Trespassers W. (hundredacresky) wrote,
Trespassers W.
hundredacresky

The Unorthodox Arts of War (Ch. 4/?), The Infiltration


Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Kishimoto Masashi.
A/N: Fine, so it's not like I've broken the sound barrier with my updating speed here, but this is like a record for me. 

 

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 5


//


Ino was fairly sure she wasn't the worst teacher in Konoha.

Sure, she regularly skipped team practices for hangovers and spa days, and frequently allotted an almost shameful amount of the granted team budget to useless (?) amenities like room service and in-bathroom hair straighteners. She was rather fond of threatening one third of her squad to bodily harm on a regular basis, and… oh wait. Just today, she had managed to lose one of the Leaf's most precious heirs.

Not the worst teacher in Konoha, huh? Never mind.

"I can't believe this," she groaned aloud. "I can't believe I lost her."

Shikamaru wearily glanced at her outburst, massaging his forearm in a somewhat embittered way. In an attempt to wrench herself out of their double free-fall, Ino had managed to land him with an exceptionally brutal bloomer, already turning an ugly mottled colour beneath his fingers. Still, it was nothing in comparison to her previously dislocated shoulder and currently twisted ankle (which she had bound just shy of blocking circulation and deemed "walkable on". There was no resting while Hatsumi was missing, not for all the swollen ankles in the world.)

"Nobody's lost anyone yet. If the info we've got is correct, then nothing's going to happen to the Hyuuga kid for another week, at least."

"Her name's Hatsumi," Rikimaru interjected, scowling openly at Shikamaru. "Hatsumi."

Yuu, who up until now had been nervously fiddling with his chopsticks, finally woke from his pensive reverie. He looked between the two teachers seated at the table and frowned. "But I don't understand. Why did they want her? Does it have something to do with her family?"

Rikimaru rolled his eyes. "That's so stupid. Her family’s all the way back in Konoha. What would they have to do with our mission?"

"Shut up, you little idiot," Ino snapped, rubbing at her temples. "Of course it might've had something to do with her family… the Hyuugas are, like, the poster family for Konoha. And I lost her. I can't believe this. Poor little Hatsumi's probably being tortured somewhere awful for some evil purpose the likes of which we can't even begin to figure out and it's totally my fault."

There really wasn't anything to say to this, so nobody tried.

Yuu looked a little disturbed at their teacher's violent image, imagining his teammate bound, gagged and weeping. He stifled a sympathetic shudder. Rikimaru, on the other hand, looked highly dubious, trying very hard to recall the last time he had ever seen tough-as-nails Hatsumi quiver in the face of any threat. In fact, he was fairly sure he once saw her cut a hole in her own leg, then suck out a wriggling parasite with her mouth. Yeah, Hatsumi was pretty hardcore.

The silence dragged on for another painful moment, interrupted by the distant pattering of heavy rain; the three remaining members of Team Four entertained very different thoughts on Hatsumi's fate while Shikamaru stared at the door blankly, obviously deep in unspoken thought.

Ino's eyes finally shifted tiredly across the table towards him, but she didn't move her hands away from her face. "Wait a second," she mumbled around her palm. "Remind me why you're here again?"

"Not that you're not grateful," he added without looking at her.

She growled around all ten fingers and narrowed her eyes. "Don't piss me off, Shikamaru."

He gave her a weary look then lowered his bruised arm, reaching deeply into wet pockets before extracting a piece of heavily lacquered parchment that had obviously seen far better days. He tossed it upon the table.

Ino gave it a wary glance. Both sides were covered in some kind of blocky, foreign script; the right margin ragged. She raised an eyebrow. "… Okay. And this is…?"

Reaching over, Yuu picked it up and turned it over several times, scrutinizing the impeccably scrawled lines of images there. "Cool," Rikimaru commented over his shoulder. "It's like a code or something."

"Yeah," affirmed Shikamaru, returning his eyes to the door. "It's a cipher. Not a verified language, not that I know of, but some characters are partially based in the Tekeste Nomadic script. Semaphoric code, from the looks of it." Ino gave him a look of horrified admiration, because none of the strange pictures and squiggly lines even began to reek of anything remotely logical to her. She was thinking more along the lines of "drunken right-handed man’s haiku with left hand" or something like that.

"I think," he added, shrugging.

