35 I, Your Father, am Warm

"We are never, ever, doing that again...!"

Shortly after departing Otogakure, Wu, once again, asked how Tayuya was with heights. When she replied they didn't bother her, he promptly picked her up and leaped into the air, bounding through the skies as she screamed curses into his ear like a banshee.

"Oh, hush. Did you seriously expect me to 'walk' the three-thousand-plus kilometers between the Lands of Sound and Lightning? Besides, once you stopped screaming, you didn't seem all that troubled by the arrangement. Did you enjoy being carried like a princess...?"

Snorting through her nose, Tayuya immediately changed the topic, asking, "So, what now? You must have a reason for coming all the way out to this inhospitable shithole, right?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Wu replied, "Not really. While it's true I intend to collect information for the upcoming Chunin Exams; I was telling the truth when I said I wanted to mess around with some Kumo Shinobi. You being here complicates things, but don't worry. At least we can keep each other warm at night."

Exhaling an exasperated groan, Tayuya gave Wu an incredulous glower as she remarked, "You just don't stop, do you? If you're 'that' desperate for a woman, just abduct someone from a nearby village and throw her down a cliff once you've had your fill. I can keep myself warm."

Never one to pass on a good opportunity, Wu supplied a playful wink and said, "I'd like to see that." before commenting, "As for your suggestion, I'll pass. I only have an interest in strong, tenacious women. You might be as flat as the northern ice sheets, but you're a lot more appealing than some civilian rabble."

"..."

Ignoring Wu's comment about her breasts, Tayuya asked, "So, where are we headed? You at least have a destination in mind, right?"

Shaking his head, Wu revealed, "I was planning to infiltrate Kumo directly before you were so unceremoniously assigned to spy on me. For now, we'll just loiter around the outskirts of the village and focus on gathering intel. If we see anyone interesting exiting the village, we'll follow behind and see what they're up to."

Though she wasn't sure what to expect, Tayuya found herself thoroughly gobsmacked by Wu's plan. She knew he was an overconfident idiot, but loitering around one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations was just asking to be captured and interrogated. Infiltration was actually the safer option, as even Konoha lacked the human resources to police their entire village. So long as you could blend in with the civilian population, you could gather a fair amount of information in a relatively short period.

Seeing the look on Tayuya's face, Wu asked, "What? I'm only utilizing this method because you're here. If I was on my own, infiltrating Kumo would be a breeze. Since I need to look after you, and you need to keep tabs on me, sticking to the outskirts is marginally safer. After all, if an enemy does show up, I can just throw you over my shoulder and take to the sky."

Narrowing her eyes, Tayuya growled, "If you even try to throw me over your shoulder, I'll-"

Interrupting Tayuya's threat, Wu rolled his eyes, appending, "Fine, fine. I'll carry you like a princess. Happy?"

"..."

Taking a deep breath, Tayuya reminded herself that Wu was a lot stronger than her. She had also been approached by the Otokage shortly after her release from prison, the latter assigning her the task of closely monitoring and collecting information on Wu's abilities.

After restraining her anger, Tayuya met Wu's gaze and answered, "Fine. I think it's an idiotic plan, but I also know you're stupidly powerful. We'll do things your way. For now..."

Though it didn't matter if Tayuya had consented to his plan, Wu gave an appreciative nod, saying, "Thanks, Tayuya. Now, shall we find a nice, cozy cave to buckle down in? It gets close to -28°C at night, and I'd rather not have ice crystals develop on my face and eyelashes."

Emulating Wu's act of rolling his eyes, Tayuya lazily replied, "Yeah, yeah. Just lead the way. And remember what I said earlier. I'm not going to be warming your body."

Emulating Hiruzen's expression, Wu rubbed his chin and mused, "Ah, yes...but you will be warming yourself, correct? Witnessing such a sight will do more than warm these old bones. Hohohoho-"

Dodging Tayuya's punch, Wu gave the enraged tomato a smack on her pert posterior and said, "Let's go." before seizing the initiative to leap off the cliff where they were perched. The Land of Lightning was populated by vast mountain ranges and deep gullies, many filled with mutated fish that could swallow a cow whole. There was very little ground suitable for agriculture, but the abundance of minerals, including the incredibly rare Chakra Ore, had secured its place as one of the most prosperous Lands in the Elemental Nations.

Though he doubted he would uncover a vein of the precious resource, Wu was excited by the prospect of spelunking and constructing a secret base within a cave. He didn't have any Jutsu that facilitated rapid construction, but he was strong enough to take scoops out of a reinforced iron block. If he utilized a few dozen Hair Clones, it would be a simple matter to expand a cave system and sculpt some furniture...

...

..

.

"Are you sure you're okay? I don't mind if you just want to cuddle..."

With the night getting even colder than Wu had indicated it might, Tayuya was shivering like a wet dog atop the bed he had carved for her. She had on multiple layers of clothes and a winter jacket, but she had neglected to prepare a proper sleeping bag. She had one, but it was made for camping in temperate forests, not icy mountains.

Unwilling to lower herself to ask for help, Tayuya stammered, "P-P-P-P-Piss off...!" while continuing to face away from Wu. The latter had spent the better part of three days preparing for his journey, so he was warm and cozy over on his side of the hollowed-out chamber, complete with a small space heater and a gas stove for heating soup and coffee.

