Sealkeeper: He Who Binds

Chapter 151-A "Labcoat Twins"

Patron Release 2022.01.07

The heartbeat under her ear was slow and strong, its unbroken rhythm soothing in the afterglow. The body it belonged to- and her own- had grown so hot it was almost uncomfortable and the comforter that had been draped across her lower back only trapped that heat between them.

Mikoto couldn't bring herself to care.

The slowly spinning fan managed to create the barest of breezes that did its best to alleviate the sweltering heat on what skin it could reach which was probably helping her more than it was him. Her back was very much exposed, what of his torso wasn't covered by her head was instead blanketed by her hair.

It would probably help them both if she pulled away for a second, maybe repositioned or at least removed the blanket he had pulled up over her. A cold shower- together, even better- would also help things.

Mikoto couldn't bring herself to move.

From her current position her view of his face was blocked but the fingers that blazed gentle trails from the swell of her hip up to the underside of her breast told her that he was still awake. How aware he might be at the moment was probably debatable but she took no small amount of enjoyment knowing that he was lying there savoring the aftermath just as much as she was.

There was no way Mikoto could determine if this had been Tsunami's original intention or not but something she did know was that she was going to have to find some way to properly express her gratitude. Regardless of why she may have done it, Mikoto was very glad to have been persuaded.


"Uh, Anko-San?" Tsunami looked down at the sleeping woman, wondering why on earth she had chosen to sleep outside a doorway on a lower level rather than in her own bed on the top floor. Well, her bed or Naruto's. Even a couch in one of the libraries would have made more sense. "Anko-San."

"Mwa?" Reclining back into the closed door as best she had been able to- which couldn't have felt very pleasant on her back- Anko rubbed bleary eyes with the back of her hands. "'Nami-Chan? Did you come to join Anko's bed?"

"You're not in bed, Anko, you're in my hallway. The girls are going to be through here to polish the wood in the next ten minutes or so." She didn't bother mentioning the inappropriate display the woman was putting on at the moment. At one point she may have been cross-legged - which, honestly, wouldn't have done much more to preserve any sense of modesty or decorum- but sometime after she had fallen asleep her legs had ended up splayed out and her skirt had nearly ridden all the way up her hips.

Tsunami would save that for when the woman was a bit more aware.

She had no issues with such displays on the top floor- that area was completely private and if the Daimyo was cultivating a den of debauchery so be it- but this was not the top floor and Tsunami didn't want to expose the poor girls to the madness of the upper floors.

Tsunami herself may have enjoyed it on occasion- which were becoming more frequent as of late, she had noticed- but she didn't need the girls enticed- or dragged- by Anko into the Daimyo's bed. Their situation was already questionable, involving them in something like that was a whole new can of worms she didn't want to be opened accidentally and she had no doubts that Anko wouldn't consider how the outside world might take that in the slightest when she acted.

"Huh? "Anko tilted her head, banging it against the doorframe. "Oh." A pause. "Oh!" She scrambled upright only to crouch back down and press her ear to the door. "Are they done now? Did they already come out? I didn't miss them, did I?"

Tsunami took a second to determine which room they were in front of and blinked in surprise when itr came to her.

Had….had it really been that easy? She'd only intended to introduce the idea to Mikoto. Tsunami was fully expecting to have to bring it up often for the next month or so to wear the woman down.

"Is who done, Anko-San?" She had an idea but she needed confirmation. It was always possible that Tsunami's words had driven Mikoto to find someone else to take care of her needs and that still would have managed to draw Ankos' attention.

"Naruto and Mikoto, of course! Why else would I be here?"

"Because any sexual activity in this palace draws you in like a moth to the flame." Tsunami's response was dry.

Anko opened her mouth to refute only to immediately close it with a snap and rub the back of her head sheepishly. "Well, yeah, okay." She conceded. "But it's Mikoto. I didn't expect her. I mean, if Naruto had invited her into his bed I could sort of see her giving in but she had a Wolf go get him."

"Is that really so unbelievable, Anko?"

"Well, no." Anko frowned and that frown quickly became a pout. "I'm just getting a little tired of having more competition. Mikoto's been around him for so long without anything that I had sort of figured she was safe."

"Anko," Tsunami pointed out. "You drag more people into his bed."

"Well, yeah, but I don't expect them to stick around!"

"If you want to 'stick around', I don't know why you think those you like enough to invite in wouldn't feel the same."

"I know." Anko crossed her arms and looked away for a second. "It would be nice if they could return the favor, though."

Tsunami blinked. "You're upset that you invite others on your time and that they don't invite you." She realized.

"A little."

Rolling her eyes, Tsunami shook her head gently. "Then stop inviting others and just enjoy the time you have alone with him."

"But then what am I supposed to do between rounds when he's recovering?"

"Enjoy his company?" Tsunami offered blandly, her brows rising in challenge. When that only got her another pout the mistress of the palace rolled her eyes and suggested something else. "You could put on a show."

Anko perked up. "Oh, that's good."

"Or you could just not have multiple rounds in a row and instead spread your Naruto-time over several shorter encounters to get you through your day."

"You make it sound like we have to ration out our allotted Naruto-time, like he's got a stopwatch somewhere and a book to record everything in."

"That's how you act, Anko. Just enjoy what time you have with him."

"Oh, I do. I just want more of it." She paused. "And less downtime between the best bits."

"If it was nothing but the best bits you wouldn't enjoy it as much."

It was Anko's turn to send the woman a challenging look. "Really?"

Tsunami glanced away, her cheeks dusted with red. "Okay, well, you'd still enjoy them but you wouldn't appreciate them as much."

Anko nodded, conceding the revised point. That made sense to her. A through sprung into being in the lecherous depths that was her mind.

