I'm still alive, and still updating. I don't own any of this stuff. Wish I did, though.
The medic was mumbling nervously to himself as he kept his attention focused on the wound he was treating. Even though the wound was relatively small, a kunai to the hand had derailed the career of many a promising ninja when not properly treated given the delicate nature of the hand's musculature. The medic had to carefully and methodically treat the wound layer by layer to ensure there was no loss in mobility or stiffness that might compromise his patient's ability to function in the field.
While his extraordinary attention and devotion to care might have had something to do with his professionalism, dedication to service, life-long passion for easing suffering and the nature of the injury, the nervous glances he kept shooting to the hunter nin sitting in the corner of the room betrayed the real reason he was being so careful with this patient. Ranma was positively glowing, his aura flickering around his body and casting an eerie bluish-green light on everything in the room. Ranma's aura, in addition to being downright intimidating, had the added effect of masking the color of the healing chakra the medic was trying to use to treat the injury.
Like any trained medic, he was hesitant to delve into a wound with healing chakra if he couldn't see. However, Ranma was in no mood to wait around, and the medic's hesitancy to proceed just made Ranma's irritation, and by extension, his aura, grow, further complicating the medic's efforts to do his job. This vicious negative feedback loop had been going since Anko had been admitted into the room, and with each passing moment the medic's nervousness grew in proportion to Ranma's irritation.
With her free hand, Anko pulled a kunai from her leg pouch and tossed it at Ranma. He casually plucked it out of the air.
"Will you cut that out, you idiot? You're scaring the help." Anko huffed. "Honestly." Ranma's aura sputtered and died. With a satisfied sniff, she turned back to the medic, and with a smile, told him to continue. It certainly made it easier to see what he was doing without Ranma's aura interfering with his visuals, but it did little to ease the medic's nerves.
"Is that Neko?" The medic whispered, trying to keep his eyes on the delicate work of reconnecting the extensor digiti minimi and the associated tendons. Even still, he flicked his eyes over to the corner of the room before turning back to his Anko. "Are we going to be alright? I heard he's pretty uncontrollable."
"Neko? He's a harmless little pussycat." She smirked. "Why, he wouldn't even harm a butterfly, and I've got photos to prove it."
"I'm right here, you know." Ranma growled.
Ranma's voice caused the medic to flinch, which elicited a hiss of pain from Anko.
She glared at him. "Will you leave so he can finish this? Go stalk the halls, or something."
Ranma snorted. "Not likely. If I do that, you'll just slip out before I can find you and I'll spend another six months trying to track you down."
Anko sighed. "Look, I'll wait here when he's done. Promise. The more you interrupt, the longer this is going to take. Now go make yourself useful and get me some dango, or something."
Ranma muttered to himself, but did as asked. He opened the window of the room, and leaping out, found the nearest shop and purchased several large orders, knowing that Anko would probably polish them off with little difficulty. His mood must have been bleeding into his aura again, because the staff was stammering when the food was finally ready and handed over. Ranma slapped the money down on the counter and leapt away, not caring for the change.
By the time he got back to the room, the treatment was wrapping up. Even though the wound was closed, the medic still wrapped the injury in gauze, mostly as a reminder to take it easy for the next couple of days to prevent damage to the newly reconnected and delicate tissue. Anko flexed her hand experimentally a few times, and satisfied the wrappings wouldn't interfere with her motion, thanked the doctor before hopping off the bed.
Ranma followed her out the door, bag of rice-flour dumplings clutched in his hand. He quickly caught up with her, and offered her the bag. With a mumbled "thanks," she opened the bag and pulled one of the skewers out and practically shoved the whole thing into her mouth. It took her awhile to chew and swallow the treats, but when she did, she merely muttered that she needed some tea before reaching in for the next one.
The whole time she kept walking, leaving the nicer, residential area near the hospital was located in and heading towards the less salubrious districts where ninja went to relax after hours, free from prying eyes and judgment. Ranma frowned as he walked next to her, as she had not once looking in his direction since he handed her the bag several minutes ago.
Fed up, he asked, "Where are we going?"
"A bar." She replied.
Before he completed his question, though, she'd shoved another dumpling in her mouth. She held up a finger to forestall any additional questions, pointing towards her mouth, making a great show of the fact that she was still chewing. Ranma snatched the bag out of her hands and repeated his question.
Ranma held the bag out of reach. "You want these back, you answer my question. Why are we going to a bar?"
Anko swallowed her mouthful of dango, eyeing the bag hungrily. Eventually, she figured it would be faster to answer his question than try and snatch them back. "I don't think I can make it through a conversation with you tonight without drinking. Thus, we are going to a bar. Can I have those back now?"
Quirking an eyebrow, Ranma passed the bag back. She greedily clutched it to her chest, making cooing noises towards the bag before pulling yet another skewer out. This one was inhaled in the same manner as the others.
"Are you even enjoying those?" Ranma asked.
Anko ignored him, focusing instead on chewing and navigating the back alleys to avoid stepping in something that might get lodged in an open-toed sandal. After a few minutes, she ducked into a small back alley and stopping under a poorly lit sign. "We're here."
She pulled the rice paper door aside and brushed back the hanging banners to step inside. The interior was small, poorly lit, and quiet. The bar itself was small, dark wooden counter with rickety stools pulled up under it. This was not a full-service establishment, as the selection at the bar was mostly sake and hard liquors. A lone bartender half-heartedly wiped the countertop. At the sound of their entrance, he nodded in recognition at Anko and gave Ranma the sort of look that made Ranma suspect he must have been a ninja in a former lifetime.
Ranma could see why she picked this place, though, because it was empty at this time of the night. Also, the little space between the bar and the interior walls had been divided up into a series of deep booths in black leather with intentionally dim lighting and dividers that reached all the way to the ceiling. They were arranged around the interior walls, ensuring that everyone could keep an eye out on the entire establishment to make sure neighbors weren't eavesdropping or trying to lip read.
In short, it looked like the kind of place paranoid ninja went to get wasted before they realized they were truly alcoholics and it would be easier and safer to drink at home.
She walked room and held up two fingers to the barkeep as she did so, sliding into the booth closest to the bar but furthest from the door. Ranma sat across from her, looking intently at her as she sat back and leaned her head against the back of the booth. Two shots of some dark liquid slid into the booth, and Anko downed them both in quick succession, holding up two more fingers as she did so.
