In Dire Judgement

With sixteen-year-old Ino…

It was early morning. The streets in Konoha were quiet.

In the Hokage's household, the Hokage and his wife were awake and preparing for the day in their room. Naruto was finishing buttoning his shirt, while Ino pulled a brush through her short blonde hair. Once she was done, she glanced at the coat hanging from a hanger on the door of the wardrobe. With a knowing smile, she grabbed it and sauntered over to Naruto and tapped him on the shoulder.

Ino held up the white coat, and smiled as Naruto slipped his arms in and pulled it over his shoulders. The stitching on the back was neat, and even though Ino has been seeing it for months, it still surprised her to see the words. Once it was on, Naruto turned around to face her and returned the smile.

"Ready?" Ino asked. She had to lift her head slightly to look at him properly.

"I suppose," was the reply. He looked tired, and there was something else bothering him, she could see it in his eyes.

"What is it?" she pressed.

Naruto shook his head. "I don't know. It just feels like with everything about to happen, that our time is also running out."

Ino nodded slowly. She understood. She felt the same. With the whole debacle with Ayaka, Astra and the Council finally ending, it almost felt like everything else would also suddenly fall into place.

"I don't know how, or when," Ino whispered. "But I hope you find peace. And never forget."

A strange emotion crossed Naruto's face, then he shook his head and grabbed her shoulders, so he could pull her against him.

"I will never forget you," he whispered into her hair.

She could feel the tears gathering in her eyes. "And I will never forget you."

"Don't worry, younger me will totally fall in love with you," Naruto stated. "If you can make me fall in love with the same woman twice, then nothing will stand in your way."


In the Hokage Tower there was a large room that had not been used in quite some time. And with the changes Naruto was making, the room's layout has also been changed. Instead of simply a long table and chairs, there was now three chairs by a large desk at the rear on a raised platform. Behind that was a door. Before that was open space, followed by two desks and two chairs at each on opposite sides of the room. Behind them was a series of benches.

This was Konoha's new Courtroom.

And the people were filing in.

Shizune was seated by one of the desks, the seat next to her empty. At the opposite desk sat a shinobi whose name Shikamaru could not recall, but he recognised his face. Other familiar faces were walking in and sitting on the benches – his wife, Kiba, Lee, Shino, members of the Council and some others. Hinata entered with her eldest son, and they were seated towards the front. Sasuke and Karin entered together, but Karin sat next to Shizune at the desk, while Sasuke sat on the bench behind them. Some others also arrived, including Haruno Renge.

Everybody stood when Naruto and Ino entered. Naruto greeted everyone politely, insisted everyone sit, and then the two blondes sat down next to Sasuke. Not long after, however, the door at the rear of the room opened and three individuals walked in.

Naruto stood, and then motioned to the room to follow. "All stand for Tribunal Councillors Nara Shikaku and Yamanaka Inoichi, and for Tribunal Supreme Judge Haruno Mebuki."

The Tribunal bowed slightly to the crowd, who returned the bow. The Tribunal sat down by the desk on the platform, and then the rest of the room sat down as well.

"Let us begin then," Mebuki announced.


Hyuuga Hoshiko (more commonly known as Astra) was tried first. She was escorted into the court room by two shinobi and seated by the desk not occupied by Shizune and Karin. She looked exhausted, with dark circles under her eyes and her skin incredibly pale. She refused to make eye contact with anyone in the room, her head lowered so she can stare absently at her hands folded in front of her on the desk.

The man beside her stood up and moved to the centre of the room. He cleared his throat and straightened before the Tribunal.

"Mr Nara, Mr Yamanaka, Ms Mebuki," he began. "I am Obata. I am a medic at the Konoha Hospital. Hyuuga Hoshiko is one of my patients."

"How long has she been your patient?" Inoichi asked.

"About a month, sir," was Obata's reply.

"And your diagnosis?" Shikaku asked.

Obata nodded slowly. "She suffers severe psychosis and anxiety. From what I have been able to glean from her, she has struggled with these symptoms since childhood."

