A/N: It's been awhile. I am so sorry. I had writer's block for the longest time and had to ask KakaAnko for advice on how to proceed. Thus, this chapter and the next chapter are courtesy of her assistance. I have also had a rather rough semester… Good lord. So, yes, I am sorry it took so long to write this, and it may disappoint some of you, I am not sure. But rest assured that next chapter will be more exciting! :)
Also, if I get anything wrong, please note that I am using Naruto Wiki, as I really do not want to read the subtitles for all the Naruto episodes that are not dubbed. Can I also point out that I remembered why I had stopped watching the show in the first place (other than the fact that my tv stations stopped showing it)? They recap WAYYYYY too much. I don't give a fuck about Sasuke! Stop wasting so many episodes showing his whole life's sob story every five damn minutes! SHEESH! Get the hell on with the story! GRRR! …Ok Venting over. Lol On with the fanfic!
Chapter Seven: The Land of Turtles
Anko rolled over onto her other side to avoid the stream of sunlight that had finally located her face, shining through her closed eyelids and making it nearly impossible to stay asleep. The window above her bed was covered with violet curtains, but it was open to allow the breeze to blow inside, giving the sun the chance to peek through into her bedroom and force her from her slumber. Catching a slight chill from the cool morning air, she reflexively reached down to pull her blankets up over her bare shoulder, tucking her chin and nose beneath their warmth as well.
She laid that way for a long time, content in the comfort of her covers until her body began to feel wakeful and restless. Sitting up, making sure to keep the blanket round her torso, she stretched out her legs, one arm above her head, and yawned. Bringing her hand back down to her face, she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, trying to recall the previous night's events. Upon remembering she'd won the bet against Kotetsu, she smiled to herself.
Don't know why he even bothered…Idiot.
She frowned, though, upon realizing that she couldn't remember when she'd gotten home. She remembered walking back to her apartment, but her memory of actually arriving there seemed to be faulty. She shrugged it off. What could she except after downing so much alcohol? At least she could safely assume she had gotten home in one piece and gotten a shower since she clearly didn't smell like a smoky bar. That was the important thing.
She looked around her room, attempting to locate her purple robe and spotted it hanging from the bottom bedpost. She climbed out of bed and grabbed it up, slipping her arms through it and tying the sash about her waist. As she passed her dresser, she grabbed up a hair tie that lay on top of it and pulled her hair back as she walked through her apartment to the kitchen.
After making herself some pancakes, Anko turned on the television and curled up on the couch with a pillow and a throw blanket. It seemed she hadn't fully recovered from the previous night's activities.
"Ugh, I'm not getting old already, am I?" she wondered aloud. After only getting to watch about five minutes of a show, she dozed off, awoken about an hour later by a knock on her apartment door.
Groaning, she got to her feet and went to answer it. Her sleepy expression turned to one of amusement when she met the rather sullen face of Kotetsu. Izumo stood behind him.
"Good morning, fellas! Izumo, I see you've delivered my butler!"
"Yep. I nursed his hangover and figured I'd be nice and escort him over here."
"More like forced," grumbled Kotetsu, crossing his arms.
"Hey, a bet's a bet. You were dumb enough to challenge me."
"Yeah…But it was worth it," he said with a grin and slightly flushed cheeks remembering how her lips had felt against his heated face. Having glanced downward, he caught a glimpse of her cleavage, her robe having gotten a bit disheveled while she'd lain on the sofa.
Noticing Kotetsu's wandering gaze, Anko scowled and reached out to push his chin up. "Eyes up here, Fido!" she said before straightening her robe out.
Izumo laughed as Kotetsu blushed. "Well, I'll leave you two at it then! Good luck, buddy!"
"Huh?! Wait, you're just going to leave me here?!" asked Kotetsu as his friend walked back down the hall.
"Hey, I wasn't stupid enough make a bet like that! Anyway, it's not like I need your help or anything. We've got gate guard duty today, and you know that's a snooze fest. Have fun!"
"Hang on! Izumo!"
"Aw, what's the matter?" purred Anko in a tone that sounded very dangerous to the spiky-haired ninja. "I thought you'd jump at the chance to be alone with me." She pinched his cheek with a grin. "I just think your little crush is so cute!"
"Aw, now wait a minute! Cute?"
"Yeah! Adorable! You know what's even more adorable?" she said, putting an arm around his shoulders.
"Eh…what?" he asked reluctantly.
