Actions

Work Header

Liora Daitaro

Chapter Text

     The thick fog surrounding her consciousness seemed to dissipate in a matter of mere seconds, leaving the unpleasant after effects of a tranquilizer to take heart in her tremoring hands and feet. The cement ceiling above her head shook tremulously, small pieces of cement along with dust began sprinkling down into her greasy hair. Eyes slightly tearing up from the dust, she groans out loud from the noise the crowd above her was creating. The constant stomping and shouting for blood-shed made her wake-up call all the better. Animals, she thought, as she stretched from her uncomfortable, too small for her legs, bed.

     They know we can’t possibly take them down without chakra, so why do they insist on knocking us out to transport us? At least my cell below has a fluffier bed… She thought, while cracking her stiff, aching back. The black, short sleeved shirt and tight shorts she wore soon looked as if someone has sprinkled dust on her while asleep.

     Usually, most of the prisoners here slept in the cells below the arena where they had access to bigger bunks and, more decently, a toilet to use. They also had use of make-shift gym equipment, a running track and a full cafeteria, to where inmates would work to earn money for small things around the dark, underground confinement. This was a prison only in a sense that they were not allowed to leave; they were prisoners because they have all been captured by a large group of men and women who took blood-shed and violence a little too far. Today was the weekly day of Animal Fights in the arena, also known as the Match, between prisoners.        

     The crowds became clearer as her ears began to correlate what they were saying. The usual chant commenced…

     KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!

     She shuddered as the words sliced through her mind like a sharpened blade on a leaf. This has been a weekly occurrence for the past fifteen years. Taking all of her will power to not only fight to stay alive, but fight to keep her sanity intact.           

     Prisoners began to shout to each other as they tried to rile the other up for the ensuing Matches. They’d need it if they were going to fight their own comrades, their own bunkmates… friends. No one was safe from the draw that ensued in the Old Man’s head, the Old Man who created this audacity to human kind, the Old Man who was sicker than all the rest of the blood thirsty men out in the audience.             

     Metal doors slammed shut down the hallway, instantly stilling the entire corridor of cells; anxiety and fear creeping into the hearts of every person who breathed the dusty, orange air.

     The Match cells were located on the same floor as the arena pit, rounding the arena circumference with metal doors every one hundred feet. Each cell was located twenty feet from the next one, all on one side of the hallway. A light was located on the ceiling between each one, making the light to be dim and indistinguishable to whom was coming for you.

     The Arena resembled one for the Chunin Exams held in the villages for Genin to become higher ranking ninjas. However, this arena was located entirely underground, leaving it hidden to outsiders unless you had a specific taste for blood lust… and good eyes to spot the force field, generated by mass amounts of chakra, around it. It could also resemble a Roman arena.

     Whatever that is.

     The arena itself was lit by luminescent crystals hanging from the enormous ceiling. The cells were lit slightly by the five by five-inch square hole in the wall that was a few inches from the ground of the arena. Seeing what goes on in the arena seemed to have a somewhat calming effect on the prisoners, and this made it so the entire round arena had square holes to make it look like decoration; but was actually a prisoner's way of seeing the blood baths.

     Footsteps began to echo through the silent, endless hallways as each prisoner held their breath, waiting for their cell to be unchained… meaning it was their Match up next. Different every week, you never knew if your time had come, meaning it was always a surprise. The draws were chosen by the Old Man.

     Hearing the footsteps stop at her cell, she tried to breathe as calmly as possible, but she knew what was to come. There were always three guards who came to pick a prisoner up, but they didn’t just pick her up… no, they wanted her broken. So, they’d come in before the Matches began and beat her to a pulp before leaving her to the Match. It was cruel and inhumane, especially when they feed them next to nothing but scraps from a garbage can; reduced to nothing more than will power and bones. She managed to keep her strength through the years by rigorously working herself to death in the shitty gym; knowing that her thorough Taijutsu training was the only thing keeping her alive from the maniacs that threaten to bring her down.   

     The keys jingle in front of her cell and she opens her closed eyes to see three guards standing in front of her. Riker was in the front, Riku, the back, and Karo was off to the side, holding the Rod of Agony, as the prisoners referred to it as.

     Riker stepped into her line of sight, the square from the light of the arena illuminating his tanned face. The armor he and the goons wore resembled that of the military that once fought for her village, but different colors and antiquity. Bright green eyes focused on her and he smiled sweetly, kindly. The dark, curly hair on his forehead had stuck to his face from supposed sweating, making him look somewhat handsome. However, she knew of this facade; this man was pure evil, his smile a trick to make you trust him. It happened the first few times she met him before he tried killing her on plain sight because of her smart mouth. Being the first few times, she’d been in pristine ninja condition, leaving him black, blue and bloody as well.

     Now, it entailed endless beatings before each Match. It was necessary, the Old Man says, in order to make the Matches fair between competitors. The stronger will be beaten to make up for the lesser of strengths.

     "Ah, my favorite girl, how are we doing this fine morning?” he purrs, the wickedness in his voice disguised through deceit… and probably fairly decent acting skills. Riker brings his muscular hand to scratch his chin casually, the tension in the small cell growing thick with hatred and a growing sense of unease.

     He frowned thoughtfully, “Not up for talking today, love?” he says, while she slowly shifts into a firm stance, causing him to eye her suspiciously. “Usually you’ve got quite a mouth on you…”           

     Suddenly, he lashes the arm he had used to scratch his chin straight to her strong-jawed face. Her ninja training kicking in as she saw his first movement and went to block her attacker's foolish, wide-armed move. She grabbed the arm that came for her and wrenched it towards her back, bringing her palm up and smashing it into her assaulter’s nose. The crunching noise was satisfying as she shoved him back towards his goons, gracefully landing in their arms.

     Smiling slightly, she knew she would regret it in no more than thirty-eight seconds.

     Relax… it’ll hurt more if your muscles tighten.

     She shut her eyes and waited for the attack to come. By the sounds of the shuffling that came in front of her, she’d say it’d be in about fifteen seconds. Groans were being made by Riker, a clear sign she’d done some damage to that perfect nose of his.

     Around five more seconds if the anger she sensed was anything to go off of. Breathing in a shaky breath, it happens.

     Without an ounce of grace, a hand grabs the back of her neck and shoves her into the cold ground of the cell. Cement smashing against her face, she feels a hot breath on the back of her ear, instantly knowing whose it was. Riker’s accent and breathing sounded alike: foreign, hasty, dangerous.        

     Sighing deeply, he talks into her small ear, “After all these years, love, we still haven’t broken that fighting spirit of yours. It’s incredible really, almost… sexual,” she feels him breathe in deeply by her hair with no intent of hiding it. “…and incredibly annoying,” he growls.

     There’s suddenly a deep pressure on her back, one that started to slowly make her back go numb… but also, cut of the air supply in her lungs. Eyes widening in realization, she struggled to no avail, gasping now with each breath. This move was used for a quick death… or hours of torture, if you knew how to. She could hear their laughter as she flailed uselessly, fear beginning to peak over her brave facade. 

     “You know; you were so beautiful when you first were brought here. Long, flowing red hair; a perfect, succulent ninja body… beautiful, vibrant violet eyes. Oh, you were the epitome of beauty, love. The one person nobody would think to survive,” he yanked her hair up to look him straight in the twisted, evil eyes that he so proudly wore.

     She spits in his face with no shame, this man deserved to see nothing of what she had to offer.

     Never.

     Gripping her hair tighter, she brings her inches from his face, her gasps for air echoing weakly across his face. Sneering in anger, he replies, “Now… now, you’re a skinny, pale face red head with defected eyes. I know what you’re thinking,” he smiles, “’I’m going to escape someday, somehow, and I’ll go back to where I came from where I was loved! Oh, it’ll be lovely…’” he mimics half-heartedly, “but I’ve got news for you, sweetheart, you aren’t going anywhere. Let me… prove it to you.”

     With that last comment, he let her face smack against the floor, bringing his leg back to connect his foot with her face. When her head had snapped the other direction with blood gushing from her nose, the goons deciding that was enough to start their assault.

     Riku, the heavier man on top of her, simply kneeled on her; the weight from his body doing enough to torture her small frame. The next goon took to kicking her harshly several times in one spot, potentially damaging internal organs. Riker took to handling the small device which the third guard held earlier, an electricity device: the Rod of Agony. Activating it, he watched in amusement as she began convulsing from the electricity shooting through her oxygen deprived veins. 

     If she had the lungs to do so, she would’ve screamed bloody murder. Screamed until her voice was raw and bleeding. The panic and anxiety she felt from earlier coming to make a frightening round as the electricity only vaulted higher and the goon started on a new place to kick. Gasping for depleted air and aching from damage being left by the skinny goon kicking her, black spots began blurring her vision. She begged for unconsciousness to become her savior in her time of suffering.

     It never came.

     It seemed like hours, only being minutes, when they actually stopped torturing her fragile body. Riker had come and swiped her face a few more times with his foot, leaving her in a puddle of her own blood. Thick, red blood oozed from her broken nose and from her mouth where her insides were probably damaged thoroughly. The heavy man who kneeled on top of her had finally lifted, causing her to instantly suck in as many breaths as she could handle. Coughing and wincing as her lungs screamed in agony, she looked up to see Riker standing over her.

     “I like you, you know that, right, love?”

     She closed her eyes to his maniacal laughter that left her ringing ears to cringe.

     Trying to breathe hurts… must’ve either broken my ribs or bruised them pretty good… rat bastards.

     Breathing in a raggedy breath, she tried to move herself to her bed, but with no avail. The seering pain in her lungs and head had her sinking back into her puddle of blood, ignoring the way unconsciousness finally decided to swoop in and kidnap her mind.

     Everything sinking into a black abyss.  

~~~   

     The night surrounding her and the man she loved was a perfect venue for romance. After a particularly nasty storm, Konoha’s calm sunset was one to be admired; the clouds tinged a bright pink and orange, fading into darkness as the stars swept in for their time to shine.

     They sat on top of the Hokage monuments, sharing some warm Sake and chocolate as the sun went behind the trees and they were left with the stars of oblivion. “Did you talk to the Hokage?” he asked quietly, trying to keep his voice light in lou of the conversation they were about to have.

     “I did. They are in need of a medic on the next journey, but then after that I’m free to quit,” she said while sighing heavily, taking a sip of sake to calm her nerves.

     The young man nodded as he shifted closer to the young woman. Dark eyes stared into vibrant violet ones, urging her to speak. When no more came forth, he decided to start.

     “I know you can’t say no to the Hokage… how much you worship him and all. I know you want to make this village safer, and to make your fellow ninjas respect you. But… Liora, there comes a time where you have to think about your safety before you think of others!” he exclaimed, worry pouring over his sharp features, "We both know it's taking a toll on you that is damaging far beyond normal."

     Violet eyes met his and he stared at the beautiful woman in front of him. The blood red hair shifted in the slight breeze and her mouth curved into a small, heavenly smile.

     “Did you bring me all the way up here to tell me what I already know?” she joked quietly.

“…no.”

“Well, then just enjoy this last night we have together until I come home,” she said, taking another small sip of her sake.

     "I just… want you to come home safe. Three months just seems too long.”

     Sad eyes met his and they stared at each other for longer than they should have. She looked down and watched as he slipped his hand into hers, intertwining them tightly as her brought her hand to his mouth. Feet dangling off the edge of the monuments look out point, the wind kicked up, blowing her long, loose her to the side of her face.

     “Do you know how beautiful you look, Liora?”

     A blush creeped down her face and she looked to his side, pretending to be modest.

     “You look so beautiful and you know it. Nobody in this village can deny that you’re so beautiful… and strong, oh lord, so strong. And you’ve got the entire village to choose from when it comes to picking someone to love…” he said, kissing her small hand.

     Smiling a real smile, she brings his hand to her lips and kisses it lightly. “I may have a choice… but I know that you’re the one I want to be with.”

     Bringing her hand to rest in his lap, he began playing with her fingers with shaking hands. Liora looked at his face to try and see what had him so upset; he wasn’t being his usual, over-zealous, enthusiastic self. The stars above them twinkled as they held the moon in their tight embrace.

     “Liora… when you first moved to the village so many years ago, my dad was my only friend. My best friend and my greatest supporter. When I wasn’t accepted to the Academy… I was so devastated with myself,” he said, not looking at the woman in front of him who was staring intently at his black hair.

     Taking a deep breathed, he continues, “I remember the day you came to tell me that I could do whatever I set my mind to. When my dad died, I was so beyond sad, it was debilitating… and you were there with that cocky smile, that attitude that gave me hope.”

     Dark eyes suddenly looked up to her, intense, thoughtful, “I dedicated myself to train harder than anybody. You were so skilled in medical ninjutsu, I was so…” he breathed, “jealous.”

     Liora giggled as she took his jaw into her hand and rubbed gently, letting him lean into her soft touch more.

     “I was so captivated by you… and when you wanted to train with me, with ME, well I was so happy. You’ve become my best friend throughout the years. You are my greatest rival… yet biggest supporter.”

     He stood and pulled them to their feet, the chill from the night finally beginning to set into their skin. Liora shivered as he smiled and bent to kiss her. The small kiss was sweet and intimate, slow and not demanding. It was just them at the top of the monuments, just them sharing this moment together.

     Pulling away, their foreheads touched as he breathed, “I love you.”

     Humming, she smiled and kissed him again, leaning farther into his warm embrace. “I love you too.” His muscular arms tightened around her as he sucked in one final breath. Sliding slowly down onto one knee, he looks up to her nervously. Liora stares intently down at him, realization finally dawning on her face.

     “Liora Daitaro… you are my best friend, my greatest rival… and my biggest supporter…” he pulled out a ring from his pants and holds it up to her while holding her other hand. The crystal in the middle was fire opal with black metal around the circled gem. The moonlight glistened off it's shining middle and the metal looked darker than a midnight sky without a moon.

     “Will you do me the honor… of being my wife?”

     Silence was all that could be heard as he waited for his beloved to answer. Seconds ticked and all he could hear were crickets rubbing their legs to create a soothing sound. The night became thick and sweat dripped down his angular face. Gulping, he raised the ring higher for her, to indicate he wanted to know her answer.

     … Cricket.

     “Li…Liora…?”

     … Cricket.

     “Will you be…” he was suddenly cut off by the young woman leaping onto him, sending them both toppling to the ground. Her weight on top of him, she laughed and laughed as he looked as confused as a toddler finding out they could use jutsu for the first time ever.

     “Of course I’ll marry you, you dimwit! I was just pausing for…” she paused, as he fumed silently beside her, “dramatic effect!”

     “Why you little…!” she silenced him with another kiss as she stole the iridescent ring from his hand, sliding it on her finger. Admiring her finger afterward, he looked at her through new eyes. This woman sitting on top of him was going to be his wife… His Wife. This woman was meant to be with him and they both knew it.

     “We’ll start planning the wedding when you get back, but for now, I thought you’d like a little reminder of what you have to come home to,” he flashed her a wide grin.

     Tears began welling in her shining eyes as she drags him in for a bear hug. The small, yet muscular body that wrapped itself around him was so soothing, he didn’t think he could let her go tomorrow.

     Letting her go for now, he looked into her happy eyes, “I love you, and I’ll be waiting right by that gate when you come home.”

     Smiling, she sniffled and kissed his nose while he laughed out loud, embracing her tighter with no intentions of ever letting go.