The Tribunal members nodded. Mebuki spoke next: "Thank you. And what does she stand accused of?"

"Kidnapping, treason, use of illegal substances, use of Mind Control for nefarious reasons against the village and physical assault," Obata replied. "I humbly ask the Tribunal to judge her fairly, but please keep in mind that she is unwell."

Mebuki smiled. "We will, Obata. Please take a seat. We will now hear testimony for Hyuuga Hoshiko."


With thirty-seven-year-old Ino…

Ino stretched her arms high above her head as she inhaled the dry desert air. It was a typical morning in Sunagakure – unbearably hot. Ino had thrown off the covers early in the morning and had barely managed to not pull off her robe. She really hated such heat. But luckily it would not be a problem for much longer.

Today was the day.

Ino moved to the window to look out over the village and smiled. She felt content in a way, knowing that soon things should be completely settled and right again. Nodding to herself, she grabbed her things and headed for the bathroom.

The house was quiet. Either its occupants had left for work, or they were asleep. Gaara rarely slept and he was very much a workaholic, so she wouldn't be surprised if he was already at his office. Temari and Kankuro were also busy individuals and she had realised they got up and left early. So, she had the house to herself.

After showring, she headed downstairs to search the kitchen for breakfast. She was surprised to find a spot on the table set with dishes and a note.

Ino,

Gaara told me you are likely leaving today. A hearty breakfast is important when traveling! There is rice in the rice cooker, miso soup on the stove, and fish in the fridge. Please help yourself.

See you next time,

Temari.

Ino smiled at the note and quickly got the food Temari had listed. There was also some pickled radish already on the table on a little plate. Temari had gone the whole mile for breakfast that morning. Ino took her time eating. She was in no rush and would need all the energy she could spare for what was to come.

After eating, Ino decided it would be polite to do the dishes. She quickly washed up, then wiped the kitchen bench for good measure. Once she finished, she sighed and wiped her sweaty brow. As the sun rose higher, the air became drier and hotter. She couldn't wait to leave the intense heat.

Satisfied that the kitchen was clean, Ino decided she would return to the guest room and get started on the first task she had to do. However, as she walked out of the kitchen and up the hallway, the front door opened with a loud creak. She turned around, curious to see who had returned home.

It was Temari. Her skin was red, and her breath ragged. She practically collapsed in the entryway and struggled to pull off her sandals. Ino quickly moved to her side.

"Are you alright?" Ino asked.

Temari jumped in surprise. "Oh, you scared me!" The Suna kunoichi laughed.

"Did you run here?"

Temari nodded, still out of breath. "I was not sure if you would still be here."

Ino quirked an eyebrow. "You were looking for me?"

"Yes," Temari replied. She bit her lip, then sighed deeply. "Konoha has been destroyed."


With sixteen-year-old Ino…

There was a tense silence in the courtroom. The Tribunal had heard all testimony, and afterwards had retreated to a private area where they could discuss the outcome of the trial. The people left in the courtroom all sat uncomfortable and uncertain of how things would turn out. Hyuuga Hoshiko remained eerily quiet and still by the desk, her gaze still focused on her hands folded before her.

Ino was especially restless. She was fidgeting with her fingers and tapping her foot on the wooden floor. Naruto, who was sitting more quietly next to her, noticed.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

Ino turned to look at him and nodded slightly. "I am. I just hope the judgement is not too harsh."

Naruto smiled. "It will be just, but merciful. You know Inoichi, Shikaku and Mebuki. They are not the type to be cruel. Besides, I would not allow a cruel punishment. It would serve no useful purpose that way."

Ino inhaled deeply and nodded. "You are right. I just feel like I am partly to blame for all this, you know?"

Naruto frowned as he watched Ino look down at her lap. Feeling protective, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him. "It is not your fault."

"But it is one of my alternate versions who abused her," Ino muttered. "If it was not for that me, she would not have ended up like this."

Naruto shook his head. "I doubt the abuse she suffered is the only thing that led to her struggles. Besides, it was her choice to do what she did. She could have chosen differently."

