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Wind Monk Banishment – Beetle Chronicles #3

Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment – Beetle Chronicles

Chapter 3: A Tale of Seven-Tails Pt.3

Author’s Note: Shibuki is around Fuu’s age (give or take a year), rather than whatever Canon would be, on account of being an AU… and the fact that I refuse to believe he was 20 in Part I, the village leader, and that much of a pansy.

Fuu: Age 12

The forest seemed to go still as the curtain of droplets fell from the grey heavens above. It was raining as the green-haired Jinchuuriki of Waterfall stood before her opponent, with her legs spaced from one another and tensed in a manner that would allow her to move to left or right. As time had passed the looming horrors of puberty had begun to make themselves known, and her hair had grown a bit longer in tandem with her body having grown in height.

Standing opposite of her was the current bane of her existence to date, Suika. Suien had ordered him to assist in her training as he had business to take care of. He stood there in the rain with his posture relaxed, arms at his side as the streamlets of water flowed down his body, seeping from the high-collar of his blue-and-orange jacket and snaking down his black shirt and bare arms.

Fuu hated the man. Without a doubt she did. If Suien’s training was rough, his was simply abusive in nature with how he constantly struck her hard enough to leave bruises that were sore and tender for a good and long time after he was done.

And the asshole did it without ever losing that bored look on his face. She wasn’t even sure he was human with how he could carry out some of the executions he did in the Worm Pit while looking like that. Or worse, when he made Fuu do it.

Since that first time she was forced to put down the child for the village’s sake, she had been instructed to do it more and more to her dismay. Men and women, old and young, no one brought there was spared. They made her handle every third one brought in while Suien and Suika took the other two.

Her gaze briefly faltered as she wiped the water from her eyes. She was starting to regret not keeping her bandana to cover her eyes so the rain didn’t get into it. Perhaps it was because she was entering the age of teenage rebellion, but she normally left it behind while out in the forest unless she had to wear it. After everything she had to do for the village, how she lost her innocence that day when she killed the son of the traitorous merchant, she couldn’t stand it unless she had to.

Suien seemed to understand that. He always gave her a cookie afterwards and let her go get some rest, although she never could because she would hear the screaming of the dying, begging her not to kill them in some manner or other. He only told her that she needed to wear it during an active conflict, such as fighting off more Grass shinobi. He even let her take some of their things too as spoils for doing a good job, saying it would be their little secret.

So far she had gotten some make up a kunoichi had brought for some reason that didn’t matter once her bugs got to her, some extra rations for when she felt a little hungrier than normal since she was a growing girl, some technique scrolls, and some excess supplies that came in handy for training. But her favorite was an orange book that held her interest. Fuu briefly entertained the idea of being in love like the people in those books were before they got…intimate.

Then the idea died as the silence of the forest, besides the pattering of the life-nourishing rainfall hitting the thirsty fauna, was broken by the arrival of bees and wasps that had heeded her call. They formed a swarm as Fuu ordered them to surround him and attack, sending her intentions through the chakra they were empowered by. She didn’t hold back, giving them the order to kill when it came to him.

The apathetic look on his face didn’t change at all as he made the hand signs for what Fuu recognized as the Grand Fireball technique. He was a fire-user in contrast to Suien, who mostly used water techniques. Fuu’s skills were geared towards water, along with the sole lightning technique she had learned from a scroll she took off one of the Grass shinobi. Even then she botched every few times.

It honestly rankled her that her bugs were such a bad match-up against her mentors. While Suien could use water to crush them, he not only burned them but, even when she could take authority over his spiders, he could make a giant flaming spider to kill them before trapping her in their silk webbing. It was like the village chose them specifically to counter her… of course they did, what was she thinking otherwise?

He soon breathed out the chakra molded into heat and flames as a constant stream of burning fire, rather than the namesake, just like she figured he would. The technique was good enough as long as he kept the flow of chakra fluid and constant. He spun as around with it to set the spiraling horde aflame while she used the opportunity to run to a near tree and jump above him while he was focused on them and blinded by his own technique to what was coming.

Just like all the other elements, there were two types of ways chakra manipulated water. The first was that it bled outwards, soaking every bit that it could find and then bending it to the user’s will. While less intensive than converting and creating chakra into the element, it was reliant on the amount of moisture in the surroundings to make up for the lack of necessary elemental nature.

The second was that chakra itself was converted into water. This false element was much like the fire he used and why it didn’t kill him from the heat, a chakra construct made to simulate the real element and its real effects to an extent. The benefit of this meant that it could be used anywhere and molding the chakra or changing its properties was so much easier, but it was dependent on chakra reserves, costly, and if the chakra was stripped from it then every drop vanished.

Sensing chakra was something most shinobi couldn’t do either, unless it was in very high amounts and almost to the point where it was visible. And, while a normal Genin would need to declare the name of the technique to focus on crafting it, Fuu didn’t need to even whisper as her chakra clung to the moisture in the air and pulled it towards her outstretched hand. It coalesced and was made harder as it formed a blade, perfect for a stealth-kill.

With the Water Slicing Sword in hand, one of the first techniques she learned, Fuu descended upon the Jounin like a Grim Reaper as his flames died with the rest of her bugs. He looked up from either her shadow being cast or the break in the rain above him. But it was too late. The blade was swung with all the strength her lithe body could offer and drew an arch through the falling rain as it came around to cleave his head open….

It passed through. As though she was cutting down a ghost there wasn’t any noticeable resistance as the Jounin’s facsimile vanished. She landed into a botched roll and ended back up on her feet while trying to ignore the pain in her shoulder as she looked around for the bastard.

“Pathetic.” Suika’s voice came from behind her. She swung the blade around on reflex to meet the source. He grabbed her Water Slicing Sword with his right hand, the fingers closing in on the flat sides. He then lowered it, bringing his left fist around to her cheek and knocking her down to the soggy ground.

On her hands and knees as she tried to pick herself up, he set his foot on her back and pushed her down until she was laying in the wet grass and moist dirt from which earthworms writhed in nature’s shower. No matter what she tried to do, even as chakra gave her strength above a normal twelve year old, she couldn’t stand. All she could do was turn her head, glaring at him with spiteful green eyes.

“You rely too much on your insects,” Suika scolded in his usual apathetic manner. “Your hand-to-hand stunk until just then and your basics still need work if you fell for a Clone and Body Flicker combination. Perhaps you should spend your time doing that rather than reading that orange book….”

Her blush at that was furious and her rage at him was so thick it could be cut with the blade in her hand if she could get a decent angle to use it. Maybe she could get his foot that was on the ground? She contemplated it for a moment and her fingers tensed to move when the sound of clapping came from over the rain and signaled the end of the sparring.

Suien had returned. He was leaning against a tree so the leaves above shielded him from the rain. “That’s enough.”

“Is it done?” Suika asked, removing his foot from her back.

“The incursions have stopped for the moment,” he said. “But they’ll pick back up soon enough. Like I feared, they know the location of the Hero’s Water. That’s what these latest incursions have been about.”

Fuu stood up and rubbed the sore spot where Suika, the douche-bag that he was, had been grinding his foot into. “How do you know that?”

“Just as they have spies in our village we have a share in theirs.” He mused it over. “Well, some coerced civilians and a shinobi of the Leaf village in their ranks that passes along the information, but its close enough to the point. Most likely one of Shibuki’s father’s men told them during the last incident, where they drank the water in its hiding place and then left to fight. I was already on the front-lines, so I was unable to taste it.”

“In that case, shouldn’t we tell Shibuki and get him to move it?” Fuu asked.

Suien shook his head. “No. The Hero’s Water should be moved, but not with Shibuki knowing.”

