I walked over to the stream, planning on catching a few fish before the sun set. It had been a peaceful day. I could almost feel the urge to smile, but I buried it. Something didn’t feel…right. I didn’t know what it was. When I’d woken this morning the air had just tasted off.
I knew that there was no reason to be alarmed. My homeland was at peace, had been for several decades. There was no talk of war, so why did I feel so tense? Why was I constantly fighting the urge to look over my shoulders?
Some sound brought my head over to the left. Anyone else would have moved away, ran, anything but go towards it. But I’m an Alpha. It’s my job to protect my territory, even if no one else is around. So I got up and went towards it, pulling my sword from the sheath at my waist. A whisper of air, my only warning before the world fractured before my eyes and I was drawn into the void.
My mind, having survived millennia couldn’t fathom this. Voids only happened for one reason.
My world had just died.
The people of Kanoha were in an uproar. Recent use of Jitsu by a dark cult had resulted in some drastic changes to the lands. Fortunately, or unfortunately, none of the cult had survived their latest plot. The group had died to complete their ultimate Jitsu. Everyone had felt the lands shift as the sky turned a nearly black purple, vortexes appearing at random. The land beneath the cyclones was torn in a frenzied storm, and from the broken sky odd beings had fallen.
Most of the creatures had immediately fled into the water or forest nearby, a few disappearing into the desert sands. Other beings that hadn’t fled either died within a few hours or even minutes, or were captured and detained for interrogation. The only thing the beings seemed to have in common were a massive amount of chakra and none of them were human. The most common didn’t resemble people in any way, and from the information that the respective villages had managed to gather those that did were either too weak to be bothered with, or were so strong they could hold a humanoid form.
Kakashi sighed, knowing that while his Genin were interested in the newcomers, they would not be prone to the next task they’d been set. They group was being paired with several others and tasked with capturing at least a medium-level being to be studied. They would be going up against an unknown enemy. Their only advantage was that the enemy didn’t know the land, and would be trying to find some sort of hiding place.
“I am NOT stupid!” Naruto yelled at Sasuke. Sakura immediately started in on him. While the trio of Genin wasn’t the only ones having arguments among themselves they did tend to be the loudest.
“All right! Everyone listen up! Teams, you’re to each take a scroll and head off to the sector marked on the map within it. You have three days to scour as much of the territory as possible. Bring back any of the foreign beings you find, as well as take note of anything odd or out of place. Move!”
As a unit the teams converged on the male, taking their scroll before heading off to the area indicated. Kakashi let his students bicker over how to start the search before giving his insight and setting them off in the right direction. He followed behind, pausing to lay traps as they went, he’d make sure they circled back to check and release them if they were empty. Hopefully they catch something interesting.
The trio of Genin stared in a kind of awe at what they’d caught in one of Kakashi’s spells. The creature ignored them as it-he- moved around the inside the Jitsu containment barrier it was in. The male figure was pacing around the edge, stooping now and again to check something on the ground, pushing at the barrier. A low growl was emanating from the male’s throat as he moved. The rise and fall was similar to speaking, but the tongue was foreign and very animalistic. Frustrated with searching for a weakness the male stopped and stared or glared really in their direction. Finally, they got a good look at him.
Zangetsu was pissed. He’d walked right into the damn trap and hadn’t even seen it. He’d bypassed every other trap laid out in the last two days, bypassing groups of the annoying warrior humans, only to fall into this one. It absolutely irked him that he’d been captured in a barrier spell no less. He’d stepped out of the shadow realm he usually used to move around in, and straight into the trap. He ran a hand through obscenely short dark red hair, claws lightly scratching his scalp. The usually soothing motion only seemed to annoy him more. The markings running down his arms and across his bare chest pulsed and twisted across his skin, color varying between an angry red, and the neon orange of annoyance.
He could feel himself growling in Inu, his birth tongue, and sharp canines pressing into his bottom lip every now and then. The storm cloud gray of his eyes were swirling in anger, small flashes shooting across them like lightning. Lightning that would have shown in the sky if he’d been outside the barrier. Being an elemental demon had its perks, but its drawbacks always bit him in the ass. He stopped to watch the humans staring at him. There were four of them. Three runty looking kids and one adult.
