I lost my notes regarding some very important details for this chapter and had to start fresh. In doing so I began wondering if I should reboot this story or not with some changes. For now though, I'll just keep this version going.
Chapter 82: Traitors
Mikoto had to leave Sasuke for a bit, telling him that she was gathering her assistants who would be going to Oto with them. With Sasuke coming with her, her job as Subsonic was essentially done. She had only agreed to spy on the village long enough to have this chance, and if Oto needed to spy on Konoha any further Jiraiya could find a way. At the same time she tied a message to a falcon's leg and sent it off, sending a message to Orochimaru.
"So it's finally time."
With those words, three of Subsonic's four underlings appeared. Flat, Bass, and Tenor.
Mikoto nodded. "Yes, my time in Konoha is officially over. Thank you all for your help. Whether you choose to remain or come with me, I will support you either way."
"I think I speak for all of us Subsonic when I say we're better off going with you. Have you heard who the new hokage is?" Flat replied.
"No, who? Are they a threat?"
Bass laughed. "Hardly. They chose Ibiki Morino."
Mikoto blinked. "Ibiki? Why of all people him?"
"They probably thought he'd be the most intimidating one since the village is on edge about enemies right now. Kakashi was considered an option, but due to the Yondaime turning his back on the village, his student pretty much lost all credibility here."
"Time's a-wasting, let's go." Flat insisted.
All of a sudden, dozens if not hundreds of senbon needles shot out of the surrounding foliage, hitting all of them in nonlethal spots. Surprisingly, the only one not hit was Sasuke, but his expression showed he had no idea what was going on.
Several Anbu came out and swiftly tied up the hands and ankles of Mikoto and her subordinates, while Ibiki came out. "So, there are more traitors to Konoha here. Trying to take a child with you? Haven't you taken enough from us already?"
"How did you find out about them?" Sasuke asked the newly appointed hokage.
"Not important. What's important as far as you're concerned boy is if you were about to go along with them." Ibiki declared, looking at the young Uchiha as if he could make Sasuke crap his pants with just a look alone. "So tell me, are you stupid enough to do that?"
Sasuke felt very put on the spot. He had no idea how good a fighter Ibiki actually was, and he had come here prepared. What chance did he have of fighting any of the Konoha nin off?
"One of them says she's my mother. I needed to get answers. But that's all I wanted, I swear."
He avoided looking at Mikoto after that, both to make his story at least somewhat believable and to avoid seeing if this hurt her in some way.
Ibiki looked over the ninja that came with him. "Take them into custody and put them in separate cells." He then looked to Sasuke. "You're coming with me."
All Sasuke could do was nod. He glanced to Mikoto, and saw her disappear and be replaced by a log.
"Damn, one got away."
Away in the forests, Mikoto paused to breathe heavily and try to get her binds loosened. Knowing that Anbu would be hot on her trail, she couldn't do this for long, and had to substitute herself every six seconds or so to get some distance between her and Konoha, bound or not. Fortunately the substitution was Mikoto's best jutsu so distance was not a problem for her.
A few kilometers away from the Valley of the End, she finally managed to get free of the wire. 'Dammit, that went completely wrong." She muttered simply to express it. She glanced in the direction of Konoha. "Just you wait Leaf, I'm coming back, and this time I'm going on the offensive."
Sasuke did not know how to feel at the moment, being confined to the hokage's office. But he sure as hell didn't feel comfortable or particularly proud at the moment. Ibiki stood behind his desk looking out the window.
"Do you know what you were doing boy?" He asked, not facing the Uchiha genin.
"Have I committed a crime tonight?" Sasuke asked, testing the proverbial waters.
"You were about to abandon the village with the aide of a traitor. That constitutes as a crime."
Sasuke frowned. "That traitor is my mother."
"Hmm... when we cornered you all, you said the traitor was merely claiming to be your mother. Now you speak as if you know for a fact it was her."
'He's trying to bait me.' Sasuke thought. "And you keep calling her a traitor yet aren't admitting to knowing her identity. So do you know who she is or don't you?"
