LC; Okay, now to buckle down and seriously type this up. No slacking off!
Naruto; Now taking bets to how long before she takes another 'break'.
Sasuke; I'll put down a thousand yen on thirty minutes.
Naruto; PFfft! Please! She won't make it to the fifteen minute mark!
LC; *In emo corner* You guys are so mean to me. Bullying me like this. I'm not THAT bad, am I?
Disclaimer; No ownage found here.
Chapter 11: The Beating of Wings.
Naome dodged the first few strikes, but she recognized that she couldn't do that forever. Unlike in the exams, this was a full on taijutsu match. She jabbed with her left, forcing him to hang back as she twisted into a powerful middle kick that he blocked.
He'd improved since their last battle. He was faster, his blows ever more percise and filled with more power. She deflected one strike and managed to land a blow into his upper stomach. He jumped back with the blow though, so the damage was minimal.
"You've been busy." She commented mildly. He nodded wordlessly, taking his stance again. This time it was him dodging her blows, trying to find the opening he needed to take the offensive.
"Jyuuken! Sixty eight palms!" He cried, rushing forward in a move she'd never seen before. His hands were a blur and even though she managed to dodge of deflect the first thirty three, soon the others were bludgening her body.
"Damn." She coughed, noting the taste of blood in her mouth. Her chakra was restricted now but that wasn't too bad an issue. She didn't really need to use it in this match, he wasn't fast enough to make her use chakra reinforcement in her muscles. Still fast enough to be a threat though.
After two hours they came to a halt, both well and truly exhausted. Naome thanked him for the spar and he nodded in turn, accepting a bottle of water from Tenten while Naome beat a retreat. She needed a shower and maybe something for the pain. Her muscles were going to be complaining about this one for days.
"Ready yet, troublesome girl?" She heard from the living room. The kids shouted in excitement and went down to meet their adopted tou-san while she finished brushing out her hair.
"Beautiful." He murmured when she walked down the stairs. He had Hikaru in his arms and watched her walk down the steps as a model walked down a runway. She was wearing a simple blue tunic and darker blue skirt that accentuated her curves while covering everything necessary. She hadn't bothered with make-up, save for a bit of conceiler. She was glad he approved.
Shikamaru was wearing neat slacks and a button shirt, enough to show that this night was different from others, but not too much as though he'd put undue effort into his outfit. Konoha's Laziest Shinobi through and through.
"Be good you two." Naome warned her children as she left them with a bunshin. They gave promises of good behavior and she stepped outside.
"So, where are we going?" She asked him once they started walking. It was getting a bit late now, the Sun was going to set in half an hour.
"We're having a picnic, even though it's troublesome to carry the food." He told her, showing the basket his mother had thrust into his hands as he walked out the door.
He led her to an empty field, near the outskirts of the village. There were wild flowers, and crickets were chirping softly. The Sun was setting the trees on fire, the flames licked the sky as it sank ever lower. Stars were beginning to appear.
The food was delicious, no doubt the work of Yoshino Nara herself. Naome was touched the woman trusted her enough still to let her date her son. Would she do the same for someone decieving her? Naome hoped she never had to find out.
"Beautiful." She heard Shika mumble after they finished the food.
"Yeah, it is." She agreed, looking up at the star streaked sky.
"I was talking about you, troublesome girl." She blinked in surprise when he was suddenly on her, his lips just touching her's as a silent plea for permission. She pressed her lips to his and they shared a kiss under the moonlight.
They didn't go any farther than kisses, though she wound up leaning back against him, her back to his chest with his arms around her waist. They leaned against a tree at the border of the clearing, just enjoying the cricket song and the starry sky. It seemed almost like a dream, the way everything was happening. She half expected for them to be interrupted, as they had a million times before.
In a stark contrast she found herself in room 82B again the next day, more and more sure that she needed to request a transfer. She didn't like this work, she just wasn't made for it. She could see the benefit of knowing it, but she also knew herself well enough to know that she'd never be able to use it to it's full potential.
