Title: In The Dead of WinterWord Count: 2,349Characters: Shinwa Shiroi, Nana and Yuko (raptors), Harigane Toki, Arooku MendooRating: OTGenre: Action/Adventure, AngstWarnings: Violence and bloodAuthor's Notes/Summary: Based on Prompt 47: heart. It is known in the Shinwa family that they are tools and will be used until they are no longer sharp. Since the family resources, i.e. the shinobi that make up the family, are severely depleted, the Tsukikage's demands are the same as always. This is one of the reasons Jethro is hardly ever in Tsukigakure. It is the reason in winter time that Shiroi is hardly ever in Tsukigakure. His pale complexion is perfect for what the Shinwa Clan is famous for: perfect reconnaisance. Shiroi, never properly trained in the art of reconnaisance by his family, occassionally runs into some problems. Even jounin sometimes run into problems.Red eyes watched as the shape disappeared into the distance quickly. He would have been able to watch Ni for more time, but considering Yuko was white, the gyrfalcon disappeared rather quickly. Shiroi’s breath left him in a hazy cloud, circling around his head in the dead, cold, unforgiving air. It was when he couldn’t feel the bird’s chakra anymore that he felt rancor tinged chakra. The albino immediately disappeared into his surrounds through the use of a simple genjutsu. He felt the chakra’s pause, but continued in their cautious journey towards him. This must be the rebel group, Shiroi thought to himself as he silently slipped through the trees, heading towards the ever tightening circle. It was when his hand was only centimeters away from the razor wire that he saw the trap that they had planted.“Shit,” Shiroi muttered as he sliced open his hand, clean through the thick leather gloves he wore for protection as well as for the cold. It was then that, red eyes narrowing, the young man felt the chakra gain a focus.Even though Shiroi was an albino, he was not impossible to see.In the non ninja villages, the actions that followed were similar to that of a gun being shot. As soon as Shiroi sliced his hand to the bone, he cursed, knowing that his position was given away. The instant that his flesh was rendered by the razor wire, the enemy shinobi, five in all, turned their attention from searching the area to the spot where their wire had been tampered with. The vicious chase that ensued was bloody to say the least.Shiroi prayed to any god that was listening his thanks as the sun set and the new moon rose. He had been battling in the open, sword to sword, and throwing his jutsu’s around. He had managed to catch two of the group in his flower maze. They wouldn’t be able to escape before they froze to death. One had canceled enough of the maze where the albino would have to worry about him later. ‘Later’ was the key word. The two that had managed to dodge his trademark genjutsu were showing impressive skills in their own department: kenjutsu. It was just as the sun set below the horizon and its last rays dissolved below the horizon, where the night rapidly took over the lighting and colours of the land, that the three shinobi found themselves in a dense copse of trees. Bare, yes, but there were enough evergreen to make up for the lack of foliage and ice made footing hazardous. Shiroi sheathed his short sword, Muka’s anbu sword since he preferred his own swords, and unclipped his glaive. He ran his hand down the blade, igniting the curse. Shiroi’s eyes were darkly amused when he caught the bewildered expressions of his opponents faces. It wasn’t everyday a shining glaive almost disappeared into its surrounds in seconds. The ordinary jutsu* that the albino had put on it, he had found out, was a wonderful additive. It was just as the kenjutsu masters were getting over their shock, faster than others, Shiroi noted, that he attacked. The glaive was a blur as it met the steel of the foreign swords. He didn’t know how long they clashed. Both Shiroi and the sword wielders had cuts, some more major than others, but it was when a fog enveloped the battle that Shiroi remembered the ninja that had been stuck in a shallow version of his flower maze. Shiroi jumped out of the fray that his battle with the other ninja had become and took shelter near the bole of a cedar tree. With only the slight movement of his breathing, Shiroi was practically invisible in the fog. Propping his glaive against the tree, the albino fished around in his sleeves before pulling out a white, gauzy scarf. When tied around his eyes, glare was significantly decreased, and the enemy couldn’t pick him out of the landscape by his betraying bloody eyes. Fog was dangerous, even in good weather. Sight was significantly