Okay, so first off I'd like to apologise for dropping off the face of the earth. That happens occasionally, but luckily the end of the semester is in sight! I had a brief bout of writer's block that is now better. I have just a few more weeks before holidays start and I will have free time for writing again.

This chapter HAS NOT BEEN EDITED, so you know. I've basically just given it an end since it's been sitting 4/5 completed for about a month. I was gonna research to check for accuracy, but I'm sure if any of you actually care you'll point it out, right? I am so sorry this took so long, and your reviews have helped a lot!

And lastly, I do know that in canon, Mizuki's fiance was both called Tsubaki and a shinobi. Rather than change her into a civilian and get a whole lot of corrections, I made a whole new OC. She's not important outside of this chapter, really.

As to EVERYONE's reviews, thank you so much for your support and advice! I'm planning on doing a major edit as soon as freedom hits to solve all these issues people have been highlighting for me, and I do have a couple issues with the flow of things so far. I feel like I've been leaving a lot of my ideas half-baked and unresolved so if you have any specific concerns, please tell me so I can add it to the list (yes, I have a list). More personal replies will be on their way shortly.

Guest replies at the bottom.


19: How To Frame A Dead Person (For Things They Actually Did)


After an hour in the bathroom sorting out how to save the disaster of the 'traitor-trap' as they'd taken to calling the whole thing, the witch finally emerged to a silent house. Peeking in on Naruto's room, she saw Iruka on the spare mattress keeping an eye on the boy while reassuring himself of the boy's health. He was in a light sleep, jerking slightly when she closed the door but not bothering to get up.

Shoukin was sitting on the bed reading one of Ginny's books with a wide smirk on her face, and Laurel stopped in confusion just inside the ring of curtains. "What's with the face?"

Her twin looked up, "Huh?"

The older woman clarified, "What's so amusing about a book you've already read?"

"Oh," the golem's poison-coloured eyes widened in comprehension. "I've started a book club." Laurel was sure her skeptical expression was a work of art. "No, really!" Shoukin insisted, "I lent Kakashi the first one, and we're going to talk about it next time he's free. Minato didn't want to and Cat didn't stick around long enough for me to ask." She grumbled under her breath, but the witch didn't catch what was said.

I have things that need doing in any case. Best get back on track. "I need a little help with fixing the disaster that was this afternoon."

Shoukin sat up in interest, putting the book face down on the bed to hold her place. "What have you got in mind?"

Laurel outlined her idea, pulling the object of interest from her pocket and handing it over to her twin. It was a simple plan, for the most part. Shoukin would sneak into Mizuki's apartment and plant 'Mizuki's diary' in an obvious place, and Laurel would go over and 'discover' it after talking briefly with his fiancee. Then the witch could take it with her to the Hokage for their meeting, give him the information they'd been supposed to get from interrogation and theoretically the whole thing would be wrapped up neatly with a little bow.

To their ANBU watcher it would look like Shoukin had gone to 'sleep' and Laurel was continuing the investigation while Iruka was busy taking care of Naruto, which was a completely acceptable turn of events. Once the golem had changed into some more acceptable clothes, kitted herself out with a wand, the fake diary and an empty storage scroll for anything they might want to pick up without drawing attention, they got going.

The younger of the two rendered ghostlike, she ran to Mizuki's apartment while Laurel herself walked leisurely down the streets. The ginger witch hummed songs under her breath while she strolled, watching the lights of the village activate in various windows. Shinobi darted from one roof to another while the civilians started packing up their wares for the end of the business day. Aside from the occasional cutting breeze, it was a warm spring evening with only a few clouds streaking the dusky heavens while the stars started peeking out.

She let out a gusty sigh of combined exhaustion and relief. In spite of how badly the trap had gone, the Konoha-wide alert hadn't been needed and none of the students had gotten irreparably injured. The repercussions of Mizuki's unhelpful death were going to be mitigated, and now she knew Iruka needed to learn basic interrogation techniques (even though it was just information-seeking manipulation). Naruto may have actually managed to make two of his classmates think beyond his mask, and he had definitely had enough time to put the tracking seal on the Forbidden Scroll so the twins could find the Archives. The blonde might have even copied some of the things in the Scroll, because why not when it was right there?

Potter luck might be a curse, but it could be nullified through positive thinking. Like with Murphy's law, most people only remembered the times nothing went right, and glossed over the parts that didn't fit. It wasn't a very good law, actually, fuelled by the negative feelings that were more easily recalled.