Ranma frowned, but said nothing. The next two drinks arrived quickly. Anko slid one across the table to Ranma, before picking up the other one.
"Cheers." She tossed it back. "You not drinking?" She looked across at Ranma, his drink untouched.
"No." He pushed it across to her. "But after this one, you're stopping too. I want to talk, not have you throw up on me."
With a grimace, she reached across and picked up his drink, downing it without any hesitation. The barkeep came back at the sound of the glass hitting the tabletop, but Anko waved him away with a grimace.
She put her elbows on the table and laced her fingers together, leaning forward until her mouth was hidden behind her hands. For the first time since the forest, she looked directly at him, gaze unwavering. "Well?" She asked.
Silence stretched for a bit. Finally, Ranma said, "How have you been?"
"That's it? You've not seen me for six months, and that's what you wanted to ask?" Anko snorted.
Ranma's temper flared at the insult and he leaned across the table. "No, I actually wanted to ask what the fuck is wrong with you, but decided I'd try to be polite."
"There!" Anko said with a demented little grin. "That's better."
Ranma visibly calmed himself by taking a deep breath before sinking back into his booth. "Why?"
"Anko..." Ranma growled.
"Don't 'Anko' me. You wanted to talk. I promised you I'd talk to you. I didn't promise that it'd be easy."
Ranma scrubbed his hands through his hair. He'd never had to deal with a situation like this before, and frankly he felt completely out of his depth. He'd always been the one being chased - this was the first time he'd ever had to track someone down to seek relationship clarification. The irony was not lost on him, but right now he didn't have time to focus on his past as he needed to understand what was going on in the present. Not having any idea how one approached a situation like this, Ranma eventually just leaned forward and asked. "I just... don't understand. Was it something I did?"
Anko closed her eyes and put her forehead on her interlaced fingers. "Yes and no."
"What do you mean by that?" Ranma asked.
Anko opened her eyes only to see that Ranma was leaning across the table, staring at her intently. She took a deep breath. "Ranma, can you excuse me for a second?"
Ranma eyed her suspiciously. "Why? Are going to leave?"
"No." She sighed. "I'll be right back." She saw that he was going to protest, so she cut him off. "I promise." He slumped back down into his seat, watching her intently just the same as she got up and went to the bar.
Ranma couldn't hear what she said to the bartender, but her words sparked some motion behind the bar. The bartender produced a bottle of the liquor she'd been drinking earlier, a pitcher of water, and a couple of glasses, placing them on the counter before heading into the back with a nod.
Anko waited until he disappeared before coming back to the booth, liquor in one hand and the water pitcher in the other. "Mind if I ask a favor?"
"What is it?" Ranma queried.
Anko dumped about half the pitcher on his head, triggering the transformation. By the time Ranma wiped the water out of her face, Anko was back in the seat across the booth and pouring another round of drinks.
Ranma was pissed. "What the hell was that for?" Pulling a towel out of her stuff space, she started to dry off, glaring at Anko as she did so.
Anko shrugged. "I figured it might be easier to talk like this. Two girlfriends having drinks, you know?" She sipped her drink this time and pushed one across to Ranma.
Ranma pushed it back. "I don't want it."
Anko nodded. "Figured as much. Oh well." She downed the drink she was holding and picked up Ranma's. Ranma grabbed her hand, however, and made her drop the drink.
"You've had enough for right now." The now-female Ranma grabbed the bottle of alcohol and pulled it into her stuff space with the towel she had been using previously. Reaching for the empty water glasses, she filled up the two glasses with the water remaining in the pitcher, pushing one across the table to Anko.
"I don't need you taking care of me, Ranma." Anko rolled her eyes. "I'm barely feeling buzzed at this point."
"We'll see if you still feel that way in fifteen minutes." Ranma said. "Do you care to explain what you mean by your earlier comment? What I did wrong?"
Rather than answer, right away Anko merely looked at the water glass in her hand. "You... didn't really do anything wrong."
"Then why did you just… disappear?" Ranma asked. "You said enjoyed our time together. I just don't... it didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now."
Anko closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I did enjoy our time together. I've..." She trailed off. "Ranma, I messed up when I slept with you. I can't take it back, but I can try to move on."
"What do you mean, 'you messed up?'"
"Teachers aren't supposed to sleep with students." Anko said.
Ranma snorted. "That rule might make sense for a teacher-student relationship between an adult and a 12 year old genin, but between two consenting adults? I don't see why it would have been a problem."
"Well, it was a problem for me." She said.
"Why? What was so wrong about, it Anko?" Ranma asked.
"Because that's how you do it if you want to brainwash someone!" She hissed. "It starts small, until you get them to let down their guard, then you start instilling feelings of affection and loyalty and then you twist it and manipulate it until you can corrupt it for your own purposes!" By the end of her tirade, she was red-faced and breathing raggedly as she clutched the table with one arm for support.
A heavy silence fell across the table as Anko struggled to get her breathing back under control. It took a while, and once she was breathing normally again, she kept her eyes on the table, refusing to meet Ranma's.
"Can you tell me about it? Your old sensei, I mean. You've told me some parts, but..." Ranma trailed off.
Anko slumped in her seat. She was unable to start at first, but after a few easy questions about what Orochimaru was like, the words started to flow. At first, Anko spoke so softly that it was barely audible, even in the quite bar, but her voice got slowly stronger as she more details and memories were brought forward. Orochimaru was a prodigy - the likes of which came only once in a generation. His talent, determination, and thirst for knowledge made him stand out from the rest of his cohort. He'd always been a little strange even before he lost his parents, but their deaths twisted him somehow and turned his interests into morally questionable grounds. Though he hid it well, his sadistic tendencies fuel his research into forbidden arts, particularly the search and quest for power.
His genius always served Orochimaru's own purposes. After the team of the Sannin disbanded, Anko became his apprentice. Anko told Ranma about what it was like to study under one of the Sannin- before he decided to walk the path of power over all else. At a certain point, Orochimaru's explorations required subjects to experiment on, and he decided to groom Anko to play a role in his deprivations, molding her personality and her skills to study how his seal would effect a human body. This was only apparent in retrospect, after having undergone extensive interrogation and analysis by both Torture and Interogation head Yamanaka and Morino Ibiki. Regardless of having been cleared by them both, though, after she received the cursed seal and was abandoned, she was treated as an outcast by most of the populace, as if she had played some role in Orochimaru's depravity.
