Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 48 ( Chapter 58 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3
Chapter 48
Ino growled in frustration. The weather was getting bad -- she just saw a snowflake fall, which she hadn't seen since she was three -- and she was bitterly cold. Her mission -- which was the sort of assignment usually given to Konohamaru, Moegi, Hanabi, or Futaba and thier teams of genin from the Second Academy Class of Blossom -- wasn't starting off too well. She would have passed it on to one of them, in fact, but Konohamaru was busy being a new father, Moegi was recovering from just giving birth, Hanabi was nowhere to be found, and Futaba was on a diplomatic assignment at the daimyo's castle (which made some sense, as Futaba's team included, on it, one of the royal family members -- Shuuha Onritou, the son of the daimyo who Genma had died to protect). Yet she knew her team trying to undertake this assignment would be a pure disaster the moment she heard of it, and it seemed as if she was right.
Naruto and Sakura were long gone for their S-rank mission, but she had yet to even assemble her team... and she was supposed to have left before them. Not that her mission was all that important or dangerous -- a class C mission escorting a trade caravan, little likelyhood of any actual combat, something really beneath her now veteran team, usually... except they really weren't supposed to be assigned missions ranking higher then C-rate. Of all of the graduates of the First Academy Class of Blossom who remained ninja at the conclusion of their 'final exam' training, the three people on her team was alone in not making the promotion to chuunin. Even the administrative and medical genin had managed promotions through the administrative system. However, none of her cadets were exactly pleasant people, and all three of them had been almost impossible to work with. The most disciplined of the lot was, surprisingly, Seiteki Pansuke... and Pansuke had recently started acting very strange. Like she wanted to tell Ino something, but was afraid to say it. Ino suspected the girl was pregnant, and was afraid that she'd lose her spot in the roster on the team, but that would be rather odd, in itself. As many had felt from her first day in the Academy, she had indeed proven to be an early entry candidate into the courtesan training program... and had excelled, graduating at a younger age then anyone else. It was forbidden for her to be assigned on missions which required the use of those skills, but she still knew all of them... including, theoretically, birth control techniques. If she had become pregnant accidentally... well, then Pansuke deserved to be knocked off the roster.
The other two, however, were even stanger. They were constantly disappearing at all times, avoiding training sessions and blowing off some missions. They were hostile and insubordinate to the point that, on combat missions, Ino was constantly watching her own back to make sure they wouldn't stab her in it. In terms of skill level, they should have well surpassed the chuunin level, already... but as teamwork was a major component of two thirds of the exam, and as they had never been a true 'team' for Ino, she had refused to sign off on their promotion recommendations for every exam. Surprisingly, Pansuke -- who Ino had pegged as the least ambitious of the trio -- was the only one who seemed to care about the lack of promotions. The other two were pleased with their roles, it seemed.
She had just gotten off the phone with the supposed caravan's leader, who seemed to know nothing about the mission when she called to postpone, when the first of her wayward flock finally appeared. Pansuke, looking very nervous, showed up at their rendezvous... more then twenty minutes late. Ino would have been furious with her... except for how nervous she seemed. Just what was going on with her team, anyway?
"Pansuke," Ino snapped, ignoring the usual honorific... as she usually did when she was pissed off. "Why are you late? And where are the others?"
The younger girl looked so anxious she was actually trembling. "They went to the bro... uh, I don't know," she said, flushing and looking down. It was the first time Ino had ever seen her blush about anything, which really made her wonder about what was going on.
"Look, Pansuke-san," Ino began comfortingly. "I know something's wrong. What is it?"
Pansuke looked terrified. "I... I can't tell you."
"Sure you can," Ino replied. "You're one of my genin -- which means it's my job to look out for you." The other girl just shook her head, unable to meet Ino's eyes. "Please, just trust me? If... if you're pregnant or something, Konoha and Blossom have a generous benefits for its kunoichi that--"
"Pregnant?" Pansuke cried incredulously. "Impossible, if those ninja birth control techniques are what they're cracked up to be. No... this is... much more serious then that."
Ino's eyes widened. So, Pansuke was admitting there was something wrong -- which was an improvement. But she was saying it was 'more serious' then pregnancy -- which, to Ino, was a pretty serious thing. "Well, then what is it?"
