Dead Men Tell No Tales…
At least, for now.
One small conversation over the largest fanfiction site in the world. One small contest to see who could come up with the most random story prompt. One goal to break a record concerning just how many PMs two young writers could send to each other.
One storyline that grew out from a few messages that no one expected.
A bra was involved. So were a few swimsuits. People met up in a very foreign land. And after that?
Well, do you see that fine white powder raining down from the sky? That's story-crack. It was there from the beginning. It will be there to the end. The story starts out seriously, but that little dusting will make it ridiculous by the end.
Prepare yourselves, folks. Fasten your seatbelts and hold onto your hats. Make sure you didn't eat anything before you started this little story.
I hope you're all ready for a wild ride.
Yamamoto groaned as he read through the missive in front of him. The problem with the ryoka had only ended a few days ago, with Aizen—Aizen of all people!—revealing himself to be the mastermind behind the mess that had gone on the past several days, and leaving. He even managed to get Tousen and Gin to come with him too. Tousen was especially surprising, though even Gin was a little unexpected.
The ryoka were even still in the Seireitei! And despite that, he was now being asked to get this done. Unfortunately, he really couldn't ignore something like this. The dimension that the Seireitei, Hueco Mundo, and their world of the living occupied was rather closely tied to the one next to them. Problems from one sometimes managed to invade the other, and considering that said neighboring dimension was known for its reality-bending ninja, of all things, there were bound to be a few. Even a few souls, generally quite powerful, slipped through the cracks, most often landing in Hueco Mundo, and occasionally in the Seireitei, though they were overall quite rare.
Every dimension that had a shinigami of any kind had contact with the others. In Yamamoto's case, he was one of the only ones that knew about the neighboring dimension; only thirteen people knew, two of them not even legally. The soul king and his guard knew, as did Unohana, Ukitake, and Kyoraku, as well as Yamamoto himself and Kurotsuchi. Urahara Kisuke and Shihoin Yoruichi knew as well, but they didn't exactly have permission, per se.
The neighboring dimension had been on the ropes for centuries, always on the verge of collapse. That problem, the three local gods chose to fix on their own. Jashin, Kami, and Shinigami blamed themselves for the problem that had occurred, and were managing it, if barely. Unfortunately, they didn't have the manpower to handle most other problems, and a fairly large one had recently cropped up, by the name of Orochimaru.
The man had learnt how to bring back the dead. This was causing the already unstable situation to become even more volatile, and Shinigami had contacted Yamamoto, asking for him to send some of his own reapers to take care of the man and anyone he may have taught the technique to.
Yamamoto didn't have much of a choice.
He couldn't send just anyone. He knew the power that the shinobi from the elemental countries of that dimension could use, and some of them, such as this Orochimaru, were liable to be Captain-class fighters. He couldn't spare a captain for that long, though, so his best bet would be to collaborate with the ninja that were there. Konoha, according to the missive, was the village that this Orochimaru had belonged to before defecting, so they would be the best to get into contact with. There was information included on the man's old teammates, one of which was the current leader of this village. Kurotsuchi could open up a path, as could Urahara, though Yamamoto wouldn't really trust either of them. He'd send a captain and their immediate subordinate, though he had to choose carefully.
Yamamoto himself couldn't be spared since he was the one running things, especially in the wake of the recent mess. Soi Fon couldn't be spared because she needed to start collecting information on Aizen as soon as possible. Unohana was still busy healing everyone. Byakuya had to be left alone to deal with the lingering issues surrounding him and Rukia. Komamura looked like a fox, which, from what he knew, Konoha had severe issues with. Kyoraku was too much of a flirt to be sent into the vicinity of a woman like that while on a diplomatic mission. No one in their right mind would send Zaraki or Mayuri, the latter of which was going to be manning the path there anyway. And, as powerful as he was, Ukitake was too sick to be going anywhere, especially in the aftermath of all the stress he'd just gone through.
That left Hitsugaya and Matsumoto. Hopefully the shinobi would be able to see past his young appearance. The 'boy' was practically the same age she was, after all.
