Chapter 44: The Hidden Corpse

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"We're the only team going back to Sunagakure for training. You're the only one who'll have the least amount of time to train."

Koji says to me.

"No worries! It's not like I need much training anyway. If anything, running to Sunagakure like this is also training."

"Haha, laid back as always."

Otokaze-sensei laughs. We're almost back home! It's true that I'm the only one who's going back, but that's because I'm the only one who can afford to go back. The others actually need all the training time to develop new jutsu and better themselves. For me, I've been unable to learn anything new except by absorbing techniques from people's dead corpses. The only thing I can train is my physical ability. And what better way than to run back and forth from Konohagakure to Sunagakure? Of course, when I make it back, I'll stay there for the remainder of the month.

Maru hasn't been talking much ever since his defeat. It's kind of worrying me. He didn't seem really thrilled about the fact that I'm going to go up against her. I know that he feels really conflicted about this. On one hand, he doesn't want me to hurt her, but on the other, he probably can't easily forgive her for ridiculing him like that. I can't forgive her either.

When we arrive at Sunagakure, we all head straight to report our arrival to the Kazekage. As usual, when we got there, he was sitting behind his curtains. He dismissed us pretty quickly. Good. I didn't want to deal with him anyway.

I then head out of the village to a more open space where I can practice. Koji comes along. Maru decides to go back home for the day.

"So? What are you planning on doing?"

Koji asks me as we're walking out of the village.

"Well, I was thinking of working on my physical capabilities, since it's basically the only thing that I can train."

"Sounds like a plan. Wanna start with running around first?"

"That's what I was thinking, yeah. Let's do a few laps around the village, increasing the radius of each lap as we go."

Koji blinked a bit.

"How many laps are you planning on doing...?"

"As many as I can handle without collapsing!"

"Huh?!"

"What? You're not up for it?"

"I'll do it. But I probably won't be able to go for as long as you will."

I grin at Koji. I then start thinking about Maru.

"Hey, you think Maru will be okay?"

Koji raises one of his eyebrows.

"I mean... I guess it was a pretty big blow to his pride. But he needed to get off his high horse."

"Koji!"

I reprimand him.

"What? You don't think so too?"

"I mean, yeah, but that was a bit much. Especially since it's Hana who did that."

"I think it only worked because it was Hana."

"Yeah, I guess..."

"At least it makes for a pretty easy match for you."

"Indeed it is!"

Without wasting another second, I start running. Considering my already high level of stamina, I could be doing this for a long time. I wonder if Koji will be able to keep up.

After about twenty laps, I notice Koji getting considerably slower. He's not complaining, though. That's what I like about him. He always tries to push his limits. We're pretty far away from the village by this point and I'm still not completely drained. I think I might be able to go for another twenty. I'll try to go up to fifty total laps, though.

After two more laps, Koji tells me he'll be heading back. I guess that was the maximum he could do. It'll be just me from now on.

As I keep running, I can barely see the village in distance. I'm sweating buckets... Only ten more laps to go until fifty. My vision is already getting a bit blurry. My head...! It's pounding really hard! What's happening? Is there a dead person all the way out here? And why is it so painful?! This could be my chance to become stronger! I need to absorb everything!

"Aaah!"

It's so painful that I can't help but scream. My vision is blacking out. No! I need to hang in there! Keep yourself together, Kiu!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the headache subsides. That's when I come to the horrible realization... This dead body... Wherever it is... is the Kazekage's!

How is that even possible?! I just saw the Kazekage alive and well in his office just earlier! This must be some kind of mistake! I mean, it's probably just a coincidence! I'm sure he's not the only one who can manipulate the gold dust... right? I extend my hand, still not believing what I just acquired. Concentrating my chakra, I see the sand below move up. To be more precise, I see golden sand move up. It is the gold dust jutsu... So... The Kazekage was killed. The one in there must be an imposter! How could someone as powerful as the Kazekage be assassinated so easily without anyone noticing a thing?! How am I going to tell Gaara...? How am I going to tell anyone?! If anything, they might suspect me! I can't talk about this to anyone. I don't even know where the Kazekage's body is. All I know is that it's around here somewhere. I also don't know anything about the one who killed him. It would be almost suicidal if I just exposed him without knowing his plan first. Yeah... I'll just keep this to myself for now. As soon as I have more clarity on the situation, I will expose the imposter. For that, I really need to make sure I never use the gold dust or any of the Kazekage's jutsu. If I do, Gaara will be the first one to understand exactly what had happened. I don't want him to find out in such a way. I want to be able to tell him myself in private.

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