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Red Sky at Morning[Nov. 16th, 2016|05:34 pm]

[Takes place the morning of June 10, Yondaime Year 5, three weeks following Laws of Gravity and just over a month after Salt the Earth]
WARNING FOR ANIMAL DEATH in the first two tags]

Training field three looked, and smelled, like a battlefield. Genma nudged Ryouma with his shoulder, nodding at the blood-spattered grass. “So far it’s messier than your jutsu, but at least it reeks less.”

“I’m pretty sure I can do explosive rot if you want it, Lieutenant,” Ryouma offered mildly.

“I know. That’s why we started with sardines when you and I worked on wound sealing.”

Kakashi, dripping in blood from head to toe, took a few steps out of the blast radius while a pair of chuunin brought a fresh victim to the field and secured its lead to a stout iron post. The pig, staked well upwind of the carnage, didn’t seem to be bothered by the gory remains of its predecessor. It looked around with mild interest as one of the chuunin put a bucket of feed in front of it, then began contentedly munching away.

Otani Yaeko, an observer from the Jutsu Records Office, tapped her clipboard. “How close was that attempt to Iebara’s jutsu?”

“It looks a lot like what was left of Iebara after Hatake was finished with him,” Genma said, “but nothing like the stuff Iebara himself did.”

Otani nodded and jotted down a note before she called, “Hatake-san, are you ready to try it again?”

Kakashi flicked an acknowledging salute, then turned to focus intently on the pig with both eyes. At the distance from which they were observing it was impossible to make out the pinwheels in Kakashi’s transplanted Sharingan, but they were doubtless spinning fast. He nodded at one of the chuunin; black steel flashed in her hand.

The pig squealed and jerked against its chain, then fell to the ground, silent, as blood gushed from its slit throat. Both chuunin beat a hasty retreat. Kakashi’s hands were a blur of seals, and then, slowly, long ribbons of blood rose like charmed snakes.

“That’s it,” Genma said. “That’s how Iebara started—”

The pig convulsed as if it were still conscious. Then it burst. The shower of blood was smaller this time, and it fell dismembered into recognizable body parts.

Next to him, Otani let out a little breath.

Kakashi wasn’t finished, though. His hands contorted as he drew the blood ribbons towards himself. They coalesced into a single, curving shape that might have been a blade, but it wavered and writhed, barely in his control and not at all the solid edged weapon Iebara had constructed.

Ryouma watched Kakashi with sharp-edged focus, hands twisting through un-energized seals in his lap. “Try reverse-Horse!” he shouted.

Genma raised an eyebrow. “Won’t that—” he started, but before he could finish or Kakashi could try the suggestion, the half-formed blade burst into a red mist, adding a fresh layer to the wreckage of Kakashi’s hair and uniform.

Ryouma leaned close to Genma and murmured, “Guess this is the wrong time to ask for a new juice box.”

“Blood orange is out of season,” Genma replied, voice just as low, “but I can probably get you pomegranate or red dragon fruit.”

“Dragon fruit!” Ryouma’s face lit with a beatific smile. “You do love me, Lieutenant.”

Otani turned to give them a questioning look that seemed poised on the cusp of disapproval. Genma shrugged and turned his attention back to Kakashi. “That looked better! You left big enough pieces for a barbecue this time.”

Kakashi shook his head, flinging blood droplets from his hair, then leveled a flat stare at Genma. One dripping red hand flicked a bastardized hand-signal: Funny, before he gave the chuunin the nod to bring out the third and final test subject.

“If he doesn’t get it this time,” Otani said, “We’ll have to consider bringing in an Uchiha officer to observe him work the jutsu on a smaller scale. Rabbits, perhaps.”

“He’ll get it,” Genma told her. The last thing they needed was a probably-hostile Uchiha clan member breathing down Kakashi’s neck. Uchiha allegations about Kakashi’s “stolen” Sharingan still flew five years after the incident and despite more than one edict from the Hokage’s office on the subject.

To Kakashi he said, “Hang on, we’re coming over,” and started across the blood-spattered grass. Ryouma, a quick study as always, jogged right along with him. There wasn’t a trace of a limp left from Ryouma’s recent knee surgery — if anything, he was moving better than before — and Genma’s own injured leg was back to full strength, with just a long, puckered scar to mark the path of Iebara’s blade.

Kakashi was waiting warily, evidently unwilling to trust this conference would hold more than mockery.

“Tousaki’s on to something with that reverse-Horse,” Genma said, cutting straight to the point. “It looks like you’re sacrificing control for power. Maybe because you have the whole pig’s blood volume to work with? When Iebara went after us, it was from arm and leg wounds. He was careful not to strike anywhere vital.”

“Which is kinda inefficient, really,” Ryouma put in. “He should've exploded us on the spot. You sure you want those fancy blood blades, Kakashi?”

“Konoha does,” Kakashi said. He stretched one hand against the other, limbering up tight joints. “Not everything can be solved with explosions, Tousaki.”

Ryouma prodded a small chunk of bloody pig-flesh with his toe, setting the exposed fat wobbling. "I guess there are times you want to bring the body back,” he allowed. “So if you do want blades — the way I see it, you're pulling too hard, and since you're not controlling the pull well enough, it ends up forcing the blood out everywhere, not just the path you've directed. Result—” He spread his hands in a rapid gesture. “Explosion.”

Kakashi’s brows creased in consternation. “But if I reverse the Horse seal, it'd cut the jutsu's strength in half.”

“Better some control than none,” Ryouma pointed out. “Or you could add Ox and Bird instead, to add some guards and strengthen your control to compensate, but that'll move further away from what Iebara was doing…”

“And get me closer to your Naizou Tokasu,” Kakashi finished with a sly smile. “Let’s do that next.”

“Yeah, we could always use some more exploding rotting corpses,” Ryouma said with a snort. “Maybe half-Bird, no Ox? Since you don't want your chakra to actually feed on theirs, or you'll just end up with little dried blood flakes everywhere.”

Or shreds of partly-rotted fish, in the case of Ryouma’s first attempt at a healing jutsu. That had only been a few days ago, after three weeks of theory and preparation, and the result not much different than most beginning medics got, if you disregarded the putrefaction element.

“You do want to call on the chakra in the blood cells, though,” Genma said. “There’s a medical technique that does that. Actually, I used it on the mission to break the blood masks Iebara tried to suffocate Tousaki and me—”
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