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A Hero's Flame

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Prologue

"That counterattack was weak, Akio. You don't have the true intent to kill," Akio put his head down in shame, his shoulders slumping downwards. 

"I'm sorry Tsuyoshi, I just-" The swipe of a blade interrupted his speech as he jumped back in shock and hit the ground. Tsuyoshi was standing over him, pointing his sword to Akio's throat. Akio's eyes widened, his mouth still open.

"Akio, you need to pay better attention. You still haven't even mastered your Lava Release," Tsuyoshi said, taking the sharp edge away from the throat. "Yukiko has already mastered her Wind Release, and could probably easily surpass you in Fire Release this moment, if she wished." Akio growled, digging his fingernails into the ground.

"Why do you always compare me to her? So what if she's good at everything? You're the one who keeps saying she's getting soft by hanging out with her friends all the time!" Akio protested, getting up and brushing some dust off of him, grumbling to himself in self-pity. "You always say that she's become too clingy to boys, but you still think of me as nowhere in the same league as her strength-wise!"

"That's exactly why I'm being so harsh on you, my pupil. If Yukiko becomes too soft, then you'll need to be twice as strong, no?" Tsuyoshi slyly mentioned, a small smile coming to his face. The words came out of his mouth as smooth and as slick as fresh honey. His pale gray hair blew gently in the soft, yet warm, spring breeze, as though it would be summer soon. He looked down at his pupil with icy and falsely welcoming blue eyes.

"I guess you're right..." Akio murmured in thought. "Do you really think I'm the Inheritor of Fire?"

"I know you are. The only other in the village with a fire affinity is Masaru, and his abilities are no where near yours, as is his intelligence," Tsuyoshi put his sword back into it's sheath, and stood up straight. "Review the Lava Release hand signs before our next meeting. I expect them to be memorized by then." Akio nodded, then his image began to waver,and then slowly faded away altogether in front of Tsuyoshi.

"If only you did have a true Fire Affinity, Akio. You would be a fine ninja if it were so." Tsuyoshi muttered quietly as Akio's image dimmed, fading into a ghostly image, and then disappearing completely. He stared thoughtfully at where Akio's image had been for a few seconds, and then turned away and walked away back into the shadows that he called home.

Chapter One

"Masaru, it's time to wake up!" Opening his eyes, Masaru sluggishly sat up in his bed, rubbing his eyes. His neck ached a bit, and he stretched around to crack it. He looked up to find his mother standing at the doorway, her arms crossed. "Seriously Masaru, this is getting a bit old. You're thirteen, and should at least try investing in an alarm clock."

"Those things don't work for anyone. The most they do is wake other people up, but never the intended person!' Masaru said back, beginning to get out of bed. His hair stuck up a bit in the back, as usual during the morning. He had stopped trying to put the cowlick down, his girlfriend Meiyumi thought it was cute anyway.

"We'll talk later. Get changed quickly, or your breakfast will get cold," His mom turned around and went back down the stairs. Masaru rolled out of bed and stood up. Walking over the closet, he shifted through a few of his outfits before taking a standard flak jacket. He looked at it for a second, then put it back and took out his black and blue windbreaker instead. It was lighter, looser, and overall more comfortable for him. As he rolled it on, he heard a bang on his window. Sighing, he finished putting on his oufit quickly, hopping over to the window with one pant leg on. 

"Hey, Masaru! Izuma and I are meeting up with Kechiro-sensei now! Hurry up!" His good friend, Yukiko shouted up at him. Masaru sighed, and then nodded. He didn't want his friends to get ahead of him.

"Alright, I'll be there in a few!" Masaru yelled back, then shut the window and rushed downstairs to grab a quick breakfast. Rifling through the fridge, he found a small slice of cheese to munch on, which he threw on a piece of toast from the toaster as a makeshift open-faced sandwich. He strolled out the door, the sandwich in his mouth as he tied his headband on. I gotta remember, I'm taking Meiyumi out to dinner tonight. Hope she likes riceballs and curry... Looking up the road, he saw Izuma and Yukiko walking together farther up the road, the sun shadowing their image. "Hey, wait up guys, I'm right here!"

"You've got five seconds Masaru, or else I'm showing those letters to Meiyumi-chan!" Yukiko yelled back mockingly, as Izuma chuckled to himself. Masaru faltered for a second.

"Don't you dare show those to her! I was ELEVEN!" Masaru screamed as he ran towards the two in desperation. 

"Four...three..." Izuma said as Masaru neared, grinning at him. He was probably the strongest out of them, and would be the smartest if he actually cared. Sprinting his heart out, Masaru desperately tried to reach the two in time.