Ibiki very slightly smiled. It wasn't often he got a kid who was made of sterner stuff then the others. "Good observation. But if the person in question is indeed Mikoto Uchiha, then they are indeed a traitor to Konoha."
"Like the Yondaime?" Sasuke remarked.
Ibiki lost his grin. "I can understand why he did what he did, but as a professional I cannot pardon such behavior. I cannot let those that break the law get away with it just because they can rationalize their crime. To do so is to admit the law is worthless."
"So you're going to oppose the Yondaime merely because it's your job to?" Sasuke asked.
"Yes." Ibiki answered, not sounding proud of it. "Just like it is your job to remain faithful to Konoha. And you were caught willing to break that. I am willing to offer leniency due to your age and the manipulation put on you by your mother, but only if you are willing to cooperate."
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "Sorry to disappoint, but she didn't tell me anything about the Sound village. Other than I wouldn't be a bigshot there."
"I find that believable." The scarred interrogator replied.
Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "So then why are you keeping me here? What do you want from me?"
"For now, time for you to really think about what you were about to do and realize your mistake. And give your mother a place to go when she comes back for you."
'I'm bait.' Sasuke realized. "And what makes you think she's coming back alone?"
Per orders, the subordinates of Subsonic were detained in three separate rooms. Once inside, they were unmasked.
"I must say, it is a surprise to see you as a traitor." The interrogator said to the shinobi codenamed Sharp, but in public known as Hana Inuzuka.
"Don't act like you know me." She warned.
"I know the Inuzuka are regarded as fiercely loyal, so you can pardon my surprise at seeing one of them committing treason."
"I committed no treason, I am merely more loyal to my mentor than to a vague concept." Hana argued.
"Konoha is not a concept child." The interrogator claimed.
"Yes it is. That's exactly what it is." Hana protested. "When you get down to it, what exactly is Konoha? As a physical and tangible thing? In truth, it's just a piece of land with buildings on it. No different than any other village out there, shinobi or civilian."
"But Konoha is your home."
"Only because I was born here, not because I choose to live here. If you weren't born here would you want to live in this village?"
The interrogator said nothing.
"Konoha as you think of it is in fact nothing more than a concept." Hana continued. "An idea of what the village stands for. A vision for what the village hopes to achieve. That is what you're saying I should be loyal to."
"And why won't you?" They asked.
"Ideas change, like the phases of the moon. Visions are unshared, everyone has their own idea of what is best for this village and the people in it. Concepts are open to interpretation. Loyalty to something intangible and fluid is doomed to fail. I believe in giving my loyalty to a person, not a concept."
"And what makes this particular person worth giving your loyalty to?" The interrogator asked.
Hana smirked. "Who do you think taught me what I just told you?"
While never truly a jounin sensei, in the past Mikoto had offered to give some lessons to the Academy students. Nothing major, more a way to give children a chance to answer questions they had about whether or not they wanted to become ninja. Usually most students went in eagerly, but after some time in the school and learning a thing or two, occasionally a few would start getting second thoughts or cold feet. The Academy offered a small after school program designed to alleviate their fears by letting them talk to adults who would reassure them. Though in most cases it was merely propaganda to encourage them to keep trying.
Mikoto had contributed to this a few times, and once she had to interact with a younger Hana in this. Hana had been confused about the nature of loyalty, primarily in it being automatic. Her clan had instilled that in her, and while her father didn't encourage it, like most parents he had taught her to trust authority figures. But she herself was uncertain if that was true.
'I'm told Konoha is worth it, but the only reason I have to be loyal to this place is because I was born here. If I had been born in Iwa or Suna, I'd be told that those villages were worth it too. So what makes Konoha so deserving of my loyalty other than the fact that this is where I am?' She had asked.
To her surprise Mikoto smiled at this question and patted her on the shoulder. 'That's an excellent question Hana-chan, and the truth of the matter is... it isn't more deserving. Konoha's future changes every day, how can you be loyal to something that's never the same thing two days in a row? I can't tell you what to do or believe, but if you ask me, you should put your trust in a person you can actually talk to.'