Fuu looked at him skeptically. From her point of view, that was treason talk. Considering what she had been made to do in the Worm Pit for that sort of thing, she was starting to wonder if he had been replaced by someone in a Transformation.

Perhaps sensing this, he raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Hear me out. We’re the ones defending the village and risking our lives. When was the last time they sent us assistance before the threat was taken care of?”

She thought about it. The answer was maybe once, and that was simply because the enemy was reclusive. The number of times they had been at risk, and she nearly died, were far more than that. “Okay, but what’s the got to do with the Hero’s Water?”

“Who’s better qualified to look after it?” Suien said, gesturing to himself, Suika, and Fuu. “They don’t care about you, but they still throw you to the wolves and expect you to die for something you haven’t even seen. Once it’s taken by the spies, do you really think they’ll just call it a day and let you back into the village?”

A frown formed on her face at that. Shibuki would… would he let her back in? When was the last time he even visited her? Did he even care about her anymore?

“Let’s say I agree with you,” Fuu finally said, “what would I need to do?”

“Talk to Shibuki,” Suien said. “Get him to tell you where the Hero’s Water is. Then leave the rest to us.”

Later that Night

A fly floated in the air above the secluded village almost lazily as it circled around in search for a place to land. A shinobi on guard swatted at it while it buzzed around him, keeping on-guard as silently as he could while the pest annoyed him relentlessly. He remained blissfully unaware as the Jinchuuriki of the Seven-Tailed Beetle slipped past him in the water below.

They had no reason to suspect she’d entered. She hadn’t set foot in the village for a long time. The phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ was clearly at play, and she was willing to utilize it to its fullest effect.

Though it did rankle her how easy it was as she swam like a toad beneath the water’s surface with a re-breather in her mouth. Honestly, if she could sneak in this easily then they had gotten lax in their defenses like Suien said. On the other hand, maybe it was because she and the others had been doing such a good job of keeping them safe that they felt the extra work wasn’t worth the effort.

That made it worse that she was being treated like this—isolated from the village when she was the only thing keeping it safe. On her worse days, she honestly wondered why she didn’t let Grass burn this place to the ground. It was then she thought about Shibuki and what he’d meant to her when they were children, before she was taken from his side. Did he even remember her?

She noticed the guards posted around his home, perched on the rooftops above. They were alert, in contrast to the guy she distracted before. That could be a problem. Thankfully, there weren’t any real sensors in the village so her next plan went off without a hitch. Small beetles in the air above them carried small seal slips and she triggered them.

Inside the slips was a sleeping gas, thin enough not to be visible even as they noticed the scent in the air changed. It was a Grass blend, meant to paralyze and put to sleep at the same time. They had taken it from some corpses they looted. They were out cold before they knew it, remaining perched as though nothing was wrong.

Fuu emerged from the water and carefully used a technique to dry her clothes and skin without leaving a puddle behind. She then guided some of her larger insects inside of Shibuki’s home and used them to unlock his door from the inside, not wanting to trip the alarm seals on the window. She closed the door behind her gently and then took a minute to appreciate being in his home for the first time in years. Nothing much seemed to have changed….

She shook her head to avoid falling into the nostalgia trap and went up the wall next to his stairs, not wanting the creaking to give her away. She climbed up to Shibuki’s room and repeated the trick she did before to get his bedroom door open without making too much noise. She shut the door quietly and just stood there, watching him sleep.

Shibuki was sprawled across the surface of his bed, sheets wrinkled beneath him as he snored softly in a shirt and his boxers. The part of her that liked to reminiscence about the old days noticed he hadn’t changed at all in that aspect. Only back then he would have taken up less space and she’d be curled up next to him and fighting in her sleep to get more cover from beneath him. She missed those days a lot.

Her footfalls were soft as she approached his bed and ended up leaning over him while he slept, the light of the moon slipping in through the blinds patterned over them. Her eyes took notice of something she hadn’t in the distance. To her surprise, he had gotten… handsome, if she had to put it into words.

The part of her undergoing puberty brought thoughts of the orange book, leaving them flashing across her mind, and she inadvertently licked her lips. The moment the rational part of her mind kicked in at the realization of what she was doing her face turned red and flushed. She ended up letting an embarrassed noise slip out of her mouth.

Shibuki’s eyes snapped open with that sound. She placed a hand over his mouth before he could yell or anything, giving his eyes time to adjust to room and see her holding a finger to her mouth. His eyes darted around to see if anyone else was there before he nodded.

She lifted her hand from his mouth and sat down on his bed. “Been a while, hasn’t it Chibi-buki?”

Shibuki sat up. “How did you get in?”

“Your guards were asleep on the job,” she told him while kicking her feet back and forth lazily. “Snuck in that way. Really, you need better security if I can get in this easily.”

“I’ll talk to them in the morning.” He rubbed his eyes and then gave Fuu a once over, almost the same way she had done to him.

An impish smile came across her face and she leaned closer, giving him a better look. “See something you like?”

He blushed for a moment and shook his head. “No, it’s just… you’ve gotten bigger.”

“Well, of course I have. I’ve been fighting to keep the village safe all the time.” Her smile turned into a pout. “Speaking of which, you know about the spies?”

Shibuki nodded, and a bitter expression formed on his face as he crossed his legs. “I’ve read the reports from Suien. Hard to believe it sometimes with how peaceful things are inside the village.”

“Yeah, because I’ve been trying my hardest to protect it,” Fuu said, bringing her hands to her bare arms between the arm warmers and her shoulders. “It’s been harder than you could imagine. The things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done, the pain I’ve gone through… because they want the Hero’s Water.”

He looked guilty at that. “Fuu, I swear if there was another way—”

“You don’t know what it’s like.” She grabbed his hand with her own and raised it to her chest, holding it tightly between her fingers. It felt surprisingly calloused, like he had been training with a sword. “Shibuki, when was the last time you’ve had to kill a man? Feeling the blood drip down from the kunai into your hands, and then watching as thousands of insects tear them apart in order to hide the bodies?”

He paled.

“That’s the sort of things I’ve had to look at constantly,” she continued. To her surprise, her voice was growing hoarse as the truth mixed in. She lowered her hand to where her seal was. “I wasn’t even ten when I was expected to learn how to access the Seven-Tails’ chakra or risk being eaten by spiders, and then the killing and torturing before I had even turned eleven.”

“Fuu, I know it’s hard—”

“No, you don’t!” She didn’t mean to nearly yell at him, but it came out with the tears. “You turned me into a kunoichi, a killer… a weapon for the village… I tell myself every night that I cry myself to sleep that you would make it go away and tell me I’ve done enough, but the next day it starts again.”

She curled up and cried like she hadn’t done in over a year, not since the boy whose throat she slit for merely being related to a traitor. “I’m always fighting, and killing, and hurting others, all because of Tana and his bakery. Suien and Suika are relentless and tell me to follow orders, but how can I be so blindly loyal to a village that treats me like a walking plague?”

He said nothing, though he should. He was the village’s leader and those words were tantamount to treason. But he didn’t. Instead, he wrapped his arms around her in a hug.

Please, Shibuki.” She begged him, nestling her face against his chest and holding him tight. “At least show me what I’m fighting for. Let me see with my own eyes what I’m killing others for left and right? Give me a reason to keep going!”

Shibuki let her go and stood up off the bed. He walked towards the wall, stopping and bringing a hand to his face in thought. She figured it was eating him up on the inside.

Fuu kept crying, not only out of the truth of her words, but hatred at herself for what she was doing. She knew how soft he was. She was playing on his feelings, manipulating him so that his guilt worsened. Even if it was true, she didn’t want to hurt him.