Rikimaru was utterly enraptured, deserting his earlier worry for their lost comrade entirely. The dirty little scoundrel. "So? What does it say, Sensei?" He asked eagerly, turning towards Shikamaru. "Is it like a ransom or something? No… it's like a prophesy, right? That would be awesome."

Ino didn't even grace this comment with a look, just picked up her menu and swatted Rikimaru across the back of the head.

"Ow!"

Right. So, weird cipher, missing heir. Um… What? Did this really make sense to anybody? Ino glanced surreptitiously at her old teammate one table-width away, where Shikamaru had resumed the previous slow massage of his battered forearm.

"Here," Ino offered, removing both hands from her face to reach into the pack behind her. She tugged out a (surprisingly) clean, dry length of cloth and motioned for him to extend his hand towards her. "Your arm. So, are you going to explain any of this to us? Like, right now?" Because the only other option was screaming and throwing things, but she had learned the hard way that the latter choice rarely made any leeway in any weighty matters whatsoever.

"What?" He asked distractedly, grimacing as she pulled brutally on the bandage.

She shot him an unamused look. "Oh, please, don't act stupid. Nobody believes you anyway. Knowing you, you've got this whole thing figured out already, so hit me with it. God knows it can’t get any worse."

Ino wasn’t lying. So far, the day possessed all the qualifying traits of being the worst in her life -- despite narrowly escaping certain incarceration and god knew what else (torture? Rape? Murder? Fine, she was getting carried away). Because this was supposed to be a calm, easy, two-week reprieve the village and all its associated woes -- mildly mud-logged at the absolute worst. And not involving kidnappings, missing heirs, ciphers, mapmakers and smart-ass classmates whose pants she currently (and unwantedly) had sudden dibs on.

Ino quickly withdrew both hands from Shikamaru’s arm. He gave her a puzzled look. "All done," she amended hastily.

Ino returned her fingers to her face; once again her not-so-tiny lottery ball was doing a fabulous job of taking up a significant portion of thoughts much better relocated to matters of search-and-rescue, not to mention wreaking utter havoc with all her firing synapses. It figured, right?

"Well? Out with it."

He sighed, turning to her. "Right, right," he acquiesced, reaching above his head in a languid stretch. The desperate escape and missed night's sleep were beginning to take their toll. "What I know."

Yuu held up the cipher in his hands, assuming it would inevitably be part of their slightly belated briefing.

"Okay. My team had the privilege of learning that the nin that took the Hyuuga girl are unaffiliated with any known shinobi village at the moment, although that –" he pointed at the paper in Yuu’s hands. "Says they’re trying to change this."

"What? How?" Ino asked at the same time Rikimaru said: "Whoa… you managed to crack it?" She scowled and swatted the menu near him in a threatening motion.

"By offsetting the current state of the treaty with Takigakure, if I read it right."

Yuu blinked, confused. "But why would they take the word of an unaffiliated group over an ally like Konoha?"

Rikimaru scoffed, and in a surprisingly well-educated moment, said: ""Like this is some big surprise. You know what treaties are like."

"And where the hell did you learn that, exactly?" Ino asked, squinting at him suspiciously.

Rikimaru shrugged. "TV."

Anyway, dubious educators aside, it was still true. All Hidden Villages knew that most treaties were nothing more than glorified truces – transient and prone to decimation at the faintest hint of a crack. The Suna was reigning supreme as the current exception, but Ino would trust that about as far as she could throw it.

Yuu blinked, realization dawning on him. "No. Hatsumi and Itoigawa-san—"

"Right," Shikamaru answered, rolling his cramped shoulder. "Plant some undeniable proof that Konoha’s broken the treaty and you’ve got the boat rocking."

"You’re kidding," Ino cut in flatly, more and more horrified by the moment. "What exactly were they going to do?"

Shikamaru tapped the paper, which Yuu had placed in the centre of the table. "Says here they were looking to murder some higher-up and frame the Hyuuga girl. Short of putting out her eyes, there’s no way they wouldn’t track it back to Konoha."

A chair clattered as Rikimaru abruptly stood up. "Her eyes? No way! We can’t let them –"

"Shut up!" Ino berated, grasping his wrist and yanking him down beside her. Shikamaru figured the younger boy could now expect a few similar bruises to his own. "So they need Itoigawa for the entry points and Hatsumi to place the blame. God, and we stuck them both in the exact same area at the exact same time. So stupid."

Shikamaru didn’t answer, instead leaning back into his chair.

