Type: RP Thread
Character(s): Kankuro, Tenten; brief mention of Hyuuga Neji, Temari, Rock Lee, Maito Gai,
Pairing(s): Slight Kankuro/Tenten if you squint
Disclaimer: I own only the part that I played in this.
Note: Thread taken from a Skype log started long before I joined the game.
Dedicated to: Miro-pup~
Neji was in the village. Again. But this time he'd brought with him a couple of 'those closest to him' for whatever reason. Company, scouting, because he'd been bribed - Kankuro didn't know or really care what the purpose of their accompaniment was, as long as they didn't interfere with anything, as he knew leaf shinobi had a habit of doing. He hadn't seen these particular two before since he always avoided trips to the leaf whenever he could - too cold, too wet - and when he peered at them being led through the gates he'd quickly been stumped by how strange they all looked.
Growing up in Suna and having a general old-generation distrust for the leaf meant that he wasn't entirely in the know about their fashion or their ways, and found them weird. He was entirely ignorant of the fact that he and his village probably seemed exactly the same to them.
When he saw a boy with kind of spooky looking eyes approach alongside Neji and his girl hair, and a girl with her own hair wrapped in two tight and neat looking buns atop her head, with definition and posture that almost reminded him of his sister... he opted that if he was going to interrogate any of them on their intentions, it was definitely going to be her. He didn't trust the excitable optimism of the one with the bowlcut, and Neji was a douchebag, no questions asked. Out of the three of them, she looked the most normal.
He caught up to the group in the courtyard, and fell into step beside the girl.
"So you're part of the Hyuuga posse, are you?"
It was not an uncommon assumption. Between Lee's enthusiasm brought on by Gai-sensei's teachings, and Neji's perchance to being a little... off-putting due to his proper clan upbringing, the task of conversing with others usually fell on Tenten's shoulders, short of giving mission reports and leading important squad meetings. Which was fine by her. Because while watching an outsider struggle in their conversation with either teammate was amusing and entertaining, it did shit for time management. So she welcomed the company - or welcomed it as much as she could given the circumstances.
Still, the approach could have used some work.
Taking a moment to study this new element - black coveralls under the hot Suna sun, and purple face paints that looked like it had been freshly applied - Tenten approached with an aire of caution. And perhaps regarded him with the smallest bit of irritation as she quirked a thin brow at his question. Habit of the profession.
"I'm part of his squad, yes..." she corrected, having felt that it was necessary to make the distinction.
Kankuro had his hands stuffed in the pockets of his trousers, his tunic flapped over them, and as she spoke he glanced to the side to survey her from the corner of his purple lined eyes.
"What's with the entourage?" he asked, jerking his chin at Neji's back and the back of the boy in green-.... What was that fabric? Spandex???
She followed his gaze, settling her eyes on the familiar sight of her two teammates, ever trailing behind their steps. Just like how a good support should. But as she kunoichi adjusted the shoulder strap of her pack, she could not help but feel... something for the way this guy seemed to be addressing them. But being that they were in a foreign village, Tenten thought it best not to cause trouble from the get go.
So, reigning in her suspicion and instinctual urge to go into her usual snark mode, she kept her tone soft. "What do you mean?"
He gave a little sigh of irritation, the painted line of his mouth getting thinner as he picked out the best words to use.
"Usually when he visits he comes alone, and there isn't this whole show about it, what's the deal this time?" He asked, his best attempt at politely demanding what the hell she was doing here.
Taking in the subtle shifts in his demeanor, she could tell off the bat that patience would be a challenge with this young man. Which was good, in a sense. After living - practically breathing - in the hijinx and antics of Team Gai for the past few years, Tenten learned to only allow her patience to go so far before the time came where a heavy-handed shove into the right direction was needed. And it was usually her own.
Looking at the young man once more, she started zeroing her mind in onto the finer details. If he was going to nose into their affairs, it was only fitting that Tenten be allowed to do the same. And she, at least, could be far less blunt about it. "As a shinobi, you know as well as I do that mission details are classified."