Tsunade sat at her desk, leaning back in the seat as she surveyed the two in front of her.
"Forgive me if I find your claims to be a little far-fetched."
The white-haired boy nodded, serious expression not leaving his face. The tall woman behind him appeared to be somewhat absorbed with comparing her chest and Tsunade's, one contest she seemed to believe she was losing if the pout on her face was anything to go by.
"You won't mind if I spend some time to see how genuine your claims are."
"Of course not. If you wish, I could attempt to prove it, though I am not certain of what I could do as to achieve that objective."
Tsunade raised an eyebrow, but remained silent. She sat still in her chair for another half minute, lost in thought as she swished around the sake in her bottle.
A sudden slam alerted her guests to her decision as the sake bottle hit the desk. Tsunade stood, motioning for them to follow. "I'll have a Yamanaka check your memories for now. Come with me. We're going to T&I."
Hitsugaya Toshiro followed her without question, and didn't even glance back to see if Rangiku Matsumoto was doing the same.
Three days later, a three-man, one-dog team was dispatched to carry a message out to a certain pair of wandering, yet still undoubtedly loyal shinobi.
Naruto glanced over at Jiraiya as the man once more twitched in response to some unknown trigger.
"Alright Ero-Sennin, what's going on?"
"Nothing." The famed man looked back down at the table, staring into his drink angrily. Another twitch.
"Seriously, there's gotta be—"
Another twitch, and Jiraiya exploded from his seat. Seconds later, he had two men from the bar pressed up against the wall, holding them up several feet of the ground by the necks of their shirts.
"I hear you say one more word about that d*** swimsuit magazine, and I will make you wish you'd never even heard the name Jiraiya of the Densetsu no Sannin. Are we clear?"
Choking, the two men agreed. The rest of the bar had gone quiet, though conversation slowly rose back up to a low murmur hanging over the room as Jiraiya stomped his way back to his seat. He threw himself down into the chair and drained the rest of his sake in one go.
"…This is about a swimsuit magazine?" Naruto wasn't sure he'd heard it correctly. Why would the Ero-Sennin get angry about women in skimpy clothing?
Naruto pouted at the curt answer. "But why?" So he was whining, it didn't matter.
Jiraiya reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a magazine, tossing it over to Naruto.
The blond frowned down at the picture. There was a woman on it, and a very pretty one at that, with blue hair. Flipping through the magazine some more, he found her picture everywhere, in various bikinis and one pieces, sometimes next to a man or two as well. The men appeared multiple times inside the magazine each, also modeling swimwear. One or two seemed vaguely familiar, but Naruto couldn't really say he recognized them. The woman herself seemed to be looking at the camera with disdain that was far past what any other model Naruto had seen before had worn, and her body wasn't skinny like many models, but slim in a very muscular way; she might have even been a kunoichi.
"I still don't get it."
"You see the blue-haired woman?"
"They were talking about her." Jiraiya glared angrily at the table, hands clutched tightly enough around his mug, now of beer, that it threatened to crack. "And not in a very respectful manner either."
Naruto stared at him. "Who are you and what have you done with Ero-Sennin?"
Jiraiya just glared back at him. "Stop fooling around, idiot."
"I'm not! You never care about stuff like that!"
"She used to be my student."
Naruto had, in his time with Jiraiya, learned that the man was always close to his students. Close to the level of considering them his children. Even if he had poor 'parenting' skills—Naruto's little instance of being thrown off the cliff could attest to that—he was fiercely protective when the time called for it. To hear a woman that he likely saw as a daughter being perved on by random men in bars… yeah, that was a surefire way to get him p***ed off.
Really, what else was he supposed to say?
"She was such a good girl, too." Jiraiya was moping. "She didn't dress like most young women do, and she was really focused on the shinobi training that I gave to her and the boys. I can't think of why she would do something like this!" He had a kicked-puppy look on his face, and his head was down on the table. He really was incapable of fathoming one of his students doing something like this.
"Er… I'm sure she had her reasons, Ero-Sennin." Naruto awkwardly patted his shoulder, not really sure about how to respond to the whole thing.
