The journey has only begun and the knives are out. While the opening gambit does not go as planned for one side the other gains a major power as Ino comes into contact with a hidden scroll and gains the ability to summon rabbits.
Volume 3 Hime-Shika-Cho
Chapter 16 “…Blessed by Caïssa”
Dreaming about being a princess was one thing, actually being treated like a princess was starting to get on Ino’s nerves. Ever since she left the leaf village her privacy levels dropped to nearly non-existent. She was thankful that her shadow clone was able to afford her some privacy even if it was tiring keeping up the charade for long periods of time. So far the operation was running smoothly and perhaps a little too smoothly. After two villages with no actual attack, she wondered if the assassins gave up but the scouting parties found remnants of a camp that suggested they were still perusing their goal.
This part of the mission always seemed so boring to Ino, boring and frustrating. Maybe taking up Shogi would help her with this. Shikamaru always seemed to have the patience of Buddha when it game to that game and waiting for just the right moment. It wasn’t just the waiting that was bothering Ino. This was the first time she had been separated from her little sister like this. Up until they joined their teams she was so used to doing everything with Miku and even Hinata. She was wondering how her sister was hoping up. She knew that as a ninja she shouldn’t worry but sisterly concern overrode logic. She was at least comforted knowing that whatever Miku faced Hinata would be close by.
A jolt of the carriage brought Ino’s mind back to the present and their incredibly long journey. She felt a wave of support coming from her own shadow clone who sat in the carriage across from her next to her maid. That was an incredibly strange feeling as she shared knowledge and feelings with her shadow clone if not vision. It felt strange the longer she used it.
A knock on the side of the carriage brought her attention to the captain of her guard. “Princess we are about to enter the Kasai pass.”
This brought a wave of guilt to Ino as she remembered chastising both the captain and Asuma telling them that she was tired of the long journey and wanted to take the short cut up Kasai pass to reach Hanabira as soon as possible. At least Asuma was in on the plan that Shikamaru worked up, she knew her tantrum and the cruel words she used against him was just an act. Act or no act she still felt guilty, Asuma was a pretty relaxed and nice guy once you got to know him, and he was the nephew of the third Hokage. The Captain was a bit harder to read. He had seemed a bit different after the last village they had passed. She couldn’t put her finger on what was going on with him but he felt different. Perhaps her imagination was acting up given the state of their mission. The biggest thing she saw was nothing more spider webs she noticed on him a few times. That might have just been from him checking all sorts of hiding places during their last stop.
Ino turned her attention to her shadow clone and Aoi sitting across from her as silence once more filled the carriage. It was her shadow clone who broke managed to break the ice. “Aoi, aren’t you from Hanabira?”
“What is it like?”
“It is a small village nothing like Konohagakure. They make their money from nobility and those who can afford to retreat from the cities.”
It was Aoi who suggested to the princess that this path would be faster. The guards were instantly suspicious but Shikamaru did point out that a maid might not be thinking in terms of tactics but efficiency. She would consider the most efficient way to make the princess comfortable and it seemed to calm down the guards but they didn’t like it. Ino wondered about that, something seemed off here as well but that could be just the paranoia of the mission.
She moved close to the carriage door to peek around the curtains at the scenery. They would be on a narrow path for quite some time and the view was spectacular already. She could see how the nearby river snaked through the forest below and she was already excited to see the famous Kasai waterfall. They were halfway up the path when she heard her shadow clone gasp and Ino cursed her being distracted.
She looked over to see a crying Aoi, Ino followed her arm with her eyes in horror to see one of Aoi’s knitting needles embedded deep into her shadow clone’s chest.
Aoi repeated over and over through her sobbing “forgive me… forgive me… forgive me.” She then gasped as Ino’s shadow clone disappeared in a puff of smoke. Neither of the girls had time to adjust as something heavy struck the side of the carriage sending it sliding towards the edge of the cliff and off.
The world spun around her as the carriage flipped over tumbling down the cliff and Ino only had a few moments to get her wits about her. She would have to go blind because of the curtains; fortunately, Aoi still was in shock so grabbing her wouldn’t be a problem. Ino concentrated her chakra in her feet launching off the wall of the carriage grabbing for Aoi as she began spinning turning her back to the carriage door. She was thankful for the heavier kimono as she struck the door painfully knocking it open. Ino’s escape sent her back towards the cliff spinning her in the air as she sought some form of safe landing. Her eyes came upon a bush on a small ledge and if she moved fast enough she might make it.