"Say, is that what you do between rounds? Put on a show?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Anko." This eye-roll was filled with an almost fond exasperation that reminded Anko of both Naruto and Kurenai. Honestly it made her a bit homesick despite being home. "I don't have the time to be laying around, I get what I can when he's available and receptive."

"Receptive?" Anko was slightly confused. "I don't think he's ever turned down anyone who expressed any interest in him like that."

"Well, yes." Tsunami flushed a deep scarlet. "It's just that it sounded more polite when we don't insinuate he's a man-whore."

Anko broke out into a massive grin. "I'm going to start calling him that now."

"Please don't."

"And I'm going to let him know I got it from you."

"...Please don't."

"What will you do to convince me not to, hmm?"

"If you say anything of the sort I'll re-think sending some of the girls to the top floor to ensure their Daimyo's needs are met at all hours of the day."

Anko blinked. "You wouldn't."

"Try me."

The Tokubetsu Jounin dropped back into a pout but she held her tongue. Good.

For a second there Tsunami was worried she might call the bluff.


Katsuri was always going to be returning to the Yu no Kuni project so her accompaniment on Naruto's journey was obvious. Anko was the next natural choice because it would keep her out of trouble and, more recently, keep her away from that water sprite.

Naruto really didn't need the two of them becoming friends, that was a recipe for absolute chaos and lechery.

The most recent addition to his entourage was, of course, Mikoto. After the events in her room she had been a bit more clingy and decidedly more needy. Naruto was pretty sure it would have been in bad taste to disappear to Yu no Kuni without her afterwards and he was sure they could probably squeeze another into what of the base was currently complete.

It wasn't as if they weren't all going to end up sharing a bed most nights anyway.

Anko was a little upset that she was now going to have even less room to stretch out in the carriage and her getaway with Naruto- she was hoping Katsuri might be pulled away to do actual work regularly- was now shared with another but with a majority of the others now cut off from being able to access Naruto directly she thought she could manage.

Granted, there was still Karura who would be with them and Naruto could still send Kage-Bunshin to the palace if he needed but Anko would still have the original. It didn't really count for much in the end but at least it was something, right?

She said it was, so that had to be the case.

That wouldn't matter for quite some time, though, because travel by carriage was much slower than any Shinobi-style travel. Why Naruto insisted on doing things this way she didn't understand but it also wasn't her place to question it.

The only question she had to worry about was if she was going to try to claim a whole side of the carriage to herself- forcing the other three to sit closely together on the other side- or if she was going to sprawl out as much as possible beside Naruto forcing the other two to one side.

By herself gave her the most room to stretch out for the trip and was arguably more comfortable. She was also less likely to receive resistance from Mikoto or Katsuri in the matter. The obvious downside was that she wouldn't be pressed against Naruto.

She'd be more squished if she did claim the rest of Naruto's side but then she'd have him- mostly- all to herself. The others were likely to protest that, though, and that was fair. She could hardly expect them to just sit there and watch for the entirety of the trip-

Mostly because she didn't want them doing the same sort of thing to her in the future.

It simply wasn't worth the risk.

….Unless…well, they could hardly fault Anko for stealing him for herself if he was the one lying down on the bench. That accomplished nearly the same thing but cast her as a hero rather than a villain. Granted it also took away her own ability to lounge about and wasn't nearly as comfy but the idea had some potential.

…Maybe she just needed to talk to the Wolves to remove the seats entirely and just make the entirety of the carriage's interior a bed. It would make things much more comfortable and then Anko wouldn't have to contemplate seating arrangements during trips. If Naruto was going to insist on using the carriage she could at least make sure it was an enjoyable ride.

Did she have time to talk to the Wolves about it before they left for Yu no Kuni?

….Wait.

When were they leaving again?

While her eyes darted around the room for some sort of answer she already knew it was pointless. She didn't even have a clock in here, let alone a calendar. What her eyes did land on was her half-packed back sitting open on her bed, the task abandoned in favor of her thoughts of the upcoming trip.

She darted towards the window and moved the heavy curtains to the side hoping the sun might provide some insight to the time.

Oh.

Oh.

Shit.

It was not early and she knew Naruto always preferred to leave as soon as the day started. But if she wasa this late and no one had come to get her maybe that was tomorrow?

"Anko-San?" A knock sounded at her door. "Naruto-Sama has informed us that he will be leaving shortly. If you're not in the carriage by then you are to remain here in Nami."

"Ah! Coming, coming! Don't let him leave without me!"

She shoved her bag full of whatever was in reach and wrapped herself in her coat before bolting through the door, knocking over the Wolf that had been on the other side.

As he lay there on the floor staring up he couldn't find himself to mind all that much. It was a very nice view he had been afforded, even if it only lasted a moment.


"Nooo! Tsukuyomi-Kun, don't leave without your Anko-Chan!" Within the carriage Naruto and Katsuri shared a look.

"Well, that certainly sounds familiar." Naruto let a small smile tug at his lips while Katsuri gave an exasperated- but undeniably fond- sigh and moved to peer out the window. Naruto would have done it himself but he was currently being held down by the Mikoto curled up against his left side.

"Is she half naked this time, too?" He inquired.

"Mmm, hard to tell." A moment. "Ah, no, she most definitely is. She managed to get her coat on and one of the buttons is even closed but I don't think she has much on under it."

Naruto gave a few bobbing nods. That sounded like his Anko alright.

"...She's got a fishnet legging on."

"As in one?"

"...Yeah."

"Well, she's better covered than last time, I guess." Katsuri had to agree with him there. Anko's…outfit…had been a little more coherent last time but it had done very little to protect what shreds of modesty Anko possessed. This time the coat covered her from shoulder to upper thigh- even if the single button allowed flashes to the skin beneath to be seen as she ran for the carriage.

"Do you want me to have the carriage start, Tsukuyomi-Sama?" There was a mischievous glint in her eye and a wickedness at the corners of her mouth as she asked. He shot her a pointed look.