The kids seemed to be slightly dazed, but the adult was studying him with a bored expression. Zangetsu wasn’t fazed; the male was sizing him up danger wise. Zangetsu took a deep breath to calm his nerves and then frowned in the direction of the blonde kid in blaring orange. He sniffed again, trying to figure out why the kid smelled so familiar. After breathing deeply through his nose and staring at the kid it clicked. The kid smelled like a Kitsune, at least enough that Zangetsu would have assumed he was a hanyou if the kid didn’t also have the scent of a sealing curse.
No longer interested with the kid who was now glaring daggers at him, and yelling some profanity in his direction he turned back to the adult.
“Are we all going to stand here, staring like idiots, or are you going to take down this barrier?”
The group went silent; they obviously hadn’t expected him to speak their tongue. While the inflections were off, it was a common tongue used in his home dimension. The adult spoke.
“Depends on whether we have to knock you out first. Are you going to come quietly or do we have to bind you?”
Zangetsu stared at the male as he thought it over.
“If I say no?”
“Then we wait for you to fall asleep, or find a way to knock you out, whichever comes sooner. Then we bind you and head off with you in tow.”
“I rarely sleep, and I doubt you could knock me out.”
(Switching to first person on Zangetsu)
I watched the silver-haired male, knowing he meant every word. He looked like a hardened warrior. The kids might not be much of a match, easily dealt with, but the male could become a bother.
“What’s going to happen to me?” I forced the question out with as much sarcasm as I could manage, which was frankly a lot.
“Our people are interested in learning about why you’re here and what you are.”
“So possible torture and death, that is so comforting.” I sounded annoyed even to me. Weirdly enough I was still managing the sarcasm. It truly sucked to be me some days. The male shrugged, hands still in his pockets. That was beginning to irritate me, he was slumped. Not leaning against a tree, but he would probably do that outside of danger. I ran a hand through my hair again in annoyance, I was mourning the hair. I’d had to cut it off when I’d become entangled with a bunch of giant slugs. The slime refused to come out. It was the same reason I now lacked a shirt. I’d managed to steal pants from one of the warriors I’d been bypassing. The idiot had left his pack lying about. He deserved to have his things stolen. The annoying things were too big and made from a material I was unfamiliar with.
“If I agree not to attack will you take the barrier down?”
“Maybe.” The male seemed amused. “You’ll have to agree to do what I say as well.”
“And I won’t be bound?”
“If you agree to cooperate.”
“Until we reach where ever you’re taking me. No guarantees after that.”
“Hey!” The blonde kid interrupted. “How do we know he’s not lying and gonna attack anyway Kakashi-sensai?” The runt was loud.
“This.” The kid turned back to me as I ran a claw along the inside of my left arm, drawing blood. I began chanting in an ancient tongue, binding myself to the vow I’d given. As the last words left my mouth the exact replica of the slash appeared on the adult, Kakashi. It was made apparent by the blood suddenly soaking through his sleeve. He pulled it back just in time to watch both heal, leaving behind a string of Kanji listing the terms of the agreement.
“It will fade once we reach our destination.” I replied, as the barrier broke of its own accord allowing me to step across it. I was immediately greeted by three kids in fighter’s stances, blades at the ready. Kakashi didn’t bother simply looking up at me.
“Mind if I test the legitimacy?” He asked, knowing what the Kanji represented but still cautious. I nodded. I moved, disappearing from sight before reappearing right behind the dark haired kid, claws at his throat. Almost immediately pain slammed into my chest, spreading outward. I snarl of pain escaped my throat as I was forced to my knees. The black haired kid had moved as soon as I hit the ground, only then noticing my presence.
I was breathing heavily, letting the forced acquisition of the submission spell work its way through my system. The attack hadn’t been genuine, so the pain wasn’t as bad as it could have been. In a couple of minutes I was able to rise back to my feet. If it had been a genuine attack I’d have been down for days, if not more. My youki snarled in my head, calling me every name in the book, it was pissed.
We do NOT agree to a binding and then screw it up baka! You hurt us without purpose!
‘Shut it.’ I snapped mentally. I turned to Kakashi.
“Happy?” The question was snappy.
He shrugged, motioning the runts to start moving. “Follow, close.” I sighed, doing as instructed as he started moving. It was pathetically easy to keep up with humans. Their pace was nothing even close to a work out. Hell, I wouldn’t even call their pace a leisurely jog. When they stopped for the night, the runts near collapsing to the ground, I stayed standing, staring at them and absolutely bored out of my mind.