“…Okay, Fuu.” He opened his closet and pulled out some clothes to get dressed. “I’ll show you what you’re fighting for. We’ll need to do this quick, while those guards are asleep. No one else can know.”

“Thank you,” she said, wiping the tears away. Damn Suien and Suika for making her do this to him. “I… thank you, Shibuki. Thank you.”

Inside of the Tree

Fuu silently emerged up from the water and found herself in an underground pocket of air nestled beneath the roots of the great tree. She noticed air must’ve been coming in from above because the water hadn’t risen. Did that mean the tree was hollowed to some extent?

Pwah!” Shibuki gasped as he emerged from the water next to her, shaking his hair. He nodded his head up and to the side. “There, climb up there. The roots will give way to the side.”

She climbed and pushed where he said to. The roots there were thinner, easier to brush aside and slip into. She made to climb further up them… and then thought twice about. Occasionally flirtatious due to puberty, with a fetish for a book she shouldn’t be reading, she might be. A flasher, she was not. She jumped back in the water.

“You first.” He looked confused. Apparently the same thoughts that passed in her mind weren’t even a factor in his. She chalked it up to the orange book she read and clarified. “I’m wearing a skirt, Shibuki.”

His eyes widened in understanding and he blushed again. “Right. I’ll go first.”

He climbed past her, not meeting her eyes, and pushed aside the bundle of supple roots that led further ahead. Fuu walked behind him, using her chakra to make the trip easier. They were near the top of the tree’s interior when they entered into what looked to be a natural chamber inside of it.

“We’re here,” Shibuki said, using the same technique to dry himself off that she did and then heading into the center, where there was a small shrine. And there, hanging beneath a small torii, was what she presumed to be the Hero’s Water.

The liquid was inside of a glass-like gourd bottle, nearly full and crystal-clear. Fuu found it difficult to believe such a thing could be the most valuable treasure in the village. In all honestly, she found it almost sad to think that this could be what Grass was willing to throw their men and women into the grinder for.

Yet, Shibuki held the bottle tenderly between his hands. Not a surprise. His father had died from drinking it the last time. How painful must it have been for him to look at it, knowing that while his father died because of it, he would likely need to use it as well should she fail in her duties?

“This is the Hero’s Water.” He handed it to her. “The liquid inside is produced by the tree every 100 years, or rather that’s how long it takes for enough to accumulate and fill a bottle. It increases one’s chakra output by ten-fold, in exchange for part of their life. It goes without saying that, for a skilled shinobi, so much chakra would allow them to deal with any threat.”

“But is it safe here?” she asked as she twisted it around in her hands. “Everyone knows how sacred this tree is, even if they don’t know it’s here in particular. What’s stopping the spies from finding it eventually? Wouldn’t it be better to move it?”

It was a valid question considering that her insects could have literally crawled through a number of nooks and openings that she noticed. No wonder they didn’t want her in the village—she would have likely have found the place by accident. For Shibuki’s part, he shook his head.

“I can’t let anyone move it, Fuu,” he said. “No one besides me is supposed to know where it is. The reason I’m showing you this is because you asked me to give you a reason for why you fight. I wanted you to see for yourself the three treasures of this village that Father told me was my duty as the leader to protect.”

Her ears perked up. “Three?”

“The first are the people,” he said, gesturing out of the hole towards the village underneath. Fuu personally begged to differ, but he seemed to think otherwise. He gestured to the bottle. “The second is the Hero’s Water, meant to protect the first treasure.”

That made sense, she supposed. “What’s the last?”

He pointed to her. “You, Fuu.”

A flash of surprise came over her face at the thought of being a treasure of the village. Then she recalled what lay inside of her. It wasn’t her, who was the treasure. It was the demon inside of her. Her heart dropped a little at that, knowing he saw her as an object because of what was inside of her.

“So, the Jinchuuriki is the third treasure,” she said, holding the bottle slightly tighter. Part of her wanted to break it, she would admit. It was like he was saying she was no better than it. “I shouldn’t have been surprised. There are only so many of us, aren’t there?”

“None of them could replace you, Fuu.” He took the water from her and set it back in place. “To be honest, the Hero’s Water is also used as a safety measure to suppress the Jinchuuriki should they go out of control. Because we theorize that the tailed-beast inside is able to learn from its hosts, you shouldn’t know at all where it is since it would be the first thing targeted.”

That… complicated things then. If that was true, then she just necessitated the Hero’s Water being moved one way or another. Maybe it would be best if she told Suien not to tell her wherever they were going to hide it. Still, a question came to mind.

“Why show it to me then?” she asked. “I mean, if you had told me back in your room, I would have understood. I… I’m a liability. Logically speaking.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” He took her hands into his gently, kindly. “It’s because I trust you, Fuu. More than anyone else in the world.”

She found herself stunned, heat spreading across her face. Was it puberty again? She shook it away and looked down to the ground. “Y-You do?”

He gently guided her chin up and looked her directly in the eyes, a warm smile on his face. “I’ve missed you, Fuu—seeing you, hearing your voice, holding your hand. You aren’t just any Jinchuuriki, but my best friend in the world. You’ve been there through the good time and the bad, even my father’s death. You haven’t lost control, and you’ve been fighting day and night to protect people who only see the demon and destruction caused in the past. How could I not trust you after all we’ve been through?”

He thought that highly of her, when the truth was so different. She fought not for the people who abandoned her, but because of the memories she had of him. Yet, he believed her to be so pure and noble that she was risking her life for those who shunned her. He thought she was that wonderful of a person with all his heart, enough that he’d….

“Fuu, what’s wrong?” he asked. “You’re crying again.”

“Huh?” She reached up and touched her cheek, only to feel the wet, hot tears on her fingertips. It took her only a moment to realize why.

He trusted her. He trusted her more than anyone else in the world, despite carrying the village’s demon. He was possibly dooming them if she lost control of it by showing her this, but he did it anyway—all so that she felt appreciated.

And she had manipulated him into doing so, betraying their friendship by taking advantage of their bonds. She used those feelings to get what she wanted. She was a horrible friend.

“I’m so sorry …” She trembled in place as the tears flowed even quicker. Her arms wrapped around his back and held him tight as a raw cry came out of her throat. “I’m sorry for not believing in you all this time!

He let her cry on his shoulder without a word until she had no more tears to shed.

End Note: Yeah, sorry for the long delay… I have no excuse barring work is busying.

Wind Monk Banishment: Beetle Chronicles #2

Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment – Beetle Chronicles

Chapter 2: A Tale of Seven-Tails – Part 2

Fuu: Age 10

Fuu stood unnerved in front of the fresh corpse of a Grass shinobi that dwelled on the outskirts of the forest, blood staining the grass red as it seeped from the gaping wound. Suien was there as well with his curved Water Slicing Blade perched on his shoulder, blood from the tip flowing down the length. His eyes surveyed their surroundings, briefly passing the merchant’s corpse that was barely obscured by the brush as he had killed the shinobi before he could destroy it.

“Find any stragglers,” he ordered the jinchuuriki. “Before anymore merchants are lost.”

Fuu shook herself out of the macabre allure of blood staining the grass. She recalled and enacted the gesture for the Insect Gathering technique and place her palm down in the moist grass that had dew lingering from the morning mist hours ago. The chakra web extended once more that day, linking her to the anthropoids that dwelled within the area that had yet to be touched by her intentions and chakra.

“The web is too short,” Suien said as he noticed it barely reaching half the scope of his vision. “Make it bigger.”

“I don’t have enough chakra,” she said, the pangs of exhaustion upon her. The melding of physical and spiritual energy was a process she still lacked refinement over and as such much was wasted, leaking free from its vessel like heat loss until what she had remaining was very little at this point.

“Then pull more from the seal,” he said curtly. “Hurry up.”

