There was a brief silence in the air as Tsunade leaned back in her chair before she spoke, "Jiraiya, get in here and stop eavesdropping."
For a moment, there was nothing but silence, before suddenly the air rippled and distorted and Jiraiya suddenly appeared leaning against the wall. "You knew I was going to be here anyway, so I would hardly call it eavesdropping. Take off the hat already; it's just us and the brat."
"I don't remember you talking to sensei that way," Tsunade stated with narrowed eyes as she glared slightly at him.
"I never saw sensei puke all over themselves the first time he got drunk," he countered back with a slight smirk. "And you didn't see how I talked to him after you left."
She glared for only a moment at him before shaking her head. "Moving on, take a seat, brat."
"Um..." Naruto glanced warily between her and Jiraiya.
"Take the seat, brat, you'll need it," Jiraiya advised with a nod towards the seat in front of the Hokage's desk.
Warily he took a seat, again keeping his eyes bouncing between them, "What's going on?"
"There were issues regarding how we could properly handle your former teammate," she said simply as she leaned back in her chair, her hands pressing together, index fingers paired together and lightly tapping her lower lip. "As such, neither of the typical solutions are ideal."
"That's an understatement," Jiraiya stated with a snort, gaining a questioning look from Naruto. "There were things going on that weren't really what they seemed to be, brat."
"You mean like Kakashi's whole underneath the underneath thing?" Naruto asked, perking up slightly.
"Yes," Tsunade stated simply, cutting off anything Jiraiya could say in response. "Because of it the Uchiha has to have certain... considerations taken in regards to her."
"... She's not going to get away with it, is she?" Naruto asked with a frown, his eyes narrowing into slits. "She hurt Sakura-chan! There's no way she can just get away with that!"
"She's not going to be a ninja again, no matter what," Tsunade assured him, "nor will she go free. That's not in the cards."
"Then what? And why am I here?" Naruto suddenly felt an itching little sensation in the back of his head, one that was telling him that there was something he really, really should be remembering. Something very, VERY important to the current situation.
"I suggested a compromise," Jiraiya stated simply, his lips twitching just a bit.
The alarm bells were screaming now as he stared back at the smirking man who stood in front of him, arms crossed about his chest, before he turned towards Tsunade, "Um... after he said that, can I just say no?"
"You could," Tsunade agreed with a nod as she lightly tapped her lips. "You'd be potentially endangering the entire village, but you can refuse."
"Wait, what?!" Naruto demanded as he straightened up straight.
"Well, not only will we have to deal with the repercussions of either killing or imprisoning the traitor," she said blandly as she glanced out through her window to the village behind her, "but we'd also have to deal with the loss of prestige at no longer having the Uchiha available to us. After the invasion there would those who thought it would be proof that the ninja of the Leaf had grown soft, had become easy targets."
"But, but..." he protested as the gears started to grind in his head. "That's not fair!"
"That's life, brat," Jiraiya stated blandly. "Sometimes you have to do the best you can with the crap hand you're dealt."
"... Dammit, what do I have to do?" Naruto glared slightly as he slumped back and glowered back at them.
"Don't slouch, its bad posture," Tsunade stated absently as she slowly flipped through a folder in front of her before looking back at him. "It's simple. We need you to help attempt the effectiveness of Jiraiya's seal against those created by Orochimaru. Starting with this Tayuya and, if effective, moving onto the Uchiha."
Naruto stared at her, his mouth hanging open, before he practically shouted out, "WHAT!?"
"I don't believe I need to repeat myself," Tsunade stated simply as she continued to glance through her folder. "Upon proven effectiveness of the seal on Sound Four member Tayuya, you'll repeat the procedure."
"A shame we couldn't get you a nice brunette, then you'd have a full spread of variety," Jiraiya noted sadly before sighing melodramatically. "Alas, you'll just have to settle for two blondes, two raven hairs and a red head."