That feeling was compounded when Ibiki announced that she'd be working on her own today, handing her a file on some Kiri missing nin that had been captured and then sent into the interrogation room. Ibiki watched through a two way mirror, and inside the chunin boy who wasn't any older than she was sat strapped to an uncomfortable chair with many sharp implements in view.
"Itsako of Kiri, ne?" She said lightheartedly. She tried to project an aura of trustworthiness.
"H-Hai." He was nervous and he kept fidgeting. His file said he was a mid-level importance in Chunin, but he had obviously not been part of their T&I. Or he was just very good at acting.
"I'm going to ask you a few questions, please answer honestly, I'm still new at this." He looked a mix of disbelieving, relieved, and put out. Probably because a new girl had been sent to deal with him instead of a proffesional. Naru wasn't just the new girl though, and if one counted the almost two years spent hiding her pregnancy and son, then she had more experience than some other members.
"So, why did you become a missing nin?" Kiri was in the midst of a civil war right then.
"Doesn't matter." At least he was answering, that was encouraging.
"Kind of does actually, since you've been captured. If you can tell us a bit of the situation in mist right now, then we might let you go. It's either that, or a drawn out death from the answers being tortured out." She pointed out, not looking at him and instead picking up one of the tools. It was a small saw that doctors used to remove casts, but the blade had dried blood on it.
"Either way, we'll find out what you know." She promised him, setting the tool back down and adding a distasteful look for good measure.
"...I couldn't sit back and watch Yagura kill people who didn't deserve it." It was mumbled, she almost had to read his lips to find out what he was saying. She leapt at the opening though, digging her fingers into the wounds and twisting.
"Yagura? The Mizukage?" Mist didn't like bloodlines, that was probably the people Itsako was talking about. It didn't seem he had any of those bloodlines though.
"...If I tell you everything I can, will you let me go?" He had to bite his lip before he allowed himself to ask. He was scared, and alone in a foreign country, and although he'd heard rumors that Konoha was much more friendly towards kekkei genkai, he was still frightened.
"I can't make any promises if you lie or hold back information." She warned him.
"I joined the Mist Rebellion after running away from Kiri. It is led by a woman named Mei Terumi, who has two kekkei genkai." He went on to explain that they were fighting to take control of Mist in order to end the Bloody Mist era. He didn't have much information beyond what they were doing and the big names in it though, as he was just a chunin.
"Thank you for telling me this. I'm going to go talk to my superiors now, I'll see about putting in a good word for you." She assured him. Itsako bowed his head and wondered if he should be ashamed for breaking so easily. Was his life worth so much to him that he would betray the Mist Rebellion as he had Yagura? Did that make him weak or strong?
Perhaps the blood of the mist hadn't washed away completely.
"Not bad for your first time." Did Aoi not count? She thought she did rather well with him, considering.
"News about the Mist Rebellion has been as rare as hen's teeth and getting even this much is good." Ibiki went on, watching the slumped boy through the mirror.
"So, can you let him go?" She asked curiously. If she had lied to that boy, the boy the same age as her, then what? She supposed she'd feel guilty and mourn his death, if not then should she be happy about that, even though he was a prisoner?
"...I think Tsunade will consent to it, especially if we can make contact with the Mist Rebellion." He let her go for the day after that and she decided to see Tsunade-baba herself about what she'd been thinking.
Naome decided to swing by Anko's place to pick up the kids, acting on one of her whims to take them out and splurge. She sooo loved having money to spoil her kids with! Besides, she did still need to make doctor appointments. Tsunade-baba should probably be the one to look at Yurei-chan, considering that weird disease, and she would understand right away since she had met her father, Kimmimaru Kaguya.