Laurel's eyes traced over the tall buildings, double-checking she knew where she was and where she was going regardless of her wandering thoughts. It seemed ironic how peaceful the village was in the evening light, compared to how frantic and emotional things had been only an hour and a half before.

Another sigh pushed past her lips, and Laurel picked up her pace. She just wanted to go home.

Up the single flight of stairs, the copper-haired woman knocked politely on the front door of the apartment and waited for a response. The sound of footsteps on wood panels and the hushed shift of carpet reached her ears, culminating when the door opened enough for Mizuki's fiancee to show half her face.

The woman's cinnamon-coloured eyes were red and her cheeks were flushed, contrasting with the sickly shade of her skin. "Can I help you?" She croaked, absently brushing loose strands of black hair behind her ear.

Laurel offered the piece of paper the Hokage had given her confirming her authority for the mission for the woman to look over. Iruka didn't need one since he was a shinobi and his hitae-ate was enough, but as a recently-certified civilian the witch wasn't trusted enough for people to just do what she told them. "Would you mind answering a few questions about your fiancee, Mizuki?"

She nodded and opened the door for her, "Would you like some tea…?" Mizuki's fiancee trailed off, silently asking for a name.

"Laurel, and please. What would you like me to call you?" Civilians were funny about titles, sometimes. The more 'noble' ones wanted titles only, the adults tended towards last names, and the children had a preferred nickname. Considering Laurel didn't even know any of the woman's names, it was easier to pretend she wasn't sure which was appropriate than admit she'd forgotten it - if she'd even been told it. She was slowly getting the hang of honourifics and the rest, but she'd stick to her habit of ignoring them. The question she used was an easy way of getting around stupid formality things.

"Riko is fine. Please follow me," the civilian closed the door and led the witch into the lounge, a waterfall of loose curls falling below her shoulder blades and swaying with the movement. "I'll be right back with the tea, please make yourself comfortable."

Laurel sat down on the couch even as her eyes ran over the small bookcase and its contents, pretending to look for something interesting, although she knew exactly which one was the right one. Talking to Riko might reveal some more interesting information considering her different perspective, and poking through her things unwarranted would alienate her. Not to mention it would be rude, and the witch was trying to be good for her unseen observers.

Riko returned with a small tray of tea things and put them down on the coffee table with a chime of porcelain. If it weren't for Anko's teachings of formal and informal tea ceremonies, Laurel might have offered to help her, but she breathed in the tranquility from before while she held her tongue.

"Did you know anything about Mizuki's plans before today?" Was how the witch opened the conversation, and she watched how Riko flinched.

"N-no. I had suspicions that something was wrong, but I just thought it was a difficult student or some ninja thing I didn't understand," her fingers were white where they gripped the tea cup. "I assumed it would pass in time."

"How long?"

"Just these past few days. He seemed fine Sunday, but after work on Monday he was twitchier than usual." Riko shrugged, sending her hair sliding all over her shoulders.

So it started when the rumours about the forbidden scroll reached the teachers. Time to see if he's been hiding anything interesting, then. No one would know what 'twitchy' is better than the woman living with him and at the most risk of ending up on the wrong end of a kunai. "Did he check any areas more often, or if startled did he look at anything in particular?"

She appeared to think about it. "It depended on which room of the house we were in," Riko admitted, eyes downcast. The civilian scrunched her brows, "In the kitchen it was the cupboard above the fridge and in the bedroom it was the closet. I saw it a couple times each, which was the only reason I noticed." She shrugged before drinking from the cup in her hands.

"Did he mention any names, or react to any people in particular?" Riko shook her head. "Would it be alright if I looked in those places you mentioned?"

At the civilian's assent, Laurel moved into the kitchen to start looking. Riko stayed in the lounge when the witch asked her to, because she didn't want any avoidable interference. The cupboard was high above the witch's head, but aside from a muttered curse she didn't complain. After pulling over a chair and popping open the door, Laurel rifled through the recipes and baking odds and ends.

Judging by the state of this cupboard I don't think either of them do much baking. The recipes were neat and organised, each baking implement stacked neatly on top of or into the other, and it was only the routine cleaning of the inside that prevented it from looking completely untouched.