And if he was going to make a point to be strainingly rude about it, well. It was only fair that she meet it with her own stubborn pride.
Kankuro raised a dark eyebrow, his already slim eyes narrowing a little further as he looked down at her. "Oh this is a mission, is it?" Pah! Like Kankuro would ever let that lie. If anything, the fact she made this instance of tourism from the leaf seem like something official only made him screw up his features even more. "I thought Neji was here to spend time with my sister."
Taking in the new information, Tenten shifted her stance as she walked, seeing the young man in the new light. And finding that she liked him even less.
So this was one of Temari's brothers. Well, that certainly changed things. Whether it was for the best or worse was yet to be determined, but at least now the line of questioning started to make sense.
"Hm... not too pale. And no red hair to be seen anywhere - " Although the hood did well to hide any sort of evidence she could have seen. " - So you must be... Kankuro."
His mouth twitched into a faint smirk at that. So she'd heard of him. Interesting. He wondered what else she'd heard.
"I must be," he agreed, then nodded his head at her. "Who're you?"
Oh, she had heard a good deal plenty. And only a fraction of that information had come from Neji, himself. He wasn't the sort to pry and gossip, except to cater to her own whims. Because while the Hyuuga assured that there was little to be concerned, Tenten was fiercely protective of her teammates. And so, in her own time and with her own brand of researching, the kunoichi had gleaned every bit of information accessable about the Sand Village and the three siblings of Suna.
It wasn't much, but given how little Kankuro seemed to know of them, it would likely be enough.
So the smirk was met with a smarmy grin of her own as they continued down the street, her two teammates either blissfully unaware of the conversation transpiring behind them, or secretly listening in. Her money was on the latter. "Honestly, for someone so dead set against Neji being anywhere near your sister, I would've thought you'd at least looked into finding out who his teammates were."
Kankuro's frown turned to a scowl at that, and he tilted his chin up slightly as he glared at her once more. He was all about body language, all about looks, and the way he'd painted his frame now was threatening and dominant. He wasn't about to start a fight with her, but he wasn't exactly beneath that, either.
"And waste my time hiking three days for what could be a bust? Nah." He didn't like gauging people by heresay and reports, he liked coming to his own conclusions by seeing with his own eyes, engaging with his own words.... and it just so happened that every time he'd come to his own conclusions about leaf shinobi, they'd never been all that positive. "Besides, isn't that what I'm doing right now?"
It was, in a sense. The inquiries and subtle attempts at recon tactics were familiar, at the very least. And Tenten could respect that. She would have done similar in his shoes - was doing much the same in her own way. Knowing who he was, now, and having been given a little glimpse into the sort of man he could be, the kunoichi felt that she had a better understanding of Kankuro now than what she had before, as small of a margin as that was. "How very... convenient for you, then, to have this opportunity."
Sounding so sickly sweet, a part of her hoped he choked on her kind and pleasant demeanor.
Sure, they had the same goals in mind. He was protective of his sister. She was looking out for Neji's best interest. And deep down, Tenten knew and understood that things would likely go a lot smoother if she simply allowed it; if she were just a little bit more accommodating to his curiosity. But the kunoichi in her was as stubborn a monster as any. And after years of being so deeply rooted in the principles that made up the dynamics of Team Gai, she could not help but enjoy the challenge of making things difficult for him.
He peered down at her, her attitude all to reminiscent of the way his sister could be at times. It was actually kind of creepy. Like a little Konoha version of Temari... Eugh.
Regardless, yes, it was true that he was much too easy to rile up sometimes. He knew that, and so apparently did she. It didn't mean he'd give up, though, he just had to use more... inspired techniques. He surveyed her carefully, taking in the hair, the outfit, the scroll on her back-.... Huh.
"Alright, alright," he said, hiking his own scrolls better onto his back as they walked. He cast a glance forward at the rest of the group, then looked back at her. "I'll stop playing around. You know Neji better than most, you're exactly what I need to figure out what the best course of action is here.. and you're lookin' out for him too, right? So you'll sure as hell want to know about Suna and how we work just the same, right? I can see you've done your research, but there's certain things villages don't make public, and things that the family of a Kazekage definitely keep hush hush, so I suspect you've only got the details we chose to make available..."