"Hey Anko-nee, what'cha doing?" She sing songed when she walked into the snake mistress' apartment. It had been undergoing some changes as late, since the snake charmer was in her 22nd week of pregnancy. In fact she had been particularly fascinated with the fact her belly button was now an outtie.
"Trying to figure out how one baby became two. Stupid doctors not noticing the second baby until a month ago!" She growled, in one of her tempers and staring at her stomach, which Yurei was holding a hand to, in order to feel the kicks.
The doctors had congratulated her on the twins last month, and Anko had immediatly cursed Kakashi and his libido for putting her in this situation. She had been nervous enough before when she thought she'd only be getting one baby, but to end up with two girls instead? That terrified her, to say the least.
"Don't blame the doctors Anko-nee, they can't help it." Naome chuckled. Hikaru was napping on the couch and Yurei happily let Naome have a turn feeling the babies. It was much more pleasant when she wasn't the one getting the pounding.
"Kakashi and I decided on names." She mentioned as Naome sent Yurei to get their things.
"Really? What?" She asked excitedly. It had been hard to find the best name for Hikaru, but she liked what she'd chosen.
"Amaya, Night Rain, and Kaminari, Thunder." The purple haired woman answered, rubbing her stomach thoughtfully.
"Hmm." She said noncomittably. She liked the sound of it, the names were very pretty. She couldn't wait to meet her nieces!
"Ne, Anko-nee, have you decorated the nursery yet?" She asked, looking at the shut door down the hall. Their apartment was a modest one, Kakashi could afford better, but it was large enough for a family.
There was a decent sized, though rarely used, kitchen. The living room was big enough to fit a couch and love seat, leaving room for a bookshelf of ICHA ICHA and a coffee table. Down the hall was the bathroom on the right, the nursery on the left, and at the end was the master bedroom, which had it's own bathroom. There was an extra room across from that too, at the moment it was being used for storage.
"I held off since I knew you'd want to paint it." She promised, downing another ice cream sandwhich. Ugh, she was getting to be big as a house! Stupid Kakashi for getting her pregnant!
"I think I'll have time for that day after tomorrow." Naome mumbled. She would need to buy more paint first, and she'd be too busy tomorrow anyway. Tomorrow she had an appointment with a scarred cripple.
The check ups went rather well, and she happily took her kids out to buy some sweets as rewards for behaving so well, even in the face of needles. Hikaru babbled away happily with his lollipop and Yurei skipped at her side, licking at an ice cream cone.
"Kaa-san, can I play with Shinto-kun today?" Yurei asked as they neared the park. Naome thought about it and agreed if they found the boy there.
"Uzumaki-san." Camie Aburame greeted her quietly.
"Aburame-san." Naome nodded in turn.
"Gaki, what do you want?" Tsunade grumbled as Naome swung in through the window. Usually Hokage-jiji was here as well, helping Tsunade get used to the job, but he was somewhere else today.
"I need to talk to you, about two things actually." Naome stated seriously, making Tsunade raise a questioning brow. She'd get her answers soon enough.
"First and most importantly, have you read my personal file yet?" She asked. Tsunade would need to know who Yurei is and why it was so important that Tsunade be in charge of this check up.
"I have, and I got to say, for snot nosed brat you have balls of steel." Sarutobi-sensei had briefed her on Naome's unique circumstances. It was so hard to believe, and yet the results were right before her eyes. A physical, undetectable henge, a mother at ten, capable of decieving an S-rank missing nin.
"You remember Kimmimaru Kaguya, right? The bone man?" Tsunade nodded, she remembered Naome shoving a rasengan into his stomach from behind, and her almost dying in the process.
"Well, Yurei-chan is his daughter, and when Orochimaru sent her here he claimed that she hadn't inheritted his disease. I just want to make sure, so I'll be bringing her around later today. Sound good?" Tsunade sighed and rubbed her temples to stave off the headache. She merely nodded and made a notion for the blonde chunin to continue with the second order of business.