Ino took the appropriate five minutes for unending despair, then rounded up all the sad, half-assed remnants of fighting spirit within her. "Alright, then. Shikamaru, hit us with a plan. I've got to see about getting my fourth member back, or I can else I’ll have to start planning for my funeral." At least once Tsunade got to her. Maybe Neji, too.

"And her safety?" Shikamaru reminded her dryly.

She scoffed, leaning back with a slightly proud smile. A missing child was still a missing child, especially if one possessed the much-wanted Konohan heir status, but Ino couldn't miss the bragging opportunity. "Oh, you don't know Hatsumi, then. I'd be more worried about the current arrangement of her kidnappers' internal organs. Or rearrangement, whatever you want to call it."

At this, Shikamaru shot her a sardonic and slightly relieved grin. He knew a lot of girls like that.

 

/

 

The fortress had looked like this: four wide walls of squat, grey stone arranged in what looked like a depressing prison, the ceiling lower than the level of the surrounding canopy in a feeble snatch at stealth. It was hard to hide a camp of this sort – the area beneath the building had been hastily cleared using what they all assumed was some technique, what with the lack of scorch marks and all, but the earth trembled with the feel of residual chakra.

Rikimaru brushed a hand against the cold stone, gazing upward at the low wall before them. "Stone manipulation jutsu? Whoa…"

"Oh, how fucking perfect," Ino-sensei cursed in a brash whisper. Yuu hadn’t seen her bad fall, but her hobbling limp was becoming fairly apparent as the night wore on, and it was starting to make her pissy. Ino-sensei, despite her tendency to bitch and gripe about creature comforts, was always worryingly mum about things that really mattered, instead becoming progressively more stubborn and testy as time passed – a trait that made diagnosing her injuries incredibly frustrating.

Shikamaru-sensei had glanced at her pained shuffle once or twice before rolling his eyes, giving Yuu the distinct feeling that he was fairly well acquainted with this attribute already. "Okay, shhh…" Yuu hushed in a rare moment of impatience. "I’m almost there." He shifted his stethoscope against the stone. Truthfully, he had been and still was mighty suspicious that standard lock-picking would serve to get them anywhere at all; most of these element-type jutsu constructions had entries triggered by chakra-recognition techniques, impervious to manual jimmying. And Hatsumi, their resident chakra manipulator extraordinaire, was currently on the wrong side of said wall.

"Nah," Shikamaru-sensei had answered, looking somewhat impressed. "This was hastily erected, look at the way they cleared the area: the energy stamp is way too strong. Probably manual chakra key at the most. This would be a problem, but Ino tells me you guys are good at this kind of thing. My team gave it a shot already, but we couldn’t get through."

Ino-sensei gave a nasal scoff. "Right. Your incredibly capable team." Yuu gave an internal wince at her blatant lack of tact, seeing as the abovementioned team was probably dead or severely injured from what they had heard. But Shikamaru-sensei had opted to ignore this, like he did most of her underhanded comments, bringing to light rumors that the two had been on the same genin/chuunin training team years prior. Growing up with Ino-sensei, huh? This was enough to impress anyone.

In any case, the lock was giving now; four tumblers down and about six more to go. Yes, it was a ten pin tumbler, accessed by a chakra molded key in a vibration signature that would usually be impossible to manually mimic. That had been where Rikimaru came in.

"What? Scores! I haven’t seen one of these since I broke into the Academy vault –" he exclaimed, sounding like a kid in a candy store. At this, Shikamaru-sensei raised an appreciative eyebrow while Ino-sensei rolled her eyes. The younger boy reached into his pack with his left arm, the dislocated shoulder on his right having been reset moments before by Ino-sensei, and hefted what looked like a broad-toothed comb. "Hey... Yuu, can you hook me up? Um… lessee… Right here."

"Er… Riki, that’s a vibration detonation, right? I don’t think I’ve got a strong enough adhesive." Hours prior, Yuu’s customary pack had been abandoned in the lam, a few necessary objects hastily shoved into the tool belt around his waist.

"It’ll hold," Shikamaru-sensei cut in. "The vibration signature was still within the visible range, so you won’t get that much motion." He turned to Yuu. "But you’ve got about three minutes. Go."

Rikimaru grinned happily, then hit the detonate button.

The silent detonator worked to mimic the vibration signature a chakra key would generally emit while Yuu plied at the internal pins that composed the physical part of the lock. Four down… Five… He listened for the final click as the two pins parted and turned cleanly and held his breath, counting the moments in his head. Three minutes, three minutes. He was nine seconds shy. Would it work while the adhesive held?