Silent tears began making tracks down Anko's face at some point as she talked. Ranma already had a loathing for Orochimaru based off the few discussions she'd had with Anko prior to this. However, for a teacher to so abuse the trust of a student was unforgivable on many levels. Ranma's own personal experience with his father fueled his rage, as a lot of what Anko underwent sounded uncomfortably close to his own upbringing. In his father's defense, everything Genma had done was undertaken in an effort to make Ranma the best possible martial artist. The fact that Genma was able to satiate his own gluttonous appetites while doing so was just a happy coincidence. Unconsciously, Ranma began to feed her anger into the Soul of Ice, allowing the rage to settle into a condensed ball in her stomach. Even though her control was normally very good, Ranma's anger was too much to contain, and the water in the glass she was holding froze.
Ranma vowed that if she met Orochimaru again, there would be no mercy.
Anko eventually ran out of things to say. The liquor was catching up to her quickly. She sat there, haggard and wrought out, drained from the telling of her tale. Ranma, too, was tired from listening and processing all the information she'd been given.
Before the conversation could resume again, however, Jiraiya entered the bar and made a beeline for the booth. There was no way he missed Anko's state of disarray, but he chose not to comment as he addressed Ranma.
"Sorry to break up the party. Hokage wants to see you."
Ranma frowned. "Can't this wait?" She nodded her head in Anko's direction.
"No can do. I'll give you a couple of minutes, but we've got to go." With that, Jiraiya turned and walked out the front door.
Ranma sighed, and waited for Jiraiya to leave before turning back to Anko. "I still want to finish our conversation," she said. "I don't know how long this will take. Where should I meet you again?"
Anko chuckled weakly. "If you leave me the bottle, I'll still be here when you finish. As long as you don't take too long, you'll know where to find me."
Ranma hesitated for a second, and pulled the liquor out of her stuff space, placing it on the table. She poured a shot over the ice in the glass in her hand, pushing it across the table to Anko. "Don't drink too much. I'll be back as soon as I can." With that, she stood and exited the booth, frowning as she watched Anko clutched the glass in her hand, never bothering to look in Ranma's direction as she left.
Needless to say, Ranma was not in a good mood as she followed Jiraya over the rooftops to the Hokage's office, grumbling under her breath the whole way to there. It took most of the trip to work herself out of the Soul of Ice. Jiraiya was also in a serious mood, not even taking the time to make a perverted comment as he moved towards the tower with a purposeful stride.
They were ushered right in when they arrived. The Hokage, as normal, was sitting behind his desk stamping papers. Jiraiya followed up behind, shutting the door and pushing Ranma to the center of the room. At the sound of the latch clicking shut, the Hokage looked up. He blinked once or twice at the sight of the female Ranma and muttered something just beyond the range of hearing, but set Ranma's pervert detection radar tingling. The feeling passed quickly, however, as the air in the office quickly took on a serious tone.
Taking off his hat, the Hokage nodded to the Toad Sage. "Jiraiya, if you would please."
The white-haired ninja immediately knelt down, and taking out some brushes and ink, began to draw a complex symbol on the floor. It took several minutes to complete, and once done, Jiraiya placed his hands on the seal and channeled as much chakra as he could spare. Ranma's sense of the outside world seemed to dim, then the world beyond the small bubble contained in the office seemingly vanished. It reminded him greatly of the Umisenken. Curious, Ranma made a note to ask about that later.
Jiraiya stood up on shaky knees, sweat apparent on his forehead. "That… was tougher than I remember."
"Welcome to aging. A small glimpse of what is to come, should you live to be my age." The Hokage said.
Jiraiya frowned. "I'd prefer to think it's because I don't often overpower seals like that."
"How long do we have?" The Hokage asked.
"At least thirty-five, maybe thirty-eight minutes." Jiraiya shrugged. "Can't promise more than that, though."
"It should be sufficient." With that, the Hokage sat up in his chair and pushed back from his desk a bit. "I've summoned you here for two things today. The first one's pretty easy. Catch." The Hokage tossed a scroll to Ranma, who caught it with a puzzled look.
"Read it." The Hokage commanded.
With a shrug, Ranma broke the seal and read. She looked up. "Really?"
"Congratulations on your promotion, Jonin Saotome Ranma. You can pick up your flak jacket when you leave." The Hokage smiled.
"Wait. I don't get it." Ranma protested. "I mean, I know I'm the best 'n all, but…"
Sarutobi chuckled. "As to the why… that is the difficult part." Sarutobi stood, and with a grunt, knuckled the small of his back as he walked to the front of his desk and sat on a corner. "Being the leader of a ninja village requires more time and skill than any one person can reasonably be expected to posses. So, certain… portfolios are delegated to trustworthy individuals in order to free up time for the Kage to manage the affairs of the village." The Hokage pointed at Jiraiya. "For example, Jiraiya is our Spymaster. Inoichi, with whom you've worked extensively, is the head of the Interrogation department. I do not tell you this lightly. In particular, Jiraiya's position is a very well-guarded state secret, and I expect it to remain that way after this meeting ends. Is that clear?"
Ranma nodded. "Sure. But why tell me all this?"
"It is simple." This came from Jiraiya. "In order to become the head of a portfolio, one must be of Jonin rank or higher."
Ranma looked down at the scroll in her hands, then up at the two men in the room with her. Both the Hokage and the Toad Sage looked extraordinarily pleased with themselves.
"You gotta be shittin' me." Ranma groaned.
The Hokage looked like a cat that not only polished off a canary, but had been given a saucer of milk to help clear the feathers from its throat. "I am not 'shittin'' you, as you so elegantly put it."
"But why me?" Ranma asked. "You've got lots of jonin that you could tap for this sort of stuff."
The Hokage nodded. "Yes. There are many jonin who might be tapped to fill certain roles. However, there is one role that has been vacant for half a dozen years, and you are by far the best candidate for the job. In fact, I'm convinced that you are the only choice, given your unique background and skill set. You will succeed where others would fail, and, more importantly, be accepted in the role where no one else would."