The younger kunoichi blinked, as if realizing what she just said, and stepped back. "Look, I said I can't tell you, and so I want. If you want to know the answer... well, head to the brothel."
"The... the brothel? But--"
However, there was suddenly no-one for Ino to ask questions of, as Pansuke utilized the espionage techniques she had spent more then three years perfecting to disappear on her. Now what am I supposed to do? Ino wondered. Just what the hell is going on around here?
* * * * *
"Ino-chan!" Anko called, running up to the blond girl as she spied her walking along the road -- the first person on the road she'd seen in the past ten minutes, as the first serious snow storm in the four-plus years of Blossom's existence had just blown into town. "I thought you were supposed to be out on a mission today -- at least, that's what you said at last night's birthday party. Did something come up?"
Ino glared at the older woman. Now into her fourties, Anko still acted like a teenager, most of the time... although a world-weary teenager, it seemed. Today, however, she was decidedly 'peppy,' which just grated on the younger woman's nerves. If anything could set Ino off right then, it was someone acting, well, happy.
"Did something come up?" Ino repeated sourly. "Hm, let's see. A blizzard just decided it was going to pop in unexpectedly about an hour ago. Two members of my team seem to have fallen off the face of the Earth. The third has been acting strange these past few weeks, and just told me there was something very important bothering them but they couldn't say what, and that if I wanted to know I would have to 'head to the brothel' before they, too, decided to disappear. Oh, and the caravan I was supposed to escort knows nothing about this mission they supposedly hired us to do! Other than that, well, no, nothing's come up."
Anko winced. "Ouch. That sounds pretty serious. Who was it who actually showed up, anyway?"
"Seiteki Pansuke. Not my best team member in terms of ability, but probably the most reliable," Ino sighed. "And if you know her at all, you'll know that that's saying something. It's not all that strange -- my team has disappeared on me before when they haven't had missions in a while, so they're a bit hard to keep track of. I sent messages to them all last night about this mission, but I have no proof that they recieved those messages. The really strange things were how Pansuke-san was acting and that my mission doesn't really seem to exist."
Anko's eyes narrowed. "Yes, those are rather strange things. So, what are you going to do, now?"
"Well, what choice do I have?" Ino huffed. "I'm going to the brothel to see if I can figure out what Pansuke-san was talking about, and then I'll see if I can get in touch with Kakashi-san about the mission. I stopped by his office a few minutes ago, but he wasn't there."
"He wasn't there?" Anko echoed sharply. "Are you sure of that? He wasn't just using the restrooms or something like that?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," Ino replied bitterly. "I waited a good twenty minutes, and his secretary says he'd already had breakfast. I don't know where he is, but he isn't there."
Anko nodded slowly, then put on a smile that the other woman had only ever seen on Naruto, before. "Interesting. Well, why don't you head on over to the brothel? I think I'd better see if I can... find... Kakashi-sama for you."
"Thanks, Anko-chan," Ino replied, grinning slightly. "I'm a bit relieved to have some help on this one."
Anko nodded, waving the blond girl away with a cheesy smile. Once she was out of sight, that smile dropped. "So, it's started, has it?" she muttered. "Well, now... I guess I'd better get to work."
* * * * *
Moegi shifted tiredly in her hospital bed, gazing up at Konohamaru softly. She was truly happy to have finally caught the boy, and hoped they could manage as parents together without being overwhelmed -- there was so much talk about how they were 'too young' she couldn't help that nagging feeling that they would have a hard time. The one thing she regretted was how much training she was losing out on. It would take months to work off all the body fat she'd accumulated while pregnant, and she couldn't go back on duty, even in a reserve capacity, for several weeks, at least, while she recovered from childbirth. As a new parent, she would be restricted to class D missions for the next two years, minimum -- which was perfectly fine, as her team of genin wasn't exactly ready for anything more -- but she felt it was worth it to be with Konohamaru.
Something was making her uncomfortable, though, and she wasn't quite sure what it was. A disturbing feeling, one that she had never felt before... and rather alien in origin. She couldn't quite understand it. She knew it was snowing -- she could see it from the hospital bed's window -- but that wasn't what was bothering her.
