Chapter Four

The rest of the day went by quickly once Yoshio returned home.

He walked into his house to find a surprise party organized by his parents. They invited a couple of his friends over, and a few of their family friends. It went without saying that the Inugami were invited and Kotaro quickly found him so they could catch up on the day's events.

As it turned out Kotaro was paired up with Natsumi Murakami and, much to his dismay, Kouga Inuzuka. He went on a brief rant about how it was a drag to have a mutt on his team. He stopped long enough to ask Yoshio about his team, and Yoshio watched as his friend's jaw nearly dropped when he heard whom exactly was on team five.

As the sun began to set some of the families began to leave in a steady stream. Finally, only Yoshio and his parents were left to clean up. When that was done they gathered in the living room and his parents handed him a present. It was a dull black umanori and a white montsuki kimono. On the back of his kimono was his family's crest: a white flute over a black crescent moon. To go under his kimono was a white naga-juban, and for cooler weather, Yoshio was given a montsuki haori, with a white haori-himo.

Unsure when he'd wear such a ceremonial outfit, he simply smiled and thanked his parents. "Its made from some pretty durable thread. I'd suggest wearing it on long missions. It doesn't rip easy and its doesn't really hinder any movement," his dad stated before adding, "as a bonus you can also stash extra weapons without anyone really knowing." His mother then suggested that he wear it to his training tomorrow to see the difference between his old clothing, and these new. If he liked it enough they would buy him a couple more, and if not she promised to take it back and get him a different present. Because he didn't have anything to lose, as well as it was his mother asking, Yoshio agreed gladly.

The next morning he woke up and threw on his new uniform. Stashing whatever weapons he could where he thought best. Instead of wrapping his headband over his forehead, he chose his left arm and when he looked himself over in the mirror he had to admit he looked pretty decent.

Figuring that the place to meet would be the park from yesterday, he made his way there. Upon arriving he found his three teammates sitting under one of the park's trees. Sol was dressed in a loose fitting leather outfit the shade of blood. On his left arm was a gauntlet that ran up the length of his arm in segmented plates. The edges of the metal were worked in gold and at the shoulder was his family crest: a golden sunburst. He also wore a couple weapon pouches around his waist and at the side of each leg.

Jing and Grimmjow were both in the same clothing as yesterday and didn't appear to have any weapons on them. Yoshio expected this from Grimmjow, but he expected Jing to be carrying knives at the least. Maybe they were under his trench.

When Jing caught sight of him, he just stared blankly. Obviously unsure what to think about his friends new, and rather out of place, attire. He opened his mouth but Grimmjow turned to see what the thief was gawking at, and when he got his own eye-full, he burst out laughing like a hyena. His cynical cackle was enough to make Yoshio's ears color. The three rose, and as the cyan-haired boy wiped away tears of laughter from his eyes he commented, "What is up with you and blaster boy looking like some ancient statues? You going to pray?"

"Make all the jokes you want Jeagerjaquez, but you're not far off from the same thing. You wear an umanori too."

"Yeah," he replied defensively, "but I don't look like some retarded temple priest." Suddenly the two of them were butting heads. Resolved to not back down, the young genin refused to acknowledge the pain the pressure was causing to his forehead.

"Easy you two," Sol suddenly interjected as he started pushing them apart, "we can't be fighting like this. We are a team after all."

"Quite right you are Sol," Sosuke's voice chirped. The group of genin were looking around for their team leader suddenly. However not a one seemed to lay eye on him. "But," his voice chimed again, this time it was right at their backs. All four of them turned sharply to see the lanky man stand calm in the center of their group, "you're team on paper, not in life. I wasn't kidding when I said this was going to take a lot of work on your part."

As the Jounin walked away from their group, all but Jing seemed completely surprised by how easily Sosuke had gotten by them without notice.

"Each of you has a serious problem that you need to get rid of if you want to be successful with missions. At this point I refuse to start missions based on the sheer tension you each emit towards one another." With a long sigh the brown haired man seated himself beneath one of the trees. As the genin started their approach, Grimmjow suddenly growled.

"Each of us? I don't have any problems so long as these guys stay the hell out of my way!"

