Smoke and Mirrors
by Lord Dragon Claw
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja and its characters belong to Atlus.
Chapter One: Migration
Four individuals were spotted by the ANBU about twenty minutes (ninja travel time) to the northwest of Konoha.
One was an old man who was balding, but still had some white hair around the back of his head. His nose appeared to have been broken one too many times. He wore a pair of dark purple pants and a dark purple shirt open on the top to reveal a fishnet undershirt. His feet were adorned with simple wooden sandals. He wore a bright red belt which held holsters for a number of scrolls. On his left hip, he had a special holster holding a number of paper sheets - some had seals on them and some were blank - as well as three vials of ink and a compact paintbrush. Wrapped around his right thigh was a standard kunai holster. Strapped across his back was a 1.4 meter long nodachi, merely wrapped in cloth rather than in a scabbard. He also wore an Iwa hitai-ate (forehead protector) with a scratch across its middle on his left bicep. His sea-green eyes were alert, and it was obvious that he had spotted the ANBU who were tracking his group but he either didn't care or was already expecting a fight for his muscles did not tense in the slightest when he recognized the white mask he had briefly glimpsed out of the corner of his eye.
The second traveler was in a nondescript dark purple jumpsuit. His Iwa hitai-ate - scratched similarly to the old man's - was so low on his forehead that none could see his eyes, but if they could they would accurately guess his age to be around seventeen. Around his neck he had a light purple scarf barely obscuring his fishnet undershirt. He also wore a Chuunin's vest that had been modified to have extra pockets - all of which were brimming with various equipment and tools. Adorning his feet were wooden sandals similar to the old man's. On his forearms he wore a pair of bracers. Upon closer inspection, one would see a hidden trio of blades ready to be deployed or retracted with just a small amount of chakra. On his shins he wore a pair of studded greaves. He had a kunai pouch strapped to each of his thighs and a pair of wakizashi - each about 60 cm long - attached to his black leather belt.
Upon the old man's shoulders slept a young girl about the age of five with pink hair cut short. She was comically drooling on the old man's bald scalp. She wore a red shirt and a red miniskirt, but she had black leggings and a brown leather belt. She also had a fishnet undershirt and a pair of oversized goggles resting atop her head. She had a yellow sash around her stomach and a yellow scarf that was too big for her hanging loosely around her neck. Embroidered on the scarf was a single blue flower. On her feet she wore simple slippers. Upon her back was strapped a single large storage scroll - likely holding all of the camping supplies for the entire group. Had she been awake, the ANBU would have seen her eyes have deep, dark green irises.
The last member of the group was another five-year-old girl who was riding piggy-back on the Chuunin; she was also asleep. Her hair was a dark chocolate brown - almost black - and styled into a ponytail with a couple locks framing her face. She wore an outfit similar to the pinkette, but without the fishnet undershirt. Also, where the pink-haired girl wore red, the brunette wore blue. Instead of yellow, her scarf and sash were white. Embroidered on her scarf was a red fist. Like the pinkette, she wore simple slippers on her feet. Another large storage scroll - possibly more camping gear or the group's personal effects and/or heirlooms - was strapped to the brunette's back as well. If she were alert like she normally was, the masked Konohanin would have noticed her muted, red eyes.
The ANBU continued to tail the travelers even as they arrived at the gates of Konoha.
One of the Chuunin guards at the gate rested his hand on his shuriken pouch on his right hip in a non-threatening manner, but still promising that he was ready to fight in case the obvious nukenin (missing ninja) of Iwa decided to do anything suspicious. The other guard asked for papers and for the nukenin to state their business.
"Let's see," said the old man, his voice obviously tired. Since he didn't need his hands to keep the pink-haired girl atop his head (she was slumped over his cranium anyway), he reached into his shirt for an inner pocket and pulled out their identification papers. "Here you go."
The Chuunin began to look them over and started reading off some of the information for the benefit of the nearby ANBU. It's not that the Chuunin knew they were around, but he assumed that they were due to simple pattern recognition.
"Hotaru Gen-an: also known as the Firefly, former Jounin of Iwa, recently declared nukenin. Hotaru Mitsumoto: former Chuunin of Iwa, also recently declared nukenin. Hotaru Shino: trainee and younger sister of Mitsumoto. Hotaru Izuna: also a trainee but adopted into the Hotaru Clan. What is your business in Konoha?"
"Well, we'd like to join the ranks of the Konoha ninja," stated Gen-an. "I think the Hokage would allow us within his ranks."
"Very well. Two squads of ANBU will escort you to the Hokage Tower. Please be advised that any hostile act, or act that is perceived as hostile, could warrant your immediate deaths."
"Do you tell all your travelers that?" asked Mitsumoto in a bored tone.