I need your help again Mr. Beetle King, Fuu mentally whispered to the resident dwelling inside her. While there was no verbal response, as there hadn’t been for the last year or so, Fuu was certain that her words reached the chakra demon within as she felt a minor burning sensation where the seal was. The foreign charka formed a light lining of luminous green overlapping her web and becoming extensions that spread further than her eyes could track.

As the web spread and then leaked chakra like radiation, various types of insects fell under its thrall as it permeated them with the Beetle King’s chakra. Like an empty black sky that was suddenly illuminated with hundreds of stars that grew with every passing second, the full scope of the diversity in such a small portion of the forest boggled her mind and expanded her options for information gathering.

With compounded eyes the flies that were lingering around a squirrel corpse set out to search for any other humans. Spiders waited on their webs for anything to brush past the fine hairs on their legs, female mosquitoes traced the trail of carbon dioxide to find the source of warm lifeblood that they craved, and butterflies fluttered in search of what their wings could touch, all of them sending information pertaining to if they found something that met the general criteria she set.

As the scattering of insects brushed the shrouded forms or traced their breath or registered the almost silent sounds and scents, countless signals and sounds native to each insect’s species, flowed through the connection the chakra provided and reached the jinchuuriki. So much information, so much noise, it was all causing her an immense headache as her mind scrambled to decipher it all in terms that a human could properly interpret.

She was unfamiliar with having so many under her command, so many soldiers in her army, so many scouts reporting back information, she couldn’t micromanage them all, not with her little experience. Supposedly once she had enough control over the demon she could share their sight and hearing in real-time, as well as direct each one individually rather than in mass, but considering how much of a strain doing this alone was she couldn’t imagine such a thing.

The blur of information was jumbled as she finally managed to interpret enough to state. “The bugs are saying they can’t see them, but they can feel them. The Hiding with Camouflage technique you told me about. There are three to the south, south-east, and south-west.”

“Direct them to enclose on them and seal their movements,” Suien ordered. “I want them blind, deaf, and mute as well—all at the same time so they can’t signal one another.”

“I…I can’t do it all at once,” she said. “They’re too far away and—”

“Manage,” was all he said. Then he was gone into the brush to find and kill his targets.

Fuu strained her head to try and divide the amassed number, over a million when you considered the sheer number of ants in the colonies that were around, and then sent the new commands, first directing those already in contact with them to slowly encroach so they didn’t notice anything suspicious until the rest from the other directions touched by her web arrived and swarmed them as one. It was too much and felt like her mind was splitting until they suddenly did what she asked as the Beetle King silently directed them in her stead upon hearing her intentions, easing the burden on her mind. She quietly thanked it as the chakra fueling their army reinforced their natural functions and they moved to accomplish their mission.

The first of the Grass shinobi to be hunted only knew he had been found when he felt the number of mosquitoes birthed from still waters of the minor ponds nipping at him, slipping under his clothes to take their fill of blood, joined by a third of the horde that descended like a cyclone and encompassed his figure, countless bites and agonizing stings piercing his flesh as they snuck beneath the fabric or chewed through it. Concentration proved difficult as moths and butterflies tried to smother and blind him by shrouding his head, alongside large spiders that bit down and threatened to crawl into his mouth if he opened it.

Then Suien made himself known, appearing behind the first shinobi in a Body Flicker and immediately rammed the length of his sword through the ribcage from behind and through the heart and lungs. The death wail was muted by the insects pouring into his mouth to bite and sting the tongue and throat. Suien twisted his weapon inside so that the curve of the blade was facing outwards as he tore through it from the side and moved to find the next target.

The second was near several ant piles that came out at the behest of their new and greater queen. They were joined by termites inside a rotting tree and tiger centipedes in crawling along the ground. They went up his combat sandals and into his pants before they began their assault. He tried to move, to run from the pain, only for the wasps to attack his face, targeting the eyes, nose, and throat while beetles tried to chew through his mask to get inside his mouth.

Unable to see as parts of his body began to swell from the agonizing and debilitating wounds, he flailed around helplessly. His suffering was finally ended as Suien swooped in and decapitated him with the Water Slicing Sword cleaving through his neck in a charging strike. The head rolled on the ground as the body followed, both soon to be devoured by the ants to feed their numbers.

The last proved his savvy as he noticed the swarm of bees and wasps suddenly becoming active as he passed by their hives and broke out into a Body Flicker, escaping the approaching horde with deft quickness. He abandoned his hiding technique now that it wasn’t viable as more of the horde quickly found him afterwards and pursued him with renewed vigor. His fingers formed three seals and ghost-like flames danced around. His Ghost Lantern technique was launched to devastate the beetles that darted towards him alongside the wasps and moths.

The Beetle King took the man’s resilience as a personal challenge as the information flooded in and started moving the army in accordance to his own will rather than at the behest of the container that held it. They were coordinated to a degree far greater than a human could every hoped to accomplish. They split apart, half the surviving and flying horde scooping up spiders and having them weave their silk lines as thick as possible while chakra reinforced the lines, while the other joined their brethren and spiraled in a twister that isolated the area so any attempt to cross it would through such a rudimentary technique as Body Flicker would have him flayed alive.

The Grass shinobi released more Ghost Lanterns, but for every hundred burned more took their place as the Insect Gathering technique was further unfurled and its radiation of chakra leaked through the earth and air as well. Adding to the numbers of their forces above and below, more chakra poured from the seal and Fuu tensed in pain as her own control took a backseat. She could only register what was happening while the chakra strain was immense, afraid she was losing herself as the sensation of having too many insects to count ran rampant over her mind until the world seemed to be buried in crawling insects. But at the same time she was willing to hand over control since if she let the shinobi escape Suien would be mad with her and would treat her with silence and harsh training until she did it right.

The shinobi decided to cut his losses rather than expend anymore chakra on the numbers as the horde closed in. He took to the ground, using an earth technique to try and escape death from above. He fell prey to the millions of ants lurking there in the pathways carved out by the workers while fueled by the Beetle King as their new master, the hundreds of thousands relentlessly biting and stinging as he found his path down had dug his own grave when the horde from above unleashed their payload of silk-bearing spiders to add their poisonous bites to the ant sting toxin, silk weighing down his limbs as it slowly encased him in a cocoon that would remain and serve as nourishment for the future soldiers in the Beetle King’s army that lurked beneath the ground, spreading out as their tunnels expanded.

Suien arrived to see the swarm petering out at the command to disperse and make up their lost numbers for future incursions. He confirmed the kill by collapsing the entrance underground the shinobi had made. Then he made his way back to his weapon-in-training, the jinchuuriki, who was slumped on the ground as exhaustion finally took her and she was tottering on the edge of unconsciousness.

“Did we get them all?” she asked, her eyes heavy as she felt the influx of demonic chakra overlapping her own fading and the individual insects moving in concert with its mind connected to hers disappearing from her senses.

He nodded. “For the moment. Most of the merchants managed to reach the village, barring the three that were killed and their supplies burned. It’s only a matter of time before they try again.”

It was inevitable in the long run. Their village was named for being Hidden in the Waterfalls and they required merchants to move their goods and import as well, so they weren’t so much hidden as they were well-defended. To this point they had never been invaded, despite the astonishing low number of shinobi, because while Grass had long since lost their treasure, the Box of Ultimate Bliss, Waterfall still had theirs in the Hero’s Water as well as a jinchuuriki. So they tried sabotage instead, with pilfering and destroying supply lines being the latest attempt.

“Then can I go to sleep now?” Fuu asked. She was tired in body and mind after everything.

“Not yet,” he said, gesturing for her to follow. “First we have to deal with the spy who told them the routes the merchants were taking. It’s one of the duties of the jinchuuriki that we’ve been putting off until you made it past your first year of training.”