Ino sighed. "I know."

Karin was also restless and had abandoned her seat at the desk with Shizune to sit with her husband instead. She was tired, and honestly had little energy to deal with this whole trial business. She just wanted to return home to her children. But she knew moving forwards after the whole Council nightmare needed this to happen. So here she was, and she had given her testimony.

"It will be over soon," Sasuke told her.

"I hope so," Karin sighed. Just as she said that, the door by the platform opened and the Tribunal re-entered the room. Everyone stood up and bowed as the three took their seats. Once they were seated, the rest of the room's occupants sat back down.

Inoichi spoke first. "Will the accused please come forward?"

Obata stood up and helped Hoshiko up. The two slowly made their way to the centre before the platform. For the first time throughout the entire morning, Hoshiko looked up, her pale gaze landing on Hyuuga Hinata who sat amongst the crowd. A look of panic was on the younger woman's face. Hinata smiled encouragingly, which seemed to calm her. Obata stood with his patient as they faced the Tribunal.

"We have heard and seen all evidence," Mebuki began. "And we have come to a verdict."

The tension in the air rose, if that were even possible.

"Hyuuga Hoshiko," Mebuki continued. "You are hereby found guilty of all charges."

And the tension popped.

"Ordinarily you would be sentenced to quite a number of years in prison for the severity and quantity of your crimes," Mebuki stated. "However, considering that you are currently under the care of Konoha General Hospital we have decided you will be sentenced 15 years."

Hoshiko looked up at Mebuki surprised, then blushed and looked back down at her feet.

Mebuki continued: "You will remain under custody in the hospital until Obata deems you fit to be moved to a secure facility. Usually at the end of your sentence we would ask you return to your dimension, however, since doing so would put you in danger we have decided against this course of action. You may remain in this dimension until your death."

Ino sagged in relief at the news that Hoshiko would not have to return to her dimension. She would never wish such a fate on anybody. The woman herself also seemed relieved, as she sagged to the floor shaking and sobbing. Obata knelt beside her and was whispering to her. Probably trying to reassure her and calm her down.

"Obata," Inoichi cut in. "The two of you will be escorted back to the hospital by security. A group of shinobi will arrive shortly to organise her constant supervision."

The medic nodded. "Thank you."

"We will adjourn for lunch," Shikaku stated. "We will resume in one hour."


Naruto had to excuse himself and go do some work in his office during the lunch hour, so Ino decided she would head home to spend some time with the children. Both Kaguya and Minato were currently at home being babysat by their grandmother. Kaguya had no missions currently and Minato had woken up with the sniffles, so Ino had decided to let him sleep. She also felt it best not to spread any potential diseases at school.

Minato ran into her arms the minute she stepped into the house.

"Mama!" he exclaimed. "I missed you."

Ino smiled warmly. "I missed you too." She knelt and pulled him close. He smelled like soap and milk. And he was very warm. Suddenly missing him, she pulled him closer. She could not explain it, but she had a gut feeling that soon she would not be able to hold him like this anymore.

Minato's little hands patted her back affectionately. After a minute or two, they pulled apart and Ino smiled at him. "Have you had lunch?"

"Not yet!" Minato replied. "Grandma is making waffles."

Ino quirked an eyebrow. "Waffles?"

"Yeah! I wanted some!"

Ino chuckled. "Okay, well, let's go see if grandma needs help."

"Okay!"

Minato grabbed her hand and practically pulled her to the kitchen. Kaguya was standing by the kettle preparing tea, while Ino's mother was popping some cooked waffles into the oven to stay warm.

"Oh," Mrs Yamanaka exclaimed at seeing her daughter. "Hello, dear."

"Hi," Ino returned the greeting. "Waffles smell great."

Mrs Yamanaka smiled. "There's enough to feed an army."

Ino snorted. "Goof thing I came home for lunch then."

"You want tea, mama?" Kaguya interrupted.

"Yes, please."

Once Kaguya pulled out another cup and prepared the tea, she skipped over to her mother and embraced her. Ino returned the embrace wholeheartedly. Mrs Yamanaka continued making more waffles.