The witch sifted through the recipes, a short note falling out labeled in what she now recognised as Mizuki's handwriting. She let it lay on the floor after putting the sheaf of papers on the bench and searching the cake tins. In the back corner lay a single loose seal she plucked from its hiding spot, and returned the rest of the cupboard - excepting the recipes and her two discoveries.

The paper she'd dropped turned out to be a mirroring seal of the other, though Laurel couldn't tell what it was supposed to do. One looked like a breaking of something - labeled 'open' by Mizuki - and the other seemed to be a creating of the same thing. Maybe this has something to do with the bedroom closet, she hummed and put the cooking instructions back after making sure there weren't any more seals to be found.

She tucked them in a pocket while retracing her steps back into the lounge in order to get to the bedroom.

The room was a mess, it looked like Mizuki had either thrown things about in a rush or Riko had been looking for something and hadn't found it. This requires questioning, I think. "Riko?"

The civilian moved to stand in the doorway, still holding her cup as if it had been glued to her hand. "Yes?"

Laurel waved at the room, "What happened here?" Ninja wouldn't be so messy, so why does it look like a storage seal exploded?

The black-haired woman made a choking noise in her throat. "I came back from work to find it like this, I have no idea, sorry."

The poison-eyed woman examined her stance critically, suspecting untruths were being told. Under her intense gaze the civilian shifted her weight, but otherwise didn't do anything she could work with. "Alright, thank you. Could I have a moment? I'll join you again soon." She nodded and left, and Laurel wasted no time in going over to the closet and pulling it open.

Inside was nothing truly of interest, just clothes and shoes like would be expected. Laurel searched through them undeterred in the hopes of coming across whatever Mizuki thought was important enough to hide, but came up with nothing. A calendar stuck to the inside of the door drew her attention, although she couldn't say why.

She prodded it curiously, checking the dates (everything matched up to the current year) and peeled it back to look behind. In the end it was the texture of the paper that gave it away: it felt the same as the two notes the witch had come across before.

She pulled them from her pocket for a side-by-side comparison to find her instincts confirmed. It was a calendar written on sealing paper, and the 'ink' was some kind of illusion.

Sealing paper was used to make the seal in question more efficient, eliminating the possibility of it being hindered or tainted in anyway by the medium it was written on. Putting seals on normal paper was fine, and they did work. But for complicated seals it was better to put them on the proper sealing paper or risk a cascade of failure (which usually ended in explosions).

Should I… Laurel considered how bad it would be for her to screw up the only actual evidence she'd found so far. Maybe I should just leave it. I've got no idea how magic might affect it, or if it's sensitive to anybody other than Mizuki's chakra. She rolled up the calendar and shoved it into one pocket while the activating seals went into the other, just to be extra safe.

One more quick search through the room didn't reveal anything interesting, so Laurel returned to the lounge and poked around the bookcase. To sell the act properly, she hummed in thought and drew out the pre-genin history book. Muttering a quiet, "What's this doing here?" under her breath just to finish it off.

The witch flipped it open to find every page covered in Mizuki's handwriting instead of the precise print it was supposed to be, so she closed it with a snap and tucked it under her arm. She rooted through the books, looking for anything else out of place but everything else appeared to be in order. Well, I've now found everything Mizuki told me was hidden in his apartment and I even had to properly look to find them. My tracks have been covered, I've got everything I need on our traitor, so now I just need to go home in order to prepare for my debrief tomorrow.

"Thank you for your cooperation, I'll talk to the Hokage tomorrow." She hesitated for part of a moment, probably not long enough for the civilian to pick up on it. "I hope things get better for you." I would hope to never be where she is. One betrayal is enough, so I've already had more than my fair share.

That being said, Laurel bid Riko farewell and returned home with no trouble. The book and papers were hidden in the wardrobe, inside the robes with undetectable extension charms in the pockets.


To keep up appearances, Naruto was going to be going through the motions of taking the graduation exam again with his classmates, only allowed to wear his hitae-ate openly after that. In order to facilitate this, the witch had dosed him with a hair growth potion so even though his hair was a little shorter in parts, it was the only noticeable effect from the explosion. It was unlikely any of the students other than Ino or Sasuke would even notice a difference, which was exactly how the twins liked it.

After wishing him luck (regardless of the fact that he was just putting on a show and literally nothing was riding on this), Laurel walked past her desk, grabbing some papers for the Hokage to take with her as part of the charade and knocked on his door. At his answer the witch let herself in, placed the paperwork on a free part of the large desk the old man sat behind and summoned Shoukin to take over the desk to keep up appearances.

