13 Return Trip

"Hey, Shino," Kiba said, grinning while ruffling Akamaru's head. "Do your bugs get motion sickness?"

Carrying his box, that served as the ride for his drone, on his back, Shino gave him a flat look. "No, they-"

Kiba continued, undeterred. "I bet they get bored, though. Do you ever give them bug puzzles to solve?"

Shino replied, his face impassive, "I assure you, Kiba, my bugs are quite content with their work because-"

"Because they don't bug you right? Yea, yea I get it. You're a bug lover," Kiba confidently finished as he placed Akamaru on his head, then peeked at Hinata, "Yea, they don't bug you, get it, Shino? Hahaha..."

No. Because they are absolutely obedient. Of course, Shino didn't mention this. His glasses seemed flash as he nodded in acquiescence, his obscured eyes sweeping towards the quiet Hinata.

As they walked, Kiba had started making jokes, trying to lighten the mood. Hinata twiddled her fingers as she listened with her head bowed, but her body trembled from time to time.

Shino occasionally had a slight smile, but it was hidden by his high collar… however, it was clear the mood wasn't that great.

The silent Kurenai sensei who was walking besides them with a serious face was definitely not helping.

They had made it out alive, and they had accomplished their mission, but… the ending wasn't a happy one. But, it can't be blamed on anyone.

Can't blame Hinata for having a kind a kind personality. She was born that way.

Can't blame Kurenai sensei for being cruel. She did it for Hinata's own good. After all, if Hinata didn't change soon, she may risk losing her position in the clan. In that case, she may truly face the cruelty of being a caged bird.

It's not anyone's fault that this world is a cruel one.

That night, the camp was silent.

The air was crisp and cool as the moon cast its pale light upon the forest. It was Shino Aburame's turn to take watch, but as he made his way through the trees, he heard the soft sound of sobbing. Curious, he followed the noise until he stumbled upon Hinata, alone and crying.

Hinata's shoulders shook as she wept, her hands clenched into fists. Shino stepped back, not wanting to intrude on her private moment. Shino hesitated for a moment. He wasn't sure if he was the guy for the job.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps approaching. Shino calmly stepped behind a tree and hid himself, lurking in the shadows. A figure emerged from the darkness.

It wasn't an enemy. Shino breathed a sigh of relief before lowering his presence further.

"Sensei!" Hinata exclaimed, standing up to greet Kurenai.

Kurenai's eyes swept Hinata, taking in her disheveled appearances. "What's going on?" she asked, her voice laced with concern.

Hinata hesitated for a moment before blurting out the truth. "I... I killed someone today," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Kurenai's eyes softened as she approached Hinata. "Come here," she said, pulling her into a tight embrace. "I'm so sorry, Hinata. I wish I could take your pain away."

Hinata buried her face in Kurenai's shoulder, her tears soaking through the fabric of her shirt. Kurenai held her for a few moments before pulling back and cupping her face in her hands.

"I know this is difficult, Hinata. But you must remember that this is the life we have chosen. We are shinobi, and sometimes we have to make difficult decisions."

Hinata looked up at her sensei, her eyes filled with confusion. "But... how can you be so calm about it? How can you just accept that we have to kill people?"

Kurenai's eyes darkened as she took a deep breath. "It's not about being calm, Hinata. It's about understanding the reality of our world. We live in a world of violence and bloodshed, and sometimes we have to do terrible things to protect the people we love. But we must never forget that every life we take is a weight that we carry with us for the rest of our lives."

Hinata nodded slowly, taking in every word that Kurenai sensei spoke. She could feel the weight of her first kill pressing down on her, but she knew that she had to listen to her sensei's words.

"I understand," she said quietly, her voice barely above a whisper. "But how do I live with this? How do I move on?"

Kurenai's eyes softened as she looked at Hinata. "You don't forget, Hinata. You never forget the lives that you take. But you use that memory to become stronger, to become better. You use that weight to fuel your determination to protect the people you love. Don't you have someone you love?"

As an image arose in Hinata's mind, she seemed to calm down as a faint blush appeared on her face.

Hinata nodded slowly, taking in Kurenai's words. She knew that it would take time to come to terms with what she had done, but she also knew that she had the support of her sensei, her friends, and that boy who is her beacon.

"Thank you, sensei," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Kurenai gave her a small smile before standing up. "Come on," she said, holding out her hand. "Let's go back to camp. We have a long day tomorrow."

Hinata took Kurenai's hand and stood up, feeling a sense of calm wash over her. She knew that the weight of her first kill would never leave her, but she also knew that she had the strength to carry it.

As they made their way back to camp, Kurenai's red eyes silently locked onto a tree. In the end, a soft smile appeared on her face, but she didn't say anything and continued forward.

The moon shone down upon them as they walked, casting a pale light upon the forest. The weight of the world was heavy upon their shoulders, but they walked forward, ready to face whatever challenges may come their way.

The forest returned to its tranquility. Shino stepped out from behind the tree that Kurenai stared at.

Looking in the direction where they left, Shino couldn't help muttering, "Still discovered in the end. My low presence didn't kick in. Should I be happy or sad?"

The next day, the team seemed to have returned to normal. Noticing the shy Hinata that was no longer trembling with head bowed, Kiba's mood seemed to be better. Shino was no exception.

Kurenai looked at the group sternly, her eyes scanning the area. "You three have a lot to learn. Your teamwork is sloppy, and you're too focused on your individual attacks. You need to work together better and not put yourselves in danger. You can't rely on others to save you everytime."

Shino nodded, his face still impassive. "Sensei, we under-"

"We'll do better next time! Right, Akamaru?" Kiba growled, his eyes narrowing as he patted Akamaru on the head.

"Arf! Arf!" the pup cutely responded.

Hinata nodded, her eyes determined. "We won't let you down, Kurenai-sensei."

Kurenai smiled, her eyes softening. "I know you won't. Now let's get back to the village."

The group nodded in agreement, their faces determined.

Team 8 continued their return journey, but the mood was noticeably better. Kurenai sensei had returned to her lecturing mode. They talked about what had gone wrong in the battle and how they could improve. Kurenai listened intently, offering advice and guidance as they walked and ran.

As they approached the village gates, Kurenai turned to them. "Remember, you are ninja of Konoha. Your duty is to protect the village and its people. You must work together to become the best ninja you can be."

The group nodded in agreement, their eyes focused on their sensei. They knew they had a lot of work to do, but they were ready for the challenge.

As they parted ways with their sensei, the group felt a renewed sense of determination. They knew that they had a long way to go, but they were ready for the challenge. They were ninja of Konoha, and they would do whatever it took to protect their home and its people.

But they knew that there would be more battles to come, more dangers to face. They would need to remain vigilant and continue to hone their skills if they were to survive in this world of shinobi.

Perhaps the others may not know, but Shino was clearer than anyone regarding the crisis to come. After this mission out, the roller coaster of time is quickly approaching is climax. Shino knew he needed to get stronger- fast.

That was the reason why he risked taking his drone out. And, it was definitely the right choice.

Shino's glasses flashed as he thought about his abundant harvest. He then calmly strolled off.

After discreetly dropping off his drone at the Forest of Death once more, his steps were more brisk than usual as he headed home.

It wasn't long before Shino was back in the safe confines of his room. He finally could sit down and put his resources to good use.

"Time to check my harvest."

Observing the greatly increased values in his interface, Shino had a grin as he muttered, "There is so much more I can do this time. It's time for my power to get a boost!"

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