"How is the triall going?" she asked.

Ino sighed. "Good so far. One down, two more to go."

Mrs Yamanaka blinked. "Two more? I thought they were only trialling Hoshiko and Ayaka today."

"That was the initial plan," Ino conceded. "But Naruto requested that Juugo be trialled today as well. No more waiting."

"Ah," Mrs Yamanaka hummed. "That is very true. And wise. The poor man deserves to be free."

Ino nodded in agreement.

"Are the waffles ready yet?" Minato demanded. The adult conversation had been confusing to him, and his little tummy was rumbling. He just wanted to eat!

His grandmother laughed. "Almost, my little wombat, almost!"


With thirty-seven-year-old Ino…

Konoha had been destroyed. There was nothing left except rubble and a mountain of faces. Apparently after she had left the Akatsuki had attacked to finally get their paws on Naruto. It had been chaos. Many died.

And then by some miracle everyone returned from the dead. Thanks to Naruto and his ridiculous ability to talk sense into anyone.

Ino had not been completely surprised when Temari had dropped the bombshell on her. There were enough similarities between their dimensions that Ino knew when Naruto left for training that Nagato and Konan's attack was not far behind. But she had decided not to worry about it. She had faith in Naruto. And as always, he had not failed his village.

Besides, she had her own worries. The longer she stayed, the more danger she was putting her unborn child in. Leaving for Suna was necessary. And not running back to Konoha right now to go help was also necessary. Younger Ino, the proper Ino for this dimension, could go and help once this was all over.

Temari had seemed put off by her aloof response to the news, but Ino did not let it bother her. She had a duty. Konoha was in no real danger anymore. They had Naruto. They would rebuild, and life would go on.

Satisfied with her reasoning, and that nothing else required her attention, Ino returned to the guest room and settled on the bed. Before she could reverse the Five Dimensions to Heaven, there was something important she had to do.

She only hoped it would work this time.


With sixteen-year-old Ino…

Shimura Ayaka was escorted into the courtroom by Kurama. She struggled against his strong grip, and glared daggers at every individual in the room. When they passed Naruto, she spat at him. Kurama pulled her closer as a result, and a toothy smirk sent a shiver down her spine.

Kurama had to practically push her into the centre before the Tribunal. She huffed and looked up at them in defiance.

"Shimura Ayaka," Shikaku began. "You stand accused of treason, conspiring to overthrow the Hokage, and using Mind Control on the entire High Council to achieve your goals."

Ayaka smirked but said nothing.

"We will now hear testimony," Inoichi said.

Yamanaka Izumi was the first to step forward, and her appearance seemed to shock Ayaka. The middle-aged blonde woman had her arm in a sling, and it was clear that she had a slight limp, but she did not let this deter her. She walked with conviction and her head held high up to the platform and bowed before the Tribunal.

"State your name," Mebuki requested.

"Yamanaka Izumi," the woman announced. "I am the current Council member for the Yamanaka clan."

"Were you influenced by the accused's jutsu?" Shikaku asked.

"No," Izumi replied. "It is why my arm is in a sling, Lord Shikaku. When Shimura Ayaka realised she could not control me, she deemed it necessary to get rid of me. Or well, she tried."

Gasps echoed through the room.

"How come the jutsu did not affect you?" Mebuki asked.

"I am a Yamanaka," Izumi stated. "We are not easily tricked by jutsu that affect the mind."

Mebuki turned to Inoichi, who nodded his head.

"Very well, please tell us everything you know," Mebuki requested.


So, the proceedings went. Every single High Council member testified, even if they had been affected by the Mind Control jutsu. After that, Naruto was questioned, followed by several others involved, including the messenger who had come clean to Naruto all those months ago. Once again, when all was said and done, the Tribunal left for a private discussion. Ayaka was escorted out of the room, since she refused to cooperate. She would return to receive her sentence.