"A man who can wash dishes! There's a whole pile of 'em in there just waiting for ya! So get to it! And when you're done with that, you can rearrange the living room!"
Kotetsu groaned again as she pushed him into her apartment and shut the door. He was still way too damn tired for this!
"And you can't carry at least one of these why?"
"Why should I when I have you to carry them all for me?"
"Gr, you're so cruel, you know that?" said Kotetsu, one eye visible through the multiple grocery bags that obscured his vision.
"I've been called worse," replied Anko with a prideful grin.
It had been three days since the bet and Anko had made sure to put Kotetsu to good use. She even bought more groceries than usual since she wasn't the one who had to carry them all the way back to her apartment. Shuttling back and forth between meeting the demands of the Hokage and bending to every one of Anko's whims had more than taken its toll on Kotetsu already, and he hadn't missed an opportunity to complain about the unfairness of it all. He swore to never make another bet against the dangerous snake kunoichi again. He even went so far as to make Izumo promise to stop him the next time such a bright idea ever crossed his mind in the future.
"Anko-Sensei! Hey, wait up!"
Anko stopped and turned, recognizing the voice as Sakura's. She wasn't wrong. The younger kunoichi was running to catch up to her two fellow ninja.
"Hey, what's up?" Anko asked as Sakura came to a stop beside Kotetsu. "What's your hurry?"
"It's Lady Tsunade. She asked me to find you. I assume she has a mission for you." She turned to the man hidden behind the brown paper bags. "Hello Kotetsu."
"Hi, Sakura…" he muttered dejectedly.
Anko smiled widely again. "A mission? Well alright! Looks like you're off the hook for now, Idiot," she said to Kotetsu. He quickly corrected his hunched posture, excited by the fortunate turn of events. If she was going on a mission, then that meant he was out of the—
"But don't think I'm letting you off so easily. When I get back, you still have four days of being my chore boy."
He slumped his shoulders again with a groan. "Aww…C'mon…"
"In the meantime, take those things back to my apartment and put them away. Then you're free. At least until I come back."
Kotetsu sighed heavily. "Yes ma'am…"
Anko walked at a brisk, but comfortable pace through the Hokage's mansion. If Tsunade had sent Sakura to fetch her, then that could only mean she was actually going to be given a real mission this time. She had had one mission outside the village since her recovery, but that had been a simple errand to a small neighboring village to the west of the Hidden Leaf. Anko sincerely hoped that her new assignment would be far more interesting.
When she reached the Hokage's office, she knocked before pushing open the door. Looking around, she noted three other people had clearly been summoned, Kakashi among them. Stepping into the room, she met his visible eye. "Huh…figures. Why should I be surprised you're here?"
Kakashi shrugged. "We're just meeting everywhere these days aren't we?"
She shifted her gaze to the other two who had taken that moment to turn around. "Yamato! It's been awhile."
The special ops ninja nodded with a polite smile. "Yes, it has. Good to see you're doing well, Anko."
"And Sai. Good to see you, too."
Sai nodded without speaking. He had never warmed up to her no matter how many times they had worked together over the past few years.
The Hokage cleared her throat impatiently. The four turned their attention back to her. "If you're finished with your reunion, I have an important assignment for you four."
"Of course," said Kakashi.
"What is it, My Lady?" asked Yamato.
Tsunade opened her desk and pulled out a scroll for each of them. Once they had accepted the assignment scrolls, Tsunade, as was characteristic of her, gazed at them over her folded hands,, her elbows resting on her desk.
"A few months ago, Team Kakashi returned to the Hidden Leaf with word that a previously unknown land exists just outside the Land of Waves."
"The Land of Turtles," said Anko knowingly.
Kakashi looked at her in surprise, wondering how she could have known that detail of one of his missions.
Tsunade glanced in Anko's direction as well. "That's correct."
"So Izumo and Kotetsu were successful in their search?" asked Anko.
"No, not exactly. The bridge builder, Tazuna, has contacted me. It seems the Land of Turtles is a new nation that was formed after the war. It lies beyond the mountain range west of the Naruto bridge on the mainland. We have no intel on it at all."
"So our mission is infiltration and reconnaissance," Yamato observed.
"Why send all four of us?" asked Anko. "A three-man squad is the usual protocol for such missions. Yamato, Sai and I should be enough, right?"
Even Kakashi had to admit that Anko had a point. Kakashi was stealthy, but he was certainly not the intel-gathering type. As for Anko, he was not too certain of her abilities as a spy, but she certainly had the strength to serve as backup in sticky situations.