"And I've spent the past who knows how many years thinking that she and Yahiko and Nagato were all dead, and now I find out that she isn't. And the other two probably aren't either!"
Naruto still had no clue how to deal with the situation, and only panicked more when he caught wind of a conversation being led by two men that had just entered the bar.
"…ever bother going out with an a** like you. That chick's the idol of half the Elemental Nations by now."
"Hey, I'm not saying she would. I'm just saying I want to know if the carpet matches the drapes."
"See if the blue is just a dye, or if it really goes all the way down."
"You're a d***."
He didn't get to finish his sentence, as the next few seconds found him outside and on the ground, sobbing for mercy as a man twice his age bent his arm too far up behind his back.
"Hot d***, Ero-Sennin." Naruto stared at the spectacle before him, not even noticing as a large dog landed next to him, or the feral boy on its back.
"Uh…"Kiba looked from Naruto to Jiraiya and back. "What's going on?"
Naruto wordlessly held up the magazine.
Kiba frowned. "What about it? I mean, I've seen it, yeah, but why would it matter?"
"The blue-haired woman used to be his student. Those guys weren't exactly being very quiet." Naruto gestured to the man on the ground and the friend that was standing off to the side. The friend actually seemed amused, but Naruto figured that that was just because the other guy deserved it.
"Huh. Right." Kiba shook his head and held out a scroll. "Akamaru and I went ahead of Hinata and Shino, but they'll be here soon. We were sent to give this to you and Jiraiya-sama. She wants you back in the village as soon as possible."
Naruto finally tore his eyes away from the pathetic display in front of him. "What? Why? We're not supposed to be back for another month!"
Kiba shrugged. "H*** if I know. Maybe the scroll will explain."
"I'll take that." Jiraiya appeared from behind Naruto without warning and snatched the scroll away, apparently finished with the beating that he had been busy doling out.
To soft thumps alerted Naruto to two other people landing nearby. Turning, he saw two friends he hadn't gotten a chance to talk to for nearly two and a half years. He didn't exactly recognize one of them, but given what Kiba had said, there wasn't much of a chance of the hooded figure being anyone else.
"Shino! Hinata-chan!" He waved, receiving two nods in return. He frowned as he saw Hinata. "Hinata-chan? You're really red… Do you have a fever? Are you sick or something? Does Baa-chan know? I'm sure she wouldn't send you out if she knew you were sick! You should have told h—" A hand clamped down over his mouth.
"Shut up, gaki." Jiraiya slipped the scroll into an inside pocket. "We're going to Konoha, no time to talk."
Naruto stared for only a few seconds before nodding.
Five shinobi and one dog sped off.
"Deidara-sempai, look!" Tobi waved something in front of Deidara's face, nearly giving him a paper cut.
"The magazine came out a month ago, un." Deidara pushed him away. "We've all seen it by now. Besides, we were all sort of under disguise, so no one's going to recognize us anyway, un. We can barely recognize ourselves, un."
"But… Tobi and Konan-sama weren't wearing disguises…"
"That's because you refused to take off your mask so we took the picture from the back, and no one even considers Konan a nukenin anymore, un." Deidara turned and walked away. "Now go bother someone else. I have to go talk to Danna, un."
Tobi skipped away, down some stairs, and into a hidden room. The excited demeanor he had worn leached out, and a man of only seriousness turned to look at the emaciated man and the blue-haired woman in the room.
"Konan, Nagato." The two of them nodded in reply, but only Nagato replied verbally. Konan shot a disapproving look at the magazine in Tobi's hands, but didn't comment.
"Madara." A deep, raspy breath before he continued. "What did you want?"
Tobi tilted his head to the side, placing his fingertips together. "I need you here for a test."
"M-hm. I need to see if a certain time-space jutsu will work, and it would be better if you were nearby to take stock of the situation should something go wrong."
Nagato's visible eye narrowed, but he nodded. A small twitch ran through his body as the man in the orange mask clapped his hands and brightly exclaimed his eagerness to go ahead.