Naruto was restless this time. The problems with the High Council had bothered him for a long time, and to have reached this point had seemed impossible. He hoped Ayaka would be locked away for a long time. He did not wish for anything else – he was not the type of Hokage who would allow execution. They did not live in such a world anymore.

The Tribunal took less time to decide Ayaka's sentence than Hoshiko's. The door swung open and they re-entered. Naruto motioned for the shinobi on security duty to go fetch Ayaka. They nodded and departed.

Once the kunoichi was brought back into the room, everyone settled and got ready for the verdict.

"Shimura Ayaka," Mebuki called. "You are found guilty of all charges."

Ayaka sneered and it looked like she was about to say something, but one of the security grabbed her arm and gave her a pointed look. She sneered again.

Mebuki continued: "In addition to all original charges, you are also found guilty of attempted murder, fraud, physical assault and assisting in kidnapping. You are hereby sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole."

Ayaka snorted and spat at Mebuki. The elderly woman did not flinch nor blink. "Please escort Shimaru from the room."

Getting the woman out of the room was a struggle, as she fought against the security. She managed to pull from their grasp and practically leaped towards Naruto.

"I'll kill you!" she yelled viciously, although it came across slightly pathetic due to her being handcuffed.

Kurama materialised out of nowhere. "Yeah, right. Hold your horses Shimura." The bijuu grasped her arm and pulled her away from Naruto, who looked ready to defend himself and the others in the room. Kurama turned to the Tribunal. "Sorry, I should have stayed with her."

Mebuki shook her head. "Never mind, just take her away."

The fox grinned and did just that.


Mebuki was tapping her fingers on the desk before her as she listened to another medic explain Juugo's condition to her. Honestly, it sounded like he was grasping at straws.

"He cannot control the absorption of natural energy," the medic explained, "and this sends him into fits of rage. He has even destroyed an entire village in the past-"

Mebuki had heard enough. She sat up straight and lifted her hand to signal for the medic to be quiet. The medic quickly snapped his mouth shut but looked incredibly bewildered at being interrupted.

"Is it possible for him to learn how to control his ability?" Mebuki asked.

The medic gaped. "I'm sorry?"

Mebuki rolled her eyes. "I asked if he can be taught how to control his ability?"

"Lady Mebuki, if that were possible he would have already-" the medic began, but this time Shikaku interrupted.

"He would have already learned?" Shikaku completed the sentence. "That's what you were going to say, right?"

Blood rushed to the medic's face and it was clear he was starting to feel uncomfortable.

"It's a well-known fact that Juugo was one of Orochimaru's test subjects," Shikaku said. "Who knows what nefarious things the snake did to him? It could have made things worse."

"Besides," Inoichi added his two-cents, "even if he had someone to try and teach him, not all teachers are good at what they do. Perhaps he simply has not found the right teacher yet?"

Mebuki smirked. "Honestly, I do not understand why we are judging this man when it is obvious he simply needs some help."

The medic now looked as red as a tomato. He stomped his foot on the floor, causing the few occupants in the room to snort at his childish behaviour. Ino had to look away and stifle her laughter. The poor man – he was being roasted. But Mebuki had a point.

"Lady Mebuki, I must insist-" the medic decided to continue arguing, but the woman had had enough. She shook her head.

"No," she hissed. "I have heard enough. Naruto, you are a Sage, are you not?"

All eyes turned to Naruto, who looked slightly sheepish. "Yes."

"There," Mebuki hummed. "Problem solved. If Juugo still struggles in a year's time after being under Naruto's tutelage, we'll find him another teacher or consider alternative solutions. Case dismissed."

Juugo, who had been silent throughout the entire trial, blinked in astonishment. Shizuka, who sat next to him smiled excitedly and wrapped an arm around him. It took a little while for the verdict to sink in, but once it did, a smile blossomed onto Juugo's face. He turned to face Shizuka and pulled her close.

"I'm free," he whispered into her ear.

"You're free," she whispered back.


A/N: Yeah, I know. More than a year. Like I said before, I am a slow updater. I did say I would, did I not? There is only one more chapter to go now! For those still reading, thank you!