Since then Hana had nothing but respect for Mikoto, and she was greatly relieved when the Uchiha matriarch had revealed herself as alive after the massacre. Mikoto had explained everything. Where she had been, what she had learned, why she was back, and what she intended to do, but she needed help. Hana never considered telling her no.
The interrogator crossed his arms. "I suppose then a case could be made that you were brainwashed at a young age."
Hana rolled her eyes. "Of course, because heaven forbid someone make a choice of their own to disagree with you. Oh no, it has to be brainwashing."
"You better go with that angle if you know what's good for you girl. Unless you want to tell your clan head that as their heiress you willingly chose to betray them and the village."
"If I wasn't willing, I wouldn't be here now would I?" She asked, making it clear she was unafraid and unashamed.
In another room, another interrogator was speaking to the agent known as Bass, better known as Iruka Umino.
"I must admit this is a surprise. Who would have suspected a teacher of being a traitor?"
"I wasn't always, but let's just say my mind was opened to new possibilities." Iruka replied.
"And who exactly opened your mind?" The interrogator asked.
"Your mother." Iruka joked, resulting in a slap.
The truth was Iruka had originally been a true loyalist to Konoha, wishing to honor the village his parents had died for. Since he was never a stellar ninja himself, the best way to do that was to teach students and help them become the best they could be. For years this had remained unchanged. Then he happened to come across Mikoto Uchiha.
"Uchiha-san, what exactly are you teaching the children?" He asked one day after the kids left the Academy.
"Has anyone complained about me?" She asked in return.
"You've been telling the children that they don't have to be loyal to the village."
Mikoto blinked then smiled. "Oh that? Oh, you know how kids sometimes miss the point of the message."
"So you weren't telling the kids to be disloyal?" Iruka clarified.
"No, I was telling them to not be loyal by default."
"By default?" Iruka repeated, confused.
Mikoto nodded. "Of course. What, are you saying that our ninja should be loyal to whoever wears the hokage hat simply because they wear the hat? Would you seriously have no problem if tomorrow someone like Danzou came into power?"
"That's not the kind of thing kids should be thinking about." Iruka stated. He had to admit she had a point, but he wasn't ready to concede his argument yet.
"So when is it okay for them to think about it?" Mikoto challenged. "When is it okay for them to ask if the people and system they're expected to swear undying loyalty to is worth serving and dying for? When is it okay for them to think for themselves?"
"I'm not saying that kids shouldn't be able to think for themselves." Iruka started.
Mikoto leaned in. "If you're saying I'm wrong for telling them it's okay to have standards, then yes you are." With that, she left, leaving the scarred chuunin to think things over.
While Iruka didn't change overnight, that moment was the turning point for him. He had always had faith in the system, the ways of maintaining how ninja work in Konoha, and believed it worked because everyone knew their place within the system and didn't question it. Everyone had a job to do and it was their duty to do it to the best of their capabilities. Anything else was just being lazy or disrespectful.
He tried explaining that to Mikoto at another time, and she actually compared him to Danzou for it. That struck a nerve for Iruka, but when he defended his claim she logically pointed out that by putting all his faith in the system he was effectively devaluing the people that worked within it, equating them to little more than bugs in a hive or cogs in a machine. People have a natural desire to have their own goals and work to make changes that will ultimately achieve said goals. What Iruka was preaching was essentially shaming people for wanting anything other than they were assigned, and assuming that whoever did the assigning never ever had ulterior motives in doing so.
After some thinking, Iruka could only conclude that the comparison was a fitting one, which broke something inside of him. No longer could he look at Konoha with unwavering faith. Mikoto took the opportunity to get him to listen to the story of Oto and what she was actually doing. Needless to say Iruka was surprised and needed some kind of proof, but Naruto still being alive was a good start. And learning that all three sannin were opposed to the Sandaime was another factor. In the end, he agreed to keep an eye on Konoha on behalf of Mikoto, but he mostly did this to see for himself what he thought of the situation.
