Summary: Some Konohans take a personal trip to Kumo.
AN: Apologies for the hiatus on this fic, I've had Hermione on the brain. With any luck just 2 more chapters to go. SugarOo, this one's for you.
~ooO Travel to Kumo Ooo~
Uchiha Sasuke resisted the urge to fidget as he waited for the Godaime to speak. Yelling would not help, only put him in the hospital when Tsunade-sama let loose. She tended to forget most shinobis did not have the resilience of Jiraiya or Naruto to her blunt force trauma.
After several long minutes she looked up from the scroll she had been reading and met his eyes.
"I got a positive response from our agent in Suna. Shikamaru managed to negotiate a visa for you. Unfortunately it is for you and you alone. All applications for shinobis have been declined. Even your visa is for a private citizen visiting relatives in Kumo. If they find you engaging in shinobi activities unless in defense of your life, or a practice spar in a training ground with the permission of the local nins, or in your own rooms… it will be justification to arrest you. I doubt Naruto will agree to execute you but you will be expelled without a second chance."
Sasuke nodded brusquely. "I understand. I will be Uchiha Sasuke, kin to Namikaze Hibara, not a jounin shinobi of Konohagakure."
Tsunade nodded and produced a bag filled with scrolls. "Currently most of our mail to Kumo goes through Suna. They have refused to accept personal mail, only matters of state. There are people in Konoha that wish to send letters to him, but they have always been returned. I haven't used the diplomatic seal in case Kumo takes offense and refuses all contact with Konoha. I'd like you to take these when you go. Mainly letters from Iruka, Konohamaru and his friends, and a few shinobis." She smiled sourly. "Including Haruno, Hatake, and Hyuuga Hinata."
Sasuke made a face but said nothing. Encouraged Tsunade continued.
"Most of my letters have been to Jiraiya via Summons and purely personal. Nothing to do with Konoha. He says Naruto has no positive feelings towards Konoha and with the views of those around him positive feelings will never form. I am not asking you to establish ties between Kumo and Konoha because that is impossible. What I am asking is for you to get to know your family there. They are your only living relatives and family is more important than politics."
Sasuke chuckled, a rusty sound. "You know, when we fought in the Valley of the End, Naruto said he thought of me as a brother. Now, close to two decades later, I find he is my brother, my brother-in-law."
Tsunade laughed. "I would never have thought it possible." She shook her head ruefully. "But then again this is Naruto we're talking about." Then her expression sobered. "You are not the only shinobi going from Konoha. Shikamaru managed to negotiate visas for himself and Aburame Shino. Both are going on matters of private business. Shikamaru is a silent partner in Ichiraku Teuchis ramen business. Shino is representing his father to negotiate a contract for certain supplies. The Aburames used to find certain plants they need in the forests before the Destruction. For the past few months they have been using their stockpile but now they need to replenish it. Strangely the best sources for the plant material is not been Kusa any more but Kumo. Even Kusa is buying certain floral harvests from Kumo because it is more potent than what they've been able to grow."
Sasukes eyes were wide. "How long has Shikamaru been a silent partner?"
"Five years." Tsunade admitted. "He kept visiting the ramen stand because he felt guilty for what happened, because he didn't Do anything. When he found out Teuchi was having financial problems he offered to help. He has a part ownership in the Suna stand that is run by Ayame and her husband. Her older children used to cycle through Konoha to help their grand-father run the stand here."
Sasuke became still. "Didn't Ichirakus sell out to the Akimichis two years ago?"
Tsunade nodded. "Teuchi moved to Kumo. He didn't tell Shikamaru why, just that he got an offer that looked promising and he didn't want to live in Konoha anymore. Technically Shikamaru doesn't have any ownership in the Kumo stand; he is just visiting an old business associate." Honey brown eyes were bright. "You might want to clear your calender for a few months and visit Shikamaru and Shino." She held out a sealed scroll and placed it next to the bag of message scrolls. "Your visa."