"No. Just the nukenin."
Mitsumoto shook his head. "You should tell every traveler that. It would cut down on theft and unhinge any potential assassins. Even if you don't, you should have lied to me and said you did."
Both of the Leaf Chuunin just stared at the man before they each made a different stream of hand signs. At the end of the sequence, the gates were opened, the four Chuunin guards on the walls having seen the appropriate set of hand signs from one of the Chuunin below. On the other side of the gate, eight masked figures stood in silence, waiting.
"Grandboss," began Mitsumoto, getting Gen-an's attention. "I'm not sure if we should stay in this place. The security is sub-par."
"Did you notice the three full squads of ANBU who had begun trailing us about fourteen kilometers back?"
"Three!?" Mitsumoto cocked his head. "Hmmm... their security is above the impression I was initially given."
"Of course it is. They are the ones who beat the stuffing out of Iwa and Kumo during the last war."
The rest of their walk to the Hokage Tower continued in silence. Izuna was still asleep, but Shino had awakened as they passed by one of the various market districts. She didn't make a sound but remained observant and alert. One of the ANBU, wearing a dog mask, noticed that she was frightened but was attempting to mask it behind a calm exterior. To her credit, she would have fooled most Chuunin with the level of emotional control she already had at such a young age. Still, Dog wondered what sort of trauma she must have experienced to necessitate a mask of indifference at such a young age. Obviously, she was unlike him as she appeared to have only a bare minimum of training so far whereas he was already a Genin when he was that age. Within a year he was a Chuunin going on assassination and combat missions. Then again, not only was he a genius but he had seen his father commit seppuku (ritualistic suicide by means of slicing open the belly to regain a clan's honor) by that time. She may not have the raw talent he did, but she'd make a powerful kunoichi if she trained hard.
The other girl, Dog observed, was still sleeping. But from what he could tell, she already had low-Chuunin chakra reserves. With some control exercises, she'd make an excellent ninja. The Chuunin had average chakra levels, but seemed to have excellent control and was probably a weapons or taijutsu expert. The old Jounin... Dog recognized him, actually. On one of the missions his team went on before Dog had acquired the rank of Jounin, his sensei had to use his Hiraishin no jutsu (Flying Thunder God no jutsu) and nearly eliminated an entire mob of Iwanin only to be stopped, mid-attack, by Gen-an, founder of the Hotaru Clan. The Yellow Flash versus the Firefly was one of the great battles in the Third Great Ninja War, especially since both men were seal masters of the highest caliber. Eventually both sides ordered a retreat and the two men never again met on the battlefield.
Now the Firefly was a nukenin and seeking shelter amongst the leaves. Sarutobi Hiruzen, the Sandaime (third) Hokage would be insane to throw the man out, if not for the political prestige but for the inclusion of a powerful ninja able to pass his great secrets to the children of the Leaf.
The Third Hokage was almost speechless. Here was one of the Yondaime's most powerful opponents seeking shelter from his former village. There was a story in there somewhere.
"I can not yet admit you into our village. Some explaining will have to do. I will speak to you alone, Hotaru-san, and your words will be confirmed by one of my interrogation specialists. Meanwhile, the three children in your charge will be checked into a hotel for the time being."
"That is acceptable," Gen-an said pleasantly.
"Forgive me if I must have Cat remain in the room though," said the Sandaime.
"He's the one who was wearing the dog mask before we arrived at the tower, wasn't he?"
"What?" muttered Mitsumoto. "I didn't notice it at all."
"I only barely did," said Gen-an.
Dog, Boar, Monkey, Ox, Tiger, Owl, and Frog escorted the three children out of the room. Izuna was still asleep and had to be carried by Mitsumoto.
Cat removed his mask and hood to reveal another mask underneath. He also had silver hair and a lop-sided hitai-ate covering his left eye.
"Ah," remarked the former Stone ninja. "You sent Copy Kakashi to keep tabs on us. My grandson will be particularly pleased that you were taking us so seriously."
"Most people cannot recognize me, even when I take my white mask off," said the lazy ANBU captain. "How is it that you recognized me?"
"You have the same, if only much more powerful, chakra signature that you did when I faced off against the Yellow Flash."
"But... I'm masking it!"
Gen-an chuckled. "Most people think my forte is seals, but it is actually detection. That was how I was able to stop Namikaze-san's attack - I could detect one of the seals preparing to go off and I damaged it, causing him to suddenly materialize just short of it. I was then able to employ my own seal arrays against him. It was interesting how evenly matched we were, but I'm sure that with only a little more preparation, I would have ended up as a statistic, rather than as a legend."
"So," interrupted Sarutobi. "Explain to me why you became a nukenin, and make an effort to convince me to allow you citizenship rather than just throwing you out of my village at the first available opportunity."
