Chapter Three


She slowly pointed a finger at Naruto, and Kakashi was mystified at the loud, (very) loud shout that issued from the woman.


Wave Country, uncompleted bridge

Hikari winced. 'Open mouth, insert foot. Oh shitshitshit!'

Everyone stared.

"Um… er, I mean…" 'Fuck!'

Everyone was still staring.

Hikari cleared her throat nervously, intimately aware that every one of the shinobi in front of her was staring at her as if she had pronounced an undying love for the snake-pedo.

Taking advantage of the fact that all of the ninja in front of her were still shocked into frozen statues of shocked icy-ness, she threw up her hands and did a little jig, that totally did not result in her flailing just a little when she slipped on a stray bit of ice that must have been Haku's fault. Posing with as much ridiculous Jiraiya-ness as possible in the end, she exclaimed, "It is I! The Great, Wonderful and Supremely Beautiful Hikari-sama, Seal Master! …No autographs, please, but you can bask in the reflected light of my glory." She added, scratching her chin.

Not even the crickets chirped. Though a bird did crow in the distance.

They stared at her. She stared back.

Hikari scratched the back of her head sheepishly muttering; "Awkward."

"What-" Kakashi muttered.

"-The-" Zabuza injected, still holding his sword out.

"HELL?" The little blonde boy shrieked loudly, wildly pointing at her.

Hikari raised her eyebrows. "Er, weren't you guys like… fighting to the death or something?"

Kakashi shot a glance sideways at the bandaged ex-Kiri nin, and the rouge ninja looked back at him, and something indecipherable to the red-haired Seal Master passed between them.

"Yes." They deadpanned.

They didn't move, so she continued, "…And weren't you, you know, gonna continue with the (she motioned with her arms as if she held a sword, waving it back and fourth) fighty-fighty?"

"No." They told her, in union again. Hikari noticed that the four kids now looked extremely out of place – kinda constipated, if you asked her, "And… why would that be?"

"You." They both said, once again at the same time.

Breathe in, breathe out. "This is creeping me out." She looked at them strangely, and heard her sentiments echoed by Sakura and the Blonde.

"Who are you?" Kakashi demanded, leaning forward threateningly and pointing the kunai at her.

Hikari stared at him. "Are you stupid? I just said who I was, didn't you listen?"

The silver-haired jounin seemed to almost close his eyes in frustration, and Hikari's sensitive ears heard the drawn out aggravated sigh.

Hikari examined all the ninja assembled on the bridge; there was the three Konoha genin, one the unnamed blonde that had taken her position on team seven – because it had to be team seven, so where the hell was her mini-me? She felt kinda cheated, considering she could see the cute little Sasuke-chan, and the terribly naïve-looking Sakura. The Blonde did look sort of adorable though… wait, he has… whiskers…? Kyuubi-yarou!

Hastily cutting off a line of thoughts that went in a not-nice direction and shutting it in a box somewhere to observe later, she cast a smile at the other occupants of the bridge.

By general consensus, the targets of this expression felt that the loud and crazy woman had too many sharp teeth in it. "So you big bad jounin are gonna stop squabbling like little children now?"

Kakashi inwardly bristled at the tone of the red-haired woman who had avoided his question.

"You and you!" She pointed sharply at Zabuza and his apprentice, slightly shocking them but gaining their attention all the same. "Get out of here, that Gatou dude ain't gonna pay you, so there's no point to the mission."

"Now listen here, girl, nobody orders about the Demon of the Bloody Mist!" Zabuza growled, hunching forwards aggressively, absently noting Haku's slight shift of expressions and the boy's inching towards him – his apprentice always was sharp, no doubt he could sense that there was something off about the girl.

The red head scoffed, waving her hand. "Eh, I'm not ordering, just stating facts – that Gatou dude isn't going to pay you for one very good reason."

She held up one finger, displaying it to all those on the bridge grandly. "Care to take a guess as to why?"

"He hired you in Zabuza's place?" Kakashi asked, his sharp mind quickly rolling over the possibilities and devising optimal battle strategies to use against the Seal Master should that be the case.

Zabuza growled at the suggestion, now taking a step forwards.

"Na-ah-ah!" The kunoichi replied, waggling her finger from side-to-side mockingly.

She raised a brow, looking over to the three young Konoha shinobi pointedly; "Come on, any other options? You'll just kick yourselves when you hear it, it know you will!" She practically crowed, bouncing a little in apparent excitement.