Then the detonator gave a final breathy wheeze and the stone began to flake violently away from behind the device, jostling it towards the ground.

Ino-sensei, had been nervously tapping her foot behind them the entire while, had been straining to keep her mouth shut. "Well?"

Then the stone beside the jimmied lock became a little clearer, the molecules parting in response to their nail-biting efforts. One second, two, then the grey matter gave way to empty space and the darkness of the internal building as a door materialized in the centre of the blank rock. Open. They had access!

Ino-sensei breathed a heavy sigh of relief and, in a twilight-zone-esque moment, scooped up her two remaining charges and hugged them gratefully. "Finally, thank god. You little bums come in handy every once in a while!"

It only lasted a moment; she let go of them before Rikimaru could begin his squirming protestations. "Alright, you two know where you need to go, right? Rikimaru, I swear to god: if you mess this up, when I see you again – "

Yuu carefully went over their earlier instructions in his head: infiltrate the camp through one of the alternative entrances – another chakra keyed access located on the south side of the premises. From there, chart out the internal area through any overhead system, official or not ("If there isn’t one," Ino had explained hurriedly. "Then walk the ceilings. You’re ninja, for god’s sake."), find as many exits as possible and crack them. Secure multiple escape routes for the entire team. It would be hard, but doable.

Beside him, Rikimaru gave her departing back a scowl. "Whatever, Sensei!" He yelled after her. "Just make sure you’ve got Hatsumi with you!"

 

/

 

Ino gave her makeshift tensure bandage a hard tug for good measure, or what she thought was the bandage – it was hard to tell in the godforsaken dark. Denial, it had now been empirically discovered, was the worst pain coping mechanism ever; her ankle was throbbing roughly enough to register a five on the Richter scale. Beside her, Shikamaru watched skeptically.

"You know, tying that thing tighter isn’t going to make the sprain go away." He mock-considered. "Might make the foot go away, though."

"Shut up," Ino retorted witheringly. The moment they had entered the compound, the two had been plunged into an evil and bitter darkness – which was saying much, seeing as dark had fallen throughout the forest prior to their infiltration. She could only hope the boys would be slightly better at seeing where they had to go.

"We can sit for a moment," Shikamaru offered in a rare moment of consideration.

"Nuh-uh," Ino eyed him like he had sprouted a second head. "Not until we’ve got Hatsumi. But if it weren’t for this stupid dark—ARGH!"

"Watch the burlap sack."

"Late, Shikamaru! Just a bit." Gritting her teeth at the not-so-distant throbbing in her ankle, Ino squinted at the sack in question and moved to open it. What she found inside was truly puzzling. "What? Potatoes?"

Shikamaru glanced over her shoulder. "Huh. Potatoes." She heard him move away from her to fumble at a few other things around the room.

Ugh. Infiltrations without blueprints were always destined to be shitty, true, but they could’ve factored the impenetrable darkness somewhere into their plans. Ino reached back into her pack to grope for a light.

"Damn it. Shikamaru, do you have a lamp on you?"

In a colossal example of bad judgment, Ino had made Rikimaru carry her portable lamp hours prior because there simply hadn’t been any room in hers, what with the battery-operated hair straightener and all.

There was probably a moral in here somewhere. But she was damned if she could find it.

"Oh shit," she swore as her weathered village guide slid over her shoulder into the darkness. She heard a dull thud as it hit the floor and reached out to feel for it.

"Here," came Shikamaru’s voice, suddenly incredibly near to the back of her neck. "Try not to lose all our supplies yet." He pressed the book into her upper arm.

Ino jumped. "Um…yeah," she affirmed hastily, her current thoughts vacillating frantically between her appalling lack of sense-presence skills and exactly how he had managed to get so close so suddenly. She coughed, inexplicably embarrassed. "So… um, light?"

"Nope," he answered wearily. "No pack, remember?

"Ugh, fabulous. This stupid ankle. This stupid dark."

"Here," he tugged her arm and pressed it against the cool wall for direction and balance. It was a nice gesture. Ino squinted at him, but the darkness obscured everything.

Then a light flickered on in some distant corner of the room.

"Night-access floodlights," Shikamaru noted, almost solely to himself. Ino, half-blinded and disoriented, scowled and squinted at the source of the illumination: a sole floor-lamp had been built right into the stone corner there, revealing the room as fairly massive, empty of all furnishings except for a few haphazardly left bags of wheat and grain. And the now-infamous sack of potatoes.

