Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. You're shocked, I know.
Warnings: Death, violence, normal ninja things. Mentions of sex and generally naughty doings. The tendency to flop between dark and light-hearted.
Notes: This chapter is just an introduction, but I think it can stand on its own pretty well. :) I wanted to go ahead and post it for the sake of feedback. (In other words, is this working?)
Ino hates her job sometimes.
She's in the underbelly of the ninja world. Really, she is. She remembers being a genin and getting normal missions. Punch, kick, throw kunai. Rescue cat from tree. Rescue kidnapped child. Retrieve stolen goods. At the time, it was what they were best at. What she was best at.
But times change and kids grow up. She's improved at her clan's techniques now. She can still throw a decent punch and her marksmanship has vastly improved. But it's not what she's best at anymore.
Espionage. Sabotage. Infiltration. All those words had sounded pretty neat at first, and she likes throwing them at her friends' faces when they talk about work. But really it's just the dirty jobs of the shinobi. Sometimes she loves it, they way she loves running barefoot through mud puddles after it rains. But sometimes she just feels dirty and ugly, and she hates it.
And she never feels as dirty as she does lying under an old, greedy man. Luckily nothing is really expected from noble women: lie there, let him do what he wants, make squeaking noises when appropriate. Try to think about something else. It's not her body, anyway.
Ino wonders how her own body is doing as the nobleman thrusts above her. Shikamaru and Choji have probably gotten back to Konoha by now, and she's probably hooked up to some machine in the hospital to keep her body alive. Shikamaru is either staring at clouds or being briefed on some new, strategy-heavy mission, depending on how ambitious his family is making him be. Choji is probably eating.
That or they're drawing on her face again. She mentally plots revenge and moans loudly as the sweaty man comes, squeezing the eyes that aren't hers closed. He rolls off of her.
"M-mochizuki-sama," she stammers in this body's shrill voice. It's high and not quite cute, but she guesses the pretty face and glossy black hair make up for it. This girl's father practically sold her to Mochizuki to bail himself out of debt. He hadn't even bothered hiring extra protection for her caravan. Quietly taking over her body in the night had been a cinch– Shikamaru and Choji hadn't even really been necessary. Aside from body transport.
They better not have dropped her or anything.
Mochizuki pulls a robe on and stomps out of the room without a word or even a glance back at her. Ino sits up slowly and examines the naked form of the girl she is possessing. Pale. Petite. No noteworthy muscle mass. Bruising where the man had grabbed her.
Her name is Shizuka. Ino is pretty sure she had been a virgin. She almost felt guilty, but it's not like Shizuka could have refused that anyway.
Ino hadn't been particularly surprised when Mochizuki had taken her before the marriage proper (which Ino had no intention of sticking around for; there was no way she could hold the technique for that long). But he had waited a week, and he hadn't responded to any of her attempts to come on to him. Even more disturbing, according to the head maid who is in charge of taking care of her, his advisors had told him to do it.
And she still has next to no information on his illegal weapons trade.
She had done this before. Usually it was easy to get information out of men who thought of her merely as something to stick themselves in. Not because they bothered to tell her anything, of course, but because they liked to flaunt her in front of their friends and business partners and didn't count her smart enough to pick up on what the men's conversations were about.
But Mochizuki had just left her in a room and had barely said more than a few sentences to her since she'd arrived.
Ino considers different methods to get the information she needs as she bathes herself. She had asked some innocent questions to the servants she'd met, but none of them seemed to even know about the legal ways Mochizuki was obtaining money. He just didn't talk much in general and conducted most of his business away from the house. She had scraped together a few leads, but…
Hana, the head maid, enters the room as Ino is dressing. Shizuka had brought several very fine kimono with her; her father hadn't been selfish with the irresponsible way he spent his money. Ino is carefully arranging a cream colored one, decorated with detailed black cranes and the red autumn leaves of some fictional tree. It was the one Shizuka had been wearing when Ino took her over and was a bizarre choice for such a young girl, like she was trying to seem mature for her new husband. Or maybe the black birds were a sign of morning. Hana wordlessly shuffles over and helps her with eggplant-purple obi.
"Why doesn't Mochizuki-sama talk to me?" Ino murmurs quietly, ashamedly, abashedly. She stares down at Shizuka's tiny white toes. The second is longer than the first on one foot, but not the other. This explains the initial and brief strangeness Ino had felt trying to balance herself. Ino remembers her father.
All movement is, in essence, natural to the body, through physiology or through habit. If a person walks duck-footed because that's how their feet are shaped, it will come naturally. If a person cracks their knuckles when they are nervous, it will come naturally. It's easy to override this with your mind and make a body do whatever you will.