Sasuke accepted both items and bowed slightly. Quick light steps took him out of the office and towards his new apartment near the Nara compound. He had to talk to Shikamaru and Shino and plan a trip.
Shikamaru stubbed out his cigarette on a convenient rock, dark eyes never wavered from the fluffy clouds dotting the pale blue sky.
"You're late." He announced lazily as he pushed himself into a sitting position.
Sasuke did not say anything, just sat a little in front and to the side of Shikamaru. Shino mimicked the Uchiha so the three men formed a triangle.
"Sorry, I had to pick up Shino." His tone was Not sorry.
Shikamaru sighed. "Yeah yeah. When do you want to go?" He did not have to say where.
Sasuke considered the question. "As soon as possible. Tsunade-sama is trying to put a tight lid on things but someone will spill. I don't want to listen to fools. I have enough worrying about my own priorities."
Shino nodded in agreement. "I feel the same. My clan needs the maidens tongue moss and Gillian Tears leaves. Several species we breed need to eat those particular plants at certain points of their life cycles. The cache we used to replenish from Konohas forests will be used up within ten weeks. Our agent in Kusa could not secure a local supply since they started trading for certain plants with Kumo."
Shikamaru nodded slowly. "Two weeks out, three weeks back. Five weeks to find a supplier and negotiate a contract and get the permission of the Raikage." He made a face. "That is cutting it too close."
"We ran run." Sasuke offered. "I would prefer it. I don't trust Shizune to hold her tongue. She is soft enough to tell Sakura."
All three males winced at the thought of the guilt-ridden kunoichi descending on them in hysterics, begging them to bring Naruto back, just like she had once begged Naruto to bring Sasuke back.
"We'll leave tomorrow at dawn. I'll tell Kaa-san I have a delivery mission to Suna." Shikamaru decided. "Please be discreet when making purchases."
And then they parted ways.
Sasuke headed for the Uchiha Compound. He had spent several weeks turning the place upside down, searching for hidden caches and records. Aburame Shino, Hyuuga Neji and Inuzuka Kiba and been essential in locating the documents he had been searching for; documents that contained the full details of the ugly truth. That information spurred him to search through the private rooms of the others involved.
Uchiha Mikoto who maintained the mask in public while she fell apart in private guilt-ridden every time she looked upon her first-born child, her eldest, the daughter she could never acknowledge. Her fear and hate of her husband, the clan elders, and herself for doing Nothing. Maintaining her continued blindness of what was happening around her because if she accepted the reality she would have to accept the truth that she was just as criminally responsible as her husband, she was like those who assisted the Snake Sannin Orochimaru in his experiments.
Uchiha Fugate who felt nothing but greed and satisfaction at what his choices yielded, the perfect Uchiha, the perfect shinobi. His faint dissatisfaction when the tool began to rebel and remember despite the mind wipes. His distaste towards his eldest son Sasuke who was a disappointment. His plans to sire a third child, hopefully a son who would be a better heir than Sasuke after he underwent the same training slightly modified to wipe out the rebelliousness of his eldest.
Uchiha Shishu who was assigned to observe and report any signs of surfacing memories to the designated handlers. His growing obsession with his cousin and target, the perfect shinobi. If that was the case why not make use of what she never would… her feminine sexuality. Next time she remembered and broke the fuuin jutsu Shishu didn't have to report the signs immediately. A few hours would not make much of a difference.
Several other cousins who suspected something was off but said nothing… Because it was for the good of the clan, for good of Konoha.
Records of training accidents and deaths of those who kept pressing on the prodigys behalf. Each was planned and executed by Uchiha nins or Ne ANBU under the direction of the Clan Elders.
Uchiha Itachi never kept a journal. 'His' room was barren of personal possessions. Everything was ANBU or Uchiha issue. The futon was thin and the linens standard. The furnishings were plain and unadorned. The scrolls and books were on strategy, tactics, and topics regarding various shinobi fields. There were no literary works of fiction, no artwork or softness. Sasuke wondered why he never realized how much it resembled a cell. There was nothing of his sibling here. No wonder Hibara could so easily walk away after slaughtering her oppressors with no second glance.
