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100% The Iron Gamer of Kumo / Chapter 16: 4/4

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Chapter 16: 4/4

"Birds? Wha- guys just, please keep it down. We have to finish the traps." The third genin, a red-haired girl with her Kusa straw hat resting beside her and wearing another brown cloak with the Kusa symbol emblazoned on the back, whispered to her teammates from her own trap.

Ochiyo Sumida[Neutral]

They were already starting to hallucinate.

The sun was setting, and temperature was dropping fast.

'Plan?' I signaled to Kichiro.

He looked worriedly to Suguna, who was crouching next to him, holding her magatama beads on her right hand and mumbling a prayer. 'We cannot risk the traps, and they won't come out.' He signaled us.

'Use poisoned kunai to disrupt them, I'll go with wind to blow them and the traps away.' I answered back. A simple poison might add more disruption to the equation.

Kichiro nodded in agreement. 'Red, keep to the sides and enter if you see the opportunity. Blue, what poison do we use?' In sign language there were no signs for names, so Suguna was Red, Kichiro was Green and I was Blue.

'Red-labeled vials. Coat the blades. Don't cut yourself.' I signaled Kichiro.

The Basic and Intermediate toxins were the only fast acting poisons I had, and my teammates weren't proficient enough in stealth to hide waiting for another toxin to take a hold on the enemy.

Kichiro got to work and quickly turned back to me with eight kunai dripping the rose liquid, the Basic Toxin that would provoke sever pain in wounds that lasts some seconds. It was fast acting, in contrast to the paralytic agent I had reserved for myself.

He took a deep breath and launched the kunai in pairs in quick succession. Two hit the straw-hat wearing genin in the back, one hit the black-haired kid in the shoulder and the red-haired girl, who was still crouching arming a trap, received one on her side.

All three stumbled, grumbled or hissed and tried to recover, but just as the girl tried to stand up, I finished the hand seals.

Tiger, Ox, Dog, Rabbit, Snake: 'Great Breakthrough.'

-80 Chakra.

Wind tore through the clearing, picking chunks or earth from the ground and quickly engulfing the Kusa genin. The three were sent tumbling backwards, and traps were activated or destroyed by the passing winds.

Hit! Critical x5.480 DMG.Stun applied.Severe bleeding applied.

Hit!90 DMG

Hit!130 DMG.Stun applied.

Wind Style: Great Breakthrough increased by 1.

When the winds passed, I saw the results of the heavy powered jutsu between the settling dust.

The red-haired girl crashed against the flagpole and fell on her side while the kid in the blue jumpsuit ended up against a tree at the other end of the clearing.

The black-haired boy landed on his back and rolled to the side, trying to stand up and holding his poisoned left shoulder with his right arm. He was looking frantically between his teammates and in my direction. Suguna shunshined behind him from the sides just as he pulled a kunai from his pocket, and she hit him in the back of the neck with the blunt edge of her sword. He dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Kichiro and I shunshined to the clearing and quickly inspected the area. I cautiously crouched beside the red-haired girl. She was bleeding profusely from her side and her elbow was bent the other way, she also had at least a concussion. She would bleed to death in a few hours.

"How's she?" Suguna asked me while scanning our surroundings with her sword drawn.

"She's bleeding badly."

"Should we...?" Suguna tentatively turned to me.

"No, we should patch her up, at least it will give her a fighting chance. They'll wake up in a couple of hours I hope"

"I'm on it." Suguna said.

I turned to Kichiro, who was inspecting the area.

"The other two are unconscious, just some flesh wounds." He said to me through squinted eyes. He was pale, almost white as snow.

"How are you holding up?" I asked worried.

"I feel dizzy."

We were running out of time. "Let's move," I ushered, "I'll get the flag." I jumped up the flagpole and untied their red flag. I half expected some sort of trap or something, but nothing happened. "Let's go!"

We ran for another ten minutes with me on point, sensing for any metal signature inside my range, when I heard Suguna yell at me.

"Wait! Kichi? What's wrong, Kichi?"

I turned back to find Kichiro on his knees, frantically untying the scarf around his neck. He immediately vomited what little was in his stomach.

"Please Kichi, what's wrong?" Suguna asked while trying to comfort Kichiro. "Is it the poison?" she voiced turning to me.

"It must be affecting his balance. Fuck." I stood next to them, keeping an eye on the trees. "How are you feeling, Suguna?"

"The birds are getting louder and I'm hearing whistling and voices around. I have trouble focusing on other sounds, so I'm trying to ignore them altogether. But it's hard to hear you properly." Suguna answered while rubbing Kichiro's back. He was still gagging, but nothing was coming out.