"Two...one..." Yukiko continued as Masaru was only ten feet away. Masaru leapt forward, lunging for the space between Yukiko and Izuma. Quickly using the Tiger Hand Seal, he was able to blast a bit of fire out of his feet and landed in the dirt right between his two pals. 

"Finally, took you long enough," Izuma grumbled, picking Masaru up by the headband and standing him upright. "Spared us the awkwardness of explaining your love letters to Meiyumi." Masaru's face turned bright-red, and he buried his face into his hands.

"You guys...can we just keep going to Kechiro-san now?" Masaru begged, embarrassed at the thought of his younger self's actions. Izuma and Yukiko laughed again, then the three began to go on their way.

Chapter Two

"Yo Kechiro-san. What's our mission today?" Yukiko said, waving her hand as she spotted her teacher's slightly unkempt blond hair. Kechiro turned around and nodded at them, adjusting his glasses. 

"Glad you made it, I set us up to teach at the academy today with one of the Chuunin teams, erm...Horohi Daichi's team I think," Kechiro explained as his three pupils stood in front of him. Masaru and Izuma both glanced at Yukiko, who was bursting with joy.

"Horohi...Daichi's...team?" Yukiko asked for confirmation, the glee apparent in her voice. "I'm not sure if I heard it correctly or not..."

"Yes, now that I think about it, it must be his. His team was the only other one that was signed up to teach the academy students," Kechiro said, a bit confused. "Why, is there an issue with that?" He rubbed the back of his head.

"Nope! No issue whatsoever! We'll do fine!" Yukiko blurted out, barely after Kechiro had finished his sentence. She quickly composed herself in front of her sensei. "I mean, if Masaru and Izuma don't screw anything up for us." Their teacher nodded slowly. Izuma and Masaru looked at each other, knowing Yukiko's real intentions.

"In that case, please go to the academy. I'm taking the day off, so you'll be answering to Horohi Daichi in case you have any questions. Good luck!" Kechiro turned to his side, gave a thumbs-up signal, and then walked back towards the southern side of the city, where many of the important Jounin lived. Once he was out of earshot, Yukiko squealed with delight and fell over backwards. 

"The Horohi Daichi team! More like, the dreamiest team in Kokorogamaru!" Yukiko looked at the sky, her eyes unfocused as in a dream.

"Are you aware that one of the squad members, Ayumu, is your best friend Haichirou's brother?" Izuma questioned as he leaned over to pick his teammate up. She nodded, smiling wider.

"Clearly, Ayumu got the good genetics in that family," She said, chuckling to herself as Izuma picked her up. Her face was bright red, almost as bright as Masaru's had been earlier. 

"Can we just get on our way to the academy?" Izuma sighed, looking at his two teammates with a bit of impatience. "You don't want to be late for Ayumu, do you? That won't look too attractive."

"You're right, let's go!" Yukiko eagerly smiled and began to walk forwards as quickly as she could muster. Izuma rolled his eyes and looked at Masaru.

"Girls at this age...how do you even deal with Meiyumi with all of these hormones in them? Must make for some interesting dates..." Izuma stated bluntly, a small smirk on his face, before putting his arms behind his head and heading after Yukiko. Masaru stood there, shocked at his teammates statements, before slowly following his two friends. Sometimes he wondered if they'd ever understand him and Meiyumi's relationship.

Chapter Three

"Oh, hello Yukiko," Daichi greeted, smiling brightly. "Are your teammates with you?" 

"Yeah, they fell a bit behind, but they'll be here-" She was cut off as Masaru ran up from the road and shouted. 

"Daichi-san! Don't worry, Izuma and I are here!" He yelled, as Izuma walked tiredly out from behind him. 

"...Soon," Yukiko finished, a bit annoyed by her friends. "Sorry about them, would you please show us to the classroom?" She said once Masaru and Izuma were close enough to hear. Daichi nodded and beckoned for them to follow him as he walked inside. Yukiko gave a huge smile to Izuma and Masaru, who still looked extremely unenthused, and then followed Daichi in with celerity.

"This is going to be interesting..." Masaru muttered to himself and Izuma. 

"Yeah, between you and Yukiko, I have my hands full with this team," Izuma said, both ice and humor in his voice so Masaru couldn't tell if he was joking or insulting him.

What is it with Izuma? He acts like he's the only sane man on the team, even though he loosens up at the right times. And when he's free, he's wilder than five Yukikos. Masaru thought to himself, huffing as Izuma and he stepped into the academy after Yukiko. They could hear a bit of what Horohi Daichi was explaining to Yukiko. 

"You'll be training the students in Taijutsu today. I'll be supervising your team and mine, but I'll only step in if things really get out of hand. Other then that, you're on your own to solve any problems that come up.

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