"Don't be mean, Katsuri-Chan. Let your Anko-Nee into the carriage."

The Wolf flushed and nodded, opening the door and stepping out to help Anko in. Anko didn't really need help- practically flying into the safety of the wheeled vehicle- but it was questionable if she would have been able to stop herself before running into the side. Katsuri climbed back in and closed the door behind her, one hand filled with lacy bits dropped by Anko.

"I think these are yours," She offered, holding out her hands. Anko wasn't phased.

"Oh, good, I thought I dropped something. Is my other stocking in there?"

Katsuri glanced down at the handful. "If it is, I don't see it." Her words earned a pout from Anko.

"I hope that made it into my bag, then, I was looking forward to pairing those with your nurse uniform." She paused. "You did bring that, didn't you?"

A dusting of red coloured Katsuri's cheeks but she did her best to retain her composure. "I don't see how it would be any of your business what clothing I packed for this trip." She huffed. "...And even if I did, what makes you think I would lend it to you?"

Anko's pout seemed to grow in intensity before her expression quickly brightened again. "Do you think Guren has the others she stole with her?"

Katsuri had to consider that. "I don't know why she would." If she did, though, she needed to see what favors she needed to do in order to get a couple back to Shizune.

"But she might." Anko stressed the possibility.

"There's a chance."

"Great. If she does you can keep yours, I won't need it."

"That's not how this works." Katsuri crossed her arms. "I'll be keeping mine because it's mine."

With a wave of her hand Anko blew off Katsuri's argument. "That's what you think. I need a nurse outfit so I can utilize whatever lab this base has to its fullest potential."

"Lab?"

"Obviously. This base used to belong to Orochimaru." Anko scoffed. "Of course it's going to have a lab. It's the closest thing to a hospital I'm going to be able to use so I'm not going to waste the opportunity."

"...Our path takes us up past Konoha." Katuri pointed out. "You could probably stop and raid the hospital for one of your own."

Anko hadn't even considered that. "That's not a bad idea." She perked up even more. "I could pick up a few extra and grab Kurenai, too."

"Anko." Naruto spoke up, his tone flat. "We only have so much room in the base at the moment and Kurenai has duties to her team."

The woman shrugged. "She could use a vacation too," She pointed out. "Besides, it's not like we won't all end up in the same bed anyway. How much room do we really need?"

Unfortunately that was a pretty good point. It was hard to argue against it if Kurenai really did want to come, though Naruto had a feeling she would stay with her team.

Still, if he could nip this in the bud…

"Anko, no."

She pouted, arms crossed. "I'll put that down as a 'Maybe', then."

That was probably the best he was going to get for now.


"Ah, Hana-Sama!" The woman in question turned slightly as an older man hurried towards her, stopping a few feet away and grasping his knees as he tried to regain his breath.

"Is everything alright?" She asked, frowning. Her body turned away from the carriage to better face this interruption and she glanced back for a second to make sure she hadn't missed it heading out. Anko must still be getting situated- or was busy distracting everyone within. Probably both- because the Wolves on the outside had yet to receive the order to head out.

"Yes, it's, uh," He glanced over to the carriage himself and then back to Hana. "You're not leaving again are you, Hana-Sama? I haven't heard anything about your departure."

"What?" She blinked. "No, I'm not going anywhere."

"Oh." He relaxed slightly, shoulders slumping, and he took a moment to actually catch his breath. As his breathing leveled out he glanced at the carriage again and sent her a quizzical look. "If not you, Commander Sai?" He asked.

Hana made a show of slowly turning to the carriage and back, raising a brow as she stated plainly; "That's Tsukuyomi-Sama's carriage."

"He's back?"

"He's departing."

It was the man's turn to blink in surprise. "He's been here in Hanahime?"

"Tsukuyomi-Sama's been here for over a month now."

"Oh." He still looked incredibly perplexed. "I hadn't known."

"He doesn't make a large showing of his comings and goings." She gestured to the small group of Wolves and few palace workers scattered around the courtyard to see him off. There would be no crowds or fanfare- there never was.

She couldn't hold it against the man that he'd been oblivious of the Daimyo's presence in the city but it continued to leave a bitter taste in Hana's mouth. She still vividly remembered the villagers who had poured into the courtyard to see her off on her vacation and was reminded again that she needed to arrange something to celebrate Tsukuyomi publicly.

It probably would have been better to do it when he could witness it and so that he could be seen as part of it but at least this way he couldn't really object. She also knew to veto her thoughts of a subtler homage to their Daimyo. While there were those who would catch on and understand what the celebration was really celebrating she didn't want to leave things to chance.

Tsukuyomi was the reason Nami's heart still beat, the one who brought it back to life. They were going to show their appreciation for that, damnit.

She just needed to figure out what she wanted to do for it. Sai would probably be able to help her figure out if Naruto's birthday or the anniversary of Nami's restored prosperity was closer. Knowing him, Naruto's birthday had quietly passed over the last month and he simply hadn't brought it to anyones attention.

That would be just like him.

If that was the case, however, then Daimyo or not Hana was going to smack him upside the head and then drag him to a late birthday party. Then again, it might not even be his fault.

The man could hardly keep track of which day of the week it was with all his clones running around living concurrently and giving him more memories than could fit into a single day. It was just as likely that his birthday had passed and he hadn't even noticed it.

She would still smack him upside the head, if that's what happened, but she'd make sure one of his gifts was a calendar.

Or an assistant.

Hell, maybe she could manage both.

Okay, that might be aiming just a tad bit too high. The calendar, though, that she could manage.

It would just be a matter of making sure he actually used it.

She was pretty sure, after all, he already had one. Maybe a calendar that was already filled out? That still wouldn't guarantee he would manage to keep track of which day he was one. The chance that he and one or more of his clones would all mark off a day would leap him forward in time or- thinking one of the others had already marked it- he would remain behind.