Needless to say if Iruka had ever been willing to betray Mikoto to Konoha, that went away in the aftermath of the invasion. Sarutobi's confession and the sight of all three sannin betraying the village for the purpose of protecting abused children, was he supposed to side with Konoha on that? Was he supposed to say those children were supposed to be abused? As a teacher he could not do that.
"By the time we're done here, you'll never work in this town again." The interrogator threatened.
Iruka rolled his eyes. "Oh no, I'm willing to leave Konoha forever but please mister don't take away my job."
That little bit of sarcasm earned him a slap, but it was worth it.
In a third room in the same hallway, the third subordinate of Subsonic, the one codenamed Tenor, was being unmasked and interrogated. This citizen of Konoha just so happened to be Yoshino Nara. This was a considerable surprise to the interrogation department, and they brought in Shikaku himself to speak to her before they began a genuine procedure. It was a little unorthodox, but it was worth a shot.
"Yoshino, why would you be in league with our enemy?" Shikaku asked, not knowing how to process this revelation.
"Do you know who 'our enemy' actually is Shikaku?" Yoshino asked.
"A bunch of traitors who formed a village just to declare war on Konoha." Shikaku answered with a hint of bitterness.
"Those 'traitors' are most of the best this village has ever produced. Maybe if it was just one of them that would just be betrayal, but all three sannin plus the Yondaime, his wife, and a thought-to-be-dead Uchiha with four others? Don't you think the situation's a little too complicated to be merely dismissed as yet another missing-nin scenario?"
The Nara head had to admit she had a point. Missing-nin in general occurred in small amounts, usually just individuals acting alone and at most an entire team going rogue when on a mission together. What his wife was describing was clearly a conspiracy, which meant there was more to the story.
"Complicated or not, it's still treason. And if you really thought nothing was wrong with what you were doing you would have told me." Shikaku claimed.
Yoshino rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, I should just tell people that one of my old friends who everyone thinks is dead is alive and in league with a new village no one has ever heard of secretly being run by all three sannin planning to give Konoha the biggest black eye in history. That's normal conversation for us."
"Still, if you thought these people were in the moral right you wouldn't have kept it a secret."
Yoshino smirked. "From Konoha, or from you?"
"Pardon?" Shikaku asked, though being a smart guy he already knew what she meant.
"Don't play dumb with me Shikaku, you know damn well what I'm asking. But I'm guessing I already know which offends you more, after all, you're here yet not qualified to interrogate."
"I'm here because I'm gentler than the professionals and confessing to me will spare you their pain."
Yoshino smiled. "I regret nothing, and just keep in mind husband that from this moment on regardless of any bargain you might be able to make with the higher ups here, there no longer is a future for me in Konoha. There can't be. So when all this is over and Oto comes back to check in on us, you just need to ask yourself one thing. In what way do you love me?"
Shikaku was smart enough to not need to ask what she meant, but worst of all was he couldn't promise an answer. Not in the context she was asking.
Late into the morning, Mikoto finally appeared at the gates of Oto. Kidomaru found her breathing heavily and barely able to stand, as if she had been running a marathon even by shinobi standards, and took her to the nearest clinic. It did not take long for Tsunade and Orochimaru to become informed that she had returned, alone.
"What happened?" Orochimaru asked, well aware that Mikoto returning alone could only mean bad news.
"Ambushed." Mikoto answered simply. "This time they were ready for us. I don't know how, but they captured my son and my assistants. I got away, but I'm going to need help to get them free."
"Minato could get in and out no sweat." Tsunade thought out loud.
"Except they're most likely expecting Minato." Orochimaru countered. "While he could accomplish this, I have no doubt of that, perhaps we should be more creative here. We should send the message that Oto is not to be messed with, and we have more ways to fight back than just one man."
"So who do you recommend?" Tsunade asked.
"I'm thinking perhaps the Sound Four, and our recent chuunin to give them some support."