"I would like to request a transfer out of T&I." She looked up at the admission, inwardly highly pleased. She hadn't approved of Sarutobi's decision to send her there in the beginning, but she hadn't spoken out about it since she knew that Naome really did have a talent for that line of work. From Ibiki's reports on her Tsunade knew that she'd been doing really well, going as far as to get her first interrogation earlier that day.
Here Tsunade got just as serious as she did. She leaned forward onto her desk, holding her head up in her hands. Naome prepared herself for a refusal, simply based on the body language.
"I can't do that right now, not until you complete three solo missions under T&I." She explained. For a younge blonde girl? Those missions could be dangerous.
"I kind of figured." She sighed, wondering what sort of missions an interrogater might go on. Hopefully nothing involving the inhabitants of room 82B.
With that done, she made arrangements to bring Yurei in for a full check up the next day. Naome remembered what the next day was though, and she felt a hot flash of shame. She should've reported him a lot sooner. She should do it now, while she had the chance.
Except she could see where Danzo was coming from. He was on the far end of the Extremist side, but she recognized his thoughts. Maybe because she had always been a little jaded, courtesy of abuse at the hands of the people she now protected. Maybe because she hadn't been marked by wars that left her longing only for peace, as Hokage-jiji had. Or maybe she was just dark like that, and she should try to redeem her soul and report it now.
Except that she didn't, she agreed to the time and then left, stating that she wanted to take her kids out for ice cream.
The next day dawned hot and bright, and it was a day off. Danzo planned this well. Naome left a few kage bunshins lying around under henge, in case the primary one she had watching the kids and training popped. With that done and nothing else to do in order to stall for time, she set out for the forest of Death, training ground 44.
It was just like she remembered it, although this time it seemed a whole lot less intimidating. Probably because she wasn't expecting to meet an S rank missing nin in the foilage. She had grown stronger since she had last entered that forest, where she had transfered the unsettled Curse Mark from Sasuke to a slug that had promptly died from the affects.
She hopped over the fence and began a meandering route through the forest, since she wasn't sure where Danzo would be waiting for her. Her chakra sense was out but she didn't feel anyone. That made sense, why have super awesome incredibly loyal and illegal soldiers if they got caught from a simple technique like the chakra sense?
It unnerved her though, all the same. Maybe she had come too early, but Danzo hadn't set a particular time. She was in enemy territory with no idea which way to go or what the mission objectives were. This was the nightmare scenario from the academy. She almost wished she could remember what the senseis said about dealing with it, but she couldn't bring herself to care either way.
By chance or by design she found the same place they had holed up after that horrible encounter with Orochimaru. If she looked closely, she could still see a few weapons lying around, uncollected. She could see the remains of one of her patented Mystery Tags.
"You decided to take me up on my offer." She did not eep. That was improvement in her books.
"I'm only here to learn more, I haven't made any sort of decision yet." This could all be a trap. He could've been lying about Ne. He could be about to kill her.
"Very well, follow me." She did so, straight to a hidden entrance she never would have been able to find under normal circumstances. It was hidden inside a tree, literally. As in step into the trunk and fall down for a couple minutes to land in a giant base underneath. She took an appropriate four seconds to gape.
That boy was there, the same one she had seen in Orochimaru's lair. He was dressed like a mini-ANBU and held his mask in one hand, his face bland and emotionless. She looked at him for a few seconds as he began walking at his master's side as they began a tour of the underground facility.
"Do you have bases like this all through Konoha?" Naome asked quietly, as if breaking the silence of this base were taboo and she was comitting some grievous sin. She hated that feeling.
"If I do, you will learn of them later." She accepted it without pause as they passed numerous training rooms. Some of them had agents training, boys and girls younger and older than she was. She felt sick when she passed a room full of kids no older than Yurei.
She counted fifty off the top of her head, and that's just from the open doored rooms. Many more stretched out, and she was only seeing what Danzo allowed her to see. She still had so much to learn. Too many things required her attention.