The same problem he already had now.

An assistant was a much more useful sort of gift, if only they could be picked up in a store and wrapped up with a bow. The bow she could manage, she'd just never found a store that sold them and there was no telling Naruto would trust anyone she had pickled out enough for them to do the job they needed to do.

Hana had to wonder if this is how Mai constantly felt about the issue. Would it just be easier to have Orochimaru try to make a suitable assistant for him? If anyone could do it it would be the snake.

Now she just had to wonder if that was actually a good idea. Her gut told her 'no' but she also wasn't coming up with anything better. Surely there was no harm in just asking, right?

After all, what's the worst that could happen?


"You can't try to make it a younger me with my exact sizes, Orochimaru!" Tsunade's fists were resting solidly on her hips. "The body is too short for that, you either have to scale things down to maintain my proportions or choose a bigger body." She gave a sigh and a shake of her head. "I already look to be in my mid to late twenties, what's wrong with that?"

"You were acting all weird about having it look so similar to you so I made it suitably distinct." He answered with a shrug. "It seems to work."

"It's different because at that size it's assets are unreasonably large!" She argued. "Essentially all you did was make its tits bigger!"

"And her ass."

"That's-" Tsunade reached up to massage the bridge of her nose. "That's not the point. Scale them down or scale her up." She considered it a moment. "Actually, just scale her up, please. That way it will at least look less like my daughter."

"But if I keep it young then it will be like Shizune has a bustier younger sister." Was her counter. "Besides, it will be closer to Naruto's age that way."

"Doesn't he have a thing for older women anyway?" She pointed out.

"It will still be older."

One of Tsunade's brows rose. "Yeah," She agreed. "For a few years. Then they'll be the same age and then he'll be older. Even starting out it's not as…mature…as a lot of those he shares a bed with."

Sasuke's lips pulled down in a frown. There had been himself in that other body of his, Anko, Tsunami, at least two of Naruto's Wolves who were twenty-something each, and if recent rumors were to be believed Mikoto as of…last night? That sounded right.

Those were all significantly older than Naruto, he could easily admit, but there was also Mai, Temari, and Tayuya. Mai and Temari were actually both older by a year or two and Tayuya, well, Orochimaru actually didn't know. She was closer to his age than the other two, though, he knew that for a fact.

He thought about it for a moment.

"Early twenties?" He proposed.

Tsunade rolled her eyes and with a bracing sigh tried another tactic. "Think of it this way- if you're already going to be copying me this much you might as well make it so we look like twins."

"Twins?" His frown became more puzzled. "I don't see how that-" Realization struck. "Ooooh."

"I'm not promising anything," She stated firmly, arms crossed and looking away slightly. She couldn't believe she had to put an idea like this into his head to keep him from ruining her younger body like this. "But think of how the two of us in nothing but labcoats would look."

"That's-" He paused, still imagining it. "Well, that's a pretty good reason to keep it at your age."

"Like I said, no promises. It's just an idea."

He waved her off. "Of course you can't promise anything. I'll just run it by Shizune. I'm sure she'll love the idea enough to go for it."

Tsunade's eyes widened slightly in panic. That might actually result in something and the biggest problem was that Shizune was very much likely to think it was a good idea.

Her only saving grace would be to hope that she could convince the senior physician not to go for it.

"And I'll let her know it was your idea."

Oh, no, nevermind. She was screwed.


Good parents, it was said, did not have favorites. Grandparents, on the other hand, were not so limited. Even so, it was generally considered proper to at least try to be subtle about it. Ōnoki's personality made that a bit easier, his gruff countenance treating all forces under him as equals.

Despite that, it was still no secret to anyone in Iwagakure that Kurotsuchi was his favorite grandchild and, through that, also his favorite Kunoichi. Even Akatsuchi was well aware of that fact but it hardly seemed to bother the man that he wasn't the favorite. Of course, not much ever did bother the laid-back Akatsuchi who to this day still reminded Ōnoki of the carefree woman who had been his one dalliance from his otherwise faithful marriage all those years ago.

He still couldn't bring himself to regret it, though it had strained his marriage to Kurotsuchi's grandmother something fierce for many years. Fortunately they had been able to mend that before age started to catch up with her and her health slowly began to decline. If not he probably wouldn't be able to look back quite as fondly at those memories, even if those actions had resulted in Akatsuchi.

His stalwart bodyguard actually seemed a bit relieved knowing that Kurotsuchi was his favorite.

"At least that means you won't try to groom me for that hat." He had grinned jovilly.

Sometimes Oonoki was tempted to start just for that comment. It was only the fact that Kurotsuchi did want the hat that stayed his hand in the matter.

It was also why she had been chosen to join the southern force to start off this war. It was no secret that Kaze no Kuni wasn't in a very good position right now and with the exhausted Konoha Shinobi pulling out ot be replaced by Kirigakure forces that had done nothing but fight each other for the last few decades her chances of success were high and the chances of her becoming grievously wounded were low.

He had put a great deal of thought into the matter to make sure that would be the case, he couldn't have his successor crippled or dead.

But he also couldn't have them sit out the oncoming conflict. And so, with two frontlines to choose between he had decided on the one that was more likely to provide her with a safe victory that would support her nomination as the Yondaime Tsuchikage in the years to come.

Akatsuchi, his shield, would be entrusted to the larger eastern forces but there was much more that could go wrong there and a higher chance of casualties. Not that Akatsuchi would be one, the man could be nearly as stubborn as Ōnoki himself and was sure to pull through whatever happened.

Another reason it had been given to him.

With grandchildren divided it was now in their hands. He was certain they would not disappoint.

From the back of a covered wagon Kurotsuchi's head popped out to find him, grinning broadly. She gave him a cheeky wave that turned into a peace sign and then turned her attention to the crowds there to cheer on their champions.