"Moegi-chan?" Konohamaru began hesitantly.
"Yes, Konohamaru-chan?" Moegi replied, attempting some playfulness despite her exhaustion.
He grimmaced, as he always did when she used that particular honorific... which might explain her fondness for it when she was being 'playful.' "Your eyes are red again. I don't care what Sakura-chan and Naruto-san are doing, you aren't in any shape for it."
Ever since Naruto and Sakura had (blushingly) come to have a talk -- one that eventually included him, as well -- about how the healing technique Naruto used on Moegi had induced a slight empathic link with the kyuubi and just what that entailed, Konohamaru had been watchful. It wasn't that he disliked Moegi during one of her 'kyuubi highs,' as he liked to call them -- she was always 'friskier' whenever she had one -- it was that, on occasion, it would come at an... inopportune time. This led to quite a few embarrassing encounters, and so he had taken to try and staving off the symptoms whenever he saw the 'warning signs.'
"They aren't doing anything," Moegi replied, shaking her head. "At least nothing like that. But that could explain what I've been feeling...."
"What are you feeling?" Konohamaru asked, concerned.
"I... I'm not sure," she replied, trying to search her feelings for more definitive answers, now that she understood their origins. "I think... I think kyuubi's anxious about something -- almost scared -- but he isn't able to 'get through' to Naruto and Sakura. It's not an immediate crisis, yet, whatever it is, but... but he needs to warn them about something. I think. He can't really talk to me, you know, I just get a sort of 'backwash' of his stronger emotions."
Konohamaru frowned. "But they just left town about three hours ago on a mission, and they can't have gotten anywhere where they would be in trouble, yet. Unless...."
"Unless whatever the trouble is was waiting for them," Moegi replied, sitting up slowly. "Husband, something is very wrong. They have to be warned -- of what, I'm not sure, but of something. You... you need to go and tell them."
"Tell them what?" Konohamaru asked.
"Tell them to listen to kyuubi," Moegi replied anxiously. "Whatever this thing is... it's something he's battled with, before. And he's frightened. I... I don't need you here right now, however much I want you here. They do. Find them, husband, and tell them. Listen to kyuubi."
Konohamaru hesitated, standing up very slowly. "But... how will I even find them? I don't know where they're going, or what their mission is. And you know how hard it can be to track them... I'll never catch them in time."
Moegi shook her head, trying to clear it. "Kakashi-sama would know. Find him. And when you go... take your team with you, and mine. And whatever other help you can find -- I don't know what is going on... but it's big."
* * * * *
Ino sighed. While she found that she liked some of the people who worked in the brothel, the place itself was not her favorite place to be. However, after trying any number of alternative solutions for either finding her team members or starting her mission, it seemed as if the only lead she had for where her genin might be was Pansuke's cryptic comment about finding... whatever it was that was bothering the girl.
Knowing her, Ino thought wryly, She's upset because her teammates are using the brothel's services instead of her own. Shaking her head to knock the snow off her hair, she pulled open the one-way-glass door and stepped inside. Four or five young women in the employ of the brothel looked up expectently before their expressions fell to one of mild disappointment, but that wasn't true of everyone.
"Ino-chan!" the madame called, pumping her legs as she puttered over to greet her. "You wouldn't happen to be here to take us up on that job opportunity, would you?"
Ino grinned slightly, unable to help herself. It was something of a running joke, the brothel's attempts to recruit her -- everyone knew it would never happen, but the madame had insisted on trying. Ino had been so flustered by the enthusiastic woman's chatter that she'd actually said 'I'll consider it' before she realized what she was saying. Once she realized what she'd done, she immediately denied she would ever work at such a place... but that didn't stop the madame from trying.
"Sorry, no," she said, laughing.
"I'm sure you'd find yourself in top demand if you did," the madame answered, turning a hopeful eye on the kunoichi. When she only got a shake of the head as an answer, she sighed dramatically. "Well, then, I suppose you're here to take to Sakura-chan."