The bridge was silent, and Kakashi felt that everybody was completely blindsided by how strange – unreal – this whole situation had turned out. He couldn't think of any encounter that had been stranger… well, apart from that time when Minato-sensei had been drunk and convinced by Jiraiya to… well. Maybe not the weirdest he'd witnessed, but definitely in the top five.

"Oh, Come On! You guys are ninja, aren't ya? What happened to imagination?"

"Just tell us, lady!" Kakashi shot a glance at the vibrating Naruto. It looked like he'd have to get the blonde onto activities to lengthen his attention span – it almost looked like he'd totally forgotten about the battle beforehand.

The red-haired Seal Master – Hikari, she'd named herself – rolled her eyes. "Oh, you guys are no fun. Fine." She sighed, as if being forced to divulge something that should have been obvious, "Gatou won't pay because Gatou can't pay. And why can't Gatou pay? He's dead, that's why!"

Shocked inhales greeted her rather up-beat announcement, and Kakashi slightly relaxed. Zabuza would indeed have no reason to fight him or his genin because of that, which was good. Tazuna, from the corner of his eyes, seemed to be almost crying with relief.

"Well." Zabuza grunted, putting his large sword back in its holster while looking vaguely disgruntled. "That was a waste of time and effort. Haku!"

"Hai!" Haku responded, bounding the distance and stopping at the tall ninja's side. The black-haired ex-Kiri ninja shot a look at Kakashi, "Guess there's no reason to continue now."

Kakashi acknowledged him and slowly put his own kunai back, waving at Sasuke, Naruto and Sakura to stand down (although they had already done this, which was – once again – unprofessional) and shot a glance at the red-haired intruder, who seemed to be nonchalantly examining her nails. He studiously ignored that, because seriously – not paying attention to the two A-Classed, borderline S-Classed ninja only a few metres in front of you? Nope, he didn't see that.

"Hope we don't meet again." Kakashi responded nonchalantly, adding his trademark smiley-eye.

Zabuza nodded seriously, proving that he caught what was left unsaid; any future situation that they could meet in would most likely involve another conflicting mission, meaning they would fight again. And it was unlikely to end as this one had, with no casualties and because of the unexpected red-haired distraction.

And then Zabuza was gone.

Kakashi took the removal of this danger and rounded on the woman. "I still have no idea why you are here, Hikari-san." He stated pointedly.

"Eh? Waddya mean, Sharingan Kakashi?" Large violet eyes blinked innocently at the veteran ninja, prompting a random thought about if the strange appearance was related to a bloodline of some kind – he couldn't think of one off the top of his head though.

He took a moment to shoot a glance at Naruto, the very first thing that she had said replaying through his mind.

Kakashi leaned forwards threateningly; "What I meant was: what do you want with Naruto?"

Tazuna's House, Wave

"Oh, yeah… that." The 'that' fell a little flat to the room's ears, and she was internally wincing as her mind ran at the fucking speed of spotted pervert. 'Bullshit. Bullshit like your life depends on it… which it does. Crap.'

"Weeell…. I was working on this experiment with my seals, ya know?" Violet eyes darted around shiftily a little before they settled on the three little kiddies that were staring at her with expressions half-way between 'what is she on' and 'maybe she isn't talking crap' before they swept to see the unreadable face of their sensei. Of course, Kakashi's face was mask-covered, so that didn't really say much about his poker face.

'Goddamit, Hikari!' She inwardly berated herself, 'Ibiki bought your crap, and if you can bullshit a man that can read expressions off a mask, this group should be a breeze!'

"So, yeah, Seals! I did this one that is 'sposed to predict how many people are in an area, ya know? Well, it said there would be two females and five males in the area I set up, and well – Naruto being a male, I got it wrong! Grr, I'll have to go back to the freakin' drawing board thanks to that stupid glitch." Hikari was scowling now, and shot an irritated glare at her hapless counter-part (which totally did not compute) for his (imagined) part in this failed experiment.

Kakashi raised his visible eyebrow and leaned back. "A seal that can tell how many people are in a given area? That is impressive."

Hikari smirked a little. "Yeah it really is, ain't it?" she agreed, a note of pride in her voice.

"I hope that you won't mind explaining a little about how your seal works, would you? You know, in the interest of soothing over your strange announcement." Kakashi added, an edge of steel edging his words.

