I didn't realise I fell asleep until I awoke with warm air stinging the skin on my arms and face.
"Ngh..." I murmured as I felt myself falling from the heavens and back into reality, rubbing my eyes to remove the gunge that sleep leaves you with. As I finally regained conciousness I realized I was still on Aimi's back, and for a split second, I almost felt like slipping off, even though I was completely balanced, "Aimi?" I whispered, wrapping my arms around her neck once more, "How far have we gone?" I have no idea why I said that...Aimi can't talk.
We've flown all night, Akemi. We're actually in the Land of Fire now. I heard Okami explain in my mind.
"Land of Fire? You mean...we are out of Kori no Mura?" my eyes immediately darted around the surroundings, but of course I saw nothing, we were right above the clouds, That explains why it is so absurdly hot. I could feel the pores on my forehead throbbing like mad in the humid conditions.
Akemi? I think we should land. You don't seem well...I can sense your uneasiness.
"It...it's not that...I just feel...really faint...so hot..." my face began to go grey, "So dizzy..."
Akemi. Land. Now. I'm doing this for my life as well as yours. Land! Okami demanded, and her controlling voice made me request Aimi to land without hesitation.
Below me, the ground was...green...lush...full of vegetation. A significant difference compared the the tundra of a village I live in. But down here...it was even hotter.
"Is this...what normal people are used to? Such heat? Even my house is not this humid..." I wondered to myself, covering my eyes with my hand from the bright light above me.
Akemi...you are a normal person, why say such a foolish thing? It's just that... Okami stopped mid sentence, ...Y...Yonaka? she fell silent again, Is...is that you?
Within my withering body, I could sense Okami's distress, and excitement. And I could sense the presence of something else in the area...was it really...Yonaka? Only one way to find out...follow the presence...I walked.
And walked... but the presence was getting no closer.
He's not here...Okami whined, but...I felt him...
"Me too." I replied. By this time, the heat was becoming unbearable. My clothes were soaked in my sweat, and I could feel my mouth going dry, my eyes going heavy, my limbs going numb, "I...Okami...I don't feel so good..."
But...Yonaka...hmm...Akemi...you need to get back home. You won't last here...get Aimi and leave...
Trying with great, but useless, effort, I tried to mount Aimi, but I think my weakness was coming off on her as well, for her knees buckled as her front legs fell into a kneeling position. There was no way she would get up again, let alone carry me.
"Okami..." I whined out to her in desperation. But there was nothing coming from her either. She's getting weak too.
My strength finally left me and I fell onto the green ground below me...and slipped into unconsciousness.
"Hey...hey...wake up!" a voice and cold sensations were filling my ears and stroking my skin, "Hey! It's not a good idea sleeping in the middle of the woods. Wolves could have you as a midday snack."
I groaned loudly, moving my head from side to side to get rid of the voices in my head.
"I said..." more cold ran over me, "Wake up!"
This time, my eyes snapped open to the sight of a silhouette above me. Becoming cautious, I immediately shimmied away from the silhouette in a sitting position, so I was at a safe-ish distance from it.
"Where are you going? Shouldn't you be resting?" the silhouette asked, dropping the bucket in their hand, "I mean you look a mess...well, slightly thanks to me you look like a drowned rat, but even with that, your skin is really dehydrated, thus explaining why I...threw water on you...you know to...keep you cool."
This does not sound like an enemy...the voice is female...young. The silhouette moved into my peripheral vision again and this time I could determine what they looked like.
A young girl of my age was smiling down at me, but her eyes showed concern. She had blue...no...green...wait...both? coloured eyes and...to my shock horror and fascination...rainbow hair! It was mainly red as a base colour but there were also green, blue and yellow streaks in random areas. Her skin was also a coppery colour, unlike the pale skin of the people of my village. This girl...was she even real?
"A...am I dead?" I asked, furrowing my brow and looking up at this...angel.
Her eyes widened, "Wha..? Where did you get that idea? Do I look dead to you?" She gestured with her arms moving up and down her face and body.
I was still confused, "Umm...you look...unreal..." I stopped right there and began to blab. So much for the whole stay calm thing I had going on in my mind, "I...I mean in the nice way of course! You're really pretty! And...and your hair is..."
The girl giggled, "You like my hair?" She grabbed a handful and moved it from her back to over her shoulder, looking at it, "I like it too! It's definitely different. Like yours!" She pointed at my mass of hair tied tightly behind my back.
