Chapter 23

"Your diary" Kakashi held his hand out, "I need you diary."

"Ok" She said, "But I need your coffee in exchange."

He stared at her hand which urged him to it give to her. "You can make your own."

"Write your own diary then." She retracted her hand and opened her notebook on the page she wrote three days ago. The whole page consisted of the phrase 'Kakashi smells like old pants' in increasingly fancy fonts. Kurodoku said that it was 'kind of funny' but 'an insult to the Art of Calligraphy' and 'slightly true'. She hadn't written anything incriminating on it, she had expected them to go through her things and read her notes so it was a complete mess or terrible jokes and some training schedules. "One scoop of sugar and half a cup of milk, please." He looked tired of her bullshit, but, to be fair, he always looked tired.

He complied and somehow he managed to look as if he hated every second of it. "Good boy" She chuckled. He turned around to look at her, "Sorry."

He put the coffee in the counter and she gave him her diary. "Thanks!" She said to the empty air he had been supposed to be in.

"Why do you let Konoha play with you like that?"

"I already expected them to want it so I didn't write anything incriminating. It's not like I can do anything, anyways. If I want to stay alive I have to listen to what they want?" She said carelessly as he moved to the kitchen counter.

"Then why don't you leave?" He suggested in a dangerous tone. "You could be a lot better on your own." He sounded like the devil on her left shoulder, unfortunately she didn't have an angel in her right one.

"They would find me and I don't think I would survive a chase. They're still more powerful than me." She started sipping her coffee. He had used salt instead of sugar. She put the cup on the sink. "Maybe I could if I learnt stealth."

"Are you attempting to blackmail me for something I'm already doing?"

"Yes," she said curtly, "It's payback for saying I don't have a chakra 'suited' for stealth."
"You don't, you suck at stealth. No one can change that. You should be grateful that you have the same chakra signature as a rock. You just need to suppress your scent, the sound of your footsteps and learn an invisibility jutsu."

"And that's just so easy." She remarked sarcastically, rolling her eyes. "Let's start training now. I'll alert the 'Shadows'"

"See, that's exactly what I mean. Why do you allow the ANBU team?"

"Well they just follow me around and they don't get in the way of my training so I don't care."

"They follow you around. Sounds like a threat to me." She put her arm on the counter so he could climb back to her shoulders. Truth to be told, she had already thought about it, and she was displeased. She understood their distrust and in their place she would have taken the same measures but the team was annoying. Now that she had told them that she could 'sense' them, the ANBU weren't babysitter but judges for her actions. A direct threat you know you are being followed so don't try anything. She knew petty politics, she had played them at some point too. "You'd be better off on your own."

"You already said that, let's make my sound-full footsteps, soundless."

"Danzo" The Hokage said cautiously, "It's been passed twice through the best teams of cryptography we have. It doesn't seem to have a code."

"Then it's a fake one. She must have falsified the diary, she must have another one hidden. This one is a mockery, an insult! You are too indulgent, you have to see that she is planning something."

"The antiqueness of the ink was tested and coincided with the dates in the notebook, it's not false. Hatake-san has made sure that there is nothing that she is hiding in her room. As you can understand this has to be the real one"

"Look at this! Someone peed on my laundry and it wasn't me, so it's either my snake or Kakashi, and I don't know what I prefer. PS it was a cat. She's laughing at us, she's laughing at you. What kind of Hokage let's-"

"Danzo that's enough. There isn't proof to incriminate her. We'll keep her watched and well limit her trainings." The Hokage took a deep breath and a

"That's. Not. Enough!" He spoke between his teeth, "You've always been too indulgent." And downright incompetent stayed on his mind even though he was dying to speak it out loud. One more time he was too soft, one last time

To be honest, she had realized something wasn't right with the ANBU a few minutes ago. They hadn't done anything like that in the time they have been following her.

She did know that the new chakra signatures were ANBU, they felt just like the one that go follow her, just as faint. At first, she had thought they were some type of backup so the usual ones could rest, it only became suspicious when the new one took their positions but they didn't leave. In fact, the ANBU team didn't move for minutes while the new one kept shifting.

"Why did you sstop?" Kurodoku, a.k.a. her teacher asked her, "That'ss unlike you"
"Because the last other person in this training grounds is leaving and I have a bad feeling." She grabbed her things and began walking in the direction of the chunin, Kurodoku climbed her by her left foot and settled on her shoulders. She picked up a faster pace, the distance between them was just as large. Somehow, the chunin kept his relaxed pace, but the distance was still the same. Even if she run, the distance was still the same.