Hikari railed at his tone – it clearly said he was extremely doubtful of her excuse for the strange behaviour. She gave him an annoyed glare and pulled out a scroll, casually biting a thumb and running the blood over the paper, making a puff of smoke appear. When it cleared she was holding another scroll and she open it as well, revealing lines of (rather messy and incomprehensible) script. She shoved it under the jounin sensei's nose with a triumphant expression.

The grey-haired man stared at her for a second before slowly taking the scroll from her hands warily – as if he expected it to explode or something – and none of her smug expression changed as his brow furrowed and eyes darted over the writing.

Hikari snuck a glance at the three genin who were attempting (and failing) to look like they were uninterested in the scroll.

After a few silent moments and very smug seal master, Kakashi very seriously looked up and met her eyes. He deadpanned, "This… is a travel log."

Hikari rolled her eyes and brushed hair off her face, snorting. "No it's not."

Kakashi gave her a flat stare and reiterated; "Fine. This is a list of all the ramen stands you have ever visited, rated on a scale that I'm not too sure has any rhyme or reason to how you arrive at the results, and it also holds notes on…" He glanced at it for a moment "Apparently the best… death threats you have received on any given day?"

Hikari blinked and leaned over, turning the scroll around so that she had a better angle to stare at the little annotations that quite often ran over the actual text making it indecipherable in those places. She hummed indecisively for a moment before reading aloud; "Return my object/person/limb or I'll stick a straw in your eye and suck out your cornea!' Hey, that was a good one! I mean, it just has pzazz or something like that, ya know? It gave me an awesome idea for a new seal, too!" She commented cheerfully, ignoring the pale and slightly horrified-looking genin as she did so.

Kakashi fixed her with a droll stare. "Even so, in exactly what way does a list of the Hidden Country's best ramen stands relate to a seal that can determine how many people are frequenting an area?"

Hikari dithered for a moment over if she should answer the question or continue mentally scarring the genin, but eventual chose the former considering that technically she was scarring herself (although it was a 'himself', and the logistics of it all made her brain hurt to even think about thinking about that kettle of fish) and as such responded: "It's in code." In that 'well duh' type of voice that people used to state the painfully obvious to those with some form of mental deficiency.

Kakashi eyed her flatly. "Some of these places I have been to recently and the stands do not exist."

"That's why it's called a code." Hikari replied slowly.

"Aaa." Kakashi acknowledged vaguely, and Hikari saw him fiddling with his hitai-ite. "Well this is very impressive, Hikari-san."

'It's lucky he doesn't know that that actually is my top rated list of ramen stands… heh eh heh… that really was a load of shit. But at least the seal isn't bullshit – that little baby is awesome!' Hikari thought to herself, pretending to not notice that Kakashi had used his Sharingan to copy her awesome writing. It would probably only give him a headache trying to make anything out of it anyway.

"So. How exactly does it work, Hikari-san?" Kakashi asked, now seeming fairly curious about it after apparently accepting her explanation for her 'interest' in Naruto.

Hikari grinned sharply, as always very happy to enlighten others of her sheer and utter brilliance with the esoteric Art of fuuinjutsu.

"Well basically, I've got a 'controlling' seal that maps out the perimeter of the placed seals, showing the position of people. I'm not gonna go into detail for obvious reasons, but you got make sure you place the mapping seals properly so the relay isn't shot to hell – they've gotta be able to connect, and that won't happen if they're out of place."

Kakashi apparently had no idea what she was talking about – which was, of course, why she'd said it like that and left out any explanation of the symbols and checks required to create the field sensory seals, and how to get a relay to the controlling seal.

It was practically what she lived by; 'If you can't dazzle them with brilliance then baffle them with bullshit.' She preferred to do both at the same time.

Kakashi was still staring wonderingly down at her scribbles, and Hikari decided to just go with whatever the hell was happening… and she felt that would include getting the hell away from Konoha ninja so she could have a chance to totally explode with the knowledge that she was a fucking male in this universe.

The Kyuubi would soo be dead, if it wasn't already.

...But it wasn't exactly dead now, wasn't it?

...oh the possibilities....

A/N: For your enjoyment. I hope it wasn't too choppy, and yes, I am aware that the genin faded into the background in this chapter – that's because Kakashi can actually shut them up in the presence of a questionable foreign ninja so he can assess the threat level – there will definitely be more interaction with them in the next one.