“Tired are we? You lot are pathetic. Really, really pathetic.” I was greeted with three hostile stares. Kakashi just took up a look out post, reading from some book he pulled out of a pocket.
The three runts took shifts, keeping a lookout around them and on little ole me. I would have been flattered. But they seriously weren’t taking me serious. Near dawn I felt something drawing closer. It was dark, and strong. Not near my level, but enough that the humans might have some trouble. I scowled. I was screwed if they died. They had to at least reach their destination before this binding would release me. I was so not dragging their lifeless corpses to who knows where.
Kakashi noticed the change in my attention, watching me as I watched the trees to one side of the makeshift camp, and waiting. The thing would be here soon. Annoyed I placed a hand over a small Kanji tattooed on my hip, just beneath the edge of the sagging pants I wore. The skin heated, pulsing for a moment before with a flash of light a thin, yellow tinted katana appeared in my hand. The flash was enough to wake the runts. I ignored their curses and fumbling for weapons, watching the tree line.
Unable to hear the mid-level youkai pest heading our way, but catching on to the danger Kakashi moved to take a post several feet from me. The kids took position in between and slightly back. The thing finally came within their hearing range. Happy that they now knew what was going on I took off into the trees, headed toward the beast. I found it barreling into a nearby clearing. The humans caught up a few seconds later. I was already taking a fighters stance, the beast had stopped just inside the clearing, its human prey managing to slip farther ahead of it as it took notice of me. The grotesquely mutated Neko youkai was almost three stories tall, much bigger than it should have been.
It snarled at me, the human warriors, carrying the same headbands as the runts and male behind me moved past, taking up positions with the others. I ignored them moving to the center of the field. I growled back at the Neko, challenging it to take me on. Like the ignorant beast it was, it threw back its head screaming its defiance. I took the opening.
“Katsumi!” I swung the aptly named blade in my hand in a wide arc, beautiful victory, aiming in the Neko’s direction. Lightning erupted from the blade, searing the ground in a foot deep scar as it tore through the air, following the arc of the blades movement before piercing the Neko, biting deep into chest and throat, nearly tearing head from shoulders. It stubbornly clung to the last few moments of life, pouring flame from its mouth.
I swung the blade again, tearing through the flames, scattering them to either side so they wouldn’t strike the humans. I charged forward in a blur, swinging the blade a third and final time, severing the Neko’s head the rest of the way through. Its body collapsed to the ground, beginning to smoke and melt as its own flames ate through it. I turned back toward the humans, taking note of the flames beginning to tear through the grasses. With an annoyed growl I pulled chakra from my center, sending it upward with the flick of a wrist. It rose to the clouds, turning them dark gray before rain began to beat down, smothering the flames. It died out with the last of the flames.
Another small pulse of chakra returned the blade to its usual place. I turned back to Kakashi.
“Are we going now?” I was back to sarcasm. The other four humans, another fucking group of kids and an adult, stared at me like I’d grown another head. Sighing in annoyance I did a full body shake, flinging the rest of the water from hair and skin. The brief downpour had cleaned off the Neko’s blood.
“Ewe!” The annoying pink haired female from the first group shrieked, trying to shield herself. “What are you? A dog?” She snapped. I grinned.
“No, pup. I’m not a dog, I’m an Inu Youkai. Call me a dog again, and binding be damned, I will give you the spanking you deserved.”
“What the hell is an Inu Youkai?” The blonde runt snapped, crossing his arms on his chest.
“Dog Demon. Not actually demon though, just a powerful spirit that happens to resemble a huge dog.”
“You don’t look that big to me.” I glared in his direction. At 5’3” I was seriously short for demon, or human for that matter. I did NOT like having it pointed out.
“Stay there.” I walked out to the middle of the clearing, making sure I had enough space, I let my youki rise.
There was an audible series of snaps as my bones broke, stretched, and grew anew. There was a dull ache in my jaw, filling with sharp canines as I formed a muzzle. I grew a tail as I went from my small frame to a dog, much bigger than the Neko had been. My fur was auburn, with pale gold streaks, matches to the markings I carried in my humanoid form. I stretched, shaking myself slightly before walking forward and lying down in the grass before the group. They at least had the guts not to run screaming, I’d give ‘em that. Slowly, two of the kids came forward, warily touching my fur. I tilted my head slightly to the side, bending an ear down so that they could touch it.