With her body weary she stood and followed him past the water basin of the waterfall. She noted that trash had gathered along the edges and would have to be cleaned. From there they kept going until they reached a small breach in the cliff-side at the ground level. Suien made some hand seals and then touched an impression on the stone surface.

The breach widened. Whether an illusion or otherwise, it became the entrance of a cave from which a cold breeze flowed as it descended downwards. Suien ventured into the darkness below and Fuu, while hesitant, wrapped her hands around her arms and followed her instructor for over the last year. It had been a crash-course considering that the shinobi of their village normally learned over the course of three or so years and she had been forced onto the field after only one.

“This is the Worm Pit,” Suien told her as they passed by hollowed out cells of earth, large gouges carved in the stone too neatly to have been done naturally. Lights were strung up by cords on the ceiling, stalactites occasionally dripping water down from their points to the where puddles formed in the path way. “We bring criminals and those who are to be interrogated here.”

“Most of the cells are empty,” Fuu noted.

Suien kept his pace as he nodded. “Taking prisoners isn’t something we do often and if you’ve committed a crime worth getting down here then you’d be executed instead to save on resources and such.”

Fuu wondered if that was the case for whomever it was that had vandalized her house. Were they caught and then charged before being released. Or were they executed? Did those in charge even seek out who did that to her home?

She supposed it didn’t matter now. It had been over a year since she was allowed to go into the village or see Shibuki. The one time she tried, to complain about how unrelenting the training was, she was caught by some jounin in a net of webs and then sent straight to Suien. That hadn’t been fun and she was told to wait until he visited her, not the other way around.

“Was the spy one of us?” she asked. Despite how distant she was from Shibuki, what if they did something to hurt him. He was her only friend… although she guessed Suien was sort of nice occasionally, like when he called it early on training and gave her some cookies. The rations they were sending her weren’t exactly filling to her sweet-tooth.

Her mentor shook his head as they reached a steel door affixed to the wall. “The enemy doesn’t seem to have an accurate count of our forces. The spy wasn’t a shinobi or kunoichi, but one of our civilians that was turned and still resided in the village until we found them.”

He opened the door to reveal a chamber that had various tools that were blood-crusted and was filled with the scent of iron. A rather large man in clothing that was somewhat above the modest ones most of the villagers wore was chained to a wall, his eyes sunken to where he looked ill. Was he poisoned or something?

“This is the traitor,” Suien told Fuu. “Or at least one of them. Some of the information wasn’t this merchant’s to give, so we know there are a few others. He’s been hesitant to talk, according to my compatriot, so we’ve decided to use this opportunity to show you how we coerce answers out of him.”

Fuu noted his choice of words. “We?”

No sooner than she said that did three people enter. One was a young boy, with brown hair and eyes matching the large man on the wall. Another was a woman who had black hair and a few wrinkles. They were both bounded by gags of spider silk and webbing that formed bands around their arms.

“I’ve brought them,” said the third person. He was a man with short green hair that was darker than her own, and black eyes with no eyebrows. His expression was flat, almost bored, as he pushed them down onto the ground.

“Good work, Suika,” Suien said as he faced the merchant. “Now, about those friends of yours. Let’s talk about them, hm?”

“You can’t do this,” the merchant snarled. “They’ve done nothing wrong. They don’t know anything.”

“You should have thought of that before you sold that information to Grass,” Suien countered, before gesturing to Suika.

The shinobi made the seals for the Summoning technique and smoke encased the area around him to reveal a cocoon the size of Fuu. It split open and hundreds of thumb-sized spiders emerged, the same hue as those that were in the pit that Suien once threw her into and she was saved by the Beetle King. It also explained that he was the shinobi that captured her before, which she didn’t notice because it was dark at the time and she was trapped so quickly.

“You see, my friend who works here uses spiders,” Suien explained. “These all have necrotic venom. So here’s the thing, you’re going to tell us who else is a part of this or you’ll see firsthand the effects of the venom on your family.”

The merchant was hesitant to believe it. So was Fuu. Weren’t they supposed to protect the people? That hesitance cost him as Suien glanced over his shoulder and nodded once to the other jounin.

They swarmed the woman and the screaming began. The merchant cried out for him to stop them from attacking his wife, unable to do anything. Her son looked on in horror as well, the webs that were infused with chakra leaving him unable to cover his eyes from witnessing his mother’s death. Even Fuu backed away as the screams resounded in the room, watching as the woman was bitten over and over.

“Get used to it, Kid,” Suika said, noticing her reaction. He was almost apathetic to the fact that he just set a swarm of flesh-rotting spiders on an innocent woman in front of her husband and child. The screams didn’t seem to bother him either.

And the villagers called her a demon or monster? “We’re under orders and if we have to do this to root out spies so we don’t get invaded then that’s what we’ll do. Besides, it’s no different than what you did to those Grass shinobi, is it?”

There was no curiosity in the question, making it rhetorical. But it made her think about the dead shinobi from Grass that she helped kill. Did they have families like that merchant too? Did they think about them while they were being flayed and devoured by her bugs? Was it this horrifying to see in person?

“Learn to stomach it,” Suien ordered as the screaming turned into a choked gurgle once enough of the venom was in her system to shut it down. Suien turned his gaze to the crying boy and then his weeping father. “The boy won’t last nearly as long as she did. Fuu…”

Her eyes widened as she realized he was expecting her to do the same next. She backed away, shaking her head, only for Suika to push her forward until she was in front of the bound boy who had to be her age or younger. Did she really have to kill him?

“Please,” the merchant begged. “Not my son too…”

“Names,” Suien demanded. “Names of your accomplices, how you communicate with the Grass, everything you know. The more you talk the better.”

Fuu could see he wanted to believe them. He was desperate and had lost one of his beloved family members, so he was willing to believe the jounin in order to ensure his son didn’t die. Fuu honestly hoped he would talk so that she didn’t have to kill the boy.

He talked. There were five others. Suika left out to get them, by the time morning came the Worm Pit would be filled with everyone who he named. That left Suien and Fuu alone with the two civilians and the corpse that was already starting to turn into a flesh-bag of melted viscera that the spiders were goring themselves on it.

“I told you everything,” the merchant said. “Now please, let my son go. Kill me, but let him go.”

Suien looked to the boy who was hoping that he would. Fuu was already reaching for a kunai to cut him loose of the webbing. He said six words she never wanted to hear. “Your orders still stand. Kill him.”

“But they talked!” Fuu argued as the pair’s eyes went wide with fear. This wasn’t what he told them would happen. “Why?”

“Village policy,” Suien stated. “You may not like it, but these are the rules of the village that have been in place since before I was born. No one who’s taken to the Worm Pit leaves alive, which is the reason why it isn’t common knowledge to anyone but those who work here or are higher up in terms of village management.”

Was this the village that Shibuki and his father were supposed to lead? They condoned that sort of killing? She, as their weapon, was supposed to carry out those sorts of things for the village that didn’t even like her? Screw that. She took a step back.

“This was what it means to serve the village loyally as one of their shinobi, one of Shibuki-sama’s, just as I did for his father,” Suien told her. “The only mercy you can afford the boy is to be quick about it.”

Fuu weighed his words. She…if she didn’t, would Shibuki be mad at her because this was her duty? She didn’t want to kill the boy, but if she didn’t uphold the village policy…would he hate her?

The kunai felt heavy in her hand as she drew it out and approached him. The father’s cries for her to stop drowned out the hammering of her heart. The blade descended and blood soon flowed onto the floor…

And something inside of her broke, something shattering like glass as she remained motionless over the fresh corpse while looking at the weapon she used to end his life.