~~~

Dimly, consciousness began to swim upon Liora as she gasped into reality. Trying to lift her head, she was met with debilitating dizziness and pain shot through her, from her head to her toes. Trying to figure out why she felt slightly happier than earlier, she realizes it was a dream.

     It was a dream… past memory, more like it. One of the few good ones.

     On particularly rough days, her subconscious dreams would gift her a past memory. Being stolen so suddenly meant she never got to say goodbye to anybody… not even the man she planned to marry. The memories always involved the days they had to themselves because they were the only things keeping her alive at this rotten point. On those rare occasions, she’d dream of his dark eyes and bright smile; a warmth that invaded her every fiber of her being.

     The ringing she made out is what sounded like the Announcer, so she tried to tune into what he was saying. The dark reality of her situation finally coming back to her.“

     "… Welcome back Ladies and Gentleman. I know you’ve all been waiting for this moment," the crowd seemed to go wild through her narrowed channel of hearing.

     “As you all know, we started this hoe-down around fifteen years ago. We captured a young lady in her youth as an… wait for it… Anbu Black Ops member!”

     “Boo!” the crowd drawled loudly.    

     Shit. They’re talking about me. I can’t even lift my head, she thought groggily.

     They had caught her when on a mission with her fellow members a few weeks after they left on their last mission. At the time, she was a part of the Healing Division, going along on missions to heal the wounded… and help keep alive enemies who they needed information from. The memories of blood and screams that she caused still traumatizes her.

     “We know, we felt the exact same way!” the Announcer cooed, “So, just like everybody else we’ve ever captured, we’ve been able to take away her Chakra abilities!”

     The crowd roars.        

     She can feel the metal bar that had been inserted into her body that was placed right between her shoulder and collar bone. Strategically inserted there, it not only prevents the wearer from taking it out but also prevents Chakra from flowing anywhere; essentially cutting off the person from all jutsu related matters. Leaving them naked and weak and vulnerable. The metal is right next to a main artery and any sudden removal would have the person bleeding out in mere minutes.

     Being a medical ninja, she knew exactly why they placed it where they did with spikes on the end. Others wouldn’t listen and those were the days she really hated having red hair. Blood red hair reminded her of blood, pure and simple. The simple fact was that… it was impossible to take out the metal without delicate medical surgery. Something they could not even think of in a place like this; crawling with Chakra infused guards who wanted nothing but to see you suffer. The Chakra veins would take hours, even days to refill to the point of precision and even being a medical ninja can’t help preventing the inevitable bleed-out if she were to try.     

     “However, this young woman didn’t want to be here in the first place…”

     True.

     “…so, she would never give into the blood and violence we so desperately craved… Our solution?! Give her… The Serum!”

     Liora ignores the screaming pain in her body to drag herself to a sitting position and starts to shiver violently as the world lurches from side to side.

     The Serum was for prisoners who didn’t want to fight, or did it cleanly, which wasn’t what the audience wanted to see. Blood wasn’t something she liked to see much, ironically, considering she was a ninja in the Black Ops. The first time they had used it on her was when she had snapped a woman’s neck cleanly, refusing to dig into her body for blood to spill. The next round that came around changed quickly…

     They had given her the Serum. Hoping it wouldn’t work for her, she had tried to kill the man in front of her as cleanly as possible. However, it didn’t end that way. Halfway through the match, her eyes started to fog over with a glaze that she can only describe as a sepia color. Then, her limbs started to burn, almost as if with fever. The anger that tainted her agonized mind turned to the person she was against in the match, and all she wanted in the next moments was to see his blood spilled at her feet.

     Her theory is that the man who created the Serum would make the human in contact of the Serum that of a wild beast, with a thirst for blood. Every time it’s used on her, all she can think about is how much blood can a person lose when it’s just her bare hands doing the work for her. It’s become somewhat of a game between the beast she becomes, to find the most creative way for a human to lose all their blood.

     So, so many ways.

     “With this, she resorts to an animalistic stage where all she wants is blood, blood and more blood! Just to satisfy all you crazy animals!”

     Crazy, crazy, crazy animals.

     While her hearing had been coming in and out, she didn’t realize when the door to her cell had opened. Jumping slightly at the sudden sound, she looked to see that her tormentor has returned.

     “Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged out of the bag. You look lovely darling, really, you do. But we have an event to go to,” motioning over his thumb as if they were friends going to hang out with buddies, “so, let’s get going, love.”   

     Lifting her up by the arm harshly, he hooked it into his own, almost carrying her weight as her legs threatened to collapse from the dizziness she was currently experiencing. Riker began to walk with her out of the small cell and into the chilly hallway. With two guards on either side of her, she tried her best to keep her brave face on as she swayed to either side, coughing up blood halfway down the corridor. It seeped down her chin and ran down her neck into her black shirt, making it look ghastly.

     “Honestly, love, the crowd loves it when you look so famished. Trust me, I’ve heard them talking good about ya when you look ghastly before the Match even begins!”

     “Great to… know,” she tried to whisper, mumbled as it was.

     “Shhh, darling, don’t talk. Save it for never,” he chuckled loudly.

     Head lolling to the side with blood seeping down her chin, she looked into one of the cells to see a poorly disfigured young woman. Another No-Blood, as they called them, ones that don't want to fight dirty, like Liora. The Serum, however, did have its perks. Once your brain and body have metabolized the Serum, in about a quick ten minutes, it puts your brain into a fog of nostalgia.

     Euphoria and hallucinations, the best combination around. From the Match, you're taken from the arena to a special set of cells to let you enjoy your fun. Since survival was achieved, there was also the perk of being healed by a medic afterwards. 

     A sudden jerk from the side rubbed her tender ribs the wrong way and she hissed in a breath. Riker was suddenly in front of her and had licked his hand as he smeared her eyebrows into place and patted down her matted hair. Standing back to admire his handiwork, he shrugs and pulls out a needle to insert the Serum.

     On any other occasion, she would have tried to steal the needle and inflict damage onto the guards, but seeing as she’s suffering painful internal wounds and most likely a concussion to match, she’d rather not face the headache.

     Save your energy for the Match…

     Riker, realizing that she isn’t going to try anything, injects the neon yellow serum in her neck without a fight. It bubbles and glows as it slides into her bloodied neck.

     “I don’t blame you for not trying. After this takes effect, though, all you’ll want is that guys blood. Don’t worry about that pain, love,” he winked before unlocking the door to the arena. The muggy air washed over her face as she smelled fried food and Sake. When she didn’t immediately step out the metal door, Riker roughly shoved her through, causing her body to flail onto the dusty ground.

     The crystal light flooded her sensitive nerves as she looked up from the dusty ground of the arena. Being there was no blood on the ground yet, as they clean and bring in new dust every Match, she was the first one up. Breathing in the orange dust, her ribs and head were in raw pain as the announcer spoke into his loud microphone, echoing to the masses of a few hundred in the arena. 

     “Ladies and Gentlemen… I give you… LIORA!”

And the crowd went wild.

Chapter Text

     "I give you... LIORA!"

     The crowd's roars were enough to send her mind into a fight for consciousness, the battering sounds clanging around in her fragile eye drums. The arena held its' usual few hundred occupants, most of whom were drunk sleaze balls looking for something to entertain their boring life. The smell of Sake and fried foods was unbearable to her growling stomach.

 

     Fucking barbarians... Least they could do is feed me before I fight... Her stomach growled again, I really, really want some Sake. Man...

     The large crystal structures that served as light for the arena were powered up by the use of chakra from staff members and some illumination from the lake up above. They glowed luminous colors, all changing constantly from the lake's movement up above. Which is where she had been captured in the first place: the lake. The team she was with stumbled upon it when they were on a three month long mission, most of them were destroyed by the Old Man's puppets, the rest were sentenced to a life in arena... only Liora is left from the seven that were brought to this place of torture... she killed three of them herself. 

     With her ribs aching and her vision starting to blur with the effects of the Serum slowly making their way into her blood stream, she finally decides to peel herself up off the dusty, orange ground. The effects are already kicking in... Shouldn't be too long before the pain stops, she concludes as her feet place themselves underneath her.

     The announcer had been speaking the entire time, but she didn't hear him, this is her life until she can escape. She only knows one thing: stay alive. 

     I probably should have just died a long time ago, her eyes focus on the young girl in front of her, almost in pristine condition, unlike herself. Her brown, flowing hair still brushed and her eyes not dulled from brutal experience. Apparently, I think I'm going to escape, she muses to herself, the pain finally ebbing and her beast like senses taking over... Which also brought a sick and dark mental humor, Like something miraculous is going to happen. I'll get rescued or I'll somehow let this little girl kill me...

The young woman in front of her was shaking. Newly brought in, she was of Chunin level. Her and Liora had laughed a few times during mess, she was from the Sound Village... Clara, her mind provided her the name. Feelings of sadness tried to puncture the beasts blood lust, but to no avail. It was almost impossible to feel anything but the boiling of blood lust, though she could still think rationally, just not enough to stop what she was doing. She liked this girl, she reminded her of herself... but Liora knew what was to come... and so did the young girl. Her wide, brown eyes focused entirely on the way Liora was looking at her... Like she was a balloon ready to be popped. 

~~~

     "Don't fucking touch me!" a shrill voice rang out in the dark, chilly chamber of the mess hall. About three days before the next Match.

     Liora sat at her favorite table with her newest companions, ones that most likely wouldn't last one round, but hey, she loved the underdogs. They were making menial small talk when they heard the commotion Riker was causing a young, brown-headed girl. Searching to where the sound came from, he found Riker cornering the young ninja. His accent probably drew her in, then she would know what real torture was: that man was pure torture... especially his breath. She sighed heavily and picked her scrawny butt up from her dirt seat and sauntered her way over to the coward and his prey.

     As she approached, she noted the ninja was quite young, her black-brown eyes almost matched her hair, and her bottom lip quivered, mostly from the chill of the underground prison, but also from the disgusting Riker trying to assume authority over her.

     "Hey, meat head! Why you gotta pick on someone so small? Pick on someone your own size," she declared, setting her hands on her sharp hips.

     Stilling, he sighed heavily and turned to face Liora. "Well, isn't it my favorite girl..." he sneered. His green eyes and fair hair did nothing to make up for the malice in his voice. He wore black armor and stubble had started to form unevenly around his face.

     "Why don't you leave her alone, she just had her surgery, you know they aren't particularly willing to do your 'favors' if they're still in a great deal of pain," she quipped, tired of the conversation already. Just like any other prison, there was always one guard who would give you something nice if you did them their 'favors'. In Riker's terms, it means he will go easy on you for the Match instead of beating a prisoner down to a bloody pulp for a more interesting match for the audience.

     "You know, love," he purred, taking small steps towards her. She could almost hear the rush of chakra running through his veins. To have such a power here, when no one else could even fathom a jutsu, had to be a power trip. From behind him, she saw the young girl slink of out of view and into the shadows.

     Good girl...

     "I think you look like you need a massage. Mind if I give you one?" he raised his hand with a ball of blue chakra forming around it. Steely eyed, she didn't flinch, and waited for him to inflict the pain he was so good at doing.

     Before he could lay a finger on her, the Old Man's voice echoed on the intercom from the ceiling, "RIKER! No battering the prisoners unless it is before a Match! You know the rules!" a size able cough and wheezing occurred before the raspy voice spoke again, "Don't make me have you thrown in the arena as well," and with that final passage, the intercom shut off.

     Riker lowered his hand very slowly. "Well, I guess I know who I'm taking care of before the next Match, isn't that right, love?" he sneered as he stepped to walk past her, sniffing her hair in the process. She kept her ground until his footsteps were out of ear shot.

     "Alright, come sit with me. You're my new friend," she shouted to the darkness in which the young girl retreated. She slowly made her way out, peering in every direction to ensure the menace was all but gone. Liora smiled and motioned her to follow. They sat down at her table and she slipped the girl the remainder of her food. Without hesitation, she dug in, manners forgotten.

     "What's your name, girl?" Liora asked quietly, watching the young girl scarf down her dinner with a ferocious appetite.

     Looking embarrassed, she blushed and paused to wipe her mouth from the 'food' they were served, "Clarabell."

     "Well, Clara, welcome to Hell."

     Clara laughed and ate slower this time, being watched by the table, but mostly by Liora. Clara revealed she was from the sound village as she ate her slop, and had just became a Chunin. She was on her first mission to the leaf village until her team was separated by fog and the next thing she remembers is waking up on a cell floor, having a rod just inserted into her shoulder area like the rest of them.

     Clara didn't know where she was or what was happening. Liora decided to break the ice and tell her exactly what was happening: the Match, the chakra blocking, the Serum, Riker, blood thirsty maniacs. She seemed distant, not knowing if anything was real or not. So, for the next three days, Liora mentally decided she would take this young Chunin under her wing and make sure she had a fighting chance... And give her a friend just in case her time came sooner than she thought.