"Mmm...not really. It's only blonde. A lot of people in my village have blonde hair," I explained smoothing the top of my head for no particular reason.
An eyebrow was raised, "Uhh, have you looked in the mirror recently, because as far as I am aware...your hair is blue."
I froze halfway through stroking my strands of ponytail, blue?! I moved my hair over my shoulder and let out a surprised gasp. Indeed my hair was...blue!
"H...how?" I muttered to myself, holding the ends up to my eyes and examining it closely, Okami... It must be, my hair was blonde before I met her...
"I think you have been out it the sun too long. Come with me, you can rest up at my place," the girl piped up, grinning brightly and offering me her hand.
I was rather reluctant to going. How can I trust this girl? Without moving from my spot, I looked up at the girl and pursed my lips, "How can I trust you? I don't even know your name..."
"Oh, Ok, so if you know my name, you will trust me?" she asked, giggling. "It's Ayano! Is that enough for you to trust me? And what about you? What's your name?"
Oh she's playing that card with me, "Akemi." She seems genuine and down to Earth. And after all, she could have left me as wolf food.
I then took her hand and smiled weakly at her as she pulled me to her feet.
"Nice to meet you, Akemi-chan." Ayano smiled genuinely at me, as she led the way back to where she lived.
Atogakure...Okami muttered, A tiny village on the edge of the Land of Fire...a ninja one as well...
Suddenly, I felt myself getting uneasy. Even though Ayano held my hand tightly for reassurance, my legs were getting wobbly and my palms clammy. Father has always told me about other ninja villages not getting along with ours. I don't think I can stay here...or at least not get caught.
"Welcome to Atogakure! Nothing special, but we do make the most of our environment." Ayano held out her hand to the village in pride.
The village consisted mainly of huts and was rather quiet and small. If it wasn't for the heat it would be a really nice place to live. But I am not sure I could cope with such primitive (sorry for sounding snobby) lifestyles. I guess I am a little too modern...
We ended up perched on an oak tree branch and we talked for a long while. I was starting to get used to the heat, as I remained in the shade where it was fairly cooler.
"So Akemi, what brings you here?" Ayano asked, tilting her head to one side, swinging her legs over the edge of the branch.
Biting my lip, guilt ran through my body, "I...I...ran away from home..." I replied, twisting my hair between my fingers.
"Ran away? Why?"
"B...because I did...something bad..."
Ayano raised an eyebrow, "Are you rogue?"
"N..no! Definitely not...I just...made an agreement with a...a demon..."
"A demon?! Seriously?! That's awesome!"
"Not really...Father will hate me for it...I...I saved it from dying in his hands." I explained the story about Father and the village shinobi going to battle with Okami. Ayano nodded slowly, understanding why I would save a dangerous creature.
"So you think your Father will get mad if you go back and he finds out?" Ayano put an arm around my shoulder in reassurance, "I don't think he will. And if he does, he'll get over it."
"But I don't want to make him mad. He gets mad so easily! And he is horrible when he is mad."
Ayano rolled her eyes and chuckled, "That's Fathers for you. Mine is exactly the same. Since Mother died, he has been so protective over me. After all..." she stopped right there and frowned, "Never mind, it's no biggie."
A part of me wanted to egg her on, but I only just met Ayano, so I have no right to nose into her private life. So instead I just nodded slowly.
I noticed that she had some type of wooden weapon hanging on her back, and a cylindrical case made out of what looked like animal skin with feathers poking out the top strapped around her waist. "What's that?" I asked, pointing.
She saw that I was gesturing to her back, and she pulled the weapon off. I now saw that the wood was carved in a square U-shape with a small section poking out of one side, and it had a string tied to both of the open ends. "My bow?" Ayano asked, confused. "It's a bow. Haven't you seen one before?" I shook my head, and she grinned. "Wow," she said. "It's basic ninja equipment here, we use it to hunt for food, and as a weapon. I'm the only girl that can use one though, most girls in our village choose not to be ninjas. It's mostly boys. My best friend Shino and I are the only girls in the Academy here." She stopped. "Sorry, I got off track."
I giggled. "That's okay," I said. "So, the bow... how do you use it?"