"Of course, if you do accept this position, you will go through the same training as #56 here." He was saying. Naome assumed that #56 was the nameless boy trailing them, staying just a few steps behind her. If she tried to attack Danzo, he was in prime position to stab her in the back.
"Which would entail?" She prompted.
"Confidential." She could hear the smirk, even if he didn't deign to emote the same as mere mortals.
"Fine, keep the good stuff to yourself." She sighed, noting that they'd taken exactly three right turns and two left ones, going down a straight hallway for nearly five minutes. Always a good thing to remember where the exit was, although she was sixty percent sure that there had to be other exits.
Honestly, she was both sickened and impressed with what Danzo was doing. She hated herself a little for that, but she kept it hidden, sucked it up, kept a stiff upper lip. The training here was much more thorough than at the academy. Even these five year olds would prove much stronger than most third year academy students. In another year? They'd be ready for genin.
She saw a three year old boy crying, and her inner mama bear roared in protest as the child was fiercely scolded by the nurse maid. She wanted to hold that boy until he had no more tears left, she wanted to bundle up every single child in that building and take them home with her.
She couldn't though, because they weren't loyal to her, they were loyal to Danzo. He was too strong for her to kill, and there were more of them than she could see. There was also the issue that she liked the strength they were showing.
She'd read up on the statistics in her spare time. Konoha strength was waning. Without the urgency, more and more often children were choosing the civilian school rather than the academy. And the genin the academy churned out were in desperate need of a wake up call and an ego smasher, Konoha was entering a decline thanks to the still relatively new concept of childhood innocence.
It wasn't a bad idea, in fact she thought it went a long way to creating more stable shinobi. She liked watching her children laugh and play, and she felt as though they would need those fond memories for after becoming shinobi. She wanted them to be happy. She wanted them to be strong enough to protect themselves. Finding a balance between the two was difficult and Hokage-jiji and Danzo were on opposite sides of extreme.
"What level would you say my age group is at?" She asked him when they finished the tour and had retired to his private office. There were shelves cram packed with scrolls and two Ne secretaries doing paperwork. The Hokage only got one!
"#56 is the same strength level as you, high chunin." She shot a glance at the mini-ANBU boy, she couldn't force herself to call him by a number, not in her own mind.
"Have you made your decision?" He asked, accepting some tea from one ANBU masked woman. These masks were different from ANBU though, the masks weren't animals, just blank faces. They didn't seem human, certainly didn't act like it.
"...I'll agree." Her fate sealed, she now had to live by her word. She was a ninja, and sometimes ninja lie, but she was a human and a mother too. Mothers told all sorts of lies to protect their children.
Training began right away. A punishing regimen, focusing mainly on strength and speed. She was given scrolls to memorize, with jutsu and anatomy knowledge. A map of the base, with promises that if she proved worthy she'd be introduced to the others, answering her earlier question.
56 was also assigned as her personal guard and escort, her training partner first and foremost. She was led to a dojo like room and Danzo instigated a taijutsu battle. No jutsu, no weapons. Pure hand to hand with a boy who'd been seriously training since he learned how to walk.
He was fast, his pale skin almost flashed and she blinked, then suddenly his fist was nearly plowing into her nose. She latched onto his wrist, turning with the force of the blow as it slid past her. Her right leg entangled his left, leaving him unsteady but he did not stumble and fall as most other enemies did. He went with her motion, using the unforgiving hold she had to hoist her by her own pertard.
Twisting in a way she'd never seen a boy do before his foot was suddenly buried into her gut. She recognized the blow for what it was and released his wrist, snatching his ankle instead and using his unsteady position to move closer. A grappler's style had always held her in good stead.
The take and give of the fight went on for a few minutes, moving at a punishing speed that she knew she couldn't keep for long. Mini-ANBU was more used to being pushed beyond physical limits though, and landed a few heavy hands.