"But, but, but...!" Naruto's eyes were wide as he stared back at them, "Ino-chan will kill me! Kin-chan will kill me!"
"And Sunshine?" Jiraiya asked with a bemused twinkle in his eyes.
"She'll laugh her ass off," Naruto said blandly as his shoulders slumped.
"Women love a man that can make them laugh," Jiraiya noted with an innocent smile.
"... You're telling them, Granny," Naruto stated defiantly as he crossed his arms about his chest.
"Oh? I am?" she asked as she simple arched a brow and gave him a flat look.
"Yes, because no way they'll believe me if I tell them," Naruto agreed, not backing down in the slightest.
"I could tell them," Jiraiya offered, the innocent smile he wore only growing in size.
"If he's going to, I refuse," Naruto stated flatly, not even looking at him.
"Understandable," Tsunade agreed, unable to stop the small smirk that cracked her lips at the comment. "I suppose I can inform your girlfriend and your spoils that you are taking on another pair of spoils, despite the fact that you already have them."
"That's totally not what's going on and you know it!" Naruto declared with a glare. "You're forcing me into this!"
"It's all about presentation," Tsunade stated simply as she arched a brow. "If you have a problem with it, you can always just tell them yourself."
Naruto glared at her in response as he crossed his arms about his chest.
"... You're all evil. Every last one of you," Naruto stated firmly with a nod of his head and another glare.
"Kid, you don't know the half of it," Jiraiya said with a chuckle, reaching down and lightly ruffling Naruto's hair.
"Evil," he repeated petulantly.
As Naruto sulked in his seat, Tsunade took a moment to stare at the contents of one of the other folders in front of her. She'd followed a whim and a hunch. The results stared back at her from the page in front of her. It wouldn't change the course of action but hopefully it would make it more acceptable.
She glanced again towards Naruto before carefully closing the folder and settling forward and watching as Jiraiya amused himself at the boy's expense.
Hope, after all, sprung eternal.
Beyond the office, as Ino walked off in a daze along with a smirking Anko and a visibly bemused Yuugao, Temari and Kin leaned against the wall standing next to one another, both staring towards the door to the Hokage's office.
"What do you think they're talking about?" Kin asked after a few minutes of silence when it became obvious that Naruto would not immediately reappear.
"Mmm, well, either us, or something we won't like," Temari noted with a shrug of her shoulders. "Maybe even both."
"But... we just kicked ass!" Kin protested quickly. "We took down some of Orochimaru's elites! We accomplished the mission!"
"And now, what?" Temari countered back as she pulled out one of her fans and began to twist it about her wrist with a pulse of her chakra. "What happens from here? What happens to the Uchiha?"
"She's put down like the rabid bitch she is," Kin stated simply with a shrug of her shoulder. "Simple."
"She's one of the two last Uchiha," Temari countered back as she snapped her fan back into her palm.
"So? She's already run to Orochimaru once, she'll just try to do it again if they let her live. Do you think they'll just let him slither into her body and get her sharingan?" Kin responded irritably as she tapped her finger against the wall.
Temari stared at her for a moment, before slowly rubbing her face lightly, "Ok, right, you didn't grow up in a real ninja village."
Kin opened her mouth to object, before it clicked shut and she glared lightly back at her, "So? What about it?"
"There are three clan names that made the shinobi world tremble. They are some of the bigger reasons that Konoha has remained as The Village. The one all the other major villages look at with respect, envy, jealousy and fear.
"Uchiha is one of those names. If Konoha no longer has the blood of that clan inside its walls..." she trailed off, shrugging her shoulders. "It's not a fatal or even a crippling blow, but it is still a pretty big blow to their reputation."
"Wait, you can't possibly mean..." Kin stared at her, before quickly shaking her head. "He couldn't, he wouldn't! I mean she just went traitor! She attacked his other teammate!"
"So?" Genma cut in, chuckling in amusement where he watched the pair, senbon twisting between his lips. "Weight of benefits against consequences. Helping Konoha save face and maintain the appearance of its strength, against his discomfort."