"Fuck, this will only get worse."

"Leave," Kichiro managed to whisper between heaves, "take her and get out."

"What? Kichi, what did you say? What did he say?" Suguna was on the verge of tears, looking at me through pale, frozen eyes.

I made up my mind.

"Suguna, carry Kichiro on your back and follow me. Focus only on myself and my signs. We still can find another flag on our way out."

She steeled herself and nodded, a determined look on her eyes. She first tore two small pieces of cloth from her red shirt with a kunai and plugged her ears. 'Clever girl'. She then picked Kichiro up and secured him on her back, making sure he was held tight.

"Do not fall asleep." I said toKichiro.

We continued our way east, running at fast as we could considering my teammates' state of mind.

I estimated another twenty minutes to the forest's exit when I sensed another signature.

'Stop.' I signaled over my shoulder and turned around. 'Enemy camp one thousand feet to the north-east.'

'What do we do?' Suguna mouthed at me. Her hands were busy carrying Kichiro and she didn't seem to trust the volume of her voice.

'Go into the forest and hide yourselves.' I answered. 'I'll be back, and I will find you. Do you understand?'

She looked at me unsure, but nevertheless nodded and turned around into the forest.

I had to do this fast, the clouds barely shone with the fleeting colors of the dusk and temperature was dropping; in a couple of hours, it would drop below freezing point. But that wasn't my primary concern. If everything went according to plan, we'll be out of this fucking forest before that and this was nothing like Kumo's winters. No, my primary concern was doing this fast and avoiding a prolonged fight.

I arrived at the back of their camp, undetected by the two genin that sat around three small tents with scarfs around their mouths.

Senzo Satake[Neutral]

Samon Satake[Neutral]

Those were two of the Iwa brothers.

Their camp was at the edge of the clearing, where their last teammate was tied up to the stone base of the flagpole, gagged with some cloth in his mouth and unmoving.

Orito Koide[Neutral]

"We need to get this over with." The first of the brothers, a grey short-haired boy whispered. He was tall for his age, just like his brother.

"And do what? Fail the exams?" The second brother, a bald kid answered.

They were both wearing thick brown cloaks covering most of their figure except their headbands on their foreheads. Their eyes moved between their teammate and the surrounding forest.

A small gray icon started flashing in the lower right corner of my vision.

'What?'

Stealth Increased by 1.

'Not now!'

"You saw what happened to Orito," Senzo continued, "and I'm already seeing weird fucking lights around."

"We wait." The bald kid hissed back.

Samon, the bald kid, was one level higher than me, and the other two were two levels below. Their 'camp' was just those three small tents stretched between some trees, there wasn't even a fire lit. They were taking precautions and were on the lookout.

I silently summoned four poisoned kunai from my inventory, this time coated with the Intermediate Paralytic Agent, and took a deep breath. If the paralytic agent entered their bloodstream, it would incapacitate them in about ten seconds.

I aimed at their shoulder joint, it would disable their arms and the poison would begin its work. It was a gamble, I couldn't know if they were wearing any sort of leather armor that would mitigate penetration, but at least I knew they weren't wearing a mesh mail underneath their cloaks.

My aiming was on point and the four kunai pierced their shoulders.

Hit!200 Dmg.Target has been poisoned. [Intermediate Paralytic Agent]

Hit!200 Dmg.Target has been poisoned. [Intermediate Paralytic Agent]

Hit!200 Dmg.Target has been poisoned. [Intermediate Paralytic Agent]

Hit!200 Dmg.Target has been poisoned. [Intermediate Paralytic Agent]

They both yelled and rolled to the side to take cover behind the trees.

"Fuck!" I heard one of them yell, "Senzo, we are you ok?!"

"They got my arms, can barely move them. Agh shit." The other one, Senzo, hissed back.

I noticed Orito peeking his head from behind the tree, gazing around in my direction, but the sunlight was almost gone and the undergrowth hid me well.

I summoned 50 kunai and began throwing them in their general direction with my magnet release. It was a silent way to keep them cowering behind the trees while the poison worked its magic.

"Shit! Orito, use... use th-" He tried to hiss an order, but I sensed him dropping to the forest floor.

Ding!

Target is paralyzed.

Ding!

Target is paralyzed.

Tiger, Ox, Dog, Rabbit, Snake: 'Great Breakthrough.'

-30 Chakra.

Although the jutsu was much less powered, it blew a path open, activating some kunai traps I sensed hidden among the long grass. The tied-up genin was buffeted by the wind but he didn't react.

I moved quickly and jumped to the pole to grab the flag, then moved to the paralyzed genin.