"Supplies?" Ino murmured, not liking where her thoughts were currently straying. Supplies meant a supply closet. Food supplies meant a – Shit.

A low noise hissed from some hidden grate, followed by a rush of cool air.

The refrigeration had been turned on.

 

/

 

"Uh-oh," said Yuu, shifting his stethoscope against the cold stone. "What is that?"

Rikimaru, nursing a newly-sore shoulder from an injury suffered on his last bathroom break ("I… er, have torch," Yuu offered, just a little late), scowled over at Yuu through the infernal darkness. Overhead, the clouds greedily obscured the moon and any light it had to offer. He hated this stupid season. "Huh? What now?"

"I don’t know," stammered Yuu, seeming utterly perplexed by the new occurrence. "I don’t think it’s my stethoscope…"

"Here, lemme listen." Rikimaru sidled closer and pressed his ear against the listening piece. A low hum droned there, whirring and obviously interfering with the kind of quiet necessary for lock-picking. "Whoa."

Yuu frowned, gesturing at the comb-shaped object beneath the lock. "The vibration detonation, maybe?"

Rikimaru shook his head distractedly. No way. Vibration detonators were specifically designed to not emit sounds that would likely interfere with the lock breaking process. And Rikimaru would know: he had made this one himself. "I can take it off, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t it." Yuu offered him a chisel from his toolbelt and Rikimaru wedged it between the device and the wall. It came free with a few hard tugs and a grunt, flaked stone tumbling to the ground silently.

Yuu pressed his stethoscope back against the stone.

"Still there?"

He nodded slowly. "Seems like a … refrigeration system, maybe? But Shikamaru-sensei said –" Yuu glanced up at Rikimaru.

Who had stopped paying attention after Yuu’s refrigeration diagnosis, instead spending an (extremely) rare moment in deep thought. The source of the noise made no difference, of course, be it a refrigerator or anything else. What mattered was the noise. And the noise meant an unlockable door, which meant a certain ass-kicking with his name on it the moment Ino-sensei and Hatsumi got out of there. If Ino-sensei and Hatsumi got out of there.

Right.

Once upon a time (more accurately: right before this mission), Riki had entertained some grand plans of integrating a sound damper into the detonation, but this plan fell flat when he ended up falling asleep the afternoon before their departure on this dumb mission. (Bright and early the next morning, Hatsumi had kindly woken him up with a rock to the window.

Most people did this regularly. Only Hatsumi did it when the window was open.)

Ayway, going back to the detonator. It wouldn’t be too hard, Rikimaru considered, rubbing the above-mentioned bump on his head distractedly. He had already worked out a kinda-sorta-maybe plan in his head and the necessary tools weren't too exotic, but he couldn’t do anything without some light. He turned to his remaining teammate. "Hey, what have you got on you? Pliers? Adhesive? Anything else? Here, toss me your light."

"Yeah," answered Yuu, removing the toolbelt and handing it over obligingly. Riki looked sufficiently engrossed in whatever plan he had in store, which was entirely fine with him. You maybe wouldn’t want Riki in charge of more delicate matters like grocery shopping or babysitting your pet goldfish, but he was ace when it came to gadgetry and the like. Ino-sensei used to say it was the only reason she put up with him as she did (if you could call the frequent abuse tolerance in the first place). Sitting back, Yuu chewed his lip thoughtfully and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, praying his teammate would finish with godspeed.

A setback meant time, Yuu knew, and time was absolutely of the essence right now.

 

/

 

"Huh. Guess I must’ve overlooked this."

Ino rolled her eyes with gusto. If she had both ankles at her behest right now, she would have stomped right over and strangled his stupid, refrigerator-overlooking neck. Seriously. "And now?"

He shrugged in a way that distinctly infuriated her and said: "I don’t know. Wait?"

"Wait?"

"Exactly." Shikamaru fingered his pockets for a loose smoke, but without much success. Concluding that he must've left all supplies behind in his wild escape from the tent, he breathed a tired sigh. And with Ino in a bad mood too.

"No!" Said Ino viciously, standing up with surprising ease for someone whose ankle was starting to resemble some sort of flotation device, and grabbed the lapels on his vest. "This is your fault in the first place! Your stupid, incredibly flawed plan. Way to be a super-genius, asshole."