The golem waved at the room in her retreat, and nobody moved until the door cut them off from the rest of the world with a tiny click.

"What did you find at his apartment?" Hiruzen started the conversation.

Laurel shook her head to wake herself up properly, "I found these two seals in the kitchen, this is a hidden and sealed scroll that was in the bedroom closet, and what seems to be Mizuki's personal account of the events over the past few years." She passed over each object as it was mentioned. "From what I can tell, one of the seals takes off the illusion while the other creates it anew, but I didn't test it myself since I wasn't completely sure how it would react to someone else's chakra."

"What do you think the scroll is?" The Hokage flipped through Mizuki's confession, though Laurel knew he was still mostly focused on her. She could feel the weight of it.

"I don't know, I can't get any sense of the seal underneath the illusion," she shrugged, one hand fidgeting with the hem of her skirt out of habit. Leaders were supposed to make people nervous, and unless she was deliberately not doing so, her body went through the motions even as her mind read the atmosphere and people.

Hiruzen pinned her like a butterfly with his intense regard, "The reports from my ANBU are extremely positive of how you handled the whole situation."

"Does that mean I passed your little test?" Laurel suppressed her instinctual irritation, but didn't stop herself from antagonising the Sandaime and testing his goodwill towards her. In my opinion, Minato's scarier. He acts charming and friendly until you piss him off, while this guy just looks old and tired. I'm glad Naruto likes the Sandaime, otherwise I'd be tempted to see if I could take him. Nobody needs that disaster, no matter how fun it might be.

He snorted in amusement, inclining his head in agreement, "Your objectives were fulfilled to expectation, regardless of how unforeseen events would have otherwise resulted in failure."

What he said next made her want to cry, or maybe punch the Hokage in the face.


Laurel found Anko at her favourite dango store, luckily. It meant she didn't have to go all over Konoha to find a sympathetic ear because both Shoukin and Iruka were working, and Yuugao was on a mission. Cat was probably not talking to her yet - even if he was on shift, which she was not sure of - and the redhead didn't actually like Kakashi. Minato was out because Death had said something about how the Yondaime could only come out to play for a maximum of 12 hours per day, so they had to wait to summon him again until tomorrow.

"Hey, Laurel. What's up? Shouldn't you be at work right now?" Anko slurped a clump of her treat off the stick, using one of her favourite chakra tricks to elongate her tongue to gross lengths. If Laurel wasn't so upset, she might've laughed at the faces everyone in eyesight pulled.

The witch sat on the bar stool next to the eggplant-haired ninja and dropped her head onto the bar with a groan. "I am at work. Or well, the other me is."

Anko patted her on the head like a dog, "Then why are you out here, where people can see you? I thought you two were trying to keep that under wraps."

"We were, until yesterday." She banged her head on the solid wood as if that would make her feel better, the kunoichi patting in time.

"Eh, shit happens."

Anko let her mope for another minute or so before her patience ran out. Laurel was surprised it took that long.

"Spit it out, Rei."

The redhead rolled so she could see the kunoichi with one eye, "... Are you ever going to explain that nickname?" Anko shook her head. "Whatever. And the Hokage put me in charge of fixing the entire Academy," she pouted up at her friend, crocodile tears shimmering in the sunlight.

Anko burst out laughing, nearly falling off the stool. Every time she stopped to catch her breath and caught a glimpse of Laurel's sad-face, she'd start up again. Any ninja in earshot quickly made themselves scarce, and the civilians gave the pair a wide berth as if it would keep any of the crazy from contaminating them.

"Whew," she finally calmed down for real, still snickering occasionally as she spoke to the slightly younger woman. "What did you expect after making so many good suggestions and not causing trouble?"

Laurel sputtered, "What do you mean 'not causing trouble', that's complete-"

"-I know that and you know that, but for the Hokage your usefulness must outweigh your pranking tendencies." Anko smirked at the expression of open horror on the witch's face.

"Using logic cannot be that rare, are you serious?" At the kunoichi's uncaring shrug Laurel sat up straight, "How is this village still running?!"

"Beats me. I'm not in charge of running anything." That's because letting you be in charge of anything other than traumatising people is a terrible idea, Laurel thought to herself. With a stern look in her tawny eyes, the ninja broke through her daydreams, "Wanna go annoy the Civ' Council again?"