"Sound Four? What about Kimimaro?" Mikoto questioned.
"Last resort in case things go ugly. For now let's keep him here in case someone tries something more direct while we're focusing on getting your son and our agents back."
"I'm not sure I like this, but I can't say the reasoning behind it is flawed." Tsunade thought out loud.
Orochimaru nodded. "Then let's get the following ninja right away."
In less than twenty minutes, the five recent chuunin and one recent jounin of Oto were all in Orochimaru's office standing before the otokage.
"Naruto, Dosu, Kin, Sasame, Haku, and Fuu, we've got a big assignment that needs to be covered immediately. Only four of you will be needed, so after I explain the mission should any of you wish to bow out it will not be held against you."
None of the younger ninja protested, so he proceeded.
"Subsonic went back to Konoha in order to gather her assistants as well as her son. Thus eliminating any links we still have to the village that they could use to get back at us. However Konoha's forces managed to intercept them and capture the three assistants and her son, though Subsonic was able to escape. While I have faith that the three will not give Konoha what they want, I believe that we owe it to Subsonic and themselves to make an effort to free them. That's where you come in. Any questions?"
"Why only four of us?" Fuu asked.
"Because four members of the Sound Five will be going there, to do the majority of the fighting should it come to that. Four of you will go along to assist them both in scouting, transportation, and if needed combat."
"What threats should we expect?" Kin asked.
"The same we faced when we invaded Konoha, but this time they'll be prepared. They have some understanding of our methods but not enough, and they'll be motivated by revenge and a desire to prove their superiority over the village that kicked their ass so recently. Hence why we're sending in our best jounin, but no not the Yondaime since they will be expecting that."
"Would it be a bad idea to send in Naruto-kun and Fuu then?" Haku asked. "Wouldn't they be expecting jinchuuriki as well?"
Orochimaru nodded. "Yes, that is a concern, however Naruto and Fuu have skills that could prove useful in this mission. All of you do. Dosu's unique skills make him a wildcard they don't train for. Kin's skills would help keep enemies at bay and harder to follow any of you. Sasame is a tenacious fighter which is always good in a crisis. And Haku is an expert at using the situation to her advantage."
Feeling more assured, the teens looked at each other.
"Now the question is which four?" Orochimaru asked.
"I get along well with Tayuya so I think she'll appreciate it if I go along." Naruto suggested. "Plus my bloodlines ensure I will keep the Konoha ninja on their toes."
"Dosu and I would be good at dealing with any trackers sent after us." Kin theorized.
"Kin and I do know how to coordinate our methods, but we can work separately if we have to." Dosu added.
"I'm not that certain about my skills, but I'm willing to help out in any way I can if I must." Sasame claimed.
"I'm fast and can make the enemy wear themselves out, but I must admit I'm not the heaviest hitter there is." Haku summarized.
Fuu stepped forward. "With all due respect Otokage-sama, I believe it would be best if I stayed behind on this mission."
Orochimaru raised an eyebrow. "Any particular reason why?"
Fuu nodded. "Yes, my specialty is making traps and when you're on the run you don't have the luxury of doing that. Not to mention my kekkei genkai works best when I have the element of surprise and those opportunities will be limited on this mission. I believe it would be best for me to perhaps set up some traps ahead of the retrieval team that they can be informed of to avoid. This way should anyone from Konoha follow them, they will have a harder time getting to Oto before we can retaliate."
The snake sannin smiled and nodded. "Good thinking. Very well, you may stay back, and be ready to prepare for your role in this." He looked to the others. "Anyone else wish to back out?"
The teens looked at each other, silently asking themselves that same question. After a bit, Haku stepped forward. "If Fuu will do that, I will stay back and help her. I am the fastest of us here and can alert the others before any traps they may unknowingly run into."
Orochimaru nodded again. "Alright, you stay back as well. The rest of you go to the southern gate and wait for four of the Sound Five to meet you there. Dismissed."
All teens nodded and left the office, some more in a hurry than others.