~~~

     "LET THE MATCH... BEGIN!" The announcer screeched into his microphone. The crowd boiled from a roar to a menacing hum, urging the blood to spill. It was beautifully haunting, but scary to the young Clara who stood fifty feet from a now-crouching Liora. Clara was in shock, probably because she couldn't believe something like this actually existed, or maybe because her first Match is against someone she knew and befriended... but also probably because she was hoping she can survive long enough for the rescue Liora longs for.

     It ain't coming, kid... Trust me.

     She wouldn't admit, but the Serum was like a drug, an addiction that she was ashamed of. Like a cigarette with the effects or Nicotine, so was the Serum. The way a cigarette effected the nervous system and brought a calming effect, no matter what the damage to the body, so did the Serum. When the only thing good about a bad situation rises, one will take it whenever they could.

     The Serum lasted a short period of time, along the lines of ten minutes, just long enough for each Match. When it quickly made its' way through the occupants body, it brought on a Dream like state, one of pure euphoria, just like a high. She anticipated each week, just for the chance to dream a good dream, and to feel like something was worth living for... Even if it meant being a murderer of innocent lives in the process.

     Time stood still as Liora stayed perfectly still, her aching limbs and head all settling into perfect harmony, at least for now. Clara was motionless, the shaking had nearly ceased as her brows creased in concentration.

     She's calculating what to do next... she's an inexperienced Chunin... I'll see where this goes before I make any moves. Just had to be you, didn't it, Clara?

~~~

     "Ha!" 

     Liora blocked Clara's punch smoothly, knocking her into the make-shift dumb bell weights to her side. The gym was nothing to gawk at but it did help the prisoner's have a fighting chance of keeping in shape to survive the next Match they were thrown into. It was small but held purpose; a small running track, a few wood dumb bell weights, and a chin-up rod on the wall... Where a previous prisoner smashed a guards head on. No guards visit the gym since then.

     Gathering herself up off the floor she was pushed down into, Clara grunted, "You know," she said, dusting herself off, "for someone without any chakra, you sure know how to fight."

     Liora shifted her stance as Clara took another swing at her, swiftly blocking and re-directing her arm to use gravity against Clara, dropping her to the ground once more with ease.

     "Well, I was a healing ninja, but I was trained by the best Taijutsu user in our village," she said as she plopped down next to the Chunin on the ground. Training was the only thing to do besides eat and sleep.

     Clara sat on the ground, heaving heavy breaths. The ground was dirty yet cool, the underground, cave-like prison was moist but the ground was surprisingly dry. Small crystal lights lined the walls giving it a fluorescent glow that mimicked a darkly lit library.

     "Wish I was taught Taijutsu, would probably mean a far better chance of staying alive here..." she paused, staring at the woman before her. "I've heard rumors from people beside my cell, that you've been here the longest. How long is that?"

     Liora laughed, bright but sad, "Well, if the marks on my cell wall are anything to go off of, I'd say about fifteen years, my friend," and laughed more as she saw the shock flitter across the younger woman's face. "Fifteen long years of nothing but fighting to stay alive... hoping one day something good will happen."

     "Like what?" she urged.

     Liora sighed, long and loud, playing with dirt between her fingers "I don't know. Maybe something along the lines of, "someone has found out about this wretched place and told someone to come destroy it", what else is there? Then I could go home..." She trailed off.

     "Go home to your friends?" 

     "Go home to my friends, my village, my love... Yeah, all those good things."

     "So, why are you helping me, why have you decided I'm your friend?" Clara sounded almost angry, seemingly bristled. "Why are you helping me when we both know that I'm probably going to be eaten alive my first Match, never knowing the meaning of hope for rescue? When you know our friendship is nothing more than something that will expire if we meet inside the Match?"

     Liora stared at the young girl, searching in her mind something to tell her that doesn't end in her demise on her Match. She really couldn't tell her exactly why, just that she wanted her to know she is not alone. She reached out her hand slowly and watched as the girl's eyes widened, before tapping her nose lightly. "Boop." 

     Clara hesitated before bursting into laughter, something that was music to the ears of someone who had known little laughter in the past fifteen years. It was soothing and melodic. Liora sighed and laid on the ground, Clara following suit.

     She took the young girl's hand in hers as they both stared at the ceiling of the gym, squeezing tightly to fingers that still held meat from nourishing meals instead of callused bones from years of malnourishment and abuse.

     "Everyone needs hope."

~~~

     The arena takes away a ninja's chakra, but it also forces them to use their bare hands for Matches. Sometimes, if an opponent is lucky, the crowd will throw something sharp in to help you out. Hasn't happened in quite sometime, but it happens in a rare, blue moon. It made the blood hungry maniacs in the stands really go crazy when that happens; more blood is equal to more Sake, more Sake is equal to more profit, more profit is equal to the Old Man bringing in more ninjas to fight to the death. It never ceases in fans, only grows.

     A kunai knife tumbles down from the Nose-Bleeds of the arena. Seats that are situated higher up in the rocks, lesser ticket price, but most people fight for the floor seats for the blood that splatters them when an opponent really gets enthusiastic with their take-down. Floor seats are also better for food vendors. The kunai stuck right beside the shaking Clara, a determination settling into her eyes.

     Liora smiled, her head cocking slightly to the side, Ah, yes. This will be FUN. 

     There are four giant TVs in the arena, each of which so everyone can see what's happening at one time if they aren't in the bottom row of seats closest to the Match. Two of them showed Clara up close, her eyes wide but determined, her training starting to kick in; she picks up the kunai knife and holds it tightly, ready for a fight.

     The other two showed Liora. She was always fascinated at how much she changed in the past fifteen years. She was crouched in her position, her now butchered, short and dirty red hair lay flatly on her shoulders. Hair that used to flow all the way down her back and shone brightly in the sun like blood on snow, now only resembles blood on shit, it lay lifeless and dirty. Her eyes were once a vibrant Violet, now are bright orange in the center and a bright green on the sides, courtesy of the Serum. Its effects varied in different people, but the studies were only around her, the only one to survive for so long. 

     Come on Clara, she purred in her mind, show me what you got, always a trainer at heart, even in the blood lust that became stronger in every second.  She motioned slightly with her shoulder to Clara to begin the match, as they were both staring at each other for quite sometime. It had been at least five minutes in and the crowd was becoming restless.

     Clara took off at a run towards her, nimbly weaving around medium sized rocks that were a fan favorite when they were used for smashing heads in. Or breaking limbs. The surgery from the rod inside her, blocking her chakra flow, still red from implantation as her shirt flung to the side to reveal it.

     Liora sat still, her predatory stance remaining as her small friend came closer, bridging their gap slowly. Liora closed her eyes and felt the vibrations of steps with her fingers, closer and closer.

     Clara let out a loud, "Ha!" as she drew close enough to strike. Liora moved out of the way from the kunai that was aimed at her jugular, dodging it by mere centimeters, and tripped the young girl. Clara went straight down into the dirt, sprawling from her speed. The sepia vision blurring her vision, she shook her head and felt the serum completely make its way into her blood stream. She hissed at the sensation, her fingers becoming numb, the debilitating pain from earlier vanished without a thought.

     "Looks like Liora wants to play, folks!" The announcer playfully sounded off. The crowd beginning to roar with laughter. "You know what they say, girl, don't play with your food!"

     That's right... Don't play. Only kill. Blood. Blood. Blood. Liora stood, the full affects of the serum taking hold of her mind and body. She turned around to see the young Chunin already back up and wielding the kunai straight for her chest. Chink! the metal echoed as it was easily thrown for her hand at a swipe of the wrist. Confusion dawned on Clara's face as she was lifted by her throat with one hand. Liora stared at the Chunin, gasping for air. The blood lust was too much, no more playing with her food. 

     Images of Clara laughing worked their way into her mind. The way she didn't back down from Liora's blows and how she always got back up when thrown to the ground. Qualities of a true ninja... Sadness ached around the fog that was the Serum in her consciousness, but she could feel nothing but the desire of blood on her hands.

     As she contemplated to smack Clara's face into the rocks below,  commotion was building a frenzy, yells that weren't from the audience were tainting the Match. Liora stopped midway through thought and stared at the ceiling as one large crystal was collapsing from its spot in the wall. It came crashing down next to her. The weight of the large, earthly object caused the orange dust below her feet to bellow out into a cloud above the pit of the arena.

     Huh... The young Chunin in her hand was scratching at her wrist, imploring her to let her go. As tight as her grip was, she could make out small pleas from her young friend.

     Liora let her fingers lose, setting Clara on the ground, and stared at the crowd fleeing from their seats in the nose bleed section, the one closest to the crystal that fell. Blood lust all but forgotten, her mind clearing, she let Clara completely go; the girl ran from the distracted woman, yelling 'thank you's as her foot steps vanished behind her. Smoke began filling the entire arena. Smoke that wasn't a fire... But from smoke bombs. 

     "Will everyone please make your ways to the exits, this is not a drill -- hey! Oof!" The microphone was suddenly cut off, a loud buzz accompanying the commotion in the seats and exits.

     Liora blinked several times, screams were filling the arena, but this time from the audience and staff who were being detained by Ninjas.

     Ninjas? Ha, this is one hell of a dream!

Chapter Text

Konoha - 15 Years Ago

 

     He waited by the entrance gate to the Village. Nervous and giddy all at once to see the woman he promised himself to three months ago. Liora was coming home to start planning the wedding, planning their life together. He couldn't wait to see her shining red hair glisten as she walks towards him, coming home.

     This mission was her last in the Ops, due to it causing her so much mental stress. She would never talk about just how much her job as a medic was stressful or traumatizing... Of course, he knew that healing isn't all that took place, which is why she could never talk about it in the first place. So many secrets... Secrets that causes her to wake up in panic in the middle of every night.

     She's going to want kids. How many? I have no idea, but I'll help her bare as many as she pleases! They'll all be the best little dudes and dudettes in the Village, no doubt about it! The wedding, oh yeah... At least the entire Village, nothing too big, it's not like it's the grandest event of the year or anything. I already have my best man picked out.

     He held a small bunch of purple flowers, still wet from the dew drops of early morning. If she had no missions planned, Liora would be up before the sun rose, walking around the still Village. Sometimes she'd wake him up just to go pick flowers when the sun had finally risen and the dew had gathered enough to make the ground sparkle in the early morning.

     Where he sat, he brought her favorite boxed lunch and chocolates. He had Sake, but that was in his house for later when they would celebrate.

     Getting antsy, he stands up and stretches his muscles, he was so excited. Not even training was going to make his day better, only seeing her.

     "Liora! I'm here and I'm waiting! I'll be here all day, don't you worry!" The man yelled to the tree tops, his voice booming over the trees that hid the village hidden in the leaves. The guards of the entrance laughed and hollered him on as they drank their hot coffees. Kakashi Hatake was among them, shaking his head in amusement; having been injured on a previous mission, he had stayed behind, now waiting for his friend to return as well. 

 

3 Days Later

 

     In the late afternoon, he was still there, waiting by the entrance of the Village. The sun had started to descend behind the monuments, leaving the tree tops a dark green a top of the gloomy skies that threatened the Village with a sense of unease. He paced by the entrance, for three days, he paced.