Sasuke made a vow to cleanse the place in the next few years. After locating all the documents he would create a historical archive and then destroy the compound. He would not bury and ignore his clans sins. He would not deny the suffering they inflicted on their own and those around them.
Sasuke resisted the urge to activate the Sharingan as he followed the Kumo jounin from the Administrative Offices to the Raikages Tower. The jounin had informed them in smug bland tones that the Raikage had final say on the presence of those with shinobi training from hostile villages. Activating the Sharingan would indicate hostile intent or lack of control, things that would get Sasuke kicked out of Kumo.
"Just bite your tongue Sasuke." Shikamaru sighed before taking a deep drag. "They are looking for an excuse to kick you out before you even reach the Raikage."
Sasuke huffed but remained silent. Shikamaru was right.
The three Konoha nin remained on their best behaviour as their guide took the scenic route to the Raikage Tower and led them up the stone steps winding around the outside of the structure. Occasionally the jounin would stop and greet other nins and civilians on various levels of the building before continuing up.
Almost near the top of the structure he entered the tower core and guided the three following him through a maze of narrow hallways to a comfortable mid-size meeting room with no windows.
"Wait here. I will find the Raikage."
And then he left closing the door. They waited for twenty minutes before someone entered the room. Jiraiya, the Gama Sannin.
His expression was unexpectedly serious without any of the usual carefree humor. He was dressed in his usual green and red garb but he had abandoned the geta sandals for black combat boots favored by Kumo nins. Dark eyes narrowed upon seeing Sasuke. He snorted softly.
"Naruto was always soft when it comes to family. Remember this Uchiha, he once called you brother, and now you are brother-by-law, but if you do anything to jeopardize his wife and children he'll rip your throat out without a qualm."
Sasuke inhaled sharply and nodded. Then Jiraiya relaxed and smiled more openly.
"Good. Now that's out of the way lets get going."
He led the trio out of the waiting room and down a series of narrow corridors, up and down stairs until they stood before a set of heavily carved, brass bound oak doors guarded by two masked BOLT nins.
The Konoha nins could feel the scrutiny though it was not betrayed by a single movement. The Gama-sannin nodded to the guards and pushed the doors open to reveal a large pleasant office painted and furnished in soothing neutral tones. There were large knee to ceiling windows that framed a view of a lush private garden below.
The Raikage had company.
The raven-haired kunoichi stiffened and spoke softly, urgently, whispering so they could not hear her words. The blonde kage nodded and smiled faintly before cupping her cheek. Then he kissed her. It was a quick brief brush of lips before he moved away. She followed his retreat on tiptoe for a longer more intense kiss. When they parted the intimate warmth faded behind a mask of cool detachment. Her eyes did not betray any interest or emotion as she walked over to a window and stepped onto the ledge before stepping off and vanishing.
With her departure the softness and pleasure faded from the Raikages face. With brisk movements he moved to pull a scroll from a pile and a folder from a small stack. He did not speak though he indicated for them to sit.
Shikamaru whined internally as he accepted the invitation and sank into the wooden but surprisingly comfortable chairs. Jiraiya-sama and Shino sat as well but Sasuke remained standing, too tense and needing the freedom to pace around the spacious office. Hoping the Uchiha held his tongue the Nara waited for the invitation to speak.
And then it came.
"It was unexpected. The visa applications for Konoha jounins."
Shikamaru bit his tongue. "The Aburame clan needs a new supply of specific plants and Kusagakure says Kumo has the best supply. I'm used to negotiating contracts."
"And the Uchiha?" Namikaze Naruto murmured in arch tones as he examined the details in the files. Cool blue eyes demanded complete honestly.
"He wishes to get to know his relatives."
"Ahh." The Raikage glanced at the sannin who gave a tiny shrug. "That is a private matter. We can negotiate contracts with the Aburame clan for the flora specified. It can be delivered on a monthly basis at best. If you wait a few days you can get a quarter of what you've specified for most of what you've specified. Three species on list C are not readily available and we have a waiting list. Unless the new greenhouses are built in the next week you will have to wait three months. If you wish to be bumped to the top of the waiting list you will have to pay a thirty percent premium."