"Because Tazuna also reported the presence of a few rogue ninja. One seems to be from the land of Turtles and the other two are from the Land of Rivers. Your mission right now is not to attempt to find the three rogue ninja, but to gather any information you can about the Land of Turtles. This includes finding out, if you can, the identity of their rogue ninja. The reason I've assigned all four of you to this mission is simple: if you do happen to run into the rogue ninja, their skills and abilities are, as of yet, unknown. We have suffered enough casualties during this most recent war. I will not endanger the lives of anymore Shinobi unless it is absolutely necessary.
"So I have placed Yamato and Sai on this team for the main purpose of gathering intelligence. I also have faith in their fighting abilities. Kakashi, your skills as a diplomat may be needed. If the Land of Turtles is friendly, it is important to establish an alliance. Also, you are an ideal choice for this mission should worst come to worst and an assassination is the only way out of a dangerous situation. Anko, your strength, speed and precision may also be useful. Since missions are few, I see no reason we shouldn't be prepared for anything."
"Makes sense," said Yamato. "So when do we leave?"
"As soon as you're ready. Yamato, you will be in charge of this mission."
"Right." He looked at the other three. "Should we meet at the gate in an hour?"
The other three nodded. Tsunade wished them luck, and the four Shinobi were off to pack. An hour later, three of the four ninja had arrived at the gates of Konoha.
"We're just waiting on Kakashi."
"Big surprise…" Anko muttered.
"Don't count me out just yet," came the voice of the Copy Ninja as he walked up the cobblestone road toward his teammates.
"Late as always, huh Kakashi-Sensei?" said Sai
"Only by five minutes or so."
"Fifteen," Anko corrected.
Kakashi blinked in surprise. "Oh…my watch must be on the fritz." He gave an eye-crinkle.
"Nice try, but you don't wear a watch," muttered Anko.
"Alright, we should get moving," said Yamato.
"Agreed," said Sai.
"Is everybody ready?"
"Then let's be off, shall we?"
It took them two days to reach the other side of the mountain range that overlooked the newly formed village. The team of four stood high above the village, eying the situation down below. Quick surveillance revealed only a simple, quiet town, much the same as Wave.
"It doesn't look threatening to me," said Sai.
"Threatening or not, it's important to gain as much information as we can on them. It won't do for the Hidden Leaf to remain ignorant of a new nation," said Yamato.
"I assume it's made up of refugees from other villages that were attacked during the war," said Kakashi.
"I would agree," said Yamato. "Sai."
The pale boy sat cross-legged upon the grass as he pulled out a scroll and brush and rapidly painted several dozen mice. "Ninja Art: Super Beast Scroll." The painted mice rose up off the page and scurried down toward the village. The four ninja stood, waiting for a report from Sai's little army of surveyors. Half an hour later, they returned to the scroll.
"It seems there are no security measures around the village. There are a few ninja wandering around, but there don't seem to be any guards."
"That's good news," said Yamato. "Alright then, Sai, you and I will head down for a closer look. Kakashi, Anko, you two wait here until we return. If you run into any trouble, use the radios. We'll be sure to do the same."
"Right," said Kakashi. Yamato and Sai shared a quick glance before heading down into the village from different directions.
"Well this is boring," said Anko, sitting down and leaning against the base of a tree.
"Hm?" Kakashi looked at her. "Don't tell me you were looking for life and death struggles on this mission."
"Of course not. But I didn't become a ninja to sit back and play it safe."
The Copy Ninja glanced back at the town below. "Our mission has only just begun. Who knows what we'll run into."
Sai, having removed his Leaf headband and stowing away most of his ninja gear in his pack in order to avoid suspicion, made little effort to conceal himself. He had been charged with entering the village as an outsider in order to witness how the village dealt with strangers while Yamato focused on figuring out who the village leaders were. So far, Sai had encountered no resistance. Kakashi appeared to have been correct in his assessment that the village was filled with refugees from the war. Most of the people he came across were civilians, but, as he had pointed out to the others, there did seem to be quite a few ninjas.
Sai found this odd—and he was sure the others would share his opinion. The Land of Waves had no ninjas of its own. So why did the Land of Turtles? And if the Land of Turtles had ninjas, how had they been trained so quickly and why was security so lax? One would think that a nation formed in the aftermath of an atrocity like the fourth Shinobi war would take more precautions in keeping potential threats from entering the boundaries of the village.
