Chapter Twenty Three ~ The Death of Gaara

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"Pathetic," I muttered to myself. We had slowed down considerably, given the speed at which we had been traveling earlier. Kakashi seemed to have heard my grumbling as he picked out the most advantageous opening in the forest and made a clear path for it.

We followed his lead, pausing in our run on the grounds he landed on. "We're stopping here and resting for the night," he announced.

"A wise choice," Granny Chiyo agreed. Naruto, on the other hand, was more difficult.

A fit of rage leaked from his body as he argued, "But Gaara will die! You said so yourself; we have no time to waste!"

"Idiot." I rolled my eyes.

Naruto angrily stalked towards me and grabbed the neck of my shirt. "Every time you seem even a little human you have to go and ruin it. Gaara will die," he appealed.

I glanced emotionlessly at his hand, which held my shirt. Kakashi seemed to sense my intense murderous intent in the air because he tried to warn Naruto. "Naruto—"

Too late.

I kicked his chest with my heel and had him in a headlock within two seconds. I found the pressure point surrounding his temple that I was looking for, and pressed down with two even fingers.

Naruto was knocked out in all but an instant. I made eye contact with everyone else in the group, daring them to call me out on what I'd done. My eyes landed on Kakashi, who's mouth was still open in warning.

"Learn to control your subordinates," I snarled slightly. When no one spoke up to chide me, I shrugged it off. "He needed rest anyways," I murmured, "We could very well be facing our opponents tomorrow. And this idiot," I gestured towards Naruto, "would most likely run his energy out, and fight exhausted, putting himself and all of us at risk."

I listened to the exasperated sigh from Kakashi, who seemed weary but expectant of my actions. "Cashile is right, however her methods may seem. We may be facing our opponents tomorrow. And we all need rest. I'll take first watch, everyone else, rest." Kakashi said.

I raised an eyebrow looking at my former sensei. "I can take first watch," I stated. I wasn't being difficult, it was simply a fact; I could do just as well, if not better, without sleep than Kakashi.

"Not necessary, you need to rest just like everyone else," Kakashi replied tiredly.

"Please," I scoffed. "If only you knew how much my body has dealt with and done without sleep for days. I'll rest," I assured. After all, no matter how skilled I was, just as everyone else, I was still human. My body would perform better when adequate rest was received. "But let me take first watch," I finished.

Kakashi analyzed me for an instant. He didn't seem to know whether to insist I get my rest or acknowledge my strength. In the end he conceded. "Fine," he said, walking to Sakura, who was building a fire. I'm shocked for half a moment to see the fire, before reminding myself that it was normal. It was normal for ninja to build fires to ward off the chill, no matter how it put them at a disadvantage, how it made them easier to spot.

I shook away the strange sense of being at once both superior and inferior to the ninja surrounding me before jumping up into the tree with the best view of all the open angles, and settled down on a cold, dark branch in the shadows. I fell still, eyes slivered, keenly alert for even slight movements that may be the enemy.

My comrades below slept peacefully around the warmth of the flames.

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