“You’ve done your service to the village for the day,” Suien told her. “Go get your sleep.”

Without a word or looking up from the ground, she let the bloody weapon slip from her fingers as she made for the exit. The screams of the grieving father haunted her even as the door was shut behind her and she went back to camp. The nightmare as she slept offered her no escape either. Her duty to the village had taken her innocence away as easily as the blood seeped from the boy whose life she ended.

And, within the depths of her heart, she cursed the village’s name.

End Note: Suika is a villain from a filler episode of Naruto Shippuden (#236) and made an off-comment about Insect-Users when beating on Shino. This leads me to believe he encountered Fuu in the past since she’s the only potential insect-user aside from the Bee-users of Iwa and Shino’s clan from Konoha. So I thought ‘Why the hell not?’ and added him.

Wind Monk Banishment: Beetle Chronicles #1

Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment – Beetle Chronicles

Chapter 1: A Tale of Seven Tails – Part 1

Fuu: Age Eight

It was raining that day, the droplets filtering in through the canopy plopping down into the large lake centered in the nexus of the village. The moisture in the air sucked away the heat and left a small child with tanned skin and green hair clinging to the fabric of the hooded jacket she wore for her shelter. It was all she had, her home within the village having been vandalized again by the time she left from the private wing of the hospital after she complained that the strange mark on her back hurt.

Fuu was her name. At least that was what she was told by the village leader that her parents wanted to name her that before they left, never to be seen again after she became something he called a Jinchuuriki shortly after she was born. But only Shibuki called her that, ever since his father drank that Hero’s Water stuff and didn’t wake up again.

Grrrrrrggghhh…” went her tummy as she continued to walk through the rain, hunger having taken her in lieu of her trying to ignore the cold biting at her skin. Night was falling at this point, so it would only get colder as the light faded away.

“Settle down,” she said childishly, rubbing the spot. While she sought to fill her tummy, her stipend would only last so long for the month and she couldn’t spend it recklessly or Shibuki would scold her, despite him being a wuss and a shrimp.

Walking along the southern side of the village, she went towards one of the few bakeries in the village and entered through the door. Warmth hit her instantly, knocking away the nipping chill from her skin, as did the sweet smell of bread that could easily fill her tummy. The gurgle that followed was one that eagerly awaited that to come to pass, as if it had a mind of its own.

“Tana-san, can I have a full loaf?” she asked, presenting her money to the brown-haired man who stood on the opposite side of the counter. He nodded and did so, but there was a frown on his face that seemed out of character for the joyful older man she knew. It worried her. “What’s wrong?”

“This will be the last time I can service you,” he said, his tone somewhat bitter.

There was stunned silent before she asked, “Why not?”

“Because the number of customers has dropped since that rival bakery opened up on the other side of the village and I can’t do anything that would harm my business further,” he told her. “It’s nothing personal, but my livelihood is more important to me. Sorry.”

So just like the others, another place stopped serving her. Taking the bread and pulling her hood over her head again, she muttered, “Thanks until now then.”

She left then, with tears in her eyes that stung more than the cold rain or impending night, for a safe place somewhere that she wouldn’t feel the palpable hatred within the glares of those who could see her. With no other recourse as night fell in the village, without fully understanding anything or why this was happening to her, the small child did the only thing she could. She went around to her hidey-hole that no one but Shibuki knew where it was.

The little hiding spot was literally a hole in the wall of the village, just small and deep enough that she could fit inside of it and cover the entrance with some materials found around the place. Once inside she ate the bread that had gotten a little soggy from the rain in silence, lamenting her life and the loneliness she felt and wondered, as she often did, what was it she did that was so wrong?

None of the kids in their small village would let her play with them, except for Shibuki. Even then, after his father died some time ago, she rarely saw him as often as before since he was to be trained to be the next leader of the village. The old guys who looked after him made it hard to reach him when he was at the building too, so the only time she really saw him was when he came to her.

With half of her bread gone now, Little Fuu felt a gentle brush against her tiny feet and looked down. There was a large roach there, its antenna tickling her to the extent that she felt a little ticklish, seemingly comforting her as though it could feel her sorrow. She broke off a portion of the bread, ground it up in her hand and let it drop by her feet so that it could eat. “Here you go.”

That alone seemed to trigger a reaction as more of the insects came out in short order and took what they could while the green-haired child watched them scurry about unbidden. She really didn’t see what was so frightening about them that scared people. They were just trying to survive as best they could despite being unwanted and looked at in disdain, just like her.

Coming to that train of thought, Fuu let loose a somber sigh unbefitting someone her age. Now she was preoccupied with the thought of finding somewhere else to get good food from now that she couldn’t go to the same place as before. It upset her that she was rejected from someone she trusted for their own sakes. The words that followed in her somber state were those of a spurned child, selfish and self-centered, but they reached that which dwelled inside of her as she muttered, “Stupid Tana-san…I wish all his stupid bread was eaten by you guys…

It was then something strange happened and she felt the sensation of something leaving her body, which she would later learn to be chakra. It left her feeling tired and she fell asleep as it seeped out while more and more of the insects heard the call of the Beetle King, who they amassed to serve as the Tailed-Beast responded to her wish. Its army was never-ending, its kingdom infinite, and its subjects innumerable.

With the legions of the earth-brown colored insects amassed, they surged out under the veil of night towards the now-closed bakery. The building was infiltrated through every crack, crevice, nook, and cranny. Dough, day-old bread, flour, and even wood, empowered by chakra they loitered and devoured everything in stock at the directive imparted on them without exception as the moon sank into the twilight and the dawn came around.

Ignorant of what transpired, Little Fuu slept well until the morning when someone shifted aside the cover of her hidey-hole and a familiar voice called her out of her dreams. “Fuu, wake up!”

“Chibi-buki?” She rubbed her eyes and squinted until clarity and the world un-blurred, revealing the short boy with ink black eyes and short brown hair that had yet to grow. “What wrong?”

“There’s been an incident,” he told her. “Were you here all night?”

She nodded. “Yeah. My place got messed up, so I came here after getting some bread…what’s wrong?”

“There’s some kind of infestation of roaches at Tana-san’s bakery,” he explained, “thousands of them are eating everything there and the villagers are blaming you. The council sent a shinobi out to find you and bring you in. But it wasn’t really you, was it?”

“I…” She trailed off after recalling her wish last night, only to have found it had come true somehow. All she knew was that it was what she wanted…or at least what she thought she wanted. But if she told Shibuki that, would he leave her alone too? Hate her like the others?

In the end her words felt forced. “It wasn’t me, I promise. You have to believe me!”

He nodded and reached down for her to grab his hand. “I do, Fuu. Now come on, you can stay with me until this blows over and they fix your place, okay?”

Fuu nodded in silence and reached up with small fingers to take his hand as she emerged from the tiny hiding spot. Grasping his hand tightly, she pulled her hood over her head and they started to move when the empty space next to them was suddenly filled and they crashed headfirst into a pair of long and sturdy legs that felt like a brick wall. “Ow!”

Rubbing her forehead, Fuu’s eyes trailed up from the standard set of shinobi sandals and grey pants to a dark blue jacket. Ascending further they came upon the bored visage of a man with a goatee and dark eyes with beady pupils. On top of his head was a tan bandanna to keep his long and spiky hair out of his face.

S-Suien!” Shibuki croaked out feebly while flat on his rear. While Fuu didn’t know the man, it seemed like he did and it was as though he was looking at his own personal boogey man. “Why…why are you here!?

He reached down and picked Fuu up, tossing her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes while she protested by flailing her limbs. Suien ignored the weak effort and merely turned his back to the boy, gathering his chakra to jump. He only paused when he felt the slight tug on the bottom of his pants and cast his beady dark eyes over his shoulder towards the boy.

