Chapter Thirty Four ~ Tools

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"Alright then," Lady Tsunade nodded. "I order you all to take a couple days off. Rest your bodies and your minds."

Well. There's advice I definitely wouldn't be following: I had barely done anything! I was simply an observer and the final executioner. Hardly a part of the real fight.

Everyone else standing in the room looked weary and exhausted. I stood straight and tall.

Lady Tsunade expertly ignored my look of annoyance.

I could put the given official time off into good use, though. I hadn't forgotten my previous investigations on Kento. His absurd attitude before our last team mission spoke louder than anything he could have said directly to me.

"You are all dismissed," Tsunade concluded, eyeing Naruto's hand with worry. Her and Shizune would no doubt investigate further on his new jutsu. It was a powerful jutsu. Even I wouldn't let that thing hit me, unlike with the rasengan, which had done enough damage on it's own.

"Hey--Shikamaru!" I called out before he could disappear on me. Not that I wouldn't be able to find him, it was just much simpler this way.

He acknowledged my call with a nod, and walked away, knowing I would follow. Once I had caught up, we walked for a while in a silence. Ino and Choji walked just ahead, glancing back with curious looks, occasionally.

"Are you angry at me, Shikamaru?" I asked casually, breaking the silence.

"Huh?" He questioned. "About what?"

"Ratting on you to Kakashi, of course."

He snorted. "Well, my team and I are still here. Let me say: it makes lot more sense now why you insisted on not only planning for three people, but four as well."

I shrugged. "Well, I predicted that Kakashi would volunteer to go with you. If he didn't, you and your team would have found a way to sneak out. So really, we just prepared for all possibilities and outcomes. One of which you simply weren't aware was a possibility."

"I thought that you were thinking about coming, actually," Shikamaru laughed. "I didn't think you'd send Kakashi."

"I had... other things to work on," I replied distastefully.

"Your new technique," he stated.

I nodded. "It's coming along well. Needs a bit of tweaking and of course, there's always room for improvement," I offered. "I only got to use it once during the fight with Kakazu, in order to cut the wires away from Naruto, and it wasn't quite as effortless as I would have liked."

He smirked. "Well, let me know if you ever need a shogi partner."

I scoffed. "I'll teach you chess," I declared.

He rolled his eyes. "Nice working with you, Kuroki."

I held out a hand. He eyed it for a long moment before finally reaching out and clasping it. "Nice job, Shikamaru," I conceded. "There aren't many people I could say that to with sincerity."

"And am I one of them?" Shikamaru drawled. I laughed.

"That's for me to know and for you to figure out."

He shook his head at me as I turned and left. "Troublesome," he muttered-- but there was a lingering smile on his face.

***

"Faster!" I ordered my genin.

They were a panting mess, but continued to fight me, quickening their attacks. "Michiko! Your left side is wide open! You're too concerned with protecting your face!"

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