     "You have to go talk to him! He won't leave the front entrance of the Village. He hasn't showered in three days! Not to mention, he won't stop staring at every single being who happens to walk into the Village. It's unsettling!"

     Inside the office of the Hokage, a meeting of Jonin had gathered, each one to complain of the young ninja standing outside the entrance of the Village, but also demanding information on how a team of ten Anbu Black Ops suddenly disappeared without a trace.

     "He shouldn't be there!"

     " ...needs to get over it..."

     "Is there any confirmation on where the team actually went?"

     "Tell us what to do! Let us help!"

     The Hokage, Minato, listened to the complaints of his Ninja. "Hush, please," he looked up at his comrades from his paperwork, urging them to comply to his plea for quiet while he spoke. 

     "I know each one of you is concerned... whether for the boy's well being or the lack of showering. We don't have any new information on the whereabouts of the Anbu team that was sent out on an information mission," he paused, scratching his yellow hair,  exhausted,  "I have already sent out a search party for the missing, you will know when I know anything. Thank you. You are all dismissed."

     With his comrades gone, he stood up from his chair and cracked his aching back, the weight of responsibility planted firmly on his shoulders. Staring out at the Village, his eyes waver.

     Ten Anbu Black Ops gone in a single mission... The irony. The irony of this feeling in the back of my mind... Something is coming, something big that will change the course of Konoha forever. We're gonna need every able body to help us. 

 

Later That Day

 

     The sunset behind the monuments was beginning to darken the bleak, gloomy sky. He stood in the entrance to the Village, watching, waiting. Some ninjas and civilians brought him food to keep him from starving, which he glad accepted with gratitude. His demeanor was stricken with despair as the hours ticked by with nothing but stillness on the path. 

     His eyes narrowed at every flicker of movement on the pathway, his hair greasy from the lack of hygiene and his breath not any better. There was a murmur going around the village that something felt wrong, something big was going to happen very soon.

     Where are you? You're always back exactly when you say you will be, and you always walk to the entrance just for me when you could just go home and sleep... They say they've sent out a search crew for the mission... I wasn't allowed. Something is coming, I can feel it. I hope you come home before then. But if you aren't home by then...

 "Hey, we need you at the meeting," Kakashi declared from the shadow of the wall, "it is mandatory," more quietly. Kakashi had been watching with him, both of them hoping for their friend to return with a story of how she got side tracked by a Sake stand... again.

     "I can feel something," Kakashi said slowly, "and it's coming soon. We need you."

     He sighed heavily, almost regrettably. He stood for a long time staring down the pathway, hoping at any second the team would show up, Liora coming to tackle him with hugs and kisses like she normally does. He sighed again and nodded to Kakashi who then vanished without a trace.

     "I'll find you, Liora. Don't you worry," he said, his voice steely as he found his inner strength to put out a firey demeanor. He smiled and waved goodbye to the pathway, peeling his gaze away, as he went in search for the Hokage. He needed to help whatever was coming, his sense of unease growing, he could feel it.

     "I promise I'll find you when I can!" He yelled as he bounced off the trees and buildings of the Village to make use of himself. 

     Something was coming.

 

 

     The Nine-Tailed fox attacked that night. Disseminating the Village and many Shinobi on its path of destruction. The lives of Minato and Kushina were lost, and the infant Naruto was safe with a demon sealed inside of him. Liora and her team were long forgotten in order to re-build the Village.

Chapter Text

     The Village hidden in the leaves sat... Well, hidden in the leaves. Villagers were beyond content as they went about their days in shops and food houses and socializing with their friends. Lady Tsunade held a reign of an iron fist, but was the absolute definition of a golden ruler, creating a Village of prosperity for both her people and the newer generations of ninja waiting to make themselves known in training.

     In the office of the Hokage, Lady Tsunade stood staring out her large windows, eyes wary as she and Shizune listened to the man in her presence. There had been information on an underground fighting arena, just sixty miles to the east of the Village, one that apparently used barbaric techniques on ninjas alike for a blood thirsty audience. She had been told by a Jonin of the Village Hidden in the Sound, he stood behind her as he told of the arena.

     "I was on a mission with my Team," he explained, his black hair predominantly swiped to the side of his face, large muscles protruded from his vest. His black eyes full of anger on his soft face. "My Team had all just become Chunins, and we were near a very beautiful lake, we decided to stop and catch some water. I left to find some food, and when I returned, all I found was the headbands of my younglings," he took in a sharp breath, "and blood everywhere."

     Tsunade turned to look at him, "and how did you come to find of this arena when all you saw was blood?" she inquired.

     His stance shifted,  "I was angry, I wanted to know what happened to my Team. I searched around the lake, I could sense a large mass of chakra beneath me, and as I was searching behind the lake, I noticed men slipping into a small crevice in between some rocks. I took off my gear and left it beside the lake, and made my way inside.

     "There was a dark hallway that winded down into an arena-like space..."

~~~

     The dark hallway that he followed the men into was tight and cold, spiraling down farther and farther with every step. The walls were moist but the ground remained bone dry, the ceiling laced with moss and intertwined with roots. Slipping in unnoticed behind the men, his steps were silent.

     The gross, smelly men in front of him were excitedly talking, "Oh man, I love this shit. So much blood! It's even better that they take ninjas from villages and put them against each other in a fight to the death. Leaf, Sound, Rain, Grass, hell, sometimes there's some from the Sand. You'll love it, man!" 

     The other man laughed, the dark making it impossible to make out who these men were, "Yeah, I've been hearing good stuff about it."

     Koro listened intently, replaying everything the men in front of him were talking about. As he rounded the next turn, the arena opened up to him, the large ceilings lined with huge crystals that glistened from the lake above. Men were lined up in front of him, some were yelling in excitement, some were already drinking from a Sake vendor that was passing by. Her large chest were the center of attraction as they stuck tips inside her cleavage.

     The arena pit held orange dirt, and it was lined with small, dark squares with bars on them. The arena floor was ten feet above the first row of seats that were already filling with greasy men and women. The rows of seats rounded the walls, from the rock seats closest to the arena to the ones that were one hundred feet off the ground in the rock seats above.

      "Hey man, you gotta pay!" The gruff man said to Koro, distracted as he took in the large, underground arena, the smell of Sake and fried food assaulting his nostrils. 

     "Huh? Yeah... Sure, how much?" he asked in a daze, he didn't realize he was next in line.

     The gruff, fat man grunted a laugh, "Well, you haven't been here before, have you?" Koro shook his head, dazed and wary, "Okay man, floor seats are expensive, only a few left. Nose bleed seats," he pointed to the top of the arena, "are cheaper but with less blood and less chance at Sake vendors coming around. Middle seats are the best of both worlds if you want less blood but more food. Which do you want?"

     Koro shook his head, "I'll go with Nose bleed," the fat man grunted and took money for his outstretched hand. He walked to the stairs next to him and began to ascend. Few were in the nose bleed seats as he sat at the very top, watching the large tv screens as he took in the arena .

     "What the fuck...?" he murmured to himself, horrified as he witnessed the first Match.

~~~

     Lady Tsunade stopped his reconciliation, "Okay, but did you really think you would just come here and ask for us to stop this operation when your village could do the same thing?" she berated. Shizune shifted next to her, her calming eyes imploring her to understand the Jonin's position.   

     "Lady Hokage, I understand your position of needing your forces to advance your Village. However, I've already gone to several villages, to beg for help. I already have around fifty men and women from villages. I just need some from yours as well."

     She sighed loudly, plopping down into her comfy chair and folding her fingers below her eyes, "And why would I waste resources on something like this?"

     Koro sighed, "With all due respect, if you were listening, they take from all villages who happen to stumble onto their property... And while I was there... Someone from your village was there. The Announcer made it clear, she had been there for nearly fifteen years, a former Anbu Black Ops member, by the name of Liora," he said, cautious to keep her attention.

     Tsunade held his glace for a long while, the air in the office was tense and could be cut with a dull knife; her eyes deep in thought. Finally, she shut her eyes and sighed, "Alright, I'll give some of my ninjas to help you out. Tell your fellow help to house here in the Village. I'll gather a team for you and you all will leave from here in three days time. Is that understood?"

     Koro nodded fiercely, "Yes, thank you so much!" he spoke as he shifted out of view.

     When he was gone, Shizune sighed while pouring Lady Tsunade some tea. "Do you think it's who we think it is, do you think he's telling the truth, maybe he misheard the Announcer?" she asked.

     Taking a sip of her tea, she belched and turned in her chair to look over her Village. "If it is, then you know who can't know... I'd like to send him on the team, but he can't know until we know for sure we can get her home alive. If he doesn't know and it isn't her, we're fine. However, if he knows and it is her, and she dies... It'll destroy him," taking another sip, she turns to her friend, "gather a team, make sure Sakura knows the circumstance."

     "Yes, ma'am."

     For all the Gods in the sky, I hope this ends well.

 

 

 

     Shizune had done well to organize fifteen ninja to accompany the mission set forth by Koro. Lady Tsunade stood in her office to brief the ones who were chosen for the special mission.

     "Alright, you're all probably wondering why I have cancelled your current missions to redirect you to this one," she started, looking calmly at her audience. Sakura and Shizune stood at her side. Naruto, Kakashi, Might Guy, Rock Lee, Kiba, Ino, Hinata, Shikamaru, and seven other Jonin stood in front of the desk in a circle, waiting in silence for an explanation.

     "About one hundred miles from our Village, there is an underground fighting arena, stealing ninja whenever they cross their path, and forcing them to fight to the death. It is apparent they keep them as prisoners and have a weekly fight," she explained, "and their chakra has been removed to make escape impossible, but also to make the fights more bloody to the audience that gathers there weekly to watch a blood bath commence."

     Murmurs erupted between the comrades, shocked and then angry expressions consuming their faces.

     "Seriously?! How barbaric!"

     "How is their chakra removed...?"

     "Fuck..."

     "I know! I know," Tsuande sighed, "so, the mission has been assigned to all of you, along with several villages who have also offered their assistance to end this arena fighting bull--"

     "Tsunade!" Shizune butted in, smiling largely to keep her mouth in line.

     "--spit. Bull spit. Yes. Okay. So, Kakashi, Naruto, Sakura, and Koro will be the ones on the inside of the arena.  They will be disguised as 'fans', pay for their tickets, and make sure their headbands and gear are well hidden from view. They will take seats in the Nose-Bleeds."

     "Yes," Koro spoke up, "you will be with me to be close to the large crystal structures on the ceilings. The plan is, once everyone else is in place, whether on the outside or inside, we will cause a big distraction with the crystals. It'll cause a big commotion around the drunken fans, ultimately drawing them into a state of panic. That is when they will try to escape, but will be subdued by all of the assistance we have from both the inside and outside."

     The others nodded to the plan except Naruto, who grunted. "You mean I have to use my own money?" he whined, bringing out his frog wallet, "look how small he is! He used to be fat..." 

     "Well, Naruto, since you have so heroically volunteered to pay for everyone's tickets..." Naruto sank to the floor in despair, "we'll just have to repay you when you all return," Tsunade laughed at the horrified Naruto and his pleas for mercy.

     She motioned to the rest of the entourage, "Everyone else will be on the outside of the arena. There will be some on the inside, posing as security, but those posts have already been filled. So the rest of you will be waiting on the outside to capture and detain the audience who run from the commotion on the inside. Everyone will follow Koro since He is the only one who knows where this place is. Follow his lead, he has already let his teams know exactly what to do, follow their lead. Any questions?"

     "Lady Hokage, is this considered a dangerous mission?" Sakura asked, others in the group nodding to the inquiry. The sun was just beginning to rise in Konoha, the Match set for later that day. 

     "Good question. From what Koro has told me, they have become quite cocky, not caring from the amount of noise they make. Even some of the security guards are drinking. However, we should assume this is an S-Ranked mission, both for the large aptitude of the mission, but also because there will be problems from both security and the audience. We are also unsure about the prisoners, but from what Koro has said, they are in bad shape."

     Sakura nodded, her pink hair finely kept in the cloak she wore. As the rest of them, their headbands had been removed and replaced with cloaks, some had their hair messed up to ensure no one took a second look at the presence surrounding the outside but also on the inside.

     "What do we do after the crystal causes distraction?" Kakashi asked, his voice somewhat hoarse after being woken up so early. Koro explained they would need to join the efforts to detain the audience and guards.

     "What about me, Lady Hokage?! Why can't I be in the arena?! I feel I could be way stealthier than Kakashi over here!" Might Guy exclaimed, jabbing his finger in the direction of an annoyed Kakashi. Rock Lee nodded his head fiercely in agreement. 

     "Guy, I need you to lead Rock Lee and Hinata around the perimeter. She is the one who can see the amount of chakra lining the lake and see exactly how to ease the dislodge of the crystal to cause the commotion, then you may detain anyone who comes out," Tsunade said.

     "What about us?!" Shikamru exclaimed. Ino and Kiba nodded with his comment.

     Tsunade sighed again, "You three will be with the mass of Jonin and other ninjas from the villages to detain and capture the audience and staff. After they are all detained, your team will join all together to go below ground to rescue the prisoners. Is that clear enough?!" she shouted. Irritation sprouting on her youthful face. 