Shikamaru sighed apathetically, considering what a really bad time it was to run out of cigarettes. But his characteristic lack of zeal served only to anger his livid comrade more. "Hello?!" She stage-whispered, giving him a few brutal shakes for good measure. "Are you even listening to me?!"

It turned out he wasn’t, instead suddenly going very still in her grasp. Ino gave a furious huff, sick of not knowing what the hell was going on, and squeezed tighter. "Shikamaru! I can’t believe you! Will you just—"

Then a hand shot up in the darkness; Shikamaru wrapped it tightly around her wrist. "Be quiet," he urged her, watching the far wall. "Listen."

Ino slackened her hold, a little taken aback at his strength, and held her breath carefully. There was the dull thud of harsh footsteps in what sounded like an outer hall beyond the stone wall. A door? She mouthed at Shikamaru, who shook his head distractedly. Great. A door might have meant a possible breakaway, but without it they were out of luck. Shikamaru had never been an entry/evacuation specialist and without her team, there was no way Ino could make the break-out alone.

More echoes; the low rumble of voices. They waited in the dark, uncomfortably close; Ino’s hand hurt and she distantly wished he would let go, despite the fact that she'd never stoop so low as saying so. From this distance, she could see the dark fan of his lashes against the upper curve of his cheeks, the crinkled fabric of his vest along the collar. Her ankle gave a brutal throb beneath her and she forced her focus back on the commotion outside.

"Combat boots," Ino said softly, realization dawning upon her.

"Sounds like two of them. Non-shinobi," was Shikamaru's whispered diagnosis. "Guards, possibly. But this is the first time we've heard them, so they're not stationed outside of here."

Ino looked at him quizzically. "Why wouldn’t they post someone outside of an entry point? Why would they post civilians at all? That doesn’t –"

Shikamaru glanced at her, finally letting go of her arm. She rubbed it sullenly. "What time is it?" He asked her.

"I don’t know," Ino answered, feeling a little bitter. "It was around nine-thirty when we last saw the boys."

Shikamaru sighed. "They're turning on the refrigeration. They're hoping we'll fall asleep."

"They’ve turned on the refrigeration, Shikamaru. Seriously, is the cold getting to your head? Anyway. They don’t know we’re here yet, so there must be some way out. We are shinobi, after all." She got up and hobbled to the nearest wall.

"—Who are both trapped in a sealed room with refrigeration, and no guards -- or if so, only lightly trained civilians. Meaning that nothing’s ever survived long enough to break out of here before, or even pose a threat." He raised a hand to test the temperature. "It’s going to get mighty freaking cold in here. Shinobi or not, it doesn’t matter. Well, not mostly." Shikamaru moved over to a corner and parked himself there.

Ino shook her head disbelievingly. "You're mighty optimistic. There’s got to be something we can– " She traced both hands against the length of the walls (albeit in a very slow, hobbling way) and inspected the ceiling, looking for any indentations that would hint at a hidden grate or air duct.

Shikamaru watched her with express disinterest. "Lower," he answered for her. He pointed to the opposing wall, where tiny rectangular ducts lay side by side. Each contained three open slats, a minimum of two centimeters wide. Looking around, Ino could see they lined all four walls. "I've already checked. The refrigeration comes from those ducts there, so unless you can hack off your pinky finger, fit it through the grate and then reanimate it to get us some help, we're stuck here 'til tomorrow."

Ino limped towards the said ducts; predictably, Shikamaru was right. She was hoping for the presence of some vermin to use the Shinten, but there would be none crawling through the frigid vents. Great. "This is brilliant," she huffed, whirling on him. "So what's the plan now, oh Supreme Strategist? Say my prayers and hope I wake up tomorrow?"

Shikamaru was rifling through her pack in an appalling lack of proprietal respect. "I said 'mostly', didn't I?" Withdrawing two wide blankets, he tossed her one. "They just erected this place, remember? So they're getting pretty comfy in assuming no one could get out of here." He gestured at the blanket. "And, you know – fail to prepare… and stuff."

They were two standard grade-issue thermal blankets usually brought on outdoor missions, so customary Ino had forgotten that she had even packed them in the first place. Shikamaru looked at her, nestling in a far corner from the vents. "It's still going to suck, though," he warned, ever the optimist. "Just don't fall asleep. I can't believe I just said that."

Ino sighed deeply, wrapping the blanket around her shoulders, and hobbled over to sit down beside him. It was going to be a long, long night.

 

/

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