That's when she felt a pang of pain on her left calf.

"Genjutssu," Kurodoku explained to her ear, "We're surrounded." Four ANBU dressed in black capes were around her, looking mildly surprised, well, as surprised you can look with a porcelain mask hiding your face.

They looked uncertain, she guessed that she wasn't supposed to be able to get out of the Genjutsu. Uncertain, surprised was fine a couple seconds wasted on reacting the problem was what came after, nervousness. A nervous, desperate or driven enemy are the most unpredictable and sometimes brutal foes you can find, just like with animals. So she should do what she did best, stall.

"What can I do for you, gentlemen?" She said as she fixed her clothes and patted them to get rid of dust. "Well? We don't have all day, do we?" She asked looking at her snake, Kurodoku took the hint and curled around her, she noticed how he covered three of her vital points, heart, lungs and neck while making her look dangerous. Good boy. "Let's not play dumb, shall we. What is it that you want?" Her mouth dried and her heartbeat picked up, adrenaline, she noted. She began to sweat.

"Follow us." One of them spoke firmly.

She had to talk herself out of it. Firs throw them off, "Let's be polite, ask again and say please." Baffled they didn't answer, she wasn't supposed to have such a calm and composed demeanor, it was impossible. Second, plant thing on their heads, stupid thoughts that wouldn't make sense to anyone else. She definitely cannot take four ANBU on her own, but now they were hesitating on attacking her. She had to make them think that if it came to a physical fight, they wouldn't win. "If there's something I don't like is rude people. We're better than that." Kurodoku hissed around her and a hysterical laugh she kept short. "I'm sorry, I forgot how a teenager body felt like. Actually, I should thank you: the amateur who put me on that Genjutsu awakened me properly." She cackled maniacally, it helped that she was very nervous. She started to flex her arms and circle her wrists as if she was trying a new body.

Three seconds of silence, that was neither good nor bad. It meant that they considered her a threat, enough to be careful, but they were also anxious and wary of her every move. They bought her act.

"Please, follow us."

She fixed her sleeves, slow and steady, without showing any kind of hesitation. "I'm a little rusty, Kurodoku make sure to help me out a little." The snake answered by hissing low and long.

"What do you think you are doing?" Whispered Kurodoku on her ear, "I can kill them all if you ask, but you have to ask."

"Follow us or well take measures." One of them warned her. They all looked too tense. Now, she had to comply. She had made sure they wouldn't attack her, they wanted to avoid a fight so they would just escort her.

She smiled. "If I were-" And that was when it went to hell. One of them had thrown a kunai, faster that she could process, to her face. Out of the corner of her eye she could watch the snake swallow it with ease. She knew, she knew that if she didn't want it to escalate she had to speak but her throat wouldn't open. She didn't have a drop of saliva on her throat and her mind was beginning to spin.

And so, the first kunai was followed by a second, and a third. The weapons encircled her, It was a hurricane of Kunai and she was the eye.

Somehow, Kurodoku managed to redirect them to the ANBU who had already disappeared of her sight, they bounced off his scales, her mind noted. Kurodoku might not be able to take them all and protect her at the same time she noted, she had to do something, hide, run whatever. She was the biggest target and she was only limiting his actions by standing on the middle of the training grounds. That's it, she thought, she had to alert someone. Kakashi, the real ANBU, whoever was near, anyone. She needed to ask for help.

That's what she thought to be the solution, until one of them was hit by a Kunai and fell to the ground from the tree he was standing in. His mask fell of and she saw it, the Konoha headband. She couldn't ask for help because they were the ones organizing it.

"Give me the permission to kill them. I need it." Kurodoku said somewhere on her torso, "Arabella?"

Yes, she wanted to say, kill them, but she couldn't say anything. Her mind span too fast, she had a throbbing headache, worse than she's ever felt. She felt like vomiting and passing out at the same time. And she slipped, something in her slipped and she could only take jagged breaths. On her hands and knees on the ground, she spat black blood.

"Arabella, are you the one emitting that Killing Intent?" Kurodoku had curled around her, turning onto some type of fortification of scales, "It's working, keep doing that."

She didn't even register his words, "A second, please." She grabbed a kunai from her own pouch and pinched her finger. A drop of black blood emerged from the puncture and she sighed loudly; it was an outburst. A bad one, she couldn't feel the seal working to calm her down. "A second, need to. Breathe."