Learn not to.
Hana fiddles behind her with the obi. "He doesn't talk to anyone," she answers gruffly.
"But I'm his fiancée!" Ino protests, turning her face toward Hana. Hana snorts.
"You? You're just a showpiece. You're just a wife to pop out heirs." Hana turns to the unmade bed, freshly used. She begins to strip the sheets from it. Ino tries very hard to force tears into her eyes.
"B– b– but…" Ino thinks very sad thoughts. Kicked puppies, kitties with their eyes being ripped out by crows. She does her best to look devastated. "I just don't want to disappoint my father."
She thinks of Asuma-sensei, and how she could do nothing to save him. Her eyes brim with tears. She makes a mental note to find something better to think of to make her cry; Asuma-sensei's death is still uncomfortably painful.
Hana sighs and drops the sheets. "Look, sweetie…" Hana was always rough and gruff until the tears started to flow. She patted Ino on Shizuka's narrow shoulder. "It's not your fault. It's your father's. The idiot just wants a dowry from Mochizuki."
Tears run down Shizuka's cheeks.
"But," Ino sputters, "he won't even talk to me! What am I doing wrong? Am I–"
Hana cuts her off. "Don't you think that's your fault either!" she commands. "Mochizuki's a tight-lipped bastard. He doesn't even like women."
"What?" Ino wipes a tear from her face. "What do you mean?" she asks, hoping she's misunderstanding. Hana sighs.
"Met me in the kitchen after dinner. You'll see."
Ino is not sure she's allowed to roam around the house without a servant in tow, so she does was she approximates as Shizuka's best ability to be stealthy. She battles all her shinobi instincts in making her footsteps audible as she sneaks down the hall.
She reaches the kitchen without incident. It's a modern one, with a large stove and a sink with hot water and an oversized refrigerator. It is spacious too, with a table set in the corner for servants. Hana is sitting at it playing cards with a male who Ino thinks is named Hoji.
"Oy," Hana calls over at her and waves. Ino wanders shyly over.
"Shizuka-chan's here to see the master's new boy-toy," Hana informs the man. He laughs. Inwardly, Ino groans.
"What do you mean?" she asks innocently. Hana and Hoji exchange glances, smirking. Ino is vaguely reminded of the looks Naruto and Kiba had exchanged before they'd abandoned her and Sakura at Ichiraku with their sizeable bill. Luckily the shop owner had witnessed a few of Sakura's rage-fueled, chair-smashing, wall-pulverizing fits before. Naturally terrified of property damage, he hastily offered to add it all to Naruto's tab.
Ino reminiscences in their subsequent revenge on Kiba (which had involved weaving poison ivy into a bouquet from a 'secret admirer') as they wait for… whatever they are waiting for. She also notes Hoji is a horrible cheat at gin rummy.
Finally there is the sound of wheels and the braying of a mule or donkey outside. Hana and Hoji perk up.
"He's here," Hana informs her, and drags her to a small window at the back of the kitchen. There is a stool under it, as it is above even Hoji's head. Ino holds Hana's hand as she climbs onto it and peers out. With Shizuka's slight form, she has to stand on tiptoe.
There was a boy outside, probably around her own age. Ino's, that is; Shizuka, barely a legal adult, is a couple years younger. He is unloading wood from a mule-drawn cart. His skin is bronze and smooth over well-defined muscle. Probably from years of chopping wood, Ino thinks. But his face is nice too: a strong jaw, a straight nose, and mischievous brown eyes under unkempt black hair. Mochizuki exits into the dwindling light from a door that must be through the stockrooms next to the kitchen. The boy grins at him, and his face lights up in a most attractive way.
Mochizuki crosses to him and, to Ino's shock, the taciturn man strikes up a conversation. She can't hear them, but she can read their lips. The boy cracks a bad joke, and Mochizuki actually laughs. They talk about pointless things for a while as the boy continues unloading the wood, piling it against the wall by the door, too far away for him to see Ino watching. Mochizuki watches him closely with a certain amount of lust in his eyes.
Then the boy asks about the 'deal in Wave.' Ino almost gasps. Mochizuki talks to him about his job?
Mochizuki chuckles, and replies something about how his business partner had liked the new pens so much he had placed another order.
"So will you being going back to Wave country?" the boy asks. Mochizuki shrugs.
"Perhaps. This particular man has also done trades in Earth in the past as well. We have yet to finalize arrangements."
The boy says nothing to that, and finishes piling the wood neatly against the house's wall. Then Mochizuki says, "I brought you back something from Wave as part of your payment. Come inside and see."