"I'm not sure I buy it. What did you have in mind?" Ranma asked.
The Hokage and Jiraiya both looked at each other briefly before the Hokage answered. "Law Enforcement and Internal Control Services."
"What…?" However, Ranma was cut off before she could finish her question.
"Would you indulge me in a brief trip down memory lane?" The Hokage asked.
"Do I have a choice?"
"You always have a choice. But this was less a request and more a polite way of telling you to listen carefully." The amusement that had been present on the Hokage's face vanished instantly. "Before I tell you this, though, I want an oath of honor from you that you will not divulge what I am about to say."
For once, Ranma didn't just open her mouth and spout off the first retort that came to mind. Alarm bells were ringing in her head due to the seriousness of the Hokage's demeanor and the particular phrasing of the request. She'd been around ninja long enough now to know that secrecy generally meant bad things.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" Ranma asked.
Sarutobi smiled grimly. "I'm pretty sure you won't."
"And if I refuse?" Ranma asked. "If you recall the first time you put me in a situation like this, my options were pretty damn limited."
The Hokage nodded. "I would like to apologize for that. However, you were a completely unknown quantity when you first arrived. In addition, you broke out of a high security facility and ended up wounding a number of Konoha's security forces in your attempt to leave the city. We are creatures of habit and suspicion, and unfortunately we are trained to deal with threats harshly, given how much is at stake. This time, however, you have a choice. You can simply accept the promotion and leave."
"What's the catch?" Ranma asked.
"No catch." The Hokage said.
Ranma's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
The Hokage allowed a ghost of a smile to tug at the corner of his lips. "Well, I should say, if you choose to stay and listen, then you will have a chance to do a great service to this village and utilize your particular skill set the way it was meant to be used."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ranma asked.
The Hokage waggled a finger back and forth. "No more information till I get your oath."
"Can I think about it?" Ranma asked.
"Absolutely." The Hokage said. "I'll give you thirty seconds."
Ranma snorted. "You suck."
"You are not the first to tell me that." Sarutobi said with amusement.
Ranma stared at the floor, trying to examine this offer from as many angles as possible. She didn't believe the old man for a second - he was far too wily to not have some sort of hidden agenda. Based on how tense his body language was, whatever he was hiding was probably something serious.
Ranma was interrupted from her thoughts by Jiraiya shouting. "Time."
Both he and the Hokage watched Ranma carefully as she looked up from the floor and glared back at them both. "I hope you realize that I'm gonna kick both of your asses after all this is said and done, right?"
Jiraiya smirked. "I'm looking forward to seeing you try, little girl."
Ranma flipped him the bird before turning it on the Hokage. "Fine. I'll do it."
"Do you swear on your honor to not reveal anything that will be revealed to you today unless given permission from the Hokage?"
Ranma grumbled under her breath for good thirty seconds. She looked up, her eyes flashing as she struggled to keep her temper in check. "I, Ranma Saotome, swear on my honor to not reveal anything revealed today unless given permission from the Hokage. That work for you, old man?"
"It does. Thank you." The Hokage sagged in relief. "Jiraiya?"
The white-haired Toad Sage stood slowly as he uncrossed his arms, a frown readily apparent on his face. "Sarutobi, you sure about this?"
"I am. For once, I have absolutely no qualms about an action that I am about to authorize. Perhaps this can be a small step to ensuring Konoha is strong and the will of fire burns brightly."
Jiraiya sent a glance to the Hokage for a second before turning to Ranma. "If you accept, you'll be given license to use absurd amounts of non-lethal violence against people behaving poorly with the full support of the administration in the interest of preserving law and order."
Ranma stared blankly.
"You get to beat idiots up and toss them in jail for breaking the rules." Jiraiya said.
"That I can do." Ranma grinned, cracking her knuckles.
"Essentially, your role would be exactly what Jiraiya stated." The Hokage said. "You would be placed as the head of a force that would be charged with maintaining law and order in the village for all non-military matters, reporting directly to the Hokage. The force would be tasked with conducting investigations, combating crime, and enforcing existing standing orders. Capture and detaining criminals or those in contravention of the existing laws through the use of non-lethal techniques would be emphasized. You would remand those apprehended to our security forces for justice to be administered until such time I can establish some mechanism for ensuring an impartial system of review and sentencing."
Ranma mulled the information over. "But don't you have the ANBU for that?"
"The ANBU were never intended to fulfill that role. They were originally an external facing organization, set up to counter overt and covert threats to the village. It is a waste of their time and talents to focus on internal issues, as it leaves them less time to focus on their true role." The Hokage stated.
"Konoha used to have an internal police force." Jiraiya stated. "The problem was that it was comprised exclusively of Uchiha."
"But with the Uchiha were wiped out..." Ranma trailed off.
"Others have had to fill that gap." The Hokage finished. "As a result, Konoha is weaker for it. The job is yours if you want it. To be fair, it is a rather thankless job. You will make no friends for taking this on, and quite a few enemies, I imagine."
Ranma thought furiously, her mind racing as she tried to process the information she was given. "Why me?"
"Because you understand what it is like to live in a society that is ruled by laws. We ninja experience brief periods of peace between wars. Hopefully, you can institute something more… enduring for Konoha. In addition, you have the respect of your peers and the temperament and ability to incapacitate your targets without resorting to lethal force." Sarutobi said.
"Pfft." Ranma huffed. "They don't respect me. They fear me 'cause of that that cock and bull story you guys crafted about me being like that Naruto kid."
The Hokage nodded. "Perhaps. But your performance as a Hunter was exemplary. I doubt I could name more than a handful of ninja the village who could have performed a similar feat. None of them would be good choices to resurrect the police forces. Might Guy, for example, might be able to similarly incapacitate suspects, but I don't particularly see him as being effective in trying to structure a peace keeping force, particularly given his fetish for tight-fitting body wear."
Ranma blanched at the thought. "Point taken." She paused. "But you said I'd probably make enemies. I know myself. I'm good at breaking heads. I'm pretty sure you'll regret it when I piss off some muckity-muck while doing what you ask me to do."
"That's the point, really." Jiraiya said.
Ranma narrowed her eyes and glared at the white-headed toad sage. "What do you mean, that's the point?"