Laurel scoffed, but let Anko help her back to mental stability, "Only always." She scrambled to her feet and activated her seals for their usual game of tag when crossing the village. "You're it!" And then she ran, feeling the dust under her sandals and sunshine on her skin.


The two of them were perched opposite the Civilian Council building, also known as the bane of Laurel's existence. Well, maybe not so much now, because I don't have to process their ridiculous demands of the Hokage's time when he has a whole village to run. Depends on how much they try to mess with the Academy, which is technically a shinobi institute, even if the students in it aren't until they graduate.

The witch swung her feet back and forth in the open air, unconcerned by the three-floor drop beneath them, "So what're we doing this time?"

Anko rested her chin on the fist curled around a kunai, humming contemplatively. "How mean are you feeling right now?"

After the last few days she'd had? "Pretty nasty."

"Did you know I have the snake summoning contract?" The purple-haired woman muttered, almost completely out of the blue. Laurel shook her head and waited for elaboration. "Iruka mentioned something about you being able to talk to them?"

"Yeah," Anko seemed to be hesitating about something, and she had the feeling it was something painful. Maybe I can coax it out of her? "It was a side effect of an assassination attempt, but I try to make the most of it."

It paid to have the mental speed runes activated constantly around the tawny-eyed kunoichi because she was more like Kakashi than Iruka or Yuugao. The latter two were open about their emotions unless they were on a mission, or it was somehow related to one. Kakashi, completely aside from his physical mask, wore an emotional one that locked up anything he actually felt in a vault hidden in a secret room built at the bottom of the deepest trench in the ocean. Any expression crossing his face was crafted for a specific purpose, a way of speaking without using words. Shoukin had had the pleasure of seeing beneath the emotional mask, not just once but twice, and now that the magical construct had latched on it was probably going to be a more common occurrence.

Anko hadn't needed a mask as long as Kakashi had and he had the advantage of only showing about a quarter of his face. She still only let her true emotions surface so briefly most people would miss them entirely, and it was only because of the mental rune that Laurel caught them. She couldn't always identify what it was, but at least the witch knew there was something else to be considered.

At Laurel's confession the tokujo had flinched just the slightest bit and softened in empathy before her mask reasserted itself. "You may have heard of the other user of the contract, my former sensei." Her eyes flickered to the hidden basilisk scar, "The snake sannin, Orochimaru."

"I haven't heard more than the general village rumours, and I don't tend to believe those things without at least a shred of proof," Laurel shrugged and bumped her friend lightly with her shoulder. "Don't sweat it. Tell me what you want when you want, and I promise to not believe anyone else over you, okay? I know what it can be like."

Anko dropped her head to rest in her loose copper hair, wind-tangled as it was. It could have just as easily been nothing, but she thought her friend had whispered, "Thank you."

She gave her a moment of peace before returning to the task at hand. "So I assume you thought we could do something with your snakes and my parseltongue?" At the ninja's confused look, Laurel explained, "Parseltongue is the name for the snake language, and a speaker of that language is referred to as a parselmouth."

Anko lifted her head, "What do you think of setting a room up with hidden snakes and you tell them when to go for it so they don't hear a human speaking?"

The witch thought that sounded perfectly reasonable, but… "Won't that be a giveaway that it was you?"

"Do you have any suggestions?"

"How good are your snakes with chakra control?" Laurel hummed as she thought, resisting the urge to mockingly stroke her chin as if she had a beard. Fred and George had given her the worst habits, really.

"Most of them are pretty good, why?"

"How about I make them float, and we can teach your snakes how to fly?"

Anko cackled evilly, "I love the way you think. Flying snakes!"

They snuck inside through an open window on the second floor, and decided taking over the entry might give the best reactions if they timed things right. There was still about an hour until lunchtime, which was when the prank was scheduled to go off.

The two women snuck along the ceiling until they reached the bathroom so Anko could summon her minions while Laurel would teach them how to 'fly'. Really she was just going to cast featherweight charms and guide them on how to expel chakra to direct themselves, but it was going to be hilarious. Because of the complexity of what they were trying to accomplish, Laurel's ability to talk to every single snake even if it wasn't able to speak the people-language was the only reason it might succeed.

