"Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid." -Winifred Banks

Uchiha Sasuke lay dying. While his teammates were strong, Deidara and his odd, unnamed teammate had dispensed with stealth, tricks, or subtlety. Sasuke's initial impulse to stand and sneer, confident in his ability to overcome any technique through his powerful attacks turned out to not be so clever facing someone who could turn a quarter mile of countryside into fire. Deidara simply unloaded his every stored trick from high altitude, forcing Sasuke to burn summons, chakra cloaks, Level 2 curse seal activation, and finally defensive uses of every Raiton jutsu he could manage. And still Deidara came, his strange technique focused into tiny, efficient birds which winged unerringly into Sasuke, and detonated just strongly enough to injure him. In endless streams.

First on the scene was Team 10, who were in the area on an unrelated mission.

Sasuke, his eyes fading, recognized his youthful tormentor of a fangirl, and came to a decision. He was beyond the help of Karin's special gift, and he needed a vessel, an empty useless cup he could fill with his rage and his desires to change this cursed world. All she had wanted when they were young was him, so he would give it to her.

"Ino.." he managed to choke out, managing not to instinctually cringe away as she drew close to him out of a near forgotten habit. Uchiha do not cringe from girls. His combat reflexes were simply still reacting to her closeness, despite being a useless girl. Yes.

Ino kneeled next to the dying young man. She could hardly recognize the handsome young clan heir she had so teased Sakura about, and fondled and jabbed at her leisure. It was nostalgia and regret that flitted across her mind, sadness for a lost childhood at the Academy that seemed so far away now. How could it have come to this? He a dying traitor instead of a stiff young boy who would flush and flinch whenever she came near, a guaranteed prop to an endless smirking argument with Sakura. She felt like crying as she bent to hear his last words.

"Yamanaka, I will give you my Sharingan. You will be the inheritor of my will.." Sasuke began.

Huh, the Sharingan? Hell yeah, I'll take that, thought Ino. It was weird that he became charitable at the end, when he was so selfish and broody his whole life, she reflected. Maybe it was a delayed reaction to her charms? He wanted her to continue whatever weird thing he had been doing away from Konoha, she supposed it had to do with his dead clan. She hadn't thought seriously of Sasuke except in relation to Sakura, who had continued to hold a weird little torch for her comrade, and was obviously cutting herself to pieces these last few years. Sakura had grown incredibly strong, in combat her power was terrifying, she could reorder the landscape without effort. But she had some kind of psychological block when it came to her teammates. Ino had noticed when Naruto was there sometimes Sakura just froze, and became one of those ninjas who stood on the sidelines and watched battles without helping other than to occasionally scream his name and rush to his side with some healing chakra. Ino, whose long distance jutsu required her to protect her body and help from the sidelines, sometimes resented Sakura making ninjas like her look bad. With the Sharingan I could get back on top of Sakura for combat power, maybe even challenge her enough to shake her up. If we both get better we could stop living in the shadows of our teams. Shadows: damn, Shika is going to hate me having the Sharingan, lazybones already avoids my Mind-Body Switch like the plague- oh hell he's still talking.

"...you must do this, Ino, it is the only way to regain the honor of the Uchiha!"

Ino nodded comfortingly, stroking his bloody hair as the strange glasses girl with the red mane fumed in the background. Ino ignored her with the ease of long being the target of jealousy. She whispered sweet assurances she knew from experience men found comforting in extremis, and wondered whether she should try healing Sasuke at all. He was very badly damaged, and seemed sure he was dead, but then he didn't really have any medical training, and was relying on that weirdo red chick for first aid, who had done a terrible job of binding his wounds, but had chakra force-healed him obviously. To Ino's eye, familiar with bloodline ninjas, it looked like the work of someone who was overdependent on a single inherited power. On the other hand he was a traitor and his survival might not benefit the village...

