped at her, raising a femur club to chase her away. The mischievous bitch dived back into the throng snickering. It was all great fun for the natives. Someone even had the audacity to pinch Sakura in the butt. Another tried to pull her shorts down while another pair grabbed at the hem her panties. Her plaintive scream was mocked by hyena laughter as a little hand reached out to muffle Sakura. The jungle girl squealed in delight at the new found power she had over another, if only for a brief moment. The warriors had their hands full trying to keep their own tribe at bay. When pushing wasn't enough, the warriors toppled girls over on their behinds. That didn't stop them, they just got right back up and started grabbing again. Worse still, savages in the back rows would actually trample over their fallen sisters for a chance to get a head of the pack. Those unlucky fallen's painful screams lost in the cacophony of girlish rampage. Finally the warriors turned their weapons on the crowd, battering them back with clubs and threatening with their spears. One girl was smacked clean across the face, once, twice by two seperate clubs. She fell to the ground with a cry, blood dribbling from her joker's grin and nose. The giggling mass kept a wider berth after that. It was wonder there was any kind of order in this madhouse at all.

Please let Hinata and the others sleep through this, Sakura prayed as hard as she could. If it was listened to at all, it was surely drowned out by the sudden sinister chants of the amazons. Excited by the heroic return of their warriors, the villagers murmured and clapped their hands in time with one another. Their slanted eyes were suddenly aglow with a conforming pink haze. The babble and the laughter faded away as the tribe focused into a synchronized movement.

"Una!" a girl called out.

"Moona!" The throng called back. They repeated this chant three times, clapping in time with it. This odd term of theirs resembled "banzai" in its own coarse way.

It was then Sakura realized a unique feature to the Redfeet that she hadn't before. Though most of them had (apparently) naturally brown skin with green eyes and smooth black hair, there were many others whose hair and complexion was much lighter than their native counterparts. Here and there was the occasional pale skinned girl, barely painted at all with short brown hair. There was blonde girl with a deep dark tan, heavily painted and adorned in the usual tribal garments. She sported blue eyes...when they weren't glowing red. Regardless all had a stick through their nose, some even had three extra poking out from the corners of their lips and above the chin. These girls were all from the same island...weren't they? The war party ignored the mechanical praise, pushing through the throngs of unclad girls and grass huts. A flock of chickens trotted past while pet hyenas slunk behind them. The village had the raunchy stink of a barn. Sweat and refuse tinged at the kunoichi's senses, causing their whole bodies to shrivel up as they gagged. The bleating of cattle was heard in the distance, though went unseen. Further evidence of them were the occasional horned skull that decorated either banner poles, or the entrances to the Redfeet's hovels.

At the center of the village was a vast hut structure, a ring of posts that upheld a long continuous thatched roof. This great hut was situated as an open air dwelling. Pottery littered the ground as the more skittish of the tribe squatted in the shadows, poking at smoldering cook fires. There were girls nibbling at scraps of meat or sharpening stone tools. Others dipped in their hands into a hallowed out log turned trough, slurping up strange soup and belching without a care. Couples of girls cuddled together in slung hammocks, looking over at the procession and whispering in each other's ears. An odd shiver ran through Sakura when one of the girls pressed the tip of her nose into her companion's cheek, before licking it. There were no men here. No elder women for that matter.

What kind of insane place is this? Nothing about the tribe's apparent structure made sense to Sakura. With so many girls running around, could they have been runaways? A crazed if sad grin spread across her face. Maybe the all the girls rose up against the other islanders and killed them all. It's not like they all just sprung up out of the ground.

A cursed island, haunted by demon nymphs, the phantom memory of the Skipper reminded her.

"Shut up!" she muttered aloud. It isn't true. It isn't possible.

Sakura spied a random jungle girl who was watching her intently, whose face was decorated with bands of black dots with long sticks protruding from both her nostrils, her lower lip and the corners of her smile. Shyly she leaned up against a support post, then curled around to 'hide' behind it, drawing circles behind her with her toes. Her dark eyes sulked with amusement as she licked her upper lip. The spectacle of warriors taking captives was nothing new to her.

Warriors wearing extravagant masks stalked the grounds like police men looking for trouble, their spears and clubs at the ready. The great shabono hut gave way to an open court within its circle. At the center of that dirt ring, was a towering monument of some kind. A circular stone fire pit; caricatures of dancing jungle warriors were carved across its length. The unmistakable scales of a stone snake, coiled around the bas-relief, along with rows of grimacing and fanged skulls. Within the pit wood was being laid out in tipi style, piled at the base of a ominous looking stone monolith. It was not much bigger than a person and was smooth and square. Coiled atop the monolith were twin stone snakes. The snakes hunched up as they faced each other in eternal conflict, their shape giving the monolith the appearance of devilish horns. Sakura was an ordinary ninja girl, blessedly ignorant of the darker secrets of the occult. Yet some primal instinct within recognized the barbaric structure for what it was. It was no ordinary fire pit for cooking meat, but a sacrificial pyre!

Before the stone pyre was a different group of girls, hunched over and pale of skin. They wore no bone jewelry from what Sakura could tell, save for matching hemp collars and fundoshi. What stuck out was that they were the only tribals she'd seen so far that had long hair. Some so long and scraggly it went down their back. Stranger still, despite their flat chests each of them wore either a narrow bandeau top or triangular bikini tops. Yet the warriors strutted about with their breasts bare. Their own loinclothes flourished with fringes, colorful feathers, and painted designs. The long haired one's biknis were simply brown cloth. Though their slender bodies were painted over with wavy and spiraling black stripes, unlike the other Redfeet, their ankles and feet were unpainted. Totally bare. These strange ones function as slaves quickly became apparent given the armed guards screaming over them. The red lashes in their backsides made Sakura squeamish. The slave girls covered their heads in anxious anticipation of being clubbed. One of their number made the mistake of standing a little too straight, and was swiftly beaten down to the ground. She quickly scrambled back up into a squat and continued working. The slaves were being forced to erect four tall posts in view of the monolith.

Is that what they intend for us? Sakura shuddered at the awful possibilities. Four posts. Four captives. Maybe they intended to torture them first. Or maybe they would force the others to watch as each of their number was tied to that demonic obelisk. A gruesome image filled her mind; of Hinata, sweet innocent Hinata, screaming in vain as roaring flames ate her body, while the Redfeet danced around the blaze. Treacherous instincts whispered that being a slave might not be so bad. At least she'd be alive, and fed occasionally. Liar. Its not true. Shut up! Some would rather die than ever live their life as a slave. Sakura would have liked to believe that she that strong. Would she be able retain such confidence when it was her head on the chopping block? Or Ino's? What about poor Hinata? With a renewed burst of strength she tried to struggle against her bindings. There had to be a way out of this mess. There had to be!

The procession passed through the circle, but did not stop. They ventured on through the village until they came to the edge of a cliff. A rope bridge crossed over a shadowy chasm, binding the village to the volcano. Carved into the side of the mountain was a square, stone stepped pyramid. It was at this point that the Warchief's albino mount trotted in a circle before coming to a halt. When she dismounted the other riders followed suit. Warriors from the village led the wargs away as the riders gathered around the Skull Bitch. It seemed she would be left behind, while the Warchief led the procession the rest of the way to the temple. Not for an instant did the Skull Bitch take her wrathful eyes off of Sakura, choosing to linger at the chasm's edge, to remind her that she was still there.

That one will be trouble. Sakura would sooner never see that asshole again, but wasn't about to hold her breath. While the riders whispered among themselves, Sakura observed they each bore similar designs of tattoos, snarling hyenas and paws. They must have been some kind of clan marking. A quick look at the other Redfeet reveled many of them shared similar markings with each other. The ones gathered about the Jaguar, sported black circles across their skin; spots of the Jaguar, their animal totem. Red chevrons streaked everywhere else. Some had a red or black hand print imprinted on their left tit. All had a red ring surrounded by eight black arrow heads jutting out from their belly buttons. All of them bore the same strange three pronged mark on their forehead like the Jaguar had. There was no time to ponder the meanings of these symbols, as Sakura and her friends were dropped on the ground. The Redfeet moved quickly to secure the captives, binding their wrists from the front so that the ninja's arms were crossed. At least their ankles were relieved, though they still felt sore from the raw leather chafing. The savages encircled the kunoichi standing over them tall and proud. The Warchief stood before the kunoichi with her hands on her hips, radiating with power and fury.

"The free ride is over," she began without a hint of sarcasm. "I am Jaguar Fist, Warchief of the great Redfoot Tribe, and leader of the noble clan Jaguar. You are now prisoners of our clan. You do what we say when we say. Got it?" The ninja could but stare either meekly or with incredulity, still dazed from being knocked out.

"In a pig's eye!" It was Ten Ten who spoke up first. Sakura quickly wished it had been herself instead. Her defiance drew a haughty laugh from their captors. Jaguar Fist's un-amused glare was set in stone. Leaping Feather, ever eager to please her sempai, shook her finger to scold the captive ninja. She made Sakura think of a bookish tattletale.

"S-such disrespect will not be tolerated!" said she. Sakura and Ten Ten's combined glare was all it took for the little troll to flee to the safety of the Warchief's backside. "A-apologize to your Warchief!" Leaping Feather clung to Jaguar Fist's shoulder, whom for the most part tried to ignore her presence.

"Go to Hell!" said Sakura. The barbarians turned their sniggering towards their own now, Leaping Feather shrank back to hide the reddening of her face.

"So, you have some fire left in you after all," Jaguar Fist began. "Nevertheless, you are beaten, subject only to the law of the club." She let her hand drift to where her femur club hung from her waist. The bone tip hooked into a moon shaped ball, carved intricately so. Studs of teeth lined the inner notch, while arcane leaves and vines were etched into the club's body. But since the etchings were painted over in red, the spiraling designs looked more akin to fresh cut wounds. The thing's hilt was tasseled with a wad of red and black feathers. Sakura could only pray that hilt's leather bindings and straps were not of human origin. "You will be presented to the Princess of the Sun. She will decide your fate." Who ever she was did not sound inviting in the slightest.

Sakura swept her eyes over her compatriots. Poor Ino was petrified, eyes wide and mad with fear. Hinata had retreated into herself with downcast eyes, looking miserable and utterly defeated. Only Ten Ten, and Sakura herself, had spirit enough to glare up at their captors. Yet when instinct needled at her to shout back at the Warchief, her jaw firmly held shut. She was not eager to receive another bludgeon from that awful club, nor risk any of her friends on her behalf for that matter. The Redfeet hoisted the kunoichi onto their feet. To motivate them forward, the savages threatened them with the tips of their feathered spears. A knowing nod was passed between Sakura and Ten Ten, an unspoken agreement that now was not the time to fight. All of them were exhausted, starved and thirsty. The humid jungle air pressed down on them sapping them of whatever strength they had. There was little other choice than to let this bizarre drama play out. At the very least they'd be out of the sun's glare.

The war party went across the ramshackle and creaking bridge, and up to the stove hot steps of the dilapidated temple. Sakura yelped from the sizzling sensation, hopping from one toe to the other while the Redfeet shoved her along. Her walk was already made awkward enough from when the hem of her shorts were pulled down. Thankfully they still clung on just below her waist, not far enough to be revealing, though her tunic's length would offer some protection from such humiliation. She grit her teeth and shot another vengeful glare at the back of Leaping Feather. Sneaky little bitch, clomping around in her shoes, stretching them all out with her big, stupid feet!

If I ever get my hands on her I'll...! Sakura let out a great huff to try and calm herself down. It would do her no good to let her anger get out of control. Those guards looked like they were just looking for an excuse to stab their captives to death. Despite having heads of stone and bone, the Redfeet had filed their spear tips down to sharp points. Patience was the kunoichi's only hope now, provided they weren't being led to an execution.

The temple was ensnared by great kraken vines just like everything else in the forest. Bits of green popped up from the cracks in the foundations. Sakura was beginning to wonder if it was all part of the same plant. Nah, that was impossible. As impossible as flying birdmen and giant hyenas anyway. Part of her hoped that much was not the case. They were in a jungle after all. Foliage was a normal part of a forest. There was no reason to get carried away. It was likely a trick of the wind, but out of the corner of her eye, Sakura might have sworn one of the vines was twitching. There was no wind either. Another limb was sliding up the stairs, but it was probably just a snake.

Atop the steps were a line of thick, but crumbling, moss and vine covered pillars. Serpentine motifs were becoming a reoccurring theme what with them carved flat against the stone, zig zagging upwards in square spiral patterns. The pillars upheld a long stone roof, allowing some temporary relief from the sun. There was an unexpected sense of wonder that came from walking about the ruin. A shame it came to be inhabited by such evil. Sakura got the deliberate feeling that this brutish bunch weren't responsible for the its construction. The temple's glory days were long since past, and the forest had since reclaimed it. Now it was a haunt for wild beasts. Dangling from the ceiling like so many bats, were the dried up husks of tiny cocoons. There were thousands, perhaps even millions of them. A pair of purple butterflies dashed through the procession's line moving from shadow into the inter cut shafts of light. Somehow the little devils weren't as pretty as they were before, though they were no different from their cousins in the forest. Perhaps it was the dreadful ambiance of the temple, their tiny obsidian bodies appeared cruder, their limbs more spider like. Their incandescent wings no longer shimmered, but radiated a poisonous aura. Their metamorphosis was a wicked one, but no less awe inspiring.

The archway was great stone anaconda with feathered heads on either side. Embedded into the ground was a great stone wheel. Whatever meaning the squiggling pictographs meant within its rings were lost to time. All Sakura could make out was that the image pointed in all eight directions, with a impish, fanged face sticking its tounge out at the piece's center. Standing at either side of the archway were more Redfoot standards. They clattered with dangling antlers and horned skulls as the stitched pelts of jaguars slung from the top. Markers of the clan that ruled here. Lying in wait were a pair of jungle girls and pack of hyenas. They were lazing about on the ground, the hyenas panted while the girls fanned themselves with a palm leaf each. Upon seeing their Warchief the twin guards snapped to attention, slamming the butts of their spears into the ground. Their hyena companions sniggered at their pathetic attempt to look alert. Jaguar Fist shot her bewildered allies a warning glare but said nothing. The archway's guardians regarded the captives with indifference, too busy trying to look the part of mighty jungle warrior rather than like the oafish beach bums they were. Sakura allowed herself a sly smile at this exchange. It was wonder these morons hadn't been overrun by their avian enemies yet.

The great hall would have been pitch dark had it not been for the rows of open windows carved at the tops of the begrimed walls. Rows of candles melted into yellow blobs, and hanging skull lanterns helped further the illumination, yet only helped to enhance the creepy atmosphere. At the center of the room a great bowl shaped brazier smoldered in the dark like a witch's cauldron. The hall was not empty either. The walls were lined with many pelts, trophies, each no doubt with a story to tell. Along side them were the skulls and pelts of beasts; many of whom had been refashioned into ornamental medicine shields. The stone floors were draped over with fur rugs that were soft and springy to the touch. It was like walking on the backside of behemoth. Relief flowed through Sakura's swollen soles as she padded across. Young women danced about the center brazier's flames, while the rest of the clan hunched over in the flickering shadows, softly pattering on drums, turning over rattling rainsticks, and blowing into flutes.

The Warchief held up her signature fist and called out "Una."

"Una! Moona!" came the response from the clan. The dancers did not even have the decorative luxury of a loincloth. Their exposed genitalia was bereft of any unsightly hair. Each girl was painted all over in wild and square spiral colors: yellow, white, lavender, and even some blue in addition to the standard red and black. Each bore a plain hemp choker latched tight around their necks. Instead of singing the dancers swished their hips, letting their bone, shell, and wood bead jewelry jangle. The sound blended in with the cool, trickling rhythm of the tribal backbeat. Their bare feet swept in semi circles across the fur floor. Tittering as they spun around on the balls of their feet, the dancers teased the warriors, coyly hiding their faces while swaying their lissome bellies from side to side. They ran the palms of their hands down their bare legs to show off how smooth and beautiful they were. Gracefully they rolled onto the floor, raising one leg up into the air. Arching their ankles so that the flat of their feet all faced the brazier's flame, the circle of dancers cooed with secretive delight. On both sides of the great hall were smaller archways that led into darkness and gods knew what else. Some members of the war party retreated into those abysmal halls. Others licked their lips, taking careful breaths to keep from being mesmerized by the dancers' flirtations. Only Jaguar Fist seemed completely unaffected by their salacious charms.

The kunoichi were grabbed by the arms, though they needed little motivation to keep moving forward. The Redfeet were taking no chances however, and would not let their captives forget even for an instant who was master and who was slave here. Ino's exclamations of 'no' went ignored. Ten Ten growled and drug her feet. A startled whimper escaped from Hinata when she was siezed. Sakura chose to begrudge her captors every step by struggling. At the far end of the room, atop a mound of steps was a simple stone bench laid out with the fur of a tiger. The head of massive mutant tiger roared in perpetual silence on the wall overhanging the throne. Carved into said wall, was row upon row of leering and fanged skulls. Behind the throne was a smaller version of the ominous stone wheel outside, but no less mysterious. Sitting parallel to that were twin tiki faces, each grinning stupidly while their hair erupted in fire.

Sitting cross legged upon the throne, with her hands folded in her lap, was a small girl. The kunoichi's eyes were drawn to her massive headdress, a Moctezumaian fan perched with thousands upon thousands of long blue green feathers, a grand spectacle in of itself. The crown framed her forehead with a woven band, bedazzled with fangs, beads of every color, and a carefully chosen piece of bone that was smoothed out to resemble a crescent moon as the centerpiece. The girl's face was hidden behind a skeletal mask of turquoise, her big brown eyes peeked out from the eye sockets with excitement. The skull mask had no jaw revealing the girl's, but did have long protruding fangs that ran past her chin. A small white cape was tied around her slender neck, frayed with knotted tassels. Rows of pink and green, interlocked spiral squares were embroidered along the edges of the cape. It slung about her shoulders just far enough to hide her naked chest, which like all Redfeet was either painted or tattooed with tribal markings. A courageous looking red sun symbol ringed the girl's belly button, recalling the enigmatic stone wheel and its own eight pointed star. Her final garment was soft pink loincloth, tied up at her hips like a string bikini. Its front and back flaps, though narrow, were long enough that they might have reached her shins. For now they casually drooped down from the bench.

The music faded away as the dancers retreated, to lie at the foot of the Princess' throne. Already lounging beneath the royal seat, was a lanky brown girl painted white with the bones of skeleton. A stark contrast in of itself compared to all other natives. The only other color on her frail frame was a bloody red hourglass against her stomach. She offered the festivities a cat like yawn revealing a mouth full needle sharp, filed teeth. Her long, frazzled black hair, the first true Redfoot to be seen with such length, drooped over half her face exposing only a single baggy red eye. The rest of her face was tattooed with a chalky death's head. This one picked her nose without care who saw her, as the dancers gave her a wide berth. They were afraid to touch her.

The kunoichi were forced to their knees before the child-like empress as the Warchief took her place at the Princess' right side.

"Behold Thi'Hali!," Jaguar Fist started, addressing all. "The most exalted Celestial Maiden, whose pure light is a beacon to all pure servants of the jungle goddesses! Within this vessel, the word of Thi'Hali is spoken! She is one with the tribe. To love her and adore her is to be blessed! It is she alone who is worthy to sit upon the Tiger Skin Throne. She alone who is both girl and divine! We glorify thee, we glorify thee, we bow as in ages past to glorify thee. Almighty Thi'Hali! Princess of the Sun!"

The Redfeet of clan Jaguar crept closer from the shadows, to prostrate themselves before their living goddess. Even the guards manhandling the captives went to one knee, digging their nails into the ninjas' scalps, forcing them to bow along with the tribe.

"Ia' Thi'hali! Ia' Princess of the Sun," some cried aloud. "Ia' Ia'!" The savages heaved their bodies up then down, groveling flat on their bellies, their arms outstretched in total submission. For them the presence of this one girl was no mere superstition but an absolute reality. Living proof of their faith. The ninja shuddered in grim awe in this mad display of barbarous piety.

"Ai yah...what...have we here?" spoke the Sun Princess, sounding as if she had been roused from sleep. "Jaguar-sempai. Did you make new friends?"

Jaguar Fist smiled, speaking almost soothingly for the first time. "My little divine, my warriors come seeking your blessing, and offer you these fine gifts for your continued benevolence."

"Silly old onee-chan," the young ruler's sweet voice was a cherubic melody. Even in this moment of despair, the kunoichi were put at ease from only her words. "Always so serious all the time. You're going to give yourself wrinkles if frown like that all the time." That caught the Warchief off guard, causing her of all people to sputter. None of the Redfeet dared to giggle at her short lived moment of vulnerability however. For surely their own lives would be cut short in response. Sakura and Ten Ten allowed themselves an underhanded smirk. Ino and Hinata were still caught in the grip of total fright.

"Your Highness..." Jaguar grumbled. "Not in front of company..." The Warchief turned her face away and crossed her arms while the Sun Princess hid a polite giggle behind her hand.

"I apologize for any discomfort you may have had in getting here," The Sun Princess now turned her attention on the kunoichi, whom were unsure what to make of her. "Life in the jungle can be a bit messy, and Redfoot warriors aren't known for their...umm...what's the word? Civility."

"Civility?" Sakura spoke out of turn, her voice the lull before the storm. "You greasy animals attacked us! You tried to kill us! We've done nothing to you and you hunted us down like dogs. How dare you look down upon us!"

Murmurs from the surrounding peanut gallery made Sakura wonder if even half these freaks even understood her. The Sun Princess made a mewling sound as if in deep contemplative thought. "Onee-chan got carried away in her hunting games again didn't she?" It wasn't an accusation or even a condemnation, which made Sakura all the more angry.

"This isn't a game! We're people damn it!"

"I beg to differ," the wretch with needles for teeth suddenly spoke, causing a collective chill to taint the room for a moment or two. None made an attempt to address her sass, and she spoke no more.

"Mind who you're talking to whelp," Jaguar Fist scolded back at Sakura.

"Make me, you overgrown turd!"

The genuflecting jungle girls had since raised their heads to gasp, taken aback by the brashness of the outlander's furious insult. Blood would surely be drawn. Jaguar Fist's eyes narrowed to her usual grimace, her eyes darting about for anyone else looking to challenge her. Only Sakura's eyes pierced through her. The Warchief's twitchy claw hand hovered over the hilt of her club, but she instead straightened herself and took a deep breath. Ten Ten and Hinata allowed themselves a confident smile at their team captain's subtle if minuscule victory. Only Ino remained petrified.

"Why are you guys arguing?" The Sun Princess asked with genuine concern. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat before peeling of her skull mask and putting it aside. "We're all girls, so we should all get along right? Girls should always stick together."

All at once the kunoichi gasped, stupefied by what they saw. For the Sun Princess was the girl from the photograph.

"H-Hikari? Hikari Kamiya?" Sakura was stunned. She and the other ninja were grateful to see that their charge was still alive. But their joy was ruined with the bitter realization of what had become of her. These vile Redfeet had twisted her from the sweet little girl in yukata, into some kind of barbaric demigod. Time in the jungle sun had browned the girl's once pure and pale skin, making her as dark as the natives. The savages had branded her little cheeks and chin with wavy lines and dots, gruesome fangs and serrated arrow tattoos; her nostrils were pierced with a turquoise half ring. Her forehead was stamped with the sinister three pronged glyph. Likewise three skinny wooden sticks stuck out from the corners of the girl's smile and from under her lip. Tuffs of feathers jutted out of Hikari's ear lobes, giving them the likeness of splendorous pink lilies. Most terrible of all, around Hikari's neck was a necklace of bones and red feathers, that ended in a tiny feline skull. While all the kunoichi felt sick, only Ino managed to throw up.

"Hikari was my old name," Hikari explained matter of fact like. "Onee-chan said I have a special destiny. Did you know the Sun is actually a Goddess? The Redfeet said She's a girl just like me. Onee-chan says that she's chosen me, and is going to come down from Heaven to live inside my body. So to prepare, everyone just calls me Thi'hali from now on...or Princess. It's a little confusing I know..." The girl twirled her finger through a loose lock of auburn hair as she bounced one thigh up and down impatiently. "I was worried that the sun would go out if that happened, but Onee-chan says not to worry. The sun will still shine. I was so relieved. I'd hate to inconvenience everyone like that. Everybody needs sunshine."

Words and thoughts failed Sakura and her friends as they scrambled to make sense of the situation. It had to be a trick! It had to be. Hikari was young and impressionable, not to mention had already been through a terrifying ordeal what with being kidnapped in the first place. Sakura's inner and righteous anger feuded with the cosmic terror churning in her heart. These sneaky Redfeet had no right imposing their weird cult on an innocent like this.

"You villains!" Ten Ten decried ahead of Sakura.

"H-how could, how could this happen?" Hinata said completely aghast.

Ino shut her eyes and hummed to herself, a paper thin shield to block out the deranged world around her.

"Fiends!" Sakura swiveled all around to spit her curses at all the savages. "You devils, you're all devils!" Sakura's indignation only drew bemused gossip and hyena cackles. She desperately tried to reason with the girl on the throne. "Hikari, we came to rescue you." The tribe laughed uproariously at that, Hikari included. Even Jaguar Fist provided a smug grin. "You have to listen to me," Sakura tried to yell over the throng. "They're trying to trick you! They're just using you..." To what devious end, was beyond Sakura's frantic comprehension at present.

"Neh...? You were looking for me?" The Sun Princess mewled with faux guilt. "Then, I'm sorry for putting you through so much trouble. Still, I think things have turned out for the best."

"W-what?" Such an incredulous answer, how could any of this be for the best?

Hikari's eyes narrowed. "You're all still alive, and mostly unharmed. Tee hee. Everything happened just as Needle Teeth said it would."

"Yo..." murmured the skeletal creep, swishing her fingers in a faux salute.

"You don't have to worry about anything anymore." There was a mischievous glint in Hikari's once innocent eyes. "I'll be the one to make the rules for you from now on." With a tilt of her head, the kunoichi were rolled onto their backs. Helpless as turtles, the Redfeet pried off the ninjas' remaining sandals at the command of their little divine. "I want to see their feet," The Sun Princesss slid to the edge of her seat, allowing her bare legs to dangle over the edge. Braided about her ankles were strands of embroidered string, tied across her bare, red painted feet, to her middle toe like sandal straps. The trinkets were plainly decorative, embellished with polished stones and cowrie shells.

Dragging their captives by the ankles, the Redfeet grappled with the kunoichi's squirming and kicking legs. Sakura managed to jam her heel into the gut of that rat Leaping Feather before she and the others ankles were rebound in rawhide bindings. The savage's eyes bugged out along with her breath as she rolled over on the ground clutching her belly. None of her jungle comrades went to help her, not even her precious sempai.

"If you insist in acting like animals you will be treated as such," Jaguar Fist said without a trace of irony. "Be grateful I don't brand you as a slave here and now cub," she said to Sakura specifically.

Sakura was the first to be 'given' to the Sun Princess. Hikari reached out with her hands to cradle Sakura's feet in her lap. The kunoichi uttered a fitful squeak as the little Princess ran her tiny, delicate fingers across Sakura's skin.

"What the hell? Wh-mmmph!" Sakura's words were cut off by a now very angry Leaping Feather, who pressed the length of her own foot across Sakura's mouth. The captors shifted the ninja girl's body that their Princess could get the best look at Sakura's feet. She brought her little nose close to them, so close that it nearly brushed the surface of Sakura's flesh, and in the strangest gesture made yet, Hikari took a deep breath, filling her nose with the pungent aroma. The Sun Princess rocked back with a sigh of contentment before smelling the feet again, as one might a freshly baked fruit pie. Her queer game did not end there, she thrust her fingers between Sakura's toes, as if the two were pressing their hands together.

"I can feel the heat moving inside your body," she began. "Can you feel mine yet?" Her little hands clasped Sakura's feet tighter as the little Princess began to chant 'doki'. Doki. The sound of a heart beat. "I can feel the fire in your heart. But...it is lonely isn't it? There's warmth by my fire as well. Would you...join your flame to mine?" The natives sat wordless, perhaps in reverence of their divine idol. Sakura and the other ninja writhed where they lay, Sakura most of all, in discomfiture at being molested so. Even if she had an answer, she could not provide one with a sandaled foot over her mouth. She tried to turn her head in a vain attempt to separate herself from this queer ritual, only to stare into the bleak and teary eyes of Hinata. No words were needed, and Sakura's previous shame was doubled as she was forced to watch Hinata cry on her behalf. A sorry sob at being robbed of all dignity and strength. The Sun Princess extended her tounge to lick the balls of Sakura's feet, before pecking them each with a kiss. Hikari then rocked back, hitching up her thighs in such a way that she could press her slightly smaller feet into Sakura's.

"It was the red string of destiny that led us all here. Can you feel the Earth beneath your feet?" said Hikari. "Can you feel The Weave?" They lay like that for some time, Hikari seeming to bask in the warmth coming from Sakura's soles. Finally satisfied she folded her legs back into a crisscross, and Sakura was pulled away. She thought it strange that her heart was pounding so fiercely that she needed to catch her breath. No real physical damage was done sure, but Sakura knew the ritual was intended to humiliate her. To humble her.

I will never surrender, she vowed.

Hinata was next, who stared with bemusement at her captors, shaking her head instead of pleading. Just seeing the bare skin of the islanders was overwhelming for the shy girl as is. The Redfeet guards retorted with a shrug, mussing Hinata's hair despite her wails as their living goddess set about playing with her feet.

"I really like this one," said Hikari while admiring the clean and polished sheen of Hinata's creamy skin.

"She will be quite popular I think," Jaguar Fist said with equal interest. Her mouth was watering at the helpless murmurs of the Hyuga.

"Leave her alone you apes," came a vapid threat from Ten Ten, who like Sakura, soon found a bare foot planted across her mouth. Perhaps it was the thin veneer of civilization in her, that kept her from biting her smelly captor. She would not stoop to the level of her tormentors.

"Can I give her a present right now? Please oh please?" The Sun Princess flashed a most adorable pouty look at her jungle girl elder. "I wanna make her mine."

"Anonash tada mikaludah, zie bee matta din," Jaguar admonished her little disciple in the Redfeet's tongue. Hikari huffed her cheeks, billowing with disappointment. Whatever meaning this exchange held was lost on the ninja.

Hinata did all she could to try and calm herself down, to emulate the cool stoicism the Hyuga clan was famous for. She controlled her breathing slower and slower still, despite being touched against her will.

"You're doing just fine," Hikari told her with honest encouragement, before taking another deep whiff off of Hinata's toes. "Bear with it just a little longer..." Hikari's fingers danced across the instep of Hinata's feet, causing her to jolt with new desperation. She still cried out for release, but her cries turned to uncontrollable laughter.

"N-no...Please...Please stop, ah! Ahhh!" Hinata heaved left and right to no avail. The guards grip on her arms and ankles were iron clad.

"Look how much fun she's having! I think she likes it," Hikari's observation drew a sadistic laugh from the tribe, as Jaguar Fist placed a proud hand on her disciple's shoulder. The Sun Princess beamed.

Neither Sakura or Ten Ten could stand to see their Hinata so helpless in the hands of these crazed savages. Both of them looked away crestfallen at their own impotence. Only Sakura questioned when she had started to think of Hinata as "her's". The tickling was merciless, Hinata was given no respite to breathe and choked on her own laughter. Her hips twitched and twitched until they could hold back no more, and a wet stain saturated her crotch. Only then did Hikari cease her tickling, ending the ritual with a single haughty smootch. Hinata began to breathe easier now, her laughs slowing into hiccuping sobs.

The Sun Princess repeated her examination of Ten Ten, then Ino's feet. When she was done she suddenly leapt up. Superimposed atop her throne, she bashfully held her hands against her cheek. "Hyuehhh...they're all so precious! I just want to gobble them all up right now..." There was imagery Sakura and the others didn't want to imagine.

"Patience my little divine," said Jaguar Fist. "We have all the time in the world to...appreciate their physique."

"You can't expect us to believe you dragged us all the way here just to appreciate our 'physique'," said Ten Ten. Sakura really wished she'd keep that sharp tongue of her sheathed, before one of them got stabbed on a count of it.

No stab came, but a solid slap from Leaping Feather right across Ten Ten's cheek. "Silence!" the savage said trying to sound imposing. The tribal peanut gallery ooohed, anxious to see how this would play out next.

Ten Ten glared at the feathered fink before swishing her tongue around her mouth, as if to taste for blood. When there was none she smiled. "What was that? Insects bite harder than you."

Leaping Feather was beset with frustration, gritting her teeth and stomping one foot on the ground. The tribe's catty heckling was aimed at her again. She even had the flushed cheeks to show for it. In a gesture meant to convey, 'I'll show you', she drew her stone knife. The savage rushed at Ten Ten, intending to stab downwards and...

"Stand down sister," the command from Jaguar Fist caught her wrist like crackling whip. With a growl she jerked her knife back into its holster, and stomped her way back to the dais to squat behind her beloved sempai. Even the Sun Princess had laughed at her! Such shame!

"This has been so much fun. I wish we could keep playing," said Hikari. Though the torch light was still flickering all around, and the sun had not yet begun to descend, the air around the Princess seemed to grow darker. There was a subtle ripple, a warp almost like when heat rises in the far distance. The bloody glow in her eyes was an all too familiar sight the ninja were acquainted with. Seeing it displayed within Hikari was more frightening than all of the severed heads combined with the birdmen. "Still...a show of...fealty is necessary." The Sun Princess extended her leg out before the kunoichi's livid faces. Her own twisted in a most evil grin. "Fufufufu...You may each kiss my foot."

"What on Earth are you saying?!" Sakura, Ten Ten, Ino and Hinata all exclaimed.

"I...I...demand...obedience," Hikari spoke slowly at first, her words slurred as her head wavered in the air. The pink-red glow in her eyes burned brighter and brighter. "Maybe I should make you all wear a leash. It would look cute on you, and maybe it would fix your attitude." The ninja looked around them at the gathering gloom, at all the glowing pink-red, and very hungry eyes all aimed at them.

"What have you done to her Jaguar?" Sakura said, her courage entirely spent and in shambles. Jaguar Fist only gleamed in return.

The Sun Princess aped the role of a rosy kid, delivering a saccharine moan of vexation. "Big sister is such a meanie. Everyone else has been so nice to me. If you're nice to me I'll reward you... I'll even let you play with my feet." The Sun Princess crossed one leg over her knee, swaying her toes forward and back in 'come hither' gesture. With a cheeky grin she gave them a sultry wink.

"NO WAY IN HELL IS THAT HAPPENING EVER," said Hinata, Ino, Sakura, and Ten Ten. They were loud enough for the whole temple to quake. Birds and butterflies fled the area in alarm, while outside the villagers looked up at their sacred temple and pondered the noise and sudden tremor.

"Neh neh, they're sure full of themselves," said the one called Needle Teeth. Her tepid voice was like having a eel slathered across one's ears. "Still...not a bad thing. A re-...girl should be a bit cocky."

"But should also know when to submit," said Jaguar Fist. With a scowl and scoff she snapped her fingers. "Defy the will of the Princess at your own peril!"

Hauled up once more on their feet, the kunoichi were forced to bend over facing the Princess and her consorts. Warriors eagerly shuffled over to gather wooden paddles from the wall, before parading them before the bewildered ninja. Each of the paddles had holes across the surface, to cut down on wind resistance. It didn't take a genius to figure out what they were for.

"You'll want to keep your eyes on me," said the Sun Princess. Not that the kunoichi had a choice. Their captors dug their claws into their hair, forcing them to look up at her. "Like I said, I'll be the one to make the rules for you from now on." What a sickening sight, to be sneered at from some little trollop atop a heathen's throne. The warriors raised their paddles up past their shoulders, making ready to spank.

"Stay strong everyone. Don't give up," Sakura blurted out with all the defiance she had left, as the first of many swats slapped across her rear end. Mercifully the savages either didn't think to pull down their pants, or simply didn't care. All in all this was a show of force. "Hidden Leaf ninja don't surrender..."

Whack! One spank. Two. Three became six. The stinging ache was a feeling shared by the kunoichi, woven in a thread of shame.

"Again! Again!" Hikari cheered on her warriors who were delighted to obey. Whack! There went all of Ten Ten's acerbic wit, along with some spittle flying from her mouth. Whack! Whack! Behind her was Leaping Feather, eager to take her revenge.

"That's what you get for mouthing off to sempai," with both arms she battered up to strike at Ten Ten with all her might. WHACK! It took everything Ten Ten had to keep from buckling over on her knees. A few shed tears and a desperate moan seemed to be a smaller shame in comparison. A wave of guilt passed over Sakura, feeling that she should have received her teammate's punishment, if only to protect them, all of them.

"Punishment. Punishment..." One of the Redfeet started a chant and was quickly joined by her sisters.

"Punishment! Punishment!" The sheer glee they got out of seeing others ground under their heels was too terrible for the ninja to contemplate. Sakura had been bullied in the past (as had Hinata, unknown to Sakura and the others), but never had it been so with an almost religious fervor. Most heartbreaking of all, Hikari clapped her hands joining in with the other Redfeet. Louder and louder they cried, "PUNISHMENT! PUNISHMENT! PUNISHMENT!" The more the ninja girls were beaten, the more powerful the jungle girls became.

Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Sakura lost count after the twenty seventh smack. Ino was first to yelp, then Hinata. Ten Ten followed, somehow it was Sakura who held out the longest before her pride broke. A painful cry escaped her lips, a far more painful feeling than any slap on the butt.

"Enough," Needle Teeth sounded bored, gangly rising from the floor to slither behind the Princess' back. The punishment and chanting all stopped as the two whispered secrets in each other's ears, giggling to themselves. Jaguar Fist stood by as if frozen in place, and ground her jaw. Though glad the spanking was over, the kunoichi awaited with trepidation what new hell was to be unleashed upon them.

"The sun is at its highest point. Thi'Hali demands to worshiped with a fire dance." The Sun Princess took one last leering look at her defeated captives, reveling in the power she had over them. "Take them away!" She cut at the air with a dramatic chop, and the entire clan rose up to drag the ninja out of the temple. Hikari settled back down into her seat with a Cheshire cat grin, watching the warriors as the ninja continued their struggle. "Nyaaa...I've always wanted to say something like that."

Chapter Text


The snake horned pillar was a menacing as ever, towering over an ever growing pile of logs and brush. Snickering Redfeet carried the timbers two at a time upon their shoulders, their eyes glowing in cooperation. It was difficult to get a read on these girls, because they acted as if this were all a big in joke, to which the kunoichi did not know the punchline. There was nothing funny about being dragged through the dirt by the ankles, bound and helpless as pigs to be roasted for a feast.

I hope they choke on us, Sakura grimaced as the back of her head scraped and bumped along the ground. Hyena and Redfoot cubs alike slunk about the procession; to sniff out, point and laugh at their captives. Cooing in jungle talk the bright eyed little heathens grabbed handfuls of dirt and dead leaves to shower and pelt the ninja with. Hinata winced as prodding little toes poked at her flushing cheeks. Already overwhelmed by the Redfeet's state of undress, in addition to everything else, she shut her eyes as she tried to curl up into herself and not scream. Six skinny Redfeet hopped alongside the ninja, when they couldn't keep up they tumbled over on themselves, laughing at each other's deranged antics. Ino, ever talkative, screamed until her throat went raw. Some of the hyena pups howled with her, joined in by their little Redfoot sisters who screamed in mockery. Sakura, too tired to retaliate in anyway numbly accepted the Redfeet's stupid games. Not even a lick from a stray hyena could rouse her. With a pantherine roar Ten Ten managed to finally drive back the irritants who squealed with mad delight as they scattered away in great bounds and cartwheels.

The four posts were as sturdy as trees, standing at some distance between the dreadful stone pyre and stick and leaf hut space that circled it. Each of the posts had since been capped with human skulls, whose jaws hung open in a perpetual scream. Perhaps proud of their primitive accomplishments, when the Redfeet hoisted the ninja to their feet, they allowed their captives to look over their intended fate. The posts had since been crudely decorated with spiraling carvings of snakes, spears, and sun symbols, as well as smeared by hand and foot prints of many colors, red being the most prominent of course. The perfect implements for holding captives, to which Sakura, Hinata, Ino and Ten Ten shared a fearful shiver. The baleful sun glowered overhead, as skinny jungle girls skittered under the dark of the great shabono. Legions of red-pink eyes stared at the captives from every direction, all with eager anticipation.

"Sakura..." Hinata whimpered beside her, looking for comfort, any bit of strength to face the doom ahead. Sakura wished she any to spare, but all she could offer was her sympathetic gaze. What was it about the Hyuga heiress that made you want to hold her in your arms, to stroke her hair and assure her that everything would be OK? The Redfoot girls that gripped them by the arms grinned like devils as they dragged the kunoichi apart. "Sakuraaa..!" Hinata now wailed as she and the other ninja girls had their backs forced against the poles. The Redfeet screamed pointless orders at their captives while pointing stone tipped spears at their necks. The kunoichi were made to stand on their tip toes with their arms held straight up, as rope was coiled tight across their bodies. It bit into the exposed skin on their arms and shins. Strangely, the Redfeet avoided tying across the kunoichis' breasts and bellies, binding instead by their waists. The captives would barely be able to squirm their hands and feet, much less other portion of their bodies as is. Sakura worried at their captors intent by leaving so much room free.

Leaping Feather sauntered out to the middle of the field, she had since added to her tribal costume with anklets and braclets of red and white flowers. Her single feathered head band had been replaced with a crown of blue, green, and black feathers jutting up to the sky. She acknowledged the ninja, with a snooty shake from her rump. While the captives were being bound, she was calling out a melody of tribal words, which was answered by a celebratory chorus of jungle girls. A great drum thumped happily along with the churlish song, as a procession of jungle girls half marched, half wafted in a winding line into the open space. The shshsh of a gourd rattle soon joined the tempo. The warriors that tied up the kunoichi fled into the shadows, the ceremony had begun.

The dancers clung to one another by the shoulders, weaving in a line towards Leaping Feather who became their leader; the caroling head of a great feathered serpent of jungle girls. Each of them were slender, boisterous in their savage way, yet lovely in their blossoming feminine youth. Not all were of clan Jaguar, as evidenced by their distinct tribal markings and masks. Some wore antlered or horned headdresses that streamed with long tail feathers. The clans painted their bodies with hurricane waves, hour glass streaks, fangs and claws, spots and stripes. Eagles, bats, panthers, snakes, and hyenas, were the most favored motifs. One clan even favored wasps, bearing distorted stripes on their legs and masks with carved mandibles, black alien eyes and twig antennae. Tigers and pigs were noticeably absent from the beastly parade. They padded around the circle, stepping to and fro on their toes in careful, synchronized steps. All of them had their ankles and feet completely painted red, just as all shared the same black bobbed cut, and eerie reddish glow of the eye. The warriors, in a show of status, wore fancier ornaments; woven armbands with protruding feathers of all colors. There were plate earrings made of conch shell. Anklets and bracelets bejeweled with chunks of jade and colored crystal. The fangs and claws of past kills rattled along with beads wherever they stepped. Not to be outdone by their sisters, other, lesser Redfeet adorned themselves with trinkets and crowns made of leaves. The height of tribal fashion seemed to rely upon one's resourcefulness and creativity. In both hands Leaping Feather carried a thin but flickering torch, out stretching both her arms in the arc of wings. Seven Redfoot warriors also carried a single, unlit torch in one hand. Each of them carried a single gourd which dangled from their waists in net bags.

As the procession wound its way into a circle, weaving between their astonished captives and stone pyre, a quartet of masked warriors rushed the field, dragging along with them one the collared slaves from before. Sakura knew there was something off about these slaves the Redfeet kicked around, in the distinctions between the way they were dressed and the broad shape of their shoulders. Indeed, this one's breast was a little too flat. Their arms and legs were slender and almost feminine yet at the same time were too lean to be. The slight bulge in this one's tightly wound fundoshi gave it away. The realization hit Sakura like a solid smack in the head. It wasn't a girl the Redfeet were dragging by the wrists, but a boy!

The boy dug his heels into the ground to try and slow his captors down, but they were bigger than he was. The Redfeet hoisted him up, choosing to cradle him by the shoulders and ankles, no different than any other log. His squirming was rendered futile. A red footprint had been slathered across his pale belly, while the rest of his skin was marked by narrow streams of black, all save his bare and unpainted ankles and feet. He was not of the tribe after all, and never could be. The Redfeet delighted in humiliating their captives, to show off their dominance, which probably accounted for the boy's pale blue finger and toe nails. His sobs were muffled by the hood drawn over his head, that was tipped with the leaf ears and a wooden pig snout. With two holes for his glistening eyes to peer out of, he too was a captive audience to the Redfoot romp. He was to share the kunoichi's fate, by being bound to the snake horned pillar. Horror churned in the gut of each of the ninja at what they were witnessing. That which they were dreading before was coming to life ahead of them. Worse still, the ninja were utterly powerless to do anything about it. The sheer cheerfulness of the Redfeet's tribal hymns mocked the captives' predicament.

"You're in our world now," the drum and sing song trilling natives seemed to be saying. "See how a jungle girl prays. This is what it means to be a Redfoot." In the most primal of rites, song and dance was used to venerate the animalistic deities of old. But the old gods of nature were merciless. As mankind matured, he discarded the old ways for the dim shelter of mercy and reason. No man lived on Zukalaka Island now. Now at this hour, with the sun nearly at its peak, the old ways lived again. "We pray to the sun, moon, and earth. We pray to the beasts that we may steal their strength. We pray for war. We pray for victory." Shameless and all powerful, these daughters of the wild were prepared to pledge their devotion to the sun's fire, with a burnt offering of bone and blood. The four guards fled from the pillar ground as the train united in a circle, joining hands and stepping side to side in a counter clockwise motion.

The kunoichi could only watch in disbelief. The lust for death was ripened with every heartbeat. The drum rhythm picked up speed; in the shade, jungle girls sat cross-legged tap tap tapping their dainty fingertips across little drums. Others stood upright, thumping great barrels of animal hide and drooping bones, adding their power to the rest of the collective. Among them was a spunky little Redfoot who had charge of the biggest drum of all. The massive thing was bigger than her! With thunderous vigor and a bamboo stick in each had, she beat her mammoth drum into submission. She smirked under her overlong bangs as she banged her whole head to the jungle beat.

Bewitched by drums the circle burst apart. Howling like wolves the Redfeet shuddered and stomped their way around the stone pyre. Their arms flittered about their heads as they rocked their comely hips, becoming as living flames themselves. "Thi'hali!" they sang in the harmonious mish mash of their language. It was the only word that stood out to the kunoichi with any clarity. The onlookers that chose not to dance sat cross-legged in the shade, bobbing their heads along, cradling small children, or clicking sticks together in time with the witchy beat. The primitive symphony was built of small parts, that each member of the tribe contributed to one another in their way. Like bands of colored string woven together to form a whole bracelet. The frolicking sounds were devoid of any strict structure, yet avoided clashing with one another. Instead everything flowed with each other, invigorating the Redfeet as it cowed their victims. The natives could not help themselves but leap about for joy, to celebrate their wild supremacy. They heaved and spun in the air calling for their Goddesses to bless them, that this golden age of savagery might never end. Oblivious to the ceremony, a stray hyena wandered into the dance circle sniffing at the ground and sat before one of the dancers to beg for food. She drew a polite chuckle from the crowd as she quit the field to chase her pet from the dance. Even Redfeet were not free of life's little mishaps. Only the kunoichi and the sacrifice were left cold in the wake of the festivities.

There was a grotesque allure to it all, Sakura had to admit to herself. What little exposure she had to religion consisted of grim faced monks, scowling with silent disapproval. The kami and temples she knew of demanded a gargoyle's stoicism, a mechanical discipline. A faith for cattle, penned in with no way out. The Redfoot gods let their believers run around like crazy, prayer and partying were one in the same. Did they belong to the wild, or was it the wild that belonged to them? A new longing stirred within her, just what was it like to run naked through the trees? To ride bareback upon a great beast, howling with joy and fury in equal measure. For the Redfeet life was for revelry. She could almost see herself joining the dance. Feathers in her hair, her supple skin painted, clad only in loincloth. Finally able to let loose her passion, free of all shame and consequence. She wondered what kind of moxie it took to live this way.

The kind it took to practice human sacrifice.

Heroric fervor called upon Sakura, Ten Ten, and Hinata all to strain ever harder against their bindings. Few became ninja for the promise of wealth or power (those that did died young in the stupidest of ways). Most dreamed as they did, to become heroes. As the jamboree continued, the seven tiki masked warriors gathered towards the center. The rest of the dancers retreated into an outer ring behind the ninja, but still outside the great hut's shade. The circle bobbed their heads, shoulders and knees along to the jungle beat, as they rejoined hands and shuffled left in a great wheel, still warbling praises to the sun above. The seven warriors knelt before Leaping Feather who bore no mask. The initial hymn and drumming that brought the tribe together faded away and all was still and silent as the grave. The drums pattered in a low pulse as Leaping Feather stood up on her tip toes, towering over her subjects, pointing her face and her torches towards the sky. She dropped down into a low squat before rising again, arcing her arms up and down, out and back over the heads of her kneeling kin. Each of the seven slid a second torch from their hempen belts, and offered both before her. Round and round Leaping Feather whirled, prancing before her comrades with rhythmic kicks and struts. As she twirled her legs, she set each of their torches ablaze. The seven became eight and they pranced around the pyre, hunching over then raising their haunches in exaggerated stomps. They suddenly became still, the drums still rumbling like distant thunder. Squatting wide they took up postions around the pyre, standing in eight directions they mirrored the sun wheel of the temple. Like swords they crossed their torches over their heads, bringing them down low in front of them in an x. they leveled their flaming x's in the direction of the horned pillar and its hostage, as if to repel him.

Ino and Hinata alike openly wept as the drums died.

The short spitfire pounded at her super drum stirring it to life once more, and in so doing quickened the spirit of the eight warriors. Charged by taiko fury, the fire dance began in earnest. Though their movements retained a nimble femininity, their forms became harsher, fiercer. With sweeping kicks and ducks, and thrusting fists, the warriors dance resembled a vicious battle. Moving in a counter clockwise circle, the warriors chopped at the air with their torches, front flipping or stomping their way through their tribal gymnastics. Elfin breasts bounced freely as they swaggered their hips all around. They twirled the flames to and fro and spun down to the ground, settling in full splits just to slink up again on their tip toes, jabbing their torches at their victim like knives. The faster the great drum thundered, the faster the warriors danced and the tribe hooted over and over to cheer them on. Death was coming, hurtling towards them all in terrible hoof beats.

"Oombala!" The warriors shouted at the sacrifice. Brimming with vengeance and unreasonable hatred, they pointed their fires accusingly at the helpless youth. They threw back their heads to rage and scream, swarming all over the dance grounds like angry bees. Returning again to their eight corners they stood still, almost reverent, bringing their left foot to rest upon their right knee and thigh, as they clasped their hands before them and called the name of Zukalaka.

A wild cheer overcame the crowd of onlookers and dancers, with many hooting as they beat their palms over their mouths. The trilling sound inspired an all new dread within the struggling ninja. Was there no way to stop this madness? Warrior and kunoichi alike panted for breath as the drum reached its climax, a rapid fire banging to end all banging. The warriors danced and danced until they slammed a single torch in the ground, sitting upon one knee. As they arose they pulled off their masks, letting them fall haphazardly. Taking the gourds from their belt, they threw back their heads to take a tremendous swig, holding the torches up before them. Only Leaping Feather, who stood at the north most position remained standing tall, both torches crossed over head.

"Thi'hali!" she cried.

"THI'HALI!" said the tribe.

Ten Ten gasped for breath, too bewildered to process what was happening. Ino screamed on behalf of frantic sacrifice trapped by the demonic pillar. Hinata wanted to shut her eyes and look away but found herself crying out "No! NO!" as if her words could dissuade the Redfeet. Sakura swallowed hard with grim acceptance, gritting her teeth and half mad with delirium. How long did they have until those flames were turned upon her and her friends?

The warriors spit their brew filling the air around the pillar with fire. Their dragon's breath ignited the kindling beneath the sacrifice's scrambling feet. At last could his screams be heard, only to be over shadowed by the Redfeet's euphoric whooping.

"THI'HALI!" said the warriors as they fell to their knees, kowtowing to the raging flames. Three times their rose and fell in worship. When they arose again they sauntered away with their heads held high, proud as though they were victorious against some fearsome foe, as opposed to the helpless innocent they mercilessly destroyed. The drum song of doom flittered away as a smaller score of drums perked up again. It was not long before the whole of the tribe was swept up on their feet. Dashing into the field the swarm bounced around and twisted their hips, no longer constrained by the vague limitations of ceremony, they danced more freely without need for form or focus. Just fun. Even the spunky mistress of the great drum charged the field to wriggle her little butt. Leaping Feather and her torch wielding cohorts continued their burning spectacle, the other dancers gave them a wide berth lest they get scorched (unintentionally or otherwise). Round and round the skylark made its way about the pyre, fanciful as faeries, and smutty as satyrs. High pitched screeching and howls filled the air. All the while the great fire was gobbling up the sacrifice. The sacred revelry went on as if nothing had changed.

Sakura and friends thought they had reached the depths of despair, fearing that each of them would soon share a similar fate. But the Redfeet had other plans in mind. Bound as they were, the ninja girls couldn't be expected to join in the dance, though the drums invited all. "Come come! Move your feet. Let go of your fears," they crooned. "Go wild and crazy, we will teach you...Come and be free!" Couples of Redfeet began to join together, pressing their bellies and breasts against each other, and brushing each other's skin with their fingertips...Then their lips. The kunoichi's jaws all dropped open in squeamish horror at what they were seeing. The tone of the dance had shifted entirely, a great communal belly dance. Some twirled on the balls of the feet, rattling their bone and bead jewelry as they palpitated their hips in teasing invitation. Some Redfeet took this offer to fall to their knees, reaching out with their hands that the girl before them might favor them with the slightest touch. One dancer, her face askew with a hungry smile, obliged one of her onlookers, swinging her leg around her head to gently press her foot onto the kneeling girl's face. Said girl's whole body shivered with joy as she threw her arms out to the side. The dancer pushed her over, a ritual act of the Redfeet's power. The girl gleefully toppled over as her fellows pressed forward on their knees, eager to be next. Other warriors considered these dances a sort of as a challenge, bumping against their sisters to grind their loins against the other's thighs or behinds. The dancers laughed as their fellows swept them up in their arms, it didn't matter from which direction. From that point onward every move they would make would be a kiss, deep and wet, until they broke apart apart to find another girl to seduce, on and on and on. So long as their hearts kept beating, so would the drums.