“Wait!” Shibuki begged as he held fast to his teacher while still on his knees, a posture unbecoming of his status as the future leader. “She didn’t do it!”

He only said, “The council. If you have a problem, take it up with them.”

Then he moved. Taking Fuu along with him at speeds she was unfamiliar with, he bound across the lake in the middle of the village to get to the other side. He didn’t slow down until he approached a large building that was easily three stories high and strolled through the front door with the girl too dizzy to protest further as she tried to regain her bearings. It was only when he plopped her down in a large conference room on a chair that was taller than she was that she managed to pull herself together as the shinobi said, “I have brought the jinchuuriki.”

Fuu looked up from her chair at the assembled council, a gathering of five people who Shibuki’s father had amassed to handle the various aspects of the village that one man alone could not. Even as a small village they were a lively one, and in the event of his death they were to hold the reins until Shibuki came of age to lead the village with their counsel. Fuu found the eyes of the members heavy and uncomfortable, so she turned her head to see the baker sitting across from her.

His eyes were seething with anger and betrayal, like they were a pair of daggers coated in poison that stabbed her in her chest and caused her to flinch. Hatred. It was the same set of eyes she had seen time and time and again, now on the face of someone she hoped to never see them on.

Clearing his throat, the elder who sat at the center of the gathering, Juren, placed his hands on the table and interlaced his fingers before he spoke. “I trust we all know why we have gathered here at this moment?”

“I was told that…that something happened at Tana-san’s Bakery,” Fuu said feebly.

Lies!” Tana snarled in a manner that made Fuu jump in her chair. “It had her be her fault. There were thousands of them, eating everything! They didn’t even scatter when I approached or crushed them. They just kept eating and eating and eating without concern for anything else! It was unnatural, and we all know what the demon is capable of!”

His words hurt, cutting her deep in her heart. They seemed so uncharacteristic coming from the man who often served her bread with a smile. Was this what he had been pressed to by the loss of his livelihood, or his true nature?

Fuu fought down the upset in her stomach at the thought and said, “It wasn’t me.”

“Be silent,” Juren told her, before turning his attention to the victimized baker. “Did you do anything to warrant such an act?”

Tana shook his head. “I merely stated that couldn’t service her any longer. As you know, being a private business owner, I reserve the right to deny service to whomever I choose so long as it is vested in the survival of my livelihood and competition with the neighboring baker has left me in a state where I couldn’t favor her as I did before. I thought she would be reasonable about it and find somewhere else to shop, but when I awoke I came to see everything I had worked for being swarmed. The losses will leave me in poverty.”

“It wasn’t me!” she pleaded again before him and the elders. “I didn’t do anything! As soon as I left the Bakery I went somewhere to sleep.”

“My business has been ruined,” he stated, turning to her with eyes that smoldered with hatred. “After everything I did for you, the moment I was of no use you turned against me. I can only imagine that the others who warned me such a thing would come to pass were laughing at me when the news broke.”

“Reparations can be arranged for your losses,” Juren stated. “The question is the matter of what should be done with the offender. Given her age and status, we must—”

“Please, stop!”yelled a voice from the window, drawing the rest of their attention it. Shibuki was there, soaking wet after having been using the Water Walking technique to cross the distance and falling in part way and being forced to swim the rest. His effort at scaling the building with the Wall Walking technique wasn’t much better, hence why he was clinging to the window’s edge for dear life. “If Fuu said she didn’t do it, she didn’t do it!”

A moment of silence followed as they all looked him in a minor bout of disbelief until, with a silent sigh preluding it, Suien asked, “What are you doing?”

“The lady downstairs wouldn’t let me in from the fro—whoa!” Shibuki gave a sharp yelp as he lost his grip and almost fell until Suien managed to grab him by the back of his shirt.

No wonder the village has become weak, the jounin thought to himself as he set Shibuki down inside. He shook his head as he looked at the feeble child on his hands and knees, panting. This was who they were supposed to follow in the future as leader?

“I know Fuu,” Shibuki declared after catching his breath, “and she would never wish for something bad to happen to someone else. Not even if they wronged her!”

Fuu almost smiled earnestly at Shibuki defending her. He was a good person, even though she now felt worse because she did wish it while upset. But before she could say a word of thanks, more hurtful words that chipped away at her came from the baker.

“With all due respect, don’t lie for this monster, Shibuki-sama!” Tana stated.

“Are you calling our young leader a liar?” Suien cut in with a sharp grin on his face, wanting this to end. “The honorable son of the former leader, who sacrificed his life to protect the village when under attacked by Grass, has vouched for his little friend. Such an act would not bode well for your business once word leaves these walls, even if it hadn’t been destroyed before.”

Tana clamped his mouth shut, settling his lips into a thin line as he shook his head. Their bloodline was that which guarded the Hero’s Water and Shibuki was their village’s treasure, much like his father before him and his father’s father. Calling him such a thing out loud was tantamount to denouncing a saint as a sinner.

“…Very well,” Juren spoke. “If Shibuki-sama would vouch for her then we must declare that this was simply an unforeseen incident. No punishment will be incurred, but reparations will be made for the loss of the Bakery and its contents.”

“Thank you very much,” Shibuki said to the elder with a small bow following it. He quickly took Fuu’s hand and led her to the door. “Come on, Fuu. I still have breakfast left at my place we can share if you haven’t eaten since last night. I came rushing out when I heard the news, so hopefully it won’t be cold…oh, and your birthday is coming up soon, isn’t it?”

“Yeah…” She grabbed his hand and followed. While heading out it, she spotted Tana’s eyes and fought down the urge to cry. He had been good to her for so long, and now he was turned against her just like the other villagers calling her a monster and a demon. Her grip on Shibuki’s hand almost wavered as she thought that one day too he would look at her with those same eyes as they did. But she tightened her grip and tried to swallow that horrible fear down, shutting the door behind her.

Once a minute had passed and the children were out of the building, Juren addressed the baker. “I understand your grievances today. Despite the ruling we know the pests all had traces of the demon’s chakra. I assure you that something will be done, so would you be so kind as to go to the receptionist desk and ask for the related documentation to fill out for your losses?”

With tense nod Tana complied and left the room to do so, leaving Juren and his council with Suien. The elder of them all leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together, a tired sigh escaping his lips. “Though our previous leader was great, his methods were too soft when dealing with the jinchuuriki and in his absence this has unfurled. While I believe this was an unconscious act on the container’s part, the question now is what should be done about it before it gets worse….”

Suien took that as his cue to speak. “Although Shibuki-sama would not approve, the jinchuuriki is the village’s weapon and must be treated as such, despite its age. We must act now and teach it to control its power before it goes out of control. We must sharpen the weapon to be used against our enemies before another incident like that which claimed our leader’s life happens again due to our lack of a deterrent barring the Hero’s Water…”

Juren took a moment to nod at that. “Shibuki-sama means well, but he is young and lets his emotions sway him. That is why, until he reaches maturity, we are the ones who oversee the village’s wellbeing. While he will not approve of it, in time he will understand his duty as the future leader is to protect the village and that this is exactly what must be done.”

Nods came from the other members of the council all around. “As for the container, it will be relocated to a camp on the outside of the village. The bare essentials will be supplied once the relocation begins in a few days time and it will remain there from henceforth to guard the area while being trained.”

“In that case, I would volunteer for the duty,” Suien stated. “I will train the jinchuuriki to be what our village needs.”

Among the council there were murmurs. Volunteering for the job was something no one did in the past, especially when the fate that had befallen those angered the container prior to the demon’s release and resealing. Juren plainly asked, “Why?”

