Returning to the academy was most unusual. I never thought I would have to walk alongside Tsuyoshi. Though neither of us spoke. Instead we just walked along with icy path, me slightly ahead of my classmate.
To think that this guy has a weakness...a fear of being surrounded...almost like claustrophobia...I thought, turning around to chance a glance at Tsuyoshi, before focussing back on my thoughts again, but a fear can make him stronger, I suppose. That's why he aced the last exam. He's definitely learnt after that horrific experience.
"So...what do you think the final exam is?" Tsuyoshi finally spoke up as we kicked the snow off of our feet and headed into the academy.
Shrugging I muttered, "I think Mother said it might have something to do with combat."
I nodded, "Yeah, probably a one-on-one with an opponent. Probably not each other, just to give us all a chance of graduating."
"I see." Tsuyoshi opened the door to our gym and allowed me to pass, before entering himself.
"Tsuyoshi-kun!" Mai immediately slammed into him, glomping him into an embrace, "I was so worried you would be late for the final exam...I couldn't find you anywhere! Where did you go? And what were you doing with her?" she glared over at me, her eyes burning in her sockets.
Tsuyoshi sighed, "I just went for a walk, Mai. Akemi ran into me on the way back to the academy. It would be dumb not communicating with someone who could potentially become part of one's squad."
Mai grunted, "Since when did you want to associate with Ake-freak? She's a demon!"
He scowled at me, shrugging, "I don't know." then he mouthed the word 'sorry'. "I don't know what I was thinking."
The sickening girl giggled lightly and hugged him tightly again, "That's better, Tsuyoshi. The only girl you should associate with is me."
Tsuyoshi placed a hand on her head, but he wasn't looking at her. Instead he just sighed loudly and looked at me with an apologetic look.
"So...this is the soon to be squad, huh? I must say they look rather impressive, if not a little bit weedy." a girl, around a year or so older than us marched in, Akuma and Father in tow.
She stood in front of her me and the others stood in a row and looked at us individually, as if looking into our souls, with her tiny pupils, surrounded by unusual purple irises. She had shoulder length, snow white hair, tied into two high, messy pigtails, her short bangs framing her long, sharp face. I couldn't tell what her facial expression was showing since the bottom half of her face and nose were covered by a black mask.
"Hmph." her eyebrows relaxed from a scowl and straightened her back again, "I like this one." she pointed at me with a long, purple painted fingernail, "She has the eyes."
"The eyes?" Akuma questioned, glancing over at me and then up at the girl.
The eyes? I thought to myself.
"Yep. The eyes. I like those. Anyway, are you going to explain the task at hand for their final exam?"
"Indeed." Akuma lowered her head to him politely before turning to us again, "I hope you have had a resting lunch, and now you are ready and fully energised for your final exam. You three have come far, but this final exam is going to be the hardest for you. This is what will separate the shinobi from the weeds."
Jeez... Is it really going to be intense? I thought, raising an eyebrow, Or are they just trying to scare us?
They're just trying to scare you, dear Akemi. They do this every year, but Kori no Mura has a reputation for never failing a potential shinobi ie. even though your exam is hard, Kori no Mura kids are pretty tough... Okami explained, making my shoulders relax slightly.
"Your final exam is to..." Akuma was cut off.
"Is to beat me in combat! Yep, we are going to have a simple knife fight, and all you have to do is disarm me...not too tough right?" the girl bent over and glared at each of us again, "Right."
Akuma cleared his throat, "Thank you, Yuuko, but yes, that is pretty much the challenge. Yuuko kindly joined us today to be your opponent. Every year, we pick an old student to fight with the pre-graduates in a simple knife battle."
"You're pretty unfortunate that Eirwyn couldn't make it today. She goes much easier of opponents compared to me." Yuuko gloated, putting her hands on her hips.
Behind her, I couldn't help noticing Father shaking his head at Yuuko's boasting, but he just let her get on with it. Something tells me that Yuuko is one of their tougher shinobi...not even the Korikage wants to make her mad.
That is some intense chakra I am smelling...Okami muttered, Thank God you are just having a knife fight with her, otherwise she could probably stand a very good chance at defeating you, without my help.
"Ok, I wanna fight this one first." Yuuko pointed at me and beckoned me over, "You look the toughest, I wanna use up my energy on you."
I nodded slowly, "I accept your challenge, Yuuko-san."
Father smiled slightly, "Ok, Akemi, you are up first."
"Wait...this is Akemi??" Yuuko's eyes widened, flicking her head from Father, to me, to back to Father, "No way...I'm glad I'm going up against you first. I can tell you're more likely to tire me compared to these two."
"Gee...thanks..." Mai muttered, rolling her eyes.
Yuuko turned to Mai, "No problem, doll." she retorted sarcastically, her purple eyes sparking threateningly, "Right Akemi-chan, shall we?" her eyes looked happier when she looked at me, as she gestured for me to stand with her.