Konoha's civilians tended to mind their own business, Kirigakure civilians tended to just be casualties, Sunagakure civilians were more Shinobi than civilian due to the harsh desert and were just as likely to shove a Kunai in your back, and Kumogakure civilians were kept completely out of military affairs but here in Iwagakure the matters of the Shinobi were well known and celebrated by the populace.

It was nearly impossible to keep things a secret here, there were too many families tied to the Shinobi, but that's how they liked it. Those ties, after all, inspired the loyalty that gave Iwa its strength.

Every mountain required a strong foundation and no one's foundation was stronger than Iwagakure's. They would not fall.


Sealkeeper: He Who Binds

Chapter 151-B "A Few Minutes"

Patron Release: 2022.01.16

Anko, Anko, Anko- now what did an 'Anko' look like? Jundo-Hime from the Uwabo shrine wondered this as she flitted to and fro through the palace, careful not to be seen by any future pre- erm, participants- for her fun.

Between "Tsukuyomi's" desire for her not to meet the woman- she was assuming this Anko was a woman, anyway- and Kabuto's belief that Anko would adore her, Jundo very much wished to make her acquaintance.

Naruto had been quite clear that such a scenario was one he didn't want to come into fruition but there were several factors that allowed the water sprite to get around that.

First, Jundo didn't answer to Naruto. That one was probably the most important. Jundo, in fact, really didn't answer to anyone in particular which was a good tie into the second reason.

Naruto didn't have her Hishaku. While she wasn't magically compelled to obey anyone in possession of the relic, those who had it did wield some influence over her by merit of controlling her most precious belonging. He had been in possession of it for a time- she had felt him examining it, which was a very odd sensation she'd never felt when anyone else handled it- but when he was finished doing…well…whatever it was he had done it was returned to whoever had previously had it.

Orochu-something or other.

And, lastly- just to cover her delectably pert rear- he had never actually ordered her not to seek out Anko. He had instructed her to inform Kabuto that he didn't want her- Jundo- to meet with Anko which, to her credit, she had carried out.

As a favor, of course, he didn't actually have any authority over her but she had been going back to Kabuto anyway and it was such a menial favor to ask in return for a good first impression and building a bit of good will that she could hardly pass it up.

That's how she liked to think of it, anyway, it certainly wasn't because those visions she had near him or the impossible years swirling in his eyes unsettled her. Nope, not at all.

That was just a coincidence.

Correlation wasn't causation and all that.

But because it was Kabuto's job to ensure that she didn't meet this Anko he would be the one in trouble with Tsukuyomi when she did, inevitably, track the woman down. Jundo would get off scot-free with, at most, a stern look or some sort of warning but in the end it really wasn't her fault.

How did one expect to speak to a sprite and expect them not to twist your words around? They couldn't fight their very nature, you'd be asking for the impossible. That wasn't true at all, actually, she simply enjoyed doing so and was more than happy to go out of her way to deliberately misinterpret something but that little lie was her current plan B if shoving the fault onto Kabuto didn't work.

Plan C was to flash her tits and hope all would be forgiven. That one tended to be pretty effective but considering his lack of reaction to her the last time she saw him Jundo wasn't actually putting much stock in that one being very effective.

It was unfortunate, that was usually her first plan and its success rate was absurdly high. Stupid Daimyo actually making her cover her rear with proper thought and planning rather than letting her use her fantastic body to get out of any sort of trouble that might come her way.

She was really quite proud of her body, after all, she had shaped every inch of it herself.

…Maybe her body just wasn't to his tastes? She'd have to look into that, though she hardly believed it to be the case. Her body was absolutely rocking and the other women she'd seen around the palace were either more plain or- in the case of the woman in green- much more pronounced. That meant Jundo fell in the upper medium of body types and was in a much better outfit, so it could hardly be the way she looked that caused it to be so ineffective.

Maybe this Anko of his was similar enough to herself that he was simply used to that sort of thing? That was probably the best explanation, nothing else seemed to make sense.

Of course, that only further fueled her desire to meet this Anko. She was sure she would become fast friends with such a woman.

…Anko wasn't that one in green was she? The woman had great taste- and a fantastic rack- so it wasn't impossible but she just didn't look like an Anko.

Not that Jundo knew what the hell an Anko looked like.

Asking Kabuto before she left the warehouse again probably would have made him suspicious of her intentions but if she had managed to spin her intentions as knowing who she was supposed to avoid she may have been able to obtain even a basic description of the woman. That would have been helpful.

It also wasn't likely to happen. Kabuto was easy to fluster and she tripped him up regularly but he wasn't a complete moron. He usually knew what she was up to, he was simply powerless to stop her.

That's how she liked it, too. It just wasn't as satisfying when they were completely oblivious.

And if there was one thing Jundo-Hime aimed for it was her own satisfaction. Everyone else's was just a bonus and a reward for their cooperation.

Let it not be said that Jundo-Hime wasn't a generous mistress.

But that really wasn't important at the moment- unless she needed to reward someone for directing her to this Anko- and so she continued her search. Even if she did want to ask someone to point her in the right direction Jundo-Hime didn't actually know who she should ask. Who here knew Anko? Who here did she want to know her? It was too early to just go up to everyone and introduce herself so she would have to choose carefully.

Perhaps going back to Kabuto- or finding that Orochi-person who was supposedly his boss- was the right move at this point.

She'd already checked the whole of this top floor without any luck and if that's where the Daimyo who had mentioned her resided, what were the chances that she wasn't supposed to be up here too? She was probably just out, most of the residents seemed to be.

With a disappointed sigh Jundo decided to do one quick check for anyone who looked interesting on the next floor down when she paused and, slowly, looked down from her position near the ceiling.

Two teal eyes stared up at her.

She met them with her own blue-green, raising her eyebrows in silent question. It was debatable if he could even notice such a detail with the distance between them but he cocked his head to the side curiously and she found herself pausing.