"Shinda no Jigen no Jutsu!" Dimension of the Dead Technique!
A flash of light, both black and white, and the room was suddenly empty.
"So…" Naruto looked uncomfortably over at the 'boy' that looked younger than him but claimed he was decades older. He quickly looked back over to Tsunade. "Why do I gotta come with you, baa-chan?"
"Because, despite all the stupid things he's done, I want Jiraiya there as an advisor. You're supposed to be sticking with him." She smirked. "Moreover, this might give you a lesson in diplomacy, which you're going to need if you ever want to become Hokage."
Naruto nodded. "Got it, baa-chan!"
"Who else is coming, Hime?" Jiraiya couldn't seem to decide between staring at Tsunade and staring at the other voluptuous blonde in the room. "You mentioned that some other people would be coming, but you didn't mention who."
"Well, Shizune is going to stay behind to take care of things while I'm gone, but Sakura will come with us." She ignored Naruto's excited shout. "Other than that, no one. It'll just be the four of us."
Jiraiya's eyebrows shot up, and he grinned at Tsunade. "Is that so, Tsunade-hime?"
"Get your tongue back in your head, you old pervert." Tsunade growled, getting up from her chair. "Now both of you come with me. Sakura's meeting us in the lobby of the tower, and then these two," she jerked her head at the two reapers, "are going to show us to this portal of theirs leading to their dimension."
Naruto rushed down the stairs. "Sakura-chan!"
Toshiro looked over at Tsunade. "Is he always like that?"
"I haven't seen him in nearly two and a half years, but I wager a guess that he still is."
"That's one bet even you would win, Hime." Jiraiya chuckled as they all trooped out of the room.
"What have you done?" Konan shoved Tobi up against a tree less than a second after they landed wherever they were. It looked like a forest, but the fact that it was heavily wooded was all that really registered with Konan at the moment. She was a little more focused on trying to come up with a way to keep Tobi from running off. Fortunately, he seemed to be nearly out of chakra, which meant that his chances of dashing away into that spare dimension of his—she had heard him refer to it as 'Boxland' once while acting in his good boy guise—were comparatively low.
"Let me go, and I may just tell you, onna." He growled out to her. With an angry shove, she stepped back and pushed him away from her, down onto the ground.
"Konan…" Hearing Nagato's voice, she spun around, but whatever question she'd had died on her lips as she saw him.
Nagato was staring down at his body in wonder. He was still sitting in his machine, but his body… it looked healthy. His bones weren't showing. The chakra spikes were gone. He was even wearing an Akatsuki cloak, oddly enough. Carefully, ever so carefully, he levered himself up, and stepped out of his mechanized 'wheelchair.'
"Nagato…" Konan breathed. This couldn't be possible, but… She spun back around to look at Tobi and asked her question again. "What did you do?"
Tobi raised an eyebrow behind his mask as he took in Konan's softer tone. "I'm not quite sure myself…"
"What did you intend to do?" Nagato asked, turning ringed eyes onto the masked man.
Tobi sighed, scratching the back of his head in apparent embarrassment. "I was trying to figure out a way to contact dead souls. Kind of like some sort of astral projection, I guess."
"You… guess?" Nagato stared at him.
"I said I wanted you there in case something happened, didn't I?" Tobi grumbled, tilting his heads so that they could tell he was looking away to the ground on the side. "I had no idea if this would work. I mean, I can access my own dimension, right? And supposedly, the place that dead souls go to is some sort of other dimension, so I assumed…"
"Why?" Konan's question came at him like an unexpected sledgehammer.
"Why would you want to visit the dead?" She clarified, orange eye's narrowing.
Tobi was relieved that he'd had an answer prepared for just this question, one that would play into his lies of being Madara without seeming too out of character. "A couple reasons, I suppose. Izuna, the Rikudo Sennin, maybe I'd even have a little talk with Hashirama along the way."
Frankly, he actually wanted to talk to the real Madara about modifying their plans because of the unexpected changes that certain pieces on the chessboard had incurred. It wasn't a very good idea to tell them that, though.
