Chapter Thirteen ~ Empty

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The moment that I'm out of sight I allowed myself to stumble slightly.

Shit. Since when could Naruto do something as powerful as that? I had known it would be strong, but so refined? I'd managed to make my point, and I still won easily enough (though now that Naruto was prepared for my power, the next fight would be slightly harder), but still.

It wasn't even the second day yet. Naruto and Sakura had plenty of time to get the bells still, without my interference, as they preferred.

Although, it was very unlike Naruto to turn on a teammate. He must really be angry with me.

Of course, I've never given him a reason not to be angry with me.

I was still much much more powerful than him, but It didn't hurt to consider my options. Having Naruto as an ally, now that he wasn't a complete and total idiot, wouldn't be such a bad thing. After all, he did contain the nine tailed demon fox. If he could attain that power..

Well. He'd be very powerful, to say the least.

I took another stumbling step, and allowed my hand to rest on a nearby wall of an abandoned house--must have been to far out from the town for the owner's liking--to support myself. "Ow," I allowed the complaint to slip from my lips with no one around to hear it.

Then my eyes widened. It was the only indication that I had sensed the presence. My body stayed relaxed and unguarded. My right hand remained swinging loosely at my side while my left stayed wrapped around my stomach. I narrowed my eyes, casually opening my hand slightly in preparation for the blade--not quite a kunai and not quite a sword, somewhere in between--to slide into my right hand. I had an identical blade in my left sleeve. I could duel wield the two steel blades fairly well, but I was primarily left handed and it showed.

Still. I was better than most with just my right hand. Maybe I could catch the Claw off-guard.

I shifted my stance slightly, pretending to feel discomfort from the pain in secret so that the Claw wouldn't suspect anything.

Just perfect timing. Right when I was injured. Of course this was when the Claw would choose to attack.

Shouldn't have gone anywhere alone while so severely injured, I berated myself. Not showing weakness to Naruto or Sakura or Kakashi doesn't matter if you end up dead over this!

I sighed slightly. Who should make the first move? Me? The Claw?

I slid a little to the left, closer to a tree. Advantages, advantage, I needed to have every advantage in this fight. How? The Claw works alone. If I had another person with me as a distraction--they would have to be skilled enough to not get in  my way-- this would be a much easier fight. I shook my head.

Shit, shit. I didn't have the ANBU watching me-- I was supposed to be with Kakashi until dawn tomorrow.

I took a deep breath in and let it out, feeling my stomach stretch in ways it wasn't supposed to and pain radiating from the center, out.

I reviewed my options in my mind. I would have to fight: the Claw wouldn't allow me to get away while I was in such a vulnerable state. So I needed to start this fight on my terms. When I wanted to. Where I wanted to. How I wanted to.

I furrowed my eyebrows and looked around. Could several smoke bombs draw Kakashi's attention? I dismissed the idea almost immediately. Too many thick and healthy trees would block his sight, and it would cause the Claw to begin its attack.

Ah, fuck. This was not good.

I took a deep breath and let it out. Okay. I leaned over, pretending to catch my breath but collecting a few small rocks instead.

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