It took half an hour before the bathroom walls were covered in dry scaled bodies (why Slytherins were 'slimy snakes', she'd never known. Snakes were the opposite of slimy. Maybe it had to do with them living in the dungeons? Also, why make children live in the dungeons, that was absurdly stupid… but then again, wizards. Logic was anathema to them.) with the occasional brave one swimming through the middle of the room. To Laurel's ears there was a chorus of amused chattering and lame insults being traded from one reptile to another.

Anko kept bouncing on her toes in anticipatory glee, letting herself express a real-time emotion fully for the first time Laurel had witnessed. It was encouraging to see, and hopefully in time Anko would come to trust her enough to do so more often.

"Okay, I think they're ready," the witch announced, cutting through the chaotic hissing with a skill born of wrangling children. "How're we doing this?"

The kunoichi narrowed her eyes, "We could have them hide in the plants, I'll cover them with a minor genjutsu."

"Is there a way to make it so you don't get blamed for this? What if they didn't look like your snakes?" Laurel didn't want her friend to take the fall for a little traumatic fun. Maybe not a colour-changing charm, but something simple. Fake wings?

Anko interrupted her scheming by bumping her with a hip. "If you can do something that won't hurt them, go for it. I'm always up for watching more of your tricks," she winked a tawny eye in encouragement.

She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth, ignoring the leer her purple-haired friend sent her way. They still need to be able to use their chakra as they've been practicing, so it either has to be a charm or a transfiguration that keeps them as close to their original form. That means they still have to look like snakes, but what about if they looked like toy snakes? Nobody can have a summoning contract for that, and I don't think anyone else would ever consider faking something like this just for a prank. "That could work, maybe." I'd have to use my wand though, otherwise risk hurting the snakes.

She was wearing her wand as a hair ornament, and if she specified it was to make sure she didn't hurt them, Anko probably wouldn't care. Laurel nodded decisively and pulled the magical focus so her half-up half-down hair fell apart. "Tell me what you think of this," the poison-eyed woman instructed her friend, beckoning one of the snakes over.

She waved her wand from the snake's head to its tail, focusing intently on the changes and imagining them flowing like a ripple down the scales. To the naked eye, the snake took on the appearance of a door-stop, even if underneath the mildest transfiguration the serpent still remained as it was. For the extra amusement factor, the change was only visual and anyone who touched it would feel the hard rasp of scales. After receiving Anko's approval, the witch copied the effect onto each of them, working through the excited wriggles and ignoring the various hissed exclamations.

The two women snuck into the entryway, directing their minions into hiding spots as they went with Anko casting minor genjutsu over the reptiles. As Laurel had found, sneaking past civilians was absurdly easy, or at least anyone who wasn't an actual civilian had to pretend to be unobservant to properly blend in. Either way, they were safe from being called out before the mischief making.

Anko pulled her into place behind the secretary's desk, leaning casually against the wall with a perfect line-of-sight on the clock. The purple-haired ninja tapped three fingers on Laurel's hand when the clock reached noon, which either meant three seconds or three minutes. Since she didn't get a countdown, it was probably the latter. When it only got busier, the witch figured out why they were waiting.

At three and a half minutes past the hour, Laurel hissed to the collective group of 'toy' snakes and watched the chaos begin. They slithered gleefully out of their hiding places, moving up along the walls before launching themselves across the room. They hissed insults at every person in sight, silly things such as 'scaleless heater' or 'stiff-limbed ground-monkeys'. It took everything Laurel had to keep her laughter internal when the civilians panicked as if the serpents were threatening the end of the world.

After observing the fruits of their labour, Laurel and Anko booked it before any shinobi could detect them through the genjutsu. Everyone was too busy freaking out to notice how they fled, pretending to be panicking civilians long enough to escape the building. They ducked into a nearby alley to let out their laughter, the witch finding tears running down her cheeks when Anko imitated some of the more comic expressions.

Still sniggering occasionally, the two women walked through Konoha's streets until they reached the entry to the apartment building."You coming in?" Laurel asked, turning to look up the few centimetres so their eyes met.

Her friend shrugged, looking briefly at the building in front of them. "I have some work to do today. Another time?"

The witch nodded in agreement, "Sounds good. Thank you for today, Anko. It really helped me get my head back on straight." The kunoichi waved goodbye and vanished, so Laurel wandered back up to her home so she could figure out what the heck she was going to be doing about the Academy.