     "This mission starts right now! Follow Koro's orders. You will all have headsets, use them. Be safe, take these mother --" Shizune hummed again, "Goddamit, Shizune! Let me say what I want!" She slammed her hands down on the table in front of her.

     "This mission needs to succeed. You are all dismissed, get to it."

     With that dismissal, they were all out of the office in less than thirty seconds. Sakura stayed behind with Shizune to speak while Lady Tsunade steamed beside her. Ignoring the angry Lord beside her, she spoke quickly, "So, there's a chance Liora Daitaro is in this arena, is that true?"

     Shizune nodded, "Unless what Koro is saying is false, that's what we've been told."

     "Wow. Liora Daitaro. I've heard of her, read about her medical ninjutsu training in books. You guys were close, right?"

     Shizune smiled as Lady Tsunade took her seat, pouring her Hokage tea before responding to a curious Sakura, "Oh yes, she studied with us before. We learned from each other. She was a character..." she trailed off, "I just hope it's true. It's been fifteen years, that's enough to make even the strongest break."

     "Sakura," Tsunade's voice a warning before Sakura was out of the room to join her team, "remember what we talked about."

     "Yes, ma'am. You can count on me," and with a small nod, she slipped out of the room, her shoes echoing throughout the hallways as she ran to catch up.

      "Shizune, I have a feeling we're going to bring down a huge, illegal underground fighting arena. I have a feeling we're going to rescue a large amount of ninjas... But at what cost?" She asked, mainly to herself. The sun had just begun to peak as she saw the numerous amount of ninjas leaving the Village in cloaks, ready and eager to start a mission.

Chapter Text

     The group assigned to the mission, now deemed "Operation Crystallization", were on their way to a cave five miles from the arena, along with the other villages that were more than happy to participate in a big take down. Koro, Kakashi, Naurto, Sakura were leading the team from their village; they zipped through the trees without a sound, except the leaves as they swished passed. With Ino, Shikamaru, Lee, Hinata, and Guy to their backs, the rest of the Jonin fell further behind to ensure they weren't followed.

     The meeting point was in a canyon, one that held a river plunging down into the earth nearly five hundred feet and trees towering from every angle; a perfect, hidden destination for a large group of ninjas that were assigned to show up. The river stretched for miles and it was a superb view to those who happen to come across it after the miles of endless trees and formidable forest ground that protected it.

     Fifty feet down on the side of the cliff lay a cave, one big enough for a small home on the inside, but lay hidden in the trees growing on the side of the canyon to be inconspicuous to the human eye. Vibrant green bushes and small, purple flowers bloomed at the entry way, looking as if someone had purposefully planted them there for decoration. The ground inside was lined with soft grass, moss pervaded the walls and ceiling, small droplets from the roots above created a small pool in the middle of the cave. The entrance gave small amounts of light into the tiny area; it was quiet and dim.

     Koro and the others had arrived to a group of around forty ninja from varying villages, all silently waiting for a game plan. The air tense as some villages were still uneasy with the other, but had the decency to put differences aside to take down a group of humans who deserved the worst for their crimes. The sun had been risen for about an hour upon their arrival.

     "Okay," Koro began as they settled into their makeshift hideaway, standing next to the small pool of water drippings, "fifty have already scouted the arena area, waiting for the signal to come in from the outside, ensuring no one escapes. Since these mongrels have lost sense of human decency, it is surprisingly easy to assume a role in their operation. Five of our men have been fully immersed into their roles as security... having been, five of their men have 'disappeared'."

     Koro had been thorough with his plan. He had his men watch the arena, those who exit, those who enter, and made sure his men were the ones exposed to new employment within the arena. Ensuring his people were on the inside was a joy he wouldn't shed until everyone involved was captured and made to pay for destroying his team of young ones.

     The ninjas from each village followed instructions perfectly, as they had dressed the part well. Each one had gross clothing on, disheveled hair, and some even had dirt smeared on their faces. Though there were some that looked very rich, most of the people in the arena were low life scum.

     "The rest of you," he continued, looking at each individual with his intense, black eyes, "will be on the inside with us, all pretending to want to see the blood shed happen like the rest of the audience. I will be with Kakashi here," motioning to the silver haired ninja, "Sakura, and Naruto. We will be the ones dislodging one of the large crystals on the ceiling to cause a big commotion. It needs to happen on the first Match.

     Guy, Lee, and Hinata here will be scanning the outside of the arena, as she can see the chakra needed to light the crystals through the water. They will communicate with us to ensure we can do that. If it isn't possible, then we'll do what we do best, and just start beating the living shit out of everyone in sight, understood?"

     Even with tensions between villages running high, the group became excited to end the barbaric ways of the arena, some nodded while others hollered their agreements. Even Akamaru voiced his opinion in a cute ruff.

     "We know that the prisoners are located underground, how far, we don't know; nor do we know the extent of the prison nor the guards. So, I have chosen Ino, Shikamaru, and Kiba to be the ones to explore the prison to rescue anyone underneath when shit hits the fan. They all posses the unique abilities to do this with little harm possible to the dirt bags. However, do not hesitate to kill if it is indeed need."

     Groans erupted from the sizeable group, each one itching to kill any being associated with the plot... some were missing loved ones, they were determined to figure out if this was the reason.

     "Yes, I know," Koro spoke calmly, his deep voice resonating smoothly across the damp cave walls, "but we want as many of them alive as possible to ensure they get what they deserve."

     "What's worth than death?" Kiba grunted out quietly, his back leaning against the mossy cave wall.

     "Torture..." Sakura said solemnly, Naruto standing firmly by her right and Kiba to her left, "for either punishment or information. Death is too simple for something like this, not for the ones on the inside operations," Kiba shifted uncomfortably and continued to listen without muttering another sound, Naruto's face scrunched in deep thought.

     Koro spent the hour divulging where certain groups were to be and when their attacks should begin, bringing out a drawing of the arena and marking with a pencil specifics needed for the mission. There were head sets for specific teams, all linked together. The use of code words were also thrown into the mix, adding to the complexity of the mission.

     When all was said and done, he dismissed the groups that were to begin arriving for the Matches inside the arena so they could start arriving in time of the other audience members. Koro stayed behind with Kakashi Naruto, and Sakura, along with Guy and his small team.

     "So, Guy, you will be at the top of the lake with your team, the crystals are underneath the water. I don't know how they light them with both chakra and the water from above, but it's up to you guys to find a way to dislodge the crystal without draining the entire lake all together. Remember, we need the arena to be distracted, not drowned."

     "Right! Absolutely!"

     "Yes."

     "You can count on us, Koro!" Guy exclaimed, shoving a thumbs up in his face, his teeth gleaming in a wide smile, "We'll take anyone down who tries to escape!"

     Koro stared at Guy for a few moments before turning to Kakashi, unfazed, "Is he always like this?" he asked.

     Kakashi rubbed the back of his neck with an apology written on his eye. "Yeah, unfortunately..."

     Guy laughed heartily, "Oh, Kakashi. You know without me, you'd have died of loneliness long ago!"

     "Right..."

     "Don't deny our friendship, Kakashi!" Guy bawled, Lee comforting his sensei fiercely.

     Koro stared in disbelief before clearing his throat loudly, breaking up the lover's quarrel he was witnessing, "SO, if we're solid on our plan, I'd like to get going."

     Everyone nodded as they left their cool cave, easily jumping to the top of the cliff. This time they were walking to ensure they weren't noticed and deemed suspicious by any passing audience members. The mid-morning due was sparkling off the grass as they walked, the heat ebbing the morning chill. Birds flew, chirping their cheerful songs, unaware of how cruel human kind can be.

     They walked until the sun reached its highest peak, it was then that they arrived at the arena,  Match was to begin in less than thirty minutes. Koro spoke into his head set, "Okay, everyone in their positions?" resounding 'yes's filled their ears. Everything was set, everyone was in place.

     Let the Match begin, indeed, Koro thought, as they climbed into the rocks that hid the entrance, and descended into the dark stair case that swirled into hell.

     

Chapter Text

     Koro and his small team made their way inside the narrow, dark stairway that led to the arena below. Other people pilled in behind them, some seemingly drunk before the Matches even began, stumbling clumsily into the walls and other patrons. Kakashi remained unfazed at the climate change while Naruto muttered small comments about the need for air freshener... Sakura making quick work with a thump on his blond head.

     Kakashi grunted and sent them a glare, no visual effects needed as they could feel the ice from his eye in their souls.

     As they reached the long line that had formed for tickets, Sakura pushed Naruto to the front of the team.

     "I seem to remember you had to pay for our tickets," Sakura chirped, an evil smile playing at her thin lips. As Naruto and Koro decided to wear grungy clothing and messed up their hair, Sakura and Kakashi had worn raggedy cloaks that covered them from head to toe.

     "Aww man, I thought that was all fun and games..." he groaned, as he pulled out his frog wallet. He then became distracted by a woman, her cleavage hung low as she approached, offering him Sake in a mature voice. Naruto's jaw dropped as he stared at the attractive, middle aged brunette who wiggled her large chest slightly. From behind him, he could hear Kakashi plugging his nose from a nose bleed that had simultaneously erupted.

     Koro shook his head in irritation as Sakura bashed Naruto's face into the moist wall, politely excusing the Sake vendor. She laughed musically before wiggling her body towards the men and women behind them.

     "If we're done playing games..." Koro spoke as he rubbed between his eyes, "you have to pay for our tickets, we're next," he shoved Naruto to the ticket vendor.

     "Huh. Haven't seen you here before, kid," the gruff old man from before said slowly, until Koro stepped up, "OH! Now you I remember! Dragged some friends along for a good time, huh?" he laughed, heartily jiggling his large tummy.

     Koro smiled eagerly, "Oh yes, I fucking loved this shit from before! Couldn't get enough of it, man!" he proclaimed, his voice changing from the soothing effect it once had to one of an excited child, waiting for more candy. "My friend here lost a bet, he'll be paying for us!"

     The old man chuckled, "Sounds good to me. You're in for a treat, kid. Same as last time, nose bleeds?"

     "Yes, please," he said, as he jabbed Naruto to hand over money from his diminishing frog wallet. Naruto begrudgingly held out the money to pay and let the man mark their wrists with a temporary tattoo used from his chakra. "Have fun," he grunted as he called for the next person in line.

     "That kinda hurt..." Naruto said quietly, rubbing his wrist as they turned to their right, walking up the stone stairs to the seats high up in the arena. Sakura quietly agreed as she tugged at her cloak uncomfortably. 

     "What was that?" Kakashi asked as they took their seats at the highest point of the arena, the crystal hanging seventy five feet from them.

     "Well, I figured that if we didn't act as excited as the rest of them, we'd be deemed suspicious."

     "Smart man."

     Seats were vacant around them as most had chosen the pricier ones down below for the show, and for the numerous amount of Sake and food vendors that swarmed at every turn.

     "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our weekly Animal Fights!" the Announcer suddenly boomed overheard, "Make sure to get your food and your Sake and take your seats. We have one hell of a show for you today!"

     "I want food..." Naruto said as he scratched his messed up hair.

     "Well, that kinda sucks for... Naruto!" Sakura tried to stop him from getting up, but a stray food vedor had made a long trek up to the seats they were sitting. Kakashi sighed as he went to grab the kid from the fried foods that waited. Naruto gleefully stocked his arms with various fried foods the man offered.

     Koro sat still, watching the floods of people that were now taking their seats, the arena filled with stronger aromas of Sake as the Match drew near. Disdain evident on his soft face.

     "Hey, Koro," Sakura sat to the seat on his left after trying and failing to contain Naruto from the fried food vendor, "you remember how Lady Hokage has told you not to tell anyone about the one who has been here for years, right?" Koro nodded, "Well, are you sure you heard right? It could have been someone else from a different Village..."

     Koro cut her off sharply, "Sakura, you hear how loud that Announcer is. Now, just because I was angry for the death of my team doesn't mean my hearing is impaired. Also... I took the liberty of reading up on Miss Daitaro when I had free time in your Village. Same woman... just a bit different from how she used to look."

     Static rung in their ears as Hinata rang in, "H to K, come in?"

     Koro looked up to the crystal. "K to H, here. What's the verdict?"

     "I am cutting the chakra veins tied to the crystal as we speak. Guy Sensei and Lee are waiting to use one powerful punch between the two of them to dislodge it enough so your bomb can have an effect. I'd say about ten minutes."

     Koro could hear the two oddly similar looking ninja banter as to which move they would make, shaking his head at the odd balls.

     "Gotcha. Everyone wait for H's command, once they make their move, it's go time," resounding affirmations filled the static as it cut out.

     "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, the time has come. Please welcome our newest fighter, CLARABELL!" and the crowd roared as Clara was shoved into the arena by unseen hands. The tv closest to them showed her long dark hair, her eyes darting back and forth across the arena. Koro shot up from his seat, his eyes wide, realizing at least one of his team members had survived the bloodshed he found from before.

     "Clara..." Sakura saw the look in his eyes and placed a firm hand on his shoulder, urging him to sit back down. He did slowly, hope rising in his frigid demeanor.