"But..." Kin started to protest immediately, "Trai..."
When she paused and shifted slightly in uncomfortable realization, Genma smirked quietly back at her, "Traitors should be killed?"
Kin glowered back at him, crossing her arms about her chest and bowing her head towards her chest at.
"Technically, to Konoha, you're a defector, not a traitor," Temari stated helpfully as she smirked back at Kin. "And weren't you going to be killed?"
"I don't need you making his point for him," Kin snapped back with a glare. "This doesn't bother you at all?"
"The whole situation bothers me," Temari stated pointedly as she flicked her collar. "However, unlike you and the Uchiha, I'm not a traitor."
"Nope, you're just such a ray of sunshine that went along with a plot to betray your allies and commit mass slaughter of civilians," Genma noted with a slight pursing of his lips.
"That was Sound, not us," Temari growled back, her eyes narrowing slightly. "We don't slaughter civilians like that."
"Right, because we all know unleashing a bijuu in the middle of a village isn't going to cause massive civilian casualties," Genma stated with a flat look straight into her eyes.
She flinched at that, her eyes falling as she couldn't meet his stare.
"Thought so," Genma nodded his head as he twisted the senbon lightly between his lips. "Just figured I'd remind you, to us, you're not really much better. She at least accepts it, best you do the same."
"Plus, righteous indignation is better left to the professionals," Shizune stated seriously as she looked at the pair.
"You can talk to Shizune-san if you want to get the lessons and licensing," Genma agreed with a nod. "I'm sure she'll be happy to make sure you're properly trained."
"Now, Shiranui-san, you wouldn't be implying something, now would you?" Shizune asked sweetly as fixed smile plastered across her lips.
Temari and Kin glanced at each other before the sound of the office door opening reached them and they saw their master walking out of the Hokage's office, shoulders slumped and head bowed.
"So, that bad, huh?" Temari noted as she lightly squinted at Naruto, pushing down the feelings of guilt and unease she was feeling. "Guess, she tell you that you have to take the Uchiha as a spoil too?"
His shoulders immediately slumped even further as his chin fell onto his chest.
"... Guess so," she stated as Kin's eyes narrowed in outrage.
"... And the other one. The one Kin-chan fought," he stated blandly.
"What?!" Kin demanded, her eyes growing the size of saucers, before she whirled around and pointed a bemused Genma. "This is all your fault!"
"Keep telling yourself that," Genma chuckled as his senbon dangled from his lips with a light glint to his eyes.
"Now, now, Genma-kun, no need to be so modest," Shizune stated as she looked at the man with narrowed eyes.
"Modest, Shizune-san?" Genma arched a brow. "But weren't you the mission leader for our little rendezvous?"
"... You do realize I know it's Granny and the super pervert's fault, right?" Naruto stated flatly as he gave the pair a glare before looking around. "Where's Ino-chan?"
"She went off with Anko and Yuugao. I think she's still in shock," Genma noted with a chuckle as he reached down and ruffled Naruto's hair. "Congrats by the way, kid."
"Oh, before I forget..." Tsunade's voice cut in from the office, "Sunshine's brothers will be here shortly to pick up the new treaty for ratification. Shizune, take the brat and the girls to go meet them."
"... Kankuro and Gaara? But..." Temari's eyes widened and she took a step back, "But... wait, do they know about...? And they're...? And we've got to...?"
"... Sucks to be you, kid," Genma noted with a chuckle before he turned and waved over his shoulder. "Have fun meeting Sunshine's family."
"And suddenly so, so glad I'm an orphan," Kin muttered, before suddenly freezing in place as a realization hit her. "Wait... isn't your brother an insane, murderous, and incredibly powerful psychopath?"
"Yes," Temari agreed with a nod.
"He's not that bad," Naruto protested, gaining a pair of incredulous looks. "He's not!"
"... And isn't the Uchiha's brother an insane, murderous ninja who's powerful enough to fight the sannin?" Kin continued as she gave them both a look.