When the first two didn’t get eaten the other four runts moved forward, curious. I was intensely reminded of when my own pups had been close to their age by human reckoning. They’d died long before I’d been dragged into this dimension. I let them stroke the fur for a few minutes, the adults not happy with their proximity to my jaws before carefully standing up and moving away. The change back was just as fast. I quickly did a full body series of stretches, realigning my bones. Despite my youthful appearance I was over a thousand years old. I probably had a few thousand more before I started turning gray.
Ignoring the tension of the group I walked back in.
“You give out a lot of information.” This came from the black haired kid, whom I’d learned was called Sasuke.
“Nothing important. Where I come from, what I just told you is common knowledge.”
“Showing your true form is common knowledge?”
I stared at him. This kid was dense.
“That is one of my forms pup. Not my true form, you’d know my true form when you saw it.”
“So what is that form called?”
I ginned. “Inu.” He scowled at me.
“That is not what it’s called.”
“And how would you know?” He glared at that, I had a point. Kakashi sighed. With a mutter set of instructions we all started off to wherever the hell we were going.
The binding snapped the moment we crossed the border into a village. It was huge. I didn’t like villages much, most stunk. This one wasn’t too bad though. The snap of the binding wasn’t really important since almost immediately another barrier went up around me. I had to have fallen into the second level of hell. This place just pissed me off to no end. Trapped, bound, and trapped again. The humans were replaced by new human guards as the others took off to some unknown destination. I didn’t bother tracking them.
The new humans were not very talkative, and didn’t take kindly to my personal brand of sarcasm. After one rather explicit comment a small chakra based spell was slipped into the barrier. I shot to my feet as flames licked briefly over the ground beneath me. I stomped them out and sat back down with an amused expression.
You let us be captures again.
‘Like I had a choice.’
You should have let me take over.
‘Yeah right, you’d of gotten us killed while under the binding.’
I was drawn out of my mental argument by the scuffing of an impatient foot on the dirt outside the barrier. I looked up to see an annoyed guard glaring at me. More guards and an old man weren’t far behind. Now that they had my attention the old man came forward.
”My Nin say that you call yourself an Inu Youkai. Is this true?”
“They also say you can take a very large canine form.”
“Yep, glad to know they aren’t too skimpy on the details. I was beginning to wonder on their usefulness.” A slow smirk barely edged the male’s lips.
“They also mentioned your attitude towards humans.”
“It’s not personal; I treat everyone to my own brand of humor. They ain’t seen anything.”
“Forgive me, but aside from your odd appearance, you do not seem to be a powerful spirit.”
I sighed, annoyed. I got that a lot. I deliberately relaxed, eyes drifting shut I called to my youki, allowing it to rise to the fore, but not giving it control. My chakra rose in a blinding rush and my eyes opened, drifting somewhere between their usual color and the crimson swirl that indicated my youki being in control.
“We are not weak. We simply do not feel the need to pose so others sense us. Only those who are insecure in their power need brag of uselessness.”
The male tiled his head slightly to the side.
“My people did not mention this.”
“Why show useless henchmen? We not need let them know what walkses with them.”
“We. Zangetsu and I. We are one and same. Zangetsu is logic. Zangetsu is emotion. Zangetsu is strategist. I is instinct. I is power. I is other half of Zangetsu. One not live without other. Not separate. Inseparable.”
“So who am I speaking to?”
“Both.” My voice sounded just a little more human as I said it. I closed my eyes, reeling in my youki. It fell back into my center, my aura dropping in power, but still quite powerful. When I had it locked away again I opened my eyes, now returned to their usual gray.
“You could say that. My youki doesn’t usually bother with proper grammar.”
“Other half.” I shrugged; I didn’t have a better explanation.
“Would you mind telling us a bit about your people?” My eyes narrowed.
“My people are the Inu Youkai. I am not going to explain every other youkai there is that might have been dragged through that damn rift. There are just too many for me to bother with, and most I only know enough about to deal with if I absolutely have to.”
“So you separate into different groups, clans of sorts.” I thought about it.
“Not really. It’s not a clan thing; we’re pretty much different species. We can interbreed, but it’s rare. We tend to stick to our own kind. Each set has its own unique capabilities. There are a few things we have in common. But even our cultures can be drastically different.”
“Then would you be willing to share some of the similarities, as well as explain your culture?”