     "We found this young thing along with her other team mates lurking around our entrance. They put up a good fight, but only Clarabell here survived our security, making her our newest competitor!" The crowd roared their excitement as Clara seemed dazed from the bright light of the arena.

     "Now, our newest competitor will face our oldest..." the Announcer continued, Kakashi still trying to pry Naruto away from an amused food vendor. Sakura looked nervously at Koro, "Are they going to say her name?"

     "Former Anbu Black Ops member... didn't want to be here in the first place... serum... chakra abilities taken away..."

     "They will. So hopefully your sensei doesn't hear, or Lady Hokage's orders will be for not."

     The Announcer had continued on with his spiel, the crowd roaring their commencing chants: KILL KILL KILL KILL. Kakashi had been warily listening to the Announcer curiously as he could only hear some of the things the man in the speaker was saying over the roars of the crowd. Naruto paid for his food and loaded Kakashi's arms with everything, a happy vendor gleefully walking back down the steps.

     The door on the opposite end of the arena had opened and unseen hands shoved another woman out of the doorway, she sprawled onto the ground, creating a plume of orange dust around her.

     "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... LIORA!"

     The crowd went absolutely ballistic at the mention of her name. Kakashi, piles of fried food in his hand from a starving Naruto, dropped onto the stone flooring. His eye wide as he stared at the tv screen before them, Liora just standing up, her bright red hair chopped short. Blood dripped from her chin as she raised it defiantly to stare at her opponent, eyes bright green and orange, ready for a fight.

     He stared in shock that turned into slow burning anger, he slowly turned his gaze to Sakura, "And I suppose you knew about this?"

     Sakura sighed, leaning further back in her stone chair, "It was a direct order from Lady Hokage that this needed to remain confidential information."

     Kakashi sat down heavily, anger evident on his normally calm face, ignoring a whining Naruto as he tried to scrape the remainders of food off the ground while cursing his sensei profoundly, "Well, we can't fail then."

     "Let the Match... BEGIN!"

Chapter Text

     Kakashi glared at the tv screen in front of him, trying to wrap his mind around the situation he had been placed into as the crowd roared from below them, their thunderous sounds echoing off the arena's stone walls.

     Liora is here... has been for, what did the Announcer say? Fifteen years? Impossible... yet, not impossible. Huh.

     The tv zoomed in on Liora as her stance became sturdier by the second. Blood dripped down her chin and bruises seemed to stretch from the side of her head and boney cheeks to under her black, torn shirt.

     What the hell?

     Koro saw Kakashi's confusion, knowing he had served side by side with the the woman before in the Ops, explained what he had gathered from the Announcer and audience members, "She is a strong opponent, so they do their best to break her before every Match. However, she apparently only fought clean, never enough blood. So, they created a Serum to ensure the blood lust is there to satisfy the audience."

      Kakashi nodded. Staring at her changed demeanor, he thought back to the Village fifteen years ago, when they had all been friends. Since she had been brought to the Village in infancy, never knowing her parents, she always felt like she had to be the best for the ones who left her behind. Having something to prove not only gave her a strong will, but a strong heart to Match.

     She was a formidable adversary...

     What was once a bubbling, Sake loving ninja, in full glory of becoming an Ops when she was sixteen, had become something he did not think he could ever imagine. What once was bright red hair flowing past her hips now was chopped to her shoulders, dusty and dulled. Vibrant violet eyes that sparkled as she used to do small jutsu around the Village children for injured birds now practically glowed green with an orange hue in the middle, almost devoid of the gleam of hope it once held. Lean muscles that rippled as she took down the largest of enemies now were muscles on top of bones from malnourishment. Her once signature jutsus that granted her entry to the Ops now blocked from the rod inserted into her collar, skin forming a scar around it.

     If he sees this... 

     So lost in his own thoughts, he barely heard Sakura try to stop Koro from throwing a kunai knife down to Clara. Whistling on its way down, it landed right beside her shakey demeanor.

     "Koro!" Sakura hissed. Kakashi only shook his head, watching the tv screen as Clara took the kunai in her hand, holding it steady as she readied her stance for a fight. The crowd of the audience seemed to like a weapon thrown in the mix as they stood up to cheer, some even laughed.

     "What? If this takes longer... I want my young one to have a fighting chance. You didn't see what she did to the opponent last week. Clara wouldn't last five minutes, I guarantee you."

     Liora had gone from a sturdy stance to a predatory crouch as she waited for the young ninja to make her move. Kakashi shook his head twice to clear it of memories he had from her being such a nurturing ninja, one that would never lay hands on one not ready or not strong enough to withstand her blows... except in dire circumstances ordered by those up above.

     "Why are they taking so long..." Naruto grunted, itching to put an end to this barbaric arena, "also, why are they taking so long to fight? They've stood there for a few minutes now... It almost seems like they were friends or something..."

     Kakashi saw a glimpse of Liora welcoming newer generations of ninja into the ranks, always giving them an advisor from their own sensei if they needed it, always smiling as she taught them the way of the ninja through her own thoughts and feelings. Though she did enjoy Sake way too much, she always was the go-to ninja parent. The advice she gave younger generations gave them hope.

     She probably was her friend... Probably made sure she felt safe, just like she always has.

     Clara suddenly made her move, nimbly making her way across the rock studded orange dust. The audience became excited for the first move. Koro raised in his seat, anxiously staring at the tv screen that followed her every move. Her baggy shirt flinging from side to side, he could see where they had implanted the rod to block her chakra ability. Kakashi cleared his throat, trying to gently calm the man before he clenched his hands so tight that he might break them before the operation even starts.
 
     "H to K, everyone, we're ready! Guy Sensei and Lee are going to make their move! Once you hear the hit, it's go time for everyone," Hinata shouted into her headpiece. 

     "Got it!"

     "Right!"

     "Lets get it done!"

     When Clara had been tripped by the crouching woman, the team in the nose bleeds heard a large boom from up above them, the crystal had begun to shake and dust fell from it's sides. Koro and Kakashi looked at each other before slipping out the bombs they had brought underneath their attire. Koro slipped his gaze back down to Clara where Liora had her in the air with one hand, fear gripping his stoic face.

     "Now!" 

     They threw their bombs to the base of the crystal and they exploded, the crystal wiggling for agonizing moments before it dislodged from the space it had been holding itself it. Water slipped out with it before being plugged back up with rocks from the lake. It plummeted to the ground right beside the two Match partners creating a large plume of orange dust. 

     "Alright, crystal is down, move out!" Koro shouted into his head set. The audience had become a blur of panic, ninja in disguise around the arena ripped their clothing off to reveal ninja headbands and armor, the real security easily taken out by more experienced ninja.

     "Sakura," Kakashi turned to his pink haired team member who sat on the ledge of the nose bleeds, "the Announcer is in that booth to the entrance of the arena, it sticks out with windows, go take him out, capture him, I don't care. Meet me five miles east, on top of the cliff where we had the meeting when you're done. Naruto and I will be waiting for you," Sakura nodded her head in understanding as she disappeared off the edge of their seats, agilely making her way down around the crowd, all the way up to the Announcer's booth above the ticket booth entry.

     He turned to Koro, who had just launched himself off the ledge as well. Kakashi watched as his feet flew to catch up with a panicked Clara who had tried to climb the ten foot arena wall to the audience but ended up curling up and crying instead. Upon realizing who he was, she hugged him tightly as he took her away on his back.

     "Ladies and Gentlemen, please make your way to the exits, this is not a drill -- hey! Oof."

     With the Announcer now taken care of, he grabs Naruto by his arm sternly, "You're coming with me, do not ask questions," Naruto nodded, determination in his blue eyes.

     They hopped down to the arena pit. The audience were screaming their terrors of being caught and facing a justice system for their encouragement of the crime. They walked towards Liora, her eyes distracted by the commotion of everything, glazed in forgotten pain written on her body. A tall, fair haired man with emerald eyes ran towards her, yanking her by her scrawny arm to follow him back to the door he had come from.

     Naruto, realizing what they were doing, ran towards the devilish looking man, ready for a fight. He stopped mid run as she had taken the man's arm in towards her stomach and broke it cleanly with a loud snap. He screamed as she snatched his hair back, lowering his cowering figure onto the ground at her knees.

     "Fuck off, Riker!" Liora boomed, her voice hoarse, "This is my dream! I'll be damned if you ruin it," she snapped his head back with his hair, his neck breaking as he went limp, dropping to the ground beside her. She smiled largely, her leg lifting as she brought it down and smashed his head with her foot, the rock below becoming his grave as blood splashed over her feet in a pool of red and brain matter, mixing with the orange dust into an entirely different, more brutally violent color.

     Naruto looked cautiously to Kakashi as they continued to slowly walk to her. Liora, happily smashing her foot down again and again in glee at her tormentor' s disfigured head, looked up as their footsteps approached. Her green eyes narrowed at Naruto before stopping at Kakashi, his hands held up in a manner meant to sooth wild beasts.

     "Kakashi?" she said warily.

     "Hi, Li--" his greeting was cut off by the monster bear hug Liora had wrapped him into. Her head rubbing his chest like a cat appreciating affection from its owner. 

     "Ah, so good to see you, old friend! This is the best dream ever," she purred, her skinny arms wrapping tighter around his nourished body. Kakashi was taken back before slowly resting his arms on her shoulders as he looked at a confused... yet amused Naruto. 

     "I thought Koro said the Serum turned those it effected into blood thirsty beasts," he chuckled, turning away from the two to see the catastrophe they had caused inside the underground arena, mayhem lay at every turn for those partaking in the event.

     Liora continued her bear hug even as her body started to shake. The beating before the Match finally taking hold of her nerves as the adrenaline wore off.

     "Come on," Kakashi picked up Liora as she shook, her body finally starting to come down off the Serum's initial phase; though she couldn't feel the pain, her body demanded rest from the wounds she had taken from before the Match. Carrying her in a princess hold, he motioned for Naruto to follow him. They flew past the entry way and ticket booth, whizzing past the ninja that helped bring down the operation. 

     When they burst out of the spiraling staircase into the sunlight of the world, Liora laughed happily. Naruto stared curiously at the woman in Kakashi's arms.

     "Those are pretty trees," Liora coed, staring at the bright sunlight that twinkled through the tree tops openings as they sped through the trees in their escape. She reached her hand up as if she could touch the sunlight itself. Kakashi looked to Naruto, both concerned for her mental well-being.

      Being in a place like for so long... There's no telling what kind of damage had been done to her mental state.

      "Yes, they are. Rest."

     Liora shut her eyes and seemed asleep as they jumped from tree to tree, passing some of their own as they detained audience members and staff that made it as far as the outside. Screams and explosions and the fighting faded as they made their way through the thick forest, the sun beaming at its highest point, and the wind just warm enough to sooth even the worst of stress from a weary traveler.

Chapter Text

     Ninjas? Ha, this is one hell of a dream!

     She stares in amusement as the mass of audience members clambered to escape the ninjas that had ditched their disguises to begin taking down and detaining the gross men and women who condoned the Matches. She relished in the audience's screams as they ran from capture, admiring the handiwork of the dream route her mind was taking. She slid her hand down the crystal that stood next to her, it sparkled iridescent colors in the midst of smoke and fire that filled the arena.

     My dreams always revolve around seeing him again... but this, I think this is a good one too.

     With her mind beginning to fuzz into the euphoric aftermath of the Serum, she didn't hear Riker open the door to the Match holding cells, nor did she hear him approach until she was being yanked by her scrawny arm by muscular fingers.

     "Liora, get your ass in here before I beat you into next week," he growled, his normally gruff persona took on one of deep desperation upon seeing the arena being taken down from its glory.

     The Serum had begun to metabolize in her system to start creating the fuzzy dreams she looked forward to each week, the addictive properties of the way it made her feel so bubbly... but it was not enough to keep the anger from bubbling up within her, rage filled her mind as she looked at her tormentor for so many years.

     Strange. I never get to see Riker in my dreams, either...

     He saw the look of pure rage flit over her features as his eyes widened in panic.

     She grabbed his beefy arm and brought it in towards her stomach, bringing her boney elbow down in the center of his arm. A satisfying crack filled her ears and his screams made her skin crackle with excitement, blood lust still remaining in her system. As he fell to his knees beside her, she snatched his hair at his scalp, tightening her grip to make him look her in the eyes. Anger then fear filled his pretty, middle-aged face as he realized he had never been in contact with her when she had the Serum still coursing through her; only when she was helpless to the chakra infused man.

     "Fuck off, Riker!" she boomed, her own ears ringing from her hoarse voice, "This is my dream! I'll be damned if you ruin it!"

     Only vaguely hearing and blatantly ignoring his pathetic pleas for mercy, she snapped his neck back with another bone worthy crunch. Riker's eyes widened before the light flittered from his gaze, his body went limp and fell to the ground beneath her. It was quick and painless, a death she felt he didn't deserve.

     Piece of garbage... no human decency... crazy... Psycho motherfucker.

     She gleefully raised her foot and smashed it down on his head once on the rock underneath him, and then again, and again. Blood splashed from his fair haired head, tainting the orange dust below, her bare feet covered in the aftermath. Enjoying her tormentor's blood at her feet, she keep smashing his brain matter into the ground, not satisfied until the crystal beside her also sported a red bath.