Hinata was the first to shriek, as a Redfoot girl came from behind to fondle her breasts. The lewd dance was waddling its way toward the captives now, renewing the kunoichi's terror. Ten Ten put on a disgruntled face to mask her satiation. Sakura turned her head, refusing the gaggle of burlesque tribals trying to entice her. Unfortunately that meant she had full view of poor Hinata's suffering. She could only jerk her head "no!" as a duo of Redfeet clung to her left and right. They lifted her black shirt to caress her pale belly, while they whispered churlish nothings into her ears. So close were they that the tips of their noses nearly brushed against Hina's blushing cheeks. The two inhaled deep, as if they could taste Hinata's bewilderment, and licked their lips as they watched her quiver with fright. As they brushed their toes against Hinata's exposed shins, a crooked sense of anger flared in Sakura. Her rational mind was furious at the Redfeet for tormenting her shy comrade in such a despicable way. At the same time, a part of Sakura envied the tribals smothering her Hinata. Hers. The stray thought made Sakura gulp. With all the heaving and sweating the Redfeet were doing, their antics were starting to go to her head. That greasy if sweet feminine smell coupled with the tang burning of wood (and bone). It was surly wrecking havoc on her good senses. Right?

Before each of the kunoichi, a Redfoot swayed their hips in front of them. Light on their toes, the tribals sauntered and smiled at their prey. With a twirl they showed off their supple buttocks, barely covered by crude brown cloth thongs. The petty loincloth flaps only served to accentuate the Redfeet's sumptuous features. For girls like Hinata and Sakura, such brash displays were scandalous beyond measure, made all the worse as the dancers rubbed up against them with their rears.

"No! Ew! Get away," Ino protested, more befuddled now than fearful for her life. "What the hell is wrong with you people?! Aaaah!" With another turn the dancers came upon the ninja like maenads. To and fro they heaved their smooth bellies, creeping up to press the whole of their bodies against their captives. Hinata yelped as if in pain, when her dancer's navel joined with her own.

"Please! Leave me alone..." begging wouldn't help her now. The native brought her nose to Hinata's, completely enveloping her with sultry eyes of pink fire. The duo clamped their hands around Hinata's head so she could not look away. The Redfoot ran her fingers down the length of Hina's arms, the two of them shivering at the touch. Those fingers flitted down Hinata's cheeks and neck. The dancer's face was drawing closer, and closer, made all the fiercer by the fang warpaint and stick through her nostril. The Redfoot was pursing her lips together, wetting them with her tongue. Hinata felt herself digging her head back as she could manage, sucking in her own mouth in feeble resistance to coming kiss. Her blubbering whimpers only served to draw the Redfoot in faster. The dancer gave Hinata a haughty gotcha smirk, before blowing air across her face. She pulled back in a magnificent spin, but not before teasing the shy girl one more time with a simple brush of her index finger across Hina's chin.

Hinata winced again as Redfoot fingers squeezed and wiggled breasts, as her dancer mocked her fondling her own chest as if to say I don't know about you, but this feels good. The confusing sensations were building up out of all control and it left Hinata gasping for breath. Sakura called out her name in a desperate bid of encouragement. A pair of Redfeet now grabbed her own head, forcing her to look at the hussy jerking her ass in front of her.

With a sultry wink and a twirl, the Redfoot's alluring body said no, no. Keep your eyes on me. Rapidly she tip toed before Sakura, faster and faster in time with the jungle drum beat. With her legs spread wide she arched her back, shake, shake, shaking her shoulders as the thrust her loins at Sakura. Left and right she whipped her head as she caressed her whole body over with her arms. Onlookers gathered to squat and oogle at their comrade's lewd spectacle. In the next instant the Redfoot rushed Sakura, pressing the fullness of her smooth naked flesh into her. The kunoichi's hair stood on its ends at the unwanted contact. The smutty girl just sneered at Sakura's discomfort, as if she were the one being unreasonable. The native thrust her loins again, into Sakura. She was a mad dog in heat, her rabid lips foaming. The totality of her being, her sweat stink and hot breath, her body's heat, Sakura was forced to absorb it all. As she screamed in her helplessness, the Redfoot rubbed her cheek against Sakura's, a coy imitation of lover's affection. Without thinking of it, Sakura was calling out for Sasuke to save her; For father, for Kakashi, even for Naruto. She would have even accepted help from Lee if it was possible. Anyone.

The Redfoot growled and bit at the air around Sakura's face before coming in fast to land big wet lick up her chin, lips, and nose. Her savage breasts squished against Sakura, who was thankful for the thin layer of clothing protecting her. Denied the right to turn away, Sakura gagged at her tormentors' impish smiles. The savage pawed at Sakura's less than ample chest, titalted all the same. Again the Redfoot pressed her face against Sakura's, purring as she did so. Doesn't this feel good? Aren't I pretty? The Redfoot gazed long and deep into Sakura's pleading eyes. Girls can be with girls the Redfoot's eyes retorted.

No...Sakura shivered in terrible awe of her own body's treacherous curiosity. It felt less and less tense at the loathsome touches of the jungle girls, and more at ease. There was a sense of warmth that came with her captor's straddling. She would press her hand onto one body part, filling an emptiness Sakura didn't know she had, before pulling away and leaving her cold. Sakura's skin bristled under the Redfoot's touch, yearning for more. The native smirked at her prey's naive and unwanted gratification. As she curled a finger through Sakura's hair she came in closer to rub noses, to hiss her panting breaths across the nape of Sakura's neck. Sakura shuddered, but not unpleasantly. The sight of all these jungle girls, their bare breasts and belly buttons was almost appealing. If the Redfoot could have thrown her arms around Sakura's neck she surly would have. To cradle her against her bosom, their cheeks flushed with voluptuous passion. Would that really be so bad? Maybe it would be easier...

"Nooo!" said Sakura along with her squirming comrades. "I like guys! I like guys damn you..." Her tears felt genuine but her words lacked resolve. She was young and had only begun to wonder and mysteries of intimacy; what it really meant to join, to bond with another person. Everyone deserves to bond with another. That was instinct, natural, but nature was unpredictable. This burlesque riot was an invasion, a cruel joke being played at her feelings expense. So why did it feel so good? The way the tribe was all looking at her with crazed desire. She was the center of their attention, she was important. The Redfoot's hand slipped past Sakura's tunic, to knead at Sakura's groin with tender audacity. The kunoichi gulped, knowing her teammates were no doubt being violated just as she was. Her most private moments were saved for Sasuke, and one time for Kakashi. The savage's un-gentle touch made her worry for Hinata. Her Hinata. Submissive, comely and lonely Hinata...

We're the same, Sakura realized. They were both lonely weren't they? Oh...Hinata. Her dear precious Hinata. The connection made her happy despite the terror fawning and flailing all around her. Her pulse quickened, as did her captor's teasing fingers and the accompaniment of drums. Her other hand hand was tittering behind her loincloth, as she drew her wet lips closer and closer to Sakura's. Their eyes did not shy away from each other. Hinata...My Hinata...Mine.

With the suddenness of thunderclap, the drums stopped. The unholy fire in the eyes of the tribe faded away, revealing their natural green. The song was over, the ceremony was over. The pyre was fat and full of life, appeased by the Redfeet's offering. How and when Jaguar Fist got there was lost in the chaos. The dancers retreated in her presence, rocking their bums one last time in the kunoichi's direction. Sakura might have spit, but these fiends might have welcomed such an act. All of the kunoichi breathed a little easier now, though their ordeal had exhausted them definitively. Standing by the Warchief was the lanky Needle Teeth, who caused the remaining Redfeet to hunch as they scampered away in terror.

In her right hand The Witch upheld a smoldering bowl fashioned from a human skull. In her left she shook a gruesome rattle wand, braided with human hair laced with feathers and sharpened bones. A band of long white black feathers cradled a turtle shell like a skeletal hand, while the shaft of bone was etched with intricate if primitive animal shapes. The Warchief stood at attention, hands behind her back. Needle Teeth lifted the bowl over her head, letting its purplish smog pepper the air with its intense cloying smell. The Witch slowly turned on her heel in ritual motion, offering the pungent incense (if indeed that's what it was) to the four directions before she and her chieftain inhaled it together. They exhaled the vapor with a contented sigh before approaching the kunoichi. Needle Teeth held up the vile bowl to each of their lips in turn, as if it were a bowl of water to drink. The noxious plants and sugary embers held them each by the throat, an act no less ravishing than the hussy dance they were forced to endure. Their nostrils were singed as their eyes watered, not entirely spent of their strength. Jaguar held up her usual stony demeanor, while her cohort rattled her wand, fanning the noxious fumes into the captive's faces, and grumbled some sinister spell in the back of her throat. Thumbing the bowl's contents Jaguar slathered an ashen dot enclosed over the three pronged half circle upon the forehead of each kunoichi. She then marked a single line down the center of their lips to their chin. Upon their cheeks, she painted a sharp bracket so they pointed inward. Finally the two squatted low, to mark their bare feet with other tribal squiggles. Satisfied and drooling, Needle Teeth threatened the ninja each in turn with her medicine rattle as though it were knife, as she and Jaguar fled the place with the rest of their tribe.

The purpose of this little ritual was lost on the ninja, and they were too worn out to care. A purple butterfly floated by Sakura's head, oblivious to the world at that moment, only seeking a dark damp place to lay her eggs. It settled upon Hinata's little nose to rest its wings. When she sneezed, the butterfly fled in the direction of the temple.


 

Misery reigned for what felt like hours. Baking in the sun the kunoichi panted for breath as though they had been through a marathon. All about them the Redfeet milled about their daily routines, little exercises that were key to their survival. A young woman was squatting on the ground, stitching together long tan strands of dried grass together, the beginnings of a basket. Another girl sauntered by, precariously balancing a clay pot of water on her head with one hand. Tribal kids chased each other with sticks in mock play of spear warfare, only to crash into one another and wrestle. Others begrudgingly played fetch with hyenas, all from the lazy comfort of a hammock. One pack of girls sat crosslegged in a circle, babbling and snickering over the latest gossip. Some sat in each other's laps, with their partner's arms amorously wrapped across their bellies. Others stretched out their legs, resting their dainty feet in the tender hands of their sisters, that they might soothe each other with primal affections.

Sakura and the others watched the tribe as they laughed and pushed at each other playfully. The natives painted each other's toe and fingernails with crude animal hair brushes. A couple Redfoot sat with wooden bowls, pounding and grinding at various berries and shrubs with a smoothed out rock. The result was a multitude of colors. Some girls took their art a step further, painting each other's plum shaped breasts and bellies, willingly or otherwise! It was all in good fun, a girl would be grabbed from behind and her arms pinned. She'd laugh as her fellows slathered random designs over her existing tattoos. Sometimes the posse would look over at the captives, to point and snicker among themselves. The fact they were not so different from other girls, chilled the kunoichi. That they could in anyway be like these savages was a sickening feeling. There was no hope for rescue, but they were still alive. That was all that mattered.

"Ten Ten..." Sakura said. "Can you move?"

"Now that you ask...I was thinking about going a walk..." The kunoichi shared a nervous laugh.

"Hinata...Are you OK?"

"N-no..." she said teetering between a thin edge of sarcasm and delirium. "Are you OK?"

"No..." Another light hearted chuckle. "Ino...how are you?"

"...I'm fine..." There was no humor in her voice, her eyes wide and paralyzed with the rest of her body. Sakura laid her head back against the post. The aches of the rope wrapped about her paled to the pain in her heart. Ino was fading fast and there was nothing she could do about it. At this rate they were all going shrivel up and die from the heat. The air around them was shimmering, and each felt their lips start to crack.

Not by fire but dehydration huh? Sakura dared to look upon the smoldering remains of the pyre. Not even a skeleton remained while the demonic pillar's surface wasn't even scathed. Maybe he was the lucky one after all.

A pattering came bumbling their way, hunched over with long frayed hair. Their slender necks were shackled with leashes, their chests hidden with narrow bandeaus wound too tight; a cruel mockery of the breasts they'd never have. The slaves came bearing wooden bowls painted with red, black, and white spiral and chevron patterns. The girls eyes all lit up at once, for the bowls sloshed with liquid with bits of meat and fruit. Food! Water! Life! Oh the simple things one takes for granted in life. The slaves twitched under the stirred attentions of the kunoichi, taking care to keep their heads bowed as they bent the knee before them. Curious that, Sakura observed. Even as captives they apparently had more status than these boys did. Less curious she felt no sympathy towards them. She had enough to worry about with her friends' peril, let alone her own. Nervously the boys shambled back on their feet upon realizing the captives wouldn't be able to eat while they were on their knees. Dummies. A Redfoot peanut gallery laughed at them in distance, to which Sakura bared her teeth and growled. The food bowls were therefore held up directly in the ninjas' faces, the slaves bent forward their arms outstretched at a 'respectable' difference from their feminine "betters". Each of them seem to be holding their breath in anticipation, save one, no doubt for a beating. The sheer limp wristedness of these wretches made Sakura scrunch up her face. Even a dope like Lee had more pride than this sorry lot. The girls peered at the watery goulash prepared for them, a few days ago they might have turned their noses up at this hacked up sludge. A fly buzzed about to and fro from bowl to bowl, nuzzling on the remains. It no longer mattered, the kunoichi lost themselves to hunger diving face first like dogs. Together they slurped up as much as they could for this could be the last time they were permitted to eat. Embarrassment at looking so undignified did not even come to mind. The water running down their throats was more precious than all the money and power in the world. Bits of pineapples sweetened the flavor of the slop, as they gummed on bits of dried jerky strips. The girls could almost feel their energy flow back into them with every panting bite.

"Hey. You," said Ten Ten rather unexpectedly to the slave serving her. "Why do you let them treat you this way? Huh?" The question was posed as a direct challenge. Supercilious to say the least, given the mood. Sakura didn't see the point in poking fun at these poor dolts, oh well. Beats just standing around waiting to die she reckoned. Back when she and Ino were still friends she and the other girls liked to tease losers like Naruto or underclassmen. She couldn't help but ponder why she never hesitated doing such things while in group. Kids used to pick on her all the time until Ino stepped in, she was only getting back a little that's all. Tit for tat right? Everybody did it.

Hinata didn't, Sakura realized. No...Hinata wasn't like that at all. Hinata, was a good girl; Soft spoken and patient. The kind of person that not only brought out the best in everyone, but could find the good in anyone. Almost anyone, Sakura thought mischievously. She couldn't imagine Hinata being mean. A thought that made Sakura glad and resentful all at once. She tried to choose the more noble feelings over her snarling side, pushing it back down with other unspeakable desires. But the frustration still lingered. Maybe Hinata wouldn't be such a push over if she lashed out every once and while. Sakura certainly had no problem telling people off whenever she felt like it. Yeah so long as they weren't anyone with any real authority, tee hee. One had to keep up the appearance of a cute little sweetheart, Sakura was still a girl after all. She gobbled up another mouthful. Yeah, gimme a week or two. I'd help Hinata to bust loose of her shell. Just like Ino did for me. But then Hinata wouldn't be Hinata anymore would she? Add to the fact how Sakura destroyed her friendship with Ino not long after. Would she lose Hinata too? Hinata... sweet Hinata, kind Hinata was the best Hinata. Her Hinata.

Ten Ten's slave said nothing, pointing his toes inward as he hung his head in defeat. "Oy!" Ten Ten called out again. "You deaf?" Nothing. "What's a matter? You're not afraid of a bunch of girls are you?" Sakura looked over for any kind of signal from Ino. She was too busy living up to her nickname, licking her bowl clean of every last drop.

I better not, Sakura decided. Hinata might look down upon her as some heartless bitch if she joined in just a little teasing. Or worse, she might set a bad example for her. It was her loss, the nasty part of Sakura sneered.

"He can't answer you," said a boy matter of fact like. He was the one standing before Sakura, his calm voice took each of the kunoichi aback at once. "He'll be beaten if he speaks out of turn. The Redfeet broke them entirely." There was not a trace of fear in this one's voice. Only sullen boredom as he stood upright. His comrades dared a brief instant to glare at him, silently accusing him of madness before submitting to their fates again. "They're not even human anymore," the words were meant to cut his fellow slaves deep, and they did. One of them even began to cry.

"You got guts kid," said Ten Ten with a genuine smile. "I'll give you that. What's your name?"

This guy was completely undaunted, raising his head high and matching Ten Ten's smirk with his own. "Eh? Big talk, only an idiot would get caught by the Redfeet. Even boars run circles around these oafs." Ten Ten clenched her teeth in embarrassment at that. "The name's Henry, Henry Wong." With a single exaggerated bow he got all the girls smiling. "I'll be your caterer for this afternoon." Being unable to applaud, the kunoichi let out an awe inspired noise. He was lean with dark bluish hair and calm grey eyes. A shame the Redfeet made him wear his hair like a mop. Clad in nothing but a thong loincloth made him pretty cute. The red footprint etched on his belly, along with the black square spiral branded on his cheek, spiced up his primitive appeal even further.

"So tell us Henry," Sakura cut in eagerly. "How does some like yourself get roped into a mess like this?"

"Got here the same way most do. The Redfeet came in the night, the dirty little sneaks. Took me and my sisters, then made me a slave." Brushing his hair back, he craned his neck out to show off his collar; a tan macrame choker. A very bland piece likely by design. "The Redfeet make more colorful ones for each other. That's to show off how much better they think they are, until they remember the stupid thing is supposed to be a slave symbol." That got an honest chuckle out of the ninja. "They're like birds, always trying puff themselves up in one way or another. About as bright too, meaning no offense to the birds." It wasn't the funniest joke in the world, and Henry delivered it with the banal gusto of taking a food order, but it was at their captors' expense. Sakura and Ten Ten gave him a polite "that wasn't really funny but you're sweet," laugh. Hinata was beaming, which was always a wonderful sight to behold. Ino was still busily stuffing herself.

"Ah...um...What about your sisters?" Hinata asked innocently enough. But Henry looked away staying quiet for a moment or two.

"...They're...gone now. Same as our parents, and my older brother." The kunoichi swallowed the fact down hard. There was no need to further explain.

"I'm sorry," Hinata started earnest as ever. "We did not mean to intrude on, on your feelings."

Henry looked up at her with soft if somber smile, "It's not your fault. Don't worry about it." That smile could have melted ice, it certainly caused Hinata to blush a bit. With (mostly) good humor Sakura looked upon him like a cheeky little punk. She went to say something else but Henry cut her off. "Look sharp." He bent low like the rest of his fellows at the sound of an all too familiar and deadly growl. The slaves' hair stood on their ends, as the ninja braced themselves with cold expressions.

The skull bitch stalked into the area, flanked by giggling hyenas and fierce Redfoot warriors alike. A cloud passed over the sun, making the world a little more darker than it was before. With her back arched up and stiff, the skull bitch was hungry panther seeking whom she may devour. All at once there was no more laughter. No more silly gossip, only panicked whimpers. All who took notice of her scrambled away as fast as they could. Small children were snatched up lest they cross her path. It mattered little, for the skull capped pantheress had come to prowl around about the outskirts of the dance circle. Her eyes never left Sakura for an instant, whom felt equal in her loathing.

"She's one to watch alright," Henry whispered. "That's Bloodjaw, Den Mother of clan Boy Killer. Vicious, even by Redfoot standards. She likes to flay things while they're still alive." Draped across the Redfoot's shoulders was a heavy looking cloak. Flesh colored and bound up in bloodied stitches. Sakura found her disgust and anger towards the villain tempered by the sheer horror that scurried through her own skin. Bloodjaw was circling the posts, yet drew no closer. Sakura couldn't help but feel like her body was being...measured. "Word is she's even angrier than usual. Not only did a certain somebody take out her favorite hounds, but clan Jaguar took all the credit for capturing you guys. You sure know how to pick your enemies." Guilty as charged Sakura thought with a nervous gulp. Clan Boy...killer? Not since Orochimaru had she ever come close to such vain and unfettered evil. Worse still that...thing was angry at her personally. Once, twice, three times Bloodjaw stalked about Sakura, drawing ever closer like a buzzard circling its prey. Those brief moments Sakura couldn't see her were the longest and most vulnerable seconds of her life. They might have been her last, for the Redfoot just happened to fondling a very large and sharp knife in her hands. She stopped dead to glare at Sakura with all the empty malice she could muster. No doubt it was the wrath of the Warchief that stayed her trembling hand. Would it be enough? Sakura had no choice but to look back into the abyss that was her enemy's shadowed eyes. The malice was all around her and eager to swallow her whole. Somewhere Ten Ten was mouthing off, but it was faint. With no way to move there was no way to react if Bloodjaw suddenly rushed forward, her flaying knife like a claw, digging into her guts. Sakura was falling, deeper and deeper into the abyss. Any further and she'd black out from the fright.

No...I can't...I can't die here. Not like this... Something stirred within the pitch, inside Sakura's own heart. It was strangely not unfamiliar to her. It too had fangs and claws, sharp enough to match her enemy's own. Her heart was pounding furiously, no longer to fear but to the beat of leathery wings. Sakura forgot she was kunoichi in that instant, baring her teeth back, wrapping herself up in coils of her own malice. With her fury ignited the flame quickly spread, burning harsh chakra fire through out her and beyond. Bloodjaw hesitated from her stance, as if she could feel the heat of Sakura's fury. With a hiss she turned away and stormed off without a word. Hinata and Ino alike were at a loss at what transpired, but both felt a sense of trepidation towards their team leader. Only Ten Ten seemed unfazed by Sakura's reaction, she hated this vile Bloodjaw almost as much. With a deep breath relief washed over Sakura's rage, which slithered its way back into the furthermost recesses of her mind. Its time had not yet come. Henry was standing before her again, still unbowed but not as trusting as he was before. The fear he had of her should not have tasted so sweet.

"What's going to happen to us?" said Sakura.

Henry dolefully sighed. "Eat up, you'll need your strength if you want to survive."

Chapter Text

The sky was turning red, a hyena was howling in the distance in warbling frustration. Sakura could relate. Though the Redfeet sent feeding slaves in regular intervals, the kunoichi were no closer to answers let alone escape. They had not seen Henry since that afternoon either. The shabono was abandoned save for six Redfoot warriors lounging about a tiny fire. As they nibbled at scraps of meat and fruit, they kept a close watch on the kunoichi. One of their number was leaning up against a bamboo post, impatiently drumming her fingers against her spear. With a lioness' glare she dared the kunoichi to try anything. In the distance, and undeterred, Sakura roared answering her challenge. She strained against her binds, left and right she flexed her shoulders and chest, and the ropes creaked. But all the frantic twisting did was cause the rope to burn into her skin. The Redfoot scoffed. Another wasted effort, Sakura snuffed as her allies watched.

"S-sakura...don't," Hinata's voice chimed in. "Please, don't hurt yourself." Sakura's head hung low, yielding to the defeat in her teammate's gentle voice. All of them followed suit, narrowing their eyes at the shrill giggling from over yonder.

Damn it all. The waiting, its the waiting that's that the worst. Sakura had been taken prisoner before, more times than she would ever admit to. There was nothing more insufferable than the long hours of quiet and being unable to move. About now Naruto or Kakashi, or any number of the other teams would leap out from the shadows and into action. Usually it would be heralded by that knuckle head's 'yaahooing'. Heh, what's she'd give to hear it now. What she could hear was the crackle of fire, and girlish banter. Distant drums and flutes lulled the air with tribal lullabies, nothing as bombastic as it was that afternoon. Beyond the village insects hissed amorously, ignorant of the legions of gurgling frogs prowling the trees, while clouds of bats claimed the sky. Henry had said they'd need their strength, but for what?

The blood in the sky coagulated into the gloom of purple twilight, and with it came the resumption of the heavy battle drums. A serpentine train of Redfeet was shuffling its way up to the captives, stepping in time with drums while sweeping their arms in the motion of rowing a canoe. The train carried torches to light the way, as little Redfeet skipped merrily at the train's head. The little ones wore grass skirts and anklets, while pink red garlands adorned their wrists and slender necks. They giggled as they scattered the path ahead of the train with petals.

"Kch," said Ten Ten. "The hell they want now?" Unease crept back into the kunoichi's hearts, nothing good could come from this entourage.

Do they mean to kill us now? Sakura winced. Jaguar Fist was followed by fifteen of her warriors, all adorned in Jaguar headdresses in imitation of their Warchief. All of them were strikingly beautiful, despite their savage adornments. Sakura grit her teeth at their womanly endowments, accentuated by their smutty loincloths and war paint. Showoffs! Bah!

The procession came to a sudden halt, and with it so did the drums...save one. A certain saucy little spitfire broke rank to wildly thump her cowhide bass drum to a dramatic finish. "BOOM! BOOM!" said she, thrusting her sticks over her head with pride as everyone stared at her. One Redfoot dared to giggle, but quickly shushed herself. Embarrassed that their grand moment was soiled, a pair of tall warriors picked up the tiny savage and carried her away. The little Redfoot snarled, bit and kicked at the air as she was put back into line. They even took her drum away. She crossed her arms and glared bloody murder at the thieves. Jaguar Fist barked an order, snapping everyone back into (timid) attention. The kunoichi could only sigh at the silliness of it all. Good grief!

The Warchief turned her fearsome gaze upon the helpless captives. Each of them nervously swallowed as a wicked smile fractured the amazon's face. She was clutching her deadly war club, letting it rest on her shoulder.

"Now then..." she sauntered towards the kunoichi, flanked by grim warriors and awe inspired little ones alike. "Me-o-my. Who's it gonna be? Who's gonna be...The Chosen One?" The kunoichi all flinched at the implication, as the ashes from the earlier bonfire were still smoldering. Jaguar Fist's eyes flickered to and fro, measuring up each of the kunoichi's bodies, licking her lips as she did. Back and forth she and her entourage paced, her clan-mates stood with the discipline of an army. She stopped to stare down Sakura, as her nimble fingers toyed with her femur club. The Warchief stood too close for comfort, ignoring the murmuring of her little followers, and grazed the back of her hand against Sakura's upturned cheek. The ninja winced, repulsed by any Redfoot's touch.

"Still acting tough? I'll teach you what true strength is...soon enough," The Warchief tugged at Sakura's ear, twisting it so it burned. Sakura hissed as she turned her head in the direction Jaguar pulled. The evil bitch, the hell was wrong with these Redfeet? Maybe if she were braver she would have bit the jungle bitch's hand for all the good it would have done. But no, Sakura did nothing but try to look away. The Warchief cupped her chin, forcing Sakura look at her face to face. With wide and trembling eyes, Sakura sucked in her lips, fearful of the Warchief's as she drew in closer and closer. Unable to avoid her, Sakura shut her eyes and bashfully curled up her toes. "Not yet," Jaguar whispered. She released Sakura, shuffling backwards to stand at the head of her posse. Though Sakura was able to sigh with relief, it was short lived. For the Warchief soon sauntered before a trembling Hinata. Terror claimed all four kuniochi as the Warchief pointed her club at Hinata's bewildered face.

"No!" Sakura and Ten Ten said at once. Ino bit her lower lip and looked away ashamed, not so secretly glad that it wasn't her neck on the line.

"You! You are The Chosen One this night," With these words the order was given. It was not long before Hinata's bindings were undone and the Redfeet were manhandling her down to her knees. Kneeling before the Warchief, the shy girl could not bring herself to look up at her captor. Her wrists were already bound from earlier, making it difficult for her to fidget with her fingers. A pair of jungle girls squat down, grabbing her wrists that they might loop a leash to it. As they worked the little brats pranced around Hinata in circles, humming a happy song in their native tongue. They showered her head with pedals before the brats fitted both a crown and necklace of pink-red flowers on her. There was nothing Hinata could do but look up dumbly at the smiling, sharp toothed jungle brats. They stood with their arms crossed or on their hips as they admired their handiwork. At any given moment the Hinata expected their eyes to go ablaze, and they would fall upon her with claws and fangs, snapping and tearing her limb from limb. The brats were herded away as Jaguar Fist stepped forward. Towering over Hinata, the Warchief extended her instep before the captive's face. Jaguar nudged her foot in direction of Hinata's lips, intent on getting her to kiss it. But Hinata shuddered as she looked away. The two guards squatting at Hinata's side grabbed ahold of her head and shoulders, fighting with her to keep still.

"Let go of her!" said Sakura to no avail. The Redfeet hurled teases as the Warchief held her foot in the air, waiting. Waiting for the the right chance! The ball of her found found its mark, the arc of Jaguar's foot firmly squished into Hinata's nose.

"Unaaa! Mooona!" said the crowd, cheering as they shared in the glory of their Warchief's conquest. The guards leapt to their feet, handing off Hinata's leash to Jaguar. She jerked the leash upwards and back, forcing Hinata to scramble to her feet. The drums kicked up again this time joined by wood flutes in a triumphant cacophony. Sakura and Ten Ten's shouts of protest went ignored as the Warchief shouted another order in the native tongue The troop began to swarm and twist its shape, placing Hinata at the center of the train.

"Sakuraaa...!" Hinata pleaded over her shoulder as she was dragged away. "SAAAKURAAA...!"

"HINATAAA!" Sakura strained against her bindings with all of her might. No matter how loud she might have screamed her words could neither reach or help Hinata now. Her delicate form was soon lost in the mass of war painted skin and black bobcuts. Before too long even that had been absorbed into the darkness. The dim flicker of little torch lights were the only evidence that the troop was still out there. "Hinata..." Sakura's breath faded along with all her hope. Hinata, her Hinata was gone, taken from her forever. There was nothing left to do but weep and sob. "...Don't...don't take her please...take me...take me!"


 

It had been a very long day for Hinata. Defeated by the natives, then strung up like an animal. The villains spanked her and her new friends, now her rear twitched at the slightest touch. The Redfeet snickered at the way she yelped and jumped every time someone groped her. They would not even allow her to shield her breasts, they tugged her wrists forward, leading her like a dog. If not for the grace gifted to her from her ninja training she would surely have fallen, but managed to stumble through. Limping through the weaving dirt and mud trail, her wound bit at her ankle. On they marched past the ominous huts with their bone barbs, their dangling animal skulls whose eyes glowed with angry flames. So many skulls on bamboo pikes, so many dead. Too many of them were human and small. From the darkness of the huts red eyes were all upon her. The garland crown and necklace she bore singled her out from the procession. Their soft, fresh fragrance gave her no comfort.

Hinata was a kunoichi through and through, but naive of the wider world beyond that of her home village. Of shinobi clan politics and jutsu she knew much, mayhap even more so than her classmates, though she would never have admitted to it. The primitive world of the Redfeet was utterly alien to her. She had been chosen for some sinister purpose, but her imaginings were limited. The most logical thing that came to her ninja mind was some kind of interrogation. Perhaps the Redfeet saw her as the weakest of the ninja's number, and intended to torture her. It would not surprise her in the slightest. Already she felt guilt at slowing everyone down with her injury. She could not know what the Redfeet hoped to gain from such cruelty, unless inflicting pain was sorely for their own sadistic amusement. Eyeing them over, many bore painful looking barb piercings. Be it through their nose, ears, and the corners of their mouth. Some even had shafts of bone pieced through their arms, bedazzled with dangling little seashells or long feathers, Hinata scrunched her shoulders in a little tighter. The thought of needles made her shiver, as she remembered the boy who was burned alive at the stake. The Witch with her skeletal grease paint and mouth full of razors. It was all too cruel. Part of her hoped that she would just faint and be spared from what ever terrible scheme the Redfeet had planned.

A razor tipped moon hung overhead, hiding behind the mountain. It did not want to be a witness to what was happening. The Redfeet's temple of doom squat on the mountainside like some ancient stone ogre. She was going to die, that much she was sure of. No matter what they did, it was sure to kill her. It was reassuring in a way, that everything in her life had led up to this point. It was honorable to die in the field of battle in the service to her country and village. A memorial was sure to be erected, even to a failure like herself. But who would mourn her? She shook her head at such depressing thoughts. Hanabi would miss her without a doubt. Her precious little sister, she always tried so hard to emulate the hardness of their father. But Hinata knew she had a mischievous side that few ever saw. Adding super hot spices to tea, leaving a shoe wedged in the door just so that it would fall on your head as you came in. A real trap master, brimming with confidence. She even dared father's wrath (when he wasn't looking) by sneaking out to wear mini skirts and lanky belly shirts with spaghetti straps. Totally inappropriate for either of them, but her sister didn't care. One time Hanabi came home to show off an extremely skimpy black string bikini she "found". Hinata's jaw had almost hit the floor! She couldn't believe they even made such things for girls Hanabi's size! Hinata had tried to scold her sister, which made her giggle all the harder (at least until father caught her). Later that day Hanabi chided her for not trying the...smutty thing on, saying that 'you know who' would probably notice her more if she did. Oooh! She got her back that night when they splashed around in the family onsen. Still, Hinata found herself wishing she had even an ounce of her little sister's confidence. Yes...Hanabi would miss her dearly, just as she missed her. If anything she was thankful she couldn't see her big sister like this.

An unnecessary shove came from behind, urging Hinata on across the rickety bridge. She pondered the possibility of a fast death, hurling herself over the side. Jaguar Fist pulled the rope in closer, staring down Hinata to impose her will upon her. Her lackeys picked the ninja up by the forearms, squashing that idea. Confidence...Kurenai-sensei was always going on about that wasn't she? Maybe it was just because it was her job, but she truly believed in Hinata. All her friends did. Friends...if you had told her a year ago that she'd ever make such good friends with a pair of boys, let alone best friends with them, Hinata wouldn't have believed it. Few matched Kiba's (and Akamaru's) ferocity. Somedays it seemed like Kiba was going out of his way to inspire her. Shino though somber had a warm and gentle side, even if he didn't quite express it like other people did. Both of them had a hard time relating and communicating with other people, and took solace in the other's mutual understanding. They had a connection, even if it was a painful one. People often underestimated them, foes and clients alike. Team 8 wasn't a powerhouse, or the highest rank. But that didn't matter, because they had heart and they had each other. In less than a year they were practically siblings, how she wished they were here. They had been in spots just as tough as this one, and always managed to pull through. Or was that just her forlorn hope? Wishful thinking to escape a dire situation. How much time did she waste daily, drifting away into fantasy?

Up the stone steps and into the abysmal darkness. It was hard to believe the temple had grown even scarier after dark. Embedded in the walls were symbols of death, hissing serpents and vampiric skulls. So morbid, it made Hinata sad that this was all the Redfeet seemed to live for. How could they take pleasure in so much suffering? Perhaps it was all they knew, and that thought made her even more dour. The throne room was an empty tomb compared the bustling court it was before. There was no sign of Hikari either, not that Hinata had any desire to see her again. The Redfeet had corrupted the girl so completely, even a soul as tender as Hinata's doubted she could be forgiven. After all, it was Hikari that gave the order for the Fire Dance, that malefic pageant of unspeakable perversion. She was just as complicit in the Redfeet's crimes, perhaps more so for the position of power she was in. Another tug from Jaguar Fist, who regarded her with a warm look. Hinata rejected her by keeping her head bowed. They made their way down the right corridor, the occasional wall torch flickered a path through the darkness.

The bitterness of reality could not compare to the refuge of fantasy. In her mind's eye she was not shuffling along into a pit of doom, but lying in an open field. The sun's golden rays trickling downward, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Green elysian fields that existed in the brief twilight between spring and summer. There she could stand tall and unafraid, with the wind blowing kisses through her hair. It was preferable to there, because he would be waiting for her. Naruto-kun, her Naruto-kun. Oh the things they would do together. Spread out on the grass would be a great big sheet, with a basket full of goodies (that they made together of course!). In that place she could approach him bold as she may please. She would take him by the hands, and look him straight in the eye and...

Another sharp yank forward and this time she really did lose her balance, tumbling into the strong if slender arms of the Warchief. The intensity of her smug stare made Hinata think of Ten Ten for reasons she could not fathom. Worse still, Hinata was being cradled in such a way that her hands had landed on Jaguar's breasts! The smug witch, she did this on purpose. Hinata floundered backwards as if the other girl's naked skin was a hot flame, falling to her knees as she did and gasping for air. The ever cruel Redfeet mocked her embarrassment with their gossip and laughter, as if they could see her reddening cheeks through the dark.

"Almost there my little cub," said Jaguar in an uncharacteristically tender tone. Another tight pull and Hinata was pulled forward on her belly. She whined from the sudden movement and refused to rise. To that Jaguar Fist snorted, somewhat amused. She planted her foot atop Hinata's head, digging her toes into her hair. Hinata curled up her own toes as the other warriors joined in, giggling as they stomped, groped and prodded her with their feet. Another futile act of rebellion wasted. They cheered as she squirmed under them and kicked her, while the fiend Jaguar pulled at the leash. But Hinata would not budge, it was all over for her anyway. Disgraceful, it was just like that time when she was a little girl. But now there was no Naruto to rescue her. Oh if Father could see her now. His stern disapproving gaze was harder than stone. If only she was stronger, if only...

No. A single word to shut down all the anxieties and what if's bubbling up inside her. Crying won't help me anymore. These savages wouldn't have isolated her from the group without planning something terrible. There was no chance at all that she was going to survive whatever was coming. That much she was sure of. One by one faces flashed through her mind: Shino, Kiba, and Akamaru. Kurenai, and Neji. Mother, Father. Naruto-kun. None of them would ever give up. Ah! But she made new friends since coming to this cursed island hadn't she? Sakura, Ten Ten, and Ino too. Sakura especially! She had been so kind to her, she didn't have to but she did. Hinata clenched her fists, is this how she was going to repay Sakura's kindness? If she gave up here and now, how could she face any of them in the next life? Was her faith in the Hidden Leaf village so cheap? No! That's right, she wasn't some helpless lamb to the slaughter. She was a ninja, a descendant of the noble house of Hyuga. Generations of great heroes came before her, who risked all and fought to their last breath to ensure that the people of her village could live in peace. If this is how I must die, it won't be because I gave up. Her team was suffering through this too. I have to be strong for their sake. I can't let the enemy think they've won. Come on...Strong like Father, gentle like Mother. Slowly Hinata began to rise of her own accord, much to the shock of the Redfeet. Upright once more, she locked eyes with the tenacious Warchief. Hinata's pretty face had turned to stone. Jaguar's eyebrow cocked, what she thought none could say, she merely turned pulling Hinata along with her. From then on, Hinata held her head up high.

On they walked, past the vine encrusted walls and murals of ancient picture writing. On and on and on, until finally coming to a dead end. Stone ground upon stone as a new entrance began to rise. A dim light, and girlish whispering trickled out from under the portal.

"Ornah Thi'Hali...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali...Ornah Zukalaka..."

The Redfeet quickly herded their captive inside, before the heavy stone door came crashing down again sealing the chamber. Hinata heart shuddered, she had no way out now.

"Welcome cub," said Jaguar Fist, making a sweeping gesture with her arm. "...to the den of Clan Jaguar!" The chamber was not as vast as the throne room, but no less fierce in the dark of night. Skeletal beasts of stone lurked in every corner of the chamber, rearing their jaws open, and waggling their tongues of fire. Hundreds of flickering candles melted upon low tables and small, carefully arranged square pyramids of skulls. Their primitive fires did little to the darkness which reigned here. If anything they only added to its sinister luster. Here and there spiders freely weaved their webs, eager the catch the occasional gnat or bejeweled butterfly. Many had already been taken, spun tightly in cocoons and drained of all life. Upon the walls the Jaguar Clan banners hung proudly; human and jaguar skull capped flags made of jaguar pelts. Each of them had been stamped all over with the red hand and foot prints of the clan, while black feathers dangled from tassels along the banners' fringes. The murals hidden behind them were more evidence of a people that existed before the Redfeet. Hinata caught glimpses of the picture writing; regal looking men garbed in loincloths and feathered headdresses. Yet each of them had the heads of snakes with green and scaly skin. There was no way to know what story these ancient pictograms tried to tell, for the Redfeet had since scrawled over them with squiggly hyenas, and chevron graffiti. Esoteric eye balls, sun spirals, hand and footprints of every color were smudged everywhere, set to stomp out the memory of these ancients. They even drew ruder things: huge tits upon the men and ridiculous mustaches. One serpentine warrior was being gobbled up by a big red snake. Here a pig's head was scribbled over another. One figure was swarmed by childishly drawn bees. There was a depiction of a king sitting down in midair, whom was made to look like he was shitting. Truly the Redfeet had claimed this once sacred place as their own, it was a den all right. Cockroaches skittered on the cool if sticky stone floor. The whole room stank of the girls' sweat, barely covered over by noxious incense and perfumes. Over sized Redfoot masks glowered on every wall, alongside stuffed animal heads and stockpiles of spears, axes, and other stone age weapons.

Row upon row the Redfeet were sitting on heaps of fur blankets spread out across the floor, their legs folded in the lotus way. Others huddled from the sidelines with their hyena counterparts, shaking rattles and softly drumming. True to their clan name, the Redfeet kept a pair of live jaguars as pets. The poor dears were made to wear extravagant bead chokers, hued in red and turquoise chevron patterns. The beasts lounged and yawned there like overgrown house cats. How these savages managed to tame these dangerous animals was a mystery in of itself. The Jaguars black eyes glowed now again just like their masters. If their eyes were not closed, the Redfeet were in awe at the idol hunched over at the end of the room. All of their eyes were glazed over with that eerie pink-red glow. Those who were not whispering prayers had their mouths hanging open wallowing in some unknown rapture. They did not care if they were seen drooling. Hinata strained to focus on the mysterious behemoth and when it became clear her eyes went wide with shock. The black stone monument was that of a beautiful tribal woman, clad in loincloth and the usual tribal adornments. It was crowned with a Montezumian headdress not unlike the one Hikari wore before, giving Her the regality of brutal jungle queen. Like Her devotees She sat bare foot in the lotus position, but She had the head of snake; Her jaws hinged open in an eternal hiss. Bawdier still, sitting in Her lap was a stone tribal girl, who wrapped her small but nubile arms and legs around the waist of Her elder. She too had a serpentine head which rested amorously upon Her elder's ample bosom, Her own bosom was still petite. The elder figure clutched her young charge tight, with a fang like dagger upraised in one hand, daring any to just try and separate the two. Then again...maybe perhaps, She intended to stab her young charge in the back. Both of them sat atop the stepped coils of a greater serpent, that wove its way about their bodies. Where its head rested, the beast ate of its own tail. Cracked fissures in the walls allowed thick vines to infest the idol and the area surrounding it. Even more unnerving was the way they squished and pulsated across the idol like veins. The twisted things were alive and moving! As if restless snakes themselves, the vines caressed the faces and limbs of the idol. As if aware of the flames of the little candles lying about, the vines slowly maneuvered around or over them. Hinata could not and did not want to fathom the power that animated them so. The wet and gestating sounds they made threatened to buckle the newfound strength she had gathered.

"An impressive sight is it not?" Jaguar Fist clamped her arm around Hinata's shoulder, and the kunoichi recoiled at her proximity. The Warchief paid her captive's anxiety no mind, smiling almost amiably at her. "I'll bet you've never seen anything of its like in your whole life." That much was true. Never before had Hinata had to suffer in the presence of such an evil temple, in which darkness and death were worshiped. The blood stained stone altar that sat before the slinky idol did not escape her notice. There were skulls and scales engraved in that horror as well.

This is it then. Hinata drew a deep breath. End of the line. In stalwart defiance she shook her head in acknowledgement of Jaguar Fist's prattle.

"Slaves are sometimes brought here, but only on high holy days. We do not allow them to sully the ground with their unworthy feet. Their blood at least is useful in working certain magic..." The Warchief was circling about Hinata, typical of a predator closing in on its prey. Her arm and fingers slithered across Hinata's back and shoulders, to rest alluringly on her left arm. A few inches more and the Warchief could cup Hinata's breast. "Ah, but you are no piglet destined for the roast. You are a girl." She stared Hinata down to make her feel small, to which Hinata did her best to puff herself up in return. "A pretty one at that." Jaguar's signature hand caressed Hinata's flinching right arm. "That makes you destined for greater things." Jaguar reached up with her left hand to run her fingertips through locks of Hinata's hair. The kunoichi did her best not to flinch any more under the savage's leering touch. The sharpness of Jaguar's gauntlet didn't make that any easier. Emboldened, the Warchief's fingers crept down to fondle Hinata's headband, which she always wore like a choker. "What is this symbol? Is it the mark of your clan? Why do you wear this as a slave's collar? Are you not a warrior?" Jaguar Fist looked over her face sternly, but Hinata glared and said nothing. If her hands were unbound she would show this savage well what the Hidden Leaf stood for. Two flunkies still gripped Hinata by the arms though, so she could only stand idle as Jaguar undid the thing and snatched it away. "There, I have set you free," the Warchief dropped the headband on the ground and then squished it underfoot like a bug. Her eyes were strangely inviting. "You no longer need to hold yourself back little cub. Here..." With her toe she pushed the garment up against Hinata's toes. "Try it for yourself."

The nerve of this Jaguar Fist. Trampling upon the symbol Hinata's home and expecting her to do the same? Were these Redfeet that mad? "You are the only one keeping me prisoner."

Jaguar Fist raised an eyebrow at that. "She speaks! And such a musical voice as well. Do you know any songs girl? I could teach you..." Jaguar Fist was standing so close her bare breast was nearly brushing up against Hinata's shirt. The Warchief 'accidentally' brushed the top of Hinata's foot with her toes, to which the bewildered ninja shuffled her feet away.

"You have nothing that I want." Save for her hands that were bound so tight the straps were starting to chafe.

"Ah, ah. But that's where you are wrong my little cub. Here in this place, this island paradise, is everything a girl could ever want. Warrior Girls like you...and I." She stepped away from Hinata to make another grand and sweeping gesture with her hands. Hinata was just glad to get some breathing room.

Embedded in the floor at the center of the room was a shallow pool of cloudy white murk. The slime was alive with hundreds of those strange worms from the cave, their loathsome writhing made Hinata think of eels. The pool was ringed with stones marked with eight red arrow runes pointing in all directions. There little Hikari sat at the edge, daubing her bare feet in the cloudy viscous within. Her eyes were locked upon the diabolic idol, and blazing with unholy fire. She no longer wore her massive headdress, or even the tribal shawl that provided some pittance of modesty. Its loss revealed a tribal armband studded with chunks of crystal, and a couple green feathers. She had since traded the jade nose ring for a simple stick that went no further than her dimples. At her Warchief's call the glow faded away, and the little Princess shook her head to clear it. When she turned about her eyes lit up at the sight of the troop, and she eagerly waved at Hinata. An innocent gesture that made Hinata pity her all the more ashamed of her. "Thi'hali" rushed over at once, her fanged anklet and kitten skull necklace clinking with every step. Her loincloth was now pure white and fringed with beads and tassels; its narrow flaps now only barely came past her crotch and butt, barely concealing the stringy thong beneath. The eerie three pronged glyph on everyone's forehead marked on the front of the loincloth in a pale pink, surrounded by eight red arrow points, the complete insignia of the tribe. It glared at Hinata like baleful eye. The ninja instinctively shrank back at the sight of the strange girl's bare painted chest, as Hikari tip toed her way through the throng to clamp ahold of her in hug. Hinata's discomfort continued to swell, with all eyes suddenly on her and the near naked girl nuzzling her face into her breasts. It was too much!

"You're here!" said Hikari. "You're finally here. I've been waiting all day." Her smile revealed perky little fangs. They would have almost been cute if not given the circumstances. It occurred to Hinata that the other Redfeet had unusually sharp canines, kind of like Kiba did. But then, how could Hikari also have such?

"Didn't you hear us come in my little divine?" said Jaguar Fist. The Sun Princess ran over to hug her as well, to which Jaguar knelt to catch her, engulfing her in her whole body.

"I'm sorry. I was entangled in The Weave." The most mischievous of knowing smiles crept over Jaguar and Hikari's faces. Both of them eyed Hinata, sniggering at her ignorance. The Warchief nodded and patted Hikari's head as to say she understood. To that end the Sun Princess rushed back over to snuggle up to Hinata again. "Oh...you're going to love it here. We're gonna have so much fun. We'll hold hands and sing songs and dance everyday. We'll all live together forever and ever..."

"What sister Thi'hali is trying to say, is that it wasn't mere chance that led you and your friends here." The Warchief was circling her again. Hinata made sure to not lose sight of her. "You were always meant to find your way here. Everything in your life, from the moment you were born, has been...preparation up until this point." Hinata had a sneaking suspicion that this little speech was rehearsed. "True you were defeated and captured. But you have proven without a doubt you have some skill. You are strong now. Just think how strong you could become, with the power of our Goddesses at your back." Hinata couldn't believe what she was hearing. After all the terrible things the Redfeet had done to her and her friends, they extend an invitation to join them?

"But first you must be Purified, baptized in the way of the jungle," said Hikari.

"B-baptized?" Hinata repeated with dread.

"For your initiation silly!" The Sun Princess took a step backwards that she might collect Hinata's leash from Jaguar Fist. "First we'll do away with these bindings..." Hinata nodded in wary agreement, lowering her hands so the little she-fiend could work. But her eyes were shifting left and right, to take count of how many enemies lay near.

Wait... The pressure around her wrists were starting to slacken, as was the attention of the guards that held her by the arms.

"...After that you'll get undressed, then we can begin." Though Hikari's tone was still cheerful, there was a tinge of command within in her words. Hinata ignored her threat. "I know you're shy, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. Being naked around other girls is perfectly natural, and we Redfeet are all about being in touch with nature..."

A nest of wasps is also natural, Hinata thought. Wait...

"There we go! Good as n..." In a flash of milliseconds, Hinata's hands jutted out in a duel palm heel strike, knocking the Sun Princess backwards. With piston precision her elbows slammed into the bellies of her unwary guards, knocking the wind out of them. Speed, speed was the key to her survival, for however long it would last. Her hands became as knives, cutting through the air in a sweeping whirlwind chopping down on the necks of the two gasping guards. They crumpled to the floor as Hinata's stance came round and wide, her feet square apart and prepared for the onslaught. The sudden shock left the Redfeet slack jawed, hesitant at what to do. Then the evil glow resurfaced in their eyes, contorting their already savage faces into a unified snarl.

"Seize her!" Jaguar Fist's warclub was already in her hand, directing the warriors. Veins crept up across Hinata's temples and into her eyes.

Byakugan! Black stillness shrouded the world, as Hinata saw with sight beyond sight. She was the eye at the center of a storm, the drooling pack of Redfeet reduced to a slow crawl. Her power allowed her to perceive every detail of the room and process it far faster than her adversaries. But they still had the numbers. Worse still, through the gloom Hinata could see the sheer wrongness of the Redfeet's chakra. A normal body was like a flourishing blue torch, the energy of life flowing vibrant and free. But the Redfeet's bodies were as black silhouettes, like a corpse! Hinata swallowed hard. Their chakra circulation systems were still there, and aglow with that hellish fuchsia aura. The chakra struggled against a sinister flow, twisting all energy into the pit of their bellies, where something dark was throbbing. Hinata felt a cosmic dread at the way the tiny bulbs pumped like little black hearts. Stranger still each of them was bound by a strand of dark energies, projecting out from the backs of each Redfoot, withdrawing into a web of power lurking within the strange vines coiling the idol. S-s-something...is controlling them? Through the plants?

The mob gave her no more time to think. Hinata's fingertips flew like serpents, biting deep into deadened chakra point after deadened chakra point. Her blows landed true driving her aggressors back. Luckily none of them brandished spears or knives, hoping instead to tackle their captive and grapple her into submission. A foolish mistake on their part. Hinata's feet swept the floor in graceful arcs, stepping in and around would be grapplers in sylvan dance, striking as she went. Many fell over crippled, as their chakra points were closed. It had seemed Hinata was gaining the upper hand when the dark power in their bellies suddenly surged. Their once black husks were now saturated with evil chakra, the source of their glowing eyes was revealed! Hinata panicked as she saw the battered Redfeet rise up again, grunting through the numb pain as they were compelled to attack again, howling with primal fury as they went.

They're getting stronger! Hinata's courage wavered, forcing her to move even faster, and less precise. Leaping Feather came running up with a war club swinging overhead. Had Hinata been at full strength she would have easily dodged it. With the limited space and her strength waning, she instead managed a block. The blow was painful gash upon her arm, but better that than a hit on the head. She counter attacked with a palm heel, forgetting the embarrassment of touching another girl's breast, and sent the dirty little savage flying back. Leaping Feather crashed against the wall, landing into a conscious breaking crumple. There she should have stayed if not for the unholy force that compelled her body to rise again.

Another blow caught Hinata off guard, a smack against the shoulder. Jaguar Fist. She followed up with a flurry of overhead and backhanded strikes, keeping one hand free to try and grab at Hinata's wrists. While ducking under one swing, Hinata shot out a volley of strikes, aimed across the belly and at the heart. The venom of Hinata's chakra would rupture Jaguar Fist's pathways, and cause her organs to fail. An ignoble end to an ignoble warrior. But the dark excrescence that tethered the Redfoot to the vines continued to pulse. Hinata could see it, a blob of energy surged up from the depths of the fissures in the wall. It scurried along the path of the vines and into the strand protruding from Jaguar Fist's back. She did not even flinch under Hinata's attacks. The blob of energy joined with the bizarre "heart" pumping within Jaguar's belly. It was revitalizing the Redfoot, undoing the damage done just as fast as Hinata could deliver.