Konan's eyes lessened in suspicion, though there was still some lingering doubt present. "I see."
Nagato placed a hand on her shoulder, soft in his movements. "Let's just focus on finding out where we are and how to get back to Ame if Madara's methods are insufficient."
Konan stared at the purple-grey eyes, and nodded after several seconds. "Understood."
He smiled softly at her, and expression that hadn't been on his face for a long while. "Come."
A cough broke the mood. They turned to see Tobi waving at them. "Listen, that's sweet and all, but aren't you forgetting something, 'God'?"
He pointed at the contraption that had carried Nagato for the past several years. Nagato opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again after the machine disappeared in a cloud of chakra smoke. He looked over at Konan, who held a sealing scroll in her hand.
She sighed and shook her head at the expression she saw on Nagato's face and the tilt that Tobi's head held. "There's always a simple solution, or have you forgotten that?"
Nagato seemed to have the slightest shade of pink on his cheeks as he looked away. Tobi wasn't much better.
Tsunade leaned forward in the seat she occupied in the Soutaicho's office. "This is… are you sure that Orochimaru's threat level is quite this high?"
"Unfortunately, no, as I am unaware of a large number of things concerning your world and how threats are assessed there. However, I have been assured by your dimension's Shinigami that negating him is quite important." Yamamoto put down his tea, staring straight into Tsunade's eyes. His gaze hadn't wandered to Tsunade's larger assets once during the meeting, a fact which did not go unnoticed by the woman, nor unappreciated.
"D*** it all to h***." Tsunade muttered, pressing the palms of her hands into her eyes, her elbows resting on the table. "He was enough of a thorn in our side already."
"I don't doubt it, but now he is a thorn in others' as well." Yamamoto found what he could almost call a kindred spirit in the woman. She knew how difficult it was to run a military force, rogue elements and deserters included.
"I'll get to work on it. How long did you say the way back would take to set up?" Tsunade lifted her head back up and looked at Yamamoto with tired eyes.
The old man shrugged. "Mayuri told me that he needed at least another thirty-six hours."
"Great." Tsunade leaned back in her seat, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Are there any rules that I and my shinobi need to follow while in your city?"
Yamamoto raised one thick eyebrow. "None in particular come to mind besides the ones that are listed by the division's gate. If you'd like, I could order one of the captains to give you a tour, or for their subordinates to do so."
"That would probably be a good idea." Tsunade stood, turning to the door. "Well, I guess this meeting constitutes as over."
Chakra wasn't working.
Well, that wasn't quite accurate. More specifically, chakra wasn't working the way they were used to it working. It seemed to be working at only half power, and a very specific half at that. Only the spiritual side of the chakra was active at all when they attempted to use it, and even then not in the ways they were used to.
Nagato, Konan, and Tobi had walked through the woods until they had come upon an area that seemed to be some sort of slum. At that point, they had suppressed their chakra as much as possible, and entered a bar. Bars and pubs were, as every good shinobi knew, good places to pick up gossip and rumors, even if more sensitive information was likely to be absent.
Eventually, a man had come over to them and struck up conversation. He talked about his own life, before he had died, and asked about them. The man had quickly confirmed their own suspicions about being in the land of the dead, but had mentioned places and people they had never heard of in a way that meant he assumed that they had to know.
"We were shinobi." Nagato had answered, leaving it at that. Or at least, he would have, had the man not glanced at the hitai-ate on Konan's forehead, and then suddenly flinched and stared at them with wide eyes and open mouth.
"You're from the Elemental Countries?"
"What?" Tobi hopped in, scratching at his head. "Tobi doesn't get it."
"How long ago did you get here?"
The three Akatsuki members glanced at each other, giving one another measured stares. Konan was the one that finally answered. "Several hours. We're not even very sure how we got here."
"That would explain it, then!" The man slapped a hand down on the bar. He seemed pretty excited to be the one explaining things to them. "See, there are all these rumors around, right? Most people here, we're from the Earth that we know. One planet, tons of countries, tons of languages. Some, though, they come from a different world entirely. Way I've heard it, they come from a different dimension entirely. One with countries that are all named after elements or something, and there's only one main language."
