41 Trap

Shino's stoic facade crumbled as he felt the poison coursing through his body. Shino had an ugly face for the first time.

He was no stranger to danger, but this was different. This was a trap! Someone had set it up to ensnare the medic who dared to remove the parasite!

However, once Shino connected the links, he knew this treacherous scheme was designed for him! But by who?!

Nevertheless, Shino didn't hesitate for long. As his eyes narrowed, his army of bugs swarmed the intruder, granting it an eternal rest. With quick thinking, Shino isolated the poisoned, dying bugs from his body, detaching and expelling them moments later.

As Shino observed the remains of the insect horde dissolving into a steaming slag on the ground, Shino furrowed his brows. Fortunately, he was a clone. Otherwise, his boat may have really capsized here today. He still wasn't careful enough.

To think a random mission could end up with him being deliberately targeted by someone. He knew he needed to be more cautious in the near future. Perhaps, this was just the beginning of a much more intricate plot.

The stunned onlookers watched as Shino single-handedly resolve the issue within seconds, and it wasn't until then that they were jarred back into reality.

"Shino! Are you alright?" Kurenai sensei's gaze flickered with concern as she scanned the scene before her.

She knew the danger Shino had just faced and couldn't help but wonder if he had come out of it unscathed. Her eyes were drawn to the remains of the once-living insects, now lifeless on the ground. And as she examined Shino's body, her apprehension grew.

Shino nodded.

A low, menacing growl reverberated from Kiba, his eyes blazing with fury. "You guys! We've come to help you, and you want to poison us!"

"T-This-" The once-calm villagers around them now began to panic and quickly backed away.

As the tense atmosphere thickened, Officer Bystander's footsteps echoed loudly as he stepped up to the forefront.

"No, no, it must be a misunderstanding," Officer Bystander declared with a solemn face, "We really didn't expect this to happen- this, we don't even understand why there is a bug in the first place."

Just when the seething Kiba wanted to continue to make a fuss, Shino placed a calming hand on his shoulder. He turned over to see Shino shaking his head. Glancing over at Kurenai sensei whose face reflected the gravity of the situation, Kiba also quieted down, "Damn it."

"Hinata?" As Hinata deactivated her Byakugan, Kurenai's eyes bore into her, searching for answers.

However, Hinata's headshake only deepened Kurenai's frown, and she bit her lip in frustration.

Shino couldn't shake off the feeling that something was amiss in the village, but he couldn't be certain who was behind the attack. As he watched the bewildered villagers, he couldn't help but wonder if any of them were involved.

However, Shino knew that the average villager couldn't possibly be responsible for such an intricate and deadly trap.

Shino's mind raced as he considered the suspects in this strange and dangerous situation. His instincts were telling him that the villagers were not the culprits, as they lacked the expertise to obtain the rare bug.

However, his attention soon turned to the elusive village chief, who had failed to appear. If there's anyone to be suspected, that old man would be the most likely.

Knowing Disonasu's criminal record in the future, the thought crossed his mind that the old man might know more than he let on. Perhaps, he may even be a direct participant. But how could Shino extract the information from him without resorting to extreme measures?

There was no way for him to get the answer out from the man – unless he finds him, cracks open the man's skull, and plant a neural parasite within his brain.

However, if the village chief disappears, he would clearly be a suspect. Perhaps this may also cause him to fall deeper in someone's layout.

Shino knew that playing his cards right was crucial. This was a dangerous game that required him to navigate the intricate web of intrigue with caution and precision.

"Kabuto? Probably not, he shouldn't be here yet. Perhaps Uncle Snake? But does he even know this place? Even if he does, there is no reason for him to target me. So, there could only be one logical conclusion…"

Danzo, the man who can always carry the black pot.

"This method of sending the target on a mission, then plotting their downfall… it's a signature skill of that bad old man. It seems that Mr. McSnatcher isn't too happy with my recent rejection of his invitation. Hehehe…"

Shino's eyes flashed with a dangerous glint before quickly returning to their usual calmness. He knew that it wasn't the right time to tear their faces apart yet.

His infiltration to the elusive Root organization was still not completed, and he still had to depend on the resources of Konoha to facilitate his growth.

Although the temptation to leave was strong, but he knew it was wiser to bide his time and let his army of zergs grow in strength until they could suppress the pursuers that Konoha would send to track him. The best case scenario was to leave when his growth reaches the point where he could achieve sustainable progress with just his zergs alone.

If he were to make a premature move, he risked being forced to hide in his bioshere. The safety of his biosphere was always an option, but it would come at the cost of his own progress.

This would stifle his growth, which was not in Shino's consideration. With the looming threat of the Infinite Tsukuyomi, there was no time to waste because once the Infinite Tsukuyomi comes down, he would also be doomed.

For now, he had to play the waiting game, even if it meant enduring machinations from the shadows while his enemies lurked in plain sight.

"I'll remember this for now, Danzo. I hope you don't force me…"

Once the parasite was removed, the girl began to regain her strength. She sat up, her eyes brightening as she looked around at the unhappy team who saved her. "Thank you," she said, her voice weak but filled with gratitude. "I feel so much better now."

Officer Bystander stepped forward, bowing deeply.