"Currently, I get so wrapped up in internal matters that I can't focus on my job of protecting the village. Orochimaru's appearance in the exams is proof enough of that." The Hokage said. "My aim is to get people focused on coming to you with their complaints about routine, non-military matters that require the enforcement of regulation so that I can focus on keeping this village safe."
"I'm not so good at making people like me. Unless you can promise me some kind of protection and free rein to do the job that needs to be done, I'm not sure it's a good idea." Ranma said.
The Hokage nodded. "I can grant you certain authorities and privileges, within the bounds of reason. As long as you don't try to create a paramilitary force that operates outside of my influence, you would have a large degree of autonomy in the structure, training, and management of that force." The Hokage and Jiraiya shared a brief glance before he continued. "In terms of protection from politics, you would answer to the Hokage, and your performance would be subject to periodic review. As long as you behave according to the rules we set forth, you should be able to operate relatively free from political influence, as long as you strive to remain apolitical. However, I will throw you to the wolves if you start dabbling in politics more than necessary."
Ranma grimaced. "How long would I have to get this up and running?" She asked.
"Initially, you'd be given six months to come up with a plan for rebuilding the force from the ground up, including coming up with an operating budget and training plan. That means you will have to face the bane of all managers - paperwork." Sarutobi laced the last word with as much antipathy as possible. "You'll be given some resources, but how you choose to allocate them will be up to you. I cannot spare any ninja to build your ranks, but you are welcome to recruit from any genin potentials that fail to make it into the ninja corps. Many of them would work quite well in this capacity." Sarutobi said.
"And civilians?" Ranma asked.
"If they are so inclined." Sarutobi responded.
Back home, Ranma had never really paid much attention to the police. Now, however, she was being asked to essentially try and recreate a police force from the ground up in a land that all too often resorted to lethal violence to solve its problems.
In short, this was a shitty deal. But the alternative - having nothing at all - was even worse in the long run.
"And now, the catch." Jiraiya said.
"But you said there was no catch!" Ranma exclaimed.
Both Jiraiya and the Hokage both chuckled in mirth. The Hokage went as far as to wipe the corner of his eye, muttering under his eye about innocence.
"That, Ranma, is exactly why I want you for this job." The Hokage said. The laughter died down soon enough. "There is always a catch, Ranma. In this case, it doesn't have to do so much with you, but with the history of the job. What we are about to tell you is known to a handful of people – myself, Jiraija, Danzo Shimura, Koharu Utatane, Homura Mitokado, and Uchiha Itachi."
Ranma opened her mouth to ask a question, but was interrupted by the Hokage raising his hand. "I ask that you listen first. We'll answer questions later."
The Hokage began to pace, hands clasped behind his back as he spoke. "Koharu and Homura are former teammates of the mine and make up the Konoha Council. The Council exists to help the Hokage govern Konoha and ensure that the decisions made are in the best interest of the village. Though the Hokage has final say in most matters, they are there to provide dissenting view to ensure any decision reached is takes into account as many possibilities as possible."
Jiraiya paused. "Then there is Danzo Shimura." Jiraiya's lips curled, as if he'd just eaten something rotten.
Sarutobi sighed. "I respect both of my teammates, but I find Koharu and Homura to be more… militant than I am. I've lived through too many wars, and so my first reaction is to try and find a peaceful means to resolve a situation. Danzo, however… his loyalty to Konoha is boundless, but he is by far the most militant elder of Konoha. He used to head a division of ANBU that ran black ops for Konoha. He will do anything – absolutely anything – if he believes it will benefit the village. Morality has no role to play in his defense of the village. Assassinations, kidnappings, blackmail, torture, inciting violence or war… he will and has made use of any tool in the ninja arsenal to protect our village." As he spoke, Ranma noticed that the Sarutobi seemed to almost visibly wilt, as if he were aging before her eyes. The vitality that Ranma associated with old masters was missing, leaving behind simply an old, broken warrior.
"I disagree with him vehemently on his approach, and when I resumed the title of Hokage asked that his organization, ROOT, be disbanded. I don't believe for a second that he has complied, given what I know of him. I'm sure it is just buried too deeply for me to find. He is as ruthless and merciless as any ninja I've ever known, with the possible exception of Orochimaru." Sarutobi paused. "Make no mistake, for all his injuries Danzo remains a formidable opponent."
"Danzo's approach of taking no prisoners and eliminating all threats before they become known is a double-edged sword. It generates a lot of antipathy and undermines the very stability he's trying to protect." Jiraiya said. "In addition, because he acts so decisively, he often destroys leads to larger conspiracies and threats, leaving us vulnerable."
"Danzo will not be pleased that the role the Uchiha previously played will be reconstituted with forces beyond his direct political control. I am sure that he will attempt to infiltrate, influence, and manipulate your forces as soon as you get them up and running. By taking steps to reform this non-military force, I am setting you up to directly oppose Danzo's wishes, and in turn protect this village from his methodology." The Hokage said. "How you will accomplish that I leave up to you. At some point, I am going to arrange for you to make contact with Uchiha Itachi."
"Itachi?" Ranma sputtered. "Didn't he… ya know, off his whole family?"
"Yes, he did. Because I ordered him to." The Hokage hung his head, his voice thick with emotion. "Contrary to what most believe, Itachi is the best example of what a ninja can be. He's a pacifist and one-hundred percent loyal to his village. He came to me with disturbing news, and did what was deemed necessary to preserve the peace. He chose peace over his own family. Not many would make that choice."
Jiraiya continued. "The Uchiha were a strong and proud clan, full of fearsome warriors. Their sharingan helped make Konoha the power it became, and also made them uniquely suited for subduing criminals in non-lethal manners. Long ago an agreement was reached that the Uchiha would be given control of Konoha to govern the internal security concerns. They contributed a force of clansmen that policed the city, relieving the burden of dealing with internal disorder from the Hokage so he could concentrate on external threats."
In the time it took for Jiraiya to speak, the Hokage seemed to have recovered a bit of his disposition. "The arrangement was fragile, however." Sarutobi said. "Many within the clan felt like they, the Uchiha, were always being passed over for the position of Hokage, which they assumed was theirs by right as one of the leading clans within the village. For generations there was constant bickering, plotting, and mistrust between the Uchiha and the leadership of this village."