It always threw Ino for a loop whenever Kireme was referred to by her given name, considering the person she knew as Sakura was a pink-haired kunoichi who happened to be rather attached to a rather impressive blond boy named Naruto. But it didn't even faze her this time. "I wish," she sighed. "No. I have a mission to begin, and I was told that a couple of my missing-in-action team members could be found here."
"Oh. I'm afraid I can't help you, then," the madame said, her face turning serious. "We cannot give out information on our clients."
Ino raised an eyebrow. "Check your charter," she replied. "You're required to let us in to find active duty ninja when they're required to serve."
"I didn't say you couldn't come in and find them," came the unexpected answer. "Just that we cannot help you. We don't keep records, and so you'll have to find them on your own."
Ino grimmaced. There were thirty 'service rooms' in the brothel, and given how few girls were available at the moment she feared that a lot of people had chosen to use the snowy weather as an excuse to 'come in and warm up.' The brothel did provide services outside of simple prostitution -- they gave massages (erotic, theraputic, and everywhere in between), sold adult lingerie and novelty 'toys' (complete with the occasional live demonstration), had a small 'club' room where drinks and food were served while a show (not always erotic in nature -- comedy shows were also popular on their 'Family Fridays,' which was the day off for most of the regular staff while subcontractors were brought in to provide food and entertainment), and... well, there was a classroom in the building, somewhere, where the two ladies of Blossom named 'Sakura' -- Haruno Sakura and Kireme Sakura -- would join Inuzuka Hana to teach 'courtesan training' to the occasional student. Ino had refused the course, but some of the younger crowd were quite enthusiastic about it for some reason. Pansuke, Ran Umiko, Hyuuga Hanabi, and Inuzuka Futaba (largely to bug Hana) had all taken the 'early entry' course a year before -- together -- and there was supposed to be another one coming up in a month. Regardless, the classroom was somewhere in the building... which meant another room she had to find and check out to look for her wayward genin.
"I don't suppose you could provide me with a guide?" she asked wearily.
The madame laughed. "Sakura-chan! Come here for a moment. Joutai-chan, go take the store's counter."
Kireme Sakura emerged as another girl disappeared behind the curtain leading to the 'gift shop.' "Yes, ma-- oh! Ino-chan! What are you doing here? Taking us up on our offer for employment?"
"Already heard that one, today," Ino groaned. "No, I'm going to need your help."
"Ino's students appear to have used our services today, when they should be going on a mission," the madame explained helpfully. "Since we don't keep records, I'm not even sure if they're really here, but she needs a 'guide' to help her check."
Kireme laughed. "Yes, and I suspect she'd like to have someone else to be her peeping tom for her. She's a bit prudish compared to me."
"Hey!" Ino protested. "I am not prudish! I--"
"I didn't say you were," Kireme shot back playfully. "Or would you like to be considered as, how did you put it to me that one time? Ah, yes, 'unrestrained.' Would you like to be considered as unrestrained as I, a veteran prostitute who has worked in this job -- and loved it -- for almost a full decade, am?" Ino's mouth opened and closed as she tried to work out an answer to that one. "I didn't think so."
Ino grinned at the older woman. Kireme was actually towards the end of her career as a prostitute -- although not as a worker in the brothel. She would continue to work there for the rest of her life, most likely, even if she was now mostly spending her time doing 'behind the counter' work in the gift shop. She had been the designated 'heir' for the madame's job ever since the brothel moved into Blossom, and she had been taking a sort of 'assistant madame's' position for a while. She was getting a bit old for the usual work -- she had just turned thirty, and most of the girls who worked in the job didn't last that long -- but her services were still in hot demand when she offered them, and she looked a lot younger then she actually was. Ino was convinced that she'd gotten a certain pink-haired kunoichi to teach her the hokage's anti-aging techniques, but niether would say for certain. Since Kireme only had the chakra of a raw recruit -- but, like Sakura was when she was a genin, had proven to have such perfect instinctual control that she could perform just about any ninja technique below an A-rate -- it was impossible to tell if she was using any techniques unless you had the eyes if a Hyuuga. As the only 'ninja auxilliary' in all of Blossom, Kireme had proven to be an... interesting asset.
"Come on," Ino grumbled playfully, feigning irritation. "Lead the way."