"I deeply apologize for the unforeseen accident, but I want to let you know we are forever grateful for your help," he said. "Please, let us offer you our hospitality. You are welcome to stay in our village for as long as you like."

Kurenai shook her head, her brows furrowed in deep thought. "Thank you," she said. "But we'll have to decline your offer."

Officer Bystander's gesture was one of utmost respect as he bowed before Kurenai. With a swift motion, he signaled for a villager to bring forth the rewards for the completed task. Kurenai's face remained impassive as she received them, her eyes scanning the rewards with a discerning gaze.

The group was escorted to the village entrance where Officer Bystander bade them a respectful farewell, "Then, I won't send you further. Have a safe journey."

Shino couldn't help but catch the hint of derision in the officer's tone. The sly grin that hung on the officer's mouth only served to raise the flag higher. So, Officer Bystander was actually Officer Fodder, waiting to be stepped on by the protagonist.

He secretly frowned but didn't take any action. Let them go for now. It wasn't the time yet.

In the future, his zerg army will teach them their due lesson when it razes this place to the ground, and they would rue the day they ever crossed him.

The team trekked through a barren expanse of land, their spirits dampened by the arid terrain and the foreboding events. It wasn't until dusk approached that they finally arrived at the lush, verdant forests of Konoha, a welcomed sight after their journey through the desolate plains.

They made their way through the forest, keeping an eye out for any potential threats. Kiba and Hinata were chatting animatedly, while Kurenai sensei and Shino walked a little behind them, discussing the mission.

Suddenly, they heard a loud rustling in the bushes ahead of them. They all tensed, ready for a fight as Hinata subconsciously switched on her Byakugan.

But to their surprise, a small rabbit hopped out of the bushes, looking up at them with wide eyes.

They all breathed a sigh of relief and chuckled at their own nervousness. Hinata reached out to pet the rabbit, and it hopped away into the forest.

"That was anticlimactic," Hinata said, twiddling her thumbs while turning off her Byakugan.

Kiba grinned. "Yeah, but at least we know we're ready for anything, right Akamaru?"

"Arf! Arf!"

However, the team still decided to set up camp for the day.

As they sat around a fire, Kiba couldn't help but tease Shino. "Come on, Shino," he said, grinning. "Loosen up a bit. You're always so serious."

Shino raised an eyebrow, but Hinata had a slight smile. "I think Kiba-kun is right," she said as she fidgeted with her thumbs. "Shino-kun, don't think too much about it."

Shino considered this for a moment before nodding. Why should he worry so much? It doesn't matter what happens, at worse he would just lose a clone.

Unexpectedly, Kiba pulled out a deck of cards. "Alright, who's up for a game of Fight the Landlord?" he said, grinning.

"Arf! Arf!"

Kurenai sensei's red eyes swept over as she reminded, "It's best that we be on our way."

Kiba shurgged, "Kurenai sensei, you're just in a hurry to go back because you want to take care of Asuma jonin."

Hinata and Kiba exchanged a knowing look, and Shino raised an eyebrow in amusement.

"Oh, come on," Kurenai said, her eyes steady yet a faint blush had appeared on her face. "It's not like that."

"Sure, sure," Kiba said, grinning mischievously. "Whatever you say, Kurenai sensei. Who was the one who refused to take us on missions because she had take care of someone who got into a bit of a scuffle."

Hinata and Kiba couldn't contain their laughter, and even Shino cracked a smile. They had always enjoyed teasing Kurenai about her relationship with Asuma.

Kurenai replied with a sigh. "Okay, but just today. We'll head on our way tomorrow."

"Yaho! Cards, cards, Hinata, Shino, let's play! Kurenai sensei, too!" Kiba's cheer and Akamaru's happy barks echoed in the forest.

The team played cards late into the night, laughing and joking as they did. Shino remained quiet, but a small smile played at the corners of his lips as he sensed the responses from his bugs.

Kiba who slapped down a card, grinned, "Lucky, lucky, it's finally time for me to bomb."

"Arf!" Akamaru sat on Kiba's head as it sniffed the air.

Hinata twiddled her thumbs, a hint of a bashful grin tugging at the corners of her lips. But in a split second, her expression darkened, the smile transformed into a stern scowl as she switched to her Gentle Fist stance. "Byakugan! Six behind! Seven in front! Five to left!"

Clang! Clang! Clang! Shino expertly deflected three incoming kunai with a single fluid motion.

"Yo, finally here! And I thought they would hide all night." With a grin, Kiba popped a pill into Akamaru's mouth.

"Just right, my muscles needs stretching after that boring task." The next moment, he crouched on all fours and with a flicker, he vanished into the dense foliage of the forest. His movements were graceful yet deadly, as if he had become one with the forest itself.

Moments later, a blood-curdling howl pierced the air as the sound of bodies hitting the ground reverberated through the forest.

As for Kurenai sensei, she had long vanished into the forest, and her arduous fight had already begun in the shadows.

Shino's glasses glinted ominously in the dim light as he scanned the dark forest with his piercing gaze, a sense of foreboding emanating from his eyes.

"Oh, what a big greeting gift. That bad old man is really willing."

This was not going to be a peaceful night.

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