He stopped briefly to make small talk with a few of the shop owners and was greeted more-or-less cheerfully. He asked a few questions of the civilians and found that their theory had been spot-on. He asked about the ninjas, but the civilians only said that they, too, were refugees from smaller lands that had had few Shinobi.
Odd indeed. Shinobi tended to be loyal only to the land of their origin. It was almost unheard of that ninja from various lands would join together to become the militia for a new land.
"Report, Sai?" asked Yamato a few hours later when the special ops ninja caught up to the former ROOT operative.
"They are not the least bit hostile, and the ninjas are refugees, same as the civilians."
"Huh, that is strange. You had no trouble then?"
"Good. I think I've found the leader of the village. We should head back and report to Kakashi and Anko. We may need their assistance to proceed further."
"Ugh, what's taking so long? It's been a couple of hours."
"Just relax," said Kakashi who stood against the same tree that Anko had occupied as he read his orange book. "I'm sure they'll be back soon."
Anko cast her gaze toward the village again. A few minutes later she sat up. "It's about time."
Yamato and Sai were heading up the steep incline to the ridge where they had left their other two teammates. Anko stood and Kakashi put his book away.
"So, what did you find out?" asked Anko.
Sai immediately sat down in the grass and removed a scroll and brush, quickly drawing an accurate map of the area.
"One of the most peaceful places I've ever seen," said Yamato. "Sai encountered no resistance." He reported Sai's experience before expanding on his own. "I believe I've found the village leader. He's a middle-aged man named Tetsuo Makashi who lives in a rather modest house on the other side of the town. A few ninjas guard the place, but it doesn't seem impassable. In order to keep from arousing suspicion, perhaps you two should take the next leg of this mission while Sai and I keep just enough distance to serve as backup if needed."
Understanding Yamato's order to extend an offering of peace to the village leader, Kakashi nodded his assent. "Alright. Just point us in the right direction."
By this time, Sai had completed his map. He stood and Yamato, Kakashi and Anko gathered around him to view it. Yamato pointed to a house on the far right of the page. "There. It is a bit concealed by the trees, but easy enough to locate."
"You may take this with you," said Sai, rolling up the scroll and handing it to Anko.
The four Shinobi skirted the outskirts of the town. Yamato and Sai escorted Kakashi and Anko halfway before retreating into the cover of the trees. The Copy Ninja and the snake kunoichi headed into town together, following the directions laid out for them. Upon reaching a winding road that seemingly vanished into the woods, Anko checked the map again.
"This is the right place," she said, rolling it up and stowing it in her pouch.
"Yeah. Despite Sai and Yamato's reports, we still need to be cautious."
Anko nodded. The two of them started down the path, not seeing anything for a while. Finally, they saw the small, wooden house with two ninjas standing by the door, chatting. They approached calmly and with an air of innocence. When the two ninja noticed them, they looked at the intruders first with curiosity, then with mild suspicion.
"Who goes there?" asked one.
Kakashi raised his hand in a friendly salute. "Hello," he said as they came to a stop before the guards. "We are fellow ninja from the Hidden Leaf. We've come in the interests of peace and friendship, offerings extended to the Land of Turtles by the Fifth Hokage herself."
The two ninjas seemed to relax a little at this. "The Fifth Hokage?"
"Yes. Allow us to introduce ourselves. I am Kakashi Hatake—"
"Ah, the famous Copy Ninja."
"Anko Mitarashi," said the snake kunoichi, extending her hand to the two men. "It's a pleasure to visit such a peaceful village."
"Peace is what we strive for," said one of the ninjas. "I'm Hiten, and this is my brother Waku."
"Nice to meet you both," said Kakashi. "Would it be possible to speak with Tetsuo Makashi? He is the village leader, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is," said Waku. "But he has stepped out for a moment. He should be back shortly."
"Then we will wait."
The door to the house opened and a tiny woman appeared before them. "Hiten, Waku, is someone—oh!" She placed her fingers to her cheek as she studied the newcomers.
The guards turned to her. "M'lady, these are ninjas from the Hidden Leaf, here to speak with your husband. They mean us no harm."
"Oh," said the woman softly as she looked the Hidden Leaf ninja over. It took a few short moments, but finally a small, shy smile spread across her delicate features. She opened the door wider. "My husband should be back shortly. You may come in for some tea if you'd like until he returns."
Kakashi and Anko bowed their heads respectfully. "Thank you," said Kakashi. He shared a quick glance with Anko before the two of them followed the woman inside.
