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He should eat more, was Sakumo’s first thought on seeing his new partner for the first time. The medic’s note on the file had, under the declaration of ‘functionally healthy’, said the teen (Age: 17, Date of Birth: December 22) seemed to have been living with borderline malnutrition for a while, which wasn’t odd due to how even Konoha had taken to rationing food due to the war but, still- He should eat more.

The teen’s file, though not as thick as it could have been, was larger than what Sakumo expected from someone who’d been in the village for less than a year and was only recently considered an active shinobi. The file had the teen’s name- Hake Kama- and other things, like age, listed out on the first page but the rest had been written out like a report. It all boiled down to the teen being considered chūnin officially but with the capabilities of a jōnin, proficient with his Sharingan eye and containing a wide range of Ninjutsu but specializing in Stealth and Assassination, no known summons and was functionally healthy but prone to Chakra Exhaustion due to Sharingan.

Kama also, it was noted, had a rather prominent case of survivor’s guilt.

Perhaps that’s why he won’t look at me? Sakumo mused, it was unlikely that he looked like whoever the teen felt guilty over outliving but likely the other had lost a sensei or partner (or whatever the heck he technically was now) and was guilty about Sakumo filling in that spot. Or, came the tired thought, I am projecting my own feelings and Kama is just irritated about being restricted as a chūnin and treated like a genin when he was formerly a jōnin.

It was sobering thought because it was a dangerous mindset for a shinobi to fall into since it was one that tended to blind you to certain things and had you seeing things- empathy, sympathy, loyalty- that wasn’t present. It’ll pass, he decided firmly, he just has to get used to me enough that he can tell I’m not whoever he lost. Or get over himself and act like a shinobi instead of a surly, teenage brat.

Either one.

“I am Hatake Sakumo,” He told the teen, paused just long enough to see if the other would be polite and offer a name before continuing. “Though I’m sure you already know that, just as I know you’re Hake Kama.”

Interesting, Sakumo thought when the teen twitched, lamenting slightly that the chūnin was a Stealth specialist because he had a feeling that he’d be wishing for a way to tell what the other was feeling.

Then again, trying to figure the teen out without the usual ‘cheat’ could be fun.

“You’re a Stealth specialist,” He said, the idea of fun sticking- though it was aided by the giddiness he felt with the newfound knowledge that he was going to be a father. “I am a Tracker...what do you say to a game, hm?” Kama said nothing, eyes trained away but he didn’t let that bother him.

“You hide while I try to find and catch you- let’s say for five straight minutes? The game’s time limit will be-” He peered up at the sky, it was lunch time he’d guess. “When the sun touches the Shodai’s head. Loser buys dinner.”

The teen disappeared before he finished and Sakumo laughed out loud.

There was no scent trail to follow but he’d expected that so he crouched down where the teen had stood easily, peering at the undisturbed grass where he knew the other had stood. Sakumo was aware there were techniques to leave grass undisturbed even if one were to stand on it for hours while heavily weighed down. Like Tree Walking or Water Walking, such techniques used a negligible amount of chakra once learnt and perfected but they did use chakra which he could track. What he did wasn’t scenting, not really, nor was it sensing but, rather, a kind of hybrid with something like taste mixed in; if he had to, he didn’t think he could describe it anymore then an Aburame could explain how they understood their kikaichū to a non-clan member.

Kama’s chakra was odd, part seemed like it should be familiar but Sakumo couldn’t tell how because it was altered, in a way. Part of that was likely the seal that Jiraiya mentioned placing on the teen, another was likely the Sharingan and how the teen’s body and chakra system adapted to the foreign chakra-intensive body part. A large portion, most of it if he were honest, was that it was tainted and stained in a way that he hadn’t come across before.

It was odd, it was concerning- it was interesting.

But it was something to pursue at a different time, Sakumo might not care about winning but he wanted to see how good his new partner was at escaping and remaining undetected, so he focused on how the...scent became stronger in an indication of greater chakra usage before taking off south-south-east. The sheer speed had left little time for a solid trail to be left behind. Most would argue that there wasn’t a trail but, then, most weren’t him. The trail- likely a usage of Shunshin- took him deeper into the village, first on the ground then moving to the trees and briefly on a series of roofs before returning to the trees. Then, nothing.

No, not nothing but masked. Sakumo decided scenting the air and finding Kama’s chakra trail missing but that was fine, he’d dealt with that also. The trick was how the ambient chakra in the very air reacted, how something ‘scentless’ disturbed it and left ‘empty’ spots where there shouldn’t have been. Odd that it took so long to mask his chakra.

Not overtly, it wasn’t as if many people could track by chakra whom weren’t sensors so it likely wouldn’t have occurred to the teen that he needed to do so. That it had occurred and Kama had managed to hide himself so successfully was a credit to the chūnin, after all, Sakumo only knew to look at the ambient chakra for a trail due to Jiraiya’s rambles about senjutsu.

Now, he thought as he masked his own chakra and took off. Let’s see how good my partner is at escaping…

🍃

“Who,” Sakumo huffed, equal parts amused and exasperated by the time the sinking sun started past the Shodai’s head. The conflicting feelings were perfectly understandable given that he didn’t have much trouble (it was more than he was used to but the teen obviously had no way to both disguise his chakra and keep it from affecting the ambient chakra) finding Kama. Capturing the teen, however, even for only five minutes, was a nigh impossible task. Sakumo had a feeling that, when the time came, those working at the hospital were going to hate the teen. “Have you been avoiding that you’re so good at escaping?”

For a moment, Sakumo thought that Kama was going to respond- from what he could tell through the mask, the teen had even gone so far as to open his mouth- but then the chūnin caught sight of him and seemed to rethink it. It was disappointing, honestly, because training was a means to bond for Konoha shinobi and that the exercise seemed unsuccessful in ‘breaking the ice’ really didn’t bode well for their partnership.

Maybe it’s that he’s still grieving, he wondered as he watched Kama withdraw, that he hasn’t realized that he can still live. Or, his earlier internal rebuke brought a different line of thought, maybe he has a problem with me specifically?

The teen was originally from a different village after all, it wasn’t inconceivable that Sakumo killed someone Kama cared for.

“...either way,” he continued when it became evident that Kama wasn’t going to speak, “I believe I owe you a meal. Do you have a place where you want to eat?”

This time, Sakumo knew better than to wait for an answer that wasn’t coming and instead started walking at an easy pace towards the more populated part of the village. Kama, as expected though he couldn’t deny it disappointed him, didn’t say a choice but instead took the lead until they were entering Noriko’s.


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