"Um... Yes?" Naruto agreed cautiously. "I mean he and fish guy did run away, but..."
"S-Ranked Missing-nin," Kin stated as she stared at Naruto for a moment. "... When did this thing turn into a damned death sentence?"
"We're not going to die, Kin-chan," Naruto said irritably as he gave her a look.
"How the hell can you say that?" Kin demanded. "Do you not get how many people are going to want to kill us?! How many insane and incredibly powerful ninja will want us dead?!"
"And we'll just get strong enough to kick all their asses and show them that we're not gonna be messed with," he said simply. "Come on, let's go see Gaara and what's his name already."
"But, but, but...!" Kin protested, even as she let him grab hold of her wrist and lightly start pulling her along. "That's not how it's supposed to work!"
"Well, he's refused to do things how they were supposed to so far, so why change what works now?" Temari muttered with a light daze in her voice as she robotically followed after the pair.
Sasuke sat on cold stone, her aching body practically naked beneath the thin, rough prisoner's smock hanging from her shoulders. She could feel the heavy collar at her throat, chains running perhaps a foot from it to the matching cuffs at her wrists and the steel bar that connected them one to the other while keeping her hands far apart. From it, it another chain ran down, finding a matching bar leading to similar cuffs on her ankles.
Not that it mattered, even if she was free of them, she still remembered the slash against the back of her heels and the pain when she tried to stand. It was fitting really. A constant reminder of her betrayal.
She had lost. Again she had lost everything she had left that had mattered to her, that might've mattered to her. This time, though, because she'd thrown them all away, all towards the goal she'd coveted above all else.
Now revenge was lost as well. At best she'd be executed. She hoped for a swift death but it was rather unlikely. At worst, she'd be thrown somewhere deep and dark and kept there, rotting and alone as they made sure she never saw the light of day and denied her the escape of death.
They'd break her, destroy her, and then leave her to rot to the point where even if somehow she did manage to escape, she'd never be a threat again.
And the cold, hard truth was it was all her fault. It had been her failure, her weakness. She had lost to Ino of all people. The only thing that would've been worse would've been losing to Sakura.
How could she have fooled herself into thinking she could ever have a chance of fighting him?
She let out a bitter, hollow chuckle as she closed her eyes and curled her body back into itself just enough to allow her to rest her head back against the cold stone within the confines of the chains. Why bother trying to escape? There was no point to it anymore. There was no point to anything.
An angry throb of pain dug into her neck from the cursed seal and another flood of thick, sullen emotion poured through her veins. It was funny how easy it had been to ignore the way it felt like oily filth when it twined so easily with her anger, her hatred. It was even funnier how obvious it became with the empty lack of emotion that filled her.
So she sat there, alone save for the empty silence surrounding her, and the whispering insistence in her head that she had made the most horrible mistake she ever could.
As the time wore on, she found it harder and harder to find herself coming up with arguments against it.
Tayuya felt a wild panic swell up from the primal depths of her soul when she blearily awoke to find herself strapped naked and defenseless to broad metal table in a sterile white room. No one in Sound ever wanted to wake up like this. Ever. She'd done so once before, just after her experience with Orochimaru applying his curse seal to her body.
She hadn't been expected to survive, apparently. It was only by a flight of whim and fancy that she'd been released long enough to prove her worth to be a member of the Sound Four that moved her dissection until after he had finished autopsying the bodies of the failures. It had been a constant reminder to her to push herself beyond anything but a position as a valuable member of his elite.
This time, though, it wasn't right. It was too sterile, too clean, too bright. Orochimaru always seemed to want to make the shadows loom with what possible horrors they could hold just beyond what you could see, filling the air with the stale scent of fear.
And somehow that terrified her more than she imagined possible.
"Ah, awake I see," a coolly detached voice noted from behind.
When she strained her neck to catch a glimpse of the source of the voice, she finally noted the thick tube-like gag strapped into her mouth, forcing her jaws almost to the limit they'd open to.