That was…absolutely adorable.

Maybe it was the dark rings around his eyes that made him look sleepy or the fact that he was currently wearing a pastel comforter as a great fluffy cloak but her usual inclination to tease those she encountered melted away. He was a young adult- she could tell that much- but for some reason he didn't strike her as such.

She really just wanted to pick him up and squeeze him like an oversized stuffed animal.

Bending down slightly- like she was a full grown adult trying to get closer to a child she was addressing- she gave him a warm smile. "Did you need something, young man?"

He stared at her for a second more before declaring. "You're pretty."

Jundo laughed. "Thank you! You're quite cute yourself. What's your name, handsome?"

"Gaara."

"It's nice to meet you, Gaara. My name is Jundo Hime, from the Uwabo shrine." She straightened back up in the same movement as floating down to be physically- or, as physically as she could as a spiritual being, anyway- closer to him, stopping maybe thirty centimeters from his face. "What are you up to?"

He raised a hand from his fluffy cloak to wipe at one of his eyes and then pointed to the stairs. "I wanted a snack."

On one hand it wasn't her goal but on the other she never had gotten around to swiping any food the other day. She could always continue her search after a quick break for food and a bit of rest. That blanket of his did look quite comfy.

"A snack, huh? That sounds pretty good, will you let Jundo-Nee join you?"

She had meant it as a young woman children could look up to, often referred to as their older sister despite no actual relation, but the second she suggested they may have been family his face lit up and his teal eyes practically sparkled in excitement.

"Nee-Chan?" He asked. This really was a great day if he was getting another sister. He wondered if this one would also be his aunt or maybe another Kaa-San.

She didn't know why he reacted the way he did but Jundo-Hime was quick to capitalize on it. "That's right, I think I'll be your Jundo-Nee from now on. Remember to come to me if you have any problems with girls, okay?"

Gaara seemed confused but nodded anyway. "Okay, Nee-Chan."

"Good." She gave a satisfied nod at his answer. "Now come on, let's go find something to eat." She covered the distance between them and settled on his shoulder, holding onto the fabric with one hand to steady herself.

"Uhn." He agreed with another nod, heading off without another thought to the matter. "I think Tsunami is in the kitchen." He started to explain as he descended the stairs. "She makes the best snacks."

"Uh-huh." She had no basis from which to say he was wrong so she'd reserve judgment for after she'd eaten. "And what's this Tsunami look like?"

"Ah. Shes' pretty too, especially when she smiles. She smiles the most around Tou-San and sometimes around the girls, but she doesn't seem to like Kankuro-Nii very much. I think she blames him for scraping up the floor in my room."

"Oh? She sounds like a lovely woman-" She was lovely if she was providing food but she didn't seem to be the type who would enjoy Jundo's more innocent pastimes if she was upset by scuffed floors. It would have to be a delicate balance to enjoy herself without getting cut off from this woman's cooking- assuming it was all that. If it was mediocre Jundo wouldn't worry about it all that much. "-And this Tou-San, what's his name?"

"Naruto Tou-San, but a lot of people call him Tsukuyomi. Temari Kaa-Chan and Karura Kaa-Chan really like him."

Oh-ho? Suddenly Jundo wondered if she hadn't started judging the Daimyo just a bit too early. It almost sounded like this Daimyo had two wives and if there was also an Anko similar to herself, well, it was starting to sound as though he were a man with good taste.

"Gaara, dear, I think we'll have a lot to talk about while we get our snack but-" She held up a finger he could see from the corner of his eye. "Don't you worry, after you help Jundo-Nee understand some things around here I'll be a good big sis and it will be my turn to teach you."

"What will you teach me?"

Jundo's naughty grin nearly split her face, not that Gaara really understood it. He was just reminded of Anko.

"Oh, Gaara-Chan, Jundo-Nee is going to introduce you to all sorts of wonderful things."


Aato sat smug and snug within a bag. Ajihe had wanted to be the one accompanying the High-Priest on this journey and Aato had no trouble seeing why but the older snake was also much too big to be able to fit amongst the luggage without obstructing anything.

And considering the sounds coming from within the carriage propper, well, slipping in beneath the seats wasn't exactly an option. She was glad he hadn't insisted on it and had accepted the fact that he was simply too large for the journey because otherwise things may have become rather awkward.

On second thought, that also would have been hilarious. She almost wished that had happened, though she also wouldn't have been able to see it because she would be the one staying in Nami for the next week before heading for Akishi. Still, the thought amused her and served as her primary source of entertainment between naps. This was undoubtedly Ahije's sort of assignment but he was probably just as content doing the same thing back at the palace.

Until he had to travel to inform the Ak'Gyun of the High-Priest's relocation he didn't have to do anything at all.

Not that he really did anything before but she couldn't exactly say she did either. Unless they had both vastly misunderstood their task in being available for the High-Priest and looking out for opportunities to aid him proactively, most of their duties were covered by just being there.

It was hard to think of a better assignment than that, though it did get quite boring just waiting around for nothing. Still, Aato was warm and comfortable so she would appreciate that for what it was.

She just hoped that their destination wasn't too far away because she was already feeling the itch to stretch out. Unfortunately she wasn't going to be able to leave the bag until she was sure it had been moved to wherever they were going or else she risked breaking Akishi's very clear instructions that they were to stay out of sight from those who were not the High-Priest.

Glorious divine being Akishi may have been, neither Au nor his eldest children were known for any sort of mercy. Aato had no interest in tasting the consequences of disobeying her commands.

She was sort of wishing she had chosen a larger piece of luggage to occupy, though.


While Katsuri knew, realistically, that there was no way she was more tired than when she pushed herself from Yu no Kuni to Nami no Kuni- based mostly on the fact that she hadn't collapsed into sweet unconsciousness yet- it sure as hell felt like it.