"Well, as you know, the Hotaru Clan is a relatively new clan. Being so powerful without actually having a kekkei-genkai (bloodline limit) caused many of the minor ninja clans in Iwa to gather behind the Hotaru Clan whenever it took a stance on any of the ninja council meetings. This caused the Hotaru Clan to be much more powerful politically than most of the other clans, including the four bloodline-bearing clans combined. Fearing the power the Hotaru Clan wielded, the other clan heads probably met with the Tsuchikage in secret. Considering how paranoid the man is, I am not too surprised by what happened next, though I was at the time. Soon, I found that my children and grandchildren were being sent on suicide missions, deceptively described as C-Rank missions. What confirmed my suspicions was that my third son and his wife, the parents of Mitsumoto and Shino-chan, were assassinated by Iwa ANBU before my eyes. Unfortunately, Shino-chan also witnessed their deaths. This angered me intensely, so I contacted one of my students, a man by the name of Deidara, and gave him a seal array that allowed him a new bloodline, which he always wanted. As payment, I told him to destroy the Tsuchikage Palace and the various administration buildings. In the meantime, I took the surviving members of my clan, Mitsumoto and the two girls, and left Iwa during the chaos that Deidara created.
"Since I love irony, I decided to look to my former enemies for protection from the Tsuchikage's wrath. Thus, here we are, seeking employment. And, if you decide to throw us out, I'll seek protection in Suna or Kusa. Maybe Ame, if Salamander Hanzou doesn't try to kill us outright."
"Your story seems to check out, but let me confer with my interrogation specialists."
"You mean the pair hiding in the southeast corner of the room?"
Morino Ibiki, with his scarred face and bandana'd head, and Yamanaka Inoichi, with his blonde hair and blue eyes, stepped out of the shadows.
Ibiki spoke. "We still have to run a mind scan, Hotaru-san. If you would be cooperative for a moment, I will promise that Yamanaka-san will not take any of your knowledge of seals, genjutsu, or ninjutsu from your mind. If you would simply relax... thank you."
Inoichi made a few hand seals. Suddenly, Gen-an felt another mind trying to enter his. He resisted the urge to activate the seal array tattooed into his bald scalp with invisible ink, placed there for just such an occasion. After about ten minutes, the presence of the foreign mind faded and Gen-an did a quick mental check to see what the Yamanaka had looked at. Only a few sensitive memories had been touched, but the exposure was far too brief to be anything to worry about. The old man correctly deduced that the blonde man was simply looking for the relevant memories and accidentally touched a few he wasn't supposed to. Gen-an supposed it happened all the time.
Inoichi turned to the Hokage, looked as though he was about to speak, but then dived for the trashcan next to the desk. He barely had time to put his face over the metal canister before becoming violently ill.
Fearing that Gen-an did something to his fellow Konohanin, Kakashi was suddenly behind the old man, a kunai at his throat.
Inoichi appeared to be done when he stood back up again, swaying a little bit. "His story checks out. I just wish I hadn't looked at some of those memories in such detail."
"There was a reason why I omitted Kagen-kun's death from my story! The poor infant; he was only barely a month old when they strung him up like a piñata with his own intestines! That was the same time they killed his mother and father and were about to kill his sister, Shino-chan."
Kakashi scratched the back of his head and muttered an apology while reholstering the kunai. The copycat ninja had seen, and done, worse things but he supposed it hit the old man closer to home than anything else could have.
"My condolences," said the Hokage sadly. "On a happier note, I would be willing to allow you into our village, upon one condition."
"What would that be?"
"Our own ninja council is, unfortunately, primarily populated by civilians by decree of some of the ninja members of said council. Of course, as head of a clan you would have a seat on the Council. My condition is: help me bring more power back to the Hokage."
"Hmmm... the chaos of the Kyubi attack allowed some of the Council to steal power away from you, eh?"
"How much of a political bludgeon is your Jinchuuriki?" (Demon Container)
"What makes you think we have a Jinchuuriki?"
"I am a seal master and have studied how to seal the Bijuu. I also extensively studied the Yonbi and Gobi Jinchuurikis when they were still allied with Iwa. Since then, they have both become nukenin and are impossible to track down. I know that the Bijuu can't be killed, so they must be sealed away to keep them from rampaging around. Obviously, the Yondaime Hokage decided to use a powerful seal array to seal the Kyubi away, and any Bijuu with four or more tails must be sealed within a person - inanimate objects are not able to adapt to their power - and any Bijuu with six or more tails must be sealed within an infant or else the Jinchuuriki will quickly die and release their tenant."
"... Your knowledge of seals is impressive, if a bit unnerving."