As the foolish kunoichi pointlessly comforted him, Sasuke internally sneered while ignoring his involuntary leaning into the cool soothing fingers, he gathered the last of his chakra. Truly the Uchiha was the most powerful bloodline in the world, and they finally would die with this, his last act of turning this worthless person into his engine of destruction. The Uchiha had refined genjutsu, amplified it with the power of the Sharingan, until it could so perfectly influence someone's perceptions to alter their very mind. Shisui of the Body Flicker had been so skilled that his ultimate technique could not even be detected as it twisted people to his will. Sasuke didn't have to be so subtle, he would turn Ino into a kunai at his brother's throat. He released his sharingan in a final burst of spinning hypnotism, his eyes boring into Ino's with terrible power.

Yamanaka Ino, whose clan needed no intervening genjutsu to control people's minds, did not even notice the weak, half-formed and awkward mental probe that impacted her shields, which she strengthened with daily meditation to keep her soul from simply overwriting that of everyone she made eye contact with.

Sasuke, satisfied that no one could resist the incredible power of the Sharingan(truly the most powerful of all techniques), reached for his own face to pluck his eyes from their sockets.

Ino sighed at the unsanitary nature of it all, and reached for her scroll of biostasis containers to get something to put them into. Sasuke clearly expected this glasses girl to do a field transplant, but Ino had enough medical training to recognize a bad idea. She appreciated that his last act was one of charity, and she would try to fulfill his last wish, to reconcile with his lost brother, or build a monument to the Uchiha memory or whatever, but really, it was only good sense to be cautious. She would have Shizune do some preliminary tests before implanting them at Konoha's Hospital after requesting some medical leave. She could trust Shizune-sempai to keep it quiet until she had the eyes well in hand, and could deal with the inevitable backlash from the rest of the village.

Behind her, Shikamaru stifled a laugh, recognizing very well what had just happened, and then winced, realizing that he was in for some trouble anyway.

Pein stood in the center of the ruined Konoha, the lone Deva path almost incapable of standing straight as Nagato secretly fought to conceal how much the immense Shinra Tensei had taken out of him. He looked over the barren landscape, sensing a surprising number of living ninjas. The Hokage had somehow protected far more ninja from dying than he expected. While the village was destroyed, most of the residents, ninja and civilian were still alive. At least the Kyuubi vessel must be forced out of hiding this way.

Ino burrowed her way out of the rubble, her sharingan spinning throughtfully. She'd now had the opportunity to observe two different bodies of Pein without being noticed, and she thought she had a pretty good handle on what was happening. She just needed to force things along a certain path.

As she located Pein's lone Deva Path standing dramatically alone in the middle of the dusty hole he'd made, she almost laughed as she searched for the two components of her plan. It was such a boy thing to do. Acting as though the success of his mission were making some kind of obscure point, rather than accomplishing something strategic. She estimated there were less than ten ninja in the right place with the necessary long-range vision who could even see his carefully posed aloof posture and lifted chin. She knew that never made any difference, boys acted as though there were always a camera upon them, as if they were scoring victories and losses for an invisible audience no matter the situation. The world always revolved around them.

Girls learned a different lesson. In fact Ino's plan depended on being mistaken for less than she was. Finding what she sought, she adjusted the borrowed ANBU mask and uniform, tightened her grip on Sakura's wrist, and jumped for center stage, right in front of Pein.

Dropping Sakura short, she couldn't spare a backwards glance to make sure she understood. She needed her friend's destructive power, and trusted their training together to communicate when her moment was to jump in. Ino landed in front of Pein, and knelt in that perfect identical pose of submission all ANBU learned and she effortlessly copied. She reached behind her for the scroll she had prepared some time ago for a situation like this. Her Sharingan, hidden by the secure seals of the ANBU mask, caught the inhuman reaction (or lack of it) of the Deva Path, and she smirked, her suspicions confirmed.