“Sure, though I’m not sure my culture really matters much. From what I can sense, there’s a good chance I’m the only Inu Youkai of any level of power that came through.”
“And what level of power do you claim?”
“Daiyoukai? What does that translate to?”
I slouched forward, resting my chin in my hand as I stared up at him. This was going to be a long day.
It was well past nightfall when our discussion was called to an end. The barrier was still in place, I couldn’t blame them. Several of the guards had gotten seriously twitchy after I explained the power levels. Maybe telling them I was a top ranked youkai had been a bad idea. All of them seemed to have issues with understanding the separation of self and youki when I’d explained it. I doubted they’d ever get it.
“You have been very helpful. In light of the fact that you saved several of my Nin, when you had not agreed to such during your binding, I am willing to give you a small chance of freedom.”
“It involves another binding doesn’t it?”
“Great. But I pick the bonder. I do not trust just anyone to hold the bindings. You have no clue how much the damn things hurt when they’re threatened.”
“Understandable, but I will have to approve the person.”
“Fine. Kakashi.” There was dead silence from the group as their Hokage thought about it. He thought long and hard before replying.
“Because he was decent with the terms on the last one, and he didn’t try to budge or change them after the fact. He also was straightforward, no twisting the words to suit him better.”
The Hokage went back to thinking, and studying me. He’d been studying me since the start of the conversation. Before answering he asked another two questions.
“How many bonds have you done?”
“Twenty-seven. Half of them unwillingly. A few of them were word twisters, they didn’t survive the bond breaking.”
“How old are you?”
“You seriously want to know? Suffice to say that I’m older than this village. Even your oldest building wouldn’t stand up to my age.”
He waited patiently.
“Over two thousand. The stronger the youkai, the longer the lifespan. I’ll still be young looking when your descendants are dust in their graves.”
With a nod he sent someone off to retrieve Kakashi. He didn’t bother whispering; I’d already explained with a smirk, that no matter how quietly they talked I’d still hear them. And after spending two days in the woods with eight of them, I’d learned the sign language by default.
We waited patiently for the fifteen minutes it took the male to return with a yawning Kakashi.
“Kakashi. You’re to be the bonder for our guest. You will choose appropriate terms, which I will approve or deny.”
“Mind if I start?” I sounded more energized then the rest of them. They all looked tired, the pansies. The Hokage nodded in my direction.
“I agree not to cause harm either directly or knowingly indirectly to the village of Kanoha and its loyal people unless physically or mentally threatened or for training purposes.”
After a brief discussion with the Hokage on terms Kakashi continued the exchange.
“You will be allowed freedom to roam the village and its surrounding forests.”
“I agree not to lead outsiders to the village or give away intelligence that I am given, or discover on my own pertaining to the village and its loyal people unless it is required of me, or permission is granted.” I frowned and turned to the Hokage.
“Does that include information on the Kitsune?”
“Blonde kid with a preference for orange.”
“Yes. Please explain Kitsune.”
Kakashi raised an eyebrow but continued.
“If proven worthy, your freedom to roam will be extended.”
“I will defend the village as a Guardian Entity to the best of my ability concerning each situation.”
Kakashi turned to the Hokage. “Anything else?”
“Not unless Zangetsu requires something to be added.” They turned to me.
“Actually I do. I need to be allowed to both defend and keep in contact with Kakashi as my bonder. If he dies, the bond will split, causing me severe distress. I also need contact for other reasons that pose no danger to your village, but as such, the only one who needs to know the reasons are Kakashi. He will not be allowed to inform you of them.”
“You need Kakashi to withhold pertinent information?”
“I’m not agreeing to the binding without it.” My tone was final; I would not be giving in on this.
“Why is this exchange necessary now when it wasn’t necessary with the first binding?”
“The first binding was short term; this one is not, unless I’m misunderstanding.”
I waited; finally there was an almost imperceptible nod from the Hokage. Kakashi turned back to face me.
“You will be granted access to me as your bonder, with the ability to defend me when necessary. You will also inform me of the other reasons for necessary contact, and I will be bound to secrecy on the information until given permission by you to reveal it.”
I sliced open my arm again, this time on the outside, starting at shoulder and going all the way down to my wrist. I whispered the same spell, changing a few phrases. When the replica of the cut healed down both of our arms there was a slight change. Instead of the Kanji bands, a long thin, thorn covered vine wrapped its way around our arms from shoulder to wrist. It was black, and oddly shaped to allow it to wind around my own natural markings. The finished result was elegant.