The center of the carriage's wooden wheel wasn't exactly comfortable on her back but she really couldn't find the energy to move. Instead she sat pressed against it enjoying the soft breeze and the cool grass beneath the soft light of the stars.

Well, it wasn't just the stars. The Wolves driving and escorting the carriage had lit a lantern on its side to provide them some light if they had need to leave it but considering the fact that she could see their own little camp some distance away she had a feeling they hadn't exactly been expected to join.

Understandable. Those Wolves probably welcomed the chance to rest away from the carriage's activities, too.

…Maybe she should join them, if only for the chance to recover. It was probably safer for her over there too.

Then again, she really didn't feel all that up to moving. In a few minutes, then. When she had sufficient chance to regain her breath and recover her strength. That was the plan, anyway. Those few minutes stretched steadily on and Katsuri only found her desire to move from her chosen spot dwindling by the second. If she stayed much longer she knew it would twinkle out like a dying star and never be seen again.

Spending the rest of the night here against the carriage didn't seem all that bad, though, and the weather was certainly pleasant enough to sleep beneath the canopy of stars. It was as if the universe itself was transpiring to provide her with the perfect opportunity to simply remain where she lay.

The High-Captain wasn't inclined to argue against it.

She had just started drifting off into a light doze when her awareness was snapped back into place by the sound of the carriage door. Much as she had earlier, another body slipped from the warm, musky darkness of the wooden vehicle to slide into the cool grass like a serpent returning home.

The corners of her lips twinged at the thought as she identified the interloper in her little sanctuary. How apt a description that was.

Her spiky, pineapple-esque ponytail lost with her hair-tie, Anko looked absolutely exhausted as she slumped to the ground. The Tokubetsu-Jounin seemed to possess only the strength necessary to close the door behind her for as soon as the gentle click of the latch sounded in the otherwise quiet stillness of the night she seemed to deflate even further.

Katsuri remained silent, choosing to give the woman a few measures of peace before breaking her reverie with even the most softly-spoken words. When Anko started to move again- no doubt to find a more comfortable position- Katsuri retained that silence, handing her the remains of her water wordlessly.

It was snatched from her hand with equal silence as Anko managed to position herself on the remaining half of the wheel and the contents were greedily drained with ragged gasps. The last of the bottle came out faster than the Snake Summoner was able to gulp it down, splashing against her sweaty skin and scattering over the midnight grass.

Neither of them were able to care.

Setting the bottle down next to her almost carelessly, Anko was surprised to find a cigarette lazily dangled towards her from between slim fingers. She raised a questioning brow but Katsuri offered nothing but a brow of her own as if to further emphasize the first silent question.

Do you want it?

Anko only contemplated the offer for a moment before reaching out and claiming the readied tobacco. She didn't normally smoke with the exception of now and again socially- which, admittedly, wasn't often due to her limited circle of friends and associates- but right now it sounded too good to pass up.

Katsuri had obviously been of the same opinion if she had fished them out from wherever they were being kept. Anko had never seen the woman smoke but, on reflection, realized she didn't normally spend all that much time with her so really had no idea if it might be a habit often indulged in or not.

Now hardly seemed to be the time to ask.

Cigarette dangling lightly between slightly swollen lips she leaned forward into the offered flame dancing on Katsuri's fingertip- perhaps more of a smoker than Anko had assumed, that technique had always been a favorite of Sarutobi Hiruzen and his chain-smoking son- and leaned back again with her first slow drag.

The smoke tickled the back of her throat in ways that weren't wholly unpleasant but Anko much preferred the drawn out exhale that released it to be whisked away by the evening breeze. There was something relaxing about both the exhale and in watching the smoke dancing in the moonlight. She shot Katsuri a grin around the cigarette, noting that the Wolf in question had already lit another for herself.

They sat there in silence for a few minutes more, watching the curling smoke from the ends of their indulgence and taking the occasional drag, before Anko voiced what they had both been thinking at some point that day.

"...By the gods." It comes out as barely more than a mutter- perhaps one not even meant for her ears at all- but Katsuri nods in agreement nonetheless.

"Didn't really expect it from her?" It was both a question and a statement as Katsuri gave an exhausted smile. There were traces of mirth there but her weariness kept her upturned lips from lifting enough to drop her cigarette. For the best, she didn't have the energy to focus on it at the moment. It had only ever been the weight of her lips to keep it there in the first place.

Anko shook her head in a wordless answer and Katsuri's grin grew the tiniest amounts larger as the freed purple hair nearly divested the cigarette from Anko's lips. The Tokubetsu-Jounin scowled for the briefest of moments, tossing her hair back with a slight flick of her head and a low growl, but it soon vanished from her face. Remaining irritated was simply too energy intensive at the moment for her to bother

"Not at all." In case her nonverbal answer hadn't been seen Anko took the time to voice it again. The line of conversation seemingly stopped there as they returned their attention to their thoughts and the curling wisps of smoke. Anko broke it again not long after.

"...Do you think it's because she has years of pent up frustration to work through?" She asked, head tilting slightly to the side. The action seemed deliberate, though it was just as likely the weight of her head had simply caused it to loll limply.

Katsuri considered it for a moment, rolling the idea through her head to see if it matched up with what she had experienced. "If it is," She returned the question. "How much are we hoping we've managed to burn through a few of those years?"

"Oh, that's a hard question to answer." Anko paused with a frown. "On one hand, I'm really not sure how much of that I can take." She took a moment to remember and shivered in a combination of dread and pleasure. "But it also seems like such a horrible sort of thing to lose."

Katsuri nodded. "...Yeah." There was no arguing that assessment, Anko was spot on. Really, it was almost as if she was talking to her own inner thoughts at the moment. It went to support what she had already believed but pointed out that perhaps she was more similar to Tsukuyomi's Fang than she had previously realized.