She presented the scroll to Pein. "The location of the Kyuubi jinchuuriki." her voice was strangely flattened by the mask, another seal, or just physics? She'd check later.

The scroll glowed with the demonic chakra she had borrowed from Naruto, and sealed with a medical analytics seal. She knew the rinnegan would show it in pulsating colour if it had anything in common with her Sharingan. If he stopped to think about it, there wasn't any reason why a scroll with such a secret would have his chakra, but she knew the detail would draw him into the situation, and let her fade into the background.

"This surrender is too late to save your village from it's deserved lesson of Pain" he intoned. Ino knew better than to expect a sneer on the lifeless face, but she imagined she could hear it on there anyway.

He opened the scroll, and Ino wished that his face had any expression as he stared blankly at the contents, which were a medical herb recipe. A pain-relieving lotion for tender areas.

He began to drop the scroll, "This-" he began, before suddenly going still, the security seals on the scroll reacting to the sudden lack of contact to release the demonic power forcibly into his hand. She had to suppress a wince, she knew how painful the poisonous youki, so unlike human chakra felt when it burned its way into your system. She carefully watched the chakra seep into his tenketsu, spreading against his will through the chakra metals he wore, and then wisping away. Good, so the chakra connection was fully two-way. This was going to work. She grasped the ANBU standard sword and threw it clean through the chest of the Deva path, mimicking a water chakra infused kenjutsu strike she had seen Yuugao using once.

Pein staggered, she didn't know if his chakra would remain scrambled, so she prepped a few follow-up attacks, a zone of paralyzing cold, genjutsu, and blinding light were the most obvious nonphysical attacks she could think to hit him with. Luckily for her chakra, he chose instead to reverse summon his other bodies, The full six Paths protectively forming around the Deva, inexplicably finding time to pose ominously, towering over the still half-kneeling girl, their heads raised, hands uselessly at their sides. She would have rolled her eyes, if she had dared move them from watching the play of chakra across the group, together for the first time she had seen.

Considering, she reflected that many ninja looked down on intelligence gathering missions. As a kunoichi, she was often given them, and she knew that many saw that as a comment on their inability to compete with men in combat. In her experience chakra control often dominated pure power, she knew which Uchiha brother she would have bet on, and she wasn't using his eyes. And intelligence missions taught subtlety, and a kind of control that had nothing to do with chakra.

She positioned herself directly in front of the Human path, and began to rise to her feet, knowing it would provoke another monologue.

"Your foolish-"

"I dated a boy from Suna once." she cut him off brightly. "He was a puppeteer, who had so many secrets!" she emphasized the last word silkily. "Nobody could tell him what to do either, you both are childish like that."

The Sharingan warned, but she let the Human Path blur forward, knocking her to the ground roughly. Sloppy. Kankurou would be ashamed of using a puppet so clumsily, but then he didn't have quite so much chakra and so many powers to burn. For her, Pein's absolute confidence in his superiority was as good as armor. Facing a Suna puppeteer this way would have left her dead in a dozen ways, not all of which she was sure she could avoid.

But the Human Path placed his hands on the top of her head to use a jutsu that she suspected was absolutely unstoppable.

"We will see what secrets you know, and perhaps the truth of the Kyuubi's location. I already know he is not in the remains of this village."

And with that, he tore her soul from her body.

The Human Path's jutsu, which removed the entirety of the spiritual chakra from the body, could be used to reveal even the most hidden secrets, laying bare the roiling mass of energy and pattern that made up memory and character. His Rinnegan could pierce and analyse it, and then either allow the soul to dissipate, killing the target, or transfer the soul as he wished; to store it, offer it to the King of Hell summon, or use it to fuel one of the many forbidden jutsu he had taken from the horded lore of the Hidden Village of Rain.

None of which prepared him for the smiling form of Ino, who had trained all her life to retain control when her soul left her body.