The spar didn't stop even when there was a clear winner. Naome took a strike to the throat that would've killed her in real life but except for being given exactly thirty seconds to catch her breath, she was back into the fray. It was very different than anything else she'd ever done before.
Well, not everything. Her training with kage bunshin pretty much took away any risk of seriously hurting her training partners, since they went pop after one hit and she could always just make more. Normally she didn't apply potentially damaging techniques in a one on one fight though, since all of her one on one spars had been with friends.
This wasn't a friend, but he wasn't an enemy. At the same time, she didn't trust him enough to even label him as an ally. He had replaced the mask on his face now, and if she ignored the whole fighting back thing, she could almost pretend he was just a practice dummy. Almost, because practice dummies didn't make little grunts of pain after a particularly good hit.
After the 'spar' Naome was given two minutes to memorize the base map, blindfolded, and carried to some distant corner with the instructions to find Danzo's office. Two minutes of prep time wasn't nearly enough and she was completely lost in seconds.
She found the office by asking for directions. The older woman gave them to her and she arrived in the office five minutes after being left. Even Danzo was surprised, and asked how she had convinced the woman to give her directions.
"I henged into one of the random mini-ANBU you have here, with some extra details like cuts and scrapes and a cracked mask to give the impression that I had just returned from a mission." She thanked Ibiki for all his work on helping her read people's body language and the infetestimal twitches in a shinobi's face that revealed their emotions. Danzo looked like christmas had come early this year.
After that came so many other things that Naome worked on autopilot just to get home and collapse into bed. Sixteen hours of non-stop training and memorization. At least not every day would be like this, just the ones where she could get away without being caught. She was expected to show up at least twice every week and to train during her free time as well. Naome's life had just taken a turn for the busy.
She hadn't had such a demanding schedule since she got pregnant! Worse too, because the academy was set up so after getting her grades up a bit she could relax. No relaxing for her, just missions.
On the bright side, tomorrow she was getting her first mission from T&I. A nice comfortable C-rank, a paid vacation.
Okay, so with her luck she'd probably face a zombie Yondaime, but at least she wouldn't have to train while she was gone. Even if she'd much rather spend time with her children, she couldn't just stop accepting missions.
The mission was deceptively simple. Sneak into the quarters of the daimyo of the Land of Keys. Apparently the Hidden Lock village were making some noise as information collectors and needed to be reminded that Konoha was still the best of the best. Apparently their daimyo was making too much noise, getting too arrogant for the fire daimyo's tastes.
With her special henge, which she was considering getting a name for since saying special henge got annoying after a while, it should be easy. Except that she had to be seen. Because the whole point of this was to get the Jomae village to acknowledge that their ninja were better. So she had to let their daimyo see her, the real her, so that the Jomae would be able to find a file on her so they'd know who they were dealing with.
She had to get in completely undetected and wake up the daimyo, then escape without being seen as well. So she could use henge up until getting to the daimyo, unhenge, and then rehenge easily. Simple, a piece of cake.
"Kaa-chan, why do you gotta go?" Hikaru asked while they were alone in his room, cleaning up.
"Ninja have to take missions Hikaru-chan." She explained sadly, smiling down at him. On impulse she picked him up, swinging him all around the room and swaying side to side, dancing to a beat only they could hear.
"One of these days you'll be taking missions and leaving poor Kaa-chan all alone." She whined, teasing her son.
"Besides, I'm not leaving just yet. I still have five days before my probation period ends and I can accept missions." Probation periods stunk, she wanted to hurry up and do the mission so she'd be a step closer to leaving T&I. She couldn't argue though, and besides, this meant she'd be here for her birthday.
"Love you Kaa-chan!" Hikaru gargled, out of breath from their spinning and interrupted by bursts of giggles.
"Love you too Hikaru." She promised, slowing down until they calmly swayed in the afternoon light coming from the window. She wanted to say it again and again, so even if she died tomorrow he'd always remember those words.