They continued to enjoy the quiet night and its refreshing breeze for a few uninterrupted moments more, Anko's breath finally settling down fully as the previous excitement was slowly leached away by the cool, tickling grass and the twinkling stars above.

It was Katsuri to break it this time.

"You do realize you're still naked, right?" She asked, glancing over from the corner of her eye. The Snake Summoner blinked in surprise and looked down to check for herself. You know, she had thought it a tad strange just how well she could feel the cold grass on her skin. This would go to explain how it was reaching the places it was.

Another gust of the evening air caressed her exposed skin and while she shivered slightly from the sensation she wouldn't say it had been unpleasant.

"So I am." Anko noted with a contemplative hum. A look over to the High-Captain- a proper one this time- let her notice the sheet wrapped loosely around her body. So that's where it had gone. Anko didn't know who had oisessed the foresight to pack bedding into the carriage but she probably needed to thank them. The past day wouldn't have been nearly as comfortable without it.

And speaking of comfortable, the light silk on her skin would be a perfect compliment to the breeze. Anko was a little dismayed she hadn't thought of stealing it away first.

When Anko offered no further comment on her state of undress Katsuri raised a curious brow. "...So were you going to put something on?"

Anko looked from her to the carriage and then back again with a small shudder. "No, I think I'll just enjoy the breeze a bit for now."

Ah, yes, with her clothes in the carriage that may have been for the best. There was no telling if she would actually manage to escape again if she dared to brave its heady depths. "I guess that's fair." The Wolf shrugged, ignoring the way the sheet she wore slid down her shoulders wirth the action.

Her companion, however, didn't ignore it and stared unabashedly at the newly exposed skin. That gave her an idea, actually. "...Or…" Anko started, the beginnings of a grin twinging at the corners of her lips. "You could get just a little closer and we could share."

The warmth of Katsuri's body, the soft silk on their skin, and the gentle caresses of the evening breeze sounded like a magnificent combination to the Fang. The grass beneath them also happened to be much more comfortable than the surfaces within the carriage- the perfect sort of place to enjoy some sleep and, if Anko had her way, perhaps a bit more.

Before Katsuri had a chance to respond to Anko's invitation a third voice joined them. "If you're in the mood enough to make advances on Katsuri you can get back in here." Naruto's voice was followed by black chains that pushed open the door and dragged a flailing Anko back into the depths of the carriage. Katsuri only had time to blink at Anko's abduction before there was a light tug at her ankle.

Another chain was lightly wrapped around it.

It was joined by others before she could scramble away. "Oh shit!" The carriage devoured her too.

And then it promptly burped out a third body as Naruto slipped out from under a tongue of chains. He allowed a majority of them to dissolve away and left one to keep the door locked behind him. Only when he was sure it was secure did he let himself release a relieved breath, his chest heaving and exposed body covered in sweat.

"Sorry, girls," He mumbled, more out of exhaustion than any attempt to be quiet. "But I need a break and I wasn't going to be able to get away without a distraction." Their 'sacrifice' would be remembered and later rewarded when he could properly move his limbs again.

There was a thudding sound as someone banged against the carriage door and Anko's cry of "Naruto, you basta-!" Was cut out and muffled by what Naruto was assuming was a pair of lips belonging to a certain Uchiha.

At some point he would figure out who it was who had reignited that woman's sexdrive but for now all he knew was that Anko had been right-

This breeze really was quite nice.

He couldn't even bring himself to care that, like Anko, he was very much naked.

There was no way he was braving the current den of Mikoto at any point in the next hour to change that. Maybe one of the Wolves camped out in the distance had a spare pair of pants he could borrow. He'd have to remember to ask when he could find the strength to make it over there.

Maybe in just a few minutes…..


"Did you actually change anything this time?"

"Of course I did!" Orochimaru seemed insulted that Tsunade would even suggest he hadn't done any custom work on the body.

"Other than dying her hair black?" She continued flatly, one eyebrow rising in challenge.

"What? Can't you tell, Tsunade?" Orochimaru folded his arms and looked away slightly.

"That's my body, Orochimaru. I would recognize it anywhere." She rolled her eyes. "You didn't even change the three freckles I have on my left hip."

"The ones squished together to look like a heart? Why would I change that?"

"You could have at least swapped it to her right hip!"

"But then we wouldn't be matching."

"First," Tsunade flicked out a finger. "Why do we need to be matching?" Another finger joined it. "And second, everything else already does! You didn't even change the eyecolor, it's literally just me with dyed hair!"

"...I'll make her short again." He threatened in a mumble.

"The hell you will." It was her turn to fold her arms. "You can make her different while keeping us complimentary." That twin idea had, in hindsight, been a terrible idea. In this case she was finding his brand of creativity preferable to just copying her and that was a rather scary thought.

"And how would you propose I do that?"

"I don't know, by making the skin noticeably pale and giving her golden eyes so she's you?"

He opened Sasuke's mouth to say something only to snap it closed again.

Tsunade rolled her eyes. "You're supposed to be filled with ideas, you can't tell me you didn't even consider something like 'day and night' or 'summer and winter'."

Orochimaru scowled. "Jiraiya is the creative one, I'm the one that makes things work." He paused, head tilting slightly to the side. "Huh, maybe I should have written to him…"

"Absolutely not, I don't want him to know we have the capability to make more of my body."

"And why not?" Orochimaru raised a questioning brow. "We'll have to get him one too eventually."

Honey-brown eyes narrowed into a glare. "You two can mess about with your own bodies as you like," She declared. "But you'll be leaving mine alone."

"Tsunade." Orochimaru spoke slowly, making sure his following words would be absolutely clear. "My body will be your body."

She processed that fact for a moment.

"Shit."

Orochimaru cackled, something that fit his current body surprisingly well. Who knew that Uchiha showing emotion was more scary than their normal dark and brooding selves?


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Until I next have your attention, I remain,

-Eyazahrid