     Killing this sack of crap has been a dream since day one.

     Liora, lost in her mirth of smashing Riker's head in, hadn't heard footsteps approach until they were right beside her. She tore her gaze away from the blood bath she had created to two men standing cautiously before her. The one with the yellow hair had wide, blue eyes that looked cautiously to the body beneath her feet and then back to her. Her eyes narrowed as she made her stance sturdier, ready for another fight.

     Her eyes glazed over the boy as they rested on the next man. His silver hair shined from the crystal's reflection and he held up his hands to offer peace. His one eye was covered and his cloak was open to reveal a vest underneath. 

     He looks familiar..

     Memories of her youth swarmed her fuzzy head, the man who used Sharingan as a formidable weapon in the Ops, who was cool and harsh, yet a very good friend when she least expected it. His silver hair had always been his defining appearance. 

     "Kakashi?" she muttered warily.

     "Hi, Li--" he couldn't get the next word out as she pounced on him and wrapped her tiny arms around his toned waist, gripping tightly as happiness bubbled up into her fuzzy mind.

     "Ah, so good to see you, old friend! This is the best dream ever," she practically purred. The chaos surrounding the arena forgotten as she breathed in his familiar scent. He was an old friend who was the best in their generation, gaining an Ops title when he was only fourteen years old. Liora had been offered her role two years later when she was sixteen, their missions often coinciding with each other when it was a group effort. Their friendship consisted of a comradery that was forged in secrets, sarcastic comments, and a love for certain books over Sake after a long, dangerous mission.

     She could feel his arms drape gently on her shoulders, almost carefully, and she basked in his warmth.

     He never was one for hugging, but fuck it, a dream is a dream. 

     The sepia vision from the Serum was all but gone as the fuzzy effects of a dream like world took place. With her eyes shut, her body felt like it was above a cloud, colors twirling inside her eyelids. Everything felt good again, it was the addiction she longed for after every Match; it was a high that took her away from everything cruel the arena prison had to offer.

     Adrenaline had kept her body from feeling the effects of the beating before the Match, the will to survive insider her blood made it possible to withstand whatever was thrown at her until the Match was over and she could rest in her euphoric-like dream. While hugging her long time friend, she couldn't notice her body starting to shut itself down to preserve its energy, she started to shake as she felt like she was one with the universe. 

     Liora heard the blond young man beside her make a comment that ended in a friendly chuckle. She felt her body rise from the ground as her hearing went from the battering clashes in the arena to that of a pleasant buzz. She could feel musky wind on her face as she felt Kakashi jumping and running past the noise of the underground arena.

     This dream just keeps getting better and better... it would have been really nice if he was the one rescuing me, but Kakashi is a good trade.

     She could smell a moist mold as her surroundings went dark, but her senses quickly became drowned in warmth by the sun hitting her pale face. The sun was high in the sky and the trees were waving in the warm wind that blew.

     "Those are pretty trees," Liora coed, her hand reaching up to the trees that glowed green, sparkles surrounding their leaves as her vision grew darker. The wind felt like waves of warm water on her chilled face and the sun felt like heaven as it warmed her butterfly insides. 

     "Yes, they are," Kakashi said softly, bounding to the nearest tree, "rest now."

     Rest? I'm already resting. This is a dream, Kakashi, don't be dumb... she thought, as her eyes drifted shut, colors whirling behind her eyelids and her body felt light as a feather. The loud noises became distant as they pushed further away from it, her body relaxing into the man who she once called friend.

~~~

     The light outside of her eyelids felt foreign, the wind itself cascaded over her sore face as she tried to distinguish dream from reality. Liora sighed as her green eyes slowly opened. She felt grass under her hands and sun warming her face. The trees above her glistened in an ethereal grace that slightly soothed the now persistent pain in her temples.

     Though her body ached, her ears had stopped buzzing, and her eyes were intense on the scenery around her. The colors of everything she laid eyes on was amplified to create a charming hue, and in the back of her mind, everything felt like it was well in the world around her, forgetting the misery that was her life in the arena.

     Well. Guess the dream is still going on... usually they would heal me so I'm not in pain at this point. Whatever.

     Her neck screamed in pain as she turned it to the side of her laying position. There were moss covered rocks to her left and bushes that most likely held living creatures under their leaves, their branches holding red berries. She turned her head slowly to the other side where was greeted by the blond haired boy from the arena, his blue eyes lighting up as he noticed her awake.

     "Hey!" he chirped, sitting beside her on the grass as he tied his headband back onto his forehead, "Good to have you back. My name is Naruto," his voice was warm and mature.

     Her eyes narrowed then softened as she slowly took the hand he offered to shake a greeting. She stared at his face as he smiled wide, his eyes shutting in a friendly and trusting way, the headband he had tied on was black and wore the Leaf Village insignia. 

     She cleared her swollen throat, "Liora."

     He let go of her hand and nodded, "Yeah, I gathered as much when you were announced by the guy in the box at the arena. Kakashi seems to know you from a long time ago. Were you guys... lovers?" Naruto asked with a devilish look on the face that resembled Minato all too well.

     Quick to the point... She smiled even though her face disagreed with the action. Why am I still in pain? Usually dreams come with nothing but good things.

     "No..." she said, testing her voice, "No, not lovers. Old friends from the Ops."

     Naruto nodded quickly as he brought out food from his pocket, "Gotcha. Are you hungry? I have a few extra things in my pockets."

     Hungry? Fuck yes...

     "Yeah, actually," she said, taking the wrapped food from the man's hand. Naruto happily took another from his pocket and unwrapped it, munching with ease. She slowly unwrapped the granola bar and looked at it in amusement, so many details in this dream.

     "Where is Kakashi?" she asked as she took a careful bite, sweetness spread over her tongue. Her dark red eyebrows shot up in surprise as she chewed, it tastes like... real food. Alright, forget about the pain, this is the best dream ever. She munched the rest quickly, even licking her fingers in awe. The small package tasted glorious.

     Naruto smiled, realizing how skinny she was, they probably didn't feed the prisoners the best kind of food.

     "He went to get someone to heal you. Her name is Sakura, she is my team mate. Team 7," he glowed, "Kakashi is my sensei."

     "Sensei, huh?" she mused, "Never thought of Kakashi as the teaching type," her hands found the grass underneath her and stroked the blades affectionately, the colors enormously vibrant to her intense, post-Serum dream vision.

     "Grass is amazing stuff. So soft. Grows damn near everywhere here. And the colors, ugh," she groaned happily, pulling some up from the ground to smell between her fingers, the roots smelled musky like the earth, she was almost tempted to taste it.

     Naruto warily watched her, confused at the way she was acting. It seemed almost as if she was drunk. 

     Liora stopped smelling her beloved grass to reach a hand up to Naruto's face. He twitched as she took one finger and poked his nose.

     "Boop."

     Stunned, he sat still, contemplating how to handle the weird woman he sat next to. Then, he started to giggle, then snorted, then laughed loudly. Liora joined him, her eyes twinkling as the infectious laughter between them echoed into the trees. She motioned for him to help her sit up, he grabbed her arm and lifted her slowly to a sitting position. She hissed as her body disagreed with the action.

     "So, Nato?"

     "Naruto," he corrected, cleaning his hand of the grass she had in hers.

     "Naruto. When is this healer going to be here. My dreams are pain free, and I'd like to enjoy it, so I need a little pick me up from the pain."

     "What do you mean, a dream?" he asked, his eyebrows scrunching into the ridge of his nose.

     "A dream! You're here, I'm here. Kakashi was here. After the Serum, I get euphoria and dreams, I also get a healer to take away the pain! You know what, forget it, you're a dream persona I somehow made up. No worries, I'll just wait for the pain to stop."

     He shifted uneasily, almost as if he was trying to think of something to say. Liora was situated at the base of a tree in a small field of grass with rocks to her one side and a larger, open field of wild flowers to her other. She moved to lean her back against the large trunk behind her.

     "Liora, this isn't a --" he was distracted by movements nearby as he turned to look behind him. Kakashi and Sakura landed side by side, walking to where the two sat. Kakashi filled in his student on the way to their destination of what was happening.

     "Kakashi!" Liora excitedly sang, "Finally. Is this my healer?" her eyes drifted to the pink haired ninja next to Kakashi.

     "Yes, this is Sakura. You three keep each other company, I'm going to see if I can get ahold of Koro," Kakashi left the three to talk to his headset in the field of wildflowers. His murmurs only slightly audible from the soft blowing wind amidst the trees above.

     Sakura sat down on the opposite side of Naruto, she smiled to Liora as she settled. Her pink hair now tied back by her red headband and her knuckles dirtied by the punches she had thrown to many before she was picked up by Kakashi.

     "Hi, Liora," her voice was melodic and warm to Liora's ears, "my name is Sakura. I'm here to help."

     Liora snorted, "Yeah, I gathered as much. Anyone ever tell you how pretty you are?" she asked, taking strands of Sakura's pink hair in her fingers, admiring the beauty of her green light green eyes and soft face.

     Naruto's mouth gaped and Sakura stared at the red haired woman in front of her, a slight blush creeping on her soft features. From what she saw at the Match, and from what she's heard, she assumed she was a ruthless woman, not sweet.

     "Sakura? Pretty?" Naruto snorted. Sakura, leaving her professional medic persona aside, shoved his chest roughly, sending him flying five feet away from them. Liora looked on in amusement as Sakura cursed at the young man irritably, he brushed his clothes off and joined her side once more, mumbling his apologies and trying to convince her he was joking.

     Well... strange. I've never had a dream with so much detail of people I've never met. They're definitely teammates... brother and sister? But. Usually it's just being back in the Village, or using my jutsu, or him being back by my side... 

     "Can you tell me what hurts the most?" Sakura asked, Liora shook her heavy head and focused back on her fuzzy reality. She motioned to her neck and Sakura's chakra emanated from her hands, green chakra spilling out and resting on her external wounds. She worked next on her split lip and the gash in her forehead before turning to her ribs and abdominal areas .

     "They had in for you before the Match, didn't they?" her eyes full of concern.

     Liora shrugged, the pain had all but disappeared from her neck, "Wasn't the worst I've had. One time they broke my arm before a Match, but that was because I had killed one of the guards down in the prison. He had it coming. Shouldn't have been too close in the gym and, you know, actually paying attention."

     The young ninja nodded. Kakashi talked feverishly into his headset twenty feet away. The field held purple and yellow flowers and it went on for a few hundred feet before turning into the nearby forest. She watched Kakashi pace back and forth, the pain inside her body slowly eased and she could turn her head without anymore discomfort.

     "Have anymore food, kid?" Liora asked Naruto. He nodded and handed her a brightly colored package from his pocket. She dug into it to find small pieces of candy, trademarked of the Leaf Village candy hub. She hummed happily as she sucked on the sour candies.

     "I'm all done. Your feet were only covered in blood, nothing that warranted healing except some small gashes," Sakura said. Liora turned her gaze from Kakashi back to the youthful ninja beside her.

     Ha. That was when I bashed Riker's head in with my bare feet, bone is sharp when broken.

     "We might need to watch your head, I feel you're suffering from a concussion of sorts. I also healed some of your internal wounds, but only superficially, they will need to be watched when we get back to the Village. How are you feeling?"

     She wiggled her body, smiling as she shifted in each direction, even turning her toes from side to side.

     "Fantastic now. Thank you, dear. Best dream I've had in a long time, there's food! Don't have any Sake on you, do you, Mr. Naruto?"

     Sakura and Naruto glanced at each other, "Liora," she began, "this isn't a dream. Why would you think that?"

     Liora munched on her candies as she spoke, nonchalantly using her hands for emphasis, "Well. The Serum creates a blood thirsty monster to appease the crowds. Once it metabolizes in the blood, about the length of a Match, it gives you kind of a reward. It helps me forget about everything shitty and makes me feel good in a dream. Usually there's not too much detail except for being home, but being rescued is the best dream there is. Plus, Kakashi is here. So, do you guys have Sake? I'd die for a sip."

     "Nope. No Sake here, but when we get back to the Village you can have as much as you want," Naruto beamed, "and! I can show you my favorite Ramen shop. You'll love it!"

     "Ichiraku Ramen?" she glanced at the excited blond.

     "The very one!" 

     "Ha. I've been going there since I was small. Alright kid, make you a deal, if this dream lasts long enough, I'll go with you and I'll buy."

     "You can't promise him that, you'll be broke within the hour..." Sakura said in amusement as Naruto huffed in annoyance.

     The trees around them jiggled and leaves dropped from their resting points. The two teammates leapt up, ready to take on any adversary.

     Three distinctive thumps landed near them. With her fuzzy mind and still blurring eye sight, she made out two of three coming towards them. The third had gone to stand next to Kakashi and she could hear them whispering quietly. Naruto and Sakura leaped out in surprise, Liora giggled as they screamed their annoyances at the familiar looking man.  

     Guy? She questioned internally, looking at the jovial ninja in front of her.

     "Lee! You gotta give us some warning, buddy! We thought you were an enemy!" Naruto exclaimed as he nodded to the quiet Hinata, she nodded back shyly.

     "I am sorry. But, I'm not sorry," he giggled in his boyish yet deep voice. Liora stared at the young man for quite a long time. Lee stood proudly, showing off his muscles through his suit, as he gleamed at his shenanigans of scaring the small group.

     "What are you doing here, Lee?" Sakura asked. 

     "Well, Kakashi was talking on his headset for Koro, asking him to meet you guys here. Within the hour, we've taken down the entire arena, freed all the prisoners. They're all giving testimony and the security guards and Old Man that run it are in custody. We decided to see what you guys were doing so far away from the action."

     "That's right. I used my Byakugan to see where you guys were, you're pretty hidden out here," she said in her quiet voice, in a seemingly good mood.

     "Guy?" Liora asked out loud, the man before her looked exactly how he did when they were all younger in the Village, except his cheeks were a bit more pudgy instead of the sharp angles that she once knew. His black hair and green suit, even down to the weights he wore on his legs, looked exactly the same.

     Lee looked at Naruto and Sakura curiously before looking back down to Liora, he bent down and offered his hand in greeting, "No. I am Rock Lee. My sensei is Guy. He's right over there," he pointed to where Kakashi was now arguing with a loud Guy, she ignored his outstretched hand and stopped her sucking to hear their argument from where she sat.

     "Kakashi! We took down so many scallywags over there and you're here, what, playing nurse?!" Guy yelled, placing his hands dramatically on his waist.

     "Guy Sensei is a little mad at Kakashi..." Lee stated. 

     Naruto chuckled, "You think?"

     Guy stood in front of Kakashi, only showing the top of his black head as it bobbed from his supposed rage.

     "So who are you?" Hinata asked Liora as she crouched shyly next to Naruto. 

     Liora turned to look at Hinata, examining the way her body reacted to the blond, then her eyes swept back to Naruto, "She's got a crush on you," she said blatantly.

     Hinata's face went beet red and she made a small hiccuping noise as she fell backwards onto the ground in embarrassment. Sakura and Lee were laughing loudly as Naruto stared blankly at Liora. 

     "She's quick, I like her," Sakura said between her chuckles, Lee covering his mouth to stifle his hilarity.

     "That's not true! Hinata is just shy," Naruto stated gruffly.

     "Mmhm," she murmured through the candy in her teeth, turning back to the argument at the field.

     "Now, Guy. Listen, you don't understand, you weren't supposed to come, only Koro..." Kakashi tried to calm the man down, his voice becoming more irritated than soothing.

     "We were sent here to take down this operation! Who is so important that they take your focus away!?" Guy came out from in front of Kakashi and began pointedly walking towards his team and Liora. Kakashi shaking his head and pinching the middle of his eyebrows in frustration.

     Liora watched as the tall, muscular man came nearer, his face aged in a tense glare towards her specifically. Naruto and Sakura tensed themselves in the presence of an angry Guy.

     "And who are you?" Guy had walked straight to Liora, looking down on her as his eyes gleamed in ferocity, "we had a mission, and you seem to have taken the attention away from it! What's your motive?" 

     Liora rolled her green eyes and sighed loudly, her eyes twinkling as she looked up at the man hovering from above, "Well, it's nice to see you too, Guy."

     Silence pervaded the small circle around the red haired woman. The seconds ticked by with nothing by the rustling trees as an answer to his query. Even a rodent would run from the awkward silence that invaded their small circle. The tension grew between the group as Kakashi slowly walked over to where Guy stood, staring between his face and Liora's. He grabbed his shoulder gently when minutes had passed, urging him to say something.

     "What is happening?" Lee asked Naruto who only shrugged. 

     "Guy... it's Liora," Kakashi said quietly. Liora winked at the large man before her. Realization dawning on his stern face, softening his eyes as his hands dropped from his hips. His mouth formed words that never shaped into coherent speech as his face contorted to confusion, shock, anger, then worry from a concerned former friend.

     "Guy Sensei! What is wrong? Are you having a seizure?" Lee was at his side, trying to distinguish what was happening. Kakashi sighed and shook his head in defeat.

     "He's okay, Lee. Don't worry."

     "You know, for a dream, you're very quiet," she said in hilarity at his loss of words, "even back in the Village, you always had something to say."

     "I think he's just shocked to see you again, Liora," Kakashi said, a smile creeping into his eye.

     "Oh! You knew Guy Sensei!" Lee quipped, "Was he a friend of yours?"

     She ignored the silence of Guy as she spoke, "Everyone is always shocked to see me in my dreams, the homecoming is usually the best part about it, Kakashi. You're usually the quiet one, and he," she pointed up at Guy, "is usually the loud one. These guys are not even there, and Tsunade is the one bringing on the rounds of Sake. Is there Sake?" she asked the group hopefully. They shook their heads in curiosity.

     "What kind of dream is this when there's no Sake?" she muttered in annoyance, "Just as Kakashi was a friend of mine, so was Guy," she answered Lee's question, he nodded happily in respect. Liora winked at Guy again, smiling largely to provoke a reaction from him.

     "A dream?" Guy finally spoke. 

     It was then that Liora's vision blurred quickly, pain enveloped her features as her head pounded fiercely. She grabbed her head and her breathing became erratic as she slammed her eyes shut, hunching over her midsection and whimpering from the intensity of the sudden pain. She opened her eyes and saw nothing but dark spots swarming her vision.

     Dreams end up happy... Not in agony. What the fuck... pain seeped into every inch of her mind and body, creeping up like fire on a burning building.

     Voices started to raise around her in alarm as her body went limp, her head becoming too heavy for her neck to hold. She could feel her body convulse as she coughed violently, the warm trickle of blood slipping down her chin. Hands caught her as she fell backwards towards the tree, one sound coming in crystal clear as her mind darkened;

     "Liora..."

Chapter Text

     The sky above her was an iridescent rainbow of purple, orange, and pink, swirling together to form an entirely new color as the sky had almost completed its descent behind the trees. The water she was dangling her feet in glistened with the motions of the calm current, small waves silently weaving their way up and down the shore, the wind creating a tiny amount of motion amongst the break of the lake top.

     She sat at the edge of the dock, curiously picking up and examining the material that gathered at the docks' front, fingering it with interest until she flicked it back into the lake with disgust. Her red hair glistened with water droplets from a dip she had taken earlier. She had played with the light in the water with her abilities, surrounding herself with light generated from her chakra so she could explore the depths of Konoha's lake. It was mainly filled with rocks and various trash debris but she did find a nifty kunai that must have been at least fifty years old.

     While sitting on the docks' edge, she summoned chakra from within her fingertips and concentrated to create tiny bubbles of light around her hand, making them dance and sway to the movements of the lakes' current of motion. They twinkled like fireflies. She twirled them in circles until she aimed for the middle of the lake and shot the chakra orbs from her fingers with a flick of her wrist. They skipped like rocks as they disintegrated in the middle of the lake, their shock waves disappearing into the murky depths of the darkening waters.

     She smiled in content, her eyes adjusting to the coming dark, and took another bite of the candies she always kept with her from the Candy Hub. She chewed loudly as the sun had finally drifted behind the trees creating a darkness that was soothing to the brilliance that once was the sun. The tree tops on the other side of the lake were colored by dark green shadows that created an ambiance of peace in the quiet that ensued the Village after dark. 

     She sang her favorite lullaby, one that brought her many nights of peace, flicking another candy in the air and catching it happily between her teeth. The lake echoed her arioso voice across the surface as the evening air settled around her cool body.

     "Lay down your head and I'll sing you a lullaby.

     Back to the years of loo-li lai-lay..."