He hushed his voice slightly as he spoke again, keeping it down so Temari wouldn't hear him, because she'd definitely smack him for even suggesting it... But his perchance for games and bargains proved stronger than his common sense when it came to his sister, apparently. "So here's the deal... One for one. A question for a question, and truthful answers. How about that?"
It wasn't a matter of simply knowing how short of a temper he had. More to the like that... patience was a rarity among shinobi, as far as she had seen. Especially those desperately seeking out a bounty and gaining very little grounds on the matter of achieving them. In the end, it was always how you played the game.
Tenten never imagined this to be the ultimate outcome, though. Mm, perhaps he was a little bit more desperate than she thought...
His proposition... was an interesting bargaining chip, to say the least, and one she had not expected him to make. Or anyone to make, for that matter. Secrets were kept for a reason. And leaking out village secrets were grounds for execution if the information buried deep enough. Kankuro had to understand that. And yet he was willing to risk it all for the sake of his sister.
If Tenten were not willing to take that same risk in order to ensure Neji and her teammates would be safe, she would have called him an idiot, outright, and refused. But this was Neji they were discussing. And what he was offering would likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity for her - or anyone for that matter - to learn more about the kunoichi and the village that could be stealing away her teammate.
Casting a quiet glance forward at her boys as they conversed quietly with Temari and the envoy that had been sent to greet them at the gates, she slowed down her pace a hair's breath to lengthen the distance between their two groups a little, keeping her voice just as low and hushed. "...You would go that far for her?"
"She's my sister," Kankuro said for an answer. At first he'd been considering using his tactic to help him understand how loyal she was to Konoha, but the more he thought about it, the more he desperately wanted to make sure Temari was okay - not with Konoha, not with the village, with Neji, with his people. He couldn't get that from a book or from intel - the information wouldn't sate him.. No, he had to do this himself. Had to make sure, be certain.
"I have the right to refuse anything too dangerous, and you have the same right. I'm not chancing my village for you because she'd never forgive me if I did, but there's a lot of stuff you won't know about Suna that I could tell you. And I don't want to know any intimate details about Konoha - I just want to know about him." He figured this was all stuff that would more than likely be shared between the two sides should Temari and Neji ever go any further than monthly visits, anyway, but the point still stood.
"I never really expected you to," she murmured, mumbling the thoughts aloud to herself. Because his family, most of all, would have strong ties - strong loyalties - to Suna. That kind of stuff tended to be instilled from birth. No amount of love or protectiveness could ever change that. It was the same for Konoha, and for herself. As much as she loved her team and her boys, there was no denying the small hesitation she had regarding possibly revealing village secrets, so it was somewhat of a relief.
Keeping her gaze aimed straight ahead, the kunoichi considered the offer.
"...No questions about clan secrets, either." Or what little she knew of the Hyuuga Clan secrets. "The Hyuuga are very stern and unforgiving to outsiders. Even teammates."
"Fine. I don't wanna know about any clan secrets as long as they won't potentially affect Temari, anyway.." He shrugged, stuck out a hand and threw her another side on glance. He supposed if there was an issue with information sharing he could always let her know something about himself - after all, he wasn't too bothered if his details got passed around Konoha... Hm, in fact, the more he thought about it, the more the idea seemed like an entertaining one. He could just imagine it - little Konoha younglings muttering about the black stringsmaster from Suna who'd kick their ass from the next country if he heard them disrespect his homeland. Haha, excellent.
It also meant that he might potentially get to know more about her, since she seemed a little hush hush about it, and Kankuro was known well for his killer curiosity. Like a cat he liked to get his claws into everything till he was sated.... His eyes trailed over the scroll on her back again, and he patted his own absently.... Before he realized he was staring and shook his head free of the distraction, clearing his throat.
"So we got a deal, little girl?"