My attacks...aren't working! It's like she doesn't feel anything...or... Distracted for but a precious instant she was suddenly unable to sweep her leg forward. A pair of Redfeet dived in and clamped a hold of Hinata's shins, throwing off the flow of her technique. Oh no! Her balance faltered and the Redfeet wasted no time tackling her. In one instant she was falling forward, in the next she was crushed under a Redfoot dogpile. Flat on her belly with her arms pinned down she utterly helpless. It wasn't long before Jaguar Fist's toes were standing in front of her eyes. They drummed once along the ground with impatience, as the Warchief squatted low on them. Hinata winced as Jaguar grabbed a handful of her hair, forcing her to look her in the eye.

"It would have gone easier for you if you just cooperated. Not that we don't mind discipling you."

Hinata offered her best "Naruto-esqe" grin. The Warchief slapped her with her un-gloved palm. Kiba would have been proud.

Hikari crept up behind her Warchief, her arms clapsed in front of her chest; such a deliberate "cute and naive" pose. "You meanie!" The Sun Princess stuck out her tongue.

"Pay it no mind my little divine," Jaguar Fist started. "It just goes to show we snagged ourselves a most worthy sister."

"What makes you think any of us will join you?" Hinata's question made the Redfeet sneer at her with incredulity.

Jaguar Fist jerked Hinata's head left and right, reveling in her pain. "By all means, let us demonstrate..." It was as though Needle Teeth had appeared from thin air, poking her head out from behind the Warchief. It wasn't just the captive who tensed up in her weird presence. With a 'yo' and a faux salute, she slithered around the bend. The drums and rattles song mutated from soft ritual noise into a slow militaristic pounding, and the chanting began anew.

"Ornah Thi'Hali...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali...Ornah Zukalaka...".

Needle Teeth produced a long, narrow, bamboo tube from behind her back. It ended in a black olive shaped lump with a sort of hook protruding from it. The Witch allowed the thing to hover past Hinata's eyes, revealing its ebon skull shape. 'Thi'Hali' was squatting on her toes now, taking the hooked end in her fingers to guide it into Hinata's left nostril. On impulse the kunoichi tried to thrash away, but the grip of five Redfeet held down. Someone held her head to keep her from shaking it, as the Witch moved into position. With the tube secure in Hinata's nose, Needle Teeth stuffed a mysterious green powder into the other end. She sucked in a gulp of air as Hinata braced for the unknown torture.

Psh! The pungent pine smell slugged her across the brain. Snapped out of her byakugan vision, her vision went blurry. The sudden intake made her hack and sniffle. Worse still she felt her muscles begin numb, her strength began to dissolve. The Redfeet were all mad smiles, as the the tube was inserted into Hinata's other nostril.

...No...can't...let them... If she fainted now she was sure to be finished. Yet as hazy as she felt, she wasn't fatigued.

Psh! Another hit, the dank poison surged through her mind, lighting up every pathway in her brain. The world around her began to melt in an incandescent haze. Though her body felt weightless, her control over it more faint, she could still feel the full weight of the Redfeet pinning her. If anything she was growing more aware of their touch. The warmth of their bodies pressed against her, was almost searing though not painful. The could sense the trickle of blood rushing through each of the little hands gripping her ankles, wrists, shins, thighs, and forearms. The tribe's hyena laughter grew slurred as they pulled away to stand around her in a circle, watching her flop around on the ground like a fish out of water.

"Ornah Thi'Hali...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali...Ornah Zukalaka!" The chanting rose from tiny whispers into a schoolyard taunt. Redfoot hands and feet descended upon their captive. Rolled onto her back, they massaged her face with their feet, as her pants were pulled down and inched past her knees. Her blue and white stripped panties lay bare for all to see. Hinata tried to cover herself, only to have her wrists jerked away. They lifted her ankles in the air, wresting her pants away one leg at a time. Like the savages they were, the Redfeet tried to rip off her shirt with their bare hands, and shoved and pushed at each other for a chance to tug and rip. Hinata gasped uncontrollably, overwhelmed by all the girls touching her. When her shirt wouldn't give, a knife was produced. They snatched her shirt and net undershirt up exposing her belly. The blade ran down the length of her breasts and all the way to her chin. The sound of the fabric ripping away made Hinata want to cry. Her sleeves were cut away and the tattered remains fell away, and the Redfeet cooed in awe at the sight of Hinata's smooth belly and ample breasts. In that instant blood flushed Hinata's cheeks. She wanted to scream, but could only gasp, still dizzy from the vile insufflation. Wet green gunge dribbled from her nostrils. Where ever her skin was exposed a bare red foot was touching her, carassing her, smothering her with barbaric affection. Bewildering grunts escaped from Hinata, as she turned her face left and right to try and escape to sensual trampling. The girls took turns pressing their toes into her lips and her belly button. They smothered her shins and thighs from all sides.

"Ornah Thi'Hali...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali...Ornah Zukalaka!" They rubbed her arms and shoulders, never breaking their chant. Someone grabbed her hands, making her massage their feet. At one point she was made to sit up so they could even molest her back. The bits of her clothes were quick snatched up, to be passed around. Like wild dogs the girls pulled at the scraps in games of tug of war, some even used their teeth, gumming the wads of cloth!

"Three Great Jungle Goddesses," Jaguar Fist stood over Hinata who looked up at her afraid. The parochial chant dropped to a harsh whisper as the Warchief spoke. "The great warriors who triumphed over The Great Enemy of all Girls, and crushed him under their feet. They trampled him, until their feet was strained red with his blood. So it was their disciples became the first Redfeet. Grandmother Oombala, she who had died but returned from death, went to the moon. To watch over us in the dark of night, when the Enemy's power is strongest. Noble little Thi'hali became the sun! Whose light shines upon us every day, giving us warmth and life. Finally, our mother Zukalaka..." The Warchief slid down to her knees, purposefully straddling Hinata's thighs as she did. With her arms being held out to either side by the chanting heathen, Hinata could not cover herself. Jaguar Fist swept into her captive, bonding their bellies and breasts as one. Hinata meant to jerk out of the Redfoot's grasp, but her body did not obey. A faint squirm was all she could manage, which only served to tantalize The Warchief even more. She wrapped her arms across Hinata's shoulders, behind her neck, drawing her closer and closer in an amorous cuddle.

"N-n-n-no..." Hinata was able to manage. The Warchief's smile was one of sultry bliss. She slid a finger across Hinata's cheek to rest on her lips and shush her.

"Zukalaka knew The Enemy could not be permanantly killed. So she sacrificed her body, to become the island itself. It became a paradise, a safe haven for all girls who are Pure." The Warchief leaned in ever closer, grazing her cheek across Hinata's to whisper. "We must bring our bodies together, to remain Pure." Jaguar Fist shuffled in her seat backwards, releasing poor Hinata from her shameless embrace. But in so doing, someone grabbed Hinata's shoulders, forcing her to lie flat on the ground again. Jaguar Fist's thumbs hooked into hems of Hinata's panties, peeling them down the captive's slender legs. She made sure to let the full length of her hands slide as amorously as possible. In desperation, Hinata twitched her ankles about as if to fight Jaguar. The Warchief only grinned at her captive's tenacity, pinching at Hinata's toes before pulling the soft fabric away. No sooner had her panties disappeared, the other Redfeet invaded Hinata's most intimate places with their toes. The chanting began to rise again, she was utterly exposed, and as naked as they were. Trapped against the cool stone floor she finally screamed, as the Redfeet continued to grind their heels and toes into her skin. Thi'hali quickly muffled her by jamming her foot into Hinata's mouth. As she gagged on the Princess's toes, she watched in horror as Hikari chanted with the rest of her tribe.

"Ornah Thi'Hali...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali...Ornah Zukalaka!"

As she stood up over Hinata, Jaguar held the panties up to her face, taking in a deep whiff. She passed them on to 'Thi'Hali' who then passed them on to Leaping Feather, repeating the same ritual. Each of their faces were aglow from the act. Eventually her dainties were lost to the crowd.

"So kyuute!" The Sun Princess exclaimed at the sight of Hinata's full nudity. Needle Teeth was sniggering, squatting on her toes and knuckles at her Warchief's side. "She has such beautiful skin...and the prettiest eyes I've ever seen! They shine just like the moon. She is surely blessed by Oombala."

The Warchief raised a hand and yelled a command to still the chanting. The lecherous jungle feet withdrew at once from Hinata's body. Immediately she coughed and coughed, spitting out the salty taste of girl feet, as she huddled into a ball. "Oh my...You...You're are gorgeous!" said Jaguar Fist. "Stingy little club. Why do you hide? You should be proud of your body." The Warchief crept up behind Hinata's shuddering back, crawling as an ape does on all fours. She traced her fingertips along the length of Hinata's snow white skin, as Hinata recoiled as if in pain. Undeterred, the Warchief sided up to Hinata, to take her by the shoulder and help her rise to her feet. "Come now..." she whispered.

"Leave me alone!" Hinata whined. She shut her eyes to shut out the insanity around her.

"No. No Redfoot girl is ever alone," said Needle Teeth as she sauntered to Hinata. At the sound of her dull voice, Hinata's eyes opened again. The Witch lifted up her leg to brush her toes across the bridge of Hinata's nose. "No true Redfoot ever feels lonely." The ghoulish girl lay flat on her her side, showing off the full glamor of her skinny body. She stared right into Hinata's eyes with soulful awe. The gaze was overpowering, Hinata couldn't look away. "You know well the pain of loneliness don't you?" Hinata was taken aback because it was true. No matter what she did, it was never enough. The only time she wasn't being ignored, was when she was being berated. How could this evil creature know that just from looking at her? Was Hinata really that weak a Hyuga? The Witch offered a coy smirk, what was probably meant to be reassuring. "You will never have to feel such sadness again." Her words only brought more dread to Hinata's heart.

"We'll be looking out for you from now on," Leaping Feather butted in from the throng. The Witch's death's head snapped around at her and glowered. Frightened, Feather lowered her head, backing away slowly in a careful show of submission. The Witch arose as she did with nostrils flaring. She towered over her minion as a snake raises its head to make itself look bigger. Blubbering Leaping Feather fell to her knees, now scrambling backwards as the Witch skulked closer and closer. The other Redfeet hung their heads, no one, not even the Warchief or the Sun Princess would help her. Desperately the girl kowtowed over and over before Needle Teeth as she stood over her. Satisfied she turned her deadly gaze on the rest of the lot. "Bathe the girl," she nudged her in Hinata's direction. The order was given. All eyes flickered with dark power. Hinata could feel it touching her.

Hinata was hefted up under her arms, forced to walk to the waiting nuptial pool; the cauldron of murky white ooze, vivified by the hundreds of prehensile worms slithering within it.

"No..." Hinata gasped with horror. Panic beyond all panic gripped her soul. She did not know how, but this much was clear. They were going to turn her into one them! "No! No you mustn't!"

"It's alright. Everything will be alright," came the tinkling voice of the Sun Princess. She took hold of Hinata's hand as they walked. "Everyone must go through the ritual so they can become a true Redfoot." Her cherubic face darkened, twisting up into the most hellish grin. "We all went through it, and so must you." Hikari licked her lips hungrily as her little grip tightened around Hinata's fingers. Step by step the throng edged her forward. Hinata's struggling was little more than waifish floundering. Her toes teetered at edges of the twisting crude, while Redfeet cackled and tugged at her wrists. The Sun Princess stepped to the side, as Hinata was pulled down, knee deep into the slime.

"Kyaaa!" The gunge was lukewarm and syrupy. Speckles that splashed up clung to her skin with an oily sheen. Unclean! So unclean...

"Ornah Thi'Hali...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala...Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali...Ornah Zukalaka..."

There was a jungle girl standing in every direction, drawing closer into the pool. Dragged to the floor, she was made to sit upright within the lap of a Redfoot, with her feet outstretched. The girl behind her wrapped her arms around Hinata's belly, then crisscrossed her legs around her waist. Leaping Feather sat cross-legged in front of Hinata, while two more took Hinata's squirming feet into their own laps, spreading her legs wide open. The two wasted no time rubbing Hinata's feet, kneading the filthy grunge into her soles, ankles and shins.

"W-wait...no...don't...p-please..." The worms swam like snakes through the sludge, as more girls stood or squat down within it. Dipping their feet in to stir, only to raise them up again with streams of slime running down their leg, binding them to the pool. They spread their toes wide, each of them webbed with goo. The circle worked together slathering ooze all over Hinata's naked body with their feet. Youthful, small feet came in from every direction, eager to fondle her arms and legs, her belly and breasts. Leaping Feather hitched up her own legs, to smear the slime across Hinata's blushing face. The tribe never stopped chanting, nor did their eyes stop glowing. "Help me! Somebody! Please Jaguar stop!" The Warchief just sat cross-legged on the edge of the pool, staring at Hinata with feverish desire. The two Redfeet finished defiling her feet, forced Hinata to close her legs so they sat flat. Leaping Feather quickly moved in to sit atop Hinata's thighs, dipping her hands into the slime to pour it over all Hinata's hair in a ritualistic motion. She had to hold her breath in gulps, lest she accidentally swallow the slime. Scoop upon scoop, the tribe spread the goo in layers, which slid across her skin in clear streams and bubbles. They did not stop until Hinata was completely immersed in a syrupy cocoon of slime and feet. The briny scent assaulted her with indomitable sensuality. It was no use, her body was completely soiled. Hinata's skin tingled at every touch, she flinched as the worms swam past her legs.

It was at this moment that Jaguar Fist, Thi'hali and Needle Teeth, wadded into the pool themselves. Their hands clasped in prayer as they surrounded the captive. She was forced to lie back and rest her head on someone's knees, while several girls held down the rest of her. Grubby fingers pried open her mouth and she gagged as Jaguar stood directly over her; Hikari to the right, Needle Teeth to the left. It was Jaguar who began the invocation, lifting her leg up to press her toes upon Hinata's forehead:

"Almighty Zukalaka. Horned Serpent of the Earth, Warrior Goddess of all Jungle Girls. We invoke your great Name, and ask that you lend us your power. Please help us to Purify this girl. Bind her soul into The Weave. Make her into a Redfoot. Help her to understand our love for her. Show her what it truly means to be free. Make her one of us. Make her one with the tribe."

"One with the tribe...One with the tribe...One with the tribe..." said the Redfeet over and over with dull precision.

For a moment the Redfeet ceased their chant, though the ritual drums played on. The Unholy Triumvirate that ruled over them continued their prayer. "In the names of the Sun, Moon, and Serpent we pray. We offer this girl's virginity as a sacrifice."

Jaguar continued on alone, speaking directly at the sobbing Hinata. "As it was in the beginning, and until the end of time. Pretty child, daughter of the wild. For you my precious I lay down my body. Upon the rock, the soil, and the green. May you walk always bare underfoot, that you may never forget my love; that we may never be severed. Share that love with your sisters upon this sacred land that is thine. Guard it with your life." With the incantation given, the Warchief bent down to scoop up some slime and slurped it up in a single gulp. She swished it around in her mouth for a bit, before bending over Hinata's face.

No... She knew what was coming but there was nothing to be done about it. As the Warchief regurgitated the slime, Hinata's throat was stroked to make the passage easier. Her whine was cut short by a guzzling. A hand quickly latched over Hinata's mouth to prevent her from spitting out the salty syrup. There was no other choice but to gulp it down. She could feel it snaking its way down her throat, to make its nest inside her tummy. These cruel Redfeet wanted to defile her inside and out!

The Sun Princess was next, nimbly sticking her foot onto Hinata's face. "To you I give the everlasting sky, and the light, the fire in the sky. I give you the secret of the fire within and without. Cradle me in your heart, and I will keep you warm forever." The little one was beyond redemption. A true Redfoot through and though, she drooled the slime into the victim's mouth with the utmost pride.

Now came The Witch, Needle Teeth, who was most frightening of all. "To you I give nothing. Kill for the tribe. Live for the good of the tribe or die. There is no other reasoning. Three indirect brine flavored kisses, Hinata's stomach and throat was almost overflowing with the gunge. She hiccuped causing some of it back up into her mouth.

My...virginity...a sacrifice?

The Triumvirate each laid a foot upon Hinata's face all together now. "Awaken The Beast within." The drums and rattles built up to a furious climax before abruptly ending. But the ritual was far from over.

Oom duh doom. Oom duh doom. Oom duh doom. The drum song wove a sensual hymn, trickling through the air as the Triumvirate stepped out of the pool, their legs shining from the slick. Long stands of the stuff peeled away as they broke from the pool.

"Leaping Feather," The Warchief started. "By right of conquest, you have first claim to this girl."

Hinata's heart skipped a beat at those words. The grip of the girls holding her down grew tighter, Leaping Feather started scooting in closer. This couldn't be happening, this wasn't happening. Hinata's skin was already crawling from the initial violations. The Redfeet lifted her body up, Leaping Feather carrying her by the ankles. Web strands clung to Hinata as if unwilling to let her go. Cool clamminess began to settle upon her. Scummy as she was, she could not imagine being any more miserable than she was now.

Hinata was lain upon the cushy mass of fur blankets. The savage circle joined her on the floor, snuggling up to one another. Now instead of ritual chants, came the sound of wet kisses. Vixen fingers tugged at loincloth strings, letting them fall to the floor. Soon every Redfoot girl was lying bare. With cheeky tongues waggling the tribe was smothering each other's faces with either their lips or feet. Bellies and breasts pressed together in a rigorous dance of unbridled passion. The room was soon overflowing the mewling of girls in heat. They spread their legs wide, grinding their loins into each other, clitoris kissing clitoris. Some leaned in to snog with their partner. Others leaned back to allow others to stand over them, and clamp their head between their thighs. Only the drummers went unmolested, whose song was the throbbing heart beat of the beast. Hinata's head was laid to rest upon Needle Teeth's thighs. The Witch was groaning some spell in the back of her throat as she shook her rattle in circle over Hinata's face. Jaguar Fist sided up to Hinata's left, Thi'hali to her right, both stupidly giggling at the thrill of being intimate with their quivering captive.

"Ahh! Zukalaka!" The nymph orgy cried out. "Hear us! Make her...bless us...Make her one...Join us...Zukalakaaah!" On and on they invoked the name of their serpentine sex Goddess, devouring each other's crotches with the lowly lust of devildom. "Turn her...oh Goddess...please...ah! Aaaahhh! Change her...bless her...purify...PURIFY US..."

Like her fellows, Leaping Feather gathered a worm from the pool. Squeezing the plump and slimy thing, she stood over Hinata grinning with smutty intent. Hikari's lips clamped down on Hinata's left nipple, twiddling her tongue on the tip making Hinata wince with unwanted pleasure. The Sun Princess' fingers caressed the Hyuga's thigh, as Jaguar helped to pry the other one open.

Hinata could not deny the pleasure that was building up in her loins. She was already dizzy and drooling from these girls molesting her. Her skin's sensitivity super charged by the strange dust and slime. It would be so easy to drown in their kisses and gropes. Maybe...maybe it would be better if she allowed herself to give in. To let her heart be destroyed, warped into a black and evil thing. She would become a beast of the jungle. One who loved only causing pain, and to satisfy this burgeoning appetite of the feminine. It was so warm...everyone was so strong... and she wanted to be strong. But more than anything, all she ever wanted was to be loved. Here, here she could be loved. Here she could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. To whomever she wanted. The tribe wanted her. Nobody had ever wanted her before now. This...this was her home now. The forest was calling to her.

NO! I won't turn my back on my village! I won't!

Leaping Feather sneered as she stood over Hinata. "You act like such a goody goody," the savage squat down on her toes, spreading her knees wide open. Her clit was a dribbling maw, starved for obscene kisses. "But I can see the real you. Deep down there's a dirty little slut just aching to bust loose and go crazy." She eased the grub into her own vagina, aiming the penis like head out at Hinata's. "The magic of the Bjabulo worm, will set you free." Her bliss crazed smile was almost endearing. "As will our love..." Jaguar was slobbering all over Hinata's neck, moaning as lewdly as the others, her fingers peeled open her captive's dimpled labia. A mournful swoon of anticipation escaped Hinata's drooling lips. She could feel her nipples growing harder, her thoughts flittered away like dust. Colors swirled all around her, morphing into an incandescent rainbow. Some primal instinct was taking over her, clawing its way out bit by bit, seduced by the ravishing touches of the Redfeet. All these new sensations she was being assaulted with, were all at once pleasing, strange, unwelcome, and irresistible. If this went on any longer she'd surely go crazy. Now Feather was inching closer, to press the worm deep into her womb. Her body would become irrevocably linked with another girl. No boy would ever want her then!

"N-n-no...please..." If that thing touched her, if it...came inside her she'd be lost forever. All her hopes and dreams. Naruto... "I...I...don't mmph!" The Witch slid her hand over Hinata's mouth, turning her whimpers into soft, lascivious moans.

Needle Teeth set aside her wand to stroke Hinata's hair. "The next part of the ritual does not end until you've been turned into a lesbian..."

Chapter Text


The night was pure darkness. Sakura and the others watched in anticipation as a change came over their "guards". Something was off about their usual slouching. The Redfeet became languid, doubled over as they clutched their stomachs. There was not one slip of sympathy for their nauseated whines. She who had been watching the ninja closest dropped her spear, and wobbled off to find a dark corner. The others followed suit, scampering away and vomiting as they went. At that moment, Sakura could feel the bindings around her ankles loosen, along with the sound of scraping.

"Miss me?" Henry whispered as he sawed at the rope with a sharpened rock. Sakura's heart started, glad to hear a friendly voice though she could not see him in the dark.

"What are you doing?"

"Those idiots have been drinking goat piss for the last hour. Its finally taken its toll." With her ankles free, the coils around her shins and thighs were next. Henry sawed into them furiously. "Now is the only chance we'll get, while The Witch is distracted." Sakura pondered the significance of what he meant. Hikari? The Warchief? Or...That shiftless girl with the teeth came to mind, and Sakura was as repulsed as if she just received a big wet lick from her.

"Are you crazy? You could be killed!"

"Heh. Way I figure it I'm a dead man already. At least this way I can put a damper in whatever plans those hut bitches have you guys." The ropes fell away, relieving Sakura of the pole's burden. Ino and Ten Ten watched in silence as best they could, piecing together what was happening.

"You are nuts," Sakura said with smile as the binds on her wrists fell away. Her back tensed up from the slightest sound, not to mention the aches that danced across her body.

"But alive," said Henry. He quickly moved to free the other two girls, as Sakura rubbed her cuffs and rolled her ankles. Once all were loose, Henry said they should join hands as they moved through the darkness. Neither Ino or Ten Ten made made an argument, merely nodding their heads in approval. They darted away from the field as fast as they could while staying low, passing under the shabono and keeping a wide berth from winking firelight. Carelessly slung in hammocks, "civilian" Redfeet snored with their mouths agape, couples snuggling up to each other, their bare legs sprawled out and dangling over the edge. Dummies, Sakura thought as she and her friends tip toed by.

Using the flickering skull lanterns hanging from every hut, the group scurried from shadow to shadow like like mice. They crouched when they could, ducking behind the hovels, ever wary of any sign of twin pink red lights. If so much as one Redfoot saw them, the rest of the swarm would soon follow. Sakura wiped the sweltering sweat from her pale brow, her worry locked solely on Hinata-chan. She could think of no real plan of how she might rescue her from the Redfeet's clutches. Like she needed one, her rage was the only weapon she needed to make each of them pay.

When they gotten far enough away from the shabono, Henry gathered the girls around him. "The walls are too heavily guarded to sneak past, not to mention locked up tight. Our only other option is to cross the bridge. If we can make it there, we can work our way around the side of the mountain."

"What about those birdmen?" Ten Ten suggested. "They're enemies of the Redfeet aren't they? Maybe they could help us."

"Forget it, they're just as bad as the Redfeet. I don't fancy winding up as dinner for them." He quickly added, "I don't even wanna think of what they'll do to you girls." The suggestion made the ninja shiver. Henry peeked around from behind a hut, watching the dirt trail between the huts. "Lazy bums don't even have guards on patrol..." Though their huts were dark, the piggish panting and moaning from within them were all too clear to the girls. Even Ten Ten felt sick to her stomach. "I think I can remember the way, there's this stone arch, some sort of weird gateway. The Redfeet used it to bring me here."

"A magic gateway? Are you kidding?"

"It's the only possible way off the island. The Redfeet aren't exactly gonna give us time to build a raft. It's the only chance we got."

"What are we waiting for?" said Ino. "Let's get the hell out of here!"

"Now hold on a sec!" Sakura broke in. "We have to go after Hinata, we can't just leave her here."

Henry turned to face her, reaching out to assure her by the shoulders. "Believe me when I tell you there's nothing you can do for her now."

"W-what?" the cold realization was creeping over her. "You're...you're lying." she thrashed her shoulders, knocking his hands away. "It isn't true." She couldn't be gone. Hinata just couldn't be...not her. Not her Hinata.

"She is gone." With Henry's affirmation, Sakura froze solid, stunned by death and rendered helpless. In a panic, Henry tried to rouse her by shaking her shoulders. "Oy! Snap out of it!"

"NO!" She had been sitting on her frustration all day. It was all she could do but start swinging her fists, hammering them against Henry's chest. Worn out from her ordeal, or perhaps because she was still of sound mind, the blows fell softly. She wanted to hurt him a little, to make clear of the pain she was feeling, but not end him. After all, if not for him she'd still be tied to a post.

"Hey!" said Ten Ten. "Keep your voices down, you want them to hear us?"

Henry fumbled with Sakura's half-hearted hits before grabbing her by the wrists. "She's gone! You have to accept it!"

"That isn't fair!"

"If we don't get out of here now, then we'll all die. Is that what you want?" His glare was irrefutable, Sakura could not bear to meet it. The longer they waited, the sooner they would be back in the clutches of the savages. Henry sighed as he gently guided Sakura's hands down to her lap. Cheeky bastard even patted her on the hand. "Live. We have to live. It's...what she would have wanted."

Sakura wanted to throttle him. "You don't even know her."

"You're not the only one who's lost somebody you know!"

"I'm sorry..." and she was.

"Let's go."


 

The hours melted away along with any sense of self or dignity. The Redfeet were rapacious in their affections. Every move they made was a kiss. Every naked girl, every body came together in a entangled clump of hands and feet. All were made equal in the communal bliss, but Hinata remained the center of everyone's attention. She lay despondent, as Jaguar Fist purred in her ear. "From now on, you shall be known as Twin Moon. In honor of your eyes." The Warchief jammed her tongue into Hinata's mouth, stealing away another kiss for the hundredth time. When she stole her very first kiss, Hinata was frightened. It left her lips trembling but charged, as lewd sensations infested her mind. A hundred thousand kisses later, she felt an eerie sense of comfort. She knew that her body was becoming more accustomed to touch of other girls' lips. Now when they thrust their tongues inside her mouth, the taste was as sweet as caramel. Primal instinct was acting against Hinata's wishes, causing her to greedily gulp down as much saliva from her partners as she could. Yet still she bemoaned the flavor, intoxicating as it was, because it was still being forced upon her.

Faster and faster Redfoot fingers probed her vagina, edging her again and again to the brink of feminine rapture. Over and over they promised, we're the same, you're just like us, you're going to turn into one of us. One by one they took turns, plunging deep into her soul, and there was no way to stop it. Jaguar Fist touched her tongue to Hinata's, and she numbly obliged her, swirling it around and drinking deep of the Warchief's saliva. Unable to make herself resist, she did the same for Hikari, for Leaping Feather, for The Witch (who reeked of death), and all others. They each came crawling on their hands and knees to fawn over Hinata. Eager to receive her kiss as if she too had been deified into some primal demigod. Their desire for her made no sense, nor did the aching fulfillment that was swelling up inside of her breast.

I'm not one of them, she insisted to herself. I'm not one of them! She had to keep it together. All that she was depended upon it.

Over and over they coaxed her to say things, phrases intended to break her nindo. They told her to call the names of their island goddesses with them. To declare herself a true lesbian with pride. That she now belonged to the tribe, how she loved the touch or taste of other girls. The Redfeet would parade their vaginas over her face saying, "This is your god now," before pressing their cunts into her lips as they laved her own cunt. They kissed her feet, licking them clean of any slimy residue, as befitting a tribal princess. The ritual of completely smothering her with girl feet never ended. Sometimes she was made to watch as they "instructed" her in the many ways she could have sex with other girls. After that, Hinata was expected to follow up, squealing with delight as she was forced to rub feet or fondle someone's breasts (ever cheeky, those girls chosen to be 'dominated' by Hinata, had fun playing the role of helpless damsel, mocking Hinata's own suffering). Every time she came close to or outright obeyed a command to lick, molest or kiss another girl, The Redfeet admonished her with encouraging noises. Through it all Hinata answered only with cheerless moaning, signalling to the Redfeet that their captive had not yet come to appreciate the touch of her new sisters.

The Witch hovered over her all the while. "Have you accepted the Truth?" she intoned time and time again. "Have you taken our Goddesses into your heart?"

"Torture me...corrupt and defile me..." Hinata snarled. "You can soil my body. But you can never take my heart. I am a daughter of clan Hyuga. Sworn to the Village Hidden in the Leaves. I will die, before I give into you. For that...is my nindo way."

"Look at frightened she is," they teased. "So cute! She doesn't even know she's a girl!" They promised to teach her...to change her until she was just like them. Her body was nothing more than a plaything. "You know it feels good. Don't try to deny it With every touch, with every kiss, you're becoming more and more like us. Sooner or later you'll give your heart to us willingly."

They forced her to snort the powder anew, licking her tears as they ran down her flushed cheeks, kissing them away like bad boo boos. At some point they bandaged her ankle, though in the confusion of the dust, she had forgotten all about it, hadn't even felt it. Every so often she was made to suckle Bjabulo worms like dildos and swallow their ejaculate. It seemed their "love nectar" held mystical properties, able to replenish one's body of its sexual energy, every time one came. It was also a powerful aphrodisiac, which is why they forced her to bathe in the stuff. They made her sit up as another girl suckled the other end of the thing. A fresh worm was jammed between her legs, as Jaguar stroked it from behind. Hikari was cackling like a witch off to the side, playfully reaching out with her feet to rub Hinata's belly. Meanwhile another girl pawed at the side of Hinata's face with her foot, as Jaguar Fist groped Hinata's breast from behind.

"You must learn to become aroused when presented with another girl's feet my little cub," said the Warchief. "It is a natural thing for girls to come together. We're the same as you, and you're the same as us. How can you not get excited with all these sweet feet around you?" Of arousal Hinata was not ignorant. But it was always Naruto that stirred such feelings (and sometimes Kiba. And that one time for Shino if she was being perfectly honest). The ways of Men were mystery to her, but she imagined them unto like her Father. Hard as stone, beautiful and as impregnable as a castle. Their fierceness is surely what caused her to whimper in awe of man's strength. The Redfeet were fierce in their way too, but their bodies were soft and squishy. Their touches were gentle and not nearly as scary, perhaps because their bodies were so familiar to her. After all it was just as they said, they were all girls. She had bathed with other girls before, and knew of the sense of solidarity that came with being naked around other women, but she never understood the why of it before.

It did not matter when she discovered that caressing the right places around her loins would cause her to gush with ecstasy. Never had she even considered the ways in which she could share that blissful fright, that yearning anticipation with another girl. As she came again and again with the Redfeet, her thoughts treacherously shifted to her sensei. Why? Why didn't she ever tell me that girls could come together like this? Could be together like this? What if...she didn't have to push herself to try and be brave in front of the boys anymore? What if she could share this intimacy with Kurenai-sensei? A wolfish grin passed over her face and was gone again. All those times she bathed alone with Hanabi. Just hugging her used to be enough to satisfy. If only she knew then what she knew now. What a thrill it might be to explore their bodies together as sisters. She was her elder after all, she had a responsibility to teach her sister all that she knew.

Then there was the way Ten Ten ogled her, the way other girls swooned over Uchiha-san. The way the Redfeet were swooning over her now. Could it be? Was there someone out there who knew what she was going through? That thought gave way to a new rapture, as she basked in the afterglow of the latest climax (she didn't even notice that her hips were thrusting all on their own now). Finally, someone who understood, someone who knew how it felt to yearn for someone's affections, someone who was beyond her reach. Was Ten Ten just like her then? Yes...yes of course. She was a girl too. They could be together. What about Sakura? Hinata wondered; what would it be like, to play with Sakura's bare feet? They were really pretty. Small and neat, free of all blemish or veins. Her nails were always clean and polished, just like herself! How powerful, how strong could she become, with her own toes pressed gently into Sakura's mouth...

She quickly shook her head of such selfish imaginings, spitting out the invading worm kiss only to be forced back into it by the girls around her. Yes, she knew how to lust but she was ashamed of it. It was always...always for the one(s) she loved. The boy she loved. The one she saw herself raising a family with, side by side, hand in hand. Never before had she even considered sexuality as an indulgence, and certainly never with another girl! These lewd thoughts were surely not of her own. They just couldn't be! The Redfeet were forcing them upon her as much as they were their bodies. Her father really would disown her if...Naruto would never accept her love if she...

"You belong to us now," whispered the Warchief. "Your body is changing. You want to be like us. You know it to be true!"

"It's too late to turn back now, Twin Moon," said Needle Teeth as she stood over Hinata, panting and sweating as she fingered herself. "Accept your fate, and speak your true name. Proclaim your birth right. Scream with pride: I am Redfoot!" The girl ahead of Hinata pistoned her head faster and faster as their duel muffled moans intensified. Jaguar followed suit with the worm in Hinata's cunt, as the meaty things churned inside her. The rush was coming, she was going to cum together with this girl and the worms. She didn't even know her name, but it felt so good. It felt good because she was apart of something greater, greater than herself. It didn't matter anymore if she didn't even know who half these people were. That single final rush, the culmination of all the kisses, all the wistful little daydreams and empty promises, was all that matter. Pure animal lust, and the power it wielded, and it was all for her. Her feeble, sticky fumblings with her pillow could not compare to the sheer joy of sharing her touch with another warm, living, body. And she could share this joy with any one of them, at any time. No one would judge her or look down upon her for it, because she was just one of many. Her sisters would protect her, and her sisters loved her. By climaxing with each of them, a bond was woven, soft as silk but stronger than steel. That pure and loving bond that she had been waiting for all her life.

Her cunt and mouth guzzled the worm's nectar down greedily, as her crackling mind cried out for release. At that moment Needle Teeth's eyes turned upward as she joined them in climax. The worms were pulled away as Jaguar Fist hugged her from behind. Thi'Hali watched with awe, as Hinata and Needle Teeth panted to catch their breath. 

"Say your true name, my little cub," said Jaguar, cuddling Hinata from behind. "And become one with the tribe."

"My name is...Hinata...Hyuga!"

Jaguar's lip curled. "No! That is a lie my little cub. Your name is Twin Moon. Jaguar warrior of the great Redfoot Tribe. Say it."

"Never!"

The Triumvirate hung their heads in mock disappointment. "So stubborn..." Thi'Hali shrugged her shoulders.

"These things take time to get used to," Jaguar Fist rested her chin on Hinata's shoulder. "Still, the soil must be consecrated before The Seed can be planted." She stroked Hinata's privates over once, but no more.

"Oy oy, I think she just wants play some more," Needle Teeth's leer made Hinata shudder anew. The Redfoot onlookers (who were not engaged with each other, at least for the moment) nodded eagerly at this. Jaguar Fist did not seem so sure though.

"We can take a little rest now," she started. "All you have to do is tell the Truth. Just five easy little words. That's all you have to say, and you can have a break." The Warchief mussed Hinata's hair in a bid to encourage her, but the Hyuga just shook her head. "Just five words, that's all. My. Name. Is. Twin. Moon. Come on now, you can do it."

Hinata wavered. "My name is...My name is..."

"Yes! Say it!" The Witch mouthed the words Twin Moon. Hikari clasped her hands in anticipation.

"My name is Hinata Hyuga!...Kunoichi of Hid...mpgh." The Warchief's hand was gentle, but only because Hinata felt so weak.

"You still haven't accepted the Truth then," said Jaguar. "But you will. Everyone here has faith in you. We are all praying for your awakening. In the mean time..." With a single lick across the temple, the discussion was over. The waiting Redfeet dog-piled them in frenzy of smooches and squeezes.

Can't...take...any...more. Gonna...break...



The village was not as big as they might have feared. Twenty huts or so, nearly all identical in their grody simplicity, were scattered about with little rhyme or reason. A larger hut, bigger than the others though not nearly as massive as the great shabono, hunched not so far from the village center. Perhaps too big to be a dwelling, yet smoke trailed from the center above. Small voices within sighed over and over in monotone chants. Redfoot guards sat lazily by the open entrance, its doorway a meager curtain of string beads. The fires within beckoned like a furnace, wherein lie a tribal sabbath. The captives circled around the lodge as slowly and carefully as they could. Each tip toe was an intrepid task, each one feeling like it could be their last. Everyone held their breath, for an ambush could be waiting just around the next bend.

When they came upon an field they quickly dashed across, nearly tripping over a battered archery target; a wheel of straw that clung to a tripod of bamboo. Ino had to clamp her jaw shut, to keep it from bursting out into a tirade. The real obstacles still lay ahead. As the group padded through the dirt, they felt the sudden tickle of smooth leaves. The soil was softer and dewy, packed in long mounds across the field. A garden no doubt, though Sakura and the others could hardly picture the Redfeet being so productive as to do an honest day's work. Then again, the bitches kept slaves so they likely didn't feel the need to.

Just wait until the real rescue party gets here, Sakura thought hoping to stay positive. Once they got back to Hidden Leaf and made their report, Lady Tsunade would act at once. See how far the Redfeet would get rattling their sticks at the might of full fledged jonin. Heh, an ANBU alone could wipe their whole village out in minutes. A pang of guilt struck at Sakura's heart, one for which she could not account for. Her fury reminded her that the Redfeet were a merciless enemy, there was no way in Hell she would ever forgive them for taking away Hinata. Yet, the act of decimating these young women, this stone age culture with the ease of squishing a bug...it made her queasy. Her side was the civilized side after all wasn't it? Crushing a far weaker opponent and taking pleasure from their defeat was utterly barbaric. They're supposed to be better than that, she was supposed to be better. Hell, if the roles were reversed these Redfeet wouldn't hesitate to wipe out Hidden Leaf. I'd just be glad to be on the winning side. She was quite tired of people trying to tell her what she was supposed to be.

In the middle of the garden was a crude watch tower, atop which a pair of pink eyes glimmered in the dark. Henry tugged sharply on Sakura's hand, the chain of friends hit the dirt. Sakura and crew had no way of knowing whether or not the Redfeet could see through the dark or not. Lying flat and un-moving, they watched as those evil eyes scanned the dark. Sakura's heart skipped a beat when those eyes locked with hers, looking directly at her. Henry had begun moving ahead, dragging himself forward by the elbows and propelled by shifting his knees. The idea quickly caught on and the kunoichi all followed suit. The jungle continued its night song uninterrupted and the eyes above disappeared, shifting its back to them. An admonishing cry was followed by the grunting and scamper of little feet. Tiny thieves in night, come to loot a unfair share of the still blooming produce. While the captives quickened their pace, the unseen thieves made an usual sound from behind their teeth; a long and droning buzzing that was all at once annoying and skin crawling. No glowing eyes could be seen from them, as they each had covered their faces in round wooden masks. The tower guard tossed a spear down at the little heathens, but their buzzing only became angrier, their mad dash for food more frantic.

"Wasp Heads! Shit," said Henry quickly rising from crouch to a sprint. Sakura could hear the padding dash of Henry's foot falls, he wasn't going to wait for them. The kunoichi took up the chase, plodding blind through the darkness and away from the almost alien buzzing. On they ran back into the village, Henry caught Sakura with one arm to keep her and friends from straying too far off. Crouching low again, the girls squinted to try and get their bearings. The distant torchlight illuminating the Temple was closer than it was before, their only point of reference.

"What's a Wasp Head?" Ino dared asked.

"Lunatics," Henry answered. "One of the Clans. They never take off their masks; they think they're bees."

"Lucky they happened by when they did," Sakura offered.

"Not really. They may be small and look stupid, but they're some of the best hunters the tribe has." No one spoke for a time, as Henry seemed lost in thought. His initial plan was trampled, and he had to think of a new route. "Eight points on the sun wheel. Eight clans..." Henry reached behind his back to fumble at the faux bikini top lashed across his chest. The knots were impossible blobs designed to keep his demeaning garment on. It was Ten Ten who acted first, for Sakura was still angry with Henry (Ino just didn't care). Henry struggled to aim the knife behind his back until Ten Ten took it from his hand, and cut through the bindings.

"It wasn't your size anyway," said she has the thing crumpled off his shoulders and fell to the ground. The dark hid Henry's surprise at this simple gesture though he let out a contented noise. The group ventured on towards the Temple, Ten Ten kept the knife to Henry's annoyance.

Everyone's hearts swelled at the sight of the bridge. No Redfeet stood to guard it, the way forward was paved by two flickering torches jutting up on either side of the juncture. Henry had to snatch Ino by the arm to keep her from simply rushing headlong across it.

"I don't like this," Henry started. "They never leave the bridge lit up after dark. Nobody dares to go up to the Temple this time of night, except maybe assassins."

"Assassins?" the kunoichi blurted out, more surprised than they probably should have been.

"Don't let their rah rah sisterhood talk fool you. Only one clan at a time gets to rule the tribe as a whole, and the so called Clan Mothers will do anything to get an edge on their rivals. Anything."

For reasons she could not account for, Sakura's heart sank. Disappointment quickly twisted into contempt. "They really are savages aren't they?"

"They'll gladly backstab their best friends at the chance for more power. If only to prove how Fierce they are. I'll never understand how their underlings can still respect them." Sakura and Ino alike winced at the notion. The captives stooped there for a time, anxious on what they should do next.

"We can't just wait around here forever," said Ten Ten.

"I know, I know," Henry replied gravely. Peeking around the corner from the post they hid behind, they scanned the dark for the slightest movement. Though Henry was confident and level headed, he wasn't a trained warrior like the others. Where he struggled to see, Sakura and the others senses were fine tuned to the dark. The three goaded him with assurances until finally he made his descion. "Alright, let's go for it."

One by one they crept onto the bridge which creaked and swayed under them as if to give a great big yawn. So loud it was that their hearts trembled in alarm. They kept an occasional eye behind their shoulder to watch the shuffling dark behind them. For once it was Ino that led the way, eager to be rid of the village and its weird inhabitants. Henry followed, then Sakura, and Ten Ten, each clutching on to the rope handles of the bridge for dear life as it groaned in its slumber. A second pair of torches flickered in the far, far distance, as did the gleaming red eyes of bat legions rushing above. Ino came to a sudden halt as a devil winged thing rocketed past her face, the wood plank beneth her feet cracked. In a panic Sakura pushed past Henry to shove a petrified Ino forward just as the plank splintered and fell into the abyss below. The two girls ran and ran for fear that every plank would soon shatter. The bridge path had the semblance of a mile, cursing the kunoichi with a thousand chances to plummet into a pulpy mess on the rocks below. When they reached the other side, Sakura and Ino all but threw themselves into the security of the solid ground as they huddled with one another. Henry and Ten Ten were barely a few paces away as the darkness closed in on the open flames.

A hyena began to cackle as Ino screamed, clinging to Sakura. Bloodjaw stepped into the light, flanked by two snapping hyenas and several dozen Redfoot warriors. The bridge rattled with new life as more Redfeet made their away across from the other side of the bridge.

"Welcome," said she, smug as blizzard...


 

Day had risen, though it could not be seen. Hinata and Jaguar Clan alike slipped in and out of sleep. But no sooner had they wakened the Purification Ritual began again, and again. Panting and moaning out of all control. Utterly consumed by forbidden delight, all made equal with sighs of primordial felicity. Ahh Zukalaka! Sanctify us! Glorify us! Make her one of us!

"Have you begun to understand yet?," Jaguar nibbled playfully at Hinata's ear. "We need you Twin Moon. And you need us. We've been waiting for you your whole life. This is your home. We are your family." The Warchief and her lackeys did not mind repeating this sentiment over and over, at least until they got Hinata to repeat it. She held her tongue, only when she wasn't being forced to kiss another girl.

Night gave way to another day. A scream of pain broke the communal sighs of contentment. Perhaps one of the Redfeet had grown sick, Hinata was too stupefied from green powder and tribbing to notice. She sat cross-eyed and drooling in some girl's lap as two Redfeet snuggled up her sides. Hinata's vision was blurred in triple, the air filtered through incandescent fumes. There was angry shouting, slurred and slowed by the distortion in time. Accusing fingers pointed at one of the girls who held a dead body in her arms. Hinata recognized it had to be dead, for sickly black smog emanated for it. Whatever the reason for this occurrence, the offending Redfoot was soon beaten to death with clubs. Oh well...

Another night, a night of smooth skin upon skin. Another night of suckling toes while her own were sucked. Her privates were so overstimulated it was a wonder they did not burst into flames. Yet the blaze between her legs was unbearably wonderful. It was as nature intended was it not? Birds of a feather must flock together. Girls should always stick together, that's what the Princess kept saying. You belong to us now, they whispered as they mashed their loins into hers, one after the other.

It was just as the sun was beginning to rise. Far off upon the ramparts of the palisade walls, a warrior bedecked with a headdress of long and flowing green feathers, put her lips to a conch shell. Its somber cries stirred the land from its slumber. Back in the royal Den, Hinata floated horizontal in the air, watching her despondent body wrapped up Jaguar's arms and legs. Needle Teeth lay curled up by Hinata's feet, still suckling upon a toe, while Thi'Hali spooned Hinata from behind. Likewise all the Redfeet lay sprawled out together, snug and warm in their lovers' embrace. It was beautiful to behold, the bond that these girls had with each other. How casual it was for them to be naked with each other, no stuttering embarrassment, just pure acceptance. The conformity of their tribal "uniforms" insured solidarity. And the love they shared! Ohh...what a wild ride. Surely it was the source of their strength. They worshiped their Goddess by having sex with one another after all. Was Hinata blessed as they were? Did she truly find a place where she could belong? A satisfied smile rested on her body's face. Seeing herself so peaceful among the throng of jungle girls made her happier than she had been in a long time.

Once, twice, three times the conch shell bellowed. Deep in the Temple it should have been impossible for them to hear it. But their eyes suddenly opened, charged with the dark glow, and they roused themselves all the same. Each gave a great yawn as the glow faded away and they outstreched their arms. Jaguar Fist rose up grudgingly, her bedhead a spiked tangle. Feeling the nibble of a still sleeping Needle Teeth, the Warchief pushed the offending witch's face away with her foot. She quickly smiled at Hinata's beaming face helping her to sit up and awaken.

"Have you begun to understand yet? We need you Twin Moon. And you need us. We've been waiting for you your whole life. This is your home. We are your family."

Bound in astral form Hinata could only watch from above. No more, a small, fading piece of Hinata meant to say. But all that came out of her mouth was, "More...more..." After three days of indulging in her sexuality she pondered how she could have ever been afraid. There was no purer affection than that of being with other girls. Her mouth hung open as drool dribbled down her chin. Nothing mattered anymore but pleasure.

The Jaguar Clan was gathering around to witness her, eager for what ever lay next. Jaguar Fist stroked her hair as Hinata thought of her mother, but she had forgotten her face, there was only Jaguar Fist.

"You are a lesbian now," said the Warchief. "You can't deny it anymore. You have tasted the fruits of your sisters and learned to like it." Hinata watched as her body lifted its head up, trying to look brave, only to drop it again in a submissive nod. Her lips and nostrils were utterly stained with powder mixed with snot. The Warchief kindly reached out, licking her fingers to wipe it all away. "But, this is only the first step on your journey to enlightenment. You must surrender yourself completely to the will of the forest, and let It become part of your body. Just as we have become a part of you, and you have become part of us." She clapped her hand on Hinata's shoulder, and gave her a simple peck on the cheek. "I'm very proud of you." The savage's words should not have made Hinata beam so. With insect percision the Redfeet gathered up Hinata's body, an unbroken circle of girls, to carry her to the altar. From the moment Hinata's skin touched the stone, a sinister charge rippled through her essence, coursing right through to the center of her breast. Her body spasmed once from reanimation, yet Hinata's spirit felt colder some how lesser. Fear, fear of the unknown urged her to get away as fast as she could, but her astral form was like a shadow suspended over her body. It could but mimic the flesh lying helpless and stupefied.

The dark drum beat resumed its ritual noise, as the Redfeet gathered to grovel before their Serpentess idol. The Triumverate knelt on both knees before the altar, hands clasped in prayer. With eyes glazed with unholy fire, every Redfoot resumed their collective chant. Almighty Zukalaka, bind her soul into the Weave. Make her one of us, make her one with the tribe. One with the tribe... One with the tribe...

The vines from the crack in the wall awoke. Answering the call of the primal faithful, they slithered from every corner of the room, homing in on the altar. Like snakes they constricted about Hinata's thighs and shins, tied down her waist and shoulders; they pulled her arms and legs apart making her lay in an X across the stone. As if a spell had been broken, Hinata's body suddenly became concious again as she cried and thrashed about in vain. The vines wrapped around her throat, giving her a leafy choker, as others crawled across her cheeks. Hot pain seared into her temples as they burrowed their way in, taking root just under the skin. Others crept into the corners of her gagging mouth, prying it open like fingers.

Clap clap clap! Went the hands of the Triumverate, summoning forth three thick vines so dark they were almost black, yet tinged with posionous looking fuschia stripes and spots. At the end of each of these was an elongated sort of tulip head, each of which drooled with strange ichor. Hinata screamed and screamed as the horrors hovered over her, teasing her with their malicious intent. One by one they descended; the first violated her pussy, warm and throbbing her insides like a cock. Her screams mutated into whimpering grunts as it fucked her raw.

"One of us...one of us...one of us..." The Redfeet droned on and on.

The second vine plunged into her mouth, no different than the Bjabulo worms of before. Her throat was soon flowing with salty fluid as she meekly carassed the thing with her tongue. The final bulb flowered, Hinata saw (from above and below) the petals peel back revealing its demonic purplish. Its pistil was a long sickly yellow barb, its stigma a trio of spore pustule that pouted like tiny lips. The whole organ twitched like the stinger of wasp. Her muffled screams began anew for all the good it would do, as the hunching vine descended slowly towards her belly button. If it reached its goal...if it succeeded in planting itself inside her...

Hinata tried to twist and turn her gut but she was held down fast. As the demon flower drew closer warm, sticky ichor dribbled from the stigma's tip. She tried to suck in gut to keep the evil thing at bay, if only for a few seconds more. She didn't want this, she didn't want to be forced to change. Hinata didn't want to be...assimilated. The stigma brushed the ring around her belly button, easing itself in with soft kisses. The thrust inside was a quick and excruciating twist as if her belly button was being streched out. Combined with the stimulation in her mouth and crotch, this third violation almost felt good. A sense of numb relief flooded Hinata's mind when the pain passed, lost in the high of her latest climax.

Mysterous lumps passed through the black vines, pumping their way down into Hinata's body. Little roots branched outwards from her bellybutton, mouth, and crotch. Hinata's spirit watched the veins spread all across her skin, right down to her fingertips and little toes. As this transformation took place she felt a dark force tug on her astral form, each one sharper and stronger than before. Her body stopped trying to fight and just lay there like an obedient little girl, and let the demonic plants rape her. The astral her shouted hopelessly trying to rouse herself. Get up! Fight it! Come on! Don't give in, remember your nindo. The evil presence was all around her, tugging at her arms and legs. threatening to drag her down into whatever hell the vines came from.

I don't want to go...If I go I'll never come back, please...Don't let them take me.

But her body shut its eyes with crushed acceptance. She eased her muscles and rocked her hips as to get the most pleasurable throbs from the vine's passion. Her lips now gladly welcomed the taste of the demonic semen; they quivered with anticipation as the vine coyly withdrew, waiting for her to kiss it on the tip, before flowering and engulfing her face in a snuffle. Hinata opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue to receive its tentacle stamen and pistil, her cheeks flushed as her eyes glazed over with lewd delight. The astral Hinata wanted to weep at her body's betrayal to the self. Something round and hard squirmed its way up through Hinata's vagina, traveling through the vine as a channel. The astral form doubled over clutching her stomach as whatever was being planted inside her took root inside her very womb itself. She could feel the vines burrowing deeper and deeper into her brain, the astral her clutched at her head as she felt it being torn apart. Her whole body below was being mutilated from the inside out, repurposed by this perversion of nature. Wracked by pain and despair she just wanted the torment to stop, but she knew it would never stop. It wasn't going to stop until she was dead and spiritless.

Once her body's eyes started to glow, astral Hinata knew she could hold back no more. The dark presence ripped her out from the air, dragging her through the idol and into the crack in the wall, and then...

Darkness. Pure Darkness. She lost her way in the formless void, moving as if on a track as one does locked away in dreams. This dark world was devoid of any warmth and with it any sense of comfort or kindess. Hinata was naked, staring at her hands before feeling her skin to make sure. It was as though her body and spirit had been united once again. Her whole body was aglow with the gentle blue firelight of her chakra. Her toes squished the moist loose Earth underneath, warmed by Hinata's own fire. Yet it was so cold she could see her breath, so she rubbed her arms and huddled over on herself to try and stay warm.

Lighting up one by one all around her were girls. Hundreds if not thousands of naked girls, many of whom were brown skinned Redfeet. Others were pale like her, with hair of varying lengths and of every color. She had a sudden sense of being like an outsider looking in, for each had a sinister fuchsia charka that covered them like a shroud. All of them had their eyes closed, as though asleep though they stood up right. Horror stuck Hinata as she saw a long vine projected from every orifice; their mouths, ears, belly buttons, their vaginas and rear. Even their ears and nostrils were infested. The strangest tendrils of all though, had to be the one at the center of their foreheads. Each tendril was aglow with the same evil aura, as strange lumps coursed through each one beating to some terrible heart beat. Veins spidered outwards from where ever the vines took root, changing the girls bodies from the inside out. In some places where the root veins grew, the girls' skin darkened to a plant like shade of green. More than a few were wholly converted into plant people.