She grinned again and pulled at one of the feathers in the case. It revealed to be a long wooden stick with what looked like a stone shaft on the edge. "This is an arrow." She held it between her fingers and hooked the wood onto the aforementioned section that was poking out of the side of the bow. Then, with her right hand, she held onto the bow where the arrow was, and with her left, grasped both the arrow and the string and pulled back. She aimed at the crook of a tree across from us and let go of the arrow. It sped through the air so fast I could barely keep up, and it lended perfectly in the middle of the crook, embedding itself into the trunk.
"And that's how we hunt," Ayano finished dramatically. "My village is more like an ancient tribe. We rely on the forest creatures for food, and I'm the best hunter of my age, not that I like to brag." She flushed slightly, but continued. "I hunt a lot and bring it to the market for trade. We have traditions, and we don't break them."
"I see..." I trailed off. She smiled at me, and I smiled back. She then started talking about other things, and we continued to comfortably chat.
We remained in the shade for another half an hour until someone approached us.
"She's here." A shinobi with a headband I am not familiar with glared at me coldly. Immediately, four others appeared, "The savage."
My eyes widened, They're talking about me. I was on my feet in a flash, holding my arms up in a defence pose.
"Hey! What's going on?!" Ayano snapped, standing beside me, holding an arm out to her side to protect me.
"Ayano. Are you aware you are with a savage? An Ice Village child?" the first shinobi asked, pulling a kunai from the pouch on his leg.
Ayano frowned, "Kori no Mura? That's where you're from? No wonder you're not used to hot conditions." She looked at me, sympathy in her eyes, "But I won't let you hurt her."
"I'm afraid that is not possible, Ayano. All the shinobi villages made an agreement with this kind, stating that we would give them help and support in return for them not interfering with our lives. And she broke that agreement. She shouldn't be here. So she must either leave, or die."
"But she can't go out on her own! She can't cope with these conditions!" Ayano snapped.
"That's not our problem." the second shinobi shook his head. All of them stepped forward.
I noticed Ayano tense.
"Step aside, Ayano."
"I said step aside!" One shinobi jumped forward and roughly pushed her so he fell from the tree and landed hardly on the floor below.
"Ayano!" I called out to her, but when she didn't respond I felt rage. My chakra began to spark, but with something else. A foreign feeling engulfed my body, but it felt good. I felt like I could take these ninja on, "How dare you hurt Ayano!" I shrieked, my eyes sparkling with energy and rage.
An aura was released from my body, aiming directly at the shinobi.
Akemi. Run! Okami demanded, so it was her who attacked.
I obeyed, jumping down from the tree. But I got distracted by Ayano, who was gaining consciousness again. Kneeling down next to her, she turned to me and smiled.
"Glad you're okay," she muttered, and a grinned back down at her.
"Savage!" More shinobi were surrounding us.
"Akemi...escape." Ayano raised her arm and pushed me forward, but there was no escape. I was surrounded on all sides, all the shinobi awake and alert, waiting for any sign of attack or escape.
They charged forward.
But deflected back almost as quickly. I dared to open my eyes and spotted a familiar figure in front of me. Two in fact. One was human, the other a lion.
"Ronin?" I whispered over, and he turned around almost instantly.
"I believe my daughter has found herself in some sort of predicament," Father mumbled to the first shinobi, who landed in front of him, "If you would be so kind, I shall take her off your hands now." he was very calm, but I could tell he was on the verge of exploding.
The shinobi thought, "You have broken your agreement. You promised you would have nothing to do with us. You would stay away."
"That agreement is still there. Akemi is very young and very innocent. She didn't know what she was doing. She got curious. Now I shall take her back," Father corrected him.
"Hmm...very well. We wish for no trouble to happen to an heir to your people."
"Hm," Father grunted back, before turning to me, "Akemi. Come." His voice was harsh. He was definitely mad.
I looked at the ground, before turning to Ayano once again. Relief washed over her face.
"Again. I'm glad you're safe now. Will I see you again?" she asked, smiling confidently.
I pursed my lips, then smiled, "Of course." I knelt down and shook her hand. "That's a promise."
"Akemi!" Father snapped.
When I looked up, he was glaring at me. He turned around an walked in the direction of the edge of the village. One final glance at Ayano, and then I followed. All the way, the shinobi of Atogakure were following our movements cautiously.
Back to Kori no Mura. And time to face Father's wrath.