"They stopped attacking. Can you stand up now?" When she looked up she realized that a bright green chakra was engulfing her. "You look awful."

He dismantled the fortification and used his head to keep her up. "Is, ok?" She asked, her throat hurt.

"Two of them have fainted and the last one isn't far from it." He explained slowly, her head felt heavy and she couldn't focus properly. The green glow helped.

"Let's leave. Let's…out. Anywhere, I need…safe. Please, Kurodoku." She knew, that if he wanted a way out of the contract he could leave her there. This was…why she hated relying on others…this was why she had to get stronger…she was completely on his hands and he was a snake…he-hehe.

"Do you want me to take you to Kakashi?" He asked tentatively.

"No. Out of Konoha." She was starting to feel a little better, her headache was beginning to clear but she couldn't wait until someone else came to see what was going on. Kurodoku didn't try to hide his glee. "We can't walk out of the gates, we need another escape route." She told him, "Tch, I don't have time to plan this."

"I can go somewhere safe, and reverse summon you there but you'll need to wait at least half an hour hidden. Go to the woods and hide. Can you do that?"

"Go" She approved, what she knew was that in this type of plans every second counted. If he abandoned her now she would be helpless, if she stayed there she would be helpless. He had protected her already so she had to trust him not to abandon her.

She stumbled through the clearing until she reached a pathless route, deeper into the forest where foliage would hide her a little better. One leg moved in front of the other from pure stubbornness, once she got used to the feeling of walking on numb legs she let her body go on autopilot. They were ninjas, she will be tracked by ninjas, trained Shinobi. She didn't have a chakra signature according to Kurodoku, which would make it a lot harder for untrained trackers- she could also keep her footsteps completely silent.

What else, what else.

Even if her footsteps were silent they still left a mark on the ground, she doubted that she could climb a tree in her state so she settled on making a clone with as little of her chakra as she could. It was more exhausted than her, due to being made of almost no chakra and he original's state probably, but it stumbled away in a different direction.

What else, what else.

She couldn't be spotted from above since the foliage was more intense or whatever in this part of the forest. Not from the sides either. Maybe if they have good eyesight. Definitely if they came from the trees. In front, behind, the sides and under. If they came from underground she was fucked.

What else, what else.

Animals, what do animals do? Smell, like most felines. She can't-she doesn't know how to- the scent. She brought the hem of her shirt to her mouth and shredded the cloth. She bought the piece to her underarms and stopped for the first time. "You, "She told the bird, "C'm here buddy" this red-headed swallow was perfect, in this climate and in this part of the country (south-ish) he was about to migrate. Birds don't have a sense of smell so he wouldn't know what she was trying to do. "Let me tie this cloth and in exchange…" She looked around, "In exchange I'll give you this acorn."

She tied it and the animals said something but she didn't pay much attention. She started walking again.

What else, what else.

Body temperature, like snakes, can't correct that-wait. Even if she tied that cloth on the bird, the smell would still lead to her, even if she disposed her clothes she would- a river. Water, yes. It would mask her trail and maybe decrease her scent. Could she cross the river? Maybe. The current wasn't too strong but neither was she, in that moment. If she blacked out in the water she would drown in seconds, if she remained conscious, in minutes. That's, of course, if she gave in to the water.

But it was her only option, so she walked slowly and sighed loudly just as little drops of water danced around her feet, who were already welcoming the stream. If she had to guess, it was an affluent to a bigger river and judging for the meanders and the strength of the current it was the middle course of the stream. She reluctantly looked at the other shore, just before crossing the point where she could walk instead of swimming and made a decision. It wasn't a good one.

It was the most powerless jump she had ever made, she didn't travel more than seven centimeters, but it would have to do. She did the closest thing to swimming she could manage as the current carried her, almost with care as it slowly cradled her, but she felt like she was fighting against the powers of gravity. She would have wanted to say that she reached the other side on her own, but the only reason she even survived was thanks to a fallen tree trunk. She grabbed onto it and pulled herself to the shore.

She looked back and realized that she couldn't see the place where she started swimming, the river had taken her more than a few meters down its course.

Ok, she said to herself as she re-began her pitiful walk, clothes weighting more than a ton. This time she had to stop, she couldn't walk anymore, but she did, until she couldn't hear the water anymore. Then, and just then, she collapsed under a hollow tree.

That's why she didn't realize that her clone had popped and that her own body was being teleported to a long forgotten cave some snakes cherished deeply.

Ryūchi Cave.