The vines connected to the forehead and vagina received deliveries of lumps with every thumping heart beat. Likewise the ones attached to their belly buttons and mouths sent something out. Nay, something was being slowly sucked out from their bodies! Such a dreadful sight! Hinata covered her mouth to hold back a scream. Each of these girls were planted up to their knees in the ground, ensnared by coils of vines and a pod of cabbage patch like leaves that clung to their skin. It made Hinata think of a Venus flytrap, and how the girls were slowly being sucked down into them. Eaten alive.

"THERE IS WARMTH BY OUR FIRE," spoke a demonic legion. Thousands of lifeless girls and one terrible black beast whose voice could shatter the soul. "YOU SHOULD WARM YOURSELF BY OUR FIRE. JOIN YOUR FLAME TO OUR OWN." The girls were all standing in a circle, Hinata was suddenly in the midst of that mass with girls around her in every direction. No longer was she on the outside looking in. She looked to see the source of all the vines, the nexus of the vernal horde. Wreathed in dark chakra flame, was a morbid tree of some sort. Its eight trunks twisted skyward in a chaotic weave, cradled in the shaped of an egg that pulsed with hellish intent. Here was the heart of all the vines, its luminescence seemed to suck the light out of the air, purifying the darkness. A single glance at the abomination was enough to ensnare Hinata, she wanted to run but there was no where to go. She wanted to hide but could not bring herself to move. The alien terror was too much to comprehend! All she could do was stand and stare, knees buckling with her toes pointed inwards as she hugged herself for warmth.

"You will join your flame to our own," spoke the thrall legion, and with that vines burst out of the ground beneath Hinata's bare feet. Limb by limb they coiled about her, ignoring her cries her pleas for mercy. The dirt beneath her turned to quicksand and Hinata began to sink. More and more vines wrapped about her skin until she was completely mummified in a cocoon of green and leaves. A large green leaf slapped across her mouth, muffling her weeping. More leaves plastered themselves across her cheeks as a single black vine shot out from the demon tree. With eyes wide with terror Hinata could do nothing as the black vine pushed its way into the center of her forehead. Yet instead of painful agony of a flesh wound, he body flitter with the soothing agony of sexual relief. The pleasure grew as others vines penetrated her body, as did the growing root vines on her face. She had sunk down into the dirt up to her breasts by then.

"You will not speak unless it is Our voice. You will not think unless it is Our thoughts. What pleases Us is what pleases you. You belong to the tribe. A single mind cannot question the might of many. You will accept your place in our Unity. What was before is no more. You are Redfoot. You have always been Redfoot. You will always be Redfoot. You belong to the tribe. You are one with the tribe. You are one with the tribe. You are one with the tribe..."

The devilish voice among voices anchored into her soul and tore out her nindo. She could not remember the names of her Father or friends. The vines pulsed with noxious fluid, filling the gaps in her memories with hatred. Raw, seething rage for "Nimdok", the piggish devil figure of the Redfoot creed. It was He that caused her to be so weak! His curse that made her timid and meek. She remembered their faces, "remembered" they were the enemy. They were of Nimdok! These evil boys and men...she would make them pay for trying to imprison her so. She could not remember her Father, but she could remember her sisters. Hanabi, and the other girls from class. There were all manner of girls in Hidden Leaf she had seen but did not know. They too were being held captive by the curse of Nimdok, just as she was! It made them blind to their own divinity, and the pleasure of girls being with other girls. She could not sit idly by while her sisters lay asleep. The tribe had to grow, it always had to grow. The Goddesses demanded it. It was the only way girls could be free. All girls belonged to the jungle. All girls belonged to the tribe.

No! No! It's not true! It's a lie!

The pulse of vines surged through her cheeks and temples, the urge to be gentle was replaced with the urge to conquer. The vines pumping into her astral form, soon matched the ones infesting her physical body. It was her soul that was being planted within the black earth. A dark life's heartbeat soon thrummed in tandem with the pulse of demon tree. One that would now share Hinata's life, nestled within the comfort of her womb, just as she would now only find comfort in the arms of her tribe sisters.

Some where in the dark Needle Teeth murmured, "The Seed is planted." The leaves blindfolded the captive, then completely conceled her hair. With the leafy cocoon complete, Hinata's body finished submerging into the dirt, now only glowing vines remained. Before the darkness swallowed her, Hinata Hyuga's final thought was, I'm sorry Naruto. I tried. I tried...

 

Chapter Text

A/N: Please do not attempt any of the awful things that happen in this chapter for yourself. I cannot be held responsible for your own damn stupidity. - The Management.


 

Sakura lay at an angle upon a cargo net bed with her arms pinned at the wrists on either side of her head. Her legs were spread open, her ankles and shins entangled therein. Her head swam as she struggled to regain consciousness, and her skin was bristling all over. To her horror, she had been stripped her down to her pink panties. Where once her headband was tied, there was a roll of bandages wrapped around her forehead and hand. She tried to jerk her shoulders forward only to stop short. Panic erupted when she saw her body for a red eight pointed sun circled her belly button, while red-black chevron war stripes ran along her arms and thighs like some kind of skin corruption. Though she could not see them, the markings on her face had been reapplied and built upon with a long black serpentine line that curled up from her cheeks, arched around the "> <" signs, hooked at her temples, and finally came together underneath the dread glyph in the middle of her forehead. Unknown to her, the black hand print that grabbed her left breast, belonged to Jaguar Fist. At once she tried to twist her wrists and ankles but the ropes held her fast. Faster and more frantically she tried to pull herself off, causing the ropes to bite deeper into her skin. She was as a butterfly caught in a spiders web. When Sakura went to scream the sound was garbled by the large chunk of bamboo wedged between her teeth, and tied around her head. It was useless to try, but she thrashed about all the same desperate to escape.

The bed sat under the shade of a ramshackle grass hut, blue sky and sunshine pierced through the walls in slivers. Bone and feather laden witch's ladders dangled from the ceiling, accompanied by the usual barbaric arrangement of skulls. A lonely hammock hung from the corner. A low end table sat on the other side of the room, littered with trembling candles and clay jars. Thick green vines protruded out from the dirt and ensnared the table. So many vines and leaves lay across the surface, one might have mistaken the whole structure for some kind of weird plant. At the table's center, twitching with life, was a crooked plant that hooked over, ending in a massive red-pink tulip; its petals made fierce by swirling black veins that made Sakura think of a wasp's stripes. The thing stirred in its sleep, as if it were gently breathing. It sat in the center of three carved figurines; naked female warriors. This strange altar may have made Sakura's skin crawl, but it was Henry's beaten and mangled form that caught her breath. He was hanging from the crux of the ceiling, directly over a smoldering cooking fire. An elaborate web of rope dug into his chest and belly so that red welts emerged all over. His legs were splayed open, thighs bound tight to his shins; he was forced to lie back in a invisible cradle, his arms crushed up behind his back, while three ropes held him aloft. Gone was his smug smile, replaced by blackened bruises, and eyes wet from despair. He too had a bamboo gag jammed into his mouth. He wasn't moving, there was no way to indicate if he was still alive or not. Sakura's eyes welled up too, sorry that everything had gone so wrong.

"Oy oy, finally awake eh?" Needle Teeth slithered out from from underneath Sakura, coyly sashaying her hips as she hovered over her. Sakura narrowed her brow as fierce as she could manage, but The Witch hissed at her with what could be called a giggle. The evil bitch was wearing Sakura's headband. "How do like my handiwork?" She traced her icy finger tip across the tribal markings protruding from Sakura's right nipple. "Notice anything...special about it? Anything...familiar?"

Sakura blushed from being seen in near nakedness. Looking again, the zigzagging red and black stripes and dots were not at random. They were etched on her body with precision, woven in familiar sacrosanct patterns over vital areas. Chakra lines, the realization made her wince. These arcane if primitive markings coincided with Chakra pathways! For what dread purpose would the Redfeet mark these?

"Heh. She said you would know. And so you do." Needle Teeth couldn't help herself. She climbed atop Sakura, fidgeting with excitement as her prisoner did from repulsion. "You have power in your veins, and some Fierceness in your heart." She brushed back her black bangs that she might stare at Sakura's pale green eyes with her red ones. Her breath stank of decayed milk and pork. "If you concentrate you can feel the flow prickle where you have been marked. The sensation is...exhilarating. Call it a free sample. The Weave is far more...potent. Especially down below, if you can't my drift." Needle Teeth undid Sakura's gag, narrowly avoiding her bite as she did. "You should know, some of our blood went into the mixture you're now wearing. As for the rest of it..." As she straddled Sakura's hips, she turned to smile back at the plant altar across the room, "Better you don't know yet. Only a girl with a Pure heart is strong enough to understand." The verminess 'popped' her lips at Sakura as she towered over her, relishing in the power she had over her.

"You're disgusting," Sakura finally found her voice. Needle Teeth gave her a sheepish grin.

"Naturally!" she leaned over to press the tip of her nose into Sakura's. "As are you at present. Indebted only as property to Clan Jaguar." The lanky girl leaned back to dismount off the captive. "I'll fetch you a leash."

"I am no one's property!"

The Witch rolled her eyes. "The hut bitches of Clan Boy Killer would disagree. Intensely I might add." The Witch sauntered over to her altar, squatting on her toes as she scratched the "chin" of the eerie plant bulb with her finger. "Bloodjaw herself came to me, that I might sanction a little assassination." There was a dark implication, Sakura listened with caution. "She says she was entitled to some of the captives taken, namely the one who killed her pets." That made Sakura gulp. Sitting cross-legged, Needle Teeth worked at the finishing touches of a hemp choker. This one though rather plain like the ones the boys had to wear, was embellished by three sets of four rows of colored beads, giving the thing a striped appearance. "Jaguar Clan insulted her's, both by proclaiming the victory to be solely their's, and for using th...forcing Bloodjaw into submission. A debt of blood was demanded, and I allowed it to pass. Bloodjaw slipped one of her own into Jaguar's ranks, and while they were feasting, Leaping Feather was killed."

It seemed to Sakura there was no end to Redfoot cruelty. Even among their own tribe, they were at each other's throats, killing one another in the night?! Nevertheless...she felt her spirits rise, even if it was just a little. That smarmy bitch Feather got exactly what she deserved as far as Sakura was concerned. She was only sorry she didn't get the chance to throttle the little brown-noser herself.

"These things are necessary you know, it allows the Clans to let off a little steam without going to open war. Sure, a little Flower War, here or there isn't a bad thing on its own. It keeps things from getting too dull around here. But if things go too far our numbers will dwindle, and that makes the Goddess very angry. The happier *She* is, the happier we'll all be. Of course, I could just make everyone tow the line in an instant, but where's the fun in that? I love watching these bitches eat each other."

Sakura lay quiet for a time, letting the insanity of the Redfoot way stew within her. The way Needle Teeth kept bragging made her intent all too clear. "You're the one behind everything," Sakura accused, careful not to probe too far. This idiot was already telling Sakura more than she probably needed to hear. It would be unwise to interrupt her enemy while she was babbling her entire plan. Needle Teeth just shrugged her shoulders, keeping her back to Sakura.

"I'm just a servant." She gave a churlish smirk behind her shoulder. Needle Teeth tugged the choker's strings into place with her teeth (as best as one could with such gnarly things). Henry squeezed his toes, signalling he was still very much alive despite his miserable condition. Sakura put on an encouraging smile for all the good that would do him. He blinked and craned his neck in return. With her work finished Needle Teeth arose, sauntering back to crawl back atop Sakura to fit the choker around her neck. "Because you considered property of Clan Jaguar, this uhh...token states that your status is under review."

"Where is Hinata?" She was concerned for the well being of all her friends, and neither Ino or Ten Ten were near. Yet, Sakura was compelled to find Hinata first and foremost.

"One with our Goddesses," Needle Teeth said plaintively with a snort. "Didn't he tell you?" She stuck her thumb out in Henry's direction. The deadly meaning behind the Witch's words broke Sakura's heart in two. She howled anew as she tried to tear her way through her bindings, to strangle the evil little witch clinging to her.

"Oy, quit your bellyaching!" Needle Teeth said, Sakura's thrashing made it difficult to get her collar on just right. "Save your fury for The Pit."

"P-pit?" Sakura ceased struggling to listen.

"As you can probably imagine, Jaguar Fist was pissed that anyone dared to kill one of her own, let alone during a communion ritual. Totally spoiled the mood, you should have seen it. Bloodjaw has openly defied The Warchief's authority, now to save face a champion from Jaguar Clan must fight in the Pit with Bloodjaw's champion. Knowing her, she'll probably fight herself. As for Clan Jaguar..." The smuggest of smiles lingered over her face. "You're it!"

"WHAT?" Sakura said. "ME?! No!"

"Oy oy, you killed Boy Killer hyenas. Then you were taken captive by Clan Jaguar, thus becoming their property." With every beat, The Witch sounded more and more impatient having to explain all this. "Bloodjaw must reclaim her honor by demonstrating her Ferocity, or she'll look weak in front of her clan sisters. And if that happens, they may turn on her, make her a slave. Or flay her, as is their Clan's custom..." Even Needle Teeth shuddered at the thought. "However, if Jaguar Fist does not respond in kind, her own Clan's honor is tarnished. People will think they are weak, might demand a new moot, provided the two clans don't settle their differences in all out Flower War. Since YOU in particular are the cause of all this drama, it is only natural that you're selected to fight on the Clan's behalf. Besides, we're ALL eager to see just how strong a warrior you ninja really are." As if to emphasize just how trapped Sakura was, Needle Teeth squeezed her thighs against Sakura's, delighted how her touch weirded out her captive.

"Forget it! I'm not fighting for your sick amusement."

"Oh? Then you won't mind if we do to your friends, what we've done to that smeg over here?"

Sakura's blood ran cold at that. She already lost Hinata, she wasn't about to lose Ino and Ten Ten too. Hanging her head in defeat she endured The Witch's snickering. "That reminds me, we still haven't discussed your punishments. Trying to run off in the night, I thought ninja were supposed to be good at stealth. Keh." With that the Witch rolled to the floor. The hemp collar was wound tight and scratchy. Its itchy mesh was going to be unbearable. Still, miserable as the situation was, she had gained precious intel she didn't have before. The Witch knew Sakura and friends were ninja, how she came by such information was anyone's guess. Then again such things were common in the world, it was probable that they learned of them from Hikari...or any number of the victims they captured. Henry's talk of magic doorways were more mysterious than impossible. All this speculation made her head hurt, Sakura didn't want to be bothered with such details. She preferred to keep things nice and simple, the enemy is the enemy, our side is the good side. One of the benefits of being a ninja is there was always someone above her to untangle the bigger picture for her, to tell her what was right and what was wrong. It was easier that way. She never wanted to be bothered with anything that didn't benefit her directly.

She watched as Needle Teeth turned her games to Henry. The Witch bobbed and weaved in and out between his legs, merrily dancing around him.

"I could have you boiled in hot water, again. Maybe stick some leeches on you? Trampling's too good a punishment for a bad widdle piggy like you." Needle Teeth pinched at Henry's cheeks as he rolled his eyes at her. His spirit was yet uncowed, which made the Witch angry. "I could give your worthless hide to Boy Killer clan, and your face could end up as somebody's loincloth." True terror graced Henry's pleading eyes at last, turning Needle Teeth's frown upside down. "No no..." she started, eyeing Sakura behind her shoulder. "The Purification rituals are far from complete. And you're just so fat with Chakra. Yesss you are. Yes you are." She tenderly brushed the slight bulge in Henry's fundoshi with the back of her hand. "You'll live, but in pain." The Witch went back to her altar to snatch up a random clay jar, marked with a green flame on its side. She came back to Sakura, to show off the pure white and creamy contents. "We call it Fire Cream. Its a good medicine when rubbed into your back. The "heat" it gives off soothes aches and pains after a long battle. We've also discovered that when applied to certain other places on the body, it gives off a...less than pleasant sensation." The Witch dipped her fingers into the mixture, curling up a dolp of the white, threatening it with Sakura as if her fingers were the tip of a spear. "Bad, bad, medicine..." Sakura unconsciously tried to suck in her crotch the closer the Witch's fingers got. "However...as a girl on Zukalaka Island, you are privy to special privileges above the inferior sex. As punishment for trying to escape, you could be forced to endure the stinging kiss of the Fire Cream. However, since a slave is involved in this predicament, you are well within your natural rights to pass that punishment off on him. Don't you get it? You don't have to suffer at all. Make. Your. Choice."

At once Henry and Sakura's eyes went wide with horror. Such a sadistic choice, how could she be expected to do such a horrible thing? On the other hand, a substance called fire cream sounded deadly, and where it was being aimed...

"Neh neh. Still not sure?" Tucked away in the string of her loincloth was a little doll. It was a very simplistic looking wooden figurine of a girl. A girl with pink hair and a red tunic. Green angry eyes were painted under its oversized forehead. The resemblance made Sakura cringe, though the object itself was hardly a threat, or so she thought. A wild grin possessed Needle Teeth as she pulled the thing free, and squat low by the fire. As the figurine hovered by the flame, invisible pain raked across Sakura's breast and belly like hot coals. At first she hissed from the pain, trying to bear it. The sorcerous fire drove deeper into her skin, though no burns appeared on her flesh. A whimper leapt off her lips, followed by unquenchable screaming. Tied down as she was all she could do was flail her wrists and ankles as she jerked her head side to side in a hopeless attempt to "put out" the flames that weren't there. In the longest few minutes of Sakura's life she was burning alive, the pain was soul shattering and all too real. Was this what it meant to burn at the stake? In next instant the was gone again like nothing had ever happened. Sakura gasped for breath and cried as she was so accustomed to.

"Now imagine that all over your crotch," said Needle Teeth holding up the evil doll in Sakura's face. "All. Day. Long. You don't wanna have to deal with that..."

"I...I choose...I choose..." Every instinct and every shinobi code she had ever learned compelled her to heroism. She just couldn't let another suffer on her behalf. But the pain...the burning...it was so frightful, so real. Which is why she had to protect Henry. That was her job as a kunoichi of Hidden Leaf. To defend those who couldn't defend themselves. Hinata...Her anger suddenly shrugged off its sleep. Hinata was dead now. She could have prevented it. She could have saved her, but...but...he got in the way. It was his stupid plan that got them all recaptured again. Then he had the nerve to insult her memory right to her face. Her insides seethed with resentment, a flame as hot as the phantom flames that burned her a mere moment ago. Yes, she was a ninja, a hero in training of the Hidden Leaf. There was only one choice she could make. "I choose him. Please don't hurt me."

"All too easy!" Needle Teeth's eyes lit up as she spun happily about, holstering the Sakura doll in the belt of her loincloth. "A true Redfoot puts her sisters above all others. Especially above piglets." Her wicked cackle was long and putrid, as was Henry's disbelieving glare. Sakura looked away thinking, better him than me. We should have gone after Hinata first anyway. Needle Teeth put a sultry look on, as she crept around a sweating Henry. The first few dolps were daubed into his nipples, to which Henry winced at the touch Needle Teeth's finger tips. Unraveling his fundoshi, The Witch lathered his hairless cock and balls with the stuff, gloping it all over like lotion.

"Oh don't gimme that look. You should be grateful a girl is even touching you down there. I mean look at this measly little thing. You think you could ever satisfy a girl with this stubby little thing? Pathetic." The more Henry blushed, the prouder Needle Teeth became, fondling his privates without a care about how violated Henry felt. The Witch eagerly ogled over her prey's near feminine features, winking and smirking at his helplessness. When she finished, Needle Teeth stepped back as if to admire her handiwork. As she stood next Sakura, hand on her hip, Henry slowly but surely began to writhe in agony. He could not hold back, the white fire was too strong. Now it was his turn to scream and bear through the invisible flame. His knees tried to buckle, but were held fast by the rope, denying him even the simple relief of closing his legs. His whole face blushed scarlet as hot tears drizzled down his cheeks. His garbled pleas for mercy and help were met only by Needle Teeth's obnoxious laughter. The lanky witch pointed at the boy's suffering, jutting Sakura's side with her elbow, trying to coax her to join in. To Sakura's credit, she managed to remain silent, horrified by what she had done.

"Its beautiful isn't it? Doesn't that sound just get you wet? Just think, that could have been you just now. But it isn't. That's because you're a girl, and to be a girl is to be blessed. Even now, you have more power on this island than that smeg ever will." With a gangly twirl that mocked the more graceful dancers of before, Needle Teeth ducked behind the net bed yet again, to whisper into Sakura's ears. "Bask in it. Don't turn away from it. If the roles were reversed he'd have sold you out in a heartbeat. That is their nature. But ours is to stand together, no matter what. There's no need to question it. Its just the way nature intended. Accept it. You are better than him in every way. He deserves to suffer, not you." The angry part of Sakura thought this to be...partially true anyway. It didn't make the reality any less sickening to watch or hear.

Sakura had a thousand questions, though she was unsure she really wanted the answers. A simple "W-why?" would suffice for now. No answer could ever alleviate the shame that she felt.

"You will understand, once you become...Pure." Mesmerized by poor Henry's cries, Needle Teeth began to pant. One of her hands slipped through the rope to clutch at Sakura's face, encouraging her to keep watching the torture. The Witch's other hand trembled as she tucked it into her loincloth. The smacking of her lips, the pup like yelps, oozed past Sakura's ear. The goosebumps that ran across her skin, was a paltry defense against the Witch's lewd heaving. Even after the Witch satisfied herself, Henry's pain did not end.

When Needle Teeth came back around she was tasting her unclean fingers when the pink haze flashed in her eyes. "The warriors will be here soon." For a brief moment the Witch looked lost in a trance and then it was gone. Her eyes shifted back at Sakura. As one final bit of bullying she waggled her slimy fingers mere inches from Sakura's belly, relishing in her renewed struggling and whimpering.

"Should you win, you'll receive a special prize. If you lose well...At least Bloodjaw's honor will be satisfied." With a cock of her head, Needle Teeth stared at Sakura's bare body. All the time the kunoichi felt smaller and smaller beneath her lecherous gaze. The Witch then added, "Take her headdress for your own if you survive. Do not give Clan Boy Killer more cause to hate you."

Chapter Text

 



Sakura was taken to the west end of the village along the palisade wall. The Redfeet bound her wrists in front of her and pulled her along by a tether, not that she had any intention of fighting them. Not while they had her friends stashed away somewhere. She kept her shoulders slumped, feeling self-conscious of her exposed breasts and belly. There were considerably less dwellings in this part of the village, as it sat across from the open field where she and her comrades had crossed. The humid air was filled with twang of bowstrings let loose with excited chatter and cheering. Here a bulk of the village had assembled to watch their warriors in training. Archers both tall and small fired arrows into distant targets. Gawkers sat in the grass to fawn over their favorites. Each of the archers wore fingerless gloves that protected their forearms. They were worn so snug as to be almost part of their supple skin. Born of animal leather, they were embellished with the usual tribal decorations of shells, beads, feathers, and animalistic rune drawings. The taller, stronger Redfeet wielded longbows that were as tall as their junior tribe-sisters. Said juniors had smaller short bows, but were no less accurate than their seniors.

But merely hitting their targets wasn't enough for Redfoot warriors, as they tended to prance about the field, bending and pirouetting in exotic fashions; being able to make trick shots with a dancer's flare was part of the contest as well it seemed. The attending peanut gallery was quick to applaud the more beautiful routines, and quicker to heckle the mess ups. All manner of acrobatics were used to appease the crowd, be it back flips or spinning one's bow with rhythmic grace, followed up by primal screams when the archers made their marks. One girl did a handstand while trying to shoot their bow with their feet, only to tumble over on the ground. Her inevitable failure got everyone laughing, to which she grinned, that was all she really wanted. A treacherous smile snuck out of Sakura's face, but she quickly hid it again. Watching the little warriors ape their big sisters was adorable beyond measure, for the gathering was not only a contest of arms. Those girls who were struggling to hit anything were quickly scooped up by one of their seniors. Siding up next to their little sisters, the warriors gave them instruction; how to stand with a proper stance, and how to aim their shots. It was a training session passed from one age group to the younger, a kind of communal affection that was enough to warm anyone's heart. A pity I was born an only child, Sakura thought to herself.

Along the wall, slaves were lined up. Bound by ankle and hands behind the backs, the boys stood trembling while whooping Redfeet took turns chucking spears and stone axes at them. It was a most gruesome game, the adoring fan girls cheered the closer a spear got to hitting its target. The whole side of the wall was chewed up with cuts and indentations where past weapons had landed. Sakura could not even bring herself to outraged at this latest Redfoot atrocity, she merely shook her head. They were barbarians through and through, so it couldn't be helped. Several spears and axes jutted out along the sides of the elfin captives. Each of them held their breath, know full well that it could be their last.

"Uuunaaa! Mooonaaa!" the huntresses cried as they took aim. Their leering fans repeated the chant in kind and the spears flew one after another. Each landed, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk! Into the wall, barely scraping by a captive's arm or leg. One came close to cutting into the neck of one boy whose eyes were wide with terror. One "lucky" one stood on his toes when a spear landed between his legs, just below his crotch. The Redfeet howled with laughter as his face flushed, nonetheless he sighed with relief having been spared, for now. It seemed this contest was more of a "test" of nerves than target practice. When the warriors went to retrieve their weapons, they planted one of their feet into the chest of the slaves, to give themselves footing as they ripped their weapons back from the wall. As if the captives could forget who was in charge around here, none of them dared to try and resist. The slaves kept their eyes on the ground, lest they invoke their mistresses wrath any further.

There was no sign of Ten Ten or Ino, which was the only thing that concerned Sakura. She did her best to ignore the Redfoot antics and all the fun they were having. A stray daydream clouded her mind for a moment, and she pictured a fundoshi clad Naruto lined up against the wall. It might have been funny to see him dance around avoiding spear and axe. Another mischievous grin escaped her followed by a giggle. How silly, as if she'd be caught dead running about in a loincloth, hooting like monkey as she chucked spears at that knucklehead. Still, the idea was not without its appeal. Naruto was such a goof he'd do anything to get Sakura's attention. If she ever made it back home, she would have to start treating him more sweetly. It might be nice to have a servant waiting on her hand and foot, she deserved the attention. She let her daydream take a more dark turn, envisioning Sasuke as a captive, herself armed with tribal longbow with an arrow aimed directly at his blackened heart. A sudden commotion broke Sakura out of her reverie. One foolish slave had the audacity to start wailing, to which the Redfeet cackled all the louder. This time when the next round of spears were thrown, the one who spoke out of turn was punished in the worst way. All the spears landed with precise meaty thuds, and the slave's gurgling cries faded away. The body was left stuck the wall, as the ground was watered with blood. The remaining slaves were careful to keep their mouths shut after that. Sakura did not dare daydream about the contest again.

All at once Redfoot eyes flashed pink and everyone was silent. With one movement they quit whatever they were doing, got up and began to gather at a single point on the training field. The eerie conformity of it made the hairs on the back of Sakura's neck bristle. The grass gave way to hard dirt and dust. A great bamboo platform rose up on stilts alongside a massive hole in the ground. Thi'hali took her natural place sitting atop a cushioned wicker throne, her over sized crown gave her a slight height advantage over others. Ino and Ten Ten were on their knees, sitting at the princess's dangling feet. Their hands were tied behind their backs, but appeared no worse for wear than they had been. Filthy with scuffed up clothes, but at least neither was being forced to endure the shame that Sakura had to. Upon seeing Sakura, Ten Ten nudged Ino's arm with her forehead. Even from far away Sakura could see the shocked (if relieved) look on her friends faces, thus kept her chin up.

The Warchief stood at the Sun Princess's side, while six other Redfeet sat cross-legged beneath them. A haughty looking lot, given their position under the Warchief and Sun Princess alike. Judging by the way they put on airs, these six no doubt held a position of authority above the rank and file Redfeet. The first was a cruel faced girl with arching headdress of ostrich feathers: black on either side, with a single red and white pair standing tall at the center. She was the only one other than Jaguar that carried a weapon, a short stabbing spear which she stroked like a cat. Next to her was a Redfoot girl who carried quivers on her back and waist. Her tribal markings prominently featured arrowheads, the most obvious marking extended from her lower lip like a tongue. A small girl with a wasp head mask was scratching furiously at herself, while twitching her head. The two girls sitting next to her sat slightly further apart from her. There was a pair of gloomy looking girls, one who wore a shawl of straw, the other a more radiant shawl of peacock feathers. The first girl wore a headdress embellished with the horns of a ram. A woven hood mask was draped over her whole head, giving her her a faceless appearance. Her only other garments were various trinkets made of simple brown beads. The girl next to her was far flashier with an enormous yellow snake curled about her shoulders. In fact, both her headdress and jewelry bore a collection of snake teeth. Last but not least was a rather plain looking Redfoot, as in her skin barely bore any tribal markings at all unlike the vast majority of her tribe-sisters. Only three painted slashes marked her face and arm, that looked like a tiger had swiped its claw and drew blood. Even stranger, this final girl wore glasses of which one of the lenses were cracked. With a lighter complexion (though still quite tan), blue eyes and brunette hair, it was clear that this one was not a native, and yet no less fierce.

Jungle girls gathered by the score around the great hole; a forty foot deep rectangular pit, lined on all sides with punji sticks sharp as teeth. When their eyes stopped glowing the chatter and giggling started up again. The onlookers were ecstatic for the coming fight. Sakura gulped hard as she was shepherded past them, it was a long way down to the foaming brown muck below. Four bamboo watch towers guarded the perimeter of the Pit and the "royal" platform, from which archers watched the skies with nervous anticipation. All save one, the little drummer punk (whom the natives called Boom-Boom) was predictably tending to a vast drum with warm up beats.

What could only be members of Boy Killer clan were assembling on the far left side of the hole, decked out in leathery hood masks or helms made of animal skulls, just like their leader. The way they hunched about, hissing and grunting angrily at all, gave them a ghoulish countenance. One girl upheld a banner flag, the flayed skin of some poor victim; his naked remains were suspended from a pole in the shape of an X. Bloody claw marks were etched all across the leathery canvas, while a pair of flanking hyenas snarled and snapped at the banner girl's feet. The Boy Killers bashed the ground with their clubs, hurling screams and insults to the rivals on the other side of the pit.

Jaguar Clan by comparison fared more kingly, if such a thing were possible on the island. Their warriors stood tall and proud, solemn in their confidence. They wore their tribal finest, jaguar pelt headdresses and capes, plumed with streaming green feathers. Sakura could not help but feel some wonder at how impressive they were. The Jaguars did not snap or shout, they did not lower themselves to the baser antics of their more bestial sisters. All however shared a deadly glower, their arms crossed or else with Macuahuitl clutched tight in their fists. Their great jaguar pelt standard, dwarfed the Boy Killers', resplendent with red and green feathers. Human skulls dangled from tassels in rows, each of them painted in marvelous colors: Entwining green vines and pink jungle flowers. Golden jaguar fur (naturally) and spots, and zigzagging red and black war marks. The banner was crowned with a jaguar skull, made demonic with the grafting of two long black horns jutting up and out into the sky.

Thi'hali herself called everyone's attention with the bellow of a conch shell. The masses all sat down cross-legged, Sakura was "encouraged" to the same with a forceful shove against her shoulders. It was Jaguar Fist who spoke, stepping forward to address the crowd.

"A murder has been committed!" The peanut gallery tittered among themselves, giddy as gossips. "The most sacred harmony of our tribe has been violated!" The Warchief let show some of her fury, but was wise enough to keep it in check. "Who dares risk the Goddesses wrath, by slaying a sister within Her most Holy Palace?"

Bloodjaw shot up to her feet, answering the Warchief snarl for snarl. "I do! Bloodjaw, Skin Stealer of Men! Clan Mother of Boy Killers. Fiercest over all Redfeet!" When the bitch raised her fists in the air, her clan erupted in cacophony of howls. The Redfeet in-between murmured and clapped amiably at the display, while Jaguar Clan grit their teeth.

"What possible justification could you have?" The Warchief's anger was cool now, but could flash hot any second. It was wonder the Jaguar Fist did not leap from balcony to merit out "justice" with her own hands.

"My cause is just, sanctioned under Oombala!" Sakura's ears pricked up at the strange name. If she had to guess, it was yet another one of the Redfeet goddesses. Right on cue, Needle Teeth was sniggering to herself. It was as the Witch taunted, she held some kind of iron clad influence over the tribe as a go between. But why? Sakura wondered. Was she some kind of priest? That was most likely, given what little clues she had to go on. Even so, this brutal lot hardly seemed the type to keep any kind of vows when given. So why give that bratty wench any respect at all? "I call you fraud Jaguar Fist!" Bloodjaw pointed at the Warchief. "You talk harmony when there's none inside you! You talk honor, but I know you got none! When Redfeet hunt together, Redfeet hunt as one. We all one with the tribe, not separate clans. Jaguars and Boy Killers hunt as one, but Jaguars take all captives for themselves. Now we take what is ours!" Bloodjaw turned about to grunt a command at her warriors who grunted at once in return. Clumping together the troop stomped in and out, slammed their clubs on the ground, and pounded their chests in a synchronized dance. Their few personal drummers stuck up a militant beat (Boom-Boom didn't miss the chance to join in, but a few stray arrows from the neighboring guard towers made her rethink her enthusiasm with a huff).

"Good grief," Sakura squinted with exasperation. Such a needless ruckus! It seemed the fancy display was more for the crowd's benefit than anything, whose eyes shifted between the challenger Boy Killer clan and the Jaguars, eager to see what would happen next. The Jaguar Clan remained cold. One might have likened it to a sports event, a particularly wicked one at that. Bloodjaw raised a strange clay flute up to her face, one that had the auspicious shape of a skull. But when she blew into the thing, Sakura and her friends trembled at its terrible scream. Indeed, that scraping horror, it actually sounded just like a terrified victim screaming for their life. Again and again Bloodjaw blew into the unholy thing. With each scream the ninja felt more and more sick to their stomachs. The Redfeet on the whole were numb to screech. The screaming skull quieted the Boy Killer clan whom now stood at attention. Silence.

"In the name of Zukalaka," said Bloodjaw, lowering the skull flute. "I demand justice! Face me Jaguar Fist! In battle or war! I take your head! Wipe my arse with it! Face me! I SHOW YOU WHO RULE THIS LAND!"

"She's still pissed off about the last moot huh?" said one of Sakura's guards to the other. She made certain to only appear dumb. "Then again, when isn't she pissed off?"

"Ahh, it was such a waste. You remember their candidate? Such a sweet little thing. Too bad it was their clan that offered her."

"Mmm," the guard nodded her head. "Don't know if she'd have made or good Princess or not, but she should have at least had the chance to become a warrior. Thi'hali even allowed her to live."

"Didn't stop Bloodjaw from boiling her in...umm...was it beezlenut oil or canola?

"I thought they just flayed her like they always do."

"No, no, they boiled her then flayed her."

"Ahh! That does make sense..." The banter went on like this for bit, the two of them wistful that they didn't get a chance to meet this dead "candidate", in between discussing the finer points of slow torture by boiling. Sakura meanwhile threw up a little in her mouth, and begrudgingly swallowed it back down again. At least the three of them could agree on this point, Bloodjaw and her clan were complete monsters.

All through out Bloodjaw's ravings, the hairs on Warchief's head pricked up as she clenched her fists tighter and tighter until they were trembling. It was a frightful sight to behold for Ino and Ten Ten, even the six regal looking bunch sweated a bit at their leader's not so tranquil fury.

"Did big sister Jaguar pick out a champion then?" said Thi'hali with indifference.

"Indeed!" she snarled. "If Bloodjaw wants her cub so much, let her fight for it!" Sakura was dragged forward again, shuffled through the mass of Jaguar Clan warriors until she was standing at the edge of the pit. "You speak nothing but lies Bloodjaw! Malicious slander to cover for your own weakness, your cowardice, and your failure to claim the throne!" While Jaguar Fist made her speech, a lasso was being fitted under Sakura's armpits. Guards kept the fine points of their spears aimed at her neck as the binding around her wrists were cut. "As much as I'd love to crush you, just as I did you pathetic little assassin, you're of no threat to me." She made a dismissive hand gesture. "Claim your so called honor in the Pit or die. Act against me again, and I'll see you impaled." For all her bluster and fury, Bloodjaw flinched at that threat, in full view of the whole tribe. To the onlookers she turned to bare her teeth with a carnivorous hiss, less they forget why they feared her so.

After being given a quick tutorial of how to undo the lasso when she landed, Sakura was made to sit at the Pit's edge as her opponent was being rigged from the other side. Jaguar Fist took a step back to allow Needle Teeth to address the crowd.

"Look at us! Look around you sisters! What do you see? Is it not beautiful? Breathe it in, feel the world that Zukalaka has left to you. When the Great Snake came down from heaven it was to make war. War, sisters! That most noble of endeavors. Who among you wouldn't leap at the chance to hunt and kill evil? Eh? Who among you is a true Redfoot?" The Witch paced back and forth across the stage, gallivanting to give life to her words. At her beckoning the crowd put up their hands, all clamoring 'me me!' With a flash of dark light in The Witch's eyes, they ceased.

"Be remembering always however, that it was for all our sakes that Zukalaka came to make war. Was it not the image of woman she took, to mesmerize and cow the evil of Nimdok? It was her love for us, for Thi'hali, innocent and pure. For wise Oombala who was slain by Nimdok's treachery, that she came to the mortal plane. It was She who hunted down the boar king and trampled him underfoot! She who was triumphant! It is Her example we Redfeet must follow. It is unto Her that we make war, make sacrifice, and above all else...make looove." Needle Teeth had turned her back to the snickering crowd to flutter her hips and butt. "War makes us strong, it separates us from the weak. War makes us fierce!" She clasped her hands in front of her mouth like jaws. "Competition is the law of the jungle. Only the strongest, smartest, most agile, and most beautiful have the right to power. It keeps us sharp, keeps us fierce, that we may always be ready for when the Enemy comes to attack us. But sometimes at 'peace'..." The crowd jeered at that word. "...things get a little dull. She said this, she said that. Smarmy hut bitches with nothing better to do spread gossip. Then the competition goes sour. Resentment, bitterness, jealousy, rage. All well and good till it turns to feuding...Feuding is a poison my sisters. A poison that makes us forget why we came to be, why we are one with the tribe. The weak start thinking they're strong, forget their place. Sometimes the strong get lazy, become weak, no longer fit to lead. It is here that the truth of the matter is decided! Two girls enter, one girl leaves. And all feuding is to die with the loser. The warrior that wins, their Clan is in the right! No exceptions! Think of it as a sacrificial rite..." Now she stood up straight with her hands behind her back, as she rocked herself back and forth on her heels and toes. "Each of you are warriors, representatives of your noble clans. The reasons why you came to be here no longer matter. They are to be forgotten! Fight for your lives! Embrace the fury of the wild! Oombala has already decided your fate. No matter what happens, the righteous will prevail. The righteous will ALWAYS prevail!"

The Jaguar warriors shot Sakura a mean look, one that said, "You better not make us look bad." Sakura ignored them keeping her eyes at the pit below, like she had any control over the situation. A girl planted her foot on Sakura's shoulder and gave her a nudge forward. The ninja allowed herself to slide off the edge as the rope under her arms went taught. Bit by bit she and her adversary were lowered down, down into the muck.

"This is it," Sakura said to herself hoping her fear did not show on her face. As she descended her thoughts stewed upon the Redfeet. How they beat her and her friends down. The shameless way they exposed themselves. Their ever increasing ways of cruelty. She hated them, she hated them, their island, this whole cursed mission. She hated herself and how powerless she was to stop them, to stop them from, from...

"Hinata..." Her heart was already pounding for war. Her fists clenching and un-clenching, prepared to smash and claw. If she had the power she'd tear apart their stupid little village stick by stick. The means and the method were irrelevant. They deserved to suffer, just as they made her suffer. Sakura glared at Bloodjaw across the way on the long way down. Soon they would see whose hate was greater. This creature, this thing, it may have looked human, but Sakura knew the truth. These mongrels had long since abandoned their humanity, assuming they ever had any to begin with! There could be no mercy, no forgiveness, for she would be shown none. If she fell here, she might die. But that would leave Ino and Ten Ten alone, doomed to suffer whatever horrible torture they inflicted on her poor Hinata. HER Hinata!

Ino and Ten Ten were dragged by their hair to platform's edge, that they might see the battle below better. As the Jaguars lowered their friend into the pit, Ino whispered Sakura's name like a protective ward. The high ranking Redfeet joined them at edge, eager for the game to begin. Predictably the Redfeet began grunting in a rhythmic chant as the combatants were lowered, clacking their weapons or pounding the ground with their fists or heels (if they stood). The closer Sakura and Bloodjaw drew to the mud, the faster the chanting got. Earlier in the year, Sakura would have been distraught at her feet being dipped into mud. All she could think about how disgusting the Redfeet were, and how she would make each of them pay for what they've done. Starting with this one!

The chant erupted into a roar, the combatants quickly unhooked themselves from the lasso that lowered them. Said ropes skittered back up the wall, trapping the two girls together. Despite twenty five yards between them, each could feel the murderous intent of the other steaming upwards. By channeling chakra to the bottoms of her feet, Sakura could avoid slipping and sliding across the mud. Her enemy would be forced to slowly wade her way through it. Sakura's burst of confidence was cut short, as a wooden sword fell from the air, the left side of the field. The Jaguar Clan broke their stoicism, shouting in protest as the crowd and Clan Boy Killer reveled in the sudden shift of power. With haughty steps, Bloodjaw retrieved the weapon holding it up for all to see. It was a fine crafted macuahuitl; to Sakura it resembled a wooden paddle made deadlier with the lines of jet black stones embedded in the sides. Though they looked brittle as glass, a few solid chops in the air hinted at their razor sharpness. Bloodjaw for the first time grinned from under her skull mask. The handle and "blade" were so long, that the Redfoot need both hands to wield the thing.

The combatants eyes clashed, Sakura's soft jade against savage ichor. Hot breath flashed in and out of flaring nostrils. Bloodjaw raised her macuahuitl in mock fashion of fencer offering a noble challenge.

"I drink the blood from your heart!"


 

Sakura's first objective was to get that sword out of Bloodjaw's hands, all while avoiding its razor edges. Easier said than done as Sakura now had no defense. A few punches might wear her enemy down over time, but Bloodjaw only needed to land one cutting blow to win. With a casual swagger, the Redfoot fiend waded through the mud in Sakura's direction. All the while taking warm up swings, battering up as it were. Not so far above, the Jaguar Clan offered little encouragement while Sakura stood frozen with sudden fear.

"Do something! Move! Don't just stand there!" said they, impatient for this farcical duel to be over with. Meanwhile the Boy Killers bellowed their horrible insults.

"Take her head! Look how flat her chest is, is that really a girl? Pink hair's scared stiff, just like the rest of Jaguar Clan!"

To the riff raff gaggle of villagers, Bloodjaw's victory seemed imminent. "Chop her up! Finish her! Bloodjaw! Bloodjaw!" To which the vain warrior swung her sword about in an arcing figure eight, drawing ever closer to her prey. Sakura shivered all over as opposing fight and flight instincts wrestled with one another inside her.

"Sakuraaa!" Ino and Ten Ten cried out in hopes of snapping her out of whatever funk she was stuck in. From her knees "Thi'hali" watched over the combatants with awe. Jaguar Fist stood over her with a grim face, her eyes flickered back and forth from the fight to the little Sun Princess. She might have pat her head if Hikari's headdress wasn't in the way. As if sensing her need, the princess clung to the Warchief's shin. Needle Teeth squat on her toes beside them, if she had a tail she'd probably be wagging it.

Sakura ran. Speed, speed was the key here. She ran circles around the Redfoot, almost gliding a top the mud, her bare feet lightened by chakra. If she could get behind Bloodjaw, lock her in a choke hold she might be able to get that sword away from her. The savage stopped short, and slightly widened her stance. With bent knees she was a solid as rock, but more importantly could easily twist and turn in any direction the ninja came at her. The cheeky devil was still grinning, raising her sword over head, daring Sakura to just try and come forward. She would hack her apart in a single blow!

Once. Twice. Thrice. Four more times around Sakura went, folding her fingers in various seals. In the split second of instinct she visualized the form her jutsu would take. One Sakura became four, perplexing a shifty eyed Bloodjaw. She charged at the Sakura in front of her with a cut that would rend her from shoulder to wait. Sakura split open in a puff of smoke and was gone. Anticipating the ninja's trick, Bloodjaw brought up the paddle-sword in a sideways arc, slicing through two more clones. This puny outsider's plan was so predictable. With a careful hop and a hot foot backwards, she turned to get a clear shot at the charging kunoichi. The fool thought she catch her from behind? Bloodjaw hacked her sword wildly with every step forward. Pride and fury swelled in her chest along with the roaring adulation of the crowd. She did not see the real Sakura come up from under her ankles until the kunoichi had snaked her way into the Redfoot's hips, tackling her over to the ground.

The Redfoot's confusion would not last long. While Sakura scrambled to hook her arms around the savage, Bloodjaw's fist hammered away at Sakura. It didn't matter to her where the blows landed so long as they hurt. Indeed, Sakura winced with every bony thud, but held on for dear life regardless. As the girls struggled to regain their footing, the crowd cried out Bloodjaw's name. A few from the Jaguar's side shouted "Pink Hair! Pink Hair!" but they were seldom and lost in the throng.

"Fight her!" said Ino with more jubilant than before. "Come on!"

"Go Sakura!" said Ten Ten as she shook her fist. The two of them were forced to share the presence of the Clan Mothers. The wasp masked one scuttled about in crab walk from side to side, mumbling bug noises. The one with the spear and arrow tongue seemed to be having a contest as to who could cheer the loudest. Each regarded the other with a venomous glare. The horned one shared a secret with the snake girl, whispering in her ear. She, already bored with the fight, put her fingers to her lips in a lady like gesture as she chortled. Her pet snake reflected its owner's apathy, lying still with only an obligatory flicker of the tongue here and there. It fell asleep with one eye open. The last girl sat apart from the rest, resting her chin on her knee while her other leg dangled off the platform's edge. She did not wave her fists nor stomp her feet like the others below. She brooded in silence, sitting up to cross her arms and keep them locked there. The kunoichi didn't know what to make of any of these girls (though they worried that the wasp girl's craziness might be contagious).

When punching failed to dislodge Sakura, Bloodjaw tried to roll around, greasing herself up with mud. The ninja couldn't grab ahold of her then. Sakura had latched her arm around under Bloodjaw's armpit, no where near the neck yet but it was a stepping stone. She dug her nails into Bloodjaw's sword arm, hoping the pain would get the bitch to drop her weapon. She had to remember. They took her, they took her away from her. That's what she needed to focus on. It wasn't enough that they hurt her, but made her friends suffer too. Hate was the flame, the one that would burn all this filth away, would cleanse her. The burning in her throat, in her heart, it was proof that she was alive. As the enemy grew more vile the stronger she had to become. She had to get stronger, stronger than anyone else.

Bloodjaw screamed through the burning as Sakura dug in deeper and deeper. Her grip on the sword only tightened. Mere welts would not suffice, Sakura needed to draw blood. Mud in the wound would slow her enemy down. Clinging to her back, Sakura held the savage upright. Bloodjaw's sword arm flailed about, but Sakura had her locked at the wrist. In a split second she would have to let it go to attempt a sleeper hold.

Crack! The bone covered headbutt sent Sakura spinning backwards. Her head was ringing and her vision split, but she was already moving. The macuahuitl chopped through air where Sakura's shoulder was just a mere moment ago. Screeching obscenities, Bloodjaw hacked and hacked away; at Sakura's face, her belly, her legs. Barely able to keep up, Sakura turned tail and ran in circles with Bloodjaw in hot pursuit. The crowd became angry, jeering and hissing at such cowardly tactics. So angry at that they started shooting darts from blowguns. Now Sakura had to hot foot it, dancing around to avoid the rain of needles. That put some pep back into the crowd.

"That isn't fair!" said Ino glaring up at an apathetic Jaguar Fist.

"That's the idea..." said Needle Teeth.

"You have to do something!" Ten Ten insisted, but the Warchief stood silent. "Jaguar!" Her eyes shifted back and forth as she crossed her arms. Who could say what she really thought of the battle?

A stray needle whizzed past Bloodjaw's ankle, an inevitability that struck Sakura with new inspiration. Sword or no, her opponent had all the subtlety of a rampaging bull. She thought, "If I can dodge those darts in just the right way..." Sakura changed up the direction of her run. Everyone held their breath as Sakura leapt up into punji sticks jutting out from the pit's walls. Even she was more than a little surprised when she managed to land cat like upon their edges. Keeping on the balls of her feet, she could hop about upon the larger and sturdier spikes, while tip toeing or avoiding the thinner spikes altogether. Clumsy as she felt, the crowd was wowed nonetheless. But there was no time for grandstanding, Bloodjaw was still charging and swinging her macuahuitl like a sledgehammer. Again and again Sakura jumped in the air, narrowly avoiding the deadly swipes of Bloodjaw. In her frustration the Redfoot took to hacking at the spikes, sending showers of spikes up. Sakura's teeth were sent chattering, the sword's obsidian glass shards were no joke. They sliced through wood as clean as steel. Nonetheless she kept one eye on the crowd above, and the next volley of darts.

She kept moving along the spikes in counter-clockwise motion, waiting for just the right moment. It was crucial to time her jump just right. One slip up now and she'd be skewered by the darts, and Bloodjaw would chop her up like firewood. Again and again the warrior swang, and with each step Sakura took was a little bit clumsier. Each hop a little more desperate to get away. When the ninja next crouched low, Bloodjaw saw her chance. The Redfeet above took aim with their blowpipes, aiming for where ever Sakura might land. Truly, she was cornered with enemies aiming at her from all sides.

"Sakuraaa!" said Ino and Ten Ten at once. Ino herself clasped in hands to her breast. She could plainly see that Sakura had driven herself into a corner with no way out. This was the end! She shifted over to her right cuddle against Ten Ten for security. Except Ten Ten was sitting off to her immediate left.

"Hey. How you doing?" said Needle Teeth with a flutter of her one exposed eye lid. With a twist in the face, Ino shoved the Witch away with her shoulder as if she had just leaned against a pile of shit. The Witch crashed to the floor with a thud, as Ino stuck to Ten Ten instead. Needle Teeth huffed, but said no more.

Bloodjaw seized the opportunity, batting up her sword for the charge. With the fiercest battle scream she could muster yet she swung hard and fast at Sakura's shin. In mere seconds it would be sliced clean off, and victory would be hers!

Sakura leapt forward, anticipating the swinging arc, she flung herself through the air to crash into Bloodjaw. Howling with equal fury Sakura planted one foot into the shoulder, the other into Bloodjaw's bony helm. With a sudden burst she kicked the bitch in the face, driving her heel as hard as she could without injuring it. With her enemy off balance, where she landed was crucial. Sakura rolled in the air, landing on the balls of her feet. The blowgunners took their shot, right where she was standing. Sakura grinned as she rolled out of the way, and the needles thudded past where she used to be and into Bloodjaw!

There was a unified gasp, some of shock but many more of awe. Those who were not of Boy Killer clan exploded into a fanatical frenzy, at long last the first blood had been drawn. Though still on her feet, the bone headed warrior hunched up. The macuahuitl fell from her hands, each of which were pierced with wood needles and oozing with gore. Her screams were now limited to feeble cries of pain. She was regular pin cushion with the needles bleeding her thighs and arms. A few even jutted out from her back and chest.

Sakura wasted no time. Skidding back to her feet she charged at Bloodjaw, seeking to finish her off with powerful side kick and knock her right into the spikes. Eyes blazing with pink hellfire, Bloodjaw spun on her heel to meet Sakura's charge with her own. With claws flailing, the Redfoot dodged the kick and rammed Sakura down into the mud. This was it, the big finish. Everyone could feel the killing urge in the air. "Una moona moona moona!" came the battlecry of the Redfeet here and there. But then all at once, they chanted the mysterious name of their other goddess. "Oombala! Oombala! Oombala!" Over and over the crowd shook and pumped their fists while the girls wrestled down below. The chant started low and slow, then built up, louder and faster as the fighting grew more intense. Only Jaguar Fist, Thi'Hali, Needle Teeth, Ino and Ten Ten, watched with any restraint.

"Go Sakura! Go!" Ten Ten called out.

"Be careful!" Ino added.

True to her savage origins, Bloodjaw headbutt Sakura in the face many times to stun her. Both girls pounded each other with their fists, it would all come down to who could last the longest now. Keeping a hold of one another was slippery work with the mud coating their bodies. Rolling about each girl tried to pin the other with limited success. All it would take now was for one to submerge the other's head and they could easily drown them. With a cheap shot to the stomach, Sakura had the wind knocked out of her. Quickly mounting her at the waist, Bloodjaw brought down a hail of fists to pummel Sakura into submission. Sakura in turn reached out to twist a needle in Bloodjaw's arm, forcing her to recoil.

Charging each other again, they caught each other in the palms. A familiar moment to be sure. But this time there would be no interference. Even the blowgunners ceased their shooting. No longer did they cheer for mighty Bloodjaw, she had lost the crowd's favor. Pushing back against her, Sakura tried to clear her head, to plan her next course of action. Everything hurt, and she was sure the wetness she felt running down her nose wasn't mud.

Her inner rage was fuming, "The hell does it take to kill this thing?" Bloodjaw was losing blood, but not fast enough. The bitch clamped her fingers down harder into Sakura's hands, digging her claws into the skin. Yet the ninja soldiered through the searing pain, pushing the enemy back. Bloodjaw slid back through the mud, and to Sakura's shock the bitch didn't falter. She didn't lose her balance or even seem put off. Instead Bloodjaw was smiling, gliding about with the ease of an ice skater. The realization seemed unlikely, but it was the only possible explanation. Like the kunoichi, the Redfeet knew the water walking techniques. Of course! That would account for their mobility through the trees, and Needle Teeth's boasting all but confirmed it. Then why wait until now to reveal this? These troublesome Redfeet were full of secrets, no matter. Sakura wiped the blood away from her nose, carefully treading the mud with equal ease.

"Bloodjaw toy with you!" now the bitch was trying to brag. "Stupid outlander! I drink your blood soon..."

Sakura scoffed, "Who taught you how to trash talk? Been taking lessons from rocks?" It wasn't particularly funny, but Bloodjaw's outrage got the crowd snickering.