Sarutobi closed his eyes and sighed. "The last clan head of the Uchiha, Fugaku, crossed a line. While we were still recovering from the last shinobi war, he began plotting a coup to take the mantle of Hokage through force. Then the Kyuubi attacked the village. The Kyuubi… the attack happened thirteen years ago, but it remains one of the most traumatic events our village has ever endured. It further divided the Uchiha from the rest of the village, because rumors immediately began to circulate that the Uchiha had been controlling the beast through the Sharigan."
"Years passed before the Uchiha were ready to move. However, Itachi came to me and revealed the plan. Had the coup d'état succeeded, Konoha would have been easy pickings for our enemies, as a great many ninja would have died in the conflict. Danzo advocated we strike first. I did not want to, but I was overruled." Sarutobi stated.
"A great many ninja died the day I gave the order to Itachi for the clan to be exterminated. For many, their only crime was to put the good of their clan above the good of their village. The children were entirely blameless. There is not a single night when I don't feel guilt over what happened, but ordering the strike prevented a civil war in Konoha that would have lead to even more death and destruction as other villages would have pounced on us, triggering another shinobi war. At the time, it seemed the only route to preserve the village and protect us from our enemies."
Ranma gaped. It took her awhile to find her voice, and when it did it sounded entirely too screechy for her to be comfortable. "What... THE... FUCK?"
Sarutobi pointed to the chair. "Sit. Yell at me later. We've got some time on before the seal expires, and you and I have some things we need to discuss. Namely, how to right some grievous wrongs and how you can prevent something of this nature from ever happening again. Jiraiya, tell me when the seal expires so we can bring Inoichi in. We'll need his help to get Ranma ready for what is to come."
By the time Ranma got back to the bar, Anko was completely shit-faced. She slid into the booth across for her - Anko acknowledged her presence simply by grunting and reaching for the nearly empty bottle in front of her. Ranma grabbed it first, and pulled it away.
Then she took a long pull. She was barely conscious of Anko's attempts to grab the bottle back, concentrating instead on the burn of the alcohol as it worked its way through her system rather than think about the information she'd just learned and the discussion that had followed. She'd deal with it later; her brain was still too fried to really process what she'd just been told.
Just when she thought things couldn't get any weirder, the Hokage went and pulled the rug out from under her feet. The worst part of it was that Ranma actually agreed with the Hokage's reasoning. That frightened her almost as much as the task she'd be given.
Anko grabbed at the bottle again, pulling Ranma out of her thoughts. "You're done here." Ranma said.
Anko made an obscene gesture in response.
Ranma got up from the booth and took the bottle with her, walking over to the bartender and handing it back.
"Does Anko have a tab?"
The bartender nodded.
"Great. Put this on it."
With a nod, the bartender reached out and grabbed the bottle, which promptly vanished behind the counter. Ranma returned to the table only to find that Anko had slumped over in the booth, close to the verge of passing out. With a sigh, the redhead leaned over and grabbed one of her hands and pulled her up into a seated position. Anko's protests were incoherent, but eventually she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. Ranma threw one of Anko's arms around her shoulder, and wrapping the other around her waist, preceded to half-carry, half drag the purple-haired woman out of the bar. Ranma, even in her slightly shorter female form, wasn't inconvenienced by Anko's weight, but the other woman was barely able to put one foot in front of the other. After a while, Ranma gave up simply scooped Anko up in a bridal carry, heading in the direction of her apartment.
Anko muttered something into Ranma's chest at first, but passed out at some point along the way, asleep before he reached her place. Not having a set of keys of his own anymore, she crouched down so that she could continue to cradle Anko with her knees and one arm. With her free hand, Ranma pulled out a pair of lock picks and did her best to force the tumblers on the door's locks. With only one hand, it took far longer than she would have liked, but Anko slept through it all, oblivious. Once she was able to get in, she forced the door open and slipped inside. Ranma closed the door behind him, turned on the light, and sighed at the mess and stench.
The kitchen counter was covered with empty take out boxes and bottles. The trash was full to overflowing, and smelled rancid. The living room wasn't in much better shape. The coffee table was covered in empty bottles and dango containers, with dirty mesh body suits Anko favored strewn over the back of the couches.
Ranma carried Anko into the bedroom, which was also a mess. The room smelled stale. She carefully set Anko down on a clean patch of floor. As quickly as possible, Ranma stripped the bed, flipped the mattress, and replaced the sheets with a clean pair from the closet, but not before she noticed that a vast majority of the clean linens were still folded in the same way as the last time she'd been here.
When the bed was made, Ranma gently laid her down on the mattress. It didn't matter, though - she could have dropped her and she wouldn't have noticed, given how far gone she was. She debated whether or not to undress her before tucking her in, but decided it would only complicate matters between them at this point. With a sigh, decided to occupy her time cleaning up to avoid thinking about the Hokage, the Uchiha, and all the other fucked up skeletons buried in Konoha's closets. Besides, Anko had promised that they'd finish the conversation they'd started at the bar, and this looked like it would be the best chance she'd get for a while.
With little more to do than cleaning to occupy her time, Ranma was able to get the apartment looking livable again in a few hours. Rather than go home, she decided to crash on the couch to ensure she'd be able to talk with Anko when she woke up.
Morning came, and Ranma already awake when the the sounds of Anko groaning miserably from her bedroom permeated the house. Ranma grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen and stood at the entrance to the bedroom. Anko was sitting on the edge of the bed, head between her hands, her purple hair hanging down to hide her face.
"You want some water?" Ranma offered.
Anko turned to glare at her, eyes bloodshot.
Eventually, she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"You passed out." She pointed at herself with a thumb. "I carried you here. I want to finish our conversation."
"Only thing coming out of my mouth in the next couple of hours is vomit." Anko hung her head. "Can I have that water?"
Ranma walked over and handed her the glass. Anko grabbed and gulped it down, holding it out for another. Ranma ran to the restroom to fill it up, and handed it back to her. This process was repeated a few times until she'd chugged enough water to feel slightly human again.
"Feeling better?" She asked.
"No." Anko stated flatly. "I'm going back to sleep, and when I wake up I'm going to take a shower. If you're still around, we'll talk then."