I hissed in a breath as the magick burned through my aura, physically changing the top layer to match Kakashi’s. The pain was intense, but over quickly. With a sigh I rose to my feet. Since my release from the barrier wasn’t included in the arrangement I would have to wait for it to be taken down. With a nod from the Hokage the closest Nin ran a toe across the line, breaking it. A shiver ran down my spine as the offending energy rolled off my aura, allowing it to expand back to its usual distance.
I stretched my youki out, letting it stretch to the natural aura of the village. It ran along it, coating it in my auric resonance. The strength of it would keep any lower level youkai from daring to near it. Those that did wouldn’t be trying to harm it. If I was unlucky, any low level Inu that came through, and possibly some wolves, would come along hoping to form a pack. While that would be good defense wise for the city, I wasn’t much of a leader type.
I was getting a lot of odd looks when I retracted my youki. Apparently they could sense the change. Interesting for humans, but I’d dealt with people much scarier and more powerful than a few power-crazed humans in my time. These villagers were not going to bother me much power wise.
“Don’t stare at me like that, I ain’t that cute, and most of yall ain’t that interesting. I changed the village aura, one, because it needed a spark to keep it up and running at full capacity, and two, because with my youki coating it, no other lower level youkai is gonna want to piss me off by attacking it.”
That got the Hokage to look less annoyed. Kakashi was back to looking bored. With several instructions to his Nin the Hokage left for his own residence. Most of the others dispersed. Finally it was only me and Kakashi left.
“Lead the way captain, need to talk somewhere private.” I’d been effectively collared, so it wasn’t like I was gonna hurt anyone. With a sigh he turned and I followed him back to his own residence. Right after entering I turned, sketching signs in the air that wound around the perimeter of the house forming wards of protection, silence, secrecy, and power containment. The spells would keep this and any future conversations from prying eyes and ears. They would also defend the house from attack and hide my rather distinctive power signature.
Kakashi waited, sitting at his kitchen table. I ignored him for a few moments, being my naturally curious self and exploring his house. He had a guest room that would do just nicely. I pointed to it and he nodded with an annoyed expression. Finally I sat down across from him. He looked seriously tired.
“The contact is necessary because my youki will get out of control without contact with what it considers to be its Alpha. Youkai of the canine varieties have a pack mentality. While it is possible to have lone canines it is usually pretty rare. When we do run in packs, touch is necessary to maintain the balance of hierarchy. The lesser youkai need contact with the higher youkai, and the same goes in reverse. The lesser looks for protection, the higher to protect. Most of it is by instinct, but in the higher levels the hierarchy can get confusing, with two people being of equal if not reversed power level to the bond.”
“You need the contact to reassure your youki?”
“Pretty much. You do not want to deal with a distressed youkai whose youki is in control. No amount of submission spells can control it. In fact, while in distress, any and all bonds the youkai holds begin to break down and then break altogether.”
He blinked again.
“So…without the contact, you lose control, your youki goes on a rampage, and nothing can hold it to the bonds it’s submitted to.”
“Yes.” Unlike the jovial tone I’d been using, that one word was utterly serious. That was what could and would happen. I’d only had one bonder disbelieve me, it hadn’t ended well.
The male thought for a long time.
“What happens when I die of old age?”
“That’s different. Natural death releases the bonds. They can either be transferred with both parties consent before death, or redone after.”
I was getting restless. Kakashi was out on a training mission with his Genin. They’d been gone for nearly two weeks. While my youki wasn’t happy with the distance, it wasn’t dire enough to warrant me hunting him down, yet. Instead I took to patrolling the forest around the village. I’d be gone for a couple days at a time. When the time reached just short of a month, I was running on borrowed time. If they didn’t return soon, I’d have to hunt down the male. It was probably the worst time for a trio of wolves to make themselves known.
They came up to me as I was sitting on an outcropping of rock. I’d been tracking their presence for a couple of days. They’d finally worked up the nerve to come within the boundaries I’d set. All three were male; a faint trace in the distance alerted me to a female. She was well outside my territory so I wasn’t worried about it. The tallest, a male with black hair, little clothes, and brown eyes came forward.
“Hey you. Got a pack here or something?”
