He's come to a dingy bar on a backwater world to investigate the death of someone he didn't know particularly well and yet still feels pleased about the assignment. Being able to leave the Temple at all is a rarity for him.

Grand Master Hashirama Senju had been a freak of nature because Neti and humans are simply not compatible. Former Master Orochimaru's attempts to produce another human/Neti hybrid had resulted in the death of over sixty younglings. This, along with the revelation that he was an Anzati who actively fed, had gotten him thrown out of the Order and imprisoned. Unfortunately, prison hadn't held him long. The inquiry into his escape was still ongoing eight years later.

Yamato had been the only one to survive the experiments which made him a freak of nature in his own right. Most days, he's okay but sometimes he ends up in the Temple Gardens as just another tree. He's been having a lot less of those lately though which is why he got this, his first major task outside of the Temple in nearly a year.

The more sober patrons eye him as he walks in. He feels under-dressed without his robes but had been informed that a Jedi would not be welcome in this region so he'd left them behind reluctantly.

He orders a drink at the bar and tries to glance around discreetly. The only person willing to meet his eyes is a woman with long purple hair in one corner. She shifts slightly and he realises that the hilt showing over her left shoulder belongs to a saber-like weapon strapped to her back. He doesn't recognise the exact kind though.

Yuugao identifies the man who walks in as a Jedi almost immediately. True, he's not wearing the robes or has a lightsaber anywhere she can see but his posture gives it away. Ordinary people simply don't move like that.

She knows that he's come to investigate Hayate's death and that she's the only one who can give him the answers he seeks.
How can she tell him about the final moments of her lover though? She cannot shame Hayate by revealing that he died due to a forbidden attachment.

Hayate is coughing, great hacking ones that rack his chest in a disturbing way. She bends over him, checking for signs of injury. The blaster shot he'd taken while shielding her from a bounty hunter couldn't have caused that much damage, surely?
He looks up at her and manages to smile faintly.
"Yuugao, when they send someone to find out what happened, you need to tell them," he instructs her.
"What happens? I don't understand, you'll be fine once you see a medic, right?" she protests, confused. There's a strange sinking feeling in her stomach.
He smiles again, resigned and reaches for her hands.

She shakes herself slightly, she hadn't noticed the Jedi come over to her table and sit down. That lapse of attention could have been incredibly dangerous if he'd been someone else.

They take the opportunity to study each other. She sees an inexperienced-looking man with plain features while he sees a exotic pale woman who seems saddened by something.

"Uzuki Yuugao?" he asks.

She glances around quickly before replying,"Not here. Follow me."

Yuugao leads him to a run-down apartment block five minutes' walk away. Her apartment's on the third floor and she swipes a keycard through the slot before gesturing for him to go in first.

He hasn't even taken two steps inside before she's holding a vibroblade to his throat.

His scalp starts itching as his hair lengthens and turns into slender tendrils which wind round her wrist, forcing her hand away from his neck. She stares at him in disbelief as he blesses his uncontrollable shapeshifting mentally.

"Kinky. You two can stop flirting now though," a vaguely familiar voice drawls as a Zeltronian woman walks into view. "We're on a schedule here, Yuugao."

The vibroblade vanishes swiftly and he breathes in deeply before taking a better look at his saviour. The infamous bounty hunter, Anko Mitarashi, smirks at him.

"Anko? What are you doing here?" he questions, shocked.

"Same thing that you are, woody. Wonder why the old man didn't send Kakashi instead though," she replies.

"Kakashi finally took a padawan a week ago. It was the biggest piece of news in the Temple all year," he informs her absently. He's still not sure what she's doing here or what it's got to do with his mission.

"A master? Kakashi? That's got to be one of the funniest things I've heard for a long time," she responds. "Anyway, suppose we better get down to business. Come this way."

The other room of the apartment appears to be the centre of whatever they're doing. There's stacks of hard-copy scattered around and a large holo-projector in the centre of the room. He thinks that the object Yuugao quickly tucks into a pocket might even be a holocron but doesn't get a good enough look to be sure.

Anko introduces the pale boy doing something complicated on a console in one corner as Sai, on loan from Danzo. This means that whatever they're doing here, it's serious. Danzo doesn't allow his operatives to be used for just anything, especially not his human ones.

Yuugao flicks the holoprojector on at a gesture from Anko. A man appears, staring blankly at the wall, arms folded over his robes. He recognises him as Sunamaru, Grand Master of the Wind Temple.

"This is who we're investigating," Anko explains. "Hayate was on the trail of Kabuto when he was killed by bounty hunters. Shortly before his death, he visited the Wind Temple to seek the advice of this guy."

Yamato considers this carefully. Suggesting that a Grand Master could be responsible for the death of a knight of a different school is suicidal in the extreme yet Sai's presence indicates that there's more to this.

"You know that there's talk of consolidating the Temples, right?" she continues.

"Grand Master Sunamaru would never agree," he says.

A possible union of Temples? He's heard rumours but hadn't realised that they were more than that. The different schools of Jedi are just that, different. Merging them would be incredibly difficult and fiercely resisted by all sides.

"Yep," she replies, happy that he seems to follow what she's thinking. "He's one of the most outspoken critics of any such plan."

"But what's that got to do with Hayate and Kabuto?" he asks, confused.

"As the largest Temple, the Fire's teachings would naturally dominate if a consolidation of schools happened. But if he could change that and have the Wind's philosophy become the accepted one, he would agree," she informs him.

"So?" he queries. The connection is still unclear to him.

"That's where Kabuto comes in. Grand Master Sarutobi has suspected a link between him and Orochimaru for a while. It's thought that they are collaborating with the Wind somehow in a plan to make its ways the preferred method of training," Yuugao answers.

The next couple of weeks pass in a blur. He ends up on the couch when he does have the chance to sleep. Anko is a surprisingly hard worker for a Zeltronian and it shows. Sai is in and out at the oddest hours, doing research that ends up as piles of hard-copy and boxes of data-chips for him and Yuugao to sort through.

They're very conscious of the days though. The bi-annual Knight Trials will be held on Coruscant at the Fire Temple in two months. Any announcement will take place then.

It's a week before the Trials when they finally manage to piece enough of the puzzle together. What they have found is horrifying. The plan goes much deeper than any of them had realised and its consequences have much wider implications as well.

As they pack up in a hurry, he notices Yuugao hesitating. Over the weeks, he's managed to figure out enough of her story to guess why.

"Hayate will be remembered as an honourable knight who died in the line of duty defending you," he says quietly.

"...Thank you," she replies, smiling weakly.

They turn and leave the apartment.

There's still a lot to do after all.

This is what happens when you mash the hunt for Kabuto sub-plot and the Sand-Sound invasion together in a Star Wars-shaped blender.

It takes place long before the movies in case you were wondering.