She had the short holiday between the two terms to figure out what she wanted to accomplish in general and refine stuff with Iruka's help. In turn that also meant she'd have to wait to assess the current teachers so she could see them in action without the bias of someone else's report. Darn, I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

At least that means I have time to do research. Laurel could talk to parents and previous students,figure out what the passing students had that the failing ones didn't, or what made a genin in the Corps different from one under a jounin-sensei.

From that the witch should be able to assess which parts of the previous education needed to be added in, what should be changed, and what should be removed. After that, figuring out teachers to cover all the different subjects would be even better, because they could specialise and she could make sure they actually knew what they would be teaching.

Avoiding another 'Snape' would be for the best of everyone involved. He might have known his way inside-out and through any potion in existence, but he didn't have the temperament or knowledge to pass that onto children. Especially those who didn't have a solid grasp of the basics. Funnily enough, for being the headmaster of such a well-known school and having learnt there himself, Dumbledore hadn't actually been very good at his job either.

Children entered into the Academy weren't shinobi until they graduated obviously, but although Laurel didn't want to be responsible for churning out child-soldiers, they were going to be out there anyway in most cases. Hopefully the changes she made would just make them survive long enough to actually live their lives after everything.


Naruto and Shoukin returned to the apartment in a flurry of laughter, and before the witch knew what was going on, she'd been dragged outside by her siblings. "Where're we going?" She asked as they stumbled down the stairs, but it devolved into a game of tag before she got an answer.

They raced through Konoha, dodging around people and tripping over animals until Shoukin tackled the laughing blonde boy. The golem ruffled his hair while she sat on his back and squashed him, Laurel huffing her amusement as she leant against a convenient wall to watch. Naruto squirmed in vain, trying to whack Shoukin until she pinned his arms too. She crowed her victory to the sky, but did eventually let him up.

The boy only got a few steps further before Laurel picked him up and gave him a piggy back. He went with it, waving a hand to direct her while Shoukin darted here and there like a rabbit on caffeine. It made the witch's heart ache a little because the last time she'd seen her twin act like this was with Teddy. She let the wave of longing pass through her, hoisting Naruto higher on her back.

Laurel recognised their surroundings while the other redhead was spinning in a circle. Shoukin nearly whacked a nearby person in the neck but they dodged with a grumble. The child on her back pressed his face into the side of her neck once he noticed she was walking towards the training ground herself.

"Are we looking for the tag?" The witch guessed, feeling him nod. "Alright then, let's be quick about this."

Naruto pushed himself back to the ground so they could race each other, the golem joining in once she noticed them ahead of her. All three skidded to a halt at the edge of the mock-desert village, the women frowning in disappointment.

Their eyes met over Naruto's head, "It's still here."

Laurel sighed, "It must have fallen out or something."

"I guess we'll just have to do this the hard way," the younger twin shrugged.

The trio started toward Ichiraku Ramen for dinner, Laurel contemplating logistics while they walked. "You're going to have to be in charge of that, I think." Shoukin hummed a question. "I have to worry about the entire Academy system, and Naruto needs to focus on his ninja training. Even if Iruka is going to be on holiday for a while, I'm going to be monopolising his free time for the foreseeable future to get this sorted. And one of us still needs to work the desk. Once I'm done with the start up, I can return to solving my rune issue," she twisted her hand to indicate her wrist.

Her twin slipped an arm around her waist, "Stop stressing, I can handle it. We can discuss our extra-curricular activities later and figure out who's doing what then. For now, ramen!"


Guest replies:

kuro tennin: I'm glad to hear that you think so! I've tried my best to make sense of things.

Guest - about ch 18 (19/08): If you'd care to clarify what you think was forced, I could look into it? I mean chapter 18 was alright for me, writing-wise, so I'm not sure what's coming across as forced, and I'd like to remedy that if possible. I'll have another look over to see what can be done about the general confusion, though, once I have a bit more free time. Thanks for your suggestions!

Guest - about ch 17 (19/8): It sounds like you're having a great time! I'm so pleased about that. And in case you were wondering, because they were all conscious for the secrecy binding thing, and they're all intelligent adults, they know they've been bound, they just don't know to what extent. Luckily for Shoukin and Laurel, it's airtight, because for plot reasons I couldn't have them go blabbing, even if I did need them to find out at some point. This was not at all how I planned it, if you were wondering!

Phoenix: Thanks! Well, here you go! No clue when the next one is coming out though, sorry.