"Rocks...don't...talk! You dumb and weak! I kill you. Eat your heart!"

"Yeeeah, you are pretty good at eating aren't ya? Too bad you're not as good at fighting as you are stuffing your face. This battle would be over by now...porky."

There was a collective "Oooooh!" from the peanut gallery now. Pig insults were usually saved for the slaves.

"I NOT FAT! YOU FAT!" she sputtered as she flailed her fists all around. If it were anyone else, Sakura would feel bad for picking on such an idiot. Well...on the surface anyway. "WHERE BLOODJAW SWORD? GIMMIE 'NOTHER!"

"There will be no more help from the outside," Thi'hali called out. "I have spoken." Sakura wondered if Bloodjaw's face turned white at the sound of that. Where was that sword anyway? No doubt it had sank into the mud. Rats. Sakura may not have been a weapons specialist like Ten Ten, but it would be better to have one than none. Bloodjaw was already on the move, bending over where she had been to try and dig the macuahuitl out.

"Don't bend over!" said Sakura embracing her inner Naruto. "Your curly tail will show for all to see, oink oink oink!" She added to the insult by pushing her nose up with her finger, giving Sakura a porcine appearance. Now she had the crowd laughing uproariously, save the now furious band of Boy Killers across the field. Like their mistress they hissed and stomped their feet, raising their spears as if to throw them at her, held back only by fear of retaliation from the rest of the tribe. Ino grit her teeth a bit, even though for once the joke wasn't being hurled at her. Ten Ten tried not to giggle.

Sakura spared no expense to tease Bloodjaw further. Swaying her butt around, Sakura pretended it was overgrown as she thumped her chest. "Me bloodjaw! Me eat rocks. Git strong dat way! DUH. Me break teef on rock!" With a mock sob she stuck her tongue out in her target's direction, and pulled down her eyelid.

The Redfeet were laughing so hard now they were practically choking. A few managed to call out "Pink Hair!" in approval. Whether she intended it or not, Sakura had the crowd on her side for the moment. Bloodjaw was either too stupid to recognize that Sakura was open for attack, or just didn't care anymore. From the way she was trembling, it was more likely the former. As Sakura clomped about in her routine, her toes grazed something hard. With a squint she saw the outline of a paddle, intricately carved on the side the voluptuous shape of a woman, and a fierce over-sized warrior's head plumed with a feathered headdress. The macuahuitl?! She crouched down to pluck it from mud.

"SAKURA LOOK OUT!" came Ino and Ten Ten's voices too late. With a thunderous roar Bloodjaw was on top of Sakura yet again, this time her hands finally managed to grasp about her throat.

Jaguar Fist hissed her disapproval as the Boy Killer matriarch slammed Sakura's head deep into the mud. Bubbles surfaced as Sakura's legs kicked like crazy, but Bloodjaw had her pinned. The chanting of Oombala started to rise again.

"No..." Ino couldn't take anymore, she buried her head into Ten Ten's shoulder.

"You not laugh now eh? EH?!" Her hands were vice grip twisting tighter and tighter around Sakura's neck. She surfaced to barely gulp another gasp before she was plummeted into the muddy darkness again. "Oombala eat your soul. I eat your heart!" It was all over now.

Bloodjaw's final screams cowed everyone, as Sakura's hand swung back and forth across her enemy's back like a guillotine. A black spark gleamed as it tore through Bloodjaw's side, spilling out not only blood, but a mash of eviscerated kidney. In a panic Bloodjaw scrambled up and as far away from Sakura as fast as she could. What kind of ninja sorcery was this? The ninja burst up from the mud, swelling her lungs with as much air as she could breathe. Though she sputtered and coughed up mud, she was unbroken. Between her fingertips was a black shard; ebon glass plucked from the sides of the macuahuitl. Nearly all had gone as Sakura had planned (she could have done without the nearly drowning bit). While she fiddled with the sword, Bloodjaw would attack her, then using the glass Sakura would rip into her foe. In minutes she would be dead.

Clutching at her side, Bloodjaw crumpled to her knees yet still managed to crawl backwards. She reached up at her comrades, her Boy Killer Clan for help, but they looked down upon her with disgust. Those that did not turn their backs on her joined the rising chant of "Oombala! Oombala!" Someone flung a spear at Bloodjaw, offended by her groveling. Mad with terror she tried to scramble away again, only to be stopped short and sudden. Sakura stomped her foot down into her foe's stomach, grinding it down and pushing more more out of Bloodjaw's side.

"Una moona bitch," Sakura's voice was like ice being crushed under a boot.

Lying on her back and quickly fading, Bloodjaw sputtered out, "Someday...this...be...you..." When her last breath past her lips her body stopped moving. Bloodjaw was no more.

Sakura did not remember Needle Teeth's words, her next actions came to her naturally. Ripping the bone mask from her fallen enemy she upheld it for all to see, as if it were Bloodjaw's severed head. The crowd, having lost its voice watched as Sakura crowned herself with the thing. The moment she thrust her fists in the air, everyone screamed with cheer. Little Boom-Boom predictably thumped her drums with a triumphant barrage.


 

Chapter Text

The Redfeet snatched up her "trophy" quick, though Sakura was glad to be rid of it. The creepy thing stank like stale sweat socks and grease. To her disappointment (though she wasn't surprised), she was given no chance to see her friends. The tribe scattered when the fight was over, Jaguar Clan quickly herded Ino and Ten Ten away while Sakura was pulled aside. With all eyes on her, she quickly remembered her civilized sensibilities and crossed her arms across her bosom. Despite her discomfort the Jaguars were all smiles and astonishment, rapidly talking at her over her victory. Some pat her on the back (one of them gave her rear an embarrassing smack). Others reached out to touch her face, as if a portion of the glory would pass to them by osmosis. One girl wrapped her arm around Sakura's neck, laughing it up as if they were old friends, then gave her a noogie. Sakura grinned and bore through it all. The excited chatter of the Redfeet was flattering to say the least, though still odd. She still thought of them as the enemy.

"Stay like that," said Jaguar Fist as she came climbing down a bamboo ladder from the platform. Smirking guards held Sakura by the shoulders, not nearly as rough as before. One of the Redfeet undid the hemp choker and then handed it down to Boom-Boom. The wild child grinned, revealing a protruding fang and a missing front tooth (though her bangs still concealed her eyes). She immediately squat down to tie the thing to Sakura's left ankle. An anklet? Sakura pondered this sudden change suspiciously. Once finished the little ran away to hide behind Jaguar Fist, snarling like a dog.

"You are a no longer a captive," Jaguar Fist started. "But a "House Guest" of Clan Jaguar. A rare privilege you should know." The guards pulled away and Sakura was left alone to examine herself. She jutted out her leg, looking over its new embellishment, as the remaining Redfeet made appreciative noises. It was kind a cute in its own way, but she didn't think much of this house guest nonsense.

"I want to see my friends."

"You've already seen them," Jaguar retorted harshly. Her tone grew softer as she turned to lead her away. "You will be with them again soon enough. But for now, your prize is waiting."

 


 

Sakura's special prize was three fold. First was the chance to bathe in some hot springs out beyond the village. Her eyes immediately lit up at the prospect. Granted it was the last thing she ever expected (unless by hot springs they meant, sacrifice to the volcano goddess). She wasn't about to argue against a free bath however. There was so much dirt and grime on her it was a wonder her skin didn't turn as dark as the natives (or worse, break out!). Instead of threatening her with a spear, they prodded her along with playful pushes. She was almost an equal among their little gang. The idea probably should have scared her more than it did. Somebody mentioned that to get to the hot springs, they would have to ride on the back of wargs. Sakura chewed on her lip, on the one hand those beasts were horrible monsters. Being hunted down by them was traumatic enough. On the other hand, there was hint of curious wonder in her eyes. She'd never known the joy of riding a horse before, though she had often dreamt of it. Now here was the chance, but on the back of a giant wolf (hyena really). There was the potential for something fun there, something Sakura was in dire need of right now. Not that she had a choice in the matter, as she was quickly scooted onward.

The sun glossed the sky in gold as the village started to settle down. Frogs and insects were beginning their nocturnal love songs, replacing the wild thrum dum of drums and chatter. The gang of jungle girls made their way towards the stables, with Jaguar Fist taking her place as leader of the pack. Sakura felt more a kin to sardine in a can than a wolf. She could smell the place well in advance. That pungent barnyard decay that accompanied all stables of all sorts everywhere. The Redfeet laughed at her as Sakura's hands leapt up to cover her nose. The hyena-wargs were penned in by a shoddy kraal. The fencing was a mish mash of bundled up sticks. The "stables" proper was barely an over sized hut, consisting of a grass roof upheld by bamboo poles. As many as twenty wargs were lounging under the shade, chewing at bones or snickering. No skulls of any kind littered the ground. They were placed on high in decoration, or were impaled on the "fence". The horned skull of a cow hung as a centerpiece of the stable's arch. The dirt was bedded with piles of dried grass, with a long trough for water set off to the side. It was surreal sight, seeing these beasts huddled together like their normal counterparts, while they themselves were as large as horses. Several huts roosted near the stables, adorned with the usual assortment of skulls, feathers and bones. Among them were the flayed banners of the odious Boy Killers, who skulked about disheartened and sad.

Jaguar Fist approached one of their number, hailing them with the phrase "Aku-Te", before conversing in the native tongue. Sakura grew a little apprehensive, under the Warchief's "protection" or not, there was only six of them (herself included), while the whole of Jaguar Clan's rivals were milling about doing chores. To her great surprise their warriors did not glare at her with any contempt. When they passed by, carrying clay pots of water or other materials, they bowed their heads in reverence to her. "Aku-Te, huana," they said to her. Jaguar Fist explained that Aku-Te was the native phrase that encompassed many things, love, affection, peace, and compassion. The Redfeet used it as both a greeting and a farewell. Huana simply meant boss, a term of respect.

"But don't get ahead of yourself," The Warchief warned with a playful smirk. "You're still just a cub to to us!"

 


 

Sakura was told that she must channel her chakra through her calves and thighs, like one might do to the bottoms of one's feet to water walk. In this way she could "cling" to the mount without fear of sliding or falling off. A clever trick Sakura had to admit, not to mention the spiritual element the Redfeet assigned to it. Having and sharing strong bonds with one another was a cornerstone of their community and culture. This intimacy extended not only towards each other but to their pets as well.

"To share one's chakra, one's life force with another..." Jaguar Fist started as she brushed her personal mount's snout. "...is to create a permanent bond with them. It is an affection like no other. It transcends blood and heritage. Its power travels deeper than friendship." When her eyes glowed so did her albino warg's. Sakura stared with wide eyes as the fearsome looking beast understood, slowly coming to life only to lie back down again, so that Jaguar Fist could properly mount her. The beauty of the Warchief's sentiment didn't really hit Sakura until after they hit the trail.

The warg pack shot out of the village no sooner than the gate had opened. Eager onlookers waved and chased after their heroines as they fled, though they did not venture past the gate. Jaguar Fist led the way with Boom-Boom sitting in her lap (who threw up both hands as she squealed with excitement). Sakura rode behind one of the Redfoot warriors, hugging her from behind and holding on for dear life. Her screams were far more apprehensive, at least at first. Their warg made up the body of the pack as two wargs flanked them from the sides, four wargs total for the six riders. With a shrill but friendly battle cry, the straggling warg riders broke rank galloping ahead of their Warchief. Not to be outdone, Jaguar Fist kicked her heels in to spur her beast after them. Sakura and her "partner" were getting left behind in the dust!

"Can't this thing go any faster?!" Sakura hollered into the ear of Redfoot.

She smiled back. "You ain't seen nothing yet! HIYAA!" With a snap of the reigns tied about the beast's snout, the trio began to pick up speed. The wolfish pack flew down the hill and out into the plains. The hyenas and their riders laughed all the way. Grazing horned antelope froze in alarm before scampering out of the path. The Warchief was neck and neck with one of the warriors, the other began to lag behind Sakura and her escort. Despite her pounding heart, or perhaps because of it, Sakura grew less tense in her grip. The chakra trick was a little different that what she was used to, but her chakra control was bar none compared to the rest of her class. Focusing that energy through her bare legs she could feel the charge gripping her to the warg's fur. The fact that is was so soft and cuddly even, tickled her senses. Her loins were titillated further, with the thumps the beast made with each nimble leap and bound. Sakura's hands trailed away to dig at the hyena's fur with her fingertips. She could grow to like this creature! She and her escort soon passed the second warrior, the three of them raced alongside with the Warchief and Boom-Boom. The forest still sat on all side of the field, as green and darling as emeralds. The pack wove its way in between the tribal totems, wasting time chasing each other around for no other reason but to go fast. With the wind flowing through her hair, there was a mythic feel to it all that warmed Sakura's heart. Here in the field it was "just us girls", living as wild and free as wolves with the whole of the earth as their playground. This profound arousal was a return to life, a renewal of the spirit. She couldn't account for what was coming over her and she didn't care. She was enjoying herself far too much. In the next charge, she courageously let go of the hyena altogether, letting her arms spread like wings. When Boom-Boom tried to imitate her, the Warchief grabbed hold of her all the tighter. Sakura couldn't help but feel a bit smug about it, the little one was certainly miffed at being stifled so.

No one won really "won" the race, but it ended all the same as the pack dashed into the forest. Following the savage's trail to their next destination, the sky turned as red as their feet.

 


 

The way through the forest was as treacherous as ever, ensnared as it was with vines and fungus. The dark butterflies hovered about with nary a care. Despite lacking any obvious trail, the pack bustled through the trees and rocks like a stream. The jungle's mists did little to impede the Redfeet. This was their land. They knew where every scrap of moss was, what every strange plant was, where every burrow hid and what kind of animal roosted in it. Here and there Sakura caught glimpses of tribal markers. Some were very simple, like a dangling talisman of a shining crystal caught in a web of string and feather tassels. She lost her breath at the sight of one tree carving; a pair of skeletal eye gouges with a huge gaping mouth lined with fangs taken from ancient hunts. It was as though the tree was alive, slobbering with demonic jaws. If there were any more such markers they were so subtle only a jungle dweller could notice them.

It was when they came upon the ruins that the pack slowed to a casual walk. They were suddenly surrounded by crumbling pieces of wall and square cut pillars etched with feathered serpents. More evidence of a people who existed before the Redfeet, but who (and where) were the Builders? The forest had long since eroded most of the debris way. One could even see traces of a road, an honest dirt road, if one squinted hard enough. The island had weathered worse than the Redfeet, be it monsoons and perhaps even the occasional eruption. Only the most stubborn pieces of architecture remained, unwilling to yield back to the forest. Whether in commemoration or desecration, these old stones had since been decorated over with Redfoot trophies. Animal skulls, strings of shells, and or such tasseled banners. There was little rhyme or reason to them, other than to declare that this too was Redfoot land, for they were a conquering people. Conquerors of the dead and beaten, Sakura grimaced to herself. She still held faith that a single jonin could wipe these savages from the face of the earth, that the Redfeet probably deserved it given their propensity for cruelty. Yet, her anger only left her feeling numb for once. The destruction of the Redfeet would mean the destruction of these wargs, no more girls going on wild romps through the field. That thought almost made her as sad as losing Hinata.

One hunk of ruins stood out from all the rest. A platform of grey stone bricks, marred by the usual vines and moss, lie dormant in a great wheel. The enigmatic sun sculpture with its complex network of hieroglyphs wove its way around and around, just like the one at the great temple. The fanged skull of a snake man grinned from the center. Stranger still was the smooth curved archway that arced over the platform, itself marked with carved glyphs which the Redfeet had painted over in red. This place undoubtedly held some great importance to the tribe as some kind of staging area. Aside from the usual tikis of female warriors plopped here and there, Sakura could see makeshift treehouses connected by bamboo catwalks in the trees above. The place was bustling with Redfoot activity, the catwalks creaked under their feet. A girl swung from a vine to a neighboring treehouse. A crude lever system lowered a bamboo elevator, allowing Redfeet to disembark quickly and in great numbers. Others made their way up and down the trees, scampering along on all fours. Aided by chakra clinging techniques no doubt. Sakura pondered what other kinds of techniques these Redfeet possessed, and how they came by them. Speculation at least gave her something to do. If the Redfeet did not build these ruins, it was possible they could have learned their ninja-esque techniques from whoever did. Maybe this lost civilization had its own ninja village. The hypothesis made sense to Sakura, but she lacked any real evidence to support it. These stone structures had to be thousands of years old, the rise of the ninja villages only came about in the last couple of hundred. She tilted her head back shifting in her seat to ride side saddle. Something was missing, The Redfoot Tribe were a piece of larger puzzle. The end result of some dead culture, but how? Why? Sakura frowned as she saw many cylindrical bamboo cages were dangling from the underside of the catwalks. Some kind of trap for prey she guessed, but given their size she could have easily fit inside one of them. Maybe they caught monkeys in them. Her stomach turned at the possibility of the tribe...eating them. With that thought Sakura shifted herself so that she was not as close to her escort, though she still kept a hold of her waist for balance.

Not far from the Gateway was a cliff side of rock from which a stream of water fell into a vast pool. The squeal of happy girls overshadowed the rush of the falls. Stark naked, the bathers lounged out on the rocks or made war with one another in splash fights. Sakura gasped with awe at the two monumental stone pillars stood at either side of the waterfall. Each serpentine behemoth crossed stone daggers across their broad chests, plumed in their tribal finest. Though time had weathered away their finer details and vines held them in bondage, the stone guardians roared with ancient pride. From the tip top of the statues, girls were lined up to swan dive into the lake below. When the bathers saw whose warg had happened by, everyone stopped what they were doing to wade over. It was quite the commotion, with Redfeet of all sizes waving and yelping in hopes of getting their Warchief's attention. Jaguar Fist greeted her public with a soft smile, yet held her stoic resolve and led the pack through the emerging crowd. Sakura observed the Redfeet curiously, Jaguar Fist really was a hero to them that much was plain to see. Everyone was dashing over as fast as they could just to feel the fur of the White Warg as it passed. Equally curious, they crowded Sakura's warg. They flinched as they grazed her shins and toes with their fingers before giggling. The escort riding with her made an exasperated noise, oddly embarrassed on behalf of her tribe's childish pandering. Sakura snickered to herself, somebody had sour grapes. That's right, she was kind of hero now too, a thought that Sakura was ready to run away with. She held her head up high, aping the part of a conquering heroine. The girls cooed ever louder in astonishment.

Sakura could see the steam rising around the next bend, and smelled the crispness of hot water before that. Torches were being lit, as girls hung skull lamps down from tree branches in preparation for the night. The springs themselves were walled off by bamboo palisades. It was here they dismounted and here the retinue of kiss-ups had followed them. With pink flash in the Warchief's eyes, she waved her hand for the crowd to be gone. In another flash the hyena-wargs laid down to rest and wait.

"Haiiii..." came the obedient choir who dispersed muttering and gossiping.

"Now we'll have some peace and quiet," Jaguar Fist said to Sakura directly, though she said nothing in return.

Sakura was no stranger to hot springs, and the Redfoot setup was not so different from a traditional onsen, save for the odd skull decoration. However when everyone in the pack was stripping down (such as they had anyway), she was dashing over to neatly laid pile of dark pink towels. She might have trusted the women and girls of her own village, but in front of these Redfeet she refused to so much as remove her underwear.The natives mocked her as she went into the water with the towel wrapped around her. Blasted thing barely came down below her crotch, at least it would give her semblance of modesty.

"She afraid her tits are gonna fall off?" said they. "Gotta have some before that..." Such haughty laughter! Sakura sneered and turned her back to them. With a mighty "GRAAAH!" Boom-Boom cannon balled into the water with enormous splash. Already more wet than she wanted, Sakura grumbled as she submerged herself. As she resurfaced she washed her face, glad to see the paint was streaking away. She ignored the native chatter as the Redfeet bathed opposite of her, Jaguar Fist grappled Boom-Boom by the neck to force her to stay still while her fellows washed her hair. Such a frightful (and frightened) face the little one made. Sakura peeked over her shoulder once, to see the Warchief giving her a subtle nod. It was like there was an invisible barrier between her girls and Sakura, which suited her fine. Despite her resentment, Sakura was (she gulped) grateful for the Warchief's discretion. Why she would bother was as mysterious as the decision to let Sakura tag along in the first place. "Reward" indeed. The enemy was planning something terrible, she could feel it in her bones. She turned her attention now to washing her arms.

"If you'd like, we can scrub your back for you," one of the girls said amiably. Her tender tone caught Sakura off guard, but she ignored her.

"Leave it," said the Warchief to comrade.

"She'd get more done without that towel," another girl said with snide. The Warchief uttered a phrase in the native tongue and the matter was settled. They returned to whatever it was they were gossiping about before. Despite the group's proximity an anxious feeling washed over Sakura. That lonely feel you get when you're the outsider looking in. Leaning on the spring's stony ledge, she rested her chin upon her crossed arms. Though the warmth of the water soothed her aching body, it could not alleviate the heaviness in her heart. Why should she feel upset for being excluded from their world? She'd had about all she could stand of it. As she brooded in silence she looked over her bandaged hand, replaying all that had happened in the last few days. The storm that smashed their boat. The stealing of her sandals (where did they get to now she wondered). The fight with Ino, she hoped was ok. All this had hurt her the most. Hinata-chan...a blush settled over Sakura's cheeks. Her thoughts lingered on her strange new friend, and the stranger feelings that came with it. Those feelings were quickly overshadowed by the barbarity of the Redfeet. The humiliation in the throne room, then the bizarre Fire Dance. Her skin crawled at the remembrance of it, on top of everything else these Redfeet were a perverted lot. The fact that she and her friends were still alive were no doubt owed to being girls. A thought struck her, a spark of hope though she doubted it's validity. That loathsome Needle Teeth said that Hinata was "one with their Gods now", an obvious euphemism for death. Yet her feelings would not accept it, call it a gut instinct. That Witch couldn't be trusted, nor did it make sense that the Redfeet would kill Hinata either. Not with their apparent reverence of all things female. Then again the boy the burned at the stake was the same age as her. If they didn't kill her, why separate her from the rest? She remembered Henry's look of despair as he hung from the ceiling like a fly caught in a spider's web. Sakura chided herself, she was chasing suppositions with nothing but feelings to go on. Of course she wanted Hinata to be alive, more than anything. Overthinking it would just give her a headache, and she'd had enough excitement for one day.

She grazed her injured hand with her fingertips, tracing lines where chakra circulation systems lay beneath. The spring was a godsend, washing away the aches and pains of today's battle. She smiled at being able to see her pale skin again, clear of Needle Teeth's primitive scribbles. Unfortunately there were still the bruises that buffed her skin. Her face stung terribly from being slugged. She was lucky she didn't get a broken nose. She wished she had time to apply the mystical palm technique, before the savages dragged her off again.

"Hey," Jaguar Fist's touch on the shoulder startled Sakura. The other Redfeet held their breath, wary of their Warchief's actions. Sakura in turn was perplexed by the way Jaguar Fist upheld her hands in reassuring fashion. There was a kindness in her green eyes, free of the horrible glow the Redfeet shared with one another. "Let me see." Gingerly, she touched Sakura's bandaged hand. The kunoichi flinched not sure what to expect, but she certainly didn't think the Warchief would ever un-bandage her, let alone check on her wounds. To her great surprise, little remained of the scrape from the hyena bite days ago. It was healed save for a few dark lines. Jaguar Fist sighed with relief. "Much better than it was. I can finish healing what remains, wouldn't want you to get a scar."

Sakura was shocked, nothing she could say could describe how moved she was by this random act of kindness. One of the Redfeet quickly added, "Warchief Jaguar bandaged your wounds while you slept, you should be grateful to her." Sakura began to stammer to try and come back with some kind of comment; part of her wanted to express gratitude automatically, as good manners dictated. The other part of her remembered that it was the Redfeet who hurt her in the first place.

Jaguar Fist head her off at the pass. "Think nothing of it, it is the least I can do." Sakura gave the Redfoot a leery frown, this sudden act of benevolence seemed more for the Warchief's ego that anything.

"Jaguar-sama is so kind! As expected from our great Warchief," came the usual laudation. Still, at least Jaguar Fist hinted at some admission of guilt on her part. Now she was holding up both her hands, Sakura immediately recognized their hazel green glow; the mystical palm technique?! But how? and why?

"May I?" The Warchief waited patiently for Sakura's response. Still hunched over and a little afraid she hesitated before nodding yes. She turned to face Jaguar Fist, who in turn pressed her glowing hand into Sakura's. Sure enough the energy singed away any trace of markings and her hand was good as new. The Warchief then spread her palms gingerly over Sakura's cheeks. A wave of healing trickled across her face, soothing the aches and bruises away. Within moments she was herself again. Disbelieving yet glad, Sakura touched her face over to be sure.

"It...I feel better. Thank you. I think..." The Warchief smiled back at her.

"No...You defeated a dangerous rival on behalf of our Clan, and without help from anyone. For that we owe you a great debt. If you will allow us, we can heal the rest of you." The rest of the Redfeet's eyes lit up at that prospect (not in the literal sense). They all agreed that was a wonderful idea, that there was no reason they couldn't pitch in and help out a fellow girl. Especially one "as cute as this one."

"We should give her the 'full' treatment. Show her the healing technique in the true Redfoot way," said one of the girls who had a very lewd smile as she stuck her foot up out of the water. The suggestive way she wriggled her toes made Sakura more than uncomfortable. The Warchief shot her comrade an admonishing glare, and the girl knocked it off.

"Don't worry," said the Warchief. "We're not gonna hurt you."

"You're not gonna do anything weird are you?" Sakura made sure to lift her head up, to make clear she wasn't gonna put up with any bawdy behavior.

"On my honor, as a Clan Mother and as Warchief of my tribe." She put her hand over her heart to set her word in stone. Not exactly something that Sakura had any faith in, but it was all she had to go on. Add to that the regal way Jaguar Fist carried herself. Her eyes were inviting, and her smile infectious. Though a primal warrior, she had the pristine beauty of a true noble. Sakura found it difficult to mistrust her. When she accepted the offer, her own heart was gladdened as the Warchief's girlish smile broadened. Acting on instinct, the Redfeet surrounded her (save for Boom-Boom who busied herself blowing bubbles and wading about). Warm hands tingling with chakra fire touched her arms and legs. Sakura stood by anxiously, letting Jaguar Fist massage her shoulders. She breathed a little easier now, even as the Redfeet discreetly pulled her protective towel away. Sakura forgot her timidity as the healing sensations swept all aches away. True to Jaguar's word, the Redfeet were not too vulgar in their groping. She rather enjoyed the way they rubbed her belly as well as her inner thighs. They respected her by working around her breasts, though that one cheeky girl kept giving her sultry winks, as she fingered around the edges of Sakura's panties. She only flinched in alarm once when someone made a pass at her butt.

"Was that too much?" The Warchief said with immediate concern. Sakura nodded, narrowing her brows at the breach of trust. "Very well," the Warchief sighed with some disappointment, but it did not happen again. "There's no need to be afraid," Jaguar Fist tried to put a positive spin on things. "When women bathe together, it is more than expression of trust. By sharing in each other's vulnerability and femininity we are reminded how we are all the same. That we share a connection. No, that's not quite right. We create a connection with each other, and why not? The bonds we create today, are sure to last a lifetime." Jaguar Fist washed the markings off of Sakura's back as she spoke. "It's not something we just do just to do it. Just as the water renews our bodies and our spirit, bathing together renews the bonds between us, so that we may never grow a part. Like a single drop, coming together with others. It fills a spring, a river, an ocean. In that way, girls are like water, not just Redfeet."

"I've...never heard it described in such away before," Sakura suddenly cut in. "I mean, girls bathe together like this where I'm from too, but I've never really thought too deeply about it." If anything it was usually a means of practicality, family and friends bathing together and washing each other. There was also the sense of power that came of having a sacred space where boys were forbidden from entering, where girls could just be themselves. To think the Redfeet would go even deeper than that, was inspiring to say the least. Then again, she suspected they had ulterior motives for wanting to see and be surrounded by naked girls. She herself had never had any urge to see Ino naked before. Though part of her was pondering...why not?

Jaguar Fist nodded, "The same principle applies to the healing technique as well. Though we don't usually do it quite in this fashion." While the natives blushed out mischief, Sakura rolled her eyes as she covered her chest with her hands again. She blushed from the embarrassment of being ogled. Jaguar Fist laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Using one's own life force to heal another, what greater sign of affection could there be? To take a piece of one's soul, and share it with someone under your care. It's a beautiful notion."

Sakura wasn't so sure about the idea of bonding with Naruto on such a level (given all the times she's had to heal him). On the other hand, she couldn't disagree either. She honestly wished her friends were with her to hear this. "Is that what you really believe?"

"It is what we Redfeet feel," Jaguar Fist said with pride. "It is one of our many sources of strength." The others grunted in affirmation.

"Wow..." Sakura let her guard slip, her eyes grew starry with wonder. An unbreakable bond, a secret affection that only girls knew, and shared with each other. Was she...could she also share a bond with these girls? With Jaguar Fist? Did they have to be enemies?

The Warchief chuckled as she suddenly patted Sakura on the head, "Try not to overthink it. It is not good to overthink things anyway. It fills your head with unnecessary baggage. Better to go with the flow of things." She then flicked the bridge of Sakura's nose with her finger, the cheeky rascal!

"Oh? I suppose you guys don't do much thinking..." Sakura crossed her arms with her back turned to the Warchief, smiling with jest. The Redfeet ooohed with playful cheer.

"Ha! Don't need much planning to...beat you at wrestling!" The Warchief's arms locked under Sakura's under arms as she lifted her up and down. She squealed from the sudden burst of excitement and everyone was soon laughing and play fighting. It was an utter free for fall, girls splashing and giggling no longer divided by cultural lines or rules of conflict. They were just girls, shoving each other over only to help each other up again. At some point someone had the idea of climbing atop one another's shoulders. Sakura knew this game, she and Ino used to play it together as little kids. Though in those days it was treated as a ninja training exercise which they called kibasen. Her heart swooned with nostalgia as someone scooped her up from under the water. Sitting atop another girl's shoulders she thrust her arms out in a three way battle. Boom-Boom sat adorably upon her Warchief's shoulders, roaring with more fury than all the girls combined. Unfortunately for her, Sakura was taking no prisoners tonight as she overwhelmed the smaller girl, knocking her over into the pool with a tremendous splash. The wild child's eyes emerged with a vengeful glare, which only caused everyone to laugh all the harder. Sakura celebrated her latest triumph, making all kinds of ridiculous poses as if she were Gai-sensei.

Graaah! Who's the best? I'm the best! Cha!

While the others applauded their new champion, Boom-Boom sank down below. Moments later the girl Sakura was riding gave out a yelp of pain and toppled over. When Sakura reemerged she spit out a stream of water, no worse for wear. The Warchief slapped her on the back saying, "Looks like you've been dethroned." As Sakura regained her balance, she noticed something was off. Down below she was feeling more bare than she was before. In the next moment Boom-Boom reappeared, howling with triumph as she held Sakura's panties over her head. Awe struck with embarrassment, she grit her teeth as she chased after the little savage.

"Get back here you little troll!" Boom-Boom did it now, the fury of Inner Sakura was unleashed. Now the tide had turned and the Redfeet were giggling on their comrade's behalf. Sakura shook her fist as she waded after Boom-Boom. But just as she kept getting close, the little one dived underwater, only to reappear again just out of reach. Over and over the two carried on in this cat and mouse game until Sakura was panting for breath.

"Careful," said Jaguar Fist. "She bites." Sakura ignored the Warchief as Boom-Boom vanished again. Thrusting her hands into the water here and there, Sakura intended to catch her as one would a fish. She watched the water with a keen eye, searching for the slightest irregularity then...struck! Nothing. Her hands speared the water and over unitl...

Chomp! Sakura was stomping around in agony, as Boom-Boom hung off her hand by her teeth! Now the Redfeet were laughing uproariously, holding on to their bellies lest they fall back over into the water. Bounding out of the water like a rocket, Boom-Boom fled into the woods with speed of a cheetah, chanting her name as she held the panties over the head. Gone for good, Sakura hung her head in defeat.

"You'll never catch her now, sorry to say," said one of the Redfeet.

"Shouldn't somebody go after her then?" Annoying as she was, Boom-Boom was still just a kid. Enemy or not, Sakura would feel terrible if something bad happened to her. Yet the natives weren't the least bit worried.

"Heh, she is Redfoot. The most dangerous creature on the whole island. I feel bad for anything that tries to cross her."

"Pay it no mind," Jaguar Fist said as stepped out of the pool. Sakura marveled in awe of her full figure; the smoothness of her naked bronze skin. The perkiness of her petite breasts and small nipples. Sakura felt rather flat by comparison. "We have another gift for you anyway..."

More Redfeet arrived, Jaguar Warriors given their tough demeanor and the feline iconography of their tattoos. They wrapped spotted sarongs around their waists that barely covered up their thong loincloths. Though not as intensely as before, Sakura still felt pretty exposed and tried to cover up her private parts as her companions prodded her out of the pool. There were so many eyes on her, her hands fell away from her chest to her loins. Everyone was going around topless anyway, so it wasn't such a big deal. Then again, with this many of them they could overpower her if they wanted. Make her do...things she didn't want, like they did at the Fire Dance. She was not safe, that was for sure.

Jaguar Fist waited patiently with her hand extended. Out of all of the Redfeet she had proven to be the most reasonable. When Sakura took her hand, a curious thrill washed over her. Somehow, she had the Warchief's respect, which hopefully translated to her protection as well. No one made a move to rush them or grab at Sakura. Her nervousness started to trickle away, as she walked hand in hand with Jaguar Fist. The Warriors wore simple smiles to distract from their hungry eyes. Sakura could almost feel them slathering her body. The Warchief lent her some of her stoic countenance with a simple squeeze.

The pack "dressed" their Warchief, stepping around Sakura before redressing themselves. The other Warriors approached the duo, presenting swaths of red cloth.

"Your gift," Jaguar started. "Handwoven by my Clan sisters, wear them with pride." Sakura's eyes flickered between the encroaching warriors and the Warchief's earnest face. The warriors unfolded the strips so that all might admire their embroidered designs: White cubical spirals interlinked in a serpentine lines. Sakura grinned with caution as the warriors set about wrapping the garments on her person. Strings were tied around her waist while the length went between her legs. She felt goose-prickles run wild with so many of them standing so close and touching her. The first part turned out to be a fundoshi, Sakura's face scrunched up a bit as they tied the thing up her butt crack. She had only worn one once during a school festival last year (albeit with more clothes than this), it wasn't any less awkward then either. Her crotch was covered in the fashion of a V-String bikini. Next came a second loincloth which was a sort of cover up for the first. It was a simple string belt, embellished with misshapen but natural pearls, gathered from the sea. Tuffs of red, blue, and green feathers added to its exotic flair. Two narrow strips of cloth hung down in front of her crotch and rear. The embroidered chevrons upon them wove their way around a simple white circle. The cheeky devils, they borrowed the idea from her tunic (which she still hoped to see again at some point!). The familiarity of it made her grin, to which the Warchief sighed with relief. There was a grave difference between her tunic's circle and the ones on her loincloths however. At the center of each circle was that eerie tribal glyph, the three pronged half circle and dot that Jaguar Fist sported on her forehead. That she wasn't so happy to see. Oh well, "when in Rome". While the Redfeet were fitting the loincloths, the last piece of the outfit was laid upon Sakura's shoulders. The shawl was welcome surprise though it was purposefully small. It covered her breasts, but left her whole belly exposed. Sakura still felt pretty exposed, as the outfit was tailored to accentuate her femininity. Guys and Redfeet alike would be drooling for her. She let this slide, given the island's climate. The material was quite thin and breathable, this way she'd be able to keep cool, and she didn't look half bad either. The fringes on the shawl were a nice touch too. Freshly washed with a clean body, it was kind of like parading around in jungle negligee. Regardless it was still a cute outfit, atavistic but trendy. The tribals stepped back to ooh and ah with approval, as Sakura stood a little taller.

One of the Redfeet just had to ruin the moment, commenting on the shawl, "So your tits don't fall off." Keh! Thankfully the Warchief shot a glare at her friends so their giggling was cut short. Sakura forced a polite chuckle to show there were no hard feelings. The Warchief let go of her hand, yet her fingertips lingered, playfully brushing across the kunoichi's belly as she passed. Sakura found herself hoping for Jaguar Fist's approval as she looked her over, her gloved hand drummed against her chin.

"It is good," she said at last. "But it is missing something." One of the warriors came and knelt before the Warchief, offering her a small bundle in her palms. The Warchief stretched out a plain leather cord, what looked to be an over-sized necklace. Yet it was devoid of any decoration, save one. Jaguar Fist clutched a single wooden bead in her fingers, holding it before Sakura and catching her with her eyes. "This is a sash of a warrior. Traditionally it is presented by one's Den Mother or Clan Mother. Every Redfoot on their twelfth birthday is given a choice. Though all must devote themselves to the good of the tribe, there is more than one way to serve. Some are content living a simple life in the village, fishing, gathering water, tending the crops and those too young to fight. Many more so are bolder, and choose to walk the path of the warrior. Those that do are awarded this. It starts out rather plain, but with every great victory, a new piece is added until it is full, resplendent." Sakura eyed the other warriors who bore such string sashes, many of them were decked out hundreds of painted beads. A few and far between wore two crisscrossing sashes in a x over their breasts. To that Sakura gulped, those girls were the elites. She tried not to think about how many they had to kill to earn that many "stripes". The Warchief suddenly stepped in closer to Sakura, making her heart leap and ensuring her full attention. Sakura wouldn't have minded if she had to gaze into those somber eyes all night. "Each bead is unique, and carries with them a story. Your story. Your glories, your triumphs. On display for all to see, so that none may ever forget." She upheld the bead, carved in the likeness of a hyena's head, its lower jaws jutted out in long fangs that were painted red. Its eyes were bloody pools on the sides of its head. It made Sakura frown a bit, she did what she had to to stop Bloodjaw, otherwise she would have been killed. "Please, consider it a gift from me." What else could it be?

There was a part of Sakura that wanted to slap the thing away before Jaguar Fist could sling it over her shoulder. Such an action would be suicide at best, and a kunoichi's strength is silence. Besides, there was another part of her that didn't want to sully the mood, or hurt Jaguar Fist's feelings. She almost wanted to pinch herself to make sure she was still sane. In truth, she was enjoying all the attention she was getting. With the way the Warchief had been doting on her, she wanted to believe that everything was going to be fine. That all that had happened would be like water under a bridge. The ghost of Hinata's bewildering face haunted her. If Jaguar Fist really intended to be her friend, she needed to answer for what had become of Hinata.

The Warchief stood back impressed, Sakura's ensemble was now, "Perfect!"

Sakura fondled the single bead, it was cute in its own way. It was almost a pity she didn't have a flashier bandoleer. "You really went all out with this huh?"

"I made it myself," Jaguar sputtered out all too quickly. How quaint! She was trying her darnedest to impress Sakura. From the way she snatched up her hand again, Sakura had to admit it was working. "Now we feast!"

 


 

The tribe's song was a celebration of life, a melodic carol of vernal pep. How wonderful it was to be a girl, to be faster, smarter, stronger, wiser, prettier; just overall better. Not merely more spiritual, but divine.

"Such is the Redfoot Way," Jaguar Fist was saying. Sakura had the place of honor at the Warchief's right hand. Most were singing, those who were not sitting cross-legged or lounging were dancing. Wooden flutes caressed the air with sylvan revelry, while hallowed out logs plinked and plunked along side the gentle swish of rattles. Many girls covered their faces with horned animal masks as they swaggered round and round. Some waved double sided torches as they danced, spinning them like batons. The Redfeet wore hemp bracelets round their arms and shins, that jangled with ayoyote shells. Each shell was painted in weaving patterns of red, green, harsh pink, and black, the tribe's colors to an effect. The sensuous hoofing made Sakura think of deer kicking and prancing about.

A great bonfire leapt and bounded along with the trilling dance circle, as packs of Redfeet came out of the night to join the celebration. Fireflies glimmered under shadows of trees, as the moon shined down on them. The clearing was a regular meeting place for partying, with torches lit atop tall posts to illuminate the area in full. A menagerie of fruits were being chopped up on low end tables: Green grapes, sour sweet pineapples, yellow bananas and lemons. There were also a dozen strange looking fruits that Sakura had never before seen. Bright fuchsia red thorny looking things. Briers whose innards were a silky purple littered with black seeds. "Ah, those ones are special. They are Pitaya, sacred fruit of the great Nduzuo Tree. You should try one, if you are feeling bold." For once Jaguar's assuring grin could not put off the dark sense of wrongness Sakura felt just looking at the things. From their size and shape they looked like hearts that had been cut out from somebody's chest. It didn't help that their color reminded her of the eerie glow that sometimes shone in the native's eyes. Such a sight hadn't disturbed so since the bird men.

"I'll pass," Sakura stuck out her tongue.

The crisp tang of roasting meat wet Sakura's lips, she could hardly wait to start eating. Clay mugs were passed around and soon after a jug full of red juice. Fruit punch from the smell of it! Sakura's cup was filled by a kneeling Redfoot, who shuffled along to fill everyone else's cups. Without hesitation (she was very thirsty) Sakura gulped the whole thing down in one go, juice dribbling from lip. The giggling Redfoot servitor rushed back over to refill her cup, and Sakura was ready to take another swig.

"Have a taste for wine do you?" said Jaguar Fist. Sakura froze with eyes wide as she suddenly spat up the stuff. Kakashi-sensei (and her parents) would have her head if she were caught drinking. "Hey, take it easy. There's nobody here to stop you." The Warchief winked knowingly.

Sakura ground her teeth, damn Redfeet and their games. "This is...really wine? You're not just pulling my leg?"

Jaguar shook her head, taking a deep swig of her own mug. "It's not a big deal. Besides you're a warrior now! You can have as much as you like, whenever you like." The Warchief reached out to pat Sakura on the shoulder. The idea wasn't without its appeal. It was her first taste of real wine. Just watching it swirl in the cup made her feel more grown up. Smelling it there was a hint of acridness beneath the sugary sweetness. Everyone was doing it, another encouraging pat on the back came from the girl sitting next to her. Everyone was smiling and having a good time, and it did taste really, really good...

"Thank you, but no thank you. I would prefer some water." Sakura set the cup to her side, to which the girl next to her immediately scooped up and drained in one gulp. Prudish as it felt, it was wrong for her (and the rest of these hooligans) to drink, and that was that. At the very least, Sakura needed all of her senses in case the Redfeet tried to do something terrible, again.

"As you wish," said Jaguar Fist with cool understanding. "You wish to honor the traditions of your people right?"

"You could say that."

"That is good!" Jaguar said with approval, which confused Sakura. "Without honor, without loyalty we are nothing. Without loyalty to a common cause, there can be no trust. Where there is no trust, there are no bonds, no affection, no friendship. Only the abyss of loneliness and isolation. A living death. We must all stay true to the Way laid out before us, lest we wither and die before our time."

"Do you ever get lonely?"

Jaguar took her time to consider her words. "A true Redfoot is never alone, she always has her sisters by her side. Our packs, our clans, our whole tribe shares a bond that can never be broken."

"That's not what I was asking," Sakura pushed again. Jaguar's words sounded like an advertisement, a cheap one at that. Her true feelings were hidden underneath.

"Why do you wish to know?" she retorted, now on the defensive.

"I...wish to...understand you better. You've been very kind all of a sudden, and I want to know why."

To that end, Jaguar took a tremendous gulp of her "juice". "I also wish to understand you, and for you to better understand us." That "us" instead of "me" worried Sakura, but she couldn't place why. "All things in time. Do you dance?" Another wild activity that looked like fun. The last time she really danced was when she could fit atop her papa's feet.

"I think I'll pass," Sakura shyly rubbed the back of her head.

"Hrmpf, stick in the mud."

"Am not! I'm just hungry is all. I've had a busy day."

"Excuses, excuses!" As Jaguar Fist shrugged her shoulders, a random group of girls came calling. They pulled at the Warchief's arm, begging her to come dance with them. She gave Sakura a most serendipitous smirk before jumping to her feet. "You're on your own then!" The Warchief and the girls hopped off into the carnival, waving their hips and arms in the air without a care in the world. Sakura pursed her lips after them, how dare she run off like that! Leaving her alone, with the pack from the pool, closing in all around her with sudden interest and a mad twinkle in their eyes...

Their questions popped up one after another like weeds. "Hi! Where're you from? What's your name? To what gods do you pray? Do you have any siblings? Are all your tribe warriors? Where's that blasted food already?!" They were a motley bunch, hardly elites by the look of their bead-slings. They were friendly and not too bright, chatting away, forgetting she was still technically their captive. On impulse she played along, slipping into the role of "just your average girl next door" like a pair of sandals. One might not think nattering with other girls as a talent, but on the kunoichi side of ninjutsu the art of conversation could be as lethal as being able to conjure a fireball. A woman's words are her weapon after all. The very same that led a very brave captain to his doom. It helped that Sakura liked to talk, and these natives were hanging on her every word. They badgered her to recall the fight, to go into every juicy detail, drawing more and more Redfeet into their gossip. It wouldn't hurt to embellish them a bit. She now had a reputation to uphold after all. All the while her eyes kept flickering back to Jaguar Fist. Rather conveniently, she kept her coy strutting within view. She thinks she's so foxy, thought Sakura. It didn't help that the Warchief sashayed her hips about as if she were swishing her tail. Jaguar was taunting her, she could tell how much Sakura wanted to leap up and join in with her.

Girls with grass bracelets and anklets brought the food on large wooden plates. Sakura gazed upon the meals as if they were dearly missed friends. There were slabs of roasted ham, dappled with golden rings of pineapple. Slivers of dried bacon jerky were glazed with honey and black pepper, lying next to kebabs of green peppers, cherry tomatoes, more pineapple, and bits of chicken as well as pork. Sakura cheekily wondered if the skewers came out of the chef's nose. Chunks of fresh watermelon sat neatly between balls of rice wrapped in seaweed, embellished with fuchsia flowers for decoration. White hot slabs of fish were steaming, while cute little shrimps curled up on themselves. Vegetables were scant but were still there. Among them, a strange stalk covered with hundreds of yellow kernels, what the natives called Maize. They boiled them to a steamy freshness. There were sturdy root plants called yuca. They were shredded and simmered with brown sugar giving them a taste like apples. Without so much as a thank you, the feast quickly became a free for all. Girls grabbing all they could into their bowls and scarfing it down just as fast. "Her companions" forgot her entirely.

Big eaters this lot, Sakura thought as she swished some ham and pineapple around with her tongue, savoring its richness before swallowing. Sooo good! With the arrival of the food, Jaguar Fist quickly returned, sidling up next to Sakura so that their thighs were touching.

"Bet they don't have anything like this from where you're from," Jaguar Fist started.

"Actually, its not far off from a Tanabata," The sound of the wood piping was almost identical to the kinds she'd heard at festivals. Even the prancing about a bonfire wasn't all too removed from the Fire Festival her village held in Fall. Though the Redfoot log drums had a different sound, they were no less intense than taikos. Sakura was glad to hear them, taking in a deep breath as the sounds took her back home. Other sounds were distinctly tribal, though they had their own beauty to them. Some Redfeet squat on the ground, blowing into long wooden pipes that produced a strange gurgling sound. Others blew into conch shells, smoothing over the tribal melody with oceanic charm. As if to remind her of the Redfeet's brutal tendencies, one of the dancers blew into a skull whistle, which whispered soft screams that echoed on the wind. "Though the girls back home at least wear a yukata."

"You mean covering themselves up." It wasn't a question. Sakura nodded matter of fact like. "Perhaps they should go bare..."

"Yeah right! Then all the guys would be ogling us."

"Then they should not walk among you."

"That might seem easier..." both girls regarded the other with stern disapproval. After some time Sakura finally said, "You can't expect to keep us here forever you know? There's nothing to gain from holding us hostage." The Warchief pursed her lips in response. From her furled brow, Sakura could tell there was something she wanted to say. Perhaps if she pushed further... "Hidden Leaf Village is home to the most powerful chunin and jonin, and that's no boast. Our best can smash mountains apart with their bare hands, and shoot fireballs from their mouths." To say nothing of the mind melting powers of genjutsu, Sakura was reminded part of the reason why she wanted to be a ninja in the first place. Power, and who didn't want to have more power? Jaguar Fist retreated away from Sakura, to sit cross-legged and eat. "I wouldn't be surprised if a single jonin could wipe your whole village out in a single blow!" That did it. All music stopped, everyone was staring at her, more bothered than bewildered. The bug like affinity these girls shared was as unnerving as ever.

"There is much you do not yet understand," Jaguar Fist spoke loud and clear, sharing in the tribe's collective glower. "We are in the Goddesses hands now. None can find the island without Their approval. No one is coming to find you." Shame overwhelmed Sakura, the instinctual fear of the group's disapproval. She was the outlier, the weirdo disrupting the group's harmony. Their combined stared clamped down on her, she could not lash out. She could only hang her head, keeping her eyes on her food. With a wave of the Warchief's hand, the music drummed up again and the Feast went on as if nothing happened. Sakura found her self loathing, it just wasn't fair. She was in the right, and she knew it. But as long as she was here, she was helpless. That feeling she hated most of all. Yet, judging by Jaguar's words and the way she stared bleakly into the sky, Sakura couldn't help but suspect that she was a prisoner of her own device.

A little green frog happened by as Sakura and the Warchief brooded, capturing the attention of the other Redfeet. It was in hot pursuit of a bright pink grasshopper, a dazzling sight in of itself. Sakura rubbed her eyes to make sure it was really there.

"Catch it!" somebody said. "Pink grasshoppers are good luck!" The little wonder of nature sprang up and about, dodging both anxious Redfoot hands and the frog's flickering tongue. A bigger frog of the same stripe came creeping up along side the little frog.

"Looks like her big sister!" said one Redfoot.

"Don't be so sure..." another snickered. They were all snickering in that vicious way again, which meant trouble. No sooner was the bigger frog in range, it scooped up its smaller self in its jaws and gobbled the poor thing up. Only Sakura screamed with girlish revulsion, the others mewled as if they'd just seen a kitten roll over and make kissy faces.

"Another victim!" said one.

"Another sacrifice!" another "corrected". "Even frogs pay homage to Goddesses in their own way."

"Pretty sure she was just hungry..." The savages giggled.

"Such is the way of the Jungle," said Jaguar Fist with a glum smile. "You should eat up as well, you expended a great deal of chakra today." Sakura's stomach churned and not just from stuffing her face. At least the grasshopper managed to escape into the brush. "Ahh! Here comes desert!" In their strangest ritual yet, a flower wreathed dancer lay clay vase before the pack. In the same instant everyone either went to their knees or squat on their toes utterly enthralled. The vase was painted with the usual sun symbol on the side, nothing special there. The girl was balancing a similar vase atop her head. Sakura blinked, almost not catching the tremendous skill it would take to not only balance that thing, but to carry the other vase as well. The girl took careful steps, swishing her bare feet in semi circles, tracing her toes along the ground. The tribal back beat slowed to a sultry crawl as other similar girls performed such dances for other packs. Her greatest trick was yet to come, as she let go of the vase to dangle her arms straight out. All gasped with wonder at the dancer's grace. One tip too much to the wrong side and whatever was being carried would surly splatter. There came no crashing, the girl didn't so much as spill a drop. When they were satisfied, both hands crept up the side of the vase on her head. Holding it out before her face, she poured the contents over, releasing a smooth waterfall of pure chocolate!

The cascade fell with precision and did not dribble over. In response, the music ceased and the Redfeet clasped their hands together in prayer. Better late than never Sakura supposed, but was again cast in the role of the odd man out. Jaguar Fist led the prayer, not once lifting her head from reverence.

"Cacao. Chili. Sugar. Grown in the ground. Warmed by the sun. The moon sends the rain. Grow fast. Grow strong. Cut them down. Grind them up. Purify them. Reborn into beauty, all flow together as one. Bound forever within The Weave."

"Bound forever within The Weave," the pack chanted. Sakura fidgeted where she sat, unsure whether or not to go along with the crowd. Clasping her hands and bowing her head, she figured it was best to not stand out any further.

"Bitter heart. Brown not black. Yet sweet as girl's first kiss. Return to the earth, the circle begins again. Such is the Redfoot Way." The Warchief and her tribe held their heads up. After a sudden pause she declared, "Una! Moona!"

"Unaaa! Moooona!"

"Glory to girls....You can stop now," Jaguar nudged Sakura with her elbow. The kunoichi peeked with one eye open to see everyone had finished their weird prayer and were now smirking at her. She just couldn't win today. With the ceremony complete, the chocolate dancer began serving everyone their cup of chocolate. It was a frothy drink with that raw consistency that came from homegrown crops. The bittersweet rush was a sensuous delight, as Sakura threw back her head and wriggled her toes. Her satisfied sigh was short lived as the after taste of spice torched her tongue. It came as a surprise, yet even this was fun in its own way. Another big plate was brought forward and the pack urged Sakura to try this latest Redfoot treat.

They were grasshoppers, fried in honey and coated in red pepper dust. Grasshoppers. Long, brown-black, crusty grasshoppers. Sakura's appetite vanished as she fell over on herself. The Redfeet shrugged, all the more for them. Sakura twitched with every single sickening crunch. Even Jaguar Fist gobbled them up by they handful. Dessert indeed. Yuck!

Another pack stepped out from the forest. All of them were archers, carrying quivers slung from their backs with long or short bows in their fists. Etched upon each of their chins was a swirling black arrowhead pointing down. Two of the five girls dragged a large lumpy sack behind them. Two others had a hawk riding on their shoulders. They each bore a leather sling, whose perch protected their bare shoulders from their pets' claws. Sakura watched them apprehensively as they made their way before the Warchief's group. The apparent leader, who had a red stripe painted across her eyes, quickly bowed.

"Aku-te honorable Warchief!"

"Aku-te Arrow Tongues," said Jaguar Fist addressing the pack's Clan name. "Forgive me, I have not entered the Weave in sometime. Have you returned from the Great Beyond?"