"What you referred to as the elemental countries." Nagato clarified, eyes slightly narrowed.
"Yep. Only the strong ones too. The reapers don't really tell us much, but there's some sort of dimensional rip or something, and the ones with training to be ninja sometimes slip through the cracks and end up here in the Rukongai."
"Nothing else?" Nagato queried.
"I heard something about some living souls from there coming for some sort of meeting with the main guy up at the Seireitei, but that's probably just a rumor. I mean, they said that one of them had bigger breasts than the tenth division fukutaicho. That kind of s*** is just impossible."
"Have you met any others?" Konan questioned. Tobi was being quiet, thankfully.
"One. Some guy over in the district next to us, District 64." He shrugged. "Fun guy, all things considered. Died about a decade ago, I think."
"Did he mention anything about what he did while he was alive?"
The man thought back. "Yeah, said he was some sort of revolutionary, I think. Said it wasn't quite that rare where he came from. Not much different from here though, there are revolutions everywhere; basic human nature, I'd say. He also mentioned that he'd loosened up a lot, but wished he could know what had happened after he died."
"Name? Village?" Nagato asked. If it were someone that could help them get back, or alternatively hinder their plans, they needed to know. He shrugged at the man's look. "We may have known him. At the least, we may have known of him, if he was strong enough."
"Eh? Ano… I think he said his name was Yahiko, or something like that." He stared at them quizzically as Nagato and Konan stiffened, staring at each other. Tobi's fists, hidden from view beneath the table, clenched in sudden irritation.
"What did he look like?" Konan demanded, leaning forward over the table and glaring at the man.
"Orange hair, orange eyes, and a little taller than me. Looked like he was in his mid-twenties." The guy put his hands up, as if surrendering, as he peered at Konan sideways, flinching away a little in fear.
Konan sat back in her seat heavily. "Nagato… it's him. It has to be."
Nagato nodded slowly, and then turned to glare at the man. "Take us to where you met him."
"Find him for us."
The man nodded.
"Oh my gosh! Ken-chan, look!" Yachiru tugged on one of the bells in Zaraki Kenpachi's hair. "Look, look! Her hair is the same color as mine!"
Yachiru jumped down and sped over to Sakura, hopping onto her shoulder to tug at the bright pink locks. "See?"
"Ow! Hey, let go!" Sakura reached back and tugged at the little girl. "Sorry, sweetie, but that kind of hurts."
"Eh? But Ken-chan doesn't mind!" Yachiru pointed over at Kenpachi who was staring at them with arms crossed and no expression.
"Right… Well, I've got a tour to go on, so—"
"We could take you on a tour, Pinky!"
"That's very nice of you, but—"
"C'mon, it'll be fun!"
"I'm sorry, but I have to follow my Shishou, and—"
"If Yachiru wants you to come, then—" Kenpachi swung an arm around her shoulders, intending to lead her away to wherever Yachiru planned to go.
"Listen to me, d***it!" Sakura finally cracked and shouted, slamming a fist into Kenpachi's ribs. Due to the fact that chakra didn't work quite right, it didn't do as much damage as usual, but the man was pushed back by a few feet.
He glanced down at his (unhurt) ribs. He glanced over at where he'd been standing. He glanced up at the fuming Sakura and brightly smiling Yachiru. He grinned. "Oh, h*** yes. You're definitely coming with us now, Pinky."
"Yay, Pinky's coming with us!"
"It really is him." Konan whispered.
She, Nagato, Tobi, and Random Rukongai Resident Number One were all up on a roof, watching as Yahiko—Yahiko—walked around with a smile on his face greeting various other spirits by name. He had obviously had the time to become a regular face in the area, and he seemed… freer than when he had been alive. Looser. More easy-going, now that he didn't have a rebellion to watch over.
"How do we—?" Konan started, but only blinked in surprise as Nagato hopped down from the roof and landed right in front of Yahiko.
"…" Orange eyes bored into purple rings. A wide grin spread underneath them. "Seriously?"