"Then I'll wait." Ranma said.
Anko promptly flopped back on the bed, and was out in seconds.
And so she did. Some time later, the sound of running water came out of the bedroom. When it ended, Anko came out of her bedroom, hair wrapped in a towel and wearing what looked to be relatively normal clothes - a loose knit sweater and a baggy pair of pants. Ranma raised an eyebrow at the ensemble - in the entire time she'd been here, she'd never seen anything in Anko's wardrobe remotely resembling normal. She'd have to ask about it later.
Anko sat down on the couch opposite Ranma and pulled her knees into her chest, resting her head on her knees. They stared at each other for a bit. Anko's pallid face and bloodshot eyes did little to hide her nervousness. Ranma simply stared at her, relieved to see that she was at least willing to talk to her again after avoiding her for so long.
"So?" Anko said.
"So?" Ranma snorted. "I want to know what happened. Why did you just... stop seeing me?"
Instead of answering, she asked a question of her own. "Why did you pick a fight with Orochimaru?"
"What does Orochimaru have to..." Ranma trailed off, reflecting on last night's conversation. In the end, Ranma shrugged. "He was going to kill you. I couldn't let that happen."
"Why?" She asked. "Why couldn't you just let him?"
"Because I..." Ranma stopped, and took a breath. "I care about you. That's why. I don't know what it is exactly we have... or had, at least... but I liked it. I miss it. Damn it, I missed you. I still miss you. I'm not good at this kind of stuff, but I want that back."
"I can't." Anko averted her gaze. "He's going to kill you. You won't be able stop him."
"You don't know that." Ranma said.
"I do. You might skilled enough to fight him with taijutsu, but he's too skilled, too treacherous, and too ruthless in everything else. He'll win eventually."
"Why should that matter?"
"Because it scares me." She whispered. She clutched briefly at the seal on her neck. "It would be the final straw, I think. I had nothing to lose before I met you. There was nothing else he could take away that would hurt me."
"Then teach me how to beat him." Ranma said. "Fight him with me. We were a damn good team, and someone like Orochimaru doesn't have friends. He has followers. I've fought plenty of people technically stronger than me, but I've always won - because I had friends and they didn't."
"You don't understand, Ranma." Anko put her forehead on her knees and didn't say anything. "It's not a matter what we are. Friends, lovers, whatever. This thing..." She pointed again at the seal. "The only thing that keeps this at bay is a flimsy seal and my will power. Emotions are a powerful trigger. Too much rage, and the seal gains power. Too much hate, and it beckons me to use it. Only my willpower holds it back. Attachment is too dangerous. If we..." She paused. "If we have some sort of relationship and you fall, it would break me. I'd lose the will to keep going. At that point, that bastard would win. I'd want this thing to take over, just so I wouldn't have to think or hurt anymore."
In response Ranma held up her hand, and a small sphere of ki leapt into being, casting a pale blue light on the living area. "I know this is going to sound funny coming from me, but emotions can be a source of strength. They fuel my attacks. Through sheer willpower I create these attacks based off emotion - and in the end, they help reinforce and stabilize the emotion I use." The glow winked out as she let the sphere of ki die out.
"Before I came here... I lived in perpetual fear of making any decisions related to my own personal happiness. I didn't really know what happiness was. I had to rely on confidence in my own skills as the emotion to fuel my attacks, since I was trapped in a web of unhappy relationships. Relying on confidence to fuel my attacks was idiotic, in retrospect. It made me arrogant. I learned pretty quickly that arrogance would kill me. So I worked hard to come up with something else I could use. In the end, I was able to use ki based on sheer willpower alone. It's perhaps not as strong, but a lot safer in the end. And, it has had the added benefit of reinforcing my willpower, making it easier to call upon when I need it."
"I can't do what you can do, Ranma." Anko said.
"Yes you can. Isn't molding chakra partly an exercise in will power? Your will is strong. This..." She gestured, pointing to the two of them, "us... it doesn't have to be a source of weakness. It can be a source of strength. I was only able to do that because of you. You gave me a reason to eliminate what I didn't know was a weakness. For the first time in my life, I want to make an active choice and pursue it, rather than be forced into something. I want to be with you, if you'll let me."
"I'm not sure I'm capable of doing what you're asking," Anko responded in a barely audible whisper.
Ranma stood up and walked over to her. Very carefully, she placed a hand on Anko's shoulder.
To Ranma's surprise and relief, Anko immediately let her feet fall to the floor and wrapped her in a hug, burying her face into Ranma's stomach. Ranma gently rubbed her back, feeling something close to contentment for the first time in a while.
"I'm afraid," Anko mumbled into her stomach.
"I can't help it." Anko squeezed tighter. "I'm afraid that I will just like my sensei. That I'll corrupt this and taint it, or allow the seal to do it. I'm afraid that I'll just use you for my own ends, and you'll end up hating me like I hate him, and if that happens, he'll win."
"I think... the fact that you're worried about it means you will never be him," Ranma said. "Just because he taught you doesn't mean you're destined to repeat his mistakes." The redhead trailed off. "The seal only has as much power over you as you give it. If it feeds off of negative emotions, maybe positive ones will weaken it further."
Ranma was caught off-guard when Anko's grip suddenly tightened. With a twist, she body slammed into the couch, pinned by Anko's weight. Anko shifted till she was straddling Ranma's hips and immediately leaned forward to hungrily attack her mouth, kissing her so forcefully that pain and pleasure mixed in equal measure. Anko didn't let up, lying fully on top of the smaller redhead as her hands began to greedily roam.
Anko's assault left Ranma reeling. She managed to gasp out Anko's name between kisses, making the purple-headed pause.
Anko was breathing heavily as she stared down at Ranma. "What? Do you want me to stop?"
Ranma immediately blurted out "God No! But... I'm..." She trailed off. "Do you want me to get some hot water?"
Anko's grin turned wicked. "Nope!" With that, she resumed her attack. Anko's hands beginning to wander as she continued to lay claim to the woman beneath her. Ranma's lips were soon puffy from the forcefulness of her kisses. Their tongues explored and vied with each other. Anko pulled back just enough to suck on Ranma's lower lip, releasing it only to resume her ministrations. Eventually, Anko's kisses began trail down Ranma's jawline to her neck, and from her neck to her collar bone. Without preamble, Anko lifted herself up slightly and ripped open the ties on Ranma's shirt, free her breasts. Anko sat up, straddling Ranma's hips, shook her hair free of the towel it was wrapped in and threw it to the side. She pulled off her own shirt, and shifting lower on Ranma' hips, trailed her wet hair across Ranma's exposed chest.