~~~

     Liora hummed at the memory she was granted from the deep of her subconscious. It was a day she had all to herself, one of rarity when she had joined the ranks... she was always busy with a mission of some sorts after that. All of her friends had been gone on missions for the day, so she decided to have a day at the spa and then finish it off with a swim in Konoha's lake. 

     It was the night before her three month long mission in the Ops. That night, the man she loved was coming home from his own mission, just in time to see her off for the day to come.

     Her mind grasping at the pleasure of a peaceful memory, she opened her eyes in a slit, seeing nothing but obscure colors as the trees whipped past her. Green and brown and blue blurs engulfed her blurry vision; deciding it made her less queasy to shut her eyes than to keep them open, she slid them shut again.

     She then felt arms tighten around her as she felt the warmth of a body permeate her fragile being. She smiled, trying to absorb the warmth from whoever's arms she was in. Distracting herself from the way her body seemed to be aching in her dim awakening, she hummed quietly, affectionately remembering the times when she had sang her favorite lullaby in the Village. Humming to it, she followed the words in her own mind.

     And I'll sing you to sleep and I'll sing you tomorrow

     Bless you with love for the road that you go

     "Is she awake?" she heard Kakashi from miles away.

     "No, I think she's in and out of consciousness. We're almost to the Village, don't worry," Sakura said, her voice also sounded miles away.

     May you sail far to the far fields of fortune

     Liora snuggled into the body she was being princess carried by, practically leaching their warmth into her own chilled body as her nerves started to notice something was wrong.

     With diamonds and pearls at your head and your feet

      And may you need never to banish misfortune

     May you find kindness in all that you meet

     "That sounds like... an old lullaby. But, really out of tune," Guy said, his voice faint but close, "but I remember that was her favorite lullaby back in the day."

     Fuck you, too. Never was a good singer...

     "Guy Sensei, she says she is in a dream, so I'm not sure how much of this she will remember," Sakura said, troubled thoughts were evident in her voice that was a million miles away, but still melodic to Liora's ears.

     May you bring love and may you bring happiness

     Be loved in return to the end of your days

     "Kakashi... did you know she was in there?" Guy asked quietly, his deep voice rumbling through his chest, she decided that she was being carried by Guy as she felt the rumbles of his voice. She could almost feel his heartbeat.

     "I only knew when she came out of the arena doors for the Match."

     Now fall off to sleep, I'm not meaning to keep you

     I'll just sit for a while and sing loo-li, lai-lay

     Liora could feel the nodding and a deep breath being taken by the man that was carrying her. There was a sudden stop that almost made her queasy with the abrupt motion. Hands were suddenly on her stomach and chest and she could feel the energy of chakra flow through her chilled body. Almost making her body feel better... almost.

     "Okay," Sakura's concerned voice shined through the lightness of her head, "we need to hurry, she needs surgery right away, her body is in shock and there's a few internal injuries that are most likely doing the harm" and her queasiness returned with another abrupt motion of movement. Liora swallowed a few times to keep the nausea away; she continued to hum to ease her discomfort.

    May there always be angels to watch over you

    To guide you each step of the way

     The minutes that passed felt more and more like her skin and body were on fire, creeping into her lulled subconscious as it fought to be known instead of ignored, breathing almost felt like a chore and not something the body did naturally without thought. Liora felt so sleepy, so tired, but she had to keep on fighting the darkening of her mind. The wind from the speed of their journey swept across her sweat covered forehead, her eyebrows and upper lip felt heavy with liquid, she shivered slightly.

     To guard you and keep you safe from all harm

     Loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay

     "Guy... I'm not sure of her mental state..." Kakashi started until he was cut off sharply by a grunt from his comrade.

     "It doesn't matter. What matters... is that our friend is coming home safe," she could feel him tighten his grip on her as he whispered to her directly, "don't worry, you will be fine."

     Silence pervaded the group as their feet hit the tree branches at twice the speed of before. Birds chirped overhead as they whizzed through the leaves of the forest. Liora's head felt heavy and her mouth was dry as the sounds of the world faded from her mind, the depth of sleep overcoming her deprived body.

     Loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay

     Loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay...

Chapter Text

Alrightyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Hello! :D

 

First of all, thanks to everyone supporting my story so far. Makes me super happy to see a new bookmark or a kudos pop up in my email! It's an idea that mulled about three years ago, and being as I grew up on Naruto, I just had to make my own little storyline; like every good fan eventually does ;) 

 

Now, a little update on my life:

 

Long story short, quit the job I had for about 6 years to pursue something else. Got fired from the new job... I mean, I lasted a month and a half while most were gone the first few days, so I guess I have to give myself some credit. Sales, am I right? High turnover rates, kids, don't trust them.

 

So, after a month of joblessness, I got a job at Starbucks near my house. I was a Supervisor at a retail, licensed one before, so I thought it would be cool to be at an actual Starbucks standalone. Boy, was I wrong. Cliques galore! Like, excuse the fuck out of me, sorry I came for a job and expect to be treated nicely... nope. Plus, 5 hours a week... that's some bullshit. I could tell countless horror stories of co-workers from that place. Customers were honestly the best part... yes, that's how bad it was.

 

So basically, that's why I have had so much time to write my fanfic... because I literally had nothing else to do except search for a new job. One day I woke up and was like, "Oh yeah! I could continue my fic from three years ago instead of die of boredom!"

 

So, good update: got a much better job! :D

 

Twice the pay of my old job, and my co-workers are amazing. A lot of opportunity to grow within their business. Unfortunately, it means I really haven't had time to write lately. But, I'm always thinking of new ideas and planning the next few chapters in advanced to work on. I work on a computer now... shouldn't be too hard, right? Lol.

 

Update done. Thanks again for everyone supporting! You make me happy!

 

-AT