It only took about ten minutes for Tetsuo to return. His wife, Saiko, was hospitable, but shy, leaving them after serving them tea and ascertaining that they did not desire any other food or snacks. Anko and Kakashi stood as the village leader entered the room, each of them taking their turn to shake their host's hand.
"Ah, friends from the Hidden Leaf. What a pleasure," said Tetsuo. "Please, sit down, sit down. Make yourselves comfortable."
Kakashi and Anko obeyed the request, returning to their seats on one side of the table while Tetsuo took a seat facing them. "So what brings you to the Land of Turtles? How did the Fifth Hokage come to know of us, way out here?"
"I was actually the one to bring news of your land to the Hokage," said Kakashi. "You see, I was leading another team on a mission a few months ago and came across a few ninjas from the Land of Turtles. We only fought with them briefly until they understood that our business was not with them or their home. Regardless, the Hokage was curious about your land, and so sent us with peace offerings."
"Really? Well that is kind of her."
"So, your village is new," said Anko. "One would think you wouldn't be so hospitable to strangers."
Tetsuo had poured himself some tea and now took a sip of it. He set his cup down before he spoke. "Though we may have ninja here, we see no reason to invite confrontation. Besides, refugees are still coming in to set up new lives here in the Land of Turtles. Their homes, their families and friends, are gone. Why should we turn away those in need with hostility?"
"How can you be sure that every ninja that enters your village is respectable and means your people no harm?"
"Well, Miss Mitarashi, I suppose we simply rely on mutual trust. Besides, we have nothing of any value here. Every person in the Land of Turtles has lost everything, including precious possessions. No one has any need to barge in here and take what little we do have."
"I suppose that's a fair assessment of the situation," said Kakashi.
"So why have guards at your front door, then?" asked Anko, curiously, but respectfully.
Tetsuo smile. "Hiten and Waku are friends of mine from the Land of Hot Water. We were the first to settle here, and others simply followed suit. As more and more people came to the area, I was chosen as the village leader. I suppose I was well-liked enough. Hiten and Waku live just up the road. They are protective of me, you see, since I am not a Shinobi."
"But those in the Land of Hot Water evacuated to the Hidden Leaf," said Anko. "Why didn't you go with them?"
"Because we were away from the village at that time, and when we returned everyone was gone and the land had been destroyed. We assumed the worst, and so we were unaware of their relocation. By the time we figured out that our friends had gone to the Hidden Leaf, we had already established a small village here. As the leader of this new village, I had an obligation to stay. Hiten and Waku, who had lost their parents early in the war, had no one to return to, so they stayed here with me."
"I see. It looks as though you've done well for yourself," said Kakashi.
"We have survived with decent circumstances, yes."
"So then all of the ninjas here are like Hiten and Waku?" asked Kakashi. "They simply have nowhere else to go, and so they've pledged their allegiance to the Land of Turtles?"
"This is their home now, so yes. They get along well enough. They often disagree with one another, but they have the village's best interests at heart."
"I see." Kakashi paused. He shifted his visible eye in Anko's direction. She met his gaze briefly. Kakashi spoke again. "If I may, we were told that your village has a rogue ninja. Is this intelligence accurate?"
Again, Tetsuo set down his cup. He sighed heavily. "Yes. As I said, our ninjas, from different lands, all have differing opinions and often disagree. Although they usually work out their differences…Fukashi's ideas were radical to say the least."
"As you have gathered by now, I am sure, the Land of Turtles is a welcoming place. We do not promote war or confrontation. It would be foolish to do so. Our ninjas have each sworn to keep the village safe, but they have also sworn to keep the peace. Fukashi came from a small village in the Land of Wind. It was completely eradicated by the Akatsuki. Fukashi became bitter. He attempted to convince our ninja to form a standing Shinobi army that would rival even that of the Hidden villages. Complete folly, of course. It never would have worked even with support from the village. Unable to accept the rejection of his ideas, Fukashi left, vowing to become a martyr for his cause if need be. I have heard of his misdeeds. It is a shame."
After gaining further information on Fukashi, Anko and Kakashi asked Tetsuo if he knew of the two rogue ninja from the Land of Rivers. Tetsuo had heard of them, but he admitted that he knew nothing of their identities or abilities.
It was getting late by the time Kakashi and Anko rendezvoused with Yamato and Sai again back on the mountain ridge. They made camp for the night as they discussed everything they had learned. In the morning, they set out to return to the Hidden Leaf.