I tied the them by the hands, elbows, ankles and knees with ninja wire. The effects of the toxin would only last a couple of minutes more and I didn't want them following us on our way out of this hell hole. They'll free themselves in a matter of hours, these kids were trained shinobi after all.

One of them, Senzo, glared at me during the whole process. If his mouth weren't paralyzed, I bet he would have been snarling at me. 'Tough luck, kid.'

I hurried back to my Suguna and Kichiro, the only other metal signatures in the in my range. I shunshined in front of them with my hands raised. She was sitting in the ground, hugging a faintly wheezing Kichiro on her lap. She jolted up and looked up at me with teary eyes and a clenched jaw. The girl was pissed.

Good.

'I have it, let's go.'

We finally began our final stretch out of this godforsaken place. Suguna tried to keep up, her eyes fixed on me but showing evident signs of distress. From time to time, she clenched her eyes, almost losing her step. The hallucinations must be getting stronger by the minute, I guessed.

Not long after, under a clouded night sky and almost no light save for the full moon's that shone through the clouds, the trees began to thin out. I sensed rather than saw the small building block a mile away.

We were safe.

"Ah," one of the jonin keeping an eye on the forest nonchalantly commented when we arrived at the outskirts of the first building, "do you have the flags?"

Suguna collapsed on her knees, laying Kichiro down and hugging him so hard that I feared his eyes would pop out. But Kichiro smiled, even through his closed eyes and constant heaving, he knew Suguna was there with him.

I plopped down on my butt. I wasn't tired per se, my SP points were barely spent, but I was stressed out. Taking a deep breath, I unsealed both red flags and held them for the jonin.

He approached me and inspected them for a second. "Perfect, you are the first team to arrive; earlier than we thought." He took one look at my teammates and yelled back to the buildings. "Yo, Tomomi, bring the antidote! We have our first team!"

"The roots of the same plant can be distilled to produce the antidote," a Kusa jonin named Iemitsu was explaining me, "it has to be mixed with Yatsude sap beforehand and left to ferment for two days. The better way to apply it is by boiling it and inhaling the vapors. The toxin's effects normally wear out in half an hour."

I was sitting near a campfire at the center of the building blocks with a handful of jonin and some chunin. We just got out of that forest two hours ago and this Iemitsu guy was rambling about the Quiet Forest in such a proud way.

It was all part of the test, obviously. The Suigiku plant that grows in this forest was highly toxic, producing that hallucinogenic pollen that covered the whole valley. Even animals were affected, and only certain endemic insects were able to survive inside the valley. There was a reason civilians were banned from entering the area. The forest was also the home of some very coveted plants and herbs used in poison making -no surprise there- and other medical uses. Still, only jonin ventured inside to collect them.

The Kusa shinobi that came with us had instructions to scour the area tomorrow morning and rescue the genin that weren't going to make it. The rules still applied, if a team couldn't procure two flags, they'll be disqualified.

"Your teammates got a really severe reaction to the toxin, though. It's short of a miracle you made it out there with two flags." Iemitsu patted my back. "Congrats for that kid. For a Kumo kid, you resisted the poison very well. And so young!"

Motherfuckers.

Suguna was crying her eyes out and restraining herself from stabbing someone when the medic arrived with a pot of boiling fluid and instructed us to inhale the vapors. We had to hold Kichiro's head over the pot for him to get his dose. After a while, the hallucinations diminished and Suguna unplugged her ears, finally relaxing her shoulders. Kichiro opened his eyes and sat up, only to be crushed again by a wailing hug from Suguna. They were shown to their bedrooms shortly after, with a promise of feeling better after some good sleep, and they slept for eighteen hours straight. Most of the strain wasn't physical, but psychological.

I inhaled the vapors too, just to test the gamer's system.

Ding!

Antidote for the Suiguki toxin detected.

Meh. The Resisted status effect was still there, so the thing was still in my blood. That antidote only dealt with the toxin effects.

During the night, the Iwa team with the third Satake brother arrived holding two flags. They also had to carry one of their members out of the forest. He was bleeding badly from a hastily covered gash on his left leg and had his eyes blindfolded. They grumbled about the toxin, the heaving and the lights, and how long it took them to realize the loophole in the rules.

A frantic Kusa team exited the forest shortly after and dropped to the ground a few steps later. They didn't carry any flags, they just bolted out of the place.

The next morning, an Ame team nonchalantly arrived waving two flags. Those respirators they wore must have been very handy.

But that was all, no other soul left the forest that day, and by afternoon the jonin and chunin began patrolling the forest, rescuing any team out of commission and offering help to anyone willing to give up.