“As you stated, the last incursion from Grass had left us in a fragile state at present. As jounin and trainer of the young leader, it would only be prudent of me to shape the jinchuuriki into an adequate weapon to serve under Shibuki-sama before such an event unfurls again. Am I not worthy enough?”

More whispers and murmuring occurred, before the elder of the group spoke again. “You have done this village a great service to this day and served the former leader loyally. Your skill will not be doubted and should it be necessary you may subdue the jinchuuriki by force before it goes out of control. Therefore we will allow you to train it as you see fit then…”

Suien bowed deep before the council and vowed to do his best, while a smug and victorious grin formed on his face at that moment.

Fuu: Age Nine

The forests surrounding the Takigakure were dense with fauna, moisture in the air from the stream and falls. Life pulsed within it as squirrels scampered across the tree limbs, sailing through the space between two parallel branches above, while the lowly caterpillars were crawling along the underside. It was peaceful, for all extensive purposes.

Yet none of that mattered as the child ran with tears in her eyes, her body was bruised and her fingers caked in blood while clenching the chipped and battered Water Slicing Sword. Crimson fell from the cuts that lined her flesh, shallow enough that she didn’t by some chance bleed out but debilitating enough that every step hurt. But all she could do was weather the pain and suffering and run, because he was coming. She had to get away. She had to survive.

You can’t escape,” echoed from around her as she entered a clearing, leaving Little Fuu to look around in a panic, wide eyes that were red with tears streaming down her face. “This isn’t a game of hide-and-seek. You’re a kunoichi, act like it.

That’s right. She was a kunoichi now, a weapon they said. After Tana-san accused her of doing something bad they moved her out of the village and told her the forest was her home now. They wouldn’t let her enter anymore unless she had permission and they made Suien train her.

You have three seconds to trace the source of my voice,” Suien warned her, his voice still coming from all over. “Three…two…one…

Fuu tried to spot him, but couldn’t in time and the clearing was ruined as water ruptured from beneath the ground in a streaking line. She leapt back only to see a shadow being cast from behind her, turning her head to see those cold eyes peering down at her with the curved Water Slicing Blade in hand.

“Poorly done,” he said, his voice cold, and his blade descended like an executioner’s axe, only to be met with the blade that Fuu held over her head at an angle to slide the point down. His own blade smashed through it as he regulated his strength to allow the tip of his blade to shear through the top layer of flesh on her shoulder and inflict another shallow wound. Then his foot rose and caught her in the abdomen.

The child was sent careening along the torn ground, being covered in the mud of the water technique that was left behind from tearing through the earth. When she came to a halt the left side of her body was folded over the right. She didn’t get back up.

Suien sighed, before melting away after turning translucent and then into liquid. It was a Water Clone. The actual jounin emerged from the direction of the previous water technique and proceeded to skim over the damage she had sustained, despite intentionally holding back. When it was evident no lasting damage had been done, he pulled out some smelling salts and held it to her nose until she snapped awake.

Upon seeing him hovering over her, Fuu shot onto her hands and feet and backed away until she ran afoul a tree.

Such weakness was unbecoming of him, making his mouth twist into a frown. “You failed a simple exercise.”

“I-I tried to find you, but—” her excuse was cut off as he snatched a beetle out of the air and held it up in front of her.

“You failed to take into account your environment,” he stated, before crushing the beetle within his grasp. “You’re the jinchuuriki of the Seven-Tailed Horned Beetle. The forest is its kingdom and every single arthropod within it is its army, your army, more so than any Aburame or the First Tsuchikage that was a member of the Kamizuru. Call to them with its chakra and they would be your eyes and ears, which you should have know if you read the information provided for you.”

She fidgeted under his gaze. “I did, but it was late and…I just forgot. Even when I call, it doesn’t come.”

“I’ve been tasked with correcting immediately,” he stated, before leading her to a small pit that was teeming with crawling spiders that he had amassed over the course of the night prior. It looked like a mass of brown carpeting that moving. “Inside this pit are spiders with necrotic venom, meaning your flesh will die and rot off the bone if you’re bitten. Your only means of survival are to have the demon’s chakra take hold and protect you.”

She backed away, clearly terrified, only for his calloused and rough fingers to wrap around her forearm. He lifted her up and over the pit, his face an expressionless mask. There was nothing she could do as he then dropped her in.

NO!” Panic ensued, fear of death flooding her she registered them swarming her flesh and preparing to bite. That fear reached the Beetle King and its chakra flowed through every tenketsu of her body until she was shrouded in a small veil of viridian chakra and the Beetle King’s declaration was heard. The spiders left the confines of the pit at that, chakra enabling them to traverse with greater speed than allowed, and they surged towards the jounin, who merely looked on in boredom before he smited them with a lightning technique.

The child looked horrified as she climbed out of the pit and realized that he was going to blame her for that. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to—I just wanted them not to bite me!”

“In this world, strength is all that matters,” Suien stated as he approached her slowly. “You have the demon inside of you, making you the strongest weapon at the village’s disposal. That’s all you are to them, a necessary weapon, and nothing is going to change that. They won’t care about what you feel or your intentions, they’ll only care about the amount of control you have over your demon’s chakra and how useful you are as a weapon…”

Fuu looked as though she was about to cry again as he stood in front of her, trembling in place. Was he going to hurt her more? Bringing her hand over her head, she curled up in fear as he reached inside his pouch and pulled out something.

“Regardless, progress was made today,” he said, a plastic wrapping that contained a large cookie in his hand. “Even if those had really been poisonous spiders like they suggested, rather than another variety, you succeeded. Get cleaned up, go back to your tent, and get some rest.”

“Th-thank you,” Fuu said as she took it and left quietly, the tears coming down her soiled face a combination of happiness and sadness. It had been so long since she’d been allowed to eat something satisfying besides the small rations they gave her, but to get it she had to…Fuu shook her head to banish the thoughts and simply relished what had been offered to her.

Suien smiled to himself as he watched leave towards a stream to clean herself. It would take some time but he was sure that this was the approach he needed to take—the carrot and stick method in a nut shell. Suien made it seem as though the village spurred him to use this method to teach her, pain and suffering that slowly chipped away at her humanity.

The village itself punished her through him, while he rewarded her to earn her loyalty because they would not. It also helped that their council was taking much of Shibuki’s time in teaching him the ins-and-outs of the village management. So much so that the two hadn’t seen one another in quite some time and the less time they spent together, the more distance would lead to her relying on him.

Isolate her, make her reliant on the small measures of comfort he provided, and then he would have the biggest weapon Waterfall had to offer next to the Hero’s Water. Of course, he planned to take that as well in due time.

Ignorant of the overarching plan, Fuu washed up and arrived at where they had set camp for her. It was a small set up, a tent with a sleeping bag and some other things she could survive with as long as she didn’t gorge herself before they bought her the weekly amount. Feeling tired after everything, she carefully removed the hair decoration she had gotten from Shibuki’s dad before he died and curled into the sleeping bag.

The quiet around her was the only lullaby she needed to get to sleep, but as soon as she closed her eyes she could remember the sight of all the spiders and shuddered. If it hadn’t been for the demon, even if they weren’t really poisonous like he said, then she would have died because the mean village council ordered Suien to do it…so she could be their weapon…

Did Shibuki know about that? Fuu wondered to herself. While she couldn’t imagine he would order such a thing, didn’t they do everything under Shibuki’s authority? The politics of it escaped her, so she just didn’t know.

But she did know she needed to be polite. “Umm…Mr. Beetle Demon…sir or ma’am? If you can hear me, I just wanted to say…thank you for stopping them from biting me…”

Silence followed and was the only response she got, but her words did reach the Beetle King.