The boy grins and follows him into the house. Now that Ino knows to look for it, she hears the quiet sound of a door open and close one room over. She cannot make out the murmured conversation the two men continue.
Hana helps her down from the stool, smirking again. Ino frowns.
"I don't understand. What does that mean?"
Hoji snorts. "It means Mochizuki likes to take it up the butt."
Ino resists the urge to roll her eyes. "What does that mean?" She asks instead.
Hoji groans and mutters something that sounds like "impossible twit." Hana rubs her back.
"It means Mochizuki likes men more than he likes women."
Ino widens Shizuka's eyes. "Oh." She says. They are silent for a few moments. "Who was that?"
Hana chuckles. "His name is Mokuno Ichiro. He sells firewood to the surrounding towns. Mochizuki has us burn far more wood than necessary just to get him up here about once a week." She gives Ino a meaningful look. "Sorry, kid, but he's more into that than you. You're here for your uterus."
Ino mentally tsks. She should have taken over this Mokuno Ichiro, not Nishimoto Shizuka. Ichiro is the only one with information.
Hana escorts her back to her room, and Ino sits on the bed silently and contemplates her next plan of action. She's fairly certain Mochizuki has no intention of talking to her or anyone else about his work. She has managed to learn from Hana what countries he frequents for "business," but he hires men for transportation and no one has an exact location. She wonders if Ichiro has ever bothered to ask.
I could switch to him, she thinks. But that would require too much energy; she's already running low. She doesn't even have a week left. It doesn't take much to stay in another body, although greater distance between the possessed body and her real body makes it harder. For a long term mission, the rest of her team would keep it nearer to her mind's location, but Ino knew how annoying babysitting was for Shikamaru and Choji and had been confident she could get enough relevant information in two weeks to interrupt the weapon trade. (Besides, the one time they had tried that she'd woken up with weird things drawn all over her face and temporary green dye in her hair.)
Ino, you're too cocky, she remembers her father telling her. Thanks, Dad, she mentally replies.
Even if she could possess Ichiro, she has no idea how he acts. Unlike Shizuka, Ichiro is known well enough that deviations in normal behavior would be noticed. She'd have to observe him closely before hand, or magically master a few family mind-reading techniques over night.
She wonders if she could arrange to talk with Ichiro. If she had more time, she is certain she could arrange a few chance meetings and innocent questions, and she could definitely spy on their conversations. But she doesn't have more time.
She stays up well into the night thinking it over, lying on the bed with the new sheets Hana laid out and glaring at the ceiling. When she has no solution at 2:00 AM, she sits up, walks over to the as yet unused desk, and pens a suicide note.
Along with little muscle mass, undeveloped chakra systems are one of the annoyances of possessing a civilian. It takes a good amount of concentration for Ino to walk out over the river. It is about half a mile from the Mochizuki household.
There is a bridge over her head. The water rushes under her feet and it is hard to stay balanced. The river rages, and a small civilian female has no chance against the strong current.
Especially if she's not expecting to wake up underwater.
Ino feels a pang of guilt. She's killing an innocent girl. But that's in the plan, anyway. It's necessary. If Shizuka woke up to find a week of her life gone and suddenly under the roof of her fiancé, it would cause suspicion. It would be easier to trace back to Konoha. And that could not be allowed.
Sighing, Ino releases her jutsu.
In the second it takes for her to dislodge her soul from Shizuka, her feet begin to sink into the river. For the briefest instant she can see Shizuka's pretty hair under her, being tossed about by the river. Then Ino's zipping along, the natural bond between her body and her soul directing her and pulling her in faster than any ninja could run.
Ino sits up violently in the hospital bed. No one else is in the room.
Figures, she thinks. There was no way anyone would sit around waiting for her to come back. It was as pointless as waiting at the village gates for someone to return from a mission; she'd wake up when she was done, then she get up and report in. Assuming she doesn't die horribly, trapped in another's body.
She detaches the mess of wires and tubes keeping her alive from her body. She'd had basic medical training, so she figures she was qualified enough to do that. The nurses couldn't complain.
Kicking her legs over the side of the bed, Ino stands and makes a break for the door. Her legs wobble; she stumbles and falls on her bottom. Scowling at the hospital gown covering her knees, she tries to will proper control back into her body. Her stomach growls in response. Liquid diets are not particularly satisfying.
"Shut up," she says to it. "You're not Choji."
The door opens and a surprised nurse enters.
"Yamanaka-san!" she cries. "We weren't expecting you back for another couple days."
The nurses bends to help her up, and Ino mutters that he mission had been compromised.
"I'm sorry to hear that," the nurse says, face brimming with sympathy. She's probably seen the effects, both physical and mental, "compromised missions" have had on ninja.