"And that's your problem," he remarked and shook his head. "You like fighting solo, but that's not how it's going to work from here on out." A surreal look passed his face, something near disgust, yet not at them. It was like it was being directed at some unseen person, or thing. "I propose a small trial mission. Nothing official by Konoha, and most likely illegal in some aspect. The choice is ultimately up to the four of you, and you must all agree. I will not accept the majorities vote if you aren't unanimous." His gaze scraped over each of them. Weighing them and prodding them for something. "Now, what say you four?"

Naturally Grimmjow was the first to agree. Pointing at himself with his thumb and saying that it would be a peace of cake, no matter what the mission was. Jing and Sol were the only two that seemed to be seriously thinking this through while Yoshio waited patiently, ready to go with the current. It was Sol's voice that broke the long silence, "What's the mission?"

"Do you all agree to finish the mission to the tee and see it to the end?"

Sol's head turned to Jing and received a subtle nod. When he turned his gray eyes, the blond genin thought he saw a fire behind them. Jing had nodded, why shouldn't he? Yoshio shifted his gaze between Sosuke and Jing before frowning and giving his own little nod of approval.

With that, the redhead faced the Jounin and proudly stated that they were ready and willing. That sick, malicious grin returned to Cider's face and a chill ran up Yoshio's back. Why did the man have to smile like that? It wasn't right that a man like him had such a cruel smile; it made him seem sadistic, "Great!" he exclaimed and beckoned them all to sit. "I'm so glad you're eager to prove yourselves, even though you've just signed up for a mission that may very well place you as rogue-nin."

All four held their breath, their eyes went wide with shock, horror or some combination of the two. "What?" That one word seem pulled from Yoshio, as it came out slowly to voice his inability to believe what he had just heard.

"You have just signed up, to test your skills and ability to work together as a team. If you wish to back out now, that is fine." Yoshio began to open his mouth but Sosuke went right over him to continue, "However, you should know that I've recorded this meeting. In which I have been using a genjutsu to disguise my voice and appearance to all but you four. Should you back out I will hold it against you and possibly reveal it when the item I want is stolen. And I will have it one way or another." The malevolent Jounin rose to his full height and stood, towering over them, "Now listen closely."

And they did.

Stretching his arms and legs, Kotaro let out a loud yawn. The protection decal for this mission had been pretty vague, but team eight had been revving to go. The exercise with their team leader and gone really well, and Inugami was looking forward to doing some awesome missions. Even if they were as boring as watching over a small parcel only five by ten inches. He wondered what item that small could possibly be worth seven Jounin, five Chuunin, and three meager Genin. In his mind it didn't make sense.

On the plus side it gave him some time to hang with Murakami. It could only get better if two things happened. The first would have been if Inuzuka left, and the second would be if no one actually showed like intelligence said. Maybe Murakami would want some ramen later.

The black haired genin leaned back in his chair and tossed his legs up onto the table, crossing them at the ankle. His hands came back to cradle his head, and his dark eyes scanning the white plaster ceiling. Absently he began counting out loud, "One, two, three."

"What are you doing now?" Inuzuka asked from the opposite corner. Though they didn't have an official voice agreement, the two of them tried to stay away from the other as much as possible. His dark hair was straight and cut so that the bangs perfectly framed his canine face. The red tribal marks on his face some how emphasized his already dog-like features.

"Counting the seconds."

"Why?"

"If this is what it's going to be like I need to find something to do. I don't have any other hobbies besides training, and we're supposed to keep our strength in reserves, so, I'm counting."

"Idiotic…"

"Don't start you two," Murakami suddenly voice. Her sweet voice floated through the air and put them both back at ease. Here she was the voice of reason that kept them both in check. A really good thing too. If she wasn't there they'd have already been at each other's throats. Maybe even one dead. All quiet again, Kotaro resumed his counting. This time it was the sudden explosion that interrupted him. "What was that?" she questioned, rising to her feet.

"An explosion," both boys stated. Inuzuka and he locked eyes before the mutt went to check outside the door. "Natsumi, get the escape route ready. If they get this far we're not supposed to engage, just run. You're our fastest runner." He also wanted to point out that she wouldn't hold up very well, but if an enemy did get this far, neither would they. So it was best just to stay quiet and make sure she, at least, got out safely.

The dust was beginning to settle. Yoshio and Jing sat hunched in the bushes as the explosives blasted the wall inwards. Jing's eyes held their familiar twinkle, yet his face was an eerie calm that the blond genin wasn't sure he liked to see on his friend. Especially when they were about to become rogue-nin. Sosuke made it clear that no matter what their choice was; they'd become hunted by their own country.