"Do I look like I'm lying?"
"Well…" The smile turned into a smirk, which quickly disappeared as another body landed next to Nagato and spoke up.
"Please don't do the Jiraiya face, Yahiko. We haven't seen you in so long. Don't make our first impression of you a bad one."
Yahiko looked from one to the other, and back, and his smile slowly dropped. "Wait… you guys died? You're seriously dead now? How?"
Nagato looked away, up at the roof. "Not quite."
"Tobi didn't mean for it to happen! Tobi was just trying to be a good boy!" The man in question jumped down, waving his arms about in a peculiar manner. Konan brought a hand up to cradle her face, and Nagato closed his eyes in a very long-suffering manner.
"Can I go home now?" RRRNO asked, waving timidly from the roof.
"Daiki?" Yahiko glanced up, distracted from Tobi for the moment. "What are you doing here?"
The man, apparently called Daiki, pointed at the trio on the ground. "I mentioned you to them. They forced me to bring them to you."
Yahiko turned back to his friends. "You guys are d***s, you know that?"
"Tobi doesn't know what that word means." The masked man tilted his head to the side again, finger to his chin.
"Tobi?" Konan said sweetly, turning towards him, eyes closed.
The man looked over at her. "Konan-san?"
Her eyes snapped open, a glare taking over her face, her tone turning dark as her outline began to break up as paper began to lift out of her skin. "Run."
"I thought chakra wasn't working…" Nagato muttered, looking over at her.
She shrugged. "Your eyes are still on. Maybe the paper is just such a part of my identity that it's become natural by this point."
Yahiko looked between the two of them. He shrugged, walked forward, spun them around, and put a hand around each of their shoulders. "We have a lot to talk about."
"Oomaeda." Soi Fon gestured at him, then down at the three shinobi on the ground, talking to several of the other captains. "These people are trained in ways much like the Onmitsukido. Assign tasks to the seated officers, as a test, to see if their rank is earned, or if they have grown too complacent in their places."
Oomaeda blinked at his petite captain, only to notice that she had already disappeared. He shrugged.
He peeked back at the shinobi, only to notice that the blond boy had run off alone and the woman was pounding Kyoraku-taicho and the older male shinobi into the ground. He rubbed his chin.
"Well, I always have wanted to see one of the corps members sneak a bra onto someone. 32A on the man should do it."
Jiraiya felt something tight in his chest as he walked through what the reapers had referred to as the Rukongai, alone. He assumed it was something leftover from the beating that Tsunade had given. His dear, sweet hime…
He heard vaguely familiar voices coming from just around the corner…
"Wait, you let her pose for that?" Yahiko stared at Nagato. "Seriously?"
"I'm a grown woman, Yahiko." Konan sniffed. "I can make my own choices."
Nagato gave Yahiko a sidelong glance. "I'm not exactly keen on trying to stop her."
"Besides, it was all Kakuzu's idea to make money." Konan felt the need to add.
Wait, that sounded a lot like his old students!
That would mean they were dead… or there for reasons like his own…
"Oh, the cane? I won it in a bar off some old guy that said he'd been a pimp."
"You have a pimp cane?" Konan stared at Yahiko, utterly bemused.
"Yeah, isn't it awesome? I can even store it in this weird hammer-space pocket, look!"
Jiraiya sprinted around the corner.
The three stopped talking as a familiar face charged right into the space in front of them.
Jiraiya took in the faces in front of him with half hope and half despair. Was it really them? Were they really dead?
Yahiko spoke up first.
A/N: You're probably all wondering what I'm doing, starting two brand new stories off right on the New Year. Well, today's their premier day. Keep reading, though. You'll want to know a few things.
The introduction wasn't a joke. That is exactly how this story started. The other participant was Dark-heika, and she and I are going to be collaborating to write this. Chapters will come bi-weekly, giving us each just under a month to write up our respective chapters so that we don't get too much work (we all know how many stories I've got on hold already, after all). There will also be a cover coming up soon for it, line-art by me, color by her. Look forward to this story. I'm sure you'll love it.