A dull buzzing of insects and crickets served as a backdrop to the blanket of trees and thistles surrounding a circular splotch of barren dirt.
Soft hues of vibrant green and brown found themselves nestled quietly in the vegetation encircling the same area void of grass. The nightlife continued on, unperturbed and uncaring, heedless of the figure crumpled like a discarded napkin on the barren dirt.
But it was the very sounds of life that woke the figure up. Upon realizing consciousness, however, the figure remained motionless, eyes closed and seemingly ignorant about his surroundings.
The man was anything but.
Eyelids expertly controlled, slightly flickering in sporadic patterns to imitate REM cycles, and a calm, resting heartrate mimicking that of deep sleep, the figure had spent milliseconds to ensure all the subtle and overt body signs indicative of unconsciousness were actively enabled while still remaining tense and prepared to change at a moment's notice.
An instant later, the figure took a barely perceptible inhalation of air through his nostrils, the face mask covering it barely hindering the action, and internally frowned whilst maintaining a perfect façade of vulnerability. Sight was currently unviable as was most of his senses currently- except his superhuman sense of smell.
The man confirmed that he was in a forested area as he had detected the gritty smell of tree bark and the aromatic presences of various flora wafting above and around him.
His hearing had long since recognized the sounds of the wilderness, but he wanted to verify his situation regardless via his canine heritage.
Waiting an additional ten minutes to fully reassure himself that there wasn't an iota of sentient life nearby, the man quickly opened his eyes and sprung to his feet with a kunai in hand. His two eyes were visible, crimson pools with specks of midnight black frantically swirling and scanning anything and everything.
Sensing nothing of immediate importance, the figure flashed to the base of a giant oak nearby and blurred up its bark and branches horizontally until he reached the highest peak the tree could afford. He crouched and critically observed his strange but new and unexpected environment before relaxing slightly and sighing inaudibly. A hand rose up and gently pulled down his Hitai-ate over his left eye.
"…huh." The man hummed, contemplating how he could have arrived here without his knowing. Considering the evident fact that he had been sleeping seconds before, he analyzed that his abductor was potentially magnitudes more skilled than him since the man had not even been aware until it had been too late.
Bypassed my fūinjutsu seals of my home, successful infiltration of Konoha and extraction, successful abduction and subsequent disappearance without detection, no traces of any kind, no outstanding clues of priority. At least S-rank. I'm... getting too old for this.
The figure let out another imperceptible sigh and began reviewing his current objectives regarding such a scenario. Whoever had committed to such a mission clearly wasn't there anymore and he needed to redirect his thoughts away from his growing confusion and frustration by the fact that he was kidnapped as if he were a defenseless civilian.
Food. Hm.. Shelter's taken care of, so is water and weaponry. He placed a hand on his pouches to double check. Then for food… I've seen mushrooms and berries near two trees to the right, several birds perched to the left, and a rabbit below. Maybe two.
Grunting in slight annoyance of the tasks that awaited him, the man raised his left hand to form a one-handed seal. There was a sudden turbulence of air lasting a second before a silhouette appeared next to him, revealing an identical copy of the grayish-white-haired, Konoha nin. The clone then vanished in the literal blink of an eye, already knowing his purpose.
The figure then glanced at the night sky for a few seconds before closing and opening his eyes in concern over his predicament.
"Kakashi. Get… your shit together." He muttered to himself and subsequently hopped off the tree towards the clearing tens of meters below. Kakashi landed with nary a sound on his feet with another one-handed seal in place, causing a well-concealed tent of earth to sprout from the ground via one of his frequently used Doton jutsu he invented and christened 'useless camp tent' jutsu.
His shadow clone made its appearance again and dispelled itself, leaving three birds and two rabbits in its place. Kakashi stood next to his temporary shelter and proceeded to take a moment to structure his thoughts once more, now feeling something peculiar that he had been ignoring for the past few minutes.
Something was off to him and he couldn't exactly identify what it was. Aside from being introduced uninjured to a new environment involuntarily for some reason and the disturbing implication of the existence of an unknown shinobi skilled enough to completely catch the Rokudaime Hokage off guard, Kakashi pondered that rather than his situation feeling strange- as he had experienced much worse in the past- his body was the problem somehow.
There was nothing he could find that said otherwise, but he trusted his instincts more than anything else. Kakashi focused on his chakra and used it to meticulously examine the state of his body. Just before doing so, however, he summoned another clone to watch over him and his surroundings in the case of ambush or other points of interest. His first clone from earlier had already set up a comfortable perimeter of highly advanced traps that could even cause the whisker-marked Nanadaime Hokage some trouble if he wasn't careful, and it never hurt to have another pair of eyes especially since he could potentially be in hostile territory.
The Kakashi-clone that watched over the Original hid under ground via a silent, one-handed seal Doton: Moguragakure no Jutsu and cast layers of genjutsu over the tent and himself. He didn't use one on the Original as he wanted to lure out any potential threats as soon as possible; there was very little chance he would be unable to deal with anything coming his way. His captor was an exception but reasoning gesticulated that if someone wanted Kakashi dead, there would have been no reason for abduction in the first place as it was wholly successful. There had been too many chances beforehand for silent assassination and not a single one was taken from what could be evidently seen.
Additionally, he was unharmed and unbounded in any way when he woke up. There were no chakra suppression seals or even chains restricting his movements. The clone wondered in the past few minutes it had been born if he and the Original were currently being pranked and laughed at by his friends and comrades through video monitors, but that wasn't possible.