"I'm sure you've probably been in a situation like this before, though probably something darker, I'd imagine. Plenty of deep shadows, things you could almost see and the like," the voice continued, almost sounding bored from its position just beyond her line of sight. "He always did prefer to play it up even more than Jiraiya."
Tayuya's eyes widened as suddenly the heavy click of heels reached her ears and she could feel the pit in her stomach sink somehow even deeper.
"Personally I always thought he was too impatient for anything else. Too eager for results, not willing to take the time to actually follow all the procedures I taught him," Tsunade noted blandly as she studied the girl. "I mean, really, a combat enhancement that's only viable on 10% of the population and fatal to the rest? Most of them were probably easily correctable."
She wasn't sure which scared her more. Either the fact that as soon as Orochimaru found out she'd been captured, her dissection was assured, or the legendary medic who had likely taught Orochimaru a great deal of his own knowledge of medical procedure looking at her like she was a particularly vile boil that needed to be lanced.
"Tayuya, North Gate of the Sound Four. Summoning and Genjutsu specialist," Tsunade noted blandly as she studied the girl with a slight tilt to her head and a clinical detachment to her voice. "One of the only two surviving members of the failed extraction team for Sasuke Uchiha."
Tayuya could feel her heart sinking the longer she listened to the woman's words as the words she was describing sank into her head. Failed extraction. If they had failed, then… She was the walking dead. It was all a matter of how painful it would be now.
If she was telling the truth.
As if reading her mind, Tsunade nodded slightly as she walked over and Tayuya could feel the gag being at least temporarily removed before she stepped back into sight again. "Well, at least you don't seem to be completely inept when it comes to individual thought like most of his pets. Most of them would either deny it entirely or believe it completely without doubt. At least that's what information Kin's told us. You do remember Kin, don't you?"
Anger and fear roared in her veins as she remembered the girl in question. First as the weak little girl who'd managed to show just enough ability to get put on a team with Zaku and Dosu, but showed little potential for going any further. Then there was the sadistic, fanged smile and the gleaming, demonic, blood red eyes and that feeling of soul wrenching fear pouring into her.
"I see you do," Tsunade continued with another, vague tilt of her head before she slowly opened up a folder and glanced through its contents. "She also remembers you quite well. I think she already expressed the sentiment to you rather... adequately, based on the medical reports on the condition you were in when you were captured."
"So, what, is this the part where you start to fucking cut me open and make me scream?" Tayuya demanded as she glared back at Tsunade. "Dissect me while I'm still fucking alive like Orochimaru-sama likes to do to people that piss him off?"
"Why bother?" Tsunade asked with a bored arch of her brow. "There would be little point to it and torture is notoriously unreliable, after all. Ibiki-san, you have heard of him, haven't you? Morino Ibiki-san? He's developed quite the reputation, after all. He can tell you first hand just how... unreliable such methods are."
"I ain't talking, bitch," she snapped back with more anger than she felt as she refused to look at the blonde woman in front of her. "Do your fucking worst."
"Really?" There was the light sound of the folder shutting before Tayuya felt the lightest touch of a finger touching upon her jaw and a light touch that somehow forced her head to tilt to the look back up at her captor with the apparent lightest of efforts, "You see, it's things like that that get little girls like you into trouble.
"You use your anger as a shield, focus on it, spitting acid and vitriol out like they'll make you look stronger than you really are." Casually she then lightly trailed her finger down Tayuya's throat, past the jugular, slowly along the center of her body, "You think that it makes you tough, will keep you safe."
Just below Tayuya's belly button, she pressed forward, just slightly, and suddenly the girl's world exploded into a sea of molten agony as it felt as if every nerve in her abdomen convulsed in one single rippling wave of pain. She screamed, helpless and terrified as the tears rolled down her cheeks and her body bucked and writhed as much as it could beneath that still, steady, impassive gaze staring down back at her. Then, just as suddenly as it began, the pain suddenly cut off into a spasmodic ripple of muscles settling back into place.