“No.” My answer was short and clipped, void of the usual sarcasm.
“Mind if we stick around?”
“That includes the female?”
He stopped, from the look on his face he’d assumed the female was outside my range. I could see him raise the notch on the power scale he’d placed me on.
“Yes. With your permission we’d like to start a pack with you.”
“Can’t say I’m interested.” I think he was beginning to catch on to my short fuse at this point.
“We could make it worth your while.”
I was off the rocks faster than he could track. I already had him pinned to the tree, glaring at the other two who had moved in my direction. They both stopped, immediately dropping into submissive poses.
“Stop blabbing and get to the point. What are you offering for passage on my lands?”
“We protect the village and its inhabitants; don’t bother their crops and livestock. Don’t hunt them. Patrol the lands and defend them from attack.” He gasped out. I loosened my hold on his throat so he could continue. “We defer to you as Alpha. We stay out of your way and follow your word as law. We agree to any preexisting arrangements you have.”
That was a better deal than most wolves would offer. Apparently they’d been watching for a while, or I really was the only canine of power who’d come through. I released him and let him fall to the ground.
“Offer accepted, call your female.”
One of the other males howled. A distant howl echoed back. We waited me impatiently for the female to arrive. At full running speed it took just under an hour. The moment I had all of them together I released my youki. It pulled to the forefront of my mind.
“Down. Submit.” All four complied immediately, their own youki pulling them along before the words had completely left my mouth. I paced around the group, both taking note of their own scent and placing mine inside their aura. The need was temporary, in a few days the scent would become a permanent fixation until they were removed from the pack.
Going to each in turn, starting with the weakest, the female, I carefully took their throats between my teeth, biting down just hard enough to let them know who was Alpha. None struggled but the tall male who’d confronted me. His youki pulled sharply back into his body when I growled, submitting completely. Satisfied my youki retreated. I settled on the ground in the middle of the group allowing them to move up around me, rubbing against me as they stayed low to the ground, careful to keep their bodies well below my neck level. Almost as one they settled around me in a circular pile.
Instinctually I let my aura settle on them, protecting them as they slept.
The addition of my Pack kept my youki in check, but the need for contact with my bonder grew worse as the days progressed. After introducing the Pack to the Hokage and his guards, a quiet scandal since they weren’t expecting it but hadn’t forbidden it, I explained the rules to them, adding in a few of my own to ensure that they understood the consequences of breaking them. I also added a rule that forbid them from provoking anyone into attacking them. They hadn’t been too happy about that one. Rivalry is very much a part of Pack life among wolves. It is not a part of an Inu’s. I patiently explained this as I beat the lesson into the black haired wolf named Hiju. The other two males were brown and blonde. The female a sultry brunette. She was mated to the blonde.
At a month in a half without my bonder, even my Pack had taken to avoiding me unless absolutely necessary. The humans of the village avoided me on their own, and the Nin had taken to following me around. I growled at them on and off. It wasn’t like I could hurt the villagers, at least not yet. I was considering hunting the reclusive shinobi down when his aura came within my range. My sudden alertness sent my current stalker off to notify the Hokage of my change in attitude.
While he was gone I started off into the trees, sending I silent message to my Pack to guard the territory while I was gone. I felt four consents as I disappeared into the trees. The Jounin and crew had stopped for a break seven miles from the outskirts of the Kanoha Village land. All three Genin jumped when I dropped from the trees into the middle of their makeshift camp. All three Genin went on alert when I didn’t immediately start making remarks on their laziness.
I ignored them, stalking over to where Kakashi was sitting. I sat down next to him, touching from shoulder to hip to knee. He was staring at me but I ignored that too as I glanced at the book he was reading before giving him a ‘WHAT?!’ look in return. The book was porn, albeit with a storyline, and he was reading it around kids. He just returned to that annoying bored look.
“How was training?” I directed at the pups. All three slouched, glaring daggers at Kakashi. I grinned. “Oh, so it was fun? Damn, I’ll have to join you next time, might actually get a work out.”
“Asshole.” Naruto snapped. I gave him my best innocent look.
“But I meant it. Did you get to carry weights? But they weren’t that heavy, say hundred, two hundred pounds?” They all gave me an incredulous look, even Kakashi.
“What?” Sakura asked. “How are two hundred pound weights light?”