hampered. The dampness of the fog dampened scents to almost a nonexistent state and made footing dangerous. More dangerous than it already is, the red eyed shinobi thought. It warped sound, which was what Shiroi was using to identify the location of his enemies. It was the trees themselves that gave the albino’s enemies away, covered in ice as they were. The tsukinin heard the ice crackle as it was broken by booted feet. A branch snapped uncomfortably close to his head and Shiroi made an upward thrust before finishing with a diagonal jab. Warm liquid stained his clothes as he felt more than heard the two dead shinobi hit the snow covered loam of the forest floor. The Shinwa made his escape, cutting through the wood, in what he thought, was a north-westerly direction. The fog was as thick as ever. Shiroi was ready, but not prepared for what happened. His scarf that the albino had previously tied around his eyes was pulled down over his nose and mouth to allow easier breathing; so it didn’t feel like ice was carving the insides of his lungs into pretty pictures. It was his one mistake.Shiroi had grown significantly over the years after his father’s death and the discovery of the hidden Shinwa library. Mistakes were practically nonexistent in his repertoire of attacks. Even the best of ninja, however, made a mistake every now and then. If it wasn’t for Shiroi’s keen instinct and a bird’s screech, it would be a good bet that the albino would be decapitated. As it was, there were two deep, ugly gashes across his chest. “Fuck.” Two voices muttered; the cold carrying and amplifying the sound.The snow around Shiroi was quickly turning a red similar to his eyes. “Ah, reconnaissance?” his attacker asked.Must be the one that cancelled most of my flower maze, the Shinwa thought. I thought that he’d be stuck longer.“You must be reconnaissance since you’re not talking,” the ninja continued, assured that Shiroi was at his mercy. Cocky, Shiroi thought. You should have made sure that I was incapacitated before talking to me. His verbal response, however, was to spit blood at the boots he could see in his vision. He could feel the other ninja frown and Shiroi took a masochistic pleasure in it.“That was uncalled for,” came the reply to the albino’s silent retaliation. A hiss of steel, Shiroi guessed, by its duration, that it was a sword similar to the one at his hip. His one hand was vainly covering his injury, but he only needed one hand. Shiroi yelled and swung his glaive.There was a sickening sucking sound and a few snaps as Shiroi dismembered and gutted his enemy.The once pure, virgin snow was tainted in the most degrading of ways. The only sounds in the cold, dead night were heavy breathing and fluttering heart beats.“…heart…” his enemy airily attempted to say.“Come again?” Shiroi demanded in a husky voice.“…heartless,” the enemy managed to say. “Who are…”Shiroi knew the question. It had been said to him many times in similar circumstances.“Shinwa Shiroi,” the albino ninja said, scarf muffling his deep voice. His unwavering gaze never left they dying ninja. His opponent shivered violently; not all the spasms were from the cold and encroaching death. The last thing he remembered before death claimed him was a pair of bloody red eyes watching him.Shiroi stood up. His monotone world swayed dangerously. He frowned. I lost more blood…am losing blood…faster than I originally thought.He changed his course. Instead of heading back to Tsukigakure as he had intended, to see how Muka was doing, Shiroi ran off the vague descriptions of where Toki lived. He had gone to see Toki-san several times, but he had only traveled there by himself twice. His short, black and white friend, had accompanied him the other times. Shiroi only hoped that he made it to Toki’s before he passed out. ----------The Master had said that the person who lived here was very friendly. So when Nana flew over the yard in search of someone, she wasn’t exactly sure of her safety. Yes, she could see that a caring person lived here just by looking at the yard. Gardens, well kept even through the snow, could be seen. Yet there was something wrong with the whole scene. Yes, the yard was well kept but there was a…wrongness about the place. It reminded Nana of the Snow Leopard Mountains. Despite her unease, Nana flew to the house. Her master had said that, due to the weather, no one would probably be outside. “Watch out for the one with orange hair. I don’t know what he’ll do.” Her master’s warning echoed through her mind. Her wings felt heavy as she flew over the estate. It didn’t feel like there was ice on her wings, but then again, she didn’t bother looking. She had a parchment in her carrying case