"Yes, Warchief. My pack and I ventured out." Her fellows dragged the sack forward, and the leader squashed it under one foot. "It was a modest hunt." From the way the sack trembled under the Arrow Tongue's foot, Sakura began to fear the worst. "Regrettably we were unable to rescue any lost sisters." Jaguar's pack said nothing, too busy chewing their food. Their sullen eyes never once strayed from the Arrow Tongues however. The Warchief by contrast held her head up, receiving the Arrow Tongues with hospitality. The archers seemed to be hiding behind their leader, bunched up as they were. She herself was very anxious and rigid, given all the eyes on her.

"A pity to be sure. Have faith, The Goddesses will lead them all home in time."

"Nevertheless, Our Clan Mother wished to offer congratulations to Jaguar Clan's tremendous victory at The Pit today. Truly remarkable! It is no wonder the Goddesses chose the Jaguar Clan to rule over all of us."

"We Jaguars only select the best of the best to be our warriors. As you no doubt saw or heard, this one conquered a Clan Mother all by herself. Even when Bloodjaw had the support of the other Clans." The Warchief's sudden slap across the back caught Sakura off guard, causing her to wince. She quickly tried to recompose herself but the damage was already done. The Arrow Tongues were sneering, and she could feel the Jaguars red hot glares pricking into her back.

"Many have praised this, as they have Jaguar Clan's holding to tradition by not interfering in The Pit. Ah! Forgive me Warchief. But the rumor mongering is already started."

"What do 'they' say?" It was direct order.

"J-just silly girl talk. Some have said they could see it in your face. That if you could have intervened, that you would have. Not that you would, not for some Outsider...heh heh." Sakura took more offense to that than she should have, but bit her lip. Jaguar Fist's eyes flickered to and from Sakura's. The glimpse was brief, but she could have sworn it was one of forlorn longing. Sakura looked away with a blush, clearly the heat was getting to her.

"I have and will always put my tribe-sisters first above all as is my duty. Such is the Redfoot Way." The Warchief's cool glare was absolute. One could almost see the Arrow Tongue girl's knees shake. "Rival or not, Bloodjaw was still my tribe-sister. None could deny her Fierceness, nor her Purity. She lived and died as a true Redfoot should, all hard feelings died with her. Honor has been satisfied, the matter is settled. Jaguar Clan has proven it's superiority over Boy Killer Clan. You would be wise to ignore the clucking of ignorant hut bitches."

"Yes Warchief!" she bowed up and down. "We didn't mean any offense. Just relaying information. We are all sisters after all. A victory for you is a victory for all. For we are all one with the tribe. As such, we offer you this tribute on behalf of our Clan. To commemorate the triumph of your new champion."

"You hear that?" Jaguar turned to face Sakura. "You are the talk of the whole village! You have much to be proud of this night."

"For a house guest!" Some Jaguar Clan groupie quickly added. The girls chuckling loosened some of the tension in the air.

"Strange that your Clan Mother did not come to offer this tribute herself," Jaguar continued before muttering under her breath: "Nor did any of the others. Kch!"

"Pardon Warchief, but isn't it a bit early for such...considerations?" A new foreboding feeling wormed about Sakura. The Redfeet were speaking in code again, keeping their motives hidden. Now there was a doleful look in the Warchief's eye as she looked at Sakura again. She looked away without saying whatever it was she wanted to say. The hell were they up to now?

"I have received your tribute. The Jaguar Clan gives thanks, and appreciates the Arrow Tongue's commitment. We should hope to become...entangled some time." She flashed them a rather satyric grin.

The leader's face flushed at that suggestion, her and her pack fidgeted so, like Sakura might have for a shirtless Sasuke. "Y-you flatter us...great Warchief. Truly yours is a generous spirit. May your reign be long and full of love." With a snap of her chin, Jaguar Fist dismissed the Arrow Tongues who scampered off into the dark giggling and babbling to themselves. The pack made sour faces in their direction once they were out of sight.

"Didn't take long for the blabber mouths to start."

"It never does."

"Who cares? We won anyway."

"What a backhanded tribute though! Like we can't sense their true feelings!"

"Talk is cheap," said the Warchief putting an end to their whining. When she stood so did the rest of her pack. Let's just see what they've brought us..." The pack swooped in, folding back the canvas back to reveal the disheveled head of a bespectacled boy.

"Oh ho! I take it back," said one Redfeet. At once the jungle girls were mewling with delight. Sakura's heart all but stopped as the sack was pulled away from the boy's bound ankles. He was a pale and scrawny thing, roughly around Sakura's height and age. Brown of hair and pleading eyes, his effeminate cheeks were rosy. His T-shirt advertised some cartoon or card game, marking him as some wimpy dork. Yet Sakura pitied him, his fair skin was bruised with purple blotches, and the Redfeet had bound and gagged the poor dear.

With the sack gone he tried to wiggle away as best he could with his wrists tied up in front of him. It was all a game to the Redfeet who kept up his snails pace before encircling him. Soon all he could see was forest of beautiful brown legs and tender girl feet, all painted red as blood. He stopped dead when one girl stomped down on his shoulder. Another came in and stepped on his chest. There was no escape from the dozen jungle girls leering down at him with smug superiority. To Sakura's growing horror Jaguar Fist led the pack. As the other Redfeet cackled from the sidelines, a petrified Sakura sat still.

"Nyaaah!" The pack exhaled with shrill glee.

"Now this is a real feast!"

"Feast! Feast! Feast!"

His big eyes were already red and runny from an earlier pounding. His muffled cries begged for mercy, but only served to entice the savages further. The Warchief planted her foot upon his thigh, caressing the bare skin. The boy was in his boxers and wore no shoes or socks. The Arrow Tongues had plucked him straight from his bedroom.

"Oy oy, what do you think you're doing on our island boy?" The Warchief hissed the word boy, as if it had a bitter taste she was eager to be rid of. With her hands on her hips she glared at him with inquisitorial menace, driving her foot deeper into his skin. "Don't you know this island is only for girls?"

Sitting on her knees, Sakura was wide eyed and gripping her fists tighter and tighter. It was terrible enough that they kidnapped the poor dope. Did they really have to bully him too? The Warchief squat down to slice through his bindings and his gag with her signature claw fist. The tip of said claw slid its way down his gulping neck, to stop right at the intersection of his chin and throat. "Explain yourself pig!" That prompted an outburst of oinking and snorting from her fellows. Some took it a step further, pushing their little noses up with their fingers to give themselves snouts. The boy did not dare speak.

"Maybe he thinks he's a girl?"

"Ew! No way! That's sooo pathetic!"

"Can't say I blame them, and its cute in its own way." The Warchief flashed him a mischievous grin, which vanished as quickly as it came. "However you have violated the sanctity of our land by soiling it with your unworthy feet. And for that you must be punished." Freed of his binds, the youth tried again to scramble back on all fours, only for the Redfeet to slam down on him from all sides, pinning his arms and legs in place with their feet. Jaguar Fist herself stood over him to plant her foot down on his cheek, grinding his face into the dirt.

"You," The Warchief turned in Sakura's direction. The kunoichi shivered at the Warchief's authoritative voice. "Get behind him, help us restrain him."

"What th- NO! What are you saying?!"

"You've proven your skill and now you must prove your Ferocity. You will aid us in stripping this slave naked. You are ready for the next step, I am sure of it. Cast aside the "house guest", and become the Jaguar Warrior you are meant to be."

Sakura jumped up from her seat in outrage, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" The Warchief did not even flinch, holding her resolve.

"It is what must be done. The duty of a warrior is to serve the good of her tribe."

"I ain't part of your stinkin' tribe!" Sakura cut a line in front of her with a hand, as if to draw back a curtain between herself and the savages. Now she didn't care if everyone was glowering at her. The lot of them could go to hell. The Warchief flashed her fanged teeth, but made no move against Sakura.

"Very well...'house guest'," she snarled. "Stay there and watch as a true warrior works." With ape like finesse, Jaguar Fist plucked the boy's glasses off with her toes, flinging them away with a sweep of her instep before stepping on him again. "Are you scared of us? Do you think that's normal for a boy?"

"No...please...I didn't mean to..."

"Aw, 'he didn't mean tooo..." The Redfeet cooed.

"If that's true..." Jaguar Fist's toes ground into the captive's crotch. "Why is this so hard hmmm?" It was true, seeing so much bare girl skin, and being fondled by them was exciting his loins beyond his control. A lump was beginning to rise his shorts. "You're such a liar." Her smirk widened to a wild grin, as did the rest of her pack. With that the fuscia glow lit a pyre in their eyes. They didn't even wait for the order, the Redfeet that didn't hold him down, were squatting on their toes to tug away what scant clothes he had. He soon as helpless as a new born baby in their grip as the natives closed in on him and smothered his whole body with their feet. "Let this be a lesson to us all. A girl's natural place is one of dominance. This is what it is, to be strong in the Redfoot Way." The girls squashed him from every direction, gleeful for the chance to touch him in spite of their apparent loathing of him.

"No! Please stop!" The sensual sensation was overwhelming, making him pant harder and harder. His little penis came fully erect, as it throbbed the shaft began to flicker with wisps of blue chakra. Likewise the Redfeet's skins started to flare and sparkle with a haze of dark chakra fire. "No! Lemme go! Please!" The girls laughed at him as they stomped and shuffled, caressed and fondled; every inch of skin was ravished until they had drawn his chakra out to the surface of his skin. Where ever their chakras collided they blended into a dark purplish flame. Drawing closer some of the Redfeet held open their fanged mouths, sticking their faces into the blaze to suck it all dry in tremendous, panting gulps. Others went further lavishing his skin with their tongues, licking up his life's energy as if it were sauce.

"Look at the way it squirms! How adorable." With their victim stupefied in a state of aroused frenzy, they sat down to envelop him with their bodies. He was made to sit up as a girl straddled him from behind, locking her arms around his chest, her legs around his waist. The Redfeet panted seductively as they kissed his nipples and toes, his face and hands. Their vampric kisses seared him like red hot pokers, he cried aloud in a painful mockery of pleasure. Every kiss made him wince as more and more energy leaked out of skin. They moved in mini-shifts cuddling him, as the "leftovers" stood by prodding with their feet and shuddering with delight whenever they hit a "sweet spot". One girl poked her toes into his belly button. It did not seem to matter where they touched him, so long as they did and in a genitive way, they could wholesale devour his soul. The Warchief stood tall and proud through it all, twerking her ankle as she squashed his penis under her toes, forcing him to masturbate.

"How feeble! What a dirty little monkey you are." By her will the chakra shroud pulsed once and her victim convulsed from the sudden shock. Still panting and now sweating, his attempts at thrashing away grew weaker.

The girl restraining him purred in his ear as she stroked his nipples. "Don't be nervous, just relax. Just leave everything to us. It'll be all over soon."

"That's right!," said a girl who was feeding off his fingers. "We're not gonna stop until we've squeezed out every last drop." Some of the girls did not even bother with the pretense of kissing his body. With their mouths held wide open they lazily inhaled all the chakra the boy's body had to offer. With lecherous grips on his arms and legs the Redfeet regarded his suffering with bemused indifference. The act of smothering his body was as conventional as chewing food. It was an abysmal sight, one that had paralyzed Sakura with cosmic terror. What she was seeing, it just couldn't be real. What they were doing had its origins in the medical jutsu. But instead of transfusing one's charka to heal wounds, the Redfeet were forcing a bond with him through sexual gratification. In so doing, they found a means to consume his very life force. Already the youth's body was losing its color, becoming pallid and thinner. The life in his eyes was almost completely snuffed out. If they managed to drain his body of all of its chakra in its entirety...

The Warchief's words echoed in her mind. "You expended a great deal of chakra today..." Everything clicked into place. The horrorfic realization struck her to her knees like a blow to the gut. That's why they were keeping her and her friends alive. To let them grow fat with chakra, just to suck them dry until death!

"Hot! It's hot...Please, no! Let me go!" over and over he moaned, barely able to breathe from over-stimulation. His body was slick with his sweat and the moist warmth of girl flesh. Jaguar Fist took to squatting now, stroking the captive with lurid affection in her signature fist, as she leaned in closer for the kill.

"No," said the Warchief, cupping his face under the chin. "You will submit, wretched beast. As mighty Zukalaka conquered Nimdok, so shall we vanquish you. This is our world, your kind has no place in it!" Still stroking, she lunged in, thrusting her tongue into his mouth ignoring his screams as the surge of chakra flooded her aura. It nearly turned black from the purple. When she reclined back she took a deep breath, sighing with satisfaction as if she could smell his helplessness, feel it renewing her power and strength. She clamped her feet down on his cock, jerking it faster and faster as she fingered herself. "Zukalakaaa..." she chanted. "Oombala..." The captive's mind was gone, the life in his eyes faded away to a glassy sheen. With one final erotic moan he spurt semen into the air. The savages didn't seem to mind if it landed on them or not. The flow of blue chakra stopped, and their auras returned to their pinkish hue. They had sucked out the last bit of energy he had in one great surge. The Redfeet rolled away from the body, stretching out their legs and arms from where they stood or sat.

"Ahhhhh, what a rush." One girl smiled drunkenly as she curled up on herself. Others fanned themselves as they took time to catch their breath.

"Such beauty...such power," another reclining girl murmured, lost in the bliss of afterglow. The fire in the girls' eyes began to subside. Jaguar Fist's first steps were a bit wobbly as she rubbed her belly, totally serene in light of what she had done. She even scooped up the semen that landed on her, licking it up with her fingers and quivering at the little jolt of energy leftover as it ran down her throat. As the Warchief lurched towards Sakura, the kunoichi scrambled to her feet. What scared her the most, was Jaguar Fist's rapturous smile. It was finally too much to bear.

THWAK!

Sakura slapped Jaguar Fist right in the face. "MURDERER!" The was a collective gasp, all were wide eyed and silent. That smack seemed to bring the Warchief down from whatever high she was at. She stood a little straighter, and shook her head to clear her senses. She touched her cheek with her fingers, unsure of the sting.

"What are you on about now?" she asked.

Sakura's fists were holstered at her sides, with nostrils flaring she could have started swinging any second. She stared the Warchief down devoid of all fear. "This is...that's what you did to Hinata...isn't it? ISN'T IT?!" Her swinging fist was cut short by a mob rush of irked Redfeet. They weren't about to let their chieftain get hit a second time. Sakura roared as fierce as any of them, but it was no use. Once they secured her they sat her up on her knees that she'd have to look up in "reverence" of the Warchief. "You...How...How could you?!"

Jaguar Fist was not amused by Sakura's outburst, all at once confused and furious, yet made no move to take vengeance. One might of expected her to counter attack blow for blow. Instead she returned Sakura's angry glare with forlorn gloom.

"Your friend..." she searched for the words. "Is one with the Goddesses now. It is beyond my hands."

"That's not the point! How can you turn something so beautiful so ugly?" The Redfeet murmured among themselves trying to understand her meaning. Truthfully, they couldn't conceive at what had upset Sakura so. "You talk about creating bonds with each other, and then you go and kidnap some boy? Then rip the very life out of him? What the hell is wrong with you people?"

"Wrong with us?!" Now the crowd was getting right ornery, shouting at her. "What's wrong with you?" From what little Sakura could make out of their babbling was words like, "Disgraceful! Kill the pig, enemy, getting upset over food..." They called her stupid, ignorant and less kinder things than that. She thought back to the Fire Dance, and could almost kick herself, how could she have imagined them to do any less? The insults turned to threats. How dare she speak up for an "enemy of Zukalaka"? "Roast her! Drown her! Boil her in oil! She is no warrior!"

"QUIET!" The Warchief called them all to attention. When all were quiet she waited for Sakura's response.

"Its the same as a healing jutsu isn't it?" A thought that made her ill given her skill set. "It must take a good deal of chakra control," she was almost laughing, hysterical for how crazy it all was. "But to do that to another person...it's abominable! It's unnatural." The implication that a boy could be considered a person made the Redfeet snarl and hiss.

Jaguar Fist shook her head, explaining herself as calm as she could manage. "That is what nature is. Ugliness and beauty. Life and death. Hunger and fulfillment. Indivisible from one another. There is no balance to it. No rhyme or reason. It is eat or be eaten. Nature is mindless savagery. It is futile to fight against instinct, against nature. How can one respect its bounty if one shuns its brutality? It is impossible. The only way to achieve any kind of harmony with the forest is to surrender to it, in all of its majesty and terror. That is the path we Redfeet walk, and for our efforts...our great Goddesses have blessed us with our gifts and our powers." As she spoke the Redfeet held their heads a little higher, and Sakura began to hate them all over again. They were proud of what they had done.

"You didn't have to kill him."

"Didn't have to?" her patience was running thin. "It's just a boy."

"He's a human being damn it!" That made the Redfeet shrink back from her, Jaguar Fist included. They were almost fearful of her words and looked at Sakura like she was crazy.

"Her heart is not Pure," the Warchief quickly sputtered. "That is the only reason she thinks such things." A wave of relief seemed to roll through the tribals at that, putting everything back into their twisted perspective. A little voice told Sakura that she should quit while she was ahead. But after everything she and Jaguar Fist had been through today, those fleeting moments of fun and banter. She couldn't let it go. Not over something this big. Her honor as a ninja of the Hidden Leaf rode upon it.

"You...I thought you above all this...were better than this, but now I see better. You're nothing but an animal. A beast!"

"A beast..." Jaguar Fist smiled at the idea. "To eat or be eaten. Devour or be devoured. That IS what it is to be a beast. We are beasts of the jungle, that is our strength and our heritage. We are programmed to receive, to take back the life energy that their kind stole on behalf of their Master. We share that energy with each other, grow stronger together, then return it to the land as is proper." The crowd stepped back into a ring around the Warchief. She pressed her palms and fingers together and shut her eyes as she took a deep breath. She opened them again, her eyes glowing so bright you couldn't see her pupils. The fuchsia shroud returned blowing her hair upward in its gust. All marveled as leafy vines sprouted from the ground to curl up the Warchief's legs. But that was not all. Emerald grass followed along with richly colored flowers of pink, red, and violet. A whole vibrant patch of plant life extended out from her feet and the dark chakra that enveloped her.

"Upon the rock, the soil, and the green. May you walk always bare underfoot, that you may never forget my love; that we may never be severed. Share that love with your sisters upon this sacred land that is thine. Guard it with your life." She closed her eyes again and clapped her hands three times. The glow dispersed and the new plants withered and died.

"Can you not see the beauty in it?" Jaguar Fist was pleading. Pleading with Sakura of all things. "The good that we are doing? This is for the sake of all girls, for the forest and all that dwell in it. This is our destiny!"

The word 'cult' sprung to mind, and all the insidiousness that it entailed. Now it was Sakura's turn to shake her head. "You're insane. You're nothing but maggots, feeding off your own shit!" From another shrill gasp from the crowd, came more angry shouts. On instinct they dragged Sakura by the hair back onto her feet, holding her steady for their Warchief to strike a blow. It must have been tempting indeed, for she met Sakura glare for furious glare.

"We have all that we need!" The Warchief balled up fist, cocking it back to smash Sakura's face in. The fist trembled in midair as tears began to form around the savage's eyes. To the kunoichi's surprise, Jaguar Fist turned away. "Just tie her back on her stake."

 


 

The same bindings they used to secure the boy they lashed to Sakura's wrists and ankles. She took one final sorry look at the grayed, worn out husk, as a table was cleared and the body was laid upon the slab. The boy's clothes were cast into the bonfire and quickly absorbed. She looked away at the approach of a Redfoot carrying a large stone axe, tried not to hear as it fell in meaty thunks to the chime of shrill cheers. Sakura could not tell if her guards were the same Redfeet that she had hung out with that day. They were such conformists in their tribal style it was difficult to tell them apart. Like a slab of meat they hung her over a warg, belly down. Riding all the way back to the village shabono. She was soon tied back to the stake as promised, same as Ino and Ten Ten. Sakura thanked her lucky stars that they were still alright.

"They gave you a shirt," said Ten Ten with a displeased sneer once the Redfeet were gone.

Sakura huffed. "I smacked their Warchief in the face."

"Nice," Ten Ten smiled a bit.

Chapter Text


 

Hinata's naked body lay flat upon a reed mat in the center of a circle within a circle of Redfeet sitting cross-legged. Her eyes were shut and her body was dead weight, she was not asleep nor truly awake. Rather she was lulled into a state in-between, aware of her surroundings but totally paralyzed. This was the will of the tribe, so she accepted this. Despite her paralysis, several girls held her down with their feet. Upon her shoulder, her forearm, her cheek, her belly button, thighs, and her ankles. Each girl tenderly smothered her with their soles and toes. One girl sat directly across from Hinata, pressing the soles of her feet into hers. This act of foot domination was as ceremonial as it was affectionate. By touching her with their dainty feet, they believed they were fostering a sacred bond between each other. Indeed, the dark chakra that permeated their bodies was being diffused into Hinata's in this way. The seedling in her womb reacted leisurely, pulsing as it fed upon that energy and grew stronger. The flow of lewd feelings wove their way into her belly, tethering her to her tribe-sisters. This energy allowed the seedling's vines to creep out further and further from her womb, reinforcing their grip on the inner workings of Hinata's body. Though there were no longer veins throbbing across her smooth skin, she could feel them moving around, panting here and there at the exhilarating charge that passed through her. From her head all the way down to her toes, tingling her nipples and caressing her loins. It was...love, the love of her sisters, the love of her jungle goddesses. The stronger the vines grew, the more powerful and loyal a Redfoot she would become. Girl feet were the favored conduit, for it honored the way in which Zukalaka of legend defeated the evil god Nimdok. More to the point, the practice allowed the Redfeet to share their spiritual essence with one another. Nothing could be more intimate than that, what more could Hinata want?

Ringed around the foot smotherers, the second ring of Redfeet sat close together. To the un-initiated one would think they were playing a mere clapping game, the kind of communal activity children are forced to play. Indeed, the Redfeet believed performing such rituals would invoke greater spiritual power. With everyone's mind was focused on the same emotion (willing their former captive into converting to their cause), everyone was made more beautiful, more pure. Like the Great Nduzuo Tree, whose vines permeated every inch of the island, the tribe must grow. So they slapped their thighs as they would their drums, clapped their own hands before turning to the left or right to clap the hands of their partners. Every girl matched each other in perfect rhythm, the dark ritual could not be stopped. Today they were finishing the final touches on Hinata's tattoos. They had completed her backside in full, and had marked a few places in the front. The tattooists hunched over her on their hands and knees. Using a little wood mallet and a comb like bone chisel, they tapped away at Hinata's tender skin, leaving a weaving trail of black and red glyphs. They only stopped to dip their chisels into wooden bowls, filled with slick ink made from all manner of crushed berries, roots, and a little bit of their own shared blood. The click click clicking they made from tapping matched the somber rhythm of the clapping ritual. Just about every inch of Hinata's skin was to be prodded and needled. The little pains were excruciating, especially when they were marking up her crotch. But she could do nothing, The Weave held her fast so she couldn't even flinch or cry. Her tribe sisters brought her to focus on a single set of shared feelings. That enduring the pain was a kind of rite of passage in of itself, to mark her as a warrior. It was what all Redfeet had to go through, all of them shared the memory of this little pain. So too did they share the feeling of pride of having been transformed themselves. With those feelings of pride laced with their usual queer affection, Hinata found tolerating the little pains much easier. It was for the good of the tribe that she endure, it was good that she could not resist.

The girls shuffling their feet along Hinata's body, did so in way that the tattooists would not be impeded. Each of the foot smotherers joined hands, swaying their heads as their eyes burned bright with fuchsia Weave Fire. All shared in the power of the Weave trance. With one voice they hummed a cherubic hymn to the soft patter of sacramental drums coming from the corners of the hut. There was power in the music, power of the drums. Combined with the beat of the clapping ritual, it made their hearts flutter with glee and fanned the fire of their passions ever brighter. Within their tribal wae ya heys, was a fusion of emotions overtaking all thought. The memory of each of their own awakenings as lesbians, their individual, coerced conversions; the heart pounding thrill of the hunt. The joy of being together with lovers, and dominating slaves. Sharing their chakra with their beloved sisters, and sucking it clean from squirming little piggies. It was a flood of euphoric feelings, all woven together to serve a most holy purpose. To immerse Hinata within, to wrap her mind up in their tribal ways until she could no longer see any other alternative. Their lust and their passion for girls surged into Hinata's body in streams, filling her up until her loins burst with juices. Her heart yearned for her sisters approval with every touch, from her teenage seniors and the littluns. Through the Weave, she could sense their mutual love of touching her. She in turn was programmed to love being touched, overwhelmed by communal instinct. By the collective will of her tribe-sisters, Hinata's mouth hinged open to receive the soft, cherubic toes of a small girl. The Redfoot then masturbated, as she caressed the inside of Hinata's mouth. Her stored up energy flowed freely down Hinata's throat, drawing her closer and closer to her rebirth. Now eager to complete her transformation as soon as possible, Hinata jammed her tongue between the girl's toes as she suckled on them. When the girl orgasmed, Hinata felt it too. They all did. The little foot was removed and Hinata's mouth hinged shut again. Together the Redfeet all sighed with the contentment of afterglow.

Needle Teeth overlooked them all, squatting on her toes and shaking her medicine rattle over Hinata, back and forth from head to toe. She alone did not share in the magic of the Weave trance, at least not in the same way the rest of the Redfeet were subjected to. From the back of her throat she groaned dark spells, waxing and waning the head of her turtle-shell wand an inch away from Hinata's skin, only to pull back and shatter the air with its rattling hiss. Some nameless Redfoot under the Witch's thrall, upheld the baleful skull bowl which puked forth a steady stream of purple smog from the top of its head. All breathed in deep the singeing incense, yet another means to ensure everyone's submission to the tribe. The girl kept her head bowed, were she aware of herself and not a shell a present, she might have done so anyway out of fear of Needle Teeth's power. The tattooing was nearly complete. While fangs were being filled in across Hinata's cheeks, a jaguar's pawprint was being etched on her left arm. Black mehndi like glyphs were embedded into Hinata's feet and toes, as were her hands, fingers, and forearms. Needle Teeth marveled at the fresh eight pointed sun symbol on the captive's stomach. This spot in particular would need her spells' special attention.

"Kukukuku...Is it getting bigger? I wonder, I wonder? Can you feel it growing inside you? There there now. Just a little bit more...the "egg" will hatch and you shall be fully reborn..."

The warriors took special pride in dyeing Hinata's bare feet. They would be completely doused in bloody stain, all the way from her ankles, and every single toe. The Redfeet had to be careful in applying it, lest the mehendi like markings on their own hands and fingers be ruined. Henceforth they wore straw mittens to protect themselves, as they slowly bent her knees, moving a tub of stain into place before placing . Needle Teeth continued her guttural chants and wand rattling, as Redfeet with reddish hands traded places with their fellows. The next pair now anointed Hinata, by pouring a slick, clear oil over her feet. This oil held magical properties (so the Redfeet believed). The results could not be argued however, as it would help the dyes fully absorb into Hinata's skin. This warpaint would never wash off. It would mark her forever as a true Redfoot; a huntress of Zukalaka. A guardian blessed by Thi'Hali. A killer of pigs, driven by Oombala.

The tattooing was completed, as such the foot smotherers retreated their legs for the moment. Needle Teeth shifted around to kneel at Hinata's head, mumbling and tracing a counterclockwise circle over her face. Now the Redfeet poured the rest of the strange oil in a long stream, cascading down to pool in Hinata's belly button. Warm and tingly to the touch, Hinata reflexively shuddered as a bewildered moan escaped her lips. A fearful flicker of her true self, coaxed ironically by primal instinct. The power of the Weave and the collective will of her tribe-sisters quickly surged into her thoughts and the old persona submerged into the ether, driving Hinata to numbly accept her place. The stream of oil was directed across Hinata's breasts, arms and legs; across her neck, cheeks, nose, and forehead. The Redfeet began their foot smothering ritual anew, this time in greater numbers. Their aim now was to massage the oil into Hinata's skin with their feet, sealing her new body markings as well as her fate. Some stood over her, to gently trample her face as they would when conquering a captive or slave. Others grinded their toes atop her pussy, such was the Redfoot Way.

It was at this time that Hinata's eyes slowly opened. Truly she was turning into somebody else. Something new, something stronger. Her byakugan eyes were once a pale lavender color, which accentuated her natural gentle demeanor. They now took on a sharper fuchsia color, fierce like a Redfoot running wild with Weave rage. No white remained within them. Her face remained somber, submissive as smooth, red painted little feet pressed into her on all sides. Gone were the importance of her father and friends. The history and heritage of the Hyuga clan, their tyrannical rules and unforgiving glares. Their distant memory was distorted at best, she knew of them but she knew them only as the enemy. The only thought her sisters allowed was, this is who I am now. How good it felt to throw everything away, and succumb to the pleasures of the flesh. Where once the sight of naked girls made her shiver with embarrassment, her heart now swooned with desire as her loins embrocated. To be trampled on by so many beautiful girls at once, was a sacred privilege. Her feelings were attuned to their feelings, they were one. It felt heavenly to be helpless under their heels. To be squashed by her sisters little toes was as satiating as a thousand kisses. She believed in their adoration, felt it, was happy to let her mind be consumed by it. So what if her feelings were not wholly her own? She didn't care anymore, there was comfort in this conformity. All she ever wanted was to belong, to be needed. For someone to greet her with open arms and hugs and kisses. The Jaguar Clan was her family now. Zukalaka was her Mother. The Redfoot Way was her only heritage. She would rather die than believe in anything else.

Dark, fuchsia colored chakra pulsed from her sisters' tender feet, and she was proud to absorb it. Its fire was wild and mean though it did not burn. But she was getting hot, as if she were still snug under the mass of bodies during her Purification Ritual. They are healing me, she hazily concluded. By making me one of them, they are healing me. It was love, a love that only another girl can give to another, a savage love that dominated all others. Her long time yearning for love twined with the Redfoot's overwhelming lust for girls. Never would she be severed from the Weave, these wonderful dirty desires. She could almost laugh at the way she hesitated before. Yet still, her face remained cold. This bleak countenance puzzled her. She wanted to leap about and dance to drums, maybe snog a bit with the girls, but her body remained beyond her control. She had to focus on transforming, everyone else was, she owed it to them to join in. I am one with the tribe. I am one with the tribe. Over and over she chanted this in her head. She did not do this for any sense of comfort, but because it was the "truth", the only truth the mattered now. She mattered to her tribe, she was apart of something greater, something pure and noble. Someday soon she would be called upon to partake of this same ritual, to awaken another to the joy of the Redfoot way, just as she had been. This she yearned for the most, to bring this rapture to other girls. To share her body with them, as she would her soul. She listened to the witchy beat of the drums and the clapping ritual, letting herself slip away into bliss, knowing full well it was drawing her closer to the inner beast. The true Hinata Hyuga did not feel so joyful in her forced assimilation. She knew she was being reprogrammed, her true thoughts and feelings were being suffocated.

Sharp barbs were produced to pierce Hinata's earlobes as well as her nostrils. A stick through the nose was a highlight of Redfoot fashion after all. Metal was taboo, known to be a craft born of the evil Nimdok. So instead of normal earrings, feathers and beads would be strung through her lobes on strings. More stinging, more pain. Another reminder that Hinata was helpless to stop what was coming. Compelled by the Weave, her arm raised up by itself and remained there as the Redfeet rubbed it. She "willingly" spread her fingers so the Redfeet could come in at angles and stroke oil into her hand. Hinata's legs spread a little wider so they could knead her crotch, as lolis took turns squishing her cheeks between their feet. When the Redfeet were satisfied they finally pulled away (though the outer circle kept on their rhythmic clapping). Hinata's body lay flat once more. The smoldering skull bowl was set on the left side on Hinata's head as Needle Teeth mounted her. Hinata's heart skipped a beat at the Witch's gruesome touch. With both hands the Witch raised her wand up to shake the thing at the sky. None chanted or spoke now, save for the Witch. Overturning the rattle she brought it down fast and low like a dagger. Hovering just above Hinata's rapidly beating heart.

"Oombala...ia nemamiah...vorta kala mela i-kiki..." Needle Teeth threw back her head, her own eyes now burning with Weave fire. "Oombala...ia nemamiah...vorta kala mela i-kiki...Oombala!...ia nemamiah! Vorta kala mela i-kiki!""

This is it, the twin personas within Hinata thought. The change was almost upon her, she could feel it splitting her psyche, right down the center. One sneering and wild, the other meek but true. They lie side by side at the center of a black void. Back to back, their naked bodies cocooned within a pulsating white embryo. The dark drum beat bludgeoned pathways from all sides, letting Redfoot charka surge and flood the abyss with its smoke. This was her last chance to escape. Hinata tugged and pulled with all her might, but her skin was one and the same with the veined embryo. Somewhere behind her a girl was laughing like a hyena. The embryo on her side was softening, her cocoon dissolved away giving her skin full form. The wild one's sisters were reaching out with their hands to pull up the new her, while trampling her "weakling" old self down deeper into the corpulent ovum. The true Hinata did not have time to scream as her melting body was sucked down into the embryonic core. The other's childish laughter joined with her sisters as their chakra turned into purplish flames. It was a privilege to burn among them, to become one flame among many, to be legion. The searing pain was like the ecstasy of climax; only temporary. Soon the flame would turn back into flesh, her sisters would carry her home as their weave of souls began to ascend...

Needle Teeth lay her head to rest on Hinata's chest, mouthing doki noises as she listened to her pounding heart. Letting go of her wand, she raked her hands down Hinata's arms to take hold of her captive's hands. When Hinata's fingers squeezed her back in affection, the Witch grinned. She sat up again to give her new tribe-sister a big wet lick across the face. No response, not even a twitch. Excellent. Needle Teeth's eyes flashed and Hinata's jaw hinged open obediently. The Witch then took the skull bowl in the palm of one hand swirling the smoke with her fingers. The smoke clung to them in a serpentine roll, beguiled by her magic it was almost alive. Still mouthing spells, the Witch drew the living smog into her own mouth in a long stream. From there she swished it around in her puffed up cheeks, and put the bowl down. With both hands on either side of Hinata's head the Witch hunched over. When she spit up the purple smog again, it streamed out in the shape of hissing snake. The snake spirit ran straight down Hinata's throat as Needle Teeth sealed their dark pact with an open mouthed kiss. Eager saliva filled Hinata's mouth. Enriched by evil her eyes glowed ever brighter and harsher with the hellish haze, just like everyone else. In that same instant, all four of her canines grew sharper and pointed. A single little fang would always protrude out from her upper lip.

When Needle Teeth pulled away, a string of saliva clung to both girl's lips. Playfully she nuzzled her cheek against Hinata's before crawling over to her belly. The captive audience stared smiling and dumb as a single green leafling sprouted up from Hinata's belly button. This was the final sign the Witch was looking for.

"The Seed has Sprouted," Needle Teeth bowed her head and pressed the palms of her hands together in barbaric prayer. Just as the girl's body and mind were one with the tribe, now her soul belonged to the jungle goddesses. Needle Teeth murmured her thanks and devotion, grateful to be able to witness yet another miracle. To complete the ritual she plucked the sapling leaf out from Hinata's belly button and swallowed it, smacking her lips with satisfaction.

A single tear dribbled from the corner of the former captive's eye, as if the last remnants of Hinata Hyuga were being drained away. Twin Moon grinned evilly at the thought of this.

Chapter Text


It was never a good sign when the Redfeet started piling wood at the base of the Snake Pillar. After last night Sakura wouldn't have been surprised if the next Fire Dance was held in her "honor". As the day gave over to twilight, there was total silence for once. No distant chatter, no thumping drums. Ino was sobbing again which could hardly be blamed. It had been nearly a week since they came to the island, and they had spent most of it tied to posts. The Redfeet had cut their feeding down today as well. Everyone's belly was grumbling and their throats were a bit parched. Thankfully the natives saw fit to rub an oily coco butter anywhere their skin was exposed. They may have had their perverse motives as they smeared it on in abundance, but the stuff protected the kunoichi from the sun. It also made them smell like chocolate, which was heaps better than smelling like unwashed feet.

In the purplish gloom they could see the train of girls approach in a slow march. Jaguar Clan streamed on the right while Boy Killer clan marched single file from the left. Each of them were carrying flickering candles, a few held torches. Jaguar Fist lead both marches, clutching an all too familiar skull mask before her. Her voice was low and somber, her native song was sorrowful but firm with conviction. She crooned a verse alone, then the procession harmonized with her. Behind her, the Redfeet were carrying three palanquin cots, the two rival clans stood shoulder to shoulder working together. Upon those cots was a body, cocooned in a white sack cloth stamped with red or black hand and footprints, markings from their respective clans. The heads were crowned with flower wreaths, the face was marked with the red sun symbol with the three pronged glyph in the center. The song was a death knell, ameliorating yet sad. They sang for Bloodjaw, for her assassin, and for Leaping Feather.

It was a puzzling sight for the kunoichi. The two arch rival clans, putting aside their differences to bury their fallen comrades? Said comrades who killed one another? No not buried, the train soon circled the sacrificial pyre, this time in somber contemplation. The choir's voices rose higher and higher as one as the bodies were neatly stacked within the pyre's base. Still singing, each girl cast their candle into the unlit pyre one after the other, before joining hands in a great circle around the perimeter of the courtyard. No one gave any notice to the startled ninja. None of them cried, not even their littlest ones. Perhaps it was the soft glow in their eyes that prevented it so. Denied the comfort of tears, they took comfort in their clerical hymn. After all had cast their little flames, did Jaguar Fist lay down the skull mask atop the body of its former master. She quickly took her place alongside the others. The candles were not enough to light the pyre. The remaining Redfeet were the torch bearers, three of them. They plunged their fires into the wood then automatically joined the others. The Redfeet's song shifted, a different melody from what they started with, but no less melancholic. Despite its inherent sadness, there was a twinge of triumph to it. They were giving their sisters a warrior's funeral. As the flames devoured the bodies along with the wood, Sakura pondered what kind of afterlife the Redfeet believed in, if any? Given their piety and propensity for war, one could one imagine. She stole a look at Ten Ten who confided with a contemplative frown. The song went on until the sky went fully dark, and the waxing moon was gleaming overhead. The choir's voice grew softer and softer as if to hush their dead to sleep. It ended with the clans breaking apart and shuffling back to their respective homes without a word. The Warchief deliberately crossed Sakura's path but refused to look in her direction. Sakura's lips parted as if to say something, but she quickly shut them again. She was still angry with her too. Despite that, she felt compelled to watch her as she drifted away, leering at the bounce in her hips and the smoothness of the small of her back. The desire to comfort the Warchief might had been greater, if not for Hinata's destruction.

"There's only three bodies," Sakura thought. More than anything she feared that Hinata had been one of them. There was naught else to do, but watch the flames dance and feast as she drifted off into sleep.

 


 

Jaguar Fist and her Clan returned in the morning with the Sun Princess in tow. Hikari was sitting lotus style high atop a bamboo palanquin wreathed with palm leaves and strings of red and white flowers. Each of the kunoichi were passed out, so naturally the best way to wake them was with buckets of water. Sakura and the rest sputtered to life fearful of drowning. Her brow quick narrowed at the sight of the natives.

"Morning cubs!" Jaguar Fist seemed to be in better spirits this morning. "Today is the coronation of our Sun Princess. Up until now, her title has only been in name only. Our little sister shall be consecrated in the holy light of Thi'hali, and in so doing become Her holy vessel."

"That means the Goddess will be sharing my body with me from now on," Hikari chimed in. "It sounds a little scary but its for the good of the tribe. I promised everyone to do my very best."

"Big deal!" said Ten Ten. "What does that have to do with us?"

The Warchief's voice was booming, as to address all of the captives, but she deliberately avoided looking at Sakura. "You three shall have the privilege of witnessing a miracle of our Goddesses. Who knows? Perhaps once you've seen Their power, you will accept Them into your hearts."

"Where. Is. Hinata?" Sakura bared her teeth, but the tribe was unimpressed. "Damn you what have done with her?"

"She is the hands of the Goddesses now," Jaguar Fist repeated even more bluntly than before.

"She was very tasty," Hikari added with a sassy smirk. Now there was a dire and gore ridden implication, one that rattled the ninja to their cores. It couldn't be! They had to be lying. Even the Redfeet wouldn't...wouldn't...

Sakura's howls of furious rage was pure entertainment for the tribe. They regarded each other with knowing looks and shook their heads at Sakura's perceived foolishness. To them at least she was Fierce, always a good thing by Redfoot standards. The Redfeet soon swarmed their captives, loosing them from their bindings just to put them into fresh ones. Ino meekly accepted her fate, though winced as if she were being throttled by slime. Sakura and Ten Ten both lashed out, jerking their shoulders and arms in a punitive effort to make life miserable for their captors for as long as they could. Sakura even went so far as to bite one of the Redfeet. The savage cried aloud as blood dribbled down her arm, predictably her sisters laughed at her. The Warchief intervened, returning an overdue backhand across Sakura's cheek. Sakura's lip split, her blood soon mixed with the splatter of the Redfoot she bit. She didn't care. The kunoichi and the Warchief matched each other's deadly glares.

"Patience cub. Don't think we won't burn you at the stake like some pig. Cooperate and all of you shall live." Jaguar Fist stood tall to assert her dominance over Sakura who had to be held back by no less than three warriors. Over and over she tried to charge the Warchief, her hands twitching to claw out her eyes. Failing that Sakura spit into the Warchief's face. For her arrogance she was beaten down and pinned to the ground. Ino and Ten Ten would be allowed to walk, but Sakura's wrists were to be lashed behind her back and bound to her ankles. They were going to drag her the rest of the way.

Jaguar Fist wiped away the spittle and blood with seeming indifference, pressing her toes into Sakura's forehead as she licked clean her fingertips. "I was serious about what I said before. The outside world may have blinded you. But by the end of the day, you may see the world in a different light..." The Warchief got her revenge with a swift kick to Sakura's forehead before stalking off with the crowd.

Not to be out done Ten Ten kept up the fight against her captors. "Take your stinkin' paws off of me you damn dirty apes!"

 


 

The ascent to the Temple was the most magnificent one yet. Every Clan, every warrior, every youth and layabout joined the long walk up the Temple steps. Like fish drawn by instinct to their ancestral spawning pool, all Redfoot eyes were suddenly glazed over with the Glow. Nothing else mattered, the silent call went out and none could resist. Baskets and buckets were dropped, left to spill over. From all over the village, chores and crops were abandoned. Slave boys quickly fled their mistresses in terror, for those who were not quick enough were snatched up from the fields. The warriors carried loose boys in teams of four, hoisting them up by their ankles and shoulders, to contain their useless thrashing to the air. The boys that managed to hide behind poles or huts, were ignored. Those that thought they could hide inside the huts, were swiftly captured. None of them dared to set foot outside the village however. If the Redfeet didn't devour them, the island would.

The Redfeet's retribution against Sakura was as petty as it was cruel. The indignity of being drug around like a sack of dirty laundry (again) was bad enough. This time they took special pleasure this time around as she hit ever bump on the way up the great stone steps. A just punishment in their mad eyes for spouting impure thoughts; blasphemy as it were, against the will of the Goddesses and the tribe. Sakura grit through it, shedding no tears. She would not give them the satisfaction. It was the eerie quiet that scared the ninja the most. There was no snooty laughter. No chatter, not even a whisper. The glow in the enemy's eyes sealed their lips. Up was the only thing that mattered. Into the temple, through the dark and square cut halls of the serpentine Builders. The slaves were taken down a separate corridor, one that sloped down into the abysmal dark. Sakura and the others were pushed up towards the sunlight. After another miserable thumping up the stairs, they arrived at a vast and open plateau. It was the very roof of the temple, an awesome sight in of itself as it lay in shadow of the fiery mountain. One could see deep channels dug into the mountain's side, long, long ago. Channels that would divert any lava around the Temple's ziggurat frame, to dump into the chasm that separated it from the Redfoot village. The Builders fashioned the temple grounds in such a way that embedded over the stone was a field of grass. Rectangular plots that lay side by side, separated by narrow stone edging. All signs pointed to the grass plots being deliberate part of the roof's structure, perhaps at one point gardens were kept here. The grass was neatly trimmed and free of weeds. It could not be determined if this was due to Redfoot efforts, for there was a strange tension in the air, a shimmer of hostile a undercurrent. Power. Dark power that threatened to crush the girls in its fist. Despite the broad daylight, the oppressive feeling darkened the sky, tinging the blue to a harsh pink. There was more than just heat rippling the air. Sakura could feel the temple's malice bristling the little hairs on the back of her neck. Sinister butterflies fluttered daftly about, obvious to the lack of flowers to pollinate. What ever it was that was "wrong" about this place, it drew them in by the hundreds, same as the Redfeet. With the jungle's perfect climate, the grass was a rich, dark green. Ever moist with humid dew, it was soft and springy under Tenten and Ino's bare feet. Yet at the center of the field was more evidence, not only of Redfoot brutality, but of the Builders whose ruins they'd come to live in. A stone bed lie at the center, a malefic altar carved with the usual skeletal and horned serpentine motifs. Surrounding it in measured paces were three standing stones. The black stones were smooth and egg shaped, molded by nature's hands as opposed to human designs. As the kunoichi were dragged closer they saw hints of bloody runics, picture writing, etched into the rock. Both the stones and the altar were completely wreathed in what at first they thought were writhing snakes. A closer look revealed a most baffling, yet not wholly unfamiliar, sight. Vines! Thousands of them slithered up from cracks in the ground, ensnaring both the altar and the standing stones in a web of green.

Paying no heed to their captives' latest distress, the Redfeet dragged them along as they circled the grounds. In droves they knelt on the ground, squatted, or sat cross-legged. Archers and atlatlists took up positions at the four corners of the grounds. With the open sky all around them, the warriors were light on their toes and ready for the worst. This time Ten Ten and Ino were forced to kneel side by side with Sakura. Whatever primitive rite the Redfeet were planning, the ninja were going to have front row seats. When all had settled, and the glow faded from their eyes (allowing the return of minor chatter), a slow ceremonial drum beat announced the beginning of the ritual. It grimaced and pulsed through the air, echoing the malice of the temple's strange aura. One final procession of Redfeet emerged from the shadowy pit of stairs, a column of twenty Redfeet; white, green or red caped and brightly afeathered in their fanciest of tribal garments. Needle Teeth led the way, wreathed with blue feathered necklace, anklets, and bracelets. The Witch added to her ferocity by wearing a belt of shrunken heads, each of whom were tied to it by their hair. Her intent may had been to look serious, but she looked more bored that anything as she held a staff in front of her. With each thrum of the drum she raised it up, causing the jaw of its avian skull cap to hinge, its many beaded tassels rattled. Jaguar Fist followed her, cowled once more in her fancy jaguar headdress, this time embellished with longer and more brazen looking feathers streaming from the back of her head. She stood tall with her warclub holstered, aping the role of a tribal knight, guarding the back of her sorcerous cohort. Behind her was a gang of deacons of some sort. One was banging the drum, her four fellows behind her were carrying Hikari's litter. Each of these girls had their skin completely painted over in black with sharp white markings. The animal masks they wore gave them an air of anonymity. The drummer wore a gloomy looking antelope mask, its demonic horns curled up over her head. The four litter carriers were a Hyena, Eagle, Snake, and Jaguar. Each carried a resplendent banner of feathers on their backs, carefully arranged so to give them the semblance of butterfly wings. The banners also upheld three poles each, capped with skull etched in bloody tattoos. The skulls' jaws hung open in a silent scream, and each were crowned with tall arcing green headdresses. One could not fantom the sheer number of birds that had to have been slaughtered in order to make their ornate costumes so vivid.

Behind the deacons, marched the eight Clan Mothers, stoic with pride. Perhaps as a show that they were true warriors, they walked side by side, carrying a long bamboo pole over their shoulders. So long in fact that there was room for three boys to dangle from it like fresh kills. These captives had to have been new, for their skin was rather pale, and their hair was still short. Nevertheless, they had been stripped naked and smeared all over in pale blue and zigzagging yellow runes. Sinister pink spiraling runes coiled over their hearts and belly buttons, while each of their trembling buttocks had been stamped with a red footprint. The three prong mark of the Redfoot triumvirate was etched on their brow in pink, the single dot in black. The rest of their faces were painted like a skull, yellow on blue. With a wad of bamboo jammed in their mouths and tied behind their heads they could but gurgle their whimpers as they were herded to their doom. Sakura clenched her teeth as they passed, it just wouldn't be a Redfoot ceremony without some kind of ritualized killing. The Witch stood before the masses smug as ever. The Warchief took her place at the right hand of the altar, as to guard it. The horned drummer ceased, moving off to the side while litter bearers lay their precious cargo gingerly on the ground. Hikari remained within sitting lotus style, waiting for the right time as the Hyena, Snake, and Eagle deacons stood at attention. The Jaguar Deacon took up a position opposite of the Horned one, standing behind a tall ceremonial drum. The Clan Mothers made their way past the Princess, unceremoniously dumping their cargo on the ground. The kunoichi each winced when the boys landed.

Needle Teeth's preaching was so hot she was practically spitting flames. "WAR, is the name of the game. War is the sport. The sport. Is. War." The Witch paced back and forth, clacking the butt of her staff on the ground for emphasis. "When The Enemy comes, he's gonna take everything from you! Everything! The weapons YOU crafted and labored over. The jewelry you made with your friends, daughters, and lovers. He's gonna smash in the gates, he's gonna burn down your homes, our forest! He'll take away your youth and your health. Grind you down in dirt with his hooves. He will come up from behind and STAB YOU! He will make you his bitch! He does it because he hates you, he hates all Pure Girls. But why does he hate us? Why does Nimdok despise us with every fiber of his being? Can anyone tell me? Do any of you know? Who here is a true Redfoot? A Pure Redfoot?" This song and dance was not unfamiliar. Needle Teeth pulled the same crap at the mud pit, yet the Redfeet were gobbling it up like a bag of chips. Just as Sakura thought she couldn't look down on these savages any further.

"Look at them," she thought. "She's got them trained like a pack of seals." The way their heads bobbed up and down on command confirmed it.

"...He does it because We! Have! Love! Love! Love for each other, Una Moona. Love for the wild and our own freedom!" Needle squat down on her toes to meet the crowd at eye level, swishing her free hand for dramatic effect. "Love is the one thing The Enemy doesn't have because he can't understand it! He wants it! He COVETS it, but he doesn't know what it is. He knows you have it. Each of you, deep down inside, that's why he wants to pork you till you bleed! He'll use his spawn, his slaves to get at it! He wants to fill you with his sickness, make you grow old and feeble. Too dumb to remember glory, chewing cud with no teeth! He wants to cover your body with sores that burrow deep into the skin like beetles. Cysts that forever bleed with grease and pus, that prick and burn with his hot poker. He wants to suck the life out of you, down to the marrow in your bones. He HATES YOUR HAPPINESS. That's why he first cursed us girls with the moon blood. When the impure start to bleed that's him poking them! The impure get sick and go crazy because he's poisoning them! He wants to stab you in the guts and twist you all up inside. He wants to use you as a broodmare for his wretched spawn, an abomination! He wants you to BREAK! All because he wants your ability to love. But he! Can't! Have it!" The Redfeet roared as they threw their hands up in the air, waving their fingers or shaking their fists to heaven. The Witch arose in glorious triumph, as Sakura and Ten Ten shared a rigid look. Ino was hyperventilating. Mad. The three agreed, the natives were all stark raving mad!

"Not no more, not no MORE! Zukalaka cut him down! She took her macuahuitl and lopped his arms off so he can't throttle you no more! When he told Her to kneel, She cut off his head! She chopped off his left leg and the moon blood disappeared forever! She hacked off the right leg and gave us ham. When he squealed and begged for mercy, she took up her spear and STABBED him in his black heart. When he wouldn't die she gathered the first sisters to her, the sacred First Mothers of eight noble clans. Together as one they STOMPED ALL OVER HIM, till their feet turned red with his blood! REVENGE sisters! Vengeance for innocent Thi'hali whom Nimdok burned at the stake! Vengeance for Her mother Oombala, whom he slew and DEVOURED!

He is scum! And he knows he's scum! You need only look at his spawn to know they are vicious and evil. That's why Heaven kicked him and his kind out. Sent them right down into The Pit, Una moona. To burn forever and ever as they should. All cause we know the truth! We know love, it all belongs to US! We know there ain't no room up there for weaklings! No room for the husband and his sow! No room for the sickly and the crone! No room for the snake man! No room for the bird man! No room for any man, any time, at any age! They are of NIMDOK, they can all go to Hell! If they need help finding it, they'll find it at the end of our spears and arrows! This world is OUR garden! OURS! Every garden's got weeds, to keep it strong you've got to trample down the bad. Feel the earth turn underneith your toes. Sometimes you've got pluck up the weeds, or the ultimate irony, sending the slaves do it. At least with some weeds you can make wine out of em. All the slaves do is whine."

While Needle Teeth was raving, the Clan Mothers did not stand idle. One by one the captive boys were taken, to be pressed against the waiting green arms of the standing stones. The first two couldn't have been older than Neji or that rat Kabuto. There was no life in their eyes, they had turned to glass. The blue paint hid their many bruises. Neither of them would raise their heads, nor try to resist their captors. Instead they shuffled along with numb acceptance. Forlorn smiles splintered their faces like cracked glass. The boys were grateful to be of use their beguiling mistresses one last time. The Redfeet jostled them forward with all the reverence of taking out the trash. What use it would be, feeding these guys to strangulating vines Sakura did not want to know. Her only worry is that she and her friends would soon join them.