“Chick, I could pick up your house with one hand if it wasn’t half buried in the ground. I might look little, but remember that other form? I still got all the strength you’d expect it to have.”
Sakura thought about that for a few minutes, calculating.
“You could crush our village…”
“With one swipe of my itty bitty little paw. Wouldn’t even take a full one either. Hell, I wouldn’t even have to do anything; lightning’s pretty destructive on its own. A little slower than brute force, but more interesting to watch.”
I said it as if I was talking about the weather. I’d been through wars. Their little village would have been squashed flat in a few hours.
“Why are you leaning on Kakashi-sensai?” The chick’s eye was twitching.
“Cause he makes an awesome leaning post. And I like to annoy people; physical contact seems to work best.” I suddenly realized that the return of my sarcastic side, long unused, was probably not healthy for the trio of Genin to have to deal with. I could get downright mean if pushed.
“Are you gay?” Sasuke asked. That stopped all chatter and four sets of eyes were locked on me, waiting.
“What’s gay?” I asked, totally confused. I’d never heard the term. There were several looks passed between the pups. Finally Naruto spoke up, blushing.
“Do you like guys?”
“Do I like guys?” I was still confused. If anything the blush got worse.
“Like…you know… like like guys…” At my blank expression Sakura spoke up.
“Do you like guys to the point you’d date them… err… marry them.”
“Marry?” These people were just confusing me today.
“Are you an idiot or something?” Naruto snapped. “Do you want to get in bed with a guy or what?” He turned cherry red right after the words left his mouth. Suddenly it clicked.
“Oh. Marry means Mate right? Gay…. I don’t know. I don’t really care if my partner is male or female, not that it’s any of your business. Youkai don’t differentiate between genders like that.”
“You’ve had sex with a guy?” Sakura asked. Her tone was skeptical. I wasn’t completely sure I should be having this conversation with preteens.
“Yes. I don’t have issues with mating with males. Are you lot even old enough to be having this conversation?” Sasuke and Naruto backed away from me slightly and I frowned.
“Not that it’s any of you threes business. But one, none of you are old enough to catch my interest, two, you all annoy the hell out of me so even if you were I wouldn’t think of you that way, and three, youkai are picky about who they mate with. More often than not, the mating is long term, lasting a minimum of a year if not longer.”
“So you don’t do casual relationships?” Sakura asked.
“No. Why would you have a casual relationship that involved sex? Your body is not something to be taken lightly.” That seemed to set the girl back and start her thinking. Done with the conversation I turned back towards Kakashi glancing back at his book before he snapped it closed and put it back in his pocket. I reached around faster than he could react and pulled it out. I had it in my lap and flipped open to the first page before he’d really started turning towards the pocket.
He turned to glare at me and reached for the book. I closed it, holding it just out of his reach and to my other side. He locked his one visible eye with mine, silently ordering me to give it back. It was the first time he’d really tried being the dominant in our bonder relationship. The stare lasted for several minutes before my youki started griping at me and telling me to give it back. It did not want the male to get angry and be away for a long time again.
Reluctantly I handed it back. He stuck it back in his pocket, deliberately keeping eye contact. I smirked inwardly; apparently he’d taken my discussions with him on how Inu Youkai behavior worked to heart. I was fairly certain that the information had been passed along to the rest of the villages Nin, along with a warning that the only one I considered a dominant was Kakashi himself. The rest could take a dive off a cliff for all I cared. Either way, the guard Nin had taken to avoiding eye contact with me whenever possible. My youki liked that, a lot. It also stressed the fact that the male who did, was. Even the Genin instinctively averted their eyes, though I doubt they noticed it.
My head tilted to the side as a howl could be heard a long distance away. It was Nauru, the blonde wolf. I listened, taking in the message before turning back to Kakashi.
“The Hokage says he wants you all back by nightfall. There have been reports of shinobi skirting the edges of the village lands.”
“And you’re letting them?!” Naruto yelled.
“They’re not on my land.”
“They’re right outside of it.”
“They’re not on my land. It doesn’t matter if they’re right outside of it or fifty miles away. Until they step foot on what’s mine I could care less what they’re doing.”
“And if I asked you?” Kakashi asked smoothly. I turned back to stare at him, eyes narrowing as I thought about it.
“Would it involve you going after them otherwise?”
I stared at him for a long time, trying in vain to turn him to ash on the spot before being forced to answer.
“Yes. But don’t push it.”
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