"For future reference, when you're faced with someone who is considered the foremost medical expert in the entire world, one whom even your precious little snake master and his pets acknowledge as knowing more than they do, being able to do things they can't... telling them to 'do their worst' is a very, very foolish thing," Tsunade stated simple as she picked up the folder and flipped through it again. "They know exactly how far they can take your body before your mind starts to crack. They know exactly how short of the time you need to recover and they can and will put your body back in pristine order, just to repeat as necessary."
She paused a moment, looking over a page in the folder before her gaze flicked back to Tayuya's, "Do you understand, Tayuya-san?"
Tears blurring her eyes, Tayuya nodded her head slowly, terrified that somehow any little motion would set off the pain again.
"I don't believe I heard you," her eyes left Tayuya and again began to slowly read through the folder in front of her.
"Yes... I... understand," Tayuya responded slowly through clenched teeth as she glared back at the woman.
"Mmm, good, good," Tsunade agreed as she nodded her head slightly. "Now, I suppose you're expecting an interrogation?"
Hesitantly, and more than slightly confused by the woman's question, she again nodded her head, though she continued to refuse to say anything.
"I imagine you nodded your head, so I won't bother to ask you to repeat yourself this time," Tsunade said before shutting the folder and dropping it onto a nearby table. "All you'll be able to provide me would be a few bases that Orochimaru will be sure to have abandoned by the time we arrive there. Any techniques we might want, we could simply harvest from your corpse."
Slow sinking realization hit her as she stared back at her with narrowed eyes, "Except for my fucking curse seal."
"No, not particularly," she responded back with a shake of her head. "While a curiosity, as you've encountered, we have something better."
"Bullshit! Then why am I even fucking alive?!" Tayuya demanded with a snarl. "You fucking want something from me!"
"Do I? Maybe I was simply curious as to how one of the last Uzumaki ended up working for Orochimaru," Tsunade finally looked back at Tayuya, watching the confusion in her eyes. "Oh? I suppose that would explain it. And why he put you in the position he did. You didn't know, did you?"
"Know what? What the hell are you talking about, you crazy bitch?" Tayuya demanded as she stared back at the woman.
"It was the hair that made me curious, red hair is rare enough that I wanted to check myself," she walked up to the girl and looked her over. "Probably the reason you survived the curse seal to begin with."
"I survived because I'm not fucking weak!" Tayuya snapped back with a growl as she glared back at Tsunade as she again tugged, roughly at her bindings.
"True, Uzumaki aren't weak," Tsunade agreed as she looked over the girl and sighed softly with a shake of her head. "Explains the temper too."
"What, you think trying to tell me I've got some kind of family is going to impress me? What, am I the long lost heir to a great and noble clan?" Tayuya sneered as she glared back Tsunade.
"Hardly. The heir was never lost," Tsunade responded bluntly. "It would've been myself, were I not already head of the Senju clan. No, the clan heir is quite alive and rather well."
"So, what the hell do you want with the filthy daughter of a whore then!?" she snapped back and glared at her.
"Mmm, doubtful, that your mother was a whore, that is," Tsunade noted. "Possible, of course, but unlikely. Civilian, probably, if I'm not mistaken."
"What the fuck does it matter then? What the hell do you want from me then?!" Tayuya demanded as she glared back at Tsunade.
"Currently? Nothing," she stated simply as she looked over the girl critically. "I'm simply debating if you're going to be worth the trouble you'll bring if we keep you alive."
"I..." Tayuya started to yell at her again, before she was cut off.
"Either way we'll see what happens. If you survive what's to come then we'll see if you stay alive or not, Tayuya-san," Tsunade stated simply as she turned back towards the door. "We will talk again later."
"What, what do you mean if I survive!?" Tayuya demanded before she could hear the sound of the door opening then closing. "DAMMIT ANSWER ME!"