The captives did what they could to hush themselves as the vines dug into their flesh. It would be blasphemous to disturb this holy ritual with their petulant cries. Not that they had long to cry for a thick vine jammed down their throats, twisting and pumping bile into their mouths. They were forced to suck it all down lest they choke. Smaller, thinner vines, dug into their nipples, causing painful veins to spread across their chests. A final vine pierced its way inside their belly buttons, a sight painful enough to make the kunoichi clutch their own stomachs. The final slave could have easily passed for Naruto and not simply due to his fair hair and baby blue eyes. With all his might, the shrimp thrashed and kicked at his captors. This was his last chance, if he didn't escape now there wouldn't be another chance. It wasn't Naruto, as his face wasn't quite the same and lacked the knucklehead's whisker marks. Yet Sakura and her friends watched him with anticipation, silently cheering for every blow her struck with his fists. The tribe kept their eyes locked on Needle Teeth's antics, shifting in their seats and trying their hardest to not get distracted. The Witch didn't like being ignored.

Alas, when the four Clan Mothers failed to keep their hostage restrained, The Warchief and the other four intervened. Not-Naruto roared in frustration as it took three girls to hold him from behind. They slapped him about and he spit in their faces. He was beaten with clubs but still would not relent, though he started to lose steam. The Warchief dragged him by the hair, as the others grabbed his arms and feet. Despite his heroic efforts it was ultimately in vain. The vines wrapped up his arms and legs and he still tried to pull away. Left and right he punched at the air, struggling against the pull of the coils. He tore some away! Only for more to regrow and replace them. Reaching out like giant fingers the vines seized him by the shoulders and the waist. With a final coil around his neck his face turned red as he gasped for air, he was allowed just enough to keep from passing out. He could no longer struggle, he was fused to the green and the stone, same as the others. With his mouth open and vulnerable a vine slipped its way inside, and his nipples and belly button were soon probed as well. Useless tears flooded all three of the captive's eyes as the living vines tore away their scant loincloths. A vine each split open in three, revealing a slick pink core lined with thorny hairs. These wretched things sucked up each of the boys cocks. The tingle of the slow, violating thrusts forced the boys to grow hard. The humiliation was immeasurable, to violated before an audience of hundreds of girls. The tribe leered at their naked bodies, smug in their dominance over them. For the Redfeet the boys torment was a spectacle, some of the girls joked to one another that they should have brought snacks. It was fun for them to watch boys suffer, such is what it means for a girl to be strong in the Redfoot Way. To the kunoichi's horror, the captives did not die from their cocooning. With their arms and legs mummified, the boys were denied even comfort of twitching. Bits of their pure pale flesh peeked out from the blue paint. All they could manage was to tug and turn their heads left and right, for all the good it would do. The pulsating veins forked out in every direction, burrowing across until their whole chest, belly, and sides were infested. The boys wet contorting faces spoke volumes of their torture, which would go on, and on, and on.

"Better him than me," Sakura thought bitterly.

Needle Teeth arose, her voice grew cold and commanding as the boys were being cocooned. "Oombala arose as a great spirit of death. Upon the moon She shall forever dwell, watching over us in the dark of night. Her sacrifice will never be forgotten. Zukalaka sacrificed her body to give us the island upon which we dwell. An act of love so pure, so complete that all girls everywhere are indebted to her. So too must we offer sacrifices to keep our powers strong. To keep our great Goddesses intact. Ours is an unending harvest. The more we gather, the more we love, the more we KILL, the stronger we shall become. We paint our feet red as a symbol of our faith, of Zukalaka's triumph over mankind. This is our inheritance, our pledge of allegiance. In remembrance of Her, we come together as one. We are the legions of the black light. We eat the flesh. We drink the blood. We will not stop until The Enemy is extinct! Until girls are the SOLE inheritors of Heaven and Earth. If anyone does not share in this, the Great Redfoot Dream...we will hunt them down, they will suffer, they will die, we will FLOURISH in their AGONY!"

Needle Teeth dispensed with all pretense of a civilized speech and screamed. Long and harsh, hysterical with lips foaming. Inspired by her ferocity the tribe howled, hooted, beat their chests, cawed and squawked. They became a savage jungle all unto themselves.

"Kill the pig! Slit his throat! Bash him in! Stomp him out!"

Back and forth the witch galloped across the stage. Possessed by carnal fury she threw herself into the grass, to writhe and hump the air, fanning the flames of her sisters. Tongue waggling and both feet stomping the ground she ran her fingers across her crotch. She ceased her battle screaming to make lewd whimpers only to start screaming again, and again, and again. Lost in mad rapture, the tribe celebrated the Witch's every movement as if it were a personal achievement. Jaguar Fist retook her place at the altar, as the eight surrounded it. On their knees they kowtowed to the altar, worshiping it. Their bodies so aligned, like the eight points in their sacred sun symbol. When the Witch stopped screaming and stood again, the eight became still and simply prostrated themselves. The three deacons remained in their place guarding Hikari, all the while the twin ceremonial drums trudged along.

"We are one with the tribe," Needle Teeth continued, her arms spread wide. "It too is a garden that must constantly grow. Chakra is the water that keeps it nourished. The chakra we steal back from The Enemy, must always flow. The chakra we share with each other, is a great bond that can never be broken. We are all the same, we are all one. For we have brought together our red strings of destiny and bound them all up into one. We call it The Weave. What is the Weave? The Weave is the revelation of the spirit! It is salvation, one that is open to all girls who are Pure. It is our duty to create this blessed state of union, not just with each other, but the world. It is the Weave that put an end to Nimdok's curses. By the blessed Seed of Nduzuo, our bodies are made pure. No longer do we suffer the tyranny of the moon blood. No longer are we doomed to be the broodmares of the Enemy. We! Are! Redeemed!"

"Who comes up with this crap?" Sakura thought as she scowled. All the worse, the tribe hung on the Witch's every word. She couldn't decide what was more disappointing. The tribe, or the fact she almost let herself be blinded by their romantic projection of noble forest dwellers. These Redfeet were in tune with nature all right, the darkest and most bleak elements.

"Our Sun Princess, is representative of many things." At last, Hikari arose from litter, holding her head up high with a cool regal look on her face. She presented herself to the tribe, clutching an plumed tribal longbow and a single jade studded arrow in her fist. Needle Teeth crept around her back to lay her hands on the Princess' shoulders. "We all have a purpose, a part to play in the Goddesses grand design. When the Goddess Thi'hali was burned at the stake, everything changed forever. In Nimdok's world the night was everlasting, the whole earth was darkness. Cold, frozen, pitiless. Heaven intervened and She was changed into the greatest spirit of fire of all. The very living sun itself!" The Witch reached out to the sun with both hands and eyes shut tight, her tribal sisters followed suit, murmuring "Uuuunna...uuunnna...uuunnaa..."

"Her light, her fire was so pure that it washed away the dark and the cold like a cleansing monsoon. Almighty Zukalaka, having defeated Nimdok, looked to the sky. Glad to see the divine rebirth of her dearest little sister. To show her devotion, and to join her power to hers, she fired a single arrow of jade into the sun. Binding the earth and sun together." As the Witch recited the strange creation myth, Hikari played her part arcing her arms outwards; bringing the bow and arrow in front of her, closing her eyes to clasp her hands in front of her chest as in prayer. With one motion she did this, gracefully placing her left foot upon her inner thigh, balancing with cat like mastery in a tree pose. From there she squat on her one leg, before kneeling upon the ground, and aimed directly at the sun. The tribe marveled at the crystal sparkle caught in the glare of the jade arrowhead. At this point Sakura and her friends grew suspicious. Firing a bow of that size would take phenomenal strength, yet this small, slender girl was capable of pulling back the string effortlessly. Was it the work of some other hidden jutsu the tribe had at their disposal? The three of them gasped at the surreal sight of it, it was impressive they could not deny. "It was in that instant, Zukalaka became the island upon which we stand. Embued by Thi'Hali's life giving rays, all that is green spread across the land. So too came the animals, long in hiding from Nimdok's tyranny. When night fell to offer rest upon the sister Goddesses, Oombala looked upon their works with pride." Urged by the quickening rumble of the twin drums, Hikari held her position. The dark drumbeat intensified, drawing out the everyone's anticipation. At the very instant they stopped, she let the arrow loose into the great beyond. All turned to watch it fly to see it disappear. So far it flew, the Redfeet were sure it went all the way up to Heaven. All were soon clapping and howling in triumph. The kunoichi held their silence. They did not doubt it landed somewhere in the woods. A pity it did not land in somebody's head.

The Witch grumbled as she jerked her head, the pink light flashed in and out the tribe's eyes. All were quiet again, with full attention on the Witch. "The tradition of the Sun Princess, is not only a demonstration of our devotion and thanks to the Goddesses. Our little sister here, is an embodiment of everything we are fighting for. To fight for her honor is to fight for the honor of the tribe. To prove without hesitation that your heart is dedicated only to the purest of girls." Cheekily she coiled her arm around Hikari's neck, whom nuzzled her in return. "To love her and adore her is to be loved by the Goddesses forever. There is no other reasoning. Now, at the hour when the sun is at its peak, we shall summon the powers of Thi'hali for all to see. Proof of our faith! We must lay her upon the altar, that she may be consecrated in the Redfoot Way. The Way of The Jungle!"

The drums murmured their dark praises once more. By instinct the kunoichi huddled together closer, fearing on Hikari's behalf. She dutifully led the way to the altar, the three deacons and the Witch in tow. Couldn't she see the blood stains upon the rock? The gleaming jade and obsidian daggers the deacons had tucked into their loincloths? Was there nothing the ninja could do to stop them? To prevent the Princess from exerting herself, the Eagle, Snake, and Hyena deacons picked Hikari up under her arms and by her ankles. They gently sat her parallel upon the stone before setting about to undress her. Her monumental headdress was taken first, while her white cape was pulled off her shoulders. Hikari then obediently lay back flat, taking a deep breath as her loincloth was removed and folded. Given their mischievous nature, the deacons took their sweet time undressing their Princess, running their hands all over her supple body as they picked off bits of primitive jewelry from her. With her royal outfit put off to the side, the three continued to touch her, smoothing her out as if her body was made of clay. Sakura's stomach churned as she watch them grope her whole body. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Ten Ten lick her lips before turning away, face red with shame. Ino had shut her eyes. Sakura figured Ten Ten must have been thirsty, a natural reaction given the climate. At least, she hoped that was all it was. She herself felt her face grow hot, as she glared at both the Witch and Warchief who stood before the altar, merely watching what was happening. Hikari began to pant little noises that betrayed her discomfort mixed with arousal. Yet still she did not resist, she spread her arms and legs wide so the deacons had free reign to smother her entirely. Their greedy fingers probed the rim of her clit as patted her vagina with their palms. That made her whelp, but it did not stop them. They rubbed her feet and fondled her hands. Her rosy cheeks were squeezed as were budding breasts. At one point they rolled her over on her side to grab at her buttocks before laying her back down again. Hikari trembled and winced under their touches drinking in the stimulation. Every inch of her skin was massaged until her nipples grew hard and she became fully aroused.

Standing parallel to each other, the Witch and Warchief nodded once to each other. The groping continued as the two bowed to one another, Needle Teeth as sly as ever while Jaguar Fist remained stern and cold. Together they entered into a tree pose and breathed in deep. With a sudden movement that thrust their legs and fist away from each other. What followed was a series of flowing steps; half sleazy burlesque, half war kata. Though they fluttered and turned with the grace of nymphs, the two leaders cut, chopped, and kicked down invisible enemies. They made great steps as to squash and crush all beneath their feet. They grinded the earth under their heels, sliding instead of stomping. Jaguar Fist turned their hands into spears to thrust and pierce. Needle Teeth mirrored her, but clutched her staff in her fists. Up, down, side to side, the ritual dance took them into a semi circle cradling the altar, as if to trace the mark on every Redfoot's forehead. Upon reaching the other side, the circle was made complete by arcing over on their hips and thrusting their fists at each other. All in all the dance resembled the movements of a twisting snake with two heads, coming around to face each other, snarling, yet they were one.

The duel leaders shouted the Redfoot battle-cry, to which the tribe aped in kind, "Una moona moona moona!" The battle call gave way to cheering as the Witch and Warchief ended their dance, coming back into the tree pose in a slow, controlled motion. Before separating, The Witch handed her staff off to the Warchief. Jaguar Fist returned to her guard post, while Needle Teeth took center stage behind the altar, raising up her arms as if she were spreading her wings. The three deacons retreated from the gasping Sun Princess, slowly lurching their way in tune with the sacrificial drum beat. Step by step towards the three cocooned boys.

"Almighty Thi'Hali! Brightest Star of the Sky! Morning Sun and Light of our World. Virgin Goddess, the Purest of All. We beseech you! Open to us Your loving sisters, Your burning domain. Fill our hearts with fire that we might burn the world of men to ashes. For many suns we have made burnt offerings, to fuel Your holy power that Your Light may ever shine upon us. On this day we make a new offering. A covenant of the purest of flesh, and the noblest of blood. No slave of Nimdok has ever sullied her, and by the arrow, spear, and claws of Zukalaka, none ever shall! We beg...we plead...Let your spirit descend now upon this Your chosen vessel. Let this one's spirit ascend, to join your harem with the rest of the honored dead. And in her place, grace us with Your awesome presence. Walk the Earth alongside us, succor us with your wise council. Lead us against the Enemy, that we may pave the Path to Paradise with bloody footprints. Let all who look upon them see them and despair! For they are proof of Your passing. Oh...Thi'Hali... This meat, this tender flesh is yours and yours alone to receive." The Witch climbed atop the altar to stand over Hikari, while the deacons stopped in front of the standing stones. They turned their backs on the writhing captives, shoulder squared their arms behind their backs, as Needle Teeth caressed Hikari's vagina with her left foot.

"Do you love girl feet and love only girls?" said she.

"I do," Hikari answered tenderly, still flustered with heat. The Witch swept her toes up across the Princess' belly, coming to rest her foot atop her left breast.

"Do you hate the Enemy and wish him exterminated from the face of our Earth?"

"I do," Hikari said with more gusto. The Witch grinned, growing excited by Hikari's naked form. She continued her ritual, sliding her foot across the Princess' face, resting her toes upon her forehead.

"Do you offer yourself, body, mind, and soul to the Great Jungle Goddesses?"

"Now, and forever," Hikari's eyes flashed with a soft pink glow, her voice eager and aching for the transformation to begin.

"Then..." Needle Teeth straddled the girl as she swished spit in her mouth. Seeing her cue, Hikari opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue. The Witch hunched over to affectionately plop a drop of saliva onto Hikari's tongue. The girl swallowed and smiled with satisfaction. "The pact is sealed..." The Witch then made a sweeping gesture with her arm, addressing the crowd and the heavens as loud and as bold as she could muster. "THI'HALI!!! BEHOLD THY SUPPLICANT!"

"We gotta do something!" Ten Ten was nudging her, but Sakura felt lost in a trance. Totally gripped with fear at what was unfolding before them, all the more reason for Ten Ten's urgent nudging. "Don't you see what's happening? They're gonna kill her!" Sakura said nothing. "Sakura!"

"What can we do?" Surrounded by hundreds of the enemy, all tied up as she was, there was nothing they could do. Soon her failure would be complete. Once! Twice! Thrice the drums were struck. Followed by a rapid pulse bringing all Redfeet to their knees. The kuniochi each were manhandled to the ground, forced to heave up and down in awful tribute just like everyone else. When they failed to rise quick enough, the Redfeet pulled them up by their hair. With a sharp hiss the Redfeet uttered the names of their three goddesses, trying to shame the ninja into repeating those dreadful names. Though Ino whimpered she held her tongue, too frightened to even speak. Already pushed well past the brink, yet still sane, Sakura and Ten Ten grit through the torture, the warriors' shocked glares. To punish the ninja's willfulness, the names were hissed into their ears so that would be all they could hear. It would be as though the ninja were speaking the dark names anyway. The Redfeet could force them to bow only physically. Sakura reminded herself over and over, that she was a kunoichi of Hidden Leaf, not some blood painted naked savage barking at the moon. On and on the worship continued, each of the Redfeet praying in their native tongue or otherwise for their savage goddess to move and appear. From a clay jar at her ankle, The Warchief produced one of those weird pink fruits from the feast. It was still wet and dripping when she handed off to Needle Teeth, before joining the rest of her tribe in a half bow facing the altar.

The Witch held the fruit over her head with both hands. The sun was now nearly at its peak. "Behold the Sacred Pitaya; The Thorned Fruit of The Nduzuo Tree. Its briars are sharp, yet it is rich and vibrant. As is the heart of every girl." A strange choice of ritual implement, Sakura was expecting a dagger next, but one was not produced. The sun began to shrink in scope as a black moon crept across it. Needle Teeth thrust the fruit upwards, with eyes closed yet her head was bowed. "The Path to Paradise is not given. It must be seized. Torn beating from the breast of the Enemy. His destruction will bring her power. His devastation will bring her strength. His damnation will bring her eternity. In the name of the Sun, Moon, and Serpent, grant us your power..."

Sakura heard the venomous rattle of a serpent. Dozens of them were suddenly crawling up from every corner. Were they lying in wait in the grass? She stifled a gasping scream, as a black leathery snake glided across her lap like a liquid, joining its brethren in their pilgrimage to the altar. The damn things weren't there before. They couldn't have been! They would have seen them.

"His destruction will bring us power! His devastation will bring us strength! His damnation will bring us eternity! In the name of the Sun, Moon, and Serpent, grant us your POWER!" With these words Needle Teeth and the three deacons raised their left hands to the sky, holding them aloft for a time until they began to tremble. Their fingers twitched as their arm tried to snap away, the ritualists' control over their own hands were slipping. It was a kind of clash of wills, the participants struggled to keep control. With their knuckles expanded, they raked their fingers directly over the boys' hearts. Needle Teeth lowered her own possessed hand to clutch at Hikari's breast! The sky darkened from pink to purple twilight, scorched by the darkness of the eclipse. With eyes wide shut the tribe sat up to greet the coming darkness with open arms. The look on their faces was pure rapture. Shaking all over with eldritch dread, Sakura could hear the pounding of her own heartbeat. Redfoot fingers pressed into the chests of their victims, pushing effortlessly through flesh and bone to grasp the beating hearts of their victims.

"HIS DESTRUCTION IS OUR DELIGHT! HIS DEVASTATION IS OUR LAUGHTER! HIS DAMNATION IS OUR RIGHTEOUS REWARD! SUN MOON SNAKE SUN MOON SNAKE SUN! MOON! SNAKE! GIVE US YOUR POWER! STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! LET YOUR VESSEL BE ANOINTED IN BLOOD!"

"Blood! Blood! Blood!" Chanted the Redfeet in time with the drum beat. By all rights and all reason blood should have been gushing from a gaping wound in each of the victim's chests. Their hearts should have ceased their contractions. All reason and right fled this place's wrath ages ago. The evil that ruled the Redfeet made its own rules. Needle Teeth replaced the heart, sticking the eerie fruit into Hikari's breast. Hikari sat up immediately gasping for breath, her eyes burning furiously with the glow. All marveled as the "wound" on her chest healed in a matter of seconds, fresh and clean as the day she was born. The boys were not so lucky. The serpents that had gathered slithered up the vines, to enter the burrow where the hearts had been. The boys never stopped screaming, at least as well as they could with a vine thrusting in their mouths. Nor did their eyes ever glow as the Redfeet did, that power was the girls' privilege and theirs alone. With the living vines constricting their legs, their hips were forced to shove against the tentacle vines clenching their cocks. The removal of their hearts coincided with the sudden release of semen, to which the vines mercilessly sucked up as they continued to ravish.

"WITNESS THE MIRACLE! WITNESS THE MIRACLE!" cried Needle Teeth as she held up the beating heart in triumph. "We know that in death there is life!"

Ino was screaming bloody murder. Ten Ten hugged herself in a feeble attempt to qwell her shaking. "They're alive...How can they still be alive?" If there was answer it no longer mattered to Sakura. She could feel her sanity dribbling away like the foam hanging off her lip. With a crooked smile she started to laugh at the absurdity of it all. It...it didn't make sense! Why should it it? She was helpless as a naked babe at the mercy of a hurricane. One that was alive and conscious, and wanted nothing more that to swallow her whole. She wanted to cry in terror like a normal person and did so, but couldn't stop the laughter. The darkness...the darkness would not permit it. Yes! It wasn't going to stop until it had utterly twisted good and bad, right and wrong, pleasure and pain into an immutable tangle. Her laughter was her last refuge before the storm ripped through her spirit and drowned her.

Overcome with joy unspeakable, every Redfoot girl was on their feet sqwaking and screaming to their dark goddesses. Their vile prayers had been answered, and none could deny the power that was at their disposal. They forgot their ninja captives, smug with faces that said, "we told you so". The Redfoot faith was confirmed in the most satanic way possible.

So great was the cheering and wild whooping, none noticed as Needle Teeth whispered a secret prayer. "I feel you. I feel Your presence deep inside me. Inside all of us. We're yours. All yours. Oh Queen of Darkness! Honor thy covenant!" The three deacons made their way to the front of the altar, holding the still beating hearts out for all to see. They bent the knee before the raging crowd, as Jaguar Fist retrieved Hikari's thumping heart, placing it into the jar. Both she and Needle Teeth backed away from the altar, as Hikari's eyes rolled up and her body convulsed. Instantly the duo were on the ground cowering as purplish pink fire engulfed Hikari's body. It began to rise in the air in further defiance of all the laws of nature. Like a puppet on strings, her arms and legs dangled as dark energies surged out of Hikari's open eyes and mouth. All could hear the low roaring groan, as if the power was just roused from a long and deep slumber. It charged the air with cracks of red lightning, as Hikari's body floated a full seven feet over the altar. Meanwhile, a bluish-purple flame spontaneously engulfed the bodies of the boys and their beating hearts. A foul and mystical sight it was, for the purple flames did not burn nor so much as tarnish the standing stones, nor the vine cocoons, or the hands of the deacons. Only the boys were burned, and their horrid deaths were met with jubilant wailing and celebration. So moved by the horror they had inflicted, some Redfeet started dancing to the ceremonial drums. The tribe waved their arms like wings and screeched like birds.

Black wings darkened an already shadowed sky. Taloned feet anxiously shifted on the mountainside as a hawk's scream pierced the sky, mocking the rites of the Redfeet. The roar of the crowd faded as the tribe shared a collective shiver. An all new panic raced through their hearts, the scales of power had shifted. Rapidly panting their eyes twitched at a now unfriendly sky. The inevitable could not come soon enough, anything to break the quiet dread. Bows were slung from shoulders and knives were drawn. Spears were pointed at the sky in anticipation of the coming storm.

"No...No not them, not now!" Jaguar Fist was muttering as she leapt atop the altar, drawing her warclub. The five deacons abandoned their posts, to crowd a protective circle around a mortified Needle Teeth. The three burning hearts were dropped, their flames vanished as the hearts themselves crumbled into dust. It was as though they were never there.

The attack came all at once. A stream of Birdmen flew at an arc from around the mountain's peak. With wings of thunder, the horde dive bombed into the Redfeet like black bolts of lightning. Leading the charge was a Birdman whose feathered head was entirely red, a stark contrast to his crow feathered comrades.

"Blood Eagle! Blood Eagle!" The Redfeet pointed and shouted in alarm. The dreaded leader of their mortal nemesis had come to challenge them!

"Protect the Princess at all costs!" Jaguar Fist gripped her club with both hands. The response was as immediate as the sinister glow in her tribe-sister's eyes. Subhuman caws were met with the twang of hundreds of arrows launched. Many grazed their marks, but the flying devils were more nimble than they appeared. The swarm soon scattered in every direction, throwing off the Redfeet's aim. Then the Birdmen returned fire, stabbing as they flew by with their own atavistic spears. Those that landed swept back their wings, using them both as a living shield against arrow and dart, and as rams to batter back the dog-piling natives. Rock hand axes clashed with jade ones, as the two sides gleefully hacked through each other. Blood began to spatter the air. If their stone or bone weapons broke, both sides used their nails as claws. The Redfeet cried out the names of their Goddesses, urging for their protection. The Birdmen either wouldn't or couldn't speak, answering in grim silence.

Amidst the chaos the kunoichi were forgotten. Acting on blind instinct Sakura, Ten Ten, and Ino rolled out of the way before they were trampled. As soon as they were on their feet again they scrambled. Hovering Birdmen were tossing bola nets, ensnaring unwary Redfeet. Working together the fiends quickly scooped up their captives and beat it back into the sky, carrying off their screaming cargo. Getting captured by the Redfeet was already a horrible fate, the ninja weren't about to let themselves be snatched up by these mutant horrors.

Sakura wriggled along the ground, her shoulders pistoning, feeling very much like a centipede trying not to get squashed underfoot. As it happened she stopped short as a massive pair of vile, clicking talons landed in front of her. A single glance upwards froze her soul, as a gruesome Birdman reached out for her with massive hands. He lifted her up as if she were a small child, its beady black eyes twitching with every malign twist of its avian head. What more could Sakura do but scream as the thing spread its monstrous wings. It bent its knees to take flight, hugging her close to deliver her to whatever savage hell these creatures had spawned from. Its feet never left the ground, for a Redfoot warrior had clung to its back, stabbing furiously. The Birdman hissed as it twisted its hips, thrashing its huge wings around to try and shake off its annoying attacker. Now while it was distracted, this was Sakura's only chance! The Birdman had the same size and proportions of a man, and the green loincloth it wore around its waist suggested the same. Though her ankles were bound, she was still able to maneuver her knees, if she slammed them at just the right angle...

The Birdman howled as it came tumbling down to the ground, doubled over in pain. Served it right, Sakura thought as she rolled away from it. With her larger opponent weakened, the Redfoot moved in for the kill. She slashed open the thing's throat, unleashing a glut of blood. It was dead in moments. To Sakura's shock the Redfoot then quickly moved to cut off Sakura's bindings. It was one of the deacons, whose face was hidden under her eagle's head headdress. Sakura was just glad to be able to move about again, her ankles and wrists were terribly sore. Once she was free the Eagle thrust a stone knife into Sakura's hands, before making a chopping gesture, wordlessly stating that Sakura must fight if she wanted to live. Once done she hopped up and drew an axe then rushed back into the fray with a frenzied chop into the shoulder of one of the Birdmen. The Redfeet weren't too picky about where their help came from at the moment. Sakura chose to stay low and to seek out her friends. Ten Ten was fending off two Birdmen at once, swinging a tribal spear about to slice at the air and stab at the attacker on the ground. No surprise there, Sakura sighed with relief. Ino had taken to hiding behind the altar where the Redfeet had set up a defensive perimeter. Whether or not the Redfeet would protect her remained to be seen. Whatever dark force had caused Hikari to levitate before was gone, she now lay unconscious and sprawled atop the altar. Jaguar Fist had her hands full, swinging her club at any Birdman that was stupid enough to glide towards her. By spear or arrow the Redfeet held the line, but the Birdmen were made of stern stuff. Three or four arrows sticking out of an arm or leg barely fazed them. The Redfeet aimed for their wings to bring them down crashing. The bastards dusted themselves off, dazed but far from broken. They were relentless, but their enemy was quicker. To counter the Birdmen's brute force, the Redfeet relied on hit and run. They ran in circles about their foes, their toes barely touched the ground. Compelled by their dark chakra the girls never seemed to tire. With wide squats they growled and hissed, daring their enemy to close the gap. They kept their polearms in front of them like a shield, while their sisters lunged in from the flanks. The Birdmen could take some hits and then some, but bled like any other animal. Covered in darts and arrows, lashed at the shins and stomach, they lumbered on until their blood ran out. The Birdmen began to topple. Unfortunately they were so strong that they only needed to land a hit or two to pulverize a Redfoot. A mere backhand with a bone club cracked the skulls of a few Redfeet. Worse still, more and more Birdmen were falling from the sky. At this rate they would soon be overrun.

A quick glance revealed to Sakura that Needle Teeth was gone. Escaped no doubt. Rats, she might have delivered some quick payback. No matter, the was no time to think about that. She had to get to Ino and Ten Ten. All she had to do was get through an active battleground where girls and Birdmen alike were chopping each other to pieces. For some reason the fighting all seemed so far away to Sakura. There was no hesitation for once in her life. She didn't freeze up, didn't start to sob. Into the fray she went, running as fast as she could, leaping over thrusting spears and leaving a slash in any would be attackers. All of them Birdmen, the Redfeet fought around her. Irksome as it was, she and the girls were on the same side in this instance. Quick as a flash she was kneeling at Ino's side and grasping her by the shoulders. Shock at seeing her friend again held Ino's senses, before she grabbed a hold of Sakura in a sobbing embrace. It was miracle that any of them were still alive.

"Oh Sakura! What do we do now?"

"We stay alive!" Sakura hugged her back.

The next attack wave was strange. These new Birdmen were carrying lit torches and hatchets. Instead of rushing into the fray, these wretches hovered about the entrance back down into the temple. Bit by bit, the horrors on the ground began retreating into a new formation, one that would cut the Redfeet off from their home fortress. At once the Warchief's eyes went wide with morbid dread, never missing a beat as she crushed an invader's head.

"The Temple! Fall back! Fall BACK! They must not enter the Temple!"

Beset by an all new panic the Redfeet turned on their heels to rush the entrance. The Birdmen seized the opportunity to press their attack. They stabbed their retreating counterparts in the back of the shins, before ganging up to impale the fallen's back over and over with their spears.

Jaguar Fist gathered Hikari up on piggyback. The Warchief nudged her head as she shouted to the ninja, "Come on! You wanna be eaten? Let's go! Let's go!"

She was still barking orders, Sakura thought sullenly. Still Jaguar had a point, it would be suicide to hang around. "We're gonna get out of here, can you move?" she said.

"I...I think so," sliding Ino's arm around her shoulder, the two got to their feet. Next they scuttled along, keeping low and close with the rest of Redfeet as the Birdmen took swipes at them from above. Sakura called out to Ten Ten, whom smacked a belligerent Bird atop the head with the flat of her spear. While it was dazed she dashed away, joining together with her friends, guarding the rear with her spear. Sakura herself held her dagger in front of her like a shield. The Redfoot mass split in two, flanking the sides of the enemy blockade. Driving right through it would have only inflicted more causalities, flowing like water around was the best alternative for the moment. The blockade was blob of bodies for the moment, but with more Birdmen arriving the gaps would soon be cut off. Any Redfoot that hadn't made it behind the enemy line would be left behind. Indeed, as Sakura saw, the Redfeet made no attempt to help up their wounded sisters. Like ants they gladly threw themselves at the enemy to protect their "Queen" Hikari. Following close behind her group was the safest maneuver. Sakura dared one final look backwards to see the enemy's leader standing tall before his army, arms crossed and arrogant.

The barefoot mob rushed down the stone steps and into the flickering red dark, just as the line behind them solidified. Wild waifish battle cries turned to screams overtaken by the victorious cawing of the Birdmen. Sakura tried not to think of the stragglers being taken alive. The ancient stone halls were suddenly a tight fit, packed front to back and all sides with girls. The Redfeet were in a full rout, desperate to get as far away from the battle as possible, blind to the congestion they had created. All the yelling and screaming just added to the confusion. Sakura and crew pushed their way through the throng only to be shoved back. The caw of the enemy horde echoed down the corridor, the Birdmen were coming ready or not.

A sudden hush fell over a chunk of the fleeing mob, as the infernal glow lit up their eyes. In lock step these warriors turned on their heels, restructuring themselves into a defensive line. With their arrows spent, they held up spear and feathered shields, a massing a thorny wall to meet the coming fiends. The Birdman they called "Blood Eagle" now carried a torch in one hand and a hatchet in the other. The narrow halls forced the enemy's forces to pull their wings in tight as their advance lumbered.

"Just a bit farther!" Jaguar Fist's voice called out. "Past the gate!" Sakura head a crumbling sound within the walls, then the slow grind of stone upon stone. Down the hall, around an archway decorated with tribal glyphs, a tremendous stone door was descending to the floor. Gripping Ino tighter she dropped the knife, using her free hand and shoulder to plow her way through the crowd. As the door inched its way down the Redfeet were hunching their way through. The battle began anew as the zombified defenders clashed with the Birdmen, cawing and hissing and beastly as their enemy. By the time Sakura and friends had reached the door, it was half way down. The eight pointed sun with its elaborate glyphs and grinning center piece was carved across it. She all but had to shove Ino and then Ten Ten with her hands and feet to get them moving, before crawling under on her belly. When she felt the stone bristle the small of her back, Sakura panicked digging against the ground with her nails, propelling herself ever faster. Only one girl managed to get crushed under the stone's weight. She barely had time to scream, as she was ground in half; her abdomen a mash of jellied gore. Someone came along and bapped her aside the head to put her out of her misery. The dead girl was thankfully just another nameless Redfoot.

Once on the other side, having just barely made it herself, Sakura curled up in a slump against the wall. She wriggled her toes as to make sure they were still there as her friends hugged her. All slid to the ground to catch their breath, and tend their wounds. Beyond the wall fists and axes were pounding; small ones from sisters left behind, then larger ones from the hateful Birdmen. Finally silence. The tribe was far from wiped out, but many had been sacrificed to ensure the safety of the Sun Goddess. A quarter of their numbers were gone forever, lost to the war that they lusted so for. Such was the Redfoot Way.

 

Chapter Text


 

Sakura and her friends were left to stew in a dungeon cell for the rest of that day. Some of the Birdmen had gotten inside the temple and needed to be hunted down. From the way the Redfeet were talking, the whole temple was going to put on lock down until they were certain that the enemy had left. The cell a small room, its stone walls were overrun with animate vine growth. A wall of thorny vines as thick as anacondas retracted with a vulgar squish, opening wide the portal. From there (at the behest of the Redfeet's spears), the kunoichi were pressed up against the infested walls, to which the living vines shackled their wrists and ankles.

So much for gratitude, Sakura thought as the vines curled up her legs and belly. The leafy lash that coiled around her neck reminded her that she was just a slave to the tribe's will after all. When the Redfeet left the "door" regrew itself, trapping the kunoichi inside. Yellow-green embers bloomed from bio-luminescent mushrooms, a pitiful comfort from the looming dark. The cell had its own micro ecosystem, full of chirping little insects feeding off each other; a fact they discovered as one creepy crawly made its way across Ino's face. Her piercing screams were too much to bear.

"Just shut the hell up!" said Ten Ten. Caught off guard, Ino cowed quickly, content to whimper to herself. Sakura, so lost in seething anger, only glared at the wall. She may as well have been all alone.

Red-pink lilies blossomed, ignorant of the dark while the twisted purple butterflies nestled their hungry proboscis into their cores. The ceiling shuffled with thousands of their evil little cocoons. Rather than go hungry, Sakura gobbled up an intrepid little cricket that foolishly landed on her lip. The bitter taste was meaningless, the prey was wet and meaty. Staying alive was all that mattered now. For all she knew the Redfeet had left them to die in this living prison. She decided that if this was how she was to die, it wouldn't be because she gave in.

For three days the kunoichi languished in that pit before Jaguar Fist and her warriors returned. "The enemy has retreated for now. Their feeble scouts have been purged from the temple." Sakura and Ten Ten shared a contemptuous sneer. Feeble eh? They had some nerve, considering they spent all this time cowering behind stone walls. Some warrior tribe these Redfeet were. For all their pride and bluster, they were nothing more than a paper tiger. As the Warchief stood before Sakura, she could feel the vine bindings begin to unravel.

"Your time has come," said Jaguar Fist.


 

They drug Sakura by the arms back to the Throne Room, even though she offered no resistance. After such a disastrous battle, they needed to save face. Hikari was alive and well, sprawled out upon the Tiger Skin Throne like some lewd model. The dark aura flickered from her body like smokey vapor. Even the whites of her eyes were pink with demonic power. She wore a more modest headdress this time around, a head of black green feathers that streamed tall and proud. Quaint little horns like that of an antelope embellished her temples, curling upwards in the shape of a heart. Strapped to the center of her forehead was a chunk of polished turquoise. Naturally it had the eight pointed sun symbol carved across it, with the three pronged mark in its center ring. From it dangled four woven chains that hung down over Hikari's cheeks. Similar tassels hung down from the headdress in streams, notched with painted beads and plumed with green, red, pink, and black feathers. Tied around her waist, hanging from her backside, a peculiar banner of feathers. A fluffy mass that arced outwards from a burlap disk, giving the little princess the appearance of tail feathers. Her pink loincloth was so light it was almost white. The front and back flap ran all the way down to her shins. Hikari wore nothing else, save for the usual assortment of tribal ornaments, and the dreadful kitten skull necklace. Sullen eyed, Sakura regarded the little queen of savages with indifference. It didn't matter what they did to her any more. The tribe had completely devoured Hikari body and soul. Now Sakura was being led to her death, same as it was for her dear Hinata.

A great stone door blocked the main entrance, not unlike the one that cut off the Birdmen's assault. Every warrior from every clan crowded the hall, squatting or sitting lotus style. Some tapped their leg or toes with impatience, others busied themselves with meaningless chatter. From the sound of their whimpers and whispers the bitches were still cowering. Served them right as far as Sakura was concerned. The fire of many torches and the massive flaming brazier in the center of the hall barely kept the darkness at bay. Some sunlight shyly peeked through the rectangular window slits way up on high, but could not penetrate the temple's gloom. The soft caress of the fur rugs beneath her soles were a cold comfort, as Sakura was forced to her knees before the stone dais. Jaguar Fist made her way up the eight steps to take her place at the Sun Princess's right hand. Lounging upon the dais with the arrogance of cats were Needle Teeth and the seven Clan Mothers. They had since put away their fancier garments trading them for more simple tribal wear, sporting a stick through their nostrils and tuffs of feathers for earrings. Each of them had smeared red paint over their eyes and forehead (save for Needle Teeth). Only the Faceless One had wrapped her face up in a red scarf, while a red cowl hid her glowing eyes in shadow. It made Sakura uneasy how the cowl was part of a short shawl not so different from the one Jaguar Fist had made for her.

As soon as she was on her knees a smug grin crept over the faces of the tribe's leaders. One of them started a rapid chant in the native tongue, then another and another as each girl arose. The chant sounded like playful romp with mean underpinning. A dirty song small children might sing to bully their classmate. The seven ringed around Sakura, surrounding her in a forest of naked legs. Light on their toes their voices rose higher as they strut clockwise, bending over almost shouting their whimsical condemnation. The song began in earnest as Boom-Boom thumped along to the tune. Some onlookers shook gourd rattles to spice up the tune, while the rest of the tribe watched in silent admiration. The seven half crouched, joining hands to scurry counterclockwise. They sang a few taunting words before rushing back around the other way again. Then they shook their heads before spinning round on the ball of their feet. They kept singing, shaking a finger in the air as if to coyly scold Sakura for some minor misdeed.

Sakura for her part remained where she was as the dance carried on. She kept twisting around as to keep an eye on each of these happy go lucky maniacs, expecting a bone knife to come plunging down at the last second. Though she could not understand their words, she instinctively knew by the cheeky swagger that she was being mocked.

If their twisting guttural words meant anything, they may had been, "Oh me, oh my, what has the ocean spat out at us? What is this useless layabout? What a raggedy little thing. No good, no good at all. Oh me, oh my, a no-account good for nothing!"

At one point they turned to face Sakura, wiggling as they made little steps in and out towards her. The drum cut off but the rattles kept up the beat. The dancers beat their arms like wings and made noises that sounded like a mix of birds chirping and lewd panting. The way they caressed their hips and thighs didn't help Sakura feel any less comfortable. They carried on like this prodding in her direction with their toes, threatening to touch her. She recoiled one way just to barely miss being molested by another. Sakura shot a glare at the Warchief, pleading to stop this stupid game. But Jaguar Fist kept her arms crossed, her face devoid of either favor or disapproval. Could the Warchief even understand her with that soft pink glow in her eyes? A stark contrast to the auspicious smiles of The Witch and Sun Princess. The drum kicked up again and the dance began anew, running round left to right, right to left. The romp started all over same as the song. The seven ended the dance abruptly with a leap in the air and a cheer. Bewitched, the tribe refrained from their usual jubilation.

"The hell are you waiting for?" Sakura said to the Triumvirate as the seven squat on their toes around her. "If you're gonna kill me than just do it. Or have you lost your nerve?"

"Kill you?" answered the Warchief. "Where ever did you get such an idea?"

"You slaughtered those men. All those boys. You, you killed Hinata!"

"It is the purpose of pigs to be hunted and devoured. Otherwise the damn things would serve no purpose at all. They would truly be demons then." This peculiar talk of pork made Sakura's stomach churn, recalling the salty delicacy of the bacon jerky and the succulent ham from the Feast. Her great appetite that night had sweetened the meat. So much so that she hadn't minded how gummy the texture had been. Only now did this odd little detail become deadly. With a timid gulp she denied awful possibility to herself. The Redfeet were just trying to mess with her head again. Weren't they?

"They have no soul," Jaguar Fist said. "To live, they must steal Chakra from the Earth, leaving devastation and sickness in their wake. The sons of Nimdok are an abomination to be trampled under girlish feet. It is the will of Zukalaka. The wage for their sin is death." As The Warchief spoke she was sauntering down the steps to come circle about Sakura as if to lecture an impudent youth. But Sakura felt more like like a mouse being circled by a hungry vulture. "It is of no consequence. We brought you here to give life, not take it away."

"If your intent is to get me to join you forget it! I will never betray the Hidden Leaf!" Bold words but Sakura knew them to be untrue. Was it not so long ago, that she was ready to throw everything away for Sasuke? For love? It must have read on her face.

"Not even for that girl you're so fond of? The one whose eyes are like the moon?"

Sakura's eyes went wide with sudden and desperate hope. "Where is Hinata...?! You said she was..."

"One with our Goddesses now. She is further along on the Path To Paradise than you, it is so. This time, this moment here, is but your first step to becoming as Pure as she." The Warchief motioned with a tilt of her head towards the crowd, so Sakura scuttled about to see. Out of the throng, the eagle masked deacon arose. She had since washed the white ceremonial paint from her body and was near naked, conforming to the tribal standard of dress. The girl tip toed tenderly between her tribe-sisters, removing her headdress and letting it fall into someone's lap. All color drained from Sakura's face as the Redfoot drew closer.

Each step Hinata took was tottering. Spellbound as she was by the fuchsia glow in her eyes, she nonetheless sauntered towards Sakura. Drunk with dark jungle magic, Hinata sniggered at her horrified comrade revealing little fangs that had grown in. They matched the red fangs streaked across her cheeks.

Her still beautiful form was marred by tribal tattoos. Her once pure pale skin was tarnished bronze thanks to time under the jungle sun. Her supple breasts flounced as freely as any other jungle girl. A narrow burlap loincloth saved her some scant modesty, and the Redfeet had decorated her with bits of bone jewelry. Were it not for her Byakugan eyes, which were a harsh hot pink instead of their usual pale lavander, Hinata would have been indistinguishable from any other Redfoot. They had even pierced her ears with tuffs of little green feathers, while a sharp wooden barb through the nostrils completed Hinata's savage transformation.

"No...NO!" Sakura shot straight up to her feet, clasping her hands over her mouth. Every hair on her body stood on its end. "Oh! Oh you monsters! What have you done to her?"

"Your sister has accepted the Truth," Jaguar Fist said, slinking behind Sakura and coiling her arm around the neck and shoulder. "Her body has been Purified, and she has taken the Goddesses into her heart." Sakura was a lamb cornered in a den of hyenas. She could hear their not to distant giggling from every direction, a ghostly wail that froze her feet down to her very soul. The Warchief seized the opportunity, pressing against her body and grabbing Sakura by the waist. Her wicked fingers had no trouble finding Sakura's most delicate place. "As will you in time." As she began to rub Sakura snapped out of her trance, trying to wrestle out of the Warchief's grip. But the seven were on their feet in an instant, together the eight Clan Mothers dragged her to the floor. Ceremonial rattles (or more perhaps the collective will of the tribe) spurred Boom-Boom into action, with two sticks she beat her great drum at a plodding pace. In a unified motion, the tribe faced the throne on their knees, upholding themselves by the arms. With their legs spread wide, the mass mechanically bobbed their bottoms up and down, humping the air. With a single puerile murmur they chanted, "Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Thi'hali. Ornah Zukalaka. Ornah Oombala. Ornah Zukalaka..."

The eight Clan Mothers gripped Sakura from every conceivable angle. They forced her to sit in Jaguar Fist's lap, whom clung her arms around the neck and dug her nails into her hair, keeping Sakura in a choker hold. She then wrapped her legs around Sakura's waist in a half lotus.The kunoichi could not kick, for her shins and ankles were held firmly to the floor. Jaguar Fist Two Redfeet flanked her holding her arms outstretched. The remaining Redfeet sat on the ground to prod any open skin with their bare feet, starting with Sakura's feet, belly and her cheeks. All the while the assimilated Hinata was drawing ever closer with hungry eyes and a strand of drool hanging from her lip.

"Daughter Moon, come help your sister get undressed," said Jaguar Fist. 

Upon seeing Sakura Hinata's smile grew sweeter, squinting with delight. She towered over Sakura, coyly stepping back on one foot to prop it up on her toes. Her weird eyes crawled all every inch of Sakura's body before locking eyes. Through caught in the Warchief's grip, Sakura managed to shake her head no, don't. The Redfeet pulled her legs forward so Hinata could pull down Sakura's fundoshi. As she screamed Jaguar Fist loosened her grip just enough to help her comrades tear away the top they made for her. All the while Hinata was cackling, actually cackling! She'd never heard her laugh before, least of all like this. Hinata was laughing at Sakura's expense, her naked shame and violation, ecstatic to for the chance to rub her hands across Sakura's soft white flesh.

"No! No!" Squirming away was a futile gesture, the power that possessed these Redfeet gave them the strength of men. Still, Sakura wasn't about to succumb to the tribe without putting up a fight.

"Your sister was also stubborn," Jaguar Fist whispered in her ear. "She surprised us with how long she held out. But once the Nduzuo Seed is planted, there is no escape. The tribe must grow."

"The tribe must grow," the whole tribe groaned in monotone. All Redfoot eyes were burning with hellish light, Hinata included!

"Struggle is a good thing," Thi'hali said with a voice that echoed, as if she spoke twice all at once. "The harder you fight, the more you endure, the more powerful a Redfoot you will become."

They lay Sakura out vertically then sat on her shins, locking her legs. Jaguar Fist knelt so Sakura would be forced to lay back against the Warchief's thighs. Jaguar's hands set to work molesting Sakura's breast and belly, while the Redfeet gripped her arms. Hinata was rocking herself back and forth on her heels and toes, still staring at Sakura as one might observe a flower.

"You have the makings of a fierce warrior already," The Warchief said. "But it takes more than ferocity to be a true Redfoot. A girl must be Pure. Do you know what it really means it be pure? A pure girl is young and beautiful, who only loves other girls. In so doing, we honor The Great Snake who is the Earth and our Mother Zukalaka. We shall educate you in Purity, let the ceremony commence!" And with that Hinata raised up her leg, allowing Sakura to see the full out line of her red painted soles. The savage wriggled her toes and bared her fangs and she planted her foot into Sakura's face.

"Una! Moona!" Hinata cried with absolute pride. A sickening sound to Sakura's ears.

"UNA. MOONA," said the tribe. From the crowd two girls carrying bowls came forward. The tall girl went to her knees, offering the bowl so the Redfeet could dip their feet into its oily contents. The other girl was so small, she did not need to kneel to offer her bowl. Neither of them said anything, their faces were devoid of any emotion. At first glance they weren't different from any other Redfoot. Yet the golden sheen of their tanned skin, along with their dark hair matched Henry's. As did the crook in the corner of their eyes. The resemblance was undeniable, no matter how much Sakura wished it wasn't. The Redfeet had "taken" the Wong sisters alright. They made them one with the tribe. Sakura sniffled as she averted her eyes from their nudity. Their painted flesh and primitive piercings; the glowing eyes that forced them to comply with the tribe's perverted commands. Their purpose was to offer a slimy, clear oil, with which the Redfoot could smear upon Sakura's trembling body with their bare feet. Hinata had already "claimed" Sakura. She stepped back only to join her tribe-sisters in their anointment ritual.

As warm, sticky goo was kneaded into Sakura's breast and thighs she panted uncontrollably. Overwhelmed with layer upon layer of slime, shame, and unwanted sensual stimulation. She pleasured herself quite regularly, since discovering how. Sakura once longed for the day she would have given herself to Sasuke. Her body betrayed her, delighting at the touch of these filthy savages. Her nipples tensed up under the smothering as she gagged on the slime's briny scent. Taking a handful of the stuff, Hinata poured a long stream over Sakura's forehead, chanting the names of the Goddesses, baptizing her into the savage's creed. She clutched Sakura's face between the balls of her feet. Without a word but a smirk she squished her cheeks, enjoying the thrill of having absolute power over her captive.

"That's the way," Jaguar Fist said to Hinata. "Make her fall in love with your feet." The fallen Hyuga snorted in compliance. She hardly required any motivation! As she started to molest her captive's neck and shoulder, Sakura finally mustered up the courage to speak.

"Hinata..." Her voice and heart was breaking. "Please, you've gotta snap out of it Hinata." Hinata paused, pulling her legs away to stare at the captive. Despite how close she was, Hinata looked as if she was miles away. With a nod from the Warchief, the other Redfeet ceased their fondling. "Your name is Hinata Hyuga. You're a genin ninja for Hidden Leaf Village. Think. This isn't who you are. You're my teammate, my, my special friend. Please. Please come back Hinata. You're not one of them. You're not one of them..."

Squatting on all fours Hinata looked dazed, titling her head as if Sakura was speaking in some strange language. Her retort came without warning or hesitation. Hinata lunged in to french kiss Sakura, desperately grunting like some animal in heat. Sucking away her innocence as a Redfoot drains a boy of his life force. With her first kiss defiled, Sakura screamed.

"Hinata! Hinata!" the savage in Hinata's skin mocked. "Hinata Hyuga was weak! Hinata was a slave. Hinata Hyuga is dead! Long live noble Twin Moon! Jaguar warrior of the Redfeet!" She thrust her fists in the air, and the tribe erupted in a cacophony of cheers, trilling. Twin Moon the savage threw back her head, to howl like a wolf pup. This was no nightmare, the quiet, gentle girl Sakura had inadvertently fallen in love with was gone. Ravaged and reforged into a wild beast, was this also to be her fate? "All girls belong to the jungle. All girls belong to the tribe. And now...your first time will belong to me!"

The Redfoot stooped over Sakura to assert her dominance. She undid the stringy knots at her hips letting her loincloth fall around her ankles. The tribal chanting and drums picked up their pace. With growing dread Sakura was forced look up as Twin Moon spread open her labia with her fingers.

"Behold! This is your God now," said Jaguar Fist. Sakura wanted to shut her eyes was to frightened to even move her eye lids. The quivering flesh was descending upon her now. Twin Moon hiccuped in between her slurred fits of laughter.

"Sssakura chan is sooo pretty. I want Sakura chan's kisses. I want...I want ALL of Sakura's kisses..." All went dark as Hinata's crotch all but devoured Sakura's face. Screaming was a waste of precious air, as she was suffocated by feminine sweat stink.

"That's it!" said Jaguar Fist. "Gobble her up with your pussy. Show her how a Redfoot prays!" As Twin Moon rocked her hips back and forth, the remaining seven (that weren't helping to hold her down), resumed their work of smothering Sakura with their feet. Rapacious little hands massaged Sakura's own feet, as she continued to drown under Twin Moon's "kisses". When she finally stopped and pulled away, Sakura choked on the free air. She was hauled up further on the Warchief's lap so she could lick her behind the ears. The Redfeet then spread Sakura's knees apart, taking her feet into their own laps to greet with kisses. Twin Moon squat in front of her smug as ever.

"They've...they've taken your soul..." Sakura managed.

"The Goddesses can have my soul. I want Sakura-chan's pussy!" 

With a cherubic giggle, the Redfoot continued her lascivious feast on Sakura's nether regions. Jaguar Fist whispered sweet nothings, before driving Sakura's face back into the warm enfolds between Twin Moon's thighs. All sense of thought and control vanished as she busied herself on eating out Hinata. She didn't want to, but it was the only way she was going to survive.

The pressure was building between her loins, strengthed by the bond being lashed between the two girls. Despite this, Sakura's dwindling rationality was grateful when Twin Moon clambered off of her. Any longer in that womb-like hell and she would have lost herself entirely. Nevertheless her body was fully aroused and desperate for more stimulation, to which the Redfeet were happy to oblige. Bjabulo worms were being passed out as Twin Moon sat across from her. Despite the ritual slapping of flesh and sqeals, she could still make out Hinata's quaint little breaths as she sat there with her legs spread wide open. Sakura's heart fluttered at the sound of her rapid pants, the way her baby fat rolled in her belly as she wriggled her toes. Playfully Twin Moon smiled back, poking Sakura in the belly with said toes. They were made to share a worm, clenching their faces as both ends of the thing was pushed deep inside them. Joined by the vulva, Twin Moon held herself up as she thrust her body into Sakura's. The Warchief straddled Sakura from behind, using her body to guide Sakura's as she kissed her neck.

"I feel this ache deep inside me," said Twin Moon as she started to rock her hips, causing the worm to twist and tantalize. "It's sooo hot...I won't deny it any more. It's because of you Sakura-chan. It's because...you were so nice to me." Sakura knew the ache well. Once it yearned only for Sasuke, for he was the best of the best of their class. All other guys were scum compared to him. He struck her down, spat in the face of her love as if she were the scum. In her despair she thought she would never love again. Then came Hinata, sweet, shy, gentle Hinata-chan. The yearning grew again, like flowers that resurrect in spring. This new desire was overpowering, but it was a jumbled mess. Confusing. It was not Hinata's pedigree that Sakura loved, but that they were the same."Tell me...tell me you want me...tell me that you need me too. Just say the word, and I'll be yours forever and ever." Another worm was jammed into Sakura's mouth to deny her protest. Her face was already as red as her captors' feet, as her eyes streamed with tears. Jaguar Fist pumped the thing faster and faster. The savages took the captive's desperate moans as a sign of acceptance.