that needed to be delivered. She didn’t want to think of what the other birds, let alone Master and his brother, would do to her. Jewel blue eyes searched the landscape. Seeing nothing, the agile bird rested on a tree that faced the back of the house. One by one, Nana began to look through the windows in search of the house’s occupants. “You’re…you’re looking for a short…a short n-n-ninja. He’s got long, d-d…dark hair with mism-m-matched eyes.” Nana searched the house. Her anxiety only heightened as the sun crested and began to sink. She launched herself into the air again and flew over the house. Maybe this person that her Master needed was on their way to the house? It was well after dark when two persons, each matching the descriptions that the Master had given her, were making their way to the house. She didn’t notice the fatigue that coloured their actions. She was almost crazy with relief and fear for the Master’s well-being. “KII! KII! KII!”Nana circled her targets before diving and perching on the shorter of the two.“What do we have here?” her perch asked. His companion made some growled reply. She didn’t know what he said. She held her leg out for the one with mismatched eyes to get his message. “It seems like I have a message, Mendoo-kun,” he said. “It better not be another fucken mission,” the orange haired one, Mendoo, ground out. “Will you hold the bird while I get my message?” Nana did not like proposition at all. Mendoo-kun made her nervous. He held out his arm for her to perch on. She hesitated, juggling her weight, before transferring herself to Mendoo. She hissed at him to show her displeasure. Despite her discomfort, she held her leg out. With the message off her leg, Nana took to the air and landed on her target’s head. She hissed at Mendoo-kun. Her perch giggled.“I don’t think the bird likes you, Mendoo-kun.”“No shit, Toki,” Mendoo-kun growled.Toki, still giggling, still walking towards the house, unrolled and read the message. Nana wondered if it was healthy for skin to change colour that quickly.“Toki?” “We have to go to the back of the yard, Mendoo-kun, and pray we’re not too late.” Mendoo growled. “You’re condition and the weather?”Toki, usually all smiles and laughs, was uncharacteristically serious. “It has to wait.”----------Shiroi knew, no matter how warm or cold he felt, he couldn’t fall asleep. He wasn’t sure what he was sitting on. All he could think of was the time when Ke stumbled into Tsukigakure. The gash across his middle was terrible, but the fact that he had been wearing black toned down the severity of the dire situation. Knowing what Ke looked like dressed in black, he could only imagine what he looked like in white and grey. The blood, his own as well as his enemies’, must look…interesting? Morbid? He suddenly didn’t know. The red albino sighed and looked to the sky. The sky was blue. The sky was graying. Was it going to snow? His mouth curved in a mock grin causing dry, freezing lips cracking. The irony did not escape the tsuki-nin, then again, the irony was all in his mind. For as the sun rose, set, and dark settled in, Shiroi’s body could not remain conscious no matter how valiant his efforts were. Just as dark settled on the land, Shiroi lost his battle with consciousness. Shiroi, however, didn’t know this. His mind kept replaying him looking at the sky even while he slipped dangerously deep in unconsciousness. How boring. -----------The scene before the Toki immediately made him feel sorry for Ke. He had heard about Shiroi and his vexing cousin, Muka, forever ago now it seemed. In reality, it had only been a handful or so of years. The pristine angel that Ke always described and he had had the pleasure of meeting was nothing like the image that was before him. Where there should have been virgin snow, a cocktail of mud and bloody slush decorated the immediate area beneath the tsukinin. Blood, oh so much blood, was in frozen rivulets down the tree. The albino’s shirt front was ripped ragged in several directions, but Toki could make out nothing; there was simply too much gore.And Ke had told him that he was coming to visit soon. This was beyond his resources.“Mendoo-kun,” Toki bade his lover. “I want you to carry him back to the house, then take a sample of his blood to the hospital to get a transfusion. I’ll fix him up while your gone.”“Why not just take the fucken guy there?” Mendoo growled out as he made his way up the tree to where Shiroi was tediously perched. He quickly brought the unconscious albino out of the tree.“Because,” Toki explained to him, relieved to find breath coming out from between blue tinged lips, “he probably couldn’t survive the journey.”Hopes you like, nil_chan!!!