"Mistaaaake", she sang. Her suddenly revealed Sharingan pinwheel spinning dark patterns in her otherwise blindingly light form to his eyes. "Shinten Bunshin no Jutsu!", she said triumphantly, as Pein hesitated in confusion. With her soul already in direct contact with the Human Path, there was no defense. Her mental clones, transmitted instantly by the network of chakra receivers, took control of all the Paths of Pain, one copy finding herself in a dark unfamiliar room, with a quiet black and red cloaked girl beside her. "Gotcha!" she cheered internally.

Sakura tensed in her shallow trench, and then began to run forward as she saw all the bodies of Pein stop, tear off their cloaks, and begin removing the metal rods from their bodies with flicking wrist motions she thought she recognized. Only you, Ino, Sakura thought as she blurred forward. Tricking a man into killing you and beating him that way. Sakura gathered herself for what was becoming a habit, destroying Akatsuki puppets with her crushing fists.

Ino finished removing the strange metal from all the spots she could reach with her jutsu, hopefully leaving the body unreachable to Pein, signaled Sakura, and dismissed the jutsu, returning to her original body. Sakura's blazing fists, capable of destroying hardened fortifications, turned the bodies, once bereft of their chakra into fine mist and scraps of fabric with dizzying speed. She sat up painfully, itching the scratchy parts of her chakra network damaged by Pein's strange jutsu, sensing the memories from the other bodies join her as they dismissed themselves as well. Sakura joined her after the last body was destroyed.

"Did you find the original?"

"My clone has him too," Ino stood. "I think she's got him in hand, but we should head over there in case he's got more stuff up his sleeve."

They sped off into distance jumping over the giant frogs that suddenly appeared, arms folded, in the middle of the devastation, as the final mental clone sent a message, crackly with distance. "Big sis, better grab Naruto back there, and see if he can figure out a chakra transfusion with Sakura for me. This guy has some jutsu we're gonna want to use..."

Yamanaka Ino, Konoha's Iron Violet, was feared across the Elemental Nations. Widely considered the strongest ninja in the world, her purple ANBU mask pattern was so famous many whispered she only wore it because her face was enchanted with a deadly genjutsu who would kill anyone who looked upon it. Others said she was so beautiful that anyone who saw it would fall hopelessly in love with her, and she covered it out of kindness.

Sakura toyed with the mask idly as it hung from Ino's shoulder as she sat up in bed. The falcon outside the tent was signalling a recall order for Ino, which meant a few days away from the front. The war with Akatsuki's enigmatic legions of strange white ninja and resurrected historical figures had reached an impasse of sorts, perhaps Ino was being called into some plan for breaking the stalemate. She kissed her oldest friend and lover sweetly, wishing so many demands weren't placed on her slim shoulders, but the Alliance leadership would be foolish to ignore such a resource.

"Be careful, even you aren't invincible, Ino-pig." Sakura chided her confident friend.

Ino sighed, "Whatever, you just take care of these idiots until I get back, pinkette."

Sakura nodded sadly as Ino flickered away. She knew her friend had a teleportation technique she'd stolen from somewhere, but it took a long time and she preferred to do it far from prying eyes, and as surprisingly cooperative the ninja in the Alliance had been, they were still from other villages, no need to give away more than necessary.

The blanket beside her stirred, as Sai poked his awkward little face out into the cold air. "Where did Ms. Gorgeous go?" he inquired flatly. Sakura poked him in the forehead, "be nice to the rest of us!" she snipped. He really was lucky he was so beautiful himself. Ino assured her he cared deeply for them, but Sakura only believed in thing she could see. Although... she shuddered as his warm fingers found their way under blankets to her legs, maybe things you feel are just as real.

"Hey, it's cold as hell, stop moving the blankets!" Kankurou grumped somewhere hidden.