Those sane enough gave up, others had to be pulled away by force.

A kid from Iwa died during a scuffle, her teammates were scattered around following nonexistent black figures seeking revenge. They were found miles apart with bloodshot eyes and punching trees and pouncing on their own shadows.

A Kusa boy died by the hands of his own teammates, they were too psychotic to explain what happened.

By the end of the third day, when all the genin were accounted for, we left back to Kusagakure.

. . . . . - - - . - . . - . - - - . - - . . .

His cane tapped against the granite tiles.

He hated that sound. But his body wasn't what it used to be. Not since the second war, not since he lost his father and had to leave everything he loved -little as it was- behind.

He shook his head, shooing those bad memories away. He survived, he found a better life, a much calmer one. It was a comfortable albeit monotonous existence.

"Doctor Kumagaya, please." He said to the nurse in the front desk.

They showed him to a small white room with a single examination bed and two plain chairs. He sat on one and not too long after, an old man wearing a white medical garb entered the room.

"Yataro, how are you feeling today?" The doctor asked him, checking the notepad he always carried around when visiting patients.

"Hello, Uedo. Nothing new. How are you?"

"Fine, fine. I'm going to be a grandfather again; can you believe it?" The doctor answered without taking his eyes from his notes.

Yataro half-heartedly smiled. "That's great. Family keeps getting bigger..." He hated when other talked about family, one of the many things he couldn't get during his life. He always tried to smile anyway. People loved to talk about their families, the sweet things and the sour things, but it always stung the same way.

An uncomfortable silence ensued, only interrupted by the footsteps of other medical staff wandering around outside the examination room.

Doctor Uedo finally scribbled something down on his notepad and turned to look at his old friend with his brows knitted together.

"That bad, eh?" Yataro interjected.

"Just as expected, Yataro. We are not getting any younger, and you are a special case."

He smiled a bittersweet smile. He wasn't a special case, he just got lucky, they got lucky.

Doctor Uedo plopped down on the other chair, lounging back and moving his neck around.

"You know," he began, "Sadako's been the leading student here. She's taking everything like a duck to water. I'll have her start on the Mystical Palm soon."

That was his family, Yataro realized. Sadako and Kioshi. It never ceased to amaze him how were they able to put a smile, a genuine smile, on his face.

Uedo noted the smile. "She's been asking a lot about the Shirasu boy. She was part of the staff that checked on him after their mission to that Village. Ha," he laughed, "she even asked to see his medical file."

Yataro perked up and gazed questioningly at the doctor.

"Don't worry, we still don't keep a file about him. I personally burn everything that's written down about him, not even his sensei's medical file names him in any way." Ueda calmed him before Yataro started asking more questions. "You're a good guy, Yataro. I can see you care for him, for both."

"What did she ask?"

"How he came back without a scratch. She's a curious girl, and I think she knows something is off, and I think she knows we know. She'll figure it out eventually, you know?"

Yataro nodded. Sadako was smart. Maybe a little lighthearted for the shinobi life, but she was smart and loved Kioshi like a little brother. "Well, he's special..."

"Indeed. I've heard about his kekkei genkai and I know doesn't add up. But leave it at that. I might be a doctor now, but I'm not protected by the shinobi council like you and we both know what misplaced information can do to us."

Yataro bitterly nodded.

"And about your test results, they are what we were expecting. It's running its course." He took a small bottle of pills from his pocket and tossed it to Yataro. "Those will easy the worst of it for now. Come back in three months." He stood up and walked to the door. "I have to help my daughter look for a bigger house now. Luckily, prices have plummeted this last years." He added from the door frame. "I'll see you around."

The doctor left the room. He had other patients to see, other kids to check on and a jonin in the intensive care unit with severe burns on his right leg from a 'training exercise'.

'Indeed.' Yataro answered in thought looking at the bottle of pills in his hands. The housing market was on an all-time low, people were leaving the village to the capital. The closing of the iron mines up north, the low crop yield during the last decade, the increasing scuffles along the borders... things were looking grim.

He knew it wasn't long before whatever was brewing in the horizon came to pass, but he didn't worry too much; he has survived worse and lived to tell the tale.

But judging from the worsening trembling of his left hand, he also feared he might just not have enough time.

Author's note:

No matter how many times I rewrote this chapter, it still reads a little slow for my taste. I guess I really like worldbuilding...

[Edit: Corrections of small mistakes like mentioning the three tails instead of the two tails, and mixing up Yugakure with Taki. Some typo corrections.]

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Hope you're doing well, stay safe!Thank you all for your reviews and comments! Holler if you see a mistake or a typo.


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