Shino winced but nodded before speaking. "Ten percent of the usual quarterly shipment to go when we leave at the premium rate."
Naruto rested his cheek on the L formed by the thumb and pointer finger of one hand and studied the Konoha nins with cool detached eyes.
"My advisors have suggested I insist on an outrageous penalty premium but I won't. Five percent on the usual market rates. It will decrease a half percent for each year that passes without any Konohan idiots attacking my nins. On the flip side it will increase a tenth of a percent every quarter it does." Shikamaru and Shino winced at the penalty clauses. Narutos smile was razor sharp. "I trust my shinobi not to attack first but if they do and it is proven to my satisfaction the incident will not count."
The next thirty minutes were spent negotiating the actual quantities, payment methods, delivery schedules, courier fees, et cetera. Once the contract was signed and sealed Naruto relaxed a tad.
"Any other reason why you are in Kumo?" He inquired in arch tones.
Shikamaru removed his satchel and placed it on the desk. "Letters." He replied simply.
Naruto glanced at Jiraiya who moved to open the bag and sort through the contents. The sannin examined the scroll and seal for any tampering or traps and spoke the name of the sender before handing it to Naruto who made two piles, one very large one from those seeking forgiveness, and one from those who were neutral or supportive of Naruto.
The larger pile was shredded into minute confetti with a brief half-seal. The small scraps of paper swirled on a gust of chakra infused air before falling into a trash can.
Shikamaru winced minutely seeing the missives from many of his fellow nins shredded without even being opened. But he did not say a word of protest.
Naruto was amused. "No word of protest? How it is best to forgive and forget?" He inquired in arch tones.
Shikamaru snorted. "Why should you? They never did. Besides it is not like you have to see them everyday and live in the same village. Besides telling you to do something is a waste of energy."
The smile became more open. "Intriguing." He murmured and did not say another word on the matter. "Follow me."
He walked without an apparent care for the Konoha nins at his back though the three of them knew better than to imagine the Raikage was not ready for a potential attack. As they followed him down stairs and corridors, past respectful Kumo nins and civilians he kept up a running commentary.
"The Moribanos are Kumos experts and specialists on flora. They are in charge of the fields, gardens, and greenhouses of exotic harvests. With our increased trade in herbal flora there is a bottleneck due to labour and experience constraints. A branch of the clan in Kusa will be moving to Kumo but is not due for another two months. If you wish to leave within the week you will have to help with the harvest. It has to be done entirely by hand by civilians or shinobis with very good chakra control to avoid tainting." He turned to look at the three shocked jounin. "And that means you. It will keep you out of trouble and get you out of Kumo as quick as possible."
He led them through a well-tended garden and towards a cluster of greenhouses near an orchard and open fields.
"As for Uchiha-san, I'm afraid I am not sure what to do with you. My wife is not ready to deal with you and I am not sure if she will ever be ready." His eyes were shards of ice. "And believe me, her comfort and emotions matter to me a hell of a lot more than yours. If she is still unwilling by the time the shipment is ready you will leave with your fellow nin." Then the ice vanished and he smiled warmly. "Here we are." A short middle-aged woman with white streaked red hair emerged from one of the greenhouses. She was clearly a retired or off-duty kunoichi given the way she moved. "This is Moribano Tsubaki. She will be giving you orders on prepping the field and harvesting the crop. If she is unsatisfied with your efforts she will have someone escort you to your hotel room for the rest of your stay. And you will leave at the end of the week with less than what was decided on." He smiled blandly. "Consider this a D-rank mission. I will see you in a few hours."
And then he vanished with the sannin.
Shikamaru eyed the older woman, the faint scowl on her face, the way she stood feet shoulder width apart, her hands resting on her hips, arms akimbo, and he sighed. She reminded him too much of his mother. "Mendokuse."
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