Ino faced Naruto, the strange Kumo jinchuuriki behind him as they had broken through the many-layered seal around the secret island base. Personally the destructive chakra released was still ringing the Yamanaka's ears, and she wondered how much Kumo appreciated their secret jinchuuriki training grounds being announced this way to the world after so many years of secrecy.

Naruto and this Bee were the targets of the Akatsuki, and so had been sensibly seconded to secure locations to train and be safe from surprise attacks. Ino had been exasperated but not surprised to hear that Naruto had disregarded orders and left the location, intent on joining the fight.

"I can't stand by and let others fight for me! Let me by and I'll stop this war!?" Naruto shouted (screeched really) at Ino, who refrained from rolling her eyes on the advice of Sakura, who was concerned her orbital muscles were weakened by constantly doing so and the Sharingan. She had painted a nightmare scenario where Ino's eyes bulged out of their sockets the next time she sarcastically quipped and made that face.

Ino contented herself with raising one hand, which led to Naruto trailing off (eventually) from his ranting about how he would stop all the hatred in the world with his own suffering and the dream of his father, or something.

"Naruto, you've been ordered to return to the island, to be protected from Akatsuki. If you are captured, it is unknown how to prevent their jutsu from causing devastation upon the world. Will you obey your Hokage?"

"Chicky, come on, you gotta grow on! Let Naruto head to the battle, and I'll make sure he's safe as if he stayed in that training yard like a baby with a rattle!"

It would be difficult to say whether it was the Mangekyou Sharingan or the power every female musters when presented with a person so repulsive to them their look can cut down the strongest man, but B retreated sensibly at her glance and let her continue uninterrupted with Naruto.

"Iruka-sensei told me about the enemy's jutsu. I don't care! I won't allow that to happen!" Naruto shouted to a cheering audience only he could see.

"If you are abandoning the path of the ninja for your own desires, I'll need your headband." Ino held out her open hand for it. Naruto flinched. She knew he valued it as a symbol of his connection to the village. "You can't choose what orders to obey and which to ignore. A ninja is a member of an organization with rules and leaders. Our leaders have decided. Your disrespect for the Godaime is amusing in her office, but on a battlefield you obey orders or your aren't a real ninja. I'll let you go, but you'll be a missing-nin forever after this."

She waved her hand at Naruto negligently, as if she didn't care either way, while watching him closely. She honestly didn't know whether he had even considered his actions having consequences beyond the moment.

"Nah, granny put her trust in me! She wouldn't abandon me like that! I'm a ninja of Konoha! And I'll stop this war in a flash!" Naruto recovered quickly from the foreign sensation of planning and weighing choices, reverting to his previous position.

Ino sighed, and smashed him to the ground with a crushing palm dotted with chakra suppression tags which transferred onto his crown gate from her real position behind him. The genjutsu image of her with its hand out wavered and disappeared. Naruto had always been oddly susceptible to tricks like that. She suspected that if she'd tried to hurt him rather than knock him out, he'd have bounced and reacted, but as she bore him no real malice, he didn't really seem to see it coming. And his bijuu seemed oddly less apt to resist his chakra being manipulated by the Sharingan, maybe the kyuubi had a history with these eyes? She shrugged as she trussed up Naruto (not for the first time) with plenty of wire and seals for safety.

"Yo, that's cold as ice, that genjutsu trick was just a chop and a slice. Without the cooperation of his beast, he can't break those techniques as easily as me!"

"B-sama, will you take him back to the training ground until we need him? I'm sure the Kages will eventually agree to using you two in battle, but until Naruto's needed for sure, you two are safer inside the regenerating barrier."

"Fool, ya fool," he sang to Naruto's burrito-like form as he hoisted him over shoulder, "you're gonna have to train, it's too early for you. If you can't beat a little girl with a spinning eye, your skills aren't ready for Akatsuki's head guy."