As she stood opposite me, I could finally get a good look at Yuuko. She was surprisingly tall for a fourteen year old, towering above me threateningly. Her slender, nimble body was covered by a cropped black vest top with striped purple and black fingerless gloves, along with knee length black trousers, net tights and black sandals. Around her shoulder was a strap, but nothing was attached to it. I became curious about what should be there.
"Ok, this is going to be a simple knife fight. No jutsus of any sort allowed. Students are allowed to use both arms to fight, while the opponent must have one hand behind their back." Akuma explained
Yuuko grinned, "I only need to use one hand. Using both will make it impossible for you." though she was showing intimidation, her eyes were sparkling, as if encouraging me.
"Once the battle is over, the student may collect their headband leave academy until further notice. Ok, begin." Akuma finished, holding an arm in the air.
Immediately, Yuuko charged forward, a large gleaming blade in her hand. She growled loudly as she lunged the blade forward, aiming for my left arm.
Left! Okami demanded, and the knife in my right arm shifted to intersect the tackle, then with my other arm, I moved a second blade to knock Yuuko's blade away. But of course she recoiled quickly to block the attack.
"Ha! This is just a warm up! Let's see what happens from here!"
Two minutes passed and neither of us showed signs of fatigue or giving up. Yuuko was really agile. She may not be particularly fast, but she had serious stamina. She could go on like this for hours!
And the amount of chakra inside of her is immense! I've never seen anything like it...she isn't one hundred percent human...Okami trailed off, examining Yuuko's power from within me.
The knife just continued to tackle and defend...tackle and defend. And I just couldn't get the blade out of her hand. Every time I thought I had an opening, Yuuko just continued to recoil. She had me off balance a few times, but I was lucky to have quick reaction so I could regain myself.
Ten minutes now. I was starting to feel my alertness go against me. I was getting tired and my body was starting to give up. As Yuuko and I stood a few minutes from each other, I began to breathe heavily, trying to keep my strength up.
Okami...this is getting too tough. Yuuko...just isn't going down.
Like you mentioned before, her stamina is way too good. She could continue for at least another hour before getting tired. You need to find an opening, and fast.
I examined Yuuko, cocking my head side to side. I could tell by the slight creases near her eyes she was grinning triumphantly.
"Ready to give up, Akemi?" Yuuko asked.
I panted, before stopping and slowly lifting my knives again, Wait for her to charge...find an opening then...
Yuuko let out a battle cry before sprinting towards me again. Her knife was lifted to just by her shoulder.
I've got it!
And just before she thrusted it right into my chest, I held out the two kunai in a cross shape, catching her knife between the two. That stopped the blade in its track.
"Uh...what?!" Yuuko tried to tug at her blade, but it was wedged in it's place, "G-get off!"
And finally, I could have the last smile, Now I have won, I quickly pulled my to kunai away from each other, and because Yuuko was so concerned about getting her knife back, she completely lost her grip on the kunai and it slipped from her fingertips.
"UGH NO!" Yuuko tried to catch it again, but I was one step ahead, and snatched it away from her. When it was in my hands, I dropped it to the floor, letting it clatter, "No...no...nonononononononono!" Yuuko started stamping her feet and growling, "I lost?!" she hung her head.
Father stepped forward, "And the battle is won. Akemi is the winner."
That's it. It's all over. I have finally finished the exam. Graduated.
Akuma walked over to me, holding out a black piece of fabric to me. A shinobi headband.
"Congratulations, Akemi, on passing the graduation exam." he smiled at me, "You are now officially a genin of Kori no Mura."
I took the headband from Akuma and just looked at the icicle shaped marks on the plate of the headband. It's mine...finally mine. A smile graced my lips.
I bowed my head, "Thank you, Akuma-sensei." I turned to Father, "Lord Korikage. For giving me this opportunity. I will not let you down."
Both bowed back before they dismissed me.
As I headed down the corridor of the academy for the final time, I heard someone run up behind me.
"Hey! Akemi, wait!" I turned to see Yuuko running after me. She grabbed me at arms length and looked deeply at me, "I just wanna say congrats. I didn't really show good sportswomanship back there."
Sportswomanship? Is that even a word? Okami asked.
"I am...actually glad you beat me. I wanted you to do so, because I see something in you that I don't see in the others. Dunno what it is, but...I like it." she sighed, "Anyway, enough of that sap. Get home and celebrate. Too bad you aren't a part of my squad, because I think you will be an asset, but...you'll be an asset to the village, no matter what." she winked before releasing me and turning around, "Anyway, I've gotta get back to my next fight. Hopefully I'll see you around, Ok?" she turned and waved, before heading off back down the hall.
Leaving me to myself. A graduate of Kori no Mura...