Jing nodded and the two of them rushed out of the brush. They made their way to the rubble and flanked the wall, pressing their backs against the cold concrete. The light from inside the building spilled out, as if to fight off the darkness of the night. Jing still carried no weapon, despite the fact that they would most likely have some resistance. Cider had stated that he would go in first and take out any guards on their end, and then he would lead Grimmjow and Sol to act as a diversion for the rest of the guard. It would clear out nearly everyone that he couldn't dispose of.

A shiver ran up his spine as he remembered how cold the Jounin's voice had been when he said those words. It scared him, and what they were about to do scared him even more. His father's voice drifted through his head, Often on the battle field I've seen friends become enemies, and even enemies become allies.

Yoshio half wished that the advice could bring him some comfort, but it didn't. He was going to become an enemy of Konoha - an enemy of Kotaro and his parents. It pained him to no end, but what could he do? His folks would understand if he could ever explain to them. Sosuke could be captured and they'd all redeem themselves. He would just have to wait until he could do something.

The black haired thief motioned with his hand. They stepped over the rumbled wall and onto the hard wood floor where they saw several bodies laying on the floor. Gingerly, they stepped forward. Unsure whether the men and woman were unconscious or really dead. Relief washed over Yoshio as one of them stirred, but then he remembered whose side he was on.

Without hesitation the boys bumped up against a wall while Yoshio worked his hands through their signs. Soon his and Jing's appearance wavered, blending into the surroundings around them as the man rose to his feet. Just as the man wouldn't be able to see either of them, they could not see each other. It was one of the blonde's favorite jutsu to use, and all the practice he did with it was about to pay off.

If only his eyelids weren't feeling so heavy. No! The thought was weak and distant. His world was starting to go black and before he passed out he cursed his weakness.

Jing's eyes were trained on the man rising. He was either Chuunin or Jounin because he wore the exam vest. The thief hoped it was a Chuunin and that he wasn't all that strong. If he could sneak up on the man and knock him unconscious again they could move on. Grimmjow, Sol and Sosuke were on the other side of the building and wouldn't be able to help them until later.

Thoughts skimmed across his brain as he wondered what Sosuke's game was, but those questions were shut to the back of his mind when he noticed a wavering across the hallway where Yoshio had been. His eyes focused and the image flickered. His friend was nodding off. Not good, he thought bitterly. Reacting by instinct, Jing left his spot and charged the ninja's back. He had to attack now while there was an element of surprise.

It would have been a completely successful attack if the man's own instincts didn't alert him to another person's presence. He twisted his body, left arm stiff and ready to strike whoever was attacking him. Jing ducked low letting the arm pass over him harmlessly. His right hand shot up and grabbed the arm as it continued its swing. With his left arm he elbowed the man in the side and swept his legs out from under him.

The man fell like a sack for rocks and before he could move Jing's left boot caught him groin. He shared the man's pain briefly as he writhed but held the man's head down and gave it a quick, hard, chop at the base of the neck. Rendering the man, once again, asleep.

Wiping away the sweat at his brow with the sleeve of his tan trench coat, Jing sighed and walked back to Yoshio. As troublesome as that had just been, he couldn't blame his teammate. He didn't choose when to fall asleep after all. It would set them back a couple of seconds but Yoshio needed to be awake. Jing couldn't carry him the entire time and if another person spotted them he would have to fight. His friend would end up being a burden at that point. Fighting asleep or not, he would. "Come on Yoshio, wake up man."

It took the boy a moment or so but he eventually came around. Instantly he seemed to remember what they were doing and what had last happened. He peered about frantically until he saw the unconscious man. "Sorry Jing," he stated embarrassed.

"Don't worry about it, now come on. We've got to hustle."

They made their way back to the room where the item was kept. Once again the boys flanked the door. Yoshio's hands disappeared under opposite sleeves and reappeared with a kuni in either of them. Jing's right hand reflexively flexed, touching the small trigger on his own arm blade. He wished they didn't have to do this. Well, at least not Yoshio. He was thrilled at the chance to steal something. He half wondered what the experience would have been like had he done this on his own.

Bringing his focus back to their mission, the thief's left hand touched the door handle. Slowly he pushed it open, and only a little ways. With care he slide closer to inspect the wooden door for any traps. There didn't seem to be any so he thrust it open the rest of the way.

That's when both of them paled at the bestial howl that echoed through the hallway.