Akako had been leading ex-General Uzushiha through the mountains for several hours now, and the sun was high up. Uzushiha was visibly exhausted, each droplet of sweat freezing instantly to tiny spheres of ice on her light skin. Akako was constantly running back and forth, untiring, climbing every rock they walked past. "We have to be on the lookout, you know. I'm not the only one living in the mountains.", the samurai shouted down to the blue haired woman as she was running up a particularly tall tree. "And I could do with a little help up here!"
Uzushiha, being rather tall, settled for keeping watch from where she was walking. The barren landscape of mountain slopes didn't offer much opportunity for anyone to hide anyway. Then she noticed a bright green spot at the foot of a rock wall ahead. "Is that... a bamboo forest? Very peculiar. Aren't we way too high up for that to grow here?" Akako shook her head, grinning. "This is where I live. What you see is my master's farewell gift from when I left the temple. Extra fast growing bamboo! You wouldn't expect anyone to live in that thicket, right? The perfect defense. Now follow me, quickly."
The samurai hacked an opening into the bamboo with her katana and slipped into the gap she had created. When Uzushima didn't follow immediately, she grabbed her by her dress and pulled her in. Mere seconds later the bamboo reeds she had cut grew back, shooting upwards with incredible speed. "These things will just skewer you if you stay behind. When I said quickly, I meant it," Akako warned her companion as they continued to make their way through the forest. When they finally reached the rock wall, Uzushiha did not look like she could take any more running.
"We made it. Now step inside and gaze upon my own little fortress," Akako said proudly, leading Uzushiha into what looked like a cave entrance. They walked through a short corridor illuminated by candles. "I carved all this out of the mountain myself," Akako explained. "My Claws of the Mole technique made short work of the old rock." Uzushiha thought she could hear voices from up ahead, getting louder. "You don't live alone, I take it?" "Not quite," the samurai answered as she opened a door in the cave wall, "and I want you to meet my friends." As they stepped into a great circular hall, Uzushiha was overwhelmed by sounds. The walls were lined with cages of various sizes, each inhabited by a different animal. Birds were chatting, dogs barking at lizards, and she could even make out a bear in a huge cage at the far end of the hall. Akako grabbed a bucket filled with meat and dashed off, feeding the carnivores first. It took her no more than a few seconds to complete the round, and when she came back to fill the bucket with grains and corn for the birds, Uzushiha was still looking around, trying to grasp the massive size of the cave Akako had dug. She tried to say something, but the redhead put a finger on her soft blue lips, signaling her to just enjoy the bustling sounds around her.
When she was done feeding her animals, Akako led Uzushiha back out the entrance of the hall, turning right into the next set of rooms. "This is where I live. I have a kitchen over there and this is my library." On the shelves, Uzushiha could see books relating to the Way of the Samurai, Japanese history and biology among others. Uzushiha quickly realized that Akako owned all these animals so she could study their movements and techniques, as this was where she took her abilities from. She was, after all, the most gifted samurai the world had ever seen. "And this is where we'll sleep. There's only one bed so we'll have to share." The blue haired woman looked like she couldn't take in any more for now, so Akako let her lie down. "It's getting late anyway. I'll just make ourselves some dinner before we go to sleep."
A few minutes later Akako served miso soup and cooked rice, and they had tea. Akako asked, "So, do you like my little place?" Uzushiha smiled gently. "It's impressive. Do you spend a lot of time with your animals?" -- "Yes! They help me improve my techniques immensely. It's just easier to channel my mind into an animal when it's actually there and I can see and touch it. And each one of them is a dear friend to me." Akako stood up and bowed to Uzushiha. "I'm not really tired yet so excuse me, I'll go meditate with them a bit before I go to bed." "Fine. I'll have a look at your library if I may."
In a small adjoining room to the great hall, separated from the noise by a heavy curtain, Akako had put up a little shrine with candles and a blanket. It helped her get into the proper state of mind. She went to one of the cages and looked inside, a bright green snake gazing back at her. She got it out, stepped through the curtain and sat down on the blanket, putting the snake down on her lap. They both seemed to go into a trance, their minds becoming one. Akako was now completely synchronized with the animal, feeling and seeing and hearing the same things. This was how she acquired most of her knowledge. She focused on the snake's body, and how it felt to move in that shape. She focused on the way the snake's tongue was able to pick up scents. Then she felt a presence approaching. She opened her eyes, suddenly awakened from the trance.
Uzushiha was standing in the doorway, propping the curtain aside. She seemed reluctant, having difficulty to find the right words. "I wanted to... thank you again. You know. For snapping me out of the madness with the Emperor and his army." She looked at Akako with big eyes, approaching her. "I feel like fighting on your side, no, being with you... is the right thing. For the fate of the country. And for me." Akako stood up, holding the snake in her folded arms. "Well, I feel honored. But--" her eyes grew sterner, "do you really think I'd forgive you that easily?" "Actually yes", Uzushiha replied, looking down on the petite samurai, "because I've been watching you. You live for the moment, and you enjoy life. Don't pretend you can stay mad at me forever." She gently put a hand on Akako's shoulder. The redhead shuddered, confused at first, and looked up into Uzushiha's eyes.
Then she understood. A naughty smile crept onto her face. "Oh well, this is as good a time as any to show you the true extent of my powers." Uzushiha realized that although the samurai drew her abilities from animals, she had never seen Akako use any of her Stances when she actually had its archetype in the room with her. The redhead was still cradling the snake in her hands. "Go back to your cage now, we're going to need some alone time", she told the animal playfully before setting it down on the floor. Akako had the Stance of the Snake fresh in her mind now, and would be able to replicate it stronger and better than would usually be the case. She shifted to her toes, her petite form climbing higher against Uzushiha's chest, until her lips reached the tall woman's ear. Very softly, she whispered just one word, "watch."
Akako closed her eyes and her skin began to tremble as she went into the Stance of the Snake. Uzushiha thought she could hear the redhead's bones crack as her physiology started to shift. All of a sudden Akako's torso shot up toward the ceiling, elongating to several times its original length. She grinned at her companion from above, then proceeded to wrap herself around Uzushiha's body. Tangled up, Uzushiha and Akako lost their footing and tumbled to the floor, ending up on the blanket together. When she had gotten over her initial surprise Uzushiha could not hold back a smile, pulling her arms out of Akako's full-body embrace to put them around her snakelike torso. "Is this what you wanted to see?", Akako asked, tightening her grip around Uzushima's body. Her head was now at the same height as her partner's. Uzushiha gave her a smile with her blue lips and they kissed.
The first thing Akako had noticed about Uzushiha was her ice cold skin. She didn't feel dead but rather than that she emitted the tingling coolness of a mountain stream, a freshness that made Akako feel alive. As their tongues intertwined it felt like an invigorating glass of spring water. Uzushiha's hands started running down the redhead's elongated torso, following her stretched waist two, three times around her own, all the way to her toned hips. She squeezed Akako's butt cheeks, at which point the serpent shaped girl had to laugh and tightened her hug even more. "You know what Uzu... I think you bring out the best in me", she giggled. They could both feel the weariness of a long day's running creeping up on them now. "Yeah, we make a good team. Good night Akako." They both yawned. "Good..." Then they were fast asleep, still tightly banded within Akako's coil.