Shrugging his shoulders, Wu finished off his thermos of soup before retreating beneath his several layers of bedding. He even had the quilt Tenten's mom had sewn for him, alongside an insulated mat to protect against the cold stone of the cave. He could have offered Tayuya one of his blankets, but he would rather hear her request it directly. The sooner they could get over her refusing to depend on him, the easier it would be to wrest her from the Otokage's influence.

Hearing Wu fall silent, Tayuya waited for nearly a full hour before turning over to see if he was asleep. What she discovered was Wu staring directly at her, his golden eyes appearing to glisten slightly in the low light of the cave as he lay on his side, head propped up with his left hand. Then, as if to ridicule her for her obstinance, he raised his covers invitingly, revealing his muscular and naked upper body...

"..."

With the tips of her fingers turning blue, despite her efforts to warm them between her thighs, Tayuya begrudgingly rose to her feet, the look on her face expressing murderous intentions. However, instead of attempting to kill Wu and claim his bedding, she laid down and curled up with her back against his chest, her voice nearly inaudible as she growled, "I hate you..."

Instead of teasing Tayuya, as he was inclined to do, Wu wrapped his right arm around the shivering girl's body, snuggling up to her as the big spoon in their arrangement. She was covered in multiple layers of clothes, but it was surprisingly...comfortable.

...

..

.

After a sleepless night, Tayuya donned the clothing she had discarded throughout the previous night, her expression set into an aggressive pout with noticeable bags under her eyes. Wu's setup was 'very' warm, so she actually started overheating after the initial chill left her body. As a result, the only clothes she had remaining by morning were her form-fitting spats and tube top...

Understanding that his silence would be 'more' effective in this particular situation, Wu took his time performing his morning routine in nothing but his briefs. Tayuya had given him an incredulous look when he pulled out a full-sized vanity from his Storage Pouch, but she didn't say anything. She just watched him for a few seconds before shaking her head and finishing her own preparations.

After rinsing his mouth and spitting into a cup, Wu was the first to break the tentative silence, saying, "Sink's open." before walking over to the gas stove and producing a wok. However, when Tayuya didn't respond to his words, even after a full minute, Wu looked toward her and asked, "What's wrong? Never used a vanity before...?"

Furrowing her brows, Tayuya averted her eyes and attempted to delay the inevitable, murmuring, "I'm not a hygiene freak...I don't need to brush my teeth and wash my face each morning..."

Instead of pressing the matter, Wu remarked, "It's a wonder you're able to keep that appearance. Most girls fret excessively over their looks and end up ruining their natural complexion with various makeups and creams. It looks like you won the genetic lottery with a face like that."

Understanding that Wu was complimenting her appearance, the furrow on Tayuya's face morphed into a grim scowl. Even without Wu telling her, she knew she was reasonably attractive. However, in her situation, that wasn't a good thing. If she hadn't struggled desperately to obtain power, her life would have been one continuous nightmare...

Pretending not to notice the deeply repressed fury in Tayuya's creamy red eyes, Wu turned his attention to the stove and began preparing breakfast for the both of them. He was certain he could get Tayuya to open up with a few careful probes, but he had learned it was far more effective to wait and have his target confide in him of their own volition. It took a lot longer to get the information, but people tended to trust those they had confided in almost unconditionally.

Seeing Wu busying himself with breakfast, the tensions in Tayuya's body gradually alleviated. She was still on edge, always, but her opinion of Wu had improved after he didn't try anything the previous night. If he really wanted her, Tayuya knew there was nothing she could do to prevent Wu from having his way with her body. He even had a good excuse to do so, so even though she didn't trust him, she no longer 'hated' him as much as she had the previous day. If anything, she coveted his strength and, most importantly, his freedom...

...

..

.

While Wu was busy gradually taming Tayuya, a trio of Kumo Shinobi was prowling around the region he was last spotted. Kumogakure made use of trained raptors to constantly survey the surrounding mountains, several of which had spotted Wu and Tayuya. Thus, even though the duo had yet to do anything overt, Kumo had sent one of their recently established Teams to investigate and capture them.

Leading the Team of three, the only person within the group that didn't have dark skin was a tall, fair-skinned woman with a curvaceous figure, bobbed blonde hair, and fierce blue eyes. She wore a 'very' low-cut outfit that displayed her ample bosom, poorly concealed beneath a transparent mesh of armor. A modified Kumo-style flak jacket enveloped her waist like a white corset, while her milky-white legs protruded from a short skirt and fed into a pair of high, toeless boots. Red metallic guards protected both of her wrists, but her most prominent feature, besides her bust, was the red tanto strapped above her shapely bottom.

Accompanying the fair-skinned woman were two children, a cautious-looking boy, and an aggressive-looking girl. Both possessed brown skin, but the girl's had a tinge of red, much like the scarlet locks flowing away from her headband and falling over her shoulders like spikes. She also had golden, eagle-like eyes, a stark contrast to the dark irises and fuzzy white hair of her teammate...

...

..

.

(A/N: Since a few people have been asking, my pat.reon's account name is Ein's Left Foot.)

Next chapter