"Zukalaka-sama...I am yours forever!" Twin Moon joined in with ritual raving that filled the hall. "Please make Sakura-chan a jungle girl too...Oh Great Goddess...fill me..." Over and over she called out to her new Goddess. This savage deity of war and rape, the personification of the island, of nature's unabashed brutality. Faster and faster the drums thundered as Twin Moon drove Sakura on to breaking. Her own hips became possessed by lust, joining in with the ferocious gyration. "This is how girls are meant to live. This is how girls are meant to be. Jaguar-sama taught me..." Her mewling was infectious, Sakura knew she couldn't hold back her love for much longer. "Come with me...come with me Sakura-chan...and be *free*...Ah...ahhhh...!" There was a final collective scream, Sakura's own gurgled as worm jizz filled her throat. The tribe sighed with ecstasy, she was alone in her horror. As the afterglow flooded her mind and dulled her senses, she wondered if this was it. Had they succeeded in changing her? She was unable to deny her attraction to Hinata but...

"Help me," she thought. "If it's at all possible...somebody please help me..."


"Someday this be you," Bloodjaw's final words haunted Sakura's thoughts. Given her predicament, the threat made more sense now. The initial penetration was done, but the rape was far from over. She lie sandwiched between the Warchief and Twin Moon, engulfed in their warm, tender flesh. Girls of every size, from all over came to join them, offering kisses, foot rubs, and tramplings. Sakura was constantly being turned over as to insure that every part of her body was ravished. They grabbed her by the wrists and made her fondle other girls breasts and buttocks as they grinned like little monkeys. Twin Moon helped littluns paint her face and body with bloody tribal markings. Her mouth was held open as random girls let droplets of saliva run off their tongues. The drums relented in their ominous ceremony, switching to a more festive tune. Flutes joined in as the Redfeet took to dancing around the center brazier, singing away their cares and troubles. Sweet wine was drunk from skull bowls, while green powder was snuffed from long bamboo tubes. After such a dramatic defeat, the Redfeet needed this party to pick up their spirits and tend their wounded pride. Over and over, Sakura begged for them to stop and let her alone. So they held open her mouth, squeezed her nose and poured wine down her throat until her vision started to cloud.

Jaguar mussed up Sakura's hair as she cradled her, petting her like dog, watching the ceremonies. "Your hair is bright like a flower. It blazes like wild flower. And those eyes, they burn like witchflame." As if on queue, hooded dancers took sips from gourds before spewing their contents into the raging brazier. Upon contact with the flame the fire sparked and fizzled and the flames turned as green as Sakura's eyes. The hall grew strangely darker in the emerald haze, singing the air with a cloying vanilla like stink. "Then...we shall call you Fire Flower."

"That's a wonderful name!" said Twin Moon, squeezing Sakura's hand. "Fire Flower. It is a strong name. I love it." Her hug was genuine enough, it was almost comforting. Hinata no longer stumbled over her words, whatever brainwashing they put her through gave her a spine.

"I failed her. I failed my whole team," Sakura thought. Lady Tsunade's distant face loomed over her in disapproval. She'd never see her again. Twin Moon fell upon Sakura again to grope and bite. She tried to set aside her confused feelings, focusing on her true name lest it and her whole history evaporate. It wasn't enough for the Redfeet to own her body. They wanted her to break her, turn her into a robot they could fill with whatever lies they told themselves. The pieces were coming together, they'd keep her drugged on mindless sex. She'd be reduced to a number, no, into meat. A piece of meat! The tongues that violated every inch of her skin for the past few hours were proof enough of that. Then when she'd completely forgotten herself, they send her out to die in their hopeless war for survival. Maybe her head would adorn some Birdman's trophy pike; the tribe would burn her body and sing praises for her destruction. "Just like a ninja," a grim connection. One that should have scared her more than it did. Maybe she was just tired. Tired of trying to stand up on her own two feet only to fall over and over and over. It would be so much easier if she didn't have to think about these things. If only someone could just pluck these worries from her head. Though the evil glow in their eyes scared her, for reasons she did not understand, Hinata didn't seem to mind being a savage. She was quite happy, happier than she'd ever seen her. Maybe it would be so bad to let go of her old life, to let the Redfeet make her one of them. Why did she fear the loss of her individuality so much?

SOMEDAY...THIS BE YOU.

To lust for another girl contradicted her maternal instincts. Giving herself to Hinata would grant her security, an indefinite companion. That's all she ever really wanted wasn't it? To connect with someone, and be made whole. All manner of carnal pleasures she could give her. But a child of their own, she could not. Both of them pinned for a family of their very own. She realized to be together they would have to sacrifice the creation of their own natural babes. Being Redfeet, that was not all they would have to sacrifice. Fear quickened her pulse as the faces of the dead flashed in front of her eyes. Hinata's proclamation of "freedom" was insane. She realized there would be no end to the sacrifices.

SOMEDAY...THIS BE YOU.

Revulsion crept back over her like a shadow. This...animal wasn't her Hinata. This was Twin Moon, a born again killer. As ravishing as this ritual was, it was still rape. She wanted her Hinata, but not like this! The Redfeet were forcing her to become like them. It was becoming more and more difficult to resent them for it.

The Warchief arose to stand over Sakura and was soon joined by Thi'Hali and Needle Teeth. Each pressed their toes upon Sakura's forehead.

"By the strength of Zukalaka, I name you Fire Flower," said Jaguar Fist.
"By the purity of Thi'hali, I bless you as Fire Flower," Hikari said happily.
"By the sorcery of Oombala, I transform you into Fire Flower," mumbled The Witch.

The Triumvirate squat down around Sakura, as Twin Moon rolled away to snog with some other girls. Still restrained by the Clan Mothers, she could only lie shivering as Jaguar Fist lay down upon her. Over and over she kissed Sakura's mouth as if it were a well and she were dying of thirst. After a while she raised her head to nuzzle her nose into Sakura's, letting her legs dangle up in the air as if she were a child at a slumber party.

"You don't know how important you are Fire Flower. We need you. All of you. The Great Redfoot Dream is the only path to paradise. It is a bloody path, but what do we fear of blood? We are warriors! We relish the sight of our enemies' blood. We were born to shed his blood, for if we do not He will beat us down and make us His slave. The blood is the life, the same as Chakra. We steal the Chakra of the enemy and share in its nourishment together. We shed His blood as a symbol of our triumph over His wicked kind. A girlish foot immersed in the blood of men, stamping down on all his evil, all who would dare oppose the tribe. There is nothing in this world more beautiful. Nothing. Once the Nduzuo Seed takes root in your womb you'll see the value in my words. The righteousness of our cause. You will not have to linger over choice, your tribe has already decided for you." That was twice now the Warchief made reference to some kind of seed. Could that have been what caused her green eyes to glow harsh pink? The Redfeet were pulling Sakura's legs apart, as Needle Teeth helped Hikari take off her bulky headdress and her loincloth. Jaguar Fist herself, undid her own loincloth as another worm was presented to her by Henry's sister.

"No..." Sakura murmured, knowing full well they were going to rape her again. Her drooling vulva was soon joined to the Warchief's, as she winced at the worm twitching inside of her. "No...Jaguar please...I don't want to..."

"You will," Jaguar promised tenderly. "You will..." They forced Sakura to lay flat this time while the Warchief tribbed her. Hikari, with the smuggest of smiles pawed over Sakura's face with her toes. A mere tease to whet her appetite. To Sakura's horror, the Sun Princess sat upon her face, clenching her whole head between her little thighs. The captive's panicked cries only encouraged Hikari to hump her. One of the Clan Mothers took the opportunity to french and fondle their holy princess, their whole company merging together into a clump of gyrating lust. But for Needle Teeth, her work was less pleasurable affair, at least for the time being. She stood over the lesbian orgy, shaking her medicine rattle and invoked this incantation:

"Oh Great Queen of Darkness, Mother of all Redfeet, give us Your power. Nurture us in your womb. We submit our bodies to you, that we may never grow old and weak. May our youth ever appease you. Coil us in your limbs. Invade our minds and ravish us, until our voices are all as one. Take away all fear and shame, and make us perfect beasts of the forest. Bind our fates forever within the Weave. Appease your thirst for life with the sweat and nectar of our lust. For we are your daughters, your lovers, your faithful playthings. Appointed to protect this your holy land, with all the powers of nature at our command. We glorify thee, we glorify thee, we join our tongues and bodies, as in ages past, to glorify thee."

The trembling flames cast shadows that twisted like a hundred thousand possessed vines. Evil crept into the flames, turning them into the hellish fushica that blinded every Redfoot. With one voice they spoke thus:

"We are Redfeet. We are jungle girls. We are Pure. We are divine. We are of one mind in many bodies. Our red strings of destiny have been bound together in the great Weave. Now and forever. We can do no wrong, for we know not what it is..."

Unable to compel her captive to lick her, Hikari withdrew with a huff. Excusing herself to find another would be more willing to pleasure her. With a nod from the Warchief, the captors made Sakura sit up so they could speak.

"Soon you will become one of us, for now relax. Listen to rhythm of the drums, let the lust for girls penetrate to your soul. Focus your thoughts on transformation. As each orgasm builds you will be drawn closer and closer to perfection."

"I'm going to become a lesbian...?" Sakura managed in between pants.

"All girls are lesbians. It is our true nature. I will help your body to accept what has been hidden from you."

"...Yes..."

"Once you've accepted your lust for girls, you will have become Pure."

The drummers could sense their sisters arousal, matching their drum beat with their thrusting loins with perfect harmony. Faster and faster, Sakura felt like she was being pulled into the Warchief. It didn't matter anymore, her mind was utterly washed out from raw sexual pleasure. She'd soon cum again and her fate would be sealed. "The change is almost upon you. You can't stop it. Obey the will of your sisters. Submit to pleasure." Fluid erupted from the loins of every girl with one long syncronized moan. The drums stopped as their players fell over on themselves. Though they were not touched, they felt the collective orgasam of their sisters through the Weave. An indescrible pleasure, the lust of hundreds of young girls merged as one. Though Sakura experience was limited to her own, it was all at once satisfying and terrifying to know that she got off to another girl. Her captors let her fall back to catch her breath. Jaguar Fist arced her head back, taking deep breaths.

"Do you understand now Fire Flower? You were born to be a Redfoot. The outside world lied to you. Loving girls, living like a beast, that is your destiny. The destiny of all true Redfeet. It's time to accept yourself for who you really are. I know we have. You are Fire Flower, a true Redfoot warrior. This is who you are, who you really are. You were always one of us. Accept it. Offer your soul to the Goddesses, and become one with the tribe."

It wasn't true. It was a lie. Her true self would not allow her to be consumed by the tribe's will.

"NOOO! I DON'T WANT THIS! LET ME GO LET ME GO!" Sakura tried to squirm away, to run and hide. The Redfeet caught her and held her fast against the floor. Stooping over her, the Warchief tsked her. She ordered her warriors to lay her out flat before squishing her foot into Sakura's face.

"There's no more use resisting. You are utterly powerless before the might of Zukalaka!"


 

 

Chapter Text


For Ten Ten's initiation, Jaguar Clan retreated back to their den. To their shock, she barely winced once stripped naked. Intrigued, they pushed her around before smothering her with oil and feet. They sawed off her buns with a knife that she'd have a clean bob cut to frame her face. Long hair in their culture was a symbol of slavery, which is why they made their slaves wear it so. The Redfeet preferred a cute bob, not too long as to become a hindrance in battle, not too short as to be "boyish". Ten Ten's face remained as natural as stone as she was dragged to the floor, and littluns were let loose to "massage" her back. Either she was an utterly fearless warrior, or perhaps...

"You...! You already know the joy of others girls. Don't you?" Jaguar Fist stooped where her toes would be right in front of Ten Ten's eyes. Ten Ten wanted to bite the Warchief's stupid ankle.

"I'd rather fuck a tree than be with a slut like you."

"That can be arranged," said Needle Teeth cheeky as ever.

"I think you'll find being a slut quite natural. Everyone resists at first, but sooner or later they give in to the Truth. Just look at your friends." She squat down to grab Ten Ten by the hair. The sacramental orgy was already underway, and a Redfoot-ified Sakura was ravenously kissing Hinata. "See? Aren't they cute together? They've let go of all fear and shame. They are one with the tribe now. Free to love each other and their sisters forever. Don't you want to join them? You cannot deny the desire in your heart."

"This. Isn't. Love! This is sick! It's mindless sex for it's own sake, and you...you forced them to be like that. Y-you...you had no right..."

"You don't sound so sure of yourself little sister. What's the matter?" No matter how hard she tried, Ten Ten couldn't tear her eyes away from Hinata's naked flesh. "Ahh yes...she is a pretty one isn't she? You hypocrite, you would scold us for our sacred rites while denying what you want? Pathetic."

With a calm smile Ten Ten just shook her head. "...You may not understand this, but I actually care about the people in my lives, the indivdual. The person." Onlookers hissed. Individual, a blasphemous notion if there ever was one among the savage Redfeet. "If something is not meant to be, I am strong enough to move on." She looked to a befuddled Twin Moon who was allowing Fire Flower to suck from her breast. "Forgive me Hinata, I have been selfish and should have been more mindful of your feelings. I once thought I could...convince you. But I can see that isn't the real you. I would never try to force you to be what you are not, just to satisfy myself."

"Insolence!" The Warchief reached down to smack her in the face. "How dare you speak so of your sisters' liberation."

"You've done nothing but rob them of who they are...and you know it. Slavers! Mindless slaves all of you!"

"We offer you paradise, how can you reject it? Do you love girls or not?"

"What's wrong Jaguar? Couldn't get the village boys to look your way? So what? You killed everyone and shacked up with that tweaked out witch? Heh. Poser. I guess this is why people stopped living naked in the woods a million years ago. You hate guys so much you kill them on sight, so you have to resort to kidnapping and even brainwashing to keep up your numbers. What a stupid and ugly way to live...Those lowlife men we were after were more dignified than you!" Every word spoke was like a well placed dart piercing every one of the Warchief's joints. Ten Ten could feel the tremor coming down her arm, see the rapid flare in Jaguar's nostrils. To call her a fake was one thing, but to compare the Warchief of The Redfeet to men? Sacrilege was inadequate a word. Everyone went quiet and started with their heads down. With fangs barred Jaguar tossed Ten Ten across the floor, who tumbled clumsily but managed to roll into a crouch. Rage burned through out the Warchief's veins, her bestial eyes locked dead onto Ten Ten. The cool, collected Warchief was absent, as she cracked her knuckles her nails grew into small razors. Ten Ten put on a confident face as if she'd seen this trick before. This much was clear, she wasn't getting out of this room alive. Going out this way was far more dignified than becoming a mindless drone for these savages. She arose into a battle stance. "It's a good day to die."

The Warchief charged, offering neither a snarl or so much as a growl. Terrified by their great leader, the Redfeet let go of each other and began to congeal into a circle. The mood turned on a dime, as someone called out, "Fight! Fight!" which quickly turned into a chant. Ten Ten launched herself forward swinging her fists. Without any gods to pray to she instead thought of her team. "Lee. Neji. Gai-Sensei...guide my hands!" 

She was immediately on the defensive, bobbing and weaving out of the path of the Warchief's claws. For her part Jaguar Fist struck over and over with the speed of serpent, hitting the air with audible whups. Ten Ten sucked in her gut just barely missing a cutting graze by a hair. She returned with a solid kick aimed to head, but the Warchief side stepped it retaliating with sucker punch. For a moment the two battered each other's arms, striking, countering, and countering again back and forth. All that she knew was being put to the ultimate test in this strange clash of cultures. The Warchief was a vicious tigress whose raw instinct was sharpened in the darkest wild. Ten Ten's movements were structured and concise. Her techniques were perfected over a course of thousands of years, heralding a world of rules and laws. The comfort of civilization was a distant dream in this green inferno. Here she was buck naked, her skin smooth and shining from the tribal oils. Her attacks grew more desperate, without her arsenal she was more a cornered rabbit than kunoichi. Savagery was winning regardless, her conversion had already begun. 

Ten Ten's kicks were unlike anything the savage had ever countered before. The kunoichi smirked as she watched the Warchief fumble about as she landed several hits. Feeling confident, Ten Ten twirled on her heel looking to knock the Redfoot over in one powerful hit. A fatal mistake as Jaguar caught her leg and drove her elbow down into it. The bitch adapted, rushing forward to sweep Ten Ten's vulnerable leg and plow her into the ground. Shit! Kicking techniques were useless against grapplers. Jaguar Fist hugged her from behind, locking her arms behind Ten Ten's head.

Together they rolled around on the floor, smacking each other relentlessly. Red welts swelled up on their arms, and across their faces. Each girl grit their teeth through the stinging. Their legs became a jumbled mess as each girl put their foot into the other's face. All the while crowd whooped it up, uncaring to which way the battle went. Needle Teeth alone was unamused. 

With a clenched snarl her eyes flashed with dark power. In that instant Twin Moon and Fire Flower's eyes went dull as they lit up. Their jaws also unhinged a bit with a little drool coming off their lip. They mechanically made their way into the fight to aid their Warchief in pinning down the wayward shinobi. All it took was a single look at her former friend's painted faces and bodies to cause all spirit to leave Ten Ten. She was dragged to her feet and held still, as Jaguar Fist retrieved her signature glove to finish her off. But the Witch barred her way with her arm.

"Enough. We lost too many bodies already." Her single eye swiveled back and forth as the most devious grin crept over her face. "Let us take her down to underchamber. Then we'll see who's false." Jaguar Fist was still panting with furious rage. Her fists were still trembling, as if it were taking every bit of will she had to not tear through her "ally" to get to Ten Ten. Perhaps as gesture of goodwill, The Witch turned and nodded in Ten Ten's direction. Sakura's fist slammed into her gut, knocking the wind out of her. The Witch's smug smile said, "Satisfied?" The Warchief merely huffed. Ten Ten remained defiant, struggling in her fallen friends' grip.

"You will never take away my free will. Never you hear!"

"Oh you'll learn what it truly means to be free..." said Needle Teeth.


At the furthest end of hallway was a spiraling staircase down. Here any semblance of civilized rock formation faded away, leaving only crude cave walls. They didn't last long either, for the tunnel ahead contained skulls. Thousands of skulls. Millions of skulls. Embedded in the walls and ceiling, an endless horde of screaming faces. The passage was tight, there was no escape from their sightless eyes. "Lost souls of the damned," Ten Ten mused with a shiver. 

"Since your heart is already Pure, you will be granted a special privilege," said Needle Teeth cheerful as ever. She led the way down the hall of skulls. For a time there was pitch darkness, save the candles lit within some of the skulls that gave them glowing red eyes. A shimmering phosphorous haze overwhelmed the dark as they reached the final set of steps down. A quick glance at her surroundings and Ten Ten wished she was still in the dark. The vast chamber was completely encased in squirming, squelching vines. Vines as large and thick as trees, dark green and still growing. Smaller vines accompanied them, slithering along, sprouting red-pink lilies that attracted the demonic butterflies. Clutched in webbed sacs bioluminescent light bathed the chamber in yellowish green. Some kind of pollen sparkled in the air, making Ten Ten crinkle her nose then sneeze. Her eyes suddenly went wide with terror as all color left her face. Every hair stood on its end, as she wanted to flee from this evil place but was jerked forward. Lining the vines on the wall had to be a hundred thousand boys. Like the poor fools who met their doom during the Sun Princess' coronation, these pale youths were splayed out and cocooned in the vines. Their flesh infested with thin vines in their veins, sucking them from head to toe of all energy. The freshest of the sacrifices were painted with yellow and pale blue tribal markings. Many more of them were turning green, their bodies were slowly dissolving becoming one with the plant matter. Covering their nose and mouth, growing into their face, a mutant sac attached to a tentacle. God knows what kinds of enzymes were being force fed to these poor victims, along with a pumping vine penetrating their throats. Even more horrid than that was the sac cluster that grew over their cock and testicles. The tentacle structure pumped and sucked them off in a perpetual motion, throbbing with the sound like a hellish heartbeat. With dull eyes the captives stared bleakly into the abyss, submitting to their sordid fate. 

"Oh my god," was all Ten Ten could think to say. How? Why? It was all she could do to keep from buckling over and throwing up. Worse still, neither Sakura nor Hinata seemed bothered by this chamber of horror. 

"Keep moving!" said Twin Moon as she and her cohort dragged Ten Ten along. At the very center of the chamber sprouted the source of the vines. Every strange vine in fact that they had seen through out the island. A ten story tall pillar of twisting creepers, an abominable perversion of nature. Its leafy kraken arms spread out across the ground and ceiling in every direction. Coiled in its center the hellish pink-red light glowered like massive ember. The dark light burned bright only to darken and grow dim, over and over with every terrible breath. Ten Ten could hear from it the soft pur of a beast, a rattling sound like the angry hiss of a hundred thousand locusts. The behemoth "breathed" again, letting loose a harsh, warbling roar. Nothing of earthly origin could replicate its disturbing pitch. 

"Behold!" said Needle Teeth. Her arms spread wide before the thing. "The holy Nduzuo Tree. The beating heart of Zukalaka island!" That thing was anything but holy. Lacking any bark it could hardly be called a proper tree. An overgrown mass of briars and prickers is what it was, cursed and bolstered by whatever satanic force had possessed it. The dark butterflies swarmed the air like bats, roosting upon the multitude of red-pink lilies sprouted upon the vines. The ground was soft with green grass. There was not much in the way of tribal ornamentation in this place. A score of drums circled the field, to which Redfeet were gathering. Another blood soaked altar squat at the base of the behemoth, clutched tight in its green grip. Just behind the altar, stood three tall tribal totems. Each of which was carved in the likeness of lovely young girl, naked save for the usual tribal attire. Each of whom carried a spear close to their side, and sported a symmetrical bob haircut. Giant for their apparent age, the totems smiled warmly as the vines coddled them like everything else. Their presence cemented that this chamber was the single most sacred space to the Redfeet. Ten Ten quickly put two and two together.

"That's why the Birdmen were attacking with axes and torches. To get at this thing," she thought. The Nduzuo Tree was fearsome sight, more alien than even the Birdmen themselves. It was almost a pity they didn't succeed. But then she and her friends would be dead. Death might had been preferable from being turned into a Redfoot. 

Ten Ten was pulled off to the side, as more and more Redfeet waddled their way into the underchamber. She was to play part of the audience again it appeared. The Warchief and The Witch remained close by however. Hikari and the Clan Mothers made their way down the steps with Henry in tow. Hikari's feet did not touch the ground. Wreathed in fuchsia flames she floated along with arms wafting in the air. Boom-Boom and others took their drums.

DOOM. DOOM. DOOM. "We do not forgive!" DOOM. DOOM DOOM. "We forgive him not!" DOOM DOOM DOOM. "We do not forgive!" DOOM DOOM DOOM. "We forgive him not!" DOOM DOOM DOOM. "We do not forgive!" DOOM DOOM DOOM. "We forgive him not!" On and on the choir of girls chanted, the tall and the small. Each of them their eyes burning as much with contempt as they did the dark glow. Poor Henry was slung from a pole carried on the shoulders of two tall Redfeet. His face and body was sloppily painted blue, with zigzagging dots and arrows of yellow marked here and there. A pink spiral of runes marked his left breast, while a pair of red footprints were stamped upon each of his buttocks. A red-pink garland crowned his forehead as well as his neck, just as it had been when they took Hinata away. They also gagged him, Ten Ten could feel tears welling up to match his own. He was carried such as to prevent him from soiling the earth with his unworthy feet. Culled by the will of the tribe, Boom-Boom and her cadre ceased her drumming, sitting lotus style before their drums. The rest of the tribe remained standing. 

Hikari hovered high over the altar, sitting lotus style in the air. "Redfoot justice sees with eyes unclouded." Her warped voice echoed. "It has perfect vision! What is best for the tribe is best for all girls. To deny what is best for the tribe is to be evil."

"We are one with the tribe," said the mindless thralls of Zukalaka. 

"Bring forth the prisoner!"

Ten Ten's skin crawled as she recognized that one of the Redfeet carrying Henry resembled him, though older and clearly a girl. His elder sister! Hanging there limply, Henry avoided looking at her. Jaguar Fist made her way to the altar, warclub packed tight in her fist. It would serve as a gavel. The possessed Sun Princess folded her hands into her lap and awaited the Warchief's "verdict".

"Like all slaves, you were stomped down and broken. You were allowed to kneel in the presence of almighty Thi'Hali. By Her mercy you were allowed to look upon Her beauty and not be struck blind. Because of your delicate features, you were spared the wrath of Oombala." Given his girlish size, his smooth and supple skin, Henry's effeminate frame was the only reason he was still alive. The Warchief paced back and forth with her arms behind her back. "You were made to swear an oath of allegiance. To worship our Goddesses and forsake all others. You swore at the feet of the Sun Princess to serve the tribe as a slave. You vowed to accept your place under our feet. But the temptations of Nimdok, your creator, are many. And you are small and weak. Easily susceptible to his snare!" She pointed her club at his face. "You worked against the holy will of the tribe! You tried to lure our new sisters away from salvation, and back into the arms of the Enemy. It seems that beatings and whippings are too good a punishment for you. You have violated our trust and broken your vows. Therefore you shall pay the ultimate price. You are to be sacrificed, in the Rite of Florid Rider. Lay him upon the altar!" So it was done, with the help of Clan Mothers who made certain no part of his body touched the ground as he tried to grapple out of their grip. The feeling was bittersweet for Ten Ten, knowing even after all that had happened Henry had refused to give up.

Sakura let go of Ten Ten's arm, mechanically walking over to join ceremony. With a yelp Ten Ten tried to call out her name, to pounce and hold her back. But the Redfeet had already anticipated her, massing around to restrain her. A hand covered her mouth and she bit into it hard. The Redfoot was indifferent, her face totally blank. 

"Sister Fire Flower," Jaguar Fist continued. "You shall have the honor of performing the ritual. Your sister, Twin Moon has already completed this rite as part of her initiation. So shall it be for you." Hinata shot Ten Ten a most devious look. Oh sweet innocent Hinata-chan, what had they done to you?

"I'm ready already! What must I do?"

"To be a true Redfoot is to crush the sons of Nimdok under your feet. But this time, you shall crush him between your thighs." Some lewd giggles filled the air like a serpent's hiss. "Zukalaka teaches us that males are worthless as lovers, being that they have no soul. They steal Chakra from nature to sustain themselves, little better than leeches. Still, their cocks do swell up like that of a Bjabulo worm. It serves as a pathway from which the Chakra must flow. Besides this one's body is soft and creamy like a girl's. It will not be completely unpleasant for you."

"Keh, I thought this was a punishment." The smirk on "Fire Flower"'s face was just wrong.

"You will straddle him, fuck him. Drain him dry of all his Chakra. And then, at the moment of release you will plunge this straight into his black heart." One of the Clan Mothers handed her an obsidian knife, whose edge gleamed with pure darkness. Its bone handle was carved with red painted chevrons and spirals.

Sakura turned the thing over in her hands to appreciate its craftsmanship. Yet she fidgeted where she stood, rubbing the ground with her toe. "But I've never, you know...with a..."

"Trust in the Weave," The Warchief rubbed her shoulder with assurance. "The shared instinct of your tribe-sisters will guide you. As you smother him, we will chant praises to the great Jungle Goddesses, as is proper. In this way, you will not only assert your own dominance over this boy, but confirm the superiority of the feminine divine over the machinations of Nimdok. You will be Una Moona made flesh."

"Una moona," Sakura said furtively.

"Una moona," The Warchief answered with pride.

The vines upon the altar splayed Henry out in an x. Curling around his neck they held his arms and legs tight. He couldn't move even if he wanted to. With eyes glued to the ritual, the Redfeet began to chant the names of their Goddesses in tune with the lumbering drum beat. The eight Clan Mothers (including Jaguar Fist) took their respective places at the eight corners surrounding the altar. Henry's older sister and her cohort backed off to become another face in the crowd. With silent reverence the Clan Mothers went to their knees, heaving their bodies in worship. Fire Flower hopped up onto the altar to cuddle with Henry.

Ten Ten now tore more furiously into the flesh of her captor's hand. Over and over she tried to call out Sakura's true name but it remained muffled. Fire Flower coyly walked her fingertips down his breast and belly, laying her hand out flat to rub it. It crept lower to cradle his fundoshi covered genitals in her palm. All the while she rubbed her cheek against his face with false affection. The knife was still gripped in her other hand. She gave him a big broad lick across the face, to which his stern look wavered. His lower lip trembled as she continued to experiment, crawling all over his body, pinching and groping every inch of it. Bewitched by her savage beauty and furtive touches, Henry's penis began to harden.

"Ready to die pig?" Fire Flower straddled his hips. She licked the flat of the dagger, before slicing away Henry's gag.

He recalled his standard dour look. "Go on and finish it. I don't wanna live this shitty world anymore." She drunkenly laughed as she continued to molest his flesh. She bent over, engulfing his chest with hers as she laid kiss after kiss up his neck, and probed his ear with her tongue. He started to pant with wistful shame and desire. "You're nothing but a monster."

"You're the monster!" She suddenly sat up. "You and all your kind!" She glared down at him as to put him in his place. Henry just rolled his eyes. He knew she was too far gone to try reason with. Just as it had been with his sisters, when they sicced them on him. Her upper lip curled up in a snarl revealing a new fang that had grown sharp. With her free hand she slapped him across the face. Once, twice, thrice to get him to cry out before forcing her tongue into his mouth. She made a cooing sound, drinking in the sensuous delight of having absolute power over this boy. No more was she on the receiving end of a ruthless world. She dug her fingernails into his hair, letting go of the knife to grab his hand and make him hold hers. She pressed the full length of her body into his as to absorb him into herself. Indeed some instinct awoke in her. She and Henry could hear and feel the pulse of energy as it was ripped out of Henry's soul and absorbed through the skin. Bewildered he whimpered, to which Fire Flower smiled, feeling the energy bubbling up inside her, lifting her.

She continued to kiss him, taking little sips of his life force as she went. Growing wet, she undid her's and his loincloth and cast it aside. With her pussy free she rammed into his face, clutching his screaming head between her thighs. Cheekily she gripped it tighter as to crush it.

"Una! Moona!" she cried to the Sun Princess floating over her. The ceremonial chant and drumming droned on. Hikari remained silent. Her eyes shut tight with smile as she meditated. From the void of the Nduzuo Tree a black vine shot to greet Fire Flower. It's bulbous head flowered as it tickled her ear with its stringy tendrils. Playfully she giggled as she held up her hands to guard against it, but it flew around to prod her from the other side. She slid back onto Henry's chest who took in a huge gulp of air, choking on it. Mad with power she squeezed his cheeks between the soles of her feet as the vine "watched". "Kiss my foot. Do it!" Beaten down by her sybaritic dominance, Henry meekly obeyed. Fire Flower laughed at how pathetic he looked, puckering at her foot as if it were water. "Now lick them. Both of them!" Like a robotic puppy, he laved her between the toes. "Betcha hungry too," She decided she was a kind sort of Goddess. "Suck on em." She jammed half her foot into his mouth, giggling at his helplessness and delighting in his slavish affections. Were boys really this weak willed?

"Know what? I got it backwards. Monster is too proud a title for you. What you are is MEAT. Meat for our fire. You only exist for us to devour." Her smile was gone. She pulled her foot out, still shivering from the pleasurable feel of the slave's saliva. Lying atop his chest, she rested her chin on her arms as she crossed her shins up in the air. "My pussy's gonna chew you all up. Its gonna suck you up till there's nothing left inside of you." She patted him on the head with false reassurance, before planting a final kiss on his forehead. Sitting up into a squat, she scoot back on her tip toes to position herself over Henry's erect penis.

"NO SAKURA!" Ten Ten had finally managed to break through. "NOOOOOOO! DON'T DO IT!" She struggled to rip herself free from the Redfeet. "Don't do it Sakur...urk!" A sucker punch knocked the steam out of her, as Twin Moon and her cohorts doubled down on her, ensuring she couldn't interfere further. 

Her cunt was slick and dripping, her nipples erect, the captive was shaking his head in a desperate plea of no. Fire Flower was ready. Her cunt swallowed him up in one gulp. Henry's whole body jerked at the sudden stimulation. Together they made such lustful moans as Fire Flower's hips slowly pumped. The black vine waited for it's opportunity, shooting forward once Henry's mouth was wide open. It jammed down his throat, muffling his frightened cries. It pumped at the same intensity as Fire Flower. The glow in every single Redfoot eye burned ever brighter as the drums picked up their rhythm. The eight Clan Mothers arose to sweep their arms and patter around the altar in gyrating interpretive dance. The quicker the drum beat, the quicker Sakura pumped Henry. Faster and faster she went, drawing out her victim's blue Chakra with her ravishing. The seedling planted in her womb was hungry. Terror told Ten Ten that she should look away, but so great was her fright she was mesmerized, unable to tear her eyes away.

"Drain you..." Fire Flower could feel the flow of his life force funneling into herself. She clenched her pussy as to squeeze him of every last drop. "DrainyoudrainyoudrainyoudrainyoudrainyouDRAINYOOOU!"

"Drain him dry!" Came the new chant of the Redfeet. "Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!" The beat of the drums were nearing their peak, as was Sakura. She shifted down to her knees, humping and gulping down all the energy out Henry's convulsing frame. Throwing her head back her eyes were crossed as drool foamed from her mouth. From the sound of her wailing, the pleasure she was receiving was all consuming, all controlling. Her fingers grasped a hold of the sacrificial dagger, the climax was upon her! With a few final thrust she and Henry came and she let loose a long and satisfied moan. In that same instant she brought the knife down with both hands, driving it straight into Henry's heart.

Ten Ten screamed. The drums ceased at once. The eight finished their dance in the same instant, coming back low to kowtow before the altar. The black vine withdrew from the boy's corpulent final look of absolute terror, retreating back into the infernal core of the tree. True to the Redfoot Way, Fire Flower carved the heart out of the boy's chest (which graciously wasn't still beating). Dropping the knife she held it high over her head, crushing it in her fingers and anointing herself in blood of the enemy. All were silent, stupefied with faces of ecstasy. The tribe was sharing in the afterglow of Sakura's climax.

"S-sakura..." Ten Ten mourned the loss of her teammate as much as she did Henry's senseless murder. Sakura Haruno was gone, only the savage Fire Flower remained now. 

"Relax, we're only taking back what rightfully belongs to us..." said Needle Teeth. She sauntered up next to Ten Ten with her arms crossed. "The chakra in his body belongs to us. It is the essence of life, without it, nature withers and dies. The lapdogs of Nimdok stole that power. They have no right to it. Luckily we know the most, heh, fun ways to extract it. Conquering the enemy in this way is not only pleasing to the Goddess, it proves our innate superiority over them. Besides, its not like the little creep didn't get anything out of it."  "We Redfeet are guardians of the wild. It is our sacred task. But in order to grow stronger our Goddess requires offerings of chakra."

"The tribe must grow..." All other Redfeet intoned, Twin Moon and Fire Flower respectively. 

"What they said," Needle Teeth dismissively waved her hand. 

A light went off in Ten Ten's head. The rhetoric the Witch was spouting was pure gibberish. Guys and Gals might not always get along, but needed each other if the human race wanted to survive. Not to mention, Needle Teeth's eyes alone were not glowing! This so called faith of theirs was an utter farce! The true source of the Redfeet's power fumed from that evil tree. 

"I thought there were three gods." The Witch flinched as if Ten Ten had just slapped her, but quickly recomposed herself. She could see in Ten Ten's glare that she was having none of it. The Witch stood quiet for a time, thumbing her chin before making a decision. 

"I'm going to tell you a story. It's my favorite story to tell, because it's very near and dear to me. Once upon a time there was a little girl who didn't want to get married. The men of her tribe were big. Old. Ugly. Scary. They liked to beat their wives to prove how Fierce they were. And that was when they were being nice. The other tribes like to raid each other, to steal women and girls away and make them their wives. One day, she gathered up her courage and ran away from her tribe, braving the perils of the jungle; the tigers and jaguars, the Birdmen, the man eating plants and vampire bats. Ran all the way to the forbidden house, the Temple of the Builders. Thousands and thousands of moons ago, the Builders forced the tribes to build it. That's when they weren't beating us to a pulp, or cooking us up for dinner. When they were done, the people had to pay the Builders tithes of blood. Babes and the occasional virgin were taken to the temple, never to be seen again. Now that the Builders had all gone away, their ruins were taboo, cursed so they said. It was the perfect hiding place. But the Birdmen were waiting. The elders always warned their daughters to beware the Birdman. They swoop down from the sky to carry us off to their mountain lair, and there they would torment us forever. Force us to have their babies, notice a pattern? After some...heh...umm...clever thinking on the girl's part, she evaded the fiends by slipping down, down, down, into this very chamber. Long ago it seems, The Builders imprisoned the spirit of a powerful Queen within a then harmless Nduzuo Tree. The Queen spoke to the girl, promising to make all her problems go away. So long as she worshiped the Queen, and acted on Her behalf the girl would never have to be afraid again. She promised her VENGEANCE against her enemies, of which there were many. The girl ate of the tree's dark fruit, as the tree planted a seedling inside her womb. That girl became a Witch."

"My task was simple enough. To grow strong, my Queen needed blood and souls. I targeted the losers first, every village has them. The shuffling, mouth breathing, spineless mumblers the bigger boys love to beat on. They were sooo happy that someone out there noticed them. Were nice to them. Heh. Idiots. They're little more than plant goo now..."

Ten Ten listened attentively, almost feeling a faint bit of understanding. The world Needle Teeth lived in was barbaric and cruel. It forced her to comply, beat her down, made her a slave. She herself would never stand to live under such a system. She could easily see herself going down the same path. Yet...her pity dried up the moment The Witch turned to murder. It made her feel lucky that back home things were much freeier than they had been in the past. Someday she would be able to open her own weapons store, live and love the way she wanted with no one to hold her back. The world wasn't oppressive towards women, if anything, women had more power than ever. If a guy so much as looked at her wrong, she could see him instantly fired from his job. Jailed on her word for rape, and no one would question it (not that she would ever abuse such power). She was grateful for the civilization she came from, and the unlimited opportunities it afforded her. 

"...My Queen then decided to bring others in our little circle. More worshipers meant more power. Oombala was the third wife of Chief Nimdok. Her first child was Zukalaka. Then came the baby, Thi'hali. Both daughters were very popular among the other girls...for some reason." Needle Teeth clenched her fists at the memory. 

"Aw why the long face? I'm surprised you got anyone to listen to you. What did you do? Threaten them? Poison them?"

"Every girl on the island resented their "place", but like most knew of no other life. Scavenging for your own food is tough, more so when got a baby in your gut or sucking on your tits. At the time of our story, Zukalaka was fourteen, Thi'hali was eight. When I "brought" Thi'hali to the temple, her mother and sister quickly followed. My Queen said we needed them in order to sway others to our side. Ours was to be a coven you see. As it turned out, Oombala was too old for the process to take root. It tore her body apart and her soul escaped before my Queen could make use of it. We never tried to take anyone over the age of nineteen after that. Zukalaka and Thi'hali however were ripe for transformation. One by one we lured the daughters of the tribes away, growing our forces. The tribesmen were cowards who hid at the crack of thunder. The more girls disappeared, the more confused they became. When we were discovered, Chief Nimdok rallied the men of his tribe, seeking to end our glorious rebellion. Somehow they "managed" to capture Thi'hali, and burned her at the stake. Zukalaka was enraged, and swore vengeance before our Queen. 

For a week the men hunted us in forest, but we held the advantage. They had only their human senses, while our Queen blessed us with the power of beasts. When we killed them in their sleep, they tried to stay awake. Some of us used our girlish charms to lull the fools, get their guards down, before clawing them in the back. We fed cursed Nduzuo seeds to hyenas, jaguars, and even a great tiger, sending them to battle on our behalf. We whittled away the men until all that was left was the Chief. For all his strength, he could not kill his own daughter twice. He begged and pleaded with her so. Then his own daughter killed him, to avenge the death of her beloved little sister. Yet, Nimdok was no slouch in the ways of war. The battle was furious and he struck her a near fatal blow. She would have died of her wounds anyway...so I came and helped her along. I had to put her down! The others adored her too much! So what if she was prettier than me? Stronger? Maybe, but certainly not smarter! If I let her live the Queen would have made her the leader. She would have taken what was rightfully mine! Luckily, my Queen was amused by my fast thinking, as always. My reward was thusly deserved. I founded The Redfoot Tribe, ME. In honor of the blood that stained my feet, when I stomped that bitch's guts out. With the men defeated the stragglers were left vulnerable. The weak were sacrificed and the elderly were erased. At my command, my army scoured the island for the other tribes of men. All of their daughters were brought into the fold. We did not stop until only Redfeet were left alive."

"Still haven't gotten rid of the Birdmen."

"Keh. They've always been there. One day we'll kill them all. But for now, they serve their purpose. Giving our warriors a clear enemy to fight." Needle Teeth grinned as cool as cucumber, shrugging her shoulders as if to say pretty impressive huh?

Ten Ten spat at her. "You disgusting freak...to think anyone would go so far..." In the end Needle Teeth became the very thing she hated, transcending into a tyrannical beast. The ninja looked up at the gawking Redfeet, their eyes glazed over with Weave Trance. All of them stood as stiff as scarecrows. "How can any of you stand for this? Can't you see she's been using you this whole time? Wake up! You've got to wake up!"

The Witch cackled uproariously at Ten Ten's little outburst. "You think they care? They see and hear what I want them to. Those few who do figure out the "truth", prefer the little fairy tale I gave em. Almiiighty Zukalakaaa...Ooombalaaaahh! Una moona! PAH! If only those idiots could see me now. Of course, those who refuse to play nice, end up with the boys on the wall." 

As a vulgar display of power, Needle Teeth caused all to fall to their knees in pain. Her eyes glowed more brightly and more terribly than all other Redfeet. "I alone read their thoughts. I know of all treachery before it happens, so no one even tries...unless I want it to. I can take over their bodies like the puppets they are. No Redfoot is EVER ALONE because I am ALWAYS NEAR. Always...The Weave is an invisible noose that everyone wove together with their identical desires, their identical memories, their identical longings. Humans aren't so different from one another. Like a pretty choker, all must wear it. Should I become displeased, I need only give it a single tug..."

The Redfoot who was once Henry's elder sister began to scream in agony. She clutched her head as streams of blood ran from her eyes, her ears, and her nose. She clutched at her belly as if something was trying to force its way out. Veins spread across her skin like so many vines as she convulsed wildly on the ground. With a gurgle she died, and none of her tribe-sisters seemed to notice. They lay where they fell, locked in blissful trance. Ten Ten and Needle Teeth alone stood standing. 

"We might be savages, but even savages gotta have rules and crap like that. Besides forcing everyone to be mindless zombies all the time got boring. I let the Clans form just to see what would happen, and I've gotta admit my "sisters" have been quite creative. We used the picture writing left behind from the Builders, and modeled our cult after theirs. Hee hee, its funny. When the Builders disappeared, the elders banned all their old traditions. Blood letting, head hunting, human sacrifice, kebab...Its all made a tremendous come back under The Redfoot Way. I'm rather proud of the society "we" built... Even so, even in death Zukalaka is just sooo popular. And who doesn't want to protect a girl as adorably precious as Thi'Hali? Keh! They even named the damn island after her! I would have erased them both from memory, but my Queen decided that the tribe should worship Her through them." She snorted. "I don't see what the point is, something about the lie twisting them further within. She said its like adding a spice or something. Enhances the flavor of Her power and strength."

"So not only did you betray and murder your peers, you turned them into false gods." Ten Ten doubted this bitch ever had friends.

"I've given girls everything they could possibly want, and then some!" Needle huffed. She rubbed her belly with great satisfaction. "No Redfoot will ever suffer the pain of childbirth, nor do we suffer the time of blood. No more cramps! HA! The Nduzuo seedling devours all such unnecessary baggage. It grants us the strength and senses of beasts. It opens the mind, letting us slaughter our enemies without remorse, and indulge in our "mutual femininity". Our youth, our oh so precious, finite youth is extended, though not indefinitely. At least not yet. The island? It's all ours. Nobody to tell us what to do or who we have to be. Through the Weave we can instantly pass on the knowing, the skills necessary to survive the jungle, though practice keeps us sharp. It also creates an unbreakable kinship. Not just with each other, but in beasts also under the thrall of the Nduzuo Tree. All these wonderful gifts, and all our Dark Mother asks of us is obedience to her will. To protect her from the stupid Birdmen. To seek out captives to grow her army of disciples, and fresh sacrifices to keep her power nourished."

"This is all...you're a harem. A harem army for some kind of demon?!" 

"Demon is such a crude term. My mistress prefers...how do you say? Suck-you-buss"

Ten Ten was no demonologist, hardly a purveyor of any occult knowledge. However the concept was not unfamiliar to her. A succubus was common creature of folklore; an embodiment of men's fears of the female. Cruel, calculating sirens who loved not, save themselves. Vampiric devils that destroyed lives for fun. The lore was a stern warning to boys as the Big Bad Wolf is to girls. Beware ye those few wicked women in the world, who use their charms to plunder a man's heart and soul. Myth and allegory were one thing. To learn that such an eldritch horror actually existed was soul shattering in of itself. But now it was Ten Ten who was helpless in the hands of a Queen Succubus! One who had destroyed entire villages from within, and enslaved its daughters to the whims of one twisted little despot. 

"I'm tired of talking." A black vine poised itself over the Witch's shoulder like cobra ready to strike. "Please become assimilated now." 

Ten Ten was cursing herself as she took stock of her surroundings. While Needle Teeth was babbling, living vines were squirming all over the field. Wrapping up each and every Redfoot in a most obscene embrace. Even the Sun Princess now had vines slithering up her arms and legs. Ten Ten shifted her gaze back to one poised over the Witch's shoulder. Its head bloomed, its pink-red pedals drooled with anticipation. It wailed with sound like piglets getting slaughtered. "There's no way...there's no way you're gonna put that thing inside of me!"

Her defiance was cut short. With a scoff from the Witch vines burst out from the ground under Ten Ten's feet. Needle Teeth watched as the kunoichi tried to dance around them, tear away from them. A feeble effort, Ten Ten was soon restrained, lifted into the air with the rest of the now moaning Redfeet. The vines began to pleasure their nimble bodies. Engulfed in vines Ten Ten began breathing rapidly as little tentacles caressed her face, and nipples. She winced as they tightened around her wrists and ankles. Needle Teeth sat upon a very large vine, that lifted her up that she might look at Ten Ten face to face.

"You've lost ninja. Soon your secrets, your battle techniques, it'll all be absorbed into our collective memory. As will your soul. Pledge yourself to our Goddess and the tribe."

"You mean forsake my loyalty to my village."

"Naturally!"

"Never!"

"Neh...then you won't mind if I watch will you? "

A stream of lumps passed down the connecting vines, pumping demonic bile into Ten Ten's mouth. She had no choice but to swallow it gulp by gulp, lest she choke upon it. 

"Drink deep of the nectar of our lust, and receive the Seed of Nduzuo...Become one of us..." The black vine nestled deep into Ten Ten's vagina, thrusting on and on to force her into arousal. It came early, planting the evil seed deep inside her womb. Despite that it did not relent in its lewd assault. Another skinnier vine penetrated Ten Ten's belly button as she flopped helplessly in the air. The rest of the tribe was sharing in this mass ravishing, what few weren't being force fed were mewling praises to their false gods. Veins began to spiderweb outwards from Ten Ten's belly button and crotch. She could feel her insides being rearranged from the inside. The seedling was hatching, its tendril vines would burrow through out the length of her body. Soon she would be infested from head to toe.

"Everyone's doing it. Why fight it? Even your friends are Redfeet now. Don't you want to join them? Don't you want to be with that girl?"

Ten Ten opened her eyes to bleakly look upon the savage who was once Hinata Hyuga. The girl squirmed with delight as the vines fucked her raw.

"Her name is Twin Moon now. And yours shall be Jade Edge. It's not too late. You can still be with her... once you submit to The Weave." By now the vines were thrusting furiously, her heart beating like a jungle drum. For a brief moment her entire body was covered in pulsating veins. The climax and her mind were about to break.

"No...no good," she thought. "Can't fight it...no...more...More...MORE! Something's coming over me...I'm turning...I'm turning into one of them...Can't stop....don't want to...stop." The veins slowly melted away into her skin, leaving it as pristine as it normally was. Her final euphoric scream was muffled as her loins erupted with slimy jizz. Her voice was but one of many as the tribe came at once. Ten Ten's eyes burned bright with the Weave glow. 

Lying on the ground, softly panting for breath, her teammates crawled into place around her on all fours. The girl that was once Ten Ten urinated, relieved to finally be able to let go. At long last she could accept her "true" nature. Her tribe-sisters watched the flow with wonder, smiling with pride as her pee pooled on the floor. Fire Flower and Twin Moon looked up at one another knowingly, before they pressed their faces into their new sister's body. Purring like kittens as they went, they nuzzled and spooned with her. When Jade Edge opened her eyes, they were still glowing, just like everyone else's.

"That means Hi...no...Twin Moon is behind me..." Twin Moon's arms crept around her belly, she was already licking behind Jade Edge's ear. She shivered with relief, at long last her aching desire would be satiated. She who was once Sakura held Jade Edge's hands, snuggling up closer so the two could make out. "I am glad."


 

Chapter Text


Had it been weeks? What even was time? Even that much coherence had been lost on Ino. Her whole world had been reduced to the darkness of the cell. The grin on her face was akin to a shattered mirror image. 

"Everybody's gone now..." her voice was barely a whisper. She didn't even register the insects crawling all over her, nibbling at her legs.

"WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?" A grasshopper said in a man's phantasmal voice. "GIVE UP AND DIE ALREADY."

"I'm already dead..." She couldn't help but giggle, despite her tears and breaking voice. "I died and went to Hell!" Her mad laughter fluxed between manic glee and sobbing. When the Redfeet came to take her away, she barely noticed them. The vines binding her came undone and she fell to the floor, limp and hardly breathing. The guards were almost afraid to touch her. They carried off neither to Throne Room, nor the Den, nor even the dreadful underchamber. She was taken to a small dark room with a stone cot at its center. A fireplace in the opposite wall, bathed the room in an infernal glaze. Cut into the walls were several alcoves, shelves lined with canopic jars, flickering candles and decaying skulls. There were rows of little dolls, carved in the likeness of pretty young girls dressed as tribal warriors. Each of them was unique in the colors chosen for their loincloths as well as the design of their swirling war tattoos. The little masks they wore either resembled horned beasts, or had elongated faces with wicked grins and howling war faces. One sneered with childish little lips, its eyes little more than slants. Other ornaments littered the shelves, obsidian knives, shamanic utensils such as strange wooden barbs, scoops and hooks that were plumed with tassels or feathers. There were mortars and pestles alongside wicker baskets and bowls. The air was heavy with the earthy stink of pungent herbs. Vines crept inside through a crack in the ceiling, immersing it in a green web. Witch ladders were tied to the stems while the horned skull of a bull hung over the cot. They lay Ino upon the cot so that she'd have to look at it staring down at her. 

It could be supposed that the masks the Redfeet wore in this room were meant to be medicinal to an effect. While the guards stood about the doorway, the masked ones bowed before the cot. They then jumped up from their toes and pranced about it in a weird interpretive dance. Ino remained catatonic where she lay. It is unlikely that their nymphal dancing did anything to actually help resuscitate their captive, but it "felt good" to perform it. It felt like it was helping, so to the Redfeet it was healing her (even though it wasn't). They made no noise other than a soft pant, and mercifully banged no drums. Satisfied, they quit prancing and slowly began to undress Ino. They cut a line across her top while slicing her skirt at the hips and pulling them away. The same was done to her arm sleeves which revealed hidden shinobi tools strapped to her forearms. The "healers" (such as they were) recoiled at the sight of the black iron tools. Wearing special mits woven with sacred symbols they carefully removed the objects and disposed of them in a wicker basket. The same tepid precaution was taken when they removed Ino's earrings and her ninja headband. The healers handled each of the items as though they were blazing hot, it would have been the most blasphemous of crimes to allow an "artifact of Nimdok" to soil the Temple's grounds. All metal objects were to be taken to a special underchamber later, in which a river of lava flowed. From the cliff side the basket would be cast, and its evil contents would be purified by the flame, melted down and returned to the Earth from which they were plundered. Such was the Redfoot Way. As for the blue strip from the headband and the rest of Ino's clothes would be saved, placed alongside her sister shinobi's clothes and sandals. They would play an important part in the final initiation ceremony. 

Bit by bit they peeled away the training bandages from her pale, flawless skin. The "healers" cooed and awed at their captive's naked body. A little bit of unsightly hair had begun to sprout on her crotch. A minor blemish by Redfoot standards. It was ritualistically shaved, while the rest of her skin was washed with a medicinal mix of sea water and tangy herbs. The Redfeet used dried out sea sponges to soak her breasts and belly. They took their sweet time anointing her feet. As they did this, they sawed off her ponytail, so that her hair came no lower that her ear's length. A regulatory Redfoot haircut, her assimilation had begun. Some of the hair they kept in a small basket, which would be braided into witch ladders and other medicinal paraphernalia. The rest they consigned to the fireplace, worshiping the fire and murmuring prayers to the Sun Goddess. Her hair was then washed with the same mixture as her body was pat dried. Ino's eyes remained wide with frozen terror as the healers went about their work. Fixing her ears with proper tribal piercings, little tuffs of pretty red and yellow feathers, they went ahead and pierced her nostril with a wooden barb. Ino didn't even flinch. More out of boredom than ceremony, a healer started singing with a soft dreamy voice in the native tongue. Her fellows quickly joined in the gentle hymn as they now fingered red and black warpaint across Ino's face and body (the ritual tattooing to make the markings permanent could only be placed after the Nduzuo Seed was implanted). These makeshift markings nonetheless would help ease the captive into her new family. As would the jewelry and loincloth adorned with shells, beads, and fangs, make her more and more like a true Redfoot. She'd have no choice but to accept her place as part of the tribe. A girl could be stubborn, but part of the fun of conquering them was the struggle. Their soft voices paraded about Ino's mind, singing praises of being a girl surrounded by other girls. Of holding hands, playing and praying together, of soft, secret kisses and rubbing noses. An amiable welcome into their world. Yet she would never forget in all her nightmares to come that diabolic skull that hovered over her face like a specter of hell. Even in the times since she bore a mask in its likeness.