Frowning, she resisted the sudden urge to snap back at him for calling her a little girl. Because half-hearted threats and having the stones to back them up was easy. Occasionally fun, too. But all consideration of retaliation for that one slight in a sea of disdain died down with thoughts of the Hyuuga and the things that both he and Temari would likely need to know if this thing with Neji became more serious.
Like the issue of being part of the Branch House of the family. And the Curse Seal that came with it.
But that was a clan secret that even she could not divulge. Nor would Tenten want to be the bearer of that bad news. Still, the offer was an interesting one and hardly one that she could full out refuse without some deep consideration. In the end, curiosity and the deep seated habit of supporting and protecting her boys won out.
Pressing her lips together in a thin line, she resumed walking, brows knitted in thought. "You know which rooms they have set aside for us on this trip, correct?"
"Of course I do," he responded with a small scoff as he looked aside, hands in pockets once more. As they meandered down the main street toward wherever Neji and his bowl-cut laiden cohort were headed - probably to the main building to greet Temari no doubt - he noticed that the few civilians dotted at the sides of the street selling wares or cleaning their storefronts or doing their shopping rounds were staring, pointedly, at everyone in their group. Of course the majority of the looks were directed at those wearing foreign headband in harmless curiosity, but he happened to notice a few glances directed at him, their expressions confused and even worried. Probably just shocked he was letting himself be seen dead with a Konoha-nin.
"Mm, you wanna see your room?" He asked, looking over at his companion again. Honestly, he'd feel better not accompanying Neji and the little bug eyed one on the way to see his sister. He didn't need to see their flirting, not today. "We'll have to break away from your pals, though."
"I think I can find it well enough on my own." In general, Tenten was usually very good with directions. It may not have been on the same level as Neji or the Hyuuga when they had the advantage of the Byakuugan. But the kunoichi was confident in the belief that she would be able to give them a fair fight on that matter. "And if not, I'm sure Neji's been here enough times to lead the way."
It was an unintentional dig, on her part. Whether he would believe it or not, the comment had been made unconsciously. But now that it was out, there was no taking it back. And Tenten, certainly, would not apologize for a seemingly deserving slight. "Just send me a message on a meeting time and place. I'd rather not let my teammates know of this conspiracy I'm forming behind their back. And I'm sure you'd rather not discuss such... sensitive information out in the open like this."
Huh. Interesting. She was independent, then. He could tell that much from how she brushed him off so effortlessly. Either she was good at carving her own path, or she was good at asserting herself... or both. He didn't waste too much time thinking about it, but those were both qualities he could appreciate, and recognized as commendable both in general and because they were so evident in his sister. Absently he wondered if they'd had much time to converse with one another - whether their similarities would spark a good friendship or something more destructive..... and along that line of thinking was where he sparked up at her little dig. No way, she couldn't be friends with Temari. Ever. That would call for more teasing, and he knew full well that his varied insecurities and intimates would be the subject matter.
Eyebrows creasing, he set his mouth in a line. If she wasn't willing to let herself be led, then he wasn't either. In what universe would a Konoha kunoichi tell him what to do?
"Tell 'em you're getting a few training pointers from a Suna jounin. Not a conspiracy if I make good on the deal, huh? I could teach you a few things," the short noise he made definitely wasn't a chuckle. Definitely not. "The main training ground should do. No residential cover and it's big enough that we wont be interrupted or spied on. Meet me there in two hours, yeah?"
He didn't give her enough time to answer him, and instead sprang up onto the balcony of the nearest dune-like house, and then up onto the rounded roof and he was gone.
It was good and fortunate that Kankuro left when he had. Because all the answer the Suna shinobi would have received in return would have been a simple look of suspicion and skepticism. The mistrust and wariness between the two villages did not rest solely on the soldiers from the Sand. This was a long-standing animosity that could not easily be erased because of one treaty and a promise of good faith. Far from it. She had been subjected to it for most of her life.
But Tenten would have to be blind not to see that the two of them shared a goal and concern when it came to the relationship developing between the Hyuuga and Sand Witch he called a sister. A meeting of this caliber focusing on this specific subject matter could only benefit the both of them. And if she could manage to wrangle a little training in between - if she could manage to finally shut that mouth of his for good in the process - it was all the better for it.