Ino sighs, then smiles as she manages to stand on her own. "Hey, at least I'm alive and well, right?"
"That's always good," the nurse answers lightly, taking up Ino's chart from the end of her bed. "If you could wait here for a bit, I'll get a doctor to perform a few final check ups on you and you can go check out."
"Okay," Ino answers with a false smile. She really wants to get out as soon as possible and go find friends or family. But she's seen the stress the hospital staff goes through when a patient sneaks out prematurely, so she obidiently sits back down on the bed. She doesn't quite trust herself to walk very far yet, anyway.
"Um," she says to the nurse. "Could you bring me some real food too?"
The nurse giggles and promises she will.
"I want to go back," Ino announces to Tsunade and her father. Yamanaka Inoichi had been in the building when she'd gone to report in and had rushed up to meet her. Consequently, he'd heard the majority of her mission report. They both raise eyebrows at her.
"You cant exactly go back to being Shizuka," Tsunade answers blandly. "And you're not a surveillance nin. How do you intend to continue?"
Ino straightens her back in determination. "I will be Mokuno Ichiro."
Tsunade and Inoichi exchange glances.
"Ino," says her father, "you haven't trained to be a boy."
"How hard can it be?" she shoots back. "I've possessed boys before."
Inoichi raises his eyebrows as her. "Only for short periods of time."
"So?" Ino is aware males are not in her repertoire of "personalities Ino can act like and not get weird looks," but doesn't want to leave her mission to some other nin.
"Well, aside from the obvious new set of organs to get used to," Tsunade says, drumming her fingers against her desk, "and the different body type to accustom yourself to, you haven't proved you can fit the persona and habits of an average male."
"So I skip a few showers and belch at the dinner table, big deal," Ino glares, placing her hands on her hips. "If I can possess a bird, I don't see why–"
"Ino," her father interrupts her sternly. "May I remind you that you had to prove you could fly as a bird before you were allowed to do it outside of clan supervision? And that you also had to prove you could handle acting as different women before you were allowed on those missions?"
Ino bites her lip. "Yes, but–"
"I'm not saying you don't have the ability," he father continues. "You're very talented at what you do." Tsunade butts in.
"But you don't do men. Maybe in the future, after you've trained as a male, you can. But not for this mission."
Ino pouts before the hokage and her father like she's thirteen again, being told that no, Sakura could not replace Shikamaru on her team for the chuunin exam.
"I don't want to give this mission up," she says.
Tsunade sighs and leans back in her chair.
"Well, it's not like you completely failed. We can have this Mokuno Ichiro watched. We also know what countries Mochizuki visits, and that he'll be heading for Earth country sometime soon, although it'd still be risky to follow him…" She trails off, lost in thought. It wouldn't go over well with other countries if they caught whiff of Konoha nin outside of Fire, especially if Mochizuki was trading with the other ninja villages. That's why Ino had been sent in as a spy.
Ino follows her father down the steps of Hokage tower sullenly.
"I did offer to train you to be a guy," Inoichi suddenly says, glancing over his shoulder at her.
"Daaad," Ino whines. "I was a kid. I wanted to kiss boys, not be them."
He grins at her. "Well, I've got an especially tough case down in interrogation, but once we're done with him I'll find time to help you out. Or maybe you could ask you cousin…"
Ino rolls her eyes as her father babbles on about various men and a few well-trained women she could ask. He sounds just like any normal excited father, not someone who'd been busy for the past two weeks trying to pry information out of some missing nin's brain.
"Oh, but Ino," he says, calling her attention back to him. "You'll need to find a practice body."
She stops dead on a stair landing. "What?"
"Find a guy that won't mind you experimenting on his body," he father says, a playful smirk crossing his face. "I don't suggest fully explaining what you'll be doing with it. Your cousin Yuriko told her boyfriend it was some sex thing."
Ino imagines rounding up all the men she knows. She'd have them all stand before her in a line, pacing back and forth in front of them like an army general.
"Boys," she'd announce, oh-so-official sounding. "I have a special mission for one of you. One of you brave enough to risk everything."
They'd all lean forward eagerly, ready to prove themselves.
"Gentlemen." She'd look each one in the eyes before stepping back and leering impishly at them. "I need a body to practice writing my name in pee!"
Their faces would fall.
In the stairwell of hokage tower, Ino begins to cackle.
I imagine that in the bizarre cross between ancient and modern that is the world of Naruto, "legal" is a few years younger than the usual 18. Thus if Ino is a couple years older than "legal age," she is in the 18/19 area.
PS – This will eventually turn to NaruIno. No yelling at me over it.