"The ninja world is impressive, but disturbing. How can a powerful ninja be anything but?"
Thinking about it, Sarutobi had to agree. They only needed to cite Might Guy as an example of such a concept.
"Our Jinchuuriki is a major point of dispute in the Council. The head of one of our ANBU departments, Danzou..."
"Danzou the Slayer?"
"Oh, I see you've heard of him?"
"Heard of him? My brother is the one who removed that bastard's arm! So he's retired to do deskwork for your ANBU, eh?"
"Psychological conditioning, rather."
"Ah. He wants to make your Jinchuuriki into the perfect weapon then?"
"Yes. The civilians, and my former teammates, back when we were Genin and Chuunin, want him dead. The other clan heads and various other ninja members of the Council have mixed feelings. If it wasn't that the Hyuga, the Aburame, and the Nara Clans wanted to keep him alive, the Uchiha probably would have been given permission to kill the poor boy already."
"Hmmm... I've got a few ideas on what we can do regarding your demon container while simultaneously bringing more administrative powers back to the office of the Hokage. But I need some time to do calculations, as well as meet the various clan heads to get a sense of how they would react."
"I eagerly await your ideas. Kakashi? Please see to it that Hotaru-san is given the appropriate paperwork, and get him and his grandson some leaf hitai-ates."
Before leaving the room, the cloak was pulled back over Kakashi's head while the cat mask was returned to his face.
Back at the hotel room, Mitsumoto was keeping his younger sister calm by playing Go Fish with her. Izuna was still zonked out and was tucked into one of the beds. Dog, Tiger, and Frog stood off to one corner of the room, merely observing, while Ox and Owl guarded the door from the outside and Boar and Monkey, hidden from view by the branches of a nearby tree, guarded the single window.
Mitsumoto could understand the necessity of such security, but he still wished that they weren't there. He knew the white masks and dark cloaks reminded Shino of the Iwa ANBU who killed their mother, father, and baby brother. He hoped that she would be able to recover from the trauma of that horrible night.
Izuna, on the other hand, had been orphaned when she was only seven months old when her mother was involved in a small skirmish with Amenins. She had then been adopted by Mitsumoto's uncle, who had died on a mission the day before the massacre of his parents and sibling. She had been moved into Shino's room and had slept through the entire attack, waking up only when Gen-an plucked her from her bed to escape Iwa.
Mitsumoto resisted the urge to sigh as he asked Shino if she had any fours. He didn't actually have any fours in his hand, but he was trying to let her win.
The Chuunin drew an ace.
"Got any ones?"
Mitsumoto handed her the card he just drew.
"Ha!" she exclaimed. "Another pair! One more card and I win! Again!"
Her brother smiled at her. Unknown to the both of them, the three ANBU in their room were also smiling. The masked ninja knew what the young man was doing.
On the way to one of the blood registry/testing offices, Kakashi and Gen-an spotted a small angry crowd in an alley. Upon further investigation, they realized that the civilians were mobbing a small child. Kakashi recognized the boy as Uzumaki Naruto, the Kyubi's Jinchuuriki. Gen-an saw the boy and realized the resemblance to the Yondaime Hokage. Seeing Kakashi prepare to stop them, Gen-an did the same.
Suddenly, Kakashi was standing over the boy, leaking killer intent to scare off some of the villagers. Gen-an, on the other hand, had his nodachi resting upon the throat of a grey-haired Genin, the only ninja who was with the group of people. Kakashi quickly picked up the battered and bruised blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy and Shunshin'd away. (Body Flicker)
Releasing one last burst of killing intent, Gen-an also disappeared, using his own Shunshin to catch up with the copy ninja.
The Genin, Mizuki, soiled his shorts before joining the rest of the mob in unconsciousness.
End Chapter One.
Next Chapter: The Trial and the Plan.
Now I'm getting back into the swing of things. I hope.
I can't promise that I won't miss any more monthly updates, but I'll try. At least you still get an update for March! Next update is in a few days anyway...
Idea came to me while playing the first Izuna game for the DS. The characters from said game had to be adjusted to fit them into the Naruto world, but it was fun to do so. Also, I gave them the clan name of Hotaru (firefly) because they had no clan in the game.
Wow. Only four scenes. But the chapter is done. Still, this is the least amount of scenes in an entire chapter that I've ever written. But, at over 3500 words, this makes a decently sized chapter.
More talents and abilities will be revealed at a later time.
I'm going to list the pairings which are set in stone here and now: Naruto/Izuna, Shino/Shino, and Mitsumoto/Anko. Other pairing requests will be taken into consideration, but they will not be a major part of the story until much later on.
Thanks to Cylon One and Vassago-Toxicity for being my betas. You both rock!