The cool of her hair instantly caused Ranma's nipples to harden. Anko latched on quickly, alternating between aggressive sucking and soft bites, enough to elicit gasps from the redhead. Anko shifted up, pressing her chest into Ranma's as she captured the redhead's lips once again. Anko shifted to her left side, draping her leg across Ranma's body in order to free her right hand. Without preamble, she squeezed Ranma's breasts while kissing her, taking care to tweak the redhead's nipples between gropes.
Anko whispered huskily, "I'm going to make you my little bitch tonight. Do you have a problem with that?"
Ranma went limp in response, surrendering completely. This seemed to encourage Anko even further. Anko lavished attention on Ranma's breasts, kissing exposed the exposed skin hungrily, interspersing tender caresses with bites and forceful squeezes. Ranma could do little in the face of the onslaught but endure it. She and Akane had experimented some with her female form, but there was always a great deal of reluctance on both sides to really embrace her female side's sexuality. Anko had no such hesitation. Her right hand loosened the drawstring on Ranma's pants and quickly worked its way down to her folds, her deft fingers urgently exploring until she found Ranma's clit. Ranma gasped at the first contact, causing Anko to smirk as she kissed her aggressively.
With the same sense of urgency that had dominated the entire encounter, Anko applied increasing amounts of pressure and friction to the redhead's sex, causing her to gasp and quiver. Ranma's orgasm didn't build as much as it exploded, causing her to quake in Anko's arms as the other ninja didn't let up. Anko slid several fingers inside of Ranma's pussy, maintaining pressure and movement on her clit with the heel of her hand. A second orgasm quickly followed, and a third, then a fourth. Unable to bear it anymore, Ranma pushed weakly pushed Anko away, begging for a respite.
Anko relented, pulling her hand out from Ranma's boxers and licking her fingers clean. She kissed Ranma, allowing her to taste herself on Anko's tongue.
Ranma kissed her back, groggy and satiated, but very self-conscious and not sure what to do next. Anko seemed to sense this, and taking her hand, got up from the couch and led her into the bedroom. As she walked, she began to wriggle out of her own pants. When they reached the bed, she gently pulled Ranma's pants down, and pushed her onto the bed. Ranma was no longer lost. She assumed the role of the aggressor this time, determined to pay Anko back in full. Whereas Anko's fiery assault was a lust-fueled blitzkrieg, Ranma immersed herself in the Soul of Ice, determined not to let her own desires get in the way of reducing Anko to a quivering wreck. Ranma worshiped Anko's body, taking time to touch, taste, and caress every part of her lover's body before even nearing her sex.
Anko was positively begging for release by the time Ranma trailed kisses down Anko's stomach, stopping at her mons to trace the contours of her inner thighs with her nose. Gently opening the folds labia, Ranma began to explore, first with her fingers, then adding her tongue to the mix, savoring Anko's taste as she lavished attention on her clit. Anko orgasmed quickly, clamping her thighs around Ranma's head. Returning the earlier favor, Ranma continued her efforts, causing Anko to convulse as another orgasm followed the first in short order.
Anko, too, eventually had to plead for mercy. She pulled the redhead's face up from between her legs, satiated and too exhausted for any further sexual activity. She pulled her into an embrace, nestling Ranma's head on her shoulder, gently stroking her hair as she caressed her lover's exposed side.
Anko gave a mirthless chuckle. "I... didn't think we'd be in this position again."
"Me either." Ranma's left hand slowly the contours of Anko's collarbone. The urgency was gone - the two of them simply sought solace from each other.
"I..." Anko trailed off. "I'm sorry."
Ranma shifted just enough to kiss her jaw. "Me too."
They drifted off to sleep together. When they woke up sometime later, they resumed where they left off, simply taking joy in being together. At some point, Ranma left the bed for hot water. The subsequent couplings were less frenetic, but no less urgent than the first time.
Eventually they collapsed onto the bed together in a heap of limbs, cuddling together as they basked in the after effects of their physical activities.
Ranma idly traced the pattern of the cursed seal on Anko's neck as they spooned in the bed. Anko's skin pebbled with goosebumps at the touch.
"What does this feel like?"
"That feels good."
"It doesn't feel different than the surrounding skin." Ranma said.
She grabbed his hand and pulled it around to her chest. "It feels different here," she said, before moving the hand to her temple, "and here."
Ranma scooted closer, pulling her back to his chest. "What does it do?"
"Jiraiya thinks it produces some kind of enzyme that messes with my emotions. It responds to and amplifies negativity. If I get angry, it keeps me angry."
"How do you deal with it?"
She rolled over and kissed him. "I try to stay occupied. I like my job. It keeps me happy. Dango works." She smiled. "If this doesn't destroy me, I have high hopes this will work, too." She frowned a bit. "I suck at relationships."
Ranma shrugged. "So do I. Divorcee, remember?"
"Right." Anko scooted closer, resting her head on his chest. "Ranma?"
"Promise me something."
"If this doesn't work out and I lose to the seal, you'll put me down. Okay?" Anko said.
"What the fuck kind of…"
Anko silenced him by placing a finger on his lips as she stared up at him. "I meant what I said earlier. I'm terrified. But I'm willing to try because it's you. You can stop me. If you care about me, promise me… promise me that if the worst happens, you won't let Orochimaru beat me."
"Do you know what you're asking?"
"I do." Anko said. "Promise me?"
Ranma sighed and sank back into the pillows, the familiar weight of obligation pressing heavily on him once again. "I promise."
AN: A portion of the big reveal! Not 100% pleased with it, but at least it's on paper and up. If I keep re-writing for perfection, I'll never post it. Bitch, moan, and flame all y'all want. Critical (not flames) reviews are invaluable - a couple of reviews from the last chapter was incredibly useful and helped me get back on track.
Also, I'm looking for some artwork to use as an icon for this story. Anyone want to take a crack at drawing something? You'll get a cookie!