Ino let out a breath as they turned back to the island sanctuary, a great flood of anxiety leaving her as the situation (which wasn't nearly as well in hand as she'd have liked) left a crisis point. She felt enormous gratitude. Sakura had come up with that array of seals to safely put Naruto down in a way that wouldn't hurt him, and hopefully he'd wake up later feeling fine and a little wiser.

She hugged herself and closed her eyes, the danger finally passed. "Oh baby, you are so talented. And they are so *dumb*!".

In the final battle, it came down the last living users of the Sharingan, as it was always going to. Obito's pinwheel against Ino's immaterial soul, both invincible, intangible, and deadly. It was Kakashi and Shikamaru, working together who gave her the final edge, a shadow's immaterial reach couldn't be stopped by Kamui, and Kakashi had the same eye, after all.

When she overpowered Obito with her own Mind Disturbance Jutsu, she made him face her, to all but Kakashi, it looked as though she cut him down instantly with the purple poisoned blade she carried. But this close, he and Obito shared the same view through their linked eyes, and he never spoke of what he saw for an instant before the end.

"Obito, I've trapped you in my Eternal Flower Prison. I don't understand all you've been through, what you and Kakashi felt, or what it meant. But I can't let you threaten the people I love. The Sharingan's genjutsu are powerful, and with Yamanaka techniques, I can read your mind and see your desires. This will only be a moment to everyone else, but for you it will seem to last forever. I hope you can find some happiness here, even though I've stopped you in my world."

Ino looked for a moment at Obito's suddenly young and whole face, an unfamiliar young girl with the face marks of an Inuzuka, and a chibi Kakashi, before turning away.

"I'm really too nice. I wonder where Sakura has gotten herself..."

So it was that many years into her reign as the Rokudaime, after a new generation of ninja all learned her jutsu and a whole new class of kunoichi tore their ways into the world with techniques reverse engineered from her irresistable Eternal Flower Prison and Black Orchid Fire, foreign nin began calling them the Village Hidden in Flowers. Her ANBU, their masks each inscribed with a meaningful bloom had only added to that impression. And it was finally sealed when Tenten and Yamato's children, raised in a household with an artificial Mokuton and a treasured Bashosen, expressed a kekkai genkai they shared with all their peers, the Pollen Release, a strange technique whose only application was to prevent fights rather than ending them.

As peace returned to the world of ninja, many secrets were revealed. Just recently, after a political shakeup of epic proportions, a number of Root operatives came in from the cold, some from missions years in length, including one Uchiha Itachi. He sat quietly and spoke to Ino about the legacy of the Uchiha, while medics assessed the damage to his heart he had allowed to accumulate through years of neglect for his congenital condition.

He seemed glad that Ino had come to some constructive end with her Sharingan, and drew comfort from the fact that Sasuke had seemingly wanted to reconcile with him, according to Ino's somewhat vague recollection. Perhaps Sasuke had known about the Root mission? The point was that he'd given Ino the task of carrying on the Uchiha legacy of charity and service to the village. Itachi seemed to find that quietly amusing for an obscure reason, but he did not object. Maybe she'd have a child with him later, or Sakura would, it seemed a shame to let the line die out completely.

She sat bolt upright in bed, an electric thrill bringing her to full awake. Something was wrong, unfulfilled. She had a responsibility.

She looked out at the darkened room. In the soft blankets was Uchiha Itachi, honored counselor to the Hokage, and a tender if predictable lover. Sasuke had wanted so badly for her to meet him. He'd whispered instructions, exhortations, commands really (what a rude boy he'd been) about it. Was she forgetting something?

She could sense the fussy presence of Sai, who insisted on sleeping just outside her door, and his many inked creatures crawling, flying, and scampering in a reassuring pattern around her residence. The vast glow of Naruto's sleeping chakra down the street, like a blazing sun. Sakura, still awake, a green heartbeat next to hers in the tower.

She looked down on Itachi's birdlike neck, white in the moonlight. So delicate were the Uchiha men...

"No, I guess everything seems fine!" She said, and went back to sleep.