"Well, let's head back to the storeroom, first," Kireme suggested, starting through the door into the 'back rooms.' She opened the door to what looked like a walk-in closet and turned on the light. Shaking her head, she stepped inside and picked something up. "I once found your Pansuke-chan in here with one of our clients, when we were giving her those classes. That is one oversexed girl."
Ino frowned as she saw the other woman put whatever it was she had picked up back on a shelf. "Hey, what is that? I've seen that same bottle in Sakura and Naruto's apartment. Quite a number of them, actually -- they tend to go through them fast."
Kireme grinned slightly. "Massage oil. High quality massage oil -- they have a 'special' account with us, and can get this stuff, but we don't even sell it at the store usually."
"But... why do they get to buy it?" Ino asked, astonished.
Kireme's lips twitched. "Oh... they're good customers of our. Very good customers."
Ino's eyes widened. "Sakura-chan, too?"
"Not that kind of customer," Kireme laughed. "But they often buy oils, 'toys,' lingerie, and the like. Plus, Sakura-chan is considered to be 'staff' here, thanks to her teaching position."
"And I was shocked when sweet little Sakura-chan came back with a tattoo from her eighteenth birthday celebration," Ino mused. "Who knew she was that... that..."
"Unrestrained?" Kireme asked, laughing. "You aren't exactly so 'restrained' yourself, you know -- I've heard about your tattoos."
Ino flushed angrilly. "Forehead girl... I thought you knew not to tell anyone about that!" she muttered.
"Oh, she didn't," Kireme said. "The male members of your team, however, are regular customers... and, apparently, have caught you in the buff a few times."
"When... how... oh. Now I really want to find those brats!" she snarled. "All right, they obviously aren't here. Where next?"
"Well, the stage show doesn't start until the evenings," Kireme explained, "I just came from the store, and the classroom is locked up at the moment... so I'd say we have to go through the service rooms and massage tables."
Ino grimmaced. "Great," she said sarcastically. "I just knew it. Well, let's get started, shall we?"
It took about an hour, peeking into each room as the moved across the facility. Ino was blushing redder and redder as she saw people -- some of which she knew -- engaged in kinkier and kinkier practices. A few of the... activities... were bad enough to completely disgust her, but most were just, well, embarrassing to witness.
"Naruto-dono has always insisted Ebisu-san was a pervert," Ino commented once they'd checked the last room in the 'dungeon' (i.e., basement) wing, shaking her head. "But I always thought that was a joke. I'd think that sort of thing would be forbidden for being 'too much of a risk of rendering oneself unfit for service,' or so the rule goes. I didn't think that sort of thing usually went so far."
Kireme shuddered. "No, whipping someone until they bleed has never been one of my turn-ons, either. As I understand it, he's lost out on a few pay grade increases for that very reason."
Not every genin was paid the same in their base salary as their fellow genin, and the same was true of the chuunin and jounin ranks. There was a lot of room for 'pay grade increases,' which in most sectors of the workplace would be known as promotions, within each rank. Her genin, in fact, were all paid higher then two of Sakura's chuunin were. She, herself, wasn't paid as much as Kakashi, Anko, Hana, Aoba, Naruto, Sakura, Konohamaru, or Hanabi were (in roughly that order -- Konohamaru and Hanabi were on the same level, Aoba, Naruto, and Sakura were on the same level, and Anko and Hana were on the same level. Kakashi would have been down around Aoba's level, in terms of base salary, but he recieved a small base pay increase because he was Blossom's jounin-oyabun... one that would disappear whenever he left town, whether Naruto was left in charge (which had happened three times in the past three years, each time when he had to report directly to Tsunade in person to give some sort of 'annual report) or whether someone else was (as Jiraiya turned out to be, ceremonially, the day he announced his retirement from active service)) -- they were all at least one pay grade increase above her. She had overtaken Ebisu years ago, and she'd always wondered how -- she had done nothing truly exceptional in her time at Blossom (at least, nothing she could put on her record -- her work in Naruto's 'shadow government' could, perhaps, be considered fairly exceptional), and so she shouldn't have been given a pay raise faster then the average jounin. Now, however, she had a pretty good idea.