Somewhere along the flight, Aoi had passed out and Ino was thankful for that as she began twisting herself aiming for the ledge she saw. The extra weight hindered her as she landed in the bush, branches shredding her kimono and she felt a sharp jolt of pain in her right leg tipping her off balance sending her movement through the branch and into the cliff wall. She kept falling into darkness as brush gave way to cave. The two girls slide down the slope of the cave destroying what was left of the princess’ kimono. The pain kept Ino from being able to focus her chakra to slow down their descent and before she knew what was happening they were free falling again into a large cavern. She was greeted by cold water the pain her leg was much worse now, stinging as she fought to keep conscious. She kept her hold on Aoi somehow dragging the girl along with her as she struggled to the surface of the underground lake.
It was only when she managed to get herself and Aoi to the shores of the lake that she looked down at her leg to see it impaled by a branch. She had to do something about that and fast. Aoi was still unconscious and no help at the moment as Ino used her chakra to break the branch near her left and pulled it out slowly, the pain threatening to send her into unconsciousness. With the last of her Chakra, she focused on a fire sign to seal the injury before she could bleed out. She desperately hoped she didn’t have any other major injuries she felt around searching for other injuries. One leg was impaled and the other felt broken in two places. She suspected Aoi would have similar injuries as she looked at the odd angle Aoi’s arm was in.
Looking up she could have sworn she saw stars; no they were lights among the stalactites on the ceiling of the cave. There wasn’t a large amount of light but it was enough to make out part of their surroundings. The cave looked to be decorated like a temple, at least around the edges of the lake as her eyes adjusted to the light level.
Ino heard something to her left but only caught sight of what she thought was white fur diving behind a bench carved into one of the many rocks surrounding the lake. Within her reach in that direction was what looked like an old scroll; it wasn’t there before was it. Ino leaned over picking up the large scroll opening it to see signatures written in blood along with the fingerprints on one hand. Summoning? She wondered how this scroll came to be here when she remembered the older stories of rabbits and a clan of ninja who trained them with roots here. The clan had long since passed away but this could be remnants of their original base of operations.
She looked down at her bloodied leg and knew she needed to do something and that if the others were busy fending off the attack that just hit them they might not find her or Aoi in time. She would risk it. With trembling hand, she reached down dipping her finger in the blood on her leg using it to write out her name on the next empty slot on the scroll. As she added her fingerprints to the scroll she wondered if she would have enough chakra to perform the summoning, she was already feeling lightheaded.
It was then she remembered a food pellet that Choji gave her earlier when he noticed she was struggling to maintain her shadow clone. It was still in her hiding spot so she quickly ate it wishing she had some water to go along with it. She felt a jolt of chakra flow through her as she immediately converted every bit of it into the summoning. She released the summoning beside her and coughed as the immediate area was suddenly filled with smoke.
As the smoke dissipated she could see what she summoned. She could see a small fluffy rabbit standing up on its hind legs.
“Looks like you don’t live up to your hair color.”
Ino’s brain didn’t seem to function properly as it took her a moment to puzzle through his words. She reached up pulling her hair in front, it was blonde again. Of course, the transformation jutsu would have broken given how much damage she just received.
“Transformation jutsu, eh?” the rabbit hopped over to her legs placing his paw first on her impaled leg. “Don’t worry I know what I’m doing”. She could feel the healing energy enter her leg her eyes felt heavier and heavier as the energy seemed to flow from that point through her entire body.
Purin looked down on the sleeping girl; she must have had a lot of strength to survive the fall the cave rabbits had witnessed. She was dressed in a royal kimono but her abilities and chakra didn’t make sense. It was clear she was a ninja and probably from the village hidden in the leaves, Konohagakure. The other unconscious girl wasn’t royalty either; perhaps she was a maid after all. It had been some time since he had been summoned into this world so perhaps the Royal family of the land of fire did learn ninjitsu now, but she didn’t look like their line.
With a twitch of the paw, the cave rabbits gathered around the two girls. “Keep them warm while I get to work.” He hopped around the girls making marks in the ground around them. He did about as much as he could in these conditions, the maid was injured but nowhere near as much as the blonde girl and now he had a duty to help protect her. She had been the first person to make a contract with the rabbits in fifty years; there was no way he would lose her now. Purin released the seals he created transporting the two girls to the Rabbit Warren.
Ino felt something warm and furry under her body, she wasn’t sure how long she had lost consciousness but this defiantly was not the cold damp cave she was in. She opened her eyes looking next to her to see the same rabbit from before curled up next to her sleeping. It took a moment to realize she was sleeping on something furry and very large. It took her mind a moment to realize it was a paw; she looked up to see the head of a massive rabbit looking down on her. The Rabbit was far larger than any bear she had seen and looked to be as large as the frogs that the fourth Hokage summoned. The rabbit was far larger than their home and flower shop combined. She heard a peaceful voice from the rabbit. “Sleep time for you, little one. You still have much to recover from” Ino felt a peaceful feeling as she drifted back into sleep.