There was no one currently alive that could be that skilled in stealth. He was getting older and signs of age had started popping up here and there, but he was still very much confident his stealth was second to none so he could say he was the most qualified in preventing enemies or others from using stealth to approach him undetected. Only Itachi, Obito, and Zetsu could have accomplished such a feat but they were all dead- or sealed for the latter.
Also, when the Original had been lying on the ground previously, he had discretely used the sensory abilities offered by senjutsu for a split second and found that there was nothing that could indicate he was being spied on. No cameras, wires, electricity, metal. Nothing manmade or unnaturally formed from what he could remember. It had been just.. nature.
The clone activated a second of senjutsu as well to confirm his findings once more and to also check up on the Original. He clicked his tongue with a twinge of exasperation, feeling boredom creep on him like some terrible itch. Reading his favorite Icha Icha novel would have made his guard duty bearable but it wasn't optimal to read underground in the dark and- the clone immediately stopped his contemplation.
Potential threats, that is, towards the southeastern boundary of the camp's perimeter. Two traps had been hastily triggered and most likely killed the intruder. Another reported movement indicative of more than ten people.
The clone promptly pulsed a chakra flare of a specific pattern unique only to Kakashi and his shadow clones.
The Original had long since noticed the disturbance and pretended to appear incognizant to the outside but signaled back if he had used senjutsu to verify who or what they were dealing with.
The clone indicated a 'no' before initiating a longer session of senjutsu at the same time as the Original.
… And he was left stunned. These people- bipedal creatures of some kind had not an ounce of chakra running through their veins. The clone rapidly rose to the surface by releasing the jutsu, confusion lurking in his one visible eye and deep curiosity running in the other.
Kakashi slightly turned in the direction where the traps set off and signaled to his counterpart with coded sign language that he was going to investigate and also asked if the clone was willing to stay and monitor the campsite.
The clone mentally grumbled about forced labor and grunt work before pulling out a small orange book and signing 'agreement.'
Kakashi gave an eye-smile that somehow irritated the clone and shunshined away, bereft of leaves or anything indicating high-speed-movement. The clone sighed, grateful that he could at least read Jiraya's legacy for the moment and that the Original chose not to use the Icha-Icha-modified-Shunshin. Leaving behind blank, orange books would have been as annoying as leaving behind leaves.
The clone flipped to a random page and began reading, but stopped, blinked, and reflected on what just occurred. He promptly remembered something unusual about the Original before he left- there was a visibly content expression on Kakashi's face bar the eye-smile as he departed.
There was a pause until the clone decided it wasn't worth musing over and lovingly poured his eyes over the contents of the page in front of him.
He started giggling.
Kakashi sped past trees with concealed glee, leaves and fauna barely reacting to the sheer velocity he was moving at. Moving on tree trunks and branches were somewhat difficult to traverse due to how clumped up they were so he stuck to the ground. Normally, he would have been annoyed at such a slower path of travel but currently he just didn't care because he was thrilled about a particular matter.
As an old, aging shinobi, there were fewer and fewer things that could enervate the former Hokage to an astonishing degree; however, what he just discovered about his body definitively excited him.
Kakashi had celebrated his 62nd birthday a few days ago and was really beginning to feel the effects of old age. Lower back pains were the worst of it and occasionally, he feared turning into someone like Ōnoki eventually. But when Kakashi analyzed his body minutes ago, to his surprise, he found as if he de-aged- as if he was in his twenties. He would have been concerned if it weren't for the fact that in the Shinobi world, strange phenomena were commonplace ever since the sealing of Kaguya Ōtsutsuki- and due to the occurrence's spontaneity and peculiarity, it became quickly monikered as the 'Naruto effect' to the dismay of the Nanadaime Hokage. He hoped his renewed youth fell under such an event.
Eye-smile in place and sprinting at speeds most Jōnin would be envious of, Kakashi quickly approached his destination and smoothly hopped up a large tree to survey both the land and newfound inhabitants, soundlessly and under tens of layers of genjutsu. He wasn't sure the entities that triggered his clone's traps were human but nonetheless, his miraculous condition put him in a positive mood fit for exploration, discovery, and potential exploitation. Perhaps playful slaughter of man-eating monsters was on the table too.
Kakashi observed the strange figures below him, approximately a hundred meters away from the base of his oak perch.
He knew that they were completely chakraless, but it was still unnerving to witness something that shouldn't possibly exist. Everything had a presence of chakra, from the air itself to the rocks buried deep below- at least in the Elemental Nations. An unpleasant thought tried surfacing from the ocean that was his mind but Kakashi quickly and harshly drowned it without a pause in his mental stride in comprehending what he was seeing.
His Sharingan would also confirm the same results as his senjutsu did, so he saw no point in doing so. It would just waste chakra and he wouldn't really find anything as groundbreaking as having no- Kakashi widened his eyes in shock as to what he was now witnessing.
These creatures appeared to be… setting off his traps willingly?
Kakashi mentally gaped. Not even Naruto or his son would be that stupid to try triggering Kakashi-made traps especially when he was serious or in mission-mentally. But as he attempted to dissect the events before him, one bipedal creature wearing a colored mask different from that of the seventy-plus others began dragging another of its kind by its legs towards one of Kakashi's false-puppets.
Wait. What- why- Kakashi internally sputtered because at this point, he was having immense trouble comprehending that there existed a realm above stupidity. He didn't know such a stage could be achieved. Did they not know what an obvious bait of explosives were? The herd of creatures, or whatever they were, were standing right within the blast range of the false-puppet, and the black-mask wearing creature hauling a smaller creature was just about to activate the explosive-tag-filled trap and blow all of them to annihilation and back.
Seconds before the human-shaped puppet triggered, Kakashi made his move.