She was about to give up, as they had checked all of the rooms out with no trace of her missing genin, when a familiar voice caught her ear. It wasn't the usual cry of passion one could make out from time to time -- in fact, it sounded like someone giving an official report of some kind -- but there was no way of telling what exactly was said. It was too soft, too quiet, and fairly muffled. "Um... where did that come from?"
"Where did what come from?" Kireme asked.
Ino shook her head, motioning for her to be quiet, as she tried to follow the voice to its origins. As she got closer, she could make out more voices, several of them familiar, but she still was unable to determine who all it was -- although Okanemoto Akane's voice was clear enough to identify, once, when he shouted something out in disgust about 'traitors.' Finally, she came to a door they hadn't been through, before, and she couldn't help but frown -- it was still impossible to make out anything that was said, but there were definitely a number of familiar voices behind it. "What room is this?" she whispered, not wanting to be overheard for some reason.
Kireme took the clue and lowered her own voice to match. "After this place was built, Kakashi-sama asked if he could have a bunker installed in our basement for civilians to retreat to in the event of an attack. However, once it was complete, he attached a lock to it and took away the key -- to the best of my knowledge, the door hasn't been opened in over three years."
Ino shook her head. "This is a ninja village. We don't need keys, usually... but that is definitely strange. Why build an evacuation bunker for civilians, and then lock it up in such a way that only civilians can't access it? Furthermore... I think I heard one of my genin's voices coming from here."
Kireme's eyes widened, then hardened. "Fine. I think we should go in. I'll back you up."
Ino hesitated. It was entirely possible that this was just some sort of secret clubhouse for reprobates like Akane and Hiniku Butakatsu, and if that were the case she wouldn't need any more help then Kireme could provide. On the other hand, apparently Kakashi had a hand in its construction... which meant it was likely more then that. But what? After all, Kakashi -- while he had grown a bit eccentric and had proven to be prone to making serious blunders when leading the country -- was still her jounin-sensei... and her jounin-oyabun. Perhaps trying the door would ruin a plan many years in the making, especially if Kireme -- who, for all intents and purposes, was a civilian -- were to witness something she shouldn't. Then again... she was supposed to be running a mission now, and Kakashi knew that. If her genin were supposed to be here, that mission wouldn't have been given.
She pulled a lockpick out from one of her equipment pouches and quietly turned the tumblers to line them up. It took her a minute -- she was out of practice -- but before too long the lock was disabled and she was free to open the door. Remembering all of her lessons about opening doors that might squeek when she didn't want them to, she oiled up the hinges and slowly eased the door open, creeping inside, Kireme right on her tail.
It was dark, but she was able to follow one of the few light sources to an open doorway from which the voices were coming. She stopped just out of sight, and then peeked around the corner briefly. There was a table with several people sitting around it, and the room was lit by a single candle. From the number of dark blobs, she assumed there weren't more then four people, and a flash of light reflected off a forehead protector told her that one of them was from Cloud. She quickly ducked her head back behind the doorway, and decided to listen in before she moved on. Perhaps she should have sent a message out with Kireme, to get back-up -- if Cloud was here, that meant trouble -- but she didn't know how to do so without drawing attention to herself. Unfortunately, despite being a ninja auxilliary, Kireme had never been taught hand signals... and so, it seemed, their only choice was to wait and listen, and hope they could find out something useful before escaping.
"...Pansuke's decision," Akane was saying loudly. "I've looked everywhere for her, but she's gone. I'm worried she'll blab the whole thing, and then we'll have to leave."
"She already has," another voice -- one Ino couldn't help but release a soft gasp of shock when she recognized -- replied. There was a momentary pause before the voice, belonging to Hatake Kakashi, continued. "She approached me about it. I told her I would take care of it and sent her on her way -- my secretary knew she had come in, so there was no way to eliminate her."
"So, if we do that now, we can still keep this going?" Akane asked.
"Hm. No, I think you'd better leave," Kakashi said. "I'm not sure eliminating her is the right option. She might have told... others, and if she's found dead, that'll raise people's suspicions about me. I think we're going to have to slip you out of here, now, and be done with it."