And so, two hours later almost to the letter, the kunoichi found herself wandering towards the middle of a seemingly unassuming training grounds. The afternoon was just starting to drag on into evening and in the distance she could see the lanterns and lights start to flicker on, one by one as the dim light of the sun faded into the horizon.
Kankuro had changed his dresscode and was now robed in his formal gear, his paint swooping angles and lines on his face that were different from before, with his three scrolls strapped to his back in prime position for battle. It was a mark of respect more than anything, that he'd changed in preparation for the training they might get to experience with one another - it showed he was taking this seriously, refusing to underestimate her. He knew that the leaf was prone to harboring snakes in the form of its kunoichi, and he refused to let himself fall prey to their acidic trickery.
He heard her approaching before he saw her, and when he looked up he also raised a hand in greeting.
"You're on time..." he commented with a sly smirk on his face, pulling the purple lines of his paint to distort them slightly.
Truth be told, she was expecting nothing more than just an exchange of information; a brief conversation of questions and facts that would satisfy either one of their curiosities concerning the relationship that seemed to be blooming between her teammate and his sister. Initially, the prospects of training had only stood as a believable cover for her. It was clear, at least from her standpoint, that Kankuro would not relent on it any time soon. And if it meant the difference between helping him find his happiness or saving him from heartache, Tenten was willing to walk this path as well. Despite that, Tenten was every bit a member of Team Gai, and there was no denying that a small part of her hoped and anticipated training or a spar as a possibility, even if it was a small one.
So, much like Kankuro, Tenten had come in full battle gear, the giant scroll weighting heavily against the harness around her waist. And she had arrived with every intention of simply playing the part of a confident kunoichi ready to defend her worth to him, if only to find retribution for his clear dismissal of her earlier.
Tugging at her gloves and adjusting one of many straps, the kunoichi held on to the look of neutrality etched across her features. "My teacher has always been particular about punctuality. It doesn't take you long to realize that it's easier to arrive on time than to run a hundred laps around the village."
"Your teacher sounds like mine," Kankuro commented, setting his hips back and folding his arms as he blinked slowly at her from behind purple-lined eyes, like a judgmental and predatory jungle cat. "Except Baki has a much harsher arsenal than just making me run laps.." Of course he wouldn't miss the opportunity for a small one-up, and before she could retort, Kankuro cleared his throat and threw a hand out to gesture at their surroundings.
"So here we are. How'd you wanna do this?"
"Try running them on your hands with compressed weights and see if you'll be singing the same tune..." she mumbled to herself, completely unimpressed by his declaration. Needless to say, Tenten was hard pressed to believe there was anyone worse than Maito Gai when it came to training regiments and challenges.
But then, there was very little she knew or understood of the people from the other Hidden Villages beyond what they were taught and told. So who was she to really say? Besides, weren't all teachers the same in their motivation? In the end, it was all for the good of the future and the village. Any and everything they were taught was to ultimately serve as a benefit to the whole.
Taking on a similar stance, the kunoichi met his hard stare without hesitation. "This was your idea to meet here. And this is your village. How about you tell me?"
Kankuro watched the girls eyes carefully and smirked when she'd finished speaking. His hand went behind his back and retreated as he produced one of the three scrolls strapped there. He paused before unfurling it, instead settling it against his lap while he spoke up again.
"You ever heard of the five strike training exercise?" he asked, then continued again without waiting for an answer. "Here in Suna we attempt to land a strike with the flat of the hand on our opponent's back, and the first one to five strikes wins..." His eyes were clearly focused on the scroll at Tenten's back, his mind reeling with thoughts of what kind of kunoichi she might be, and what kind of treasures she was hiding in that scroll.
"Let's make this interesting. For every strike landed, the loser has to answer a question..." He paused to smile, then added, "Truthfully.." The addition seemed more like a promise than a reminder for her sake - since out of the two of them he automatically deemed himself the least trustworthy.
