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Fire and Water [Tsume and Asuma][Jun. 11th, 2009|08:35 pm]

[Takes place seven days after Words Without Meaning, six days after Fall From Grace, and four days after Kakashi returned to Konoha.]


Tsume cringed, halting finally on the dirt path. The agent had been following her for some time, but she'd been able to ignore him. Hard to ignore the fact that she was the only Inuzuka out here, though.

With a last longing glance toward the hospital--where Kuromaru was undergoing the last few days of chakra-cleansing after his close call training with Katsuko--she stopped and waited. "Help you?" she asked without looking back.

He wheezed to a halt, flailing a scroll around. "Orders," he managed to gasp.

She snatched it. It had to be a mistake. Or an order for something she could put off, at least--it wasn't like she could do missions yet.

Then her brows pulled down and in. "This is a mission scroll."

The messenger nodded, still wheezing.

She handed it back, but he refused to take it. "I'm not cleared for missions."

He opened his mouth--probably to speak--but couldn't get words out past his heaving. "Need a--" he managed finally, "Nose!"

She looked at the scroll again. Tracking duty, sure enough. "You'll have to get someone else. I'm not off medical leave." Besides which, she had a feeling Haruichi would kill her. She wasn't going to have her pathways stitched closed again, not this close to having them whole.

The man had finally regained enough air to speak. "You're listed as physically fit. No fighting, just tracking--"

She shoved the scroll into his chest, stepping forward into his space and growling. "I'm Inuzuka. My familiar is hospitalized. I'm not off leave. I can't take this mission."

He paled, but didn't take the scroll. "It's an emergency, ANBU-san! You're the only tracker available, and we don't need your familiar! You don't have to fight--you'll be going with a ninja rested and ready to do everything else--you only need to track!"

Tsume hesitated. Somebody had looked at her file, if they knew she was fit and Kuromaru wasn't. She pulled the scroll back and read it again.

Emergency mission. Weapon stolen. She frowned and looked up. "When did this happen?"

"I--I assume this morning. Probably last night. Yeah, last night," the messenger said.

Tsume stared flatly. "Which village took it?"

He looked a little confused. "We... uh, don't exactly know."

"What weapon?"

"It's, um, classified. But it's dangerous! It's tied to a jutsu, and it's imperative that we get it back before it goes off. And anyone carrying it should be very careful not to trigger it."

"That's helpful," Tsume muttered sarcastically. "Which way did they head?"

"Um..." He looked around as if he might see them.

"If you say you don't know..." Tsume warned.

"I know! I know! Intel, Intel, uh, thinks they're heading toward the shore." He pointed. "Your backup will be meeting you--"

"I didn't say I'd take it." There had to be someone else. Refusing a mission--especially an emergency mission--put a mark on your record, and you could only refuse a very few a year, but... Kakashi was the only tracker anywhere near her level--and he was still comatose.

His face--red from exertion--went even redder. "On a mission! And this isn't a request! It's an order! You have a nose and you're in fit condition--that's all we need!"

Fit condition. Her nose was. Her muscles were. She could run, and track better than anyone else. She'd have backup, someone to do the fighting for her if she could just get him there. Emergency. Stolen weapons. Ordered, not requested. Black faced Wolf. She could refuse a request. She could refuse an order, but she'd pay dearly for it. She was the only tracker they had.

"You have to--"

"I know," she snarled, and pulled out a kunai. "See that Inuzuka Kuromaru gets this." She paused, glaring at the man. "See to it personally. If he doesn't, he'll track me here, and he'll start eating people." It was only a slight overstatement.

She paused, focusing, spilling intent and calm into her chakra, her chakra into her blood, before nicking her finger on the kunai and tipping her hand, letting red drip from her fingertip to the corner of the mission scroll.

Kuromaru would be unhappy, but he'd stay put. If she was gone too long, Yasuo would see that Kuromaru didn't come after her.

"So you're going?" the man warbled.

She glared at him. "Don't have a choice, do I?"

He ignored that. "If you pick up their trail before your partner catches up, leave this to mark the path. Don't go too fast, and don't engage." He marked the back of her hand with three lines, using the tip of his finger and trusting she could imagine it well enough.

"Don't worry, I won't," Tsume muttered, and headed back to headquarters. She needed her kit.
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