"Dammit! So, now what do we do? Cloud will have a hard time hiding what it's done if we start wearing their forehead protectors," Akane grumbled.
"Cloud has a good relocation program," a third voice -- Butakatsu -- replied. "Isn't that right?"
"How many of your people even knew Gashir was still alive before we told you?" the final voice -- obviously the one belonging to the Cloud ninja -- pointed out. "You'll be safe. And well cared for. And we'll even train you, if that's what you want...."
"You betrayed Gashir," Akane replied suspiciously. "How do we know you won't do the same to us?"
"Because your continued existence isn't cause for a declaration of war," Kakashi sighed. "The hokage also knows of your role in all of this, and won't even declare you missing nin. You won't really even need to go to Cloud -- just as long as you don't come to Konoha or Blossom, things will be fine."
The hokage? She knew about this... this... whatever this is? But what's going on, and why is Cloud involved? And what is this all about? Ino wondered, amazed.
"Satisfied?" the Cloud agent asked.
"For now," Akane shot back grudgingly.
"Good. On to new business. I assume you gave that Naruto brat that mission?"
"Yes," Kakashi replied. "I sent him and Sakura together."
"We said we wanted him alone!"
"For an S-rate mission?" Kakashi replied incredulously. "Surely you don't think I could get away with that!"
"Well... probably not. I suppose it won't matter, in the end."
"Why?" Kakashi asked. "I mean, what's the point of sending him on this mission, and why him specifically?"
"You know that brat has been a thorn in our side since Blossom was formed," the Cloud man grumbled. "First, he stopped your attempts to funnel money into our movement."
"And he was right to do so with what he knew," Kakashi pointed out. "I wasn't allowed to bring him in on this operation, and because of that he did what was right for Blossom and not what was right for the mission. If you'd given me the right to even explain that it was--"
"Yes, yes, we understand all that. You've told us, often enough," came the irritated reply. "But then he also messed up the attempted assassination of the daimyo--"
"Again, he was right to do so."
"And then he prevented the capture of the Hyuuga girl."
"We never agreed to let you have the Hyuuga girl, as I recall -- the whole move was an attempt to bring Gashir out into the open where he could be properly challenged, politically. Thanks to him, Gashir was more then taken out into the open -- he was taken out of service."
"Since then," the Cloud ninja went on, sounding more enraged then before. "He has crippled just about 90% of the activities we've tried to get you to do for us. At any rate, he's become something of an irritation to us."
"Which he wouldn't have been, if we'd been allowed to explain things to him from the beginning," Kakashi pointed out.
"I don't care! It was too much of a risk -- he never would have gone along with it, and you know that," the Cloud man snapped. "However, he has provided us with an opportunity to secure a powerful ally."
There was another pause. "What do you mean?"
"We were contacted, recently, by a powerful organization in desperate need of just one component to complete their superweapon. They are running out of time, as they have a powerful enemy who has spend the past several years hunting them down one at a time, but if they could complete their weapon they will become a force as great as any of the five major powers. With their aid, we will be able to usurp the power of the Raikage... and then, we will be free to offer the promised alliance against the aggressions of the Sound and the Rock. They asked for one thing in return, however... and that is the last component to thier superweapon: The kyuubi housed inside that brat."
There was some shifting sounds. "What... what is the name of this organization?"
"Akatsuki," was the answer.
This time, Ino couldn't help but gasp. "Hey," Akane snapped. "Someone's out there!"
"Crap!" Ino cried. "Kireme, run!"
"Too late," Akane said, appearing in front of them. Hiniku Butakatsu and the Cloud agent were behind them, and Ino knew they were in trouble. She was caught, and she knew it -- by the time she could complete her first move, she'd be dead.
Kakashi sighed as he stepped out to look at them, shaking his head, with a charged chidori at the ready. "I'm sorry about this, Ino-chan... you weren't supposed to be here."
* * * * *
Notes: Hm... I imagine I'm going to get a flood of 'Kakashi is out of character' comments after this one. Ah, well... I can't say anything without giving too much away. Next Chapter: The fates of Ino and Kireme are shown, and Konohamaru begins the rescue mission.