She watched his every move very carefully as he moved, only vaguely registering the words that went along with his movements as a scroll came into play. And unconsciously, the kunoichi's fingers slowly reached for the clip at her waist that helped to keep her giant one in place at her back.
"No." Brows furrowed, there was no helping the deadpan tone that her voice took on with those words. "I haven't."
Because Tenten did not know what game he was exactly playing at when the conversation started. And even afterwards, when the rules had been fully explained, the kunoichi still found herself wary of the prospect. Certainly, she was confident in her own skill and her drive to learn more about the people and the family of the kunoichi who had captured the attention of her best friend. But Tenten had never battled against a puppet master before. And it being that they were in Suna, Kankuro had the home-field advantage on the terrain. "Why do I get the feeling there's a catch?"
"A catch?" Kankuro asked, making a good attempt at looking innocent, but failing miserably. She was definitely alert and intelligent, he had to give her that much... it was probably one of the more impressive things about her, and definitely the thing that made Kankuro want to continue communicating with her. Kankuro didn't exactly have a history with girls, but he wasn't exactly new to this back-and-forth, either.. and his experience didn't come only from his sister.
"Well..." he announced, then suddenly splayed his arm wide, the scroll at his hip springing into the air and unfurling to reveal a seal which he quickly activated in a burst of smoke. When it had cleared, Kankuro was accompanied by a terrifying wooden form that creaked and clicked as it floated over to the kunoichi, supported by strings of blue chakra. "You see, I have six hands here. Two of my own, and four belonging to Karasu..."
Advantage, it seemed, was stating it mildly as was given the full reality of the situation. He was a puppet master, this much Tenten had known and garnered from her research. It should not have been such a surprise. And yet the look on the kunoichi's face could only be described as shock and alarm as she took an defensive leap back, kicking up a cloud of dust and sand in her wake.
Clearly, he meant business.
Keeping a tight grip on the snap to her scroll, Tenten adjusted her stance to better react to his movements, preparing herself for what was to come. "Let me guess, you've never lost this game."
Karasu tilted his head, his jaw slackening with a shuddering creak that made Kankuro grin to hear. Countless foes had gone white at that noise, Kurasu's appearance terrifying enough without the jarring sound effects... He wondered idly how his current opponent might react to the sound..
Her reflexes were good, and he paid close attention to the dexterity with which she leapt backward, subtly gauging her poise and balance as they spoke.
"Not once," he confirmed, flicking a finger so Karasu raised one of his four hands- but he didn't strike, instead he gave a rather humerous looking jovial wave, and Kankuro huffed a quiet laugh. "What's the matter? I've shown you mine, aren't you going to show me yours?"
The forest was her home; wood something of an abundance when your village was the one Hidden in the Leaves. But for Tenten especially, who carved out a little place for herself in an old apartment building, the sound of creaking boards and groaning hallways was almost something of a comfort to her. Of course, it never came with a face quite so... unconventionally disturbing. Then again, she supposed, that was the point. Fear could do a lot to cripple a shinobi's abilities.
But such a trick would not be enough to scare her away.
With only a generalized knowledge of how puppetry and masters of it functioned, the kunoichi kept a majority of weight balanced on the balls of her feet. The strings would give him precise control from a distance. And the lighter weight of the wood versus the wind resistance that came from the human body would give more speed to its movements. And even as Tenten shifted to a better stance, she could feel how the sand shifted and gave in under her weight. Sharp turns and quick directional changes would be difficult if he decided to give chase. Whereas, Kankuro would hardly ever have a reason to move from his spot unless she managed to get in past the range of the puppet to reach him.
Indeed, he would have all the advantage, it would seem. She could certainly understand why he had never lost in this game. Despite that, though, and knowing that it would be an uphill battle from the start, Tenten could not help but feel a sense of thrill at the prospect. Because what was life and training without its little challenges?
So, while he may have expected her to cower or quiver under the pressure, she found the strength and peace of mind to smirk right back at him. "I'm not the sort to go whipping things out all willy nilly. Wouldn't wanna be too premature." Insulting innuendos and all.